DISCLAIMER: "CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION" and other related entities are owned, (TM) and (c) by ANTHONY E. ZUIKER, JERRY BRUCKHEIMER Television, CBS Worldwide Inc., Alliance Atlantis Corporation, CSI Productions and CBS Productions, All Rights Reserved. This is a purely an outlet of creative writing inspired by a superb TV series. The character of Iris King is my own creation.
Acknowledgements: "Don't You Wanna Stay", Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson, written by Andy Gibson, Paul Jenkins, Jason Sellers. "Thinkin' of You", Trisha Yearwood, written by Bob Regan, Tom Shapiro . "Over My Head", Fleetwood Mac, written by Christine McVie. "We Owned the Night", Lady Antebellum, written by Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley, Dallas Davidson. "Satisfied", Jewel, written by Jewel and Liz Wilson. "I Got You Babe", sung by Sonny and Cher, written by Sonny and Cher Bono.
Dedications: As always, to Mr. Paul Guilfoyle. To my real-life sisters Chandra and Chimene, fellow fanfic authors Spotted Horse, Kacee, MelO and Onyx.
A/N: It's a New Year's party for the Metro LVPD/Crime Lab and birthday bash for Detective Jim Brass to ring in 2012. It's going to be a New Year like no other for Brass and the CSI team he works closest with.
Chapter One New Year's Eve to early New Year's Day
Jim Brass stood outside of the Rhumbar Lounge at the Mirage, hearing inside the sounds of music, laughter, people having a good time. The Metro LVPD had never had a New Year's party because all hands had to be on deck to handle the revelry the general public was engaged in up and down the Strip or in other parts of the city. It was a night that the Vegas moniker of Sin City fully applied. That would only ramp up as the time ticked down to midnight and the revelers would get wilder and wilder in drinking and celebrating the last gasps of 2011. Some two hundred thousand souls were anticipated to be in town, giving the local economy a much needed shot in the arm during the party weekend of Friday through Sunday. That may be, Brass thought, but the Metro force would historically take a pounding with dealing with drunk or high partiers, arresting those who got belligerent or tried to assault officers, prostitution, robbery, shootings, or at the very worst, homicides.
The proposal for a party had come from one of the newest CSI's to the crime lab, Iris, who, much to Brass' surprise, had personally gone to the new female African-American sheriff to present what the Dallas DPD did from where she had transferred from to Vegas. The sheriff had embraced the idea wholeheartedly and the first ever New Year's party was in full swing. Officers and crime lab workers could come in for a couple of hours from each shift to enjoy the festive atmosphere and even bring their spouse or significant other along before having to go back to their shift. Those who were off could fully imbibe in the beverages offered at the lounge bar and Brass fell into the latter category. He generally have just stayed home or if he had a craving for intimate female company gotten a date.
Brass had been on the fence about coming until he'd gotten wind that Iris was planning a secret surprise party for him since his birthday was on January third. She was already a local legend of sorts at the LVPD/crime lab for the meal spreads she brought in for her CSI team mates, and always made sure Brass got a heaping plate reserved. Nick had told him about it when they'd been talking on Friday and Jim had mentioned he didn't plan to go. So here he was because Iris had put this together and he didn't have the heart to shoot down her wish to do this for him. He found it oddly touching somehow.
The year of 2011 had already left its stamp on the events that had continued to try the graveyard CSI team he worked the closest with and were like family to him. The shakeup from the so-called "Langston Affair" resulting in Catherine's demotion and the arrival of DB Russell to take over the helm as its new supervisor and Morgan Brody, Ecklie's daughter, to fill the void left by Ray. Brass was still trying to figure DB Russell out who he'd nicknamed "Moonbeam" to see what type of association he'd have with the new supervisor. The guy was still married to the same wife and had four kids. His wife frequently called DB when he was on a case, something Brass secretly envied because Nancy had rarely him when he was working a case.
His phone vibrated with a text message in his pocket and Brass pulled out his phone.
"Ready to meet Sean?"
Jim's eyebrow cocked. Iris was being escorted to the party by her oldest nephew Sean. The kid was fresh out of college and wanting to pursue law enforcement as his career, his potential target working for the Drug Enforcement Agency. He was fluent in Spanish and had graduated at the top of his class to get his bachelor's degree. Part of Sean's visit to Vegas was to get exposure to how a crime lab worked in concert with the police department. Iris' job presented the perfect field trip. She'd asked Brass to consider taking Sean under his wing to give him that, so Jim had agreed and felt this was another reason to have him there at the party.
Jim had just returned from LA late last night and the reason for that trip was still bittersweet for him: Annie Kramer who was now Annie Kramer Rivera. She'd asked him to come to LA for her wedding to another homicide detective, Lieutenant Marco Rivera. Annie's father had died the year before and she had no brothers, so she'd reached out to ask that Brass give her away. She'd said the wedding was being put together hastily and would he mind. Jim wouldn't have refused her if she was getting married on the moon. When he got to the church and then fitted with the rented tux, tugging at the annoyingly snug cummerbund, Annie spilled the beans for the quick wedding. She was going to be a mama and her glow was explained as more than being a bride. He would be an honorary uncle in six months. Later on, Annie was absolutely radiant in her bridal gown as he proudly walked her down the aisle toward her intended, Brass felt a familiar ache in his heart of it should it have been him at the end of the aisle and not Rivera. Keeping his feelings in check he'd warmly kissed her cheek before giving her hand to Marco's, the look they shared in silently saying good-bye to their past to be fond memories and release her for her new future. Brass had stayed at the wedding reception long enough to have one dance with Annie before he discretely left to be in time for his flight home.
Lost in his thoughts, he felt a patting sensation on his chest and looked down to see Iris.
"You didn't respond to my text?"
"Sorry, I got a little jet lag I guess."
"How was the wedding?"
"Annie's signed, sealed and delivered. They're headed to Fiji by now for their honeymoon."
"That sounds like a lovely place to spend such a special time."
"You sound wistful, King."
"It beats the justice of the peace and not going anywhere."
"Your first marriage, right?"
"One like that was enough, Jim, I had enough lemons to make a river of lemonade!"
"So where's Sean?"
"I think he ditched me for the extra cute bartender inside but we should still find him there. Shall we?" Iris grinned at him as she slid her arm through his to link elbows.
Brass was always comfortable around Iris and walked into the lounge lobby with her. He planned to hang out for a little while until after the birthday cake scene and then quietly leave as soon as he could unless some unexpected opportunity presented itself to be with an outrageously buxom representative of the fair sex. That could definitely cause him to delay his departure he thought with a mirthless chuckle.
"What's funny?" Iris looked up at him curiously.
"Oh, nothing important," he shrugged.
"There's Sean," Iris pointed to a young man chatting it up with the slender honey-blonde bartender who seemed to be hanging on his every word.
"Kid's got good taste," Brass observed.
"He's a King, the men are natural charmers and never lack for the company of a lady," Iris laughed.
"Maybe he should give me some pointers," Brass joked drily.
"I'm sure you'll be in demand, Jim, I mean it's New Year's and almost your birthday! The women will be lining up to give you kisses right and left," Iris said with such confidence that Brass had to think maybe it could happen.
The CSI night shift team already had a large table staked out for them and it made perfect sense to Jim to join them as opposed to another where the LVPD Metro detectives were.
Iris had hired Archie for the night as the party DJ, a skill he was in high demand for during his off hours. The DJ area was on a raised platform so he could scope the crowd easily. He was making an adjustment in the lighting program on his laptop when he felt a tug on his shirt sleeve.
"Hey, Iris, thanks again for the gig!"
"Greetings, O Tech Lord, you've got a lot of folks up and dancing!"
"Listen, I'd like to make a request," Iris said and slipped a folded piece of paper with a generous tip into his hand.
Archie looked it over and the $100 bill. He winked at her. "I'll make it happen. Who's your date tonight?"
"My errant nephew who's probably going to be with someone besides his aunt," Iris fussed.
"I saw you come in with Brass though," Archie observed.
"Now that dog don't hunt, Archie! We just got here at the same time is all," Iris said with a shrug.
"Go snag some guy and have a fun night," Archie instructed.
Iris nodded halfheartedly as she walked away, muttering to herself, "Snag some guy…right."
Archie found he had a new customer after Iris went into the crowded dance floor and his eyebrows rose at the request and its specific instructions. The tip was equally generous. He was going to make some serious money tonight at this rate. He grinned, promising, "Yeah, I'll play it right at that point."
Jim shook hands with his best friend Gil Grissom who was seated by his wife Sara Sidle at the CSI table that was large enough to accommodate not only the CSI's but the crime lab personnel including Doc Al Robbins and his wife Judy. Brass grimaced slightly, wondering how it would go seeing Judy again since the homicide case involving her in the Robbins' home. He chose to dwell on something positive instead. It was good to have Grissom back even if it was briefly since he was in town during the holiday break because his college lecture schedule was clear. On the other side of Sara was Grissom's mother, a professor at the local college for the deaf. Catherine was with fellow detective Lou Vartann, although Catherine had shown some recent interest in FBI agent Viggo McQuaid for the case they were presently working. Brass wondered where that would go, Catherine deserved someone decent after…his mind whispering Warrick's name. Ecklie was with a knockout blonde he didn't recognize…lucky SOB Brass silently acknowledged. DB Russell had brought his wife Barbara and introduced her to Brass. Barbara was a lovely brunette with a warm personality Jim found as they chatted briefly.
The seat beside him was briefly vacant as he discretely scoped the room for possible female candidates to share the evening with when Iris plopped down beside him with a brooding expression.
"Mind if I sit here?"
"I saw you scanning the place, Jim. If you have some lovely lined up, say the word and I'll vacate. It's almost your birthday and I want you have to have a blast tonight."
"It's not that, Iris…"
"Jim, you can't bull me, you were trying to be discrete but I know better," Iris snorted.
"Okay, Iris, you busted me but you said I'd be swimming in women wishing me a happy birthday," Jim reminded with a pointing finger.
"My gender will come through," Iris said cryptically. She heard what was starting to play and pulled his elbow. "Come on and line dance with me!"
Jim allowed it as she also crowed the same to the rest at the table and everyone went to the dance floor as Archie started "Disco Dazz" with an array of lights dancing off a mirrored disco ball suspended above them. He picked up on the steps quickly as he followed Iris before she let Doc Al and his Judy step in between them. Mrs. Robbins gave him a quick nod of greeting as the line dance kept going.
As the song ended, Archie kept things moving with Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and the line dancers now paired off who wanted to dance longer. Doc Robbins walked with Judy toward Brass who sucked in a breath of surprise. Now what?
"Jim, Iris invited me to dance with her, so please take custody of my bride," he requested and put Judy's hand in Jim's.
"Custody's a specialty of mine," he replied with a fixed smile while he carefully slid his arm around Judy's waist.
Al began a close dance with Iris with his cane being no hindrance at all Jim observed as he tried to do the same with Judy although he felt awkward and she picked up on it.
"Jim, let it go about what happened, I did some time ago. Al explained your judgment was clouded because of what happened in your first marriage. I understand why you felt that way," Judy said into his ear so he could hear her above the music.
"So you're saying we're square?" Brass asked in astonishment.
"It's going to be a New Year soon, what better time to forgive and forget, let the past be the past," she reassured him with a sincere smile.
"Yeah, you're right, thanks," Brass replied with genuine relief and gratitude.
"By the way, happy birthday," Judy said with soft kiss on his cheek.
"Appreciate it," Jim said and felt relaxed now to enjoy the rest of the dance with her. Iris had seen Judy's buss and held her forefinger up to denote "1", Brass shot her a challenging "we'll see" look.
Brass safely delivered Judy back to Doc Al and was on his back way to the table when he ran into two fellow Metro homicide detectives, Lieutenants Brice Travis and Paolo Andretti.
"Jim, birthday boy, how's it hangin'? Here to score with some sweet hottie?" Paolo asked with an amiable leer toward one of the drink waitresses.
"It's long and strong to go all night long, boys, but I'm just here to participate in the festivities," Brass responded with a toothy smile that bordered on a sneer.
"You had to know about King's plan to incorporate your birthday into this soiree," Brice remarked casually.
"I know but I'll act surprised for her benefit," Jim shrugged.
"She seems to have gone to a lot of trouble. You sure she's not wantin' to holster your big gun tonight?" Brice asked with a sarcastic chuckle.
Jim kept his cool in spite of the surge of anger he felt. He got up close to Brice so he could respond but just so the lieutenants heard and no one else. His tone was firm but with a shade of warning. "She's gone out of her way to put together a fun time for the entire force on a night when the rest of the city gets to party. I'd cut her some slack. You know I don't appreciate hearing any bull crap about any of the female CSI's, especially those on graveyard or swing!"
"Uh, right, my mistake, we'll be around for your birthday cake," Brice said and jerked his thumb at Paolo toward two women at the bar.
"Good hunting, ass wipes," Jim grunted at the backs of the departing lieutenants.
He heard a familiar laugh, one that always seemed to have a musical tone to it, as he watched Sara, Grissom's mother and Iris engaged in signing. Iris had been signing vigorously and by her expression something humorous was communicated when she laughed again, Sara also giggling and Grissom's mother nodding with a wide grin.
As Paolo passed Iris, he brushed by her, discretely inquiring, "We're still on for the cake, right?"
"Sure, just as you requested," Iris said neutrally.
Jim saw Paolo saying something to Iris and wondered what it could be. Iris had little if anything to do with Andretti and Travis. He'd heard her opinion of the Pretty Boys as she called them and it wasn't complimentary. She felt if there wasn't a mirror at the crime scene you could almost count on them not to show up. To her they were a legend in their own minds. Jim concurred with her assessment. Iris was generally very positive about those she worked with otherwise Brass had found.
Brass found himself in a reflective mood as a sense of weariness seemed to settle on him like a dark cloak. All the changes of the last few years went through his mind like an old home movie. Warrick's murder at the hands of imprisoned former Undersheriff McKeen. Grissom's departure from the team after Sara's with the news of their marriage even though Sara's subsequent return to the team had been something of a healing balm. Jim had been happy for his best friend, but he had allowed himself to grow close to Grissom's replacement Dr. Ray Langston. That friendship was different in its chemistry and complexity. What the Nate Haskell rollercoaster had put the graveyard CSI team and Jim through and its disciplinary aftermath. Jim knew he'd stretched out his neck to help Ray with what happened with Haskell. He'd understood when Ray had to resign and leave Vegas due to the fallout but perhaps it ended best even though the sour aftertaste left in the team's mouth was still there. Ray had returned to Baltimore with Gloria and they were still together. Langston still kept in contact with Brass by text or occasional phone call, much the way Gil Grissom did, Jim musing he considered both men to be among his closest friends.
Jim glanced over to where the new supervisor DB Russell and his wife Barbara were talking with Doc Al and his Judy. Morgan Brody, Ecklie's daughter, was proving to be a good fit to the rest of the team. Greg Sanders was like a lovesick puppy around her at times Jim had observed. Catherine had seemed restless to him lately but he was hopeful it was just a passing thing and not tied to her relationship with Vartann having issues about her company with FBI Agent McQuade. Jim was still in a formulative phase with trying to figure DB out, who he'd nicknamed Moonbeam. He was secretly envious though of Barbara calling DB when he was on a case, and he wondered if Nancy would have done if their marriage had survived. Brass knew the man was faithful to his wife and committed to his family. DB was the same toward the CSI team he now lead and would call a "family meeting" when he had to bring them together to discuss something important. His leadership style while different from Grissom's seemed so far so good to Brass.
However, when it came to Iris, he still was unsure about her joining the crime lab. Jim had felt initially she was out of her league coming to the Vegas crime lab even though she came on board with Nick's endorsement who knew from when he had been at the Dallas Police Department and that of Gil Grissom. She had been poised to transfer to the team after Warrick's tragic passing by Grissom's approval but it had been sidetracked when Ecklie had selected Riley Adams instead due to her immediate availability. She'd received the news of Morgan's addition to the graveyard team graciously and had waited patiently until an opening on the swing shift occurred in May 2011 and she'd accepted it. If DB needed extra hands to help the graveyard team, he tended to only request Iris who had what he called "quiet glue" that augmented his team. Brass and Iris had developed a solidly amiable relationship, her taking frequent humorous jabs from him about her eclectic hobby choices of horses, sword fencing, amateur ballroom dance competing, singing in her church, fishing, bowling, and her unabashed passion for hockey. They'd had their share of lively discussions about the sport, and Iris' being a season ticket holder to the Las Vegas Wranglers hadn't surprised him. To add to that was her involvement with the Las Vegas Sheriff Search and Rescue Team where she used her two retired police bloodhounds and horse to help in missing person cases. She'd garnered the title of "The Singing CSI" because she often sang to herself while investigating a crime scene. She would ask those she worked with in advance if it was a distraction and not do so if it did. Yet others agreed because something from it gave a calming effect which aided clarity for particularly brutal homicides while processing it.
Jim cracked a smile remembering when she heard Hodges tell her upon meeting him for the first time about his superior sense of smell and a case involving his olfactory detection of cyanide. This had happened outside of Brass' office so how could he not hear the conversation. She had congratulated him on his unique ability and gone on to state if one of her bloodhounds wasn't available would he be willing to wear a collar and leash. Her query had been asked with sincerity but Greg had piped up that Hodges probably would. It was one of the few times Brass had seen Hodges without a comeback.
The next thing Brass knew he was grabbed by each elbow by Brice and Paolo as Archie announced to the crowd. "Everyone, it's time to wish our own Captain Jim Brass an early happy birthday!"
Jim was shepherded by the Pretty Boys back to the CSI table to a chair from which helium balloons bearing different birthday greetings from tame to a bit risqué. He reluctantly took the seat of honor. A large chocolate cake decorated with "Happy Birthday Jim" was being wheeled to him by a scantily clad, long leggy ash-blonde goddess. A multitude of masculine whoops and hollers ensued, calling Jim a lucky this, that and the other. He craned his neck toward the approaching vision…things were looking up now! Brass felt his heart rate going up amongst other physiologic responses.
As she neared and he got an even better look at her, his throat went tight as he and the vision shared a look of mutual recognition. He hadn't seen her since that interrogation incident nearly 10 years ago, and he'd kept it that way on purpose though part of him had fought that decision, telling him he was certifiably nuts. A fun romp at the best and maybe one with staying power but could the age difference eventually been an issue. It was to have stayed in the "as if" closet. She'd only gotten lovelier and shapelier, her skin-tight attire attesting to that, over the passage of time as the cart came to a stop beside him. Jim shot a quick look where Iris was seated. Their eyes met briefly before she looked down and her face went blank with a curt headshake. No, she hadn't arranged this part and couldn't have for she wouldn't have had any foreknowledge about the cake presenter. Who…Grissom? A sideways glance at Grissom showed he was just as stunned as himself and Iris.
The blonde bombshell leaned over to whisper throatily in his ear, "Wanna continue part two of our interrogation later?"
"Hiya, Renee, you look well," Jim finally got control of his voice so the pitch remained deep and manly.
Grissom who sat nearest to him was doing his utmost to maintain a cool exterior while on the inside his investigative instinct was on red alert. No one knew about the Renee event. It was something he and Brass had rarely elaborated on after he had taken Renee's hair strand for DNA analysis. To his knowledge Renee had no further contact with Brass. The topic had only been discussed briefly between them at Jim's desk over shot glasses when that first case involving Lady Heather had concluded. There had been several earthy comments made in an atmosphere of bonhomie about what could happen with a lot of grins and chuckles. The biggest humor sharing the knowledge of Renee's hair color was not the same elsewhere. It was supposed to be past history. Well, so much for letting sleeping dogs lie he thought.
"Ah, Gil, so nice to see you," Renee purred at Grissom, who felt Sara's nudge under the table.
Grissom responded with a nod and benignly pleasant smile. "It's, uh, a surprise to see you here, Renee. Did Iris hire you?"
"Iris?" Renee's face confirmed she didn't recognize the name.
"No, I didn't. Renee's appearance was secured by others," Iris responded with a defined neutral tone.
Ah, Brass thought, that's why Iris looked so irked, although she'd deny it.
Archie showed up with a microphone. "Everyone, your attention please, this lovely lady is going to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Captain Brass but join in. Ladies, show your love to our favorite detective tonight, okay?"
Renee accepted the microphone with and proceeded to serenade Jim with a very throaty and seductive rendition of the song, taking one well-manicured hand with blood-red nails and rubbing it suggestively up and down his shirt before sliding it inside his shirt. Her rendition was very much like the famous Marilyn Monroe's. The hoots and hollers built again in volume and content of intensity from nearly all at CSI and crime lab table as well as the rest of the people who gathered from around the lounge as all sang along with Renee. Iris found herself just mouthing the words and feigning it with the slightest of smiles. The Pretty Boys had found two willing females and were particularly active in adding a bawdy addition of their own to end the song with.
"Happy Birthday, Brass man, you can look forward to having Renee as your present from the department later!" Paolo crowed, slapping Brass on the back while Renee proceeded to curl up in Jim's lap. The crowd applauded as Brass was then given an open-mouthed kiss by Renee. She left her post to allow a line of other women who proceeded to give Jim kiss after kiss. Iris' gender came through for the next ten minutes.
Brass pounded the table to get everyone's attention. "I wanted to thank Iris for the early birthday gift I got from her…that I'm wearing right now in her honor…how'd she know I was partial to Victoria's Secret animal print silk speedos?"
He'd expected she'd have her trademark blush and be speechless from that zinger. Her head cocked slightly as those large brown eyes targeted him. "I had those custom-made for you, darlin', how'd you like the bold red 'Big Bad Brass' I had embroidered on the fly for the zebra, leopard and tiger prints?"
Those at the table went silent for several seconds before a chorus of snickers and chuckles blended into a collective roar of laughter from all those present. Jim mouthed "well played" to Iris who accepted his compliment with a slight head nod. Another instance where she'd surprised Brass who had to admit he didn't have the spunky CSI figured out all the way. Not yet but he would.
Archie took a brief break to let Brass get saturated with estrogen and then went back to the DJ area. "Come on, people, let's crank this party up to a respectable noise level," Archie commanded, then got "Sexy and I Know It" going to crowd the dance floor. The music video played on a large display screen behind the energized dancers.
Iris all but bolted from the table to find someone for the song and bumped into Grissom. She felt immediately awkward even though she'd been introduced by Sara spent time visiting at their home while Grissom was in town. Iris had felt a type of crush for the former CSI supervisor who had been instrumental along with Nick for her being able to come to Vegas. She regretted mentioning it to Sara some months ago after she'd attended one of his bug seminars when she was still back in Dallas and he'd autographed an entomology forensic book he'd coauthored. Sara had told Grissom who was flattered because Iris was an admirer he didn't mind having.
"Griss, you want to step on my toes?" Iris asked.
"I don't think I have sexy and I know it dance moves," Grissom said with a doubtful look at how others were on the ballroom floor.
"Can we find out?" Iris now signed, seeing Brass take Renee (who Iris swore to herself was slithering) to dance. The woman molded herself to Jim as she proceeded to prove her effect as his living and breathing birthday present.
"Yes, we have no dignity to lose!" Grissom signed back with an encouraging grin. Sara was laughing and signed "go for it" from the table.
Grissom mimicked Iris step for step and move for move which were tasteful but sinuous as they close danced.
"Archie said you came in with Jim but I don't get Renee's being here?"
"We just came in at the same time. My nephew decided to go elsewhere after we arrived. I'm used to it. I knew the Pretty Boys had some hottie lined up but Jim knows her somehow I could see that. To me it's like they were picking up where they left off."
"She was questioned by Jim and me on a case we worked several years ago, and nothing happened I can attest to that."
"I suppose but where there's smoke there's…you know…she made a lasting impression of that I'm sure."
"You know Jim's not involved with anyone and though the lovely Renee is here for the capacity she's called to fill it won't change a thing in a night."
"You've known him much longer and as his best friend I trust your assessment," Iris agreed and positioned herself so that she wouldn't see Jim and The Serpent she now dubbed Renee.
"Are you jealous?" Grissom was curious looking down at her.
"Oh, heavens no, I was concerned that I might be associated with Renee's hiring that's all. Like everyone here I want Jim to have a great time for his birthday and ringing in the New Year, so I'm sure Renee will do just that for him," Iris said in a bubbly voice and tried to affect an effervescent look.
"Men, do the wiggle-wiggle-wiggle!" Archie said and demonstrated a rapid pelvic gyration in concert with the group in the video.
Nearly all the men on the dance floor tried to follow suit, Brass and Grissom included, making Iris nearly stop dancing because she started to laugh and saw Sara cracking up back at the table. Sara grabbed a napkin to write on and held up a huge 10 that Grissom saw when the wiggle was over. Iris' shoulders were still shaking from her laughter, as Grissom kept his dignity and resumed their dance.
"I tell you, Iris, it's been a while since I've had such a fun night. You've put a wonderful event together and he will remember it," Grissom replied confidently and gave her a hug as the song was ending.
"Hey, Iris, can you sing a request?" Archie suddenly asked through his microphone.
Iris gave a start and nodded "no". She wasn't prepared and to sing in front of a group this large and it made her throat go dry. While at home or in the car or do a special at church, sure, no problem.
"A donation will be made to your favorite charity," Archie coaxed.
"Come on, Iris, do it! I'll start the kitty!" Brass exclaimed, grabbing a big sombrero-type hat Greg with flashing Happy New Year letters was wearing and pulling his wallet out. Renee stood back with a pouty look. She and Iris exchanged a calculating look while Brass pulled out some bills to toss in the hat. He passed it back to Greg who reached into his pocket.
Iris gulped. She was stuck between a Brass and a hard place she realized but Jim had asked and it was partly his birthday party. She had to comply.
"As you wish," Iris said with a demure curtsy toward Brass that he ate up and made Renee glare laser beams. She walked bravely to where Archie had set up a microphone for her, breathing a little prayer with each step.
"Okay, folks, if I could slow it down a bit, Archie, you've got my karaoke tracks we do our private parties with. For the birthday boy, I'd like to do "You Make Loving Fun" by Fleetwood Mac."
As the music started, Iris began to sing in a clear smoky alto with her eyes meeting Jim's frequently. She noted Renee's attempts to keep Jim's attention but he kept it directed toward Iris while the dance floor was full of slow dancing couples.
"Sweet wonderful you, You make me happy with the things you do. Oh, can it be so, this feeling follows me wherever I go. I never did believe in miracles, but I've a feeling it's time to try. I never did believe in the ways of magic, but I'm beginning to wonder why. Don't, don't break the spell, it would be different and you know it will. You, you make loving fun, and I don't have to tell you that you're the only one. Oooh . . . you make loving fun. (It's all I wanna do.) Oooh . . . you make loving fun. (It's all I wanna do.) Oooh . . . you make loving fun. (It's all I wanna do.)"
Applause came from all over the lounge as the song ended. Iris bowed slightly while Brass gave a piercing whistle of approval. She gave him a slight smile and nod of acknowledgement as she exited the platform to head to the CSI table to get a piece of cake before there was nothing left but crumbs.
Ecklie suddenly claimed her hand as Archie started up the next tune which was "New Sensation" by INXS. Iris thought why not and was an INXS fan so she let him lead how he liked to dance. She adapted in a few moments without the undersheriff ever realizing. He leaned down to say, "Thanks again for the introduction to Margo."
"I'm glad you two hit it off. A hospital nurse's schedule can be as wacky as ours," Iris said. Margo was her next door neighbor and Iris had heard from Morgan that Ecklie was dateless for tonight. She'd had Margo visit her at the lab on the pretense of bringing her purse left at home and then she'd been sure to introduce her as she gave her an impromptu tour of the lab. Ecklie's interest was evident and so it went from there.
Ecklie felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to face Brass who had Margo with him. Jim said, "Trading one babe for another."
"Come on, Iris, give me a new sensation," Brass growled his challenge into her ear, holding her close and feeling her shiver which he found strangely invigorating. "Hope you like this…I call it the Dirty Brass."
His dancing moves were straight out of "Dirty Dancing" but Iris held her own while Ecklie and Margo modeled what they did. In fact, the rest of the CSI team joined them in a large group to all be doing the Dirty Brass. Jim grinned at what he'd started and chuckled by Iris' ear, "I saw you signing with Sara and Grissom's mother, what was that about?"
"We were chatting about men. So what happened to Renee…she's your date or present or whatever…you should be with her?" Iris asked with raised eyebrows as Brass attempted a slight dip.
"Men, huh, from what I hear that's not a subject you're seasoned on, King. Renee went to powder her nose and Margo was ready to rejoin Ecklie so I wanted one dance with you if you didn't mind. My birthday hasn't been this fun in a while. Remember you owe Big Bad Brass his birthday kiss," Jim replied with a crooked smile.
"One is glad to be of service," Iris said through clenched teeth, quoting her favorite saying from the movie "Bicentennial Man". Her ear caught what Archie was playing next and it was the song she'd tipped for but this was not the person she'd envisioned herself dancing it with.
"It's nearly midnight…I'm going to play a special request before we get ready for Auld Lang Syne. They're still red-hot in the country scene…Lady Antebellum's "We Owned the Night".
"Jim, I need to go get Renee…", Iris started to say when Brass blocked and framed her to him.
"Let's go, precious," Jim said with a predatory grin
"Tell me have you ever wanted someone so much it hurts? Your lips keep trying to speak but you just can't find the words. I had this dream once; I held it in my hands."
His dance choice was a challenging blend of waltz, tango and his Dirty Brass and she followed his lead on instinct. Dancing had helped her develop being able to adapt quickly to a setting that could change in a moment like here. Jim's surprise was evident in seeing how it caught on yet again with those around them who gave them room to so they could watch and follow.
"She was the purest beauty, but not the common kind. She had a way about her that made you feel alive. And for a moment she made the world stand still. Yeah, we owned the night."
Iris lost herself in the moment as a childlike joy suffused her face and Jim smiled to see it as the song continued. He wanted them to have a portion of the night to have fun between them and this was it. She had to admit to herself it was proving more fun than she'd ever imagined being with Jim in a dancing situation.
"You had me dim the lights; you danced just like a child. The wine spilled on your dress and all you did was smile. Yeah, it was perfect. I hold it in my mind. Yeah, we owned the night."
Grissom had Sara as they went by and he said to Brass, "Good choice, Jim, we get to show off the ballroom lessons you bought us as a late wedding gift!"
"You chose this song?" Iris gasped in disbelief.
"I like country a little more than you give me credit for," Brass laughed at her.
"But I asked Archie to play it!" Iris said in surprise.
"Well, I've heard you sing it at a few of the crime scenes we've worked lately so Archie got a double tip," Jim said before taking her in a heady spin.
"When summer rolls around and the sun starts sinking down I still remember you. Oh, I remember you and I wonder where you are. Are you looking at those same stars again? Do you remember when? We woke under a blanket all tangled up in skin. Not knowing in that moment we'd never speak again. But it was perfect; I never will forget. We owned the night. Yeah, we own the night."
Brass gave Iris a slow leisurely twirl as the song ended before seriously dipping her as she proved to be more limber than he thought, the move being applauded by their CSI and crime lab partners they were in the midst of. Iris saw that Mandy had ended up with Nick somehow during the dance and saw the way the fingerprint tech looked at the tall Texan. Her dark eyes were unguarded with a sparkle while Nick was trading some barb with Greg. Iris was astonished – the girl had a yen for Nickers!
As they headed back to the CSI table, Jim got tagged with a succession of female well-wishers who he received kisses on the cheeks to very friendly lip-locks from. Brice and Paolo waited till the ladies were gone and then Paolo gave him a fresh drink of another Jim he knew well…Jim Beam.
"Come on, Brass, drink up, it's almost New Year's!" Paolo encouraged, holding his own drink, as did Brice. They raised their glasses to him in a toast as Jim reluctantly did the same.
"Guys, this is my last one of the night," he told them, for others had been toasting him throughout the evening, and he knew he was reaching the limit of what he could safely imbibe.
"May you get lucky all night and our envy is who you get to be lucky with," Brice toasted with a salacious glance at Renee who sat waiting expectantly on Brass, one long tanned leg she slid seductively over the other one. The move gave Jim a jolt in the gut as the memory played itself over in his mind. Yeah, she knew she was getting to him.
Iris had seated herself as far as she could decently get away with by Mandy and Nick who were arguing over finger print techniques. Her eyes were trained discretely on Brass. She'd seen Jim have more than a few drinks during the course of the night. Yes it was a night to celebrate in that fashion and coupled with his birthday she was hardly surprised he'd had a course of drinks but her concern was would he be okay to take himself home later.
The three men drained their drinks in unison and then Brass gave their glasses to a passing cocktail waitress with a tip. A quick look at his watch confirmed the last gasp of 2011 was nearly upon them.
"Everyone get your party hats and noisemakers, we start counting down in 30 seconds!" Archie told the crowd.
The CSI lab tab table began to empty of its occupants and head to the dance floor. Iris watched them go: Grissom and Sara, Greg with Morgan Brody, Nick with Mandy, Catherine with Vartann, Ecklie with Margo, Doc Al and wife Judy, DB and his wife Barbara. The pairs made all the sense in the world, just as it did for her to remain behind.
Grissom's mother signed to Iris. "Iris, you should go too."
Iris patted her hand and replied, "Us unattached girls need to stick together."
DB turned a moment to go back to Iris. "Come on, family meeting," he said with a wink.
"I'll sit this one out," Iris waved him on.
"No is not an option," DB said and pulled her by the elbow. Barbara beckoned for him to hurry up. Grissom's mother made a shooing motion at Iris to go with DB.
Always the third wheel, Iris thought glumly. Her eyes widened when she saw Brice with Renee on him like white on rice. Where was the birthday boy? As if to answer her, an arm slid around her waist and she found herself face to face with Brass. Her eyebrows shot up in dismay as she protested. "Jim, you're supposed to be with Renee for Auld Lang Syne!"
"I get to pick who I want to ring in the New Year with so deal," he told her and took her into the middle of the CSI lab group of couples. Iris ducked her head to hide the blush she felt coming on.
"Here we go…ten…nine…," Archie crowed into his microphone.
"Eight…seven…six…five…four…three…two…one….HAPPY NEW YEAR", the crowd roared as one.
As "Auld Lang Syne" played, Jim held Iris as close as close could get, looked down at Iris with a quirky smile, tilted her head just so and proceeded to lay a heavy lip lock on her. He heard her gasp of surprise and found her lips were petal soft against his, yielding as he gently probed and their kiss became more open-mouthed. A sweet combat of tongues ensued. In the back of his mind he'd wondered how reserved would she be like this, having planned all evening to get her in this situation. Her arms tightened in response to the kiss as something unexpected flared between them - a hunger, a need, a void in the soul being filled. Jim was astonished as he found himself focused on holding her tighter and deepening their kiss. The crowd and the singing and sound of noisemakers faded into the background. Brass was enjoying the intensity of what Iris was brought to the kiss, an unexpected benefit and made him wonder what other surprises there were to find out if he dared.
"Well, we gotta lot of face sucking going on. This is for those lovers and going to be lovers," Archie laughed, "grab your man or your honey, this is 'Don't You Wanna Stay'."
"I really hate to let this moment go. Touching your skin, and your hair falling slow. When a goodbye kiss, feels like this. Don't you wanna stay here a little while? Don't you wanna hold each other tight? Don't you wanna fall asleep with me tonight?"
Their lips parted briefly as Iris looked up at Brass, her large dark eyes full of wonder and questions. Jim just smiled cryptically before resuming their kiss as the lyrics took them.
"Don't you wanna stay here a little while? We can make forever feel this way. Don't you wanna stay? Let's take it slow, I don't wanna move too fast. I don't wanna just make love, I wanna make love last. When you're on this high, it's a sad goodbye."
Iris had to breathe at some point and broke the kiss as Jim kept busy on her neck. The pulse of her throat was pounding and he relished getting her so wound up.
"Don't you wanna stay here a little while? Don't you wanna hold each other tight? Don't you wanna fall asleep with me tonight? Don't you wanna stay here a little while? We can make forever feel this way. Don't you wanna stay? Oh yeah."
"Okay, Iris, break's over, back to my birthday kiss you owed and paying up well" Jim chuckled as his lips took hers again. Couples all around them had the same idea, Brass thought, but this was new for Iris he could tell and he was going to make the most of it.
"Oh, you feel so perfect, baby. That it feels so perfect, baby. Don't you wanna stay here a little while? Don't you wanna stay here a little while? Don't you wanna hold each other tight? Don't you wanna fall asleep with me tonight? Don't you wanna stay here a little while? We can make forever feel this way. Don't you wanna stay? Don't you wanna stay? Yeah, yeah, yeah…."
As the song ended, they mutually pulled apart slightly and he could feel she was trembling although doing her best for it not to be noticed. Brass motioned to a nearby drink hostess, spoke into her ear what he wanted and she left briefly. When she returned it was with two goblets of sparkling liquid, Jim handed one to Iris.
"Jim, I only drink wine on rare occasions," Iris said.
"I know and its ginger ale for both of us," he grinned and clinked his glass to hers, "Happy New Year!"
"Happy New Year, may it be full of surprises for each of us," Iris smiled and drained her glass.
"Wow, that was some spit exchange," Doc Al noted, pointing his cane at them.
"You two need to get a room?" Judy grinned as Al kissed her cheek.
As Brass laughed heartily, Iris managed a weak chuckle herself before extricating herself while Brass responded to Judy's query. She discretely went for the ladies room and to get a drink of water. Her lips were on fire and the electric tingle of Jim's kiss wasn't going to fade right away of that she was sure. In the ladies room, she ran cold water over her face and made a wet compress of paper towels to put on the back of her neck.
"Folks, it's been fun but now that we've rung in the New Year, we have to be out of here by one o'clock in agreement with the lounge manager and to get shift changes for Metro," Archie sadly told the crowd
Brass looked around to see where Iris gone off to but decided to go sit at the table and enjoy some of cake he hadn't gotten to finish. Grissom and Sara were already there finishing up theirs.
"Jim, how long have you and Iris been a secret item? I thought Sara and I had the corner market on that."
"Gil, we ain't an item. I wanted to shock her and I think I got her but good."
"You seemed pretty into it."
"It was enjoyable…I've had better."
"Well, I think…oh, hello, Renee," Grissom didn't get the chance to finish his statement as Renee took a seat beside Jim. Sara gauged the other woman through a veiled glance. She preferred having Iris back not this erotic escort.
"Jim, are you ready to go to your place?" Renee purred, boldly sliding her hand down his thigh under the table.
Usually, Brass would've loved that sort of move, but he suddenly hiccuped and then let a Richter scale 10 belch rip. All of a sudden he didn't feel so good.
Renee sat back with a frown. This wasn't going like she had expected at all.
Grissom and Sara were leaving but wanted to check on how Jim was. Grissom could assess that Jim was not himself. "Maybe you and Renee should get together another night?"
"Gil, I'm good, I promise. Just give me a few minutes, doll, to get it together and then we'll go," Jim said, rubbing the back of his neck wearily with closed eyes. A woozy feeling washed over him again. He felt a cool towel pressed into his hand that he used to wipe his face.
"Thanks, Ren…," Jim started to say gratefully when he saw it was Iris who had provided the towel.
"Jim, the manager said you could lie down in her office where there's a couch, then you can leave with Renee when you've rested a bit," Iris said neutrally, forcing out the words about his pending departure with his present. The lounge manager shook her head to confirm it.
"I think I will," Jim got up unsteadily and Renee walked with him as they followed the lounge manager to her office.
Ten minutes later, while Iris had been gathering the remnants of Jim's birthday cake, salvaging a few pieces to take home with her as she'd had none herself. Her piece had been scarfed by Nick. Brice and Paolo were having an extra slice each when Renee came to the table in a huff.
"He's asleep! How am I supposed to give him a special night you haven't even paid for yet?"
"Listen, we're good for the money! We'll get him up for you and even drive you there!" Brice promised.
"How much did you promise her?" Iris asked the Pretty Boys through narrowed eyes.
"A thousand…we took up a collection from the other detectives," Paolo shrugged.
"Excuse me," Iris said and headed to the bar. Sean was still there with an arm securely around the waist of the bartender he'd been with all evening.
"Aunt Iris, this is Selene, I want to show her the Bellagio Fountains. Can I borrow your Excursion?"
"How much did he have to drink, Selene?"
"He had two wine coolers. That's all. I wanted him to stay straight."
"Sean, be home before sun-up, okay? My vehicle better be in one piece to or your butt is mine!" Iris said and handed the SUV keys to him. "Selene, can you call Gail the lounge manager please?"
Renee's pout was pronounced when Iris returned to the table. She handed a wad of folded bills to Renee.
"What's this?" Renee's eyebrow cocked suspiciously.
"There's two thousand there for your time and trouble. I checked on Jim and he's in no shape for what you had planned. I'm going to drive Jim home in his car to make sure he gets there safe," Iris said, holding up Brass' keys.
"Thanks, I think…so what am I supposed to do now?" Renee said with a look of genuine surprise at Iris.
"I'll rescue you," Brice offered, sliding his arm through Renee's.
"Have you ever been foamed?" Renee said through half-lidded eyes.
"Uh, no…but it sounds like great," Brice gulped. "Paolo, that new motorcycle patrolwoman was looking for you earlier. She's in the lobby if you hurry."
Brice strolled off with Renee on his arm. Paolo was going to go to find his prospect in the lobby when Iris' hand closed like a vise on his forearm. Her dark eyes were dark and angry.
"Not so fast. Jim was fine until he had a drink with you and Brice. I watched you and you seemed a little over exuberant about it! He can drink more than he did tonight and be okay. I saw him at the 4th of July party so I know that for a fact. He's under the influence of something. Tell me what you gave him!" Iris demanded and Paolo knew he was busted.
"We slipped a Roofagra in the drink we toasted him with. It was so he could have the night of a lifetime with Renee except he wouldn't be able to remember it. The ultimate irony," Paolo tried to joke weakly.
"You gave him a roofie and Viagra cocktail! You sick jerks," Iris gasped. "For now I keep silent about this but if Jim gets sick you can be sure I'm going to IA (internal affairs) about your misconduct!"
"Geez, it was a joke that backfired, no harm done," Paolo tried to downplay it.
"Some joke," Iris snorted. "You better go while you still have a chance to score company."
Brass was snoring lightly when Iris went to the manager's office. She gently shook his shoulder.
"Ummph…what the…where am I?" Jim was disoriented a moment before he focused on Iris.
"You had a little too much to drink. You felt lousy so I had you lay down briefly. We need to go now. I'll drive you home in your car and be sure you're snug like a bug in a rug. I'll call a cab to take me home," Iris said.
"Okay, I swear I didn't have that much…sounds like a plan," he agreed with a slight slur to his voice and got up like a seasick sailor. Iris supported him as they headed out to his car.
Walking through the lobby, the female manager of the casino approached them. She was an attractive auburn with blonde highlights. She said with a sly wink at Brass, "Hi, I'm Jocelyn. Jimmy and I go back a ways."
Jocelyn slipped a packet of Alka Seltzer into Iris' pocket. "This will help him in the morning. Just like old times, huh, Jimmy!"
Brass gave her a lopsided grin.
"Thanks, Jocelyn, can you help me get him safely to his car?" Iris managed a quiet smile as she realized that at some point Jim and this woman had been together.
"Sure, honey, you get to home with him? I wouldn't expect anything right away given how he looks right now but once he's on he's like a bull in a china shop. He can love your socks off," Jocelyn giggled with a knowing nudge in Iris' ribs before she went to the other side of Brass. They waited on the valet to bring Brass' black Charger to the door.
"Good to know," Iris said quietly as they got Brass out to his car and into the passenger side of the Dodge Charger and seat belted in safely.
Brass dozed briefly as Iris drove carefully through the Strip which was overflowing with the revelers celebrating the birth of 2012. How he could sleep through the din Iris was amazed, being a very light sleeper herself. At last the bright lights of the Strip were behind them as Iris drove towards the I-15 to head to one of the older parts of Vegas where he lived. She'd been to Jim's house once in the daytime when he'd had car trouble and she'd taken him home after his Charger was in the shop. Finding the house at night might be a hurdle but she'd manage.
Jim suddenly roused and was confused being in the passenger seat. "Hey, let me drive!"
"No, birthday boy, I'm driving you like I told you earlier," Iris patted his forearm.
"I thought Renee was going home with me?" Brass sounded a bit petulant.
"She doesn't know where you live, you were asleep, so your high-heeled honey ended up leaving with Brice," Iris told him tartly.
"He won't be able to handle that package but you sound jealous, King," Jim snickered.
"I grant you she's probably your type: drop-dead gorgeous, boobalicious, long-legged, luscious and oozes a sex vibe a dead man could home in on," Iris sighed, irked by his comment.
"Boobalicious? I wouldn't call her my exact type, Iris, I like different types of women," Jim said, more defensively than he meant to.
"I'm sure your dance card has never lacked for names very long," Iris shrugged.
Jim winced inside. He'd admittedly cast a wide net for female company after he'd come to Vegas early on and his list of lovers was lengthy but over the recent years he'd become more choosy about who he spent any time with. Sure a night with Renee and what it could promise had turned itself over in his head a few times during the party.
As if she had ESP, Iris admitted, "I can't really blame you, Jim. She's what every red-blooded heterosexual male would thank the powers that be for a chance to be with."
Brass mulled that over for a few minutes before he had a moment of shattering clarity. "Iris, will you stay with me for a while after we get to my house? I thought it didn't matter but I realize I don't want to be alone on New Year's."
"I'm not Renee," Iris said softly.
"No, you're not, so don't misunderstand me here. I won't lie and say the idea of a night with Renee wasn't intriguing, but I'd rather spend the time with a friend who knows me, cares and is genuine," Jim suddenly grasped her hand and squeezed it.
"I'd stay anyway to be sure you're okay," Iris said, glancing at the skyline of the Strip as they went onto the I-15. "Hey, check out the fireworks!"
"Iris, can we make a detour back into town?" Brass asked suddenly.
"But my mission is to get you home and get you snug as a bug in a rug, remember?" Iris reminded him.
"You will, Scout's Honor," Jim pledged, "Now take this exit!"
"Aye, aye, Captain Brass," Iris acquiesced, wondering to herself what had become so urgent to Jim to head back into the city as the skyline popped and sparkled with rainbow colors from the fireworks. Iris personally called fireworks "dragon's breath" and loved to see them when she could. She'd take this as a positive from a night that had been challenging enough. Her emotions were jumbled enough after Jim's unexpected kiss. She'd still be his Good Samaritan and follow through on getting him safely home as soon as possible.