Willow '06: The Magnificent Blending - Buck

Buck rolled over to watch as his companion climbed off the bed and began to dress. It always seemed a shame to him to cover up that creamy golden skin with just a touch of peaches, even with the simplest of gowns.

"Lord, I'm gonna miss you." He sighed, reaching out to stroke a finger along her arm. "Can't imagine there's another woman in the whole Empire so beautiful."

"I'm gonna miss you too, Bucky," the woman said wistfully, sitting down again next to him and trailing a finger idly along his thigh. "You're sure you have to go?"

Buck groaned; he always had such a hard time resisting her when she got playful. "Now Blossom, we've been over this," he said, catching her roving hand. "You know the law says that everyone who reaches a certain level of strength has to test for High, and I qualified. You wouldn't want me put in jail now, would you?"

"No," the lady pouted. Buck laughed and caught her soft plump lips in a tender kiss. Blossom responded eagerly, her hands sliding up his naked back and chest as his own locked on her hips and lifted her into his lap. The kiss grew more passionate, and Buck regretted when he had to back off.

"Aw, now darlin', no fair getting a man all worked up when you know he has to get going. We keep this up, I'm not gonna make my coach, and then I'll be in all sorts of trouble!"

"Darn it!" Blossom growled in a rather unladylike way as she pulled back. "It's not fair, Buck! You're too important around here to just ship off for some stupid tests!"

Buck cupped the woman's cheek gently, reminded why he and Blossom had always had more of a friendship than a prostitute-client relationship. "Now honey, this could be a good thing, you know. If I turn out to be a true high, I'll be in a position of real power and money, and just think of all the possibilities that could bring!" He bounced Blossom gently, and she squealed happily. "And if I don't pass, I'll just be the same as before, no harm done, right?"

"You'll pass, I know you will," Blossom sighed, toying with his mustache. "You always do anything you set your mind to, so of course you'll pass. And then you'll forget all about me."

"Never gonna happen, baby," Buck laughed, pulling her into a hug. "Couldn't forget about you even if I lost my whole mind. Gal like you gets in a man's bones."

"Bet you say that to all the ladies," Blossom replied, but the fact that she was shaking off her melancholy meant she believed him. Of course, the touch of Spirit magic he had put into his convincing probably had a bit to do with it. He couldn't bear the thought of her going away unhappy; besides, it wouldn't do for his reputation.

"Maybe," he chuckled. "But I mean it with you, darlin'." Blossom grinned and bent for a final kiss before turning so he could do up her buttons. Buck smiled at each contented sigh she uttered as he caressed her skin with each button, a skill he'd perfected over the years. Making getting dressed again as sensual as getting undressed in the first place not only served to prolong the romantic atmosphere, but it made it easier to end an encounter.

And, Buck noted as Blossom set a sizable coin pouch on his side table, it was most profitable.

"I paid Wickes already, and here's your usual tip," Blossom was saying as she handed him a second smaller purse. "*That* is special, just for your trip. The capital can be so horribly expensive, and I can't have my favorite man going hungry on me." She reached to stroke his cheek again. "Oh, Bucky, who's going to take care of me while you're gone? God help me if I have to rely on my husband!"

Buck chuckled, knowing from the talk of the house girls Lord William preferred – the same girls who always sought him out after a visit with the Lord – that the man didn't have the slightest idea of how to satisfy a woman. "Darlin', would I leave you in that dire a position? Now, the next time you need tendin', you ask for Lydia and David. I've told them everything they need to know to give you a good time, and I promise you won't be disappointed."

"Two courtesans?" Blossom asked warily.

Buck grinned devilishly and leaned back against the headboard, clasping his hands behind his head and stretching out his long form for the pleasure of her eye. "Well, Blossom honey, you can't expect any other one person to measure up to ol' Buck, do ya?"

Blossom laughed and shook her head with conviction as Buck sat up and deftly swept his financial gains into the side table drawer, out of the immediate sight of any prying eyes. Standing to give his customer one more passionate kiss, Buck was finally able to encourage the lovely noble woman out his boudoir door.

Free of his last client, he sat heavily. The last two weeks since the Guild Master had notified him of his qualification, Wickes had booked him solid from sundown to sunup, and more than a few clients during the day even, in an effort to make up for the money he wouldn't be making while Buck was in the capital. Not that Buck could truly complain about that – most had been his regular clients, and most had been just as generous as Blossom had been in contributing to his travel expenses. But even a man as virile as Buck was bound to wear out at some point, and after an average of eleven men and women in his bed a day, Buck was worn to a nub.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

"Is she *finally* gone?" Buck looked up to see a slender brunette leaning against his doorframe. "Lord, that woman is a handful. Did I thank you properly for willing her to me in your absence?"

"You'll thank me when she starts making your purse heavier," Buck replied warmly. "And I'm trusting you to make sure David can satisfy her, Lyd. She's been good to me for a long time now."

"Don't worry, Wilmington," Lydia smiled. "I wouldn't dream of upsetting your richest client. Even if she is also your whiniest." She glanced at his nude form with an appreciative eye. "Not that I'd ever complain about your being naked, but I don't think they allow people on the stage like that."

"Now I suppose you're right about that," Buck said, glancing down. "That mean you're here to dress me, darlin'?"

Lydia laughed and tossed him his underwear from the corner chair. "If I did that, you wouldn't make you're coach, would you?"

Buck pouted. "Well, I can't dress until I have a bath; after hours of working, I am in desperate need of a good wash."

"Since you really don't have the time for it, allow me," Lydia grinned. She concentrated her Water talent to draw water from the air and focus it along Buck's lanky limbs. It was a little cold, but Buck loved the feel of what was essentially a very intimate caress. By the time Lydia was finished Buck was clean and refreshed, and then she was using her talent to remove the water from his body, drying him in a most personal fashion.

"Lord, I love when you do that," Buck chuckled, and Lydia gave him a saucy curtsy,

"I know you do," she quipped. "Consider it a goodbye gift. Now, get dressed already!"

Buck smiled as he pulled on his briefs and the brown leather pants that Lydia threw at him next. After that came a white tank shirt, red striped shirt and his lucky red neckerchief. With Lydia throwing him clothes from across the room, dressing occurred far more quickly than usual, and soon he was moving on to packing his travel bag at her instruction.

As he worked, Lydia stepped further into the room and closed the door behind her. "So, you have everything you need?" she asked carefully.

Buck smiled and patted the satchel. "Don't worry about that." With a grin, he reached into the drawer for Blossom's latest contribution to his funds and tucked it into the bottom of his bag. "If you did your part I'll do mine."

"I most certainly did," Lydia replied. "After Wickes has escorted you to his carriage for Quint and Jacks to take you to the station, and everyone's gathered to say goodbye, Emily will call him inside to deal with a client. After he goes back inside, Lila will bring you a large basket from the kitchen, at the bottom of which will be a very well-packed tin of cookies."

"Little gold cookies, eh?" Buck grinned wickedly. "Considering the stake we've put together in the last two weeks, that's gonna be a mighty big and heavy tin."

"Not to worry, David will be meeting you at the depot with a small trunk. The rest of the stash will be in it along with some more of your clothes. You know Wickes will send those guard dogs of his to make sure you remember your place. David will wait till they leave so they won't know about the extra bag."

"Good thinking." Buck tossed a few more shirts into his travel bag. "Once I get to Four Corners and fail the first test, I'll start looking for a good place to set up shop. Shouldn't take more than a few weeks to find the perfect place and get the initial buy papers filed. After that I'll send for you all."

"By then we'll have figured out the best way to get out of here with a head start before Wickes figures out we've gone," Lydia added. "I think almost everyone is planning to leave."

"By everyone, I hope you mean in theory," Buck said, glancing up from his work. "There's a few of them I don't trust to keep this a secret as far as dinner tonight."

"Don't worry, only a few of us know there's any actual plans involved," Lydia assured him. "Only when we get your message will we tell the rest for real. I figure we can pack and be gone in about an hour, tops."

"Good, 'cuz that's probably all the time you'll get," Buck replied. "Be careful, Lydia."

"Always, Bucklin," Lydia said firmly. "Always."

The two turned their conversation to simpler things for a while, discussing who had recently received what visitors and heard what gossip about whom, and so on. They were in the midst of a heated discussion about a recent marriage pairing in the city when the door was opened without warning and a burly man entered the room. Both courtesans put on forced smiles and greeted their employers.

"I suppose you're all ready to go," the man growled at Buck. "Packed everything, have you?"

"Aw, Barnard, don't get your panties in a twist," Buck said easily. "Not like you got a say in this any more than I do."

"Don't get too many ideas in your head over this nonsense," Barnard Wickes retorted. "I can't believe that freak had the audacity to come into MY residence. I should have caught him and thrown him out."

"Not like they look any different than anyone else," Lydia quipped, enjoying digging into her employer. "How could you possibly know he was a Guild man rather than normal?"

"Hell, I didn't even know until after we'd had our tumble," Buck added.

"Shouldn't be allowed out with decent folk, is all," Wickes growled, his mood darkening. He glared at Buck. "Just keep in mind, the minute you get done I expect you back here at work."

"In case you haven't noticed, Wickes, I'm here voluntarily," Buck said in a dangerous tone. "Don't owe you a dime, so don't go pushing me around. I work here `cuz I enjoy the work."

"I remember that well," Wickes said darkly. The two men eyed each other carefully, before Wickes was wise enough to step back. "The house carriage is ready downstairs. I thought it best to have Quint and Jacks escort you to the depot to ensure you aren't bothered by your numerous admirers."

Lydia pursed her lips tightly to refrain from a rude comment, but Buck simply nodded. "I appreciate that, Wickes. Will be nice to go without having to deal with too much admiration for a change." He smiled sweetly in that way he knew drove Wickes batty, and enjoyed the annoyance that burbled up inside the man. Sometimes having Spirit magic really had its perks.

"Well, let's get you on your way," Wickes said. "The sooner you get going, the sooner you'll be back."

"That's the plan." Buck grinned. "Why don't you go round up the kids to say goodbye? I have a few more things I want to grab."

Wickes could hardly argue with that suggestion without appearing to be hovering, so he stalked off in a huff. Lydia maintained an innocent smile until she had closed the door behind him, and then her features took on a sour scowl.

"That man is such a… oh, I can't think of the right word! It's a good thing I don't have even a really low level Fire talent," Lydia growled at the retreating residence owner. "Or I swear I'd find a way to give his dick one hell of a good roasting."

Buck chuckled. "You'd only succeed in making it look like an overcooked cocktail hors d'oeuvre, darlin' – too little to make a good impression on the man."

"At least I could stab it with a toothpick," Lydia hissed, then joined in his laughter. "Come on, let's get you going before he slithers back up here wondering what's taking you."

Collecting his bag Buck offered his arm to Lydia, who allowed him to escort her through the halls to the front room. As they made their way to the rear drive, they gathered quite a collection of coworkers and staff who wanted to say their farewells to the favorite courtesan of the residence, and probably the whole city. Most of the current clients had also joined the gathering, which meant there were easily fifty people to hug and kiss and offer well wishes.

Lydia's plan went off perfectly, and when the carriage pulled out Buck had a very heavy basket of food and gold in his possession. He refused to be unnerved by the presence of Wickes' two largest bodyguards, whom he knew were there not to protect him from admirers but rather to remind him that no matter how big or strong he was he could be overpowered if his opponents were big enough, and numerous enough.

The ride to the depot was quiet enough, as neither Jacks nor Quint were big talkers. Buck enjoyed the tree-lined streets more, knowing it was the last time he would see them as a member of Barnard Wickes' courtesan residence. If ever he saw this city again, it would be as a residence owner in his own right, here to ensure that Wickes was put out of business permanently.

They arrived at the depot with plenty of time to spare, and Buck was glad to see the two bodyguards do no more than leave him at the ticket office dock and leave. The idea of having to stand there with the Buffoon Twins until the coach pulled out had made his skin crawl, and he was happy it didn't happen as he had expected. The two hulking men did their best to be intimidating, which Buck just ignored, and then they left without a goodbye or backward glance. As soon as they had disappeared from sight, David appeared from where he had been watching just inside one of the local stores and left the trunk next to him, offering a friendly handshake before disappearing back into the crowds.

Buck settled onto the platform bench to wait, his belongings at his side. Not a bad place to wait really; the street was lined with blossoming trees and well-kept flowerbeds along the boardwalks. Off to one side was a small pool where fish swam, their colors glinting in the bright sunshine, and in the far corner an artfully tiled obelisk was being scaled by vibrant jade moss that glittered with tiny purple buds. Like much of this area of San Francisco, much effort had been put into making the public streets beautiful to the eye and pleasing to the soul. No, not a bad place to have to wait, indeed.

He knew he was to meet with that Guild Master before leaving, but so far the man was nowhere to be seen. There was plenty of activity in the depot and along the small shops that catered to coach travelers making last minute purchases before their trips, offered fast necessities to passengers on a quick stop-over, and providing the first needs and wants of people who had reached their final destination. The square that served the depot bustled comings and goings and the activity people going about their business, but none of them was the handsome Guild Master who had made such an impact on his life.

Then again, it was still early, and the weather was so nice…

Well, accept for that giant rolling fireball…

Buck blinked and looked again, just as a woman's voice raised in alarm. Yup, that really was a giant fireball, rolling right down the middle of the road. More people cried out, and started running away or trying to hide. Buck glanced around, only slightly surprised that no one was actually trying to do anything to stop the fire. He knew people were far more likely to run away than try to help others – sadly, it was human nature.

But Buck had never been a typical human. He watched the fireball approaching down the long corridor of the street, and focused his every thought and energy on it for a moment, feeling it out. It was a powerful creation, obviously in the control of a very powerful Fire talent. But Buck was no slouch, and he knew a thing or two about fire.


Buck took a deep cleansing breath and opened himself to the power, feeling it wash over and through him like an old lover he knew inside and out. He reached out toward the fireball with his ability, feeling the rage that caused it to burn, the fury required for fire to live. He allowed the rage to enter him, surround him, and then he began take control of it, change it. He countered the rage with calm, using the peacefulness that was exuded naturally from the trees and flowers and fish in the pond, channeling their tranquility into the fire itself.

The fire's roar was strong, but Buck's talent was stronger, and it wasn't long before the fireball began to shrink; as the rage was dissipated, so was the fire's ability to perpetuate itself. It struggled for a while, making Buck focus all the harder, but it wasn't long before the fire simply dwindled and died out. Rather anticlimactic, really, Buck thought with a shrug.

"What in the world is going on?"

Buck looked over from his seat to see Guild Master Georg Palmer running toward him through the crowds who had not quite yet figured out that everything was safe again. Buck considered for a moment telling the man the truth, but then shook it off. After all, errant bragging about one's magical talent was such an unattractive action.

"Someone showing off, it would seem." He shrugged. "Mostly making a nuisance of himself, I'd say."

"More than one someone, I should think," the Guild master huffed. "I can guarantee you I have reviewed the files of every man and woman in this city and there is no one with the power on their own to create and maintain what I have heard people describing."

"Then apparently you have a few pranksters to root out," Buck agreed. "Which means the sooner I'm on the road, the sooner you can get down to tracking down your misbehavers."

"I suppose," Georg nodded, his expression softening slightly. "Too bad we don't have more time."

Buck leaned back and laughed. "Aw, now, I'm off the clock, darlin'! Footloose and fancy-free until this whole testing nonsense it over."

"Don't brush it off too lightly," Georg said seriously, sitting down next to Buck and placing a gentle hand on the courtesan's arm. "I know you aren't the most enthused to do this, Buck, but aside from being the law this is an excellent opportunity for you. Highs are the most important people in the whole Empire; they have the best positions, money, prestige… You could have anything and everything you've ever wanted." He ran his hand softly down Buck's arm. "And anyone," he added in a low voice.

Buck smiled; his natural inclination to touch the power when in a conversation let him know that Georg sincerely wished him well, as well as desperately wished for something more than their fleeting one evening together. Under different circumstances, he might even have been interested; Georg was as gentle and kind as he was smart, and Buck honestly could have seen something special developing with the Guild Master. Under different circumstances.

"Guess I'll take each step as it comes," Buck said carefully. It wouldn't do to upset the man for no reason, when you never knew when someone might prove a needed ally in the future. "For now, I gotta obey the law, and that's enough to get me started. Keep my options open and all. From there, who knows, right?"

Georg smiled warmly and gave Buck's arm a last pat. "I suppose you're right." He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a small pouch. "Now, I know you probably have no need of this, but it's the expense stipend each applicant is given for their trip to the capital. Use it toward food and any amenities you have time for; for example, I believe you'll pass through Salt Lake City on your way, and I understand there's a pleasure house unlike anything you'll find outside the capital itself. I know the stopovers are usually pretty short on this trip, but if you have time…" He trailed off, grinning, and Buck returned the look with a twinkle.

"I like a man who knows what I like," he chuckled, taking the silver. "And you'll never find me turning down a little free coin."

Georg handed over a small fold. "These are your tickets. There's a separate stub for each length of the trip, so don't lose this. If you do, you'll have to pay for the rest of the trip yourself, and it'll be a royal pain getting into testing – they'll have to verify your identification, send me a messenger bird to confirm you truly qualified, and so on. And if you don't get completely checked in before their set time, there can be legal issues as well. Apparently in the past some people have tried losing their tickets as an effort to get out of their civic duty, so they're very strict about this."

"Lord, they do make a production out of this don't they," Buck whistled.

"That they do." Georg nodded. "That's about everything then. Do you have any questions?"

"Nope, I'm good to go, I guess." Buck tucked the purse and the tickets into his pockets and stood as Georg did, taking the Guild Master's offered hand in a firm shake that lasted just a little longer than a business goodbye should. Finally, the depot master was announcing the final call for his coach, and Buck could no longer delay his departure. Deciding, he leaned in and gave Georg a quick, passionate kiss, wrapping a possessive hand around the man's neck.

"Just somethin' to remember me by." He grinned at Georg's flushed, slightly dazed expression. He grabbed his bag, basket and trunk and made his way to the coach. He handed the trunk and bag up to the driver and climbed into the berth, settling into a seat opposite a pair of lovely young ladies who returned his flirtatious smile shyly.

This could be a good trip, after all.

Josiah's Story