****Dedicated to David and James because I doubt I would even have bothered if anyone else played the roles of Angelus and Spike.

< > indicates thoughts and such.
 

Take Your Time  ~ 31  ~
 

Willow stared out the window of the carriage, both cursing and thanking the many stars in the sky.  Between their constant light and that of the sliver of moon, she wasn't in complete darkness, but it also meant she could see the man across from her.  The man...the demon...who'd beaten her at poker.

As predicted, it had come down to the two of them toward the end of the day.  While Willow had made a great showing, easily winning many hands in the beginning from the seemingly distracted vampire, Angelus had managed to pull it off in the end with the help of some lucky draws in the cards and expert playing.  Also, he didn't exactly play fair.  Not that he cheated, he was too good for that.  Instead he distracted her--making her nervous by subtly reminding her what was at stake, using wordplay to remind her what was in store for her at his hands, and even going so far as to purposely brush his leg against hers--anything to break her concentration.  It worked.  Willow's only consolation was that he didn't take all her money.  The redhead was able to leave with considerably more than she'd come in with, but when they came to the time that had been previously decided for the game to end, Angelus was ahead financially.  Still, she couldn't help wondering what would have happened if she'd had more time, both to play and compose herself in his disquieting presence.  She thought she could beat him.

Unfortunately, it made little difference what she thought might have happened.  For now she was stuck in a carriage with him under the guise of his protection for the long ride to his home and her own inevitable torture.  The doors had been secured from the outside, and the breakneck pace that the driver was forcing from the horses precluded any attempts to jump for her freedom.  She was well and truly trapped.

Angelus studied her as she stared out the window, trying to ignore him.  Sooner or later, he knew she would speak, so he could wait.  She was so stubborn, even more so than when he'd first met her, and that thought pleased him.  It was going to be glorious breaking her.  After a couple of hours, though, he grew weary of the game and raised the stakes a bit.  Angelus reached over and pulled the heavy crimson drapes closed with a quick, almost dismissive snap of his hand.  Willow contemplated reopening them but somehow managed to hold her hand still, as well as her tongue.

Willow knew why he had plunged them into total darkness.  He wanted her to speak first, possibly even beg to be released or plead for mercy, but she refused to give him the satisfaction.  He'd upped the ante, but the redhead refused to fold.  She kept her eyes trained on the windows, as if the curtains had never been closed.  Unfortunately, she couldn't even see the curtains.  She couldn't see anything, but she knew he was still watching her...probably listening to the sound of the blood as it hurried through her veins or the quickening of her heart.  She tried to calm herself, but it wasn't easy without appearing as if that was what she wanted to do.  She couldn't take a deep breath, or close her eyes and picture her calming place because all of those things would be the same as revealing her cards.  Instead, she used the darkness as her canvas, and as the waterfall formed before her eyes, she felt her body respond almost instantly.  Her breathing steadied and her heart beat calmed.

They rode that way for over an hour, neither speaking nor moving, each waiting for the other to break first.  It was taking a toll on the redhead physically as she'd remained nearly motionless for three hours, save for the swaying and bumping of the carriage as it hurried across the country roads.  Her aching, tense muscles were begging for release.  Just a simple stretch or slump against the soft cushions would cause the throbbing to ebb, but she fought it.

Just when she thought that she would have to bite her tongue to quiet her own body's protests, there was a soft noise from the other side of the carriage, followed immediately by the distinctive sound of a match being struck.  Willow didn't react fast enough, and the sudden flash of light after the hours of darkness was painful, causing the redhead to flinch and shut her eyes before she could control her own reflexes.  Even through her tightly closed lids, Willow could tell the light in the small space had increased, and she slowly reopened them to find that Angelus had lit a small oil lamp that hung in the upper corner of the carriage, just over his shoulder.

"Just wanted ta make sure ya didn't fall asleep on me, my love," Angelus informed her as he settled back into the seat.  "Not when we have so much more ta talk about.  I thought maybe you and I could be takin' this time ta get ta know each other again."

Willow tried hard not to squint or blink against the still-too-bright light, and it caused her eyes to tear as she forced her gaze not to stray from Angelus's face.  A smile crept on to his face as he saw the glistening in her eyes increase.  Finally, one welled over and a lone tear slipped down her cheek.

"Tears?  Already?" he chided with a rueful shake of his head.  "But I haven't even tried yet.  Please don't tell me yer goin' ta disappoint me again?"  Angelus carefully leaned forward, never breaking eye contact with her.  Languidly he reached out with one finger, moving very slowly as he watched the tear trail its way down her face.  He was hoping for several different reactions from this beautiful captive.  After all these years, he thought he knew women pretty well and could predict how they would behave in almost any given circumstance.  One reaction was for her to jerk away from the inevitable contact, or better yet, to try and slap his hand away or perhaps even attempt to bite the offending digit.  In the end, he was almost disappointed when she remained perfectly still...perfectly calm when his long finger traced the damp path on her face.  It wasn't until the lone tear had reached her mouth that he finally captured it with a sensual brush across her heated lips.

Willow's tight control slipped when his cool skin came in contact with her fevered flesh.  There was an intake of breath, so quick, so slight, that only the most observant would have caught it.  Unfortunately, as she watched Angelus's smile broaden even more, she knew that he'd caught the breath, as well as the slight parting of the lips that accompanied it.

Angelus brought the tear-dampened finger to his own lips and moistened them with her salty offering before licking the wetness from his own cruel mouth.  "If I'd known ya were so easy ta excite, my innocent love, I would've done this a long time ago," he teased.

Willow pried her eyes away from his gloating face to finally rest her head back against the cushion and close her weary eyes.  She'd lost to him, once again, and as if that weren't bad enough, she also couldn't see a way out of her present situation.  <At least he let me ride facing forwards.  If I were sitting backwards like he is, I'd be throwing up on his shoes by now...not that that is necessarily a bad thing...> she mused.

As her head leaned back, Willow's hair fell away from her collarbone, once again revealing several bite marks along her ivory throat.  He'd never noticed them before, either because of the clothing she wore or because her hair hid them.  That is, he hadn't noticed them until she sat across from him at the poker table earlier that day.

At first he'd been angry with her for not obeying him by wearing her hair up as he'd insisted, her long auburn strands covering much of the delicate skin of her neck, collarbone and chest that the dress he'd picked out was supposed to reveal.  His anger had distracted him only slightly, but several hands later, when she'd absentmindedly brushed some of her silky tresses away from her face, that was when he saw them--the nearly invisible scars left by another vampire's kiss.  She'd been with him recently, that other vampire, and they appeared to have become quite close, in spite of her virginity.  His anger escalated tenfold, and he had to request a break in the play to find one of his minions to savagely feed from and kill as a means of releasing some of his tension.  Even after that, he'd lost quite a bit of money before he was able to control his jealousy.  Watching her now, seeing those marks again made him crave answers.  And he wasn't about to wait any longer.

"Where did ya learn ta play poker, Rose?  Yer one of the best I've seen, but ya still aren't a match fer me."

"Sp--*He*, the other vampire, taught me the basics," she said quietly with her eyes still shut.  "The rest I learned on my own."

"He took the time ta teach ya gamblin?" Angelus asked caustically.  "What kind of a demon would teach ya ta play cards, and what else did he teach ya, Rose?"

Willow opened her eyes at the tone in his voice.  It was suddenly very cold and angry.  "What do you mean?"

"The marks on yer neck..." Angelus continued, "there are more of them than there were before.  Last time I saw ya, ya had but the one.  Now ya have several, all from the same vampire, all done in pleasure."  The venom in his voice was building.  Willow was actually relieved that she could practically feel his jealousy of Spike in his voice.  She'd discovered her edge; she only wished she'd thought of it sooner.

"We were together for a while," she said slowly, watching his reaction closely.  "We shared a bed...and more."

Angelus found himself gripping the seat beside him, his nails puncturing the fabric.  "How much more, Rose?"

"As much as we could without ruining the spell."  Willow subtly noted with great satisfaction his damage to the cushion.

Angelus stewed about her words for a while, then realized what must have happened.  "He seduced ya, then.  This other vampire?"

"No," she said calmly.  "I seduced him."

Angelus growled softly, the demon in him demanding that she be punished for speaking to him this way and for letting another vampire touch her.  Somehow, though, Angelus kept a tight rein on his stampeding emotions.  When he finally noted the smug look on her face, Angelus knew that she was purposely trying to anger him and make him jealous, probably hoping that he'd grow careless and make a mistake.  He even convinced himself that she was lying about them sharing a bed, since he doubted that there was another vampire capable of controlling himself after one taste of her blood.

He calmed himself before speaking.  "Then he grew tired of ya and left ya?" he asked, almost laughing.

Willow's superior air dissolved as she recalled how her relationship with Spike had ended.  "Let's just say he remembered what he was...suddenly."

"Ah..." Angelus smiled knowingly.  "Ya must not have been as fillin' as he'd hoped fer."

Willow glared at him briefly but kept quiet, wondering if perhaps it was best if she didn't tell him too much about her relationship with Spike.  There was silence for several miles, but then Willow decided to take a chance.

"If I understand correctly, Angelus, because he bit me first...marked me...I'm his, not yours, right?"

Angelus felt his temper flare again.  After all this time, there was no way he would surrender his prize to another vampire.  He'd kill him, if necessary.

"I wouldn't worry about the other vampire, if I were ya.  He's not here, and I am, and since he seems ta have already gotten what he wanted from ya, I doubt ya will ever see him again."

Willow opened her mouth, ready to remind him that Spike would have to come for her one day so that they could go home, but the words died on her lips.  She had no way of knowing if Spike would even want to go back after seeing his Drusilla again, and she knew there really wasn't anything stopping Spike from just staying here with Drusilla.  <Except for William...then there would be two Spikes, and sooner or later...>  Willow groaned inwardly in frustration.  No matter how much she thought about it, she only got more confused.  Plus, it was worse now that Angelus had found her.  <Oh God...You just know this is going to really mess things up!>  Yep, this time-travel thing was a real pain in the ass.

With the lull in the conversation, Willow tried to get a handle on what these recent events would do to the future.  All she got for her trouble, however, was a dull headache.

"I need some fresh air," she exclaimed, simultaneously turning away from his stare to reopen the curtain and allow some of the night breeze in.  Angelus didn't try to stop her.

"How much longer?" she sighed, closing her eyes against the refreshing wind that caressed her face.

"Until when, me love?"

"Until we get to wherever we're going.  Your dungeon, I presume."

Angelus chuckled again.  "Ah, getting anxious, are we?  Don't worry yer pretty little head over it, me love.  We'll be there in a couple more hours."

"You know, trains are much quicker!" she said contemptuously, regretting it instantly since it sounded as if she were in a hurry to get to their destination.

"Impatient wee thing.  And I wish ta get there as quickly as you, Rose, but trains don't give me the control or privacy I need, nor do they run much at night.  I've a trusted driver who knows the fastest way, as well as what's at stake if he fails.  The fear of death makes fer a speedy journey, don't ya think?"

She met his laughing eyes with a withering look.  "I disagree.  This has been the longest and most painful journey of my life."

The vampire shook his head.  "So much wasted energy."

"What?" she asked irritably, turning away to look at the stars once more.

Angelus leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, his fingers meeting to form a triangle.  "Ya try so hard ta behave as if ya hate me..." he stated plainly, "...as if ya can't stand ta be with me, but we both be knowin' better, don't we?"

Willow didn't rise to the bait but continued to stare out the window.  Undaunted by her lack of response, Angelus pushed on.

"When ya look at me, ya still see the man I once was...the man ya loved."

"The man you were is dead," Willow spit out suddenly before she was even aware that she'd spoken.  "You're just evil, wearing the face of a good man," she added, embarrassed that she couldn't control her temper.

Angelus threw back his head and roared with laugher.  "A good man?  I was never a good man!"  The demon inside was bubbling over with joy.  He'd found another chink in Rose's armor, a way to hurt her, and he continued to strike at her weak spot.  "Well, maybe I was good at being bad, but that's about it.  Ya think ya knew the real Angelus Connellan, do ya?  Ya think that man who taught ya how ta ride a damned horse was the real me?  Then yer a bigger fool than I ever realized."

Willow shook her head in denial, even though he was only confirming what Spike had told her decades before.  "No!  You were--I mean, Angelus was-- always kind to me...respectful..."

"And do ya have any idea how hard it was fer him to treat ya like that, when all he wanted to was bed ya?"

"Stop it," Willow said softly, her hands beginning to twist her dress as her stiff demeanor wavered.

"It's true.  All he wanted was to seduce ya into his bed, Rose.  To taste your lips, knead yer breasts in his hands, and get ya to part yer legs for him.  Ya know he would've gotten that, eventually, if it weren't fer this little spell of yers.  Then he'd have forgotten about ya, like he did all the other tarts he bedded."

"Stop!" Willow cried, fighting back the tears.  "I know what you're trying to do, and it won't work!"

Angelus smiled at his small victory and leaned back in the seat again.  "Won't it?  Why not?"

"Because I don't care.  I felt nothing for him but pity because I knew..." her voice trailed off.  She was about to say too much.  "It won't work, Angelus.  I don't care about you, and I never did, so you can't hurt me like this!  The only emotion you'll get out of me is hate.  Pure...cold...hate."

If she had dared to look at him, she would have seen the flash of demon-yellow in his eyes, but it quickly faded, leaving the standard evil glint.

"Is that right, me love?  Ya hate me so much then?"

"Yes," she said firmly and backed it up with a nod of her head.

"And, just how much do ya hate me?" Angelus interrogated further, causing Willow to shake her head at the odd question.

"Enough," she told him softly but with conviction.  She heard Angelus chuckle to himself again and the soft brushing of fabric-on-fabric, but she refused to satisfy her curiosity by looking at what he was doing.  Suddenly, something was shoved into her hand.  She looked down to find she was now gripping a large, sharp wooden stake.  She could only stare at it for a moment as if she'd never seen one before.

"Use it, Rose," Angelus commanded as he sat back against the cushions.  "If ya despise me as much a ya say ya do, then take that stake and plunge it into me heart.  I won't be stoppin' ya, me flower," he informed her casually as he relaxed, closed his eyes, and put his hands behind his head.

Willow could only look back and forth between the stake and Angelus as a million thoughts hammered at her all at once.  She could end this whole thing now.  Angelus would be dead, just as Spike wanted, he could have William turn Drusilla, if she hadn't been turned already, and they could go home...finally.  It would be so easy.  She had killed vampires before, after all, and he was just another very evil vampire.  <Dust 'em, Willow!>

"But I..." she started as a distraction, then threw her petite body at him with all the strength and speed she could muster, or at least she told herself it was.

Angelus was ready for her though and caught both her wrists and forced them behind her, bringing her up hard against his muscular chest.  She struggled for only a moment, more irritated by his laughter than the fact that she'd failed because deep down she knew it was, at best, a half-hearted attempt to kill the future Angel.

"You lied!" she spit out accusingly anyway.  "You said you wouldn't stop me!"

"I didn't stop ya.  We both know ya couldn't have done it.  Ya weren't even tryin' ta hurt me."  Angelus squeezed her wrist until she dropped the stake, then he kicked it under the seat with his foot.  "Now, this is more like it, me love," he said huskily, pulling her closer.  He rearranged their hands so that he was able to hold her small wrists behind her with only one of his larger hands, leaving the other free to roam at will.  He was ready to start the next stage in his plan.

"Have I ever told ya how beautiful ya are, Rose?  Yer fiery hair, alabaster skin, and eyes the color of emeralds?" he asked softly, running his free hand through her long locks.

"Actually, yes, you have.  Several times, in fact," Willow reminded him with a touch of sarcasm that surprised even herself.  "I know what you're up to.  I may be a virgin, but I'm not a child."

"No," he agreed, his eyes roaming her body wantonly.  "Ya certainly aren't a child.  But it isn't that vampires don't appreciate a beautiful, *living* woman.  Ya don't have to be dead to make me want ya, Rose."  His hungry gaze rose to bore into her eyes, then softened slightly, lost in their see-green depths.

She felt her breath catch again when for a moment he looked exactly like the man who'd taken her into his arms so lovingly more than a lifetime ago.

"Although ya might make me want ya to be dead," he added, and with a cruel arching of his lips, he was once again the demon Angelus.

Realizing her momentary slip, Willow began to struggle frantically against him.  "You're just...trying to drive me mad, Angelus."  I won't let you...it won't work."

"Won't it?"  His face changed again, a mask of caring falling so easily into place.  "Haven't ya wondered if there is any good left in me, Rose?  A small bit of the man ya loved that ya could find in me?  The mere fact that I haven't killed ya yet, that I've gone to so much trouble fer ya, must make ya wonder that.  If I'm capable of more...of really caring fer ya...loving ya, perhaps?"

Willow's eyes widened in horror.  Deep down she had wondered that more times than she cared to remember.  "No, Angelus!" she fibbed.  "I'm not that...that simple...to think that you...that you're anything more than a soulless vampire.  Besides, I *never* loved you, so I don't care!"  <Pathetic, Willow.  Could you have sounded a little less convincing?>

"Ya don't lie very well when there aren't any cards in yer hand, Rose," he sneered, before moving his mouth closer, bringing it to rest at the corner of her lips, then trailing down to her jaw.  He kissed her gently, sensually, taking his time to savor the taste of her skin.

Willow arched in protest, trying to bring her face as far away from his as possible. Unfortunately, throwing her head back only served to open her neck to him, and Angelus wasted no time in exploring that nubile flesh.

The vampire did not bite her.  He never even nipped or scratched her with his teeth, instead letting his lips and tongue torture her more than his sharp fangs ever could.  He knew that biting and feeding from her was what she expected him to do--not slow, tender lovemaking.  He kissed and licked every inch of bare flesh that he found, save her lips.  He often brought his mouth close to hers, sometimes hovering a hair's breadth away from it, but he never kissed her.

Willow struggled to stay afloat in the rough sea of emotions that she found herself immersed in.  He was being so gentle--so loving and passionate--that Willow had to remind herself of what she knew him to be.  The forced reminder caused her to renew her struggles.  The young-looking woman once again twisted and turned in his arms, but even she sometimes wasn't sure if she was endeavoring to get away from him...or struggling to get closer.

His hands stroked her face gently, exploring every inch of her cheekbones and jaw, brushing over her lips and eyelids, time and time again.  He wanted her to plead for him to stop, or not stop.  The important thing was that she begged.

"Please," she said breathlessly, instantly hating herself when she heard the word that came out of her own mouth.  She waited for the familiar chuckle or the smirk to appear as he won this hand in their on-going game, but he never paused in his ministrations.

His mouth traveled without mercy to her nearest earlobe.  He gently licked and sucked on it for a while as his hand slid down her down her side, his thumb barely grazing her breast as it traveled down to her waist.

"Please what, me love?" he finally asked.

"Please...stop...we can't...you can't do this..."

He paused for a moment.  Angelus had hardly intended to take her right there in the carriage, although the had thought crossed his mind more than once.  The whole fact that she needed to remain a virgin threw a wrench in his plans.  Nevertheless, he solaced himself with the knowledge that there were still plenty of things he could do to her, over and over again, for the next few centuries.

"I assure you, Rose," he whispered menacingly in her ear, "that one day ya will beg me ta do just that which ya now beg me not ta do."

His momentary pause had given her enough time to gather her wits about her again.  "That will never happen," she said forcefully, bringing a mocking grin to the vampire's face.

"Ya are very sure of yerself, aren't ya?"  He used a hand at the back of her head to force her face close to his own.

As his mouth again lowered toward hers, Willow screwed her eyes tightly shut and waited for his brutal kiss.  To her surprise, one again he instead turned his attention to her neck.  Ever patient, Angelus studied her reaction to his every kiss and swirl of his tongue.  If her heart sped up or even skipped a beat, he made a mental note of the area and gave it special attention.

Willow had lost all track of time.  It seemed like his sweet torment had been going on for hours, and she was nearing the end of her limits.  She felt as if she would shatter...as if he kissed her one more time, she would splinter into a million pieces.  At this point, she almost welcomed it.  Willow was losing control and it petrified her.

"Please..." she whispered one more time in desperation as he paid particular attention to the area around her mouth, still without actually kissing her lips.

"Please what, me love?" he mumbled huskily at the corner of her mouth.

"Just bite me already..."she managed through ragged breaths, forcing her lids open to look at her tormentor.

Angelus stopped for only a moment to meet her eyes.  "Whatever pleases my lady," he replied with a knowing twist of his lips.

Willow was almost relieved as she braced herself for the pain of his fangs piercing her throat, but quickly she discovered that he was far from ready to end his game.  <Oh, God!  Oh, help me!> she pleaded silently when she realized he wasn't going to bite her yet.  <Let a meteor hit the coach...or...or a heart attack would be good right now!  I can't...>  But soon Willow was even beyond praying for help.

Eventually positioning his mouth over her jugular, he teased her hot flesh once again, this time allowing only the slightest hint of teeth as he traced the vein's path.  It wasn't long before the anticipation was too much even for the vampire, and slowly his scratches became nibbles, then his nibbles became bites.

Willow had no idea when he'd let go of her wrists.  It almost seemed like a scene from one of her dreams when she became aware that one of her hands was now tangled in his hair while the other dug into his back like she was clinging to him for her very sanity.  It was after this realization that she gave up the battle, somehow knowing that either trying to fight him or hiding her body's reactions would only make things worse.  While he may be able to arouse her body with his own by using mental trickery, he would never have her mind or her heart.

When he realized her struggles had changed into near-participation, Angelus couldn't hold back any longer.  He allowed his true nature to come through and, before he'd even finished the transformation, his fangs punctured her tender flesh.

Willow gasped at the feeling of his face changing against her and gripped him even tighter.  She felt his teeth, already embedded in her neck, elongated even further, and the soft skin of his face taking on the ridges of the demon.  More than the act itself, it was her body's growing response to the erotic sensations that disgusted her.  <I really am going to go to hell for his...> flitted through her mind, almost drowned out by the sounds of her own heavy breathing.

Angelus fed slowly and carefully.  His hands roamed her body as he reveled in the feel of her holding on to him instead of trying to push him away.  Not that he didn't love it when his victims struggled, but Rose had so much fire in her that the fight was almost unnecessary at the moment.  With gargantuan effort, he eventually pulled away, wanting to see her face when she realized how she'd responded to him.

Her lids drifted open and closed in blood-loss-induced sleepiness, but she managed to focus on him.  She knew somewhere in her foggy mind that she should be ashamed, but she no longer had the energy.

"This...changes nothing, Angelus," she whispered, no longer able to keep her eyes open.  "My body...may react to you, but...you won't make me crazy...I..."

But Angelus would never hear what she had to say because she slipped into unconsciousness.

"Ah, don't worry, me sweet Rose," Angelus murmured as he set about licking the sleeping woman's wounds.  "I think yer body may be enough, fer now."

******

Spike watched impatiently from the shadows where he'd been all night.  He was beginning to  wonder if he had the date wrong or if he should head for the abbey himself when he saw a dusty-but-expensive carriage pull up in front of the large manor house.

Spike's lips curled into a sneer when he saw Angelus step out of the carriage, only to be met within seconds by William.  They talked for a minute, too softly for even Spike to hear, and then Angelus climbed back in the carriage.  After a moment, Angelus stepped back out, carrying a large bundle.  <That's no bundle...that's a body...>  Spike took a chance and scrambled closer, trying to get a better look at the two vampires.

From his improved, though more dangerous vantage point, Spike could see that it was indeed an unmoving woman that Angelus was holding in his arms.  Angelus's cloak was wrapped about her, but Spike could just make out the feminine hand dangling from underneath it and a few trails of long hair that lay against his shoulder.  But before he could get a closer look, Angelus handed his armload to William.  Spike heard Angelus grumble something about having a quick feed before the fun began and then stalked off down the street in the opposite direction.  Once William had carried the woman inside and the driver had taken away the carriage, Spike just plopped down on the damp ground amongst the bushes.  He didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  He had waited for this night for so long, agonized over whether he was doing the right thing and about whether everything would happen as it should, that sometimes he'd wondered if this night would ever arrive.  And now it had.  His beloved Drusilla, his Dark Goddess, had obviously been sired by Angelus and was in the arms of his former self.  Now all he had left to do was what he'd come here for in the first place...kill Angelus.

The smile left his face for only a moment as a whispered promise that he'd once made crept into his consciousness--a promise to a warm redhead as she lay quivering in his arms from nightmare-induced fear.  After all that Angelus had done to Willow, the pain and guarantee of more where that had come from and even the horrific dreams that she'd had, Willow had made Spike promise not to kill his sire.  Reluctantly, he'd agreed when she assured him that she'd find a way to alter the future just enough so that Angelus would never make another appearance in Sunnydale.  As a result, she pledged that Spike would never have to help Buffy and betray Angelus, the very act that led to Drusilla's eventual suicide.

"Bugger that!" Spike grumbled caustically.  <She betrayed me, after all!  She'd promised to do anything to get me my Dru back, but she didn't, did she?  She broke her bloody promise, so why the hell should I keep mine?>  "Time to take my future into my own hands, I'd say."

Easily rationalizing to himself that once again Angelus and Willow were the cause of all of his problems, Spike was once again filled with the need for revenge.  Suddenly, he felt young again.  His goal now in sight, Spike rose to his feet, took the ever-present stake from his coat pocket, and strode after Angelus with the kind of energy that only comes with the opportunity for vengeance.

***

Angelus was hungry for something, he just wasn't quite sure what.  It wasn't that he was starving because Rose's blood, whether it was due to magik or her age or her prolonged state of purity, was very filling.  He just needed to take some of the edge off...to do the things he couldn't do with his enchanting captive...like rip at someone's flesh when he fed, or drink until there was nothing left, for example.  There was the other hunger as well...the one that to entirely satiate would ruin all his plans for the future as it could very likely take the object of his obsession away from him.  He had a long time to think during the ride, and while at first he was skeptical about Rose's story and what would happen if she were to be bedded by a man, in the end he believed her...not because he thought she was incapable of lying, he had seen her abundant skills of bluffing at the poker table, but because the pain in her eyes when she spoke about it was undeniable.

After dropping his latest victim, an older man that reeked of smoke and cheap perfume, Angelus decided to go in search of a woman who could fulfill his other needs.  It was at that moment that he sensed he wasn't alone.

Spike stayed in the shadows, watching his prey as a million thoughts crossed his mind.  There were so many things he wanted to say before he turned his sire to ashes, so many things he wanted to do. On the other hand, he had seen enough telly to know that the bad guys always lost because they never simply killed the hero.  They always had to drag it out, make some pithy speech, and kill them in some slow, albeit ingenious, way.  Of course, while Angelus had more in common with Jack the Ripper than James Bond or Indiana Jones, Spike was not about to make the same mistake that the enemies of those celluloid heroes did time and time again.  It was going to be simple.  He had a short but witty speech all planned and was going to use the few moments when Angelus was confused as to who he was to deliver it.  The blonde vampire had a few things to tell him about himself, as well as Willow.  And when he saw the ego deflate, Spike would deliver his blow and it would be all over.  No fuss, no muss.  Then all he had to do was make sure that William was taking good care of his Drusilla, and then they could go home--once he found Willow again, that is.

And from they way Angelus stood up and cocked his head, Spike knew it was time to begin.

Angelus stopped, catching a familiar smell in the air, then shook his head in dismay.  "William?  Why are ya here?"

Spike took only a small step forward, keeping himself partially obscured in the moon's shadows, not that it mattered since Angelus hadn't even bothered to turn around.

"Where else would I be but at my sire's back?"  His hand gripped the stake that was hidden in the depths of his pocket, his fist repeatedly clenching and releasing around it.  He didn't want to make his move too soon, nor did he want to be just another failed adversary.

"Yer supposed to be taken care of her!  Makin' sure that none of those idiot minions of ours get any wrong ideas!" he growled.

<Minions of ours?  That'd be a first!>  "She's in good hands, mate.  I can promise you that," Spike drawled, brushing off his own question.

"Ya know ya are the only one I trust her with, Will!" Angelus went on, too disappointed in his childe at the moment to bother to turn around and look at him.

"She's safe as houses."  Spike took a few steps closer, with each step feeling the comforting weight of stake against his thigh.  A flash of anger coursed through him as he realized that his sire wasn't even going to turn around to look at him.  <Damned, bloody, arrogant bastard!>

"Did ya come to tell me somethin' important, then?  It best be damn important that ya put everythin' we've worked so hard fer at stake, William."

"No pun intended, right Angelus?"  <If only the pillock knew just how much I was going to 'put at stake'.>

With a frustrated shake of his head, Angelus ignored his childe's attempt at humor.  "Ya don't understand all the time I've invested in this woman, I suppose?  Ya've come here ta straighten me out, then?"

Spike walked slowly forward, finding this conversation more fascinating than the speech he'd planned, at least for the moment, anyway.

"Can't ya see how special she is, William?  I don't know why I didn't see it before, but the woman practically glows with a power, of sorts.  I haven't had a chance ta tell ya everythin' she told me yet, but she has so much promise that ta not take full advantage of it would make us damned fools!"

Spike snickered silently.  <You're telling me, mate!>  It was perfect.  Just as he'd hoped.  Angelus had become obsessed with Dru and now saw her potential because of her visions.  <Too bad you didn't change her earlier.  She may have been able to warn you that today you were going to die...for good, this time.!>

"She's special all right," Spike said, standing directly behind his sire, close enough to feel the coolness emanating from his body.  "She makes a beautiful vampire...a Dark Goddess even," he added, with a touch of wistfullness in his voice.

Angelus knitted his brow.  William had seemed fine when he'd first arrived back at the house, but now he was acting so strangely.

"William, I thought ya understood!" Angelus started impatiently, finally spinning around.  "I can't turn Rose..."  Angelus's explanation came to an abrupt halt when he finally saw who he'd been talking to.  In the blink of an eye, the Irish vampire instantly shifted to his game face.

The victorious smile on Spike's face faded fast as Angelus's words finally filtered through his brain.  "Um, did you say Rose?" he asked in a state of confusion, barely noticing that his sire was now wearing his demonic face and staring at him with murderous intent.

Angelus's hands flew out, grabbing Spike by the lapels and dragging him closer.  "Who are ya?"

Spike vamped out the moment Angelus touched him.  His own hands latched onto Angelus's wrists, easily breaking his sire's hold on him.  It was just as Spike had hoped.  He was older than Angelus now, and as a result, stronger.  He'd never have to submit to him again.  However, as much as he would love to take the time to gloat, he had more important matters to worry about at the moment.

"You have Rose?" Spike demanded, louder this time.

Angelus was surprised by the strength of the other vampire but was undaunted.  This time he grabbed him by the neck, again demanding, "Who are you?"

Spike's only answer was to mimic his sire's move, grabbing him too by the neck.  "Do you have Rose?" he demanded in return.  "What about Dru?"

The two vampires stared at each other, utter bewilderment and anger keeping their demons at the forefront and their grips tight.  It was unlikely that they could truly hurt each other this way, it was more a show of strength--a test for dominance--and they both knew it.

Just when Spike thought his plan couldn't go any more awry, it did.

"This is just too bloody perfect," Spike muttered, releasing one of his holds on Angelus's throat to quickly reach into his pocket and pull out the stake.  Angelus's grip on Spike faltered, his eyes opening widely as he caught sight of the stake in the blonde vampire's raised hand.  As Spike let all of his hatred flow into that one tightly clenched grip, he let go of Angelus's throat, thrusting the wooden weapon at the vampire's chest with all of his energy.

The surprised vampire was unable to utter a strangled cry before he disintegrated in front of Spike's eyes.

"Sorry mate," Spike said resentfully as he kicked at the ashes.  "But that's what happens when you muck up my plans!"

Spike finally turned to look at the silent vampire beside him.  "Bloody hell, Angelus!  How many people are trying to kill you, anyway?" he snarled, barely able to hide his disappointment.

Angelus's amber eyes studied the ashes of the rival master vampire and then turned back to the blonde vamp that had saved his life.  "I'll ask ya again.  Who are ya?  Ya look and sound like me William, but..."  Angelus shook his head in total bewildered.  The master vampire didn't appreciate being confused, nor did he care for his lack of the control of the situation.

"What?  Don't you recognize your own childe anymore, Angelus?  I'm crushed, pop, truly I am," Spike said with distaste, brushing some ashes off of his coat.

Angelus jumped to his feet, ready to beat some answers out of the other vampire if necessary.  "Listen here, Blondie.  I'm only goin' ta ask this one more time.  While I'm thankful fer ya savin' me backside just then, I'm not goin' ta put up with yer games.  Now tell me, vampire that looks like William, who are ya?"

Spike had to think fast.  "I *am* William...or at least what William will be around the end of the 20th century.  Just call me the bloody ghost of Christmas future, Ebenezer."

Angelus's confusion only grew, but before he could gather his thoughts enough to question him further, the blonde vampire began demanding answers from him again.

"Now what the hell happened to Wi--er, Rose?"

Unfortunately for the already impatient Spike, Angelus wasn't about to back down after that little bombshell he'd just dropped. "Yer...from the future?"

Spike took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "Okay...I can see that you're having trouble with this point, Angelus, so I'll sum up.  Pay attention.  I'm William, your childe.  I'm from the bloody future, brought back by a damned spell.  Was that simple enough for you?"

Angelus wasn't pleased with the way the other vampire was talking to him, especially if he truly was his childe.  Luckily, he had more important things on his mind than putting William in his place.  As he continued his cold scrutiny of the white-headed vampire, he finally remembered where he'd seen him before.

"You...yer that vampire from Galway, aren't ya?"

Spike tried to contain his anger has he saw his plans falling to pieces around him.  "Yes, yes, *yes*!  Now, can we move on?" he demanded.  "God, I forgot how slow you could be on the uptake sometimes, mate," he muttered more softly to himself.  "Now, do...you...have...Rose?" he repeated.

Angelus studied the other vampire, not even really hearing what Spike was saying.  After a moment, he knew.  It was William.  The hair was different, but everything else was the same--the piercing eyes, the chiseled features, even the way he clenched his jaw when he was frustrated.

"William..." he uttered in awe, almost like a prayer.

The tone of his sire's voice, the raw emotions behind it, almost blindsided Spike for a moment.  He hadn't heard that from Angelus in centuries, but he quickly pushed his own chaotic feelings aside--the blonde vampire had become pretty good at denial by now.

"Rose, Angelus.  I asked you about Rose," he groaned.

The dark demon furrowed his brow at his childe's colder-than-normal behavior, but he chalked it up as an effect of the time-travel spell.  "I have me Rose, yes."

Spike clenched his jaw and stepped closer, drawing his face with in an inch of his sire's.  "Then where's Dru?"

"Dru?" the darker vampire asked, his eyes now blazing with anger at the vampire that seemed to have forgotten his place.  Yet, it wasn't the time or the place to punish him.  There were still too many questions, so Angelus squashed his fury for the time being.

Spike had to keep himself from rolling his eyes in impatience..  "Drusilla...the girl from the confessional, remember?  I know you met her.  I was there at the church just a few weeks ago, watching the whole thing.  Now, where the bloody hell is she?"

"Ah!" Angelus said with a slight smile and a shake of his head.  He didn't know what was going on, but he was bound and determined to find out soon.  It was obvious that Drusilla became important to William at some point, which surprised Angelus.  "I remember her now.  It was quite a bit of fun toyin' with her.  She was so simple, so trustin'.  With each word I whispered in her ear, ya could practically hear the tiny threads of her mind come undone.  Each time I killed a member of her family, ya could see it in her eyes that she was one step from an asylum."

This time, Spike couldn't control himself.  He rolled his eyes.  "Spare me the bloody history lesson, mate.  I mean, I've been there before, haven't I?  The question is, why weren't you at the convent tonight?  You were supposed to change her, right there when she took her vows!"

Angelus shrugged, then reached down and picked a blade of grass and twisted it between his fingers.  "It sounds like I missed quite a time, but I had other things to do.  I got a lead on me Rose about a fortnight ago, and while drivin' Drusilla mad is always good fer a spot of fun, Rose is much more of a challenge...a woman of mystery, ya might say."

<I don't bloody believe this!>  Spike snarled internally.  Everything had gone to hell in a hand basket, and once again, Willow was the cause.

"Oh, so suddenly the great Angelus can't handle terrorizing two women at the same time?  You aren't the demon I remember then, Angelus," the blonde vampire sniped.

<William...where did all this anger come from?  What did they do to ya in the future ta make ya so bitter?> he wondered.  "Why is she so important to ya, Spike?" Angelus inquired aloud.  "Ya were never much one fer the more subtle side of torture before.  Ya always said if it doesn't make 'em bleed, then what's the bloody point?"

Spike chuckled.  He remembered saying that a lot back then, whenever Angelus would try and get him to wile away a few months driving some poor person insane without ever touching them, like he did with Drusilla.

"Things change, Angelus.  Things change."

Angelus slowly approached his childe, staring at him intently.  "Why is she so important to ya, then?"

The blonde vampire clenched his jaw but managed to maintain his sire's intense gaze.  "Let's just say we become very close, and her gift of foretelling comes in bloody handy.  We don't want to lose it."

Angelus shook his head, surprised by his childe's devotion to the woman he and William had been taunting a few week's earlier.  "If she's that important to ya, what difference will a day make, right?  Now, tell me, what did ya come back fer, William?"

Spike winced at the use of his former name, it just seemed ill suited to him now.  "Spike," he told his sire firmly.

"What?"

"I go by 'Spike' now.  Have for over 100 years, so learn it and use it, all right?" he grumbled bitterly.

Angelus briefly pondered his childe's disrespectful attitude before once again advising himself not to become too concerned over it at the present time.  There was still too much at stake.  Besides, apparently they would have plenty of time for appropriate punishment later.

"Spike?  Spike..." he ventured, rolling the word around on his tongue a bit until it felt more natural.  "Well, if that's what ya want, it'll make it a bit less confusin."  Tired of the games, Angelus stood up straight, looking at his childe with the air of complete authority that Spike remembered so well.  "Now, tell me, *Spike*, why are ya here?"

<Ah!  There's the Angelus I love to hate.  Now, think fast, Spike.  There's no room for any more bloody errors!>  "Didn't Rose tell you?" he queried after a quick internal debate.

Angelus shook his head in the negative, but Spike noted his sire's eyes gleamed yellow briefly at the mere mention of her name.

"She wouldn't talk about ya much.  I planned on gettin' it out of her later," he said with a knowing smirk.  "All she said is that ya forced her ta do a spell and now she can't die or enjoy the company of men until ya end the spell.  Apparently me little witch forgot ta mention that she was from a different time as well."

Spike laughed, "She so sweet and innocent looking, isn't she, with those big green eyes and pouty little lips?  She lied to the great Angelus and got away with it!"

The gleam was there again.  "Explain yerself, Wil-- Spike."

Spike grinned as an idea dawned on him, just in the nick of time.  He leaned nonchalantly against a tree, took out a cigarette and lit it, taking several slow draws before speaking.  "It's simple, mate.  She came here to kill you.  I came to stop her."

"What?"  Angelus stared at the blonde vampire like he'd suddenly sprouted a halo.  "No," he said firmly, shaking his head.  "I gave her several chances to harm me, and her attempt was half-hearted at best.  She doesn't have killin' in her."

"She wasn't going to just come right out and knock you off, Angelus," Spike said impatiently.  "She's too bloody smart for that.  Rose was just trying to keep you from being changed.  That's why we were in Galway, Angelus.  She was trying to keep you busy until Darla left town."

After a pause, Angelus grunted a vague acceptance that what Spike was saying might perhaps be true.  "Why?" he asked as he began to pace.

"So many reasons, Angelus.  You're quite notorious in our time...get up to all sorts of mischief...Hellmouths, awakening demons, torturing, you know, the usual stuff.  I guess she and her slayer friend didn't care too much for your antics."

"Slayer?"  Angelus stopped his walking.  "Do I get me a few slayers in me time?

It was one of those conversations that Spike knew someday he would look back at and just laugh his undead ass off.

"Yes, you'll *have* a few Slayers, mate.  One way or another."  <If you can't kill 'em, shag 'em, right Angel?>

Angelus stood a little straighter, his pride showing in his countenance like a beacon.  "I can't believe it.  A hundred years from now I cause enough mayhem that a woman decides ta actually come back in time ta stop me from ever becomin'."

<Egotistical bastard!>  "That's about the sum of it."

Pushing pride aside, Angelus had more questions.  "But ya tried to stop her?  She said it was yer spell..."

Spike was thinking fast.  "It was, in a way.  I interrupted her at the last moment...and just came along for the ride.  The virginity thing is her own damn fault, but she thought she'd be here for months only, not decades."

Angelus eventually plopped down on a small boulder, trying to absorb all the information.  Things were starting to fall into place now...Willow's comments and odd behavior when he was human, her vampire companion's cryptic remarks the night after he was sired by Darla.  It all was beginning to make sense, but there were still plenty of questions to be answered.

"But why are ya still here, then, Spike?  I was changed, thanks ta you, and you were sired.  What more is there?"

Spike clenched his jaw and kicked at a pebble on the ground, his brain working in overdrive.  "Rose got a way from me the night you were changed.  I didn't see her for decades after that.  I had to stick close to you in case she found enough of a backbone to actually kill you after all."

"You've been followin' me around?  Watchin' me back?"

"Off and on."

"I'm touched by yer obedience, Spike," Angelus said honestly, "but we both know there's more ta it than that, now, isn't there?"

Spike didn't answer.  He simply took a few more puffs from his cigarette and watched the smoke drift away in the gentle breeze.

Angelus stood up and approached him.  "Aye, I'm sure there's more ta this than yer tellin' me."  Angelus reached out and lightly traced the very familiar scar on Spike's eyebrow, as well as the new one on his jaw, causing Spike to grind his teeth in a concentrated effort not to break his sire's hand for even touching him.  If Angelus noted his childe's increased tension, he didn't let it show.

"It's Drusilla.  She's important enough to ya ta go to all this effort?"

Spike nodded, meeting his sire's gaze again.

"She must be somethin', then..." Angelus said lightly, taking a few steps back from the other vampire, "...ta make me William go ta so much trouble fer a woman when ya keep tellin' me that they're all the bloody same.  She is fer you perhaps what Rose is fer me?"

Spike stifled a laugh at the irony of the situation.  "It's different, Angelus.  Drusilla becomes a bloody marvelous vampire.  One that will make you proud.  Rose is human and always will be.  She's good for only one thing, and you'll soon get bored with that."

<Like ya did, my childe?>  Angelus's face darkened when he remembered the bite marks on his Rose, but he was able to contain his jealousy.  His control came easier with the knowledge that the vampire he'd been envious of was, in truth, his childe.  That changed everything.

"We shall see," he said coolly.  "We should be gettin' back, Wil--Spike.  It'll be light soon, and we need ta be discussin' yer Drusilla somewhere more private."

<My Drusilla?  Bloody hell...things have changed!>  Spike nodded, engrossed in his own thoughts of Drusilla and Willow.  This was a little overwhelming.  Only an hour before he'd been about to kill his sire, and now not only had he saved Angelus's hide, they were going to have a calm discussion about the future of his Princess as well!

"And I suppose ya want ta see Rose," Angelus added reluctantly.

Spike dropped his smoke and ground it out with his boot, unable to keep the smirk from his face.  "I guess I should see how the old ball and chain is doing."

Angelus chuckled softly, happy to know that his childe hadn't lost the sense of humor that he'd come to appreciate so much.  He slapped an arm on the blonde vampire's shoulder.  "Let's get ya home.  I can't wait fer William ta be seein' ya...especially the hair."
~~~~
End Chapter 31
 

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