Take Your Time
DISCLAIMER: Most of the characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No copyright infringement intended. A few minor characters of my own making will show up now and then. < > indicate thoughts and/or feelings
"Dammit!" Willow shouted and threw her hand at the wall.
Spike raised his eyebrows in surprise at her uncharacteristic behavior. "Such language! I do believe my virgin ears are blushing!" Spike teased as he dropped his winning full house onto the table.
Willow stood to pick up the cards she had flung so vehemently moments before. "We have been playing poker almost every day for close to two months now, and I still haven't won a single hand!"
She flopped back down dejectedly across from Spike.
"Okay, beautiful, why don't you tell daddy what is really wrong?"
"You want to know? Okay, I will tell you!" Willow jumped back up and started pacing around the room as she counted off what was bothering her on her fingers.
"One! I miss jeans! I want to wear a pair of pants. I am so sick of these dresses, and corsets, and ribbons. I feel like a doll!"
Spike opened his mouth, but Willow silenced him by holding up two fingers. "Two! I miss my family and friends. I miss my computer. I miss pizza. I miss *Oz!* Basically, I miss having a real life, not this little historical soap opera we have been living for the past two months!"
"Well...." Spike interjected, but Willow silenced him again with a look of death. < She is quite tasty when she is angry! >
"Three! Why have I not won once in all this time? I mean, I understand the rules, and I am pretty smart, if I do say so myself, so I can figure out the probabilities of making a certain hand. But, when I get a good one, do I win? No! Why not?"
Spike sat quietly waiting for her to continue.
Willow stared at the vampire, impatiently tapping her foot. "Well?"
Spike didn't even try to hide his smile, amused at her anger. He always appreciated seeing the stronger, feisty side of her, and he didn't get to see it as much now that she spent so much time with *him.* The Irishman seemed to make her happy, for the most part; although, recently she was more restless, and Spike wondered if she was regretting having to leave soon. Or, maybe she was feeling guilty about her canine counterpoint back in Sunnydale, considering her growing feelings for Angelus. < Or maybe she is dreading spending 50 years with me! > "Well, beautiful, the problem is..."
"*Don't * call me beautiful!" she fumed. "That's number four! I am *not* your lover, so you can drop all that mushy stuff. Don't call me Pet!" she spouted at him haughtily. "I am not a poodle! And I know that whole 'love-thing' is some sort of cultural deal, so I will put up with it, but don't call me beautiful. I don't need your pity!"
"Pity?" he rose to stand in the path she was wearing in the floor. "Is that what you think this is? If I felt sorry for you at most I might let you win at cards, but I don't *do* charity. It doesn't work well with this whole soulless killer rep I have going. I call you beautiful because you are, especially when you are brassed off. Sexy even."
Willow stopped her rant long enough to realize how she must have sounded. She sighed heavily and said, "Spike, I wasn't fishing for compliments, so you can save the flattery for the next virgin you kidnap. I am just frustrated, and well, with it getting so close to the time that Darla is supposed to arrive, I guess I am a little tense. Add to that the fact that I can't seem to win a simple card game and it makes for a grumpy Willow. I just want to win a hand of cards. Is that too much to ask?"
"Do you wanna know why you never win? Because poker is a game of lying, of bluffing, and *gasp* sometimes a game of cheating, Red. It is not a game of odds, and because you couldn't lie if the fate of the world depended on it, which it just might someday. So, you lose."
Willow knew she was a rotten liar, but she thought maybe she had improved with all the practice she had been getting lately. "Really? I'm that bad? How can you tell?"
Spike stepped closer and slowly ran a finger from her forehead, down her nose, over her lips and chin, watching as her skin blanched under the light pressure. "You wrinkle your forehead, you can't look me in the eye, and you tend to prattle on and on about odd things." He took a step back when he realized that for the first time she didn't flinch under his touch. < Come on, mate. Keep it together! > "You have a great grasp of the game, love," he told her as he sat back down. "Now we just need to work on bringing out the liar in you. If you wanna win it will take a bad girl, Willow. Can you be bad?"
Willow considered what he said for a moment before she sat back at the table and began to shuffle the cards, her eyes twinkling. "Teach me the ways of the dark side, Spike."
It was close to the time that they thought Darla would be arriving, and Willow knew that soon after they were sure that the female vampire was gone, they too would have to leave. There was no reason to tempt fate by keeping Spike around Angel for too long. Willow didn't want to leave. Sometimes she wished she could stay here forever, in this beautiful country with this beautiful man, but her life was in the future. She needed to return to her family and friends. And Oz. < And Angel deserves a chance to live a normal and happy life here, where he belongs. > She studied the man next to her out of the corner of her eye, trying to engrave his image on her mind and on her heart for ever. She wouldn't allow herself to put a label on her feelings for Angel, but she did know that it went way beyond the boundaries of friendship that she had placed on it in this very spot only weeks earlier.
Angel stood next to her on the cliffs. He knew something was on her mind because she seemed distracted and sad. She was keeping something from him, and as he watched her stare off into the distance, he felt his heart breaking. He had promised her in the beginning that all he wanted was her friendship, and while at the time what he had wanted was more that friendship and much less honorable, now all he wanted was her. It was ironic. She had been right that morning in the inn when she had accused him of purposely pursuing only married women because he was avoiding commitment. Only two months ago he avoided relationships as a way of avoiding growing up. He and his father had been arguing over the past couple of years about his irresponsibility. "When are ya goin' ta grow up and start actin' like a man?" his father badgered him constantly. "When are ya goin' ta take responsibility? Ya won't be young forever, ya know!"
And after all their arguments, and after all of his excuses and saying that he wanted to see the world, to have a little adventure and excitement before he died, now all he wanted to do was settle down with this woman and grow old with her. His father had always told him that one day he would meet a woman who would change him in this way, and now he had. < Da, ya never told she would be married! >
Angelus looked at the beautiful lady next to him, and wanted to tell her how he felt, but there were so many things holding him back. She was married, after all, and he was Catholic, and he had promised. He thought she had feelings for him too. After all, she rarely spoke of her husband, but he knew there was more to it than that. The Irishman knew she was holding things back from him. There were so many things that she avoided talking about as much as possible, mainly her family and friends and anything having to do with her marriage. And while that had always given her an air of mystery, today, more so than ever, she seemed like she was a million miles away from him.
"What's wrong, little one?" he asked as he ran a hand down her arm.
Just the tone in his voice caused Willow's very soul to ache. She turned around without looking at him and fell into his arms, resting her head against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, allowing his cheek to nestle in her hair and deeply breathing in her scent. He had wanted to hold her like this for so long, but had always restrained himself.
Willow took comfort in the sound of his heart beating in his chest. < If I have anything to do with it, that heart will remain beating for years. No matter what it takes! > Willow finally pulled out of the sanctuary of his arms and looked into his fathomless eyes.
Angel brushed a tendril of hair out her face. "Does yer husband tell ya everyday how beautiful ya are?" Not waiting for an answer he continued, "Does yer husband speak of how yer eyes shine like a dew-covered meadow durin' a sunrise?"
The passion in the young man's voice took her by surprise. < Oh, no! Not now! > Willow stepped away from him completely and reluctantly answered his question. "William has called me beautiful, yes."
"No, Rose. Does he tell ya how beautiful ya are every day? That even a moment away from yer loveliness is like an eternity in hell?"
For a moment Willow was lost in this man, lost in his eyes and the warmth of his smile. Slowly his words traveled through the mist that his voice had created. < . . . an eternity in hell. > That brought her back to reality.
She turned away from him and looked back out to sea, searching for something to save them from herself. "Angelus, please don't."
He gently squeezed her shoulders from behind, and spoke softly in her ear. "Ya don't love him, Rose. I can see it in yer eyes." He slowly turned her around and gently forced her to look at him. "Tell me ya love him."
For an instant Willow considered trying to lie to him, but she couldn't do it. "I *don't* love him, Angelus," she confessed, searching deep inside herself to find the strength to continue to face him. "But try to understand. I am doing this for someone else, for some people that are very important to me. Please don't ask me anymore about it."
"But ya deserve to be happy, Rose. Do ya love this other person so much that ya would sacrifice yer own chance for true happiness?"
"Yes, Angelus. I love him, I love *them,* with all my heart. Promise me you won't ask me about my relationship with William again. Please?"
"I promise," he finally whispered, taking her hand in his. His thumb caressed the silver band on her finger. He glanced at the ring on his right hand that could be its twin and hoped that someday it would be his ring that she would be wearing. < I won't push her. We have time. >
They stayed there in their spot until the sun began to set. They didn't speak of the future or the past. They just took comfort in each other's company and enjoyed the time they had together.