Take Your Time
It was a beautiful, clear, spring night, several weeks later, and Willow was in her small backyard. On rare nights such as this, it was her favorite place to be, especially when for the past two weeks the weather hadn't allowed her to be outside much. If it wasn't the fog, then it was the rain, but not tonight.tonight was perfect. She looked about her tiny section and smiled. While it was much smaller than her backyard in Sunnydale, it was the perfect size for her now. It gave her enough room for a small wrought-iron table, a couple of chairs, and even a swing. In the sunniest corner there was a flowerbed. She had big plans for that little spot, too. Since it looked like she was finally going to be in one place for a little while and she'd decided to take Spike's advice and stay off the streets at night, this was the one place she could go at night to enjoy the outdoors.
The thing she liked most about her backyard was the privacy it afforded her. From where she sat on the candle-lit patio, only rare, muffled street noises reached her ears, but she hardly noticed them. Rows of evergreen bushes surrounded her yard on three sides, forming a privacy screen just tall enough to stop the views from the neighbors' windows, without blocking too much sun or, more importantly, her view of the stars--that is, when the famous London fog didn't blanket the ground. She figured she even had enough privacy that she could whirl around naked if she wanted to and no one but the magpies would know. Tonight Willow wasn't spinning around but instead just sitting back, looking at the stars.
She missed this. The sleeping out in the open was something that she'd grown used to during her travels, and Willow often felt cooped up whenever weather forced her back indoors. While her backyard lacked the romanticism that came with traveling--the campfires, the sounds of the night creatures, and the strains of the guitars--it was still better than sitting in a gloomy house with only the ceiling above her. At least this way, she had the familiar stars and moon.
Willow reached for a glass of wine on the table beside her and took a long sip. That was another aspect of the 'new' Willow. She had developed a taste for red wine and enjoyed a glass, and sometimes more, almost every night after dinner. Feeling a little silly due to the boredom, she lifted the glass in the air.
"Here's to change," she toasted to herself, then started giggling. "Oh, won't you be surprised, Spike?" Willow said to her glass. "There is just so much you don't know."
Setting her empty glass back down, Willow leaned back and looked for her favorite constellation. She had just located it, the one known as the Watcher, when she got the feeling that she wasn't alone.
"I knocked but no one answered," Spike's voice came from the side gate, "I thought I heard you back here."
Willow crowed with triumph inwardly but remained cool on the outside as she looked over to find the vampire walking toward her. "Sorry, I wasn't expecting company."
Spike hid a smile as he took in the surroundings. Willow had candles all about the yard. Some just sitting on the ground, others poking out of bottles that had become covered in multicolored wax to the extent that you couldn't see the bottle underneath. There was a bottle of wine on the table and two glasses. <Sure you weren't expecting me, love.>
Willow watched as he noted the candles and the wine <Egotistical vamp! I bet he thinks I wait here every night for him!> "Make yourself comfortable," she said coolly.
Spike took a seat across from her and met her stubborn look with one of his own, but his quickly melted away just from seeing the familiar mischievous sparkle in her eyes.
"It's good to see you, Willow," he said finally with a broad smile.
Her face lit up and her smile easily matched his. "Now, was that so hard?" she quipped happily. "Why couldn't you say that a few weeks ago? It would have saved us a lot of time!"
Spike was taken aback. "What? You mean, that's all you wanted me to say?"
"Is that all? Spike, you barely looked at me when I came back. You acted as if I had intruded on your life. I felt like an unwelcome reminder of something you'd rather forget all about."
Spike shrugged and took out cigarette. "You surprised me, that's all. Believe it or not, I'd been worried about you since I hadn't heard from you in bloody ages. I was starting to think that something had happened to you, and then all of the sudden you were standing in front of me," the vampire explained before lighting his smoke and taking a long drag.
"So." Willow began slowly, trying to decipher Spike's thinking process, "because you were worried about me, that made you behave like an old grump since we all know that big strong vampires like you shouldn't be concerned about one little girl like me, right?"
"In a nutshell, love," Spike chuckled, nodding his head. "But I'm over it now. I've come to terms with--"
"Your feminine side?" Willow offered teasingly.
Spike growled playfully. "I was thinking more like my pathetic need to know that you're okay. I guess you'd call it my nurturing side. It's my only personality flaw, really." Spike waited for a burst of laughter from the redhead or even a loud "Ha!" but instead she looked a little nervous.preoccupied.
Willow took another sip of her wine then ran a finger along the rim distractedly. "Actually, Spike, I've been around for a few weeks. I just wanted to make a grand entrance," she started, then paused, trying to find the right words. "Also, I wanted to make sure that you were, well, alone."
"You were playing stalker to see if I'd made any new friends?" he laughed in disbelief.
"I just didn't want to interrupt anything, Spike. For all I knew, you could have started a new 'special' family and had lots of little ankle biters running about the place."
Spike smirked but the laughter was gone. "I didn't make any permanent attachments over the years, Willow. I've decided I kind of like being a lone wolf; it's a damn sight easier, I can tell you. And I can have short-term 'friendships' whenever I want."
"I couldn't agree more," she said as she nodded her understanding. She then turned her attention back to the stars while Spike watched the smoke from his cigarette drift lazily in the night air, deep in thought.
"Wine?" Willow finally asked to bridge the silence. "It's your favorite color."
The vampire pursed his lips as he studied her, noting the slight blush to her cheeks. He was curious as to precisely how much she'd already had to drink.
"Wine isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I hate to see a lady drink alone. After all, what would the neighbors think?"
"They think I'm a fairly well-off young widow, just out of her period of mourning, but not yet ready to face the real world on her own," she said over-dramatically and rolling her eyes. "So far, they pretty much leave me alone, which is best I think."
"Widow.again?" Spike chuckled.
"It's practically the truth!" Willow replied as she got to her feet.
"And how did you lose the love of your young life this time, Lady?" he asked in a very posh accent.
"Oh, it was a very tragic, er, blimp accident, Sir. I fear I shall never love again," she wailed, pretending to cry into her hands.
"Never fear, Lady Smith. I'm quite sure your heart will go on," he somehow managed with a straight face, but just barely.
Willow looked up in surprised amusement at his movie reference, and before she knew it, the words were out of her mouth. "I missed you, Spike."
Before she could become embarrassed, Spike fixed her with a wicked smile. "I know."
"Now's the point where you would tell me you missed me too, if you were any kind of gentleman," she reminded him with a huff.
Spike leaned back in the chair, put his hands behind his head, and closed his eyes. "Well, I never was a bloody gentleman," he reminded her.
Her eyes narrowed at his familiar conceit. "Now, before you get all mushy on me, I'll just go get a glass for your wine."
His eyes flitted open and Spike reached for the extra glass on the table. "Why bother, Red? Oddly enough, you seem to have an extra one here already? You weren't waiting for me, were you?"
Willow quickly took the glass out of his hand. "I don't think you want that one, my husband. It may still have some Holy Water in it. I sometimes keep a glass of it out here with me, just in case."
Spike scrambled to his feet. "Bloody hell, love," he grumbled, eyeing that goblet with distaste. "You should warn a bloke if you're going to do something as daft as that!"
"Sorry, Spike," she said innocently. "If I'd known you were coming, I would have put it away. But I like to spend a lot of time back here at night, and the wine glass is less suspicious than a big bottle with a cross on it," she informed him, then headed for the back door to get a clean glass and another bottle of wine.
"Willow?" Spike called after her, causing Willow to stop and turn in the doorway. "I suppose I did miss you.a little.every once in a while.."
Willow's face erupted into a huge smile. "I know, Spike. I just wanted to hear you say it," she informed him with a wink, and then turned and entered her house. ******
"I can't believe that we remember so much about life *before*," Willow commented a little later as she poured them both some more wine. "I still remember most things so vividly, as if it were just yesterday--the songs that were popular, lines from movies obviously, and even the way everyone looks." <Just none of the important things like soul restoration spells! Probably since I'd never memorized it in the first place..>
Spike took a sip. "Another side effect of that damned spell, I suppose. What amazes me is how bloody lucky we've been so far, Willow," Spike continued. "No matter how much we seem to balls things up, eventually everything goes the way it should. Angelus and William are traipsing about Ireland right now, having the time of their unlives, just like I did the first time around. Soon, they'll hop over to France for a year or two and be a general nuisance there. Oh, and that's where I'll bag my first slayer, I might add!" he said with a boastful grin.
"Slayers," Willow groaned. "I guess it's just a matter of time before one of us ends up in the same place as the Chosen One."
"No. No more annoying little do-gooders in London for another half a century or so, and by then we'll be long gone," Spike said merrily. "See? Lucky again!"
Willow snickered. "Luck has nothing to do with it, Spike. I can't help but wonder how much control we have over our own lives. It's almost like from the moment you cast that spell, we became someone's puppets. No matter what we do or where we go, the end result will be the same."
Spike wrinkled his brow in consternation before dropping his stub and grinding out the last dying embers with his heel. "That's a little fatalistic, even for you, Red. Now, care to explain precisely what you mean by that?"
Willow took another sip of her wine and then a deep breath as she told him the subject of some of her recent journal entries. "Think about it. I mean, don't you find it strange that on my first day in Galway, I run into Angelus? Then, in London the first time I cut through the park at night, I run into you. Later, once again, just a fluke, Angelus finds me. Not to mention that time you saw Angelus and yourself in a pub, or the time I met William while you were still alive, and then there was the time--"
"What?" Spike demanded, bolting out of his chair to crouch in front of Willow. "What did you just say?"
"I said 'fluke', Spike...not f--"
"Not that! The part about William...you met him?"
"Oh, yeah, didn't I mention that before?" Willow asked coyly.
"No, Willow," he ground out through gritted teeth. "You never mentioned that incredibly important little tidbit before. How could you be so bloody stupid!"
Willow flinched under his ire but brushed it off. "No need to get so upset, Spike. We--"
"Did you talk to him?" he interrupted.
"Well, yes, but--"
"How could you, Willow?" Spike said into the hand that was how clutching at his forehead. He shook his head violently, like he was trying to destroy his thoughts. When that didn't seem to help he turned to pacing and occasionally throwing his hands up in the air like he were pleading to some higher power for strength.
Willow watched his childish tantrum, a little hurt that he would think she was stupid enough to actually do anything that might harm the timeline.
She started to explain. "I was just walking by a pub one day and he was standing outside. He said I looked lonely and sad, and he wanted to buy me a drink to cheer me up."
"And?" he grunted.
Her eyes narrowed at his rudeness, and she felt the need to prolong his torture just a moment longer. "He told me I was beautiful," she told him truthfully, with a far-away look on her face.
Spike couldn't believe it. <Why the bloody hell didn't the little chit tell me that William had tried to chat her up before?> "Oh bloody hell, Willow. Don't tell me you fell for it? I, er, *William*, would have asked you what your sign was if *he* thought it would get you in to his bed!"
Willow was growing angrier by the second, and to hide it she quickly took another gulp of wine.
Spike stared at her, his pacing now stopping directly in front of her. "Well, go on."
Willow knew she should tell him the truth, but she was angry. "I couldn't help it, Spike," she began, flustered. "I was intrigued, for some reason. It was a chance for me to get to know you, before you became, you, and...."
"And?" he urged?
"And we had a few drinks, talked, and, well...."
Spike, tired of her sheepish behavior and stalling tactics, grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her to her feet so that they were face to face. "Well what, Willow?"
Willow didn't flinch this time; she met him eye-to-eye instead. "You're an adult, Spike, figure it out. Or do you want me to draw pictures? I may need you to pose though."
"Willow..." the irate vampire growled.
"Oh, come on, Spike," she continued mercilessly. "Obviously we didn't do too much since the spell is still working."
Willow pursed her lips and let her most innocent look fall into place. "I'm not the kind of girl to kiss and tell."
Spike's jaw fell open and he shook his head in denial, taking a few steps back. "I, er, I mean, *he* kissed you?"
Spike visibly relaxed. "That's a bloody relief. I don't know what we would have done if--"
"I kissed him," she lied, and the game was on.
Spike's eyes widened in shock momentarily but soon narrowed in disbelief. It just didn't sound like his Willow. He strode back to her, studying her face closely for any of the telltale signs that she was lying. He just couldn't be sure.
"No you didn't."
Willow shrugged. "Okay, then, I didn't. Whatever makes it easier for you to handle Spike."
Spike upped the ante. "Prove it."
This time it was the emerald eyes that widened in surprise. "Excuse me?"
"Prove it, Red. Kiss me, like you kissed him."
Willow backed away, shaking her head in disbelief. "You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding, Spike, because that is the most juvenile thing I've ever heard! How old are you supposed to be anyway?"
Spike disregarded her taunting and kept firmly focused on the subject at hand. "What's the problem, Willow? If we've already kissed before, like you said we have, it shouldn't make a difference if we do it now."
"Uh, uh!" Willow exclaimed. "That was a living William, and you aren't William...or living, for that matter!"
It was Spike's turn to smirk. "Now who's the one being childish, Pet? I always knew you weren't mature enough to handle an adult relationship, and this just proves me right, doesn't it?"
Her mouth fell open as she realized the lengths he would go to just to see her blush again. She quickly figured out his little game, however.
"Don't even try to use reverse psychology on me, buster!" Willow chided, wagging a finger at him. It was her turn to call his bluff. "I know perfectly well that you're just trying to goad me into kissing you. Well, it won't work. If you want to kiss me so badly, then come over here and do it yourself!"
"Now who's using reverse psychology? Who's trying to make the big bad vampire seem like less of a demon because he can't ravish one tiny little female?" The smirk developed into an arrogant smile that encompassed his whole face. Even his stance seemed to be mocking her, and Willow's fury grew.
Willow glared at him from across the brick patio. No matter what she said, he would be able to twist her words, making her look like desperate fool.
Seeing her pause, Spike smelled victory but decided to give her a chance to come clean. "Admit it, Red. Tell me the truth about your little tete-a-tete with my living self."
A sly smile crept on to her face. Willow hurried into the house only to stand in the doorway seconds later with a deck of cards.
"You beat me, and I'll tell you the truth, the whole, truth, and nothing but the truth."
Spiked walked to the doorway wearing a grin that equaled Willow's in its potential for mischief.