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 stared at the cards in her hand and occasionally stole a covert glance at her companion and tried not to smile. She had begun to look forward to their daily game of poker lately. Spike wasn't the most patient teacher at first, but when he realized that she had honestly wanted to learn to play well, his mood had lightened. Sometimes when she was with him, she would go for hours without thinking of him as a vampire. He was becoming a person to her now, and she liked that. And as a result, she was finally able to relax around him. Friendship was probably too strong a word at this point for their relationship, but she thought that even he would admit to a growing sense of camaraderie between them, seasoned with a large helping of sexual tension, of course.
Another reason she enjoyed this time together was that Spike was more likely to open up to her while they were playing, and she was often able to worm information out of him. Not that she tricked him in anyway. He told her only as much as he wanted, but it was more than he usually said. Over cards she learned in detail about the events that took place that night in the mansion with Acathla, Buffy, and Angel. He told Willow all about his little truce with the slayer, and that that was what had hurt Dru the most. She also learned a little more about the blonde vampire's past before his changing, including that he was orphaned at a young age and basically raised himself on the streets of Manchester and London before joining the military. And of course there were many stories about his years with Angelus, Darla, and Dru; and Willow took the opportunity to memorize the dates and any important information, just in case. < You never know when this stuff may come in handy! >
"I met Angel's family the other day," Willow told Spike and watched for his reaction.
Spike looked at her and pursed his lips. "Why?"
"I was invited for tea, well, actually, we were invited for tea, but I respectfully declined on your behalf. Hope that was okay." Willow said as she stared at the cards in her hand.
"Oh! I missed tea and crumpets with Cleavers? My feelings are hurt! Oh, that's right, I don't have any feelings. So, how's the family?"
"Well, I didn't meet his father because he was in another county looking at horses, but his little sisters are adorable. His mother is a beautiful woman as well, but I don't really think she likes me very much."
"Why are you surprised? They are a God-fearing Catholic family and her only son is falling in love with a married woman. Now, if they only knew the rest of the story they would probably have an exorcism done in your honor."
"Angel is not in love with me! We are just friends, and besides, he loves Buffy, or at least he will, or would have. And...and I don't love him either. I still love Oz!" Willow gifted the sneering vampire with a dirty look and concentrated on her cards again.
"Whatever, Red. The point is, you need to be careful. No matter what act he is managing to pull right now to convince you that his intentions are good, somewhere deep inside he is still the Angelus we all love to hate. You can't tell me that he was a perfect angel before he met Darla. There must have already been something there before."
Willow didn't want to hear this and tried to find a way to change the subject. Finally, she decided that the best defense was a good offense < I knew tutoring those bonehead football players would come in handy! > "I think someone's jealous," Willow teased in a sing-song voice.
"Hardly! And why would I be jealous? We have the perfect marriage!" the vampire smirked as he leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the table. "You don't have to cook, I'm never around, I let you spend all the time you want with another man, and, although it is hardly a benefit, no shagging." Spike raised his eyebrows cockily and put his arms behind his head.
Willow laughed, "You think this is easy? I never know where you are at night, or whether you are ashes in an alley somewhere. You never take me out to eat or bring me flowers anymore. The romance is definitely *dead* in this relationship!" Willow ended with an overly dramatic sigh.
Spike thought for a moment and then abruptly stood up. Willow was wondering if he had misunderstood her little joke, then he held his hand out to her in a gentlemanly manner. "Shall we go for a little stroll? It's been awhile since we made a public appearance together, and the sun is just about to set."
She warily took his outstretched hand. "I could use some fresh air anyway, and it looks like a beautiful night."
Willow and Spike strolled casually in to town, side by side. She couldn't help but glance at him every once in awhile, and she noticed that he did the same. It was a warm, cloudless evening, and there were a large number of people out wandering the streets. Willow was surprised at how many she actually recognized and who said hello to her. Quite a few people seemed to know Spike as well and wished 'William' a good evening.
"Quite the popular couple, aren't we?" Spike snickered. "Funny, Dru and I used to play this little game where we would stroll the streets at night, looking like any other happy couple. Then, whoever was the first to wish us a good evening, we would have for dinner. It was just one of those cute little things that couples do."
"How romantic," she commented with only a hint of sarcasm. Then Willow looked up and noticed the moon. "Full moon," Willow said wistfully. "If we were home right now, I would be locking up Oz, and he'd be all howly and growling at me. I'd be reading "Call of the Wild" to him, or maybe checking the tranquilizer gun to make sure it's ready."
They both sighed simultaneously.
"I miss him."
"Damn, I miss her." Their voices echoed in unison as they lamented their current situation.
They stopped walking and looked at each other for a moment, both smirking at each other's idea of a romantic evening. They sat by a fountain in the middle of town, lost in their own thoughts. After a while, Willow began to chuckle softly to herself. "How pathetic are we?"
"You're right, you know," Spike agreed, jumping back to his feet. "Sometimes I make myself want to heave! I may just have to kill myself again."
"No way!" Willow retorted. "That is what got us in this mess in the first place, and if I am stuck here then so are you!"
He grinned for a moment and absently looked for somewhere to put his hands in his coat. "I miss my leather duster," he said, becoming irritated. "It had great pockets, you know? I looked damned good in it too, plus it lent me an air of mystery. While this horrid thing," he said, indicating the brown colonial-like jacket he wore like every other man around, "just makes look like a husband!"
"Is that so bad?" Willow teased.
"For any other man or vampire it would be bad enough, but for me it is a fate worse than life," he joked. Then he stopped and turned to face her, looking very serious. "Willow, tell me the truth."
Willow nodded, wondering what was suddenly bothering him so much.
"Does this coat make me look fat?" he deadpanned, pretending to suck in his stomach and check his appearance in a mirror.
Willow burst out in a laugh loud enough to catch the attention of passersby. He had caught her totally of guard, and she was laughing so hard that the only retaliation she could manage was a sharp elbow to his gut when he sat back down beside her. When she was finally able to keep it to a quiet giggle, she looked at him with tear-stained cheeks. "I will get you for that one Spike, when you least expect it!"
Spike didn't know why he did that. It was uncharacteristic of him to make a joke that wasn't at the expense of someone else, but he liked to see her laugh almost as much as enjoyed seeing her angry, and they both needed to get out of their melancholy moods. "I'll be waiting with bated breath," he half-smiled in return, obviously pleased with himself. Slowly, their conversation turned to making plans for the next few decades.
Angelus was just about enter a pub with several friends when he spotted her. The moonlight bouncing off of her auburn tresses had captured his attention. He told the others he would catch up with them in a minute.
"Somethin' wrong Angelus?" his friend Colin asked, trying to figure out what he was staring at.
When he didn't respond right away, Colin followed his gaze to a young woman in the square. "Ah, is that the lass that has ya so preoccupied lately? And the man with her would be?"
"Her husband," Angel admitted reluctantly.
"I should have known. Angelus, I warned ya that one of these days ya would actually fall for a taken woman."
"I haven't fallen for anyone, Colin," he protested loudly. Then under his breath, "Not yet anyway."
"Come on Angelus, I'll buy ya a pint and ya can drown yer sorrows. Besides, there are plenty of beautiful *unattached* women inside waitin' for the pleasure of our company!"
He took one last look at the couple talking by the fountain and fought the temptation to go over there. < I just want to see what he looks like. I need to see the way they look at each other! > At that moment he saw her face explode into a huge smile, but it was her laughter ringing across the square that caused him to look away. "It's goin' to take more than a pint tonight, Colin," Angel said as he opened the door. "And possibly more than one woman as well!"
Slapping his friend on the shoulder, Colin said, "Well then, let's just see how many more!"
They had been sitting by the fountain for several hours, just talking, when Spike finally said, "Well, my wife. I am getting hungry so why don't we get you home?"
Willow's face fell a little, for a short time again she had forgotten what Spike was. "That's okay, William," she said as she stood. "I can find my own way home. You must be starving by now anyway."
"If you're sure?" the vampire said, already taking steps away from her. "Goodnight, Rose," he called to her after she started back toward the cottage they shared. He wanted to call out to her to be careful, but to do so would be to admit to himself that he cared about her welfare, so he hurried in the opposite direction.
Willow wasn't nervous about walking home alone because it was still early and there were many people about. She was only a few blocks from home when she heard footsteps close behind her. She knew it wasn't Spike because he barely made a sound when he walked, so as they grew nearer she readied herself for an attack, quickly reviewing Giles's self-defense lessons. When the steps seemed to be directly behind her, the once-substitute slayer spun around suddenly and delivered a powerful fist to her would-be accoster's stomach.
Angelus fell back on his butt, holding his aching stomach but already laughing at the situation. "Remind me never to sneak up on ya again, Rose. Ya got yerself one helluva punch."
"Angelus!" Willow cried in embarrassment and helped him to his feet. "I am so sorry. I just heard someone following me, and..."
"Now, I have to be wonderin' where ya learned to hit a man like that?" the Irishman interrupted.
Willow smiled, a little pleased that she was able to knock a grown man down. "I told you before I kinda grew up in a rough neighborhood. A girl has to be able to look after herself. < And stake a demon or two! >
Angelus was still chuckling when she started walking toward home again, and he walked beside her, occasionally putting his hand on the small of her back to guide her. "Wait a minute," Willow said suddenly, and Angelus's hand snapped back to his side. "Were you following me?" she asked, already missing the weight of his hand against her spine.
"I was in a pub and saw ya and yer husband sittin' by the fountain this evenin'." His voiced turned bitter and angry. "Then the next thing I knew, he was walkin' one way and ya the other. I'm sorry, Rose, but a true gentleman would escort his lady home! I don't understand why he let ya go alone at night!"
Willow was touched by his concern for her safety and she reached out and squeezed his hand for a moment. When his eyes met hers she suddenly became flustered and released his hand. "Well, as you can see," she said in a rush. "I really can take care of myself, and William knows that."
Angel nodded his head grudgingly and teetered a little unsteadily on his feet as they started walking again. His misstep was not lost on Willow.
"Are you drunk?" she asked, trying hard not to sound like she was nagging.
"Just a little," he replied lightly. "By all rights I should be a lot drunker, but I knew ya wouldn't like it."
"I don't understand."
"Rose, I need to apologize to ya for the other night."
< Oh no, he is going to apologize for when I almost kissed him. How embarrassing! > "Oh? For what?" she asked coyly.
"For puttin' yer life in danger. I should have been watchin' the weather more closely. There is no excuse for not gettin' ya home before that fog set in. If anythin' had happened to ya..."
"Shhh... Angelus. It's okay. I am fine and *nothing happened*." Willow finally admitted to herself that she wish something had happened that night, but they were better off that it didn't. "Now, I think you better be heading for home yourself. Will you be alright?"
He stared at her, standing in front of the cottage that she shared with another man, and thought she had never looked more beautiful. The moon brought out the best in her. Her hair was luminous and her eyes twinkled like the stars. < Damn it man, get out of here before ya do somethin' stupid, like kiss her! > "I'll be fine, Rose. Don't ya worry about me." He turned and took several paces away bef ore turning back once more. "See ya tomorrow?"
"Sure! Goodnight, Angel us." Willow watched until he turned a corner and was out of sight before she went inside.
It took her hours to fall asleep that night. All the feelings she had tried to suppress were screaming for attention. She loved Oz, that she knew, but she also was beginning to feel something very deep for Angelus as well. She didn't know if it was love, but she yearned to be with him and to be in his arms again. She craved the warmth and safety she felt that night when she rode in his arms. < Lust, Willow! That's all it is. You are in lust with your bestfriend's never-to-be boyfriend! > And as if that wasn't confusing enough, there was Spike. At least she wasn't falling in love with him. No, that wasn't the problem. But she did care about him and enjoyed his company. The dilemma was that he was the enemy, wasn't he? She was consorting with the enemy and enjoying it. Sure, she had little choice in the matter, but their relationship had gone past just putting up with one another. She felt that they actually appreciated and looked forward to spending time with each other. When she finally fell asleep, she dreamed of home. The way it used to be.