Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Two long time, but very different, friends are caught up in a spell and changed forever. They learn to cope and must rely on each other to survive in their new forms.
Spoilers: None! Definitely AU
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
Despite the fact the couple entered the building with as much quiet calm as could be managed. The mute pair scrambled backwards away from the incoming humans. Will pressed himself back against a wall, while (Lex)ander pushed down into a prostrated kneel, then whimpered and rolled onto his side a little exposing his stomach to display his complete submission. Both newly formed humans knew they desperately needed help.
Brad noted the chill inside the cottage and immediately withdrew to cut wood and gather the kindling needed to relight the fire.
Skye, meanwhile, busied herself checking the kitchen. She cleaned up the paper and containers scattered all over the floor - evidence the desperate search for food. There was little left in the fridge – but the freezer was semi full – the cat unable to convey the idea that the cold hard objects were, in fact, food.
Skye cleaned up swiftly, pulled out two frozen steaks then raided the garden and the pantry for anything that could form a meal. In the end rice, fresh herbs, a couple of eggs Brad had found, and (for the first time ever) rarely *cooked* meat was fed to the two. There was no attempt to sit at the kitchen table by either individual and in the end she simply placed their plates on the floor with a knife and fork in each, belatedly realizing that utensils were beyond them.
Skye set about cutting up the meat – gaining a growl and bared teeth for her trouble as she approached the dark haired man’s plate. On instinct she smacked him gently on the top of the head and scolded him. (Lex)ander immediately dropped in front of her, head between his hands and whimpered a little, indicating his submission.
The former dog had eaten rice before, Will sniffed at it rather suspiciously then followed his friend’s example and ate as fast as he could while holding the bowl steady with a hand either side.
Brad had delivered several armfuls of wood inside and begun the fire. While Skye cleaned up the remains of the meal (and put two more bowls of leftovers in the fridge ready for the following day), he coached both men how to throw another log onto the fire.
(Lex)ander was a quick study as he had seen master do it many times, but his first instinct was to pick the wood up in his mouth. Eventually both he and the ex owl understood the concept and had gained another skill.
It was obvious that the two humans were unworried by their nudity, but up close and personal as they were eating, it was evident that the two had not bathed since their change and really were a little ‘on the nose’. Skye found two fresh towels and ran a hot bath.
(Lex)ander was always encouraged to jump in the water when he and the master went near the creek, and he had been hosed down a few times on very hot days, but he had *never* been in the master’s bath. The closest the owl had come to water was the occasional fall of rain and then it was a serious inconvenience. But both did feel unclean and smelt bad. Finally they were coaxed into the warm water by the gentle Skye, who handed each a face washer and demonstrated how to soap it up and rub over still unfamiliar skin. She encouraged them to wash each other for the main part and to take extra care with their new ‘dangly bits’.
They took the lesson seriously and enjoyed the sensation of having hair shampooed and the bucket of water being tipped over to rinse. But like two little children, there was fun to be had and splashing soon ensued.
It was *wonderful*. Will had never thought that submerging one’s whole body in water could feel so delightful and (Lex)ander adored the warm splashing. Eventually, bathroom awash and water fast cooling, Skye managed to encourage them out to sit on the bath mat and towelled them dry as best she could. She then encouraged them up and both stood unsteadily, holding fast to the towel rail, as she wrapped a towel, toga style, around each lithe form before leading them to sit and finish drying off in front of the cheerfully burning fire.
(Lex)ander recognized the brush and enjoyed the feel of being groomed – even if some tangles in his much longer head hair did tug a little. He wished he still had his coat and the grooming could go on for much longer. Will struggled to sit still, only barely able to tolerate his hair being brushed by the female human. He had *always* preened his own plumage before.
Skye finished her task then retreated to the kitchen to spot Brad leaning against the door jam of the back door, staring out at the yard, deep in thought. She wandered up behind him and slid her arms around his slim waist, hugging him from behind. She stood on tip toes, nudged away the dreadlocks and kissed him affectionately on the neck whispering, “Penny for your thoughts?”
Skye didn’t expect the response. Brad was silent at first then turned in her embrace, flicked his long locks out of the way and wound strong arms around her, pulling her tight.
“Geez… um… Oh Saahh…” The gentle Brad was now looking directly through the door to the lounge at the two human figures on the floor in front of the fire cuddling in a seated embrace of care and comfort, “Look at them! They’re really just… children… And we’ve never even had kids! What have we taken on here? I mean… I know we have to help… but Saahh… How do we do this?”
“We teach them and we love them, and if they never speak or still struggle to walk, then we work around them… Come on Brad?! You must be able to see! Noone else knows of them. We can do this… let’s just give it a go… what’s the alternative? Hmmm? We report them and they’re thrown into an institution for the mentally retarded, or isolated and studied for years? Honey please? Look at me…” She took his pretty face in her work hardened slim hands and stared into his hazel eyes framed by impossibly long lashes. “Please let’s do this?! We can’t abandon them. I’m sure it was meant to be… It’s beautiful karma!”
Brad gave in kissed his dear partner lightly then deepened the act, receiving love and devotion in return. For all his worries regards how they were to feed two more mouths and cope with trying to help these two, he could not help but adore his Skye all the more. If ever there was an earth mother… how could he not follow his magnificent lover? He broke the kiss, pushed the thick locks back behind her ears and kissed her again on the forehead before confirming his willingness with tear-filled gaze, “You amaze me every day… you know that? And I love you more for it… and… just yes… yes OK?? We do this… together we do this.”
The couple returned two afternoons later with food from their own meagre supply and some woodwork tools.
Brad worked to secure a dilapidated chicken coop before using an ancient shovel to dig over sections of the vegetable garden. In the end, the light ran out, but at least he had three rows of seed potatoes sewn.
Skye had cooked her partner and ‘their boys’ a fluffy herb omelette and fried freshly picked mushrooms and the last of the meat in the mage’s fridge – some frozen bacon, for dinner. The leftovers from her previous visit were long gone and the mage’s freezer was now bare but for some ice cubes and ancient bread.
They had found the mushrooms en route from their own home but Skye had been worried regards the dwindling food supply, not only at the mage’s house, but also their own. They only shopped once a month, the garden was struggling a little at the end of winter, and their nanny goat and pretty jersey cow were both heavy with their new progeny, so dry for the moment. She had taken what she could, an egg, some wholemeal flour, a handful of yeast, and some oil. There was sugar at the mage’s so she thought perhaps herb damper of some sort might work. Brad’s discovery of eight viable eggs under a rather clucky old hen as he repaired the coop was a true godsend. She cooked seven and broke one for the cat.
The cat rubbed against the wonderful woman, joining diners on the floor and enjoying raw egg and the edges of the bacon.
Will was a little worried by the strange food but followed his friend (Lex)ander’s example and in the end genuinely enjoying the fluffy texture, salty meat pieces, and strange tasty black and white offerings alongside.
Meal over, ablutions were carried out and Brad cut wood and dug the garden, then both friendly neighbours withdrew again – fresh damper cooling on the stove ready to feed hungry mouths the next day.
Over the ensuing fortnight, a definite pattern began to emerge. Every couple of days the new humans were tended. The generous couple were not only attentive but also took time to coach their new neighbours. Walking was still an ‘ongoing project’ but their teachers were both patient and kind, and after two weeks, Will and (Lex)ander’s always made an effort to stand in the presence of their visiting carers.
Skye was worried by the almost non existent language so tried to reach them in the astral realm, but was only able to contact the cat. The changed mage suggesting that she try for an animal form, sadly it was not to be.
Something that was very apparent to the visiting couple over the weeks, was the blonde former owl’s definite, almost desperate, aversion to daylight; his retained very quick reactions; and habit of cocking his head ever so slightly. He was a quick study with all things practical, and seemed to be learning language at an amazing rate – even though he was still unable to say little more than “Will” and “Hooooo”, he seemed to understand many more words. Skye had a habit of chatting to him as she worked on various tasks, occasionally coaching him until he too could perform the act. He began to enjoy learning human skills and always thanked Skye by taking her hand and giving three odd little nods then wandering to bury himself under the covers in the bedroom if it was early in the day. The owl yearned for the hunt, craved it and mourned its loss…
(Lex)ander had no such yearnings – though missed master occasionally – and even accepted the attentions of the cat occasionally. The difference between the two personalities was compelling. Whereas the former owl was an extremely quiet, highly strung, intelligent human who slept for much of each day and enjoyed learning various domestic skills; (Lex)ander was an enthusiastic, exuberant individual who loved human company. And whether on two legs or dropping to four when tired, he was almost a constant shadow whenever Brad was around. He was attentive and loyal, and utterly devoted to his new carers and old friend.
Both ex dog and former owl revelled in the praise and apparent acceptance so easily given by Skye and Brad. But as they came up for a month as humans there seemed to be tension between their two lovely carers that had not been there before.
The reality was that the generous pair was genuinely struggling to support four people with their meagre income and resources. Brad had hardly produced any art in the month and the combination of more mouths to feed and season meant there was virtually no surplus for Skye to make produce for the markets.
The new humans may have felt the tension, but the cat understood and decided to take a calculated risk. Skye had not met him in astral form for a week but he knew it was time to act.
In the start of the fourth week, the cat sought out Brad and bothered him so much that the human took noticed. The mage eventually led him to a small set of drawers in the bedroom and began pawing frantically at the bottom one. Brad finally took the hint and pulled on the simple brass handle. The cat jumped inside and literally dug through the underpants and hand made woollen socks until he came up with the prize, a tiny blue jeweller’s pouch. Holding it in his mouth, he leapt onto the bed, only to drop it and prod and tug at the ties in frustration.
Brad got the hint and assisted him, stilling in amazement as the contents of the pouch were spilled onto the bed.
All cut to perfection forty or fifty diamonds of various sizes (or at least Brad assumed they were diamonds), sparkled, even in the poor light of the room.
“These’re diamonds!!! No?! Can’t…???? You’re kidding right?? Oh F$#%!!!! But what do I…?”
The cat dug into the bottom of the drawer again and began trying to tug a small diary out. Brad snapped out of his shock to lift the article and open it. In an elegant hand it listed off the various gems then three jewellers, with an asterisk beside one with a note in tiny writing “mage friendly”.
The cat was back up on the bed purring and rubbing against Brad, then ever so gently pawed at the collection of gems pushing seven apart from the others. The human knew what he was being asked to do.
“Oh Geez!! I’ll be arrested! These are worth a fortune!!!!”
More purring and rubbing then the cat licked at the name of the mage friendly and tried desperately to convey his meaning. They all needed the money and Alistair Liebhausen was their best hope – a changeling himself, he would be able to communicate with the cat…. If only Brad would get a clue and take the diamonds *and* cat with him, they would *all* be fine financially!
In the end Brad called to his partner and conveyed all that had happened in a near whisper. The diamonds were on the bed and the cat still pacing now near frantic and all but clawing at the name in the notepad.
Two days later, the cat, Brad and Skye had visited the rather enigmatic Alistair. They were welcomed politely and ushered into the rear of the shop. They explained their business rather clumsily and Brad was struck dumb as the cat leapt onto the counter and rubbed against the jeweller who promptly began to purr and shifted form – a tail, pointed ears, furry paws and whiskers emerging. Apparently the transaction went well, though Skye belatedly realised how very far Brad had needed to adjust his view of the world of recent times!
The two kind carers walked out with one black cat and the equivalent of seven years of income for them. It would not be wasted. Their lifestyle was nothing if not frugal, and Skye had it in her mind to help ‘their boys’ to become self sufficient also. She and Brad both knew there were more diamonds, but it was better to cosset the new humans in a happy and familiar environment than torture them with the world just yet, if ever. Skye carefully separated the amount they had just gained into two as insisted upon by Alistair – as instructed by the cat, who would apparently brook no argument.
A day after they were ‘cashed up’, the two households restocked larders, fridges with food, a few extra chickens in the yards of both tiny properties and food for the same (with orders for two goats and ducklings for each little farm in the coming weeks). Plus seed for the coming season and a number of hardware items desperately needed for repairs. The cat had contacted Skye again and conveyed his wish that they spend their money as they wished, encouraging them to spend some on art materials so needed for Brad to continue his work and ingredients for her products. Purchases were made carefully to maximise their most unexpected windfall.
The nicest part of having a little extra, was that Skye had been able to buy the new humans a few necessities while Brad sorted the hardware and his art supplies.
Wonderfully soft stretchy sweat pants, and loose fitted, baby soft, fine knit sweaters were obtained (ever the bargain hunter – it was a two for one deal!). She hoped they would replace the two old ponchos she had convinced her charges to wear for warmth. She also bought boxer shorts and a few t-shirts, and purchased various toiletry items before filling the ancient Volkswagen van with petrol and treating herself and her lovely (now exhausted) partner to a little indulgence… On the way out of town she had stopped at an Asian grocery store buying a container of Hari Chai (spiced Indian tea), some dried shitake mushrooms and a packet of seaweed flakes for soup. She knew Brad loved all three. As an after thought she put in two packets of sesame and honey toffee treats for the humans, and a packet of tiny dried fish for the cat … then sent a thank you to the higher powers for blessing them so richly.
The cat, curled up on top of the enormous bag of new clothes purred a silent ‘Amen’ and blessed the two in the front of the van and also asked for a blessing for his two changed pets, innocent beings in all this and currently waiting patiently at home.