Call of the Wild

By Ares
Author's Notes

They were being chased. The night was dark, with not even the moon’s light to show the way. Angel’s night sight, better than Buffy’s slayer eyes, picked out obstacles in their path. He was in the lead, dodging and weaving through the underbrush, Buffy close on his heels. Close on their heels was the sound of pursuit: hungry growls that sent shivers up her spine. No ordinary vampires to stake. What pursued them with slavering jaws was lupine: werewolf.

Buffy thought it unfair that the full moon had hidden behind a sky banked with cloud. And if that wasn’t bad enough, fog clung heavy to the ground and wound its clammy tendrils through all and sundry anchored there. Chest heaving, legs pumping, Buffy kept up with Angel. His longer legs were no advantage as they navigated the woods, ducking and sidestepping. She heard a smack against flesh. Angel grunted but did not slow. Buffy’s shorter height allowed her to run beneath the overhanging bough.

“Eyes not where they should be, Angel?”

It wasn’t the growl of a werewolf that reverberated back to her. She grinned.

It was exhilarating, the hunt and the chase. Even though they were the hunted it would not always be so. Adrenaline coursed through her veins. They could die tonight, and that wasn’t new. In their line of work every night held that possibility. It was why they lived life, or in Angel’s case, un-life, to the hilt. There was no one else she wanted to share her calling with, and no one else who was as expert a killer as she was. They were the dream team as slayers go. For all that slayers were always girls - one in every generation and all that, except that was no longer true - Angel filled the bill and more. Buffy was happy.

A savage howl rent the air. Buffy slowed and avoided running into a stationary Angel.

“To the left?” she asked, surprised, pulling her sword from the scabbard hanging at her back. Angel did the same, steel singing as it was dragged free of its sheath. It turned out there were three werewolves, two behind and one to the left of them, and they were doing the impossible. They were herding their prey, corralling them, and werewolves weren’t known for intelligence in wolf form.

Silently, Angel cursed. Silver would come in handy right about now. Killing a werewolf was difficult at the best of times, and without silver decapitation would have to suffice. Buffy was at serious risk. She had to be careful. That was why they were running through the wood. One bite and Buffy would have to live out her life a demon. As if her life wasn’t hard enough. Angel didn’t care what happened to him. Vampires were immune. He could survive a werewolf attack as long as the beast didn’t rip off his head.

“This way,” he said, tugging on her free hand to indicate direction.

Werewolves, like vampires, have an incredible sense of smell. There was nowhere they could hide. They would have to make a stand. Buffy and Angel hurried through the trees. The ground began to rise. Angel put on an extra spurt of speed, pulling Buffy with him. With the slope of the wood rising above them, they chose a flat area surrounded by trees to do battle. It was the most defensible option available to them. The fog hadn’t followed them up the incline. It lay stagnant below like milk spilt on a carpet of leaves.

“Someone else thought this a place to stop.” Buffy kicked at the remnants of a camp fire. Metal striking stone had her groping the earth. In triumph Buffy held up her prize.

“A corkscrew,” she said to Angel’s back. She could just make out his form: a dark man-shaped shadow. He was staring out through the trees. Buffy knew his head would be up and he would be sniffing the air.

“It’s not silver is it?” he muttered.

She wished she hadn’t worn her gold cross this night. “Fat chance!” she snorted, and doing a fair imitation of Giles, continued on. “A young couple, the Henshaws, were back-packing, and coming upon the village of,” and here Buffy mumbled the name – she had difficulty pronouncing anything Welsh, and in the dark, Angel smiled - “had called a friend to say they had come across something strange, a carving of sorts, before they disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again. It bears looking into, Buffy. A demonic source, perhaps? A portal? I would go myself, but I have promised Mr Postlethwaite I’d be on hand for his dead wife’s exhumation. I’m sure you and Angel will have no difficulty handling the case.” Buffy dropped back to her own voice. “Yeah, right. Next time we pack a silver bullet or two. The disappearing act should’ve warned us.”

“People disappear all the time, and for various reasons. Werewolves leave behind savaged corpses, as you know. None have been seen hereabouts. The sheep are safe out on the hills. There was no indication that werewolves were about.”

Buffy sighed. She knew Angel was right. It wasn’t Giles fault that they were stuck out here with werewolves baying for their blood.

The snapping of a twig chased away any other thought. A low growl, loud in the ensuing silence, made her stomach clench. Heart pounding, Buffy took up her position. Swords at the ready, Buffy and Angel waited, looking towards the trees. The stench of wolf wafted on the night air. Even Buffy could smell it. There was movement amongst the trees. Three large forms, teeth and claws, rushed them. Buffy stabbed upwards as she dodged to the side. Her blade sank into hairy flesh. With a two handed grip, Buffy pulled free. The beast howled, and was gone.

“Two for one,” Angel muttered as his sword kept the werewolves at bay. Talons slashed his leg. He pivoted and, swinging his sword in a motion that was a figure eight, sliced through the paw of the werewolf. On the upward swing his blade caught the beast’s jaw. Teeth and bone splintered away. Downward arc, body in motion, turning. Steel slicing a deadly line across a hairy torso. Suddenly, he had space.

“Slice and dice,” he heard Buffy yell.

He risked a quick glance. Buffy was inflicting serious damage. As far as he could tell she wasn’t cut and bleeding. When she was, he found her even more irresistible. Angel ducked and rolled as several hundred pounds of beast launched itself at him. The other lay clutching its face. Blood streamed through its massive paws. Angel somersaulted past the charging beast to where its companion lay and swung his sword, hard. The head of the wolf separated from the body, and lay there. With a frown furrowing his brow, Angel leapt back into the fray.

“The elastic on my panties is busted.”

Angel gave Buffy a sidelong glance without moving his head. It hurt to move. They were propped up against the slope of the ground, legs splayed out before them. The bodies of the werewolves lay dismembered in the small clearing.

“Do you know how hard it is to slay when your panties keep falling down inside your jeans?” Buffy made a motion with her hand.

Angel conjured up a chuckle from inside his exhaustion.

“They weren’t werewolves,” he stated.

“My, what big teeth you have, Grandma. They’re werewolves, Angel.”

“They haven’t reverted to human form.”

“Huh?”

“The last werewolf I killed, it reverted to human form when it died. These didn’t.”

A languid hand motion was all she could manage.

“Don’t tell me there are demons that look like werewolves that aren’t werewolves.”

“All right. I won’t tell you.”

She resisted the urge to smack him. Besides, she was too tired to move. When Angel staggered to his feet, she asked, “What are you doing?”

“You didn’t want me to tell you.”

Buffy heard the smile in his words. She didn’t move an inch. “Go ahead. I’ll just quietly die.”

From where she sat she could make out his movements. She watched him as he examined pieces of werewolf. She grimaced when he picked up a severed head and examined its jaws. He threw it to the ground when he had finished and walked out of sight. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again Angel was beside her, watching her.

“How long was I asleep?”

“You needed it.”

She yawned in agreement. “What did you find?”

“The Henshaws.”

“Werewolves?”

“Eaten. Only the bones are left. This was their campsite.”

Buffy straightened up from her slouch. “What are the odds that we got herded in this direction?”

“Pretty good. I want to show you something.”

He reached down and offered his hand. With his help, Buffy got to her feet. She stretched tired and aching muscles and followed him through the trees. He produced a torch for her benefit and shone the light on the trunk of the oak tree. The light picked out something carved into the wood. She ran her fingers over it.

“It’s the same as the one I saw on the wall of the post office.” The sign had been stamped into stone and Buffy had thought it was a Welsh thing.

The villagers had been reluctant to help with their inquiries, whether it be that they were strangers, or because they were naturally reticent. One thing had been clear. The Henshaws had been in the village, having stayed one night at the Red Lion pub. They had left the following day. End of story. Even during the day when Buffy had struck out on her own, people were shy of her.

They stared at the glyph.

“Do you know what it means?” she asked him.

Shaking his head, he said, “It looks like it could be the beginnings of a shield knot.”

Ah. It was a Welsh thing. Buffy had thought it looked vaguely familiar. Celtic knots were sold everywhere in Britain, on any surface but most were jewellery. However, this didn’t have quite the same flowing lines.

As if reading her thoughts, Angel said, “I don’t know what those marks are.” He was talking about the squiggles dissecting the knot-like pattern.

“The village…” she started to say.

“Is in on whatever is going on,” he finished for her. “No wonder the wood is so…”

“Dense?”

“Old. The villagers could be protecting the wood, or…”

“The wood is protecting them.”

“Which begs the question…?”

“Are the people in the village all that they seem?”

“We’ll have to go back. Besides, the car…”

Buffy reached for him. She was feeling…good. Better than good. Her exhaustion fell away. She didn’t know if it was because of the nap she had taken, or whether it was from the buzz she got from slaying. Kissing him hard on the lips, her fingers worked on the buttons of his shirt. Breaking away from his mouth, she said, “Let’s see if you glow in the dark.”

Angel’s hands had slipped beneath her shirt and were undoing the clasp of her bra. They stilled.

“Glow?”

“Sparkle, really. I want to see if you sparkle.”

“It’s supposed to be in daylight, Buffy. And you know that I don’t do sunlight.”

Buffy giggled. She had dragged Angel to the movie Twilight, two hours he would never get back he had told her afterwards. She had to admit that the whole creature of the night thing hadn’t been considered by the movie maker. But she had been feeling nostalgic, and the fact that it was girl meets vampire boy, at high school, no less, had drawn her in. At the movies she had shuddered. Had she really been like that in her teens?

“I thought you’d relish the thought of getting naked with me.”

Angel growled that low rumble deep in his throat. It always thrilled her to hear it. Liquid heat pooled at her centre. His hands were busy again. Having released her bra his fingers were paying attention to her breasts. She finished undoing his buttons and tugged away his coat and shirt. She stretched her arms over her head so he could pull her sweater from her body. Cold air conjured goose bumps along her skin. Her nipples pebbled, and not just from the cold. Angel’s mouth was paying homage. She unwound the scarf from around her neck, threw it from her, and offered her throat to him. The smile he tendered was a toothy one.

“You can rip my panties off if you like,” she ordered, saucily. “They’re ruined, anyway.”

A tangle of hands stripped away the rest of their clothing. They used his coat as a bed. Fangs fastened in her throat, with Buffy’s legs wrapped around his waist urging him on, Angel rode her hard. Above them the ancient sigil stared down.

“What just happened?”

Buffy brushed hair out of her eyes and sat up, Angel’s coat about her, keeping her warm.

“I resent that.”

Buffy nudged him with her foot. He was naked, the cold having no effect on him.

“Angel, there’s the remains of two young people in the wood and what did we do? We…”

“Got carried away.” She felt him turn his head to glance up at the mark in the tree above them. “And I think I know why.”

“The glyph?”

She heard him rummaging about for his clothes. Buffy decided she had better get dressed too. When her fingers found the puncture marks in her neck, she felt Angel’s movements still. She smiled, willing him to accept that the pleasure she got from his fangs slicing into her throat was worth more than the guilt he felt in having succumbed to his nature. But this was Angel, and she knew that no matter how much she reassured him, a part of him would always feel abhorrence for what he was: a monster.

“We need to find out what it means.”

“There be monsters?”

Her laugh died in her throat. She reached up to him and kissed him.

“There’s a little demon in me too,” she said when their lips parted company.

The smell of mouldering vegetation, wet earth, and worms – Buffy couldn’t help but shudder as the thought of worms and dirt and graves wriggled its way into her brain – kept them company on their trek back through the wood. Crossing a small stream and a thicket of oak and ash trees clinging to its banks brought them to open pasture: there was no sign of the sheep that called the land home. The animals were huddled in a tight group as far from the wood as they could get, as they trudged past. No doubt the sheep felt relieved, if sheep could. The danger the wolves presented had passed them by. When they crested the hill, the lights above the post office were on. She raised her brows at Angel. He nodded and, stepping up to the post office, pounded on the door, moving to the side to give her room, front and centre.

The door was jerked open quickly, and the startled look on the postmaster’s face told Buffy all she needed to know. She wasn’t the person the man had been expecting to see.

Pushing hard against the door, the man stumbled back and would have fallen if Buffy hadn’t stalked inside and taken hold of his shirt.

“I think we need to have a little talk,” she snarled at him, her eyes flashing dangerously.

The man’s gaze shifted from her to Angel lurking in the doorway. Buffy let him go as Angel crossed the threshold. The post office was just a part of what was the village shop. Shelves filled with cans and boxes of everything from soap powder to soup, cereal and fruit, newspapers and magazines, and even the odd medicinal packet lined the walls and central aisle. It was a tidy mess. Everything in its place, haphazard as it looked.

Buffy looked over at Angel. A slight nod of his head told her to go ahead.

“Mr…?” she asked the postmaster.

“Ap John. Llewelyn ap John,” he said, smoothing at the fabric of his shirt.

“Ap John?” Angel said, surprised at the archaic patronymic.

“Ap?” Buffy asked, confused.

“Surnames in Wales became fixed by the end of the nineteenth century. Llewelyn here just called himself the son of John. Upjohn is the more modern usage.”

Buffy shook her head and bit back the grin that threatened to break free. Angel was starting to sound like Giles. She put on her slayer face and glared up at the postmaster.

“Mr ap John. We want to know what the hell is going on here.”

“Going on?”

“We were set upon by wolves earlier tonight. Three of them.”

The man paled. Sweat began to bead along his hairline. “What happened?”

“Angel and I killed them.”

If the man went any paler Buffy would’ve thought him a vampire. His hands shook and his voice was tremulous when he asked, “How?”

Angel stepped in. “Who were they?”

“W-what do you mean?”

“You’re not quite human, are you? It’s not much of a stretch to think that the wolves that attacked us weren’t what they appeared to be.”

“Well?” Buffy snapped at ap John impatiently.

The man scrubbed at his face. “You don’t understand. The Bleidd protect us. The land protects us.”

“By killing outsiders?” Angel growled.

“Bleidd?”

“Wolf, Buffy.”

Angel cast his eyes to the ceiling before bringing his gaze back to rest on the Welshman. “I think you should ask your friends to come join us.”

Llewelyn wiped a shaking hand across his forehead and called out to the men upstairs in his dwelling.

“Dafydd! Marrock! You better come down!”

Buffy went through the doorway that led to the inner sanctum of the shop. She waited at the foot of the stairs and watched as two men trod down its steep steps. She was there to stop them from making a run for the back door, and the look in their eyes told her that they were considering doing so, thinking that they could push past a mere slip of a girl like her. Her look of determination must have been plain to see on her face – or was it the rise of her sword at her back – that had the men shuffling past her and out into the shop front. Buffy followed and began the questioning. It was something she and Angel had worked out between them. Having a petite, blonde woman asking the hard questions often put the interviewee at a disadvantage. And if it didn’t then Angel was always there to intimidate. Buffy thought he was good with the menacing.

The men joined their friend and they huddled together like the sheep Angel and Buffy had passed by out in the paddocks. Buffy heard the postmaster whispering to the others. The men looked stricken at what was being said. She glanced over at Angel. He had heard too, only she knew that he would’ve understood the Welsh – Cymric, wasn’t it? – being spoken.

“You were saying about the blaayth?” she said, forcing their attention back onto her.

“Bleidd,” Angel corrected. She shot him a look, and he backed away, hands in the air, a small smile on his lips.

“Wolves. Demons. Whatever.”

Ap John licked his lips.

“The witch trials in the sixteen hundreds. Matthew Hopkins and the like.”

“Hopkins’ reign of terror was in the East,” Angel said.

“Aye, it was. But there were other witch finders and demon hunters about. One went by the name of Holtz.”

Angel stared at the man.

Ap John continued. “Holtz came later, the eighteenth century.”

Buffy glanced over at Angel. His hands were hanging by his sides. He was utterly motionless. He appeared calm, but she knew him. Something was wrong.

“And?” she prompted ap John.

“Slayers. Everyone was jumping at ghosts. Innocents were burned or hanged as witches. The Church and the secular community were worried about heresy, really, and the demon community, always underground, feared for their lives.”

One of the men cleared his throat. His eyes shone. He looked on the verge of tears. “Are you a slayer, miss?”

Buffy frowned. “I am.”

“And you’re here to kill us.”

“We killed three wolves that were trying to kill us. They had already killed a young couple who were travelling through.”

“You hid yourselves.” It was Angel. His voice was soft, almost a whisper. He was talking to Llewelyn.

“Yes we did. This small pocket of country offers us sanctuary, and has done so for hundreds of years.”

“The markings,” Buffy surmised.

“The sigils protect us. They hide us in plain sight. We’re human, mostly. We, in turn, protect the wood. As long as the ancient trees stand we survive.”

“By killing innocent people?” And Buffy wasn’t going to let them continue to do so.

“We’re sorry about them. We are. It need never have happened. They had ventured into the forest before we knew about it and had already telephoned a friend about the sigils they had seen.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes. “How did you know that?”

The postmaster pointed to the telephone box outside the shop door.

“Cell phones don’t work out here. It’s the protection spell.”

Angel repeated ap John’s previous statement. “It need never have happened.”

Ap John licked his lips again. “Every generation, guardians are selected. At an early age our kind can revert quite easily to our original form. We lose that ability as we get older, as we…”

“Stay in human form,” Angel finished for him. “This isn’t your true face, but it’s becoming…” He trailed off, seemingly lost in thought.

Buffy didn’t appear to have heard. Ap John’s first words were echoing in her brain.

“Chosen?” she whispered. Angel’s head whipped up to stare at her.

“Aye. Chosen. Two each time.”

“But there were three…”

“The young ‘uns are cared for, taught, trained in what to do by their elders. Thomas lost his partner a few years back. Maybe that’s why it happened, why the young couple lost their lives. Loss of a loved one can do that to you, drive you mad.”

“You can communicate with each other? Even in wolf form?”

“Of course. It’s a telepathic communication, the language a set of images and ideas.”

“I smelled pig in the forest. Is that what they feed on?” Angel said.

The man nodded. “Rabbit, a sheep now and again. Whatever we have is theirs.”

Buffy was torn between her duty and her empathy with the Bleidd. She knew all about being Chosen. She shivered. She had killed Chosen ones. “And this is the first time humans have been killed?” she asked.

“Not for a long while. There’s no point in killing if it draws attention to yourself.”

“Do you really need guardians? There are laws, nowadays, to protect you.”

“Human laws,” muttered one of the other men.

Angel said, “To all intent and purposes you are human. To the outside world, anyway.”

“How are we to protect the woods if we don’t have the guardians?”

“How does anyone protect their land and property?” Buffy said more statement than question.

“By treading carefully,” Angel advised. He knew that he would do whatever it took to look after his loved ones, had done so. There was never an easy answer.

“What were their names? The two young ones?” Buffy asked.

“Lilybet and Gerwin. These men are their fathers.”

Buffy looked at the men in horror. Marrock and Dafydd had looked devastated on learning the wolves had all been killed, and now she knew why. She felt sick, she felt like a murderer of children.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, knowing that it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough for the families of the slain.

Angel reached out and gently touched her arm. He told the men to stay put, and he and the slayer retreated outside to confer.

“What do you think?” he asked of Buffy.

She bit her lip, weariness and sadness filling her eyes. “Killing those kids…”

“We didn’t know what they were, Buffy. They were after our blood. They’d already killed the Henshaws. “

“They were Chosen, Angel. Like me they were Chosen.”

Angel saw the tears welling, watched as they spilled over. He kissed her gently between her eyes.

“I know.”

Wiping away the wetness on her cheeks, she sniffled and took a big breath.

“Let’s do it. Come on.”

Once inside, they told the men the matter was closed. They would let the village decide what to do about the forest and the Chosen. The bodies of the young couple were to be buried in the graveyard. Accidental death given as the cause. A tractor accident or some such.

Buffy gave them a warning.

“We will check up on you from time to time, and if we hear of any missing persons or mysterious deaths…”

With much relief, the men had vowed there wouldn’t be any, and let the slayer and her consort make their way to the pub and to bed. Dawn was only an hour off.

Side by side, wrapped in a quilt, Buffy said, “What you said about becoming human, Angel…”

Buffy knew what he had been thinking. The face he showed to the world, his human face, was just a mask he wore. Underneath was the frightening visage of a vampire: ugly, cruel, vicious and, he thought, evil. She knew he must be wondering if he never reverted to his demon face, like the villagers here, would that make him less of a demon and more human.

His “mmm” didn’t fool her.

“You’re perfect the way you are. I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating:PG13
Summary: Not all is as it appears when investigating the disappearance of a young couple in a small village in Wales.
Disclaimer: Not mine, dammit.
Author's Notes: This story was inspired by Dark Star (scribesds) and Jo (librarian2003) in a series of conversations a while ago. Thank you, ladies.

Plus, I have Buffy and Angel in Wales and Giles in their lives, as we did in Project Paranormal.

And thank you so much, Jo, for all your help. I couldn’t do this without you. And thank you for the heads up about Holtz and the lullaby.

Holtz was singing “All Through the Night” when he was leaving Lorne’s club in “Angel.” It is the Welsh lullaby “Ar Hyd y Nos,” and Holtz was singing it in Welsh. The lullaby was first recorded 20 years after Holtz’s family’s death. So Holtz must have been in Wales to have learned it.

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