In the quiet Xander reached for Willow, or rather her hair. “What happened to the red?”
Willow answered in an equally low tone, “Initiative,” then quickly revised her answer as she noted the distress on Xander’s face. “It was when I called for Gaia’s power, it was the third time Xan. She knows me now… she changed me in that moment… forever. Before it was only when I exercised the power that this,” she gestured to her hair, “now it’s forever.”
Xander looked carefully at his long time friend and noted other changes. The extreme calm, the face devoid of lines, the aura of wisdom and power, and suddenly realized, “You’re her priestess now! You’re immortal?!”
Willow reached over and grasped Xander’s hand. “No Xander, not immortal, but I won’t age beyond… well obviously the white hair,” She grinned as her lifelong friend again stroked the soft locks, “I can be killed in all the conventional ways but no disease. Guess natural poisons… viruses and bacteria are all part of the earth too… and I do seem to have a connection with the plants of this earth … and sometimes the creatures if I have a mind to…” Xander simply sat with a look of awe bordering on fear…
“Ohh sweetie, I’m still me! Still inclined to babble around old friends, and no memory loss when it comes to the friend who pulled me from the brink not so many years ago.” She leaned over and kissed him firmly on the lips.
Xander pulled back a little, turned a shade of crimson with embarrassment then grinned shyly… “Thanks…. But um…. jealous boyfriend, Wills, watch it… he bites.”
Spike was still holding little Jessie and simply winked and bared a fang accompanied by a wicked smile and insincere growl. Many serious matters still loomed but for now the mood relaxed just a little.
The babies were, as ever, their saving grace. Everyone was smitten. Eddie’s tiny children had weighed only around three pounds when borne, but the greatest difference between them and their human counterparts was the rapidity with which they developed. They had been responsive to their carers from the very first moment, cooing, blowing bubbles and reaching for things. Of late and only four months old, they were crawling and hauling themselves up to stand. They babbled happily (to the point of verbally ‘holding the floor’ on occasion) and all relished the constant attention from the extended family, the dear youngsters utterly oblivious to their precarious existence.
As little Willow finished her bottle and sat up wide eyed, she squeaked with delight to her loving audience. They all knew… it would be time to move on soon. With more and more neighbors knowing of their existence, and the children becoming more mobile, it would only be a matter of time before their real status was discovered by ‘less friendly’ individuals. They also knew, if it came down to choice, any of the adults would happily die to ensure the children had a long and safe life… but sadly had needed to speak of the possibility of capture of the whole family. None of the adults could not let the children be experimental subjects, condemned to die slowly, piece by piece, or for them to die by the cold ‘hand of hate’ as some guilt free soldier twisted their tiny necks, slit their throats or shot them at point blank range. It had been a bleak and frank discussion, the two couples holding each other in desperation afterwards, no eye a dry one.
Shortly after the children were borne, the four adults had sat and decided. The longer they stayed the greater the risk, particularly with the political climate again leaning toward annihilation, the prospect of running again loomed, as did the implications of being ‘rounded up’ by the Initiative. Regardless if on the run or still on the farm, if caught, they were in silent agreement, the choice was clear. The quiet death at the hands/fangs of loved ones was the plan if they were discovered… with the last vampire remaining to dust himself. The idea that it would have to be done quickly an imperative, none wanted to take a life unnecessarily. Several other scenarios were discussed, including the family splitting up. Jon, Eddie and the children ‘running’ at some point. Eddie had begged that it not be countenanced. Jon, Xan and Spike were his only family. If they ran, they would run together and, if necessary, die… together. It was the first time for many months, since arriving at Samuel’s, that they felt… desperate, resigned and resolved.
Samuel II began to cry and needed a change. Eddie relieved his carer of the distressed little person and swiftly moved to change him on a tea-towel requisitioned for the purpose and placed on the floor. Missy shuffled over to watch proceedings licking her own paws as the little figure kicked his legs with the joy of being free of his personal ‘catchment area’. As Eddie quickly cleaned his tiny charge and blew a raspberry or two on the soft blue skin of the tiny torso, he also listened worriedly to the conversation continuing at the table.
There was less than a week to determine how to help the other chipped demons, but that was really out of the hands of the four fugitives and Samuel.
Willow strongly suggested that Samuel return to Balfron with Cassie and herself, at least for the next couple of weeks. His visions were invaluable to them, but given the worst case scenario of the ‘chip elimination’, he would need all the care and protection the coven could ensure, if he was to survive. The witches did not have enough ‘juice’ to take the rest of the group.
The only complication arose when Samuel refused to leave without Missy. Willow eventually agreed. Missy would travel with them. But that left the four others and three children utterly ‘unprotected’.
Eddie returned to the table, Sam II on his hip and Jon immediately grabbed his partner’s hand, unsure of how much Eddie had heard. Samuel had to leave with the witches … they had all agreed. Eddie nodded.
Xander, eye wound from the removed implant, still raw, and now again weeping with red tinged fluid, appealed to Willow that they (the ‘mental institute boys’ according to their story) had to have some sort of protector. They were all certain that if not, Kathleen would bring in the authorities, despite her protestations to the contrary. Cassie was the one to save the day. Her coven colleague and natural brother, Daniel, had ‘worked a farm’ on the Isle of Skye until in their early twenties. His presence on the Samuel’s farm could be explained as ‘carer/guardian’ referred by the hospital while Samuel was ‘unfortunately in residence’. Through the wiccan network they could do ‘the papers’, and so long as the neighbors were convinced, all would be well.
Willow was delighted by the suggestion as she felt Danny might have the time to shed light on Xander’s hormonally challenged condition, which was still very troubling. It was more about the long term effects that bothered Willow. Of course, that had hardly been an issue the Initiative would have cared about. Willow’s hair began to rise with the static of deadly intent and her eyes turned black but Cassandra placed a quieting hand on her arm. Avenging a friend could wait for another day.
A delighted squeal from the little figure in Jonothon’s arms broke all their thoughts, and reinforced the resolve of all adults in the room… The wiccans would work on a method to take the whole family to a safe haven, but for now Samuel and Missy would leave, and Danny was to come… and for now, the children were still happy and safe. And that, for now… would have to be enough.
They slept uneasily, knowing the new day would bring changes that they would all prefer not to have happen… the loss of Samuel being none too small a part of that. He was their favorite uncle in all sorts of ways. Generous to a fault, in word and in deed to all members of their family, and ‘good for a hug’ at any time (except if he’d been ‘gutting chickens’… which of course everyone pretty much understood). The little folks adored him… and even if he had been ill with his visions, he never failed to welcome them onto his place of recovery. Often, he simply lay back in his bed, while three little figures crawled around and over the comforter clad body, his only role to ensure that no-one ventured floor-ward. They patted his face, cooed in his ear, and generally enjoyed the attention of their gentle ‘grandfather’. He would be sorely missed, even if (they all hoped) it would only be for a short time.
Missy would also be a loss. She had been known to ‘round up’ the littlest folks now they were crawling, and regularly made sure the access through accidentally opened door to outside, or the oven, or the bathroom was blocked. Once she had even carried an over adventurous Sam II back to Eddie, the youngster rather precariously, but no less carefully lifted by the nappy as the child had all but tipped down the back steps.
The children adored the dog. She regularly put up with her ears and tail being pulled, her fur tugged, face patted by inexpert little hands and tiny bodies squirming over her large frame if she sat still for long enough. If it all became too much, Missy would simply give a put upon look to the adults present, stand carefully so as not to injure any of the children, and move away from the attention. Missy would most certainly be a loss.
The fugitives emerged from their sleeping place late the following afternoon. Xander and Jonothon looking decidedly better than they had the previous day – and indeed with no more pain from the implants, both seemed decidedly better than any of the others had seen them look in weeks. Both had benefited from Spike’s rich blood and the loving attention of partners overnight. The same could not be said for Samuel whom Willow had put a hex on mid morning, simply giving him some relief and peaceful slumber after what the witch called a rough night. Both Willow and Cassie looked drawn and tired. ‘Rough’, was no doubt, a serious understatement.
The family had only just gathered in the kitchen, when a blinding flash in the next room marked the arrival of Daniel. He seemed to recover from the ‘trip’ more quickly than his female counterparts and emerged at the kitchen door within moments of arriving. He was *nothing* like ‘Sam’s boys’ had imagined.
After The Fall: 15