Sorry about the delay on this one, been busy dealing with my latest disaster...I mean relationship :) I will try to get another part out in the next day or two to catch you guys up a bit.

As usual Comments or questions direct to Feed back is welcome.

Chapter Twenty-Three

It rained, as it so often had before, the drops hammering down upon the outdated model SUV as it ploughed its way over the rugged countryside. The Land Rover had never quite lost its usefulness in a climate that seemed to want to stay as rugged as it had the day it was discovered by John Cabot all those centuries before. With the constant snowfalls cars were at risk from being stuck in the fields, and as it melted, the mud seemed to suck at everything, which left the only reliable means of transportation outside of the regular road system being four-wheel drives.

Avery geared down as the Rover plunged through a small stream, negotiating the rocks with surprising agility for a motor vehicle of its age. Robert paid it little mind as he geared up again, his foot depressing the accelerator. The large green box-shaped four-by-four leaped ahead again propelling itself onwards through the countryside estates he had bought on the edge of Lake Ontario.

Lisa Sternosti sat impassive in the seat beside him, making no comment as the industrialist pushed the Rover to its limits. She could sense his frustration, his anger over the Tri-Tech merger. There was little that could be said to calm him down. He had been forced to gamble the futures of some of the finest men and women he had working for him, some of them his friends, and he hated himself for it.

The Rover crested a rise and followed the ridge a short way before slowing to a stop at the edge of a sheer cliff face. Below, the grey Lake Ontario boiled and frothed in its ancient fury, roaring its anger as it threw itself against the rocky cliff face. It was into the rain that the aging media mogul exited the vehicle, pulling with him a worn baseball bat and a bucket of balls.

He slipped off the overcoat he was wearing and tossed it lightly into the vehicle, bending down to scoop up one of the balls. He tossed the small white globe into the air, swinging the bat and connecting with a stout crack that sent the ball sailing through the air, arching slowly and gracefully down until it vanished with a splash into the waves below.

"I thought you preferred to golf," Lisa said, as she struggled to get out of the Rover and perched herself on the bonnet of the vehicle to watch him curiously, her eyes seeming to sparkle in the haze of the Canadian storm.

"I do," Avery replied sending another ball to its watery grave, "but golfing in the rain, off a cliff in Canada, isn't considered eccentric, I think some might call it a national pastime. I have a need to be different."

"Well, you could have always asked maintenance to open the roof of the corporate tower and let you golf that way, rather than drag me to the middle-of-nowhere place you call home so you can change your sporting habits." She reached into the pocket of her oversized jacket and pulled out a thermos, pouring herself a cup of steaming tea. "If I catch a cold when I'm pregnant, Mister Avery, not even the RCMP will save you."

Another crack, the ball spinning upwards this time as it sliced towards the right finally bouncing off of the edge of the cliff sending a shower of loose gravel plummeting with it. "You sound like my ex-wife. She used to make similar threats whenever I dragged her along on an eccentric quest."

"Ah, you're feeling nostalgic." She drank heavily from her cup, watching him hit his ball, wondering how the old man must have looked as a child in this god-forsaken country. She stopped herself; there was no imagining Avery being that young, the man had probably come out of the womb with more wrinkles than his grandparents. "Does this have anything to do with Bruce's late night antics?"

Avery turned to regard her with his stern eyes, "Bruce screwed me, and now I'm stuck in a deal that will make or break my company."

Lisa nodded, "You have taken risks in business ventures before, more risky than this, because you knew it had to be done. When you wrested control of the firm from old Mister Woods..."

Avery murdered another ball cursing loudly, "There was something I could do about that situation. Here with this one, I am stuck waiting behind a desk, praying that I will still have a company tomorrow, regretting ever starting the damn firm in the first place."

"You are the president of a multinational firm, arguably the richest man in Canada, and considered to be the businessman of the year. Your innovations to communication technology help people all over the world, and it breaks the monopoly the States and Japan have held for decades, an overwhelming success. Your humanitarian programs make parts of the world actually a decent place to live. Because of you, there are no children dying in the streets because there is no food to feed them. How exactly are you helpless?"

"I should have been able to prevent this." Avery turned the bat over in his hands, "you know this was a gift to me from the staff when we sponsored the celebrity baseball game at sky dome? Now that was a moment, just before the big Nortel layoffs, where we were still riding high on the IT industry, nothing could touch us. I taught that pup of a CEO of theirs a lesson he would never forget. I actually felt like I was doing something worthwhile."

"And after that?" she asked. "You accomplished a lot out there despite the fact that you lost a small fortune then. And you turned Avery-Woods around when other firms were laying off thousands of people. You stood firm and said no layoffs, a decision that went against your own board of directors, but you got them to agree to it. It staved off a recession, you have to be proud of that..."

"Neville Chamberlain did the same," Avery responded. "He negotiated peace with Hitler in 1938, a peace that only served to delay the inevitable. The last little while I have seen everything I believed and fought for fall apart because I trusted someone, and what do I find myself doing now?"

"You are not going to find the answers to your crisis of faith standing on a cliff on Lake Ontario, although you might discover a new variant of the cold virus."

Avery nodded pulling out the cell phone in his pocket, "Get me Bruce Weippert."

Chapter Twenty-Four

Tuxedo and tails, a classic that had never truly been replaced since its conception in the mid-1800's. A classic elegance that could set a tone of style, and inject a flare of grace into any social affair. Robert adjusted the tartan silk bow tie about his neck that matched his waistcoat, aware that he genuinely preferred the thick material's lines to that of a dressy suit. Somehow it felt right to him, as if in another lifetime he had been bred to it. Overtop his greatcoat, balanced across his shoulders, received a light dusting of the snow that had began to fall across the city, in time for the Tri-Tech party.

He got out of the car and walked up the steps to his house; it felt odd his arriving to his own party like a guest, but he had decided to get ready at the office leaving the caterers time to get everything prepared.

Behind him other guests were beginning to arrive, and Robert waited patiently for Lisa to check with the caterers that all was ready before he was admitted. Pomp and ceremony non-withstanding, Lisa never took a day off from her job, even though she had taken the time to don a striking black number, sequined and shimmering.

She took a moment to smile at him as he stood close to the door greeting guests as they arrived. A lot rode on this party, and Robert knew that everything had been building to that night. With the Avery-Woods shareholders meeting due on Tuesday he wanted to have the Tri-Tech deal resolved. He didn't like to feel so exposed, and despite Bruce's insistences that he had the deal well in hand, Robert knew he couldn't sit idle.

The party started quickly, the rooms filling up with his guests and Robert Avery moved away from the doors to circle the room with Lisa, trying to get a feel for who the key players were that had decided to attend. He hoped Rena Allison would arrive early so that he could bring his own charisma to bear.

They had set up a large dance floor in the main floor, almost a stage for the dancers to display their skills, and Robert was vaguely surprised to see Bruce Weippert in what could only be described as an eccentric taste in clothing.

"Elton John..." he murmured, remembering something about the musical icon and his outrageous outfits. It had to be a stunt; he was trying to draw attention to himself.

"I beg your pardon?" Lisa asked, straining to see what the old man was staring at.

Robert moved aside so that she could get a better view of the John Travolta moves. Weippert was quite agile for his age, moving in perfect unison to the two women who escorted him. The beat of the music made them sway as people formed a circle around the dance floor and clapped along. Lisa rolled her eyes as she watched.

"I think he looks ridiculous," she sniffed.

"He's doing his job," Robert said as he scanned the crowd. It would put the Tri-Tech stockholders at ease if they felt he was eccentric; give them an attitude of superiority over him, hopefully underestimating him in the process. It was clever.

Will Carter on the other hand looked smartly appropriate in his tuxedo, as always wearing a practical waistcoat rather than the cummerbund that was popular. Typical of Will, he always seemed to prefer practicality over style; it was something Robert respected about the young man.

Will nodded to him as he joined them, Lisa grinning and fussing with his collar. "It's a fantastic party," Will stated, holding up his glass of champagne.

"Let's hope it does the trick," Robert conceded. "Have you seen Ms. Allison?"

Will pointed and Robert turned. Rena looked resplendent as she moved through the crowd, and caught his eye. She smiled as she stepped forward. Robert returned the polite smile as he nudged Will, "Ask her to dance."

Will blinked. "Me?" he asked in surprise.

Robert smiled at Rena. "You look amazing," he said with a warm smile to her. "Allow me to introduce my assistant, Mrs Sternosti, and my Director of Human Resources, Mister Carter."

Rena Allison shook both their hands, "I must say, Robert, it's wonderful of you to invite us to your home like this."

"A way of welcoming Tri-Tech to the Avery-Woods family," Robert said warmly. "Mr. Carter was just commenting to me that he lacked a dancing partner..."

Will wondered where being fed to cougars was in his job description.

"That would be wonderful," Rena beamed, appraisingly looking Will over. "Do you tango?"

Somehow Will knew he was about to be given a crash course, and he smiled at Robert, secretly vowing to hire a drag queen to replace Lisa when she went on maternity leave.

"Tango," The old man stated as he turned to the brass band.

She arched an eyebrow at him and accepted Will's pre-offered hand, "Alright, Mister Carter."

The passionate music stirred as the dance floor cleared to allow him and the President of Tri-tech room to move into its centre. The music swept up as the two set and began the overextended motions of a tango.

The pair had a reputation by now of being excellent dancers and they moved like liquid across the floor as the music increased its timbre. Will kept his eyes locked on his partner as he swept her back and pulled her close to him. It was exciting, and exhilarating, and Will was eighteen again, at his prom, sweeping Andrew off of his feet. He was lost in a sea of memories, and barely noticed the laughter that he was offering out.

As the music changed to a Scottish jig, the two dancers separated and he began to move his feet faster. Will's family had a strong Scottish history and these dances had been entertainment at Christmas celebrations he'd been to when he had been growing up. He was moving by pure instinct now, aware that there were other dances spiralling around the two in the centre, forming the intricate patterns that could be observed from the upper balcony. The old man swept off his tuxedo jacket, preferring his shirtsleeves and the textured black waistcoat underneath. Twirling and spinning in unison, Rena's dress flared out as she kept time with him.

She smiled at him charmingly, studying his eyes as they both moved, "You are a fantastic dancer, Mister Carter."

"I've only just begun," he stated as he spun her out and collected her in again. He glanced over at Robert Avery who nodded to him, "I wanted to talk to you about your shares in Tri-Tech."

She looked at him confused for a moment as she followed his steps effortlessly, "I don't know what you mean."

The effort of keeping up with the dance distracted him a moment but as it slowed he came in close to her again, "The sale of your shares in Tri-Tech, I understand you're holding out for a better offer."

She frowned at him, "No, Mister Carter, I reached an agreement with your Mister Weippert. As far as I am concerned Tri-Tech is a subsidiary of Avery-Woods."

He smiled at her warmly, looking over to where Weippert was talking to a group of businessmen. When had he found the time to convince her to sell? Why hadn't he mentioned it before? There were a hundred questions that flashed through his mind, but one underlying fact remained, Tri-Tech was his well ahead of the shareholder's deadline. Bruce did a double take as he realized who was dancing with Ms. Allison, a dark scowl flooding across his face.

Will smiled. "Well, in that case I should probably let Robert know so he can make the announcement tonight."

* * *

The soft chamber music drifted lazily across the comfortable lounge area, and it flowed around him like liquid. Robert sat in an overstuffed chair staring out of the great windows over Lake Ontario. A long-stemmed glass of Cabernet Sauvignon was pinched between his fingers almost forgotten, as he sat there unmoving. He sat as still as his thoughts, content only to sit and stare, refusing to acknowledge the world that screamed for his personal attention. For a time he had no responsibilities, save those to himself.

He had retreated there after the dance with Rena Allison, and he sat there, still dressed in his tuxedo, the black silk bow tie undone. He sat tiredly for a while contemplating the small victory he had achieved that night. His company would be his again first thing on Monday morning, in perfect time for the shareholders meeting the following day.

The Tri-Tech merger would change things for his company; finally he would have development and production all in the same place, in one firm. It was another step closer to making Avery-Woods self-reliant and breaking the grip that the American economy and American' suppliers had on Canadian companies. It really was a victory for him, and he relaxed his shoulders slightly as he watched the snow falling, winter's last counterattack on spring.

He would have to promote Weippert after the success, name him as the Vice-President of Operations; after all he had been instrumental in the whole deal. The future of Avery-Woods after Robert decided to retire. But that wouldn't be for a while yet, and a lot could happen in a few years.

"Am I disturbing you?" Weippert asked from the door to the lounge and Robert turned slightly; the party was still in full swing, and by all rights he should be down there entertaining his guests, but he had desired a moment to savour his victory.

"Not at all," Robert said as he stood up adjusting his waistcoat. "I believe congratulations are in order."

"Congratulations?" Weippert asked cautiously.

"Yes, Will Carter just told me you managed to convince Rena Allison to part with her shares. Good job by the way..."

A strange look passed over Weippert's face, immediately dispelled by a broad smile, "Of course, the deal was concluded tonight, Avery-Woods now has a controlling share in Tri-Tech."

Avery scanned the other man's face, "I would have thought you would be happier, you managed to pull it off after all."

Weippert nodded, "Yes...I'm just tired, it has been a very stressful week. I take it you will be making the announcement tonight?"

"Of course," Robert said setting his glass down. "Along with the announcement of your promotion to vice-president, congratulations."

The two men shook hands firmly.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Marc leapt over a low handmade couch, grabbing from the bookshelf the shirt he had borrowed from Will's wardrobe with the crest on it. He loved the feel of the real cotton shirt as he slipped it on. He had only a few minutes to get ready before he was supposed to be picked up by Libbet, and he still had to wrestle with the green tie. He fumbled with it once or twice, till he closed his eyes and remembered the lesson in tie tying that his mother had given him all those years before. Over under, up through, down through, tie and pull... He opened his eyes and beamed, perfectly tied. As if there was ever any doubt. He slipped into the denim jacket, a beautiful blue colour only lightly distressed so that a touch of yellow appeared around the seams. He looked presentable; well, almost, his hair flatly refused to stay swept back, and it stuck roguishly from his head. He sighed in frustration as he wandered into his bedroom, grabbing a watch from the nightstand. Libbet's father would expect him to be on time.

The door rattled as she let herself in, and he took a moment to look at her. She was so graceful, so stylish, and so beautiful. What was she doing with an unemployed guy like him? Self-consciousness suddenly pulled down his natural high.

He fidgeted as he sat in the passenger seat of the Volkswagen, waiting for her to finish locking up the beach house. He felt uncomfortable, overdressed and beginning to get nervous. At least she looked beautiful, her hair pulled up to reveal her long graceful neck and accent her eyes.

He rubbed his forehead as he turned away from watching her and looking up the street squinting at the first flakes of snow falling. He was going to be playing happy couples, pretending everything was normal just to keep everyone happy. Except himself. And that was the heart of it, the lie.

When had he started to develop the headache? Some time after the realization had set in that he would have to attend the party. Libbet's father would be there, and there was something in the way he looked at Marc. His eyes filled with the hatred of a father towards his daughter's lover.

Marc plucked at the denim jacket wishing he owned a suit, but he had to admit he looked good--young, but good. He wore a mismatched tie that didn't quite sit under the collar of a shirt never designed to go with a tie in the first place. It was an awkward ensemble, and the flat dark green only clashed with the blue of the denim. Like his personality, conflicted.

She got into the car, and Marc swallowed tightly. "Can we stop at the store?" he asked feebly. "I'm gonna need cigarettes."

She sighed audibly, and for the first time Marc realized she was also tense. "Yeah, whatever," she said as she started the car and drove the short distance across to the convenience store.

He tensed again; she was angry with him and he wasn't sure what he had done. He was going to the party despite the fact that he didn't want to. He was putting her first again as he always did, being the dutiful boyfriend. Why exactly did he deserve the cold shoulder just because he wanted a packet of cigarettes to take the edge off?

He got out of the car and slammed the door without meaning to, mumbling a curse as it slammed shut, and looking up at Libbet who had affixed `the look' onto her face. It was an expression that made men throughout the ages wince. It was the look that said pure and unadulterated hate.

He felt his shoulders sag in defeat as he followed her into her brother's store. He rubbed his head as he walked up to the counter and motioned to the wall of cigarette packages behind it.

"Belmont Regular."

Tyrone already had the pack in hand, looking over at his sister who was over at the magazine rack browsing the glossy covers. "Going somewhere, guys?" he asked cheerfully.

Libbet turned and smiled for the first time when she recognized her brother, "Dad's hosting a big party up at that house."

Tyrone's smile fell slightly as he punched the price of the cigarettes into the register, "Oh, cool."

Libbet walked over to stand beside Marc, ignoring him as she focused her attention on her brother, "You should come, Dad would probably be happy to see you."

"I doubt that," Tyrone said as he accepted Marc's money for the cigarettes. "I haven't been welcome there since..."

Libbet nodded sympathetically, "Yeah, I know, but when are you two going to sit down and talk about this? You can't hide in this store forever."

Tyrone closed the register a little too sharply, and he looked down at it in wonder. "Look," he said taking a deep breath, "I don't want to get into this here, go enjoy the party. Show your boyfriend off to your friends, I have to watch the store."

* * *

The snow drifted down upon the lake, forming a blanket on the vale that nestled around the old mansion. The grounds, covered in the snow, were a wintry place of wonder for the visitors who attended the party that night. Music could be heard from within the aged stones, a warmth that exuded from the merriment within. The party had been set up so that anyone who wished to attend had to walk up the gravelled driveway to the front doors, to be greeted by the house staff, their coats taken as they were shown into the great hall.

Even the stones of the old mansion seemed to sing of a glory long faded into history, of the passage of ages that came and went, passing around the stones like so many countless rain storms. The snow-coated Canadian flag flew proudly from its flagpole before the great house, defiantly streaming in the wind, announcing itself boldly to the elements that threatened it. The very house itself, moved from old Scotland itself and rebuilt there nearly a thousand miles from its birth place, stood as a testament to the resilience of a proud heritage, that also withstood the test of time.

Standing rigidly flanking the great double doors, two old stone lions perched leaning on their forepaws staring out across the gravelled driveway that led up to the Avery house steps. Standing proudly, their chiselled features were stark against the light dusting of snow. Oblivious, they watched over the entrance to the residence like perfect still sentinels.

Libbet parked her car off to the side, tucked away beside her father's, thankful that a spot had been marked out for her. They both walked up the steps to the main doors to the party, greeted by a tired-looking doorman who had been hired for the evening.

"Names?" he asked tiredly. Even though they were still early and the party had only just begun there were still a large number of guests moving about.

Libbet supplied their names and the doorman instantly came awake, "Miss Avery, Mister Avery wanted you to join him in the study as soon as you arrived." He looked over at Marc, "Alone, ma'am."

Libbet shrugged out of her coat, "That's no problem." Her tone was harsh, and she didn't even look at Marc as she walked off, her heels clicking on the tiled floor accenting her angry steps.

Marc looked at her back, and sighed seeking out the bar. Perhaps after a drink or two...

* * *

"What's wrong?"

Robert moved around the oak desk, setting the mug of coffee on the edge of it, looking his daughter up and down, a puzzled expression on his face. She was embarrassed, and was trying to hold it back. Not letting it show, the way Avery had taught her. And had it been anyone but her father, the girl might have been believable.

"'s nothing," Libbet managed. "What am I doing here, I thought this was a social party not a business one..."

Avery frowned, "I invited a mixture of both, I'm using this as a chance to close an important business deal." His eyes narrowed thoughtfully, "I needed you here to help me host this event."

"You don't need me here to charm your clients, I'm not another asset you can exploit to make money," Libbet snapped back.

"You still didn't answer my question," Avery fired back at the girl. "What's wrong? Is it something to do what that boy you've been seeing?"

"That's none of your business," Libbet raised her voice. "Why must everything I do be studied by you?"

"Because I am your father," Avery replied, his voice remaining at the same dangerous level.

Libbet rounded on him, "But you don't control my life. I'm old enough to make my own choices."

Avery recoiled from the verbal blow, it caught him off guard; he struggled for something to reply with, and he chose his words with caution. "I am your father, I am the man that feeds you, clothes you and ensures that you have an education. I am the one that stands at the doorway when you are dragged home between two police officers and explains to them that you really aren't that kind of girl..." Avery slammed his coffee mug on the edge of the desk, "The day you prove you're old enough to make your own choices, that will be the day I let you make them."

Libbet paled, her father never lost his temper. She swallowed and tried to think of a way to save face, but coming up short she balled up her fists. "I am not one of your employees, I'm not someone you can just order about at your whim."

Avery stared down at the buckled metal of the mug, realizing that in his anger he had dented the mug out of shape. He couldn't bring himself to look up; his voice had dropped again, back to its calm tones. "You have a party to host, you're my daughter, start acting like it." He pointed to the door, "Now go."

Libbet bowed her head. "Yes sir," she murmured in a petulant tone, turning and walking from the room. The door would have slammed, but the oak was too heavy to swing that fast.

Avery ran a tired hand over his eyes and walked out a moment later. He needed to calm himself, and he collected his great coat from the cloakroom.

The old man walked out into the cold gardens, striding up the snow-covered steps to the upper gardens at the rear of the house. The Italian-styled gardens were barren in the winter, and he walked between the Romanesque columns and empty flowerbeds, remembering that when he had last seen them they had been full of life. He owned a beautiful home, well-cared-for, and he missed it. For once he regretted spending so much time working, he was feeling his age again.

He flipped up the collar of the great coat against the chill, feeling rather than seeing the snowflakes falling around him. His boots crunched in the crisp white snow that lined the path leading to the lakeshore. And he stopped when he came to the end of it.

A square grey brown stone was set up above the snow-covered ground before him and he reached out to brush the snow off of it, clearing the words etched there for so many years. `For my beloved Kathryn, Now I watch the horizon for your return.'

He paused, his hand tracing the letters of her name, feeling the bite of cold, but intent on something more personal, more spiritual. He always felt closer to her there.

"...I'm here again," he said aloud, his voice gruff with the emotion. "I'm sorry that I can't be where you are... I got a little lost." He turned his eyes to the barren trees and then back to the stone, "...Libbet is growing up, again... I don't know what to do with her. I can't protect her from her own choices anymore."

He lifted his hand and placed it back into his pocket, "I've never been very good at this; I missed Tyrone's growing up, I was too busy working. It was as if I blinked and he was a man starting his own life..." He blew out a sigh, "After...after I lost you, I lost him as well. I swore I wouldn't let that happen to Libbet. It was my turn, I raised her as best I could... and I will, I just don't have you to temper me this time."

He strengthened his voice, "I know... but you're gone now and I can't talk to anyone...I have to raise her alone..."

"I just don't want her making the mistakes that led to my losing Tyrone, but I can't guide her if she won't listen to me, or tell me what is going on. I'm lost, Kat, and...and I need you here..."

He turned his eyes back to the stone, "You would say I was being to tough with her, blaming her for Tyrone's choices." He shrugged, "You're probably right, I should go easy on her. I could say that when I retire, I can give her more time, but by then she will have finished growing up, be a woman, and I would have missed out on what we share. I love the girl, I want to see her happy..."

He trailed off, turning and hanging his head, "I miss you, Kat, and I miss the light you brought into my life... I am fortunate to have had a chance to say good-bye to you one last time. Your luminescent eyes shine in my heart, I know you're watching over us, and I hope that now you're protecting the boy in a way I can never do."

With that he began the slow walk back towards the house.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Ending back up at a bar again, Marc had made his rounds. The man in the Elton John costume was worth a glance anyway. That had made him laugh a little, but it didn't seem to offset his mood in any way, shape or form. No matter how hard he tried to laugh, there still was that huge reminder of why he was there at the party: Libbet had wanted him to come so badly. He was growing annoyed with himself, this was all his fault, he was the one who was screwing things up. If he could only put his own needs aside and just give her everything she needed then maybe he wouldn't hurt her.

He downed the rye and coke and banged the glass on the bar for another.

"Are you sure you want another drink?" the caterer working the small bar asked with a concerned look in his eye. "Don't you think you've had enough?"

"More," he said simply, giving the bartender a hard glare. He wanted a drink, and he was going to get one anyway. Besides, he could still see straight.

"Alright, son. But I can't say I didn't warn you." The overweight caterer gave him another shot, and shook his head as he walked away to polish some more glasses.

He sat back in his chair, and throwing the rye into his throat, he coughed suddenly when he saw the two girls hanging off of a young guy. Smooth and slick, he looked like the epitome of everything Marc wasn't. The life of the party, the appropriate date. The rich kid that had everything he wanted, or more precisely everything Marc wanted.

Perhaps he was just drunk, but he was sure that he saw one of them kissing him softly in open public. Staring didn't make the vision go away, so perhaps it wasn't a drunken hallucination. There was a lot going on at that party beneath the surface, people playing corporate political games trying to show they were better at a social situation than they were at work, hoping that it would give them some kind of edge.

He looked away as he felt a tinge of envy, not because the other guy had girls around him, but because he was happy. He decided that going outside to watch the snow was more inviting than to try and find good conversations here. Perhaps out there, he'd see the stars, ones that could still offer some advice. The party was going badly for him anyway, and the air was stale.

The doorway to the front of the house was largely left unattended, save for a disgruntled hired doorman, and those lifeless lions. Not far from the door, though, sat a group of young men and women from Avery-Woods. Marc knew some of them from when he had dated Libbet the first time, young people who socialized with her, moved in her circles. They weren't invited, but were probably just part of the group that Libbet always brought with her. They mulled around in a circle, talking amongst themselves, and hardly noticed Marc making a beeline straight for the outside.

"Leaving so soon?" The doorman asked, apathy emanating from his soulless eyes, performing menial labour for people he resented for their affluence. Marc couldn't blame him. The young man walked outside without a reply, glad to be out where he could actually breathe.

The snow was welcome though, along with the cold. A pathway that Marc followed allowed him to glance out over the massive property line that seemed to stretch on forever. Snow whisked along beside him, underneath the old fire lit lanterns that offered some light to see with. He could enjoy being alone for a while, at least, and the cold could remind him of the freedom he had enjoyed on the road. Sadly, though, the dark sky was blanketed in unseen clouds, that blocked any attempt at seeing the stars. He frowned, and sat on a frozen rock.

"You're Marc Lawrence, aren't you?" a voice said from behind him, and it seemed familiar, but slightly slurred. "You don't belong here."

"Who the hell are you?" Marc asked, turning to `greet' his new guest, with gritting teeth and a jealous glare. "Something I can help you with?" An image flashed before him of the guy laughing happily inside. He certainly didn't seem that way now, with that voice. His face couldn't be seen though, because it was partially shadowed under the weak light.

"Yeah, you can tell me why you were staring at my date in there," the rich kid demanded, his arrogance still so very prominent, if not a bit offset by the drunken tone he seemed to have. The young man managed to step right up to Marc, pushing his finger into Marc's chest. The shadow that danced across his face still hid his eyes, and so Marc couldn't make out what he was thinking.

`His' girl? Hadn't there been two of them? What happened to the other one? And he was most definitely not looking at them `that' way! Marc had enough problems to deal with, and the ones that guy happened to have wrapped around his shoulders like that before, were worse than Libbet and her superficial tastes. He realized he was angry, and this arrogant bastard simply stared at him, ready for Marc to do something. Taunting, those eyes were, once the light showed him them.

"Look, just fuck off! I was not looking at your `girl' that way at all!" He stood up, his hands coming up to push the guy away if he needed. For now, they rested defensively in front of him, trying to shield him from that rank alcoholic breath. "I don't even know who the hell you are."

"Lucas, Lucas Weippert," the guy replied. "I was Libbet's boyfriend until you decided to show up on her doorstep; you may have stolen Libbet from me, but I'm not about to let you do it again. What, Libbet not good enough for you now? Huh?"

Marc flushed, and than got visibly angry. Libbet, why did it always come back to her? Why wasn't he good enough for her, why didn't he love her? Why wasn't she enough? And with those thoughts, Marc swung at Lucas, landing a fist on the other man's nose, squarely. He really didn't have time to think about those things. He really didn't have time to think about anything. All he thought about was hurting Lucas for bringing that up. He wanted to hurt the son of a bitch for everything that had happened to him that night, and he wouldn't let go of that either. This guy, who'd had everything handed to him from day one. He was going to pay now.

Without waiting for Lucas to finish getting back up, he had looped his foot around Lucas's leg, and pushed, slamming him to the ground again. He went to punch again, as Lucas lashed out in return, kicking Marc's feet from under him. He fell, feeling pain in his right leg as he crashed into the snow.

"That's it!" Lucas said, getting to his feet and looming threateningly over Marc..

"Yeah? Try me!" And with that, Marc darted up with a strike that had Lucas clutching his stomach. Winded, Lucas staggered back a few steps.

But Marc had hesitated too long; Lucas wasn't as drunk as he had first seemed. He lunged in, swinging his arm around and landed a perfect elbow into his head, along with a kick that followed just shortly afterwards. Marc's parents had never been rich enough to send him for any martial arts training, he was suddenly out of his league fighting Lucas and all he could do was try to keep dodging the rain of blows Lucas was throwing at him..

They weren't alone anymore, though, Marc noticed, as he had ducked another punch from the now-wheezing Lucas. The whole group of young socialites from before, who had crashed the party, grouped around them, placing bets and cheering one or the other on. Occasionally, one yelled out a `boo' or an `aw', and proceeded to complain when the fight wasn't going to his or her liking. And they were enjoying it too, fights were probably fairly rare among them, but in the end feelings ran deep. And hatred sometimes would turn into fighting.

Thankful for his agility, Marc managed to outmanoeuvre another kick that was aimed for his face, and he quickly recalled the fights he had survived in juvenile hall. Stepping in, and then to the side, Marc had control over Lucas's waist, and threw him several feet into the air, using a trip that he had learned. But it hadn't been very successful, and Lucas was already back on his feet, whipping blood away from his face.