Tiger by the Tail
by Shadowlander
Authors Note: Hmm, Amy is not a rat. She was never a rat or she was but got a lot better in time to go to university.
Prologue - Spring 1998

Do you know where your little witch is?

The mocking voice replayed itself in the dark-haired vampire's mind as he turned the corner leading to the Rosenberg home in a dead run. He had received a phone call shortly after sunset, the voice on the other end arrogant and smug as it taunted him with that one sentence before hanging up. It had taken a moment for him to place the voice and the meaning behind the eight little words. Once he had, Angel felt a wave of cold dread settle itself in the pit of his stomach as he tore out of his apartment in near panic.

The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to a demon he had known back in his soulless days. During a time he had been cutting a path of death and destruction through the heart of Europe on what had became known as Angelus' infamous "Summer of Blood" in the Watcher's Diaries. The two had formed a brief friendship all of two days before Angelus was feeding his "partner" to a much larger and hungrier demon.

'He's dead! I saw him die,' Angel thought jumping a low shrub as he cut across a yard. 'Or did I?' he questioned recalling more of the terrible events of the night long ago in Rome. Angelus had betrayed his supposed "friend" to a fire demon and as such didn't get too close to watch the littler demon get torn apart.

A car screeching to a halt in front of the Rosenberg home brought Angel back to the present as he cleared the final obstacle separating him and his destination. Then he smelled it, the scent overwhelming him in its intensity. 'Blood!' His game face slipped on subconsciously as he noticed for the first time that the front door was wide open.

With one final leap, he found himself standing just inside of the threshold, his forward momentum effectively stopped by the sight that greeted him. The living room was a wreck, there was just no other way to describe it. Furniture overturned and shredded, broken glass and porcelain littering the floor. But it wasn't the site of the ransacked room that had stopped him. It was the site of a body laying twisted on the floor in the middle of the room, a bloody sword effectively pinning the person into place.

A startled intake of breath beside him, reminded Angel that he was not alone. Giles and Buffy, who had arrived just ahead of him in a car from the opposite direction, had followed him into the house, a similar phone call to the one Angel had received, alerting them to trouble at the Rosenberg house.

Pulling himself together Angel moved over to the body on the floor. "It's Oz," he said in a grim voice leaning over the battered unmoving form. "He's alive," he added in disbelief, his enhanced hearing picking up a faint heartbeat. Oz had been badly beaten, his face nearly unrecognizable in a mess of blood and torn flesh.

"I'll call for the ambulance," Giles said absently already moving over to the phone that laid off the hook on the floor.

"Giles," Buffy's voice cut through the unnatural stillness that seemed to hang over the room. The young Slayer had not moved from the front entrance, her gaze seemed to be focused on something behind the kneeling vampire.

Something in her voice caused Angle to look up from Oz's still form, noting where her eyes were focused he glanced over his shoulder, his eyes widening in shock. Slowly raising to his full height, Angel felt the weight of the world settling itself on his shoulders at what he found. Scrolled across the wall, written in blood, was a terrifying message.


"Rodelus!" He growled, yellow eyes flashing in rage. 'That little bastard didn't die after all,' his demon fumed. His anger growing as he recognized just whose blood was used to write the message. One that was directed toward Angel and had already burned itself into his mind.

"Rodelus?" Giles questioned trying to place the name. Then he placed it, in a small entry - barely more then a paragraph - in one of the Diaries concerning the souled vampire, mentioned a demon by the name. A demon that Angelus had betrayed in exchange for two virgins and access to the unlucky demon's vast fortune.

Chapter 1 - Sunnydale - Spring 2002

"Yes, yes I understand...at least you tried. Very well, I'll tell him when I next see him," Rupert Giles said before returning the phone to its cradle and dropping wearily into a chair. 'Another dead end,' he thought in disgust, running a hand through his hair in frustration.

Four long years and still nothing, it was like the demon Rodelus and Willow just dropped off the face of the earth that night in the Rosenberg house. But that hadn't stopped Giles and Angel exhausting all of their resources trying to track a demon that was supposed to be dead. The former Watcher had even gone as far as swallowing his pride and giving his father a ring for help. Now that was something Giles never wanted to repeat again, having to listen to his father preach about the sacred duty of a Watcher for two and a half hours before getting the older man's somewhat limited help.

Although Giles grudgingly admitted that the call home had helped a bit, while he and his father were still estranged in the father-son department, they had discovered that they could be friends. Which amazed him to no end, especially when his father turned up on his doorstep one Tuesday afternoon to offer his help in person and to get to know the man his son had become. In all it was a strange experience for everyone involved, especially when the older Giles insisted on sitting in on one of the Scooby Gang's research and slaying sessions. Now that was something none of them would be forgetting anytime soon. He was positive that Xander still had nightmares about the Elder Giles and his offer to join the Council. Privately Giles didn't blame him, the thought of Alexander LaVelle Harris as a Watcher had given Rupert a few nightmares of his own.

With a tired sigh, Giles pushes himself out of the chair and wandered into the kitchen. His mind on his recent phone calls from Wesley, who had been tracking down one of their leads on Willow's whereabouts. Over the last year or so, they had been hearing rumours about a powerful redheaded witch on the run from a demon somewhere in the south pacific. From what little Giles could gather on the mysterious redhead, she seemed to be heading in the general direction of North America. Granted it was a long shot but it was the only one they had at the moment that seemed promising.

However, Wesley's last report seemed to put an end to all of their hopes that Willow was still alive. The younger ex-Watcher had rang from Argentina where he had been checking out the redhead's last known sighting. The news was grime, according to the local Vampire Master, who was an old friend of the souled version of Angel, the redhead and a young man with her had helped kill a chaos demon terrorizing a local orphanage. From what Wesley had learned from the vampire, the two had fought the creature valiantly ultimately destroying the demon in a hail of fire. After that the two just disappeared, the vampire had his minions searching the countryside for them. He had wanted to thank the two properly and give them a place in his clan; after all it was his orphanage that the chaos demon had been terrorizing. While the vampire had been unable to say for certain if the redhead matched the old photo of Willow, Wesley had with him, Giles was beginning to lose hope.

A part of him had already identified the mysterious witch as Willow trying to find her way home again, shortly after first hearing about her. He wasn't sure why he had automatically assumed that is was Willow on the run, being chased by some unknown demon and his army of followers. But he had, maybe it was his fatherly instincts kicking in, telling his more rational side that she was still alive and trying to come home. He just couldn't let go. Couldn't believe that she may very well have been killed that night four years ago by Rodelus, the bloody message left on the wall of the Rosenberg's living room all apart of a mind game the demon had been playing.

He took comfort in the fact that he wasn't alone in his belief that she was still out there. Angel was also convinced that Willow was very much alive and on her way home. Although Giles' had a feeling that Angel's convictions had more to do with guilt than anything else, the vampire still blaming himself for her kidnapping and Oz nearly getting beat to death.

A knock at the door brought Giles out of his silent musings. With a slight frown, he went to answer it, unsure who would be at his front door at four o'clock in the morning. Opening the door, the former-Watcher felt his heart skip a few beats as his gaze settles on the battered, road weary figure standing before him.

"Ah, ...hi Giles?" Willow Rosenberg said in small voice, her tired eyes staring into his own, a small lop-sided grin on her face.

Chapter 2

"Huckleberry?" Buffy Summers questioned her roommate with a frown, trying to place the name with the face that was so far eluding her sleep fogged mind. She never could understand Amy's insistence on holding meaningful conversations first thing in the morning. It just wasn't natural being that cheerful first thing in the morning. 'Just my luck...my roommate is a morning person.' She told herself in mild disgust. Wondering for the millionth time if Amy's cheerfulness was something directly hellmouth related.

"Yeah, you know that TA in our Psych class. The one with all the muscles and little head." Amy Madison clarified with a grin, taking perverse pleasure at Buffy's incoherence first thing in the morning. "The one Spike wouldn't bite on a dare." She added after a moment.

"But would torture over a long weekend if we supplied the blood and duct tape...gotcha." Buffy replied suddenly placing the name with the face. While Angel's bleached blonde pain-in-the-ass childe, also known as Spike, did tend to annoy her most days, the two had recently discovered a mutual hatred for the TA. While on one hand they were quite disturbed that they had actually found common ground, they were also secretly united in making the life of one Riley Finn as uncomfortable as possible. Especially after the Slayer learned all about the Initiative and their wannabe demon hunters. Nothing peeved her more then a bunch of amateurs running lose in her town, endangering people's lives. 'Who would have thought that there would be a day that William the Bloody would actually agree with a Slayer on something?' She silently questioned herself , recalling that night four years ago she and Angel had stumbled across a badly beaten Spike while on patrol. 'That was just after Wills...' She stopped herself before she could complete the thought. Not wanting to think about the possibilities that her best friend may not even be alive anymore.

It was hard not to think about Willow, the redhead was always on Buffy's mind. She was reminded of all the lost moments they would never have because of the damn demon. The heart and soul of the Slayerettes got ripped out that night in the Rosenberg house. Thankfully they had been able to pull themselves together and keep going. They owed it to Willow not to give up, to keep fighting the good fight. No matter how much it hurt not to see her smiling face during a long night of research or hear her quiet determination in the face of something really gross that was trying to kill you. There were days that she would give her best stake to see Willow's "resolve face" just one more time.

"I miss her too. You know?" Amy's low voice brought her out of her memories.

"Yeah, I know Amers, I know," Buffy replied wiping at the tears threatening to overwhelm her. She hated this day. She had hated it for the past four long years. It was the grim reminder that she hadn't been good enough to protect one of her friends. That she let a demon come into her town and kill her best friend. But she honoured the day nonetheless, if nothing more than to serve as a reminder of all the innocent people that were counting on her to do her sacred duty. She didn't want the blood of anymore Willows on her hands, one was more than enough - too much in fact. "We better hurry if we want to get to Giles's for breakfast." She said pushing aside her dark thoughts. This was Willow's day, the one time all the Slayerettes got together and remembered their missing friend.

The trip to Giles's flat was made in a relative light mood, the two roommates actively trying to keep the other from sinking into brood mode and start doing Angel impersonations. After about an hour or so it tended to be annoying no matter how many times Xander did it wearing a pink tutu and a pirate's hat.

"Giles?" Buffy called out using her spare key to open the front door when the Watcher failed to answer her knock. It wasn't like him not to be padding around his flat in the mornings. He was always awake doing something; usually reading or research on one of the countless prophecies that were threatening the town this week.

Exchanging puzzled looks, the two decided to investigate. Both silently praying that they were not about to walk in on Giles and Olivia having sex again. That one time last Christmas was more than enough to last them a lifetime. They still had unwanted mental images about it, although for the life of them they couldn't figure out why Giles had been wearing that elf's hat, nor did they really want to know.

"Er, hello?" A voice questioned politely, effectively stopping their progression through the living room, causing the two, to look behind them at the young man standing behind the couch calmly studying them.

Amy was immediately drawn to the young man's Asian features, his shoulder length hair hanging damp around him as he toweled dried it. Dark brown eyes watching the two girls with amusement.

Buffy however, was drawn to the couch, or more importantly to the figure laying on it, one of Giles's spare blankets covering her.


Chapter 3

"You must be Buffy," the young man said with a smile, pleased beyond words to finally meet the noble Chosen One. Although after listening to Willow's description of the Slayer, he sort of expected her to be taller.

Finally tearing her eyes away from the sleeping form of her best friend, a part of her was convinced she might disappear at any moment. "Yes, and you are?" she questioned cautiously wondering where Giles was. 'He's not a vamp,' she noted, her inner Slayer sense not giving off any of the usual signals for a vamp, although she was picking up a faint blue aura around him.

"I am Yoshiro, I believe you know my..." he was cut off by a low moan from the sofa. "She does this often," Yoshiro added with a tired sigh, reaching down to Willow's shoulder. "Willow...wake up, we got company." He said in a soft voice, giving her shoulder a gentle shake, silently hoping that this wasn't going to be the day she accidentally unleashed a fire ball when startled out of a sound sleep. He was pretty sure that that would not endear them very well to Mister Giles.

"Go way...don't want to talk..." came the muffled reply as Willow pulled the blanket over her head and snuggled deeper into the couch. This had been the first time in months she had been able to fall asleep on something other then a hard floor and she meant to enjoy it as long as she could.

Exchanging an amused look with Buffy and Amy, he leaned over the back of the sofa and in a loud voice ribbeted right where Willow's head was. The response was immediate as the blanket was thrown back and a small compact figure rolled off the sofa and into the floor. "You bastard," Willow growled ready to pounce on him.

"Ah, Willow..." Yoshiro said with a laugh pointing to her left.

Turning in the indicated direction, Willow immediately froze before she turned her face to the side and lowered it a bit. 'This was a bad idea, I shouldn't be here.' She said to herself closing her eyes briefly, adding a few curses toward Yoshiro and his somewhat warped sense of humour.

Buffy forced herself to remain calm as she slowly reached out to gently raise and turn Willow's face back toward her. "Ah, Wills?" she breathed, a tightness forming in her chest at what greeted her. Instead of seeing the familiar green eyes she had been so desperate to see moments ago, she found herself staring into a pair of miss-matched eyes. One its rightful colour, clear and focused, the other a sickly milky white. Firmly pushing down her outrage at whomever...whatever did this to her best friend she focused herself solely on Willow. 'Make sure Wills is fine then go and track down whatever is responsible for this and kill it slow and painfully.' She decided her own eyes hardening with resolve.

'Great, just great...now Buffy is going to go off on a killing spree.' Willow said to herself knowing the look in the Slayer's eyes well. 'Four years and she still hasn't learned to control her temper.' "I'm fine Buffy." Willow said with a gentle smile, trying to reassure the other woman.

"Fine? Fine!" Buffy repeated in disbelief. "You are as far from fine as you can get and not be dead." The Slayer replied, trying to regain her composer giving the other two an imploring look that said 'help me out here.'

"Don't look at me...she never listens to anything I say." Yoshiro said holding his hands up in surrender.

"You hush...I'm mad at you." Willow ordered with a growl only to have him stick his tongue out in reply, not at all bothered by the threat clear in her voice. "I'd say 'bite me', but you'd do it just to see what Buffy would do." She noted dryly with a smug look forming on her face. 'This should be interesting; Yoshiro and Xander in the same town.'

"What exactly is it about you and biting?" Yoshiro asked arching an eyebrow in question. "And don't think you're getting out of having to calm down your friend." He added with a smug grin of his own. "She's about to spit nails." He noted dryly, successfully returning Willow's attention to the blonde Slayer who had a growing look of irritation on her face.

Buffy didn't know who this Yoshiro guy was and why he seemed so friendly with 'her' best friend, but she was going to find out. Telling herself the entire time that she was not jealous, she just wanted answers nothing more.

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