Rumors of Beloved’s abandonment are False! False! False! It may have been nearly ten months since we posted the previous chapter, but liliaeth and I are finally ready to present the latest installment. Shout out if you're still reading! Please follow the Warning Alert System.
2015 – Late January
We’re a couple of months down the road… it’s the New Year, for what it’s worth. Now that Will’s dietary needs have been attended to, it’s time to work on his other issues. He finds succor in the strangest of places with… well, now… that would be telling.
Please, as always, read and comment! Resurrected from the very nearly dead, Buffy!Muse finally got her act together and gave this her best shot. Seems she’s not adverse to bribery in all forms.
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my first and foremost mentor, gillo, who made time for me in the midst of all her travails, and just_sue, for her never-ending support, inspiration, and (asked for) nagging until this finally took shape.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here or to simply_beloved.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 28 – It’s Not Easy Being Will
Once again sandwiched between his nervous mother and father, Will fidgeted on the couch in Dr. Brzz’ic’s Muppet room. He could barely bring himself to step on the shag carpeting without wanting to hurl. Though he had to admit he’d been feeling better and his appetite had improved since his last visit, it didn’t help that his mom had made him drink his protein shake before they left home. Right now it was sitting in his throat and threatening to make a reappearance.
He really didn’t want to be here. A demon doctor. A demon shrink! Will’s belly did flip-flops and he wanted to run, but his parents insisted he go through with the visit. His mom’s tears were the final straw… he never could stand to see her cry.
Most of all, he was really tired of hurting the people around him just by being himself. If only they’d stop expecting him to be happy. Not only didn’t he deserve happiness… people got hurt when he was happy.
Will missed Mr. Chalmers and Dr. MacKenzie. He didn’t have to pretend for them; they’d known he was bad; evil, and they accepted him for what he was. Even though Will had agreed to this appointment, it wouldn’t make any difference. No matter what was said, or what drugs he was given… the best shrink in the world wouldn’t be able to make him human.
“Time to go, youngling. The counselor is ready for you.”
Startled by Nurse T’tklina’s voice, and her hand on his shoulder, Will reflexively reached for the medallion he now wore constantly around his neck and rose to follow… without a look back at his parents.
Dr. Brzz’ic’s office was empty, but he’d been told the visit with this counselor would be a one-on-one situation. The butterflies in his stomach were threatening a mass exit when Will heard a low-level buzzing. He turned around to look for the door, and in its place was a pulsating yellow light.
Will stood, frozen in place… scared. He’d read enough comic books to know a portal when he saw one.
“Come on, come on… we don’t have all day here,” an agitated voice called from somewhere inside the portal.
The light had grown unbearably bright, nearly engulfing the whole room. What else could he do but walk through the portal before it swallowed him whole?
“Ah, there you are, dumpling,” said a radioactive-green devil with tiny red horns and eyes; wearing a bright pink shirt and a grey pair of pants.
The boy attempted to back away, as if the sight was too much for him to handle.
“There’s no need to fear, little buckaroo,” he soothed, extending his hand in greeting. “My name’s Lorne… as in Lorne Green?”
“Ah, well before your time, I’m afraid. No worries, cupcake… what’s your name?”
Still no response.
Lorne moved to his desk, picking up a thin, manila folder. “So… William, is it? Cat got your tongue?”
Not a word, not a sound – William’s stone face refused to crack.
Well, if Mohammad won’t come to the mountain… Lorne let the folder close, and dropped his lanky frame to his knees in front of the boy.
“Look at me, son.” Peering into the boy’s eyes, the empath felt an eerie sense of déjà vu. “Do you remember me, muffin? Have we met before?”
Breaking eye contact, Will shook his head and stared at the floor.
Lorne gently raised the child’s face with a finger under his chin. The last thing he wanted to do was upset him more than he already was. It’s true, he thought in awe. The eyes really are the windows to a… familiar soul?
“Don’t worry, William,” he said, recovering his professionalism. “We’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted during our visits. Now… couch or chair?” Lorne motioned for Will to pick a seat.
As Will settled into an overstuffed easy chair, Lorne pondered on how to approach the little guy. He could read the aching heart and soul without a warbled note, his pain was so great. And if he really was that William…
Lorne wheeled his chair from behind the desk and sat down in front of the boy, patting his own knees with his large, green hands.
“For now, I can make with enough conversation for both of us, sugar lump. Eventually, though, you’re going to have to chime in. Capische?”
William nodded, hesitantly, still refusing to keep eye contact.
A headache building, Lorne pinched the bridge of his nose. He wondered – not for the first time since he started counseling – why he put himself through these angst-fests. It would have been so much easier to crawl under his silk designer sheets and keep the world at bay. Any world.
The youngster looked like a Mexican jumping bean on an electric griddle, fidgeting in his seat, silently screaming OUT! OUT! OUT! with the tension in his small frame apparent; looking everywhere but at him. How could he get the boy to relax enough to do any good at all?
Aha! Drawing on his memories of an old movie, Lorne motioned for the boy to stand.
“Let’s forget all this sitting around. That’s more for old folks and babies. Why don’t we play a more interactive game, William? I’ll ask you questions, you either nod or shake your head. When you feel really comfortable, take a step towards me. Can do?”
Will nodded, warily.
“Good, good,” the anagogic demon chirped, happy to see the boy able and somewhat willing to cooperate. “Let’s try some easy questions, first, okay?”
Another nod, but no movement forward.
“How old… no, wait… reverse that. Gotta remember you’re not into talkies at the moment. According to your file, you’re nearly 11 years old, right?”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Close friends?” Lorne entreated. “Surely such a sweet child as you would have lots of chums.”
Not only did Will shake his head vehemently, but he took several steps backwards.
Inwardly, Lorne fretted. Poor little lambikins. His heart ached to enfold the boy in his arms and give him a good, solid hugging, but he didn’t dare. Lorne raised his hands up into an “I surrender” pose,
William’s eyes flared amber in alarm, and without warning, he turned and bolted blindly, running through the glamour that disguised Lorne’s private portal and vanished in a flash of light.
“Ah, well,” he murmured, swiping William’s case folder from his desk and settling down for a detailed read. “This oughta be interesting.” Lorne absentmindedly reached for the phone, already absorbed in the boy’s file.
The man grinned ear-to-ear as the triumphant strains of Star Wars blared from his pocket, causing his gold-wire aviators to perch precariously on the end of his nose. Ringtones were still the greatest thing since certificates of authenticity and mint condition boxes, he thought, pulling the communicator-shaped phone from his vest.
“What’s up, Doc?” That never gets old he snickered to himself. At almost thirty-three years old, he chose to give his Puckish side free reign. After the life he’d led… well, old hat, that.
“Heads up, muffin.” Lorne’s dulcet tones crinkled the prominent laugh lines permanently featured around the corners of his eyes now. “Looks like we have another young’un making a dash for the border.”
Sure enough, the sound of cardboard boxes crashing to the floor came from the storage room.
“Twenty bucks says he just ran into my Super Specials,” he whined, running his hand through his graying curls. “I’d just started unpacking them, but you know… customers.”
“He’s harmless, lovebug; goes by the name of William Dowell. You just need to treat this one with kid gloves. He doesn’t speak… hasn’t for weeks now.”
“Mega-trauma?” He knew he wouldn’t get an answer to his question, but couldn’t stop himself from asking. Sure enough…
“Oh for shame, for shame,” Lorne chided. “You realize I can’t give you any details; there’s that old confidentiality bugaboo. Not to mention that nobody wants a stranger’s nose in their business any more than you would.”
“Gotcha, pal-of-mine. Though that’s an awfully funny sentiment coming from a shrink,” he giggled. “No worries… his problemas are his problemas.”
The unexpected shushing of shuffling cardboard indicated his visitor was busy re-stacking the boxes he’d knocked into, and it brought a toothy grin to his face. “The kid seems awful neat for a runaway.”
Holding the phone a little closer to his mouth to avoid being overheard, he whispered: “Now, my good man, the question is how long do I have to keep the little dickens busy?”
“Oh. why don’t we say about an hour or two?” Lorne’s fingernails could be heard clicking out a meandering little tune on his desk. “It’ll give me some demon-y-demon time with Doc Brzz’ic, before he tells young Master William’s parents where they can find him.”
A few bons mots later, he ended the call, turning his attention to the young boy in question. He’d snuck into the store proper now, clearly visible behind one of the magazine racks. The blond-tipped curls were glaringly obvious between the mylar-encased editions, and if that wasn’t enough, a pair of scuffed, black sneakers toed the floor in the gap between the floor and the bottom shelf.
Whistling as conspicuously as possible to avoid scaring the kid, he walked slowly toward the bookcase, planning to unintentionally discover his ‘guest’.
“Hmmm, I wonder what’s making that squeaking noise,” he said, sotto voce. “Hope it’s not rats gnawing on my precious first editions again.”
Unfortunately, his attempt at keeping the boy calm was for naught, as a loud crash sounded to his left. “Please don’t let it be my vintage Hellboy display,” he whimpered, panicking at the thought of depreciation due to damage. “Resin figurines aren’t nearly as indestructible as they’d like you to believe.”
A soft scuffle and a movement caught in his peripheral vision revealed the target as he tried to sneak past unnoticed between the aisles. With a swift retreat, the shopkeeper doubled back and met the kid as he headed towards the door.
“Not so fast there, Speed Racer. How about lending me a hand with the stuff you knocked down?”
When Will balked, he softened his tone. The kid looked like someone had run over his puppy.
“It’s okay, pal – no harm done,” he said, herding the boy towards the fallen display. Shaking his head, he sighed. It was Hellboy, all right. All eighteen inches of his majestic red-skinned self, sprawled inelegantly on the carpeting.
“Come to Papa, baby,” he cooed, giving the figure a quick once-over, before replacing it on its molded pedestal. “See? Good as new.” Thank the Powers! Relieved that the limited edition figure appeared to be in decent condition, he turned his attention once more to the boy still standing mute at his side.
With a gentle hand, he led Will to one of the reading tables, motioning for him to sit, and pulled out a second chair for himself.
“Would you like me to get you something to read? A favorite comic?” he asked, hoping to coax something out of the kid. After all, there wasn’t a child in the world who didn’t like comic books.
Not a word. Will sat there, eyes downcast as he fiddled absentmindedly with some kind of pendant on a chain around his neck.
Rare was the day when he couldn’t get even a smile out of a mere stripling like this one. Determined to break through, the proprietor hummed a silly little bit of nonsense, plucking several different comics from the racks with a flourish and plopping them down on the table in front of Will.
Fanning them out to show off the covers, he finally introduced himself.
“In case I didn’t mention it earlier, I’m Wells. Andrew Wells,” he intoned, reaching out to shake Will’s hand, and was greeted with naught but a blank stare. “What’s the matter, son? Doncha recognize a little James Bond when you hear it?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders and continued to play with the chain and pendant; rolling it over and over between his fingers.
Andrew’d almost said “Cat got your tongue?” but decided it wouldn’t be helpful in this situation.
“Okay… now you know who I am, and you know what I do… since you’re here in my little emporium. I suppose you’ve figured out that Lorne filled me in as to who you are?”
At that, Will started. Once again, he looked ready to bolt.
“Whoa, my friend,” Andrew soothed, motioning for Will to stay seated. “All I meant was that I know your name is Will, and that you were seeing my good buddy. Whatever you said… um, I mean… whatever goes on between you two is totally confidential. Trust me, you can trust Lorne.”
Will finally settled back in his chair and shrugged again; relaxing somewhat, but not totally.
Back to the safe topic, then. “So… what’s your choice? The Flash? Batman? Superman?” Each name was punctuated by pointing to the corresponding issue. “Spiderman?”
Yet another shrug.
Andrew remembered how in awe he’d been of Peter Parker. During his own crummy childhood, he’d often searched for spiders… hoping they’d bite him and make him special, like Peter. It never happened, of course… and he took out his pain and frustration by turning to the dark side with Warren.
He wouldn’t give up, however. How could any kid not know the very basics when it came to superheroes? Shaken to his very core, Andrew was determined to correct what he determined to be a grievous error in the boy’s upbringing. Every child should know the pleasure of disappearing into a good storyline with a super-pal.
“How about we get something to eat?” he offered. That should give them something to do until Will’s folks came to pick him up.
The boy caught his lip between his teeth. He didn’t look overly enthusiastic, but Andrew decided to take that as a yes. “Pizza good for you?” he asked, pulling his cell from his pocket. “It’s okay, kiddo. I’m gonna order for myself, anyway – if you decide you’re hungry, there’ll be plenty.”
Will didn’t respond at all, just looked at the comics on the table in front of him, barely touching the mylar envelopes until he revealed the bright red figure of Hellboy on a cover.
Pizza ordered, Andrew looked over the boy’s shoulder to see which one had caught his interest.
“My man!” he exclaimed. “What good taste you have… maybe something rubbed off when you had that little tumble with the big fella before.” He removed the issue from its protective covering, and handed it to Will.
“I’ll even forgo my ‘you open it – you buy it’ policy for you.” He giggled, insisting Will take the comic. “You’ll see – it’s a great story about a boy who was born a demon, and became a hero. It’s one of my all-time favorites, too.”
He sauntered over to the counter, taking care of a few customers as the boy became absorbed in his reading. How could he not? After all, Hellboy could suck anyone into his story.