Take Your Time

By Carrie

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He'd caught Willow totally off guard. Never before had Spike even hinted at
the possibility of allowing Angelus to 'live', let alone be cursed with his
soul once again. That had always been her plan, not his. Curious and more
than a little bewildered, Willow quickly grabbed her bag that Spike had
dropped on the damp cobblestones and shuffled after the blonde vampire.
With some difficulty, she was able to get in front of him, stopping his
progression.

"What did you say?" she demanded, poking him in the chest with one angry
finger.

Spike pursed his lips and glanced back over her shoulder, checking to make
sure they were still alone. "You heard me. But we can't talk about it
here, not now." As if the discussion were closed, Spike turned on his heels
and continued his cocky stride away from his old home. But Willow was not
about to be ignored, again.

Throwing her bag down and stamping her foot in rage, Willow called after
him. "We *are* going to talk about it right here and now. I'm *not* going
anywhere with you until I know what's going on! And even then, it's
doubtful!

Spike spun around, his patience quickly withering under her stubbornness.
Thankfully, it appeared as if they were still alone.

"Look, Pet. You're just going to have to trust me, aren't you? So for now,
quit your whinging and hurry up! Otherwise, you might as well just turn
around and walk right back into that house, tie yourself up, and get ready
for some incredible pain," he instructed her, waving a finger in the general
direction from which they'd come. "No matter what Angelus feels for
you . . . no matter how much he wants you," Spike said with obvious
distaste, "his
plans hardly involve long romantic strolls on the bloody beach or odes of
undying love. He'll hurt you in ways you can't even imagine, Red."

Willow stood as straight as her overwrought body would allow and jutted out
her chin in defiance. "I know that, Spike. Believe it or not, I hardly
intended to ask Angelus to take me to the Prom. I'm aware that he doesn't
really care about me. It's just an infatuation . . . obsession . . . and
not in the good way."

Spike shook his head as he shoved his hands in his pockets. "You have no
idea, my little virgin."

"Wrong again, Spike. There isn't anything that I haven't imagined . . . or
dreamed. Every night my mind comes up with some new horror. I don't need
you to spell it out for me or draw me pictures!"

Spike purposely and savagely clenched his jaw, hoping it hid the grimace
caused by her words. "Well then, since you're so up with the state of the
play, what'll it be?" he asked Willow coolly.

She stood her ground, but her voice was shakier. "Why should I trust you
again?"

Unable to hold her gaze, Spike studied his shoes for a bit. It was a good
question. Yes, it was a very good question. He only wished his answer were
its equal.

"Because," he eventually began, meeting her angry eyes, "for the first time
we have the same bloody goal in mind, Willow, and because you have sod-all
choice."

"And what goal might that be?" she pressed further.

He took a couple of steps closer so he wouldn't have to speak so loudly. "I
don't want Angelus back in Sunnydale anymore than you do. As much as it
kills me to say this, I'll do whatever it damn well takes to make sure that
it's your favorite soulful vampire, *Angel,* that migrates to Sunnydale and
not the new and improved Angelus."

"You will?" she asked skeptically, receiving a curt nod from the blonde
demon in return.

Willow was silent as she contemplated Spike's little revelation. It came
back to Drusilla, yet again. Spike was obviously not willing to take *any*
chance that Angelus might renew his interest in the vampiress. Yet, she'd
thought that things had changed between Spike and his sire, so Willow was
actually a little surprised at his confession. She scrutinized him for a
moment, trying to find a trace of the Spike that she once knew intimately,
but she just couldn't be sure who he was anymore. Then her eyes noticed
something interesting on his neck.

"By the looks of that little love bite you have there, I'd think you'd be
happy to have Angelus in town," she said caustically, pointing to the
healing bite wound on his throat. "You two seemed to have gotten quite
chummy, considering you ruined my life to kill him and all."

Spike's hand rose to a bite mark and a sheepish grin crossed his face.
"This is nothing, Red. You should see the ones I left him to remember me
with. Oh yeah . . . sometimes it's good to be the oldest," Spike sighed,
his grin
broadening as he wagged his eyebrows suggestively. His good humor quickly
faded, however, when Willow's cold fašade didn't soften in the slightest.

"Look," Spike groaned, "I know you have little bloody reason to believe me
or trust me, but I'm sure if you give it some thought, you'll understand why
I don't want Angelus back in Sunnydale."

Willow shook her head in resignation as she picked up her things and started
slowly walking again, Spike at her side. She tried to come up with all
sorts of noble reasons why he would want to ensoul Angelus and keep him that
way. It definitely wasn't for her own sake. His behavior for the past few
days proved that. So that left only one thing. As she'd suspected all
along, he'd do it for Drusilla.

"Drusilla," she answered without looking at him.

"Give the girl a cookie. You got it on the first guess," he said without
much enthusiasm.

"Fine. You don't want to share Drusilla, again, so you're willing to stick
around for another few decades so we can make sure the gypsies curse Angelus
with his soul."

"Only this time, it'll be permanent. None of this bloody happiness clause
to muck up all our fun."

Willow stopped and tightened her grip on the bag. "I'll take care of it,"
she said formally, as if accepting a new job assignment. "When it's done,
I'll meet you at our spot in the park in just under 40 years."

Not waiting for Spike's response, Willow changed direction. She didn't know
exactly where she was going. All she cared about for now was that it took
her far away from both Angelus and Spike. However, the blonde vampire had
other ideas, and he put her exit to an abrupt halt, seizing her by both
shoulders.

"And just where the bloody hell do you think you're . . ."

His question was cut off as he suddenly found himself sailing through the
air to once again land with a loud thud at Willow's feet.

". . . going?" he ended with a grunt. In the split second that stars were
dancing in his head, Spike still had the presence of mind to make a mental
note to someday ask Willow where she picked up that move. When he came to
his senses, Spike was a little annoyed that Willow ignored both his question
and his plight. She simply picked her bag up from where she'd dropped it
when she flipped the vampire, and then proceeded to step over him and
continue along in her previous direction.

Spike scrambled to his feet and rushed after her. Not wanting to make the
mistake of trying to stop her again, the vampire this time got in front of
her and blocked her path. Each time she tried to step around him, he easily
obstructed her new route.

Finally, an angry and tired Willow threw her bag down. "Just get out of my
way! I'll take care of everything with the Rom and meet you back here! So,
why don't you go find yourself some . . . some gaunt, Drusilla look-a-like
to suck on for the next few decades, live in your little fantasy world, and
leave me alone!" she huffed.

Ignoring her gibes, Spike shook his head. "Sorry, Red. No can do. We're
going to finish this thing together. No more splitting up . . . no more
Separations . . . it's about bloody time we started trying to make this
marriage work."

Spike's attempts to make Willow smile failed miserably.

"I don't want to be with you for another 40 years!" she informed him in no
uncertain terms. "I don't want to be with you for another 40 seconds!"

"I don't see as you have a choice, Pet. So grow up and--"

He never got to finish the statement. Spike's mouth was closed for him when
Willow landed a punch squarely to his face. Spike's head snapped back under
the surprising force of the petite redhead's blow. <Bloody hell . . . where
*did* she learn all these new moves?>

Rubbing his jaw, the vampire refocused on Willow in amusement. "Got
yourself quite a le--"

"My right isn't bad, either," she informed him as her other fist made
contact with the opposite side of his face.

Spike's eyes sparked yellow, but the warning quickly faded. "Now, I can't
help wondering why you never hit Angelus like that, Pet! Maybe you didn't
really want to get away," he insinuated, making Willow's eyes widen in
shock.

"What? Hey . . . wait! We both know what would've happened if I even dared
to lift a finger against Angelus," she growled, wanting to smack the twisted
smile off his face permanently. "I certainly wouldn't be standing here
right now, so don't you dare suggest that--"

"But you dared to lift a finger against me, didn't you, Red?" Spike reminded
her, interrupting her angry outburst. "Doesn't that mean something?"

Willow's eyes widened at the implication. She had been so caught up in her
own anger and confusion that it had never even occurred to her that Spike
had every right to retaliate for her striking him--twice. After all, the
Irish vampire had told her to obey Spike as if he were Angelus.

Seeing a glimpse of fright creep into her face, Spike quickly changed
tactics. He'd been trying to make a point, not scare her.

"I guess it just never occurred to me that maybe you didn't want to get away
until now. You don't look the sadist type, but then again, it's always the
quiet ones, isn't it?" he teased lightly. "Shame we didn't have a little
more time together to explore that side of your personality more
thoroughly."

Indignation soon pushed her fear into the background, causing Willow's mouth
to open and close a few times as she fought with herself over her answer.
In the end, she refused to give him the satisfaction and simply repeated her
initial question instead. "Why should I go with you?"

Spike's face darkened as he realized she wasn't going to make this easy for
him. He wondered if he should even bother trying to make it up to her.
That was an easy question. Yes. Without a doubt.

"Willow . . ." he started softly, trying very hard to keep his tone light.
"First of all, we *both* have to go to Galway. Angelus is going to send one
of his minions to spy on us, so we better come up with some bloody good
illusion to fool him into thinking that we actually did the spell and it
worked! Then, and only then, can we head to the continent and try to find
the damned Rom." When the only response he got from the redhead was one of
the most evil glares he'd ever seen, he continued. "Look . . . I know
you're angry. You probably want to use my entrails for dental floss right
now," Spike continued, not even drawing a look of disgust from the virginal
redhead, "but I'm not letting you do this alone. You can hate me if you
want. You can spit in my handsome face every single day for the next four
decades if it'll make you feel any better--which I kinda hope you don't," he
added as a sidebar, "because my skin is very sensitive and dries out easily.
Point is, you're stuck with me. So you might as well get used to it."

This time, before she could reply, he picked up her bag and trudged back in
the original direction he'd started out in--toward his own residence.
Willow didn't watch him go. Instead she remained where she was, her face in
her hands.

"Nothing in my life is ever simple anymore," she repeated wearily into her
palms. Finally prying them away, Willow took a deep breath and let it out
slowly. She'd go to Galway with him, concoct some phony spell with some
colored smoke and a little gunpowder, and then . . . . Well, she'd worry
about that later. With one last look around, Willow hurried after Spike.

Hearing Willow's footsteps behind him, Spike stopped and waited. He chose
not to turn and face her, but he could still see her well enough with his
peripheral vision. Willow was also looking straight ahead, purposely not
looking at the vampire beside her.

"Are we ready then?" he asked her.

"Yes," Willow replied firmly, then quickly snatched her bag out of his hand.
"I can carry my own bag," she said firmly, and in unison they both started
back up the street.

After a brief moment, Spike couldn't resist trying again. "You just spent
your first 40 seconds with me. Now, was that really so bad?" he joked.

Willow gritted her teeth and kept her eyes on the road ahead. "Why don't
you shut *your* bloody gob, Spike, and see about hailing us a hansom cab?"

Spike clenched his jaw viciously as he silently counted from 1 to 40. It
was going to be a long trip.

~~~~~

 

The next day, after stopping off at Spike's old place to pick up a few
things and tie up some loose ends, they were on a train and headed for
Wales. From there, they would catch the ferry to Ireland.

Spike and Willow sat across from each other in a private compartment. The
shade was pulled down on the window of the cabin door to give them privacy,
but the shade to the outside was up so that Willow could enjoy the scenery.
Luckily for Spike, the sun was on the other side of the train at the moment.
They hadn't said more than ten words to each other since Willow had told him
to shut up the night before, and then only out of necessity. Since they had
gotten on the train two hours earlier, neither had uttered a syllable.

The droning of the train and its constant rocking motion was making it hard
for Willow to stay awake. As much as she wanted to watch the beautiful
English countryside go by, she couldn't keep her eyes open. Giving in to
her body's demands, she laid her head back against the seat cushion and
closed her eyes.

Spike, who was busy reading a first edition of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses,'
peeked at Willow when he felt her relax. He'd hoped she would get some
sleep because she looked exhausted. Maybe when she was better rested she'd
be a little more reasonable and let him explain. He returned to his book
but had only gotten about ten more pages done before she surprised him by
speaking.

"Spike?" she asked with her eyes still closed.

Spike barely glanced up from his book. "Yes, Willow."

"Why are we going to Galway?"

"Because I told Angelus that the spell had to be done in the exact same spot
where we originally arrived. It doesn't, of course, but he doesn't know
that. Stupid git."

The next silence lasted long enough for Spike to read another few pages.

"Why?" she asked, breaking the stillness.

Knowing what she meant, Spike replied, "Because otherwise the pillock would
have made us do the spell right there in front of him so he could watch.
This way, Angelus won't be around, and we'll be able to fool the stupid sods
he sent to follow us."

Silence again. This time six pages were read.

"Why doesn't he come himself?"

The blonde vampire resisted the urge to ask if she missed Angelus's company
that much.

"Two reasons. One is the wayward world-traveler Darla is due back in a
couple of days, and as her childe, he needs to be there to welcome her home
with open arms and veins. Two, he doesn't trust himself around you. He
knows if he's near you for much longer, he won't be able to stop himself. I
guess we should be thankful you're so irresistible, Willow," he deadpanned.

Willow didn't open her eyes, let alone rise to his bait. She was worn-out
and in desperate need of sleep. Unfortunately for both of them, there were
too many unanswered questions.

"Spike?" she said after another long break.

By this time, Spike was equally as tired and had mimicked her position,
having put his book away for the time being.

"Still here," he retorted.

This was the hardest question of all, but the one Willow needed answered the
most.

"The things you said to me . . . did you mean them? All of them?"

"Yes, Willow," he replied calmly. "Everything I said to you I meant, at
least at the time I did."

A soft, "Oh," was all she could manage in response. Even though she had
expected as much, it hurt to hear him say it, more than she wanted him to
know.

Many long minutes later, it was Spike's turn. "Willow?"

"Still here," she whimpered after a deep breath.

"Which things in particular are you worried about, because I'd bet Angel's
soul right now that you're replaying every bloody little thing I've ever
said to you in that busy box of a brain of yours. Be specific and I'll tell
you the truth."

Playing along for the moment, Willow focused her myriad of doubts down to
the basic root of all her questions. In the end, there were two incidents
that really plagued her--the rest she could either flag away to simply being
his ego or his temper talking. She was used to that from the vampire. The
one thing she did need to know was if Spike really had used her like he'd
implied.

"The things you said to me just yesterday . . . about when we were . . . you
know, together . . . did you mean those?" she asked softly, hoping to answer
most of her questions with his one reply. "Tell me the truth. No matter
how much it may hurt, I want the truth."

There was a long pause, but just as she was about to take his silence for
the answer, he spoke.

"Willow, look at me."

Too tired to make things difficult, she finally lifted her head and opened
her eyes.

"What did I say to you last night . . . exactly?" he questioned her.

She took a deep breath and began repeating his words almost verbatim.
Spike's face remained unreadable as he listened to his own comments about
sacrifice and friendship and how easy it was to get her to volunteer to
trade places with Drusilla. When she stopped, right after his remark about
making herself pretty for Angelus, Spike leaned forward in his seat. Having
said all she could bear to, Willow waited for his answer, but instead he
just stared at her, waiting. Willow returned his stare in anticipation.

Eventually he spoke first. "Finish it, Willow. Finish what I said to you.
There was more."

She knew there was more. Willow just didn't want to have to say the words
and relive the humiliation again, but Spike was insisting. His eyes
wouldn't let her end it there. Finally, she forced herself to go on.

"You . . . you said that you knew what Angelus was going to do to me, and
you only wished you could help."

Spike kept watching her. "No, that's no quite what I said. Say it again,
word for word, just like I said to you," he insisted, still watching her
intently.

Willow glared at him for his cruelty, but did what he said anyway. "You
said, and I quote, 'Yes, I do know. I'm only sorry I can't help him!'" She
had to practically spit the words out to utter them, but she met his eyes
and held them, demanding an explanation.

"I think you forgot something, Pet. That isn't all I said," Spike insisted.

Willow was ready to scream she was so frustrated. "Enough with the damned
games, Spike! Just tell me the truth!"

He shook his head. "You already know the answer. Think about what I said.
Say it again!"

"No!" she yelled at him. "I don't need to repeat the words. Fine! I get
it! You meant every word you said to me just like you already told me. You
don't have to rub it in, all right?"

Spike chuckled as he sat back in his seat and took out a cigarette.
Sometimes she was more fun to get all stirred up than Angelus was.

She glared at the vampire one more time before closing her eyes, picturing
her 'happy place,' and forcing herself to relax. Just when she'd calmed
down and was trying to come to terms with the fact that Spike had used her
all along, he interrupted her thoughts.

"Willow?"

"What!" she growled through gritted teeth, refusing to open her eyes.

"My exact words were, 'Yes, I do know. I'm only sorry I can't help him,
Rose,'" Spike reminded her.

Willow never wished she had a stake or even a slab of wood and a sharp knife
so badly in her whole life. She'd whittle a stake right now if she had to.

"That's what I said . . . that you said . . ." she huffed a little
awkwardly.

Seeing some humor in the situation that Willow didn't, Spike grinned. "For
such a smart woman, you aren't very bloody bright, Willow."

Suddenly Willow's eyes opened, and then grew wider. "Oh, I get it! You
just want to make me cry again, don't you . . . or . . . or this is just
some little subplot you contrived with Angelus to drive me insane . . .
or . . ."

Shaking his head, Spike felt a little guilty for teasing her. After all,
she'd been through a lot. She was exhausted and barely able to stay awake,
let alone think straight. He moved to sit next to her, taking her wrists in
his hands before she could move away.

"I said, *Willow,*" Spike began again, more slowly this time, "'I'm only
sorry I can't help him, *Rose.*'"

Willow winced at the words, not wanting to hear them ever again, but now
they were bouncing around in her head like a half-dozen super-charged atoms.
A tear started to slide down her cheek and she hated herself for crying
again. <Wonder if Spike thinks of my tears as a gift just like Angelus
thought of Rose's . . .> she speculated morosely.

Rose. Willow. <*Rose!* *Willow!*>

She sat up straight and looked at Spike, her mouth falling open. "I'm
Willow," she said very seriously, looking him straight in the eye. "I'm not
Rose."

Spike heaved a sigh of relief and let go of her hands to throw his up in the
air. "Finally! Thank the ever-bloody Lord!" he exclaimed. "I was starting
to think I was going to have to draw pictures or something!" He started
laughing, but the sounds soon died on his lips when he noticed Willow wasn't
even smiling. She was still staring at him.

His face fell. "Crikey, love. You aren't going through every conversation
we ever had again are you?"

Willow could only nod.

He turned so he faced her directly. "Let me make it easy. The things I
said during--"

But Willow interrupted him before he could launch into a lengthy
explanation. "Hold on, Buster!" she suddenly said, stabbing at him with a
long finger. "Don't try to make me think you had this planned all
along--the swapping and the ritual and the running back to Galway for a
light show--because I'm not buying it! You meant a lot of the things you
said to me. I saw the way you looked at me, and. . ." she stopped, trying
to find the right words. Only one seemed to fit, so she took a deep breath
and said it. "You *loathed* me. And I'm not even talking about what
happened that night we saw Dru," she added.

Spike ran a hand through his hair in frustration. So much had happened, but
the last thing either of them needed was to rehash every moment of their
relationship right now.

"Willow," he said as softly and sincerely as demonly possible, but he was a
bit out of practice, "I won't apologize for the things I said or did that
night we saw Drusilla. And I won't patronize you by saying that I didn't
mean them. At the bloody time, I meant every word of it. I wanted to hurt
you a bit . . . *needed* to even. I can't explain it any better than to say
when
I saw Drusilla and then lost her again because of you, I snapped. End of
story."

Willow looked at him blankly for a moment. She understood most of what he
said. After all, she'd pretty much come to terms with his reaction after
seeing his Dark Goddess already. But it wasn't enough. There was still the
matter of his behavior the last few days.

"You call that an apology? I already said I understand why you reacted the
way you did to seeing Drusilla. And I kinda understand why you said the
things you did and why you behaved like such a . . . a . . . poophead!" she
said wearily, too drained to even muster a good insult. "And although I'm
not happy about the way you bit me or--or what you said or that you broke my
guitar, I understand. Like I said, I don't care about that! It's what's
happened the last three days that you need to explain to me."

~~~~~

 

Spike sat up a little straighter. He'd thought he was prepared for her all
of her inevitable questions, but instead he found himself going on the
defensive.

"Explain? Explain what? I saved your cute little ungrateful ass! And have
I heard a simple thank you yet? Not bloody likely."

"What?" she exclaimed unbelievingly.

"Listen, Princess. If I hadn't come along when I did, you'd be sitting
there quite dead."

Willow blinked at him.

"Err . . . or lying there, I suppose," the vampire continued. "You know
what I mean! Without me, Angelus would have had his wicked way with you by
now and we'd both be suffering the consequences."

Willow couldn't believe the vampire's gall. His ego was as bad as his
sire's. "So you expect my undying gratitude for everything you've done to
me?"

"Bloody hell, Pet. I don't want your first born or anything. I'd settle
for a simple 'Thank you, Spike. You're my hero!'" he said in a falsetto
voice, batting his eyelashes.

Willow's irritation grew at Spike's casual attitude. "I can't believe you
expect me to thank you for . . . for--"

Spike vaulted to his feet, startling Willow enough that she forgot what she
was saying. "And I can't bloody believe that you are so daft as to not see
what I did for you!" he informed her as he began pacing the length of the
small compartment.

"*For* me? *To* me is more like it!" she retorted, standing up to face
Spike directly. "For starters, you said some horrible things, demeaned me,
and --"

Spike groaned. This wasn't going the way he expected. After all, she was
an intelligent woman. She should've been able to figure it all out by now
with a little thought.

"Oh, come on, Willow! Angelus was standing in the bloody hallway when I
said those things, wasn't he? If you hadn't kept pestering me for an answer
and babbling on about friendship, then I wouldn't have had to say all that,
now would I? And, like I said before, I was saying all of those horrible
things to *Rose*, remember?" he ground out, his patience wearing thin. He
could go on for hours, giving explanations for the various things he'd said
and done, but he felt that he shouldn't have to. "Besides, even if I did
say them to you, Willow, big bloody deal! So I had to hurt your feelings a
little bit in order to save your whiny little bum. You think Angelus would
have made this deal if he thought we sat around giving each other pedicures
and discussing the meaning of life?"

Willow deflated a little. "Well, no . . . but . . ."

"And don't forget William," he reminded her, catching what he thought was a
small spark of understanding in her face and wanting to build on it. "You
know, if I hadn't been there, the younger, less worldly and understanding
version of me would have enjoyed showing you what kind of demon he was.
Kneeing him in the family jewels wasn't very bright when there was nowhere
to go, Red."

"But--but I almost escaped before you stopped me!" Willow declared, drawing
another groan of disbelief from the vampire across from her.

"You think you would've escaped?" Spike scoffed. "You think Angelus would
just let you walk out? Doubtful, Pet. He would have caught you and then
spent then next fortnight reminding you what happens when you disobey him.
And he wouldn't have been using words to punish you like I did, Willow.
Trust me. You got off easy."

Willow frowned and then began gnawing on her lower lip. Easy? It didn't
feel easy. Not only did she have to listen to Spike's hateful comments, she
also had to put up with Angelus's mind games--games that made Willow wonder
what Angelus may have had in mind for her in the original future. <Stop it,
Willow! You'll drive yourself crazy. It was a game . . . all a game . . .
and now it's over! God. . . please let it be over!>

Plunking herself back down on the leather train seat, Willow was silent,
much to Spike's relief. He hoped it was all beginning to sink in now.
Unfortunately, his hopes were shattered when Willow's interrogation
continued.

"But Spike, why did you have to *give* me to him . . . and then pretend that
you were going to save me . . ."

Spike rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you're all boo-hooey about that.
It worked, didn't it? You're free, and without so much as a broken nail
from the experience. And I did try and let you know that it would be over
soon. Not my fault if you're too bloody thick to see through my little
play."

"You tried to let me know? How?" she queried skeptically.

"How?" His disbelief raised his voice to near shouting level. "I said I
wouldn't let them hurt you! I--I squeezed your bloody shoulders as
reassuringly as I could!" Spike ran his hands down his tired face. He just
couldn't seem to get through to her. "Give me a break, Willow. I'm a demon
after all. Playing the white knight doesn't come easy to me. But you're a
bright girl, so I'd thought you'd figure it out." Turning away from her so
that she couldn't see just how close to losing his temper he really was,
Spike banged his head against the interior wall of the compartment a few
times . . . just to calm himself. "I guess next time I'll have to wear a
white hat or something so you won't have so much trouble telling the good
guys from the bad guys," he grumbled. His sarcasm wasn't lost on Willow.

"I don't' think they make a hat big enough for an ego as large as yours.
And you're no John Wayne, Spike. John Wayne never just threw a girl to the
wolves like you did!"

Spike spun around. "That's enough, Willow! Come on! What do I have to do
to get it through that thick skull of yours? This is bloody ridiculous!
Don't you see a pattern yet? It took me awhile, but I came up with a plan,
and I did everything I could to get you out of there before anything too
horrible happened. Sure, I had to change the plan a bit now and then, but I
did the best I could, and if you don't like it, well. . . you can just sit
around and feel sorry for yourself for the next 40 years. I'm getting
pretty used to your childish moods by now!"

"And," he continued before Willow could express her anger, "You're just damn
lucky I think so fast on my feet!"

"Oh yeah," Willow snorted, crossing her arms over her chest in a disgruntled
display. "I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I'm practically betrothed to
Angelus who's going to spend the next 100 years coming up with all sorts of
wonderful ways to spend our honeymoon."

Spike sighed. She just didn't seem to get it. "Why are you even worrying
about that? I already told you, I've no bloody intention of ever allowing
Angelus to show up in Sunnydale. Basically, I gave you to *Angel*, not
Angelus," Spike reminded her, confusing Willow all the more.

She was almost afraid to ask. "Um . . . so?"

The vampire wanted to scream. He just couldn't believe it was taking her so
long to understand. The only thing he could come up with to explain her
behavior was that she must have been even more exhausted than she looked,
which would make her equivalent to the walking dead at that moment. Finding
a long forgotten well of patience somewhere within, Spike tried to spell it
out for her while lightening the mood at the same time.

"We're talking about our Angel here, Willow. Remember the broody bore with
no fashion sense? At most, he'll cry and beg your forgiveness until you're
ready to stake him yourself just to shut him the bloody hell up. Although,
I suppose putting up with brood-vamp is a bit of a torture in itself.
'Course, since the curse won't be in effect, you'll likely have to pry him
from out between the Slayer's legs for that apology."

Willow barely took any notice of his crude comments. She was too busy
rubbing her temples as the dull pressure in her head grew. Spike was right.
. . why hadn't she figured that out before? Maybe the vampire really had
thought this whole thing through. And besides, they were only words, right?
Angelus didn't have any 'real' power over her.

Willow offered him a weak attempt at a smile, hoping it conveyed the
beginning of her understanding. Relieved to see a spark of comprehension in
his companion's face, Spike continued.

"Or he'll pretend it never happened because he won't be sure that it ever
did," he added, totally catching Willow off guard. Her eyes widened; her
brief moment of lucidity was shattered.

"But . . . why would he think it never really happened?"

Spike shrugged. "Because, as I figure it, there's a good bloody chance that
you and I won't even remember it, love. Well, I'll remember bits of it, I
Suppose . . . the 'William' part, but not the rest."

"Y--you think we won't remember? That we'll forget the whole last 100
years?" Willow squeaked. She was beginning to feel like the least
intelligent one in the room, which did nothing to quell her aching head.
Even with Spike's explanations, she couldn't think straight. It was too
much for the weary girl to sort out at one time.

"Maybe, maybe not," he said matter of factly. "If we do, it'll be
confusing. The old future and the new one, the past century, and then
whatever the hell is happening in between while we're gone. I don't know,
love, but I suspect it's a strong possibility."

Willow's face fell. "Oh. I never thought that we wouldn't remember this
whole thing. I guess it would be confusing, especially for you with the old
William and the new William and everything. You're reliving, or um,
re-unliving you old past, but it's the first time for me. It might be
difficult to keep track of."

"Too right. I think we'll all be better off if we don't remember. You
won't have to worry about every little thing that you did . . . like
seducing both me and Angelus," he teased, then went on before she could
express her irritation at his suggestive tone. "Plus, there's the added
bonus of Angel thinking he's insane," Spike said with a satisfied smirk.
"So see? It's not that bad, Red. We just have to get through the next few
decades, and then it'll all be over, and all will be right with the world."

"Yeah . . . um, great . . ." Willow responded absent-mindedly. Between her
headache and utter exhaustion, Willow just couldn't think about it anymore.
She wasn't sure she even wanted to. She looked at Spike and found him
staring at her questioningly.

"I'm going to try and get some sleep now. Too much information makes
Willow's brain go numb. I'll try to make some sense of it all later," she
murmured sleepily as she tried to make herself comfortable on the hard seat.

Spike frowned. Somehow he'd expected her to be a bit more excited with the
thought of putting everything behind her and not having to really deal with
some of the possible consequences. Plus, it was apparently going to take
her awhile to accept what he'd done to free her. Yet, even taking that into
account, in Spike's opinion, something still didn't seem right with the
redhead. He only hoped a good kip was the answer--they were both tired.

"Take your time, Pet," he whispered so softly that he wasn't even sure she'd
even heard him. "I'm not going anywhere." Spike then flopped back down on
the bench across from Willow, stretching out before closing his eyes and
feigning sleep.

Sleep didn't come to Willow either, much to her dismay. Instead she watched
the world go by outside her window. It was hard for her to believe that she
might not even remember this beautiful country when all was said and done.

"Spike . . ." she said in a whisper awhile later.

"Still here," answered Spike, opening his eyes to find Willow still watching
the scenery.

She let out a deep, cleansing breath. "We really screwed-up the timeline
good this time, didn't we?"

Spike smirked. "Willow . . . I've a feeling that by the time we're actually
done and get back to civilization, we'll be bloody lucky if the sky's still
blue."

"Oh well . . ." Willow said in a sigh. "I always thought a purple sky would
be much better anyway."

"Purple?" the blonde vampire snorted. "I was thinking more along the lines
of black or blood red, myself."

"What a surprise," Willow remarked, rolling her eyes.

Relieved to see some of his old Willow and even a ghost of a smile, Spike
flashed her a roguish grin. "What can I say, Pet? Some things never
change."

Willow wanted to laugh. More than anything, she wished everything could be
like it was before--before she had been discovered by Angelus at the poker
game, before she and Spike had happened upon Drusilla on the street, and
even before she and the blonde vampire had shared a bed. She would welcome
another lifetime of the teasing and the sexual tension over a minute of this
awkwardness and doubt. She couldn't go back, though. And even if it were
possible, something deep within her wasn't ready to move on.

Willow closed her eyes, willing herself to relax. Before she finally
succumbed to sleep, she murmured, "I hope you're right, Spike. I hope
you're right."

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