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Spin the Bottle

"Happy Valentine's Day!"

Laughing, Taz Corazon descended upon Linton, flinging a shower of rose petals over his shoulders. Linton hesitated, brushing off the flowers.

"Hey, Linton!" Fleetwood called. "C'mon in!"

Linton entered Taz's apartment hesitantly, looking around. Being completely unfamiliar with this "Valentine's Day" custom, and not sure what to expect, he wasn't happy to discover that the apartment was nearly full of people.

"Oh, finally," Frank said. "Someone who'll have less fun than me."

Taz giggled and flung her arms around Frank's neck, planting a kiss on his cheek; Frank's hand twitched near his gun. "Oh, c'mon, honey. My Valentine parties are always fun!"

Linton sat down hesitantly, slipping between Elaine Jaeger and Jackie Lobo. Jackie smiled at him supportively and he smiled back, a bit uncertainly.

"What's going on?" he whispered.

Jackie grinned, and shrugged. "Taz invites everyone she knows to these shindigs," she whispered back. "Most of 'em don't show up, but hey, we have a bigger crowd than usual this year!"

Linton counted ten. Elaine's husband Dusty was looking bored and chatting with Fleetwood, who was next to him, occasionally almost spilling his drink into his lap. Frank Bernetti was next, then one of his bodyguards (Linton was pretty sure it was Seymour, but he had trouble telling them apart), and Linton's co-worker Colette, who offered him a friendly smile. This was not echoed by the person next to her, Gil, who looked as if he was having even less fun than Frank if that was possible. Next to him, Signy was trying without much success to engage the person on her other side in conversation. Linton didn't recognize him.

"Everyone know each other?" Taz inquired, descending upon the group with a small glass full of umbrellas in her hand. She stuffed it into Linton's hand.

"I don't believe we've met," the stranger said, reaching around Jackie to shake Linton's free hand. "I'm Keane."

"Pleasure to meet you," Linton mumbled, taking a drink. The drink Taz had given him was sweet and strong-tasting. He wondered what one did at a Valentine's Day party.

Taz folded her legs under herself and tossed a beer bottle into the middle of the circle they formed on the floor. "All right!" she cried. "You got here just in time for the fun, Linton!"

"Oh, for cryin' out loud ..." Gil muttered. "You gotta be kidding me."

Taz grinned around at them. "Party games! Let's all have fun, huh?"

Colette blushed bright red. "Do I have to play?"

Taz smiled at her partner. "Oh, don't worry. I'll loosen you up, honey."

Colette's blush flared even hotter. "That's what I'm afraid of."

"How do you play this game?" Linton murmured to Jackie.

Jackie gave him a startled look. "You've never played 'spin the bottle'?"


"Oh, dear ... look, just watch everyone else and see what they do."

Taz was speaking to Colette. "Why don't you start?"

Colette writhed, but everyone's eyes were on her. She gave the bottle a nervous tap, sending it in a lazy spiral that eventually ended up with the mouth pointing towards Frank.

Colette turned white.

"Oh, now that's hardly fair," Fleetwood said cheerfully. "I'll take her turn for her."

"The hell you will," Frank snapped. He leaned around his bodyguard to point at Colette. "You. Here. Now."

Colette sidled nervously in his direction. Frank rolled his eyes and gave her a quick, chaste kiss on the lips.

"Does she taste like her sister?" Fleetwood asked loudly. In the ensuing, shocked silence, Taz snatched his punch cup from his hand.

"That's it. You're cut off."

Colette's blush could have rivaled a sunset in its intensity. She shrank back into her corner, trying unsuccessfully to make her tall, rangy frame unobtrusive.

"Good god, let someone else do it," Frank growled, and shoved the bottle past Colette to the next person, who was Gil.

Gil rolled his eyes and gave it a halfhearted spin. It came to rest pointing towards Keane.

Keane looked at Taz. "I think I need another drink."

Taz made a dash for the bar.

"That doesn't count," Gil said. "I can spin again, right?"

Taz hustled back with a brimming glass, which she handed to Keane. "No! Rules are rules. You all agreed when you started."

Oh dear, Linton thought. I'm going to die. I don't know who I'm going to get, but I know the sort of luck I have. I'm going to die.

Keane knocked back his entire drink in one gulp, stared at Gil for a moment in determination, then leaned towards him (over Signy's head, to her annoyance) and pecked him quickly on the cheek.

"That does not count," Fleetwood said.

Gil glared at him. "We're done." He shoved the bottle at Signy.

"Have fun?" she asked.

"Tons," Gil muttered.

Signy spun. The bottle came to rest on Seymour. He blushed red as a beet.

Signy giggled. He was a little too far away to reach, so she stood up and crossed the circle quickly, bent down and gave him a fast, chaste kiss on the nose.

He blushed redder.

"We are not getting much lip action here," Fleetwood said. "Come on, people!"

Signy giggled, wrapped her arms around Seymour's neck and delivered a long, deep kiss, punctuated with a wolf whistle from Fleetwood. With another giggle, she scampered back to her place in the circle and passed the bottle to Keane.

"Now wait," Keane said, looking appealingly towards Taz. "I've already been kissed."

"Yes," Taz said, "but you haven't spun. C'mon."

Keane spun. The bottle rolled to rest pointing at Signy. The priest grinned. "Now this I can get into," he said, and put his arm around her head.

The others watched. And watched. Even Fleetwood started looking impressed.

"You can come up for air anytime," Taz said.

Keane let Signy go. She fell backwards, gasping. "Nice one," she said.

Keane thrust the bottle at Taz. "Enough lip action for you, Fleetwood?" he asked the Customs officer cheerfully.

"I hope I get you when it's my turn," Fleetwood said fervently.

Taz spun.

As the bottle wobbled in her direction, Elaine winced, and winced harder when it came to rest pointing at her. Dusty, however, looked somewhat relieved. But only somewhat.

Taz rose. "Well, Elaine ..."

Elaine closed her eyes. "Get it over with."

"Oh, come on. I'm not unpleasant to kiss. And I have done it with both guys and girls, you know."

"I did not need that piece of information," Elaine snapped. She parted her lips slightly. "C'mon, just do it."

Taz did. She was not a passive kisser. She was more of a full-tongue-action French kisser.

Elaine's eyes opened wide. All the males in the room looked fascinated.

When Taz released Elaine, Dusty said immediately, "Now don't get to liking that sort of thing."

"Right," Elaine said. "Right."

"Looks like it's to me," Jackie said. She spun.

The bottle ended up on Gil.

Jackie smiled at him. In spite of himself, Gil's lips twitched. "I've kissed worse," he said.

"Just for that, I shouldn't give you anything," Jackie retorted. But she crossed the circle to give him a deliberate (but closed-mouthed) kiss on the lips.

The bottle was now sitting in front of Linton. He stared at it in horror.

"C'mon, spin," Taz urged.

"It's not so bad," Jackie said to him, returning to her place in the circle. "You never know who you'll get."

"That's what worries me," Linton murmured. He gave the bottle a very nervous spin. It shot off against Frank's foot.

"Does that count?" Fleetwood said.

"He can spin again if he wants to," Taz said, seeing Frank's face, which promised severe bodily injury to Linton.

Linton meekly took the bottle and tried to give it a good spin. This time it wobbled to a stop with its mouth pointed at Fleetwood.

Taz went into paroxysms of giggles. "Oh, this is great!"

Linton stared.

"Come on," Fleetwood said. "I doubt if I'm quite a Keane-class kisser, but I'm not bad."

"Sir ... are you sure there's not some regulation against this?"

"No. Get over here. That's an order."

Linton rose numbly and crossed the circle, cheered on by Taz and Signy.

"Are you sure there's not some regulation --"

"No. Quit looking like you're going to your funeral." Fleetwood reached up and took Linton's chin lightly in his hand, pulling him down.

It had been a long time since Linton had kissed anyone. His sex life with his wife, Sarah, had degenerated slowly over the years, to the point where they shared a bed but little else. Knowing Fleetwood, he was expecting some sort of violent mouth-rape, so he was a bit surprised to receive nothing more than a soft, light touch of lips on lips. It was warm, startling and even ... pleasant?

Fleetwood grinned up at him, his eyes unexpectedly warm. "Happy Valentine's Day."

He took his hand down from Linton's chin with a light caress, as startling as the kiss had been. Linton swallowed. "Happy Valentine's Day," he managed to say, unsure what else to add, and made it back to his place in the circle.

Elaine spun. She got Keane.

Keane laughed. "I'm just the popular one tonight!"

Dusty's face had darkened slightly. Elaine elbowed him. "We agreed to this, lover," she said with a light grin, and jetted over to Keane's side of the circle. Their kiss was not quite as long as Keane and Signy's, but it was quite energetic.

"I hope you're enjoying yourself over there," Dusty snapped.

Elaine laughed, drawing back from Keane. "Hey, you're next, lover. I have to fortify myself for whatever lies ahead."

"So tell me," Taz said. "Does he kiss better than I do?"

"What are we playing here, Truth or Dare?" Elaine jetted primly back to Dusty.

"Next year," Taz said. "That's the game next year."

Dusty gave Elaine an uncertain look, and spun. The bottle ended up on Fleetwood.

Fleetwood laughed. Dusty glared at him.

"What is it with you people?" Fleetwood said, amused. "Hey, Linton. Tell him I'm good at this."

"He's good at this," Linton said numbly, still in a state of shock (and rather worried) that he'd actually liked it.

"All right, all right." They were conveniently sitting next to each other, so they met halfway and kissed.

"I admit that wasn't quite the wife-jealousy-inspiring experience I'd hoped for ..." Dusty muttered to Elaine, who giggled.

"Thanks for the ego boost there, buddy," Fleetwood said. "Hey! My turn!" He spun.

He got Colette.

They stared at each other, while the others waited expectantly and Linton tried to swallow back a sudden surge of jealousy. The only problem was ... he couldn't quite tell which one he was jealous of.

As the silence stretched on, Linton saw Taz's eyes widen suddenly, quickly. That's right -- as Colette's partner, she probably knew that Colette, who Fleetwood viewed as a sort of little sister, was probably the only woman on the planet he wouldn't kiss voluntarily.

But the awkward silence dissolved slowly into a mutual, embarrassed grin, and Colette crossed to Fleetwood and kissed him on the cheek. He returned it, and then pushed the bottle along to Frank. "Your turn, Frankie boy."

Fleetwood spun. The bottle came to rest pointing at ...

... Colette.

"Spin again," she said with faint, desperate hope. "Please?"

Frank shrugged, and spun.

It stopped on Elaine. She giggled. Frank sighed, rose and came across the circle to kiss her.

"I don't know whether to be jealous or not," Dusty mused.

Frank reached for his gun. Taz and Seymour both lunged to grab his elbows and hustle him back to his spot in the circle.

Taz sighed in relief and sat back down. "Only one person left to spin," she said, smiling at Seymour, who blushed again. Keeping a cautious hand near his boss's arm (but not quite touching it, due to a well-developed sense of self-preservation) he gave the bottle a spin.

It stopped on Elaine. Seymour blushed again. They shared a rather chaste kiss, while Dusty glared.

"Whew!" Taz said, sitting back on her heels. "Anybody want to go another round?"

"No!" chorused several voices.

Taz smiled and crossed her arms. The evening was young; there was still plenty of Valentine's Day left to go, and with the amount of alcohol flowing freely around her apartment, if she hadn't managed to get at least one couple in the sack by midnight, then she wouldn't have done her job as hostess. And she still had plenty of ideas for party games ...

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