Mistaken in Darkness
I don't own either world, Anita Blake or Buffy. Spoilers:
For Buffy the entire series. For Anita Blake, up through Hit List just to be safe.A/N:
I'd like to dedicate this chapter to my anonymous reviewer who has reviewed every single chapter of both The Darkness Within and continues to read this one too! Thanks, you know who you are LOL I hope you guys stick around for Darkness Rising and once again, I'm beyond thrilled by your continued support and reviews. Mistaken in Darkness
Buffy got out of the car and slammed the door, grinning over the roof at Jason. “You’re on and I’m upping the stakes to five steaks.”
He shrugged. “Hey, whatever you want to lose. I’m telling you, in my wolf form you can’t beat me running through the woods. You’ll see.”
Tonight, Buffy was invited to Run with the pack. Run with a capital R. It was an honor, she’d been told, for someone who wasn’t lukoi, who wasn’t pack, and she believed it. Richard, to her surprise, had actually explained the entire thing when Jason had invited her. For the fourth time. He’d had to get Richard’s permission first and Richard had been really hesitant. Apparently it was an issue that the pack had had with Anita and not Buffy herself. So Richard had said. As it turned out, Richard had, once again, had no idea at all what was going on with his own pack.
Jason had asked Richard the first full moon Buffy had been here and Richard had outright refused and hadn’t wanted to hear another word about it. The second month, Jason had asked again and Richard had refused. After the second full moon, though, Jason had begun dragging Buffy along with him on “outings” and introducing to her other pack members.
She’d begun sparring with Jamil and another wolf named Shang Da on a regular basis, which turned out to be helpful because not only were they good fighters when it came to the hand to hand stuff but they were powerful wolves as well. They could both half shift and it was useful for Buffy because she had learned to hone her senses in a whole new way.
They would start out with basic martial arts and street fighting and then suddenly one or both of them would shift into their wolf form or shift just their hands into viciously wicked claws. It had gotten to the point where Buffy could sometimes, depending on the level of her distraction, pick up the slightest flare in their power signatures and not only anticipate these changes but stop them. They were working on the whole focus thing. She was way better with the rats.
She’d met and gotten close to several other wolves as well thanks to Jason. When Jason asked Richard a third time and he’d refused, others had protested, saying they were all for it. Richard still said no but it wasn’t quite as emphatic.
She’d spent another month getting to know even more of the wolves and finding even more of them to like. As with Oz back home, they were just people who happened to have a bad night once a month. Oddly, just one night, not three like back home. They all found it funny that the wolves back home had three nights.
She spent time learning about their customs and culture, their language, and why they did the things they did. She found it kind of fascinating, truth be told. Back on her world, werewolves just ran around and ate things. They didn’t have this whole way of life, a whole pack structure.
When Jason had asked the fourth time, Richard’s answer was the usual no, but this time, he said next month and this time, he’d invited Buffy to dinner.
Buffy had surprised him with her already vast knowledge of his pack and its inner workings and hierarchy, gathered from her pretty wide circle of wolfy friends. She surprised him again with her eagerness to learn more. She questioned him relentlessly through the entire meal, including desert. Through the drive home and as he walked her to the door. She kept him standing there for fifteen more minutes asking him to clarify this or that until Asher had finally opened the door and, laughing, thanked him and apologized.
So here she was, ready to Run with the pack. Jason and Richard both had told her to wear something old and loose, even though she didn’t have a beast to shift into, so she’d gone with yoga shorts, a sports bra and a pair of sneakers, all in black and she’d put her hair up in a messy bun. Jason nodded at her and she took a deep breath and called on that part of her that was connected to the wolves.
She could feel them once her shields were dropped, hundreds and hundreds of them, all around her. She could even pick out individual wolves. She knew exactly where Richard was, Jamil, Jason, of course, Shang Da, Sylvie, Graham, Irving, Teddy, Janet, Marion, Jessica, Lucy, all of them. She could even tell which ones had already shifted and which ones hadn’t, which ones were in the process.
The Slayer was ready to run. She was almost shaking with it. Jason grinned over at her. “Hurry up!” He hit the woods and was a blur of motion and she was right behind him, knowing exactly where every log, every stone, every branch, every dip in the forest floor was. She was right beside him the whole way and she could tell he was surprised. She wasn’t even running full out. Yet. She was loving it. She threw back her head and laughed.
She felt, through her connection with the vampires but also through her connection with the wolves, Jean Claude and she opened up further to him, for him. She felt his happy surprise, his quickly tramped down disappointment that no one had ever invited him or thought to even share this with him this way, mind to mind. It cost her nothing to let him come along so she did.
And through their own bond, she felt Asher’s happiness that she’d done that for his former lover and best friend.
They reached the lupanar and stopped, two among the many in the huge circle of wolves.
Richard said a few words and then power rippled everywhere as everyone that hadn’t already shifted did so. She felt it in her bones and she stretched as if she, too, could shift out of her skin and become one of the beautiful animals that were surrounding her. She felt so good, so alive, so free, so strong, so full of fire and passion and life and she was ready to run and hunt and live. And she felt that Jean Claude felt the exact same way.
Around the circle, the wolves, some actual wolves, some caught in that in-between wolf/wolf-man state, but all stunningly gorgeous to her, began to stalk toward her. She smiled, unafraid. They got closer and then suddenly began to pick up speed, running by her, past her and she laughed again as she turned and ran with them, into the woods.
Jason was beside her and they ran side by side, the pack all around them when suddenly, as one, they all turned their heads, adjusted their course. A burst of speed and Buffy took the lead. She didn’t even feel the branches that scraped her skin as she chased her prey.
It was she who brought the deer down, but it was wolf teeth that killed it, spraying her with blood. She was a hunter, yes, but she had no need to feed. She stepped back, the Slayer in her already seeking new prey.
She found it quickly and a feral grin spread across her face as she and those that weren’t already eating were off again.
She was having the time of her life. She was…she just was. This was who she was and she didn’t have to hide here. She saw the second deer up ahead and smelled its fear. She watched as one of the pack took it down, as several more veered off to enjoy the kill.
She looked off to her left, saw the jet black half-man shaped wolf running slightly behind her. Jamil. His head turned, saw her grinning at him and he caught her in a flying tackle. Her laugher was muffled against his fur as he rolled them over and over on the forest floor. He came to rest on top of her, nipped at her chin, the playful behavior of wolves having fun, before she flipped them over, got to her feet and took off again. Jamil howled and was right behind her, his howl inviting others to play. The more the merrier was Buffy’s thought. ~~*~~
“Is there a problem with the spell, Willow?” Giles asked as he sat down at the conference table.
“Yeah, it’s been like three weeks.” Dawn added.
“You’re not working the mojo so good, Red.” Faith chimed in as she propped one booted foot on her knee and began cleaning her fingernails with a switchblade. “What’s up with that?”
Xander just looked at her.
“Well, about that…you, you see, it’s like this.” She took a big breath and let it out and realized her knees were actually knocking together under the table. Well, she didn’t care. “It’s like this. I’m not doing the spell.”
Faith paused for a second, not moving her head but rolling her eyes up to look at the witch, smirk on her red lips. This could be interesting.
“What do you mean you’re not doing the spell? You have to get Buffy back!” Dawn screeched.
“No, I don’t. Buffy is happy where she is and I’m leaving her there.” Willow slammed a hand down on the table.
Giles’ voice took on that deadly Ripper-esque quality as he very quietly and calmly asked, “And how would you know that?”
“Be-because I’ve seen her.”
“What?” Dawn was on her feet now.
Xander held his hands out, ever the peacemaker. “Okay, let’s just all calm down.” He tugged Dawn’s arm until she was seated again. “Willow?”
She shot him a grateful look, though she didn’t know how calm he was going to be once he heard the story. “Okay, well, it all started the night we were supposed to do the spell to see if Buffy was alive and bring her back if she was and wasn’t in Heaven.” She waited for the nods around the table. “I saw Tara.”
Giles sighed. “Willow…you know…”
She cut him off. “No, Giles. It was Tara. I know it was. But not really the point anyway. Tara told me not to do the spell, to leave Buffy alone. That Buffy was going to be happy where she was and she couldn’t be happy here.”
“And you believed her?!” Dawn was on her feet again, face red. “Willow, it was probably the goddamn first! Of course it wants Buffy gone!”
Xander shook his head. “Will, I’m trying here…”
Willow shook her head. “It wasn’t the first. It was Tara. She showed me Buffy.”
Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Willow, you of all people know how powerful the First…”
“No! I’m not an idiot, Giles. I didn’t do the spell that night. I-I lied…I got rid of everyone. I went to Buffy’s place.” Her voice broke, cracked. She swallowed. “God, how did we not see? None of us, how did none of see that Buffy was so miserable here?”
There was silence and then Dawn yelled, “What the hell are you talking about?”
“First, when Tara showed me Buffy, she was talking to this guy, she was saying she didn’t want to come home, that she was near suicidal, that she was miserable here.” Willow left it at that. She didn’t want them getting defensive. But she went on before anyone could speak. “I went to her place. It’s completely sterile.”
“Buffy’s fine.” Dawn answered.
“She’s not fine, Dawnie. Have you been to her apartment?”
“And nothing. Now let’s do the spell.”
Willow shook her head. “I won’t do it.”
Giles held up a hand when he could see Dawn about to get really wound up. “Willow, why?”
“I did another spell, to recreate what Tara did. I saw her Giles. She has friends, they were throwing a party for her. She has…she’s happy. Really happy.”
“She has friends here, too, Willow.” Xander said. “She has family.” He pointed at Dawn. “She’s needed here.”
Willow wiped away the tears that had gotten loose. “She has such great friends and family here that no one noticed she doesn’t have a single picture in her apartment? No one noticed that for almost a year she hasn’t gone out? Hasn’t done a single thing? She doesn’t have any clothes in her closet. She doesn’t have anything on her dressers. No TV. No furniture. Nothing. I won’t rip her away from happiness again to bring her to misery again. I won’t do it.”
There was silence around the table. A long silence and then Dawn said, “I want to see her.”
Giles frowned at the girl. “What?”
“I know she’s a slayer, Giles but there are a lot of slayers now. She’s my sister and I want to see her. If she’s really that happy, if I make her so goddamn miserable she can’t stand to be around me then fuck her. She can stay in her happy place but I want to see her.”
Faith rolled her eyes but kept her mouth shut. If it kept B happy where she was, she didn’t really care why they agreed. B deserved a break.
Giles looked at Willow. “Show us.”
Willow nodded, unknowingly echoing Faith’s thoughts. She would explain it to Dawn when things were calmer, make her understand.
She got to her feet and pulled the conference room monitor over to table, grabbed her bag, happy that she’d brought it just in case and unloaded her stuff onto the table. She rubbed the oil onto the screen along with the herbs and hair and began her quiet chant.
She smiled as the screen warped and flickered and really hoped Buffy wasn’t doing what she’d been doing the first time Willow looked in on her.
Willow needn’t have worried. When the screen cleared, it was lit by moonlight and a blood-splattered Buffy was running through a dense forest, being chased by…things.
“Good Lord!” Giles yelled as he jumped to his feet and ran to the screen. “Those are…werewolves!”
“Oh my God! Buffy!” Dawn cried as she slid right across the table, banged into Giles’ back and caught herself with her hands on his shoulders. “No! Buffy!”
“Jesus fuck!” Faith hollered as she, too, came around the table to get a better look. “Run B! Come on, come on…”
“God, there are so many of them…” Xander said softly.
They watched as a huge black one swerved and took Buffy to the ground, rolling her over, pinning her. It tried to bite her face but Buffy flipped it over and took off running again.
Giles couldn’t watch anymore. He grabbed Willow by her upper arms and pulled her against him. “You will do that spell right now, do you understand me? You will do that spell right now or I will make you wish you had never been born.” His voice, his eyes, held the ice of a thousand glaciers.
Dawn looked at Willow over his shoulder. “If it’s too late, if Buffy dies, I’ll kill you myself.”
Willow looked at the screen again but it was blank. In her utter terror, she’d lost control of the spell.
“I-I don’t have the stuff…”
Giles nodded. “We brought it with us.”
Xander hurried to the head of the table, grabbed the box from the floor, slid it down to the end where the rest of them stood.
Willow made short work of setting things up. She hadn’t been wrong. She knew she hadn’t been wrong. She’d seen Buffy. What that guy…Rafael. With her friend. Planning a party. Being all happy and laughing and Buffy like. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.
When everything was ready, when everyone was in their place, Willow began the spell, Giles watching her like a hawk.
She could feel the magic, the air was dripping with it. Buffy was going to kill her but at least she’d be alive. She hit the last words of the spell, all the flames of all the candles flared brightly, there was a wild burst of air and…nothing. She looked around confused.
“What happened?” Dawn asked.
Willow shook her head but it was Giles who answered. “Something about the dimension Buffy is in must be blocking the transfer.” He glared at Willow again, as if it were her fault. She supposed it was, since she’d sent her there in the first place. “Make a homing beacon and we will go get her. Ten minutes should do it for the recall. Hurry up, you stupid girl!”
Willow nodded and rooted through the box. “I-I need…”
“Then go! But hurry the hell up!” He screamed at her. “Xander, go with her and bring her right back. MY office, it’s closer. We don’t have time to waste.”
Dawn sobbed, “Buffy…” and Giles pulled her into his arms.
“We will be in time, Dawn. We have to be.”
Faith paced like a caged tiger. She hated this shit. Give her something to kill and she was fine. Give her this emotional garbage and not so much. “Weapons.” She told Giles.
“When we get there. We’ll need weapons. There were a lot of those things.”
“You’re right. Good thinking, Faith.” He moved to a set of double doors on the other side of the room, opened them, revealed a wall of bladed weapons. He pulled out a few long swords, handed one to Faith, one to Dawn, took one for himself. He knew Xander preferred an ax and selected one for him.
By the time he was done, Willow and Xander were back, Willow saying, “I did the beacon on the way.” She held up a small silver ball, showed him, then shoved it in her pocket. It would glow when it was ready to bring them home, ten minutes from now. If the situation weren’t so serious, she’d have been cracking Harry Potter portkey jokes.
Giles nodded. “Good. Let’s go.”
“Dawn, I’m going to need…”
“Right, I know. My Keyness.”
Willow shook her head. “No, actually, it’s your blood. Buffy’s blood.”
“Oh…whatever you need, let’s just hurry.” Dawn held out her hand and Willow poked it with the tip of a sharp dagger. When she had enough blood she made them all hold hands and began the spell.
She was just at the halfway point when the door burst open and Kennedy came in. “I’m home! Rona said you were in here…hey, what’s going on?”
Dawn waved her over. “Hurry up, Kennedy! We’re going to save Buffy!” Another slayer could only be of the good in her opinion.
Kennedy barely stopped the string of profanity from spilling from her lips and couldn’t stop the frown at all. She hurried over and joined the group, saying again, “What’s going on?”
Faith grabbed her hand and told her, “No time to explain right now,” as Willow continued the spell. She leaned her head back a little, looking at Kennedy’s back with a frown. “Where’d you get that?” She used her chin to nod at the modified back sheath the younger slayer was wearing.
Kennedy sneered. “It’s mine.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Girls!” Giles snapped. “Not now.”
Faith leaned close to the other girl. “This ain’t over, Ken-Ken. Bet on it.”
Willow finally finished the spell and there was a loud whooshing sound as they all felt the air being sucked out of the room…and their lungs. There was a pull in their stomachs and then everything went dark.