dinner party, The

by laurel

Notes: part of the foursome universe. In order of appearance: a Christmas wish, a new love, that's what friends are for, Popsicle toes, twister, tangled up in blue, the list, the jazz singer, debut, meet the neighbors, war games, the art of seduction, summer's end, what are you doing New Year's Eve?, ruminations, in dreams; one martini, two martini, three martini, floor; the day after.

Spoilers: It would help to read the whole series just so you know who all the other characters are.

Archive: Okay to DitB, WWOMB, anyone else just ask first

Alex decided to go with a caterer. The dinner party list had kept growing until they were in danger of running out of chairs. It had started out with just a couple of the neighbors, just adults, no kids. There was Jesse and Stephen, Hannah and Richard, Marcie and Jason. Then Fox decided to include Scully and Monica. They hadn't been over too often lately since they were renovating the house. Spring cleaning and re-decorating as well as a crystal throwing by Monica had led her to persuade her lover to repaint and wallpaper several rooms and re-arrange some of the furniture to optimize the principles of Feng Shui.

Then Fox just had to have the gunmen over. His book was occupying so much of his time with writing and research, he let Will take all his free time. His son was very important to him, as he was to everyone in his life, but he felt guilty he hadn't spent much time with his best friends. So his neglected friends were added to the list.

Alex found out that Mona and Dirk had just returned from Europe on an extended exhibition of their respective work and he was eager to hear about their trip. He was able to persuade them to come.

Alex had re-arranged the seating and abandoned his simple and delicious chicken Cacciatore recipe in favor of the caterer.

Then somehow Dinah had wiggled and charmed her way onto the list. Walter seemed to have no willpower when it came to tall leggy blonds or petite redheads for that matter.

Alex decided on an eclectic mixed menu, starting with hot hors d'oeuvres like Mexican pizza triangles and vegetarian canaps, as well as cold staples like the intricately carved veggies and freshly made dip. He made his specialty, white wine punch, and John was in charge of mixing drinks. Dinner was Cornish hens with red potatoes and asparagus, accompanied by fried sage, which gave it an interesting flavor and finished with tossed salad drizzled with Italian and red pepper dressing and a separate tomato salad. He had ordered several loaves of crusty Italian bread from his favorite bakery, enough to satisfy everyone and have some left over. Bread was an absolute necessity in his book. Dessert was an assortment of pastries from that same Italian bakery including canoli and individual servings of Tiramisu.

It had been a bit awkward at the beginning with all the girls meeting for the first time since the disastrous drinking binge. None of them had appeared in court yet but since the charges were minor and would result in perhaps a fine or just a suspended sentence they had only embarrassment to deal with.

But after a few cocktails everyone loosened up and were able to laugh about the incident. Hannah had just a half glass of wine with a handful of the canaps. Richard was disappointed but the evening was still young. There was lots of punch and the bar was fully stocked.

Jesse limited herself to one glass before dinner but Marcie ventured for a gin and tonic. The girls nibbled on mostly the vegetables with just the tiniest amount of dip to give them flavor.

Dinah threw caution to the wind and had a glass of the potent punch, a vodka martini (no olive, she was watching her figure, as were all the men in the room) and a gin and tonic. The lone gunmen were tongue tied around the vivacious woman, even Byers. But at least he had his girlfriend Lisa to keep him in check.

Alex had one glass of white wine while watching the staff set up and sipped very slowly on a vodka martini before dinner.

Alex followed all the instructions the caterer and staff had left for heating up the birds and side dishes. Walter helped in the kitchen while John replenished the punch bowl and put away the empty liquor bottles in the recycling bin. Fox poured out glasses of wine and kept the water glasses filled. He set out the flower arrangements Alex had cut and arranged on the table, lit the stubby candles and changed the CD in the player to Michael Buble from the throbbing drums and hypnotic voices of a world music CD.

Alex sang along to "Fever", the first song on the CD, to Fox's delight. It was the perfect song for his breathy, low voice.

Dinner was a fun if eclectic affair with all the diverse people gathered at the table. The conversations ran the gamut from the current state of disarray in the world to stock portfolios. Alex hovered over the diners making sure that plates and glasses were filled. He heard the smatterings of conversations from Dinah discussing the merits of Botox with Marcie; Richard and Stephen giving each other advice on golf swings; Byers whispering sweet nothings into Lisa's ear; Walter discussing security systems with Marcie's husband; Monica and Dana were getting childcare tips from Jesse and Hannah; Mona and Dirk regaled them with tales about their successful exhibit and gossiped about which minor European royalty had come to view the collection; John relating his marine days with Langly; Fox in whispered monotone with Frohike about UFO sightings. Alex would have a talk with Fox later about chasing space ships again.

Even with their different backgrounds and social standings, the group discovered how much they had in common. Hannah and Lisa both liked knitting. Frohike was flirting with Dinah and the crazy thing was she was flirting right back. Stephen was a bit of a techno-geek, so he was dazzled by the gunmen's knowledge and he could actually understand most of it. Alex showed Jesse and Marcie some kick boxing techniques. Jesse got the jabs and crosses down pat but her kicking left much to be desired and she ended up knocking over a lamp.

"That's okay," Alex reassured her. "We didn't like that lamp much anyways."

That made Jesse laugh and she helped him clean up the shards of broken ceramic and light bulb.

"You should look into a class at the center," she suggested.

"Why? You think I need to work on my technique?" Alex asked.

"Oh, no of course not. You could teach a class."

Alex snorted. "Me? You're kidding."

"No. I'm sure it wouldn't take much to get a certificate or whatever is required. You're a good teacher."

"I don't know. I have the jazz club already."

"That's only a couple of nights a week. What else do you have to occupy your time, besides the garden you're planting and those three handsome men?"

Alex looked slyly at his lovers. "All that great sex does tire me out," he joked. "I don't know. I'll think about it."

"Good. And how about Elizabeth's proposal about joining the war amps and working on banning land mines?"

Alex sighed. "Boy you're a good nagger. You know, Elizabeth does take after you. So please let her know I wrote a rough draft for a protest letter and I'll be over sometime next week so she can take a look at it and I promise I'll come to the next meeting."

Jesse nodded her approval.

Alex began to clear away the dinner dishes. Fox now held everyone spellbound as he explained the scientific explanations of the anti-gravitational electromagnetic field behind the Oregon vortex. Scully helped break it down in layman's terms.

Walter shooed him away as Alex had done so much work already and finished clearing the scraped-empty plates along with the bits of leftover salad and vegetables with John's help.

Dinah was telling Marcie about her liposuction operation. They all looked at her svelte figure. The woman didn't need any surgical help in that department. Her long fingernails (painted porno pink to Alex's critical eye, to match her equally bright pink lip polish) slid down the curves of her hips and the clingy white beaded dress. The only surgery she'd had was possibly a nose job and to Alex's experienced eye a boob job. He was tempted to poke her breasts to see if they were real or not but refrained. You just didn't do those things over dinner.

"I know a great way to lose weight," Monica piped up. "Just close your mouth." She smiled brightly. She wasn't being sarcastic, she was quite serious.

Dinah looked at her murderously. Marcie dropped her bread back onto her plate.

"Dessert and coffee anyone?" Alex offered, breaking the tension.

Everyone except Dinah and Marcie accepted. Dinah pulled out a tea bag (some kind of miracle weight loss green tea, she explained) and asked if Alex could be a darling and boil some water. Alex went to the kitchen to put the kettle on and brought out the plate of desserts. Marcie looked at them longingly, then took out a pack of cigarettes. They all looked at her horrified. Smoking was the taboo of the new millennium. Alex looked around hopelessly for an ashtray. "It helps with cravings," Marcie explained. Jason gave everyone an apologetic look.

"Well at least they're not Morleys," Fox joked.

Alex put a dish of Tiramisu in front of his lover. "Funny guy. Here, some Tiramisu for you. It means pull me up."

"Hey about pushing me down later," Fox whispered into an elfin ear.

Alex grinned. "Much later, baby."

Walter looked pained and shook his head. "Sorry Marcie, but would you mind taking that outside? I'm allergic to smoke."

"Oh no problem," she replied cheerily. "I need some air. Dinah, keep me company," she demanded.

The girls went out for air and her needed smoke. Alex brought out the nasty smelling tea to Dinah. She still really freaked him out with the weird sexual liberties she'd taken with his prosthesis. She didn't seem embarrassed over the incident in the least. He returned to the party quickly.

The dinner party finished off the delicious supper with pastries and coffee laced with brandy. The table was cleared and re-set with the colorful tablecloth of roses and peonies in red, orange and fuchsia splashed across the white background, along with the candles and Alex replaced the miniature vases filled with rose buds, pansies and greenery on the table as well.

He also set out the platter of fruit: grapes, cherries, strawberries, and watermelon chunks along with a plate of cheese and crackers.

Some of the guests drifted off to the living room. John changed the CD to Norah Jones. They mingled in small groups that sat or stood around talking of common interests. More brandy was poured. The girls opted for herbal tea.

Marcie and Dinah returned and they were engaged in a lively conversation which became tame as they entered the house again. Mona and Dirk got most of the guests involved in two heated arguments; one regarding Italian versus German opera and the second about the merits of abstract over realism in art.

Alex noticed that the more the couple drank the more Americanized their accents got. They came to the states by way of London, England but at times they sounded as if they'd traveled through the Midwest. There was a flatness to Mona's vowels and at times a trace of a New Jersey or New York accent, though he couldn't quite place it.

Alex excused himself to go upstairs and shut the windows in the bedroom as it had begun to rain lightly. He heard some noises coming from the guest room and cautiously and quietly opened the door. Clapping a hand over his mouth, he backed away from the horror inside the room.

"Oh God, my eyes," Alex shrieked in the hallway.

Fox rushed over. "What's the matter?" He'd seen Alex come out of the guest room and wondered what he was doing in there.

"I just saw the worst thing I've ever seen in my entire life. And believe me I've seen some bad shit."

"What was it?"

"Frohike and Dinah doing the nasty."

"Ughh, I told you she doesn't discriminate."

"The sight of Frohike's naked ass is burned into my memory. I have to rinse my eyes out with bleach or something."

Fox began to laugh. "It could have been worse."


"They could have done it on our bed." Fox looped his arm around Alex's shoulders and guided him downstairs.

Everyone was sitting in the den or living room, the remains of dessert still on the dining table. There weren't many left. Alex picked up a bunch of grapes and began to pluck them off. They joined their guests again.

Lisa was the first to leave. She had to get back to her son and her babysitter had an important test to study for so she couldn't keep her too late. Byers took her home after saying good-bye to his buddies.

Alex had grown ever more suspicious about his neighbors and managed to corner them in the kitchen while some of their other guests were leaving. He couldn't take the chance that they were plants (along with their teenaged children) set to spy on their household. For all he knew they were assassins sent to exterminate them. Who knew what government agencies were still interested in Fox, Walter, John and himself?

He held them still at gunpoint. Alex's philosophy about weapons had not changed. He always had guns at the ready, even in the kitchen in case there was an intruder. Mona and Dirk were speechless and helpless after he'd tied them to kitchen chairs and gagged them with the imported Italian dish towels he'd bought at that fancy kitchen supply store.

Then he returned to the lingering guests.

The last to leave were the gunmen. They had Fox excited about some new conspiracy theories and he was reluctant to let them go. Alex scrupulously avoided Melvin's face. He couldn't hold a poker face while the sight was still so fresh in his mind.

While Fox said his good-byes to Frohike and Langly, Alex cleared the rest of the dining room and started the dishwasher which was fully stacked.

Fox locked up and gathered the rest of the glasses and coffee cups from the den and living room, emptied a bowl filled with grape stems and cherry pits and picked up candy wrappers from the table. In no time they had everything cleaned and the dishes put away. Alex shooed Fox away from the kitchen but Fox was insistent and then curious as to what Alex was hiding from him.

"That was a great party, don't you think?" Walter asked. He pulled off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes.

"Alex let me help you, would you?" Fox said as Alex blocked the door.

Alex sighed and let him in.

"What the hell is going on?"

"I think they're spies," Alex replied.

Walter and John rushed in to see what the commotion was about. Behind their gags the couple tried to speak and shout for help.

"Alex what in the hell are you doing?" Walter demanded.

"Jesus Alex, are you drunk again?" John asked.

Alex gave him a cold look. "No. I'm perfectly sober. But these two are up to something and I'm damn sure going to find out what it is."

"What do you mean? And what's with the gun?" Walter asked in a calm but weary voice. It was much easier to get answers out of Alex when one presented a calm and relaxed appearance rather than shouting and beating on him.

"I'm going to interrogate them." Alex took off the gags and menaced them with the gun. "Okay first things first. Who are you working for?"

"Nobody. We just work for ourselves," Dirk sputtered out nervously.

"Bull shit. I know you're not English. Your accents were slipping. And who paints those paintings of yours? And for that matter are those kids of yours plants too?"

"What are you talking about? Plants?" Mona asked.

"Who is it? CIA? FSB?"

"What's that?" Dirk asked, looking more confused by the minute.

Walter sighed and poured himself a drink.

"Formerly the KGB," Alex answered in a dramatic voice.

"Are you crazy bloke? We're not spies. We're artists!"

"I've seen your work. I wouldn't call you artists," Walter said dryly.

Fox snorted a laugh. "Alex why would you think they're spies?"

"Their accents kept slipping the more they were drinking. Didn't you notice?"

"Yeah, as a matter of fact I did."

"I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation. Alex they've been in the country for a few years now. They're just losing their accents. That's all. The more time I spend here the more I've lost my New York accent too," John explained.

Alex rubbed his chin with the gun. "No, that's not it."

Mona hung her head. "You're right. We're not English. Please put the gun away and we'll tell you everything." Tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes. "We're not spies. I swear. Our kids aren't either. We're just artists really. It's just that people didn't take us seriously when we first started out, so we went to a speech coach and we learnt to speak with these English accents."

"That's right." Dirk nodded emphatically. "He was an excellent teacher. We just started speaking like this and people paid attention to us and then our work got noticed and soon we did a couple of exhibits. Nothing major, but we attracted attention."

"I think you should demand a refund from your coach," Fox replied. "I've spent some time in England and frankly those aren't the most convincing accents I've heard. I thought maybe you were just snobby and wanted to sound important myself. Nothing personal you understand."

"No offence taken mate. We had to keep up the accents to ensure we got exhibits and then people figured we really were English and then we sort of fudged our biographies and by this time we'd gone too far and had to keep up appearances."

"That's right. We never meant any harm. We just wanted people to buy our work. We're not spies Alex. I know you all worked for the government and you were involved in many top secret cases involving national security but we're not spies sent after you." Mona's tears had dried and she sniffled mildly.

Alex looked chagrined. "I'm really sorry, guys. I guess my spy radar was out of whack. You just struck me as suspicious." He put the gun away and untied them.

Mona and Dirk breathed sighs of relief and rubbed their wrists and ankles.

"So what is your real story?" John asked.

"I grew up in Brooklyn and my real name is Mona Dershowitz. I went to Europe with a friend of mine to tour the galleries and museums for a summer. That's when I knew I had to become an artist. I worked my ass off achieving that too. You wouldn't believe the places I slept when money was low. I worked in all sorts of media, sketched the Eiffel tower like the typical tourist, studied in whatever class I could afford and became a model's artist to make a few bucks. Then when I was disillusioned and broke I went back home and met Dirk in California at a Pottery Barn of all places."

"What about you Dirk?"

He licked his lips nervously. "Well I'm originally from California. My real name is David and we decided on using the last name Niven because of the actor. David Niven. It sounded cool. Plus the accent. I mean, who can resist a British accent?"

Alex burst out laughing. "I'm sorry but that is too funny."

"It gets worse. I started out in the art world by drawing caricatures on Venice Beach. Not even my hair color is real. This," he pointed at his shock of dirty blond hair that hung in one eye and was spiked up in the back, "is courtesy of Brad Johns. We fly him in."

Alex's mouth hung open. "Wow, that must cost a bundle."

"How do you know the name of famous hair colorists?" Fox asked.

"I read fashion magazines on occasion," Alex replied.

"So you two met and married and began to take the art world by storm," Alex concluded.

Mona and Dirk looked at each other. "Well we hit it off big time but it took a while before stardom found us. In the meantime we worked all sorts of odd jobs, waiting tables, tour guides at museums, sewing, bartender. But all the while we honed our craft and we got lucky. When the children began to speak, we made sure to talk with an English accent all the time to ensure they would sound like us."

"Well, that's a great story and don't worry we won't tell anyone. I'm really sorry about what I did though. I suppose it might become a great story at a cocktail party."

Mona laughed. "You're probably right. And all is forgiven."

Dirk shook his hand. "Right. We should be going home now to check on what kind of damage the kids have done. Cheerio fellows."

They went out the kitchen door.

"That was some party," Walter said and took the gun out of the kitchen drawer. "Alex I'm going to put this someplace safe and I'm going to ignore the last fifteen minutes."

"Thank you." Alex kissed Walter gratefully.

"I seem to remember something being mentioned about pushing me down onto a soft bed and getting fucked like there's no tomorrow." Fox looked seductively at Alex.

Alex grinned and pulled him close for a deep kiss. "That Tiramisu definitely gave me lots of sugar energy to tire you out."

"Hey show me what position Dinah and Melvin were in." Fox waggled his eyebrows and took off towards the stairs running.

Alex was startled speechless for a moment then gave chase.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to laurel