Touch of Evil
Part 7 "Um, Willow?" "Yeah Buff, it's me." "Oh, hey. So, uh, how have you been? Giles filled me in on what's been happening… are you, you know, dealing okay?" "I'm dealing about as well as can expected I suppose. After all that's happened to me so far, none of this is really surprising. I'm getting used to expecting the unexpected. I just wish I could put all of this behind me, you know, finally begin to start my life again. Too bad Angelus has other plans for me… Buffy, you still there?" "Yeah, I'm still here. I just… I'm sorry Willow. This is all my fault. I should have killed Angelus long before he ever went after you. I just… I didn't know." "It's okay Buffy, I don't blame you. You couldn't have known what was going to happen. And, after all, you loved him." "… Still do… Anyway, Giles is waving crazily for me to give him back the phone. I think he wants to talk to Lydia again so he can sigh and get that dreamy look in his eye for the rest of the day. Give me a call sometime soon. I miss hearing from you." "Okay, I will Buff. I miss you too." "Bye." "Bye." Willow hung up the phone then went back to her seat besides Lydia in one of the Council Headquarters main conference rooms. Her conversation with Buffy had left her unsettled, as just about all their conversations over the past 6 months tended to do. Though they talked regularly, just about once a week, the conversations were never long and almost always uncomfortable. The strain with which the two former best friends now spoke to each other troubled Willow. It was as if each conversation was overshadowed by the questions Willow knew were burning behind Buffy's friendly inquiries into Willow's state of mind. They had never spoken of the night Buffy had rescued Willow, or of the weeks Willow had been imprisoned. Willow knew Buffy wanted answers, wanted her questions answered, and the fact that Willow wouldn't be able to give Buffy the reassurance she wanted left Willow feeling awkward and anxious whenever they spoke. Buffy was still in love with Angel, despite the fact that with each passing day it became more and more unlikely the Angel she had known and loved would ever be coming back. And it didn't matter that it had been Angelus, the demon, who was now fixated on Willow. In Buffy's eyes it would always be the man she loved obsessing over her best friend, and so now their friendship could never be the same. Lydia handed Willow the book she had been reading from. "You'll be happy to know that, though it has taken me a few days, I think I may have found the right spell." Willow closed the book briefly so she could have a look at the cover title, then, being careful with the brittle, yellow pages, read the spell. Willow nodded as she finished reading. "This sounds like it should work. If done correctly, I will be protected in sleep and waking from psychic attacks on both my mind and my body." Willow considered the spell for a moment. "It sounds good Lydia." Lydia nodded, "I know, thank God. I was really starting to get worried we wouldn't find anything quite right but this is perfect. Now you'll be protected from him while you sleep. As for physical protection, I know you said you didn't see any reason to leave London but I feel I need to object just one last time. Humor me." Lydia added when Willow moved to protest. "Now you know I love having you with me and if I thought it was safe then I'd keep you here indefinitely. I want you to stay with me and, hopefully, go to Oxford and begin your training as a Watcher." Willow couldn't help but smile at that. Though Willow no longer had any idea what her future would bring, Lydia was always campaigning for Willow to enroll in the fame school and become a Watcher. She said that with Willow's "field" experience and knowledge of vampires and demons, she was a natural choice for becoming a Watcher. Willow would always laugh off Lydia's remarks. At 17, Willow wasn't quite ready to make a lifelong commitment to the Council. Lydia continued, " I'm not saying you still can't do these things, or anything you want. But right now I'm afraid London isn't the safest place for you. Angelus obviously has something planned for you, and if the spell works and he finds he can no longer reach you from Sunnydale then he could very well come to London to find you. Just because he's left you alone the past few days doesn't mean this is all over." Willow bit her tongue as Lydia repeated Willow's lie back to her. Just last night, like every other night for the past week, Angelus had visited Willow in her dreams, but Lydia didn't know that. For reasons Willow was uncomfortable admitting even to herself, she had begun to lie about Angelus visiting her. As far as Lydia knew, Angelus had temporarily taken a break from his torments. A noise behind the two women caused Lydia to break off as they both turned towards the doorway. Colin O'Hara, Neil Waters, and Adrian Carrington, three members, stood at the entrance to the conference room looking hesitant. Willow bit her lip on a smile. She knew all three of the Watchers, especially Adrian who Willow knew harbored a not so secret crush on her, and was glad to see them. The past week, Lydia and Willow had been so wrapped up in their research that Willow had found little time to spend with any of her new friends in London (which consisted mainly of Council members). She was glad to see them, especially since their interruption saved Willow from having to repeat her lies to Lydia. Willow glanced over at Adrian and found he was starring openly at her, a secret little smile on his lips. Automatically, Willow blushed and looked away. "I hope we're not interrupting anything Lydia." Neil walked over to stand between Lydia and Willow as he spoke, "but there's some matters I need to discuss with you." Neil turned towards Willow. "I'm sorry dear, but I must steal Lydia away from you for the moment, but I do promise to be as quick as possible." Willow smiled brightly at Neil. With his salt and pepper, neatly groomed hair, thin framed tortoise shell eyeglasses and kind eyes, Neil always reminded Willow of her grandfather. "It's no problem Neil. I could use a break from Lydia's endless thirst for research anyway. I was starting to think the head Watcher was actually a slave driver in disguise." Laughing good-naturedly, Neil and Lydia turned to each other and quickly fell into deep and boring conversation over various Council agenda. With a quick hello to Willow, Colin soon joined in the conversation. Tuning out the watchers, Willow glanced sideways at the doorway where Adrian was casually leaning against the frame, arms crossed over his chest in a look that was slightly at odds with the tailored black suit that adorned his well built frame. Though his eyes were downcast, the smirk on his lips let Willow know he was very much aware that he commanded her attention. Willow couldn't help the blush that crept into her cheeks and made her face burn, but at the same time she couldn't tear her eyes away from him. There was no doubt about it. Adrian had a commanding presence, due, in no small part, to his smoldering good looks. He was in a sense, similar to Angel/Angelus in that way. Both men (or all 3, depending on your point of view) had a way of draining your attention to only them when in a room, and they both were blessed with a breathtaking beauty that in no way diminished from their masculinity. There was no denying Adrian's beauty. Willow would have to be blind not to notice it. Seeing him was like a shock to the system, as if each time was the first. Looking at him was like a dip in a chilly pool on a hot summer day. It left your body feeling more refreshed and alive, your every nerve ending tingling like they never had before. Angelic and perfect were words often used to describe him by women. There was, first and foremost, his hair. It was the color of midnight- not true midnight, but the kind of midnight people associated with the word. It fell to just below his ear, level with his jaw, in soft waves of silk. If he tilted his head a certain way, the light would dance off the strands and reflect haunting rainbow lights, much like the wings of a raven. Other times, when there was moonlight reflecting on his hair, blue glints would appear, complimenting the crystalline color of his eyes. Liquid blue pools of crystal; the kind of eyes girls drowned in. Then there were his lips. Pale pink, strong, and sensuous. They were just full enough so that he always appeared as though he'd just been kissing some lucky girl till she fainted. When he smiled his lips oozed sensuality. Then there was his body. All six feet, one inch of slim muscles and light olive toned skin. He wasn't beefy like other guys, but you could tell just by looking at him how strong he was. His presence was strong and domineering, perhaps just as domineering as Angelus' though his frame wasn't as wide. Willow had seen him only once without his shirt on, at a pool party Lydia threw for her birthday, and Willow had almost strained her eyes starring at Adrian's half naked body. Willow often found herself comparing him to an Adonis without any hyperbole. And thought Adrian was outrageously classy, his wardrobe the epitome of cutting edge fashion and runway chic, the glint in his playful blue eyes and the sparkle from the single diamond stud he wore in one ear revealed Adrian's wild streak. When Willow first met Adrian she had found it hard to believe he was a Watcher. Well, Watcher in training to be specific, but still. Adrian was young, outgoing and a bit wild. In Willow's mind he was the antithesis of Giles and the other stuffy, traditional Watchers. But Willow knew Adrian was a symbol of the changing times, a new era of the Council being ushered in by Lydia. Even though Adrian came from a long line of Watchers. Willow knew it was Lydia's influence that allowed for Adrian to remain so different from the other Watchers. Adrian ran a hand through his hair, long slim fingers brushing the strands away from his face as he raised his head and looked at Willow. "So Will, how have you been the past week?" Willow felt her insides flutter as she fell into the endless core of his eyes. They were as wildly beautiful and innocent as Nordic Fjords. "I've been pretty busy, you know, researching."
Adrian merely smiled charmingly. "I hope you haven't forgotten about my promise to take you out to dinner. I'm still waiting for you to take me up on the offer." Willow's heart began to thump loudly in her chest. "Yeah, well… " There she was blushing again. As much as Willow had changed in the past 6 months, her inability to flirt with guys, especially one as gorgeous and self-assured as Adrian, had yet to change. Adrian used the muscles of his back to push against the door frame, propelling himself forward and away from the wall. His suit jacket fell open to reveal white dress shirt that clung to his chest like a second skin. Willow couldn't help but stare at the definition of his chest as he walked towards her. He extended his hand towards her invitingly. "Well, how about lunch then. I know for a fact that you and Lydia have been locked in this room all day, so you must be starving." Willow felt the panic begin to rise up in her chest, as it always had since her time with Angelus, when any guy got physically close to her. Her throat would constrict and her palms would sweat. All of a sudden she'd be right back in that windowless, empty room. Her body weak from loss of blood and unbidden desire; a whirlpool of conflicting emotions: shame, disgust, desire, longing, terror. Willow would begin to feel trapped, and even the most innocent of invitations, like the one Adrian was presently extending to Willow, would throw up all her emotional walls. Willow tried to get her lips to form a no around the tight vise of her constricted throat, but before she could say anything, Lydia was speaking. Apparently she had heard Adrian's offer over the din of Neil and Colin's voices. "That sounds like a wonderful idea Willow. You must be famished. I would take you to lunch myself but I must attend to some matters with Neil. Roger can drive you and Adrian wherever you'd like to go. In fact, you don't have to be back till 6. I'm going to send a messenger to collect the supplies we need for the spell and we'll cast it tonight. Until then you're free to enjoy yourself." Feeling the matter was settled, Lydia rose from her chair, squeezed Willow lightly on the shoulder, and left with Neil and Colin in tow. Before she could say a word of protest, Adrian's slim fingers fixed a firm grip on Willow's wrist as he gently lifted her from the seat and followed the others out of the room. "Great, I know a wonderful place for lunch. I'm sure you're gonna love it."
Part 8 Adrian ended up taking Willow to an outdoor café that specialized in American food. That meant that just about everything there was fried and the majority of the customers were tourists. Willow had learned the hard way that the English weren't quite as oblivious to their health as Americans were. They sat outdoors and ordered a basket of fried chicken, French Fries, mozzarella sticks, and large cokes, eating and watching the people passing by on the sidewalk besides them. Just south of their seats Willow had an amazing view of The Tower of London. They lingered long after they had finished the last fry, milking their cokes as the conversation flowed as easily as water. Willow had never talked to Adrian for this long or this easily before. She supposed it was a combination of her having avoided any long lasting conversations with Adrian in the past, and her unfair judgement that anyone as good looking and self assured as him must not have all that much going on in the sensitivity and intelligence departments. Today, Willow was finding out she couldn't have been more wrong. They covered every topic imaginable, excluding the Angelus incident, as Willow had begun to refer to it. Willow told Adrian all about growing up in Sunnydale with her absentee parents and two of the greatest friends she'd ever known, Jesse and Xander. He told her about growing up in both Paris and New York, then moving first to Venice where his father was the official Watcher of Buffy's predecessor, then to London where the Council enfolded them into their ranks at the young age of 17. He had always been meant to join them, but it became official earlier than planned due to the tragic death of his father, Dante, and the slayer, Gabrielle, in battle. Willow told him about how empowered and special she had felt being part of the Scooby Gang. How meeting Buffy had helped Willow to discard the shell she had lived in for years as a product of her mother's repeated rejection; how, as a part of the Gang, Willow had stopped feeling lonely and began to live life to the fullest under the mantra "Carpe Diem." Adrian spoke about his father, the bravest, most honorable man he knew. He spoke about his dedication and loyalty to the Council, which his father instilled in him at an early age. He spoke of remembered battles, of his father swinging a sword or some other ancient weapon as he led the slayer into combat, always right besides her on the front line. Finally, they spoke of lost loves. Willow told him about both Oz and Xander: Xander, her first love as a young girl; Oz, her first love as an older, somewhat wiser young woman. But no matter what the circumstances, they had been her firsts and in the memory of her mind they stood like bright twin beacons of light- standards in bravery, honesty and decency. In turn, Adrian told Willow about Gabrielle. A hushed awe would color his voice as he described her: tall and slim as a tree, with haunting hazel eyes and a delicate manner of holding herself despite her tall stature. On first meeting her, Adrian hadn't believed her strong enough to defend herself, let alone the world. Gabrielle had quickly proved him wrong, and though she would often indulge in quiet tears late in the night while he cradled her in his arms, she never wavered while in combat. When Adrian had lost the two people he loved most, his world had collapsed. It was the Council, and his responsibility to honor the memory of his father and Gabrielle, that saved him. And now, almost three years later, Adrian was still trying to heal old wounds. Since they first left for lunch late in the afternoon, dusk began to fall before they knew it. Willow was so enraptured in their conversation she barely even noticed until Adrian pointed out the orange and pinks of the horizon as the sun set. When Adrian suggested he drive her home, Willow was reluctant to end their afternoon together. The comfort and ease with which she was able to talk to Adrian felt like magic, and she was afraid to break the spell. A relatively quiet drive back to Lydia's brought Willow's fears to fruition. As Adrian steered the black Lexus through the city streets, and then the countryside, Willow began to reflect and, as a result, withdraw. It was as if the eerily quiet stillness of the passing countryside was creeping into Willow's soul, blanketing her thoughts in a cold fear. Willow was smart enough to recognize the feelings inside her that had begun to take root. The seeds had been planted six months earlier, when she first met Adrian, but only now were they nudging outwards, reaching tentacles towards Willow's heart. She knew she had to stop them before they succeeded in capturing it. At that point, there would be no turning back, and Willow couldn't let things get that out of hand, because no matter where she was, what she was doing, or who she was with, Willow couldn't escape her own personal demon. Angelus. He was coming to retrieve her. Sometime soon- he had revealed that much to her. As far as Angelus was concerned, Willow belonged to him, and anyone that tried to come between them would meet the furious hand of his anger. If Willow allowed her relationship with Adrian to become anything more than friendship, that someone would become him. Therefore, Willow was going to do what she had to stop her feelings for Adrian from growing anymore out of control. But there were other reasons, besides her concern for Adrian's safety. Though she was loathe to admit it, part of Willow believed Angelus' whispered words to her. It was the same part of Willow that had stopped telling Lydia about her nightly dreams, afraid to admit the strong feelings Angelus invoked within her. Maybe she was meant to be Angelus' life mate, as he claimed. Some malignant twist of fate had crossed her path with his, and part of her burned with desire to follow the twists in that path. She was like the Bride of Frankenstein, or the bride of the Devil, to be more exact; meant to be by the side of a demon for all time- that is, if Angelus had his way. Maybe Angelus was right when he said he was the only one meant for her; the only one who could satisfy her and fulfill those deeply hidden needs and desires she admitted to no one. If all of it was true, then Adrian would only end up getting hurt by her, and Willow, the part of her Angelus didn't control, wouldn't allow that. By the time Adrian pulled into the circular driveway of Lydia's home, Willow's course of action was resolved. She would politely, but firmly, make it clear to Adrian that all she could offer him was her friendship. She would do her best to squash any feelings she may have for him and to not notice how cute he looked with a few silky strands of his hair falling around the curve of his ear, not to mention the curve of his behind.
Adrian held the passenger side door open for Willow, and his eyes couldn't help but glance appreciatively at her legs as she swung them out the door. Adrian made a move to take hold of Willow's hand as they walked up the stone staircase to the front entrance but Willow managed to evade Adrian's grasp. Hurrying ahead, Willow searched her bag for her keys, hoping to escape into the house as quickly as possible. Luck wasn't on her side when, in the midst of her fumbling to open the door's locks, Adrian caught up with Willow and placed his hand lightly on the small of her back. Willow immediately tensed. "Willow?" She turned to face him as he spoke, her heart constricting at the confused, sorrowful expression marring the perfect features of his face. Willow stared at the ground, hoping it would make things easier. "What's wrong? Things were so great at lunch, but then I could feel you withdrawing in the car. I don't understand what went wrong. Was it something I did, something I said?" Willow shook her head, not trusting herself to speak. "Then what is it?" When Willow began to shake her head once again, Adrian cupped Willow's chin with the side of his hand, and tilted her head so he could stare into her eyes. "I really like you Willow. I've never told anyone most of the things I told you today. I did it because of the way I feel towards you- because I think I could very easily fall in love with you." Willow melted at his words and the soft touch of his hand on her skin. When he lowered his mouth to hers, she didn't resist. The kiss opened like a slow blooming flower, and for a moment, Willow lost herself in the pure emotion of the experience. The panic set in when Adrian cupped Willow's face in his hands and moved in closer in an effort to deepen the kiss. Willow broke away from his grasp, stepping as far back as she could, until her back was pressed against the front door. Her emotions a conflicted mess, Willow felt more confused than ever. Without meaning to, Willow found herself remembering another kiss. Angelus, his body pressed intimately close to hers, closer than any man had ever been, his fangs dripping bloody tears onto her face. When he kissed her, Willow tasted the tangy sweetness of her own life's blood on his lips and in his mouth. The sensation had pushed her over the edge, propelling her into her third orgasm of the night. When she'd awoken the next morning, she had still been able to taste her own blood in her mouth. When Willow had realized it was only another dream, disappointment had weighed heavy on her body, followed by shame and self-disgust at her own arousal. Willow didn't want to compare the two kisses but she couldn't help it. Adrian definitely evoked deep feelings inside of Willow. However, she was still, against all reason, dangerously attracted to Angelus. "Adrian, I can't do this. I'm sorry, but I'll only end up hurting you. Let's just end it here before something bad happens. Please don't say anything or ask me to explain. Let's just drop it." Then, before Adrian could respond, Willow turned and went into the house.
Part 9 Willow stood in the foyer for awhile, pushing aside the heavy velvet drapes so she could watch Adrian out the window. He stood for awhile, starring at the door looking stricken and melancholy, like an eager puppy that had been kicked in the ribs by it's master. Willow's heart constricted when Adrian stared at the house, his eyes haunted and shattered. She almost went to him but an inner strength she hadn't known she had helped her hold her ground. It didn't, however, keep the tears from falling. Willow was being torn in two. She couldn't help but be cliché and imagine how she would have laughed, a mere eight months ago, if someone had told her she would one day find herself falling in love with a gorgeous, courageous, perfect guy who felt the same way for her, while simultaneously nursing a demonic attraction to Angelus. Willow stayed at the window long after Adrian drove away, her sobs racking her small body. How long, Willow wasn't quite sure, but eventually Lydia found her. Thankfully, Willow's tears had long since dried. It was one less thing to explain to Lydia. Willow hated it but the recent events in her life were taking their emotional toll on her, and a direct result was her continuing withdrawal from her closest friend. "Willow, is everything all right?" Willow plastered a bright smile on her face for Lydia's benefit. "Of course, why wouldn't it be?" Lydia smiled, obviously relieved. "I'm glad to hear it. How was lunch?" "It was good. I had fun." At least it wasn't a total lie. Willow had been having fun for most of the afternoon. "Lovely. So how do you feel about performing the protection ritual. I've gotten everything we need." The truth was, Willow wasn't feeling incredibly eager to begin the ritual, but it wasn't exactly a feeling she could explain to Lydia. Willow wanted to be able to feel safe again, but deep down she knew that would never again be possible. Especially since part of her looked forward to her sleeping moments with Angelus. Willow kept those feelings to herself. 'All right, let's do it." In the days following their kiss, Adrian and Willow avoided each other. Willow did it because she couldn't stand to see the unvoiced sadness and longing in Adrian's eyes, nor feel its counterpart in her own heart. As for the ritual, the whole procedure lasted about an hour and, as evidenced by her undisturbed and peaceful, albeit lonely sleep of the past few nights, Willow deemed the spell a success. One morning later that week, Lydia entered the main library of the watcher's headquarters to find Willow casually flipping through her high school's orientation guidebook, which had just arrived in the mail the previous day. Willow spoke without looking up from the catalogue. "Did you know they offer classes in ancient mythology and folklore, and C++ programming. They even have film classes. I thought they only had those kinds of classes in college. Xander loves movies- he was always making me watch old films at his house. He used to get such a kick out of Chaplin. He'd love a class like that. Maybe I should take it and broaden my horizons. I mean, I am trying to begin a new life, right." "Willow." Lydia quietly interrupted Willow's babbling. Looking up, Willow saw she wasn't alone. Neil was with her, but also John Doyle and Sebastian Chabrol, two Watcher's high in the Council ranks. One look at their expressions informed Willow that something was wrong. Judging by the tears brimming from Lydia's eyelids, very wrong. Lydia, apparently too choked up to speak, gestured to Neil. The sympathy, evident on his face as he took a seat in the armchair besides hers, chilled Willow to the bone. He placed a comforting hand over Willow's as he spoke. "I'm so sorry Willow. We just received some news from Sunnydale. It's about your parents. They've been murdered." Willow supposed she was in some form of shock because, though Neil kept talking, Willow didn't consciously hear another word he said. Sometime later Lydia was speaking, but Willow didn't hear her either. She just stared straight ahead, her eyes cast with a distant shroud of pain. Willow was looking backwards, remembering the time when she was eight and her father took her to the horse farm just south of Sunnydale. She could remember every instant of that day because it had been one of the happiest of her young life. She had been daddy's little girl, and though he wasn't always around as often as she would have liked, when he was he dotted on her. And now he was gone, but Willow couldn't really comprehend that. Her mind refused to process the information but instead opted to replay that day with the horses, over and over like a recorder programmed on an endless, repetitive loop. Somehow Willow had been moved into the conference room, and still the tears wouldn't come. Somewhere in the back of Willow's mind she noted that she hadn't cried nor spoken for hours, but the hours seemed to pass like minutes. Lydia was saying something about protecting Willow from Angelus. It was Angelus who had done this, apparently a result of his realizing that he could no longer get to Willow. The knowledge had sent him into rage, a consequence the Council had failed to count on. Willow took in all the information, but she couldn't process it. All she could see was the green grass of the California countryside and the black satin mane of the horse she had been riding. Cool, slim fingers on her arm broke through the fog in Willow's mind. Willow's own sad, green eyes locked on to sympathetic blue ones. Kneeling in front of Willow's chair, Adrian moved his hands up to her shoulders, his firm grip comforting Willow. Feeling safe for the first time that day, Willow was finally able to indulge herself in the emotional breakdown that had been hovering just below her consciousness all day. Sobbing hysterically, Willow threw herself into Adrian's embrace, burying her face in the soft fabric of his shirt. She clung to him with all her might, reduced to a quivering mass of tears, babbling incoherently as she soaked his shirt with her tears. Adrian allowed her this breakdown, holding on to her as he whispered soothing words, giving her comfort by just being there for her. When Willow wouldn't calm down after a good half-hour of clinging to Adrian, Lydia suggested Willow be taken home. Adrian insisted on accompanying her, though no one had even thought of protesting since Willow refused to let go of Adrian. She kept her arms firmly wrapped around his waist and her face buried in his chest. Swinging her into his arms, Adrian carried Willow out to Lydia's car, who graciously sat up front with Roger so Adrian could pillow Willow in his lap. During the drive home, Willow's tears slowly subsided until the gentle lull of the car's motion and the soothing feel of Adrian's fingers stroking her hair led Willow into a deep sleep. When Willow finally awoke, night had fallen and she was in her own bed, cradled in the recesses of Adrian's arms. Nothing had ever been as comforting as the feel of Adrian's arms wrapped around her. His whole body was strong and reassuring to her, a pillar of strength she could hold on to. Turning her face towards his, Willow found he was awake and watching her quietly. They stared at each other for awhile, not saying anything. Willow wasn't quite sure who made the first move, and it didn't really matter. Suddenly they were kissing, their lips moving expertly together as if this wasn't only their second kiss but one of a thousand. She knew Adrian- deep in her soul knew him. He was familiar, but at the same time every moment with him was a discovery. Willow wasn't quite sure what it meant, and she didn't care. Right now all that mattered was the feeling of Adrian's lips and body against hers. Being close to him filled the emptiness inside her, made her begin to feel almost complete again. Adrian was the first to break away. His lips grazed her forehead as he whispered, "I love you, Willow." Tired of denying what she was feeling, Willow admitted, "I love you too." They kissed for awhile longer until Adrian reluctantly pulled away and suggested they find Lydia, who was very worried about Willow. The mention of Lydia reminded Willow once again of her parents. She'd been able to block out the memory while with Adrian, instead focusing all her energy and emotion on her newfound love. Now there was no ignoring it. Her parents were dead, by Angelus' hands, and suddenly the threat of Angelus coming after Willow was guaranteed. Something had to be done before Willow lived to regret it.
Stopping off to splash some cold water on her face, Willow followed Adrian downstairs, where they found Lydia in her study. She and Neil were sitting at the small conference table, papers and photographs concealing the wooden tabletop beneath it. They were bent over a stack of glossy photographs when Willow and Adrian entered the room. Immediately, Lydia stood and hurried over to embrace Willow. "Oh darling, I'm so, so sorry. How are you holding up?" Willow breathed in the strong, commanding scent of Lydia's perfume as the Watcher held her close. It was a nice scent, and languishing her attention on such small, insignificant details would allow enough distraction to keep her sane. Willow considered her answer and opted for honesty. She'd kept so many of her feelings secret recently, she felt Lydia deserved the truth. "I'm devastated, Lydia. I never thought it would feel this way. I mean, I know my parents weren't the most involved. Well, my dad tried, even though his career made it hard, but my mom just never seemed to put much effort in getting to know her own daughter. Still, they loved me. I know that. And I loved them so much. I just can't believe they're gone. It's like there's this hole inside me now, and it's never going to go away no matter what I do to try and fill it. But right now we need to move on and plan what we're going to do next. I'm ready for that." Lydia nodded, her eyes filled with the grim understanding of someone who's been through the same experiences and lived to tell about it. Willow had seen the same look in Adrian's eyes earlier, and she saw a shadow of it in Neil's. It came with being part of a worldwide club who knew the secret- that life was an unfair game and people were sometimes taken out of it before you were ready for them to go. After a moment of silence, Lydia walked back to the table where she resumed her seat among the mountain of papers. There were things to be done, so the pain would have to be stored away in the name of practicality and self-preservation. Willow had already accepted this fact. Instinctively, Willow extended her hand behind her and felt a surge of strength when Adrian took hold of it. They followed and took their seats across from Lydia and Neil. The latter was starring at her, perhaps noticing the fierce determination shrouding her emerald eyes, and his respect and admiration were obvious. "You're quite a woman, Willow. I just want you to know that." Willow felt a surge of pleasure at the compliment, and the smile on her face was genuine. "Thank you, Neil." Neil smiled back, then glanced at Adrian before reaching for a stack of photographs. Neither Lydia nor Neil said anything about Adrian's presence, which made Willow wonder at how much they knew about their relationship. It was still so new to Willow, yet how much did other people realize her dependency on him. Willow's wandering thoughts were reined in by the content of the photographs on the table. She reached for one and drew in a sharp of breath of surprise. Willow used the hand holding the photograph to gesture to Lydia. "What's the meaning of this?" "Angelus took them Willow. Buffy found them in his room at the mansion, or, more accurately, plastered all over the walls of his room. All of these photos, actually. Buffy went to the mansion early this morning but Angelus had already skipped town. All that was left were these photos, a sort of makeshift shrine." Willow flipped through photo after photo of the same subject- her. "How did you get these so fast." "Well, these are copies, obviously. I had someone in Sunnydale scan them and email them here where we reprinted them this afternoon." Willow looked at Lydia skeptically, "Giles didn't do it." It wasn't a question, merely a statement of fact. Lydia couldn't help but laugh. "Of course not, I sent computer specialists in to handle the situation. Once Buffy told me what she had found I wasted no time in getting all the information documented and sent here. There's quite literally no time to spare since we can't pinpoint when exactly Angelus left Sunnydale. All we have is a wide time frame of sunset last night, which is when he visited your parents," Willow couldn't help but wince at Lydia's wording and wondered if she'd be receiving a similar visit sometime soon, "and around sunrise this morning when Buffy discovered he was gone. Now, worst case scenario: Angelus left Sunnydale in the very early evening yesterday and is already well into his second night of travelling to England. In the best case scenario, he didn't leave Sunnydale until much later in the evening and still has some ways to go until he arrives here. Either way you look at it, Angelus is on his way to see Willow, but the more time we have on our side before that happens, the better." Willow nodded absently. She was still looking through the mountain of photographs. The first pile she had looked through were ones taken during her captivity in Angelus' special prison. She had never even imagined photos from that time existed, but there they were, in revealing black and white. Shots of Willow, spread eagle on the bed as Angelus stood before her, his hands roaming over every inch of her body. Shots of Angelus, lying on top of Willow with his fangs buried to the hilt in her neck. Shots of Willow, alone and crying, the tears causing strands of hair to stick to her cheeks. There were even photos of Willow on her knees, grabbing Angelus as he turned to leave. Willow's cheeks turned bright red at the thought of Lydia and Neil, not to mention Adrian, seeing such private and degrading moments of Willow's life, but she shoved them aside, her fear having a much firmer hold on her than her embarrassment. The other photos were even more shocking. There were photos of Willow before she had been captured by Angelus, of her life in Sunnydale, which made her realize he had been planning her abduction for a long time. There were scenes from school, sitting in class, at the Bronze, in the library. A couple of photos of her in her bedroom, changing for bed, were mixed in. Another pile contained photos from Willow's life in London. Willow recognized events from months back. There were day and evening shots, which meant the pictures had been taken by a human. Most probably some unsuspecting detective who's been paid a ton of money to follow around a teenage girl. He'd probably assumed she was a runaway. Willow's heart skipped a beat when she caught sight of the latest photos. They were pictures of her and Adrian, seated at the outdoor café. Adrian leaning forward to whisper something in Willow's ear. Willow with her head thrown back in laughter. Then, two figures on the front porch of the house, their bodies melded together. Her red hair made her unmistakable in the picture, even though her face was obscured. In those pictures, black magic marker defaced the photo. Angelus had all but obliterated Adrian's image from most of those photos. It was as if Willow was kissing a black hole. In some, Adrian was visible through the huge black X marking his figure. The markings gave the photos a life of their own. They were suffused with Angelus' hatred and jealousy. Just looking at them, and what he had done to the image of Adrian, chilled Willow to the core. Adrian stared at the pictures, his face a mask of fury over the photos, concrete evidence of the total invasion of Willow's private domain. When he saw the photos of their kiss his expression didn't change. There was no fear, which Willow supposed some would consider foolish, but Willow found it incredibly brave and romantic. Adrian's main concern was for her. She knew how hard it would be for him to protect her from Angelus, but his eyes told her he would die trying. In that moment, her love for him expanded to fill her entire heart. Lydia patiently waited for Willow to look through all the photos. When she was finished, Lydia continued speaking. "Buffy said the besides these photos, Angelus had some of your belongings on a dresser top. There were also some occult supplies Buffy couldn't identify, but she did recognize them as ingredients that would be used in a spell. Giles is working on identifying the materials. It's obvious they were used in spells relating to you, though." A mental image took hold of Willow. Angelus, standing before his makeshift alter as he stared at her photos, creating scenes in his mind of their inevitable reunion as he worked magic to bring that day closer and closer. The scene was straight out of a made for TV movie of the week made to warn single girls about the dangers of getting involved with strange men. A Stalker's Obsession: The Willow Rosenberg Story. Willow bit back a hysterical giggle. "Needless to say, we think it's imperative you leave London as soon as possible, Willow. Tonight even." Willow frowned. She knew it was what had to be done, but she had no idea where she was going to go. Would it even matter? If Angelus was this obsessed with her he was going to find her wherever she went. Neil seemed to read her mind. "We know it'll be hard to find a place that's safe for you, but I've already contacted some people I know in Italy. We already have a residence for you. It is quite well hidden, deep in the countryside of Italy, just north of Venice. The people who reside in the town will not give you away, and there is absolutely no vampire activity there. To guarantee your safety, Lydia and I have discussed providing you with a Watcher, and under the circumstances, we think it would be best if that Watcher was Adrian." Adrian appeared startled. "You want me to be Willow's Watcher?" Neil nodded. "I know you are still in training, but that is merely a technicality. You were more than ready to be a Watcher when you were only 13. You know as well as I do that you are more than capable of fulfilling the duty." Lydia interrupted quickly, "Besides, how could we separate two people so obviously in love as you two." She winked at Willow, and the two women shared smiles. "Now, as long as everything's settled, we'd like to get you two packed and on a plane before morning. All the arrangements have been made. I'd say if there are no other questions we might as well go pack." Saddened at the prospect of leaving, but nonetheless aware that it was a necessity, Willow nodded her agreement. Adrian said nothing, and Willow knew it was because, in his mind, there was no question as to where he was going. He would remain at Willow's side for as long as she wanted him, perhaps long after that. The four discussed some last minute details, then slowly rose and went their separate ways to prepare for Adrian and Willow's journey.
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