Exit – Chapter 9

Chapter 8

Buffy woke up with a start, and regarded her surroundings. No matter how often she woke up in her new room at the Watcher’s Mansion, she could never quite get used to how different it was from what she still thought of as home… An empty room at the bottom of a crater, blown to pieces… Sunnydale would always be home.

She sighed, and sat up, absently wondering how long she’d been asleep. Letting her mind drift slowly, she recalled her latest dream, and considered what Giles might make of the fact that, for once, she hadn’t dreamed about that day on the Hellmouth. In fact, this dream had been a type of dream she hadn’t had in over a year. A Spirit Guide dream.

As a Slayer, she possessed two Spirit Guides, unlike the rest of humanity, who tend to only possess one. A Guide is usually an animal form, one that shares many traits with the human being. The Spirit Guide that belonged to her purely human self… To Buffy, was a Cougar by the name of Grnew, who she’d actually met in person during a vision quest three years earlier. Her other Guide, however, belonged to the part of her that linked her to thousands upon thousands of other girls throughout history. It was a Slayer Guide. Like her cougar, her Slayer guide was a big cat, as well… But a deceptively small one.

A Jaguar.

From time to time, as everyone does, she would have a dream through one of her Guide’s eyes. Usually the dreams came when she was facing some large impasse in her life. Some hurdle that it just didn’t seem possible to get over. Something would happen in the dream, that she would reflect on later, and find the answer to the question that had been plaguing her. But this dream, while obviously a Guiding dream, didn’t seem to have any direction to it what so ever, and that confused her.

She got up, sighing to herself and absently straightening her hair. Slipping on a pair of slippers and a robe, she left her room and headed for the kitchen. As the kitchen was one of the places in the mansion that she wasn’t supernaturally lead to, she had to think in order to find it. Getting back to her room, however, would be a lot easier.

A Grandfather clock in one of the many hallways slowly bonged away the hour. It was three in the morning, and Buffy had a class to teach at six. Perfect, she mused to herself upon finally reaching the kitchen. All I have to do is get something to drink, get back to bed, and get up in three hours to play at feeling normal.

Piece of cake.

The Slayer sighed to herself, as she slowly sipped at a glass of milk. Giles would be angry with her for sitting on the counter, but she liked to do that. It was another thing that Spike did on a regular basis, and doing it herself, like the little growl he’d taught her, reminded her of him.

Like that panther in her dream had.

The Jaguar had no name. Not like Grnew, whose name had come to Buffy the first time she’d seen the cat. Later, Giles had told her that not everyone’s personal Spirit Guide HAS a name, so she should have felt very lucky that hers did. Still, sometimes she wished that she could refer to her Slayer Guide as something other than ‘the Jaguar’. It made it rather difficult to put into words what happened in the dreams, without having anything with which she could refer to the small cat, other than ‘her’, or ‘she’.

She chewed absently on a piece of string cheese, staring into space and considering the events of that Guide Dream.

She’d been hunting. But that wasn’t all that uncommon. Most of her Slayer Guide dreams involved some sort of hunt. The Slayer guide was supposed to provide direction for that part of her life. Only this time, something had gone wrong. The Jaguar had been hunting a wild boar, with the intent to avoid the adult and take a piglet. This was normal, Buffy considered, as, if that had simply been all the dream WAS, it would’ve told her that something was coming. There would be a big bad, and not so big bads… And the not so big ones were the ones that she would need to focus on. That, she could’ve easily interpreted, and been on the lookout for the fulfillment of her Guide’s warning.

But then the dream had changed. The Jaguar had made a mistake in her hunt, and had nearly been killed. This, also, was a common Slayer dream. It meant not to underestimate her opponents, and only came when she was in danger of doing so.

But that’s when the panther had, quite literally, dropped in.

Her Slayer Guide was solitary. Barren, she had never needed, nor desired a mate. Therefore, Buffy had NEVER seen another cat, of any species, in any of her Guiding dreams. With Grnew, on the other hand, Buffy was fully aware that her Cougar mated almost every spring, and had at least one cub every other year. That was her human biological clock ticking. Or, at least, that’s how she’d always interpreted those dreams. But this… Even the Jaguar had seemed startled by the panther’s presence.

It was a male panther. She’d known that almost instantly, just from the scents that accompanied the dream as a rule. During any Guiding dream, she felt, saw, smelled, and heard everything her Guide did. She was used to feeling the Cougar or Jaguar instincts, but one thing she wasn’t used to was the Jaguar being surprised. She… wasn’t easily caught off guard, just like Buffy, herself.

She’d watched the panther take down the boar, and the two had stared at each other for what seemed like the longest time. There was something in that panther’s gold eyes that had just… A part of her almost felt like it was dying, and another part felt complete. Her emotions, for the first time, had warred with the Jaguar’s instincts. The Jaguar wanted to run, even when the panther offered her the kill and moved to leave. But Buffy had taken control, and forced the Jaguar not only to stay, but also to offer the meal back to her savior.

The panther seemed confused, at first. That didn’t surprise her. The Jaguar herself was confused, and more than a little anxious. What did surprise her happened when she finally started to give control back to the Jaguar, and allow the cat to leave… And the panther had called them back, offering to share the meal.

The Jaguar had been wary, but her hunger had overridden her fear, and she’d followed the panther back to the river.

There, Buffy simply sat back and watched through her Guide’s eyes, as the Jaguar ate her fill of the boar, and laid down to clean her paws and teeth. Off to the side, through one of the swiveling ears, she heard what almost sounded like a dog. But when she forced the Jaguar to look, all she could see was the Black Panther’s back.

It was the first time she’d ever had a Guide dream that she couldn’t make immediate sense of. Especially since she felt as if she KNEW that panther from somewhere… He reminded her of Spike, in an odd sort of way. Vicious, and dangerous… But with a gallant, chivalrous side that no one but her ever really saw.

Confused, and finished with her cheese and milk, Buffy hopped down off the counter to wash her glass, and headed for the library. Something told her she was going to need Giles’ help on this one.

* * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Angel groaned quietly as he woke up, the stiffness that his wounds caused making him ache all over. He blinked slowly, finding his chin resting on something soft and warm, and slowly turned his head until he could see the black fur of the panther neck that was under his head. For once, the elder of the two didn’t pull away from his Childe. Instead, Angel just sighed softly and let himself relax for the moment, his mind drifting.

The pain was lessening, as the days went on and Spike continually applied the healing mud to the wolf’s wounds. And as his pain left, it allowed Angel’s mind to freely focus on the problem at hand. Namely, they were animals, and no one knew where they were.

The wolf’s tongue absently flicked out as his mind wandered, and he licked lazily at the fur behind Spike’s ears, without even realizing what he was doing. Or that Spike was awake enough to be conscious of his Sire’s touch… evidenced by the way the base of his tail was slowly starting to fuzz out like a happy housecat.

Angel began slowly weighing the possibilities. On the one hand, this seemed to have something to do with the drawing he’d made on the plane. And if it didn’t, it was a damned huge coincidence. On another hand, even if it DID have something to do with the drawing… What was it? One minute, they’d been on the plane, the next, in a jungle, and in bodies that definitely weren’t theirs. It didn’t make any sense.

Angel had no memory of a crash, or of anything other than feeling rather sleepy suddenly. The indication there was that they’d been drugged. But, now that he thought about it, that was impossible… They hadn’t eaten or drunk anything the entire day. That left some sort of spell. Which, now that he thought about it, was probably exactly what was going on.

The only question was, what was the purpose of the spell?

Angel couldn’t answer that, so he started absently nuzzling his snout against the back of Spike’s ears. “Spike… Spike, wake up.”

Golden eyes slowly opened, and the softly purring panther blinked lazily at the graying wolf paw that was draped over one of his own. “Mm?”

Angel sighed, resting his head on the panther’s neck again, not willing to give up his warm, and quite comfortable spot just for his pride now. “I think we might be under some kind of spell… Maybe something was cast on the plane… Or even before we left.”

Spike nodded, slightly unseating Angel’s chin from the back of his neck in the process. “Figured as much…” He sighed. “Guess s’too much to hope for that this is all just one bloody elaborate dream, huh?”

Angel gently grabbed Spike’s ear in his mouth and tugged. “Don’t think so.”

The panther made a face, and rolled slightly onto his side, pawing at the wolf. “Leggo.”

Angel, suddenly realizing that, the more he moved, the less he hurt, didn’t let go of his companion’s ear. “No… Hey. It doesn’t hurt when I do this…”

Spike growled. “That’s because you aren’t pulling on your own EAR. That is attached to me, mate… Let GO!” Spike shoved at the wolf with a paw, then smirked and dropped the paw down and under his canine companion… and tickled Angel’s stomach.

Angel yipped, and released the panther’s ear in the process, then gave Spike a sour look, before laying back down. Spike only grinned at him.

“Learnin’ how to have fun, Peaches?”

The wolf growled halfheartedly, but stretched lazily next to Spike. “Not for lack of trying not to,” he muttered good-naturedly, but his brown eyes were dancing a bit as he regarded the panther.

Spike chuckled, then rolled over and got to his feet, stretching and heading over to the partial boar carcass that still remained on the riverbank. It was then that he realized their other feline companion had disappeared. He felt a bit sad at her leaving, but he knew she probably had other things to take care of. He gripped one of the two remaining legs of the pig in his mouth, and jerked hard until he felt the hip give way. He carried the large leg over to Angel, and laid down with it between them, absently gnawing on it.

Angel watched him for a moment, before settling down and pulling hunks off the other side of the boar leg, and the two ate in companionable silence. Finally, as he swallowed a particularly big piece of flesh, Spike said quietly, “Do you think we should leave the river?”

Angel considered this for a moment… more than a little surprised that his Childe was actually asking his opinion… then shook his head. “No… Not really. Where would we go, anyway? We haven’t seen any evidence of a plane crash, so there’s no way of finding wherever it went down… IF it went down… And we have water, and food here…”

Spike just nodded, sitting up and going back to grooming himself with his tongue and paws. “Yeah… So what do we do, then? Just sit here and hope someone finds us?,” he mumbled between licks.

Angel sighed, gnawing at the boar leg bones absently, holding them in place with his paws. The longer he stayed in the wolf body, the more comfortable he was becoming with it… But that still didn’t mean that he was going to allow it’s primitive instincts overwhelm him. “I have no clue… But I figure we’ll think of something eventually.”

Spike sighed, and leaned down to lick a bit of blood off Angel’s snout, without even thinking about the action. “I hope you’re right, mate.”

Angel, for his part, didn’t react to his Childe’s gentle lick, except to turn his snout slightly to give the panther better access. “So do I, Spike.”

Chapter 10