In which Lady Penelope gets Virgil laid (and possibly a boyfriend).
Virgil had never felt more awkward. If he was being honest, he knew he could rock a tux but damn, he seriously hated it. The bow-tie felt restrictive and his waistcoat felt tight across his chest. Lady Penelope kept his arm clasped close to her side. He was beginning to regret agreeing to be her escort for the night. Gordon said he and Scott would be at the gala later but they were repairing Thunderbird 1 after it got nailed by a large chunk of molten rock when they were rescuing a couple adrenaline junkies filming Mount Ruhapehu erupting up close. Alan was off-world collecting John so Virgil was the last brother standing.
“Oh come along now, Virgil. Stop fidgeting.” Lady Penelope looked like she’d just walked off the runway. Her pink Robert Cavalli ball gown fit her curves perfectly. Her hair had been expertly curled and her silver and sapphire jewellery glittered in beneath the lights. It seemed the whole world’s media had turned out for the event and they all have eyes for “The First Lady of Pink”. Virgil was acutely aware of that fact as they walked down the runway.
“I feel like a Ken doll in a rent-a-tux.”
“You look absolutely dashing so stop fussing. Just smile and wave. Every woman will want you… and quite a few men.”
Virgil fixed her with a suitably withering look. If she was fazed by it, she didn’t ever show it. She kept her champion smile and waved, moving with a waft of elegance. That summed her up perfectly: elegant. They eventually made it inside the venue after a horde of reporters ambushed her, interrogating her about her “new beau”. She responded with typical good grace.
“Now, now, everyone. Virgil is just a close friend of mine. I’ve worked with him for a while and he kindly agreed to accompany me to the gala this evening. He is quite the gentleman. I’m not actually dating anyone at this present time as I am currently married to my job” that sent up a rapturous laugh from all parties “I’m sure you will all know if and when I start focusing on romantic pursuits.”
With that, she glided past the squabble, yanking Virgil along with her.
“Is it like that every time you go to one of these things?”
“That was quiet, Virgil. Come on now, you get me a drink. I must dash and find someone I want you to meet.”
She disappeared in the crowds. Virgil sighed and dragged himself to the bar. He was beginning to wonder if Lady Penelope had chosen because he was the only one who ever got the drink order right. The barman was a cheery guy with a toothy, too-white smile. It was actually quite unsettling.
“Scotch on the rocks and a Bombay Sapphire and slim line tonic with plenty of ice and a twist.”
“Coming right up, sir” the toothy barman said as span round to address the optics behind him.
Virgil loosened the bow-tie and undid the top button. He could feel an ache forming in his feet from the dress shoes. Lady Penelope had argued that they were Italian leather and would look wonderful with his suit. Wonderful or not, they still made his feet hurt like hell. What he wouldn’t give to be wearing his old workman’s boots right now. The barman placed the drinks in front of him.
“How much do I owe you?”
“That will be £12.65, sir”
Virgil visibly paled. He handed over the cash and reminded himself to watch how much he drank tonight. Jeff Tracy might be a billionaire but Virgil was always fretting over money and that amount for two drinks made him feel uneasy. Lady Penelope appeared beside him with another man in tow, drinking a vodka Martini.
“Oh you are a love, Virgil. I swear you are the only person in your family capable of getting my order right.”
“I knew that’s why you’d picked me to come.”
“Oh your brothers will be here later, don’t fret. Anyway, this is the person I wanted you to meet” she gestured to the man she had hauled through the crowd “this is Mason Gardner. He’s Fly-Half for the London Wasps and the England Rugby team.”
Virgil looked at Mason and had to muster all his restraint not to either flirt outrageously or start biting his lip. Mason was about Virgil’s build but slightly taller. He had short-cropped, dark blonde hair that had been run through with wax to look presentable for the event. Clearly, shaving wasn’t a point of concern for him judging by the stubble running across his jaw and neck. His eyes though, they were halfway between hazel and brown but with flecks of green and just a slight pop of light blue. It suddenly dawned on Virgil why Lady Penelope was so eager to have him accompany her to this gala.
“Lady P, can I talk to you for a sec?” Virgil asked, his gaze still fixed on Mason. She gestured to Mason, asking him to wait one moment while she took Virgil aside.
“Are you fucking serious?” Virgil asked.
“Oh, Virgil don’t be such a child.”
“Penelope… seriously, he’s gorgeous but why are we playing Cupid?”
“Virgil, you are so precious sometimes. Look I met Mason at some soiree or another after the Six Nations final. He mentioned about wanting to meet someone and maybe start dating. He’s been in the closet longer than you have and honestly I think it would do you some good. You’ve hardly taken a break since you started taking an active role in International Rescue. It would be nice to see you unwind and start to just be more open. Not just to other people, but to yourself.”
Virgil frowned as he considered what had just been said. Lady Penelope was right, of course, he had been throwing himself at his work since University, be it something creative or off on another rescue. His father had set a no outside contact rule but Virgil had never paid much heed to it (though when Gordon found out about his Grindr page, he instantly regretted breaking that rule). Maybe it was time to grow into himself a little more.
“Okay, fine. But I swear if this goes wrong-”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, Virgil just get over there and try not to make a sow’s ear out a silk purse.”
Lady Penelope shoved him with unexpected force towards Mason and took a generous swig of her drink.
“Mason, my lovely, it’s always a pleasure” she kissed him lightly on the cheek “now if you do excuse me I have to find the Duchess of Cambridge. I know she’s around here somewhere. Virgil will keep you entertained. Au revoir!”
She floated into the crowd once more, leaving Virgil alone at the bar with Mason.