That Old Black Magic
Summary: Missing pets, altars, energy that calls out to the inner
demon... these are only a few things that, Angel, Buffy, and Giles encounter in
the tale of That Old Black Magic.
Websites used have been identified by footnotes.
black magic has me in its spell,
black magic that you weave so well.
fingers up and down my spine,
That same old
witchcraft when your eyes meet mine.
The same old
tingle that I feel inside,
that elevator starts its ride,
And down and
down I go,
round I go,
Like a leaf
that's caught in the tide.
"It's not my fault!" Buffy said, flopping into a nearby
chair. "You weren't here. I got the phone call and before I knew it... He sounded
"It was only a matter of time," Giles mumbled under his
breath as he tossed one useless tome after another around his desk. None of
them would help him with the case with which he now had to deal.
"Look on the bright side, it's different. Interesting
even," she said, still trying to convince him.
He heaved a sigh, finding it hard to look at his slayer. It
wasn't the fact that she had accepted a case without consulting him first. It
was the type of case she had accepted.
"Buffy, this isn't typically something we would handle. And
I suspect our lives are quite interesting enough already."
"You don't think this counts as paranormal?"
His eyes pinned her to the chair and she sank down a little
further. "It is paranormal, but not our type of paranormal. We don't
investigate UFO's or missing pets."
"Hey! There was Blackwell's dog in Scotland."
"We weren't looking for the dog."
"We'll be all X-Filey."
He shook his head. "Let me check into the goings-on--"
"Angel could be Mulder and I could be Scully. You could be
that cigarette smoking man, but without the actual cigarettes." She waited a
beat. "Or the smoking."
"—since this is new to me, and from past experiences, I'd
rather not walk into something without researching it first."
She stood up. "Concussions and portals to hell dimensions
aside, I get that. Leaving now."
"And I do not smoke those dreaded things--"
She bounded out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
"I don't think there are UFO's. Not in the spaceship
capacity," Angel said, looking at the scars on his legs, grateful that they were
almost faded. "And if anyone's been around long enough to have seen one, it'd
"If you'd asked Lisa a year ago, she wouldn't have believed
in the supernatural. What about Nick?" The look of playful defiance made her
eyes sparkle. "Betcha they would now."
"Is there a point to this?"
"When Giles starts picking on me--"
"Defend you," finished Angel. Her smile lit up the entire
room. He arched a brow at her. "You can handle Giles. You don't need me."
"I know, but it'll get him all flustered in a good way. Not
in an I-don't-know-what-to-do-and-we're-all-going-to-die kind of way."
She kissed him hard. "I knew you'd understand."
"You're not getting off that easy," he said as he pulled
her into his arms.
Blessed wasn't exactly a word Angel used, but once in a
while the word rose to the surface of his mind like the sweetest of cream.
One look at her could still send him reeling. If anything,
the feelings that overcame him now were even stronger than they had been when
he first saw her outside Hemery High. They had been through so much since then.
He often wondered what he'd done to deserve her, but that all seemed like a
As he pushed those thoughts from his mind and
laid a soft kiss on her lips, he realized that it was more than just a lifetime
ago for both of them.
"The guy's dog disappeared. He figured a UFO had taken
Sparky. He's very attached." Buffy took a sip of her tea.
"I can see how that would happen," Angel said. He glanced
at the two cats that were curled up together, sleeping in the corner of the
kitchen where the sun was shining brightly, bathing them in its warm glow.
Buffy suspected that he was having a little cat-envy at the
moment. "Once Giles makes up his mind, we'll probably take off for Clapham
She missed the surprised look on Angel's face when Giles
burst into the kitchen.
"Good heavens, Buffy. Why didn't you say that it was
Clapham Wood?" he asked, holding an email in his hand.
"Clapham Wood?" Angel said, sliding right up and making
himself comfortable next to Giles in the ‘Oh-Why-Didn't-You-Say-So' line. "You
didn't tell me that, either."
Buffy looked at them both, momentarily dumbfounded. "What's
the big? A UFO might've taken a guy's dog. A UFO is a UFO, right? Doesn't
matter where it's at." She couldn't think of any earthly reason, or even an
unearthly one, why this was turning into a problem. "What?"
Angel and Giles exchanged glances. One of those glances
that made her feel like the inexperienced child in the midst of two older,
well-traveled, all-knowing men. She wasn't afraid to admit that it was one of
her least favorite looks that they shared. Amazing how some insecurity could
lie dormant until it was called to attention.
"I don't know." She shrugged her shoulders. "I guess I
didn't think it was important until I knew for sure we were taking the case."
"Mr. Petry has followed up with an email," said Giles.
"And I quote, ‘When I went looking for Sparky again I found some type of
altar that looked like it had been used recently. I'm not sure, but it looked
like blood was there and some bones were scattered about. After the police
chastised me for wasting their time about the UFO taking Sparky, I was afraid
to go back and tell them what else I found. That's why I'm contacting you
again, Miss Summers. I've heard you and your team are the best.' I called him
to clarify a few points."
"What did the police tell him the first time?" Buffy asked.
"They told him to not worry about it." Giles ran his
fingers through his hair. "My guess would be that the woods have been quiet so
long that they're afraid to rekindle old fires, in a manner of speaking."
"So no UFO's?" Buffy asked.
"Highly doubtful." Giles sat down at the table, and
continued, "Dogs, horses, and even a local rector have gone missing in Clapham
wood, never to return. I'd hate for that to happen again." A thoughtful
expression flitted across his face. "Areas of 'bizarre energy' are known to
cause animals and humans to panic, also. I'm not sure the effect they would
have on demons."
Angel jumped in, saying, "I speak from experience when I
say that there is a strange energy emanating from that place."
Giles shot him a questioning look.
"Let's just say that it has been there a lot longer than
it's been documented and for a demon, the feel of it's definitely not a bad
"If there are reported activities beginning again--"
"Clapham Wood isn't called The Haunted Forest for nothing,"
Giles said, "If I recall correctly, the Watchers' Council
had checked into strange happenings on more than one occasion."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Buffy muttered.
"I told Mr. Petry that we would check in to it. My fear is
that the black arts have returned to the area." Brimming with newfound determination,
he said, "But if the strange occurrences have started up again..."
"Time for a road trip," Angel said.
"I couldn't agree more," Giles agreed.
country village of Clapham rested a few miles north of the seaside town of Worthing,
and was tucked neatly between the rolling hills of West Sussex. Almost the
archetypal English village, Clapham consisted of a single street named,
appropriately enough, The Street, a few dozen homes, a post office and a
village shop. Its only significant landmark was a 13th-century church, located
on a hill to the north of the village, behind which you could find Clapham Wood
- a stretch of woodland that was crisscrossed by public footpaths and very
popular with the dog-walkers, power walkers, and the ramblers.
"Giles," Buffy asked as she flipped through the documents
he had given her. "What's a rambler?"
"One that rambles. Tourists, locals, anyone can do it
really," he said, distracted as he drove and referenced a map on the seat next
She shook her head. "Oh, that helps." She glanced back over
her shoulder and caught Angel with a hard-to-miss smirk on his face. He just
happened to be peeking out from under a blanket at that precise moment.
Giles glanced her way. "I'm sorry, Buffy. A rambler is a
person who typically engages in walks in the countryside."
"Without baby carriages," Giles said. "The walks tend to be
"Not that kind of stroller. People who like to take walks.
They'll go for a stroll. Strollers. You have your speak and I have mine." She
"Don't think I'd argue with her on that one," Angel
said. "But I'd call them hikers
myself. It's more of a hike than an
Giles glanced in the rear-view mirror, although Buffy knew
that Angel wasn't visible in it, Giles said, "Excellent point, man. Excellent
The ride was relatively quiet after that. Giles
concentrated on the map. Angel would look over the information after Buffy had
read through it, spending any extra time gazing at the scenery itself once the
sun had gone down. She wondered if he had memories of this area as well.
Sometimes she figured it would be easier to ask him where he hadn't been, as
opposed to where he had.
She kept finding the information Giles had gotten off the
internet pretty hard to believe. She stopped reading and looked at him, shaking
her head. Two things she never thought she'd utter in a single sentence: Giles
and Internet. More proof on how time had snuck by, changing things that were
"What?" Giles asked, catching her look.
She shook her head. "Nothing." He let it lie.
Some people had claimed feelings of nausea and discomfort
as they had walked through the wood. From what Angel had hinted at, it had been
different for the demon side of him. She wondered how different. Ramblers had
reported encountering patches of grey mist on the footpaths that run through
the place. In one case, the mist had resolved itself into the shape of a bear,
in another, into a fox-like animal. If that didn't sound like witchcraft or
demon worship, she didn't know what did.
Sometime in 1987, a cult formed honoring some goddess named Hecate.
"Giles, who's Hecate?" Buffy asked. The name rang a
familiarity bell in the back of her mind, but she couldn't put her finger on
"Hecate would be the triple-headed goddess of the Greek
underworld, and a central figure in modern Wicca."
"Why does she sound familiar?"
He didn't look at her, but cleared his throat instead.
Buffy suspected if he didn't have two hands on the steering wheel, he would've
been cleaning his glasses. At least some things didn't change.
"What?" she asked. "You have the look."
"You have been the, er... You were acquainted with the magic
of Hecate, although it is quite possible that you did not know at the time."
"With the help of the goddess, Amy turned you into a rat."
A past memory came flashing back so quickly it sent Buffy's
head reeling. "No!"
"What?" Angel asked, the tone of his voice indicating a high
interest in the current discussion.
"Nothing," she said, cutting him off before he could ask
"I'm thinking this could be quite an interesting story,
road trip and all." Angel leaned back against the seat. "We've got plenty of
"We don't!" she insisted. "It's a long story and it would
take too long to tell. It's over. No one got hurt..." A flash of rat Amy in a
cage years later made Buffy think of major karma in the worst way. "It's all
good now. No need to rehash the past."
"Oh for heaven's sake. A young inexperienced witch
performed a spell for Xander and it failed."
"How'd it fail?" Angel asked.
"Instead of having Cordelia Chase fall in love with him,
every other woman did, Buffy included. Our slayer and the witch battled. Amy,
the witch, changed Buffy into a rat by invoking the power of Hecate."
"You were a rat?" Angel said.
Buffy squeaked. "Not for long." There was a reason she had never told Angel about any of this.
"Amy reversed her spell, but Buffy had escaped the library.
Oz found her in the basement after Amy was ordered to reverse the spell. If I
recall correctly," Giles turned to Buffy, "weren't you without--"
"Yes. I was naked. Naked in the basement of the school. Oz
saw Buffy naked, Buffy was turned into a rat, and Buffy threw herself at Xander
all in the same day, but not in that order. Are we all happy now that Buffy's
"It wasn't that long of a story," Angel said. She wouldn't
look at him. "Naked huh? How'd that happen?" His voice had taken on that sexy,
teasing tone that made her heart race.
Giles appeared not to notice. "From what I could determine
she hadn't been wearing much—-if anything, at the time the spell had been
Buffy was ready to die right then and there, but she had
already done that a couple times. Disappearing could work, but then she
realized she had been down that road before, too.
"Are we there yet?" she asked. Sadly, it was the only thing
that sprang to mind. Well, besides the glimmer of certain band candy, the hood
of a police car, her mom and Giles, but she so didn't feel like going there.
As they pulled into the village, Buffy was surprised to see
how accurate the literature was that Giles had gotten off the internet.
And here they were driving down The Street.
The Street was a single, long dead-end road coming off the
A280 and containing the majority of the village's housing. The Street was also
home to the single local shop, the school, and, up a slight incline into the
wood, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a 13th century building. The houses of
The Street were a combination of 1930s council houses, much older original
village cottages, and post-Second World War bungalows.
"Giles," Buffy asked. "What are council houses? And don't
tell me it has something to do with the Watchers' Council."
"Not at all. Council houses are a form of public housing
typically found in the United Kingdom. They were built, owned, and operated by
local councils for the benefit of the local population."
"Good to know."
Along with The Street, there was Brickworks Lane and
Clapham Common. Clapham Common turned off to the right a little way in, as did
Brickworks Lane. From what Buffy could tell, the majority of the housing here
was the council housing. Both of these roads were dead ends, too. The houses of
the village were surrounded mostly by fields and woodland. It was kind of cozy in a dead-end-road-tiny-village cozy way.
"Are we going to be able to find someplace to stay?" she
asked. "This isn't a very big place and it's dark."
"Our temporary housing issue has already been addressed,"
Giles said, pulling in front of an older looking building. "Usually the flat is
only rented monthly, but after speaking with the landlord, a distant cousin of
our client, Mr. Petry, we will not be paying rent. It has been incorporated
into our service fees. Any remaining monetary issues will be handled by him."
Buffy jumped out of the car and looked up at the old, dark,
red-bricked building. There was a small, white, v-shaped awning hanging over
the front door and two three-paned white windows on the ground and second
floors. Curtains blocked her view, but she could tell there were lights on. The
pale yellow rectangles illuminated the ground at her feet.
"I believe this will suit our needs," Giles continued. "The
flat itself has three bedrooms--"
Angel cleared his throat and winked in her direction.
"We'll only be needing two."
"That is a given," Giles said. Buffy couldn't be sure, but
she thought Giles had blushed. You can take the biological dad out of your
life, but you can't take the true dad out of your watcher. "There is a kitchen
and a dining room. We should have all the modern conveniences we need during
"How far is the wood from here?" Buffy asked. Her stomach was starting to feel a little
"Approximately a five minute walk."
"That close?" Angel asked.
"That close." Giles confirmed.
Buffy went to the back of the Discovery and grabbed her
suitcase. It hadn't even touched the ground when Angel snatched it from her
hand. She smiled at the gentlemanly way he conducted himself at times. Who said
chivalry was dead?
"Trustworthy devils," Giles said, tearing an envelope off the
door. He ripped it open revealing a set of keys and a note. "It appears that
our host got tired of waiting, but he's left us his contact information and our
"Only one set?" Angel asked. "Guess we'll be sticking
"Like we don't already. We'll deal. We always deal," Buffy
said, leading the way into the flat.
They wasted no time. Once they had gotten settled into the
flat, they headed back outside.
"No time like the present they say," Buffy said. "That's if
Giles ever gets off the phone."
"Yes, Mr. Petry," Giles said into the cell phone. "I
understand your concern, but due to the nature of our inquiry I must insist on
your patience. It could take some time before we determine what happened to
Sparky. We are on our way now. I will call you when I have any progress to
report." He slammed the cell phone shut and then popped open the hatch on the
Buffy nudged Angel in the ribs and he jumped, more out of
shock than pain. "Told you he was obsessed with his dog."
"Spoken like someone who never had a pet," he said.
"Like you did?"
Sure he had pets, the two-legged kind. The ones that you
screwed, tortured, raped, and then when you got bored, you sucked the lifeblood
out of them. Those weren't the kind that she was referring to, but they were
the kind he liked. After that dogs and cats just didn't cut it. Unless there
Angel took a sudden step away from her. Where in the hell
had that come from?
"You're right, I never had any pets," he said quickly. He crossed
in front of her and started helping Giles.
"You're kidding me," Buffy said. Giles and Angel had just
finished unloading two tents from the back of the Discovery. "We're camping?"
"It could be necessary to stay overnight in the wood. Quite
a few of these apparitions only appear then.
"What if they're not apparitions and are only real sick and
"Then our camping trip is off," Angel said.
"This is where we shall set up camp," Giles said, dropping
everything he had been carrying to the hard, forest floor.
The woods were dark, which made them more than just a
little creepy. Buffy stopped and tilted her head to the side, taking in the
noises surrounding her: chirping crickets, small animals rustling through the
brush and fallen leaves, at least she hoped that's what she was hearing, and
the wind shuffling through the treetops.
If it wasn't for the chill that suddenly overtook her and her rapidly
beating heart, the evening could've passed for a nice little outing. Too bad she
felt a little off.
She tossed her tent to the ground as Angel helped Giles set
the other one up. She and tents were not the best of friends, and she was more
than a little surprised that Angel seemed to know exactly what he was doing.
"Were you a boy scout in a previous life?" she asked.
He turned to her, a thin smile forming on his pale lips.
"Something like that."
After they got their camp set up: tents pitched, fire
stoked, Angel arranged himself in front of the fire, opposite from where she had
sat down. It was almost as though he were putting as much distance between the
two of them as he could. She wanted to
be closer to him, not further away. She
couldn't take her eyes off him. The
dark hair, the way the fire reflected in his eyes, the way his trench coat hung
off his tall, muscular frame.
What was she doing? Not the time or the place.
She turned her attention toward Giles who was off to the right. He was setting up the sacred circle that
contained multiple crystal bowls, all different shades of green. Their purpose
was to tune into the energy created by the wood's vibrations, and before long
the night sounds were complimented by lingering, stellar tones. Buffy was just
beginning to enjoy the melody when all went quiet.
"Is anyone else thinking Blair Witch or is it just me?" she asked as she wrapped her arms
"Delightful movie," Giles said as he began fiddling with
the crystal bowls. "In order for this to work, the various powders must be
maintained at a certain level. The wind is wreaking havoc with those levels at
Buffy went wide-eyed. Shock number one, Giles seeing the Blair Witch Project, was quickly
replaced by the shock number two: he actually enjoyed it. "You liked that
"Of course. After all it is a true story. And it's not
often one can see exactly how something has played out."
"Giles, it's fake. They made it all up."
He gave her a quick smile and then began filling the bowls
There was no way that story was true. He was just messing
with her. One of those scary stories people tell over the campfire while
they're camping. That had to be it.
After a few adjustments, the tinkling sounds began again.
It reminded her of the chimes her mom used to have hanging on their front porch
at home in Sunnydale. Sometimes at dusk, before Buffy would go out on patrol,
she and her mom would sit and listen to the light tones that were emitted.
Moments like those were the ones that Buffy treasured the most.
The thoughts of the Blair
Witch Project were soon replaced by the soothing sounds of the crystals and
warm thoughts of her mother, which didn't last long. The melody was quiet
She watched as Giles measured even more powder into each bowl.
"That's kind of nifty. How does it work?" she asked, her curiosity of the
workings of the crystals and powders jumping into the forefront of her mind.
"Different colors of crystals are used for different
aspects of the wood: trees, leaves, roots. Everything has a rhythm. The
crystals tune into the vibrations--the lower pitched the tone--everything is as
it should be. If the tone were to become higher pitched..."
"But for real," she said. He glanced at her, but said nothing.
"Seems easy enough. So what do we do now?"
"We wait and see what happens."
"So we hang."
"We hang," Giles said.
Neither one of them noticed how quiet Angel had gotten.
Angel had been fighting the feelings since they had arrived
at the rented flat. Now that they were in the wood, it was a different story.
The longer he was here the worse it got. He'd thought he'd be able to control
He stared into the fire, focusing on his inner demon.
Ordering it back down into the recesses of his soul where it belonged. Hidden
away. Only to come when beckoned. Still, his demon prodded him. Picked at him.
Nagged at him like an itch you couldn't quite scratch, never quite going away.
It hung around him like fog on a cold London night.
The call of the wood reached out and grabbed his demon and
wouldn't let go. It demanded blood, torture, and sex. It was taking a physical
effort not to turn, and he only hoped that his self-control would hold until it
was time to leave this place and never return. There was no way he could
explain the strong reaction the wood was having on him. This visit was the
worst of them all. Could it have to do
with Buffy? Buffy... if she got close
enough, she'd be able to tell. She'd be able to feel it. To feel him. If she
got that close, he would take her. He would taste her again. He could smell her. Sense her presence even
though she was not near, hear her rabbit-like heartbeat. The demon wanted her
now, in the worst way, and Angel was afraid.
"Giles!" Buffy shouted, jarring him from his thoughts.
The light tones that Angel hadn't been paying attention to
had changed to an ear-shattering pitch. As if on cue all three slammed their
hands over their ears. Angel jumped up and ran toward the crystal bowls. He
kicked and broke them into multiple, colorful little pieces. Once the last bowl
had been destroyed, the piercing sound stopped.
"Angel! What on earth are you doing?" Giles asked, storming
over to where the furious vampire stood. "Do you know how long it took me to
acquire that crystal?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? Why didn't you set up a
spotlight along with all the noise? I'm sure there's someone somewhere that
doesn't know exactly where we are right now," he roared.
Giles took a step back away from him.
"Angel?" Buffy had quietly come up beside him. "Are you
okay?" she asked, taking his arm.
"I'm just great," he said, yanking away from her. "This
night's a waste. I'm leaving. Up to you whether or not you're doing the same
thing." Without waiting for an answer he stormed away.
Giles had decided to leave the flat key hidden so any of
them could unlock the door at any time. The wide open door with the key still
hanging from the lock told its own story.
"Guess he made it back okay," she said to Giles. Knowing
her gaze was as uneasy as his. "I'll go check on him--"
"Buffy, are you sure? He didn't quite seem... himself."
"It's okay. We know he can't lose his soul, right? If I can
handle him when he does, I can handle anything." Her words were braver than she
felt. She threw a quick smile his way and headed up the stairs.
She placed her hand on the cool knob and stepped inside,
closing the door softly behind her.
The room was dark, and it was taking a moment for her eyes
to adjust. As the door closed behind her, she took a step in the general
direction of the light switch. Her fingers had just grazed the cold, plastic
toggle when strong arms suddenly pulled her into a rough embrace.
"Angel!" she said, surprised. She knew he was in the room,
but she hadn't known he was that close. "Are you--?"
Her words were cut off as he pulled her closer to him, his
lips finding hers in the darkness, his arousal impossible to miss.
The intensity of the moment nagged her at first. Buzzing
like an annoying mosquito on a hot summer's night, and she quickly flicked it
away. This was Angel and his soul was firmly anchored.
Moments before, she had been near exhaustion and worried
about him, and now everything was gone except for desire. She responded
immediately to his arousal, her own increasing along with his.
She moaned when his lips left hers, and then she felt them
as they left a light trail down her neck. Angel turned her around and led her
backwards. She was being maneuvered closer to the bed. She felt the backs of her
knees touch the soft bedspread, and in one fluid motion, he had pushed her down
and he was now poised above her.
"Angel," she murmured, returning his kisses. "I was worried
He didn't respond, but the urgency of his kisses made her
breath catch in her throat. As she closed her eyes, she felt his lips make
their way down her neck once more. She grabbed his head, and ran her fingers
through his hair.
She was so caught up in the sensations overtaking her it
took a minute for her to realize that she was no longer being kissed. His hands
had feathered down her arms and were now resting on her wrists. Without
warning, she was yanked to her feet and pushed toward the door.
He opened the door and shoved her out into the hall. "Go!"
In the dim light that illuminated the hall and the doorway,
she saw the bumpy forehead and the yellow-tinged feral eyes.
The door slammed in her face.
Giles sat on the edge of the bed, his thoughts returning to
Buffy and Angel. He tried to convince himself that Buffy was right. She could
handle pretty much anything, and she didn't need him shadowing her. She was
grown up and experienced. They were more a team now than anything else. Along
the line they had become partners, the three of them. No one led and no one
followed. They were equals. The thought that Angel was in good hands, and the
trust Giles had in both her and in Angel, should have put his mind at ease, but
it didn't. Something was bothering him and he couldn't quite put his finger on
what it was.
The sudden persistent knocking confirmed his suspicions
that something was amiss.
"Yes?" he asked, opening the door.
"We need to talk," Buffy said, pushing past him into the
"What's happened?" he asked.
"Angel's gone all fang-boy on me."
"What?" Realization dawned in her eyes. "No. He pushed me
away and locked himself in our room before anything happened."
Giles was at a loss on what to do. The only thing he knew
for sure was that standing there wasn't getting anything accomplished, and if
he was about anything, he was about getting things done. "I think we need to go
and talk to him."
"If you say so."
"You know what they say," muttered Giles, as he
grabbed a stake and a vial of holy water from his duffel bag, "rather safe
than sorry and all that nonsense."
"Um, Giles?" She pointed at the stake and holy
He shook his head. "Good heavens, I'm not going to use them."
"Well then I'm all about the safe," she said, leading the
He heard them coming before they reached the door. The
flimsy lock wouldn't deter Giles, let alone Buffy.
"Angel? Open up," Buffy said. He could sense her before she
spoke. He could smell her, the faintest hint of her arousal still radiated from
her body like heat from a hot stove.
"Not a good idea," he said. He wasn't ready to face them.
To face her. He had gotten his demon under control, but he wasn't sure how long
it would last. His current inability to control it was a little more than he
could handle at the moment.
"Angel," Giles this time, "I really need to talk to you. I
need to understand what has happened."
Giles he could handle. "You. Alone."
Muted voices sounded from the other side of the door. He
couldn't make them out, but he knew what they were saying: Giles sending Buffy
away and Buffy adamantly refusing to be sent. After a few more hushed tones,
and the sound of two small feet stomping away, Giles said, "Buffy is making use
of the third bedroom. May I come in?"
Giles didn't need to tell him that she was gone. His demon
receded a little further. Not so close to the surface. No longer feeling like a
miniscule sliver that caught on everything.
Angel flipped on the light switch, unlocked the door, and
without saying anything he motioned Giles into the room.
"Are you all right?" Giles asked.
"For now. Yes."
"The demon likes it here a little more than I thought it
would. I thought I could handle it."
Angel's eyes met his. "I'm different now. Soul and all."
Giles motioned for him to sit down. "I think you need to
start from the beginning."
As Angel finished telling Giles about his previous visits
to Clapham Wood, the shock on Giles' face began to diminish.
"That is what you were referring to earlier, about the
energy not being bad for the demon in you?" Giles asked.
Angel nodded his head. "It's a demon's paradise. Everything
you do is raised a notch. Feeding is bliss, sex is... much more intense. More
animalistic. Anything you do that causes pleasure is made that much better.
It's my fault. I thought I could control it. I was wrong," he repeated.
"It's the strongest in the wood. What about here?" Giles
asked. "In the flat?"
"That being the case, what happened with Buffy?"
He was afraid that was going to come up. He wasn't sure how
he could explain to the watcher what had happened without embarrassment being
involved. Angel wasn't worried about himself, but more concerned for Buffy.
Giles was pretty much the only father she'd ever known, and she'd die of
embarrassment if she knew that they were having this conversation.
"Too long in the wood," Angel said. "Being too close to
Buffy, it affected me more than usual. In ways I'd rather not get in to."
Giles stood suddenly, clearing his throat. "That answers
that. You probably shouldn't leave the flat. And going back into the wood is
definitely out of the question."
"And Buffy needs to stay away."
Giles looked at him. "I'm not sure I'll be able to convince
her of that."
"If anyone can, it's you."
Buffy's emotions were in a whirlwind--her thoughts out of
He didn't want her near him.
That thought kept spinning around in her head like a leaf
caught in the tide; being shot in every direction, coming up to the surface,
only to be sucked back down again, and then appearing moments later without
warning. Round and round she spun, trying to remain in control.
And she hated being the stupid leaf.
She rolled over and scrunched the pillow under her head.
Sleep wasn't coming and she knew it wouldn't. No way it was going to happen.
She wondered why she was even wasting her time.
Inactivity was the worst thing when her brain wouldn't turn
off. He was afraid he was going to hurt her. Her fingers glided over her neck.
The scar was still there, although not as prominent as it used to be. And not
for the first time she wondered why it had never faded like all the other scars
she had gotten in her life.
She had saved his life.
He had saved hers.
They had saved each other more times than either one of
them could count. They were each other's lives. If they couldn't be together
during moments like these, what was the point?
Tossing the pillow away from her, she bolted out of bed,
and ran out the door.
"You're not shutting me out," Buffy whispered from the
other side of the door. "I know you can hear me and I really don't want Giles
coming back down here."
She was right. He could hear her and although he believed
his demon had been dispatched for the evening, he didn't want to open the door.
"I'll break it down," she threatened.
And he knew she would. Angel walked to the door and opened
it. "It wasn't locked."
She shrugged her shoulders. "I know. It was the principle
of the thing." Her fingers trailed a path down his cheek. "Are you okay?"
"As okay as I can be in this place." He stepped aside and
let her pass.
"I'm not staying in that other room. I thought you should
"I kind of got that." He finally had the ability to work up
a teeny, half-smirk kind of smile.
"After all we've been through, everything we've done... Let's
just say I trust you and I'm not going to let a bumpy forehead and a couple
fangs come between us."
"That's a lot of trust." And it was. She didn't know the
affect Clapham was having on him.
It was though she was reading his mind. "I know you were
afraid you were going to bite me, but you didn't, you wouldn't. You're in
there, no matter what power this place has over you. You're stronger than your
demon, and you and I both know it."
That's what it was. The word he couldn't quite put his
finger on. Faith. She had total faith in him. He had never stopped to think
about that before. Trusting one with your life and having complete faith in
them were two entirely different things.
"And just to prove it..." She slid her body up to his, looked
deep into his eyes, and then kissed him. It was having the desired affect and
his demon was nowhere to be found.
When she pulled away, her face was flushed. "Told you," she
said, turning and walking toward the bed.
Before she got out of reach, he smacked her on the butt
lightly. "Is this where you want me to tell you that you were right?"
She turned and smiled at him. "Not necessary. Now, let's
get some sleep. I want to finish this thing up tomorrow so we can get the hell
out of here."
Who was he to argue?
"Here's the plan," Buffy said as they were eating
breakfast. Breakfast for her was a cup of coffee. Giles was drinking tea and
eating a blueberry scone. Angel was sipping some blood they'd brought in a
cooler, and avoiding looking anyone in the eye.
"I don't want to be here anymore. This is a bad place." She
glanced at Angel.
"Couldn't agree with you more," Giles said as he was
putting his empty cup in the sink. "What is your plan?"
"We already know Angel's staying here. I say we recon
during the day. Forget the crystal bowls and the chimeiness of them. Find the
altar and stake it out. Our demon worshipper has got to show up again, right?
Nothing hugely bad has happened, so whatever their goal is, they haven't
accomplished it yet.
"What are those people called that roam around the wood
again?" she asked.
"Ramblers?" Giles provided.
"Yes! We'll ramble for the day and see what we can find."
Giles took off his glasses and set them on the table. He
didn't speak at first, but after a moment he smiled and looked at her. "As
plans go, this is a excellent one. Nice job, Buffy."
Her grin stretched from ear to ear.
"I know this isn't quite what you had in mind," Buffy said
as she shoved another stake into her weapons bag. There weren't going to be
anymore campfires if she had her way.
Angel stayed in the corner of their bedroom, cast in
shadows. She was surprised when he responded.
"Hanging out here while you and Giles risk your lives? Not
exactly my idea of a good plan."
Heaving a sigh, she zipped up her bag. After she tossed it onto
the bed, she walked over to him. "I love to fight beside you. You know that,
but this one is mine, and Giles'. I know you don't want to take the chance."
He placed his hands on her cheeks and pulled her nearer to
him. If he actually had breath, she would've felt it on her lips, he was that
"All I'm saying is - you have until dusk. If you're not
back before then, I'm coming to look for you. No arguments. I won't lose you."
He brushed a soft kiss against her lips.
"Keep doing that, Giles will be going by himself." She
smiled at him and was relieved to see that he finally met her smile.
"Anyone for a ramble?" Buffy called out, waiting by the
front door for Giles.
"Yes," Giles said as he walked down the stairs, his own
duffle slung over his shoulder. Once he reached the bottom he asked, "Is Angel
"He will be. He doesn't want to miss out on the big show.
And he's worried that if he's not there to protect us... He's going through what
any of us would be going through if we were locked up there. Figuratively,
because you know I didn't actually lock him in the room, because it's not like
a lock could hold him."
"I understand, Buffy." He squeezed her shoulder lightly.
"Ready as I'll ever be."
She heaved a sigh.
They headed out the front door and around the side of the
building. It took mere moments before they found the path that they had taken
the previous day.
During the day it was actually a nice walk. It must have
rained during the night, because the fresh smell of rain brought in by a gentle
breeze greeted Buffy's nose. The dry leaves weren't so dry anymore, and they
weren't blowing across the footpath. They were wet, dirty, and trapped in the
moisture that held them to the ground. A good thing. The wind whistling through
the trees and the sounds of dry leaves skittering in the wood added a few more
noises that Buffy didn't want to have to think about. Noises meant mystery.
Something that had to be solved, and she figured she had enough on her plate at
"This way," Giles said, motioning to his right.
Buffy didn't know how long they had been walking. Her
weapons bag had been shifted from shoulder to shoulder a few times and her
boots were coated in mud and dead leaves.
"From what Mr. Petry had said," Giles held up a
hand-written map out in front of them both, "I believe the altar should be over
this way. The landmarks he supplied were quite good, actually." It wasn't hard
to miss the surprised tone in his voice.
A few dozen trees and a couple of sharp turns in the wood
later, it stood in front of them. The altar wasn't hard to miss, that was for
Various bones had been scattered about the stone altar.
"From what I can tell," Giles said as he poked around, "there are some
dog, horse, and bat bones here." He lightly kicked a set of bones that appeared
to be newer than the rest. "If no other dogs have gone missing, I'm afraid that
Sparky might have met his end here."
"Ew," Buffy said as she looked around. "Just, ew."
Giles didn't comment, instead he began inspecting the altar
more closely. "This is the symbol for Hecate. I fear that the cult has become
active again. If that is the case, then more animals and possibly some people
could be murdered."
A torch had been impaled in a large tree above the
makeshift altar. The altar itself was covered in drawings of three-headed
animals and statues. The drawings were either sketched in black, orange,
yellow-orange, or red-orange or a combination of colors.
There were various vegetations scattered about, still green
with life. Giles pointed out willows, dark yew, blackthorn, saffron, raisins
and currants, and a variety of gourds, especially pumpkins.
"Do you smell cinnamon?" Buffy asked.
"Yes," he said. "Cinnamon is one of the spices associated
with Hecate. "There's also Queen of the Night--a light flowery fragrance,
myrrh, honey, lime, and lemon."
"I can't smell those." Buffy sniffed really, really hard,
but she couldn't pick up anything but the cinnamon. Maybe a little lemon, but
that was it.
"The only thing missing are the gems and metals," Giles
continued. "There should be a mixture of sapphire, silver, gold, moonstone,
black tourmaline, black onyx, hematite, smoky quartz. Any stone that is dark or
"That doesn't surprise me," Buffy said. "Tourists,
five-fingered discounts. What demon wannabe wants their stuff stolen?"
"We know where they'll eventually be. I say we set up
someplace out of the way." Giles said. "But someplace that has a good view of
Buffy glanced around. She smiled and pointed. Giles
followed her finger.
"Oh, good lord."
Buffy and Giles were about to climb a tree.
"Many ignore the wisdom, the strength and the truth of
Hecate because our fear of the darkness is so strong," Giles said. "She is
actually a triple goddess in her own right. She is Hecate the Maiden, Hecate
the Mother, and Hecate the Crone. Hecate can be called upon at any time. In
pronouncing her name, in the Greek language the "H" is silent. So, to
properly pronounce her name is "E-CA-TA" or "e-CO-ta."
As Buffy listened to Giles, she was beginning to understand
the change that had come over Angel. She understood the effect the wood had on
him and possibly on her as well.
The sun had just receded below the trees, and Buffy was
ready to find a new place to hide, she was feeling more antsy than usual and
she just wanted to get back to Angel.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," she said, trying to
rearrange her body on the uncomfortable limb. There was no doubt about it. She
could no longer feel her left butt cheek.
"Stop that squirming," Giles said. "Shh."
Buffy followed where his gaze had settled. A group had
arrived, wearing black cloaks, their faces hidden by hoods, and carrying
"How many are there?" Buffy whispered.
"It looks to be around six," Giles whispered back.
As the sixth one brought up the rear, Buffy saw that he was
holding something. A leash. And there was a dog attached to the end of it. She could
hear it whimpering in the otherwise quiet and still night.
Sparky was actually a female Black Labrador retriever. What
set her apart from all other Black Labrador retriever dogs was her pink,
rhinestone collar. Buffy could see the gems glittering from where she was.
"I won't let them kill that man's dog."
"I know, but do be careful," Giles said.
She didn't know what she was dealing with, so she grabbed a
sword as it pretty much worked on anything. To be on the safe side - there was
that safe thing again - she also slipped a sheathed knife in the waistband of
her jeans. After her weapons bag had been lightened a little, she handed it to
Flashing him one last, quick smile, she jumped out of the
"How dare you invade this sacred ground?" the one who was
standing at the altar shouted. He had just lit the torch.
Buffy had heard him muttering something, but she couldn't
make out the words.
"Hecate is a goddess! She is mind, body and spirit. She is
birth, life, and death. She is Mistress of the night. We must clear the path
"Not unless you guys want to end up as a bunch of rats."
Buffy could tell they were human. Young and human. And, she feared, very, very
stupid. "And I speak from personal experience. I would suggest you go away and
never come back." She held up the sword. "Or I could make sure you never come
back, here or anyplace else." To prove her point, she ran toward the altar,
spinning in the air as she flipped over the supposed leader, landing on top of
the altar. "Any questions?"
Uncertainty was passing over the young men's faces. Buffy
knew it was only a matter of time.
"How do you know that I'm not the goddess?" she asked.
"Have you ever actually seen her?" Going against her entire ‘ew-factor', she
picked up one of the newer animal skulls and crushed it in her hand.
One yelled, the one holding the dog, "This was supposed to
be fun. This isn't fun. She's supposed to listen to us, not tell us what to do.
I'm out of here." He dropped the dog's leash and ran out into the wood. There
were glances among the remaining members, and then they were quick to follow.
"It's a nice change when it's easy." Buffy jumped down off the altar and grabbed the leash before the dog could
run off. Mr. Petry had lost Sparky once. She was going to make sure the dog
didn't get lost for the second time.
"Good dog," she said, rubbing its head. "You'll go home to
your daddy." She looked around hurriedly making sure no one was within earshot.
"Nice collar." The dog wagged its tail and she smiled. "Hey Giles," she said as
he joined her. "I say we destroy this thing and get out of here."
"And yet again, a wonderful idea." He reached into his own
bag and dragged out a sledgehammer.
"You've been hauling that thing around?" she asked. "That's
gotta weigh," she took it from his hand, "a lot."
"It's quite all right," he said, taking it back. "It wasn't
so bad having the weight evenly distributed along my back."
As Giles approached the altar, a bright flash of light
blinded them both.
"UFO's!" Buffy shouted, and then looked around embarrassed.
Giles was glaring at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Highly doubtful," he said.
The light faded and the wood was deathly quiet. Buffy
couldn't see anything new, but she had a sense that they were no longer alone.
Angel! She spun around and saw him running up the path that
she and Giles had taken previously.
"Go! We're fine. You shouldn't be here!" she yelled,
although part of her wanted to run to him.
"Not unless you're coming with me."
"I can't do that."
"I know. And I can't leave."
He was at her side now. She'd be lying if she said she
wasn't glad. "Will you be okay?" she asked.
He nodded his head.
"Did you see the light?" she asked.
"Over there," he said, pointing just over Giles' shoulder.
A black-gray mist had begun to form in the general
direction of the altar. It resembled a snake, and then it coiled and swirled,
taking on the shape of a dog, which lasted a mere moment and then they were
looking at a wolf. They watched as it morphed from one form into another, and
then disappeared entirely, leaving something behind.
There stood a woman, or more specifically, a goddess.
Hecate was dressed in a flowing white, multi-layered gown. Dark tresses hung in
waves around her, her dark eyes full of suspicion. She held a torch in one
hand. Buffy was surprised at how pretty she was. How could such a beautiful
goddess turn people into rats?
"Crap," Buffy said, as she took a step backwards.
"Hecate symbolizes the dark within all of us, the part of
our psyche we refuse to acknowledge," Giles said quietly. "If they have been
trying to summon her..."
"Who has beckoned me here yet again?" Hecate demanded.
"Goddess Hecate," Giles said, pronouncing her name the
right way. He took a step toward her. "We have not summoned you, but those who
did have run away in fear."
She didn't move, but eyed Giles, the suspicion still
reflecting in her eyes. "Then they were not worthy and they do not need my protection."
Her gaze drifted away from Giles, and rested on Angel. "You
have great strength. You fight an inner demon." Her brows came together. "In a
physical sense." Angel nodded. She waved an arm in his direction, and he
stumbled backward. Buffy reached out to steady him. "You do not need to worry
about that in this place. I have put the demon to rest for the time being."
Hecate moved toward Buffy.
"You, too, have power and your own demon, yours being not
as prominent as his. Still, you should
be valued for yourself, and not because of your power or your sexuality.
Sexuality brings its own type of power, but beyond that, deep within all of us
there is an eternal wisdom. You have only just begun to touch upon it."
Turning suddenly, she faced Giles. "You have much power
yourself. Although yours is quite different from theirs." Her eyes drifted
slowly over Buffy and Angel and then back to him. "Your power comes from
loyalty and love. The love you receive and the love you feel. Do not forget
that. If you forget the love and the ability to feel it, to treasure it, you
will lose most of the power that is you."
She moved back toward the altar that had been created for
her and shook her head. "These are of the old ways." She scooped what was
remaining on the altar to the ground. "They do not need this to summon me. All
they need to do is ask."
The goddess smiled, and then her smile was engulfed in a
bright light. Once the brightness was tolerable, and as the wood began to
slowly come back into focus, it was no surprise to any of them that the goddess
"Hecate is not the priestess who seeks the inner knowledge,
but the high priestess who has found it and imparts it to others," Giles said.
"So I noticed," Buffy said. She felt something wet on her
hand, and it startled her, but then she looked down and realized that she was
still holding onto Sparky's leash. Sparky had licked her hand again.
"Sparky thinks it's time to go."
"Sparky seems to be a dog of uncommon insight," Giles said.
"One more thing," Angel said. He grabbed the sledgehammer
Giles had dropped somewhere along the line and began destroying the altar.
"Screw the old ways."
"I'm just glad to be here," Buffy said as they pulled up to Summerdown
House. "I'm starving and I miss
sleeping in my own bed."
She and Giles grabbed their bags out of the Discovery as Angel
made a mad dash for the house. Driving
during the day was sometimes a huge pain in the butt.
"Seeing how happy Mr. Petry was when he got Sparky back made it
all worth it, though," she said, stepping aside so Giles could slam the hatch
closed. "I still can't believe you told
him that it was a UFO that took her and that the aliens dropped Sparky back off
because she wasn't the kind of dog they were looking for."
"I assumed that explanation would be more believable than what
really happened. And besides, anything
else would've been boring. I'm sure Mr.
Petry will tell the story over and over again, bringing great pleasure to
himself and others," he said, making his way to the house. He opened the door for her and motioned her
inside. "However, I can admit when I am
"Wrong about what?"
"We do look for missing pets.
Sparky makes two." He glanced
out of the corner of his eye at her and smiled.
"And I thought we'd be out scouring for UFO's." She sighed dramatically. "But all we found was a goddess. Just our luck."
Giles must've realized how ironic it all was and he burst out in
laughter. "One never knows do they?"
"That's what keeps it from getting boring." As Buffy walked into the kitchen, her nose
tipped into the air as she began taking in all the wonderful aromas that filled
the kitchen. "If I wasn't hungry
"There's plenty to be had," John said. "Martha has outdone herself this time."
Martha looked at John and smiled.
"I've had help." She looked at
Buffy. "Mr. Giles let me know you were
on your way home. I've warmed some soup
and frozen the rest. There is also
bread fresh from the oven that John helped me with."
Angel walked into the kitchen, looking fresh and well-rested as
usual. Buffy wondered how he did
that. He had been in the SUV as long as
she and Giles had been.
"And you haven't been forgotten either." Martha handed Angel a mug.
"There's more in the freezer. It
should keep a while."
"We have quite a bit more soup, pies, and breads than usual,"
Martha said. "John has been
"It was nothing," John said.
"The ribs are mending nicely if I do say so myself."
"You both have outdone yourselves," Giles said.
Martha blushed and then finished readying the table. "That should do it," she said, motioning
toward it with her good arm.
"Everything is ready."
"And I insist that we all sit down together and eat the wonderful
meal Martha and John have prepared," Giles said.
"I agree," Buffy said.
"Have I mentioned I'm starving?"
"Maybe once or twice," Angel said as he leaned against the
counter, sipping out of a large cup.
After the small talk was done, and their bellies were full, Angel
and Buffy excused themselves and headed for their room.
"Are you okay?" Angel asked as he watched Buffy unpack her
bag. She hadn't mentioned much about what had happened at Clapham and that
worried him a little bit.
She nodded her head, stopping midway between her bag and
the drawer, a sweater in her hand. After a moment's pause, she dropped the
sweater into the drawer and closed it.
"Honestly," she said, turning toward him. "I'm better."
He was caught by surprise. "Better?"
She walked towards him and took his hands in hers. "Your
demon might be a little... um, more visible, but..."
"Let's just say that Clapham had an affect on
me as well."
"I didn't know."
"No one did."
She heaved a sigh. "I hid
it. I was worried about you, and Giles
was worried about you, and you were worried about you, and I didn't want to add
me to the bag-oh-worry. As soon as I
got to the wood, the first night we set up camp... let's just say I got a chill
and leave it at that. Can we?"
"You don't want to talk about it?"
The look on her face told him all he needed to know --
she'd said all she was going to say. If he thought about it he'd be able to
read between the lines, but the look on her face and the feeling in his chest
told him all he needed to know.
"How are you?" she asked.
Hecate had buried his demon down deep when they were in
Clapham, but once they had passed the border, it was back under the surface
where it belonged and where Angel was used to it.
She walked up to him smiling, and kissed him on
the lips. "Good to know."
He met her smile. How could he not be good? He was with the woman he loved and she
had faith in him.
And what man wouldn't want a little demon in his
woman from time to time?
~ The End ~