A strapping six foot four, strawberry blonde (complete with half undone fashion shirt, huge gold, pirate earring, faded jeans and Doc Martin boots) leant casually against the kitchen door jam, gave a cheeky grin, then with obvious Glasgow influences said, "You called Mistress Willow… Cass… Gents?" He looked like Mr April from a ‘Highland Hunks 2005’ calendar.
There was barely a moment for any of them to talk, before Sam II crawled over to the man and hauled himself to standing, looking up expectantly. Without even losing eye contact with his slim dark sister, Daniel swooped the tiny blue child up, cradled him gently against his broad chest with one arm, and looked expectedly at his audience.
Samuel was still sleeping and the fugitive adults rather gob-smacked, so it was Cassie who stepped forward. “Hey Danny … thanks for coming.” Then in a near whisper added, “You are *very* welcome.”
Willow noted Spike standing back worried, and as Daniel moved further into the room, whispered, “Oh sweetie, he’s the most powerful male witch in the coven, and Cassie’s big brother... and his girlfriend Mikaela is a gifted healer for us… She’s a little bossy but…” Willow slapped him lightly, “You *always* make me babble *William*!” Spike’s raised his eyebrows in mock horror, then reached over and squeezed the witch’s hand. “Old time’s hey Pet? Thank you.”
Willow found herself drawn to the deep blue eyes, so full of memories love and pain that she bit her own lip. A second squeeze and small smile from her vampire friend led her to continue the private conversation on a slightly different tack, “Anyways, he’s totally cool with it, being here … you know… he wanted to… He and Cassie… they’ve lost…umm… Oh Spike… just know he’s really happy to help!” Willow gave Spike an appealing look and the vampire saw the innocent, well meaning, sixteen year old redhead of Sunnydale just for a moment.
He leaned over and kissed the white witch on the cheek, “’S OK Red… he’s rather lovely.” Both he and the witch smiled weakly. Too many memories. The spell was broken as the tall blonde man paused mid introductions to ‘blow a raspberry’ on the stomach of his delighted little charge’s blue belly, then pulled the tiny chap down to rub noses, and did it all over again for good measure…
The blonde vampire turned to the witch and squeezed her hand yet again, smiling, “Ahhh Pet… He’ll do just fine. Got me the moment he picked up the little bloke. Sam II’s a regular character judge I reckon… and seems your Daniel has passed with shinin’ colors.” He nodded toward the scene as the second tiny blue figure Jessie, made her way over to their ‘instant uncle’.
Eddie, with his hand firmly held by Jonothon, eventually reached toward Daniel. The appeal was not one for clemency, but rather one of gratitude as Daniel handed across the two tiny, apparently happy little bodies to their parents, little blue hands still reaching innocently for their ‘blonde benefactor’. Daniel recognized the deep gratitude smiled and kissed each little person as he handed them over. Both demon and vampire were moved to tears by such a simple kindness. His sister had not been wrong, these people needed his help, and he was more than willing to give.
Willow and Cassandra left in a flash of light along with Missy and Samuel. All were hopeful that things might improve for their savior and friend. They had made promises to see each other again, noone truly believing it was a possibility. Too many lost, too much at risk, they had seen his pain… they knew what was coming… and despite trusting the coven, Samuel’s adopted family grieved the departure as a death… two deaths. The adults all cried, the children were confused and simply did as instinct told them, curling up to their weeping parents, the ultimate reminder, that despite all else their protectors had to ‘go on’. Xander, Spike, Jon and Eddie eventually calmed and all apologized to Daniel.
Daniel had seen the victims of torture before, as the slow trickle of Initiative fugitives made their way to the coven, but had never had it put it in such sharp relief. The grief and fear rolled off them. Vampires, human, demons all the same… These gentle men, all so abused, denied, hated, tortured, these caring beings scarred forever… but not scared forever… not if Daniel couls help it…
Jonothon eventually stood, sniffed hard and kept his eyes to the floor as he went to try to make tea. Residual sobs were still causing unnecessary breathing to hitch. Spike eventually moved, took his compatriot aside, hauling him onto his lap as he sat on a low stool by the stove. He sliced open his wrist. Daniel had been preoccupied feeding one of Eddie’s brood, so was rather stunned to observe the loving scene. Spike was holding the larger vampire as one might a child while Jon pulled his surrogate Sire’s blood from the pre opened wrist. His face was oscillating between his true and human visage. Spike was stroking the other vampire’s hair, waiting patiently for him to calm. Daniel noted the toothless suckling and wondered at the cruelty.
Daniel had done six years of traditional medical studies before ‘The Fall’. He turned to Eddie.
“Would you like me to give the children a checkup?”
The small blue demon simply nodded, already upset by Samuel’s departure, the children’s upset and his partner’s obvious need for his Sire.
Daniel accepted a hand crocheted blanket from Xander then placed each squirming little figure on the kitchen table, quietly examining each in turn and complimenting the pretty blue demon on his fine parenting job… all children were flourishing. Eddie cried, Jonothon was by his side instantly and thanked Daniel then they retreated, with the now sleepy and freshly changed brood, to their underground sleeping quarters.
It left Xander and Spike alone with their new protector.
“Well mate, figure you’ve got a tale or two to tell… but… say we leave it til tomorrow cause I figure you’ve not had much sleep either, hang on a tick while we change your bed.”
Spike marched through the house grabbing linen on the way, and had Samuel’s room made up for their guest before Xander had been able to comment on his partner’s unusually domestic behavior.
Having finished his task the smaller vampire wandered past Daniel who extended and arm and grabbed him a little harder than intended, by the shoulder. Xander felt the unadulterated terror through their link just as the male witch realized his mistake. The simple gesture intended to stop his generous host had eventuated in the lovely figure collapsing into a fetal position, begging for clemency… not for himself, but for ‘the others’.
Xander had dropped to the floor immediately pulling his dear partner across his lap into a tight hug. This should all have been over but… there were just some things… Xander looked up to see a very distressed Daniel and reached for the gentle witch’s hand, squeezing it when given. There were no words needed. Daniel folded down to sit beside the pair and began to stroke the vampire’s blonde locks… As Spike calmed he began to purr quietly and Xander smiled, Daniel relaxed a little too. Eventually they all took their leave. The witch had been warned it would be bad… but these wonderful men… he had not been told how bad.
The morning brought sunlight and Kathleen. Her shrill tones and double beep of the pickup’s horn jolted the entire household to wake. Eddie’s children were quickly placated by bottles from all directions and Jon’s quiet suckling of his surrogate sire gave no clue as to their presence underground.
Xander quickly dressed and emerged from the rear of the house (apparently from the garden) just as Kathleen was about to ‘let herself in’.
“Hey Kath. We have some rather bad news.” Xander looked genuinely upset having only just said farewell to Samuel. “I’m afraid Samuel has had to go for another ‘rest’.”
Kathleen sat heavily on the front step. “Oh my dear lord. I just knew that was comin’.” In that moment Xander felt some sympathy for the woman who was genuinely a well meaning neighbor. Albeit a nosey one. “That means you boys are…?”
“…In no trouble really. The hospice had sent us another carer for the time being. His name is Daniel I’m sure you will like him. He’s from Scotland originally.” On cue Daniel emerged from the house looking a little disheaveled but had also obviously heard the exchange.
Kathleen was suitably impressed. “Well ya’ll call if you need anything. And don’t forget Robbie is comin’ over tonight.” Xander groaned a little of course she would know about that, and remember it. Daniel looked puzzled but Xander shot him a look that spelt ‘tell you later’.
With Daniel still coming to terms with his new abode, it was Xander who quickly dispatched their neighbor with promises of updates on Samuel’s progress. He loaded three lovely ‘cedar hanging chairs’, six dozen eggs and a huge box of spinach into the back of her truck.
Xander became aware of Daniel’s tall form behind him as he waved the pickup through the gates.
The soft baritone voice somehow reminded Xander of Robin Wood… no doubt dead now, “She a problem?”
He turned and smiled, then reached to grab the large hand of their worried new ‘carer’, “Only in the interfering Aunt sense. She’s annoying and frustrating and dangerous in that we need to get away from anyone who is likely to give us away… but she has kept the farm going… we can’t go to market… we just can’t get that close… she was the only link.”
Daniel grunted “Hmmm. Well that might change now I’m….”
“No!! No you can’t, oh God Daniel …. What if they… and then…” Xander was about to fall to his knees but a strong hand on his upper arm held him standing.
“I only have the second hand version of what has happened to you, to yours. And I am still learning how things work around here, so please…. Please!... I will do nothing without consulting you first… I guarantee it! So…” He relaxed the hold, smiled and patted his only human charge. The terrified look in Xander’s eyes subsided a little. “The others are still asleep, Will you show me your art space… those were three incredible pieces you just sent… How did you… with the implant pain?”
As the brunette led Daniel toward the shed he simply replied, “Sometimes the rhythm of hand sanding just…. helped.”
The ‘tour’ was quick and at its conclusion, Daniel asked to be allowed to stay and watch, “or even help?” Xander handed him a turned piece and a pile of fine sand paper cut to a hand size pieces. The blonde was a willing assistant, continuing to smooth the legs of the next table as Xander expertly mitered the beginnings of his latest creation, routed the edges of another, and put a finishing lick of polish on the huge slab of cedar that was to make the table top for the now sanded legs Daniel had so thoroughly attended to.
The sun hitting his lathe marked midday for Xander. The two men smiled. It had been a most pleasant morning, but the work on the rest of the farm needed attention.
As they approached the house, cheerful squeaks and near words were audible from the storm cellar. Xander quietly excused himself, slid under the hatchway with as little light exposure as possible, and emerged a moment later with two little folks in arms. He handed Willow to Daniel and with Eddie and Jess behind him, hoisted SamII into the sunlight.
It was a lovely afternoon. Following the children’s feeding there had been a ‘bit of a wash’ necessary as the three were now eating ‘solids’ (something Xander felt was a euphemism for solid things to throw at the carers! or more ‘solid’ nappies!). They’d had very over cooked spaghetti and plain homemade tomato sauce which found its way into almost every nook and cranny of both feeder and feedee… but no one really minded and bath time was a joy…
This was followed by some work in the market garden and on the farm. Daniel hardly needed to be ‘shown the ropes’, rather, he’d fixed some fences that had needed attention for months, tended a number of the goats and cattle that had injuries or infections, and hefted five huge boxes of cabbages ready to be collected before the resident vampires rose with the late afternoon sun affording them shadow.
Inside the new family member, 'their' blonde witch, divided his time equally between all the tiny blue children. He took each little person for ‘a ride’ on his back, as he rounded up goats, fed chickens, and toward the end of the day, tended to the three cows in need of attention as they wandered up for milking.
Daniel finally came inside depositing his last small charge SamII into his high chair at the table and sat with relief, smiling at the scene. The adults were all in ‘screaming hour’ mode, intent on placating hungry mouths. A beer was shoved his way with a friendly smile, he accepted it gratefully and sat back to watch the interactions. His own family had been so different. This one had four adults all intent on indulging the tiny people in their charge. He began to note other things. He knew that Xander and Spike were together, as were Eddie and Jonothon. He watched Xander and Spike particularly: the gentle brush across the back of a hand; the quiet kiss to the back of the hair; the subtle hug when they thought no one was looking; and the shared pain, the knowledge of torture and loss.
There was always loss. He too knew loss.
He contacted Willow via Email… encrypted and relayed of course, as much for his own reassurance as hers. Somehow he did not believe that the individuals in his charge had been traced… yet… Willow’s message was clear. They were trying to pull in as much power as they could. But without an extra ‘boost’ they would only save thousands… not… the millions needed!
Spike was listening in and offered his opinion for the first time, “Call the clans!”
Daniel protested, “There are no…”
“There are and they will be strong… but we must call them… they have to know.”
Daniel relayed the message… any still remaining unchipped from the Vampire clans would answer the call if they could. William of the Aurelian line was asking for their assistance to save so many more.
The family were gathered in the kitchen, the all knew. They had to be strong. Spike began, he split his wrist. Jonothon did likewise. Xander and Eddie offered their own… blood. Daniel looked puzzled but pushed his wrist forward also, was fed and understood.
“It will be fine… we’ll pull from the earth… her storms will gather back what is given after… but we must try… we all must try…” The witch fell to his knees as the first ‘round’ of extractions began. It was just after sundown as Daniel tapped in to try to help. The vampires felt the prickle of magic. Xander and Eddie fed their friends tapping their life force to bolster the push. After that Jonothon then Spike… fed the blonde from their wrist… As they did, Daniel saw some of the torture they had survived. He continuing to push the energy through the wiccan link then collapsed, curling into his own fetal ball to sob as his weakened state accepted the images of his friends’ torment at the hands of the Initiative,
Unbeknown to him three little figures had been let loose in the kitchen. A tiny Willow sat in front of his face to pat the upset adult, while Sam and Jesse found their way to stroke and hug Daniel’s torso. He pushed them away just in time.
The final jolt was extraordinary…
Eddie had pulled the small folk to him as the blinding flash began and did not seem to stop. He held the children, terrified for his mate and simply waited.
Xander roused first, sitting up groggily, followed by Spike, and finally his lovely Jon. The young vampire made a show of ‘being fine’ though clearly he wasn’t.
They could only hope. There were millions at stake… Xander wondered idly what exactly had allowed the power to flow, but as usual…. There was aught to report. They could only wait and hope. More worrying now was that their ‘carer’, Daniel was only just beginning to gain consciousness. Though his first words, just before he passed out again, were somewhat encouraging.
"Hmmmmnosure… maybe we … did… call…Mis…tress…”
After The Fall: 16