Dandelions

by Saber ShadowKitten








The Present



Angel trudged along the perimeter of Shadyhill Cemetery, his hands deep in the pockets of his coat and his head bowed. Unconsciously, he stepped directly on the cracks in the sidewalk that ran around the cemetery, a long-ingrained habit he'd picked up by granting Drusilla's whim over a century ago. If he listened carefully, he could hear her voice dancing on the breeze, "Don't step on a crack, or you'll break mummy's back." They'd must've broken countless of mother's backs over the decades they were together.

The dark-haired vampire was reluctantly in Sunnydale again. Cordelia's grandmother had died, and she had come to attend the wake and funeral. She had asked both him and Wesley to accompany her for moral support -- she hadn't wanted to return to the Hellmouth, either -- and, because they were family, both men had agreed with her immediately.

Currently, Cordelia was at the motel they were staying, deep in an emotionally exhausted sleep. She had loved her grandmother despite the Alzheimer's that had stolen the older Chase's memories of her granddaughter.

Wesley had decided to call on Giles since the night was still early. Armed with the Prophecies of Aberjian, he'd set off to enlist the other ex-Watcher's assistance in translating some of the text. Angel had asked that Wesley keep quiet about the prophecy concerning his becoming human, to which Wesley had readily agreed.

After riding over to Giles's home with Wesley, Angel had set off on foot to patrol the streets of Sunnydale. Just because he wasn't in Los Angeles didn't mean that he should take the night off from protecting the innocent. Besides which, he was bored, having forgotten the book he was reading at home.

Of course, wouldn't he know it, he'd ran into Buffy and, ugh, Riley near the Bronze. Buffy knew Angel was going to be in town, so seeing him hadn't been a great shock, but it was still awkward. It didn't help that Riley was there. They'd all but come to pissing on Buffy to mark her, like two overgrown pit bulls.

It also hadn't helped that Buffy looked happy with the idiot, which had only made Angel want to tear Riley's head off his body. But, instead of giving into his urges, Angel had told them he was going to patrol for awhile and head back to the motel. They'd said goodbye and went on their merry-coupley way.



Angel growled softly to himself, his shoulders hunching even further and his steps becoming heavier. Happy Buffy was good, he reminded himself. Happy Buffy had been his purpose in leaving Sunnydale. Happy Buffy was what he'd wanted for her. So what if Happy Buffy meant Miserable Angel? Angel was supposed to be miserable. Angel wasn't supposed to be with Happy Buffy. Angel was... thinking about himself in the third person.

The dark-haired vampire turned and walked up the main driveway into the cemetery. He needed to find something to kill, and quickly. He wanted to name that something "Riley," too.

Angel raised his head and looked around. To his right was the mortuary, a fairly large stone structure that was locked up tight for the night. The driveway curved in front of the building, which Angel figured was to enable hearses to load and unload coffins easily. He knew from his past experiences in Sunnydale that those coffins were put into the ground soon after they came to the mortuary. Despite Sunnydale having a blind eye when it came to the supernatural goings-on, the cemetery attendants knew it was better to bury them quickly in case the corpses were not truly dead.

Angel followed the driveway around the building, casting a general eye over the cemetery plots to his left. Nothing seemed to be moving, rotten luck. Why was it that when he wanted a good fight, there wasn't one to be found?

Angel absently noted that the grass was in desperate need of a trim. If he was accidentally shrunk, the grass blades and dandelions would seem like trees to him. And wouldn't Commando-Lug just love it if something like that did happen, he grumbled mentally. Of course, if Riley was the one to be shrunk, Angel might "accidentally" step on--

"Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Angel froze at the hoarse monotone voice he heard coming from around the back of the mortuary. The words sent a shiver down his spine at the memories they invoked. He was afraid to move, afraid to walk around the corner, afraid to see who was saying those words.

There were three times in Angel's long existence that he, as both a man and a demon, had truly been freaked. The first time was when he was a boy, and he'd witnessed his cousin geld a stallion. The second time was shortly after he'd turned Drusilla, and she'd scratched almost all the skin off of her face during one of her "episodes."

The third time was when he'd heard those very words.



*****



The Past







Angelus frowned at the brunette vampiress as she entered the room. Drusilla had been acting more strangely than normal, and tonight made the tenth straight night she'd disappeared for hours without telling him where she was going.

Drusilla hummed and spun in a small circle, a dreamy expression on her porcelain face. Her dark hair was plaited and woven around her head in a fancy design -- a style Angelus had never seen before and knew she couldn't do on her own.

"Dru, do you have a new pet?" Angelus asked, the hairstyle providing the final clue to her puzzling behavior.

"Mm-hmm." Drusilla laughed lightly, lifted the hem of her white skirt and curtseyed. "A precious pet."

Angelus arched a dark brow, grabbed her around the waist and danced a few steps. "And when were you goin' t' tell me?"

"Don't be mad, daddy," Drusilla said. "I only wanted to play with him."

"'Him?'" Angelus tisked. "Have you found someone t' replace me?"

"No!" Drusilla protested immediately. "Never, my Angel!"

Angelus smiled, pleased by her response. "Good. Now, I think I want t' meet this new pet o' yours."

"Oh Angel, you'll love him so," Drusilla gushed, spinning out of his arms. "He's handsome and wicked and he likes yellow dandelions."

"Does he now?" Angelus stroked his mustache. "Well then, let us be off t' see him."

"Oh no, Angel, we cannot," Drusilla said. "Visiting hours are over, and the mean nurses don't like it if you stay."

"Drusilla," Angelus frowned at her, "where does your new pet live?"

Drusilla giggled again, her dark eyes sparkling with unholy delight. "Why, at Marchurst Asylum, my sweet."



*****



Marchurst Asylum for the Criminally Insane was a hulking monstrosity situated at the outskirts of the East End of London. Slate walls twenty feet in height surrounded the perimeter of the property. A large, crumbling, three-storey building was situated in the center of the property. Overly abundant dandelions made the grass surrounding the building yellow rather than green.

Drusilla practically dragged Angelus through the foreboding entry to the asylum. The "All Are Welcome" sign didn't make him feel any better. While making someone crazy was Angelus's forte, going into a building full of crazies wasn't something he was too keen on. If it hadn't been for the curiosity about whomever had caught Dru's interest -- and held it, an accomplishment in and of itself -- he wouldn't have stepped foot near the place.

"Drusilla, hello," a crisply-dressed nurse greeted from her desk as the two vampires walked into a dimly lit lobby. Cracked wooden chairs lined the walls, and on a ratty-looking table lay a yellowed newspaper. A single steel desk sat in front of a thick, black-painted door with a barred window cut into it.

"Nurse Crenshaw, this is my Angel," Drusilla said. "He's come to meet William."

Nurse Crenshaw smiled as she stood. "I'm sure William will like that." She passed a guest register book and pencil to Angelus. "I will just need you to sign in, sir, and I'll let you both through. Drusilla knows the way."

Angelus nodded and quickly scribbled his name below where the nurse had written Drusilla's. He handed the book back to Nurse Crenshaw, who made note of the time, then she picked up a large ring of keys from the desk.

A disquieting feeling fell over Angelus as the heavy black door was opened. Drusilla led the way again, her red dress in sharp contrast to the blandness of the candle-lit halls. When he heard the door slam closed behind them and the lock click into place, it took all his control not to jump.

The sound of screams, cries, and mad laughter echoed off the scarred walls. Angelus was unable to pick out individual words among the babbling din, which grew louder the further they walked into the asylum. Drusilla laughed with wicked glee, and Angelus shuddered. He had no clue as to how the vampiress had found her new pet, nor did he think he wanted to know.

They walked around a corner, and Angelus came to a quick stop. Disgust combined with the creeps stole over him. The room they'd come to looked to be a recreation room of some sort. Tables and chairs, couches, and bookshelves filled the brightly lit room.

And in the room were rocking, drooling, babbling, crying, scarred, smelly humans.

"Nurse Lucinda," Drusilla called, drawing the attention of several of the room's occupants. Angelus shuddered again when he met some of their eyes. He really didn't like this place.

"Drusilla, hello again," another white-clad nurse, presumably Nurse Lucinda, greeted as she walked over to them. "William will be so pleased to see you."

"I brought my Angel to meet him," Drusilla said, beaming up at Angelus.

"'Tis a pleasure," Angelus said, nodding his head in polite greeting, a seductive smile curving his lips.

"Likewise," the nurse said, blushing faintly. She gestured for them to follow her. "Uh... William is this way. By the, uh, window."

Angelus smirked as she turned her back to them. Not everything was horrid in this place, he thought.

"Father! You've come to take me from here!" a straightjacketed man shouted as he launched himself at Angelus.

The dark-haired vampire stepped quickly to the side, and the man crashed to the floor. Nurse Lucinda seemed not to have noticed, or she didn't care. Angelus wrinkled his nose in disgust. On second thought, this place was awful.

Nurse Lucinda led them through a room of humans Angelus wouldn't bite even if he was starving. Her destination looked to be a lone figure standing in front of a window and staring out into the night, through the bars on the other side of the glass.

Angelus's brow furrowed as he took in the appearance of the person. From the back, the person seemed to be of medium height and lean build. The thigh-length coarse shirt and brown trousers the person wore were threadbare, and the person's feet were bare. What struck Angelus most was the single, long sable braid, tied off with a piece of string, that hung down to brush the person's lower back.

"I thought you said your new pet was male, Dru," Angelus whispered to the vampiress at his side.

"He is, luv," Drusilla said, a naughty smile on her lips.

Angelus looked sharply at her. "You better no' have done anythin', Drusilla."

"No, daddy, I've been good," Drusilla said, her voice dropping submissively.

They approached the person, and Angelus decided not to get into it with Dru. Not because she didn't deserve it nor just because he could, but because the person spoke without turning from the window, and his words captured Angelus's attention fully.

"'Allo, Nurse Mary Lucinda. Care to come back to me room for a rub and a tug?"

Nurse Lucinda sputtered and turned a bright shade of red. "W-William, you have visitors."

William turned around, and a slow smile crept over his face. "Drusilla. I didn't see you in the window, so I should've known you were here."

Angelus stared at the very handsome man who was Drusilla's new pet. He had high, sharp cheekbones angled towards softly curved, pale pink lips. Bright blue eyes were framed by dark brows, one of which was slashed with a jagged scar. A straight nose and mink-colored hair, which was pulled back, completed the picture.

Those blue eyes stared back at Angelus, and they were dancing with amusement. "And who are you?" William asked.

"William, this is my Angel," Drusilla introduced them.

"So you're the bloke who's got my plum wrapped around his finger." William's gaze slowly travel down Angelus's body, pausing for a long moment at the vampire's crotch before continuing on. "I reckon you're a bit of alright."

Angelus arched a brow at the boy's impudence.

"I shall leave you to your visitors, William," Nurse Lucinda said as she started to walk away.

"I'll see you later, Mary," William called after her. "I know you're itchin' for a tumble."

Nurse Lucinda's step faltered, but she kept on.

William smirked at her back before returning his attention to the two vampires. "Drusilla, me sweet, I got a prezzie for you back in me room."

"A prezzie?" Drusilla clapped. "What is it? What is it?"

"You'll just have to come and see, now, won't you?" William said, shepherding Drusilla away from Angelus and towards the back exit to the room. "Maybe while we're there, I'll give you a good seein' to."

Angelus strode forward, reached out and grabbed the braid that hung down William's back. He pulled the dark-haired man's head back sharply. "There'll be none o' that, do you hear?"

"Feelin' a bit left out?" William said, unconcerned by the way his head was angled. His blue eyes held no malice or anger as he met Angelus's gaze. "Well, the cot's a tad small, but we'll make a go of it."

Angelus scowled at him. "You're offerin' yerself t' me, boy?"

"If you're game." William shrugged. "Shaggin' is shaggin', s'long as I get me rocks off."

Angelus released him with a frown. William started forward again without hesitation, linking his arm with Drusilla as they walked.

There was another nurse stationed at a desk beside the back door to the recreation room. She looked up from her papers when the three approached. "And what do you think you're doing, William?"

William stopped in front of the desk and smiled at the nurse. "I'm takin' Dru and the toff to me room, Nurse Lila."

Nurse Lila blushed slightly. "Now, you know the rules, William. No visitors are allowed beyond the rec room. And it's Nurse Remmings to you."

"Lila, Lila, darling Lila," William sighed, "I haven't called you Nurse Remmings since you last tied me do-"

"William!" Nurse Lila interrupted, her blush deepening to a dark cherry. She shook her head, and gestured for them to pass through the door. "I didn't see you or your visitors."

William winked at her. "Thanks, pet. I'll show you me appreciation later."

Angelus couldn't believe the balls on the boy. It looked as though William'd had sex with all the nurses. And he used it to his advantage, too, something Angelus could find no fault in.

They entered another set of hallways identical to the ones leading to the recreation room from the front lobby. The moans and cries were louder back in what Angelus assumed was the residential portion of the asylum. Thick doors with small window slits lined each side of the hallway, some open, some shut tight.

Three turns and half a hall down, William ushered Drusilla through an open door and into a tiny room. Angelus stopped in the doorway, and his lip curled in disgust. The room was basically a cell, with only a single cot in it. The white walls were cracked and crumbling, and the only light came from the candles in the hallway.

William had Drusilla sit on the edge of the cot, then knelt down and pulled a box from under the bed. He took a short candle from out of it and held it out towards Angelus. "'Ere, be a mate and light this from the candle in the hall, eh?"

Angelus didn't know whether to be amused or insulted by William's seeming lack of respect. He chose temporary amusement, took the candle and left the room to light it. When he returned, William was sitting beside Drusilla on the bed with a large smile on his sculpted face.

"Angel!" Drusilla turned and held something out towards the vampire. "Look what my precious pet gave to me!"

Angelus lowered the candle for it to better cast light on the furry object in Dru's hands. He blinked in surprise when he realized what it was, and raised his head to look at William. The human seemed normal, harmless even. There was no air of menace or evil that surrounded him. His expression was one of happiness and pride from giving a gift to Drusilla that she liked.

The gift was a dead cat.

"Isn't he wonderful, daddy?" Drusilla asked.

Angelus was unsure whether she was talking about the cat or William. "Aye, Drusilla, he is," he replied without being specific.

William's smile seemed to grow brighter. He patted the empty space beside him. "Have a seat, mate. Sorry it ain't the Queen's royal furnishings, but it'll do in a pinch."

"William, can I fix your hair?" Drusilla said as she set the dead cat on her lap. "My prezzie is taking a nap, and you said it was my turn."

"Of course, my sweet lady," William said, turning on the cot so his back was towards her. She started to unbraid his long hair.

Angelus walked to the other side of William and sat down. He set the candle on the corner of the metal frame of the cot, then turned his attention to the mortal. "Tell me about yerself, boy. You seem t' know about me, but I know naught about you."

William shrugged. "Not much to tell."

"Best think o' somthin', William, afore I beat the answers from you," Angelus said in a hard tone.

William chuckled. "Right. I'm shakin' in me boots," the dark-haired mortal looked down, "...oh wait, I don't have any boots. See, the doctors here are afraid to give us anything with laces or hard soles. We might get it in our minds to kill someone with 'em, and that's a no-no."

As William's hair was freed from the braid by Drusilla, it fell forward to hang around his face, the long ends almost brushing his thighs from the way he was sitting. His clear blue eyes were crinkled in the corners as he peered at Angelus from between the thick strands of his hair.

Angelus wanted to smack him, but at the same time was intrigued by William's sarcastic humor. The vampire decided to hold off hitting William, for now. "Why dinna we start wit' why you're in Marchurst," he suggested.

"Didn't you see the sign out front?" William said. "This place is for the criminally insane. Why do you think I'm in here?"

"William, be good, or daddy will hurt you," Drusilla scolded before Angelus could punch the human.

"Sorry, luv," William said, contrite. "Beggin' your pardon, Angelus. Me gob has a way of running off without me brain."

"I'll accept the apology this time, but dinna do it again." Angelus gestured for William to continue.

William sighed dramatically. "I'm here because it's a free roof over me head, a comfy bed to sleep in, I get good food because the nurses and orderlies are fucking me, and all I have to do is avoid the docs."

"You're here voluntarily?" Angelus asked with amazement.

"Not originally," William replied as Drusilla pulled a few strands away from his face. "But I am now."

Angelus frowned. "What do you mean?"

"There's a tunnel that leads under the ground beyond the wall, and I can leave any time I want to," William said. "I usually go out every other night or so. Since I have the staff either wrapped around me cock or in me hole, they leave the room door unlocked." He grinned. "Not that they know I leave the grounds. If they did, I'd be zapped faster than you could say: 'bloody hell.'"

"And why's that?"

"I'm a raving nutter, according to the courts," William said. "Sentenced to life here at Marchurst...," he changed his tone of voice to sound like an ward of the court, "...'for crimes which could only be committed by a psychotic individual with no knowledge of what is right and what is wrong.'"

"Tell 'im what you did, pet," Drusilla urged enthusiastically as she re-braided his hair. "It is a wonderful story, my Angel."

"Not really that wonderful," William said to the contrary. "The dozy bint next door to me family's flat called the patrolman on me, when all I was doing was eatin' and gettin' a blow."

"That dinna sound that bad," Angelus said.

"I didn't think so, either," William shrugged, "but the tossers in the courts said that cannibalism and incest are against the law."

Angelus barely stopped his jaw dropping open in shock. The completely indifferent way that William spoke of what he did indicated that the courts were correct in their assessment. William was psychotic. Which led to the question... "Why dinna you get hanged?"

"The bloody toffs were a squeamish bunch," William said. "I guess offin' a twelve-year-old boy wasn't good for their politicking, or some such rot."

"Twelve?" Angelus tried to shake off his amazement, but it was no use. "How old are you now?"

William rubbed his cheek as he thought. "Er... maybe twenty-four or so. There's a bunch of years missin' from me memory though, from when I was in treatment. The nurses aren't allowed to tell us the date, and I can't read; but bugger me if I'm going to give up time on me nights out just to find out what day it is."

"What do you do on your nights out, then?" Angelus asked.

"Drink, gamble, kill a bloke or two, fuck about," William replied. "Whatever tickles me fancy."

Angelus surmised that Drusilla probably saw William when he was out and followed him back to the asylum. Or perhaps she heard a voice which told her to follow William. Whatever it was, Angelus was intrigued by her new pet. William was handsome, psychotic, seemed to love fucking, and obviously liked Drusilla.

William would make a wonderful addition to their little family.

"Well, William me boy, how would you fancy eternity?" Angelus said.

"Really, my Angel?" Drusilla gasped, looking at her sire from over William's shoulder. Angelus nodded. Drusilla bounced on the cot and clapped. "Say yes, William. Say yes."

"You're askin' me if I want to become a vampire, right?" William said. "Like me girl Dru is?"

The blasť way he spoke about vampires indicated that he not only knew about them, he was totally unafraid. Angelus was growing more impressed with William with every minute that passed in the sable-haired mortal's company.

"Aye, William, 'tis what I be askin'," Angelus replied. He allowed his true face to twist his features, and the candlelight cast deep shadows between the ridges on his brow. "Blood, carnage and fuckin' forever 'tis what you'll be gettin' iffin you agree."

"And if I don't?" William asked.

"Then I'll leave you be," Angelus said, his human mask descending over his features again. "I like you, boy, human or no'."

Angelus stood and headed for the open door. "Drusilla and I will return on the morrow fer your answer," he said.

"Say yes, William," Drusilla said as she rose, with her dead cat in her arms, and joined Angelus at the door. "Then, you can be a part of our family, and we'll dance and play and hunt..." She started to hum happily to herself.

"'Til the morrow, William," Angelus said. Then, he and Drusilla left.



*****



"I'm sorry, sir, but William isn't having any visitors this evening," Nurse Crenshaw repeated to Angelus the following night. He and Drusilla had returned to get William's answer, as promised, but their path was being blocked by a stubborn woman in white.

"You've said that already," Angelus growled. "And I've told you that I insist that we see William."

"You can't," Nurse Crenshaw told him. She pointed to a piece of paper on her desk. "The doctors have specifically said William can't have visitors."

Angelus had been a second away from just killing the nurse and letting himself through the door she guarded, but her mention of the doctors stayed him. The night before, William had said that he avoided the doctors at the asylum. "The doctors? Did somethin' happen t' William?"

Nurse Crenshaw looked down at her paper again, and Angelus snatched it from her desk. "Sir-"

Angelus glared at her, effectively cutting her off, then looked at the paper. It was a dated list of residents unable to have visitors. He found William's name by the little frowning face doodled beside it. Angelus remembered William had said he was in all the nurses and orderlies' favors.

Next to William's name was penciled, "OCD. Treatment."

"What does this mean?" Angelus said angrily.

The nurse looked from him to Drusilla and back, before she sighed and answered him with a sad note in her voice. "It means that William received a cold treatment today because he had an incident."

Cold treatment. Angelus had heard about it, and thought it was royally idiotic. The belief that behavior could be changed by putting the head into a block of ice, to "freeze" out the bad part of the brain that caused the behavior, was just plain dumb. The only thing the cold treatment did was cause hypothermia in humans, which led to catatonia and sometimes death.

Nurse Crenshaw must have seen the horror and anger on his face, because she said, "Don't worry, sir. William is alive and well, the orderlies made sure of it. He only needs rest." The nurse lowered her voice and added, "Followed by a few days of playing by the rules until the doctors forget about him again."

Angelus nodded and forced himself to calm down. He handed Nurse Crenshaw her paper, and asked, "Do you mind tellin' me what this 'incident' was?"

"The minimum security group was outside in back earlier this morning," Nurse Crensaw said. "The nurse and orderly in charge must not have been paying attention, because William sneaked around to the front."

"And that's it?" Angelus said when she stopped speaking. "That be the behavior that the doctors gave him cold treatment fer?"

Nurse Crenshaw shook her head. "The dandelions, sir," she said. "The back is mostly dirt, so there isn't that many that spring up, but they cover the ground in front. It took three orderlies to hold William down long enough to put the straightjacket on him."

Angelus was more confused than ever. "Why did the orderlies put William in a straightjacket?"

"I thought you knew," Nurse Crenshaw said, looking surprised. "William has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It's one of the worst cases ever recorded in England. He can't stop himself from pulling the heads off of dandelions and saying the same nursery rhyme repetitively, until all of the flowers are gone."

Angelus frowned. Perhaps he needed to rethink turning William. "Come along, Drusilla. We'll visit William another night."



*****



Nine nights later, William appeared on Angelus's doorstep, looking none the worse for wear. Angelus was surprised, to say the least.

"'Allo, Angelus," William greeted cheerfully. He was dressed in loose clothing, obviously stolen from a much larger man. "Mind if I come in?"

Angelus stepped back from the door and allowed the dark-haired man to enter. "I take it you're feelin' all right, then?" the vampire said.

"Never better, mate," William said as he looked around the flat. He whistled. "Nice set up you got goin' here."

"William, what are you doing here?" Angelus said.

"You didn't come back to see me, so I figured I'd come to you," William replied with a shrug. "Drusilla told me where you two were living, and all I had to do was wait until I could sneak out again."

"I'll have t' talk t' her about that," Angelus said, more to himself than to William.

William studied Angelus thoughtfully. "You've decided not to change me, haven't you?"

Angelus looked at William in surprise. "What makes you say that?"

"You didn't come back," William said. "Not you or Drusilla. I asked Susan... er, Nurse Crenshaw if either of you came, and she said not since the night she turned you away."

"William...," Angelus sighed, "...'tis no' that I dinna like you, or that I think you willna make a good vampire--"

"It's because of my bloody disorder, isn't it?" William interrupted, anger flashing across his face. "Just keep me away from a field of fucking dandelions and you'll have no fucking problems."

"'Tis no' that simple--"

"You know what, fuck this," William stalked past Angelus to the door. "I have everything I want already, so I don't bloody need anything from you."

Angelus snagged him by his braided hair. William was yanked back into the vampire's arms and his head was pulled roughly to one side, exposing his neck.

"Lesson one, William. Ne'er turn your back t' your sire," Angelus said softly. Then, he sank his fangs into William's neck.



*****



The years passed rapidly, and Angelus couldn't be more pleased with his newest childe. William was a vicious and bloodthirsty vampire, earning a fearsome reputation within the vampire community despite his young age. A wake of bodies followed Angelus, Drusilla and William wherever they traveled, and the towns they visited were never the same again.

In the bedroom, William was also quite adept. The three of them spent many hours in carnal bliss. And, unless he was feeling possessive, Angelus allowed William to choose with whom he slept the day away -- his sire or Drusilla. Angelus never would admit it, but he was secretly elated when William chose to stay with him.

The three vampires had recently arrived in Switzerland and had killed the owners of a quaint chalet on the side of a sloped mountain. Other than the first night, it had stormed for four days, effectively locking them indoors until it stopped.

They'd fed from their neighbors on one side the second night and the neighbors on the other side on the third. Angelus normally would have been angered by the inconvenience of the rain -- he hated getting soaked by it -- but William had come up with things to do with the neighbors' corpses as entertainment, and Angelus had definitely been entertained.

"The storm looks t' be clearin' up," Angelus said as he peeked out the heavily curtained window in the living room of their chalet. It was late, around one in the morning, but if the rain was going to stop, they were going to go out no matter what the time. "Go out and check, William."

"Me?" William said. "Why don't you go and do it yourself?"

Angelus dropped the curtain into place, turned and glared at William. "Now, boy."

"Fine." William stood, pushed his unfettered hair behind his shoulders, and headed for the front door, while grumbling to himself, "Why do I always get stuck with the shit jobs? 'Check if it's raining, William. Clean up the corpses, William. Sleep in the wet spot, William...'"

Angelus smiled as William's voice faded away. Vampiric life with him around was never dull, the dark-haired vampire thought. He hadn't regretted a single day since he'd turned the psychotic mortal.

Angelus headed for the bedroom to wake Drusilla. As soon as William came back inside, they'd go out, regardless of the rain. Some poor fools would take them in from the storm somewhere along the street, and then they could have a bit of fun.

"Drusilla, 'tis time t' get up," Angelus said as he entered the bedroom.

Drusilla opened her eyes and looked over at him with a wicked smile on her lips. She raised her arms above her head to stretch, and her nude body arched in an arousing fashion.

"Nay, I've changed me mind, dinna get up," Angelus said, shedding his shirt as he walked over to her. "I'll join you, instead."



*****



Angelus looked at the grandfather clock and frowned. William had been gone an awfully long time. Angelus had expected the other vampire to join him and Drusilla in bed, but William hadn't returned. Perhaps he had decided to give his sire time alone with Dru, Angelus thought. William had done so in the past, without request.

"I'm goin' t' find William," Angelus said to Drusilla as he climbed out of bed.

"All right, my Angel," Drusilla said. "Miss Edith and I will miss you."

Angelus slid on his trousers and left the bedroom. "William?" he called as he entered the living room. "Where are you, boy?"

His frown deepened when he received no answer. He called out louder as he headed for the front door. "William, 'tis no' time for jests. Where are you?"

There were no wet shoes by the door indicating that William had come back inside. Angelus opened the front door and stepped out into the drizzling night. "William?"

His youngest childe's voice was faint at first, but it grew louder with every step Angelus took towards the back yard of the chalet. And, with each of those steps, Angelus became more filled with a sense of dread.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Angelus rounded the corner of the chalet and came to an abrupt stop. The hackles on the back of his neck stood up when he saw William crawling on the wet ground. The back yard was covered with dandelions, almost like a blanket of moon-drenched yellow. Only, there was a path of headless flowers that ran from behind the younger vampire to the corner where Angelus was standing.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

William's voice was monotone, and with each repeat of the nursery rhyme, he would flick the yellow head off of a dandelion with his thumbnail. The drizzle had soaked the clothes he was wearing. The strands of his long hair hung around his face like wet snakes, with the ends dragging on the ground.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Fear slithered down Angelus's spine. In all their years traveling together, William had never done this, and Angelus had pushed the knowledge of his youngest childe's disorder from his mind. Their little family had stuck to the well-populated cities, hunting and playing on the grassless streets. This was the first time they'd been someplace where dandelions covered the yard.



"William!" Angelus snapped out of paralysis and stalked over to his childe. "Get up! 'Tis no' time fer playactin'"

"..Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

"William, I'm warnin' you," Angelus growled. "Enough be enough!"

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

William seemed to be oblivious of everything, other than what he was doing. Angelus grabbed a fistful of William's hair. The older vampire shook his childe hard. "William!" he yelled.

William continued to pull the tops from the dandelions he could reach. "...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Angelus released William's hair, took his arm, and yanked him upright. The instant he could no longer reach the dandelions, William started to thrash and scream.

"LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO..."

William's enhanced strength caused him to tear Angelus's pants as he clawed at them with his blunt nails. He twisted in Angelus's grip, trying to break free, and his loud, hysterical screams continued to fill the air.

"...LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO..."

Angelus released William's arm when he felt his childe rip a hole in his thigh. William dropped forward and began to tear the heads off of the dandelions again. His screams vanished immediately, and he started up the rhyme again in a lifeless voice.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

"William, dinna do this t' me," Angelus said, his tone thick with worry. "I'm no' a bloody doctor."

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Angelus tried to remember what the nurse at the asylum had told him years before. She'd said something about it taking three orderlies to hold William down. That thought wasn't reassuring.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

The dark-haired vampire had to do something, and soon. William's repetitive rhyme was starting to spook him. It was almost as if William -- his William -- was possessed.

Angelus quickly decided what to do. He straddled William's back, put him into a headlock , and heaved him to his feet. The screams and violent thrashing returned instantaneously.

"LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO..."

Angelus only held tighter as he dragged William out of the back yard. It was difficult. William's booted heels kicked hard at Angelus's shins, and his lithe body almost squirmed from his sire's grip several times. The younger vampire's screaming voice was at ear-splitting levels.

"LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO..."

Angelus finally got to the front door. With a vicious backwards kick, the door sprang open, and he pulled William inside the chalet. "DRUSILLA!" he yelled, hoping to be heard over William. "GET IN HERE!"

"LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO..."

Drusilla came into the room, took one look at William, and burst into tears. "William!" she exclaimed, rushing to the hysterical vampire.

"Drusilla, nooaaah!" Angelus, William and Drusilla all crashed to the floor when the vampiress threw herself at William.

"LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO..."

Angelus snarled loudly, his gameface coming forth, and he shoved the two bodies off of him. He stood, stalked over to the front door and slammed it shut. He turned to the vampires on the floor and bellowed, "WILL YE SHUT THE BLOODY FUCK UP!!!"

Drusilla stopped crying instantly, stood and moved to sit on the edge of the couch.

William curled into a ball on the floor and began to tear at his dark, wet locks. A low whimpering replaced the hysterics.

Angelus felt something inside of him twist, and he dropped down onto the floor beside his youngest childe. Fear had caused his angry outburst, and it was fear again which caused him to pull William into his lap and start to rock from side to side.

"No more, William," Angelus said in a calm voice that belied his feelings. "I dinna want t' hear you no more. You're a vampire, no' a baby. So, no more carryin' on..."



*****



The Present



"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Angel swallowed convulsively and forced himself to continued forward. When he rounded the corner, his heart dropped to his feet. "Oh god, no," he whispered.

Spike was on the ground, methodically tearing the tops from the dandelions that covered the overgrown cemetery. Long strips of headless dandelions lined the ground, and, coupled with his hoarse voice, Angel knew Spike had been there for hours.

Feelings that Angel had repressed flowed through him, and his stomach churned. Spike's dull monotone sent shivers down the dark-haired vampire's spine.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

Angel knew he had to stop Spike. Michel, the mute Angel had turned ages ago to discretely trail Spike and stop this from happening, was nowhere to be seen, which meant he had either abandoned his post since Angel had seen him last, two years prior when Spike had returned to Sunnydale in search of a love spell, or he was dust.

Spike may be a jackass, Angel thought, but he was a helpless jackass now that his fangs were effectively capped. And Angel had sworn to help the helpless, human or otherwise.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

The dark-haired vampire looked around quickly. He spotted the storage shed and ran over to it. With a violent yank, he had the door open and was looking inside for the way to stop Spike's obsessive-compulsive behavior. The way that didn't involved Spike going into screaming hysterics because he was pulled away.

Spike had been barely five years old when he'd gotten lost in the countryside. For days, the human William had sat in a meadow, keeping himself entertained by popping the heads off of the dandelions that covered the wide area. The newspaper articles of the rescue, which Angelus had taken the time to find from the information his childe had provided, had made mention of a trance-like state the little boy had been in when he'd been found, repeating the same nursery rhyme over and over, his tiny fingers stained yellow from the flowers.

"God bless inventors," Angel murmured when he found the push mower. He dragged it from the shed, checked the gas, and pulled the start cord.

The mower started up with a rumble. Angel sighed in relief, then began to mow the lawn around Spike's crawling form. Angel needed to cut a large enough area that Spike wouldn't be able to see any more dandelions from where he was on the ground.

Cordelia would be laughing if she could see what Angel was doing. Wesley would get a good chuckle in, too. Angel, himself, was on the verge of breaking up as he thought of a headline for what he was doing: "Helpless helped by the Lawn Ranger."

With a swiftness that came with being a vampire, Angel had the area free and clear of dandelions within a short amount of time. He turned off the motor and walked over to Spike. There was a small smattering of yellow flowers in front of the blond vampire, and that was the last of them.

Angel knelt on the ground just beyond the flowers and in front of Spike. He watched and listened with sadness as his childe finished flicking the tops from the dandelions.

"...Mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off... mama had a baby, and her head popped off..."

When the last one was gone, Spike fell silent and looked around at the surrounding grass. He sat back on his heels and scratched the side of his head, a puzzled expression coming over his face. Then, he raised his eyes and saw Angel.

"What the bloody hell are you doing here?"

"Yard work," Angel replied, dead pan.

Spike frowned. "Right. Whatever."

He stood and glanced around, then pulled a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. "Well, the family reunion's been lovely. We'll have to do it again, soon," he said sarcastically.

And, without another word, he walked away.

Angel shook his head and sighed. He stood, looked down at the broken dandelions and discarded yellow flower heads, then headed after Spike to ensure the blond got home without further incident.





End