On Spike’s command, Xander ran out of the grass, barking, yipping and yowling at the top of his lungs. For good measure, he was also yelling telepathically, even though their earlier conversations seemed to prove that the animals were either unable to hear their speech, or simply oblivious to it. “Yaaaaghh! Run! Run, you big, huge, gigantic venison steaks! I am the mighty hunter, here to devour you!”
Spike shook his head. Pointless? Yes. But it made him feel better. He watched as Willow and Tara shot out of the grass, moving low to the ground, and came behind the fawn, cutting it off from the rest of the herd, letting out twin roars that could have awakened the dead. The fawn bleated in terror and turned to run from the two attacking Dinofelis, straight toward Buffy.
Buffy, for her part, was really not relishing the idea of doing her part in the murder of the fawn. She glanced at Spike, and saw the intent in his eyes. He was focused. He could do this. Well, if he could do it, so could she. She hadn’t found anything that he could do that she couldn’t yet… Well, there was that one thing, but now was *really* not the time to be thinking about that. They were different species, anyway. Was that even possible? Well, technically, they were different species before, just not as… obvious. And- Whoops, missed the signal.
She leaped out of the grass and barely managed to sideswipe the fawn. Thankfully, her speed was enough to knock it down, and she had the presence of mind to get on top of it. She held the struggling fawn down, her claws digging into it’s flesh and drawing blood. The fawn screamed. Actually screamed, almost sounding like a human. Buffy’s eyes went wide, but she didn’t release it. By that time Tara and Willow had joined in the struggle to keep their prey down. Where the hell was Spike?!
The scream had startled him, frozen him in his tracks. He shook himself. He was the predator, the fawn was the prey. Don’t think about all the times that you’ve watched Bambi with Dru, his mind said, forcing his paws to move again. Just don’t. It’s food. Only food. Don’t think about that doe standing over there watching you. Don’t think about what you’re doing. Just do it.
By then, he’d reached the group and was helping pin the fawn with his weight on it’s shoulders and neck. He licked his lips, focused on the fawn’s neck, finding the jugular vein. One bite, and his saber fangs would do the job. Just lean over, fit your jaws around the throat, clamp and rip all in one motion. Nothing to it. Nothing at- The fawn was looking at him. One huge, brown eye was focused on him, terror, and… acceptance, shining in the dark depths. An intelligence. Oh, god, no.
He had his jaws positioned around it’s throat, but couldn’t move. The deer’s life was in his paws, and he couldn’t do it. This was what he’d worried about when he’d thought that the chip didn’t work anymore. When it came right down to it, could he kill again? No. Not could. Would. Would he kill again. It was a choice. And his hesitation showed that he was struggling internally with that choice. They had to kill to eat. That was the way of the world, even twelve thousand years in the past. Right?
Buffy, Willow, and Tara watched Spike from their points on the fawn’s body. He seemed frozen, his jaws clamped around the deer’s throat, but not moving. His eyes were clouded, and his tail had curved up between his legs. Buffy cocked her head and debated saying something to pull him from his internal thoughts, but decided against it. Whatever decision he was making was obviously hard to him. Maybe he couldn’t decide between strangling the fawn and ripping it’s throat out.
Spike closed his eyes, preparing to finish the fawn, then froze. Changed his mind. Released the deer and backed away, tail still between his legs. “Let him up.”
The three felines looked at their canine companion. “What?”, Buffy asked. “We have him!”
Spike snarled and barked the order again. “I said, let him go.”
Confused, the three cats got off the fawn and backed away. The fawn leaped to his feet, the claw marks on his flanks and sides bleeding slightly, and turned to go back to his mother, who was still standing not too far away. But it stopped. Turned. For an instant, the eyes of predator and prey locked and the deer and wolf stared at each other. A message passed between them. ‘I won’t forget this.’ It was only an instant, then the fawn turned and ran to it’s mother’s side and the pair took off it the direction of the herd.
Spike sighed heavily, then turned to walk back into the grass, leaving three very confused cats behind him. So long, Bambi, he thought. Have a good life.
Buffy looked at Willow and Tara. “Can you guys go find Xander? Make sure those monster deer didn’t trample him?” They nodded and ran off after the Hyena. Buffy jogged into the grass and followed Spike by scent, since he’d gotten ahead of her. When she caught up to him, he was laying by the base of a tree, his head pillowed on his forepaws and tail wrapped around him. “Spike?” He didn’t answer, so she walked closer and poked him with a paw. “Spike. Talk to me.”
“Couldn’t do it.”
She sat down in front of him and cocked her head down to look at him. “Yeah. What’s up?”
The wolf gave a deep sigh. “I don’t know. Bloody hell. A vampire that can’t kill, even if he wanted too, suddenly given the chance again… You’d think I could do it.”
“Maybe you’re just out of practice.”
Slight head shake. “No. I just couldn’t do it. I was ready, and I could feel it’s blood, pulsing through the vein that my fangs were pressing into, and I was excited, and ready, and then it looked at me.” Another deep sigh. “And I couldn’t do it.”
If she’d been human, she would have smiled, but, being a Smilodon, she just laid down in front of him so that their noses were less than three inches apart. “Fell for the big deer eyes, huh?”
He blinked, then focused on her. “Not funny, Slayer. I’m beginning to think that there’s something wrong with me.”
She sat up and cocked her head. “Why? Because you couldn’t kill an innocent animal?”
He snorted. “That’s not supposed to matter to me. Not too long ago, the deer wouldn’t have even bothered me. I could have deliberately run it down with my car and not even flinched. But now… I just don’t know anymore.”
She reached out a paw and patted him on the head. “It’s okay. I guess us humans are rubbing off on you. You seem to be developing a conscience.”
He pulled away from her and sat up. “That is not possible.”
She turned to walk back to where they’d left Giles, Anya, and Dawn, then turned and looked back at him. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Spike.” The corners of her mouth turned up in the Smilodon version of a smile. “After all, we’re only human.” She disappeared into the tall grass.
Spike chuckled, then slowly got up and followed her. She was right, in a way. He supposed if their situations were reversed, and Buffy had spent a lot of time with a pack of vampires, a kill would be easy for her, even though she’s human. All that had happened was that he’d been hanging around the Scoobies too long, and a bit of their thoughts and morals were either rubbing off, or coming back to him. After all, he’d been human once, too.
A few hours later, the whole group was assembled on the banks of the stream again. After some debating, it had been decided that they would try fishing in order to feed the predators. As for Giles and Anya, well, they were learning how to eat grass and like it.
Buffy had discovered that by dropping her lower jaw all the way, which almost laid it on her chest, her saber teeth became wonderful fishing spears. She’d stand on the bank, wait for a fish, and then stab down with every ounce of speed her Smilodon body could muster. Most of the time, she came up with a fish on her fangs. In fact, the only time she’d missed was because Dawn had been swatting at her short tail and had thrown her off balance. Only the fact that Giles was nearby and had grabbed her around the middle with his trunk (he was very good at using it by then) had kept the Slayer from falling in the stream.
Willow and Tara found that they could swat the fish out of the water, like a modern bear, but then there was the problem of catching the flopping fish and holding them still so that they could bite them.
Dawn’s teeth were too small to fish with, so Buffy would spear a fish and then toss it over her shoulder for her sister. Meanwhile, Xander had just decided that it would be easier to wade into the stream and snap up the fish as they passed. It didn’t always work, but most of the time it did.
Spike wasn’t feeling hungry, and hated fish anyway. So he just laid about fifty feet away from the group, and watched them work. After about two hours of fishing, everyone was full, and now they were just playing around, enjoying their time together. Giles had discovered that he could hold his trunk in different shapes, and that changed the sound it made when he trumpeted. Xander had found this so funny that he’d dragged over a log and sat up on his hind legs, beating on the log with his forepaws. Dawn started dancing around, which was kind of funny, since she literally had two left feet, and singing a medley of any song she could think of that had a beat similar to the one that the Hyena and Mammoth were producing. Willow and Tara appointed themselves her backup singers, and hummed along with whatever she sang, their Dinofelis voices yowling loudly and adding to the din. Buffy watched for awhile, and then caught sight of Spike, lying in the shadows not too far away. She got up and walked over to him. “Hey.”
“Hey, luv.” Cocked his head at the rest of the group. “I think they just invented the first band.”
She laughed a little and sat next to him. “Yeah. What’re you doin’ here, anyway?”
Spike sighed and gestured with a paw to the west, where the sun was setting, casting a golden red glow over the ancient landscape. “Reminding myself what it’s like to watch a sunset from the beginning.”
She felt a slight pang for him. Closed her eyes, trying to imagine that she hadn’t seen a sunset in over a hundred years. Opened them. Somehow, the colors were even more incredible. She smiled internally. “It is pretty.” Cocked her head down at him. “Aren’t you hungry?”
He shook his head. “That thing with the fawn earlier… I lost my appetite.”
Buffy gave a half nod. “Yeah. Don’t blame you.” She got up and headed over to where the others were settling down to rest for the night. “If you get hungry, come get me. I think this Smilodon thing has pretty good night vision. I can probably still fish for a few more hours.”
He nodded. “Alright, luv. Good night.”
He watched as the others huddled in a group. Giles laid down slowly, lowering himself until his stomach was on the ground. Mammoths probably weren’t designed to sleep lying down, but it worked. Willow and Tara laid down side by side in front of Giles, and his trunk rested over their backs like a hairy blanket. Xander was next to Anya, who was leaning on Giles’ side. Buffy and Dawn were on the other side, curled together, up against the soft, warm blanket of Mammoth fur.
Not too long after the sun went down, Spike began picking up on the sounds of deep, rhythmic breathing from the pile of mammals. He sighed and laid his head on his paws, trying to sleep. With the absence of sun, the temperature dropped rapidly, and it wasn’t long before Spike found himself shivering violently. Part of him wanted to get up and go see if he could wedge himself between Buffy and Dawn, but the part that he listened to, his stubborn pride, didn’t want to seem as if he needed them. He’d already suffered through one humiliating thing that day, even though no one had bothered him about it, and he didn’t want to seem weak in their eyes. So he laid there and shivered. Eventually, out of pure exhaustion, he fell into a restless sleep.
Spike woke up in the middle of the night to the pleasant feeling of being warm. And squished. But a good squished. He looked around, blinking the sleep away, and was surprised to find that he had a Mammoth on one side, and a Smilodon on the other. The whole group had moved sometime during the night and come over to include Spike in the group snuggle. Also, there was a weight on his back. Dawn was stretched out along his back with her legs hanging off on either side. Because of Giles’ slow lowering of himself, the long fur of his sides and underbelly was spread on top of Dawn and Spike, helping to insulate them.
Buffy was leaning hard against his other side, and he was pleasantly surprised to feel that he was surrounded by this wonderful vibrating sound. It took awhile to realize that it was coming from Buffy and Dawn. The two Smilodons were purring for him. Spike felt a warmth go through him that wasn’t completely physical. They’d cared enough to come over and keep him warm. Even though he hadn’t been able to go through with the hunt, even though he hadn’t helped them fish, even though he’d deliberately not joined them earlier, they’d still come over to keep him warm. It was a nice feeling. Spike yawned and craned his neck over to rest his chin in the short mane on Buffy’s neck. Oh, yeah. He could get used to this.