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
Over the next couple of weeks, Spike and Willow saw each other only a few times, usually for just a quick game of cards or to share a beer. They both seemed to want things to return to normal between them, but it was a slow process when they were both still having trust issues. The two time travelers decided, without discussing it with each other, to take it slowly. They would have plenty of time to rebuild their friendship, or so they told themselves.
She was walking home late one afternoon, only minutes before sundown, when he called to her.
"Willow..." The voice was raspy and weak. "Willow...please...." It was coming from deep within the dark alleyway beside her pub.
"Spike? What kind of game are you playing?" she said loudly, peering deep into the shadows.
"Willow, in all the time you have known me, have I ever played a game, outside, during the day? I need your bloody help, don't I?"
She heard it this time. He was definitely in pain. Ignoring the little voice inside her head that was telling her it was just another one of Spike's games, Willow walked guardedly into the shadowy alley. "Spike? Where are you?" she called softly, not finding him anywhere.
Willow looked down and found Spike partially hidden under some boxes. "What are you doing, Spike?" she sighed in exasperation.
"Willow, I am hurt and I need your help! So, if you don't mind, could you wipe that damned distrustful smirk off your face for one minute and give me a hand?" Spike groaned; uttering those words had caused him a great deal of pain.
Finally realizing that it wasn't a trick, Willow knelt beside the vampire and carefully pushed the boxes away. She didn't see anything wrong at first but refused to let her cynicism rise to the surface again, not yet anyway. "Spike, what's wrong? Why are you lying here in the gutter?"
"Stake," he managed through gritted teeth. "In my back...can't reach it myself." He shifted position slightly, causing a white-hot pain to jolt his entire body.
Willow inhaled sharply when she saw the thick piece of wood deeply embedded beneath his right shoulder blade. His shirt was crusted over with dried blood, but fresh blood was still slowly seeping from the wound. She touched it gingerly, trying to gauge its severity. "Spike, who did this? How long have you been like this?"
"It happened just before sunrise. Some dolt tried to rob me. When I fought back, he grabbed an old whiskey crate and hit me in the back with it. What an embarrassing way for a vampire like me to go-- by accident! I always thought it would be a slayer that would get me. Or you!"
Willow ignored him, but couldn't help wondering if he really thought she could be capable of killing him. "Sshhh...we have to get you out of here, Spike. The sun is almost down. Where do you live, or um, *not* live? Oh, never mind," she groaned in frustration. "Just tell me where you sleep!"
Spike managed a grin when the old Willow resurfaced momentarily. "Just a couple of blocks down the street...attic of an old warehouse."
They waited in silence for a few minutes until the sun's rays were completely gone, then Willow managed to help him home. 'Home' to Spike was the attic of a rarely used warehouse. He paid a nominal amount of rent for its use, and his only responsibility was to keep the rat infestation down to a minimum. The landlord never asked any questions as to his methods, which was good for all parties concerned, and it gave Spike a handy source for between-meal snacks.
Willow struggled under Spike's weight, but slowly they maneuvered the stairs and opened the door. In the darkness Willow was just able to discern the bed from the moonlight streaming in through one dirty round window on a far wall. Spike fell face first on his large bed with a painful moan. After stumbling around in the near darkness for several minutes, Willow finally found and lit some candles and oil lamps and placed them close to the bed so she could take a closer look at his injury.
She sat next to him, carefully removed his shirt, and examined the wound. "It's pretty deep, Spike," she stated matter of factly.
"Just get the damn thing out, would you?" His voice was harsh as he turned his head just enough to glare at her.
"Fine!" Willow forgot about being gentle and tried to grab the stake with her fingers and then her fingernails, digging deeply into the wound. Spike howled in agony and momentarily put on his game face. She pretended not to notice his change as she continued to try and get hold of the stake that was broken off just at skin level. But the large sliver of wood was blood slicked, and it was impossible for her to get a firm grip on it. "Don't suppose you have any tweezers, or pliers, or anything like that?"
The only response he managed was a guttural growl and a rolling of his eyes.
"I'll take that as a no." Willow thought for a moment, trying to think of any way of securely grabbing on to the stake. < What I wouldn't give for a Walmart right now...or any store that stayed open at night! > Only coming up with one possibility, she mentally reviewed her vampire lore and decided she was safe. "If you can't die...then you can't become a vampire. So...." she mumbled to herself as she lifted the necklace that bore the cross over her head and tossed it onto a pillow behind her.
"Quit whining, Spike." She sounded like a mother chastising an over-tired toddler. "Well," the pretty redhead finally said, returning her attention to the injury. "No tweezers, no salad tongs, can't get it with my fingers, so that leaves only one thing...."
"Just do it! You are bloody killing me here!" He turned to glare at her again. "You know, I am starting to think that you are doing this on purpose!"
"Spike, I'll get it out if you'll just shut up and do what I say! Now stand here next to the bed," she commanded, directing him to face away from her as she knelt on its edge. Her face was directly level with the embedded stake now. "You may want to hold on to the bedpost, husband. This is gonna hurt!" Willow couldn't help smiling briefly at his alarmed and confused look.
< Okay, Willow...you can do this! Just don't think about it! > She slipped one arm around his chest as the other rested next to the wound, stretching the skin tightly and pulling it away from the shard of wood.
Spike stood there, in more pain than he could remember since an entire church fell on him, and wondered what Willow was up to. As her arm coiled around him, he readied himself, but nothing could have prepared him for what he felt next. Suddenly her warm lips were on his back, and his body tried to jerk away in reaction. < Wha...what the bloody hell is that girl doing? >
Willow tentatively put her mouth to the wound, testing to see if she would be able to grab it with her teeth, but the second she made contact with his cool skin, the vampire tried to pull away. The tiny redhead tightened her hold on him, pulling his body to her. She tried again, and this time was successfully able to fasten on to the offending stake with her front teeth. Spike's body shuddered, and he groaned as she attempted to remove it. It had barely budged when her teeth lost their grip. "Almost had it," she muttered, as she lowered her face to try again. Before he could protest, she once more enclosed the stake with her mouth, consciously ignoring the taste of his blood and the feel of his muscular body beneath her hands. Her fingers instinctively dug into Spike's chest as she drew him to her, willing him not to move away. Slowly Willow pulled her head away, and bit-by-bit the stake came with it.
His body was on fire. Never in all of his years had he felt any thing quite so erotic as this innocent woman's lips on his open wound. Her breath on his damaged nerve endings alone was enough to send him over the edge, but when he felt her teeth lightly graze his skin, it sent a shock wave of desire barreling through his whole body. He tried briefly to struggle, to break away from her contact, knowing that the innocent had no idea what it was doing to him, but he was weak and his virgin 'wife' held on to him, pressing him even closer. In the end he threw his head back and moaned, hoping it would sound to Willow like expressions of pain instead of desire.
When the stake was several inches out, Willow took her head away, completely oblivious to what her actions had been doing to Spike. She was now able to grab the stake with her hands, and in a matter of seconds she had gently removed the rest of its length from his back. "There," she said, holding up the blood-soaked stick for him to see. "That wasn't too bad , was it?"
Spike clenched his teeth and took a moment to collect himself, never bothering to look. He could already feel the gaping wound begin to heal and the bleeding slow. He had come so close to changing when Willow's mouth suckled gently on his skin. The vampire couldn't bear to look at her, angry at himself for his intensely passionate yet animalistic urges. He walked to his wardrobe and grabbed the first shirt he saw. For a moment he steadied himself and then quickly pulled the shirt on before heading for the door.
"Spike? Where are you going?" Willow was confused. "You're weak. Shouldn't you try and rest for a few hours first?"
"Rest is not what I need!" he snapped and was out the door before Willow could question him further. Willow sat there stunned for a few minutes. < I can't believe he just left. > "No 'Thank you for saving my un-life, Red,' or even 'Thanks pet, what the hell took you so bloody long?' "
"You're welcome!" she finally shouted at the door, knowing he was long gone and would never hear her. She cleaned herself, grumbling the entire time about ungrateful men, before heading for home. There was no way she was sticking around Spike's place all night just waiting for him to find some manners.
Willow didn't think twice about cutting through the park on her way home. It was still early in the evening, and she had slowly become less paranoid about running into Darla and Angelus-- it was a big city after all. She was also distracted by the blonde vampire's unusual behavior after she had treated his injury and so was once again lost in her own thoughts. Willow was deep into the park by the time she sensed someone was following her.
Her hand instinctively went to the cross around her neck, but it was gone. Realization hit her with a sense of foreboding when she remembered taking it off before tending to Spike. < Oh, no! Okay, don't panic! Stay calm and think! > she instructed herself, but before she could come up with another plan the vampire was on her. Rough hands grabbed her from behind, and a cockney voice slurred in her ear. "Aren't ya a pretty wee thing?" The vampire twisted her around, waiting for a shocked look to appear on his victim's face when she took in his vampiric appearance. Willow glanced briefly at the hideous monster before letting her lips curve into a smile. "Sorry, but I can't say the same thing about you!"
Her calm response confused the vampire, giving Willow the opening she needed to try her favorite move. One heel ground down into his foot and was quickly followed by a knee to the groin. He released her and fell to his knees, whimpering like a baby. The petite redhead managed to stumble several steps away before being sideswiped by yet another ugly demon, this time a woman. "Come on, luvie. We just wanted to invite ya to dinner!"
The male vampire quickly regained his senses and closed in. Willow was close to panicking as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape the vampire couple. The male was about to pull Willow's head back when he abruptly went flying across the lawn. The female looked over Willow's shoulder and paled visibly.
"Now, what part of my simple directions do ya two not seem to be understandin'? I am sure I told ya that ya were never to touch a woman with red hair!"
The ugly vampire quickly loosened her grip, and Willow fell to the ground.
< Oh, God! That voice! > she screamed to herself. The ageless redhead was too shaken to move for a moment and kept her face down, hoping and praying that she was wrong.
"Now, leave us alone," he commanded to the others. "And ya best be rememberin' what I said. *All* the redheads are *mine!*"
The vampire knelt next to the victim and stroked her hair. "My, but ya do have such lovely hair," the voice told her. "And I, myself, always had a soft spot in me soul for beautiful women with red hair, such as yerself." He put a hand under her chin, to pull her head up. "But, since then, I have gotten *rid* of that pesky little soul."
Willow's face was slowly forced up, and she looked into the eyes of Angelus once again. His recognition was instantaneous.
"Rose?" he demanded as he stood and fell back a few paces. "But, how can that be? She's dead, or at least an old woman by now. And yer...."
The frightened redhead was at a loss for what to do since she was nearly as shocked to see the vampire, as Angelus was to see his past love. Her first thought was to look away-- look anywhere but into the face of the man she once loved-- but she couldn't do it. As Willow ro se sha kily to her feet, she stared i n sickly fascination as Angelus's visage changed from shock, to disbelief and wonder, and then to its vampiric form, before once more returning to its handsome yet cruel human facade. Even as she watched, she had to remind herself what Angelus was now, forcing herself to remember that while even if at the moment he looked confused and almost vulnerable, he was a soulless killer...one of the most vicious there ever was.
< What the hell were you thinking, Willow? Walking through the park after dark! > she screamed silently at herself. Still watching him closely, she slowly backed away, but her whole body was shaking so violently that she knew she wouldn't get very far. Running was useless, the only way she was going to get out of this was a miracle.
Angelus regained his composure and sauntered easily back to her, his eyes drinking in every inch of Willow's trembling figure. He slowly ran a cool hand along her cheek and down her neck to her collarbone, not caring how she flinched under his touch. "And yer very much alive and still as beautiful as...." The dark vampire's lips curled into an angry sneer. "What are ya, my love, fer ya are certainly not just any ordinary woman, are ya, Rose?" The hand that had been resting near her throat moved to the back of her head, gripping her by the hair and yanking her to him.
"I don't know who this Rose person is ya keep talkin' about," Willow lied, using an accent that she was able to fall in and out of quite easily now. Nevertheless, the bar maid knew she had already given herself away just by the fact that she didn't appear shocked when his handsome face turned to that of a monster's. "But please don't hurt me. Please?" she begged, not only out of fear but also in hopes of covering up her earlier errors.
"Don't lie to me, my love," he growled. "I know it is ya. I can smell yer fear, and it is exactly the same as the last time I held ya in me arms. Do ya remember, Rose? The last time we were together," he whispered cruelly in her ear as a finger made slow circles around the area where she had been bitten that night. "Because I remember it very well. Ya were delicious, Rose, and I have never had anyone that was even comparable since." The vampire's mouth moved to her neck, cool lips lightly grazing the skin over her jugular while his hands moved down her shoulders and arms, squeezing and caressing the tender flesh as they went.
Willow was frozen in her spot, petrified and unable to move. His touch, his voice, his face created a myriad of emotions within her and made it impossible to think clearly let alone struggle against his considerable strength. "I don't know what ya are talkin' about. Please let me go, good sir." Her voice quivered, revealing the inner turmoil that she would have preferred to keep secret.
She felt him chuckle slightly, his mouth now over the hollow of her throat. Suddenly his hand grasped hers and roughly pulled it to his mouth. "Really?" Angelus asked, amused at her poor attempt to lie to him. He glanced at her hand and at the silver ring still molded there. He kissed it lightly before turning it over to trace a path from her palm to the ring with his tongue, his eyes never leaving her face. "Now, yer not expectin' me to believe that there are two fiery redheads runnin' loose on this world with silver weddin' rings melted to their tiny little fingers, do ya?" When his mouth returned to the ring, Angelus abruptly bit her just hard enough to break the skin. Ridges and fangs appeared as the vampire slowly licked the few drops that welled to the surface, and Willow could sense that he was fighting the urge to just drain her right then and there. His eyes were dark and wild when they found hers again. "No, that's my Rose," he growled, trying to suck a few more drops from her finger. Finally, he tore himself away from her hand and let his face return to its human form, his lips curving once again into a heartless sneer. "And I can't tell ya how touched I am that ya saved yer most precious gift for me, my love." The look in his eyes made it very obvious to Willow that he referred to her virginity. "But I think ya have waited long enough, don't you?"
Willow didn't have time to consider the weight of his words before Angelus's hand moved to the back of her head. A sudden pain made her brain feel as though a dark blanket had been slipped over it, and she fell into unconsciousness.