The question was left unanswered and Samuel bustled them back into the house to collect some extra bedding, additional clothes and snack food in case they woke peckish before sundown. It would be possible to get to the shelter in the shade of the house of an afternoon but the vampires would have to stay put for the first part of the day given the easterly position of the shelter.
Once that was settled Spike assisted Samuel as he mixed up some plaster of paris. Spike checked the alignment of the bones in Xander’s forearm, the splint seemed to have done enough to hold them steady. Samuel expertly wrapped the arm with gauze and the white paste. He patted his patient on the knee and promised to strap Xander’s still painful ribs in due course. “Jes plum outa tape, I’ll sort it today for ya… Right... next youngster…” He looked over to Jonothon who blanched even whiter than his normal shade of pale. They all knew, the leg would have to be re-broken and set properly.
The toothless vampire moved to the floor and Eddie shifted to sit behind his friend. He pulled him tight to his chest and reopened the slice across his wrist with a knife. As Eddie pressed the dripping wound to Jon's mouth, Spike took the leg and with Samuel’s help cracked the bones again and forced them to properly align. Despite the distraction of drinking, Jonothon cried out around the wrist. He fell limp and passed out as Samuel swiftly created the cast while Spike continuing the slight tension on the limb to keep it straight.
“Ain’t much I can do ‘bout that eye o’ yours little one, I’m sorry, but I sure as heck can give somethin’ fer the pain and a bit of a patch to stop the dirt.” Eddie simply nodded his thanks and continued to hold his unconscious friend.
For the next few weeks, a pattern began to establish itself and became a quiet and welcome routine.
Most deliveries and pickups happened at the farm in the morning. Samuel’s eggs and chickens left for market along with the occasional box of vegetables and less frequently, a brace of rabbits.
Early afternoon they would emerge to the shade of the house. Xander and Eddie busied themselves collecting eggs and tending the garden. Eddie proving the most useful in the horticulture area, and taking great delight as the vegetable patch flourished under his loving touch. Xander provided the muscle once his ribs began to heal and cast came off. The garden was extended and Eddie delighted as his own bump grew (surprisingly quickly) apparently keeping pace with the produce!
They were all careful to have a cover story ready in the event that they might be seen – particularly in the day. Consequently a bee hive was placed in the corner of the patch and Eddie always had the full bee keeper overalls on when working and the all encompassing hat and gloves ready should they have visitors. With his softly spoken voice and small stature (and now obviously pregnant state) Xander and he were to give the story that Xander was one of Samuel’s friends from the hospital, and Samuel was helping out ‘Edwina and Alex’ in their time of need. Happily the excuse was never needed for Eddie.
Eventually Xander split his time between the garden and the shed where he had discovered an ancient lathe and various woodworking tools. He sharpened the tools with expert hands and spent the first few weeks restoring every chair in the house to ‘mint condition’, even using a cured cow hide from a few years previous to re-cover Samuel’s mother’s favorite piece, a chaise lounge. Originally rickety and ‘stored’ in the bedroom, it had been Samuel’s turn to shed a tear of gratitude when Xander opened the door of his bedroom to reveal the now spectacular, cherished item.
After fixing cupboards and renewing doors Xander ran out of ‘handyman’ projects and began making new pieces.
He was in the shed sanding a broad, naturally shaped piece for the top of a coffee table when a soft touch and a loud female voice sent a jolt of fear through the link to Spike, who was in the house on his ‘milk duty’. Anguish flowed through the link, which should have been expected, yet even after five months, the vampire watched helplessly and utterly unable to traverse the sunny space. He felt the terror personally and watched the female enter the work shed further.
Xander immediately turned off the sander and removed his goggles, but his gaze simply could not be raised to look at the woman in the face as he thanked every deity he knew for the fortunate of having the black eye patch on, (mostly to stop the horrendous pain that implant was still eliciting every time it was hit by too much light).
Kathleen was bursting with good cheer given the lovely, if overly so, “Well Hi!!! I’m lookin’ fer Sam… ?”
It was coming up for two and a half years since Xander had interacted with a woman – other than one or two of the Initiative scientists. He immediately went very red, which Kathleen interpreted as shyness, though for Xander it was pure unadulterated fear and confusion. “Umm… ummm…” He quickly recalled the ‘cover story’, “I’m ummm… ummm…. I’m a friend of Samuel’s from the respite centre? And ummm… ummm… he said I can be here and ummm… oh gahhh…” Xander couldn’t work out his piqued anxiety, and was close to tears, yet felt compelled to keep talking, “I ummm…. Well I’m making stuff and I’ve been fixing all his furniture and I guess you’re a neighbor um… um… [sighs in desperation] Geez sorry!”
A kindly voice cut him off now the noise had ceased, “Hey honey, it’s fine!!! Sammy’s always bringin’ home a stray or two. Mind if I take a look at ya work?” Xander’s confusion turned to embarrassment as the rather portly woman all but pushed past him and began to look around the shed.
“Sure um I’m… it’s not all that good.” He looked up at the wall and noted gratefully, but a little belatedly, that the pentagram had been painted over. The entire space was apparently devoted to the making of fine furniture. One completed table stood in the back corner, ready to be carried into the house and five ‘natural’ table tops were stacked waiting for legs, plus there was the beginnings of a mobile ‘cutting board/central island’ for a kitchen evident near the only window.
“Why this is *gorgeous* work! You funny young thing, there ain’t no way you should be tellin’ fibs about your talent… seems as you are quite the artiste!” She noted the eye patch, the thin frame and the downcast eyes, and drew some assumptions of her own. He was obviously one of those food problem/depression/artist types that Sam had taken under his wing. He was younger than the usual ones that came through Sam’s ‘care for the similarly afflicted’ and decided that there wasn’t anything quite so nice as Kathleen’s pie and her abundant motherly care to put this young one back on track!
“Now if you’re anythin’ like Sam’s past borders, you’re jus’ gonna hafta come meet a few…”
Xander’s arms flew around himself and he began backing off “Noo… I can’t … I’m sorry I can’t…” Spike was almost about to sprint across the sunlit quadrangle when an elderly calm hand found his shoulder. “It’ll be OK son, it’s just Kathleen… our lovely friend Kathleen… s’long as your dear Xander sticks to the story it will be fine…”
Spike thought of all the Xander babble of years gone by and the awkwardness and the covering up of a sharp mind, yet simply wasn’t comforted.
Samuel recognized the panic for what it was and rather than risk a desperate sprint by Spike, Samuel did something he had never ventured before. “Trust me son… trust me on this one… Your friend is gonna be fine… we’ll all be fine!” Spike quickly came to his senses with the smell of pure human blood mixed with a familiar scent. He took the limb with all the reverence it deserved, but instead of drinking as Samuel expected, drips were carefully caught and the wound laved until closed without taking any extra. Samuel looked puzzled at the obviously distressed vampire.
Spike looked up with crystal blue eyes brimming with appreciative tears, “Deeply appreciated mate, but best kept for desperate times… Just those few drops… from a friend ‘n all… gesture means the more than you will ever know…” Spike finished by kissing the already healing wound, then the hand below it. They stood and waited to see what transpired. Finally foot steps were heard heading for the back door. Spike made himself scarce. He took a large pile of basil and mint into the bedroom along with a couple of bowls resigned to sitting and stripping said leaves ready for processing into pesto and mint sauce respectively.
Kathleen had taken her time, but eventually Xander tentatively ushered her into the house with promises of “tea or coffee or …”. Kathleen was utterly intrigued. She had quickly decided that Xander was the classic example of the ‘tortured artist’, sensitive to a fault and terribly fragile. She resolved to take him under her wing… or more importantly his woodwork!
The consequent tea and discussion with Samuel, revealed his intention to host a ‘few such friends’ over his retiring years, something Kathleen had been trying to encourage for some time, she felt gleefully responsible for her lovely new acquaintance. Samuel was renown for inviting rather ‘limited’ or ‘dubious’ types into his home, something that had always bothered his supportive neighbors. But this ‘Alex’ was a whole different character. He looked lost and sad, consistent with a life plagued by mental problems, but also had a passion and obvious artistic talent when it came to wood.
She ordered three tables, for a fixed price, and promised to sell them (and take orders) at the next farmers market. She was also keen to search for a local gallery that might be interested… all for a ‘finder’s fee’, which Samuel happily agreed to.
Shortly after she left, Jonothon hobbled in from the back. His leg was still not quite healed which still was not quite right, but Spike had taken on the role of Sire for the fledge, and since then, he seemed to be much more balanced. In the first weeks of his leg in plaster, they had been forced tie to him down during the sunshine hours after two dream induced suicide attempts also risked his other sunshine allergic compatriot and their hiding place. He apologized but also seemed to fall further into depression. It was then that Spike stepped in. Better fed, he felt it his duty and privilege.
With the blood of a Master in his system, the young fledge quickly regained much of his speech, life memories and general intelligence. The toothless vampire had not been turned as a minion, but the childe had been deprived of his Sire and blood of any type for so long (courtesy of Initiative hosts), that he was seriously compromised until Spike began his regular feedings. He had been a veterinary graduate student when turned, though he did not remember the detail of his training until Spike stepped in.
They discovered that he had been chipped one afternoon, just after Xander’s ribs had been strapped. Jonothon inadvertently fell on his fellow fugitive as he reached for the blood supply and slipped on a slightly wet patch on the kitchen floor. Xander cried out in pain when his chest was struck, but Jonothon had screamed in agony, curled up on the floor and continued to keen for many minutes. Spike knew the signs. He had never seen the younger vampire kill, had assumed it was tooth related, but now they knew. Spike was hoping to bring him back from his ‘broken’ status as his position as ‘father’ to Eddie’s two or possibly three children loomed as a reality.
Jonothon was utterly dedicated to the blonde as surrogate Sire, but enamored and increasingly devoted to his beautiful Eddie. Something both Samuel and Spike encouraged. Regardless of all other ‘attributes’, his animal husbandry and surgeon skills were invaluable to the elderly farmer as the ‘creature of the night’ joyfully assisted with nighttime deliveries of several calves and advised on some of the more complicated techniques. Samuel began buying the ‘higher end’ journals from the web and Jonothon read as he held his ever more pregnant partner, and read… and read...
In month seven of their stay, Eddie, with the help of his beautiful vampire’s surgeon’s skills, delivered three exquisite, tiny blue forms with huge blue eyes. Two girls and a boy. Jonothon cried openly as he kissed his beautiful partner and wrapped each tiny form in a fluffy white towel. The household rejoiced as ‘Willow, Jessie and Samuel the second” joined their number. The children slept in the arms of friends as their exhausted parent recovered under the careful eye of his lover/doctor.
Xander felt strangely jealous as he held the tiny snuggling form. His own hormone treatment had left him teary, physically weaker and with strong sexual feelings for Spike, but no child, and the residual legacy of no body hair and unpredictable libido. But beyond any other effect left over after some eight months since the Initiative, it was his ocular implant that continued to bother.
He often wondered of late..... “Pain”… noun or verb?
After The Fall: 10