Buffy – Out Of Time: Pleistocene Panic – Chapter 9

Chapter 8

Not too far from the Tar Pits, the group was sleeping. The morning chorus of birds had barely begun, and everything was peaceful. In the pre-dawn light, the strange herd slept, piled together as usual, with a couple of noticeable differences. The Dire Wolf was still in between the Mammoth and Smilodon, but both the Smilodon and Dire Wolf were on their sides, with their eight legs tangled together. Atop the nest of legs and paws, the juvenile Smilodon slept, contented that her family was once again whole. As for the adult Smilodon and the Dire Wolf, if they’d had their normal bodies, they’d have been smiling. Together. Finally. Nothing could possibly disturb this moment.

Except maybe the earthquake that started an instant later.

Everyone was shaken awake, and the herd of Protohippus that had been grazing nearby stampeded away from the Tar Pits. Giles stood to his feet, his pillar-like legs ensuring that the shaking of the ground didn’t bother him as much as the others. The same was true for Anya, who was looking around with her nearsighted Rhino’s eyes and asking for someone to tell her what was going on. Unfortunately, the others didn’t have the same stability.

“Ahh!”

“Whoa!”

“Oof!”

“Geroff me, Harris!”

“Help! Buffy! I’m *stuck*!”

Xander and Spike had collided almost instantly after they stood up, pinning Dawn between them. It didn’t help when the three of them toppled over. Buffy, Willow and Tara had their legs spread, and claws digging into the dirt to keep them upright as the shaking continued. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the earthquake ended. Buffy made her way over to the pile of Hyena and juvenile Smilodon that were on top of Spike. Xander managed to regain his footing, and clamored off of the vampire turned Dire Wolf. Once he’d moved, Dawn easily got down. Spike made a little grunt, and shook himself as he stood up. He now had mud all in his fur from being squashed down into a rather wet patch of ground. Dawn shook herself, then looked at Spike and said the first thing she thought of.

“Eww.”

Spike gave a half growl, and tried to shake the mud off. “Oh, come on! What is this? Quick drying mud!?”

Xander laughed. “Now you’re brown. Like me.”

“Very funny, Harris. At least I don’t have spots.”

Buffy tried to hide a giggle. She was going to be Support Girl for her new boyfriend. Walked over, and began trying to pull the mud clumps out of his fur with her claws. “Yuck. It’s really stuck.”

Giles looked around. “There appears to be a small lake about a half a mile that way. We could all use some fresh water, and Spike can wash that mud off. Then, we’ll figure out how to get back to Sunnydale.”

Dawn used her forepaw to raise the amulet up where she could see it. “Oh! Tell me it’s not possible for it to get brighter again? Cause I really thought that it’d be dimmer than this.”

Giles considered it. “Well, perhaps it’s a good thing that it isn’t dimming.” He pointed with his trunk at the nearby mountains. “If I’m right about where we need to go, the fastest way is over that mountain.”

Before anyone could protest, Spike spoke up. “Rupert’s right. I was worried about this. That mountain range doesn’t exist, really, in our time. It’s just a bunch of hills. But now, here, it’s a true mountain range.” Looked at everyone, sounding rather like a text book. “We’re on the San Andreas Fault line right now. That’s probably what caused that little shaker earlier. It’s also what maintains the Tar Pits. There may be aftershocks later.”

“Oh joy,” Buffy muttered. “Now I remember why I didn’t like living in LA.”

Dawn moved next to her sister. “What about the Smilodons? What if they come back?”

Giles shook his head. “They probably won’t. They’ve lost their leader. It will take time for them to regroup. By then, hopefully, we’ll be too far away for them to follow.”

“Hopefully,” Xander added under his breath. Then he spoke up. “What about food? I’m startin’ to get hungry again.”

“Are you ever *not* hungry?”, Willow said playfully, poking the Hyena with a paw.

“Very funny, Will.”

Spike sniffed. “I don’t think there’ll be Furballs too near the fault. You saw the Proto’s. Animals don’t like it here. We need to get some distance between us and the main fault line.” Looked at Giles. “I vote we go find that lake Rupert saw. Fresh water might mean fish. And, since it’s that far away from the Pits, there’s a chance for Furballs, too.”

One by one, they all agreed, and then the group began moving toward the lake.

=============================================================================================

“No! Dawn! AHH!!”

*PLOOSH!!!*

Dawn fell over backwards, laughing and pointing at the now totally soaked Hyena that she’d pushed into the lake. “You needed a bath!”

Spike, Buffy, and the others laughed at Xander, as he stood up in the shallow water and shook himself. “It’s not funny!”, he said indignantly. “This water’s COLD!!”

Spike chuckled and waded over to the Hyena. He’d been in the lake for some time, and had finally managed to get all the clinging mud out of his fur. Tapped a paw on Xander’s sloped shoulder. “Take it easy, mate,” the wolf said amicably. “The water’s not that bad, once ya get used to it.”

Xander tensed a little when the wolf touched him, but relaxed after he heard the wolf’s friendly words. Half grin, as well as the Hyena’s face could manage it. “Yeah. I know.” Shot a glare at the still giggling juvenile Smilodon on the bank. “But she pushed me in.”

Spike lolled his wolf mouth open, his version of a smile. “Leave it to me.” He dunked himself mostly under the water, soaking his long fur, then stood back up and walked to the bank, stopping when he was standing right next to Dawn. “Hey, Bit. You know that it’s not polite to shove people in water. Or Hyenas in lakes.”

Dawn gave the wet wolf a sheepish look. “I know. But it was funny.”

Spike chuckled. “You know what else is funny?”

“What?”

“This.” With that, he proceeded to shake himself thoroughly, soaking Dawn, who squealed and laughed. When he finished, he grinned at her. “I thought that was quite funny.”

“I didn’t.” Buffy’s voice. From behind them. Spike turned slowly, and realized that Dawn hadn’t been the only Smilodon that he’d soaked. Buffy was dripping. She growled, playfully. “C’mere, wolfie.” Stalked toward him.

“Now, now, luv..”, Spike said nervously, backing up. “Easy. It was an accident.”

“So?” She crouched, preparing to pounce and knock both of them into the lake, until Giles’ voice stopped her.

“Buffy. Now. No need to continue this vicious circle.” The two Smilodons and the Dire Wolf looked at the Mammoth as he approached slowly, holding his trunk at an odd angle. “Especially before I’ve had a chance to join.” He uncurled his trunk, and sprayed all three of them with lake water that he’d been holding.

“GILES!”

“RUPERT!”

“ACK!”

All three had exclaimed when the water had hit them, but then they all laughed and leaped into the lake, splashing at the Mammoth. This ‘horse’ play went on for quite some time, until all of them were soaked. Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya had even joined in after awhile. The sun would be going down soon, so, since they’d all been fishing earlier, and were already well fed, they decided to find a place to sleep. They settled down together, although not in their usual sleeping pile just yet. It wasn’t cold enough.

Spike was lounging on his back, enjoying the sun’s warming rays while they lasted. All four paws in the air, eyes closed, with his tail slowly wagging. He was still in that position, when he sensed Buffy’s approach. Without opening his eyes, he said, “Hey, luv.”

Buffy sat down next to him, fighting the urge to giggle at his reclined position. “Hey, yourself.” She needed to talk to him. Needed to be serious. “Spike?”

Still didn’t open his eyes. “Yeah?”

Licked her lips, and ran her tongue over her saber fangs. “Can we talk?”

He opened one blue eye. “Thought that’s what we *were* doing, luv.”

She extended a claw, and drew patterns in the dirt with it. “Well, yeah. But.. I meant.. Talk, talk. You know? Like, serious talking.”

He rolled over and sat up, shaking his head to clear it. “Sure.” Stood to his feet and gestured with a paw. “Walk and talk?”

She nodded. “Good idea.” The two began walking, side by side. And Buffy was once again struck with the similarity in their heights. The shoulders of the Smilodon were a little lower than the Dire Wolf’s, almost exactly the same proportional difference that their normal bodies had. Spike had always been so close to her. An equal. Whether they were fighting, or helping each other, it was just so.. so.. evenly matched. She’d shocked herself once several years earlier when she’d realized that she actually looked forward to their fights. It was.. fun, having an equal. And she knew that Spike felt the same way. Why else would they have ignored all the chances that they had to kill each other?

“You still in there, luv?”, Spike said, cocking his wolf’s head at her.

Oops. She’d been lost in thought. “Yeah. Just thinking about us. Ya know?”

He chuckled. “You said that you wanted to talk. So far all we’ve done is walk.”

She gave him a sheepish look. “Yeah. Sorry.”

“Well?” He sat and looked at her. “What did you want to talk about?”

She sat across from him. Sighed. “I know I’ve already apologized for everything, but I want to make it clear.”

“It is, luv. I know-”

“I know you know. I just…” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I wanted to say. Just..” Looked at him. “Why’d you come back?”

He stood and nuzzled her a little. “I can’t stay away from you, luv. I love you. You and your little pals, as much as it pains me to admit. They’re my family.” Bumped her snout with his. “But you’re the main reason.”

She smiled, but shook her head a little. “I know for me. But.. why?”

He smiled. “I think I know how to answer that.”

“How?”

By way of answer, Spike began projecting music. Quiet, pretty. A guitar, with some other instruments in the background. After a moment, he began to sing.

“I hear the wind call your name.
It calls me back home again.
It sparks up the fire,
A flame that still burns.
Oh, it’s to you, I will always return.”

If Buffy could’ve, she would have blushed. The two began to walk again, as Spike continued his impromptu serenade.

“I still feel your breath,
On my skin.

I hear your voice,
Deep within.

The sound of my lover,
A feeling so strong.
To you, I will always belong.

Now I know it’s true, yeah.
My every road leads to you.

And in the hour of darkness, darlin’,
You light gets me through.

Wanna swim in your river,
Be warmed by your sun,
Bathe in your waters,
Cause you are the one…”

By this point, they’d moved back near the lake, and Spike was still going strong. Buffy found, to her shock, that it didn’t even bother her that the others were now close enough to hear the music, and the love song. In fact, she was flattered. And still, Spike sang.

“I can’t stand the distance,
I can’t dream alone.
I can’t wait to see you,
Yeah, I’m on my way home.

I’m on my way.”

An instrumental part, and Spike playfully goaded Buffy into chasing him. He began singing again, as they ran side by side.

“Oh, I hear the wind,
Call your name.
The sound that leads me home again.

It sparks up the fire,
A flame that still burns,
Oh it’s to you, I will always return.”

To his surprise, Buffy began singing with him.

“Wanna swim in your river,
Be warmed by your sun,
Bathe in your waters,
Cause you are the one…”

By then, the couple was walking up onto one of the many small hills, still singing together.

“I can’t stand

I can’t stand the distance.
I can’t dream alone.
I can’t wait to see you,
Cause I’m on my way home.

Oh, I hear the wind.
Call your name,
The sound that leads me home again.
It sparks up the fire,
A flame that still burns.

Yeah,
I’m on my way.
I will always return.

Yes I will,
Always return..”

Buffy left off as they sat down together at the top of the hill, gazing at the setting sun in the distance. Spike looked at her, love shining in his eyes, and finished the song.

“I’ve seen every sunset,
And with all that I’ve learned..

It’s to you, I will always,
Always,
Return.”

Buffy leaned against him, nuzzling her head under his chin. Quietly, playfully. “Is that why you can never stay away from Sunnydale for very long?”

Spike laughed. “You’re on to me, Slayer.” Nuzzled back. “I mean it, though. Every word. I love you, and I promise that I’ll never leave you again. Ever.”

She smiled, said quietly, with a note of awe in her voice, “I know. I love you too, Spike.” Was still surprised at how easy it actually was to say it. And how good it felt.

They laid atop the hill together, watching the rest of the sunset, then made their way back to the group, side by side.

Chapter 10