The Wolf Within
by Erin
Additional Disclaimer: Werewolf material contained in this story is copyright White Wolf Games, Inc. such as Garou, Children of Gaia, Black Spiral Dancers, Gurahl, Glass Walkers, etc.
Part the Fourth

"...and since your shifting is going very well, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't go right on to history and culture, ok Willow?" Nichole looked over at the young woman, who appeared to be daydreaming. "Willow?"

Willow's head jerked up with a start. "Oh, uh, sure," she said.

Nichole gave her an amused look. "You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?"

"Um, not really," Willow replied, chagrined. "I was kinda thinking about something else."

"Oh? Care to tell me? Maybe I can help," Nichole said, taking a seat next to the young woman.

"Well, I don't know if you can help," Willow replied. After a moment, she sighed. "It's Buffy. I knew this werewolf thing was going to change our friendship, but she's just gotten so distant over the past couple of days. She uses all sorts of excuses to stay away from our room, for one thing. She's never there when she thinks I might be. She patrols until late at night so she thinks I'll be asleep when she returns, and she leaves before I wake up in the morning. It's like she doesn't want to see me, doesn't want to have to deal with this whole thing." Willow sighed dejectedly.

Nichole laid a comforting hand on Willow's shoulder. "Well, sometimes people have a hard time dealing with something that shakes up their life as much as this has. I know you've had a lot to adjust to, but in a way it's almost worse for Buffy because she has no control over what's going on. Usually it will just take time, and once she works out whatever it is that's bothering her, she'll remember why she loved you in the first place."

Willow looked up at Nichole, uncertainly. "Love? You mean friendship, right?"

Nichole smiled and instead of answering, said, "You're very lucky, Willow. You don't need to hide who you are from Buffy. You can both trust each other, and share yourselves with each other. There need not be any falsehoods between the two of you." Nichole stood, and walked away a few paces, lost in thought. "Most other Garou never get that opportunity. Human and wolf mates would only be placed in great danger if they knew about our battle against the Wyrm's forces. It is impossible for a Garou to be completely honest about who we are with the ones we love."

"Why not choose a mate who is another Garou, then?" Willow asked, quietly.

Long-remembered pain etched Nichole's features. "Garou do not mate with Garou. The children born from such a union are always hideously deformed, and are usually treated as outcasts in Garou society. It is our oldest Law...and the one which is the most difficult to follow." Nichole passed a hand over her eyes, wiping away tears. She turned and faced Willow, her countenance grave. "But you, Willow -- you have the chance to be friends with someone who is truly the sister of your heart. Perhaps it is time to bring our lesson to an end for the evening. Go to Buffy, and talk to her. Do something together tonight, something which doesn't involve your Garou heritage. Something which will help her remember." Nichole smiled.

Willow nodded; she felt like she had just been privy to one of the young woman's deepest, most painful secrets. And it was only after she left the store and headed for campus did it occur to her to wonder if Nichole was really only talking about Buffy and Willow's friendship.

Willow returned to the dorm room just in time to see Buffy placing some books in a backpack. All the nervousness came back to her all at once, and she had a hard time sounding casual. Even to her own ears, it sounded forced. "Hey, Buffy... Say, how about you and me grab some pizza, rent some movies..." She trailed off when Buffy grabbed her backpack and walked past her to the door.

Avoiding eye contact with her friend, Buffy said, "Ah, gee, I'd love to Will, but I have to get to the library to do some homework. I'll probably be back late, so don't wait up or anything..." She left the room, shutting the door behind her.

Willow stood there for a moment, stunned. Feeling the anger grow inside her at being brushed off, she left the room, running after her friend.

She finally caught up with Buffy on a concrete sidewalk outside. Willow grabbed Buffy's elbow, whirling the Slayer around. Surprise etched the blonde woman's features.

"Homework?" Willow said, anger building in her voice. "Buffy, it's eight o'clock on a Friday. You're not that dedicated a student. What the hell is going on here?"

Buffy, who had been busy looking alternately nervous and guilty, bristled under Willow's tone. "Why don't you tell me, Will?" she said. "You apparently don't need me anymore for anything. You've got your own little werewolf friend. Hell, you're even a tougher fighter than I am, now. You don't need me." She ripped her elbow from Willow's grasp fiercely.

All the anger seemed to drain out of Willow when she heard Buffy's words. Buffy was avoiding her because she felt out-of-place in Willow's "new life." Willow shook her head sadly, seeing Buffy's angry gaze. "Buffy, you don't understand. Since I found out I'm Garou, I need you more than ever." She winced at Buffy's flatly disbelieving gaze, and continued. "I can never go back to who I once was. But I need you in my life, Buffy. It's just not worth it if I don't have you to share it with."

Buffy looked at Willow, her anger fading to uncertainty. "I just don't know what my role is supposed to be anymore. I used to be your Slayer, the person who kicked butt for you and tried to protect you from all the nasties. But you don't need me to be that anymore. I used to be the friend you ran to when you had something you wanted to talk about. But it looks like you're running to Nichole now." Faint bitterness tinged the words as she spoke.

Willow shook her head, and said, "Buffy, you can be who you always were, and always are: my best friend. Nichole has been a good friend, but she's not you. She can never be you." Willow looked at Buffy, her heart reflected in her eyes.

Before Buffy could speak, a low, haunting voice came out of the shadows. "She'll only disappoint you, Willow... They always disappoint you..." Buffy and Willow whirled around to see two tall figures emerging from the shadows. They moved with an accomplished grace, like lethal predators examining the herd for weak members. They were obviously werewolves, but a kind that Willow had not seen before; they were in full Crinos form, and their oily black fur melded into the shadows surrounding the lit sidewalk. Their eyes glowed with a deep green inner flame, and their ears were hairless and leathery, almost like bats' wings. When they spoke, Willow felt the hair at the back of her neck stand on end.

"Come with us, Willow..." One of them said. "We're the only ones who won't disappoint you, who won't leave you." The other one chimed in. "Your parents, Buffy, none of them love you, Willow, none of them will take care of you. Not like we'll take care of you. Come with us." They circled around the girls until they stood on either side of them. "Don't refuse us, Willow. You shouldn't refuse us."

"Who the hell are these guys, Will?" Buffy asked, turning so as not to let them get behind her.

Willow just shook her head. Every fiber of her being was telling her to kill these beings; she had never even seen one of these things before, had never even seen a Crinos besides Nichole, but these things exuded such a sense of wrong that she couldn't ignore it. "I don't know what they are, but they're evil," was all she said.

"That's all I need to know," Buffy replied, and to Willow's horror, she launched herself at the first werewolf. She delivered a devastating series of kicks and punches; at least, they would be devastating, if the werewolf had reacted at all to being hit. He leveled one punch at the Slayer, and sent her sprawling heavily to the turf.

Willow watched in shock as Buffy landed on the ground and struggled to rise. The werewolf she had attacked smiled, and walked over to stand above the fallen Slayer. Willow ran toward the thing, her rage growing as she drew closer to the beast. She leapt at the werewolf, shifting into the Crinos as she did so. Soon, her clawed hands grasped at the thing's throat, seeking to puncture some vital artery.

Buffy looked up and saw Willow in full Crinos form grappling with the other werewolf. The Slayer whirled around and ducked just in time to avoid a clawed hand, which passed through the space her head had occupied just a moment before. The second werewolf, who had been forgotten in the excitement, had decided it was time to strike.

Buffy ducked under another blow, noticing that although these things were strong, they weren't fast or very agile. They were big, though, and if her previous experience was any indication, her usual compliment of attacks really wouldn't work. Unless... Buffy ducked a clawed swipe, and rolled forward until she was positioned on her back, between the thing's legs. Kicking upward with all her force, she solidly contacted the beast's groin, lifting him completely off the ground with her kick. She rolled away quickly, just before the thing came crashing to his knees in pain.

Not exactly a killing blow, Buffy thought, but it does buy me some time.

Willow had now lost herself completely to instinct; she raked and bit, sending pieces of fur and flesh flying everywhere. She felt a solid blow to her side, and felt something warm and wet run down her leg. She was strong but she was still an inexperienced Garou, and this beast made her pay for every scratch she dealt.

Buffy knew she had to end this quickly. While the werewolf was still recovering from the blow she had landed, she leapt on his back wrapping one arm around his thick neck. She tightened her grip, and with her other hand slowly but inexorably twisted the werewolf's head around. He grabbed for her, but too late; a final jerk snapped the werewolf's neck, sending him sprawling on the ground, lifeless.

Buffy stood on shaking legs, and looked over to where Willow was battling the other werewolf. She watched with a sinking feeling as the werewolf sank his claws, time and again, into her body; finally, Willow collapsed in a heap at the beast's feet.

"You should not have refused the Wyrm," the werewolf hissed. "If you do not join us, you will not be allowed to live." He reached down, wrapping his hand around Willow's throat.

Instantly, the werewolf reared up in surprise as Buffy jumped on his back, her arms wrapping around his throat. Holding her forearm with her other hand, she slowly tightened her grip and felt the thing's throat give way under her crushing pressure. The werewolf rent her arms with his claws, tearing deep gashes in her skin, trying to get her to release her hold. The Slayer ignored the pain, only tightening her grip further. After what seemed like an eternity, the werewolf dropped to its knees, a lack of oxygen weakening the creature. He finally fell face down, his limbs going limp as he passed out. Still Buffy did not relinquish her hold until she was satisfied that the beast was dead. Stumbling away from the bodies, she ran to Willow's side.

With the detached air of many hours of practice, she evaluated Willow's injuries. The redhead had managed to shift back into human form, which revealed numerous minor scratches and bruises. The most disturbing injuries were several puncture wounds to her body caused by the werewolf's sharp claws. Willow's eyes fluttered open and she regarded Buffy calmly.

"Hey," she said, coughing. "I guess they look worse than I do, huh?"

Buffy smiled, a smile which did nothing to dispel the worry in her eyes. "Yeah, you tore 'em up, Will. Don't worry, though, you just have a few scratches. Nothing a big, bad werewolf can't handle, right? We'll get you patched up in no time, don't worry."

Willow shook her head weakly. "No...isn't like the knife. These wounds feel hot...aren't healing. Need..." The talking sent her into a coughing spasm, and mercifully she passed out.

Working fast, Buffy tore her sweatshirt into pieces and managed to patch up the worst of Willow's wounds. The deep gouges on her own arms were still dripping blood, so she quickly wrapped those as well.

"Ok, Will, we've got to get you somewhere, and fast," Buffy said, bending down to pick up the young woman. She lifted her with some difficulty, but could only take her a short distance before her head began to swim from blood loss and exertion. She quickly set Willow down again, afraid she would drop the redhead if she continued.

Dammit! Buffy thought, savagely. We don't have time for me to be weak right now!

"Hey, are you guys ok? Were you in an accident, or something?" A young blonde guy came running up to them. "My car isn't far, I can take you guys to the hospital."

Buffy ran through her options, which admittedly weren't many. "Sure, that would be great," she said, "but we're not going to the hospital." With the young man's help, they carried Willow to his car, a late-model, black Range Rover. After settling Willow in the back, they jumped in.

"Ok, where are we going, then?" He asked, starting the car's engine.

"I'll just give you directions." Buffy glanced at the young man, and realized how brusque she sounded. "Thanks...thanks for your help. My name's Buffy. Buffy Summers."

"Chris Maxwell," the young man replied, and pulled his car out of the lot, onto the street.

Part the Fifth

They drove quickly through the night, the silence punctuated only by Buffy's terse directions. When the Slayer told Chris to stop the car in front of the shop on the right, he looked at her incredulously.

"You won't take her to a hospital, but you will take her to a magick shop. A little Dark Ages, isn't it?"

Buffy glanced at the young man nervously. "There's someone there who can help her." Muttering under her breath, she finished, "I hope." The two jumped out of the car, and began the delicate process of moving Willow from the car to the shop. During the car ride, Willow had slipped in and out of consciousness, and when Buffy held on to her to help carry her into the building she noticed how hot the redhead's skin was.

The two of them carried Willow into the magick shop, which was open despite the somewhat late hour. As the door chimed to signal their arrival, a voice was heard from the back room: "Just a minute, I'll be right out!"

Chris looked up sharply, as if surprised to hear the voice. Buffy glanced at him, and in response to her quizzical look, he muttered, "I knew we should have taken her to a hospital."

Nichole stepped out from the back room, a greeting dying on her lips at the sight of Willow. "Quickly," she said, motioning them to the back, "Bring her back here." She cleared off one of the long work tables and laid a clean, but not very soft, army blanket on top of it. She motioned for Willow to be placed there. Giving Buffy a sharp look, she asked, "How did this happen?"

Buffy swallowed her anger, and replied, "A couple of your people attacked us. Some nasty, greasy werewolves. We managed to finish them off, but one of them roughed up Will pretty bad."

"They're lucky I showed up when I did," Chris remarked. "Or should I say, we're all lucky."

Nichole looked closely at Chris for the first time, and her jaw dropped. "Kernel?" She asked, her voice taking on a disbelieving tone.

Buffy, misunderstanding, said, "Colonel? Colonel who? Look, we don't have time for this, can you help Willow or not?"

Nichole nodded at Buffy, and said, "Of course, I'm sorry. Could you two wait in the front room? I'll know better what's going on in a little while."

Chris nodded and, grabbing Buffy's elbow, steered her toward the front. "C'mon," he said, not unkindly. "I'll answer any questions you have while Nichole does her thing."

Buffy paced the floor, her fierce movements causing Chris to wince slightly. "So, what's the story, Chris? Or is your name even Chris?"

Chris looked at Buffy, and sighed. "Yes, my name is Chris. Chris Maxwell, just like I told you. I'm a werewolf too, just like Nichole and Willow."

"Wow, you guys are just all over the place, aren't you?" Buffy replied, sarcasm coating the words thickly.

"Not really," Chris said, sadly. "There aren't many of us left. That's why I came to Sunnydale, to make sure Willow would be safe."

"So who were those guys, anyway?" Buffy asked. She gestured with one injured arm, and winced as she felt the wound tear.

Chris looked down at Buffy's arms, noticing the blood-stained bandages for the first time. "Geez!" He said, stepping forward for a closer look. "Did they hurt you?"

Buffy looked down at her arm and shrugged. "I'm used to it, although those suckers hurt me worse than almost anything else I've fought." She carefully unwrapped her arms, noting the deep gashes inflicted by the werewolf's claws. In the light of the store they seemed worse than when she first saw them outside. Some of them appeared to almost go to the bone.

Chris looked at the deep wounds, and paled. No human should have been able to survive those lacerations, he thought, but Buffy looked like it was just inconvenient. "Uh, I'll go see if Nichole has anything... medical..." He rushed off to the back room, and emerged a few moments later with a large bag. He pulled Buffy over to the counter, and began rinsing out her wounds with antiseptic. He looked at her calm face with alarm. "Geez, you didn't slip into shock or anything, did you? How the hell are you still alive with wounds like this?"

Buffy gave a half-smile, and fished out some surgical needles and thread with one hand. "I'm the Slayer," was all she gave in way of explanation.

Chris remained silent as he worked. He had heard of the Slayer, a human being supposedly gifted with great powers to enable her to fight against the Wyrm. He knew that Willow had made a powerful ally if the Slayer was willing to risk her life to protect her. After a few moments, Chris said, "So, describe these werewolves that attacked you."

"Well, they were obviously werewolves," Buffy began, trying to remember. "They had weird green glowing eyes, though."

Chris nodded. "Black Spiral Dancers." He spat out the words, as if to rid himself of the bad taste they placed in his mouth. "Corrupt Garou. Werewolves who have been driven insane, and forced to serve the Wyrm."

"What is the Wyrm?" Buffy asked, his words drawing her out, reaching her natural curiosity. "I've heard that word a couple times now."

Chris finished rinsing the wounds, and he took the needle and thread from Buffy. "There are three fundamental forces in the universe. The Wyld is the fundamental force of change, of nature, of raw elemental power. The Weaver is the fundamental force of order, of building, of technological power. And then there's the Wyrm. The Wyrm began as the fundamental force of destruction; whenever a forest fire swept through a wooded area, clearing out the dead brush to leave the new saplings room to grow, that was the Wyrm. Whenever a building grew old, and in disrepair, and collapsed to be hauled away and remade, that was the Wyrm." Carefully threading the needle, he began stitching the long gashes on Buffy's arms with small, precise movements.

Buffy frowned, wincing slightly at the stitching. "That doesn't sound very evil."

"It isn't." Chris shook his head. "But long ago, no one is certain exactly when, the Weaver achieved sentience. She looked at all Her accomplishments and saw that ultimately, they were all destined for destruction. She went mad, and wished to encompass the entire universe in Her Pattern, to hold it static for eternity. To accomplish this, She started to war against the Wyrm and the Wyld. The Wyld escaped, and the Weaver could not reach Her. But the Weaver could reach the Wyrm, and She bound Him up in her Pattern, twisting Him into Corruption. Now the Wyrm does not seek only to destroy, but to corrupt anything He touches."

"This is all abstract, right?" Buffy said. "I mean, there's not really a Weaver, or a Wyrm..."

Chris smiled in response. "Just ask the Black Spirals. The Wyrm is certainly not abstract to them." He looked at Buffy, as if judging her abilities. "If Willow was injured, then you must've killed the Black Spirals."

Buffy shrugged. "Yeah, I did. I took out the first one without too much trouble; the second one was pretty weakened by his fight with Willow. Which reminds me, how come those guys died? I figured I would have needed a silver bullet or something to do a more permanent job."

Chris grinned. "Silver bullets do hurt us, any silver does, in fact. But it's not the only thing that can hurt us. Decapitation works nicely; it doesn't matter if its done with silver or not, we can't really heal from something like that. Same with broken necks, massive brain trauma, strangulation... We're a bit more delicate than the myths make us out to be. We regenerate very quickly from most normal weapons, though, and about the only things that can do us lasting damage are silver and the teeth and claws of other werewolves. We have a weakness to the attacks of our own kind, even corrupted Garou like Black Spirals. That's why Willow reacted so badly to her wounds..."

Nichole emerged from the back, wiping her hands on a towel. "Well, you'll be glad to know that Willow will be fine. She's sleeping right now; it took a great deal of energy for me to heal her wounds to the point where they were no longer life-threatening." She walked behind the counter, and examined Buffy's stitches with a critical eye. They appeared to meet her standards so she began wrapping Buffy's arms in fresh bandages. "So, did Chris tell you everything that you wished to know?"

Buffy raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Everything except how you and he know each other."

Chris and Nichole exchanged uncomfortable looks. "I met Nichole up in Stanford a couple of years ago," Chris said. "We never got along very well. Philosophical differences. Two different tribes, and all that." At Buffy's questioning gaze, he continued. "Nichole is a member of the Children of Gaia tribe of Garou. I am a member of the Glass Walker tribe. There are thirteen tribes, and very few of them get along. The philosophical differences are usually too great."

Buffy gave him a sardonic look. "That's inconvenient. Seeing as how you're fighting a war and everything."

Chris blushed. "Yeah, well, no one accused us of not being stubborn," he muttered.

Thraxuil looked down from his raised throne to the groveling messenger below. His voice was deathly calm as he asked, "And the Spirit Banes told you that our soldiers failed?"

Kraxthus nodded, his eyes never leaving the floor. "It is so, my lord. Their effort to retrieve the Garou was unsuccessful. Both of our soldiers were killed in the attempt."

"It seems as if we underestimated the power that this Lost Cub wields. No matter." Thraxuil stepped slowly down to where Kraxthus was kneeling. He reached out one massive, furred hand and began stroking Kraxthus's head. Kraxthus endeavored not to shake. "Well, this Garou will have a surprise in store for her." He stopped his stroking, and walked back up to his seat. "When you go, tell Illiaaz-ikthya that I wish to see him."

Buffy stood by Willow's side, watching her friend sleep. All the lines of pain and fever that marred her friend's features had disappeared, and some color began to work its way back into her cheeks. She looked back at Nichole in mild surprise.

"I was able to heal her, using a gift taught to me by a Unicorn spirit," Nichole answered quietly. "Unfortunately, I don't have enough energy to heal her further, or to heal you."

Buffy shrugged, and gently brushed some hair out of Willow's face. "I'll heal pretty quick. I always do. As long as Willow is safe..."

Chris looked at the two friends, sadness reflected on his face. He said soberly, "Willow is being hunted by Black Spirals, and they aren't easily discouraged. I should take her to Los Angeles, to be with her own tribe."

Buffy whirled around and stepped forward, poking his chest with her finger. "Look," she said, in a low voice, "Willow isn't going anywhere until she's healed. And she isn't going anywhere where I won't be able to protect her."

Nichole nodded. "I agree with Buffy, she shouldn't be moved far until she gets a chance to recover her strength. Particularly if that means placing her in with a bunch of Glass Walkers." She gave Chris a distasteful look, causing him to bristle.

"Ok, well, where should we take her, then?" Chris said, gritting his teeth. "They can't go back to their dorm, the Black Spirals found them there, and I was able to find out where she lived without any difficulty too."

Buffy thought for a moment. "We should take her to Giles'. She'll be safe there. Once we drop her off, Nichole should stay with her while Chris and I go back to the dorm to get her things." She had entered full Slayer Mode now, and she challenged the two werewolves with a single, confident glance. Neither Garou chose to argue. "Ok, then, let's get Willow back to the car."

Giles opened the front door, allowing Buffy to enter. She was carefully carrying Willow, who had still not regained consciousness.

"Go ahead and lay her down in the back room," Giles said, pointing the way for Buffy. She had called him from Chris's cell phone on their way over, and he had already prepared the room for the recovering young woman. He nodded greetings to Nichole, and looked at the newcomer with curiosity.

As Buffy took Willow into the back room, Nichole smiled warmly at Giles. "Nice to meet you again, Mr. Giles. I only wish it were under better circumstances. This is a ... friend of mine, Chris Maxwell. He helped bring Willow over here. Chris, this is Rupert Giles."

Chris stepped forward and shook Giles' hand firmly. "Glad to meet you, sir," he said, turning on the charm that only a Vice President of a large corporation could manage.

"Yes, well, the pleasure is mine," Giles responded, somewhat taken aback by the young man's enthusiasm. "I must thank you for the timely help both of you have given to Willow. Can I get you anything?"

Chris declined. "Nothing for me, thanks. Buffy and I have an errand to run after she gets Willow settled."

Nichole nodded. "I expect Willow will sleep through the rest of the night. Her body is conserving energy from the massive amounts of healing I forced it to do."

Buffy re-entered the room, nodding at Nichole. "She's still out. Ready to blow this pop stand, Chris?" Chris nodded. "By the way, Giles, were you able to find the thing we talked about?"

Giles nodded, and went over to his desk. Picking up a blade in a long sheath, he walked over and gave it to Buffy. "Yes, I found it in my attic. The sigils carved into the leather sheath..." he pointed to the markings, "...should have protected it from tarnish or damage. It's a Celtic design, perhaps from the late tenth century..."

Buffy nodded. "I got it, Giles." She removed the blade from the sheath, and examined it with a critical eye. It seemed more like an oversized knife than a sword, but it was easily over a foot long; its surface gleamed silver in the light. She swung it a couple of times, testing its balance, and as one Nichole and Chris took a step back.

"Let's roll."

Part the Sixth

Buffy and Chris got in the Range Rover, and pulled away from Giles' house. After a few minutes of silence, the Slayer was compelled to ask about something that had been on her mind most of the evening.

"So, you mentioned that Willow is one of your kind...a Glass Walker?"

Chris nodded. "The Rosenbergs are Glass Walker kinfolk. They moved from Los Angeles to Sunnydale about twenty years ago."

Buffy bit her lip. "So...what does it mean to be a Glass Walker?"

"Most Garou aren't progressive, in fact, they're regular Luddites. They want to go back to the way things used to be, before cities, before technology... Hell, before indoor plumbing." The young man repressed a shudder. "Glass Walkers are different. We believe it's our responsibility to protect the cities, that the cities are as much a part of Gaia as the forests. To that end, we have embraced the technology of humans, in an attempt to use every tool available to combat the Wyrm." He sat up a little straighter, pride in his bearing. "I myself am very accomplished in regards to using computers, as are most of our tribe."

Buffy nodded absently. "Willow is real good with computers... She's always showing me stuff that she did that I don't quite get." She paused, gathering courage. "Will she have to leave Sunnydale?" That was it, the thing that she had been afraid to speak of since the young Garou had mentioned taking Willow to Los Angeles. She always knew one day that Willow's ambitions might take her away from Sunnydale, away from Buffy; but now that the day might be upon them, she felt a coldness in the pit of her stomach.

Chris caught the odd note in Buffy's voice, and gave her a speculative look. "Depends. The Sept Leader might ask her to come to LA... Then again, he might decide, on someone's recommendation, that Willow be kept here as a Glass Walker representative. Then she would only have to visit LA for tribal meetings and emergencies."

Buffy's eyes widened. Barely able to contain her excitement, she said, "And who would make this recommendation?"

Chris grinned across at the Slayer. "Maybe me."

The two of them entered Buffy's dorm room cautiously. They had decided not to take any chances, and that they weren't going to stay in the room any longer than necessary. After making sure the room was secure, Buffy started packing enough clothes for her and Willow for the next few days. Chris, with Buffy's help, was packing some of Willow's personal effects, such as her witchcraft tools. Buffy thought about bringing Willow's computer, but Chris snorted derisively.

"An iMac?" He said, incredulously. "Why did she buy an iMac?"

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "I think her parents bought it for her."

"That may be fine for writing papers, or sending email to Jeff Goldblum, but she'll need a PC to get real work done." Chris grinned in delight, thinking of the type of machine Willow should have. "The Sept will pay for it..." He whipped out a charge card. "I have a Corporate AMEX."

Buffy laughed at that. She had to admit that these friendly people, so full of life and humor, had little in common with the werewolves she had always read about. If she hadn't run up against the Black Spirals, she thought, she would have suspected that the negative werewolf stereotype was some massive propaganda campaign.

Soon they had most of Willow's and Buffy's stuff packed and loaded in the Range Rover. Chris had suggested that they leave enough of their belongings lying in plain sight so that the room still looked lived-in, and Buffy agreed with him. It didn't take long for them to return to Giles' house, and set up a nice, cozy living space for Willow to use while she recuperated.

Buffy collapsed on the couch, and looked at Nichole and Giles. "So, you two been keeping each other company?"

Giles smiled. "Well, yes, actually. Nichole has been filling me in on some wonderful aspects of werewolf lore and culture."

Chris shot Nichole a stern look. "Nice going, Nichole, what about the Veil?"

Nichole sniffed. "These two know what the consequences to Willow would be if our secrets got out. They make good allies. And besides, Kernel," she continued, fixing him with the same stern look, "tell me that you didn't blab some of your secrets to Buffy."

Chris blushed, and mumbled that he was going to get something to drink. He went to Giles' fridge and pulled out a soda.

Buffy fixed them both with a questioning glance. "Why do you keep calling him Colonel? Is he some kind of army guy?"

Nichole shook her head. "Every Garou, when he or she becomes a full member of a tribe, gets a special name."

"That's right," Chris nodded. "Mine is Kernel Overload. Kernel, as in part of a computer Operating System. It was given to me because of my hacking expertise." There was the proud look again.

Nichole grinned. "Yeah, but some people took to calling him Kernel Panic."

"Insubordinate pups," Chris growled. "Wouldn't know a computer if it came up and bit them on the tail. And you're one to talk, Dances-With-Wolves."

Nichole's eyes narrowed. "That's 'Walks-With-Gaia', you wag!"

"Yeah, whatever."

Buffy rolled her eyes at the exchange. "As much as I'd love to sit through the newest episode of 'Dysfunctional Werewolves on Parade', I think it's time we all called it a night."

Everyone agreed, seeing as how it was well after midnight. Nichole said, "I'll be by in the morning to check on Willow. I'm sure Chris will want to start her Glass Walker orientation as soon as she's recovered enough to listen to him drone on and on..." At Chris's glare, she just smiled back, winningly.

"Ok, don't worry about Willow," Buffy said, determination lighting up her eyes. "I won't let anything happen to her. Not anything."

Chris and Nichole left. Once the door shut, Buffy looked over at Giles, and said, "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say those two were in love."

Outside, Chris opened the car door for Nichole, and remarked, "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say Buffy and Willow were in love."

The Child of Gaia just smiled.

Willow awoke with a start in an unfamiliar room. At least, it seems unfamiliar, she thought, even though she recognized several of the things in it as belonging to her. She sat up, wincing at the pain in her side. Placing a hand over her bandages, the events of last night came flooding back to her. She and Buffy had an argument, and then there was a fight, and Buffy was laying on the ground...


The Slayer heard Willow shout her name, and she vaulted over the furniture and was in the room in a flash.

"Are you ok, Will, what's wrong?" Buffy said, rushing to her friend's side.

Willow placed a trembling hand against her forehead. "Yeah, I'm fine I guess, I'm better now that I know you're ok." She smiled up at her friend, relief evident in her gaze.

"Yeah, of course I'm ok, Will," Her friend's concern deeply touched Buffy, and before she knew what she was doing she had reached out a hand to brush Willow's hair back from her face. It was a completely unconscious gesture, and one so gentle that it was hard to believe that same hand had strangled a werewolf to death the night before.

Willow looked at the bandages covering Buffy's forearms, and gasped. "What...are you ok? How did you get hurt?" Panic rose in her voice.

"Shh, it's ok, Will..." Buffy said, calming her friend. "I got a few cuts, but they're almost healed now. You know me, and my Super Slayer Healing." She smiled at her friend, reassuringly. Truth was, the gashes that marked her forearms were almost healed up, but Buffy kept the bandages on until she could remove the stitches. She didn't want Willow to see just how much effort had gone into closing up the deep lacerations.

"Buffy, what happened? Who attacked us?" Willow looked lost and confused. Not surprising, Buffy thought. Even she wasn't sure what to think, and she had gotten the whole story on Black Spiral Dancers from Chris.

"Well, my friend," Buffy began, "the whole thing is kinda involved..."

Chris and Nichole walked up to Giles' house. Several hours of sleep had done them a world of good, and they exchanged only mild barbs and insults on their ride over. They knocked on the door, and after a few moments, Buffy answered.

"Come in," she said. "You don't know how nice it is to have friends who actually knock. Granted, some of our friends would combust in daylight if they waited for us to answer the door... Can I get you anything?"

Nichole shook her head. "Is Willow up? I'd like to go check on her."

"Yep," Buffy nodded. "She's up, and I've already given her the lowdown on the creeps who attacked us last night. Told her that we would be hiding out here for the next few days."

Nichole went back to check on Willow, and Buffy noticed that Chris's eyes followed her as she left. "She's pretty cool," Buffy said, casually. "Isn't she?"

"She sure is," Chris answered, quietly. Remembering where he was, he added in a louder voice, "For a Child of Gaia, I mean." He waved it off.

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "What's wrong with the Children of Gaia? I mean, Nichole seems nice enough, and is really interested in helping people..."

Chris shrugged. "They're just a bit out of touch. They think that the Wyrm can just be 'healed' away, and as long as everyone just holds hands and thinks warm, fuzzy thoughts, everything will be fine." He scoffed. "It's just a bunch of tree-hugging, hippie crap anyway." Chris sniffed the air speculatively. "Is that coffee?"

Buffy sighed, and poured him a cup. "Well, if it weren't for healers," Buffy pressed, "the warriors wouldn't have much of a chance to fight."

"Yeah, I guess so," Chris replied, sipping his coffee. "I suppose the Children of Gaia have their place, just like we do."

Aha, a minor victory, Buffy thought. Out loud, she said, "Could it be that every werewolf tribe has their place, in the grand scheme, I mean?"

"Some, maybe," Chris reluctantly admitted. "But not all."

Oh, well, good enough, Buffy thought, and the two lapsed into a companionable silence.

After almost a half an hour, Nichole emerged from the back room. At Buffy's intent look, she said, "Willow is healing nicely. Tonight, before she sleeps, I'll come back and ask the spirits to heal her again. That should leave her almost fully recovered. I also told her about you," she said, poking Chris in the shoulder, "and I told her to expect some lessons from you. Try not to scare the girl."

Chris protested. "I wouldn't!"

"Yeah, whatever," Nichole answered with a smile. Turning serious again, she said, "Willow is very vulnerable when it comes to fighting, though. She hasn't been taught how to fight in her human state, much less werewolf. She was lucky to have you around, Buffy, or else just one Black Spiral would have killed her." Buffy nodded, worried. Nichole continued. "I think that someone should start training Willow how to fight."

Chris nodded, as if he saw this coming. "Of course I can--" He fell silent when he felt Nichole's elbow dig into his ribs.

"I think Buffy should do it," Nichole said, quickly.

Buffy looked shocked. "Me? I don't know anything about fighting as a werewolf," she said, protesting mildly.

"That's true," Nichole agreed. "But from what I hear you are an expert in armed and unarmed combat. Plus, you can train with Willow as much as she needs it. Chris and I have other duties to perform, duties to our Septs. Of all of us, you are the one most dedicated to your friend."

Buffy nodded, unable to deny the truth of the Gaian's words. "When will she be well enough to start?"

Nichole thought for a moment. "Probably tomorrow, if she takes it easy, and I'm able to heal her tonight. Definitely by the day after. Chris will also undoubtedly want some of her time to teach her about Glass Walker philosophy, you know, selling your soul for money, prostrating yourself before technology, that kind of thing." She giggled at Chris's glare.

"Never too early to start getting her to sell her soul," Chris said, and with one last glare in Nichole's direction, went into the back room to see Willow.

Buffy shook her head. "You really like needling him, don't you?"

"Yep," Nichole said, smiling. "It's just that Glass Walkers tend to take themselves pretty seriously. If they just learned to lighten up and ditch all that technology that just weights down their souls, they'd realize how important the healing work that the Children of Gaia do really is."

Buffy sighed. Here we go again. "You know, if it wasn't for technology, you'd probably lose a big advantage in holding the power of the Wyrm in check, and then where would the healers be..."

Forward to chapter 7
Return to the Fanfiction Return to Best Friends and More