Take Your Time ~ Chapter 20

Two vampires fled from the same woman, the same night, and for basically the same reasons. They both were struggling to leave behind the strong emotions that the beautiful redhead seemed to draw out of them. Even their feelings mirrored each other's, welling up inside of them so intensely that the two fated vamps felt as if they could suffocate, although never another breath would they require. Yet, even though the feelings were similar, their reactions to those emotions were completely different.

One had escaped into the night, trying to forget the feelings of desire that were so powerful they threatened to change the future-- the future that he had spent the last several decades trying to manipulate. The other embraced the desire and the hunger but fled anyway, fearing he would lose control and kill her before having the chance to fully explore the possibilities with this woman-- with *his* Rose.

One feared the dawning of this passion; the other feared the ending of it.


Spike had run away from his own home, barely dressed, weak from hunger and blood loss, to escape the sensations of passion that Willow had evoked in him. Her fingers on his skin, her warm breath on his back, and her soft lips on his wound had created a mixture that Spike found intoxicating...pleasure and pain. As he stumbled down darkened streets, looking for easy prey, he felt as if he had betrayed Dru, his Dark Goddess...his Princess. Since Spike and Dru had been together, he had never been with another woman, had never really wanted or needed to because Drusilla was everything to him. They were, for lack of a better word, soulmates. Still, he could no longer deny a growing attraction to *his* Willow, and a need that was able to make him, for the first time, forget about the vampiress that he was sure he was meant to be with until the sun burned itself out.

Nevertheless, tonight Spike had thought only about Willow as the fires of desire had licked at him, as his need for her had risen to an almost animalistic hunger in only the few moments it had taken her to remove a sliver of wood from his back. If she could do that to him in only a few moments unintentionally, what could she do intentionally? What could they do to each other? His love for Drusilla hadn't wavered, but a part of him wanted Willow now, and while that realization was worrying, the fact that he actually found himself caring about her was more petrifying. Lust was nothing new to him and was easy to understand. Mistakes made while under lust's power were forgivable, but actual caring and fondness for Willow was another matter. He had no idea how to handle that, having not experienced it for anyone other than Drusilla. This need he had, to be with his time-traveling companion, to make her happy again, and to see her smile and hear her laugh, were alien to him. Was it love? He didn't think so, but it was more than friendship now--more than simple camaraderie or need created by unusual circumstances. As the thoughts churned over and over again in his mind, he made a decision. He would never be able to have what he wanted from her. They were too different and the situation was too volatile, add to that the whole 'virgin' factor, and he realized that unless he got himself under control, he was going to be taking a lot of cold showers over the coming years. With that in mind, he set out on a good, old-fashioned feeding frenzy, hoping to release some of the tension that was still coursing through his veins.


Angelus, on the other hand, found his appetite waning momentarily. The blood he had stolen from Willow had more than satiated his need to feed for the time being. Although the quantity was less than what he would normally consume on an average night, even when it comes to a blood lust, quality still outweighed quantity. He didn't know if it was because she was a virgin, because she was his first 'meal' when he was a newly-made vamp, or because of the mystery that surrounded his Rose that made her so potent and enticing to him, but either way, an obsession had been born.

The Irish vampire had to force himself to hunt that night, even to feed a little. Before he knew it, again and again his feet kept heading back toward his lair of their own accord. Angelus had to consciously fight to stay out until the last possible minutes before sunrise, just to prove to himself that he could and to try and regain a feeling of control-- control he had lost the moment he found her in the park. He reminded himself that they would have plenty of time to discover the truth, whether she offered it freely or he had to drag it from her. He rather hoped she would put up a fight, as the thought of causing her pain brought him immense pleasure. Whether it be the kind brought about by agonizing physical torture, or mental torture that never brought even a single drop of blood, Angelus hoped he would have the chance to aid her in experiencing both

Angelus dropped his third course, barely noticing as the old woman's death rattle signaled the end of her days. It was a sound he usually was quite the connoisseur of, but he was already too busy plotting the future of his Rose to take notice. As his mind grasped onto the idea, it planned step-by-step how he would make her succumb to him. The first few days would be the hardest-- well, for him anyway. He would have to leave her alone, give her time to heal and, more importantly, to think. As her sharp mind undoubtedly would grasp the possibilities that lay before her, she would become frightened and more and more apprehensive. The distress she would have to endure as she waited to see her fate played out in his hands was an exquisite torture in itself, but it was just the beginning.

The dark demon was no longer bothered by the fact that Rose hadn't believed his little ploy to make her think that he still had romantic feelings for her. He could tell that she *wanted* to believe. The ethereal redhead almost seemed to need it, the tears alone told him that much. He had seen the struggle in her eyes to hate him and heard the quiver in her voice as she told him that she had never loved him. Both spoke volumes about her true feelings for him-- the man that no longer was and the vampire that would forever be. Yes, there was an opening there still, and he would worm his way into her if it took a lifetime.

He would seep into her mind first, bending it to his will by distorting it with memories, clouding it with his promises, and confusing it with whispered suggestions. Soon she would no longer be sure of anything and begin to question all that she knew. He would have to be careful though; Angelus didn't want to break her completely, for it was Rose's fire and strength that peppered her blood, and the last thing he wanted was to be stuck with an unstable woman for eternity. No, he wouldn't break her, just bend her a little, mold her, until she was his-- mind and body, heart and soul.

Once he had her mind, his war plan would have him move on to her heart-- an easy battle when the groundwork had been laid correctly. The heart, although he no longer possessed one, was still amazing to the soulless demon. Angelus did not understand the physiology of the vital organ or how it pumped the blood that he so craved through the corporeal body, but he did know that, 'metaphorically,' if you controlled a woman's heart, you were truly the most powerful man in her world. He had never known that power when he was alive, though he had come close with Rose. Now he would finish it. The right words, a gentle caress when needed, quickly followed by a harsh but necessary display of his dominance...all would make the mysterious redhead his when they combined with her already confused state of mind.

His final step would be to take her soul. At this point he wasn't sure if she could be turned. He was still trying to figure out exactly what she was, and the possibilities darted in and out of his thoughts as he choreographed her fate. Was she a witch, some other type of immortal, or fae even? Or were there other entities working on this plane that he was not yet aware of? She certainly was no demon, of that he was positive, but that was all that he was sure of. Angelus would have those answers soon, and already his decision was made. If Rose could be turned, he would change the woman after he had twisted her into his ideal, and if not, she would still be his, but more as a concubine than a partner. Nevertheless, as the night drew near its end, he found himself hoping that she couldn't be turned. It would be a shame to waste all that warm flesh and blood.

He was practically skipping as he came to his house, never pausing to offer more than a grunt of greeting to the other vampires as they too returned home. He bounded up the steps, threw open the door and headed straight for his room at the end of a long, turning hallway, the grin on his handsome face growing both larger and more devilish as he neared where he had left her only a few hours ago.

As he turned the last corner, he stopped abruptly. The smile being quickly replaced by a scowl of rage. His door was open. Who dared go into his room without his permission? If any of the others had touched his prize, they would be dust before the sun was fully in the sky. He slammed the door the remainder of the way open, expecting to find one of the fledglings slobbering over his Rose, but instead found an empty room. She was gone.


It was almost sunrise when Spike made the final turn toward home. He had spent the early hours of the night lurking through dark streets, searching for easy prey. The first one had needed to be easy, as he had yet to gain his strength back. Then, for his second and third victims, he chose those that looked more likely to put up a struggle. He hadn't had a good spot of violence in what seemed like ages, and he thought it would be just the trick to get the redhead out of his mind. Later, the fair-haired vampire had wandered in to a pub with the sole purpose of starting a fight. Naturally, he was the last man standing, but he still found the victory hollow. All the sucker punches, broken jaws, and flying tables had been in vain. Even as he sent one soldier flying through a window, Spike's thoughts were of Willow and what he could never have. He was actually relieved when the morning drew near so he could go home. Home to an empty house and an empty bed, again, like it had been for decades.

As he climbed the stairs inside the warehouse to his private abode, still disappointed that his feeding frenzy had far from erased the memories of the night's earlier activities with Willow, it finally occurred to him that he had left her alone there at night. <Bloody selfish bastard,> he berated himself. <You will have a lot of explaining to do when you see her again! What the hell am I going to say? I can't tell her the truth... 'Oh, yeah, well sorry, luv, but you see all the pain you caused me suddenly made my pants a little too tight, so it was either run away like some damn coward or take you right there on my bloody bed, literally! I'm sure you understand...'> He was still shaking his head in disgust when he reached the top of the stairs. That was when he smelled it-- blood, lots of it, and it was Willow's. He bounded up the last few stairs to find the door open and Willow inside, lying unconscious on the floor.

Even though he knew in the back of his mind that she couldn't be dead, he froze for a moment, waiting to hear if her heart was still beating. It seemed like an eternity before he was able to detect a weak heart beat and shallow, raspy breathing, and it seemed like another eternity before he could force his legs into action.

Kneeling beside her, he immediately found that the source of the blood was a vampire's bite. A quick survey showed no other obvious injuries, other than a bruised, cut lip and a lump on the back of the head. She was dirty and wet, looking as if she had crawled through hell to get there. <If anything else has been done to her...> Guilt hit him like a slap in the face, and Spike could have sworn that the cross-shaped scar on his jaw tingled more than usual. <Why did I leave you here to get home on your own after dark?> "Hell, Red!" the vampire murmured, more to himself than to her. "You could have stayed here, you know. You would have been safe here!" <Relatively safe, anyway...>

He gently picked her up and carried her to his bed, not caring that a small amount of his own blood still stained the sheets from earlier that night. Spike examined the large wound, noting just how vicious the bite was...it was obviously done in anger and in lust. What he couldn't tell from the mark was who had made it. At first he was worried that possibly his alter ego had attacked her, but the quick inspection quickly eliminated that fear. It wasn't William the Bloody's style. "Well, some bloody animal wanted you alive, Pet...for a while, anyway," he grumbled aloud. He quickly grabbed a towel and placed it over the wound, trying to stem the blood flow.

While the peroxide vampire tended to her injuries, he was continuously being assaulted by the smell of Willow's blood. Even though he had practically gorged himself all night in a futile attempt to be free from some of his frustrations regarding the woman he was now caring for, the scent of her blood was making it nearly impossible for him to control the demon within. On an average night, Spike would have little trouble restraining himself from feeding from a particular person, but this wasn't an average night, nor was this just anyone's blood. It was Willow's untainted blood, and the scent alone was enough to once again flood him with memories of just how delectable a creature she was...not that he needed reminding.

He stayed that way for quite some time, checking her injury and replacing one blood-soaked cloth after another until the bleeding stopped. Then, he attempted to clean her up a little, gently wiping the dirt from her otherwise colorless face. When he had carefully removed the layers of filth, the vampiric nursemaid held a wet cloth to her face and slowly reached out one tentative finger to gently caress her cheek.

Willow groaned and pressed instinctively into the coolness of the hand on her face.

"Willow...come on, love...open your eyes." Spike for once didn't try to hide his feelings and stroked her too-pale face gingerly.

Finally, her eyes opened, instantly meeting Spike's just as his hand flew back to his side. "Spike?" Her eyes darted around the room as she struggled to remember why she was here. "What happened?" Willow tried to sit up, only to feel a shooting pain in the side of her neck. "Owwww!"

"Don't move, Red. I barely have the bleeding stopped as it is," he said seriously, his eyebrows drawing together in concern. "You lost a lot of blood. If it weren't for the spell, you'd probably be dead."

She fell back down on to the soft pillows, her mind racing. "Bleeding? Why am I here? What happened?"

"Don't you remember?" he asked as he stood up and went to the wash stand to rinse out the cloth.

Willow closed her eyes and tried to concentrate, but it hurt too much. "Um, I was here with you, I pulled the stake out of your back, and then you left suddenly. I started to go home through the park..."

The guilt that Spike felt at the mention of his abrupt departure made him flinch and speak a little too harshly. "That wasn't very bright, now was it, Red?" he shot at her over his shoulder before looking back to the basin. The water had already turned a light shade of red, and he couldn't help wondering what it would taste like. <Weak soup of Willow?> The tempting thought made him grip the table in desperation, his fingernails gouging into the wood before turning back to face the weakened woman. <Come on, Spike...get a bloody grip!>

"I know it was stupid," she agreed quietly, still preoccupied with trying to figure out what had happened.

"I shouldn't have left you alone." His tone was softer, apologetic even, which made him quickly change the subject. "So, you really don't remember what happened?" When Willow shook her head no, he continued, his manner light. "Oh, well, then...there were at least 5 or 6 of them...vampires and assorted demons, that is...big ugly ones, too. I managed to rush in just in the nick of time to save your bloody neck," he said with a wink. "Quite the knight in shining armor I was, if I do say so myself....minus the horse, of course." The little-too-jovial vampire returned to the wash basin, his back to Willow, and proceeded to scold himself silently for sounding like such an idiot. "Did you see what he looked like, Pet? I'll find him tonight and kill him for you...make sure he never has another chance to hurt you."

While Spike was uncharacteristically babbling, everything had come back to her in a flash-- everything that the other vampire had done and said to her. For a brief moment, her emotional pain blotted out the physical pain. Still, she fought back the tears, determined that she wasn't going to cry over him again. "Angelus," Willow croaked, barely above a whisper.

The vampire spun around. This was not good. "Angelus..." he hissed furiously, silently cursing their rotten luck. Again Angelus was trying to ruin his plans, and for him to have done that to Willow... <Will I never be rid of that bloody bastard? I should have killed him when I had a chance! I could have worked everything out without him...> No longer able to control his darker emotions, the ridges and fangs appeared and his eyes yellowed as he looked at his Willow.

The weakened redhead saw the change and shrunk back in fright, images of Angelus still too fresh in her mind. She hadn't seen Spike like this in a long time, and while his demonic visage had made an appearance when she had tended his wound, it hadn't frightened her. This Spike did, however.

As he strode toward the bed, the vampire was barely aware that he was no longer his handsome human self. He had only meant to hand her another damp towel, but the look of terror on her face stopped him. She hadn't looked at him like that since the night they left Sunnydale, and while he enjoyed frightening her then, it no longer brought him the same pleasure.

"Damn you, Spike! Stay the hell away from me!" she shrieked as she slid to the farthest side of the bed.

"Willow...calm down, love. I only want to give you something for that," he explained, gesturing toward her neck.

"I'm sure you do!" she said haughtily, getting to her feet. Before she could take two steps, however, her knees buckled, and she slid weakly to the floor.

Spike was kneeling beside her in an instant, still in full game face. "You're still weak," he told her firmly, although it came out as more of a growl. He picked her up, ignoring her struggles, and tossed her back on the bed as gently as he could.

Willow felt the blood begin to trickle down her neck again, and her eyes flew to Spike's face. She saw as his pupils enlarged and followed the red trail hungrily. The emotional roller-coaster of the past few hours had taken its toll, and she lashed out at the only person she could. "Fine! You want my blood? Here it is," she said as she crawled across the bed to him on her hands and knees. "Go ahead! You know you want to. You must be thinking about all this nice virgin blood just going to waste!" She moved closer, practically thrusting her bloody wound in his face. "Come on, Spike, belly up to the bar!"

Spike was trying very hard to regain control, to make the demon go back inside, but she just kept flaunting herself in his demonic face. Her scent surrounded him. She was on his hands, his clothes, his bed, and now she was offering herself to him. He turned away but couldn't make himself put any distance between them. "Stop it, Willow. You're acting like a child." There was no conviction in his voice, though...only hunger and frustration.

She put a hand on his back, not thinking about what she was saying. "Isn't this what you always wanted? Virgin blood-- it's like Dom Perignon for bloodsuckers, isn't it? Oh, what's wrong, Spikey? Not hungry? But there's always room for Willow..." Beneath her hand she could actually feel Spike shaking, quivering with need for her, but she was too far gone to be frightened by it. She was in control this time...not like it had been with Angelus. "I know that you're thinking about it...remembering what I taste like...wanting to feed from me again..."

He finally turned back around, her words hitting too close to the mark for comfort.

Willow put her hand to her wound then drew her fingers away, staring at the dark red blood on her fingers. "What is it about this that you crave so much, hmm....?" She reached her hand out to Spike's face, the blood-tainted fingers coming with in a hair's breadth of his lips before he leaned back out of her reach.

He took a deep breath, hoping to find some strength in it, but he was teetering on the edge. "You're behaving like a child, Willow," he finally managed through gritted teeth.

The overwrought woman laughed, her voice deep and sensual. "You said that already, Spike. See...I know you want some. It's all you think about when you're with me, isn't it?" she asked huskily and leaned forward. "Don't you want it, Spike?" Willow put her fingers to her lips, licking each one slowly, all the time watching Spike's reaction.

He stood for a moment, watching her seductive display. The fair-haired vamp could tell she didn't really know what she was doing...she seemed to be running on sheer willpower at the moment. <Not enough damn blood getting to her brain...she's going loopy on me!> But the demon in him screamed for her. She was practically throwing herself at him...offering her potent blood to him. With a growl, he lunged at her, his face dark and his eyes feral.

"Is this what you want, Pet?" he growled as he straddled her and pinned her down on the bed, arms above her head. "You want me to claw at you, threaten you, feed from you? Is that what you really want, Willow?" His dangerous mouth hovered inches above hers, and he no longer tried to keep his eyes from wandering to the trail of blood that was slowly making its way from her jugular.

The wildness was gone from Willow's face in the blink of an eye. "No, I--"

"Would it make things easier if you could just peg me in the same box with Angelus? We're all blood-thirsty animals, right? No willpower...no control....see a spot of blood and we drool. I thought you knew me better than that, Willow. I thought we had an understanding, a mutual respect of sorts, but I guess I was wrong."

Willow didn't notice when the tears started, but at some point they slipped down her cheek to mix with the blood on her neck. She didn't even struggle against his hold on her.

"But, if you want to go back to the days of me being the hunter and you the prey, then fine, love. Because, to be honest, it's easier that way anyway...more natural. So, I'm willing to forget about everything we've been through and throw it all away, just for a little taste. Is that what you want?"

Willow bit her lip for a moment, then started sobbing uncontrollably. "No..." she finally managed between sobs.

Even with her admission, he didn't let her go. "Are you sure? Because now that you mention it, I really am a bit peckish."

Her tears didn't lessen any as she tried to bury her face in her own shoulder to hide from his demanding eyes. "I hate you, Spike. I really, really hate you."

Spike's features softened and returned to his human facade, her pain-filled words giving him the self-control he had lacked only moments before. He remembered now how he had told her only a few weeks ago that he welcomed her loathing of him. <How quickly things change. > He released his hold on her and moved so that he was standing at the bedside. Picking up the towel, he silently dabbed at her wound.

Willow lay there, her head turned to the side so she wouldn't have to look into his face. <Oh my God...why did I do that? Why did I say those horrible things?> She was embarrassed and ashamed of her behavior. <And I told him I hate him...again. How can I take that back?> she wondered as she wallowed a while longer in her own self-loathing. She couldn't bring herself to look at him yet, but she knew she needed to tell him about what had happened that night. The weakened redhead hoped it might help explain her actions, but she wasn't ready to relive that again. <Tomorrow...I'll apologize tomorrow and then tell Spike everything....>

They didn't speak for the longest time, but Spike continued to hold the cloth to her neck to stem the blood flow. Finally, after what seemed like hours, he took the cloth away and had a close inspection.

"I think I've stopped it for good now, as long as you don't plan to reopen it just to try and seduce me again."

Willow remained silent, staring blankly at the far wall, but she did cringe at his use of the word 'seduce'.

"Actually, since you already hate me," Spike said coolly as he walked to the other side of the room, "might as well get this over with."

Willow rose to the bait, looking for any way to disperse the uncomfortable air that had settle between them. "Get what over with?"

"Well, Red, I need to clean up your bite a little. You looked like you waded through the damn sewer to get here, and we wouldn't want it to get all infected and leave a scar on that perfect little throat of yours, now would we?" <And who the-bloody-hell knows what kind of germs Angelus has floating around in his ugly mouth!> Spike rummaged around in a cupboard, coming back to her with a bottle of whiskey in his hand and a few more towels.

Seeing the bottle, Willow raised an eyebrow. "Sorry, Spike, but the last time I got drunk with you, you stabbed me in the back. I think I'll pass, but if you have a Diet Coke I would be *eternally* grateful."

Spike ignored her sarcasm and sat next to her on the bed, placing the towels over her shoulders and on her lap. "This is going to hurt, Willow. Are you ready?"

Willow's eyes widened when she realized what he meant to do. "Why do I have a feeling you are really going to *enjoy* this?" she asked, not able to take her eyes off of the bottle.

"Because you are a *very* perceptive woman."

Their eyes met for a moment as they caught each other's double meanings--Willow acknowledging that she had finally caught on to his true reason for leaving her alone that night, and Spike's admitting that what she had said about his desire to feed from her again was in many ways true.

Finally, she braced herself and leaned toward him, exposing the bite fully once again. Spike waited for her nod of approval, pausing only for a moment to revel in the fact that she still trusted him, before pouring the amber liquid liberally over the wound. The instant it touched her opened flesh she cried out in agony, the burning sensation so intense that she had to fight the need to grab the bottle away from him. Her eyes squeezed shut against the searing pain, and she clutched at the vampire blindly, burying her face in the crook of his neck, her nails digging into his back and chest. Spike continued pouring until he was satisfied that he had thoroughly cleansed the wound, while his free arm wrapped around her, holding her as her small body thrashed against the pain. He set the half-empty bottle on the night stand and held her tightly until her cries of anguish subsided. Eventually, she withdrew from his strangely comforting arms, wiping her tears away. Again she looked anywhere but at him, and her eyes landed on the bed, now stained with blood and whiskey. "Sorry about your bed," she said sheepishly.

"Don't worry...as soon as you fall asleep I am going to wring the sheets out and have myself a little cocktail. Care for a Bloody Mary?"

She grinned and shook her head playfully, amazed at how he could always make her smile. <Just like Xander and Oz did...> "I think those are made with vodka, so I guess that would make this a Bloody Willow?"

They laughed for a moment before he realized how uncomfortable she must be in her drenched and bloodied clothing. "You look a sight, Red. I'll get you some things then give you some privacy." He went down into the warehouse and fetched some clean water and then gave her a clean shirt from his wardrobe. "Get cleaned up, then I'll change the sheets so you can get some rest." He met her eyes briefly. "Later, when you are up to it, you can tell me what happened with you and the Irish wanker." When Willow smiled her thanks, he went on, "And, when the sun sets, I'll try to get some bandages and something for you to eat."

"Thank you..."

Spike moved to the door, intending to wait in the warehouse while she changed. He turned around just as he was about to leave. "The pillock didn't, um, *hurt* you, did he, Willow?" His gentle words didn't hide the meaning of the question.

"No, Spike, he didn't...hurt me...in that way..."

He nodded his head, then a familiar sly smile returned to his face. "Willow, if you need any help removing your clothes, I do have a bit of experience in that area...."

She rolled her eyes at him as she had done a thousand times before at his sexual innuendo, but exhaustion was catching up to her. She was too tired to play, so she just glared at him briefly.

"Suit yourself..." he said with a shrug, closing the door behind him. As the vampire descended into the warehouse, a thousand questions came to mind about her encounter with his sire and how she had managed to get back here, but they could wait until she was stronger. They had both been through enough for one night.

Willow somehow managed to peel off the wet and soiled clothing, then slowly washed away the dirt, at least the surface dirt, anyway. She felt like she needed to soak in a long, hot bath for hours before she would ever be clean again, but for now she made do with the cold water Spike had gotten for her. After drying off, she slipped into his large shirt and rested a moment before slowly managing to make her way to the sofa on the far end of the room.

It wasn't much later that Spike knocked. "Got all your bits and pieces covered?"

"As much as your shirt will cover anyway."

<Willow is wearing my shirt. Don't even look...you'll drive yourself mad.> Spike smirked but didn't leer at her. He figured after being with Angelus she had probably had enough of that for one night, and her display earlier was proof. He quickly went about changing the sheets on the bed, while Willow continued to lie on the couch and watch him. Even though she was exhausted, she managed to keep her eyes open as she watched the vampire neatly tuck in the sheets and turn down the duvet. <Wonder how he got so good at that? He'd make a good househusband,> she thought as she took a quick glance around the very clean attic. <Wonder if all vampires are such neat freaks?>

After smoothing out a few wrinkles, he gestured to the bed. "Why don't you get a good kip, love? You'll feel better after some sleep."

"But whe--"

"I'll sleep on the couch until you are well and we can get you back to the pub," he interrupted, knowing full well what she was going to say. "Although, I am sure I could be persuaded to--"

It was Willow's turn to interrupt, also knowing precisely what he was about to allude to. "Not tonight, my husband. I have a headache," she teased back. Willow stood to move to the bed, making sure that the shirt was covering the important 'bits and pieces,' but she was struck by a sudden wave of dizziness.

Without a word, Spike swept her into his arms and carried her to his bed. Willow was too tired to put up even a token protest and she laid her head against his shoulder for the short journey across the room. <Too short...> Even after what had happened earlier, she felt safe with this vampire.

She didn't know where the words came from, but as Spike sat on the bed with her, still cradling her frail form in his arms, they slipped out. "Why me?" She said it in a whisper that even Spike could barely hear.

"Sorry, luv? I didn't catch that," he lied as he set her down on the bed, pulling the covers over her bare legs.

She looked up into his face, her red eyes a heartbreaking contrast to her pale cheeks. "Why did you have to bring me? Why did you have to ruin my life just to save your precious Drusilla?" Sometimes it felt like she had been waiting forever to ask him those questions...and, more importantly, for the answers.

Spike was totally caught off guard, but the only hint of this was in the pursing of his lips. "I'm not sure, Willow. You just seemed like the logical choice," he said flatly, tucking her in as if she were a child.

She snorted. "Logical? Logic has nothing to do with this, Spike. Besides the obvious complete lack of rationality regarding just the whole 'back in time to save your dead lover' business, there are other things...I mean, Xander was a virgin, too! Why didn't you take him?"

"Xander?" he queried.

Willow sighed. "*Xapper*?"

"Oh..." he said with a nod as the boy's face finally connected with the name. "Oh! Hell, no! Are you daft, woman? I would kill that boy if I had to spend more than 10 minutes with him. Don't know what you ever saw in the git, or the wolf for that matter...although, I must say I liked his hair..."

Willow couldn't suppress a half-smile. It was a combination of images flashing through her head that did it--pictures of Spike and Oz having a beer and discussing hair dye...flashes of Xander and Spike living together in Galway... <Talk about the 'Odd Couple'!>

"Besides," Spike continued. "There is no one I would rather muck-up history with than you." <Did I say that? Did I, William the Bloody, AKA Spike, mercenary and cold-blooded killer just sound like some pimply, hormone-driven, angst-ridden teenager? God...I am sickening even to myself sometimes...> he groaned within. Yet, still he waited anxiously for her response, expecting her to pull away or laugh, or even get angry with him again, but she kept looking at him as if trying to judge his sincerity.

"Except Drusilla, you mean," Willow said softly. Her green eyes captured his steel blue ones for a moment, but neither pair was willing to reveal their owner's thoughts.

Finally, the vampire forced a chuckle and stood up, walking to the other side of the bed. Just before he turned the oil lamp down, Willow noticed her cross lying on the small table, but she didn't reach for it. She knew she wouldn't need it with Spike anymore. With the lamp off, the room was very dark, even during the day. The only light came from the small window near the high ceiling on the opposite wall which brought in no direct light. Spike had chosen his home wisely. "Get some rest, love. I think we both could use it. It's been a very odd day."

Willow could barely see Spike as her eyes had yet to adjust to the darkness, but she heard him removing some clothing and eventually settling down on the sofa. "Spike?"


"I'm sorry about what I did earlier...what I said..."

There was no immediate answer, and Willow strained to see or hear the vampire on the other side of the room.

Finally, his words came to her waiting ears. "Don't fret, Pet. I've forgotten about it already."

"Thank you...for everything," she said even softer, then snuggled deeper into the bed to get comfortable.

Spike waited for the telltale signs that she was asleep...the slowed heartbeat and deep breathing...before whispering. "Anytime, Willow. Anytime..."


End Chapter 20