Believe it or not, more than a year has passed since our last posting, but liliaeth and I finally have another chapter of Beloved. I promise we’ll not give up on this story until its tale has been told. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
June - 2019
Will is now 15 years old
This follows approximately one year after Will and Alonna’s movie date.
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse has been uber-lax, and I’ve had to deal with a hospitalization recently, so we're hoping folks are still interested in Will's story.
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless Willa, my first and foremost mentor, gillo, for sticking with us through the lean times, and just_sue, just because.
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 32 - Return to Sender
June 2019 - Will's 15th Birthday
"It's just not fair! Will spat as he swept every swimming trophy and medal off of his shelves. "Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!"
Nina entered Will's room with a look of concern on her face. "What's not fair, honey?"
"They kicked me off the damned team!"
"Oh, Will! What happened?" She sat on the edge of the bed, out of the way of flying debris.
He slumped to the floor, anger momentarily banked.
"I've been careful, Mom. Honest, I have," he insisted. "I never swam all out at meets. I've always held back a bit, even though it killed me to do so."
Mom face. She was giving him Mom face and he couldn't take the sympathy. Dad was gonna be worse.
"It'll be all right, Will. Just tell me why they released you from the team. I thought you were their star anchor in the relay team?"
"I am… was. It seems my last lap broke some sort of long-standing record… faster than any freshman in the team's history. And they wanted to test me. Blood and urine… to prove I wasn't taking steroids or HGH."
Will shook his head. "How could I risk it? If they found anything - the demon part - they'd lock me away. I couldn't go through that again, Mom. I wouldn't survive."
Nina held out her arms and he went to her embrace for comfort. He rarely spoke about his captivity to anyone but his therapist, but his mother knew how bad it was. She had held him when the nightmares made him cry out. Dad tried, but… Will hated showing weakness in Angel's presence. It made him feel like such a disappointment as a son.
"I know it sounds like a harsh thing to bring up now," Nina said, her hand gentle on his shoulder. "But Dad and I were afraid something like this would happen. It's why we discouraged you from joining the team in the first place."
She continued before Will could interrupt. "But it gave you such pleasure, and you promised to be careful."
"I was, Mom, honest. The only times I ever won were because the rest of the competition was slow."
Nina stroked her hand through his curls. No matter how Will fidgeted, she wouldn't break contact.
"Sweetheart, it was bound to happen sooner or later. You're growing up so quickly… and your body is changing - getting stronger. Soon you won't be able to hold back. You know the coaches have been watching you more closely this year than last."
He nodded. One thing he hated about being on the team was all the attention he was garnering. Not only from coaches and instructors, but from swimming 'groupies'. While most guys his age adored the hangers on, he just felt uncomfortable. Pretty girls, and not a few boys, who only wanted to touch him and stare at him… it was a bit much. Swimming was supposed to be a non-contact sport. The only time he was at peace was the time he actually spent in the water.
"I swore I wasn't taking anything," Will insisted. "You know how I feel about taking meds of any kind. But they wouldn't take my word and wouldn't let me swim without being tested… so I had to quit. Now everyone's gonna think I'm a 'roid junkie."
Nina rose from the bed, giving Will a quick hug. "We know the truth, honey. And you know it won't come to that. That's why we took the precaution of filing a religious objection to testing of any bodily fluids."
Will nodded, sullenly, unwilling to look at his mother. "Like anyone's ever heard of Aurelians," he snorted. "The world's smallest 'religious' sect."
"But it will keep you safe, if not exactly happy," Nina concluded. "I know you don't feel like celebrating right now, but we'll have a nice family birthday dinner when Dad comes home, and we'll talk this out. You know how much he cares about your interests. Maybe we can come up with something to help take the sting out of this… situation."
"We love you, son. Always remember that," Nina said, as she left the room, closing the door behind her.
"Happy stinking birthday, Will," he mumbled, dropping his head into his hands before letting the first tears fall.
A softness fell across his shoulders; not fully corporeal, but eminently comforting.
"Thank god! What took you so long?"
Buffy took a swipe at his head, only managing to slightly ruffle his hair. "You sure know how to sweet-talk a girl, don't you, Sport?"
"You so did not growl at me, William Dowell," she huffed.
Will looked up at her, eyes flashing. "And what if I did? What are you gonna do about it?"
"I… I… nothing, I guess," she admitted, lowering herself to sit next to him.
"Sorry, Buffy. You know I'm not mad at you. It's just… today… of all days."
She nodded, letting her legs dangle over the side of the bed, idly kicking them back and forth like a little girl.
"Happy birthday, Will," Buffy murmured, softly brushing her lips against his tear-stained cheek.
He sighed. There really wasn't anything else to say, so he sat side-by-side with his closest friend in companionable silence until it was time for dinner.
* * *
Dawn walked into the kitchen just as the roast beef had been placed on the table.
"We were beginning to think you'd stood up your nephew on his birthday, young lady," Nina said, winking, as she moved a sippy cup into little Liam's grasping hands.
Connor laughed at his son's antics - holding his cup with one hand and dripping it over his head almost as much as drinking from it. "Good thing you didn't bet the hotel on that, Nina. No way would my Dawn forget a date as important as Will's birthday."
"Sorry I'm late," she said, nodding at Hugh, Charlotte and Bethany, who'd arrived earlier that day. "I had to stop by the post office. Seems that even the Fates have a special gift for the birthday boy…"
Will cleared his throat - loudly - and mock-glared at his aunt.
"Okay, okay," she laughed. "Birthday man. Anyway… I brought home a surprise, Will. The mailman said there was a package waiting at the post office. They rescued it from a rental box that'd been paid up for the last twenty years or so… until now."
"What's so special about that? It can't be for me." Will popped another forkful of the juicy roast in his mouth. "Who sent it?"
"Ah, see? That's the special. It's addressed to your dad, but it's from… Spike. He sent it just before Sunnydale went boom." Dawn smirked, arms crossing over her chest. "I told the postal clerk I was Spike's sister, and after flashing my ID card with the same address as the package, they handed it over, pretty as you please!"
Angel rose, concern creasing his forehead. "I think I should take a look at that package now," he muttered."Knowing Spike…"
"Knowing Spike… what, Dad?" Will rose, as well, challenge radiating in his stance.
"Never mind, son," Nina soothed, tugging at her husband's shirt until he sat back down. "Your father doesn't mean anything by that remark." Turning towards Angel, she said: "I think it might be exciting for Will to open that package, himself. I know it's addressed to you, honey… but maybe our son will find something important - perhaps a clue as to what Spike was like back then."
"I still don't think it's a good idea, Nina. No matter that Spike had been… tamed. He was still a one hundred and twenty year old vampire who wasn't very fond of me at the time." Angel shook his head, worry marring his handsome features. "Who knows what he could have sent to me?"
"It'd be long dead after all these years," Will mumbled under his breath.
Dawn glanced from Will to his father, and back again, trying to get her thoughts straight before saying anything. "Listen, Angel. I understand your concern, but you have to remember at the time we were all a little too busy trying not to die to send horror-grams. And Spike was newly souled at the time. If you're that worried, and Will doesn't mind, I'll check it out with him. If it's stuff from Sunnydale…" she trailed off, eyes suddenly bright with unshed tears. "If - if it's stuff from Sunnydale, maybe I'll be able to explain it; whose it was… what it meant…"
Angel thought for a moment. “Bethany?” he questioned. The girl's insight seemed to be increasing almost daily. Bethany hugged her aunt. "It's okay, Aunt Dawn. I don't feel anything bad in there."
Bethany’s words swayed Angel's mind, and he reluctantly backed off. There would be no battle of ownership tonight. Will's hackles settled, and the family sat down to enjoy their dinner peaceably; all but Will putting thoughts of Sunnydale aside in favor of the delicious food waiting for them.
* * *
Will forked the last of his meal into his mouth, grunted an 'excuse me', and tore out of the kitchen. He felt like he was about to vibrate out of his skin. This was as close as he'd ever get to him - Spike! The real Spike, or rather the Spike she had been closest too. Sort of odd to be jealous of himself… but Will's life had never been normal.
Over the past year he'd begun asking Aunt Dawn about her sister, in earnest. Things Buffy wouldn't - or couldn't - divulge. How had she dealt with being the only Slayer in the entire world? What kind of guys had she liked? What exactly was her relationship to Angel? Of course the last question was usually summarily dismissed with much hemming and hawing… and his father rapidly exiting the room if he were in the vicinity. Hell, the whole business left him unsettled, as well, but he knew he had to try and understand.
Getting to know Buffy Summers was the most important thing in the world.
But getting to see what was in the box his aunt was carrying into his room made him tingle with anticipation. Will hurried over to take it from Dawn's arms and placed the box on his bed, gently - like it contained a bomb he was afraid of setting off.
Dawn laughed, obviously amused at his antics. "Don't worry about what your father said, kiddo. Spike wouldn't have sent anything harmful…" she trailed off, and then continued with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Well, not after he got his soul back, anyway. Not even to Angel."
"How can you be so sure, Aunt Dawn?" Will whined, anxious to have positive reinforcement about his past from someone other than Andrew. "I can tell Dad's trying too hard when he talks about me… I mean, Spike-me. He doesn't want to be mean, but that face he can't help making. You know the one… "
"You mean his 'I haven't taken a crap in 250 years and you can't make me' face?" Dawn giggled and Will couldn't stop from laughing along with her.
"Oh yeah," he snickered. "That's the one. I wonder if prune juice works on vampire constitutions."
"Shyeah. As if I didn't see enough of it when he was dating Buffy way back when."
For a moment, Will's mood turned several shades of green, as it always did when reminded that Angel - his father - had dated Buffy, eons ago. He shook his head to clear away the resentment. After all, he was also jealous of Spike - himself - for also having had a relationship with the Slayer. It was irrational, being jealous of the self he once was, but wasn't anymore… or was he? And once he started down the "I'm my own grandpa" vein, Will started to question everyone and everything.
"Well?" his aunt - sister-in-law - Dawn asked, sounding blasé about the box but Will could tell… she was almost as eager as he to check out the package's contents.
The hell with worrying about how he was related to whom. One day he'd write it all down, but today he had a box to open. It was wrapped in plain brown paper, faded with age, water spotted, and tied with a frayed rope. Just a little pull and it gave way, easily. Not so much the duct tape holding the box together, so Will had to resort to scoring it with his keys. His aunt's barely voiced mantra of "c'mon, c'mon, c'mon" egged him on.
He had no idea what had been waiting all these years for him to discover. Would it be the severed demon head his father was worried about? Or worse, human remains - souvenirs of violent killing sprees from Spike's wilder days. With a deep breath, Will opened the box.
Dawn gasped, her eyes opened wide as he pulled out the first item. It was a pink stuffed pig… a well-worn stuffed pig, almost as battered as Will’s own Paddy Bear.
“Mr. Gordo!” Dawn grabbed the piggy from his hands before he could utter a word. “I can’t believe Spike saved this – it’s Buffy’s. We thought she’d lost it in the Sunnydale crash.”
A small gust of wind blew by Will’s ear and he turned, seeing Buffy at his side, clad in a white sundress with a spray of daisies in her golden tresses. She stood, hands on her hips, attitude in full measure.
“Oh my God! That sneaky thief – he stole my pig. What kind of vampire steals a girl’s pig?”
Will couldn’t suppress a small snicker at her umbrage.
Dawn paused in her mauling of Mr. Gordo. “Is Buffy here, Will?”
He nodded, his attention divided between the two Summers sisters.
“Will!” Dawn’s voice registered more sharply and he concentrated on her.
“Yeah, it’s Buffy… she’s right next…”
Dawn turned around, vainly looking for a glimpse of her sister, but as usual, she was only visible to Will. “Would you t-tell her hello from me… and that I miss her, terribly?”
Will repeated the message to Buffy, who scoffed. “I can hear her, you know.”
Will blushed. He’d forgotten momentarily how much Buffy could interact with the world.
“She’s giving you a hard time, isn’t she?” Dawn asked, gently rubbing Will’s shoulder. “Where is she right now?”
He pointed to the foot of the bed, and then his old rocking chair, as Buffy settled into it. There was a slight creaking sound as it began to rock, seemingly on its own, slowly but surely.
“My God, Buffy,” Dawn exhaled, her words coming out soft and sad. “I miss you so much. There’s so much I want to share with you. Not the least of which is your nephew, Liam. I can’t believe I’m a mom, and my big sis isn’t here to share it with me… at least, not in the literal sense.
“She misses you, too, Aunt Dawn,” Will murmured, watching as Buffy wiped her eyes. “There’s still hope, isn’t there? That you guys or Grandpa Giles will be able to free her for good?”
“We’re still trying, hon. I promise we’ll never give up. We all want Buffy back amongst the corporeal.”
Will smiled and glanced at the woman in question as she sat up a little straighter and smiled weakly. He turned back to the box, desperate not to look at either woman at the moment, since Buffy’s freedom was his most heartfelt and least probable desire.
He tossed something onto the bed, separating small pieces of material between his fingers. They turned out to be a few pairs of women’s panties with a slightly odd smell to them. Dawn grabbed them away and stuffed them into her pocket, blushing furiously. Buffy coughed, her face flushing, as well.
Once more into the box he delved, yelping at the sting. When he brought his hand up, one of his fingers was bleeding… blood dotting a small curve on his pointer finger. He sucked the digit until the wound seemed to close. He was fifteen years old, after all, and not likely to call for his mom to kiss things and make them better.
Dawn grabbed the box quickly. “Is everything okay, Will? Do I need to find the first aid kit?”
“Stop making such a fuss, Aunt Dawn. It was just a small slice – like a paper cut. I’m fine. I wonder what bit me?”
Taking no chances, Dawn shook the box slightly, watching as the offending culprit came into view. It was a small, wickedly sharp curved blade… the kind of thing Spike liked to keep in his duster pockets when he went out on patrol or to Willy’s. She held it up for Will’s perusal.
“I-I guess Spike wasn’t a total softie after all,” he whispered.
“No, my darling boy,” Dawn said. “Spike had his moments, but he could and would take care of himself, not to mention those he loved. Why don’t we take the blade down to your dad when we finish checking out the box?”
Will nodded, dipping his hand back into the box and hoping there were no more sharp, pointed objects to greet him. He did pull out a small journal, and some loose snapshots, however. “Now this is more like it,” he said, spreading out the photos on his bed.
Buffy gasped as she recognized the pictures as part of the shrine Spike had once built to her. She’d gotten off the rocker and knelt in front of the bed to check them out for herself. She ran her hand over them, slightly jarring each image from its place.
“Oh, Will,” she murmured, her hand pausing over each image. “This one is my mom, Joyce. It’s a treasure. So few pictures survived Sunnydale’s destruction. I’d forgive Spike in a moment for the panties for this one picture alone.”
Will blushed, as he finally put two and two together and came up with whose panties those actually were. “I can recognize who’s in this picture,” he said with slight trepidation, as he held up Buffy’s most favorite of all – the trio of Buffy, Willow and Xander from early in their relationship. “You knew Aunt Willow and X-Xander for a long time.
“Ever since high school, Will… that’s why I couldn’t believe some of what he’d done…” she trailed off, not wanting to hurt him. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Buffy. It’s just a picture from the past, and I’ve worked hard to put that other stuff behind me.” Will turned his gaze to Dawn with a guilty smile. He was sure it must be weird for her to watch him talking to nothing but thin air.
Dawn picked up the journal and offered it to Will. “Maybe this will give you what you’re looking for – the insight into what kind of vamp Spike was at the time.”
Buffy grew nervous, biting at her fingernails.
“What’s the matter, Buffy? Is there something in here I shouldn’t read?” Will’s anxiety level ratcheted up at the sight of her distress. He was close to making a discovery of some importance… he was sure of it.
“My relationship with Spike was a rather volatile one, except for the last year,” Buffy whispered. “There might be stuff in his journal that would upset you… not only about Spike, but about me. I’m not exactly blameless in this whole thing.”
Straightening his spine, Will stood. “I’m fifteen years old, Buffy. I know I’m not a man… but… I’m sure I’ll be able to handle a little tarnish. You’ve been my rock for so long… I have faith in you.”
Buffy refused to look at him. Her arms were crossed tightly around her chest. She seemed dead certain about something… much like his dad when he went into his whole “I’m older than you and therefore know what’s best for you” routine and it irked him in the same manner.
“Will,” Dawn interrupted, notably avoiding looking in the direction of the rocking chair. “Buffy obviously has a reason she won’t tell you. There are things… things that are bad… She just wants to protect you like we all do.”
Even though he could tell Dawn felt the tension mounting in the room, albeit silent and invisible, Will exploded. He grabbed the pig from the bed and threw it at Buffy. “That’s enough,” he shouted. “I’m just sick and tired of being coddled like a baby. Poor little Will, he can’t handle the truth… little kid too weak to deal with it all. Poor little boy.”
Just as suddenly as it began, his tirade ended, leaving him more tired than angry. “Do you think the Watchers protected me, Aunt Dawn? Buffy, you know better. I need to know the truth. I need to know who I used to be, because if I don’t learn the truth, all I have is what those creeps in England showed me. The blood and gore, and the killing…” he closed his eyes. “You keep telling me… you keep telling me that there was more to him, to me, than what I’ve learned.”
He knelt down, picking up the stuffed pig where it fell and placed it next to Paddy Bear and Hellboy on his shelf.
“I thought you liked Spike,” he sighed, eying the journal on his bed. “I thought that maybe… there’d be stuff that he’d written that would show me – that would make me believe – that there was some innate good to him… me. That he wasn’t all evil.” He was pleading now. “I need to even it all out, Aunt Dawn. I need to believe there was some good in him, and how can I do that if I don’t have the full picture?” By now, he was definitely more hurt than angry. “If he wasn’t totally evil, then why don’t you want me to see what he’d written and find out for myself?”
Dawn bowed her head before speaking. “Because, Will… the Spike I knew… the one I cared for… he was the guy who loved my sister; who took care of me and my mom. But before that… I can’t promise that anything could balance out his previous life. That what you see won’t make you hate yourself even more. And I don’t ever want that for you.
“I’m so sorry, Will,” Buffy whispered, barely loud enough for his enhanced hearing to pick up. “I’ve never been good with the wordage. I’m afraid…”
Will stared at Dawn, at Buffy, then back at the journal. He wanted to throw it at someone, though he’d hurt Dawn and he wouldn’t affect Buffy at all. His mind made up, he grabbed the journal and bolted from his room.