The leopard woke in the early afternoon and lay there for a long while,
confused by her wakefulness: watching the dust floating through the
random shafts of sunlight let in by the old canvas cover and listening
to the familiar rumble underfoot. She didn't sense anything that should
have woken her, no strange sounds, and no unfamiliar scent. Something
had wakened her, but what?
She paced the narrow confines of the cage, drank from the bowl in the
corner, batted an old knucklebone across the floor. She crouched at
the edge of the cage and looked at the gap at the bottom of the cover
where the fastenings were loose. All she could see was the blurry gray
ground rushing by. She wanted to see more. Tentatively, she stretched
through the bars, extended a claw and delicately tore a long slit in
the canvas. The loose fabric flapped irritatingly in the wind, so she
snagged it, pulled the torn end back through the bars and pinned it
with her body to keep it still.
Better. Now she could see the landscape scrolling past: rolling hills
covered with green Trees, Grass passing on the side of the Road. Big
and small fast moving things Cars, Trucks with People in them paralleled
them or left them behind. She shook her head in annoyance, grimacing.
The air felt thick, almost alive. Her head itched; it felt like fleas
had crawled inside it, the tickling was maddening. The stick things,
signs, on the side of the road with their odd patterns caught her attention.
They were always there, but she had never noticed them. White on green,
black on white, she found the patterns compelling as a fluttering bird
or a limping fawn; she stared, trying to puzzle out the mystery.
Suddenly the fog lifted in her head, and the previously meaningless
patterns resolved into words. As the truck rumbled past the sign she
read "Sunnydale Next Exit, 1 mile." A moment later she heard
the engine downshift and slow as they prepared to leave the highway.
"Jesus Christ on a Crutch," she thought, "how long have
I been in here?"
The caravan of battered trucks containing "Circus Euro" rolled
off the highway and drove the short distance to a dusty field where
they sold fireworks in July, pumpkins in October and Christmas trees
in December. Before the dust the trucks raised had a chance to settle
the roustabouts were busy unloading, starting the process of getting
ready for the evening show.
The leopard lay panting at the front of her cage as the setting sun
stretched long shadows across the dry earth. Normally the frantic activity
as the circus set up would have been more than enough to amuse the cat
while she digested her dinner, but this afternoon the lump of horsemeat
lay drawing flies in the corner. She was awake, and frightened. She
could smell demons on the light breeze and power thickened the air till
every breath made her fur stand on end. It was this place's magical
oversupply that had woken her from her long (how long, dammit!) dormancy.
There was no doubt in her mind that she had to get out of this cage
before they left this place and she was forced back into silence inside
the cat's narrow skull.
Ilya was gone, she had to accept that. A stranger had came to remove
the cover, hose out the cage, water and feed her. Not Ilya. She couldn't
find a hint of his scent anywhere. The stranger swore when he saw the
damaged cover, but was otherwise indifferent to her. She watched him
carefully, but he never went near the lock.
The lock, if nothing had changed, was a simple latch kept closed with
a cheap padlock. It was more than adequate to keep her imprisoned with
no hands, no voice. Damn Ilya, the cheating, chickenshit sonofabitch.
She'd suspected for weeks that he was cheating on her, that he was unhappy,
that he wanted to leave her, but he never said anything and she didn't
want to make her suspicions real by confronting him. She'd known, at
the back of her mind, that he was afraid of her, but she'd never thought
he'd do something this evil: trapping her behind iron, with no way of
getting out. Shooting her would have been kinder. Her mother would say
it was her own fault for letting the worthless Ukrainian SOB know all
her secrets; Mama was probably right. She hoped she got the chance to
hear her say so sometime.
Time enough for worrying about what Mama would say later. Right now
the problem remained: how was she going to get out?
Magic. This place crawled with it. Maybe...
An hour later, as the sun dipped towards the foothills surrounding
Sunnydale, Alice crouched in the back corner of the cage and studied
critically the veves she'd carefully scratched in the wooden floor.
It was very crude, but the best she could do with a claw tip. She'd
never tried magic in her non-human form. She had very little talent
for it and even less interest, truthfully, to her aunt's despair but
desperate times... She found it hard to keep the cat's eyes focused
on the patterns when ambient smells and sounds kept distracting her.
It took a long time before she managed to close herself off, and focus
on the crude gouges until all she could see was the interlocking lines.
She concentrated until, when she closed her eyes, they transformed themselves
into glowing threads against the perfect darkness, the shining pattern
the only thing in the world. She thought the words of the spell, and
cast it out into the pattern with all her strength: a plea to someone,
anyone to hear her, to come to her, to help her.
When she opened her eyes again, it was full dark and she was so tired,
she could barely move. Had it worked? Had anyone heard her? She lay
listlessly, watching the people moving past, almost too tired to care.
Giles stood on the porch for a few moments to compose himself before
ringing the doorbell. He continued silently repeating his koan while
he waited for it to be answered. Joyce Summers opened the door, and
Giles flinched internally at the flicker of displeasure that ran over
her face before she pushed it back down.
"Mr. Giles," she said; her tone civil but not warm. Her attitude
towards him had, if anything, deteriorated since their, er, encounter.
She barely tolerated him. On his part, he carefully avoided examining
why her disdain bothered him so much.
"Mrs. Summers. Buffy, th-, that is, I'm here..."
"I know why you're here. The others are already waiting in the
den." She stepped aside to let him into the house, shut and locked
the door after him. "You know where it is, right?" Giles nodded.
"Go on through then, I'll get Buffy." She turned her back
on him and walked away.
When Giles entered the room Oz was sitting on the old couch with Willow
perched in his lap, they were kissing.
"Hey, G-man." Xander said, looking relieved. Willow looked
up guiltily and hastily slid down to sit beside Oz.
"Giles, hi. You came!" Willow said. "Great, this is
going to be so much fun!"
"Yes, absolutely. The circus. Fun. I can't remember the last time
I was at the circus." Giles said.
"It'll be fun," Willow declared and looked around the room
for dissenters. Xander refused to meet her eyes. Oz maintained poker-faced.
"I thought it would be nice, y'know, for us all to be together
and do something non-slaying related. Especially Buffy."
"Yeah, she has been down lately, what with school, and Deadboy
"So we're going to have fun tonight. Right?"
"Looking forward to it."
"Buffy?" Joyce stepped into the room to find her daughter
standing in front of the full-length mirror, staring at herself. "They're
waiting for you downstairs," she said. Joyce felt a twinge of concern
at the look on her daughter's face as she studied her image. Buffy looked
tired and a little - dulled. Lately she seemed to be overwhelmed by
her life: school, the loss of Angel, the Slaying. Joyce knew that Willow
had arranged this trip to the circus mainly for Buffy's benefit, but
from her expression, it wasn't working so far. Joyce gave a tiny sigh,
she wished she knew what she could do to help her daughter.
Buffy sighed. "O.K. I'll be down in a minute."
"Have a good time tonight dear," she said and gave her a
Spike leaned against the Slayer's Country Squire station wagon and
sucked in the smoke from his cigarette, coating his useless lungs with
the tasty flavor of tar and nicotine. He exhaled reluctantly as the
smoke cooled. It was too quiet here and he was bored blind. This wasn't
his kind of hunting ground people tended to be indoors after dark and
in family groups instead of out alone and inebriated. Angelus, on the
other hand, would have loved it, he specialized in taking entire families;
he'd stalk a likely prospect for weeks, till he found a way in. Spike
grinned, recalling a long winter's night helping his sire slaughter
an unlucky family of six; they'd been so glutted when they staggered
away into the predawn, they'd literally sloshed when they walked. Good
Not much that was good about his life now. He drank pigs blood out
of Styrofoam containers, hung around with a bunch of useless, annoying,
humans who didn't like him any better than he liked them, and Helped
No killing. He couldn't kill, courtesy of his--owner. The memory of
her voice burned coldly in his mind. "It's a simple binding: any
pain you cause to a human you'll feel, ten-fold." Of course he'd
had to test it out. Once. He'd snatched a girl outside the Bronze -
no problem, forced her back against the wall, bared her neck, enjoying
the little whimpers, the sweet fear pouring from her skin. Licked the
pounding vein, feeling the blood racing under the tender skin and let
the demon out. Sank his teeth into the luscious flesh... and screamed,
as his own throat was torn open and pain lashed through him. It was
the worst pain he'd felt since dying. He dropped the girl and the pain
faded. He could feel Orexis laughing in the back of his head when he'd
staggered out of the alley, leaving a terrified and very lucky coed
He flicked the burning butt into the night. "I want you to get
close," Orexis had murmured as her hand caressed his falsely stoic
cheek. "I want to know everything there is to know about the Slayer
and her friends." And for nearly two fucking months he'd been trying.
Tonight he was going to the circus. The bloody circus. Still there were
worse places he could be...
His face pressed into moist gray flesh, the overwhelming stink of vinegar
making his eyes water as she embraced him, the sharp pain in his side
as she pierced his skin and began to feed...
Spike cursed and slammed his hand into the top of the car leaving a
dent and a welcome pain in his hand. He straightened up guiltily as
the door opened, and the Scoobies started to emerge.
"What's he doing here?" Buffy said as soon as she saw Spike
leaning against her transportation. He was the last non-person she wanted
to see tonight. She barely tolerated the vampire's presence when it
was "business." The last thing she wanted to do was socialize.
Giles shrugged apologetically and tried to explain.
"Sorry, he simply, er appeared and attached himself when I was
leaving the house. What could I do?"
"Buy him a bus ticket out of Sunnydale?" Buffy suggested.
"I've got 5 bucks," Xander said.
"I'm in," Oz seconded. Willow gave both of them a dirty look,
she really didn't understand why everyone had to be so mean to Spike.
He was good now...well kinda. She mouthed an apology at Spike.
Dozy twat, he thought, giving her a pained smile. He slouched back
against the car.
"Didn't realize it was a private affair," Spike sneered,
showing no sign of moving.
Buffy gave in.
"Fine. He can tag along if he wants. But he's riding in the back,"
"Fuck me," Spike muttered.
"Ewwwh," Buffy said, recoiling in horror.
"Double that and raise you a Yuck!" Xander commented, hurrying
Willow turned pale, and stepped up her pace.
"Makes me glad I didn't run away with the circus," Oz said.
"It is rather unpleasant isn't it," Giles understated, lifting
his handkerchief to his face.
"Bloody Hell," Spike complained.
Hurriedly leaving the incontinent elephant behind the gang continued
along the scruffy line of cages that lined up along the "Circus
Euro" midway. An elderly pair of lions stared at them for a moment
before lapsing back into their doze. A Bengal tiger stalked restlessly
along the bars. It was a warm night, Indian summer persisting though
it was nearly the end of October. The good weather had been a major
factor in Willow's decision to drag everyone out on this field trip,
and there was a good sized crowd also out to enjoy the weather.
"Let me be the first to say - not impressed," Buffy said.
"I think Barnum & Bailey can sleep tight," Xander agreed.
"Why are we here, again?" Giles questioned.
"Fun." Xander said. "Oodles of it."
"Hey! You're not giving it a chance," Willow said reproachfully.
She didn't understand them. How could anyone not like the circus? The
excitement, the lights, the spangled ladies on horseback, the acrobats
sailing through the air high above the crowd. Popcorn, cotton candy,
clowns. She loved it all.
Conversation petered out as they continued along the dusty path.
Oz hated the circus. It was all too much, people, men, women, children
giving off excitement, anger, joy, lust. The animals, horse, lion, elephant
dog: angry, bored, sick, sad. Frying meat, corn, burnt sugar. Oz shook
himself and looked up, past the lights, the dust, the clogging reek
of the circus to the stars. They were bright and clean in the dark sky.
It was three nights since the full moon. He was human, free to enjoy
Willow, to walk hand in hand with her, to kiss and joke with her. He
could smell her happiness, and when he glanced over at her her eyes
were shining, her smile was worth any amount of hell. He held her hand
and endured. For her, he could put up with anything.
Buffy walked along, too tired to bother responding to Xander's jokey
comments. She knew he was trying to cheer her up, and that she was the
main point of this excursion. Willow thought she was depressed, well,
duh. Her life sucked. She couldn't see where the Amazing Bellini's were
going to help much. She was stuck living at home since mom had flatly
refused to pay for a dorm room 10 miles away from home. O.K., granted
she had gotten Buffy a car (a boat), and driving lessons, so that she
was now mobile...the better to patrol even more far-flung graveyards,
abandoned mansions, etc. etc. And college was a lot harder than she
had expected. Studying had never been her strong point, and having to
go out every evening to patrol wasn't helping her maintain her grade
average. She was having trouble in almost all her classes, even with
Willow's help. In fact she had a meeting with her Art History Prof.
Thursday to discuss how she was going to pull herself out of the academic
pit she was in.
She was brought back to the here and now by Willow's laughter. Willow
smiling at something Oz was whispering into her ear. Lucky Willow. Happy
Willow. She kissed Oz on the cheek then looked embarrassed when she
saw Buffy watching them. She pulled away a little, obviously feeling
that it was not nice to flaunt your own happiness in front of the S.O.-less
Slayer. And she did feel a little envious of her best friend, obviously
she was a bad person. Willow was in love, she'd finally landed on Academia
her home planet; her parents had been more than glad to pay for a room
Xander glanced over at Buffy, then hastily looked away. She had that
look on her face. That "poor me, I'm pretty, super-strong, and
DOOMED" look. She and Angel really did make the perfect couple,
sheesh; no pain was ever as great as their pain, no guilt as big as
their guilt, no love as tragic as their love... It never seemed to occur
to her that other people had problems, like him for instance. His parents
wanted him out of the house. What the hell was he doing here anyway,
at the goddamn circus? He didn't like the circus. There were clowns
in the circus. Scary, white-faced, red-nosed clowns that laughed at
you and come after you with oversized hands and floppy feet. Xander
Giles walked along, a little apart from the others. He was aware of
Spike, skulking at the rear. He was always aware of Spike's whereabouts.
Buffy thought he was crazy to tolerate him, but Giles was much more
comfortable knowing where the evil bastard was instead of having to
It had been two months since the vampire had collapsed at Giles' door.
He'd been desperate, pitiful, his boyish mask hollowed by hunger; he'd
begged for their help. Giles didn't believe for a moment the fairy story
Spike had told, an improbable tale of covert government labs, sinister
experiments, and brain-chips; to quote Xander "Yeah, right."
On the other hand, Giles knew that Spike's inability to harm human beings
was real enough (as he'd quietly taken pains to confirm), and that was
the real reason he tolerated the sneering little monster. Finding out
who, or what, had the power to effectively emasculate a vampire was
something that a Watcher (even if he wasn't one officially anymore),
couldn't resist trying to find out. Also, as even Buffy had to admit,
Spike was rather useful in a fight. Still, the sooner the mystery was
solved, the happier Giles would be. He was thoroughly sick of Spike,
who made no secret of hating them all, but wouldn't go away. He kept
turning up like a bad penny, a dark cloud of contempt hovering on the
Spike slouched along behind the others, fully aware of Giles attention,
and bored, bored, bored. He'd amused himself for awhile by pretending
that he was stalking them, by imagining how he'd kill them, one by one.
He'd grab the Wanker by his tweedy jacket, spinning him round, and grind
his glasses into his eyes before sinking his teeth deep into that pasty
throat and draining him dry... Except that he couldn't.
The circus, for fuck's sake. Mangy animals, inane clowns, con artists.
They said the witch was smart, but he'd seen no evidence to support
it. The stink of popcorn and burnt sugar overlaying the frustrating
smell of blood, human blood pressing around him. He'd been pleased when
the breeze brought him the scent of fear from the boy, but the pleasure
faded quickly as he realized that whatever had caused it wasn't him.
Harris hated him, but he wasn't afraid of him. None of them were afraid
of him, with good cause. He was harmless as a kitten as far as they
were concerned, neutered, a minor annoyance.
Dru liked the circus: the popcorn, the shadows between the tents, the
unattended children. He wished she was here. He wished he knew where
she was, or at least that she was safe a long way from the Hellmouth.
Buffy was still incommunicado. Willow and Oz were in their own world.
Giles, was silent and, well, Giles. Xander sighed, even the threat of
clowns wasn't enough to keep this from being boring. He scanned around,
and noticed a cage, set a little back from the pathway on a wagon. He
stepped closer. There was a sign on the wagon. "Sheba, Rare Nubian
Leopard," and another "Wild Animal: Stay Behind Rope."
The lighting wasn't very good. He moved forward, his stomach brushing
against the barrier rope as something stirred in the shadows of the
cage and moved forward into the light.
She was beautiful, her fur was pale, almost silver, the spots midnight
black. She moved, sleek and powerful and stopped with her nose pressing
against the bars, looking at him. Her eyes held him, pale gold circling
the dark pupils. She stared back, panting slightly, red tongue and white
teeth just visible.
"Xander?" Willow said coming up behind him
"I don't think she wants to be in there," he said quietly.
"Yeah," Oz agreed quietly. He noticed the cat's ear flicker
in his direction, but she never took her eyes off Xander. Deep inside,
he felt the wolf stir, bristling instinctively at the smell of Cat.
Willow looked at both of them, confused. Then she looked at the cat.
She didn't see anything special. Just a leopard. A big one, but why
was Xander staring at it like that?
He could almost hear her, whispering something seductively in his ear.
Xander stared, thinking of how she would feel, of stroking that soft
fur, feeling the supple muscles moving under his hand. How it would
be to touch all that strength, beauty, danger. He leaned forward, over
the rope. Buffy reached out, grabbed the back of his shirt, and yanked
"Uh, Dr. Doolittle? The show's about to start."
"Oh, yeah." Xander pulled his eyes away with an effort, and
realized that his erection was tenting the front of his jeans. He hastily
adjusted his sweater around his waist as the leopard made a mewing sound
of protest. "Sorry," he muttered. "Got to go. Wouldn't
want to miss the clowns."
Alice watched him walk away, despairing.
Spike lingered. He had been watching the show with interest. There
was something not quite right about kitty-cat. He slipped under the
rope and leaned close to the bars, staring in at the leopard. She took
a step back.
"Here, puss, puss, puss," Spike crooned. The leopard responded
with a soft growl. "Wonder how you'd look as a rug." He pressed
closer to the bars, let his fingers slip through the bars. He could
smell magic hanging heavily around the animal. She glared at him with
eyes like yellow suns, lunged. "Fuck!" He yanked back his
hand and stared in amazement at the two seeping gashes in it. The bitch
"Bitch," he said, letting his true face slip into place
for a moment. She showed him her teeth: her's were bigger, but Spike
consoled himself with the thought that they wouldn't be much use against
a bullet. A nice 9-mm slug wouldn't damage the skin too badly. He might
not be able to hurt humans, but animals -magical or not - were fair
game. Just what he needed to cheer himself up. "I'll be back,"
he promised. He stuck his hand in his pocket and hurried after the group.
In her cage, Alice sat very still and focused on the gossamer thin
connection she could feel between her and the boy. Xander. She had a
name now, and a face to go with it dark eyes staring into hers with
a naked yearning that wasn't only the spell's working. Xander, she thought,
In his bed, Xander tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Every time he
closed his eyes he saw her again, heard that plaintive mew, and felt
her despair. Trapped. She was trapped; she needed him. Xander opened
his eyes and glared at the ceiling. He was losing his mind. It was only
an animal. A wild, heavily armed, potentially fatal animal. He closed
his eyes again, and she was there, *please*. Finally he gave up.
"OK, OK," he muttered at the ceiling, "I can take a
An hour later, walking through the dark and silent circus grounds he
had doubts. What the hell was he doing here? It was the middle of the
night, in Sunnyhell, and he was all alone, armed with a pair of bolt
cutters. Yeah that ought to send the monsters running in terror.
Her eyes, golden, staring into his soul, calling him...
The circus stood dark and menacing in the empty field. No lights. The
dark tents silhouetted against the moonless sky, like a facade hiding
something nasty. If he wasn't crazy, then yet another demon chick was
hitting on him. Either way he really, really, ought to go home.
She was in there. Calling him.
Fuck it, he thought and went on.
From the smell, the elephant was feeling a lot better. It rumbled at
him inquiringly and turned to watch him pass, small dark eye watching
him gravely. The lions and the other cats were pacing back and forth.
The tiger reared up against the bars and roared. Xander stumbled back,
but as soon as he passed, it lost interest.
She was waiting for him, as he'd known she would be. His doubts dissolved
at the sight of her. She was so beautiful. She pressed close to the
bars, stroking her dappled sleekness along the hard bars, her purring
like dull thunder. Her eyes staring into his. He couldn't help it, he
had to touch her, his hand reached between the bars and she arched into
his hand, strange rough purring filling his head like warm honey, steely
muscles moving under silken fur.
I am so sick, he thought, realizing that he had a hard-on. Oh God.
Demon chicks and now bestiality. They'd better lock him away right now.
The cat made an oddly birdlike chirrup, looked at him. A gentle reminder.
Right. He was here for a reason.
"Right, almost forgot." He pulled away from her and went
to the end of the cage, to the door. It was a good padlock, but a cheap
chain, 2 clicks of his uncle Rory's bolt cutter and the lock fell to
the ground. She waited patiently, tail wrapped neatly around her paws,
eyes unwavering as he put his hand on the door and hesitated again.
His common sense was screaming at him to Run Away! Run Away! NOW!
"Mrraauw?" She said softly. The sound shot through him like
lightning, he groaned, god, his cock felt like a iron bar. He opened
the door, and stepped back.
She leapt past him in a blur of speed, landed and turned in one fluid
motion to face him. She crouched there for a moment, stared up at him
and then moved toward him. Xander stepped backwards nervously, and found
himself backed up against the cage, with nowhere to run. He stared as
she leaned into him, sniffed his crotch curiously, investigating his
stubborn erection. Then she reared up and placed her paws on his shoulders,
stared into his face. Hot rank breath heated his face, she smelled like
the largest alleycat in the world. In the dimness, her eyes were dark,
the golden iris drowned in black. He stared back, feeling himself slipping,
sure that he was going to die now. Not looking forward to the interview
with St. Peter. Wondering how in hell he could still be aroused.
Hot rough moisture on his face and she was gone into the night before
he could react. He sagged against the cage in relief? Disappointment?
His erection, thankfully, began to dwindle.
Never even said thank you, Xander thought. On the upside, he wasn't
dead, and maybe now he could get some sleep. It occurred to him that
it might not be the best place for him to be right now, in possession
of bolt cutters with the cage open, and the leopard missing. He headed
Alice watched him go from the bushes, squatting with her back pressed
again the rough bark, bare feet in the dry earth. The feel of the night
air was wonderful on her bare skin, but she knew she would need clothes
soon, a telephone, and money. Her savior was out of sight. She leaned
back and closed her eyes, for just a moment, and was jerked into full
awareness by the taint of vampire on the breeze. Another one; this town
was lousy with them. The blond bastard who had threatened her was going
to be disappointed when he found her gone. She was suddenly chilled
by the thought of the boy walking home, unarmed through the hostile
night, unaware of hungry eyes, watching him, stalking him.
All the long way home, he couldn't shake the impression that he was
being followed; not like it wasn't likely in Sunnydale. He pulled out
his crucifix, hefted the bolt cutters threateningly and walked faster;
it seemed to work, he reached his front door unmolested.
He went straight upstairs to bed. His parents were out of town visiting
relatives in Terre Haute. They were due to return next week...and his
father had informed him that he expected Xander to be gone when they
got back. Though how the hell he was supposed to rent an apartment with
no job and no money...he sighed and lay down.
He couldn't sleep. He could still smell her on him, still feel her
soft fur, the steel muscles bunched under his hands... And there the
Boss went again, tenting the sheet, and he definitely wouldn't be getting
any sleep until he took care of it. He slid open the bedside drawer,
searching around for the tube of lotion, and froze.
There was someone in the house. Or something. He should dial 911, tell
them he'd heard something, like some little old lady imagining men under
the bed, burglars on the roof. He listened, hoping to hear something
more definite. Something he could justify calling the police over, but
the intruder, if there was one, didn't oblige. Xander sighed and slid
out of bed.
The door to his parent's bedroom was open. He was sure it had been
closed earlier. He listened carefully, but the intruder was silent.
Well, it couldn't be a vampire; Willow had done the revocation spell
on his house months ago, just in case. Trying not to think too hard
about all the other things it could be, Xander gripped the baseball
bat firmly, stepped into the room and switched on the light.
Oh fuck. One of his mom's drawers was open, clothes all over the place.
She was going to kill him. He took a step towards the clothes, then
turned towards the closet, where a hanger was moving... He hefted the
bat, thought, badass.
"Come on out," he ordered in his manliest voice.
She obeyed. He'd never seen her before but he recognized her immediately.
She was small, black, and built like Betty Page. She was naked, clutching
one of his mom's blouses in an unsuccessful attempt at modesty. She
was the most naked person he'd ever seen. Xander realized his mouth
was hanging open, and quite possibly he was drooling.
"Uhh..." he started to say. The girl disappeared, there was
no transition; in an eyeblink she was gone and the leopard was leaping
at him, and past him, and was gone. Xander caught a glimpse of her tail
disappearing around the corner as he chased her down the hall, he nearly
took a tumble down the stairs, managed to catch himself, landed in the
living room to find the front door wide open orangish streetlight spilling
across the carpet.
"Damn." He went to the door, and stared out. Lawn, sidewalk,
and street, empty. Nothing moved. "Don't go," he said to the
"O.K." a quiet voice said, behind him. He reversed, thinking
that he seemed to be doing a lot of that tonight. She was peeking out
from behind the drapes, she had a reassuringly anxious look on her face.
He realized he was still threatening her with the bat.
"Ah." His brain seemed to have slipped out of gear. "Thanks."
"Thanks? I owe you!" Xander was doing his very best to concentrate
on her face, and not the interesting bits not really concealed by the
sheer draperies. She had a round, almost childish face, snub nose, dark
smooth skin, almond-shaped eyes a dark brown that was almost black.
Her hair was black and so kinky he could see scalp between the tightly
"Well, you're welcome then."
She shivered and Xander realized that there was a cool breeze blowing
through the open door. He peeled off his T-shirt and tossed it to her,
then went and shut the door. When he turned around again, she had stepped
out into the room. His shirt covered her to her knees; lucky shirt.
She looked a little forlorn, her arms were wrapped around herself like
she was still feeling the cold.
"You O.K.?" He asked.
"Fine. Thanks." Xander was feeling a little stressed. Trying
and failing to notice the way her nipples were poking at the faded cotton.
"Um, would you like something to eat, or drink? Coffee, tea, beer?"
"Yeah, please," she said nodding vigorously causing parts
of her to jiggle. Xander had to look away again, and focus grimly on
the starving artists watercolor on the wall to the left before he trusted
his legs to lead her to the kitchen.
Her name was Alice, she told him while wolfing down two huge sandwiches,
a half bag of Doritos, two glasses of milk, six chocolate-chip cookies.
Sheba was what they'd called the leopard, she had no idea why. She finished
up her meal with two of his Dad's beers. Which he would have to replace,
but he'd deal with that tomorrow, for right now he was enjoying sitting
across the table, casually drinking a beer with a really attractive
and non-homicidal woman. Just talking.
"How did you end up in that cage anyway?" He asked as she
was finishing the second sandwich. She winced slightly and took her
time chewing and swallowing before answering.
"Ex-boyfriend. He got scared, I guess," she said in a softly
"He's an asshole," he told her. She shrugged, and nodded
"So, umm, you're like what, a werewolf, uh, were-leopard? Xander
"Like your friend, the little spiky-haired guy?" she asked.
Xander supposed he shouldn't be surprised that she'd picked up on that.
"Yeah, Oz. He's cool...except around the full moon." Xander
said, suddenly wondering if Alice's appetite might extend beyond sandwiches
and snack food. She smelled his fear and smiled with perfect, white
teeth, reassuringly human.
"Relax. I'm not like your friend. I'm not under any kind of a
curse, changing is natural to me; it's how I was born. It's like being
able to play the piano, or sing. When I change my skin, I'm the same
inside. I don't lose control."
"So that makes you a witch? Which is cool, my best friend is a
This is a hellavu town, Alice thought.
"No, sorry. The only magic I do is changing." Usually, she
added silently. "I've only got the one trick."
"It's a cool trick."
"So tell me about yourself," she asked wiping her mouth daintily.
"Me?" He hesitated, then jumped to his feet, and extended
his hand with a flourish "Alexander Lavelle Harris, unemployed,
soon to be homeless, high school grad, pleased to meet you.." He
gave her a wide grin, too many teeth, like a nervous chimp, begging
not to be hit.
"My hero," she said without a trace of irony, meeting his
eyes. He broke contact after a minute. Ran his fingers through his hair,
"Aw shucks, ma'am," he said.
The cage was empty, the chain lying in two pieces in the dirt, when
he got there. He ran up the step to the open door but found only her
rapidly fading scent inside. Spike snarled in disappointment, and shoved
the revolver back into his pocket. He'd been looking forward to a bit
of fun. He felt eyes on him, and wheeled about, game face on. The lion
that had been looking at him dropped his gaze and backed nervously towards
the back of the cage.
Xander sat on the edge of his bed and tried to read a magazine. Tried
not to listen to the sounds of Alice in the bathroom, taking a bath.
Alice naked, water beaded like diamonds on her dark skin, her nipples
hardening as she ran the washcloth over them... Whoa, boy. He stared
at the page, trying to remember what he was reading. She just needed
a place to stay tonight, tomorrow she'd make a phone call, get some
money sent to her, leave. Why would anyone stick around Sunnydale who
had a choice?
The crash of broken glass brought him to his feet. He was in the hallway,
listening at the bathroom door before he'd thought it through.
"Alice? You O.K.?" He asked through the door. There was silence
for a moment.
"Xander. Can you come in?" she said finally.
He went in, and froze. Alice was sitting in the bath, apparently oblivious
to her naked state, looking with dismay at the bottle lying broken on
the tile floor. His Mom's bath oil, that she never used. She looked
up at him.
"Sorry, I'm so clumsy, it's been awhile since I had hands,"
Xander gladly threw himself into clearing up the mess; sweeping up
the glass, mopping up the oil. It was a welcome distraction from Alice,
her nudity repeated in the gold-flecked mirror tiles surrounding the
bathtub. He heard water, moving as she washed herself. He could feel
her watching him.
"Xander," she said. He froze. The last thing he wanted was
to turn around right now. "Would you mind?" she asked.
"Uh, what?" he said, keeping his back to her.
"Could you scrub my back?"
"Yeah, sure." You can do this, he told himself. Deep breath,
reach out and get a towel, hold it in front as you sidle over to the
tub. Kneel down. Take washcloth. Soap, a little water. Apply gently
to her back, smooth, soft and warm under his hands. The delicate knobs
of her spine, the wings of her shoulder blades...
"That feels good. You have good hands," she said, twisting
round and taking hold of his hand. Her hand is dark and delicate, he
thinks it makes his look huge and odd, like some kind of an albino gorilla.
Beauty and the beast. He looks up at her; confused as she strokes the
backs of his hand with hers, soft skin, warm. Takes hold of his hand
and brings it to her mouth, opens her mouth, takes a finger inside,
and sucks gently. Trips the previously unsuspected circuit between his
finger and his dick; he can feel all the blood rushing south.
He bends down, as she stretches up for a kiss, warm, luscious lips,
breath panting, water sloshing over the floor, down his shirt soaking
him as they embrace, feeling her wet and warm, soft breasts pressed
He stands and helps her up out of the bath. Nothing like Faith, he
can't help thinking as she wraps her legs around his waist, her legs
are strong but not iron bands threatening his ribs. She clings to him,
kissing him, nibbling on his ear. He carries her into the bedroom. Falls
onto the bed, him under her, and she grins down at him, rubs her mound
slowly against the front of his shorts, he feels her heat through the
cotton, imagines it's the only thing keeping them from melting together.
He imagines the thin cotton charring from the heat he feels radiating
from her damp cleft, from his rock hard cock he hurriedly lifts himself
up and pulls his boxers off, tosses them wherever.
He's so hard, ready to go. Doesn't want to have it end too soon, but
he doesn't know how long he can hold back. He topples her and she laughs
as he straddles her. She is a girl, a woman, smaller than he is, weaker.
They kiss and kiss, lips on lips, then devouring each other, tongues
entwined. She is silent except for soft moans.
Not barking orders, "move here, no here, harder, yeah, no, dammit...!"
He takes her nipples into his mouth tasting her, sucks on her breasts
until she moans. His hands move down her body, between her legs, probing,
searching. He slips a finger insider her and she grunts at the sensation.
Her hands pull him closer.
He kisses his way down her body to her sweetly sweating mound, damp
from the bath and arousal. She spreads her legs for him, and reveals:
black hair nothing like that on her head, a frame for deep brown outer
lips, the pink inner petals. She tasted of salt and soap, and she arches
into his mouth as his tongue flickers around her clit, at first tentative,
then with more confidence as he learns to read her body, the little
intakes of breath and shudders. She comes, with a sharp cry, lies gasping
from the intensity.
Too damn long since she's felt this good.
Still panting, she takes hold of his cock with a shaky hand, and guides
it to her entrance. For a moment as he positions himself at her entrance,
he's distracted as the image of the cat runs through his mind and he
"Xander?" He forgets his doubts as he looks at her face,
open and completely human. He moves forward, sinks into her and she
is warm and wet and perfect. He's struggling not to come before he's
fully inside. Deep breathing. He thinks of homework, Angel, his Mom.
She feels better than anything, ever. He moves, his breath catches,
oh god. Concentrate, Jesse Helms, Michael Douglas, Maria Shriver. Thrust,
oh god, he can't help it, and her arms wrap around him, pull him closer,
he looks down, and she looks up into his eyes. Seeing him, wanting him,
and that's it: his fragile control snaps, and he comes like a shower
Too soon, he thinks when that's possible again, "Sorry,"
he says. She looks puzzled, then smiles.
"Sssh," she says.
They fell asleep spooned together, one long shape under the tired
END part 1
Next: Part 2, Just Another Day
on the Hellmouth