[personal profile] lilychick
No, I have no idea why I'm posting these out of order.

Senior year, I think. I had this worked out in my head so that it was junior year, but I don't remember the logic and so I'm bumping it forward again.


Marquis In Spades

Jeffrey Dane Whitfield felt out of place. Which was the story of his life, though he'd never admit it.

Still, when forced to mingle at a party in Nicholas Golden's mansion, the feeling was more pronounced than usual. He sipped awkwardly at a flute of champagne, watched the crowd, and hoped fervently that someone would come over and talk to him so that he didn't have to initiate social contact himself. Jess (at whose behest he'd even *come*) was holed up in a corner with John Metcalf, and didn't seem likely to answer his plea any time soon.

Jeff scowled.

"Why so glum, Fearless Leader?" said Aaron, sidling up, to Jeff's great relief.

"Do you want the list?"

He shrugged lazily. "I guess not. Life is short and your list is long."

Jeff glanced around the ballroom (as that's what it was -- the prick had his own *ballroom* for Christ's sake) and proclaimed, "I don't know why I'm even here. Why am I here?"

"Because Jessica has you whipped, despite not being your date?" Aaron ignored Jeff's glare, taking a moment to survey the surroundings himself. "Only Nick would try to out-prom the prom," he observed.

Jeff snorted. "I'm surprised he could let go of that anti-social, 'fuck all of you' attitude long enough to organize a backyard barbecue, much less a major pre-prom party."

"And you don't have any attitude of your own, which is why you've been standing here ignoring everyone."

Jeff ignored this as well. "In fact," he continued, "I suspect that this is *still* a fuck you of some kind, and he just hasn't hit us with it yet."

"Paranoid," Aaron said matter-of-factly. "Where's my sister?"

Jeff blinked, startled at the realization that he could not, for love or money, remember where Karen had said she was going. "I...I don't --"

"Whipped," Aaron interrupted. "She's taking a look at the garden."

"Why do you ask me questions you know the answers to?"

"To piss you off." He drained his glass. "I'm going to discover from where the refreshments flow. Don't kill anyone."

"I'm in a room that contains Nick Golden *and* Jake Howell, and you think *I'm* the one who's going to kill somebody?"

"Well, I *would* warn them too, if not for one thing..."

"What's that?"

"I'm afraid they'll kill me."

Jeff rolled his eyes. "Get the hell out of here, Aaron."

"Yes, sir." Aaron turned and headed across the room, passing Jessica, who was coming Jeff's way. Aaron looked back over his shoulder with a smirk before disappearing into the crowd.

Jess grinned as she drew near, and Jeff felt his throat grow dry. She was dressed in a deep red satin gown that hung low off her shoulders, her dark brown hair pinned up in an elaborate style (that looked like it probably took much more time than she'd admit). "Lovely party, t'isn't it?" she greeted him, in an obnoxiously fake English accent.

"Like something out of Gatsby." He finished his drink, marveling once again at how incredibly ostentatious it was to have flutes of champagne at a party where no one could legally drink. "How's your date?"

Jess glanced back to her corner, where a fidgeting John was in not-totally-comfortable conversation with one of the Quinns -- Jeff wasn't sure which one. "Oh, Johnny's fine."

"Because, you know, I didn't know if he could function out in the open like this."

"Johnny's fine," Jess repeated, with a raised eyebrow. "How's Karen? No, scratch that -- *where* is Karen?"

"She stepped out to look at the gardens," he replied smoothly.

"Huh." She seemed disappointed that he was possessed of this knowledge, and Jeff silently thanked Aaron. "Why aren't you with her?"

He shrugged. "She said she'd be right back."

"I bet. No one could stay away from you for long, you hunk-o-burning-angst, you."

"Uh-huh." Jeff smiled coolly. "Have you had a chance to talk to *Hef* yet?"

The glee slipped slightly from Jessica's eyes, and Jeff felt simultaneously vindicated and...well, no, *not* shamed, but something that was a distant, mild relation. "He's busy, you know," she said airily. "Life of the party."

"I didn't know Nick even knew this many people who could tolerate him."

"Me either," a third, pointed voice interjected. "Must be all the free alcohol."

Jeff, to his great annoyance, felt a sharp pang at the way Jessica lit up when she heard Nick's voice. The host had appeared out of nowhere, dressed impeccably, and holding a champagne flute of his own, although his held a liquid with a suspicious tone almost as red as his hair.

"Must be," Jeff agreed. "It's certainly not your wit and charm."

Nick smiled, revealing perfect rows of what Jeff had always thought to be rather pointy teeth, and not the fake kind that Kevin was known to wear. "Jeffrey," he said, managing to sound unoffended and completely patronizing at the same time. "I am *so* glad you decided to come. Now it's *really* a party."

Jeff smiled back, knowing as he did that the twist of his mouth was even more crooked than usual. He couldn't think of an answer.

Jessica was willfully ignorant of all this, as she forced herself to be any time she witnessed one of Jeff and Nick's interactions. "Nicky," she said in a saccharine voice. "Why, you clean up so well that it's like you're a respectable person."

Nick raised an eyebrow, and looked at Jess appraisingly (with a particular halt, Jeff noticed, at her cleavage). "You, on the other hand, we could have done without." He paused. "So, how's your *date*?"

"*Fine*," she fired back, with considerably more irritation than she'd shown five minutes ago.

"I see you've pulled him out of his 4-by-4-foot cabin, which is a good first step towards rehabilitation."

Seeing that they had a common enemy, Jeff couldn't help but snicker, unfazed by the poisonous look that Jess shot him.

Still, her comments remained directed at Nick. "Pandering to the lowest common denominator to make believe that you are not, in fact, a complete social pariah, because deep in your heart of hearts, you really *do* just want to be liked? Gosh." She folded her arms. "And here I thought that was the point of Bone Marrow."

"Trollop, that was one of the worst run-on sentences I've ever heard out of you." Nick folded his arms as well, in an odd bit of mimickry. "And what's more, you're wrong. I've gathered you all to be my witnesses for a political statement later tonight." He smirked. "One that I'm sure you'll be *wild* about."

Abruptly, he turned away, moving swiftly across the room, stopping over to talk to Evan. Jeff watched him skeptically. "Political statement?"

"I don't like it," Jess replied. "Something's not right with him."

"Oh, and you can tell because his behavior is so different from normal." Jeff rolled his eyes.

"*Jake* is here," she stressed. "Troy and Jake are both here, and Nick doesn't care, and he's making a 'statement'?"

"Maybe he's being the bigger man?" he offered with a shrug.

She shook her head. "I say this with love, but I *know* Nick -- he is *never* the bigger man."

The joy of the character defamation was cancelled out, for Jeff, by the fact that Jess had just used the word love. In relation to Nicholas. This angered him to a level that he knew was completely irrational, and still, he sniped, "Much as I enjoy our time together, shouldn't you be rescuing Goth Boy from the horrible taint of human contact?"

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Jeff, he's --" Jess stopped short, seeing that Johnny was staring at her, dark eyes filled with mute pleading. She scowled. "This doesn't mean you're right."

"Of course not."

"I'll get you next time, Whitfield. Next time." With that, Jessica swished off, not even stopping to greet Karen. The latter watched her pass with great interest, just barely pulling her long blue train out of harm's way.

She walked up to a chuckling Jeff and grinned. "What's so funny?"

"Life," he answered mirthfully.

"I've always thought so myself, but you never agreed with me before." Karen studied him, almond eyes warm and yet eternally distant.

"How were the gardens?"

"Lovely," she replied. "Despite tripping over Allison and her latest prey. I think I'll ask Nicholas if I can paint there, if he remembers who I am. Did I miss anything good?"

"Nick's going to make a political statement, which I can only guess will result in the breakage of either Jess' heart or Jake's jaw." He rubbed his hands together. "I can't wait."

"Nice." Karen artfully tossed back the sheet of her black hair. "And you call *him* a sadist."

The commotion broke out before Jeff could answer.
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June 2009

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