Take Your Time

By Carrie

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When Angelus entered her room, Willow was still sitting on the floor, clothed only in the shift that she'd slept in. Her arms were encircling her knees, holding them tightly to her chest as she stared vacantly at the floor. She hadn't taken Spike's terse advice to get prettied up for his sire. There was no point. How she looked wouldn't make a difference in the end. Instead, she'd just curled herself up against the pain--the pain of the past, the present, and the inevitable pain that was yet to come.

"It's time," Angelus informed her, closing and locking the door behind him.

Willow heard the excitement and anticipation in his voice, and it did nothing to dull her fear. That's when she realized she had only one hope left. Even though it was a minute one, she had to try. Willow let go of every last vestige of her pride before looking up at him.

"Please, Angelus. Let me go!" she begged, moving forward to clutch at his leg. "I don't want any of this...I just want to go home. Please?" she begged.

After listening to her pleas, Angelus knelt before Willow and peered into her tear-streaked face. The vampire wiped the dampness away more gently than she'd ever thought possible.

"Save yer tears, Rose, and yer beggin'," he said softly. "There's too much fer us ta do yet tonight fer me ta be able to enjoy 'em right now. So save all yer cryin' and pleadin' fer the days get ta come. But I did enjoy the beggin', Rose, and I thank ya fer the gift," he sneered, pulling her to her feet as he stood. "Now, ya have fifteen minutes ta put some clothes on and make yerself presentable but no longer. Otherwise, I guess I'll be havin' ta dress ya myself!" he warned.

Once again, he grabbed a gown and other necessities out of her wardrobe and threw them at her before pointing to the bathroom. Without a word, Willow trudged into the other room and closed the door behind her. She was barely aware of herself or her surroundings as she removed the wrinkled undergarment that she'd slept in and began to wash up. When she was clean and dressed in the clothes that Angelus had picked out for her, she grabbed a hairbrush, intending just to drag it through a few times. However, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, Willow was mesmerized by her own reflection. The stress, not to mention her lack of both sleep and appetite from the past few days, had finally caught up with her. All she could see was her own dull hair, sunken cheekbones, and lifeless, dark-ring-encircled eyes. It was almost as if it were a stranger staring back at her from the mirror--one Willow couldn't seem to tear away from.

Entranced either by exhaustion, fear, or emotional shock--most likely a combination of all--she didn't hear Angelus yelling at her from the other room to hurry. Neither did she hear him a few minutes later when he threatened more loudly to come in. Willow wasn't even aware of the vampire as he burst through the door or of the worried look on his face, as if he were afraid of what he might find. She was lost in her own little world.

It was a strangely relieved Angelus who took the brush out of her motionless hand and slowly began brushing her hair for her. He'd thought the worst when she hadn't answered, fearing that she'd somehow attempted to take her own life. Her life was not her own to end, as far as he was concerned. It was his, or at least it would be as soon as they finished the ritual. Nevertheless, it was apparent that Spike had wounded her deeply. Angelus had heard the cruel words his child had uttered at his Rose's expense. Although he was proud of Spike, he was envious as well. Angelus's pride would never allow him to take advantage of the pain that the blonde vampire had inflicted. If she were to break, it would be by his doing alone and not his childe's. Which meant that now Angelus had to play a role that was a little less familiar to him--protector, caregiver. That was the only way he could get the Rose back that he remembered. Then, only when her spirit was refreshed and her body once again trembling with anger and passion would he begin the very pleasurable task of tearing her down, piece by piece. But for now, Angelus had to be content to gently brush her hair and wait for Willow to come out of her zombie-like state.

It wasn't until she saw the brush seemingly move of its own accord in the mirror that Willow appeared to come back to reality somewhat. She stayed silent, letting him smooth the tangles out of her hair. Too weary to protest, Willow closed her eyes and submitted to his pampering. After a few moments, she felt relaxed completely.

With her eyes still closed, she finally spoke, but barely above a whisper. "You can't destroy me, Angelus. I'm already dead on the inside...Spike beat you to it."

The long, even strokes of the brush never wavered. "Shhh...my love," Angelus comforted her, ignoring stabs of jealousy from Willow's reference to his childe. "Yer very much alive. He just wounded yer girlish pride. It seems Spike knew exactly what ta say ta hurt ya."

Willow nodded lightly in agreement. "He always has."

"Of course he does because I taught him well. Besides, he had enough time with ya. He should know the best way ta hurt ya by now," he said shortly. "Now, it seems ta me that if ya knew his main purpose was ta crush yer spirits, that it would be easy ta ignore. It's like he was raisin' the stakes on ya. I must say, I'm surprised ya folded so easily, Rose. Ya basically handed him the game and all yer money."

She didn't respond right away, and Angelus began to think that she had actually fallen asleep.

"I'm so tired," she finally admitted in hushed tones. "I don't care about winning anymore..."

It was Angelus's turn to remain silent as he tried to decide his next course of action. He really didn't like her like this, not when he wasn't the cause. But before he could make any decisions, Willow surprised him by turning her head so he could brush the other side better.

"Mmmm...feels good...but I guess I shouldn't have said that...because you'll stop now," she sighed, her eyes still closed. The tiny part of her mind that was still clinging on to logic tried to remind her that this was just part of Angelus's game, but it was a very quiet and small part. Frankly, she didn't care. Not only for the reason that she didn't really believe it was happening, but because it had been a long time since anyone had done anything so nice for her.

Angelus chuckled. "Ya think ya know me now, do ya?"

Willow shook her head slowly. "Not really, Angelus. It just seemed like a logical way to drive someone insane. Be kind for a while, until they relax, and then hit 'em where it hurts."

Angelus raised a confused eyebrow at her comment, not that she could see it. "I wasn't plannin' on hittin' ya...*yet*."

Willow actually smiled. "It's just an expression, Angelus."

Angelus saw her smile in the mirror. It was the first time he'd seen her smile since Ireland, and he was the cause of it. His plan was coming along quite nicely.

"Angelus?" Willow asked softly after a long ebb in the odd conversation.

"Yes, me love?"

"Are you going to kill me or are you going to make me a raving lunatic?"

He continued brushing her hair as he considered her question. Looking at her, eyes closed, totally relaxed, he wondered if she was playing a game with him. Was she trying to make it easier on herself by behaving in such a strange manner or had she truly taken the first step into madness? Normally, he would be pleased if that were the case--if his Rose was showing signs of true weakness--but not this time because he wouldn't be able to take the credit for it. It was all Spike's doing.

"It's a hard decision to make since both choices have their own benefits," he admitted warily, watching closely for her reaction. "Supposin' I let ya choose yer own fate, which would ya prefer?"

Willow shook her head. "Oh no," she half-giggled. "You'd just do the exact opposite of what I say."

"Ah, but then, if ya knew that, bein' the smart thing that ya are, then ya'd just lie and say the opposite, wouldn't ya?"

"But you'd be expecting that, and so..." Willow's voice trailed off, and she smiled again. "This is right out of 'The Princess Bride'...it must be a dream...that's the only explanation..." she said in a far-off voice.

"Maybe it is, Rose, and maybe it isn't," he responded softly, not really understanding what she was talking about. He continued to brush her hair, not wanting to break whatever spell she seemed to be under.

"Make a choice," Angelus whispered in her ear, "not that I'll honor it. I just want ta hear yer choice."

She didn't even stop to think. The words just flowed out of her. "I always wondered what it would be like to not worry all the time...not to fret over every little thing or have any responsibility at all. I mean, if you're well and truly mad, you wouldn't even know it, would you? You'd probably live a happy existence in your own mythical little world." She paused for a moment to take a deep, almost mournful sounding, breath. "It sounds...simple. My life has never been simple. Unfortunately, there aren't any guarantees, are there? Knowing my luck, I'd be the opposite type of a madman...I mean, mad *person*. I'd probably be in perpetual terror of some sort, running from giant frogs and forever sleeping through finals or forgetting where my classes are. I'd probably be tearing my own hair out and screaming at the top of my lungs and end up locked away in some horrible institution somewhere with no shoelaces and only green Jell-O to eat. I--I wouldn't like that," she said, shaking her head. "And I think that somehow, no matter what, I'd know I was insane and that things didn't have to be that way. That there was a better world somewhere that I wasn't a part of. Like right now...this very conversation..." Willow made a slight gesture with her hands, "...this isn't right. It's my first little sojourn into madness, I think, and yet I know it's not right," she said morosely. Willow paused for a moment and leaned her head back against the broad chest behind her. "Yep, just like now, I'd know it wasn't real...so I'd never be free from responsibility for my own behavior. I'd either do everything in my power to make myself well or I'd probably succumb to the guilt. And I've never handled guilt well as it is."

Angelus listened closely to her ramblings. They gave him more insight into the way that she thought, even if he didn't understand half of what she said. But with every word, he became more fascinated with the complex creature before him. Forced to stop brushing her hair when she leaned back against him, the vampire was now content to smooth it with his hands instead. He only hoped that the change wouldn't bring her back to reality. There was so much more he wanted to know.

"What's yer choice then?" he asked gently after she'd stopped speaking.


Willow sighed. "I think maybe I'd prefer death...no pain...no decisions...no more regrets. It sounds...simple," she repeated.

"There is a third choice," he reminded her.

"No, not for me. I can't be turned, since I can't die, remember? Nope. No fangs for me."

"Ah, but, if ya can't die, then how am I goin' ta fulfill yer wishes and kill ya, as ya asked me to?"

Willow pouted. "See?" she asked with a faint hint of disappointment. "Nothing's ever simple with me, is it? Only I can kill me...or...well, we don't know what would happen with the spell if I were to..." Willow ended her ramblings in mid-sentence with another long release of breath and a slight shake of her head.

"This is the strangest dream of you I've ever had, Angelus," Willow admitted.

Angelus smiled. She really did think it was all just a dream. That explained a lot. "So ya admit that ya've dreamed of me before, then?"

She nodded. "All the time, at least lately anyway, but we don't usually talk much in my other dreams."

"If we don't talk, what do we do?" he questioned her, already guessing the answer.

Her face darkened and he felt her begin to tremble. "It's different every time, but usually you're...hurting me...doing h-horrible things to me...and--"

"Sshhh..." Angelus soothed her, not wanting his Rose to get too agitated and 'wake up' no matter how interested he actually was in the details of her dreamed torment at his hands. After all, maybe she'd give him some new ideas.

"Were they all about me torturin' ya, then?"

Willow shook her head. "No...some weren't so bad...in some you...um...we..." she couldn't finish the sentence and quickly turned to bury her face in Angelus's chest out of embarrassment.

Totally taken by surprise, Angelus could only hold her closer in a comforting embrace, which didn't come easily to the master vampire. However, he did it anyway because he wasn't ready for this revealing experience to come to an end and also because he rather liked having her in his arms.

"Sshhhh...Rose, ya don't have ta tell me. I know yer dreams already, don't I?" He felt more than heard her slight whimper of agreement and then she actually snuggled a little closer.

"This certainly is a strange dream, but I like it," she murmured against his chest. "I wish it didn't have to end...and that when I got back home we could..." she stopped herself. Even her subconscious wouldn't allow her to think about holding the soulful Angel in this way. He wasn't hers to hug. "But we can't...the spell...curse...and the slayer...it ruins everything," she muttered almost imperceptibly, but Angelus's supernatural hearing was able to pick out most of her words.

And they confused him. The talk of spells and curses only meant one thing to him--the spell that had brought him his Rose. Maybe it seemed like a curse to her now, but Angelus, on the other hand, viewed her mystical appearance in his life as a stroke of good fortune.

Unfortunately, as much as he desired to pry her for more information, Angelus knew he was already pushing his luck. Plus, there was the little matter of the ritual. Tucking away her mumbled confessions in the back of his mind to use against her later, he very gently pulled out of her arms and turned her back around to the mirror.

"This dream needs ta end soon, my love, but don't worry. There will be others."

Willow nodded her head in acceptance of the dream-Angelus's words. Relieved that she had yet to come to her senses, the vampire placed the brush back in her hand.

"Brush yer hair fer me, Rose. Make yerself pretty fer me," he whispered in her ear.

When Angelus felt her take over control of the long, slow, stroking motions, he backed away. He took one last look at the beautiful redhead in the mirror--her eyes still closed amidst the wistful expression on her face--before silently leaving the room and closing the door behind him.




It was the third one that forced Willow's eyes open. She blinked at herself in the mirror and then at the brush in her hand.

"Rose!" Angelus's voice boomed from the other side of the door, startling Willow and fully bringing her crashing back to reality. "If ya don't hurry up, I'll come in and dress ya myself!" the cold voice warned her.

"I...um...I'll be right out...I'm almost done. Just, er, brushing my hair..." she stammered loudly.

"Ya have one more minute Rose. No more!"


Willow shook her head, trying to clear her foggy brain. "I know I'm tired," she whispered to herself, "but I can't believe I fell asleep standing up...brushing my hair." <And that dream...so strange...> Not getting any answers from her tired reflection, Willow set the brush down.

"Might as well get this over with, I guess," she told herself fatalistically. Then, after one last look in the mirror, Willow opened the bathroom door and exited.

"It's about time," Angelus said coldly. He was lying on her bed, purposely looking very bored and impatient as he fiddled with a small porcelain jewelry box that usually sat on the dressing table. Not waiting for her to explain her delay, Angelus quickly got up and put the trinket back where it belonged.

"Now that yer presentable, barely, let's get on with the festivities, shall we?"

Angelus was out the door before Willow could utter a sound. Not seeing any other choice or finding the strength to fight, she followed weakly behind.

As they made their way through the mansion, they passed several other vampires. Some of the demons just happened to be in the corridors on their way to somewhere else, while others were obviously placed as guards. Willow felt all their eyes on her, even hearing whispers of "That's the redhead!" and "She's the one!" Their hungry and curious stares made the bone-weary woman pick up her pace until she was actually walking beside Angelus. <Running to *Angelus* for protection...what's wrong with me?> she berated herself.

Apparently, Angelus was none too pleased with the other vampires' attentions as well. The very next one that dared to look openly at his Rose, soon found every bone in his face broken when it impacted sharply with the stone floor and was held there by Angelus's large, booted foot.

"It's hard to stare when ya can 't open yer eyes, isn't it?" When the lesser demon whimpered his agreement, Angelus spoke louder so that all the vampires that had witnessed his punishment could hear, "It's even harder when yer a pile of dust. Ya don't look at Rose, ya don't even think about her, and if any of ya are dumb enough ta touch her, I'll make sure that yer death is as slow and painful as possible. Now, ya best be rememberin' that. All of ya!" he growled in warning. Before Willow could hide her look of disgust, Angelus was already lifting his heavy boot from the injured vampire's head. With lowered eyes, the frightened lesser vampires quickly scattered.

"I told ya they weren't very bright," Angelus reminded her as they left the scene behind to continue to the parlor. "And get that sympathetic look off yer face! Given the chance, they'd tear ya apart in an instant. Yer just a meal ta these fools. I probably should've killed him, but since he's a bit young, it'll take him awhile ta heal. He'll be a good reminder the rest. Every time they see him, they'll remember yer off limits. A pile of dust is much easier ta forget."

"I'm honored by your gallantry," she managed softly, completely lacking the sarcasm that she'd hoped for. "It's so rare you meet a man who's willing to fight for your honor, just so he can do much worse things to you himself," she added. Willow was a little more pleased to hear a tinge of venom in her voice that time. The nap, even if she had taken it standing up, seemed to have helped her despondent mood somewhat.

"And it's even rarer ta meet a woman who understands that," he responded, gratified to see a little life in her again, no matter how dim. Perhaps he wouldn't have to wait so long to have his Rose back after all.

She was almost relieved when they finally arrived at the ground-floor parlor that she'd been in the day before.

Angelus opened the doors for her and stepped back, making a sweeping gesture with his arm. "After you, me lady."

Willow squeezed her eyes tightly shut for a moment. She tried to picture her calming place, hoping to rid her mind of both the memories of her latest disturbing dream and what was about to happen before she shuffled into the room. Although it hardly soothed her, the moment of meditation did allow her the ability to enter with some sense of dignity.

Upon hearing the door open, Spike gripped the cigarette between his fingers so tightly that it practically disintegrated in his hand. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Willow walk in, head held high as she quickly moved to a reading chair in the opposite corner. Right behind her was his sire, stopping only to close the parlor doors before once again taking his place on the arm of Willow's chair. With only a cursory glance, Spike noted that while she still looked exhausted, Willow seemed to have already recovered, for the most part, from their previous encounter. <Bloody hell, Red. What do I have to do to kill that damned spirit of yours?> Violently stubbing out what was left of the crumpled cigarette in a nearby ashtray, Spike focused his attention on William for a moment and was pleased with what he saw.

William was perched on the sofa next to the prone, unconscious Drusilla. Every now and then, William would run his fingers through Dru's hair or caress her hand as he waited for her to 'wake' to her new life. Spike was relieved to find that his younger self actually seemed quite taken with Drusilla and was already looking at her with more than a bit of desire. <At least one thing is progressing like it should...> he thought to himself.

What Spike saw when he shifted his focus to his sire was also quite gratifying. Angelus appeared to barely notice that Drusilla was in the room, let alone want to spend any 'quality' time with his newest childe. Unfortunately, Spike's elation was only fleeting. All too soon he recognized the anticipatory glint in the Irish vampire's eyes. He had seen it many times before in the old days, and often times it was focused on Drusilla. But not this time around--this time Willow had Angelus's full attention. As a result, Spike doubted that Angelus would be able to restrain himself with Willow for very long once the ceremony was complete. <Crikey, Willow! Why do you have to be so damned stubborn?>

Somehow, Willow was managing to ignore Angelus's nearness. Even when his pale hand moved to fix an out of place tendril of her hair, she managed not to flinch. It was obvious to Spike that Angelus was eager to do more but was holding back until the ceremony was over. Luckily for Willow, Angelus had always been a stickler for ritual.

Trying to focus on anything other than the vampire next to her, Willow forced herself to look at Spike, only to find that he was studying her. She felt desperate enough to plead with him one last time, just like she had with Angelus--beg, cry, anything. She opened her mouth to promise the world to the blonde vampire yet again, but he fixed her with an icy glare that froze the words to her lips.

Feeling his Rose tense, Angelus looked into Willow's eyes just in time to see another flash of pain. Following her line of vision, he was disappointed to find that, yet again, Spike had gotten beneath her skin.

"I see ya controlled yerself, Spike," Angelus commented coolly, his eyes now darting between Drusilla and Spike. From where he sat, Angelus couldn't see any bite marks on the dark-haired woman save his own from when he'd sired her.

"As did you, Angelus," retorted Spike. "Rose seems...intact."

"She is fer now."

"Can we hurry this up a bit, lads?" William interrupted, grinning lewdly at the now vampiric yet still inanimate Drusilla. "Me and the Mrs. have some plans."


"Yes, let's get on with it already; it's a simple bloody ritual," Spike grunted. "Besides, we should probably get this done before Drusilla wakes up. She'll be confused enough."

The other two vampires showed their agreement by allowing their ridged, yellow-eyed faces to come to the forefront. Angelus slid off the chair and sauntered over to the newest member of their bizarre family. Without ceremony, he lifted her frail arm to his mouth and sunk his teeth into her wrist until a slow trickle of blood trailed down her arm.

"What is mine, by rights, I offer willin'ly ta ya," he said, looking to William and Spike.

William approached and took the offered wrist. After meticulously licking clean the path of blood from her arm, William fed for a moment and then deferred to Spike. The blonde vampire took her alabaster wrist with shaking hands, biting into her tender flesh reverently. As her blood flooded his mouth, so were his thoughts flooded with memories of previous times he'd fed from his beloved. Reluctantly, he suckled at her wounds for only a moment before gently placing her arm back across her chest. Finally, he placed a long, soft kiss on her now cool lips. With a barely audible moan, Spike pulled himself away.

"This childe's blood, protection, destiny is now yers ta do with what ya may," Angelus continued. "My claim is no more."

"What was yours, is now mine. Your claim is no more," William and Spike affirmed in sober unison.

Willow watched in sickened silence as the other woman was verbally swapped between the vampires. <Swapped for me...> she reminded herself as Angelus turned to look at her.

"Come ta me, Rose," he commanded.

Aware that it was now her turn, Willow clambered to her feet and backed away in horror.

"No!" she squeaked, finally finding her tongue. "This is disgusting...barbaric! And I won't allow you to trade me like...like some sort of...of vampiric baseball card!" she whimpered.

"Fine, Pet," Spike said quietly, dragging his gaze away from his Dark Goddess. "You don't have to take part if you don't want to."

"I--I don't?" she asked suspiciously.

Spike smiled gently as he approached her. "You don't have to do a bloody thing, Red."

Watching him warily, she heard a low growl emanating from one of the other vampires. They seemed almost as confused as she did.

Stopping in front of her, Spike placed his hands gently on her shoulders and peered deeply into the sea-green eyes that were once again seeking answers.

"I can't believe you didn't trust me," he whispered with a tired grin, and before she knew it, Willow found herself smiling weakly back.

Spike moved to stand behind her, his hands still resting on her shoulders. "I will not allow either of you two to hurt her," he said defiantly.

Willow beamed at the other two very disconcerted vampires. However, when they began to slowly advance, she started to back away out of reflex. Of course, her escape was hindered by Spike's presence directly behind her. Only the sensation of Spike squeezing her shoulders reassuringly kept her from panicking. Feeling a slight twinge of optimism, Willow took a deep breath and waited for him to reveal just how they were going to escape.

"Nope," Spike continued. "You two aren't going to hurt her..."

Willow exhaled sharply in relief.

"...that's still my bloody job!"

Before Willow realized what was happening, Spike's grip tightened, and he pushed her into William's arms. "Hold her for me, will you, Will?" Spike asked politely, grinning at his own play on words.

"Be my pleasure, Spike," William retorted, catching her and spinning her around so that she faced his blonde double.

"No!" Willow cried as she saw her hopes for escape fade away. She struggled, but William's held her firmly, his fingers biting deeply into the soft flesh of her upper arms.

"I can't believe how gullible you are!" Spike mocked, using her own words from five years earlier against her once again. "Turn about's, fair play, and I think I owed you one, Red."

Oh, how Willow wanted to slap the egotistical smirk right off of his scarred face! <Better yet,> she thought, <I'd love to give him a matching scar on the other side of his face!> Unfortunately, with her arms held to her sides, all she could manage was another hate-filled glare. Before she could even fully deliver that, along with a few choice words, Spike had already turned away to look at his sire.

"Aw, what's wrong, Daddy?" Spike gibed. "Did you really think I'd choose her over you or Drusilla? Oh, come on! I was just trying to avoid a messy fight. Plus, I wanted to have a last bit of fun with the silly cow while she was still mine."

Angelus's eyes narrowed, revealing a hint of exasperation. "I never doubted ya, Spike. Yer my childe, of my blood, and I'd trust ya with my life...again," he said, his grave tones invoking Spike's full attention.

"You son-of-a-bitch!" Willow spit out at she struggled against William's hold, not caring that she was interrupting an important childe-sire moment.

"Tsk-tsk-tsk..." Spike snickered, turning on her. "Since Angelus is my sire, I don't think he takes too kindly to his future property referring to him in such crude manner.

"And such foul language, Rose," Angelus laughed. "I expect ya ta act like a lady."

"I promise I'll try to scream as daintily as possible as you maim me, Angelus," she hissed.

"Oh, ya'll scream, my little flower," he smiled cruelly, "of that I have no doubt."

William and Spike traded knowing chuckles, each having lost sleep in the past because of the seemingly never-ending screams of their sire's victims.

Still laughing, Spike closed in on her again. He was running out of time, so he chose his words carefully.

"What is mine, I am so bloody happy to willingly give to you, Angelus," he began as he none-too-gently grabbed Willow's wrist and bit into it, drawing only a harsh intake of breath from her in response. He didn't drink, which wasn't easy, instead offering the bleeding wrist to his sire. Angelus took it without hesitation, and latched onto the wound, feeding like he hadn't eaten in weeks. Willow grimaced and turned her head from the scene before her. This time no images of chocolate came to mind whatsoever. Spike's voice soon reminded Angelus of the situation, causing him to take one last swallow of her soporific blood.

"This servant's blood, life, destiny, excessive need to babble, irritating persistence in the thought that she is smarter than the rest of us, and so on, are now yours--you poor sod--to do with what you may. And might I add...good bloody, luck, mate. My claim is no more." For added emphasis, Spike propelled her into Angelus's arms. "Marriage made in hell, if you ask me," he grumbled, then looked back to Drusilla.

"What was yers, is now mine. Yer claim is no more," Angelus repeated solemnly, holding Willow tightly to him.

"Is it over?" Willow wondered aloud, clutching her throbbing wrist close to her.

"Not quite, Rose," Angelus answered, looking from her to his childre. "Not quite."

William was the first to offer his wrist to his sire, and in response, Angelus held his before his dark-haired childe. Their eyes joined, and as one they bit into the other's cool skin. They took only the mouthful required before ceasing.

Spike gritted his teeth as he watched them feed in unison. It was such an intimate act for vampires, one that he hadn't participated in for a very long time. Knowing what was expected of him when William walked away, Spike approached the Irish vampire. He thrust his wrist out to Angelus and seized the one that he offered in response. Biting into his sire's flesh for the first time in a couple of hundred years, he felt something stir within him that he thought was deader than he was. He was unable to look Angelus in the face as they shared themselves, nor could he look at Willow who was still being held firmly by his sire's other hand, so he screwed his eyes tightly shut.

If Spike hadn't been so busy trying to deny to himself how much he missed his sire's blood, he would have noticed Angelus's look of unabashed hunger and awe as the first drops hit his tongue. To him, Spike's blood was like William's only immensely magnified in strength due to his age. As a result, it was potent, maybe even more powerful than was his own. More importantly, it was tinged with that same mystical spice that made Rose's blood so intoxicating.

Each managed with some difficulty to take only the token amount required for the oath before quickly letting go of the other. At the moment, neither wanted to make the effort to come to terms with their demons' stronger than expected response to the other's blood. In fact, they were both actually relieved when Willow's questions broke the sudden tension in the air.

"That's all there is...a few words...some slurping and nothing more?" Willow asked without thinking.

The trio of demons laughed in unison at her, their ridges and yellow eyes giving way to their human masks.

"What were you expecting, Pet?" Spike snickered. "Candles...incense...virgin sacrifice maybe?"

"But...those are only words...just a promise...There wasn't any magick, black or otherwise...no call to a higher power...not even some archaic language..." she babbled. "Not much of a ritual, if you ask me."

Amused by her honest ramblings, Angelus smirked. "To demons, a promise made with an exchange of blood is a bond forged of iron...stronger than any witch's spell ya can come up with. We don't make them lightly, believe it or not, and ta break such an oath is unheard of."

"It's nice to see that there are some promises a vampire might actually keep, I guess," Willow commented, unable to look at Spike as she uttered the bitter words.

"That's because those that break them, don't live to tell about it," William the Bloody reminded them as he headed for the door, carrying his Drusilla in his arms. "Are you coming, Spike?"

Spike's feet carried him to the door, but his mind stopped him there. He banged his head against the doorframe in frustration, trying to clear it.

"No, William. I can't," he finally admitted in a pained voice. "She's yours...all yours for now, remember?"

The identical pairs of penetrating blue eyes locked as William and Spike recalled the long conversations they'd had about Drusilla--in the carriage as well as only short time earlier while they had been awaiting their sire. With a firm clenching of his jaw, William nodded his understanding before he turned to continue the journey to his room. Spike closed the door behind them and leaned his forehead against the cool wood. His pain from having to let her go rivaled that from when she had first killed herself.

"Take good care of her," he whispered, before finally bringing himself to look at Willow and Angelus.

Angelus kept a firm grip on Willow's arm but took a step toward Spike. "Why aren't ya with Drusilla? That's what ya've been wantin' all these years. I know that's why yer here, Spike, not fer me, but fer her. Go and be with her. Rose is no longer yer concern."

Spike heard the tone in his sire's voice. Angelus was not only dismissing him but warning him to stay away from Willow as well. The blonde vampire closed his eyes and took a deep breath before focusing on his sire's dark orbs, sending a message of his own.

"I *will* be with my Drusilla, but not now...not until I'm back in Sunnyhell where I belong...until we all are," he said pointedly without looking at Willow.

Releasing her, Angelus stalked over to this blonde childe. "What are ya sayin', Spike?" he demanded.

Spike stood up straight. "I can't have Drusilla now, just as you can't have Rose! We need to end the bloody spell. Only then will Drusilla be mine, and only then will Rose be yours. Not before. It won't work any other way, Angelus."

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