The first thing I was aware of was a splitting headache. I groaned and put both hands over my still closed eyes, pressing against my sinuses to try and make the pain go away. What a freaky dream THAT had been. Whoever the hell I’d eaten the night before must have had some sort of weird disease or something for me to get a dream like that. Light-water, yeah, right.
Was I hung over or something? Why did those cars sound so bloody LOUD? You’d think I was sitting on the side of a road instead of home in my… Wait. My bed is firm, but it isn’t HARD. Whatever I was on was hard. I MUST have been drunk last night if I fell asleep on the table or something like that.
“It’s about time you woke up,” a voice said suddenly.
I jumped and opened my eyes, then immediately closed them again. Whoever that was had to be playing a trick on me. There was a VERY bright light shining in my face. I don’t like very bright lights, for obvious reasons, and I like them even less when they’re shining in my eyes. But that voice wasn’t any of the vampires in my pack. Female… young sounding. Familiar. Why did it sound so damned familiar? “Who are you? And get that damned light out of my face.” My hands were over my eyes again.
The voice laughed. “I’m not shining a light in your face. Open your eyes, Angelus. Look around.”
I growled. I’m not a morning person. Hell, I’m not an evening person, either. “My head hurts.”
“Uh huh. I thought it might. Popping psyches isn’t exactly a subtle spell.”
THAT made me blink, but the light was still there, so I closed my eyes again. “Popping…” Now I was starting to feel a little worried. “What are you TALKING about? And PLEASE turn that light off.”
“I can’t,” the voice said, something akin to a giggle in the tone. “It’s rather hard to reach the switch for the sun.”
Now I opened my eyes. Scare tactic. It had to be a scare tactic. If I were really outside, I’d be on FIRE. So I wasn’t outside. The fact that I was looking around me and seeing that I appeared to be sitting on the side of the road near the High School didn’t matter. It had to be a trick. Yep. The same trick that was making me see everything in shades of gray, black, and white. “Very funny. Ha ha. Okay.” I looked around. “Joke’s over. Where are you? WHO are you?”
So, I did. And up, and up, and up. The only thing I saw was a glowering bird of prey sitting high atop a telephone pole near me. That, and a whitish sky, which I assumed was actually blue. “Why can’t I see colors?” I growled. “Hell. Why can’t I see YOU?”
“You’re looking right AT me, genius.” In the tree, the bird ruffled it’s feathers and clacked it’s beak once. I just stared.
“I’m talking to a bird?” I snorted. “You have GOT to be kidding me.”
“Nope.” The bird appeared to wave one wing. “Hi.” This time, I just growled. I was asleep still. I had to be. This was one of those dream within a dream things you always see on TV.
The bird took a moment to preen the flight feathers of one wing. “I’m not exactly happy about this either, you know. I didn’t code myself into this spell. This was all my ancestor’s idea. Apparently, you’re too dumb to figure out what you need to on your own, so I’m stuck here as your guide.”
“Wait. Ancestors?” Suddenly, it hit me why that voice sounded so damned familiar. But you can’t blame ME for not placing it at first. I’d KILLED the bitch the last night! “Jenny?”
“B-I-N-G-O, genius.” Her tone was decidedly different today, though. It took me a moment to place that it was a total lack of fear. She wasn’t afraid of me. She was MOCKING me, even.
I snarled and pushed myself up, heading for the pole. “I’ll rip your goddamn feathers out! Wring your scrawny little neck and-” I was cut off when I tipped completely over on my first step and plowed my nose into the asphalt. “OW!”
Jenny laughed, and her bird body bobbed it’s head in an amused fashion. “Oh, smart, trying to walk upright. Really. Have you EVER seen a dog walk upright?”
“Of course I haven’t seen a… dog?” I stopped for a moment, getting a sick feeling in my stomach, and stared down at my hands on the pavement. My hands… weren’t hands. Not by a long shot. They were paws. Little brown furred dog paws with black stub claws on the end. “No…” I didn’t panic. I was too shocked to panic. Slowly, I took stock. Long, floppy brown ears… brown body leading back to brown back legs ending in similar paws to my arms… front legs now… And the most disturbing thing was that I had a tail. A long, semi-fluffy tail growing right out of my fuzzy brown butt. NOT attractive. But… I’d seen it somewhere before. The whole mental picture I was getting of myself was VERY similar to… That dumb little dog that I’d seen hit by a car… Oh lord.
NOW, I screamed.
“Hey! Angelus! Settle down! Stop…” The bird gave an annoyed squawk while I did my best to stop staggering around and babbling variations on ‘no’. “This isn’t working…” I was then hit by a stick.
“Ow!”, I shouted, shoving the stick she’d tossed at me with both front paws. “Damnit! Don’t throw sticks at me you stupid bird!”
“Next time it’ll be a LIMB.” She sighed suddenly. “Angelus? Look where you are. If you intend to survive, it might be better if you WEREN’T STAGGERING AROUND IN THE MIDDLE OF A STREET!”
I blinked, then yelped and barely had time to leap out of the way as a car sped past, honking it’s horn at me. I snarled after it. “Hey, I’m walking here!”
“If you’ll come over here, I need to go over some things with you,” Jenny said then.
“Yeah, right. I’m going to take orders from a bird.” I turned and started to walk away.
“I’m NOT a bird. I’m your guide, you idiotic canine. And if you don’t listen to me, and you DIE in that body, you will NOT be getting another chance.”
That made me stop. Reluctantly, I turned around and walked back, sitting at the base of her telephone pole and staring up at her. “Fine. What is it?”
She took her sweet time answering me, preening her wing as if it was the most important thing in the universe. What about ME? I was trapped in the body of a DOG for god’s sake! A SMALL dog. A CUTE dog. Why couldn’t I have been something interesting? Like… like a wolf or something. I looked like I belonged laying on someone’s hearth somewhere, gnawing on a rawhide chew.
“First thing’s first,” Jenny said finally. “Humans cannot understand you. They hear your speech as barks, yaps, and growls. So don’t bother trying to tell anyone who you are. Secondly, while I wrote this curse, I want you to know that this is NOT what I intended it to do. My ancestors, who I’m pretty sure you met last night in some form or other, have altered what I intended.”
She cocked her head when I remained quiet, and then nodded slightly. “The original intention was for this curse to render you harmless until the soul restoration spell could be completed. I wrote it so that it would turn you human, but from what I’ve gathered, my tribe had a different idea.”
“Maybe the fact that I’m a DOG gave you that clue?”, I muttered to myself.
“I heard that.” She clacked her beak, then continued. “Animal forms are used in my tribe as a means to learn a lesson. So apparently my tribe wants you to learn a lesson, and they realized that the soul restoration spell didn’t do exactly what they’d intended it to do originally. I don’t think they realized that a vampire with a soul and the demon part of the vampire are what amount to two different people. By ensouling you originally, they never taught YOU anything. Instead, they wound up giving Angel, your human soul, a century of torture for crimes he had no hand in committing. Near as I can tell, my ancestors are trying to correct that mistake.”
“By turning me into a dog?”
She shook her head. “By putting you in a position where you are harmless to people, but can also observe and learn from them without the vampire’s drive to kill. Apparently, they think you, the demon part of you, is somehow redeemable.” I could’ve sworn she was smirking. “I don’t agree, but they don’t really seem to care what I think, considering that I’m stuck here, too.”
I snorted. “And WHY are you here again? How are you supposed to guide me if you don’t even know what’s going on.”
The hawk fluttered her wings a little. I assumed it was the avian form of a shrug. “Hey, maybe I’m supposed to be learning something too. But considering that I am IN my spirit form, and you, on the other claw, are in a recycled dog body, I’m just taking a wild guess that it’s you who’s supposed to learn a lesson.”
That actually relaxed me a bit. At least the dog wasn’t my spirit form. Whatever THAT was had to be better than this dinky little runt of a mutt. “Fine. What’s the lesson?”
She seemed to smirk down at me again. “That, my canine companion, is the right question.” And with that, she spread her wings and lifted into the air, soaring away.
“Hey! Wait!” I couldn’t very well let the only person I could talk to, let alone my ‘guide’, get away. Not to mention that the MOMENT that bird brained gypsy landed on the ground, I was going to maul her. But that was another thing entirely. Now, I trusted my instincts to know how to run in my new body, and took off after the hawk, shouting for her to come back.
Just an interesting little note. It’s difficult to run while looking up at the sky. Especially when your depth perception is all wonky because you’ve lost color vision entirely. Not to mention that I was having a serious problem keeping my front legs and back legs coordinated. The reason I bring it up is that, without knowing that, the fact that I ran into a speed limit sign might be considered funny. Knowing my situation, however, should stop that from happening.
I hear one snicker and I swear, I will FIND where you live, get in your house somehow, and rip out various bodily organs. No laughing. Got it? Good.
So I ran into a speed limit sign. Or, rather, into the pole that held the sign up. I bounced back and slammed onto my ass, half crushing my tail in the process. I yelped in pain and tried to get up, momentarily forgetting (yet again) that I couldn’t stand up correctly. I fell down.
To make matters worse, I’d completely lost sight of that gypsy hawk. Some guide she turned out to be. Abandoning her charge when he’s just making some progress.
Muttering to myself, I slowly managed to get in a sitting position. Which, as anyone who’s ever seen a dog sit knows, is more like a crouch than what a human (or vampire) would think of as sitting. It at least took all weight off my tail, which I was certain that I had bruised by then.
That was when I saw them coming. That little blonde Slayer and her two best friends, Willow and Xander. Just perfect.
Wait a minute.
I was a dog, right? Dogs need people to give them food. Otherwise I was liable to starve. I might have had the little dog’s body, but I didn’t have his memories. I didn’t know where he’d been getting food, and I was suddenly aware that I was very, very hungry. So, humans plus dog equal food. Dog food would be preferable to starving, at the very least. And if I could ham it up a bit, maybe I could weasel some actual meat out of them.
So this was definitely my stomach talking. Any other circumstances, and I most certainly would NOT have approached the three humans, whimpering and wagging my tail a bit. Hey, I don’t LIKE cute, but I know how to USE cute when I have to. Nothing like a pair of big, brown puppy eyes to make every human your friend.
“Hawkeye?”, the Slayer asked, crouching down and holding out her hand to me. Even then, it took a LOT of my will power not to bite off a few of those fingers. “What are you doing out here, boy?”
I approached her slowly, suddenly remembering that the little dog I was ‘impersonating’ was not exactly sociable to people 99% of the time. If I was going to go to her and make it believable, I would have to act indecisive.
“Maybe he’s hurt,” the redhead, Willow, said as she knelt down as well. “Come on, Hawk… here boy…”
Xander fished through his bag and came up with half a sandwich. “I bet he’s just hungry.” He tossed the sandwich at me, and I couldn’t help flinching back from it a little. I’d been hit by ENOUGH things that day already. I didn’t need my breakfast to bean me on top of everything else.
“Xand, you scared him,” the Slayer said. I didn’t really care. My eyes were glued to that sandwich now. I wolfed it down in two big bites. “Whoa… I guess he is really hungry.” I jumped and growled when there was a sudden pressure on my head, jerking back.
She’d been trying to PET me. The Slayer had been trying to pet me. It would’ve been horrifyingly funny if the situation were any different. But, if I wanted them to keep feeding me, I needed to stay ‘cute’. And part of that meant I’d have to put up with things like being petted. Reluctantly, I drew closer to the Slayer and her friends again.
“There you go,” the Slayer said, and her hand stroked a couple of times over my head, thumb rubbing a spot just behind my ear that made my eyes close for some reason. “Good boy…” I kept my eyes closed, but I could tell that she was talking to her friends now and not me. “He’s never let me pet him before… He must really be in trouble. Willow, do you think your parents would let you keep a dog?”
Willow sighed. “I know the answer would be no. We’ve had a longstanding agreement for awhile now… Ever since the great gerbil incident of 3rd grade, I’m restricted to fish.”
“I can’t take him either,” Xander said. “My parents would never let me have a dog in the house. Mom’s allergic for one thing. And dad just hates animals.”
The Slayer sighed and stopped petting me. I opened my eyes and blinked up at her, waiting. If she couldn’t take me home, I’d just have to find some other patsy to take care of me while I was stuck like this.
“It’s just me and mom right now,” she said after a minute. “And it’s a pretty big house for two people… I’ll take him home and meet you guys at the library in a little while, okay?”
Willow grinned. “Hey, we can come play with him, right? Maybe we could all take him to the dog park this weekend, and-”
“Whoa! Slow down there, Wills,” the Slayer laughed. “I don’t even know for sure if I’m going to be able to keep him. I have to take him home and see what mom says.” Then, suddenly, I was flying through the air. She’d picked me up. I had to fight to keep myself from squirming and trying to bite her. “C’mon little guy. Let’s go introduce you to mom.” She said goodbye to her friends, then walked off toward her house, with me cradled in her arms. After a little way, I finally managed to relax.
I didn’t notice Jenny sitting in the tree outside the Summers house, waiting for us, until I was being carried in the kitchen door.
Chapter 2 (COMING SOON!)