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 19. The Morning After

Chapter Notes: I'm very, very sorry for the huge gaps between updates, I just hope I haven't lost all of you. RL hasn't been treating me too kindly lately and my muse decided to leave me when I need her the most. *sighs*

Thank you very much to those of you who read and reviewed the last chapter! I'm chuffed to bits (and very surprised) the majority of you are enjoying the Wes/Fred storyline just about as much as the Spuffy, I'm loving writing both pairings. Un millón de gracias to Tina for taking the time to cheer me on when my muse wasn't playing nice with me; to Beth for her very helpful suggestions and making my muse finish the damn chapter already *giggles* and to Vara, for her time and invaluable historical expertise. Love you, girls!


Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Buffy woke up feeling deliciously refreshed and happier than she’d ever felt before. The nightmares which had previously plagued her sleep were now replaced by wonderful dreams where she relived every single moment she'd spent with William, every kiss they'd shared, every caress they'd exchanged, the way he made her body tingle all over wherever he touched her.

The Duke of Aurelius was so different from the man she'd thought he was at first.

He'd seemed arrogant, conceited, condescending and haughty. Someone who didn't care who he hurt to get what he wanted. Someone who flaunted his position and money and expected others to bend to his will just because of who he was. Perhaps there was still some of that in him, but that wasn't all.

He was compassionate and had gone to great lengths to reassure both her mother and her that he'd take care of them no matter what. Whatever his dealings with her father might have been, the moment he realized how Hank Summers treated her, he'd made sure the older man knew without a doubt his behavior was unacceptable and saw to it that he was removed from their presence, at least for the time being. He'd lovingly taken care of the lashes on her back, of her fears, of her reservations and showed her a part of him she was quite certain he didn't show many others.

She was sure William was as vulnerable—if not more—as she was over what was happening between them. He'd laid his heart out for her to either crush or pick up and proud as he was, he offered her a way out of the marriage if that was what she truly wanted. And while just a few days ago she would've jumped at the chance, today the idea of living the rest of her life without him made her physically ill.

For as sure as she'd been that she was in love with Angel, he'd never made her feel like she would just die if he didn't touch her, if he didn't kiss her, if he didn't look at her.

William did, though.

He made her feel loved, cherished, made her body sing with just a sideways glance, a ghost of a caress, the lightest of kisses. He made her feel alive for the first time in her life.

He loved her and she...she loved him back, she realized just then.

She struggled to sit on the bed, her eyes wide and wild as the realization of how truthful that statement was washed over her like a tidal wave.

She loved him, she truly did.

She looked down at the ring resting on the fourth finger of her left hand, the tangible reminder of his heartfelt proposal and her heart did a summersault inside her chest as she accepted without a doubt that she loved William with all her heart, mind, soul and body.

She wasn't idealizing him as she'd done with Angel. No, not at all. She was well aware of the blond man's virtues, but also of his flaws, and she loved him even more because of them. She loved him because he knew her, because he saw her as she was and accepted her as she now accepted him. She loved him because she could be herself with him. He didn't want a perfect ornament wife; he wanted an equal, someone with whom he could be himself. And she wanted to be that for him.

How had it happened? When? Did she even care? No, she didn't, and he wouldn't either, of that she was sure.

Buffy laid her head back on the pillow again, bringing her hand up to caress her cheek with the ring, smiling and closing her eyes as she imagined how William would react when she told him, how his face would light up, how his cerulean eyes would fill with awe and love.

She could hardly wait until she saw him a little later that day, when he and Lady Winifred would come to pick her and her mother up. They would go to his country estate, where they'd be spending the next few days while the Royal Ascot took place.

And just knowing they'd be far away from London, far away from the possibility of Hank Summers reappearing in their home and that she'd have the opportunity to spend most of her time with her fiancé made her feel unbelievably joyous yet deadly afraid at the same time. Afraid that she'd somehow lose William, that something could threaten this newfound happiness. She shook her head, breathing in deeply as she tried to dispel her worries. It would do her no good to focus on that, especially when she could spend time daydreaming of her love instead.

*~*~*~*~*~*

The minutes dragged by endlessly as Spike paced the length of his chamber, stealing a glance towards the mantle clock every once in a while and sighing his annoyance when time didn't advance as fast as he would have liked. He'd been up at the crack of dawn and already taken a bath, dressed for the day and read the newspaper. He was currently waiting for both his breakfast and Wes to inform him of Fred and his adventure in horse buying or anything else he might want to relate to him. For him to tell him something, anything, it didn’t matter what as long as it helped distract him from the urge to call on his fiancée so early. No matter how accommodating Lady Joyce had been so far, he didn’t think it would be in his best interest to come calling at seven in the morning.

He'd told Buffy he would pick them up at noon and now he wanted to kick himself for it. He knew he should have chosen an earlier time, the five hours remaining until he could gaze into her emerald depths and her upturned pixie face would be eternal. Perhaps he could send her a note to set an earlier time to leave?

He found it difficult to keep still this morning, even more so than usual, not that his night had been any better. He barely slept, fearful that if he did he would wake up to the realization that what transpired between Buffy and he had been nothing but a dream. A dream in which Miss Elizabeth Summers actually gave a damn about him. A dream in which her eyes softened with something akin to genuine affection whenever she looked at him. A dream in which she'd responded to his advances trustingly and passionately.

Only it wasn't a dream this time. Despite the way in which their relationship had started, his lovely fiancée was warming up to him, going as far as to put her trust in him, something he hadn't thought possible until last night.

Every kiss, every touch of her tiny hands burned a fiery path towards his heart, his very soul. He'd almost given up trying to find someone he could love so completely until he saw her that day on the street. And while he had to accept that her beauty was what drew him in first, it was her fire that ultimately made him fall for her so hard and fast.

A knock on the door snapped him out of his reverie and he walked to the anteroom to find the table already set for him, his valet at the ready on the side.

Spike raised an eyebrow when he noticed that only one place had been set on the small table and that Mr. Browning appeared somewhat nervous, his pallor appeared whiter than usual. The man was always imperturbable no matter what, so he was intrigued over what could have him in such a state.

“Isn't Mr. Wyndham-Pryce joining me?” he asked, and if possible, the question made the poor man even more sickeningly pale, increasing the duke's curiosity.

“I-I,” the valet stuttered, dreading the news he had to impart to his master. He knew there would be hell to pay when the Duke of Aurelius discovered that neither his beloved sister nor Mr. Wyndham-Pryce had returned from their outing the day before.

“Well?” Spike insisted, getting antsy at the other man's demeanor.

“A-hem, well, your Grace, the thing is, neither Mr. Wyndham-Pryce nor Lady Winifred returned from Hampshire last night.” He winced slightly; bracing himself for the explosion he was sure would follow.

“What do you mean they didn't return last night?” the duke asked in a deceptively soft tone, but Mr. Browning knew better than to believe he was as calm as his voice implied. He'd been in service at the Aurelius house since the duke was a small child and was well aware of his mercurial temper, especially when it was something concerning those he loved dearly.

“Exactly that, I fear. However, I have already sent a search party for them as soon as I noticed their absence.”

“And didn't you consider... telling me about this before now?” Spike inquired; a muscle in his jaw ticking as he tried to rein in his temper. It wouldn't do them any good if he let it loose, though, so he kept himself in check...for the time being at least.

Several scenarios of what might have happened to them ran through his head. He was afraid for his sister and his friend, afraid something grave could've befallen them, afraid he might've lost them both for sending them on that trip.

“I apologize, your Grace. It's my fault. I thought it might be best to hasten the search.”

The blond man shook his head and heaved a long sigh, trying to calm himself as best he could. “And of course, you were right, Mr. Browning. At what time did the men leave?”

“A little over an hour ago, your Grace.” The valet exhaled his relief at the duke's approval of his actions. He'd feared for his head for a moment there.

“Right then, keep me posted of anything you find out as soon as you do.” He dismissed the man with a small wave of his hand and just sat there, his head between his hands, breakfast forgotten on the table in lieu of his concern for his sister and best friend.

It passed his mind at one point to go look for them himself, but considering how long ago the search party had left, it made no sense. He just hoped it didn't take them long to find them, hopefully unharmed.

Suddenly feeling as if he couldn't breathe, as if the walls of his room were closing in on him, he escaped through the door in a huff, running down the stairs non-stop until he reached the garden, where he resumed his restless pacing, eyes trained on the road that led to the main entrance of the Aurelius townhouse.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Wes woke up with a start to find his ladylove cuddled into his side, her head nestled in the crook of his neck, and one of her legs between his. He moved his head backwards slightly, squinting to focus on her face. She was beautiful like this, in serene repose. His eyes committed to memory the image of her lips quirked upwards in a soft smile that lit her face even in slumber, of her closed eyelids hiding the lovely chocolate brown ponds he longed to drown in.

He raised a hand to her face, his fingers ghosting over her eyebrows, her lashes, her sleep-flushed cheeks, the bee-stung lips he wished to devour.

He almost couldn't believe Winifred was here with him, that she'd allowed him to be this close to her, in her body, in her heart. And she said she loved him! How did he get so lucky? He knew it wouldn't be easy, that they had many hurdles to jump before their happy ever after, but he was willing to move heaven and earth for her. Her love gave him the strength to fight against the world if need be.

And they had Spike's blessing. Or they hopefully would once he got past the fact of how things had drastically changed from one day to the next. If he didn't kill him first, ask questions later when he discovered Winifred and he spent the night together in this God forsaken inn, that was.

Fred didn't want to open her eyes, afraid of what she'd find when she did. Sure, Wesley was still there with her in bed, his warm, lithe body resting against hers, his heart beating steadily under her hand, his breath fanning over her face.

He'd told her he loved her, proved he did with his words and body and still...still she was fearful he would dismiss what happened between them and chalk it up to temporary insanity, reverting to his old ways when faced with his actions under the harsh and unforgiving light of day.

Then she felt his hand hovering over her features and she couldn't stop herself from stealing a glance at him through her thick lashes, unable to suppress a gasp from rasping her throat at the adoring way he was looking at her.

“Good morning, my love,” he whispered, placing a soft kiss on her lips and just like that, all her doubts melted like snow under the midday sun. “I was starting to think you were going to sleep the day away.”

“Mmmm, good morning.” She kissed him back, her cheeks staining red as she confessed, “I was just afraid to wake up and find last night had been a dream.”

“I’m pretty sure it isn’t. No dream could be as sweet as the reality of waking up with you in my arms.”

“That’s so sweet of you,” she said, raising her hand to caress his cheek, which he grabbed with his to bring back to his mouth.

“It’s the truth, sweetheart. And while there’s nothing I would love more than to remain here with you forever, I’m afraid we must head back to London before William sends the hellhounds after me for kidnapping his sister,” he responded, rising from the bed to gather their clothes, which were strewn all over the floor.

“Oh God, you’re right!” Fred sat up, pulling the sheet to cover her nudity. “I had forgotten all about him. Do you think they repaired the coach already?”

“I wouldn’t know, but I could find out while you dress.” Wes put on his pants then handed her clothes to her. “Unless you need some help with that?”

“Considering you killed my corset,” she started, raising an eyebrow as she retrieved the tattered remains of the contraption from where he’d left it on the bed, a smile tickling the seam of her lips. “I think I'll take my chances by dressing myself.”

“Pity that,” he jested with a wink, buttoning his shirt up and putting on his waistcoat.

He walked over to the mirror hanging next to the dresser, grimacing as he noticed how wrinkled his clothes were. He was also in desperate need of a shave and his hair was a mess that no amount of trying to comb it with his fingers would fix. He sighed, knowing there wasn’t much he could do about that now, so he just shrugged and grabbed his coat from the chair where he’d left it the night before.

“Do you want me to order you some breakfast when I go down?”

“No, that won’t be necessary. The sooner we get back to London the better.”

“I’ll be right back then,” he said, staring at her longingly as he passed through the door, closing it behind him while wishing he didn't have to leave her even if it was only for a few minutes.

Fred stared at the closed door for a moment before getting up to start dressing. It was odd this...familiarity between Wesley and her. Odd, but not unwelcome. Oh no, if anything, their morning after had gone much better than she'd expected.

They still had to talk about what would happen from here, but hopefully what transpired between them the night before meant he was willing to consider a future with her. In what capacity, though, she wondered, as a lover or a husband? That was the question, one she dreaded to know the answer to. She knew what she wanted, but would it be the same for him?

tbc

A/N: I know it was a short chapter, but hopefully it moves things along and sets it all up for what's coming. Hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you, if you feel inclined to tell me what you thought of the chapter.

I wish you a wonderful weekend!

Hugs,

Mari

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