Out Of Africa - Chapter 1
written by Pythia

Darkness. The looming shapes of carved tombstones, and ivy wreathed crypts.

Silence. The empty, yawning echoes of unspoken voices, and the deepest slumber of the dead.

Terror. The tense expectation of encroaching night, filled with menace and warning.

Conflict. The sudden eruption of noise and motion, the grunt of fist on undead flesh, the glimmer of undead eyes and the whisper of dust across newly disturbed earth.

Sunnydale's Bell View Cemetery on a Tuesday Night.

The dead are rising.

And the Slayer is on patrol …

"Not bad," Giles observed thoughtfully, watching as Buffy unwound from her strike and carefully tucked the stake back inside her jacket pocket. "Not bad at all. Your speed is – uh - improving. Your – um - timing could be a little better, but – w-we can work on that."

"We do nothing but work on it, she protested. The complaint wasn’t heated though; it held a note of quiet forbearance and just a hint of irritation.

Her Watcher sighed. "Then we work on it some more. Buffy, you need to hone your skills, every chance you get. One mistake, one misstep …"

"I know, I know," she accepted, waving away the lecture and leading the way deeper into the darkened graveyard. "They're fast, they're strong and they want me dead. Been there, done that. I've even got the t-shirt. Giles - I know I need to do this. And I appreciate that you're trying to keep an eye on my technique so I keep improving and don't get sloppy and stuff, but - this is so boring. These vamps are all - fresh out of the grave, hi I'm hungry, grab, throw and stake stuff. I can do this in my sleep."

"Well, I seriously hope you never have too," he said, frowning a little over the thought. "I - I would have thought you'd welcome a little – ah - routine, regular Slaying practice for once. You were complaining only yesterday that you barely had time to breathe, life has been so - interesting, just recently."

"That was yesterday," she said grumpily, then threw him a reluctant smile. "I'm sorry," she apologised. "You've probably got much better things to do too. But Slayers slay and Watchers watch and here we are, doing what we always do." Buffy paused for a moment, clearly thinking about some of the things they had done, over the years. "Nice night for it though," she decided, skipping a little as she skirted a recent tombstone and stared down at the grave beyond it.

Giles smiled a little to himself, only too aware that she was right. They were where they were, the two of them, because of the needs of duty, not through choice. In a manner of speaking, that was. He knew that – strictly speaking - he’d been fired, but he didn’t feel fired; he felt obligated in a way he suspected he’d never be able to explain. Not even to himself. Watching Buffy could be frustrating sometimes. But it also had its rewarding moments, making it a commitment he embraced with confident dedication. Besides, it was a nice night. It was warm but not too humid. The stars were bright jewels of light scattered across a velvet sky, and there was the scent of flowers lingering in the air. Everything had a fresh, crisp feel to it; the freshness left by a sudden shower of rain. "We – uh - needn't linger too long," he offered, compensation for having had to remind her of her destiny and the need for constant vigilance. "I think this is the last of the new burials. A q-quick tour of the crypts and you can head out for the Bronze - or wherever else you might want to go."

"Thanks," she smiled, grateful for his generosity. Perhaps he should insist she patrol a little longer, but he suspected there wouldn't be much point to it. Faith and the Mayor both appeared to have gone to ground for a while, probably taking time out to work on their plans for the Ascension. The vampires of note – like Spike and Mr Trick – were either out of town or drifting around as dust; and the rest of the bad guys seemed to be lying low for once. Plotting, he had no doubt, but as long as that was allthey were doing, these regular clean up sweeps would be enough to keep the town safe. As safe as it ever was, that is …

He stepped back as a pale hand thrust itself up through the bare earth, seeking a safer place to stand and watch while Buffy danced into action. She didn't need help with *one* vampire; better if he moved aside and made sure he didn't get in the way. He needed to get a clear view in any case. He took his duties as Watcher very seriously, and one of them was to help her analyse her actions, to identify the flaws and weaknesses in her technique.

And maybe catch the unexpected move from the opposition, to learn from observation of their approaches; ’know thine enemy’ was advice he'd long since taken to heart.

Buffy waited until the new arrival had clawed its way out of the ground before bounding into the attack, playing with the thing a little, using it as a foil for her frustrations. Giles frowned at her showy moves, and then froze in alarm, feeling a sudden sense of presence loom up behind him. He slowly and warily lifted a stake out of his jacket pocket, holding his breath as the thing took a step closer. Whatever it was, it was making barely any noise; he'd been alerted to its presence as much by the cold shiver which had run down his spine as anything else.

Buffy was busy exchanging blows with the recently born vampire; he looked to be pretty strong and was definitely faster than the last one. She had a look of taut concentration on her face. If he called out, he was likely to distract her, and that would be dangerous for both of them. He stood very still, instead, trying to give the same impression of focussed attention, looking at Buffy, but listening – intently - to the soft whisper of danger approaching from behind.

Something – someone – reached out and touched his shoulder; he spun away from the contact, turning to strike as fast as he could, hoping that he’d catch his assailant by surprise. It wasn’t quite fast enough. A hand seized his wrist, jarring the blow to a painful halt – and fingers clamped round his throat with a grip of steel, sinking into his skin and cutting off his air supply. Any chanceof outcry was choked into immediate silence.

A face in front of his rapidly blurring vision; a remarkable face, carved with ebon beauty and dominated by a pair of startling gold flecked eyes. They were eyes that burned into his with dominating intensity. He was caught and held by them, struggling like a moth drawn to a candle flame. Somewhere, distantly, he felt the savage twist that spilled the stake from his hand, his fingers spasming with pain as his captor forced his arm over and down. His legs buckled, and he went down onto his knees, fighting desperately for air.

"Now, see how fortune favours me," a deep and disturbingly sweet voice murmured with amusement. "To find the Slayer so soon - and one so intent on her slaying that she overlooks her Watcher’s safety. And he so busy watching her, that he has no heed of it either. How delicious." Her smile was predatory, and it taunted him through a growing haze of darkness. His free hand groped feebly at the fingers that crushed his throat, but to no avail; his lungs were screaming and the world was going dim. "And how – perfect," the vampire purred, generously loosening her grip – enough to let him draw one strangled gasp, at least. "The gods have been kind to me tonight."

There was a peculiar lilt to her voice, a soft hint of accent that whispered of hot savannahs and hyenas squabbling over prey. Her eyes were lion’s eyes, deep and tawny – and they whispered of hunger and savage appetites. "I have awakened to this world," she confided, leaning in close. "But I am not yet whole. My shadow is still lost to me. It is my intent to win it back – and to do so, I must first steal something from you." She chuckled – a sound that made his blood run cold. Whoever she was, she was old and she was very dangerous. There was an aura of power about her which stirred both terror and dismay.

She let go of his arm, lifting her hand to casually tug off his glasses and toss them away over her shoulder. Her palm flattened firmly against his forehead and her lips moved, whispering an arcane incantation. Early Egyptian, he recognised, fuzzily – and then pain lanced into his head, lifting a scream to his lips – a scream she efficiently silenced, sealing it into his throat with a savage squeeze. There were more words, but he didn’t hear them; he felt as if her fingers had sunk through his skull and were digging down into his brain.

Perhaps they were; her hand slid down his face, and he could somehow feel them *behind* his eyes, as if they were tearing his face away from the bones beneath. For all that, he could still see, was still held in that hungry gaze. Phantom talons slid lower, ripping through nose and mouth and out again, leaving a trail of agony behind. The scream struggled to be free, emerging as a strangled, agonised squeak – and she laughed, pulling back her now clenched fingers to press them against a carved amulet that nestled between her breasts. "Perfect," she declared, her eyes laughing at him, at the desperation with which he fought for breath and escape. "You have more spirit than the last one," she said hungrily. "The gods are feeling generous." Her eyes flicked up, briefly, then down again, her lips curving into another of those predatory smiles. "And I never refuse a gift from the gods."

Giles was reeling with shock, dizzy and dazed for lack of oxygen. He should have tried to push away as her hand left his throat, should have called out for help, should have done something – but by the time he’d registered the sweet taste of air in his lungs, she’d already seized hold of him a second time and lunged to the attack. Her hand clawed through his collar, ripping his shirt – and then her teeth were sinking into his flesh, piercing him with exquisite agony. His body arched in involuntary reaction as she struck, caught in the sudden frenzy of her assault. Her kiss was agony and it was ecstasy, a contact that danced through his senses and seared his soul. She drank quickly and she drank deep, savouring his anguish, and relishing every rich, red mouthful of his blood.

* * * * *

Buffy had been beginning to lose her temper by the time she finally managed to down the persistent vampire and put him out of his misery. She hated the ones that went on coming long after sense should have told them to turn tail and run. They were hard work and they just wouldn’t get the point – at least, not until she gave it to them, sharp and final, straight to the heart. This one looked decidedly startled as she did it. He took a moment or two to collapse into dust, his astounded expression lingering in the air as he drifted into nothingness.

"They really don’t get it, do they?" she asked, turning to share her exasperation with Giles, who should have been standing where she’d left him, one of those ‘you could have handled that better’ looks on his face. "I mean – " Her words died in her throat. The sight that met her eyes was an impossible, unthinkable nightmare.

Because – less than fifteen feet from where she’d been busy slaying – her Watcher was on his knees, his head thrown back in agony as another vampire eagerly helped herself to vintage librarian. And not just any vampire, either. This one was a striking woman, dark skinned, and wearing little more than a twist of leather across her breasts and a high cut, slashed up one side skirt thing that revealed laced sandals and a whole lot of leg. Her arms and her body were swirled with white tattoos, and she appeared to be draped with jewellery made entirely from shells and teeth and bones.

She looked exotic. She looked dangerous – and right there and then she had her teeth in Giles’ throat, poised in an obscene parody of a kiss, her eyes gleaming gold and feral over the curve of his shoulder.

Buffy’s blood ran cold.

She didn’t stop to take a breath. She hurled herself across the distance, charging to the attack with a cry of fury and a sense of desperate fear. The vampire heard her. Looked up. Smiled. And then stood up, picking up her now unresisting victim by the shoulders, so that she could throw him into the path of the advancing Slayer.

Buffy was moving too fast to avoid the impact, which was strong enough to knock her off her feet. The two of them went down in a tangle of limbs and confusion. The stake flew out of her hand, and she was pinned by Giles’ ominously limp weight, giving the vampire time to smile down at them both.

"I shall excuse your lack of courtesy," the creature advised teasingly. "Since this is not a formal audience. Be assured that – when next we meet – I will teach you proper manners." Her eyes flashed with a sudden hint of power. "And you will learn the lesson well." She lifted her finger to scoop up a dribble of blood which was oozing from the corner of her mouth and studied it with amusement. "I have already taken my tribute. It was a rich gift." She smiled and deliberately licked the finger, like a cat cleaning itself after a kill. "Rich indeed." She vanished into the night, leaving a hint of laughter drifting in the air.

Buffy was seriously torn; torn between racing after the demon which had just left, and checking that its victim actually had a chance of surviving the experience. Fear won out over rage – but only just. "Giles? Giles!"

He stirred, making a half hearted effort to lift himself up, only to collapse back against the turf with a heartfelt groan. This was encouraging. For an extremely worried moment or two, she’d thought he might be dead.

"Don’t move," she advised, agitated. She eased herself out from under his weight and pulled him into her lap so that she could get a closer look at the damage. She was expecting the usual kind of vampire bite, two neatish punctures and a little tender swelling just beginning to show. What she found was a deep, gaping wound in his throat. It was bleeding badly – and the skin above and around it was mottled with rapidly darkening bruises. His face was pale, too pale for comfort, drained of colour and creased with pain.

"Buffy?" he croaked, opening his eyes and blinking up at her blearily.

"Sssh," she soothed, hastily tugging free his blood-stained tie so that she could wad it up and use it to stem the bleeding. "It’s okay. It’s okay. She’s gone. Just lie still. Save your strength. Oh god, Giles, I’m sorry. I – "

"Not – your fault," he murmured. His voice was faint, his usual cultured tones fractured into hoarse, effort filled utterances.

"Was too," she rejoined with decided feeling. "Mundo my faultness. If I’d been paying attention …"

He actually smiled at that, lifting his hand to drape it over hers. Blood was oozing out from under the bundled fabric, staining her fingers, stirring her sense of panic and guilt. "You’re – eighteen," he gasped. "I - I don’t expect you to – "

"Sssh," she insisted, silencing his words with the fingers of her free hand. "Don’t talk. Stick with breathing. Breathing is good." Her hand slid down, gently exploring the damage to his throat. She’d been wondering why he hadn’t called out – but the bruises, along with the painful croak in his voice, told a clear and discomforting story. Anger boiled up inside her, adding to the pounding race of her heart. For all she knew, he was dying – and if he did, it would be her fault. She was the Slayer. She should have sensed the second vampire. Should have protected him. Defended him.

"I’ve got to get you to a hospital," she realised, glancing around the night in some vague and impossible hope that help would materialise out of nowhere. She could hardly leave him to get help – there was every possibility that the vampire was waiting for her to do just that – but, on the other hand, she couldn’t exactly pick him up and carry him either. He’d already lost a lot of blood and was sinking into shock. Moving him might open the wound even further.

"Buffy?" The question was circumspect, the questioner appearing out of the shadows and staring at her with anxious concern. "My god, Buffy. What happened?"

Miracles happened, that’s what. Angel strode across to join her with hasty steps, hunkering down beside her and her Watcher and wincing as he took note of the problem.

"Vamp," Buffy said shortly, her brief sense of relief subsumed by her rising panic. She still couldn’t stop the bleeding. And there was so much blood. "She came out of nowhere. I – I should’ve – I didn’t - I – I think he’s bleeding to death …"

"Let me." Angel’s hands peeled hers away from the wound, his features briefly shifting as the pressure she’d been applying was released – and the blood bubbled up anew. "Dammit, that’s bad," he realised, forcing himself back to his more human aspect. "And savage. More like an animal than a vampire."

"Definitely a vamp," she assured him. "It won’t stop. We have to make it stop."

He nodded, glancing at her patient’s face with anxious consideration. Giles was practically paper white. His eyes were closed, and he was breathing in soft, shallow gasps, each one laden with painful effort. "I can do that," he announced, not looking entirely happy about the fact. "But –" He wrestled with his conscience for a moment; it wasn’t clear which of them won. "Giles," he said, addressing the wounded man with disquieted concern, "you’re losing way too much blood here. I’m going to have to close the wound, and I suspect it’s going to hurt. Just – don’t fight me, okay? And Buffy? You do trust me, don’t you?"

She nodded, not knowing what he had in mind, but certain that something had to be done.

"Then don’t you fight me, either."

She was glad to have had the warning. His features twisted into his demonic aspect, and – before she could voice a protest – he bent down and clamped his mouth over the savage laceration. Buffy gasped in alarm. Giles arched in reaction – and a moment later the vampire reared back with a snarl, fighting for self control. There was blood on his lips, and hunger raging in his eyes.

"Did that get it?" he asked tightly, looking away, wrestling with desire and need. Buffy looked down. Where – a moment before – there had been a sucking, open wound, spilling scarlet into the night, there was now a cleaner, puckered tear. It was still raw, and still angry – but no longer weeping. The vampire’s kiss had sealed the damage, leaving its victim shivering with shock and pain.

"Yeah," she breathed shakenly. "That – that got it. How did you - ?"

Angel shuddered, finally gaining enough control to turn back and look at her. His vampiric visage shifted slowly, returning him to his human form. "It’s the bite," he explained hesitantly. "There’s a way to – to keep the blood flowing. So that its easier to drink. And then, there’s a way to – close the wound. To – " he couldn’t meet her eyes. "To savour a victim a piece at a time."

"Oh," she registered, deciding she probably hadn’t wanted to know that. "Well – thanks. I think." There’d be time to worry about that sort of thing later. Right now she had more immediate concerns on her mind. Her Watcher was barely conscious, and his skin was turning clammy and cold. "He needs help. We have to get him to a hospital."

"Of course." Angel’s expression was as concerned as her own. "Here – let me." He reached to lift the wounded man from the ground, and Buffy reluctantly let go. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him – hadn’t he just proved that he was worthy of that? – but Giles’ shirt was sodden with blood and it didn’t seem right to torment his rescuer that way. On the other hand, it wasn’t that long a walk to the nearest phone, and the sooner they got to an emergency room, the better.

Bad enough her ex-boyfriend was a vampire.

She didn’t want her Watcher turning into one too.

Read: Chapter 2