**** Dedicated to all the great writers I met for the first time in LA this past weekend: Tracy, Laura, Amy, Loki, Ciderbreak, Kate...and I'm sure there were more but I forgot!  So, when is Willow/Fanfic Con 2000?

< > indicates thoughts and such.

~~~ Take Your Time 33 ~~~

Willow stood by the window, watching as the day threatened to give in to night.  Even though her room didn't catch the afternoon sun, she could tell by the softening of the light that it was getting closer to sunset.  Soon, Spike and William would leave to get Drusilla, and in exchange, Willow would be handed over to Angelus.  It all seemed so very matter of fact, as if she were nothing more than a school lunch to be traded between choosy yet hungry children--peanut butter and jelly for ham and cheese, a Twinkie for a Ding-Dong.

Willow hugged her arms tightly about herself as she focused past the opaque window.  Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.  She had thought that she knew Spike pretty well by that point, in spite of their past difficulties or maybe even because of them, but she could not figure out what he was thinking when he agreed to surrender her to his sire.  <He wasn't thinking at all.  Not about me, anyway.  All he can think about is his precious Drusilla,> she whined to herself but soon regretted it.  Once again, she was sounding even to herself like an immature, lovesick little girl, but love really had nothing to do with it.  Willow had always known she could never replace Drusilla in Spike's heart, nor did she want to.  But she had always thought that they had something special.  Somewhere along the line she had convinced herself that they had some magical and rare relationship that transcended the boundaries of mere friendship--a bond that would always find a way through of all their respective pain.  Maybe it happened the night he didn't feed from her when she had practically dared him to.  Or perhaps it materialized during their discussion on the special properties of chocolate, but it had definitely been there long before the night that Spike had painstakingly released her from so much more than just her restrictive clothing.  But now, as the light in the room faded, keeping time as well as any clock or hourglass, she saw the truth.  Whatever bond they had shared was flimsy, as any bond between a demon and a human would have to be.  The bindings of steel that Willow could have sworn she once felt between them were now scattered in the wind.  They were nothing more than paper, torn under the first signs of stress.  Without that connection, she felt naked and totally lost for the first time in decades.  Even during the past few years when a part of her hated him and never wanted to see him again, deep inside she'd always thought that they'd find away through this.  Not anymore.  Willow saw their relationship for what it really was.  She had always just been a means to an end for Spike, and this was just the final example because by being given to Angelus, she was fulfilling Spike's greatest desire.  In exchange for her, Drusilla would be his, free and clear.

"At least I know I'm worth something to someone, I guess," she mumbled, letting herself sink into another moment of despair.

It was all too confusing.  The repercussions on the whole timeline from Spike giving her to Angelus were enormous.  How would they get home?  Spike couldn't leave this timeline without her, so it was now her fear that Spike was planning to stick around instead.  Maybe Angelus's grand gesture had restored his once-strong feelings for his sire, and instead of wanting to kill him, perhaps Spike hoped to rebuild what they once had.  If so, where did that leave her?  She guessed as long as she stayed a virgin they could go on in this timeline indefinitely, but the willpower that that would require on everyone's part...she didn't even want to think about it.  Besides, she didn't want her torment at Angelus's hands to happen at all, let alone last for an eternity.  No matter how she looked at it, it was a nightmare with no real escape.

A short time later, even though submerged in her own melancholy thoughts, Willow heard the door open and the vampire step inside.

"It's almost time, Red.  We're about to go fetch Dru.  Are you going to miss me?"

Willow continued to stare out the window as she felt the vampire nearing.  She didn't think she could look at Spike right now without embarrassing herself one way or another so she refused to turn around.  Instead she focused on a smudge that marred the otherwise immaculate windowpane.

"Get out," she said firmly, but even she could hear the undercurrents of pain in her voice.

"Ah, that's no way to behave, is it?" he teased, his hand lightly caressing her shoulder.  "Not after all we've been through...all we've done to one another."

His touch sparked her into action.  "Spike, don't you dare..." she began and whirled around, ready to slap the vampire who had sentenced her to a desolate future without so much as a second thought, but she was shocked to instead find a cockily grinning William the Bloody.

"I'm not Spike...well, not yet anyway, but when I grow up, I hope to be just like him," he taunted, placing a tray of food on her bed.

"William..." Willow acknowledged warily, sidling away from him.  She glanced at the food hungrily, but the look on the vampire's face chased away her desire to eat.  He looked as ravenous as she felt.

"It all makes sense now--" William admitted, following her as she tried to put some distance between them, "my marks on you, the way you were acting towards me, your cryptic little speeches.  And to think, I was starting to feel like a naughty boy for being a little jealous of my sire, knowing that you were to be his, when you were actually mine all along.  You are mine--"

Willow shook her head.  "No!  I'm not yours...I'm not anyone's!" she denied adamantly.

William continued his advance until she was backed into a corner.  "You're Spike's possession, even Angelus had to admit it, which was nearly bloody impossible for him, believe me," he snickered.  As he spoke, William found himself rubbing the fairly fresh wound on his own neck that was a reminder of just how frustrated Angelus truly was at the whole turn of events.  His sire took his anger out on him, and now William planned on doing the same with his Rose, as was his right.  At the thought, the hunger in his eyes burned brighter.

"Now," William continued, "since Spike and I are actually the same person, I own you, Pet.  I think it's about time I sample the goods, don't you?" he asked menacingly as the look of fear mixed with hatred in her eyes threatened his own self-control.

Somewhere, Willow found a shallow well of strength that Spike's betrayal had yet to drain from her.  Drawing from it, she raised herself up and looked him squarely in the eye.  "Any closer, and you'll regret it!  I swear!" she warned crossly, but William's smile only grew.

"That's all right, Pet.  As I'm sure you already know," he leered, flicking a finger over Spike's mark yet again, "I don't mind a spot of pain with my pleasure."

As her loomed over her, Willow screwed her eyes tightly shut, hoping that it looked to William as if she were simply surrendering to the inevitable, when in fact she was drinking again from her small pool of willpower.  When she felt his face close to her own, she slammed the top of her forehead into his nose with every drop of energy that she could find while simultaneously shoving him backward with all of her might.  Ignoring the howl of pain from the vampire as well as her own now-throbbing head, Willow made a break for the door that the vampire had left open in his complacency.  She had no doubt that the bloody nose she'd inflicted upon the vain vampire would only gain her seconds at most, but it was the best she could do.  The clothes she wore did not allow for kicking, flipping or any other form of the defensive measures that she had learned during her travels.

Once in the hallway, she turned left, trying to remember the path that would lead her out of this maze.  <Left...then second left...and then right...I think...> she tried to recall, running as fast as she could in the overly tight and awkward gown.  Realizing that she was only a couple of turns away from the staircase--a couple of dozens steps from the front door and possible freedom, she somehow managed to quicken her pace as she rounded that last corner...

...where she ran directly into Spike.  "Get out of my way!" Willow grunted, trying to push past the astonished blonde vampire.  She wasn't about to let a little thing like a lying demon stand in her way when she was so close to freedom.  Unfortunately, Spike wasn't about to let a little thing like a virginal redhead stand in his way of getting all he ever wanted either.

Quickly getting over his surprise at seeing her free, Spike spun around and easily grabbed Willow by the hair as she tried to dodge him. "Not so fast, Princess," he laughed.  "Can't let the belle of the ball escape before she gets her final dance with Prince Charming, can we?"  Ignoring her venomous and crude reply, Spike literally dragged the struggling woman back toward her room just in time to see William stumble out her door.

Spike shook his head in disgust.  "You have to keep a closer eye on her, mate!  She's a tricky one."  Following William back into her chambers, Spike shoved Willow violently, sending her sprawling on the floor.

William growled at his older self as he brushed himself off and checked to make sure his nose had quit bleeding.  "Obviously," William said in his own defense, "you haven't trained the little girl very well, Spike.  She doesn't know her place, which at this point is either at my feet groveling for her pathetic life, or in my bed...well, or your bed, I suppose."

Willow climbed to her feet, not wanting to give Spike the chance to comment to his dark-haired twin.  "I'm the pathetic one?  Look who's talking!  You two are the ones begging for Angelus's castoffs!"  She didn't even pretend that it was meant for William.  Every word was said directly to Spike.

The blonde vampire glowered and stormed up to the redhead, but she didn't budge from her spot.  "You seem to have forgotten, my little virgin, that I threw you out like last century's old rubbish long before this little bargain with Angelus was struck.  I'm just afraid he'll realize what a rotten deal he's getting and try to welsh on the whole arrangement!" Spike informed her vehemently.

Willow, momentarily revitalized by her anger and the embarrassment over her failed attempt to escape, returned his glare.  "If you ask me, Drusilla's the one getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop!  She should have Angelus, but now she's going to be stuck with a pitiful substitute!"

At the comparison to his sire, Spike's true visage slipped into place, and he lashed out at his ex-lover.  Gripping her throat in one, cold, punishing hand, he dragged her closer.  "Such devotion to your future master already, Pet?" he sneered, casting a quick glance at Angelus's latest marking on her neck.  "Angelus will be touched, I'm sure.  Although, I must say we're all bit disappointed, actually.  We thought you might last more than a day before you succumbed to his charms.  Guess we were the bloody stupid ones to think you were special!" he spat out, enjoying the winces of pain and guilt that crossed her face.  Abruptly, Spike let her go, shoving the woman away as if he were repulsed to touch her.

William was particularly disappointed.  He was expecting Spike to severely punish her for her insolence.  "Is that it, mate?" he asked, casting a glance at the stricken redhead as she struggled to catch her breath.  "Come on, she deserves to be whipped within an inch of her long-life for speaking to us like that!"

Spike's bitter lips pursed in amusement at his younger self.  "If she were anyone else, I'd agree with you," he commented to William.  "But not with our little virgin, here.  She likes to get a bloke all worked up, wants you to lose control with her, and then waits for you to make a mistake.  That way, at least she can blame all of her troubles on you.  What she actually needs to get through her thick skull is that this is all her own bloody fault!" he continued, his voice getting louder.  "She stuck her nose in where it didn't belong, and this is what she gets for it!"  Spike stopped himself before he completely lost his temper.  Reminding himself that he was only hours away from having his Dru in his arms where she belonged, the blonde vampire managed to calm himself down and finally slip back into his more humane face.  "No, William," he said calmly and coolly.  "The only way to really punish Rose is with words and guilt.  It's all she's ever understood."

William forced a sigh.  "Well, that's a bit of a bloody let down, mate.  Here I am expecting some big finale--skyrockets, screaming, pleading for her life, maybe a little world peace--but instead all I get are more words.  I'm starting to think the future isn't much fun if you can't even shed a little blood when your pets misbehave!"

"It's not like this with everyone, William," Spike reminded him with a wry smile, "just Rose.  And trust me, mate.  You aren't missing anything.  One virgin is pretty much like the other.  Plus she's got a bloody big mouth...never shuts the hell up...never!"

Willow's glistening eyes shot daggers at the blonde vampire, but that was all she could manage--dirty looks.  She thought she'd better save what little strength she had left for what lay ahead--not that it would be enough, but she refused to curl into a ball and give up.  Still, just being in the room with Spike and seeing the hatred in his eyes was sucking the life out of her.  Willow had to turn away lest she lose the will to continue fighting altogether.

William watched as the redhead tried to keep her emotions in check and she finally had to resort to turning around so she wouldn't have to look at them.  Spike's words had obviously hit their mark, hurting her as intended.

"Still..." William commented, continuing to speak about her as if she weren't in the room, "Angelus seems to think she's special."

Spike laughed. "Of course he does, mate.  He's bloody obsessed with her!  I don't think he can help it, really.  I mean, he fancied her a bit when he was alive, she was his first meal after he was turned, she's a virgin, and some might even consider her attractive, I suppose.  It's a recipe for obsession if I've ever heard one, and a recipe for disaster if we don't get Drusilla turned before it's too bloody late!"

The younger vampire listened to his older self, acknowledging that what he said could very well be true, but he wasn't able to shake his desire to teach the redhead some respect.  He wasn't exactly sure why Spike let her behave in this manner, even though it was obvious that he had other ways of keeping Rose in line.  Still, as impressed as he was with Spike, William wanted in on the fun.

"Come on, Spike," William whined as he moved towards Willow.  "Let me have a little snack while she's still ours.  Just a little something to fill the gap until we find Drusilla.  Besides, it'll shut her up."

The younger vampire's forward momentum was halted by a strong grip on his shoulder.  "Not now!" Spike said impatiently.  "It's time to..."

William turned to stare at the hand on his shoulder and then at Spike.  Spike's eyes were also glued to the spot where they touched.  Slowly, their awe turned to mirth, and they started to laugh heartily.

Hearing the stereo laughter, Willow had to appease her curiosity, and she tuned to find the two vampires poking at each other like bratty children.  Her eyes widened.  "But...matter...space...*boom*..."

"What do you know, Red," Spike laughed through a smirk.  "It looks like you were wrong...*again*!  I'm beginning to believe you aren't as smart as we thought, Pet."

Willow bit her tongue as she puzzled over this new twist to their time travel.  It looked like she was going to have to add physics to the long list of her belief systems that would have to be sorted out when she got home.  *If* she got home.

"I seem to be missin' all the fun, yet again," Angelus's voice boomed over the laughter as he strolled into the room.  When he noted Spike and William making physical contact with one another without any catastrophic results, he added to Willow, "I see the world has yet ta end, me flower.  This just hasn't been yer day, has it?"

"It hasn't been my century, actually," she murmured meekly, once again having to look out the window instead of at the vampires in her room.  When it was only one of them, Willow felt as if she could almost handle the situation, keep her cool, perhaps even get the demon to lose his.  When she was alone with Spike and William, her unease had increased, but she had somehow managed to maintain some of her dignity.  But now as she stood in a room with all three of them, Willow crumbled inside.  As a team, she knew instinctively that the three vampires would be nearly unstoppable, terrifying in their scope for evilness.  Their combined cruelty when they were together was almost palpable, easily crushing Willow's already weakened sense of hope.  She could feel herself deflate in their presence, all of her previous bravado seeping away as her empty well of strength was quickly refilled, only this time with doubt and guilt.

Satisfied that nothing devastating would happen if he and his later self would accidentally come in to contact, William answered his sire.  "You haven't really missed anything, Angelus.  Well, except for your little captive trying to make a go of escaping, but Spike here put a stop to that."

Angelus's smile faded at the possibility of Willow's escaping.  "Once again I seem ta be indebted to ya, Spike," he told him gravely, but soon Angelus's more indifferent facade was back into place.  "And although I doubt she'd have escaped from the house, I'd hate ta see her as some undeservin' minion's dinner."

"No, we couldn't have that," Spike snickered.  "Not when there are so many of us more deserving."

Angelus turned his attention from Willow to Spike.  "The carriage is out front, waitin'.  It's finally time."

Spike looked to his sire, suddenly deadly serious once again.  He was at a rare loss for words.  He was on the verge of having all his dreams come true--a gift from the vampire that he'd hated with a passion that equaled his love for Drusilla.  Angelus held his eyes, as if somehow understanding the turmoil within his childe.  It was Spike who broke the intense gaze first and without at glance at Willow, he headed for the door with William at his heels.

Angelus remained still as stone as the locking of the door behind the other vampires signaled that he was finally alone with his Rose.  He waited for Willow to acknowledge his presence, but she was being stubborn.  So during their test of wills, Angelus took the time to enjoy the slight movements of her slender body, caused by her ragged breaths, and the tension in the lines of her shoulders as she forced herself to remain calm.

Actually, Willow wasn't purposely trying to ignore Angelus.  She was still reeling from the fact that Spike had finally left her and obviously intended to carry on with Angelus's plan.  It was when the last glimmer of hope was extinguishing itself that she actually felt the Irish vampire's eyes boring into her.

"Take a photograph.  It'll last longer," she told the vampire bitterly without turning around.

Angelus smiled at his success and languidly moved closer to her.  "These new photographs that ya speak of, they can hardly do justice ta a beauty such as yerself.  Only through a man's hand can every detail truly be captured, don't ya think?" he asked, but didn't wait for her answer.  "Ya see, a photograph can only show one brief moment in time...of yer life. But in a drawing, I can reveal all yer secret thoughts, desires, and fears.  It sees beyond the present into the past and even the future.  And all this, with simply a piece of paper and a bit of charcoal...no witchcraft's needed," he murmured into her ear.  "Where's the sketch I did of ya the other night, Rose?  Look at it again.  You'll see the truth in what I say."

Finally turning to face him, she thrust her chin up in a small act of defiance.  "I threw it away...I burned it," she lied, sliding away from him.  "So, is that why you are here?  Do you want me to model for you one last time before my body is covered by the scars of your brand of attention?"

Delighting in her continued attempts to defy and anger him, even if they were weaker than before, he laughed.  "Don't worry, Rose.  I plan on doin' a lot more sketches of ya.  That way, I won't be forgettin' ya, even after yer long dead and gone.  But," he continued quickly, "since we can't yet begin all the fun I have in mind fer ya until yer mine, I guess we'll just have ta wile away the hours talkin'."

Once again, the irony hit her.  She'd barely been able to get more than two sentences out of Angel all her time in Sunnydale, but Angelus seemed almost incapable of being taciturn.

Angelus leaned back against the dressing table and fiddled with some of the items that sat on top.  "Now, tell me about the future..." he began casually, "all the horrible things I did ta make ya want ta stop me from every becomin' what I am."

"I don't think so," she replied quickly.  "I don't want to give you any ideas.  You'll see soon enough, unfortunately."

"Tell me just about you and I then.  What delicious horrors did I rain upon ya that made ya need ta see that I never came ta bein' in existence?"

The exhausted redhead was a little bewildered by the question.  "To me?"  When he nodded, she almost laughed but she caught herself.  "Angelus, you really didn't do anything to me.  You barely knew I existed."

Angelus's lips curled into a half-smile.  "I find that hard ta believe, Rose.  Now, ya wouldn't be fibbin' ta me again, would ya?  Because, in his absence, I'm sure Spike would want me ta punish ya fer lyin'."

"I'm not lying.  You were...busy...trying to destroy humanity...kill the Slayer, the usual stuff."  Willow shook her head and rubbed her temples for a moment as she tried to think straight.  But she was so tired that she was finding it hard to outright lie.  It took too much effort.  She could only hope that generalities would be enough for the vampire.

Puzzled by her confusion, Angelus continued his interrogation.  "I did nothin' ta ya?"

Willow forced herself to concentrate for a moment as she tried to decide how to sidestep around the 'Angel issue'.  "Well, when *you* first came to town...the first time I saw...Angelus, you did try to kill me," she offered weakly.

"Now, that sounds more like me!" he said with a cruel grin.  "What did I do ta ya?"

"You just grabbed me and held me by the throat..." Willow trailed off with a disinterested shrug.  Surprisingly, she hadn't thought about that in a long time.  Only now did she remember just how petrified she was that first night Angel had lost his soul.  "Oh...and later..." she continued, "you...you killed my fish.  You gutted them and strung them up, leaving them on my bed."

Angelus finally closed the space between them to brush a cool hand down her cheek.  "See.  And ya thought I didn't care," he said sardonically.

She grimaced under his touch and jerked her head back before stepping away from the vampire.  "Trust me, you didn't.  I wondered sometimes if you even knew my name," she said softly as she recalled how little attention Angel had ever shown her.  Not that he was really rude, he was always just too preoccupied with either Buffy or saving the world to bother himself with one red-headed bookworm.

Caught off guard by the hurt in her voice, Angelus started to defend himself.  Not only was he confused by the pictures she was painting of him, he also didn't want to rest on the laurels of his future actions.

"Names aren't important, me little flower.  The only thing that's important, that's real, is passion...fer living, fer death, fer risk, fer revenge...it doesn't matter what, as long as ya have that passion, ya will truly be alive.  Without it, yer dead...no matter how many people be knowin' yer name...no matter if yer heart is beatin' or not."

Willow finally looked the dark vampire in the eyes.  Even laced with threats and dark promises, his words were so enticing.  "I was wrong when I once told you that you should be an actor, Angelus.  You should have been a poet instead.  You can make anything sound so beautiful and inviting, even a hideous and pointless death at the hands of a monster.  Don't tell me women actually fall for your, 'Aren't I deep and mysterious' routine?" she queried with a brave smirk.

The only thing that betrayed he even heard what she'd said was a slight creasing of his brow, but it was short lived.  "Obviously, you don't believe me, Rose.  So tell me.  How did I hold ya that night ya thought I was goin' ta kill ya?"

She swallowed hard.  "Y-you...had me by the throat...I wasn't sure if you were going to break my neck or rip it open."

He shook his head.  "But *how* did I hold ya?  Was it like this?" he asked.  As quick as lightening his hands darted out, grabbing her by the neck and pulling her to him.  Staring down into her glistening green eyes, he squeezed hard enough to frighten her, but not enough to leave bruises that might upset Spike.  Then, before Willow could catch her breath to answer, he loosened his hold and spun her around so that she faced away from him.  Angelus yanked her back against his hard body, one hand pulling her head to the side to expose her throat, while other arm kept a firm grip across her chest. "Or was it like this?" he asked huskily.

Willow gasped for breath, more from shock than from his hold on her throat.  She nodded her head and answered in a gravel-like voice, "Like this...you held me like this..."

Unable to help himself, Angelus licked the side of her neck from shoulder to temple before softening his grip.  "If I held ya like this, Rose, I certainly noticed ya.  This is so much more intimate, don't ya think?" he murmured.  "Yer whole body is exposed to me, my hands can do what they will, and ya can't stop me.  Yer delicate little neck sets before me like a banquet.  From this position I can kill ya, drink ya, or seduce ya.  While the other way I'm more likely just ta snap yer neck like a twig."

He released her so quickly that Willow barely stayed on her feet. Yet, even as she shakily made her way to the other side of the room, she wondered if her unsteadiness didn't have more to do with his words than with the way in which he had let her go.

"So, don't think that I didn't notice ya, Rose," he said to the retreating woman.  "Obviously, I had some plans fer ya that evening, perhaps similar ta the ones I have now.  Now tell me what happened...how did ya escape?"

Willow forced herself to take a few relaxing deep breaths.  "Y-you were..." she stopped herself.  She was just about to tell him the truth...how her friends had come along just in time.  She had already told him far more than she should have, but lying to Angelus just took more energy and willpower than she seemed to have anymore.

"Um...I just got away.  I think you were distracted by something, and I used it to my advantage," she informed him.  She didn't outright lie, just skirted the truth a bit.

Before Angelus was even aware of it, he was moving toward her again.  To be in the same room with his Rose and not touch her was becoming increasingly difficult for the dark vampire.  He hoped his childe would hurry back with Drusilla so that he wouldn't have to wait any longer for that which he had already waited a century.

"Well, my love, it appears as if fate is givin' me another chance ta be finishin' what I'd started that night, and there's nothin' ta distract us this time."

Shrinking into the corner as he approached, she shook her head in slow denial.  "B-but you can't!  Because of Spike..."

Stopping before her, Angelus brushed a strand of hair away from her eyes and neatly tucked it behind her ear.  "Such loyalty ta a man that can't even stand ta look at ya," he clucked.  "Ya deserve so much better, Rose.  But if that dolt of a childe of mine can't see what's right before him and prefers the company of some weak-minded fool, then it be his loss."  Angelus drew his face closer until he could feel Willow's harried breath warm his own lips.  He waited until her frightened but obstinate green eyes found his.  "Ya once accused me of always lookin' fer somethin' better and more excitin'.  Do ya remember that, Rose?  How hurt ya were ta think that I was just triflin' with ya?  Ya said that I didn't see what was right in front of me.  Well, me love," he whispered against her lips and then her cheek, "I'm a changed man, and it's all because of you.  When yer mine, I'll give ya all the special attention yer worthy of, me flower.  That ya have always been worthy of."

"I don't want or...or deserve any special attention," Willow whispered when he pulled back to gage her reaction.  The look in Angelus's eyes--that impossible mix of passion, lust, and cruelty--made rational thought difficult.

Seeing her state of confusion, Angelus's eyes softened a little more as he pushed his advantage even further.  "Ya deserve everythin' a man can give ya, Rose, and more.  It won't be all pain, ya know.  When ya behave, ya'll know pleasure and be richly rewarded with jewelry, beautiful gowns--"

"I don't want any of those things," Willow retorted, trying to sound smug.

Angelus's grin broadened.  "I'm not surprised, Rose.  Ya never were like other women, were ya?"  Not expecting an answer, Angelus walked away from her to the small door on the opposite side of the room that had always been secured.  "I have a surprise fer ya, Rose," he said softly, unlocking and slowly pushing open the door.

Willow didn't move, but from where she stood, she could see that it opened to a small library lined from floor to ceiling with filled bookcases interspersed with huge windows and already lit oil lamps.  In the middle of the room sat a large, comfortable-looking reading chair.  Her mouth fell open.

"It's fer you, Rose.  I also remembered how ya once told me that ya love ta read."

She took a hesitant step forward, straining to see some of the titles on the large selection of neatly arranged leather volumes.

"When ya are good," Angelus continued, "ya will be allowed ta spend time in here."

Willow felt as if she had been hit in the gut.  How had she been sucked in so quickly?  She had actually thought for a moment that he had done something nice for her, but now she knew that it was all just a part of the game.

"You might as well throw away the key, Angelus," Willow said brusquely, trying to hide her disappointment.  "I don't plan on giving in just for some decent reading material.

Shaking his head, Angelus turned and closed the door.  "I'm sorry ya feel that way Rose.  All ya have ta do is thank me, and I'll leave this door unlocked.  It will give ya somethin' ta do until Spike and William are back.  All it would take is a simple, 'Thank you, Angelus,' which truly is the only proper thing to say when someone gives ya a gift anyway," he reminded her as he locked the door.

Stepping back into the corner, Willow looked from the library door to its benefactor.  "No, Angelus.  I won't sell my soul to you, not even for every book in the world"

"Suit yerself, then.  The books will keep.  Everythin' will keep, and there's no hurry anymore, is there?" Angelus asked as he leaned back against the door and looked at her.  Willow tried to return his scrutiny but couldn't, and once again her line of sight fell to the floor.

"Is it worth it?" Angelus asked.

Looking back up, Willow weakly answered his question with one of her own.  "Is what worth it?"

Pushing himself away from the heavy oak door, Angelus moved nearer until once again he was standing in front of her.  "Yer pride," he finally answered darkly as he traced the contours of her face with one cold but gentle finger.  "I know ya want ta be with me, but yer pride won't let ya."

"You're very wrong, Angelus," Willow whispered as she tried to regain control of her manic emotions.  "I--I don't want to be with you.  I just want to go home."

Again Angelus smiled.  "Go home ta be with me, no doubt," he boasted, his eyes glimmering dangerously.  "But don't worry.  I'll take care of that pesky pride fer ya until one day yer beggin' fer my attentions."

Before Willow could form a suitable retort, Angelus's face quickly hardened.  He walked to the door and unlocked it.  "I must go grab a bite to eat.  I'll be back fer ya when the others arrive with their new toy," Angelus informed her coldly and then quickly left.

After hearing the sound of the door locking behind him, Willow went to the library door and banged her head against it gently.  The slight pain she felt as the door impacted with the bruise left from William's head did not help to clear her mind.  She was utterly lost as everything the three vampires said danced around in her head.  Numb from the recent events, Willow slowly removed her clothes until she was only in her shift.  Then, she collapsed on the bed, hoping the dreams would stay away long enough for her to find some short-lived comfort in sleep.
End Chapter 33