ga8..ga8..ga8..ga8..

Willow sighed as she closed another book of demons. Xander and Cordelia had reported that their date had been interrupted by a 'big, scaly purple thing with back spines and a tail.' Well, that had been Cordelia's description, Xander had called it 'a single-story lavender Godzilla without the atomic breath.' It hadn't deliberately attacked anyone, but the sheer shock and size of it had caused panic. Giles, as the Watcher, had set them to researching to identify it, determine if it was a threat, and figure out how to kill it.

She just hoped that Angel would be alright by himself. He'd been soundly asleep when she'd left. Ordinarily, she would have left a note, but Angel didn't seem quite like he'd understand such a thing right now. Her parents had agreed to try to let him know what was going on, but they shared her worries about his currently shaky grasp of English.

The vampire that had become her protector wasn't the same brooding cryptic guy that had followed Buffy.

It didn't help that they hadn't found any clues about the snake in the walls that had Drusilla so frightened. She knew that was a threat - not how, or what it could do, but that it was a danger. As Buffy had put it, when scary things are scared, it's time to worry. The purple mini-Godzilla was big and not well suited to moving among humans, but that wasn't a sign of evil.

"Have you had any luck?" Giles asked, setting a cup of tea beside her.

"I've found a lot of things that it wasn't," Willow offered, taking a sip of the tea. She preferred coffee, but tea with a shot of cream and two sugars was tolerable. And the day Giles brewed up coffee instead of his beloved tea she'd have to check him for possession.

"Perhaps I shall have to see if there is any information at Willie's?"

"That might be a good idea," Willow paused. "Do you think he'd know anything about this snake in the walls sort of threat that Dru was mentioning? Or that he'd have anything useful to share?"

"The man's livelihood depends on information and being aware of dangers. He may not have facts, but I'm certain that he is aware of any sort of greater threat manipulating events, even if he can't name names or point to facts. Whether he is capable or willing of sharing that information is a separate question. He might not be able to give any clear and certain facts, only a series of could be coincidences and feelings."

"Couldn't those coincidences give us a place to start looking?" Willow offered. She knew that it could work like that in hacking, but there might be a big difference between getting demon related information out of a snitch and manipulating computer programs.

"Quite possible. I shall see if I can gain any information from him tonight," Giles murmured. Familiar with how Willow organized the books around her, he took the stack that she'd finished searching to clear a bit of table space.

"I just feel like we don't know enough," Willow leaned her chin on her hand, absently turning the page. This revealed a page on Maerrocholiths, and a footnote that they seemed to have experienced a population drop on the West Coast about a decade ago, cause unknown. The picture suggested that this wasn't a big loss.

"A frustration that I share," Giles agreed.

end part 1.

As it happened, Willow had good reason to worry about what her vampire would be up to without careful supervision. Her parents had managed to convey that she'd left with Giles, though they were certain that Angel didn't approve and probably missed most of their attempted explanation. He'd growled several things in a language that the Rosenberg parents couldn't identify, and waited impatiently for dark before leaving the house.

He hadn't headed towards the high school.

If someone were able to read his thoughts, they would quickly become aware that he had an obsessive need to remain of use and benefit to his self-chosen mistress, the Red Woman. Willow. That he felt her skills in magic were not all that they could be, and that gaining power and skill would be of benefit to her. That one of the benefits that he could offer her was the ability to kill her enemies before they could attack her. And that any compunction that he may once have possessed about looting the corpses or lairs of the fallen – especially those that he'd put down – was long since burned away.

The fact that neither Willow nor Giles could read Angel's mind probably helped them sleep easier.

He had decided that his mistress needed to improve her skills, to learn more magic. Different sorts of magic, magic that her mentor didn't know. That way, she would have tricks that the older magic user wouldn't expect if he ever decided to betray her. He couldn't find her another teacher, not until he could remember or relearn the language of this place. But he could find her Books of Power, where others had written the secrets and ways of their power.

Frowning, he decided that he should probably stick to taking the Books from demons that used magic. The group that she worked with - the older mage and the young warrior and the warrior's woman – seemed to place importance on protecting the humans. So he would leave the humans who had magic alone unless he was certain they were doing things that his mistress would not like. It would be easiest to take the Books from demons who were not very strong with their magic. Fortunately, he knew just where to find a few of those – and they could become a threat to his mistress if they learned of her. Killing them and giving their Books to her would both protect her from a threat and help her to gain power.

He made his way towards the cemetery closest to the ocean, plans forming and twisting in his mind. There was no reason not to destroy some of the new vahm pires before they could endanger his mistress. If he could find enough that they were a challenge, it might even be fun.

End part 2.

Willow hadn't been surprised that Angel arrived at the library, where he soon began to lurk protectively near her. What surprised her about it was that he didn't appear until almost four hours after the sun had set. He'd been obsessively protective of her since he'd woke up after being brought back, so… what had he been doing in those four hours?

He moved closer, giving the picture in the book a growling glare, and Willow noticed that there were marks on the underside of his arm – marks in that fuzzy area between deep scrapes and slashes. There was also blood under his nails, though the almost purple color suggested that it wasn't human. Those things combined to suggest that he'd been in some sort of fight.

Willow looked at the information about the demon in the picture, a six to seven foot scales creature that looked rather like a humanoid lizard, complete with big lizardy eyes and long whippy tail and frilly spines along its back. The notations described the species as opportunistic feeders of a primarily carnivorous nature, often scavenging the kills of more dangerous beasts and demons. They were also described as having a highly infectious, possibly venomous bite and almost purple blood. "Angel, did you fight one of those?"

He made a noise, one that somehow combined a little growl with a sheepish note, and murmured a few words in that same odd language that he'd been using since his return. The one that sounded similar to Russian or Turkish, but it definitely wasn't the Russian that her Grandmother's dear friend Katya had spoken.

"You got into a fight with at least one of those, didn't you?" Willow changed her words slightly, giving him a look that she hoped conveyed that she didn't want any evasions or excuses.

For a moment, Angel was quiet as only a vampire could be. Then he made a soft noise, and carefully extended three fingers before tapping those fingers against the drawing of the lizardy demons.

"You fought three of them?" Willow murmured. Then, just in case her words didn't make sense to him, she tried to use one of her spells that she was still working on. She couldn't cast a proper illusion that would disguise a person or object, but she could do slightly blurry, translucent miniatures. The little Angel was about as tall as her hand, and it faced three look alike little lizard demons that were slightly taller than the translucent Angel.

Angel blinked at the small illusion, and then grinned. He spoke a few more words, and Willow found herself thinking of one of the almost caves near the beach, where the ground made a sharp drop off before a rather stony shoreline. The area was dreary and uncomfortable enough that people… humans generally avoided it. But if there were caves in the taller ground, then that might make good demon lairs, assuming the water didn't get that high during high tide. Biting at her lip, she tried to add that area in as a background for the illusion.

Angel's smile became wider, with just a hint of sharp teeth, and he tried to flatten one of the little demons with his hand. He looked terribly disappointed when his hand had no effect on the illusion.

"Three of them… very impressive, my guardian angel." Willow glanced over at Giles before asking the librarian, "Will things wait if I go home for some sleep? The letters are starting to blur together."

"Of course, do get some rest. Will you be safe on the way home?"

"My vampire's here to watch over me," Willow grinned.

She couldn't decipher the words that Giles muttered, but Willow suspected that he was less than pleased with the idea of a guardian vampire. Or of her having a vampire anywhere near her. If it hadn't been for the disastrous ending of Buffy and Angel dating, Willow would think he was just being old-fashioned and silly. Instead, she thought he was being protective in his own way.

"I'll be leaving now, with Angel watching over me and keeping me safe from the nasties out there. Night, Giles," Willow called.

It made her feel much safer to have Angel following the now-expected three steps behind her. A corner of her mind wondered when and how she could possibly have become used to having a vampire following her, lurking and killing anything that threatened. Another part was marveling at the obvious adaptability of the human mind. First, she'd become used to the idea that monsters were real, that vampires and demons were out there, that magic was real. Then the idea that she could do magic started to seep in, first little magics, and then, when the desperation of Angelus and Acathala and all that, the idea that she might be good at this magic stuff. Now, the idea of a protective guardian vampire…

Who could guess what she'd be calm about in another five years?

End part 3.

As a pair of vampires tried to attack her half way down Maple Avenue, Willow decided that she had probably stayed too late researching. Most likely, the vampires had followed her for a while, and she hadn't noticed them. One of them wore a Sunnydale Razorbacks football conference shirt, suggesting that he was fairly young, as vampires went. Which meant that the other one was also probably young. She just stood there blinking as the pair of vampires tried to attack her, snarling something about ripping her throat open and… well, what had stuck the most was the absurd thought that they were using awful grammar. She was definitely not in a good state for walking out and about if her only clear thought about graphic death threats was a grammar critique.

It seemed that the vampires with bad grammar hadn't noticed Angel. But Angel had noticed them – he'd waited until they lunged before he'd attacked. There had been some sort of graceful motion that seemed too fast, too flexible. Willow was left with the impression that he'd somehow kicked the one vampire in the chin while dragging the second downwards. She'd had a brief impression that Angel was upside down, and the first vampire was dust while the second had staggered back to his feet, whining about 'you booted me in the head!'

That was all he'd had time to say before Angel ripped his heart out. Just… his hand moved, and for a moment he was holding a heart before the heart – and the other vampire – burst apart into dust. The whole thing was very Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but with a little less fire and tattoos. Willow smiled at Angel, feeling grateful beyond words that he'd been there, that he was keeping her safe. "Thank you, my guardian Angel."

Nothing else registered on Willow until she found herself staring at her bedroom door. The door that was closed. For a moment, she just blinked at it, wondering why the door was closed, her room dark… Oh, right, because it was well after midnight, and she hadn't let any lights on inside. Didn't she have a key somewhere… Where had she left her keys?

Several long moments of thought brought only a fuzzy memory of her keys on her desk, beside her computer, or perhaps in the pocket of her brown jacket. A quick glance at her shoulder showed that she wasn't wearing her brown jacket. Even with her mind not working right due to exhaustion and too many demon books, she still remembered that her fish tank, now fish-free, was inside her room. The room that she'd already established was locked.

With a fizzy feeling of irritation, Willow glared at the door. What good was the whole magic thing if she was still getting locked out at night, or locking herself out? "Just open already."

The door clicked and then swung open in front of her.

Angel's arm behind her towed her into the room. Willow didn't look as she heard the door close behind them. The door was supposed to be closed at night – that would help keep out the bad things that wanted to eat her.

With a noise that sounded rather like a chuckle, Angel gave a gentle push towards her bed.

"Hint taken, going to bed. Pushy over-protective vampire…" Willow mumbled. Her jacket fell to the floor, and she stumbled towards the bed. The shoes slipped off in the middle of the floor, and Willow slid under the covers. She briefly thought about taking off some more of her clothing, but the idea of struggling with buttons and zippers and… no. Just no.

She was asleep before Angel had finished moving the shoes and jacket to her computer chair instead of the middle of the floor. Willow didn't stir as Angel removed his own shoes before settling on the bed next to her, one arm wrapping around her stomach as he snuggled against her warmth.

A stack of books, some splashed with a dark purple substance, sat unnoticed beside her computer. As tired at Willow had been, she wouldn't have noticed them if they'd been glowing instead of just spattered with demon blood. It would be morning before she discovered the offering from her vampire.

It was quite astonishing and disturbing what the human mind could get used to, given enough time.

End part 4.

End Guardian Angels 8: Becoming Accustomed.