2011-01-01: What Are You Doing New Year's Eve





Rose Miles

Detectives Jordan and Kotowski

Date: December 31st, 2010 becomes January 1st, 2011 — Happy New Year!


People don't all celebrate the same way, even when they're all at the same party. The spirit of the new year may not actually be in the place where you started.

"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom

In the hours before the clock hits midnight and the new year is ushered in, celebrations light up the city. Nowhere are the celebrations more enthusiastic and countless than this city in particular: eyes across the nation are New York as 2011 inches closer. This city knows how to throw a party in style.
The city commissioner is not the expected MC for such an event, but such is the case at one party. "… to welcome the New Year with a charitable spirit," a speech affront large banner, a podium, a stage, a quieted backdrop of festive old-timey music the city's famous musicians of time past would be proud of, "…thank you, please donate and bid and enjoy your evening. Happy New Year!"

The fine men and women of the New York Police and Fire Departments play host this evening to charitable partygoers in the remarkable grand ballroom of the famous hotel, a one large leap away from the day-to-day for the occasion. The tall, uniquely two-tiered ballroom is every bit as grand as its name, every bit as elaborate as the rest of the building, and every bit as expensive as the wintry, midtown neighbourhood outside. Lights — chandeliers included — are turned down to the tone of evening ambiance. Balconies overlook the vast floor of shining dance floor and elegant red and gold rug scattered too precisely with white tables. No decoration added to the elegant ballroom is overly fancy, however— it's all catered to simple tastes.

People in their finery drift in at various points throughout the evening, familiar and unfamiliar alike. Every so often an honored guest, bearing some minor celebrity or official importance to the city, is ushered in by an NYPD officer in uniform and photographers' flashes go off to make use of the moments for the press. The ballroom only gets fuller as the night goes on; really, truly begins, now that the announcements are out of the way. None of the tables are in formal use: finely dressed men and women — suits, tuxedos, and evening gowns reign — from every corner of the city, sit casually chatting, and mostly stand in groups, talking, laughing, mingling, lingering near the auction area and amongst the catering staff, of which there are an ample amount.

A tray flutters by and a nimble hand plucks from it one of the temptingly swishing glasses of champagne, bringing the glass down near her chest where the heart-shaped cut of the top of her dress makes a perfect resting spot for the tall glass — or wandering eyes. A badge gets you through the doors, but not legal trappings would have anywhere to nestle on Jocelyn Danvers, ADA, this evening. The rounded tops of her dress cup her breasts, leaving wholly bare her neck, and shoulders, with but modest jewelry to accent the fair skin. A tight Grecian waist lets fall the velvety material below, shimmering in complementary versions of blue down her long legs, peeking out here and there when she moves her leg just right against the narrow slit on her right side. As in work, as in now, her outfit spares no color, and she glistens under the light of the chandelier next to her more somberly dressed companion.

This second blonde lets her hair fall, opposite to the elegant up-do of the attorney, waves of slight curls around her face more free and wild, fit to the sleek but suggestive cut of her black dress, with barely-there straps that dip scandalously low around breasts. The whole affair is done in crisp black, from her belt and light bow in the back, to her tall-cut shoes, lending her height she doesn't otherwise have, especially next to the leggier Jocelyn. Her necklace, brilliantly silver diamonds lining down her front, is a special gleam on pale skin.

The two women seem similar of age, and now clink identical champagne glasses against each other while observing the regalia before them. "It's been a while since you invited me to a shindig like this," the guest of the attorney observes, "Pretty swanky. Although, you know my policy about doing it with police officers. Strictly off-limits, barring extraordinary pecs…" She squints this way and that, as if scoping a likely candidate. Silence from Jocelyn causes her to glance over there.

The ADA fondles the handle of her champagne glass without quite sipping, her eyes bright but melancholy to all the splendor, the waving shapes of dancing men and women. "The last time I saw him in a tux," she says, "I was walking towards him down an aisle."

The woman in the black dress extravagantly rolls her eyes, "If you're going to be talking like that," and she relieves another passing server of another glass, jutting it pointedly out towards the other, "You're going to have more champagne."

They say birds of a feather flock together, but it's nothing but coincidence when, here and there between moving bodies, is a glimpse of blonde hair, fair skin, dark dress — she slipped into the event solitarily without pomp or circumstance and her quiet navigation through the ballroom tries to continue the trend.

What the event's invitation didn't expressly include for Maggie is: you are cordially invited to wear a dress and pretend you have any idea what to do at a New Year's charity ball. It is not only a dress that she wears, but a dress that fits like a satin glove, and certainly nothing she had casually hanging out in her closet. Where other ladies' dresses sometimes swoop low or slit high, hers is elegantly high on modesty: a long gown to the ground in a shade of midnight blue, simple but in no way easy to overlook.

What it does freely reveal is chest, collar, shoulders — a tight, straight cut across just a hint of cleavage, satiny fabric folding there on one side like a ribbon, understated, not frilly — and back, where the dress curves down lower. This bare expanse is set around double straps; one set loops up around a long neck, and the farthest sit purposefully down past shoulders as though they gracefully fell onto the strong bare arms there. Where skin isn't shown, curves are; the dress pulls at all of them while still being fitted, allowing just enough movement beyond the silky tension past her hips to allow her to walk just fine.

Which is a small blessing, as the woman's straight-forward walk, as she almost bypasses Jocelyn and her companion, placed into heels that slightly bolster an already tall height, isn't the most ladylike of swaggers.

Not only a dress is it that Maggie wears, but free-falling waves of blonde hair swept back with some style without elaborate effort; jewelry, only a barely there gold chain and earrings just as small; and make-up usually bypassed in the day-to-day, even subtle hints of black and shimmer upon eyes, colour on cheeks and lips makes striking every already bold feature of her face. This detective's badge, like many other of the cops about, has been replaced by a bit of rare glamour; formalwear for this particular woman an especially scarce sight.

She nearly doesn't see the ADA; when she does it's with a glancing back and forth, a momentary do-I-say-hi-don't-I-say-hi-where-am-I-even-going indecision that ultimately turns into a polite smile just this side of warm. "ADA Danvers."

Jocelyn's eyes move before her head, creating a double-reaction as she acknowledges the greeting, finds the detective standing there all a'shimmer. "Detective Powers," the moniker seeming more foreign without all the trappings, but spoken warmly. A more measuring appraisal comes from the stranger blonde beside the ADA, who takes an unshy gander at the glamour-wear Maggie. "You look lovely this evening. Are you here with anyone? Ugh— I'm sorry," a modest distaste scrunches up Jocelyn's nose, a cuter, more whimsical expression than associated with her high class of outfit — and age. "That's completely generic of me. I'm just so used to making small-talk at these things, but you're better than that. Say hi to Rose; she's my plus one."

"Plus one to fun, is what I strive for," the so-named Rose responds, holding out her hand, though in order to shake with the new acquaintance, someone will first have to deprive her of the extra glass of champagne she's stuck holding out instead.

Since Jocelyn's question is dismissed, Maggie is happy to smile it off without answer; also quietly dismissed is the compliment, only sincerely returned: "You look lovely as well," she says before getting a better look at the stranger, though her study is less appraising and more unexpectedly wondering on the woman's face as though — despite never having seen her before — she's trying to place it. "Hi, Rose." The glass held out is given to relieve Rose of the glass so she may give the other woman's hand a firm cordial shake. "Maggie Powers," she introduces sans title— that, she tacks on belatedly as though confirming Jocelyn with a smile: "Detective." The champagne is then held delicately back out toward Rose like a foreign object. "You can— have this back, now… — do you work at the DA's office also?"

"It's yours," declares Rose of the champagne, already brightly into sipping at her own first glass, and nudging Jocelyn with an elbow to make the ADA do the same. "And, blissfully, no. I could never do your guys' jobs, nor would I ever want to. Your name's come up a few times, though, Maggie," and she bats accusing eyes at Jocelyn, "I've heard of you."

"She'll make it sound totally shady," Jocelyn assures, waving a quick hand over the top of her champagne glass, "But it's nothing like that." The last words are actually turned on Rose, narrowed and warning, but the other blonde — they're taking over, these blondes — makes an innocent hmm and casts her gaze out over the ballroom and dance floor. "Rose is an old friend from school," the ADA goes on to explain, turning amiably onto Maggie while her company deliberates on the room. "She's also— "

"Hey," the also interrupts, "Company."

Company in the form of a man, infiltrating the unit of blondes. Though Detective Kotowski's hair tends towards the fairer shade, he is thankfully not in a silken sheet that hugs all of his curves, but his non-traditional brown-amber tuxedo certainly calls attention to itself — yet is not, somehow, completely amiss on him, and with his swagger. "Ladies," he carols appreciatively on approach, and, in place of compliment, he brings up a hand and flashes them an A-OK sign with his fingers, accompanied by the extremely classy cluck of his tongue.

Left holding the flute of champagne with no way to politely shove it back, Maggie accepts it easily enough despite a moment in which she seems wont to disagree; a tiny nod serves as a tiny thank you. News that her name is not a stranger to Rose raises Maggie's brows — seeming particularly arched to start, tonight, above emboldened eyes. Before she can inquire, of course, everybody is cut off by Kotowski, whose manner of greeting only lends a vaguely incredulous pinch to her already high brows. Her greeting is much more ordinary than his. "Hi, Kotowski." A glance down; she takes a modest sip of the celebratory champagne, and takes a moment to aside to the other women neutrally — that is, neutral save for a lightly searching curiosity, "I didn't know my name was a remotely interesting subject…"

"Yeah, pretty sure your name isn't what people are paying attention to tonight," lends Kotowski, quite factually, and without any physical leering from his side. "Charming" is what Rose has to say on the matter. Before what is surely her legal thoughts on the matter can be expressed, Jocelyn is diverted by the second of the pair. Detective Jordan's tuxedo is spot-on traditional, and it suits him and his hint of exotic in his quiet looks; in fact, his hair, slicked back, lends him the air of having stepped out of a James Bond cameo.

Instantly, Kotowski's gaze jumps from three bare-shouldered women to the fully suited man and, scanning up and down, he delivers completely serious, "Why, Detective Jordan, you are looking especially dapper this evening."

"Thank you, Detective Kotowski," says his partner with a flat tone, "It's just something I threw on."
The moment is sealed with an absent, not-looking but spot-on, fist-bump shared between the two.
"Alright," announces Kotowski, swirling his finger in between himself and the women's slight arc of standing, "I'll leave you ladies to this~ Come on, Jordan. Let's go pick up someone we don't have to look at the next day." He steps back, and the pair they make slips — but never blends — into the refined crowd.

Where there's one, there's usually the other, and Maggie's gaze naturally falls on Jordan. He serves as a timely interruption to giving any sort of reply to Kotowski's comment beyond the continued look of minor incredulity. She smiles at the dapper partners when they wander off, and is left to… this, which for Maggie, consists of standing silently at first — she glances beyond the other women, a wide, sweeping gaze that searches out nothing specific but takes in everyone and everything, including the sophisticated decor of the grand ballroom high and low, clearly new sights to her eyes.

In silence, Maggie seems to have excused herself from the conversation, as Rose takes the next couple of seconds merely pointing out men in the crowd to Jocelyn, who shoots down the woman's prospects one by one by informing her of their careers — or wives; the former having more affect than the latter. "You know, that guy who was just here wasn't terrible," Rose finally announces, "Is it possible to separate him from the dark one, or are they a package deal?"

"Kotowski," Jocelyn tosses her head incredulously, causing a couple of curls to loosen in her hair-do, softening the look without any falling out completely. "What happened to that policy about no policemen I was hearing five seconds ago? I'm pretty sure that's only your second glass of champagne, and his pecs didn't seem so much the exception to the rule."

Rose's mouth wiggles off non-committally to one side as she considers, her nail right above the top of her glass as she nibbles it — takes a sip because the liquid's so close. "I don't know, Josie… he struck me the type to over-compensate. And once you get past their attitudes and into the bedroom, it's like— ahhh— " what emits from Rose is an imitation of heavenly angels singing as she separates her hands, implanting the image of two sides of a shirt parting away. As much as derision and opposition attempt to create negativity on Jocelyn's face, she finds it cracked irreparably by a snort of laughter, and then more that she stifles behind a hand. Her merriment makes her throw her eyes away from Rose to save themselves, unable to concentrate on the other woman's expression of imaginary delight, and as they catch elsewhere in the crowd, her breath also hitches behind her hand. "So, all I'm saying is not to— Josie? Jocelyn? Maggie— she needs more champagne— ohhh…" Rose, halfway to tapping the policewoman on the shoulder from around Jocelyn's back, pauses and slackens as her gaze takes the same route as the ADA's. Dryness evens her out, inevitable and disappointed. "It's him, isn't it…"

Maggie seems pretty much okay with not joining in this particular conversation; the same incredulous look she gave to Kotowski is turned briefly on Rose. Though amusement livens the corners of her mouth but subtly, she mostly just looks well away from both Rose and Jocelyn, her gaze, thusly separated from these shenanigans, continuing to wander the unfamiliarly lavish crowd. She narrows in here and there as if choosing would-be paths to follow; none of them hold any particular interest yet, and… here she stays.

As it happens, Maggie has been sipping idly at her champagne throughout the women's conversation, leaving the narrow glass fairly diminished on Rose's note but, glancing down suddenly, she starts protest. "Oh, I d— …" Looking up provides insight into their expressions, and then all three sets of eyes are turned on the same route. For the detective, searching finds not a cause for disappointment, nor to hitch her breath, only to turn up a small, simple, decidedly warm smile.

Past the weaving, meandering crowd, across red-gold carpet and past a couple of those underused white tables, the source: it's rarely less than Laurie, exercising that effortless ability to turn all nearby socializing in on himself, as if he were not a man but a force of nature, or a celestial body. Tonight, a body made not stranger to the aura of the evening, and its finery. The sleek, fit, cut of his tuxedo jacket shapes around his movements, once in a while treating suggestive peeks of rich, textured red from a vest beneath. Against the crisp white of his dress shirt, the top button has already escaped closure, giving a playful looseness to the collar around his neck, noting of the chest underneath a not entirely tightened tie.

With one hand rested in casual ease against a table, he regales mixed company with what must be animated story-telling, based on his exaggerated gestures and the timely laughter of those witness. An eye here or there turns in the orbit around this inner sanctum not for the merriment, but in intrigue, practicing the polite way to peek at an escaped attraction.

Rose's peel away, and her hand cupping Jocelyn's shoulder heartily wrestles the ADA into doing the same. "A pox on me for ever setting you up. Or for ever having such a brother." She tips back her glass, and both she and Jocelyn finish their rounds.

Now arrives the time for Maggie's breath to hitch: in surprise. She blinks away from the lively sight of Laurie to swerve her head toward Jocelyn and Rose as they demolish their drinks. She does not share in their mood, though her warmth lingers only to vanish, making way for the full scope of her surprise; for a moment, she stares in bewilderment straight at Rose as though she's a remarkable anomaly. "You're his— " A finger crooks away from her champagne glass, which she moves side to side — from their little gathering to Laurie's across the way — in gesture. As if they have super-powered vision to spy empty glasses, a young man swoops into relieve the guests of theirs, including Maggie's right out of her gesture, and offers them all fresh ones upon a tray. " — you're his sister." She's still processing this, but politeness does make a valiant effort to smooth out Maggie's surprise. "I thought there was something familiar about you, I just couldn't place it…"

Over the tops of their magically renewed glasses, both Rose and Jocelyn stare openly and, in their sheer numbers two to one, create an anomaly out of Maggie instead. Jocelyn shies first, her thickly curled eyelashes veiling her gaze into the pit of the champagne glass, making it her new goal to reach, if her steady drinking that follows is any indication of intent. Dry becomes humored on Rose, the corner of her mouth slinking upward into half a smirk. Somewhere in the bemused wry she becomes, that genetic link that eluded Maggie and now seems plain as day. "If ever there was a greater burden to bear," she relates with a heavy sigh through her bosom, curling her glass in to rest against one barely-covered breast.

In the motion, her eyes have instinctively retraced that path — to him. There he is; unavoidable. "Look at him over there, making a spectacle of himself," Rose instructs, though with less derision; she seems to have fallen into a vague melancholy. "You wouldn't think it now, but that guy was the single most awkward thing you ever did see at social gatherings back in the day. If any of my girl friends were down a date for a dance, I'd just make him take them. Great for the pictures, of course— since he was, you know, handsome. But completely useless." She sighs; and she drinks. It's as patterned as breathing.

Somewhere in the midst of Maggie's surprise, the wait-staff has not only taken her glass but given her a new one to match the others, and she looks at his turned back a second too late to give it back. She holds it from the top at her side, uncaring about it (or any sort of poise in holding it). Her half-open mouth, deferred from speaking to the man with the champagne tray, remains as she once again looks to Laurie, comparing and contrasting to Rose's — his sister's — narration. When Maggie looks back again, it's with a strange mixture of unease and interest. She's suddenly also interested in the champagne she didn't want a second ago, lifting it to look into its depths like Jocelyn. "So, um." Lifting it, she peeks up innocently over the rim under raised brows. "What changed?"

"I don't know," admits Rose, unperturbed and, frankly, bored with the notion of attempting to determine it beyond this bland speculation — though that does nothing to stop her mouth from opening. "Suppose he had to finally learn to interact with people in that crum job he chose. Or maybe people just like to gawk at a clown." Discomfort briefly displays along her forehead, weighting her eyebrows, and crinkling skin around effortlessly applied make-up that threatens to show with the less pleasant expression. But a throw-back of champagne fixes that right up, and she continues in her irreverent pattern. "Of course," heavily made-up eyelashes lead a suggestive glance to her standing mate, "maybe he just had a fabulous coach for a while. You know," her tone flattens, as bitterness welts the mood, and the weight of her tongue, "Before he walked out on that, too."

"Rose," pipes in Jocelyn — subdued. The usually guts n'glory attorney dips more meekly in the sister's overbearing presence of authority, but she latches onto this defense with some purpose. "Can we not do this right now?" A more significant indicating look towards Maggie is diverted into a vaguely obvious drift of the head in the detective's direction.

"I do it out of love, you know that. And think of it like bonding of the beleaguered women. Around this shared experience I call a brother. Anyway— she asked." The champagne of Rose swirls less bashfully in Maggie's direction; in fact, accusingly — though not disapproving. "I'd be alarmingly happy to not spend all evening talking about him."

Maggie crosses one arm over her stomach atop form-fitted fabric, her palm propping her other elbow. A couple of fingers tap silently against her champagne, imperfect against the smooth glassware. The other women's looks in her direction find curious eyes for Rose's answers — forever full of questions and thoughts all her own, restrained — and a certain keenness toward Jocelyn's subdued reactions, the dynamic of the duo. A soft little pull of the well-dressed detective's mouth appears, undecided between a smile and a frown. Apology, and a tiny bit of guilt. She did ask… "Sorry," she replies on that note, light and a lasting smile, so as to glaze over the topic, content to do it. She spreads the fingers at her elbow. "He, um— has … a way of being a thorny subject, doesn't he. By all means— yeah," she adds easily, encouraging, "carry right along. Alarmingly happy." Alarmingly happy; she does have the quickest of eyebrow quirks for that. "New subject."

Without their common tie being used as an arsenal for conversation topics, however, Maggie isn't ready with a new subject herself; only a sip of her new champagne, after which she gives the fluted glass a subtle eyeing. The light liquid disappears deceptively quickly from its narrow shape. The crowds, again, get a similar eyeing, less subtle (skirting close, every glance, to that hub of animated storytelling Laurie centers), pointedly asking the questions: should she be lingering with the ladies, venturing forth and leaving them alone, and what is that artful miniature-sized food on trays? Her dress may fit well — perhaps an understatement — but the fact that Maggie herself isn't a perfect fit with the grand ballroom continues to sneak to the fore.

Rose drifts a wistful hand to her chin, palm against and pinkie curled in, the other fingers keeping the glass from bumping against her skin. A certain antsy aura has settled around her bared shoulders but — contrary to how it might be expected to separate her from the proceedings, as Maggie is, it only manages to lend the younger woman a touch of vibrancy, attracting glances to the way she tosses her curled hair over her shoulders before addressing the others again. 'Alarming' may not be the apt descriptor it was touted to be; in fact, 'happy' isn't quite the bias of her lips, either, as she mulls them together. "… Nope, now it's there. Now I'm thinking about it." That delicate instrument of drinking is drawn away from her face for inspection, her eyes critical of what she finds — though not enough to bar her a sip that follows the droll, "Do you think they have something stronger than this…"

"Behave," is the ADA's warning, a touch stricter and more enforced than when the topic strayed to a personal side. What responding roll of Rose's eyes suggests the space of time given to consider this instruction, but, underneath, there's a laced smile on both women's faces. A tradition of testing each other's boundaries. "Behave," Jocelyn attempts again, a layer of smug to go with her revelation, "Or I'll make you go look at the auction with me. Oh, detective— " If she's still even there; neither woman seems to have taken considerate time to check on their questionable third party member, but the ADA turns now in unhesitating expectation of Maggie's appearance. "Have you been in the auction room yet? I've heard there's this lovely painting— you know, because we all have salaries that allow us to toss money at those kinds of things."

"Mm— mm-mm," she replies with a shake of her head no, delicately touching a knuckle to rosily painted lips after what was probably a less than delicate drink of champagne. Maggie's prompt spin inspires a few swift blinks of lengthened lashes, as though momentarily lightheaded. "I haven't been here long," she explains. "It's … honestly, it's surprising how much art can go for." Not quite the idle comment it sounds; that would be legitimate surprise that lights up memory in Maggie's gaze, artist in disguise that she is. An expectant raise of her bold brows and a smile both dismiss this passing bewilderment and query the ADA. "Expensive or not, I suppose it's charity … I'd like check out the auction room; are you going?" Brief question hops naturally from along from Jocelyn to Rose who, it would seem, is less prone to investigating art and more prone to investigating more drinks.

"Oh, not now…" denies the ADA, the shake of her head stopping too short — turning more into an explaining gesture towards her plus one. "I have the obligation of company." She's not overly put-out by the sentiment, if only a little mournful in expression, and it's more to tease out the huffiness that suitably appears on Rose's face to be regarded so. "But you should go," Jocelyn adds more adamantly, assisting with her emphasis is the hand she juts towards Maggie's arm, patting fingers near the other woman's arm before a retreat to her glass. It's suffered less loss than the other two, and the woman swirls the liquid around, in its generous amount catching light and wafting smell. The sound of her name from the other's mouth tugs her chin that way, abandoning the glass. Rose has some other conquest who needs naming, as she makes broad gestures across the room to demonstrate which figure she's admiring — gestures not entirely unmatched to the ones employed by the man who shares her blood not more than a yard away.

"Yeah. I will." A dose of good humour livens both Maggie's smile and her voice, more easily springing forth here — however foreign the environment — than the drearier station. "You're a package deal tonight," she says acceptingly to Jocelyn as she watches Rose embark into the crowd. "Kind of… like Kotowski and Jordan." The familiarity of Rose's gestures isn't lost on Maggie, and her regard is extended for it. She looks from one sibling to the other, across the way.

The direction of the auction room deduced in her scrutiny of the hotel, Maggie plots a course and sets out on it as the company of blondes parts. She curls her glass protectively close to her chest as she moves away; on the move, its missing contents in her bloodstream put a light sway in her step and a sparkle in her eyes, a remarkably hasty rush of bubbly champagne consequence that especially warms her smile for the small handful of polite exchanges with passingly familiar peers.

Her slowed course isn't a particularly determined one anyway; she lets it stray rather quickly into distraction. Veering, the dark blue of her sophisticated gown whisks into place as she becomes one of those finely dressed individuals in the vicinity of one animated consultant, who already she has a smile for — figures, it says, that he'd be here telling stories. Maggie is not the only one who headed for Laurie from afar: a pair of well-dressed photographers are, inadvertently, on her heels.

A flutter of unrestrained laughter, not shying, or form-fitting to the pageantry of the evening — only pure enjoyment; a story has just ended. To the upbeat trickle of music from the floor just beside their group, mouths work in amusement, and hands come together for short bursts of spontaneous clapping. There's a break in the hungry attention when faces turn upon each other for confirmation of shared satisfaction, lips instinctively echoing favored lines. In this natural breather, blue eyes sort the crowd past the intermittent bodies of this audience-shaped cage. An arm dangling at his side, fingers pressing tips to the nearest table, mimicking at leaning his weight there, and his body relaxed besides; Laurie's gaze seems to roll along Maggie's shoulder where he sees her.

A beat — perhaps one stolen from the very drum-ruled music rocketing along — and the hushed whisper of soft, high-end fabrics caressing the air in movement. He's slipped past his merry band before they've noticed, so caught in their aftermath, marking a course as strong as the steps he takes to achieve — to overtake the detective on approach. The stride, almost strictly business. His smile, as prompt. There's a gleam past friendliness in his eye as he greets with polite succinctness, "Powers," on a last step that exceeds the boundary of mere socializing.

It happens, at once, briskly and fluidly. There's a hand at her shoulder, and then she's spinning, leading the turn that Laurie whips through along his heels. By the time they're arm in arm, the floor has long since turned wooden, and a mask of other dancers — all better matched, in meaning to be there — has created a veil between them and the photographers.

In a blur, this cyclone of finery and buoyant drumbeats envelopes Maggie. One second, she's taking a step and resting the delicate champagne glass — diminished over the last few minutes; how did that happen — the next, she's moving as if propelled by a force of nature. Laurie. The spin prompts a shrieking exclamation, suited to the rollercoaster ride the sudden transition feels like: instinctive panic is completely inseparable from delight in its uninhibited sound. It blends into the merry mood around them, but Maggie's naturally high pitch carries just above the talking, laughing din like the clear peal of a bell.

"Oh— gosh Miles, wha-aat— " The length of her dress sweeps behind her, catching up, always in fluid motion around the legs it hides — legs that are not presently so fluid in their steps, only hurrying. Nearly reeling, no matter how hearty and hale Maggie is, she's dizzied, and the only wards against it are the literal hand-holds she's suddenly equipped with. Hands grip hands tight; her weight bears in closer to the bastion of balance Laurie represents that she's a little lacking. There, on that wooden floor surrounded by dancers, for a second — a drumbeat — she forces herself into a hopeless stop with a sort of bounce. "You know I," voice breathless, face animated as can be, "don't really know what I'm doing, right— "

Hand in hand and — well, other hand in hand; the two are less than the formal institution of dancing etiquette, though an ingrained preset guides Laurie's palms towards the accepted places along their close bodylines. Certainly, no aiding dedication can be found in the rest of him. To her protest, he thrums out a carelessly distracted, "Uh huh…" In the wake of his purpose, Maggie is so much prop. His guiding, leading momentum drags her in a contrary fashion to — her fashion: those heels, that dress, the diminishing evidence that is clue in itself in that left-behind champagne glass. But in the same way, his steady and unshakeable balance on the dance floor, to that dance beat, keeps her moving as a better marionette than she might've done by her own power.

Their progress is swift, weaving in and out between the other dancers that swirl in varying degrees of liveliness to fit the perky tune. A sort of vague sway between their bodies, before that weight of Maggie is propelled on another course. His hand firming in one of hers, Laurie motivates a gentle push that sends her off, going, as he leads with an extending arm, into another twirl out. The second half, that would bring her back in — maybe even closer than before — is notably lacking; the confounding consultant preoccupies himself by using Maggie's vacation at arm's length to sneak a glance around his own twisted shoulder to mark the progress of any stalking photographers, milling in the crowds. It's a position that also informs Maggie that someone has attached an auction sheet to the man's jacket-clad back; the current going rate for Mileses is three-hundred dollars.

And twenty-three cents.

The photographers are taking to the infamous man's turn on the dance floor like ducks to water — or partygoers to champagne. It's a feat to catch up with the chance pair in such a lively crowd, during such a lively song; no cheap paparazzi, they're not obnoxious enough to barrel onto the dance floor. Instead, flashes go off from the sidelines and the corners, hoping to get a shot and, for the most part, not quite succeeding.

Maggie's reward for letting herself — in a manner of speaking; Laurie is acting as the lead in this dance in more ways than one — be whisked along is another head-rush. Not overpowering enough, however, to miss certain details. "Miles, are you— are you for sale?" The incredulous question is spoken at the end of his arm. "Ooooh, oh, noooo," she expresses in what would be a woefully lamenting tone if it weren't for her present inability to be so. She's been struck with a mostly alcohol-induced delight at everything— despite protests. Only a pinch of dizzied, disorientated distress mars Maggie's brow over her use as a prop marionette.

"You're worth a little more than that." She blinks at Laurie as if trying to find his face past dancing lights in her eyes — an impression which very well may be true, what with her swirling amidst the ambient light of the dangling chandeliers and the more distant camera flashes.

She's left hanging but for a moment — the reel in after her spin out may be a skipped step on Laurie's part, but not on hers. From afar, it appears graceful; up close, the opposite. A swift step in, easily a purposeful swirl in a continued dance; here, lacking brakes. Her free hand, his shoulder — the aimed combination is for her rather necessary support as much as it's to prevent total collision. "Mnnh— you're moving so fast…"

A young photographer parts the crowd with politeness in those quickly passing seconds; a nod and a smile here, a press badge there, and a straight line opens up toward the pair as he adjusts his lens.
"Am I?" playful incredulity that aligns to no particular sentiment — fact of sale, or ill-representative amount — and, jostled by the graceless smack of her hand on his shoulder, as much as by this thread of conversation, his eyes drop to her; finally, Laurie acknowledges his wayward dance partner.

"Forty-two cents, perhaps?" Fleeting at, best: one moment, where his hand has automatically caught the small of her back, both steadying and, with subtle — unmeant, but instinctual — pressure, enforcing their swirling nearness; in the next, a twitch of his eyebrow, turn of the head, and he knows — as if by same sixth sense — that the wide eye of a lens is on them.

Hand on her back can't stay. This isn't that kind of song. To the lively rhythm, as a camera's lens clicks into place, churning from focus on a pair of lavender earrings on the side of the river of parted dancers, to the flash of rest vest against charcoal shirt that is Laurie's step-away-from-typical tuxedo, he whips their pair around, presenting an uninteresting — to a photographer — backside, and blocking Maggie from becoming a headline altogether.

"Forty-two cents, and the Musketeers bar in my pocket?" Mused with a sort of out-of-place laziness, when inside of the jump-and-jive dance that inspires more breathlessness. Whip-like, his arm draws out to the side, entreating Maggie, again, to travel, though, this round, he follows with a heel-spin, rejoining their hands to sway them, slightly crooked at the elbow, side to side with the beat, leaning upper bodies and curving his hips along with.

Still, the dance is not the point, and his dedication to it remains minimal; if it was any less his natural element, he could be floundering as much as Maggie in the swift foot patterning that is moving them right across the dance floor. What half-second before he ruined the photographer's line of sight, and then they're weaving, making good time. The next twirl that sends Maggie away from the steadiness of his side sends her heels clacking off the protected wood and onto ballroom, alongside a table in a space far less populated or noticeable. In fact, someone seems to have abandoned a half-completed tray of appetizers there, to be retrieved later — or picked at now.

Pinnacle of her spin, and his fingers release hers, allowing her to slow to her own natural stop, such that it may be, and he follows behind at a leisurely stroll, pocketing his hands for a glance to find just how lost he's left behind their pursuers. It won't ever be long

Maggie has done her best under the circumstances to keep up of her own accord — at the very least, to not step on Laurie — but she remains fully at his whim. Until, that is, she's released from the whirlwind dance. Even then — momentum takes her on a liberal spin toward the table. She slows in time to prevent something so clumsy as crashing into it, but takes the time to plant both hands on its edge. "Oh my God— " she says upon hastened breath— carried with it is the same illogical combination of distress and delight. This time, she lightens toward the latter; she's in high spirits! (High perhaps being the key word.) It's with a smile, then, that Laurie receives the most wide-eyed of was that really necessary? stares, looking more prone to laugh than scold. "I might have had a little too much to drink for that… I don't— usually…" She splays a hand to the barer expanse above the cut of her dress and leans against the table until her dizziness has passed — sort of.

"Anyway," she sets in now that she has time, "the way I figure— " All Maggie's words are buoyant; floating on air. With blessedly slow and steady steps, she strides toward Laurie, gesturing with a few leisurely fingers up and down at his chest, the atypical tuxedo she seems entertained by at this exact moment. "Three-hundred and however many cents probably doesn't even cover the fancy clothes you wear." Her eyes roll to the side — and stay distant as if in consideration, but they're all too twinkling to even pretend at higher thinking. "Three Musketeers. At least."

Some partygoers have taken notice of their whirling departure from the dancefloor, in passing; none of them wield cameras. So far, Laurie has eluded the photographers — here. Somewhere, however, one enterprising young photographer is taking the grand stairs. It's just like wildlife photography— an aerial view, perhaps…

Reading glances, Laurie's response is less affirmation of the whirling's necessity, as a question of it really needing a reason at all — though he averages it all out by light-heartedly explaining, "I like to make them work for it." Like, the innovative youth discovering his inner-stalker, who will, if he stops now, get the highly scandalous angle on the consultant dipping into the abandoned appetizers. "— enjoy yourself?" Pushing a few doll-sized servings aside, he plucks up a portion and pushes it contemplatively into his mouth, whole. There's no point in nibbling something so small; there's at least no point beyond general civility and appearances. On the taste reaching him, he diverts a curious glance that arches his highbrows at the tray, but the full scope of surprise is lessened by his distraction in returning a sideways eye to Maggie.

Hands wanting for food, instead find purchase on the edges of his tuxedo jacket, parting its modest closure to fully expose that that brilliant red, a proudly breasted songbird puffing his chest. Each inside of silken coat-flap is given an evaluating up-and-down, his mouth pressed in mid-concentration, and he passingly happens upon the flattering cut of pants before his head turns against his shoulder to regard her. Shortly; he's back on the suit when it comes time to pose, "So, what you're saying is— in order to be more attainable, I should— lose the clothes."

When his eyes lift, it's not distaste for the idea that flavors his look on her, but the openness to possibility is tainted by a certain wry bemusement that it's sprung up at all. With his hands halted in parting either side of his possibly overly priced jacket, he waits on a cue— perhaps, this aerial shot is about to become more interesting, after all…

"Well, I wasn't enjoying myself until— " Until Laurie stands waiting for a cue to strip out of his expensive clothes, it would seem. The timing is accidental on Maggie's part, given she only realizes this now with an upwards rocket of her eyebrows. "Oh— no!" she protests — very cheerily, despite the objection and shaking of her head, just quick jostles of gently styled blonde waves. "That's not what I was saying. Was it? W— no, no!" There's laughter in her words. "How do these auctions work? I was on my way to the auction room…" Once upon a time. More to the point: "It's for charity — the winner should just have to pay for everything." An amused up-and-down glance sweeps all of Laurie's attire into her 'everything'. "All inclusive. I think you should keep your clothes on, I'm almost certain I just saw the city commissioner." Maggie's words are inseparable from her hands; she reaches out as if to close Laurie's jacket faster than he. "And," she adds with a sort of bewilderment that doesn't manage to dampen her warm liveliness any, "did you know that your sister's here…?"

Up above, one of the unique balconies overlooking the grand ballroom from on high becomes a bird's-eye view in the sights of that determinedly stalking photographer — he's focusing…

"I'm perfectly willing to take off my clothes…" Laurie comments, without much insisting — he just wants her to know; she, who is quite determinedly reclothing him. "For charity…" Bu okay; he takes the hint; steering himself several steps backwards, he's out of her reach, but finishes the job she started tidying his jacket into place. With a twinkle of good fortune, the retreat — timed, perhaps, too appropriately to her mention of a certain blood relative's appearance — puts him underneath one of those intricately wrought decorations adorning the classy ceiling, refusing to reward the photographer his ingenuity when the angle from on-high means those drifting accessories block the view. "I suppose I should let," continues Laurie, unaware of the intricate choreography of chance he's been in since removing from the actual dance floor. Grappling for his shoulder, he attempts to pull his body around itself far enough to get a glimpse at the fluttering paper affixed there. "… illegible scribble number three know, before the night is out…"

Straightening around, he finds Maggie with the first honest look of the evening, spying in an undetectable eyeing the visual dictates of the occasion, from the settle of her softly curling hair, to the set of a dress on womanly lines. Seconds of this, and his boisterous merriment softens — not in affection, nor some sudden interest — but apology. "I'm sorry," he voices quite appropriately not a beat afterward, "That— before— was completely selfish. Please," his body rocks backwards on the force of his insistence, then forward, his chin tilting, "Don't let me keep you from charity any longer."

The note of apology is met with a tip of Maggie's head; agreeing with questionable seriousness. She smiles; accepting. A pleasantly laissez-faire wave of her hand follows; moving on. She's easily distracted toward the food on the table, turning her back to Laurie. The open-backed design of her dress sweeps just above the spot which is known by both of them to have recent injury; looking, no one would certainly ever know. She claims one of the hors d'oeuvres to give it a fleetingly skeptical look. "You're excused this time. What's a little head-spinning dizziness between friends," she says, the words coming so naturally in her merry state of light tipsiness that she doesn't notice she's said them until realization has her looking quickly over her shoulder. She looks at Laurie for a moment, blinks— and goes back to trying to determine what she's about to eat and how to eat it. When her analyzing fails her, she follows in Laurie's footsteps and puts it in her mouth whole.

" — Honestly," the out-of-element detective says a moment later on turning, "I hardly even know what I'm doing here…" She gives her first thorough look around the new area of the ballroom they've spun into, vaguely charting out where she is and, in turn, where the auction room is. And the exits. Her wide scope catches the balconies above, the photographer's camera— she points lazily at it en route to touching a thumb to her mouth. The photographer seems to still be angling for another shot as Laurie keeps avoiding all prior. "This place is— it's lovely, and everything is for a good cause, but I think I'm going to be very bored before midnight."

Laurie's been indulging a case of the munchies, himself, but he sidles enough to share, watching her decision through her pausing hand, before finding a more compelling scenery in the flow of the party around them. "I assume it's… a little head-spinning. Between friends," he delivers on a note of utmost practicality, "Why. What's it between us?" Munch crunch; his casual delivery accented by the devouring of another appetizer, his hand draping along his side to what looks suspiciously like the rubbing of left-over speckles on his tuxedo pants. Easy breezy, he does it. He isn't looking at her — as she's looking at him — up until she turns; his light twist around to notice her movement is but a glance, yet he positions himself companionably enough at her side, their stances on an even line.

"If I had to venture, I'd say you were drifting somewhat awkwardly, with enough grace to cover for a while, but also too much keeping to yourself to look really comfortable. Smiling where it's due. Drinking because it's expected. Feeling utterly obliged, and yet distractedly out of place. Eventually, you'll allow yourself to step out, be terribly glad to be out of those heels without serious injury, and wonder what else you could've accomplished with your evening. But you won't linger on it long. Just make the best of the time you have, maybe a few hours later than you should." Monologue delivered, Laurie wouldn't look foreign with a glass to sip at triumphantly, but he's only his endless stare at the parade of dresses and suits swirling by, that used to be their comrades, as the song turns from up-beat to solemn tread.

"You know, I thought you were supposed to be creative," he adds following a weighty, considering pause that doesn't follow through into his tone. His eyes flicker up to the balcony indicated without complementary action; he's only leaning in to snag the two unidentifiable pieces of food he props his mouth open with to talk further — around them, whole, "How disappointing. Come on, detective…"

"Is profiling party habits usually a hit or…" No corrections follow Laurie's venture — it sounds accurate. She, too, pauses for weighty consideration, but her easygoing mood doesn't really allow it; she only smiles warmly. However, it takes her a second to catch up to all of Laurie's words and abandon perusal of the food tray, leaving her moments behind on a delay. "I am creative, just not— " Maggie begins to protest — again, upbeat, and hardly plaintive — only to interrupt herself by giving a shrug at the general vicinity.

"Come on— where…?" Maggie is asking even as she's already following. "I feel like I should get some sort of use out of this…" She casts her head down at her elegant attire and spreads her hands out from her sides as if she doesn't know what to do with the lovely satiny fabric: adhered to her shape and flowing close to the floor, tempting the sweeping movements it's capable of. "…dress," she complains absent-mindedly, an unhurried rambling she might not realize is leaving her lips. "Do you know how hard it is to find one that fits?" Answer: very, given the vaguely resentful — if fleeting — look she gives the attire. In looking up, dark lashes stay half-mast toward the dancing figures next to them on the dance floor. Squinting, she might as well be observing a foreign display from a culture she's not a part of, and isn't entirely sold on. "Maybe I'm not missing much. Now the head-spinning, that I've got down."

"Ohhh, no, it's usually quite uncomfortable— that's why I do it…" Laurie's admittance trails in time with his own slowing — he started out quite strictly brisk — pace at her continued commentary. Subtle at first, the gradual decline of his walk corresponds with each notion of hers, words acting as little threads that tug, creating tiny frictions on the body, and the corners of his eyes, where they narrow with minor wrinkles. This inkling of trouble is a glancing scrutiny between the dress-fitted detective, a kinder eye for those spectacles of movement she is distant from, and then it brushes forward — to their destination — to — now hold on.

Just as determinedly, a full-stop. The arms previously swinging casually at his side snap to the most formal attention, as his feet plant, allowing her to trail ahead a couple of steps. Where she goes, his hand reaches to beckon back. Crisp, palm-up, but with fingers ever-so-lightly folded in, ready to possess; his elbow slightly bent; lazier posture has been left at the wayside in the wake of no less than perfect form.

"Miss Powers," Laurie announces, a bastion of seriousness for the levity of his proper request. But his blue eyes a'twinkle beneath the interior starry sky of chandeliers, "May I have this dance." It would seem, fleetingly, that this singular moment holds on music at all — floating, rootless in time — but then, drums — a beat. To the curve of Laurie's inviting hand, a chord is struck.

He slows, she quickens. Maggie steps past, unaware. Laurie beckons, she catches sight. She's slower to turn than she is to realize. The not-quite-certain looks she sends over her shoulder, alighting her sights on him and his poise, glimpsed past waves of blonde, is almost shy. Her over-the-shoulder realization leads her slow swivel back to face Laurie in time for his invitation. An amused smile warms the demureness slightly, even as her brows arch, skeptical and a little challenging. Is he sure? Is she sure… a glance slips to the dance floor, and she smoothes the skirt of her dress down at her hip. No words so formal or flowery form her response. "Uhh…" As she smiles yet further, giving in to a nod of her head, she curls her hand into his. She holds; her posture, straight to begin with, takes on a certain carriage when attached to his. She holds. "I guess. When you put it that way." As if he'd put it any other way. Some of Laurie's twinkle sparks contagiously in her easy-to-shine eyes. "Okay."

On the edge of a moment, in the land that we love…

Grinning breaks Laurie's severely formal attempt, lending a note of playfulness, even now, to things said past. "Okay," his repeat both teases and affirms the casual acceptance. Beyond words, eyes, and glances, where hand meets hand more particularly than before, hers is left to hover there, gracing his palm a second. Then his fingers curl in, and she's been claimed. Like all those before us, we start out alone… A gentle tug, and a step forward; they're drawn — he draws them — together, the arc of him coming in sliding their laid on hands into a shared grip out to their now combined sides. Fluttering with the softness of its own expense, the tuxedo jacket lays open to brush silken gown where he meets her, toe to toe. The suggestion of his other fingers under her arm, just above her elbow, tells her hand towards his shoulder. Slipped already behind her, it's easy for his hand to find its own place — vaguely; fingers ghost the chance at her waist, shying off the smooth fabric there. Past the calm, smooth patience that's been the neutral facade of his face, his mouth quirks out of place. Though, when settling a second later, his grip around her is nothing but firm, controlling yet supporting; just right, for the smooth twist that slowly spins them out seamlessly into the midsts of men and women similarly occupied.

You and I; we will live differently.

It's a world away from any so-called dance past even at its beginnings. In the sea of paired dancers — faces familiar and unknown — her eyes are only on Laurie, gazing at his every chandelier-lit detail as though she could predict the next gentle move of feet. It's a pleasant focus, warm and wondering; not critical. Another day — or just slightly earlier in this one — her skepticism might have lasted longer. Here and now, it's whisked into the background. With our hearts in our hands, like loaded guns… As Laurie masters the art of dance, Maggie tries, in those first steps, to master the art of following; guided, hand upon his shoulder, firm to its cause, just like the other hand grasped in his, she flows along. There's nevertheless a slight stiffness to her body; she's trying too hard. Curious — ever-so-slightly admiring, her voice close amidst the music: "Where did you learn to dance?"

We're taking our chance. We're the lucky ones. To the fluid one-two-three of their new engagement, Laurie lends no noticeable concentration, taken to it as naturally as his breathing. In and out, on a gentle curve, where there's no hurried goal, prying photographers, or judgmental eyes noting them from afar. Only the two of them; Laurie watches back with a cordial attentiveness. "Austria," undertone to his answer, he sweeps them in a still mild arc, but with a swifter turnaround, pulling Maggie off of her over-concentrated count. "The frontier mountain range," said no more or less practically than the other, yet now a tinge of laughter at the corner of his mouth. It could almost hide the more distant wistfulness in his eyes, if they were not so luminous in the parlor lights. Once again, to the hardening of her body, she's swung outside of the basic steps, "And who could ever forget Siam."

Every swing out of the anticipated steps surprises Maggie — and seems to entertain her unguardedly blithe self. Her body gradually starts to follow suit, to relax; with Laurie there to lead her steps wherever they may go, she almost looks like she knows what she's doing. Dark, silken fabric whispers between them, matched to movement, the way it's supposed to. Even her hand on his shoulder is a little less of a hold, simply comfortable to be there. This moment is yours, this moment is mine. Her smile is bright, white. "Oh okay." Amused repartee for what sounds like faraway movie-scapes. Her smile softens, one side curving up as she rolls her eyes away from Laurie and right back again before she confesses, "I suppose this isn't so bad…" Or bad at all; her words are completely weightless and transparent, carried on an optimistic voice. "I'm not dizzy yet."

And we're gonna be fine.

"Well, you haven't really danced," remarks her ballroom partner, having raised a marked eyebrow at her evaluation of their turns and steps. "Until you've been to Siam— " Anticipatory to their own music's rise in tempo, the roll in of several more instruments, Laurie's stance widens, bringing their next step from merely that — a step — to a full bounce that twirls their round-and-round to a new graceful fervor, in sweeping, huge movements with no regard for the other dancer's yet able to twist around them without collision but for the precise dictation of the lead's ability. Their fancy clothes, on the other hand, sweep wide. Tuxedo jacket flaring behind him; her low-sweeping dress thrown out around both their legs in ways that flatter it but were meant for skirts much fuller.

Yet was certainly Maggie's keyword. If she's dizzied by the graceful twirls, she doesn't seem to mind, however. Sure, there might be a hastening in breath at the dance's new elaborations, a livening of her eyes as her high-heeled feet are made to follow Laurie's expert dance, and the hand upon his shoulder that had become comfortable moves ever-so-slightly more around it, as if to ensure she does not spin away though she's held firm… but she seems more prone to laugh than anything, falling out of speech save for a quiet "pooh!" as she's swept up into the motions.

But as soon as she's come to terms with that, "Or the frontier!" means a whole new field. Like hers, his hand claims new purchase, cupping not her the slim outline of her waist, now sliding all the way around to the small of her back. With his fingers spread, he gains heightened control; it's needed, when the dance becomes less ballroom and more barn-raising. A high two-step here, prancing them to the right, his feet skipping more elaborately than hers to get them there. Foot, ball change — step, then together, then step. Merrily to one side, a little kick out, and reverse kick. Then she's suddenly free as a bird while Laurie spins on one foot, completing a full, tight circle, the other foot raised at an angle against the one manipulating the turn. In the same motion as he's facing her, his arms effortlessly coming in around her, he keeps a hold of her hand and repeats his spin — through Maggie.

Freed, Maggie's one moment of stillness is barely stillness at all, her dress swirling at her feet with the same energy she's livened from and her own feet resisting standing still. Unsteady, a sway here and there— she's been successfully made dizzy, but does she actually care? Her smile says that she doesn't, and standing open-mouthed and astonished, she's more under the influence of exhilaration than champagne — though that certainly adds to the flush of her cheeks.

There's no time to figure out her equilibrium anyway; it changes again on the rhythm of the song as Laurie's returned, multiplied presence brings with it that second of realization one has before being hit— she sees it coming but can do nothing to prepare. "Ah— ! I don't know if I c— !" But it's alright, takes to the spin; her hand finds its place in the midst and she goes with the quick flow of it all, even as the fast whirl prompts a silly half-wince, half-smile and her words disintegrate in their breeze into what sounds suspiciously like a laugh under her breath.

Reprieve; the dare-devil pace ends as she come around; Laurie catches both of her hands now in his, all arms raised above their heads to guide her to finish facing him. Stepping grandly, widely out the side, it's less than the leaping of the first dance; instead, sweeping, the same as their arms are dropped far out to either side, while they make a long half-circle, with Laurie crossing his steps every so often in a pattern Maggie couldn't hope to know, but might find easier to follow than the earlier. When hands meet at Maggie's waist, either side, the stepping becomes more guided by him, gripping her as if he could swing her whole body around with no strain at all, as long as they can keep floating on music. Soon enough, his arm comes away, the left propping at his own hip where the right above Maggie's head for what else — a turn; this time, he graciously sends her along in the opposite direction to even her head. But it's one; two, step forward, three, part; four, swirl.

Swirl, with the one hand above her head, clutching the tips of her fingers as before, but with the second also in a grip, so that as she turns all the way about, her arm is lightly tucked behind her back and kept there by his, wrapped high before her waist, the brush of his coat sleeve under the modestly covered swell of her breast. Gradually, they've become, with shoulders parallel, even closer than when they were dancing in front of one another. The high arc of joined hands above their heads leaves but no choice — his face, turned into her, aligned, his blue eyes now only reflecting hers.

A moment within a moment; they could be slowly spinning, or maybe they've stopped. There's been a lot of dizzying, after all… none more than; "Austria."

And we're gonna be fine.

The moment spans — spins — into feeling longer than it lasts. Whatever it is that's spinning — them, the world, Maggie's head — she's found purchase: blue on blue. A familiar lock of eyes. There's nothing but simple, happy, high spirits to be shared from hers to his tonight, warming, as her gaze yet dances, into friendly sentiments. Her gaze is clear despite effects of too much champagne in too little a time. Though, surely, their dancing must have drawn attention in the crowd, she's sill not looking anywhere else. "Austria," she repeats, "I'd clearly never been."

As the dance partners are suspended in their elegant intertwined arch, Maggie's dress choice pans out well as its strap around her neck is put to good use in keeping modesty — more or less — in-tact as her arms are high above her head. A tremor at her ribs is more than the distinct rise and fall of healthily stirred breathing— she bites her smiling bottom lip and threatens to ruin the picture-perfect pose. As the strains of music swirl into conclusion, it all comes down like a tumbling house of cards. Her hands tear down and fall onto Laurie's shoulders, quite like the rest of her nearly does— not falling, but bowing down with a spill of hair in front of her face, and nearly his. All of Maggie's posture melts away Laurie becomes support of another kind.

The reason: laughter. She's bursting into it, as if it's been pent up. It's low at first, but her higher pitches can't be contained for long — so they aren't. This unheard of authentic laughter from Maggie is a rare treat because, as it happens, her laugh is completely silly — one might say ridiculous.

It takes a second to comprehend beyond the instinctual catching of the woman as she tumbles into his shoulder, but, when he does, a couple of disconnected chuckles rumble out of Laurie, as well. Bubbles of humor here and there, no string, but it does liven his face even while he takes his first couple of spare glances for the rest of the room as it equally rushes into existence — eyes and ears trained with singular purpose on the attention snaring couple, no longer, now, just for their unique round of dancing. But, even feeling the prickling pressure of a dozen pairs of scrutinizing eyes, and Laurie can't quite be bothered to care. When his eyes land back on the top of Maggie's bowed head, he breathes out a myriad of start-and-stopped chuckles and runs a hand across her cheek, through his hair; he gives behind her head a gentle squeeze.

Yet it's impossible to fully ignore the glaring attention and he narrows eyes around spots of colors in the crowd, sizing up, perchance, the level of notice they've garnered: something that's rather seriously obvious. Flash of chandeliers — flash of photographers off those lights with ones of their own — it could be either, or both. "Darling, I think they're onto us," He mutters, hushed and hurried, leaning, their closeness lending to the secrecy of his whisper at her ear.

The sound of laughter disappears, not because Maggie has stopped, but because it's just gone beyond. Silent, silly shakes of laughter prompt her to hit a palm harmlessly against Laurie's lapel in some illogical attempt to stop the floodgates. And she does stop — but not through her own attempts.

The touch and secretive words, instead, draw her out of it — though good humour yet dominates her smile and breaths of laughter still escape, threatening to start her up all over again. Her head raises an inch, her gaze slips to the side — not out to the crowd, but to Laurie there, where the close sides of their faces are shielded from the lights by one another's shadows. In doing, she — with an attentive, staring pause and complete disregard of the many watching eyes around them — realizes how close they've become at the summit (and subsequent collapse) of their dance, and how naturally, for her, she's there. There's a brief hitch at her mouth as if she's about to speak but doesn't; in the moment, she's only warmed, fondness out of the corner of her eye. Fingers lightly twine in her partner's jacket separate from thought.

Inevitably, she has to straighten to survey of the result of their spectacle, however, and Maggie is put on edge by the crowd she sees when she turns her head from side to side. Even through her happy state, bare shoulders raise, tense. She looks back to Laurie and they fall, mimicking a subtle shrug. "We're not doing anything wrong," she observes with a little smile, trying to be optimistic — it could be worse — but, as a flash goes off behind him somewhere, she instantly shies away from it.

Laurie's now music-less sway is as reactionary; the flash, and he slips in subtle ways to aid her hiding, his whole posture having lifted where he regarded that realising change in her, becoming a tall and guarding force — but one inevitably, also, more separated from her in doing so. But the thought in his eyes is a mischievous calculation behind the evaluation of her passing discomfort, and when he leans a second time, he's lost none of the play. "Then we're not trying hard enough."

Then, propping her up with hands under both elbows, he sneaks fingers down her arm, twisting his hand around hers into a tight and demanding grip complementary to the way he — suddenly, and with unsubstantiated urgency — pulls her along into an all-out run off the dance floor; in fact, he dashes, leaping around fancily dressed white tables and, in one case, unwilling to veer to avoid, he throws a foot onto the back of a handy chair and gallops right onto one of the furniture, running across — feet lighter steps to avoid crushing unused glasses or kicking utensils — and then dropping to the floor. Maggie's hand is kept at a long distance to his side, allowing them to remain connected despite his antics, and to spare her heels a similar journey.

Flashes are what chase them, filling the air behind their feet like barking dogs, on a tumbling and joyfully frantic path towards the much vacant back of the ballroom and, fitted at its end, kitchen doors.

Laurie slams their swinging frames with a shoulder, disappearing them from one gaping crowd into, easily, another. Chefs and servers startle at the blaring interruption but, even in their pause, there isn't silence in this room; there's the rush and rattle of dishes, the sizzle of stirring stoves, and, after a second to analyze that two breathless, crazy people are far less important than the next tray — everyone moves on, rolling the incident off their backs, and leaving Laurie to begin hand-hold leading Maggie at a tireless jog through the maze of cooking appliances and their dedicated users.

And if his hand ventures off to the side here and there, especially when his mouth puckers in an appreciative ooh at the makings of a large tiered cake topped with fresh-cut strawberries around each circle… there's no knives as punishment this time.

Whirlwind after whirlwind after whirlwind! Maggie is again caught up in the storm of Laurie's energy. He really and truly pulls her at first— frustratingly, her dress is not made for the long strides she's used to and her shoes are not made for the powerful steps she tries to take, but not once does she try to break away; she just quickens, shortens her steps, veers, runs. Her hand is as tight in his as his in hers. She's partner to his escape antics, all at once laughing, bemused, and protesting.

"Miles you can't— !" Run over furniture? He can. "We shouldn't be in— !" The kitchen? They are. "Sorry!" is hurried out more than once to party guests, even the gawking ones, and of course the kitchen staff as they blast through their domain. Maggie's high-speed protests and apologies are essentially blown away on the wind, however, secondary to the smile on her face and ever-present surprise at each new turn; reckless abandon takes over.

Nearing the back of the kitchen, she gives a harder pull of her own on Laurie's arm to catch up, clambering right next to him and the display of tempting dessert, jostling into his side. Running in high heels is for people who wear them a heck of a lot more than Miss Powers.

And detectives in television shows.

"You're gonna kill me in these shoes!" Not that she stops; there's a laugh to be found under her breathy words even then. She throws a high-octane, conspiratorial look behind her down the length of the hotel kitchen, whipping curls over her shoulder, "Did we lose them— "

Bam, Laurie impacts the exit door, and a whoosh of warm cooking air, and seasonal scents blasts out with them as they barrel into a service corridor too short to accommodate even their slowed pace. With the hallway running west to east, but the pair running straight, Laurie guides them to a stuttering stop that just barely prevents him from hitting the opposite wall. He twists simultaneously, bumping the cream-toned architecture off of his shoulder as he whirls to face forward, resting a back against that allows him a clear and prepared aim at the second pair of doors they've busted through and through which their pursuers will surely follow, if not lost— but! Alas, Laurie is weaponless in his endeavor; giving Maggie's hand freedom, he laboriously pats himself down on all sides — and even some of those hard-to-reach places — only to come up with an empty-hand and the crinkle of exerted paper when he slaps over his shoulder.

"Ah… aha…" Some indecisive energy flashes through his eyes, outputted in excess by him bouncing several times in place. There's eyes on the kitchen door, then the service entrance to the main hall. Bounce; then, he rolls onto his heels and pops his hands in steeple up against his mouth to puff out a breath. "Okay! Okay… I have to be… right back— "

In purpose, he remains hurried, clocking them late for some important date to justify their previous running. Jutting forward to accomplish this proposed task he has to vanish for, he curls his hand under one of Maggie's capturing it from whatever it was doing — in only light, suggestive undertones; his fingers barely grace hers. But he quite solidly plants a stolen strawberry, still with clinging bits of frosting and puffy cream, in her palm. "Have this, take off your shoes."

Bounce; he's up in a jog that has him halfway down the hall and then, pushing a door open with one hand, he leans sneakily around its frame, suspiciously checking both directions before slipping through: "Five minutes, Cinderella!" on the turn of him disappearing behind closing doors.

Maggie whirls exuberantly about to keeps sights on Laurie until he vanishes. "Five minutes! Don't get auctioned out!" she calls out at the closing door — despite not knowing what, exactly, is supposed to follow his return, and her wrist is free of its usual watch. She's happy to wait and quick to find somewhere to make good use of her five minutes. She wanders the hall several paces, looking this way and that until she gladly concedes to hitch skirt up slightly, bend down, fight the simple black heels off her feet one by one, hopping and staggering sideways once. As her bare feet press flat, she breathes a sigh of relief.

Now… what. She gives in to the most simple of resting places: the floor. With a general disregard for her fancy dress — the floor looks clean, anyway — Maggie manages to sit right down unglamorously against the wall next to a fire extinguisher. Although she sends wary glances around the hotel, checking for life, she's pretty content to just sit there: her legs partly stretched out, one arm slung comfortably upon one unladylike spread knee, her dress up around her ankles and calves, shoes shunned beside her, eating her stolen dessert.

Maggie is left in the lap of hallway indulgent luxury — a different brand than she made such a daring escape from — for those couple of peaceful seconds. It certainly hasn't been five minutes when the light whine of hinges, and the suggestion of clinking glasses and gossiping voices — probably about a daring escape from, heralds the service door opening and closing.

But the trickery of the door does not keep the person masquerading long; the click of heels like those the detective has abandoned is not the boisterous consultant returning. Though, her hand free of the weight of a champagne glass and set to picking at blonde curls that have loosened around her face, Jocelyn is certainly a six-degrees of. Click, click; the ADA goes steadily the hallway; it's a short trip to where Maggie is seated, and Jocelyn spends it grappling for the edges of a pale ribbon-y scarf that's been draped over her shoulders for a touch of warmth as the night goes. Pulling what is purely see-through, but represents comfort, closer about her, the woman's arms are nearly crossed when she stops, heeled toe at the abandoned one of Maggie's.

"I thought I might find you here," she expresses, sounding overly practiced, but succeeding in blocking what are tints of detectable emotion. Her offered hand to assist Maggie in standing is, though, on the friendly side of functional. Or maybe because it's easier to have a conversation with someone not slumping it against the wall.

The expression of a child being caught doing something they shouldn't is fleeting at best from Maggie as she looks up upon realization of the new presence, a few fingers pressed casually to her lips and the strawberry gone. It's not really felt. She does, however, give Jocelyn a sort of study — wondering over her purpose — but that's brief, too. "Hey…" she greets, a friendly smile quick to appear even though she leaves the ADA waiting a moment before forfeiting her comfortable seat on the ground.

"You lost Rose." She takes the hand and up she goes; the effort is mostly through her legs, and her other hand, against the wall, than through aid. A lightheaded blink weighs heavy on her eyelids for a moment and then she's fine, running a hand through her hair and regarding Jocelyn rather expectantly.

"Yeah…" she indulges a soft laugh at the expense of her absent plus one, but the more awkward stutter of her hand pushing hair behind her ear breaks the casual, "She's probably trying to see if it's too late to have their last name changed before those pictures come out…" Swirling, her hand comes away from her head to motion at the kitchen doors — through which is the ballroom, the scene of the spectacle crime. "That was, uh…" a laugh; it's one that Jocelyn almost scolds herself for, while there's a fight on her lips between pleasantry and what is more likely her purpose here. "Something…"

Maggie instinctively glances the way of the ballroom as well and a guilty wince teases at the corners of her smile as she presses lips together, but never fully comes to fruition; her pleasant smile is stronger. With an animated hop of her eyes back to Jocelyn, the expression just becomes: oops, what can ya do. "It was— something. Yes," she agrees with a little laugh under her breath and a nod, "I could've done without the photographers…" Hindsight is twenty-twenty. So far hindsight is still blurry.

Maggie might still be feeling the effects of champagne (now quite whirled around in her bloodstream), but her eyes on Jocelyn are clear — if lingering with some unrelated sparkle — and her sense of expectancy jumps right past that fight with pleasantries. There's also something Jocelyn wants to say— she knows it.

Jocelyn's gnawed her lip down to a proverbial nub in the time of getting an answer, making doubtful whether she's really marking many of the words of less import. But her gaze, breaching Maggie's expectancy when she looks over, is strong enough; her purpose here solid. In that confidence, she grows less fidgety, adopting a deceptively blithe air when she takes the time to stare at those swinging kitchen doors, examining them for their make and quality — or some other equally careless manner that doesn't do justice to the meat of the matter — one she voices as if were nothing. And everything: "Detective Powers. Do you have feelings for my husband?"

Attentively listening, Maggie hears and understands every word as if they reach her on some kind of time delay. At first, nothing: she's just staring. Then, the everything: every word plays out in bright reflection on her face as a smile remains strangely formed around all of them, frozen there. Surprised, worried, discomfited, there's no defensiveness yet, only innocently startled blue eyes. A self-conscious touch of her temple comes and goes as she opens her mouth as if to answer— her jaw works— she just blinks, hesitances perhaps telling in and of themselves. "Aaah— " With furrowed brow, she starts to balk, not only at the question itself, but outward, at Jocelyn, for asking it. Her study sobers her gaze, if nothing else. Out-of-sorts with herself, she struggles to form, or stop, words.

"I'mmm not sure why you'd…" Think that? Ask that is the more likely tune. While a bit of defensiveness hints around her voice now, there are few hard edges to her soft voice — contrarily, there's a hopefulness toward causing antagonism. "…Hey I'm sorry, whatever I do… or— don't feel about Miles, it might be your concern, but it's not … actually your business," Maggie pauses through a searching look before adding purposefully, "Ms. Danvers."

Teeth regrind their old spot on her lower lip, Jocelyn's cheeks puffing out near her lips in the containing of her initial instant's reaction at the sobering reminder her name provides. But through it all, push and pull, the words start-to-stop, the ADA flushes not with embarrassment or the impression of being cowed; when her mouth is freed from her own hesitation, she's unmistakably pitying. "Nevermind," she begins — but not for its seeming purpose; her hand brushes in the air, wiping clean the slate of the detective's answer, "that you're… clearly deflecting. Detective— " What was surely more paragraphs that rolled through her head, written, rewritten, and practiced mentally, don't flow quite as naturally when it comes time. But Jocelyn's a lawyer, and she only lingers a second before manning to her post.

"Look. I'm not here to— threaten, or challenge you. Tell you what to do. You're a big girl. But— I like you." This admittance, more than the others, seems to hold pause for Jocelyn. She flirts around a smile, unsure that it belongs in this tense, bordering hostile air she didn't mean for. Soberness wins. "So, it is my concern. And maybe I'm selfish in wanting to warn you."

A distantly darker expression comes and goes, at the pitying from the ADA but soon Maggie, like Jocelyn, flirts around a smile. It fell away and almost finds its solid place again. Where soberness won for Jocelyn, warmth — though tentative — wins for her. She smiles, seeming to at least understand the other woman's intent, though she's still notably ill at ease with having this conversation. "I'd rather you didn't," she says gently sans hostility or dismissal; just honesty, and yet the curiosity in her eyes is clear despite her earnest words. She pauses in this way, posing tongue between teeth as she tries to summon words for thoughts distant from the amiably tipsy mood that wants to persevere.

"He's… a big warning sign all on his own. You know— flashing lights. I probably don't need any more," she explains, assuring, "I'm alright." A single nod bows her head and she reaches out to touch Jocelyn's shoulder atop the gossamer protection of her scarf. "I like you too, so maybe I'm selfish in not wanting to— " Maggie glances around the empty hall and back to Jocelyn, the sight of her there, of both of them here, taking it in with a humour-filled, but wholly emotion-strained smile. A lighter note, "…have to have whatever this— really very weird conversation is…"

Maggie so wholly putting words to the set-up of the situation finally cracks that smile onto Jocelyn, who even breathes out a hopeless, berating laugh. "Yeah, you— have no idea how much I thought I was in a soap opera for a second, saying that… 'rar'," her hands come up at the elbow, careful in some parts not to jostle the detective's friendly outreach, and mimicking some dramatic claws with her neatly painted nails, "'stay away from him— also, have I mentioned we all have amnesia?'"

But, her arms dropping, one hand only halfway where it goes to catch an escaping scarf — the silky fabric easily sliding down smooth, bare shoulders — and a solemn tug to her lips proves humor is short-lived. "But," is even the word, catching her at being playful when she has to clear her throat to range down to business: even if it isn't hers. "I also know that flashing lights can be— distracting … Entrancing." Her tongue passes distractedly over her lips, wetting what dark coloring fills them out; she forces her tone flat, "Blinding. So that, just when you think you're somewhere— you're not. It's like a— a— that thing, when magicians use a lot of hand-motions to distract you from seeing how it's done? And no magician ever reveals his secrets."

Halfway — stuck — Jocelyn's between the cynicism born of her warning, and something definitely more dreamy that she's corralled herself into with her talking. A sense of personal stake unable to shake free of it all. "… So, even when he's smiling at you, and it seems right…— something will always be out of reach." Flat again; she's reached it, herself, that straying glance focused on Maggie. "And I don't think that'll be enough for you, Detective."

Surprise has no place anymore. Jocelyn seems to be speaking a particular language Maggie is quick to pick up on. Her gaze — sure to look straight at the other — is one of immediate understanding. Her smile gone to soberly let the words reach her as they're meant to. The warning passes to her like some kind of mantle she doesn't want the burden of, visible in the uneasy twist that mars the corners of her mouth and troubles the steadiness and clarity of her eyes. A few slow, uneven nods, then, just barely bob her chin up and down. She's solidly accepting — at least, attentive. She takes Jocelyn's sentiments for what they are: she heard, and she'll remember.

On the gentle return of her smile, her hands both move to either of Jocelyn's elbows. Though it was the ADA who came to her, Maggie's touch is meant to be comforting, and encouraging; like her words, kind but firm: "Go back to the party."

But anything passed is only illusionary, like the magician; no burden lifts from Jocelyn's slender frame, and she concedes nothing but what words she forms. If anything, her last line seeks to yank some unformed plan, this shaky carpet, from underneath the detective's feet. What weight Maggie takes, she gives to herself. And, in the same, does finally shake from the ADA when the woman blinks rapidly to the comforting.

Puzzling out the touch, her evaluation of the other female flickers on and off as fast as those shuttered eyes. What she gleans allows her to give a soft shudder that rains the concern off her face, blending wrinkles under make-up, and forming a laugh softer and better felt than before. "Y-You're— wow. I must sound silly right now— thinking that— ? You know what: here I go." She picks up one heel than the other, maneuvering in fluent steps around Maggie's leftover footwear, giving idle stray tugs here and there to the gossamer scarf to prepare for public consumption.

In the small clatter of heels it takes to sidle closer the door than the detective, Jocelyn brightens — turning back, she's smiling; so hopeful and bright, in fact, that it's hard to discern between what is clearly her honest relief, and an odd undertone of condescension which would usually seem foreign to the forthright attorney. "You," she beckons, as if one following another — reference to the grand keeper of secrets; maybe not the problem, after all, "couldn't even say you had any!"

A bit of unstructured hand-waving serves as farewell as the gentle click of women's wear sees the blonde out as swiftly as she appeared.

There's an instant where Maggie nearly responds, interrupts— but what reply she might have had, beyond the shake of her head and similarly quick, unformed wave she gives, is delayed too long and lost when Jocelyn disappears.

Alone again, she spends only a moment regarding the door before remembering she probably ought to put her shoes back on— incase five minutes have nearly passed, she slips into them. Taller, she rocks back against the wall, her arms a tight fold across her. Leaning propped chin upon hand, fingers curled at her mouth— a few fretting motions, restless, her repose not quite as unthinkingly content as before. The noise of the New Year's ball drifts in, the busy racket of the kitchen, but it seems too quiet … bound to change any second as she waits on the revolving door of familiar faces.

BAM. Does he know how to open them any other way? Laurie — for it is unmistakably Laurie — barrels them open, poking his head through the created crack as if no time at all had passed, and he were on the same bounce as he left. Hands braced one either side of him, he leans as though to fall into the hallway, notching his head with a snapping motion towards the one he's standing at the threshold off — he points down, towards the aisle not leading back to party.

"Psst! This way!" Would be his conspiratorial sharing, if not that he were calling it down to her those yards of corridor. There's a bit of a shuffle back and forth, bidding to move should she take too long, but he manages to hold, straightening only when she's near to blink observantly down, "You're wearing your shoes."

"Excellent eye for detail, Miles," Maggie is there to commend jokingly, cued by his timely appearance, quick to stir to his conspiratorial call. "I am now," she clarifies. "A choice I'm already reconsidering." It's almost as though no time had passed here in the hall — she's only less giddy than five minutes prior but the same excitable warmth is quick to rise. She's all smiles; it seems the path of least resistance in her present state of mind. If the weight left by Jocelyn is meant to stick, it's easy to carry for the time being when she it can't be felt for long. Sneaking a look past, down the corridor, she ventures expectantly: "Tell me we're getting out of here!"

"We're getting out of here!" Bursts out of Laurie faster than it would seem the words could have been contemplated for accuracy; which is likely what makes: "Also— we're getting out of here. Come on." Come on to him yanking his head over the divider and thrusting the door nearest Maggie open past her to allow her to come across to the land of progress and hallway escapes — past, and underneath his arm, which is stretched high to open the door, but not exactly high enough for her and her heels not to have to attempt a tiny limbo line.

The grown-up shades of two teenagers skipping out on last period, their gait, dress shoes to heels, can be described no less than 'scampering'. Few guests linger in the halls where it draws nearer and nearer the midnight hour on this particular day, but unpleasantly clocked-in employees litter here and there, available to stare at the adults escaping like fugitives from the rich classy evening to the unbridled New York night.

And it is New York.

New Year's Eve.

Time counting down… The impression is that every single building and residence and hovel in New York had been evacuated, filing each of its old, young, strict, wild, hipster, nerd, model, businessman, each varied resident into a Time's Square shaped corral, along with fugitives from around the country with nowhere else to go — and then somebody suggested a kegger.

Noise, and the shuffling bodies that make them, is rampant. Outside of the hotel doors, only paces beyond, already stomping feet moving in hive-mind towards the epicenter, that everlasting shiny ball that becomes a golden idol for ten of the world's most important seconds. Each of every one of them shares a common theme besides destination: every tall, short, skinny, and wide frame is bundled up at every appendage for the snappy chill breeze that whips around Maggie's dress-bottom, sneaking in around loose, wavy fabric, and flutters in between the lapels of Laurie's jacket on their first step out. Versus the stuffy, mood-lit ballroom, that starting taste of crisp, creased night air is refreshing, and heaped in with deep breaths.

By the first block at Madison Ave, things have taken a turn for the pure chilly. Coatless, and vastly outnumbered by those both in heavy jackets and not in evening wear, the two are strange explorers in a freezing land. But occasional warmth from chance heating systems on the street — none from the shut-down, dark buildings that have all been vacated — and run-off adrenaline keeps fingers nimble.

Before 5th street, Laurie's already lost his tuxedo jacket. Not into the night, but the fine fabric eases quite readily off his shoulders, barring darkened grey to the world, and freeing the extra bundling for less prepared shoulders. But Maggie turns that shoulder to the wheel — or the breeze, as it is — with quiet, and vaguely teeth-chattering insistence.

It isn't until the Avenue of Americas, when the bleeding stereo is making the first strains of celebratory U2 known, that the jacket is roughly accepted with the reasoning that someone might as well make use of it; with Laurie blithely refusing to re-don the article, it must be her. Trim cut for a man is wide on Maggie, creating bunching folds around her shoulders, and hang past her wrists, sheltering her fingers with neat cuffs, where she can avoid brushing the cold-frozen metal of buttons. But the most warmth of all is that he used to be wearing it.


Flash of orange, flash of blue — neon at every angle. Here, the stylized half-face of the Wicked poster branded alongside the theater buildings. There, a gigantic illustrative reworking of a new artist's first album cover. Lights bright the night like day, but for the cool sleek black of blue that is the looming sky that can only peek through here and there around towering skyscrapers, one emblazoned with orange highlights at every window — others with only speckles of that yellowish light that means their residents are home, peering out upon the swarming, writhing masses.


Writhing as one; there's no room to elbow personally. Everyone is neighbor, friend, and sharer of space tonight. There can be no such thing as keeping your distance on New Year's Eve. Just a million of your closest friends.




Many hands already clutch balloons — several of which have been prematurely released into the air and hover indecisively between buildings and the luminous freedom of the sky. Various half-nibbled food items are as often clutched in fingers as crunched beneath feet on the ground. Most common, however, is the squishy recyclable cardboard of the heat-guard around half a million cups of hot chocolate or cider. Laurie's hand is intermittently around Maggie's, when the crowd swells in threatening to suck them apart from one another where he leads, and friendly to the gathered crowd in taking shoulders, parting bodies, and patting arms. His persuasive touches get as many glances as there are double-takes to notice his apparel — jacket-less, impeccably grey and red in shirt, vest, and tie — and Maggie, behind him, half-cloaked in a swathe of black.

One spot as satisfactory as the next, but the class-act consultant gently encourages them dab in the middle of masses, biased towards the center stage from which the music blares, and more fittingly dressed hosts play for last laughs or comments. Everything at this distance requires shouting, and Laurie obliges, as he twists to her, revealing from underneath his arm one of those double-layered covered cups of — something; its source dubious, as he was never drastically parted from Maggie's side. "I got you this." Cold blossoms the red in his cheeks, even as excitement makes them full with his grin.

"When did you even…" Doesn't matter! Maggie takes the cup in both hands tightly, glad for it even before she knows what it is, lifting it near her face. "Thanks!" she expresses — loudly, over the lively din — with a smile that bears matching rosy cheeks as she drinks the magically appearing winter beverage. Cider. The collar of Laurie's tuxedo jacket is turned up high around her neck, hair tucked underneath, coiled and jostled into soft imperfect curls, and the whole of the Times Square experience reflects in her eyes.

The sights and sounds of New York are very familiar, but not amplified as they are tonight, so alive and thrumming with excitement and anticipation, and Maggie's view of this New Year's Eve is the viewed through a particular lens — one of novelty. She's taken to the crowds with an almost youthful wonder despite her soon to be thirty-nine years — all of this seems to be new, too, and more readily welcomed than the ballroom.

It's this gaze of Maggie's that sweeps around the many complete strangers as the crowd cheers with excitement on top of excitement upon an encouraging comment from the stage beyond: midnight inches ever closer.

"Christmas and New Year's Eve," she shouts, upbeat, back on Laurie, "I'm taking up all your holidays!" Midnight nears, so does she; she keeps close and, in the jostle of the masses, closer to his side. "Do you always do this?" This being here — Times Square, New Year's Eve — as indicated with a toss of her head to the height of the ever-rising festivities.

"I always try!" His shouted answer isn't so much the regretful of years unsuccessful, but immensely pleased for this one; it leaves his rate of achievement up for interpretation. "And!"


Attentive to the giant cast ball above, twinkling in its lights as though winking down to all the admirers, blushing and preparing for its grand performance upcoming, Laurie leans into Maggie shoulder to shoulder, his head declining towards her but without his face and eyes to follow. "You have a few more to go— when you show up on President's Day with a hat, I'll consider being concerned."


Swells in the crowd feels like forward momentum, even when there's nowhere to go. The general inclination of thousands of people towards a single point; all eyes are beginning to lock onto the same glittering spotlight. Music is no longer the heart-beat of the city; the city is. Everyone breathing, everyone staring. Outside of this great huddle of human beings, those on less speedy coasts tune in through stations in order to share in the moment, the unity. Bumping and stirring, Laurie's hand brushes hers in the juggle of limbs around each other; his fingers are a little cold. But he isn't looking, eyes up, and he remains brazenly ignorant that he should be shivering in such light material.

Those minutes, before stretching in the constant chilly wait — weather, even now, blocked by thrumming bodies, but whistling every now and again between the lines — come to climax. The ball begins to contemplate movement and then, with a sleek, simple, yet highly anticipated jump — it goes down.


Not only does Laurie join in the deafening call to arms, but he lurches forward to hoist himself up with a bounce. Contrary to the event's entire purpose… he does so in order to scan the crowd in every direction but where the globe is falling.


Slipping back down, jostled right into his carved out spot next to Maggie, his face flashes more pleased than perhaps it's ever been.






When he turns his head swiftly from the spectacle to his companion, there's still a thousand reflected stars in Laurie's unusually blue eyes. "Make sure you're looking at something good right at midnight!"


His face so close; his voice yet forcing past a thousand others screaming something else in order to be heard. "Then your year is always right!"





From the ball, to Maggie, a second time. A nudge — whether on purpose or not — to snag her attention. Reddened lively cheeks, starry eyes; down at her now, he smiles a perfect smile.

"… So, even when he's smiling at you… and it seems right…"

Eyes — all eyes — on the ball. Laurie's chin lifts as he, once in a lifetime, follows the usual.


Maggie's voice joins the joyous shouts — not so loud, though it's capable — but just as energetic. Every lively direction Laurie's gaze travels, hers is often already there — more prone to watch the people in the crowd — on him, when his is on her — and as the than the year is about to forever change, upon the glittering point millions of people have their collective attentions honed toward. A surge in the crowd is a surge in her enthusiasm, none more contagious than Laurie's.

The ball stops its descent: it's midnight on the dot.

"Happy New Year!" her voice joins the deafening chorus.

It seems impossible that the masses could become more excited — yet that's exactly what happens. It simply explodes. The air is filled with hats, confetti, cups, novelty 2011 toys. In those first couple of brand new seconds of 2011, Maggie's vivid gaze hops to Laurie, a wave of laughter prompted by the celebrations. The sound is almost swept away, but the laughter sparkles, as it's been prone tonight, in her eyes, alive.

Timed as people scream, shout, laugh, hug and — as is tradition — kiss in the streets, couples and strangers alike everywhere you look, her hand finds Laurie's beyond simple brushing in closeness. Cider-warmed, hers squeezes around his and gives a little pull, reaching out in joined experience. "Hey," she shouts, a call to attention, sincere of voice. Her smile its broadest and brightest yet — edged with a bit of a playful grin — Maggie repeats for him: "Happy New Year, Laurie."

Laurie's eyes are closed. "Happy New Year!" A second later, and both cupped hands make a U around his mouth to amplify his enthusiastic hurrahs rising on all sides. When one drops to balance the other's lunge for a bit of fly-away confetti — it's everywhere — his hand becomes prey to hers and his startle of attention happens near-simultaneous to hey. Her voice serves purpose to direct his dropping gaze upwards, off of hands and to her smile.

It's returned: big and bright; his typical joyfulness, finally on display where it's deemed appropriate, and echoed by all those around them. It's the smile people are giving to persons they've never even met before right now. An incredulous, bemusedly defeated laugh murmurs at his lips — aha — as he hears her, but merriment cannot be contained, and will not: "Happy New Year, Detective."

Prey, compliant to pulling, is too compliant; fingers slip away in that same momentum that compelled them — to share experience. That chill air must have finally crept up to him in the midnight hour, as he turns to watch the world. His hands are promptly pocketed.

Nothing changes on New Year's Day.

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