Their monetary assets were ‘unfrozen’. Xander returned to his woodwork, Eddie to his garden and Jon to his animals, while Robbie repaired the various structures and vehicles damaged in wake of Gaia’s fury. Meanwhile Spike and Sam turned their hands to teaching the brood of small people. Sam had applied to become a ‘home schooler’ what seemed like eon’s ago. Now they were able to take advantage.
Willow had indicated that a permanent glamour for Eddie’s three was a bad idea both physically and emotionally. And thankfully after two years of home study, the re established coven opened a tiny private school only thirty minutes away by country road. All the children eventually attended. Little Willow, of course, ‘Student council President’ by year five!
The families had ‘officially’ returned home a week after the Initiative’s ‘pull out’, Sam arriving in their living room along with Mikaela on the following Friday.
Mike was called to the accountancy office of Mr D’Azpura five months later. He was thanked again for all his work, and finally told why the families had been absent for so long. He seemed utterly un-phased by the idea that the D’Azpuras were ‘magical dudes’, as he put it, sharing with the rather astonished businessman, that their own grandmother was a white witch… not that any of them ‘got her’, but they had all grown up loving the lady! Nic and Patty had suspected as much. But it was Nic who had the joy of leading their dedicated ‘farm sitter’ to the rear of the building where a brand new, black, top of the line, Chevy 4x4, sat in parking bay number Two.
The young man ran his fingers over the shiny surface and admired the sleek interior. “Geez Mr D! Did ya win the state lotto while you were away?!”
Nic reached out and squeezed the young man’s shoulder, “Not about winning son, about deserving. Thank you for everything you have done for us and for the others.” He paused for a moment and looked the boy square in the eyes, “This is from Sam’s family and mine. Something you *earned*. Something we hope you will drive with pride…. From us to you… Thank you Michael.” And with tears about to fall, Nic dropped the keys to the vehicle into the astonished young man’s right hand.
“Oh my … Wha?? But?? Mr D you can’t possibly… It’s mine???”
He unlocked the vehicle in a dream, and slid into the driver’s seat, eventually spotting the registration and tax papers on the dash after many minutes and whooped with joy, “Oh my … Whooooooo!!!! It’s really mine!!!”
Nic was never prouder than when a grinning Mike and his immaculately maintained vehicle formed front of both Margaret then Brenda’s main wedding fleet, years later.
The arrival of Grampa Sam on day seven of their freedom, caused such excitement amongst Eddie and Jon’s children that poor Sam was a little overwhelmed.
The three tiny blue figures all talked to Grampa at once, climbing up onto his knee and telling him of all their adventures, mixed with stories they had read, and things they had dreamt or made up … They were articulate, imaginative and attentive… but a little too enthusiastic for a retiring gent recovering from weeks of visions.
Sam covered the ‘overwhelmed’ by lots of “Hmmm”s and “Is that right?”s. The children didn’t notice, were beautiful, all so grown up and just… so lovely… and he delighted in kissing and hugging them all soundly.
He became quite tearful again as he stroked little Jessie’s downy blue fur and was somewhat embarrassed as the tiny blue girl leaned forward and whispered “It’s OK to cry when you’re happy, our Da… you know Jon, said it is… And you know that Momma Ed… cried when they said you were coming back… We *all* love you so much… you know that right…” It was all the elderly gent could do to hug the sweet girl to his chest and grind out a very rough “Yeah… ‘S OK and I Love you all back.” He then buried his face in her hair, shed silent tears and used her permission to express his feelings, stroking the dear love until he calmed. Jessie was patient and eventually excused herself by patting him gently before sliding off his knee.
Sam consequently enjoyed numerous enthusiastic and apparently quite spontaneous hugs from the two other little demons who had more stories of their time in the cave and Sam II of his joy at finding his toys again. Willow busied herself describing David ‘who save us and is the soldier man who likes Margie’. Jon simply grinned and mouthed ‘later’ toward the their lovely elder from the door.
The children then turned their attention to Missy who wagged her tail enthusiastically. She then barked her appreciation as her master’s three little grand children pulled down their own pants to display their own new ability to wiggle their tails too. Squeals of delight and “see I told you’s” ensued when the dog voiced her enthusiasm again and again. It was the first time Sam had laughed out loud for months!
An hour later, Sam sat in his own lounge room quietly with Missy at his feet while the children were being fed. He looked at all the photos (recently rescued from their ‘burial’ place in the top paddock) and allowed the tears to come. They were safe, they were all safe… his family… had made it… when so many more had not… He felt so guilty, but so happy…
He buried his head in his hands, and cried in earnest in a way he had not allowed himself to cry for months, years…. Then cried some more, as first one cool body, then two slid into his space and began to hug him. Then a warm body settled against his knees and soft warm fur brushed against his face and kissed him. He finally opened his eyes to five beautiful strong men, his boys, adoring him and surrounding him with such love… so much so that he cried again… and this time he had company… They all shed thankful tears…. All the pain and the worry and the hurt of months and years seemed to be swept away in a flood of grateful watery salt. They all gave in to the sadness for those lost, and the appreciation and love of each other.
Missy passed away in her sleep at seventeen. She was buried in the front yard and a tiny oak planted over her.
Sam died four years later, aged eighty one. And just like she was, the old man was surrounded by loved ones and hugged until the end. Mikaela arrived to ease his way, and smiled as the four day old *great grandchild*, the first of Jesse’s grandchildren was placed in his arms just before he died.
He smiled down at the tiny blue figure, and knew that somehow his legacy would endure.
Mikaela informed the tearful family, the wall between the atria of his heart had been breached and the hole was getting progressively bigger. There was nothing she could do.
They all had time with him… not saying goodbye, but expressing their love and thanks. He fell into a coma in the early the next evening and never woke up.
His headstone read. “Grampa Sam. 1947 – 2028. Hero. Protector of those who could not help themselves.”
Two years after the cessation of hostility, the family was not able to go to Dawn’s official memorial in Europe so they did their own… and all present felt it significant nevertheless…
Everyone stood reverently at a private service just after sundown on a warm spring afternoon.
Eddie’s extraordinary front yard was now filled with irises and tulips paying tribute to a beautiful woman. The Slave’s Chorus from Aida was playing on the stereo inside … Xander caught the dear vampire as his began to collapse in grief for his beautiful ‘young Niblet’.
Words of love and gratitude followed, then a protest tune from Greenday played, and finally Bette Midler’s ‘Hero’. The last tune was her mother’s favorite, was played at Joyce’s funeral and then Buffy’s, and now… Dawn had saved so many … *so* many.. hundreds of thousands… and so few would ever know. By the end of the music both Xander and Spike were on their knees in a tearful embrace. So much loss, too much…
They fixed a memorial plaque and erected a flagpole in Eddie’s garden with the simple words… “Pay It Forward - Dawn Summers legacy - Gaia’s mistress and savior of millions. 7/22/2010”
Her life energy had directly contributed to survival of the three little blue people that sung along at her family memorial, and the twins that now helped to pat down the soil around ‘Dawn’s tree’.
Every time any one of the five smiled or giggled, every time they looked proudly at their parents or discovered a new trick… the adults all knew…she was there… never forgotten.
David was dismissed honorably from the military. A number of ‘well wishers’ had apparently written to the Governor and the President on his behalf.
He was still required to answer questions at the state centre in Portland for a full nine hours one day. He sat in a military jail overnight but on the following day, three lawyers specializing in international law and a group of witnesses ready to testify on his behalf, applied to the court and were given admission. They not only attested his innocence regards war crimes, but detailed his genuine heroism.
Two years later he was sent a commendation from the UN, congratulating and acknowledging his humanitarian actions during the ‘recent conflict’. It came with a ten thousand Euro cheque, enough for him to offset a significant portion of his Law school fees.
Six years later, after he had just graduated to the bar, he was recalled to Portland on Martin Luther Day and honored for his actions. The medal was pinned to his lapel by the Governor of Oregon. The photograph was of a hero, an honored citizen, a civil rights lawyer, but more importantly, a father and a partner in life. Margaret was in all the photos on his insistence, along with their tiny and very new little girl, Daisy.
Patty bought twelve local papers that week (just in case ‘the family’ needed extras).
Robbie did not return home... In the months after Gaia’s calming, he and the vampires took great delight in building him a log cabin. It was around half way up the hill on the way to the cave they had all taken refuge in.
His mother’s house was sold. Jon traveling with their lovely friend to sort and pack what the lovely friend treasured, then transported it all to his new abode.
Ten years on, Robbie inevitably ate with the family four or five times a week, but had his own power supply and often hosted one or two, or more of the children (and later their friends… and eventually the grandchildren and associates).
Sam II, Chris and Jessie, all learned to fish with Unca Rob. And he worked tirelessly with Eddie in the early days to reestablish the market garden.
Mike, he and David all became firm friends. And the aging Robbie joined the local volunteer fire fighters and reveled in the well deserved accolades he was given at the yearly awards night. Hundreds of young people learned CPR and rescue techniques from him, and knew him only as ‘Grampa Rob’.
Eventually a decorated life member of the Fire Department, he was never prouder than when he pinned an award of honor onto the chest of Mike’s teenaged son who had resuscitated a small child at a birthday party, after the little love decided that she needed to retrieve a balloon from fishpond and tumbled in. Nathan had tears in his eyes as the now grey haired Grampa Rob pinned the medal on his school blazer.
He was eventually buried under the tree with Eddie, and Jon’s ashes.
The pretty Parsalas demon groaned against her partner, Iain. He cuddled his beautiful lover to him and grinned as the children sprinted in the door. They had guests.
Ian was a jockey, that’s how they had met. They were the right size for each other (apart from anything else)! And though dropping the glamour initially stunned him, there was nothing Jesse could do after that to shock him. He loved her family and they supported and adored him in turn.
Before he answered the door, he stroked her tail one more time, feeling it stiffen and arc up… He grinned wickedly and whispered “Later!”
She slapped him lightly. “Naughty!” He always ‘got off’ on her tail. The soft fur, the feel of … her… He adored her. And the feeling was reciprocated.
Answering the door in his sweat pants only, he was a little surprised as the extended family piled in for an impromptu pre thanks giving hello.
Eddie’s grandchildren (six of them!) by Jesse and Ian all had the wonderful advantage of a petite size and fast development, and would continue to be sought after in the equestrian world as the little demons seemed to have the extra advantage of a direct link to their steeds. So much so that twenty years after the hostilities ended, it was rare to find a purely human rider.
Sam II married a gorgeous Canadian female jockey, Danielle d’ Nuerve the same year as Jesse partnered. The petite Danielle and Sam produced a three pale blue grandchildren for Eddie and Jon (making the eventual count nine!), all natural riders and as sought after as their cousins by the racing community.
Little Willow moved to England at seventeen, studying magic under her namesake. She eventually became the first Parsalas demon ever to be admitted to the coveted inner circle of the International Coven. She too found a lovely partner to admire her tail… and Paula made a particular point of stroking it each night before they retired, an act that was joyfully reciprocated as the two Parsalas bedded down.
Elsbeth spent half her teenaged life with blue hair, shrugging off being popular in preference to emulating her older cousin.
Until Little Willow left for England to study, they were virtually inseparable and Elsbeth was determined to follow her example and join the coven in Surrey.
As it turned out, the power of the young girl was apparently quite extraordinary. She left home at sixteen to study to become a healer. She came home as often as she could. Unlike Willow II, however, by eighteen Elsbeth had fallen in love with a beautiful human *male* witch from Prague.
Six months later the extraordinary Emil inadvertently endeared himself to everyone at the first family gathering at the Oregon family home by sitting on the ground, doing an ‘Unca Robbie’… (ie letting all the *new* little people from the extended family crawl all over him, ignoring adults and giving them his undivided attention).
There was an awkward moment when he admitted that Elsbeth was the first *girl* he’d ever dated… but when his two soon to be fathers’ in law roared laughter, hugged him close and reassured him that it was about the person not the gender, all was well.
Over the next eight years, Elsbeth produced five grandchildren for Spike and Xander, while continuing her own studies.
The entire ‘clan’ was always home for the family Thanksgiving… not the traditional date, but the
one that marked when Gaia went quiet and Sam came home.
Chris stayed on the farm until he was in his fifties. He was a powerful male witch in his own right and worked tirelessly with the local coven, but preferred to keep to himself.
As he ‘came of age’, they found him the perfect mentor from the local coven. A native American and traditional Indian shaman, White Paw, was quite a character… and a wonderful teacher. Chris took longer and longer retreats with him as the years passed by, and the family became used to his extended absences. The fact that Gaia calmed in their region whenever Chris and White Paw communed with the Earth’s force did not go unnoticed.
The young wiccans of the covern were in awe of the apparently timeless young man. Something about his vampire heritage gave him an ethereal beauty and longevity that was quite … exquisite. The younger women of the coven heard that he was sixty, but he looked to be in his early thirties, so none of them believed the rumors. He was always charming to a fault, and was always willing to partner them in the formal dances at their graduation events, but none could truly get close to him.
Chris continued to work on the farm side by side with Robbie and Eddie, and took time to apprentice to his father with wood turning, while developing his true calling as seer with White Paw.
He never married, though was the ‘bestest Unca ever’ according to his sister’s brood… and Eddie’s children’s… children. In his ninety fifth year, he finally found a beautiful fellow witch who was able to reach him. He had been representing their coven at a gathering in Tanzania. The connection was so profound that Xander and Spike both had disturbing dreams and called their son the following day.
The news was wonderful and the two witches had a commitment ceremony at the farm a year later. The extended family was present and Chris led his beautiful partner Joseph to the coven blessed burial ground where Sam and Missy, Eddie and (sadly), Jessie and her partner, and sadly her youngest son (victim of a road accident) now lay.
No-one should bury their children.
Elsbeth was ninety three when she passed away, her lovely Emil had departed three months earlier, but in spirit, was with her to the end. They left four children and six grandchildren and she trusted her brother Chris, the Aurelian vampire of Xander’s line, to care for them… Chris and Joseph had been turned and ensouled together. Chris had returned home dying of untreatable spinal cancer. The ensouling worked and the two were fully mated, and they became two of four ‘caretakers’ of the clan.
In their spare time the two worked tirelessly with NGOs the world over… finally laws were changed, and helpful medicine was given to those in need for free… Joseph never really forgave the human community for denying the third world medicine. It took the demon world to ‘swing the vote’ on something so simple!
They buried Eddie in the now cordoned off area of the top paddock, on a beautiful summer’s evening three months after the little demon turned eighty two. Spike knew his Childe’s feelings, but could only cry into his mate’s chest one morning four weeks later, as they both felt Jon greet the sunrise.
Spike and Xander hugged each other close… and understood… but were utterly bereft. Yet it was up to them to go on and support the family… and they would do exactly that… because that’s what they did… that’s what they had always done.
At Jon’s memorial service, a distressed Spike was presented with a tiny blue fuzz covered baby who blinked at him with Eddie’s spectacular blue eyes.
“Grampa Spike, Grampa Xan. We’re so sorry… but we left the hospital early to be here and um….” The pretty little Parsalas demon, on of Jesse’s girls and her full blood husband stood before them with tears tracking down her pretty blue face, unmistakably one of Eddie’s grandchildren. “This is Dawn, we had hoped that um… Grampa Jon… would have um … um…you know... Would … um would you… show him to … Um….Ohh… sorry…” She dissolved into tears as Spike kissed the girl then her partner and he accepted the tiny bundle.
Xander held out a congratulatory hand to the young Parsarlas partner Stefan and squeezed it supportively. But it was Spike who spoke “Oh Sweetie… family *always* knows when good things happen… we *always know*.”
The little person squeaked as the four adults embraced around her tiny figure, And they all walked to the burial tree to show the family the newest addition.