Wind whipped past Willow's face as she ran through the forrest. Trees and tall shrubs dotted the landscape around her. She knew she was running faster than she ever had before, but every detail around her stood out. Every leaf, every tree branch. She had no idea how far she'd gone, but that didn't stop her. The glow from the fire was long gone in the distance. The terrain around her was slopping downwards. 'I must be coming down a mountainside,' she thought. As her legs carried her on, her mind was in a turmoil. So many emotions were warring within her. Guilt, rage, fear, giddy relief, disgust. They weighed her down, but she knew she had to keep going. Willow knew instinctively to put as much distance between herself and those vampires as possible.
The mountains downward slope began to level out to grassy fields. In the distance she could see moonlight reflect off of water. To her left, about 5-10 miles away, she could see city lights. She didn't want a repeat of before, so she veered away from the signs of humans. Instead she headed towards the water. Not wanting to put herself in temptations way, she picked up her pace.
Only a few minutes had passed when she reached the waters edge. Willow stopped to get her bearings, and think over her options. 'Oh goddess. I wish I knew where I am. It doesn't get this cold in California, not that I'm actually cold though.' Thinking back to before the pain, Willow tried to remember what led up to her capture. The memories were dim, she had to struggle to make them clear. She remembered Sunnydale.
Giles hadn't even wanted to come back with her. He'd given a lame excuse, claiming the need to settle arrangements for his belongings and such. When she had offered to wait, he simply said no, to go on without him. How when she'd gotten off the plane from London no one had been there to greet her, or bring her home. After gathering her bags she'd gone to the empty bathroom, quieted her mind, and trans-located herself to her old bedroom at her parents empty house. Willow didn't bother unpacking, just put her bags on the dusty bed. She'd summoned her courage and went in search of the Scooby gang. She went over to Buffy's house first.
Dawn had been the one to answer her polite knock. The young girl simply looked at her with disgust and slammed the door in her face. A few minutes later, the door opened again to reveal Buffy's pinched frowning face.
"What are you doing here Willow?" the blond woman said in anger.
"Buffy..." she began hesitantly. "I'm so sorry."
"Did you think that I'd forgive you? That Dawn would forgive you? Are you nuts?" Buffy said angrily. "You tried to kill us! We don't want you here anymore, Willow. I think you should leave."
"Now." Buffy then stepped back into the house, and before shutting the door added," Don't bother with Xander. He feels the same as we do. We moved all your stuff to your parents basement. Don't come around again. I'll be keeping an eye on you, so don't get any ideas." Then she slammed the door in Willow's face.
The redhead hung her head in shame and defeat remembering the Slayers harsh words. She had gone back to her parents house sobbing quietly. She'd waited for the sun to set and went in search of Spike. His crypt had been empty, with a layer of dust over everything. Willow left the abandoned place behind her and made her way to the cemetery that Giles had told her Tara was buried. She found the simple tombstone and sat down in front of it.
"Oh baby, I've made a terrible mess of things." sobbed Willow. She traced Tara's engraved name with light touches. "I want you here so badly, baby. I know you can't come back though. I just wish I could be happy again. That I could be somewhere that nobody knows me. Somewhere that would accept all of me no matter what."
Willow was so focused on her dead girlfriends tombstone, that she didn't notice the rift opening behind her. She leaned forward to kiss Tara's gravestone whispering, "I love you Tara. I always will." She got to her feet and turned to walk home. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she never saw to the gently swirling portal in front of her. Willow walked straight into softly glowing blue rift in space, and fell with a startled gasp.
After a few moments of dizzying motion she stepped into a forrest. Willow had stumbled a few steps forward, and tripped over a fallen branch. She fell, hitting her head hard on a large rock, knocking her unconscious. She'd heard startled voices before she blacked out. Willow had woken briefly to see the three vampires standing above her discussing whether to eat her or not. Granted she didn't know they were vampires at the time. The next memory was when she had woken to searing pain consuming her body.
Willow didn't want to think about the rest. It was too fresh in her mind. Pushing those thoughts away, Willow looked across the darkened water in front of her. She could just make out a dark landmass far away, due to her enhanced eyesight. Thinking about the trio she had left behind made her shudder. Making her mind up quickly, she gave one last glance back to where she had come from. Then, intent on the other side, she walk into the water in front of her.
She swam with sure strokes. Her new body easily cutting threw the waves that lapped at her. About half the way across Willow realized the waters temperature was having no effect on her. She stopped swimming, and just treaded water. She quickly listed in her mind, the noticeable changes to her body. Her heart no longer beat in her chest. Her lungs didn't crave oxygen. She did note temperature changes, they just had no effect. A deep thrum of strength echoed in her bones. Her five senses were all heightened. Willow wondered what other changes had occurred. She didn't feel fangs in her mouth, but all her teeth were a bit sharper.
Shaking her head in wonder, Willow started to make her way to the approaching shore. About ten more minutes saw her stepping out of the water. She studied the shoreline noting plant life changes to the land. The earth rose up in gentle slopes ahead of her, rising to more mountains further in. The predominant plants were more trees and tall ferns. Sitka spruces and red cedars dominated the region. The natural science classes she took at UCS had taught her that these trees were mainly on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
'At least I know where I am.,' she thought ruefully. Her moment of humor faded as her mind flashed back upon the man's life she had taken earlier that night. To her utter disgust the memory of his blood made her hunger burn. She dropped to her knees in pain. 'No! No I wont kill someone else. But what am I going to do? Can I die? Surely... Wait! The sun!' Relief coursed through her as she contemplated her idea. ' I'll find a higher ground, and sit out to meet the dawn. I can't hurt someone if I'm ashes.'
Willow smoothly rose from her kneeling position and gazed up at the sky. Deep blue studded with a million twinkling stars. To her left, she noted a slightly paler blue kissing the horizon. Marking east in her mind, she turned to the south picking out taller peaks in the distance. Estimating the dawns arrival, Willow figured she had an hour or so to reach her goal. With her face set in resolve, she began making her way through the late summer foliage. She picked up her pace, her legs eating up the distance. As she reached a small peak, the view showed the distant lights of a town to the east. Willow readjusted her path to the south a bit to avoid any human contact. She picked a distant peak that hovered just above its neighbors to be her final resting ground.
Wilow set out at a dead run. She raced along, her feet barely touching the ground.
A half hour later Willow reached her destination. She sat on a rocky outcropping clear of any trees to block the sun. The sky had lightened considerably during her journey. 'Ten more minutes.' she thought, watching the eastern horizon. Her thoughts drifted to the people she had left behind in Sunnydale. 'Buffy at least wont have to worry anymore. And I know Giles will be relieved. I won't have to see his disappointed face anymore. Did he send me here? Why Washington? If he didn't want me around, then why send me home at all?' Anger started to simmer in her mind. 'Did he do this to me?'
She let those thoughts go as her salvation started to crest the horizon. Gleaming rays of warmth bathed the earth below, slowly making its way to her perch. Willow closed her eyes as the first rays touched her cold flesh. She expected to feel pain, to feel her damned flesh begin to burn. Her eyes popped wide as she felt nothing happen. Willow looked down at herself. There was no smoldering skin, no combustion. What she did see made her eyes open all the wider.
She glistened in the sun. Diamond sparkles shone from everywhere that her skin was exposed. Willow held her hand out in front of her. She had a pearly luminescent shine on her flesh. She was dazzled by what she saw. 'I sparkle?' she thought in disbelief. "Why aren't I burning to dust?!" she screamed. Her voice, despite being raised in anger, sound like soft tinkling music to her ears.
Willow jumped down from her perch, intent on a large branch laying on the ground below her. She gripped the makeshift stake firmly in her hand, and plunged it into her chest, right over her still heart. Or, at least that's what she tried to do. The wood shattered as it came in contact with her skin, the force behind her stabbing motion obliterated it completely. She snarled in disgust and defeat as her thoughts raced in circles. 'Sunlight obviously doesn't work! Staking didn't work. What's left?'
She grabbed her hair in panic, searching her mind for an answer. The wind picked up pieces of her hair and blew the silky strands into her face. The color was startling. She grabbed a piece and brought it in front of her eyes. It was a deep gleaming ruby, shining in the faint sunlight filtering down through the gathering clouds above. Dropping her hair she brushed the remains of the branch off her shirt, as she made her way slowly down the mountain. An early morning fog hugged the ground as Willow worked her way southeast. She tried to calm down by taking deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth.
The scent of earth and stone filled her senses, helping to calm her. Willow closed her eyes sending her awareness out further and further. A ways below her, a musky scent drew her attention. A deep snuffling noise piqued her curiosity. Cautiously she made her way towards the rustling she heard. As she came around a few giant trees she saw the source of the noise and musky smell. A bear. A rather big grizzly bear. She let out a gasp as she saw the huge creature. The noise alerted the bear that he was not alone, and looked at her.
With a snarling roar he lumbered to his feet and advanced on her. Willow felt a thrill of fear, but didn't move away from the creature moving towards her. It swiped out at her with a viciously powerful clawed hand. Willow held herself still, waiting for the crushing blow. The bears wicked claws descended swiftly connecting with her neck. With a screeching noise, the bears claws glanced of her skin. She touched her neck in surprise, feeling the undamaged hard flesh. Rage bubbled up in her chest, as another plan to end her life was cut short.
With another snarl the bear leaned in to swipe at her again. Willow reacted on instinct, reaching past the huge animals arms and grabbed it be the throat. To her amazement she held the grizzly at bay effortlessly. 'Wow,' she thought, ' I'm definitely stronger. Wait, Angel and Spike drank animal blood. Why can't I?' the thought made relief course through her veins. She looked at the bear in her grasp and whispered a soft apology before bringing it closer to her. Quick as a snake, she bit into soft fur covering its neck. She felt the heat of blood just under its flesh. Her teeth sliced through fur and fat to the rich blood just under its skin.
Warm, slightly musky blood filled her mouth. It didn't taste like the man from before, but it wasn't bad either. The poor animals struggles did nothing to help it. Claws raked at her back trying to dislodge her from its throat.
Apparently her skin was hard as stone, because she felt no pain from the thrashing claws. Willow kept drinking the rich nourishment that pumped into her mouth. All too soon the bear ceased struggling as she drained it dry. She let the lifeless corpse drop at her feet. "Thank you." she whispered to it, grateful to find an answer to her problems.
Willow looked down at her clothing, trying to see the damage done to it. Her shirt hung in tatters down her back. Long claw marks showing where the bear had tried to grip her. Sighing at the damage to her rust colored peasant blouse, Willow brushed dirt and leaves from her light blue jeans. 'At least they're not shredded too.'
"Ok feet. Lets keep moving," she said trying to decide which way to go.