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Spirits in The Woods - Chapter 7

wolf howl
Title: Spirits in the Woods
Author: wolffan200 and 3hours (posting on archive sites under the joint account Hour of the Wolf)
Word count: about 55k total
Characters/Pairing: Spike/Buffy, Giles, Willow.
Rating: PG-13, chapters will be noted with individual warnings when appropriate
Betas: All4Spike
Setting: Summer between s3 and s4








Chapter 7

“Spike?”

“Yeah, Florence?”

“How do you… um. You know, feed? Cause you obviously don’t have any blood here, and even if you had it would go bad unless it was kept cold and hey, no refrigeration! And obviously, uh, you being a vampire, you kinda need blood to live, or, well, function anyway, and I’m guessing you need it to heal as well, probably, and we didn’t bring any, except what we’ve got on the inside of course, but we kinda prefer it on the inside. Then again, I suppose you do, too, technically, and-”

Spike stared at Willow in fascination at first, but when the steady stream of words appeared to have no intention of stopping, he reached up and put two fingers against her lips, silencing her. She broke out in an intense blush.

“I’m okay,” he said. “Ate a couple of days ago. Animal blood.”

“You hunt animals?”

“Not usually.”

“Oh. Right.”

There was a bit of an awkward silence, but she rallied bravely. “I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised, huh.”

“No, not really. Vampires eat humans, that’s how it goes.”

She nodded in agreement, then changed the topic on him. “Buffy said you saved her life.”

“Might’ve,” he admitted, then opted for making a joke out of it. He wasn’t really comfortable with the topic, not having had the chance to fully sort it out in his own head yet. “Do I get a gold star for that?”

“Yes.” She laughed again. “And bonus points for making Giles polish his glasses for more than five minutes straight. He doesn’t know what to think anymore.”

“Yeah, well, not planning on making a habit out of it so he can keep his pants on.” He paused for a moment then shot her a dirty look. “Speaking of pants, which one of you got the joy of finding out that I don’t wear underwear?”

Her head dropped and she stared intently at the floor. “Me.”

“Hope I didn’t ruin you for all other men.”

“I’m dating a werewolf. I’ve got no complaints.” She refused to look at him.

“Good for you, pet.” He smirked. “Never tried it myself, but I’ve heard the stories.”

“I think I should go tell Buffy and Giles that you’re awake and feeling just like your old self.”

When she stood, she finally lifted her head, and to his surprise revealed a small smile. It occurred to him that the little witch possibly had a side to her that her friends rarely, if ever, saw. Whoever the werewolf was, he was a lucky man.

“You do that.” He waited until she was halfway up the stairs. “But don’t tell the Slayer, yeah? Wouldn’t want her to compare me and Angel. He tends to come up… short.”

Her laughter rang in his ears.

_________



Buffy felt much better with clean clothes on. She was wearing a pair of loose pants for comfort, though her leg still stung badly where the cloth had rubbed against the skin when pulling them on. Giles and Willow had seen to her shoulder, and she was thankful she’d passed out for a few hours down in the basement to escape the pain for a while. Her back still ached, and she couldn’t bear for anyone to touch the wound. As a result, she walked stiffly and slowly, picking each step carefully in an attempt to avoid aggravating it.

Giles had insisted she spend most of the day resting, not that she would have done much else anyway. She’d lain on her stomach in her sleeping bag for most of it, drifting in and out of sleep, and playing with her cell phone whenever she was awake.

Upon waking up and checking it the first time, she’d been pretty surprised to see she had several missed calls from Xander. She’d tried to call back, but the reception kept cutting out on her so she gave up. Instead, she played the snake game and managed to beat her own high score twice.

It was late in the day before she decided to venture to the cabin to check on Spike. Giles still had a hundred unanswered questions about what had occurred in the woods last night.

He and Willow were worried sick when there’d been no sign of either Buffy or Spike with sunrise on the way. Willow informed her that Giles had blamed himself for allowing Buffy to go with Spike, afraid the vampire had attacked his Slayer once he had her isolated and distracted. Buffy wasn’t sure whether she was touched by his concern or offended that he thought she’d be taken unawares by Spike after all the times she’d proven just how distrustful of the vamp she really was.

And yet he’d saved her life. It was weird to say. It was weird to even think about. Spike had saved her life. There was just so much wrong with that sentence. Giles wanted to know why, but Buffy had as much of a clue as he did. She still wasn’t sure she wanted to dwell on it. It was a little too much to take in along with everything else.

If they were back in Sunnydale, maybe she’d have a clearer idea of what to do. They were on unfamiliar territory right now, and she didn’t know which way was up. A truce with Spike she could accept and understand. She’d never thought there’d be another truce, but she could handle the fact that there was one. Last night—last night was to be filed under ‘things to be contemplated at a later date’. Right now they needed to focus on these spirits and figure out a way to stop them. There’d be plenty of time to think about the rest on the car ride home.

Willow was just leaving the cabin as Buffy walked up. Concerned (purely because she owed him, not for any other reason) Buffy had suggested that someone be around to keep a close eye on Spike to make sure he was recovering okay. After all, they needed all the help they could get, not that Spike exactly counted as help. Again—save for later.

“Hey Wills. How’s he doing?”

“He’s awake. He seems okay, just really beat. I asked him about blood, and he said he’d eaten a few days ago.”

“Eaten what?” Buffy frowned suspiciously.

“Animals. Taking what he could get out here.”

“Right.” And that was all Buffy needed to be reminded that Spike was still as evil as ever. He had to take what he could get and work with what he had. He was here because of the ring, and as soon as he had it he’d be gone… if she let him get away. He’d saved her because he needed her, and he’d never have made it back last night if she hadn’t been there.

“Buffy?”

Buffy realized she’d drifted away for a second and smiled at Willow. “I’m okay. You should go tell Giles. I’ll go down and stay with him for a while. Let him know what we discussed.”

“Okay. Giles is going to start lunch so I need to bring him the food anyway.” Willow held up a few tins and packets she’d taken from the food storage. “He wants to do some research afterward, too, so it’ll be a busy day.”

Buffy gave her friend another smile and sidestepped so Willow could head over to Giles. As long as their busy day was quieter than her and Spike’s busy night, she was perfectly okay with it.

Entering the cabin, Buffy winced as she had to maneuver around the door and stifled a whimper when she straightened again, her hands automatically seeking her back though she was loath to put pressure on the skin. When the wave of pain passed, she walked further into the cabin. The basement door was open, and she wrinkled her nose in distaste at the black gloom beyond; the sight reminding her far too much of the Dead Circle.

Hesitating, she paused outside the bathroom for a moment before she decided to go take a peek in the mirror and see if she looked as much of a wreck as she felt. She entered the small room and allowed the old creaky door to swing shut behind her. The cracked mirror was dusty and covered in grime but she and Willow had cleaned a large area in the middle so they could use it. She approached the mirror and rubbed at a purple bruise on her right temple. She had a scratch on the opposite cheek and another, smaller, blue bruise on her chin as well. Leaning closer, she tilted her head from side to side, seeking any more injuries.

She twisted to check her back and spotted a cut by her left shoulder blade just above the hem of her tank top, another bruise on her collarbone, and a small bump she couldn’t see but could feel at the side of her head underneath her hair. Buffy pouted at the mirror, knowing that even with Slayer healing it would take at least another day for all the visible wounds to fade away. She didn’t even want to think about her back. Willow had promised to look into some healing spells and recommend a few to Giles that might help speed up the process.

Buffy patted the area around the bruise on her forehead again, wincing as she did so. It was just then, out of the corner of her eye, that she caught movement in the mirror. She turned her gaze to the right and saw dark red stains appearing as though by magic on the wall, reflected in the cracked glass of the mirror.

Her breath caught in her throat as the stains gradually formed into letters. Her hands clutched the sink in front of her as she watched the letters form into a single word. LEAVE. She spun to stare at the wall but there was nothing there. Turning slowly back to the mirror she took a step back. The word was still there, glaring back at her from the glass. LEAVE.

Buffy swallowed and stared at the dark red writing. All of a sudden the mirror cracked and shattered, the shards flying outwards towards her. She screamed and ducked, holding her arms above her head for protection from the lethal glass. Everything fell silent and cautiously, heart pounding, she peeked out from under her arms. She let them fall to her sides and straightened as she stared at the mirror. It was intact except for that same original crack across the face. There writing was gone.

“Get a hold of yourself. It’s just a trick. The spirits are trying to screw with you,” she told herself, and felt foolish for allowing them to spook her like that.

After a moment to compose herself, she walked up to the mirror and touched the glass. It was as solid as ever. She stepped back again, sighed and ran a hand through her hair. Suddenly there was a creaking noise and her gaze darted up to the mirror again.

The bathroom door was opening behind her.

She held her breath, hoping Willow or Giles would speak or poke their heads in and announce themselves. The door continued to open with a long, mournful creak to reveal an empty hallway.

No one was there.

“No.” She refused to be scared by any more parlor tricks.

She spun round quickly, intending to leave like the writing wanted, when she was met with a pale figure blocking the doorway. She jumped, let out a startled shout and reached for the sink behind her to steady herself. The figure in the doorway teetered back a bit when she shouted, as startled as she was. Buffy willed her heart to slow down as recognition set in.

“Spike.” She instantly felt relieved and even more foolish for acting so skittish. “You nearly gave me a heart attack. It’s polite to at least say something to announce your presence when you don’t have a reflection you know.”

Spike looked confused for a second before realization dawned. “Oh, right. Sorry. I never had to really think about that before.”

“It’s okay. I was already jumpy. I should have sensed you.” Buffy relaxed with a sigh. “What are you doing in here anyway?”

“I heard you. You seemed afraid—panicked,” he amended at her offended look. “I thought you might be in trouble.”

“I’m fine. I just saw something in the mirror. Seems our spirit friends are less than happy about our visit last night. They’re on the offensive. Though if it’s just messages in mirrors we should be okay.”

Spike frowned in concern, glancing over her to the mirror as though the cracked glass would offer a repeat performance. “Even so, if they’re on the offensive it means they’re getting closer, and that’s not something we want. If those things reach the camp or the lake we may as well pack up and go home because we can’t fight them, and your pals will be in real danger if they get attacked.”

“I know. Listen, I talked to Giles about what happened and—Spike, are you okay?”

“’M fine.” Spike swayed on his feet. “Just not fully healed yet, so I—” He fell back against the door frame, almost sinking to the ground until Buffy grabbed him and made him lean on her for support, gritting her teeth at the strain it put on her back.

“You’re hurt.” He tried to pull away, but Buffy held firm, securing one arm around his waist.

“So are you. You shouldn’t have climbed those stairs on your—are you wearing sweatpants?” She focused on his legs, covered in the loose fitting grey sweatpants that had caught her attention when she glanced down to watch their footing.

“Belong to the Watcher. Your little witch friend left them for me since there was no chance of me getting jeans on in my current state.”

“I know the feeling.” She refused to dwell on her Watcher providing her mortal enemy with a spare pair of sleepwear; seeing Spike in anything other than his trademark garb was freaky enough already. “You’re about to collapse, and I don’t want to try dragging you downstairs again by myself. Hang on.”

Buffy walked Spike out of the bathroom and into the hall where she had him lean against the wall and sink down to a sitting position, his legs sprawled out in front of him.

“I’ll get Giles and he can help.”

Spike grabbed hold of her arm before she could turn to go.

“It can wait. You were saying something about the Watcher. He got a plan for these spirits?”

Buffy chewed on her lip, thinking she should still get Giles, but eventually sank to her knees in front of the vampire. He let go of her arm and waited expectantly.

“It’s clear we can’t fight these guys.”

Spike nodded.

“Crystal.”

“So Willow suggested we try and communicate with them instead. Find out what they want, why they went evil. The Manatee—”

“Manitou,” Spike corrected.

“Whatever. Said they were corrupted, in pain, right? So something’s causing it. She talked about a great evil breaking free of its bonds.”

“So you reckon talking to them might give us an idea what’s out there—what’s corrupting them and tell us where to fight it.”

“Exactly. We figure out what’s at the root of the problem and maybe we can fight it instead. Kill the source and we should manage to appease the spirits. If they’re already corrupted then it means they know something about this great evil—they’re connected somehow. It’s our best shot.”

“I’m with you there, pet, but what exactly makes you lot think those things are going to be very talkative? They want us dead. I don’t see them sitting down for a friendly chat just because we ask nice.”

“Well, that’s why we won’t exactly be communicating with the ones that chased us off a cliff.”

Spike raised an eyebrow in silent question. Buffy met his gaze and waited, practically seeing the wheels turning in his head before he blinked and sighed deeply.

“The wolf.”

Buffy nodded. “The wolf. Now you stay here while I go get Giles.”

“Buffy,” Spike called after her. She paused to look at him. “Don’t go being too nice to me. We’re not friends, remember? We finish this, I’m taking my ring and leaving.”

She studied him, seeing the seriousness written all over his face.

“I remember. And I’m not being nice. You’re a fighter, and we could use another one of those if we’re going to go up against this thing. That’s all.”

He seemed content with that, and Buffy turned to go. It was only when she was nearing the tent and watched Giles stir something in a pot while Willow read aloud from some book that Buffy faltered. Something was off. He had called her by name instead of just ‘Slayer’. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

Oh well. Another thing to be filed under ‘later’.

_________



After dinner (more bread and soup, thickened with pieces of sausage that Giles had cooked on his little gas burner thingy), Buffy’s cell phone rang. It was her mother. She brightened at first, happy to be reminded of the world outside of the creepy woods, but it faltered quickly. There were bound to be questions about how they were doing and Buffy hated lying to her mother.

“Mom!” she greeted loudly, so Willow and Giles would hear and know who it was.

“Hello dear, I just wanted to call and let you know that Xander came by, asking for you.”

“Xander?” Buffy’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But he’s not supposed to be home.”

“Well, he is. I told him you were off camping and that I wasn’t sure when you’d be back, but that I’d pass on the message that he’d been here.”

“Uh, thanks.” She chewed on her lip. That would explain all the missed calls. But Xander was supposed to be on a Grand Adventure to find himself. Why was he home again already? She hoped nothing bad had happened.

“Oh, Buffy, could you put Spike on for me?”

“Spike? Why do you want to talk to Spike?” Regardless of her surprise, she got up and began heading towards the cabin. Arguing with Joyce was usually not very effective; Buffy had extensive experience in that area.

“Just want to say hi,” her mother said airily, as if catching up with her vampire friends was perfectly normal and happened all the time.

Wait, friends? Buffy shook her head to straighten her thoughts. Watching a movie together and sharing a bowl of nachos did not make them friends.

“And I wanted to let him know that I took him up on some of his suggestions for the gallery,” Joyce went on. “And he was spot on regarding the Romanticism painting I described to him. It did turn out to be a genuine Jean Rouppert.”

Definitely not friends that definitely did not have conversations about art.

“Hang on, mom.” Buffy ducked through the cabin doorway. “He might be sleeping still, it hasn’t gone dark yet. He’s in the basement, and there definitely won’t be reception down there, so I’ve got to put the phone down. Let me go and check quickly.”

“All right, dear.”

She left the cell phone on the windowsill, hoping the call wouldn’t be cut off before she could get back and hurried down the stairs as fast as her still-very-sore leg would allow her. “Spike?” she called out, hoping he’d be asleep so she could bury the insane idea of her mother and Spike getting chummy and never think about it ever again.

“Yeah,” he replied from somewhere on the floor. She’d forgotten to bring a flashlight and her eyes weren’t used to the dark, making her blind.

“Uh, mom wants to talk to you.” She made a face at her own words. “On the phone. It’s upstairs, but if you’re not strong enough-”

“Joyce?” She heard the rustling of leather. “Be there in a minute.”

“Right. Do you need any help getting up the stairs?”

Despite not being able to see anything, she knew he was giving her an offended look.

“Never mind. Don’t want to step on your precious masculine pride.”

“Says the girl who shrieks like a horror movie blonde while alone in a bathroom,” he spat back.

“It was the spirits, you asshole.”

“Don’t need you to be my crutch, bitch.”

Secretly, she was glad that they’d returned to their usual status quo and smiled to herself. At least one thing was normal again around here.

Unfortunately it was not to last. As soon as they’d made it upstairs, she was treated to one half of what must be a good contender for the weirdest conversation ever.

“Joyce,” he greeted, his voice filled with a warmth she hadn’t heard him use since Drusilla was around. “How are you?”

She wandered into the bedroom cum storage room, pretending not to be listening in.

“Been better, but you know how it goes. It’s not really saving the world unless you get some cuts and bruises to show for it. I’ll be fine. Your daughter and her friends even bandaged up the worst of it.”

Snorting, she hunkered by the rucksacks and opened one to rummage in it.

“No, Buffy’s been great, she hasn’t tried to kill me for at least eight hours.”

Oh joy. And there was the use of her name again, making her shudder with the strangeness of it.

“I’ll tell her, don’t worry.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. “Oh really? That’s fantastic, I’m happy for you!”

Much to her amazement, he did genuinely sound happy about whatever it was. Probably that painting or whatever.

“No, not at all. It was my pleasure.”

She held up a box of dry pancake mix and made a face at it, as though she was offended at its calorie count.

“Of course I will.”

There was a grin in his voice, she was sure of it. What would be next? Her mom and Spike sharing inside jokes and laughing? This was truly Bizarro Land, population one.

“You too, Joyce. Do you want me to put Buffy back on? No?” Pause. “Okay. I will.” Pause. “Well, I can’t promise anything but I’ll try. ‘Fraid so.” And another pause. “Bye.”

She hurried to feign a deep interest in the contents of the rucksack before he pushed open the door. He didn’t enter, however, as the sun was still up and light flooded most of the room.

“Nice lady, your mum.” He held out the phone to her. “Said to tell you to behave.”

“She did not.” Buffy knew that it was probably exactly what her mom had said, however.

“Did too. ‘Course, she said the same thing to me, so you don’t have to feel singled out.” He turned to head back downstairs and she instinctively got up to follow.

“Since when did you ever behave?” She tossed the box aside and put the phone in her pocket. “So, what else did you talk about?”

“Nothing much.”

“Do you realize how wrong it is for my mom to ask for you when she calls? It feels like I’ve fallen into the Twilight Zone or something.”

“She’s just being nice. Don’t make a big deal out of it.” Their descent was slow, both of them taking their time. Him more so than her, she noted.

“It kinda is a big deal to me. Isn’t this a vampire thing? You know, being all charming so that you get an invite and then killing everyone.”

“Already had an invite to your house,” he reminded her. “’Sides, I wouldn’t kill your mum.”

“No?” That puzzled her.

He sat down by his stuff with some effort. He made no noise, but she saw his jaw tighten and he closed his eyes briefly, making her suspect that he wasn’t recovering nearly as fast as she was.

“No. That was your ex-boyfriend’s style, not mine.”

“Don’t bring Angel into this.”

“I’m just saying,” he went on, ignoring her warning. “Killing off your friends and family one by one? I don’t have the patience for that crap. I kill Slayers, not Slayer’s mothers. You don’t need to worry about her.”

“As if I’d trust you.”

“Whatever. You gonna hang out and keep me awake, or can I get some more sleep?”

Happy for the change of topic, she sat down on the bottom step. She’d left the door open behind her, allowing a sliver of light to shine down so that she could see his outline as he lay on the floor. She was surprised to see that someone had donated a sleeping bag. Probably Willow. Then again, he’d been wearing Giles’ pants...

“Spike.” She used her best don’t-fuck-with-me tone. “Be honest. How bad is it?”

Letting out a sigh, he rolled to his side, facing her. “Not much use to you right now, I’m afraid.”

“I was under the impression that vampires healed pretty much at the same rate Slayers do. But you’re not.”

“We usually do.” He didn’t elaborate.

It took a moment before she connected the dots.

“Blood. Willow said you’d been hunting animals.”

“Not much else to feed on out here.” Again he did not say anything more.

“You haven’t been out of our sight since we came here, so I’m guessing it’s been, what, three days?”

He was reduced to non-verbal communication now, nodding his head at her in silence. She stared at him, refusing to continue to drag the answers out one by one. It took a while, but finally he gave in with an irritated noise.

“I’m half-starved and won’t heal properly unless I feed. Is that what you want to hear? It’s pointless talking about it. All the larger animals have left the area. I was planning on sneaking off during the night so your delicate selves wouldn’t be exposed to the harsh reality of living with a vampire, but then we skydived off a cliff to escape a bunch of sodding bears and here we are.”

“You should have said something,” she chided. At least it explained his extreme reluctance to talk, he didn’t want to reveal any weakness. It was an attitude she understood and shared. At the same time, she needed to know because she needed him. Whatever had caused the spirits in the woods to go evil was most likely way worse than anything they’d dealt with so far.

“And what would you have done? Popped by the twenty-four hour butchers down the road?”

“I’ll talk to Giles.” She knew how pointless it sounded but didn’t have anything better to offer. “Maybe I can kill something for you. Get some rest in the meantime.”

He nodded again. “Wake me when they’re gonna do the spell, yeah?”

“Will do.”

_________



“Oh dear,” Giles said, after she’d explained Spike’s - and now their - predicament. “That does complicate matters.”

“I was thinking maybe I could try to hunt something for him?” Buffy suggested. “Like a deer or a rabbit or whatever animals live in these woods.”

Across the campfire, Willow winced.

“Have you ever hunted before, Buffy?” Giles asked.

“No, but how hard can it be? I’m the Slayer, right? You’re always telling me I have a natural instinct for this sort of thing.”

“Hunting vampires and demons, yeah, but not wild animals.”

Again, Willow winced. Buffy had to admit that the thought of killing animals that she tended to think of as fluffy and cute was rather unappealing. Especially those that had starred in the Disney movies of her childhood.

“Do you have any other suggestions? It’s that or the rats in the basement, pretty much, and I seriously doubt there are enough of them to do much good.”

“Um.” Willow raised her hand a little, as if she was in class. “Isn’t it also true that vampires need way more blood if it’s animal and not human?”

“Huh?”

“Quite so,” Giles said. “Humans are their natural prey and substituting animal blood is not ideal.”

“That’s why Angel always ate hospital blood.” Willow’s confidence strengthened now that Giles was backing her up. “Is it eating or drinking? Everyone always says that they eat, but you can’t eat liquid, really…” she trailed off when she saw Buffy’s disgusted look. “Never mind. But I was thinking, we need his help, right?”

Neither she nor Giles were eager to confirm that they were relying on an evil master vampire, but eventually they both grudgingly nodded.

“Well... Don’t freak out or anything, but don’t we have more than enough between the three of us to help him out?” Seeing their faces she spoke faster. “I was just thinking, we could sterilize a knife in the fire and make small cuts and let it drip into a cup or something. No biting or hunting necessary.”

Buffy was about to object strongly when Giles spoke.

“As much as I hate to admit it, that does seem to be the quickest and simplest solution. Though I must say, I am deeply uncomfortable at the idea of my blood being in Spike’s veins.”

Yep, she decided, it was official. She was definitely in Bizarro Land.


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
slaymesoftly
Dec. 17th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
I'm loving the interaction between Spike and Willow. Almost wishing it was going to be a Spillow story. lol But, no. Buffy's going to come around and so is he. Nice update.
wolffan200
Dec. 17th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
I think that would be 3's influence sneaking in :) Very happy you liked it. *is really looking forward to posting upcoming chapters*
3hours
Dec. 17th, 2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
For the record, I have no idea what Wolf is on about. >___>

Anyway, YES, upcoming chapters! I just finished looking over chapter 8 and 9 since one of our betas is busy with life/work and I can't wait to hear what people think about... stuff. And the other stuff. And... more stuff. *sits on hands*
slaymesoftly
Dec. 17th, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
LOL ... stuff... is always good! :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )