Take Your Time

By Carrie


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

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Part Eleven

Angelus escorted her home after their emotional day on the cliffs. They barely spoke to each other, but it wasn't an awkward silence. It was just the opposite, the kind of quiet that can happen between people who are totally comfortable with one another. Although, it should also be said that they were both a little preoccupied. Willow wondered when the best time would be to tell him she was leaving. < Like there will ever be a best time! > She decided to wait until tomorrow because Angelus was going out with Colin tonight to celebrate his friend's birthday, and she didn't want to take the chance of ruining his fun. Angelus, on the other hand, wrestled with when to tell her how he really felt about her, or if he even should. So they rode most of the way in silence, darkness having fallen when they finally came to her cottage.

Willow was surprised to see the lamps burning inside since Spike rarely bothered with such things." He's home," she said softly, then instantly regretted saying it aloud.

Angelus felt a sharp pang of jealousy, but pushed it aside. < Now is not the time. > "Goodnight, Rose," Angelus said tenderly, keeping one eye on the door.

Willow smiled sweetly at him and when his face broke into the scandalous grin that she was beginning to know very well, she wondered how she was ever going to leave him. "Goodnight," she said finally, almost as a sigh, and walked toward the door. "I will see you tomorrow for dinner, right?"

"Wild horses couldn't keep me away."

Willow walked inside, shut the door behind her, and leaned back against it, her eyes closed.

"So, did you two lovebirds have a nice *ride*?"

Willow was startled by Spike's voice. He usually made himself scarce when she came back from being with Angelus. "Cut it out, Spike. I am *so* not in the mood."

Spike clenched his jaw and looked out the window. Even in the darkness, he could see that Angelus was still standing out by the small stable, watching. "Sorry, love," he said as he approached her. "Didn't mean to strike a nerve."

They were standing close to each other now, directly in front of the window, but Willow barely noticed. She was lost in her own thoughts. It wasn't until his hand touched the side of her face that she looked at him. < What is he doing? > "Spike, I..."

"Just getting some leaves out of your hair, Pet. Sorry, I mean *Willow*." His face was inches from hers as he continued pulling phantom flora from her tresses. When he leaned even closer, Willow could have sworn that she felt his breath on her face, if it weren't for the fact that he hadn't taken one in over a century. She found herself instinctively sucking in air as his hand continued to linger near the side of her face. Their eyes locked for a moment, and Willow started reminding herself that this was just another one of his games. < He just wants to see you blush, Willow! He hasn't done that in at least a week! >

"You may want to change, Red. You look like you went a couple of rounds with a chaos demon." His hand moved to her cheek and jaw, rubbing sensually at some invisible smudge.

Willow was too confused to protest. "Uhm, I'm not surprised. It was pretty windy out there today."

Spike told himself that he knew what he was doing. Nevertheless, as he put his plan into motion, he found himself having doubts. No, not doubts so much as an inner knowledge that maybe this all wasn't necessary. But even as his hand lingered in her hair and on her face longer than he intended, reveling in her warmth and trust, he came to the final conclusion that it was necessary. He buried the rest of his feelings deep inside. < Just do it, mate, for Dru. There is no turning back now! > Suddenly, Spike swept her into his arms and headed for her bedroom.

< Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God... > "Spike! What are you doing?" Willow tried not to let the fear show in her voice, but it wasn't easy. Spike had never taken his teasing of her this far before, and her nerves were quickly becoming unraveled.

He waited until they were out of Angelus's range of vision before smiling, trying to break the tension that had rapidly filled their cottage. "Relax, my little virgin. I am just taking you to your room to tidy up, and it occurred to me that I had never carried my bride over the threshold." Seeing her furrowed brow and skeptical look, Spike continued. "Of course, if there is another reason you want me to take you into your room, you can always ask, but I am afraid I am not in the mood tonight, love," he teased. "I have a headache."

With that little joke, Willow felt her tension begin to drain away, and she sighed audibly in relief. < Good, he was only kidding. Everything is back to normal! Right? >

Before she knew it, Spike had set her down on her feet. Then he backed away and stared at her momentarily. She felt the apprehension begin to creep back in as it appeared that he was having some sort of inner struggle with himself.

Finally, he spoke. "Interested in a hand or two of cards before you go to sleep tonight? After you get cleaned up, that is?"

"Sure, Spike. Maybe I can practice that trick of yours where you palm the ace!"

Spike gave her a wicked grin, pleased with his protege's penchant for the finer points of poker, before leaving her room and closing the door behind him. When he walked back in to the main room, the grin widened. Angelus was still out there and had borne witness to his little display.< So far, so bloody good! >

Angelus tried not to look through the window, but he couldn't help himself. Before he had even got back onto his horse, he saw her husband caressing her face and lovingly playing with her hair. Jealously was slowly starting to brew inside of him again, and he tried to push it back down, but it was no use. Instead the envy began to grow and was rapidly setting up a permanent camp in his heart. Then he saw her being swept into her husband's arms and carried to another room. < Their bedroom? > "Damn!" Angel said loudly, but still he couldn't look away. He stood there, fighting the need to just barge in and steal her away from a man that he had never met, when the door opened.

Spike silently stood on the porch studying his opponent and one last time trying to remember the lines that he had created for himself earlier that day. < Let the games begin! >

"So, Angelus!" He called to him, making sure that his face would be obscured by the shadows. "Going home, to bed, *alone*, I see?"

Angelus didn't respond to the taunt, knowing that that was what Rose's husband wanted. So, he stood there clenching his fists, wanting nothing more than to pummel this man to with in an inch of his life, but restraining himself for her sake.

"I suppose you have been pretty full of yourself, up until now that is. Thinking that you were going to take my Rose, and without me even putting up a fight!" Spike's voice was cold and boastful. "But, as you can see, she is here, with me, as she was last night, and as she will be tomorrow, in my bed, as my wife, not yours." He said the words slowly, emphasizing each one so it would hurt that much more.

Angelus could feel his ire building and his jealousy turning to hate, just like he had always wanted it to. He could taste it in his mouth as it burned a path up from deep inside him. And although he somehow managed to remain silent, he was not able to move and escape Spike's torment.

The vampire laughed. "Did you really think she would leave me, for you? What do you have to offer her, besides a vast amount of experience with whores, that is? Whereas I, live only for her, and our future together. As does she for I." Spike could already see the effect his words were having on his enemy, each one hitting him with the force equivalent to his being stabbed with a dagger. "I am sure she has told you that herself. How important I am to her." Spike was playing all his cards, hoping that Angelus wouldn't call his bluff. He wanted him angry and to feel sorry for himself, but not mad enough that he would challenge Spike at this moment.

"She doesn't love ya. She told me as much herself," Angelus's voice quivered slightly as he struggled to remain in control of his temper. He tried to ignore the other man's taunts, but they had already crept into his mind, planting little seeds of doubt.

"Ah, did she now?" Spike said condescendingly, still smiling. "Did she say that she loved you? No, she didn't, did she? Hmm, wonder why that is?" Spike paused for dramatic effect and then went in for the kill. "Oh that's right! Because she is *my* lovely bride, and it is *my* lips that she kisses at night, not yours. *My* eyes see her naked flesh and *my* hands touch her silky skin, not yours. It is my name she calls out in passion, *not yours*! And you better not be forgetting that!"

The Irishman cringed visibly as images of his Rose in this other man's arms held his mind hostage. As his anger, resentment, and jealousy reached a boiling point, he considered for a split second killing the arrogant bastard that stood before him, but thought better of it. Rose would not want it that way, nor would they be together if he had to spend his remaining years in prison. Knowing his restraint would not hold up to anymore of this torture, he jumped on Chance and headed to town to meet Colin and to get very, very drunk.

Spike grinned at his success and slowly walked back inside, whistling happily to himself.

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