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 smelt it first. He initially thought they must have left something burning in the hearth or that Skye had left something in the oven on her last visit. However it took only seconds to realize the smoke was something else. The forest was burning.
(Lex)ander instinctively howled his distress, waking Will who immediately began to cough, his loft already thick with the smell of burning. As Will descended from his sleeping space Brad’s old truck roared up the driveway, Skye barely waiting for him to pull on the handbrake before launching out and running toward the house.
She burst through the back door and immediately took the two now frightened men in her arms.
“My darlings, we will have to move fast – we’ll hose down your roof, fill the gutters with water and attach a sprinkler up there to the tank as best we can – but then you must come with us… Bring anything you want … but come quickly my loves, Brad is here to help too…”
Will climbed to his loft and rescued his favourite cushions, (Lex)ander retrieved his lead, a picture of he, Will and the Mage in their original forms, and his master’s favourite old jacket.
The mage and his partner urged Skye to the hole in the floor where his collection of precious stones were and she understood, lifted them from their hiding place and tucked them into her pocket.
Brad was already hosing down the roof and Will, confident with heights, climbed up and followed instructions – using the old tennis balls (Lex)ander so enjoyed playing with to stop the water flowing down the downpipe and leaving a channel of water all the way around. Brad then helped him to set an old soaker hose across to slowly drizzle water down from the apex of the roof. There were already embers falling, and certainly no guarantees that any of their actions would help.
(Lex)ander could hear the roar of sirens in the distance, but he and Skye focused on collecting up the terrified chickens and their goats, pushing them all rather roughly into a makeshift cage on the back of the truck – joining Brad and Skye’s own livestock. The two carers had rescued precious little from their own home before assisting ‘their boys’, but they simply hoped all would be well – they had to leave.
Tasks complete as best they could, Will and (Lex)ander piled into the back of the truck with the animals, including the cat and his brood. Wet towels were thrown over them before the truck sped away.
The sky was blazing red and the smoke so thick that it was all Brad could do to keep on the road. Twice they changed their route as huge flames loomed. Skye was openly crying by the time the town came into site, terrified for her boys and for them, but also devastated by the site of still burning logs and charred earth.
The town had not fared so well either. Thirteen homes on the outskirts had been either burned or damaged, and the local kindergarten burnt to the ground.
Brad headed for the Town Hall where he parked the truck, found water for the animals (from the public toilets’ hand basins!) then moved to volunteer his services to the local fire chief who had suddenly become the coordinator of nearly twenty crews plus almost fifty volunteers, now fifty two. As Brad approached the very athletic looking older man, he realized he had two shadows. Will and (Lex)ander flanked him on either side, ready to help.
The chief knew the boys, so addressed Brad very directly, “You OK with these two in the fight?”
“They’ll hold their own. Thought you needed helpers?”
“Can they understand instructions?”
“Of course. Long as it’s kept simple.”
“Right then, just keep ‘em with *you* – Jake back there’ll give you some coveralls, you’ll be on the cleanup – not at the front, but it’s still important to be careful. Aahhh geez… I forgot… Look I’m afraid we’re running out of…”
“Brought the stuff from home – rakes, shovels, axe, if that’s what you need. The boys are OK with those too.”
“Brilliant… Any extras – just share them around OK? Right then…” With that, the three were swiftly dismissed to find ‘Jake’ and their bright yellow garb. The two ex animals then followed their carer back to collect the tools from the truck – in the process Brad reported back to Skye.
She was frantic, but understood. Will was only just recovered, yet really could not let (Lex)ander go by himself, and all knew the danger. She kissed Brad passionately, made all of them promise to return safely and ‘not do anything stupid’, before watching tearfully as they alighted one of the fire trucks heading out to face the inferno that was now threatening not only their own homes, but the next village, farms and a huge amount of forest.
Skye busied herself with tending their terrified stock then went to assist in the town hall where sandwiches, tea and coffee were being provided not only for the fire fighters, but also for the families who had fled their homes. The atmosphere was sombre but the solidarity amongst those of the small community was absolute. People by and large knew each other – at least to greet, and those who did not soon found themselves amongst friends.
When most of the crews did not return that night, Skye ended up sitting holding hands in prayer with the lovely ice cream shop owner, Beth. The woman was grey with worry, her husband, son and teenaged daughter were all out with the fire crews. Though not particularly following Christian traditions herself, Skye believed strongly in a higher power – and the power of prayer so began.
“Blessed be our partners and children, *please* keep them safe! Watch over your two forest boys Will and Lex, and Brad, and Beth’s beloved John, Lara and Clint. And bless their compatriots who are also trying to save your land. Let you guide them and bring them safely home to us.”
Beth’s simple “Amen” was echoed around the room as other names were mentioned and more prayers offered.
The two women sat for many minutes in silence as an ancient television on the stage of the hall beamed images of the fire front and dire warnings regarding the predicted hot winds to come the following day. Eventually Skye returned to the truck to sleep in the front seat, curled up with only Will’s cushions and an old crocheted rug for comfort. She tried to meditate but exhaustion claimed her first and she slept until five, when three trucks entered the town, sirens blaring.
The wind had turned.
Will and (Lex)ander were both well equipped to fight the blaze. Will with his intimate knowledge of the forest, connection with the wildlife, and fast reaction time; (Lex)ander with his superb sense of smell and experience with the garden tools and digging. The fire chief need not have worried about the two boys – indeed it was their warning of the wind change that alerted all the crews.
The fought shoulder to shoulder just to the right of their carer whose dreadlocks were strapped back with an old piece of string, but bounced just a little as he turned to look over with pride at ‘his boys’.
Twice, early that evening he had been warned by Will of a falling branch, in the second instance, tackled to the ground by (Lex)ander apparently to get him out of the way, but as a rather naughty grin emerged and his was licked across the nose he realized, the boys were, in truth, just happy to be with him in the fight.
When the wind turned, however, the sprint to leave was a serious one. Though the fire was doubling back on itself, all the experienced fire fighters knew, there was plenty more to burn. Frantic calls to evacuate ensued, and the forest, sadly, abandoned in preference to saving their own lives.
Around seven in the morning, with black smoke blanketing the town and flames visible on the hills, Skye and Beth finally had their prayers answered as the last truck of tired fighters pulled into town. A tearful Skye waited while the crew bade a temporary farewell to their volunteers then moved to hug her three men close with relief that they were alive and reasonably well.
Will was obviously in pain, his grey demeanour indicating that a recently mended back did not take kindly to raking, or beating out flames with a wetted bag; Brad’s face and hands were burnt to the point of blistering, and (Lex)anders eyebrows, lashes and hair had all been singed at some stage. They were minor injuries and fairly typical of all the crews. It had been a hard eighteen hours.
Thankfully, a mere hour after the exhausted group entered the hall for some sustenance, they heard two helicopters, water bombers, fly low overhead.
It took a full week for the fire to burn itself out. A week of exhaustion and frustration, the latter mainly Will’s, as his back simply would not stand the physical needs of the job and he was relegated to ‘coffee duty’ by the end of the second day, whilst Skye donned his overalls and headed out with Brad and (Lex)ander.
But at the end of the time, they headed home with the animals. The coven had been burnt to the ground, Brad and Skye’s barn was a mangled form of blackened, twisted metal and coals, and the all the boys’ outbuildings were gone, but the two houses had survived. The forest was not so lucky and on their first night home, an exhausted Brad and Skye managed to shift to their spiritual forms