Author's Note : I do plan to update this but it is sporadic. My life has taken a turn for the weird and it makes it very difficult to keep things going. I do hope that everyone is well. Enjoy the holiday season. And thank you all for the support, it means a lot to me.
"Come on, Obi-Wan," Xander urged him, not hesitating to gently shake his shoulder. "You can't leave us just yet."
Obi-Wan blinked blearily, returning to consciousness with a painful thud that rebounded in his head. Murmuring, "You never mentioned how alike Willow and I are in looks."
Xander breathed a sigh of relief, sitting back on his heels, "Scared me for a moment there, Obi-Wan. You really shouldn't do that alone." He didn't comment about his statement, seeing no point to it. After all, how was he supposed to say anything when he did not know what Obi-Wan looked like at all.
"I know," he said, voice waif like and soft. Sitting up slowly, he rubbed his face, trying to restore warmth to his cheeks. "But I had to know if it was possible for me to get in touch with my home, with my Master."
"I guess I can understand – but Giles won't. And he's the one you call mentor now. What did you find out?"
"A strange darkness has opened within the Force, one that I have never seen before in any of meditations."
"So? It could have been created when this switch happened," Xander pointed out.
"I don't think so. It felt as though it had been there for some time."
"If that is true, why didn't you see it before? Or feel it?"
Obi-Wan frowned, these were good questions. "I don't know. All I know is what I feel – and I feel that darkness to be old. I believe that it may be hidden from the Jedi Council's sight, though I do not know how such a thing could be. I did not even have a chance to ask Willow if she felt it there. Or if she could see it herself."
"If that is your feeling, it is good enough for me."
"Is it?" he asked, curious. "Why? You don't even me."
"Because this is your area of know how, not mine. I don't need to know it in order to believe you. I don't need to know you in order to know that you know what are talking about."
"Are you always this trusting?"
Xander laughed, rising to his feet and helping Obi-Wan. "Not always. But I've learned to trust those who have been trained in their areas of study. Whether or not you approve of the word, you live magic. It's a part of your heartbeat, a part of who you are. So, yeah, I believe you when you say you know what you are talking about."
They walked out and saw Angel, angrily staring at them.
Glancing over at Xander, he noted the sheepish look as the young man apologized. "Sorry, Angel. I didn't mean to throw you out. But you were just distracting me."
Obi-Wan's head shook, offering an apology of his own, "Sorry. I didn't think about what would happen to you through our bond. I should have explained what I was planning to do instead of walking off. But I figure you would all try to talk me out of it."
"You better believe we'd talk you out of it. Are you insane?" The words were tersely spoken, the look he leveled at him was harsh. "Obi-Wan, if you have no consideration for yourself, have a care for those you are connected to."
Obi-Wan folded his arms, still discomfited by his feminine chest but did not let it faze him.
Nor did he let Angel's words bother him for all that he did not like the reprimand he received – though the vampire really had no right to lecture him like he was his Master or a member of the Jedi Council. He knew it had more to do with the fact that he could've endangered Willow than any real concern over him. Though painful after being fully accepted by Xander, Obi-Wan acknowledged the reality of his place here among these strange people – as a true outsider.
A reality made all to clear by the very fact that Angel had abandoned Willow's name in favor of Obi-Wan's own. "I'm sorry to have upset you, Angel, and I shall try not to do so in the future. But you have to understand – you have to realize – that there are going to be times when I must follow through on my own impulses. I know what I am doing."
"Just because you know what you're doing does not make it right."
"I agree with you. But there are times when you have to do follow your instincts. With the sole exception of Xander, who has chosen to be my friend, and you, because of the bond that exists, I have no one. I had to take the chance to feel my home once again, it is all I have. I will not be made to feel guilty for what I did any further. I have apologized for what I did and I now give you my word that I will not do anything as foolish like this again – unless it absolutely necessary. You need to let it go."
Obi-Wan waited for no other word from either of them, he walked down the hall and to his room, quite finished with this whole conversation.
Cordelia approached Giles who was sitting on a bench, staring up at the night sky. "Long story made short. I'm only going to go through this once – so listen up. Saw Red. She's tired but fine. Nice planet, even if there are some ill mannered slobs there. She wants a spell to reveal herself. And stop acting like Angel. That's wrong on so many levels, I don't even want to begin to think about it. Are we clear?"
He stared at her for a moment before he blinked and exhaled slowly, as though he'd been the one to give the thirty second lecture. Shaking off his irritation with the whole business, he slowly said, "I believe I followed you up until the last part. What does she want exactly?"
"She just wants to look like herself," she said, crossly. "What is so hard to understand about that? She's stuck looking like a guy – and this is Red. She's not exactly comfortable about her whole…body change."
"You didn't tell her that I could do it, did you?" It was an involuntary question for Giles could clearly see the answer already. He should've known that his own ability to find the relatively strange would come back to bite him. It would never occur to any of them that finding such spells took more time and effort than he showed them.
"Of course! You're like Mr. Book Learning, these things are easy for you. You're so very boring because you know practically everything."
Giles wasn't sure he should be flattered or not, but thanked her anyway. But then…the was Cordelia. It was always best to thank her for everything she did. "Oh, well, isn't that a relief," he muttered crossly. "Cordelia, I will try to find a spell. But the chances of it working properly are…good heavens, what is that daft child up to now?" Without waiting for a reply, he went inside.
Cordelia sniffed after his retreating form, "That's gratitude for you." Disappearing, she went home to rest.
As he walked up the stairs, he passed Angel and Xander arguing. Knocking, Giles waited until the door to Willow's room opened and he critically studied her. "I won't ask you to explain yourself because I am not sure I want to hear your reasons for what you've done. I just have one question for you – in the apex room."
Obi-Wan looked confused before following him with a shrug.
Once the door closed, Giles asked, "How did she seem?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, doing a double take. Of al the questions he expected to have, this was not one of them. Obi-Wan had, in fact, been expecting more recriminations for his actions.
"How does Willow seem? Sick? Ill?" he elaborated. "Did her magical presence seem diminished? Or stronger through the presence of your Force?"
Though still perplexed, Obi-Wan cast his mind back and tried to push away the pain that had enveloped the both of them to see. It was rather difficult as the pain still haunted his body with phantom strength. "She…glowed, sir, with a strength I have never witnessed and that was before we switched back."
Giles' gaze sharpened at that, "She appeared to you in your body?"
Nodding, he shivered a bit at the memory. "It was rather odd to see myself and know that, while I looked like me, I was not me."
"I can just imagine," Giles murmured, pacing the room for a while. "Though it will make her request that much easier to fulfill."
"Request?" he prodded when Giles did not say more.
"Hmmm?" he absently asked, before recalling the question on his own. "Willow wishes to appear to your friends in her own form."
"You can do that?"
Giles' head shook, regretfully. "Unfortunately, no. I believe, though, that you may relay any spell to her and trust it in her hands. I wish that there was another way we could communicate with her but…unless she said something?"
"No. We discussed a bit of what happened to us, trying to figure out what happened and why," he paused, "I could try again. Now that you are here to ground me, I should be much safer."
"Tempting as that is, we shall have to wait until we get back from a little trip. For now, you need to rest and I need to make travel arrangements."
"Travel…where are we going? We've barely begun to crack the surface of what has occurred here."
"We are off to England," Giles briskly said. "We have a Lady to see about a sword. Three days does not give us much time to find the guardian. Hopefully, once we have the sword in our hands, we shall be led to the one who may safely use it."
Obi-Wan sat beside Giles on the shaky contraption they called an airplane - not trusting it one bit. Using methods and resources the young man thought it best not to wonder about, the Watcher had gotten an early flight for the two of them as well as Buffy, Faith, Dawn, and another slayer he didn't recognize but knew hadn't been with them when he and Willow had switched lives.
Though she gave him the creeps for she didn't seem as real as the others were.
With nothing more than a vague gut feeling of unease, he decided not to mention it. Still, he'd keep an eye on her while he could. Obi-Wan knew that Giles planned to dump him on something called a coven while he and the girls found the Lady of the Lake.
Obi-Wan wasn't entirely sure how he felt about that but couldn't complain about his situation. After all they had done for him, that would not be the nicest things. That didn't mean he didn't want to complain, he did. He felt almost the same way as he had on the day he'd been told he'd never be a Jedi. He felt adrift. Passed over because he was not what the Masters were looking for – mostly because of his temper and pride.
His Master would counsel him to be patient – so he would.
After a few minutes, he became aware that Giles had been speaking to him. Sheepishly, he admitted, "I'm sorry. I was thinking about something. What did you say?"
"I said that when we arrive, I shall take you to see the coven. Please, let me do the talking. While the relationship between the coven and Willow is stronger than before, there is still…doubt between them."
"Is there a reason for it?" he hesitantly asked, wondering what he was walking into now. He did not want to walk into any situation blind – especially under these circumstances.
Giles was silent, weighing his options and Obi-Wan got the feeling that he should remain silent. That he should wait for Giles to make up his mind. It was hard because there was some fear about the whole situation – and his natural inclination was to press for information. Biting his lip, he remained quiet.
"Willow is, by far, one of the most powerful mages I have ever come across. Do they have reason to fear her? Yes, for it is easy to fall into the darkness once you've tasted it. And she has a great capacity for darkness."
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to ask for a better explanation – and was hit with a sudden vision of the way things had been for her.
Power and pain.
Fire and ice.
Explosion and peace.
War and serenity.
It all coexisted for a time in a way that he could not quite understand.
Shoulders shaking, he saw it – those days of agonized hell – with a clarity unknown to him. The sights, the sounds – the smell and feel of it – it surrounded him completely, lifting him out of what he knew and plunging him down into the depths of darkness and pain. Despair dragged him down, refusing to let go of him, pulling him down even more into its insidious, almost obsessively lustful way.
And suddenly, it wasn't Willow doing it.
It was him.
He was her and she was him and they were one in this.
Even as she had done these things, so had he.
"I understand," he murmured, knowing that Giles could not possibly know what just happened. In that split second, everything had changed for Obi-Wan. He saw and felt things that he'd never known to exist. What he was now, was not the same as before.
And he knew he never would be again.
Buffy drifted off, head falling to the side. Faith gently moved it until she was curled up on her shoulder before resting her own head on top of Buffy's, closing her eyes. Together, the two sister slayers slept, secure in themselves in a way they had not been in years.
Dawn put down her book and glanced over at them, stifling her own yawn before shrugging. There were a few more hours to go on this flight, she could afford to take a nap. Lifting her legs up under her, she curled up against her sister and slept.
Giles watched it with a fatherly eye before he refocused on his own book. Though he wasn't sure it actually applied to their current situation, he hoped that there might be something there to help Willow and Obi-Wan out. If nothing else, it took his mind off of the position they found themselves in.
As the plane began its descent, they all readied themselves by getting out what they needed. Obi-Wan braced himself against the plane's shaking, deciding in that moment that he hated flying.
After going through customs – and picking up their overnight bags - they stood outside. Buffy looked at him, "You couldn't just pop us here?"
"Pop us?" he repeated blankly. Really, some of these terms and expressions they use mystified him terribly.
"Yeah, why didn't you just magic us here? It certainly would've been made it that much easier for us," she teased, happy to be doing so.
"I do not understand what you are talking about. Is not pop that sugary liquid you drink so often?"
"Sure. But it also describes what I'm talking about. If you'd rather, I could say poof us here."
"Buffy, stop teasing," Giles' voice said from the opposite side of the street. He got out, walked over, and picked up his bag. "If you girls would please take care of your own bags, we will be on our way."
"You mean you really drive on the wrong side of the road?" Faith asked. "That's just twisted."
"On the contrary, it is you Americans that drive on the wrong side. We are a much older country, thus it is you who have things twisted about," Giles corrected.
Faith snorted but said nothing. Her brain wasn't up to the wordy fight she'd have with Giles if she perused this line of discussion. Slayer strength or not, she was still tired from the earlier rising and flight. "I've got to agree with B on this, though. Why couldn't we just pop here?"
Giles glared, "I will not enter my own country illegally, nor will I allow you to do so."
"So you say," Buffy sniffed. "I just think you're doing it to be difficult."
"Hardly. I leave such a task as that in hands that are far more immature and impractical than my own."
Faith and Buffy exchanged looks, unsure if they should feel insulted or be amused.
Indire's quiet voice disrupted the mood when she asked, "Has anyone else noticed the black car that's been following us since we left the airport?"
Without making it obvious, they all glanced back and saw it trailing behind them discreetly.
Giles muttered something under his breath that Obi-Wan didn't want to interpret. "Willow," he barked, sounding as if he'd truly forgotten the redhead in the back was not the mage he knew, "Scan them and feel out their intentions."
Eyes wide, he opened his mouth to ask how he was supposed to do that when a sharp jab in his ribs caused him to yelp.
"What's going on back there?" Giles asked, irritated.
"Nothing, Giles. My arm just slipped," Faith innocently said, daring Obi-Wan to challenge her. But there was something else there, letting him know that she was suspicious of Indire.
Or may be he was reading to much into her look.
Buffy leaned over, whispering, "Just do what you'd do if you were using the Force to guide you."
Nodding – and rubbing his sore side - Obi-Wan's eyes closed and he tentatively reached out, gasping at the dark intentions of those following them. "Pain. I sense a whole lot of pain and anger towards us. Giles, they don't intend to let any of us out of the car alive."
"Are you sure you aren't misreading them?"
"But how do you know?" Indire pressed, unwilling to just let it drop. Being new, she did not yet understand the power that Giles and Willow had. She had come to them after the final battle, finding her way to Angel Investigations – which left her out of the loop in more ways then one. Her hazel eyes had not left the road for all of her insistence in the matter, one slightly scarred hand casually brushed back a lock of burnished gold hair, revealing several earrings and a long, greenish gold tattoo along her neck.
"As sure as I can be when hearing the thoughts that they plan to run us off the road as soon as we are the only vehicles on the road," he drolly replied. "You may be assured, Miss. Indire, that I do know what I am doing. I have been well taught."
"Oh," she said, leaning back and irritably huffing.
"Any magic users?" Buffy asked, all business.
Obi-Wan's head shook, "But they are protected by very strong enchantments. There's no way to befuddle or elude them through magical means, at least."
"Good old fashioned driving will have to work. Give me the wheel, G."
Giles glared at Faith witheringly in the rearview mirror. "I do not intend to spend valuable time in jail for reckless driving, Faith."
"Hey, at least I keep all the wheels on the road – unlike Red here."
"What?" Obi-Wan exclaimed, offended by her words. Though he honestly did not know why he should be. It wasn't like she was actually talking about him. "I assure you, had I been driving, I would not have exceeded the rules of the road. I am an excellent driver."
"That's what you think."
"It is what I know," he replied coolly.
"Faith, that was only once – and there were other factors involved," Buffy said, before the situation escalated. The way they acted towards each other reminded her of siblings.
"And she wasn't allowed to touch a car wheel for almost two years, right?" Faith smirked, knowing she was right.
"I do hope that you are all restrained for I am going to lose our pursuers," Giles said, making a sharp turn. But not sharply enough to alert their pursuers that they were aware of them.
"Where are we going?" Dawn asked, gripping the door handle as they double backed down a side road and emerged into a more densely packed area.
"You will find out," Giles answered, "Once I get the permission to do what needs to be done."
"You do know where you're going, right, Giles?" Buffy asked.
"Of course I do. But where we are going is a very difficult place to reach for they are very protective of their world, their privacy. I also cannot take the risk that they have decided to call in some kind of eavesdropping device so that they might overhear anything we say. For pity's sake, we must not give them any advantage over us. Buffy, dial one-nine-three," he said, passing her a phone. "Then two – five – five – and hang up."
'You know, Giles, when people make crank calls, they usually say something or make creepy breathing sounds, right?"
"Just do it," he said, speeding up to pass two cars, making it just as the light changed and forced the cars behind him stop – trapping the black car.
Though still mystified by his strange orders, Buffy did as he asked. The phone rang and she looked at Giles for what to do next.
"Answer it," Giles answered her look.
"Hello?" she tried, voice almost completely covering her nervousness.
"Clearance granted," a voice clearly carried over the receiver. "Proceed to the next check point."
The dial tone sounded and Buffy shut it.
"What's happening, Giles?" Buffy asked, looking at him straight in the rearview mirror.
"Do you trust me to keep you safe?" he asked instead of answering.
"It is a simple question, Buffy. Do you trust me to keep you safe?"
"Though I find some of what you do distasteful and, at times, blind to the truth, yes, I do trust you."
Giles flinch at the reminder of the cruciamentum and his treatment of Spike. "Then know that I will tell you when we arrive. Willow?"
Snapping out of his thoughts, he blinked, "Yes?"
"Send out a mental call of Albion – and you must spell it out in your mind. Do not say it," he instructed, turning to the left when the opportunity presented itself.
Curbing his quick question as to why, Obi-Wan did as ordered, wondering all the while if Willow had ever been required to follow such strange orders. If all this magic they did was composed of such weird things, things that seemed to be lacking in any kind of logical pattern. Gasping as a glow filled him after the n had been written, his eyes flew up to meet Giles' in the mirror.
Again, he curbed his tongue though he longed to speak, to question. This magic was deeper and more intense than anything he'd ever gone through so far. And that was including his moment of pure lucidity when it came to the truth of Willow's actions. He didn't even think this was quite normal – even for a mage. For a moment, he wondered if their powers were blending together – and made a mental note to mention the possibility to Giles.
Willow must be going crazy, he thought, knowing that he wouldn't be able to tolerate this deception much longer.