Chapter Twelve: “One More Time With A Sad, Sad Smile”
Richard turned to Anita, amber eyes gleaming and his lips pulled back from his muzzle, revealing his long and dangerous wolf teeth covered with blood. His face and torso was also bloodstained, signs of a successful hunt; which hopefully meant that he would have his complete wits about him since he’d already fed. It should have made Anita feel better. However, all the weight that had been lifted immediately crashed back down on her when she saw the hate and rage in his eyes and it was none of the wolf’s doing either. This anger was all Richard. Like a slap in the face, he shut his mental door, cutting Anita off from the power she’d been using to keep up with the werewolves and leaving her momentarily shaken.
“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?” Richard demanded with a near roar.
Anita was taken aback by the intensity of the venom in his voice, but quickly threw up her own defenses, countering with, “What the f*** are you talking about, Richard?”
Standing at his full height, the wolfman looked down at Anita with his body practically shaking with anger. “First you feed your goddamn ardeur on me, then you force your way into my f***ing mind? Where the hell do you get off, Anita?”
Anita wasn’t intimidated by the wolf-man’s height; being small all her life, she couldn’t really be scare of someone just because they were taller than her. However, even she had to admit that she was afraid of whatever crazy thing Richard was planning on doing next. The last thing she wanted was to be forced to fight Richard along with Cano and Darwin. Anita just didn’t have the resources for that here. She was still feeling “dimensional jet lag” and she was dealing with two of the most ferocious lycanthropes she’d ever seen. With the way this fight was already going, she did not need Richard getting pissy about her forcing open his link to draw strength to keep herself and those around her alive. She hadn’t done it because she’d wanted to tick him off; she’d done exactly what she believed that the situation had called for. So, no, Richard was not going to get her to bow to his outrage tonight.
“F***, Richard,” she snapped back with her new resolve. “We’ve got a very dangerous situation here, in case you haven’t noticed. Either keep helping or get the hell away so I can. You can b**** at me all you want later.”
Richard cursed under his breath, but agreed as he caught the sound of someone yelling. His eyes honed in on Darwin battling with Buffy and threw himself at the pair with lightning speed. The smaller wolfman seemed to catch the movement and quickly abandoned his attack on the girl to focus on the bigger threat. Scrambling away to put more room between herself and Darwin before Richard struck, Buffy hobbled over to Jean-Claude, the only one of the group who wasn’t either in shock or fighting. Anita had gone over to help Richard deal with the eel-slick silver haired wolf--- she could see that catching him would be hard for Richard in his current state of mind ---and, even as they fought together, Buffy could sense the high tension between them.
“How’d the furry ones find us?” Buffy gasped, not asking anyone in particular. However, Jean-Claude decided to grace her with an answer anyway.
“I attempted to call Darwin and Cano’s wolves, but they were both strong enough to resist me without physical contact---which I don’t believe I could achieve at the moment.” A bemused smile adorned Jean-Claude’s perfect face wonderfully. “So I called Richard for aid. I’m quite surprised that he actually came.”
“Great,” Buffy sighed. “He’s here to help right?”
“I cannot say,” Jean-Claude confessed, his face still just as amused, but something in his voice was deadly serious. Buffy swallowed hard as she digested that little tidbit and she felt a brief flash of fear as she looked back where Richard stood.
“It shouldn’t be this hard taking out two guys,” Xander complained as he joined Buffy and Jean-Claude--- still rather shaky on his feet ---making the Slayer jump in surprise. Jean-Claude remained as neutral faced as ever and it annoyed the hell out of Buffy; her annoyance also allowed her to focus on something other than the werewolf they weren’t sure they could trust and for that she was thankful to her old friend. Buffy allowed him to lean on her when it looked like he was going to collapse. “I’ve met demons easier to beat than these two.”
“Demons?” Jean-Claude asked skeptically.
“Talk later, help now.” Handing Xander off to Jean-Claude and picking up her sword again, Buffy went to join leopard-Gregory and wolf-Stephen in dealing with Cano.
Wanting to help, Xander attempted to go after his friend, but lost his footing and would have fallen if Jean-Claude hadn’t caught him. It was just as well because Xander realized that, without a weapon, he had no hope of fighting werewolves. It hurt having his weak, ordinary humanness thrown in his face.
“Well now. Don’t I feel useless?”
“Not useless, mon ami. Simply, not needed at the moment.” Jean-Claude all but gave Xander a pat on the head and the man resented it, but it made him feel better to agree with the vampire.
“Excuse me.” The sandy furred wolfman Cain had transformed into emerged from out of the woods carrying a very bloody, unconscious Spike. Though Cain himself was covered in blood so it was difficult to tell whose blood it was. “Did you call?” Even in his wolfman form, Cain’s voice had a familiar drawl that frightened Xander on a very heartfelt level. He tried to shake off that fear with an energetic smile.
“Cain, buddy, got a little something extra there.”
Believing that Xander was talking about the blood, Cain lowered his head in abashment, hand raising to wipe some of it from his face; it didn’t work too good. A quick flash of guilt for shaming the wolfman when he didn’t mean to--- he’d never figured a werewolf to be so sensitive about his eating habits in wolf form ---and corrected himself by gesturing at the vampire he was holding. Following the path of Xander’s hand, Cain glanced at his side and realized that he was talking about Spike. He smiled in relief, which looked rather bizarre on his wolfish face, and finished bringing Spike over with a gentleness that was at odds with his monstrous appearance. The vampire was barely beginning to stir in Cain’s grasp, eyes struggling to open and mouth opening and closing as if he was trying to speak. His clothes were tattered and bloodstained from Cano’s bite and scratches and it was probably safe to say that he was out for the night, even if he came to. Though it was difficult with his animalistic hands, Cain soothed back the hair that had tumbled into Spike’s face and frowned at the sight of the damage done.
“I found him in the woods,” he explained quietly. “I didn’t believe it was a very good idea to leave him there. It looks as if Cano got a hold of him.”
“Yeah and he’s currently trying to do the same thing to Stephen and Gregory.”
Intrigued, Cain looked behind them to where Xander had pointed and his heart immediately dropped into his stomach. His wolf-like face was torn between fear and anger as he watched the twins and Buffy challenge Cano who had managed to break free of their hold. The black wolf was a menacing vision still covered in the blood of his earlier activities and his heart went out to those fighting him, but Cain just couldn’t bring himself to help them; his brain and body wouldn’t cooperate in going over there. He’d tried to oppose The First/Mayor because it hadn’t felt right hurting people and, even if it was Cano and Darwin, he still felt that way---they were pack after all. With his beast’s hunger fed, Cain was back in complete control of himself and the last thing he wanted to do was fight anyone…which made him felt like a real piece of sh**.
* * * *
Buffy would have liked a little help, though she would have probably preferred it to be a little less furry and a lot more impressive. Even in their transformed states, Stephen and Gregory were small compared to Cano, whose reach was at least twice their, and--- while very close ---just weren’t equal in speed to the giant wolfman. It was frustrating to them, especially to Gregory because he knew that wolves weren’t supposed to be faster than leopards, yet somehow Cano managed to continuous dodge all of his attacks. Neither twin had ever really fought much as lycanthropes--- they were both lower rung members of their groups ---but they knew that Buffy was probably more equip for dealing with battles and she hadn’t laid a finger on Cano.
In fact, the Slayer herself was beginning to think that there just wasn’t any feasible way of getting a hit on the wolfman; the only one she could remember who’d been this hard to beat had been a god. For someone his size, his speed was insane; it defined all laws of nature. Then again, that’s probably why a werewolf’s abilities were preternatural. Even that flip of wit couldn’t draw Buffy out of her foul mood. However, it was satisfying to see a bit of white froth pooling at the corner of Cano’s mouth as his breaths grew heavier and more frantic. Unlike that god, Cano seemed able to tire and his strength wasn’t everlasting. It was the only f***ing ray of sunshine she had gotten this entire day. When he began to slow down just by a few seconds, Buffy caught it and brought out her reserves to zone in on that weakness. The blade of her sword finally connected with the wolfman’s black furred shoulder, sliding through his flesh easily and bloodily, and Buffy felt a flash of triumph; the monster wolfman bled, which meant that he wasn’t invulnerable.
Stifling a cry of pain, Cano clenched his teeth together and used the lost of space between them to slap Buffy away. She didn’t even get to keep her sword in her hands, leaving the weapon buried in her enemy’s body. Much to his delight, the Slayer went flying a good distance; he hadn’t pulled his punch, mind temporarily blinded with pain to think about drawing out the battle. For once, he was getting tired of all the fighting. If it weren’t for the nagging voice in the back of his head reminding of his deal with the First/Mayor, he probably would have taken off once he’d made it to the woods.
The twins froze after Cano had slapped Buffy away, unsure if they should go to help Buffy or keep snapping at Cano. Neither relished the idea of leaving Buffy injured on her own, and they fancied trying to take the larger wolf on, even working together, even less. When the wolfman failed to attack again immediately, they finally decided on going to the stirring woman’s side. It was just the smarter choice. They helped her stand, very careful with their sharp, infectious claws, and provided support while the Slayer pulled herself together.
“Are you all right?” Stephen inquired in a rumbling, animalistic growl that Buffy could barely understand.
“I’m fine,” she groaned in replied when it seemed obvious that the twins were waiting for her to do so. “How’s…”
“I think we’re wearing him down.” The leopard-man jabbed a thumb-like appendage behind them at Cano who was kneeling on the ground.
The wolfman’s head was hung low, tongue sticking out of his muzzle as he shook his head to and fro. Those damn tranquilizers! His initial attack had given him enough of an adrenaline rush to keep the pressing sleep at bay, but now it was starting to take affect again. Buffy’s sword wound was aggravating his already wounded muscles and he’d probably lost more blood than was safe. However, he couldn’t let himself be beaten by these wimps; he remembered what the First/Mayor--- where had that demonic weasel disappeared to anyway? ---had told him about the Slayer. If he lost this fight, he was as good as dead. With a snarling howl, Cano stood back up, drew the sword out of himself, and tossed it to the side as far as he could with his uninjured arm. Baring his sharp teeth at the trio, he growled threateningly and took a step forward.
“Buffy, move out of the way!”
Without thinking, Buffy grabbed the twins by the scruff of their necks and brought them down with her as she threw herself on the ground several feet away. When Giles had that tone of voice, there was no arguing with him---it just wasn’t safe. She looked up to see the British man with a book in one hand and what looked like a shiny round stone in the other. He was chanting in a demonic language Buffy had never heard before when the stone started to glow bright neon green whose light made even her want to look away. Walking very carefully, Giles came over, never taking his eyes off Cano; the wolfman crouched ready to pounce, but held his ground. Cano could practically taste the magic radiating off the man and magic wasn’t something he liked to deal with. It was one of the things he feared the most.
“Buffy.” Anya came to the woman and helped her onto her feet. She glanced at the furry Stephen and Gregory. “What happened to you two?”
“We shifted,” Gregory stated plainly.
Anya blinked at them in confusion and probably would have pressed for more of an explanation if Buffy hadn’t demanded, “What is Giles doing?”
* * * *
Giles was still chanting as he circled the black furred wolfman, eyes concentrated and level. Cano snarled at him, but felt himself unable to attack. That glowing stone was blinding and it hurt to move. Holding a hand up to shield his eyes, he demanded, “What the f*** do you think you’re doing?”
Giles stopped speaking for a moment--- though the stone didn’t stop glowing ---then said, “I’m sending you back to where you belong.”
“Hell?” Cano suggested laughingly, using his nonchalance to taunt Giles’ power. However, it was just a false bravado and in reality his body felt like Hell. He gritted his teeth against the pain sliding around, keeping Giles from getting at his back, but Giles could see the effort it took. In the back of his mind, he congratulated Buffy on hurting the monster so well.
“As suiting as that would be, no.”
Surprise was written all over his face as Cano regarded the English man in near disbelief, his mask of a ruthless, confident killer falling. “You aren’t going to kill me?”
“I should,” Giles growled. “After everything you’ve done, it’s what you deserve. However, there’s too much danger in killing you here.”
Realization spread across Cano’s scarred face and his lips pulled back into a snarling, self-satisfied smile. He’d been getting so many mixed messages on this subject, what with Anita and Buffy so eager to kill him. It was nice to have some actual confirmation. “So in other words, you can’t kill me. No matter what I do, you have to take me alive.”
The smug smile on Cano’s face was so arrogant and full of himself, it turned Giles’ stomach. He realized that, if Cano got away, he would continue his slaughter indiscriminately, comfortable with the fact that they would always have to take him alive.
“But you don’t have to be in good health,” Giles countered and a beam shot out of the jewel, hitting Cano directly in the chest and sending him flying.
The werewolf slammed into a tree, cracking it in half, and slid down slowly, his whole body going limp. His head lolled to the side, blood running out of his mouth and seeping from his ears, as he regarded the Watcher as he approached him. Things were just starting to blur and the world was muted and Cano’s heart was suddenly pounding as it hit him that he was falling unconscious; he’d actually lost. The fact that the Slayer’s people couldn’t kill him was small comfort and he gave it one more try. However, a second beam of lime green light shot out from Giles’ ready stone and Cano screamed in agony as his body convulsed involuntarily. When the pain ebbed, Cano saw something behind the Watcher move and, though his eyes couldn’t remain open for very long let alone widen, he felt a flash of indescribable fear.
The First/Mayor shook its head and clucked in scolding. “Cano, Cano, Cano.” Giles’ face remained in its determined scowl even as the First/Mayor phased through him to kneel at Cano’s side, a mixture of sympathy and disappointment on his face. “Now here’s a position I never thought I would find a man such as yourself in.”
“Couldn’t…” Cano started, but began coughing uncontrollably, spitting up blood and worse. Giles’ nose wrinkled in disgust, but he didn’t take the step back his instincts first told him to. If he were in a better condition to notice, Cano would have been laughing at that. “Too much…”
The First/Mayor sighed in resignation and looked at if he might touched Cano’s shoulder before he stood back up. “Well, I can’t say I’m not disappointed, Cano. You were the strongest of the three. If anyone of you could have killed the Slayer, I was sure that it would have been you. You showed such spunk, a real relish of the kill.”
Cano growled lowly in response, hating the helplessness he felt after Giles’ mystic attack.
“Not that you haven’t been working hard. You put down the vampire and that was no small task. He’s one of their strongest fighters, and it’ll help not having him in the way. I only wish you could have gotten the chance to deal with the wolf and leopard properly.” He sighed sadly, but immediately perked up. “But like I said, you’ve done good on your own.”
Snarling--- almost whimpering actually ---like a wounded animal, Cano attempted to pull himself into a more upright position and failing when his muscles refused to cooperate. He only slid a few inches lower. Giles remained taut, ready to activate the stone if Cano showed any signs of getting up again.
“Now, now,” the First/Mayor scolded lightly, like he was addressing a mischievous child. “Don’t go doing anything you’ll regret. You’re out of this fight, Cano, that much is clear. But we’ve still got Darwin, and Cain---if that boy remembers his side of the bargain.” He bent back down and placed a fatherly hand on Cano’s brow. The First had actually been surprised when it’d first learned that it could touch these strangers because they were not of this world and it was refreshing being able to have any amount of physical contact with mortals. “Those boys will take care of everything. You just rest. You’ve earned it.”
For some reason that simple little phrase lit up something inside of Cano that allowed him to finally accept the embracing darkness with a small smile on his face. His head went lolling to the side as his eyes slid shut.
Giles observed in befuddlement as the wolfman went completely limp against the tree he’d been trying to brace himself against. Not only did Cano’s suddenly drop into unconsciousness surprise him, but he was baffled by the fact that he was smiling in his forced sleep. The confidence the wolfman displayed even when he lost his senses was a most disturbing turn of events.