Author: Well, I finally got this part written and posted. It's only been, what, 2 1/2 years - or so? ::hideshead:: How sad is that? Anyways, I think I'm going to make this an Open AU, for those people who have expressed an interest, since I have the family backstory pretty much in place. Just send me a link to the story - I'm interested to see what others write, and I'd like to keep a list.
I've also posted this over at my LJ
, which I check more frequently.
Hope you enjoy this part! :)Part 12 – Shifting Reality
“Why are we doing this again?” Willow asked as they ambled along an unused trail out back of the ranch. Chris hid a grin at the irritation she made no effort to hide. He'd gotten her up before dawn that morning, so they could finish the chores around the barn and be on their way.
On their way to where, he'd kept silent about.
“It’s easier.” was all he would tell her, just to irritate her that much more. He found himself smiling more and more as the day wore on, as Willow's annoyance and irritation at him rose. If he was being honest with himself, he'd say that the day so far was payback for Willow's behaviour with Lanka the day before.
If he were honest with himself, of course.
“What’s ‘easier’? Where are we going?”
“You’re going to start learning how to control the magic in your blood.” he replied, not adding that it was something he should have done years ago.
“And I’m going to do that riding a horse into the barren wastelands of Colorado?”
“It’s not a barren wasteland.” he retorted. “We’re almost there.”
“And again, where would ‘there’ be?” Willow kept pushing, not satisfied with his answer.
Turning to look at her, his lips twitched in half-hidden amusement. “You’ll see.”
A huff of exasperation escaped her mouth before a medium grade scowl fell across her face. Chris had been picking at her in small increments ever since the ill-fated shopping trip had started. (It had absolutely nothing to do with the open invitation Lanka now had to the ranch – something he'd skillfully avoided in the past.) He knew that on some level Willow understood he was doing it so she could get her mind off her grief over Tara, but she wasn't his daughter for nothing, and wasn't going to sit back and take it.
Not from him. Especially not after yesterday.
He was being deliberately close mouthed and secretive, something he’d never been to her before. In the past, he was always open to her, willing to answer any questions she had - even after Sarah and Adam died.
He saw her open her mouth to give him a trademark Willow-rant, but she stopped with her mouth wide open as a sudden wave of magical energy swept over them both. They had just reached the top of a fairly large hill, that was in actuality a cliff’s edge. The outcropping gave view of the Ranch and all that was attached to it. It was a breath-taking view even without the magic that permeated every rock; the morning mist was still clinging to the hills in the distance. The Ranch itself was in the base of a small valley, surrounded by mountains that sheltered the occupants from most of the world.
“This place has been in our family for generations.” Chris began, both still atop their respective horses. Her gaze was still on the beauty of the land laid out before her as he continued. “One day this will be yours, and you will pass it on to your child.”
The mention of progeny of any form shocked Willow out of her inspection, to look at him in horror.
“Kids?! Since when am I having kids?” she demanded, wide-eyed and panicked. “I'm too young to have kids. I haven't even finished college, yet. I need to get my life in order before I plan a family of any sort, if I even end up wanting one. In fact, a significant other would be nice – gay or straight, it's hard to raise a kid by myself, let alone more than one-”
“Not kids.” Chris interrupted. He dismounted and tied his horse to a nearby tree, hiding his smile when Willow did the same without any real conscious thought. “Child - singular.”
Motioning for her to join him, Chris stood near the edge of the cliff as he began to explain their family history.
“We’re the last in a long line of magic users.” he told her. “Sixteen generations ago, our family was considered the royalty of the magic world. We were the most powerful witches and warlocks around, and the magic always bred true in each generation.”
Willow tore her eyes away from the valley to look at Chris.
“But there are always people who resent and envy the power others have, and this was no different. A witch who was determined to have the magic our family was gifted with, cursed our line to remain barren unless she was given the secret to our powers. Obviously, it didn’t work the way she had intended - traditional magic rarely does when our family is involved - but it was enough to ensure that each descendant will only have one child. No more.”
Glancing to the figure by his side, Chris was not surprised by the wide, disbelieving eyes or shocked look on her face. He remembered when his own grandfather had told him this same story. Remembered the disbelief and shock he’d felt as his entire world rocked beneath his feet.
“You see, what she didn’t know - what nobody outside the family really understands - is that our magic's different. We're not Wicca. We don't harness the natural energies of nature. We don’t need archaic spells or potions to bend the power to our wishes.” he told Willow, turning to face her. “Our magic's in our blood. Our very existence is a natural bridge to the life and energies of the Earth.”
Chris let a little smile curve his lips at her sudden speechlessness. He could understand her confusion – he'd felt the same way when he'd learned how other magic users accessed and used magic. For him, brewing potions and chanting spells, all to bring the witch or warlock closer to the magical lines that cross the Earth – it was strange and unnatural. He'd spent his entire life connected directly to the Earth, always having those energies available at the tip of his fingers. The natural ley lines others used for their magic was more of a light breeze to him, compared to the currents of untapped magic beneath their feet.
“Look. This'll be easier if I just show you.” he told her, lowering himself to the ground and waiting until she joined him. “Hands on the ground.” he instructed. “Now, close your eyes, and breath in. And out.”
“I thought you didn't meditate.” she interrupted.
“This ain't meditation.” he told her. “Now just do what I tell you.”
Chris decided to ignore her less than complementary grumblings, seeing as she'd followed his instructions.
“Reach down into the earth. Feel the currents of energy. All you need to do to access the magic, is to touch it. Don't worry about controlling it, just let it in you. I'll keep it from taking over.”
As he gently guided her, Chris let his own magic flow in and around him, creating an area of protection around them, for the inevitable overflow. It always happened the first time, and he doubted Willow would be the exception.
Once that was done, he let himself fall into the energy, feeling it pulse through his every cell. With magic aiding his vision, Chris opened his eyes to see Willow, keeping track of her progress.
It was the first time he'd really taken a look at her – at her magical signature - and he almost winced. He wouldn't call the energy lines surrounding her an 'aura' – though Willow probably would – but they were wildly disorganized, a rainbow of colours, and disconnected. Where she should be surrounded by hazy rainbow of vibrant hues, Willow looked more like a badly woven plaid.
It only served to underline how important and crucial this first lesson was.
Because he was watching so closely, he was prepared for what happened next.
“NO!” he called out, sending out a magical hand-slapping as she reached out to the magical lines around her.
“Reach down, not out.” Chris told her. She needed to tap in to the energies of the planet itself. Once she did that, everything else should even out for her. Willow had to understand the differences between how they connected with magical energies, and how Wicca and other magic users did. It was this difference that was at the core of many of her problems. By connecting directly to the Earth's energies, this give and take of power would settle itself automatically. There wouldn't be any build up in her system, leading to the disaster that was Sunnydale.
He had tried to explain to her before, but words were never his strong suit, especially when it came to magic.
A quiet gasp drew a relieved smile from him, as Willow discovered the treasure trove of magical currents that ebbed and flowed underneath the surface of the planet.“Touch it.”
he instructed after several minutes of inactivity on her part, sending the thought along their bond.“But, it's so much. Much more than-”
And then he knew. There was more magic here than she had ever felt, and was scared of the magic taking her over, like it did in Sunnydale. ”Trust me. I won't let you go.”
he told her. ”And trust yourself. You were born to this type of magic. Controlling it is instinctive.”
Then she reached out, and the world exploded around them.
Magic flowed through Willow, out in to the physical world, only to be trapped by the barrier Chris had erected earlier. It took less than a second before Willow instinctively began to control the energy, pulling it back into herself, directing it back to the earth.”Excellent.”
he told her a few minutes later.”It's...I can't...”
Chris could hear the awe and wonder in her voice, and knew she finally understood.”Take your time.”
he told her.
They didn't have anywhere else to be.
“How is that possible?” Willow asked as they slowly rode back to the ranch. “Why is our magic so different?” Her brow wrinkled as her mind worked through everything she'd just learned.
“I don't know.” he told her truthfully. “My grandfather told me a story, once – more of a family legend, really – about how we are children of the world. About how our ancestor was created from the ground, the earth giving birth to a guardian that would protect it and its people – the beginning of our family.”
At her narrow eyed look of suspicion, Chris smirked in her direction before adding “But the old man was always pulling my leg. Never could tell when he was serious.”
Her huff of annoyance was music to his ears.
“But what you said...about the magic...”
“That part's true.” he assured her. “So's the curse.”
That got her thinking again, Chris noted.
“What if someone dies before they have a child?” Willow asked.
“Then that branch of the family dies.”
“So when you say we're the last
“I mean, we're one of the last branches of our family still around.” he told her. “Over the generations, each family has tried to keep in touch, but it gets harder every year.”
“There are still branches around, though, right?” Willow asked.
“I think there's one or two in Europe, and another in Canada, but that was years ago. People move, wars happen. If you'd been born twenty years earlier, I doubt I ever would have found you.” Chris said.
“Is that all?” she asked, and Chris couldn't tell if she was disturbed by the extent of their familial loss, the horror of the curse their family had lived with for centuries, or the lack of caring in his own voice as he talked about it.
“I think there might be another branch in the US, but it's hard to get a fix on them. Trying to track a paper trail through a couple of wars and the Depression is hard. And don't even get me started on the 'Free Love' era.” he said, determined not to get in to the whole 'tracking the family' debate. He didn't have the same drive his grandfather had had when it came to searching out distant relatives, and wasn't in the mood to defend himself. Again.
That could wait for another day. Or year.
“But..what about-” Willow began, but Chris could hear the uncertainty in her voice as she stopped herself asking.
“Adam?” she managed to force out, and Chris was just a little bit proud of her for that. “If there's only one child per generation, then...Adam?”
He'd known that this would come up eventually, and even though he thought he'd prepared himself for it, he discovered that the wound in his heart was still not quite healed even after all these years.
“There are other ways to have a child in this day and age.” he said, the roughness of his voice catching even him by surprise. “He may not have been my biological son...” That was all he managed to get out, he had to close his eyes against the overwhelming rush of angerlosspain
that threatened to choke him.
He didn't mention the long years he and Sarah had spent trying to have a child. Or the sense of failure he'd felt upon learning that Sarah would never nurture a child of his in her body, because another had already done so. He didn't tell Willow about the arguments they'd had over potential donors before deciding to ask the closest person either of them had to a brother. Chris hadn't ever told Willow about the frantic year, in which he'd divided his time between looking after his pregnant wife, getting ready for the expansion of their family and looking up every girlfriend and one night stand he'd ever had, searching for the child he knew was already out there.
But then, he didn't think he had to. Willow, this beautiful daughter of his, could see all that without being told. It was a trait she'd shared with Sarah, the two of them more like mother and daughter than he'd ever witnessed between Sheila and Willow.
“Adam was a brat.” Willow announced in the sudden silence, making Chris smile.
“He was not.” Chris defended, feeling more at ease with this familiar argument.
!” Willow insisted, narrowing her eyes at him. “You just never saw it. You were too busy being proud and smug and charmed by him copying your every move, that you never noticed.”
That drew a genuine smile from him, remembering how he'd caught Adam in the barn, glaring at the animals. ”Practicing, Papa.
” And the look on Sarah's face when he'd only wear black clothes to school. ”Like Papa wears.
Or how for every birthday and Christmas after he turned three, he asked for a horse. ”Wanna ride like Papa an' Willow.”
“He adored you.” he told her, letting himself relax into the fond reminiscing.
“He put a dead bird in my bed.” she announced, as if that sealed the argument in her favour.
“It was a present.” Chris reminded her, holding back his laugh as he remembered both Willow and Sarah screaming from the bedroom, and later, Willow refusing to sleep in the guest bedroom the rest of her visit.
“It. Was. A. Dead. Bird.”
And with that, Willow prodded her horse into a run and headed back to the ranch.
Chris rode back at a leisurely pace, grinning all the way.
End Part 12