liliaeth and I have the next interlude of Beloved ready for your reading pleasure. We’re still three months into William’s captivity. Man, time is just crawling, isn’t it? Please follow the Warning Alert System.
William is still just ten years old.
Yup – you guessed it. More talking. But this time we fill you in on the lives of three people long missing from the saga. Maybe four.
Please, as always, read and comment! The muse has abandoned her search for the perfect wig. She thinks she looks right fetching with her own pixie hairdo, and so do we. We’ve packed her chains into the box kept under the bed and promised to bring ‘em back out only if she’s a really good girl. Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my sunshine and beta-supreme, and hugs to gillo, who brings the fine art of hyphens to life.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Interlude 17-18B – Missing Links
It was late – maybe one o’clock in the morning – and Dawn was tired. This little trip to London had taken just about the last of her savings and the thought of having to face the man who’d kept more secrets from her than Angel turned up the level on her cranky-meter. This whole situation would have been unnecessary if Giles would only have returned her repeated phone messages.
Why was he being so difficult? After all, she was the injured party. She was the one lied to and misled. Was it simply a matter of not counting anymore because Buffy wasn’t around? It bordered on cruelty when he stopped forwarding Will’s letters… the child had made a habit of answering her letters within a two week period since he could write. But then… he had to get petty and stop depositing her paycheck into her checking account. Was he trying to provoke a face-to-face confrontation? And if so, why couldn’t she make an appointment to see him?
Thank God for twenty-four hour internet-cafés, Dawn groaned as she shouldered her way through the door. Links had been her bolt hole during her first trip to London… when she’d needed to get away from her sister and Council life. And her feelings. Now, of course, it was a familiar place to get in touch with old friends. Those that she was still speaking to, at any rate – the list had grown alarmingly short.
She waved her permanent member status card at the cashier, accepting a plastic circlet stamped with the number seven. Links had the advantage over other cafés in that they had several private rooms, not only rows of individual computer stations. Dawn quickly affixed the ‘occupied’ disc to the doorknob, set her duffel bag down and hastily set up her laptop. Maybe… just maybe… there would be a reply to her emails.
Dawn rolled her eyes as she deleted the obligatory ‘enhance the size of your penis’ and ‘keep it up all night’ spam clogging her inbox. Next went the forwards from Petra, her neighbor, The woman felt obliged to send her every. single. joke. that crossed her computer screen. And that left? Nothing. Not a word from Will, nothing from Giles or…
With a sigh, Dawn rested her head on her arms. Even after five years she still looked for emails from Connor. It’s not like he hadn’t tried. For the first year he bombarded her inbox with entreaties in the subject line. Eventually Dawn placed anything from Connor in a filter that sent them straight to the trash.
The stubborn bug hadn’t just bitten the older Summers daughter, that’s for sure.
And it wasn’t as if she was totally hard-assed about the situation. There was an entire folder full of drafted emails that she just never sent. Once the words were on the screen, Dawn couldn’t delete them, either, and now they just sat there. Daring her to push ‘enter’ and end the damned cold war.
Ping The familiar sound denoting new email sounded just as Dawn prepared to log off.
“Terrific,” she grumbled. “Probably just another stupid ad to re-grow hair and make me more attractive to the woman in my life.” Still, Dawn couldn’t resist checking her inbox one more time.
Her finger flew to the screen – as if she needed to touch the name to believe it was real.
The last time they’d spoken had been more than four years ago, when she was hurting so badly over leaving Will and Connor behind. It hadn’t been the world’s most pleasant conversation; Xander had refused to give an inch in his Spike hatred, and his bitterness towards life in general nearly pulled Dawn under in her depressed state.
Her hand hovered – to click or not to click? That was the question.
The contents of the email were slightly anti-climactic. Nothing but a Skype number and two simple words.
Dawn plugged in her mic and hastily tapped the number into the keypad, wiping her sweaty palms on her jeans as she waited for him to pick up.
“Harris.” Sleepy annoyance echoed through the mic.
“Xan? Is that really you?” Butterflies threatened to bring up the last meal she’d eaten. Dawn could barely remember feeling this nervous when she’d crushed on the guy as a younger child – BS, that is. Before Spike.
“Dawn?” yawn “Do you know what time it is?”
She checked her watch, then realized she wasn’t wearing one. “Um… oops? But since you’re already up… considering how long it’s been since I’ve heard from you, I thought it might be important.”
Dawn giggled as yet another yawn came through the mic.
“That email went out hours ago. Not my fault it took so long for you to get it. I guess just missing you isn’t all that…”
“God, Xander. I miss you so much. I-I do, honest. And people I care about are always important to me. It’s just…” Dawn sighed, not wanting to complicate things. “…we haven’t spoken in nearly four years, and I was sorta wondering why now? Things are in a bit of a pickle at the moment.”
“I’m kinda leaving Africa,” Xander said, softly. “Guess I just… I can’t do the hide-y thing anymore.”
“Are you okay?” Dawn’s bullshit meter was registering high on Xander time. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“I had… an accident,” he admitted.
Aha! I knew it! “What? Did you piss off a herd of elephants? Are there little half-Xander half-lion babies roaming around the Serengeti and Papa Lion took a swipe at you? Spill, Xander.”
The resounding silence told her she wasn’t going to get anything out of her old friend.
“All right, then. Be all stoic-y and keep me in the dark,” Dawn muttered. “Maybe I’ll call Willow and guilt her into telling me…”
“What do you mean, I can’t?”
“Willow hasn’t been reachable for a long time,” Xander sighed. “Last I heard she was off on a mission… something to do with… with… Buffy.”
This is sooo not of the good. “Where are you going to go? And… and can you get there by yourself?” Dawn anxiously chewed at her lower lip. She could hear what it took for Xander to admit that he needed a way out.
“London, I guess,” he finally said. “Ask Giles for another job – behind a nice, safe desk this time.”
“How long do you think it’ll take to make arrangements? I mean, I’m here. In London. Now.” Dawn tripped over her words in her enthusiasm. “I’ve been trying to reach Giles for a month and the stupid Council seems to have closed ranks all around him. He won’t even return my phone calls.”
Xander seemed to mull over that little tidbit of information before replying: “Huh! I thought it was just me. He hasn’t returned my calls, either.”
“Now this is freaking me out. First, Giles is unreachable. Now you tell me Willow’s pulled a vanishing act. And I’m not getting any letters from Will. It’s been nearly three months, and he’s never gone so long without writing back to me.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. She could tell just how worried Xander was over that fact, but pushed on, anyway. “Look, Xan…”
He cut her off immediately. “Dawn, I’m not gonna talk about Spike right now. I really, really don’t want to hear about a demon who murdered thousands of people and got away with it scott-free.”
“Then I suppose I shouldn’t ever bring up Anya, huh?” she retaliated, stung by how very little compassion he had. She knew it was a low blow, but damn it all to hell, Spike was just as important to her.
“Don’t you dare compare Anya to that… that…”
“What, Xan,” Dawn taunted. “That vampire who gave his life to save the world? Twice? As opposed to the Vengeance demon who killed multitudes of men in the most painful ways possible for over a thousand years and reveled in it?”
“She wasn’t a demon at the end, Dawn,” he insisted. “She stopped being a demon. It was her choice. Why don’t you understand that?”
“And so did Spike!”
“What are you talking about, Dawn? Last time I bothered to listen to one of your Spike rants, you told me that he’d died yet again and left a son. Deadboy Junior, just like Deadboy – the vamp didn’t fall far from the vein. And as for leaving Angel’s clutches? Good for you.”
Dawn took a deep breath to calm her nerves and tamp down her anger. “Spike’s alive.”
“He was, in that vampire-y way of being undead.”
“Listen to me, Xander. Really listen this time,” Dawn begged. “Will wasn’t Spike’s son. He was Spike… and they never told me. Not Giles, not Willow, not Angel and not Connor… nobody! That’s why I left.”
“Not making it better here, Dawnie.”
“He was my friend, Xander. And Buffy’s…”
Xander’s angry roar shook the mic. “He tried to rape your sister. You weren’t the one to find her on the bathroom floor, all bruised and crying. I did. Me.”
“Gods, you’re still going on about that? Xander, get over it. Buffy did, ages ago. Before… before… well, we spoke about it, and that’s not what Spike tried to do. You just refuse to see anything good in him. Why the hell did you want me to call if you can’t or won’t listen to anything I have to say?” Dawn cried, swiping at her eyes, furiously. “Why can’t you get over the fact that Buffy never wanted in your pants?”
“And you guys wonder why I don’t call more often,” Xander replied, his voice low and tired.
Dawn wouldn’t apologize, damn it. She wasn’t in the wrong. “Would you prefer it if we stopped talking to each other? For good? I thought we were friends, Xan,” she said softly. “I can’t take losing one more person in my life, but if you can’t… if you won’t…”
“I didn’t mean… shit. Dawn, what happened to us? All of us? How did the Scoobies get so scattered?”
“Well, you stayed the bigot you’d turned into?”
Dawn almost laughed at his squawk of indignation.
“I’m not a bigot!” Xander blustered. “I just don’t like vampires. Since when is that a bad thing? You know… I thought I was talking to the sister of the vampire Slayer!!”
“Not only vampires, Xan,” Dawn barked back, giving as good as she got. “You hate demons of any kind. In our world, you know… you learn that things aren’t black and white. I thought you’d grown up… instead, all you’ve done is grown older and more bitter.”
“You know that’s not true, I don’t hate all demons. I even keep in touch with Clem,” Xander insisted. “Well, he emails me constantly, and his smilies turn to frownies if I don’t reply. It’s like ignoring a puppy.”
Dawn snorted. “I don’t know why Clem even bothers with you. He was Spike’s best friend.”
“I live near a couple of his cousins. They like the heat – says it’s good for keeping their wrinklies from chafing… and that’s way too much info for me.”
“I’m so close to giving up on you, Xander,” Dawn sighed, finally feeling the weight of her travels and the loss of close friends and family. “It’s not acceptable anymore, this hate you have on for Spike. The Powers that Be felt he was redeemed enough in their eyes to give him yet another chance – a rush-job-reincarnation. He was reborn an innocent baby… and he’s now a beautiful ten year old boy. How can you continue to hold such a grudge? Isn’t there an ounce of compassion left in you?” Once more going for the low blow, hopefully reaching her old friend, she said: “Anya would have been thrilled at Spike’s reward.”
“I don’t hold a grudge. I just don’t see why I should be happy Spike’s back again, while Anya’s gone,” he said, his stubborn nature not giving sway.
“But that’s not Spike’s fault. You can’t blame him for her dying and staying dead, Xan.” Damn it! One more negative snipe and the mic was gonna get snapped in two. “She’s dead. I miss her, too. But Anya’s dead and she’s just not coming back.”
The sounds of Xander’s quiet sobbing broke her heart. If only she could pull a Willow and teleport. Sometimes nothing worked as well as a hug.
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, Xan,” Dawn allowed. “…but maybe now you’ll have just a smidgeon of understanding about what I feel for Spike… and William. Wouldn’t you like to be able to talk to me about Anya? Tell me what was good and right with her in spite of her history? Maybe you’d like me to care that you’re hurting over her loss. Why can’t I expect the same thing from my friend?”
“Anya’s dead, Dawn. You’ve driven in that nail real well today. She’s dead, and there’s nothing I can do to bring her back. Nothing.” His voice cracked with emotion. “I tried, you know. Tried to have her raised, and failed, of course. Why is she so much less worthy than a bloodsucker?”
Anger burned in Dawn’s gullet. She couldn’t believe he’d gone that route again. “Haven’t you learned anything from what you and the others did to Buffy?” she fumed. “Maybe Anya’s in a better place… did you even think of that? Would you really want to be responsible for dragging another soul out of heaven?”
“But… what if she’s not? In heaven, I mean,” he whispered. “She tried so hard… she was so damned earnest about being human… but…”
“But you don’t like thinking that maybe she’d been judged and found lacking?”
Dawn’s heart broke a little bit more. This would explain a lot of his hostility. He was afraid to acknowledge Anya’s death because her past probably condemned her to eternal suffering in hell. Or one of many hells.
“I miss her, Dawnie. I just can’t…”
“I miss Buffy,” she said, trying to take the burden onto her shoulders. “I miss my mom, and I miss Spike… I’ve cut myself off from everyone, Xander. Thanks to their lies and the whole statue business, I feel like I’m all alone out here. I don’t want to lose you, too.”
“You won’t, I promise. I know I piss you off, but I can’t do this alone, either. Not anymore.”
“What am I supposed to do now?” Dawn sighed deeply, pretty much at a loss. “I haven’t heard from Will in so long, or Giles, so I don’t know if the kid’s stopped writing, or if Giles is mad and just not forwarding his mail. I’m really worried, Xan. What if something’s happened to them?”
“Wouldn’t Deadboy have called you if his bra… kid was missing?”
This time the silence was on her part, then…
“I’m not talking to Angel,” she said. “Or Connor. Or Willow, or Giles, or Gunn or Hugh. Everyone knew, damn it. They all knew how much Spike meant to me, and they lied to my face. For years. I’ll never speak with any of them again. At least not willingly,” she grudgingly admitted.
“Do you love Connor?”
Huh? I – I did when I left. I guess I always will.”
“Then I think you should call him if you’re so worried.”
Dawn swallowed hard, the butterflies threatening a massive jailbreak. “I-I’ve wanted to call him… but I can’t. How can I ever trust him again, Xander? He was my heart – he knew more than anyone…” She stopped her own diatribe – it was useless to repeat herself yet again.
“You know, I’m gonna tell you something you might wanna to listen to, Dawnster. I missed out on an entire year with Anya. More than a year that we could have spent together playing Happy Marrieds. If I hadn’t wussed out and been too much of a coward. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go to Connor – or call him. Email him if it makes you more comfortable for first contact. Let him grovel; let him whimper; make him crawl… but take him back. No matter what, he probably misses you as much as you miss him.”
“And you’ve gone all ‘Dear Xanny’ on me ‘cause I’m worried about Will?” Dawn sniffled, unable to believe what Mr. Avoido was telling her to do.
“I can’t pretend to care about Spike, Dawnie, but I do care about you,” Xander said, his voice gaining in conviction with each word spoken. “This whole anger trip you’ve got going is hurting you, and you don’t deserve to suffer. Not for their lies.”
His last words chilled her to the bone.
“Don’t turn into me.”
The warmth of the body beside him lulled Connor into remaining half-asleep. He could hardly believe his good fortune. Dawn had walked back into his life last night and they’d spent hours together; re-acquainting themselves with each other’s bodies. He snuggled closer into a tight spoon behind her, relishing the warmth she brought to his heart… to his bed.
He reached out and touched her shoulder, stroking his way down to her breast. There was nothing he enjoyed more than waking up with a palmful of his beloved’s smooth flesh; her small nipple crinkling under the pads of his fingers.
So what if he couldn’t exactly recall the exact circumstances of her return. Connor remembered the bar; the loud music; the wonderful feeling when the despair that had a stranglehold on his heart for the past five years had dispersed like clouds after a rainstorm. It was enough that she came back to him and they’d celebrated big time.
Something didn’t feel quite right as he wriggled against Dawn’s behind, trying to find the comfortable position they’d always managed before. For one thing, there was more rump than he’d remembered. Had she put on that much weight? And the breast under his hand felt wrong, as well. Dawn might have been very nicely endowed, but this…
Slowly Connor opened his eyes and gasped.
The woman stayed asleep even as he sat up in shock. His head ached and the room swam. Man, he must have really tied one on last night. Connor tried desperately to remember. He’d started off with a few beers, nothing special. And then came the Jack… followed by the Tequila… and then… Dawn. Or so he’d thought.
Sure enough, the woman lying in his bed had long brown hair, but that was where the similarity ended. Her skin was darker – Mexican, perhaps. She was also twice the size. Plump and soft, pretty – just not Dawn.
What the fuck did I do?
He held back the sob trying to tear its way out of his throat. How could he use another soul to soothe his broken spirit? Connor clutched at his aching head as he eased his way out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom.
After relieving himself, Connor glanced into the mirror above the sink. Stubble, of course, and red, swollen, demony eyes staring back at him. He quickly ran a sink full of cold water and tried to wash away the evidence of a too-hard night.
“Connor?” the woman called from his bed. “Are you okay in there?”
He hung his head and let the tears fall.
Emotionally exhausted after her discussion with Xander, Dawn pulled up her Drafts folder. More than sixty emails sat gathering nothing but cyber-dust. Once a month during her five year self-imposed exile, she’d written to Connor, telling him she’d listen to his explanations. Yet every time she went to press the send button, she’d banish the email to draft status.
“Can’t break tradition now, I suppose,” she muttered, and quickly tapped out another email. As her finger loomed over the mouse, preparing to click send, a cool hand grasped her shoulder.
“Hello, dearie,” the softly-spoken words chilled the delicate flesh of her ear. “Seems our young Knight has gone missing and needs his Lady to help him find his way home.”
The pressure on her shoulder increased painfully.
“And you’re going to help me, aren’t you? There’s a good girl.”