Against All Odds by Dusty273

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Buffy Summers is a vibrant, passionate young girl in love for the first time in her life with Angel O’Connor, to whom she’s secretly engaged. When he has to go back to his native Ireland to take care of his business, fate intervenes and she meets the very daring and impulsive Duke of Aurelius, Spike. From the moment he lays eyes upon her, he decides he wants her for himself and sets upon making it happen. Will Spike get what he wants, and if so, at what price? Written for the Spuffy_fantasy (LJ) Art-A-Thon. For the gorgeous banner made by drkdevin (Number 9).

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Chapter 15. The Air You Breathe Into Me

Chapter Notes: As always many, many thanks for your reviews. As you see, they do help the muse. *giggles*

A little note regarding ImbloodyEnglish, she is going through a rough time and while she’s trying to get back into writing and recapturing her muse, she begs your patience and understanding and says she’ll come back as soon as she can. In the meantime, keep her in your thoughts and prayers are always welcome.

A million thanks to Tina, who as always worked her magic in this chapter despite not feeling completely up to par. To Beth, for the edits, her input and wonderful suggestions; but especially for the gorgeous banner she made for AAO and which I pasted at the end of the chapter. To Vara, for taking the time to educate me in the finer nuances of regency history, despite me being headstrong and not always minding her. And to Carrie, for reassuring me the chapter was alright as it stands. *smooches* Love you, girls!


I feel your presence
Like an illusion
And I wish I could fly
When I listen to your voice
And my fingers
Are filled with smoke, devoid of you
They are afraid
Because they need your love to live
(El Aire Que Me Das ~ Alan)

Chapter 15. The Air You Breathe Into Me

Spike entered his study room with a spring in his step and a huge smile on his face, in an excellent mood after having such a wonderful visit with his fiancée and her mother.  His good humor faltered, however, at the sight of Wes brooding in one of the chairs near the window, noticing that both of his hands were bandaged.

“What happened to you?” he asked, frowning at the sad, faraway look on his friend’s face.  

“I’ve lost her,” Wesley groused, so completely absorbed in his misery he didn’t even think of his answer before giving it.

“Lost who?  What are you talkin’ `bout, mate?”  The duke sat on the chair opposite the brunet.

“Your… err, no one,” he quickly amended when he finally realized what he’d said and to whom, while tugging on his suddenly too tight cravat and hissing when his hands protested at the movement. 

“No one, eh?” Spike raised his left eyebrow, chuckling inwardly at his friend’s obvious discomfort.  “Very well then,” he sighed, putting his hands on his knees to push himself up to his feet. 

“What?  You’re leaving?” Wes asked, surprised the duke hadn’t tried to make him confess what was wrong with him.

“You don’ want to talk to me and I have better things to do than see you brood over somethin’ you’ve brought upon yourself.”

“I-I don’t know what you mean.”

“Sure you don’.  Look, Wes, I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with this now.  I have a pressin’ engagement I should be takin’ care of so I’ll just cut to the chase.  If you think for a second you’re foolin’ me by sayin’ you don’ care for my sister as anythin’ more than ‘family’, well… you’re sadly mistaken.  I know perfectly well how you feel about her and as I told you before, I would’ve liked nothin’ more than you being my brother-in-law.  However,” he saw the other man was about to protest and raised his hand to stop him.  “However, I see now that while your feelin’s might run deeper than you care to admit, you’re too much of a bloody coward to give in to them.

“This is the last time `m talkin’ to you about this, so jus’ allow me to give you some advice.  Snap the hell out of your jealous fit right now and make a decision before it’s too late.  If you want to let pride rule your actions, well, be my guest.  But if not, if you decide you truly love my sister, marry her before someone else comes along and snatches her right from under your nose.  Which still might happen anyway,” he added as an afterthought, rubbing salt into the wound.  “After all, there are no guarantees she’ll choose you anyway, are there?  Not with the way you’ve been behavin’.”

“I-I… y-you—” the brunet sputtered, completely shaken up by the duke’s speech.  He’d truly believed no one had noticed his feelings for Lady Winifred up until that moment.  Seemed he was wrong. 

“You, me, what now?  Are you goin’ to deny it?  Please, don’t bother.  You and I both know `m right.  Jus’ bloody accept you’re insanely jealous of Alasdair and that that’s why your poor hands keep paying the price,” he teased his friend with a wink.  “`M jus’ puttin’ a stop to it before somethin’ worse happens to you.”

“She didn’t even care,” Wes said morosely, his head hanging in defeat.

“Who?”

“Lady Winifred.”

“Don’ you think it is high time you called her by her given name at least when we’re alone?  Lord knows she’s asked you a million times already.  You’re the one puttin’ up walls between the two of you.  `M not sayin’ she’s goin’ to fall right into your arms, but I suspect you have a good chance of winnin’ her heart if you get your head out of your arse long `nough to show her how deeply you care for her.” 

“You really think so?”

Spike fought against rolling his eyes at his friend, instead simply sighing.  “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’ believe it to be true.  You of all people should know `m not one to skirt ‘round an issue, I prefer a direct approach.”

“Like you’ve done with Miss Summers, you mean?  I wonder if you’ve told her already how you won her hand in marriage,” Wes mused, a small twinkle of mischief shining in his blue-grey eyes.

“That is nothin’ of your concern,” he ground between clenched teeth.

“Thought you preferred a direct approach?  Or is that just for me?”

“What she doesn’ know won’ hurt her.”

“You know that one might actually come and bite you on the arse, Spike.  Especially considering how things stand regarding Mr. Summers.”

“I know that,” Spike passed a hand over his face.  “Believe me, `m all too aware of it.  `Specially now when things are goin’ so well between Miss Buffy and I… `m scared out of my bloody mind that everythin’ will go to hell and she’ll go back to hatin’ my guts.”

Wes blinked at that last revelation.  He’d be damned!  The last thing he ever thought he’d see was the all powerful Duke of Aurelius on his knees for a woman.  Of course Miss Summers was not just any woman and that was why the blond man had moved heaven and earth to marry her. 

“What are you going to do then?”

“Deal with it when I have to.  There’s no use in worryin' over it right now.”  The duke stole a glance towards the clock on the mantle, noticing it was almost thirty minutes past two in the afternoon already and he still had to change before going to pick Buffy up for their ride in Hyde Park.  “Come with me to my room, I need to change for my outin’ with my lovely fiancée this afternoon and while I do, you can tell me how the inquiries `bout the elusive Mr. Giles are goin’.”

“There’s not much to tell,” Wes said as they stepped out of the study room into the hallway.  “What little I found in the Newgate’s registry points to him being alive when he was transported to the colonies and that’s the last anyone heard of him here in England.   However, I also discovered where he’s from and have sent Mr. Collins to investigate the area.  There’s a chance someone might have an idea of where he might be.” 

“Well, keep me informed."  He saw his sister about to descend the stairs and nudged his friend, while lowering his voice, "And it seems you might get your chance to get started on that other project we talked `bout.”.

“William, we missed you during lunch,” she said, kissing her brother on the cheek and refusing to even acknowledge Wesley’s presence.  She was still angry with him.  Why did he have to be so headstrong anyway?  “Where have you been all morning?”

“I went to visit Miss Summers to invite her and Lady Joyce to go to Royal Ascot with us on Friday,” he grinned widely at her.

“And by your smile, I imagine she accepted?”  Fred linked her arm through Spike’s as they walked towards the drawing room, the brunet man in tow, looking painfully aware that he’d been ignored yet again by the object of his affections.

“Of course and she also agreed to join me for a ride in Hyde Park this afternoon.  I hope you don’ mind that I told her she could use Illyria.”

“But of course not, Illyria would love the exercise.  It’s a pity I had already made plans for the afternoon myself; I would’ve loved to accompany you and Miss Summers.”

“Plans?” Wes couldn’t stop himself from interjecting against his better judgment.

“Plans?” Spike echoed when Fred didn’t even try responding to his friend.

“Alasdair and I are visiting the Countess of Shrewsbury.”  She frowned when she saw William’s face fall, his disappointment evident for her to see.  “Is something amiss?”

“Well, I wanted to ask you a favor, but I imagine it can wait,” the blond man sighed dejectedly.

“What is it?” she pressed, very curious as to what it could be that he wished to ask of her.

“It’s nothin', forget it,” he shook his head, but he didn't even try to hide his obvious sorrow at her answer.  “At any rate, it can wait.”

“William, tell me, please?”

“The thing is… I wanted to gift Miss Summers with a horse of her own, a mare most probably, and I had planned on going to Mr. Thompson’s private stable in Hampshire this afternoon, but I forgot all about that when I asked her out.”

“I see.”

“No, I don’t think you do, Fred.  I don’t have time to go tomorrow either.  And it’s truly a pity since I was looking forward to giving it to her as a present on Friday.”

“So, you need me to go to Mr. Thompson’s and choose one, then?”

“If it wouldn't trouble you so much, I'd love you to.  Of course, I’m not asking you to go on your own.  Wes is an expert in the subject and I trust between the two of you, you’ll make a perfect selection.”

She narrowed her eyes at William when he mentioned Wesley, but refrained from commenting.  What was her brother up to?  Then he winked at her and she had to bite down a grin.  She should have known, or imagined at least, that he would try to do something to throw them together without his partner’s knowledge.

Wes had to give it to Spike.  Not only had he found a perfectly good opportunity for him to spend some quality time with Lady Winifred, and without the damned Earl of Harlich, or so he hoped, but he’d done it in such a way that it would be very difficult for her to refuse his plea. 

She exhaled a long suffering sigh, before replying, “Oh well, I imagine I can ask Alasdair to present my excuses to the countess.”  Not that Theresa would dare take offense on her breaking the engagement at such short notice, not with Fred’s brother being who he was.  And truly, even mad as she still was at Wes or forced by the circumstances as they were, she could not wait to spend time with him. 

“Perfect! I knew I could count on you, sweetheart,” Spike declared, standing from the chair he occupied and kissing her on the cheek.  “Mr. Thompson should expect you to arrive a little after four, so if you want to get there on time, you should prepare to leave in a few minutes.   Now if you’ll both excuse me, I have an appointment to keep myself.”  And with that he left them on their own to go to his quarters. 

With any luck his intervention would be enough to give Wes a push in the right direction and in case it wasn’t, the green-eyed monster that took over whenever Alasdair’s name was mentioned in regard to his sister might do the trick quite nicely.  At least he got his partner to admit his feelings for Fred to him and that was definite improvement. 

“Lady Winifred, I—” Wes started as soon as Spike left them alone, choking on his own words when the lady in question sent him a scathing glare.  He swallowed past the lump in his throat and continued, “I-I’ll go order the carriage around.  Is thirty minutes enough for you to be ready?”

“I can be ready in half that time, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce,” she replied haughtily.

He sighed and passed a hand over the back of his neck in a gesture that betrayed his tension.  Perhaps it was as Spike had said and he was the one erecting walls between them, and if he were, well, shouldn’t it be he who demolished them, too? 

“Please, Wi-Winifred.”  He saw her eyes widen in surprise and heard her sharp intake  of breath at the use of her given name, so he pressed forward,   “I just… I’m well aware what I accused you of was ludicrous and while I know you have every right to be angry at me, well, I simply can’t stand the thought of you being upset with me any more.  So, please, please, Winifred, can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”

How could she not when he was being so earnest in his apology and when he’d finally called her by her given name?  Not that she would let on the little fact that her heart had skipped a beat or that she’d forgive him anything if he kept looking at her like that.  “I can be ready in half that time… Wesley,” she repeated with a small smile which was readily answered by one of his.

“Thank you.” My love, he added to himself, hoping one day he might have the courage to say it out loud.  “I will meet you in the foyer then in fifteen minutes.”  And with a curt nod and a smile, he left to arrange their outing, thinking that if anything ever came out of this, he’d owe it to Spike and no one else.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

“You look very happy,” Willow said as she helped Buffy with her hat.  And she really did, more than she’d ever seen the blonde girl look before. 

“That’s because I am, Willow,” she sighed blissfully as she stood up from the vanity chair to inspect her reflection in the mirror.

Her grey and green velvet riding habit complimented her creamy complexion perfectly.  Her hair was dressed in curls and ringlets under the matching grey and green velvet hat, a silver grey feather on the side, framing her face and making her emerald eyes shine even brighter.  Silver gray gloves and black riding boots completed her outfit.  She looked quite lovely if she said so herself and she could barely contain her sparkling excitement over going riding with William. 

William.  It was ridiculous how much she missed him what with them having been apart for only a couple of hours, she was well aware of that, but… she couldn’t stop herself.  He’d somehow weaseled his way into her heart and displaced Angel in a way that made her realize what she’d felt for the brunet had been nothing more than a simple infatuation.  Not that she was certain of what she felt for William… yet.  She was attracted to him, yes; and she could scarcely go a few minutes without recalling his handsome face, his kisses, his caresses or how he’d turned her world upside down in just a few days.  
 
“Well, I’m very happy for you,” Willow responded.  She was fully aware she might be overstepping her boundaries by having this conversation with Buffy.  Not that her friend had really set any restrictions between them, if anything she kept trying to get the maid to open up to her, show her they could be friends even if their stations in life were quite different.  “Oz says he’s a very good man; always mindful and caring of his friends and servants.”

“I see, and who might this Oz be?” Buffy teased the redhead, whose face turned almost the same color as her hair.

“I-well, he’s His Grace’s tiger.”

“Ooh yes, he’s the one who came with us when Wil… I mean, when His Grace took us shopping.” 

Willow’s smile widened at the faux-pas.  Things were certainly good between the two of them if Buffy forgot herself so easily. 

“I’m very happy for you, too, Willow.  And you might be seeing more of Oz very soon,” the blonde girl said with a secretive smile.

The redhead blinked in confusion.  “Really?  Why?”

“Well, I suppose I could tell you that Aurelius suggested you could be my personal maid when we marry.  It’s your decision, though.  I wouldn’t dream of forcing you if you wish to remain here with my mother.”

It was the maid’s turn to forget herself as she threw her arms around Buffy, thanking her over and over for the chance and promising she would never regret it. 

They were startled when they heard a knock on the door, Willow going to answer it while Buffy glanced at the clock on her vanity, realizing it was almost four already and it was more than likely William to pick her up, which was confirmed by the maid. 

Her heart fluttered madly inside her chest and her breath quickened at the mere thought of spending the whole afternoon together with him, riding side by side with him, talking with him, getting to know him in a different environment, and perhaps… just perhaps feeling his arms around her and his mouth over hers as he stole a kiss from her. 

And she could hardly wait, so with a last look at herself in the mirror and content with what she saw there, she blew a kiss to her friend and left the room.

Willow stayed behind, tidying up the room and then hanging up the blonde’s day dress, a huge smile on her face as she dreamt of how her own life would change when Buffy married the Duke of Aurelius.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

“Oh William, she’s so beautiful,” Buffy gushed as she caressed Illyria’s flank, then her neck and finally her nose, giggling when the mare gently nuzzled against her hand.

“Not nearly as beautiful as you are, my love,” he whispered in her ear—his lips caressing the outer shell so softly she almost thought she’d imagined it, until she noticed the devilish gleam in his baby blues—and she shivered, both because of his words and his nearness. 

“I know you didn’t compare me to a horse just now, did you?” she asked him, with as serious a tone as she could manage considering the circumstances while frowning slightly.

He blinked at her words.  She couldn’t believe he’d do that, could she?  But her expression was so grave; what else could he think?  “I… no, of course not, Buffy.  I’d never… I-I,” he stuttered.

“Although to be honest there are worse things than being compared to a gorgeous and very noble creature such as Illyria,” she said, still caressing the horse’s mane while covering her mouth with her free hand, trying in vain to contain her bubbling giggles at how flustered he appeared to be. 

Spike smirked, loving to see her like this.  And if she wanted to play, he’d be more than happy to indulge her.  He drew closer to her, putting his hand over the one of hers which was touching the mare, feeling her freeze as he linked their fingers, seeing her eyes widen and then dart nervously from him to Oz who appeared to be blissfully unaware of what was going on between his fiancée and him. 

He noticed her little pink tongue peek out and wet her luscious bottom lip, making him groan and place his other hand on her waist, gripping it tightly while his senses reeled from her proximity, her scent, in the differences between the silky texture of her flesh and the soft velvet of her dress. 

She could barely breathe as William lowered his head slowly towards her mouth, her eyelids dropping to cover her desire-filled green depths the closer his lips came to hers until they were only a hairsbreadth away, forgetting where she was, everything that wasn’t the two of them.

It was more than tempting to just take what they both obviously wanted without caring of the consequences.  However, that was not what this was about, it was about teasing and making her yearn for him the same way he craved her, so he did what he had to, his lips steering off course iat the last possible moment to kiss her cheek instead of her lips.

“Ready to leave, love?” he asked, pride and love swelling within his chest at the way her eyes slowly fluttered open, almost as if she’d been waiting for him to continue with what he started.  Her confusion over why he hadn’t swirling amidst her green orbs. 

“I-I,” she blinked, shaking her head slightly to clear it.  Why hadn’t he kissed her?  It wasn’t like she resisted.  “Y-yes, of course.”

William entwined his hands, lowering them to help her up on the horse.  Still shaken and more than a little miffed, she looped her skirts over her arm and placed her dainty boot-clad foot in them, allowing him to lift her up and into the sidesaddle, the action bringing him very close to her. 

Grabbing Illyria’s reins in one hand, he brushed her fingers with the other, weaving their hands together to bring them to his lips, kissing the back of hers before saying in a hushed whisper, “Later.”

She frowned at this, not sure of his meaning, then blushed up to the roots of her hair when he winked at her, giving a sideways glance towards Oz.  Good Lord, how could she forget about him?  What would he think of her, say of her wanton behavior?  Oh God.  She swallowed hard past the lump of fear that settled in her throat.

“You’re adorable,” he chuckled when he noticed her fearful expression, laughing harder when she threw him a glowering glare.  “Don’ worry your pretty li’l head over it, sweetheart.  He won’ say a thing, I promise.”  

“Are you sure?” she murmured, still concerned with the  issue.

“`F course `m sure.  Wouldn’ say it otherwise.  Trust me on this, Buffy… please?” 

Trust him… could she?  Yes, she knew she could, felt it deep inside her.  How had that happened?  When?  Probably around the time when he tended to her lashes, when he defended her against her father and then threw him out of their house.  But, should she?  Men could change in the blink of an eye, she knew that first hand.  They could present one face to the world and then show another to their family, same as her father had done with them all her life.  William was not her father, though, and she was well aware of that.

“Yes, William, I trust you,” she answered, her voice firm and her gaze soft as she caressed his hand with her thumb.

If he hadn’t been certain his heart was forever lost to hers before she said this, he would’ve been at that moment.  He wanted to weep like a little boy at the knowledge that in just a few days he’d gained her trust, even if it was in something as small as this.  It was a start and he was more thankful for it than he could ever convey with words.

He also felt guiltier than ever before for the way he’d won her hand in marriage and knew he would have to tell her.  But not now.  Later.  When they were alone.  For now, he would bask in her presence and pray that when he told her she wouldn’t take her trust away, breaking his heart into a million pieces in the process.

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