Once Around the Floor

by Valerie Meachum
with assistance from Amparo Bertram and Perri Smith

Time: 1:00 am
Place: The Raven, where else? :-)

Now this was what the Raven was supposed to look like as a War wound down! The karaoke craze had burned itself out, at least for the moment, and someone with exceedingly good taste in dance tunes had taken control of the sound systems. All the partying listmembers were pretty much dry again; even Valerie's own velvet dress was now just barely damp. And the water fight had been more than worth it. Though getting unwhammied by LaCroix would have been mortifying enough without being dripping wet at the time. Still, with the Trouble Magnet whammy itself still in operation, she'd probably gotten off easy.

She had actually considered getting out of the way of the hoses and buckets to protect her rare-occasion attire and the grooming that went along with it. She'd been pretty damn proud of herself this time, decked out in the midnight-blue-green dress patterned after Jean Butler's costume in the Riverdance video, with its off-the shoulder princess-seamed cut, flippy short skirt and long sleeves of a mesh that resembled fishnet stockings but somehow looked a lot classier as sleeves. Something Raven-appropriate that she could put on her dancer-slight frame without looking like a comically tall sixth-grader trying to fill out big sister's grownup party clothes. Considering the state of her right ankle after that argument with the pothole outside Nick's loft, she had nixed the idea of heels and gone the rest of the way with the Irish dancer motif, wearing soft reel shoes like black ballet slippers laced half a dozen times across the instep. She had even gone as far as to wear her contacts--which miraculously seemed to be behaving tonight--set her short bob into a riot of loosish curls, and give Jill another guinea pig for her newly-purchased and quite astonishing array of expensive cosmetics.

Of course, the effect was marred somewhat by the crutches and Really Clunky Ankle Brace that G.T. had insisted upon; so the effect that had been...dampened by the water fight hadn't been perfect to start with. Next time, she vowed to herself. Next time I'll match any Raven regular you want to throw at me!

But this time...she managed to sit relatively still through a Corrs song, feet--mostly the left--flitting through an air-jig as they dangled from the barstool. Then it got cruel. Somebody put on "Macarena."

"Not fair!" she wailed, drawing a few amused and/or confused glances even as she bounced to the high-velocity Latin cross-rhythms. "I want to dance and I CAN'T!!!"

"What if you had some help?" a familiar voice asked behind her. She thought she covered her startled yelp quite well when Nick scooped her up and whirled around, in spite of his mock wince and admonition of "Haven't you exceeded your quota of hypersonic weapons for one War?"

"I have an unlimited supply," Valerie retorted, catching a glimpse of Perri's self-satisfied grin over Nick's shoulder. "So who do I owe a favor to? You or Perri?"

He shrugged, deftly turning aside from a couple of enthusiastic dancers who were about to nail her injured foot. "I don't know about Perri, but you don't owe me anything. You guys did what you felt was best, and you took good care of Nat."

"And threatening to beat you up?" she asked cautiously.

That earned a crooked smile. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I don't plan to come to it. Good enough?"

"For me. For now." She twirled her hands above her head in a flurry of syncopated snaps, forcing Nick to think fast to keep from dropping her. "And now is a party!"

They made it through the rest of the song without mishap, and Nick returned the NatPacker to her perch.

"Thanks, Nick. I needed that."

"But what about me?" Amparo appeared out of nowhere and attached herself to Nick's arm, pouting at Valerie with genuine hurt. "How does she rate a dance? A free ride, yet!"

"Well, she's--" Nick stopped short as he turned to see the smaller NatPacker, attired in yet another of her now-infamous shy and retiring dresses, gazing up at him in unmixed adoration. "Uh...Amparo, are you okay?"

"I'm fine now," she purred, adhering herself even more tightly to him. If that was possible.

"Yoo-hoo! Earth to Pod!" Valerie singsonged, but her friend's focus at the moment was entirely focussed on Nick's very confused face.

"Never mind dancing," Pod decided. "We can stay right here."

"Oh, wait a minute." There was no mistaking the invisible light bulb going on over Nick's head. Taking hold of Pod's hands before they could get anywhere embarrassing, he went on, "I think this is another one of Nat's accidents, isn't it?"

Ignoring the question, Pod sighed happily, "Bluuuuuuuue eyes..."

"Amparo. Listen to me. This is not you..."

Valerie, watching the rather entertaining scene unfold, knew that tone. He was trying to undo Nat's unintentional whammy--one that could prove highly embarrassing if Nick ever figured out that most of the 'Pack had been acting out exaggerated versions of Nat's own personality traits!--but it didn't seem to be getting him anywhere. Pod was most certainly focussed on his eyes...and melting into a puddle of goo, and no longer hearing a word he said.

"Looks like Knight's got the deck stacked against him again." For the third time tonight Valerie was startled by a vampire's unexpected voice, this time Vachon. At least she squelched the SqueakyNoise this time; two out of three wasn't bad. The Spanish vampire had quite enough to laugh about already.

Nodding her agreement of the comment, Valerie asked, "I don't suppose you could lend him a hand? This one really isn't fair."

He thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "Okay. I guess the show's gone on long enough."

"Thanks. I owe you one."

"Yep." Vachon tapped Nick on the shoulder. "Mind if I cut in?"

Nodding in relief, Nick passed Pod's hands to the younger vampire. "Please."

"Niiiiiiiick!" Pod protested as Vachon turned her to face him with some difficulty.

"Never mind, pobrecita. Now listen to me..."

[War Stories]