Title: Give Me Time

Rating: T

Author: Blue Chance

Disclaimer: All the Buffyverse is just a stage that Joss built, and I am merely a player with a word program.

Summary: AU, Elizabeth "Buffy" Summers is the slayer in 1880's England, and William Pratt is the tragic poet who falls in love with her. In another time and another place, could things have been different for the star-crossed couple?

Author's Note: While I wouldn't exactly consider this dark, I would consider it very angsty - even more so than my usual stuff. Parts of it made me almost cry upon rereading, so I just want to be very clear that it is sad. It's also completely different from anything I've written before. I'm usually all about canon, but the muses and PTB wanted me to try and stretch my creativity legs here. I've never really written William before, but I've pieced together a character from the flashbacks on the show and bits of Spike's character. I think that William and Spike are one and the same even if he didn't always know it. As for Buffy, she is an English slayer during the Victorian Era in this fic, but I tried to have bits of canon Buffy in there, too. That was challenging, but fun.

This story is assuming that instead of staying in London and being turned, William heads to the country and must stay there for a while. No character or plot device is superfluous here; all were added with an endgame in mind. This means that the story moves quickly from one important instance to another without much filler. I've taken some liberties with William's family, but nothing too extreme, as we never had much background on him anyhow. It's one of those, "it's canon if I say it's canon" kind of things.

Anyway, one last note. This story is not meant to rewrite the history of Spike and Buffy. I like to think of it more as an experiment by the universe, or Powers That Be, or God, or whatever turns us on and shakes us about… to see if things could have been different between the two of them. Maybe they're always meant to know each other. Maybe they really do love each other… or maybe certain things happen no matter what time and place they find themselves in.

If you read my whole rambling author's note, thank you… Now read my whole rambling story so I can thank you some more!

Give Me Time

*1*

My grandfather had grown gravely ill in the winter of 1879, and so it was in the Winter of 1879 that my sister and I were sent from our home in London to stay with the older man on his estate in Surrey. The official story was that we were to keep our grandfather company, but the true reason was to keep my sister away from a man who had no business courting her, and whom she was unfortunately falling in love with. And, anyway, since my grandfather had only the most renowned physicians caring for him and an army of servants fulfilling his every need, the only true inconvenience for being forced to care for him, this man who had been largely an absent figure in our lives, was the extended stay in the country.

Ever since Father had died, it was up to me to see to the family.

"But, really... must we stay?" My sister asked as she stared gloomily at the passing countryside. I brushed nothing in particular off my pant leg and sighed.

"Yes, sister. Obligation and propriety command it of us." I responded, but neglected to mention about the part where this was all because of her, though she really must have known.

"But until he dies?" She pouted. "William, that could take weeks."

"What do you have against Surrey? You seemed to enjoy it in the past."

"Yes, and I also played with dolls and fancied myself a princess in the past."

I smiled teasingly.

"Did you?" I asked. "And tell me, which part of that has changed?"

She looked at me crossly.

"If I had known you were going to be so disagreeable on the carriage ride over, I might have arranged another way."

"Me disagreeable? I'm offended, Anna. I merely was curious as to your change of heart in regard to the country."

"It's just so... boring." She sighed. "I shall have to feign interest in the party they will be throwing in honor of our arrival."

"... How do you know there will be a party?"

She smiled, her blue eyes glittering.

"Of course there's going to be a party. The women are all probably jumping out of their skin to catch a glimpse of you this time around. We were children on our last visit... and you've grown quite handsome in spite of yourself."

"Handsome?" I asked, really thinking the idea quite ridiculous. "What makes you think the proper ladies of Surrey will care for such things?"

She laughed at this.

"Curiosity is stronger than propriety. They will want to see you whether they like it or not."

"Well then, My Dear, I shall have to stay out of sight."

"Oh, but that will be quite impossible... what with the party they will be throwing for us."

I took a deep breath and shook my head, turning to look outside the carriage at the trees.

"There shall be no party."

*2*

I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath of the night air, outside and happy, for the moment, that no one appeared to be in search of me. Inside my Grandfather's manner a party, as my sister had predicted, tromped on. Music reached my ears from inside the ballroom as the country people swirled and laughed in a slurry of dull colors. No gown different from another, no man more interesting than the man who stood next to him, no voice distinguishable from amongst the rest. They were all the same... and I was one of them.

I didn't even mind it so much.

What I did mind were all the very frank stares from the women who seemed to regard me as a new toy.

"Not enjoying the music?" Her voice lilted through the cold and over the music to my ears. So I been caught and someone had followed me outside. I could kill my sister for being right again. I forced a polite smile on my face.

"No, I am enjoying it immensely-" I turned to see a woman standing to my right near the doors. Her dress, I recall, was a dark and deep shade of red. Not blue or white. Red. Large green eyes laughed at me even though she had nothing in particular to be laughing about... And brown curls clung, it seemed, happily to her head. She seemed so utterly a part from the crowd that filled my grandfather's ballroom. I did not understand why I should get this distinct feeling about her.

Even then, I was taken aback.

"-Er, I was just a bit over warm." I finished.

"Oh, yes, I can imagine." She said with a smile. "I'm not quite sure how you have managed to breathe tonight."

I tilted my head a bit at her forwardness, but could not pretend that I was not intrigued.

"And what, may I ask, is your excuse?" I asked. She shrugged a bit and looked out toward the garden.

"I have no excuses, Mr. Pratt. Only reasons."

There was quite a bit about the statement that made her even more interesting to me. She knew who I was, obviously - though we had not been formally introduced, and did not try to pretend that she did not know who I was. A man of my wealth could always expect at least some degree of coquetry from all the women he happened to meet, but I found no trace of it coming from her. Also, her statement was quite different from one I might have thought she would give. No excuses, only reasons. There seemed to me so much wisdom in that, though I did not know exactly why.

Exceeding the bounds of what may have been proper, I approached her.

"So I see you have me at a bit of a disadvantage."

She did not appear uncomfortable that I was now standing next to her.

"And what disadvantage might that be?" She asked with a laugh.

"Well, firstly, you know my name - but I do not know yours... And secondly," I paused with a slight smile. "All I have are excuses."

She said nothing for a few moments - smiling, though her eyes were no longer laughing at me.

"I am sure all the women whom you have left in your wake have found that to be quite charming." She said. I moved my head to one side, immediately becoming aware of a distinct dislike for the woman who stood before me - lovely and different though she may have been. I stared at her for a moment and then smiled, bringing my mouth very inappropriately close to her ear.

"I do not presume to know how charming women think me to be."

Truth be told, women did not think me charming. In fact, I did not think me charming. I was bumbling on my best days and could not, for the life of me, understand how I was conversing so easily with this strange woman whom I had never met.

She pulled away from me - her smile gone, replaced by something akin to curiosity, but mostly something else that I didn't quite recognize.

"Yes, and neither would I." She responded with a curtsy. I bowed... and then watched her walk back in to join the people who I somehow knew she was nothing like. I walked slowly in to the shadows, watching her with a tilted head and an odd feeling of unease and familiarity.

I turned away.

*3*

Some days later at a gathering at a nearby estate, I watched the very same woman venture off in to the garden unaccompanied. I turned to James Windsor who was standing next to me on the lawn. I had known him for several years from my previous visits to Surrey, and his many stays in London. He was a nice, if not very intelligent, man and we got along well enough when in each other's company.

Mostly he just thought I was strange, and I just thought he was ill-refined.

"Who is she?" I asked, gesturing toward the woman. He looked at me and smiled curiously.

"Who, she?" He asked.

"Yes."

"That would be Buffy." He said, turning completely toward me.

I said nothing at first - as I was struck silent.

"What kind of a name is that?" I asked after a moment.

"Well, it's a pet name, you see." He said, taking a sip from his sherry glass. "When she was a child, she pronounced her name 'Elizabuff'. It's stuck with her, I'm afraid."

"Well, it's a terrible name." I said with almost a wince.

James looked oddly affronted. I creased my forehead in a frown and took in a sudden sharp breath.

"Say, she wouldn't happen to be connected with you in some way, would she?"

"She's my fiancé." He said flatly.

"Right." I said with a blink. "More sherry?"

He handed me his glass, and I was gone.

*4*

"She's engaged to be married, you know." Anna said, coming in to my room quite uninvited, as I sat at my writing desk, penning a few lines that had come to me that afternoon. I looked up at her, and tried as inconspicuously as I could to cover the paper with my hand.

"Have you ever heard of a thing called 'knocking'?" I asked. "It's quite fashionable in many polite circles."

She laughed a bit at me.

"Are you trying to fit in with polite society then, My Dear William?"

"Always." I responded.

She sighed.

"I suppose that's true." She said, idly pulling at the ruffles of her long sleeves. Then she paused. I looked at her but said nothing. "Well?"

I merely blinked. She looked properly put out.

"Did you hear me? I said she's engaged to be married."

"Yes, I did hear you." I responded. "I only thought it quite inapplicable to me or my present state of not knowing or caring who or what you are talking about, so I chose not to comment."

Anna moved her head to one side and smiled.

"The girl whose beauty you are no doubt honoring with your pen, just there." She said, pointing to my hand that had apparently not done its job of covering what I worked on.

Somehow, Anna always knew. Yes, the poem was about the young woman who I now knew to be my friend's fiancé. I didn't like her at all, really, and she truly did have an awful name… but one could not deny her beauty. One could not help but be inspired.

I shifted uncomfortably.

"Shouldn't you be off somewhere trying to trick some rich man in to putting a ring on your finger?" I asked with a glare that one reserves only for his younger siblings.

"Right as always, I see." She said with a triumphant grin, then her face changed and she sighed heavily. "Why will you not choose a woman who actually likes you?"

She shook her head sadly.

"Cecily likes me." I said with a hard jaw.

She scoffed.

"Cecily liked you, Dear Brother." She said, seeming serious now. "I do believe she counted you among one of her dearest friends at one time or another, but you've done quite your best to see to it that she is a hundred times above you even if she doesn't have much in the way of other suitors."

I furrowed my forehead, very much at a loss for words.

She came further in to the room, touching her hand softly to mine.

It seemed somehow much warmer than it should have, and now that she stood so near to me I could see an unnatural flush to her cheeks. I was about to voice my concern when she began to speak again.

"I see you, William." She said almost sadly. "I truly do see you. You're a good man. A little boring, I would even say. You're like a child trying to wear his father's clothes and finding that, though the style is correct, the fit is all manner of wrong."

I swallowed.

"Has… Cecily spoken of this to you?" I asked.

My sister merely shook her head.

"Then this is pure conjecture." I said, standing suddenly and shoving the still wet piece of paper in my pants pocket. I walked past her to the door, but she stayed where she was.

"You always refuse to see what is right in front of you." Her voice said from behind me. I didn't look back as I made my way down the corridor, down the steps, out through the back of the house and in to the cold garden.

Finding it suddenly very hard to breathe.

Then, I decided, was a good time for a walk.

*5*

Which led to the next time I saw Miss Summers.

*6*

And the next time I saw her, she was shoving a sharpened branch through a man's heart.

*7*

The next time I saw her after that, she was standing above me… and there were six of her. Then there were three…

Then, somehow, there was one.

"Where did your sisters go?" I asked dazedly as she kneeled next to me in the leaves of the forest clearing. She looked around, seeming every bit as confused as I felt, then looked back at me.

"Are you all right?" She asked.

I sat up on my elbows, as apparently I had been laying at the foot of a rather large tree whose roots jutted out in just such a way as to have perhaps caused me permanent cerebral damage.

"Tell me, Miss Summers, before I lose consciousness again." I managed to get out. "Was it a trick of the moonlight, or did that man, in fact…" I paused, searching for the right words. "Burst in to a cloud of dust?"

She sighed.

"Which one of those would you more likely believe?" She asked.

I thought.

"Well…" I shook my head. "Neither, now that you bring it up."

"Perfect." She responded cheerily. "Because it was neither of those things. You fell and hit your head, and now you are imagining things."

I narrowed my eyes.

"That smile on your face seems wholly inappropriate to the situation."

"That is often the case." She said, pulling my arm around her neck and helping me up off of the ground with an ease the belied her size.

"Right." I said. "I see."

"Do you?" She asked with just the slightest grunt at my weight.

"Yes." I responded, pulling away from her and leaning up against the tree whose roots were still ominously planted in the ground. "I'm dreaming."

She stared at me silently for a moment.

"Dreaming." She said, and then nodded only slightly. "Dreaming is good. Let's carry on with that idea, then."

She made move to approach me, but I only stumbled away and around to the other side of the tree.

"That's quite close enough." I said, though was no longer facing her. A moment later she was in front of me again with her arms cross over her chest.

"This will get us nowhere." She said with a hint of irritation in her voice.

"And nowhere is exactly where I'd like to be with you, Miss Summers, so if you wouldn't terribly mind it, I think I'll be getting on my way… alone, now."

I took to the dark road ahead, and she followed me.

"What you saw, it was…"

"Absolutely horrifying." I interrupted her. "I suspect I'll never sleep quite the same way again. Thank you for that."

"But you are sleeping now, aren't you? You just said yourself. This is all a dream."

"Yes, and I might believe that if it wasn't for the throbbing wound at the back of my head alerting me to my grasp of a substantial amount of being awake."

She stopped, taking hold of my arm.

"Let me see it." She said. I took my arm away from her.

"Are you a doctor?" I asked her.

"I only—"

"Only what?" I asked her, taking a step back. "Miss Summers, I just witnessed the apparent impaling of a dust man through what looked very much like where, assuming dust men have hearts, his would have been. I am in no way prepared to let the strange woman who performed the particularly stupefying act survey my head."

"Firstly, I just want to make sure you aren't bleeding." She said, talking to me as though I were a child. "Secondly, please stop calling me Miss Summers. My name is Buffy."

I cocked my head back in a show of distaste.

"Terrible name." I said, and began walking again. Again, she followed.

"What's the matter with Buffy?" She asked, offended.

"What a good question." I said, nodding at her. "Tell me, what is the matter with you?"

She took a deep breath.

"Please listen to me closely." She started. "I have varying levels of patience, but you are working on each and every one of them."

"Oh, yes?" I asked. "Are you going to run me through with a stick as well?"

She bit down on her teeth.

"If you ask me very nicely." She responded with mock sweetness.

I stared at her.

"And why would I ever do that?"

*8*

"Oh, God." I cried in frustration, as the night wore on and I had yet to find my way back to Grandfather's estate. "Run me through with your pointy stick."

The girl at my side laughed lightly.

"I do recall telling you this was not the way." She said.

"I don't recall that."

"But you decided not to follow the one out of the two of us who did not just recently have herself knocked unconscious."

"If you mean yourself, I'd sooner follow a bear." I stopped and turned to her. "If anyone finds out that you and I were out at ungodly hours of the night taking a stroll together—"

"You do truly enjoy inventing new ways to worry yourself, don't you?" She asked, nonplussed.

"Well, I don't have to invent ways just now, do I?" I asked, and then looked around, quieting my voice a bit. "Plenty of ways being invented for me." I looked back at her. "And what exactly were you doing out this late, and who was that man, and hold out your arms."

Her eyebrows knit together.

"Hold out my—"

Whether or not she caught me, I will never know.

*9*

I woke up in my room at the estate with a servant standing over me holding a wet rag and a washbowl.

"What…?" I started, trying to sit up – but was rewarded with the room spinning around my head.

The woman wiped at my forehead.

"You've got a terrible fever, Mr. William." She said with a distinctly lower class accent. "Been unconscious for two whole days."

I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath.

Then I had dreamed the whole thing.

Thank God.

"Where's Anna?" I asked, and then opened my eyes again. The woman's hand halted for a moment over my forehead, but quickly continued what it had been doing.

"She's gotten herself a fever, too." Was all she said.

*10*

By the time I was well enough to leave my bed, Anna was dead.

*11*

"She was a sweet girl." My grandfather said weakly as I sat at his bedside. I held his cold hand absentmindedly, wondering if he really believed that or was just saying it. He hadn't really known my sister.

"Very much so." I responded, and then I wondered if I believed that either. I had loved my sister, yes… but sweet may not have been my choice adjective when describing her. "I'll be leaving back to London as soon as the doctors tell me I'm well enough for travel. Mother will need me now."

More than ever, I added in my head.

"Your mother wishes you to stay here." The old, dying man said as he gestured toward the small table at his right. I recognized instantly my mother's handwriting on a few sheets of paper, and lifted them to my eyes.

Mother, ever self-sacrificing, did wish me to stay. Perhaps she really and truly believed my grandfather benefited somehow from my presence.

Perhaps she knew that his death would be easier for me to witness than her own.

It broke my heart, but this was her wish… that I be away as she grew sicker and sicker by herself. I hadn't been with my sister when she died, and now I would be kept from my mother as well.

"Very well." I said quietly, my eyes brimming with tears.

I knew that for as long as I lived I would remember this moment as the moment my life came to be all about death.

*12*

The year changed uneventfully from 1879 to 1880. Mother wrote me often, but never about the grisly murders that had been occurring in and around London. That, I read about in the papers.

Dark, ugly business.

*13*

I found Buffy outside in the dark about a half-mile away from my grandfather's home. She was walking slowly, predatorily, along the dirt road. Her hand was half raised at her side as it held a familiar sharpened weapon, and her crimson skirts dragged behind her.

"Buffy." I said from the shadows as she passed by. She raised her weapon higher in defense, but immediately dropped it back down to her side when she saw it was only me.

"What are you doing out here?" She asked, irritation showing plainly on her face, even in the darkness. "You must know it isn't safe."

I raised an eyebrow.

"Apparently I'm not the only one." I said, gesturing at the piece of wood in her hand.

"There are some very bad things around here. I would suggest heading home if you didn't want to end this night dead." She responded, and then her eyes briefly flitted past the black armband that encircled my upper arm. She said nothing of it, but when her eyes found mine again, her face was softer.

I shoved my hands in my pockets.

"You're a strange woman." I said, tilting my head as I appraised her – unconsciously mimicking my sister. "At any rate, I was looking for you."

She looked confused.

"For me?" She asked. "Why?"

Well, wasn't it clear?

"I want to help you."

*14*

All I knew was death. My father had died. My sister had died. My mother and grandfather were dying.

Every bit of my heart ached with loss, and I just wanted to feel something other than empty… So I sought Buffy out. I was no fool. Given the proper clues, a man can put two and two together. A horrible string of murders in London. Bodies with puncture wounds to the neck. A strange girl stabbing wooden spikes through men's hearts.

Vampires, obviously.

*15*

She wanted nothing to do with me at first.

"What are you doing here, William?" She would always ask when I showed up from the shadows with my very own rudimentarily shaped wooden spike. Stakes, as she called them.

"Came for a small spot of violence." I said once, not really knowing where it had come from.

She raised an eyebrow.

"More like a small spot of getting yourself killed." She replied and began to walk away. I followed her.

"You seem to do well enough for yourself." I pointed out.

She let out an annoyed sigh.

"That's because I…" She trailed off and stopped, looking around but not at me.

"Go on then." I urged her. She took a deep breath and looked at me.

"I'm the slayer."

That was how she told me.

I stood in stunned silence for a few moments.

"All right." I started uncertainly. "Whatever that is, I am sure I can be one as—"

She shook her head adamantly.

"No." She said. "I'm the slayer… which means the only one. I was chosen for this."

"Chosen?" I asked on a laugh. "Chosen by whom?"

She opened her mouth to answer, and then closed it again. She looked down to her side.

"I… don't really know." She answered.

"Then perhaps I am chosen as well. Perhaps that's why we met."

She looked back up at me at that, a small hint of amusement playing on her features.

"Slayers have only ever been women." She said. "I admit to not knowing you very well, William, but I'm almost certain you are a man." She looked me over, and then smiled. "Almost."

"I assure you I am a man." I said, offended.

"Well, that's that, then."

She began to walk away from me again. I grabbed hold of her arm to stop her, and she whirled instantly around and had me on my back and gasping for air in the next moment.

She stood above me.

"Go home, William." She said, and then was gone.

*16*

I did go home when she asked me… but then I went back. Again and again. Fighting along side the "slayer", night after night, for as long as she would allow – which was usually only minutes at a time.

But I did learn.

I learned how to stand, how to duck, how to jump out of the way at the right moment. I learned that it's not as easy as it looks to stab an object through someone's chest… but I learned how to do it anyway.

Mostly, I know, I was in her way and, honestly, we didn't take very well to each other's company… but I couldn't stop going. Couldn't stop seeking her out. I wanted to learn more, to know more.

I couldn't just stay at home with Grandfather.

So at night, I found her to learn from her. During the day, I grew quite well acquainted with her family and friends and moved in much the same circle as she, even if this was not exactly on purpose.

I say not exactly on purpose, because I didn't know just then how I felt about her.

*17*

My sister came to me in a dream. She stood smiling in her teasing way as I sat writing at my desk at home in London.

"It's about her, no doubt."

I looked at her sadly.

"Should it be about you?"

She looked pale and still even as she shook her head.

"No, it never was." She responded.

"I don't understand what you mean."

"It was always about her."

I furrowed my forehead.

"Her?"

"The slayer." She said, gesturing toward the poem in front of me.

I looked down at the red scribbling on the page, but could make no words out. Had I been writing something? I suddenly didn't remember. I looked back up at my sister.

"I've known her before." I said, did not ask.

"She's known you before." She responded.

Then, I knew something just as securely as I knew my own name, though I did not know why or how.

"I love her."

She young, dead girl frowned.

"She can only break your heart."

*18*

I sought her out again, but this time during the day.

"Miss Summers." I said as I came to stand next to her on James Windsor's lawn as she and a few others gathered to watch a cricket match. Now that the gloom of winter had faded away to the Spring, picnics and gatherings were a usual part of the day. It had only been a matter of time before I saw her again, and when the invitation had come from the Windsor's, I knew she'd be there.

She took in and then let out a deep breath.

"Mr. Pratt." She responded, but did not look at me.

I paused.

"Buffy…"

Then she looked at me. I swallowed as my breath caught in my chest. I hadn't really noticed how beautiful her eyes were before that moment. Most every time I'd seen her up close had been at night, and the dull light from the moon had never done the color of her eyes justice.

"Please, can I speak with you?"

She looked around at the others who were all happily engaged with their spectating, then back at me.

"Now?" She asked. I only managed a small short nod. She watched my face for a few moments, possibly trying to read it, before I saw the look of resignation spill across her features. "All right."

She excused herself from her company and followed me several paces away from everyone else, but still within their site.

"William," She started before I could speak. "I know you want to help me, but believe me when I say that you are only making my work harder for me."

I was silent for a moment, briefly confused as to what she was talking about. It was the confusion of a man who had nothing but the love for the woman standing in front of him on his mind. I shook my head.

"No, Miss Summers, you misunderstand me." I said. "Well, I mean… yes, I would like to help you, but…" I trailed off. She looked somewhat impatient, but mostly curious. "Well, I must confess I found you to be particularly strange when first we met and that my opinion of you was in no way helped by the-" I looked around to make sure no one was within earshot. "Knocking myself unconscious in light of you turning a man in to a pile of dust."

She no longer looked impatient or curious, but rather blandly irritated.

"Thank you." She said in a monotone unique to herself.

I smiled sheepishly.

"Forgive me, I only meant to… well, to illustrate how my feelings for you have changed."

"Changed?" She asked, seeming to move back from me without moving at all.

"Yes. Very much."

"How much?" She asked suspiciously.

I stood as proudly and straight as I could.

"Well, it seems that I lo—"

She put her hand out, cutting me off.

"Stop." She said, taking a step back. "William, don't say it."

That was not the reaction I was hoping for, though, indeed, I had hoped for nothing at all. It still stung. I took a deep breath and stole my emotions.

"Whether you let me say it or don't, it does not change the fact that it's true."

"And neither does it change the fact that I'm to be married." She paused briefly, her eyes widening. "To your friend."

I may have blushed.

"Yes, I agree that is unfortunate, but be that as it—"

"Unfortunate?" She asked incredulously. "What kind of a man…" She trailed off before her voice rose any louder, looking around her and then back at me. "William, I know that with your sister being gone you are looking to fill some sort of—"

"No." I interrupted her more forcefully than I meant to, then I felt my face soften in light of her surprise. I shook my head slightly. "No, that's not what this is."

"Well, it's not love."

I swallowed.

"Yes." I said. "It is."

"You can't love me." She argued. "We hardly know each other."

"I know it's sudden, but please… what is time when it comes to love?"

She seemed to wince at that.

"Please do not recite your poetry at me." She said with obvious distaste.

"I know I'm a bad poet." I said. "But I'm a good man."

She took another damning step back from me, her eyes narrowing a bit.

"There are echoes of a good man in you," she started. "But you are also a kind of man who thinks he must kill to feel. You are a kind of man who would tell his own friend's fiancé that he is in love with her. You are… a kind of man, but I'm not sure that 'good' would describe it."

At this, I was at a lost for words. My mouth seemed to try to form some, but no sound came out.

"This isn't real." She continued. "Stay inside at night. Be safe, William… and never seek me out like this again."

*19*

After that, I did stop going out at night, but I made myself known to her in every other way that I could. I made it a point to call on her family often. I attended church just for a glimpse of her... just for a chance to catch her eye - though it was very seldom that I did. She seemed to avoid me just as avidly as I pursued her. Even as I sat at her dinner table she would never look at me. Always at the person to her left, to her right, in front of her, but never at me. Even as I spoke. At parties she would excuse herself from a group of friends if I approached the circle. She wanted nothing to do with me, and it ripped me apart inside. The more I saw of her, the more I knew of her, the more I loved her. The more I wanted her. In weeks she had spoken no more than a few polite words to me... Until one afternoon.

"Buffy." I addressed her informally. I had decided to take the long route back after church by foot rather than carriage, and had found Buffy walking alone along the path with a basket of flowers in her hand. She had not attended service, and so I had been bitterly disappointed... but catching her alone more than made up for it. She stopped for a moment, but kept going right along again as though she had not heard me. I raced ahead and stopped in front of her... just as my heart raced and seemed to stop at the sight of her.

"Miss Summers." I said. "Please, would you mind if I walked along side you for a spell?"

She did not answer, only began to walk, and I fell in step beside her.

"May I ask why you were absent from service this morning?"

"Did I miss service?" She asked. "I must have lost track of the time."

"You were avoiding me." I said, taking her arm. She stopped.

"Well, yes - since you brought it up." She responded as she pulled herself from my grasp. "That is exactly the reason."

"But why?"

"Mr. Pratt, do pardon my bluntness - but I must question both your character and your mental stability if you really feel compelled to ask me that question."

"You are like me." I said firmly. "I know it. I feel it, Buffy. We're the same. James won't make you happy. He'll add to your pool of wealth, yes, to your reputation—"

"And if you continue on this way, you shall have no more reputation at all. Please, don't give my friends or family any more reason to watch me."

"My dear, I mean only to save you."

"You're acting like a fool. Your feelings for me make no sense."

"And what about your feelings for James?"

She was silent for a moment, and began walking again.

"We have always known we would marry. Our family's... his mother and father- I-" She became visibly exasperated. "It's none of your business anyway."

"I love you, Buffy." I said. She sighed heavily. "Please, you must listen to me." I stopped her once again, but she would not meet my eyes. "I can not say what it was about you that first time we met, or when it was that I fell in love with you... I only know that every part of my being longs for you and that I am yours, and only yours."

She finally met my eyes, and stared silently in them for a few moments before taking my hands.

"And I belong to James and only to James." She let me go. I felt myself shatter. "Please, this has to end."

And with those words she left me... Broken.

*20*

After that, I did as she asked. I did not call on her family. I did not approach her at parties, nor did I look at her. I did not attend church. I never strayed from the road home. I stayed inside at night.

It was, indeed, quite a long time before I spoke to her again.

*21*

It was a beautiful day for a picnic, and everyone was in attendance. The food was bright and fresh, the sun was shining, and the games were light hearted. My heavy heart did not even feel too much occasion to be heavy as I sat on my blanket enjoying and basking in the sun's warmth. Summer could bring with it an array of change. It had been some while since I had felt such peace. I was surrounded by joy and laughter and as I sat with a pen and paper in my hand, I felt... content.

"Ah, Will." The familiar voice said from behind me. I smiled with an inward sigh, and turned my head.

James stood with Buffy's hand tucked neatly within his. She smiled brightly at me as though nothing had ever occurred between us. I suppose nothing ever really had.

"I don't suppose you have enough room on that blanket for an old friend and his fiancé?"

"More than enough." I answered. James smiled widely and helped Buffy in to a sitting position before joining us on the blanket.

"It looks like they're preparing for a game of croquet." James said, looking at the group a bit further down the hill. "Will you be playing?" He asked me. I looked over, and shrugged a bit.

"Perhaps a bit later. I'm rather content with my writing for now."

James continued to watch the game being set up. Buffy smiled and nudged him.

"Go." She said. "Enjoy yourself."

"You'll be all right here?"

"Of course."

"You'll keep her company, wont you?" James asked me. I looked down, and nodded.

"For a bit."

"Good man!" James said, and then was up and racing down the hill to join the game. There was silence on my blanket for a few beats.

"My mother and father send their regards." Buffy said to me. I turned to look at her - pleased to find that, for the first time while in her company - I was able to ignore the burning stab of pain in my chest and speak to her like I would anyone else.

"Oh? How nice. I trust summer finds your family well?"

She nodded.

"It does." A pause. "And your grandfather?"

I sighed.

"His condition has not improved, I'm afraid."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yes, well..." I turned to watch the game, believing that to be the end of our conversation.

"I've not seen you at church." She said, surprising me. I turned back to her.

"Er..." I said. "No, I... I've taken to praying in my grandfather's chapel each morning." It was a lie. I was never really a praying man.

"You've been avoiding me." She said. I smiled.

"Well… yes, since you bring it up."

She laughed. I was glad of it.

"You have changed." She said.

"Well, considering that the last time we spoke I was a fool whose character and mental stability were being called in to question, I will take that as a compliment."

Her face turned a bright shade of red.

"Forgive me, that was rude-"

"No, forgive me. There's no defending my behavior."

It was odd. She was so near, and yet I was not crumbling to pieces inside.

"You are forgiven." She said.

"I will sleep better knowing that." I set my paper down with the pen atop it. "Now, if you'll excuse me." I stood, and was off to join James and the others.

*22*

No one spoke about the murders, not really. In London they would have, I knew this for certain. In the country, where every one knew every one else, when there was a murder, it was too devastating to speak of.

*23*

I opened my eyes and looked out toward the moonlight streaming in through my window. It was late, but something woke me up.

Something drew me up and out of my bed. Something drew me down the corridor. Down the steps. Outside.

I stepped out in to the night, and Buffy stood just off the walkway.

She looked up at me, eyes bright with tears.

"You're the only one who knows." She said.

I swallowed the lump in my throat.

"Buffy?" I said, taking a step down off of the stoop. She took a step up to meet me.

"I can't tell James." She said quietly, but there was a storm raging in her eyes. "I can't tell Mother or Father. I can't speak of what I do with anyone."

I took her hand and led her to a white wicker chair, the mate of which I sat down in after handing her in to hers.

"What's wrong?" I asked her.

"William," She started, taking both of my hands in hers. "I know I shouldn't have come here, but…" She looked down. "The killings. They've been getting worse recently." She looked back up at me. "More violent. More frequent."

"Did you come here to ask me for my help?" I asked, taken aback.

She shook her head.

"No." She said. "No, I wouldn't put you in that kind of danger. I just…" She stopped and took a deep breath. "I just feel so alone."

"Alone?" I asked. "Surely, you aren't alone."

Her wide eyes seemed to plead with me as they searched my face for something.

"But I am." She responded. "Even in a room full of people, I am. They don't know about me. They can never know…"

She dropped her gaze as she broke in to soft tears.

It was then that I understood. I was the only one who knew of her fight against the vampires, and I had found out quite on accident. She couldn't tell anyone, they would worry at best, and think she was mad at worst. Everyone would try to stop her, try to pull her away from what she knew she had to do… except for me. I hadn't tried to stop her. I'd tried to help her. I'd tried to be a part of it.

"Alone in a room full of people." I repeated her words almost in a whisper. In that, at least, I could understand her completely. Even though I tried to be a part of the world, I'd always been somehow separate. I took a breath and held tightly to the hands that held mine. "Buffy…"

Two pools of green warmth locked on to my eyes.

"I can't offer you much that you'll accept," I started, wishing I could offer her my heart. "But I can tell you that you will never feel alone with me."

*24*

After that, we were friends. Though our friendship was mostly bound to darkness, as spending too much time together during the day would draw unwanted attention to us, we did see quite a bit of each other. No longer did we avoid going to the same parties or meeting each other's eyes. A strong friendship had somehow bloomed between us, and I was grateful because I had never made any friends of my own. They had all been friends of other friends or friends of my family. Or friends by association. Buffy was all mine, and life was pleasant. Picnics and walks, dancing and piano playing. It seemed like life could go on like that forever.

She taught me how to fight. She showed me the proper way to hold a stake, to wield a weapon. She taught me how to not just land blows, but to be able to take them. She taught me a new way of moving that would have seemed impossible to me months before.

In short, she taught me how to be useful to her.

*25*

Still, though, I did have my scrapes.

*26*

"That was bloody stupid of you." Buffy had said as she helped me along the dirt path to my grandfather's home. I winced a little as I applied pressure to the two bleeding puncture wounds in my neck with a fresh piece of white cloth.

"I'm going to have to get a new handkerchief now." I complained.

"Did you hear me?" She asked, helping me to lean against a tree so that she could lecture me freely. I sighed.

"Yes, bloody stupid." I intoned.

"William!" She chastised me. "When there are more than three, you can't step away from my side!"

"Well, they're all dead now, same as the rest."

"Do in no part to you." She turned from me then, and I could see her hand go to her forehead as her shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath. She looked back at me. "I can't be there to save you every time. I won't be there."

I looked her in the eyes.

"Perhaps I will not always need saving."

Her face changed in to an expression I couldn't read, but that I will never forget. There was an impossible distance in her eyes as though she looked out over centuries rather than just over my face.

When she spoke, it was with a gravity that I not yet heard from her.

"We all need saving."

*27*

I didn't see her again until a week later.

*28*

I stood inside Buffy's family's parlor - soaking wet from the rain outside as I had walked from my grandfather's home to hers. She came to the door, her hair down in a mass of curls down her back, and saw me. I was struck by how beautiful she was. With a concerned look on her face, she turned and slid the doors closed. She hurried to me and took my hands.

"Will. What has happened to you?"

"My grandfather's died, Buffy." I said quietly. Her hand went to her mouth. "I sent word to my mother and came to see you."

"Will-"

"I'll be heading back to London. There's nothing to keep me here."

Buffy said nothing at first, and then sat.

"I see." She said. "When will you leave?" I sat next to her and took her hands.

"Almost immediately. My mother's ill. She tried to keep me away, but there's no reason for it now."

She looked more heartbroken than I ever would have imagined, or even hoped, she could be.

"William-"

There was nothing more that I could do or say at that moment, such was the pain in my heart, other than kiss her. One moment of bliss before she pulled away and stood up.

"No, Will, you can't-" I stood and took her hands once again.

"Please, Buffy. I love you so much."

"I'm begging you-"

"No, I'm begging you!" I pulled her to me, and my lips were on hers again. More than that, her lips were upon mine. She was kissing me as I was kissing her. Her arms went about my neck and I knew, without doubt, that she loved me as deeply as I loved her. Her soft and warm mouth moved against mine in a hypnotic caress, and I could feel myself coming completely undone. For a few moments I was happier than I could have ever imagined being.

But the moment passed, and then she was standing and there was suddenly a painful amount of distance between us.

"Please... you can't marry James." I pleaded as I stood, trying to close the gap between us, but she only moved farther away. "How can you?"

"Responsibility." She responded without hesitation. "I have a responsibility. I gave James my word."

"You can not marry a man you do not love." I paused. "Marry me."

She let out a cry of frustration.

"William..." She said. "If you only knew how much I…" She paused, shaking her head. "If you only knew the pain you're causing me!" She collapsed to a chair nearest her, and I felt my heart contract. Tears streamed down her beautiful face - and I realized, mine as well. I bent to my knees in front of her.

"Let me end your pain." I said. "Marry me... and we can be together."

"But James—"

"You love me." I pleaded with her, and my voice broke a little.

"No." She said. "I don't."

"I know you felt it, Buffy. All those nights with me beside you. That night you came to me. Just now when you kissed me. You must love me."

"I care for you, William." She said almost helplessly. "But it's not love. I can't love you."

"You mean you won't let yourself."

She hardened her face.

"Even if that were true, it still doesn't change the fact that I don't."

"My beautiful Buffy... my love." I drew in a deep breath, taking her shoulders suddenly, and more forcefully in my hands than I meant to. She yelped in surprise. "I wont give you up. Not now. I'm the only one who understands you, who knows you. You can't push me away."

"William, let me go."

I didn't.

"Buffy, please… let yourself love me." I said desperately.

I leaned in to kiss her again, and did not realize how hard I had been squeezing her shoulders until she had shoved me violently away from her and my hands were tingling from the pressure I'd been exerting.

We stood a room apart from each other, me panting, her glaring at me with a look of stunned pain on her face.

"Go." She whispered.

"Buffy, I didn't-"

"Please… go."

"Buffy—"

"I'm marrying James." She sobbed. "Just go."

"I-"

She was out of the room before I could say anything more.

*29*

So, I did go. She did marry James. The next time I saw her, it was three months later at my home in London.

She'd come for my mother's wake.

I thanked her for coming, but otherwise did not acknowledge her presence.

*30*

Some months later, I sat in the parlor of an old acquaintance as a party went on around me. Cecily Addams danced with some suitor or another, and I felt nothing. Not for her, not for me, not for that place.

"So, tell me..." The woman, whom I knew to be Abigail Ashley, who sat next to me quite unexpectedly, started. I turned to her. "Are you of a bookish nature, sir?"

I smiled politely. Anyone with a pair of eyes could see that she was beautiful. She seemed to me like another of so many depictions of angels that I had seen in my life. Pleasantly round in the face and body, but well shaped. Golden hair that was a pure shade not too common in London. Perfect skin, almost seemed that she was sculpted out of alabaster stone, though she had a rose to her cheeks that spoke of health. Blue eyes, much the same color as my own. A bit darker, perhaps. Quite like my sister's eyes staring at me from behind a stranger's face.

"I have my moments, I suppose." Is how I answered her. She smiled brightly.

"Oh, I just love books." She replied.

"Do you?"

"Oh, yes." She laughed a little. "Mostly romance. Mostly about bright women who get everything they want in life."

I regarded her the way my sister had taught me.

"Tell me more." I said.

"I dare say we have more interesting things to discuss." She said coyly.

"Oh, dear. That doesn't sound good."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, in my experience, whenever a woman says she has something interesting discuss, it usually means I'm in trouble."

She laughed, and I was glad of it. Glad of it in the way that a person is always happy to entertain another, but nothing more. I had a new and peculiar skill of knowing whether or not I would take to a person within the first few moments of meeting them. I felt nothing for this woman, the same as I felt nothing for Cecily.

"No trouble." She said. "But I've heard of the adventures you write about."

"Ah, the vampires." I said, and then shook my head. "Just scribbling."

She nodded, curiosity in her eyes.

"I've heard the stories are very entertaining." She responded. "They say you're a talented writer."

I had to smile at the irony.

"Yes, well, I suppose I'm better at narratives than poetry at any rate."

She nodded again.

"Will you let me read some of your stories?"

I tilted my head. I had never been a pauper by any means, but my grandfather had left me quite a large sum of money in his will, as well as his estate in Surrey, so I often wondered how much of this new found interest people had in me was connected with that. It never much bothered me though.

What did it matter, really?

I'd marry Abigail, then.

"Of course." I answered her.

*31*

We celebrated our betrothal with a ball in Surrey at my grandfather's home. Most of her family lived in the country and she insisted upon it. For my part, I'd give her whatever she wanted if it'd placate her. I'd spoil her rotten just to not have to hold a real conversation with her.

I stood outside, soaking in the night air - a glass of wine in my hand. The dancing continued on without me inside... the whirring of dull colors. The meshing of indistinguishable voices. This was my life, and there was no escape.

"Not enjoying the music?"

I turned slightly to see Buffy standing just a few paces to my right... and was somehow not surprised to find her there. She looked much the same as she had the first time we had met, but I felt no curiosity toward her. I felt no ache in my heart for her. No urgency. No passion. In fact, had it not been for the warmth the wine afforded me, I may not have felt anything at all.

"It's perfectly delightful as far as mundane music goes." I responded. She approached me slowly.

"How have you been?" She asked.

"Oh, just wonderful." I responded, just the barest hint of sarcasm slipping in my voice. "Abigail and I have been surrounded by people all night. I just stepped out for a bit of air."

"Abigail is quite lovely."

"Oh, yes. Quite." I turned to look over the gardens.

"Do you love her?"

I had to give her credit for that question, for I was not expecting it. I smiled and looked down.

"I am very fond of her." I responded.

"Fond." She repeated.

"William." Abigail called from the French doors that led back in to the house. I looked to her and smiled at her in acknowledgment. "Excuse me." I said to Buffy and walked passed her to my fiancé. I took Abigail's arm, and turned briefly back to Buffy. "I'm so glad you could come, Mrs. Windsor. Enjoy the party."

*32*

I did not expect to hear from her again, but to my astonishment, I did. The next night at dinner, a letter came to me on a silver platter. I waited to get back to my room where I could be alone to read it.

My Dearest William,

I know that I have no place to ask this of you, but my heart will not let me rest.

Please, I beg of you, do not marry Miss Ashley. I do not wish her any ill will,

I only know that I cannot live if you are married to her. I would run away

with you this very night if you so wished. I would leave everything behind. My

family, my reputation, my obligations. I should have left with you that horrible

night in my parlor, but I was so frightened. Please, say that you still feel the same

for me.

Eternally yours,

Elizabeth Summers

I stared down at the page in my hand blankly, trying to feel something. My heart had been broken violently and mercilessly by this woman, and had for so long served me no other function but to beat. It had lost my father and mother in turn. It had lost my sister. It had wanted Buffy so badly, but she turned it down. She gave it up, gave it away.

Yet it had stayed with her.

The last time I remembered feeling anything was with her on that "horrible night" in that warm fire-lit room. I had taken my heart there that night to give it to her, and I had given it. Whether she wanted it or not… and since then, it had to have been with her, because it certainly wasn't with me. For all I knew, my heart was still bleeding on the floor in her parlor, waiting for her to put it back together.

But I was no longer waiting.

I couldn't risk her. I couldn't risk that pain.

Without another thought, I began writing her a letter in return.

Mrs. Windsor,

I regret that you believe your feelings for me to be other than friendly. I must inform you that my own feelings for you have, for some time, been just that. I am confident, that with time, this will be the case for you. I will tell no one of your letter, but please do not write me again. You are married, and I am soon to be so. I wish you all the joy life can bring you.

Signed,

William Pratt

I sent the letter, and was married to Abigail within a month's time.

*33*

Anna Abigail Pratt was born the 18th of February in 1882. She was a beautiful, rosy little thing. I found my heart again the moment she was in my arms and looking up at me with new and dark eyes that had yet to choose their color.

Blue. I was sure immediately that her eyes would be the same shade of blue of her grandmother's and of her aunt's. In that way, she would be giving them both back to me.

"Treat me well, Anna." I said to her as I cradled her in my arms. "I'm pathetic when it comes to the women I love."

*34*

"You were in love with her, weren't you?" Abigail asked me once in late May as we sat outside on the balcony overlooking the garden. I lay spread out on a blanket with Anna sprawled over my chest. I looked up at my pretty wife who sat in a white wicker chair staring down at me.

"Yes." I answered her, knowing full well whom she meant and having nothing but the truth to tell.

Abigail's face seemed to fall a bit.

"Did she love you?" She asked. I moved my gaze to the sleeping baby who lay so peacefully atop me.

"No." I answered. "Not really."

My wife said nothing for a moment.

"Do you love me, William?" She asked. I hadn't moved my eyes away from the slumbering child, and still didn't at Abigail's question. I could hear the pain in her voice as she asked me, and I pitied her… because even if I said yes, she would know it wasn't true.

"I care for you." I said, and then looked back at her – her eyes having turned liquid in just the few moments that I had been looking away. "Very deeply."

"But you shall never love me the way you loved her." She responded in a way that made it clear she was not asking a question. I said nothing in return, merely watched her sadly as her eyes closed and a tear slipped down her face. "William."

"Don't cry." I whispered, my own voice unsteady.

She was out of her chair and at my side on the blanket in the next moment, positioning her body next to mine, moving herself in to the crook of my arm. She stared up in to my face and I stared down in to hers.

"I love you." She said. I smiled for her, and lightly ran the hand of the arm that she rested on through her hair, my other hand holding Anna securely to my chest.

I was a lucky man, laying there with a beautiful family in my arms.

But I didn't love her. I couldn't love her.

"And you love Anna." She continued. "You're a good man and a good father and husband. I couldn't ask for more."

Couldn't she? Didn't everyone deserve the person they loved to love them in return?

*35*

The vampire disintegrated into dust before my eyes, and then Buffy stood in front of me. The hair that was usually pulled neatly up had been left down around her shoulders, and the collar of her dress was buttoned down, open to show her prominent collarbone.

"William!" She cried, catching me in her arms and falling with me to the ground.

"Buffy…" I managed to say, the blood dripping down my neck. The sticky warmth against my skin and the horrible metallic taste on my tongue was enough to make me feel sick even if I had not just spilled copious amounts of blood in to a hungry fanged mouth.

"What were you doing out here?" She asked me, her eyes tearing.

I weakly gestured with the stake in my hand to show her, before loosening my grip on it and letting it fall to the dirt beside me.

"You came to hunt?" She asked.

I somehow laughed a little.

"What can I say?" I asked. "I'm bloody stupid."

Really, it had been for Anna. To keep Anna safe. How could I sleep when there were monsters outside our door who would want nothing more than to hurt her?

She laughed a laugh that was more of a sob.

"You were too late to save me this time." I said, my heart breaking all over again. It was a pain that was so long forgotten, yet so familiar, swelling up in my laboring chest.

"No, you'll be all right." She said, shaking her head. This isn't—"

"Buffy, it made me drink its blood."

I could see it in the soft glow of the moon – the way her face paled almost instantly.

"N…No." She said, shaking her head again. "No, we can still—"

"Kill me." I demanded of her as firmly as I could manage.

"No, I can't." She responded, crying now. "I won't."

"Please, Buffy." I pleaded with her. "Don't let me become one of them."

She said nothing, only cried softly above me as she reached slowly for the stake I had dropped at my side.

"I love you." She said.

I let out a breath of air.

"No you don't." I responded. She let out a sob and I moved my fingers over her hand that held the fallen stake beside me. "Tell Abby… tell her I love her. She deserves to hear that. Make her believe it."

"I will."

"Promise me."

"I swear, I will."

I closed my eyes, my thoughts turning to my child. My beautiful little daughter who'd given me the world back with her chubby hands.

"Oh, God…" I cried on a sob that wracked my dying body. "Anna…"

Buffy's hand tightened around mine. I took as deep a breath as possible so I could try to say the last important words.

"Give her… a kiss… for…"

Breath failed me, and then all I knew was darkness.

*36*

All I'd ever know again was darkness.

*37*

It was a servant, and not Abigail, who opened the door for me.

"Oh, thank the Lord!" The young girl yelled. I watched her silently as she turned to yell in to the expanse of the house. "It's Mr. Pratt!" She called.

I could hear Abby's surprised voice from some unseen place.

"William?" She cried, and a few moments later she was running toward me, arms outstretched. "William!"

She threw herself against me; arms, hands, and lips upon me in a flurry of excitement. I merely stood still.

"Oh, you look… why are you so dirty? Is this blood? Oh, God, William… where have you been, darling? We thought you were dead. Are you all right? You're chilled to the bone. Come inside and get warm this instant!"

There was a crack as the servant's neck snapped in my hand, and a thud as she hit the floor.

Abigail stared at me with eyes widened in silent horror. I smiled at her.

"Home, sweet, home."

*38*

I stood looking out from the nursery window over the moonlit gardens as I held my sleeping baby in my arms.

Buffy was there, too, in the doorway. It was strange. I could feel her and smell her the moment she was even in the house.

"Well, it took you long enough, Love."

"I know." She responded.

"I assumed you hadn't relayed my message to the missus." I said. "So I relayed a different one."

A pause.

"I saw." She said, her voice was all steel and anger at that, but her next words were softer. "Please, William. Lay her back down."

At that, I did turn to her.

"What?" I asked, offended. "You think I would hurt my own child?"

"You hurt your own wife." She said, teeth clenched. I looked down at my daughter.

"She's beautiful, isn't she?"

Buffy said nothing. I looked back up at her.

"So, what happened? Didn't have the stomach to stake me, then?"

She swallowed, despair seeping in to her eyes.

"I was attacked. Pulled away from you. When I made it back to where you'd been, your body was gone."

I laughed.

"Huh." I said. "Maybe it was just meant to be."

"Put her down," She started, ignoring my comment and stepping cautiously in to the room. "And settle this with me."

"Well…" I smiled. "No."

"William…"

"She's mine, Buffy." I said warningly.

"Not anymore."

"No, you're wrong." I said with a shake of my head. "I love her and I won't let you take her from me."

Her jaw tensed.

"You can't love."

I was surprised to feel a stabbing pain in my dead heart at her words. I moved my head to one side and looked her over.

"I still love you." I said. Her face changed at that, from tense and rigid to soft and agonized.

"You can't love." She repeated, eyes glassing over with tears. The words stabbed just as painfully the second time.

I turned to Anna's cradle and gently lay her down, running my finger over her soft, warm cheek. It left a streak of her mother's dark red blood across her skin, marring the pale and milky perfection. I turned back to Buffy.

"So, you're here to kill me, then?"

She pulled a stake out from within a hidden pocket of her skirts. My stake.

"It's what you wanted." She answered. "Remember?"

I made a large shrug, wrapping my arms tightly around myself as I stalked slowly closer to the slayer.

"I remember wanting a lot of things, Pet." I said, looking her up and down.

She didn't step back, but she did shiver. I could feel the waves of sadness and regret rolling off from her as though feelings and emotion had weight and form.

"It's strange, really." I started as I began to circle her. "I don't feel much different."

"But you are." She said to me, not even bothering to turn her head as I moved around her. I stopped in front of her with a tilt to my head and a leer to my face. She really was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and now that my senses were sharpened past recognition of what they had once been, her beauty had taken on a life of its own.

I did still love her. More than I'd loved Cecily, more than I could ever have loved Abigail. I never stopped loving her. I didn't think it was possible that I ever would.

"Well, yes. I am." I said, reaching suddenly for her and pulling her to me in a kiss. I didn't give her a chance to struggle, and neither did I care if she did. I devoured her mouth with mine, tasting her, relishing in the feel of her against me. This is what I had been missing. My life had seemed so full with Abby and Anna… but it had been devoid of this woman who owned me without ever having tried to. It was devoid of passion and hunger. I'd never wanted anything more than I wanted Buffy just then.

I loved her so much.

She pulled away from my mouth, but kept her forehead up against my own, her eyes closed and her hands clasping at the back of my head. I could see two wet paths running down her cheeks and I didn't enjoy the pain I was causing her.

I tried to... but couldn't.

"William." She whispered.

I brought my hands up to wipe the tears from her cheeks, but it only left blood in their place.

She looked beautiful like that, too.

"Don't cry." I said, and I meant it. I didn't understand how I could kill my wife and servant so viciously and then feel such pain at just the thought of hurting Buffy.

Then she kissed me.

The slayer's small hands tangled through my hair as she pushed me back, back, back until I felt the coolness of the glass of the window through the fabric of my shirt. Her mouth was insistent and longing, and I let her in willingly as my hands roamed over her, taking in the curves and shape of her body. William never would have been so bold with her. And so then, I couldn't have really been William anymore.

But I suppose I had already known that.

"Buffy, I love you!" I somehow managed to say between kisses. My mouth roamed to her exposed neck and I kissed her there as well, with no thought of tasting her blood.

The demon surfaced in my face anyway.

There was a sharp blow to my head, and then another quite lower which also hurt quite a bit more. I fell to my knees, looking up at Buffy who already held my daughter in her arms.

It occurred to me that I had been backed up against this window on purpose – just so she could get to the girl.

I growled; a strange and horrible noise even to my own ears.

I peered behind the woman standing above me and saw my stake laying abandoned on the floor near the door. I laughed, and looked up at her face.

"You can't do it." I said. "You can't kill me. You love me too much."

An elbow to my face sent me flying to the ground.

I was too dazed to move.

"Give me time." I heard her say as she walked away with my daughter, leaving me behind, alone and in the dark.

*39*

I sometimes wonder if things could have been different somehow. Perhaps if I hadn't had to go to the country with my sister, if we had stayed in London, none of what occurred could have taken place. Maybe if Buffy had not been the slayer, if I'd never met her… maybe I'd still be a whole man.

Maybe I'd still be a man.

But things are not different. They are just this way, and I'll go on being just what I am until Buffy kills me or I somehow manage to get her and my daughter back. I love them both with every part of what I am, even if the bits are pale and dead.

Time. Buffy needs time.

A lot can change with time, with so little of it even… and who knows what the future may bring?

The End