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 Fifteen

It took about two weeks before Willow realized what Spike was really doing that night. She had thought about their encounter every spare moment she had, replaying the whole thing over and over again. Something about it did not ring true, but the redhead had to admit to herself that ever since that night, she felt a little better.

"Ay, I do believe I saw our little Rose 'ere smile! Did ya see that too, Simon?" a rather large and balding man asked the younger man who sat on the stool next to him.

"Yes, I did. And a beautiful smile it was too!" The redheaded man chuckled.

Willow couldn't help but smile again. These two men had come in the pub every afternoon since she had worked there, always flirting with her and drinking until they could barely see straight.

"Now, maybe I can get her to give me a chance, George." He flashed Willow his most dazzling smile, or at least it may have been dazzling had he still had all his teeth.

Willow disregarded his attempt at charm, having heard it all before.

The older man shook his head. "Yer better off with out 'em. Trust me on this one, Simon. Wives are a bloody pain in the arse!"

"And how would you know?" Willow joked back, in a better mood that she had been in a long while. "You hardly ever see your wife. You are always in here talking me ear off!"

"Ya are right there, little miss, but I'll tell ya why," the larger man said, excited to bestow another one of his tidbits of married wisdom. "Take last night for instance. She was mad at me, I knew it the moment I walked in the door, but would she tell me why? No!" He shook his head for a moment before draining his pint glass. "So, just to get 'er to tell me what was wrong, I picked a fight with 'er 'bout somethin' stupid."

Willow listened patiently and poured him another pint of the warm ale. She had heard plenty of his stories before, and countless other men's, as they moaned about their lives.

"So," he went on. "I told 'er that if she didn't 'ave my dinner on the table the moment I walked in the door from that night on, then not to even bloody bother, the silly old cow."

"You said that? To your wife?" Willow furrowed her brow, not seeing how that would have helped.

"Yea, I had to, remember? I knew somethin' was botherin' 'er and she wasn't bloody likely to just tell me. So, I made 'er mad!"

"Did it work?" the younger man asked, hanging on the more experienced man's every word.

"Like a charm! In no time at all she was layin' into me about never taking 'er anywhere. So, I took 'er out for a meal, and everythin' is back to normal." He stopped and took a deep breath for dramatic effect. "Women are like watches, Simon. Sometimes ya really gotta get 'em wound up, before they'll give ya the time of day!"

Willow suppressed another smile. She couldn't help but remember a similar conversation, albeit only a joke, that she had with Spike years ago about him never taking her out anymore, when it hit her. She almost dropped the glass she was holding and had to lean against the bar for a moment.

"Ya all right, luvie?" George asked when he noticed her stunned look.

Willow looked up. "Um, yea, I'm fine. It's just that...." She never finished her sentence, instead the perpetually young woman ran to the back room. "I'm leavin' a little bit early!" she yelled at the owner and ran out the door and into the diffused rays of the setting sun.


Spike sat on a bench in the middle of the park, like he had every night for the past two weeks. The blonde vampire hoped to see Willow again, just to see if she was okay and if anything he had said had made a difference.

Spike always knew that she would be hurt and angry after he let Darla have Angelus. He simply figured that she would just pout for a while, maybe a decade at the most, but in time Willow would see it his way and forgive him. The problem was he had never counted on the whole encounter with Darla and Angelus, let alone any bloodletting being involved. Spike had planned to get her out of town as soon as possible so that she wouldn't have to see the vampire Angelus. But, because of a simple miscalculation on his part, Willow had sobered up and gotten away from him.

"I saved her bloody neck from that animal," Spike yelled to the nearby shrubbery. "And do I even get a simple word of thanks? Not bloody likely...." He continued his rant, now pacing amongst the trees. "A demon tries to be nice and what does he get? Another bloody scar for the trouble!" he drew a long cool finger across the fading scar on the side of his face. he noted distractedly about the cross-shaped welt on his skin.

Spike shook his head in dismay before sitting back down, pale face in his hands. He remembered very well the day all his plans went up in smoke, and the looks on her face both when he had lowered his head to feed from her and as she left him trapped by the sun's rays in their home. They haunted his dreams, and the fact that it mattered enough to him to sneak into his sleeping hours, haunted his waking ones.

The moment the sun had set that day fateful day decades ago, he was on his horse and racing for the nearest ferry, trying to catch up with her before she disappeared in Britain completely. When his horse tired, he traded, bought, or stole a new one, never wasting a single moment of darkness. Unfortunately, he still had to hide during the day, and as a result, Willow was long gone by the time his feet touched down in England. The vampire rode straight for London on the hunch that Willow would first try to locate a Watcher, and he spent years there looking for her and asking about her, but never found a clue as to her whereabouts. After having no luck with his search for the fiery redhead, Spike decided he should just do what she had said and follow the timeline. He eventually returned to Ireland and caught up with Angelus and Darla in Dublin.

Once Spike knew that the other vampires were in Dublin just as they should be, at least according to the countless stories he had often endured of Darla and Angelus's early years, he left and only returned every once in awhile to make sure that things were still proceeding as planned. He was always very careful that they didn't notice him and that he didn't attract any attention when he was in town. Then, during the times he wasn't checking on the other vampires, which required him traveling all over the British Isles, Spike continued his search for Willow, but never found even a hint as to her location. The blonde vampire eventually returned to his old stomping grounds, London, a few months before William the Bloody was due to be sired by Angelus. Everything seemed to be paralleling the past so far, which meant the only problem was Willow.

He had only recently thought that perhaps she was now in London, after a few discreet questions here and there had turned up some possibly favorable results. Spike had been spending most of his nighttime hours walking the streets and parks looking for her, hoping that sooner or later it would pay off, but it was only a lucky coincidence that he had run into her in the park that night. Up to this point, Spike had always presumed, incorrectly, that his Willow hadn't changed much with time, and that she would be working in a ladies shop somewhere or maybe teaching. Therefore he had never looked for her in pubs or smoky taverns. She was above such things. His greatest fear, he had thought at the time, was that she would meet a man and fall in love. If that were to happen, she would be content to live in the past and maybe Spike would never see her again, and therefore he would be stuck here too. Then, there was also the little matter of her virginity.... ***

Spike clenched his jaw when he realized now that he couldn't have been more wrong, and her settling down here didn't seem like the worse thing that could happen after all. At least then she would be truly alive and happy.

Suddenly, the vampire's attention was catapulted back to the present by the sound of someone running toward him. He could tell it was Willow long before she was able to see him. "Willow! What's wrong? Somebody after you?" he demanded as he rushed to offer his protection.

Willow simply shook her head, taking a moment to catch her breath. She took the opportunity to search his face, seeking answers in his penetrating blue eyes.

Spike immediately wiped the concerned look off of his face, hoping she didn't notice. "Why are you here then, and where's the bloody fire? You scared me half to life running in here like that!" he huffed at her.

Willow ignored his quirky attempt at humor, but his obvious display of concern for her only created more questions. She wanted the truth and she wanted it now. "Why did you say those horrible things to me before?"

Spike was caught off guard. He was relieved to see that she seemed more vibrant today, but wasn't expecting her to figure out his little ploy, at least not so soon. The blonde demon set a smirk on his face and replied coldly. "Obviously because I meant them, you ninny."

Willow refused to give up that easily. By now she had caught her breath and was standing up straight, looking him square in the face. "If you meant them, and if spending time with me was so painful to you, then why would you care if someone was chasing me through the park? Jack the Ripper could be my roommate and it shouldn't bother you!" she exclaimed pointedly.

He rolled his eyes. "Because, no matter how little I feel about you, I still need you alive and intact!"

Willow chewed on her lip for a moment, a habit she had never been able to break. "No! I don't believe you," she said firmly to Spike's back as he walked away from her.

He stopped and leaned his head against a nearby tree for a moment. Spike was frustrated and was trying to decide the best way to proceed. The handsome vampire was relieved to see that some of the old Willow was back, and that there was a little color in her cheeks and some fire in her words. Not much, but it was a start. Finally, he decided to change his approach a bit. He turned around and stared at her for a moment, trying to decide if she could handle the truth. Satisfied that she would probably never drop the subject unless he was honest, he continued. "Because, you need to find something to live for, and if that means hating me with every bloody beat of your heart and every breath that you take, then fine. I can handle your loathing of me. In fact, I welcome it!"

She shook her head slowly, still trying to understand what was going on. "Spike, I already hate you. Don't you think that was a little overkill?" she asked sarcastically.

The blonde vampire laughed, not coldly or cruelly, but a real laugh that Willow thought she remembered. "Overkill is an oxymoron to vampires, Red." Then, his face darkened again. "I will not watch you kill yourself with apathy and neglect, Willow." He walked back toward her, hands in his coat pockets. "We have too long to go yet for you to give up on life already. The fate of the world is *not* on your shoulders. Quit bearing a burden that was never yours. So, hate me, despise me with every ounce of tasty blood that is in your body, but do not blame what happened on yourself. "

Willow shook her head again and backed away. She was not ready to give up her blame and guilt, it was a part of her now. < It is not that easy, Spike! > "No, I trusted you. I trusted a soulless killer and that makes *me* the fool to blame for Angelus's death, and as a result for every death he ever causes."

Spike fought the urge to grab her and shake her. "When are you going to face the truth? You can't fix the whole damn world! Everything that happened had already happened before, without you. You didn't make Darla a vampire, you didn't bring her to town, and you didn't drive Angelus into her arms. It all would have happened whether you were here or not. I just let time take its natural course."

"Spike," she said coolly. "That's a little simplistic, even for you!"

"It's the truth. Think about it, Willow. Your only mistake was trusting me. There are worse mistakes you could have made."

The once-hacker stared down at her feet. Some of the things the vampire had said made sense, and most of them she had tried to tell herself several times in the past, but she just couldn't see an end to this. She couldn't see an end to the guilt. Willow looked at him one last time before turning and walking away. She needed more time to think, all this had done was confuse her more.

It wasn't long before she noticed that he was following her. "Leave me alone," Willow said firmly without turning around.

"I am just going to make sure you get home in one piece," Spike said reassuringly to her back.

She stopped and spun around to face him. "Spike! I have taken care of myself for 57 years, just like I told you I could. In all that time, I have never been attacked by a vampire, raped, mugged, or even looked at cross-eyed by an angry dog, so I don't need your help!"

Spike pursed his lips but didn't budge. "Angelus will be in town anytime now, love. You need to be extra careful."

Willow paled visibly and for a moment he was afraid she was going to faint, but she steadied herself. She knew Angelus would be here soon, but she had just tried not to think about it. "Thanks for the info, Spike." She turned and headed for home. He still followed her, but the confused woman didn't argue the point. Willow didn't turn around until she entered the tavern, and by then he was gone. ~~~~~

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