The Bet

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: I was in a really hopeless mood when I wrote this. -smile- I need a break from the Inhibitions series (hey, one can only write so much sex! -g-) and this is what happened. It's full of love and little else. -smile-

"Vic, there is nothing you could ever do that would surprise me," Li Ann said dryly.

"Oh, you think you know me that well, do you?" Vic said, slightly affronted.

"Yeah, I do," Li Ann said.

"You wanna bet on it?" Vic asked.


"Yeah," Vic replied.

"Sure," Li Ann shrugged. "What do you wanna bet?"

"If I win," Vic said slowly, "You pay for dinner for two at a restaurant of my choice."

Li Ann's brow crinkled. "Dinner for two? Why not just pay for dinner for us?"

"Because," Vic said patiently, "I might want to take someone else out to dinner...on you."

"Whatever," Li Ann said, rolling her eyes. "If I win," she went on, "you have to tell Mac that it was you who slipped him the mickey at last year's Agency Christmas party."

"Li Ann!" Vic exclaimed, horrified, "He acted like a complete fool! He'll kill me."

"If you're so sure you can surprise me," Li Ann shrugged, "it shouldn't be a problem."

Vic hesitated for a long moment before reluctantly agreeing. He had a point to prove, after all. Vic finished his drink and stood up from the table where he and Li Ann had been sitting. "Where are you going?" Li Ann asked.

"To think," he replied, "I have to come up with a way I can surprise you, after all." As Vic left the bar, he was already deep in thought. He knew what he could do to prove to Li An that he could surprise her, he just had to decide if he could go through with it. Or if he wanted to.

The next afternoon, Vic had reached his decision. It was really no decision at all. After all, he had been the one holding back. So, just before the meeting that afternoon, Vic leaned over to Li Ann and whispered, "Get yourself and Mac to The Mike tonight, before seven."

"A kareoke bar?" Li Ann asked skeptically.

Vic cocked an eyebrow. "What, have I surprised you already?" he asked, amused.

"No," Li Ann insisted defensively. "I knew you'd do something ridiculous to try and surprise me. It's not working yet." Just then the Director walked in, cutting their conversation off with a glance.

That night, at The Mike, Mac and Li Ann sat just in front of the stage, wondering where Vic was and when he was going to show. It five to seven and they'd already been forced to endure an off-key rendition of Pretty Woman and an adolescent boy's unsuccessful attempt to sing Hotel California all the way through without his voice breaking.

"Why are we here?" Mac asked again.

"To settle a bet with Vic," Li Ann answered.

"Hellllloooo, Ladies and Gentlemen," the announcer said, returning. "Our next performer is ready to take the stage." Mac and Li Ann winced, anticipating another painful mutilation of some familiar song. "We have Victor Mansfield singing, 'All For You', originally by Sister Hazel."

The partner glanced at each other in mild surprise. Not only was Vic singing, he was singing decidedly outside of his preferred genre. The stage lights came up and Li Ann blinked in surprise. Vic sat on a stool, his posture relaxed, the mike gripped loosely in one hand, unlike the white- knuckled grip most of the other performers had displayed. He looked...comfortable. And sexy. He was wearing the tightest black jeans Li Ann had ever seen him in, black dress shoes and a jade green shirt that set off his eyes perfectly. As she watched, he raised the mike and began to sing.

"Finally I figured out, but it took a long, long time..."

Vic's husky voice set off the song perfectly, and Li Ann realized that he was paying no attention to the words on the TV screen or the cheesy video that accompanied them. He had memorized this song. Vic stood and made his way to the front of the stage, eventually stopping directly before her and Mac. //Why did he think,// she wondered, //that singing this song to me would surprise me?//

As she listened to the words and followed Vic's gaze, Li Ann realized he wasn't singing to her at all. He was singing to Mac. Glancing over at her partner, it was clear to Li Ann that Mac knew that he was Vic's intended audience. He met the other man's gaze wide eyed, surprised etched into every line of his face.

"It's hard to say what it is I see in you, Wonder if I'll always be with you. Words can't say it, I can't do Enough to prove it's all for you."

As Vic sang, the emotion in his voice strengthened. Li Ann could tell he was putting everything he had, heart and soul, into the song. The song wound down, and Vic made his way back to the stool, sitting as the lights faded out. After a moment of amazed silence, the bar erupted into applause.

Li Ann looked over at Mac to see him grinning widely. She spotted Vic working his way towards their table. He looked nervous, but when he spotted Mac he too broke out into a wide smile. Mac stood as Vic reached the table and reached out for his partner's hand, pulling Vic close before kissing him quickly. They sat down together.

"Vic," Mac said, poking his lover playfully, "I know I told you I wanted us to come out to Li Ann, but that was a little much, don't you think?" His grin showed he was only kidding.

"This from you?" Vic laughed. "You can't even get through surveillance without pushing things!"

Mac glanced over at Li Ann, who was watching them with a bemused expression. "Vic," he said conspiratorially, "we seem to have startled Li Ann. I guess we had her fooled after all."

"Me and everyone else," Li Ann said, recovering. "How long has this been going on?"

"Four months," Mac said definitely.

"No, five," Vic corrected. "Remember, just after the Cole case?"

"Yeah, and that was four months ago," Mac insisted. Li Ann couldn't help smiling a little herself as they bickered. "Okay, five," Mac eventually conceded.

"I can just tell you're the type to forget anniversaries," Vic said with a melodramatic, long suffering sigh.

"Vic," Li Ann interjected, cutting off Mac's retort, "why didn't you say anything before now?"

"I didn't want to say anything until I knew it was serious," Vic admitted, glancing nervously at Mac. "I mean, for awhile there things were pretty confused."

"I take it this," Li Ann's gesture included the whole bar, "means things are serious?"

"As a heart attack," Mac said solemnly.

"I hate that expression," Vic complained good-naturedly.

Mac sighed. "Vic, that's why I use it. I'd have though you'd have picked up on this by now." He smirked and Vic elbowed him gently.

"So am I the first to know?" Li Ann asked.

"Of course," Mac said. "Well, other than The Director."

"You didn't disable the cameras in you apartments?" Li Ann said, incredulous.

"Sometimes there's just no time," Vic said, winking suggestively at Mac.

"Okay, okay," she protested, raising her hands. "I don't want to know. Vic, I concede. You have surprised me." She slid her credit card across the table.

"Li Ann bet me I couldn't surprise her," Vic explained in response to Mac's inquiring eyebrow. "I won dinner for two." They immediately began bickering over which restaurant to go to, and Li Ann sat back and watched, chuckling.

//I'm not envious,// she told herself. //I'm not.// They looked happy together, she realized.

//Well, maybe just a little.//