Willow glared at the vast expanse of forrest around her. She had gone to England to gain control over her magic, a little rampaging loss of control with a helping of dark-power addiction thrown in. It was her suspicion that the only reason that Buffy hadn't killed her for it was the fact that her 'little problem' had been the result of her grief at the death of her lover stagnating into a terrible feeling of emptiness, pain and abandonment, as if she had nothing of any value left in this world. Perhaps if her 'friends' had any time to help her heal, it wouldn't have happened. That and the minor question of what to do with the body if they'd killed her.
So, they'd sent her away to England to heal. Giles had left her in the hands of a group of witches, a group of women ranging from her mother's age to what she could only classify as ancient. They'd been telling her a lot about how she'd been going about her magic all wrong. Not enough herbs and potions, or incantations, and for some reason, they'd just about had a collective fit that she wasn't using a wand.
Their solution had been to start her magical education over, from the very basics that nobody had mentioned, and start working their way up. Right now, she was in the forrest, on a mission to find 'Featherwort'. She was having a bit of trouble, and wasn't quite sure where to even start.
She made her way towards a stream gurgling in the distance, thinking that she remembered something about the plant loving moisture and sunlight, or had that been some other feather plant? At any rate, following the noise of the stream was at least a direction. She made her way deeper into the woods, feeling some of her tension melt away, soothed by the near hypnotic shifting of light to shadow to light caused by the interlacing tree branches. The air was filled with the scents of green growing things and tree sap, and the songs of birds. Soothing, peaceful noises in a soothing, unthreatening place all caused Willow to gradually relax.
Even better, she spotted a few of the herbs that she could recognize near the stream, and began a careful harvest. She got so caught up in her efforts that she didn't notice as it went from late morning to afternoon.
"Are you supposed to be Little Red Riding Hood?" A man's voice in an amused baritone pulled her from her fog of motion.
"Oh!" She looked up, her eyes spotting the man. He wasn't very far away, and he'd apparently moved quietly enough that she hadn't been alerted by any small noises. He was a bit taller than she was, with brown hair touched by grey at the corners. His eyes were haunted by pain and secrets, and held a hint of wildness. She didn't think he was exactly normal.
Something seemed almost familiar about that wildness. She had a guess, not quite a theory, but enough to try to watch his reaction to her words. "If I'm Little Red Riding Hood, does that make you the Big Bad Wolf?"
He flinched as if she'd struck him. "Do I look like the big bad wolf? What are you doing here anyhow, Red?"
Willow nodded to herself, feeling almost pleased to have identified the man as a werewolf. It meant that she was still decent at spotting people that were other. He was sort of appealing in a weathered and unsettled sort of way. "More like a werewolf actually. Do you have any idea where I could find some Featherwort? I've been trying to remember and failing."
He blinked at her,looking as if she'd just entirely startled him. "Featherwort? You aren't... You seem to be taking this very calmly."
"Only on the outside. I could tell by your eyes... I used to date a werewolf." She paused for a moment, remembering Oz and all of the emotional baggage that he'd left her. "The calm is only outside. On the inside, I'm trying to tell myself that the fact that he ended up being a jerk isn't your fault. And that hexing you wouldn't do a thing to him or the pain he left me with."
The strange man looked almost worried. "What did he do? End up furry?"
Willow gave a small, sharp laugh with no humor. "No, first he got all fixated on this singer, then he got all naked and had sex with her, not once but on TWO nights, and then he changed, killed her and almost killed me, followed by leaving town with no forwarding address. He broke my heart."
"Ahhh... Would it help if I said that most of that wouldn't have been from being a wolf? That maybe... ah, I know you don't know me, but maybe you should consider letting go? And there's a clump of featherwort at the base of the oak tree to your right." He nodded, almost as if he'd relaxed a fraction.
She made her way to the oak tree, recognizing the Featherwort when she saw it. "Hey, thanks... umm, you didn't tell me your name."
But he was gone, only some swaying grass marking the fact that he'd been there.
Shaking her head at the thought of brooding men with tormented pasts, she gathered her Featherwort, headed back to the ladies in a good mood. She was even humming something, some fragment of a song that had gotten itself stuck in her head.
"Willow, what took you so long in the woods? You didn't have any problems, did you?" Mellie, one of the witches, spoke, her voice filled with the sort of concern that Willow could only label motherly.
She smiled, looking over at her teacher. "No trouble, just an unexpected conversation."
"Anyone in particular?"
Willow grinned mischievously. "Yes, I had a brief chat with the not-so-bad wolf. Interesting forrest you ladies have here."
end not-so-bad wolf.