The first thing Willow noticed was the searing pain in her left hand, even before she was aware that she was alive, or that she was lying on a very hard, cold surface. Her body felt like lead, and no matter how hard she tried she couldn't seem to move. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she managed to pry her eyelids open. Above her were was a dark sky filled with stars. And for a moment, she was mesmerized by how much brighter they seemed. <Like when I was in the mountains a few summers ago. No smog.>
Soon she became aware of a low groan coming from somewhere nearby. Willow eventually forced herself into a sitting position and found the source of the sound. "Spike?" she asked as he slowly stood up, rubbing the back of his head. "Did... did it work?"
He looked around at the cobblestone-paved alley where he was standing. "It's definitely not home, sweet home," he stated as he helped Willow to her feet. "Let's go have a look-see, shall we?" His words were laced with excitement.
"Ow!" Willow whined as the pain forced itself back to the forefront. She held her hand up to her face, trying to see the ring in the darkness. "Ouch! This ring feels like it's on fire." Without thinking she put the injured finger to her mouth, hoping that sucking on it might help, but only succeeded in burning her lips. "Ow!" <Willow, stop whining, you sound like a big baby!>
Spike looked closely at her hand, his night vision enabling him to see the ring clearly. The surrounding skin was bright red and blistered where the silver band had melted slightly. He tugged at it, causing Willow to grimace, but it appeared to now be permanently bonded with her skin. "Well, at least I won't have to worry about you going and losing it now, will I?"
Willow didn't dignify him with an answer, instead choosing to blow on her finger.
"Come on then," Spike said impatiently.
Willow nodded nervously, and they walked toward the open end of the alleyway. It led to a wide street, lined with small shops and businesses. A few people scurried by, obviously in a hurry to get somewhere else. A few others lingered farther down the lane in what appeared to be a town square, but no one seemed to take notice of the newly arrived couple. They stood there for a few moments, taking in the lamp-lit streets, horse-drawn carts, and antiquated clothing.
"I don't believe it. It worked!" Willow said in a whisper.
"Did it?" Spike's voice was bitter. "This bloody-well isn't Christmas 1859. In fact, this isn't even London!" He spun Willow harshly around to face him, his hands digging deeply into her upper arms. His face was a mask of barely controlled anger, and she was suddenly afraid that he was about to morph into the demon's appearance in public. "What the hell have you done?" he growled viciously.
Willow shrank from the angry vampire but was not able to escape his desperate grip. "What... what do you mean? This definitely isn't Sunnydale."
"Damn stupd bint! You did this on purpose, didn't you? Didn't you?" He was practically yelling now and shaking her by her shoulders. At this time, it occurred to Willow that maybe Spike's 'needing' her might not be enough to ensure her safety.
"Pardon me," came a deep voice from behind them. "Are ya in need of assistance, young lady?"
She turned toward the voice as Spike's hold on her loosened. She was relieved to be free of his seething stare but was unable to speak. A middle-aged man was watching her closely, obviously concerned.
"Miss? Is this man accosting ya?"
"Um, no, thank you," she managed to stammer, aware that Spike's hand now sat gently on her hip.
"My wife and I are just having a little disagreement," Spike broke in. "Weren't we, love?" he whispered loudly into her ear, his arms snaking around her waist
Willow nodded her head obediently, hoping her fake smile hid her distress. <Wife? Hey, he never said I would have to pretend to be his wife!>
The man looked warily at the odd couple and took a few steps toward them.
"You see," Spike continued nonchalantly. "We just arrived and have somehow managed to lose most of our possessions. Apparently, a gentleman charmed my beloved, then made off with everything but the clothing on our backs, and luckily our purse," he told the man as he patted his coat pocket. "I can't leave the little woman here alone for a minute!" Spike continued with a wink. Willow had to fight the urge to poke him in the ribs with her elbow. <Little woman? Great, even vampires are chauvinist pigs.>
The man's face broke into toothless grin, and he answered Spike's wink with a knowing one of his own. "Really now? Where are ya from then?"
"We recently arrived from America, having just been married the night before we boarded," he informed the other man in his most well-behaved manner. "So, as I am sure you can understand, my lovely bride is a little nervous." He finished spinning his web of lies with a sensual kiss on her exposed neck.
The stranger's smile broadened even more. "Ah, yes, that makes sense, and explains your, uh, *unusual* manner of dress."
Willow was pleasantly surprised at how quickly Spike thought on his feet, and how well he was able to fall into a more 'civilized' style of speech. <He should have been an actor.> She composed herself, realizing she had no choice but to play along. Smiling innocently, she added, "Yes, everything is quite different here."
"Well, you're in luck if you're in need of a place to stay," the kind man said, obviously believing their story. "I have an inn just up the lane a wee bit that I am sure ya will find quite comfortable *and private,*" he said with another wink. "Then in the morning ya can speak with the constable 'bout yer misfortune."
"You are very kind. Please lead the way," Spike said, attempting to sound jovial. As they followed several steps behind the innkeeper, he pulled Willow close with the arm that had remained around her waist. He spoke quietly and gently so that to anyone watching it would appear as if he were just whispering in his lover's ear, but his words dripped with contempt. "Keep your bloody mouth shut until we are completely alone, my little wife," he added sarcastically. Willow stiffened against his side and kept her eyes firmly set on the back of the man guiding the way.
Willow's mind was racing, trying to figure out from the architecture of the buildings and the fashions of the local people exactly where and when they were. But nothing was as she had pictured in her mind. The historical re-creations she had envisioned were never this detailed. Never so alive. It took her breath away. She couldn't resist, and spoke so quietly that not even Spike was able to hear her, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto!" She couldn't help breaking out in a big smile. <I always wanted to say that!>
<What's the bloody cow grinning about?> Spike was fuming. <She really mucked this whole thing up!> He had asked for London. He had asked for Christmas. He had asked for 1859, and what did he get? Eighteenth-century Ireland, in what he assumed was the spring. <I hate the 18th century, everybody smells so foul you need to hold your nose just to have a quick bite.> He wished he could have just killed the man who dared to think that he was some common mugger who enjoyed beating up defenseless women, but since he and Willow needed to try to attract as little attention as possible, he knew they would have to try to blend in. <What *is* she grinning about?>
The innkeeper was true to his word, and they quickly arrived at a quaint little inn on a side street. Willow stood quietly by the fire, trying to ignore the curious stares she was receiving, while Spike and the owner discussed suitable accommodation. She looked down at her dress, comparing it with those of the other ladies in the common room. The clothing Spike had stolen from the museum was obviously of a style that had yet to come in fashion, but she didn't think they looked too conspicuous. Willow was fairly sure the local gossipers would just attribute their odd attire to the fact that they had come from a different continent. <If they only knew!>
"Darling?" Spike's voice broke into her thoughts. He held a softly glowing oil lamp in one hand, and the other was stretched out to her. "Shall we retire to our bedchamber?" he asked seductively.
She winced as his hand closed firmly on her throbbing finger, but he didn't seem to notice. <Ow! I think he did that on purpose!> Willow was rubbing her temple as she allowed the vampire to lead her down the dark hallways. <Please, oh *please* let this be a dream. Our bedchamber? Spike's wife? I have such a headache!> Spike's key opened the last door, his light revealing a fairly large room containing a bed, wash stand, armoire and writing desk. <Hmm, no windows. Wonder how he managed that?> Still rubbing her head, Willow flopped face down on the bed. Suddenly realizing she was alone in a bedroom with the blonde vampire, she frantically scrambled to the head of the bed where she sat with her arms wrapped around her knees, waiting. Spike calmly finished lighting the lamps in the room, leaned against the far wall, and then finally looked at Willow.
"You must be pretty pleased with yourself right now." His voice was bitter and cold. Gone was the facade of the loving bridegroom.
Willow put on her best wide-eyed innocent look. "I don't know what you mean."
"Don't try to pull that crap with me. You brought us to Galway, Ireland in 1753 on bloody purpose. But listen to me right now, my deceptive little virgin, this does not change a thing. *Not* a thing!"
"That's where we are? Galway in 1753? How do you know that?"
"It was on the register when I got us this cozy little honeymoon suite. By the way, we are officially William and Rose Smith, but I wouldn't bother getting it monogrammed on any pillowcases if I were you."
Trying to ignore the sarcasm, Willow pondered her new pseudonym. "Rose Smith?" Willow knew from her research that William was his real name, but not Smith. She assumed that Rose was chosen from her last name because Willow was too unusual just as Smith was chosen for its commonness. "But I don't feel like a Rose."
Spike just shrugged his shoulders. "Don't try and change the subject, Pet. Now, tell me what the hell was goign through that mind of yours when you brought us to this godforsaken place. And it better be the truth, because I'm beginning to lose patience with you."
Willow's brain shifted back into overdrive, trying to focus on why they were here. "Well, I... I, uh, couldn't let you just kill Angel like that, or uh Angelus, he saved my life several times. And, yeah, sure he tried to kill me a couple of times, too, but. . . ."
<Just spit it out already!> "And?" he insisted when she paused, in no mood for Willow's skittish banter.
"And, I don't know. I just panicked and this was the only date I could think of when Angelus was alive."
"Once again, your kindness will be wasted. I'm still going to kill him."
"But, if you kill him who will change you?"
That got his attention. "What?"
Willow realized that he hadn't really thought this whole thing through. "Angel is your sire, right? So if you kill him, who will be your, um, dad, so to speak?" <Wait. Is this a bad thing?>
Spike contemplated this for a moment, then shrugged. "No problem. I'll just explain it all to Darla when she comes to town, and make sure that she changes me instead. Then I, the *other* me, will change Dru when the time is right." Spike smiled when he finished, obviously pleased with himself.
"Right," Willow laughed. "You're going to trust Darla? I'm sure she will be happy to comply, no questions asked. I can't wait 'til we go back home to see the look on your face when you find out you no longer exist. Although, then, you won't have a face because you'll actually be *really* dead this time, so... uh, never mind."
Spike glared at Willow then rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and purposefully banged the back of his head against the wall. He found that sometimes a little pain helped him concentrate. "Why do I get the feeling I'm going to regret this?" he sighed in exasperation.
"You'd be surprised how many times I hear that," Willow replied, without even a hint of a smile.
The room was deadly silent for several minutes while they both considered the future and the past.
Finally Willow spoke, "Can't we just forget this whole thing and go home? Next time you ask me to kill you, I promise to follow your instructions to the letter."
"Funny," he sneered. "No, we're not going back yet. I came here to get Drusilla back, and we're not leaving until that happens, no matter how long it takes. Like I said before, we only get one shot at this."
"Not that I really want time travel to be my after-school job, but what do you mean?"
"I mean, love, that this particular spell is a one-time-only deal." Frustration was apparent in his every word. "Apparently the Druids weren't a very trusting lot. They wanted to make sure that no one tried to redo the past 100 times until they got it right. So, this is it."
"Great, so what are we going to do?" Willow asked, surmising that now was not the time to challenge his evaluation of the situation.
"The way I see it, you have a couple of choices. I could find sweet little Angelus now, kill him, and somehow get Darla to understand that in about 50 years she has to change 'me', and then explain to 'me' that I have to vamp Dru. Or," he continued, getting a little flustered himself, "I could still find sweet little Angelus now, kill him, then we wait 50 years and change myself, or. . . ."
"Wait right there, buster!" Willow said in a tone that was much braver than she felt. "I am not staying here 50 years! What about my family, they'll be worried. And, and... how am I supposed to get a job in 50 years without even a high school diploma?" <I don't want to be a 70-year-old fry girl, and those hats make my head look all pointy.>
"No need to get your knickers in a knot, Pet. You won't age a day, no matter how long we stay. When we get back it'll be like we never left."
She eyed the vampire suspiciously, wondering if he was just saying that to shut her up. "How? Are, are you sure?"
"Listen! It didn't exactly come with a bloody user's manual. All I know is that it said something about how time will stop where we came from, for us anyway, and that the traveler is now a container, or vessel, for that time. The end result being you will not age and can not die, except by your own hand."
Willow's mouth fell open. "I--I can't die?" she eventually managed.
"Not while we're here, unless you off yourself or something. Our future, which I guess is actually the past, is in you. When we return, the spell is complete and we're back home. Then you can return to your exciting life full of boys, books, and chastity."
"But, I don't understand. Laws of physics require--"
"Who do I look like, bloody Thomas Edison?" Spike interrupted. "I don't understand it, I just read it."
Willow frowned. "I think you mean Albert Einstein, and actually the theories of. . . ." Spike's exasperated look put a stop to her physic's lesson but she simply couldn't beleive what he'd told her. "Okay, so let me make sure I understand this. I am stuck here, on a honeymoon, with you, and you want to kill Angelus and sire yourself," she stared carefully, using her fingers to count her way through the details. <Jerry Springer would have a field day with this!> she thought, before adding, "*But,* on the plus side, I'm immortal."
"Yup, love. That about sums it up."
Willow flung herself back on the bed, exhaustion and confusion beginning to take its toll. "This is like a really bad episode of Star Trek," Willow mumbled into her hands, which were now covering her face. "With Kirk, though, not Picard because Picard would *never* allow this to happen."
<I knew it. She's finally gone batty. Come on mate, say something nurturing. . . .> Spike just stared at the slight form of the girl on the bed, trying to think of something encouraging to say. "All right, cutie, listen up. I've already spent decades with a woman whose stake didn't come to a point, if you know what I mean, so please try not to lose it on me. Besides, you've got a choice to make, remember?" <Not exactly Mother Theresa mate, but at least you got her to stop babbling about the tele.>
Willow took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I need time, Spike. I have to figure out how our actions here will affect the future. Remember, Angel helped Buffy a lot in the beginning, and Buffy saved my life. So how can I let you kill him, when the result could be my own death?"
"Fine," Spike groaned, rolling his eyes. "Take a couple of days then. I'd say we have about two months until Darla comes to town, but before you get all gooey over your perfect little Angel, remember how many people he treated like his personal little lunch box, both before the gypsy's curse and after."
Willow's hands were still covering her face, trying to block out all the scenarios that were hammering at her mind. <If Angelus dies, I may die too. Or would I be dead already? Angelus has killed hundreds of people. Is his life, or mine, worth it? Oh god, what do I do? What do I do?>
"Get some sleep, love. I'm going to grab a bite to eat."
"You can't!" Willow squealed, sitting up."
Spike brought his leering face within an inch of Willow's. "Why love? Are we a little anxious to start the honeymoon festivities? Again, a tempting offer but sorry, *virgin,* remember?"
Willow ignored his attempt to embarrass her, already tired of all the virgin references. "Because, if you kill anyone while we are here, it could have drastic effects in the future. Maybe the ancestors of your next meal saved, or uh, will save your father's life or Dru's or cure a disease or something. Oh, you know what I mean," she finally whined in desperation.
"That's all fine and dandy, baby," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "But a body's gotta eat, even a dead body, and I'm not going to start turning rats into meals."
Weariness was finally overcoming Willow. "But you don't *have* to... kill...them, do you?" she managed to mumble between yawns. Then suddenly her eyes popped open, "Be careful, dear husband, I don't want to get burned at the stake just because your too high and mighty to feed from some poor drunk who won't remember anything the next day."
"They don't burn people at the stake anymore, *dear*, but since you actually have a point, I'll alter my feeding habits just a bit. For now!"
<I hope so.> Willow was asleep before Spike had closed the door.
End chapter 3
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