Note- The main pairing is W/Angel/Jacob. =) I was looking at the initials before posting this and it wasn't really clear.
As always LMK what y'all think.
Two months after the collapse of Sunnydale, half of the Sunnydale crew were still in LA with Angel and his crew. The Hyperion was still standing, if a bit crowded. They'd all arrived within a couple days of evacuating in desperate need of shelter and rest. Help was gladly given, despite the rather strained past between the two groups. A month into the stay, Giles had made arrangements to go to England to sort out the mess with what remained of the council. Buffy and Dawn had jumped at the chance to leave and had gone with him. After a good deal of discussion, Giles had convinced Wesley to come along to help with the sorting. Apparently when the council mother-house exploded, it took along all but a few of the main bosses. There was a bunch of legal matters that had to be taken care of, but Giles was slowly but surely wading through it with Wesley's help.
Willow, Xander, Faith, and Andrew were staying with Angel along with the young junior slayers that had made it out of Sunnydale. There were more out there, Willow could feel them- thousands of them all around the world. If she closed her eyes and concentrated on just one of them, she could know their name, where they lived, if their parents were kind, indifferent, or bad. She could tell if they had a boyfriend, what their best friend looked like. It was humbling and rather disturbing.
She knew the rest of them were worried about her. It was painfully obvious in the exchanged glances when they thought she wasn't looking, the quiet almost gentle way they talked to her. Like she was about to shatter into a million pieces if they were to talk too loud. She sat outside in the little garden area in the courtyard behind the hotel most of her waking hours. It was overgrown and full of weeds, but it was the only place she could find that wasn't covered in concrete or filled with people.
Willow sat on the ground, bare feet nearly buried in the sun-warmed earth. If she knew she was completely alone, she would have shed her clothes to get the most contact with the earth. It was the only place she didn't feel like her skin was going to walk off her flesh. She could still hear everyone in the background, like an annoying bee that insisted on buzzing too close to your head. But it was easier to ignore out here.
Her green eyes stared unblinkingly at the rose bush in front of her. When she'd first started at dawn, the poor flowering plant was withered and barely hanging on. Now it was tall and filled out, the once brown stalks thick and green, thorns sharp and protective. The flowers were huge, easily the size of a man's hand, and the yellow petals so vibrant they nearly hurt the eyes to look at them.
Her concentration was reluctantly broken when someone else entered the garden, hesitating as they looked around trying to find her in the middle of the thick foliage. She sighed and turned to look at Angel, who had been waiting for the sun to set before coming to find her. She'd been there all day without moving, and it had worried him. It had worried him even more that the others had left her to it. To be fair, Xander had tried to pry her away and had been ignored. He'd left, then been promptly distracted by a couple of junior slayers and their teenage drama. Faith had simply not been there to force her to come inside.
The dark haired slayer had assigned herself as Willow's guardian, her personal keeper. No one else could bully the withdrawn witch quite like she could. Even Xander couldn't get the desired results- such as forcibly carrying the stubborn redhead inside to eat at meal times. Simply setting food down in front of her didn't work because she didn't seem to feel hunger anymore. She wasn't thirsty either. It was like she was shutting down, her body felt like it didn't need the normal nourishment- even though it obviously did.
Angel stood over her, watching with troubled eyes as she forcibly drug her eyes away from the roses in front of her. He was like a statue of living stone, his concern washing over her like a balm. She looked up at him and tried not to show impatience.
"You should come inside and eat something, Willow," he spoke quietly, like everyone else did around her. Gently. "You've been out here all day. You must be hungry."
She shook her head. "Not hungry, Angel," she replied, her tone matching his. "Not hungry at all. I should be. But I'm not. I don't like it in there, surrounded by stone and people. Out here I'm alone."
He sat down next to her, gracefully sitting in the dirt with her, folding long legs under him as he mirrored her posture. "Not so much alone, but comfortable."
She nodded, not surprised that he understood. "The earth sings to me. She gives me the nourishment I need. I have too much inside- so much it hurts." She pressed a fist to her chest as she tried to find the right words to explain.
"You're wasting away, Will. Since you've been here, you've lost a good fifteen pounds. Weight you didn't really have to spare in the first place."
He looked at her, taking in the sunken cheeks and dark circles under her eyes. She looked terrible, worse than she had after Buffy died the last time. Worse than after her rampage after Tara's death. "I'm- We're really worried about you."
Willow looked down at her hands, noting idly that they were streaked with dirt from where she'd been clutching handfuls of it through the day. The fingers were thin and bony. "I know you're worried," she answered quietly. "But I can't help it. My goddess- I don't expect anyone to understand. The power I borrowed from the deities isn't going away. It's not getting absorbed back into the earth like it should. It's inside me, filling me to the brim without any easing. I can feel everything- close my eyes and see everything."
"I don't even have to concentrate to feel your soul any more," her voice lowered a little more, almost a whisper, "We have a connection, you must have noticed it somewhere along the way."
"Aye, Little One," Angel answered quietly, the endearment slipping out. "I just didn't think you would have noticed it."
She smiled, a slight ghost of a smile that barely touched her lips, "I notice more than people give me credit for. They seem to forget that once upon a time my brain was the only thing I had going for me."
"You had more than that-," Angel protested, but Willow cut him off.
"No I didn't, and you know it," she stated shortly, giving him a look with lowered eyebrows. "I was a genius, and the only thing that saved me from being a complete loner was Xander and Jesse. You know I'm three years younger than Xander and Buffy, right? I started first grade at five, lasted two weeks until I tested out to second. I met Xander and refused to go any farther. Then I became a bigger freak when Buffy came to town. But at least I wasn't alone. Then I became a witch and I was a freak even in our little circle."
"Willow, I don't think you should stay here in the city," Angel said after a moment. He was almost hesitant, as if she were going to argue. "I know of a place where you can be surrounded by nature. Less distractions. Maybe we can work through this, find a way to give some of this power back to the earth."
He smiled and reached for her hand. There was no hesitation in his touch, or his eyes. The coldness of it against her feverish skin felt wonderful and she barely resisted the urge to hold it up to her face. "I'm not letting you go without me. Buffy and the others have this under control. Gunn, Cordy and Fred will keep the business going while I'm gone. They'll keep an eye on the slayers and Andrew as well. I'm sure Xander won't let you go anywhere without him, and Faith-"
"Faith's not letting y'all bust outta here without taking her with ya," Faith chimed in dryly and Willow smiled at her one time enemy. The tall slayer sauntered over and dropped to the ground next to Angel and Willow, a crooked grin on her lips at the thought of getting out of the crowded hotel. "All these youngins are giving me headaches. Where we going, by the way?"
Willow looked back at the vampire still holding her hand. "A little town in Washington state. Rains alot, but it's surrounded by trees and the ocean is nearby."
"No concrete?" Willow looked so hopeful it made Angel chuckle.
"I'm sure there's concrete, Will, but not like the city. I know some people there. People who know about our... unusual... lifestyles."
"More freaks?" Willow asked, with another little smile, giving in to temptation and putting his icy hand against her face with a sigh. She was so warm, her skin borderline burning him.
"Vampires. I'll explain it after we get inside. Will, you need to eat." Angel opened his hand against her face, frowning at how sunken in her cheeks were. He exchanged a telling look with Faith. He hoped he was doing the right thing. They needed to get her help. He could work on getting Willow's magic back under control, and Carlisle could help with saving her life.