Disclaimer: It all belongs to Joss and Mutant Enemy.  I’m just playing in their sandbox.

The Past is a Different Country


It had taken Buffy a long time to fall asleep; things rustled whenever she moved, and she couldn’t stop thinking about how she had completely screwed with history.  I didn’t mean it! she thought over and over, I just thought I was saving some guy!  Eventually, the mantra had dulled into sleep, though she’d dreamed of Drusilla attacking William, and of Angelus attacking her, of Spike as she had known him just disappearing into nothing.

She woke earlier than she normally did without the help of an alarm clock, partly because the bed still felt strange, and partly because she could hear strange voices and movement outside her door.  Before they could come in and find her still in bed, she got up, and quickly straightened the bed, because, as embarrassed as she would be by getting caught next to naked, somehow it felt too rude to leave the bed in disarray.  Then she headed straight for the clothing she’d draped over a convenient chair.  She had slept in a thin kind of under-dress, after peeling off all of the other layers she’d been wearing, but she couldn’t stand the thought of anyone seeing her in just that.

Uh-oh.  She surveyed the jumble of cloth heaped on the chair.  I can’t remember what I took off last!  Okay, deep breaths, Buffy.  You can figure it out.  It’s just clothes, after all, and clothes are your forte… well, after Slaying, that is.  So… okay, here’s some stockings… Man, I wish I could have a shower…

She managed to get herself into some of the articles she’d taken off the night before, leaving the corset on the chair, but then the buttons on the bodice of her dress wouldn’t cooperate.  The fabric wouldn’t stretch enough so she could button it, or the buttons strained against the holes if she could.  Heaving a sigh, she glared at the corset.  “I so don’t want to wear you,” she told it, her tone resigned. “But I guess I have to.” 

Just then, there was a knock on the door.  “Miss?” a woman’s voice called.  “Miss?”

Half out of her dress again, Buffy froze, and she could feel the blush rise to heat her cheeks.  Quickly, she laid the dress over the chair once more and fought with the corset until she had it on, if not laced.

The knock came again.  “Miss?  Are you…”

With one more deep breath – the last of the day, she thought – Buffy steeled herself.  “Come in,” she answered.

Somehow, she convinced the maid that entered that she only needed her corset tightened a little, so that breathing wasn’t quite so much of a trial – just enough so that the buttons weren’t straining. The maid helped – in the completely unnecessary way – her finish getting dressed, then offered to help her do her hair.

Buffy blinked.  Except when she went to the hairdresser, she’d been doing her own hair for years.  Okay, so, not so much styling most of the time, but I think I look presentable, she thought, vaguely offended.  Reaching up to run her fingers through her hair, she realized that, in her upset at being found in just the shift, she hadn’t even thought about dragging a comb across her head.  Not to mention that a ponytail probably isn’t appropriate, she thought, sighing silently.  “All right,” she said, reluctantly, and perched carefully on the edge of the chair at the small vanity.

Back in Sunnydale, she had started to grow her hair out, but it still didn’t look very long in the maid’s hands.  However, before too much time had passed, her hair was swept up in a style very similar to the one she had worn the night before, and all of the pins she’d taken out before collapsing onto the bed were back in her hair.  It was quite a transformation to watch – and feel – and she appreciated the maid’s kindness.  “Thank you,” she said when it was done, smiling up at the girl.

But the girl just nodded, not smiling back.  “Breakfast will be ready shortly, Miss.  Mrs. Pratt is in the drawing room downstairs.”

Before Buffy could thank her again, the maid had left, closing the door softly behind her.

Huh, she thought, a small frown forming.  What did I do?  Slowly she rose from the chair.  Her purse still sat on the vanity where she’d put it the night before, and absently, she picked it up.

There was something in it.  It crinkled under her fingers, and she didn’t recall that it had done that last night.  Face it, Buffy, you were so freaked last night that you probably didn’t notice, she thought, and snorted softly.  She opened it and pulled out some sheets of folded paper, and – her eyes widened – a couple of heavy coins that looked like… Whoa… is that gold?

Quickly, she stuffed the coins back into the purse.  At that moment her stomach reminded her that it had been a full night of dancing and Slaying and even some not-Slaying, and supper had been a long time ago.  She said breakfast would be in a little while, she thought, looking from the papers to the door.  Do I have time?

A second, louder rumble decided her.  I can read while I walk downstairs, I guess.  And I need to thank Mrs. Pratt, too… and Spike – I mean William… Carefully unfolding the papers, she opened the door.

The first piece was a written receipt from some place called Bailey’s.  Oh, it says lodging, Buffy thought, mentally sagging in relief as she slowly made her way down the stairs.  Must be a hotel! That’s of the good…

The next paper brought her to a halt at the bottom of the stairs.  It’s addressed to me…


You interrupted our ritual, and in so doing, you were bound by our magics.  You were removed to the past, in the same general area and time we wished to see.  However, you must find the truth of your own way back, as we cannot help you any more than this.

You have lodging for 1 month, and the coin of the time.  Use caution, however, as it is not real, and will disappear from those to whom you give it after you return to your own time.

Our magics erase us from the memories of those with whom we interact, especially the memories of any humans.  However, as you are human yourself, we are not sure if this aspect will work for you.  Again, we urge you to be careful.  Changing your history could be disastrous.

Whatever you do may have repercussions.  The sojourns of our kind in other times are limited in nature, but, again, because you interrupted our ritual before it was complete, we are not sure how long you may stay in the past before you are unable to return…

Buffy stopped reading.  “What do you mean, unable to return?” she whispered, staring down at the page.  “No.  No way!  I’ve got to get home…” With an effort, she remembered to keep her voice low.  Well, that’s just great, she thought, and stuffed the papers back into the small bag.  Now I’ve got to figure out how to get home all by myself and I’ve got a time limit!

Confused, but mostly angry – at the demons for holding their ritual where just any Slayer could barge right in, at herself for doing the barging, at Giles for not being here to research the results of said barging – she tried to shove the weirdness back into the back of her mind.  Calm down, Buffy, she told herself firmly. I’ll deal with it after I get to the hotel. Right now, I’ve got to find Spike – no, William – and his mother… And, speaking of weirdness, how weird is that? Spike is anything but shy, anything but polite… Even Giles’s book said he was a thief, didn’t it?

“… the moon above doth hide her face for shame…”

The voice brought her to a stop just outside a door that was just ajar.  It was male, accented and familiar, but not just how she remembered.  Although, she thought a little absently, he sounds more like Giles than… Right.  You know, Buffy, you have to stop thinking of him as Spike.  He’s not Spike now.  You kept him from becoming Spike.  He’s William.

“The words falling from your lips a thousand knives…”

Hovering outside, not wanting to interrupt – or let him know she was eavesdropping, however unintentionally – Buffy winced and the last of her anger disappeared.  So someone did break his heart last night. Poor guy.  And then to get turned by Dru right after that… No wonder he was all about her for a century.

“O, bright-eyed angel, come to save me…”

She shook her head.  That’s even more true than you think.

“William, are you quite all right?” The second voice was feminine, somewhat fragile, or maybe strained, and definitely worried.  For a moment, Buffy thought it was her mother.

That must be his mother, she realized with a start.

“I’m fine, Mother,” William replied, and even Buffy could tell he was lying.  “Please, don’t worry yourself about me.”

“The poem was lovely, my dear,” Mrs. Pratt said after a short silence, “but so very different from your usual.  I suppose that I just hoped that nothing had happened…”

Poem?  Buffy blinked in shock.  Are you kidding me? Spike wrote poetry?  Then she shook her head.  Argh! Not Spike, William.  William writes poetry.

Somehow, that made more sense than trying to think about Spike writing poetry.

“No, Mother, it’s nothing, truly.”  Peeking in the door, she saw William, in a suit similar to the one he’d been wearing the night before, bending over an older woman sitting on a sofa.  She was dressed in a severe black dress and cap.  He smiled and pressed his lips to her cheek.

Mrs. Pratt wrapped her fingers around William’s hand, smiling happily back up at him, and Buffy quickly ducked out of sight.  Wow, she thought, stunned.  Who knew?

After another minute of all being silent within – taking that time to gather her courage – Buffy pushed the door open further.  “Good morning,” she said, trying to contain her nervousness.  “I hope I’m not interrupting?”

“Miss Summers.”  William rose from his seat, fountain pen forgotten in his hand.  “Good morning.  I hope you slept well?”

She smiled.  He was so eager it was… adorable.  “Very well, thank you.”

“Mother, may I present Miss Summers?  Miss Summers, my lovely mother.”

Mrs. Pratt blushed and set aside something that looked like a wooden hoop with some kind of cloth stretched over it.  “William, you flatterer,” she scolded gently.  “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Summers.”  She nodded, and Buffy couldn’t imagine a queen being more regal.

She curtseyed.  “It’s nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Pratt,” she replied.  “And thank you for letting me stay the night.  I can’t believe I got so lost.”

Mrs. Pratt studied her for a moment, and Buffy realized just where Spike had gotten his piercing eyes.  It felt just like her own mother looking at her, seeing through all her excuses, and she fought the urge to fidget.

But then the older woman smiled warmly, and in it, Buffy saw shades of William – and Spike – and she couldn’t help but return it.

After breakfast, she enjoyed the walk to the hotel where she was apparently staying.  Mrs. Pratt had been interested about her as an American, but very polite about it, and had more or less ordered William to accompany her back to Bailey’s.

Once there, the hotel staff fluttered about her nigh-scandalous absence.  Within moments, she was more than tired of it and wishing she’d never even taken a second look at those demons in the alley.  At least I wouldn’t be here…

“Miss Summers?” William said, and his tone was a little choked.  She turned to him, concerned, and found him flushed.  She had just opened her mouth to ask if he were sick when he rushed on, “Would you do me the honor of allowing me to call upon you this evening?”

Surprised, Buffy just blinked at him for a second, tongue-tied.  Part of her wanted to ruthlessly demand why a vampire… and she had to remind herself again that he wasn’t one, not now.  Then, just as he seemed to crumple into himself, she gave him her brightest grin.  “I’d like that very much, thank you.”

He blushed, again peering at her from under his unruly bangs, giving her that same sweetly solemn smile she’d seen only briefly last night.  “Until tonight, then,” he said, and gave her another short bow before leaving.

Why did I agree? she asked herself, watching as he walked away.  I should be trying to find a way to get home, not trying to make nice with vampires that aren’t vampires anymore.  She turned to climb the stairs to her room, resolutely ignoring the bright blue eyes, honest and open, that filled her mind.

At least it’ll be nice to have some company for a little while…


Buffy frowned, looking around at the interior of the shop.  It was all jars of herbs and eyes and… stuff lining the walls, small and close and musty.  The smells reminded very strongly of the time when Willow had taken her to the magic shop in Sunnydale.  Which, I suppose, is the point, isn’t it? she thought.  A magic shop is a magic shop.

But see, the real problem, she thought, slowly growing frustrated, is that I have no idea what kind of spell I’d need, or anything.  Books – I need books, and there aren’t any here.  Argh!  How am I going to get home when I have no freaking clue what I need to do? Or anything to find information in?

The shop keep was a heavyset man with grey hair and beady eyes.  She felt like he was watching her every second, yet whenever she tried to sneak a glance back at him, he was bent over his account books.  He definitely made her nervous.  So she stayed away from the counter, pretending to decipher the labels on the bottles, with their cramped scribbles and misspellings.

I could ask him if he knows about some books or… well, anything, she thought reluctantly, gnawing the inside of her cheek.  Right.  And have him call the police or whoever, so they’ll lock me up.  She controlled a shudder and headed for the door.  No sir, no way, no how.

Outside, she took a breath of air, slightly fresher than inside, and started to slowly walk back to the hotel.   I think I’m getting more used to the corset-thingy.  I can walk and breathe at the same time now.  Instead of making her feel better, though, that made her feel even more out of sorts, because it meant that she’d already been here too long.

And you’re gonna get stuck here, too, she berated herself as she walked, if you don’t start doing something about it!

Reading the note she’d found in her purse – reticule, or so she’d been advised by one of the maids at the hotel – at least 3 times a day hadn’t given her any further explanation on how to get back to her own time, much to her irritation.

After nearly a week, however, she could recite it practically by heart

Of course, also after nearly a week, she’d only found one magic shop, and that one was without books.  How am I going to find another one?

After a short walk, she saw the now-familiar façade of the hotel.  Outside, looking around and frowning in bewilderment, she caught sight of William.  The very sight of him made her feel a little better, made her smile, and she hitched up her skirt a little to hurry to meet him.  “William!” she called.

The sound of his name made him spin around, and his features melted into a smile.  “Miss Summers,” he said as she stopped in front of him, his tone scolding, “As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not entirely proper for you to…”

She laughed and treated him to her brightest grin, even as William tucked her hand under his arm and started to walk with her up the steps into the hotel.  She loved the way that he did that without thinking.  It made her feel like a lady, somehow.  “And I’ve told you,” she retorted playfully, “that I’ve never called my friends by their last names.” 

He gave her a mock glare over his glasses, but the twitch of his lips gave him away.

She bumped her shoulder against his arm, her lips still curved, waiting for him to relent.

He did, eventually; dropped his eyes and gave a soft huff of laughter, then slewed a look at her from the corner of his eye that took her breath away.

That look was pure Spike.

And for just a second, Buffy had to fight against the sudden surge of adrenaline, the voice in the back of her head that told her to grab her stake.  Realizing that all her muscles had tensed up, she forced herself to relax before William could notice.

This isn’t Spike, she told herself firmly.  It’s William.  And he’s your friend, your human friend, whom you saved from being turned by Miss Looney Tunes… remember?

“It’s all right for you to call me Buffy, you know,” she whispered, teasing, trying to chase away the lingering tension she could feel in her back, her shoulders.

He refused to look at her, but she could see his cheeks reddening.  “It’s not proper, Miss Summers,” he managed, then glanced at her, eyebrows raised, and a definitely Spike-worthy smirk threatening his lips.  “As much as I’d like to,” he added softly, cheeks burning brighter as he admitted something that, she supposed, was very daring for the time.

Thinking about Spike and noticing William’s lips, for a moment it seemed natural.  I wonder how he kisses, she thought, studying William’s profile, and the sharp slash of cheekbones that, somehow, weren’t quite as prominent as she remembered.  From there, she recalled putting her hands on cool cheeks, her fingers curling into gelled hair a little, pulling his face close to hers for a passionate kiss…

Buffy’s body responded to the memory with a little hum of interest, just as it had whenever she’d inadvertently let herself think about it.

Just then, she realized what she was thinking about – again! – and would have stopped still if it hadn’t been for William’s arm wound around hers, drawing her onward.  No! she thought fiercely.  No, no, no.  I am not thinking about Spike or kisses or kissing Spike!  Just no.

“… Miss Summers?”

Shaking her head, Buffy pulled herself back from her thoughts, and barely stopped herself from saying huh?, instead remembering just in time to say, “Yes?”

William was watching her with a slight frown marring his brow, head tilted very slightly to one side.   “Are you quite all right?”

She blushed, completely unfeigned.  “I’m sorry,” she said, quickly turning to look down at the tips of her shoes where they peeked out from under her skirt.  “I was in a whole other world…  What were you saying?”  She risked a glance at him from the corner of her eye.

He nodded, frown turning into a small smile.  “Would you like to play whist?”

She blinked.  “Which?”

He chuckled at that, a warm sound that seemed to belie his shy demeanor, and gave her another hint of Spike.  Not Spike, Buffy! she told herself again.

“No, whist.  It’s a card game… I take it it’s not popular in America?”

She shook her head.  “I’ve never heard of it, so, I’d guess, no?”

He tilted his head toward a free table in the corner of the parlor.  “Then it would be my pleasure to teach you, if you are willing?”

Despite not wanting to think about Spike or kissing anymore, Buffy smiled and squeezed his arm.  Whatever thoughts were running through her head, they weren’t William’s fault, not really. “I think I’d like that.”


Finding magic stores – or other places where the supernatural was not looked at strangely – without wandering all over London or getting horribly lost was… difficult.  Buffy even thought it would be hard for someone who knew the city or was from this time, never mind a California girl born 100 years from now.

Or so she told herself after a week of being somewhat weary and very lost and footsore.  As much as she liked the boots, there wasn’t quite as much padding in them as she was used to.  Not to mention that the only magic shop she’d actually found had been the one without any books.

It definitely was depressing.  Rather than face the disappointment again and again, she decided to stay in the hotel, waiting for William.

And William didn’t fail her – he called upon her every day.

So she kept waiting for him, because in between the time she called him her friend and she actually realized they were friends, she realized that she liked him, liked being in his company.  He was soft-spoken and, as she grew to know him better, gently teasing in a way that was completely at odds with what she knew of Spike.

That was always there, too, that knowledge of what William could become, given a century’s worth of time and a vampire demon, but it grew further and further from her thoughts as she continued to spend time with him, until it became strange to think of him as a vampire at all.

Maybe it was a lack of things for her to do, but the days lagged, hours passing unbearably slow.  When William arrived, however, time seemed to fly, and before she knew it, it was late enough that they were nearly alone in the hotel’s parlor, and he was taking his leave.  And it all started over again in the morning.

Of course, the sameness of it all was shattered one night when, after playfully accusing William of cheating at whist to let her win, and giggling over his laughing protestations of innocence, Buffy glanced at him over the table and felt her heart give a peculiar little extra thump.

Catching her gaze, William paused in his deal of the cards.  “Miss Buffy?” he asked softly, saying her name with a deeper inflection that made shivers run down her spine. 

They’re the good kind of shivers, though, she thought, and relished the sensation, the tingle in the pit of her stomach.  He still refused to take the liberty of calling her by her name alone, and the compromise they had come to had been hard fought.  “Hmm?”

“Are you…” He trailed off, as if unsure of exactly what he wanted to ask.

“I’m good,” she replied, her smile widening.  “Go ahead and deal, Mister Card Sharp.”

With another soft laugh, he did so.

When William took his leave, he lingered over her hand, and she wished he were kissing her for real.  Only then did she realize her heart was full to bursting, watching him exit the hotel.

I’m falling for him.  The thought just appeared in her head, and she sagged against the stair’s impressive railing in shock, staring at the back of his head until he disappeared into the darkness.


I can’t be falling for him, Buffy thought, staring up at the canopy over her bed.  The words had been running through her head since she’d lain down.  Now it was nearly morning and her eyes burned with exhaustion.

Now I’m not even sure how long I’ve been here anymore.  If I don’t find a way soon, I may never get back.  She rested one arm over her eyes, sighed.  I can’t stay here just for him.  And I did not just consider staying here for him.  I don’t want to stay here for him.  I want to go home and kick demon butt for getting stranded here.

I need to kill something.  I haven’t been out on patrol since I got here.  She’d told herself that patrolling here – in the heart of Watcher Council country – was not the smart way to keep from getting noticed.  Not to mention the fact that she couldn’t shake her distrust of any Watcher who wasn’t Giles.  But now, her need for some clarity, some familiarity was starting to outweigh sensibility.

God, I’m even starting to sound like him in my thoughts.  This is bad.  This is very bad.

So, as always when faced with a situation that she couldn’t fight and couldn’t deal with, Buffy fell back onto one of her tried and true plans.

She avoided.

She sulked in her hotel room for the rest of the day, pretending to be sick.  ‘Recovering’ the next day, she started out on her search for another magic store, only to be thwarted again by the lack of phone directories, internet and knowledge of the city.

When she returned in the early evening, William was in the lobby, obviously waiting for her.  Her heart lurched at the sight of him, and she took a couple of steps toward him before remembering that she had reasons for not wanting to talk to him and veering away once more.

But of course he had seen her, and hurried after her, catching her sleeve as she was about to ascend the staircase.  “Miss Summers!”

I could get away from him, she thought, closing her eyes and trying to force the ache in her chest to stop.  Pull away from him and run upstairs as fast as I can and lock the door… But she didn’t.  She didn’t even try to remove her arm from his grasp.

“Miss Summers…” Then he lowered his voice, leaning closer so that he wouldn’t be overheard by anyone else in the lobby.  “Buffy…”

At the sound of her name, whispered in her ear and sounding the very same way Spike had said it when they were under Willow’s spell, her heart started to hammer away, and her whole body went hot.  That’s so not fair, saying my name like that! she thought, trying to cling to the reasons not to talk to him that she had come up with the day before, reasons that had seemed so important…

“I was worried,” William went on, his tone growing more hesitant when she didn’t acknowledge him.  “You… you are feeling better today, I hope?”

Her resolve began to falter, and she discovered that she couldn’t just brush her feelings aside, couldn’t just brush him aside.

Tears sprang to her eyes at the thought, the very idea that she’d even triedI can’t… “Yes, thank you.”  She glanced up at him, smiling tremulously, and knew he saw her eyes were damp by the way he sucked in a breath.  Fighting for control, she quickly turned away again, left with the impression of blue eyes very wide behind his glasses.


She dragged in a breath, ribs straining against the corset.  Just once, she thought, and was shocked at the bitterness flooding her, just once, I want to be happy, and not have to worry about everything going to hell afterwards. No regrets.

That decided her.  She was going to really carpe some diem this time. 

She shook off William’s hand, only to grab it in her own.  “Come on,” she ordered, and started up the stairs, dragging him behind her.

Of course, he protested, but quietly, nervous about causing a scene.  “Miss... Buffy... what are you… Ow…

Oops, might be using a little Slayer strength there, she thought sheepishly, and loosened her grip slightly.

She didn’t stop when they reached the top of the stairs, but continued down the corridor to her room. She let him go to dig in her reticule for the key, then opened the door as quickly as she could, before he could take it into his head to run away.  Once unlocked, she pushed it open and took his hand again to pull him inside.

Only when they were safely behind the door and it was locked once more did she turn to look at him.

He stood in the center of her bedroom, his face completely red with embarrassment.  “Buffy, this is really not appropriate… I should not… I mean… here, in your bedchamber…”

“I know,” she said softly.  “But what I have to say… well, let’s just say that I don’t want to say it in the lobby for everyone to hear, all right?”

That made him stiffen, as if he were bracing himself for some hurt.

Buffy smiled, trying to put him at ease, trying to keep all of her doubts and fears to herself for just a little while longer.  “William… I…” She broke off, blowing out a breath, and glanced down at her feet, or rather, where they would be if not hidden by her skirts.  “This is… I guess it’s because the last time I said this to someone, they… became… different.” 

But she didn’t want to dwell on Angel and Angelus and the pain that she’d gone through.  Instead, she gathered all of herself and stepped closer to him, close enough to take the lapels of his coat in her hands.

“Buffy, what…”

“I love you.”  Oh, God, I said it, she thought, and just saying the words made her feel… light.  Yes, that was the word, like she had been weighed down by keeping them in, and now it was more than a relief to get them out.  It was as if she’d put all of herself in her own hands and given it to him, something she’d never really done before.

She liked it, despite the feeling of vulnerability that crept up on her as he stared at her, jaw slack in astonishment.

“You... love me?” 

He sounds... weird, she thought, and now she had to steel herself as she anticipated getting rejected in turn.  Like… maybe he doesn’t believe it?

Then, when he raised one hand to cup her cheek, and she saw it tremble in the instant before it touched her, she knew it wasn’t disbelief, or not all disbelief.  It was... wonder, it was joy.

She nodded.  “Yes, William.  I love you.”  It was easier this time, flowing out, where before it had gotten stuck in her throat.

A little roughly, he pulled her to him, clasping her against his chest, his face buried in her hair.  “Oh, Buffy... how I’ve waited for you to say that,” he breathed, and the warmth of his breath made butterflies jump in her stomach.  “I love you, too, Buffy.”

The words sang through her, filling every bit of her, and she pressed her face against his chest.

It occurred to her, fleetingly, that she’d been turned into the heroine from a romance novel when she wasn’t looking, or that she’d manage to ruin everything in the next few moments by saying the wrong thing, because that was just how her luck seemed to run.

“That’s good,” she said, then cringed at the words coming out of her mouth, fulfilling the thought she’d had only moments before.  Why do I always do this? she asked herself.

Instead of laughing, however, William just tightened his embrace.  “I think so, too,” he said, and there was still just a hint of that amazement in his voice, and somehow, that steadied her enough to make her pull away just a little.

“So I’m thinking that this is the point where you kiss me,” she said, smiling broadly.

Predictably, he hesitated.  “I don’t... I...”

She put her hands on those fine cheekbones and gently pulled his head down.  “Nothing to it,” she breathed, and covered his mouth with her own.

For a second, he didn’t respond, his lips slack against hers, but then he was kissing her back and fire exploded in every part of her.

Dimly, through the haze of delight, she recognized that while William didn’t kiss exactly the way Spike did, it was still very much the same.  He threw himself into it with everything he had, and she knew very well that Spike never did anything by halves.

The rest of it was a century of technique, built on his completely natural talent.

She let it carry her away, let her tongue stroke against his lips, hoping he would open his mouth.

He did, hesitantly, and she could taste him, and he didn’t taste like blood and tobacco, though there was the faintest trace of alcohol, as if he’d had wine with his dinner.  She didn’t want to try to figure it out; instead, she just ran her tongue around the inside of his mouth, touching tongue and palette, teasing his teeth, especially where his canines would elongate...

Wait, she thought suddenly, I’m not kissing Spike… I’m kissing William… no fangs…

William was a quick learner, and now his tongue was in her mouth.  She wondered what she tasted like to him.

Then she told herself not to think about it any more.

The next thing she knew, she was pushing his coat down his arms, and half-expecting him to try to get away.

And he did, but only to pry his mouth from hers to gasp for air.  “Buffy… are you…”

Instead of replying, she shook her head, breathing heavily, her thumbs brushing over his cheeks, before leaning up to kiss him again.  While he was distracted, she managed to get his coat off.

Next she started working on his tie and the buttons of his waistcoat and shirt, cursing silently as her fingers fumbled.

His hands were on her sides, clenching against the corset, and she wished that he’d do a little undoing of his own, get her out of that torture device.   And if that leaves me the next thing to naked... well, isn’t that kind of the point?

But he didn’t, just kept his mouth locked to hers, following her lead, caressing her tongue with his.

Again, the lack of air made her pull away, and she panted against his neck like she’d run a marathon.  He shuddered; she could easily feel it, the way her whole body was pressed against his.  “William,” she murmured, and couldn’t resist a nip, right where his neck met his shoulder.

He jerked at the feel of her teeth scraping his flesh and moaned softly, his fingers sliding down and tightening around her hips.  I guess he likes that, she thought, and a surge of womanly pride filled her.  She pressed a kiss to the spot she’d just bitten and then trailed more up his neck to his ear.  She blew in it softly, and her lust-clumsy fingers finally managed to finish getting his shirt unbuttoned and untucked.

“Oh... Buffy...”

She could feel the tension in his arms, as if he were about to reclaim his senses and push her away.  Instead, she put her mouth to his ear again and whispered, “It’s all right, William.”  Nuzzling his neck, she went on, “I want to do this.”

“But... Buffy, I’ve... oh, bloody...”  He closed his eyes and trembled against her.  She felt his hands ball into fists.

From that incoherency, she managed to deduce that he had never done this before, and suddenly, she kind of wished she never had either.  “Don’t worry,” she said, and stepped back just enough to take one of his hands in hers, and place it against her breast, where the corset had pushed it up.  “I’m sure we’ll be fine if we just do what feels good.”  She watched him, waiting, tingling.

His hand was still for a moment before drifting downward, and even through the fabric of her dress and the chemise she wore beneath it, Buffy still felt a shock when it brushed over her nipple, peeking up over the corset.  She shivered and hummed, arching into his touch a bit more.  Without warning, his free hand came up, cupping her other breast, and she moaned quietly.  “Oh…”

At last, he started to unbutton her dress, working at the row of tiny buttons with barely leashed frustration as they resisted him.  She helped him – even though she’d only had to deal with them for maybe a month, that was still longer than he had – and as soon as it was open, she shrugged it from her shoulders and let it puddle at her feet.

Self-consciousness shook Buffy for a moment when he didn’t continue undressing her.  I look all right, don’t I? She shot him a glance, and saw that he was staring at her cleavage where it swelled over her corset.  “Lovely,” he whispered; she barely heard it over the sound of her heart pounding.

Assured once more, she reached for the corset ties herself, but he stopped her.  “No,” he said, and there was a note of command there that she’d never heard before; it sent a shiver down her spine.  “This first…” And he reached up to the ribbon she’d used to tie her hair back this morning, almost ponytail-style.  When he tugged on it, it came free, and he ran his hand through her hair as it fell, gently tangling it around his fingers before releasing it and arranging it over her shoulders.  “Yes,” he smiled, “much better, though the ribbon does match your eyes.”

She swallowed down the lump in her throat.  No one’s ever… oh, wow.  Her hands shook as she raised them to capture his and press kisses to them.

Then, for a few minutes, it was all desire and heated kissing and muddling through too many layers of unfamiliar clothing to get to the skin hidden beneath.  Although, Buffy thought, bracing herself on William’s surprisingly broad shoulders as he rolled her stockings carefully down her legs, this is something I could really get used to… Oh, God…

Nude at last, they stared at each other for a foolish moment, and Buffy realized that she was kind of waiting for William to take the lead, as Angel had, as Parker had.  Instead of letting that thought linger, she seized all her self-confidence – and whoa, she thought, who knew I’d be the experienced one? – and pulled him gently toward the bed.  Settling down, sheets soft and cool under her back, she drew him down next to her, remembering at the last second to relieve him of his glasses.

Kisses, caresses, and oh, she was so ready she was quivering with need.  William’s skin was flushed and warm when she touched him, rolling him on top of her.  “Now,” she demanded, in a breathless voice that didn’t even sound like her own, “now!”

His first thrust missed; she bucked up just as he moved forward, too eager for more.  Oh, God, oh, please, oh God, and then he was inside her, reminding her that she’d only done this twice before, and her muscles really didn’t remember what they should be doing.

The noise she made must have been more pain than pleasure, though, because William stopped over her, panting hard.  “I’m sorry, Buffy,” he whispered, his tone labored, and started to pull away.

“No!” She held him close, locked her legs around his hips, ankles crossed, to keep him from leaving.  “No, it’s all right,” she said, and stretched up to kiss him again, canting her own hips to bring him a little deeper.  “Go ahead… please?”

Warily, he pressed forward again and this time it definitely didn’t hurt as she arced up to meet him.

Hands running slick over sweat-damp skin, William panting in her ear, her own soft sounds of encouragement, faster, harder, and her whole world had narrowed to the feel of him in her arms, inside her in every way she’d ever thought of. Her climax didn’t surprise her; she’d been eagerly awaiting it with every rock of her pelvis.  “Oh, God!” she gasped, and then tried to muffle the rest of it by latching onto his neck, right where it met the shoulder.

William lurched as all her muscles seized, then groaned – “Buffy!” – shuddering against her as he spent.   After a moment, he collapsed onto her, and buried his face in her neck.  She twisted to press a kiss to a spot above his ear, let her hands drift in lazy swirls up and down his back.

When his breathing had slowed to normal, she gave him a nudge, nose and hips.  “Hey,” she whispered, “you all right?”

He was silent for a long moment, before groaning and propping himself up on his elbows.  “And now I know why it’s called the little death,” he said, and bent to kiss her most thoroughly.

“Why’s that?” she asked, and why, she thought, do I sound so… breathy?

“Because,” he paused for more kisses, “I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Buffy laughed, and brushed his hair back from his face.  “You’ve also gone to heavy,” she teased.

William blushed, then grinned.  “Oh, I do beg your pardon, madam,” he replied, with what was definitely a Spike-worthy smirk.  “However, before I can move, there is a wanton hussy that must remove her legs from about my person…”

She could feel herself turn red to the roots of her hair as she unwound her legs from around him.  “Sorry,” she mumbled.

It took some jostling and arranging, but eventually they discovered a comfortable position in which to curl up together, William’s arm around her, her head resting on his shoulder and her hand on his chest.  From there, it was a short journey to sleep.

When Buffy woke again, the room was dark, save for the very weak glow of the lamp beside the bed.  Carefully, she extricated herself from William’s embrace and stretched to turn the lamp up higher.

As the flickering light strengthened, it turned William’s skin rosy again.  Unable to stop herself, she leaned over him, and traced her fingers over the lines of his face and the curl of his hair, never quite touching.

After a long moment, she sighed softly and drew back.  I should have known, she thought.  Nothing ever goes the way I plan it.  This was supposed to be a no-regrets kind of thing… but now, I really wish I hadn’t.  How am I going to be able to leave you now?

“Leave?” William’s eyes opened wide.  “What do you mean, leave?” and the hurt in his voice was so deep, so immense, she felt she would drown.

After a frantic second of wondering just when William had become psychic, Buffy realized, stomach sinking, that she’d spoken her thoughts aloud and covered her mouth.

Oh, damn…

Chapter One || Chapter Three