Mostly AU. Begins before the show (waay before) and will run through the end of season seven.
Two souls were made for each other. They were meant to be together, from the beginning of time, to the end of the world. If they can unravel a thread stretching across time and space, they will find each other again.
Author's Note: Not your typical start to a Spuffy story. Bear with me, I promise I'm not leading you on. Sit back and let the fairytale unfold.
Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
Once upon a time, before never and after always, The Powers dwelled in a realm without the bonds of time and space, but not devoid of night and day. From there they worked the cosmos, designing, building, controlling, or as it sometimes happened, sitting back and allowing, for all things have their purpose.
Praespero sat in a field of soft gray-green grass and watched the sun setting, and the moon rising. Waiting for the show that happened every night. Tears trickled down the face of a child, even though he was just as ageless as his counterparts.
"Have you ever watched the sun and the moon?"
"Praes, this is not convenient." Crono, the elder-figure among them, tried to brush off the smaller being's interruption, bent over something, working as always.
"But I've been watching them. For days- or maybe years, and it's always the same." Praespero wasn't to be brushed off.
"You're using human references to time again. I've told you to stop that. Why don't you go play where they don't exist yet, get out of that bad habit?" The gray beard said absently.
The boy sighed. "They walk all day - or night, depending on which one, and they've been doing it for their entire lives-"
"They walk through the light and the dark, constantly. But in each rotation," he spoke in carefully controlled, timeless words to please the one he viewed as a father, "they see each other for only about - for not long. They shout across the sky to each other, and then they pass with only a moment to touch. And they love each other."
Crono groaned, and the moon he was holding developed a crater as his thumb gouged into it in frustration. "First human markers of time, now human references of 'love'."
"They are our finest." Praes smiled timidly.
Patience. Patience, one must have that, that never changes, Cronos tried to think calming thoughts. "Listen. You haven't learned this lesson yet- at least this part of you has not, and for all that are immortal, it is a tricky thing, time. Time, emotion, distance." His eyes focused on the child-like one, and Praespero could see clouds and waves rolling gray and blue in the center of the iris. "Here is the key lesson- Powers remain objective. Each being serves a purpose, each being has a task." His audience nodded, eager to learn something. Crono's voice changed. "Don't interact with them, or you'll feel their pain. That is the rule you must obey."
The boy backed up, suddenly stung. "But- but why make places and beings so beautiful and intricate if you can't even-"
"You don't understand." Crono lost the feebly held patience. "You complain the moon and sun pass and speak for only -fine, let's put it in human terms, an hour or so, night and day." He smiled coldly. "They see each other twice in one span of the spin of a planet." He pointed up, and clouds parted, showing an ink black sky covered in burning stars and whirling galaxies, waving vaguely to the spheres. He snatched his fist down, and when he opened it, it contained a tiny insect. "This one, this one will spend its whole life in about one 'day', after it hatches from its egg. It will not know love. It will feed, mate, leave the next generation of its young behind, and die."
Another step back, the stung look turning to horror, sadness. "Let it go then. It hasn't got much time." He gasped, urging the one he viewed as a father to free it.
Crono did so with a flip of his hand. "Next time you start feeling pity for the sun and moon, who have such an important task, light givers as they are, remember they will never truly die. In their way, they are as timeless as we, immortal in nature. They will always walk to each other, and those hours you complain about are more than some ever live to see. Now go. Work on your lessons." His eyes pointed up, back into the twinkling blackness he could envision. "It ever expands... dimensions among dimensions, and we have to work on them all..."
He always talks down to me. Some father.
I know he's not my father. But he could try to act like it, couldn't he? He made all the other fathers I see, he knows how they act. Millions of years and billions of men, fathers still act the same. Praes kicked rocks along the winding path. No. No, he couldn't act like one, because he's too busy building and making and knowing everything.
How can he know everything, but be so oblivious to them? He looked up. The Sun was walking across the sky above him, a golden blazing form, wrapped in rays that didn't really do much to hide the lithe form, the picture of feminine beauty. At least if he was older he'd think she was pretty.
Being a Power is confusing. He knew somewhere there was the older version of himself, already wiser and waiting. Maybe just like Crono, bored with everything, even though there was no point to anything if everything slips by, unnoticed.
So he noticed. He more than noticed. Ignoring the rule to only observe, he interacted, for the first time ever.
"Hello!" He called up.
She seemed startled. "Hello." No one spoke to her. Everyone needed her, in some times and cultures they worshipped her, but no one talked to her. Simply doing an endless job- with only one bittersweet compensation.
"H-how many more hours until you see him?" Praes ventured.
"See? See who?" She saw millions in a day, but she could only really tell you about one.
"The moon. I mean- Moon. I hear you talking. I see how you start calling to him, the second you're both in the same horizon."
She smiled. "At least someone hears."
"He talks to you too. You're just so far away." He instantly regretted that. Sun was something radiant. When she lost her smile, the world seemed suddenly faded. "At least at first." She perked up slightly.
"We were made for each other. A matched set."
"A joint effort, him and others like him, heavenly bodies, immortal souls, energy and light, set in a course we don't get to change. With one friend. One love." Her face clouded, and so did the sky, a storm seeming to suddenly rush in on all fronts. "Kept apart."
"You- not always?" Another apologetic attempt to console her. Maybe Crono was right. Knowing her pain without being able to say anything, or offering to help fix the problem- it brought him pain of his own.
"Not always." She looked through the crowds. "Have you seen what happens when we pass?"
He hadn't really paid attention- in detail. He saw the burning dance, something engulfed, two moving together, two torn apart, the moon always fading rapidly, almost falling from the sky as she took over. "You... can touch?"
"Yes. That." Lightning zipped past her. "Watch us when we next meet."
He couldn't move time itself. He could move through it. He just couldn't make it speed past. Instead he spent the time waiting to watch avoiding the others, who would ask what he was doing.
Or not, actually. They never did. He fell asleep watching her move away, until he couldn't see the lit figure, only the glow that became round and red around her, a burning ball in the blue sky.
"Love!" A voice woke him. A voice that was warm and rich, full of delight. The boy sat up blinking, looking at he periwinkle sky. Somehow Praes thought he'd be colder, more austere, like the light attached to him.
"I'm coming!" She spread out her arms to him, and the red flare blazed the sky- but she moved no faster. She bit back a cry of frustration, trapped in these traces, unable to rush into his arms.
"I see you, I can hear you just fine. You look beautiful."
"So do you! I missed you." Another stretch toward him, fruitless, but this time returned. The gave tortured looks that sent sparks across the sky.
Shouting across the sky- how does no one hear them? Or care about what they say? Prisoners of their fates, so in love, so desperate.
It's their whole existence- walking endlessly to meet each other- they never give up, or grow tired. Or maybe they can't. What good what it do? Slaves to their tasks.
He felt suddenly sick watching, but he couldn't look away.
"I saw the flowers you made bloom. Amazing, Beauty."
"The oceans you pull- so magnificent."
The same thing every day, and yet they still compliment each other. Praes tilted his head. His father and mother- well, Crono and Cora, barely spoke. Yet, he thought Cora had love for him. She had love for all things. Crono made things- but Cora gave them their spark.
"Soon. I can feel the warmth." There was laughter. Sun didn't share it. "Ah, Love, no sadness. You know how cold it gets without you."
"I'm sorry." She reached out to him again, and he seemed to sigh, to sink into the warmth, while he actually rose higher.
Soon. Praes watched, mouth slightly open. Soon they have to meet, or they'll pass altogether.
Meet they did. A glorious burst of silver and gold light, and then - she fell, rapidly, and he soared.
What happened? What just happened?
"Moon? Where is she?"
The man above him looked down, with the deepest, bluest eyes, drowning him in a lake of tears. "What happens every night, boy. She gives me her life, so I might live."
He tore through the palatial halls that one second might be marble and the next might be old caverns, the next might be the sky itself. "Father! Father, did you see them tonight?"
Crono put down his cup hurriedly. "See who? There hasn't been a breach, has there?"
"Moon and Sun!"
"Oh, not this again." The cup was picked up and drained.
"But Father, I saw what really happens! It's not just an exchange of lights. She- Sun, she is dying for him."
"Do not call me 'father', and you needn't worry about them. They obviously don't die, as they are already lighting worlds across eternity even as we speak. Pop into a different time, boy, see the humans sunning themselves under her rays."
"But- but it's not fair. I saw them tonight, calling as one sinks and one rises, a point in passing where they can touch- just for a moment, and then- oh it was horrible! She was torn, right out of his arms."
"Yes, and at dawn, he'll be forced from hers. It's an even exchange." He said complacently.
"Is that all that matters to you? That it was 'even'? 'Even pain'?"
"What have I told you? About purpose?"
"Purpose doesn't have to hurt them, does it?"
"All pain serves a purpose! Some more severe than others. If their pain is great, so will their purpose be. If you try to end that pain, Praespero, you will end their purpose." The voice was suddenly dangerous, "The universe is already written. Powers are the only ones who can change it. Do you know what that means?"
"That we could help?" The boy asked hopefully.
"That you are one of the few beings in all the vast creation that can ruin things!" He shooed him violently away. "I don't want to see you out there, talking to them again, wasting time talking about what must be and cannot be changed. You have millennia's worth of lessons to master before you can be truly useful. Go and learn something!"
He ran from the shouting, raging voice, that seemed so much more angry, so much more annoyed and worried, uncharacteristically emotional.
"Go learn something, he says. Fine. I will."
It was short journey. That's relative. Remember, everything is relative. He still felt exhausted when he arrived at the place on the edge of night, a swirling black-blue mist, with a beautiful tower in the midst of it.
"I never get visitors. Not home for more than a few minutes at a time, it seems." Moon greeted him, a lopsided smile on his pale face.
"Oh. I- I'm glad you're here. I thought I might have to wait."
"No, but soon you'll have walk." Moon sighed.
"So- you only come home for a few moments? Ever?"
"It's a long walk from moon rise to moon set. The sooner I move, the sooner I see her again." As if the words reminded him of the reason to walk, he suddenly started towards the door. "Come on if you're coming."
Praes could easily keep up with him, but her felt like he couldn't match the stride. This being marched, hauling his burden, eyes unflinchingly ahead, never veering as he scanned for the faintest hint of sunlight. "I talked to her. She told me to watch as you rose." He swallowed. "It's always like that?"
"Ever since we were made. And we've been around for almost as long as your 'family', little one." He chuckled darkly. "All the age, none of the perks."
Praes followed, feeling guilty. "You never get to talk, or- or to touch for more than a minute?" This earned another chuckle.
"I'd say you're right, except for- hm. You ever noticed an eclipse, boy?"
"Yes, a celestial confluence. When you pass in front of the other?"
"And one of us blocks the other out. One of tops the other and-" he stopped abruptly. "When you're older. Do you get older?"
"I think so." Praes shrugged, but he knew. He looked young, but he had plenty of knowledge about the workings of males and females. Not so much about their hearts. "Doesn't that hurt?"
"Oh yes. In the midst of the pleasure of her touch." His eyes closed, as if remembering a delicious memory. "She's worth the pain. I'd do anything for her."
"You said she gave her life?" Why? They don't have to touch when they pass. They struggle away from their spheres, as far as they can stretch, for the merest moment of connection.
"And she did. And when we dance again," a melancholy smile, "I'll give her mine." Seeing the youth's startled expression, he elaborated. "I'm so cold I can put her out as I rise. When I wane, I'm weak enough, and she's hot enough, that she burns me out. It hurts, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Nor would she. We've had plenty of opportunities to try to deny it."
"That we love each other. Enough to die, enough to freeze out, burn away, every cycle." He nodded. "Sometimes we gripe, sometimes we bicker- but when we see each other- oh little one, that's when the sky shines." Just thinking about her turned the glow around him up and made Praes look away.
"So... that's enough for you? It's okay to love, and hurt, and even 'die'? You don't need any more, simply because you love her so much?"
Moon stared at him as if he were some single-celled creature without brains. "Of course it's not enough! Of course I want more! We don't have any choice, so we make all we can out of the little we get!"
"I'm sorry! Sorry." He stumbled out an apology.
"You think it's easy to see the one you love fall from your arms? To look in her eyes as yours close, as the pain swallows you up, kissed by fire?" Moon challenged him, dared him to make light of their love, their loss.
"No, no, of course I don't think that. I think it sounds awful. Painful. I just don't understand... why you do it."
"Then you've never loved someone." He replied harshly. Seeing the stricken, youthful face, he relented, tone softened a bit. "The love is better than the pain. Can't stay away from her. Can't push her away from me. We've tried."
"Floods and fires. Going off your course- can't be done."
"Well, what can be done?" He finally asked.
A dim shrug. "Nothing. Our souls are tied to our spheres. If we could be free, and the spheres were just allowed to follow the paths Crono set, we could- I don't know. We could live as mortals, together. We could live as spirits together. The together part is all that really matters."
Praes looked at him curiously. "Untie your souls? Separate them from the moon and the sun? But what would you be- mortal or immortal, spirit or flesh?"
"There's the problem. Once united, we'd have to be reformed. Put in forms that can be together." He looked wistful. "Not like these." He gestured to the bright blue-white ball surrounding him, that in effect was him.
Praespero's face went from hopeful to miserable. "I can untie souls. Part of learning life and death." His voice shrank, forlorn. "But I can't do anything after that. I could never put you in new bodies. My powers are still small. Might always be, the way Crono talks."
Moon reached for him. "It's nice you care. You're the only one who does. Maybe- maybe if someone else listened to you, little one."
"No one does."
"I know how you feel. But, if those powers ever mature, or you do find someone who listens and will help you- don't forget us."
Praes jumped in the dark, the dark which seemed so thick and black, now that he'd let Moon walk on, and he was left standing in nothingness. "Hello?"
"Praespero, over here."
He squinted. His eyes focused on shadowy spaces- until he found a shadow within them. "Azraiel! You're not supposed to be here!" He backed up. This being wasn't a Power, he was a gate keeper, and supposed to stay in places of passage.
"Well someone has to check on him."
"Check on who?"
"Moon! That poor man. Trapped. A prisoner. Not only a prisoner of the Powers who gave him his task, a prisoner of love." Azraiel sighed dramatically.
Praes was cautious. "He is sad."
Azraiel nodded. "He loves her. From so far away, walking always, just to get near to her and then- the pain! The sudden, impermanent, oft recurring death when one swaps places in the sky, and- ah. It breaks my heart." Azraiel clasped his chest dramatically.
Praespero frowned doubtfully. Gatekeepers were lesser beings, not human, not Powers. He wasn't really sure what they were, a by-product of Crono's rules about not interacting with anyone but Powers. He realized he didn't know much of anything about anyone, in spite of all his "knowledge". "You have a heart?"
Azraiel shrugged carelessly. "Well, the thing I would have, if I had one." Azraiel sighed. "I look at you, and I see it, boy. You feel the same. You aren't as old as the others. You haven't lost your ability to care. You don't want things to be in pain. You have a heart."
Did he truly? Moon said he'd never loved. He agreed on one point. "No. Never. I don't like when they're in pain."
Something shifted in a shadowed face. A hint of cruelty under curling black lips, quickly masked. "But you know that everything must be in pain, don't you?"
"I know what father says about it." He muttered.
The voice was suddenly bright with curiosity. "He lets you call him father?"
Praes hung his head. "No. Crono said all pain has purpose, and to steal pain is to steal purpose, and to steal purpose is to cause death."
"Don't you deal with death, little one?"
"No. N-not yet. I know about it, I just- I don't take lives. Or souls."
"It can be good or bad. It can be a rebirth, you know. A relief, an end of torment, a chance for something better."
"I know. I hear them say it's all a journey, and I shouldn't worry yet. I should just keep learning."
"Hm. I wonder if they'd want you to learn ... no. No, they wouldn't like you helping them, Sun and Moon." The voice hinted subtly, and wondered if the boy, for all his years and powers, would be naive enough to take the bait.
His eyes were suddenly alert. Someone was listening to him. Not a Power, but someone. He had promised to try, to remember them, if ever he fond help. "Wait, learn what? Help them how?"
"You can loose their souls, can't you? Not take them, not kill them- just... let them be unbound."
"I can. But I can't hold them, I couldn't get to the 'rebirth' part, like you mentioned." He blushed slightly. "That's the next class with Vita."
"Only the next class?"
"In human terms, I think it's in a century or so."
"Hmm. Hmm. A hundred years or so of waiting. Dying each day, or each night."
"She can't teach me earlier." Praes protested. "There's a time for everything- even though we're timeless." He rolled his eyes.
"Yes, yes. Of course. Only- if you were to free Moon's soul, I do know someone who can transform it. Into a night being. A- a being that won't be tied to a long, painful journey. Well, not each day and night." A sinister smile fled before the boy could grasp it. "I just need a little help from you. An ingredient or two. Your powers to set him free. And then- we would be half done."
"But Sun wouldn't be free! You have to take both."
"I can't, little one. Don't you know which gate I guard?" Praes vaguely remembered. He nodded with false confidence. "Darkness is my domain."
"Who can transform a soul?"
"Oh... you know. Lots of those down there. You're not really familiar with all the residents of the various realms. You could ask Crono if you'd like."
"No." Praes said too quickly. Crono might put him on a different plane indefinitely if he found out he was meddling. "I guess it doesn't matter who. But what about her? Freeing him and placing him into another body, even a night dweller, that wouldn't solve anything. They'd still be apart.
"For a day at the most! Crono would free her. He'd have to. Without the moon to balance her, she walks and walks and never rests, she'd never switch paths, or set. The skies would burn. He'd have to take her soul and then the moon and the sun would truly be what all the mortals think they are. Just two stars in a sky, nothing 'alive' or 'loving' about them."
"He could turn her into a human. Into an angel. A plant!"
"A night dweller can be with any of those things. The only thing it couldn't stand would be the sun itself. And she would no longer be that. That would be the only thing she could not be. Your problem- rather, their problem, is solved."
It sounds complicated. Or too simple. Maybe both. No wonder we aren't supposed to speak to the "lesser beings". It's confusing. "I don't know." Praes finally replied.
"Then think about it." Azraiel advised, and slipped back into the blackness until he blended in, leaving the boy alone in the dark.
To be continued...