Hey, folks! liliaeth and I have a shiny new chapter of Beloved on tap. Little William is now five years old, and growing up. Charlotte and Hugh have some new developments. Dawn and Connor take a more active role in Angel Investigations. Angel seems to have bought several vowels. Please, as always, read and comment! The story is about to hit its stride within the next couple of chapters – the muse is all a’twitter about what’s to come.
Goddess bless willa_writes for her encouragement and beta work.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 9 – All Gods’ Children
“Oh, yuck!” Dawn complained, trying to scrape the hardening yellow and purple ooze from her hair and clothing. “You could have at least warned me and Connor about these guys exploding on contact, Angel. Like, before sending us in with blades.” She stared defiantly at the immaculate Armani-suited vampire, as if this was somehow all his fault.
Self-restraint severely tested at the sight of the messy pair, Angel allowed himself a small, enigmatic smile. “I did,” he insisted. “I spent at least five minutes telling you about their splatter patterns and exactly how far away to stand to avoid ending up covered in… that.”
“Obviously when you were too busy sucking face with my son.”
Connor chortled to himself as he wiped down his weapon, seemingly unconcerned with his own appearance.
“Oh, yeah.” She giggled, tailing off into a deep sigh, gazing dreamily at the object of her affection, who’d moved on to ineffectually trying to wipe the slime off of his body. Which reminded her… “Any chance I can stick you with the dry cleaning bill?”
Batting her eyes in his direction, Angel could have taken her for a taller copy of her sister, post patrol. Same complaints. Same hands on hips pose. Same pout waiting to break out on her lips when he turned her request down. Another small smile graced his face.
“Is that a yes?” she asked, hope coloring her voice as he walked away from her. “A no? Angel? Angel!”
He ignored Dawn’s piteous calls and tried to keep from laughing at her behavior. Connor caught his eye and smiled back at him, making his day.
“Damn it!” Dawn swore. “I’m gonna find me a job that’ll cover me in dollar bills. I’ve had enough of this crap.”
“Oh, come on now, baby. You’d leave A.I. and all the perks?” Connor grinned, letting the gelatinous ooze fall where it may.
“Perks? You see perks to this job?” Dawn was incredulous. “Outside of dealing with dozens of different colored slime in a month?”
At his answering smile, Dawn turned coy as she sashayed over to the young man. “I can think of something that might help me change my mind,” she murmured. “Maybe you wanna give me a hand with the cleanup?”
“But Miss Summers!” he gasped, clutching his shirt to his chest. “We aren’t even betrothed. Frankly, I’m shocked at your suggestion.”
Dawn simply cocked a well-groomed eyebrow.
“Ah, but I know a solution to our dilemma. Let us marry and make an honest man of me at last.”
“Oh no you don’t. Don’t start this all over again, Connor.” She tried to laugh it off.
“Marry me, Dawn,” he repeated, all serious in tone this time. “Marry me and make me the happiest man alive.”
“How about I just let you wash my naked body and make you the happiest man alive this evening?”
Angel fake retched, shaking his head at their antics. “Geeze, you two. I think I’ll need to be tested for diabetes if this goes on any longer.” This had been going on for months – Connor asking Dawn for her hand in marriage and Dawn refusing, making a joke of the whole thing. Both men knew that she was going to say no, but it didn’t stop Connor from asking.
With a smirk, he replied: “Well, if I must. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.” Obviously Connor knew a good thing when it was on offer.
“Are you calling me dirty, Mister?”
“As filthy as the day is long, baby.”
“Connor!” Angel shouted, tossing a double bladed knife his way. “Head’s up!”
In one swift motion, Connor caught the blade and brought it down towards the small figure now struggling under the grip of his other hand.
Dawn jumped on his back, grabbing his knife arm and throwing his aim off, resulting in the blade embedding itself in the floor.
“Why the hell did you stop me, Dawn?” Connor shook from the adrenalin still running through his system.
“Because it’s Rumpari, not Thpazial.” Hugh stumbled into the cavern from the sewer, looking none the better for having tossed his cookies after stumbling over a handful of human corpses. “Rumpari don’t eat people, as a rule. Just for ceremonial occasions – such as the wedding you just decimated.”
“And that’s okay by you?” Connor fumed, motioning around at the bodies lying at their feet. “Just because human flesh isn’t an everyday staple in their diets, you’re fine with letting this one go?”
“The Rumpari you’re choking is a baby. It doesn’t eat meat, human or otherwise… until it’s full grown, and you’re hurting it.”
“I’m so sorry, Mister I hurked up my lunch at the first sight of blood. I suppose you didn’t see the human children its elders ripped apart to feed to their guests. Little bodies with their bellies slit open and forks…”
“Connor! That’s enough.” Dawn stood in front of Hugh, who’d turned to dry heave after Connor’s diatribe. “Hugh didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I don’t need you to defend me, Dawn,” Hugh gasped, wiping his mouth on his shirtsleeve. “The perpetrators of such atrocity were Thpazial. They view humans as animals possessing no sentient thought and are better disposed of. And whilst it’s not comforting to the poor blighter they’d have chosen, the Rumpari would have made do with a single human for their entire group.”
“So they’d only murder one human.” Connor was incredulous. “They would only have killed him, carved him into little pieces and eaten him, Chalmers. Don’t go telling me that makes it better, just because they only do it for ‘ceremonial occasions’.”
“When you can tell me that the steak you ate the other night won’t be missed by its family,” the beleaguered man shot back. “I’ll take your side without argument.”
Connor opened his mouth to say something, but shut it again, obviously giving up the fight. He lifted his hands in defeat, freeing the Rumpari child.
It was terrified. Too scared to run away, it curled up into a ball, emitting a series of squeaks and whistles.
Dawn got down on her hands and knees and approached the little demon with caution, despite Connor’s attempt to hold her back.
“Oh, Angel… it’s crying. Maybe the poor thing is really hurt.”
Hugh pulled a small, silver whistle from his pocket and trilled a series of notes. The Rumpari stopped shaking and whistled a response. After a few more exchanges, the youngster stood up and ran to Hugh, hugging him tightly around the knees.
“It’s okay now. He’ll be fine.” Hugh ran his fingers through the boy’s black curls in a calming manner. He continued to speak in a low tone, even though it probably sounded like nonsense to the little demon.
“H-how did you know – how did you do that?” Dawn stammered, watching Hugh take charge of a situation for the first time. “What did you say to him?”
“I just told him I’d keep him safe.” Hugh ducked his head, unable to make eye-contact for some reason.
Angel looked at the man with a new, oh-so-familiar understanding. He’d been through this before. Yes, with Wesley. Wes’d been so afraid of making waves to stay in his good graces that he hadn’t bothered to tell him of his linguistic skills until Cordelia was in danger.
“Do you always carry that whistle around with you, or were you expecting to run into Rumpari demons this evening?”
“No, of course not. But Rumpari aren’t the only demons with non-verbal speech patterns. This whistle is a help when the demons are calm enough to speak first and think about murder afterwards.”
The Englishman sounded calmer, more self-assured now that he was on familiar ground.
“It would have worked on the Thpazial, as well,” he said. If I hadn’t embarrassed myself by yacking up my guts and putting myself out of commission went unsaid. “That’s why they didn’t listen to you when you attempted to break up the ritual slaughter. They don’t recognize human speech as language. To them, we’re nothing but foodstock, no more sentient than cows are to us.”
“Just how many languages do you speak fluently?” Angel wondered aloud. Was it possible the man had been hiding his true light under a bushel basket all this time?
“I speak and read Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, Sumerian and a smattering of Russian dialects.” Hugh took a calming breath before continuing. “I am also fluent in Thpazial, Rumpari, Grox’lar, and Fyarl.”
Dawn patted him on the back. “I’m impressed. You’ve hidden the real you from everyone, haven’t you?”
“Back when I failed my first field test for the Watchers Academy, I… I spent months in their research libraries. I could hardly face my parents in my shame, nor my colleagues. I took an intensive course in demon linguistics in an attempt to ‘suck up’ as you say here. To try and make a name for myself that wasn’t tainted with disgrace. I spent so much time listening, reading and searching through the files that my mum had me banned from research for an enforced two week rest.
With a twinkle in her eye, Dawn crooked her elbow, holding it out for Hugh to take. “C’mon, C3PO. Let’s get out of here.”
“And what are we gonna do about the Rumpari brat, Dad?” Connor’s acid tones cut through the air. He wasn’t at all happy being responsible for the little beast after murdering its kin.
“We’ll have to take him home with us. When his family comes looking for him, maybe Hugh can negotiate a truce with the clan.”
“It won’t be far reaching,” Hugh offered. “But perhaps I can get this clan to forgo the eating of human flesh for something else. As a show of good faith so Angel won’t slaughter the rest of the Rumpari.
“You’re taking him back home?” Connor spat furiously. “To live in the same house as Dawn, Nina and my little brother? Are you certifiable?” He poked his father in the chest to further his point. “What if his people launch an attack on the hotel and decide to kill first, whistle questions later?”
“But they won’t,” Hugh insisted. “They would no more risk on of their children than we would. These demons are reasonable in their own right. They’re a clannish, peaceful people with an unfortunate predilection for an occasional meal of human flesh. Unfortunate for us humans,” he amended.
“I still say Nina’s gonna flip about putting her child in danger, not to mention Charlotte’s. How can you put your pregnant wife in danger like this, Hugh? I’d never do it to Dawn.”
Dawn snorted. “Like you’d have the choice, buster. This is the twenty-first century, you know. We women, pregnant or not, can not only decide things for ourselves, but on the whole we can defend ourselves, too.”
Angel blocked out their bickering. He motioned for Hugh to make the call to Anne and Gunn as he released the shackles holding the kidnapped humans. There was nothing he could say to ease their distress. He simply requested them to sit and wait.
Hugh spoke easily enough about humans eating meat; taking the life of animals with feelings, no matter how base. It was easy to look at things from the other side, when it wasn’t your face looking back at you. When you didn’t focus on the fact that you and your clan spent decade after decade tearing through human weddings and leaving naught but death and destruction in your wake. Children crying for their dead parents. Parents begging for the lives of their children, only to watch as you ripped their necks apart.
He might not be able to bring back a single life stolen by his fangs, nor those who were murdered this evening, but he wasn’t going to abandon the little Rumpari to its fate. There were worse things than vampires and humans that roamed the sewers. Nina would have to understand, and they’d take the appropriate precautions to protect everyone involved.
A loud thunk, thunk on the manhole cover, signaled the arrival of the relief team. Dawn, Connor and Angel herded the survivors up the ladder, carrying those who couldn’t make it on their own. Hugh stayed hidden below, with the Rumpari still clinging to his legs.
Anne and her volunteers waited above with warm blankets, triage kits and plenty of hot coffee and hot chocolate for the children. Gunn explained to a passing police officer that these people had been caught in the crossfire of a gang war, and were being taken to the shelter until family members could be sent for.
When the last of the shelter workers had left the scene, Angel retreated to the sewers to retrieve his people. For safety’s sake, they completed the trip back to the Hyperion through the sewers. From afar, the Rumpari could be mistaken for human. Up close, the patterned skin, sharp retractable fingernails and deep red eyes were dead giveaways that the child was demonic.
The trip home through the sewers gave Angel pause for reflection. Another day, another battle fought. Nobody on their team lost, minimal casualties amongst the hostages. While ten people had lost their lives, they’d rescued forty five. Angel’s had worse results. He hadn’t wanted to take Hugh out on patrol at all, but he’d proven himself more than useful once he got himself under control.
Ever since the… well, ever since…Angel wanted nothing more than to take on cases by himself. Connor, of course, insisted that his place was at his father’s side. He knew the innate need to fight. The physical release from a good work out.
As for Dawn. Well, from the first week when she followed him after he’d insisted she stay at home, it’d been a losing battle. She was Spike and Buffy trained for battle, she insisted. Not to mention the past year she’d spent working out with the baby Slayers. Angel had to admit her style showed a melding of elements from both his previous partners. It sometimes took his proverbial breath away and he had to stand back and watch
Nina and Charlotte were waiting for them at the sewer entrance to the hotel. A few toots on the whistle from Hugh, and the Rumpari allowed himself to be fawned over by the women. As they led him towards the little nest of towel and pillows they’d made in the bathtub, he kept turning his head to keep his translator in sight.
He was too big to fit into a pair of Will’s pajamas. One of Nina’s oversized t-shirts served as a suitable nightshirt, and the little one settled into the nest, quietly trilling when Nina tucked a large down comforter around his body.
“Is it safe to leave him alone like this? So close to Will?” Dawn was obviously having second thoughts about endangering her ‘nephew’.
Hugh nodded. “I believe he’s been traumatized enough to fall into a deep sleep. Most children escape their fears and worries that way.”
“Personal experience, honey?” Charlotte hugged her husband to her rounded belly. “I promise to keep you safe tonight. It’ll be just you, me and Junior.”
Connor growled as they walked down the stairs, muttering under his breath about the mutilated bodies they’d left behind, and the stupidity of trusting demon spawn.
Will awoke to the sound of a low whistle. It sounded like a teakettle before the water was ready. He got out of bed to see where it was coming from, making sure to grab Paddy. Adventures were no fun alone, after all.
He stopped before the bathroom between Auntie Dawn’s room and the linen closet. He opened the door carefully. Maybe Mommy had finally agreed to get him that puppy he’d been asking for. He was disappointed when nothing greeted him on the other side of the door, until he looked into the bathtub.
A kid was rocking back and forth, making such sad sounds.
“Are you okay?” he asked, startled when the boy’s bright red eyes focused on him. “Why are you crying? Did you have an accident in your bed? Is that why you’re in the tub?”
When the kid didn’t answer, Will made to leave. He figured it might be a good idea to get his Mommy. She would stop the boy from crying. As he got to the door, the crying sounds got louder. What could he do if the kid wouldn’t talk to him?
Will held out his hand, tugging on the kid’s arm and led him into his bedroom. He rummaged through his toy chest for a red teddy bear that Charlotte had won for him at a carnival, and offered it to the kid.
“See? I take my Paddy bear with me, and he makes me feel safe. You can have Red bear.”
He walked the boy back to the bathroom, and watched as he hunkered back down in the tub. This time, he hugged the red bear to his chest, and went to sleep with no further crying.
“Angel!” Nina yelled down the stairs in a panic. She’d opened the bathroom door to check on the little demon. After spending the past four years mothering Will, she couldn’t help herself.
“What’s wrong?” Angel was by her side in no time flat.
Nina pointed at the empty bathtub. “He’s gone. Oh, God… what if he’s…” and stared down the hallway at their son’s closed door.
With all the stealth at his disposal, Angel opened Will’s door, mollified by the sound of his son’s steady breathing. He motioned for his wife to join him as he stood aside, making room for her to enter.
The two boys were lying back-to-back on Will’s bed, each clutching a stuffed bear.
They backed out slowly, closing the door behind them.
Only Angel heard his son’s quietly whispered “Night, Daddy.”