Take Your Time ~ Chapter 6

Willow sat on the cliffs for hours, watching the ships come and go, and she wondered if any of them were heading for America. For a moment she entertained the idea of buying passage to America and just forgetting the events of the past week, but the thought was dismissed as quickly as it came. <You are here Willow. You are going to be here for a while, and you are just going to have to tough it out!>

Willow didn't notice that she had lost complete track of time until the sun began to set. "Better get back before someone gets worried about me," Willow announced to the first stars of the evening. Then it occurred to her that no one would be alarmed. <Who would worry? Spike? Doubtful!> "Well, they will probably miss you though Thistle," she said softly to the dapple-gray mare she had ridden there on.

After her confrontation with Angelus that morning, Willow had inquired about any scenic walks around the bay and had been offered use of the horse by Caroline. It had been years since she had last been on one, but she had been promised that Thistle was quite calm in nature, despite her name. With a last tremendous sigh she scrambled on the horse again and headed back to town.

She stood outside the inn for a moment, reluctant to be around people again, but she took a deep breath and threw open the door. To her surprise she immediately saw Spike sitting at the bar talking with several other patrons, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Fitzsimmons. He looked up when she came in and quickly plastered a look of relief on his face.

"There's my Rose," he said in a sugary-sweet tone, getting up to stand in front of her. Spike pulled her into his arms and whispered softly into her ear, "Where the hell have you been?" Then louder, for the benefit of the audience, "I missed you, peaches and was beginning to worry!"

Willow did her best to approximate a loving hug to Spike. "Sorry," she stammered, all too aware of the feeling of Spike's body against hers. "It was such a beautiful ride I lost track of time. Sorry to make you worry."

"That's all right, my Pet, I know how your *little* mind wanders. I'm starved, so why don't we grab a *bite* while we are here," he snickered.

"Um okay," she mumbled as Spike pulled her to a table. He sat down then yanked her onto his lap. Willow was forced to put her arms around his neck to keep from falling backwards. <Okay Willow, you can make it through this. Just forget he is a vampire. Or, pretend you are vampire. No! *Bad* idea! Just try to act like you don't hate him for now!>

"Isn't this cozy, Mrs. Smith?" he teased her, his lips only inches from hers.

Willow was getting aggravated from his attempts to embarrass her, so she tried to turn the tables on him. She brought her mouth even closer. "Why weren't you this attentive last night, my love?" she teased loudly, making sure everyone in the pub could hear. She turned and looked at the men that he was talking to before, "Last night all he wanted was sleep!" she laughed, then turned back to Spike before placing a feather-like kiss on his jaw. Willow's actions surprised herself almost as much as they did Spike, but she loved the hoots and jeers that they elicited from the male patrons.

But he was up to the challenge and wasn't going to be outdone. "That's because you have been wearing me out, princess," the vampire said over the laughter. Then he addressed the amused patrons. "She barely lets me leave the room, you know. I'm like a prisoner! She's insatiable!"

Willow began to blush as all the men's eyes turned to her, and she gave Spike a dirty look while fighting the urge to bury her face in his shoulder out of embarrassment.

"Truce?" he asked with a half smile. When Willow nodded her agreement, he went on. "Good, I've got some news, but first I am really hungry! Caroline," he shouted to the innkeeper's wife. "We will both take some of that delicious lamb you were talking about."

"Hungry? Since when do you eat things that don't put up a fight?"

"No demon in his right mind would pass up the chance for roast lamb with mint sauce."

<Learn something new every day!> Willow shifted uncomfortably on the vampire's lap, but his arms were still firmly around her waist. "Spi-, um, William," she asked quietly. "Can I get off your lap now?"

"No. Since we are going to be here awhile, we need to act like a normal, loving, living couple, no matter how much it makes my stomach churn."

"And this is normal? I don't see anyone else sitting on somebody's lap. You're just drawing attention to us."

"Are you sure? Dru used to sit on my lap all the time."

Willow tried to suppress a laugh. "Okay," she said slowly. "But you said a *normal, living* couple!"

Spike clenched his jaw and studied her face for a moment. He couldn't figure her out. One moment she was like a scared child, then the next she was a sexy woman with a mind of her own, and now she was beginning to show a sense of humor too. "Good point," he said finally, allowing her to disengage herself.

Willow took the seat next to him. "So, what's your news?" she asked nervously, hoping he had come to the same conclusion regarding Angelus's future that she had come to.

"I have decided to let *him* live."

"You have?"

"Yes!" He said through gritted teeth.

Willow couldn't contain her excitement and threw herself back into his arms, hugging him. "Thank you!"

"I am not doing this for you, you know," the vampire told her pointedly. "Or for that sappy Irishman. It's for Dru, and what you said just happened to make sense. "

"I know," Willow said self-consciously, pulling away from him. "Thank you anyway."

"But, there is one condition. We need a different place to live until we leave in a couple of months. In fact, I have been speaking with a few of the locals here and have already made arrangements to let us a cozy little cottage a few blocks away. We move in tomorrow."

Willow was speechless. She had figured sooner or later they would need to move out of the inn, but was surprised at how quickly Spike had taken care of it.

The innkeeper's wife set a couple of heaping platters of lamb and vegetables before them. "I am glad to hear you will be gettin' yer own place. A young married couple needs their privacy, although I'll miss ya Rose. I hope ya will stop by every now and then for a cuppa."

"Of course I will Caroline," Willow told the older woman warmly. She had become like a foster mother to Willow, and the girl would miss her as well.

Willow tried to eat but was too excited to actually taste the food. <Spike agreed. I can't believe it. I can save Angelus!> Meanwhile, Spike devoured his meal like a man possessed.

*****

Angelus watched from outside the tavern, standing in the darkness and unseen to those inside. He had only wanted to make sure that she was all right and had returned safely from her ride. He knew she was upset after their talk this morning and had watched as she rode unsteadily away.

From where he stood, Angelus couldn't make out her husband's features except his unusual, short blonde hair, but there was no mistaking the hug he gave her when she strolled in or the intimacy of their relationship as she sat upon his lap. He watched as Willow's face broke into a huge grin and she hugged the other man deeply, and he felt a strange twinge of jealousy that this odd man could make her so happy. Finally, he couldn't watch anymore and he turned and headed for home, confused about his growing feelings for this woman.

*****

Willow went for her usual afternoon ride. Even in the new cottage with its separate bedrooms, she still felt like she needed to get away for a while every day. Spike had plenty of time to himself. She often wondered what he did every night, all night, besides eat that is. Then she decided it was best that she didn't know.

She was standing on the same cliff again, absorbing the beautiful scenery, feeling both lucky for being able to experience this tranquil, unspoiled land; and ill-fated for being forced to leave all that she knew at the same time, when she sensed that she wasn't alone.

"Why are you here?" she asked without even turning around. Somehow she knew he was there. She wasn't sure how, it just felt like there was electricity in the air that wasn't there before. It felt like an approaching summer storm, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

"I wanted to say I'm sorry for upsetting ya the other mornin'. Little Jon mentioned that ya went ridin' every day and after a little convincin' he told me ya usually come up here."

"I come here to be alone, and I don't feel like talking right now."

Angelus went to stand beside her, hands in his pockets, waiting for her to look at him. "Fine, ya can just listen then. Yer right, I have been treatin' ya badly, like it's a game, and for this I am truly sorry. I realize yer a married woman, so I would be happy if we could be friends, anyway."

Willow turned to study his face for a moment. She could see he was sincere. "Friends?" She chuckled a little, "I don't think you know how to be just friends with a woman, Angelus."

"Well, there is a first time for everything Rose. And I would be honored if ya would be my first!" he laughed, his eyes sparkling mischievously.

Willow couldn't help but smile. When he was happy, it was contagious. She wondered if she should refuse, but she was lonely, and after all, they would just be friends, right? <It couldn't hurt to be friends for a couple of months!>

"If you promise to behave yourself, I would love your friendship, Angelus."

"I will be a perfect gentleman, on my honor," he said with his hand on his heart. "Now, the first thing we are goin' to do is teach ya to ride a horse properly, and then we'll see about gettin' ya a horse of yer own."

Willow remembered how he told her that his family raised and bred horses so he was an expert in the field, but still her pride was wounded. "What? I know how to ride! I got here didn't I?" she said haughtily.

"Only provin' to me that there are angels watchin' out for ya! The way ya was ridin' it's a bloomin' miracle that ya made it without breakin' yer pretty neck!"

Willow gave him a fake little scowl.

Sorry, yer, um, very married little neck! Now, let me show ya the right way to hold the reins," he began. They spent the rest of the afternoon together, as one friend taught another the finer points of horsemanship.

~~~~~

End Chapter 6

 ***
 

Take Your Time ~ Chapter 7 ~

 
The vampire lay on the bed in his darkened room. He wasn't trying to sleep so much as just pass the time until it was dark and he could get out of the house. Their new accommodations were a great improvement over the cramped quarters at the inn, in that now they at least had their own bedrooms. It was a relief to have somewhere to go to escape Willow's searching gaze during daylight hours. She had an uncanny way of looking right through him, and if he had a soul he would swear that she could read it. It left him feeling befuddled, so he resorted to what he did best, using her innocence as an endless source of teasing and sexual innuendo. It was a crude but effective means of keeping her in line.

Yet, lately she hadn't been around as much since she had come to some sort of understanding with Angelus that they were going to be just friends. <That's a laugh! She'll fall in love with him. They all do!> Spike abruptly sat up at that thought. He didn't know why, but the idea of her falling in love with Angelus irked him, more than it should. It wasn't that he was jealous or that he had developed any actual feelings for the girl, but he was beginning to feel protective of her. In the end he chalked it up to having to share Drusilla for all that time. Even before Angel lost his soul again Spike felt like he had to compete with the memory of Dru's sire. <Soon I will never have to worry about Angelus again!> Spike laid backed down, pondering his future with Drusilla sans Angelus, when his thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of Willow's exhaling coming from the other room.

"Love, do you mind keeping it down," Spike bellowed from his room. "Some of us are trying to get some sleep in here!"

Willow jumped in surprise at the sound of his voice. They had been in their new place for almost a week now and on the rare occasions that they were in the same room together, they still had little to say to each other. She would watch him, trying to think of something, anything, to break the silence without sounding like an idiot, but an icy glance from him would chase all the thoughts out of her head. It wasn't because Willow was scared of Spike, because for the most part she wasn't anymore, but she couldn't help but be aware of him anytime he was in the house. He was, after all, a handsome, sexy demon. <If you are into that sort of thing!> And he made sure, with his provocative insinuations, that she never forgot that they were sleeping under the same roof as man and wife, even if in name only.

She had been seeing Angelus nearly every day since they defined their relationship. Sometimes they would have a meal together, but most often they went for a ride, and they were quickly becoming very good friends. But today it was raining, hard, and Angelus had some work to do, so Willow had been wandering around the small cottage, sighing.

She stopped her meandering in front of the stone fireplace and turned to protest at Spike's closed door. "I didn't say a thing!"

Spike flung the door open, irritation apparent on his pale face. "No, but I can hear you sighing like you were in the bed next to me. Sharp senses, remember?"

Willow snickered to herself. <Bed next to you? Not in this lifetime!> "Sorry, but you should have thought about that before you joined the army of the undead. Life is not nocturnal. Besides, you've already slept for eight hours. That should be enough for anybody."

"I'm not any *body*," he said, leaning casually against the door. "And it would do you well to bloody well remember, that as *not* any body, I can suck the life force right out of you whenever I choose, ducks."

Willow ignored his thinly veiled attempt to intimidate her and stood her ground, knowing that he couldn't kill her even if he wanted to.

<Well, that didn't work!> "I think you just missed me and woke me up on purpose," he teased, trying a new approach.

<Here we go again> Willow plopped down on a wooden chair at the trestle table and fiddled with an apple. <I am so bored!> "So Spike," she began. "Tell me about yourself."

"What?" he said indignantly, still standing in the doorway, half-dressed.

"We are going to be together for years so we might as well get to know one another, right?"

"Listen Red, go find yourself a girlfriend to chat with. I have no intention of becoming your new best friend."

"Geez, someone woke up on the wrong side of the coffin," Willow retorted.

"We don't sleep in coffins, as you very well now. You have watched too much tele," he said putting on a shirt.

"Well, what do you do all night, besides, um, you know."

"I have a few pints with the boys, play some cards, and a lot of 'um, you know'. It can take quite a while to get a full meal. It isn't like there is an all you can eat blood buffet down the street. I have to be very careful, discreet...

"Stealth-guy! Or, um, demon," Willow added. Then, feeling flustered by the odd look he gave her, she changed the subject. "Oh, cards, really? What do you play?"

"Poker, naturally," he said. "Passes the time and makes some money. How else am I going to keep you in the manner to which you were never accustomed? You play?"

Willow sighed again. "No." Then her face brightened. "Teach me! I mean, what else are we gonna do? And, with it being spring and all, we are going to have a lot of rainy days, so we might as well find something else to pass the time."

"I can think of better ways to pass the time on a rainy day, but, luckily for you I left my whips and chains in my other trousers," he smirked devilishly, grabbing a pack of cards from his room and tossing them at her. "Do you at least know how to handle a deck?"

Willow shuffled the cards expertly. When Spike looked at her questioningly, Willow just said, "Xander and I used to play Old Maid and Go Fish a lot. We even bet sometimes."

"Strip Old Maid? I'd pay a couple of bob to see that!" he goaded and then realized he meant it.

"Actually, we played for Twinkies."

"You can call it whatever you want, Princess. I would still love to see it!" Spike grinned in spite of himself.

"Shut up and deal," she laughed back, sliding the cards to him.

~~~~~

End Chapter 7
 

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