DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXXX.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Spike has run off from the hotel, April has shown up at Council HQ, Buffy has begun William’s self-defense training, and Giles and Anne are still trying to figure out what’s going on with their being held hostage…

*************

Chapter 30: To Hear Her Speak

She looked weary, but Giles knew that was just as much a fault of their restless night as it was apprehension regarding their situation.  Neither had slept well, the wild postulations of their discussions barraging both with awkward dreams, and though Anne hadn’t voiced what had troubled her enough to venture across the hallway to Rupert’s room for companionship, he recognized the vestiges of horrific visions in the dark shadows below her eyes when he guided her inside.

Now, she sat with him in his cell, her gaze concentrated on her worrying hands in her lap, the breakfast that had appeared from nowhere lying half-eaten on the floor at her feet.  “I have been…thinking,” she said quietly.  Each word was measured in careful allocation, her voice solemn.  When Giles chuckled, a sound he just couldn’t contain, she flushed; both of them were more than aware that they had done nothing but think ever since sitting and discussing the possibility of magic the previous evening.  “I can’t fathom what value holding me here could provide anyone.  Magical or otherwise, what could someone possibly gain by separating me from my son?”

He had to bite the inside of his cheek not to say what instantly sprang to his lips.  Though Giles had no clue as to why, there was no doubt in his mind that Spike was somehow at the center of their situation.  Considering he’d been investigating a theft done by vampires prior to his kidnapping, and knowing who her son was going to be, the coincidences were too many to ignore.  This wasn’t a shareable hypothesis, however, not when Anne Freston so clearly adored her only child, and so he feigned ignorance of where her question might lead.

“But they took you from your ward as well,” Anne pressed.

Giles nodded.  Rather than go into specific details to Anne regarding his circumstances, he’d generalized his relationship with Buffy as a guardianship.  It had seemed easier that way.

“So perhaps we’re here to be prevented from protecting them from something,” she concluded.

His mouth was open to disagree with her, but the simple logic of her statement made him stop.  So focused on the Spike angle, he’d not seen this alternative, and in light of who Buffy was, this made infinite more sense.

“What could your son be involved with that he’d need protecting from?” Giles asked.  “You described him to me as a scholar.  He seems more the sort to be interested in his words than anything dangerous.”

“I don’t know,” Anne admitted, with a frown.  “This is what troubles me so.  It’s difficult enough to believe that magic could hold me prisoner, and yet, the evidence is too clear to ignore.”  She sighed, finally looking up at him with such clarity, he couldn’t help but wonder how she could’ve borne such a creature as Spike.

Not Spike.  William.  There’s a difference.

“What about friends?  Buffy has several…acquaintances who would wish to isolate her from those who love and help to protect her.  Is there someone who might wish the same on William?”

Anne’s flush deepened before she tentatively shook her head.  “Don’t misunderstand me, Mr. Giles,” she was quick to say.  “My William is a wonderful man.  So intelligent and so loving.  He’s just never…made friends very easily.  They don’t understand his gentle spirit as I do.  Since his father’s death, I’ve tried to provide him with other role models, making sure he’s had the opportunity to spend time with some of the more prominent of his peers, but not even the likes of David Howard was ever enough to distract William from his woolgathering.  That’s why I can’t resolve the paradox of someone wishing to hurt him.  That would require his active involvement in…something, but other than his writing, I’m aware of little that attracts him so.”

“Still, there must be something…”  His words vanished as what she said sank in.  Clearing his throat, Giles frowned, taking a step closer to where she sat on the bed.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “What was that…name you just mentioned?”

Her eyes slid sideways as she silently replayed her earlier statements.  “David Howard?” Anne finally replied, unsure that was the information for which he was looking.

He’d only noted the name in passing as one of the many unexplained details of the crystal collection’s original abandonment.  He hadn’t expected to hear the same man mentioned as an acquaintance of Anne’s son.  If William Freston knew David Howard---and the possibility that it could be a different man than the one the Council was aware of was just too farfetched, not when everything else seemed to point to the same set of circumstances---then her proposition was even more likely.

It also meant Buffy was probably in serious danger.  A situation where his guidance would’ve been of some use.  He only hoped that she was doing everything she could to approach whatever threat lay in her path with a modicum of common sense.

*************

She felt like she was back in Sunnydale, back before her mom knew she was the Slayer, sneaking out of the house to go patrol or to hook up with part of the gang for something apocalypse-y or to meet Angel for, well, other stuff.  Except she wasn’t sneaking out of the house in which she currently wandered, and she wasn’t even totally clear where exactly she was going.  She just knew she wanted to find the room William was in and she wanted to do it without Richard or Rose becoming aware of what she was doing.

The shot of adrenaline at such a clandestine maneuver made her fingers itch in anticipation.  Biting at her lip, Buffy pressed her ear to the third closed door she’d found, straining to hear any sounds from within.  As soon as they’d returned to the house, Richard had promptly separated them, arranging for them to be taken to guest rooms in order to bathe and freshen up.  His disapproval of their public displays of affection had silently radiated from his every movement, but if he had anything to say about it, he waited until they were out of earshot.  Buffy attributed his prudishness to the killer Victorian/Watcher combo; she probably shouldn’t have expected anything less.

But…she had to find William.  Sparring with him out on the lawn, watching his growing confidence bolster his inherent grace, had thrilled her beyond belief.  At first, it had been formulaic, with his automatic responses to her instruction, but as the minutes passed, and as he began taking her notes and adapting them for his own style, the training had…shifted.

She loved the fight; there was no way she could deny that when it was just her.  Even when Faith had tried twisting it around and Buffy had wasted far too much energy arguing about their purpose, there had always been that lingering hunger for more in her slaying that the blonde had to struggle to keep hidden from the others.  It left her pulsing, in a world of vibrant color---even in a dark graveyard, it was astonishing how many gradients of red and brown and green lurked about in shadows and lived under the moonlight---and for those seconds when she’d been atop William in the garden, she was convinced he’d felt it, too.

That was why she was seeking him out now.  She just needed a few minutes alone with him outside of the Watcher’s presence.

The fifth door was where she finally heard him.  With a smile curving her lips, Buffy listened to the muffled mutterings interspersed with the occasional splash of water.  He was talking to himself, probably composing some new verse.  She’d learned William had a hard time keeping his mouth shut when he thought no one was around to hear him, almost as if all the words he kept bottled up in the presence of others had to find escape in some way when he was free of them.

“William?” she called out softly, knocking at the same time.

Inside, everything stilled, and for a moment, she wondered if he was going to respond.  “Buffy?” he called back.  Uncertainty made him hesitant.  She could just see the little lines between his eyes as he puzzled out why she would be at his door.

Pushing it open just enough to slip inside, it took Buffy a second for her eyes to adjust to the shift in illumination.  Where the hall had been dark and heavy with mahogany---just as much of the Rhodes-Fanshaw home---the bedroom was awash in white and gold, the tall windows flung open to let the remaining afternoon sunshine come streaming in.  A canopied bed overpowered the far wall, and the door to the adjoining bath stood open.

“Are you still in the bath?” she said as she stepped to the en suite’s entrance.  She stopped in the doorway, grinning when she saw him stretched in the tub, his curls plastered to his head from the shampooing she had obviously interrupted.  “I didn’t think you were that dirty,” she teased.

“I’ve only actually been in for a few minutes,” William admitted.  His skin was pink from the heat of the water, a sheen of sweat making his shoulders glisten where they rose above the surface.  As if to prove his assertion, he held up his hands to show her his smooth fingertips.  “I got…distracted.”

She pretended to pout.  “If you tell me it was the maid who distracted you, we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about the boundaries of our relationship.”

His smile was shy, his head tilting as he gazed at her.  “Surely you realize it’s entirely impossible for me to even consider any other woman after you,” William said softly.  “In fact, I was so…invigorated from our lesson that I went straight to the desk and wrote another verse of your poem.”

“Oh!”  Buffy brightened, twisting to look back into the bedroom.  “Can I see it?”

“Later,” he promised.  “The inks are most likely still wet.”  His eyes were downcast when she turned to face him again, his fingers drawing lazy circles in the water that sent gentle ripples along the surface.  “I was rather hoping you’d allow me the opportunity to read it to you.  I had…plans for this evening I would very much like to surprise you with.”

“Plans are good.  Non-fighty plans are even better.”  Tentatively, she took a small step toward him, letting her gaze flicker over his exposed skin.  A bevy of bruising was already starting to mar his otherwise perfect skin, though Buffy was relieved to see that it would be covered by his clothing once he was dressed, and a nasty scrape along his forearm mottled him in red.  “How do you feel?”

There was no hesitation in his response.

“Alive.”

“But…”  Another step, and the beginning of a frown forming between her brows.  “Are you in any pain?”

His chuckle surprised her.  “If I weren’t, you would believe that you had failed at your duty, would you not?”

“That doesn’t mean I want you all achy.”  She was at the bath’s side then, and crouched to more closely examine his injuries.  “You should’ve said something before it got so bad.”

His fingers wrapped around hers when she reached to touch his arm.  “It’s not,” William said earnestly, and used his other hand to tip her chin up to look at him.  “They hurt, yes, but it’s more than tolerable.  It tells me that I’m on the path to help you, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

“You should keep it up after I’ve gone,” she said.  “You could get really good.  I think you’re a natural.”

When his smile faded, Buffy wondered if maybe she shouldn’t have brought up her departure again, but quickly dismissed the thought.  It was an inevitability they both had to face; pretending that it didn’t exist would only make it worse in the long run.

“I must confess,” William mused, “it was not what I expected.  In fact, it was almost…”

“Fun?” she finished for him.

His eyes searched hers.  “Do you think that makes me a scoundrel?  That I enjoyed the combat as much as I did?”

“You could never be a scoundrel,” Buffy replied, and then paused, thinking.  “Maybe a rapscallion---.”

She shrieked when he suddenly splashed her with water, the droplets of water darkening her simple white blouse so that her flesh became visible beneath it.  “I just got dressed,” she complained through her laughter, but didn’t move from her seat at his side.

“Insult me and pay the consequences,” William said simply. 

His feigned innocence made her smile, and some of the tension that had been weighing her down eased.  Maybe he was starting to understand the truth of their circumstances.  He’d been so down about her not staying, and she hadn’t been so caught up in her excitement about Willow not to notice that he was being all stiff upper lippy about the change in her situation.  Buffy had no doubt that, given the choice, he would want her to stay with him, but that just wasn’t possible.  She had a life to return to, and as much as it would hurt leaving him behind, taking him with her---even if it was possible---would be too much of a risk to the natural timeline.

It was easier if they could just enjoy what time they had left together.  Not that she wouldn’t miss him when she had to go, and not that it wouldn’t half-kill her to leave someone she loved to a life she feared he was going to live, but Buffy would deal with it.  Just like she’d dealt with every other loss in her life.  Because she was strong enough to bounce back from it this time. 

William had taught her that.

He was watching her, the reflection off the water making his eyes seem even bluer, and slowly, Buffy leaned over the edge of the tub to brush a soft kiss across his mouth.  When she pulled away, his aspect had darkened, pupils dilated to overwhelm the irises, and his breathing was most definitely swifter.

“I wanted to ravish you when we were outside,” he said softly.  He lifted his hand to slide a wet finger along her swollen lower lip.  “You looked exquisite while we were dancing.”

Buffy smiled.  “Dancing?  Is that what you call it?”

“Appropriate, don’t you think?  The way you move…like liquid fire.”  His touch slid to her jaw, down her neck, tracing the fine lines of her collarbone through the fabric of her blouse.  “I touch you, and I burn.  I wonder…will you consume me if I linger too long?”

His voice was a hot whisper as it blew across her cheek.  Shivers of pleasure undulated through Buffy’s body as his hand suddenly fell between her breasts, taking a moment to cup a soft swell before gliding to her waist.  “You’re getting me wet,” she murmured, aware of her top sticking to her skin in the path he left behind.

William looked back up into her face.  “And I’ve been aroused since you so cunningly flashed your ankle at me in the garden,” he replied.  “So I would expect that makes us even, don’t you?”

“But I’ve already had my bath.  They’ll be expecting us.”

He was sitting more upright in the tub, allowing his long arms to reach out and around Buffy as he tugged her closer to the slippery ceramic.  A glance down betrayed his rock-hard erection, but her attention quickly reverted to the hard wall of his chest when he pulled her into him.

“You came here for a reason,” William said huskily.  “What was it?”

She was mesmerized by the casual flick of his tongue across his lips, only meant to moisten them but disclosing so much more.  “I…needed to see you,” she answered.

“Just…see me?”  Slowly, he took her hand in his and guided it beneath the surface of the water, a groan escaping his lips when she eagerly wrapped her fingers around his steel length.

“We shouldn’t,” Buffy said, though her hand began to squeeze and slide down his cock, the water acting as her best friend at the moment.  “I don’t think Richard approves of our relationship.”

From where they had briefly closed, William’s eyes fluttered open to lock on hers.  “Do you care?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “Not really.”

“Neither do I.”  With a sharp jerk, he pulled Buffy into the bath with him, her skirt tangling around her legs while he fought to stretch her out against him.  His mouth was on hers just as quickly, hungry and devouring in a repeat of their kiss on the lawn---or a continuation, if either was willing to forget the thirty minutes that had lapsed in between.  He hissed when she gripped his forearms to steady herself, but when she tried to pull back to make sure he was all right, William refused to let her go, lapping down her neck as he continued to struggle against her clothing.

“Here,” Buffy panted, and tugged the material up around her waist.  The tub was wide enough for her to straddle him, and all too soon, the pair was mimicking their final pose from outside, her thighs around his hips, his erection pushing against her underwear. 

“Not…enough…” William whispered against her skin.  His hands slid beneath the white cotton to cup the globes of her ass, grinding her heat against his cock so roughly she moaned from the starburst of sensation that erupted inside her head.

Buffy’s blouse was now completely wet, the outline of her erect nipples clear beneath the fabric.  The temptation proved too great for him, their proximity too enticing, and William bent his neck to take the nearest puckered bud into his mouth, sucking fiercely against the material so that it scraped across her skin.  “Want you,” she whispered. 

He released her long enough to give her a long, hard kiss.  “Always want you,” he replied, and then went back to the task of suckling at her breasts.

The water was distracting as Buffy fought to slip her underwear off, though maybe not as much as William’s eager mouth, but she finally managed to lose the scrap of material that was keeping him from her.  It landed on the wooden floor with a sodden slap, and Buffy giggled in surprise when his coarse hairs scraped against her inner thigh.  “Think Richard will buy my excuse about falling into the tub after I was already dressed?” she said

“Stop talking about Richard,” he growled.  His fingers tightened to an almost painful grip as he pulled her up again, the tip of his cock nudging between her slick folds.  With one smooth motion, William pushed her hips back down, forcing Buffy to take his full length in a single stroke, leaving both of them fleetingly breathless and quivering as they stayed suspended for what seemed like forever.

“Guess I’m not the only who gets a little jealous,” Buffy whispered before leaning in to kiss him again.  This time, their tongues tangled in a slow weave, her fingers coiled in his wet hair to keep him close as she began riding him, up and down, using the slickness of the water to its full advantage with every squeeze and pull.  Every instance felt like she was floating, her body buoyant beyond the force of the water, and every stroke filled her just a little bit deeper as she fought to make sure she didn’t lose the contact.

“Tell me.”  William’s voice was ragged, choking on his need to pound into her but restrained by the gentility that refused him that release.

When she did the impossible and tore herself away from the pleasure binding their bodies to look into his face, there was no mistaking the anxious panic darkening his eyes, so disparate from the force of his flesh and yet so palpable that it made her chest hurt.  “Tell you what?” Buffy said softly, not once breaking the rhythm of the in and out of his shaft.

“Tell me you love me.”

She smiled.  “Always.”  But when she tried to bend back down to kiss him, his sudden iron grip stilled her.

“No,” William rasped.  “Say the words.”

He was speeding up their tempo, meeting her with increasingly rougher thrusts, but his eyes were locked on hers, yearning and angry all at the same time.  Each slap against her thighs and each slam against her clit wanted to drive rational thought from Buffy’s head, but still, she found the wherewithal to collapse against him, her lips hot on his ear.

“I love you, William,” she whispered.

His response was a muffled cry as his body arched from the water, his cock jerking as he went rigid, the power of his thrusts lifting her with him.  It took only seconds for Buffy’s orgasm to follow, and the unintelligible scream that tore from her throat seemed to echo against the walls.

William was grinning up at her by the time she came down from the high, and she squirmed against his still semi-erect cock, trying to get comfortable.  “For someone so concerned about appearances,” he said, pushing back a wet tendril that clung to her cheek, “you seem remarkably determined to alert Richard to your presence in my room.”

She smiled as she rested against his chest, heedless of her clothes clinging and floating around her.  “Not like it matters anyway,” Buffy said, a single fingertip circling the flat nipple so near her still-hungry mouth.  “Watchers are too uptight as it is.  A little modern thinking won’t hurt him.”

*************

It nauseated her having to resort to such tactics, but as she smiled coldly down at the current Council Head, April quelled the growing sense of alarm in her gut and focused instead on the goal she needed to achieve.

“It’s understandable if you don’t know me,” she said.  “I’m afraid my Watcher wasn’t very forthcoming about my presence.”

“Your…Watcher?” Quentin asked.

“Richard Rhodes-Fanshaw?  Of course, he’s been dead for over a century, so you may not know who I’m talking about.  Do they still make you suits study all the history before you can graduate to your little club?”

Mention of the name seemed to ignite something within the stuffed shirt, and his eyes gleamed in sudden understanding.  “April,” he murmured.  “Yes.  I think I’m beginning to see.”

“Good, because I really don’t want to have repeat myself.”  Lifting her foot to place it on the seat between his legs, April tilted her toe downward to exert mild pressure on the older man’s groin.  To his credit, his face registered none of the pain she knew he was feeling.  “I’m here to make a deal with you, Mr. Travers.”

“I don’t make deals with demons,” came the laconic reply.

She pushed down a bit harder, and this time saw the slight twitch in his facial muscles before he composed himself again.  “I don’t think you have a choice in this matter,” she said.  “See, you and I have a common goal, and my instincts tell me that we’re going to need each other in order to reach it.”

“And what, pray tell, do you think that goal is?”

“We both want Esme.  Well, I want her dead.  I’m assuming you’re not disagreeable to that, considering how much difficulty she’s been giving you lately.”

Travers’ eyes flickered to where Nathan was standing at the door before he shook his head.  “I’m afraid you’ve wasted a trip.  If I was able to find her, she would already be in my custody.  As it is, we’re having difficulties keeping track of what exactly she’s trying to accomplish.”

She wanted to scream at his incompetency, but held her tongue.  If he’d been better at his job, Esme would never have been able to get her free from that damn spell.  “What is it these megalomaniacs ever want?” April asked in annoyance.  “She wants power.  And for that, she needs a Slayer.  Hence, getting me out of your clutches.  Only I’m not interested in her little game.  I just want my ties to her severed.”

Quentin was shaking his head before she’d even finished.  “I’m sure you believe what you’re saying,” he said, “but the Council has never had a turned Slayer in its possession before.  It’s the board’s policy to---.”

“Kill her, destroy her, get rid of her, whatever euphemism you want to pick, Mr. Travers.  I know how it goes.  Why do you think Richard lied about me?  I’m going to bet it’s also why he couldn’t kill me in the end.  Got that little bitch wife of his to play with her magic wand and bind me in that glass for the last hundred years instead.”

The far whisper of approaching voices caught both hers and Nathan’s attention at the same time, jerking their heads to stare at the closed door.  “April---,” he started, the worry already leaking into his voice.

“Quiet!” she hissed.  Leaping from her perch, she grabbed Quentin by the arm and began dragging him toward the far wall.  “Time for us to fly, Mr. Watcher,” she whispered.  “So say your abracadabra to get us out of here.”

“I don’t---.”

Her quick wrench snapped his little finger, eliciting the first sound of pain to come from the man.  “Don’t play me for a fool,” April said.  She let her vampire mask come forth, baring her fangs to him.  “My Watcher was head of this place, remember?  I knew exactly where to find you, and I know for a fact that you have a back door to your office.  So, unless you want Esme to get her clutches on your current Slayer and totally fuck up the world order as we know it, I suggest you get us out of here before your stake-happy gang out there end up being afternoon snacks for me and Nathan.”

*************

He’d been right.  He hadn’t seen her yet, but even without visual confirmation, Spike knew he’d been bloody right about just where the bint was headed.  Every step forward in the tunnels had strengthened the scent he’d picked up a few blocks away, that mingling of Slayer and demon that made it impossible for each to be separated from the other.  A turned Slayer could be the only explanation for it.

To tell the truth, Spike was more than a little chuffed at having figured it out on his own.  Fuck you, witch, he thought with satisfaction as he pulled out his pack of smokes from his duster pocket.  You should’ve known a bitchy vamp Slayer would have a hard-on for Watchers.  Get my answers, and my Slayer notch, too, and you and your time travel fantasies can just bugger off.

So he was going to wait for this April bird to finish up her little vengeance spree---and not once did he consider that she might not make it out of the Council headquarters alive; as far as he was concerned, if she had the stones to go in, she probably had the brains to know how to get out again---and when she came back out, they’d have themselves a nice chat about just what the hell was going on.

He was on his third cigarette when he heard the splash of new arrivals in the tunnels.  Stuffing his hands deep inside his pockets, Spike continued to lounge against the stone wall, face implacable as he peered into the murk.  He saw the male vamp first---lean, a spot older than him, but still take-able in a fight---and then stiffened when the human rounded the bend.  A souvenir?  Not exactly the brightest thing to do.

She was the one he was waiting for, though. 

She wore her power like a second skin, and though the ridges in her brow bespoke what she’d become, there was no mistaking the animal grace Spike had seen on more than one Slayer.  She didn’t walk; she glided. 

And just the sight of her made blinding anger swell into his throat, taking him completely off-guard.

His hands were already curled into fists in his pockets, every nerve strung whipcord taut, by the time she noticed him.  Her first glance didn’t even weaken her step, but the second, the one she cast him as the male vamp came abreast where Spike stood, that one sucked the air right out of the tunnel.

“You…” she breathed, and Spike knew even before she released her grip on the human that she was going to come at him.

At least she didn’t call me William, he thought as they went down in a tangle of fangs and leather.

 

To be continued in Chapter 31: All Kinds of Blood