My husband is always thinking up new ways to get me to eat fruit. Every morning, he makes me a little fruit salad, which he leaves attractively arranged for me in a melon cup, or lined up in a banana skin 'boat'. He buys unusual fruits like pomegranates and lychees. Yesterday he came home with two candy apples. Although I don't like fruit at all, I accept that it's good for my health and that I should eat it. I appreciate my husband's efforts, because if he didn't nag me to eat fruit, I just wouldn't eat it, and therefore wouldn't benefit from the vitamins and enzymes in it.
I used to buy fruit for him, but I have been sternly forbidden to now. It would seem that I don't know how to buy fruit. I always buy apples that are old, or grapes that aren't sweet, strawberries that could have been had for a much better price at another store, or watermelons that have the wrong 'sound'. My husband has taught me how to pick up a watermelon, hold it next to my ear, and flick it with my thumb and forefinger. Apparently, the good ones make a particular sound. I dutifully do this, but I have no idea what I'm doing. The good watermelons sound exactly like the bad watermelons to me.
And, no, I don't like chocolate covered strawberries, either! I think that the strawberries ruin the chocolate. I never order fruit-based desserts in restaurants, and if the dessert comes with something fruity, like raspberry coulis, for example, I always ask for it to be left off the plate. I really have an aversion. Does anyone else feel this way, or am I the only one?
Anyhow, I'm sure you didn't check in here to read my musings on fruit, but rather the next chapter of slave to a gladiator . Here it is in all its worksafe, screwball glory!
Slave to a Gladiator
By Brit Columbia
Pairing: Dee and Ryo
Spoilers: to Volume 7
Disclaimer: These are Sanami Matoh's characters, not mine. I was not paid in any way for the creation of this story.
Summary: Dee and Ryo, dressed respectively as gladiator and slave, attend Diana's Halloween party at the New York Palace Hotel. Assorted shenanigans ensue.
Author's notes: Please forgive any inaccuracies you may find about the hotel. It was much worse before, but since the last chapter, I've done more research. Despite that, the fact remains that I've never actually set foot in the place. I've been working from pictures and descriptions. I chose to make the courtyard of the New York Palace darker than it probably is. From the pictures I've seen, it seems to be quite well lit at night, but I wanted it to be a little darker and more romantic.
Thank you to mtemplar, moontatoo, and the_ladyfeather for beta-ing this.
Partially hidden behind a large, colorful arrangement of exotic hothouse flowers, JJ peered through one of the arched glass windows that made up one whole wall of the lobby. He had trailed Drake and that latex tart down the broad, sweeping staircase, but had lost sight of them once they had gone out into the courtyard.
JJ was sure that Drake wouldn't have just left without a word to him. They had to be still out there smoking, that was it. Where the hell had Drake gotten to? It was dark out there and the courtyard was huge. There were items of patio furniture scattered here and there, along with large potted evergreen trees, their dense branches adorned for winter with fairy lights. It seemed as though a few other couples had also gone outside to get cool or enjoy a smoke. JJ saw the red luminescence of a cigarette flare in the darkness as someone took a drag on it. Could that be Drake? It was too bad the man was wearing a totally black costume, or he would have been easier to spot.
The first thing he had to do, thought JJ to himself, was to get himself into a suitably casual frame of mind and then stroll out through the door. Next on the agenda was to find Drake. After that, he wasn't sure what he was going to do.
JJ had no illusions as to why Drake had gone out there with that cat-eared Jezebel. His gonads were probably in overdrive after two months with no action. JJ couldn't quite imagine what that would be like. Since becoming sexually active at the age of eighteen, he had never gone longer than three weeks without a partner. In fact the only times he had been without one for longer than six or seven days were times when he was either up to his neck in overtime, or sick with a cold or the flu. Poor Drakey must be about ready to explode, he thought with a certain amount of sympathy, his eyes still searching for a familiar pair of upright bat ears.
Finally, he squared his shoulders and stepped back a pace from the window. The longer he stood here hesitating, the more likely it was that Drake and That Woman were 'bonding', or something. He could almost picture them huddling close together under the Batman cape for warmth, sharing cigarettes and exchanging lame jokes. JJ left the sumptuous shelter of the flower display and began sidling along the lobby windows in the direction of the door.
It was time to go Drake-hunting.
"Ta-daaah!" sang Diana as she, Todd the bartender, and Niko and his slaves arrived at Berkeley's fancy palanquin. "Drinkies!"
The litter bearers looked pleased at the news that they were about to be getting drinks. Or maybe they were just pleased at the return of Diana. She flattered herself that it was perhaps a little of both.
There was one bearer, however, whom she was sure was only pretending to be happy. He didn't seem to want to be here, and he kept looking at Berkeley and then looking away. She thought she could understand perhaps a little of what he felt.
But that didn't mean for one minute that she would put his interests ahead of her own.
She noted that Niko was openly admiring of Berkeley, who lolled indolently upon red velvet cushions with gold tassels, his arms around two passably gorgeous girls.
"Commissioner," Niko began, "It's really great to meet--"
"Not now, Niko. I need to explain the drinks," interrupted Diana, with a warm smile and a hard glance that added shut the fuck up already, although not precisely with words. "Ladies first."
Gwen sat up and said coolly, "Oh, I forgot to tell you. I only drink Chardonnay." She and Pamela exchanged little smiles.
"Well, how about you Pamela? Are you going to break my heart and refuse this gorgeous girls-only chocolate martini I had Todd make specially for you?" Diana tried to make puppy dog eyes, but did not quite succeed. The effect was more like Doberman eyes.
"Well..." Pamela hesitated. "We brought a couple of bottles of Cristal. I was planning to stick to champagne..." Despite her words, she was eyeing the martini with unmistakable interest.
"Aw come on, just try it. You don't have to finish it if you don't like it."
"Well, maybe just a sip. Does it really taste like chocolate?" She reached out a tentative hand, ignoring Gwen's little nudge.
"M-hm." Nodding enthusiastically, Diana passed it to her, being very careful not to look at Berkeley.
"Just a moment," Berkeley held up one finger. "Dee-Dee, darling, this wouldn't happen to be the same kind of chocolate martini you gave my cousin Lana, would it?"
"Certainly not!" Diana stared into his eyes, determined not to be the first to blink.
"All the same," he said, taking the martini glass from the hand of the disappointed Pamela, "I think we shan't risk it. Pamela, my dear, I ordered this Cristal especially for you, you know."
Pamela looked adoringly at him. "Should I believe you?"
"On the subject of champagne, you should always believe me," he said with a smile, handing the glass back to Diana, with a brief glance of warning.
She tried not to grit her teeth like she wanted to because she knew that if she did, a muscle might jump in her jaw, and she certainly didn't want anyone in this group to see how tightly wound up she was. Damn that man. Why did he have to have such a good memory?
"All righty then," she said smoothly, calmly returning the chocolate martini to the tray that Todd was holding. "Todd will bring you an ice bucket and some champagne flutes shortly." Fuck Gwen and her Chardonnay.
"What exactly happened to your cousin Lana?" Gwen asked the Commissioner with a tiny frown.
"Oh she just had a bit of an allergic reaction, that's all," he replied soothingly.
'Berkie, would you do me the honor of drinking a Bloody Caesar cocktail?" Diana asked, trying not to look at where Pamela's fingers idly caressed the side of Berk's chest that was left exposed by his toga. "I had Todd mix up a jug for you and your party."
"How can I refuse a drink with such a name? Certainly I'll have one, Dee-Dee, as long as you can promise me that I won't have any...ah... allergic reactions."
Diana took a cocktail glass full of opaque red liquid off Todd's tray and presented it to Berkeley with a little smirk. "Of course not, my darling. Your only known allergies are to monogamy and settling down."
The group erupted in laughter, including Berkeley himself. While they were distracted by merriment, one of Niko's two slaves snaked out a surreptitious hand and whisked the chocolate martini off the tray. Todd, who despite his youth was a longtime veteran of banquets, conventions and special events in the hotel business, didn't blink an eye.
"And for your hard-working and handsome 'bodyguards', too," said Diana, holding up the jug. "Drink one with me, boys!"
The four bearers cheered and took the empty tumblers that Todd handed them one by one. Diana poured the cocktail mix into each glass, saying "Wait, wait, all together now..."and then poured the dregs of the jug into a glass for herself. Todd immediately topped up her glass from a bottle of mix, earning an approving smile from her. Todd was very well trained.
"Hail Caesar!" shouted Diana, and she and the four bearers clinked glasses and tossed them back. One of them started coughing and another one got very red in the face. The one who had seemed tense and unhappy suddenly looked as though he were feeling better.
"Damn!" he said. "That's one killer drink, ma'am."
The few faint shreds of sympathy that Diana had previously felt for him went fluttering out the window at the sound of that dreaded word ma'am. She could accept being called ma'am by her subordinates at work, but she didn’t want to hear it from random young hunks in a party situation. Especially when the young hunk in question couldn't have been more than five years younger than she was.
Ma'am, huh? That did it; he was going down with the rest.
"Todd," she called. "Please mix up another jug of magic for Caesar's muscle. And bring champagne paraphernalia for Caesar and his, er... 'sisters'."
That got another laugh, and she was able to bow out of the situation. It was time to get Ryo out of his jeans. She caught Todd's eye and nodded her head at him. He nodded back in understanding. Certain that a silent message regarding the strength of the new jug of Caesar cocktails had been sent and received, Diana retraced her steps to where she had last seen Dee and Ryo.
To her secret pleasure, she saw Boris, her soccer player, trying his damnedest to start a fight with Dee. Before she reached the little group, however, Ryo had succeeded in wrenching the two men apart.
"Boys!" Diana called out. "What did I tell you about fighting?"
Dee held up his hands in protest. "I controlled myself!" he said. "The only reason this guy isn't out cold on the floor is because you said that scary things would happen to anyone who got into a fight at your party."
"Diana!" said Boris. "This jerkoff claims that he's your friend, but I don't believe he has any respect for you at all. He said - "
"All I said was that my tongue would love to take you to the peak of Mount Olympus three or four times," interrupted Dee looking as innocent as a man could look while saying such words in mixed company. "Is that bad?"
"You see? You hear?" Spluttering in indignation, Boris took a threatening step closer to Dee. He topped the NYPD detective in height by about two inches, and his whole body was quivering with the desire to punch somebody, preferably Dee.
"Agent Brasov," said Ryo placatingly, "My partner is only kidding. He has the greatest respect and affection for Diana, as do I. Dee's just pushing your buttons, that's all."
Diana widened her stance and put her hands on her hips. "Dee," she said warningly. "You'd just BETTER be all about respect and affection here, or so help me..."
"Of course I am! I worship the ground you walk on, everybody knows that." Dee silently congratulated himself for the convincing note of sincerity he inserted into that last sentence, since it was one of the biggest lies he had ever told in his life. But if it would help to get the Sea Hag into bed with this asshole, it would be worth it. She was always sweeter and much less of a pain in the ass when she was getting boinked regularly. "It's just that when this nimrod here came over and demanded to know my intentions - like he's your friggin' brother or something, I couldn't resist flipping him off."
Ignoring both men, Ryo stepped forward and solemnly said, "Diana, would you please have dinner with me on Tuesday night?"
For a moment, she almost laughed at the pained expression on his face. Way to make a girl feel special, Ryo, she thought to herself, but she didn't let her amusement show. Ignoring Boris' shocked look at this new and unexpected source of competition, she smiled encouragingly at the shy detective and said, "Let's get you somewhere quiet and private where you can change out of those sticky wet jeans, and we can certainly discuss dinner, hon." Switching her attention to his partner, she all but ordered Dee to go to the door and greet Ted, who was hovering at the entrance wearing a rather threadbare-looking lion costume.
Once he had been dispatched, she took a moment to bat her eyes at the brooding Boris and tell him that he put her in mind of David Beckham in his costume, only better looking, before whisking Ryo off to the little alcove she had mentioned earlier to Dee. She fanned herself with a party napkin as they went. Managing a room full of troublesome men was certainly an endeavor that required all of her best multitasking skills. She hoped it would be worth it at the end of the evening.
In the blessedly cool chill of the moonlight, Drake was leaning comfortably against a huge, square, waist-high planter that held one of the evergreens. His legs were spread, and his adorable long-legged cat woman was between them, pressing herself up against the faux-abs of his costume, her arms around his neck. A little earlier, he had gently settled his cape around her bare shoulders, a move she had liked. The smell of latex rose between their bodies to mingle with the woodsy, cedar smell that was coming from the tree.
"Serena," he whispered. "Such a pretty name..." Then he kissed her again. She tasted like cherry coke and the cigarette he had given her, and she squirmed sensually against his hard-on in a way that made him groan into her mouth. It had been so long!
He had initially cursed this skin-tight Batman costume for being too hot and constrictive, but JJ had insisted that he rent it, flattering him by telling him that not many men had the body to pull off such a close-fitting outfit. He had soon regretted his vanity, however, when the sweating started, which was about 37 seconds after he had squeezed himself into his black rubber prison. But now, however, he was thrilled that the costume had attracted this lovely woman. She had promised to get him out of it - at her place, which was apparently a short taxi ride from this hotel.
"Shall we go now, Drake?" she murmured against his lips, and he allowed his hand to slide down her back until it was cupping one of her buttocks through the thin skirt she wore under her bustier. No panty lines. No underwear. Oh God.
"Drakey! THERE you are!" JJ's loud, perky voice split the velvet darkness so disconcertingly close to his ear that he instinctively let go of Serena and almost fell down.
"JJ! What the hell? You nearly gave me a goddamn heart attack!"
"Sorry about that," chirped JJ, sounding about as apologetic as a robot. "But you see, I need your...your help."
"What's wrong? What do you need?"
"I, uh, need your help with Ryo. He's mad at me." JJ tried his best to assume a worried expression, although he didn't actually care very much whether Ryo was mad at him or not.
Drake snorted in disgust. "Well, that can certainly wait until tomorrow. If Diana was mad at you, I'd say you'd definitely have a problem, but Ryo is pretty civilized."
"Yeah, but wait 'til you hear what I did! And it was an accident, by the way. Dee seemed to think Ryo might wanna deck me. Drake, you have to save me!" JJ flung himself on his partner, effectively dislodging Serena, who had no choice but to give way.
Drake tried to disengage JJ, which as Dee had learned long ago, was an action that only caused JJ's arms to tighten with desperate strength. "Come on there, little buddy. Settle down. I want to introduce you to Serena." He looked apologetically at her. "I'm afraid we're not being very polite."
"How can I think about politeness when I'm in danger of getting my nose broken!" wailed JJ.
"You're not going to get your nose broken," soothed Drake. "I'll come with you and help you straighten this out, whatever it is, all right? Now please let go of me and say hello to Serena."
JJ reluctantly unwound his one of his arms from Drake's neck and sullenly extended a hand to Drake's latest hussy. "Hi Sabrina," he said.
"It's Serena," insisted Drake. "Serena, this is my partner - my work partner, JJ."
"Pleased to meet you, JJ," she said, staring at him with a wonderment that Drake couldn't fault her for.
After all, JJ was still partially coiled around him, and clinging on for dear life with his remaining hand. If Drake hadn't had direct experience that JJ's normal behavior was like this, he might have suspected that the younger man was jealous.
"Drake," said Serena slowly, a hint of doubt creeping into her voice, "are you two... together?"
"No!" he said quickly, thinking Oh no, not again. That was how he had lost Megan about 6 months back. "I said he was my work partner, didn't I? But JJ and I are also friends," he added, somewhat guiltily. He didn't want to hurt JJ's feelings by appearing to minimize their friendship. "He's like this with everybody. Aren't you, JJ? Especially with 'Dee-sempai'?"
"Whatever," said JJ and abruptly let go of Drake. He could take a hint! Besides, it was time to let go anyway. Despite Drake's reassurance that they were just friends, JJ believed that this cat-ho had gotten the message that things just might be a bit, well, complicated between ol' Batman and Robin.
"Can we go find Ryo now?" he demanded, once more ignoring Serena.
"Sure," said Drake. "Let's do that, and after we've made sure that Ryo isn't gonna hurt you, I'm, uh...I'm gonna be heading out with Serena, here." He took her hand and kissed it, while looking at her a little anxiously.
She smiled back and he thought she looked somewhat reassured.
"Come ON," insisted JJ, tugging on Drake's other arm. "It's fricken' cold out here."
"Well, you're not wearing a hot latex costume," muttered Drake, as JJ towed him, and by default, Serena, toward the doors.
"Sizzling hot," Serena remarked and giggled. Drake grinned at her and squeezed her hand. JJ rolled his eyes, but because it was dark and he was in the lead, nobody saw.
After the crisp, clean sharpness of the New York winter air, the heat of the lobby, with its wafting smells of food, perfume, and flowers broke over them like a wave, and to Drake's dismay, his body immediately resumed sweating.
JJ continued to haul them along, through the lobby and up the staircase to the second floor room that Diana had rented. "Argh," said Drake, tugging once more at his collar. "Let's make this quick, huh? JJ, do you see Ryo anywhere?"
"No..." JJ had already spotted Dee, who was talking to a mangy-looking lion that just HAD to be Ted, but Ryo, for once, wasn't standing anywhere near him. "Maybe he's in the men's room. Or he might be in the coat check."
"Why would he be in the coat check?" asked Drake.
"Well, I kinda accidentally spilled punch all over his jeans, so he might have taken them off and put his coat on rather than show a little leg. You know what a prude he is."
"Oh, is that...Dee Laytner! So it is," said Serena suddenly, gazing in Dee's direction in bright-eyed surprise.
"You know Dee?" asked JJ in alarm, hastily upgrading her in his mind from Jezebel Cat-Ho to Dangerous Hussified Dee-Stealer, First Class.
"Yes," she said, still smiling. "Quite...intimately, in fact."
"And you don't, er, want to kill him?" Drake was looking equally as uncertain as JJ. "'Cause we met a couple of women that Dee used to date, and they both wanted to kill him."
"Yeah, that's right," said JJ. "Except one of them wanted to kill him by screwing him to death...At least that was what she said after her fourth drink. So, um, do YOU want to kill him?"
"No, of course not! He was once a student of mine."
"Not at the Academy, surely," said JJ, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully. "'Cause I was there, too, and I don't remember you."
"No, it wasn't anything formal like that," she said. "It was a small, private night class, a little on the kinky side." She turned her head and smiled challengingly at both men. "He asked me to teach him how to use a whip."
~end of Chapter 11~
Author's notes: Well, that'll give 'em something to talk about at the water cooler the next day! The next post will show up here in a week.
I made some minor changes to the previous chapter (as in eliminating the balcony and the velvet curtain) because I wanted my depiction of the New York Palace Hotel to be a bit more accurate. Once again, I'm amazed at my luck! It turns out that the ever-helpful mtemplar has actually been to this hotel, so she was able to point out various important details that needed changing. If anyone would like pictures of the lobby, the courtyard, and the party room, just ask. ONE day, I'm actually going to go to New York!