Spike traveled with his pack, leading them. He knew he was confusing them by continuing to head away from where their perceived territory was, but he had to keep within scent distance of the others. Had to know when they reached the Tar Pits. He’d promised.
And it also helped him to occasionally check up on them. If he would actually do that. Which he didn’t… on purpose, anyway. Or so he told himself.
The pack was becoming restless, however. The unrelated females had taken to grumbling amongst themselves, and quieting whenever Spike, Little Will, or Beauty came near. They hadn’t seemed to notice that Spike couldn’t really understand them, yet. But he was getting better. Body language was a main means of communication among wolves, he knew that from the Discovery Channel. So he paid attention to postures. They, on the other hand, were somehow able to at least partially understand his thought-speech words. It was still unclear how that was happening, when every other animal around seemed oblivious to the thought words. But the pack understood. And they were communicating pretty clearly, too. They were hungry. Soon, they would have to hunt.
Giles uprooted a small tree. It was an accident, really. He’d been using it to scratch an itch on his side, and it just tipped over. But, now that it was over, the group of Furballs that had been living beneath it were scurrying around and trying to avoid the Hyena, Dinofelis’, and Smilodon cub that were pouncing on them. The adult Smilodon, Buffy, was just sitting off to herself. She’d just returned from a short walk. Giles lumbered over to her, holding his trunk up in greeting. “Buffy. Aren’t you hungry?”
She looked up. “Not really.” She sat up and gazed up at the huge Mammoth. “I saw them.”
Giles was confused. “Who? The others?”
The Smilodon shook her maned head. “No. Sp- The wolf pack.” Motioned with a paw. “They’re about a quarter mile back that way. Where we saw those horse things earlier.”
“The Protohippus, you mean?”
Shrugged slightly. “Yeah. The horse things.” Laid back down. “I miss him, Giles.”
“I know you do.” He didn’t say that it was her fault that he was gone. He knew that she was punishing herself enough. More than enough. “You need to eat, Buffy.”
Little sigh. “I know. I will.” Looked up at him. “Giles… Do you think.. when he comes back.. if he comes back, that he can ever forgive me?”
In his heart, Giles knew that Spike would. But, well, Buffy was a open wound for him. It would depend on what happened once they got home. *If* they got home. He said as much.
Buffy nodded, then stood up, stretching slightly. “I’m gonna go see if anyone saved me a Furball.” She walked off in the direction of the others. Giles gave a nod, and went back to eating.
A few moments later, he paused, and raised his trunk to sniff the air. He could see Buffy and the others in the distance, but he could’ve sworn he smelled Smilodon. And a lot closer than where they were. Strange. Oh well, it was gone now. He went back to feeding.
The leader of the Smilodon pride slunk through the grass. This was it. This was the strange group that had taken their cub with them. But something was different. Yes. The wolf was gone. That would make it easier. Much easier. And afterwards… Mammoths always meant that the pride wouldn’t have to hunt for a couple of weeks…. He turned and headed back to where the rest of the pride waited.
Not much further now. Buffy had caught a scent early that morning. A very promising scent. A smell that reminded her of asphalt. The Tar Pits. It had to be. So now the entire group were moving as fast as they could in the direction of the scent.
Xander trotted up next to Buffy, said quietly. “Hey, Buff.. How ya doin’?”
She glanced at the Hyena. “Mm. Okay. I guess. Looking forward to getting to the Tar Pits. Cause then we can…” She trailed off and paused. Turned to the Mammoth behind her. “Giles? Why were we going to the Tar Pits again?”
The Watcher tugged on a large hunk of grass with his trunk as he replied. “Well, they’re a landmark. They’ll tell us where we are. And then we can go about finding our way back home….” He trailed off. “Oh no.”
Xander looked up at the Mammoth. “What ‘oh no’? Please tell me you didn’t say ‘oh no’.”
Giles dropped his grass. “Spike said that he knew how to get back to Sunnydale from the Tar Pits. But he’s not here now. And I’ve never even been to LA. Let alone been there long enough to know the way back without road signs. Or roads, for that matter.”
Dawn hopped off of Anya’s Rhino back, and trotted up to her sister. “Wait a minute.” She looked at Giles. “You’re saying that, even when we get to the Tar Pits, we still can’t get home?! But the amulet has started to dim a little!” She held it away from herself with a paw, showing that it had indeed dimmed. Slightly, but it had still dimmed. She let the amulet fall back to rest against her chest again. Whimpered a little. “I wanna go home… I want Spike back.”
“So do I..”, Buffy whispered, and gently placed a ham-sized paw on her little sister’s back. “And we *will* get home. I promise you that, Dawnie.”
“Yeah,” Xander said brightly. Looked at everyone. “Remember the song? From when life was a musical a few weeks ago?”
“Which one?”, Anya said, lumbering up beside the Hyena. “Cause I personally participated in four. That I remember.”
Xander shook his head. “Early on. Remember?” Hummed a little. Everyone recognized it.
Buffy allowed her mental music projector to work again, sang softly.
“What can’t we face if we’re together?
What’s in this place that we can’t weather?
We’ve all been there.
The same old trips,
Why should we care?”
The others joined in, as they had in the original version.
“What can’t we do if we get in it?
We’ll work it through within a minute.
We have to try.
We’ll pay the price.
It’s do or die…”
Buffy alone. “Hey, I’ve died twice.”
Everyone again. “What can’t we face if we’re together?
What’s in this place that we can’t weather?
There’s nothing we can’t face…”
Anya alone. “Except for bunnies…”
Xander glanced at her, chuckling. “Ya know, Ayn, I *still* don’t get what you have against bunnies.”
Anya started to speak, but Giles silenced her. “I do believe we’ve had enough musical flashbacks for one day, thank you.”
Anya snorted. “Fine. I was just going to *say* that they are far to cute to be harmless. That’s all.”
Xander gave his fiancé’ a look. “Whatever you say, honey.”
Spike was asleep. Sound asleep. Dreaming about being back home. And vaguely wondering when he’d begun thinking of Sunnydale as ‘home’. But the dream was rapidly turning into one of his recurring nightmares. For once, he managed to shake himself awake before Buffy’s lifeless body hit the ground after jumping from the tower through the portal. He yelped when he woke up, then sat up, panting.
The first thing he noticed was the absence of his lupine companions. He stood, stretched, and shook himself, then began sniffing around for their scent trails. They couldn’t have just.. vanished, right? Ah. There was Beauty’s scent. He followed the trail into one of the stands of tall grass that popped up every now an then. Why would they have gone in here? Maybe there was food… Then he saw them. And, more importantly, saw what they were going to do.
They were stalking the herd of Protohippus, an early form of horse with three hoofed toes on each foot. Oh no. And they were very close to attacking. In fact, there they went!
Beauty streaked out of the grass, Little Will on her heels. The other females ringed around, cutting one of the horses off from the rest of the herd. It was a perfectly executed maneuver. Just as good as the one he’d instructed the others to make when they were after… Bambi.. Something inside of him snapped. This was wrong. Totally wrong. And he couldn’t let it happen. Laws of nature be damned. Without even thinking about what he was doing, he ran out, and flying tackled one of the unnamed females, just as she was about to leap onto the horse and deliver the killing bite to the back of the head. The two went down in a tangle of fur and paws, and rolled to their feet. Spike snarled.
“No. I showed you the Furballs. We are not hunting.”
The female actually growled at him. That was surprising. He was the leader. Why would she… And now one of the other females was doing it, too. He turned to Beauty. “Luv, tell them. Tell them that we can eat the Fur- Where are you going?”
She had been staring at him, head cocked, something that looked like sadness shining in her brown eyes. Then she’d turned, and started to walk away. She whimpered, and Little Will, backed away from him as well. Spike took a step forward. “Hey.. Wait. You can’t leave me! I thought… We’re supposed to be…” Whimpered and sat down.
Beauty whimpered, and came back for a moment, nuzzling him. She seemed to be saying that, though she didn’t understand why he was acting so strange, that if he ever needed her, she’d come. She’d help. But she had to go. They all did. They had to hunt. And Spike was holding them back. For the good of the family, one would have to be left behind. And that one was Spike.
He watched them walk away. Going in the direction that the Protohippus had gone. A harsh reality had just hit him. The pack *was* his family, in a way. It was the family of the wolf body that he inhabited. But it wasn’t *his* family in every other way that counted. His family was a mile away, headed for the Tar Pits. And he realized with a shock that he had lost their scents. He finally knew where he belonged, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He whimpered, and laid his head on his forepaws. Whispered, without the aid of music, “Understand, we’ll go hand in hand, but we’ll walk alone in fear. Where do we go from here?” Sighed. “Where do *I* go from here?”