Just in case you missed the previous chapter, #30 - Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot, you can find it Here, originally posted June 28th, 2008.
liliaeth and I are happy to present the latest chapter of our little epic. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
Early May - 2018
Will is nearly 14 years old
Time has finally passed for our Will. In this chapter he meets up with… yeah, playing the coy card again. Click the link, to find out the company he's keeping.
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse is most pleased. The American League has won the All-Star game yet again, though it took fifteen innings to do so. Oh, wait - that could be me who's pleased. Either way, happy muse; happy me… ficcage ensues.
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless highwaywoman, my first and foremost mentor, gillo, who snuck in her usual excellent beta work before she left for a well-deserved vacation, and just_sue, who's being a dutiful, loving daughter this week to her mum.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go to my Live Journal Here or to simply_beloved: chapter 1.
Full sized banner by zugma beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 31 – In Between
Early May – 2018
Wispy white clouds floated overhead, dotting the bright blue sky. Will absentmindedly toed off his sneakers, placing the things he’d brought gently on the ground. Today was important.
Today was special.
Today was the day things were gonna change.
Taking a deep breath, the boy set to the tasks at hand. Enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, he spread out the large blue and green tartan blanket on the ground. When Will was sure he’d removed all the rocks and the blanket lay flat, he unpacked the contents of the wicker basket he’d brought with him.
There were turkey sandwiches, cans of Pepsi; both diet and regular, small bags of potato chips, and a Tupperware bowl of fruit salad. Oh yeah… and a container of yogurt. **ugh** How on earth anyone could enjoy eating something that tasted like sour milk was beyond him, but the girls at school seemed to like it, so…
Last, but not least, Will removed the handful of comics he’d stashed into the basket to pass the time until… yeah, until. He’d picked up the latest copies of his favorites from Andrew after his last counseling session and flopped on his belly, preparing to read. Lorne had said he was doing well enough to schedule one appointment a month and he usually made a full day of it. An hour (or slightly longer if he needed it) in Arashm’har, and the rest of the afternoon at Sanctum Sanctorum.
Will smiled as he thought of the chubby store owner. He’d never met another adult quite like him. Andrew would debate a point about a superhero with the intensity of a zealot, yet sit back and listen with the patience of a saint… even to an opposing viewpoint… if it was well presented.
Suddenly aware of a tickling sensation at the back of his neck, Will’s smile grew broader. He carefully schooled his face to a more neutral expression before he turned around, though. It wouldn’t do to appear too eager after all this time.
Sure enough, there she was… standing in the shade as she’d done every day for the past year; only to be turned away silently with a shake of his head. Dismissing her like that had proven to be a heady sensation – powerful – and he wondered if he’d kept it up a little too long out of spite… and to prove his own control.
Neither one said a word. Will couldn’t take his eyes off the teenaged goddess. Slightly older than him; beautiful shoulder-length hair; sun-drenched strands curling into golden waves. Soft, plump curves that made his belly feel weird and his breath hitch. Hazel eyes that flashed with…
“So, are you gonna make with the invite this time, or am I gonna have to hold my breath and turn blue before you forgive me?”
Oops! Keep cool, fool. Don’t screw this up. Instead of answering, he simply tilted his head and smiled, and she joined him on the blanket. Gracefully folding her legs beneath her, she settled down next to him.
His cheeks pinkened, and Will dropped his gaze to the food spread out before them.
“Um,” he began, totally at a loss as to how to begin. Having her so close made him feel… fizzy, as if his blood ran wild through his veins; blocking all coherent thought.
He wasn’t used to feeling like this.
He decided he liked it.
When Buffy laid her hand over his, he would have sworn there were sparks. Still no closer to anything resembling speech, Will hemmed and hawed, but nothing coherent passed his lips.
“Shush, Will,” Buffy murmured as she cupped his chin, gently closing his mouth. “Look at me, please. I have something I need to say to you. I-I’m sorry. So very, very sorry.”
Will stiffened, and pulled away from her. Though her soft, misty gaze was open and honest, he felt chilled; remembering all those hours he spent alone and in pain. Calling for her. Begging for her company; all to no avail.
“I missed you,” he said, his eyes trained on a spot in the distance.
“And I missed you, too,” Buffy insisted, gently gripping his shoulder. “I was with you in every way that I could be… that I was allowed.”
“I don’t understand!” Will blinked furiously to hold his tears at bay. “You’ve always been with me. One way or another I remember you. Older, younger… ever since I was a baby. And when I needed you the most…”
“When you needed me the most, I was there,” Buffy said, blinking back a few tears of her own. “If only I…”
“But you couldn’t, right?” Will interrupted. Looking at the shadow over her shoulder, he added, defiantly: “You couldn’t because of her.”
A ripple of genuine fear flitted past Buffy’s eyes. “Will,” she hissed, tugging on him hard enough to spin him around. “You know we’re only here by her grace. She gets pissed, we get split up again… longtime! Is that what you want for us?"
Will shrugged out of her grasp and stood up, walking back until he could see the entire familiar tall, multi-limbed statue. It was imposing, as he remembered, but there was something different. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“I’ll be right back,” he called over his shoulder, as he ran towards the statue.
Buffy bolted to her feet and took off after him. “Not without me, you don’t,” she snorted. If it’s all gonna hit the fan, I’m gonna be right there with you, you stubborn kid.”
“I knew it! I knew it!” Will yelled, running up and down the length of the reflecting pool, pointing at the base of the statue. “Look at it, Buffy. Remember the crumbling marble and… and… the weeds? In the water? Look at it now!”
She followed the movement of his hand, but didn’t seem surprised.
“You knew,” he accused, his eyes flashing in the sunlight. “You knew she was getting stronger. Maybe this isn’t a good place for me to be. What does she want from me? What do you want from me?”
“It’s safe here, Will. I promise… you’re safe here,” Buffy stressed as she sat down heavily next to the newly pristine stone lining the pool. “What she wants… well, she made it clear it’s my calling – my duty – to guard and protect.”
“Who?” he asked, not sure he wanted to hear her answer.
“You, William,” Buffy said softly, motioning for him to sit beside her once more. “You… and her.”
Will looked at her, staring into her beautiful eyes. He felt a tug in his chest and leaned forward, emboldened in that moment. He carded his fingers through her hair, allowing the silky tendrils to wrap around his hand. Something stirred deep inside – was it his demon – or just simply hormones? Whatever it was, Will was falling, fast and… hold on!
“Did you just say ‘it’s your duty to protect me’?” Will pulled back so quickly he still held several strands of Buffy’s hair in his hand. “Is that all I am to you? A job?” He stared her down, trying not to flinch at her agonized expression.
“Don’t give me that face, Buffy. It’s a fair question,” he pushed, getting angrier at her silence. “A guy has a right to know if he’s being played with. And let’s face it… you’re just a girl. I can take care of myself these days.”
This time it was Buffy’s turn to be indignant. “What exactly do you mean by: ‘Just a girl’, William?”
Will pouted, having heard the feminist lectures from his mom and Lottie… not to mention Alonna and any one of a half-dozen girls at school, as well. He hadn’t meant anything wrong by it. It’s just that he knew he was stronger and faster than the average guy of his build and age. The only girls who were stronger than him were Slayers, like… like…
“You know what a Slayer is, right, Will?” She drew herself up to her full height of five foot something.
He nodded, unable to collect himself enough for words with thoughts of EJ flitting through his mind. Her laugh as they ran together, the way she’d ruffle his hair just to piss him off… her blood pooling on the floor…
The snap of Buffy’s fingers pulled him back to the present with a rush.
“Hey! Did you hear a single word I said?”
“Yeah… yes. I know about Slayers.”
“Well, then,” she said, arms akimbo and chin tilted defiantly. “what you see is not what you get. There is nothing ‘just’ about this gal.”
Will walked up to Buffy, tentatively touching her arm; needing the connection. “You know I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, don’t you? I like strong girls.”
“Shyeah,” Buffy snorted. “I sorta got that.”
“Then why bring up… wait. Are you telling me that you’re a Slayer?” Will’s incredulous tone didn’t seem to sit well with her, either.
“I’ll have you know that I’m the longest… well, never mind,” Buffy backpeddled. “Just know that I could beat your ass at anything and everything.” She stuck out her tongue and waggled her fingers as she pranced away from the statue, heading back in the direction of the blanket. “And I always could.”
He grinned as he took off after her. Nothing like a challenge to lift his spirits. It didn't take too long for him to catch up with Buffy, nearly bowling her over in his haste.
"Whoa there, Tiger," she laughed. "I told you I could beat your ass. Any time, any place, any task."
"Today, maybe," Will replied, picking up one of the sandwiches and offering it to her. "but I'm getting stronger every day, and my Dad is working out with me. I train a little more, and we'll be having this discussion again."
"I can hardly wait."
Buffy mumbled, looking up from her meal; absentmindedly swiped at crumbs on her face. Will found himself reaching out to wipe away the food she'd missed and gently cupped her cheek. Unable to resist, he drew closer, feeling her hand cover his.
Will kissed her before he could stop himself - a sweet, gentle press of lips; the pressure increasing until he yielded, allowing her tongue to seek his. His eyes opened wide in shock, as he realized…
…as he realized he was lying in his own bed, with Oreo licking his face. Will growled at the little black and white cat and pushed her away. He'd had her for the past two years, and this was the first time she'd ever woken him up like that.
"Damn it," he grumbled. "Just when things were getting interesting." Pulling the covers over his head, he snuggled back down in hopes of picking up where things left off.
"C'mon, William. Rise and shine!" Nina's cheery voice rang out in the quiet room. "Time to get ready for school."
She grabbed a corner of the blanket and gave it a yank, unwinding her recalcitrant son from its confinement. "I swear I'm going to get you the world's loudest alarm clock." She chuckled at his dazed expression. "That must have been some dream!"
Uh oh - some dream, indeed. Looking down at the blanket she held was sure evidence that her Will wasn't quite the youngster anymore.
Nina excused herself and made a hasty exit, leaving her rather embarrassed son to gather his dignity before he came downstairs for breakfast.