Moments Of Happiness


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Scene Title Moments of Happiness
Synopsis "Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly." - Leo Tolstoy
Date October 6, 2010

Upper West Side - Peyton's Apartment

An actual date. Most of the evenings spent with one another, one or the other just sort of shows up on the other's doorstep, perhaps after a call or a text message, but it's never really planned. Tonight is different. Peyton sent a text message early enough in the day that it wasn't a matter of being a last-minute plan or a second thought.

My place. 6 p.m. the message had said. There was plenty of time for Wes Smedley to tell her he was busy, plenty of time to make other plans.

When he arrives, there is the mouth-watering smell of some sort of meal in the kitchen, though he knows her well enough that she didn't cook it. But Peyton is no where to be found. Von greets him, but aside from the red dog, the sight of something unusual in the apartment also meets Wes' eyes when he looks deeper into the apartment. Hanging from the doorway to the hallway is a tuxedo, a note in lilac colored paper attached saying, "Wear me."

Soft music plays, and though it's not too cold yet, a fire in the fireplace crackles — the balcony door is open just a crack to keep the apartment from getting overly stuffy.

Even for men like Wes, who skirt the law so often, it's not difficult to get what needs to be done finished with enough time to clean up and be someplace by six. Then again, the planning and scouting of jobs is the relatively easy part of his business, at least as far as schedules are concerned. He kneels to give Von a healthy rub, shifting the skin on his neck while he allows the pup to lick his face. But that's when the tuxedo catches his eye.

He's never worn anything that fancy in his life. Not even to the weddings of his sisters. He approaches the garment with a wary eye, his head turned slightly and his shoulders hunched - as if it were a rattlesnake rather than a suit. Without thinking, his hands hover at his sides, inches and just a layer of leather jacket away from his sidearms.

But a smile curls onto his face - a knowing smile that creases the skin in all the right places and makes his dusty blue eyes gleam. Von has, of course, alerted Peyton to his arrival with the jingle of his tags and the click of his nails on the bits of hardwood that lie exposed between rugs, but that doesn't mean he can't try to be quiet. He lifts the tuxedo carefully, boggling at the discovery of shoes before he holds it all slightly away from himself and tiptoes through the apartment, heading toward the more masculine bathroom to change out of his jeans, jacket, and t-shirt.

Most of it is pretty easy to figure out. Pants. Belt. Shirt. Shoes. (He keeps his own socks, as well as the knife on his ankle.) Jacket. Baffled by the tie, Wes gives up trying to make sense of it after a minute or so and leaves it hanging around his neck, popping the first button. Did someone call for a slightly dishelved looking James Bond?

And if he's been left this to wear, he can only imagine what Peyton's in.

Playing with the idea of how she might look, Wes comes out of the bathroom, leaving the majority of what he came with inside.

By the time he returns to the living room, it has been transformed by the lighting of candles and the dampening of electric light. The crackling fire helps to illuminate what the candlelight cannot, and the coffee table has been pushed against one of the two couches, creating an expanse of empty space where there was not before.

A dance floor.

Stepping out from the kitchen with two glasses of champagne, Peyton holds one out to him. Her skin seems incandescent, the firelight casting a glow to her long arms and bare back; the platinum-hued gown she wears is long, hugging her lean lines before falling into luxurious draping folds. The halter leaves her arms and back bare, and her hair is piled on top of her head in a loose chignon. Diamond studs sparkle in her ears, but other than that, she is bare of adornment.

"Evening," she murmurs softly.

To say Wes is stunned when he sees Peyton would be an understatement. And framed by the both humbly sophisticated setting she's crafted for herself only intensifies that bemusement. He stares at her, his lips slightly parted, and when he finally snaps out of it, it's only to adopt a look of amazement. He leans back slightly as he walks toward her, lifting a hand to his chest as if she had just lobbed a hostile projectile into him.

He takes the champagne without letting his eyes leave hers, as tempting as it obviously is for him to drink her in as if he were dying of thirst. "I didn't even bring y'flowers," he whispers in reply, bringing his other hand up to hook her chin with a curled index finger, lifting it slightly as he looks at her. "Damn, you're beautiful." The words are breathed more than said, and he shakes his head with their sigh.

That slow blooming smile spreads across her face and she steps closer — in the heels she wears, she's only a couple of inches shorter than him; it doesn't take much to tip her head and brush her lips lightly against his. "You look rather handsome yourself," she murmurs, hands moving up his lapels, then her fingers curl around the bow tie — this is something she knows how to do, the complexing origami of neckwear.

The suit fits well — she has an eye for such things. Of course getting it tailored would have made it fit perfectly, but the layman wouldn't notice the small imperfections in fit.

"I felt like dinner and dancing," Peyton says softly, "but without an audience. Without anyone but us. I always feel like the only person in the room with you, of course, but I want you to feel that way, too." Her words are a little shy, uncertain if she's conveying what she means or just making a mess.

Reluctantly, Wes lifts his own chin after the kiss to make it slightly easier for Peyton to finish dressing him. But it does give him an excuse not to look at her when she speaks - something he's glad of in the long run. What air was in his lungs escapes him, drawing out a sound that is one part soft, contented grunt and one part drawn-out murmur of wordless satisfaction. "Pey," he says, dragging his eyes back to hers as that lazy-cat smile relaxes onto his face again. He moves his hand to the side of her head, settling it to cup where her jaw meets her neck. "Did I ever say I didn't?"

The stage and mood are set so perfectly - like something out of a movie dreamed up to satisfy the hormonal, emotional needs of it's target market. But all Wes can do is swallow as he looks at Peyton, holding her face away from his own so he can do just that. After a moment he sniffs and narrows his eyes slightly, blinking back a wave of emotion like the firm shutting of a floodgate. He relaxes his hand and brings his own face close enough to her to slide the length of his nose along hers.

"Y'don't wanna let good food go t'waste, d'yuh?" he murmurs, his accent heavier on the hushed syllables.

She shakes her head. No, he never said it. "My head, it's always so full of gloom and doom and this and that… but I wanted you to feel special. And not worry about me tonight," she murmurs, letting her han drop into his.

She leads him to the dining room, dimmed upon his arrival in the apartment but now lit by two tall candles in pewter candlesticks. She nods to one of the chairs and she smiles, setting her own glass down before retreating into the kitchen. When she returns, there are two china plates laden with food — filet mignon, mashed potatoes, green beans. It's hearty and simple food, but cooked perfectly, delivered just moments before he arrived. She sets his plate in front of his, then sits in her own chair, watching him as she reaches for her champagne.

"I can get you anything else to drink — there's merlot, if you prefer a red, or there's the usual liquor cabinet." There is water in a crystal goblet at each place setting already.

She may not move quickly, but the flurry of motion ruffles Wes slightly. He expels a short, soft snort of laughter before he sits down, marveling a her display. When she joins him, he's leaning back in his chair, looking at her face framed by the candlelight rather than the delicious smelling food before him. "You could do me a kindness and enjoy yourself," he says with a more wry smile. "This…" and he shakes his head, looking from her to the backdrop, to the food on his plate, then back at Peyton again. "Well, I don't want you thinkin' I want a gal waitin' on me. I mean, you made this all. And it's amazing. But don't you miss out, or it won't be worth the trouble."

He leans forward then, reaching to intercept her hand by capturing it in his own and rubbing his thumb across the back of it. A small amount of tension twists itself into the muscles of his jaw, pulling his eyes narrow again. "Every time I think I got it nailed down just how lucky I am, you go and surprise me somehow." He gives her hand a squeeze, and a grin melts some of that tension away before he releases her and picks up his napkin to set it in his lap, surveying the food in earnest. It does look divine, and the rancher turned cowhand turned smuggler hums in appreciation at both the cut of the meat and work of the chef.

"I didn't make the dinner. Don't go thinking I'm Betty Crocker or anything," Peyton says with a smirk. "It's no trouble to call out for delivery, you know." Not that this sort of place usually delivers. And of course, she went shopping for his tux, the shoes, the candles, her gown. Her eyes soften at his talk of how lucky he is, and her hand squeezes back before moving to pick up her own fork.

"Thank you for indulging me," she murmurs, her smile turning a little impish. "The dinner, the company — it'd be just as good if you were here in your jeans and boots and all. I'm not trying to change you — I just wanted to see what you'd look like, like this." Her eyes shine. "You clean up real nice, mister Smedley," she adds in a playful drawl.

He grins in reply as he chews the tender cut, pursing his lips after a moment as he savors the flavor. Once it's down, a more subdued version of that same grin returns without delay. "If it takes me gettin' gussied up t'see you sparkle like that, Miz Whitney, then I will let you tie a hundred weird little knots round my neck."

He looks at his plate again as he samples the mashed potatoes next, marveling once more at the perfect texture and seasoning. "Lord, this is good, Pey," he says between bites, forcing himself to be as gentlemanly as he can and not shoveling the meal down. The conversation settles from there into a discussion of where Peyton found the dinner, anecdotes from her day shopping, and other such intimate small talk, all lubricated with the bubbling spirits.

When Wes stands after a brief period of digestion, it isn't to take Peyton's hand and lead her to her makeshift dance floor. Instead, he reaches to take her plate and then his own, fully intent on returning them to the kitchen. "Damn fine meal, Pey," he says, leaning to place a kiss on her cheek. "Thank you."

Her cheek flushes with pleasure at the praise — it's not often anyone's thanked her for a dinner at the dining room table, and she takes pride in the praise even if she didn't cook the meal herself. After all, she chose the menu and the caterer! "Just put those in the sink. I will get them later. Don't you dare wash them," she warns him, leaning in her seat to watch him return to the kitchen, then getting out of her own seat to go turn up the music.

Something soft, something romantic, something older than both of them — Sinatra, maybe. She puts in the CD, turning it up, then waits for Wes' return.

But he doesn't. Not for what feels like an age.

When Wes does come around the corner from the kitchen again, he's looking far less confident than he had when he did upon leaving the dinner table. But now, in the living room, the music has been turned up and she's standing there so expectantly. He swallows, almost pained at the sight. With a just visible act of determination, he steps across the room toward her once more. The shoes suddenly feel even more out of place on his feet, and the tie far too tight around his neck.

"I'm gonna be right up front with you," he says as he nears, lowering his chin and looking at her gravely. "I… I only ever done proper dancin' once, and it was…" Before Peyton was born? "…a long time ago. Hell," he says, his cheeks actually pinkening a little as he drops his eyes to his shoes, flexing his toes against the leather, "I can't even remember all the bits to the Electric Slide."

Peyton has to press her lips together to keep from smiling too broadly at his boyish embarrassment, and she steps closer, reaching up to touch his jaw, bringing her lips to his again. The kiss is sweet, reassuring.

"I don't think I know that one," she says with a quizzical look. "But this kind of dancing — you don't need to remember anything in particular. It's not ballroom or anything. It's just… moving to the music and being close."

Her hands take his, moving one to her waist and keeping the other in hers, stepping closer and curling their paired hands against his chest, her head tucking against his shoulder. "Like this," she whispers.

The kiss helps, and Wes barely opens his eyes after Peyton goes about positioning his limbs and drawing herself close. The end result feels a lot more like standing than dancing, but Wes isn't going to complain. Not with Peyton in his arms. He gives her hand a squeeze, curling the other around her back so that his fingers splay over the exposed skin. Turning his head, he nestles his face against her hair and smiles, letting his eyes slide closed. Ol' Blue Eyes croons a few slow measures, and Wes lets himself sway slightly to something resembling the beat.

It isn't until the music has crested the last swell that he moves much more than that, but when he does it is to press a kiss to her temple. "I love you, Pey," he murmurs, muffling the words against her skin. Violins pick up again, leading into the next track on the CD and cuing the Chairman of the Board to begin a list of metaphors.

The words draw a hard swallow from her and her eyes grow wet — it's not something she hears often enough, and most of the people to utter it are related to her by law or by blood. It's not a word she ever expected to hear from the man in her arms. Wes was supposed to be a one-night stand, a tryst, a fling, but here he is night after night, taking care of her, keeping her safe, promising to keep her alive.

At just 21, she hasn't said this word to a man and meant it — she's loved, but never said it, and she's said it but not felt it. It's a frightening thing to hear it and know that he means it, when she doesn't think she'll be here in another month.

She doesn't say anything back but brings both arms up to wrap around his neck, pressing her lips to his in a sudden ardent kiss. Her cheeks are wet and warm against his own.

That tension returns to Wes's face when Peyton doesn't answer for a moment, and it intensifies when she moves. But the fervent kiss soothes it, and he's soon holding her in kind as he returns the affection. He is the one to break it, framing her face with his hands and leaning away from her, meeting her tearful eyes with his his own.

"Y'don't have to," he says in a low voice, the words tripping over his teeth. "It don't matter what… y'don't have to." But he offers the words little explanation before he kisses her again, folding his arms about her shoulders and nearly crushing her smaller frame against him.

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