Spike's Heart (spikes_heart) wrote,
Spike's Heart
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A Slightly Late Ficlet (from 2004) - For Puppies and Christmas

Of course I meant to post this ficlet in time for Christmas, but real life interfered.
My poor kitty, Minx, is drastically ill, so needs all of my attention. Medication
schedules rule my days now.

Anyway... waaaay back in 2004, this was supposed to be a gifty for spikesbint.
I have no clue if she's still active on LJ, but I finally finished this little piece of
all-human fluff. Hope someone enjoys it.

Summary: William Pratt is a veterinarian opening his new practice in the States, and Buffy Anne Summers is the woman he hires as his assistant. He’s a quiet, meticulous man - particular in the way he runs his clinic, and Buffy brings a certain breath of fresh air into his office, and into his life.
(parameters of the fic will be posted after the final chapter).

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A new year, a new country, and a new life. William found himself faintly overwhelmed, staring at the stark white walls of his new clinic. Box after box of supplies and instruments covered every available inch of space, both countertops and floors.

He’d allocated the small room off the clinic proper as the place for his office. It was cramped, but it had everything he needed: file cabinets and a place to hold his veterinary degree, license and one of his most prized possessions, a framed calligraphy of the declaration by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons confirming his admission to membership:

'Inasmuch as the privilege of membership of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is about to be
conferred upon me, I promise and solemnly declare that I will abide in all due loyalty to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and will do all in my power to maintain and promote its interests. I promise above all that I will pursue the work of my profession with uprightness of conduct, and that my constant endeavour will be to ensure the welfare of animals committed to my care.'

The calligraphy was a going away prezzie from his best mate. The same mate who’d got him so pissed the night before his flight that he passed out… and woken with a head full of curly hair the color of new fallen snow. After he’d gotten over the shock of seeing a stranger in the mirror, he’d decided to keep it – a new look for his new life.

Unfortunately, his newfound confidence was beginning to waver in view of the uphill road he had to climb. What the bloody hell had made him believe he could do this? Leave behind his family and friends to start a new veterinary practice across the world in Sunnydale, California? At twenty-eight-years old he’d been comfortable in London. Had a small circle of friends before she took up all of his time. He would have happily stayed home if his personal life hadn’t gotten so… complicated.

He’d been dating a fellow veterinary surgeon. Drusilla Keeble, a delicate flower of a woman, tall and thin, with a flawless porcelain complexion. Lush, wavy black hair reached down to the small of her back and a tea-rose blush always graced her cheeks.

They’d gone out for a year and a half, always to the best parties, with the right people. And he’d owed her a lot career-wise. She always managed to ferret out just who to network with, and eventually William was up for a partnership in a highly distinguished animal surgery.

But it wasn’t all parties and social positioning. Many evenings they’d begun by studying up on the latest journals and ended up simply snogging in front of a roaring fire. William had fallen in love a little bit more deeply each day but they hadn’t gone so far as to consummate their relationship. Dru had insisted it would just confuse things until they were settled in proper positions, and William had begun to despair of dying the world’s oldest virgin.

Life had begun to go wonky a month before his new partnership was due to be formally confirmed. Instead of kissing and snuggling, Dru had begun to push him away, muttering ‘the stars say there’s no time for playing, sweet Willie.’

He knew something was wrong when she no longer made time for their study dates. When she stopped returning his phone calls, he worried. Showing up at her house proved to be enlightening… and devastating. William found Drusilla – alive and well and in flagrante delicto with Rupert Giles, the man who was slated to be William’s Senior Partner in the clinic.

Not waiting for excuses or explanations, William tearfully spun on his heels and ran out of the room, never looking back.

The next morning, he’d booked a plane ticket.

Shaking off the fears and grief of his past, William answered a knock at the door. “Right on time Alex. Hello Liam,” he greeted, shaking his new technicians’ hands as each walked into the clinic. “As you can see, we have a lot of unpacking to do. I’ve left lists taped to each cabinet for placement.”

He watched them begin unpacking. Both men were taller and broader than William was; both were brunets with brown eyes. Liam broader than Alex; his hair was short and spiked with blond tips that stood straight up like a hedgehog. Alex’s hair was long and held back by an elastic band.

Both men had several years of clinical service, and were accredited, which is not always the case with assistants, William had found out. But neither had made a good first impression.

During the interview process, Liam’s manner had seemed most intimidating, and Alex had seemed too much of a jokester to seriously consider hiring. However, William had agreed to see them in action at a local animal shelter before passing final judgment.

One was goofy and the other imposing, but watching them in the shelter, William was struck by their manner with both pets and people.

Animals seemed to sense Liam’s intrinsically nurturing nature and – instead of quaking in fear (as injured and ill animals tended to do) – they cuddled into the man for comfort. Watching Liam as he calmed the frightened animals was enlightening, and carried far more weight with William than a verbal interview. His ability to interact with their furry patients would be a godsend.

And Liam was apparently equally skilled with patients. Gentle with a little one whose dog had to be put to sleep and calm and all-business with a woman whose kitten had broken two front paws.

Alex’s temperament was completely different. He was more boisterous in general, for one thing, with both the patients and their owners. He could (it turned out) be solemn and calm when the situation called for it – but, generally, his brand of enthusiasm was habitual and winsome. William had already seen how he could jolly the younger owners out of their worries for their pets, which in turn, alleviated some of the stress for the parents.

William nodded to himself. With both of his new hires, their size would be most helpful with the larger dogs. A 90-kilogram Mastiff would definitely test the limits of William’s own, somewhat smaller frame.

He startled as his watch alarm sounded; he’d been so caught up in his own thoughts that the time had flown. His potential new receptionist was due to arrive any minute. One Ms. Buffy Summers – straight from the Recruitment Agency.

They’d already spoken by phone and he’d agreed to meet with her on-site for the actual interview. She appeared to be an eager young woman with a pleasant phone manner and unfortunately with no real experience in the veterinary field. So, although she seemed charming and competent, he knew he’d be taking a chance if he hired her.

Sure, she was charming and spirited. Made him wonder what she looked like.

Well, looks like we can add punctual to her resume, he thought as the little bell above the clinic’s front door sounded and the woman in question strode in.

“Good morning, Ms. Summers,” William said as he stepped into the reception area to greet her.

“Buffy, please,” she said, her wide smile brightening up the place.

“Very well, then. Good morning, Buffy.”

“Nice to see you’re a quick learner, Dr. Pratt,” she laughed, all Californian confidence.

“Tit for tat,” he quipped, sketching a small bow. “Dr. Pratt is fine for business hours, if you become my employee. Call me William, otherwise.”

“William it is, then, for the moment.” With an upward tilt of her chin, she added, “Gotta say I love the hair color – not many men could pull that off.”

William felt himself blush, damn his delicate English complexion. It didn’t hurt that her appraisal made him warm to her immediately. In person, Buffy was the total opposite of Drusilla; short, nicely curvy in interesting womanly places and seemingly completely carefree.

The doors to the back of the clinic opened, as his two technicians – presumably lured in by the sound of feminine laughter - wound their way into the reception area.

“So, pretty lady,” Alex greeted the newcomer with a welcoming smile. “What brings you into our as-yet unopened clinic?”

Liam slapped the back of Alex’s head. “Manners, you oaf,” he chided. “You must be the potential receptionist,” he said, giving her the once-over from head to toe. “I’m sure you’ll charm all our incoming clients.”

Buffy rolled her eyes before turning back to William. “Am I going to have to deal with a couple of overgrown schoolboys?”

“Gentlemen!” William’s harsh reproof rang out in the bare bones of the clinic. “Ms. Summers, Buffy, isn’t here for your appraisal as a potential anything! And if she’s hired as the clinic’s receptionist, I must insist on proper behavior from the two of you.”

Buffy pinked at his reprimand of the two technicians. And William found himself blushing again, damn it, as his own awareness of the young woman seemed to infuse his being.

He could quite pinpoint what drew him to her. She wore a simple navy-blue tee shirt with a line drawing of both a puppy and kitten, and emblazoned with the words: ‘Why choose? I love them both’, a pair of faded blue denim jeans, and sensible trainers – not those ankle-breaking heels that most women seemed to favor these days. Her hair was pulled back into a simple ponytail; loose tendrils curled about her face.

Unadorned, but stunning in her simplicity. Her artless demeanor made her shine all the more – effulgent, to borrow a word he’d read somewhere.

As much as William tried to leash his inner beast, he found himself charmed. This was a woman comfortable with herself, and it showed. And, while Alex and Liam’s behavior was completely unacceptable, they were right – Buffy Summers would charm the socks off their new clientele.

If only the furry animals were as easily beguiled as the humans.

“All right, Ms. – Buffy,” William said, shaking off his thoughts and doubts. “Let me show you around the clinic’s surgical suite (well, a room, singular), the boarding cages and the examination rooms.”

“Lead on, McPratt!” she said, merrily, following as he led the way.

Being a small clinic, the ‘grand tour’ and discussion of Buffy’s proposed duties lasted less than a half hour.

“Just a few more questions,” William assured her. “I know you’ve spent a handful of years as receptionist to a real estate firm.”

“Yes, Shady Hill Realtors.”

“May I ask as to why you left? Your references are glowing, and the company is clearly sorry to lose you.”

Buffy seemed to think before answering. “I wanted something different,” she said, as the words seemed to come to her. “I needed a little more of a connection – more heart. More soul,” she added, nodding her head to emphasize her thoughts. “There has to be more to life than rental contracts, don’t you think?”

“You’re talking to a vet, Buffy,” he said, throwing his arms wide to embrace the clinic. “Every animal that walks in, or is carried into this place, brings love with them. Their souls shine from their eyes whether they’re healthy or in pain, and their owners put that little soul right into my hands.”

“That’s what I’m looking for, then,” she replied. “That feeling of saving a soul – ensuring it’s healthy and happy… or at peace.”

William smiled in response.
“So,” Buffy asked, her hazel eyes sparkling, “have I passed muster?”

He pondered for a moment. “The source of my hesitation, as you can probably guess, is your lack of experience with animals.” A thought occurred to him. “Perhaps we can visit a shelter together – to see how the animals react to you, and vice versa.”

“Is that a prerequisite?” she asked, “for being hired?”

“Do you object?”

“Not at all, William. I’d love to visit a shelter with you.”

William’s tense shoulders eased a little at that. It wouldn’t have boded well if a potential veterinary receptionist refused to be around animals.

“Tell you what,” he said, with a smile that matched hers. “Why don’t I treat us to a cup of coffee before we head over to The Sunnydale Sanctuary? There’s a little place I found – The Espresso Pump – that’s on the way.”

“Oooh, that’s a wonderful idea. I love their Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccinos!”

The walk to the Espresso Pump should have taken less than ten minutes, but halfway to their destination, they came across a crowd of people blocking the crosswalk.

“What’s going on,” William asked a woman towards the back of the group.

“There’s a dog cowering underneath a car,” she said, pointing to the center of the people, “She might have been run over and crawled there for safety.”

“Ready for a little first-hand experience?” William said, turning to Buffy

She nodded, waiting on his lead.

“Excuse me, please,” William said, easing through the crowd. “I’m a veterinarian. If you’ll clear the way, I’ll see what I can do to help.”

The dog in question was lying underneath the front end of a car, panting heavily.

She was a mix of malamute and German shepherd… plus something else unknown, and she was definitely in distress.

Before William could warn her otherwise, Buffy had knelt down at the dog’s head, speaking softly. “It’s okay, baby,” she said, gently stroking the dog’s shaggy head. “We’re here to help, I promise,” she cooed. In response, the dog shifted slightly and her breathing began to even out.

William joined them on the ground, stroking the dog’s heaving flank gently. “Let’s find out what the problem is, luv,” he gentled, as he ran his hands down her spine and probed at her pelvis carefully. “She’s heavily pregnant,” he told Buffy, “and looks to be in active labor.”

“Puppies, huh?” Buffy mused, keeping her voice soft and even. “What can we do?”

“I’m going to try to manipulate her legs,” William said, hoping the dog wouldn’t snap and bite. “Just to make sure she hasn’t been injured by a car. With any luck, Mum will cooperate. It’s an odd situation to find a whelping mother in, but you seem to be doing her a world of good, Buffy. She trusts you.”

Buffy blushed at his praise. “Animals tend to like me,” she said, simply.

“A most helpful trait for a veterinary employee,” he answered. “Do me a favor, pet. Call my office and ask either Alex or Liam to bring the car around, along with one of the large carriers. We’re better prepared to help back at the clinic.”

Buffy pulled her phone from her pocket and punched in the numbers he gave her. “Alex is on his way,” she said a minute later, looking relieved. “Three minutes at the most.”

William stood up and faced the people still gathered around. “Show’s over, folks. Please give us room to work – you don’t want to crowd the mum-to-be.”

As the people dispersed, Alex pulled up and brought out the carrier. With his help, they crated their patient and headed back to the clinic.

“Looks like our coffee will have to wait for another time,” Buffy said. “Does this mean –”

William smiled. “Means I don’t think we need to visit the shelter before I make my decision.”

The dog’s panting intensified as they headed into the clinic.

“Looks like we’re about to be uncles,” Alex said, helping to settle the animal onto the table.

Liam joined them, bringing over a portable whelping box for the imminent puppies.

A deft touch here, a gentle push there, and the first pup emerged, followed by its afterbirth. William placed the puppy in front of the mother, who proceeded to lick and clean it. The puppy’s first whimpers were met with silent cheers from the attending humans.

Within an hour, the rest of the puppies followed; seven in all. Liam and Alex, transferred the mother to the box with her pups, and placed the box in one of the larger cages.

“Well done, everyone,” William announced, stretching out his back and cracking his neck to ease the tension.

“Drinks all around?” Liam asked.

“Plenty of water and soft drinks in the cooler, mate,” William noted. “How about you, Buffy?”

“Water would be fine.”

“There’s something I need to tell you,” William said, looking her straight in the eyes. “Welcome to the Hellmouth, Ms. Summers.”

“I-I’m hired?”

“Was there any question?”

“Well, duh,” she snarked, looking at him as if he’d grown a new head.

“After your impromptu performance in Sunnydale’s streets, I’d say you’ve more than proved capable of handling anything that comes your way. Anything you don’t know, can be taught. You seem like a quick study.”

Buffy’s eyes sparkled with joy. “Thank you,” she effused. “I promise I’ll learn to do whatever you need me to, Will.”

He’d never liked the diminutive form of his name. From her mouth, however, it sounded delightful. Again, William blushed… something he couldn’t seem to help doing in Buffy’s presence.

The next few months were going to be interesting, William thought. The clinic’s grand opening was set in two weeks. Advertising was limited to strategic online ads and a few posters in the local area, but hopefully there would be a small flow of clients.

There were notices on Sunnydale High’s bulletin boards, asking for part-time volunteers.

And now there was Buffy.

Sweet, beautiful Buffy Summers – a woman prone to laughter and sparkling smiles. A woman who didn’t fall to pieces when the unexpected happened.

She was a tomboy in a woman’s body, and William wanted to play.

After Drusilla, he’d made himself promises: to keep his heart and other parts in line. Only time would tell if he could keep them.

He was rooting for no.




Tags: fic, for puppies and christmas
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