Two Squared: 9
The two were woken by a sharp pain and then black as they heard the calls of distress from their cubs… it was all too familiar. The alarms had been disarmed and it was Umbhala’s weekend off. Someone had done their homework.
By the time John found the open door and two drugged tigers, the thieves were long gone.
Willow and Giles were on retreat, and Dawn in London but they all returned within hours. The police had a number of very clear clues, but Willow’s location spell was quicker.
The two rather groggy and utterly inconsolable tigers, nuzzled Dawn in distress as she attended them, checked them over for injuries, then called Willow.
Willow tried to track the location of the seven little lost babies but could only get a general area, though was relieved, as within the hour she was able to commune directly with the tigers for the first time in months. Both were in full feline form but she was still able to find a connection. The problem was more that they were both so frantic that the wiccan struggled to keep the link calm enough to have meaningful dialogue.
In a series of desperate gestures, growls and human words, the tigers begged Willow to find their children… They were powerless, locked in their animal forms and in their enclosure, and for the first time for years, realized just how dreadful that truly could be.
The breakthrough came thirty hours later from an unexpected quarter, after a distraught Dawn had sobbed on the phone to Buffy in Italy.
The Immortal had extensive contacts, and after his partner pleaded her distress for most of the afternoon, he realized the problem, pulled in some rather large favors and rang Giles within the hour. In a stroke of luck (and something to do with a favor owed and a gambling debt that was about to be ‘called in’) a friend of the Immortal’s was holding a young man who boasted that he had apprenticed to the warlock responsible for Xander and Spike’s change during the period of all the original thefts. The warlock had skipped dimensions as they had all suspected (which no doubt accounted for the reduction in zoo staff disappearances of late) but his minions had not.
Apparently with a little less than gentle ‘persuasion’, the dark magician had admitted that it was not he that had cast the original spells, but apparently had seemed fairly keen to keep all his limbs and had therefore agreed to try to recall the words and recreate the spell so a reversal might be attempted.
The Immortal’s friend, a very large blue demon (who introduced himself as Jock), and a man of rather weasel like appearance (introduced by Jock as “The smarmy bastard”) arrived at the coven the following day. Jock’s thick Liverpuddlian accent and soft speaking voice was a little off-puting given his terrifying exterior, however he was committed to “Fix this bloody debacle an’ get me ‘ome to our Carol”.
Jock was invaluable when it came to jogging the memory of the trainee warlock as the man stalled frequently in his attempts to recall the words of the spell. Nearly two hours later they had enough for a reversal, but since it was not the original caster doing the reversal in this case it would only be temporary, the equivalent of a glamour though with a little more ‘kick’. If it worked, it would allow the tigers to change back to their original forms so they might seek their cubs but Willow estimated they would only have twelve to fourteen hours.
Willow contacted the tigers again on the astral plane. They were still in full form. She only barely made sense of their various emotional growls and confused words. She finally established reasonable contact with Spike, explained their plan, and not waiting for a nod she began the chant as soon as the two seemed to look like they had agreed.
Moments later, two nude men were lying in the enclosure. Dawn noted Spike was in game-face that now sported whiskers and definite feline nose and fur, and Xander still had his tiger tail. Both had light striping through their hair, and downy fuzz in the same patterns which seemed to continue down their backs considerably longer and thicker than was usual for humans.
Spike’s snarl was pure tiger, but his tears were human/vampire. He pulled the half sobbing/half growling Xander close and stroked the golden switching tail gently until they both calmed. Noting the incomplete change, Willow and Dawn wondered if either man would be able to speak. The two eventually calmed and Spike returned to his familiar, handsome human features, but Xander’s tail remained. The light fur and white spots on the backs of both their human ears remained also, as did their odd coloring. Xander had gold stripes through his brunette hair and Spike had black lines running through his bleached locks, and both sported goatie beards to match their patterned hair and a touch of white under their chin.
Dawn’s eyes were wide, “Goddess I’d forgotten… they are *gorgeous*! Hey Spike? Xan?”
Both Dawn and Willow approached the two still rather disorientated men. Willow had watched in awe as the bodies of her friends morphed into their final form, not quite their originals, but close enough. She reached out to touch the arm of her friend, but pulled back immediately as a confused human shaped Xander snarled defensively at her. The two women withdrew.
Xander lifted his hand, his human hand and stared at it in disbelief truly realized his restored human form and reached for Spike. They pulled into a tight hug, both holding on and unable to quite comprehend their situation. Spike slit his wrist and fed his partner, while the vampire partook of the neck offered in return. They were both in tears, not of joy or relief, but… confusion and despair. They did not notice their audience and instinctively began to take solace in each other, Xander turning to lick over his partner’s nether region, as his own was caressed by a cool wet tongue. Willow realized what was occurring and pulled Dawn from the enclosure to give them some privacy, as some part of their human/vampire brains kicked in and Spike pushed Xander until he was on his back hips canted… and they coupled.
Spike took Xander gently, using his own blood to ease the way. It was the first time in over five years and was purely for reassurance. The whiskers and fur on Spike’s game face made the visage tigerlike and familiar, and the tail still sported by Xander was also welcome. Their partnering however was purely that of old times in their original bodies: The pressure on Xander’s prostate; the relentless rhythm; the hand driving Xander’s hardness to completion; the cool and the heat; the dual climax…. all bliss but sadly only momentary relief from the worry and disorientation.
They lay for a few minutes recovering, then slowly both rose supporting each other rather unsteadily, until they stood rather uncomfortably on two legs for the first time in five years. Oblivious of any observers of their recent behavior, or their own nudity, or the collars that still adorned their necks, the two blinked for a moment before Spike cleared his throat and said with effort to Willow as she re-entered their space, “Witch… where hhhmmm [growled in full tiger mode then started again] Where do we start?”
An hour later they were both wearing loose sweat pants and borrowed tops. The collars remained. When Giles offered to relieve them of the adornments, both men snarled instinctively. Their new visage took a while for their friends to get used to, Willow noting that Xander’s tail had found it’s way out of his sweatpants and was now wrapped around Spike’s torso, swishing a little and being stroked for comfort by the unusually hirsute vampire as they spoke about the rescue.
They had to wait for evening due to Spike’s renewed vampire status but they had established that the cubs were obviously being held ready for transport somewhere near the Dover docks area. With the extreme customs measures being taken with air freight of late, it seemed that the thieves had opted for the slow boat… as it turned out from the manifests, literally heading to China.
Willow couldn’t help but smile sadly as several times during the drive with Rhianon, Giles and Dawn, that their two friends unconsciously reverted to tiger behavior. Spike and Xander had chosen to be seated in the rear of the vehicle, on the extra seats in the far back. Xander had yet to speak, but had kissed and hugged Willow, Dawn and Giles in their first meeting with a strength and passion that brought tears to their eyes.
She would have expected them to talk in previous times… at least Xander. Now, however, Willow looked back to observe the two turning to each other throughout the trip exchanging reassuring licks, nudging each other with rather furry chins, and rubbing cheeks instinctively for comfort. Spike’s rumbling purr accompanying the radio throughout the drive. If nothing else it gave a profound and poignant message of loss and grief, and was the ultimate reminder of what their two friends had truly become. They were no longer wholly human and vampire… and the change had been in desperation because it was their tiny, helpless children… seven of them… that they were trying to save. The wiccan and human friends all knew, as they drove into the night, failure was not an option.
They found the correct shipping container using Willow’s locater spell combined with the wonders of a laptop, wireless internet and accurate travel manifestos. She set the security cameras on a repeat loop for twenty minutes, confident it was all they would need.
They hardly had time to park before Spike and Xander leapt from the vehicle. Despite all the discussion of the need for calm and ‘invisibility’, Giles noted the distinct hunting behavior of both their friends as the rest of the group followed.
Willow steered them all in the right direction, and she and her pretty ‘cousin’ Dawn engaged the docks manager and his assistant in a conversation regarding a lost shipment of Danish art due from the Hook of Holland while the others slipped past.
Spike could hear their children and accelerated toward the obviously open container just as cash was exchanging hands. Before either captors or middle men made sense of the situation, they were set upon. Within seconds, Xander and Spike recognized the kidnappers of their cubs and Spike had relieved the captors of their life blood. There was no pleasure in the taking, rather it was simply retribution for the cubs. Xander knocked out the two corrupt dock workers with two well placed punches.
Having dealt with the ‘help’, the fathers entered the container where two cages held their tiny children. The desperate cries and mewls for help almost undid them, but Spike managed to drop to his knees in full game face with blood still dripping through the fur on his chin, and began to purr. The little ones stilled somewhat, and though continuing to cry as they still could not see their parent, they could hear him and felt a little safer.
Willow gave a small nod to Dawn and they thanked the manager profusely for his help then departed as Xander and Spike carried the cages back through the shadows and loaded them into their vehicle. The whole rescue had taken six and a half minutes. Giles drove off at a leisurely pace initially, then as fast as was legal all the way home.
Spike and Xander had opened the door of the cages as the vehicle hit the motorway and sped for home, and seven rather dazed little creatures ventured forward toward the familiar purr, but their world still did not make sense. All were hungry, and the littlest of Spike’s brood was limping painfully.
Spike lifted the little chap into his arms and offered him over the backrest of the next set of seats. Dawn heard a distressed low growl then, “D…Dawn? Can you help… please… he’s… [grrrrrrr] he’s hurt!”
She flicked on the internal light and held the squirming cub in her arms. Somewhere in their dreadful adventure, it seemed that the little fellow’s back left hip had been dislocated. It was likely it had been done as the humans had grabbed the cubs, but that was of little relevance now. Dawn turned to the tearful and desperate Spike. “We can fix it, just not right here… I’ll give him an anesthetic and set it right when we’re back home, OK Sweetie?”
Spike took his crying little son to his chest and purred loudly as they made their way home, the rest of his brood, like Xander’s three, curled up on their ‘human’ laps.
Upon arrival, Xander and Spike alighted from the vehicle and moved directly toward their enclosure, and with the assistance of the others, had all the cubs delivered back to their coven home together, including the injured little love.
Xander turned to Willow and spoke for the first time, his human voice rough with lack of use. “Hey Wills… umm [hmmmmgrrrrrrrr] Need to go…Thanks frrr… um… Love you Will… always… thank hmmmm thanks… And hey… think we can have ummmmrrrr choc…late with the meat from time to time?”
“Oh Xan… I love you so much… You can do this again… You know… change. Let’s do it again… just every so often… please??!!”
“Wouldn’t you RRrrrrrather be tigress for a while. We could make with the ummmrrrr…”
The rather irreverent boyish Xander grin of old left Willow with no option, she slapped his arm, “Ho no… You don’t get to go there Mr… tiger or no tiger Xander-man… Totally happy and very *gay* witchy friend here!” As she finished, Willow noted Xander’s features starting to shift and quickly pulled his still human torso into a strong hug and began to cry… “Come back to us sometimes sweetie… please come back? I miss you both so much!”
But it was too late to receive an answer. Both Dawn and Willow accepted thankful nudges as their changed friends flopped down in their heated enclosure and licked over all their children, then watched with a sense of happiness and resignation as the two joined their children in contented sleep for the first time in days.
Two Squared: 10