liliaeth and I hope to answer at least some of your questions with this interlude of Beloved, set at the end the week following Will’s abduction. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
William is just ten years old
Lots of talk, posturing, breast-beating and the Josslike reappearance of a missing character. Angst, of course… we’re dealing with a missing child, after all.
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, and hugs to gillo for taking the Brits out of the Bronx.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Interlude 16-17B – Blood Ties
It’d been a week… seven entire days since William had been taken. One hundred and sixty eight hours since Angel had last slept. Even for someone with the preternatural abilities and stamina of a vampire, that was a long time to go without rest, and it showed. For an eternally youthful creature, Angel looked middle-aged. He was haggard; dark smudges had appeared under his red-rimmed eyes and the shadow of a beard evoked the true demon hidden within a usually angelic visage.
Nina’s heart was twice broken. The boy she’d loved for nine years as her own was missing, inexplicably kidnapped from school, and the man she’d loved for more than a decade was losing more of himself with each day that passed and their child remained missing. She was determined not to lose them both.
“Angel, you really need to get some rest,” she coaxed, trying to lure her resisting spouse to their bed. “How much help do you think you’ll be to Will if you can’t stand on your own two feet?”
“I can’t sleep, Nina. Not after that letter… the smell of fear in Will’s blood.” Angel ran his hand through his hair, adding to the disheveled, manic look. “Why won’t Giles return my calls? I just know that bastard is involved with this. He must have sold his own soul to put in with the likes of Wes’ father and that fool, Nathaniel.” Woeful hound eyes begged for answers from his spouse. “Tell me why the people we love are related to such – such filth.”
Nina raked her hand through her hair, helpless, but still trying. “There’s nothing I can say, my love, and you’re falling off your feet. Come to bed with me and we’ll try Rupert again in the morning.”
Worn down, Angel offered no further argument as he crawled into bed beside his wife.
Nina watched as he pulled their son’s beloved Paddy bear from under his pillow and held it to his chest as he fell asleep. She’d have to thank the guidance counselor for having the heart to rescue Will’s belongings from the trashcan in her office. Even though it brought home the fact that their son was gone, they could hold onto the hope of returning the stuffed animal to its rightful owner when he came back.
Angel tossed and turned. Unable to fall asleep and unwilling to awaken his wife, he got out of bed, slipped on a robe and opened the bedroom door. Maybe sitting in William’s room would give him some comfort… some hope.
As he stepped out into the hallway, he found himself in the basement of Wolfram & Hart’s surgical wing. The place was as dark and dank as he remembered it all those years ago. And white! Stark and painful to the eyes.
He was nearly shocked into breathing when he saw the security guard; Buffy, sitting there, munching on a doughnut and reading the newspaper. She dropped both as soon as she saw him coming; standing at attention as he passed in front of her post.
At least she’s trying to make herself useful, he thought. Not standing around like a statue.Angel told her to take her shift break early. Not questioning her good fortune, Buffy seemed relieved as she left for the cafeteria, abandoning the elder vampire to his brooding.
He continued walking, spotting a familiar figure wearing white surgical scrubs – Dr. Daniel Holtz was emblazoned on the name tag. As he stared, Holtz rolled an incubator with a crying infant into one of the rooms.
I know that cry. Connor! Angel started after the doctor, and was stopped by Darla in a skimpy nurse’s uniform, complete with little white cap pinned to her blonde hair.
“It’s really terrible to lose a child, dear boy,” Darla murmured. “You can’t let him get away. They never come back the same, you know.”
Angel stood preternaturally still outside Connor’s door, waiting for some sign from the doctor that it was all right to go inside. When the suspense became overwhelming, he opened the door and watched as Nurse Drusilla finished winding bandages around the stumps of William’s arms.
“Help me, Daddy,” he begged, holding out his deformed limbs.
Angel fled the room to the sound of Drusilla’s insane cackling. “There, there, little love. Daddy can’t save any of his children, but perhaps Mummy’ll do in a pinch.”
This can’t possibly be happening, Angel thought, holding onto the wall outside for support. “Maybe Nina was right – sleep deprivation is gonna kill me.”
Steeling himself for the gruesome sight, Angel went back into the room. Lying in the bed was Spike, still unconscious, his newly reattached arms resting at his side. Angel remembered… he’d been through this before, he was sure of it.
He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that he was there of his own free will… again. For Spike. He tried to justify it by recalling that Spike lost his hands in the line of duty – to Angel, himself. A mission the younger vampire probably wouldn’t have undertaken if it weren’t an opportunity to show his grandsire up. Angel would have to concede, if only to himself, that even though Spike refused to be associated with Wolfram & Hart, and mouthed off against him at every given opportunity, when push came to shove, Spike had continued to stand by the mission.
Finally sinking down into the empty chair, Angel held his head in his hands and grumbled: “You were always such a pain in the ass, William. I don’t know why I bother…”
“They say talking to yourself is the first sign of senility, Angel. Do vampires fall prey to such human afflictions?” Rupert Giles chortled, pleased at having gained the upper hand for the moment. “It would explain that tedious urge you keep getting to destroy the world from time to time.”
The big vampire startled, unnerved that he’d let the Watcher sneak up on him, accompanied by two little Slayers in pigtails, both wearing pinafores and patent leather Mary Janes. Each girl held on to her own plastic pop-gun and a large multi-colored lollipop.
“What are you doing here, Giles?” Angel jumped up, coming face-to-face with the Watcher. “If you were here all along, why did you send that idiot, Andrew, to double cross me… us?” Angel seamlessly slipped into his old role as CEO of Wolfram & Hart as if the past ten years had never existed.
“Frankly, it wasn’t my inclination to visit Wolfram & Hart at all. I simply decided to use this trip as a training effort for the lad.” Giles stared at the name printed on the file attached to the door. “So it’s true. Our prodigal vampire has returned.”
If he was waiting for a confirmation, he had a long time coming.
“I’d suspected Andrew had lied, or fantasized about Spike’s resurrection. It wouldn’t have been the first time.” Giles was about to reach for the door, when Angel blocked his way. He didn’t bother making a point of it. “As for his accidental dismembering, I thought it was another of the boy’s exaggerations.”
“It wasn’t, Angel grumbled, refusing to elucidate.
“However,” Giles continued as if uninterrupted, “if Spike is so much trouble to you, I can always take him back to England with me.”
“What do you mean?” Angel asked, hating how part of him – a very large part of him was tempted to dump his burden into someone else’s hands. Then again, Spike was family, and Giles? Giles was part of ‘the enemy’ – the Watcher’s Council – the entity responsible for hounding vampires into dust for millennia, though not entirely without reason.
“Let’s say I was interested in dumping the jerk, just for the hell of it,” Angel mused. “What possible reasons do you have for taking Spike with you? Humiliation? Would you put a sign outside his window? ‘Pet vamp here, slightly scary – don’t throw things at the glass’?”
The Watcher glared back at Angel, both little girls on the alert – pop-guns aimed at the vampire’s heart.
“One, two, buckle my shoe,” sang the redhead.”
The brunette followed with: “Three, four, shut the door.”
“Spike’s worked with us before,” Giles grimaced. Obviously the Doublemint Twins were a bit taxing on the old man. “He could be of great use to the Council, what with his knowledge of demons and their customs. Not to mention his fighting skills.”
Angel could tell it nearly killed the man to admit that Spike was good for anything.
“Whether through idiot’s luck or strategic skill, he’s managed to kill two slayers, not to mention nearly taking Buffy down on several occasions. We wouldn’t waste such a rich commodity as a resident vampire, Angelus.”
Angel’s sub-vocal growl caused the slayers to release their safeties and step forward – placing themselves between Watcher and Vampire.
“Five, six, pick up sticks,” the girls chorused with no small amount of venom in their glares.
“He’s not a commodity,” Angel insisted. “Not for you, not for the Council. And as for his fighting skills, the healers can’t even guarantee his arms will mend or ever be fully functional again. Then where would he be?”
“Spike will be whatever he needs to be. You and I both know that he’d adapt. If he heals well, he’ll have all the fighting he can handle, and then some. If not… well, I’m sure we’ll find a place for him.”
“Like another cross-filled garage?”
It was Giles’ turn to startle. “He told you?” Not a shred of remorse emanated from the man.
“Spike on a drunken binge holds nothing back. You’re lucky I didn’t go after you, myself.” Angel stroked his chin, eyes sparking with malice. “And what will Buffy think of this? Watching you put her pet vampire through his paces?”
“Buffy’s in Italy, leading the life she’s always wanted. She’s free of the solo Slayer mantle.”
“But-but… I just… she was just here, guarding…”
Giles ignored his spluttering and forged ahead. “As a matter of fact, Andrew told me that Spike didn’t want her to know he was back. He said he would tell her in due time, when he was ready.”
“And you’d allow this out of the goodness of your heart?” Angel snorted at his response, unable to hold back his disbelief. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Spike within a mile of Buffy. That’s why I sent her away. But that still doesn’t change things. What you’re planning is vile, and Buffy will hate you for it if she ever found out. Making him a virtual prisoner of the Council. Letting him out for walkies whenever you needed him for a mission that was too dangerous to endanger your fellow humans. How would you propose this to him? Pretend it’s for his own protection? We both know that’s not true”
“Well, yes,” Giles conceded. “So do you.”
“But I wouldn’t lie to him about it.”
Giles scoffed at him, making Angel want to kick that calm, reserved look off the Watcher’s face. “Spike doesn’t know the meaning of the word responsible, Angel. It took me awhile to figure him out. He’s like a child that needs guidance. A two year old in terms of his attention span.” Giles looked down his nose at him with disdain dripping from every word. “Who’s going to point him in the right direction? You? He likes to fight, and we’ll give him every opportunity to do so. He’ll be kept from getting in over his head and endangering either himself or anyone else. With any luck, we’ll manage to keep his messups under control. It’s what you do with children like Spike.”
“Childish, perhaps.” Angel couldn’t disagree with that comparison. William had always been his wild boy – untamable, uncontrollable. And beautiful. Juxtaposed with that memory was one of a giggling little boy, blowing out candles on his birthday cake. He couldn’t remember which images were real and which weren’t, and it was making Angel irritable.
“A childe that you tried to have killed.” Angel’s glare was near feral, flashes of gold popping into the dark brown irises. “Yes, Rupert. I know all about that little… game of yours, you manipulative bastard,” he spat. “Spike’s family, old man. My grandchilde… my youngest. My boy. And yes, we’ve had a particularly stormy relationship over the decades… but we’ve always been straightforward about our hatred. You’re looking to manipulate him like a brainless puppet. And then there’s Buffy. She won’t stand for it again. Doesn’t matter who she’s with at the time, the day she finds out about Spike she’ll turn on you like a rabid dog.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Then tell me this, Angel. Why weren’t you on the phone first thing, telling Buffy that her latest demon lover had come back to life?”
“I don’t want them to be together either, but Spike is free to do as he chooses. With or without my encouragement – or lack, thereof.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Giles agreed. “That’s always been your way, hasn’t it? Letting your childer run around free, killing whomever they wanted. Is that why you’ve never been able to stake them? Plenty of other vampires have fallen to your stake, but not those two. Never the ones closest to you; Drusilla, Spike… yet you managed to kill your own sire. It’s almost touching.”
Angel growled, low and menacing.
The girls giggled, breaking out into verse once more. “Seven, eight, lay them straight,” and brought their guns a bit closer to the vampire. Bang, the one in front of him mimed.
“I staked Darla to save your precious Slayer’s life,” he shouted. “I suppose you’d have preferred I let her shoot Buffy, instead?”
“Did you?” Giles demanded. “Or did you just pretend? I heard she had a slight problem with birth control about a year ago.”
Angel shed his human mask, baring his fangs in a grin that no doubt had humans losing control of their bowels in years past. “Do Watchers know what it means for a vampire to dust their Sire? It rips at our very foundation. It’s one of the few forbidden things in vampiric lore, and I did it to save a girl. I’ll bet you didn’t know I tried to get Buffy to stake me, first, so I wouldn’t have to.”
By now the little girls had put down their pop-guns and finished their lollipops. They sat on the floor chanting: “What are little boys made of? What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and Watchers’ tales, that’s what little boys are made of!”
Angel ignored the warning bells going off in his head and dismissed the girls with sharp, swift kicks, sending them spiraling down the hallway.
“Stay where you are, children,” he bellowed, not even looking in their direction. “I’ll have his heart in my hands before you can move.”
“Now see here, man…”
“Believe me, Giles. It took me months to be able to function without feeling my Sire’s loss. Why do you think I was such a waste of space in those days? I could barely hang on to being there, following after Buffy like a little lost puppy, because she was the only purpose I had left after killing Darla.”
Stepping back, Angel realized he needed to calm down. He had to get control of himself. It would be too easy to just reach out and… he shook off the thought with difficulty.
“It took me months to be able to function without feeling my Sire's loss. And then, just as I’m getting my footing back, just as I’m starting to think I might be some good to her… ‘they’ show up. Spike and Drusilla, almost as if they’d waited for the perfect moment. I wanted to stake him then. I could have… I was so close. But when push came to shove, Spike got the upper hand and I nearly dusted in his quest to heal our Drusilla. I couldn’t fight back. I couldn’t lose another member of my family when I could save them… even at the cost of my unlife.”
Giles snorted his derision. “My only concerns for you at the time centered around how your loss would affect my Slayer. Your evil, soulless, murdering family meant less than nothing to me. By all rights you should have destroyed them as you’d done any number of vamps during your patrols.”
Angel cocked his head, certain he’d heard signs of Spike awakening. “Listen to me, Giles. I’m telling you once and for all. Spike stays here. I’m not about to medicate his IV line so you can take him wherever the hell you want – and we both know that’s the only way he’ll deign to go with you. He’s mine to do with as I please, and I will not have him under the thumb of humans. Especially those under the auspices of the Watchers Council, where I’m sure he’ll be studied while he’s ‘helping’. He’s nobody’s lab rat – not again. And he nobody’s plaything, Rupert – nobody’s but mine.”
“And I’m sure he’ll thank you for that on his knees someday,” Giles sighed, silently conceding Spike’s guardianship.
Watcher and Vampire faced off. CEO of Wolfram & Hart and Head of the Council of Watchers. In the end, Giles headed down the corridor, but his vanguard stayed behind, chanting one more chorus for his listening pleasure.
“There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile. He found more than sixpence beside a crooked stile.” With their final word, the girls bowed, waved and trotted off to rejoin the Watcher.
“Look at me, old man,” Angel snarled, halting Giles’ progress towards the exit. “He’s here, and he’s been helpful when he’s not being a pain in the ass. When the time comes that he’s a detriment to the mission or humanity in general, I’ll take him out, myself. Call off your munchkins,” he snapped, indicating the giggling children at his side. He stared at the backs of the retreating slayers before he turned and slipped inside Spike’s hospital room.
As he walked into his childe’s room, Angel woke up, trying to figure out where he was. In his own bed; apparently – Nina still sleeping soundly on her side.
“A dream,” he muttered. “Nothing but a fucking dream. And she wonders why I don’t want to go to bed.” It would be so easy for him to slip back under the covers and slip away. Sleep was so close to claiming him again.
“This sitch just sucks. I wish you could…”
Angel looked at Nina to assure himself that it wasn’t she who spoke. Nope, still out like a light. There! No way, he thought, trying to rub the sleep from his eyes.
Buffy sat cross-legged on the corner of the bed, idly picking at the pills on his comforter.