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 9. The Truth shall Set you Free

Forgiveness is always free. But that doesn't mean that confession is always easy. Sometimes it is hard. Incredibly hard. It is painful to admit our sins and entrust ourselves to God's care. ~ Erwin W. Lutzer

Chapter 9. The Truth Shall Set You Free

“Lord William, I need to tell you something…” She inhaled deeply, trying to gather all of her inner strength for this little tête a tête. “…Something that might change your opinion of me and my daughter. But first I need your promise that you’ll hear me out and not interrupt, otherwise I’ll probably lose my nerve,” Joyce pleaded.

“But ‘f course, Lady Joyce, you have my word.” He was very curious over what she could possibly reveal that had her so nervous. She said it was something concerning her and Buffy, but what could it be? Did it have anything to do with what her husband did to their daughter?

“It all began a little more than eighteen years ago. I was around the same age Buffy is now and met someone… someone who swept me off my feet and made me realize love was more than something you read about.” She saw the duke raise an inquisitive eyebrow and promptly added, “If you’re wondering, this man wasn’t Hank Summers, I hadn’t met him until later.”

Spike’s thoughts were running at breakneck speed inside his head as he assimilated her words. She couldn’t mean what he was thinking, could she? But then that would actually make sense. It would explain why a highborn woman, the Earl of Clarence’s daughter, would marry a right bastard like Hank Summers, why her family would allow or even encourage the match.

“His name was Rupert Giles. He was a wonderful, well educated, caring gentleman whose only flaw, if you could call it that, was being the oldest son of a vicar and therefore not someone my father would ever consider worthy of marrying off his only daughter to. Which is ironic when you consider who he ended up making me wed.”

She laughed humorlessly and rolled her eyes in a way that reminded him so much of Buffy, that he couldn’t stop himself from chuckling. He’d known there was a reason he liked her mother so much. There was no doubt who his fiancée had inherited her fiery spirit from.

“Long story short, Rupert and I ran away together and got married in Gretna Green. Then we headed to the Scottish highlands where his family lived, only my father caught up with us before we could get there a-and…” she choked on her words as the pain of those days came rushing back to crush her heart, a few tears escaping her eyes. So lost in her own grief that she started when the duke patted her hand with his, offering her a crisp linen handkerchief emblazoned with the House of Aurelius coat of arms. She raised her eyes to his and the compassion, understanding and dare she say… respect she saw swirling in the blue depths along with his next words made her even more certain that she’d made the right choice by deciding to tell him the truth about Elizabeth.

“There’s no need for you to continue with this if it pains you so, Lady Joyce. I promise you there’s nothin’ you could say that would ever make me change the high opinion I have of you and your daughter.”

“I appreciate your thoughtfulness, Your Grace, er, Lord William,” she amended quickly. “And that’s precisely why I need to continue.” She took another deep breath, the way she twisted the handkerchief in her hands her only outward sign of distress other than the unshed tears in her eyes. “My father had Rupert captured on account of sequestering me and then sent him to Newgate to await trial. He never made it that far, though. There was a revolt in the prison and he was… he was k-killed in it. My father wouldn’t allow me to see him one last time, even though I begged him on my knees to let me claim my husband’s body so I could give him a Christian sepulture. Then he had the gall to say it was for the best that Rupert had died. It wasn’t of course, at least not for me. After that, I simply lost the will to live, content to wither away and wait for death to claim me until I discovered I was enceinte…”

The duke gasped, but other than that gave no other external sign of his surprise, for which she was thankful for.

Only Spike wasn’t surprised, not really. Relieved that Hank Summer’s blood didn’t course through Buffy’s veins? Yes, most definitely. But not surprised. As soon as Lady Joyce started telling him her story, he could imagine something like this happening. He was horrified by what the Earl of Clarence did to his own daughter, though. And if the man were alive today, he’d love to have a word or two with him, preferably alone and in a dark alley where he could show him exactly what he thought of him.

The fact that he didn’t allow Lady Joyce to see her husband’s body bothered him immensely. There was something about the fact that didn’t add up and he had the distinct feeling there was more to the story than what she knew. But with her father dead, it would be more difficult to inquire about Rupert Giles fate. More difficult, but not impossible. If the man had been sent to Newgate then there had to be a registry with his name in it and what happened to him. If there was anything to discover, Wes and he could do just that. At the very least, perhaps they could find out where Buffy’s father was buried so they could pay their respects to him, if he had indeed died as her father had stated.

“Of course, it would’ve been a scandal of monumental proportions if I were to give birth out of wedlock, so as soon as my father found out about the baby, he made sure to find me a suitable husband.”

Hank Summers suitable? he thought while shaking his head in disbelief, that miserable excuse for a human being was anything but that.

“And he found it in Hank Summers, who had only recently moved to England. My father only cared for maintaining his good name, you see, so a man who was willing to marry his daughter and take her back to America the same day suited him perfectly. He paid him handsomely for the favor, too. Not that any kind of money was ever enough for Hank. Not with his gambling habits.”

Spike lowered his head sheepishly when he heard that, feeling embarrassed of having preyed on the man’s very habit in order to gain Buffy’s hand in marriage. Perhaps if he’d known… but then how could he have?

“He has made our lives a living nightmare from the start and while I might have deserved it, Elizabeth doesn’t, she’s nothing but an innocent bystander. I’m not certain of what transpired between you and Hank today, but I know his ‘sudden trip’ is your doing and I’m afraid he might try to use what I just divulged to blackmail you or gain the upper hand somehow, and I would hate for that to happen.”

“Lady Joyce, no one deserves that kind of treatment. Not you and certainly not Miss Summers. Before today I had planned on askin’ Mister Summers to allow you to visit your daughter and I once we were married, in the hopes of makin’ it an indefinite arrangement.”

“And what changed that?” she asked.

“It didn’t change, I just… The thing is, milady, when we went out to the garden, I noticed Miss Summers was in pain and when I asked her about it, she had no other choice but tellin’ me what your husband did to her. I can be very convincin’ when I want,” he added, seeing the dubious look Lady Joyce threw him. It was close enough to the truth anyway, and telling his fiancée’s mother how he really discovered the lashes was completely out of the question… at least if he still wanted her to be on his side. Betrothal contract or not, being in his future’s mother-in-law’s good graces could go a long way in winning her daughter’s heart. “You have to understand I had to do somethin’ about this, make sure he’s not in the position to harm either of you again. If it were up to me, neither of you would ever have to deal with him again. However that’s not my decision to make. When he returns from his trip, you’ll be the one to decide if you want to accept him back or not and I’ll stand by whatever you think is best for you and your daughter.”

Joyce wasn’t so sure if the duke was telling her the truth about how he discovered what her husband had done to Elizabeth. She knew her daughter was terrified of her stepfather and would do nothing to further encourage his wrath. But maybe now that she was betrothed to Lord William and spending time with him, she saw what a good man he was and trusted him enough to reveal what Hank had done to her. True, they hadn’t known each other for long, but sometimes it took only a moment to know, she mused remembering how it had been for her and Rupert. If that were the case then she was thrilled for Elizabeth, but her happiness took a backseat to how stunned she felt over the duke giving her the choice to decide what she wanted to do concerning the safety of her family.

“You would really do that?” Dumb question, Joyce, the man is obviously serious about this. And still, after all she'd lived through these long years, who could blame her for finding his kindness difficult to believe?

“’F course I would. You just say the word and I’ll abide by it."”

“I-I would like to discuss this with Elizabeth if that’s alright with you.”

“That’s perfectly understandable, Lady Joyce. Is she aware of what you just told me?” Spike asked.

“No, she isn’t and I’d prefer it if she never found out, unless absolutely necessary.”

“I promise she won’t learn it from me.” He glanced at the grandfather clock to his right and was surprised by how late it was already. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to leave. Will you please let Miss Summers know I’ll come calling for her at seven thirty sharp?”

“Certainly, Lord William. Before you leave though, I want to thank you for listening to me.”

“I should be the one thankin’ you for placin’ your trust in me, Lady Joyce, not the other way ‘round,” he said, before kissing her hand and exiting the room.

After the duke left, Joyce felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, a weight she’d been carrying for the last eighteen years. In her head there was no question over what she wanted to do and she knew Elizabeth would likely agree with her. To have a reprieve from the hellish life her daughter and she had endured at Hank Summers’ hands was a gift, one they couldn’t in good faith refuse. One they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for her future son-in-law.

And while there were some questions that remained unanswered, like how the duke had met her husband and the reason why he wanted to marry Elizabeth, those seemed almost insignificant in light of everything that happened today.

*******

“He did what?!” Lady Winifred asked, her hands on her hips and chocolate brown eyes blazing with rage.

She was truly magnificent when she was angry, Wes thought dreamily, especially when he wasn’t the object of her wrath. Because when he was, which wasn’t that often thank the heavens, he knew from experience it was much better to make a hasty retreat and wait a day or two until she’d calmed down enough.

“Exactly what you heard, pet,” Spike replied. He’d told Wes and Fred the same abridged version he gave Lady Joyce. After all, he knew his sister and was well aware of what she’d say if she discovered how it was that he really found out about Buffy’s injuries. Not that he was afraid of her or anything, but it was best to stay out of the line of fire.

“And what did you do? I hope you wiped the floor with him at the very least?”

“I did somethin’ better than that, my dearest sister.”

She raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow, compelling him to elaborate.

“I used the same ridin’ crop he used with Miss Summers to choke him before orderin’ him out of his house. Then I broke the bloody instrument in two and made sure Bu-Miss Summers knew she had nothing to fear from now on.”

Wes and Fred exchanged a sideways glance and a barely there grin at William’s near unnoticeable slip. So he was already thinking of her as other than just Miss Summers? Oh, things seemed to be developing quite nicely between the engaged couple and she couldn’t be happier for him. If what her brother was telling them were true, Miss Elizabeth’s opinion of him must have improved quite a bit since the night before. To trust a virtual stranger with something such as this, well… it wasn’t an easy thing to do. And not only that, but she’d also accepted their invitation to the theatre? Promising, very promising.

“That’s not all, though.”

“It’s not? Did you do anything else then to the vile cockroach?” Fred perked.

The last word brought a fond smile to Spike’s face as he remembered his fiancée referring to him as exactly that the night before, before he shook his head to get back to the issue at hand.

“No, not exactly. But I most assuredly will if the blasted man tries to do something against Lady Joyce or Miss Summers. It’s something Lady Joyce told me in confidence, but I trust you both with my life and I know whatever I say won’t be repeated elsewhere.”

“Turns out she was briefly married to a man named Rupert Giles about eighteen years ago. He wasn’t titled so her father would’ve never accepted the match. That didn’t matter to them though, and they ran away together and got married in Gretna Green.” He didn’t miss the naked longing in his sister’s gaze as she set it on Wes for a second before looking back at him. Noticing that he’d seen everything, she blushed slightly then smiled when he mouthed ‘soon’ at her. “The earl had him captured and it seems he was killed in a revolt.”

“Seems?” Wes interjected, snapping out of his reverie.

“Yes, she never saw the body, her father forbade her to set foot in the prison. It was shortly afterwards that she discovered she was with child. As you might have already guessed, to avoid scandal the Earl of Clarence forced his daughter to marry Hank Summers.”

“Uhm, why does that sound familiar to me?” Wes said, a teasing smile tugging at his lips.

“Oh, shush you,” Fred chastised him. “Miss Summers could do a lot worse than William.”

“Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be forced, now would it?”

“And how do you know it wouldn’t be? If it hadn’t been for my brother, Mister Summers wouldn’t have hesitated selling the poor girl to the highest bidder. You must realize that. At least William is willing to do right by her, make her happy.”

“But he isn’t her real father, he can’t force her.”

“Argh, you can’t be that naïve, can you, Wesley? For all intents and purposes, Hank Summers is her father. He has the right to do whatever he wants with her.” Fred shuddered. “Although I have to admit I’m quite relieved Miss Summers is not related to him by blood.”

“You and me both, sweetheart,” Spike replied. “You and me both.”

“Alright then, so what do you need me to do?” Wes questioned. He wasn’t going to win this argument, so it was best not to even try.

“Do you think you could gain access to Newgate’s registry books and see if you can find anything on Rupert Giles?”

“Yes, I certainly can. Might take me a while, but at least I have a year in which to begin looking. Could be worse.” Wesley shrugged nonchalantly, but inside he was jumping up and down excitedly. He’d always loved researching.

“And remember, not a word of this to anyone, least of all to Miss Summers.”

tbc


Endnotes: So, as you see, many of you were at least very close to what Joyce's secret was, but there's a little more to it as Spike imagines. *hint hint*

Next chapter will feature the start of Spike's wooing of his bride-to-be. I'm not sure yet if I'll have time to post again this week, but I'll try my best to post before next Tuesday.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know what you thought of the chapter, if you’re inclined to tell me, of course. *bats eyelashes*

Hope you have a great week!

Hugs,

Mari

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