**Gasps** Only one week since we posted the previous chapter, and liliaeth and I have yet another new (albeit smallish) chapter for your reading pleasure. It was heartwarming to see such wonderful comments – now… tell all your friends! Please follow the Warning Alert System.
2015 – Late January
This follows right on the heels of the previous chapter. Mama goes to reclaim her missing cub. And remember that telling thing? *grins*
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse seems to be sticking around for a bit – so we’re taking full advantage.
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my first and foremost mentor, gillo, who proves that a little time off doesn’t dull a sharp mind, and just_sue, who believes in me, especially when I don’t.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here or to simply_beloved: chapter 1.
Full sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 29 – Where There’s a Will…
As Andrew waved to his customer and closed the register drawer, an idea occurred to him. If young Will liked that sort of tale… he could tell him about the greatest champion of all times – the one nearest and dearest to his own heart. Even now… when he’d long since distanced himself from his old life.
“You know,” he said, sitting down close to Will this time, “Hellboy always reminded me of a friend of mine; someone I actually had the honor of working with in real life.”
Pleased when the boy didn’t scuttle away, Andrew pulled out his favorite storytelling accessory – a faux-Meerschaum pipe. He always felt more distinguished holding the thing… even when his every attempt at smoking a real one led to choking and tears. He fiddled with a small container, pouring its contents into the pipe’s bowl, took a breath… and blew.
The expression on Will’s face was priceless, as bubbles foamed over the top of the pipe and dripped onto the table, narrowly missing the comic he’d been reading. Score! The icebreaker breaketh… well, the ice!
“Ya see, Will… Hellboy was born a demon, and summoned into the world to do Evil, but he was rescued by a nice guy; raised to do Good, instead. Turns out he liked the way it made him feel and continues to do battle on the side of right to this day.”
Andrew patted his well-padded belly; the satisfaction of turning another fan on to the fantabulousness of pen-and-ink creations warmed his soul.
“Seems I’ve got time to begin another little tale whilst we wait for our lunch, kiddo. You game?” he asked.
Will nodded, slowly, putting aside the comic.
“Once upon a time, to a little town that called itself Sunnydale, came a Vampyre of legendary evil, known to friend and foe alike by the by the chilling name of… Spike.”
The boy shuddered; his hands blindly reaching for his necklace.
“Aha! It seems you might have heard of the brave and glorious one, have you? Fear not, young padawan,” Andrew soothed, “for this story has a tragic yet heroic ending. Listen to the tale of the poet-cum-vampire turned hero…” He paused then, clasping his hands to his heart with a beatific smile.
“All for the sake of love.”
Nina drove like a madwoman, desperate to get to her son… and quickly. She’d insisted that Angel return home, pocketing the address from Dr. Brzz’ic before her husband could hare off and possibly behead an innocent bystander. Will’s disappearance from a place where his safety should have been assured had made the vampire too furious to reason with.
She parked the car in the lot of a shabby little storefront. Cardboard cutouts and posters of all things geeky plastered the windows, making it impossible to see inside. Nina glanced once more at the paper clutched tightly in her hand and up at the sign. It read: Sanctum Sanctorum, in large blue-red-gold letters lined in black.
Dear god, let Will be safe, was uppermost in her mind.
Taking a deep breath, Nina pushed the door open; the tinkling of the overhead bell announcing her entrance.
Huh, she thought, her predatory senses alert; her brain working overtime to assess the lie of the land, it’s certainly larger on the inside… and not quite as shabby.
There were several customers in the store, browsing through the rows of comics and magazines; two teenagers giggling over some well-endowed heroine; a middle-aged man comparing the merits of several sculptures – also scantily clad. Even with a quick glance of her artist’s eye, Nina knew some of those women would never be capable of standing upright, much less fighting crime.
And then she saw him.
Towards the back of the shop, at one of the low, round tables, surrounded by a morass of pizza boxes and upturned paper cups, sat William, listening attentively to a chubby little man she’d pegged as the storeowner. Not only was her boy all right, he was downright smiling!
Nina couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a smile on the child’s usually grim visage.
In-between bites of pizza, the man – who looked as childlike as his audience – gesticulated wildly, all the while making the weirdest faces.
“…and that’s how the vampire champion willingly sacrificed his life for a second time; giving his all in support of his Sire as they battled the demon hordes from Hell. Together, these mighty warriors saved all of humanity.”
Nina gasped in shock as the words reached her. This absurd little man was telling Will the story of his life before he’d been reborn. How in the world…?
Will turned around, pushing up from his seat and headed quickly in her direction.
Forgetting everything but the fact that her boy was alive and safe, she swiftly pulled him in for a hug.
He stiffened in her arms; the smile vanished… and Nina’s motherly heart broke in two. How could he be so at ease with a stranger and still uncomfortable with her?
**ahem** The shopkeeper cleared his throat, causing Nina to turn from her son. “Mrs. Dowell, I presume?” He walked towards her, offering his hand.
Nina nodded, tentatively returning his handshake. Her momentary distraction allowed Will the opening to scoot out of her embrace.
“You must be the counselor’s friend… A-andrew?” She faltered, half-watching Will out of the corner of her eye. “Thank you for looking out for my son. I hope he wasn’t any trouble.”
“At your service, madam,” he said, sketching a deep bow. “Young Will was the perfect guest. No trouble at all. The lad and I did share a pizza… extra cheese and sausages. I hope it didn’t spoil your dinner plans.”
“You mean he ate?” Nina was shocked.
“Like he was starving!” Andrew nodded enthusiastically. “Three slices and all the cold water I could pour. For some reason, he wouldn’t touch my Mountain Dew.”
“You actually got him to eat?” Nina repeated. “My William?”
“Well, yeah… it’s not like I’m carrying stock in Williams, here,” he cracked, apparently trying to be funny. “All I did was get him interested in the tale of an old pal of mine… who’d done great deeds. Someone who’d died a hero’s death. The lad just packed it away.”
Nina raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Someone you knew?” How could this little nebbish have been involved in an apocalyptic battle between slayers and demons and come out of it unscathed? She couldn’t help giving him the once-over and laughing. Maybe he was just repeating stories he’d heard bits and pieces of.
“It’s true!” Andrew insisted, as he drew himself to his full height; puffing out his chest. “I – we – battled the forces of evil together when I lived in Sunnydale… when there was a Sunnydale.”
Thinking about it made her brain ache, and she had much more important issues to deal with than this little puffin of a man. If push came to shove, Nina could always send her husband after him. She nodded, conceding the point for the moment.
“Well, thank you again for being so kind to Will,” she said, anxious to get home. Nina was sure Angel was going batty in their absence. “Do you have a business card in case… ?” She left the question hanging, not exactly sure why she asked for the card in the first place.
“No problemo, Mrs… Dowell, right?”
“Dowell, Nina Dowell,” she confirmed, putting the card in her purse. “Now, it’s time to go home, Will. Our car’s right outside. Are you ready?”
As her son nodded in agreement and headed for the door, the shopkeeper came running towards him, waving something in his hand.
“Wait! Wait, young padawan,” he called out, thrusting a comic at Will. “Don’t forget Hellboy – he’s a present from me to you.”
Will shrank back, waving it away, but the shopkeeper took the comic and placed it in the boy’s hand, waiting until he finally accepted with a small nod.
“Good, good. Just remember what we talked about – like with Hellboy… it’s not what you are, but what you do as you make your way in the world.”
Nina shook her head. Comic book geeks – they never change. “Come on, Will… I’m sure dad’s a nervous wreck waiting for us to get home.” With a gentle hand on his shoulder, they started towards the door.
William turned back as the smiling man held the door for them.
“Thank you,” he whispered, getting into the car and buckling himself in as Nina started the car.
It wasn’t until they pulled into the garage some time later that Nina realized what had happened, and slammed on the brakes in shock.