****Dedicated to everyone who voted for me and this story  in the W/A awards.  I am honored and grateful that some many of you have such faith in the story.  Thank you!

Take Your Time  ~~  29 ~~

"How did you learn so much about the stars?"  Spike asked, trying to look at the sky and watch where he was walking at the same time.  It was a rare, clear night in London.  The weather conditions had kept the normal fog from blanketing the land the past couple of nights.  As a result Willow had insisted that they go for a walk together shortly after nightfall.

"I read a lot.  When you have a lot of time to read, well, you end up with a head full of fascinating but useless information."  Willow felt a little ache at her words.  She didn't like lying to Spike, and while she wasn't really lying, she wasn't telling him the full truth either.  She'd explain everything to him in time, but for now, she had to keep up her role as a woman of mystery.

When they reached a part of the street that was darker and had a good view of the sky, Willow put a hand on Spike's shoulder to stop him.  Pointing up to a small gathering of stars in the east, she smiled as fond memories of countless nights spent sleeping under the stars came to mind.

"Some, um, nomadic tribes call that one The Watcher, believe it or not.  If you look carefully," she told him as she tried to paint a picture in the sky with a finger, "you can see kind of an outline of a face.  Now, see how it looks as if it is facing west?  It's watching for the evil that comes with the setting of the sun, apparently--ever vigilant against the forces of darkness."

As Willow quickly recounted the story, her other hand remained on his arm.  They were so comfortable with each other now that it was quite common for them to be touching whenever they were together.  Spike, she'd learned, was a very tactile vamp.  When he wasn't trying to control himself, his hands would be caressing her bare skin or playing with her hair.  Willow was much the same.  Having so long been denied the basic human pleasures of touch and affection, she found it hard to stay away from him.  They were like children on Christmas morning playing with their new toys.

After their first night together, Spike had never really left.  Slowly, his things ended up in her home, his clothes hanging in the wardrobes; his arms holding her during the hours they slept.  It happened so naturally that they never gave it much thought.  Their relationship had grown to more than convenience, but it wasn't love.  After all, Spike had--or would soon have again--Drusilla, and Willow had....

That was a good question and one that Willow puzzled over on the rare occasions that she let herself think about the future in that way.  She knew she had Oz to come home to, and Willow was thankful for that.  In fact, she couldn't wait to see his face when it appeared as if she'd learned how to play the guitar overnight!  However, in the back of her mind there was always Angelus, and it irked her to no end that she couldn't forget about the Irishman.  Partially out of embarrassment but also because she doubted he would really understand, Willow never mentioned her confusion to Spike.  Instead, she scolded herself for her own immaturity and forced her thoughts back to her future with Oz.  In the end, Spike would have his Drusilla, Willow would have Oz, and all would be right with the world.

Nevertheless, even though they both knew their futures held different paths and they both knew that the other realized this as well, the subject was never brought up again after that first night.  Instead of talking about it, they would occasionally sleep alone--Spike taking over a room on the other side of the hall that received little light, while Willow tossed and turned in hers.  It didn't happen very often, but a few times she'd gone to bed in her own room, and he didn't join her.  Sometimes it was the other way around since they actually spent more time in his darker room than in hers.  The days, or nights, that they woke up alone were also never really discussed.  They both knew why they did it.  They were simply weak attempts at proving that they didn't need each other.

Despite the occasional long and lonely night, the time passed quickly--more quickly than it did before--and she was content.  Yes, life was pretty good for Willow, except for the dreams.

The dreams had started the day after her first night with Spike, and she had them almost every time she'd slept since--day or night, alone or in his arms.  The dreams were often about her and Spike getting carried away in their lovemaking, one way or another, and the consequences that followed.  They usually weren't terrifying, but they were always disturbing, and she often awoke with an impending sense of doom.  Her rarer dreams, the ones of Angelus, were another matter entirely.  Those horrifying nightmares usually bolted her awake, screaming or crying.  Even the less violent ones, which in many ways were even more disquieting, at the very least made her blood run cold.  Nevertheless, tonight as she walked beneath familiar starry skies, it was easy to push aside the vague feelings of unease and completely relax.

Spike smiled down at her upturned face, ready to tell her that she was the most intelligent woman that he'd every known, when something caught his eye.  He found himself doing a double take to look at a group of people that were walking in his direction on the footpath.

It took Willow a moment before she realized that Spike was no longer looking at the sky.  He was staring off into the distance, his face a study in utter bewilderment.  When she could pull her eyes away from his enraptured face to follow his line of sight, she was still confused as to what could have him so perturbed.

Walking slowly toward them was a group of women and children.  By their dress, Willow guessed that they had just come from mass.  The two women spoke fervently back and forth, while several younger children giggled and played as they shuffled along behind them.  <Nothing unusual there...> Willow commented to herself.  <So, what's the problem?>  That was when she saw her...the tall, slender girl in the background, walking with her head down, clutching her bible in front of her with one hand and her rosaries with the other.  It was Drusilla.  A younger Drusilla, in her early teens at most, but there was no mistaking her.  Willow could see that her lips were moving, and the redhead assumed that she was saying her rosaries.  The future vampiress walked as if she were afraid to be noticed or that if she diverted her attention for even one moment from her prayers, God would strike her down.  Drusilla was a study in devotion and penance.

Willow turned her attention back to Spike to find his pale face contorted with conflicting emotions.  She squeezed his arm gently, offering a few soft-spoken words of additional support.  "Careful Spike, you--"

Before she could finish, the vampire ripped his arm out of her delicate grasp and took a step closer to Dru as she continued to approach them unawares.  The other women and children were too caught up in their conversations and gossip to pay any mind to the strange man staring unabashedly at the quiet girl that followed a bit behind, and they passed Willow and Spike with nary a glance.  The young Drusilla almost seemed to be in a trance-like state.  Willow doubted that she would even notice them, so caught up in her prayers and thoughts was she.  Then, just as the dark-haired girl came level to the time travelers, close enough that they could touch, Drusilla's eyes rose and found Spike's.

In Willow's romantic mind, she waited to see some precognitive spark in the girl's haunted eyes.  Instead there was only shyness and confusion in the brunette when she met Spike's needful gaze.  How Spike managed to stay in control, Willow didn't know.  In the instant that the future lovers' eyes had locked, the redhead saw hope burst into life in the vampire's face, only to be extinguished just as quickly when Drusilla moved by without even a flash of recognition.  Spike turned to watch Drusilla pass, his face a mask of pain and confusion.  Once again Willow stretched out a comforting hand, but Spike quickly fell beyond her reach as he began to follow the small group.

Willow dashed forward, grabbing Spike by the arm.  "Spike, you can't...not yet!  She's too

Spike whirled around on her, grabbing her outstretched arm angrily.  "Don't you bloody-well tell me what to do where Dru is concerned!  This is none of your business!" he lashed out violently, pushing her away.

Willow barely managed to stay on her feet as she stumbled backwards, watching as Spike turned around and rushed to follow Drusilla.  As romantic as it all was, Willow would not allow that child to be turned.  Spike was just confused and couldn't see straight.

"Not while I'm still breathing..." Willow muttered under her breath as she set herself in motion.  Running full speed in her high-laced boots, she quickly caught up with Spike, who was trying to reach Dru before she disappeared down the dim streets.  Thankful that no one was about at the moment to see her unlady-like display, the redhead threw herself at Spike with all the energy her petite frame could muster, concentrating on the back of his knees.

The unsuspecting vampire was propelled forward by her weight.  They toppled to the ground in a heap, Spike recovering only enough to let his hands take the weight of his fall.

"You'll regret this, Spike.  I can't let you turn her yet.  She's too young.  She isn't your Dru!"  Willow explained breathlessly, ignoring the string of obscenities that flew past his lips.

As Spike struggled to get out from under her weight and watch Drusilla at the same time, he was enraged even further to find that his view of her departing form was blocked from the ground.  Between him and his beloved there were shrubs, lampposts, and even benches.  "God dammit, if you don't get the bloody hell off of me right now I'll--"

Suddenly his view was completely blocked by a pair of dark trousers above some very large feet.

"What seems to be the trouble, Miss?" a deep, commanding baritone voice boomed from above him.  "Is this man bothering you?"

Willow was as surprised as Spike by the sudden appearance of the bobby, but knowing that she wouldn't be able to restrain Spike on her own, she turned on her charm.

"Oh, thank heaven you're here, kind officer," Willow wailed over-dramatically as he helped her to her feet.  "This gentleman, and I use the term loosely, stopped me just a moment ago and whispered awful things to me.  I thought I would swoon, he was so crude!"  Willow could see over Spike's shoulder that Drusilla's group had hailed a carriage.  She needed to distract Spike only a few minutes longer, and they would be out of sight.

"Willow...this isn't funny..." Spike growled softly, for the moment preoccupied, but she ignored him.

"I was just walking home from mass," Willow continued in her best upper-class British accent and slyly pulling out her cross, "when a man came out of nowhere, grabbed me, and started whispering vulgarities at me.  I did not see his face, but I am sure it was him!"

As quite a crowd was now gathering, Spike had enough sense not to vamp out and kill the lawman.  Instead, he tried to twist around to see his beloved Drusilla, but the expanding throng of onlookers now blocked his view.

"Did you get a good look at the bloke, Miss?  Are you sure it was 'im?" the large, uniformed man inquired as he grabbed Spike by the collar of his coat.

<Just another minute, Willow...keep him busy another minute and she'll be gone.>  "I didn't get a good look at his face, but when I came to my senses, this gentleman was there.  Somehow I must have fainted or something since I came to on the ground on top of him.  But, I will never forget that rogue's voice if I live to be a 100!" she exclaimed, placing a shaking hand to her chest.

"You 'eard the lady.  Say something to her...and make it something proper or I will 'ave your arse in jail so fast you'll wish ya were dead!" the officer of the law instructed.  He hastily added, "Beggin' yer pardon miss," for his harsh choice of words.

Willow smiled her understanding to the older man.  Unfortunately, Spike was too incensed to see the humor in the conversation going on around him.  He tried to think clearly for a moment while still twisting to see Drusilla, but the bobby poked him with his nightstick, demanding attention.

He reluctantly turned to Willow and fixed her with an icy stare.  "Lady, you've mistaken me for someone else, because we do *not* know each other...never have, never will."

Willow's forehead crinkled momentarily at the bitterness to his voice, but she pushed on with the charade anyway.

The bobby tapped his foot impatiently.  "So, madam, is this the man?  Should I take 'im in?"

Willow shook her head.  "I am afraid that I am still not sure.  Could you make him say..." Willow trailed off, lowering her head and acting as demur and proper as she could.  "I'm sorry, but I couldn't possibly say it aloud..."

The kindly bobby nodded in sympathy and leaned forward.  "Just whisper it to me then, young Miss.  It will be all right.  I 'ave 'eard it all, believe me."

Willow smiled shyly and whispered in his ear.  The bobby's eyes opened in surprise, and he leaned back to take a closer look at the two young-looking people.

"Are you sure that's what 'e said?"

She nodded her head fervently.  "That is what the man said, but I will not know if it was this man until I hear him say the words."

The officer leaned forward and whispered in Spike's ear, ignoring the interested crowds attempt to also hear his quiet words.

Spike shook his head, the grim look on his face only increasing.  He met Willow's twinkling eyes with cold ones of his own, making sure she knew that he did not find this amusing.  He said the words carefully, wanting this over with so he could find his Dark Goddess again.  <She couldn't have gotten far...>


The ageless redhead had to hide her face in her hands to keep from giggling, even though it was very apparent that Spike wasn't enjoying himself in the slightest.  She made a show of fanning herself momentarily before gathering her wits and facing the officer of the law.

"No, that is not him.  The man who spoke with me had a very strong brogue.  No, I'm sorry, but this isn't him."  She smiled sweetly at the annoyed vampire and the amused bobby.  "I am sorry to have wasted your time.  I am sure the man who accosted me has long since disappeared."

The moment the man let go of his collar, Spike spun around and pushed his way through the crowd.  He hadn't even bothered to acknowledge her fake apology.

"I guess he had somewhere to go," she told the officer and the dispersing crowd in her most sincere and innocent manner.  "I certainly hope I did not make him late for an important meeting."


Willow waited in the parlor for Spike's return.  To keep her mind off of the vampire's earlier behavior, she spent the first few hours at the piano but easily became frustrated at her limited abilities and picked up her guitar instead.  She didn't play a ballad or sing a song of eternal love, instead choosing to stick to the more haunting melodies of some of the other folk songs she'd learned.  Their intricate rhythms and vacillating chords required all of her concentration, allowing the remaining hours until sunrise to pass unnoticed.  The ageless beauty was so absorbed in her music that she didn't notice when her housemate returned.

Spike watched her from the archway that lead from the hallway into the parlor.  Her hair was falling out from the high Victorian bun as her fingers danced across the strings.  He was still amazed at just how adept Willow was at the guitar, and her face revealed how much she loved it.  As he watched, Spike's anger, which was already considerable, escalated.

"You shouldn't have waited up."

The redhead started, her fingers catching momentarily in the strings, leaving a sour chord hanging in the air.  She looked up to see the blonde vampire lurking in the doorway.  She could tell immediately by his tight face and aloof stance that he was still very angry.

"I...I thought you might want to talk about what happened, and I couldn't sleep.  I was...worried...about you," she admitted a little haltingly as she rose to her feet and set the guitar behind her.

Spike remained still, watching her actions with feral eyes.  "I said," he repeated sharply, "you shouldn't have bloody waited, Willow."  He took a few deliberate steps into the room and cocked his head to the side.  "But then again, you were never very bright, really, were you?"

Willow held her ground, sensing that she had underestimated just how irate the vampire would be with her.  "Spike, stop it!  I know you're angry but you also must know I was right.  You'll thank me for this one day."

"You interfered for the last time, Willow!" he warned her.  "You cocked up the spell, tried to save Angelus, and now this.  I bet you thought you had me wrapped around your little finger, didn't you, Pet?"

She shook her head almost frantically.  "Spike...it's not like that.  You know it isn't like that!"

"All I know is you've tried to ruin my life for the last time, *my wife.*  It's time you learned your place in our relationship"

"Stop it, Spike.  You're starting to scare me," she admitted.

The peroxide vampire tightened his jaw again, allowing only the slightest hint of a sinister smirk.  "That's that point, Pet.  And you should be bloody scared, shaking in your chastity belt if you had any sense in that brainbox of yours.  You see, I had a little breakthrough of sorts today..."

<Oh no, this cannot be good...>  "You had an epiphany?"  When Willow became nervous, she found herself talking as if she were actually 17 years old again.  "One of those times when you suddenly realize you want to devote the rest of your life to saving the rainforest or ridding the world of potentially dangerous back-in-time spells...maybe?" she asked hopefully.

"I wouldn't count on it, Pet, and don't think your childish babble is going to save you this time.  You see, I think you've forgotten what I am...maybe we both had.  So, I think we need to have ourselves a quick review."

As Spike neared, Willow took a step behind an armchair.  She knew it wouldn't offer her any protection from Spike if he really had lost his mind, but at least it gave her something to hold on to.  And hold on to it she did...with a death grip.

"I don't want to play a game.  I--"

"What am I?" he asked directly, cutting her off in mid-sentence.

"This isn't funny, Spike.  I'm going to bed," she announced boldly.  Turning on her heals, fully intending to storm out of the room, Willow was yanked to a stop by a cold, vise-like grip on her upper arm.

"I'm not playing anymore, my little virgin.  Answer the question.  What am I?" he demanded, pulling her to him.

"You're a vampire," she hissed reluctantly.

"And what do vampires do?"

Willow stared at him in disbelief for a moment, then took a deep breath.  "Ruin peoples lives," she said willfully.

The blonde demon allowed a hint of a smile.  "That's just an added bonus, actually...the cream on the scone.  Now, put that mind of yours to use once more and tell me what vampires eat?"

Willow's eyes narrowed.  She didn't care how upsetting seeing Drusilla was; the redhead was not going to be treated like a child.

She easily wrenched her arm out of his hold.  "Don't talk to me like I'm an idiot," she huffed and stepped away.

Her insolence only added to Spike's anger, and before Willow could take a full step, she found herself being pushed against the wall.  Spike's nails dug into her shoulders as he held her in place.  His control was paper thin at the moment.  All he could think about was how the human before him had betrayed him and kept him from the woman he loved.

"Don't do this, Spike," Willow pleaded, hardly able to look him in the eye and barely recognizing what she saw in there.  The anger was obvious.  She had expected him to be angry, but there was more than just vexation in those eyes, more than annoyance.  There was hate.  For the first time, Willow really saw hatred and loathing in those steely orbs, and it was all directed at her.  It was at that moment that she found the fear of him that she'd lost in Ireland.  It resurfaced in her with a vengeance, made more buoyant by the realization that now he had something to prove to himself as well.  Spike's face was still the mask of the human's, but the teasing, boyish manner was gone.  He was all demon, whether the fangs were out at the moment or not, and his evil face was lowering toward hers.

"Haven't you been paying attention at all, Pet?  It looks like someone will be staying after class today with teacher since you seemed to miss the point.  This *is* what we do."

Willow tried to reason with him as she continued to struggle, but all of her self-defense lessons were proving pointless.  She could scarcely think straight let alone formulate a plan to overpower the much stronger vampire.

"I--I understand you're upset about seeing Drusilla today, and maybe you feel like you betrayed her or were unfaithful to her by being with me, but--"

Spike used his grip on her shoulders to pull her forward quickly and slam her back against the wall, hard enough to steal her breath.  "Don't even mention her name again, do you understand?" he commanded spitefully.  "What you and I have been doing to pass the boredom is nothing like what Drusilla and I had and will have again!  You're nothing but a warm body and a quick meal to me."

Tears sprang to her eyes at his words.  The pain and stress of the situation were slowly breaking down the barriers that she had long thought unnecessary.

"No, Spike, don't do this!  If you regret what's happened and want it to stop, then fine...just leave or tell me to stay out of your bed, but don't...don't do this.  You can't take this back--I won't forgive you this time if you hurt me!"  It took a monumental effort not to look away as she spoke the words that only seemed to enrage him more.  By the time she was done, his demonic visage was completely unmasked.

He chuckled low in his throat, and it occurred to Willow that it was probably the most frightening thing she'd ever heard.  It was the laugh of the demon.  There was no Spike or William in it.

"But you'll forgive him, won't you?" he demanded as he shifted his hands.  One now held her firmly by the throat as the other traced her neck and collarbone, trailing down between her breasts.  "You've already forgiven Angelus, *Angel*, for everything he's done to you, haven't you?  Even this!" he sneered, scratching a sharp nail over the barely visible mark that Angelus had left at their last meeting.

Willow couldn't speak as his hold on her throat tightened, and try as she might, she couldn't break his grip.  All she could do was mouth the word 'please,' and shut her eyes against all of the physical and emotional pain that the man she'd shared a bed with for the past few weeks was now inflicting upon her.

Spike's grip loosened only enough to ensure that she remained conscious.  He moved in closer, his hand sliding to the back of her head and forcing her to expose the other side of the throat.  His mouth stopped at her ear first, biting it for a moment to make sure he had her full attention.

"That's all right, my little virgin.  I don't want to take this back.  In fact, with every drop of your blood that I drain, it'll be like taking back every second I was pretending to be something I wasn't.  Basically, every bloody second I spent with you."

When he finally bit in to her supple skin, it was a controlled feeding.  All of his anger and frustration had come to a head and had imploded in on itself until it was just a pinpoint of burning hot rage.  He wasn't blinded by his fury.  Instead it made everything clearer and allowed him the sense to not rip her throat apart.  He wanted to hurt Willow, he wanted to destroy her emotionally, he wanted to teach the redhead her place, but he couldn't have the girl recuperating for days from the wounds either.  It wasn't a particularly deep bite, but it was a painful one.  He took only enough to satisfy his immediate craving for her blood and to make his point.

Willow bit her lip to keep from crying out as she felt him savagely bite into her in a way that he'd never had before.  It wasn't sensual this time.  It was obvious even to her that it was not only meant to hurt her, but more importantly to crush her spirit.  It did.  When it was over, Willow felt him pull away as she slowly slumped to the floor.  Finding the strength to open her eyes, she watched as the sneering demon backed away from her..

"Get out..."  Her voice, rough and gravel-like from the bruises he'd put on her throat, came out as barely a whisper.

"What was that, Pet?" he snickered, his voice colder than his mouth had been when it stole her life's blood.

Using the wall behind her as leverage, she rose shakily to her feet.  "Get out of my house!  Now!" she demanded more loudly, her face reddening in anger more than he thought possible considering the amount of blood he'd taken.  "And if you *ever* touch me again, I won't hesitate before plunging a stake into your hollow chest!" she added, her anger growing as he mocked her.

Spike grabbed a cigarette from a side table and lit a match with a quick flick of his fingernail.

"Sorry, love.  It's a tad too sunny for me to leave right now, so I think I'll just get a few hours of sleep up in our little love nest.  So, since you wanted me to tell you this before, stay the hell out of my bed from now on, got it?"  With a self-satisfied smirk, Spike turned to leave the shaken woman alone with her injury.

Willow's eyes narrowed in anger as they flitted between the departing vampire and the diffused sunshine coming in through the stained-glass door in the hallway.  For a moment she considered trying to rush past him just to throw the door open.  She was sure that a little sun exposure would wipe the smirk from his face.  But the desire for revenge was short lived, overshadowed by the familiar desire to flee.  Instead, Willow started sidling for the door, but unfortunately, Spike stopped his retreat, turned around and closed in on her.

"Oh, and as for never bloody touching you again..."  Spike grabbed her by the back of the head as she tried to sneak past, and yanked her mouth to his.  He delivered a punishing kiss that was cruel in both its manner and its intensity.  Even though she kept them tightly screwed shut, the vampire left her lips bruised and battered.  "You're mine, Willow," he reminded her before shoving her away from him.  "I marked you, and therefore I own you, just like a pet. As such, I can do with you what I please, when and I how I want to.  Now be good or I'll have to get you a collar."

The look on Spike's face was deadly serious, and Willow knew she had no choice but to run.  The moment Spike turned to head for the stairs, Willow bolted out the door, not even bothering to shut it.

Once again Willow found herself running down the early morning streets, tears streaming down her face.  Having nowhere to go, she eventually stopped, exhausted, in the recessed doorway of an accounting firm and sank to the cold ground.  <How could I have been so stupid to think that he'd changed or that he really cared about me in anyway!>

Willow allowed only a short time to cry and feel sorry for herself but soon pulled herself together.  She would have years, decades in fact if her plan succeeded, to tear herself down over her most recent failures and mistakes, but for now she had to get out.

She waited several hours, hoping that Spike would fall asleep.  She needed to get her things during the daylight hours so she'd be able to get away from him.  If he caught her trying to leave at night, her escape would be much more difficult.  She also spent the time taking care of the small matter of Mrs. Andrews.  The last thing Willow wanted was for Ms. Andrews to show up later that week and end up bearing the brunt of Spike's anger.

It was shortly after noon when Willow tiptoed back into her own house, heading straight up the stairs.  As she made her way to her own room, she noted with relief that Spike's door was closed.  Quietly as possible, she stuffed a few things into a case, making sure not to forget her journals.  If she weren't so angry and scared, Willow might have enjoyed the irony of the situation.  How many years ago was it that she did this same exact thing--packing her bags quickly and quietly in hopes of escaping the blonde demon that had betrayed her?  It was different this time though, and she knew it.  The last betrayal hurt her, but this one would kill her, if she let it.  But she was determined not to let it.

With one last glance around, Willow headed down the staircase.  She had one more thing to find and then she would be rid of this place and the monster upstairs.  Unfortunately, when she darted into the parlor, it was gone.

"Looking for something, Pet?" a sinister voice echoed through the house.

She ran back into the hallway to find Spike at the top of the stairs, leaning casually on the banister.  In his hands he held her guitar.

Willow's heart leapt as he strummed an eerie chord on her favorite possession.

"Very nice workmanship.  I can see why it means so much to you and how difficult it would be for you to leave it behind."  The vampire played another chord without looking at the strings.  He was challenging her to come and get it.

Willow remained rooted to her place.  "Spike, it's mine.  Give it to me, and I promise you won't see me again until it's time to end this torture."

The vampire clenched his jaw and strummed another minor chord.  "*You* are mine.  So what is yours is mine.  Understand?"

Willow shook her head and ascended the first few steps.  "No, Spike.  I don't acknowledge that.  You bit me, and that's all.  You don't own me anymore than some other parasite that took my blood!"

Spike clucked in amusement.  "One day, Pet, you'll understand, but for now there is nothing you can do about it.  You're mine, always will be."

Willow gritted her teeth in an attempt not to rise to his bait.  She just wanted her guitar and then to get as far away from the blonde demon as possible.

"Give me the guitar Spike or else--"

"Or else what?" he laughed.  "You'll curse me with my soul?"  Spike shook his head.  "Ah, you thought I didn't know your silly little secret?  That you spent years with the Rom in hopes of learning the spell so you could restore Angelus's soul?"

Willow blanched visibly but she took another step closer.  Her eyes remained glued on the guitar.

"I knew you would figure it out.  I gave you plenty of hints between the guitar and my other new talents.  So, to answer your question, 'yes', unless you would like your soul back, you'll hand me that guitar right now!" she said firmly, hoping her nervousness wasn't as apparent as she feared.

"Can't do it, Red.  If you knew how to restore souls, you would have done it ages ago.  You don't know, do you?  The Rom aren't a very trusting lot, are they?  They don't like outsiders much, let alone share their magik.  Bad bluff, Willow.  I thought I taught you better than that."

"Spike, please..." she begged with tears in her eyes.

Spike chuckled darkly.  "You lose, Pet."  With his final word, Spike threw the guitar over the balcony with all of his strength.

Willow watched in horror as her beloved instrument hit the wooden floor below and splintered into dozens of pieces before her eyes, its last sound echoing through the house.  She skittered down the steps, thinking of trying to gather the pieces in hopes that some artist may be able to reconstruct it for her, but Spike's voice reminded her that she was still in danger.

"That was fun!"  Spike said jovially and began descending the steps.

Willow quickly started to back toward the door, her eyes darting between the ruins of her guitar and the gloating vampire.

"You'll regret that, Spike!"

"Ah, cheer up, Pet," he told her, sarcasm lacing his every word.  "It's just a few more years now and then we can go home."

Willow let a smile of her own creep into her face.  Apparently, he hadn't figured it all out after all.  He won the hand, but she still had a plan to win the game.

"You'll have to find me first, Spike."  She waited a beat, just long enough to watch his superior smile fade a bit and an uncertain look flash in his eyes before she turned and ran into the morning sun.
End Chapter  29