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Summary: After Yoko Factor, Willow goes to Toronto, where her epal Rosebud lives.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Forever KnightLucindaFR15217,194474,9873 Jan 033 Jan 03Yes

Old Branches, New Roses

Author: Lucinda
overall, contains emotional manipulation, violence, and possily some sexuality, just to cover all my bases.
disclaimer: I do not own anyone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I do not own anyone from Forever Knight.
Distribution: Charity's site, others please ask.
Set season 4, will become AU
Willow and Tara were never more than friends.


Willow smiled as she checked her email. Rosebud had sent her another email. She had met Rosebud in a history chat room, and they had had a lively discussion. She had later met Rosebud in some other chat rooms. They had gradually started a friendship that Wilow valued highly.

She had gradually learned things about Rosebud that told her about him. He lived in Toronto, and was an older man. Willow wasn't certain how old, but he had an estranged son that was a detective. He had chosen the screen name of Rosebud in memory of a lady that he had once loved. Sadly, things hadn't worked out between them. He had a great knowledge of history, and had traveled extensively.

Rosebud had learned things about Willow. Not where she lived, but about the sort of person she was. He knew about her long time crush on Xander. He knew that she had dated a musician, and that she and Oz had broken up after he had cheated on her with another girl. Willow had left the werewolf part out entirely. She had told Rosebud about her friends, using descriptions that didn't include their names. Rosebud had helped her to get through the pain of losing Oz.

She read Rosebud's email with interest. She learned what was happening in Toronto, and that his son was sort of involved with a local coroner. He thought she would be bad for his son. Dr. Lambert would make his son hope for things that he couldn't have, dream of an impossible future. He actually had a good deal of respect for the good doctor, personally and professionally. He just didn't think she would be good for his son.

Sometimes Rosebud reminded Willow of her grandmother. Gran Rosenberg still didn't think that Sheila was good enough to be married to her son Ira. She didn't think Rosebud would be amused to be compared to an older Jewish grandmother.

Why couldn't Rosebud's son have a future with this Doctor Lambert? Willow knew by now that Rosebud had to have a reason, and it wouldn't be a silly thing like different churches or ethnic background. The reason would have to be something important. Willow wondered what that something could be.

She sent Rosebud an update on life at college, and the continuing saga of her friends lives. Honestly, sometimes you'd think they lived in a soap opera or something.

end part 1.

Lucian LaCroix was a man of many facets. To most people, he was the Nightcrawler, no more than the voice of someone on the radio that tried to inspire thoughts on life and peoples reactions to it. As a former general for the empire of Rome that had spent the last two thousand years as a vampire, he felt that he had seen quite a great deal of people and their reactions to things. To his Child Nicholas, he was a monster, and a reminder that Nick was also a vampire.

To RedRose99, he was her friend. They had never met in person, and he had no idea what she looked like. They had met in a chat room discussing something historical. He had found this RedRose99 amusing, and had made a note to himself to remember the name. They had encountered each other in other chat rooms. Eventually, they had started an email correspondence. He had shared some of the things of his existence with her, carefully editing certain things out to prevent her from knowing about vampires. She had shared her life with him, changing the names of the people around her so he didn't even know where she lived.

RedRose99 was in college. She lived in a dorm room with her friend, GoldenOne. The two had a psychology class together. She didn't have many friends, just OldFriend, GoldenOne, and BookMan. She had dated someone once, but MusicMan had cheated on her and left town. She occasionally attended a Wiccan group that met on campus Thursdays.

He felt like he knew her. She was shy in person, having difuculty getting to know new people. She was caring of her friends, willing to sacrifice time and effort to help those she cared for. Her friends didn't appreciate the rareness of that caring. She was talented with computers, and could discuss software programming as easily as history. She was intelligent, and had an understanding of several foreign languages.

She had read everything he had written about Nick and told him that she thought part of the problem was him. He had been surprised, and sent back a near demand for an explanation. Her reasoning was that he had control issues, mainly that he didn't want anyone else controlling his life, and wanted to have control over those around him. This would eventually cause problems with his son, because there eventually comes a time in the life of every parent where they must step back and let their children go. Even if they thought that their children would make mistakes. Mistakes were part of the process of growing and learning. RedRose99 had told him he needed to learn to let go.

To his dismay, her words had made sense to him.

He delighted in getting emails from her. She was a fairly cheerful voice into the long night of his existence. Unfortunately, things weren't going smoothly in her life. OldFriend was nearly ignoring her, busy spending all his time with Tactless, his new girlfriend. GoldenOne was now involved with FarmBoy, who was the teacher's assistant in their psychology class.

GoldenOne barely had time to do more than study with RedRose99 because she was to busy with her job which was late shift, and FarmBoy. BookMan was having something of an identity crisis. Someone that she referred to as Trouble had started spending a lot of time with them, and she didn't trust him. Apparently, Trouble had had a bit of an accident, and was staying with BookMan while he recoupperated. The only one that seemed to have any time for RedRose99 was WitchGirl, whom she had met in the Wicca group.

Things were not going well for RedRose99. He sighed, wishing that his friend would come to the realization that she should find some more friends. She needed friends that would appreciate her. She also deserved someone to cherish her and make her life joyful for the rest of her days.

He felt confident that at the very least, she knew he would be there for her, across the computer, anytime she needed someone to pour her troubles out to. LaCroix had offered suggestions for some of her troubles before, but he couldn't always help. He thought suggesting she rip the arm off Trouble and beat him over the head with it wouldn't help her, although it might make her smile. Humans couldn't generally do things like that anyhow.

Now, he had a radio program to broadcast. Hopefully, he could try to remind his son of how things were supposed to be. Nicholas, like himself was a vampire. That was the end of things, it couldn't be changed. Nicholas kept trying to live like a human, and it only brought him pain.

end part 2.

Willow was feeling frustrated. Everyone had a special someone in their life. Buffy had Riley. Xander and Anya had each other, and if given the opportunity, Anya would go into details. Giles had something going with a woman named Olivia that he had known in London. The only person that she had been able to hang out with very much was Tara, a witch she had met at the campus Wicca group. Willow had been disappointed in the group, calling them a bunch of wanna-blessed-be's. They had discussed spells, and the assorted dangers that some spells carried. Somehow, the Scoobies had got the idea that Willow and Tara were involved romantically.

Willow had left them thinking that just so they would stop trying to set her up on blind dates with the guys in Riley's fraternity. They all seemed rather rules bound, and she had the feeling that they wouldn't take well to the idea that she was a witch. That was a mess she'd rather not get involved with, one near burning at the stake was one too many in Willow's opinion.

Spike had contacted Giles, saying that he had managed to get some information that might be useful against ADAM, the piece-meal creation of the now deceased Dr. Walsh. They were all supposed to meet over at Giles apartment that evening to discover what he had found.

That night, Spike handed Willow three computer CD's that he claimed had information about ADAM. Encrypted, of course, but he claimed that he was sure she was still enough of the net girl to open them up. The way he said it implied that he thought her computer skills were lacking. He followed that up with implying that she couldn't do much of anything useful, now that she spent all her time with Tara.

Spike managed to taunt them into having an incredibly huge fight, with most of the frustrations and annoyances of the last several years exploding out like corrosive acid. The angry words burned at the first contact, and continued to eat away at you long afterwards. The most painful part of it was that the words were hurtful versions of real feelings.

Spike had deliberately set them against each other. The fact that Willow didn't realize that until she was once more alone in the dorm room didn't help matters any. She wrote a long, anguished email to Rosebud, pouring out her pain and misery to his sympathetic ear. The more she wrote, the more she realized just how calculated Spike's comments had been, throwing more pain and anger into the mix anytime things looked like they were starting to calm down.

After she sent her email to Rosebud, she finished up some of her assignments - the ones that didn't require a clear head to think about things calmly. Before going to bed, she checked her email again, and discovered that Rosebud had sent a reply already.

His suggestion was that she give things a few days to see if they calmed down after Trouble's interference. If things didn't settle where she was, perhaps a bit of time away from the problem might help her think about what to do next.

Three days later, Xander still wasn't talking to her, claiming that she didn't need him now that she was in college. Buffy was to busy with Riley to have even said Hi. Giles had been drinking. The only comment he had made was that this was part of the reason the blasted council didn't want Slayers to have friends.

Willow carefully wrote a note, and left it taped to the mirror of the dorm room she and Buffy were supposed to be sharing. It read 'Everyone - there were some really hurtful things said all around that night. What makes it worse is that nobody is trying to make up with anyone else. I've tried, but I couldn't get very far with nobody willing to talk to me. I'm going out of town for a trip. I can email you occasionally to let you know that I am still alive, if any of you actually care. - Willow.'

She had packed her things. She had some clothing, her computer, and her witchy supplies. Better still, she had her parents old car that they never used. She would be gone, and they wouldn't have to worry about little helpless Willow anymore.

Willow had always wanted to see Toronto.

end part 3.

Willow had arrived in Toronto. It was very different than Sunnydale. The air was a bit smoggier, smelling more of chemicals and car exhaust than Sunnydale, but it lacked the ever present dreadful taint of the Hellmouth. The city itself was so much bigger than Sunnydale that the comparison was just not fair. She felt at once anonymous in the crowds of city inhabitants and liberated.

She wasn't Willow Rosenberg, geek of Sunnydale here. She was free to just be Willow, whoever that turned out to be. Maybe she could find out while she was here. She had found a small apartment near a library. There was a large Catholic church across the street, casting an imposing shadow over the small building most of the day. Best of all, the landlady would let her rent by the week, enabling Willow to stay as long or short a time as she wanted.

On her first night in the city, she had been in a used clothing store and heard the Nightcrawler's radio program. Willow was positive that he was deliberately sending a message to someone in particular. She would almost suspect that the Nightcrawler was a vampire, except that Sunnydale had taught her that vampires didn't normally have the time or patience for a radio show, and those with patience were usually to busy plotting some sort of violent power quest. He had a really great voice.

There was a really great history section in the library. She had looked very carefully, but this library didn't have a section on demonology, vampires, and prophecies of impending doom. She almost missed her high school library. On the bright side, this could be a sign that Toronto didn't have the same sort of nasty things in the dark that plagued Sunnydale. She'd best hack into the local coroner's records and make sure. Idly, Willow wondered how the work of the coroner here, Dr Natalie Lambert, would compare to the Sunnydale coroner.

* * * *

It had been five days now since LaCroix had received an email from RedRose99. He was starting to worry. She had wrote about a huge fight that Trouble had instigated between all of her friends, including herself. He had manipulated them all into a fierce rage, and ugly things had been said. He had suggested she give it a bit of time. He hadn't heard anything back from her after that. He had no idea where RedRose99 was at, if she was okay, or if one of her friends had gone from merely enraged to homicidal and killed her.

He decided to send an email asking if everything was alright with her. Because he was dwelling on it, his program that night was on old friends, and the importance they could have to someone. The reminders of times long past, and memories of life in other places.

In his car, Detective Nick Knight gritted his teeth as he listened to the radio program of his Sire, LaCroix. Would he never stop reminding him of his long and bloody past? Couldn't he just let things go? Couldn't he let Nick go?

Elsewhere in Toronto, Willow listened to the Nightcrawler's show on the radio she had bought for her apartment. Maybe she should send an email to Rosebud and let him know what was going on.

end part 4.

LaCroix found an email from RedRose99 in his inbox the next night. Before he opened it, he breathed a sigh of relief. The mere fact that she had sent him an email had to be a good sign. He settled down to read her email.

He was not happy with her news. It had been upsetting enough to know that after they had allowed Trouble to stay with them, offering to shelter and provide for him in his time of need, that he would repay them by turning them against each other in a terrible argument. To hear that none of her friends would talk to her afterwards was terrible.

He felt the urge to find them and rip limbs off. To maim and cause panic and fear to punish her so called friends. He fought his anger down, reminding himself that he had no idea where they were, or who they were. It helped slightly, although he was still reading the rest of her message with glowing eyes and fangs.

The last paragraph made him stop. She had followed his advice, deciding to go somewhere away from everyone for a while to think about things. She had decided to go somewhere different, somewhere she had always wanted to see.

She was in Toronto, and had suggested that they could meet face to face.

If he did go to meet RedRose99, he could have a face to put to the sparkling person he had come to know through her emails. He could talk to her, and learn if she was as charming in person. He could have someone here that he could talk to, discuss music and literature with. Maybe more... there might be the possibility of a very long future ahead. Perhaps RedRose99 was someone to keep around for ages to come.

But, what if RedRose99 was someone he couldn't stand in person? What if she turned out to be some dreadful annoyance? Sometimes, email allowed you to see only part of a person, only what they wanted you to see. He had used it for that himself, to keep RedRose99 from knowing about his vampirism. What if she was keeping some terrible secret of her own?

The decision wouldn't be easy. If he did met RedRose99, nothing would be quite the same afterwards. He would have a face, would imagine the affects of time ravaging her features. If he didn't meet her... that would also change her. She might take that as a rejection, perceiving it to mean that he didn't want anything to do with her in real life.

He decided that he would have to meet her. Someplace neutral, safe to talk, and away from the prying eyes of the community.

end part 5.

They had decided to meet for coffee. LaCroix had suggested a small place, it had excellent coffee, and if patrons wanted, they could go up on the roof to drink coffee and talk. Few people like the roof, as it was accessible only by a spiral staircase that many people thought looked shaky. She had replied that it would be perfect, but how would she know who he was?

They had made plans to show up wearing roses. He, being Rosebud, would wear a small rosebud pinned to his shirt. She had promised to wear a red rose in her hair. Despite the fact that it sounded a bit like something from a movie, they figured that it would work. Both of them were looking forward to meeting each other.

Finally, the time had arrived for them to meet face to face. It was a pleasant little coffee house, with polished wood and growing plants everywhere. There were mismatched chairs, and a few comfortable couches making the booths. There was an upstairs level, still inside that still had chairs, and also feature big, soft pillows to sit on. The furniture on the roof was all durable, sculpted metal or easily replaceable lawn furniture in aluminum and plastic. There weren't quite as many plants, the ones here being more durable, less particular about drought or downpour.

LaCroix had found himself nervous. He had debated what to wear, trying to consider the message that his clothing might send about him. What would RedRose99 think of him? After some time of this, he realized that he was fussing over his clothing and grimaced. Agree to meet someone for coffee and he's suddenly as self conscious as a mortal. She would just have to accept him as he was.

He might have been less worried if he had known that Willow was just as nervous as he was. She couldn't go see him in person in an oversize ball jersey and bunny slippers like she sometimes read her email. She didn't want to seem to frivolous when she met Rosebud, but if she wore something to not-Willow she would feel awkward and uncomfortable. She ended up after much debate and several rejected outfits in a pair of comfortable blue jeans and a white blouse with some tiny flowers embroidered around the collar. She wore her hair loose, with a single red rose tucked behind her ear and secured with hairpins. She hoped he could accept her as Willow.

They met for coffee, both on time and slightly nervous. LaCroix hid his nerves far better than Willow. He was fairly close to how Willow had pictured him, appearing somewhat reserved, intense, and almost detached from his surroundings. His hair was graying, and worn short. His features reminded Willow of some of the busts and statues from the Roman empire that she had seen in museums. He was in a pair of black slacks, with a dark gray button-up shirt. There was a small, pale white rosebud pinned to his shirt over his heart.

For his part, LaCroix was surprised by his first sight of Willow. She was attractive, with delicate features and striking hair giving her a beauty that would be appreciated in any age. He hadn't expected her to look so young. Her eyes were shining with intelligence, and he could tell that she was taking in her surroundings with interest.

They got their coffee, and moved to the roof, which was deserted. Slightly hesitant, they introduced each other, using actual names instead of their online identities. Their conversation started a bit slowly, both of them a bit uncertain what to say.

She had recognized his voice from his radio program, and that had launched a lively discussion of why did he run a radio talk show, and about radio broadcast topics in general, and the occasional lack of responsibility that some talk show hosts displayed, assuming that after thirty seconds, they could solve all your problems for you.

Things were going wonderfully until the blond man in a leather jacket seemed to come out of nowhere and grabbed Lucian by his shirt and had him against the wall. Willow was trying to figure out where this stranger had come from, and how he had moved so fast. He was speaking to Lucian in low words that Willow could barely hear, calling him LaCroix and telling him that he shouldn't be here. Willow circled slowly to the side, trying to get a better look at her friends assailant.

His eyes were a glowing yellow, and he had fangs.

Her small gasp of surprise seemed to remind the two men that they weren't alone on the roof. The younger man dropped Lucian, and looked at Willow.

"You didn't see anything. You won't remember this." He then turned back to Lucian, who was calmly dusting his shirt off, and spoke again. "This isn't finished, LaCroix."

He was gone then, leaving Willow with the impression that he had simply flown away.

end part 6.

LaCroix watched Nicholas fly away with a mixture of emotions in his heart. He was angry, quite furious that Nicholas had decided to interfere with his life. That Nicholas had decided to erase Willow's memory of the whole evening. He was concerned and sorrowed by the idea that Willow wouldn't remember their evening of discussion and coffee. He had enjoyed talking to Willow in person far more than he had liked exchanging emails with her.

Perhaps he could try to convince her again to meet him face to face for the first time. Somewhere that didn't have an open roof for Nicholas to fly into. He was distracted from his thoughts by Willow's voice.

"Lucian? Did you know that vampire? Because he seemed very unhappy with you and I'm not really sure why, all you were doing was sitting here talking to me and drinking coffee. The coffee here is pretty good, so he can't have been upset about the quality of the drinks they serve. He didn't hurt you when he slammed you into the wall? Normally walls are a bit tougher than people, so I was worried about you getting smushed there, and I'm babbling again, aren't I?" Her voice trailed off at the end.

For a moment, all Lucian LaCroix could do was stand there, blinking at Willow in surprise. She remembered the whole thing. Nicholas' rather crude 'suggestion' that she forget hadn't worked on her. She was very clearly aware that Nicholas was a vampire, and wanted to know if he had been injured. He was amazed, relieved... He settled for setting his seat upright once more and sitting down.

"I'm not injured. I think..." La Croix paused, debating what to say to Willow. "I think he's just upset because he isn't quite certain he believes in happily after. Nicholas probably thinks you are in danger." He studied the coffee mug in his hands, uncertain how Willow would react to his words.

"In danger? Why would, what was his name, Nicholas think... wait a minute. You said your son Nicholas, the one that wasn't talking to you anymore was a detective. That guy was named Nicholas... Lucian, are you a vampire?" Willow's voice was quiet, somewhat hesitant and puzzled as she voiced her thoughts.

He looked at Willow, not surprised by her question. She was looking at him, her eyes full of questions, but no sign of fear. He felt a faint stirring of hope. "Yes, I am a vampire, and Nicholas is my Childe. We had something of a disagreement, and he hasn't been on speaking terms for a very long time now. He usually thinks the worst of me, and no doubt is convinced that I have some dreadful motive in talking to you."

"Do you? I mean, it's really unlikely that you would, but just to be clear, there isn't any secret or painful ulterior motive that would somehow lead to unhappiness or bodily injury is there?" She looked thoughtful, as if she was thinking of unpleasant memories.

"No. I just wanted to meet you, to see if you were as pleasant in person as you were over the computer. No plots, no hidden motives. I suppose I just wanted someone to talk to." His words were spoken quietly. He wasn't certain how this would unfold. Would Willow be willing to trust his word? Would she decide that he was too dangerous to be associated with?

"Oh. I guess that makes sense. Nobody ever said I was pleasant to spend time with." She was smiling, showing more interest in his compliment than the fact that their conversation had been interrupted by an angry vampire and that he was a vampire himself.

"You seem very calm about all this, Willow. Is there something I should know?" He couldn't understand why she was just calmly sitting there drinking her coffee after learning that vampires were real.

"I've known about the fact that vampires were real for several years now. I come from Sunnydale, the home of the Hellmouth. Main surprise is that you seem so... well, I guess so normal. The main contact I've had with vampires has been minions trying to make a snack out of me, Angel and his evil other self Angelus going bonkers over Buffy, and now Spike. ummm you might want to watch out for this military group called the Initiative. They catch vampires and demons and do experiments on them. They had Spike, and put a chip in his head and now he can't hurt humans. Well, not physically hurt humans at least, but he can still cause lots of trouble." Willow was quiet, rambling a bit in her answer.

"I sorta dabble a bit in magic, while we're on the topic of things we didn't mention over emails. I can float a pencil, and I restored Angel's soul after the gypsy curse was broken, and I can sometimes read auras."

Lucian LaCroix was speechless. Thoughts whirled in his mind as he turned her words over in his head. Willow had lived over a hellmouth? She had known about vampires for years..had probably killed some of those minions that she had mentioned trying to eat her. She knew Angel, the cursed form of Angelus, one of the more ruthless and excessive vampires in the modern era. That must be Broody, and Trouble would be Spike. He recognized those names. A secret military organization researching on vampires and demons? Chips to make a vampire unable to harm a human?

Knowing all that, she was still one of the most charming people he'd met. She could still look and find the bright spot in a situation, was still sitting there with her coffee, willing to talk to a self confessed vampire.

Willow was definately one of a kind.

end part 7.

Willow returned to her apartment fairly late. She had ended up talking very late with Lucien, and things had only gotten stranger when his childe Nick had interrupted. They had covered a broad range of topics. She had also wanted to know why he and Nick were so different from the vampires that had existed over the Hellmouth. That had lead to a long and complicated discussion about vampiric bloodlines, and how over time, these bloodlines could cause serious differences.

She had a lot of thinking to do. Not only about what she had learned about Rosebud, her e-pal that had turned out to be Lucien LaCroix, but about Sunnydale. She had come here to figure out her thoughts about the recent events in Sunnydale. She might as well try to think about them some.

First, there was the friendship with Tara that everyone seemed to believe was something more. That had some problems, partly her fault, partly Tara's fault, and partly just because they had been on the Hellmouth. A bit off would probably help that friendship out a bit. What Tara needed was someone to help her find herself, someone to help her learn who Tara was. Her family had left her with a messed up idea of herself, and Willow thought part of why Tara had joined the Wicca group was to step away from her family's control.

Xander had been her friend almost forever, but he never had time for anyone but Anya now. Willow had missed the time they used to spend just hanging out, but if she were honest, that had been getting less and less frequent ever since Buffy had moved to Sunnydale. Maybe something could be salvaged of that friendship, but only if Xander was willing to try to work for it also. She couldn't maintain a friendship alone, and it wasn't worth continuing to exhaust herself if he didn't care anymore.

Buffy... did Buffy even need Willow in her life anymore? She certainly hadn't seemed to think that she did. They had seen more of each other their senior year of high school than they had after they had become college room mates. Part of that was that Buffy was involved with Riley now, but she was also spending more and more time with the Initiative.

Her parents hadn't attended her high school graduation, and Willow wasn't actually certain they even knew that she had graduated. They wouldn't care if she never went back to Sunnydale, probably didn't even know that she had left. She had accepted that she wasn't a high priority in her parents lives.

Spike had never seen her as more than a potential meal or as a method of getting at Buffy. He had no reason to care about her leaving. Giles hadn't quite approved of her helping Buffy. The fact that she had helped Buffy for years hadn't changed his mind. The fact that he was spending more time with Olivia as a way of compensating for no longer being a high school librarian... Well, Willow wasn't a priority in his life either.

So, there was no need to return to Sunnydale. She probably should make sure they knew she was alive and well, and had simply realized that she wasn't needed there any more. All she had to do now was figure out what to do with her life. She could stay here in Toronto, and then she would have the complications of Lucian and his child Nicholas. Or, she could go somewhere else, try to make a new life elsewhere.

end part 8.

Lucian LaCroix had many things to think about. He could think about his radio show. There was the various political maneuverings of the vampire community. He could think of ways to annoy his childe Nicholas, yes, that had definate appeal. After all, Nicholas was always trying to tell him to find something else to do than bother him, why then should he object that he was talking to Willow? Didn't that mean he wasn't intruding on Nicholas and his foolish quest for humanity?

What he found himself doing was a mixture of being annoyed at Nicholas and thinking about Willow. He hadn't expected her to be so lovely, or so charming in person. He had known that she was intelligent. He hadn't expected her to be resistant to a mental suggestion. Maybe he should do something about that... mortals weren't supposed to know about vampires. No, if she could grow up on a Hellmouth, the idea that there were vampires elsewhere would already be known to her. She already knew about vampires. He thought Willow could be discreet with the knowledge, and would probably not go out trying to hunt down and kill the community here.

Besides, Willow was far less of a danger to the community than Doctor Natalie Lambert, and he had already decided to let her be unless she became more of a danger. Willow only tried to keep herself safe, she wasn't trying to find a way to make vampires into humans again. He still didn't understand why his son was so obsessed with the idea. Humans had so many more limitations, they were not as strong, fell victim to illness, poison and old age. Mortals died so easily. They could not fly. Humanity held little appeal to LaCroix, although he was not so casual about taking the lives of humans as he once had been.

What if Willow decided that she didn't wish to stay in Toronto? She had only come to this city to get some distance and ponder the problems in her life, not to relocate permanently. Nicholas could only have added to her desire to solve her problems and return to the home she had known. That would make all his pondering about her knowledge of the community here a moot question.

He didn't want her to go. She was his friend, the first one he had had in a long time. She knew what he has, and was still willing to be his friend, to listen to him talk about his life, and to tell him about hers. She was like a beam of sunshine into his life. Metaphorically, of course. Real sunshine was not good for him. She made him feel almost hopeful about things, pointing out the good in almost anything.

He hoped that she would stay.

end part 9.

Willow had spent several days pondering the idea of staying in Toronto. She had visited the various local colleges, to see if any of them would accept her as a transfer if she decided to stay here. She had looked around the city to see if she could find any good magic shops. She had found a few natural food stores that sold some of the herbs used in magics, and a couple new age stores that had some other stuff, but she hadn't found any single really good shop yet. She had exchanged a few short emails with Lucian, but they hadn't had another in depth talk. Willow figured he was probably giving her time to think about everything she had learned.

There was the club that had just screamed vampire club to Willow. It had been called the Raven. She had wandered into it by chance, and had been there for a short time before realizing what kind of people some of the patrons were. There had been a blond man talking to the lovely brunette woman behind the bar that had seemed vaguely familiar. Willow had finished her drink and very casually left the club, carefully not running.

She had to concede that the vampires in Toronto definitely seemed more civilized than the ones in Sunnydale. The city was also larger, with more shops, more schools, more people... but not more demons. Willow hadn't seen any signs of any demonic activity in Toronto at all.

She was sitting in a nice little park, pondering the idea of staying. Willow had tried to convince herself that she would be safer elsewhere, but she couldn't muster any enthusiasm for moving to another city. There wasn't anything to draw her interest to live elsewhere. She heard a rustle of fabric behind her. "He's dangerous."

Willow managed not to shriek, but she did jump, spinning around into something like a defensive crouch. She wasn't quite surprised to see Nicholas standing there. She pulled a small bottle of water from her pocket.

"You have an e-pal, Rosebud. He's dangerous. You shouldn't stay here where he could find you. It would be safer for you if you went somewhere else." His voice was low and calm, and he was maintaining eye contact with her.

Willow could feel a slight pressure from his words, and realized what he was trying to do. It made her very angry. "Your Jedi mind tricks won't work on me. I know who and what Lucian is. You can't make me forget. I also know how to deal with troublesome vampires. I lived on the Hellmouth. I knew a slayer. If you don't stop trying to change my mind for me, I will throw this holy water right in your face."

Nick stepped back, his eyes widening slightly. He hadn't expected this. She was supposed to have forgotten. She was supposed to follow his suggestion and leave, without ever quite knowing why she had listened to him. He backed up slightly, his hands rising in what was supposed to be a soothing gesture.

" I will make up my own mind on where I choose to live. As for you, you are supposed to be a police detective. Go detect some crime elsewhere." Willow's eyes were narrowed, she wasn't in the least bit soothed.

He was gone, into the air with a rustle of fabric and a blur of motion. Willow relaxed slightly, until she realized that there was still someone watching her. She turned towards where the person was, trying to discover who was here.

end part 10.

Lucian LaCroix was standing beside a tree, looking intensely thoughtful. Willow suddennly realized that he had heard the entire exchange with Nicholas. She smiled at him.

"Hi. You could come over here and sit with me."

He walked over to the bench that Willow had been sitting on, and from somewhere produced a beautiful rose, pale ivory with crimson edges. He then handed the rose to Willow. She accepted the flower and sat on the bench beside him.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few days. I did come here to think about my problems after all." Willow's voice was thoughtful. She looked at Lucian and smiled.

"I think I'll move to Toronto. I can transfer to one of the collages here, so I don't have to worry about losing an education. My parents... I doubt they even realized I graduated last year. As for everyone in Sunnydale, they don't need me. Most of them haven't had anytime for me anyhow. There isn't anything for me in Sunnydale anymore."

Her words filled him with joy and hope. "But what about Nicholas' concerns for your safety?" He didn't want her to leave, but there was some validity in his Childe's warnings. Toronto was a big city. There were many criminals.

Willow smiled, her eyes bright. "I am thinking about my safety. I hacked into the various coroner's databases and the police records. The per capita crime rate is actually lower in Toronto than it was in Sunnydale, and there isn't any sign of demonic evil things leaving trails of bodies behind them. No long lists of mysteriously dead people. I'm actually much safer here than I was in Sunnydale. All I have to do is make sure I don't annoy any organized crime bosses, and I'm set."

Lucian smiled, and in an uncharacteristic display of emotion and delight, picked Willow up and spun her in a circle, beaming the whole time. Willow was clutching his shoulders in surprise and for balance, smiling at him.

"So, I take it this means you're happy that I want to stay? Besides, there isn't anywhere else that I could go that would have you." Willow was blushing slightly, nervous about admitting, even if only a little, the firm hold that Lucian had managed to get over her emotions.

"I can't think of a single thing that has made me happier this century." Lucian replied.

end part 11.
end Old Branches, New Roses.
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