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.
(Lex)ander woke just before midnight to soft petting marked by a somewhat contented ‘Hoo’.
The ex dog’s normal reaction to realizing he was up so high would have been panic, but there were cushions all around, and the two they had their heads on were so amazingly soft he almost felt like he was back at his mother’s belly. So much so that when a finger enquired as to his consciousness, he began to suckle and paw at its owner, whimpering just a little and instinctively expecting milk, only come to full consciousness and find his wonderful Will grinning rather coyly.
It was wonderful but after only a few seconds (Lex)ander knew. The dear recovering Will was stroking him and being attentive, but the ex owl was in pain again, the ‘hoo’ing was just a little too strained, and the pretty face marred by closed eyes and furrowed brow. (Lex)ander surmised that it was the cost of climbing the stairs the previous night, so rolled over and began to attempt to massage his friend as he had seen Skye do so many times, but seemed to be failing as the careful attentions brought tears to the fore. But the minutes passed and as untutored hands rubbed and caressed, the ex-dog smelt a change in the tears, from pain to grateful relief. Then for the first time heard his friend say “Thank… yhooooo” before falling to sleep for a short while.
(Lex)ander lay still stroking his pretty friend for a time, but also felt the call of the ‘other’ world and the forest, a strangely similar to the feel when Brad called him early in the mornng these days. He knew Will was still fragile but slowly roused him an hour with tentative kisses and careful touches. They rose and made their careful way down the ladder.
As they alighted and he searched for his walking stick, Will felt it too.
The ex-dog saw the worry and offered a calm touch, deciding in that moment that there was a way that would not involve the dear recovering human any humiliation. “I want to carry you. Please?! Please Will let me carry you?! I miss it so much – you on my back, my hands on your beautiful behind, please let me do that… *please*”
Brown eyes met crystal blue and there was no further argument. The back door was left open as was their habit, and the pair advanced through the forest with the blonde astride his dark partner’s strong back – neither knowing what they were about to encounter.
The coven’s estate was heaving with all manner of creatures as (Lex)ander and Will approached, spilling out across the front yard and into the dirt road. Will, still on his friend’s sturdy back, hoo’ed encouragement as the normally shy ex-owl heard the head wiccan beginning the meeting. They pushed through to a position just outside the front door and Will was lowered to stand, with help, leaning against his wonderful friend. Only seconds later, two black cats – the female heavily pregnant - brushed against known legs affectionately, then used their now human friends for leverage to rise above the crowd, both sitting on (Lex)ander’s shoulder to take part in proceedings.
There were to be no guarantees. The human world seemed hell bent on wiping each other out. But there were some that had begun to make inroads, some who were self appointed guardians of Gaia and yet more who were simply good souls with a commitment to the earth. Without any formal connection, they simply tried to do ‘the right thing’. And now at the invitation of the coven some of those trusted humans were at the meeting – albeit wide eyed and seated rather nervously toward the back of a room filled with all manner of creatures.
The meeting settled, and to Brad’s surprise, it was one of the coven acolytes who stood to begin proceedings. The slight, cropped haired blonde could not have been more than sixteen, but spoke with complete confidence and took command of the room. When Brad looked over to the High Wiccan he understood, this one was the coven leader’s chosen successor, young enough that she might be groomed for the role and literally ‘grow into it’, though in his astral form Brad could feel her phenomenal magical power and could not help but wonder just how much ‘growth’ was needed.
“The High Wiccan Meredith and members of our coven thank you for coming. We accept that we have not always been on the best of terms.” She paused for a moment, and looked pointedly at two black cats lounging by the hearth, the ex-mage simply lifting his head for a moment to acknowledge the reference. “But we have chosen to convene this unique gathering for a specific purpose. Our forest is tinder dry – as is our land in general, yet storms in other regions are raging, we have had cold then hot, sleet and fires. In discussion with covens around the globe, they have similar issues and all are working to change the actions of humans toward Gaia, we strongly encourage you to do the same through all your contacts and networks. We *must* work to change this plunder of the land forever, but in the meantime – and for our small region, we put it to you… Our friends of the forest and the skies in this area will die without food and fresh water, we must provide at least that until the drought breaks. I open the floor to suggestions.”
The water was the most critical issue as the forest’s creek was not but a series of stagnant puddles in a deep cut in the earth, and many local dams were dangerously low (and farm owners not necessarily welcoming of wild intruders - reserving the water for their own stock).
As various options were discussed a rather unsteady, exhausted brunette carrying a smaller blonde, entered the back of the room. Several of the magical creatures close felt the prickle. The two humans were not as they seemed.
Brad saw the rather confused boys enter. Their motivation for attending, he knew, was the call of the magical community, but also knew that the two were the ultimate innocents. His astral form moved closer as (Lex)ander lowered Will to the ground then supported the ex owl as still unsteady legs and sore back adjusted to standing. In his dog form, Brad rubbed reassuringly against (Lex)ander’s leg and the ex-dog felt it. This was the alpha male, older wiser, stronger. In private he would have prostrated himself and submitted to their dear carer, the ‘top dog’, but for now he was still holding Will up by one arm, so bowed his head and dropped his gaze in respect to the ethereal dog.
Brad’s form was now fully manifested as canine in response to the magical influences of the room, so licked the hand reassuringly, the hand he had so often held as they walked through the village.
Neither Will nor (Lex)ander understood the incredible magical power in the room, but the ex-dog was so moved by the licking that he began to cry silently. The creatures who had followed Brad to the meeting all turned to observe two humans sinking to a seated position to accept the careful attentions of a spiritual dog, and were shocked to see flashes of human and animal forms in the two additions to their forum. Those who detected magic knew their signature as innocents, many with links to the village and forest felt the bizarre challenge that had been thrust upon the two, and looked quizzically toward the members of the covern.
Nevertheless, the meeting continued and finished amicably. All ‘friendly’ farms surrounding the forest region would have water for the wildlife placed at their borders contained in half drums normally reserved for fuel.
The human ‘activists’ had resolved to work with the covens and also already extended their network to more mainstream business, utilize the various larger lobby groups and media groups. Two of the humans present volunteered to write articles for local papers and several of the wiccan acolytes (still at university) volunteered to work with the humans to lobby the government.
The only completely surprising part of the exercise was that the local mayor (the Hon George Heath) ‘outed’ himself as a mage, and as a farmer, was hardly in need of an ‘update’. The balding but still quite handsome (according to his wife Jean) Mayor stood at the end of proceedings and pledged his *and the local council’s* support, plus the seeking of any other political ‘clout’ he could muster. He did not disappoint.
So it was settled. In addition to the water, grain would be placed at strategic positions every two days, and any needing fresh meat would have to find their way to four locations on every other day (though ‘Aunty’ Betty, retired teacher who lived at the southern edge kept breaking the rule and fed anyone needing meat on any day!)
The congregation departed for the most part, but the coven plus a few remained.
As was his habit, Will was asleep by the time the meeting ended having been forced awake by his friend so they might attend. After their arrival it had been mere minutes before Will simply snuggled into his friend’s side and fell into a light slumber again, and that was how the High Wiccan Meredith met them. Their two carers were still in astral form, (Lex)ander was on the floor with Will virtually in his lap, flanked by Brad and Skye and guarded at the front by the two cats.
The witch squatted down in front of the two men as brown eyes lifted and blue blinked slowly awake to meet her look of regret and apology. (Lex)ander nudged Will a little more and he nodded sleepily as she addressed them.
“I approach you brothers…. to apologise. We know you. Your signature is strong, and your reputation precedes you.” She nodded acknowledging Skye at that point, Will’s injury well known to all of them. “You were innocents – you *are* innocents… we had no idea when our anger manifested the spell… My dear owl and dog… I see your spirits as you truly are… but we cannot reverse what has been done. I am sorry. All we might do is to draw on our energies to return you to your natural state when you pass from this realm. I *am* sorry. But you will have at least each other in this life. I will have the coven work pray to the Powers and Gaia on your behalf. You will ultimately join your dear carers here in their nightly vigil for they too are changed.” Meredith nodded at Brad as dog then Skye in her owl form, “And for that we will always remain grateful.”
(Lex)ander looked a little puzzled but Will sat up properly at the proposal, smiled at his human cushion, his best friend, then turned his azure gaze on Meredith. She saw him surrounded by his owl aura clearly and gasped a little as the strength of it obviously enveloped his partner in a protective bubble before he began to speak.
“Hoooooommmm Please, Mistress hhooowee would like that very much I think.” Will looked to his friend – who was now gently rubbing the ex owl’s back as was his habit whenever Will was awake and in need of reassurance or comfort. (Lex)ander looked over at Brad’s astral form then simply nodded his agreement. He could not think of a nicer way to spend his next life than running with his father figure to do good.
Meredith smiled at the two and for the first time they saw the kindness and genuine care she spoke of reflected in her eyes. “So be it. Be well sons of Gaia, our coven will work for your growth and protection. We will ask the blessings of the goddess upon you, that you might find health and happiness in your current form and eternal happiness in the hereafter.”
She then turned to address the cats, “This coven no longer has an argument with either of you. Rather, we pledge any of yours protection that might join us. We thank you for braving this meeting as we recognize our differences have led to your change.”
The ex- mage stood, licked his pregnant again partner across the ear then moved to rub his body against the senior witch’s left leg very deliberately, first in one direction then the other, arching as he passed and raising his tail. She understood and his act required a promise.
“Your boys here will be looked after Mage, as will all your children should they need it. Be well.”
The group all rose and departed, old feuds resolved and new alliances established, but as they returned home, Brad and Skye to their true forms, Will to his loft and (Lex)ander his old master’s bed, a passing motorist flicked a cigarette from his window and the live embers found the tinder they needed.