Understanding the world
Willow believed in things that weren’t there. The things that went bump in the night. Hell she’d dated one. That thought made her shiver. How could she do this? She wasn’t like Oz had been. Wasn’t strong. She didn’t want to turn into a monster for three days a month. But she was going to. Wasn’t she? She had heard Angel on the phone in the other room with someone. Probably Jean-Claude. He had sounded as if he wasn’t sure she was going to be a werewolf. A shape-shifter. A lycanthrope. It had a name, this…disease in her blood. Lycanthropy. Willow bit back a hysterical laugh that threatened to turn into crying. She could feel herself crumbling. Angel had given her the odds.
Wolf Lycanthropy was the most contagious, her chances of not turning into a…monster were slim to none. Percentages said she had less than a 10% chance. It was all too fast too soon. Willow crushed her palms into her eyes trying to deal with everything. She almost didn’t feel the plane land she was so immersed in her thoughts but when people around her began getting up and heading towards the head of the airplane she stood up took her only bag, a carry on and started towards the exit.
It could have been a scene from two years ago when she had returned from England. Except that she wasn’t invisible, this wasn’t Sunnydale, and the gang was nowhere nearby. She wasn’t sure who was picking her up so she just headed towards the crowds and sat down at a nearby bench. It was only a minute or two later when a man not much older than her with shoulder length hair a lovely dark brown flanked by a woman who had a predatory look in her eyes and a man in a business suit.
“You would be Willow?” She looked warily at the man who had spoken. The one with the shoulder length hair. She answered hesitantly.
“I am Willow….are you Richard then?” He smiled.
“Yeah, I’m Richard.” He gestured behind him to the people flanking him. “This is Sylvie and Shang-Da. Do you have any other bags?”
“No….Angel said he could send the rest of my stuff over in a few days.”
“Come on then.” Willow followed the three wolves silently. Still pondering the changes in her life. It wasn’t until they were in the car and Sylvie and Shang-Da were up front that Richard began to talk.
“Willow. Do you know much about Lycanthropy or were-wolves?”
“Well, in high school and part of college I dated one. I know that were-wolves are real. That they are monsters, we had to lock him up three days out of the month so that he didn’t maul anybody.” Willow hadn’t been prepared for the horrified look on Richard’s face.
“Why did you lock him up?”
“H-he was like a demon or something, I mean. Giles said it might have been the hellmouth b-“
“You lived on the hellmouth?”
“Yeah. My whole life. Well until we closed it two years ago. Since then I’ve lived with Angel in L.A.”
“Willow. The hellmouth…it distorts things. Especially those with Lycanthropy. It drives our beasts mad. Makes them like demons, what was happening to your boyfriend isn’t what usually happens.”
“Okay…then what does?”
“Well, when we get back to town you’ll be bunking with me. You need a mentor and I’m going to be him. I’ll teach you about the Lukoi. This pack. I know it’s a bit much for you tonight, but starting tomorrow you’ll be learning a lot…”
:: The Next Day::
Willow awoke fairly early; a look at the digital clock nearby told her it was almost 10:00. It was Friday morning and Richard was probably already up. He had explained that he was a schoolteacher most of the time but school had gotten out a little less than a week ago. She pulled herself out of bed walked into the kitchen and plopped herself down into a kitchen chair. Right across the table was Richard he looked almmost as if he was waiting for her to wake up.
“Glad to see you’re up.”
“I’m an early riser….have any coffee?” At his shake of head Willow's jaw dropped.
"You don't drink coffee?"
"No, I don't." Willow hit her head with her face let out a huge yawn and dropped inot a chair. "Then I guess I'll have to wake up the long way huh?"
"Theres orange juice in the fridge if you want something else to drink..."
“Not gonna help,I like the caffeine rush. Thanks anyway though. So when do we start my lessons into werewolf lore?”
“Now, I suppose. Okay. The werewolves have a system of government so to speak. The head of that…………..”
Several hours later Willow sat on the kitchen chair quietly taking in all of the information that Richard, her Ulfric, her king had divulged to her. It was more than just a little confusing but she was dealing. Richard was in the other room at the moment, she had asked for a few minutes alone and her had agreed.
“Will I go with you to the lupanar or will I go with somebody else?”
“You’ll go with me this time, after we finish your mentoring we’ll find you an apartment.”
“So, how to control my inner puppy…that’ll be after the lupanar right?”
“Yes.” He was leaning the doorway speaking to her; his sorrow was almost tangible. He had expressed his regret at Willow’s infection, he had told her they probably wouldn’t know for another day or two if she was well and truly infected. Willow knew she was. It could have just been paranoia but she could almost fell something within her stirring. Awakening.
“Okay, so when will I greet you? Before the lupanar? Or after everybody is there? And…Goddess this is so confusing!!” Richard was looking at her concernedly and then a thought came to Willow unbidden. Her magic! That dark magic which lingered inside of her, it was not a good thing for her to truly loose control. But that was exactly what she was going to do in just a few nights time.
“You’ll greet me before the lupanar. Willow….willow?”
“We may have a problem..”
“Well remember how I told you I lived on the hellmouth…well I’m also sort of a practicing witch. And a few years back I got into some bad stuff…some dark stuff. It’s not really a good idea for me to loose control….”
“Well you aren’t truly loosing control. It’s like shifting it. Your beast is a part of you now. For a few hours you will relinquish power to it. But it isn’t loosing control.”
“Are you sure?”
Richard looked at the tiny girl sitting at his kitchen table looking down at her hands. She seemed so small, so fragile and yet. He could see her backbone, her strength. The fibre of her personality was strong. She could do this. And she was frightened, anybody in their right mind would have been. He tried to comfort her as best he could.
“I know that you are scared right now…but Willow. Look at you, you’re going on. Surviving. Don’t let this stop you. Try to live on through your beast…you have to let it become part of you. You can’t live a life separate from it. It isn’t possible. For almost as long as I have been a wolf, I’ve despised my very nature. But you can give it a good start…you can try to live with it…” he trailed off. Willow was looking at her hands clenching and unclenching them systematically. He smelled the blood before he saw it, but she had dug her fingernails into her palms so deeply that they were bleeding freely.
He grabbed two dishcloths and tied them around her hands. Her voice was haunted when she spoke again.
“I can smell the blood. It’s really going to happen isn’t it?”
“Yes. It is…” She closed her eyes and Richard realised something. She had been hoping against hope. Trying to believe that she might get lucky and that it wouldn’t happen. That she would stand in the lupanar under the full moon and nothing would happen. It was a happy illusion but one that had just been shattered.
:: Two days later::
Willow awoke once again to the morning sun and pulled herself out of bed, headed towards the kitchen. Richard was up and she greeted him as she had been told first a rub of cheeks and then a sniff behind his ear. It was eerie but she could already tell it was Richard with a scent. She walked over to the coffee machine poured herself a coffee and then sat down.
“So what am I to learn today o great master?”
“Today you are going to meet Anita.” Willow didn’t show any outward signs of nervousness but her heart rate speeded up and Richard looked up.
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine. She won’t kill you right off the bat.” Willow’s eyes which had been normal size got big as saucers and she visibly paled.
“Anita will be here in a few hours. I called her house and Cherry told me that She’ll be here around noon. Which is in a little more than an hour.” Willow nodded in agreement her expression shell-shocked. She finished her coffee and then headed upstairs to take a shower.
When she emerged again A short dark haired woman was in the kitchen arguing with Richard. She only caught snippets of information but it was enough.
“…don’t even know her!”
“she’s…scared…know what I’m doing”
Willow tried to hurry back upstairs not wanting to burst in on the two of them when a voice called out from the kitchen.
“I know you’re on the stairs Willow, come on!” The red head sighed and hesitantly entered the kitchen. Richard was leaning up against the stove definitely not looking at the dark haired woman-Anita Willow presumed- who was glaring at him from across the room. As neither of them took any heed to her presence Willow coughed. Nita spun around and gave her an appraising glance. Willow looked right back at her eye to eye. She might have been slightly intimidated by the woman but she was not going to give her the pleasure of seeing her squirm. Willow saw something in her eyes, or rather a lack of something. It was the coldness, the deadness a person’s eyes gained when they killed. When they killed another human, without regret or remorse. Willow had that look from killing Warren and Rack, Anita had it in spades. Willow wondered who it was that she had killed, and then decided she didn’t want to know.
“You lived on the hell mouth before so I’ll give you a warning. I don’t trust you, you hurt Richard. I’ll kill you. I’m sure that he’s informed you of my position within the pack. I’m executioner a-“ It was Richard who intervened.
“Anita. She’s scare enough without you scaring the shit out of her.”
“She doesn’t look scared”
“I can tell.” Anita threw Richard a look and then turned back to Willow.
“Fine. Don’t screw up, I don’t want to have to kill you.” With that Anita took her leave and Willow collapsed into a nearby chair. She probably couldn’t have stood much longer if she had tried. She had faced down demons and oogidie-boogiedies for almost a decade, faced down a psychotic vampire hell bent on torturing her to get to her best friend, a hell goddess and the first evil itself but damned if they all didn’t just pale in comparison to Anita Blake. That woman was just scary…