Spike woke up slowly. When had he fallen asleep? The last thing he remembered was going to the fridge for a drink. And now he was… Where the hell was he, anyway?
He raised his head and looked around, blinking in an effort to clear his vision. Ok. Take stock. One, he was not in his crypt, he was outside. Good thing it was cloudy. And two, he was on the ground. So, the first step, obviously, was to get up.
He’d been lying on his side, so he rolled onto his stomach. His body felt strange. not normal. He shook his head and licked his lips, then froze at a strange sensation. Licked again. Why was his upper lip hairy? Vampires don’t need to shave.
He tried to move into a sitting position, but his legs wouldn’t bend the way that they were supposed to. This was thoroughly confusing, and he still was feeling dizzy and half awake, which didn’t help at all. He came to rest, sitting in a way, leaning forward and supporting half his weight on his hands. Raised a hand, intending to feel the strange hair on his lip, but froze before he got that far.
This is not right, his still sleep addled mind informed him. I have hands. *That* is a paw. He wiggled his fingers experimentally, and the toes on the paw moved. That woke him up the rest of the way.
“What the bloody…”, he started, but trailed off when he heard what had actually come out of his mouth. A growling bark. And yet.. he’d heard his own voice, as well. The words had to be projected mentally, he realized. Telepathically. And his actual voice… was a bark. “Well… This is not good.” The words ‘not good’ did not even begin to cover it.
He held up his paw again, examining it. Grayish white fur, mostly, turning into more of a silver color as it went up his arm.. uh.. leg. But it was the size of the paw that really interested him. It was huge. Like… frying pan sized, at least. There were four toes, and a dew claw. At the end of each toe, there was a sharp, black claw.
He licked his lips again, using his tongue to examine the teeth in his long snout. He could see his snout slightly, if he crossed his eyes. Licked again, paying close attention to the canines, especially. They hung down, beyond his top lip. Not teeth, he realized, and better than fangs. Saber teeth. There was even a special notch in his lower lip for them to rest in.
He snapped his toothy jaws a couple of times. Hmmm. Not as fast as his vamp reflexes, but close. And knowing that he still at least had fangs, albeit fangs that were about ten times the size of his normal ones, but fangs, never the less, made him feel a little better about his current predicament.
Okay, so he was a dog. Some kind of mutant, saber-toothed dog. That probably meant either a spell, or that the hot wings that he’d had for breakfast had been in the fridge too long. But, living on a Hellmouth, the spell made more sense. “Well, no real problem,” he said to himself, standing to all fours. He ignored the yips and growls that his mouth made, and focused on the mental sound of his own voice. “I’ll just go find Red or Tara, and get them to re…verse…”
It was then that he looked at his surroundings for the first time. Really looked. He wasn’t in his cemetery, as he had originally thought. In fact, it didn’t even look like he was in Sunnyhell anymore. He was on a grassy plain that seemed to stretch for an eternity in three directions, and run into some mountains in the distance to the east. There were trees, but they seemed rather small. Either that, or he was a lot bigger than he’d originally thought. But it wasn’t the area that was the real surprise, it was the inhabitants.
About half a mile away from him, there was a herd of animals lumbering along. Big animals that resembled elephants wearing full body toupees. No. Not elephants, the little part of his mind that liked watching the Discovery Channel told him. Mammoths. Woolly Mammoths. And that creature behind the herd, feeding on the crushed grasses that the Mammoths left behind? That was a Woolly Rhinoceros.
He just stood there, his mouth hanging open as if he was panting, unable to move. It was then that he heard a rustling in the tall grass behind him. He whirled around, an involuntary growl slipping from him, and tensed his body for an attack. He felt the fur along his back stand on end and his tail.. His tail? That was new… Bristled out as well. “Who’s there!?”, he barked at the grass.
Buffy knew from the moment that she woke up that she wasn’t exactly what she’d been when she’d… what? Passed out? Got hit on the head? Something had caused her to fall asleep on the way back to Spike’s crypt. And when she woke up, she had a fur coat. And fangs. She couldn’t forget the fangs. She’d been near a stream, so as soon as she figured out that she had to walk on all fours, she’d gone over and checked out her reflection. The creature staring back at her was anything but human.
Golden brown eyes in a feline face. Small ears that twitched and turned, following every sound she heard. A short but powerful snout with a large pinkish red nose, and twin knives hanging from her mouth where her canines should have been. It was her, but the reflection.. the body was that of a Smilodon. A saber-toothed cat. Her reaction to this realization was quite human, however. She screamed at the top of her lungs. But the sound that came from her was the roar of the Smilodon.
It took a few minutes for Buffy to compose herself, and try to look at this analytically. Ok. She was an extinct animal, and there was a stream where the Johansen’s large concrete angel should have been. She looked around and was confronted with a similar sight to what Spike was witnessing not too far away. Mammoths, Woolly Rhino. And.. a scent. What was that smell? It made her fur stand on end, the short mane that was on her neck bristled out and a strip of fur stood up all along her back.
She crouched, the instincts of the Slayer and Smilodon complementing each other perfectly. She crept toward the smell that the Smilodon identified as an enemy. She made almost no sound as she approached the creature standing in the grass not too far away. It was a wolf. But not a normal one. This one was as big as her. And taller, due to his longer legs. A memory of a long ago Earth Sciences class floated up. Dire Wolf. That was this creature’s name. The largest wolf ever to live, the size of a VERY large dog. Well, damn. That meant that she was as big as a large dog too, now didn’t it? He was just standing there, staring at the herd of Mammoths.
Well, that wolf wasn’t going to kill any Mammoth calves while she was there. She crouched and prepared to spring, wiggling her body to tense her muscles. This accidentally caused her to move some grass.
The wolf whirled around and barked at her, but there was something else. A voice. Spike’s voice. She stood up. “Spike?”
The wolf’s blue eyes got big, and he took a step back. “Buffy? Slayer, where are you?” He cocked his head and looked into the grass. He must have spotted her then, cause he gave a yelp and jumped backwards. “Bloody hell! Demon cat!”
Buffy laughed and stepped out of the grass so he could see her. “Nope. Slayer Smilodon.” She stared at him. “I didn’t call you a demon dog, you know.” She walked a slow circle around him, taking in the muscles rippling under his silver coat. “Pretty colors.”
He turned his head, his tail wagging slightly at the complement. “Thanks. You look good in gold, Slayer. But fur is out of style.”
Snort from the Smilodon. “Like you can talk.” She looked around. “Anyone else here? Or are we the only ones?”
He shook his head, a very human gesture from the great wolf. “Not that I’ve seen. But then again, I’ve only been awake for about ten minutes.”
She nodded. “Yeah. Me too.” She gazed at the Mammoth herd. “God, Spike. Where the hell are we?”
Spike walked over to stand beside her. “I think the more appropriate question is, *when* the hell are we?”
She looked up at his wolf eyes, which somehow had stayed the same beautiful blue as normal. “That’s what scares me.”
Giles had a predicament. What exactly does one *do* with a trunk and tusks? It hadn’t taken him long to figure out what had happened. It had been obvious from the moment that he realized that he was twenty feet tall, had a trunk, and was covered in a thick, shaggy red-brown fur coat. It had taken awhile to get used to seeing with eyes that were now on the sides of his head, but he was rather well adjusted after the first few minutes. His current problem was what to do with the trunk that kept dangling between his front legs and tripping him up when he walked. Finally, he lifted it, which was surprisingly easy, for it moved almost like a human arm, with more flexibility, and draped it over one of the fifteen foot curling tusks that protruded from his mouth. This kept it out of his way, even if it did look slightly silly.
He was near a Mammoth herd, but the scents told him that the herd was comprised of adult females and young. Knowing a little about elephant behavior, he reasoned that he was a large male, who should keep to himself unless one of the females went into heat. Not that he had any plans of mating with a Mammoth, in the first place. It was just a good idea to stay away, because the females might attack what they perceived as a rogue male threat to their calves.
Deciding that it would be safer to move further away from the herd, he struck out toward a nearby stream. Maybe a drink of water would help. When he reached the stream, he paused, confronted with yet another ‘mammoth’ problem. He knew that elephants drink by sucking water up their trunks, and then spraying it into their mouths, but that went against every human instinct in his mind. Deliberately suck water up your nose?! It was nuts. However, the alternative was dehydration, which wasn’t anymore comforting than drowning while drinking. He stuck his trunk in the water, and sucked a little. To his surprise, it only filled up a little ways, and then wouldn’t allow anymore water. Of course! A safety precaution. The Mammoth’s instincts wouldn’t allow him to suck up more than he could swallow. He curled his trunk around and sprayed water in his mouth. At least, he meant to. What he actually did was soak his front legs.
“Bloody hell.” This was going to be harder than he thought.
Willow and Tara had awakened together and found themselves in the bodies of Dinofelis’, the terrible cat. Think leopard with three inch saber teeth. Willow’s first words were, “I didn’t do it! I swear.”
Tara shifted on her four feet. “Honey, I know you didn’t do it. You’ve been with me all evening.” She looked around. “Which seems to be day again.”
Willow turned around. “Oh. My. God. Tara? What looks like an elephant covered in shag carpeting?”
“I don’t know. A Mammoth or something?”
Willow walked up next to Tara, and pressed their bodies together, forcing the witch to turn and look the way she was looking. “Is that a Mammoth?”
Tara’s jaw dropped. There was a Woolly Mammoth, apparently taking a bath, standing near a stream. The Mammoth slowly, and very deliberately, put it’s trunk in the water, then curled it up, and sprayed the water, getting most of it in his mouth this time. To the surprise of the ex-lovers, they heard Giles’ voice. “HA! Got it that time. I’m getting better at this.”
The two Dinofelis looked at each other, then ran toward the Mammoth. “GILES!!”, Willow called. “Giles! It’s us! Willow and Tara!”
The Mammoth looked up and took a step back, raising his trunk and shaking his tusks at them. “Get back, you animals, or I’ll…” He paused. Trunk came down. “Willow? Tara?”
The two cats cleared the stream in a single leap and ran over, nuzzling the Mammoth’s soaked forelegs. “Giles!”, they said in unison.
Giles touched each of them with his trunk without thinking. “Willow, Tara.. You’re.. Cats?”
“Dinofelis, Tara says,” Willow informed him. She cocked her head. “But I thought Dinofelis weren’t contemporary with Mammoths.”
Tara shook her head and looked up at Giles. “They weren’t. One of us is where we shouldn’t be.”
Giles started to say something, but was interrupted by several loud yelps of surprise coming from the grass not too far away. All three turned to look.
Having no idea how they’d get home, and not knowing what else to do, Buffy and Spike had just started walking back the way she’d come. They intended to see if Spike had a reflection in the stream. The closer they’d gotten to the stream, they’d both picked up on low rumbling sounds, and what sounded like voices from far away. Giles, Willow, and Tara.
Excited, the pair had begun to run, keeping pace with each other perfectly, and shot out of the grass at the same time, coming face to face with a charging Giant Hyena and a Wooly Rhino, and crashing into each other about twenty feet from the Mammoth and two Dinofelis. They went down in a tangle of fur, claws, fangs, and horns.
“Get off me! Get off!”, the Hyena yelled. In Xander’s voice.
“I’m not ON you!”, Anya’s voice came from the snorting Rhino.
“Bloody hell! You are on ME!!”, Spike yelled from where his wolf body was pinned beneath the Rhino’s hind leg.
Buffy hopped sideways, clear of the pile, then tried to help Xander shove Anya to her feet and off of Spike. “Easy, guys! Don’t squash him!”
“Ohh..”, Spike moaned. “Too late.”
With some work, they managed to get the Rhino to her feet. By then, Giles, Willow, and Tara had made their ways over to the group. “Is everyone alright?”, Giles asked, his thunderous footfalls shaking the ground slightly.
Buffy’s golden brown eyes went wide. “Giles!” The Smilodon leaped at the Mammoth, and did her best to wrap her forelegs around one of his. “I missed you. We missed you.”
Willow looked at Xander, and promptly started laughing. “Oh god! A Hyena! I can’t believe it!”
Xander snorted and took a step toward her. “Not funny. I know I’m a stupid Hyena, ok? Anya told me.” He glanced down at the still prone Spike on the ground. “Yeah. Sure. HE gets a really cool looking wolf, and I wind up a Hyena. Wasn’t it enough to be possessed by one? Now I have to BE one!?”
Spike moved a little. “If anyone cares, I’m flattened, here.”
Giles took one step toward him, reached down with his trunk, and felt over the wolf for injuries. “Nothing’s broken, Spike. Get up.”
“I had a RHINO on top of me, and nothing’s broken?”
Giles sighed, and used his trunk to pick the wolf up and stand him to his feet. “Yes. Nothing. See?”
Spike shook himself. “Well. I guess a little of my usual resiliency passed on to this body.” Gave a half glance at the Slayer, who became instantly fascinated with a mat of fur on Giles’ left front leg. He looked at each of them in turn. “Wait a minute. Everyone’s here, so where’s Lil’ Bit?”
Worried glances ran through the group. Giles cleared his throat. “There’s no way to know if she was even pulled in with us. She may not even be here.”
“Oh god,” Buffy said, sitting down. “She’s back in Sunnydale, all alone, and we’re not there, and we have to get back and make sure that she’s-”
“Here I am,” Dawn’s voice came from the grass. Everyone turned to see a miniature version of Buffy step out from behind a rock. A juvenile Smilodon, wearing something around her neck. “Hi.”
Spike was the first to react. He trotted over and bumped the kitten with his snout. “Hey, Bit. We were just thinkin’ about you.”
She gave him a Smilodon grin. “Yeah. I heard.” Nuzzled his snout. “Well, I wanted to see the Ancient Mammals exhibit, but this is a bit much.”
The others walked over and took their turns nuzzling and bumping at Dawn. Willow was in the middle of saying that they needed to figure out how they’d gotten there before they could get home, when she noticed the amulet that was still around Dawn’s neck. “Dawnie, where did you get that?”
If it were possible, the youngest Summers would have paled. “Uh.. I found it. Why? What is it?”
Anya lumbered over and looked at the amulet closely with one nearsighted rhino eye. “A Time Shifter.” She snorted. “I should have known. It grants wishes through time travel. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to do.” She took a step back and eyed Dawn. “Did you wish something while touching it? Maybe while thinking about a certain time period?”
Dawn’s yellow eyes grew wide. “I wished that everyone had more time, so we could be a family again. And that Buffy would be around to sign my permission slip so that I could go to the museum next week.”
Spike sat down and scratched at his ear with a hind paw. “Well, this is just great. You got your wish, Bit. We’ve got about twelve thousand years before you have to be back in school.”
Dawn looked at all of them in turn. “I didn’t know, really! I just wanted us to be together! I’m sorry.” She looked at Anya. “How do we get home?”
The Rhino shook her head. “I sell those, but I only know what’s in the inventory description.”
Tara spoke up. “I think.. I think I’ve read about these before. The spell will break eventually, but whether or not we get home depends on Dawn.”
Dawn gaped at the Dinofelis. “What!? Me?”
Tara nodded. “You have to feel that your wish has been fulfilled. Otherwise, when the spell breaks, we’ll be stuck here.” She motioned at the amulet, which was glowing gold. “When it stops glowing, the spell will be broken.”
“How long?”, Giles asked.
“I have no idea. That’s a pretty big amulet. It may be as little as two days, or as long as six months. I do know that if we do get back, we will return to the exact same moment when we left with no time having passed.”
“That’s a relief,” Xander said. He looked around. “So, this is like a vacation to the ice age, then.”
“Some bleedin’ vacation,” Spike muttered. “I’ve got a question. Other than the Rhino and the Mammoth, we’re all predators, right?”
Nods all around.
“Well, then. I don’t see any fast food joints around, so what are we going to eat?”
They all looked at each other, then simultaneously, their heads turned to a small herd of Megaloceros, giant deer. Buffy shook her head. “No. There’s got to be another way.”
Spike snorted at them. “Starve then. I’m going hunting.” He slipped into the grass and headed for the herd.
Xander looked at Buffy. “You don’t think he’ll really kill one of them, do you?”
She shook her head. “I wish I knew. The Dire Wolf doesn’t have a chip. There’s nothing stopping him this time.”
They all turned to watch, as Spike slunk through the grass in the direction of the Megaloceros herd. Kill or be killed. Hunt or be hunted. Spike knew it better than any of them. Maybe he was right. Buffy got up. “I’m going with him. Make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.” She went into the grass, disappearing after the wolf. One by one, Xander, Willow, and Tara followed her.
Spike was surprised when Buffy came up beside him as he crouched, watching the herd. “So. How do we do this.”
Spike glanced at her. “Glad to see you’re joining me, Slayer.” He turned his attention back to the herd. “I’m tryin’ to find one that’s weak, or sick, or something, to make it easier to kill.”
A Hyena, and two Dinofelis came up on Buffy’s other side. “So,” Xander asked. They were all keeping their mouths shut and allowing their mental link to work to it’s fullest. “How do we kill a deer?”
Spike ignored him, his blue eyes locking on a young fawn that had wandered away from it’s mother. “That one.” Gestured with a paw.
Tara looked at him. “The fawn!? That’s like… killing Bambi!”
He gave her a level look. “None of the adults are sick or weak, and we aren’t experienced enough in these bodies to know that we can take one. The fawn is the only logical choice.” He focused on the fawn again. “Fan out, and make a big circle around the fawn, then close in.” Looked at the Hyena. “Harris. When I say, ‘now’, I want you to run out, make as much noise as you can. Try to get the herd to run in the opposite direction from the fawn.”
Xander nodded, glad that he wouldn’t have to actually kill the fawn. It did look like Bambi. Albeit Bambi the size of a compact car, but still Bambi. He headed off to get into position.
Spike looked at Willow and Tara. “You two run the fawn toward Buffy and me.” Looked to Buffy. “You pounce on it, pin it with your weight. I’ll take care of the rest.”
All three girls felt slightly sick to their stomachs, but agreed. They all took their places. Spike waited for the fawn to move a little closer to him, until it was on his mental “X”. There. Showtime. “NOW!!!”