Willow wanted to smile and dance about when the bell rang signaling the end of the school day. She didn't dance, but did permit herself a small smile. Freedom from literary analysis and crawling through tangents and cosigns of angles. Free from going over the requirements for their big history paper - she got it already, ten to fifteen pages, double spaced and single sided, in English, typed in a twelve point font. Citations and at least five quotes from at least three sources... they'd already gone over this stuff, and they'd been given a handout with the instructions.

The rules hadn't changed. It wasn't that difficult to follow them, was it?

And there were ways to avoid the rules when you didn't want to follow them. She'd known that for years - how else did you explain her computer sneaking and hacking other than avoiding the rules and not getting caught? Though if someone had to explain it, they'd obviously learned something...

The library was occupied by a bunch of people. She vaguely recognized them, in the could name them and their interests but they weren't friends sort of way. The school's book club, full of people who liked dissecting books for symbolism and analyzing them to death, dragging the characters and plots back from the grave and then tearing them open a little more.

Stepping away from the library, Willow shook her head, "Getting morbid in my old age, aren't I?"

"With all the people in there, I can't hide in the library," Willow murmured. She wouldn't get any quiet, and the idea of looking through any of the books on magic or potential trouble with that many people around who weren't in the know? Not happening. And the very idea of checking out any of her computer sites for an advance warning with them in there...

"Computer sites... maybe I can hide in the computer lab?" Willow brightened and scurried towards the lab, trying not to look like she was up to trouble.

Willow pushed open the door to the computer lab, smiling to see the room looked empty. She ducked inside, wondering if Miss Calendar was lurking in the little office, or if she was in fact elsewhere. It could happen - teachers were allowed to have lives. All of the blinds were pulled completely down, preventing the sunlight from glaring on the computer monitors.

Willow settled at the computer in the corner, wondering if it would be better to check the sites that might warn her about trouble, or to try to do a bit of research on some of what Dru had mentioned in their magic lessons. A few moments thought brought back memories of the computer lab printer being located in the attached office, and she had no idea if it was occupied right now.

"No printing of things I shouldn't be able to access if I can't see the printer," Willow decided.

Time to get a bit of information on a few things Dru had mentioned... Willow had learned that while the internet could be used to locate information on almost anything, that information didn't always make sense without someone to actually explain a few things. On the other hand, sometimes the explanations from a real person didn't go into the background and technical details that could be really interesting. "Let's see... she talked about feeling the energies of a place. I bet I can find some information on that."

Willow happily spent hours searching the internet for information. The subject was interesting, mostly new, and nobody had been killed because of it, meaning no gruesome pictures. It was also a bit trickier to find information on ambient magical energies that didn't either turn out to be a fansite for books and movies, something advertising a book or movie, plenty of potentially interesting fanfiction, or things that rambled on and on about auras and harmony and getting in touch with nature but never made much sense. She wasn't certain if the challenge made her search frustrating or more fun.

So far, the bits that she could sort out that weren't relating to various works of fiction seemed to match up with what Drusilla had told her.

She hadn't wanted to believe that Dru would lie to her. Have to be reminded by Angel not to hurt, kill, or turn her yes… well, not so much wanted the believe those things, but didn't they sort of go with Dru being a vampire? But the Watcher's books, Giles, even Angel all agreed that Dru was… a bit off in the head. It wouldn't have been much of a stretch to think that she could have been confused.

It made the fact that someone was willing to really teach her so much better. She'd picked up a few things with the research, but there was a huge difference between picking up a few things here and there and actually being taught!

There was a sudden growling noise that made Willow jump in her chair. For several moments she franticly looked around the computer lab, terrified that some awful thing had found its way inside and was about to attack her. There was a faint gurgling and then another growl, both from her stomach. Willow felt her face flush, "Ohhh… I guess lunch was quite a while ago."

Leaving the computer lab brought the discovery that it was dark out. "Great, stay to do a little research and wind up out and about at night… brilliant. Just brilliant…"

It really didn't help that she picked up the feeling of being followed halfway down Maple Street. She had no idea what, and no proof that there was anything but her imagination and fears, but… Being in Sunnydale, she figured it would be safer to assume that she was being followed and be careful but not paralyzed by the idea. And get home quickly.

Reaching her home, Willow sighed as she unlocked the door. She'd never really liked going home to an empty house, but for now, there was no other choice. Her dad was off at a convention in Texas, and her Mom… her Mom… Willow sighed as she tried not to think about her Mom and that whole ugly mess. It was enough to say that she didn't expect to see her Mom in the house again. Ever.

There were worse things than coming home to an empty house. She didn't have it that bad, in the big picture. Though it was lonely… Glancing behind her, she thought that she saw someone standing at the corner, looking her direction. Were they watching her? Were they human?

"Kay, I've definitely got to learn some more magic. Enough that if some guy tries to drag me away, I have a chance to do something about it." Willow considered that for a moment. Floating more than pencils would be good, as would being able to do more than light a candle. Though it might also be a good idea to learn a little fighting, or at least getting out of holds and running away.

For a moment, Willow considered talking to Giles about it. Asking him for lessons in how to not be helpless if someone tried to drag her away the way someone had dragged her mother out of the house. How to not be helpless if some monster attacked when she accidentally stayed at school too late. He'd learned all this as a Watcher, and was teaching Buffy how to fight, how to kill the monsters.

Except that Giles hadn't really shown any interest in teaching her before. Not her or Xander, even if they had been trying to help Buffy. Why should she expect that to change now, just because her mother was missing?

Then she considered asking Buffy. Except that Buffy hadn't thought to help them learn how to fight yet, though she had showed them both how to use a crossbow. And while Buffy was great, one of the few friends that she'd ever had, Buffy wasn't a very patient instructor, considering the whole crossbow thing. The idea of trying to learn how to fight? Between the crossbow explanation and all the times that she'd seen Buffy knock Giles around while training… no. Just… no.

"Things can't stay the same. I'm tired of being helpless." Willow shook her head, locking the door.

Willow moved towards the kitchen, voicing the thought out loud. "I'm tired of being the helpless sidekick research girl."

As she opened a can of soup, Willow considered her options, limited though they were. She'd never be the strong fighter that Buffy was – she wasn't a Slayer. But she could learn something, more than the magic that Dru was helping her learn. Dru… Angel said that Dru wanted her as a little sister.

"Maybe Angel can help me learn?" Willow considered the idea, before deciding that it was worth a try.

Maybe the rules could change.

End Dark Coffee 16: Changing the Rules