The air was saturated with every perfume you could think of, decorating the thin necks of every woman that strode through the door.
It was heavy and thick, each scent tangling together so strongly it gave James a headache.
The lights were hardly any better; they were so low that he had to squint to make out details over the darkened shapes around him.
Decorative candles sat clustered together on round tables encircling the dance floor, tiny shadows dancing over embroidered tablecloths.
The brightest sources of light were the chandeliers that hung above the dance floor, casting sharp light in short abundance, raining down on the shifting crowd like morning sunbeams.
A soft classical piece had pairs dancing on the crystalline floor, moving in graceful movements. Dresses swam over the floor, fabric curling like waves over white sand.
James already hated this mission, if only because he had been forced to wear this exuberant gown as his disguise.
Though it was surprisingly comfortable against his skin, all plush under-fluff and delicate designs over the soft blue fabric of the outer layers.
But knowing Blake and how lazy he was when it came to disguises, James wouldn't be surprised if he stuck out like a sore thumb and blew their covers.
He sighed, reaching up to absently fix a lock of blond hair that curled daintily over his pale shoulder.
He kept his head down, letting his thick curtain of bangs hide his eyes, allowing him to search the room for any sign of his bratty partner. He had a fairly decent spot from where he sat.
His legs were crossed at the ankle, the weight of his white heels holding them together.
Gloved hands threaded themselves together in his lap, shoulders rolled back to hide any trace of his masculine physique the corset couldn't.
He prayed Blake would show up before James ended up drawing unwanted attention to himself.
But as luck would have it, that's exactly what happened.
A tall man approached him. Cold, grey eyes blatantly trailed over his body, and when he smiled, James bit back the urge to wrinkle his nose at the slimy sheen that coated the man's teeth.
The other gave a bow when he'd reached him, black hair like oil reflecting the candlelight, and James unwillingly let an uncomfortable shiver run down his spine at the man's voice.
"Dear lady! It saddens me to see such a beautiful woman sitting by her lonesome," he said, straightening enough to look into his face.
James didn't miss the vulgar look he gave him once more, tongue sliding over his lips like he was looking at a bountiful feast. “Might I ask your name?”
“Isn’t it rude to ask for a lady’s name before introducing yourself?”
The other laughed and James wanted to vomit, “Dear, that is true. I am Augustus Pharon van Rumoire the second.”
“An impressive title,” James deadpanned, though the tone goes completely over Augustus’s head.
“Why thank you! And you, miss?”
“A lovely name for a lovely woman.”
He was filled with the urge to kick the man’s teeth in and ram a knee between his diaphragm and bladder. Somehow he did neither of these through sheer will.
“So, I can tell you’re new to this gathering,” the man said, and James is immediately on the defensive under his calm exterior.
“What gave me away?” James asked politely, and he’s given that sickening grin again.
“Why, I know all of the ladies here,” he said, leaning down a bit, inching their faces closer as James leaned away instinctively. “Quite intimately, if I may say. But you - you are new.”
“Yes, and that bothers me. Quite a bit, if I may add.” Augustus smirked, a suggestive squint in his eyes, “I’d like to fix that.”
Before James could reply, a deep blue suit slid between them. His hands were captured, leading him up and away from Augustus.
“What- Excuse me!” Augustus snarled at the intruder, who gives him a coy smile over his shoulder.
“Time to change dances, my good sir! I’ll be stealing her for this one!”
The slimy man’s voice was soon lost as James and his new captor threaded their way through the crowd in circles. James took a moment to look up at his savior.
He was met with bronze skin over soft cheeks, clean shaven and high.
The coy smile from before laid comfortably on his face, floating under a sharp nose and sparkling, brown eyes like crystallized honey.
A dark mop of hair lay neatly folded in waves atop his head, bangs glazed back to allow light to brighten the already blinding smile his lips were pulling into when he looked back down to James.
“You’re late, Blake,” James huffed, scowling.
“Aw, come on Jimjam, cut me some slack!” The other man laughed, and takes up a dancing pose with him, “Do you know how long it took to look this gorgeous? I mean, more so than usual.”
The blond rolled his eyes and allows his fingers to slide between the taller man’s, thankful when the hand on his hip is light and unhindering,
squeezing just enough to guide him in soft circles. “If by ‘usual’ you mean ‘a complete mess’, then yes, I wouldn’t doubt it took you forever.”
“Hey!” Blake pouted, “I just saved you from a sleazebag and this is the thanks I get?”
“I was handling myself just fine, thanks.”
“He was literally gunna eat you alive, James.”
James suppressed a shudder, “Alright, maybe you saved me.”
Blake’s pout bloomed into a grin, “Yes! Score one for Blake!”
James gave the other a purposeful step on his foot, making him yip. “Keep your damn voice down, you blabbermouth. We’re on a mission!”
The brunet huffed again, “Right, right, I know that.”
James raised a brow disbelievingly, “Okay then, give me a rundown of the mission.”
“Right now?” Blake asked, blinking down at him.
“Yes, right now.”
“Well, we’re uh, looking for the Red Bandit,” the brunet started. “Who’s an infamous drug dealer to all the rich folk, and we got intel he was invited by this group of wealthy dudes-”
“By whom?” James asked.
Blake scrunched his eyebrows as he dug through his archives, “The ‘Order of the Phoenix’? Buncha rich families that work together to basically rule the lower classes under the government's nose.
“Good, keep going.”
“And he’s here to strike a big deal with-”
“And where is here, Blake?” James cut in as they circled around another couple. This was an excellent way for him to survey the other guests without suspicion.
“No, here.” James released the hand on Blake’s shoulder to point downwards in emphasis. “Where we’ve been told he’s going to be tonight.”
“It’s a gala?” The taller male replied, smile faltering when James glared, “The, uh- The Grand Silver Gala!”
James groaned, “It’s the Grandeur Silk Gala, but fine, close enough.” Blake laughed nervously. managing to avoid getting his feet stepped on a second time.
“Speaking of grandeur,” Blake continued, James squinting at his smirk. “That dress looks absolutely stunning. Well, if your grouchy face wasn’t ruining it, that is.”
“At least my grouchy face means I’m taking things seriously!”
“Hey, I am totally taking this seriously!” He released James’s hip to gesture to his overall self, “Do you even know how much it was to get this? A lot, James. It was a lot.
I had to spend, like, my last two paychecks on it and my hair appointment.”
“Oh, poor baby,” The blond drawled with a roll of his eyes.
“Alright, but for real,” the brunet said as he returned to his placement, and shifted them into a slower rhythm as the music changed. “You look good.
I actually didn’t recognize you until I saw that overly-polite smile on your face. You know, the one you get when you really want to curb stomp someone till their jaw breaks.”
James snorted at that.
Blake just grinned when James looked up again,
the blond moving to pick a stray cat hair - no doubt from the other’s Maine Coon - before reaching up a little farther to tuck a loose hair back behind his ear.
He grinned at the surprised look tingeing Blake’s features when he did so.
“I guess you cleaned up quite nicely, yourself. Though anything is an improvement from the sloppy attire you usually dress yourself in.”
Blake pouted and mumbled a rhetoric “Why am I friends with you again?”
“Because we work well together as partners,” James responded anyways. He chuckled, “Or should I say, how awful your aim is.”
Blake throws a hand to his chest and lets loose a dramatic gasp of disbelief, “Excuse you, I am a fantastic sniper! My skills are legendary!”
“What about when you tried to shoot an apple off of Ginny’s head but shot a hole in the bathroom wall.” The blond smirked at the flush of embarrassment that dusted the brunet’s freckled cheeks.
“Which was, mind you, five feet to the left of said apple.”
“I was laughing at her stupid joke,” Blake whined. “Do you know how hard it is to shoot a gun while laughing?”
“Apparently easier than outrunning a naked Dean when he’s almost shot through the shower wall.
” He laughed outright as the creeping pink burst into a full red flood, and Blake reached up to cover his face with his free hand.
“Don’t remind me,” he groaned. "I still have the marks from him.”
“You deserved it.”
“Hey, cut a handsome guy some slack.”
“There’s a handsome guy?” James asked, leaning to look around them, “Where? I can’t see him.”
“Alright, now you’re just being cheeky.”
Just then the lights turned off, startling everyone as the room was thrown into darkness.
Everyone came to a pause, the music halting and both James and Blake looking around, their banter hushed as their instincts picked up on a vague sense of danger.
The only thing still dancing were the flames, sitting protected on their candles.
Silence filters over the crowd and there’s a still note of tension, broken only when there’s a loud crash towards the VIP Guest table at the other end of the room.
There were multiple screams and the crowd scrambled to back up from the area.
Blake shot James a grin, “Go time?”
James nodded, reaching into a hidden pocket in the folds of his dress, fingers coming to rest on the handle of his dagger, “Definitely.”