* Special thanks for Jonquil for the great job she did of betaing this for me at the last possible moment!

** This part is dedicated to my father who'd always said that I'd never finished anything in my life...including a can of Diet
Coke.  I only wish he were still here so I could prove him wrong.

Take Your Time ~~ 40 ~~

 

Spike arranged the candles as he had so long ago--a small clearing in the woods replacing the mansion, and a large rock serving as altar. Satisfied that everything was as it was supposed to be, he stood up.

Willow was standing at the edge of the clearing, staring off into the woods once again. Spike cleared his throat to get her attention.

"Red, I think we're about ready for the countdown."

Willow let out a very long sigh. It had been difficult to say goodbye to her Rom family again, especially Tekla and Dunicha, and she felt a little lost. Everything had happened so fast that Willow felt as if she hadn't enough time to prepare.

It hadn't helped matters when Spike made her realize that she wouldn't be able to take all of her personal things with her. He'd had to remind her that when they'd originally cast the spell, all that had been brought back through time was them, the clothes upon their backs, and anything in their pockets, i.e. a lot of money, coins, jewels and such. Oh, and of course, a deck of playing cards. Nothing else that they'd been touching, like the floor or the altar, had been affected by the spell. Once Willow'd had the time to consider what Spike had said, she'd realized he was probably right. It truly looked as if she would have to leave her possessions behind or risk destroying them with the spell.

After putting her favorite romantic Victorian nightgown on under her Rom garb--much to Spike's amusement--Willow had given her guitar and other personal belongings to Dunicha. Her journals she'd given to Tekla because the redhead didn't have the heart to burn them. Although Willow blushed at the thought of anyone reading them, Willow took heart in the fact that none of the Rom could read English. Tekla, in turn, had promised to keep them safe and perhaps find a way to return them to her in the future. Willow was also a little sad that they hadn't found her cross when they went to look for it back in town. It, along with the copy of 'Romeo and Juliet,' was gone.

All in all, the goodbye process had left her feeling more than a little blue.

"Suddenly it seems like it's too soon," she finally said, turning to face the vampire.

Spike wanted to nod in agreement, but he didn't think that would help Willow her right now. Instead, he plastered his favorite charming smirk on his face.

"You're just going to miss me, Pet. That's all. But don't fret, I'll be around. Besides, I don't trust those Gypsy folk much. They like their vengeance a little too much, so I think I'd better stick around long enough to make sure Angelus doesn't make another appearance."

Willow rolled her eyes slightly at Spike's suspicious nature. She had complete faith in her Rom family. They wouldn't use the happiness curse on Angelus, she was sure of it. Of course, there were other Rom tribes and plenty of people who hated Angelus...

"So," she said suddenly, changing the subject. She'd drive herself crazy thinking that way. "What do I have to do?"

"Not much, love," Spike replied, glancing back at the altar. "This part of the spell is quite easy. Couple of candles, a few drops of blood, a few choice words, just like last time, and we should be back at the exact same place and time in which we had first cast the spell."

Willow raised an eyebrow at the vampire. "Should?"

Spike laughed as he moved to stand in front of the redhead. "That is if you don't play any tricks on me this time. Hopefully, you don't have some odd desire to wear a poodle skirt and go to a bloody sock hop or something."

Willow grinned at the mental image that flashed before her.

"Actually, I would love to see what you looked like back then...hair greased back...leather jacket..."Or better yet, how about the 70s, Spike? Do you have any odd cravings to 'Do the Hustle'?" she asked, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

Spike was relieved to see Willow's mood improve, but his tone became more serious as he reached out to gently caress his friend's cheek.

"No more bloody adventures, okay, Willow? Let's just go back to Sunnyhell and hope for the best, shall we?"

"Yes, please," she sighed, her smile fading again.

Noting her darkening expression, Spike lifted her face up with a finger under her chin.

"Care to share?"

"I'm scared, Spike," she admitted, hugging her arms tightly about herself.

"Oh come one, love. Cheer up! I was just kidding. I know the bloody spell backwards and forwards...I must have muttered it in my sleep a million times so I wouldn't forget," he reassured her.

"No, not about the spell, Spike," she clarified. "I guess I'm afraid everything will be different..."

Spike pursed his lips. He knew exactly what she was saying. He and Willow had already discuss the myriad of unknowns that might await them. So many things had changed that it was baffling to even think of the possible consequences. But the worst thing was that now Angelus had an inkling of what Spike's true intentions had been all along. The dark vampire was never supposed to have see either of them or know that they were even involved when he was recursed by the Rom--unless absolutely necessary--but especially not Spike. <So much for that bloody plan too,> Spike mused. And the worse part was, now Angelus could seek revenge against William for Spike's actions, if he had the mind to. The blonde vampire could only hope that Angelus's soul would not allow that to happen.

"...but I'm even more terrified that everything will be the same," Willow's voice came back to him, interrupting Spike's morbid thoughts.

"Don't forget," Spike said in all seriousness. "There's always a chance we won't remember any of this, if that cheers you up at all."

Willow sighed. She still didn't know if that was a good thing. She looked up into Spike's shining blue eyes and hated the thought of never again seeing the blonde vampire look at her as if she were more than a meal. She didn't want to lose his friendship.

"I don't want to forget you, Spike," Willow whispered as she pulled the vampire into a hug. "I don't care if it's easier, I don't want to forget anything." Spike wrapped his arms about the petite redhead, enjoying the feel of her in his arms for what could very well be the last time.

"I know, Willow," he murmured into her hair. "I know. And who knows, I could be wrong. There's a first time for everything."

Before she knew it, Willow was smiling again. Spike was always able to make her feel better and this was no exception. She pulled back from his embrace.

"You know, it's just not fair," Willow sniffed as she playfully swatted him on the arm. "You'll probably at least have William's memories. So you should remember a little of what happened. But I won't."

"I think you're the lucky one, my wife," Spike said with a shrug. "It just sounds bloody confusing to me."

"Maybe you're right."

"Of course I'm right. The husband is always right," Spike teased. "Now, let's do this bloody thing already. I'm dying to get into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt again!"

Moving to the makeshift altar, Willow took a deep breath before offering Spike her hand, the one that had Angelus's ring melted on its ring finger. Taking her shaking hand, Spike squeezed it reassuringly then set it upon the altar. After picking up a small, sharp knife, Spike reached for her other hand. Before Willow could even grimace in expectation of the pain, he'd already made a shallow but clean cut on the pointer finger of her right hand. After a glance at the redhead to make sure she was still okay, Spike quickly slit his own finger.

Recalling the spell Spike had forced upon her over a century ago, Willow was surprised when this time Spike intertwined his bleeding fingers through hers as he let the blood intermingle on their clasped hands. Moving in unison, they let their joined blood drop slowly on to Willow's other hand and the ring that it bore. Then, just as he did the first time, Spike slowly licked the remaining drops before reciting the verse that would end the spell. As he spoke, Willow roughly translated his ancient Gaelic into English.

 

"The journey is at an end.
All wrongs have been righted.
Time, be free of this vessel,
For the Returning is now.

 

Staring deeply into her eyes as he kept her hands grasped firmly in his own, Spike repeated the chant again and again. As Willow focused on going home, the burning sensation in her finger began to steadily increase. The spell was working.

AS before, the intensity of the pain in her hand magnified quickly, until it was enough to bring tears to her eyes. Just as she was about to screw them tightly closed in agony, Spike spoke, hoping to keep her mind off her agony.

"It's been quite a trip, my wife."

Willow smiled through the pain. "Yep, you sure know how to give a girl a honeymoon to remember...I hope."

And as the pain neared its crescendo, Spike leaned forward to cover Willow's mouth with his own. For the first time in a more than a decade, they kissed. It was gentle, soft, filled with caring, and more soothing than passionate. They both knew that it meant only one thing. Goodbye.

Before they ended the kiss, there was a blinding flash. And then nothing.

********

~The End~

On to the Sequel!

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