Cop, Doc, Capo, Politico


colette4_icon.gif ace2_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Cop, Doc, Capo, Politico
Synopsis Stop me if you've heard this one…
Play stupid games, win fabulous prizes.
Date April 4, 2020

Merlot Joe's

“Okay, the rules are simple.”

Twilight has settled over the New York City Safe Zone and the Miller wedding reception is starting to wind down. Fewer guests means fewer distractions, and the bride and groom have decided to settle in to have a little fun.

“You choose a category, I give you a question.”

At a round table just in front of the bar sit the happy couple, the bride’s sister, and the best man. Three shot glasses and a bottle of tequila sit in front of the bride, as well as a box of index-sized cards. A trivia game. In front of every participant is a stemmed glass filled with cold water.

“If you get the answer right, you get a point. If you get the answer wrong, you take a drink.”

Tequila is poured into each of the three glasses, a shot passed to each player.

“The categories are: Arts, History, General Knowledge, Science, Geography, and Entertainment.”

Names are jotted down on a napkin:

Zachery Harry Colette

“I’ll be holding on to this to ensure there’s no alcohol abuse.”

The bottle of tequila is lifted from the table briefly and wagged back and forth once, then set down next to the scorepadnapkin.

“Now then. Since I’m in charge, I say we’re starting in alphabetical order by name. That means any way you slice it… Colette, you’re up first!”

Except that Ace Callahan comes before Colette Demsky. But since we’re using the made-up names tonight, Harry has to go second.

The selfsame Harry doesn't seem particularly bothered by this. He sits slightly hunched with his legs squared, one hand braced on his knee with his elbow cocked out while he looks to Nicole, like he might divine quickly enough the magic series of words to get out of this. But, let the bride have her fun. Why not.

His other hand runs back through his hair, attempting to re-establish organization to the tousle of it. Around his neck, his bowtie is undone and hanging; the top button of his dress shirt undone, the tuxedo jacket to his costume— somewhere. Not on the back of his current chair, anyway.

"I didn't have 'play Drinking Jeopardy' on my bingo card for this evening, but, fair enough," Ace relents, apparently gaming about the affair. He quirks an eyebrow, asking with good humor, "Are we sure this one doesn't open with everyone taking a shot to see how quickly our answers get ridiculous?"

Nicole snorts a laugh. “I like your style, Stoltz. Fuckin’ go for it.

But the answer hasn't even left Nicole's mouth before Zachery's already upending his shot, leaned back in his seat with an elbow hooked over the backrest.

He, too, has clearly been robbed of his jacket some time earlier, the red of his tie loosened over charcoal vest. "Well this is hardly fair, is it," he says, sliding his empty shot glass back over to Nicole and holding it there between his fingertips. "Everyone's had a head start and I'm just beginning."

“You wanna talk to me about unfair?” Bride lifts brows to groom, giving him a quick up and down look as she takes his glass to refill.

Ace huffs a laugh to the point he only makes it halfway to lifting up his tequila. He shoots a bout of side-eye at the white-eyed sister he's found himself sitting next to. Since he's been beat to the punch already, there's no harm in delaying a moment further. "What do you think?" he asks good-naturedly, holding his shot up just a little more.

“Do I get to cheat?” Colette asks once Zachery and Ace have thoroughly had their sidebar. Dark brows come up, and Colette tilts her head to the side. She affects a look with her blind eyes for the sake of the audience, looking between cards and sister and back again. “Otherwise you might wanna’ put those face down on the table.”

Colette slyly smiles and kicks her chair back to rest on the rear two legs, finishing a vibrant milky-pink cocktail she’d been nursing up until this particular shade of shenanigans started. Colette sets it down, plucking the paper umbrella out of it to roll between her fingers. “Also, what’s the winner get? Other’n slightly less shitfaced?”

No!” Nicole shrills at her sister. “You don’t fucking get to cheat! I mean, I guess you can if you really want to? But that’s a choice you’re making.” Unless Colette’s going to cheat by giving wrong answers, Nicole feels like that’s rather missing the point of playing a drinking game.

“Losers get drunk, and winner gets…” Nicole’s face pulls into a thoughtful expression, eyes focused on the canopy overhead as though something might tumble down to her. “…A favor from the bride.” Lame prize? Maybe. But the game is supposed to be fun for its own sake. “And the satisfaction of being smartest person at the table.” Or at least the one with the most useless trivia knowledge.

There’s a quick glance around the table, hand held out to take Harry’s glass once he’s downed his primer shot. Once it's refilled, it’s passed back and she plucks out the first card, narrowing her eyes faintly at her sister. “Since you’re a snot, I’m picking your category for you. It’s ge-og-raphy!” Clearing her throat, Nicole looks down at the card in her hand, her palm cupped behind it as if that makes any difference, and reads the question: “Hagatna is the capital of which country?”

Ace arches an eyebrow. Useless trivia would be made very valuable indeed, with a prize like that. For a moment, he considers not downing the shot, but perhaps there was little harm in this small amount. When his refilled shotglass makes its way back to him, he leaves that one be, listening to the trivia question with an idle expression.

Hagatna? If that's the first question off the blocks, he wonders where they're going next.

"What're the rules on stealing?" he asks in a gamely aside.

Nicole narrows her eyes at the best man, sizes up her sister a moment, then glances back to Ace. “I’ll allow it. If someone gets their answer wrong, and someone else at the table can answer it correctly, they get the point.” She really likes his style.

"I've already got the entire bride, I feel like I should get something extra," Zachery pipes up, the grin on his face widening more to one side than the other as he sits back and refuses to look away from Nicole even after the subject of fairness. Not quite done looking at her just yet, today.

"Also, agreed, no cheating." The groom says grimly serious, shoots Colette then Ace a look with eyebrows raised, before finally looking back to Nicole while simultaneously pointing his thumbs in at himself, "Except for me, whose party you're both at, and who will expect his new wife," out go his index fingers, pointing lazily out to Nicole, "to gently bite the inside of her cheek in morse code."

They're the perfect team.

Colette squints, narrowing one white eye. She looks around the table, still eased back on the hind legs of her chair. She wrinkles her nose, folding the paper umbrella closed, pinches it between two fingers, and flicks it across the table at Nicole. “I don’t fucking know,” she says with a laugh, “Korea?”

Ace clears his throat with a faux-quiet air before interjecting like he's sliding a card face down across the table, "Guam." and lifting his shoulders in a shrug.

"And it's more like… Hagatña, but valiant effort on the pronunciation. I'm sure mine is wrong still, too." He lifts his drink in a gesture of apology and solidarity both, grinning on one side of his mouth.

Nicole bats the paper umbrella out of the air to fall to the table in front of her, smirking. “Who are you?” she laughs, narrowing her eyes in Ace’s direction. “Point to Harry!” The card is laid face down on the table, the start of a discard pile, and a new one plucked up.

Ace cocks an eyebrow with a knowing smile. "It's a US territory, Mrs. Miller," he supplies mildly. "Some names just stick with you forever."

“Alright, Misssster Miller,” Nicole grins cheekily at her husband — who, by the way, is not getting a better prize than a favor to be named later, because such a thing does not exist, thank you — and quirks one brow. “Since you’re also on my list tonight, I’m picking your category as well. General.”

Tilting her head to one side, she reads the question: “Why were the earliest English umbrellas nicknamed Robinsons?” That has to be a softball, right? No Morse code required, even.

She never said he was on the naughty list.

Zachery deflates a little all the same. "You know I can't get a question wrong on purpose." Said with all of the disappointment of someone who doesn't understand how winning = not drinking.

"Well, Mrs. Miller," he begins again, a little more chipperly. "Ignoring, for a moment, that - I don't know," he waves out a vague gesture, "probably the Chinese have been making the things since they and rain existed simultaneously, and they must have been made in England before then, the English have a bit of a habit of pretending their own invented things first. Even if they have to be fictional to do it." He shrugs one shoulder up, admitting defeat through victory. "Like Crusoe."

If it's any consolation, he also hopes to be less wordy soon.

Nicole watches Zachery, lips drawn out into a line, eyes wide and frequently blinking while he rambles. Uh huh. Yep. Okay. Get to the point, pal. And when he finally gets there, she snorts a laugh. “Point to Zachery.”

When Zachery seems to seriously consider losing for the sake of drinking, and then gives an answer so egregiously long it seems as though he might be attempting to disqualify himself for exceeding a time limit, Ace actually looks a touch relieved when he gets the answer correct.

Good man. Stay in the fight.

Then 'Harry' turns back to the giggling bride, matching her winning smile with one of his own. "How about a dose of the arts?"

Colette reintroduces herself to the conversation with a resounding belch and the clack of the front two legs of her chair hitting the tile floor. She sets her empty drink glass down, then slowly pushes her chair back and stands up. She nearly backs into another wedding guest walking directly behind her, but stops short like she could see them coming. Which, given that she looks blind, probably both raises and answers questions for Harry.

“M’gonna go tack another one on,” Colette says with a gesture with one twirling finger over her shoulder, “any’f you want anything?” She asks, leaning over as she remembers to grab her empty, waggling it back and forth as she does.

“I see how it is,” Nicole rolls her eyes at her sister, but while also stifling a grin. “My tequila’s not good enough for you. Get me another one of those fakey mimosas, would you?” She blows her sister a kiss and plucks another card out of the box.

“Alright, Harry. Arts.” Taking a moment to read over the question before she starts, Nicole nods. “Who wrote the collection of science fiction stories that made up the book I, Robot?”

Zachery's attention snaps in Colette's direction at the noise of her chair, eyebrows up. He breathes out a chuckle and watches her as she steps away, some measure of wry uncertainty briefly thinning his lips.

By the time he turns it to Harry instead, the look of doubt is gone. Zachery waits for the question to be finished while further loosening his tie and then calls over his shoulder, "Do they have Guinness?"

“Of course they have Guinness. What the fuck do you take me for?” Nicole shoots an incredulous look to her new husband. “I know what you’re about.”

"What did I," Zachery fires back at her question as if it's a correction, aiming an entirely too self-satisfied grin at Nicole. "I took you as my wife."

And so far, he doesn't look to be regretting it.

Nicole lets out a half giggle, blushing and suddenly bashful. “Yeah, you did.”

Ace, meanwhile, sits pensive and attempts to not balk at the question he's been presented with. He asked for the arts, not for science fiction. Surely this was a question better listed under Science, or better yet— entertainment. But no, it sits in the category he chose for himself, expecting a question about a topic beloved to him rather than…

He sighs, pensive on the question alone rather than the antics that unfold surrounding him. He combs his thoughts, even for all his lack of enthusiasm. "It's certainly not Bradbury," he mutters to himself. That didn't sound up his alley. "Smith? No. Asimov, maybe?" Each successive guess comes out at volumes more conversational, even if the conversation is meant only for himself. God, who else stood out? Old, famous science fiction writers?…

"Sturgeon?" Ace guesses unhappily, scraping the very bottom of his barrel for that one. He's not pleased to not know this.

Colette circles back from the bar with a Mimosa cradled in one hand, stem of the glass between two fingers. The neck of a bottle of Guiness is held between index and middle finger on the same hand. She sets the bottle down in front of Zachery, the fakey Mimosa down with a delicate roll of her wrist to Nicole.

Then, in her other hand, two mugs gripped by the handles. She sets the empty one down in front of Zachery because he’s not a savage and won’t drink his Guiness straight from the bottle. The other, filled with something amber and fizzing, has a little wedge of lime on the edge and ice inside.

Colette sits down with her drink in hand. “Harry winning?” She asks, taking a sip of her ginger beer. “Or did a bunch of golf questions get asked and Zachery picked up the lead?” She regards Zachery over the rim of her mug. “Cricket? You seem like a balls and stick guy. One of those ways.”

“Thaaank you, Letty,” Nicole trills, settling her glass in front of herself on the table where she wants it, just so. Then she turns her attention back to the man in the trivia hot seat. “You should’ve trusted your instincts, Stoltz. It’s Isaac Asimov. Take a drink.

She’s a little too delighted by this game, perhaps. Sorry, she’s getting vicariously drunk through the various members of the wedding party. “You’re up, Sissy. Pick your category.”

Zachery would be enjoying Harry's grasping for the right answer, except he is instantly transfixed by Colette the moment she looks at him.

"She thinks I play golf," he utters mostly to himself. It leaves him speechless for a moment, before he blindly drags his bottle and mug closer behind a forearm and asks of no one in particular, voice heavy with bafflement, "Genuinely, where did I go wrong?"

A quiet cant of his head says, 'MAYBE minigolf,' but the rest of him, quite deliberately, does not.

If he has to drink, at least Ace can do so while he laughs. His loss is mitigated by Zachery's befuddlement, and he leans forward to clap a hand on his shoulder after he swallows back the shot. "I guess starting now, you just have to make a better impression, Miller," he remarks with bright geniality, grinning wide. It'll all be well in the end, surely.

When Colette's turn comes back up though, Ace turns back to her instantly. There's an opportunity to steal coming up, to fix the competition again in his favor.

And for all his friendly face this evening, it's clear where his priorities are.

Colette looks at Nicole with such a face, sipping her drink. She looks around the table, then breaks out into a bubble of laughter. “Look, aren’t you people,” she motions to Zachery, “always into golf?” It’s hard to say which you people she means, and a couple stiff drinks in she might not even be sure either.

“Whatever, whatever,” Colette sputters, “fine uh, what were the…” she wrinkles her nose. “History.” She hesitates. “History’s one, right? Maybe— no, fuck it, history.”

Nicole tries very, very hard to keep a straight face while Zachery expresses his dismay over being suspected of playing golf of all things. Especially because he appears to have glossed right on over Colette’s heavy-handed innuendo, and Nicole definitely did not. The back of her hand presses against her mouth as she lets out a squeaky little sound in her failure to suppress laughter.

Shaking her head, she drags Ace’s shot glass back her way to refill it while Colette decides on her category. “History is a thing that exists,” she confirms, passing the refilled shot back. “Which means your question is…” Nicole plucks up a fresh card and reads it over. “The March of Dimes was originally founded to help find a vaccine for what?

Ace faux-winces in Colette's favor at this point, pulling his restored drink back to himself. "Are you sure she's not picking the hardest cards from the deck just for you?" he asides too conversationally for it to have been private commiseration. He wonders with a touch of sympathy, "Did you do something to piss her off recently…?"

“You’re gonna have to be specific,” Colette says over to Harry, one brow raised. “She’s thirty-eight years old and I’ve been giving her a hard time for about twenty-eight of them.” But she’s stalling.

Colette squints at Nicole, slides her tongue over the inside of her cheek, and looks thoughtful. Zachery’s the one who notices something that looks like a human hair snaking around Nicole, it catches the light just so, like a monofilament line of glass, bending and distorting the light around it.

The filament takes a wide arc around the table, almost imperceptible, and then hooks up over the back of Nicole’s shoulder like a snake coming to say hello. From Harry’s perspective it just blends into the background, and Colette’s kept this thread of bent light below the table from Nicole’s vantage point.

“Polio.” Colette says confidently, and the filament disappears like a popped soap bubble.

There's a near spillage as Zachery looks up halfway into pouring his Guinness, tilted mug and all. He rights it with a start, slamming both it and the bottle down onto the table to look at Colette once he realises what's going on.

He would have known that one, too.

"… No," he tells her with equal parts amusement and firm denial, like he's talking to a dog that's tearing up someone else's furniture. Fighting back a laugh that makes it halfway out, he abruptly decides, "Do another one. Or three shots." Her choice, apparently.

“I’ve got two for you,” Colette says with a crooked smile while she flips Zachery off. “The other one’s on like, hold or something.” Holding her drink, she means.

Ace's good humour comes to a pause, expression still fixed the way it was before even as his eyes dart from judge to jury to the woman suddenly on trial for something he didn't quite catch. One eyebrow slowly arches over the other as he waits to see just what it is Zachery's caught sight of.

“Am I the only person at this table who paid attention in class?” The bride rolls her eyes. But did she really pick that up from books, or is it from all those years spent on fundraising? Still, she feels like this is not that difficult a question she’s just lobbed at her sister. Who is now pointing out that she’s thirty-eight. Why? Why does she have to bring up her age, today of all days? She is so rude! Nicole groans loudly the moment the first syllable of that number leaves the younger woman’s lips.

“I kinda’ didn’t finish high school on account of the nuclear explosion when I was fifteen.” Colette reminds Nicole. “I mean I got my GED after the fact but uh, my knowledge’s got some holes in it.”

And then Zachery’s slamming his drink down on the table and Nicole starts, eyes wide and her hand holding that question card resting over her stomach, either for lack of somewhere else for it to retreat to as she leans away, or out of some kind of protective instinct.

“Are you cheating?” Nicole asks Colette incredulously. “Come on. You knew that one, right?”

"She definitely did not," Zachery supplies helpfully.

Nicole squints skeptically between her sister and her new husband, then digs a new card out of the box. This one she holds close to her while she checks the question. “Okay, smartie pants. Here’s one you should be able to answer on your own. What’s the only weight in the International Radio Alphabet?”

“The only wait?” Colette parrots back, getting the wrong homophone. “Is— oh. Oh. Uh, that’s— ” she starts mumbling to herself, some sort of rhyming mnemonic device. “Kilo— Kilo!

She actually knew that one.

"Shit," Ace laughs out loud, head tossing back. They nearly had her there. Alternatively, he nearly had another steal. Turning to Colette, he supposes, "You're safe for now, it looks like."

“This game is dumb, we should play poker.” Colette says between sips of her ginger beer. “Hundred bucks buy in.” She doesn’t have cards.

"You've just proved you can cheat easily at cards," Ace reproves her, but he's also sitting more upright now. It's not a no. In fact, he might relish the challenge.

He glances hard to Zachery, grin pulling back one corner of his mouth.

"If we're showing off abilities and all…" he remarks with a cant of his head, indicating he's more than game.

Sorry, is someone still talking? Zachery has downed what he'd poured, and pulls the bottle closer to finish the process directly from the source. Fuck every sober cell still in his body.

“I don’t cheat at poker,” Colette says with a raise of one brow. “I mean— normally, I guess. ‘Ruma’s not here so.” She cracks a smile and reconsiders. “Okay, I might cheat at poker now.”

Colette sits forward and sets her drink down. “Hold on.” She says, standing up and pushing her chair out with her legs. She circles the table, coming behind Nicole to get her coat off the back of Nicole’s chair. She fishes around in the pocket, then retrieves a pair of keys with a naked, plastic lady hanging off the keychain in a seductive pose.

“Here,” Colette says, tossing the keys in front of Nicole. “I didn’t want to give this to you with all the other gifts, but I’m getting the vibe that nobody at this table’s gonna faint.” She stays standing behind Nicole’s chair, one hand on the back, leaning over her sister’s shoulder. “Merry Weddingsmas.”

“I’m just saying,” Nicole says flatly, belatedly refuting Harry’s claim that she’s got it out for her sister, “I’m not purposefully giving her difficult questions.” She eyes her husband making quick work of his drink and smirks to herself. It’s her fault for insisting they get up to these shenanigans, but she’s fairly certain he’ll be passing out in his tux tonight.

At the mention of poker, the bride’s gaze slants over to the best man and his mention of abilities. “What? Got an ace up your sleeve over there already, pal?” She snorts and shakes her head as Colette makes her way over. Nicole turns her head to glance over her shoulder while her sister digs in the pockets of her coat.

The keychain is stared at for a long moment, lips pursed. Not, perhaps, in disapproval, but with an air of, “What the fuck?” Nicole looks over at her sister. She already has a car. And she’s owned her home for a while now. “What is this to?”

"Oh no." In grim anticipation, Zachery lowers his bottle and then lifts his shot, and just. Holds it ready, squinting at Colette.

“Little Darlings,” Colette says with a motion of her chin to the keys. “The strip club.”

First, the blood drains from Nicole’s face. Then, it all comes rushing back.

Blind eyes purposefully flick to Zachery, then Harry, then back to Nicole. “So, funny story.”

“It would have to be,” Nicole interjects.

Colette doesn’t miss a beat, leaning away from the chair, but moving to stand beside Nicole. “The club’s owner got picked up in the triad bust after we nabbed Zhao. Went into state property and up for auction…”

Slowly, a Cheshire smile spreads across Colette’s lips. “So I had Donovan pick it up at auction for me, and I had it put in your name.” She motions to the keys with her chin again. “I owed you a bachelorette party. Now you can have one whenever you want.”

Zachery's shot is lowered. No soul in the room can be sure what his blank fucking stare means, but he turns it to Nicole anyway.

“You. Did. What?” Nicole’s jaw has dropped open at this point, staring down at the keychain like she’s afraid it might get up and start dancing on the table all on its own. “I work for the feds!” She is never, ever going to live this down. Especially if Cooper hears about it.

“It’s a legitimate business,” Colette insists.

That mim-faux-sa is picked up from the table now. “I’m gonna pretend this is alcohol,” Nicole informs the table before she tips back and swallows it down like it’s her goddamn job.

Ace, for his part, continues to sit there waiting for the punchline to make itself apparent. And boy what a time it is when it comes out, what a delight it is to see. Nicole, clearly, did not expect this. His green-grey eyes sit somewhere between the sisters, observing both of them intently.

It's Nicole cracking that brings his grin back though. "Come now, exotic dancing isn't illegal. And if you own the place, surely you can employ some leeway into making sure it's gender-equal in terms of ratio of dancers."

He tries to be serious, and rid himself of his smile, but there's just something wonderfully amusing about this.

It was funny when it was just a cop, a doc, and a capo play trivia.

Now it's cop buys federal agent a strip club.

Just because it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily diminishes nothing about the appeal of the story this is going to turn into.

Zachery snaps out of his stupor, changes his damn mind, downs his shot, nearly wheezily chokes on it when he ends up laughing in the middle of it submitting to gravity, and then swipes an arm messily over the table to claim Ace's shot, as well.

It's then that Ace makes his opinion about Zachery's growing sloppiness particularly known, slapping a hand down in a cage over the top of his shot, fingers braced. The look he shoots the groom is cold— disapproval explicit.

Enough, now. You can't make quips at these sorts of situations if you're too drunk to form words.

And if no one cuts him off, well…

Apparently it isn’t going to be the bride. She takes the tequila bottle from in front of her and leans forward across the table until she can set it in front of Zachery.

Without even looking, perfectly in sync now that they are officially wed, because that's the way things work — Zachery accepts the bottle. "Thank you, sweetheart."


Leaning away from Harry, he guards the bottle close to his chest and asks Colette, "Gonna be honest," he starts again, words sharp but in a fabricated way that sits just on the wrong side of convincing, "I was nnnot expecting you to hand over the keys of what I'm ninety-five percent sure was the club my drug dealer owned."

“Your what.” Colette’s blind eyes swivel down to Zachery.

"My bug…" Zachery tries in Colette's direction, laughing before he's even conjured a second word,

"… stealer."

Up goes the bottle to his mouth, as if it'll keep him from saying any more words.

Welp. Her husband just admitted to having a drug dealer in front of her cop sister.Okay,” Nicole interjects in a scratchy voice that stays just this side of shrill. “I take it back. I’m revoking your tequila privileges.”

Nicole points to the bottle with her index finger and makes a swiping motion in Ace’s direction. “Harry, could you please?” She’s not leaning up and over the damn table to steal it back.

'Harry' finds the reaction this side of wise, but probably too late. He fixes the bottle itself rather than Zachery with a look, doing some mental gymnastics to wonder if his ability would let him take it by force successfully. Probably not, and he's not willing to try. Backfires are so unpleasant.

He'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way.

"Let's not embarrass ourselves any further," comes from Ace with a kindliness that proves itself false only by looking into his eyes. There will be no further gentleness about the topic.

He leans, reaching for the neck of the bottle and grabbing hold of it before Zachery can manage more than a swig. Then, he sets it well on his side of the table, nearer to Colette.

Happy weddingsmas,” Colette says, leaning down to kiss the top of Nicole’s head and pat one of her shoulders, making her way around the table. “Now you can throw yourself the best belated bachelorette party you could ever want.”

Then, with a wry smile as she finds her seat Colette adds. “But I mean, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

The wink she gives afterward is telling.

Nicole rests her hand over Colette’s at her shoulder briefly, tilting her head up after the kiss to give her a smile. “You’re a sweetheart, you know that?” Even if her idea of a wedding gift is to buy her an entire strip club.

To be fair, it’s kind of their place, so that one sails right through the uprights, rather than missing the goal.

Nicole’s attention swivels suddenly at a shift in music that’s still playing for the last stragglers at the party. A light comes to her eyes and a slow smile. Then, she’s looking at Harry. “Best man! You haven’t danced with me all night. C’mon, get up.” She snaps her fingers and jerks her thumb in the direction of the dance floor as she gets to her feet. “We’re gonna go foxtrot.

Lord, but she is terrifying when she sets her mind to something.

"A foxtrot?" Ace echoes back dubiously. He lets go of the bottle, hands resting on his thighs. He's not confused about the dance— he knows it— it's just

Where the hell is this woman still drawing energy from?

"Are you sure you'd not rather something… less involved?" he voices his doubt as he pushes himself to his feet. At least he's been robbed of his jacket, no need to worry about it looking ill-fitting while floating across the floor. Mmm, but that form. Less-involved would be better, yes, as would slightly less intimate.

For all the side-eye he's given Zachery, he still holds some amount of respect for him. Some amount of interest.

"Less structured, rather." is how he chooses to correct himself. 'Harry' smiles broadly as he proposes, "Why bother with form, when you can simply have fun?"

In either case, he offers his hand to her.

Tequila relinquished and still baffled by the gift given, Zachery seems, for the moment, content to take a back seat to whatever's going on. The day is almost at its end, and if all he's got left until he can leave is to rifle through Trivial Pursuit cards until everyone else leaves, then SO BE IT.

He's already picked up an entire stack before the words 'best man' register, and he peers slowly up from beneath a furrowed brow.

"Deeeaar sister-in-law," he half turns his head to Colette, without looking away from Harry. Any pretense of sobriety is gone from his slightly lowered voice. "D'they've nuts or anything. Other'n me."

“All stocked up on nuts here,” Colette intones as she settles back into her seat, picking up with a tip of her mug toward Zachery, “but not the kind you’re looking for.” She cracks a smile, leaning back in her seat and showing zero inclination to dance at the moment.

“Go drag him, Sis,” Colette adds between sips, motioning with her chin to Zachery. “I bet he does a mean electric slide or something.”

Nicole points back to Zachery even as she’s grabbing Harry’s wrist with her other hand and starting to lead him out to the floor. “The electric slide’s how he got me pregnant!” she calls out to her sister with a cheeky grin. If she can’t make fun of herself, who ca— Okay, well, literally anyone else can. This is just Mrs. Miller getting in a preemptive strike.

Colette drags a hand down her face, mumbling, “Jesus Christ.”

Zachery leans aaall the way back in his chair, face lifting to the ceiling as he slowly draaags a hand over it. A weary grin persists when he says, only just loud enough for Colette to hear, "I can't throoow the ones we have, can I. Certainly not at the best man's face."

“C’mon, Stoltz,” Nicole teases as they hit the floor, placing one hand on his shoulder and holding the other out to wait for the clasp of his. “I’m secure, you’re secure, my husband’s secure…”

That is a lie.

“It’ll be fun.” Then Nicole gasps quietly, fixing Ace with a wide-eyed look at a sudden realization. “Don’t tell me you can’t.” Dance a foxtrot. “I can’t have misjudged you, can I?”

Gauntlet. thrown.

Harry's expression changes in an instant, the snap of competition bringing out a flicker a sharper side to him once more. Well, he can't let her walk away thinking he doesn't know how to move.

Taking up her hand, hand flushing against her back but leaving enough space between them that the small bump on her abdomen comes nowhere near touching him, he arches an eyebrow. "Bonus round:" Ace proposes. "Choose your poison. Answer 'how many types of foxtrot are there?' or 'what style of foxtrot is most popular within the continental US?'" Rather than begin moving his feet just yet, he engages in a bit of sway while they stand there, trying to get an idea for how much of her dare is bravado, and how much she's actually up for.

Ooh.” Nicole grins in response to the little counter-challenge thrown back at her. There’s no need for hesitation, to stall while she ponders the answer. “Three,” to the first question. “Judging from your posture,” she posits, “I’m going to say you’re not a fan of the International Style.” Which serves as a partial answer to the second question.

Despite himself, a smile cuts across Ace's face in reply. "It's a difficult form," he replies smoothly. "And we're here to have fun, aren't we?" To accentuate that point, he parts from her and begins to spin her in a circle with the movement of one hand. It serves as an answer, too, to the style he's after.

His movements begin to better match the music after he pulls her back in. One, two…


Nicole is light on her feet and steps into the rhythm easily, a broad grin on her face. “I knew you had to be a dancer,” she commends herself for her good judge of ability in this. “You’re put together, you’re stylish, you move with a certain…” Her head tilts from one side to the other like she might do a see-saw motion with her hand. “Been to enough social functions to recognize a certain breed, let’s say.”

It has been way too long since her last big party and this one was sorely needed. For a moment, she’s reminded of the old days, and it’s a good kind of nostalgia. But when they turn around the floor, and she catches sight of Zachery, well…

That’s even better than memories of old times. Her hand lifts from Ace’s shoulder just enough to wiggle her fingers at him in a wave. Even if she does thoroughly embarrass him, she’s certain he must be glad to see her so happy for once. And that happiness is entirely his fault.

“You’re not a politician, though,” Nicole turns back to the conversation at hand, squinting at Harry and sizing him up a bit more. “You didn’t come from money. You’re self-made.” Spoken like someone who appreciates it. “You are fun.” Heaven help her poor husband.

Zachery looks directly at Colette, and throws a hand out in the dancers' direction as if to ask if she's seeing this shit too.

“I think I saw Lucille with a joint earlier,” Colette says under her breath, leaning over to Zachery. “You wanna…” she makes a thumb gesture toward the door.

Zachery's already halfway up - taking the time to seemingly run some recalibrations on how legs work for a moment as he answers, "What are you, a narc. Yes." LET'S GO.

"I shudder to think how much more boring I'd be if I weren't." Self-made, that is. Though maybe it's an answer to all of it. Who knows, and Ace isn't telling. He's in the midst of turning Nicole about in another spin when he notices the narc and the drunk cycling off to find their own forms of fun.

"Ah— the loveable lush is off in search of his next high," he remarks without particular affect, and then he's looking back to Nicole. "All the better, I suppose." He even allows himself a smile as they come back together again. "It means no one will cut in and interrupt me in asking you the same thing you've no doubt heard all these last weeks— what is it that caught your eye about him?"

"And kept it, of course." Zachery catches people's eyes one way or another frequently, he imagines.

“He wha— ?” Nicole turns her head sharply as she watches her husband and sister abscond. “Those sneaky little— Hey!” she calls after them, careful to angle her head away from her dance partner before she does, to avoid shouting in his ear. “You better save one for me!” It’s good for morning sickness, okay?

All the while, Nicole hasn’t missed a step. Sighing, she turns back to the conversation at hand. “There’s not just any one answer to that question. But you must know that already, right?” Nobody loves anybody for only one reason. “He’s good to me,” is perhaps frustratingly vague of her to say, especially given that Ace doesn’t actually know Nicole, except by reputation.

And even then, he might not realize that he knows more of that reputation than he thinks he does, given that her name now (or the one she held prior to this afternoon) is different from the one she used to operate as.

“I don’t… have the highest esteem for myself,” Nicole admits quietly, even though she’s smiling at him and she’s good at appearing genuine. “He does. He believes in me when I don’t want to believe in myself. He challenges me. Pushes me to do better. Keeps me from settling for less.” Her smile shifts into something more obviously fond. “He’s a good partner.” How much of that do others see? Probably not a lot, given the amount of times she’s had to answer that question.

The corner of Ace's eyes crinkle in amusement when Nicole yells after the two. He seems fully-prepared to stop, but no— the show keeps on going. Moving and yelling at the same time. Had he not seen her daughter already earlier, that alone would have been indication she's already a mother.

And the tone shift immediately as she turns back, lacking awkwardness to it, just effortless resignation to the topic. He sees what's to be liked about this one. It doesn't explain the hints of lack of confidence she goes on to confirm, at least to him, but everyone has their masks.

She wears hers well, even if he wears his the opposite way out.

"Building up others— that sounds like him." Ace looks over her shoulder as they complete the next set of steps. "Glad to see it's a consistent trait, even if it's one he'll never admit. He doesn't seem the type to… let people in." He feels safe enough in making that assumption.

After all, Nicole had called him of all people. Not just with an invitation, but to play a role. It was a lucky thing he'd already been informed of its and her existence, or he'd have laughed off her request. Ace would have asked her if it was a joke, and asked her to put Zachery on.

Instead, Harry asked her what time he needed to be there.

"You may be the only one he does," he notes, forgoing any spins for the sake of continuing the conversation. He keeps the movements relaxed rather than lively— definitely nothing like the tight twists and bounds International Style. "And that speaks to you, rather than just your beauty. No matter how little I know you, you have my respect for that."

Looking down at her, casual mood suffering none for it, he wonders, "You do know what's ahead, though, right? Trials, tribulations— all that jazz?" That comes out a touch more him than he'd like, so he softens it with, "Not every day will be as perfect as this one."

“It’d get rather boring if they were,” Nicole admits with a glint in her eye. Like she welcomes the challenges ahead. The bumps in the road. Whatever faces them, she seems convinced they’ll come out stronger for having faced it together.

Still, she’s very pleased that Harry seems to agree with her assessment of her new husband. “I don’t know what I did to get so lucky, but… Here I am.” There’s no sign of any flagging energy in the newly minted Mrs. Miller as they continue on with their dance. She would clearly be at home with the livelier version, but that she’s getting to dance something this involved with anyone at all is well enough.

“You know, this is one thing I miss about rubbing elbows with rich assholes and their trust fund kids. Those guys knew how to dance properly. Especially the southern ones. Cotillion?” But the song comes to a close and Nicole lets her hand drop from his shoulder, maintaining her hold on his hand with her other long enough dip a graceful curtsy.

The corners of her eyes crinkle with her amusement. “You’re a lovely dancer, Harry. Thank you. You’re officially invited to all my parties.”

Cotillion. Ace lets out a huff of a laugh, looking down at Nicole during the last strains of the song. "Well, I could pretend to be one of those assholes if it'd make you feel more at home, but I've otherwise made the choice to stay on your good side. Seems like the safest choice for my life expectancy." Another chuckle follows.

He admires the poise in her curtsey, even after the long day, even in that dress and those shoes, and responds to it with a tip of his head and brief touch of his lips across the backs of her knuckles, accompanied by a brush of his thumb before he lets go.

"Unrelated, I assure you—" he goes on to preface, still with a touch of regret. "It's time for me to turn into a pumpkin."

"It's been a pleasure, Mrs. Miller." Ace takes a single step back from Nicole, his chin lifting in quiet acknowledgement of her. And before he has the chance to say anything else, though it seems like he means to, the dance-floor lighting hits him oddly one moment, and the next his entire being smudges slightly to the left and right out of apparent existence.

Like an errant thumbprint wiped from a camera lens.

Nicole blushes faintly at the kiss to her hand, even if she was expecting it. They’re both playing certain parts here, after all. But she’s embarrassed rather than smitten, make no mistake. She laughs in response to his comment about staying on her good side. He isn’t wrong, either.

She starts to stay something as she registers the shift in the lighting. Or— Wait, no. It’s a shift in him? Her eyes narrow appraisingly, a quick down-and-up sweep just before he fades out entirely. “Well, that’s a neat trick,” Nicole murmurs to herself, shaking her head. Her tongue clicks against the back of her front row of teeth. “Glad I didn’t marry him,” muttered flatly as she turns back toward the mess of cards she’s left on the table, fixing to tidy up. “Arguments with that man would be so dissatisfying.”

The bride stops in her settling of cards back in the box when her eyes fall on the lewd keychain once again. One hand comes up to bury her face in as she laughs helplessly. The other hand plucks up the keyring and holds it up in front of her.

“What am I going to do with you?

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