By: Wynna PenDragon
Rating: PG, so far
Warnings: Slight OOC-ness, Original character
Summary: Set 5 years after ‘Not Fade Away’.
“You mean,” Buffy stepped closer, “You don’t remember anything?”
* * *
“That was an order Angel. I don’t believe that was up for discussion.”
* * *
“You are close to the learner, yes?”
* * *
“Guess it doesn’ really matter what ye want, does it?”
* * *
“How did you do it?!” Angel screamed, his face flushing with borrowed blood, “How can you walk outside?!”
* * *
“A force drain,” He finished, “Although I don’t understand why he’s being drained so slowly. A lesser man-“
* * *
There is no death, there is the force…
There is no death…
* * *
A not so long ago time, in a galaxy not so far away…
Meditation had always worked for Jedi Master Wyn-Udiin Fiori in times of peace, in times of war, in times of the utmost despair, and in times of severe emotional pain. He had always found a way to calm himself through meditation; he could release his overload of emotions into the Force, letting the unwanted feelings dissipate in the soothing recesses, to later address them at a time when he was better able to analyze them.
It was a common, yet very important form of Jedi training, although at this point in time, it was very hard to concentrate. His padawan was sick, in pain; literally having his life force sucked out of him by an agent of the sith, and there was nothing he could do about it. It was enough to drive him mad; he could hear his padawan’s agonized thoughts, could almost hear him calling out for help, which was something that his padawan would never do.
It was a torture two-fold for the Jedi pair, the master could not help his padawan in his time of need, could not heal him, could not even hold his hand through his anguish. Every chant of the Jedi Code brought him back to that darkened hallway again, to see his beloved padawan not only injured, but seemingly wasting away before his eyes. His anger and despair doubled, he felt that he should have known what had happened to his padawan, should have protected him better; he wasn’t used to feeling so helpless, yet there was nothing that he could do except wait and see what the healer would find out. It was only a matter of time, he knew, but it was time that he feared they did not have.
* * *
What Wyn-Udiin was experiencing was nothing compared to what Xander was feeling at that moment. He hated feeling so utterly helpless, he hadn’t felt that way in a very long time; nor was he used to feeling so close, so drawn to someone before. Sure, he felt lust like any other man would, that was easy, but to feel so totally focused on another? That had never happened to him before, Anya couldn’t even invoke such sentiment within him. To his utter astonishment, he felt this way for someone to whom he would have gladly rammed a stake through a few years ago. He was equally surprised that he didn’t do just that last night.
However, when their eyes locked, it felt that small movement had changed his life forever. It was like a light switching on in a darkened room, and everything disappeared for that one instant, except for the two of them. He was frozen in place, yet his mind whirled all around him; he could feel something forming, growing and taking shape. Though every time he tried to think of what exactly was going on within him, it slipped away like water through his fingers. Strangely enough, it was the same feeling he got every time Spike and he looked at each other over the years, especially the time they first met in the high school.
It must have been the eyes, they were the first thing that he focused on, beside the hair that is. They were the deepest cerulean blue, the color of the ocean, the only spot of color on him beside the blood-red shirt, everything else was either pale ivory or black. Those eyes were ancient, they stripped him bare, they had seen so much.
Too much, one would say.
No one was entirely sure that Will was the vampire that they all knew and tolerated, no one but Xander. The Jedi’s face may have been solemn, his manner serene and calm, so unlike their Spike. One look into those blues though, and Xander was convinced. To hear that the man had absolutely no memory of anyone made being around him slightly easier. He couldn’t help the feeling of protectiveness that washed over him as he saw Will’s crumpled form on the floor, nor the pure rage as he saw who caused it. He reacted without thinking, drawing the stake from his waistband, which became a habit of his to carry the deadly piece of wood with him wherever he went.
The fact that it was around the same time Angel showed up wasn’t purely coincidental.
He jumped as the first few chords of ‘Single Ladies’ started to play, effectively disturbing the tense silence of the hallway. He took his cell phone out of his pocket and noticed it was Buffy’s name on the screen; of course it would be her, he wouldn’t have that as his main ringtone…no way. He looked up to see both of the Jedi staring at him, he blushed as he stood, “I…better take this.” He walked a little further down the hallway and ducked into an empty room.
“Hello?” He listened for her voice, but only heard a muffled sound. His brow furrowed, “Buffy?”
He heard a shuddering breath, “They’re gone.”
“Who?” Xander started to have a bad feeling, a tremor in his gut.
“All of them. Everyone we deployed to Japan. Ain-Lee, Setsu, they’re all gone. No traces.”
Xander slumped down against the wall, resting his head against it with a thump.
“I think they’re dead, Xan.” She sobbed.
* * *
Freya sat quietly beside Jedi Master Fiori, barely containing her nervous energy. Her lekku, the twin headtails that extended from the back of her head, quivered slightly in agitation. She desperately wanted to discuss the recent developments with Master Fiori, but she couldn’t bring herself to disturb the clearly distressed Jedi. This mission seemed to be going downhill at an alarming rate, she had never seen her friend Will so ill, he seemed so relentless, to be downed so easily worried her. Master Fiori, no matter how much he hid his emotions, couldn’t hide how panicked he was from her. It was eddying off of him in waves, clouding the hallway, affecting not only herself but the other man across from her.
Her head cocked to the side as she studied the human male, she could see how sensitive he was to the Force, could already see the thread connecting him to the Jedi in the other room. Whether or not either of them could feel it, she couldn’t say. Although, and she would never say it out loud, it may be the beginning of an altogether different bond than she was thinking of; more than just a mere training bond. If that was the case, she couldn’t be happier for her friend, if not a little jealous, he needed someone similar to himself to be with.
She knew how lonely it was, being different.
Even though they were Jedi, something that set them far apart from others, Will and Freya shared a common bond in which they weren’t entirely human. She wasn’t sure if Will knew what he truly was, and maybe that was all for the better.
She wouldn’t want to be a vampire.
When she had first met the duo, she had no idea what he truly was, and how brave Master Fiori was to undergo his training. Only through the grapevine of other padawans did she find out the truth about her friend. She took the liberty to research about her friend’s supposed homeland, the Gamorrean slavers weren’t that far from the Terra system when they were discovered by Master Fiori, and the seemingly young man was brought to the Jedi for training. To her surprise, she found a well of information about the planet Terra. The planet was discovered centuries ago, two light years away from the Outer Rim, by a crew escaping a rather nasty brawl; the information was relayed to a nearby planet who then contacted the Republic. The senate saw no reason to interfere with a new solar system light years away, but the Jedi saw potential. They foresaw a place of peace, a spot of light in an otherwise dark galaxy. A group of Jedi were sent, to colonize and to find Force Sensitives.
However, they were not exactly ready for what they found on the temperate planet. For what monstrous secrets the beautiful planet had hid, the Jedi had rarely seen before. It was the dark power they could sense seething under the beautiful veneer they found alarming, the demons that took pleasure in carnage and waste, and the people too helpless to fight. They decided to work undercover to rid these monsters from Terra, although it was bothersome, it was better than the alternative. People feared what they didn’t understand, and they knew by experience that many did not understand the Jedi.
They very seldom used their power, were very careful of initiating others, and very seldom wore their Jedi robes and lightsabers in public. They came upon a fairly large village surrounded by a lush forest, the place seemed so peaceful that the Jedi felt as though this would be the perfect place to start looking for Force Sensitives. They visited the village every day, helping out where they could, and the villagers started to trust them more and more each day. They told them stories of a few of their people disappearing each night, only to return the next morning on the outskirts of town, their dead bodies drained of blood. They had sent their best warriors to find and kill these foul creatures before they struck again, only to receive the same results. The Jedi promised to help them, it was only the right thing to do, so they split up into separate teams and left the village.
They found nothing.
There was no trace, no inkling in the Force that lead them to their target. Every time they got a few steps closer, they ended up just feeling the same malevolent evil that greeted them when they first landed, every living thing was saturated with it. The day grew long, and soon it became night, still no clues. They decided to camp that night in the woods just outside of the village, and try again in the morning.
The morning dawned, and all was quiet. The Jedi awoke with a feeling of dread they had not experienced since settling on Terra. The day was cold and the sky was dark, if there were any animals around, they made no sound. They immediately thought of the beings under their care, and raced back to the village.
What they found had shocked and horrified them.
They came upon a carnage the likes of which only a few of the Jedi had seen, those who had been in wars, yet still the sight had haunted them. Bodies littered the ground, cold and lifeless, the ground ran with blood. Men, women, and children, all young and old, were slaughtered without reason. Only blackened skeletons remained of their homes, smoldering in the cold and cloudy air. Anything of value was taken, including livestock to be later butchered when there wasn’t fresh blood available.
The villagers brave or desperate enough to fight back were dismembered, their parts hung on crude pikes as a warning to the Jedi, to those that would oppose them; the smell was abominable, like a film coating the inside of their nostrils and mouths.
Through their grief they burned what they could, their hands soon stained with fetid blood. They worked until sundown, until they couldn’t bear to see the massacre any longer. When the sun dipped just under the horizon, they were finished with their funereal customs. They vowed to hunt down the criminals responsible.
They were attacked that very night.
From out of the ground, the creatures burst, contorted ghastly forms with beastly intent. The Jedi sensed their arrival an instant before they came, drawing forth their lightsabers and calling upon the force for assistance. The creatures came in droves, too many to count, and difficult to destroy. When one would fall, another would come to take its place. They attacked without any mercy; some without any thought at all, so great was their hunger.
Only a few survived, and they never returned to Terra.
“Until now,” Freya thought. If Xander truly knew her friend, he must have known exactly what he was, and yet he didn’t seem to fear either Will or…the other one. She was presently surprised how the young human male stood up to the other vampire, without any concern for himself if he were to be attacked. Her cheek still stung from when he hit her, even after she Force-healed herself. She brought her knee up and rested her elbow on it as she absently rubbed her cheek, observing the strange ritual Xander was doing. He’d look off into space, bounce his knee, look at the door of the infirmary, check his timepiece, and then would do it all over again.
Check the time.
Freya wondered how he would act when the two of them actually bonded fully. It was like he couldn’t stand to be this far away from Will, only a few minutes had gone by, although she could understand his urgency. She felt the same way, Will had always seemed to incite such feelings in others, even perfect strangers. Although Xander seemed to know him a little more than he let on, but she could easily see the familiarity. Whether that was a good thing or not, Freya couldn’t say. It wasn’t the right time to mention the bond, she knew, for she didn’t know how long it had been there; it felt like it was already formed when they landed. It would explain Will’s behavior over the years, her friend seemed…less than himself, even more so without his memories. She could easily see that only after ten years that he was going to become a knight, it had taken many more Jedi longer than that, studying and training had become his life, there was nothing in his life to focus on other than that.
Some part of her questioned why the Council decided to help him cure himself of his…allergies, and train him, but not restore his lost memories. It would have made things a lot easier for Will in the long run. Though, on second thought, it could have made him remember what he had lost, who he had lost. Ever since she knew him, he was so quiet, and aura of sadness clouding around him. No matter how much he smiled, or laughed, it never reached his eyes; he was haunted, she wanted to find the person or thing that hurt him that badly and-
No, she wasn’t going to go down that road yet again. She guessed that when it came to Will, and his master, she became so protective of them both that she would easily kill to spare them any pain; that kind of thinking could lead to the dark side if she let it, even though it would have been fraught with the best of intentions. She shrugged, the Council had their reasons for what they did, they wouldn’t be the leaders of the Jedi otherwise, however she just couldn’t agree with their reasoning to leave Will in the state that they did. He was a good man, kind and compassionate, with a dry and sarcastic wit. He could sit and listen for hours, and would give her honest and helpful advice. Even though he was brutally honest at times, she couldn’t stay angry with him, he made it so easy for her to forgive and talk to him.
He made it so easy to fall in love with him.
She colored slightly, looking over at Wyn-Udiin, and turned away quickly. Everyone knew of her feelings for Will, she suspected that Will did as well and as such couldn’t fault him for not saying anything, though no one knew of her feelings for his master. What she felt for Will was like a young girl’s fleeting crush compared to how she felt about Wyn-Udiin. She supposed that it would not be a good decision to accept him as her new master, it would only lead to heartache for them both, though something kept her from straying, it was like the Force was pushing them together in some fashion.
Only time would give her answers.
* * *
The sky darkened and a cool, gentle breeze wafted through the moors, rain beginning to patter against the pane glass windows. The fresh sent revitalized the young witch, she would need the energy for what she was about to undertake. Willow lit candles in the room instead of flipping on the lights, it would be gentler on Will’s eyes, illuminating the room with a golden glow. She burned a bundle of sage around the room, lending a calming sent for relaxation and purification, she decided against using any kind of drug as she didn’t know what his system could handle. She sighed as she brushed back a chestnut curl from his sweaty forehead, stroking a cool cloth over his fevered skin. In the time it took her to get everything ready, the grey veins had appeared and disappeared more times than she was comfortable with. He was weaker than a kitten, staring blindly at the ceiling through hooded eyes. His breath, in an attempt to ease the pain he was in, wheezed through dry and cracked lips. Her white cloth soon became stained a dull, rust color from wiping the blood that welled.
She put the cloth into the bowl that rested beside her, only a small flicker of movement from his eyes let her know that he was still aware. She picked up a vial of amber oil, rubbing it slowly between her palms to warm it, “This oil is called Persephone’s Tear, it will put you in a state of limbo while enabling me to enter your mind. It’ll act as a pretty strong shield, letting only me in and pushing out anyone that’s in there that shouldn’t be in there. It’ll also numb the hell outta ya, so you’ll probably feel a bit groggy once it wears off.” At his blink, which she took as understanding, she uncorked the bottle; a pleasant aroma of sandalwood, cloves, and other herbs permeated the room. She could instantly tell a difference in Will, he stopped breathing entirely, his muscles relaxing. She dabbed the oil on each of his temples, doing the same to herself, smiling faintly as it glowed and spread over the skin.
“So far, so good,” She thought. She took a breath, sending a prayer to the Goddess, and put both hands on each side of his head. She could feel herself sinking, as if she were swimming, everything else around them faded away. Her eyes slipped shut.
The room warmed, and she opened her eyes to find herself in the middle of a lush garden. The sun was bright, warm as it filtered through the leaves. Birds of all kinds and colors, some she had never seen before, flitted from branch to branch, filling the air with cheerful song. Small, furry animals scampered from shady areas to bask in the sunlight, climbing trees. The air was fresh and sweet smelling, and as she looked up, she could see a large, golden and shimmering dome above them.
She stared for a minute, her mind boggling from the sight, then turned and caught sight of a figure kneeling in the middle of the clearing, and immediately recognizing the scar over his eyebrow. “Spike? Is that you?” She asked out loud, startling some birds gathered in a nearby branch, and the figure sighed. He opened his eyes and looked over at her, his serene expression and liquid blue eyes stunning her to silence.
He half-smiled, “What is it that I can do for you, Lady?”
Her eyes widened, if he sounded like Spike, and looked like Spike, he must be- “Spike? Is that really you?”
His grin widened, “Why ask questions to which you already know the answers to?”
She sighed in frustration, “I’m trying to help you, ya know. The least you could do is answer my question.”
His lips thinned, “Yes and no. Yes I am the Spike you used to know, and no, I’m not the Spike you used to know. Ten years have gone by, you think that hasn’t changed me at least somewhat? The years have certainly changed you, dove. Course, we are just in my head, I could be communing with a rabbit as far as I know.”
She boggled, “Ten years? Did you hit your head earlier? It’s been six years since I have seen you, and five years since Angel last saw you.”
He grinned again, and this time she could see the little points of his incisors, “We are separated by at least two light years. In your galaxy, it has been five years since I have been in contact with anyone I once knew. From where I have been, ten years have passed. That’s the simplified answer, I could go into astrophysics and time measurements in regards to light years, but we will be here for much longer than you already have.”
She kneeled across from him and digested that information, “Do you foresee me dying?”
He stared at her for a moment, and then snorted. It was the first Spike-ism that she had seen apart from the smirk, “No you ninny. Of course you will die before me, that goes without saying. I was just remarking that it would take a while to explain fully why it has been so long. Time is rapidly falling away from us, darkness is approaching…” He trailed off with a faraway look in his eyes.
She spoke softly to not alarm him, if it was the only way she could get her answers, she’d take it, “What do you see, Spike?”
His eyelids fluttered closed and took a deep breath through his nose, finally opening his eyes, “Darkness is always approaching, little tree. Without light, there is no darkness, and without darkness, there is no light. We skate through the in-between, always searching, seldom finding. Half the time we don’t even know what we are looking for.” He stared at her for a moment, then cocked his head to the side, “You are searching for something, are you not?”
She shrugged, slightly unnerved by his focused attention on her, “We’re all searching for something, but this time, it’s something in which I am going to need your help to find. I entered your mind to figure out what was making you so ill. It looked like someone was-“
“It’s a type of force-drain. The person doing so is inflicted with a rare type of a force-affliction, which happens from time to time. In the lives that the Jedi lead, they make enemies which will find horrible ways in which to exact their revenge, striking when one is at their weakest.” He shrugged, “It is my guess that at the time I was not properly shielded, and whoever it was that was following us, took that moment to strike. He attempted a force-drain, tried to steal my energy to sustain his life, and in so doing affected me with his ailment.”
Willow’s brow furrowed, “How do we stop it?”
He stood and said quietly, “Break the connection.”
She scrambled to stand as well, “How though? For one thing, I have no idea-“ She was stopped as he gave a shudder, bringing his hands to his temples. She put a hand on his arm, “Are you going to be alright?”
He took a deep breath, shaking himself a little to get himself back into control, then he turned to face her, looking very weary, “If you don’t break the connection, I will die.” At her questioning look, he motioned her to follow him, leading her through a small copse of carefully tended trees. Before them was a shimmering, transparent golden wall, small ripples as they approached distorted the image kept behind the curtain. She stepped closer, her hands outstretched to feel it, and felt warm tingles extending up her arms, “What is this?” She said with wonder.
She looked over at him as he stepped up to the curtain beside her, “It is a shield, my lady, blocking my mind from what is happening to my body.”
“So the Jedi teach you this sort of thing?”
He nodded, “Yes they do. It helps with any situation, equally as handy of one or the other gets caught and is tortured.” He held up his hand, gently stroking the curtain, making slight ripples, “I however, am not powering this shield.”
She turned to face him in surprise, “Then who is?”
He smiled softly, the curtain glowing suddenly, illuminating his face, “You call him Xander.”
* * *
He wished that he could help her, comfort her in her time of grief, but nothing he could say or do would help her. He sighed, shoulders slumping as he stared at the floor, “I’m sorry Buffy.”
He could her sniff, pulling herself together, “I am too. It was just my panic talking, I’m sure they vacated the place because they were being watched or something. Like I taught them to do.”
“You trained them very well, Buffy, I’m sure they are just in hiding or trying to get back over here.” He said tonelessly. He knew what it meant, whatever it was that was coming, was already here. Everything happened so fast; the prophecy, the arrival of the Jedi, Will getting sick, mention of a Sith, now this…it was all too much of a coincidence for Xander. He looked out the window, at the rain pattering softly on the glass, wishing he was anywhere but in a dusty room talking to Buffy, he wished he was with Will…
He was slightly disappointed in himself for feeling like that; but his mind, and if he was honest with himself, his heart was down the hallway. The last thing he wanted to do was calm Buffy down yet again, these things happened all the time, girls disappeared all the time, and Buffy falling to pieces every time it happened without figuring out the reason why was starting to grate on him. They never chose to be called; it was Willow’s magic that did it, something else that wasn’t discussed fully beforehand. He understood that it was the only way to beat the First, but they never realized the ramifications of their actions, Willow never used to bother. If the girls wanted back with their families instead of dying for what seemed now as a vain cause, then so be it.
After what seemed as a long stretch of silence he sighed again, “Buffy I really need to go, some things have come up. They are fine, just look for some clues, they will probably lead you to where they are, ok?”
“O-Ok. Is everything ok over there?”
“Minor hiccup. Nothing that can’t be fixed, but fix it I must. So I will hear from you later?”
“Yeah, I’ll call back later.” She was quiet, but he could hear rustling over the phone, she must be on the prowl already for clues. He smirked, “Bye Buff.”
A slight click and silence signaled the end of the call, and he flipped his phone closed. He rested his head on the wall and swallowed past the lump in his throat, feeling a slight buzz in the back of his head. It wasn’t anything malignant, but a feeling he had woke up with and was dealing with the entire day. It seemed to be getting a little stronger, his scalp slightly tingling.
“…Xander.” He jumped a little, looking around him at the empty room, his eyebrows jumping to his hairline, “H-Hello?”
* * *
“But how is Xander doing this? Don’t you two hate each other?”
He shook his head, “I can’t really explain it. It was there when I woke up in the Jedi Temple, and has been there for years.”
“The bond.” He said quietly, still stroking the curtain, “It’s like a slight buzz in the back of my head, sometimes its strong, making my scalp itch, and at others, the bond feels like a…soothing balm. I guess it depends on his and my moods.”
She shook her head, “How are you so sure that its Xander? It could be any one, it could be your master.”
He snorted, “My master feels very different compared to this… I knew it was him when we met last night, he felt… We spoke on this for some time; it is definitely someone else, an unfinished bond that has been there for some time. My master has advised me not to pursue it until my memories are restored. Believe you me, it has caused me a fair amount of frustration.” The cultured voice trembled slightly, and she could see how this conversation was affecting him. He didn’t like talking about the bond with what seemed a complete stranger, this she understood and resolved to talk about this with his master the next chance he got. She didn’t like things being kept from Xander, even if it was for both of their well-being. Her best friend had been very different since Sunnydale, losing so many close people would do that to a person, but she knew it was more than that. Now that she had some clue, she wasn’t going to just let it lie.
“So…the Jedi just trained you, you being memory-less?”
He shrugged, “I was strong in the force, my master wanted to restore my memories, but he could have inadvertently erased something important, or put something in there that shouldn’t be. Also, he could have broken the bond, and there was no telling what that would have done to me. You can’t just reprogram someone. I’m not a machine.”
“So they just have to come back naturally?”
He nodded, “My master brought us here for that reason. It is part of my Jedi Trials, for my knighthood. If I am surrounded with familiar things, people, places, it may restore what was lost to me.”
She put her hand on his outstretched arm, he turned to face her, “I’ll try my best to help you.”
He grinned, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
She felt a pull behind her belly, signifying that her time there was drawing to a close. Her brow furrowed, “Will your master know how to break the connection? Now that we know what is going on? Will it hurt you more?”
“My master will know, he wouldn’t be a master otherwise, especially now that we know what is going on and what is happening. Yes, it will hurt, a lot; but nothing that I haven’t already been through. May the force be with you, healer.”
She smiled, “May the force be with you too, Spike.”
* * *
She could feel herself pulling back gently, the connection fading away as she opened her eyes and pulled back. She felt tired, a little achy from being hunched over Spike’s body for what seemed like hours, just disoriented enough to see trails left behind as she moved her eyes. All in all, she supposed it was a success, she learned a lot of information. She sighed, closing her eyes to let the dizziness fade, then walked to the door, opening it she said, “Master Fiori? I believe we found the problem.”
The master looked up in relief as he followed her into the room, motioning for Freya to follow. The young twi’lek women looked down the hallway in concern, but followed him into the room. They sat at each side of Will’s bed, each taking a slightly clammy hand. Freya brushed back Will’s hair gently, Wyn-Udiin looked on in concern for his padawan before turning to Willow, speaking softly, “What did you find out? What happened to my padawan?”
Willow folded her hands in front of her, “It’s what I believe is a force-drain, coupled with a force-affliction. At least that was what I was told.”
His dark brows drew together, “You were told? By whom, may I ask?”
She smiled, and gestured to Will, “He told me. Somehow he has been shielded, so that whatever or whomever is attacking him will not reach his mind. He was able to diagnose what happened, at least a little before I had to leave his mind. He said that we had to break the connection to his attacker, then we will be able to heal the force-affliction he is under. I believe that you,” She indicated the Jedi master, “Will be able to break the connection. If you would be able to help me try and come up with something that could break down the force-affliction, I think he’ll be ok.”
He blinked, “Ok.” He looked back at his padawan, frowning again, “You said he had been shielded from the affliction, the shielding wasn’t his own?”
She shook her head, “No, and that’s all I will say on that matter for now, and it’s nothing that can harm him. However, you are going to need to work with whoever else is in there protecting him for this to be able to work.”
He nodded, “Of course. I have an idea of what is going on, I will do anything to ensure my padawan’s welfare.”
She nodded, “I have a couple of things I need to get, to come up with a cure, I’ll leave you to prepare for what you need to do.” With that, she turned and left the room.
Wyn-Udiin stared at Will for minute, concern and a slight trace of fear marring his pale features. His eyes flicked to Freya and back to Will, “Freya, I need you to stay with Xander. This is something that will require his assistance.”
She frowned, but stayed silent as she let go of Will’s hand, and quickly left the room to search for the dark-haired man. She stopped outside the room, closing her eyes as she searched the force for his life force, opening them as she sensed him just down the hallway alone in an empty room. It was quiet in the hallway, her footsteps making no sound as she slowly stepped to the room. She leaned slowly into the doorway, her head and left side entering the room. She spotted him sitting on the floor, his back against the wall, his eyes closed. He looked…at peace. She smiled slightly and joined him on the floor, her hands folded neatly in her lap. After a few moments of companionable silence, they opened their eyes and faced each other, she smiled kindly at him, “We need you in the infirmary. We are going to attempt to heal Will.”
He frowned slightly, “And you need me? What am I going to do?”
She studied him for a long moment, long enough to make Xander want to squirm, “I was sent to retrieve you, not question Master Fiori’s reasons in doing so. Join us or no, it is your choice. I leave you to your decision.” With that, she stood and bowed respectfully, leaving the room soon after.
Feeling distinctly as if he failed some test, he rubbed the bridge of his nose. The buzzing was back, stronger now, and he was starting to feel restless. He stood, looking one last time at the dark room and then followed the Jedi padawan into the infirmary.
He joined the Jedi at Will’s beside, sitting there quietly for a moment until he couldn’t take the tension in the room, taking Will’s other hand into his own. “What do you need me to do?”
He started as he felt a hand on his shoulder, looking up into the Jedi Master’s kind eyes, the man smiled slightly and said, “Just concentrate on Will, and focus on the… buzzing inside your mind. Let the force guide your actions, you will know what to do when the time comes.”
Xander’s eyes widened, looking back in panic at Will’s shivering form, “But what if-“
“Don’t let doubt cloud your mind. You have done very well so far,” Xander looked up again as he felt a gentle squeeze, “I owe you so much, he would have died without your help.”
“You have been shielding him this entire time, Xander,” Willow said. She held up a hand as he opened his mouth to speak, “I don’t know how or when it happened. We gathered that the…bond has been there for a very long time, before Sunnydale imploded.”
Xander’s eyes widened, and he turned back to Will, “Let’s get on with this then. The sooner he’s healed, the sooner we can concentrate on who it is that did this.”
Freya stood and walked across the room to assist Willow in formulating a cure for the affliction. Master Fiori took his place on the other side of Will, moving his right hand above his padawan’s forehead, closing his eyes. He breathed deeply, the energy around the bed crackling infinitesimally. Xander shuddered in response, the buzzing in the back of his head growing more with every exhalation. Sweat beaded on his brow, his hands clenching in almost pain.
When he felt as if he couldn’t take it anymore, he felt an answering brush in his mind. A soothing balm flooded his link to Will, and he sighed. He wasn’t sure if this was the bond they were talking about, or if he was going crazy, but this was the first time he felt completely at ease with himself for a very long time. It was a relief, felt like the cool breezes rolling off the shore when he actually got a chance to go to the beach outside Sunnydale. He didn’t feel as his eyes slipped closed, or wrapping his hand around Will’s limp one, all he knew was the feeling across their bond.
* * *
Wyn-Udiin could feel himself sinking into his padawan’s mind, it was a feeling unlike any he had ever experienced before. When once it was comforting, now it felt as though he was walking through broken glass barefoot. All he could see was fire surrounding his astral form, all he could feel was a bone-deep cold, and he knew he was embroiled in the affliction burning through his padawan’s body, deep in the connection formed by his charge’s attacker.
Through the fire, he could see silvery threads criss-crossing each other like a spider’s web; he knew them to be the connections formed between his padawan and the multitude of people he had met throughout his life. Many were fractured, representing the lost memories of those people. If he had entered his padawan’s mind when he was fully whole, there would have been fleeting images of those people, now only shadows remained. He caught something glimmering out of the corner of his vision, and turning he saw the bond with Xander, glowing strong and healthy, though not fully formed.
He wondered what it would look like once it was, then pushed that thought away for another time when he wasn’t battling for his padawan’s life. It was time to figure out who was doing this and why, the only way was to travel this path to the attacker, then sever it completely. It took nearly no time at all before he found the window to the other's mind.
He drew back a little, and grabbed the thread; it struggled as if a living thing, an oily snake reaching out with negative energy as it felt itself in the Light’s grasp. It pulsated to the beat of Wyn-Udiin’s heart, already trying to infect him as well, it was sloppy of the attacker to try to attempt a second connection to him, he must be desperate by now; Wyn-Udiin called upon the force to strengthen his shields as he pulled the thread taught. Vaguely, he could hear heavy breathing, and Will thrashing on the bed, he hoped that his padawan would not have to go through this much longer.
* * *
Freya turned as she heard a small sound behind her, a bitten off groan of pain, only stopping as she felt a gentle hand on her arm. “They will be fine, Freya. Whoever is doing this is just trying to wring what little energy that Will has left; they can feel them trying to break the connection. I need you to help me with this.”
She turned back to the table, seeing a bunch of powders, herbs and beakers over open flame, “What is it that you need me to do? What is all this?”
“It’s a potion to cure Will’s illness. What I gathered from what was described to me by Will’s master of the force-affliction; it’s like an infection, specifically targeting the midichlorians in his body, the cells that enable you to call upon the force…what makes you force sensitive. The force-affliction latches on to the midichlorians and cells in the body, effectively poisoning the cells. The attacker is not only inflicting him with this disease, he’s also draining Will, taking what little energy he has. Now since the attacker is infected as well, the connection between the two is making Will feel the same thing as the attacker; i.e. hot and cold flashes, heart palpitations, weakness, body aches, where Will would not normally feel those things. Since Will has an accelerated healing factor, the force-affliction is given a boost; he’s basically a rechargeable battery. This potion will cleanse Will’s body of the disease, while his master cleanses his mind.” Willow turned back to Freya to see the other woman blinking a little, in a daze. The young witch smiled, “Sorry, Willow-babble takes some time to get used to.”
Freya smiled, “You should see me explaining hyper-space propulsions.”
* * *
What was once an itch in the back of his mind soon turned into a warm, throbbing ache. He could hear whispering, too low for him to hear clearly, and every time he tried to concentrate on what was being said, the whispering faded away. Every now and then, Xander experienced a short flash of pain, quickly stifled. He couldn’t open his eyes, couldn’t speak, he could barely hear anything except what was happening in the bed he was currently sitting beside.
It suddenly felt like too much was happening at once, pressure started to build steadily in his mind. He wanted to shake it loose, dissipate it in some way, it was starting to get painful. His heart speeded; sweat broke out on his forehead, and he started to feel hot and cold flashes. Whatever, or whomever, was doing this, was starting to lash out at him as well. He realized just what a prime target he was, suddenly wanted this little excursion into the weird to be done and over with. He grabbed Will’s hand tighter, the fine-boned hand became an outlet for the pain he was feeling, an anchor in reality when he was starting to feel everything spin out of control.
He heard a high-pitched whine, saw a blinding light behind his lids, which started to grow in volume and brilliance. He suddenly felt as if he couldn’t breathe, warmth suffused his being; he was slowly slipping away…
“Xander.” The softly accented whisper in his mind brought back his focus, his shields slammed back into place; he was suffused with a bolt of energy, and focused all his might against the negative force attacking Will. He felt that connection snap apart with another burst of energy, and his eyes flew open to witness Wyn-Udiin’s chair flying back against the wall, his head cracking sharply against it. He shook his head, looking a little pale, waving Freya away with a hand, “I’m fine, padawan. Just a little too much power than I was ready for.” His gaze warily flicked to Xander then back to Freya. She looked over at Xander as well, both of them knowing full well it wasn’t the Jedi master who destroyed the connection. If she wasn’t a Jedi, she would be very afraid right now.
* * *
“There. Done.” Willow said with a brilliant smile, holding it up to the light, the sun glinted through the amber liquid.
“How is it administered?”
Willow handed the vial over to Wyn-Udiin, “The whole vial in warm water, I don’t want to take any chances; with Will’s...DNA, it’s going to take a lot to burn the disease out of his system, and like Persephone’s Tear, he’s going to be very groggy when he wakes. Also, someone is going to have to stay with him, it’s hallucinogenic.”
“I’ll stay with him,” Xander said quietly, gazing at Will with a hint of surprise and wonder, “I’ll let you know when he wakes up.”
Freya stifled the Jedi master’s protestation with a hand on his shoulder, casting a significant glance at the other two. Wyn-Udiin watched the two, how Will’s head had turned toward Xander, how absorbed the young man was in his padawan’s well-being. He sighed, the road ahead for them will be long, arduous, and full of conflict; however, as he looked upon the fidelity apparent in the young man’s eyes, it would only be a matter of time before the two became a Bonded Pair, and no amount of his interfering until the time was right for them will stop their course of action.
He closed his eyes, he will have to start the distancing process with his padawan, there was no time like the start, “Freya and I will go to the ship, it has been a while since we checked on it, and I fear the worst now. No one should have known that we were coming here, except for the Jedi Council. No one should have known where we are on the planet in any case; I believe my padawan was right; we were sabotaged from the middle of the beginning. We must find out why.”
* * *
The two Jedi were quiet as they walked back to their ship, their rhythmic footsteps the only sounds after the quiet rainfall, the daylight faded into a soft twilight. The young twi’lek adjusted the brown hood of her cloak, the chill from this part of the planet slightly irritated the skin of her head-tails, “This is an interesting planet, master.” She knew it was a horrible attempt at conversation after what just had taken place, but she felt she needed to fill the tense silence in some way.
Nevertheless, it got him to smile a little, she refused to call it a smirk, “It would seem so, Freya. You will find that soon this planet will seem less interesting in comparison to others.”
“You and Will have traveled far, I take it?”
The Jedi master nodded, “We have. Ten years, and near constant missions. This, I would consider a vacation if not for the Sith and the attack.” He cocked his head, considering, “For example, there was a planet devoid of shrimp.”
“Shrimp. Swimming, decapod crustaceans, and they are found in both salt and fresh water. They live in schools, a prime target and major food source of larger animals. They are resistant against pollutants and are farmed for humanoid consumption.”
She stopped and stared after him, he walked a couple spaces before realizing he went ahead without her. He turned and shot her a questioning look. She drew close, inspecting the Jedi Master carefully, “Just making sure you are…you.”
He blinked, and then shook his head, “I think…I think that energy surge knocked something…loose. Doesn’t matter anyway, we need to get to the ship.”
“Right back to business…” She thought as she watched him walk up the ramp. She followed him to find him standing stiffly still in the main hold, the only clear sign of any emotion was the slight thinning of his lips. She looked past him to the carnage displayed before them. Wires were strewn about, lights flickered brokenly, sparks shot from every electrical system. Their main navigation-security computer was completely destroyed. Her shoulders slumped, if there were any reason they had to leave the planet, it would not be for a long time, if at all on this ship.
“What more could they have done?” She asked in a breath. She couldn’t fathom the purpose behind this action, this thoughtless vandalism. They proceeded to start clearing up the damage, using the force to protect themselves from the destructive sparks.
“Anything.” He answered, “They have us at a disadvantage now. We are now forced to trust the people we met here last night, we do not know anyone on this planet, and we do not know the customs. They think they have successfully cut us off, forcing us to go to ground, to stay with the first people we met. They know where we are, and if we happen to leave, they’ll know how to find us.” They worked in silence for a long stretch of time, working their way to the infirmary, where the most concentrated damage could be seen.
She frowned, “But how?”
He looked at her over his shoulder, anger icing his blue eyes, “The Sith are not acting alone.”
She paled and nodded, looking away as she scanned the room, “One of the humans we met is working for the Sith.” The cabinets were open, some of the doors hanging on one hinge, various bottles and vials strewn about over every surface. Five long, crisscrossing gashes ripped almost every surface, the examination table could barely be distinguished from the rest of the wreckage save for the light that used to be bolted above, now dangling, the light shattered.
He shook his head and started to clear the small counter space, careful to not touch the mingled chemicals. He nodded, “All we need to figure out is who. Who would gain from this, or who would have a motive?”
Freya moved some debris from a nearby bolted chair, “They all know our Will… that much is true. That Andrew-fellow… he seemed happy to see him.”
“Mmm…but it could have been an act. His exuberance could have been a carefully rehearsed performance to blind us to his secret agenda.” He tried to shut a hanging door, only to have it creak dangerously then clattering to the floor. He studied it, and then shrugged, kicking it to one side where all the rubble seemed to be ending up.
She made a face, gathering the padding from the slashed mattress and stuffing it back into its casing, “I highly doubt he’s that good of an actor. In addition, Will is more intuitive than I; he would have known it was an act long before he got near us. The fact that he didn’t immediately defend himself should tell us that Andrew is not our target.” She shook her head as she turned the pad over until she could repair it later, “No. There is someone else, someone that could easily worm his way into our trust, someone who knows Will, someone who could easily destroy him in his weakened state.”
They both stopped their cleanup, facing each other as a horrible thought bloomed between them.
“No,” Freya breathed shaking her head slowly, “No it cannot be, not him.”
Wyn-Udiin looked away and said quietly, “We cannot trust anyone…I cannot trust anyone.”
* * *
Night had fallen since the Jedi left to their ship; Willow had left to see to the slayers, leaving Xander to take care of the slumbering Will, much to Xander’s relief. He had enough of fielding her questions away from the subject she most wanted to discuss with him, namely that of the new developments between the ailed Jedi and her childhood friend. It seemed to him that everyone wanted to discuss such things with him, even before he had a chance to speak with the other man himself. Now, since Willow had rushed off, soon everyone in their little group will know of what is transpiring between him, meaning more questions and explanations on his part.
He sighed; he wished that for once, no one knew of his business except himself, without the interference from his friends. A small sound from the bed caught his attention, Will’s eyes fluttered before issuing forth a soft groan. Xander snuffed out the candle beside the bed as Will opened his dilated eyes, looking upon Xander and smiled, “You’re here.” He whispered, coughing slightly with the effort.
The other man poured him a glass of water, holding it for him as he swallowed carefully, “Of course I’m here. I’ll always be here.”
Will moved his head away, shaking it slowly and murmured; “Now you weren’t…The Council…”
That gave him a feeling of foreboding, “The Council can say whatever they want, it won’t change anything.”
“You don’t know that…” Will whispered, his eyes slipping shut. His body trembled slightly, sweat beading on his brow, and Xander knew that his fever was spiking, as Willow said that it might. Will shook his head and opened his eyes again, boring in Xander. He grabbed his arm tightly, levering himself with effort, saying fiercely, “I lost you once, I won’t lose you again.”
“Hey,” he soothed, settling the trembling form back onto the bed, “You haven’t lost me, you aren’t going to lose me. You need to rest now, everything will look better in the morning.” He leaned over Will, tucking him in securely. He started when he felt the brush of cool fingers on his cheek. Looking down, he saw Will gazing at him lovingly.
“I could easily fall for you.” He whispered.
* * *
“I could easily fall for you.” He heard his padawan whisper. He ran as fast as he could, real fear freezing the blood in his veins at the thought of the young man they entrusted to care for their dear friend to be in league with the Sith. He barreled his way through the doors, flew up the stairwells, and hurried through the hallways to reach the infirmary just in time for him to hear the six words he never wanted to hear utter from his padawan’s lips.
His back thumped against the stone wall, and he closed his eyes as his being clenched with indescribable pain. He slowly slid down the wall, drawing his knees up, his arms enfolding himself.
He failed again.