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
Willow spent the next few days in their room, afraid to venture outside in case she happened across Angelus again. She had left the room only to eat and to catch an occasional glimpse of the sun.
Spike and Willow didn't talk much when they were alone. The first couple of days it was incredibly uncomfortable as they each tried to have some privacy in the small room. She attempted to make small talk at first, but it was met with stony silence or looks that left no question that he was not enjoying their little slumber party. He at least agreed that she needed to avoid Angelus for now, although she suspected that he was more afraid that she would warn him away. The vampire later made sure that Willow knew that the people of Galway would suffer if Angelus should happen to leave town unexpectedly.
When she had gone to the common room that fourth morning for breakfast, she noticed innkeeper Fitzsimmons's wife grinning broadly at her. She brought Willow a pot of tea and toasted bread with butter and jam. "And how are ya young newlyweds today? We scarcely ever see ya so I assume that all is well."
Willow didn't catch on to her innuendo right away, simply replying, "Yes, thank you. We're fine."
"More than fine, I'd say!" The older woman laughed, taking the seat across from Willow. "You two young love birds only seem to leave yer room to eat, and yer husband rarely does that." She sighed deeply, caught up in her own memories. "Ah, I remember when Jon and I were first married. At it like rabbits, we were. Day and night! Scarcely stopped long enough to eat those first few years. Of course, then I got pregnant with Jon Jr., and then Colleen, Mary Margaret, and Ian, so that slowed us down a wee bit, but he can still curl me toes, just like when we were first married." She ended with a wink and stood back up. "I am just bustin' with happiness fer ya both. You are obviously well suited fer each other."
With that she hurried back behind the bar leaving Willow to wallow in embarrassment. After a moment the girl smiled to herself. < Curled her toes? Wow! >
Willow ate her breakfast slowly. She was in no hurry to spend the entire day cooped up with Spike again, but neither was she ready to go out and possibly run into Angelus. She just needed more time to figure out what to do, and then she had to find a way to convince Spike.
As she nursed a cup of tea, she allowed herself to think about Spike and their situation. She had been surprised so far at his reaction. Sure, he had been angry and had made a few threats that he was going to treat her like a pin cushion, but overall it hadn't been too bad. She had expected him to completely lose it, maybe break a few things < Yea! Like my neck! > but so far nothing. In the end she felt guilty, realizing that he probably was taking it out on his meals.
She spent the rest of that day, like the day before it, hiding in her room and trying to decide everyone's fate. Just when she thought she had found a path to the correct future, she would see the hidden dangers in it. Every choice seemed to have fatal flaws, as did the choice not to choose at all. She lay there, staring at the ceiling, trying to decide a way that they could bring about Spike's desired results without killing Angel. Every time Willow thought she found a way to save him another problem would rear its ugly head. Could Buffy defeat the master without Angel's help? What about the Order of Taraka or even Spike and Drusilla? One possibility kept creeping into her mind, no matter how hard she tried to bury it. If she dusted Spike and Darla, it would save Angel and Drusilla and countless others, but she didn't want to kill anybody. < If I kill Spike, I will never get home! > Willow flipped over and buried her face in the pillow to muffle a scream. "I wish I knew the spell so I could just bop Spike over the head and take him back, and end this whole nightmare!"
It was several hours later when Willow finally came to a decision, and she waited for Spike's return to tell him.
Just before dawn he returned to find Willow awake and waiting for him.
"You will be happy to know that no people were killed in the making of my breakfast this morning," Spike told her as he strolled through the door.
"Really?" she said, raising an eyebrow. "How did you ever manage to control yourself?"
He ignored her sarcasm. "Actually, it's easier that I thought it would be not to completely empty these prehistoric potpies of every last drop of blood." Spike threw his arms out to his sides and shouted at the ceiling, "I mean, come on people, it's not like soap and water haven't been invented yet!"
Willow giggled in spite of herself. It was the most he had said to her in over two days.
"I guess I was spoiled after eating all you Americans. I gotta hand it to you people though, I don't understand your bloody politics, or the purpose behind American Football with all that padding they wear, but you keep your necks quite clean!"
< Great! He is in a good mood, good for him anyway. > Willow braced herself and interrupted him quickly. "I have a solution to our little problem, Spike."
"Mmm? Do, tell. I'm all tingly with anticipation," he said straight faced, taking a seat across from her on the bed.
Willow inhaled sharply and then blurted it all out at once. "What we are going to do is this: You will not kill Angel or Angelus, and for this, um, favor I will agree to remain in this past for 50-whatever years to guarantee that William the Bloody is turned, either by Darla or yourself, and that is what we are going to do."
Spike's pursed his lips as he took in what she had said.
"You sound awfully confident, my wee virgin." He pretended to consider her scenario for a moment before smirking. "Sorry to rain on your little girl scout parade, but no. Angel must die, by my hand, remember? Now, since you seem to be incapable of making the correct decision, I will make it for you."
Willow became nervous as a familiar evil grin returned to his face. "I do like part of your plan though, and I am delighted that you are happy to stay awhile, because that is exactly what we are going to do. I will kill Angel, although I have yet to decide just how, and then I will take care of my own changing."
"You know," he continued, "I haven't used a spike in a long time, and with it being my namesake and all, I thought perhaps I would give it a shot again, for old times' sake. I may be a little rusty though, so it could take a while for him to actually die!" He was practically giddy with the excitement of planning his nemesis's death.
"Spike, just give me a chance. Please?" she asked, trying unsuccessfully to hide her eagerness. When he didn't continue with his graphic description of how he was going to kill Angel, she went on. "Think about it.
If Angel isn't vamped, then all your problems are solved, well except that whole thing about him being your sire and everything, but we can work around that.
Consider the possibilities! You could change Dru yourself and, uh, maybe if you didn't torture her the way Angel did she wouldn't be so, um, sanity challenged."
Spike quietly stood up and faced the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.
Willow wasn't sure whether or not to go on. She didn't want to push him too hard and run the risk of making him angry. < Come on Willow, don't wimp out now! > She went to Spike's side and stood closely to him.
His eyes flashed a warning to her, but she could tell that he was thinking about it. All the possibilities were running through his mind now. "Spike," she said meekly. "She will never even know Angelus, and you won't have to worry about them again. You won't have to wonder if she is thinking about him when she is with you!. Personally, I think that's a pretty good deal."
Spike's hands flew out and grabbed her by the shoulders, "Watch it little one!" he growled at her. "I am not some simple schoolboy who can't see through your obvious attempts to get what you want!"
He let go of her and shoved her away roughly, suddenly confused by her ideas. He studied her face for a moment, trying to figure out what she was really up to. "But what about, 'We need Angel to save out pathetic skins from the Master', and all that other crap?" < Oh, why did he have to ask that? > "I have figured out a way around that, I hope."
"Willow, enough of all the cloak and daggers, just tell me the whole scenario."
"I'd rather not, if you don't mind. You will just have to trust me because I don't want to go through all this for nothing!" She had decided it was best not to let him know that she hoped to contact the current watcher and explain things to him. Willow was going to try to use the prophecies to their advantage. If she handled everything properly, she could turn the experiences that she had at the Hellmouth into prophecies, and the result would be that Buffy and the Slayerettes would be well prepared for the upcoming events.
Spike just shrugged. He didn't really care whether or not she had a plan for the future, but he was still surprised that she would take these kinds of chances.
"And what about Buffy and Angel? Are you going to keep the Hellmouth's version of Romeo and Juliet apart?"
Willow chewed on her lower lip. This was the hardest part for her. She hated the thought of taking Angel away from Buffy, but she also thought that this was what Buffy would want her to do. Angel could have the normal life here that Darla had taken away from him, and countless lives would be saved. Willow had to continually remind herself that Buffy wouldn't miss him in her new future because she would never have the chance to meet him. The girl despised having to make this decision, and she knew she would probably feel guilty about it for the rest of her life, but she pushed that thought to the back of her mind. Willow had made her choice, and now she needed to be strong.
"What does it matter?" she said coldly. " If you kill him they won't be together. Not much of a choice. But, if you can think of a way to keep Angelus out of Dru's life and let Angel and Buffy be together then I'd love to hear it. Although, I never really thought of you as the cupid type!"
"I don't give a damn about those two," he said as he slowly approached her. " I just can't figure out what is going on in that sweet little head of yours."
"You'll just have to trust me, and in about 50 years you will find out when we go home. And, um, there *is* one more thing. If you even touch Angelus, to kill him, or vamp him, or, or whatever, I will leave, and not only will you be stuck here all alone, but I will make sure that you never get a chance to meet Dru. No matter what it takes! Understand?"
"Are you threatening me, love?"
"I hope so. I am kinda new at this whole intimidation thing."
Spike closed in on Willow, wearing his best sneer. Willow prepared herself for his wrath, but "I'm going to get some sleep," was all he said.
Willow was confused. "But, what about . . ."
"I *need* to sleep," he repeated and began taking off his clothes, knowing that not only would that shut her up, but she would probably leave the room as well.
"I'll go get some breakfast," she mumbled when Spike was down to just his pants. "You know, that's not very fair. Maybe when I want some privacy I'll just start taking off my clothes too!"
Instantly she realized how stupid that had sounded, and she prepared herself for some sort of sexual retort from Spike.
He watched the young girl as she rolled her eyes in disgust at her own words. "Darling, if you ever need help taking off your clothes all you have to do is ask, but I can't guarantee that I would give you any privacy!" he laughed as Willow shut the door behind her.
Spike sat on the bed and considered everything that she had said and weighed his options. He wondered whether she would follow through on her threat to leave. "Damn!" he shouted at the walls. "I bet that red-haired little nymph would go through with it too!" Now it was Spike's turn to agonize over choices.
Willow wandered down the hall toward the inn's common room to have some breakfast. She was still a little edgy from her discussion with Spike, and she wondered if he would agree. "If he doesn't," she said quietly to herself, "I will have to live up to my threat and leave town on my own." Her stomach tightened at the thought of being alone for so long. "Don't think about it Willow! He will see that I am right." < God, please let him agree! >
Willow took her usual seat at a table in the corner, and had just started to pour some tea when a voice caused her to look up.
"Ah, ya see now, I knew ya weren't a dream."
Angel was standing before her, looking every ounce the handsome rogue, and for a moment the sight of him took her breath away. "Good morning Angel-us," she finally managed.
The young Irishman was pleasantly surprised that she remembered his name. "Mornin', Rose. I was begin'in to wonder if ya really existed. I have spent hours wanderin' by this place, hopin' to see ya again." He sat down across from her without waiting for an invitation.
"I was. William is, uh, busy this morning."
"Well, we can't have a beautiful woman dinnin' alone, now can we?"
Willow discovered that she was becoming nervous around Angel. < Don't be stupid Willow, it's just Angel! > But as she sat across from him, she found herself studying his face and the smile that seemed to come so naturally to him. Sometimes she thought that she could have counted the times she saw Angel really smile on one hand. It was already becoming too easy to think of him as someone else. Willow noticed he was grinning at her with an oddly-pleased look on his face.
"I'm sorry," Willow said quietly. "I'm staring, aren't I? You just remind me of someone I knew back in America, except you're a little, um, liv elier."
"An old boyfriend perhaps?" he teased, grinning broadly.< He has a gorgeous smile. I don't remember ever seeing Angel smile like that at me before. > "Yes. My best friend's boyfriend, to be exact."
"Ya must be missin' yer home, family and friends, then?"
He watched as the young woman's face darkened, and she nodded her agreement. Angelus instantly regretted making her sad and had a strong desire to see her smile again.
"Angelus!" Mrs. Fitzsimmons' voice b oomed from behind the bar. "Ya need to be leav'n *Mrs.* Smith alone. She's a happily married woman, and the last thing she needs is a scoundrel like you botherin' her!"
Willow opened her mouth to try to explain herself, but before she could get the words out Angelus was on his feet. He sauntered over to the harried woman, wearing what Willow guessed was his most charming smile. "Now, there is no need to be jealous Caroline. Ya know that you will always be first in me heart, and if ya ever choose to leave that husband of yers, ya know where to find me."
Willow was surprised to see the older woman's face begin to redden before she shooed Angel away with a bar towel.
"Enough of yer sweet talk, young man."
Then her face became serious again, and her voice softened, "Now ya just be mindin' yer manners around our Rose. She's a lady and doesn't have much experience around men of yer kind Angelus."
He returned to Willow's table and gave her a reassuring wink. "Don't ya worry about our Rose. I have a feelin' she's very used to fending off advances from admiring suitors, whether wanted or unwanted."
Willow tried not to smile at his words but found it impossible under his provocative gaze. She gestured to the tea which he refused with a shake of his head.
< Change the subject Willow! > "So, tell me about yourself Angelus," she managed in a poised manner.
"Me? Not much to tell, really. I would much rather talk about you."
"I am sure you would," she teased. "But that is not going to happen right now, so we might as well talk about you." Willow's eyes sparkled. She loved turning the tables on him, and Willow could have sworn that she saw him squirm, just slightly!
Angelus threw his hands up in the air in surrender.
"Alright! You win!" he chuckled, and then he began to tell Willow about his family and his early youth in Galway. He slowly wove a tale filled with both humorous anecdotes and touching images of his life in this beautiful town on the bay. Willow knew that he was being very selective in what he chose to tell her, making sure that he never truly let her see the real man, but she didn't push him. < Everyone has secrets it seems. >
Instead, she listened attentively as he painted a portrait of a wonderful and happy childhood with a loving family. She couldn't help but notice he only mentioned his father in passing, while doting on his mother and two sisters. Willow listened to his lilting voice, enveloped in its warmth and captivated by the visions it created, and as he talked, she found herself studying him, memorizing every line of his face and every gesture he made. < Geez he is gorgeous! Ooh, bad Willow! >
As he spoke, Angelus couldn't help but stare at the beautiful red-haired woman across from him. She was so different from the other young women in this town. She looked so small and fragile and innocent at first, but when he looked into her eyes he caught glimpses of a mysterious woman who was both vivacious and intelligent, and yet had something to hide. When he looked deeper he also saw pain, but he couldn't tell where it came from. < What is she trying to keep from me? > He found himself telling her more than he had planned, but he managed to keep the more difficult parts of his life private. He also started wondering about her childhood, and her life before she came here, but mostly he wondered what her husband was like. < I hope he realizes what a lucky man he is. Or, is he the cause of her pain? >
As Willow continued to listen, almost hypnotized by Angelus's lilting voice, something began to tickle at the back of her mind. For every difference that she could find between Buffy's Angel and the one before her, she could find a similarity between the soulless Angelus and this prevamp one. She pushed the thoughts back down, not wanting them to bubble up and ruin the first time she had enjoyed herself since their arrival.
When Angel finally finished, they sat quietly for a while, each lost in their own thoughts. Willow smiled warmly at him and saw her joy repeated in Angel's face.
She found herself wanting to run her fingers through his long hair and wondering if his lips were as soft as they appeared. < Oh no, Willow. You have to put a stop to this now, before it's too late for both of you! After all, this is Buffy's Angel. > She was ashamed that she could be so easily drawn in by his beguiling words and sensual smiles. < Dammit Spike! This is all your fault! >
Purposely Willow allowed herself draw the parallels that only moments before be she had struggled to ignore. In Sunnydale, his every action after losing his soul was designed to torture Buffy. He had attempted to orchestrate her demise by torturing and murdering her friends, as well as sadistically using Buffy's feelings for Angel to torment the slayer emotionally. And now, here he was, soul and all, seemingly pursuing her in the same calculating manner. < And you are eating it up, Willow. >
Willow let her shame build into a slow-burning anger, and she purposely began to add fuel to the fire by tossing on all of her pent-up anger and frustration from the last few days. Her anger at Spike for dragging her here and making so many lives depend upon her, her frustration for not being stronger and willing to do whatever it would take to make things right, and even her new-found self-loathing when she realized that she enjoyed Angelus's flirtations and the way it made her feel. Lastly, she added the guilt. Her guilt for betraying Oz and Buffy, if even for only a split second in her mind, was like gasoline on the fire, and it burned with a white-hot intensity that helped her to do what she now knew she had to do. She chose her words carefully.
"Angelus, why do you seem to make it a point to flirt with a married woman?"
His smile became a little cocky, but he noticed a tone in her voice that he hadn't heard before. < I have done something to make her angry. >
"Is it possible that you know married women are safe, and that you will never have to follow through with the promises that your eyes and every word so easily give?"
Angel sat back in his chair, confusion creeping into his mind. He didn't understand where her sudden coldness had come from. "Rose, I never meant ...."
"Stop!" Willow demanded, forcing herself to finish what she had started. "I know, you never *mean* to lead women on. Well, I don't believe that for a moment. Every word that comes out of your mouth is designed for seduction. But, you know what? I am not some toy that you can take away from another man once in a while just to boost your, uh, your ego!" < Ooh! Buffy would have liked that one. Oprah too! >
The smile was now completely gone from his face and for an instant Willow saw the dark, brooding, and regretful man that she knew from home-- more fuel for the fire.
< What's an ego? > "Rose, I'm sure that if ya just got to know me a little better ..."
" I already know you, better than you think. Your kind are always looking for something better, more exciting, never seeing what is right in front of you. < Ouch, Willow! Was that meant for Angel or Xander, or maybe a little of both? > You better be careful, Angel, or that craving for excitement of yours is likely to get you killed, or, or worse!" < Oh no, I called him Angel! Maybe he didn't notice. >
"Now, if you don't mind, I would like to have my breakfast in peace, without being stared at like I'm a piece of meat."
Angel stood up, still reeling from the bitterness in her voice and at a rare loss for words. He looked into her eyes and momentarily saw the woman that had caught his attention a few days earlier. The woman who seemed to be in a constant state of awe at life, but then her mask quickly went back up, and he saw only a cold facade.
When Willow wouldn't hold his gaze, he said softly, "I'm sorry, Rose," and left.
When she was sure he was gone, Willow picked up her tea cup trying to occupy herself, but she had to quickly set it back down because her hands were shaking. "I'm sorry, Angel," she whispered. "But this will be easier on everyone if we don't get too close, no matter what Spike decides." < I have a feeling this is going to be a long and lonely life. >