A/N: More nonsense from me! This story began awhile back as one thing and recently turned into something completely different. It's just too bad that I always get inspiration when I really rather need sleep...
Dance With Me
C.C. absentmindedly swirled her champagne in its gold-rimmed crystal glass and tapped her foot impatiently. She was growing tired of hearing Nanny Fine hum every song the band played when she wasn't whining to Maxwell about some useless nonsense. Just when C.C. was beginning to voice her wonder at why she came to these charity benefits at all, the tune of a certain familiar song rising from the band distracted her from those thoughts. She pursed her lips slightly in an effort to hide the smile that curved her lips upwards as the singer's voice swelled with each progressive note. She thought back to the awards show she had paid Niles to escort her to; he had ended up ripping the check, and they had shared a final dance by the fire in the Sheffield home to complete a glorious evening together.
"It's very clear our love is here to stay,
Not for a year but ever and a day..."
"Would you care to dance?" someone asked, interrupting C.C. from her fantasies.
She looked up to find a short brunette leaning into Niles, asking him for a dance. C.C. frowned. There was no way he would dance with that tramp, especially to their song.
"Of course," Niles answered, flashing his lopsided grin as he stood and accepted her hand.
C.C. could not hide her surprise, but she knew he wouldn't notice anyway, seeing as his full attention was now on the tramp. She felt a pressure behind her eyes as her throat tightened and her face flushed. She turned her head to avoid Fran's suspicious gaze in her direction. With a sharp intake of breath, C.C. rose from her seat at the table and quickly began to make her way from the crowd, with no heed to where she was going, as long as it was far way from Niles, the tramp, and that stupid, infernal song. Her mind was so distant that she nearly ran into a man as she took another sip of her champagne to steady her thoughts.
"Excuse me," she mumbled halfheartedly.
"No, excuse me," he replied with a smile. "Would you like to dance?"
C.C. didn't blink an eye as she turned the man down. He was her third refusal of the night, and truth be told, she didn't feel a single shred of regret for it. Sure, this man was handsome enough, with his dark hair and bright brown eyes gazing down at her from behind rectangular-shaped glasses frames, but then again, he was too feminine for her taste. She preferred more masculine men with sandy-colored hair, blue eyes, and...
Obviously the champagne was getting to her already. She sighed to herself as she downed the remains of the pale amber liquid from the glass, feeling no joy as the tiny bubbles burst on her tongue. Finally she found an empty, open balcony as her escape. The cool night air hitting her face and whipping her hair cleared her thoughts more than the alcohol had, but she still couldn't get him off her mind. She knew she had overreacted, and she had no excuse for it. She even tried to tell herself that a mere servant was not worth her trouble, but even this proved no avail.
"Oh, Miss Babcock, there you are!" Fran exclaimed as she burst onto the balcony.
C.C. groaned loudly as she slumped down onto the floor, her back propped against the outer wall.
"I want to be alone, Nanny Fine," she urged.
"No, you don't," Fran assured her as she took a seat on the floor across from her, careful not to damage her sequin gown. "Now, tell me what you're running from."
"Who said I was running from anything?" C.C. asked.
"Well, it's pretty obvious that you were."
"Listen, that's my business, and I don't have to-"
"It's about Niles, isn't it?" Fran asked, giving her a knowing smirk.
"What are you talking about?" she replied, the tone of her voice raising an octave.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about, Miss Babcock! I saw ya when Niles went off to dance with that girl."
"You mean that tramp?" C.C. snapped.
"So it was about him!"
C.C. groaned once more.
"I didn't say that."
"Ya didn't have to."
C.C. rolled her eyes.
"Honey, you have nothin' to worry about," Fran went on, fanning her hand dismissively in the air.
She cocked her eyebrow at the nanny. It was Fran's turn to sigh and roll her eyes.
"I just mean that when a man is as focused on a woman as Niles is, wild horses couldn't tear him away."
C.C.'s heart sunk.
"You mean from that tr– that woman?"
Fran looked at her as if she were crazy and then shook her head definitely.
"No. From you. Oy, for such a smart woman, Miss Babcock, you're pretty slow sometimes..."
"Whatever," she replied with what she hoped sounded like nonchalance.
She pulled her knees to her chest and buried her face in her palms, hoping that Fran would just leave her there with her thoughts. Fran seemed to get the hint, as she got to her feet and silently left C.C. alone on the balcony.
Just as C.C. had begun wondering how many minutes had passed since Fran had left, she heard a far too familiar voice speak above her.
"Now, tell me," he said, the timbre of his voice rich and warm, "why is the most beautiful woman in the room sitting out here on the balcony, all by herself?"
She raised her head to meet his gaze.
"Who?" she asked, feeling her body tense as Niles sat down beside her.
"You, of course," he chuckled. "Do you see anyone else?" He gestured around them. Because I don't.
C.C. rolled her eyes but felt her cheeks flush instantly at his compliment.
"You're drunk," she stated definitely. "You just called me beautiful and a woman in the same sentence."
"I'm not drunk," he assured her. "I just wanted to know if you'd like to dance with me. But I know that elephants aren't exactly known for their gracefulness."
This elicited a deep frown from C.C. Why couldn't he give her a decent compliment without ruining it with an insult?
"It's more like Babcocks don't dance with the help," she deadpanned.
Niles lowered his head slightly as he felt the blow of her comeback. Her heart wrenched as she saw the look of pain cross his face. Something inside her made her want him to feel hurt as badly as she hurt when he had abandoned her for that tramp, but her attempts were always unsatisfactory; causing him pain never did anything more than increase her own. Her heart sank as he began to rise to his feet to leave her there.
"Wait, Niles," she called, placing a hand on his shoulder before he could go any further. "I would love to dance with you."
He didn't need to know that she had refused every other man that night who had offered, and he certainly didn't need to know that he was the reason for that.
Niles smiled and got to his feet, extending a hand down to her. She gratefully accepted and felt a rush of thrill in the way he so gracefully and effortlessly lifted her to her feet. The faint sound of a new, slow melody could be heard through the crowded room, though the tune was unrecognizable.
"Dance with me, right here," he whispered to her.
"You don't want to be seen with me?" she asked, the feel of his breath on her neck and his hands still locked within her own suddenly making her feel uncomfortable.
He shook his head.
"I never said that. I just think we already have the best view of anyone."
She shivered as he traced his fingertips over her bare shoulder. He clenched his teeth and swallowed hard as he fought the urge to kiss her delicate, moonlit flesh. Without further hesitation, C.C. melted into his arms and rested her head gently in the crook of his neck. His senses whirled with the nearness of her, just as she was intoxicated with his warm, sweet scent. Their bodies instantly fell in step of a rhythm that was as natural as breathing.
"Why did you leave?" Niles asked her at last, voicing the question that had been on his mind for so long.
"It's nothing..." she lied.
"Was it about the woman I danced with?"
C.C. grimaced and let out a hiss of a sigh.
"What makes you think that bothered me?" she asked, avoiding eye contact as they continued to dance. "You talked to Fran, didn't you?"
"She might have mentioned something," Niles chuckled.
She groaned in response.
"She only 'suggested' to me where you are and then ever-so-subtly blamed it all on me," he told her, a sarcastic gleam shining in his eyes.
"Do you remember the song you danced to with her?" C.C. asked slowly.
Realization dawned over Niles handsome features. He had known that something more had been bothering her, but he wouldn't have imagined it would be this. His heart swelled with hope; could she actually be jealous?
"Of course I remember," he replied, tracing her cheek lightly with the back of his thumb. "I particularly remember that night."
A small smile formed on C.C.'s lips, but he could not tell her that that night had been one of the best ones of his entire life...
"But you danced with her," she mumbled, half-hoping that he would not hear.
"Do you know why?" he asked seriously, tilting her head back so that she would have to look him in the eyes. "I didn't think you would remember, and if you did, I was certain you wouldn't care."
"Why?" she asked simply. "Because I'm so cold-hearted that I can't possibly feel anything for anyone other than myself?"
"Because you pretend to be," he answered, brave against the flame of anger that had suddenly sparked in her eyes. "I'm only a servant, after all."
He was setting her up – but for insult or for something else? She could not be sure. She buried her head in his shoulder and shut her eyes tightly.
"You're not just a servant," she said, her words purposely muffled against his broad, muscular shoulder.
"What was that?" he asked with a chuckle.
He had understood, but he needed to hear her say it once more to be certain she meant it.
"Don't make fun of me," she mumbled as she turned her head towards his neck.
"I wasn't," he assured her. "I just want to hear it again."
"I said you're not just a servant," she repeated, feeling foolish.
Truth be told, he never had been just a servant to her. She thought it to be quite obvious...
"You mean you wouldn't dance with just any old butler?" he asked, the utter sense of true delight he felt being deceptively masked by the sarcastically surprised inflection of his voice.
"Just this one," C.C. replied with a devilish smirk as she stroked the side of his face lovingly with her fingertips. "But you have to promise me something."
"Okay," he replied, somewhat hesitantly.
"That you'll never dance to that song with anyone but me."
Her eyes were bright with a merriment that seemed to light up her entire face as well. Niles pretended to consider her request for a moment.
"Only if you'll promise me something in return."
Her eyebrows raised to form the unanswered question of what he had in mind.
"Promise me that you'll never dance to any song with anyone but me."
"Hmm, you drive a hard bargain, Butler Boy," she joked before releasing one of her sultry laughs. "But I think I can manage that."
He laughed softly as he pulled her back into his arms and begun to sway with her once more to a new, slow melody that was all of their own making.