This chapter takes place two years after the last. William is now 17, Alonna is 16, and Bethany is 12. Our boy is growing up and graduating from high school, amongst other things. Old friends are reunited. And oh yes, there’s some news about a girl.
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse is diligently staying the course and producing wordage to our delight. We’ve even begun to pamper the little darling again, and allow her to receive treats of chocolate and fine silks. (We keep the chains under the bed in a box, just in case *grins*)
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless Willa, my first and foremost mentor, gillo, for ripping through this chapter with gusto and making it far better than it was, celesteavonne for being an enthusiastic cheerleader and comma commando, and just_sue just because.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go to my Live Journal Here or to simply_beloved: chapter 1.
Banner created by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved - Chapter 34 – Life Moves On
Two Years Later – April 2021
Will sat in the familiar black leather chair facing Lorne. The anagogic demon’s demeanor seemed nervous, but he sat quietly, waiting for Lorne to speak.
“Well, bucko,” he said after a few tense moments. “It seems as if we’ve come to the end of the line.”
“I mean, sweet cheeks, that you’ve come as far as I can bring you. I think you’re more than ready to stand on your own two feet in your life.”
“This is my last visit?” Will shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Yes, he was coping well with things. The nightmares had pretty much stopped, and he no longer flinched in fear when strange men approached him. But Lorne was a safe haven. One where he could be heard objectively by someone who wasn’t blinded by love. Giving this up was a big step.
“Hey, hey. No need to worry, cupcake. I’m not going anywhere,” Lorne insisted. “I promise you can always call me if you need to, or even if you just want to talk. I just think you’re capable of taking your life into your own hands.”
“A-are you sure?” Will felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. It was hard to remember his total distrust of Lorne during his initial sessions. Nowadays he had grown quite fond of the green guy.
“I’d bet my two red horns on it, Will.”
Will nodded, letting the news and the decision settle in his mind. “I can do this,” he said, slapping the arm of the chair. “I’m seventeen years old and nearly an adult. I can shape the way I want my life to be.”
“I’m not telling you to disregard your parents, mind.” The skin around Lorne’s eyes crinkled with amusement as he watched the teen seem to mature before him.
With a wave of his hand, Will dismissed his worries. “I’m not planning to stage a revolution, but I can and will say what I want and need. I don’t have to be a mama’s boy, or follow blindly behind my father. I can be my own man.”
“Bravo!” Lorne flourished a salute. “I think you’ve got it!”
“I’d like to ask you something, since graduation seems to be on the table today.” Will twisted his hands together in his lap, suddenly looking more like a little boy than the young adult he now claimed to be. “I’ll be graduating from high school in a couple of months. It would be… I mean, if you want…”
“I’d be delighted to watch you get your diploma,” Lorne said happily. “In fact, I’d be downright honored.” He hesitated for a moment, a dark look crossing his face. “There are a few things I have to tell you though, and I’m not sure you’ll really want me there after you hear me out.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know you don’t, muffin. Just let me tell my tale before you walk out.”
“Remember when I encouraged you to seriously pick up your guitar? To pour out your feelings in song?”
Will patted the case of his black and silver Fender Stratocaster and nodded. It had been a present from his parents on his fifteenth birthday, along with weekly lessons. They figured it would help ease the pain of having to quit the swim team.
“Outside of giving you an enjoyable outlet, I had another reason for asking you to sing and play for me. I can read lifepaths… but only if you sing.”
Will stammered, “Y-you’re one s-sneaky bastard.” It unnerved him that Lorne could see… could know… more than what Will was willing to tell him.
“I promise you I never divulged anything I learned to anyone but you, sweet William. The knowledge let me know you were healing and on your way to a healthy recovery.”
With no small amount of restraint, Will forced himself to sit quietly and not blow up at the invasion of his privacy.
“You could have just asked,” he muttered.
“You know better than that, buckaroo,” Lorne chided. “And now we’re onto the more difficult revelation. You know you were referred to me by Dr. Brzz’ic, right?” At Will’s next nod, Lorne continued. “Your folder held all your pertinent information; your background, your parents’ species, and so on. Haven’t you ever wondered why I’ve never asked them to visit? Never consulted them on your progress?”
“Now that you’ve mentioned it, I guess it’s a bit weird. Most of my friends in therapy have their parents sit in occasionally.”
“Well, son, I’ve got a very good reason for not having them here. I have to admit that I knew your father years ago. And I’ve met your mother, too.”
Will gasped, his body going rigid in the chair. Surely he’d heard wrong.
“Old Angelcakes and I had come to a major parting of the ways about the time he and his merry men took on the Circle of the Black Thorn. Has he ever told you about that?”
“Y-yes,” Will hesitated. “It’s where he found me… where Spike… where he was changed into a baby - me.” Will stood up and started pacing around the room. “Oh my god! That means you knew me… knew Spike. Before!”
“You’re right, Slim. I knew you back when you were in love with Buffy… the first time.”
“But why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you tell me how far you and my family… you and I go back?”
Lorne scratched his chin, wondering how best to put this out for the kid. “Truth is I didn’t think you could handle it when you were younger. You’d been totally traumatized, and I felt it was more important to treat you as you are now, as opposed to who you were then. I also thought it was up to your family to fill you in on the Spikester’s life.”
“But I told you!” Will insisted. “I told you I wasn’t getting answers from anyone. Nothing that gave me the insight I needed.”
“And now?” Lorne asked, fingers steepled, demeanor maddeningly calm. “Have you finally gotten the answers you craved?”
“You know I have. I told you about that whole spirit trip thing with Buffy thanks to Illyria.”
Lorne winced at the mention of the Old One’s name. He shook it off, however, and said, “In the end, I think it’s best that you found out on your own. Yes, it took longer, but I think you now have a truer picture of Spike than anything you could have gotten from me. I didn’t know him long.”
“But you knew my dad. You hung out with him and his people for years,” Will accused. “And now you’re avoiding him, but treating his son. Why did I deserve the honor?”
“Because you were a child that had been wronged. Because you needed help, and I knew I could make things better, and I didn’t have to deal with your father.”
“Coward!” Will repeated, just as vehemently. “You put me through hell. I begged you to leave me alone. Begged you to let me forget. Begged you not to make me face it. And yet you’ve been hiding from my dad for all these years. Where’s the fair, here?”
Lorne put his head in his hands. Maybe it was time to face the music after all. Looking directly at Will, he said, “You’re right, kid. Your father made me face a part of myself that needed to be buried. I haven’t been back to your dimension since.”
“I think it’s something you need to do.”
“Hey! Who’s the counselor here?”
“I learned from the best.” Will couldn’t help his smirk, and watched Lorne’s eyes open wide.
“You’re certainly growing into that face, dumpling. It’s getting more recognizable every time I see you.”
Driving to the Hyperion, Lorne didn’t have to ask for directions once. Will, beside him, could see the man was nervous by the tapping of his fingers on the steering wheel and half expected him to turn around at any moment, but he’d promised to see this through, and he believed him.
“Hey Dad!” he called out as he entered the lobby. “Someone’s waiting for you at the door. Lots of shadows, so don’t worry.”
Angel looked at his son with suspicion. Why didn’t he just bring the person inside like he normally did? He shrugged, opening the door and would have passed out from shock if he’d needed to breathe. “L-lorne?”
“Hey, Angelwings. Am I still welcome?”
Numbly, Angel stepped aside, motioning for Lorne to enter. “How… Who… Where…?”The words just wouldn’t come past his throat.
Will couldn’t stand the tension building in the room. This wasn’t helpful to anyone. “C’mon, you two. You’d think after nearly twenty years that one of you would have something to actually say to the other.” He circled around the pair, trying to work out the dynamic displayed. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from you, it’s spew first, edit later.”
“I’m quite sure I never let the word spew touch my lips, cupcake.”
The moment the light went on over Angel’s head, Will stepped back and let things go from there.
“You? You’ve been Will’s therapist?”
“The one and only.”
“Then why... how could you treat my son for all these years and not get in touch with me?” Angel was truly perplexed.
“Come now, Angelkins. Surely you know the answer to that.”
“Enlighten me, for the hell of it.”
“Your son, previously known as William the Bloody, desperately needed help, which was something I could offer without having to be in touch with you. Dr. Brzz’ic gave me a detailed explanation of what happened to him, and there was nothing more you could tell me, since you weren’t with him.”
“And you were a coward,” Will chimed in from across the room. “Let’s not forget the important part.”
Lorne’s cheeks turned bright green. “Then there’s that,” he admitted. “I walked away and I didn’t look back and I’m not sorry for it. I needed the distance to survive what I’d become; chewed up by Wolfram and Hart, bullied beyond my limits by you… I was lost.”
“But I never…”
“Yes, you did, bucko. And I let you, and that was my undoing. But enough!” he said, holding up his hand. “I didn’t come here to argue old points. I came because a remarkable young man asked me to come to his graduation, and I wanted to mend old fences.”
“That would be… good,” Angel said, slowly extending his right hand.
Lorne, however, ignored it and pulled the vampire into a hug. “You’re looking good, mi amigo. Better than when we first met, even way before the badness of Evil, Inc.”
Angel smiled, looking at his son. “I owe it all to family, Lorne. Will, and Nina. Oh! And Connor and his family live here, too… Dawn and their son, Liam.”
“Don’t forget Lotte, Hugh and Bethany,” Will added.
“Damned vampire hearing,” Angel muttered. “The kid doesn’t miss a thing.”
“He’s an unusual boy. You and Nina have done an exceptional job of raising him. Is she here? I’d love to see her again.”
“If you can stay, she’ll be home in a couple of hours.”
“We’ll see how the time goes,” Lorne conceded.
This time the silence was more companionable as the two old friends sat deep in thought.
“So, Lorne... what else have you been doing with yourself since…?”
“Tell ya what, Sparky.” Lorne straightened his collar and composed himself. “What say we leave the past in the past? Looking back will only bring up unwanted, unnecessary memories for us both.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal.”
Lorne cocked his head, looking the vampire in the eyes. “There’s something different about you,” he said, patting Angel on the shoulder. “There’s so much less agitation, less repressed fury emanating from you.”
“I’m not fighting with Angelus twenty-four-seven anymore. Seems as if when I set out to rescue Will, he and I came to an agreement. I’ve never felt him as furious as he was then… and it was in defense of my boy.”
“Are you saying Will’s tamed the beast in you?” Lorne stared at him with incredulity. “Oh, Angelwings, it sounds as if you’ve made peace with more than Angelus. Sounds like you’ve finally done away with your Spike issues.”
Angel reflected on the past years with Will, then nodded. “Once I stopped railing at the Powers that Be for giving the Shanshu to Spike and then saddling me with him, the antipathy vanished. And besides,” he added. “Who could resist Will for long? Nina called me on my behavior and withheld her… well, withheld. It didn’t take long for me to see the error of my ways. Will was – is a blameless innocent with no blood on his soul. It just took me awhile to see it. And Spike had been doing the right thing for years, without a soul, and with.”
“I’m well and truly impressed,” Lorne said with a smile. "I never would have believed it possible back in the day.”
“I’m happy… and content,” Angel mused. “And I haven’t been worried about being ‘perfectly happy’,” he said, complete with air quotes. “Angelus hasn’t rattled his cage in years, and I think I’ve pretty much used up my brood quotient for the time being.”
“Sounds like you found a way around that curse.”
“I think it’s more a matter of balance. A man’s family does that for him. It makes him happier than he could ever be alone and sadder at the same time. Seems like you really can’t have one without the other.”
“Love and marriage, indeed,” said Lorne, nodding in agreement. “Seems like I came back at a good time. No more suicidal tendencies, eh?”
“No more tilting at windmills,” Angel said. “And my happiness is always tempered by the loss of our friends back then. You coming back into my life is a good thing, buddy.”
Lorne smiled. Reading the peace in the vampire’s aura was delicious, and so much more than he’d hoped for. Old friends, he sighed. You can never have too many. He settled back against the tufted cushion of the circular couch and waited for Nina to come home.
Will sat on his bed and toed off his shoes. In the mood for company, he called Alonna on his cell phone and told her to meet him upstairs in Buffy’s room. A quick shower later, a dab of fresh deodorant, a stripe of minty freshness on his toothbrush, and he was ready to meet and greet.
“Hey, Will.” Bethany was waiting for him outside his door. “If you’re going to see Buffy, can I come with you?”
He looked at the girl, who really was well on her way to becoming a teenager at twelve years old and shrugged.
“Sure Bethy. You’re more than welcome. Maybe you can find out why Buffy’s been missing in action for the past few weeks.”
She beamed, happy that he wasn’t shooing her away. “Maybe you should bring Mr. Gordo with us? It might help draw her out if she’s having trouble materializing for you.”
“Good idea, Munchkin,” he said, tweaking her nose as he went to get the aforementioned piggy. “I just hope Alonna doesn’t think I’m nuts for holding onto a stuffed pig.”
Bethany laughed. “She’s certainly seen it on your shelf enough times. Haven’t you told her whose it is?”
“Huh! I don’t think she’s ever asked.” He shrugged and headed up the stairs to Buffy’s room, Bethany following close behind.
With a quick tug, Will snatched the sheet covering Buffy’s stone form and put it aside. He gently stroked the side of her face, murmuring, “Hey there, sweet girl. I’ve missed you.”
He picked up his guitar, which he’d taken to leaving in her room, and strummed a simple melody, something light and airy – hopeful.
Bethany sat down next to Will with Mr. Gordo in her lap, scratching the piggy absentmindedly behind the ears.
A slight rap on the door announced Alonna’s arrival. She was beautiful, black hair cut into a short poufy afro, pinchable round bottom, and an enticing chocolate brown cleavage showing in the vee of her soft sweater. He might not love her as a boyfriend would, but one thing William Dowell could do was appreciate a fine formed woman. He patted the ground beside him and kissed her cheek when she sat down.
“So, anything?” she asked, motioning towards the statue.
“We just started, ‘lonna. Bethy thought it might help if we had Buffy’s favorite stuffed pig close by.”
“So that’s who the pig belonged to,” Alonna laughed. “I always wondered why you had that on your shelf. It didn’t seem quite your style.”
“Hey guys…” Bethany started, surprised when the pig floated out of her grasp.
“Nobody disses my pig,” Buffy’s words registered only in Will’s ears. “Hey, Will. It’s good to see you, too,” she said, her ghostly lips leaving a warm tingle on his cheek.
“Well, this is new,” mused Bethany. “I’ve been able to feel her presence before, but never seen her ability to interact with solid objects. Hey, Buffy,” she said, waving her fingers in the direction of Mr. Gordo.
Will whispered something into Alonna’s ear, and she blushed. “I didn’t mean anything about your pig, Buffy. I just meant it didn’t seem like something Will would hold on to.”
Buffy laughed. “Tell her not to get her panties in a bunch, Will. I was just defending Mr. Gordo’s honor.”
“Buffy said not to worry about it, ‘lonna,” Will repeated dutifully. “She’s just very passionate about her old piggy.”
“Says the guy who still holds on to his Paddy Bear,” Buffy snorted.
This time it was Will’s turn to blush.
“Oh, Will. I think I like this girl.” Alonna’s eyes twinkled with mirth. “She must have zinged you a good one.”
He ducked his head and smiled, punching her gently in the shoulder. Straightening up, he turned to Buffy and asked, “So, where have you been? And what’s wrong? You look… exhausted.”
When Buffy looked up at Will, her eyes seemed old. Not like an older woman’s eyes, but more like someone ancient – who’d seen way too much. It frightened him.
“It’s hard to explain my time when I’m not here,” she murmured, staring at the floor. “It feels like dreams and nightmares following Her Highness around. And it’s not like walking behind someone, but more like molecules floating around an infinite space. And many, many different times and dimensions.”
“She keeps you hopping, then?”
“It’s not so much that she’s afraid – she’d deny that with her last breath, but she’s showing me things she wants me to watch out for… to have her back should there be an uprising of any sort.” Tears pooled in her eyes and her bottom lip wibbled as she spoke. “Will, I don’t know how to fight like this. It’s too much. She’s just asking for more than I think I have to give, and it keeps me away from you.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“When it doesn’t involve your safety, it seems as if Her Majesty is all self-absorbed. Nobody else matters,” she said, chewing on her bottom lip. “Remember Wesley? She’s got him tied up, too. And she’s never given him the freedom she’s given me.”
Alonna placed her hand on Will’s shoulder, causing him to startle. He’d forgotten she was there. “What’s wrong, Will?” she asked. “You look so worried.”
“Something’s going on, ‘lonna. Buffy doesn’t look well at all.” He touched the sculpture’s stone shoulder, feeling the familiar frisson of something that’s always passed between them. “I-I don’t know why, but I have the oddest feeling that we’re running out of time.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Will.” Buffy pouted, gently stroking the pig’s well-worn plush.
“Aunt Dawn is trying really, really hard,” Bethany said. “She and my Dad have been working for hours and hours every day trying to find a way to free her.”
Buffy sighed. “I just… I need for this to end, Will. I’ve tried. I feel like I’ve been trying forever, but it’s not easy existing out of synch with everything. And, and I love being able to talk with you, and be with you as much as I’m allowed, but there has to be more. I miss talking with my baby sister, who’s way older than me already. I have a nephew I’ve never kissed. I miss other people, my friends, Angel… I miss everything and everyone. Hell, I even miss slaying!” She wrapped her arms around her knees, making herself small. “I need someone to touch me – to make me feel real. I’m losing it, Will,” she sniffled.
Will was beside himself in frustration. He stood and began pacing around the room. “I swear to you, Buffy, one way or another we’re gonna free you from this statue. If I have to stay home from college and work night and day with Aunt Dawn and Grandpa Giles, we’ll find the answer for you.”
Alonna looked aghast at Will’s declaration. “Oh, Will!” she cried. “You can’t possibly think of giving up your future for…”
“For what, Alonna? For nothing? For a hope and a prayer? A figment of my imagination?” Will turned on his best friend in a way he’d never done before, furious at her… at his own impotence. “How about for the woman I love? Does that make it any better? Don’t you think I’d do the same for you if you needed me?”
Tears sprang to the teen’s eyes as she sat there, taking Will’s fury to her heart. “I-I’m sorry!” she sobbed. “I didn’t mean anything bad… I just meant what if you can’t find a way? What if this is the best you can both have? I love you, Will. You’re my oldest, bestest friend, and I feel sympathy for Buffy, but she’s not here, and you are. You have to go on living… no matter what.”
Buffy let out a small, bitter bark of laughter. “So one of us is living, right?”
“What are you talking about?” Will asked, totally perplexed by her statement.
“Just something Spike once said to me, when my life didn’t seem worth living. He was right, of course. And so is your friend, Will. You can’t give up everything for me. You shouldn’t give up anything for me.”
Her tears proved to be his undoing. He couldn’t hold her while she cried things out, he couldn’t wipe the tears from her cheeks. There was nothing he could do for her, after all she’d done for him. If only this was one of their dream meetings, but he hadn’t had one in years. Will slumped to the floor, his head in his hands, shoulders shaking from the emotion roiling through his body.
“Will!” Bethany’s voice rang out loud and clear, causing him to sit upright and look at her. “I can see her. Buffy! And her aura… it’s… it’s… swirling around her.”
Buffy stood up, a hopeful look in her eyes, the pig left forgotten on the floor.
“What do you mean, Bethy?” he asked, dashing the tears away from his eyes.
“I can’t explain it exactly. It’s just… well, her aura seems different. It ‘s nothing like her old signature.”
“And that means what?”
“Something is gonna change – something big. The problem is, I can’t tell you when. But it’s positive… definitely something good,” Bethany insisted.
“Did you see her too, ‘lonna?”
Alonna sighed. “Sorry, Will. Nothing at all.”
“Please, Bethy,” Will begged. “Please tell me you’re not just trying to make me feel better.”
Bethany shook her head, her braids dusting the tops of her shoulders. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
Will grabbed her in a bear hug, happy to have a physical way to express himself. “Thanks, Bethy. For Buffy’s sake I hope you’re right.”
Alonna looked at him with huge brown puppy dog eyes. Will opened his arms to welcome her in for a group hug. “I’m sure it’ll be okay, Will. We’ll all just have to have faith,” she murmured into his ear.
Buffy drifted over to the huddle and wrapped her arms about Will’s shoulders, leaning her head as best she could against his. Maybe her nightmare was finally coming to an end.