Weiss tries and fails, upon getting out of the taxi
in front of the Radisson Hotel, to balance three
bottles of wine and a plate of weird assorted deli
cheeses. "Crap," he grunts as the cheeses begin the
inevitable slide onto the sidewalk.
Luckily Sydney is there to help. "Are you my official cheese-catcher?" he asks as she slides lightly out of the seat behind him and grabs the platter. She smiles.
"We can't have a party without weird cheeses." She is wearing a red leather dress with silver sparkly stockings. Five inch red patent leather heels. And a Santa hat. She looks freaking hot. Weiss has not told her this, but he suspects that she knew what he was thinking all the way across Los Angeles: freaking hot, freaking hot, freaking hot hot hot. It's hard to share a cab with someone so freaking hot and not jump them right there. But Weiss managed. Nice guys finish last. Duh.
He pays the cab driver, who has not stopped staring at Syd, even when he was supposed to be looking at the road. Weiss can't even find it in his heart to blame the guy. Then they make their way up the walkway under the glow of Christmas lights festooning the palm trees. Sydney looks like a waitress from a porn video carrying that cheese. Hot hot hot hot. Quit thinking about it. Can't. Sorry, but can't.
Music blares from the ballroom: the Vandals singing "Oi To the World." Weiss, LA born and bred, can identify the Vandals within five bars. There are more weird festive lights strung up randomly and someone has tacked up glittery Christmas posters: Santa in his sleigh, some reindeer, and a huge promo poster of Tim Allen in "The Santa Clause 2" right up above the punch bowl. Weiss winces at the decor.
"Note to self: never put Marshall on the decorating committee ever again," he says, getting a laugh from Sydney. As they walk in the ballroom, a garishly dressed Santa with a giant white beard throws tinsel around their necks. "Merry Christmas, y'all!" he says in a weird squeaky Western accent that is almost falsetto: Weiss wonders where they hired the guy. "Have a rootin' tootin' New Year!"
"This is awful! It's Christmas in a can!" Syd says, fingering her tinsel. They try to move past but the Santa intervenes. "Y'all see the misseltoe, right?" he drawls, pointing to his hat. It's pinned on the end. "Y'all have to do a little kissin' tonight!"
Weiss is suddenly grateful for the Christmas season. He leans forward and gives Syd a nice kiss on the mouth, and she bends down to let him do it. When she straightens up, she has a little half-smile that makes Weiss very happy with himself.
But then she sees Marshall waving at her and her smile turns social and she wafts over his way. In spite of his disappointment, Weiss loves those things about her: that she always puts up with Marshall's weirdness, and that she wafts in five-inch heels.
He places the wine bottles over on the buffet table. They look pretty insignificant surrounded by all the other liquor, but Weiss knows from experience that they will all get drunk or poured on someone's head. He really doesn't care that much.
Across the table Maureen Sanchez is placing a crock- pot of nacho cheese dip carefully in the middle of a lovely artistic tray of chips. Maureen's nacho dip is ace, and she only makes it once a year. He sidles around the table and sniffs over her shoulder.
"Baby, let's you and me take that dip and go to my place," he says in her ear. She chortles.
"Eric, I'd just be a fifth wheel. Why don't I leave you and the dip alone together?"
"You knoowww what I like," he says like the Big Bopper, and helps her position the crock pot just right. One time the table was kind of rickety and collapsed and nacho cheese went everywhere. What a waste.
Ten or twelve chips later, he realizes that Sydney is still trapped by Marshall's arm-waving diatribe on something probably technical. He looks for her dad, but Jack hasn't shown up yet. And Vaughn and Lauren are on the dance floor, swaying into each other as Warren Fitzgerald screams, "On the roof with the nunchucks Trevor broke a lot of bones, but Haji had a sword like that guy in Indiana Jones."
Of course Syd has a sweet smile on her face and she isn't looking desperate at all, except a little around the eyes. Weiss grabs a plastic cup of something unidentifiable and saunters over there.
"So I programmed it to walk across the roof, see, like Santa? So he would get the real Santa Claus experience. And they had a chimney and everything, um, you know, most people don't have a chimney these days, but my parents are suckers for Old Victorianism, um . . . oh yeah, so I'm laying there and I hear it tapping across the roof and my brother is going, "It's Santa!" and then we hear it sort of go down the chimney and Ronny jumps up out of bed to go to the living room and we both hear this BLAMMO!"
Marshall mimes an explosion, sending his drink flying, and Sydney barely keeps her smile on as it splashes her dress. "My dad'd heard it on the roof and he'd gone down there and blown hell out of it with a shotgun. And that was my last foray into robotics, um, at least Christmas robotics, because, you know, the CIA is always asking for stuff, and, um, I made this one robot that does this thing, you know ...."
Weiss waltzes in suavely (at least he thinks he does) and says to Sydney, "How about a dance?"
"I'd love to," she says quickly and takes his arm. Marshall waves his drink around some more. "Cheers, you two!" The Vandals segue into "Thanx for Nothing."
Weiss isn't the greatest dancer -- goes with the "being Jewish" territory -- but Syd makes up for it and they do some kind of modified swing dance and both avoid looking over at Vaughn and Lauren's corner.
"Who the hell is the DJ?" asks Sydney when she finally twigs to the lyrics. Fitzgerald is now yelling, "Come next year I'm getting you what you got me ... fucking nothing. See how you like it." Weiss grins and dares to take her around the waist, dipping her low, feeling intoxicated without a sip of booze.
"It's the Vandals Christmas album. Wait until they get to the one about 'Christmas Time For My Penis.'"
"No!" she gasps, blushing. "Are you kidding?" He loves that about her too, that she's just a little Puritan.
"Not really," he says. "Unfortunately." And they both collapse in giggles. Then her dad shows up and wants to talk to her, so he has to let her go and watch her waft off toward some dark corner to talk business probably. Jack isn't exactly the partying type -- usually walks through the Christmas party exactly once, gets some nacho dip, of course, and then leaves. Weiss figures eventually he'll get Syd back for himself. So now he's free to go say hi to Lauren and Vaughn, who from the looks of it are half in the bag already.
They are still dancing obliviously as the song continues. Leaning on each other. Vaughn is smiling dreamily. Bleah. They don't notice him and he listens to them for a minute, trying to figure out what to say. "Hi Vaughn, I hate you because two hot chicks are totally digging on you and everyone thinks that I'm, like, some kind of best friend figure?" Nah.
"You wouldn't believe -- once when I was in Portland," says Lauren, "I was so drunk at a karaoke place that I sang 'Melt With You' as 'Melt On You.' Seems like most of my post-college pre-CIA experience was spent singing things wrong while intoxi -- toxicktated -- drunk."
Vaughn giggles. "'I'll stop the world and melt on you?' It sounds like a slogan for Baskin Robbins." Then they both start laughing and Vaughn falls over, landing on his back on the parquet flooring.
"Hey Eric," he says. "Did you know that Lauren is going to write Baskin Robbins's new campaign?"
"I heard," Weiss says. "What the hell are you drinking?"
"Fruit punch," says Vaughn and giggles some more. Lauren sits down by him and they just sit there in the middle of the dance floor and laugh. Weiss feels left out. At previous Christmas parties it had been him and Vaughn getting toasted together. Well, whatever. At least the nacho dip still loves him.
There are other hot chicks on the dance floor, but Vaughn knows them all and doesn't want to have to talk to them on Monday. And he sees Marshall coming toward him. So he beats a retreat over to the corner and starts talking to Dixon in self-defense.
Dixon isn't too happy. He isn't drunk but he's still maudlin. Weiss likes the guy but he doesn't want to be his shrink. It's like, sorry you lost your wife, man, can you just not mention it tonight? Weiss hopes the DJ doesn't play "Hang Myself From the Tree," because Dixon just might consider it. He makes some kind of excuse and sidles away. The stage area behind the buffet isn't being used because of the lack of real band, so he hops up onto it and sits with a plate of nachos and a cup of suicide booze.
He's never felt so alone at a Christmas party before. When he was young he'd just schmoozed; then he'd had Vaughn for solidarity. They'd done parties together. But now Vaughn was married. Stupid marriage. Damn it.
He can't see Sydney, but then he spots her down on the dance floor with her dad. She's wearing that schmoopy smile that she gets with Jack, sort of "O mein Papa, to me you are so beautiful." Makes Weiss uncomfortable to watch. He switches his attention to the nachos and the pair of red boots that are poking out from behind the closed stage curtains.
Waitaminute, what? Weiss stares and then says, "oof" as something yanks him into the dark space behind the green velvet curtain.
Everything is muted and kind of dusty back here. Weiss sneezes a bit and rubs his nose. He gets yanked up by his shirt, his back gets pressed up against a wooden wall, and someone else shoves up against him in front, someone wearing ... a fake beard?
"Who the what now?" he says stupidly.
"Have y'all been a good boy this year?" says the fake country-western voice of the Santa from the entryway. It isn't falsetto now, it's low and as velvet as the curtains. And it sounds awfully familiar in spite of the Garth Brooks imitation. Weiss begins to smile.
"You know, I believed in you all my life," he says slowly. "Why are you picking on me now?" Soft and far away behind the curtain, the Vandals segue into "Nothing Is Going To Ruin My Holiday."
"Because I know who-all was naughty and who-all was nice," says Sark, dropping the accent and leaning into Weiss like he was nacho dip. "And you, my friend, were very naughty."
"Was not. I'm a nice guy. The perfect friend. Haven't you noticed?"
"But secretly you lust for her . . ." Sark's hand twines around the back of his neck and the other one tickles up under his shirt. "You want to peel her out of that red dress like Christmas candy."
Weiss pulls at the fake beard and manages to get it down. His eyes are adjusting and he sees white: Sark has taken off the Santa suit jacket and is wearing only an undershirt. He hisses in Sark's ear, "So do you."
"Naughty. Like I said." He grabs Weiss's hair, forces his head back, bites his neck hard. Weiss hisses again, but not in pain.
"Did -- did you assassinate a Salvation Army bell- ringer to get that horrible fake beard?"
"Yep. And I killed a lot of little elf buggers too. All in the Christmas spirit." Sark puts his hands on Weiss's hips and cocks his head. "This the Spanish Inquisition? I've got mistletoe on my hat. That's reason enough." Those clever fingers find his buckle and start on it.
"I just want to know what you're doing at -- oh -- at the fucking CIA Christmas party. Did you hear about the nacho dip?" Weiss can't believe how much he's babbling: he wants himself to shut up right now.
"I'm bringing presents to the naughty boys of the world." Sark forestalls any further conversation by sticking his tongue down Weiss's throat. Sark's heart is beating like a the little drummer boy is in his chest. Everything recedes and he focuses on Sark's rough breathing, the feel of skin under his hands and -- oh yes -- velvet drawstring pants.
"Oi to the world," pants Weiss when Sark finally lets him come up for air. "And everybody wins."
Notes: This is for Celli, who wanted Syd/Weiss and Sark/Weiss and a reference to Portland and Marshall making a mechanical Christmas contraption that went terribly wrong. She also wanted me to have Sark shoot a Salvation Army bell-ringer. Shocking! I couldn't do it for real. Happy Yuletide, celli. All the songs are from the Vandals's Christmas album. Including "Christmas time for my penis," which is very touching (so to speak).
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