Buffy stood in front of the mirror wearing a towel, while applying her nightly moisturizer. Her thoughts were jumbled as she mulled over the events of the past few days. She was both surprised and thankful William had been the voice of reason the night before. He was right; she wasn't ready to take that step, but sometimes her physical need for him was just so overwhelming. No one had ever incited that kind of passion in her. He had the ability to fry her brain like an egg in a hot skillet, and her body melted at the slightest touch.
Those were her problems, and after today, she knew William's were much worse. She was aware of his drinking, but had no idea the consequences of quitting. Buffy felt incredibly naive, but also grateful she'd never experienced anything like this. She had a loving, supportive family and had always been healthy, mentally and physically. She hoped he would open up to this therapist and get the help he needed. He had wormed his way into her heart now, and while it was too soon to think about the L-word, she already cared for him deeply.
Buffy dressed for bed, pulling on some cotton sleep shorts and a small fitted t-shirt, then turned off the light and went down the hall to William.
As she entered his room, the soft glow from the wall-mounted bedside lamp illuminated the butter-cream walls. Buffy looked around, seeing the bed still made and no William, so she called to him softly.
"William, where are you? Are you okay?"
The bathroom door was cracked open, and she walked toward it, peeping through the crack. William stood wearing nothing save a pair of navy and white striped pajama bottoms, making faces at himself in the mirror. She put hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle.
"William, what are you doing?" Buffy asked, trying and failing to keeping, the laughter out of her voice.
He didn't seem bothered by her presence or her question.
"I was brushing my teeth; then I noticed all the funny things my face did, so after I finished I started seeing what else I could do," he said, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. "Hey, can you do this with your tongue?" He stuck out his tongue, pointing it and touching it to the tip of his nose with ease.
Buffy felt the heat rise in her cheeks, remembering just how said tongue felt on her heated skin last night and wondering what else it was capable of.
She gulped and ducked her head. "No, I don't think my tongue's that long," she said, hooking her arm through his.
William looked at her wearing a goofy grin. "Well how do you know if you've never tried? I think you should try. Come on. Just once for me, please?"
He sounded like a little boy, and Buffy thought he might adopt a prayer pose any moment if she didn't humor him.
"All right, here goes, but remember I told you I couldn't do it." She thrust her tongue out and up, bringing it above her upper lip, about a sixteenth of an inch away from the bottom of her nose. William watched her tongue closely as she brought it back down and slid it into her mouth. "See. I told you I couldn't do it."
He grasped her shoulders, his eyes wide. "B—but you tried, and that's what matters," he said, stuttering.
Buffy rolled her eyes, because he was too much. The medicine was making him some kind of loopy. "I think it's time for you to lie down. Why don't you come with me?"
She turned out the lights in bathroom and walked while William sort of sauntered into the bedroom. She turned down the covers on the bed and removed the shams and extra pillows propped against the coffee-colored leather headboard, moving them to a chair in the corner.
He came up behind her and put his arms around her, leaning down to whisper in her ear. "You promised you'd stay with me. Will you?"
Buffy sensed a tinge of fear in his voice. She turned around to face him and said, "William, I'm not going to break my promise. Now, which side of the bed is yours?"
He smiled, cupped her cheek, and kissed her forehead. "I sleep on the left, but I'm too tired to care, so any side you want is fine," he said motioning to the king sized bed, a little wobbly on his feet. Buffy took his arm in an attempt to steady him.
Buffy looked at the bedside table and shook her head. "I would make a sucky detective," she said, glancing at the alarm clock, book, and glasses sitting atop the table. "I don't think we'll need the alarm tonight. I wake up on my own, and you need your rest." She let go of his arm and took his hand, as she climbed onto the bed, scooting over to give him room to get in and lie down.
William climbed in behind her and lay down on his side facing her with his head propped up on his elbow, as his eyelids started to flutter. Buffy had moved out of reach to get a pillow. "You sure are far away. How am I gonna hold you if I can't even touch you?" He reached out in her direction grasping at the air.
Buffy's lips twitched, and she shook her head. "You're a goof. This is a ginormous bed, and I was just getting a pillow," she said, blushing slightly.
"Oh," he said groggily, and she thought they were done with conversation, so she reached over him to turn out the bedside lamp. "Ginormous, eh? That's a ridiculous word. I don't think it's real."
Buffy leaned back in the dark and poked him in the chest. "Sorry to inform you, but it most certainly is," she said, with an air of superiority. Her eyes had adjusted to the dark and she could see him pretty clearly.
William smiled up at her, his eyes slightly rolling in his head, and reached out to touch her cheek. "I think it's just another one of those made up words. Like the ones you're so fond of," he said, his speech slightly slurred.
"Okay, Mister Etymologist, that's enough out of you tonight. Which way do you lie?" Buffy asked, lying down on her back.
"This way," he said, moving closer and putting his arm around her waist.
"All right," she said lying flat on her back in a rather awkward position. William's minty breath tickled a stray hair on her face, and she took comfort in the familiar notes of sandalwood in his aftershave. "I'm just going to turn to the side if that's okay."
Buffy leaned up to move the hair out of her face and bent over to kiss him goodnight, but he was already fast asleep, so she planted a gentle kiss on his bottom lip and turned over, grasping his hand around her waist.
"Sweet dreams, William."
She couldn't believe she was here in his bed. This had gone past flirting with disaster to asking disaster to marry her and begging to have its babies, but she had no self-control around William. All she could think about was the physicality of their relationship sometimes, the things he was capable of making her body feel. What she needed was to focus on was helping this wonderful, smart, caring, witty man, and not about the way his body felt spooned against hers.
Buffy took a deep breath and dragged her mind from its salacious musings to focus on what she had to do tomorrow. They were supposed be leaving on Monday, and William had a doctor's appointment the following Monday. That posed a huge problem. She was going to have to call Eric in the morning and make something up, and she was a craptastic liar. However, this was her job, and looking out for William's best interests was most important. They would either have to cancel Seattle or reschedule, and she was pushing for cancellation. He could do Portland and Seattle another weekend. That should soothe the beasts.
Almost everyone in North America or Europe had at least heard of the book. The public just wanted to see who this Spike Patton was. Keller and Bronson Public Relations outdid themselves with him. They managed to create an enthralling persona, but gave little or no information about the author himself. They did this with a series of photographs and clever sound bytes.
Buffy found herself yawning and nestled down further under the comforter. William always kept the apartment extra cool at night. She felt his hand on her abdomen, pulling her closer, and she smiled as she heard him murmur her name in his sleep before drifting off herself.
William was sitting at the bar of his dad's local pub, The Wolf and Ram. He was dressed only in his pajama bottoms, which he found rather odd.
"Ah, William, ya here to join your father?" asked Clive, the barman, nodding his head to the left of William. "What can I get ya?"
William looked over, shocked to see his dad sitting on the stool next to him then glanced down at his pants and back up at Clive. Sorry, Clive, I don't have a pence to my name." William was still trying to imbibe the surreal nature of this tableau.
The barman just smiled. "Don't worry about that, lad. I'll just put it on your father's tab."
His father spoke up then. "I'll not be standing the blighter anything. He can buy his own drink."
"I don't need anything. Thanks, Clive," William said. "Dad, why are we here? I don't understand this."
His father turned and looked at him with cold gray eyes. "You think you've got her. Poor pathetic William's found someone to love him. You're never going to bloody well learn. You're not fit to love. If you think she's going to stick around, you're a bigger fool than I pegged you for. She's better than anything you could ever dream of having."
William held his jaw so tight the muscles began to twitch. He clenched and unclenched his fists. "You don't know the first thing about her or our relationship, so you can shut your gob, you sorry piss artist!"
His father took a swig of his pint then wiped his mouth. "Ha. That's a lark. Me a piss artist? What about you? What do you call yourself? You're no better than me."
William slammed his fist down on the bar. "I am better than you! I'm doing something to change. I'm not going to drink anymore. She believes in me."
His father gave a chilling laugh. "She may believe in you now, but what happens when you won't change, won't let go? She'll be out the door."
William jumped from his barstool heading toward in father. "Listen, you miserable gobshite. I'm going to change. I never want to end up like y—"
He noticed two things simultaneously. One, his father was no longer there and two, Buffy walked into the pub and took a seat at the far end of the bar. He smiled in relief and called her name. She looked up, but she gave him a cool smile, one reserved for acquaintances.
"Buffy, love, what are you doing here?"
She looked at him with a slight frown, her brow wrinkled in confusion. "Well, William, I'm waiting for my fiancé. What are you doing here?"
William felt as though an anvil was just dropped in his stomach. "Fiancé? What are you talking about? What about us?" As he asked each question, his tone grew more manic.
Buffy tilted her head, and he could see mixture of sadness and embarrassment in her eyes. She reached out to take his hand, but he shied away. "No, just tell me what the hell is going on."
"William, I haven't seen you in a very long time. You couldn't be what I needed. It wasn't fair to me. I had to leave. There was no other choice, and you know why."
Buffy was awakened by William's voice in her ear mumbling, 'Buffy, I don't understand' over and over again, as he pulled her closer to him. He sounded so distraught that she knew she had to wake him and end his torment. With a great deal of effort, she managed to free herself from his right arm, so that her face was buried in the crook of his neck. She ran her fingers through his curls in gesture of comfort, finding them damp with sweat.
"Shh, William, it's okay. I'm here. You need to wake up now," she said in a soft, gentle voice. She continued like this for a few minutes until she heard his ragged breath and felt his hand in her hair.
His breathing still ragged, William spoke in the darkness. "Oh, Jesus, Buffy—I'm so glad you're here. If I'd…if I'd woken up alone, I'd have thought it was real."
Buffy pulled back and stroked his cheek. "It's okay. I'm here. Why don't you turn on the lamp and take another pill? You're shaking like a leaf."
William sat up against the headboard and turned on the lamp, infusing the room with a warm glow. He handed the bottle of medication to Buffy, the sound of pills rattling in the bottle echoed in the room. "You might want to open these. If I managed to open them, I'd probably pour out the whole sodding bottle."
Buffy took the bottle from his trembling hands and gave him one. "Do you need water or can you just swallow?" she asked, taking his trembling hands in hers.
He shook his head. "I can just swallow. I think I've even heard somewhere that if you let these dissolve under your tongue, they get into your bloodstream faster."
She nodded in agreement. "My mother used to take them for anxiety attacks. She noticed a faint sheen of sweat on his face, and his sandy curls were plastered to his forehead. "Here let me get a cool cloth for your face."
William took a deep breath and nodded, leaning back against the headboard.
Buffy went to retrieve the cloth from the bathroom, her mind full of questions. Would he share the dream with her? What was it about? Did she really want to know the answer?
She returned with the cloth and gently wiped his brow. He reached up and took it from her, pressing a kiss into her palm that sent shivers up her spine.
"Thank you. I don't know what I did to deserve such kindness from you," William said, after he'd wiped his face and set the cloth on the nightstand.
Buffy took his chin between her thumb and forefinger, forcing him to look at her. "I don't want to hear anymore crap like that. Everyone deserves kindness, and you are no exception. I—I don't mean to be a nosy-parker, but do you want to talk about your dream? You seemed kinda distressed, and you were talking to me."
William's rolled his startlingly blue eyes and ran a hand through his hair. "So I talk in my sleep, huh? That's fucking perfect. What did I say?"
Buffy felt heat rise to her cheeks, and she bowed her head and said, "You kept repeating, 'Buffy, I don't understand.' Did I do something bad?"
He stroked her arm soothingly. "Um, it's kind of a long story, so why don't we get comfortable, yeah?" He pulled her to his chest and slid down in the bed.
Buffy rested her head on his chest where she could hear the steady beat of his heart. "I'm listening. Start whenever you're ready."
William exhaled and started to speak. "I've been having these dreams about my parents for a while now, and they're always very disturbing. I'm in the past, and it may be a real or imaginary event, but they always say mean, nasty things to me. I've dreamed about my mother. My mother committed suicide, and I was the one to find her. I dreamed about that the other night, and it was particularly upsetting. It was as though I was forced to relive the entire event.
Buffy tried to sit up. "Oh, W—"
He interrupted her. "No, wait until I'm done, love. They weren't good people. My mother let her illness rule her life, and my father was a hate-filled alcoholic. I'm terrified I will end up like them, and I don't want to be, Buffy. That's why I started taking my medicine again and why I've stopped drinking. I'm an alcoholic, just as he was, but my life doesn't have to be the same as his. I can stop drinking." He kissed the top of her forehead, and she banded her arm around his ribcage.
He was silent for a moment and Buffy spoke. "William, I can't imagine how hard it was for you to open yourself to me like that. I'm sorry your parents were such horrible people, but they did do something right. They made you," she said, her voice quivering with emotion.
William gave a harsh bark of laughter. "Oh, yes, I'm a prize. Tonight the dream wasn't like all the others."
He went on to relate the details of the dream. Buffy didn't know how to respond at first. She felt so bad for him, because of what his parents had done to his idea of self-worth. She wished they were here, so she could give them a piece of her mind - no, more like an entire pie's worth. His putting so much hope in their relationship frightened her as well. What if they did break up at some point? Would it be her fault if he started drinking again? God, her mind was jumbled, but she decided she just needed to be in the now.
His body tensed, as he awaited her reply.
Buffy sat up and took his head in her hands. "Listen to me. That was a stupid dream, and that's all it was. I'm not going anywhere, and you haven't done anything to make me want to go. As long as you don't, we're good, understand? How many times am I going to have to say I believe in you? Do you want me to record it on your phone, so you can play it every time you feel down? Should I make you a little necklace that says, 'Buffy believes in me?' Sheesh!"
Tears stained William's cheeks, but he was laughing, and Buffy was too.
He pulled her to him and kissed the tip of her nose. "You're one cheeky girl, and if this medicine wasn't making me feel so loopy,I'd be tickling you until you begged for mercy. What say we turn the light out and try to go back to sleep?"
Buffy stifled a yawn. "I think that sounds like a plan. I have to be up in a few hours as it is." She fluffed up her pillows and lay down.
William turned off the lamp and lay down as well, pulling her against him, placing a soft kiss on her neck. "Sleep well, Buffy."
She brought his hand to her mouth, kissing the knuckles before placing it around her waist. "Sweet dreams, William."