Take Your Time ~ Chapter 16

Spike entered the pub cautiously. His eyes quickly scanned the clientele, making sure that not only was Angelus not there, but also that his human self wasn't there. The blonde vampire didn't think he had ever been in this particular drinking establishment before when he was alive, but he couldn't be sure. Seeing no sign of William the Bloody or the other vampire, Spike took a seat at the bar.

While Spike waited for the barkeep's attention, he considered the two women who were constantly in his thoughts. He had contemplated his relationship with Dru a great deal after Willow had labeled it merely an obsession and refused to believe that what he felt for Drusilla was anything but true love. From the moment Spike saw her, blood still dripping from the puncture wounds on her neck, he wanted her. At first it was purely a lust thing as her virgin blood called out to him, but that didn't last long since her life was not the only thing that Angelus took from her. The younger vampire watched her blossom into a beautiful, merciless, and cold-blooded killer, and as she quickly came to her own in their dark world, William fell in love with her. Drusilla, on the other hand, was far too busy with Angelus to notice him, and, at that point, Spike would never have betrayed Angelus. It was not until after their sire had left to wander Europe on his own for a while that they became close.

The blonde demon remembered with great fondness how he had tied the raven-haired beauty up, tortured her a little, already hearing from Angelus that she liked a good teasing, until she returned his affections. It was quite a whirlwind courtship, and from that point on they had been inseparable. Every time he thought about those early nights Spike found himself grinning from pale ear to pale ear. Then the smile would fade because sometimes he missed her so much it was painful, and not the good kind of pain either. He would deaden the ache by getting more than a little drunk and reminding himself that they would be together again soon.

So, *no,* it was not obsession he decided. It was love, at least for a vampire it was. But, Willow was right about one thing, he had finally admitted to himself. His quest to get Drusilla back did border a bit on being obsessive. Changing history to bring back a dead love was a tad radical and not his usual way of handling loss, not his style really. Nevertheless, if he had to, Spike knew he would do it again. <I would just have to handle Willow a little differently next time!> he informed himself. <I completely underestimated her.> It never even occurred to him that if he had a chance to do it all again, not to include Willow along on his little journey.

Willow. The fiery redhead was a mystery to him, more than Dru ever was. Drusilla was easy to figure out in comparison. The beautiful vampire always wanted constant attention from every man or demon in sight. Dru liked to be teased, a spot of mutual bloodletting here and there, and someone to take care of her. Sure, she liked to come off as a strong, modern vampiress that needed to be in control, but inside she wanted to be coddled like a baby. What she wanted was to be treated like a princess and Spike was more than happy to oblige.

But Willow was more difficult to understand. Unlike Drusilla, she was strong on the inside, where it counted. She was stubborn, opinionated, and never wanted to be given anything; she wanted to earn it. And, in spite of what Spike had said to her before, some of his favorite memories were of trying to teach her how to cheat at cards. The girl seemed so sweet and innocent and yet took a great deal of delight at the thought of lying and getting away with it. Her face would light up any time she was actually able to dupe the vampire or call his bluff.

Spike finally admitted to himself that he missed his time-traveling companion. He missed the way she blushed whenever he stared at her and the way she stammered and babbled if she got really flustered. He longed to tease her and watch her furrow her brow as she tried to think of a comeback. True, she had changed during their years apart, but he thought he could bring the old Willow back and they could be happy again. All he needed was time, and that they had in abundance.

Lastly, he remembered how she tasted, how her skin felt beneath his lips. He had never planned to feed from her, but he still felt his actions were necessary in order to stop a bad situation from spiraling out of control. Nevertheless he liked it. No, he loved it and craved it. Her beauty and intelligence, passion and innocence combined to make a most potent and heady elixir, and every drop he had had since paled in comparison. Even as he admitted it to himself, he knew he would never know her delectable essence again.

"What can I get ya?" a deep voice asked, bringing Spike out of his reverie. He lifted his head out of his hands and looked at the older man. "Pint of bitter and *Rose,* please."

The tavern owner didn't even blink. He started pouring the dark liquid before telling the vampire, "We don't sell roses, 'ere. This is a pub, not a bloomin' flower shop!"

Spike stared coldly at him, but kept his tone very civil. "I *know* Rose lives and works here. I would like to speak with her, if you would be so kind as to let her know that I am here."

The man slammed the glass down in front of him. "And just who the 'ell might you be?"

"Her husband, William. Tell her that her husband is here to see her." Spike enjoyed the look of shock that possessed the barkeep's face.

"She said you were dead," he said, eyeing the blonde stranger suspiciously.

Spike smirked as a thousand one-liners crossed his mind all at once, but he restrained himself. "Just tell her William is here," he said firmly and got up to take a seat at an empty and private table in the corner.

The older man finally nodded and walked to the back.

***

Willow sat on her bed, trying to gather her courage before facing Spike again. She wasn't frightened to be with him, but she needed strength to maintain her convictions. It would be too easy to fall back into the old ways. The ageless redhead knew that she could simply choose to team back up with Spike for the time that they had left in this past. Then she wouldn't have to spend those days alone. It was incredibly tempting, and a large part of her desperately wanted things between them to be like they were in Ireland, but Willow just couldn't trust him again.

Willow had done a lot of thinking since their talk the other night, and she had to admit to herself that a lot of the things that he had said were true. His biting her probably had saved her from a worse fate at the hands of Angelus or Darla, and she knew deep down that if the blonde vampire hadn't come along when he did, there was no way of knowing what could have happened. She was also starting to realize that she couldn't hold herself responsible for fixing all the wrongs of the world. Nothing that had happened was her fault, and it would have occurred whether she was there or not. Of course, Willow had hoped to avoid Angelus's being turned with Spike's help, but the vampire had had other plans. Sure, the reason for this whole adventure was just a twisted revenge plot of Spike's and an attempt to have the love of his life back. Nevertheless, Willow knew that in some ways the blonde demon was right. The only way to be sure that he would get the Drusilla he fell in love with back was to follow the past as closely as possible. Plus, a nagging feeling was always with the once-hacker that she too might be capable of such a deception in order to bring back a loved one. Would she put limits on what she would do to save Oz or Buffy? <Look at what I have already done just to save Xander!> she reminded herself.

It was the lies that she couldn't get past. Willow could almost understand why he thought they were necessary. She had, on several occasions, threatened to either leave Spike or make sure that he never met Dru if he ever hurt Angelus. So, maybe in some ways she had forced his hand. She just didn't know what to think anymore, and it wasn't easy to give up all of the guilt and resentment when they had been her only companions for a very long time.

With a soul-rattling sigh, she pulled her weary body to its feet and looked in the mirror. The petite redhead almost recognized the woman in the mirror. It was almost as if under all the layers of pain that she wore like makeup, underneath was the Willow she wanted to be again. She closed her green eyes and let herself remember the happy times, memories that she had locked away during her nightmarish ride from Galway. When she opened them, she could see that a few more layers had fallen away, and a little more of the girl she once was shone through. She wasn't ready to forgive him, though, not for all of the lies or for her ability to trust that died that night along with Angelus. However, she was ready to put some of her bitterness aside for now, so that someday the former hacker could return to those that she once loved and trusted. Someday she would be able to look in the mirror again and smile at herself.

Willow finished composing herself and grabbed a shawl before she went down.

*****

By the time she entered the main pub, the news had traveled around the patrons that the blonde stranger was Rose's long-lost husband. The smoky room was full of regulars, almost all of which knew Rose from the many daylight hours they spent there, and all of them were watching Spike. Even George and Simon, who were sitting at the table next to him, examined him with overprotective eyes. The young-looking barmaid had told them little about her past and when pressed had only said that her husband had died. While it was the truth, Willow had no idea how she was going to explain his sudden reappearance in her life.

Spike could feel their eyes boring into him, but with the patience that can only come from living for centuries, he ignored them. His gaze found Willow's when she finally entered the room, and instantly everyone's focus shifted to her. She hesitated for only a moment before walking up to her 'husband', but she could feel her cheeks reddening from all of the attention. "William," she said coolly. There wasn't going to be any pretense of a loving couple this time. That playfulness was long gone.

"It's time, Rose," he told her calmly. Spike tried to read her mood, but her face was expressionless.

Willow simply nodded, knowing that tonight was the night that William the Bloody would be vamped by Angelus.

"I thought you might like to tag along and see what your favorite night stalker was like before, that is if everything happens as it did in the past."

"And if it doesn't?" Willow asked quietly and sat down across from him, still aware that they were being watched. She decided not to inform Spike at this time that she had already had the 'pleasure' of meeting William.

"I'll do what I have to do," he said with a shrug, obviously not too worried about it. "But we have some time so I thought maybe we could play a little game," he told her with a sly smile.

Willow furrowed her brow. She didn't like that sound of that. "Game? Haven't we already done enough of that for a lifetime?"

Spike's smile broadened when he saw the familiar crease on her forehead, then stuck his hand in his pocket, pulling out a well-worn pack of cards. "I am talking about poker, wife, for old time's sake. What did you think I meant, Red?"

His grin told her that he intentionally was being suggestive...just like old times. All of the sudden she felt like that shy and naive, 17-year-old girl again. "Oh, I don't know, Sp..., uh, William. I really haven't played in years. Not since...." her voice trailed off as she remembered the last time they had played was the night Darla embraced Angelus.

The blonde vampire knew what she was thinking but didn't want to walk down memory lane anymore tonight. "Well then, we wouldn't want you to get rusty," he said as he shuffled and dealt the cards. "After all, you were my most promising student. Of course, you were my only student...."

Willow didn't reply immediately. She wasn't sure she was ready to sit across from him and pretend like nothing had ever happened, but his tone was annoying her. "Fine! If it'll shut you up, I'll play!" she told him haughtily as she grabbed her cards. "Besides, I thought you said it was painful to put up with my company," the young-appearing woman said sarcastically, never looking up from her cards.

Spike leaned back in his chair, studying his hand. "What can I say?" he replied in a serious tone. "I'm a bloody masochist!"

***

When the game was over, Willow was smiling. She had to admit that she missed playing cards, even with Spike. "Thanks for not letting me win. I don't think I could have handled anymore of your pity."

The vampire was very pleased with himself. He saw a familiar light in Willow's eyes every now and then throughout the game, and he was satisfied that, eventually, the fiery redhead would be back to normal. "I told you before, Rose. I don't do pity."

Willow noticed the scar on his jaw for the first time and was surprised that it was still visible. She gestured to her own jaw line. "The scar...why is it still there?" she asked sheepishly.

His hand went to the cross-like welt. Spike was puzzled that it was still there himself. "How the hell should I know? Did you put a curse on the cross or something?" <Wish I could see myself in the damn mirror so I could see it!> He hated the thought of not knowing how he looked. Although he would never admit it, the blonde vamp was more than a little conceited about his appearance. William knew he was handsome before he was turned, and as a vampire he had always assumed that he was still quite appealing to the fairer sex-- before he put on his game face anyway. Yet, he had also been told on several occasions that even his demonic visage wasn't too hard on the eyes.

"No," she told him innocently. "It was just your average plain old vampire-repellent cross. I would tell you I was sorry that I scarred you for, um, life, but then I would be lying."

"Are you always this honest, Red?"

"Hey, you're the one who told me that I was a horrible liar." Willow was surprised at how easily they and fallen back to their teasing banter; it just seemed natural. "It is probably just a side-effect of *your* spell."

Spike looked at his timepiece, suddenly forgetting his appearance. "It's getting close," he said, with more than a hint of excitement to his voice. "So, do you want to watch the making of your husband, Rose?"

Willow's eyes fell to the table. The pretty redhead didn't know how to feel about William's impending death. She wanted to feel sorry for him, but how could she when he was sitting right in front of her, celebrating it like it was a birthday! "Is it safe with Angelus around?"

Spike stood up and held his hand out to her. "Don't worry. I know how not to be seen."

Willow ignored his offered hand and stood up, putting her shawl over her head to cover her hair. "William and I are going for a walk," she announced to everyone who was still staring at her. Seeing the puzzled yet concerned looks on the faces of Simon, George, and the owner, she flashed them her sweetest smile. "Don't worry about me, lads. I'll see you later." She walked out the front door and waited for Spike to lead the way.

The blonde vampire couldn't help himself as the eyes of many men watched him with confusion and more than a tiny bit of jealousy. "Don't wait up!" he told them with a cocky grin and a wink, closing the door behind him.

***

They walked without speaking for quite some time, Willow following his lead.

"We're not going home yet, are we?" Willow asked suddenly, breaking the uncomfortable silence as they strolled through town.

Spike pursed his lips but kept looking straight ahead. "How did you know?"

"Spike, I'm not stupid. It is pretty obvious that you mean to stick around at least until Drusilla is turned, if not longer."

"We may be extending are honeymoon a *little* bit longer, Red, that's true, but just long enough...."

Willow stopped and turned to face him. "No, Spike!" she interrupted. "Not again! There will be no more lies between us. No more padding the truth for sweet, little, innocent Willow, understand?" She poked a finger at his chest, driving her point home. "The only way it will work is if we are *both* totally honest with each other, starting *now*!"

Spike's face was expressionless as he weighed her words. Life had just begun to return to her, and he didn't want to dampen that spark already. After a moment, the vampire decided she was right. He did need to be honest with her from now on. "We are not going back until after Dru is turned. I need to make sure William knows what to do and gets her away from that wanker before it's too bloody late," he told her pointedly. "Not until I am positive that everything if spot on, are we going back. Otherwise, this will all have been a massive waste of time!"

Willow started walking again. Nothing he had said surprised her, since she had pretty much figured out his plan years ago. The redhead was a little surprised, however, that he had told her so readily. "I understand," she said coolly. What else could she say? It wasn't like she had any say in the matter anymore, as if she ever did.

"So, since we are playing Truth or Dare here, it's your turn," he said, trying to break some of the tension and also because he needed to know. "Truth, Willow. Did you fall in love with Angelus?"

Willow stopped, dead in her tracks, to stare at Spike. She could feel her face flushing and she started stammering like a schoolgirl. "Angelus? Well, um... I think I would prefer the dare." <Come on Willow...act your age!> she chided herself.

Spike's face was once again unreadable. "You're the one who insisted on no more lies, love. If you want me to treat you like the 74-year-old woman that you are, then you need to start acting like one."

<I hate it when he is right!> she groaned inwardly. Willow took a moment to search herself for the truth, but she didn't need to look far. She knew the answer and always did. "Yes, Spike. I think I really did."

"Sorry," he said under his breath, just loud enough for her to understand. But he didn't know what exactly he was apologizing for-- the fact that he had in some way aided in the death of her love, or that she had fallen for the annoying Irishman in the first place.

They walked in silence a bit more. Willow steps becoming heavier as she finally admitted to herself that she had fallen in love with Angelus. In all this time, she had never thought the words, let alone said them out loud. She was always too concerned with betraying Oz and Buffy to realize her own feelings, and suddenly she was left wondering what would have happened if she had given in to her desires for Angelus, or spoken to him about her feelings. The handsome Irishman had cared about her, and she knew that. But would anything have turned out differently? <If only Spike hadn't.... No, Willow...don't think about it!> She stopped herself from going down that worn path again. Spike *did,* and she needed to deal with it, finally. But seeing Angelus tonight was going to be painful. She told herself that her Angelus, the gentle rogue that had stolen her heart, was gone. The thing that she would see tonight only wore his image, but it didn't feel that simple to her. It wasn't as easy to separate the man from the monster as she thought it would be.

Her musing were cut short when Spike announced they were almost there. Willow had hardly noticed that they had come to the more 'colorful' part of town, but she felt safe with Spike. She did, however, adjust the shawl that she had been wearing over her head, hoping that it would help conceal her identity if necessary. On a side street, they stood next to a dirty window and watched with mixed feelings as history was being made.

~~~~~
End Chapter 16

***

Take Your Time ~ Chapter 17
 

William sat in a dingy, rundown little pub in a less desirable part of London, getting drunk beyond all reason. He sat there, still wearing his military uniform and complaining to anyone who would listen.

"Can you believe it?" he slurred. "They demoted me for being too good at my job! Bunch of bloody wankers...." he droned into his glass. He swallowed the last of its contents before shoving it toward the man behind the counter. "It's a war, isn't it? War means death, so how can I be too good at killing?" he asked the whole room, who thought it best to ignore him. "Come on, it's not like I am a murderer or a rapist or anything that horrific," he mumbled to himself. In fact, he had never knowingly killed a woman or a child. He was just a soldier who took his work very seriously.

"Stupid Queensbury Rules....You know, you practically have to ask their permission before you kill someone these days. 'It's more sporting this way' they said. 'Just because it's a war, doesn't mean we can't be gentlemen,' " he said sarcastically, making snobby faces and mimicking an upper-class accent. He took a long drag from his cigar and blew a couple of smoke rings before continuing. "Now, if you ask me, which no one did, that is no way to win a war! You have to take 'em by surprise, sneak up on 'em while they are taking a crapper, or slit their throats while they are asleep. Don't you agree?" he asked the surly man behind the bar.

When all he received was a grunt for an answer, the soldier remained silent for a while. William the Bloody remembered his days fighting the French in Spain during the Peninsular War with some fondness. He had risen quickly in the ranks until his superiors noticed that he was enjoying the killing aspect of the war a little too much, taking great pride in his technique and number of dead, but not following the 'rules' of modern, civilized warfare. As a result, he was demoted so many times that his rank became meaningless, but neither that nor punishment seemed to curtail his merciless ways. In the end, William had just walked off one night, knowing the punishment for desertion would be severe if he were ever found. A man with his background was quickly able to find work as a mercenary, but soon he tired of the heat and the 'foreigners', so he returned to London hoping to find new opportunities.

"So," he continued suddenly, his voice much too loud for the quiet room, "I decided to put my talents to use elsewhere. I just walked away one night and never came back. I became a mercenary, that's what I did!" He searched his coat pockets for another cigar. William continued to wear his uniform even though he hadn't been a soldier for many months because it had great pockets and he thought he looked damn good in it, too.

"So, ya like to kill, do ya?" a dark-haired man who was sitting in a shadowy corner asked him.

William spared a quick glance in his direction before returning his attention to his next drink. "I didn't mind it. It was my job, but I was pretty bloody good at it, I must admit." Then the destined-to-be Spike started laughing, almost falling off his chair. "The lads in my regiment even started calling me William the Bloody, which is a little long for my liking, but fitting nevertheless."

"What part did ya like the best?"

William turned to stare at the strange man who was asking the questions. "What?" he asked, getting irritated by the cockiness in the other man's voice.

"What part of the killin' did ya like the most?" the stranger repeated, getting up and taking an empty seat next to the drunken soldier.

William surveyed the enemy quickly, to him every stranger was a potential threat, and this man seemed a little too well dressed and eloquent for the dump they were in. He decided to see if he could shock him, just for a laugh.

After another gulp from his glass, William stared the other man straight in the eye. "I liked the look in their eyes when they took their last breaths... the panic, the terror... realizing that you hold their future in your hands. You never feel quite as alive as when you are staring into the face of death. Well, as long as it's on someone else's face, that is," he added with a smirk.

The stranger didn't even bat an eye, just kept staring at him with a cryptic smile. "I'd ask you if you had ever killed anyone before," Spike continued, quickly noting the pale man's fashionable clothing. "But, by the looks of you, I'd guess you have led a bit of a sheltered life."

The other man's expression still didn't change, and the soldier finally noticed he wasn't drinking his ale. The stranger was beginning to unnerve him a bit, so William changed his tone. "You should join up and go to Spain to fight the bloody frogs, too. Lord knows you could use some sun!"

With that joke, Angelus actually laughed and bought the human another drink, brushing aside a feeling that he had met this person before. At first he was just going to wait until William left, follow him, and then drain the drunkard, thinking him just a braggart. Then, as Angelus talked to him more, he realized that the soldier had a real passion for killing, and his deviant sense of humor made the vampire conclude that they could probably make a good team. So he decided to change him instead. He could use another companion in chaos, there were just some things that you prefer to do with another man, and he could always use someone to hunt with when Darla was in one of her moods.

"A man with gifts such as yerself is wasted in the military," Angelus told him plainly. "I could use someone like ya in me line of work."

Spike stared into the man's cold, dark eyes as he took another puff from his cigar, purposely blowing the smoke directly into his face. "And what line of work would that be?"

The smoke naturally didn't bother Angelus; in fact, he liked William's audacity. "Chaos. Murder. Mayhem. Interested?"

William thought for a moment. He somehow knew that this chance meeting would change his life completely. The way he saw it, he had three choices-- death, prison, or a life of crime. He thought that by taking Angelus's offer he was choosing the latter, but very soon he would find out just how wrong he was. The mercenary drained the last of his pint glass, stubbed out his cigar and stood up. He was ready to follow Angelus anywhere. "Yeah," he said pointedly. "I'm interested."

***

The two time travelers watched from outside as William followed Angelus out the door and down a dark street. Spike heard his companion's sharp intake of breath when she saw Angelus and knew that this couldn't be easy for her. He, on the other hand, was almost giddy with happiness. After all these years of waiting, the next step in his scheme to get Drusilla back was almost complete. He could almost feel his dark princess's teeth sinking into his pale flesh already.

Willow was having trouble staying put, knowing what was about to happen. Seeing Angelus again, even from a distance, was almost too much to bear. She wasn't ready to deal with it right now, so she focused on William instead. Finally she looked up at Spike, her eyes pleading and bright with unshed tears. "How can you just stand there and let yourself be murdered...watch yourself become what you are? You could stop this now and live a normal life."

"Why the hell would I want to do that?" he demanded. He was disappointed that she wasn't as excited about his changing as he was. <She would prefer that Spike never existed...probably that we had never met!> he told himself. And worse yet, he found himself wondering if she might purposely interfere with his plans as she had once threatened. For the first time since the beginning of this little escapade, he found himself doubting her intentions.

The vampire looked down on her with cold eyes and spoke bitterly. "Understand this, Willow. I don't want to be saved, not by you or anyone! So get those thoughts out of your head right now!" he commanded "I like what I am...I enjoy being a vampire." He took a step away from her and found himself desperately wanting a cigarette. <I wish they would hurry up and invent the damn things already...cigars just aren't the same!> After a moment he turned back and added, "I realize to you I am nothing, no better than an animal...some rabid dog that needs to be put down...." He didn't fully realize until that moment how much her opinion of him mattered.

Willow was quiet and wrapped her arms tightly around herself before slowly starting to head back toward her tavern home, with Spike beside her. They were both silent, lost in their own thoughts.

"I don't think you're an animal," she said finally, without looking at him. After a few more minutes of the silence, Willow spared the blonde demon a quick glance out of the corner of her eye. His face was dark and his features tight. The silence was becoming unbearable to her, and finally she realized that she had had enough of that for one lifetime. It was time to move on.

"I take that back, actually," she told him nonchalantly. "You *are* an animal...a dog."

Spike stopped to look at her, incredulous, but she went on, nonplused. "You remind me of one of those big dogs that slobbers all the time. You know , the ones that look like they have fangs...."

"Are you saying I remind you of a bloody poodle or something, *Pet*?" Spike was bewildered, not really sure yet how to take her words.

Willow started walking again, enjoying his confusion. She teased him over her shoulder. "No, Spike, of course not. I am thinking of the *really* big, drooling dogs. Remember, I have seen you while you are sleeping and it is not a pretty sight. A bulldog! Yeah, you remind me of a British Bulldog!" Willow let her face break into a huge grin, and when she did she found a little more spring in her step.

The vampire laughed and sprinted to catch up with her. "Come on, love. You can do better than a bulldog! I was thinking maybe a Mastiff or a Pitbull...Rottweiler maybe?"

Willow shook her head, and they continued on down the streets of London, their voices echoing brightly on the damp cobblestones. "No," she continued. "Shitzu possibly...or Pekinese...."

~~~~~

End Chapter 17
 

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