Take Your Time

By Carrie


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Part 26A-B



Willow knelt in the bushes and watched the ebony door as she had for the past few nights. She was getting pretty good at this lurking thing now. So good, that she couldn't even remember how many times a vampire had stepped within several feet of her without being aware of her presence. <Stealth girl...that's me!> she would smirk to herself as she watched the hungry vampires pass her unaware. Occasionally, she would stake one, just to keep in practice, but she was still quite afraid of messing up the timeline, so it was a rare occurrence. The most important thing to avoiding vampires, she had learned, seemed to be to keep downwind. Another important factor was to avoid perfume, heavy soaps, or anything else that left a lingering 'unnatural' scent. She'd also discovered that they had more trouble detecting her on rainy nights or cold ones...anything that mixed up her unique aroma. On the other hand, Willow had found out the hard way that it was virtually impossible for vampires not to be aware of her presence on very hot and humid nights. Even if she had 'Secret,' the deodorant strong enough for the Slayer, the redhead was sure that the demons would still be able to detect the scent of her sweat. Luckily, Willow's ability to defend herself was just one of the things that had matured over the years.

Wrinkling her nose in distaste at her own odorous thoughts, Willow focused once more on the door. By her best estimate, it was only a half-hour at most until sunrise. She was thankful that she wouldn't have to wait much longer to stretch the muscles that ached from crouching for so long. Within seconds of that thought, she saw the object of her cloak-and-dagger behavior strolling up the street.

He was alone, again, as he had been for the past few nights so Willow decided it was time to reveal herself. When he paused at the door to his lair to unlock it, Willow slipped out of the shrubbery and across the dark street. Making herself comfortable, she leaned against a small tree.

"So, what's a bad vamp like you doing in a nice place like this?" Her delicate voice broke the early morning stillness. Willow was very proud of herself when she saw that she had caught Spike completely by surprise.

Spike spun around, already in attack mode. His 'game' face slipped instantly into place, and his body tensed, ready to spring into immediate action.

Willow simply smiled and waved, not in the least frightened by his demonic reaction.

Upon seeing the identity of the intruder, Spike suddenly stood up straight, looking more than a little puzzled. "Willow? What the bloody hell are you doing here?" he lisped slightly through his fangs.

Willow stuck out her lip in a mock pout. "Aren't you happy to see me?" she teased further. "After all, you're the one who said the coast was clear...all the nasty vampires are out of the country for a few years. 'Alle alle in-come-free!'" she shouted through cupped hands, then smiled brightly. It was good to seem him again, even if his less-appealing visage was all she had yet to see.

Spike shook his head in irritation. "That was years ago, Willow. Over 10 years ago I told you it was safe to come back! Where the bloody hell have you been?"

Willow stood her ground. "Hey, it's not like you didn't know I was safe! Heck, I have a box full of your letters, so you knew where I was.most of the time. Besides, I told you I was busy...things to do...places to go...people to see. I also told you that I'd come back when I was finished." Knowing that she'd come across more defensive than she'd intended to, Willow paused and took a breath. The calming effect was almost instantaneous. Now that the smile was back on her face, she took a casual step closer, but only one since he didn't seem overly delighted to see her.

"Well, I'm all done, so here I am!" she chirped, regaining her previous enthusiasm.

When the shock of suddenly seeing his make-believe wife after 45 years wore off, the vampire took a moment to take in her appearance. She looked good--very odd and out of place because of what she was wearing--but still good. Not that he would admit it.

"What the hell are you wearing, Red? Isn't it a little early for Halloween?"

Willow took a few strides closer until she was illuminated fully by the gaslight and then stopped and did a twirl.

"You like?" she asked, grinning like a Cheshire cat as she indicated the men's clothing. "The best part is, not only are these comfortable, but they're also great for lurking, stalking vampires, and general mischief making."

Spike still hadn't moved; however, much to Willow's relief he did force his demon back into hiding, and along with it the ridges, fangs, and yellow eyes. Right then, his blue eyes were noting her tall riding boots, tight black breeches and dark shirt. She even had most of her red hair hidden under some sort of cap. She looked comical and stunning all at the same time. Spike could barely remember when he last saw a woman in form-fitting pants, and he suddenly had a strong desire for someone to hurry up and invent Lycra. Realizing he was staring, he latched back on to his previous anger.

"You look absolutely, bloody ridiculous, Willow," he snapped at her.

Her smile waned a bit. She had hoped that he would at least pretend to be happy to see her. Much to Willow's dismay though, he appeared annoyed than anything. <He's mad. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say he's pouting because I didn't come back the second he told me it was safe! Vampires and their egos! Geesh!> she thought as she watched the bitter vampire glare at her.

"Well, um, it beats a corset any day of the week. Besides, I don't wear it very often, only when I don't want to be seen at night. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to sit in a steel and wire hoop skirt and half a dozen petticoats? And you can forget about being stealthy because you practically squeak when you walk...kind of like the tin man but without the cute little funnel hat," she joked with an easy smile. Apparently, Spike didn't see the humor because his stony exterior didn't soften in the slightest.

Her smile fading fast, Willow kicked at the ground for a moment. At this point she'd have preferred his sarcastic gibes to the deathly silence, but even those weren't forthcoming from the unusually stoic vampire. Eventually, Willow decided she'd had enough. She'd been ignored enough for one night, if not more.

"Well, obviously I'm bothering you, so I'll leave you alone, Spike. I just wanted you to know that I'm in town, safe and sound." She paused just long enough before continuing to allow Spike to interrupt if he wanted to, which apparently he didn't. "I have a place down in Grosvenor's Square. The vampire population seems pretty sparse in that part of the city."

Spike shoved his hands into his overcoat pockets. "That's as good a place to be as any, I suppose. That area is too rich for most vamp's blood," he said with disinterest.

Willow took a few hesitant steps backwards, her eyes now leaving the vampire to gaze down the street longingly. She wanted out of there and away from the aloof vampire, as the silence was almost painful. She looked back at Spike one last time to find that he was now staring at his pocket watch like he had somewhere else he would rather be. <I can take a hint, Spike.>

"Well, I'll leave you to get some sleep or whatever. I'm sure we'll manage to find each other in a few years after Dru is turned, then we can both go home and face real life again."

When Willow made her move to go, Spike turned back toward his door and finished opening it with a harsh shove. "See you then," he grunted to the door and stepped inside.

Walking away, Willow could only shake her in head at his behavior. She'd only taken a few steps when she had a rather cheeky idea.

Just as he was about to close the door, Willow called over her shoulder in her most innocent-as-a-lamb voice, "In the meantime, if you're ever in my neighborhood, you should stop in for a bite."

Spike did a double take and reopened the door. He had to see the expression on her face. Did she realize what she'd said? If not, then she'd be blushing and would quickly start backpedaling and babbling, and he'd hate to miss that. And, if she'd said it on purpose, well..

But she was gone. He darted out to the landing and glanced up and down the street, but Willow had already disappeared. Not allowing himself to feel or show a speck of disappointment, Spike took out one of his hand-rolled cigarettes from the inside pocket of his overcoat. <She'll be back, mate. She'll be back,> the vampire told himself as he walked back into his current lair and shut the door behind him.

Willow dashed quickly back to the place where she'd stashed a fairly loose-fitting dress and some other basic essentials. Hidden in a thicket formed by one of Spike's neighbor's flowering bushes, she pulled the gown on over her 'stealth-wear', as she liked to call it, slid the trousers off, and changed her shoes. Even with the light fog and the cover offered by the shrubbery, Willow wasn't about to take the time to dress properly. The point was to not draw attention to herself, not to win a fashion show. Pulling a coat on to cover the rest of her fashion faux pas, Willow headed for home.

After sometime, the redhead managed to hail a carriage. On the long ride to her new place, Willow admitted to herself that she was more than a little disappointed in how the meeting with the vampire had gone. She knew Spike wasn't pleased when she hadn't run back to London the second he let her know it was safe. Oh, how she'd wanted to, though. It kept her awake many a night, wondering if she was doing the right thing. But like she'd told him, she had things that had to be done first. It wasn't until all her work was complete that she finally allowed herself to return to her adopted home.

It was obvious, though, that Spike didn't understand that. And why would he? She'd never told him what she was doing all those years, and he'd never pressed her for details. Still, it was obvious that his pride was wounded, again. He'd probably figured that she'd be dying for his company...maybe even take things up where they'd left it off.

Willow smiled, remembering their last days together. When they'd parted, it was pretty obvious that they both wanted more from each other than a philosophical discussion on the virtues of chocolate, but that was a very long time ago. Clearly since then, Spike had overcome his temporary fascination with her, just as she had for him. It was to be expected. After all, their original desire had sprung from the simple fact that all they had was each other. Luckily for the both of them, things were different now. He had gotten on with his life, she did her best to create one for herself, and, most importantly, Willow had finally learned to keep her under-used hormones in check. <Yep, a lot can change in half a century.>

She did miss him though. The letters that they'd exchanged, while always wonderful, weren't enough. It was funny. Even though the amount of time they'd actually spent together during their journey back in time had been relatively small, the blonde vampire had somehow become the most important person in her life. <*Friends* usually are,> she reminded herself promptly.

Willow let her head fall back against the cushion of the handsome carriage as the first rays of the early morning sun touched her face. <God he looked beautiful...better than I remember!> Willow sighed deeply with the knowledge that she'd never be able to reenact some of the steamier dreams she'd been having lately, but that was okay. She'd accepted that many years before. More importantly, she was home now, and eventually Spike would quit being so stubborn and drop by. They'd play cards, talk, tease each other, and it would have to be enough for both of them.

"Can you take the long way home?" she asked the driver. "It's such a beautiful morning, and I'm in no hurry. Just take your time." ******


It was several weeks after her surprise visit to Spike, and Willow was bored. Both the days and nights seemed to be passing much more slowly lately. Maybe it was because she was alone, even though she should have been used to that by now, or maybe it was because she was clock watching--calendar watching, to be more accurate. Five years to go. Five years until Drusilla's family would move to London, Angelus and William would return from Europe, and all of Spike's dreams would finally be fulfilled. It was during seemingly endless nights like these that Willow just knew that the next five years would pass more slowly than the previous one hundred had. She puttered around her house for a while, as she did every evening, cleaning and rearranging things. Being the fairly neat person that she was, that never kept her occupied for very long though. Add to that the fact that she had a lady come in a few days a week to help--as was expected of a lady in that day and age-- it meant that Willow had a lot of extra time on her hands. Normally, after her nightly 'nesting' activities, Willow would throw herself into her new favorite pursuits. Well, relatively speaking they were new, but she'd taken them up several decades earlier. After all, Spike had told her to get a hobby, and now she had several.

Willow had started keeping a journal within days of leaving England the last time. She found it incredibly liberating to finally be able to express all of her feelings and describe all of her experiences, even though only on paper. She had already gone through several journals. The first, unfortunately, was barely legible since it took her some time to get used to using a quill and inkpot. Still, each page overflowed with emotions and thoughts, fears and hopes, and even vague sketches of some of her more haunting dreams. It was more than just a diary to her, and the diary she'd kept at home so long ago during her 'real' teenage years seemed almost inconsequential. If those youthful ramblings had seemed comforting to her then, then her writings now were her salvation.

Tonight, after adding a few pages to her latest leather-bound volume, she put it back in the top drawer of the writing desk that sat in the corner of her bedroom. Skipping back down the steps, Willow headed into the parlor to lose herself in her other favorite pastime--the guitar. It was, in fact, her passion now. Her writings may have saved her, but her music gave her life meaning again. A day did not pass by when she didn't hold the guitar close to her for a couple of hours, her fingers caressing its rich wood as if it were her lover. Under her ministrations, the fine instrument was no longer inanimate, sometimes seemingly whispering and sighing in response to her touch, while other times roaring passionately as she drew from the dead wood the sounds of life itself--sorrow, joy, regret, love, hatred, fear... By creating such ardor from a simple handmade guitar, Willow found an outlet for the rest of her pent-up emotions. The feelings that she couldn't even convey with ink on paper seemed to find their release through her alternating rhythms and slowly cresting melodies. Whenever she would finish, Willow would be spent--physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As usual, tonight the time passed quickly as she played, but soon she even grew frustrated with her music. Willow had been inside too long and needed to get out, no matter what time of night it was.

"That's it!" she exclaimed as she reached for the cross that she kept on a table by the door. "I'm going for a walk. I'll keep in the light, amongst the crowds, just like I always do, and I'll be fine. Besides, it's not even nine o'clock yet. Still early enough for a quick stroll around the block," she convinced herself as she once again put the familiar heavy cross around her neck. She couldn't be bothered putting on her stealthy clothes tonight. She found it tortuous enough trying to put a corset on every day by herself when most women had someone else to help them, but taking it off was just as bad. She didn't want to wait another hour before getting out of her prison home.

"Besides, if I don't get out of here and get some fresh air, I'll end up crazier than Drusilla!" At the last minute, she grabbed a shawl and headed out into the night. Standing on her stoop, she quickly surveyed the street. The London fog was fairly thick, but she'd seen worse. She was able to see where she was going and the gaslights along the street, and she could even make out other people as they passed by her house. Looking up, she was a little sad that the fog made it utterly impossible to see the moon, let alone the stars. Nevertheless, Willow knew that sooner or later there would be a clear night, and she promised herself she would take full advantage of it when it came. But for now, Willow wrapped her shawl tightly about herself and set off into the damp air, hoping to clear her mind and sooth her anxious nerves.

She hadn't walked more than two houses up the street before she felt the grip of a cold hand on her shoulder. In an almost knee-jerk reaction that she thought would make her Sensei proud, Willow grabbed the offending hand and arm with both of hers, leaned forward, and used her body as leverage to flip her assailant over her shoulder. With a loud thud, the vampire landed on the ground before her.

"Evening, Willow," the slightly shocked blonde vampire said from the ground. "Or should I be calling you Jackie Chan now?"

"Oops...sorry," Willow said sheepishly, offering a hand to help him up, which Spike ignored. "I don't know what came over me. You startled me, and I grabbed your hand and next thing I knew, there you were...on the ground...at my feet," she said, trying not to laugh. When Willow noticed the puzzled looks from a young couple that had stopped to see what was happening, she tried to offer a flustered explanation since proper Victorian women didn't usually go around the streets of London flipping men over their shoulders.

"It--it was like one of those stories that you hear about--people finding incredible strength when their, um, cat is trapped under a car, or something." Then seeing their puzzled looks turn to sheer confusion, she babbled on. "*Carriage* cars, that is. Yep, that's the kind of car I meant, because there aren't any others yet, are there? Yep, they just grab onto that train and lift it right up to save their babies. Read all about it in the London Times just the other week...think it happened somewhere in Brighton..." Willow breathed a sigh of relief when the young man, obviously trying to impress his companion, began nodding his head and commenting that he remembered reading about her fictitious story.

While she was prattling on, Spike had momentarily forgotten he was lying on the cold ground. He was so entranced watching Willow squirm as she tried to come up with an explanation for her behavior, that he was content to lie there. An embarrassed Willow, all red-faced and disconcerted, was one of his favorite things. Only now did he realize just how much he'd missed it. Nevertheless, Spike snapped out of it when the idiotic couple bought her story. The agile vampire quickly curled his knees to his chest and then arched his back, springing to his feet. Much to her suitor's chagrin, an awed whisper came from the young female stranger at Spike's fantastic feat.

Spike quickly explained, "Oh, I, ah, used to be with the circus but had to quit. They were working me to death." Before the onlookers could ask any questions, Spike took Willow by the elbow and led her away.

"I thought I told you to stay in at night, Red! Although I must be brain dead to think that you would actually start listening to me now," he continued grimly.

"Don't take it personally, Spike. I never really listen to anybody anymore. Besides, I was very bored, and I was going to be careful." Willow stopped walking and latched onto her necklace, shoving it in his general direction. "See! I have a cross!" Then she started rooting around in the pockets of her skirt haphazardly, "and I know there's a stake around here somewhere...Anyway, once again, I think I proved I can take care of myself."

Spike shook his head as he renewed his grip on her arm, even tightening it some, and set her back in motion again. "You were just lucky, Pet. If I'd been trying to kill you and not just get your attention, you'd be one dead Rose. Now, let's go inside. If you're that bloody bored, I guess I could beat you at poker a few times."

Willow jutted out her chin. <Don't do me any favors, Spike.> "You know, I managed fine without you, again, for a long time, Spike. And since you were the one that ended up flat on his bum, it's pretty obvious that I don't need a baby sitter," she reminded him as they walked up the stairs to her home. <At least he didn't ask me how I learned to flip people over my shoulder! Good thing I didn't kick him, too!>

Spike shrugged and finally let a small smile pull at the corners of his mouth. "Then consider it a date, Pet, if that makes you feel all grown up."

When she finally noted that hint of a smile that she'd wanted to see so badly weeks before, instead of making her happy, it irked her. She was determined not to let him run the show this time. Willow opened the door and entered her house, then turned to stare at him.

Spike stood outside with his hands in his pockets, looking at Willow expectantly. "Um, love," he said, with a smidgen of exasperation, "I know it's been a long time, but aren't you forgetting something? You have to invite me in, remember?"

"Not until I hear the magic words, Spike," she said coolly.

Spike rolled his eyes and groaned. "May I come in and disgrace you at poker, *please*, Willow?"

Willow smirked and shook her head. "Very nice, Spike. But that isn't what I want to hear."

He clenched his jaw viciously. <He, a vampire, had said 'please' after all. What the hell else could she want? Oh, sod it all to hell...!> His own thoughts angered him and the hint of a grin was quickly replaced by the now-more-familiar scowl.

"I'm not in the mood for games, Willow," he informed her while taking a step back.

She couldn't help sighing slightly. "Me either, Spike. Good night," she said and softly shut the door. Willow didn't even look through its stained-glass panels to see if he was still there. She just turned and headed up the staircase to her room. Not that Spike would have noticed because he had already walked away without a backward glance.

There were both very proud of themselves.

Spike was still shaking his head as he walked down the street. He didn't know exactly what had happened, but there was one thing he was quite sure of, and it brought more than a hint of a smile to his face.

"After all this time, she still wants me," he chuckled to himself while he felt around in his pockets for a cigarette and matches. "Poor thing is setting herself up for a bloody big disappointment."

"I can't believe he still wants me...like that," Willow later said to herself while preparing for bed. Then she laughed when she realized how frustrated he must have been when she didn't succumb to his charms. "Yep, it's a good thing one of us has come to our senses while we were apart!" ******

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