Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

A Pleasant Madness

A Pleasant Madness

by Mara

Summary: Vicki’s not exactly a typical girl. That’s okay, though, because
Henry’s not a typical guy.

Author’s Chapter Notes:

This is a hastily written present for Dragonsinger, in the hopes that it
will cheer her up. Thanks to Medie for providing an emergency plot bunny.
Unbetaread, due to time constraints, so please let me know if you find any
glaring problems.

Continuity: Some generic time early in the TV series.

“You’re kidding, right?” Vicki stared at Henry with dismay. “There’s *got* to be
another way to get this info. Coreen swears everything is on the Net now.”

Henry’s lips tightened in a familiar look of frustration with her. “I can assure
you that a New Year’s ball is not my idea of fun either, but it will enable us
to see if Simon Carle is using magic to unduly influence people.”

“Then you go to the ball and I’ll wait outside.” Crossing her arms, she glared.

“This is *your* case, not mine.” Henry looked at her, doing that impassive ‘I’m
the cool vampire’ thing, then walked slowly around her in a circle. Vicki did
her best not to squirm. “You’re actually afraid,” he said. “I didn’t think that
was possible.”

“I’m not afraid. I just don’t like…” She waved her hands, trying to articulate
the utter horror that dressing up and cosmetics and hors d’oeuvres caused in
her.

Henry smiled happily. “That makes this a challenge.”

Vicki gave up her pretense of bravery and backed away. Unfortunately, she wasn’t
quick enough.

* * * * *

Three hours later, she stood in front of a set of mirrors while Henry prowled
around her. Now, instead of studying her face, he was looking at her body,
encased in something green. She was sure that most women would know all kinds of
words to describe it, but all she could come up with was green. It was a
green…dress. Thing.

At least Henry had been sensible enough to avoid any lacy frilly crap. But
still…

“I feel like an idiot,” Vicki said.

Henry looked up from examining the hemline and Vicki caught her breath at his
expression, which was one step away from vampire. “You don’t look foolish at
all.”

Vicki opened her mouth, certain she should say something, but when she realized
she had no idea what, she closed it again.

Henry went back to dressing her like a doll and she scowled fiercely at his
goddamn handsome profile.

* * * * *

“Stop tugging at the waistline,” Henry said softly as they strolled toward the
doors. “It fits beautifully.”

“It feels tight.”

Henry was obviously suppressing a grin. “That’s the point.”

“I hate you,” Vicki said as they reached their destination.

The ballroom was already full when they entered, and Vicki automatically scanned
the room for dangers.

“Try for a moment,” Henry said with a sigh, “to act like the escort of a famous
writer of graphic novels rather than like a cop.”

“I can’t help it,” Vicki said as a waitress in an extremely abbreviated skirt
offered her a glass of champagne. Vicki waved her away, but Henry snatched one
before the tray escaped. “What happened to ‘I don’t drink…wine.’?”

“You’re taking your cues from the movies again.” Henry sipped the champagne. “I
can’t get drunk, but I can enjoy the flavor.”

Something about the crowd nagged at Vicki’s mind as she looked for their target.
“Hey, why are all the women dressed in black or gray, but I’m in green?”

“Because you’d look dreadful in black,” Henry said absently as he smiled
politely at a young blonde who looked like she had more makeup than sense and
more genuinely at an older man who saluted him with his champagne glass.

“But I’m almost the only woman wearing a color in the whole room. I stand out!”

Turning to look incredulously at her, Henry said, “*Now* you’re worried about
being fashionable?”

“No, I just don’t think I should stand out when we’re here working.”

Henry shook his head. “You’re with me. You would stand out in any case, so why
not showcase you to your advantage? Besides the current fashion for black is
ridiculous.”

About to make a comment about the size of his ego, Vicki realized that nearly
every woman (and a large percentage of men) in their vicinity were eyeing Henry
like he was a particularly choice dish. “Ah.”

“There are many reasons I don’t attend these parties. I prefer the more…honest
atmosphere of the bars and clubs.”

“Where you’re the hunter, not the prey.”

He grinned. “That too.”

“So, have you seen–”

“Carle is behind you and to the right, approximately 50 feet away. He’s wearing
an ill-fitting tuxedo and chatting with a young lady who looks entirely
enraptured.”

Vicki closed her mouth on an annoyed comment. “Well, I’m going to go put a stop
to that.”

Henry grabbed her arm. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’re here to observe him, not get
ourselves thrown out.”

“I don’t intend to stay any longer than I have to, but if he’s already selected
a victim, then let’s go get him.”

Henry’s hand tightened painfully on her arm and he scowled. “You may very well
be the most exasperating woman it has ever been my pleasure to escort. How can
you be so intelligent one moment and so *stupid* the next?”

“Oh you flatterer you.” Vicki rolled her eyes.

“I mean it. Aren’t you the one who told me we needed *evidence*? I was ready to
simply kill him and be done with it.”

An elegant arm covered in expensive bangles insinuated itself between them and
dragged Henry away. “Darling,” the owner of the arm said, “you’re always such a
kidder. Which of your characters are you killing today?”

“Ah, Emerald,” Henry said, giving Vicki a look that said to stay put. “It’s
always a pleasure to see you.”

Vicki smiled her most dangerous smile. “While you’re catching up with your
friend, I’ll just go mingle.”

As she slid away through the crowd, she could hear Emerald say “Who was *that*,
Henry?”

Nobody, Vicki thought with venom. I’m nobody.

She moved as fast as she could without stepping on anyone’s toes. She knew Henry
couldn’t use his uncanny speed in this crowd, so she had a few moment’s
advantage and she intended to use it while he was delayed with *Emerald*.

This is what happens, she thought, when you start depending on someone else to
help: You get sloppy. Get in there, catch the perp, find the evidence when
you’re sure nobody else will get hurt. She’d saved a lot of lives following
those simple rules and there was no reason to stop now.

There he was. Vicki hated her glasses, but at least they helped her find the
perp now. And…damn it, he was on his way out of the room with a tall brunette
wearing enough diamonds that she glittered painfully in brightly lit room.
Nobody else seemed to notice them, but his spell wouldn’t work on her, Henry s–
it wouldn’t work on her.

What the heck was he doing? Had he gotten so overconfident?

Vicki cursed under her breath as she tried to work her way around a knot of
laughing socialite whose platinum blonde highlights probably cost more than her
monthly office rent.

“Pardon me,” one said as Vicki elbowed her aside.

“Uh-huh,” Vicki said. “‘Scuse me.”

Through that door, that’s where he’d gone. Finally through the crowd, Vicki
almost broke into a run, ignoring the strange looks from around her as she burst
through the door.

“Certainly,” the brunette was saying, taking off her choker filled with
diamonds. “If you really want it, of course I’ll give it to you.” Her eyes
looked almost drugged.

Carle turned to stare at Vicki. “You want to leave now,” he said, his voice
faintly hypnotic.

Shaking her head, Vicki stepped forward. “Like hell I do. Give those diamonds
back, *now*.”

He frowned. “Listen to me,” he said, focusing on her. “You don’t see anything
happening here.”

Vicki’s vision went red and she took another step forward, punching Carle square
in the face. He went down with an audible thump and the brunette, who’d been
staring off into space, seemed to awaken.

“What…what’s going on?” she asked, looking around.

Vicki blinked. “That man was stealing your diamonds,” she said simply, pointing
to Carle. “I hit him.”

“How did you know?” She was still dazed, still suggestible.

“I heard you scream, of course,” Vicki said carefully, just as the door burst
open, revealing an angry Henry Fitzroy. “There you are, Henry. I’m glad you
heard this woman scream too and came to help.”

He still looked pissed, but he knew a cue when he heard one. “Indeed. I’m very
glad we were able to help you.”

“Yes,” the brunette said, “I did scream, didn’t I?” Her voice got stronger.
“That man is holding some of my jewelry! How dare he? Call the police!”

“Certainly,” Henry said. His look at Vicki promised a talk later.

* * * * *

While they were waiting for the police and various men stood guard over the
unconscious Carle, trying to look tough, Henry dragged Vicki aside. “What was
that about?”

“That was me solving the case in the most direct fashion. Seems pretty obvious
to me.”

“You know what I mean.” His teeth sounded like they were grinding together.
“What do you mean by taking off without me? I thought the idea was that we would
work *together*.”

“I didn’t need you tonight,” she said.

“Oh lovely.” He threw his hands in the air. “You’ll call me when you need me,
then? What if I’d been wrong about his spells not working on you?”

Vicki took a deep breath, knowing he was right. She *had* brought him into this
to begin with. “I’m sorry, Henry. You’re right. I shouldn’t have taken off like
that.”

He opened his mouth to argue, then stopped. “Ah. Well, then that’s that.”

“Right.” She turned as two detectives she didn’t know strode into the room,
obvious in their off-the-rack overcoats. Vicki crossed her arms, suddenly
feeling ridiculous in this skintight green thing Henry had bought for her.

“And who are you?” the detective said with a frown as he sorted out spectators
from participants.

“Vicki Nelson. I called you in. I witnessed the theft personally.” Good *god*,
had cops gotten slower or was she getting more impatient?

“Nelson?” his partner asked. “You used to be a cop, didn’t you? Worked with Mike
Celluci.”

“That’s me. I worked with good ol’ Mike. Now can we get on with this?” She shot
a glance at the unconscious crook, worrying he’d wake up before they could get a
witch near enough him to break his charms. If he talked his way out of this, she
was going to be mad enough to chew *bullets.*

“How’d a former cop get into this affair?” the first detective asked he was
getting out his notebook.

“I came with him,” she said, pointing at Henry. “Henry Fitzroy. He draws comic
books.”

“Graphic novels,” Henry muttered under his breath as he smiled pleasantly at the
detectives.

“Same difference,” she said. “The guys at the comic book store said so.”

“You’re Henry Fitzroy?” the second detective asked. “My kid in college says your
stuff’s the best. I dunno about that, but he thinks you’re pretty cool.”

“Thank you,” Henry said, bowing slightly. “I’m very glad to hear that.”

Vicki rolled her eyes and tried to avoid tapping her toes.

* * * * *

Thankfully, Caroline, the witch they’d found to break the spells, was lurking
around outside when they cops finally towed the Carle away. Vicki delayed the
cops by tripping and almost falling, forcing them to stop for a few moments.
While their heads were turned, Caroline tossed a handful of powder in the
direction of Carle, which briefly fluoresced in the moonlight. She gave Vicki
and Henry a thumbs up and melted back into the gawking crowd.

Within moments, the cops pulled away with their perp stowed away, and Vicki took
a deep breath, stomping away from the crowd.

“Vicki!” Henry called.

“What?” She kept going until she found a path that led around the back of the
mansion, toward the gardens.

“Is there something that needs doing back here?”

“No.”

In the blink of an eye, Henry stood in front of her, studying her with concern.
“You’re actually pouting!” He looked more startled than she’d ever seen him,
*including* the time a ghost had walked right through him.

“I’m not!” She resisted the childish urge to stamp her feet. “I don’t *pout*. I
scowl. I smile. I glare. I smack people around. I do *not* pout.”

Henry stepped forward and took her chin in his hand, thumb stroking her cheek.
“Whatever you say. Why are you…not pouting? This seems to be a most
satisfactory outcome to the case, since you’ve ‘collared’ the suspect without
having to describe any supernatural occurrences to your former colleagues.”

“Yeah, great.” Avoiding his eyes, she remembered the amused look in the cops’
eyes when they realized who she was and where she was. At least Celluci hadn’t
been there. He’d have laughed his ass off and never let her forget it.

Henry sighed and turned her head so she was looking at him. “What’s wrong? It
seems I won’t have any peace until I figure that out.”

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s wonderful. Why don’t you go back to Emerald now?”

Henry continued to stroke her cheek, rather as if calming a dog.
“You’re…jealous of Emerald? She’s n–”

“God no, I’m not jealous of her. If she has three brain cells to rub together,
I’d be surprised. Not your type at all.”

Henry’s brow was knit and Vicki absently noted that he was even more adorable
when he was confused. “Then the problem is…?”

Vicki pulled away from him, stomping off to lean against a railing and stare at
the manicured grounds, plucking at the silky material of her dress. “I don’t
belong here. You’re an artist. You’re gorgeous and polished. You’re *royalty*.”

“Dead royalty,” Henry said, coming to lean next to her.

“Ha ha, very funny. You know what I mean.”

Henry sighed quietly. “I must admit that I never expected to hear you admit to
being inferior to anyone.”

“I never said that.” She glared at him, before transferring her glare to a
particularly ridiculous-looking topiary giraffe. “I didn’t say I’m inferior to
anyone here. Just that I don’t belong in this crowd. I’m a cop, no matter what.
I belong someplace with beer and Chinese.”

Shaking his head, Henry chuckled. “That’s my Vicki.”

“I’m not your anything.”

“I wish you were.” The words were soft, the tone lacking any mockery.

She stared straight ahead.

“Vicki, please look at me.”

She turned her head and found his face nearly against her cheek. “Henry?”

“I don’t belong here either. Remember, I said that earlier. I may be able to fit
in temporarily, but this is not my milieu any more than it is yours. And there
is no-one in that room who could hold a candle to you.”

“That’s rid–”

“You wear that dress just as you do your ordinary clothes: Like battle armor.
You’re filled with an inner fire that those people can only dream of, which
lights up the space around you. You’re irresistible.”

“Henry, I–”

“Shhh.” He touched a finger to her lips and the warmth spread to her cheeks.
“Let me finish. You may not think you belong here, but you could *own* that room
if you needed to. Besides,” and his eyes darkened, “I love the way you look in
that dress.”

“I…I don’t know what to say.” Her chest felt tight.

“Say you’ll let me see how you look *out* of that dress.” His mischievous grin
was back.

She grinned back at him. “We’ll see about that, buster.”

“As long as you don’t rule it out.”

“No,” she said slowly, “I haven’t ruled it out.”

He took her hand, drawing her away from the railing. “Then let’s go find
someplace with beer and Chinese.”

“In these clothes?” She looked down. “You’re crazy.”

“Maybe.” He laughed. “But it’s a pleasant madness.”

Shaking her head, she followed Henry to his car.

–end–

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