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Only For You            by: Brandy Dewinter           2000, All rights reserved

 

Chapter 12 - "The Wild, Abandoned Side Of Me"

"Ah, the vagaries of life," mused a philosophical vampire as he walked up to the unaccompanied colonel. "One moment, the most beautiful women at the ball are hanging on your every word, the next . . ."

"The next I have the pleasure of the company of another Count," Sinjin replied, turning to smile at his host.

"I *had* thought..." Dracula mused, smiling to show that at least in one way he hadn’t bothered with authenticity in his own costume. No fangs did make speaking easier, though. "... that my own, ah, attention to detail might be distinctive among the costumes tonight, but you seem to have set a very high standard there."

"Thank you," Sinjin replied with a slight, eminently proper bow. "Though as I suspect is often the case, it was my wife who really brought everything together."

"A lovely woman," the vampire said. "And quite the prettiest here tonight."

"Thank you again, on her behalf," the colonel said.

"Her companion is quite lovely, too," Dracula continued. "Buffy, tonight, I believe?"

"Yes," replied Sinjin noncommittally, wondering what the man had in mind with this line of discussion. His tone was not simple observation, there was a message behind the words. That confusion was not relieved when Dracula headed off on a seeming tangent.

"Was it, ah, that is, I assume it was common to wear makeup, for men I mean, during the period your costume represents?"

"Yes, though Jay.., um, Countess Bellevois told me many of the true period cosmetics were arsenic based. We decided to draw the line at that," Sinjin said with a smile.

"Indeed," Dracula said, nodding his head sagely, "styles do change over time, for both men and women." Then the man dropped the affable manner, however much that was itself out of character for his costume, and looked directly at the gorgeously-attired colonel. "I am, and I insist my company is, very tolerant of, ah, special interests as long as they harm no one. If you were to find out that one of my employees had a . . . special interest, and try to use that to embarrass him or her, I would find that very troubling."

"So would I," McDaniel replied, looking squarely into Harrison’s eyes as he dropped out of character himself.

Neither man said anything for a moment, both trying to read messages in the other’s eyes that neither intended to reveal. Finally, McDaniel smiled and relaxed. "If it makes you feel any better, I know who ‘Buffy’ really is, and in fact have spent an evening with her at a club she took me to."

"A ‘special interest’ club?" Harrison asked.

McDaniel nodded.

"And what did you think of that?"

McDaniel smiled at the memory, then nodded in acceptance of the deeper question in Harrison’s words. "Perhaps I could answer that by saying I was . . . accepted by the members of the club."

"Indeed?" Harrison said, less surprise in his expression than McDaniel might have expected. Of course, McDaniel’s costume showed acceptance of styles that were quite unusual in that time and place, at least for men.

"Would you consider coming to work for us full time?" Harrison asked unexpectedly.

"Because I share an interest with Tylara?" asked McDaniel.

"No, because you’re a damn good worker," Harrison said. "But in part because you accept another’s interest, whether you share it or not. I want that kind of open-minded attitude in my company. I think in the end it results in more creativity and a more sound base for the innovation we need."

McDaniel nodded, thoughtfully. After a moment he said, "I suppose I should tell you that I don’t really share that . . . special interest with Tylara. I went with her at her request, but I probably wouldn’t do it on my own."

"Even better," Harrison said. "I don’t care what interests you have personally. What I value is a willingness to accept the interests of others. If you accepted it without feeling the same . . . compulsion, then that is an even stronger demonstration of what I’m looking for."

McDaniel nodded again, then countered the interrogation from Harrison with a pointed question of his own. "Might I assume from your questions that you have some ‘special interests’ of your own?"

"You can assume anything you want," Harrison said easily, "as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your ability to work with someone."

"Fair enough," McDaniel said, smiling at the deflection.

"So, are you interested?" Harrison pushed.

"I’m flattered," McDaniel replied with his own deflection. Then he smiled to show he was not trying to play more word games. "But I honestly don’t know if that’s what I’d like. You’ve got a good company and I’m sure we could work out the details of a job, but I like what I do, too."

"Fair enough," Harrison said, smiling himself. "We’ll talk again."

With that, both men nodded and Harrison, back in character as Dracula

to the degree that his waistline allowed - wandered off to his other guests. McDaniel smiled, stiffened his posture into the formality of Colonel Warwick-Bellevois again, and managed to get himself a cup of punch before his lady wife and her attendant returned.

Guineviere looked every inch the cool, collected noblewoman her costume declared, indicating that at least some sort of relief had been achieved while they were away. At Sinjin’s raised eyebrow she laughed delicately, then lifted her own eyebrow into an expression of amusement and said, "Buffy was a great help . . . in the ladies room."

"I’m sure she was," Sinjin replied, refusing to rise to the bait.

Buffy’s blush was most becoming on such a demure young lady. At least it was until she ruined the image with a decidedly unladylike laugh.

"I swear, Milord Count, I will find something to break that insufferable poise before the evening is over," she threatened.

"I don’t doubt it," he politely agreed even as his smile dared her to do her worst.

Before giving her a chance, though, he bowed to kiss his wife’s stiffened hand and said, "Another dance, Countess?"

"As you wish, Milord Hero," she said formally, but the laughter danced in her own eyes as well.

Knowing that she had an accomplice who could help her with any real needs took away most of the challenge from her hidden restraints, but that small loss was more than overmatched by the enjoyment of the flattering attention she and her handsome colonel received as they danced. Guineviere was having a wonderful time when Sinjin decided it was time to up the stakes just a bit. Leading them with comfortable confidence over near the entrance to the room, his timing was perfect when the music ended just as they neared their vampire host. Only Sinjin could clap politely in honor of the musicians, but the noise their applause might have made was far from being their most noticeable aspect anyway.

"Perhaps I might have the honor of the next dance?" Dracula asked.

"Oh, um . . ." Guineviere began, but before she could make any clear reply Sinjin nodded his own answer.

"Thank you, Milord Count. That would give me the opportunity to dance with some of the other lovely young ladies tonight."

"But . . " the Countess tried to say, only to be interrupted by the music of the next number. Dracula held his hands out to her, and she had little choice but to offer him her stiffened free hand even as the one seemingly tied to the wide skirts of her gown lifted to control their sweep.

Dracula’s eyes widened for a moment as he felt the unexpected nature of her glove, but he smiled and swept her off onto the dance floor with no immediate comment. Sinjin turned to find Buffy and walked over to give her a courtly - though the stiffness was not really optional in his corset - bow.

"As my wife the Countess seems to be occupied, perhaps you might consent to partner me in this dance," he suggested.

"Me?" Buffy asked in surprise.

"Why not?" he said, grinning.

Buffy giggled artfully and summoned up a most becoming blush before dipping in a curtsy the grace of which was undermined only a little by the brevity of her cheerleader skirt. They swept out onto the dance floor in swinging pursuit of the other revelers, the combination of formal and fun uniforms providing an interesting contrast.

"I think I’m still angry with you," Buffy said, but her smile took any sting from the words.

Sinjin looked mortally wounded by her declaration, though the twinkle in his own eyes hindered the impact of his expression.

"For not letting me meet Lauren," Buffy explained. "I just know we’d get along wonderfully together."

"Perhaps," Sinjin admitted, "but like all women, she has a tendency to make up her own mind. I’m not sure why you blame me that she chose not to come."

"You underestimate your influence on the ladies, Sir," Buffy countered. "I expect you could have found a convincing argument."

"Perhaps," repeated Sinjin. "But I prefer not to talk about other women when I’m dancing with a pretty one already."

Buffy nodded her head in acknowledgment of his point, then grinned impishly. "But I’m still not letting you off the hook."

"Was I on a hook?"

"I promised you I’m going to break through that poise you show," she reminded him.

"Ah, so you did," he said, nodding as the music came to an end. His smile repeated his own challenge to her as they walked back to the refreshment table. He bowed and kissed her fingers as he took his departure to reclaim his own lady. There was no time for another dance with her though, nor even for a cup of punch before a squeal announced that a microphone had been turned on.

"Ladies and gentlemen, and, ah, whatever else you may be tonight . ." the voice began, distorted enough it took a moment for Sinjin to recognize the artificial accent belonged to Dracula. "It is time for our costume contest. I am pleased to announce that we have taken in over $10,000 for Precipice Children’s Hospital . . " At this point he was interrupted by applause. " . . . and I am sure they won’t mind if we now give just a little of it back to those who did the best job on their costumes."

Those who had been there before took the next step without specific directions, forming into a long line of couples to begin a parade past the reviewing stand. There were almost as many judges as contestants, or at least it seemed so based on the crowd on the raised platform though even the judges wore at least some sort of costume. Sinjin noticed Buffy busying herself at the awards table, ensuring that she would not be considered in the costume contest and risk revealing her more basic disguise.

As is often the case, the judges were more impressed with flashy gimmicks than the subtleties of period authenticity, but even Sinjin had to admit that the winners, a pair of manned suits of powered battle armor, were pretty impressive. Bristling with armaments, they engaged in mock combat as they passed the judges, sound effects creating the aural cacophony of explosions and blasters of at least half a dozen separate calibers. Second place went to an amazingly accurate Darth Vader and Princess Leia, though the absence of real light sabers was a discordant note in their own presentation. Maybe by next year they’d manage to invent the real thing. Count and Countess Bellevois were surprised to find their own names announced for third place, though.

"Congratulations," Dracula said after Sinjin had helped Guineviere up onto the platform. He held out a bouquet of roses for the Countess, smiling as he helped her capture it between her tiny waist and single ‘free’ forearm. Leaning forward to kiss her lightly on the cheek, his eyes took on a sharp twinkle of their own as he looked at his assistant.

Buffy had an envelope with their third place prize money in it and was holding it out to Sinjin.

"You can keep that for the hospital," he said.

"You don’t have to do that," Dracula said, though he nodded in appreciation.

"I know, but it is a good cause," the Colonel said with ostentatious gravity.

"That’s it!" Buffy whispered. "I’m fixing that attitude right now!"

Tossing the envelope back on the award table, she leaned over to the open microphone and said, "Our noble Colonel deserves at least *some* sort of reward, don’t you think?"

Without waiting for any response from the crowd, she threw her arms around the tall officer’s neck and proceeded to kiss him most thoroughly. Sinjin’s first reaction was to put his own arms around her trim waist to support her, and after seemingly encouraging rather than stopping the embrace, his second impulse toward stiffness seemed inappropriate even to him. So he wrapped her even more thoroughly in his arms and bent her backward in a masterful kiss of his own, totally taking charge of the situation. The crowd, who had laughed when Buffy had started her own award, started whooping and whistling as it went on. After a time long enough to make sure his point was well and truly made, Sinjin lifted Buffy back to an upright position and let her stand on her own.

"Whoo!" Buffy said, fanning herself.

"Whoo yourself," Sinjin replied, but too quietly to be heard over the laughter of the crowd.

"Damn," whispered Buffy. "Even *that* didn’t get you out of character."

"It was . . . quite sufficient," Sinjin said pontifically, but the smile in his eyes couldn’t really cover the flush in his own cheeks.

"No. No," Buffy said, shaking her head despite her own grin. "It just won’t do. I’ll have to come up with something better."

"I’ll look forward to it," Sinjin said with a laugh has he escorted his bemused Countess off the stage.

That concluded the primary entertainment for the evening and the crowd started to thin soon after that. Dracula held court at the main doorway so that guests could pay their respects conveniently, but Sinjin couldn’t find Buffy when he looked to say good-bye to her.

After waiting a few minutes, Guineviere whispered in his ear, "Sorry, darling, but we really need to go. I, uh, have a need that won’t wait much longer."

"Oh, okay," he said with a look of concern that vanished at the sight of her grin.

"It’s not, um, overwhelming just yet," she explained, "but I don’t think we have time for you to find your girlfriend before we go."

"She’s not . . . " McDaniel began, startled into dropping out of character. But before he had more than started his comment, he realized she was grinning at him.

"Okay," he said with a rueful grin. "You got me on that one."

"Good," Guineviere replied. "That makes up a little for these diabolical gloves. But I really do have to, um, go."

"Just for that, I should stall," he threatened, but in fact he was leading her toward the exit.

"I’m very glad you could come," Dracula said as they left. With a bright smile that really didn’t fit with his demonic appearance, he bowed graciously to the Countess and said, "Perhaps you will forgive me for not shaking hands, since your own are full of your bouquet."

"Yes, that would be understandable," she replied, a blush still filling her cheeks even as her appreciation showed in her eyes.

The two counts did shake hands, after formal bows, and the elegantly dressed couple had just turned to leave when Dracula - actually Harrison again with no artificial accent - said, "Remember what we talked about."

Count Bellevois nodded and they left.

"What was he talking about?" Jayla asked, dropping her own characterization.

"He offered me a job, a permanent position," Logan explained.

"Oh?" Jayla said, packing interest and request for more information into a seemingly noncommittal syllable.

"And I told him I’d think about it, which of course means that *we* will think about it," he replied.

"Interesting," Jayla mused quietly as they neared their room.

At Logan’s questioning glance she said, "While we danced, he went on about the importance of being open to new ideas, and how impressed he was with your own attitude."

"He said something like that to me, too," Logan said, fumbling just a bit with the card to their door.

"You might hurry," Jayla chided him, getting more anxious now that the goal was near.

"Be nice to me or I’ll . . . find a suitable challenge for you," he threatened, though it was with a smile.

"Nice? Or naughty?" she asked with her own laugh.

"That depends on what sort of challenge you want," he replied.

"Oooh, that could be . . . interesting," she offered, apparently not quite so anxious to get in as she had indicated.

Logan laughed at the conflict made obvious on her flawless brow and finally managed to get the door open. Once inside, it still took several minutes to get Jayla’s ‘monster’ to let her out its grip and she was dancing in her tall slippers before she finally escaped into the bathroom.

Her husband’s appreciative whistle at the sight of her retreating tush brought a blush to her cheeks - both sets - but any comment she might have considered was cut off by the closing door. While she was occupied, Logan started to take off his own costume but found himself unable to make much progress. The heavily decorated jacket was easy enough, but in his own stiff corset he couldn’t manage to get the tight, tall boots of his feet unaided. As a result, when Jayla finally emerged from her urgent duty, they were both wearing satin waist nippers and heels.

"My, you look lovely," Jayla laughed.

"My, you look HOT!" Logan countered.

Jayla giggled as she flowed into his arms, but she managed to get a pout into her voice as she said, "After the way you kissed the floozy at the party, I wasn’t sure if you were interested in me any more."

Instead of the expected denial or excuse, her response from Logan was a booming laugh. She pulled back to look at him, to find his eyes dancing with humor to match the volume of his outburst.

When he could speak again, Logan said, "Don’t worry about that girl, my love. Not at all."

"Why not? She’s very pretty, and you haven’t kissed me like that for a loonngg time," Jayla teased.

"I’ll be glad to take care of that, right now," Logan said, bending for the kiss she seemed to want.

Jayla was more than willing, or would be in a moment, but right at that time she had another question. "Why did you laugh like that. There was more there than simple confidence in our own relationship."

"You don’t have anything to worry about from any other woman in the world," Logan promised. Then he laughed again and said, "But if you ever do, it certainly won’t be from a woman who needs a SHAVE!"

Jayla’s eyes widened as she absorbed what the real situation had been when the tall Colonel had kissed the pert cheerleader, then her own laughter filled the room. She managed to get herself back under control and said, "You know, I had . . . well, I was going to say ‘forgotten’ that Buffy was really a man, but that’s not quite right. At one level I guess I was always aware of it, but it just didn’t seem to matter. Oh my, the idea of that cute girl with whisker bristles . . . that’s too precious for words!"

"You should have experienced it from my side," chuckled Logan. "When she threw her arms around me and started kissing me, I forgot for a moment, too. Then I started getting whisker burns and I was more shocked by that than by the kiss itself."

"Let that be a lesson to you," Jayla said.

"Count on it," agreed Logan.

Logan bent to deliver the promised kiss, but Jayla backed away once again. "Hang on a second, lover," she said, offering both promise and denial at the same time with a caress down the contours of his constraining corset. "I just have to ask you, now that we’re sort of on the subject. How do you feel about all this, really?"

Logan sighed and led her to sit on a couch in their room. His own feet were hurting a bit from the long time in heels and those Jayla wore were much higher, with much less support than his own boots provided. It looked like they were going to be talking for a while.

"I don’t know," he started slowly. "I’m still interested in all of this, still, ah, stimulated by some of the things we’ve done. But I don’t think I feel the same way as those I’ve read about do."

"How is it different?"

"I don’t know. More intellectual maybe."

Jayla snorted at that, reaching out to brush his very physical demonstration of more than intellectual interest. He chuckled at the validity of her point, but persisted.

"No, really. I’m not saying it’s ONLY an intellectual interest, but the games are mostly ‘fun’ in a - I don’t know how to put this - mind-stimulating way, not something that seems physically compelling. I mean, I enjoy doing them because *you* enjoy them, not as something I look forward to just for myself."

"Really?" Jayla asked, clearly disappointed.

"Hey, don’t worry," he said quickly. "I get plenty of physical stimulation as well while we’re playing around. It’s just that it seems to be the result of sharing your enjoyment, not, well, like when I practiced on the road. That was just that, practice, and not something I found particularly arousing. Doing the very same thing when you are with me, or even when I know I’ll be meeting you soon, feels very different."

"Good, I guess," Jayla said thoughtfully. After a moment she asked, "So, which sorts of things do you enjoy the most? The subtly androgynous enhancement, the fully female gorgeous young woman look, or - what would you call tonight? - the fully enhanced, ‘I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks’ but very masculine look?"

"I don’t know," Logan repeated. "Is it important to choose?"

"No, not really," Jayla said with a giggle, but with a look of dawning recognition on her face. Indeed, why choose at all? Then an answer came to her - at least a temporary one.

"But if you don’t decide to take off some of what you’ve got on, then there are a lot of options we won’t be able to choose," she observed in a voice that offered LOTS of options. He took her up on most of them. After a bit of help with his boots.

 

EPILOG

Lauren McDaniel called the tower as she passed the outer marker on final approach into Denver. She never had taken a permanent position with Harrison’s company, but her consulting contract kept getting extended. A few weeks after the big costume ball, Tylara Andrews had showed up at Tyler Andrews work station half an hour late, escorted by Harrison himself. He had announced that the company was instituting a strict new dress code. Everyone could wear whatever they wanted, consistent with a minimum of modesty, and it would be strictly against company policy to harass anyone because of their choice in attire. In fact, he was personally going to consider creativity in costuming as an important indicator of basic creativity in each employee.

That started a very interesting few weeks, but despite the wildly abandoned side several people had showed, Harrison soon realized that edict was unfair to the quiet, introverted employees who just didn’t feel comfortable attracting attention to themselves. He soon made it clear that there were other ways to show innovation and value to the company, but the residual of acceptance for almost any style of dress continued. As a result, it wasn’t unusual to find a dashing Musketeer absent-mindedly twirling his moustache as he pondered an integrated circuit design while an earnest, if high-voiced, Klingon extolled the features. It gained Harrison’s company an element of the secret McDaniel had himself cultivated - controlled contrasts - with an even higher emphasis on brilliant innovation.

Since McDaniel traveled each week, extreme costumes were more bother than it was worth most of the time. In fact a single costume with variations had to last basically a whole week, with an added constraint that it not be too disturbing for the general populace during that travel. As a result, Logan and Lauren alternated, each staying for a week at a time. That didn’t mean he or she didn’t show lots of creativity. The first time Lauren showed up, she wore a Playboy Bunny costume that was still talked about. But the costumes never became an end in themselves for McDaniel.

And as for Jayla . . . one of the innovations discovered by Harrison’s company was a very powerful, radio-controlled magnet. McDaniel borrowed a few of them. After that Jayla never knew from one moment to the next just how her choices would be restricted, which she found quite liberating. But that’s another story.

 

 


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Only For You 2001 by Brandy Dewinter. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.