Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nor the universe in which they reside. I do, however, own this particular story, as well as Meg and Giselle.
Please see Part One for the rest of the author's notes.
Over the next several days, Giselle remained true to her word. While Meg often spotted her in the dining room or visiting with other guests in the spacious drawing room, they were never alone together. Although this was exactly what Meg had requested, she knew that it wasn't what she wanted. The distance only made her feelings toward Giselle more apparent. Even forgetting Paul for the moment, as long as the blonde Frenchwoman was tied to her duties as a Slayer, there wasn't much hope for the two of them.
When the first week came and went, Giselle's presence at the boarding house was painfully clear to the other regulars. As Meg served Mr. Week's daily cup of tea one afternoon, she overheard him questioning Miss Arceneaux as to her plans for the future.
"The weather is remarkably severe, even for this time of year," Giselle was saying.
As Meg passed, their eyes met briefly. She felt a strange fluttering in her belly, and quickly glanced down at the floor to avoid embarrassing herself in front of the other guests.
"My fiancé thinks it best if I remain here until further travel is advisable. The accommodations are so much better than anything between here and Birming," Giselle added.
"Meg will be glad to hear that," Mr. Weeks commented. "She won't admit it, but I think she lacks for proper female companionship among so many rough and rugged men."
At his words, Meg lost her grip on the cup and saucer she offered him. The scalding hot liquid spilled across his legs as the china clattered to the floor. Mr. Weeks jumped out of his seat in surprise and pain.
"Oh my dear, I'm so sorry," Meg cried, humiliated. "Please let me help you."
Mr. Weeks waved her away as she attempted to dab the mess with a handkerchief. "It was an accident, Meg," he assured her. "But I think I should hurry along upstairs."
When Libby hurried out from the kitchen, Meg asked her, "Please take some salve up to Mr. Weeks's room. I think he may have been burned."
Indeed, the man was limping as he made his way to the stairs. Flushed with embarrassment, Meg watched him go. She sighed as she glanced toward Giselle, who watched her alertly. Shaking her head, she moved toward the hallway to head back toward the kitchen. Libby was already marching up the stairs, salve in hand. Just as she pushed through the kitchen door, Meg was stopped by a strong hand on her arm. She turned to see that Giselle had followed her out of the drawing room.
Meg quickly surveyed their surroundings and saw that they were alone. "I told you…" she started.
"And I don't think that's going to work very well, is it?" Giselle asked. She sighed. "I can't tell you how upsetting it is, knowing that you are perfectly comfortable avoiding me when you're married to the most revolting man in this hemisphere."
Meg frowned. "What did Paul do?" she asked.
Giselle shook her head. "A little proposition," she explained. "I expected no less from him. There was no harm," she assured Meg when the other woman's expression reflected her shock. "I can take care of myself."
"It isn't a matter of choosing Paul over you," Meg said.
When she realized their voices were echoing up the back stairwell, she quickly stepped into the kitchen and motioned Giselle to follow. For the moment they were alone as Libby delivered the medicine to Mr. Weeks upstairs.
"Paul seems to be the only option I have."
"You would stay here with him?" Giselle asked.
"You would allow me to accompany you on your travels?" Meg questioned pointedly. When Giselle's smile slipped from her face, Meg nodded. "I cannot be with you when you are 'wed with Destiny.' There would be no place for me in your world. That is why I've attempted to sever our relationship before it is too late."
Giselle closed her eyes and leaned against the kitchen table. Meg thought she'd finally accepted the barrier between them until she realized that the Frenchwoman's face had grown markedly pale. As Giselle lowered herself into a chair, breathing shallowly, Meg frowned in worry.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
Giselle shook her head. "I've been feeling poorly these past two days," she said. "It's nothing."
"That's why you haven't gone out hunting?" Meg wondered.
Opening her eyes, Giselle offered her a wan smile. "You've been watching me," she accused gently.
Meg returned the grin. "I can't help myself," she admitted. She put a hand to her mouth in amazement.
"Fire between us," Giselle murmured, closing her eyes again. "It is not easily extinguished. I think it best if I retire to my room for the remainder of the afternoon."
"Yes, of course," Meg said.
Libby re-entered the kitchen just then. Her wide eyes wandered to the Frenchwoman seated at the table before darting curiously toward Meg. "Libby, could you assist Miss Arceneaux to her room? She is ill."
Libby nodded. "Of course, Mrs. Glass."
After they left, Meg dropped into the seat Giselle had just vacated. It was still warm to the touch, and she blushed slightly as she recalled the heat of the blonde woman's lips on her own. It was perfectly immoral, the thoughts she was having about another woman. But no matter what her spiritual teachings told her, they were not strong enough to invalidate her emotions, or the way her heart stirred at the very sight of her love.
Meg gasped in surprise. She did love Giselle. How was that possible, when they'd only met the week before? She'd read about such romance in her mother's newspapers, but those were always between a man and a woman. Her own father claimed to have fallen for the auburn haired beauty the moment he laid eyes on her. Love at first sight was a topic that was widely written about in both story and song. Until she'd met Giselle, Meg hadn't believed it was real.
"Mrs. Glass, are you well?" a clipped voice asked behind her.
Twisting in her seat, Meg saw Miss Reginald standing in the kitchen doorway. "Oh," she said, rising and smoothing her dress with nervous hands. Martha always looked at her as though she were terribly unclean. "My apologies, Miss Reginald. I didn't hear you come in."
"Miss Arceneaux is feeling a bit melancholy," Martha explained. "I thought perhaps a spot of tea might put color back into her cheeks."
"Of course," Meg said. "I've just boiled a kettle of water. I'll prepare a cup right away."
"Thank you," Martha replied. Her flinty gaze never left Meg's face, nor did she move from the kitchen doorway.
Pouring hot water over a pinch of tea leaves, Meg allowed them to steep a minute as she placed sugar and linen on a small tray. "We were able to get a few lemons out of California," she said conversationally. "The train was here just yesterday. Would Gis—would Miss Arceneaux like some?"
Miss Reginald raised her brows at the gaffe, but said nothing of it. "A lemon would be marvelous," she commented instead.
"Here you are," Meg said as she passed the tray to the Englishwoman. "Please let me know if Miss Arceneaux will be requiring anything else."
"I will," Martha replied.
She made sure to close the kitchen door as she left, which struck Meg as odd. Of course, there wasn't much about Martha that was entirely normal, as far as she'd seen. Giselle was the mystical creature, but it was Martha who worried Meg the most. On a hunch, she crept toward the closed door and opened it just a crack.
Martha stood in the hallway, gazing toward the front of the house. The tray rested on the side table before her. As Meg watched, Martha reached into the folds of her dress and pulled out a glass vial filled with a clear liquid. Removing the stopper, Martha carefully poured several drops of the mysterious liquid into Giselle's tea. As she finished, she twisted around to glance toward the kitchen door. Meg darted away from the narrow opening and hoped the woman hadn't seen her shadow. The Watcher continued on to the back staircase, tray in hand.
Meg stood near the kitchen door, breathing heavily. Why would Martha poison her own ward? That couldn't be what she'd just seen. But Giselle was sick…perhaps it had something to do with her powers, and only Martha knew the correct medicines to heal her. Meg shook her head. There was something very suspicious about that woman; she'd sensed it from the beginning. Meg knew she had to get to the bottom of this.
After Paul fell into unconsciousness, Meg eased out of their bed and grabbed her robe. The guests had all retired to their rooms hours before. It was only a few hours before what should have been dawn, if the sun was to rise. She knew it to be the quietest time of night, with the least risk for discovery.
Sneaking down to the second floor, Meg tiptoed down the hallway to the door of Giselle's room. She wasn't sure the woman would even hear her timid knock. After several long moments of silence, Meg heard the sounds of padding footsteps inside the room. The door opened, and Giselle peered sleepily out into the hallway.
"I'm sorry," Meg whispered. "I shouldn't have awakened you."
Giselle's eyes opened wide the moment she recognized her. Grabbing Meg's arm, she hauled her into the room before she even finished speaking. Meg frowned. Giselle's grip felt different now—weaker somehow. Perhaps it was a side effect of her illness.
"I was wondering how you're feeling," Meg explained.
She realized they both wore their dressing gowns and flushed uncomfortably. Unhindered by pins or braids, Giselle's blonde hair fell past her shoulders, nearly reaching her waist. Meg would have guessed it to be curly, but it was impossibly straight. In the dim light of the corner lantern, it gleamed like spun gold.
"You waited until this hour to come visit me?" Giselle teased her.
"Well…" Meg sputtered. She was unable to come up with a believable excuse. "You're right," she said. "I should have waited until morning."
"Nonsense," Giselle told her. Taking her by the arm once more, she led her toward two chairs near the shuttered window. "I haven't been able to sleep, either. I'm glad for the company."
"You're still unwell?" Meg asked.
Sitting down, Giselle shook her head. "It isn't so much that I feel ill," she explained. "Merely different. Like I've been drained of my strength."
Meg frowned, recalling the strange liquid that Martha had placed in her tea. She wondered if she should mention it to Giselle, to warn her perhaps. For the moment she kept her silence. Giselle might not want to believe that her Watcher sought to harm her in some way.
"Do you know that just two days ago I was nearly overtaken by a young vampire?" the Frenchwoman marveled. "A fledgling that was not even a month old! I don't understand it."
"What does Miss Reginald say?" Meg asked. She made sure to keep her tone casual.
Giselle waved her hand. "That I'm simply ill, and it's affecting my abilities. I suppose she is right…but I've been sick in the past. I've never felt this weak. Not since being called."
"Tomorrow you shall have to breakfast with us," Meg decided. "I'll make you a wonderful meal—you've never tasted food so good. And then you can give Martha a rest."
"She has been doting on me these past few days," Giselle agreed. "Truth be told, I'd relish some time apart. She's been so terribly strict with my training and education. Sometimes a girl just wants to be on her own."
"You're the only girl I've ever met who wants to be alone," Meg told her.
Smiling, Giselle leaned forward in her chair. "Not alone," she amended. She reached across the distance between them to slide her hand over Meg's knee.
At Meg's sharp intake of breath, Giselle captured her hand and pulled her to her feet. "I—I think you must be exhausted," Meg began.
"I think you must be nervous," Giselle replied as she stood.
She stepped close to Meg, who realized for the first time that they were very nearly the same height. The Frenchwoman's body was firm but yielding as it pressed against hers. Giselle raised one hand to caress her cheek, and Meg instantly tilted her head to lean into the gentle touch.
"I would not risk frightening you," Giselle promised. "We will not take this too far tonight."
Amazingly, Meg felt disappointment at her words. Catching her breath, she darted forward to press her lips against Giselle's. The Frenchwoman's surprised chuckle was quickly muffled when Meg opened her mouth to intensify the kiss. Wrapping her arms around Giselle's small waist, Meg pulled her body even closer. Her soft curves were clearly evident through the thin fabric of her nightdress. Unable to restrain herself, Meg lowered her hands to cup Giselle's taut buttocks.
Moaning deep in her throat, Giselle slowly ground her hips against Meg's body. Then suddenly, as quickly as the delicious friction had increased, it was diminished as Giselle pulled away from her. Opening her eyes, Meg stared at her in confusion.
Giselle breathed heavily, and Meg's eyes were immediately drawn to the outline of her breasts beneath the white nightdress. "That was much faster than I'd intended," she gasped. She held up her hand when Meg took a step toward her. "As much as I want you, I don't think you should rush into this so lightly."
Meg shook her head. "Not lightly," she breathed. "I don't feel at all light right now."
In fact, she fell oddly heavy, as though she was full to bursting with energy that desperately needed to be released. With a start, she realized she was feeling the effects of desire for the first time.
"I want you," Meg whispered.
Giselle grinned at her. She murmured something in her own language, then said, "Now you are behaving as a man. Do not force your way through this…we are building something formidable, you and I."
She held out her hand. "Please, may we just be together on this night?"
Recalling that Giselle was sick, Meg felt a pang of guilt. "Of course," she stammered. "For a moment I forgot your condition."
"For a moment, I forgot as well," Giselle admitted.
Meg took her hand, and Giselle lead her toward the bed. As they climbed into it, nestling deep beneath the covers, Giselle curled her body into Meg's embrace.
"A man considers just one possibility when it comes to making love," Giselle explained. Then she laughed. "A Frenchman may begin to understand this infinite realm, but even he is limited by his anatomy. A woman knows that there are many ways to be intimate with her lover."
"We are lovers?" Meg asked.
"Oui," Giselle responded, clearly growing sleepy.
She continued her conversation in her own language, speaking for several more minutes before she finally fell asleep. Meg realized she'd have to learn French. Nuzzling against her lover's neck, Meg breathed in Giselle's dusky scent. Pressing a kiss against her soft skin, Meg allowed herself to fade off into slumber.
The next morning, Meg waited until Miss Reginald left the boarding house before she started cleaning the rooms. She sent Libby ahead to work on the other end of the hallway before letting herself into the Englishwoman's quarters. Unsurprisingly, Miss Reginald kept her room in impeccable order. It made Meg's work that much more difficult. She had to surreptitiously look for the concoction Martha was dropping into Giselle's food but not stir things so dramatically that the woman knew what she'd been up to.
A quick search through the bureau drawers revealed nothing out of order. Miss Reginald's underthings were as bland and impossibly starched as the woman herself. Though the room was the largest available to their guests, it took Meg only a few minutes to go through every nook and cranny. She knew the house more intimately than Paul himself, who'd helped to build it. He didn't spend every single morning cleaning from floorboard to ceiling.
Meg finally stamped her foot in irritation when she was forced to admit that she wouldn't find what she was looking for. Perhaps she'd have to go to Giselle after all. But she doubted the Frenchwoman would believe that her Watcher was lying to her. No, she needed proof.
Her eyes fell on the tidy pile of books on the bedside table. Along with her journals, Miss Reginald had apparently carried a veritable library across the world. Meg hurried toward the woman's trunk. Crouching to the floor, she quickly paged through several books. Besides a few disturbing illustrations of creatures Meg knew she never wanted to see with her own eyes, there was nothing out of order. Sighing, Meg sat back in despair.
When she noticed a copy of the Bible poking out of the pile, Meg leaned forward again. Although both women wore crosses, neither had seemed particularly religious. And while most families kept a well-used edition in order to keep track of family lines, births, and deaths, this Bible was so crisp and new it barely appeared to have been read.
Meg fished the book out of the trunk and flipped it open. The pages were carefully glued together. At the center of the Bible a slender hole had been cut out, just the right size to cradle a small glass vial. When she saw the object lying inside, Meg caught her breath.
"I found it," she whispered.
Meg quickly removed the vial from the book and pulled out the stopper. A dry cleaning rag easily absorbed the liquid inside. Her hands shaking, Meg hurried across the room to the washbasin. After thoroughly rinsing the vial, she filled it with water, replaced the stopper, and set it neatly back into the Bible. She somehow managed to put the book in the exact position she'd found it. Martha would never suspect anyone had even been into the trunk.
As she prepared the leave the room, she saw Miss Reginald's journal once again. Meg wondered if the Watcher had written anything about her plot against Giselle. Would she dare admit to her treachery in writing only to leave it behind where someone else might discover it? She wasn't sure how much time she had left, but Meg's curiosity got the better of her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she grabbed the journal and began reading the latest entries.
Not ten minutes had passed before the tick of footsteps sounded on the other side of the door. Meg glanced up from her reading just in time to see the Englishwoman walk into the room. Martha stared at her first in shock, and then anger. Not able to hide her activities, Meg remained as she was, the journal propped open across her knees.
"How dare you?" Martha snapped.
Frowning, Meg slowly rose to her feet. Closing the book, she waved it at the Englishwoman and demanded, "So what is this test?"
To be continued…