Take Your Time ~~ 35 ~~

When Angelus entered her room, Willow was still sitting on the floor, clothed only in the shift that she'd slept in.  Her arms were encircling her knees, holding them tightly to her chest as she stared vacantly at the floor.  She hadn't taken Spike's terse advice to get prettied up for his sire.  There was no point.  How she looked wouldn't make a difference in the end.  Instead, she'd just curled herself up against the pain--the pain of the past, the present, and the inevitable pain that was yet to come.

"It's time," Angelus informed her, closing and locking the door behind him.

Willow heard the excitement and anticipation in his voice, and it did nothing to dull her fear.  That's when she realized she had only one hope left.  Even though it was a minute one, she had to try.  Willow let go of every last vestige of her pride before looking up at him.

"Please, Angelus.  Let me go!" she begged, moving forward to clutch at his leg.  "I don't want any of this...I just want to go home.  Please?" she begged.

After listening to her pleas, Angelus knelt before Willow and peered into her tear-streaked face.  The vampire wiped the dampness away more gently than she'd ever thought possible.

"Save yer tears, Rose, and yer beggin'," he said softly.  "There's too much fer us ta do yet tonight fer me ta be able to enjoy 'em right now.  So save all yer cryin' and pleadin' fer the days yet ta come.  But I did enjoy the beggin', Rose, and I thank ya fer the gift," he sneered, pulling her to her feet as he stood.  "Now, ya have fifteen minutes ta put some clothes on and make yerself presentable but no longer.  Otherwise, I guess I'll be havin' ta dress ya myself!" he warned.

Once again, he grabbed a gown and other necessities out of her wardrobe and threw them at her before pointing to the bathroom.  Without a word, Willow trudged into the other room and closed the door behind her.  She was barely aware of herself or her surroundings as she removed the wrinkled undergarment that she'd slept in and began to wash up.  When she was clean and dressed in the clothes that Angelus had picked out for her, she grabbed a hairbrush, intending just to drag it through a few times.  However, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, Willow was mesmerized by her own reflection.  The stress, not to mention her lack of both sleep and appetite from the past few days, had finally caught up with her.  All she could see was her own dull hair, sunken cheekbones, and lifeless, dark-ring-encircled eyes.  It was almost as if it were a stranger staring back at her from the mirror--one Willow couldn't seem to tear away from.

Entranced either by exhaustion, fear, or emotional shock--most likely a combination of all--she didn't hear Angelus yelling at her from the other room to hurry.  Neither did she hear him a few minutes later when he threatened more loudly to come in.  Willow wasn't even aware of the vampire as he burst through the door or of the worried look on his face, as if he were afraid of what he might find.  She was lost in her own little world.

It was a strangely relieved Angelus who took the brush out of her motionless hand and slowly began brushing her hair for her.  He'd thought the worst when she hadn't answered, fearing that she'd somehow attempted to take her own life.  Her life was not her own to end, as far as he was concerned.  It was his, or at least it would be as soon as they finished the ritual.  Nevertheless, it was apparent that Spike had wounded her deeply.  Angelus had heard the cruel words his child had uttered at his Rose's expense.  Although he was proud of Spike, he was envious as well.  Angelus's pride would never allow him to take advantage of the pain that the blonde vampire had inflicted.  If she were to break, it would be by his doing alone and not his childe's.  Which meant that now Angelus had to play a role that was a little less familiar to him--protector, caregiver.  That was the only way he could get the Rose back that he remembered.  Then, only when her spirit was refreshed and her body once again trembling with anger and passion would he begin the very pleasurable task of tearing her down, piece by piece.  But for now, Angelus had to be content to gently brush her hair and wait for Willow to come out of her zombie-like state.

It wasn't until she saw the brush seemingly move of its own accord in the mirror that Willow appeared to come back to reality somewhat.  She stayed silent, letting him smooth the tangles out of her hair.  Too weary to protest, Willow closed her eyes and submitted to his pampering.  After a few moments, she felt relaxed completely.

With her eyes still closed, she finally spoke, but barely above a whisper.  "You can't destroy me, Angelus.  I'm already dead on the inside...Spike beat you to it."

The long, even strokes of the brush never wavered.  "Shhh...my love," Angelus comforted her, ignoring stabs of jealousy from Willow's reference to his childe.  "Yer very much alive.  He just wounded yer girlish pride.  It seems Spike knew exactly what ta say ta hurt ya."

Willow nodded lightly in agreement.  "He always has."

"Of course he does because I taught him well.  Besides, he had enough time with ya.  He should know the best way ta hurt ya by now," he said shortly.  "Now, it seems ta me that if ya knew his main purpose was ta crush yer spirits, that it would be easy ta ignore.  It's like he was raisin' the stakes on ya.  I must say, I'm surprised ya folded so easily, Rose.  Ya basically handed him the game and all yer money."

She didn't respond right away, and Angelus began to think that she had actually fallen asleep.

"I'm so tired," she finally admitted in hushed tones.  "I don't care about winning anymore..."

It was Angelus's turn to remain silent as he tried to decide his next course of action.  He really didn't like her like this, not when he wasn't the cause.  But before he could make any decisions, Willow surprised him by turning her head so he could brush the other side better.

"Mmmm...feels good...but I guess I shouldn't have said that...because you'll stop now," she sighed, her eyes still closed.  The tiny part of her mind that was still clinging on to logic tried to remind her that this was just part of Angelus's game, but it was a very quiet and small part.  Frankly, she didn't care.  Not only for the reason that she didn't really believe it was happening, but because it had been a long time since anyone had done anything so nice for her.

Angelus chuckled.  "Ya think ya know me now, do ya?"

Willow shook her head slowly.  "Not really, Angelus.  It just seemed like a logical way to drive someone insane.  Be kind for a while, until they relax, and then hit 'em where it hurts."

Angelus raised a confused eyebrow at her comment, not that she could see it.  "I wasn't plannin' on hittin' ya...*yet*."

Willow actually smiled.  "It's just an expression, Angelus."

Angelus saw her smile in the mirror.  It was the first time he'd seen her smile since Ireland, and he was the cause of it.  His plan was coming along quite nicely.

"Angelus?"  Willow asked softly after a long ebb in the odd conversation.

"Yes, me love?"

"Are you going to kill me or are you going to make me a raving lunatic?"

He continued brushing her hair as he considered her question.  Looking at her, eyes closed, totally relaxed, he wondered if she was playing a game with him.  Was she trying to make it easier on herself by behaving in such a strange manner or had she truly taken the first step into madness?  Normally, he would be pleased if that were the case--if his Rose was showing signs of true weakness--but not this time because he wouldn't be able to take the credit for it.  It was all Spike's doing.

"It's a hard decision to make since both choices have their own benefits," he admitted warily, watching closely for her reaction.  "Supposin' I let ya choose yer own fate, which would ya prefer?"

Willow shook her head.  "Oh no," she half-giggled.  "You'd just do the exact opposite of what I say."

"Ah, but then, if ya knew that, bein' the smart thing that ya are, then ya'd just lie and say the opposite, wouldn't ya?"

"But you'd be expecting that, and so..."  Willow's voice trailed off, and she smiled again.  "This is right out of 'The Princess Bride'...it must be a dream...that's the only explanation..." she said in a far-off voice.

"Maybe it is, Rose, and maybe it isn't," he responded softly, not really understanding what she was talking about.  He continued to brush her hair, not wanting to break whatever spell she seemed to be under.

"Make a choice," Angelus whispered in her ear, "not that I'll honor it.  I just want ta hear yer choice."

She didn't even stop to think.  The words just flowed out of her.  "I always wondered what it would be like to not worry all the time...not to fret over every little thing or have any responsibility at all.  I mean, if you're well and truly mad, you wouldn't even know it, would you?  You'd probably live a happy existence in your own mythical little world."  She paused for a moment to take a deep, almost mournful sounding, breath.  "It sounds...simple.  My life has never been simple.  Unfortunately, there aren't any guarantees, are there?  Knowing my luck, I'd be the opposite type of a madman...I mean, mad *person*.  I'd probably be in perpetual terror of some sort, running from giant frogs and forever sleeping through finals or forgetting where my classes are.  I'd probably be tearing my own hair out and screaming at the top of my lungs and end up locked away in some horrible institution somewhere with no shoelaces and only green Jell-O to eat.  I--I wouldn't like that," she said, shaking her head.  "And I think that somehow, no matter what, I'd know I was insane and that things didn't have to be that way.  That there was a better world somewhere that I wasn't a part of.  Like right now...this very conversation..." Willow made a slight gesture with her hands, "...this isn't right.  It's my first little sojourn into madness, I think, and yet I know it's not right," she said morosely.  Willow paused for a moment and leaned her head back against the broad chest behind her.  "Yep, just like now, I'd know it wasn't real...so I'd never be free from responsibility for my own behavior.  I'd either do everything in my power to make myself well or I'd probably succumb to the guilt.  And I've never handled guilt well as it is."

Angelus listened closely to her ramblings.  They gave him more insight into the way that she thought, even if he didn't understand half of what she said.  But with every word, he became more fascinated with the complex creature before him.  Forced to stop brushing her hair when she leaned back against him, the vampire was now content to smooth it with his hands instead.  He only hoped that the change wouldn't bring her back to reality.  There was so much more he wanted to know.

"What's yer choice then?" he asked gently after she'd stopped speaking.

Willow sighed.  "I think maybe I'd prefer death...no pain...no decisions...no more regrets.  It sounds...simple," she repeated.

"There is a third choice," he reminded her.

"No, not for me.  I can't be turned, since I can't die, remember?  Nope.  No fangs for me."

"Ah, but, if ya can't die, then how am I goin' ta fulfill yer wishes and kill ya, as ya asked me to?"

Willow pouted.  "See?" she asked with a faint hint of disappointment.  "Nothing's ever simple with me, is it?  Only I can kill me...or...well, we don't know what would happen with the spell if I were to..." Willow ended her ramblings in mid-sentence with another long release of breath and a slight shake of her head.

"This is the strangest dream of you I've ever had, Angelus," Willow admitted.

Angelus smiled.  She really did think it was all just a dream.  That explained a lot.  "So ya admit that ya've dreamed of me before, then?"

She nodded.  "All the time, at least lately anyway, but we don't usually talk much in my other dreams."

"If we don't talk, what do we do?" he questioned her, already guessing the answer.

Her face darkened and he felt her begin to tremble.  "It's different every time, but usually you're...hurting me...doing h-horrible things to me...and--"

"Sshhh..." Angelus soothed her, not wanting his Rose to get too agitated and 'wake up' no matter how interested he actually was in the details of her dreamed torment at his hands.  After all, maybe she'd give him some new ideas.

"Were they all about me torturin' ya, then?"

Willow shook her head.  "No...some weren't so bad...in some you...um...we..." she couldn't finish the sentence and quickly turned to bury her face in Angelus's chest out of embarrassment.

Totally taken by surprise, Angelus could only hold her closer in a comforting embrace, which didn't come easily to the master vampire.  However, he did it anyway because he wasn't ready for this revealing experience to come to an end and also because he rather liked having her in his arms.

"Sshhhh...Rose, ya don't have ta tell me.  I know yer dreams already, don't I?"  He felt more than heard her slight whimper of agreement and then she actually snuggled a little closer.

"This certainly is a strange dream, but I like it," she murmured against his chest.  "I wish it didn't have to end...and that when I got back home we could..." she stopped herself.  Even her subconscious wouldn't allow her to think about holding the soulful Angel in this way.  He wasn't hers to hug.  "But we can't...the spell...curse...and the slayer...it ruins everything," she muttered almost imperceptibly, but Angelus's supernatural hearing was able to pick out most of her words.

And they confused him.  The talk of spells and curses only meant one thing to him--the spell that had brought him his Rose.  Maybe it seemed like a curse to her now, but Angelus, on the other hand, viewed her mystical appearance in his life as a stroke of good fortune.

Unfortunately, as much as he desired to pry her for more information, Angelus knew he was already pushing his luck.  Plus, there was the little matter of the ritual.  Tucking away her mumbled confessions in the back of his mind to use against her later, he very gently pulled out of her arms and turned her back around to the mirror.

"This dream needs ta end soon, my love, but don't worry.  There will be others."

Willow nodded her head in acceptance of the dream-Angelus's words.  Relieved that she had yet to come to her senses, the vampire placed the brush back in her hand.

"Brush yer hair fer me, Rose.  Make yerself pretty fer me," he whispered in her ear.

When Angelus felt her take over control of the long, slow, stroking motions, he backed away.  He took one last look at the beautiful redhead in the mirror--her eyes still closed amidst the wistful expression on her face--before silently leaving the room and closing the door behind him.




It was the third one that forced Willow's eyes open.  She blinked at herself in the mirror and then at the brush in her hand.

"Rose!"  Angelus's voice boomed from the other side of the door, startling Willow and fully bringing her crashing back to reality.  "If ya don't hurry up, I'll come in and dress ya myself!" the cold voice warned her.

"I...um...I'll be right out...I'm almost done.  Just, er, brushing my hair..." she stammered loudly.

"Ya have one more minute Rose.  No more!"


Willow shook her head, trying to clear her foggy brain.  "I know I'm tired," she whispered to herself, "but I can't believe I fell asleep standing up...brushing my hair."  <And that dream...so strange...>  Not getting any answers from her tired reflection, Willow set the brush down.

"Might as well get this over with, I guess," she told herself fatalistically.  Then, after one last look in the mirror, Willow opened the bathroom door and exited.

"It's about time," Angelus said coldly.  He was lying on her bed, purposely looking very bored and impatient as he fiddled with a small porcelain jewelry box that usually sat on the dressing table.  Not waiting for her to explain her delay, Angelus quickly got up and put the trinket back where it belonged.

"Now that yer presentable, barely, let's get on with the festivities, shall we?"

Angelus was out the door before Willow could utter a sound.  Not seeing any other choice or finding the strength to fight, she followed weakly behind.

As they made their way through the mansion, they passed several other vampires.  Some of the demons just happened to be in the corridors on their way to somewhere else, while others were obviously placed as guards.  Willow felt all their eyes on her, even hearing whispers of "That's the redhead!" and "She's the one!"  Their hungry and curious stares made the bone-weary woman pick up her pace until she was actually walking beside Angelus.  <Running to *Angelus* for protection...what's wrong with me?> she berated herself.

Apparently, Angelus was none too pleased with the other vampires' attentions as well.  The very next one that dared to look openly at his Rose, soon found every bone in his face broken when it impacted sharply with the stone floor and was held there by Angelus's large, booted foot.

"It's hard to stare when ya can 't open yer eyes, isn't it?"  When the lesser demon whimpered his agreement, Angelus spoke louder so that all the vampires that had witnessed his punishment could hear, "It's even harder when yer a pile of dust.  Ya don't look at Rose, ya don't even think about her, and if any of ya are dumb enough ta touch her, I'll make sure that yer death is as slow and painful as possible.  Now, ya best be rememberin' that.  All of ya!" he growled in warning.  Before Willow could hide her look of disgust, Angelus was already lifting his heavy boot from the injured vampire's head.  With lowered eyes, the frightened lesser vampires quickly scattered.

"I told ya they weren't very bright," Angelus reminded her as they left the scene behind to continue to the parlor.  "And get that sympathetic look off yer face!  Given the chance, they'd tear ya apart in an instant.  Yer just a meal ta these fools.  I probably should've killed him, but since he's a bit young, it'll take him awhile ta heal.  He'll be a good reminder the rest.  Every time they see him, they'll remember yer off limits.  A pile of dust is much easier ta forget."

"I'm honored by your gallantry," she managed softly, completely lacking the sarcasm that she'd hoped for.  "It's so rare you meet a man who's willing to fight for your honor, just so he can do much worse things to you himself," she added.  Willow was a little more pleased to hear a tinge of venom in her voice that time.  The nap, even if she had taken it standing up, seemed to have helped her despondent mood somewhat.

"And it's even rarer ta meet a woman who understands that," he responded, gratified to see a little life in her again, no matter how dim.  Perhaps he wouldn't have to wait so long to have his Rose back after all.

She was almost relieved when they finally arrived at the ground-floor parlor that she'd been in the day before.

Angelus opened the doors for her and stepped back, making a sweeping gesture with his arm.  "After you, me lady."

Willow squeezed her eyes tightly shut for a moment.  She tried to picture her calming place, hoping to rid her mind of both the memories of her latest disturbing dream and what was about to happen before she shuffled into the room.  Although it hardly soothed her, the moment of meditation did allow her the ability to enter with some sense of dignity.

Upon hearing the door open, Spike gripped the cigarette between his fingers so tightly that it practically disintegrated in his hand.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Willow walk in, head held high as she quickly moved to a reading chair in the opposite corner.  Right behind her was his sire, stopping only to close the parlor doors before once again taking his place on the arm of Willow's chair.  With only a cursory glance, Spike noted that while she still looked exhausted, Willow seemed to have already recovered, for the most part, from their previous encounter.  <Bloody hell, Red.  What do I have to do to kill that damned spirit of yours?>  Violently stubbing out what was left of the crumpled cigarette in a nearby ashtray, Spike focused his attention on William for a moment and was pleased with what he saw.

William was perched on the sofa next to the prone, unconscious Drusilla.  Every now and then, William would run his fingers through Dru's hair or caress her hand as he waited for her to 'wake' to her new life.  Spike was relieved to find that his younger self actually seemed quite taken with Drusilla and was already looking at her with more than a bit of desire.  <At least one thing is progressing like it should...> he thought to himself.

What Spike saw when he shifted his focus to his sire was also quite gratifying.  Angelus appeared to barely notice that Drusilla was in the room, let alone want to spend any 'quality' time with his newest childe.  Unfortunately, Spike's elation was only fleeting.  All too soon he recognized the anticipatory glint in the Irish vampire's eyes.  He had seen it many times before in the old days, and often times it was focused on Drusilla.  But not this time around--this time Willow had Angelus's full attention.  As a result, Spike doubted that Angelus would be able to restrain himself with Willow for very long once the ceremony was complete.  <Crikey, Willow!  Why do you have to be so damned stubborn?>

Somehow, Willow was managing to ignore Angelus's nearness.  Even when his pale hand moved to fix an out of place tendril of her hair, she managed not to flinch.  It was obvious to Spike that Angelus was eager to do more but was holding back until the ceremony was over.  Luckily for Willow, Angelus had always been a stickler for ritual.

Trying to focus on anything other than the vampire next to her, Willow forced herself to look at Spike, only to find that he was studying her.  She felt desperate enough to plead with him one last time, just like she had with Angelus--beg, cry, anything.  She opened her mouth to promise the world to the blonde vampire yet again, but he fixed her with an icy glare that froze the words to her lips.

Feeling his Rose tense, Angelus looked into Willow's eyes just in time to see another flash of pain.  Following her line of vision, he was disappointed to find that, yet again, Spike had gotten beneath her skin.

"I see ya controlled yerself, Spike," Angelus commented coolly, his eyes now darting between Drusilla and Spike.  From where he sat, Angelus couldn't see any bite marks on the dark-haired woman save his own from when he'd sired her.

"As did you, Angelus," retorted Spike.  "Rose seems...intact."

"She is fer now."

"Can we hurry this up a bit, lads?" William interrupted, grinning lewdly at the now vampiric yet still inanimate Drusilla.  "Me and the Mrs. have some plans."

"Yes, let's get on with it already; it's a simple bloody ritual," Spike grunted.  "Besides, we should probably get this done before Drusilla wakes up.  She'll be confused enough."

The other two vampires showed their agreement by allowing their ridged, yellow-eyed faces to come to the forefront.  Angelus slid off the chair and sauntered over to the newest member of their bizarre family.  Without ceremony, he lifted her frail arm to his mouth and sunk his teeth into her wrist until a slow trickle of blood trailed down her arm.

"What is mine, by rights, I offer willin'ly ta ya," he said, looking to William and Spike.

William approached and took the offered wrist.  After meticulously licking clean the path of blood from her arm, William fed for a moment and then deferred to Spike.  The blonde vampire took her alabaster wrist with shaking hands, biting into her tender flesh reverently.  As her blood flooded his mouth, so were his thoughts flooded with memories of previous times he'd fed from his beloved.  Reluctantly, he suckled at her wounds for only a moment before gently placing her arm back across her chest.  Finally, he placed a long, soft kiss on her now cool lips.  With a barely audible moan, Spike pulled himself away.

"This childe's blood, protection, destiny is now yers ta do with what ya may," Angelus continued.  "My claim is no more."

"What was yours, is now mine.  Your claim is no more," William and Spike affirmed in sober unison.

Willow watched in sickened silence as the other woman was verbally swapped between the vampires.  <Swapped for me...> she reminded herself as Angelus turned to look at her.

"Come ta me, Rose," he commanded.

Aware that it was now her turn, Willow clambered to her feet and backed away in horror.

"No!" she squeaked, finally finding her tongue.  "This is disgusting...barbaric!  And I won't allow you to trade me like...like some sort of...of vampiric baseball card!" she whimpered.

"Fine, Pet," Spike said quietly, dragging his gaze away from his Dark Goddess.  "You don't have to take part if you don't want to."

"I--I don't?" she asked suspiciously.

Spike smiled gently as he approached her.  "You don't have to do a bloody thing, Red."

Watching him warily, she heard a low growl emanating from one of the other vampires.  They seemed almost as confused as she did.

Stopping in front of her, Spike placed his hands gently on her shoulders and peered deeply into the sea-green eyes that were once again seeking answers.

"I can't believe you didn't trust me," he whispered with a tired grin, and before she knew it, Willow found herself smiling weakly back.

Spike moved to stand behind her, his hands still resting on her shoulders.  "I will not allow either of you two to hurt her," he said defiantly.

Willow beamed at the other two very disconcerted vampires.  However, when they began to slowly advance, she started to back away out of reflex.  Of course, her escape was hindered by Spike's presence directly behind her.  Only the sensation of Spike squeezing her shoulders reassuringly kept her from panicking.  Feeling a slight twinge of optimism, Willow took a deep breath and waited for him to reveal just how they were going to escape.

"Nope," Spike continued.  "You two aren't going to hurt her..."

Willow exhaled sharply in relief.

"...that's still my bloody job!"

Before Willow realized what was happening, Spike's grip tightened, and he pushed her into William's arms.  "Hold her for me, will you, Will?" Spike asked politely, grinning at his own play on words.

"Be my pleasure, Spike," William retorted, catching her and spinning her around so that she faced his blonde double.

"No!" Willow cried as she saw her hopes for escape fade away.  She struggled, but William's held her firmly, his fingers biting deeply into the soft flesh of her upper arms.

"I can't believe how gullible you are!" Spike mocked, using her own words from five years earlier against her once again.  "Turn about's, fair play, and I think I owed you one, Red."

Oh, how Willow wanted to slap the egotistical smirk right off of his scarred face!  <Better yet,> she thought, <I'd love to give him a matching scar on the other side of his face!>  Unfortunately, with her arms held to her sides, all she could manage was another hate-filled glare.  Before she could even fully deliver that, along with a few choice words, Spike had already turned away to look at his sire.

"Aw, what's wrong, Daddy?" Spike gibed.  "Did you really think I'd choose her over you or Drusilla?  Oh, come on!  I was just trying to avoid a messy fight.  Plus, I wanted to have a last bit of fun with the silly cow while she was still mine."

Angelus's eyes narrowed, revealing a hint of exasperation.  "I never doubted ya, Spike.  Yer my childe, of my blood, and I'd trust ya with my life...again," he said, his grave tones invoking Spike's full attention.

"You son-of-a-bitch!" Willow spit out at she struggled against William's hold, not caring that she was interrupting an important childe-sire moment.

"Tsk-tsk-tsk..." Spike snickered, turning on her.  "Since Angelus is my sire, I don't think he takes too kindly to his future property referring to him in such crude manner.

"And such foul language, Rose," Angelus laughed. "I expect ya ta act like a lady."

"I promise I'll try to scream as daintily as possible as you maim me, Angelus," she hissed.

"Oh, ya'll scream, my little flower," he smiled cruelly, "of that I have no doubt."

William and Spike traded knowing chuckles, each having lost sleep in the past because of the seemingly never-ending screams of their sire's victims.

Still laughing, Spike closed in on her again.  He was running out of time, so he chose his words carefully.

"What is mine, I am so bloody happy to willingly give to you, Angelus," he began as he none-too-gently grabbed Willow's wrist and bit into it, drawing only a harsh intake of breath from her in response.  He didn't drink, which wasn't easy, instead offering the bleeding wrist to his sire.  Angelus took it without hesitation, and latched onto the wound, feeding like he hadn't eaten in weeks.  Willow grimaced and turned her head from the scene before her.  This time no images of chocolate came to mind whatsoever.  Spike's voice soon reminded Angelus of the situation, causing him to take one last swallow of her soporific blood.

"This servant's blood, life, destiny, excessive need to babble, irritating persistence in the thought that she is smarter than the rest of us, and so on, are now yours--you poor sod--to do with what you may.  And might I add...good bloody, luck, mate.  My claim is no more."  For added emphasis, Spike propelled her into Angelus's arms.  "Marriage made in hell, if you ask me," he grumbled, then looked back to Drusilla.

"What was yers, is now mine.  Yer claim is no more," Angelus repeated solemnly, holding Willow tightly to him.

"Is it over?" Willow wondered aloud, clutching her throbbing wrist close to her.

"Not quite, Rose," Angelus answered, looking from her to his childer.  "Not quite."

William was the first to offer his wrist to his sire, and in response, Angelus held his before his dark-haired childe.  Their eyes joined, and as one they bit into the other's cool skin.  They took only the mouthful required before ceasing.

Spike gritted his teeth as he watched them feed in unison.  It was such an intimate act for vampires, one that he hadn't participated in for a very long time.  Knowing what was expected of him when William walked away, Spike approached the Irish vampire.  He thrust his wrist out to Angelus and seized the one that he offered in response.  Biting into his sire's flesh for the first time in a couple of hundred years, he felt something stir within him that he thought was deader than he was.  He was unable to look Angelus in the face as they shared themselves, nor could he look at Willow who was still being held firmly by his sire's other hand, so he screwed his eyes tightly shut.

If Spike hadn't been so busy trying to deny to himself how much he missed his sire's blood, he would have noticed Angelus's look of unabashed hunger and awe as the first drops hit his tongue.  To him, Spike's blood was like William's only immensely magnified in strength due to his age.  As a result, it was potent, maybe even more powerful than was his own.  More importantly, it was tinged with that same mystical spice that made Rose's blood so intoxicating.

Each managed with some difficulty to take only the token amount required for the oath before quickly letting go of the other.  At the moment, neither wanted to make the effort to come to terms with their demons' stronger than expected response to the other's blood.  In fact, they were both actually relieved when Willow's questions broke the sudden tension in the air.

"That's all there is...a few words...some slurping and nothing more?"  Willow asked without thinking.

The trio of demons laughed in unison at her, their ridges and yellow eyes giving way to their human masks.

"What were you expecting, Pet?" Spike snickered.  "Candles...incense...virgin sacrifice maybe?"

"But...those are only words...just a promise...There wasn't any magick, black or otherwise...no call to a higher power...not even some archaic language..." she babbled.  "Not much of a ritual, if you ask me."

Amused by her honest ramblings, Angelus smirked.  "To demons, a promise made with an exchange of blood is a bond forged of iron...stronger than any witch's spell ya can come up with.  We don't make them lightly, believe it or not, and ta break such an oath is unheard of."

"It's nice to see that there are some promises a vampire might actually keep, I guess," Willow commented, unable to look at Spike as she uttered the bitter words.

"That's because those that break them, don't live to tell about it," William the Bloody reminded them as he headed for the door, carrying his Drusilla in his arms.  "Are you coming, Spike?"

Spike's feet carried him to the door, but his mind stopped him there.  He banged his head against the doorframe in frustration, trying to clear it.

"No, William.  I can't," he finally admitted in a pained voice.  "She's yours...all yours for now, remember?"

The identical pairs of penetrating blue eyes locked as William and Spike recalled the long conversations they'd had about Drusilla--in the carriage as well as only short time earlier while they had been awaiting their sire.  With a firm clenching of his jaw, William nodded his understanding before he turned to continue the journey to his room.  Spike closed the door behind them and leaned his forehead against the cool wood.  His pain from having to let her go rivaled that from when she had first killed herself.

"Take good care of her," he whispered, before finally bringing himself to look at Willow and Angelus.

Angelus kept a firm grip on Willow's arm but took a step toward Spike.  "Why aren't ya with Drusilla?  That's what ya've been wantin' all these years.  I know that's why yer here, Spike, not fer me, but fer her.  Go and be with her.  Rose is no longer yer concern."

Spike heard the tone in his sire's voice.  Angelus was not only dismissing him but warning him to stay away from Willow as well.  The blonde vampire closed his eyes and took a deep breath before focusing on his sire's dark orbs, sending a message of his own.

"I *will* be with my Drusilla, but not now...not until I'm back in Sunnyhell where I belong...until we all are," he said pointedly without looking at Willow.

Releasing her, Angelus stalked over to this blonde childe.  "What are ya sayin', Spike?" he demanded.

Spike stood up straight.  "I can't have Drusilla now, just as you can't have Rose!  We need to end the bloody spell.  Only then will Drusilla be mine, and only then will Rose be yours.  Not before.  It won't work any other way, Angelus."

Angelus simply glared at him for a moment.  Then, as quick as a cat, he delivered a fist to Spike's jaw that sent his childe spinning to the floor.  Willow was too confused to do anything but wince at the sound of the impact.  She obviously had missed something.

Climbing to his feet, spike rubbed his jaw.  "There's the sire I knew," he jeered.  "Wondered how long you've been dying to do that!"

Shaking his head in frustration, Angelus brutally shoved Spike to the wall with a forearm to his throat.

"What is goin' on in that mind of yers?" he demanded.  He was used to his childe trying to goad him just for their mutual enjoyment, but this was different.  Plus, Spike had that look in his eyes again--one that he'd never really seen in William, but it seemed to taint Spike's every move.  Hate?

"Tell me what yer thinkin', Spike!"

"Don't you bloody know?  I'm your childe...the product of your teachings...you tell me what I'm thinking!" he snarled.

When he didn't reply instantly, Spike used a leg to sweep the dark vampire's feet out from underneath him while pushing him backwards at the same time.  Spike followed his tumbling sire to the floor where he swiftly straddled his sire's chest, pinning his wrists to the ground.

"Now, this isn't a position you're used to, is it, sire of mine?" Spike gloated, staring down into Angelus's face as he held him to the floor.  "What's it really bloody like to have your own childe as strong as you, if not stronger?  To know that I've held your life in my hands for almost as long as you've been on this earth?"


The single word, spoken without hesitation or the slightest hint of sarcasm, echoed in the room, seeming to linger simply to ensure that Spike had understood him correctly.

There was a pause as Spike struggled with this side of Angelus that had died for him a very long time ago.  But there it was, stronger than he could remember.  Suddenly, Spike threw his head back and laughed, letting go of his sire's arms at the same time.

"This is just too bloody priceless..." he managed through his laughter.  "You're proud of me...*now*?!"

"Yes," Angelus conceded, but he knew he still hadn't gotten through to the stubborn vampire, and tonight was too important to let things go unsaid.

Spike was still laughing when his sire bucked his hips with all his might, sending Spike toppling over his head.  Angelus quickly spun on his backside and grabbed the no-longer amused Spike from behind, pulling him back against his chest, and trapping his childe's arms to his sides with his own very strong grip.  He wanted to make sure that the incredibly headstrong vampire heard every word that he said.

"This is a little more what we're both used ta, isn't it, Spike?" Angelus whispered in his ear.  "And I'll tell ya what yer thinkin'...ya blame me fer all the misery in yer life...all these years ya had ta be alone and put yer life on hold just ta keep one little redhead from ruinin' everythin' ya ever had...everythin' *we* ever had...and ya hate me fer it.  The last century has made ya independent and ya think ya don't need a sire anymore, especially one that yer *almost* as strong as, but yet yer actually findin' that ya like bein' here with me again.  But mostly, ya hate yerself fer hatin' me so, and fer not havin' the damned balls ta just take what ya want, become Drusilla's sire, and ta just say sod the consequences!"  He paused just long enough for Spike to get the full effect, then added in a hiss, "How's that fer knowin' my own childe?"

As Angelus spoke, Spike struggled uselessly to escape the degrading position his sire held him in--kneeling on the floor with the dark vampire behind and over him--but he was well and truly trapped.  He burned holes in the floor with a malevolent glare as everything his sire said hit home, one way or another.  Eventually, Spike's struggles ceased and he let himself listen to his sire.  For not knowing the 'real' truth of the situation, Angelus had still managed to deliver a pretty good description of Spike's inner turmoil.  That was when the truth finally sank into his obstinate, hatred-fogged mind.  This man restraining him wasn't his Angelus, just as he was no longer William.  For whatever reason--be it fate, coincidence, or Willow--their lives had been changed so much that Spike's previous future was inconsequential.  It no longer held any meaning in the great order of things.  As far as everyone but he and Willow were concerned, it may as well never have happened.  While it may have seemed like an obvious conclusion, one that he should have reached ages ago, for Spike it was like a slap in the face.  Consequently, like a slap in the face, it stung a little and Spike didn't exactly embrace it right away.

Willow, meanwhile, had shrunk into a corner.  She didn't totally understand what was going on in front of her.  While she did know enough to stay out of it, Willow was too fascinated by the scene in front of her to take advantage of their distraction by trying to escape.

"That about sums it up, Angelus," Spike finally admitted, letting his anger for his sire seep away for the time being.  Spike still had to convince Angelus to let them go, and fighting wasn't going to get them anywhere.  "Now, are you going to bloody listen to me or do you just want to wrestle all day?"

"It wouldn't be the first time we did that, would it, Spike?" Angelus insinuated with a chuckle before letting him go and rising to his feet.  Obviously, he and his future childe still had a lot of problems that needed to be ironed out, but for now, they both realized there was a more dire issue at hand--one that couldn't be solved with violence--Rose and the spell.  "Now, explain yourself."

Climbing to his feet, Spike brushed himself off, trying to regain some of his dignity.

"It's simple, really," he finally offered, looking into his sire's chocolate-brown eyes.  "Like I said before, you have to let Rose go, so we can end the spell."

"No, I'm not lettin' her go," Angelus concluded aloud, easing himself back onto the desk.  He folded his arms across his chest, sending a clear signal that he wasn't going to even entertain the thought.

Spike rolled his eyes heavenward, then realized how silly that was and rolled then hellward instead.  At this point, he needed to cover all the bases.

"Come on, Angelus.  Think for a bloody moment, would you?  We, Rose and I, can't stay here.  The longer we do, the more likely we are to muck everything up, and we'll all end up as a notch on some Slayer's belt.  This way, you'll still get to have Rose and without the damn spell to ruin all your fun!"

Willow couldn't take anymore.  She had no more tears to cry over Spike's betrayal.  Besides, little good either her tears or her self-blame had done so far.  Instead, she stormed up to him, face darkening in anger.

"What are you doing?" she demanded, her fists tightening into balls at her sides.  "Now you're promising me to him in the future as well!  You're going to take me home, let me see the life that I miss so much, just so Angelus can take it all away from me again and probably even more?  How can you do this to me?"

Spike looked down at Willow, surprised to see the fire back in her eyes.  He'd have to do something about that before it was too late.

"Look, Rose.  I hate to bust your bubble, but I'm not doing this for you!  I couldn't give a flying fig what Angelus does to you.  But, since we both know what he is planning on doing, and if I know you both as well as I think I bloody do," he implied, "it'll be more sooner than later.  If that happens--if you *sleep* with him, whether by force or choice--chances are you'll either die, or everything will get so screwed up we won't know who we are anymore.  This is the way it has to be, Pet.  The way it was always meant to be, and I'm not going to let your hormones ruin it!"

Spike's words had the opposite effect on the red-haired time traveler.  Instead of hurting her and weakening her resolve as he had desired, it only made her that much angrier.  Willow was furious.

Forgetting that they weren't alone, Willow brought her nose to within an inch of Spike's.  "My hormones?  We both know this has nothing to do with me, Spike!  This is all about you.  It always was!  And when this is over...if this is ever over...you better watch your back!"

<Bloody hell...why isn't anything ever simple when it comes to Willow ?> Spike whined internally.  He had to think quickly.

"Is that another threat, love?" he sneered, suddenly remembering a similar threat on one of their first nights in Galway.

"No, Spike.  It's not a threat.  It's a promise!" she retorted boldly.  She wouldn't allow anymore crying, even if the tears were those of anger and hate.

Spike laughed icily, momentarily getting caught up in the argument.  "It might be a tad difficult for you to do that if Angelus has you shackled to his bed, dearie."

"You seem to be forgetting something, Spike.  I have friends...strong friends...friends that have kicked your ignorant ass before, and they'll do it again," Willow reminded him with a wicked smile.  "I actually have people that care about me in the future, and I didn't have to manufacture the past to make that happen, did I?  I said it before, Spikie, and I'll say it again, you're pathetic!"

At first, Spike was disappointed to see Willow respond so adamantly to his insulting comments.  After all, she was supposed to be wallowing in self-pity, not trading insults again.  But then, as Willow practically came to life before him, Spike's face contorted into a manipulative grin of his own.  This could work to his advantage if he played his cards right.

Spike's hand shot out yanked her to him so viciously that it threatened to bring more tears to her eyes.

"No, Rose.  You just wait, because the second your life isn't necessary anymore...when you quit being useful because the spell is complete...I'll shut your gob for you, permanently, and there is nothing your little Slayer and her sidekicks will be able to do to help you!"

"Oh yeah!" Willow retorted a little childishly, but she felt energized by finally being able to release some of her anger on the vampire that seemed to relish in ruining her life.  "It'll be a little hard to do that with a stake sticking out your backside, Spike!  In fact, I may miss the first few times on purpose...just so it hurts a little more..."

Damn he loved arguing with Willow.  He could in engage in verbal war with her for hours and never grow bored.

"Sounds to me like you are just looking for another excuse to practice your own *special* brand of stake removal, Pet!" he scoffed with an evil and thoroughly lewd grin.

Willow's eyes widened, but she was pleased to note that she didn't blush.  At least, she didn't think she was.

"The only stake I'll be removing is the one from your pile of ashes!  It will be a nice memento...I might bronze it and make it into a paperweight!"

"You and what army?  Those little playmates of yours again?  Xapper and the dog-faced boy?"

"It's *Xander* and *Oz*," she said through gritted teeth.  "And as a matter of fact, yes!  If I--"

"Well, that's all very temptin', I must say," Angelus finally broke in, reminding them that he was still in the room.  He'd enjoyed their little show immensely and had once again been mentally taking notes.

"Bloody hell," Spike muttered, quickly letting her go.  He knew he'd stepped over his bounds by touching what was no longer his, and now Angelus had every right to 'remind' Spike of his place.  Standing up to your sire, even defying him was one thing, but to threaten his property's life?  That was just asking for trouble.  Spike moved away from the redhead, grabbed a cigar from Angelus's desk and lit it, not wanting to waste time finding his own cigarettes.

"I'm sorry for touching your new little pet, Angelus.  I'd forgotten she was no longer mine to punish.  Old habits die hard, and sometimes she makes it so bloody difficult not to rip her tongue right out of her mouth," he explained between puffs, surprising himself on how easily the word 'sorry' came from his lips.

Angelus moved so quietly that Spike was a little startled when his sire's hands gripped his shoulders.  Once again the blonde vampire found himself nose to nose with his sire.

"As long as ya don't forget again, Spike," he asserted, looking him squarely in the eyes.  It'd be my right ta punish ya, then, wouldn't it?  And don't think I'm not considerin' it even now.  Rose is not yer concern, understand?  Fer yer threat ta harm her alone, I could kill ya.  So listen closely...ya won't hurt her...not now...not *ever!*" Angelus stressed, the double meaning obvious to the blonde demon.  "Unless, of course, ya have me permission," he added with a sly smile.

Spike didn't back down from the eye contact, but he didn't argue with his sire, either.  Angelus was right.  He deserved a severe bum kicking, if not worse, for this error with Willow.  After all, Spike himself would have killed anyone or anything that had dared to touch Dru in that manner back in the 'old' days, and he wasn't even her sire nor did he have any vampiric rights over her.  All he had was a lover's claim.  <And the old Angelus would have dusted my bloody ass for less than that,> he reminded himself.  Or would he?  Even Spike wasn't so sure anymore.  It was nearly impossible to separate his hatred for his sire from his jealousy because of Dru.  <If I hadn't fallen in love with the object of my sire's damned obsession, Drusilla, then maybe...>  Spike clenched his jaw at his new thoughts then tucked them away for later.  Once again, now was not the time.

"Yes, Angelus," was all he could managed to say.

Angelus walked away from his ever-more confused childe to attend to his Rose.  She was still breathing hard from her heated argument with Spike, her eyes dancing with fire and her cheeks flushed with her hatred.  She was always beautiful, but this was the way he liked to see her the most...angry, indignant even, and while he enjoyed her tears and self-pity, they didn't hold a candle to what was before him now.

"There's me Rose...there's the fire.  Now that ya again have something ta lose--yer future, yer family, and yer friends--ya've come ta life again," he all but murmured, slowly tucking a few strands of hair behind her ears that Spike had pulled astray when he had mishandled her.

Willow shoved his hand away and purposely mussed her hair back up.  She felt better than she had in days, despite the fact that Spike had just found an entirely new way to ruin her life.

Grinning at her barely controlled anger, Angelus once again calmly smoothed her hair and caressed her reddened face.

"Maybe that's the problem, Rose.  Ya don't stand ta lose anythin' now, not in this lifetime anyway," Angelus surmised.  But I'm bettin' that when yer back in yer own time, surrounded by yer family and friends, maybe things will look a little differently to ya.  The risk will be back then, won't it; the stakes will be higher?  I'd dearly love ta see ya like that again, Rose."

If looks could kill, both Angelus and Spike would have turned to ashes at that moment.  She threw not just daggers with her steel-green eyes, but stakes, knives, and double-headed axes as well.  Even so, this time she didn't shove his hands away from her face.  Instead, she stood still, almost daring him to try more.

Just seeing her once again in all of her furious glory made something inside of Angelus clench and skip.  It wasn't his heart, because he no longer had one in either the useful physiologic or romantic sense.  Whether it was lust or simply pride from knowing that the fiery nymph before him was now his alone, it was urging him to take her right then and there.  However, he couldn't 'take' her...not now, not ever if he wanted to go on seeing her like this, and that's what Spike was telling him.  The worst part was that Angelus had known it all along.  He'd just refused to admit that he--for lack of a better term--'cared' enough to worry about how long he would have with the virginal redhead.  Nevertheless, when he was with her now, not even touching or tasting her, days, weeks, even months would not be long enough for all the he yearned to do to her...an eternity would barely do.

Regaining the control that a master vampire should have, Angelus strolled away from her.  "Let me see if I have this straight," he said, more to himself than to the room's other occupants.  "I'd be able to see my little Rose and her friends try ta defeat us and fail miserably.  Also, since our futures will no longer be at risk nor will some ancient magick spell be tryin' ta stop all my fun, I'd also be able ta punish her in the manner that she so richly deserves...even kill her or change her if I so desire.  Yes, " he said with long look for both Spike and Willow, "that truly is a temptin' offer."

Willow held her breath.  She couldn't decide whether this was a good thing or not.

"But I need more than just the promise of some interestin' fights, Rose," Angelus said, his eyes searching out his own bite marks on her neck even from across the room.  "I'll let ya go, if ya give me another reason to...somethin' else ta look forward to."

"I don't...I don't understand," Willow admitted, glancing quickly between the two vampires.  Things had changed so suddenly that she felt like she'd been left out of some private joke.

He gave her a sadistic smile.  "I can have everythin' I want from ya, right now.  Why should I wait over a century?"

"Look, mate," Spike interjected.  "You can't have everything you want from her now, and we both know it!  You can't kill her, you can't take her virginity from her, and at the most you'll be able to drive her insane.  But in a little over a century, you can have it all, Angelus.  You've practically waited that long already.  It'll be here before you know it.  You know, time flies when you're having fun, and all that crap."

Angelus took to pacing back and forth in the room as he thought it all through.  Spike, having calmed down considerably, continued to puff away on the cigar as he watched his sire decide their futures.  Willow was once again frozen in place as she tried to sort things out for herself...especially Spike's new twist to their little soap opera.

Finally, Angelus stopped his pacing directly in front of Willow.

"Kiss me," he said.

"What?"  Willow replied, her mouth dropping in surprise.

"Kiss me.  Show me what I'm waitin' fer.  Give me a taste of what ya promise will be mine when we meet in the future, Rose.  Kiss me."

Willow shook her head viciously.  "No!  I won't...I can't!  I mean...Spike--"

"Don't look at me, Pet!" Spike exclaimed adamantly.  "You're not mine to worry about anymore, and I could care less who you kiss.  I just want to get home so I can have Drusilla and get out of these bloody ridiculous clothes!"

She looked between the two vampires and just knew that somewhere, some great cosmic force was having a good laugh at her expense.  However, her desire to go home outweighed her embarrassment, but just barely.

She moved slowly to Angelus, who was once again sitting on the edge of the enormous desk.  His face didn't reveal anything of what he was thinking or planning, but it was apparent that he was not going to make it easy for her.  The vampire didn't lean forward or bend his head, which forced Willow to stand between his parted legs.

The kiss was a non-event.  Willow reached up and pressed her closed mouth against his closed mouth, without even bothering to shut her eyes.  It was over in a heartbeat, ending when she stumbled back a few steps, eager to put some distance between herself and the dangerously handsome--and just plain dangerous--vampire.

"There," she said breathlessly.  "Was it good for you?"

Spike had to stifle a laugh by covering his face with his hand as if he were ashamed of his former protege.  Having been on the receiving end of Willow's ardor before, he knew that if she put any effort into it at all, they'd be out the door before Angelus could utter, 'Bob's your uncle.'

<Come on, Red,> Spike found himself silently cheering.  <You can do it...show him how we do it back home...>

Angelus forced a very loud sigh of disappointment.  "Remember how I once told ya that beautiful women were always worth waitin' fer?  With a kiss like that, I'm startin' ta think I may have been wrong," he said with a smirk.

Willow added her sigh in response.  She couldn't believe this whole situation, let alone that she was supposed to prove to the world's most nefarious vampire that she was worth waiting for...that he should wait another 100 years to torture, maim, and kill her...or worse.  And how was she to do this?  With a kiss, no less!  But, if the only way out was a kiss, then she had to do it, and she had to make it good.

This time as she approached him, she had already determined her course of action.  Willow guided herself between his legs, making sure that she brushed repeatedly against his thighs as she settled herself into a 'comfortable' position.  Willow received no reaction from the vampire, but then again, she had no false hopes that it would be easy to impress him.  She met his eyes and felt her confidence waiver.  There was nothing there...not even the poker face that she'd studied for hours across the card table only days before.  At least that face held a kind of mocking superiority, but this facade was devoid of all emotions, even pride.  She dropped her eyes quickly before she lost her nerve and let them fall on his tightly clenched lips.  She brought herself closer, resting one of her trembling hands on his chest before slowly brushing her mouth softly against his.  She allowed contact for only a brief moment before moving her mouth away from his lips to travel along his jaw.  Willow placed wet kisses from his chin to his ear.  Her tongue and teeth tasted his cool skin while one hand explored his chest and the other dug into his hard thigh.

She reenacted everything that she remembered Angelus doing to her on the ride from the country, teasing him, paying particular attention to his Adam's apple and jugular veins, nipping harder there.  She felt him stiffen, the muscles in his neck and back constricting, but he still didn't actually move to return her attentions or even utter a sound.  The reaction, however slight, boosted her confidence enough to let her continue.

She trailed a path back up his neck.  Then, using his long hair for a firm grip, she pulled his head back slightly so she could reach a particular spot under his strong chin before daring to look into his eyes once again.  His face was still firm, but for a brief second, she thought maybe his eyes had been closed, only flying open when he'd sensed she was moving back toward his face.  She couldn't be sure, though, because his stone features betrayed nothing.  Only his blazing eyes sparked the bravado in her to go on.  This time, she flicked her tongue along his lower lip before venturing down to his collarbone.  Her hands, meanwhile, found their own courage, exploring his chest and back before slowly ascending to trace the contours of his face.

As she shifted her weight once again, not even trying to lessen her body's contact with his, she found the first true sign that she was having some effect on him.  She felt him harden against her thigh but still his hands had not moved and his lips did not open beneath hers.  Pushing self-doubt to the back of her mind, she moved her assault back to his neck in order to bite just hard enough to gain his attention.

Once she had his notice, Willow brought a single finger to the smooth flesh of one of Angelus' cheeks.  With careful deliberation, she flexed the digit, scraping her nail deeply into his skin as she drew her hand downward.  Once she reached the line of the vampire's jaw, she retraced her finger's path through the thin line of blood her sharpened nail had purposely drawn.  Although she knew that pain was almost an aphrodisiac to vampires, the motivation was actually more of a stall for time than an act of seduction.  The truth of the matter was that Willow needed the extra seconds to come to terms with the fact that she was about to break an oath she had previously made, both to herself and to Angelus.

"Please, Angelus," she pleaded in a whispered voice.  "Please kiss me."

The sound of her begging, the pain she'd inflicted upon him and the scent of his blood was too much for the master vampire, destroying his legendary level of restraint.  He waited until she pulled away from his ear to peer into his eyes, her own hooded with hate, fright, and lust.  It was like a siren song to him.

Encouraged by the slight smirk that turned the corners of the vampire's mouth, Willow brought their mouths together again.  This time, however, Angelus came to life under her lips.  Suddenly his hands were everywhere...in her hair, on her face, and on her neck...in an effort to pull her closer.  Willow had passed logical thought the moment she'd opened her lips to his, inviting him to plunder her mouth with his own.

She wasn't thinking about who he is, was, or whom he someday might become.  She also wasn't thinking about what he could do to her or what she wanted him to do to her.  She was pure need.  Willow had let the logical side of her brain have its say for most of her life, save those that were spent in another vampire's arms, and now she was letting her hunger rule her.

It wasn't until Angelus's mouth lowered to her neck that the spell was broken, but not because she had the presence of mind to protest, only because Spike chose that moment to remind them that they had an audience.

Spike cleared this throat loudly.  "Um, Angelus...you said you wanted a kiss, not a bloody seven-course meal."

Willow started at the sound of his voice, her face flushing in embarrassment.  She tried to step out of Angelus's embrace, but his hand was once again firmly entangled in her hair, preventing her escape.  It was at that point that Willow decided that the first thing she was going to do when they got home was cut her hair.  She was tired of it being used as a weapon against her.

Angelus snarled at Spike's interruption as he pulled her back against him.  "I told ya one day you would plead fer my lips on yers," he murmured in a voice thick with passion, "but I think we both be knowin' that this wasn't quite what I was talkin' about."

Willow's mouth opened but no words came out.  Her voice was lost in confusion while her heart, brain, and libido waged a bloody war within.  <Oh God...I kissed him...I *really* kissed him!>  Not just anyone, but Angelus, the vampire who'd promised her only exquisite pain at his hands.  <Angelus...Angel...Buffy...Oz...Oh yeah, I am so going to hell for this...> she told herself.

It was Spike's turn to sigh as he left the wall that he'd been leaning against to watch the floorshow.  Because too much was riding on this, the blonde vampire quickly locked his emotions away before they could get the best of him yet again.

"Angelus, I know you have plans for her, and if there were any way for you to do that without risking our lives, mine and yours, I'd be tickled bloody pink to let you have your merry way with the little witch.  But I'm not willing to take that chance, mate."  Spike put a supportive hand on his sire's shoulder.  "What we need now is patience."

Angelus couldn't pry his eyes from Willow's flushed face.  In all his years, he had never seen anything so beautiful, nor had he ever experienced anything like what had just happened with his Rose.  He wanted more...he *needed* more.

"You expect me to wait longer for somethin' I've been wantin' fer as long as I can remember?  Somethin' that my childe has already had a taste of?" Angelus demanded with an unusual combination of bitterness and pain tainting his words.  It reminded Spike of his own voice when he used to speak about Drusilla and his sire.

The blonde vampire's hand moved from Angelus's shoulder to his chin, firmly turning his sire's face to him.  "You can start by letting her go," he said firmly.  "Trust me, Angelus.  I've done it before, and I'm doing it again.  It's not easy, and it certainly isn't any bloody fun to wait around for a woman, but you're strong.  You can do it."

The two vampires' eyes locked, and from Willow's vantage point only inches away from the both of them, she watched spellbound as something passed between the sire and his childe.  <How sweet,> she almost found herself thinking.  <They're bonding.>

Angelus eventually looked back at Willow.  A smile grew on his lips when he noted her frank display of interest at his interaction with his childe.  The future did promise so many exciting new possibilities.

He pulled his captive closer one last time to whisper in her ear.  "As I said before, Rose.  A woman as beautiful as yerself is worth waitin' fer."

Angelus loosened his grasp on her fiery locks to languidly draw his fingers through her long hair until she was free.  Then, in a move that caught Willow by surprise, he brought her left hand to his mouth.  As he had done two times before, the dark-haired vampire kissed the soft flesh around the silver band on her ring finger and then bit into it just hard enough to bring forth a few drops of blood.  He licked them away slowly and sensually, wanting to commit to memory her taste and her scent...everything about her.  With a final possessive growl that was wrenched from the very center of his demonic self, he lifted his head to look at his Rose's face one last time.

Willow could only return his somber look with one of utter confusion.  Before she could form a coherent thought, Angelus broke the spell.

"Lambert!" he called loudly, waiting for the minion guard to enter.  "Escort Rose safely to her room.  Spike and I have a few things we need ta be discussin'...in private."
End Chapter 35