The ‘Fab Five’ were all in the enormous bath together. Eddie and Xander almost as wet as the children, and the floor of the bathroom was getting its usual wash. Elsbeth and Chris were at the ‘shallow end’ between Jessie’s legs, while Willow and Sam ‘annoyed each other’ at the other.
There were so many toys floating around, that there was little attention being given to actual cleaning, although Eddie’s three eventually insisted on having their fur soaped up as it had become quite the tradition to make ‘punk spikes’ all over their bodies. The two bearers of children had simply rolled their eyes a few weeks earlier when Sam II excitedly demonstrated the how to … after explaining “when Unca Spike was here…”
They had installed a hand held shower on a flexible arm, so when the soapy little folks finally stood, they could be gently rinsed off. Eddie’s three were still fascinated, and a little worried by the fact that their little cousins still had no fur or tail. Oddly the difference in color seemed not to concern them whatsoever.
On this particular afternoon, however, when it was explained again that the twins were not able to grow tails, Little Willow looked sadly thoughtful. She then stared Xander determinedly in the eye and said, “Well we’ve gotta make ‘em” one! If’n they wear f’r a bit then maybe they can just… *get* them too … ‘s not hard! Mine jus’ growed! ‘n look! Then they c’n do this!” She lifted her little tail and wiggled it from side to side… obviously a new trick.
Xander simply kissed the thoughtful little love and smiled at Eddie. And the rest of the afternoon was spent ‘constructing tails’ for the cousins. Xander was just relieved that his two were in nappies, so the staples and glue used to affix the cotton wool clad cardboard and the large nappy pin of said tail to the small person was on the *outside*. But the sparkle of pride and satisfaction in Little Willow’s eyes as she saw her cousins adorned with their ‘extra bits’ was
The following day it was Spike’s turn to stand at the window. It was a clear sky and the morning sun prohibitive to vampires. He could just see Willow, Jess and Sam II playing on the swing while his two crawled and played happily on a rug (tails still in place at the insistence of little Willow) They were in clear sight under a tree nearer the garden. But as Xander’s arms embraced his partner, Xander noted it wasn’t the children Spike was looking at.
Eddie was wandering about, thick garden gloves and a pair of cutters in hand, cutting flowers to bring inside. The little blue demon looked like an advertisement for the ‘good life’. He had a tattered old straw hat on, loose checked red shirt that clashed with his skin color partnered with a pair of old faded and frayed jeans. But it was actually the wide flower basket that had Spike transfixed.
“Never thought I’d say this Spike… but ‘penny for your thoughts’?”
The wistful reply gave Xander an inkling of the issue. “Me ol’ mum used to do that… pick flowers for inside… Our place in Surrey… until she got too sick… Used to go out with the basket then spend all afternoon arranging them… never realized how much I missed roses until now… Oh Pet… She would have loved the children… spoiled them rotten… but [sigh]…”
Xander pulled his contemplative mate flush against him, then scraped his fangs across his Sire’s neck, “Well… maybe we could pretend to make some more… hmmm?”
Some hour or so later two rather satisfied vampires joined Jon and Sam to begin the tasks of the day. Jon smirked as he clearly recognized the smell of their coupling.
Xander’s carpentry work had increased over the months (periscopes notwithstanding!). Tables, high chairs, feature items all back on the agenda… The difference was their method of sale, Ebay or ‘commissioned only’ were the standard. As the worry regarding the Initiative increased, the direct sale increased, Ebay had to be abandoned.
Encouraged by Nicholas, whose own business gradually changed over to the ‘Xander label’ for all their office needs, many others in the town found themselves with wonderful feature tables in their waiting rooms, beautiful board room settings, or functional works of art in their own homes.
Like Kathleen, Nick acted as the agent, kept records and paid the tax. The difference being that the agency fees were business standard (ie less) and the money was all electronically transferred to a trust for the children attached to the Aurelian accounts in Switzerland. Xander reassured Eddie and Jon that it was for *all* the children, not just those identified in the USA.
As always the Swiss had been unwelcoming of any outside dictates for their territory and the Initiative had never been successful at ‘sweeping’ the land there. The banks of the tiny country were legendary for maintain secrecy as it pertained to their clients. Spike was Master William on the account, and his Childer, Jon and Xander were both of the Aurelian line and had automatic access according to its specifications. The bank they dealt with in Geneva had swift methods for identifying family and legitimacy when it came to vampires. The elder Aurelian added Eddie and Sam’s name to the signatories, in case the vampires were dusted. If Angel was still alive by some miracle then he would also have access.
In amongst their digging ventures, Jon and Spike had focused on stockpiling food and supplies in various places. Burying them in the dead of night miles from their home and fanning out so no matter what direction they had to run in, there would be something for their ragtag bunch to live on, at least for a few days. Jon also tended their new livestock. His love of animals tested by the prospect that they might have to run and leave their stock to fend for themselves… He lovingly vaccinated, tended wounds, birthed and impregnated.
Spike marveled at his adoptive Childe’s veterinary skills and the connection with his charges, particularly as Jon regularly collected blood from the bigger members of their various herds. Somehow the cows, sheep and goats… seemed to understand why and apparently willingly gave as he never had to restrain them in any way. Jon never took too much and never from a pregnant female. The animals without exception, stood very quietly as he siphoned off the precious liquid from a surface vein. He never failed to lick the hole closed with his own saliva and thank the animal sincerely before feeding them extra grain and offering water.
Eddie and Robbie’s work in the garden became more frantic as Sam’s visions increased in intensity. They bottled, pickled, dried and froze what they could, and sold the rest. As ever, the market garden was extraordinary under Eddie’s deft hand. The money made was spent on improving the lot.
In the early hours of the morning two days after Willow’s cryptic “Dawn” message, Xander lay with his partner still embedded in him… both ‘coming down’. Spike felt the angst through the link…
“Can’t have been that bad, Pet? Seem to recall you moaning and… kind of still ‘here’ at your request.” Spike gave a little prod with the still semi hard member, but the problem was not one that might be comforted via that method.
Xander sighed then pulled off with a slight ‘plop’, and turned to his Mate, his Sire, “It’s not you honey… It was… Oh god, all of it! And thank you… wonderful.” To emphasize his point Xander kissed his partner soundly. “But… um…. I was just thinking… If this all goes bad… and I know this is going to sound dumb, but if it does.. and we have to run… for a while… How are we going to bath the kids?… You know… and daipers?… not the friend of undercover agents or people in hiding! And what about food and water and…”
“You think Jon and I haven’t planned for that?!... Well maybe not if we have to run for months … but for days? If we don’t use ‘em, in fifty years or so there’s gonna be a whole lot of farmers finding a tree or two that have a stash of nappies and preserved food underneath… not to mention the caves… Oh c’mon Pet... Witch still hasn’t explained ‘er bloody message!” Spike knew that at this point talk really was irrelevant so simply pulled his partner into a tight hug, burying his Childe’s game face into his chest and inviting a comfort bite.
The trouble was Jon, Sam and he had had just such a conversation not two nights previously. If they had to run for a long time, the children would truly be in jeopardy. How ready could they really be?
The family was having dinner. Officially it was pizza, though the toppings really did belie anything that resembled a store bought version. It was winter so the basil was dried, the tomatoes were bottled (their own of course courtesy of Eddie’s garden and Spike’s cooking), the garlic and onions were from the hanging bunches in the shed (Robbie) and anything else was a bonus. Xander commenting that you simply couldn’t order a pizza with eggs or roast potato slices on top where he came from. His comment completely lost as his little son squealed with delight and apparently yelled “Yumm”, bouncing and slapping the table, causing a round of hilarity at the young fellow’s enthusiasm – and apparent first word.
Eddie and Jon’s children were neat eaters and enjoying their pieces, in fact all were on their second little slice before the adults had even had a taste. They were all sitting proudly on the new ‘booster chairs’ Unca Xan made for them. The chairs were almost like adult bar stools but had back and arm rests to keep the occupier safe. Each little person had their own brightly colored plastic plate with matching cup, filled with home made lemon cordial, and were trying *so* hard to be good because the adults all seemed to be worried about something, and their demon noses could smell tears. All the big people seemed very sad of late. The adults did notice the children making an effort… and somehow it made the angst escalate.
The littlest cousins were rather oblivious to the situation, and sitting in their high chairs were enjoying mashed pizza topping fed with a spoon, while enthusiastically squishing a small triangles of the pizza base and occasionally bringing it to their mouth to have a ‘taste’ or offering it to ‘Da’ as he fed them.
The adults had just finished eating when a loud ping from the computer indicating an Email stopped them all in their tracks. Robbie stood and did the honors. It was Oz’s address, though it was quickly apparent that it was Willow sending the message.
“Wolfman says Hi. Playing groupie to that gig at the mo. Danny Boy can’t stay away from the north west. Healer coming with…soon. DB has lowdown on the Key status. Tell the whole family when you’re ready. Harsh and her choice…. we’ll all grieve. Hi to fab five BTW… ::hugs:: W.”
Again within minutes of the message, there was a flash in the lounge room behind them. A rather dazed Mikaela and Daniel had arrived.
Three little people scrambled down from their chairs. Willow had been the first to discover, two days ago, that if she screwed around with her back to the table, she could slide down the chair leg onto the floor under the table and ‘escape’. The others had simply followed her lead. Daniel watched the three little people catapulting toward him and a combination of dizziness from the ‘travel’ and joy at seeing Eddie’s lovely three caused him to fall to his knees and accept the enthusiastic greeting.
Mikaela simply steadied herself then moved into the kitchen to hug Sam and greet the rest of the family. Xander’s two were quiet, unsure of what was going on, but eventually appealed, had faces wiped, bibs removed, and were lifted from their chairs into the safety of their fathers’ arms, then allowed onto the floor to crawl toward their cousins and the ‘excitement’.
Greetings over, the children were busy on the floor of the lounge room surrounded by building blocks and various toys.
For the first time Xander really became aware of his vampire status as Daniel reacted to his touch then dived back to hug his old friend even tighter… “Goddess… Xan you feel utterly… magical! Wonderful… And… I’ve missed you all … every day! But we do need to talk…”
“Can we put the kids to bed first… you know … an hour? Is there time?”
They sat, drank tea and chatted idly and played with the children for a while. The little ones all gradually displayed tell tale signs of tiredness. Bottles were issued, beds entered and stories read. Daniel grinned as Robbie was commandeered by three little blue charges to read the Mr Brown book *again*! (“Mr Brown can Moo can you?” by Dr Seuss… apparently he was an expert moo-er).
The large man emerged some time later with the book tucked under his arm and a broad smile firmly in place. He grabbed Eddie’s hand as he passed by the lounge to retake his seat. He leant down and kissed the top of the pretty blue head. “They’re good kids Ed… really good kids.”
Xander stayed to talk to Daniel while Spike put their two to sleep. With all the daily crawling and trying to keep up with cousins, it was a quicker process than book reading, though that too was becoming part of the ritual.
All the adults were now present and the neighbors had also just arrived, at the behest of Sam (concerned that they too were kept informed). Daniel began, “The Key is the one who might save us all.”
Spike baulked at the suggestion and grief permeated the link. His Childe felt it. Dawn had been the little sister lost. Dawn represented hope and family… and grief in its rawest form. He could not save her… he couldn’t get to her… because he too was a captive… the anguish was real. Spike had watched the girl he had pledged to keep safe all those years ago, being dragged away screaming to him, but he was unable to move, unable to help… the anguish was bright and real and ever-present.
Daniel knew the angst this caused the people who had known Dawn, so continued with an explanation. It was years on from the original watershed and Dawn had floated around Willow, eventually being able to converse after a fashion, pulsing in various rhythms and relaying her thoughts in the way a ball of energy might. To placate Spike’s concern Daniel was careful to add that her distress at learning of the suffering of her friends was extreme, though when told of their family by Willow, her joy was obvious.
Now when all was at stake, she offered her energy. She had channeled her message to Willow via a young acolyte who spoke the words she was no longer able to express. She would communicate with Gaia to destroy all the Initiative facilities, by weather or earth movement, and use her own energy to boost the wards on demon strongholds for three months or so after, wherever they were still attacked directly. The political tide was turning, all they needed was time and the Initiative would be destroyed.
Spike stood in protest, “*NO*!! It will destroy her!” Xander felt the utter distress through the link and saw a crimson tear track down his mate’s cheek… “You can’t… she can’t… we can’t lose her! Please Danny…”
The tall wiccan moved forward in time to catch the vampire on the way down. Spike’s face was buried in the broad chest as Daniel he held him and continued quietly, almost speaking into Spike’s hair. “She is already gone Will, she’s gone. This is her last hoorah, her final curtain, and it’s her choice… She wants this… for you. She still loves you, all of you. And she will honor the coven and her own heritage… but there is no way to bring her back, Will. This will release her from this dimension. It is an act of love and an act of relief for her! Three months or so and she will be free of this realm.”
A teary Xander stepped up and accepted his partner, pushing his Sire’s mouth to his own throat as they sat. Spike fed quietly for a time, but it was Xander who asked the question, “Will there be pain for her?”
“I don’t believe so Xander, though it is difficult to tell. In her current state I don’t think she is beholden to physical feelings…”
It was Xander’s turn to shed a tear, but he managed to grind out, “What do we need to do?”
“You remember last time? Be ready to take shelter. Gaia is gathering her strength. Innocents will die. Don’t let it be yours.” Daniel looked pointedly at the bedroom as Sam arched in pain and slid to the floor with another onslaught of visions.
They now knew that they had but days for final preparations the trouble was to determine for what. The children all slept on.
After The Fall: 30