"Why are we whispering?" Claire asked.
"I'm listening," Bill said.
"Her door is open!"
He scoffed. "That's not what I'm listening to or for," he said.
"Are you sure? You're the one who said their doors had to be open when they were upstairs."
"Oh come on, I'm supposed to just let them have sex? I know she's eighteen now, but still it's my name on her guardianship papers at college. The state could still change that I reckon."
"Bill," she whispered.
"He's talking about moving here."
"This surprises you?"
Bill shrugged. "Most people, including Kylie Strutemyer, want to leave Wheelsy not move here."
"I moved here."
"Yes, well, my world's a lot better and brighter for that, but the fact remains Wheelsy is not a town people flock to."
"He wants to be near her and I think he likes it here."
"Yeah, mentioned something about liking the people here."
"You'd be surprised how many people that sort of thing, community and feeling at home, means to some who don't feel like they belong much of anywhere."
"He's talking about something to do with her house and one or two of the properties out that way now vacant."
"You shouldn't eavesdrop!"
"They shouldn't be snuggling on her bed together talking then."
She laughed softly. "Bill. They're going to decide what they're going to decide with or without you listening."
"I know. I just," he shrugged, turning to her. He ran a hand along her hip. "I want her happy, you know. Happy and healthy, whole. It never much mattered to me until I met you and got a chance at it. I came too close to dying for my taste. Kylie, though. Well, she fought back against that slimy thing and she still lost everything, everyone who mattered in her life. Gone. I want her to have a life again, a real one."
"We're a real life for her, Bill. We love her and she knows that."
"I know, but you know, the makings of a family. Suddenly such things matter to me. And I spend a fair amount of time thinking about them. Certainly more time than I ever thought I'd spend thinking on such things."
She blushed prettily at that. "You don't think he can give that to her?"
"I do, but I've been thinking since he got here."
"I'm not sure how happy either of them would be here. Farming anyway. It's a tough life. Some do it with a song in their heart and never regret it. Some don't. Now we don't have the bad weather they have up north, but we still get storms and heat. He says he liked our wedding and the community we have here. I get that, but he's no more a farmer than I am."
"Well, sure I could. I could do most anything I put my mind to, proof being you're here with me in my bed, but I chose not to do that."
"What else is there?"
"Well, I was going to ask you."
"Me? Bill, I work for you, what do I have to offer him?"
"I was thinking I could offer him a job."
"I've been short on deputies since the infestation. Wally and Margaret dead. Then ol' Paul in prison now. I don't have an abundance of applicants walking through my door."
"Yes. I still don't get where I fit in."
"What you did for me."
"I've done a lot of things for you."
He chuckled, leaning closer to kiss her. "You have at that. All of which I am extremely grateful for and if I haven't told you that since last night well then I apologize. Specifically, though, I'm talking about when I lay dying in the hospital."
"Can that blood of yours heal him, do you think?"
She shrugged. "I don't see why not. Why?"
"Well, I can't give a job to someone who can't shoot a gun, Claire."
"Oh," she said, obviously not having thought on that. "I suppose only one eye limits him."
"Maybe he wouldn’t want a job with me, but I remember Kylie saying he'd done construction or something in California. Can't do that neither because of his injury."
"Heal everyone, I know. I ain't asking you to. I just was wondering. I don’t want to see them stuck here because they have no other option, you know? Kylie's is a beautiful house, but I really don't know she'd ever want to live there again. I doubt I would. Then she's a might stronger than I am I wager. I certainly don't want her staying there because she feels she has to because he can't do anything but farm."
"She's not stronger than you are, Bill."
"She is! She was just a kid and fought back while I was winging it, lucky to get her and Starla out alive with me. I'm not ashamed to admit it."
"People are going to wonder how he healed."
"He doesn't live here permanently and it's not like people have talked to him beyond the questions he asked for his tests or whatever. As far as I know no one knows he lost the eye. He could've had surgery or gotten hurt that the patch was needed to protect him or something. I don't know."
"Well, I saw my dad get shot in the eye and he's fine, but what happened to Xander happened a while ago. I'm not sure it'd work. I'm willing to try, but I want them both to understand that I can't say for sure what my limitations are."
"He may not want to, but listening to them…"
"When you should be minding your own business."
"I'm incorrigible, what can I say?"
"Just think when it's your daughter what you'll be like."
"I don’t even want to imagine! I can assure you he wouldn't be in her bedroom with her, though."
She laughed softly. "We can talk to them, sure," she said.
"I like him," Bill admitted.
"You didn't at first."
"I didn't dislike him; I just had a hard time trusting not only him but Kylie. You didn't know her back before things happened. That Kylie, I'm not so sure she wouldn't have latched on to him, hoping he'd whisk her off to London or California, somewhere not Wheelsy. Now, though," he shrugged.
"She's growing up some. College will do that to you. Finding people who care about you for you not because they have to helps, too."
"Yeah. You had that, too, didn't you. Your uncle."
"And some others you haven't and probably will never meet, but yes, it helps immensely when you feel you're the only one going through something to know people care even if they can't fix it for you."
"Did you hate it at first?"
"My ability?" She shrugged. "I didn't know what was going on! I thought I was a freak of the most bizarre variety. I had no idea there were others out there."
"Still blows my mind what you say is true." He kissed her again, sliding his lips to her ear. "And you're no freak."
"I am at that, but I'm as honest as the day is long so if I say you're not a freak you're not."
"What if he does want to farm?"
He shrugged. "Well, then I guess that's up to them to decide. Sounds like he's thinking of ways to not completely abandon his friend."
"You like that."
"Yeah, I do," he admitted. "I reckon his friends would let him off the hook, but the fact he wouldn't just bail on something like that tells me a lot about him."
"How about the fact he's come back here so many times when he clearly didn't have to?"
"That, too. I told Kylie if she wanted to go somewhere else for college next year we could see that it happens."
"Hmm. She didn't jump at the chance?"
"No, didn't seem to anyway. I haven't heard her talking about planning a permanent move across the Atlantic or anything."
"I worry, though, you know, she's only eighteen."
"I don't think they're going to get married tomorrow, Bill."
"I know, but if he moves here for her the pressure will be there to force it to work."
"You think so? I don't."
"Because they're not stupid. I think he wants to move here to give them a legitimate chance at finding out if it's real. I don't think he's going to pressure her. He just wants to spend time with her, there's nothing wrong with that."
"No, I don't see him pressuring her, but I think us tying the knot may make her think she needs to find another place to hang her hat."
"We've told her she doesn't have to."
"Sure, and in your ideal world of newlywed life you'd want an eighteen-year-old living with us?"
"I never had an ideal picture of newlywed life until now, so this is all I know. That includes Kylie being here, it's only a couple of months out of the year anyway, it's not like she's a little kid here every day."
"I know. I just worry that she doesn't see it that way, that she views herself as being in the way or a charity case or something. I mean, I wasn't afraid to show my surprise she chose me to live with. I thought she was crazy."
"And I love you for that."
"Just for that?"
"Among a few things, maybe."
"Just a few things? Then it shouldn't take you long to show me these things about me you love."
"You wanted to talk to Xander and Kylie."
"I suspect they'll be there in an hour."
"I said their doors have to stay open, not ours," he said.
"I'm sorry. You want to what?" Xander asked.
"I want to try to heal you. Your eye."
"Why?" he asked.
"So suspicious," Bill said.
"Well, yeah. I mean, what for?"
"I want to be sure you have all your options open as far as what you can do with yourself. You want a life in Wheelsy, well we can give that to you but it doesn't have to be farming. I can get you a job. There's always construction jobs, I know Kylie mentioned you'd done that before. But you need both eyes to do most things like that. Not saying there aren't plenty of jobs you could do, and I imagine you're used to your visual defects after this long, but something like shooting a gun I'm not sure I'd trust you in the heat of the moment to have the right aim."
"You can say that again."
"So, what's the harm in trying? Claire doesn't know it'll work for sure, but worst thing that can happen is it doesn't and you know. Best thing that can happen is that you can see with two eyes again."
"I just want you to make decisions with all the data available to you."
"You think if I have both eyes I'm not going to move here?"
"I didn't say that," Bill said. "What you're talking about doing is an everyday job. You moving here to farm wouldn't get you much more time with Kylie. Not to mention the expense of adding animals back into the equation. It's not cheap."
Xander glanced at the three of them unsure he was really hearing correctly. "You think it's easy as that? I mean, the eye is gone."
"My dad was shot in the eye and my blood healed him. That's why I think I might be able to, but it wasn't years later so that's where I'm not sure."
"Oh," he said, running a fingertip along the eye patch. "You can just do it here?"
"Sure. I only needed a couple of things, but Bill already got them from the hospital easily enough. I talked to my friend and he told me what I needed to do because I wasn't totally paying attention the night we did this for Bill."
"It's worth the risk, don't you think, Xander?" Kylie asked.
"Well, sure, I just. If it works I'd never be able to repay you."
"It's a good thing that's not why I'm doing it then. I'm doing it as a favor to Kylie and Bill."
Xander glanced at Bill then at Kylie.
"Well, sure I'm game, I guess. It can't hurt. You'd really hire me?" he asked.
"Why wouldn't I? I need the manpower and at least it's a job where you'd have days and evenings off so your moving here wouldn't be just to work your fingers to the bone. I mean, no sense moving here to be closer to Kylie if you can't see her. Trust me, overall it's a pretty boring job. Weekends can get a little harried, but after the infestation I tend to look at things a might differently than I used to."
"Seeing things no one else even believes in tends to change a person," Xander said. "I couldn't believe it the first time I saw a vampire."
"Do you ever wish you could go back?" Claire asked.
"No," Xander admitted. "Never. I mean maybe Jesse would still be alive. Maybe other people I knew would still be alive, but there's no saying they would be. I do at least know that there are people alive and kicking today because of what we've done."
"Not even for the eye?"
"No. It's just an eye. I could go to college, get a degree to do something, but I'm just not that smart. I barely made it through high school without Willow's help, but maybe one day I'll rethink that and decide to go. If it doesn't work I can find something I just never thought about what I might want to do before."
"Well, we'd certainly help you. There's plenty to do around Wheelsy. They may not pay a lot but they can be fulfilling in other ways. I'm sure there are tons of things for you to do in a college town, too."
"I had my share of college towns, which is why I chose to come here."
"All right, Kylie, let's go do our grocery shopping," Bill said.
"What?" Kylie asked.
"No sense you sitting here, waiting and wondering. We'll leave, come back, and we'll see what happens. Xander and Claire won't want you staring at them anyway."
"Go with Bill, Kylie," Xander said, leaning down to kiss her lightly. "I'd really rather you not be here if I take the patch off and see it's the same ol' thing as it was before trying."
"But I don't care…"
"I know you don't, and I love that about you, but I care. It's not pretty and I'd rather you not have to see it."
She sighed softly, but she understood he knew. She'd slept next to him without wearing the patch a few times, but he never turned the lights on without having it on first.
"But if it doesn't work…"
"Well then I guess at some point you'd have to see it. I figured it'd happen eventually, just not quite yet. You know?"
"I wouldn't feel any different."
"I don't think you would, but you know your mind does funny things with your imperfections, heightens them. This beautiful woman likes me, I'd rather not scare her off for a while."
"It's already been a while!"
"A while longer then when we're both living on the same continent."
"Come on, Kylie, he'll be here when we get back," Bill said.
"Yeah, all right," she said with a frown.
"So, how long did you and Bill talk about this before you actually asked me about it?"
"The first night you got here. He brought it up to me. I think he waited to mention it to see how you two got along here in Wheelsy."
"He doesn't think we would?"
"Wheelsy's a little different than London. Not a whole lot to do and there are no tourist attractions here."
"I know that," he said.
"I know you do. I moved here, too, you know. It's not bad."
"Not bad? I hope you find it more than not bad since you're evidently staying put."
"Well, it has its downside, but every town does. Not everyone was fond of me at first. Bill was finally over Starla and a few women thought they'd have a chance."
"He saw you and there wasn't a chance for anyone else, I take it."
"Eventually. It wasn't right away."
"I know how he feels."
"She may not want to stay in Wheelsy," Claire said.
"I know. I just needed to be closer to her. Something had to give. The idea of her finding someone else was eating at me."
"You told her it'd be okay."
"Well, yeah, sure, I didn't really want her to! I just knew it might happen and I didn't want her to think I'd hate her for it or something. But I knew at your wedding I had to do something one way or the other."
"I'm glad you chose not to break her heart."
"Me, too, but I love her too much to do that."
"So, what do we do then?"
"As ready as I'm going to be. I feel a little like Frankenstein."
She chuckled. "I guess you kind of are," she said, following Peter's instructions.
"How long does it take?"
"With Bill it was pretty immediate, but you might be different if it works at all."
"Hey, Claire," he said as she began the process that would give him some of her blood.
"Thanks, by the way."
"For doing this. I suspect it's not something you do for anyone."
"No, but only because I can't. There was a man I knew who had my ability and he was very specific about the extent to which we could interfere."
"Tipping the balances, setting things off kilter, the cycle of life."
"Right! Exactly. I mean, I'd love to cure every cancer patient."
"But you can't play God."
"No, I can't."
"I understand, and no one who knows what you can do thinks badly of you."
"Does anyone else know I should worry about?"
"No, I haven't told anyone."
"They're going to wonder."
"I'll have to tell Buffy and Giles, but that's it. The rest can wonder or be told I had surgery or something to fix it."
"He thought we were gods."
"Who?" Xander frowned, watching the blood flow from her arm through the little tube of plastic and into his.
She laughed softly. "The other one like me."
"But he's dead. How is that possible?"
"I'm not really sure. There was someone else with an ability that enabled him to absorb other abilities."
"Oh," Xander said. "Well, I'm glad you're standing here today and not the other guy."
"You are, huh?"
"I don't think Bill would be nearly as happy if that wasn't the case."
Claire laughed, watching the clock to be sure she gave him enough blood. It was so weird to be doing this. She kind of liked it, though, the possibility of using her ability to help someone other than herself. And, well, Xander was a good guy. If anyone deserved her help it was someone who'd saved the world a time or two.
"I just got back! Where are you taking me now and why?" Bill asked as Claire tugged his arm toward the door only minutes after he and Kylie had gotten back.
"Your wife wants to have lunch with you and you question this?"
"Well, put like that, no," he said, eyeing her suspiciously.
"We'll be back in a while," she called, closing the door behind her.
"What is going on?"
"Give them some time," she said as she got into his pickup truck.
"Some time for what?" he asked and then frowned. He leaned into the window a bit. "It didn't work, I take it. Hey, you know I've heard of people getting their pilot's license with only one eye, it's not completely limiting. He's admitted he hasn't really looked at doing anything else. It's just here in Wheelsy."
"Bill, it worked."
"Then why are we leaving them alone?"
"Because I suspect the first time he's able to show her his eye and look at her with both eyes they'd prefer we're not there."
"It really worked?"
"How do you feel about that?"
"I'm glad," she said.
She shrugged. "It just makes me wonder what else I can do. I wish Adam wasn't dead."
"Well, he didn't sound like the type to share information with you anyway from what Peter's said."
"No, but I can't imagine he wouldn't enjoy talking to someone like him the same as I would."
"I suppose I could see that, but he's not here, darlin'. I'm sorry."
"I just," she shrugged.
"I know, I do, and I'm sorry if my asking you to do it opened a can of worms you'd rather have been kept closed."
"You're fine. I'd do anything for you and Kylie."
"Back at ya. Now where to?"
"Hi," Kylie said once Bill and Claire had left.
"Hi yourself," he said, tugging her to him for a hug.
"They didn't leave because of us, did they?"
"Oh, I expect maybe yeah."
She reached up and touched the patch then, running her fingertips along the outline of it. She did that a lot. It had bothered him at first, but he realized she was just touching it as she would any part of him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"For what?" he asked.
"Well," she said with a shrug. "You wouldn't have tried if we hadn't pushed you into trying."
He chuckled then, lowering his mouth to hers. God, he loved kissing her. She kissed him as if he was the only thing that mattered. He'd never experienced that before, not fully. Anya there was like one thousand years of history before him, which made him self-conscious at times. His fault, not hers.
"Go upstairs with me?"
He didn't need to ask twice, she joined him without question, leading him to her bedroom. He joined her on the bed, picking right back up with the kissing they'd been doing downstairs.
He was quick about undressing her while he lavished kisses on her. He placed his hand over hers, sliding it to the back of his head and the strings there.
"Go ahead, undo them," he whispered.
She did, nimble fingers untying the string capably. She let go then, letting the strings fall free.
He lifted his head then and she gasped softly.
"I thought it only fitting the first thing I see the way I'm supposed to was you completely naked."
"But you're not."
"I've seen myself naked before."
"Yes, but it's not nearly as fun with only one of us that way."
"There is that," he said, quickly joining her.
He moved them so she was on top of him. Hands at either hip as she moved her body over his length the way she was supposed to. She had tears in her eyes, but he knew it wasn't because anything was wrong.
"Most beautiful thing ever, watching you do that to me," he whispered.
She leaned over him when they'd both finished, kissing his jaw before settling comfortably on top of him like she always seemed to do when they were in this position.
"I can't believe it worked."
"Really? You didn't think it would."
"I honestly didn't know. I hoped."
She shrugged. "Because I love you and I wanted it to work."
"No other reason? No doubts about being involved with one-eyed Xander?"
"No! I didn't care. Bill's got quite a scar on his abdomen. Claire loves him just the same."
"I just want you to be able to do whatever you want to do, you know."
"I want to be near you. I know that much."
"Well, can't get much closer than this."
"Oh, you could be a little closer."
She giggled softly, kissing his chest. "I could huh?"
"Yes. This eye has a lot of catching up to do."
"How long do you think they'll be gone?"
"Not sure, but I suspect Claire will keep Bill occupied for a while."
"Well, let's get it caught up then."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com