Buffy, hearing a long, eerie howl jumped to her feet, almost choking on a mouthful of the delicious if unfortunately named, Bottom Pie. "Did you hear that?"
Another howl went up as soon as the first ended and Buffy waved a hand at the window, making it clear what she was talking about. "It's a full moon, what are the odds that that noise isn't being made by a peaceful member of the woodland community, but its big, bad brother?"
The Pixies watched her warily from all corners of the room.
"It sounds like a werewolf," Buffy stressed when no one seemed ready to answer her. "You have heard of werewolves, right?"
"Of course I have heard of werewolves Giglet, we are not ignorant," Beryan answered her pompously. "But you are safe in your home; there is no reason to panic."
"Obviously you've never read a little book called 'The Three Little Pigs'" Xander said, pushing the empty baking tin away and standing up next to Buffy.
Willow was already up and at the window, looking out over the moonlit grounds of Sunset camp.
Beryan gave Xander a withering look, "The pigs were safe in the brick house. I was reading that tale to my bearn before you were a twinkle in your pappy's eye, Biggie."
Xander gave her a tight smile without replying.
"Will, do you see anything?" Buffy asked, aware that every move she made was watched a little too closely by twenty or more Pixies. She was pretty sure moving too fast would result in her becoming a human buckaroo again.
"Nope, not a thing," Willow didn't turn away from the window as she spoke, still trying to make anything out that might be a werewolf. "But that howl sounded a way off anyway, I think. It's a still night; sound would carry a long way."
"But from what I can remember, Werewolves cover distance pretty fast." Buffy worriedly turned to Beryan again. "You said you were removing the Watcher trainees, where to?"
Beryan ignored Buffy in favor of speaking with one of her lieutenants. Her accent was heavy, her words fast and it was hard to tell if she was speaking English or her native language. When she'd finished, the lieutenant and two other Pixies jumped from the bed and disappeared out of the nearest window. Beryan turned calmly to Buffy.
"Are they at least somewhere safe?" Buffy tried. "Somewhere inside?"
"The werewolf will have no chance to do them harm." Beryan sounded like she was telling the truth but her words sounded like a threat all of their own.
"There's something else," Willow, who was still over by the window, said.
"What?" Buffy asked tiredly.
"I didn't recognize it. The howl, I mean." "So it's probably not Oz," said Xander, joining the conversation again, "but aside from your love life not getting more complicated, I don't see what difference that makes."
"Probably not a lot, but I'm just wondering how many big, bad wolves live in the woods around here," Willow said.
"I don't know," Buffy said, glaring at Beryan. "I just hope they don't make more while we're stuck in here."
"S'okay Buff, I'm sure if a werewolf gets a chance to bite someone tonight, without a Slayer to slow it down we won't have to worry about them waking up in the morning." Xander joined her in her glaring.
Beryan stared back at them both, unperturbed.
Giles felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck as the howl went up from the woods surrounding Sunset Camp.
His first thought was for the young Watcher trainees. They were not yet used to being in the field and even Reece, who certainly had the instincts necessary for a capable watcher, had yet to face his first encounter with a mindlessly ferocious beast such as a Werewolf.
Hopefully, then, Reece would have the good sense to go with those instincts and would keep all of the trainees inside the dormitories.
His second concern was for himself. He was outside, trussed up like Sunday lunch and with no way to help himself should a werewolf suddenly attack. It was unlikely he could rely on the Pixies to save him should this happen, resourceful they might be, but they would have to be bloody stupid to stand their ground against a two hundred pound wolf.
They must have been thinking something similar because before the howl died away completely they were running with him.
The wind whistled past his ears along with strands of grass as a second howl filled the clear night. For a few seconds his right side dipped a dramatic five inches and the sleeve of Giles' shirt became soaked with dew. He was hoisted back up and one of the creatures actually apologized to him for the slip in a thick Cornish accent.
The night was silent again when less than a minute later his captors ran beneath the trees towards the back of the camp and Giles could no longer see the full moon above him. In fact he couldn't see much of anything. Silver light shone through the trees in places where the leaves were thinning, but they merely made the shadows look all the darker for it. Anything could be hiding in those dark shadows…
Another howl went up and Giles shuddered in the Pixies hold. The Pixies were muttering to each other as they seemed to run willy-nilly through the trees with him held above their heads. They seemed to be having a disagreement between themselves and although he couldn't make out more than the occasional word they were saying, he really hoped that someone was suggesting going back home until the werewolves were gone.
As the Pixies argued about the best route to take through the trees, they pulled Giles first one way and then another while still running in a zigzagging fashion through the woods. It seemed almost inevitable that sooner or later his head would bounce off a tree stump. He hadn't expected it to hurt quite so much though and they hadn't expected it to knock him unconscious.
He hung limp now, still supported above their heads on their strong little arms, his head hanging down so that it dragged on the wet grass. After some shouting, all the Piskies stopped as they decided what to do, looking around in fear as another howl sounded through the woods, closer than before.
"Wee gut to tak heem all tha way," Timsaw insisted to his brethren.
"But tha wolf is abroad, Timmy," said one. "Thas hubba bad out here."
"Wee're closer to tha circle than wee ar to tha dwelling," Timsaw pointed out, resting Giles arm on his shoulder for a second so he could run a finger under his nose to cure an itch. "Cam on, wee mus bay quik. Olodi, cam tak tha Watchoors bonce."
Olodi, a younger Piskie, came running from where he had been supporting one of Giles' feet to support his head. Timsaw quickly counted to three and they were off again as fast as they could with their heavy load.
A minute later they reached the circle prepared earlier and dumped Giles unceremoniously on the ground.
"Ar wee jus going to leave them?" asked the same Piskie who'd had doubts before.
Timsaw looked around him uncertainly for a second, but regained his confidence quick enough. "It won' be fer long, laad," he promised. "Cam on."
At his command all of the Piskies disappeared back towards the house.
It seemed like an eternity to those tied beneath the stars, but eventually the sounds of deep breathing were drowned out by a loud, satisfying crunch that echoed back off of the trees.
Reece spat the chunk of apple out of his mouth before he could choke and rested his head back on the damp grass for a moment while he caught his breath and worked his aching jaw in small circles.
There was a clattering sound made high in the trees above them by a disturbed bird, causing frantic mumbling to come from Rajiv to his right and whimpering from Miley who was to the left behind him.
Reece ignored them both for the time being, more concerned by Giles' still form.
"Mr. Giles?" he called softly over the short space between them. There was no answer or any movement that he could see through the darkness. He tried again a little louder, "Giles?"
Still nothing. Reece shuffled on his side closer to the old man. "Rupert!"
There was still no response but now he was closer he could make out the old boy's shallow breathing over the noise of Rajiv's and Miley's so at least he was still alive.
There was more rustling from the trees which Reece ignored as he tried to come up with another plan. His first plan, to get rid of the damn apple wedged in his mouth, had been quite successful, but he wasn't sure what else he could do except shout for help and he didn't particularly want to shout for help with wolves, either natural or supernatural, around.
The rustling intensified and there was loud cawing above as another bird took flight from its roost. Reece could see Rajiv's eyes opened wide in terror and Anthony's whimpering took on an all new level of fear.
"Lads, calm down, we're going to be alright," Reece started to reassure them, but Raj started shaking his head as hard as he could and muffled screams were coming from around Anthony's apple.
Reece rolled himself the younger boy's way to tell him to shut up and saw for the first time the monstrous head poking out of the bushes. It growled, sharp white teeth showing themselves as drool-slick lips pulled back.
"Oh shit," Reece muttered under his breath, and then almost as quietly added to the other two, "Stay quiet, don't wriggle around, just lay still!"
The monstrous head was followed by an equally unnatural body as the growling werewolf padded cautiously out of the bushes.
Reece shrank in on himself as it set those baleful yellow eyes on him and its growling grew louder. He watched, not knowing what else to do as the thing stalked closer to the nearest cadet, Anthony, and studied the shaking boy's form.
Anthony's eyes were wide with fear behind his thick glasses, his face a pale wax-work sheened with sweat. Reece held his breath and watched Anthony do the same as the werewolf raised one massive bear sized paw above the young watcher's head. The paw came down on Miley's shoulder, quick and fast; the pain made the young man bite through his apple. Reece saw blood seeping through the four tears that appeared in the boy's shirt.
Anthony, now free from his fruit gag didn't begin screaming like Reece expected him to, but instead, with tears streaming down his cheeks; he ducked his head into the grass and remained as still as he could. Reece was impressed.
The werewolf raised his paw for another quick swipe when something on the wind made him stop - paw still raised - and lift his nose to scent the air. Anthony completely forgotten, the wolf jumped lightly over him and walked a few paces away.
Anthony tilted his head to see the wolf leaving him and let out a long shaky breath which was echoed by Reece, and behind him, Rajiv.
Reece made eye contact with the mauled cadet, and mouthed, "Hang on," to him.
They had to wait for the werewolf to get further away, at any second it might decide they were better entertainment than whatever else it was he could smell. Once it was out of sight, he could wriggle over to Anthony and check on the slashes in his shoulder. The stain on his shirt was still expanding.
Before they could start to feel safe, the werewolf went into another crouch - his yellow gaze fixed on Giles.
"No," Reece muttered under his breath, as if he was discreetly telling off a bad dog and not a fearsome demonic beast.
Unsurprisingly the werewolf ignored him and took several more steps towards the senior watcher before stopping again and staring down at the unconscious man. Its over-sized head tilted curiously to one side. It gave a few low gruff barks, obviously fascinated by Rupert; maybe it was his aftershave or maybe it was the fact that the man was lying unmoving and unbothered while being studied by the bloody great savage creature.
Suddenly the werewolf swooped down, his thick, stubby muzzle aiming straight for Giles' head.
"No!" Reece yelled this time, putting as much authority into his voice as he could. "Get off with you!"
The beast's head shot back up and now it was Reece that was caught in the sinister glare of the yellow eyes, his breath hitched and he fought the will of his bladder as the growling returned - he hadn't even realized it had stopped - and the wolf took half a step his way.
"Balls," he griped, feeling sweat bead on his forehead as the werewolf gave him its full attention. For much too long Reece was pinned by that awful stare.
Abruptly the creature grew bored of him and looked back down at Giles. Tentatively, he lowered his snout to the old man's ear and sniffed hard, his nose then traveling across Giles throat and face. The whole while Reece's heart was stuck somewhere above his Adams apple as he waited for the chomp to come that would take half of his superior's face off.
So intent on what the werewolf's mouth was doing, Reece missed the subtle shifting of its tail from side to side.
He noticed when it stepped back though, away from the prone body of Giles, and shivered. Actually it may have been more of a shudder that traveled the length of the werewolf's body, causing a rippling affect that hurt the watcher cadet's eyes as he tried to understand what he was seeing. The creature's back began to narrow and shorten, and as the beast fell to its side and kicked its legs in the air, they too began to change before his very eyes.
"It's undergoing transformation," said Anthony, his pain and fright seemed to be forgotten as he watched in awe.
"I wasn't aware that was possible while the moon is stronger than the sun," Reece muttered to him, watching the figure writhe on the ground in either ecstasy or agony.
"It's not," Miley answered simply.
Rajiv made a sarcastic noise around the potato in his mouth, Reece looked his way but before he could reply a howl rose above the camp. The three watcher cadets looked at each other in confusion and then all three turned towards the changing werewolf... who was no longer changing!
The monstrous misshapen wolf was before them once more, as if the last few minutes hadn't happened. Wild snarling filled the air beneath the trees and, without giving them another look, the werewolf took off into the darkness.
Reece shared another look with his peers before slumping painfully onto his back, his own bound hands were digging into his spine but he needed a second to slump and recover from the heart-hammering terror they'd just endured.
He did manage to ask, "How's your shoulder?"
"I'm not sure, but the pain is rather great and I'd like to not bleed to death in the woods," Anthony answered.
"Also, there is something most extraordinary going on here tonight," Anthony continued, "And I think it would be in our best interests to not be here when the werewolf returns with its mate."
"And just how do you suggest we get out of here, Miley?" Reece asked wearily, still looking up at the treetops.
"Well I rather thought it was the Slayers job to rescue us," the young man admitted sheepishly.
Rajiv snorted again, louder this time.
Reece smiled grimly, "Actually, you have a very good point. I wouldn't mind knowing what the Slayer is up to while we and her precious Giles are out here defenseless. Bet you a tenner she's sitting by the phone, twirling her hair, waiting for the rogue to ring."
Rajiv snorted yet again, while Miley sighed regrettably, "Only a fool would accept that wager."
Buffy had joined Willow at the window. Looking out at the brightly moonlit night, she tried in vain to spot anything werewolf-shaped with her sharp eyes.
The back garden of Sunset Camp was large, with several out-houses that were slowly being turned into dormitories, shower blocks and storage barns. Anything could be lurking in the shadows of those small buildings or it was possible that the intermittent howling was coming from further away.
Beyond the immediate garden, a tall hedge separated it from the training field. Buffy could see the whole field and nothing moved there as far as she could tell from the strange silver light of the moon. The training field was mostly bordered by trees which looked like black blobs in the dark.
"I don't see anything!" Buffy fumed.
"But that's a good sign, right?" Xander asked from behind her. "Not being able to see a werewolf means there aren't any werewolves to see."
"I can't see the watcher brats either," she pointed out. "And we know they're out there somewhere."
"Not such a good sign then," Xander conceded.
"What's that?" Willow asked suddenly, jerking Buffy's attention to her.
"Over there, coming down the left side of the training field." Willow pointed where she meant.
Buffy followed the line of her finger as Xander crowded her from behind for a look. A sleek, dark shadow had separated from the trees and was traveling fast across the open ground. It was definitely an animal but was the wrong shape and size to be a werewolf.
Buffy sighed, "Probably a stray dog scared to death of the howling. It's not a werewolf anyway - wrong shape." She heard Xander deflate in the same way she had.
"Ooh." Willow turned to her excitedly. "The werewolves we encountered last month looked like dogs, well wolves actually, but they didn't look like Oz did when he was a wolf."
"Huh?" Buffy took a second to look quizzically at Willow before staring hard out of the window again.
"Will's right," Xander agreed. "I only saw one for like a minute, but it looked more like a big angry German Shepherd than Oz." He leaned over Buffy's shoulder so he could get a better view of the training field. "I asked Giles about it later and he said it was probably a different... uh..." he snapped his fingers as he tried to come up with the word he wanted.
"Strain?" Willow asked.
"Yeah," Xander agreed.
"Well the shadow's gone now," Buffy said, hoping it would stop Xander from trying to mount her shoulder. "Did it look like a German Shepherd to anyone?"
"It didn't not look like a German Shepherd," said Willow, still scanning the area behind the house. "But I thought it looked more like an Irish Wolfhound."
"You could tell a difference from the shadow?" Buffy asked, looking at her friend again.
"No. I meant last month the werewolf that attacked us, well, me, looked more like an Irish Wolfhound; although all I can really remember clearly is the teeth. It had very big teeth," Willow grimaced with feeling.
Buffy put a hand on her shoulder, still feeling a little guilty that she hadn't been there to protect her friend.
Willow smiled at her, letting her know she was fine now, and they both turned back to the window just in time to be scared to death.
"Holy crap!" Buffy stepped back onto Xander's foot and Willow 'eeked' as a Pixie appeared on the window sill from nowhere.
The Pixie took no notice of them at all as it jumped between them to the floor.
"Sorry," Buffy apologized distractedly as she turned towards the center of the room, pushing Xander gently to the side out of the way. She watched the Pixie jump onto the bed and run across the quilt to Beryan.
It went down on one knee before its leader and began speaking urgently. "Mawther, theer iss truble. Wee haave nawt aal tha watchoors, but..." It lowered its head, as if expecting to be reprimanded. "...Wee thenk yow shood act noo aan nawt delaay."
Beryan, now seated on one of Willow's and Kennedy's bright yellow pillows, was silent for a moment in thought.
"What did it say?" Buffy asked impatiently, having caught the word Watchers.
Beryan ignored her and spoke to the kneeling Pixie instead. "You are right, Timsaw, we must begin now. Leave the rest and go now to prepare those you have in the circle. I will begin in three hundred ticks."
The Pixie wasted no time in leaping from the bed and used Willow, still by the window, as an easy way to climb back up to the sill. From there he jumped out into the night.
"Circle, what circle?" Buffy asked a little head-spun, the whole exchange had lasted less than thirty seconds. "What's going on now?"
Beryan ignored her again as she crossed her legs beneath her and called to several of the Pixies still in the bedroom.
"She's doing a spell!" Willow realized. "That's the only reason you put people into a circle. Beryan," she addressed the purple leader, "You're doing a spell?"
Beryan ignored Willow too as three Pixies dispatched themselves from the group by the other window and went to their leader. They were all holding tiny little wooden bowls that Buffy had assumed until now held the delicious Bottom Pie.
"Will, what spell are they doing?" Buffy asked urgently, not liking this new development any more than the previous ones.
"I... I don't know." Willow shook her head. Stepping closer to the bed she tried to see what was in the bowls. Powder, grey in one tin and brown in another, and some kind of crushed red flower in yet another. "I don't recognize the ingredients."
Beryan, who had settled herself more comfortably on the pillow as her clan brought the small tins to her, cast one unimpressed eye Willow's way.
"You call yourself Wicca and you can't even recognize the simplest of Mother Earth's fruits," she scoffed.
"I can," said Willow, indignant. "I can recognize lots of fruits, just not these ones."
"Okay," Xander was still over by the window. "Okay, nobody panic. She said she's starting in three hundred ticks so we've got..." Xander paused while he tried to work it out. "How long is a tick?"
There were chuckles from some of the Pixies. One of them held up a finger and moved it back and forth in a vaguely hypnotic gesture as he said, "Tick, tock, tick, tock."
"Thank you," Xander waved his hand in a flourish at the little guy. "Me and you should totally team up for Pictionary sometime, ha; we could change it to Pixinary. Right, so if a tick is a second, then that means we have three hundred seconds, which is..." Xander pulled a few faces while he tried to work it out in his head.
Beryan sat up straight, with the bowls within easy reach of her hands; she closed her eyes and began to chant.
Xander jabbed his finger forcefully into the air with enthusiasm as he worked it out, "Five minutes...Oh crap!" he added, as he realized the five minutes were already up.
"Willow." Buffy was inching her way to the bed and she had a dozen determined Pixies shadowing every inch. "Now's the time to step up and protect your reputation."
Willow was in a pickle. Without knowing what spell Beryan was casting, she didn't know how to break it. As always with magic though, if she waited until she had a better idea if what she was dealing with, it could well be too late.
She studied the ingredients some more, Beryan's barb still stinging, and tuned her ear into the chanting. Willow repeated some of the words silently to herself, which seemed to be very old Latin, and almost immediately her eyes widened. "I...I know this, I've done this," Willow said excitedly. "It's a teleportation spell, and that..." she pointed to the bowl of crushed red flower "...is Anthurium. Ha!"
Beryan didn't show any sign that she was listening or even that she was aware there were other people in the room as she continued to chant with her eyes closed.
"A teleportation spell?" Buffy repeated. "Okay, that's bad. We can't let her teleport the baby watchers to wherever the hell she feels like. Will, you have to stop her now and apologize later."
Willow didn't need any convincing. Her eyes bored into Beryan's small frame and she gave a deep command of: "Stop."
She paused, awaiting some kind of reaction. Beryan didn't seem to notice.
"Oh, you want it the hard way then, do ya?" Willow started chanting under her breath, but somehow Beryan was blocking her magic. "Hey, no fair."
Timsaw and two of his squad ran back across the camp to the woods where they had left the Watchers bound and gagged. He didn't want to be out there, not at all and nether did his boys, not with a couple of werewolves roaming around. True, most werewolves wouldn't bother to eat a Piskie, it would be like eating a sesame seed, he wouldn't even taste it. Werewolves though, tended to make the whole area skittish - and a stoat running from a werewolf would think a Piskie a fine appetizer.
They reached the clearing in the woods and skidded to a stop.
"Ronan, giv iss tha sak."
One of his boys handed over the tiny bag he'd been carrying on his back and Timsaw opened it up and carefully pulled a miniature glass vial out. He pulled the rubber cork free with a soft pop and dipped his finger into the pale blue liquid inside.
Two of the Scagden had bitten themselves free of the gags, but Timsaw ignored their pleading chatter, and as his two squad members came and held their heads still, Timsaw used the liquid to draw crosses on their foreheads.
As he was finishing up with the older unconscious watcher, the terrifying howling started up again. Ronan and Winlow looked about them nervously, but Timsaw didn't hurry himself as he carefully replaced the stopper in the vial and equally as carefully, put it back in the bag.
"Come on, leets git oot of heer," he said, swinging the bag onto his own back. "Eet'll aal be over soon."
With one last glance at the helpless Watchers, the Piskies ran like hell for the safety of their dwellings under the camp.
Willow's face was scrunched with effort as she fought to break Beryan's block on her magic. She hadn't had to use this much energy in a while, and all she was attempting to do was break the flow of the Pixie leader's spell. She should have been able to do it in her sleep.
"Will, come on," Buffy pressured her. "It's not like I'm gonna miss any of those brats all that much, but Giles will be in big trouble if he loses everyone's kids."
"I'm trying," Willow snapped.
Through playing nice, she raised her arm and threw a flashing green ball of the energy at the Pixie leader. Beryan lifted her hand and deflected it back towards Willow. The witch was hit in the chest by her own magic and thrown back against her wardrobe.
Buffy went to run to her but stilled herself as her tiny purple shadows tensed to jump. "Willow, are you okay?"
Xander was at her side, helping her up and checking her chest for big energy burns.
"Okay, ow." Willow wriggled her shoulder blades around; they were aching from the impact with the wardrobe. "That's going to bruise."
Beryan was staring at her in disapproval. "Now I have to begin again, Giglet, and your friends are at the mercy of the 'wolves for even longer."
Emphasizing this, the howling restarted.
Buffy looked to the window with worry before rounding on Beryan. "Or you could just let me go and untie them."
"I'm afraid not. We can not live securely until the threat to our safety has been removed. The longer that threat remains here, the more comfortable it becomes and the harder it will be to eliminate. I must act tonight."
"I don't like the way you used the word eliminate," Xander said. "Eliminate isn't a word that brings to mind happy endings."
"You said you weren't going to kill them." Willow sounded less sure of her faith in the Pixies now. "You promised."
"I talk of eliminating the threat the watchers pose to our clan, not the elimination of the watchers themselves. We are not like you, we do not kill humans."
Willow flinched slightly at the comment and Xander spoke up angrily, "Now just you hang on a minute before you start getting all high and mighty with the judging. You're just about to send those guys and girl to God knows where. How do you know there's not going to be anything waiting at the other end to kill them?"
"I am sending them home," Beryan told him coldly. "If their kin are waiting to kill them then that is beyond my control."
"Well who died and made you the Wizard of Oz?" Xander asked grumpily.
Beryan made a rude noise, closed her eyes and began her chant again.
The howling had begun minutes after Peter ran into the woods and the watcher cadet had nearly pissed himself in fright.
Immediately any thought of helping others had fled his terrified brain and he jumped into a thick clump of bushes, mindless of the antisocial thorny stems, to hide. The horrible noise seemed to be coming from all around him, making the hairs stand up on his arms as he crouched there, shaking.
Staring wide-eyed out into the darkness, he cursed the Council and his parents for putting him in this situation. Why hadn't he just followed his own career path instead of letting them bully him into a career as a Watcher?
Well he knew why; being dropped from the old family Will and Testament would have meant losing out on his share of the huge inheritance coming his way when the old sods finally gave in and croaked.
Then again, if he'd just stuck to his guns and followed his heart into stock-brokering - he could have made his own small fortune by the time he was thirty. And he'd be getting rat-arsed at some nice expensive university right now instead of crouching in a prickly bush hiding from flipping werewolves and Piskies.
Peter glanced at the neon display of his digital watch and groaned. While it was late, after midnight now, there were still hours left until the moon went down, and the clear night was in the low figures temperature-wise. However much the thought of bumping into a werewolf scared the willy right off of him, he didn't much fancy freezing it off in a bush neither... and he was getting cramp in his right leg. And now he had time to stop and notice all of the other aches and pains he'd acquired from cocktail sticks, matches and hazelnuts started bothering him too.
"This is mad, man!" he muttered to himself as the howling slowly died out and the woods held their collective breath waiting to see how long the tense peace would last this time. "I'm not staying here all bloody night."
Inching his way back out from under the thorny bush, Peter stayed in a low crouch surveying the area. Nothing moved but the leaves in the breeze but he stayed in a crouch, eyes boring into the shadows surrounding him, trying to make out any threat that might be watching.
Still nothing, but Peter felt far from convinced that he was alone. He strained his ears in the hopes of catching any give away sound that he had savage company, but the rustle of leaves and his own heavy breathing masked any other noise.
He swallowed hard against his fear and very slowly reached to the side to pick up a heavy looking branch of about two feet long. Drawing his arm back in closer to his body, Peter hefted the branch a few times, liking the weight of the wood in his grip. If he hit someone with it, they were going down!
Of course, if he was attacked by a something, they would probably bite his arm off before he could hit them, but he still felt better with a weapon. And if the Piskies lobbed a burning tennis ball at him as he ran once more for the house, he could bat it right back at them and see how they liked it.
Feeling braver at the thought of handing out some payback to the little purple bastards, Peter squared his shoulders and set off at a sprint out of the woods.
Behind him another howl went up and nearly sent him diving once more for a hiding place, but it had sounded too close for comfort. Better to keep moving away from the thing than squat in a bush while it slobbered mere inches away.
Before the howl could fully subside, it merged into a snarling bellow. Concerned, Peter took a look over his shoulder as he ran and really wished he hadn't as his legs turned to jelly at the sight of the Hound of the Baskerville's leaping clear over the bush he had been hiding in, giving chase.
With a yell of terror, Peter ran faster than he ever had in his life - imagining those sharp pointy bringers-of-rabies sinking into his arse with every step.
Eric Thomas, new werewolf about town, nearly cocked his leg with laughter as the scared boy tore off through the woods. Instead of wasting the time, he took off after him instead. The smell of the boy's fear hung heavy in the air, tantalizing him and waking up primordial memories that Eric either couldn't or wouldn't resist.
The werewolf chased the boy, the very simple act thrilling him no end and causing him to bay in delight. This was what it was all about! This was what he had been born to do! Chase down his prey and... tear it limb from limb?
The human side of Eric's brain stuttered on the thought. After all, this wasn't a rabbit; it was a human! Humans weren't allowed to kill other humans - it was murder.
The wolf side of his brain closed his ears and... chased! He wasn't a human anymore. He was better than human - he was a primal, savage beast and trying to go against his new nature seemed not only impossible, but also... maddening.
Eric's gleaming yellow eyes narrowed and as the boy put on a fresh burst of speed on leaving the trees, so did he.
He was so intent on taking down his plaything that he didn't see the great hairy beast hurtling towards him from his left side in an awkward but fast gallop until the thing was leaping at him. Eric flattened himself against the ground and the creature sailed straight over the top of him, landing on all fours a few feet away. It turned quick, ready to leap for the young werewolf again, but Eric was already up and trying to close the distance the boy had gained from his distraction.
When he could no longer hear the snarling right behind him, Peter twisted his neck, hoping to see that the werewolf had given up. Maybe it was scared to leave the safety of the trees. God, he hoped so.
Alas he was wrong, as he tore down the left side of the training field for the safety of the house he saw that now not one 'wolf was chasing him, but two!
"I am going to die!" he said to himself through clenched teeth as he made his legs work harder and faster than he ever had before.
Reaching the hedge separating the field from the garden, Peter bolted through wishing there was a gate he could slam shut, preferably a metal one. Something to slow them down. It was a wonder he wasn't already dog chow and any second now he was going to feel those fangs sink into his soft, biteable flesh.
Head down, he barreled around the side of the house with only one thing on his mind... escape.
By the small light his candle stub provided, Craig wrapped three Bluebird feathers in wax paper he'd found in a desk drawer and set it with the rest of the ingredients he had gathered in the last few hours.
It had taken him a lot longer than he'd hoped, but he had found everything he needed. Well except for one thing, but he was hoping he would be able to persuade Andrew to cook pork tomorrow and he could discreetly collect the pig grease as a substitute for what was missing.
The shouting that had been going on for most of the evening had stopped after a hair-raising roar that had nearly stopped his heart for good and Craig was hoping that meant everyone had finally left for the evening's patrol. The muted howling he could hear on and off had probably sent everyone scurrying to do their duty, meaning he could hop out of the window, run around the house and get back to the boy's dorm without any witnesses.
Carefully he packed all of the baggies he'd filled and the wax-paper parcel into the baggy pockets of his jeans. Moving to the desk, he hopped up and started climbing through the window.
He was sitting on the sill about to jump to the ground when he first heard the sounds of someone running fast towards him. Before he could duck back in to the room to wait until all was clear, the growling and snarling reached his ears and he jumped down after all. Safely out of sight in the large Rhododendron bush, he peeked out through the leaves, excited by the prospect of getting a gander at a real live werewolf.
What he saw quickly turned the excitement into freaked out adrenaline. Peter was running at full pelt around the side of the house with not one, but two of the supernatural mutts on his tail. Peter was obviously trying to make for the front door of the house, but he looked to be about beat. Panting hard as he ran on legs that looked ready to collapse, the boy's face was a mask of terror as he realized he couldn't go on much further.
Craig, initially frozen by the scene, forced himself to take action.
"Pete!" he yelled, jumping from the bush. "Over here."
For a second it looked like Peter was going to ignore him, but then his head snapped towards Craig and he slowed slightly. Not really the best move with two werewolves right behind him.
Craig was about to tell him that, when Peter spun on his toes, swinging the heavy stick he was carrying around in an arc that caused the end to connect hard with the lead werewolf's long muzzle.
The creature fell back, yelping, and Peter stood there, motionless, as if surprised by his own bravery. Meanwhile the other creature was almost upon him and the downed beast was already back up, shaking his head and looking pissed off.
"Pete, ya bloody pillock, get over here!" Craig shouted, running a few steps towards him so that he could grab his arm and pull him back towards the bush.
Peter shrugged off his hand as if he could catch something from it, but followed him quickly, almost pushing him into the side of the house in his haste.
"Get in the window," Craig instructed, pushing the cadet in front of him, his heart pounding painfully. The bush wasn't going to protect them from anything for more than a few seconds.
Peter tried to climb up, but his arms and legs didn't seem to want to work for him and in the end Craig practically pushed him up and into the magic room. He heard Peter land hard on the desk and there was a lot of rattling and clanging as things fell to the floor.
As Craig was boosting himself up, at least one of the werewolves finally leapt into the bush, the heavy foliage of the plant doing nothing to slow it down. Teeth closed around the baggy leg of his jeans and he heard the denim tear as the werewolf's sharp teeth serrated the material. He let himself fall into the room straight on top of Peter.
Angry werewolf noises chilled Craig to the bone as he spun around, half sitting on Peter as he slammed the window shut on the two over-sized paws clawing at the sill. The angry noises were quickly replaced by yelps and then the sound of a big demonic canine body jumping at the side of the house over and over.
"Get offa me, you poof!" Peter snapped, shoving Craig hard enough to send him off the edge of the desk to the floor.
"I suppose a thank you for saving your life is too much to ask then?" Craig stayed where he had fallen, listening to the thumps coming from the side of the house.
"Didn't ask you to, did I?" Peter got shakily off of the desk and slumped to the floor, worn out. He was still holding his big stick, which was now splintered at one end from the impact with the werewolf's jaw. He shook it tiredly in Craig's direction. "Anyway I weren't doing too bad on my own. That werewolf ain't gonna forget me in a hurry."
"What's so good about having a werewolf remember you? I'd want it to forget me in a hurry."
Peter looked at him annoyed, but he didn't have a comeback for once.
Craig grinned at him, "And what kind of idiot carries a bloody great stick when they're being chased by dogs? That's probably why they were chasing you in the first place, you soddin' nitwit; bet they thought it was a great game." He shook his head disparagingly.
"I'm gonna shove this bloody great stick up your arse in a minute," Peter threatened weakly. He looked at Craig with a sneer, "'Cept you'd probably enjoy it, wouldn't you?"
"Big talk for someone who can barely breathe at the moment." Craig mocked him, grinning at the watcher cadet and loving every second of having the upper hand for once. "What's everyone at home going to say when you tell them it was me what saved your life, huh Petey? If you want to buy my silence, I'm sure we can work something out."
Peter closed his eyes, groaning, "Just... put a sock in it, Rayne."
Pixies were hiding under every item of furniture in the living room. Kennedy could hear them talking to one another, probably trying to decide the best way to save their captured commander - who was still high up in the window above the door in Goorzar's gentle but unshakable grip.
Andrew was sitting on the couch letting Dawn hold a cushion to the cut on the side of his head. It had mostly already stopped bleeding, the blood turning his short blonde hair a rusty color as it dried. That didn't stop him whining about his headache and generally feeling sorry for himself.
Kennedy wanted more than anything to tell him to stop being a baby, but there was enough guilt there at being the one who hurt him to keep her mouth shut for once. Instead she ignored him and interrogated the tiny commander.
"So how about we start with you telling me what the hell is going on?" she began, staring up at the little figure in Goorzar's fist.
"I'll tell yee nowt, Biggar!" he bravely declared, his English heavily accented but understandable.
"I won't ask you a third time," she promised, putting her hands on her hips.
"Oh aye, what are yee goen to do?" The little guy sneered down at her.
Kennedy tried to look threatening while she came up with something. In the pause that followed, Goorzar lifted the Pixie commander up and gave his face a big lick. A very big lick considering her tongue was as long as the commander was tall! She grinned at Goorzar's perfect timing.
Gasping for air, the pixie shouted something that sounded like, "By Ifileas, I yield!"
"Goorzie, he's not a Popsicle," Kennedy said quickly as she saw the demon's tongue going for another lick. "Go on then, yield."
Goorzar hadn't listened to her mom this time, and it was a second before the pixie could breathe after he received another thorough tongue lashing, but finally he spluttered out, "We are to keep you under guard this night, it is for your own safety."
"Well if you are here for our own good," asked Dawn from the couch. "Why did you attack us?"
"You started it," he replied.
"The kitchen door is still locked from the other side." Vi had been picking up things fallen from the shelves during the struggle. Luckily it looked as though only the standing lamp had been broken, the shade dented and the bulb inside smashed.
Walking back through the middle of the room from the kitchen door, she suddenly spotted something half beneath the arm chair. Stooping she plucked it up.
"Oh this isn't a good sign." Vi held up a pair of wire framed spectacles for everyone to see.
"Hey those look like Giles'." Dawn left Andrew to come and take the glasses from Vi. "They are Giles'." She looked from Vi to Kennedy, scared and concerned. "Why would he not pick up his glasses if he dropped them?"
"Well maybe he doesn't really need them, but just wears them to make himself look smarter," Vi offered hopefully. "Not that he needs to look any smarter than he already is, what with him being as smart as it's possible to be, specs or no specs..." She trailed off looking as worried as everyone else.
Kennedy rounded on the Pixie high above her head again. "Just what were you supposed to be guarding us from and what does it have to do with Giles going missing?"
A long low howl could suddenly be heard, drowning out the answer the pixie gave. Although it came from outside the house and possibly quite far outside at that, it didn't stop everyone in the room from looking about them in fear.
Kennedy's stomach lurched at the sound. Again she had forgotten about the werewolves, the immediate conflict taking precedence over a routine patrol that might not have encountered any werewolves anyway. Now she knew for sure they were out there, somewhere, they took priority once more.
"Okay, it was nice of you to try and kill us to save us from the werewolves," Kennedy called up to the pixie sarcastically." But now I have to go do my job."
She was making for the umbrella stand by the front door, where they kept a few swords and the tranquillizer gun, when the pixie commander dropped down in front of her. He landed hard on the floor, gasping for breath and clutching his chest. Kennedy, surprised at his distressed state - after all he was only getting a few licks - looked up.
Goorzar was still in the window, but now her wide orange eyes were staring out into the moonlit night. She was rigid with fear, the thick hair covering her back standing up from the nape of her neck along the length of her spine. She was making a wheezing sound deep in her throat and a clicky noise with her teeth. She was not a happy demon.
"Goorzie, come down, it's okay," Kennedy tried to coax her down. "Come get some popcorn from the floor." Goorzar didn't react to her voice at all.
"Can werewolves get into a house without an invitation?" Andrew asked, standing up and moving closer to Dawn and Vi.
"I don't know," said Vi, "But I'm not going to stop and ask one."
"I'm pretty sure werewolves can go anywhere they want," Dawn said. "I don't think the laws governing them are quite so refined as those for vampires. Of course I'm just guessing; Giles would know for sure, or Willow."
"Yeah, well Giles and Willow aren't here, are they?" Kennedy gave up on getting the terrified Goorzar down and went to fetch the tranquillizer gun and one of the silver swords. "And I'm not giving them a chance to knock on the front door. This month, I'm winning!"
Kennedy chucked the sword to Vi and then went to her bag, all ready to go by the kitchen door, opening it up to find the darts she'd packed earlier. She'd packed double what she had the month before, determined not to have another disaster.
Well that hope was dead in the water before they even left the house, but there was no point letting it get to her. It was hardly her fault the pixies had decided to go crazy protective on them tonight of all nights.
Besides, now she had a chance to make up for last month's debacle. She had a werewolf somewhere on the property of Sunset Camp and tonight there was going to be no civilians around to foul things up and distract her when Kennedy caught up with it.
Another howl broke the uneasy quiet in the living room and Kennedy carried on like she hadn't heard it. Two darts were inserted into the gun; unfortunately that was all it would hold at one time. Four more she slipped into the pen slots in her bag so that this month she wouldn't have to fumble within it at the worst possible moment. Another two she tucked inside the Velcro flap on the sleeve of the black jacket she'd put ready to slip on before they left. She put it on now and made sure the darts stuck to the sleeve like they were, weren't going to obstruct her, or accidentally stick her with a load of sleepy drugs.
"You can't go after it alone," Dawn said, her eyes getting big as she watched Kennedy calmly prepare herself.
"I won't be, Vi's coming with me." Kennedy crossed back to the front door where Goorzar was gibbering like a wreck in the high window. "Goorzie, baby, come on down."
Goorzar gibbered some more, staring outside and banging her paws gently on the wooden sill. She was seriously agitated by the howling; Kennedy had never seen her like this before. Even earlier with the Pixies attacking, Goorzar had been calmer.
"Goorzie wanna banana?" Kennedy wheedled. She went to the fruit bowl on the little table under the big picture window, set her bag down and pulled a banana from the bunch in the bowl. The tranquillizer gun was slung over her head and shoulder so that it hung to her side in easy reach.
She walked back and waved it about under Goorzar. "Come get the banana, baby."
"Um, not that I don't think this will be a first-rate learning experience or anything," Vi began awkwardly. "But I'm really not a dog person, they hate me and... and then they show their hate by chasing me. Maybe someone else should go with you?"
"I'll go." Dawn was already taking the sword from her.
"No, not only would Buffy kill me, you probably will too," Kennedy backed up a step so she was way out of range of Dawn's practice swing of the sword. "Give that back to Vi."
Dawn pouted and Vi looked nervous.
Kennedy ignored the next howl when it floated through the room, but when it seemed to come to an unnatural end, she took more notice. "That sounded different."
Goorzar seemed to think so too, as high above her adopted mommy's head she began pounding both of her curled fists on the window sill and screeching in a rising pitch.
Over the noise the baby demon was making, something else was becoming clearer.
"Crud." Kennedy chucked the banana to Andrew as the frenzied baying became more audible. "It's close and it's got wind of something. I need to get out there now."
Kennedy swung the tranquillizer gun around so she could hold the stock with one hand, she pulled open the front door before grabbing the muzzle of the gun in her other hand.
"Wait for me, I'm coming," Vi called after her, clutching the silver sword and holding it upright. "I'll make good bait at least," she sighed, shooting Dawn a nervous look before following Kennedy out into the night.
Eric backed up, mindless of the way the bush was poking and pulling at his hair, and ran at the wall of the house again making a terrific thumping sound. The window rattled, but that was the only apparent effect he had.
His precious prey was inside and he would get to it; eventually.
The human side of his brain had shut down completely now. Maybe in horror at what the wolf-side wanted to do. More likely it was that both sides couldn't lead at the same time and with Eric giving the wolf free reign to be dominant, the human had no choice but to be the subordinate. Eric had never been taught the laws of his kind and with his maker, Marvin, gone; there was no one to help him control the supernatural urges that ripped through him right now.
He wanted the boy.
Eric was backing up for another jump at the house when the great beast from before pounced straight through the bush to land hard on his back. He yelped, a harsh fearful sound, and shot out of the bush with the beast still clinging to him.
His passage ripped up half the rhododendron bush by its roots, giving his attacker a coat of green leaves and stems, the tiny white petals looking like confetti in the moonlight.
The beast in the bush didn't seem at all deterred from trying to pin Eric to the ground with his weight and the young werewolf tried to shake him off by veering hard to the left, but eventually couldn't stop himself from being pushed into a bow. When sharp fangs pierced the thick skin at the back of his neck, Eric squealed and tried to roll over; to say sorry for whatever wrong he had done this mysterious dog-like creature.
When the beast backed off a little, still in that threatening pose, Eric was still too shook up to do anything but cower before him. Taking the risk of looking up ingratiatingly earned him a threatening growl that seemed to go on forever. Eric tried to shrink in on himself even more and drew his tail firmly between his legs for good measure.
Kennedy and Vi were making their way around the side of the house to where a loud banging noise was coming from. It sounded like a growling sledgehammer was hitting the seasoned pine wall.
Kennedy, finger on the tranq trigger, looked back over her shoulder at Vi and nodded away from the house. At first Vi shook her head no, but when Kennedy shrugged and was about to go without her anyway, the red-head sighed in frustration and followed her out in to the open of the garden.
The noise was coming from the large bush below the magic room window. In the darkness it was tough to tell what was in the bush, but the way the leaves were thrashing around, it was probably something big. Vi steadied her nerve, the long silver sword in her shaky hands affording her some courage.
"Do you think it found a rat in there or something?" Vi whispered, barely able to hear herself above the awful noise spewing from the Rhododendron.
"No, I think it can smell all of the tasty people inside and is trying to bash through the side of the house to get at them," Kennedy whispered back.
"That's not very reassuring," Vi said accusingly.
"Didn't know you wanted me to be reassuring." Kennedy raised the gun, wondering if it was best just to shoot straight into the bush or wait until she could see it. She didn't really want to poke her head into the bush after she'd fired to see if she'd hit her target. What if the werewolf faked sleep?
She didn't have time to wonder if the werewolf was that clever or if it would bother with tricks or just attack them, because the werewolf attacked them!
Hurtling out of the bush came a creature like neither of the Slayers had ever seen before. While it looked vaguely canine, it also managed to look entirely alien. On long, almost natural looking wolf-legs was a body the size of a bear and a half. How the skinny legs supported it was impossible to say. The head was massive and misshapen, the back one huge hump and the hair a shaggy mottled mix ugly even in the spare light of the moon. Its head was down as it barreled towards them.
Kennedy squeezed the trigger and one dart shot out, missing the creature by a hair's breadth. Cursing to herself, she stayed calm and fired again.
The second dart was right on target and Kennedy could see it was going to hit the thing in the left shoulder. It was pure bad luck that the werewolf chose that moment to swing its momentum to the right, skidding a little on the grass as if it was too heavy for such a sudden move. Righting itself immediately, it was coming for them again in a fast but awkward gait that hurt the eyes to watch.
"Inside," Kennedy shouted, there was no way she could reload with the thing bearing down on them.
Vi reached the front door first, slamming it open on her way through; Kennedy was right behind her and slammed it shut again. It had all happened so quick that Dawn and Andrew had hardly changed their positions since the slayers had left the building.
"Did you get it?" Dawn asked.
"Do you think we'd be making an entrance like this if we'd got it?" Kennedy snapped. "Andrew - Open the window."
Andrew looked from the banana he was still holding to the big picture window before running for the latter, releasing the catch on the wooden frame and shoving the window up on the runners. He stepped back out of the way before Kennedy could elbow him aside. She was too busy pulling the darts from her Velcro-ed sleeve to say thanks. Anxiously he peeled the banana and took a bite, causing Goorzar to finally leave her sanctuary and come to him.
Climbing up him to sit in his protective arms, she jabbered anxiously against his shoulder and took the banana from him in a clear protest at his eating of her property.
Normally Kennedy would have smiled at the baby's antics but she didn't even notice. She pushed two more darts into the gun and sighted on the werewolf fifty yards away in the garden. The creature was bouncing around now, like it was doing a victory dance at scaring them off.
"Not going to be dancing for long, Muttley," Kennedy promised, following its prancing with the gun. Just as she felt comfortable enough to fire, the moon went behind clouds and the garden was suddenly pitch black beyond the light cast from the windows. "For Pete's sake!"
Vi was standing by her side, looking out of the window but being careful not to crowd her. "Are you sure that's a werewolf and not some other kind of demon?" she asked. "I thought werewolves were more humanish? That thing didn't look at all human."
Kennedy kept her eyes on the garden, waiting for the moon to come back out and hoping the creature was still there when it did. "I don't know," she admitted. "I've only ever seen three werewolves in real life and they didn't all look alike so... This is definitely the biggest and the ugliest so far though," she added, listening to the frightening noises it was making in the dark.
She kept the gun trained in the direction of the high pitched barking and deep throaty growling that sounded like it could almost be coming from two different creatures - it was pretty creepy. The clouds passed and the glowing brilliance of the full moon bathed the garden once more. The creature stood there with its back to the house, but as Kennedy steadied herself to take the shot it turned as if sensing the threat.
Recognition flashed through her as she saw the flattened face of the beast with its vaguely humanoid features. Her dark eyes locked with his yellow ones despite the distance between them. She heard a lower, more personal growl which made her grip the tranquillizer gun tighter, not fazed that she had made the chilling noise herself. The werewolf by contrast was unnervingly silent as he stared at her venomously, lips pulling back just enough to show his teeth.
She licked her lips, narrowed her eyes and pulled the trigger. The dart struck his broad, totally un-canine chest, and stuck, just as the moon went bye-bye again.
Abruptly Kennedy switched the rifle-like gun around in her hands and brought the stock around in a fluid batting motion that completely knocked the Pixie commander from the fruit bowl table to the floor. He laid there winded with the tranquillizer dart he'd stolen from Kennedy's bag lying next to him.
"I wondered where he'd gotten to," Dawn smiled.
Kennedy high-fived Vi and turned to pluck the Pixie from the floor by the front of his dark green vest. "He was hiding in my bag; waiting until I shot the werewolf full of drugs before he did the same to me... right?" she asked the little guy.
He hung from her grip defiantly, his arms crossed and his face turned away.
"Goorzie, want your toy back?" Kennedy held the little Pixie out to the demon nestled in Andrew's arms.
Goorzar reached out for him, grinning.
"Okaa," the pixie shook his head fast. "I will staan down." His body enclosed within the demon's warm, soft, banana-smelling paw, he repeated, "I will staan down! I giv up mee aarms peacefelly!"
Kennedy ignored his cries. "Okay, that's the werewolf immobilized for the time being."
"Are you sure you hit it?" Dawn asked.
Kennedy nodded, "I hit him."
"How'd you know it's a him?" Vi pulled the window down and re-latched it, cutting off the cold draught, before moving across the room to fall, exhausted, onto the couch.
"Call it a hunch," Kennedy smirked.
Eric yipped for forgiveness, belly up, as his intimidator snarled down at him, leaving him in no doubt who was boss. Just in case the whole being scared right out of his shaggy coat wasn't enough of a hint.
Finally the superior werewolf ceased his threats and stepped back. Eric waited, not sure if he should get up or if moving would displease.
The older, larger 'wolf seemed to lose interest in him as he turned to look at the house. Eric risked creeping away on his belly, ears still flattened to the side of his head, expecting to be noticed and reprimanded.
He'd barely made it out of the other werewolf's shadow when there was a sharp, angry yelp behind him. Eric turned to face the noise beseechingly, expecting that crushing weight to fall on him any second.
Instead he saw the other looking down at his broad hairy chest. Eric looked too and despite the garden being in utter darkness again as clouds scudded over the moon, he could see the long thin needle like thing sticking into the beast's flesh. He took a step closer, curiosity outweighing his fear, but cringed backwards when the other suddenly slumped, his whole body sagging towards the floor. With what looked like a lot of effort, the beast pulled himself back to his paws.
The creature whined, taking a clumsy step towards Eric.
Reading his sluggish body language, Eric jumped out of the way and bolted towards the woods, the beast's slow pounce missing him by a mile.
It was still dark as the bus made its way through the Cleveland streets to the bus depot and being a Sunday morning it was pretty quiet.
Faith had tried to keep her mind off of her destination and what she was going to have to face when she reached it, but the blackness of the windows had meant that all she could see in them was her own dim reflection which did nothing to distract her.
What was Buffy going to say when she saw her and more importantly, what was she going to say to Buffy? 'Hi, sorry I was a bitch to you when you flew all the way out to California to see me,' was a start she supposed, but where she went from there she didn't know.
She could spend a lifetime saying sorry to Buffy and it still wouldn't make everything alright.
She'd give anything for a crystal ball, some way of knowing in advance what Buffy was thinking. Angel had been no help at all on that score. In fact he'd been pretty cagey about it all, like maybe he knew Buffy wasn't going to give her the time of day when she arrived but hadn't wanted to say so in case Faith took off again.
It was pretty smart of him, because if he had said that, Faith knew she'd be on a bus to Florida or somewhere else in the opposite direction of where she was heading.
It was only the small hope that Buffy hadn't totally given up on her that had Faith shrugging into her filthy jacket again and disembarking with the few other passengers outside the Cleveland bus station. The small hope that maybe this wasn't all just a big fat waste of time that was going to get her heart broken all over again.
Because really, once was more than enough.
The early morning air was cool and refreshing after the stuffy bus, even the diesel fumes hanging in the air was better than six hours worth of people smells.
Faith took in a big lungful of it as she tried to quell the tiny voice telling her the only thing Buffy Summers was good for was breaking hearts.
That wasn't true, she knew that. Buffy made plenty of people happy. She'd even made Faith happy and that was a hell of an achievement. It was Faith's own fault that she'd decided to hand herself back in and lose that happiness.
She'd gone through with it, after finding out how Buffy supposedly felt about her, thinking that if she got out again in a few years all legit, she could find Buffy and then, maybe, the two of them could see if they were capable of more than making each other miserable.
So here she was, standing on the asphalt, a free woman ready to put that plan into action and she was scared shitless. Knowing Buffy was only about thirty miles away from where she stood right now had Faith wanting to jump back on the bus again.
She watched the driver climb down from the bus and use the key fob to electronically lock the doors. Okay that plan was out then.
"Okay Faith," she muttered to herself as she started walking towards a line of taxis parked along the curb. "Why don't you grow a pair already?"
She reached the taxi at the head of the line and the driver's window slid open as she approached.
The driver was about forty, dressed in a checkered red shirt with the sleeves rolled up, as he leaned one arm on the lowered window Faith could see it was covered in sailor tattoos.
"Where you going, sweetheart?" He asked, his voice heavy with a German accent.
"Uh," Faith bent her knees a little so she could see his face. "Place called Boudenver, ever heard of it?"
"Yah, jump in, we'll be there in forty minutes." He turned the key to start the engine.
Faith hesitated, "Uh, how much is it gonna cost?"
"Why, how much do you have?"
"Fourteen dollars," said Faith hopefully. The guy started to laugh, "If you want I can take you as far as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or nearly as far; you'd have to walk the last half mile."
The guy's laugh was deep and infectious and Faith found herself actually grinning a little as she straightened back up. "That's not really gonna help me dude."
She weighed up her options. She didn't really want to rip this guy off, but she could always send some money to him. The important thing was getting there; she could deal with the how later.
She bit her lip a little, ran a hand back through her dirty hair and gave her most 'come fuck me' smile as she looked through the window again. "Isn't there anyway I can persuade you to give me a discount, babe? I really gotta be in Boudenver this morning."
His laughter slipped away. "You should be ashamed of yourself," he said quietly, sternly. "What would your father think, huh?" The window rolled back up and Faith was left staring at it.
"Well screw you too, Mofo," Faith ran her hand through her hair again, angrily this time.
She looked back at the short line of taxis, but didn't have the heart to try any of them. They would have all seen her at this righteous prick's window and would know she was trying to hitch a free ride. Sure some of them might be more susceptible to her prostitute fake-out, but she didn't really feel in the mood to play that game any more.
How dare he bring her dad into this? She glared at the asshole in the cab again, but managed to resist kicking his door in. What did he know anyway?
With a string of mumbled curses she stormed away from the bus depot.
Fine, she'd find her own way to Boudenver and B had better be frickin pleased to see her; else she'd be coming back to Cleveland to kick some fat cab-driving ass.
Reece pulled on the rope binding his wrists together, feeling it bite agonizingly into his skin. Through gritted teeth he tried to reassure Anthony and Rajiv,
"Pete's fetched help by now; someone will be here before long. The worst has passed."
"I find it hard to believe that Peter Jones will save the day." Anthony was also trying to get his hands free. He was also kicking his tied feet about and wincing with every movement. The deep scratches in his shoulder must have been killing him, but he didn't let them slow him down.
Rajiv mumbled something to Anthony around the potato still wedged in his mouth; he was trying to rub the rope around his wrists against an exposed tree root, but all he was achieving was aching arms.
Reece agreed with the gist of Rajiv's mumble - that Anthony was an idiot - but he couldn't help thinking deep down that if Pete was about to save the day, he was taking a long time to do it.
Rajiv had joined them, in a manner of speaking, ages ago. Pete must have run into some trouble of his own before he'd sounded the alarm. Or, possibly, everyone else was in just as much trouble as they were and therefore couldn't come to the rescue.
Reece lifted his head to look at his motionless elder. Seeing Mr. Giles unconscious made the latter scenario all the more likely. In some respects it was quite gratifying to consider that the amazing Buffy Summers and her chums had found themselves incapacitated by the six-inch tall pests.
Smugness aside though, Reece knew it didn't help get them out of the woods.
Anthony's Karate Kid style shout made him roll over that way to see what the hell was going on now. The youngest cadet had managed to get his small hands free and was already sitting up and cradling his sore wrists in his lap.
"Nice one, Miley," Reece congratulated him.
The boy whimpered a little looking at his wrists, and then pulling his shirt aside so he could see his shoulder, he whimpered some more. Reece waited for him to lose it and start balling his eyes out, but he pulled himself together with a giant sniff.
First he straightened his glasses and then he set about untying his ankles; still he hadn't said a word. Reece lay on his side watching him. It took him a minute or two to get the ropes at his feet undone and then he was up and moving towards Mr. Giles. Rajiv made some loud noises behind his potato and Miley did him the favor of pulling it out of his mouth on the way.
"Thanks man," Rajiv said gratefully as soon as he could speak. "Them things taste 'orrible when they ain't cooked." He spat on the grass.
Miley was checking Giles' pulse and airways, "He's alive."
"Good," said Reece on hearing what he already knew, "Now any chance you could untie us so we can all get out of here?"
"A please wouldn't kill you, you know," Anthony told him as he loosened Giles shirt a little.
"You see, this is why people don't like you, Miley," Rajiv explained to him amiably. "Nobody wants to have to say 'Please don't leave me here to be eaten by a werewolf.' It's just not nice."
Looking suitably castigated, Anthony untied Rajiv's hands without another word and while the Asian was tenderly rubbing his rope-burned wrists, he untied Reece too - hands and feet.
"Thanks," Reece shot him a quick wink. The boy may have been irritating beyond words, but he wasn't completely useless.
Miley was a bit flustered by the wink. People didn't wink at him, they sneered or jeered often, but the camaraderie suggested by winking was a new one. "You're, uh, welcome."
"How's your shoulder?" Reece asked, getting to his feet and tugging the younger boy up by his elbow. "Think you're up to helping me carry Rupert back to camp?"
"I, ah, yes, of course," Anthony said at once.
"Want me to check it, see how bad it is?" Reece gestured at his shoulder.
"No, it's fine, merely a flesh wound - I'll clean it up when we get back to the house."
Reece was further impressed. Up close he could clearly see the long tears in the boy's t-shirt and the dark stain around the cuts showed how much blood he must have lost. "Okay, let's go. Raj?"
"I'm ready," Rajiv stood up, stamping his feet to get some more feeling in them.
"Miley and I are going to carry Mr. Giles, you're going to be our scout, make sure the coast is clear, okay?" Reece picked up Giles under his arms and Anthony quickly hurried to pick up his feet. When they were both supporting him comfortably, they turned to see that Rajiv hadn't moved yet.
"Coast's not clear," Rajiv's voice trembled as he nodded his head in the direction of a growling, pissed-off wolf.
"Shit." Reece kept his voice low. "Nobody make any sudden movements - maybe it won't bother us."
Eric was dead-set on bothering them as he came closer to the circle. He was feeling frustrated by his failure to catch his earlier prey and humiliated by his encounter with the other beast.
As he stalked them he wondered which to go for first. The smallest boy smelled of blood, very tempting, but the biggest boy smelled like power and defeating him might be just what he needed to lose the residual shame of his submissive behavior.
The third boy, the one standing apart from the group, smelled of fear and adrenaline which made Eric's mouth water, but it had an underlying scent of, he sniffed the air hard... Mushrooms? Something peculiar anyway.
Still trying to decide, he paced around them growling, hoping they'd all start to run soon so that he could start to chase.
"Ha'i eskew eemy yaar'n."
Beryan recited the same phrase over and over again as she poured powders into a central bowl and waved her hands about; smoke started to rise.
It was all very impressive, yet Buffy didn't feel it.
"Will, I know you can do something - turn her into a newt or make her grow big enough for me to hit her, something, before this gets any more out of hand," she hissed.
Willow looked from Buffy to Beryan, not sure. There was still howling and growling going on outside, sounding closer all the time.
She had felt the exact moment when the Pixie had become so into the spell that all control of Willow's magick had been released and she knew that if she wanted - she could turn Beryan into a big, human-sized newt and make her beat up herself. She just wasn't sure that was the best course of action for everyone.
"I don't know if I should break the spell. Beryan was right, Buffy, the longer the kids are out there the more chance there is of them being attacked. If she really is just sending them home, maybe we should let her do it. After all, they're going home tomorrow anyway. Hey maybe Giles can reclaim some money from their tickets - that wouldn't be so bad."
"You can't be serious," Buffy turned to her best friend. "We can't let them win, not after all this. What happens when they decide they don't like us living here very much either? What's to stop them from teleporting us all back to Sunnydale?"
"Yeah, but Willow is kinda right, Buff. There's not much point winning on principal if all the itty bitty Watchers are in even ittier bittier pieces afterward," Xander reasoned. "If the werewolf threat was neutralized them I'd say bring on the mole bashing, but with it still out there..."
The bedroom door nearly flew off its hinges cutting Xander off and Dawn appeared in the room out of breath. "Don't know if you could hear it up here, but there was a werewolf. Kennedy neutralized him."
Buffy's relief at seeing her sister completely unharmed was squashed the second twenty Pixies threw themselves at Dawn's head and the teenager staggered sideways across the room before going down on her knees with a short scream.
"Will, there's the magick word," Xander waved an impatient hand at her.
Steam blew out of Buffy's ears, muffling the alarm whistles that sounded as her red hot rage hit the big bell at the top of her angrimeter. "Get your god-damn freaky little hands off of my sister!" She went into attack, swiping and pulling at the Pixies clinging to her sisters clothing.
"Aplooshie!" Willow flung a hand in Beryan's direction and a stream of red sparks shot from her fingertips like a wave and splashed against the small leader.
Beryan was knocked over onto her back and the spell-casting tins and bowls were also knocked over, the ingredients spilling together onto the orange duvet.
"Yow stupid girl!" Beryan yelled as she picked herself up and dusted herself off. "Did your Goddess teach yow nothing?"
"I... what?" Willow already had a bad feeling about what she'd done, with the yelling that bad feeling was growing.
Beryan stalked up the bed towards the end where the witch was standing. Behind her the pile of mixed powders and leaves suddenly combusted causing a small fire to break out in the middle of the bed.
"Do you know no better than to interrupt another's casting? Have you had no teachings on what such an interruption can do?" For a small lady, Beryan could shout really loud. ""Did you not think about the consequences of your actions?"
Willow took a step back, "Of course I know better, but you... you left us no choice, and with the werewolf gone there's no threat to breaking your spell. You're just miffed that I could stop you."
"Um, fire anyone?" Xander seemed to be the only one in the room that noticed the burning duvet.
One after another Buffy pulled Pixies from her sister and flung them at the window so fast that her hands were almost blurry, "Get off of my sister!"
There were a series of thuds as the little bodies hit the glass, they were the lucky ones, the not so lucky ones suddenly found themselves sailing out into the night.
"You stupid girl. You think you are so wise and yet you blindly broke my casting without thought..." Willow started to interrupt, but Beryan kept talking over her. "You gave no thought to the sensitive words I was speaking, did you Giglet? Your arrogance over-ruled your commonsense."
"Now just wait a damn minute," Willow started angrily.
"It is done," Beryan told her simply. "Your anger at me is misplaced; if you need someone to blame you should look inward."
"What do you mean?" Willow suddenly looked and sounded very young as she asked, her voice laced with dread.
There was a rock by Rajiv's right foot. It was a big rock, oval-shaped like an American football, but not quite that big. He wondered how heavy it was and how straight it would fly if he was able to throw it.
"Can you two distract it for a minute?" he asked, his mouth barely moving as he stared at the growling werewolf. It looked different to the one before, more wolf-shaped, but no less deadly.
"I imagine we could if we wanted to die," Reece used the same stiff lipped method as he answered. "Have you a plan?"
"Might have, not sure yet," Rajiv looked at the rock again. "Distract him and let's see."
Reece took a long, slow breath as he tensed ready to cause a distraction. He saw Miley's eyes go wide, obviously thinking the idea foolish, but as soon as Reece jumped a foot to the left, the boy did exactly the same; trusting him in the same way he trusted Rajiv... completely.
The second they jumped, with Giles barely supported between them, Rajiv squatted, grabbed the rock and was up again; ready to bowl the walking shag-pile out.
The rock was airborne a second after Eric leapt towards Reece and Anthony. Rajiv took a step back, knowing he was bang on to hit the target on the side of his head, and sure enough inches from Eric's terrifyingly sharp claws rending Reece's back in two, the rock connected and the werewolf went down like a sack of manure.
Eric stumbled, his paws going out from under him as he hit the ground sooner than he had intended. His head hurt like a bitch and he was seeing flashes of blue and green before his eyes. He whined as he feebly tried to get to his feet, but the heavy rock had done some damage and finally his head landed between his paws as he lost consciousness.
Rajiv let out a shaky breath that he heard echoed by Reece and Miley, Mr. Giles was still out cold. Running a hand through his hair he looked down at the werewolf for a beat before inquiring offhandedly:
"The bluey-green shimmers - they're just withdrawal symptoms from the adrenaline or something, yeah? Like when you're coming down off acid or something?" He ran his palm over his eyes, but when he looked again the weird special effects were still going on.
"Don't count on it, mate." Reece got a better grip on Giles. "I think we should be getting out of here now." A turquoise cross started glowing on his forehead, matching ones adorned the brows of his fellow watchers.
"I agree. It's magic of some kind and considering what we just went through, I doubt it's a protection spell," Anthony also shifted his hold on the senior watcher. "Also Mr. Giles is getting rather heavy."
"Come on then let's get..." Reece began as slowly the four watchers began to fade from view. "Oh, sh..."
The air gave one big ripple, like a sheet shaken out before it's folded.
And then they were gone.
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