Woo Hoo! The next chapter of Beloved from liliaeth and myself… and only ten days since the previous one. This re-hashes events just prior to and immediately following the murders of Emma Jane Wheldon and Nathaniel Chalmers by Roger Wyndam-Pryce. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
2014 - November
William is ten and a half years old.
In which we re-cover some old territory, but from a different point of view. Hopefully this will explain exactly where Xander stands in regards to Roger Wyndam-Pryce and our poor William.
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse has relaxed a bit, since she’s now got lots of material to work with for upcoming chapters. Things are looking up – We’ve spotted her painting a Welcome Home, Will sign in her spare time. **crosses fingers** Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my source of kitty information and senior sounding board, gillo, who makes me feel like I’m the slow but adored student in class, who’s always being encouraged to reach higher and do better, and just_sue, for being there in the wee smalls (my time) and taking time out from her own work to further ours along.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by sueworld2003 beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 23 – A Crisis of Conscience
Permission granted to leave, Xander threw open the door and pulled it shut behind him as if the hounds of hell were on his heels. He’d lived on a hellmouth: he knew what that was actually like. He also knew he wasn’t going to make it back to the guards’ quarters. Hunching over the nearest potted plant, Xander noisily upchucked the contents of his stomach.
Staring at the bits and pieces of his regurgitated breakfast, he wondered what the hell had he gotten himself involved in?
“Bugger it, Harris! Chum’s for fishing, not fertilizing the plants.” Ernest Forbes jovial voice rang through the empty hallway. A hearty clap on the shoulder sent Xander to the planter for round two.
Pasty-faced, Xander looked up at his relief with… relief.
“Just the man I wanted to see,” he said, weakly. “Looks like something I ate didn’t agree with me.”
Forbes wrinkled his nose and moved away from the foul-smelling planter. “Don’t think it would agree with anyone else, either. Just leave the sodding mess for housekeeping and go lie down in your room. My shift is about to start, anyway.”
Xander nodded, and instantly regretted the movement. He headed down the corridor towards the security quarters, William’s cries of terror escaping as Forbes slipped into the room.
I didn’t sign on for this, he thought, jamming his hands into his jacket pockets.
Xander heard laughter coming from the dayroom as he entered, and made a beeline straight for the water cooler. He swished a small cupful in his mouth and spat it into the trashcan, needing to get that pukey taste out of his mouth. He started for the sleeping quarters, but his eyes caught the action in the monitor room. Two screens – one with a DVD player for the crew’s entertainment, the other a live-feed showing Mr. and Mrs. Mengele as they continued to torment the kid… William… Spike.
Pete Thompson’d called him over to watch some lame old comedy most everyone was watching. Those men not sleeping should have been spending their time watching their boss and his prey in case something were to go wrong and extra muscle was called for. They should have… but they weren’t. In fact, the sound was turned down low so it wouldn’t interfere with their laugh-fest.
A scream rent the air, even at the reduced volume, and all eyes turned towards the monitor on the right. The child was lying on his side, struggling, strapped down around his waist, and… son of a bitch! What is it with those people and hoses?
Xander shuddered and looked away, expecting sympathy from his fellow guards, but they’d already gone back to their movie, stuffing all kinds of snacky goodness into their mouths, and talking about the latest soc… football scores and family stories.
Sid Watson paused the movie and told his mates of his twelve year old daughter Mary’s poodle… how it’d escaped its leash and been hit by a neighbor on his bicycle.
“My kid was just beside herself. She was going on and on about how it was all her fault. Insisted on coming with us to the vet’s, carried on all the time we were there. Dog’s a funny colour now – all purple – just fitting for an animal with a stuck-up name like ‘Miss Lady Lulu of Leicester’.” The men sniggered.
He pushed on, pulling a spare pillow from the closet. “And you should have seen how our Mary pampered the creature – carrying her round on a bloody cushion for days till we stopped her. Mind you, it was two days before it could walk without crashing into walls – those drugs were powerful. And the wife was no better – only gave the flipping dog the piece of steak I’d been promised for my tea. I’d been drooling about that all day, I had.”
Once again their attention was drawn to the live-feed by high-pitched keening, and Sid was annoyed enough to turn the sound completely off.
“Oh for crying out loud! How am I supposed to finish my story with that bloody racket going on? If he wants us he can use the blasted alarm. Anyway,” Sid continued, “I have to admit it wasn’t much fun seeing the little thing in pain. Didn’t last, though – she’s making a real mess of the cast – coming off next week, thank God. That Lulu needs a bath. A scented bath, if you know what I mean. Still, I suppose the kid’s learnt something from this.”
Pete nodded his head vigorously. “Oh yeah. Gotta treat pets with kindness. Teaches kids about care and responsibility for another living creature. Hopefully it rubs off in how they treat other people, too.”
Xander gasped, disbelief evident on his face.
“I take it you’re not an animal lover, Harris?”
“What can I say, Sid? Animals, kids… all the same. Not for me, the family life.” He quickly swallowed another cupful of water, anxious to leave the room. “There’s a reason I live alone. Choice.” Xander waved the guy off, hoping to forestall an argument. “I’m beat, fellas. Just gonna knock off until my next shift.”
“Make sure to take your firearm out’ve your trousers before you nod off,” Pete called out from across the room, joining in a hearty laugh with most of the guys. “Anyone ever tell you ‘bout young Danny’s first week on the job?”
“Shut your gob, Thompson!” the man in question growled with not a little heat. “Ain’t you ever made a mistake?”
“Yeah, but I’ve never mistaken my pistol for my prick,” Pete practically crowed with delight as the youngest member of the team burned red with embarrassment. “Didn’t blow off my little toe, neither.”
Xander quietly closed the door, hoping sleep would come quickly and drown thoughts he’d rather not be thinking.
remove gun from pants pocket because it was damned uncomfortable, not because of Danny’s blasted little toe.
Xander pulled the pillow over his face, biting it to keep his scream of frustration from being heard. His mind was racing and sleep was not going to come, no matter how in need of it he was,
Staring at the white cotton, he tried to figure out how he became embroiled in this… this… mess.
“Steady now, Harris…Forbes. Any moment now…
Xander stood on the right side of the door, Ernest on the left, each with a shiny new gun – the latest equipment from Wyndam-Pryce. He’d checked it out cautiously. Sure, he’d had some training with firearms in Africa, but he’d never really used one on a demon before. Especially one as dangerous and wily as the old Watcher had warned this one was.
All he knew was that he wanted to prove himself capable in the eyes of his boss; show everyone that he belonged in the Council, and wasn’t just along for the ride because of whom he knew. Even if that was partially true.
The door opened and a young girl barreled in, freezing Xander in his tracks. Wyndam-Pryce couldn’t have meant… He watched as Forbes quickly restrained the girl, who was followed momentarily by an even younger boy. He broke free of his stasis and grabbed the boy. To be on the safe side, he gripped the boys’s wrists firmly behind his back. If the demon was after children…
Ooookay, so maybe he was missing some information – the girl must be a Slayer, the way Forbes was down on his ass. And if so, what the hell did he need security for? Even as young as she was. And what of little blondie?
“William, Emma Jane… what’s wrong?” A man’s voice came from the hallway before he entered the room.
Xander assumed this was the office’s official occupant. Wait… William?
“Ah, Nathaniel, how nice of you to join my little party.” Wyndam-Pryce sneered as he turned around, facing forward. “Slowly, now,” he warned, aiming his own gun at the kid. “And lock the door behind you, or the boy dies immediately.”
The man closed and locked the door, and Xander waited for orders, looking back and forth between Wyndam-Pryce, Forbes, and the kid he was holding on to. If the boy was a demon, why weren’t they simply throwing some potion or herb concoction over him to reveal it? That's what Giles would have done.
“Let go of me, arse-face.” Mini-Mite stomped down hard on Forbes’ foot, but her soft-soled sneakers had little effect and she was unable to escape. “Mr. Chalmers?”
The girl’s cry for help was ignored. “What is going on here, Roger? Why are you man-handling my charges?”
“Nothing for you to be concerned about, Nathaniel. I’m returning logic and balance to the program you’ve managed to cock up so completely.” He snorted his derision, steadying the gun and re-training it on William’s chest. “It’s imperative we repair the mistake I made in allowing you to treat that little monster as if he were human.”
“Letting me?” Nathaniel spluttered. “You were removed from the project by the Council Board, Roger, or don’t you remember?”
Oh, shit, Xander thought. This is the man I’ve pledged my allegiance to? He’s fucking nuts!
Wyndam-Pryce was livid, banging on the desk in frustration. “Because of you. Because you were too weak to see this little monster for what he truly is. He’s fooled you. Pulled the wool over your eyes.”
Xander felt the kid’s body tense at the older man’s derogatory statements. Maybe he should just let him go? If the girl was a Slayer, maybe he wasn’t a threat. So, who was the demon? Was there even a demon in the first place? It was possible Wyndam-Pryce just flat-out lied to him.
Chalmers’ voice rambled on and on, but Xander tuned it out.
The name Chalmers struck an oddly familiar note. Wait… what was it? That Brit living with Deadboy/ Which made this kid, William –
Spike! Holy shit – he had Spike in his clutches. Spike the wonder-vamp at his mercy, even. But this was just a kid. Willow and Dawn had been trying to drum that into his head forever, but it only made sense now.
He was so distracted by the possibilities running around in his head, that the order for Forbes to shoot came as a complete surprise, and he flinched as the gun went off, tightening his grip on the kid’s shoulders.
Xander's breath caught; a red spot formed near the girl's shoulder, blood dripping down her shirt. In his mind’s eye, he saw Buffy lying on the ground, shot by Warren. He was frozen in shock, unable to let go of the boy, struck motionless.
The younger watcher knelt down next to his Slayer. All those potentials killed. Buffy. Xander had to fight the urge to vomit again, and still he held fast to his charge.
“Why?” the boy screamed. “EJ’s not a monster. She’s a Slayer - a good guy. Why would you…”
Buffy died in his arms, waiting for the ambulance, Tara's body bleeding out in the upstairs bedroom she’d shared with Willow…
What was it Buffy always said about guns? Not helpful.
And with every second Wyndam-Pryce grew more insane.
“She was a Slayer,” Wyndam-Pryce spat. “One that you contaminated by your very presence. She should have taken you out the moment you met instead of playing pat-a-cake with you. Her blood is on your hands.”
He turned his attention to the younger Watcher, never changing the gun’s trajectory. “You were paving the way for another Buffy Summers,” he sneered. “A vampire layer in the making. Never again, Chalmers.”
Xander couldn't believe his ears. The man was several cards short of a full deck, blaming the girl’s death on Spi… William.
The boy sank into Xander’s grasp, no longer fighting.
“I didn't do anything to EJ, she's my friend,” he cried, seeming to shrink in on himself, small and frail.
“Just a child,” Chalmer’s whispered as the girl died in his arms.
Like the child Xander was holding onto, now.
“She was a weapon… a weapon you corrupted irreparably by involving it with that demon-spawn. Death was a mercy for her. Worthless trash that couldn't tell the difference between a demon and a human.”
Xander’s nausea rose another level. How much difference could there really be between demons and humans, if a human being could so ruthlessly end the life of one child just for being friends with an ex-vampire… one who was torn apart over her death.
Just a little boy – he got that now – understood just what Dawn had been trying to drum into his head for so long. Human. What he had been didn’t matter anymore.
Just a child.
He heard a scuffle. Chalmers had tried to rise and aim his own gun, but failed, slipping in the puddle of his Slayer’s blood. Wyndam-Pryce was yelling at Will again.
Will twisted in his arms and let out a scream, surprising Xander with a kick to his nads. He crumpled to the ground in a white-hot burst of pain, and the boy looked back at him, catching his gaze and not letting him look away. He was filled with a rage that Xander had often seen in the adult Spike, and it was horrifying in a child’s face.
He wanted to tell the boy he was on his side, that he’d get them both out of this somehow… when Will reached down and picked up the gun Chalmers must have dropped. He was shaking so hard, he was more likely to shoot himself than anyone else in the room.
“You call me a demon, and… and maybe I am, S-sir,” he stammered, pointing the gun in Wyndam-Pryce’s direction. “But I never hurt anyone on purpose… before.”
Yes… yes you have, Xander thought wildly, only to realize, no he hadn't. Spike had. This boy probably stepped out of the way to let ants pass.
“Don’t do it, lad,” Chalmers called from the floor. He seemed to be holding onto his ankle, unable to rise. “Fight your instincts. We’ll get through this, together.”
“So what’s stopping you, demon?” Wyndam-Pryce sneered, raising his arms in a mockery of a crucifixion. “Surely you have the balls to fire that weapon? Unless it’s too much for an ignorant beast like you. Go ahead and fire if you dare.”
Will’s finger pulled the trigger back a little… then a little more, until…
“Need a little more incentive?” Wyndam-Pryce raised his gun and fired twice, destroying the top of Nathaniel Chalmers’ skull, spraying bone fragments, brain matter and fluids everywhere, including over and across William, himself, and Xander.
Oh God! Oh God! Xander inwardly panicked. He had to get them out of there before the crazy old man turned the gun on him.
But this was Spike... or had been Spike. Or would be Spike? And he had a soul… then again, so did Spike at the end. His head spun. Two humans dead… at the hand of another… and Xander was afraid. Afraid if he made a move, he'd be dead as well. It was cowardly. Buffy wouldn't have hesitated to put herself in the way.
“And you let him get away with it.”
Xander turned, finding himself face-to-face with a large, smoke-filled mirror, and…
A very familiar gray raincoat.
“Oh no. It’s you again,” he groaned.
And in his very uncomfortable bed, Xander stretched out his aching limbs and turned over, burying his face deeper into the pillow.