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Lots of time has passed – more than a month since the last chapter, but liliaeth and I have a nice long chapter to make up for it. This is the one most of you have been waiting for (if you’re still reading, that is), and one of the hardest to write. It follows directly on the heels of the last chapter. Please follow the Warning Alert System.

2014 - November
William is ten and a half years old (Hey, at least he’s still alive… hopefully to age really soon in upcoming installments).

Prozac Alert
Finally! Someone is rescued, folks are reunited, someone dies, dies, dies. Give it a read and see what actually happens – less of the cryptic that way!


Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse is fussing with the glittery ‘Welcome Home’ sign. She wants everything to look just right when… well, you know. What a little tyrant of a task-master, too. We’re clearing our schedules to try and further the tale.

Feedback is always welcomed.

Goddess bless willa_writes - my prime-time read-through buddy, gillo, who’s managed to whip this puppy into presentable shape despite sewing her poor little fingers to the bone, and just_sue, for hounding me into submission insisting I stop procrastinating and get this chapter out.

To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.



Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.



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Beloved – Chapter 25 – The Cavalry Arrives

Roger Wyndam-Pryce cringed in wide-eyed terror as Drusilla waltzed away from him, slowly taking center stage in the three-ringed-circus their departure had become.

In their haste to escape the vampiress’ wrath, she’d managed to pull the wretched little creature from Forbes’ arms and dropped it in a heap on the muddy ground.

“There was a naughty man who’d played a wicked game,” she crooned to the security guard, who’d retreated towards the car and away from Roger and his ‘project’.

“William,” she called, toeing the inert body, but getting no response. “Oh, my Willy.” Turning back to Forbes, Drusilla shook her head in displeasure. “Oh no, dearie. This won’t do at all.”

She wound her way towards the man; closer and closer – her circuit drew ever tighter. “The naughty man stood aside – at the cost of poppets’ lives. Miss Edith says neither of you shall pass. You’ve been very naughty, haven’t you, pet? Snatching little children without setting the tea-table.”

“Are you b-barking m-mad?” Forbes stammered, slowly edging away from the vampiress who’d thwarted their getaway.

Cobra-fast, Drusilla was up in Forbes’ face, clicking her long, pale fingers, once more stilling the man and focusing his attention on her.

“So they say,” she calmly agreed. “But my poor doggy has lost his bark. You’ve silenced it, but I’ll help him find it again. And once he does, he’ll cause a racket loud enough to wake the dead.”

Forbes’ eyes grew wide as he followed the snake-like movements of her fingers.

“Look at me. Be in me,” were the last words he ever heard.

Roger watched, unable to do anything from his vantage point as Drusilla worked her thrall, rendering his most trusted guard a drooling idiot.

Why don’t you fight, man? Defend yourself! This was Ernest Forbes – a man who’d faced down two Fyarl demons with nothing but a silver letter opener. A man who’d wrestled a Polgara demon and brought him down, unarmed. How could he stand there and do nothing? The seemingly frail demoness slashed at his throat with her razor-sharp nails, grinning madly as the arterial spray allowed her to gorge on his life’s blood.

As the corpse of his most trusted guard slumped to the ground, no longer of any interest to the monster who’d killed him, Roger felt himself go weak in the knees... needing to hold onto a nearby tree for support. Why didn’t he run? Just cut his losses? Why didn’t he take advantage of the distraction afforded when the little demon had been grabbed and flung to the ground? No demon was worth his very life, and yet… he found himself frozen to the spot, awaiting his turn with the executioner.

His hand wrapped around the shaft of a Watcher’s mandatory weapon – a wooden stake in his jacket pocket, but he couldn’t find the strength to free his weapon. His grip grew ever tighter, forcing the wood to splinter and dig its way into the meat of his thumb, but Roger ignored the discomfort, suddenly face to face with the bloody fangs of Forbes’ murderer.

“Another naughty boy,” she tutted, dancing around the frightened man – just as she’d done with Forbes – before tapping him twice on his nose.

Oh, how he remembered the last time he’d come up against Drusilla the mad and her spawn. He’d looked on from the sidelines, not interfering whilst she and William the Bloody ran rampant throughout the orphanage, killing and glutting themselves on helpless children. Then, it was with a detached disgust that he saw the scene play out. Now, fear coiled in his belly as the evil was focused on him, and him alone.

“Such a very naughty boy.” With a gleeful laugh, Drusilla poked, poked, poked as Roger flinched. “Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of spears… you hurt the Princess’ knight, and now I’ll fill you full of fears.”

Determined not to go out as Forbes did, without a whimper, Roger forced himself to speak. “I won’t let you. I’ll…”

“But you’ve already done,” the vampiress sing-songed as she closed in. “Thought I’d forgotten, you did. Told me you’d get your revenge. Made all the little ghosties rest easy in their graves. Prettied up my little knight good and proper, you did. William always did look so fetching in red and purple flowers. They bloomed so nicely on his pale skin.”

“Please, no…”

Roger simply stood there, mouth agape, hand numb around a weapon he was never going to employ. He could feel the first cold tendrils of death curling around his heart, in his mind. This was not going to end well. Only one question remained… would he give the demon the terror it craved? Would he beg for mercy… for his life?

“Daddy thought to keep my sweet puppy to himself, but it’s not to be allowed. I won’t let him. This time you have set him on the right path… shown him the truth of humanity… all weak and fragile like clay dollies. He was born to bash and smash, and together we’ll make such beautiful messes. Just like before.”

The epiphany hit like a freight train. “This was foreseen? You knew I would take him?”

“The cards had been dealt so long ago, and you’ve played the hand well. Vicious and cutting as any demon.”

Drusilla’s tinkling laughter was at odds with the look in her eyes – aged, knowing, and oh, so deadly.

“Do you really think the Angelbeast would have given Princess her boy back willingly? He was always the possessive one… keeping me away from my sweet Willy when he was first fledged, and now the roles are reversed,” she growled, her stormy eyes flashing amber she stared him down. “You made it so much easier.”

She snapped at him, the sound of shifting cartilage almost deafening in Roger’s ears. Moving closer still, until they were nose-to-nose, her cold breath turning his stomach, the smell of Forbes’ blood strong and coppery.

“What manner of monster are you?” he whispered.

Drusilla smiled, wriggling her fingers near his eyes. “Why, I’m the very best kind. I am the monster that lies under the beds of bad little boys, waiting to snatch them up for dessert. I punish them for not keeping their hands above the bedspread,” she hissed through her fangs. “And yes, I’m the monster that waits in the cupboard where you keep all your nasty little books… scribble, scrubble, scrabble. So many words telling you absolutely nothing in the end.”

Running her fingers along the throbbing vein in his neck, she leaned in closely and whispered in Roger’s ear. “As if you don’t know who I am. But the real question is… what kind of monster are you?”

All he could see were the tips of her fingers. The bloodstained lacquer coming ever closer. He felt himself falling, as if down a deep well. Losing himself. Losing everything but the terror of being in the dark as his mum turned off the lights and locked the cupboard door… nothing left but the company of squeaking rats.

Naughty boys were left in the dark with the monsters that hid in the shadows, just waiting to gnaw and gnash and tear… to nibble on his ears and eat out his eyes.

Maybe, just maybe, if he curled into a tight, little ball, nobody would see him.

That didn’t stop him from hearing, however.

“Time to rise and shine, my William,” the monster crooned, its voice no longer buzzing in his ears. “Mummy’s here for you, as she promised.”

Roger cracked one eye open, peering through his fingers. It was kneeling next to the demon in boy’s clothing. A quick glance in his direction, a wink of its eye, and Roger scurried back as far as he could. He didn’t care what happened, as long as it left him alone.

Horrid fascination kept his eyes glued on the strange sight of the boy – no, demon – awakening with glowing yellow eyes, just like the she-demon, and the rats in the dark.

She trailed her fingers through the muddy curls on his head. “There’s my good puppy, my Spike. Wherever is William? Mummy’s come such a long way to bring him home.”

He mewled in response, butting his head against her hand, then snuffled up her arm to the crook of her neck. She seemed to indulge the little creature at first, gently petting his head, allowing him to lean into her caress.

Suddenly, Drusilla rose, stamping her foot with frustration. “No, no, this won’t do. Too young; too small.” She pushed him away again with her foot as he tried to crawl back to her. “Can’t bite, can’t kill…Daddy was right.”

Roger continued to cower by the tree. The monster was too loud. Yelling would only bring the rats quicker. “Shhhh,” he hissed through tightly-clenched lips. “Let the beasties sleep.”

The little creature whimpered on the ground, no longer moving.

“Shush now, sweet boy. Mummy still loves you.” Drusilla grabbed the boy’s chin, tilting his face to hers before bestowing a kiss to his forehead. Her nostrils quivered as she caught scent of something on the wind. “No time, now,” she whispered, moving away quickly. “We have to throw the little fishy back – give him time to grow. Still blind and naked… need your Daddy yet.”

With a flinch, Roger realized she’d been staring at him again; coming closer. He huddled into a tighter ball, this time refusing to look at all. “Go ‘way, go ‘way, go ‘way,” he chanted, rocking back and forth.

“Goodbye, Willy,” the monster called. “I’ll be back when the collar fits. And as for you…”

He couldn’t stop himself from responding: “Yes, mum?” Her tone of voice brooked no disobedience.

“Hide from the rats and the bats. Sharp teeth and claws are perfect for sinking into soft, pink skin.”

Silence reigned. Blessed, scary silence. Roger looked around, finding himself alone, except for the other – who lay moaning in the mud.

***

It felt good to be moving again… to feel the force of the wind as his feet ate up mile-after-mile of ground between him and his boy. Once their final course had been determined, Angel kicked out the side panel of the van and hit the ground running, not bothering to look back, knowing instinctively that Connor was behind him – that he’d have no trouble tracking him even at full vampiric speed.

As the estate loomed larger before him, panic filled his un-beating heart. Angel could smell the blood on the air – Will’s blood – faint traces, but definitely recognizable. Overpowering the scent of familial blood was that of another, but he couldn’t be bothered. The vampire hoped that Will had given his captors hell.

Angel took care to clear the fence that demarcated the property line in a single bound: security measures dictated it would be electrified. With satisfaction, he heard the dull thud that announced Connor’s arrival as he landed nearby.

There was a clearing straight ahead where the blood scent thickened, leading to a shabby wooden building surrounded by chain-link fencing. A kennel that had seen better days. Angel’s senses were in overdrive as he reached the enclosure. The smell of night-blooming jasmine mingled with moist earth that could only signify… Drusilla!

What the hell was his errant childe doing here? And… and… it took a moment for his eyes to make sense of the images before him. A dirty, bedraggled… Dawn? And… could that be Harris? Sure enough, the eye patch confirmed what he was unwilling to believe.

“What the hell is going on here,” he growled, pulling down the section of chain-link nearest to him. He loomed over the downed man, dressed only in a wifebeater and blue uniform pants. His nostrils flared before fisting the thin material and hauling him into the air. “Where is my son, and why are you covered in his scent?”

“Deadboy,” he croaked, the pain from his shattered legs being jostled excruciating. “H-he took W-will.”

Though he could smell the blood oozing from the man’s wounds, Angel was too far gone to care about Harris’ discomfort.

Dawn gasped as Xander dangled from the enraged vampire’s grip. “Angel… please! You’re hurting him – he’s been shot.”

Xander spat out a gobbet of blood before continuing. “He took Will… cars. To the cars. Gonna take a runner…” he managed with his last breath before losing consciousness.

Angel dropped the useless man in a heap at Dawn’s feet.

“Oh my god, Dawn!” Connor finally broke his stasis, approaching her with trepidation. Disbelief shone in his eyes – afraid if he blinked, she would vanish.

Angel couldn’t bear looking at them. Wishing nothing but happiness for his eldest, he knew they’d have to hurry… he’d have to leave his girl until after their youngling was safe in their arms. But where to start?

Cars! Harris said something about cars. Angel scented the air again, trying to figure out which way Will had been taken. Sure enough, the combination of the boy’s fear and Drusilla’s perfume gave them a starting point.

“Dawn,” he rasped, apologetically. Angel couldn’t spare another word, emotion nearly choking him.

“Xander said they were headed to the garage… somewhere over that hill,” she said, pointing over his shoulder. “Hurry, Angel… please! That madman’s taking Will away, and we’ll never be able to find him. And Drusilla… if she catches up with them, she’ll stop them, even if she has to kill Will to do so.”

Angel shuddered – the insane bitch just might turn him. Wouldn’t be the first child she’d done it to, after all. Furious beyond measure, he spat: “She wouldn’t dare…” with all the force of Angelus behind him.

For the first time that he could remember, he felt whole – man and demon united in their desires and goals – time to protect family, even from other family. The demon’s love for the boy was obsessive; all-consuming… exactly like a father’s.

A quick look to Connor and he headed off over the rise.

“Please don’t leave, Dawn,” he begged, even as he hastened after his father. “I need to explain…”


She could tell from the agonized expression on his face that Connor was torn between staying with her and going off after Will. And she did want him to stay – to look into his beautiful blue eyes and forgive him for all past offences, but Dawn’s feelings weren’t top priority.

I’ll wait here,” Dawn promised. “Go now, talk later.”

***

She watched until he, too, vanished over the hill.

Dawn allowed her aching heart its moment. Seeing Connor for the first time in five years almost had her down on her knees and apologizing, no matter that he had betrayed her trust along with everyone else; hiding Will’s real background. It didn’t seem so important now, did it? Not in the presence of the man she’d never stopped loving with all her body and soul.

And finding out from Drusilla that the boy had been kidnapped and tortured by the Council… it was almost too much to bear. This had to be why Giles stopped paying her; stopped talking to her. Or maybe he had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

She closed her eyes and prayed that was true. She couldn’t help but remember the time when Giles had been willing to sacrifice her own life. That particular story had been told to her ages ago, by…

Xander coughed once, twice; blood dribbling down his chin as he whimpered her name, bringing her attention back to their situation.

Dawn finally broke down and cried, silently, tears of frustration and loss pouring down her face. No medications to ease her old friend’s pain… she shivered with the realization that she was just as cold as Xander and there weren’t any blankets around to keep either of them from going into shock.

Think, think, you dope! The beleaguered young woman chastised herself, sure there was something she could be doing if only she could think. How do you keep warm without anything to keep you warm? There was always sex, but… eww, and no on so many different levels. Oh. Oh! Body heat…

It was all she had to offer until the cavalry arrived.

She had to pull herself together. Dawn wiped the tears from her eyes and took a few cleansing breaths. She gathered Xander to her body, hugging as much of his torso to her as she could. She briskly chafed his bare arms and whispered mindless words of comfort; all the while wondering what the hell Xander was doing here – obviously working for the man who’d stolen Will away.

Dawn sighed heavily, staring off into the distance, hoping to see Will come back over the hill with his father and brother.

Wishing to have her man back.

No matter what.

“Will,” Xander murmured, struggling to rise from her embrace. “Gotta help him.”

“Shhh, Xan. Hold still. Angel’s gone to bring him back. Don’t…”

The sound of sirens stopped her mid-sentence. Within moments they were surrounded by strangers. And Giles – a very worried Rupert Giles – hurrying to their side as quickly as he could maneuver. With a cane?

Oh! And Willow. She’d know that red hair anywhere. The witch had bound the cops together with some sort of green energy ring.

“Mac! Over here,” Giles shouted, motioning to some guy in white.

Dawn’s tears started anew and in earnest at the realization that they were no longer alone. They were surrounded by people there to help. Not only long-lost friends, but a doctor, too. Maybe… maybe things would be okay after all.

***

For a brief moment, Angel allowed himself to revel in the hunt of human prey; Angelus crowing in accordance. Fangs itched with the promise of sinking into a warm neck; the crunch as they broke through skin – like the first crisp bite of a fresh apple, unerringly finding their way into the pulsing artery and draining the miserable bastard’s life as surely as he’d stolen his heart – his Will.

A memory came to him in a flash – the last time he was in pursuit of family with bloody vengeance on his mind; a fledgling Spike and Drusilla in his wake. Old Bat-face had ‘lent’ Darla out to a clan of V’glorsch demons for a month in exchange for the location of an active Hellmouth.

What burnt was not Darla being whored out. Hell, that’s what she was at heart, after all. It had been revenge, pure and simple. The Master putting Angelus in his proper place for his rebelliousness and wayward thinking by taking his Sire and woman from his grasp. All it did was reinforce his hatred for his Grandsire.

And now, with Darla dead some four times by his count, Dru making with the mystery appearance, and Spike being… Will being jerked around out of his grasp, Angel was grateful to have Connor at his back.

They could do this – together.

Dru’s scent grew stronger as they crested the next hill, coming upon the detached garage. Angel motioned for Connor to go to his left, but he’d anticipated the move and already broken off.

Angel quickly assessed the scene: Drusilla was gone; they’d just missed her. Someone crumpled on the ground near the abandoned car, obviously Dru’s doing.

Dead, Connor signaled.

Both started for the small figure lying still between them – William – when a scrabbling noise grabbed Angel’s attention. Knowing his little one would be in good hands, he hared off after his prey, cornering Roger Wyndam-Pryce against a low stone wall.

“Monster,” he hissed, grabbing fistfuls of the man’s shirt and shaking him.

“Yes, yes,” the old man mumbled, looking up at the vampire with wide blue eyes. “Bad lady… yellow eyes.”

Ah, Dru. Can see your work here.

A toss of his head; the crunch of cartilage, and Angelus’ furious visage faced down the man responsible for the past half-year of hell.

The old man clutched his chest and screamed: “Rats, rats. Please… not the rats.”

“Do I look like a rat, you bastard?” Angel snarled, spittle spraying the cowering man.

“Oh, please, Father. Not the rats. I’ll be good,” Wyndam-Pryce begged, but to no avail. Angel turned a deaf ear to his distress, only smelling his son’s terror and pain.

Angel felt his prey’s breath falter, and his heartbeat stutter.

No… NO! Angel grabbed the man around his torso, pulling him up tight against his chest.
He wasn’t about to be cheated out of taking the life of the man who’d taken his son… his boy…

“P-please, F-f-father, I’ll b-be g-g-good,” the old man stuttered as his eyes rolled back into his head… and then the bastard was gone.

The vampire frantically wracked his brain for ways to bring the man back around – to make him live long enough to suffer twice-over for every pain he put Will through. CPR! No, damn it. He didn’t have any more breath to give than when Buffy had drowned all those years ago at the Master’s hands.

The corpse, already cooling, fell to the ground, as Angel turned towards his boys.

***

Connor watched his father take after an old man, then knelt down and focused on the more immediate concern of his younger brother. He was alive, thank the gods, but not alert.

“It’s me, bro. It’s Connor,” he whispered, gathering the boy in his arms. “It’s okay now, kiddo. It’ll all be okay. You’re safe. I promise.” He brushed the boy’s filthy curls from his forehead, startled when he opened his eyes – his blue eyes flecked with amber.

Will didn’t respond to the sound of his voice, or the sight of his face. He did, however, snuffle the crook of Connor’s neck and shoulder, mewling contentedly.

As he shifted the boy into a more comfortable position, he noted the sores covering his body and the fact that he was somewhat wrapped in a grown man’s shirt. He had to be seen by a doctor, immediately.

“Dad,” he called out, raising his head to search out Angel. “Over here!”

Connor watched as his father dumped the body of the old man to the ground and turned his head towards the sound of his voice, gameface to the fore.

Will growled as Angel drew closer, his head raised off Connor’s shoulder, scenting the air – recognizing… knowing…

As Angel advanced, Connor heard an answering growl emanating from his father’s chest. Not a single word was spoken as Will reached for his father, but they came through, loud and clear nevertheless: Sire. Family. Home.

***

Angel was shaken, soul and demon. He had his boy in his arms for the first time in six months, and all he felt was childe! This was not the happy-go-lucky youngster he’d last seen getting ready for school. He held the form, but not the essence.

A sharp nip at his neck refocused his attention. Will yipped and growled, wriggling to get closer to Angel, who nuzzled him back and held on tightly.

“What did they do to you,” he whispered, tearing off the shirt that had been buttoned around Will’s waist. It stank of Harris. “If he laid a hand on you, boyo… if he had anything to do with your suffering…”

And they have the balls to call me a monster.

Angel roared his displeasure. Connor approached with outstretched arms as if to take the boy back.

“Dad, you’ll frighten him.”

Far from being frightened, Will relaxed, an actual trace of a smile on his lips. Eyes closed, arms loosely held around his father’s neck, the boy looked as if he’d finally found peace.

There was only one thing left to do, besides getting medical help for his boy. He might not have been able to tear Roger Wyndam-Pryce to ribbons; the bastard had gotten off easy, no matter what hell Drusilla had sent him to before he’d gotten there. There was one person left – a focal point for all of Angel’s anger and frustration… Harris.

***

Family

The thought was first and foremost in his mind as he loped easily alongside Angel. They’d gotten Will back, at least physically. The filthy boy sleeping in his father’s arms in no way resembled the brother he’d last seen. In fact…

Connor felt the oddest connection slip into place – he remembered… Quor’toth! He couldn’t have been more than six years old – left alone, tied to a tree in an unknown part of the forest, and being forced to escape and then track his fath... no, Holtz. Having to rely on nothing but his own senses to scent the man’s trail, marked by blood smeared on trees. Struggling to keep his footing in the deep, squishy red mud. Gagging as he fell and it clogged his mouth and nose. Crying as he finally found his way home several days later; cold, hungry and exhausted, to be greeted with Holtz’s disdain.

“Took you long enough, boy,” he’d said, throwing a slab of crusty bread on the table. “Make sure you wash up before going to bed.”

It wasn’t fair. Childhood was meant to be carefree and happy. He’d seen that in his brother’s eyes over and over again as the years went by. He cringed at the remembered flare of jealousy – that Will had gotten the perfect life with Angel that should have been Connor’s by birthright. And now…

Neither of them should have been put in the position of fighting for their lives. Children were meant to be cherished – not terrified. Protected – not forced to learn survival techniques.

Connor wanted nothing more than to hold his brother and tell him he understood. To tell him that he was safe now. He could tell from Angel’s possessive grip there was little chance of that happening. Not to mention that in the boy’s feral condition, he doubted his ability to make himself understood.

Hopefully, with time and love, Will would be restored to his rightful place in his family, relatively unscathed.

They approached the kennel warily as it loomed before them. Connor’s skin itched – he could feel the prickle of magic in the air that Willow must have woven around the cops not involved directly with the Council; to keep them from overreacting to anything they might see and not understand.

“Angel!”

Giles was the first to approach, leaning heavily on his cane.

Ignoring the vampire’s low growl of warning, he reached out to stroke Will’s head, but pulled away without contact when the boy whimpered and huddled closer to his father.

“My God, what did they do to him?”

Neither Connor or Angel responded to the weary man’s enquiry. Angel was completely focused on his younger son, and Connor… well, he was torn between his brother and the vision walking towards him – his Dawn.

As oddly-dressed and bedraggled as she was, to him, she glowed. Again, this wasn’t the time for words. When she wrapped her arms around his neck and gently kissed him on the cheek, Connor gathered the woman to him and sobbed in relief.

“Shhh,” she murmured, gently running her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. “It’ll be okay, Connor. I promise. We’ll all be here for Will, and we’ll talk. No more secrets?”

He shook his head, not trusting his voice.

“Good. Come with me to the van. The doc has fresh water and juice there, and I just can’t get enough sweet orangy goodness.”

How could he deny her anything?

He looked around, noticed the doctor heading towards Angel, decided discretion was the better part of valor and took off with Dawn. His little brother was in the best of hands and he could almost relax for the first time in five years with the love of his life at his side.

***

Angel was aware of a rabbiting heartbeat approaching. He could smell the man’s fear, as well as the effort involved in not showing it. His growl rumbled from deep within his chest. No longer purely warning, his demon rose, forcing his human mask to melt away.

Angelus, greet the nice doctor. Rip out a lung or two in lieu of payment for ‘services’ already rendered.

Doctor MacGuire held up his hands, trying to placate the furious father-beast.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the lad’s best interests in mind, Mr. Angel. Surely you can see he’s in need of help.”

“We take care of our own,” Angel hissed around his fangs. What do humans know of the concept?

“Angel,” Giles admonished softly, laying a hand on the vampire’s shoulder. “Mac’s a good man; a good doctor. All he wants to do is make sure our boy’s all right. Surely that’s what you want, as well. Let him examine Will before we determine our next course of action.”

“They hurt him, Rupert.”

“I understand, man. Mac will be as gentle as possible.”

“No, you don’t,” Angel insisted, shifting his precious burden to a more comfortable position. “They…” He found it nearly impossible to continue, his son reeking of blood and other chemicals; pain and suffering. “They did things to him.”

Angel could tell when Giles got it.

The old man looked ill. “Oh good Lord, no,” he whispered, covering his mouth with his hand, as if trying to hold back the bile that rose in his throat. “Where is that bloody son of a bitch? Did you…?”

“The bastard went and died on me before I could lay a fang on him,” Angel spat. “Got away easy, if you don’t count a little side trip courtesy of Drusilla.”

Angel’s grip must have tightened, causing Will to vocalize his discomfort.

Dr. MacGuire took that moment to intervene.

“Please, Mr. Angel... it’s obvious the lad’s in distress. He needs to be checked for internal injuries, as well.”

growl Angel wouldn’t… couldn’t release his son.

This time the doctor refused to back down. He slid his arms under Will’s back and legs, literally lifting the child from his father’s arms.

Will began to struggle as soon as he’d left his father’s arms, trying to escape the doctor’s hold. The boy’s gold-flecked eyes snapped open; a snarl issuing from his throat mere moments before he sank his teeth into the surprised man’s arm.

Angel smiled for the first time in many months.

“Nurse Annetts,” MacGuire barked, making little headway due to the squirming burden in his arms, towards one of the vans. “Sophie! Bring out the tranquilizer shot for the lad. Hurry!”

A slightly harried woman came running at his request, syringe and antiseptic wipe at the ready, but backed away at the warning growl of the vampire in full gameface looming over Dr. MacGuire’s shoulder.

“The child is obviously not in his right mind, and more than likely will fight the exam.” The exasperated doctor tried to explain, standing his ground as best he could with the boy still fighting to escape his grasp. “We don’t want to hurt him anymore than what’s already been done. All this will do is let him rest while…”

“Just do it,” Angel snarled, shaking off his demon and backing away. “If you hurt him…”

Will gave a small yelp as the nurse pierced his arm with the hypodermic, causing her to flinch in wary anticipation. As the boy visibly relaxed in the doctor’s arms, the small medical team brought him into the van, taking him out of Angel’s line of sight.

Angel’s legs wobbled, giving way to bone-weary exhaustion at the last glimpse of his son, sending him crashing to his knees on the muddy ground. He didn’t move as his makeshift clan gathered around: Connor and Dawn, Giles… Willow bringing up the rear; several policemen trailing after her with clipboards at the ready, finally daring to approach and take his statement.

***

From a distance she watched, standing on the rise of the hill overlooking the kennel, helpless to affect the events below:

Angel holding onto Will with a fierce desperation; falling to pieces after watching his feral, drugged son giving up the fight and being taken away for medical care;

Connor and Dawn’s long-awaited reunion; not a time for pride to war with desire. Who was right or wrong no longer mattered. They were just two teary-eyed lovers seeking comfort and relief in each other’s arms. She so wanted to join them; to wrap her arms around them and hug them until they squeaked;

An unconscious Xander being transferred by stretcher from the van to an ambulance. She was stricken with grief for everyone as Angel tore across the compound, shaking the grievously injured man to the ground, spewing venom and hatred for his yet unknown part in Will’s kidnapping;

Willow dissolving her stasis spell to allow the cops to run interference – to protect a probable suspect from the aggrieved parent. Child abuse was something they were well versed in dealing with, and they latched on with a vengeance;

Giles and Angel, the two stalwarts in her life… side-by-side, yet more alone for their proximity. Older and more frail than ever before, Giles leaned heavily on his cane, his face etched with grief. She knew she was partially responsible for at least half of those deep creases, but his current concern was obviously for William.

Buffy turned to her companion, pulling lightly at her hand to attract her attention. There but not there, touching but not feeling solid flesh beneath her fingers, a spark passed between the two shades.

“Please, your Highness. Can’t you do something? They’re in so much pain,” she gasped, tears clogging her throat. “I hear him calling me. So scared…”

The God-King favored her with a look, her hair waving in the breeze like brown and blue tentacles.

“Your time here has passed, youngling. I have allowed you to ease the suffering of my pet to the best of your limited abilities. We must return now to replenish the energies expended on his behalf and to await his return.”

“But I can help,” Buffy whined, knowing she was grasping at straws. “I want to stay. I need to… that’s why you sent me here. For Will.”

“Enough!” Illyria began to glow, the energy field reaching out to encompass them both. “We have done all that could be done. You will see them again in due time.”

She extended her hand, preparing for the transfer. Buffy’s form began to pulse with electrical sparks. Once more her normal, adult shape, Buffy had to accept that Will and company were beyond her reach for the moment.

“I’m ready,” she sighed, unhappily resigned to letting her loved ones out of her sight. “Time for this one to go home.”


As a special added bonus, in honor of Beloved's one year anniversary, not to mention epic proportions, we've gifted it with a community of its own:

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All Beloved, all the time. Makes it easy to keep track of the story in its entirety. Please friend and keep up with us there. **smiles**
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Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
hesadevilspike
Dec. 2nd, 2006 11:40 pm (UTC)
What a roller-coaster. From Drusilla's chillingly mesmerising performance to Buffy's acceptance of her weakness.

Brava! Well worth the wait.
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:40 am (UTC)
I am so pleased you liked our Dru... we tried to keep her from going over the top in her insanity. Not easy, you know... she's nuts!

And yeah, poor Buffy. Not sure how happy she'll be once Will is actually home. We shall have to wait and see.
gillo
Dec. 2nd, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
There but not there, touching but not feeling solid flesh beneath her fingers, a spark passed between the two shades.

Love it - and what you did with the rest of that section.

I've pretty much said it all on this chapter, but I'll say again - it's bloody good.
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)
Thanks, Gill. I really appreciate your efforts on behalf of the fic. Sometimes it really takes a little distance to see clearly. You make us work hard, you do... and the finished product is worth it.
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curiouswombat
Dec. 3rd, 2006 12:42 am (UTC)
Good stuff. Really good stuff.
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:43 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, hon. We are most pleased you're enjoying. Not the imperial 'we', but me and liliaeth. *grins*
ladycat713
Dec. 3rd, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
But the real question is… what kind of monster are you?”

A very sane question especially considering the source.

And I don't blame Angel for not wanting to trust the humans.

Will's been rescued but now he has to be healed.
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:45 am (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying, pet. We strive hard for that.

Will's been rescued but now he has to be healed.

You've also hit the nail right smack dab on the head here. There's a long way to go.
kitmarlowescot2
Dec. 3rd, 2006 04:59 am (UTC)
Oh poor William, and Angel. I hope Illyria put Roger into hell. I thought Buffy was in her child shape, I take it Illyria will not be releasing her at age 11 to grow up again with William.
You know this made me think, Drusilla is one that liked to feed on children, but I think she killed them quickly so that they won't suffer.
Will is probably going to be really really scared of any non family male for a while. Angel and Connor will probably be the only males he will get close to for a long time. I hope I won't be wrong, but maybe William would feel more comfortable around a female doctor, when he comes out of his feral state?
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:50 am (UTC)
Drusilla certainly had her fun with RWP before Angelus got to him. No wonder he croaked so easily.

You're right about Illyria and Buffy... no early release for her, I'm afraid.

Will is going to have issues related to this, for sure. As to with whom... that will unfold rather quickly. I promise it won't be another 24 chapters before it's over and he grows up. *grins*
(no subject) - kitmarlowescot2 - Dec. 3rd, 2006 07:07 am (UTC) - Expand
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angelic_amy
Dec. 3rd, 2006 05:09 am (UTC)
Wow. OMG just... wow. This chapter was so powerful! I loved Dru. The fact she drove RWP insane and into an early grave. The fact she came to Will's rescue (even if she has not so innocent intentions in the future.) I loved Dru's Ring A Rosies song, thought it was brilliant.

Angel's fury was so well written, so completely believable, and I don't think I would've looked upon him badly if he'd done anything to Xander. What I can't believe is that Xander didn't try and do something sooner. I felt sympathy for him in earlier chapters but right now I'm just mad.

Dawn and Connor... I needed that - their reunion. I could see perfectly how Connor would've choked on his words - picture clearly how emotional he was. That was written very well.

I'm surprised Angel gave Will over to the doctor's, considering everything that has happened. His grief was so palpable...

The end of the chapter was incredible. I loved it.

You do realise that now I'm going to get all annoying with the begging for updates sooner?

Great chapter as always sweetie. *squishy hugs*
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:52 am (UTC)
What a lovely and detailed bit of feedback... it's what we write for, as you might have a hint. *grins*

So many people and storylines are coming up - I can forsee lots of interludes to get the tales out. We'll just have to see how it unfolds.

Glad you enjoyed, Amy. I am shameless about pushing the chapters at you, I know. But it's only cause we care!
(no subject) - angelic_amy - Dec. 3rd, 2006 07:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spikes_heart - Dec. 3rd, 2006 07:41 am (UTC) - Expand
mad_brilliant_
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:55 am (UTC)
::applause applause::

Brilliantly written. I relished every word.
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 07:40 am (UTC)
**takes deep bow** Thanks so much, hon. Will strive to continue to please.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 3rd, 2006 10:07 am (UTC)
Loved the chappy. Love this Dru and this Angel/Angelus very fun to read, always felt that Angelus was more interesting if he would have had some feelings for somebody but himself.

Can't wait for the next chapter.

SpaceLord
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 11:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the high praise. Working hard on the next chapter as we speak.
greenstone_j
Dec. 3rd, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
Thank heavens he's away from...that Thing (well named) but oh boy, things could get...wow. Poor boy
spikes_heart
Dec. 3rd, 2006 11:52 pm (UTC)
Thank heavens he's away from...that Thing (well named) but oh boy, things could get...wow. Poor boy

Oh, they could get... indeed. Keep on reading and you'll see just how...!
brunettepet
Dec. 5th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
Another excellent, exciting chapter. Drusilla was beautifully written, and I love the foreshadowing of "“I’ll be back when the collar fits." William may have been rescued, but he's still a target.

Angel's near feral anger was palpable, and you built the tension of the rescue wonderfully. I, too, was disappointed that Roger slipped away so easily, but at least he had been driven mad beforehand.

The reunion between Connor and Dawn was a real bright spot in this chapter.
spikes_heart
Dec. 5th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! We are most proud of our Drusilla. She was hard to write with some restraint - over the top loony wouldn't have worked right.

Knew people would be disappointed that RWP didn't suffer more, but really... he wasn't worth any more of our time.

There'll be more Connor/Dawn soon, too. They needed to get back together.
(Deleted comment)
spikes_heart
Dec. 9th, 2006 04:49 am (UTC)
Smart girl - it's not going to be easy on anyone, I'm afeerd. But... he will be home with those who love him, and that has to count for something. FINALLY.
elemmire
Dec. 10th, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC)
Yay for the cavalry!
Is it bad to love Dru and her not-so-real madness?
And.. poor Angel and poor Will!

Thank you for this story :)
spikes_heart
Dec. 16th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)
I'm so pleased you enjoyed our wacky Dru! Means we did something right.

And yeah... poor guys. And just think of their family back home! His mom and friends... so many people affected by one little boy.

At least he's in the arms of his family right now.
erin_starlight
Dec. 16th, 2006 06:27 am (UTC)
Hi, I've never posted here before. I've just gotten this far in reading your story. I truly adore this but it was the first ATS fanfic that I ever had to stop reading because I was bothered with the content. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with your fic just that it moved me in a way no other has. I also get upset when I read about kids getting hurt so that combined with the reactions of his family had bigger impact on me.

You even got me to like Buffy again (well in your fic at least ;) ) and I love what you have done with the characters. It's strange that after the mistrust and hurt between the Scoobies, Fang Gang and Angel that it was Spike to bring them together again.

I'm usually a Spangel or Cangel girl but I don't mind Nina. I'm glad to showed him moving on as I always felt that the way he acted in Chosen/TGIQ was ooc. Having Connor with Dawn always made sense to me and I love his connection with William. Since I'm a Spangel this story has also been a change from the usual Angel/Spike scenes and I can't tell you how much their bonding has touched me.

I always wanted to see something more done with RWP so I'm glad to see that you filled him out more. Though I am a tad disppointed that Angel didn't make him suffer having Dru drive him insane was perfect.
spikes_heart
Dec. 16th, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
**squee** a new reader! Glad it squicked you, moved you, inspired you (checked out your Buffy figurine **smiles**).

Hopefully you'll pick the fic up again, 'cause let's face it... how could things get worse for Will than they've already been? (and no, this is not us being 'cutesy and misleading').

liliaeth and I can promise you more angst ahead, but the abuse of children is well over and done. You'll also find if you read any of my other completed works, that I tend to want a happy ending. Almost always.

Thank you for a lovely review - a wonderous Hanukkah prezzie, indeed.
(no subject) - erin_starlight - Dec. 17th, 2006 12:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spikes_heart - Dec. 17th, 2006 09:27 am (UTC) - Expand
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )