No Rest for the Weary, Chapter 3
He glared right back at her. “I do not like the idea of anyone’s hands on you but mine,” he growled possessively. “What about the fourth?”
She shivered to hear that growl again, and began trailing her fingers down his belly as she wondered how much time he’d need to recover and have another go. She also liked the idea of his possessiveness; it struck a chord within her, that he’d want her to be his exclusively. “He… helped me through a bad time in my life. I wasn’t kind to him, even though he was always good to me. I’m not proud of how I treated him. We worked things out in the end, and I’m glad we came to understand each other before…”
“Before what?” James twined his fingers with hers, his other hand soothing as it stroked up and down her arm, knowing instinctively that she needed comfort.
“Before he died,” Buffy whispered. “He died doing something incredibly, stupidly heroic.” A tear rolled down her nose to drip onto his chest.
“Did you love him?” James asked, hands never pausing, always petting, soothing.
“He ended up being a good person, and possibly the best friend I ever had,” she replied after a moment in which she forced the lump from her throat. “No one else has ever loved me so unconditionally, not even my mother. He saw all the ugly bits of me, and still…”
His arms tightened around her, and he pulled until she lay fully atop him, not a bit of her touching the mattress beneath them. “Then he gave you a precious gift,” James said at last. “A friend like that is found perhaps once in a lifetime.” His hands slipped down, cupping a buttock in each, and squeezed before using his grip to pull her tighter against him, his arousal reawakening between them.
Buffy’s legs slid down until she was straddling him, her cheek still pillowed on his chest, and she shifted until he slid into position and she could take him inside. “Ah,” she sighed in relief, sinking down until he was completely sheathed within her body.
James’ eyes fluttered closed as a languorous sense of completion filled them both. The first time had been frantic, the rushed pursuit of a goal. This time was all comfort and soothing, with soft, wet kisses that lasted forever and gentle, almost imperceptible movements. Buffy’s climax did not surge over her so much as ooze, thick and sweet and heady.
“Oh,” she breathed, riding out the pleasure, rocking slowly as she gripped him in rolling waves. He said nothing at all, simply squeezed his eyes shut and undulated his pelvis, serpent-like, as ecstasy took him. And when it was over, neither said a word, simply content to lie there in the other’s embrace. They slept.
~ * ~
When they awoke, the sun was setting and both were ravenous. Rain still pounded against the roof and walls, a constant tattoo that Buffy had long since gotten used to hearing in the background. Dressing, they returned to the kitchen and James rummaged through the pantry in hopes of finding something to eat.
He returned with the triumphant air of the hunter. “Dried beef and beans,” he told her. “With this and the hardtack, we’ll have enough food to last until the storm passes and we can search for some fruit.”
Buffy wasn’t hugely thrilled with the idea of eating reconstituted meat, old lentils, and the rocks pretending to be crackers, but he was so proud of himself for providing for them that she couldn’t stop the really big and foolish grin that filled her face. They helped each other cook in companionable near-silence, and when their so-called “stew” was finally ready to burble away for an hour or so, James suggested they go see how the storm was doing.
On the deep rear verandah, shielded from the worst of the receding hurricane but for a few spritzes of rain, it was clear that the storm would pass within a day or two. The rain and heavy cloud cover made the world seem wrapped in cotton wool, like there was no one but her and James, and she found she liked the way that felt.
His arm came around her hesitantly. There was something very appealing about his uncertainty with her; he was obviously a man used to being in command. Buffy wasn’t sure, exactly, what a commodore was or how it ranked but if it were like a captain, he likely had a lot of responsibilities and let’s face it, the English even of her time weren’t known for their warm and cuddly natures around new people. She didn’t imagine that English people of three hundred years ago to be much more with the cuddling.
Buffy sighed and leant into his embrace, enjoying the warmth of his body against her as she looped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. Together, they stood and watched the rain until he remembered the stew, and they raced back to the kitchen just before it would have burnt. Divvying it up, they spooned it up with the dented utensils they unearthed in another drawer, and Buffy was surprised to find that, whilst not exactly award-winning cuisine, it didn’t suck too badly, either. And even if it had, she was too hungry to complain.
Once full, they washed up their few dishes and James placed a plate on top of the pot of leftover stew in hopes of keeping bugs out. Buffy suggested they search for more clothing, and thus began a scavenger hunt through the house. James found a considerable amount of female undergarments, whilst Buffy was able to locate an impressive number of poufy shirts. She was oddly attracted to them, holding them up against her to see if they’d fit. It made James laugh until she stripped off her nightgown and pulled one of the poufy shirts over her head.
“What do you think?” she asked, modeling it for him as his face became intent and his eyes narrowed with laser precision on her bare legs and the glow of her browned skin through the fine white linen. “Is it me?”
“Yes,” he replied, coming to his knees before her, his fingers already busy with the lacing down the front of her poufy shirt. “But I think you’d look even better—“ he parted the shirt’s placket, revealing her small, uptilted breasts, “like this.” And he closer his mouth over one nipple whilst filling his hands with the warm, soft mounds.
Her hands wound in his hair immediately, and she stared down at the sight of him making love to her breasts, burning the image in her memory. All day her sense of foreboding, that this couldn’t last forever, had grown stronger. She didn’t know how much longer they’d have together, and was rather surprised at how reluctant she was to give this up.
Pulling gently on his hair, Buffy tugged James’ face up for a kiss. Their lips met softly at first, then with more passion until they were almost ferocious in their need to taste and touch each other. He sat back on his heels, pulling her to straddle him, and she worked frantically to open his trousers. Once he was free, his hands on her waist guided her down until she took him deep, in one thrust.
Both moaned at the sensation, heads falling back and eyes closing in bliss. They moved together in silence for a long moment, until James spoke. “I want you to know,” he ground out as he withdrew, “that even though people are more free in your time,” the tip of his shaft slid between her lower lips, just kissing her entrance, “should you get with child because of this, I will be more than pleased to marry you.”
Buffy blinked, her head clearing a little as she tried to figure out what he was saying. She was impossibly touched by this declaration of his, and felt a sensation well up in her chest that had little to do with the marvelous ripples of pleasure spreading outward from her centre. “Thank you,” she replied breathlessly. It was farfetched, of course—they scarcely knew each other. Some marvelous sex and snuggling did not a lifetime commitment make. But it was the thought that counted, wasn’t it? “I can’t get pregnant,” she told him then. She thought he should know.
He stopped moving; she pouted. “You are barren?”
“No,” she replied, wiggling on his lap to get him to go again. “I take a… medicine… to regulate my period, and it prevents me from getting pregnant, too.”
“So, you only have as many children as you wish?” His eyes were bright with curiosity, and she sighed to realize that her new lover was one of those thinking men, who liked learning new things.
“We can discuss it later,” she told him, exasperated. “Biology later, sex now.” And she flexed her interior muscles around him, moaning at the feeling of hard fullness. His moan followed a second later, and he sealed his mouth over hers, all thoughts of birth control forgotten. Her tongue in his mouth imitated the motion of his shaft inside her, and it wasn’t long before their frantic motions culminated.
Once again, James muttered, “I want you,” over and over, as if he could not possibly get enough of her. Buffy just wrapped her arms around his shoulders and relished the feel of their skin sliding against each other, thanks to the sweat, and held on as his desire overwhelmed them both. She couldn’t get over how different he was in bed (er, on the floor)—passionate to the point of inhibition, whereas when they were both clothed and vertical, he was cool and restrained.
After a while, their limbs were starting to cramp from the strange position they were in, and Buffy slid off him with a pang of regret. “I’m hungry again,” she said, “but not so eager to eat more shoe-leather-surprise.”
“There were some orange trees here, if I recall correctly,” he said, combing back his hair with fingers that still trembled a bit. “Perhaps we can get some, if you don’t mind going out in the rain again.
“As long as you warm me up later,” Buffy said, smiling, and reached out a hand to help him to his feet. James took it and stood, looming close over her as he seemed to enjoy doing, a half-smile on his face. He came within a hair’s breadth of kissing her, and her lips had already parted in anticipation, when he stepped back.
“I think that can be arranged,” he replied, smirking at her expression of outrage. She retaliated by pinching his butt as she swept by him on the way back to the kitchen. He, of course, felt honour-bound to avenge himself with a considerable goose and then they were running all around the house after each other until, exhausted, they flopped onto the velvet-upholstered divan in what James called the “receiving room”.
A cloud of dust billowed up around them, and they coughed, waving their hands in the air to dispel it a little. Then James lay back against the divan’s sloping arm, drawing Buffy to lean against him, and sighed. “It is odd,” he said, “how freely I am behaving here with you.”
“Not exactly the loosest guy at the party, huh?” she asked, curling against him and idly twining her fingertips in his chest hair.
“Hardly.” He fell silent a long moment. “I suppose it is because none of my men are here to see me act foolish. I do not have to be the Commodore here.” He looked down at her with a mixture of fondness and amusement. “You don’t even know what a commodore is.”
“I do so!” Buffy exclaimed, raising up to glare at him. “Almost.”
“Yes, your encyclopaedic knowledge of military nomenclature is very impressive,” James replied, his tone arid. Then he winced when she thumped him in the chest. “Behave yourself, madam,” he admonished, pushing her head to rest on his shoulder once more, and dropping a kiss to her crown. “If I may continue?” An unladylike snort was her only response.
“It is wearing, sometimes, having a small fleet of ships under one’s command,” he mused aloud. “Having a thousand men look to me for guidance, knowing their lives are in my hands.”
“Yes,” Buffy replied softly. “You don’t know which of your orders is going to send some of them their deaths, and knowing you’re doing your best doesn’t make it any easier. Even winning doesn’t make it easier. Not when you’re burying them. They’re dead, and it’s still your fault.”
“I always think, after an engagement,” James said, after squeezing her hand in empathy, “that if I had done something differently, would this one have survived? Or that one?”
Buffy remembered all the Potentials who had died battling The First. “Yes,” she whispered. “But I also know that I did the best I could, and even if I had another chance to do it over, I’d do the same thing again. Maybe that hurts most of all.”
James raised her hand to his lips, kissing it. “Miss Summers, how is it that you know about the burden of command?” he asked, his eyes curious and bright.
She grinned. “James, considering where you’ve put your mouth on my body, do you think you can actually call me Buffy instead of Miss Summers?”
His blush started, interestingly enough, at the base of his throat and flooded both up and down, tinting his entire face and the upper portion of his chest a bright pink. “Er,” he said at last. “Quite.” Pause. “Do you think it’s possibly to be less…”
“Perky?” Buffy inquired. “Charming? Devastatingly attractive?” She punctuated each word with a little kiss along his collarbone. “Nope. Love it or leave it.”
“I was going to say ‘crass’,” James said, and Buffy was greatly amused to see he had actually lifted his nose into the air a little.
“Oh, you’re so stuffy!” she practically squealed. “It’s just adorable.”
“And you are an insolent trollop,” he informed her, dumping her off his lap to the floor, grinning widely. “You’ve corrupted a lord of the Realm, madam. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Buffy pushed back the tumble of hair that had fallen over her face and laughed up at him. “I say, it’s about time. You were in thunder need of a little corruption, Mr. Rigid-Britches.”
He helped her back up; she sprawled comfortably over him, propping her chin on her hands as she looked down at his face. It was a handsome enough face, she supposed—nothing like Angel’s broody dark handsomeness, Riley’s corn-fed wholesome appearance, or Spike’s angular cheekboney good looks, of course, but those rare smiles of his were like the sun coming out after a storm, and his eyes were so piercing and sharp, like blue diamonds.
And could I get any more romance-novel? she thought, disgusted with herself. “You wanted to hear about how I know what it’s like to command,” she said at last. He nodded, never pausing in twirling a strand of her hair between his fingers. She sighed. “There’s this thing, called the Slayer…”
~ * ~
Buffy spoke for hours, telling James everything. He never interrupted, only asking questions when she paused, and held her tightly when she cried. Which she did. A lot. When she was done, she sniffled and looked up at him. “You believe me?”
He nodded slowly. “You have not given me reason to think you a liar, or a lunatic. Nor have you shown that much imagination,” he added with a tiny smile, dodging when she’d have smacked his shoulder. “And your strength is proof of your story, as well.” He nodded, satisfied with his own explanation. “I am sorry that your duty has been such a burden for you; I, at least, chose the course my life has taken. But I admire your commitment to this duty; I know few young women who would have approached it with such dedication.”
As praise went, it was rather sedate. But Buffy had the feeling that words of praise did not often come from James often; there was something of the stern taskmaster in him that told her he was notoriously hard to please. She felt a big, stupid smile spread across her face, and buried her face against his chest to hide it.
“Tell me about yourself,” she entreated. “You’re from England, I figured out that much.”
His fingers threaded through her hair, combing gently. “I was born in 1661, the third son of the viscount of Wentworth. As my father already had his heir and his spare by the time of my arrival, I was free to purchase a commission in the Navy when I came of age… my father did not wish to wait for me to assume command of my own ship, and used his connections to smooth the way for my promotion. I was a captain by my twenty-third birthday.
“As you can imagine, I was none too happy with this, and strove to prove myself deserving of the credentials placed upon me. His Majesty must have agreed; with the Governor’s encouragement, he saw fit to make me a full commodore three years ago, at the age of thirty-one.”
“That must have pleased your dad,” Buffy commented.
“Mm, yes,” James said. “Not long thereafter, there was some… excitement with some pirates.” He stopped then, shifting to look at her. “Do you know, you’re the first person I’ve ever met to whom I can say this, and be sure you won’t think me mad?” He laughed briefly. “The pirates were cursed, having stolen Aztec gold. They could not die until the curse was lifted, repaid by blood.”
Buffy nodded sagely. “Those old curses can be the pits,” she said sympathetically.
“Indeed,” was his reply. “In the course of defeating the pirates, I became engaged to the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth, but she chose to end the engagement in favour of taking up with a blacksmith.”
“Hey, I heard that story!” she said. “Caused a scandal, didn’t it?” When he did not answer right away, she studied his face more closely. Though he did not look away, there was a wariness in his eyes that caught her attention. “What happened?” she asked softly, stroking his cheek with her fingers.
He took her hand and kissed it. “Have I no secrets from you?” he asked with mock gruffness, though she sensed a thread of sincerity at how easily they seemed to be able to read each other. He sighed. “She only promised to marry me so I would rescue her blacksmith.”
Buffy felt anger seep into her, starting with her stomach and flowing to her limbs until she was almost shaking. “That bitch,” she said, her voice low. “You’re the—and she—“ Buffy clamped her mouth shut, eyes flashing. “That bitch,” she finished, unable to think of anything else.
James was astonished at her reaction. “It is for the best,” he said, watching her carefully. “She truly loves him, and he her. A match between us, when there was no affection, would have been a poor one.” He paused, then began rubbing her back in soothing circles. “And if she had not broken our engagement, it is doubtful I would be here with you now.”
Buffy felt some of her fury ebb at his words, but still felt distinctly out-of-sorts with this Elizabeth ho-biscuit. “Yeah, because these are some fine accommodations,” she muttered.
“The company could not be improved,” James said, his voice quite serious, “though I cannot say I am much impressed by the cuisine.”
She had to smile, touched by his compliment. “They should fire the chef,” she said, and wiggled off the divan to stand and stretch. “But not until after we eat tonight. I’m hungry again.”
He stood, too. “Again? I suppose I am glad you won’t marry me; I’d be beggared by the feeding of you.” But the joke fell flat; both were reminded that their situation was only temporary, and how they were, increasingly, disinclined to accept that.
“If I were staying here,” Buffy began slowly, “I might marry you.” She tugged on the short hem of the poufy shirt she wore to avoid his eyes.
He was silent a long moment. “But you’re not staying here,” James replied at last. “So let’s not think of things that cannot be.”
“Right,” she said, pulling on a loose thread and pasting a fake smile on her face. “So, the rain’s slowed. Who’s up for picking oranges?” She turned toward the door, intending to go to the verandah, when he caught her arm and pulled her to him.
“Miss—Buffy,” he amended, and she waited for him to continued, but he didn’t say anything—just looked at her. Then he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and placed a kiss on her forehead. “Yes,” he said at last. “Let’s get some oranges.”
~ * ~
An hour and a half-dozen oranges later, their faces and hands were sticky with juice, and they were still damp from their first foray into the rain to pick the fruit when they ran out into the storm a second time to clean off. Returning to the fire-warmed kitchen, they stripped off their soaked garments and dried each other, hands straying, tickling, and teasing until all thoughts of putting on more clothing were abandoned for what James liked to call a “long, lovely snog”.
They spent the evening discussing their friends. James told her about Gillette and Groves; though they were his subordinates, they were the closest things he had to friends in the Caribbean. Most wanted to befriend him for his rank and connections; the rest were put off by his stern working demeanor. Buffy realized that he was actually quite lonely, and her heart went out to him. She didn’t know what she’d have done all these years without Xander and Willow and Giles. Even Dawn and Tara and Anya and Riley and Spike had been comforting presences, assuring her that she wasn’t fighting alone.
She recounted various stories of them to him; he seemed to find Anya’s antics especially funny, and she was sure she saw his eyes glimmer with suspicious moisture when she told of gentle Tara’s death. “I think I would have liked her,” he said. “There are too few people in this world so generous with their hearts.”
And he expressed admiration for Xander’s refusal to be intimidated by his normality in the face of supernatural creatures. “He would make a fine officer, I am sure of it.” As for Giles, James looked intrigued by the wealth of knowledge Buffy said the man possessed, and wondered aloud if Giles knew anything of that mysterious stretch of sea near Bermuda that seemed to be capable of making ships vanish. “I have wondered about it for many years,” he admitted.
When their yawns could no longer be ignored, James banked the fire and they went to bed. It felt so natural and right for them to ascend the stairs together, arms looped around each other’s waists as they walked in companionable silence, and Buffy couldn’t seem to stop smiling. Once in “their” bedroom, they undressed each other and went into each other’s arms like it had been choreographed.
His mouth, when she kissed him, tasted of oranges and she reveled in his tall, strong body against her, feeling the excitement that built in him. Her arms around his neck, hands in his hair whilst his were holding her tightly, Buffy almost reeled at the sheer joy that filled her at that moment.
“I don’t want to go back,” she said when they pulled apart for breath.
“Don’t speak of it,” he said, tucking her head against his shoulder and cupping her face in his large hand. It was trembling a little. “You’ll just make it harder.”
She realized, then, that he was having just as hard a time accepting it as she was. “But it’s not enough,” she protested, aware she was whining.
“It was a gift,” he reminded her. “We are lucky to have any time at all.” But he was trying to convince himself, too.
Buffy blinked hard, willing the tears away. “Okay,” she said. “I’m not going to waste what time we do have being cranky that there’s not more of it.” She stepped away from him, and lay back on the bed. “Come here, Lionel. I’m three times a lady.”
He did that funny thing with his mouth and eyebrows, where he frowned and smiled at the same time because she was doing something he really should disapprove of, but somehow couldn’t. Stretching his own nude form along hers, he said, “I wish to God I knew what you were talking about,” before claiming her mouth in another of his searing kisses.
She was still amazed, after a full day with him, at how his calm and restrained demeanor could shift with startling swiftness to that of passionate lover. Though his skills had been rusty at first, and he’d started out a little inhibited, it hadn’t taken long before he’d polished said skills and become a partner who delighted Buffy in every way—there was tenderness, but also a genuine desire to please her.
He didn’t want anything from her—Angel had wanted redemption, Riley wanted love. With Spike, had sometimes felt, with his deep need and adoration, like he was trying to suck the very soul from her. James wanted nothing more than to be with her, and Buffy felt herself responding to that with a fervour that actually startled her.
“I want you,” he was growling in her ear as he pushed deep into her body, and Buffy was moaning and accepting him, kissing him like her life depended on it, and they were moving, moving…
“You have me,” she whispered over and over.
In the dark room, he couldn’t see her but Buffy was at home in the dark, and could easily discern the intent expression on his face, the whole-hearted way he gave of himself. There was nothing he held back in any aspect of his life, and she struggled to remember that being here with him was a gift, not a punishment reminding her of what she could not permanently have.
When she came, she didn’t even realize she was crying.