A/N: This is my first multi-chapter Buffy fic! I'm actually sort of nervous. It's been a while since I've embarked on an actual story and not just one-shots. Hope you all enjoy it :D
Buffy Anne Summers was not happy. She sat alone at her table in the dance hall, elbow propped on the table and chin resting morosely on the heel of her upturned palm. Dances were usually something that she enjoyed. What eighteen year old girl didn't love a dance? Her parents would buy her a new dress and she would dance until the room spun. She couldn't capture the lighthearted frivolity that she usually found at such engagements, though. Not when she carried such a heavy heart.
Liam Angelus was at the far end of the dance floor, guiding some diminutive brunette through a reel. She tried not to let her face show her distaste but her lips screwed into a frown of their own accord. He had some gumption to trample on her poor heart and then make such a spectacle of himself a mere three days later. Her spirits dampened further as she recalled their last conversation.
"I'm not good for you," he had said, reaching forward and laying a tender hand on her cheek. "You deserve someone much better than me."
"But I love you," she had refuted. She knew that his past was not without its blemishes, but he had reformed. He became a good man, one more than worthy of her love.
"I love you," he had echoed. "And that is why this must end."
He was so self-righteous sometimes that it made her want to slap him, yet at the same time she couldn't deny that it was one of the many things that made her love him. And yet it would be what kept them apart. Sometimes life was cruel.
"Buffy dear," her mother cooed, pulling out the seat beside her and sitting down. "Why aren't you dancing?"
"I don't feel up to it," Buffy answered, her gaze drawn to Liam as he whispered something in the brunette's ear, causing her to laugh loudly. Buffy swore she could hear the minx's raucous laughter even over the music.
Joyce followed her daughter's gaze and frowned. "Don't tell me this is over that Angelus boy."
Buffy ducked her head guiltily. "No, of course not."
"Summers women do not mope over men, Buffy." Joyce laid her hand over her daughter's. "And we do not let them ruin a perfectly good dance. Now, look sprightly. There are lots of other respectable and available men here."
"Mother," Buffy groaned, "can I at least have a week to myself before you put me back on the meat market?"
"Not when we spent a small fortune on that dress," Joyce replied. "Now go and mingle! And do try to look like you're marginally enjoying yourself, dear!"
Her mother's light tone pulled at her irritation but she dutifully rose from the table and made her way over to a small group of girls at the side of the dance floor. She caught a bit of their conversation and felt her cheeks flush as she heard one of them say, "I heard he told her that he wasn't good enough for her. It's pretty pathetic if he had to resort to that to get rid of her!"
"Cordelia," the redhead beside her said carefully, "you know that's all just hearsay. We shouldn't gossip like this."
"Well, regardless, I think it's pretty clear that Liam Angelus is back on the market. And I intend on taking full advantage of that. You know, we were very close before she and her family moved here."
Buffy turned quickly before she had to listen to anything more. Her dress suddenly felt laced too tightly and she stumbled out onto a nearby balcony. The light breeze lifted her curls from her forehead and she leaned against the building with her eyes squeezed shut.
This had to be hell. Standing in a room and watching the man she loved cavort with other women as if she didn't exist – Buffy could imagine nothing worse. She had thought the initial rejection stung but this was something else entirely. It had to end.
"I have to get him back," she murmured, the resolve in her voice comforting her somewhat. She was always a determined girl and found there was little she couldn't achieve when she truly set her sights on a goal. But how could she win him back?
The door beside her burst open suddenly and two partygoers stumbled forward as they laughed raucously. The woman was tucked into his side, glancing back at the unassuming party as he buried his face in the crook of her neck. Buffy pressed herself against the wall, wanting very much to disappear.
The girl squeaked when she spotted Buffy and hit her partner's shoulder as she gasped, "William!"
He turned toward Buffy with a lascivious grin and she connected the face to the name. William Pratt. Of all the men who would end up alone on a balcony with a woman, it would be him. She quickly thought to herself that two women would not be much of a surprise either and she quickly skirted back into the party. Behind her she could hear him remark, "Well, I guess she didn't want to join us!"
Buffy rested her hand on her chest, trying to settle her breathing. The balcony's door had closed soundly behind her and she glanced back for a moment and saw the view from the doorway was empty. William and his conquest must have pressed themselves against the wall beside the entrance. She sniffed in distaste. Acting that way in public was absolutely inexcusable.
"Buffy," Joyce said from behind her, taking a hold of her elbow. "You are supposed to be mingling, not moonscaping on balconies by yourself."
"Go be social." She steered her daughter back toward the two girls Buffy had overheard talking earlier and Buffy bit back her irritation. This was going to be a long night.
That night, lying in bed, Buffy was unable to tear her mind away from the balcony. She replayed the scene, remembering it in such vivid detail that she felt she was there again. She remembered William's arms grasping the girl tightly, pressing her against him. She saw the girl's eyes bright with laughter, chest heaving as he buried his nose in the crook of her neck.
She sat up suddenly.
"That's it," she whispered excitedly.
Liam had ended their relationship because he thought she deserved better. He wanted to protect her virtue and reputation. Well, she would show him. She would get herself tangled with such a vile wolf that he'd have to take her back!
Her entire body thrummed with excitement at her plan and she climbed from her bed, settling beside the window. She laid her hands on the ledge and settled her head there, gazing up at the stars.
"I swear by you all that I will get him back," she vowed. "I'll get him back if it's the last thing I do."
Buffy set her plan into motion the very next afternoon. There was only one man who was vile enough to ensure that Liam took notice. William Pratt was her only option and she believed she had the perfect hook to convince him to help. All morning she had thought through different schemes, but fate interceded in the form of an accidental run-in while she was in town. She was looking at some fabrics with her sister Dawn and their escort when she spotted a familiar mop of sandy blonde hair at the other end of the store. Her instincts told her that this was the exact sort of opportune moment that she needed, but she hesitated for a moment. What if this plan was a bad idea? What if he laughed in her face? Or worse, what if he refused and told Angel? There would be no moving forward from there.
Still, even with the myriad of reasons why he should (and could) refuse her, she had a strong inkling that he wouldn't. It was this that made her casually walk across the shop, settle beside him and ask, "Catering to some pressing fabric needs, Mr. Pratt?"
He turned his head toward her, eyes dipping from her face to her bosom and then back up. She was immediately grateful that she had worn one of her dresses with the more flattering bodices.
"Ms. Summers," he said, tilting his head in greeting.
"Please, call me Buffy. Ms. Summers sounds too much like my mother."
"Buffy, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
She pressed the tip of her finger against the puce silk he was looking at and said, "I came to save you from this."
"What? You don't like it?"
"That would be putting it mildly," she answered.
"You're opinionated," he noted, eyeing her appreciatively. "Never would have guessed when you were fawning over that ponce Liam Angelus."
"You know nothing of that," she hissed.
He chuckled. "You're fiery, too. Again, never would have guessed."
Buffy bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from snapping at him again. That wouldn't do. She needed him to find her alluring or attractive. Otherwise the entire plan was a bust. After a calming breath she turned her face up toward his and said, "I have a proposition for you."
"Do you, pet?"
She was about to snap that she didn't appreciate the lascivious tone, but on second thought she saw that it was actually somewhat appropriate. She was propositioning him, after all. She looked around quickly to ensure that no one was within earshot before continuing.
"It's a business transaction of sort. I would like you to pretend to court me. I would pay you handsomely, of course."
"Pay me handsomely, eh?"
She narrowed her eyes. "With cash. This courtship would not be real. It would be for show."
"And who is the intended audience?" he asked, although the playful tone of his voice suggested that he already knew the answer.
"You might have heard the Liam and I parted ways recently."
"I'd heard something of the sort," he answered.
"He told me that he was not a good enough man for me," Buffy said softly. "Before he met me he did his fair share of carousing. It weighs heavily on his conscience." William snorted and she shot him a glare. "But he is a good man! Which I will show him by taking up with the likes of you!"
"The likes of me?" he retorted, eyebrows furrowing together. She hardly noticed, though, too enthralled by the steps of her plan being plainly voiced. They had only existed in her head before and she rather liked how they sounded aloud.
"You carouse twice as much as he ever did," she continued. "And if his argument for ending our union was to spare my reputation, it only follows that upon hearing of my involvement with you he has no other choice but to take me back!"
"Lovely plan, pet," William said dryly, not nearly as impressed as she thought he should be. It was a brilliant plan. Cunning, if she did say so herself. And she did. "The question remains, however, why you think I would be remotely interested?"
"Don't you remember the part where I pay you handsomely?"
"Still not particularly interested."
Buffy blinked repeatedly, praying that somehow she was mishearing. "But-but I will pay you handsomely.
"Yes, you mentioned that."
"And you still don't want to?"
"Despite how I may come off, love, I do have some standards. Remember that lovely part of your plan where I am a philandering beast sure to set your Liam Angelus' jealousy ablaze?" She nodded fervently. Yes, of course she remembered her brilliant plan. "If I were to properly court you there would be no more philandering. And pet, you may light my fancy, but not to that extent."
She bristled at that last part and set her face into a look of cool indifference as she asked, "So, you won't be helping me?"
"No, I'm afraid I will not."
"Fine. Then I will find someone else who will."
"Off to proposition another man at a fabric shoppe, then?" he teased, tongue curling behind his teeth.
She lifted her chin and told him, "I am going to walk away now." She took one step before turning back. He lifted his eyebrows questioningly with his lips pressed into an amused smirk. "Don't tell anyone about this, okay? I think discretion would be best."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
She nodded curtly and then returned to her sister who had been watching for the past few minutes with piqued curiosity. When her sister returned to her side Dawn immediately asked, "Who was that you were talking with?"
"An absolutely insufferable man," Buffy answered, frowning. "Anyway, are you finished in here?"
Dawn nodded and they made their way out of the store. They passed William and despite her best intention to pointedly ignore him, she found her eyes meeting his. He dipped his head in farewell and his eyes danced as he said, "Goodbye, Ms. Summers. It was a pleasure talking with you."
She scowled, letting the clap of the door hitting the frame serve as her response.
A/N: Like it? Love it? Don't care either way? Well, if you're leaning toward "Like" then please leave some feedback! Next chapter is all written and ready to go!