It was one am when they made it to the closest small town, two am when they hotwired an old jalopy from a dodgy looking garage, and three am when it ran out of petrol. But according to the ancient, slightly torn road map (thankfully found stuffed under the front passenger seat) they only had a couple of miles to the Battle Lands Creek.
Their little band of injured brothers struggled on. Jonothon’s leg was better but had not been set properly, none had shoes and Xander’s head was aching again. He felt for Eddie. When he’d lost an eye it had been hospital and meds. Despite regular laving with vampire saliva by first Spike and now his lover Jonothon, Xander knew the blue demon had suffered. There was little to be done but bear all of their pains as stoically as they could. Jonothon’s teeth did not seem to be growing back. Spike quietly confided in Xander that he thought they might be many months coming in, as it was every tooth and his current physical state was seriously undernourished. Xander admired Eddie’s fortitude as he reopened the raw wound on his wrist night after night to feed his friend.
It was near pitch black on a moonless night as they struggled through a forested area, the vampires led their visually impaired friends. Breaking out of the thick underbrush, they had been struggling through, the ragtag bunch found themselves facing a rather rundown set of farm buildings and a ramshackle house with yard full of rubbish and old harvesting equipment. What was a little more disturbing was the string of headless carcasses hanging beside the shed, and an enormous pile of chicken bones resting underneath the gory string.
They pushed cautiously into the shed. Spike saw it first, the pentagram on the wall and ring of salt on the floor. This was no ordinary farmer, but just what his thoughts on demons might be were still unknown.
They eased themselves out of the magic shed, deciding to err on the side of caution and made their ‘nest’ for the day in an abandoned truck that had somehow landed in the bushes some hundred feet from the main buildings.
Its rusty shell, sans motor, gave enough cover for the four. As dawn approached, they all scooted underneath the body of the truck, Eddie and Xander sandwiching their two precious vampires between them and tucking the toxic waste coveralls over the top… just in case.
Xander woke some time near sunrise, to the muzzle of a gun leveled at his nose and a torchlight in his face.
“Git yer sorry arse outa there ya freeloadin’ hobo!”
Xander had no choice.
He was caught, but hoped desperately that the others would stay silent and hidden.
He shuffled awkwardly from underneath the truck, all the while conscious of the double barrel rifle aimed at his head.
As he heard it cocked to fire and the bloodhound he faced bared his teeth, he assumed he was to die. He did the only thing he could think of and fell into a begging position, kneeling completely down on the ground in front of the gun toting inquisitor. But he just could not control the final fear.
The smell of warm urine became evident.
Yet the gun did not fire.
"Good glory be!! Son… Good glory be!!”
The dog didn’t attack, merely sniffed. His elderly owner pointed the rifle away from his face and squatted down. The light was still blinding.
“Now from what Hell did y’all come from…. ‘cause I’m figurin’ there’s more to you as meets the eye.”
Xander still was not game to look up, let alone speak, but a calloused hand gripped his chin and forced him.
The elder gent took in the gaunt features and lost look, “Lord son, how long since you ate?....” The dog began to sniff around the truck and Xander knew their run was up as the hound barked and howled.
“Please….please… sir… No …. NO!!!... Please… we’re harmless…. we won’t …. Please we just need…” The excited dog was still bouncing around, snuffling and barking at the truck. As he inadvertently trod on the fugitive’s injured arm, Xander cried out, then paled and threw up the tiny amount of food he had consumed sometime earlier that day.
He lay his head in his own vomit and began to cry. “Just shoot me… please just shoot me…. Plea…ssse.”
The dog began to bark at the truck again.
There was no option this time and the other three shifted to join their prostrated friend, taking on similar positions of subservience. The old man noted that the waif thin long haired blonde had wrapped his arms around the now ‘self-soiled’ brunette. He shone the torchlight down the line of sorry individuals. Even clothed, it was obvious that the four were all so thin that an anatomy lesson would have been pointless if attempting to study the muscular form of humans. They were all bones covered by skin. He noted the bruising and the obvious injuries. These were no normal runaways.
Trained eyes focused on the odd coloration of the smallest in the group and he suddenly understood. An accusative, “You survived the blast!” was met by whimpers from at least two of the four, and the smaller pair reached to hold each other's hands even though they were still kneeling fully down.
The voice suddenly changed to become one of comfort, “Oh now…. No need to go frettin’. But ya might like to come on inside seein’ as the sun will be up in a while. Got a couple of deliveries comin’ this mornin’. Wouldn’t want for the neighbors to find yer sorry arses.”
A calloused hand again reached down to cup Xander’s chin and lift the now tear streaked face. “Ohhh son, you ‘n yer friends are safe with me, at least for now….” He reached down and lifted each of the prostrated figures to a bewildered kneel, then encouraged them to stand. He noted Jonothon’s struggle and the splinted leg, asking, “Can y’all walk or should I…”
Xander cut him off with a half hitched sob as he whispered, “We’ll be fine…. Oh please god… thank you… we’ll be fine….” The small blue figure also shook his head, and slipped a shoulder under his injured friend’s arm supporting him yet again as they struggled toward the house. The four limped behind the elderly gent as he led them indoors, walking openly, for the first time in two years… freely … welcomed.. into a home. Admittedly it was the dead of night and a rather shabby residence…. But the relief, the ‘freely’ and the ‘your all welcome’ was tear-worthy in itself.
They were ushered into a small lounge room, the worn couch and threadbare rugs gave away the precarious finances of the kind individual in front of them. As they went to sit, a warm hand stopped Xander and a small bath towel was pushed into his arms.
“Son you need to go clean up…”
“Oh Gahhh I am so sorry… I..I..” A tear dropped but Xander was caught by his lovely vampire as he almost collapsed again. A warm hand patted his back just as a cool one supported him around his waist.
“No apologies needed son, there’s shampoo and all sorts in the shower room… you jes go git yerself clean and I’ll sort some spare threads for ya. Figure you folks are travellin’ ‘light’.”
Xander nodded still teary but with polite contrition, then was followed to the shower room by his vampire friend.
As soon as they were alone, he was the recipient of an unexpected, very hard smack to the backside, “You bloody idiot!!... You took a risk for us again!”
“It paid off!” Xander threw off the Tshirt.
“Ho yeah! Now your the so confident Mr I-peed-my-pants-when-the-rifle-was-in-my face person!”
“For f#$k sake Spike, what was I supposed to do? I can’t lose you!”
“And I. Can’t. Bloody well. Lose. You! You great. Selfish F#@$ing Git!”
Xander’s countenance dropped, he raised tearfilled eyes to his lovely friend as he dropped his rather ‘whiffy, damp, sweat pants and stepped into the shower with his cherished vampire.
“I’m sorry Spike.” The large brown eye begged forgiveness… Spike gave it freely, grabbing the soap and sponge and gently beginning to wash his friend… “Yeah well… just don’t bloody well go doin’ it again… yeah?”
“I won’t… promise.”
“Yeah… Spike?” The stress of the last days overcame the human and he fell forward resting his forehead on Spike’s shoulder as loving strokes drove soap across his thin form in the blissfully warm stream of water.
Spike heard a groan and worried about the arm, “What?”
“Just wanna let you know….”
“I… I love you… you know that don’t you? I am so lucky to have had you…. no matter what happens I love you.” The words were slurring together as Xander closed his good eye and gave in to the wonderful sensation of being washed by the warm cascade and gentle strokes.
But Spike heard the truth and the water diluted the salt of his own tears. Their current host was sympathetic, but they were still running. One day though, perhaps one day it might be possible that they be together openly and with the blessing of others…. One day.
A cheerful voice broke through his reverie and Xander’s semi slumber, ‘C’mon you two… grub’s up! We’ve got two more ta wash and a bit ta discuss I reckon!”
After The Fall: 7