Spike made the call. Willow’s cell phone rang out and he was unwilling to contact the coven direct. Paranoia as a survival tactic had its merits. What if the Initiative had a way of tracking the magical surge to its source? Spike and his fellow fugitives all realized at the same moment. They had no way of telling. Without the support of the coven, and with William the Bloody being officially ‘back in action’ with his calling of the clans… they would need to get moving and soon… but to where was the problem.
At that moment, heavy banging on the back door caused Eddie to blanch, whimper and pull little Willow to him in terror. They all froze, Xander felt physically ill… Surely not yet… not yet… they couldn’t have! Logic said they couldn’t…
A second rapping and Eddie pulled the other two children to his chest, holding them so tight that tiny Willow squeaked her protest. Jonothon shoved a finger into the little mouth to silence her. The adults scanned the room, panicked.
Where might they hide at such short notice? What were the options for escape? Perhaps Samuel’s bedroom might provide a little time… or… at least give them… enough time to… They had all decided the children would not be taken. A distressed Spike nodded, if this was who they feared it might be, then both he and Jonothon knew what they must do. Spike would be the last to dust. He and Jon had promised to take their family, ending each dear person’s time in a loving embrace rather than in cruelty… the children quietly… lovingly… then the partners, then the Sire would end the Childe and … finally the Sire would end himself. Xander had made a beautifully ornate stake for just such a purpose, the words ‘for Love and for Eternity’ carved carefully into the handle. The sad little group moved silently toward Samuel’s bedroom.
There was no better timing. A loud, cheerful male voice rang out, “Hello? Beer’s here! Hey guys?! Come greet the purveyor of fine malt! It’s Robbie, fellas… comparing beers blahh blahh. You said Friday? Hello?? Alex? William?”
Xander’s eyes went wide “Oh God, it’s the ambulance guy… it’s Robbie! Kathleen reminded me and I … Get the kids and Eddie to the bedroom … I’ll stall him in the kitchen then we can ummm… Oh God this is all such a mess!”
Spike put a still shaking hand on his panicked partner’s arm, “It’s fine Xan. We’re fine… You go be host, the kids will be fine… big bed, family… they’ll be fine. We’ll sort the rest.”
The belated sense of relief in the group was tangible. Eddie and Jonothon carried their brood into Samuel’s room, each child was lovingly kissed and cuddled far beyond what was usual. The children picked up on their parents’ distress and returned the attention, also settling more willingly than was normal. Blinds were checked and within minutes, three little blue figures were snuggled between Jonothon and Eddie as bedcovers were pulled up and the five settled for the evening. It was one more night together … made so much more precious by recent events… so much more… one more night together. Jon reached over the slumbering trio to wipe away a tear tracking down his beautiful lover’s face, they both knew. Jon whispered, “Every day is a gift… with you … We’ll get through this… We will…” Eddie simply pulled the caressing hand to his lips and kissed it… their feet found each other despite the child induced ‘gap’ and they instinctively intertwined fingers as unsettled sleep took them.
Spike had roused the exhausted Daniel enough to move him to Samuel’s chair in the lounge. His still half finished beer from earlier was placed strategically and the tiny television turned on to the basketball. Robbie entered within seconds of the tableau being completed and Spike sighed with relief.
Daniel came back to consciousness quickly as Robbie settled himself on the lounge next to Spike.
“Ummm this is Daniel, he’s been sent as our… well just to make sure…”
William’s embarrassment spelt volumes to the gentle paramedic, he leaned forward and stilled his blonde host with a simple touch. “’S fine William. Kathleen told me about Sam. Can’t say I’m surprised … Nice to meet you Dan.” He extended a friendly hand toward Daniel and grinned as a strong grip matched his own in the handshake.
“Bugger off!… Bonny Scotland!!”
“Umm sorry, just…”
“Ach…. No need t’ worry. Answer to pretty much anythin’ so long as it’s no rude!”
Robbie grinned and handed his now completely lucent ‘host’ a home brew.
Daniel grinned broadly and Robbie returned the smile as the blonde Scot commented, “You in the business or just specialize in abusin’ friends with overproof hops?”
Spike gave a relieved sigh as he watched Robbie roar laughing and the two males connect. Xander fetched some of Samuel’s own brew ‘for comparison purposes’. The basketball game finished and a game of soccer from somewhere in South America began. The commentary was exciting, the game less impressive. They turned down the sound and relaxed into the evening.
Still unsure of Robbie, Xander had hung back, sitting on the floor near Spike’s feet, still not game to actually make contact. Eventually however, he moved closer under the guise of hearing the conversation better. Daniel and Robbie were comparing ‘diving’ stories. Ironically both had were keen scuba enthusiasts with vastly different experiences. As they spoke and the beer flowed, Xander quietly moved to lean against his partner’s knee. He pressed into the leg so recently crippled, appreciating the strength and renewed muscle. A cautious, cool hand caressed the nape of his neck. He felt sad that the hair there was but a whispy tribute to the manly mane of old. Despite all the other implants being removed, there was still something slightly amiss. Daniel had promised to do some tests… Xander and Spike were close to refusing the service. Sometimes ‘denial’ was not just a river in Egypt.
Robbie noted the closeness of the other two males in the room as he chatted to Daniel. He smiled sadly and wondered again if their ‘challenged’ status might have stemmed from their torture, or if their ‘orientation’ had contributed to the same… Then wondered if it went beyond that. There were plenty of ex service folks who had been ‘forced’ or ‘changed’ by their capture. As the beer flowed and brews were compared. Eventually Robbie took an enormous risk. He openly admitted that his oldest and dearest school friend, Sue, had committed suicide mere months previously after nine years of fine service for their country. Her incarceration was due to her doubtful ‘sympathies’, and wiped out her previously impeccable and awarded service.
Sue had been taken in shortly after her partner Phillipa. The female lieutenant was interrogated for nearly two weeks by the Initiative, returning to ranks ‘marked’ and apparently ‘clean’ but destined for ‘repeated training’ with the government group.
Robbie had known she had a girlfriend… they had all known. What surprised them was the vicious way the Initiative announced Sue’s fall from grace. They proudly informed the entire platoon that Sue’s girlfriend was a witch and ‘eliminated’ the ‘non human’ in full sight of her partner and the entire platoon. It was announced that Sue had agreed to ‘retraining’. A shot rang out later that night, no one was surprised. There were no dry eyes in her immediate group. Seven of their number had resigned from the government’s employ within the week. Two disappeared within days.
Robbie felt comfortable, and after several beers, admitted the full story to his companions.
Spike was the first to speak, “Bloody sad state of affairs mate. You survived OK?”
Touched by the gentle blonde’s concern, Robbie gave away just a little more, “Oh Good Lord… We were just so frightened… Sue was…. Beautiful… inspiring… wonderful… and her partner no different… God I’m sorry… They had kids! At the time we didn’t know… oh god we didn’t know… I’m sorry… Oh Lord!!! Sorry didn’t mean to… you know… too much politics… Hey… I just came to share beer… this is so embarrassing! I’m sorry… it’s just….” He looked appealingly to Xander and Spike, then to Daniel and found nothing but sympathy and friendship in the replying gazes.
“’S OK pet,” Spike openly squeezed Xander’s hand, “Been there done that mate… happy to lose the T-shirt…. And figure you guessed but for the record… We’re together… for the duration as it were… Sorry ‘bout your friend… so sorry…….” The sympathetic blue gaze engaging Robbie seemed to shift the whole room.
The large ambulance driver stood and proposed a toast. “Right well… To alternatives and options… and to Sue …may she… and hers… well may they have found peace…” They all raised their glasses.
Snoozing lightly in Samuel’s bedroom, Jonothon smiled as he heard the exchange… there may yet be sympathetic locals. He still doubted their toleration for a toothless vampire a demon and three dear little blue children… He pulled the family closer and returned to an uneasy sleep.
Robbie left around midnight, just shortly after they had all decided his was unequivocally the far superior beer. Few secrets had been revealed other than Xander and Spike’s relationship, but the family’s demon ‘sympathies’ had been hinted at (from Robbie’s side not theirs) … and Daniel and Robbie seemed to have really ‘hit it off’. Nothing was assured but they waved goodbye and hoped.
Within moments of Robbie’s departure, Daniel logged in again. Jonothon and Eddie roused and the four fugitives stood slightly back as Daniel received the message.
The Email from Willow was clear. The clans had indeed answered the call. It was apparent that they were all relieved and amazed that one of the old European Masters had survived the Fall, all those remaining free had apparently been willingly to join forces with the wiccans within minutes of Spike’s ‘call to arms’. That hour they had pulled in nearly eighty percent of existing free vampires across the globe to help, and associated demons where possible. The wiccan groups had already been contacted. There had never been such a joining before.
The melding of dark and light magic was the balance that was needed to pull on Gaia’s full energy. It went beyond all expectations… yet still so many were lost. Their reach was only as far as the ‘boosting’ from local demons and wiccans could manage. Some large centers were saved, indeed almost all major capitals. But distressingly the Initiative had positioned their establishments far from the large population groups, and in some regions, the round up had been *extremely* effective.
The Chinese clans and those of Indonesia were surprisingly unscathed, largely due to the vast population and rural nature of most clans in China’s case, and the number of islands and remote outposts making up Indonesia. Happily the two groups had pushed out enough energy to cover (with tiny boosts from local magical beings) almost the whole of south east Asia.
Sadly some areas of southern Australia and Micronesia were missed as the Initiative sweeps had been all too efficient There was no-one left to receive the call. Even more distressing… no-one had heard from anyone in Japan or the South of Korea.
Africa had survived surprisingly well but Kenya, Mali and the Ivory Coast were wiped out, along with unknown numbers in regions of South Africa. There was no logic other than the Initiative had been so effective in those areas that there was noone left to 'boost' the signal.
India and the Middle East fared reasonably well. Eastern and Northern Europe, along with Ireland, Scotland and Spain seemed to have had enough of the old clan power to survive, but apparently all chipped or implanted individuals in South East England and France were lost. The best global estimate was still only three saved for every two lost. Sadly that equated to hundreds of thousands… possibly millions.
Eddie buried his face into his lover’s chest and sobbed. There would have been children… they all knew they had chipped demon children.
The definition of evil had been given a new name.
Xander, Spike and Daniel took the babies and sent another Email to thank the coven… at least some were saved. Eddie was still overwhelmed and sobbing. The latest reports gave the survival rate of his own race as one in ten at best. It seemed that peace loving and helpful,made no difference in the Initiative’s world.
He pushed a still sleeping SamII into Daniel’s arms and kissed his dear friend on the cheek then stroking the deep blue hair. If only for a moment … he had been happy…they had been happy.
The family gave Jon some peace as he tended his still sobbing lover.
The rest of the family returned the lounge room, and all wondered… What now? With demons dechipped, and many not even understanding their status… what now? Where could they, would they be able to go? What might they do to survive? Whom should their own ‘family’ turn to? How were they to make contact? And more importantly, what was the backlash likely to be?
After The Fall: 17