Private Richards was true to his word.
No Initiative trucks or helicopters arrived, just Mike’s old Chevy. Mike swore at the soldiers again as he noticed the damaged back door, clearly it had been done deliberately. But the cameras were back on so he didn’t enter, simply did his chores, gave a wave to the cameras whilst mouthing off at the ‘F#$%wit army bastards’. He then commented that it was real nice that the folks who owned these two places were letting him keep the profits from selling the eggs and milk, “ ‘cause if them soldiers keep this crap up Mr D’ll never come back!”
Right on dusk of the third day, the young soldier arrived again.
Spike heard him report to his superiors that the cameras would be down for an hour or two for maintenance review. Some scrambling on the roof of first the barn then the house ensued, then a soft knock on the back door (a courtesy only since it was now unable to be locked) announced his arrival.
The families were in the lounge in one of their ‘active’ times. With adequate human food, at least for those who ate it, and the dry warmth of the home, they had done little but sleep, eat and watch the children play, truly play, again.
The older girls had found the stash of books and were working their way through a number of classics, intermittently reading Christopher Robin to the children and sitting patiently teaching Eddie’s three to write their names and their ABC’s when everyone was up. They also seemed to delight in making rudimentary houses of cards only to have the youngsters push them over.
On the third day, Eddie made play dough from the weevil infested flour and almost half their supply of salt. Much fun ensued, the adults even enjoying the exercise, and Xander causing everyone to giggle as he donned a false moustache, eyebrows and added to his ears with the dough. The other ‘oldies’ followed suit with glasses, ‘extra noses’, odd shaped chins and even ‘vampire ridges’. The arrival of the vehicle and noise on the roof staunched the hilarity until Spike repeated the soldier boy’s report to his superiors for the non Vampires, and the quiet knock was heard.
Robbie was adorned with some play-dough glasses and Groucho Marx’ moustache, as he moved to greet the soldier. The young man was a little taken aback at the sight but grinned as he saw the scene in the background.
He had brought some much needed supplies of flour, pasta, rice and sugar, along with some stock cubes, enormous pack of raisins and a jar of Thai red curry paste. He apologized for the lack of variety and odd collection, but explained that with the weather and earth turmoil, the local grocer was running low on almost everything… he was out of coffee and chocolate. Xander groaned… no chocolate at a grocers… inconceivable!
“But I did manage to pick up a few of these…”
When David produced two packs of twelve Twinkies, Xander couldn’t help himself. He simply got up and kissed the astonished young man soundly on the cheek, then placed the packs of cakes reverently on the far bench.
Spike grinned at the now blushing and bemused David, “Oh pet, I think you’ve just made a friend for life!”
“Yeah um… well… um… OK… I um…” He switched his attention fully to Spike, “I couldn’t find nappies though I’m sorry. But I did find some bleach.”
He handed the large bottle over to Spike who grinned at him and lifted the now just walking Elsbeth up into his lap, pulling her tiny coveralls down a little, “’S OK pet, we improvised, one bath towel equals three nappies… easy… But the bleach is a right thoughtful gesture… thanks luv.” Private Richards blushed again.
Spike, Xander and Jon, desperately needed blood, and though Eddie, Robbie and the D’Azpura’s had offered, none would dare take it. The other adults were so run down and thin that there were real risks involved in ‘donating’. They convinced David to keep the children amused while all the adults braved the rain again to collect greens, eggs, and wood. They then rounded up all the larger animals to relieve the majority of a little precious red liquid… and attend the only milking cow that she might contribute to the children’s diet.
Goat and bovine were not really their first choice of blood, but they were thankful and the vampires shared the task of taking a little blood before sealing the wound on their animals by laving over wound in the fur until the healing had started. They had collected enough for the three of them for a couple of days… It was enough.
As they reentered the lounge room together, the parents were graced by a rather lovely scene.
The young soldier was sitting on the ground with all five little folks leaning against him in some fashion. Elsbeth and Chris were in between his legs with Jesse, Sam was sitting on his left knee and Willow held by his left arm. The rather precocious little girl was helping him to turn the pages of the book he held. Nic and Patty’s two were on the couch and all were listening to the soldier intently as he read one of the early chapters of Sam’s well worn, leather bound original of “Huckleberry Finn”.
Spike and Xander were certain that their two would have no idea what was going on with the story, but both seemed quite happy, seated side by side leaning back against a strong, youthful thigh. The other three were enthralled, and blinked huge blue eyes full of wonder at the young man whenever he looked up. The soldier blushed as he realized the parental scrutiny. Jon simply mouthed ‘thank you’ and they all made a quiet exit.
Private Richards was aware of the time and wasn’t a tea drinker, but had a cup with the families before leaving anyway. He now knew all the children’s names and watched, thrilled, as Elsbeth and her brother displayed their new ability to walk an albeit rather wobbly line to him, when encouraged by their cousins.
Spike had seen it first at the book reading, the furtive smile from the soldier to Nic’s stunningly beautiful, seventeen year old, Margaret. The look was returned from under impossibly long lashes, and Spike then smelled at definite scent of young arousal on the part of both parties. And smiled a little as the boy shifted uncomfortably in his seat, to cover his body’s betrayal. Regardless of the political climate, of Gaia’s distress, or Dawn’s intervention, he wondered if the blossoming of the relationship between those two might not just guarantee the entire group’s safety. Nothing was certain… but somehow the two seemed to ‘fit’.
Three days later, Private Richards arrived with two jars of his mom’s salsa sauce, and a fruit cake… “She she keeps sendin’ it… and I just don’t have the heart to…” Everyone saw through the lie, and graciously accepted the offerings. No one missed that the young man spent quite some time helping out on tasks that were not Initiative related that day, and particularly those involving a certain pretty female.
Xander made a spectacular meal combining David’s Mom’s sauce in a chicken casserole with rice. They were not in the habit of killing their animals of late but Jon decided it was kinder to end the suffering of a dear love found half dead and near strangled at the top of the open range enclosure. Noone could work out why she had flown there but she was caught fast and there was nothing they could do. Jon blessed the food before they ate, thanking the lovely bird for sustaining their family and to Gaia for continuing to keep them safe, blessing Dawn and David in the process.
Private Richards was late to return to base, and was reported for dallying unnecessarily.
On his fourth trip, the young soldier had new units to install, the others ‘too unreliable’ apparently! He wouldn’t be able to return for at least a week after that. There was no real reason if the units were working.
Private Richards took his time while the family scrambled for more supplies, but subtly repositioned the cameras so there were some ‘blind spots’. The rear entrance was ‘just missed' and they now had a clear run to the chickens and could, if careful, milk the cow at the rear of that building. They were now also milking a nanny goat who had just dropped a kid. There were two other female goats heavy with pregnancy. It was a relief.
The vege patch would still be a challenge so far as the cameras were concerned, so Eddie worked like a Trojan for the two hours of the camera changeover. Careful to plant without stirring the soil too much so as not to be noticed, he put in rows of carrots, cabbages, broccoli, beets, and corn, plus a handful of seed potatoes he had found in the shed that had preempted him by happily shooting without soil. He was hopeful that, even though a little out of season, they all might survive the horrid weather… It wasn’t snowing, and the earth relatively warm, so if they were lucky…
David was invited to dinner with the family by a shy Margaret, but again declined, given the timeframe for his changeover exercise. She saw him to the door. As he was leaving he shoved a bar of chocolate into her hand, and said rather sheepishly, “We still get access to some stuff… and I um… I don’t need it… I know you’ll share it… but when you do… do you think you can kind of… um… think of me… a bit… ‘cause…”
“Oh… this is um… too much!... Are you sure?... You’re serious… for me?” It may as well have been diamond earrings. Someone, a soldier no less, had decided to save her family and friends, but more than that, he had befriended them, noticed her and liked her, as much as she liked him it seemed. He was caring, witty and intelligent… and only two years older than her. She had never had a boyfriend, despite her stunning looks, it was too risky, and still could not think of David in those terms… but certainly wished one day she might try.
She blushed deeply at the gift. He had kept hold of her hand, so Margaret swallowing hard, leaned forward to give her first kiss to someone other than ‘family’. She was his height at a statuesque six foot, and he turned at the wrong time. They bumped noses awkwardly and though she still landed the chaste gesture on his lips, they both giggled embarrassedly.
“I ummm… Thanks again for the dinner invite… I’d better go.”
“Yeah, well… I guess you know where to find me…”
“Yeah… OK then see ya” They released hands. But as the young soldier headed out the door, he couldn’t help himself. Almost without thinking he blurted out, “If things were different would you even have looked at me? ‘Cause you’re like… gorgeous and I’m…”
Margaret quietly finished his sentence before he returned to his car, “… A really handsome, thoughtful guy who gives me chocolate and is wonderfully nice to my family even when you see their true colors? Yeah, I’d hope I’d have that chance to ‘friend you’.” As soon as the words were out she blushed deeply… but the young man grinned.
“OK then… um I’d better go… see you in a few days?”
“Yeah… sorry if I um… um…”
David simply grinned and yelled, “’S OK. Seeya.” Margaret retreated to the safety of the house as he clambered onto the roof to activate first one then the second camera.
As Margaret reentered the house, Spike wiggled a wicked eyebrow, Eddie grinned, her mother looked somewhat peeved and her fifteen year old sister simply taunted “Wooooooo guess who’s got a cru-ush!”
She rolled her eyes and felt acutely embarrassed until Xander threw an arm over her shoulder and staring directly at his Sire, simply whispered, “Hey… It’s OK to love outside the box… sometimes.”
Margaret turned looking a little puzzled then saw his expression of love, directed across the room and gave a smile that spelt gratitude. She pushed the chocolate into Xander’s free hand.
“He left this… he knew I’d share… but he gave it to me anyway.”
He squeezed her shoulder and simply said, “I rest my case sweetheart.”
Gaia raged again over the next two days. Shaking severely. Tiles fell from the roof, the cameras were dislodged and Mount Ranier began her assault according to the radio, exuding toxic fumes and exploding with anger.
Strangely the farm felt only a few of the shakes.
The governments of the world, however, were in crisis. Over the last four years the UN had received official reports from Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Mongolia, Peru, Turkey, The Congo, Mali, Portugal, Micronesia and New Zealand. All had given safe haven to the ‘pariah’s of society 'those with otherworld associations', despite the danger to their nation from the ‘bullies’, directly risking trade agreements and military alliances in the process. Thousands of demons and magical creatures, victims of the activities of the Initiative, had struggled to and found safe haven on their shores, and their accounts once collated were utterly damning. Each signatory nation submitting such a report to date had been ejected from the UN.
But now they stood as a group with compelling arguments. And they were joined by fifty more nations including Russia, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, India and China.
As a result a watershed of a further hundred countries came forward. Hundreds of documents were presented to the UN. The forum took ten days. Every presentation sought the same thing and the words resonated over and over in all six official UN languages: In Spanish and English ‘Balance’; French: Équilibre; Russian: ??????; Arabic: ???? ????, ; Chinese: ?? (if no characters apologies… Mandrin …simple)
As report after report from demon (and sympathetic human) communities detailed rape, torture and murder of not just ‘dangerous hostiles’, but women, children, half breeds and peaceful, helpful species until this point not documented, and any human protectors of the same. The governments of the world were stunned. The Spanish Inquisition and the Third Reich were mere infants in comparison with this heartless, mindless savagery. Indeed if the reports were true, it was an assault on fellow creatures, most of whom were legitimate citizens, beyond precedent.
Initially, the political climate had been fairly ‘cool’ to the small group of nations, but as Global events turned very sour, the recommendations of a group of tiny nations became a very compelling majority.
The ‘G7’ really did begin to take note, three were nations eith submissions! A three day emergency summit was called. Their people were dying and government departments inevitably ill equipped to cope. As a result of the latest assault, all members of the UN bar the US, pulled all funding from the Initiative type activities on the first day of negotiations. On the third day the President of the USA also signed off on the agreement.
David had continued to visit, though his attendance was becoming decidedly intermittent through no fault of his own. He worried privately for the group but had no appropriate excuses for his superiors, so simply visited once a week. The family noticed… his wages must have been spent on ‘essentials’, as each time he arrived, he had ‘treats’. His fellow Initiative members accused him of being ‘Momma’s boy’, knowing that they too had access to dwindling supplies of any manufactured goods, and all but a few were sending them home. He was glad for his fellow soldiers’ truthful disinterest in his affairs.
Over the ensuing months ‘war crimes’ charges were brought against dozens of high level military, and twenty seven government leaders, directly related to the treatment of “Allegedly magical” individuals and those with “Associations”. Further down the line, the most vicious of the Initiative soldiers and the doctors who had performed ‘unnecessary research’ – all of it, quite outside original parameters or orders, were also jailed.
Private Richards arrived just as the family turned off the news. It was officially two days after the global announcement regards cessation of hostilities toward ‘the other’. Spike heard the cameras being progressively switching off and unplugged, but was still rather stunned as the young man knocked on the door and threw the surveillance equipment on the table.
David stared directly at Margaret as he made the announcement, “It’s over, we pull out tomorrow. Every Initiative soldier is being reassigned… and I… umm… I’m sorry but… umm.” He stalled to peg back his own tears but happened to look at Margaret’s mother who stared at him with such love and gratitude, and simply failed to continue.
It was Robbie who stepped forward and hugged him first. Robbie hugged the young man to his chest, and kissed his hair as he whispered “You are a fine man David… a moral man, a man of this world’s future. You are destined for greater things… we all feel it. You will keep in contact?... Please?”
David simply nodded into the broad man, knowing that, this promise would last a lifetime.
Spike hugged him next, “Just a little secret that you’ve already learned, Pet. Whatever it is you want the most… If you give it away with pure intent, to help others, it will come back to you tenfold.”
Some time later Private Richards, David, had been hugged and thanked in turn by all the adults. He now sat bereft, on Xander’s now rather weather worn seat at the front of the house, and held Margaret’s slim hand. He pledged his devotion to her then continued. “I am going to apply for immediate transfer then ask to be reassigned... I guess I’ll be investigated like everyone else…”
“We’ll testify … Oh David… We’ll *all* testify for you… They *can’t* blame you… you saved us! You saved us!!!*” Margaret stormed to her feet, crying angry tears at the injustice of the whole thing.
David blushed, then stood also and took her face in calm hands, “You are so wonderful… and I might just need all the help I can get… It’s just that I um… I want to become a social justice lawyer. Could you stand that? I mean I’ll have to do it the ‘long way’ cause no money… but would you wait for me?… I’ll be a poor student and … I… um… I’ll be away for study if it all works out… but I’ve got to do this… Do you um?”
“Would ya mind some fairly attractive female half demon Articles Clerk following you into court occasionally?”
David's look was that of thrill and amazement, as realized her intention to take a similar path… He was about to say something but was cut off by a kiss.
Their romantic moment was interrupted well and truly by five little people filing onto the porch. At their head was little Willow who sported a rather determined and accusative stare, and with hands on her hips, stated matter-of-factly, “We been *waitin* f’r your story for a *long* time… David!”
The mood of the kiss was thoroughly broken, and the two older people went inside hand in hand, followed by a brood of little children. Poor little Chris was last in the group, just walking, and cried desperately when he was a few seconds too slow to get through the fly-screen door before it slammed shut. He was duly rescued by Brenda and placated quickly.
David read to them for fifteen minutes or so, then departed to stack the redundant Initiative equipment into the utility.
Seven adults approached the vehicle as he prepared to leave.
Nic pushed his business card into David’s hand. Spike hugged the man and kissed him. The young man smiled, before Spike whispered, “Before you go, pet, need you to know something, for the record like." Spike signaled to his Childer through the link and they all changed to their true face.
David gasped. “Oh God! I’d wondered but… but you’ve… you’re… and you’ve never??”
“Just needed you to know… pet… we don’t kill to feed… and need you to know too, that you did a wonderful thing luv… And if you don’t bloody well come back for a visit, we’ll all send the kids after you… Bugger the vampire thing… there’s *nothin’* scarier than a teenager with a cause!” Spike gave his classic smirk then moved forward and kissed him, still in game face, then kissed him again after the change. The others all in their more normal guises moved, hugged and kissed the young man also.
Finally it was Robbie’s turn. As he hugged the young soldier, he mumbled, “You are a great leader son… And you will leave a legacy of love wherever you go… But you always have a place here with us… always. I … um… Oh geez.” A teary Robbie hugged David to him in a way David’s absent father had never managed.
The rather emotional big man pushed the now teary young fellow from his grasp after a little too long. He gently swiped the wetness from David's cheeks then pulled the back of his own hand across his evidence of emotion and tried to smile. They hugged again and slapped backs in a ‘manly gesture’, before Robbie stood rather bereft with the extended family as they all waved Private Richards off.
Two hours later, in the dead of night, the D’Azpuras returned to their own house for the first time since their initial sprint to safety. They stood just inside their own front door, in a house that smelt rather stale courtesy of being closed for the better part of five months, and simply hugged.
That night all the families rejoiced as Gaia fell quiet once more and the electricity flickered back to life in the area.
Xander put the children to bed then made a particular point of turning the light off before covering his partner with his own very nude, very aroused being.
It seemed that now they truly were safe, and just maybe for the forseeable… so were their children… It was worth celebrating.
After The Fall: 34