liliaeth and I address at least one issue post RWP’s distressing behavior with this interlude of Beloved, set during the day following Will’s abduction. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
William is just ten years old
Angst, of course. Poor Will’s not quite himself. Nathaniel has a mini-epiphany.
Please, as always, read and comment! We’ve placed the muse in seclusion and ordered in all sorts of soul satisfying yummies. Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - beta extraordinaire and ego stroker divine. And we now add the delightful gillo as Brit-beta.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Interlude 16-17 – Beware the Jabberwocky
Nathaniel stood outside the warded door, carrying a breakfast tray in one hand, and pinching the bridge of his nose with the other – trying to stave off the worst headache he’d had in ages.
Why couldn’t Lydia see this was for the greater good? Yelling and screaming at him over the breakfast table like a vulgar American.
‘How cruel,’ she’d said. ‘He’s a child,’ she’d said. ‘He’s human,’ she insisted. Couldn’t she understand that this was as much to save the boy as it was to help themselves?
Nate opened the door, trying to shake the words and condemnation out of his head. A few mumbled phrases and the wards let him enter.
If there was any good to be found in the child, it could only be nurtured in an environment safely away from the influence of that blasted vampire. A corruptor of innocent souls. Not that he believed for one second that the boy was entirely human – how could he be? Surely a demon still resided in situ, probably engaged in a death struggle with the soul.
The soul… an innocent soul. That’s why he’d agreed with Roger’s plan in the first place. Save the innocent soul and give it a purpose. Bind the demon and free the child from its influence.
Spotting the empty sofa, Nate was pleased. That meant the boy had roused and found his way into the bedroom. Good, he nodded. The sooner he settled, the sooner they could begin his indoctrination into the plan.
He placed the tray containing a box of cereals, a container of milk, an empty bowl and a banana on the small kitchen table and headed for the bedroom.
Peering into the quiet room, he noted the bunched up duvet.
“William, time to get up. I’m not going to serve your breakfast in bed. If you want to eat, you had better get up and make your way into the kitchen.”
Moving further into the room, Nate spotted the bloodied sheets and empty bed. A whisper of unease unfurled in his belly.
His eye traced the blood’s path from the bed to the floor, leading to the bathroom. It was a small room, yet he heard the boy’s mewling before he saw him. There, wedged in between the loo and wall, was a small black ball of misery keening and slowly rocking back and forth.
At the sound of Nate’s shoe against the floor tile, Will looked up; eyes blank and unseeing.
The man couldn’t believe his own eyes. He’d had to look twice to be sure this was the same child he’d brought to the suite the night before. The wild head of white-blond curls threw him. What spurred him into action was slipping in a puddle of blood.
The child shook violently at the sound of his voice, but made no move to leave his bolt hole. Pus dripped from an angry red x-shaped incision bisecting the left eyebrow.
He tried to coax the boy from his position, tried to make himself smaller, closer to the boy’s eye level but Will wouldn’t acknowledge his presence. Nate spoke soothingly, talking to him like he had once calmed the feral cat Lydia had brought home when she was a youngster. “It’s all right, William. Nobody will hurt you. I promise. Come to me… that’s a good boy.”
In the end, Nathaniel had to wrest him free by grabbing for the keening child under the armpits – gently – not knowing what damage might have been done to his body.
The reaction to his touch was instantaneous. Will lashed out like a cornered animal, catching Nate across the face with his fingernails. He might not have had a vampire’s game face, but the wild look in his eyes came damned close.
Unexpectedly, William bit deeply into Nathaniel’s forearm when the man refused to loosen his grip, nearly resulting in his escape, but not quite. The Watcher gathered Will closely to his chest, nearly letting go for the second time. The boy’s body was hot to the touch; making his fever felt even through his clothing.
What the bloody hell could have happened to him in so short a period of time. When it hit, it hit hard. The hair… the eyebrow…dear Lord, Roger. What have you done?
Finally disengaging his teeth from Nathaniel’s arm, Will went lax – the only movement his chest rising and falling rapidly with his labored breaths.
Taking advantage of the stillness and hoping it wasn’t just a feint, he scooped the boy into his arms, knowing he had no choice but to take him to a doctor. One whose discretion could be counted upon. Not to mention, one who would understand the significance of just who the child was.
Nate shook his head in dismay. It was one thing to slay a demon, another to capture it – to use it and train it as a weapon for the cause. To torture and terrorize it went beyond vulgar. It was asinine. One treated one’s weapons with respect if they wanted to be sure of wielding it with success and accuracy..
Ah, humanity… The very aspect that makes us more than demon.
He took a moment to wrap William in a blanket, hiding the worst of what had been done to him. Making a quick phone call to alert the clinic to expect him and his ‘guest’, Nathaniel headed out of the door.
And promptly fell back into the suite when his cargo bounced against the anti-demon ward he’d erected at Roger Wyndam-Pryce’s insistence.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered, swiftly repeating the passwords to allow the boy egress, wincing at the painful mewls coming from the blanketed form from the jarring contact.
It was a simple ward, working on the same principal of the disinvite spell. It did provide incontrovertible evidence of a demon residing in the child.
Guess the old codger was right after all.
But that knowledge didn’t negate the fact that the sick, wounded boy in his arms had been hurt by a human, and needed tending to. “Arrogant bastard,” he whispered. “If we’d wanted him dead, it would have been simpler to take him out right there in the school.” No need to go to all the time and expense incurred in setting up our plan.
Nate had never wanted it to come to this, but changes were going to have to be made starting at the top. A loose cannon would upset all the delicate plans in progress. Roger’s behavior on the plane had sparked the fear, but this latest stunt clinched it. The trick would be in getting the man to condemn himself. There was time, yet. But a plan would be set into motion as soon as possible.
The Council was everything. Nathaniel had pledged his life to it long ago, forsaking personal goals of friends and family for service to the cause. He’d been taken under Wyndam-Pryce’s wing as his protégé; looked to him for guidance as a proper Watcher. And now the time had come to take his teachings literally. Eliminate any threat, no matter who it turned out to be.
And this boy – this demon child – would be the man’s downfall, just as he might one day be the tool that the Council needed to get the Slayers back under control.
Properly indoctrinated and trained, William should be capable of taking out the rogue elements with ease, leaving the more mundane issues to proper Watchers.
That, however, was well into the future… and if he wanted that to come to pass, William must first make a full recovery.
Dr. MacGuire was alone in his office. He’d sent away his staff as requested.
Nate laid his burden down on the first available bed, standing close in case the boy was faking it. He needn’t have worried. With a thin, shrill cry, William curled into a fetal position and stayed still.
The doctor took over, gently rearranging the boy’s limbs and fastening restraining straps around his wrists and ankles.
“It’s for his own safety, Mr. Chalmers.” Dr. MacGuire rapidly assured the Watcher. “They’re well padded and won’t chafe his delicate skin. I’ll need to keep him still while that nasty infection is lanced and drained. And I’m going to start an intravenous drip for antibiotics and to prevent dehydration – see if I can bring his temperature down and return him to consciousness.”
“It’s more than the fever, Mac. He’s been traumatized.” Nate turned, unexpectedly squeamish as the doctor expressed globs of yellowish pus from the infected wound. “And he can be quite unpredictable and vicious,” he said, holding out his bitten arm as evidence.
“Oho! So the little bugger bites, eh?” The doctor moved from task to task, pausing to wash his hands and don new sets of gloves. He inserted the needles with well practiced ease, then continued to cleanse the boy’s face. “How long has he been suffering like this?”
“I’m not sure,” Nathaniel evaded. “Yes, he bites. And he scratches too.”
“Well, I’ll do what I can for the lad medically. A couple of stitches once the swelling goes down a jot. Shame it’s going to leave a scar on such a sweet face,” he said, voice full of regret. “Shall I call you when the antibiotics have taken effect or will you be staying?”
“Let me tend to my war wounds before I go.” Nathaniel rolled up his shirtsleeve and set to rinsing the bite with an antibacterial scrub. “Mac, would you mind…”
“No worries. Fully documented?”
“Strictly confidential. Original file only, and I will take it with me when I pick up the boy. Understood?”
“Of course, Mr. Chalmers.”
William seemed to be resting more comfortably now that the doctor had stopped fussing with his eye. He remained calm while the blood and tissue samples were taken. Might as well get used to it now… there would be many more tests in his future. Then again, he wasn’t exactly conscious. Nate suspected the next medical would be much more… interesting.
Nate heard the boy muttering something, over and over. Bent down over Will’s body, he could just make it out: “notmonsternotmonsternotmonster” repeated over and over again as a litany. His voice was cracked and raw, but he wouldn’t stop repeating the words.
“Please Mac, can you give him something to knock him out fully? He’s exhausted. Sounds like he’s been mumbling for hours.”
The doctor turned to him, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t want to risk it. The lad seems to be in shock, and I don’t want to jeopardize his breathing. I’d prefer to see him come round, first.”
He ran several ice chips around Will’s parched lips hoping to give a little comfort, and was unprepared with the child’s jaws snapped viciously around his fingers with a growl.
Nate chortled, a rare enough occurrence that Mac started at the Watcher.
“Private joke, Mac,” he said, laughing inwardly at William the Bloody making victims of two Council members while restrained and supposedly helpless. “Will he be all right? Would they lose even more time thanks to Roger’s obsession?
“He’ll be fine, Mr. Chalmers. Physically, at least. His temperature’s noticeably down already. Whatever emotional trauma he’s been dealt… only time and patience will tell.”
“I see…” And he really did see. You don’t sharpen a sword by slamming it against a rock. You stroked it gently against a steel – carefully so it developed a fine edge.
“I’m not a monster,” Will yelled, loud and clear, eyes still tightly closed.
Nate hoped to prove the boy right.