Take Your Time
DISCLAIMER: Most of the characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No copyright infringement intended. A few minor characters of my own making will show up now and then. < > indicate thoughts and/or feelings
"Damn, what the hell am I going to do now!" Spike was talking loudly to himself as he left the inn. He needed to walk and clear his head, and he needed to feed.
"Everything would be all right if you had just done what I said," he told no one in particular as he walked quickly down an unknown street. "I'd be looking for Dru right now and maybe checking out some of the old haunts. But *no,* instead I am stuck here with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm almost a century away from Drusilla even being born." < What *am* I going to do now? >
Spike contemplated this for a while, paying little attention to where his feet were taking him, and he felt his rage growing. He thought back to the night he had tried to kill himself only to be thwarted by the young girl with sickeningly good intentions. < She wouldn't even allow me to kill myself, so why did I expect her to just sit back and wait while I killed Angel. > "Bloody idiot!" Spike yelled at himself as he turned down a deserted side street.
Spotting some empty crates in the alleyway he began picking them up and throwing them around while repeatedly berating Willow and himself with words like "Idiot!" "Stupid girl!" and "Damn!"
As he took his anger out on what was now little more than a pile of splinters, he began to feel some of his anger dissipate. Finally, he took one last great swing with what was left of a crate and smashed it against a brick wall. In his distraught state he didn't notice the ricocheting piece of wood headed straight for him. At the last possible moment his heightened reflexes allowed him to dodge to the side as the stake passed within inches of his neck. It didn't allow him to remain on his feet, however, as the sudden twisting motion caused him to once again fall flat on his back. The vampire lay there in the damp alley, surrounded by shattered pieces of wood that were more than capable of converting his body into ashes, and suddenly he started laughing. It started as a self-pitying "If they could see me now" chuckle, but eventually was replaced by an all-out side-splitting roar of laughter.
Several minutes later, when Spike was able to regain his composure, he picked himself up and brushed himself off. As he left the alleyway before anyone could come to see what all the noise was about, he was still grinning wildly and beginning to feel much better about the whole situation. He now knew he really had no choice. < I will do whatever it takes to get Dru back. Nothing has changed; it's just going to take a little longer. > Spike continued on his way, and once again allowed his thoughts to be brought back to the girl sleeping so trustingly in their room. "Hell," he mumbled to himself.
"Willow's probably in love with Angel, everyone else seems to be-- Dru, Darla, even the bloody slayer. Was this little one also infatuated with the wimpy vampire?" he wondered aloud. < Of course, it would be more interesting if she were in love with the soulless Angelus, but slim chance of that, mate! No matter, if she is in love with either this could be very difficult. > "I wonder what lengths she would go to in order to save his life?"
"Not as far as I'm willing to go to take it," he said cruelly. The evil grin returned to his face when he thought about killing Angel and never letting him know the love of any of these women.
Spike realized now he had been walking for quite awhile and did not have much longer until daybreak. Luckily, he had come to a rougher part of town, where every other building seemed to house a tavern. It was not long before he found what he was looking for. In a dark alleyway he discovered a young man passed out cold from too much drink. It took only a moment to drain him of some blood, although Spike had to admit to himself it was more difficult than he thought it would be to control the bloodlust and not to empty him of his very life. The vampire had already come to the conclusion that, although the likelihood of anything he did here adversely affecting his future with Drusilla was slim, he was not going to take any chances.
He drank enough to satisfy his immediate needs, but it wouldn't fulfill him until the next nightfall. Not when he had to keep control of himself around Willow. It took only a dozen or so more steps to find his next blood donor. < Dessert! > This time it was an older obese man. < Looks like he could stand to lose a few pounds anyway. > He was still awake so Spike snuck easily up behind him and slammed his head into the wall, rendering him unconscious. The man never saw him coming and would think that he had just tripped on his way home.
"Well, that bloody well better make her happy. Didn't kill a soul," Spike grumbled to himself as he headed back. "After two months of this, I'm going to need a busload of nuns."
Willow was still asleep when Spike returned to their room. He stood silently in the corner and just watched her for awhile. He could hear her every breath and every beat of her heart. He could hear the singing sound the blood made as it flowed through her jugular, and it called to him. But still he just stood and watched and listened to the music that was her life. He couldn't remember the last time he watched a living woman sleep without killing her. < I don't think I ever did! > After awhile, Spike finally sank to the floor and drifted off to sleep.
Spike was awakened by knocking. For a moment he wondered who it was and toyed with the idea of killing the culprit immediately until he remembered that he had sent Willow out on some errands first thing that morning.
"Sp . . ., uh, William, could you open the door please? My arms are full."
"Typical, we haven't been in this time for a full day yet, and she probably bought everything in town," Spike said aloud as he open the heavy door of their room.
Willow stood in the dim hallway with her arms full of various paper-wrapped bundles. He didn't offer to help her with the load, choosing instead to just step back out of the doorway.
Willow slid past him trying not to come in direct contact with the vampire's body. She had a lot of time to think while she wandered around town trying to find suitable clothing. She had started to fully realize the ramifications of their little journey, and that there was every possibility that she was going to be here with Spike for a very long time. She had also come to the conclusion that although Spike's needing her alive and 'intact' might be enough to safeguard her virginity, the same could not be said for her sanity. The fate of her future, and that of her friends', was in her hands, and it was a heavy burden that was already beginning to drain some of her energy. But she also knew that in order to ever get home, she was going to have to play along with Spike and hopefully come up with a plan that they could both live with. Just what that plan was, she wasn't sure of yet.
"So, what do we have here, love? Your trousseau?"
She set down her packages and then tossed a heavy cloth purse on the bed, causing several coins to spill out. "I just did what you said. I sold the jewelry you brought with you and bought some clothes."
Spike inspected the money that Willow had received in trade for the jewelry and gems he had stuffed his jacket pockets with before they had left. He wasn't happy about leaving something so important up to her, but few banks and trading houses were open at night. It appeared though that she had done quite well, and they would have enough money to live very comfortably for quite some time. Plus, if necessary, he had additional jewelry as well.
Willow went on, avoiding Spike in the suddenly too small room. "I bought several dresses, plus a few odds and ends. I also bought you some clothes. I, um, I hope that's okay and that they fit because I didn't exactly know your size," she stammered. "But there was another man there who looked like you. Well not like you really because he was alive and everything, but like you physically. You know, kinda thin. Oh, but, a, thin in a good way . . . ." She forced herself into silence and pushed several packages toward him.
< She bought me clothes? No one buys me clothes. Not even Dru. > He just stared at her with a blank expression on his face. Willow didn't notice though, she still had not looked at him and was pretending to busy herself by putting her purchases away. He waited, not moving, for the little slip of a girl to look at him. < Why is she avoiding me all of the sudden? I am tired of this game. >
"Yes Spike?" she answered, trying to sound casual as she shoved some new garments into the armoire.
"Willow," he repeated more strongly.
"Hm?" Willow was now very aware that Spike was watching her every move and becoming impatient with her, but she wasn't ready for the inevitable confrontation that was building between them. < Ignore him Willow! Focus on something else. > She attempted to act nonchalant, unwrapping a nightgown that she bought and was very pleased with. It was a beautifully embroidered, ankle-length white cotton gown with long sleeves. The drawstring neckline was the kind that could be worn off of the shoulders, making it very romantic. Willow had always wanted one of but never had the nerve to buy one.
Luckily, here it was a common style. < I'm going to wear it under my clothes the day we go back! > She knew he was staring at her, but she was determined not to be the first one to give in.
"Look at me Willow!" She ignored his taunt and started folding the nightgown, already embarrassed to have bought it.
As if reading her mind Spike went over and grabbed the garment out of her hand, holding it up. "Not exactly Fredericks of Hollywood, but very you. *Very* virginal."
Willow could feel the crimson creeping into her face, but she wouldn't allow him to get to her. She snatched the garment back and put it in the drawer. "I just did what you said, and I needed something to sleep in. I suppose you expect me to sleep fully dressed around you. But sorry Spike, I'm, um, not afraid of you anymore."
She had intended to sound determined but was afraid she sounded more like a spoiled child trying to stand up to an overbearing parent.
"Really?" he said with a sly smile, his mouth coming very close to the back of her neck.
She took a deep breath. < Come on Willow, if you don't put an end to this now, you will go insane after two weeks from all this sexual innuendo. > She turned to face him and found that he was mere inches from her. The girl looked him straight in the eye, "Yes, really. You want to go home as much as I do. So, I know you won't touch me. I mean, you said it yourself, living, breathing, virgin, remember?" Willow managed to sound less childlike this time.
Spike was surprised by the conviction in her voice, but came to a realization of his own. He knew that if he didn't do something to destroy her budding self-confidence now, he would lose what little control he had over the situation. So he didn't move away from her, instead he leaned even closer. His voice became condescending, "It seems we still have a few things to sort out here, my wife. You say you are no longer afraid of me? You should be. *Very* afraid." He put on his game face before continuing. "Just because I can't kill you it doesn't mean that I won't torture you for awhile, or better yet, feed from you. I think that you would make a perfect little vampire drink machine. I imagine I could drain you almost completely of blood and because of the little *temporary* immortality factor, you'd be all nice and full again the next day. Actually, I rather like the idea of you being my personal blood bank."
Spike let his face return to its human facade and then put on a devilish grin. "So I wouldn't get very comfortable playing house here if I were you," he said menacingly, running a finger along her collarbone.
Willow felt all the color drain from her face when everything the blonde vampire said sunk in. < Wonderful! He wants to treat me like his very own Big Gulp from the 7-11. Free refills! > Suddenly she came to a similar conclusion as Spike. She would have to make a stand now, while she still had an ounce of courage. She grabbed his roaming finger that was threatening to drive her mad.
"No, Spike! Now this time it's your turn to listen." Her voice was raised, but surprisingly calm. "Sure, you are stronger than me, and sure, maybe you are right about the whole, uh, blood regeneration thing, but on the plus side then we wouldn't have to worry about you killing half the town, because you could just . . ." < Oh my God. Did I really just say that? > Willow took a moment to regroup her thoughts then released his finger. "Okay, forget everything I just said. What I meant to say was that we both want to get home, and so we need to work together. And don't think for a second that if you hurt me in anyway, I won't just walk out this door and leave your ass here by itself for the rest of eternity. I, I won't put up with it, and I *can* take care of myself if I have to!" < There! That part went pretty well! > Willow tried unsuccessfully not to wear a self-satisfied smile at the look of surprise on his face. "Take a look at the clothes already. I need to go."
Spike looked at the girl again with an amused look on his face. < This one is full of surprises, mate. You better keep an eye on her. > Finally he opened the packages and inspected the clothes she had purchased for him. They seemed simple and looked about the right size.
"They look fine," he said as he started undressing. "Do you want me to try them on now?"
< I think he enjoys seeing me blush! > Willow turned away again. "No, I need to go anyway so you can have some, uh, privacy."
"Where are you going?" he asked, only because he thought he should.
"Well, because of your elaborate little lie on our arrival, the constable wants me to stop by the jail and fill out a report or something. I figured I might as well play along, for now."
"When did you see the constable?" Spike was now only wearing the pants he had arrived in.
Willow gathered her purse and walked toward the door but not before taking a quick peek at Spike's lithe body. < Better get used to it Willow! >"What? Oh, um, first thing this morning, while innkeeper Fitzsimmon's daughter helped me find my way around," she sputtered.
"We met him in town, so I better get going."
Just as Willow was about to close the door behind her, she stuck her head back around and added with a smirk, "Don't go anywhere while I am gone!"
Willow followed the simple directions that the constable had given her and soon found herself outside a small one-story building with bars on it's few windows. Upon entering she found herself in a small waiting area filled with wooden chairs. A counter took up one side, and a man was sitting at it writing. He looked up when she entered and greeted her with a friendly smile, "Perfect timing Mrs. Smith. I was just getting ready to release last night's guests. Why don't ya take a look at them as they leave, just in case, and then afterward I'll take a description of the man and yer things. Now, I doubt that any of these men are the one who stole yer belongings, but ya never know. Especially since they obviously had enough money to get themselves three sheets to the wind last night," he added with a laugh.
Willow smiled back at the older man, regretting that she had to lie to him. "Thank you for trying to help. I realize that the chance of getting our things back is very slim. I am just glad that my, um, husband had most of our more valuable things on him personally."
"Yes, that is lucky. Now, if ya would just take a seat back here," he said, motioning toward a desk behind the counter. "We will be releasing the men, one at a time. Take a good look at them while we are signing them out, and just let me know if any of them look familiar or if ya need a closer look."
"I will, thank you," Willow replied as she walked around the counter and took a seat. The constable nodded to another man who then walked down a hallway. A few minutes later he was back, leading a middle-aged man who had definitely seen better days.
"Ah, Sean," the constable said to the hung-over man, the pity obvious in his voice. "Here we are again, I see. Why is it that almost every Friday night, ya end up here after picking a fight with someone more sober than yerself?" The constable then snuck a look at Willow, who shook her head subtly.
"It's me wife, you see." the bedraggled man answered. "I get paid on Fridays, and every Friday she tells me that if I spend all me wages on ale, that I better not come home. So, ya see, I am just obey'n her wishes!"
Constable O'Leary laughed at this, and even Willow couldn't help but smile. "Then ya better get home. I imagine that yer wife will punish ya much better than I ever could!"
The other man gave a half-hearted smile, "You never said a truer word!" He then signed a piece of paper and staggered out the door. Before the door had even closed, another man was being led down the hall, this one much younger with long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail.
Willow could smell the alcohol on him even before she was able to get a good look at his face.
"I don't understand why you kept me here in the first place," the young man mumbled. "All I did was have a little too much to drink. Since when is that a crime?"
The constable looked Willow before replying, his voice filled with the patience of a man who had done this a million times before. "The crime wasn't drinking too much, it was when ya vomited on the priest that we thought perhaps you might be safer in here."
The young drunk looked surprised. "Oh, well I guess I should be thank'n you then," and with that he left.
Two more men were brought down the hallway, and each time Willow shook her head freeing them of any suspicion over her missing clothes. They had similar stories to those that had come before, and Willow suspected that each of them would probably end up being guests here again.
"Last one's coming out now, ma'am," the constable told her. "I don't think he's yer man, but he does have a bit of a reputation with the ladies, so ya never know."
Willow took a quick glance at the last man as he stumbled out of the hallway and in to the larger room.
It took a moment for his face to register with her brain. < Angel? > She wasn't completely sure because he looked so different. So healthy. His skin had a sun-kissed glow to it, his cheeks were rosy with life, and his long hair was pulled back as was the fashion. It was also impossible to miss that he was sporting a fresh black eye. Realizing that she was staring, she ripped her eyes away from the living, breathing Angel and forced herself to concentrate on the constable's back, waiting for him to look for her signal. Luckily, she didn't have to wait long, and she subtlety shook her head at his silent question. She was aware now that Angelus was looking at her and smiling, but his attention was brought back to the officer.
"Ya know, Angelus," Constable O'Leary lectured. "One of these days you're going to get yerself killed by an angry husband. There are dozens of beautiful young women in this town who would love to be yer wife and bear ya a litter of children, so why don't ya grow up and settle down?"
Angel's face took on a mischievous grin. "Now where would the fun in that be. I have my whole life ahead of me to settle down. Why should I deprive so many women of the pleasure of my company so soon? You'd have a riot on yer hands," he laughed, then winked at Willow when he knew the other man wasn't watching.
Willow averted her eyes, trying to ignore his obvious attempts at flirtation. < I can't believe this. I did not come back 200 years just to have my best friend's boyfriend flirt with me! >
Angelus signed his name, and with one last smile in Willow's direction, he walked out the front door. Willow let out the breath that she hadn't even realized she had been holding. She knew that she would inevitably run into Angel sometime, but she hadn't been prepared for it so soon. < Okay Willow, you need to avoid him. > It occurred to her now that she may have to figure out a way to save Angel from Spike without having any actual contact with him.
The officer took Willow's statement and a description of the man that had taken her belongings. Willow made it as specific as possible hoping to avoid any unnecessary suspicion toward an innocent man. Willow grinned when she realized the man she described looked exactly like Xander. < I hope Xander is okay! >
Willow was preoccupied when she left the jail. She was trying to decide whether or not to tell Spike about her chance encounter with Angel, when a voice came from behind her, causing her to stop dead in her tracks.
"Now, what would a beautiful lady such as yerself being doin' in a jail?" Willow turned to find Angel regarding her with a roguish smile. "Could it be that ya have been found guilty of stealin' men's hearts?"
Willow couldn't help but smile shyly at his obvious attempt to charm her, but she remained silent, afraid that her voice might betray her. < This isn't the Angel I know, but it's daytime so it isn't soulless Angelus either. Where is cryptic guy? >
Angel continued, casually strolling closer to her. "Or, perhaps someone stole yer voice? I am sure yer sweet sounds would be like gold to many a man."
Willow regained her composure, reminding herself that this was just Angel, her friend. "Isn't this why you were in jail in the first place? Flirting with a married woman?" she asked, waving her ring finger.
"Ah, well, ya see I was right. The voice of a nightingale," he teased, ignoring her question. "So now," he went on as he closed the distance between them.
"Tell me why ya were visitin' with the good constable."
"Uh, if you must know, I had some things stolen from me, and I was giving a description of the man."
"Ah, did ya now? I am sorry to hear that. Nothing of value I hope?"
"Just some of our things. Nothing you need to worry about, but I must be getting back. Spi, uh, William will be waiting for me." Willow turned and began walking toward the inn, but out of the corner of her eye she could see that he was following her.
"William? That would be yer husband then?"
Willow ignored him and kept walking. She needed more time to figure out the possible results of their meeting.
"What kind of husband lets his wife go to a place like that alone? Ya never know what kind of man may be hangin' about."
Willow tried not to give into his baiting, but she had to admit that she almost enjoyed his not-so-subtle attempts to enchant her. "I can take care of myself," she informed him without turning around.
"I am sure ya can, but a true gentlemen would always make sure of a lady's safety, as surely as a lady would at least favor her protector with her name."
They had nearly arrived at the inn now, so Willow turned to face Angel, much to his apparent delight. "Rose. *Mrs.* Rose Smith."
"Well then,*Rose,* it was me honor to escort ya home."
He took her hand and placed a lingering kiss on her ring.
Fearing that he might recognize the ring, she quickly pulled her hand away, which only appeared to please Angel more. When Willow thought perhaps he had taken her actions as a sign that he was affecting her, she felt her cheeks begin to redden. Dismayed, she quickly turned and fled into the inn.
If Willow had bothered turning back, she would have seen Angel watching her every move. "Interesting woman," he said softly to himself. Then he walked back the way they had come, whistling happily to himself.