Italics – script from the book "Death Bringer"
China smiled as a song she recognised began playing. She turned her head to find Skulduggery already looking at her. She held out her hand to him and waggled her fingers playfully, "They're playing our song."
He looked to Valkyrie, "If you'll excuse me...?" he said while moving away from her slightly towards China.
Valkyrie smiled at him, "Go right ahead".
His gloved hand slipped into China's and he led her onto the dance floor, weaving in among the other dancers. He spun her under his arm then pulled her close. His arm slid around her back, the other gripped her hand in his, holding her close to him and strongly. She placed her other hand on his boney shoulder and they took the first step.
They both moved confidently and gracefully, never once making a mistake, never once faltering. They moved as once around the floor and among their fellow dancers.
"Looks like you haven't lost your touch" commented China as they gracefully stepped together in a pattern that would make any lesser being stumble.
"Of course not, my dear China, i'm as graceful as ever – flawlessly so" he replied humbly as he spun her under his arm.
She chuckled as she moved closer to him again, his arm encircling her waist, I wouldn't expect any less or any more."
He remained silent but she knew if he had a face he would be smiling. She could remember back when he had a face – back when he had everything. He hadn't been too bad to look at, she had to admit – he had been rather hansom. With thick, brown hair that always managed to sit perfectly, clear, pale skin, bright green eyes as a smile to enchant. Not to mention his impeccable suits. Now that she thought about it, she had never saw him without his suits – not that she wanted to see him without. Well, not that she would ever admit to it. Whatever.
She shook herself out of those thoughts and realised Skulduggery was waiting her to answer him.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" she asked him, refusing to allow herself to blush as he thoughts continued to stray to a less skeletal Skulduggery with no suit or indeed item of clothing on.
"I said we must look like quite the couple, a Skeleton and the most beautiful woman in the room dancing together. Quite gothic, not too happy, like Bunnies."
China was quite used to Skulduggery's strange humour by now, even if since spending a great amount of time with the Faceless Ones it had stepped up a notch. Finding herself unable to find a suitable answer she resorted to teasing, "My oh my, the great Skulduggery Pleasant is no longer immune to my charms? Calling me beautiful? What on earth has gotten in to you?"
He snorted softly as he dipped her, then holding tighter around her waist he pulled her up again and continued moving around the floor, "I just thought I'd boost your self-esteem a little, after all my incredible good looks are stealing all the attention away from you, it isn't easy being such a handsome devil as i, i just don't want you too lose faith in yourself."
She smiled softly and rolled her eyes, always the charmer. The continued dancing, their little games of flirtatious teasing were always amusing. But China had grown tired of it all. Though she would never admit to it, she had feelings for the mysterious detective. There was a dark, dangerous side to him that she found fascinating. But most of all he resisted her, he didn't throw himself at her feet like all other men did, he was a challenge, he was something new to her even though she had known him for a very long time. But revealing her feelings to him? Never. She would never reduce herself to such weaknesses.
Indeed, her pride was not all that kept China distant from the Skeleton Detective, her past haunted her every bit as much as his haunted him. He searched for forgiveness, deeply regretting all he had done in the past, so much so that he alienated himself from others, strove to find a way to find a peace inside himself he had lost so long ago. They were much more similar than he knew.
Bu if he knew, oh if he ever found out about her secret, about her part in his past. How she had been the reason he was as he was now. He would never forgive her, he might even kill her. China could never do that to him or indeed herself. Retaining her mask of carelessness, of sobriety and complete calm was what she prided herself on; showing even the slightest notion of weakness was never an option. But the threat of her dear friend Eliza Scorn loomed ever darker on her, heightening her gilt and sparking a fear in her she hated and would rather banish. Scorn had her cornered and she knew it, she knew China inside and out – that included her past, he current feelings for Skulduggery and how it weakened her. How it could be used against her. And how it was.
"China?" she was snapped back out of her thoughts once more by that voice like velvet, she closed her eyes in a long blink as she invited the comfort of that voice into her. No. She had to remain as she was, not to show a weakness. Never to let him know. No matter what.
"China," he called her name again, his voice slightly louder. Her eyes slipped open and stared deep into the shadowed depths of his empty eye sockets. Shadows flickered within him. He was empty inside, he was nothing now and it was all her fault. He was what he was now because of her.
"Are you alright?"
But he didn't know. And she was determined to make sure he never would. She had built up his trust to this point, she had followed him, joined him though she hated doing it so. She hated ever choosing sides now, she preferred to drift between the two, that way she couldn't get hurt or two disappointed when one lost. But recently she had found herself doing all in her power to help Valkyrie and he. They hadn't seemed to notice the sudden change for which she was grateful. But she had tried this long to build up this trust, to have him understand her not as a temptress who was only out for her own gain, but someone he could rely on. Nothing was going to threaten that – especially not the truth.
"I'm fine, just a little dizzy from all this spinning. We should stop."
They did, standing in the middle of the floor with their arms still around each other. His head tilted to the side and for a wild moment she thought he was going to attempt kissing her. But he couldn't of course – he had no lips.
Well, he would if he put on the facade. I wonder what it would be like to kiss him like that.
China found herself leaning in slightly, but caught herself and moved back. Stepping out of the comfort of his arms. He remained still for a second then took her hand in his, tucking her arm under his own and walking with her to rejoin their party of friends.
Vex was speaking, she caught the drift of the conversation.
"Larrkin was a good man" commented Skulduggery as they re-joined the crowd of friends, "As was Hopeless. They died for what they believed in." He said, still holding China's hand under his arm.
China tried to ignore the fluttering in her stomach, "Hopeless tried to kill me once," she said aloud as she remembered back to those days once more, "This was back when i was fighting for the other side, of course. We had some good, good times" she commented, her mind drifting back to times when everything was much simpler, but so much darker.
"Hopeless and Larrkin," Ghastly said, raising his glass.
They all mimicked him – China and Skulduggery not having any glasses to rise simply bowed their heads respectfully and echoed Ghastly.
China felt Skulduggery's bony, gloved hand gently squeeze her own hand gently, and then he released her. She resisted the urge to grab hold of his hand again and moved away from him.
She felt dizzy, her palms were sweaty and her heart was thundering in her chest, her blood on fire. How could it be that someone was able to have this effect on her? It should be the other way around, but no, not Skulduggery, he was so deliciously different. He just had to be the one who could break China, who could resist her and it drove her mad. She refused to allow this attraction to exist, she was China Sorrows for heaven's sake!
But even as she wandered through the many people, smiling here and there, laughing, talking. Her eyes longed to stray to the detective, unknowing that his empty sockets were trained on her every move.