Chapter Six

A swath of pastels, browns, and blacks spun around the floor; in the distance came a herald of strings and piano. It wove through the moving crowd of voices and laughter, going in one ear and right out another.

Pale lips enclosed over the edge of a clear glass; yellowish liquid disappeared betwixt and beyond. It curled down his throat as he pulled the cup away, bubbling as it danced all the way down to his stomach. Cold blue orbs stared at the champagne glass; it rotated in his hand, swirling the sweet stuff like a miniature whirlpool.

"You look positively bored, Will."

His gaze pulled away from the drink and his hand lowered. He blinked once and turned to look down at Reggie. She was smiling brightly, making the ringlets that danced around her features all the more… fitting. He wondered if she knew how lucky she was to be so beautiful and to bear a kind heart. He would have told her don't lose it. But, then it would have turned the moment to something melancholy. So, instead he smiled just barely and stilled his swirling hand, saying, "I'll never be bored, Reg, at least not with you around. Now, when you get married, that will be another matter entirely. I'm sure I'll be bored to tears then."

She laughed softly, inciting just the response he imagined. "That's probably true. Although, I will say this: finding a young man to fit my criteria will be difficult."

"Oh, you mean the sort that doesn't mind letting his wife practice her aim with her finest pistol?" he said just softly enough.

"Oh, hush you… A girl can dream." She glanced about as if afraid someone heard him, fanning herself lightly.

He chuckled lightly and took a sip from his long stem glass.

"Oh, Lily is here! Finally!"

William shifted left, following Reggie's line of sight. He kept his smile in place as he took another sip, stuffed a hand in his pants' pocket, and watched her drift through the crowd towards them.

"I hope I'm not too late," she said a little breathlessly, fanning herself. "My, my, it is hot in here. So many bodies. The Finlake has really outdone herself this year." She glanced around, eyes briefly touching on the dancers. "Well," she began looking over at the duo. "Why don't I take Reggie off your hands so you can wander a bit, hm?"

"Yes, please," Reggie said at once.

"Well, I know when I'm not wanted," William announced with a grin. He gave each woman a kiss on her temple, much to their huffing about his comment, before he wandered off into the crowd. "Do have fun."

"Not to worry, we will," Lilith said just before he was out of sight.

He shifted through people talking in crowds, gathered along the walls, avoided eyes that were drawn his way… the whispers.

"Is that…"

"William the… well you know…"

"…bloody."

"Yes… exactly."

"Horrible poet."

"Dressed very differently tonight… My…"

"…won't do him any good. Money trouble, if you excuse my vulgarity."

His jaw flexed as he increased his pace and ignored it, taking the stairs to the second ballroom level quickly. He set his drink in the hand of a servant offering drinks and continued on, ignoring the looks of curiosity as he took another in place of his last with a smoothness he didn't even notice himself.

No, it was good he wasn't with Reggie and Lilith. In all likelihood it would do more damage than good to his sister's prospects for a proposal. He stilled as he reached the top, stepping away from the stairs and looking down. Already he could see someone filling out her dance card, and another. With her beauty, despite not having much of a dowry to offer, Reggie would do as well as Lilith had done. Still… he hated that he couldn't offer more for them.

He needed air.

William turned and made way to cross the distance to the open balcony just along the back wall. The curtains wisped in the wind, white folds curling in the breeze. It felt cooler up here, so he was certain it would feel much better out there. Sweat was already starting to gather under his cravat; he resisted the urge to tug on it.

"William! There you are!" He stopped mid-step and tilted his head in the direction of his name.

"Join us!"

He sighed as she spied Lord Hastings waving him over; the lithe man, wrapped in finery he couldn't begin to imagine affording, was grinning ear to ear. The action tugged at his moustache. He was surrounded by a small gaggle of women and men who were also dressed similarly. A few he recognized.

Honestly, he would have rather ignored them, but good breeding and manners dictated he go over now that he'd obviously noticed them. Anything else would just bring poor gossip on his family.

With another sigh he wandered over, preparing for the worst, smiling tightly. "Hastings," he murmured, stopping next to him.

"So, we were wondering about the party last evening. Just talking about it, actually. Heard you were there, William. You did hear about the… well, you know. Ghastly stuff. I can tell you weren't there long."

"Heavens no," a woman added. "He wouldn't be here with us otherwise, Lord Hastings."

William watched silently as she took a sip from her glass, all the while idly playing with a bracelet on her wrist.

"Very true, My Lady. Very true." Beady eyes turned back to William. "You didn't see anything out of the ordinary before you left, did you? We're all so curious."

"No, I'm afraid not. It's not the sort of thing I generally like to read about," he admitted.

"Certainly not. Our William much prefers poetry, isn't that true?" A woman he did recognize said—Lady Vinton. Young and still on the market, but a tongue that could slice a man in half. Got her in trouble more than once, or so he'd heard. Her father's money would get her a husband though, no doubt. He was richer than the king, by all accounts.

"Quite true!" Hastings added, clapping him on the back. William tensed, but he didn't appear to notice. "Won't you lift our spirits with some verse then?"

It would be so easy to walk away, really. So easy to make an excuse and leave, truth be told. But, they'd all know the reality—he'd be running. And for some reason he couldn't stomach that tonight. His throat was tight, his chest constricted painfully, and he felt the horrifying urge to do anything but speak… and yet he couldn't leave. He couldn't speak, but he couldn't leave.

"Hastings! So good to see you. Excuse my interruption, but I was getting bored. And you seemed like just the chap to assist with that inconvenience."

There was laughter from the group as someone stepped between William and Hastings, not blocking the way. William looked over, blinking a few times.

"Lord Blackwood! How good to see you."

"And you as well, Hastings. Come, let me introduce you to my nephew, Darian Clarke."

"You're an uncle? Still young, aren't you?" He chuckled.

"Margret was older, and you know it."

"True, true. Good to meet you."

"And you as well, My Lord."

Blue eyes snapped, locking in place. Blonde hair fell across his face, gently touching the ovular shape that dropped to a cutting angle, a defiant chin. Those eyes were bright—green as emeralds. Lips curled into a smile and he felt his own eyes narrow.

And then he jerked as those eyes locked on his, brows raising.

"Darian Clarke," he said, voice far too airy for a man, as he held out a hand. "And you are?"

#

"Are you sure you don't want a drink?"

Buffy sighed. "Very. Right now I'd like to find you-know-who." Her gloved hand slid along the railing as she took one step at a time to the upper level. Her and Kit both had spent the better part of a half an hour trying to find Spike with no such luck. At some point they'd spotted his two sisters in the distance; Kit had recognized them. But, no Spike to be seen. They would have asked if they knew where he was, but Kit told her that's not how things were done. If you didn't know someone you generally got an introduction from someone that did, unless you had a flattering purpose… such as asking a young woman to dance. But even then, a proper introduction was better.

And Buffy was not about ask either of them to dance. She was totally not ready for that.

As they both reached the top of the stairs and moved to the left, Buffy turned to Kit. "How about I—."

"Very true, My Lady. Very true. You didn't see anything out of the ordinary before you left, did you? We're all so curious."

"No, I'm afraid not. It's not the sort of thing I generally like to read about."

Buffy blinked; she knew that voice. She turned around completely and her eyes locked on a crowd of people not too far away.

"Certainly not. Our William much prefers poetry, isn't that true?" A woman said to someone; Buffy could just barely make out the side of her face and a Cheshire smile that curled her lips… cruelly?

"Quite true! Won't you lift our spirits with some verse then?"

And then a few people shifted aside just enough that Buffy could see him, finally. Her heart caught in her throat at the shaken distress in his clear blue eyes. How often had she seen it? How many times had she looked down at him, curl in her lip, watching that heartbreak—fear—so evidenced in the prison of his gaze?

She took a step forward, not wholly realizing she had been until Kit grabbed her shoulder and stopped her.

"A moment. We'll do this the right way. Come on." And so he led her around the crowd, to William's side. She could see the tight curling of a fist from a distance, the shake in it as they drew closer and Kit brought them right into the fray, talking to a man who went by Hastings. She couldn't stop looking at him; it took everything in her to appear sharp as she shook Hastings' hand and smiled.

But those eyes were on her; she could feel them, knew them so well already. They burned through her, cut like a molten velvet touch that felt too good to be bad. She resisted the urge to exhale deeply and instead counted, doing so slowly. Carefully, her eyes turned to his and she raised her brows.

"Darian Clarke." She held out her hand. "And you are?"

He hesitated for a moment; she knew he had. There wasn't much about Spike she didn't know or understood by now when he did it. Eventually though, he took her hand and shook it with a decent amount of pressure.

"William Pratt, Lord Broderick," he supplied in response, voice always drawling it out.

She narrowed her eyes at that, releasing his hand.

"So, what of it, Blackwood? What do you think of these murders? The ones at the house of the Honorable Lord Wesley's last night? Hm? I'm sure you've been told."

"Yes, actually… I have. But not much; probably not anymore than you have, Hastings."

"Still, scary stuff. Some of the ton are leaving the season over it. Awful. Some girls may have to wait another season, if this mess keeps up."

"I've heard, yes," she heard Kit say as he placed his hands behind his back. "But, I'm quite sure we have better things to amuse ourselves with. I'm quite certain the ladies have no interest in such a topic."

"Quite not," one woman agreed, fanning herself as if to emphasize this point.

"We were discussing poetry," another lady said. The one with the Cheshire grin from earlier. Her cold eyes were on Spike, Buffy noted. "Don't you have anything for us, William?" Were these people his friends? She remembered well enough that people did not use first name unless they had permission… right? She couldn't be. Girl had bitch written all over her.

Buffy glanced at him just barely; there it was again, that horrified look from earlier. It was all in his eyes. And everyone was staring at him… She frowned and looked back at Cheshire Smile. It was like Willow and Cordelia all over again on her first day at Sunnydale High.

"Do you write?" she asked him suddenly, cutting the strain off in his eyes almost immediately.

He blinked as he met her gaze, but only two or three times. "I ah… yes, sometimes."

"Then perhaps I could get your opinion on something…?" She was looking at him now, trying not to be selfish as she saved him, trying not to strain her own heart on more than she was allowed to have. No, she was doing this to see if something was there… behind the blue of his eyes; something Spike.

He was looking at her curiously again, unsure. "I'll help if I can."

Buffy rubbed her chin, ignoring the stares from the expectant group and she considered the words in her head… trying to remember it all, perhaps a bar or two would be alright…

She met his eyes again.

"I died," she said softly, strongly, "so many years ago." There was a little pause before she began again, poignant as she held his gaze. "But you can make me feel, like it isn't so. Why you come to be with me, I think I finally know," she almost whispered, looking for the spark. "You're scared," she said with some emphasis, "Ashamed of what you feel. You can't tell the ones you love, you know they couldn't deal… Whisper in a dead man's ear… That doesn't make him real." She swallowed as she was certain something in his breathing changed; she could feel it. "That's great," she went on almost playfully, "but I don't want to play. Because being with you touches me more than I can say. But since I'm only dead to you? I'm saying stay away.

"And let me rest in peace…"

She didn't heart the quiet, the serenity; she didn't feel the tension beyond what she held in his gaze, beyond what she could feel between them and always had. What she wasn't going to ever have for herself.

"That was… beautiful," one woman said. "Did you write it?"

She kept her searching hazel eyes locked on his, not yet ready to break it. "No… a good friend of mine did. Someone dear to me…" Carefully, she pulled her gaze away from his and towards the group, smiling softly. "It's good to know someone likes it."

"Quite," William said next to her. "It was… very good." His voice was almost a whisper.

"So, Hastings, will I see tomorrow at the tables?" Kit took hold of the group conversation, cutting of Buffy and William altogether.

Good work, Kit.

She looked over at William. "Perhaps you'd like to step outside with me? Talk about it further?" Her voice was softer this time, under the radar of the group.

The corner of his mouth curled up. "I'd love to."

They both quietly turned away from the group and made way towards the open doors.

Kit's glanced over briefly, taking a sip from his drink, smiling slightly just before going back to the conversation. She was smooth; he'd give her that.

"Clarke—."

"You can call me Dare," he interrupted as they stepped beyond the open threshold. "I'm not really into the whole stuffy upper crust society… rules."

William stopped and put his hands into his pockets; he watched the back of the shorter man. He was shorter… perhaps a good six inches or so, give or take. "We barely know each other."

"Does it matter?"

"It should." He watched him lean forward into the railing, hands placed some distance apart. As he did so, William was almost certain there was a smile he couldn't see forming on the blonde's face.

He found himself narrowing his eyes. Caution filled him at this American stranger for some unknown reason. There was a tension, like oil rolling against water, inevitably unable to join happily. Still, at the same time he felt a level of immediate kinship.

Impressions were an odd thing, and each one was felt in different ways. In William's case, most people were either honest about who they were or weren't; he was either good enough or wasn't. More often than not, he just wasn't.

But, the impressions were always unique. You could sometimes tell right away when you met someone if you were going to get on well or not—if you were going to be immediate bosom buddies or instant enemies.

He couldn't decide with Darian Clarke.

"I don't think it should," he finally said, turning to look at him.

If there had been a smile it was gone.

"Pointless rules are pointless," he continued.

William raised a brow. "You sound a bit like a rebel, or perhaps a philosopher."

"Maybe both?" He did smile then.

"Perhaps," William allowed with a tiny curve of his lips. There was a pause between the two of them as he stepped forward and to his right side. "You like poetry?"

"It's not my th—." He stumbled over his words, William noted.

His brow rose again. "It's not your…?"

He sighed, smiling. "Sorry, I'm trying to keep from talking a bunch of slang. I hear that's a bad thing around here."

"I thought you didn't care about the rules."

He rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. "It's for my uncle. Family. You get it, right?"

"I understand, yes." He smiled broader now.

The blond winced. "Yeah, understand…"

"You're bad at this."

"Very."

William chuckled.

"I don't hate it, no. I'm just not a fan most of the time."

"Of poetry," William confirmed as he sat down on the stone railing. "Then what was that about?" He motioned beyond the balcony doors where he could still faintly see most of the group still clucking away.

Darian's smile was gone as he followed his line of sight, but by now William was watching him again for an answer. Something changed in his green eyes; something flashed there. Something…. Guilt?

"I know a bully when a see one," he said, voice quiet, though not a whisper.

There was a short pause between them. William, because he was thinking deeply into that comment, and Darian (he hypothesized) because he was lost in his own head for a moment.

Green eyes met his blue ones. There was a level of falseness in his smile that traced a path into his eyes as well. "I'm new around here—obviously. I need a friend." He watched him quietly for a moment. "You look like you need one too."

"You won't be well liked for that choice," William felt the need to inform him.

"I'm not use to being popular or well-liked anyway."

"Somehow I doubt that." Where it had come from he wasn't certain, but it felt right to say it. "You look like the sort who's always surrounded by loved ones."

"There's a loneliness in that too, William," he said softly, bright green hues locking on his in an odd earnest way that made him feel like he was looking right through him.

He blinked unsteadily a few times and stepped back as the short man stood and came towards him.

Darian didn't seem to notice if anything was wrong, or if he was shaken a little. No, he just stopped a few inched away from him. It was enough space to be considered comfortable to any two men talking in private to themselves.

He was looking up at him, bright greens still as earnest as ever. "I'm nothing special, you know."

Liar, a voice said in his head.

"I don't care what they think about us spending time together, your friends. Unless you do?"

"They're not my friends," he replied instantly, coolly.

"Can we be? Not the, hello-and-how's-the-weather kind. More like the kind you're honest with. You know? I need that here with all the vultures running around. You?"

He'd wanted that for a while; he'd wanted it with Cecily. Growing up he'd been forced together with other children at the park and they'd gotten on well enough, but a lot of things had changed after his father had passed away and the money dwindled slowly out of sight. His uniquely wallflower personality made him out to be an embarrassment; bad poetry just made it worse.

People feigned civility with him to the extent that it was considered polite; carefully guised within conversation was all the cattiness they never thought he understood. Or if they did, they didn't care.

A real friend was something he could never recall having, he realized as he looked down at Darian's eloquent features that were too cut to be feminine and yet too soft to be masculine.

He sighed. "If you're up for the embarrassment, sure. I've no reason to say no."

When he smiled William blamed the happiness he felt on a new friendship, a new page in his life he'd never experienced before.


AN :: It felt awkward, the above conversation. I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with it. But then, I never expect this sort of situation to be anything but awkward for them both. So, perhaps in that sense it's appropriate.

An anonymous reader informed me that they weren't happy with Spike having sisters because it wasn't canon. So, first, when I explain myself here I'm not defending my writing. People are free to take from my prose what they will. If you enjoy it great, if not, I'm alright too. As a writer, all criticism is taken into consideration. Some of it hurts, some of it is pointless, and there is some of it still that is both hurtful and amazingly helpful to me. With that being said, this fanfiction is a rewrite of an old fic I wrote back in… well, before I knew Spike's past with his mother. So, this is a rewrite of the original, which had these two OC sisters in it.

So, at any rate, I posted this here because the reader didn't give me any contact information and I wanted to tell them why Spike has two sisters, just as I did in the first chapter author note.

At any rate, thank you for reading.

—Blade