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Time for Blood & Roses

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Time for Change and Roses". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: AU - follows William from Time for Change to Season 1 Sunnydale - New Timeline.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralLucindaFR15990,7785107,7092 Jun 032 Jun 03Yes

parts 11-20

Angel was troubled. Dru was here in Sunnydale, and she had said that Spike was with here as well. The last remains of his family from his evil nights, here in Sunnydale for some strange purpose. He'd already had to kill Darla, his sire and longtime lover. He didn't know if he could bear to have to kill his children as well. Dru.. he'd driven her insane, tortured and killed her family, made her a monster like he had been. She'd wanted to be a nun, but he'd destroyed that possibility for her.

As for Spike... he could remember the broken hearted young man they'd found staggering in an alley. The young man had clearly been from a good, in not wealthy family, and had later shown that he was a well-educated man. He had been a decent, if shy person, and they'd killed him, made him into a ruthless killer. What made it worse in Angel's mind was that it had all been done so that Dru would have a playmate. In his own dark and twisted way, Angelus had cared for them both.

He hoped desperately that he wouldn't have to fight them. They were all the family he had left... He had cared for them then, and he still did. He hadn't seen either of them since the night Darla had brought him a gypsy girl. He had been cursed with his soul, and fled into the night to wallow in guilt and despair. Suddenly, Angel stopped, a thought crossing his mind. How had Dru known about his soul?

While Angel was brooding about his blood stained past, Spike was watching Willow. Granted that he was pretending to be here to listen to the poetry, and he was actually hearing a goodly portion of the poetry and murmured commentary due to his vampire hearing, but that wasn't why he was really here. He was here because Willow was here. She was lovely, and he could see all the expressions crossing her face.

She kept sneaking glances at him when she thought he wasn't looking. He didn't know what she was thinking, but... she kept looking back, and a few times she was blushing when she looked away. He guessed that at the very lest, she thought he looked interesting, and she was probably trying to figure him out. She hadn't talked to him, but she hadn't tried to retreat, hadn't gone away from him. She sat there, listening to poetry and sneaking looks at him. He managed not to wince at the current poet, some hopeful guy called Owen, with a poem about a sunshine girl. Reminded him a bit much about the man he used to be.

"He's not completely terrible. He's got it really bad for my friend... Not sure if he's told her yet, but he has all these feelings for her. I know he wrote that poem for her. And, umm quiet now."

Willow's soft voice brought him out of his mental comparison of this Owen and William. She had spoken to him, even if it was apparently in defense of the poet. Had his expression really been that unhappy? Hmmm... he was missing the important point here. She'd spoken to him. That had to be a good sign, if she spoke to him even a little, he could work with that.

"He just reminds me a bit much of this bloke I used to... know. He had a thing for this woman, wrote poetry about her, did the whole admiring from afar thing. He finally got up the nerve to let her know how he felt, and the bi... and she broke his heart. Brought up unhappy memories is all." He didn't want her to be worried that he didn't like being here. He offered a hasty explanation, editing the facts just a bit.

He watched as her eyes widened a bit, clearly thinking about how the poor, heartbroken poet must have felt. She looked interested, and sympathetic. She clearly showed the same generous kind nature that he had so adored in the Willow that he'd met so many years ago. He could also tell that she knew he had very bad opinion of the woman that had broken his... remember, his 'friend's heart.

"Ohhh.. that must have devastated him. Poor guy... holding his heart out to her only to see it crushed.. I hope you were a good friend and helped him try to get over it? Ummm.." Willow had looked at him, her expressive eyes full of sympathy for his unfortunate friend. Then, after she'd asked if he'd helped his friend get over it, she seemed to remember that she was shy, and had crimsoned, and looked very intently at the edge of the table.

Oh, things were looking very promising.

End part 11.

Eventually, the poetry session had ended, and the crowd of people started crowding out the doors. Willow simply sat in her chair, waiting. She knew better than to try to push her way through the crowd to get to the exit any time soon. Besides, it was rather nice to sit here with the really attractive guy that she'd probably never see again. Once she left... or he left, depending on how impatient he was, she would probably not see him again. She wanted to savor his company as long as she could, pretending deep inside that he was sitting here with her because he wanted to, not just because all the other chairs were taken.

Eventually, the crowd thinned enough that she had no excuse to linger at the table any longer. Willow carefully stood up, wishing that her legs hadn't fallen asleep at the chair. She smiled tentatively at the guy, hoping that he hadn't just been nice out of boredom. "I guess... umm the poetry's over, I should really be going. It's been... umm it was good to meet you."

Blushing a bright red, Willow ducked her head, and practically scurried away, certain that he would know that she had been having her little fantasies about him, imagining that they had planned to meet, like a date. Imagining that he wanted her. Oh, he would certainly laugh at her if he had any idea of her thoughts, which was why she didn't intend for him to ever find out.

She left the coffee house, intending to just go home. Her parents were away, something about a conference that her mother wanted to attend, and her father wanting a 'romantic getaway'. She shuddered slightly at the thought. It wasn't that she hated her parents, but.. one of the last things that she ever wanted to think about was the idea of her parents being romantic and passionate and eeewww. It was enough for her to know in the abstract that it had happened at least once.

Spike watched her leave, her eyes showing so many things. She'd been thinking things she didn't want him to know bout again, he could tell from her embarrassed blushing. She was interested, but she didn't have any confidence in herself. She probably couldn't think of any reason why he'd want anything to do with her. To give her the credit she was due, if he was just a mortal guy like he appeared to be, he probably wouldn't notice her charms. He wouldn't appreciate the light of intelligence and curiosity in her eyes, wouldn't know how rare her compassion was. For this, it was better that he wasn't the mortal he seemed to be.

He knew how confident she could be. He remembered the capable woman she had become. He intended to help her become that capable, that confident. She would be his, his beautiful, capable beloved. Spike would make certain that she knew how appreciated she was, how wonderful and delightful he found her. He could take his time with this, act with a patience he seldom showed. Willow was well worth the wait.

He followed her, staying hidden in the shadows, He wanted to make certain that she made it safely to where ever it was she was going. He followed her as she made her way to a moderate sized two story house, frowning slightly when he saw that the house was all dark. Not even the porch light was on. Wasn't there anyone waiting for her to come home? Nobody that cared if she made her trip safely or where she had been?

Spike had a number of things to ponder on his trip back to the factory. He had seen Willow walking with the slayer through the cemetery the other day. She had gone home to a dark house tonight. He hoped that the slayer wasn't the only person who cared about his Red. She deserved friends, and a caring family, and so much happiness in her life. It was almost looking like having a ruthless vampire interested in her was the best thing in her life right now.

Spike shook his head, thinking that if he kept dwelling on the shortcomings of those around Willow, he would only get himself depressed. Maybe Dru'd had a better night than he had? He could ask her, and then he wouldn't have to wonder what sort of parents just ignored the fact that their lovely teenage daughter had been out until after midnight.

End part 12.

Willow had dreamed pleasantly of her mystery man. Well, he wasn't hers, but... she had dreamed of him, the man that had sat and listened to poetry with her. They'd been really nice dreams, and the memory had helped her through the day at school. No matter how much Cordelia and her flock of minions insulted her, she had still dreamed of the man with the amazing blue eyes. Despite the fact that Xander had been grilling her on would Buffy like this or that, she had dreamed of a handsome dangerous man that had wanted her, in the dreams at least.

She'd been pulled out a bit by the distracted look on Buffy's face in history class. It was the look of something weird had happened, and she was bothered by it. So, Willow had passed her a note, asking what was wrong. Buffy had passed it back with words of a dark haired woman talking to Angel. Further question marks had gotten the information that the woman had been pretty, wearing a long pale gown. She might have been a vampire.

So, after school had ended for the day, Willow found herself in the library, searching through books with Buffy, tying to find a reference to the dark haired woman. Willow managed to get a book out of Giles locked section. It was a history of Angelus, years of observations of him and his family. Carefully, Willow began turning the pages, not really reading the information, just glancing over, looking for any information, like pictures of his former family.

She thought that if the dark haired maybe vampiress had sought out Angel, there had to be a reason for it. She had to have a specific reason to look for him, and Willow thought the most logical explanation would be a past history together. She turned the pages, and found a picture, a dark haired woman in an old fashioned dress. There was a name under it, Drusilla.

"Buffy? I found someone that kinda fits your description: dark hair, pretty. Can you come over here and see if this is her?"

Looking over Willow's shoulder, the blond Slayer nodded. "Yea, that's her. Who is she? Why was she hanging all over Angel?"

Willow frowned slightly at the possessive tone in Buffy's voice. She didn't know that there was actually something going on between Buffy and Angel. "Her name's Drusilla. According to this, she's a childe of Angelus, and has some psychic abilities including clairvoyance, precognition, and she can hypnotize people if they look into her eyes."

"Right, psychic vampire chic. If I find her, I can slay her." Buffy looked particularly annoyed. She then smiled a bit. "Oh! I have a coffee date with Scott! You can pick up these books, right?" With barely a pause, and certainly no time for Willow to answer, the Slayer beamed. "You're the best, Wills!"

The slayer nearly skipped out of the library, leaving Willow to survey the scattered books with dismay. There were over a dozen of them. Speaking to the empty library, willow sighed. "Right, no problem at all." On an impulse, she kept the book about Angelus and his family to read through later.

Spike spent his time considering how to woo his Willow. He'd never needed to court people as a vampire, and he'd been a dismal failure at that sort of thing as a mortal, hadn't he? Hmm... Willow had seemed to think the whole writing poetry for your lady thing was romantic. Maybe if he... NO! He shuddered at the thought. He wouldn't go down that path again. No more writing bad poems for a woman. There had to be something else he could try.

Thinking intently on the matter, he remembered the more successful courting he'd seen in his mortal days. Sunlit walks in the park - out of the question for him. While he could do moonlight walks, he didn't think someone as shy as Willow seemed to be would be willing to go walking at night with somebody she'd just met. Flowers... well, maybe he could give her flowers. That normally went over well, flowers and pretty trinkets, and hmmm what had Dru always sworn by for a woman? Chocolate. Right, he could give her flowers, and work his way up to chocolates and trinkets.

He'd also listen to her, watch her to see what caught her fancy. It would be good for her to be the one someone listened to for a change. She deserved to have someone in her life. He intended to be that someone. Flowers, chocolates, and his eternal devotion. What more could a woman ask for?

He went to see how things had gone for Dru. She'd gone out seeking her Angel several more times. Maybe if he listened to her efforts, it would give him something else to worry about besides his own. Maybe she could tell him about this soul business while he was there.

End part 13.

Angel spent the weekend nights trying to find the place where Dru and Spike were staying. They had to have a lair in the Sunnydale area, and if he could find it, it might help him know what was going on, why they had come here. There had to be a plan, it couldn't have simply been coincidence that had brought them here, to the Hellmouth, where he had been helping the Slayer, helping Buffy fight danger.

To his frustration, he hadn't found their lair, but he'd run into Drusilla again. They'd spoke a bit, and she'd warned him to beware the dragon, saying that it wanted to eat up his soul. She seemed deeper into herself, less in touch with the normal world than he remembered her being. He wasn't certain what she meant by this talk of a dragon, but perhaps he'd best ask Giles to help him look into the matter just in case.

The weekend passed quickly for Willow, and without anything of particular interest happening beyond her repeated dreams about the man at the poetry reading. She made a mental note to herself to be sure to make it to the Tuesday reading in case he came back, and to try to wear something pretty. Then, she settled onto her bed to daydream about him for a bit, to replay in her head everything about him.

Monday was a typical day at school. Xander was still trying to figure out how to convince Buffy to go out with him. Cordelia was her normal self. Owen gave Buffy a book of poetry to read in an effort to gain more of her attention. Buffy was still all bent out of shape because she had seen Dru again over the weekend, but she hadn't been able to get close enough to try to slay her. It was easy to see that Buffy was jealous. Not only had Buffy seen Dru, she hadn't seen Angel at all over the weekend.

Giles asked her to stay after school, it seemed there was something with the computer he wanted her to help with. Willow thought he probably meant demony research, and didn't want to say so in front of other people. She showed up after school, wandering into the library. Angel was there, talking to Giles in the shadows of his office. The new thing to research must be what brought Angel here, was it a prophecy? Evil nasty thing?

"Giles, Angel... umm hi. You wanted me to help with some research?" She wasn't certain what she could do, but maybe once she found out what the matter was, she could help.

Giles was the first to reply. "Ahh... it seems that someone said something that concerned Angel a great deal. Can you look up dragons on the computer, possibly with a cross reference to eating souls?"

Willow could feel her eyes go wide at Giles words. "Eating a soul? Is that even possible... are there really things out there that can do that?" She moved to the computer and began researching. Every so often, she'd glance over, and she could see Giles and Angel looking through books. Things continued this way for several hours.

"Umm, guys? I'm not finding anything dragony that's supposed to eat or remove souls. Angel, where did you hear this whatever you heard? Maybe it's not a dragon, like the animal, but maybe something using a dragon emblem or something? Maybe someone calling themself Dragon?"

Giles took his glasses of and cleaned them, obviously considering her words. "You may have a point. Dragons have long been used and emblems or symbols of power in many societies around the globe, it's quite possible that the dragon in question could be an insignia."

Angel looked very quiet, and finally spoke. "I heard it from Drusilla. She's... she was one of the favored childer of Angelus, and she has... gifts. She's also a bit insane. The dragon could be a metaphor for someone, and not even the actual danger. She said she her doll told her to come here before the dragon could eat my shiny soul."

Willow thought about that. She knew that Dru was in the area, she'd helped Buffy look her up. "Angel? Maybe the dragon isn't the only metaphor in her words. What if... well, you said that the gypsies gave you back your soul, that that was why you were one of the good guys. Could the dragon eating your soul be a warning that something could beak the soul spell, and you'd be... umm soul-less again?"

Both men looked startled at the idea, and Angel looked pained. Possibly at the idea of losing his soul, possibly at the reminder of why he'd been cursed with it to begin with. Willow could tell that he was brooding again. Giles looked horrified at the thought. Neither of them said that her idea was impossible.

"That's as good a possibility as any other. Dru's not quite all there, and she seems a bit farther from normal than she used to be. I could always try to get her to tell me more if I run into her again." Angel looked worried, and he had every reason to be.

If there was some dangerous creature that would eat his soul, that would have to be painful. If it was some sorcerer or demon called dragon, or using a dragon seal that would do something to his soul, again it would probably hurt and possibly kill him. If it was his soul leaving... maybe Willow had better read that book about Angelus soon.

She sighed. Maybe she wouldn't be able to go to that poetry reading tomorrow after all. And she'd been hoping to see blond and dangerous again. Sometimes, life just wasn't fair.

End part 14.

Giles had kept Willow there for hours, trying to find references to any sort of demon or sorcerer or mythical thing that could affect souls. She'd looked over all sorts of webpages, and hacked into the data-bases of the Council of Watchers. She's had no luck, and they had reluctantly concluded that it had to be some sort of Dru-reference, a metaphor for something else. Giles had decided that he would try to find some information of the actual curse. Perhaps if they knew if it could be broken, if there were any clauses or loopholes, it would give them some idea what to look for.

Willow eventually made her escape from the library, staggering home at a very late hour, more very early morning than late by then. She let herself into the house, and collapsed onto her bed, not even bothering to take off any more than her shoes. Exhaustion claimed her, and she sank into sleep without any protest. If she dreamed, all memory of any fragment was gone in the morning.

School was a blur to her the next day. By the time it was over and Giles told her that she didn't need to help research tonight, the only other thing she could remember was that Buffy was still all cranky about Dru trying to talk to Angel. She managed to get home safely, and drank some juice while trying to work on her homework. She managed to finish the math, but the history defeated her, all the dates swimming together into a confused soup.

Considering how tired she felt, Willow considered the idea of not going to the coffee house. A few hours sleep and everything would be good... Shaking her head slightly, she decided that instead, she'd just go early and have a few coffees to drink instead. Coffee usually made her jittery and hyper, maybe in her current state it would manage to make her wake up? As added incentive, maybe that guy would be there again. That was the final deciding factor. Willow checked in the mirror, wanting to be sure she didn't have juice on her shirt or anything like that. She wore a fuzzy light blue sweater over a pair of faded blue jeans, no juice stains anywhere, good. With that final check, she was out the door headed for the coffee house.

Willow made it to the coffee house early enough that there was a choice of seating available. Buying herself two coffees, she moved to a small table in a little nook, a place that left her out of the main areas. She would still be able to hear the poetry, but it wasn't really a seat for people that wanted to be seen. It was actually a good place to study on the nights that there wasn't poetry readings. She began drinking her coffee, hoping to be awake for the evening, and hoping that he would show up again.

While Giles made determined efforts to learn as much as he could about the curse placed on Angel, he sent Buffy out to patrol, insisting that just because things had been fairly quiet did not mean all was well. He had also pointed out that things usually got quiet right before some powerful evil attempted a large scale plan.

There had been a frustrating amount of argument. Buffy had been hoping to go to the this poetry thing that Owen had mentioned. He was cute, and he seemed to like her, so Buffy had wanted to drop in and spend some time with him. But Giles was insisting that there was something going on, some big evil that had him all worried. She had finally relented, hoping to run into Angel on her patrol.

Buffy was pleased to find Angel lurking in one of the cemeteries. He had the expression that said he'd been brooding again. Buffy smiled at him taking his hand in hers, and smiled. "Hi there. Come here often?"

They had continued Buffy's rounds, although Angel was dwelling on the strange warning from Dru. Buffy was paying much more attention to Angel than watching for dangerous vampires or demons. Every time she was near him, she felt warm inside, and there was this humming feeling in her bones. It had to be love, it had to be a sign that they were perfect for each other.

After a while of walking, with Buffy holding Angel's arm, his other hand resting on hers, they found something a bit more active. Buffy could feel approaching vampires, their presence this irritating feeling, like her bones itched. She could hardly wait to kill them so she could resume her time with Angel.

A group of five minions attacked, young enough that they were reckless, still convinced that they were invincible. They snarled menacingly as they attacked, calling Angel a traitor to his kind, and thinking that Buffy was small enough that she couldn't possibly be a real threat. As they fought the minions, killing them with only minor injuries to themselves, Buffy and Angel's almost happy mood from earlier was broken, crumbling a little more with each punch and dodge.

By the time the last minion fell to the ground in a scattering of dust, Buffy was quite reminded that she was a Slayer. She didn't get to have a normal life, she had to go fight evil. She might not live long enough to find Mr. Right and have little children and a nice yard with flowers. She could be killed by some big evil, and there was a chance that anyone close to her could be injured trying to help her in her fight. Overall, it was a depressing thought. It wasn't helped by Angel's quiet statement.

"You're bleeding."

Looking up at him, she realized that he wasn't quite facing her, instead looking at the scattered dust of the minions. She felt a slight chill of unease when she realized that he could probably smell the blood. One of the more unsettling aspects of his being a vampire. She tried to smile at him. "It's just a little scrape. I'm gonna go home and take care of this and head over to the Bronze. Want to meet me there?"

Buffy smiled at him, and left the cemetery to get ready for the club. She'd patrolled, she'd slain some vampires, why not go dance a little, have some fun? She didn't have forever, why not have some fun while she could?

End part 15.

Angel watched as the last minion fell to dust. With it went the last shards of his little fantasy, that he and Buffy were just a normal, living couple out for a romantic moonlight stroll. He'd been trying to imagine that they were both normal, that she didn't have a destiny that would likely see her dead before twenty, that caused her to fight horrible evil, a destiny that meant he should be her mortal enemy. He'd pretended that he didn't have centuries of blood and pain on his hands, that he had a right to be happy, to try to find love and joy with a golden girl like a breath of sunlight into his dark world. He'd pretended that everything in him didn't tense when she was near him, as if his demon didn't howl for her blood

He could smell her blood right now, rich as fine brandy, laced with power and strength. She'd been eating a bit much sugar again, and could use a bit more iron, but if he tasted her, she would be wonderful... The thoughts reminded him just how human he wasn't, and the words were a soft murmur. "You're bleeding."

He knew she heard him. He could tell from the way she had tensed, just a little bit when he'd spoke. When he'd reminded her that he was a vampire. She'd tried to hide it, saying that she wanted to go dancing, inviting him to meet her there... But he knew that part of her didn't want that, didn't want to be near him. The part of her that made her the Slayer didn't want him anywhere near her, especially when she was bleeding. He watched as she made her retreat, although she'd disguised it well.

He might as well go home now. His almost good mood had been broken, he still had no idea what this dragon that Dru had mentioned was, was it a creature, an emblem, the name someone was using, or most disturbingly, could it be something that would cost him his soul? He shuddered, not from cold but from the thoughts of what would happen if his soul fled his body. He would try to kill Buffy, and torment her and her friends. Partly because it would hurt Buffy, partly because Xander and Cordelia just annoyed him. What about Willow? What would happen to Willow if his demon had free reign and several decades of frustration to burn away? Dismayed by the thoughts of what might happen to the cheerful, innocent redhead, he began his walk home.

He was brooding, both unhappy that Buffy had wanted to get away from him, and troubled by Dru's warnings. He didn't understand them; she hadn't made sense to him. He was certain that her visions had been easier to follow before...

"Hello, my Angel. You don't look very happy. Miss Edith says you've been playing with the taffy girl again. Taffy isn't good for you, it will rot your teeth, and then they will all fall out, and you won't be able to drink anymore." Dru was standing there, in another long pale gown. She was carrying her doll in her arms.

"Dru. Why did you come to Sunnydale, Princess?" He barely realized that he was regaining some of his Irish brogue, reminiscent of his time before. He had the feeling that whatever had brought her here was important, that he needed to know.

She tilted her head slightly, looking at him as if trying to see into his heart, or his thoughts. "It was time to go away, the fairies didn't want to play with us anymore. Then, I heard the little whispers... My Daddy was over the mouth, only you aren't my daddy anymore. Are you still my Angel, not-daddy? Will we have tea and cakes, and the little letters? They come in the little brown bags, and have such pretty colors... red and yellow and green and orange and brown."

Angel frowned, completely baffled by this mention of letters. What could that possibly be? The mouth... she had known he was over the hellmouth? "Dru, how did you know I have my soul back? And what's this about a dragon?"

Dru smiled, and walked over, placing her hands on his shoulder and hip, leaving Miss Edith resting on a tombstone. She began a waltz, leading him through the steps of the dance. "I hear little whispers in my sleep, the ghosts and moon and stars talking about their secrets. It was the little gypsy's granny, she was very cross with you and Mummy, so she did something, something very bad to hurt you both. Mum became very mean, she hurt princess and Spikey. I saw a dragon come along, and eat your shiny soul, and you were very naughty afterwards... You did very bad things, and there was fire and pain. I have to make certain the dragon doesn't eat your soul up."

Angel was trying to make sense of her words. The gypsy's granny... He flashed back to the gypsy girl that he and Darla had killed, and how her clan had cursed him with his soul. Something bad that had hurt him, oh yes, that had been painful. He hadn't realized that anything had happened to Darla as well. It sounded as if he was in danger of either loosing his soul or having it taken or eaten, leaving him evil again. Something about fire and pain that had made no sense. Dru didn't want his soul gone. That was unexpected.

"Dru, why is Spike here with you, what's in it for him?" There had to be something. Did Spike want to take over Sunnydale now that the Master had fallen? Would Buffy have to fight his childe?

Dru giggled, amused at her Angel's worries. "Spikey wants his new princess, the tree. He isn't mine, you know. I only borrowed him for a bit so that he'd be here for her when it was time. Now, it's time."

Angel could only try to puzzle out her words before whatever she was speaking of happened. Spike's princess, a tree. Spike was here to get someone? Spike and Dru weren't together anymore? He was feeling more confused all the time, especially by the way he was feeling so protective of Dru.

End part 16.

Spike wanted to see Willow again. Even if it meant going to poetry readings. He wanted her to be his, to have her charm and caring and passions all for his very own. If it meant going to hear people read poetry, then so be it. She was worth hearing bad poets. He was contemplating her brilliant green eyes when something attacked him. It was large, and green, with scales, and it seemed to want to kill him.

Spike fought back, and here were numerous blows exchanged, dodged or blocked before he finally managed to snap the thing's neck. His lip was split open, and his eye was already bruising, and he was certain that there were other bruises forming over his body as well. His leg had been ripped open, leaving him with a limp. His clothing was stained with his own blood and the greenish fluid that had flowed in the veins of his attacker.

Bloody hell, now he had to go change before he could meet Willow at the poetry readings. If he showed up like this... well that would just be a very bad idea. Things should go better if he didn't show up covered in red and green blood. He hurried back to the factory, cursing the green scaled thing and any relatives or descendants it possessed for interfering in his efforts.

By the time he'd returned to the factory and changed into a set of clean clothing, he knew he'd be late. By the time he'd made his way to the coffee shop where the readings was happening, he was almost an hour late. An entire hour.. he was worried that Willow would have given up on him, that she would think he never wanted to see her again. That she could have already left, or that there would be no seats anywhere near her.

He made his way into the building, moving through the people without to much difficulty. He was looking for Willow, and after a few very long minutes, he saw a flash of red from the corner of his eye. He discovered that it was Willow, tucked into this odd little corner, a bit off the normal path of people. He carefully made his way over, and found her at the little table, the second chair empty, and three empty coffee mugs on the table in front of her.

"Hey there, little red. Mind if I sit?" He wanted to see her look at him, wanted her to smile and blush and say that of course he could, or stammer or something.

She looked up, her eyes having this odd look that combined tiredness with jumpiness, and he realized that she had been drinking the coffee in an effort to stay awake. She looked at him, her eyes widening as she noted his split lip and swelling eye, and her mouth formed a silent startled 'oh'. She gestured with her hand, which trembled slightly.

He collapsed into the chair before she could rescind her invitation. She was looking at him, as if trying to puzzle him out, maybe trying to figure out how he'd been injured. There was something he couldn't quite read in her eyes, so many emotions.

"Forgot my manners the other night. I'm Spike. New to the area." He wanted her to like him, to talk to him, and he'd finally realized that he hadn't even remembered to introduce himself to her.

She looked at him, a little half smile on her lips. "I'm Willow. Too many coffees... umm are you English? What happened to your face... oh, that didn't sound nice, umm are you okay?"

Spike grinned a bit, the expression pulling on his lip and making him stop with a small wince. "Ran into some guy... don't know what his problem was, but he decided to try to beat me up. Got a few good hits in, he did. I'm well enough, don't think he'll be bothering me again." Spike edited his story slightly, leaving out the fact that the 'some guy' had been a green demon, and that he didn't think he'd be a problem again because he'd killed him.

She nodded slightly, looking thoughtful at his words. "Umm there's coffee or hot chocholate... tea if you want, I know Giles couldn't manage without his tea, but you aren't Giles, and you didn't even actually say if you were British... and I think I'm babbling again. umm shutting up now." Willow was blushing slightly, looking into her coffee cup as if it held the secrets of the universe.

"Originally British, from London, although I've done a fair bit of traveling. Not to much of a coffee person... you mentioned hot chocolate, do they have the little marshmallows to put in it?" He wanted to answer her questions, to make her talk to him. If she talked with him and enjoyed their talks, she would like him. Seeing her nod, he gave a smirk, "I'll just go get me a cuppa then, how about I take those empties up for you?"

The rest of the evening went fairly well in Spike's opinion. He learned that she hadn't got very much sleep last night, as she'd stayed up late trying to get some research done for a special project at school. She had said that she was sorry if she sounded a bit loopy, it was just not enough sleep and to much caffeine combined in her system. She'd smiled at him, a big, brilliant smile without the reservations and hesitation he'd expected. She was tired, she was less reserved, she was lovely...

He followed her home again, trailing her into he shadows to be certain that she made it home safely. He saw her go in the front door of her house. Spike didn't see her go out the back door, intending to look at the stars. Nor did he have any idea what would happen to her next.

End part 17.

Willow went into her house, her first thought that she should go to bed, she was tired. Then she remembered that there was supposed to be a meteor shower tonight. She let herself out the back door, moving into the back yard and sitting down so that she could watch for the falling stars. She was sitting there, naming the constellations as she waited, when a voice spoke, letting the redhead know that she was not alone in her yard.

"Can you tell me the name of that big bright star over there?" A voice spoke, softly accented, a woman's voice. A voice that Willow had never heard before.

She turned, eyes wide, and looked to see who or what was in her yard. There was an almost familiar dark haired woman in a long pale dress, holding a porcelain doll in one hand, and a small bag of M&M's in the other. A moments startled thought placed where the woman's face looked familiar from. She had seen her picture only a few days ago. "Drusilla?"

Smiling, Dru sat down beside Willow. "I'm glad you know who I am, little tree. You're part of the reason that we came to Sunnydale, you and my not-daddy. He's not the same as he used to be, you know." Dru was looking at Willow, her expression intent.

Willow turned the vampire's words over in her head, part of her wondering if she was going to die. "That bright bluish one is Venus, not actually a star. Umm I was going to watch the meteor shower tonight... your not-daddy... Oh! You mean Angel, because your Sire was Angelus, and now that he has a soul he isn't quite Angelus anymore, so he's not-daddy now?"

Dru grinned, pleased that the tree had understood her so clearly. "Yes. He keeps playing with the taffy girl, but he shouldn't, too much sugar will rot his teeth out. I don't think he's going to listen to me this time, will you help me?"

Willow looked at Dru, trying to decipher this last group of words. "Taffy girl... that Angel plays with... Buffy? You don't want... no, you wouldn't want him with Buffy, I mean she's the Slayer, so she shouldn't really be trying to have this thing with Angel but she says that he looks really good, which I have to admit he does, and so she wants him and really, how many people are going to say no to someone like Buffy, and I know about too much sugar, I tell Xander that all the time, but he's more of the too many donuts and twinkies kind of guy. and I'm babbling now, aren't I?"

Dru laughed, trying to keep all of the tree's words straight and orderly. She couldn't, because they just spilled out, all trying to race away, and only barely connected to each other. She liked the tree already, and knew that she would be very good for Spikey. "Oh... I like you, little tree. Have some of the little letters. Can you help me keep the taffy girl from my Angel? I dreamed of a dragon eating his shining soul, a yellow dragon that lived over the mouth and hunted in the darkness... we mustn't let not-daddy's soul be eaten up by the dragon. Swallowed up in gold and fire... it would be very very bad."

Willow's eyes widened at Dru's words about her not-daddy's soul and the dragon that would eat it up. "A yellow dragon... that hunts over the mouth by night... Do you mean Buffy? Because this is the hellmouth, so that would be the mouth, and she's the slayer so she's supposed to hunt vampires, which of course means nighttime on account of fatal sunburns... but she doesn't eat souls. That would be very bad and wrong and... do souls have calories? What would they taste like anyhow? and umm right, we were agreeing that it would be bad for Angel to loose his soul."

Dru looked at the tree, and they pondered things for a while as the stars fell from the sky. It was a wonderful show, and very pretty. They ate the M&M's, and pointed out particularly impressive falling stars to each other.

Eventually, the stars stopped falling, and Willow went back into the house, trying to think about what Dru's words had meant. Somehow, Buffy was the dragon, but what did the fire and gold mean? It was important, she knew that much...

Sleep claimed her, and she pondered no longer.

End part 18.

Dru had gone back to the abandoned factory where she and Spike were staying. She had talked with the tree, and they had watched stars fall. She'd warned the tree about the yellow dragon, hoping that the tree could help try to prevent disaster. The stars were warning of the terrible things that would happen if her not-daddy's soul was gone. There would be pain and chaos and the night would ring with screams and there would be danger stalking them. There would be fire and pain and horrible agony to her Angel if his soul was gone, and it would be all the sticky taffy girl's fault.

The Tree would be so good for Spike, she was sweet and kind and so good at figuring things out. She would be loyal, and would welcome all of Spike, not just the darker parts like mummy had done. She liked to eat the little letters, and she watched the stars, and she had such strength inside of her. People could trust her, and she would help them, wouldn't turn away from them. Little Tree had promised to try to prevent the nasty dragon from eating up her angel's soul.

Dru found Spike pacing and muttering when she got back. He was concerned about how to win the tree's heart for his own, and wasn't certain if the tree liked him or not. Silly Spike, of course the tree liked him. He was also worried about the nasty Slayer, and wanted to make certain that she didn't find them. He had reason to fear, the moon had told her that the dragon wanted to swallow her up, burn her until there were only ashes and memories left. Nasty dragon was jealous that she'd talked to the shining Angel...

She then realized that her Spike, her knight in tarnished armor had been injured, and she fussed over his eye and his leg, asking if he'd had someone nicely healthy to eat afterwards. How was he supposed to keep her safe, or keep his tree safe if he was injured? She knew that he'd wanted to keep things secret from the tree for now, wanted to keep it a secret that he could only play in the darkness. Dru wondered how long the secret would stay hidden before the little tree heard it's voice whispering in the shadows.

Willow woke up, and her eyes had the slightly gummy feeling of insufficient sleep. She had gone to listen to the poetry, hoping to see the mystery man, who turned out to be named Spike. Then, she had watched the meteor shower with Dru...

Upon realizing that she had spent a few hours last night talking with the insane vampiress that Buffy was currently trying to kill, Willow sat up and almost fell out of bed. Dru, vampire, insane and psychic... Dru had been the warning about Angel's soul, they had talked about that last night, she knew they had. There had been something very very important in their discussion last night... not the m's or the names of stars... they had talked about her not-daddy who lived on the mouth. She had said who the dragon was... if only Willow could remember.

As she showered and brushed her teeth, she wracked her brain, trying to remember everything about her talk with Dru last night. Dru had actually seemed pretty nice, and not completely incomprehensible at all. She had said that she warned Angel about the taffy girl, which was Buffy. She had talked about her doll, Miss Edith, and how Miss Edith told her secrets about the future.

She had said that the yellow dragon guarded the mouth, and hunted by night. The mouth was the hellmouth... which meant that the yellow dragon was Buffy. Willow smiled, pleased that she had remembered that as she got dressed. Dru had said she had seen the yellow dragon eat her not-daddy's soul in fire and gold. Willow was still a bit uncertain as to what the fire and gold part could mean, but she was pretty certain that Dru meant that somehow, Buffy would do something and somehow be responsible for Angel loosing his soul, which Dru thought would be bad. She really needed to see Giles as soon as possible. He definitely needed to get a copy of the curse, they needed to know if there were any clauses or loopholes or expiration dates of some sort.

She made her way to school early, hoping that she could talk to Giles about it. Maybe Miss Calendar could help? She was a techno pagan, and had all sorts of magical people that she had connections to online, that was how she'd helped with Moloch. Willow had a feeling that she could be a great help trying to find information on Angel's soul curse. Dru was afraid the dragon would eat Angel's soul in fire and gold, and Willow had a feeling that there was only so much time before that happened. She felt it was urgent to know all they could before that time, hopefully they could prevent the dragony gold fire thing from happening.

End part 19.

Giles was a bit startled when Jenny Calender came into the library just before school on Wednesday. He rather enjoyed seeing her, in fact, they had been tentatively dating, a few weekend picnics, a music concert... the woman had dragged him to see monster trucks. There was definitely an element of the unpredictable to her. But, she looked like she was here for a purpose. He wanted to know what that purpose was.

"Jenny? What brings you to the library? Not that you aren't perfectly welcome or allowed... err..." Giles' surprise at her presence made him ask, and then he stammered as the question fell awkwardly into the library.

Smiling slightly, the dark haired woman answered. "Willow. She said there was a particularly... hmm... shall we say a particularly interesting research topic you were working on and she thinks I might be of some assistance."

Nodding, Giles murmured "Of course, yes, why didn't I think of it... you would have those connections with those people online..." He waved her over towards his office, and gestured to the teapot, offering her a cup. "There seems to be a possible threat of some sort to Angel's soul. We were hoping to find out what was going on and if there was some particular clause or loophole in the spell."

Jenny froze, her eyes going wide and her face pale as Giles words soaked into her mind. "A threat to his soul? From what?"

Giles gave a slight shrug, indicating that he wasn't certain, and frowned into his teacup. "We haven't been able to determine that."

Willow walked in, her eyes still dark ringed from not getting enough sleep. "Actually I had a few thoughts on that. I think we need to look into the spell... curse... ritual thingy that was originally used to anchor his soul to him. Angel said that he heard about the possible threat from Dru, the psychic childe of Angelus, his evil umm previous self. He said she doesn't always say what she means in a way someone else would understand. So... umm I thought maybe it might mean something happening to break the spell. So... umm we need to get as much information on and about it as we can, so we can look for loopholes, conditional clauses, expiration dates... if then else statements... oh, that's computers, sorry... umm I hope you get the idea?"

Giles had heard Willow's theory before. It had made as much sense as any other possibility when attempting to decipher the words of a madwoman. He was already pulling the books that he thought might have some useful information, and muttering to himself that spells and mystical clauses should be a bit easier to find than dragons.

Jenny looked at Willow, and whispered "Dragons? What's that about?" She then moved towards the computer, and spoke a bit louder, pitching her voice so that Giles would hear. "I don't know how much luck I'll have, but I can try a few sources to try to get some information."

Willow had grabbed a book, and sat near the computer. Looking at her teacher, she explained. "Angel said that Dru talked to him. He said she had said her doll, umm apparently she thinks her doll talks to her, anyhow her doll had warned her to come here before the yellow dragon ate his shiny soul. We were pretty worried about that statement."

Jenny spoke again, considering Willow's words. "If this Dru person listen to her doll, why are we so worried?"

Willow lifted a book, yet another Watcher's journal in reply. "According to this, she's not just crazy, she's psychic. She can see things before they happen, and find things that she shouldn't be able to find. So, the psychic vampire says that something could take Angel's soul away. We, naturally, want to find out what this something is so we can keep it from happening."

Jenny nodded, her mind following possibilities already. "That makes sense I suppose. I'll try to get what I can about the soul curse. If there's any sort of weak point in it, or a clause of some sort, it would be best to know before it..or he bites us."

The research continued, with serious effort going into trying to find anything that would give a hint about what might cause Angel to be parted from his soul. Willow was also considering her talk with Dru, which she knew Giles would consider an extremely foolish and dangerous thing to have done. The dark haired vampire hadn't even looked like she was considering hurting her though. She had said that Angel was part of the reason she'd come to Sunnydale, no, wait, Dru had said we. She hadn't come alone, and Willow didn't think that she'd simply meant Miss Edith. So, Dru had someone with her, probably another vampire or vampires. It might be good to know who else had come to Sunnydale, and what the other reason was.

End part 20.
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