The crocodile lunged forward, jaws gaping as it prepared to bite Angel’s wolf body clean in half. But it didn’t see the black blur that had launched itself from a little further down the riverbank. Not until the black panther crashed into the crocodile’s intended target, knocking both mammals rolling away from the riverbank.
The crocodile’s jaws snapped shut, but it was rewarded with nothing more than a few black hairs, yanked from the panther’s tail in passing. The great reptile glared menacingly at the panther and wolf for a few moments… before it slowly withdrew into the water, and resumed it’s ever patient wait for another unwary animal to stumble into it’s domain.
Angel coughed and shoved at Spike with all four paws. “Get OFF of me!”
Spike growled, and climbed off the slightly smaller wolf. “Don’t bother with a ‘thank you’, then. I only just saved your life.” The panther snorted as he walked a few feet away. He sat down and curled his tail around him, proceeding to lick at it’s aching end, where the crocodile’s teeth had torn him a slightly bald spot.
Angel rolled over and sat up, growling under his breath. But he was shaking. And that was the real reason he hadn’t wanted Spike close to him. He’d always made sure never to let the younger vampire know when something scared him. But that, just then… Seeing those huge teeth aimed right at his head… KNOWING that he was about to die, in a body that didn’t even BELONG to him… He’d never felt that terrified before. And he couldn’t control the trembling that was wracking his wolf’s body.
Spike, on the other hand, was muttering to himself, seemingly unfazed by their close encounter of the reptile kind. “Bloody wanker. Save his life, n’he just shoves me away like I’m some sorta old shoe. Would a ‘thank you’ really ruin his reputation? Especially considerin’ that NO ONE KNOWS WHERE WE ARE.” He flipped his ears back and sent a glare in Angel’s direction, but the wolf wasn’t looking at him. In fact, Angel had his back to the panther, and was curled into just about as small a ball as his wounded wolf’s body would allow.
Spike cocked his head and furrowed his brow as best he could, and slowly approached Angel. His anger ebbed away as he took in the sight of the older vampire’s slightly shaking form. Something was wrong with his Sire. Very wrong. And he wanted to help. “Angel?”
The white wolf immediately tensed, and emitted a low growl, but he didn’t move otherwise.
Now Spike knew something was wrong. He raised a paw, but hesitated before touching Angel’s shoulder. “Angel… C’mon, mate. Say somethin’.”
Angel swallowed, and raised his head, brown eyes blinking at Spike. “How do you do it?”
The panther blinked gold eyes, and tilted his head at his Sire. That hadn’t been the ‘something’ that he’d expected Angel to say. He’d actually been expecting something along the lines of ‘go away’. “Do what?”
Angel sighed and laid his head on his paws, flinching when his wounds pulled at the action. “You walk… like a panther. Jump, run… You move like that’s your body. Like you KNOW it.”
Spike shrugged, sitting down absently. “Don’t know how I’m doin’ it, mate.” He tilted his head in consideration. “Didn’t start out that way…”
Angel growled softly. “If this is a flashback trigger, I swear, I’ll bite that ear clean off.”
Spike chuckled, then blinked, suddenly remembering why they had come to the river in the first place. “No flashback, mate. I promise. Hang on a second, okay?”
Angel sighed and muttered, “Do I have a choice?”
Spike turned and headed back to the riverbank, hissing quietly in the direction the crocodile had gone, just for good measure. He looked around until he found a nice sized piece of bark, and picked it up in his mouth. He then scooped up a lot of the mineral rich mud from the water’s edge, and carried it back over to Angel. “This is what we came here for… Don’t ask how I know, but if you put this on your wounds, they won’t get infected… N’they’ll heal faster.”
Angel attempted to raise an eyebrow, but gave up when he remembered that wolves don’t exactly have them. “And what are you now? Dr. Quinn, Medicine Panther?”
Spike gave a quiet growl and muttered, “Peaches, I am getting bloody fed up with you. I’m trying to HELP, and all you can do is complain. I don’t know why we’re here. I don’t know how long we’ll be stuck here. But I DO know that as long as we’re here, we’re stuck TOGETHER. So make the best of it, or shut your snout. I, for one, am doin’ my part. You, on the other… paw… are just attracting predators.”
Angel didn’t even growl at that. Instead, he simply let out a sigh. “Fine… Fine. Okay. You have a point. But how would you feel if you were me? You might be comfortable in that body, but I am NOT comfortable in this one. I’m short, I have paws, and I have a fucking TAIL. I can’t walk in a straight line, because my back end doesn’t want to keep up with my front end, and my ears are on top of my head. How am I supposed to know what direction sounds come from, if my ears are on top of my head!?””
Spike blinked at Angel for a moment, then broke into whuffing laughter. “You turn them… Have… have you been watching mine? I hear somethin’, and my ears turn to face it on their own… Yours should do the same, Peaches.”
Angel growled. “Stop CALLING me that!” The wolf pushed himself up and lunged at Spike… who gracefully sidestepped and sent Angel sprawling on the riverbank.
Spike winced, his laughter abruptly stalling, then slowly approached Angel, his head ducked in a way that he hoped the older vampire would recognize as Childe to Sire submission. “Look, mate, we shouldn’t be fightin’. We need to stick together to get out of this… C’mon back over here, and I’ll help you get that mud on… Look. You ripped your leg open again.”
Angel had indeed aggravated the leg wound that had caused him so much trouble, and blood was once again slowly pumping out over his now dirty gray fur. “Damn it,” the wolf muttered, but he reluctantly followed Spike back to the shady area where the panther had left the bark and mud. Considering the mud, Angel sighed. “What do you want me to do? Roll in the stuff? I don’t have hands, Spike.”
Spike sighed. “Look, Angel. It’s gonna be dark soon. Lay down, n’I’ll put the mud on for you.” He held up a paw and flexed the claws a bit when Angel looked as if he was going to protest. “Don’t,” he said, his voice quiet, but matter-of-fact. “Don’t bother arguing, Angel. I’m bigger than you, I’m stronger than you, but I’d rather not HAVE to hold you down while I tend your wounds.”
Angel growled, but finally laid down and let Spike start carefully rubbing the mud into the throbbing wound on his leg. It hurt at first, but after a few moments, a delicious cooling sensation spread throughout the entirety of the wolf’s injured leg, and Angel felt an odd urge to let his tail wag. He didn’t allow it to, of course. He wouldn’t give in to the wolf’s primitive instincts. But he did hold very still for the rest of the time that Spike was applying the soothing mud to his wounds.
Spike, for his part, was already considering what they’d do the next day. The first thing would be to find food. Both of them would be practically starving by the time morning came. Then, after their bellies were full, the next thing on the agenda would be to figure out where they were, where the plane was, and how they could get back to it… and back to normal.
He started to ask Angel what the older vampire thought, when a soft sound from the wolf’s slightly open snout caught his attention. Snoring. Angel was snoring. He’d gone to sleep while Spike had been tending his wounds. The panther blinked at his canine companion for a moment, then smiled, as best his panther body could. Rest would be just as good for Angel’s worn out body as the medicine mud would.
With a quiet yawn, Spike laid down next to his Sire, letting his black furred tail curl around the wolf’s body. He laid his chin absently atop the back of Angel’s neck, and his tongue flicked out, straightening the fur behind one of his Sire’s ears. There was a lot do to… And more to figure out… But, he thought with a yawn, there wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait until morning.