We’re no longer going to count how long it’s been since the last update, ‘cause it makes us cry. However, liliaeth and I finally have the next interlude ready for you. It follows several days after the last chapter. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
2014 - November
The calm before the storm, I suppose… though the storm is relative compared to the past few chapters. We hear from a seldom-seen character, bid a temporary adieu to several others, and deal with the anticipation in a mother’s hopeful heart.
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse has been a little lax as of late. Wonder if deprivation or bribery is the answer? She’s already weighed in on her preferences, the minx.
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my prime-time read-through buddy, gillo, who continues to shape and mold with a gentle hand and ready wit, and just_sue, for sweetly encouraging me to plod onwards when my boots got stuck in the muck.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here or to simply_beloved.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Interlude 25/26 – Let the Joyous News be Spread
Two Days after Will’s Rescue
Wesley barely managed to hold himself together. The dimensional portal the God-King had swept them all through had not made for a peaceful passage. Her strength nearly depleted, she’d barely managed to see them safely home before retiring with the exhausted Slayer to the confines of the sarcophagus. It wouldn’t be long before he’d join them in the long, recuperative void.
Yet his protective urges were too strong. While he still could, he needed to make sure that everyone was all right before allowing himself to fall under Illyria’s guard.
Nina practically glowed with happiness, smiling as she stripped Will’s bed and replaced the linens, soaking up Alonna’s happy patter as the girl described the care package she’d brought for her best friend – Will’s favorite books; Asimov, Tolkien, E.B. White and a handful of DVDs … she’d obviously rented them in hopes of spending time with Will over a huge bowl of popcorn, as they used to do… before.
The lad had a yen for fantasy and history; the kind of books Wesley would have loved getting lost in if his father had permitted the indulgence, as he’d termed anything not on the Watchers’ curriculum.
Father… the very word made Wesley shiver, conjuring as it did memories of a cold, distant man. A man who had relentlessly dashed all the natural joy and love from his younger self, and turned him into naught but a parrot for Council gospel. He’d been manufactured into a mini-Watcher, albeit a totally inadequate one according to the elder Wyndam-Pryce.
Wesley had watched as Drusilla had ripped away his father’s sanity; felt only a sense of relief that Roger Wyndam-Pryce would no longer be able to torment anyone, or pervert the good the rebuilt Council was capable of.
And felt just the smallest bit of dismay that Angel had been too late to kill the bastard to avenge young Will. As for he, himself, being non-corporeal and unable to lend a hand was just another disappointment in a long line of perceived and actual failures.
The sound of a creaky hinge heralded Hugh Chalmers entrance into the lad’s room, his young daughter, Bethany, in tow. Wesley’s heart went out to the younger man as conflicting emotions cycled across his face. He tried to put on a happy face for Nina’s sake. Her boy was coming home – there was no bad in that, no matter the hard road ahead.
While Hugh was obviously thrilled at Will’s imminent return, he still had to process his elder brother Nathaniel’s violent death at the hands of his erstwhile accomplice in the whole kidnapping fiasco – prying a son from his father.
A situation that cut too close to the bone for Wesley’s comfort.
Hugh stood to the side, not wanting to interfere with the housekeeping brigade. It had become a ritual over the past months, done once a week without fail. Now that the lad had been rescued, his room had received extra care and attention, with Nina and Alonna putting on the finishing touches as the duvet was settled in place, and Will’s beloved Paddy Bear placed in-between the pillows.
He checked his watch, and then scooped Bethany into his arms for a snuggly hug.
“Be a good little bit now, Bethy-roo, and go downstairs with Alonna. She needs your help to get the cookies all decorated and wrapped up before Will comes home.”
“’K, Daddy.” She wriggled out of his arms and grabbed Alonna’s hand, pulling her towards the door. “Can I sprinkle the sugar, ‘Lonna? I’ll be more careful this time. I promise.”
Alonna smiled. With a small wave of her free hand, she took Bethany out of the room.
With an awkward smile of his own, Hugh turned towards Nina. While he hadn’t been a Watcher for many years, he knew enough about their tactics to understand there would be issues on all sides to deal with once Will was home. He hated to burst Nina’s happy bubble, but thought it best that she be prepared.
Just as he’d gathered his resolve to speak, the phone rang.
“Hello?” Nina’s voice was anxious and tight as she gripped the handset to her ear. “Oh, Charlotte! How is Will? Where are you? When will you be home?”
She turned to Hugh with tears shining in her eyes; her happy smile of moments before now obviously forced and wavering.
“I… I think there’s something burning in the kitchen,” she stammered, handing the phone to Hugh. “Talk with your wife. I’m sure she misses you and Bethany something fierce.”
As she walked swiftly out of the room and down the stairs, Hugh could hear Charlotte’s voice coming from the direction of his hand and quickly held the receiver to his ear.
“What happened, my love?”
“Oh, Hugh… it’s so much worse than we’d expected,” she whispered. “Angel’s sitting in the back of the plane near Will, and growls if anyone dares to approach them. Will can’t… or won’t… talk to anyone. He won’t even look at his father.”
He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose as the headache he’d been anticipating struck with full force.
“You didn’t say this to Nina, perchance?”
“No, of course not.”
Hugh winced at her indignant squawk, the tenor of her voice sparking little white flares behind his eyes.
“I did suggest that a large welcome home committee might not be the best for Will… that he might need some time to re-adjust….” Charlotte admitted.
“Wise indeed, my wife,” Hugh sighed, knowing that he should have tried to temper Nina’s enthusiasm. He just hadn’t had the heart. “When can we expect you home?”
“Less than a handful of hours, How’s Bethy? Does she miss me?”
“She’s been a right hellion, our girl. Makes a fuss at mealtimes, makes me read three stories every night before she’ll even close her eyes. And she sends up a little prayer every evening for ‘Mummy, and Unclangel and Unca Connor and Will’um to come home soon.’ She misses you something rotten, pet.”
Hugh’s voice cracked… it had only been a few days since his wife headed to England, and Bethany was upset. For Nina… the separation from her son was so much longer, and far more sinister. He had a feeling the lad’s return heralded much more in the way of grief and pain than the joyous reunion expected.
Several hours had passed since Charlotte’s phone call, and Hugh had to concede defeat; his nerves had got the better of him. Unable to handle Nina’s over-bright eyes, or her constant rearranging of anything she could get her hands on, he’d tucked himself into the confines of his car and headed out towards the small, private airstrip to bring home their missing family members.
Maybe he should stop and pick up some of Will’s favorite snacks… or perhaps some comics he’d missed since…
No, he sighed, doggedly staring at the road ahead of him. There was no way a few sweets and some paper and ink could wipe away the horrors the lad had been put through. Best to just get him home safe and sound.
Hugh shook his head, trying to clear the random worried thoughts, buzzing like flies about his head. Nathaniel… could he have been so wrong about the elder brother he’d once respected nearly as much as his father? The often stern young man who’d kept his classmates in line as he fumbled through his Watcher’s courses. The same brother who’d shielded him when Father must have been terribly disappointed in his failures. Was he an insensitive git for still clinging to his memories of happier times?
And how would the demise of Nathaniel affect his parents and Lydia? He had no choice now but to make the journey back to England for his family’s sake. The Christmastime trip had been planned nearly a year in advance – to introduce the now five-year-old Bethany Rose to her grandparents and auntie. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be the merry affair Charlotte and he’d hoped for… but perhaps their daughter would bring some joy to the elder Chalmers in their time of mourning.
But what of Angel? In many ways, he’d come to look upon the vampire as a surrogate father figure; the patriarch of their little unit. They’d come such a long way from their inauspicious beginning when he’d been foisted on them all. Would Angel ever be able to look at him again without seeing betrayal thanks to his brother’s actions?
Repercussions were going to abound for a long time on all fronts.
As he waited for traffic to inch ahead, Hugh thumped his forehead on the steering wheel. He felt all his hard-earned self-esteem vanish, and felt like a failure at all aspects of life. He couldn’t protect his blood family from loss, nor his adopted family. He’d let Will slip through his very fingers at the school. If only he’d have been more clever… surely he could have out-maneuvered Nathaniel and the old man and just returned the lad home without all this drama.
If he were a better man.
A stronger man.
With a deep sigh, he realized nothing was going to be accomplished by beating himself up. There would be plenty of time to worry after he’d retrieved his wife, young Will, and the rest of their entourage.
No sooner had the tie-up cleared than his cell rang. A quick glimpse at the ID window flashed Charlotte’s name and number.
They were all at the Hyperion.
Hugh took the next exit and sped towards home.