Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, be...
Willow swam to consciousness at the sound of her alarm clock. She was about to hit the snooze button when she heard a loud crack, then blessed silence. Prying her eyes open, it took a moment to figure out why she wasn't in her bed, and why there was a very large body pressed against her.
*Angel, party, school,* she thought in that order. *Ugh. School.*
She turned her head to look at the time, but the clock was no longer there. Well, it was there, in pieces from Angel's fist when he shut it off. Pushing herself to a sitting position, she looked down at the sleeping vampire protected from the sun by a blanket fort. His features were human, and he lay frowning at the loss of her warmth. She kissed his forehead, then went to wake the others.
"Buffy, time to get up," Willow said, shaking her friend's shoulders.
"Ok, mom, whatever," Buffy mumbled in her pillow. Willow shook her once more and the Slayer's eyes popped open. "Don't tell me it's that time already."
"I won't, but you still have to get up," she said, moving on to her oldest friend. Luckily, she knew the trick to waking Xander, having years of practice. "Xander, mom made us some blueberry waffles with whipped cream and chocolate sauce," she said in his ear.
Xander was sitting up in a second. "Blueberry waffles?"
"Well, maybe for dinner I'll make you some," Willow said apologetically. Xander glared at her, then went to wake Cordelia. She crawled out of the tent, followed by Buffy, and went to get ready for school.
Thirty minutes later, the four friends trudged reluctantly to the red convertible in Willow's driveway, wearing the same clothes as the day before and loaded down with portable mugs of hot coffee. "Angel sucks," Buffy grumbled into her coffee. "And I don't mean that in a literal sense."
"I hear ya, Buff," Xander said. "How come he gets to sleep in and we have to go to school?"
"Vampire, daylight," Cordelia said. "Ring any bells in that hollow head of yours?"
"It's too early for your attempts at wit, Cordy," Xander replied, slumping against the car door. He was even too tired to care about her horrific driving. They made a quick stop to refill their coffee and pick up some breakfast, then met with Giles in the library.
"Hello," the Watcher greeted cheerfully. "Enjoy your party?" His four wards sat down heavily at the table and, at the same time, put their heads down and tried to sleep. "I'll take that as a yes."
"There are people trying to sleep here, tweedman," Xander said. "Shh."
Giles shook his head and went back to his books. The first bell rang to the groans of the friends. "See you at free, Giles," Buffy said, slowly following her tired comrades. "And have some coffee ready for us, will ya?"
He smiled into his books so as not to upset the Slayer. "Very well, Buffy. The coffee shall be perculating when you all arrive."
"As long as that means it'll be hot and ready, thanks," Buffy replied. "I knew Watcher's had to be good for something."
Third period rolled around and the Slayer and her cohorts trudged into the library, heading directly for the waiting mugs of coffee Giles had the sense to pour for them.
"You are a god, Giles," Buffy said, taking a healthy sip and smiling brightly at the man. "I haven't been this tired in a long time."
"One does tend to be sluggish when staying up all night," Giles said, a tiny grin on his face. Buffy glared at him. "Sorry. You will be happy to-to find out I think I have the-the reason for the attempted kidnapping of Willow."
"Really?" Willow perked up at the news. "What did you find?"
"Just a moment," Giles responded, entering his office to get the papers. "Ah, yes. It says here in-in the information you gave me last night the purpose of this group is-is-is to collect beings who possess special 'powers'."
"What kind of powers?" Buffy asked, the caffeine finally kicking in.
"I would guess, in Willow's case, the...powers, as it were, refer to-to her craft abilities," he answered. "Did it say how long they had-had been following you, Willow?"
A light went on above Willow's head. "Ever since the day I re-cursed Angel!"
"That is what I figured," Giles said. "Your 'powers' are-are-are very strong. The curse and retrieving Angel from the, ah, Demon Dimension attest to that strength. I take it you practice other magicks?"
"Just little stuff," Willow said. "Light, glamours, teleportation...oh, and bartending." She giggled at the last one.
"I see why they would want you, Willow," Giles told her. "For one untrained, you have remarkable skill."
"Thanks," she said, blushing.
"What now?" Buffy asked.
"I suggest we concentrate on-on researching witchcraft and on Willow's family tree," Giles said. "Her talent may be hereditary."
"Um, guys," Willow said a few hours after school had ended. The gang had re-gathered in the library for another research party, with the hacker at the computer and the others going through a multitude of books on witchcraft. Their conversations revolved mostly around the interesting spells and incantations they found.
"Yeah, Wills?" Buffy replied.
"I was adopted."
All eyes shot to the red head. "What?" Xander asked, moving behind his oldest friend. "That can't be true. We've had to live through your mom's story a million times about you at birth."
She read the information on her screen to the room's occupants. "I went into the hospital's records and couldn't find my birth, so I had to trace who was in the there in labor on my birthday. It lead to several woman to which one red haired girl was born. Me."
"But how do you know it's you?" Cordelia asked.
"I hacked into the Sunnydale Adoption Agency's records. The woman gave up her baby girl to a Mr. and Mrs. Ira Rosenberg," Willow said bitterly. "Why didn't they tell me?"
"Maybe they wanted to wait until you turned 18," Buffy suggested. "Or the mother asked it not to be revealed."
"No wonder we couldn't find anything relating to the Rosenbergs and witchcraft," Xander said, squeezing Willow's shoulder in support. "We were looking up the wrong family."
"Willow, what was the, er, name on the adoption records. The mother," Giles said.
"Ariela Standisha," Willow read.
Giles looked up sharply. "A-are you certain?"
"That's what it says," she replied. "Why?"
"The, uh, Standisha are a-a-a family with inherent powers of immeasurable fortitude," he answered. He picked up a large, green tome and rapidly skimmed it until he found the pages he was seeking. "It says here that they are highly endowed with all aspects of-of magicks, can stop the aging process at will and...oh, dear," he raised his eyes to the girl. "Are hunted extensively by those who wish to harness their abilities."
Willow paled. "Can...can I see that?" She took the book with shaky hands and scanned the words. She skipped over the parts on her abilities and went directly to the recordings of her ancestors deaths. Most either killed themselves rather than being captured, or were forced into servitude until they died from the backlash of the magicks. The records stopped in the late 1930s, when the book was written, but she knew she could read more through the computer. "I understand why she gave me up," Willow said quietly, passing the book to Buffy.
Buffy read and swore violently, before giving it to Xander and Cordelia. Willow accepted the book once again, and took a deep breath while putting it in her backpack. "Now what?" Buffy asked, itching to go smash some skulls.
"Willow should be safe for-for awhile," Giles said. "Since she removed the-the-the FBI protocol regarding her status. Eventually, however, you may, er, have to stage your d-death."
"What?!" Xander said, angering. "Like hell she is!"
"Xander, her life shall be constantly in danger," Giles explained. "We won't be able to protect her forever, and once she reaches her full potential, their attacks on-on-on her will increase in both frequency a-a-and intensity, and will not cease until she is captured...or dead."
Cordelia dropped the hacker off at her house, and with a final wave, she went inside, locking the door behind her. Slowly, she went to her room, her feet dragging as the weight of what she found out pressed upon her. When she saw Fort Harrisberg still erected, she let out a short, hollow laugh.
"Red? Is that you?" Angel's voice came from the center of the blankets.
"Yeah," she replied dejectedly. She dropped her heavy backpack as the vampire emerged by her feet. He stood swiftly, took one look at her face and pulled her into his arms.
"What's wrong?" he asked as she buried her nose in his shirt.
"Let's clean this up first," she said, indicating the fort. The quickly dismantled the blankets and put the furniture back where it belonged. When they finished, Angel sat next to her on the bed as she took out the book. "Read the marked pages."
Angel nodded and accepted the tome. His eyes scanned the text rapidly and he began to swear with language more colorful than she'd ever heard. Willow began to chuckle as he continued, then out right laugh. He cocked an eyebrow at her. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing. Everything. I don't know," she said between laughs. "This whole situation seems like one big soap opera." He set the book down and pulled her onto his lap, stroking her hair. "Giles says someday I'm going to have to fake my death...if it doesn't occur before then." Willow began to cry as the days discoveries overwhelmed her senses.
"Shh," Angel said. "We'll figure something out. And I'll always be here for you."
After a few more sobs, Willow quieted, then straightened her spine. "Ok, I'm done. No more wallowing in self-pity."
"That's my Red," Angel told her, kissing her gently.
"Love me, Angel," Willow asked softly, her eyes luminous in the dim lighting from the lamp on her nightstand.
Their joining was tender, gently, full of love and commitment to each other. When Angel bit down on her neck, they both climaxed, binding them together until long after their bodies stopped walking the earth.
"Hey, Will," Buffy said over the phone. "How are you holding up?"
"I'm good," Willow replied. "The General and I have been going over the book Giles loaned me. You should see some of the stuff I can do!"
"Well, I'm glad," Buffy responded, relieved that her friend was alright. "Are you planning on staying in tonight?"
"Yeah," she answered. "My self-imposed guardian won't let me out of the house. Says it's too dangerous yet."
Buffy laughed. "Angel does tend to get carried away when he's worried."
"Tell me about it. He didn't even want to leave to get something to eat," she said. "Oh, hey, before I forget...what happened with Giles?"
"Um..." Buffy trailed off. Willow could tell her friend was embarrassed by the dare from the previous night. "We had a...talk," she finally said. "He thinks I should concentrate on boys my own age, rather than him. I tried to tell him that Angel was 220 years my senior, but he wouldn't listen. Pigheaded Brit."
"I'm sorry, Buffy," Willow said. "Do you want Angel to box his ears for you?"
Buffy laughed. "No, that's ok. I'll keep working on him myself. Eventually he'll come to see things my way."
The two girls said good-bye, and Willow hung up the receiver. Angel walked back into the bedroom with dinner for her. "Mmm, smells good," she said, accepting the plate. She ate greedily, gesturing with her fork as she spoke between bites. "That was Buffy. Giles is being an idiot."
Angel shook his head. "Stubborn fool," he said. "Buffy's the most wonderful creature on this earth. He should feel blessed that she chose him."
Willow wrinkled her nose at him. "What about me? I'm not wonderful?" she teased.
"No, you're not," Angel replied. "You define category, that's how special you are."
She blushed, looking down at her plate and he laughed. "So, what else have you learned about yourself?"
Her eyes lit up in excitement. "I can make myself invisible and teleport myself anywhere," she said. "And I can shape the elements, heal myself and others, and best of all, I can live for eternity. Unless I die, of course...did that make sense?"
Angel chuckled. "Yes. You won't die from old age or disease or injuries unless you cannot heal yourself in time."
Willow nodded enthusiastically. "Exactly."
"So, you can pretty much do anything if you try hard enough," he concluded.
"Yup," she agreed. "Cool, huh?"
"Indubitably," he replied. She burst out laughing, the hard day behind her at last.
Willow worked diligently as Angel slept. She was glad it was Saturday, it gave her time out of school to work on a special project.
Using her magickal abilities, she carefully wove the intricate design in the silver she held in her small hands - the sun, the triple moon, the symbols of protection. She did not need a spellbook to bless the charm, the words came unheeded from somewhere deep within her being. When she finished, a perfect, never-ending circle sat in her palm, the perfect size for Angel finger. Grinning, she hopped over to him and slid it on.
"What?" Angel said, awaking at the movement. "Red?"
"Go back to sleep, my love," she told him. "Unless you want to go outside with me?"
Angel blinked sleepily at her, then looked at the clock. "It's still daylight."
"I know," Willow replied, with a mischievous smile on her face. He frowned at her. "But that doesn't mean you can't go out." She held up his hand, the silver ring bounced off the small amount of light coming through the covered French doors, sending fragments of a rainbow in the air. "You're protected as long as you wear this ring."
Angel did not believe her. She pulled him to his feet and next to the doors. Carefully, so as not to spook him, she pushed back the blanket and let the setting sun stream into the room. "Go ahead."
He took a deep, unneeded breath and slowly put his arm into the light, ready to pull it back in a split second. When he didn't feel the burning sensation, he stared in wonder at his arm, then at Willow. Cautiously, he stepped into the sun's rays for the first time in over two hundred years.
"You like?" Willow asked, pulling the blanket off completely.
In response, Angel flung open the doors and walked onto the balcony. The falling sun illuminated his features, glinting off his dark hair as he turned to her. With a yell, he scooped her into his arms, holding her tightly. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Willow laughed with joy. "You're welcome, General."
"Why did you do this for me?" Angel asked several minutes later. They had stood hand in hand and watched the sun set.
"Because I love you," she answered simply.
Angel's eyes filled with tears as his love for her gripped him. "I love you, too, Willow."