I give early thanks to the muse for providing the next chapter in Beloved's saga. liliaeth and I offer the further adventures of little William and his entourage. Please read and review - comments build strong bodies twelve ways. **grins**
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Beloved – Chapter 4 - Breathing Space
Two Weeks Later – End of June
Client files piled nearby?
One flustered 250 year old vampire?
You betcha - check.
Why had he opened his big mouth in the first place? “I can do this, ladies,” he’d said. “I can follow simple directions. You go off and do your thing, and it’ll all be done when you come home,” he’d promised. “Will won’t be any trouble. I’ll work on this while he’s napping.”
Charlotte left for school with a smile on her face. Nina packed a small bag for a few days with her sister, Jill. “Amanda missed her,” she’d said, even though she’d only just moved in with Angel. “A couple of days of strictly girl time were just what the three of them needed to ‘reconnect’.”
Yeah, right. Angel was sure that the main reason Nina’d left was to get away from the ice cold glares and hostility between him and Hugh. Okay, to be fair, the anger and hostility all stemmed from himself, not the prissy Watcher, but it wasn’t his fault. That moron was always underfoot or in the way. It wasn’t like he’d been the one to hire him. Too bad he just wouldn’t take the hints and get lost.
He had bigger concerns just then.
Like his damn computer!
Angel had come this close to tearing his hair out. He’d read everything… twice. Databases for Dummies had been as incomprehensible as Let Your Databases Multi-Task for Efficiency’s Sake, until he’d managed to grasp enough of the particulars to settle down and cobble something together his way. After more than two hours of finger numbing typing, he’d finally finished his task. And bonus points for Will playing happily on the floor between the desks.
There, on the screen, was a lovely table that cross-linked all the demons the agency had come across with the cases they were involved with. A quick glance at the clock showed it had been closer to three hours since he’d figured out how to begin. The end of this torture hadn’t come nearly soon enough.
“I could have helped, you know.”
Angel’s attention turned towards the Watcher, still at his desk. Chalmers sat; not a hair out of place. His tweed suit perfectly tailored; looking like a prissy altar boy. A pair of wire rimmed glasses perched on his nose completed the look, incontrovertibly linking him to… someone he still couldn’t think of without wincing.
Will had chosen that particular moment to head over towards Chalmers’ desk, and Angel snatched him off the ground mid-stride, in panic.
“I was top of my class in building databases, I can assure you I would do a good job of it,” he continued, unaware of the ratcheting tension in the room. “There’s no need for you to continue to struggle that way.”
Shows him what he knows, Angel snorted, glancing happily at the completed table on his monitor. He’d settled Will closer onto his lap, holding him tightly, almost flinching as the Watcher came closer. Just the idea that the Council was anywhere near his son, the infamous ex-vampire William the Bloody, choked him. Ignoring him as best he could, Angel turned towards his son.
“See, kid? Your old man made that. All by myself, no matter what your mama tells you about old dogs and new tricks.” He’d almost said something about Spike’s constant harping about how he was stuck in a technologically deprived era, but the fear of Chalmers even sensing that Will was Spike was enough to tie his tongue.
Angel shuddered. A still wet behind the ears Watcher, probably cringing at having to work with a vampire. He probably wouldn’t hesitate to turn in the helpless child if he’d found out just whom he’d been just last year. Who knows what the Council would do to the boy if they had him in their clutches. No way would Angel let Chalmers near Will. He’d already lost Connor to a Watcher, albeit a well meaning one, but he wasn’t going to risk the same thing happening to his boy, now.
The thought of Wesley made him close his eyes, trying to think of better times; when Wes had been his best friend – before Connor. Before Wolfram & Hart, and before Wes had died for his cause. He wasn’t sure which of those facts hurt him the most.
He stood suddenly, leaving Will on the chair. He should be safe enough for a few moments while Angel got a well deserved cup of coffee.
“You did remember to save your work, yes?” Hugh called out as Angel headed towards the kitchen.
Angel rounded on him with disdain dripping from his voice. “I don’t need you to tell me how to run my business, Watcher-boy. Just remember, you’re only here because I was backed into a corner by Giles. I don’t want you here. I don’t need you here. It’s just that I have no choice. It doesn’t mean that I have to listen to your prattle.
A distinctive *ping* stopped the two men’s repartee. The sight of Will clapping his hands as he pushed button after button on the keyboard; haphazardly moving the mouse around the desk, put fear into both their hearts. Apparently, Will had found the right combination of moves to make the wastebasket gobble up files.
Moving with full vampiric speed, Angel still wasn’t fast enough. He pushed the chair away from the desk, sending Will spinning and laughing across the room. Panic set in as he searched the computer for his database that was no longer showing on the monitor. In fact, nothing was showing on the monitor. The files were gone, the program was closed – all those hours of work simply… gone!
He stood there for a moment, head down, eyes closed – stiff as the proverbial corpse he was, as if he couldn’t make sense of what had just happened. The fact that it was his poor judgment to leave the computer in Will’s inquisitive grasp, Angel couldn’t even begin to justify his lack of saving the files, which would put a smirk on that horrid man’s face.
“What did you do, Will?” he whispered. “Bad boy. That was a bad thing you did, messing around with your Da’s hard work.” His voice raised, even knowing it wasn’t the boy’s fault, but unable to take it onto himself. “Oh, god. Where is that file? Where the hell is that god damned file?”
He knew he was yelling, hitting the keys harder and harder. Open file just made the computer beep again and again, to no avail. File Deleted flashed across the screen, blinking and taunting.
Will started to cry, wriggling down from the chair as his father got angrier. Hugh caught the boy before he could leave the room, well aware versed about his propensity to vanish. Not happy at being held by Hugh, the boy proceeded to pitch a full-fledged tantrum. “Down! Down! Me down!” he screamed, pitching himself backwards, trying to loosen Hugh’s hold.
In the meantime, Angel yelled louder and pounded harder and harder on the keyboard, having his own temper tantrum. “Two hours!” he screamed. “T’is the devil’s own machine; computers. More’n two feckin’ hours of peckin’ m’fingers to the bloody bone to put all this crap into it, and it’s all gone in one second, thanks to…”
Whatever he was about to say was swallowed in the noise of the front doors bursting open.
“Hey, Dad. I’m hoo-oome!” Connor’s happy voice boomed throughout the lobby, barely heard thanks to Will’s screaming which continued, unabated.
Angel froze between attacking his computer and the sight of his elder son. He’d not expected to see the young man.
Connor walked over to his father, pushing his luggage into his hands. Angel took them, still too stunned to figure out what was happening.
“But… but… aren’t you in England? You’re in the middle of your summer classes,” he insisted, putting the bags down on the floor.
Connor flopped inelegantly on the couch, his arms outstretched. “I think that letter you sent telling me I had a new baby brother had something to do with it, don’t you think?”
“You got the letter, already?” Angel still forgot from time to time that it no longer took months for a letter to make it’s way across the ocean.
“Yeah, I would have been here sooner, but you know… school. Finished my exams before I lit out. Besides,” he said, looking over at the squalling boy still struggling the other man’s arms. “A new addition to the family is big news. Especially to our family. Not like that happens every day,” he chortled.
Angel enjoyed the sight of Hugh, still having the devil’s own time of it trying to hold onto the snot-nosed, crying, flailing terror in his arms. As for Connor, the boy (Angel still had a hard time seeing him as a man, no matter how tall he’d grown) stood and strode over to the unhappy duo. Chalmers look ready to cry, himself.
“I guess this is him?” Connor asked as he took the little dervish from a very grateful Hugh’s arms.
“Yeah, that’s our William.”
“Not exactly the most Irish of names.”
“Well, he isn’t exactly Irish now, is he?”
Connor laughed, turning his attention back to the baby. “Hey there, little William. I’m your big brother, Connor. Nice to finally meet you.”
The boy calmed almost instantly in Connor’s arms; sniffling as he nestled into his chest, wiping his dripping nose into Connor’s shirt, which galvanized Angel, ever the clothes horse, into action.
“Knock off the waterworks, William. You’re making a mess, here!” he admonished, pulling out a wad of tissues to try and clean the child’s crusty nose. “What’s he gonna think of you?” Not being cooperative in the least, Will turned his head from side to side, resulting in the mucous now being spread over both his cheeks instead of being wiped off.
“Dad! Dad! Stop it.” Connor laughed, pushing Angel’s hand away from his squirming brother. “I can always throw the shirt into the wash. Besides, this little one’s not gonna give up the ghost and calm down if you keep chasing after him with that thing. When he’s ready, just get a warm washcloth and problem solved.”
Angel couldn’t believe the difference in his youngest’s behavior from Hugh’s arms to Connor’s, who was a virtual stranger not five minutes ago. “How do you know so much about babies?” he asked Connor, very impressed with his take charge attitude.
“Apparently, false memories of taking care of younger siblings are good for something,” he said, gently.
Angel barely registered the movement as Hugh walked over to his computer, set up a new database the correct way, and was well on his way to completing the task in record time.
With a light tap on his shoulder, Angel allowed Connor to guide him into the kitchen, as he tried somewhat unsuccessfully to remove his brother’s hands that were fisted in his hair.
“William Pratt! You stop hurting your brother, this instant!” Angel tried to capture the little hellion’s hands, but his surprisingly strong grip made it impossible, without pulling out Connor’s hair at the same time. “Isn’t he hurting you?”
“Yeah, right,” Connor snorted. “You’re forgetting where I grew up. I wrestled with things stronger than you when I wasn’t much bigger than baby bro, here.” Connor tugged on Will’s hair in retaliation, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to grab his attention. “’Sides, at least he’s not crying anymore.”
“There is that,” Angel agreed, smiling. Charlotte would be home in a few hours, and they could pass the boy over to her. He knew he had a lot to say to Connor, yet, and it would be easier without the little one in tow.
He breathed a sigh of relief. He had both his boys within his grasp, something very important where Spike was concerned, and a pleasure where Connor was. The fridge had a full supply of pig and otter blood awaiting him. Nina would be home in a few days. How could anything go wrong?
The two women giggled like a couple of naughty teenagers sneaking out for a weekend bender.
“I can’t believe I fibbed to Angel about where I’d be for the next few days,” Nina whined, shame coloring her cheeks a deep pink. “We promised not to lie to each other about anything.”
“Don’t you dare go feeling guilty, Nina,” Anne chuckled, her baby belly gently jiggling as the two women embraced. “Your wedding is one of the most important events in your life, and it deserves proper planning. Added bonus of a no-stress, girl-talk, mini-vacation”
“I agree. And it’ll be good for Angel. He so needs some real bonding time with Will. He promised me he’d try to ditch the hostility and see him as just the innocent child he is.”
“Yeah, and he’s not really alone, what with Charlotte and Hugh there all the time. Um, even if it’s not all wine and roses between the two guys.” Anne twiddled with the bottom of her blouse, suddenly unsure. “Did you remind Angel to call our number if anything came up? I mean, not to let his pride get in the way?”
Nina laughed out loud, thinking about how truly headstrong and stubborn her fiancé could be. “Don’t worry, hon. I’ve got your number on the fridge in Will’s magnetic neon numbers. He can’t miss it.”
“Good, then. Let’s go get some coffee and Danish. I’m starved, and junior here agrees with me. I wouldn’t miss my one coffee every other day for anything.”