It's About Time  ~  Chapter Two

Angel's eyes never strayed from Willow's sleeping face as he silently paced in front of the sofa where she was lying.  He had thought that this day would never arrive and had sometimes hoped that it never would.  The girl lying before him wasn't simply Willow anymore--the girl he'd befriended upon his arrival in Sunnydale two years earlier.  The woman lying before him was Rose--the woman that had changed the course of his life for eternity.

Finding no solace in his nearly frantic movements, Angel finally came to a standstill at the head of the couch.  With deliberate slowness, Angel lowered himself to his knees, clasping his hands next to Willow's face.  Still watching closely for any sign that she was coming around, Angel rested his chin on his hands.  Although the vampire took great comfort in being able to feel her warm, even breath on his own cool cheek, after waiting for more than a century to be face-to-face with Rose again, he was impatient for the redhead to wake up.  Not only did he have an endless stream of questions flowing through his mind, including the usual How's and Why's, but he also wanted--no *needed*--to know the whole the truth behind the spell that had brought her to the 18th century in the first place, not to mention Spike and the curse.  What Angel needed to know the most, however, was where the truth stopped and the lies began.

Oh yeah, he had a lot of questions, but he also had much that he needed to say to her as well.

But for now, the vampire with a soul had to be content simply with the knowledge that everything had actually happened after all.  Rose hadn't been a figment of his guilt-ridden imagination nor was Willow's resemblance to Rose simply a fluke of nature or an ironic punishment by the powers that be.  Willow and Rose were one in the same.

As he waited, Angel studied her, looking for any evidence that he might be wrong by visually tracing every familiar line and curve of her delicate features.  As hard as he tried, he couldn't find any notable differences between this Willow and the Willow that he'd watched try to hack into the Sunnydale Police Department's record system a few days earlier.  Everything was the same...the hair, the skin, even the clothes.  There was only one difference he could detect.  This Willow--the one that he'd known as Rose--wore the nearly invisible scars of his bite marks, and Spike's, on her throat.  Tempted as he was to brush her long hair aside to look for any other scars, Angel somehow managed to keep his restless hands to himself.

As Angel waited, he had a flashback to an all-too-familiar scene.  He saw himself kneeling by the unconscious Rose as she lay on his bed more than a century ago.  That night he'd also been impatient for her to wake up so she could answer a myriad of questions, centering around how she appeared unchanged more than 50 years after he'd been made a vampire.  Even now, Angel had little trouble recalling the emotions he'd experienced at the sight of her all those years ago.  The anger, excitement, and confusion had surged together, causing him to uncharacteristically lose his self-control, culminating in a savage bite.

The memories drove Angel to his feet and backing away from the sleeping redhead.  "Guess this just goes to prove that history does repeat itself," the vampire mumbled, running a shaky hand through his already-disheveled hair.

Angry that he hadn't been better prepared for this day--a day for which he'd been preparing for decades--he turned to focus his ire on the only other person in the room.

"You should have told me," Angel said hotly.

Jenny Calendar stuck her head around a short row of bookcases that served to divide one small section of the large room.  "I couldn't, Angel.  I couldn't do anything that might jeopardize the spell being completed."

He shot the dark-haired teacher a withering look.  "And how could confirming that Willow and Rose were the same person jeopardize the spell?  How could telling me that the spell was to end today put it in jeopardy?"

"It's more complicated than that, Angel."

Angel slowly shook his head as he advanced on the table where she was sitting, studying The Writings.  "All this time, Jenny.  All this time you've known that on this day the Willow that had gone back in time would return, and you said nothing to me. You never even told me you knew about it until tonight!  But you knew it from the moment you came to Sunnydale, didn't you?"

Jenny carefully closed the book and turned to face the angry vampire.  "Yes, I did.  That's why I'm here, Angel.  My people sent me to insure that the spell was completed and to be the keeper of The Writings."

Glancing back at the unconscious redhead, Angel dismissed Jenny's excuses with a wave of his hand.  He was in no mood to listen to some Rom rhetoric, yet the teacher continued anyway.

"I was not allowed to discuss it, Angel.  Especially not with you."

At her words, Angel's head came sharply around.  He glared at the woman whom he felt had betrayed him.  Not only hadn't she told him about what was going on with Willow, she'd never let on that she was Rom either.  She hadn't admitted to being a Gypsy until he'd confronted her about it on the way back from the park earlier that night.  What else didn't he know?

Angel closed his eyes momentarily, swallowing his anger and mistrust for the time being.  It wasn't going to get him the answers he craved.  When he felt back in control and more himself again, he opened his eyes and took the seat across from Jenny.  However, he couldn't bring himself to look at her as he spoke.

"You must have known how confused I was when I came to Sunnydale to help the Slayer only to find Rose...or a girl that looked like her," he began in a carefully measured voice.  "But she didn't remember me.  I told myself that Willow was my Rose and that I'd just have to be patient, that suddenly one day she'd remember.  So I waited, always hoping and trying to jar her memory simply with my presence, but there was never even a flicker of recognition in her eyes.  Do you have *any* idea how hard that was?"  He didn't expect the woman to answer nor did he give her a chance to.  "After two years, I'd started to give up.  I told myself that it had never happened."  He finally looked Jenny in the face.  "I had even begun to hope that none of it had happened so that Willow might never remember the horrible things I'd done..."  Angel sighed, the forced expulsion of breath only slightly reducing his simmering anger.  "The least you could have done was warn me that tonight the spell was to be complete, but I guess that was breaking some Gypsy code of secrecy, wasn't it?"

Jenny flinched, having never been on the receiving end of Angel's anger before, let alone ever seeing this much bitterness in him at all; it left her feeling chilled to the bone.  She regretted never being able to tell him the truth, not only about Willow and the spell, but also about her own reasons for coming to Sunnydale.  The teacher was surprised, to say the least, when he'd figured out that she was Rom earlier that night simply from her comment to Willow in the park.  Yet, there was so much more he didn't know, and not only about her, but about Willow as well.

"Angel, try to understand," Jenny said in soothing tones.  "The Writings only said that today was the day that the spell would be completed and she'd arrive back in her own time.  I had no way of knowing what state of mind she'd be in.  Even The Writings were unclear as to whether she would remember everything that had happened to her in the past.  Remember, she's been through a lot, and--"

"Don't you think I know that?" Angel growled.  "I'm the one who put her through hell for a century, as you very well know."

"I don't think you can take all the blame for that, Angel.  Don't forget about Spike."

Jenny didn't think it would have been possible for the vampire's face to become any darker and tighter, but it did at the mention of his childe's name.

Angel's gaze fell to his clasped hands, settling on the silver ring he still wore.  He twisted it a few times before speaking.  "He's back, too."  It was more a statement than a question.


When he was again in control of his baser emotions, Angel looked up and met the Gypsy's dark eyes.  "Tell me how it this Willow came back.  Tell me everything you saw, Jenny."

Jenny glanced back down at the old book before pushing back from the table.  Her hands still gripping its smooth wooden edge, she took a deep breath as she considered just how to put the night's strange events into words.

"The Writings said that they'd arrive back tonight, sometime after midnight, at the mansion on Crawford Street.  Willow, Giles, and I went--"

"Wait," Angel interrupted, sitting up straighter.  "You took Willow to the mansion?  And Giles knew about this too?"

She climbed wearily to her feet, moving closer to the couch where the girl was sleeping.  "No," Jenny said, emphatically shaking her head.  "He knew nothing until last night.  But I needed his help, so I told him just enough to do what we had to do.  Trust me, Rupert isn't happy with me either.  I'll be answering a million questions in the morning..."

"What about Willow...*our* Willow?"  Angel groaned in frustration.  "What about the Willow we've known for the past two years?"

Jenny rubbed her throbbing temples as she turned to look at the girl sleeping on the couch.  How was she to explain something that she didn't understand herself?

"Willow knew nothing about the spell until yesterday.  Yesterday I told her as much as I dared to because I thought it would be better if she came to the mansion with me.  As you can imagine, Willow was shocked, to say the least.  But yet she seemed to understand...somehow."

Angel's eyes closed as he leaned his head back.  Headaches were a rarity for the souled vampire but he could feel a doozy of one kicking in.

Jenny continued.  "The three of us went to the mansion around midnight, which was uncharacteristically deserted, I might add.  You would have been very proud of Willow.  She was very brave."

Angel made no comment.  No one had to tell him how brave Willow could be, but he was upset for not being given the opportunity to be there to help the 17-year-girl through what must have been a terrifying ordeal.

"We stood there in the main room of the mansion, waiting for something to happen, although none of us were quite sure what.  All of the sudden the air started to crackle.  You could feel it on your skin.  Then there was this...*wave* of energy that flowed outward from one spot in the room.  For a moment it was as if everything moved in slow motion, almost liquid like.  Then there was a spectacular flash and..."  Jenny trailed off, unable to put into words exactly what had happened.  "One moment Willow was standing next to me, holding my hand, and the next moment she and Spike were lying together on the floor in the same spot where the wave phenomenon had started.  But she was wearing traditional Rom clothes and Spike was in period clothing as well.  I can't explain exactly what happened because I don't understand it myself.  Remember, as it is, this goes against science.  I can't explain it any better."

At the completion of her story, Jenny anxiously waited for Angel to say something--anything.  But he didn't.  The vampire remained not only silent but motionless as well, simply staring at one spot on the table.  She was actually relieved when he suddenly stood up, yet his line of vision remained firmly glued to the table where his fingernails began tapping on the polished wood in no particular rhythm.

"Together?" he finally asked, his eyes darting to meet Jenny's for only a split second before they settled back on the table.

"Um, Spike and Willow were holding hands, if that's what you mean.  But from what I can tell from The Writings, it was necessary for them to be touching for the spell to work," she quickly added.

Angel simply grunted, unwilling to share his true thoughts on the subject of Willow and Spike at the moment.  "Then what happened?" he asked, finally ending his impromptu percussion performance by jamming his hands in his pockets.

"Rupert and I got her out of there.  We had no idea if Drusilla was around waiting for Spike, and we really thought that Willow wasn't going to remember what had happened, as The Writings suggested.  We didn't want Willow to be shocked or confused so we rushed her home where I got her out of her Rom clothes and tucked her into bed.  As far as I knew, she'd wake up in the morning the same old Willow that we've both known for two years, but perhaps talking about the whole experience as if it were an odd dream."

Cautiously, Angel left the table and went to stand by Jenny.  Together, they peered over the back of the sofa at the motionless girl.  She looked so serene and at peace now, but Angel's stomach wrenched at the thought of the same sweet face being twisted in fear only hours earlier.

<I should have been there.>

The dark vampire's fingers dug into the brown leather sofa, leaving tiny crescent moon indentations behind as he imagined what she'd gone through.  "You should have told me, Jenny.  Willow must have been terrified.  I could have helped her understand.  I could have told her what--"

"Told her what, Angel?"  Jenny demanded curtly.  "Told her all about things that happened to Rose, yet not to her, and all about memories she'd never have?"

"But she does remember, Jenny!  You heard what she said to me in the park tonight.  She thought I was Angelus without a soul.  She remembered!"

"You don't know how much she remembers.  Who knows, when she wakes up, she might not remember anything.  After all, The Writings were very clear.  She wasn't supposed to recall anything at all."

Angel clenched his jaw, trying unsuccessfully to swallow his words.  "You were wrong and so were The Writings.  I'm starting to think that they weren't worth the paper they were written on."

Jenny took a deep breath to calm herself.  There was still so much they didn't know, and she was as anxious for Willow to wake up as Angel was.

She put her hand on the vampire's arm, hoping to console him.  "Prophecies are never infallible, no matter where they come from, Angel."

"I don't give a damn!" Angel hissed, wrenching his arm away from the Gypsy.  "You should have at least told me once you knew that *she* was back.  Did you see the look on her face in the cemetery tonight?  I thought she was just becoming a good actress, but she was really afraid of me.  Damn it, Jenny!  Do you have any idea the things I'd promised to do to her--to Rose--before I was cursed?"

Jenny didn't know but she could imagine from what she'd heard about Angelus, the Scourge of Europe.  "It will be okay, Angel.  Everything will work out the way it should."

"Did your precious Writings tell you that?"  Angel retorted acridly.

Jenny sighed.  "Think I'll go make a pot of tea.  Looks like you could use it, Angel."

"I don't want tea," he growled.

"Well, you better do something to calm down," Jenny informed the vampire in the most motherly tone she could manage.  "If Willow wakes up and does remember everything, and then she sees you this upset, you might have a little trouble convincing her that you're still cursed."

Angel ran a tired hand down his face, as if hoping to wipe away some of the bitterness he was feeling.  He forced himself to take a few deep breaths before speaking.

"What did you tell the others?" Angel asked in a calmer voice.

"I simply told Buffy and the other kids that Willow'd been ill.  I chalked it up to fever-induced hallucinations.  They were worried about her but I think they bought that.  Rupert, on the other hand, expects a full explanation tomorrow."  Her face fell.  "I don't know if he's going to forgive me for keeping this from him all this time."

"He really knew nothing about the spell?"

Jenny shook her head.  "He only knows what I told him tonight.  That something important was happening, according to The Writings, and it concerned Willow.  Of course, he wasn't very happy that I wouldn't explain further, but he trusted me.  And then when our Willow disappeared, only to be replaced with this one along with Spike, you can imagine he was a little curious.  He is The Watcher, after all.  He thinks nothing supernatural should take place in Sunnydale without his stamp of approval."

"But why is she still unconscious?" Angel asked, resuming his expectant father-like pacing.

Jenny shrugged.  "She's been through a lot.  I'm surprised she woke up so soon in the first place.  I half-expected her to sleep for a few days."

"You know, considering what you are, you don't have many answers, do you?" There was still a coldness to his voice, but the anger had dissipated.

With a shake of her head, Jenny headed for the hallway at the back of the room.

"Jenny..." Angel called after her in a softer tone.  "I--I''s the waiting.  It's getting to me."

"Penance is never easy, Angel," she said without turning around.  "You should know that by now."

Angel looked around the room before responding.  "Yeah, you'd think I would," Angel chuckled wryly.

Jenny stopped in the doorway and looked back at the vampire.  "And you may want to consider changing out of those clothes before she wakes up, Angel.  They seemed to bother her quite a bit."

Angel glanced down at his leather pants then nodded in agreement.

"Besides..." Jenny added over her shoulder as the vampire began to follow her down the hallway.  "That belt is really, really hideous."
End Chapter 2