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.
Skye was due the next day, so Will rose late and left to hunt for one or two rabbits. He was barefoot for silence but sported a soft, long sleeved, dark green thermal for warmth and a tight pair of light brown sprint runner’s thick leggings. He was now able to slip through the woods surrounding their property almost completely silently, and with a confidence on two legs that his friend the ex-dog was only now gaining.
He took his usual trail to the broad paddock sporting three warrens and was only around twenty minutes from home when he skidded to a halt. Will was shocked beyond belief. On the trail was a young owl, a former cousin, dead on the ground, blood fresh and wounds only hours old.
Though owls were primarily solitary and had their hunting territories, they still communicated, and Will knew this dear soul. He was barely two years old. Someone had shot his eye out and he had obviously died of the injury and/or the fall. Dear Will could not hold back his tears as he gently folded the pretty wings and lifted the now cold and stiffening form, then carried the dear bird back to the cottage.
(Lex)ander woke to banging at the back door and desperate crying. The ex-owl collapsed into the arms of his dear (Lex)ander, the dead form with its beautiful feathers, so like his own had been, clasped tight to his chest. (Lex)ander was not sure what to do, so sat his distressed friend down and simply held, kissed and rocked his dear Will who continued to mourn and cuddle the still form, and allowed the ex-owl to grieve a deceased relative.
And that was how Skye found them the next day.
The kindly neighbour eased the now stiff body from Will’s tight grip and wrapped it reverently in the home dyed rainbow scarf she had been wearing around her locks. The pretty, deceased youngster was buried as sunset approached. (Lex)ander dug the hole at the base of the cottage garden oak.
Skye explaining quietly to Will that the tree’s noble heights represented the heights the dear raptor would prefer to perch on in his afterlife having been so prematurely and unfairly ‘cut off’. Will sobbed into his dear (Lex)ander’s arms as Skye offered prayers and covered the small form with soft sun warmed soil. Another one of Gaia’s beings pointlessly destroyed for sport by humans, but buried with respect and the reverence the dear owl deserved. Skye recited a quiet blessing for the treasured, dearly departed creature, and another for her two charges as she placed night flowering jasmine from the garden in a pretty circle around the tiny grave.
Arriving home very late, Skye found herself truly angry for the first time in years.
On her way back, torch in hand, she had picked up a dead squirrel and another so injured that it was simply kinder to act as she had. She kissed it, blessed it then snapped its neck. Not a hundred yards on another owl was down its wing injured. Unable to fly or move without pain, it struggled pitifully on the ground as she approached. She grabbed its talons and swiftly covered its head with her skirt then carried the wrapped figure home, arriving to another distressed scene. The hunters had apparently decided that their own pregnant nanny goat was also fair game. Although her shattered leg would apparently heal (Brad had already engaged the vet from town) the goat would need to spend the rest of her pregnancy without any weight bearing, even though lying down for three weeks might risk both mother and the twins she carried.
The carnage was so pointless!
The police were called but a little less than sympathetic to the two hippies and their ‘wood creatures’. The nanny goat incident was noted but little done as there were no witnesses.
A week later, the police started to take a more notice as a local farmer lost a prize ram to a ‘pot-shot’, and the local off-license store owner’s cat needed to be put down after a bullet tore through its body late one night. The dear pet had struggled home to die in his tearful owner’s arms as a vet injected the stricken animal with an overdose of anaesthetic.
A couple of hippies living in the back of Old Ferguson’s reporting an isolated incident with some wildlife and a goat was one thing, but the latest incidents confirmed that it was more than a couple of teenagers with a pea rifle, and the shootings were getting bolder and closer to town.
Under pressure from the local mayor and several influential townsfolk, the local policeman decided to act. His investigations took him to Skye and Brad’s home. He had seen the hippies once or twice around town and ‘knew their story’ from a third party source, so had a fairly fixed idea of what they would be like. He was therefore quite surprised by the mild mannered, highly intelligent, clean living pair who offered him tea and concluded the meeting by giving him home made lemon cordial and three cakes of Skye’s hand made lavender soap for his wife.
In the ensuing weeks, only one more incident was reported and the assailant(s) apparently left no clues other than the consistent use of bullets from the same two guns and few dead animals. As the deaths abated, the townsfolk assumed that the hunters had moved on to another county or simply gone to ground with all the fuss in the local paper. That was until a single incident that rocked the small community.
Skye had been true to her word regards visiting the town at night. She and Brad had been taking their boys into town every week, late on Saturday mornings. Skye, Brad and (Lex)ander would set up the small tent at the farmers’ market, after which Will would sprint to the shade and sit in the back for the day, assisting Skye by passing her things and tying pretty ribbons onto soap cakes and her little bottles of herb oil. He had also learned to hold a pen in the last few months, and although still a little shaky, was able to copy the runic symbol for ‘peace’ onto all her purple and green cards.
(Lex)ander knew to walk close by Brad as he strode through town to the gallery where Brad's work was displayed, the establishment opening late to take advantage of market day.
There had been one terrifying incident where he became distracted by a pretty beagle who sniffed him with interest. He had paused and when he had looked up, Brad was out of sight. He had ended up being found, wandering and crying by the town’s Scout leader who was very kind and took the time to listen to his limited speech. Consequently they located the now rather frantic Brad at the gallery, just before his carer called the police. The Scout leader had smiled at the ex-dog and patted his shoulder while telling Brad what a sweet boy he, (Lex)ander, was. The man reminded him of his old master, the mage, and (Lex)ander was sure that any dog belonging to the Scout master would be very lucky indeed.
The two ‘challenged’ boys had become quite well known in the small town. Skye and Brad had insisted on pleasantries whenever they met anyone. Will still could not help ducking his head a couple of times when greeting someone but knew to say “Hoo..iii”, while (Lex)ander tended to seek out one of his carer’s hands before dropping his gaze a little and near mumbling a “Heyyyy”.
Beth – the rather buxom owner of the coffee shop - now knew to make up ice-creams as soon as she saw the two rather pretty humans approaching at the end of each market day. They were always flanked by the mild mannered hippie couple, and she could not but wonder at the very special strength it must take to care for such sweet, yet apparently ‘damaged’, individuals. Both men displayed all the innocence of children, the dark one grinning and all but bouncing on the spot as she placed the two huge scoops of chocolate ice cream on his cone; while the shy blonde waited patiently, eyes sparkling and head cocked slightly to the left as she piled his cone with strawberry and vanilla. Beth inevitably served camomile tea gratis to the dreadlock adorned carers, and chatted easily to Skye regards the success of the market that day, while the two ‘boys’ happily consumed their frozen treats.
So when an old truck roared into town on a Friday evening and she heard a frantic banging and calling out at the local doctor’s residence next door, Beth was alarmed. She recognized the woman’s voice immediately and raced downstairs, donning her overcoat en route and hurrying outside to assist.
Will had been out fishing as usual. He caught a fresh water cod of a very decent size and decided to return home early. Padding through the forest in his usual attire, he was almost invisible, but for his hair and his catch.
He heard the first shot and recognized it as a danger, so began to run. He could see a young deer standing oblivious in a clearing. He was almost upon the animal before it spooked and ran, the whizzing noise close by his left ear leaving him in no doubt that the animal had been the target.
Now running as fast as he could after the fleeing quarry, he wished desperately for his wings!
As he followed after the animal into the forest, a third bullet found a mark. He felt a strange thump in his side then agonizing… white… and fell facedown on the ground. The hunters emerged from their concealed places a hundred or so meters away, only to realize they had shot (and possibly killed) a human!
Will heard the two approach and despite his own agony, followed instinct and knew to lie still. The smaller of the two men was obviously panicked, “Oh F#@%! Oh F#@%! John! Whata we do now?? Geez man!!! We’ve killed a human!”
“Would you *shut it*?! ‘S his fault – he scared away the prey… bastard! Anyway looks like it’s just one of them forest wierdos – check it out – he hasn’t even got shoes.” Will felt the nudge of a rifle against his side and suppressed a whimper of pain. “Probably lives by hisself. Bloody hippies… C’mon… Just pull him over under them ferns and let’s get outta here… and fer godsake tuck yer sweater over yer hands!”
“No finger prints you idiot!”
“Oh F#@%! F#@%! F#@%!!!”
Will was just aware enough to feel his body being grabbed, but gave in to blessed black as agonizing pain radiated from the wound in his side and back as the men began to move him.
When Will had not returned by mid-morning (Lex)ander panicked. The ex-owl did not like the sun and was always home before sunup. He waited a little longer but just after midday went searching. He was unsure if Will had gone hunting or fishing, so wandered several tracks calling before venturing onto the forest trail that led to the wide creek nearby.
Rounding a bend he heard, then saw, a number of crows milling about on the track, picking at what looked like a rather nice sized fish. His sense of foreboding was confirmed as he spied a pair of pale feet that he recognised, poking out from under the ferns. (Lex)ander was instantly terrified. He cried out for Will, dropped to all fours, and scrambled into the undergrowth.
He could smell the blood and saw the torn and bloodied shirt. He licked his beloved friend’s face as he began to whimper his plea for Will to wake up, to be alright. He could feel the heartbeat but there was no response, and (Lex)ander knew there was only one thing he could do. He lifted his friend onto his shoulders and staggered down the track toward Skye and Brad’s cottage.
Brad was out chopping wood for the evening when he heard the distressed cries from the forest trail. He knew it must be the dark haired Ander, and that something must be terribly wrong for him to venture so far from home alone. He dropped his axe and made for the track and was only a few steps into the woods before he was faced with a horrendous picture.
Lexander was now covered in dirt and his friend’s blood, face streaked with tears and the limp body of his best friend draped over his shoulders.
(Lex)ander collapsed onto his knees as he saw Brad approach, but only when Brad relieved him of his burden did the new human truly begin to cry and gave in to old habits, following the wonderful carer on all fours.
Brad’s panicked call alerted Skye to the emergency and within minutes they were all on their way into the village.
The local doctor immediately realised the gravity of the injury and had an ambulance ordered to take the stricken human to the large training hospital in the nearest big town.
While they waited for the paramedics, the young GP was able to replace some of the blood loss via a catheter and stemmed the worst of the external blood flow. Without X-rays and a full surgery however, there was no way to treat the injury further. There was no exit wound but already severe bruising around the spine left little doubt as to where the bullet was lodged. What the doctor could not tell, however, was the extent of the associated internal injuries.
The police were called and took brief statements. A day later, two sets of hiking boot prints, a dropped lighter and several spent bullet casings were gathered. The local ‘prank shooters’ were now being sought for attempted murder – or at very least grievous bodily harm and assault with a lethal weapon. The investigating officers were rather shocked that there were drag marks and an attempt to hide the ‘body’ in the underbrush.
(Lex)ander and Skye travelled in the ambulance, while Brad drove behind in the old truck. Two hours after arriving at the hospital, the bullet that had been lodged against Will's spine had been removed, as had part of his small intestine, and several ruptured blood vessels were now repaired. The surgeons were hopeful, but his condition was still listed as critical.
When they were allowed to visit the ICU, the two lovely neighbours and (Lex)ander kept vigil by Will’s side.