Buffy nearly dropped the phone. "She didn't!"
"Oh, but she did." Miss Ashton sounded highly amused by
the whole incident, an emotion Buffy desperately wished she
could take part in. "Very casually, too."
Groping around the corner for the small dishtowel she kept
hung on the over door, Buffy wiped the sweat off her forehead.
"Well...I'll...I'll talk to her and...see if I can...uh...you know..."
Buffy stammered, feeling like a fool. "Just...I'll take care of it,
Miss Ashton. I...thanks for calling."
She took a deep breath and went back into the kitchen. Melanie
was still sitting at the table, but she had put down her crayon
and folded her arms in front of her. Her chin rested on the back
of her hand as she watched her mother dump spaghetti into a
colander and place the boiling pot back on the stove.
"That was Miss Ashton," she announced, then turned to face
her daughter. "Melanie...why in the world did you tell the class
that William St. James is going to be your daddy?"
No point in beating around the bush.
Melanie shrugged and stared at the paper in front of her. "Be-
Buffy waited, but there was nothing further forthcoming at the
moment. She was afraid that this was going to be one of those
times where she would have to pry the answers out of her
daughter with a crow bar. "But you know that's not true."
Melanie's eyes darted towards the kitchen. "Is dinner ready,
"Don't change the subject, Melanie Anne," Buffy replied sternly.
"But I'm hungry."
"But I am, Mommy."
Frustrated, feeling like a rotten mother, Buffy grabbed two plates
out of the cupboard and placed a portion of pasta and sauce on
each one. She set them on the table, then poured two glasses of
"All right," she said briskly, handing Melanie a fork and a napkin.
"Let's eat...and we'll talk." She allowed the child a head start, then
said, "Melanie...tell me why you said it."
The six year old looked up at her mother with wide eyes. "Are you mad
at me, Mommy?" she asked, her lower lip trembling.
Buffy knew this wasn't a stall tactic on Melanie's part. Some kids
were masters at the "work up a few tears and you'll be off the hook"
game, but Melanie wasn't wired that way. She honestly didn't have
a deceitful bone in her body. That's what made this lie she had spoken
so truly difficult to understand.
Her daughter was as imaginative as the next child, but she knew
the difference between 'real' and 'pretend'.
"I'm not mad at you, baby," she assured the little girl, pushing her
curls back from her face. "Just tell me what would make you say
something like that."
Melanie twirled her fork around in her spaghetti, but didn't lift it
to her mouth. "I dreamed," she said quietly.
Buffy almost wanted to lay her head down and cry. This wouldn't be
happening if Melanie had any kind of a decent father in the first place,
one who loved her and put her first, ahead of everything else in his life.
Even if he was no longer HER husband...he was still a father.
But Angel had never really wanted to be a father in the first place, so
she'd had no right to be surprised when he'd turned out to be a poor one.
Buffy had been thrilled and excited when she'd discovered that she
was pregnant. To her, it was the next logical progression in life. Love,
marriage, and children. Simple and basic.
Angel, however, had been appalled. He had just started working for
Wolfram and Hart, one of the more prestigious law firms in California.
His ambitions were heady. He wanted to be made junior partner within
the next couple of years, then slowly progress up the ladder as high
as it would take him.
He had political ambitions as well, which Buffy knew would amount to
nothing in the end. He was simply too easily led astray by a pretty
face, and would never be able to maintain the illusion of a strong, family
oriented man, a man voters could have confidence in.
After bringing the baby home from the hospital, it hadn't taken long
before Buffy knew that her marriage was not going to last. She'd adored
her newborn, and loved nothing more than caring for her. Which turned
out to be a blessing, because Angel couldn't be counted on for any-
He'd proved that the first time she'd asked him to bring their crying
baby from her bassinet to be nursed, figuring that Melanie should be
nurtured by both her parents. He had jerked away from her hand with
a grunt, telling her that he had to be up early for court the next day,
and it wasn't like there was anything HE could do for the baby anyway,
so what was the point of them both being up?
Buffy had stared at his back in disbelief before dragging her still
sore body out of bed and scooping up the baby herself. She took
her into the living room and nursed her in the antique rocking chair her
mother had given her, silent tears slipping down her cheeks and falling
onto the knitted pink blanket she'd wrapped Melanie in.
Of course he had apologized the next day, and she had forgiven him
and tried to get on with things...but she'd never really forgotten. His
indifference towards the baby wasn't malicious or mean...it was simply
that he had no time for anything but his own goals. He worked, or so he
had told her, long hours; sometimes well into the night. Days went by
when she and Melanie barely saw him. He rarely returned phone calls
or replied to messages she left.
Buffy was, for all intents and purposes, a single parent long before
it was made official by the courts. She'd led a protected life, sheltered
by her parents; she'd married young and then became a mother herself
before her marriage had time to solidify. But, sometime during the months
of loneliness she had been subjected to by Angel's unswerving ambitions,
she had learned to cope. She was the only stable influence in her child's
immediate world, and she had to grow up and step into that role fully.
Gradually, she had begun to pull away from Angel. The independence
she'd been forced to learn took root inside of her and began to grow, and
it wasn't a terribly long time before she knew that she no longer needed
him. She could do it on her own if she had to....and she did.
Still, she put off doing anything permanent, perhaps hoping that he would
somehow realize what he was missing and would straighten up and be
the husband and father that he was in fact as well as theory. She gave him
chance after chance, and he would make half hearted attempts, but nothing
It wasn't until he missed his daughter's third birthday party that Buffy
finally decided to put an end to the farcical playacting they were doing.
He had called her mid-afternoon, promising to be home on time for the
small gathering that Buffy had put together. She had given him detailed
instructions to swing by the Toys-R-Us and pick up the tricycle that she
had already chosen and left there to be assembled. There were several
other gifts in the trunk of his car, gifts she had left there so Melanie could
see her Daddy coming in the door with them in his arms.
Five o'clock, the designated time for the little party, came and went. Five
thirty...five forty-five...five-fifty...passed by on the clock. At six, Buffy
called his office and was told he'd left for the day nearly four hours ago.
She tried his cell phone, but only got a connection to his voice mail. She
called two or three of his colleagues at the firm, and was told that they
hadn't seen him for most of the day. She had no trouble divining the lies
she was being fed.
Putting her mother in charge of the guests, she had jumped into her
car and sped downtown to the toy store. The trike was still there. Angel
had never showed up for it.
Buffy raced through the store, throwing items into a cart. She'd handed
the cashier her credit card, then called home and explained what had
happened to her mother.
The small party had been as successful as it could be, all things
considered. Buffy had spent the evening after everyone had left
plotting her next move. She had rehearsed everything she planned to
say to Angel when he showed up, but he hadn't come home at all that
The next day, Buffy had retained a lawyer and began the painful
process of ending her marriage.
"You dreamed?" Buffy repeated. "You had a dream that William
St. James was your real daddy?"
Melanie shook her head, making her curls bounce. "No. My
NEW daddy," she clarified, still playing with her fork. "He came
to our house and said he was taking us home to be with him.
He said that he loved us most of all, and we were supposed to
It was so simple in her eyes, Buffy realized. She saw her
situation as a mistake, a cosmic glitch. Someone, somewhere,
had screwed up and had assigned her the wrong father. An easily
fixed problem. All she needed to do was find the right one.
And, according to her dream, she had done just that.
"Melanie," Buffy said reasonably, "you already have a daddy."
"That's okay," the little girl said promptly. "Alicia has two daddies.
So does Brooke, and Samantha, and Jacey, and...."
Buffy held up one hand to cut off the flow of names assigned to
Melanie's class mates from broken homes. "But, honey...you...I
mean we...we don't even really know him that well. Those other
little girls mommies married the new daddies because they fell in
love with them."
"You can fall in love with him...can't you?"
Looking down into the child's guileless eyes, Buffy wasn't sure
how to answer the question. She had a sneaking suspicion that
it would be amazingly easy to fall in love with William St. James...what
was not to love? He was handsome and sexy, good natured and
friendly, and he seemed to like children. He certainly had liked Melanie.
Actually, the man seemed....perfect. Which meant there had to be
something wrong with him.
"Look," she forged on, still trying for 'reasonable', "you can't go around
telling people that he's going to be your daddy, no matter what you
dream about. It's pretty unlikely that we're ever going to see him again,
except for Wednesday nights on channel....."
The phone rang suddenly, startling them both.
Buffy swallowed hard, wiping her damp palms on the seat
of her jeans as she stood up. Melanie was watching her,
still fiddling with her spaghetti.
It wasn't....it couldn't be....it was way too big a coincidence...
"It's probably Anya or Willow," she said firmly, picking the
names of her employees out of the air. "Maybe...maybe something's
wrong at the shop."
Melanie said nothing. Carefully laying down her fork, she took
a sip from her milk glass.
Buffy cleared her throat and picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Buffy? It's William. William St. James. Remember me?"
She turned around and stared at her daughter, who couldn't
have looked more innocent. "Of course I remember you. How have
"Busy. I'm sorry I couldn't call sooner. I wanted to, but I got
stuck doing re-shoots, and it was a big mess...so...yeah."
"I..I understand." She covered the phone with her hand and
mouthed "Eat your dinner" at Melanie.
"How've you and Melanie been?"
"Oh....fine. Just fine. Really...fine." Closing her eyes tight, she
wanted to scream at how stupid she sounded. "Would you like
to talk to her?"
"I'd love to."
Silently, Buffy held out the phone and waited.
And another miracle was performed by the miracle guy. Usually,
she had to chase Melanie through the house to get her to talk on
the phone to anyone but her grandmother. But all William St.
James had to do was call and she was jumping to her feet to
take the receiver.
"Hello...Oh, hi....Yes....Fine....Uh-huh....Me, too....I had a
spelling test today....I don't know....Sometimes....Did you like
She looked at Buffy. "He wants to know if he can take us to where
they make the show sometime. Can we, Mommy?"
Buffy leaned against the wall. "We'll see."
"She said maybe....Okay....I did too....I drew a picture for you..Uh-
huh...I will....Bye." She handed the phone back to her mother and
went to finish her milk.
"Is everything all right?" he asked.
"Yeah....I told you. We're just..."
"Fine, I know. You don't sound terribly fine, luv. You sure nothing's
Nothing she was ready to discuss with him!
"I'm just tired. Busy day today," she said, falling back on the
He didn't sound convinced, but he let the matter drop. "Well, I
was wondering...I don't have to work tomorrow. Any chance I could
talk you and Melanie into going out with me? I know a place where
they serve great peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."
Buffy was too caught off guard to offer up any kind of excuse. "Sure,"
she heard herself saying. "We'd love to."
"Great," he replied casually. "What's your address?" She could tell he
was writing it down by the way he repeated it after her. After promising
to be there at exactly 6:00, he instructed her to say goodnight again
to Melanie for him. Then, his voice dropped just a little into a deeper
tone. "Do you remember the last thing I said to you the other night?"
Like she could forget a comment like that. "Yes," she half-whispered.
"I haven't been able to get the thought of kissing you out of my mind,"
he said. "Do you think I have a chance?"
Listening to the husky quality of his voice as he spoke, and feeling
the slow tightening of her abdominal muscles in response to it, Buffy
would have called it more of a lead pipe cinch, than a mere chance.
But she couldn't very well say something like that. "I don't know.
Maybe. Probably," she finally admitted.
William laughed softly. "Tease," he whispered. "You're driving me
Buffy could relate.
"I'll see you tomorrow, luv."
She hung the phone up, then turned to see her daughter looking
at her quite seriously. "Did you fall in love with him, Mommy?"
"Of course not," Buffy scoffed.
"How come your cheeks are all red?"
Buffy spun around and headed for the kitchen, muttering something
under her breath about boiling water and steam.
She never managed to return to the subject of Melanie's
indiscreet remark at school. By the time she got the dinner
dishes loaded into the dishwasher, supervised Melanie's bath
and dried her hair, then read her two chapter of 'Charlotte's Web',
she was too tired to discuss it anymore.
After a hot shower, she fired up her computer and entered
her days business transactions. She finished a letter to her
mother, and deleted a staggering amount of junk she'd neither
asked for nor wanted.
When she had her finger poised to click on sign off, she stopped
and decided to check the archive for a new story she could add to
the little booklet she was putting together for Melanie. She found
two and printed them, then her attention once again wandered to the
An hour later, she signed off and climbed wearily into bed, ready to
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
"Captain Amara! Captain! We're receiving another distress call
from the Kaylenans," Buffy called. "How do you wish to respond?"
Rising from his command chair, the handsome blond starship captain
made for his private conference room. "Come in and we'll discuss it,
Buffy jumped to her feet, tugging down the back of her very short
skirt. She closed the door behind her, then turned to see her commander
sitting at the far end of his conference table. "Something wrong, Ensign?"
he asked, one brow arching in amusement.
"Well, sir...now that you mention it, I've been wondering...why am I
the only female personnel on the ship who has to wear a miniskirt?"
His startling blue eyes skimmed slowly over her body. "Because, you're
the only female personnel with the fantastic legs that it would be a
crime against nature to cover up."
"Oh. I see. Now, about that distress call? How did you..."
He waved one hand at her, then tilted his chair back and propped
his feet up on the table. "Not now. You've heard one distress call,
you've heard 'em all. They can wait."
"Huh?" Buffy was confused. "But, sir, they may be in serious
trouble. They said something about an enemy ship hovering just
out of the atmosphere."
The captain leaned over and pushed the intercom. "Bridge. Lock on
target the Praetorian vessel in range of Kayle Prime...then remove them
from my sky!"
"Aye, sir!" the second in commands voice responded.
The view screen flickered on just in time to watch the enemy ship
"Thank you, Commander," the captain said, "Now...see that I'm not
disturbed for the rest of the evening." He signed off, then turned to
Buffy. "If I'm not mistaken," he said, leaning back and eying her
body up and down, "you have family of Kayle Prime...don't you, En-
"Yes, sir," she nodded. "My parents live there."
"Well, then....I suppose you should be especially grateful to me
for dealing with the invasion problem so...expediently," he purred.
"Oh, I am grateful, sir. I wish I could tell you how much."
"Perhaps you could show me."
"Take off your uniform...very nice....I don't think such naughty under-
garments are regulation," he said, teasingly.
"Maybe, you'll have to report me," Buffy replied, shaking her hair
out of her eyes.
"Well," he said slowly, indicating that she should get closer. "Maybe
you'd just better take them off."
Buffy slipped the silk lingerie off slowly, enticingly...she hoped.
"Lovely, Ensign," the captain murmured. "Tell me....do you ever
"Do, you Ensign?"
"I...well, I...doesn't everybody?" Her entire body felt flushed.
"Lying in your bunk at night...when you touch yourself....do you
think of me?" he whispered, reaching for her hand and pulling
her down to his lap.
"Yes," she admitted.
"Good." He spread her legs apart until she was straddling his
lap, pressing her down against the sizable bulge beneath the tight
uniform pants he wore. "Know what that is?"
"Tell me," he whispered, nuzzling her ear.
"It's....it's your....you know...oh, my..." Her voice was fading in and
out as he licked and nibbled at her earlobe.
"It's my cock," he groaned into her ear. "Hard...for you, Ensign. The
second I see you sashaying around in that little skirt...it gets hard so
fast it's almost painful."
"Really?" she asked breathlessly.
"Oh, yeah, luv....hard as steel. Can you help me with the problem?"
"All right!" She reached down and yanked his uniform shirt off over
his head, then unzipped the fly of his pants and reached in. Her fingers
wrapped tightly around his erect organ, stroking it up and down, hard
"Come on, luv," he begged. "Sit down on it. Ride it. Ride it hard."
Happy to oblige, she lifted herself and placed him where he wanted
most to be, then lowered her hips. grinding down on him.
"Captain....Captain....oh, my....you're so....so big...."
"Biggest in three galaxies," he said, pumping his hips up and
down. "You like it?"
"You want it harder?"
"Hang on then!" Wrapping his arms around her waist, he rose to
his feet and laid her down on the conference table. He kept her at the
very edge, draping her legs over his shoulders as he continued to thrust
rapidly in and out of her.
Buffy turned her head and gazed out the window, transfixed by the
beauty of the velvet sky with it's spattering of diamond like stars. She
lay beneath her commanding officer, taking all he had to give, want-
ing more...and more...and more....
"Christ, Ensign," he grunted. "You're so fucking hot...so tight...and
juicy. I've never been in a tighter pussy before. Oh, fuck....it's like a
wet satin glove is just...uh!...just squeezing my cock...uh...oh, yeah...do
it baby...tighten it up for me...yeah, that's it...that's my good little girl."
It felt as though electricity was being poured into her body by
him, stimulating all her nerve endings and muscles to vibrant
life. Her legs wrapped themselves around his waist as he worked
"You're the best, baby," he muttered, leaning down to kiss her hard
on the mouth. "Better even than those Vendorian triplets...or the
Doge's number two wife back on Saturnian Five...or that receptionist
back at Command Headquarters...or the...."
"Enough!" Buffy said, digging her nails into his biceps.
"Oh, baby," he shouted, beginning to ram in and out even
harder. "Do it....fuck me good....come on....ahhhhhh....uh! oh,
His orgasm triggered hers, making her come on a wave of pure
pleasure. It was perfect and wonderful, and she wanted it to last
"Captain!" the intercom blared. "We need you on the bridge, sir!
"Sorry, babe," he said, leaning down to kiss her. "Love to bask in the
afterglow and all, but....duty calls."
"Yes, Captain. I know all about duty."
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The alarm blared, nearly making Buffy hit the ceiling!
Instead of laying there for a few minutes and waking up slowly,
she jumped out of bed and headed for the shower....a very cold
This promised to be a long...long...day.
AN: Okay, for the sake of simplicity, let's pretend
that Sunnydale is a small city very close to Los
Angeles. I want William and Buffy together a lot,
and I don't want him to have to go a country mile
to visit her.
Also, a lot of people have asked me why Melanie has
blue eyes, since Buffy's are hazel and Angel's are
brown. The answer is...I goofed. I admit it. I totally
messed that up. I guess we'll have to say that she
gets them from a grandparent or something like that,
OR we can just never mind and forget I ever mentioned
"Did I hear you tell Anya that you have a date tonight?"
Buffy looked up from the front window where she was redoing
the displays for Easter. Willow Rosenberg was the first employee
she'd hired after Melanie's Garden began turning a profit.
Buffy had liked her immediately after talking with her on the
phone to set up a job interview. Meeting her had only cemented
the feeling. Willow was about her same age, with a short mop of
red hair that framed a sweet face. Her eyes were bright and
friendly, and she was a natural when it came to sales.
She was, however, a bit too focused on her employer's private
life. Willow felt it was her duty to make sure that everybody she
liked was as happy as she was with her own boyfriend. She had
already been successful at setting Anya up with a man who worked
for the company that had built and managed the Sunnydale Mall,
and was now training her sights on Buffy.
"It's not really a date" Buffy demurred, pulling out puffy wads of
pastel easter grass and scattering it around. "It's just...well, I guess
it IS sort of a date, but it's not just me...it's Melanie, too."
Willow blocked the window, preventing Buffy from escaping the
questions she still had. "So, tell. This is good, right? I mean...he
knows you have a daughter and he wants to get to know her. Most
guys take off like scared rabbits when they find out a woman has a
kid. At least that's what MY mom always said."
Buffy smiled, unconsciously shredding the easter grass she
still held. "He definitely wants to get to know her. In fact, he seems
crazy about her. You should see them together, Wils...it's like they
belong that way."
Willow's smile widened. "Really? And what about Melanie? Does she
like him, too? Does she open up to him?"
"Oh, yeah," Buffy nodded. "She's like a different child when he's
around. And he's so good with her. So patient and low key." She
shook her head in bemusement. "It's amazing."
"Well, who is he?" Willow asked eagerly. "What's his name?"
Buffy was saved from having to fess up when something in the
back storage room fell to the floor with a loud clatter of smashing
glass, punctuated by a vile curse word from Anya.
Jumping to her feet, she followed behind Willow to see what
the girl had broken now.
Buffy parked her car in the school lot and stepped out into the
warm afternoon sun. She was running a little late, so she broke
into a trot across the asphalt lot and headed for the block of
buildings where Melanie's class assembled every day.
Weaving through the crowd of parents and children, she walked
into the room and saw her daughter standing by her desk. She
had her pink 'Cinderella' backpack on, and Buffy could see the
traces of tears on her face all the way across the room.
She gathered the little girl up in her arms and kissed her
damp cheeks. "You're not upset because I'm late...are you,
baby? I'm sorry."
Melanie just shook her head. "I want to go home," she whis-
pered, burying her face against Buffy's shoulder.
Buffy stroked her daughter's soft curls as she turned to
give Miss Ashton a questioning look.
The teacher looked upset, too. She reached into a small
cooler next to her desk and extracted a box of apple juice.
Popping the straw in, she stood up and walked around her
desk. "Melanie...I need to talk to your mother," she said
quietly. "Can you please sit at your desk for a minute and
have some juice?"
The child sighed and nodded, sliding down Buffy's body
and seating herself.
Trying to mentally prepare for whatever was coming, Buffy
walked a few feet away with Miss Ashton. "What happened?"
"Remember what I told you about 'Share Time' yesterday?"
the woman asked, then sighed when Buffy nodded. "I guess
that someone passed the word about what Melanie said
regarding William St. James. Some of the older kids found
out about it and...well, you know how they can be. They
cornered her on the playground and they teased her about it.
Said she was...a liar. That she didn't even know him and was
just making up stories."
Although she was trying not to get angry, Buffy was finding it a
difficult task. Someone hurting her baby always brought out the "Mama
Bear" in her, even another child just doing what children do.
"Who was it?" she asked sharply. "I want to know what was done
Teasing and bullying was strictly against school policy, and
was not tolerated. The board of education sent home reams of
flyers on the subject every time a new school year began.
Miss Ashton shrugged. "Nothing yet," she explained. "Melanie
won't name names. And no one else saw it. One of the kids
found her crying over by the back fence, and came to get me.
It took me a little while to get the story out of her, but she won't
tell me who was involved."
Buffy glanced over at her daughter. She was sitting quietly in her
seat, watching them talk.
"Believe me, Ms. Summers," the teacher said, "I'm no happier about
this than you are. Melanie is...very special. I hate the thought of
someone hurting her this way." She lowered her voice a bit more. "We'll
keep trying to find out who was involved, and I promise you they'll be
Buffy was silent for a moment. Folding her arms across her chest,
she finally said, "She's telling the truth, you know. Not about him being
her daddy, but she DOES know him. And he's...he's very fond of her."
Maybe she was overstepping by saying that, but she really didn't
think so. William had seemed quite clear about his feelings for the
"I believe you," Miss Ashton said. "How could anyone not be fond of
It was nearly five thirty when they left the school parking lot. Melanie
hadn't said a word about the playground incident, and Buffy had learned
not to push her to talk. She would get around to it when she wanted to.
As they sat and waited for a green light, Buffy looked into the rear
view mirror and saw her little one looking back at her. She made a
face that usually made the child giggle. "What's up, cookie?"
Melanie wiped her nose on the sleeve of her sweater. "I guess I
shouldn't tell anyone about him."
Buffy shrugged. "That's up to you, honey. You can tell or not tell...if
someone doesn't believe you, then that's their problem. It doesn't
give them a right to be mean to you. And you know what? When you get
your picture in the mail, you can take it to school and show all
those little....kids who didn't believe you."
She turned the car onto Revello Drive. "How does that sound, baby?"
"Okay," Melanie said, staring out the window.
Peering straight ahead, Buffy saw an unfamiliar car parked in front
of her house. She smiled as she recognized the man leaning casually
"Melanie...look who's here," she said, swinging the car into the driveway.
William strolled across the lawn as she set the parking brake and
opened the door. "Hey, you two," he greeted them, reaching to
open the rear door for a little girl who had already wriggled out of her
booster seat. "I was starting to think I was going to be stood up by
the two prettiest girls in town."
Before Buffy could say a word, Melanie launched herself straight
at William, clinging to him like a barnacle to the hull of a boat.
He was surprised at such an abandoned greeting, but he scooped
her up and returned her embrace. "Everything okay, pixie?" he asked,
meeting Buffy's eyes over the riot of light brown curls.
She mouthed "problem at school" silently, closing the car doors
and rooting around for her house keys.
William followed her up the sidewalk and inside the small house.
"I'm glad to see you again," he said, patting Melanie's back and
looking at Buffy to include her in the sentiment. "I've missed you."
Melanie leaned back in his arms. "We missed you, too," she
"Well, that's good to know," he said, placing her back on her
"Sorry we're late," Buffy murmured, trying to kick away a bit of
the clutter into a handy corner.
"Don't worry about it, luv," he said, smiling down at Melanie
as she held on to his hand. "Are you hungry?" he asked.
The little girl nodded silently in reply.
"Well, I've got an idea where to go for dinner. It's someplace
fun, and the food is pretty good. D'ya trust me?"
Melanie looked up at her mother, and Buffy smiled. "We trust
you," she said, smoothing her skirt. "Do I need to change?"
"No...you're gorgeous," he said softly. His eyes moved up and
down her small frame admiringly, then he remembered they
weren't alone. "Both of you," he added, fondling Melanie's curls
Melanie, who normally would withdraw instantly from such
contact, just smiled up at him.
"I never saw a fish pond in a restaurant before," Melanie
said, staring at the pool of plump orange and white koi that
ran under the small bridge she was hanging over.
"Come on, honey," Buffy encouraged her to catch up and
follow the hostess. "You can see it again later."
Melanie hopped across the bridge, nearly stepping on the
trailing red silk of the kimono worn by the young lady
seating them. She climbed up onto one of the chairs
surrounding a large teppanyaki table, perching there on
William made sure that they were at the end of the table,
keeping Melanie between her mother and himself.
The hostess handed everyone a warm, moist
hand towel, which Melanie used to scrub her face. She asked
William to read the hard words on the menu for her, and
agreed with his suggestion that she order chicken for her meal.
A small salad was served, followed by a bowl of broth that she
didn't touch. While they ate, he asked her how school had been
that day, and glanced at Buffy when a small frown clouded her
The subject was dropped when the chef arrived, pushing
a cart filled with all the ingredients for the meals ordered by the
occupants of the tables.
When the man began cooking right there on the table, Melanie's
eyes became hugely round. She watched everything he did in
utter fascination, bouncing up and down on her chair when his
knives flashed, and giggling when he literally tossed food around in
the air, including overloaded bowls of rice, without dropping a grain
The hostess brought her a special pair of chopsticks and showed
her how to use them. She tried gamely to pick up the pieces of
chicken on her plate, but they kept popping out of the chopsticks,
so she solved the problem by separating them and using one of the
sticks to stab the bite of food.
Since the chef was keeping her so well entertained, William leaned
back in his chair and looked over at Buffy. She met his gaze, and
he smiled in a way that made her short of breath.
Before she could stop it, her dream of him came flooding back and
her face turned scarlet. He noticed it, and his eyes questioned her.
"What are you thinking about?" he whispered, leaning closer. "Are you
Buffy shook her head. "It's the heat from the table," she claimed,
picking up a glass of ice water and draining it.
"Buffy?" he said softly. "Look at me, darling."
She did, and immediately wished she hadn't. It was like he could
see right through her, and knew what was really going on in her
head, because his smile became even more intimate.
William tilted his head a little, making her lean closer. "Do I
get my kiss?"
Sitting back in her chair, Buffy slowly returned his smile. "You just
Melanie protested vehemently when Buffy ordered her into
the ladies room to have the chocolate ice cream washed off her
face. She fidgeted and squirmed, firmly denying her mother's
suggestion that she use the facilities as long as she was there.
Throwing her hands up in defeat, Buffy allowed the little girl
to return to where William was waiting while she went to the
bathroom and freshened her makeup.
Rejoining them, she saw that they had followed the meandering
koi pond into the sushi bar.
Melanie watched the chefs preparing the food, and looked up at
William, obviously asking him something about it. He visibly hesitated,
and Buffy knew he was remembering the child's fondness for fish, and
her insistence that they were to be regarded as playmates and not
Seeing his extreme reluctance to explain to Melanie just what was
going on in there, Buffy went in and rescued him by announcing that
it was very close to a certain girl's bedtime.
The child was agreeable, and she skipped across the parking lot
between them, clinging to both their hands.
When they reached William's car, a late model Lexus SUV, Buffy
and Melanie waited for him to unlock it. An elderly woman climbed
out of the car that had just parked next to them, and she smiled
at all three of them.
"What a nice little family," she said kindly. "Your little girl is
Instead of correcting her, William returned her smile and said, "Thank
you. I think so, too."
Buffy's heart thumped loudly in her chest. She was surprised he
couldn't hear it!
He buckled Melanie into the booster seat he'd taken out of her
car, then closed the door and came around to the passenger side.
Gently pushing her up against the door, he pinned her there by
leaning against her. "I can't stand it another second," he whispered.
And there went her heart again!
Pushed up against the car door as she was, Buffy was intensely
aware of his lower body pressed to hers. Once again, her dream
from the night before began running flashbacks in her head, this
time coupled with various works of fiction that she'd read. One line
in particular from the dream just wouldn't keep still....
"Biggest in three galaxies..."
She wouldn't be a bit surprised to find out that the claim was true!
"There you go again," William said, his lips nearly touching her
ear. "Blushing, I mean. And you with no steam table to blame it on."
"I'm not blushing," she insisted, then threw every scrap of caution
she had to the four winds. "Now do you want that kiss or not?"
"Want," he murmured, his mouth trailing from her ear over her
cheek. "Want bad."
Buffy gathered up her courage and placed her hands on his cheeks,
guiding his mouth to hers. She heard him take in a deep breath right
before their lips met, and his own hands came up to plunge into her
hair, mussing the neat ponytail she'd tied it back in.
Her hands released their hold on his face and landed on his
shoulders, then moved down the front of his chest. Her fingers touched
solid muscle beneath the faded blue cotton shirt he wore, and she fiddled
with two of the small white buttons.
His tongue probed delicately between her lips, coaxing them apart
for him. He obviously knew what he was doing, because he didn't try
to shove his entire tongue into her mouth and down her throat. Instead,
he stroked lightly, taking teasing tastes of her inner cheeks and ex-
ploring the edges of her teeth.
Buffy's head was getting dizzier by the second. Fortunately for her, he
knew when to put the brakes on.
Breaking their connection, he rested his forehead against hers and
swallowed hard. "Wow," he panted. "I definitely want more of that."
"Oh...I...we have to stop," Buffy replied, her voice sounding weak and
breathless to her own ears. "Melanie will...get the wrong idea."
"Mmm...no, she won't," he protested, keeping her in place. "There is no
wrong idea here. It's all....very right." Pulling back, he looked into her
eyes to gauge her response. "Don't you feel it?"
She wasn't going to pretend that she didn't know what he was
talking about. "Yes, I feel it," she said quietly. "But there's more to
it than just that...just feeling it."
William nodded. "I know. But that's where it starts. Feeling it....and
wanting it. Then everything else falls into place."
Buffy placed her hands back on his chest and nudged him away. "Not
He said nothing more, but unlocked and opened the door for her. As
he walked around the back of the car to the driver's side, Melanie turned
her head to watch, a fact that didn't escape Buffy's notice.
The drive back to her house was made in near silence. Melanie
was falling asleep as the large, comfortably riding vehicle ate up the
miles without jostling it's occupants.
William unfastened the child from her car seat and carried her
into the house. Handing her over to the her mother's care, he went
back to his car and transferred the booster seat back into Buffy's
By the time he came back into the house, Melanie was waking up
and had no interest in being put to bed. Buffy excused them from
the room and took the little girl upstairs. She gave her a quick bath,
then put clean pajamas on her. After supervising the brushing of her
teeth, she allowed Melanie to go back down to the front room for a
With his hands pushed into the front pockets of his jeans,
William wandered around the small living room. He stood in front
of the mantle, studying the collection of photographs displayed there,
smiling at the ones of Melanie at different stages of her development.
There were no pictures anywhere of her with her father. With Buffy, yes,
and with people he assumed were her grandparents, but nothing with a
man anywhere around Buffy's age. This had to indicate that she was
divorced, and that it hadn't been a peaceful break up.
He honestly couldn't begin to imagine why any man would turn
his back on the two ladies who lived in this cozy little house. Had to
be blind or just plain stupid was all he could deduce.
Just look at what was here. A beautiful little girl, sweet natured and
innocent and just aching to be loved...and her mother, also beautiful.
And sexy...and desirable...and....everything.
Well...if the elusive "ex" didn't want what was here, then HE most certainly
It was the strangest thing. Life had been good to him, and he hadn't
felt like anything particular was missing from it...until he'd laid eyes on
Melanie and her mother...and then he knew. Somehow, he knew.
When the elderly woman at the restaurant had made the comment
about 'his' adorable little girl, he'd felt a warmth race over him. He
had almost corrected her, but the warm feeling was so pleasant that
he let it go, let her go on thinking that they were a family.
That he was.....a father.
A tiny sound from the doorway caught his attention, and he turned
to see Melanie standing there. She was dressed for bed in a pair of
yellow footy pajamas, and had her face freshly scrubbed and her hair
brushed into neatness. In her hand, she clutched a piece of paper.
She looked absolutely adorable, and he wondered yet again what
kind of man could turn and leave this child.
"What have you got there, pixie?" He slipped off his jacket and
sat down on the sofa, waiting for her to come to him.
"It's a picture," she said shyly, approaching him with her hand
held out in offering. "By me."
"A picture for me?" William took it from her hand, turning it
over to examine it.
It was a child's version of what he presumed was himself standing
next to the "Phoenix", his starship on 'Outpost: Space'. He had
to smile at the scale. The way she'd drawn in, it appeared that
he was larger than the ship.
Her name was written at the bottom, in the gold glitter ink of
from the pen he'd given her.
"This is very good," he said, smiling as she perched next to him
on the sofa. "If it's all right with you I'd love to hang it in my
Her curls bounced as she nodded.
They both looked over at the same time at Buffy, who was waiting
at the foot of the stairs.
"Time to be tucked into bed now, honey," she added.
"Okay." Melanie reached for William's hand and tugged on it. Her
intent was clear; she expected him to accompany her upstairs for
the bedtime ritual.
Without a word, he stood up and allowed her to lead him up
the stairs, with her mother bringing up the rear.
Her bedroom was exactly the sort of place he would have ex-
pected. Supremely feminine, it's centerpiece was a twin sized
bed covered by a pink spread with matching canopy.
The furnishing was all white and gold French Provincial. She had
a chest of drawers, and a dresser with a mirror mounted on the
wall above it. The little room was well stocked with all the sorts
of things a little girl treasured. Stuffed animals of different varieties
perched here and there, and in one corner there was a small table
with an elaborate doll house on it. Lined up against one wall, he
saw three or four tiny beds, each one with a baby doll tucked snugly
Her walls were pale pink and, much to his surprise, there were
several pictures of him taped up. Some of them were the sort of
pictures sold at the convention, while others had apparently been
clipped out of magazines. On the wall directly behind her bed, was
the picture he'd signed for her.
"This is my room," Melanie said, climbing into her bed.
"So I see," he replied, making a show of examining all her
things. "I like it."
"Me, too," she said, laying back on her pillows. Her eyes were
heavy lidded as she watched Buffy pull up her blankets and tuck
them around her. She then switched on a small 'Winnie-The-Pooh'
night light that sat on the dresser and flicked off the overhead light.
"Charlotte's Web, Mommy," the little girl murmured sleepily.
"Not tonight," her mother said, leaning over to kiss her. "It's already
past time for you to be sleeping, pumpkin."
Melanie must have been tired indeed, as she gave in without a
word of dissent. After Buffy straightened up and moved away from
the bed, she wordlessly held out her arms towards William.
He felt his heartstrings being tightly wound around baby fingers
as he hugged and kissed her goodnight.
"Thank you for dinner," she whispered in his ear.
"You're very welcome, pixie," he whispered back. "You have sweet
"Okay." She turned on her side and reached for a stuffed
lamb, snuggling her arms tightly around it as she closed her
"Would you like some coffee?" Buffy asked, back down in the
"Sure." He couldn't have been less interested in coffee, but he
wanted an excuse to linger a while longer. Following her into the
kitchen, he sat down at the table and watched as she measured
the grounds into a white paper filter and dumped water into the well
of the coffee maker. She pushed the 'on' switch, then found two
mugs in the cupboard over the sink.
"It'll just be a minute," she murmured, sitting opposite him at the
William scooted his chair closer to hers and reached for her
hand, a gesture that made her jump a little. "What's wrong?" he
asked, stroking the palm of her hand with his thumb.
"Nothing," she said, a little too quickly. "Um...thank you again for
dinner. Melanie really enjoyed it."
"And how about Melanie's mother?" he asked, tilting his head and
studying her face.
Buffy smiled. "She also enjoyed it. Very much."
Deciding that there was no point in being subtle, he lifted the
small hand he was holding and placed a slow kiss in it's palm,
maintaining eye contact with her. "I enjoyed it, too," he said, his
tone making it quite clear that he was not necessarily referring to the
meal. "And I want more of it."
Buffy felt her heart start that rapid beating it had been doing
earlier, but before she could reply, the coffee maker clicked off.
"Coffee's ready," she said breathlessly. She tugged her hand out
of his grasp and moved quickly across the kitchen.
William was right behind her, stopping her hand as it reached
for the glass pot. He stepped up close and placed his hands on
the counter, one on either side of her, effectively caging her in.
"I don't want any coffee," he whispered, pressing his lower
body against hers. "I want you."
Against her will, Buffy's eyes drifted shut. His voice had dropped
into a deeper register, and one hand moved up and pulled the
elastic scrunchy from around her ponytail. He dropped it on the counter
and used both hands to spread her hair around her shoulders.
"Beautiful," he told her, stroking the honey brown tresses, feeling
them slip through his fingers. "So soft."
She shuddered slightly, all thoughts of what she'd come over
here to do fading away from her conscious mind.
"Buffy." He placed his hands on her waist and turned her
around to face him. "Kiss me again. You kiss so sweetly."
She could have returned the compliment, had she been in
the mood to speak. As it was, all she wanted to do was exactly
what he was asking of her.
Twining her arms around his neck, she went up on her toes
and gave him her lips.
William wrapped his arms firmly around her waist, pulling her
closer as his mouth devoured hers with passionate intent.
He'd meant to go slow, to coax and cajole her into melting
in his arms. But the taste of her lips and the soft warmth of her
breath on his skin was quickly destroying all of his control. He
felt himself leaning into her, pushing her against the counter so
that he could feel the slender length of her body rubbing against
him, making him painfully hard.
When he finally was able to tear his mouth away from hers, they
were both panting for air. "Oh, God, I want you," he groaned in
her ear, shocked at how desperately needy he sounded.
Buffy was the one who put the brakes on. Even through the
rushing in her ears, she was attuned to the actions of her
child. When she heard a little creaking sound come from the
ceiling, she knew that Melanie had gotten out of bed and was
probably heading for the bathroom.
Pushing William away, she shook her head at his whispered, "Don't
stop" and placed her fingers over his mouth to shush him.
A minute later, Buffy heard the toilet flush and then the soft
padding of little feet back down the hall and into the bedroom.
The brief interruption brought her back down to earth with a
bang. Gathering up all her resolve, she moved out of William's
arms and sat down at the kitchen table.
He waited for a moment, willing his body to settle down before
he joined her. She was staring at her clasped hands, and
when he leaned forward to kiss her, she pulled back.
"What's wrong?" he asked, keeping his voice low. Surely he hadn't
misread her signals. She had been participating in that rather heated
embrace just as whole heartedly as he had. "Buffy? Talk to me."
Taking a deep breath, she went directly to her point. "I wanted it,
too. What was happening...just now. Please don't think that I didn't."
He smiled, obviously pleased at her declaration. "That works out
"But it's more than just that," she went on, trying to put her thoughts
in some kind of coherent order. "It's more than just me that's affected
Sitting back, William nodded. It wasn't difficult to follow her train of
thought. "You mean Melanie?"
Buffy laced her fingers tightly together to keep herself from reaching
out to touch him, to smooth the slight frown from his brow. "Everything
I do affects her...and I have to be so careful because...she's so tender.
You can't imagine...she's just the gentlest little thing and she feels
everything so....intensely. When she met you..."
"Buffy," he stopped her flow of words by placing one finger on her
lips. "You don't need to worry. I'm crazy about her."
"I know you are," she said, pushing his hand away. "I can see that.
And she feels the same way. I've never seen her take to someone
the way she has to you. That's why I can't help feeling a little...scared."
"Scared of what, honey?" Refusing to be put off, he took her hand
and held on to it.
"If....if something happened between us...if it didn't...go well...she
would be so hurt. If you..."
Knowing exactly where she was going with this, he was determined
to put a stop to it. "Buffy," he said firmly, making her look at him. "Only
good things are gonna happen between us....and I'm not going anywhere."
He sounded so certain...so sincere...that it make her heart turn
Hooking his foot around the leg of her chair, he dragged it closer
to his. "I'm right where I want to be. From the minute I saw you,
heard your voice. I've never been so instantly attracted to a woman
like that. God...you just knocked me out."
Reaching for her, he pulled her onto his lap. "Why would I want to be
anywhere else? You're beautiful and funny, and sexy as hell. You
tease and tempt me...and you don't even know you're doing it. And
you taste like original sin. You're devil's food cake, baby...and I'm
starving for you," he said hotly, his lips close to hers.
She was drowning in him again, she could feel it happening. What-
ever spell it was he used, it was a powerful one and she was no
match for it.
They shared a soft, wet kiss. When he pulled away, he glanced
upwards. "And the icing on this cake is sleeping upstairs in a pink
Any shred of resistance she might still have been able to summon
up disappeared like morning mist. Something wonderful was finally
happening...and this time, she wasn't going to let it slip away.