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That Old Black Magic

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Smiling_n_Michigan

Season 3

Part 4

 

**

 

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.

 

**

 

That Old Black Magic

 


+++

That old black magic has me in its spell,
That old black magic that you weave so well.
Those icy fingers up and down my spine,
That same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine.
The same old tingle that I feel inside,
And then that elevator starts its ride,
And down and down I go,
Round and round I go,
Like a leaf that's caught in the tide.
I should stay away [1]


+++


“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 so desperate.”

“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.

“—anymore.”

+++

“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 be me.”

“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.”

“I see.”

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 lifetime ago.

 

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 Wood.”

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.” [2]


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 thing.”


“If there are reported activities beginning again--”


“Clapham Wood isn’t called The Haunted Forest for nothing,” Angel said.

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.[3]

+++

The quiet 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 to him.

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.”

“A stroller.”

“Without baby carriages,” Giles said. “The walks tend to be quite long.”

“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 smiled.

“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 actual walk.”

Giles glanced in the rear-view mirror, although Buffy knew that Angel wasn’t visible in it, Giles said, “Excellent point, man. Excellent point.”

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 once familiar.

“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 it.

“Hecate would be the triple-headed goddess of the Greek underworld, and a central figure in modern Wicca.”[4]

“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.”

“Which means…?”

“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 anything else.

“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 time.”

“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 embarrassed?”

“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 cast.”

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.” [5]

“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.[6] 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 our stay.”

“How far is the wood from here?” Buffy asked.  Her stomach was starting to feel a little funny.

“Approximately a five minute walk.”

“That close?” Angel asked.

“That close.”[7] 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 keys.”

“Only one set?” Angel asked. “Guess we’ll be sticking together.”

“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 Discovery.

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 was cutting…

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 demented people?”

“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 around herself.[8]

“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 the moment.”

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 movie?”

“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 again.

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 again.

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…”

Blair Witch?”

“Exactly.”

“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 it better.

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 about you.”

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.

“Angel! What…?”

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 room.

“What’s happened?” he asked.

“Angel’s gone all fang-boy on me.”

“He didn’t…”

“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 water.

 

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 way.

+++

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.”

“What happened?”

“The demon likes it here a little more than I thought it would. I thought I could handle it.”

“But?”

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?”

“Controllable.”

“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 control.

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 know that.”

“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 close.

“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 all right?”

“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?”

“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 the moment.

“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 sure.

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 luminous.” [9]

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Buffy said. “Tourists, five-fingered discounts. What demon wannabe wants their stuff stolen?”[10]

“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 the area.”

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 torches.

“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.

“Giles--”

“Sparky.”

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 Giles.

Flashing him one last, quick smile, she jumped out of the tree.

“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 for her.”

“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.

“Buffy!”

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 was gone.

“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.[11] [12]

“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.”

 

“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 before…”

 

“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 most-helpful.”

 

“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…”

 

“What?”

 

“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?”

 

“Not now.  Maybe later.”

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.

“I’m good.”

 

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 ~

 



[1] That Old Black Magic Lyrics by Ella Fitzgerald.  I think!

 

[2] http://www.space-2001.net/html/clapham_.html the origination of the ‘bizarre energy’ Angel and Giles reference.

 

[3]  Additional information for Clapham obtained from http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/201_clapham1.shtml - Nick Brownlow is a freelance writer and web developer based in the south-east of England. His interests include philosophy, forteana, science and fiction. He finds talking about himself in the third person immensely thrilling for obscure reasons best left unspoken.

 

[4] Factual information (parts copies verbatim) obtained from:  http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/201_clapham1.shtml

 

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_house

[6] Clapham town and The Street information obtained from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clapham,_West_Sussex

 

[7] You can check out the actual rental property here.  http://www.primelocation.com/uk-property-to-rent/details/id/hystha_r9403/

 

[9] All about Hecate.  Details changed for my own evil purposes.  http://www.hecatescauldron.org/The%20goddess%20Hecate.htm

 

[10] Symbols of the goddess located here:  http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/goddess_symbols_hecate.htm

 

[11] All about Hecate.  Details changed for my own evil purposes.  http://www.hecatescauldron.org/The%20goddess%20Hecate.htm

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hecate

 



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