Take Your Time

By Carrie

 

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Part 32

 

Willow half-heartedly searched her new room in vain, looking for a way out even though she knew it was doubtful that one existed. She was mainly searching for inspiration, hoping a plan would come to mind, but more than anything she was simply trying to keep herself occupied. There were too many things that she didn't want to think about.

When she'd awakened in the strange room earlier, it had taken Willow a few moments to get her bearings. Unfortunately, all the memories of her carriage ride with Angelus had come back to her in a stomach-clenching rush. "Oh, Willow." she'd moaned softly to herself. "What have you done? You practically threw yourself at him. Heck, you barely even struggled! And.and.Angelus gave you a chance to kill him and you didn't even make a dent in that conceited demon!" <When did I become so pathetic?> she'd speculated silently, rolling over to bury her face in the pillow. <Only a few short decades ago I was learning how to play the guitar and pick pockets with the Rom! I've gambled with old pirates and young thieves, and I explored every inch of Italy! Not to mention the fact that I learned a couple of self-defense moves while I was in Asia, and all of this in a time when women aren't even supposed to travel on their own! But now, because I keep letting my childish emotions get the best of me, I'm Angelus's prisoner. Not so smart now, am I? All this wonderful new knowledge isn't going to help me escape!>

With a groan, Willow pulled herself together. She couldn't afford to wallow in self-pity or embarrassment at the moment. Right now she needed to figure out how to get away from Angelus. Besides, if she succeeded in that, she'd have plenty of time to kick herself later.

Willow sighed and looked around her new quarters despairingly. The large bedroom in which she was being kept was as opulent, if not more so, than the one she'd just stayed in at Mr. Simms' country house. Rich velvets and brocades adorned the room, and everywhere she looked, dark woods and fine antiques met her eye. The artwork was exquisite, and she had to admit that someone, maybe even Angelus, had very good taste for the finer things--much better than her last host. But she wasn't here to admire the decorating, so instead she studied the room for what it really was...a prison...a thing to escape.

The room had only two windows, and they were behind the bed. When Willow threw open the heavy drapes that kept out every ray of light, she discovered that they were covered with wrought iron bars on the inside. Even if she could reach the very thick, opaque glass through the ornate bars, she doubted that she'd be able to break them.

"Maybe I'll just have to keep the curtains open day and night. I could sit right in the middle of the warm sunshine, and they wouldn't be able to get me!" she said with a hint of renewed hope, but her face soon fell when reality hit. "At least until it's *nighttime* and there is no sun! Duh, Willow!" she reminded herself sharply. She was also keenly aware that the tiny amount of self-defense that she'd learned wasn't going to be of much use in this situation. Sure, it was handy anytime a vampire, or a living man for that matter, caught her unaware because it surprised them, giving her the chance to escape or grab her stake. Unfortunately, in hand-to-hand combat, she still had almost no chance of winning. Realizing this, Willow began to look about for a weapon of any sort, but Angelus had obviously been a step ahead of her, again. <Still no fire poker or vase to smash anyone over the head with!>

Next she tried the doors...for the fifth time. The large one opposite the bed that obviously led to the hallway was still locked. There was also a locked door on a side wall, and she guessed that it led to another room, a sitting room perhaps. Across from that was the only unlocked door, and it opened to a private bathroom, complete with the most modern indoor plumbing for the time, including a large tub. All the fixtures looked as if they'd never been touched, let alone used, and Willow's heart fell as she realized what the sparkling new tub symbolized. Not only were they planning on her being a 'guest' for a very long time, but also if they brought her food--that was assuming they weren't going to starve her to death--she'd never have to leave the room. Angelus really had thought of everything.

When she opened the wardrobe it only got worse. As if being his prisoner wasn't bad enough, apparently Angelus planned to treat her like a toy as well. While her trunk and travel bag were there, all of her normal clothes were gone. He'd left her with only some of her more personal belongings. Willow realized how lucky it was that she'd decided not to bring her journal with her on the poker weekend because if Angelus had gotten his hands on that...Well, she didn't even want to think about those consequences. Nevertheless, even though all of her clothes were gone, she wasn't lacking in things to wear. The closet was full of dresses, appearing to somehow be the right size, but none of them very Willow or Rose-like. Granted, they were beautiful and obviously very expensive, but they were all more provocative that what she was used to wearing lately. It wasn't that she was opposed to showing her cleavage or that she was ashamed of her body. On the contrary, while she had been with the Rom she'd grown quite used to the peasant-style blouses that the women wore. The gypsy females were never shy about displaying an ample amount of bosom, but this.this was different. Back then she was trying to fit into the gypsy way of life, while now she was supposed to be a lady...not an over-dressed trollop. The clothes Angelus had chosen for her were not for everyday wear. Instead, the resembled more what one would wear to a fancy-dress ball or a very special evening on the town. Showing this much skin before nightfall was a big faux pas in Victorian society.

"And what's with all the red?" she whined. Unfortunately, she had little choice since the dress she'd worn on the trip was dusty and wrinkled, and to her dismay, it now had a large rip up the seam, similar to the one Angelus had put in her other dress. Putting off the inevitable, Willow slammed the door shut, blocking her view of the clothes she was expected to wear, and plopped back down on the bed.

Looking about sullenly, she had to admit that it was truly a beautiful room, but Willow couldn't enjoy it. She was completely aware of what Angelus was up to, or at least she hoped she'd figured out his plan. He was trying to make her comfortable and relaxed so that when she let her guard down, he could swoop in and be his usual evil self. Torture was still torture, no matter how lush the settings or grand the costumes. In fact, she almost wished she'd been thrown in a cell or a dungeon instead. The niceties only made her more uneasy. <Which is probably also part of his plan,> she reminded herself. <No matter what, he wins. If I get comfortable, he'll enjoy taking that away from me, and if I worry about what he's up to, he'll take pleasure in my frustration!>

She sighed again and then made a decision. Really, she had no choice. She could get dressed and play along for now in hopes that a means of escape would present itself, or she could sit there in her smelly and torn dress until he forced her to change clothes. And she didn't even want to think of how he might go about doing that! So, after a quick bath, Willow chose the least distasteful dress. It was a wine-colored silk, worn off the shoulders and made to be tight fitting around the middle so that it would show all of her assets to their greatest advantage. She was grateful for one thing, however, as she stared at the garments--the matching hoop petticoats, or crinolines, were not as wide as many she'd seen. It took practice to sit down in the narrowest of the hoop skirts, but some of the more recent styles were so wide that the wearer could scarcely fit through the average doorway. Normally, Willow wore the simplest designs she could--sacrificing style for comfort and classic clothing that required the least amount of fuss to put on. On some occasions, she would even stay in her dressing gown all day when she wasn't going out or expecting company.

"What I wouldn't give for a pair of jeans and sneakers!" she lamented as she stared at the finery. "Even the styles of 50 years ago were better than this," Willow continued, fondly remembering the short Empire period in which women were corsetless and the gowns much lighter and loose fitting. Fashions in Victorian England seemed to change faster than they did in Sunnydale High School.

Deciding she'd better get started, Willow easily slipped on the chemise and then shimmied into the corset. After all these years, she was getting pretty good at doing it up all by herself, but it helped that she didn't wear it as tight as most other women of the time. The dreaded hoop petticoat followed that uncomfortable item. Then she put on the embroidery-trimmed over-petticoat before finally wiggling into the expensive, double-flounced gown itself. Willow griped the whole time she was putting the intricate ensemble on, allowing the grumbling to take her mind off of her impending meeting with Angelus. It took her awhile to get all the buttons fastened, but eventually, after slipping into some handed-beaded slippers, she was fully dressed.

Her hair was another matter. Fashion dictated that during the day women were to wear bonnets or hats of one variety or another when in public. Otherwise, it was usually worn up or at least pinned back with ringlets about the face and neck, but she didn't really give two hoots about fashion at the moment. Sitting at the dressing table covered, Willow quickly combed out the drying tangles. She twisted and then pinned only a small section of hair back on each side, just enough so it wouldn't hang in her face and annoy her. The rest she brushed forward so that it fell to the front, allowing her some degree of coverage along her neck and chest. It wasn't fashionable but it was comfortable and quick. She only wished she could find her cross to wear, not that it would help, but unfortunately it had mysteriously vanished the night Angelus had appeared in her room.

Annoyed for having to put so much effort into her appearance considering what was likely to happen to her, Willow voraciously started inspecting the room again. She was so busy examining every nook and cranny, she wasn't aware of William when he unlocked and opened the door behind her.

 

Unnoticed, William watched her scurry about the room that he'd had only a fortnight to prepare for her. In fact, they'd barely made it on time. It was a good thing that he and his sire had turned quite a few laborers over the years. As a result, beneath their own roof dwelled all the carpenters, masons and plumbers that they'd required to get the job done. Angelus had insisted that Rose's room, which had been created from two smaller rarely used bedrooms and a tiny sitting room, have an attached private bath with all the modern conveniences. Angelus's instructions had also made provisions for a small, private library for Rose. His only offered explanation was that his Rose was an intelligent woman who liked to read. Unfortunately that room wasn't quite ready yet. The carpenter had only finished the shelves the day before, and the books still needed to be put on the shelves. When that was done, hopefully later than night, Angelus would check it one final time to make sure there was nothing in the room that his Rose could use to aid in an escape. To William, it all seemed like a lot of trouble for someone Angelus just wanted to torment until she lost her 'intelligent mind', but William gave his sire the benefit of the doubt. Angelus always knew what he was doing.

What would be interesting though would be Darla's reaction when she came back in a little over a week. After all, it was her house that Angelus was renovating without permission. Fortunately, Darla's personal quarters were much larger and far more luxurious than those made especially for Angelus's captive, so that shouldn't cause a fuss.

Darla had come by the estate only a few years earlier after paying 'special' attention to an older wealthy man. After estranging him from what little family he'd had, she'd promised him eternal life in exchange for all of his worldly possessions, including the huge and relatively new mansion that was now their home. Within days of the will being finalized, he'd died of a heart attack while Darla sat back and watched. She'd never intended on turning him, but the man didn't realize that until it was too late. The end result was that Darla and her extended demonic family now legally owned a secluded London mansion that suited their special needs perfectly.

William smirked to himself. Yes, Darla's reaction to the whole Rose situation should prove very interesting indeed, and he couldn't help wondering if she'd be jealous of the redhead. <Bloody hell.even I'm a little bit jealous of Rose since she's all Angelus has bloody talked about for weeks.decades, really,> he admitted. Then he remembered what had happened only a few hours ago.

When Angelus had put Rose into his arms earlier, telling him to take care of her, William had carried her into the house and to the room they'd finished for her only a couple of hours earlier. Just as he'd been about to place her on the bed, Willow had stirred restlessly in his arms.

"Don't worry, love," William had hushed sarcastically. "You're home. This is where you belong now."

Then the most curious thing had happened. Her lids fluttered open only for a moment to look at him. When their eyes met, she smiled softly, whispering, "I knew you wouldn't forget me..." before they closed again and she seemingly snuggled closer.

At the time, he'd just chalked it up to the ramblings of one of Angelus's playthings. Their minds were always so fragile that they rarely made sense after a few days in his sire's presence. That thought disappointed William though. He'd been hoping that this one would offer Angelus, and of course his favorite childe, the challenge they'd been counting on. Now he couldn't help wondering why it was that had Angelus become so totally obsessed with her. Sure, she was a pretty lass, especially for one that was over 100 years old, but he'd seen women who were more beautiful. Obviously there was more to her than met the eye, and he was looking forward to finding out exactly what that was.

"Lose something, Pet?" he finally asked, revealing his presence.

Luckily, Willow had been expecting to see William sooner or later. That was just the way things seemed to go in her life now. She took a quick glance at the door and noted him casually leaning against the doorjamb. He was no longer wearing the military uniform she'd seen in him two times before but was instead dressed in the same manner as Angelus and any other man of the time. Plain, dark trousers and a white shirt, with the only real color coming from the richly embroidered vest that peeked out beneath his frock coat. Plus, he was wearing Spike's familiar smirk. As a result, if not for his dark hair, Willow could have easily mistaken him for Spike.

Forcing herself not to stare at the vampire, she tried to pretend as if he were just another one of Angelus's lackeys as she answered his question. "Only my ever-loosening grasp on reality," she mumbled caustically, continuing to cast her eyes about the room. "What do you want?"

"Unfortunately, what I want isn't important right now. Angelus is asking for you. Says he has a surprise for you...for both of us, actually. So, shall we?" he leered, yet offered her his arm like a true gentleman of the time.

Willow shuddered at the kind of surprise that Angelus might have in store for her. Apparently, it was time for her torture to begin.

"I'd be eternally grateful if you would be so kind as to tell him that I don't really like surprises," she said a little too sweetly, trying to stall for time.

"Don't think so, Pet," William snickered. "Besides, the surprise is half the fun. Now, do you want to be dragged out of here by your hair, or do you want to walk down the hall like the proper lady that you are?"

"Fine," she grumbled under her breath, then brushed past her escort and walked out into the hall to wait for him. "After you, Sir," Willow said, with a mocking curtsy. "Since I have no idea where we're going," she added, trying to make it sound like an offhanded remark.

Disappointed that there would be no hair pulling, William ignored her display, turned left, and headed off down the long hallway without another look at her. He didn't need to see her to know that she was following him as instructed. At one point, they passed a tall, brass candleholder that sat on the floor.

"Don't even think about it, love," he warned her without turning around.

Willow's hand, which had made only the slightest movement toward what she'd thought was the perfect makeshift weapon, fell back to her side. Neither's steps had faltered.

After a few turns, Willow was already wondering if she'd be able to find her own way out on her own, when they came to a large, intricately decorated vase, resting on a hall table. Again, just as Willow thought to reach out, grab it, and smash it over his head, William's voice put those notions to rest.

"I'd think twice about that if I were you. All that shattered glass flying about, you're likely to get a nasty cut in the process. Next thing you now, a dozen hungry vampires will descend on you like bees to honey, and I won't be able to do a thing to help you," he told her indifferently, never stopping his forward momentum.

Willow felt the panic begin to rise again, her feet getting more leaden with each step that brought her closer to Angelus.

"We're almost there, Pet. I know you must be dying for your surprise. I know I would be...*dying*...if I were you," his sardonic voice wafted back to her.

Willow spotted a chair in the hallway and faltered, but before she could take more than a step toward it, William was upon her, grabbing her by the forearms and pushing her back against the wall. His hands slid up her arms to her wrists and pinned them above her head.

"Stubborn thing, aren't you?" he asked, leaning his full weight against her wrists. "Not too fond of following instructions, are we?"

As William's demon came to the forefront, Willow tried not to let the memories of her last day with Spike flood back to her, but it was difficult. The future version of him had held her the same way that time, pinning her against the wall of her own home. She didn't struggle this time though, partly because she refused to give him the satisfaction but also because the dress she was wearing didn't really allow for it.

"If I were you, Rose, I'd play nice with me. From what Angelus had told me about his plans for you, we're going to be around each other for a bloody long time. And, of course, my sire and I share everything," he warned, his eyes flashing with a familiar hunger.

"I wouldn't be so sure of that," she informed him bravely. "In fact, go ahead and bite me...we'll see what Angelus has to say about that!"

William grinned lasciviously, unable to resist a challenge. "Don't mind if I do, Rose." He lowered his eager mouth to her throat, waiting to hear her whimper or beg him to stop, but it never came. Even when he licked at her pulse point and grazed her delicate skin with his blunt teeth, she didn't give in to fear. With a supernatural effort, he stopped himself, but it wasn't easy. While Angelus would most likely share her after a while, William knew she was special to him, and he doubted that even he would be forgiven for daring to mark her.

The dark vampire pulled away to penetrate her eyes with his own. He shifted his grip, easily holding her two wrists captive with only one of his hands, allowing the other to slowly fall until he was running a finger along her collarbone.

"Aren't you afraid of me, little virgin?" he asked huskily, and Willow felt an icy-cold stab of pain at all the similarities between William and Spike.

Willow clenched her jaw, unconsciously mocking the man in front of her. "No, I'm not. I know you better than you know yourself. Nothing you do can surprise me."

A smirk grew on the vampire's face. He was starting to now see the inner fire that kept Angelus so enthralled with her. She was cocky, and he liked that. Once again, William had to remind himself that Rose was Angelus's. His sire had marked her ages ago, which caused a slight twinge of envy in the younger vampire. At that moment he could think of nothing better than dragging her, kicking and screaming, back to his room so that he could teach her the proper way to behave. <Soon,> he reminded himself. <When Angelus grows bored, he'll allow me to indulge myself.if she survives that long, that is.>

"I'm really looking forward to watching Angelus teach you your place, Pet. After all, everyone works better with an audience."

Just as William was about to release her, he let his eyes drift over her one last time. That was when he noted it--a faded scar on her neck. It looked so familiar that he had to look at it again.

He abruptly pulled back and grabbed hold of her chin, forcing her to look at him. "That mark...who gave it to you?"

Willow stared at the vampire defiantly. <You wouldn't believe me if I told you...> "That's none of your business, is it? Hadn't we better get going? It isn't good to keep Daddy waiting, is it?" she sniped.

Ignoring her words, William touched the scar that looked like one of his, as if making sure that it was really there and he wasn't just seeing things. Then he let go of her abruptly, letting his human visage slip back into place.

"Angelus will get it out of you, Pet," he advised, then started back down the hall. "But I think before he's done you'll wish you'd just told me." <Crikey, she's a spirited one! Hope Angelus knows what he's getting himself in to. We may be better off with that religious nutter he met at the church a while back. At least she wouldn't give him so much bloody trouble!> he mused as he brought Rose closer to Angelus. Nevertheless, he didn't believe his own thoughts for a moment. Deep down, he agreed with his sire--the more spirited they were, the longer the amusement would last. And much like his sire, William couldn't wait for the fun to start. He only hoped Angelus really would share her one day.

Willow followed weakly behind William as he led her down a staircase and across the marble floor. It was impossible for her not to notice the two large vampires that were blocking the front door. With a sinking heart, she realized there was no way she could 'muscle' past those two brutes. From the no-nonsense looks they were giving her, it was apparent that they'd already been given instructions about her. <Doesn't look like I'll be walking out the front door anytime soon since I doubt that I could flip one of them over my shoulder...let alone hurt them,> she thought morosely.

Finally stopping before a set of double doors that led off of the foyer, William opened them with a flourish and gestured for her to enter. Willow took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. Unfortunately, before she could even exhale some of her tension away, her feet were already in motion. What she saw within the room, though, forced Willow's breath out in a coarse hiss, and she was as close to fainting as she thought she'd ever been in her whole life. Angelus she was expecting to see, in all of his arrogant glory, but not Spike, and especially not the two of them chatting amiably like old school chums. That was the last thing she'd counted on.

 

Willow froze just inside the doorway as the two laughing vampires turned their cocky grins on her, chasing away much of her own spirited strength. William, who had stepped back in order to make her enter first, had yet to see them.

"Go in, Pet," William instructed. "Angelus won't bite. Well, actually, he will, but..."

"Miss me, Pet?" Spike asked, taking a few steps toward her and opening his arms for a hug.

Hearing the new voice, William finally poked his head around the door. "Who the bloody hell is this?" he demanded.

Willow didn't even hear William's question. Her attention was fully consumed by the blonde vampire in front of her. "S--Spike," she stammered, not moving any closer to him. "I'd recognize that lying, selfish, conniving voice anywhere," she managed shakily, remembering her words from a previous meeting.

Spike smiled devilishly while inwardly hoping to every deity he could think of that she wouldn't say the wrong thing. "You flatter me, love."

As hard as she tried, Willow couldn't hold Spike's gaze. Her confusion as to his presence in the room and the coldness she saw in his face, cut her to the quick, and she had to turn away. Unintentionally, she looked straight at the smug Angelus. Realizing that looking at the darker vampire wasn't any easier, she admitted defeat and lowered her gaze to the floor.

Angelus observed the pain in his captive's eyes with great interest, not only when she looked at him, but also when she looked at Spike. William, meanwhile, was staring slack-jawed at the other vampire as he slowly entered the room. <He looks just like me! That bloody wanker stole my face!> He turned to Angelus, who was too busy watching Spike and Willow's interactions to notice his childe's bewilderment.

"Angelus!" William exclaimed, getting his sire's attention immediately. "You better tell me who this pillock is or I'll stake him, no matter how good looking he may be!"

Angelus gestured for William to lock the doors and come closer. He was loving every second of his childe's confusion, not to mention Willow's obvious distress. The air in the room was thick with tension, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

"William," he said, putting an arm lazily about his childe's shoulder, "I would like ya to meet yerself in about...um, how many years was it again, Spike?"

Spike tore his attention away from Willow and turned back to his sire and his former self. "A hundred or so," Spike said casually, strolling up to come face-to-face with William. "Hell, I'd forgotten just what a good-looking bloke I am!" he said with a broad grin, taking in every inch of William's perplexed appearance. "No wonder you can't keep your hands off me, Red," he teased cruelly. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Angelus's smile vanish, replaced by a look of jealousy. Behind him, Spike heard an angry, sharp intake of breath from Willow. <Damn, this is fun!>

"You're supposed to be me?" William snorted incredulously as he circled Spike. When he'd come full circle, William stopped and brought his face closer to the one that was almost a twin for his. He reached out, planning to touch the identical scar on Spike's eyebrow, but he was stopped by a shout from Willow.

"Don't touch him!" she wailed. Willow rushed forward, ready to throw herself between them if necessary. The redhead had been unable not to watch William and Spike's first meeting. <Sort of like a fire or a car wreck,> she'd first thought, trying to cheer herself up.

William looked at the distraught woman's face, then back to Spike. "What's she got her knickers in a knot about?"

Spike smiled again. Even his own voice was sexy. "Don't mind her. She has some theory that if we were to come in physical contact the whole soddin' world would come to an end...some blither about the same matter not being able to occupy the same space at the same time, or something like that." He rolled his eyes and made one of those all-encompassing 'Women! What the bloody hell are you going to do?' faces.

"It's true," Willow said, trying to shrug off his demeaning behavior. "Although you come from different times, the matter that makes you up is the same yet distinctive to you alone. According to the theory of..." When the matching faces of two annoyed vampires turned to her in impatience, she stopped her scientific rant. "Just don't touch...if you two think you can manage to keep your hands off of yourselves," she muttered, trying to find strength in sarcasm.

Angelus smiled in spite of himself at her audacity. She was so intriguing that the vampire found it difficult not to stare at her in front of the others. In all the years that he'd roamed the world, Angelus had never found a woman her equal. More beautiful perhaps, if one were to go purely by society's current vision of the perfect woman, but there was something about Rose that he thought outshined all the women that he'd known, both living and dead. He couldn't quite put his finger on exactly what it was that had kept her in his thoughts for over a century now--an impossible combination of innocence and passion, mystery and candor, youthful vitality and worldly maturity, perhaps. No, Angelus didn't know what it was precisely, but at least he now had the time to find out.

Willow was watching the two Williams study each other, trying to figure out what Spike was doing there in the first place, when she sensed it. Wrinkling her brow in consternation, she reluctantly looked over at Angelus and found him looking at her as well. The strange thing was that for the first time, he wasn't studying her like she were a bug under a microscope or like he was plotting the easiest way to rip her heart to shreds, he was just.*looking* at her. No.that wasn't quite right either, he wasn't just looking at her.he was gazing at her in the way that a man looks at a woman.

She knew she should turn away, but she couldn't because it wasn't the vampire or the demon looking at her, it was the man. During the past couple of days, she had only seen brief flashes of the Angelus she remembered, but even if it were only a cruel trick, she found some strength in the human Angelus's eyes.Angel's eyes.

At the sound of William's voice, they were both ripped back to reality. Angelus's face hardened, and Willow's eyes fell back to the floor.

"So, you're me in about 100 years?" He pointed to the scar on Spike's jaw. "Then where did that beauty come from?" William asked skeptically.

"Just a token of Rose's love," Spike answered, raising a hand to rub the scar himself. "Won't heal properly because of the spell, I suppose."

William pursed his lips, studying it a while longer. "A bloody spell, eh? Well, it's not too horrible...gives you some character."

Spike raised an eyebrow in faint surprise then began patting his pockets for a cigarette. William began doing the same. Finding his first, he offered one to Spike, and the blonde vampire took it with a smile.

Deciding that if he was ever going to get his Rose alone he would have to interrupt the two vampires that seemed intent upon staring at themselves for all eternity, Angelus spoke up. "Apparently, me little witch here cast a spell in the future, hopin' ta come back and keep me from bein' sired by Darla. Isn't that right, me love?"

Willow glanced nervously from Angelus to Spike, wondering why the blonde demon had told his sire that, even if there was a smidgen of truth to it. She hated not knowing what Spike was up to, and his face revealed nothing. In fact, the blonde vampire only smiled at her and then pursed his lips for a moment. Realizing that Spike's lie sounded far more plausible than her did, not to mention the fact that Angelus would of course believe his own childe over her, Willow had to turn around under the weight of their stares.

Not seeing how she would benefit from telling Angelus the truth, Willow twisted her hands together in front of her. "I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about," she said weakly, praying that Spike knew what he was doing.

Angelus approached her from behind and placed his cool hands on her trembling forearms, drawing her back to him. "Ya lied to me, my flower," he whispered in her ear, before sharply sinking one fang into her lobe for emphasis. He was not surprised when she only gasped against the pain and didn't cry out. He knew her self-control was considerable, despite her behavior in the carriage the night before. "Yer goin' ta have ta be punished, no matter how impressed I might be that ya were able ta fool me."

Spike had a harsh but outwardly invisible reaction to Angelus's biting Willow. Spike's demonic side had claimed her and did not take kindly to another taking her blood--or anything else for that matter--when it was rightfully his.

"You see," Spike blurted out a little more loudly than he'd planned, "Angelus caused a bit of a ruckus in the town where...Rose...lives. Since she and the Slayer couldn't seem to kill him the standard way, she came up with this little back in time spell...sort of a demonic 'What came first.the chicken or the egg?' thing to try and stop him."

"And you...I mean, *I*..." William started, trying to puzzle the whole thing out.

"And I had no other choice but to come along on her little trip, uninvited, and make sure that Darla and Angelus still found their way to each other," Spike offered in explanation.

William clenched his jaw as he continued to scrutinize Spike. "And the bloody spell did that to my hair?"

Spike groaned and shook his head before running his fingers through his cropped locks. "Trust me. It's all the rage in the future."

William made a snort of disgusted disagreement, yet the more he looked at his older self, the more he liked the lighter hair. It brought out his eyes and sharp features. <Damn, I get better looking every day,> William thought to himself. Finally becoming serious for a moment, William pondered everything that had been said, and it all began to make sense...Rose's bite marks, her behavior and comments.

Willow took the time afforded by William's analysis of the twisted timeline to move away from Angelus and sit down in the nearest chair. It felt as if her legs would give way beneath her any second, and she didn't want to faint in front of the three vampires. To her dismay, Angelus followed to stand behind her chair, casually leaning on the back of it and stroking her hair occasionally as if she were a child or a pet. Willow tried hard not to grimace or shy away from his touch, wanting to appear as if she hardly noticed his attentions. It was difficult, though, considering all she really wanted to do was slap his hand away. <Calm down and breathe, Willow,> she reminded herself.

William took a long drag from his cigarette, looking at Willow and Angelus before turning back to Spike. "What.didn't you want to sire yourself?" William asked with a laugh before sitting on the arm of the sofa.

Willow smothered a smile at the fleeting look of chagrin that passed over Spike's pale features. She remembered very well how he'd considered doing just that very thing when they'd first arrived in Galway a century too soon.

"Sire myself? How bloody thick do you think I am?" Spike answered, looking incredibly insulted at the question.

"So, how long will we have the pleasure of my own company?" William continued.

"As soon as I know that you, Angelus, and Drusilla are all fine and dandy again; Rose and I will be on our merry little way."

"Drusilla?"

Angelus fielded that question. He stepped out from behind the leather wing chair only to perch on its arm next to his Rose, resting his hand on Willow's bare shoulder. "Apparently, the three of us make a great team, William."

"Really?" William lifted an eyebrow in surprise, but he couldn't say he was displeased at the thought of having the beautiful brunette as a new member of the family. He and his sire had spent many an enjoyable evening tormenting the poor girl, and it would be a shame to see all of their hard work go to waste.

Spike spoke up. "William, she makes a brilliant vampire...beautiful, cunning, deadly. I'll have you know, she'll bag herself a slayer in the future."

William laughed in delighted surprise. "You're joking, right? She's off her rocker, mate!"

A ghost of a smile appeared on Spike's face as he thought about his vampiric lover. "That's one of the things you two will learn to like the most about her, and her visions save your asses more times than I can count!" he added, trying not to let his desperation show. He had to convince Angelus to change her and soon, but the very fact that he was trying to fan Angelus's interest in Drusilla was painful beyond measure. This was not that way it was supposed to happen.

Spike finally allowed himself to look at Willow again--the woman he blamed for this new torture that he had to endure. As he saw her sitting so close to his sire, putting up with his attentions without the slightest bit of protest, Spike felt a surge of anger. Although somewhere deep within the desperate vampire he knew Willow had little choice, it was far easier for Spike to put his grand plan's most recent failure squarely on her shoulders. If she'd only managed to stay out of Angelus's way, Drusilla would already have been sired and Angelus would be ashes.

At that same time, Angelus was studying Spike. It was obvious how his childe felt about the odd girl he'd had met in the confessional, but Angelus wasn't about to change his plans just to play matchmaker. The blonde vampire also appeared a bit territorial over his Rose, but Angelus wasn't worried about that either. Spike was his childe, after all.

Angelus spoke up, watching his Spike's reaction carefully. "We won't be needin' Drusilla anymore. We have you and Rose now. She can tell us anythin' we need ta be knowin' about the future, can't she?"

Willow grimaced and shifted uncomfortably in her seat while her future was being discussed as if she weren't even in the room. She'd remained sitting quietly while they'd discussed Drusilla's future, glad to be temporarily forgotten about. In fact, when Spike had mentioned that they would be leaving as soon as Drusilla was turned, she'd even allowed herself to believe that maybe Spike knew what he was doing after all--that he had some sort of plan. It was also plainly evident that Spike was trying to channel Angelus's attention back to Drusilla. If he was successful, Willow could see how it might just be possible for her to get out of the situation relatively unharmed. So she found herself once again having to trust Spike, no matter how difficult it was for her to place even an ounce of faith in him.

<Bloody hell...> Spike thought when Angelus spoke the words that basically dismissed their need for Drusilla. Spike had almost been hoping that it wouldn't come to this, but he saw no way around it.

Spike stood up straight and stubbed out his cigarette. "You can't have her Angelus. Rose is mine," he said firmly, fixing Angelus with a no-nonsense glare. "I marked her first, so next time, ask permission to touch her."

 

Angelus's smile faded at the tone in his childe's voice. He slid off the chair and approached him with deliberate steps. "Ah, but ya seem ta be forgettin' somethin', my childe. I claim the Rights of the Sire. She's mine fer the askin'. Actually, I don't even have ta ask. I can just take her, and I have every intention of doin' so!" he informed his blonde childe in no uncertain terms.

Spike shook his head. "No. You seem to be forgetting the Rights of the Elder, Angelus. I'm older than you by a hell of a lot of years now. Plus, if it weren't for me, you'd be long dead and buried. The chit is mine."

The two stared at each other in the middle of the room, and Willow held her breath, strangely relieved that Spike was fighting for 'ownership' of her.

Seeing the truth in Spike's claim, Angelus was the first to back down. He turned back to look at Willow. "I acknowledge yer rights, Spike," he said darkly, but what Willow saw in Angelus's eyes was anything but surrender.

"I'll trade ya fer her," Angelus added quickly. "Ya can have Drusilla. Ya can be her sire. And since *I* marked *her* first, I'll release all me claims on her, if ya do the same on Rose."

The room was deathly quiet for a moment.

"What?" Spike exclaimed, breaking the silence. He was completely thrown for a loop by this new development. It was something he'd never expected. For Angelus to *offer* sireship of Drusilla to him was more than he'd ever hoped for. It had always been a last choice for Spike. He'd told himself that he'd only sire her if absolutely necessary. Not only for fear of changing the past and future too much, but also because he knew sooner or later he'd have to leave her to return to his own time. Otherwise, there would be two of him running around the 19th century. Besides, William needed the chance to fall in love with her the same way he had. But this.for Angelus to just give Drusilla to him.that changed things a bit.

Speechless, Spike looked at William for support. From the look on his face, it was obvious that his younger self was pleased with the opportunity. Angelus, meanwhile, had not taken his eyes from Willow's, and she found herself unable to look away. There was no sign of forfeiture in the dark, fathomless orbs that were negotiating for her future.

"Ya heard me," he snapped at the vampire behind him. "Is it a deal?"

"Yes," Spike answered, his voice shaking with emotion. "Wait...no! I can't be her sire, Angelus," he backpedaled, having gathered his wits. Although the offer was tremendous, he knew he'd still only have the same problems in the end. There would be two Williams, or Spikes, and sooner or later he'd have to leave her, just like Angelus had. That wasn't acceptable.

Angelus was on the verge of losing his temper. "Then let William do it! Same thing in the end," he grunted.

That choice was even better and solved many of Spike's problems. The chance to be Drusilla's sire, to break all ties that his Dark Goddess had to Angelus, and to never again have to hear her call him Daddy or compare him to his sire was an opportunity too good to pass up.

Almost.

"No," Spike said with great effort. "I was not her bloody sire the first time around, Angelus! You were, and that's the way it has to be," he ground out, still not believing that he was passing up such an offer.

"Are you daft, mate?" William demanded. "Do you know what you're saying? She could be ours alone...to be her sire...to have that kind of control over her. You must have wanted that before." William had not sired a true childe at this point, and since he seemed destined to be involved with the woman anyway, he preferred to have some authority over her. Besides, Angelus would be occupied with Rose now, and William wanted someone as well.

"Give us some bloody credit, William!" Spike growled. "As you very well know, the sire-childe relationship is different...it's a forced bond. What Dru and I had, well...what you and she *will* have is different. If you sire her, nothing will be the same!"

"Fine!" Angelus snarled, finally prying his eyes away from the trembling redhead. "William, take Goldilocks here and go get Drusilla from the convent as soon as the sun sets! Bring her here, I'll sire her, and then she's yers. I'll relinquish all rights to her and give her to ya in exchange fer the witch. Now, is that deal ta yer likin' or not?" Angelus may have phrased it as an offer, but the three vampires knew it was one that Spike couldn't refuse.

Willow couldn't contain herself any longer and jumped to her feet. This was it...the moment of truth. She stood just behind Angelus, staring at Spike beseechingly over his shoulder. <Don't do it, Spike. Just get us out of here and we can fix everything...please, Spike. Don't listen to him!> she begged with her eyes.

Spike's looked from Angelus to Willow. He walked closer to the beautiful redhead, drinking in the sight of her in the flattering gown and luxuriating in the sound of her quickening heart and rapid breaths. He reached out to drag his finger along her collarbone like he had done countless times before, ending at his mark of ownership. The blonde vampire smiled at her, receiving a weak smile in return. Spike could sense Angelus's growing anger with his delay, but he was enjoying every moment of his torment. It wasn't often that he had the chance to create such a reaction in his sire, so he stretched it out as long as he could. Spike then ran his finger up the other side of her collarbone, stopping abruptly at a nearly healed wound that he hadn't noticed before but recognized well as being left by Angelus's passionate bite. It only made his decision that much easier.

Reluctantly ending the sensation of her heated skin beneath his cooler flesh, he started to search his pockets. This time he found his own hand-rolled cigarettes, lit one, and then took a deep drag before slowly and deliberately blowing the smoke directly in Willow's face.

Willow didn't look away even as her eyes began to water under the assault, but she did slowly begin to shake her head as his decision began to become clear. "No.no.Spike.no." she pleaded, barely above a whisper.

Ignoring her, Spike turned his attention to Angelus, whose patience was growing thin. "It's a deal, Angelus. William and I will wander over to the abbey as soon as the sun sets. When I have my Dru, you can have Rose." He stepped away without a second glance at Willow and walked to his twin. "Now, since my old room is taken by you, I assume, show me where a demon can get some bloody sleep," he said coolly, following the widely grinning William out the door.

Willow sank to her knees right on the spot. She couldn't believe that Spike was going to abandon her like this. What's more, Willow couldn't believe that she'd even thought for a moment that he wouldn't. Angelus had just offered him everything he'd ever wanted--Drusilla, no strings attached--and he didn't even have to kill his sire in the process. So what if that doomed her to long and painful life, or death, with Angelus?

Spike's voice echoed down the hallway, each syllable causing tiny pinpricks of anguish to her soul..."For the minions' sake, I guess we'd better say that I'm a long-lost brother or something. Oh, and call me Spike, mate. It'll be less confusing that way."

"Spike?" she heard William question.

"Yeah, Dru thought it up a couple of years from now. It's a funny story actually..." and then his words faded away to Willow's ears, either due to distance or the sound of her own sobs.

Angelus looked down at the crying woman with surprise. "I didn't know William had it in him," he said softly to himself. His childe had never taken much of an interest in breaking women's' hearts before. He'd always been more of a love-em and eat-em kind of vampire up to this point. Angelus couldn't help being proud of his childe. He truly had followed in his sire's footsteps.

Staring at her a moment longer, Angelus tried to decide which direction to take this. He could try to comfort her, show her a more compassionate side by playing the good vampire against Spike's bad vampire only to destroy her later when she found out that he truly was worse than Spike could ever be. Or he could continue with the original plan...make her want him, demon and all. So many wonderful choices and so much time ahead of them. Unfortunately, it would all have to wait until after the ritual when she was officially his.

"Follow me," he said abruptly then started for the door.

Willow looked up to watch Angelus swagger out of the room. She wiped her tears away and got to her feet, but she didn't follow his command. She wasn't going to make this easy for him, no matter how much worse it would make it on her.

Sensing that she wasn't following, he turned. "Rose, me love, ya best be rememberin' where ya are. Now, ya aren't in a position ta be defyin' me, are ya?"

Willow crossed her arms about herself. "Spike is still my...master," she spat out reluctantly, clutching at straws. "I don't have to obey you." Willow awaited his wrath, bracing herself for yelling, grabbing and possible biting. She was almost disappointed when Angelus just started laughing.

He looked at her with a genuine--although a still truly evil--grin on his face. "I told ya once, Rose, that ya will beg fer my attentions one day, and ya will. Now, either follow me as I show ya back ta yer room or ya can wander about this place on yer own. There are guards posted at the only exits, knowin' that they are dust if ya escape. There also be about twenty other vampires milling about the place. Now, I told them not ta be touchin' ya, but they aren't the brightest demons in the world." With a last smirk for her stubbornness, he left.

Willow held her ground for what felt like an eternity, but in all reality it was only about 15 seconds. She darted out the door, spotted Angelus on the staircase, and hurried to follow him.

To Willow's surprise and enormous relief, Angelus did just that and only that. He escorted her back to her room, telling her that he would come for her when William and Spike were back with Drusilla. That said, he then shut and locked the door behind him.

Willow numbly removed the dress and corset, collapsing on the bed in only her chemise. Then, for the first time in decades, cried herself to sleep. ****

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