They cleaned up the remains of breakfast as instructed, after Samuel left, then wandered the house a little lost and utterly exhausted. There had been no permission given or refused regarding which room exactly they were to be in, whether they should sleep or what they might touch. The bedroom was out of the question of course, private space. The bathroom, though an aqua blue and odd yellow color, was still tiled and cold… too reminiscent of their recent compulsory accommodations. The lounge was the only possibility for rest but the driving need for all four to be in the one place, for comfort and for courage, steered them away from the couch and led them to settling for the rug in front of the hearth. The fireplace was cold and the rug an old shag pile from the seventies, but it was softer than the bare boards and they were together.
As they lay down in their habitual fashion, spooned sardine-like, Xander tugged a hand crocheted, multicolored, rather worn throw rug from the couch, bringing with it two tattered looking cushions. The wealth was distributed. Two heads shared each pillow and the throw was stretched to cover three quarters of everyone. Eddie gasped at Xander’s audacity; Jonothon held him; Spike snuggled; and Xander ventured a smile as his head joined Spike’s on the small cushion. Within minutes they had all given in to sleep.
Two delivery vans and a postman’s motorbike disturbed their slumber a little during the morning. Two nightmares and a scream of anguish woke them completely early afternoon. Two friends realized it was Spike in the throws of a dream and Xander offered his wrist to quell and quiet. They all pulled closer and slept on.
Samuel returned to the house mid afternoon and spied his guests in the lounge room still on the mat. His countenance fell as he recognized their desperation, even in sleep. The four figures were pressed so closely that they appeared as one. Rather than disturbing the sleeping figures, he nudged Missy who was at heel, and they both backed silently into the kitchen.
He pushed the large tub of cow’s blood into the fridge, stood the bucket of fresh milk in the cool pantry to stand, and emptied his pockets of the lemons he’d picked on the way through. He nudged the kettle onto the hotplate of the stove and began to scribble the date on eggs collected earlier that morning. He was almost done when a sleepy brunette emerged followed by a rather disorientated looking blonde. They stood nervously by the door, then finally Xander plucked up the courage to ask. Still gripping his friend’s hand, he looked up and said, “Umm… Is there anything…. Ummmm… Is there anything we can do to help?”
Samuel smiled and responded warmly, “Why sure son!! A’course ya can help! It’s a farm… always somethin’ ta do… glad ya asked…” He reached into the pantry, easing out an enormous white bucket filled with the milk from the previous day and nodded at Spike.
“Don’t know your background son but you reckon you could skim the cream and put this lot into them bottles?” He nodded at the sink where a funnel and collection of glass bottles waited.
Spike brightened and gave Samuel a naughty grin, “So long as the help can have a spoon of the cream.” To which the old man snorted, “No problem… plenty more where that came from…. And by the way when you’re done there’s a treat in the fridge for ya… It’s ta share with your friend in there mind, and y’all can thank Shirelee for it later (she’s the black ‘n white one with the horns). But yer friend here is gonna be lackey fer the chef… ”
Samuel grabbed Xander’s arm and tugged him toward the door, all the while handing him an ancient paring knife, slinging an open basket over his arm and shoving a beaten up old Stetson hat on his head. “I need you ta collect some vegetables for supper… don’t care what, just gotta be enough for the whole lota ya – patch is down the back there. ‘N don’t you go frettin’… maybe plenty of sunlight but there ain’t no one gonna see.” He all but pushed the man out the door then turned to see Spike carefully and rather expertly skimming the cream from the bucket into a wide mouthed ceramic jar provided.
He asked quietly, “Where’d ya learn to do that?”
Before he had time to think, Spike answered rather wistfully in his original upper class English accent, “Cook used to let me help sometimes.”
Samuel recognized the slip for what it was, and ran with it, “Reckon ya ta be quite the fine helper, how old were ya then?”
Spike’s eyes glazed over even further as he remembered, “I guess I was around five or six. If Mother was out, Nanny Cartwright had the habit of a nap in the afternoon so it was my good fortune to have the run of the house. Cook told wonderful stories when prompted…. And I remember she had huge arms, and always smelled of cinnamon and cloves.” Samuel noted the wistful demeanor and decided to push a little more.
Spike was caught in his own reverie but also began receiving vague feelings of happiness… strangely…. he realized… from Xander…. Their regular blood exchange was having an effect despite no official claiming or mating. He refocused on Samuel and answered… “Indeed….”
“So ifn’ it aint a rude question… when son...?” His voice dropped to a near whisper, “When were you turned?”
Spike looked at their host and answered with utter honesty, “Eighteen eighties… shortly after the twenty sixth birthday… bloody baby I was….”
“Well my lord… and here’s me callin’ you son!” Samuel smiled at the vampire and it was returned easily, then Spike fell back into the speech patterns he was now used to.
“’S OK mate, I forget the age thing meself most of the time. And being called ‘son’? More than happy, so long as you don’t mind the occasional ‘Pa’.” Spike gave his best ‘naughty boy’ grin and his *younger* host roared with laughter then turned to make a pot of coffee. Spike was about to continue the easy conversation, when he was hit by a jolt of panic through a tenuous bloodlink. He dropped all premise of attending to what Samuel was saying, and raced toward the back door of the house.
Xander had been bustled out of the building before really acknowledging to himself what that might mean. It was not so much the sunlight, it was the abundance of it and the vastness of the sky. He faced an open space bathed in light so brilliant that his implant ached terribly and his good eye watered. It had been more than two years since he had been outside in the day.
The back door slammed shut and the rather shaky former Scooby stood contemplating how best to cross the yard. They had been outside when on the run but always in the cover of darkness. Outside still held fear, more the ‘what ifs’ than real threats, but fear nonetheless. What if he was seen? What if someone came? What if…. He edged his way around the yard using the various buildings as ‘cover’ then finally plucked up the courage to sprint across the wide, lit gap between chook house and rickety stand alone garage. From there he nervously entered the exposed vegetable patch.
He felt ridiculous being so uptight about such a simple task, yet had utterly no control over his own body’s reactions. The sun was glorious, warm and bright… too bright for his good eye and warm on his skin, yet he began to shiver as though it were mid winter. He pulled a few carrots and took a head of lettuce but he could not settle his thoughts. By the time he had gathered vine ripe tomatoes and a few herbs, he was frantic. The wind rustled leaves on a nearby tree. Instead of picking the basil as he had intended, he pulled it up by the roots, threw it into the basket and sprinted for the back door.
With the painful emotions flowing freely to him, Spike was up and heading for the door. Samuel heard the panicked footfalls and opened the screen for his terrified guest. He kicked himself for forgetting the still raw effects of their incarceration and torture, and resolved that solo activities might need to be ‘passed over’ for a time.
Xander all but dove into Spike’s arms and the two promptly fell to the floor. The intrepid garden harvester was embarrassed and ashamed, but could do little more than bury his face in the worn flannel shirt Spike sported, and allow himself to be hugged and comforted. Eddie wandered into the kitchen just as Xander began to regain his composure. The two exchanged a rueful smile. There really was no way to explain the feelings, nor a need to.
Samuel simply lifted the laden basket onto the table and retrieved the produce that had escaped to the floor during Xander’s fall. He then continued to make coffee as though two men hugging for comfort on his kitchen floor was a daily occurrence.
Vampire and friend finally stood, Spike returning to his task of bottling the milk. Xander joined Eddie who was now sitting at the table shelling some peas that had landed in front of him, courtesy of Samuel (with the accompanied “Idle hands do no one any favors” reminder). Xander turned to the elderly host looking apologetically at the basket of gathered vegetables.
“I’m sorry about the plant.” He touched the basil he had wrenched from the ground in panic, now lying limp in the basket. Before he had finished speaking, Samuel had placed a piping hot cup of coffee in front of both ‘sun resistant’ parties and patted the human on the back. “It’s OK son… It’s OK! Figure you boys have some issues. Besides! Been plannin’ to have a planter box nearby the door for months…” With that, he picked up the basil, pulled off a few leaves for dinner, then headed outside to retrieve a pot and dirt to pot said herb.
Samuel’s four guests eventually all pitched in making supper. They sat in silence but did eat a little more than at breakfast, and the vampires were served with ‘Chateau Shirelee’ and all seemed to avoid any ‘anguished outbursts’ during the meal.
At the conclusion of dinner, Samuel congratulated each of his assistants, noting Eddie’s rather teary response to the compliment. He then led them outside to the tornado shelter.
The well equipped space had lighting equipment and a generator ‘ready to go’. More importantly, there were two double futons, a ‘port-a-potty’ and make-shift shower.
“Apology’s folks, two doubles is all I could manage!”
Eddie moved to sit on one of the beds while Jonothon stood rather protectively beside him. Xander and Spike took the other bed and looked across at their fellow fugitives a little puzzled by the vampire’s sudden possessive bent.
“Hopin’ y’all will be right comfy here. And just so’s ya know… never was an Orwell fan so there ain’t no fancy cameras or nothin’ down there. Just a nice family affair.” The elderly gent gave a kindly smile to the blue demon and his (now assumed) partner Jonothon, then noted the continuing look of distress on Eddie’s face. He moved to squat in front of the pair seated on the right hand bed.
“What’s up son?...” He sat and was about to take the small demon’s hand when he received a desperate reply…
“I just… it’s just…” Tears began and could not be stopped… Jonothon moved lightening fast and pulled him into a hug. Samuel shifted back a little to watch as the (apparently!) soulless demon held, stroked and rocked his lovely partner…
“ C’mon dear heart … you’re OK… we’re OK… we’re OK… talk to me… please dear heart, talk to me!” Jonothon was in game face making his absence of teeth even more obvious, but the ‘true face’ leant weight to the tender gesture of rubbing foreheads together as ridges met smooth blue.
Samuel patted the vampire on the knee then stood to give the two space, “I’m sorry to have upset him son, guess I just figured I needed to know what prompts the tears.”
A drawn blue face turned to their kind host and whispered, “I’m the *male* of our species, but the Initiative changed my status… They…. They…They….I’m with child, sir … Jon knows… I am with child!… and I need… I need… Oh gahhh” Eddie burst into tears again.
Samuel squatted down silently for a few moments then asked quite matter of factly, “You know what it…”
Eddie cut him off, “It’s pure bred, from our own family DNA. Oh Gahhh… Jon…um Jon… oh gahh please!!!” Jonothon wrapped his arms even tighter and held on fast as Eddie sobbed inconsolably. “They killed… and they took… then… um then… Oh gahhh…. Why??? Why would…?? I’m…[hic] with… [hic]…. child…..”
Spike smelt it. Waves of unadulterated anger and incensed hurt flowed from their host Samuel, yet he managed to address them all in very controlled voice, “The ones who did this will pay. And Edwin?... you ‘n your little-uns are welcome here.” He then nodded at the others, reserving a special smile for Jonothon, “As are you all.”
By the time Samuel was showing them out of the tornado shelter, Jon had been stroking his blue friend for almost two hours and they were seriously talking of bringing up Eddie’s children on Sam’s farm. Spike squeezed Xander’s hand as they casually nodded their support for the ‘odd couple’.
Samuel smiled then leaned over to the vampire blonde and human brunette simply saying, “Your time is coming… you already have a taste… this moment is only the beginning… you cannot go wrong by loving freely.”
Xander looked up utterly confused... "What??"
After The Fall: 9