Spike spun around, trying to snap at all the Terror Birds at once. “Back off! Come on! Eat the bloody Mammoth. Not me! Wolf is bad. High in cholesterol and all that crap. HEY! Watch the tail!” He swallowed. “I’m in trouble.”
The Terror Birds were circling, hissing and snapping at him. He snarled, debating trying to dodge between one of their legs, but rejected the idea quickly. The talons on their three toed feet discouraged him. One got a really close snap that ripped a hunk of fur off his back. He backed up, snarling, and bumped into the Mammoth carcass. One quick turn and a hop, and he was on top of it. Predator’s instinct. Get the high ground, get the advantage. Unfortunately, one of the birds had the same idea.
“Sqaaaarrrrrkkk!”, it screeched, and kicked him hard. Spike went flying, over the other bird’s heads, and hit the ground, sliding a few feet. He tried to scramble up, but the landing had smacked his head against the ground. And a rock.
He pushed himself into a sitting position, shaking his head. Through the stars that were circling his head, he saw the pack of birds advancing. “Okay. That’s it. I give up.” He laid down. “Eat me, already.”
One of the birds leaped toward him, and he braced himself for the pain of the razor talons and beak tearing into his flesh. Suddenly, the screech of the Terror Bird was cut short by a loud, and even more terrifying sound. “Gooorrrrrooooaaaarrrrrr!!!” A Smilodon.
The golden furred cat hit the attacking Terror Bird and knocked it rolling. Spike sighed. Great. Now he was gonna die at the paws of something that looked exactly like… Buffy. Was that a Mammoth trumpeting?
Giles charged into the pack of Terror Birds, grabbing one around it’s long neck and tossed it a good hundred feet. He reared up, flailing his huge forepaws, shaking his trunk and tusks and trumpeting loudly. “Get away from him, you bloody bird-brains!”
Buffy let out another earth-shaking roar, her mental voice calling, “Cats EAT birds! Back off, chicken legs!”
A small Smilodon came up next to Spike. Dawn. “Spike? Are you okay? Did it hurt you?”
Spike shook his head, rising back to a sitting position. He rested a paw on her back. “No, Bit. I’m fine. Little dizzy.”
Meanwhile, Giles, Buffy and the others had managed to chase off all the birds. Buffy trotted back, grinning internally. “Hey. Ran off kind of early.” She glanced at the Mammoth carcass. “But I think I see why.”
Spike at least had the shame to look down slightly. “I didn’t want to bother all of you. ‘Sides, I didn’t know what it was. Could’ve been the Tar Pits.”
Xander let out an excited growl. “FOOD!! Dead Mammoth food, but still.. FOOD!” He leaped up onto the carcass and let the Hyena take over, plunging his snout into the dead animal and tearing off hunks. Willow and Tara exchanged Dinofelis shrugs, and followed him up onto the carcass. Giles, who was more than slightly weirded out by watching his companions eat another of his species, decided to go with Anya to get a ‘salad’, which was what they’d taken to calling the grass. It at least made it SOUND better.
Dawn, once she was sure that Spike was okay, trotted over to the others. “Guys! Toss something down here! I don’t want to get Mammoth on the amulet!” In response, a chunk of liver flew from the hole, tossed by a Hyena, and landed at her feet. She made a face. “Eww. Oh well. When in the Ice Age.” Settled down to gnaw on it.
Buffy sat down a couple of feet from Spike. “You okay?”
The wolf sighed. “Yeah. More or less.” He turned his head around and licked at the small semi-bald spot on his back. “Aside from a little premature hair loss, that is. You?”
“Huh?” Stupid Buffy. Don’t watch his tongue. He’s a WOLF for crying out loud! “Oh. Fine, I guess.” She rolled on her back. “Actually, I’m kind of glad that we wound up here. Ya know? It’s almost as fun as being invisible again. Without bad pudding side effects.”
“Another escape, you mean,” Spike muttered. “Bloody hell.”
Shook his head. “Nothing. Why don’t you go get some food with your pals, Slayer? I’ve already eaten.”
Buffy rolled back over and got up. “Okay. Good idea.” She trotted back toward the Mammoth carcass, then turned and looked at the Dire Wolf over her shoulder. “You sure?”
Spike didn’t answer, only gestured with a paw, and watched as she walked over and hopped up onto the carcass with her friends. He sighed. This was just perfect. She was still escaping. Still not there, just as sure as if she were invisible again. It hurt. It really did. And the way she’d just looked at him, bloody hell. The wolf snorted. Apparently, she wasn’t ever going to stop running. He’d done all he could. More than enough. And it hurt. Hurt him to see her not realizing what she was doing. Not realizing that there were people who cared. He wanted to help, but what more could he do? Nothing. Not until they got back home. Then he would sit her down, and have a nice, long talk with the Slayer. Maybe involving tying her to something. It’d worked in the past when he’d had to tell her something that he knew she didn’t want to hear. And she definitely didn’t want to hear this.
With a sigh, he got up and wandered off in the direction that Giles and Anya had gone. He wanted a little company. It would just not be a good idea for it to be Buffy, right then.
Two days. Two more days in the Pleistocene, and that stupid amulet hadn’t even dimmed. Also, it was getting colder during the day. Winter was coming. Giles had suggested that they head for the nearby mountains, in the hopes that one of them might be a dormant volcano, and have hot springs and warm caves that might make it easier for the Hyena and Dinofelis’. So they’d turned. It would do them no good to reach the Tar Pits, if one or more of them froze to death in the process.
With almost no large animal carcasses being found, and even less chances for the group to fish, the predators had come up with another strategy for getting food. Fresh food.
It had started the day earlier. Before the sun was completely up, Dawn had been digging. When Spike asked her what she was doing, she told him that there were a bunch of small, prairie dog like animals down in those holes, and that she was trying to get them out. It took about three hours of digging before the group hit on a strategy that worked. And that was totally by accident.
In frustration and hunger, Buffy had stuck her snout into the hole that she was excavating and let out one of her long, loud roars. To the group’s surprise, the little Furballs, as Dawn had christened them, for none of them could remember what they were actually called, started shooting up out of holes all over the place. After that, it had just been a free for all to pounce on and kill as many as possible.
Later that same day, they’d found another Furball town, and Buffy had tried it again, with all of them ready to catch the little mammals. It had worked like a charm. Now, with no problem getting food, for the Furballs lived all over the place, the group had continued their trek for the mountains.
That evening, they’d reached the foothills, and found a small cave. Small, that is, meaning big enough to fit a Mammoth, Hyena, Woolly Rhino, two Dinofelis and Smilodons, and a Dire Wolf. They took up their usual nightly roosts, and snuggled down to wait out the night. Wind howled outside, and a few snow flakes fell. The howling wind freaked Dawn out, and instead of sleeping on top of Spike, she wedged herself between him and Giles, hiding in the Mammoth’s long belly hair. Not a bad arrangement, even if it wasn’t exactly the best smell in the world.
Beside her, Spike stayed awake, listening to the Pleistocene night. So different from the night sounds in Sunnyhell, that’s for sure. No cars, or people, were the most obvious things. But there were voices. Distant trumpets told of Mammoth herds, still on the move despite the darkness. Bugling calls said that the Megaloceros were near as well. But the sound that Spike was listening for, the sound that spurred both his body, and the mind that inhabited it, that sound only came two or three times during the night. It was the howl of a Dire Wolf pack. His pack. Or, at least, the pack of the body that his mind resided in. The last few nights, he’d been listening to the wolves. Twice, he’d allowed the sound to lull him to sleep. But tonight, it was having the opposite effect. Because one crucial thing had changed. The howls were closer…. Much closer.