ETA: Now completely betaed by the marvelous gillo. Any remaining errors are my own.
Voila! A new chapter - extra long for your personal pleasure - of Beloved from liliaeth and myself… only two little weeks since the previous one. This follows directly on the heels of the last chapter. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
2014 - November
William is ten and a half years old.
I’d say that the title is pretty much accurate – stuff happens. Some pretty stinky stuff. Someone finally storms the Council, someone’s finally back from the great beyond, the pixies are flying in formation, and the threads are finally weaving together.
Please, as always, read and comment! A relaxed Buffy!Muse doesn’t always mean things are all blood and peaches for our intrepid characters, but she’s pleased with her work, and says things’ll get better. **looks ‘better’ up in her dictionary, and is skeered**
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my prime-time read-through buddy, gillo, who only managed to beta partially before leaving on a well-earned vacation (‘cause at least 1500 words came after she left), and just_sue, who gets a partial writing credit for this chapter. Without her, the plotting wouldn’t have gone half so well. All mistakes are liliaeth’s and mine… will be properly betaed when the teacher returns. Only posting in my LJ until it's all clean and pretty. *grins*
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 24 – The Shit Hits the Fan
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…
“Oh, it’s you again,” he groaned. “Why are you always in my head when I’m miserable?”
“Because it’s the only time you stop your inner-babble long enough to listen to common sense?” she teased, then grew more serious. “Because I’m still your hero? Because you still believe in me? You always thought I could do no wrong... except choose the man in my life.”
“Well, you do have a lousy track record… even Spike agreed,” he sighed, running his eyes over her familiar presence.
Buffy in a short, gray raincoat.
And high heels.
“I thought you said Spike was full of crap?” Buffy looked down at her outfit, face scrunched into a tight little moue of irritation.
”Do you mind, Xander? It’s rather hard to be serious if this is the way you see me,” she complained.
A small, lopsided grin graced his face. “Well, it is my imagination, Buffster. What did you expect? I’m a guy… sorta goes with the territory. Doesn’t matter if I’m seventeen, or thirty-four.”
“Not that it’s of any importance, but it was a little black-satin number with lapels – not like I’d ever get caught… well, dead… in a raincoat.”
“Did I mention the guy thing?”
Xander shook his head, trying not to laugh at her expression.
“Fashion sense and me? Not mixy, as a certain blond used to say.”
The pointed tap-tapping of her shoe turned into a dull thud, as it was replaced with a white sneaker.
“Better,” she said, taking in her tight blue jeans and skimpy halter top. “But…”
Replaced with a long, bulky fisherman-knit sweater.
“There ya go – I knew you had it in you.”
“I get it – I do,” he admitted, a slight blush warming his cheeks. “We’re friends. Just friends. And I’ve got a handle on it.” A devious grin lit his face as the raincoat ensemble made a return visit, before fading back into the jeans outfit. “Most of the time.”
“Listen, Xander… we don’t have time for old, childish fantasies. You need to look into the mirror. Now!”
The smoke cleared and the image showed him shoving a restrained William into the duffel bag.
“Why didn’t you fight for him?”
“I-I’m not you, Buffy. I don’t have super powers. That nut-job would have killed me and had him, anyway.”
Another puff of smoke, and there was Will, shakily holding the gun on Wyndam-Pryce.
“You don’t need super powers… though I’ll agree… they do help. Look at him, Xander. A little boy, standing up for himself. Protecting the man he views as his mentor. Surely you could have done as much for a small, scared kid.”
He hung his head with shame. She was right, of course. Even if he’d failed, it would have been the right thing to do.
Gayle Cunningham recognized the vampire storming through the Council halls. Of course she did; he was infamous. It was also the first time she'd been this close to any vampire. He was larger than she’d imagined; dark, intense eyes and a predator’s mien. He was in human-face, but the anger distorted his features in such a way that he might as well have been sporting fangs.
No way in hell was she going to try and restrain him by herself. The silent alarms had already been tripped by his entrance. Eventually one of the security guards would make themselves known.
Gayle felt as if she were being dragged along in his wake. Besides, natural curiosity won out over cowardice. It wasn’t likely she’d get another chance to observe such an historical figure up close and personal.
A swift look over her shoulder showed that Angelus had developed an entourage. An additional entourage. He was already being shadowed by a young black woman and a tall, thin, younger man. They were sucking people along after them like an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner. Talk about animal magnetism – people couldn’t help but follow… even if only to see the inevitable train wreck when he’d reached his destination.
And my goodness… was he actually growling?
Sure enough, about a dozen security men and Watchers stood shoulder-to-shoulder just up ahead, blocking access to the inner offices, their fear palpable even to Gayle. They were well trained, however. Bravely, if not accurately, they shot off their crossbows, one after the other, in an attempt to halt the rampaging demon barreling towards them.
She almost sniggered as he bowled right through their ranks, sending the guards toppling down like skittles – their weapons scattering as they hit the ground. Not a one rose to risk the vampire’s wrath as he continued on, scenting the air, before heading down another corridor.
Gayle heard Ms. Rosenberg’s angry voice through the closed door of poor Mr. Chalmers’ office. It was surprising that the witch had returned, unannounced and unexpected. Most travelers to the Library followed a strict schedule. Comings and goings were certainly haphazard around here lately.
Again, the door proved no impediment to the furious vampire, as Angelus simply slammed through it, not taking the time to knock.
Startled faces turned towards the crowd as the door splintered apart, the vampire uncaring of the shards of wood embedding themselves into his skin.
Ms. Rosenberg halted her tirade and… oh yes, she did indeed run towards Angelus and wrap her arms around his middle, hugging him tightly.
“I’m so sorry, Angel. I just heard about what happened to Will,” she cried, not backing away in the slightest as he attempted to disengage from her arms. Giles just told me. Are you and Nina all right?”
Gayle paled at the stupidity of that question. Couldn’t she feel it? Couldn’t she see just how close Angelus was to ripping something – someone – apart?
“Where the hell have you been?” he roared, finally pushing free, leaving the redhead standing there, stunned at his anger.
“A-at the C-council’s inter-dimensional Library,” she stammered, looking back and forth between Giles and Angel. “I-I’ve been trying to find a way to free Buffy, which I thought was of major importance to everyone.”
Noticing Connor and Charlotte for the first time, she must have realized something was wrong. “Okay. Will somebody tell me what’s going on here? I mean, I’ve been gone a month, and there’ve been kidnappings of children, and murders, and… and Giles is being awfully closed-mouthy, even for a stuffy, old British guy.”
Angelus stared at her as if she’d grown a second head, before getting back to the reason for his presence in Council headquarters.
“My boy’s been missing for more than half a year. How the hell do you think I am?” he spat, his eyes cold and dark; voice low and deadly. “My family is broken and bleeding, and I want… I need…”
He grabbed a small framed picture from the corner of the late Mr. Chalmers’ desk and stared at it for a moment – before dashing it against the wall, spraying glass fragments everywhere upon impact.
Ms. Rosenberg looked frozen, picking up the mangled photograph.
“How can this be?” she demanded, waving the picture about. “I know this is Will, ‘cause he’s certainly starting to look a lot like Spike… but he shouldn’t be this old. He was just a little kid last time I spoke with him. I mean, nobody grows up so fast in a couple of months.”
Connor’s eyes seemed to glimmer with amusement for a moment, but it passed, and he schooled his features rapidly into an unemotional mask.
Angelus’ boiling anger and frustration reasserted themselves with a window-rattling roar.
“Can we cut the chit-chat here?” he snarled. Grabbing the picture out of Ms. Rosenberg’s hands, he stared at the image, tracing the boy’s face with his finger; trembling with a terrible rage. “Giles, where the hell is my son? I thought you said he’d be here.”
“Circumstances have changed, Angel,” the Head Watcher tried to explain. “There have been a series of unfortunate incidents since we set this rescue in motion.”
“I don’t care if the damned building was bombed to smithereens again, you bastard,” he glowered, shaking a fist in Mr. Giles’ direction. “That piece of shit – Chalmers – is gonna see first-hand just how long a vampire can keep his meal bleeding and in pain by the time…”
A sharp gasp came from Ms. Lydia, as she broke into tears, collapsing into a nearby chair.
“Angel, please,” the young woman who had come with the vampire implored, laying her arm gently on his massive shoulder. “Something is very, very wrong here.”
Gayle found herself wishing she could cross over to Ms. Lydia to ease her distress, but found herself unable to move, frozen by indecision and not a little fear.
To his credit, Mr. Giles made his way painfully to her side.
“Angel,” the man hissed, letting Lydia cry against his shoulder. “Nathaniel Chalmers is dead. He…he was murdered last night by Roger Wyndam-Pryce. He died in defense of your son.”
Taking Ms. Chalmers’ hand, he continued. “Lydia, here, is Nathaniel’s younger sister. Hugh’s older sister.” He stood, stiffly stretching his limbs and leaning heavily on his cane, putting himself between the grieving woman and the furious vampire. “Lydia played a huge part in keeping the lad safe and happy these past months, and she is one of the main reasons you’re here for a rescue mission, and not a funeral.”
At that, Charlotte did cross the room, taking Ms. Chalmers into her arms as they cried, together, over the loss of family.
“Oh, Lydia, this is awful,” she exclaimed. “We have to call Hugh, immediately. He’ll be devastated.”
Angelus growled, sentiment not playing on his un-beating heartstrings.
“And I’m supposed to care about that bastard? After what he did to my William?
“At least he’s still alive,” Mr. Giles insisted. “Roger also murdered a young Slayer under Nathaniel’s care. An innocent – an eleven year old child. The girl in the picture with Will that you destroyed. Apparently, they were both shot in front of our lad, and he was then spirited away by that madman.”
“Goddess help us,” Ms. Rosenberg whispered. “How can this be happening? Aren’t we supposed to be the good guys? Giles… what can we do? Why haven’t we done something already?”
“We have several mini-vans at our disposal, ready and waiting to head out towards the Wyndam-Pryce estate. I’m sure he’s being held there.” Giles sat down, heavily, his poor health and the situation taking its toll on his stamina. “The wetworks contingent is ready on a moment’s notice, and we’ve a small medical team at the ready, as well.” He motioned to the man who’d appeared at the door. “Do come in, Dr. MacGuire. I’d like you to meet Angel, William’s father.”
“Pleased to meet…” Mac offered his hand as manners dictated, but immediately withdrew it at the vampire’s warning growl.
“Mac, here, is well known to William. We figured he would be more at ease with a familiar face – with someone he trusts,” Mr. Giles offered, trying to diffuse the tension that seemed to be growing by the moment.
The look on Angelus’ face would have cowed lesser men. “As opposed to the unfamiliar faces of his own mother and father? And do I even have to ask why a young, healthy boy would be on such intimate terms with the medical profession?”
“I tried, Mr. Angel,” Dr. MacGuire shoved his hands into his lab coat. “It was my job. Look, I understand your objections, but if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone with far less interest in your lad’s comfort and safety. I’ve got sons of my own, you know.”
“You people are disgusting,” the woman holding on to a sobbing Ms. Chalmers spat. “Same old excuses coming from every little flunky. ‘I was just doing my job. Just following orders.’ I swear that somewhere along the line, folks seem to have lost the ability to think for themselves.”
“Nate just wanted to help the boy – make him a force for good.” Dr. MacGuire tried to defend his colleague’s actions. “Figured if he could control the lad’s demon, he’d be all the stronger for it.”
The dark-haired young man who’d been silent since he’d followed Angelus into the office, suddenly stood in the doctor’s personal space, glowering fiercely.
“That’s how Holtz used to justify my kidnapping. ‘To protect me’. After all, how could the son of two evil, soulless things be any kind of good?”
Gayle gasped at the revelation.
“Dear Lord! Two children… no wonder…” she babbled nervously, wringing her hands at the depth of the vampire’s betrayal. “Oh, Mr. Angel! I’m so sorry.”
“Hush, Gayle,” Giles soothed, leading the young woman to a seat. “Roger Wyndam-Pryce is not the Council, Connor. And whilst I in no way condoned the ‘project’ he and Nathaniel were involved in, at least Chalmers had done his best to mitigate the damage done. If I hadn’t been ill, there would have been no way I’d have allowed young Will to have been ripped from the bosom of his family.”
He limped over to Nathaniel’s desk, dropping heavily into the swivel chair and laying his cane down on the floor.
“Do I need to remind you, Angel, that Will is my family, too? My grandson in all but blood for all these years, much as I’d come to view Buffy as my daughter. Slayer, demon, soul, good, evil… meaningless labels when applied en masse. I’ve learned over the years to never judge a group on the basis of one individual.”
Picking up the phone, Giles looked around, making eye contact with each and every person in the room.
“Now, do I set the wheels in motion to go rescue our lad, or do we all want to stand around, laying more blame on one another?”
“Harris. Harris! Wake up, you stupid, lazy sod!”
“Just a little longer, Ma? I don’t wanna go to school today.” Xander groaned, shifting to find a more comfortable position.
And gasped as he was met with a face-full of ice-cold water.
“Huh, wha?” he spluttered, jerking upright as he dashed the drool from his lips and the water from his eyes.
Daniel Lovett stood next to his bed with a mischievous grin on his face, and a half glass of water in his right hand.
“Jesus, mate. What’s it take to wake you up?” Daniel shook his head sadly, tut-tutting as he moved out of the bigger man’s way. “Just because you’ve a soft spot for the poor ickle demon doesn’t mean you can just ignore your shift.”
“Soft what? Oh, shit… what time is it?”
Xander hurriedly looked around for his shoes. Good thing he hadn’t undressed before he’d lain down.
“Time enough for you to piss and get out of here,” came Daniel’s rejoinder. “I mean, Forbes is as much due a break as you were, eh?”
“Yeah, I guess. Thanks for the wake-up, pal. Wouldn’t want to deal with the old man if I managed to miss my shift entirely.”
“Right, then. Just remember,” Daniel cautioned. “The old git is a stickler for punctuality. Especially the new hires, if you get my drift?”
“Yeah, yeah. Gotcha,” Xander muttered, straightening his uniform and running a brush through his cowlicks.
“Look, Harris… it might not be my place to tell you this, but…” Daniel’s voice lost its amusement as he blocked Xander’s way to the door. “But the way you’re acting… you were screaming in your sleep. Maybe this isn’t the line of work for you. It’s not everyone can deal with putting down demons, you know? Especially ones like that little bastard that’s become Wyndam-Pryce’s prize subject. Takes a strong gut – stronger than most men have. There’s no shame if you can’t hack it, mate.”
Xander fought the urge to laugh in his associate’s face. As a scared seventeen-year-old, ignorance was bliss. Now, more than a lifetime later… there wasn’t much that turned his stomach.
“I just…” he started, falling silent when words failed him. How could he explain what he’d lived through? Even to folks who knew what demons and vampires were.
“Let me tell you a quick story, Harris, and then you’d best be off.” Daniel sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for Xander to follow suit.
“Ten years ago, me and a handful of mates were in San Francisco, checkin’ out the presumed whereabouts of a crazy old vampires, goes by the name of Drusilla. Stood in the middle of the street, surrounded by a bunch of kids – oldest couldn’ta been more than eighteen or so. The way she was bobbin’ and weavin’, we were sure she’d thralled the lot of ‘em.”
He shook his head in disgust, and reached for the half-glass of water he’d put down earlier.
“We tried to rescue them. I mean, there was only one vampire, and six of us, and we’d all been trained with stakes and crossbows.”
”And yet, somehow I have the feeling she wasn’t quite alone, right?” Xander rolled his eyes, knowing where this was headed.
“Turned out they was all turned. Hungry fledglings, eager to please their mistress.” Daniel shuddered at the intense memories. “I barely got away with my life, the rest of my mates weren’t as lucky.” Pulling out a large, silver cross from under his shirt, the man continued. “I remember lying there in a hospital bed, thinking – they were just kids. And yet, if I hadn’t been wearing my crucifix that day, I’d have been as dead as the rest of my team.”
Daniel put his hand on Xander’s shoulder, sympathy showing clear in his eyes. “Just because a demon looks innocent, doesn’t mean a thing. We’re doing good work, Harris. Protecting humanity from death and filth, and if you don’t think you can handle it… if you haven’t the stomach for it… best to find yourself another line of work while you still can. Nobody will hold it against you.”
“Nobody but me,” Xander mumbled, just as Daniel left the room.
After a quick check at the door to ensure he was alone, Xander pulled out his mobile, once more attempting to reach somebody… anybody… who might be able to help him and Will out of their situation.
No luck, however. No Dawn, and still no Willow or Giles. Not even Deadboy’s flunkies were answering the phone. It pissed him off that while he could get a signal, he couldn’t reach anybody; he even tried the pizza place as a last resort, to test out a suspicion that the place might have wards preventing private outgoing calls.
And no way was he going to risk going through the compound’s switchboard. He’d bet dollars to a box full of Krispy Kremes that it was sure to be strictly monitored, and he couldn’t afford drawing the wrong attention in a rescue endeavor.
He caught up with Forbes on the way to the lab, kicking himself for being late.
“Change of plans, Sleeping Beauty,” the guard quipped, clapping him on the shoulder with a heavy hand. “His nibs wants you to meet him at the outdoor kennels near the south wing. Need directions?”
“Nah, got the full tour along with everyone else some two weeks ago. Did he give any reason for the change in venue?”
Forbes shook his head, slight annoyance coloring his voice. “Just get there, Harris. He’s not likely to get any happier the longer you keep him waiting. I’m beat, and I’ve got a bed just waiting for my manly embrace.”
Xander watched as the usually-jovial guard made his way back to his room.
What in the world was Wyndam-Pryce up to now? Had he been taken off guard-duty because of his earlier weakness in regards to William? The only thing those ramshackle kennels were good for was kindling.
He stopped at the crest of a hill overlooking the kennels. Sure enough, the old man was fiddling around with something in the middle of the first enclosure. Heavy, white fog obscured Xander’s sight momentarily, and when cleared, Roger Wyndam-Pryce could be seen securing a short length of chain to a metal bolt in the ground. Xander figured it must be for a hearty beast – one that would survive nicely under inclement conditions – then giggled to himself. The image of Miss Lady Lulu of Leicester leashed by a chain that outweighed her sprang to mind.
As he neared the kennel, he saw the chain close up and personal. It looked like it was meant to hold a bull elephant.
Only… it wasn’t a bull elephant being dragged by the collar towards the bolt, but a boy. A naked, defenseless, screaming, struggling, little boy.
He scarcely looked like the same child he’d seen for the first time just yesterday. The look in his eyes was feral – the only emotion – abject terror.
Once Wyndam-Pryce had succeeded in securing the collar to the chain, he looked up, spying Xander.
“About time you got here, Mr. Harris,” he said, his tone frosty and unwelcoming. “I was beginning to think I’d have to send out a search party for you.”
“Sorry, Sir. Forbes just told me of the… relocation. I’d gone to the lab room, first but…”
Wyndam-Pryce dismissed his words with a flick of the wrist. He closed and locked the kennel door behind him, before holding out the key.
“This is for the fence, only, Harris. Use it to feed the demon and hose the waste. I hold the only key to its collar, and I keep it on my person at all times,” he said, showing off the aforementioned item on a gold chain around his neck.
“Isn’t it a bit… airy to leave him naked, like that? I mean, it’s freezing outside, and that little wooden doghouse doesn’t offer any protection.” Checking out the short chain, Xander had another concern he couldn’t hold back. “Will he even be able to reach the shelter on such a short leash?”
Wyndam-Pryce couldn’t show less concern as he shrugged his shoulders and handed Xander a clipboard with feeding times and the grounds patrol schedule.
All Xander could hope for was the man being overconfident, and that he’d be able to free Will, and take them both as far away as they could get. Unfortunately, it was like the older man could read his mind.
“The collar and chain are be-spelled – made especially to hold the strongest demon. It’s not going anywhere unless I want it so.”
Another Xander theory shot to hell.
“Then what am I doing here?” he couldn’t help but ask. “If there’s no way he can get loose, why do you need an armed guard? He’s practically unconscious as it is.”
“Because, Mr. Harris, I pay your salary, and this is what your duties are tonight. Stand guard, feed, hose, make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone. Should be simple enough even for an American to handle, don’t you think?”
Xander bristled, but kept his mouth shut as he watched Wyndam-Pryce’s back retreating over the hilltop. ‘Keep it from hurting anyone.’ Hah! The boy couldn’t hurt anyone if he had someone else to do it for him.
He unlatched the fence as soon as the old man was out of sight. Xander’s first thought was to try the chain… maybe the old fart was playing at misdirection and leading him on. If he believed the chain to be unbreakable, then he wouldn’t try to break it.
Will tried to pull away as he caught sight of Xander kneeling down next to him. There was hardly any play in the chain, and all he managed to do was cause the collar to cut into the delicate flesh of his neck.
As he reached out to grasp the chain, Xander felt the heat pouring off Will’s body. God, he was burning up, and he’d obviously caught a chill. The chain rattled with the boy’s shivering.
“William, can you hear me? I don’t know if you remember me, but I won’t hurt you. I promise,” he called out softly, testing the chain and finding it as sound as the bastard had said it was. “C’mon, kid, just look at me. Let me know you’re in there.”
Xander stood, quickly stripping off his jacket and wrapped it around William’s body, trying not to open the small sores that covered so much of his skin. The long-sleeved shirt was next; the arms tied around the boy’s waist and buttoned to cover his legs. He wished he could do more.
It seemed a miracle that the boy was still alive.
“It’ll be okay, Will. Honest. I won’t hurt you,” Xander repeated, softly stroking the boy’s hair. When his fingers found a small, nearly-scabbed spot, he wanted to hit something. How could he have stood by and let them manhandle the child so? Though he’d long since tried to bury the memories of his father’s mistreatment, Xander remembered wishing someone would come along and help him… take him away from there.
William must have felt the same way, yet with all the people surrounding him, nobody lifted a finger in his direction except to cause him more pain.
How did I ever sink so low? How could I have told Willow that I wanted him dead?
Xander vowed to redouble his efforts to comfort the child. He sat down next to Will and lifted him into his lap, the boy’s meager struggles no match for him.
He calmed for a moment, and looked up, catching Xander’s eye.
Oh God! His eyes. Spike’s eyes… after the Initiative had its way with him. Dead eyes. No hope left, just resignation.
Xander shuddered. He’d never wanted to admit to the nights he’d spent hours staring at the trussed up vamp, feeling brave and smug at Spike’s weakened position on the food chain. In fact, he liked poking at the creature, knowing that he couldn’t fight back – seeing the hunger and hopelessness. Thought it served him right for those decades of munching on the populace.
However, he dropped his gaze first, unable to look the boy in the eyes. Remembering just how poorly he’d treated the vampire when he came begging the Scoobies for help, made him all the more determined to be a better person this time.
“Hey there, William,” he said softly, still trying to engage the boy. “Are you hungry? I’ve got a nice chocolate bar you can have. And don’t worry about the whole ‘not taking candy from strangers’ thing...”
He fished around in his jacket pocket, trying not to jostle the boy too much. “Aha! There it is. ‘A Mars a day, helps you work, rest and play’,” he sing-songed. “Don’t let the silly British jingle fool ya, kiddo – it’s really a Milky Way… our kind, not theirs,” he said, unwrapping the chocolaty treat and holding it out to William.
It was ignored, of course.
“Anyway, I know your whole family. Me and… and my girl used to babysit for Dawn when she was a little older than you. She’d swear she was old enough to be alone, but Buffy insisted…”
Will sat up and pulled away just far enough to look at Xander, a questioning expression on his face.
Okay… that made for Mr. Perky.
“Oh, I get it now… it really is you under all that kid business, isn’t it?” Xander mused, a twinge of something indefinable going through him. “Kidnapping, torture and who knows what else, but in the end, it’s all about the Buffster for you, though I don’t see how. She’s been gone since you were a baby.”
The look of devastation on the boy’s face broke Xander’s heart. Again, he couldn’t help but remember another place, another time… Spike’s total melt-down after Buffy’s swan-dive from the tower of doom.
“If wishing could make it so, Junior, I’d wish her here for you. For me, too,” he added, wistfully. “Buffy’d know what to do to get us out of this mess.”
William huddled closer to Xander’s undershirt-covered chest. If there was a demon there… if this really was Spike… it must have been his strong instinct for survival and his resilient nature that made him accept Xander’s hold. He prayed it would be enough to get him through this ordeal.
After several minutes, the boy’s breathing grew steadier and his tremors stilled; he’d fallen asleep. Eying the uneaten Mars bar, Xander took a bite, re-wrapped the remaining portion, and closed his own eye, falling into a light sleep himself.
What he’d seen on the monitor sickened him. Immediate steps must be taken. He would not be denied this second chance to get things right.
“Forbes,” he spat angrily into his mobile. “Change of plans. Meet me at the kennel – the demon is being moved… at once.”
“Soft… kids today are all soft. No backbone. No work ethic… no strong, moral fibre,” Roger Wyndam-Pryce muttered as he stormed towards the kennels.
The sight that greeted him hadn’t changed. His security guard asleep at his post, actually offering comfort to the filthy beast. Several sharp prods from his cane through the chain links of the fence rectified the situation.
“Get up, get up, you traitor! You wretch!”
He watched as the guard moved the demon from his lap to the ground.
“Uh… sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to fall asleep, but…”
Wyndam-Pryce pulled out his pistol, waving it in the man’s general direction.
“I might have regretted the necessity of shooting Nathaniel Chalmers. Until his grievous error of judgment – and traitorous mutiny – regarding that demon and our plans for its deployment, Nathaniel was the ideal Council member. Loyal, devoted…ideals clear and unadulterated. You, however, Mr. Harris, are merely a disappointment… and now an inconvenience… and I have no problem with removing you from the equation.”
Xander howled, dropping down to his knees. Blood poured from the wounds in the fleshy part of his right thigh.
“What the hell did you do that for?” he choked out, pulling his t-shirt off to use as a bandage and wincing as the blood oozed through the thin material.
Roger turned away without answering. What happened to Harris was of no concern to him. All that mattered was making sure that neither he nor his allies would get the little demon back in their clutches. He would prove once and for all that it was nothing more than what he said – a demon – and once he’d been proven right, the Council would be begging him to take his proper position in their hierarchy once more.
“I’d suggest you remove yourself from the demon’s proximity,” he said quietly, unlocking the chain-link enclosure. “Or shall I put a more permanent end to this charade?”
“Please don’t do this. You can’t do this,” Xander insisted. “I won’t let you take the boy again.”
Another shot rang out, this time shattering Xander’s left knee, and William unleashed an unearthly yowl, scrambling away to the full extent allowed by the collar and chain.
“To think I’d taken you in,” Wyndam-Pryce spat as he kicked the injured man out of his way. “Your hatred of demons was well documented, Mr. Harris. I thought I’d be able to save at least one of Giles’ wayward children from his corruptive influence. His and that demon whore of a Slayer’s.”
Not wasting another moment, he removed the key from its place around his neck and unlocked the chain from William’s collar. Motioning to Forbes, he stepped out of the way to allow the guard room to heft the beast over his shoulder.
He tutted as he realized the demon was wrapped up in his erstwhile guard’s clothing. Roger shook his head in disgust. Allowing the beast to hide behind its human façade gave it the advantage. It wouldn’t garner any sympathy where they were headed.
“God damn it, you old bastard,” he heard the wounded man yelling after him. “Don’t do this!! He’s just a little kid.”
Easy enough to ignore the ravings of a madman.
When he thought of all the effort that had gone into acquiring the demon in the first place. All the testing and meticulous record keeping for naught thanks to the bleeding-hearts at the Council; letting themselves be led around by the nose with the incompetent ‘leadership’ of Rupert Giles.
No, things would hum along to his tune now.
Xander’s legs were on fire. Every flex of muscle in his thigh brought white hot flares of pain, nearly causing him to black out. As for his knee? His knee was worse – it felt like jelly. Napalm hot!
“Here, Brucie, Brucie!” he called, attempting to drag himself over to the fence for support. No such luck as the pain forced him to give up the endeavor. Where’s a big old Great White Shark when you need one? Just chomp off his totally useless legs and he could get himself one of those wheelie-platforms like Eddie Murphy had in Trading Places.
He knew he should be scared of bleeding out… of dying alone in the wet fog. Death, itself, didn’t bother him. It would be a blessing to die and be done with it once and for all. But the joke was on him – Xander, the demon magnet. The idiot who sought out Lurky to try and bring Anya back to him. The fool who was now doomed to live forever… to never join his beloved in the afterlife. He had to give props to the cave demon – when you pissed him off, he made sure you knew it in no uncertain terms.
Staring straight ahead, Xander wondered if blood loss came with a side order of hallucinations. “Pretty,” he said to the fuzzy, white angel floating towards him.
Young and beautiful, she wore a long, white dress, her long hair piled high onto the top of her head.
“Oh my God! Xander, are you okay?”
He smiled, turning towards her as she entered the enclosure. “Beautiful Dawnmeister, all growed up! Usually I get Buffy head. I mean… I see Buffy in my head. And not so covered up.”
Dawn knelt by his side, gently touching him, her long dress soaking up the blood pooling under his legs.
“Your skin is so cold, Xander. What’re you doing outside in this weather without a shirt?”
“Poor little shepherd. Tried so hard to protect the lamb, only to have him stolen away”
Oh, shit! Drusilla
“Dawn, get out of here,” he whispered. “Even if you’re only in my dreams, I need you to be safe.”
“Mmmm, smells delicious, he does. The pixies say he’d make a nummy treat.”
The vampiress glided into view, making her way to the kennel.
“I-I j-just remembered… he’s g-got the boy. He’s got W-William.” Xander’s body shook, the excessive blood loss and the shock taking their toll on him.
“Who?” Dawn gasped, before turning towards her captor. “You knew!” she shrieked, pointing an accusing finger at Drusilla. “You kept me a prisoner because you knew where Will was, and when he’d need us. We have to find him now. To save him.”
“No worries, poppet. Good things come to those that wait – that’s what my mum used to tell me and my sisters, before someone ate them like a Christmas feast.”
With a sparkle in her eyes, she bent down close to Xander, brushing her fingers against his blue lips.
“Shhh, my dark kitten. Daddy’s coming.”