"I think the only thing more embarrassing than showing up at the New Year's ball with my own brother is showing up in Natasha's old dress…" Wanda sighed, holding the fabric out from her body with a frown as she kept pace at her mother's side.

"Oh, nonsense," Laura scolded gently, reaching to brush a lock of her hair back into place. "You're going to look lovely. I promise."

"Everyone's going to remember that she wore it and laugh at me," Wanda pleaded. "I should have just worn my own…"

"Darling, there was a giant tear in the back…"

"We could have pinned it," she begged. "And we could have hid it with the bow! Papa spent so much on it, it would be a shame not to wear it-"

"Wanda," Laura scolded gently, moving to stand in front of the girl and catching her hands, leaning to meet her gaze. "If it's not patched properly, the rip is just going to get worse. You wouldn't want to ruin your lovely dress just for the sake of somebody possibly remembering that Natasha wore this one last year, would you?"

Wanda met Laura's gaze for a long moment before letting out a long sigh.

"No, Mama."

"Come now," Laura soothed, reaching to stroke a flyaway strand of Wanda's hair back into place. "Don't look so down... Nobody who was looking at Natasha last year is going to be looking at you, and nobody looking at you would have been looking at Natasha."

"I'm not likely to have anyone looking at me at all…"

"Now that's not true," Laura said, drawing Wanda forward once more as they moved to catch up with her brother and father where they stood outside of Mayor Stark's mansion. "There are plenty of young men in this town with their eyes on you."

"None who bothered to ask me to the ball," she replied despondently. Laura simply offered her a hand.

"Well then, I suppose you'll just have to show them what they're missing, won't you?"

Wanda smiled a little at that, reaching to rest her fingers against her mother's outstretched palm.

"I suppose I'll try."

"That's the spirit," Laura smiled. "Now go have fun. Your father and I will be back to walk you two home around half past midnight."

"I will," Wanda promised, hugging her mother goodbye before turning her attention to her twin as he stepped up beside her.

"Enjoy yourselves, kiddos," their father winked, offering an arm to their mother as she moved to stand beside him. "We'll be back for the pair of you troublemakers later."

She and Pietro were quick to recite their goodbyes, waiting only until their parents had begun walking away to turn their attention to one another. Wanda raised an eyebrow at her brother, and the boy threw her a smirk.

"Shall we?" Pietro asked, offering his arm.

Wanda curled her hand around his elbow with a replying smirk that was only a little bit forced.

"Let's show them all what they're missing."

The two of them turned as one to face the house.

The stairway that led up to the mansion was impressive - all done in white marble and decorated with a candle on either side of every step. Above the carved wooden double doors that led inside, a rather large clock had been mounted, specially imported from somewhere in Europe. The edges of the clock face had been trimmed in evergreen garland and holly berries to be festive, and it was just dark enough now that the gas lights behind the timepiece were giving it a bit of a glow.

Pietro led the way up the front staircase– they had gotten a late start, and were some of the last few to arrive – and the two of them stepped slowly into the warmth of the main foyer, looking around in awe.

The Starks never failed to impress with decoration, and this year was no different. Every surface was covered with twinkling candles, fake snow, and evergreen boughs; ornaments and garland strung from the ceiling and banisters. The halls were lined with little tables that offered a selection of h'orderves and sweets, and the entryway to the atrium was set up with a drink table that had coffee, tea, and punch.

Wanda slipped out of her coat, letting one of the butlers take it as Pietro did the same, and the two were quick to make their way toward the main group of partygoers, looking around in wonder.

Wanda almost missed the little basket of empty dance cards and pencils that sat on a mahogany end table in the hall, but managed to grab a set on her way by. The folded card had a black ribbon that had been strung through the top corner of it, and Wanda carefully tied it about her wrist as Pietro guided her down the hallway.

She would have to start finding people to sign the card pretty quickly if she didn't want to spend the evening dancing with her brother as well...

The party was being hosted on the large, carved marble floor in the atrium of the mansion, the usual plants and potted trees moved back against the arcing glass walls to leave room for dancing. The room had a large, sparkling, gas-lit chandelier hanging from the highest point of the ceiling, as well as an orchestra set up along the back wall, tuning their instruments as the young adults milled about.

For a long moment the two stood in the doorway, simply taking it all in.

And then a familiar face caught Wanda's eye.

"Look, there's Darcy!" she hissed, tugging a little at her twin's arm. "Look who she's with!"

Pietro squinted in the direction she was pointing for a long second before reeling back a touch in shock.

"Isn't that Thor's brother?"

"I think it is!" Wanda hissed, standing on her tip-toes to see better.

"She seriously picked Loki over me?!" Pietro asked, and Wanda had to bite back a smile when his expression screwed up in distaste.

"Come on, brother mine," she teased. "Let's go strut about like peacocks and see if you catch her eye now that you're not a scruffy mess."

"As if you're one to talk," he scoffed, looking her up and down, and Wanda gave his arm a light swat.

"Be nice or I won't help you," she scolded through a laugh.

Her brother rolled his eyes but remained quiet.

Wanda began to lead him toward the pair, subconsciously wondering if she would score a date off of the deal as well, but halfway across the floor something caught her eye that brought her thoughts screeching to a halt. Or rather, someone.

There was a man.

Normally that wouldn't have been any kind of revelation, especially given that they were at a party, but unlike all of the other young men who had showed up tonight, this one was entirely unfamiliar to her.

She had at least seen everyone else here before, either around town or at school or at other parties similar to this, and she knew most of their names as well, but this man - with his chiseled features and piercing ice-blue eyes and sandy blonde hair - he was definitely new.

And in a town as small as theirs, the appearance of a new face was quite an unusual occurrence.

"Who's that?" Wanda asked, stopping up short and yanking Pietro to a halt beside her.

Her brother made a little noise in protest but turned to see who she was looking at, raising a brow when he caught sight of the stranger.

"Huh. He must be new. Wonder if his family moved here recently."

"They must have," Wanda murmured, her eyes tracing the man's every move as he milled about over by the punch and snacks, sipping at a nearly-empty glass. "I would have remembered someone as attractive as him."

"Wanda, come on," Pietro nagged, giving her a little tug. "Darcy's dance card is going to be all filled up by the time we get over there…"

"I want a dance with him," she protested, but her brother was already hauling her off.

"You can get a dance with him once I've grabbed at least one slot on Darcy's card, okay?"

"Fine," she conceded with a sigh, "just make it quick, all right?"

Pietro didn't waste breath replying, the boy all but jogging over to where Darcy was just waving goodbye to Peter and hauling Wanda in tow right behind him.

"Pietro!" Darcy grinned as the two slowed to something resembling a casual pace. "I thought you weren't coming!"

"Well, someone had to bring Wanda," he shrugged, combing his fingers back through his hair in a move that was probably supposed to be slick, and Wanda just barely resisted the urge to step on his foot.

"That's sweet of you," Darcy smiled, folding her arms behind her back and leaning in. "So what brings you over here, besides showing off how nice you look in that suit jacket?"

Wanda put a great amount of effort into not rolling her eyes heavenward as Darcy gave Pietro an appreciative once-over and her brother responded by puffing out his chest and tugging his jacket more firmly into place.

"Well, I was looking around for the most beautiful girls in the room, so clearly I had to start over here. Could I perhaps reserve a dance?" Pietro asked, flashing her his most winning grin.

"Oh, Pietro, I'd love to," Darcy started, a frown tugging at her painted lips. "But I just let Peter sign on to my last open spot…my card's totally filled for the evening."

Wanda saw her brother's face crumple at that, a sympathetic ache pulsing in her own chest at the hurt and disappointment in his eyes.

"Oh…"

Pietro struggled for a moment to find something to say – some graceful way to back out of the conversation – and that gave Wanda just enough time to get hit with a sudden stroke of genius.

"My card!" she said sharply, her voice just a little too loud to be proper indoors as she snapped her arm out like she was directing traffic, freezing the two in place as they both turned their attention to her in question. "Darcy, you can take my card, and I'll take yours! Mine's empty still."

The other girl's eyes lit up in a second.

"Oh, that's brilliant!" Darcy grinned. "That way you'll already have dances lined up for you all evening, and I won't feel so bad about stealing your brother away."

Wanda was quick to tug the ribbon loose and offered her card out with a smile, the expression getting a touch strained as she realized with a sinking heart that unless Darcy had managed to track down the new young man that she'd spotted earlier, she wasn't going to be dancing with him at all.

"You're an absolute doll," Darcy grinned, tying Wanda's card over her wrist before offering the folded slip of cardstock out to Pietro.

"Go on, then. Hurry up and get your name on there. I've got a whole card full of slots to fill out before the first dance, and Thor is getting away."

Pietro was quick to scramble for the little pencil that Darcy offered, and Wanda focused on tying the ribbon for her new card around her wrist as he scribbled his name down into three of the slots on Darcy's card.

The new man was still over by the punch bowl, sipping carefully at the same mostly-empty drink as he looked around, and Wanda began edging in his direction, hoping for a chance to talk to him before the music started up.

"Wanda!"

She snapped her attention back just in time to find Pietro staring at her as Darcy tugged at his hand, trying to draw him away.

"You're good?" Pietro asked, glancing between her and Darcy in concern.

"Go have fun. I'm taken care of for the evening," Wanda smiled, waving the little card.

Her brother's face lit up at that, and he hesitated just long enough to call "thank you, love you" back at her before he was rushing after Darcy, practically skipping in joy.

Wanda turned around just as fast, beginning to weave her way back toward the entryway, but she'd gone no more than a few steps when the orchestra started up a long crescendo, quieting most of the people in the room.

Dangit, they were going to start.

Wanda looked over her card briefly, recognizing most of the names on the paper. There were a couple that weren't overly familiar to her, and she tipped her head in concentration as she tried to see if she could put a face to each of the names or if it might belong to the new young man she'd longed for a dance with.

A moment later she shook the thought away. She had other matters to attend to at the moment.

Her first dance was with Loki.

He had been Darcy's date for the evening, so it made sense that his name would have been first on the list, but Wanda was still a little taken aback at how quickly he found her. She'd barely lifted her head to glance around when he'd already shown up at her side, hands folded carefully behind his back as he looked around with that adorable little smirk that seemed to live on his lips.

"Well, this is certainly unexpected," the dark-haired man observed, leaning in a little to be heard over the music as he forced a rather dry smile. "I thought I would be dancing with Darcy."

"I got here late and had no one to dance with, so she traded cards with me," Wanda shrugged, half hoping that Loki would back out so she could go track down the mysterious stranger from earlier.

But Loki didn't turn the dance down, instead breathing out a quiet sound in understanding as his smile melted into something a touch more genuine and his eyes softened.

"Well, in that case, I certainly won't pass up the opportunity to dance with Mister Barton's lovely daughter."

Loki swept her into a waltz before she could even fully register his words, his movements just in time to catch the beat in the music, and Wanda took a moment to get her bearings before matching him pace for pace.

Loki was a wonderful dancer, graceful and smooth as he drew her across the ballroom effortlessly. She could understand why Darcy had accepted his invitation, even if she'd ditched the poor thing in a hot second.

Although she didn't feel quite as bad knowing that Darcy still had a mostly empty card, and Loki could still get his chance at a dance with her at some point that evening.

Two rounds in, she spotted her brother and Darcy over Loki's shoulder, and lifted her fingertips in a little wave to alleviate Pietro's concerned look. Loki glanced back over his shoulder at that, raising a brow as he caught sight of her brother with his date.

Pietro threw the man a smirk, and Wanda had to bite back a smile as Loki responded with a saccharine grin and a subtle half-pace closer to her that made Pietro bristle.

Fortunately the music only lasted for one more turn about the floor, and she and Loki took a step apart as the tune faded out, applauding with the rest of the crowd.

"It was a pleasure, Miss Wanda," Loki said with a bow. "But if you'll excuse me, I must go find Miss Sif before the next song."

Wanda curtsied in reply, feeling a little silly but not knowing quite how else to respond, and quickly checked her dance card the moment Loki vanished into the crowd.

The next name was scrawled in Darcy's handwriting, listed as simply "Apprentice," and Wanda frowned down at it for a long moment in confusion before a gentle cough from beside her caught her attention.

Ian Booths was fidgeting awkwardly beside her, running a hand through his hair.

"Um…Darcy said she gave her card to you…I believe I have this next dance?"

"There's another name in the slot, I think," Wanda shrugged, offering out the card for the mousy young man to inspect as she once again felt the slight flutter of hope that she would have a dance free to go find her mysterious stranger.

"Oh, yeah…that's me," Ian said, releasing the card with a sigh. "I'm currently apprenticed to her father, so that's what she calls me. I'm pretty sure she thinks that 'apprentice' is my name."

"Well then, Ian," Wanda said, being sure to put emphasis on the poor young man's name, "I believe that you owe me a dance."

Ian was...passable. He was a little uncoordinated, and a touch stiff with his movements - especially compared to Loki - but he kept the beat well enough and seemed genuinely glad to have wound up with her as a partner. When the music faded out he left her with his thanks and a sweet smile.

The rest of the evening went much the same, with her partners seeming surprised but not entirely disappointed with the switch, and she actually had a pretty good time. But as each dance went by, and she moved down another line on her dance card, she got closer to finishing her evening without a dance from the one person she'd been longing to take for a spin.

She'd seen glances of him, standing at the edge of the room as everyone else took their turn on the floor, and for one song he even stepped out to dance, accompanied by Jemma from the next neighborhood over. However, the man seemed to be keeping to himself, not really talking to any of the other partygoers, and Wanda couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor thing.

He was clearly uncomfortable, not sure quite who to talk to or how to join in on the fun, and so was satisfying himself with simply hanging around the edges and watching. She longed to go talk with him, to offer a little smile or greeting, but Darcy was nothing if not thorough, and she was booked solid for the entire evening.

As the final dance rolled around Wanda looked around for any approaching young men, having stopped checking the names on her card halfway through the evening because they always seemed to find her without issue. This time, however, she could see no one approaching, and for a second her heart started racing. She turned around, her eyes darting over the crowd until she found the man, still leaned up against the wall and looking rather forlorn.

Wanda swallowed hard, starting to slowly walk toward him.

Maybe this was it.

Maybe, right at the very end, she would get a chance to-

"Miss Wanda!"

She stopped up short at the call, turning around slowly to find herself met with a big, pleading set of brown eyes.

"Oh," Wanda said, not quite able to keep the disappointment from her tone. "Peter."

Right. Darcy's final spot had gone to the Parker boy. Damn.

She glanced over her shoulder again, watching her mysterious stranger look around the room, seemingly partnerless for the last dance. Maybe it wasn't completely hopeless just yet - she could still ask Peter to let her out of this one dance. Wanda took a slow breath, turning her attention back to the boy with a pounding, desperately hopeful heart.

"Peter..."

She did not expect the utterly despondent look on his face, however.

"Please don't turn me away," Peter begged before she could even put a string of words together. "I know I'm not the best dancer but nobody's danced with me all evening and I've already had three other girls find other partners even after I'd signed onto their cards...please don't you turn me away, too...not for the last dance..."

Wanda bit her tongue, glancing once more at the stranger in the corner before she returned her stare to the pleading gaze of the young brunette before her.

Damnit.

Wanda let out a slow breath, forcing a smile onto her face before she replied.

"Of course I won't turn you away, Peter. You're name's on my card, you've got this dance fair and square."

"Thank you," the boy breathed, slumping forward for a long second in complete and utter relief. "Just...thank you. I appreciate this so much, and I am really, really, really sorry ahead of time if I step on your feet."

Wanda hummed a quiet little sound in reply, accepting her fate, and took the boy's offered hand so he could lead her out onto the floor.

When she glanced over her shoulder she caught sight of someone who rather looked like Zrinka from two houses over asking the new man to dance, and she bit back a sigh.

Well. There went that idea in its entirety.

Wanda kept her head bowed for a long moment after Peter turned around with his arms outstretched, meticulously placing her feet and hands to distract from the fact that she was trying to rally her composure as they waited for the next song to start.

She really should have figured that this was going to be a lousy evening...from discovering a torn seam in her new dress and having to attend the party with her brother, to showing up late and not even getting to pick who she danced with, everything had been building up to a rather disappointing end, and she really wished that she hadn't allowed her hopes to get up at all.

What a New Year's eve this was turning out to be...

She was trying not to be bitter about Pietro getting his date, because she dearly loved her brother and would absolutely do this all again to make him smile like that, but it still hurt a little to see him leaned almost nose to nose with Darcy as they spoke, waiting for the music to start, when she hadn't even gotten to speak with the gentleman she'd had her eyes on since walking in the door.

Nor could she really find it in her heart to be annoyed with Peter either - the poor thing sounded like he'd had a worse time of it than her, and she wasn't about to turn him away from one of the few dances he'd gotten all evening.

She just desperately wished that everyone else's enjoyment hadn't needed to come at the cost of the one thing she'd wanted.

Wanda took a slow breath, teasing her smile into something a little more genuine as the music started up and Peter stumbled into movement, his actions still a little clumsy and uncertain from lack of practice.

The last song was a slower tune than the previous songs, an intimate buildup as they approached midnight, and Wanda shook the thoughts from her head in order to better focus on what was going on.

If this was to be her evening, she might as well make the most of it. After all, Peter was a very sweet boy, and wasn't nearly as poor a dancer as he'd implied. She could at least try to have fun.

Perhaps after the party she could catch the stranger before he l-

"Excuse us, mind if I cut in?"

Wanda glanced up sharply as Darcy appeared at her side, slipping Peter's hand out of Wanda's before either of them could speak and drawing the boy into her own arms. Wanda turned around, following the two in confusion, and found herself suddenly being handed off to a new partner, one that wasn't familiar to her in the slightest.

She glanced up in confusion - the man was so incredibly tall - and almost choked on her next inhale when she realized just who it was that Darcy had traded her partners for.

Oh.

Oh.

Wanda looked around the room in absolute shock for a second, her eyes darting from Darcy and Peter over to her brother, who was currently sweeping Zrinka around the floor. Her twin glanced over in time to catch her gaze and gave her a big wink, and Wanda felt a huge smile bloom on her face.

Bless him.

He'd actually arranged to get her the dance she wanted.

Wanda turned her gaze back to her partner with a sweet smile, trying and likely not succeeding at keeping a blush from her face.

"I...apologize for the abruptness of this," the man started. "I fear I was rather swept into the exchange before I knew what was going on. Would it be all right if I took the rest of this dance?"

"Absolutely," Wanda breathed before she could even think to play coy. "M-my name's Wanda."

"A pleasure to meet you," the man responded with a warm, genuine smile that made something inside of her just melt. "My name is Vizh. I recently moved here to apprentice under the Starks."

"I was wondering why I hadn't seen you around before," Wanda said lightly, only just barely keeping her comment about remembering someone as attractive as him to herself.

"Yes…I'm afraid I don't know a great many people yet."

Wanda smiled up at him in reply, curling her fingers more pointedly through his as the music tumbled into another verse.

"I will simply have to introduce you to everyone, then," she said. "Although I rather doubt there will be time for that tonight, being so close to midnight and all."

"Perhaps if you do not have plans for New Year's day," the man started slowly, glancing away shyly and making Wanda's heart flutter. "We could arrange to meet somewhere, and you could begin introducing me to everyone in town?"

"That sounds like a wonderful plan," she all but sighed. "Do you know where the pond is? The one where they have the skating rink set up?"

"I believe I do," the man nodded.

"Perhaps we could meet there around noon?" she asked. And if everything went well, he might even offer to take her ice skating afterwards…

"That would be amenable to me," he smiled. "Tomorrow at noon it is."

"Wonderful," she grinned in response.

The next turn or two around the floor were spent in a comfortable silence, Wanda feeling practically giddy. The evening had taken a complete turn for the better, and suddenly everything leading up to this moment had been completely worth it. She could hardly believe it.

The two of them slowed to a stop as the orchestra faded out, and Wanda glanced up at Vish as the man returned her smile, their hands still entwined.

"Miss Wanda, it was truly a pleasure," he murmured, bowing his head a little. "I will eagerly await our next meeting."

And the only vaguely intelligent thing she had to say in response to that was "me too."

"Everybody get ready!" somebody from the far end of the room called before either of them could say anything further. "Countdown is starting!"

Wanda and Vision exchanged a glance as the person began to lead a chant, counting the seconds down till midnight and waving for everyone to gather out in the main hallway.

"Seventeen!"

"Sixteen!"

"Fifteen!"

"Fourteen!"

"Thirteen!"

The two of them scrambled to join the gathering crowd, everyone snatching little poppers and streamers from the table displays as they passed - the food and drinks having been exchanged out during the final dance.

Not that Wanda had really noticed anything at all other than her dance partner.

"Twelve!"

"Eleven"

"Ten!"

"Nine!"

The two of them ducked out of the mansion's front doors with the rest of the crowd, a giddy, excited laugh bubbling in Wanda's throat and a huge smile making its way across Vizh's face as they scrambled to keep up.

"Eight!"

"Seven!"

"Six!"

Once outside they quickly positioned themselves on the front steps, looking up at the large clock on the front of the manor. It was fully dark out now, and the back-lighting made the enormous timepiece glow with a splendor that was breathtaking.

"Five!"

The air was cold, little flurries of snow drifting their way down to land on piled curls and neatly combed hair and fancy outfits of all materials, but between the residual warmth from inside and the press of the crowd, Wanda hardly noticed.

"Four!"

Vizh shifted beside her, a little tilt of his head accompanied by a miniscule lean in, and Wanda tipped her head close in response so she could hear him over the chanting of the crowd.

"Three!"

"I'm glad I found you," he murmured, his beautiful sapphire eyes crinkling at the corners as he gave her a smile before returning his focus to the clock.

"Two!"

Everyone around her began to raise their poppers in the air, shifting in anticipation. Wanda tightened her grip on him, only realizing then that they hadn't released each other's hands since the final song had ended.

"One!"

"Me too, Vish."

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"


Author's Note: Shut up it's totally still December. *crawls under a rock*