This chapter takes place not long after the previous chapter. Things in Will’s life have been too quiet for far too long, I’m afraid.
Please, as always, read and comment! Buffy!Muse has been lagging of late, but we’re trying to light a fire under her shapely behind.
Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless Willa, my first and foremost mentor, gillo, for her excellent guidance, celesteavonne for her keen observations, and just_sue just because.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go to my Live Journal Here or to simply_beloved: chapter 1.
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Beloved – Chapter 36 – Eighteen!
The teetering pile of books and papers on his desk threatened his laptop, but Will deftly rescued it as he spoke. “Thanks, Mom,” he said, jamming the phone between his ear and his shoulder. “I’m glad you and Dad understand that I want to celebrate my eighteenth birthday with my friends.”
“We were young once,” Nina replied, laughing. “Well, I was young a lot more recently than your father, but you know what I mean. We can always celebrate with the family when you come home on the weekend.”
Will nodded, then realized his mother couldn’t see him. “Sounds great. Can you get me…”
“Yes, my dear. We’ll pick up your devil’s food cake with canolli cream filling.”
“You think you know me so well, Mother.”
“I can come pretty close, kiddo… especially when it has to do with your stomach!”
“True, true,” said Will. “Still, better safe than do without all that lusciousness.”
“Have a wonderful birthday, sweetheart. Just remember, when you go out this evening, be careful. After all… you’re still not legal to drink.”
“I know, I know. You’re all grown up and don’t need your mother to baby you.” Nina sniffed a little. “You might be turning eighteen, but no way does that stop me from worrying about you.”
“At least you don’t insist I wear overalls and a bib anymore,” Will snorted.
“But you looked so cute!”
“Do I need to hang up on you?”
“You wouldn’t dare, young man. Besides,” Nina added, “your father wants to say a few words.”
“Hey, son – Happy Birthday!” Angel’s voice rumbled through the speaker.
“Thanks, Dad. Tell Mom not to worry. I’m just going out with a few friends this evening… nothing dangerous, I promise. Some music, some dancing, yummy food… that about sums it up.”
“You know it’s just because we love you, right?”
“Yeah, Dad. I love you both, too. I promise I’ll be careful. What could happen at Pearl? It’s a dance club.”
“Bite your tongue, boy,” Angel growled. “Never, ever jinx yourself like that.”
Will rolled his eyes, made his goodbyes and ended the call just as Marcus walked in.
“C’mon, Dowell, you’re not even dressed yet and everyone is waiting for you downstairs.” Marcus drummed his fingers on the desk impatiently. “You’re not getting any younger, you know?”
With a grunt, Will stripped off his tee shirt and replaced it with a button-down. He grabbed his guitar case from its corner. “Let’s roll, then.”
“Happy birthday, Will.” Teri Gardner greeted him with a quick kiss on the cheek. The little redhead was lead singer in their band and had a slight crush on him.
“Thanks, Ter,” he replied with a swift hug. “You in good voice tonight?”
She nodded, blushing slightly.
“I wouldn’t worry about Teri, Dowell,” came from Ellis Finch, their base player. “Think you can remember the notes at your advanced age?”
“Funny, El. Funny… considering you’re older than me.”
“By all of three weeks,” said Ellis, affronted.
“C’mon, you guys,” Teri tried being the peacemaker. “The sooner we get downstairs, the sooner we get to party. Ffion and Andy are waiting in the car with the instruments.”
“Girl’s got a point,” said Ellis. “Pearl’s amateur night waits for no band, and we don’t want folks to be too hammered to hear us by the time we get there.”
They arrived at the dance club’s back entrance and unloaded their digital drums and keyboard, and along with Will’s guitar, put them in the back room until it was time for their set.
A small group of friends greeted them at one of the tables close to the stage. Will received birthday wishes and pats on the back, and was offered mug after mug of beer to toast his legality, all of which he refused.
“Legal to vote, yes,” Will agreed, “but not to drink. Besides, I’m giddy enough to be playing for a live audience of more than our college friends and I want to be on my game, not buzzed.”
“Told you,” said Marcus. “Only eighteen for a couple of hours and already he’s turned into a stodgy old man.”
Will just smiled and motioned over the waitress. “Spicy buffalo wings and a fried onion blossom with extra sauce, please.” He rubbed his hands together and licked his lips in anticipation, being inordinately fond of the fried snack. “Nothing like a little heat to awaken the taste buds.”
The rest of the table placed their orders and settled back for an evening of good friends, and good music. Andy went to the bar, being the only one with a valid ID, and came back with a tray of mixed drinks and a Coke for Will.
Ellis raised his glass and commanded attention. “Here’s to the birthday boy – eighteen at last. May he finally loosen up and get laid!”
“Hear, hear!” his friends echoed, clinking their glasses together. Will added his glass to the toast, and shook his head in mock dismay. Sometimes he wondered why he put up with this bunch in the first place.
The food arrived and they all tucked into their choices. Will’s eyes grew teary. The wings were just the way he liked them – fire-starter hot. He grabbed his Coke and downed half the glass, thanks to the heat in his mouth. The happy banter between the tables made him smile.
One of the bartenders, backed up by another of the many bands playing at the Pearl tonight, brought forth a birthday cake lined with candles and a stack of plates and serenaded Will with a raucous rendition of Happy Birthday.
Will, of course, blushed bright pink to the tips of his ears.
“You are just the cutest thing!” Teri squealed as she pinched his cheeks.
“I do my best,” Will muttered. “Now, can we please focus on the nummy-looking cake and let me fade into the chair?”
“Not on your life,” Andy guffawed, thumping Will on the back. “Birthdays are for celebrating and we’re not gonna let you hide. Not tonight, anyway.”
After the latest group had finished their set, the host took the stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s hear it for the Currants! They’ll be back next week. After a short break, Pearl is premiering a brand new band – Salvo!”
A polite smattering of applause made Will smile, and he and his friends quickly finished their cake, then headed backstage to set up their instruments.
“All right, everyone,” the host yelled into his mic. “Let’s give it up for Salvo!
Andy made with the introductions. “On the electric guitar, we have the birthday boy, William Dowell! On keyboard… Ffion Martens! On bass… Ellis Johnson! Our lead singer… Teri Gardner! And me, Andy Perkins, on the digital drums! We’re Salvo, and we hope you enjoy our band.”
Will took a deep breath and looked out into the audience as he strummed his first notes. He spotted Buffy in the middle of the floor, dancing to the music. Gods, the way she moved her body! He quickly looked back at his guitar, worried about the distraction she presented, but couldn’t help stealing glances. She was happy and looked very much in her element. If only she weren’t still a ghost, Will could almost believe they were here on a date.
Buffy looked at him, flashing a perfect smile and twirled. It warmed Will’s heart… and apparently other parts as well. He was beginning to sweat. Probably just nerves, he guessed, and the stage lights. This was Salvo’s maiden voyage outside of friends and school. Still, he felt a little light-headed and couldn’t wait for the set to be over so he could get something to drink.
Their music was well received; pretty much just covers of popular songs. Soon, Will promised himself, he’d get up the courage to play his own songs. Salvo left the stage to a nice round of applause, and Andy went to the bar for a fresh round of drinks.
“Oh thank the gods!” Will exclaimed, grabbing his Coke from the serving tray and downing it in one go. “I sweat like a pig onstage.”
“Now that’s attractive, Will,” laughed Ffion. “No wonder you have the girls hanging all over you.”
He answered with a quick middle finger before excusing himself. “Be right back, you guys. Urgent business in the men’s room.” He stood up, and scanned the room. He felt the skin on the back of his neck crawl, like someone was watching him, but he shook it off after searching the club, dismissing it with a shake of his head.
“You okay there, kiddo?” asked Marcus.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Will said, heading for the men’s room. Be back soon, guys.”
“I wonder what that was all about,” Terry mused. “It’s not like Will had anything to drink but Coke.”
“Guy’s just a little paranoid,” Ellis snorted loudly. “Imagine worrying about groupies after our first public performance.”
Ffion rolled her eyes. “Puh-lease. Will’s not that egotistical. He’s just a bit… careful.”
“Hasn’t he been gone a long time?” Teri asked after a third song finished to mild applause. “I mean Pearl isn’t that big a place, and guys don’t usually have lines to wait on like we do in the ladies room.”
“Who are you, his mother?”Andy laughed, slapping the table and jostling the drinks. “If you’re so worried, why don’t you go and personally escort him back to his seat?”
Teri frowned, her worry creasing her brow. “Don’t you think one of you guys” should go and check on him?” she empathized, making shooing motions with her hands.
“I’ll go.” Ellis stood, pushing his chair under the table. “Anything to make Teri happy.”
Will looked up as Ellis entered the men’s room. He was supporting himself against the sink, his hair dripping wet.
“You look like shit, man,” said Ellis, coming to his friend’s side. “Are you okay?”
“Dumped my head in the sink,” Will said. “The room was boiling.”
“You are so gonna need to settle those nerves if you plan on performing, like… in front of people.”
“I thought I was fine. I didn’t really feel nervous or anything, just overheated, and I’m definitely getting a major headache.”
Ellis looked Will up and down. “You okay to go back to the table, or do you need to go to the dorm?”
“M’fine, really,” Will sighed as he pushed off from the sink. “I’m glad Salvo already performed… right now I feel wiped.”
Ellis helped Will towel-blot his hair and steered him back to their table.
“Oh my god, Will. You look like a drowned cat!” Teri was at his side, immediately. “Do you need anything? Want anything?”
“Sorry, bud,” Andy said, patting Will’s arm. “I guess the lights were a bit too intense for ya.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine,” Will insisted. “Just need to sit still for a bit… rest my eyes. Go, dance and have fun. I’m good.”
“Be right back, you guys.” Ellis stood, pushing his chair under the table. “Seems as if I need to water a few flowers, myself.”
“As long as you don’t mind, I do feel like a little dancing,” said Ffion, grabbing Teri’s hand. “You, too, Andy. Time to wiggle and sweat to the music.”
With a last look at Will, they headed for the dance floor. Marcus headed to the bar. A pretty brunette had caught his eye, and a little female companionship never went awry.
“Since when are you the delicate flower?” asked Buffy as she sat beside him in the now empty chair.
“Not now,” Will groaned, burrowing his head even further into his folded arms. His headache was now pounding The Anvil Chorus behind his eyes.
“You really should drink some water,” she advised. “If you were thirsty to begin with, you’ll be thirstier now.”
Buffy laughed. “Good one, Will.” Her laughter was cut short by a familiar feeling in her neck and belly. Even in her insubstantial state she felt the low-down cramps that signaled a vampire’s presence, and Will’s signature was the familiar tinglies she’d once associated with Spike. This new feeling was similar, but she couldn’t quite place it right away. She quickly scanned the club and saw one of Will’s friends headed out the back door with a tall, thin woman.
In the blink of an eye, she appeared in the alley behind Pearl’s, just in time to see the dreaded familiarity of Drusilla beckoning the boy with fluttering fingers, encouraging him with soft, low-spoken words.
“Just in time for the show, dearie,” she sing-songed into the air before going into game face. “And poor sunshine can’t do a thing to change the outcome.”
Buffy tried. She really, really gave it her all. She concentrated all her energies into solidifying her body, then slammed into the grinning vampire… only to find herself on the other side of the couple with no contact whatsoever.
A quick blip and she was back inside, yelling at Will. “You have to do something! Drusilla is outside and about to feast on one of your friends!”
Will didn’t respond in the slightest. He was obviously sleeping off his headache.
Buffy paced around the table. What could she do? She couldn’t slay, she couldn’t even pull the victims to safety. Nobody could hear her, and the only person who could see her was out cold. In desperation, she popped into Angel’s bedroom at the Hyperion, screaming at the top of her spirity lungs and tried to pull the covers off the bed. She pounded on the mattress to no avail – her hands simply went through. Out of sheer frustration she swiped at a small jar of something on the dresser and hurled it at the hanging mirror, causing it to shatter into sharp, pointy shards. Oh, thank god!
Nina bolted upright, wary of intruders. Noting the broken mirror and the jar of face cream on the floor, she shook her husband awake.
“Angel, wake up,” she shouted, amazed at his ability to sleep through that racket. “Something’s wrong.”
Angel stretched, cracking the sleep out of his neck and shoulders. “What happened?” he asked, noticing the damage.
“This makes no sense. The hotel is warded against intruders, and I don’t sense anyone about, but…”
Spreading his senses, Angel searched for a heartbeat, or a smell to give the trespasser away, but found nothing, either.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, love,” Nina insisted. “This isn’t right. Mirrors just don’t shatter on their own.”
As they watched, Buffy tried her hand again, this time dislodging a bottle of perfume and several makeup brushes.
“Buffy?” The name slipped out of his mouth before Angel could stop it. He remembered the mounted plate torn from the wall of his office years ago by her ire. “Buffy, are you here? Why are you here?”
“Will!” Nina screeched. “Something’s happened to Will! I just know it.”
Angel reached out to his distraught wife. “Calm down, sweetheart. We don’t know anything for certain.”
“That boy rattles on and on about Buffy after all these years, as if she’s actually by his side. If she’s here, then it has something to do with Will,” Nina insisted. “You’ve seen her before,” she said, quietly, an odd look on her face.
“Once, Nina, and that was many years ago,” Angel soothed. He couldn’t help, however, staring intently at the empty space in front of their dresser. A shimmer had begun to coalesce, slowly, into Buffy’s familiar form.
“Oh!” Nina squeaked. “Is… is that her?” At the nod of her husband’s head, she asked, “Buffy… is this about Will? Is he okay?”
Buffy’s lips moved, but no sound issued forth.
Nina slapped the bed in frustration. “Just perfect! She’s here to warn us and can’t speak. Oh god, where is our son?” she cried.
“He said he was going to a dance club… I just can’t remember if he told me the name.” Angel ran his hand through his sleep-mussed hair.
Buffy turned back to the dresser, running her hand through Nina’s belongings. Finally she spied the perfect item to get Will’s location across. She pulled apart the strand of pearls she’d found, and started lobbing them at the bed.
“My necklace!” Nina cried.
“That’s it!” Angel exclaimed, standing to gather his clothes. “The dance club is named Pearl.”
Buffy clapped her ghostly hands silently, relieved she got her point across. With a quick wave, she faded out of sight and headed back to Will’s side. She sat and watched as one-by-one, Drusilla led Will’s friends astray. Ellis followed in Marcus’ footsteps, out into the alley, also never to return. Teri vanished into the ladies room, while Ffion disappeared behind some tall foliage. Buffy stoically kept vigil, willing herself not to cry. “That bitch won’t see me fall apart,” she swore to herself. Blessedly, Will slept on. All hell would break loose when the first body was discovered.
The body count was relatively small… just the five other people at Will’s table, a couple from the second table and a guard at the back door. For a Drusilla attack, the death toll was practically negligible, except for the people who died, of course. It was obvious that this was a surgical strike aimed directly at Will.
The police had been called, and yellow tape had been stuck up where the bodies had been found. The deceased lay where they died, bodies covered with tablecloths. Nina and Angel had been shepherded into the manager’s office when they arrived to pick up their son. Will was quiet… too quiet. Buffy could see the fear in his parents’ eyes and her own fears matched theirs.
Will leaned heavily on his father as they walked out to the car. Nina fussed, terrified he’d lose his voice again. “It’s all right, sweetheart. It’ll all be fine,” she cooed and stroked his hair from his face. “Whoever did this will pay. Dad and I promise they will.”
“This… this is all my fault,” Will mumbled, tears spilling as he remembered his lost friends; they died tonight only because they knew him.
Angel stopped walking, cupped Will’s chin and looked directly into his eyes. “Don’t you believe that. Not for a single second. This was my fault if it was anyone’s. I’m responsible for turning the lunatic who did this. Me, not you. And this time, I’m going to clean up my mess once and for all. I won’t let her hurt you again.”
“Y-you know who did this?” Will stammered, body shaking from shock.
Nina tucked the blanket the paramedics had given him around his shoulders. “How would you know this, Angel… and why didn’t you tell the police?”
He muttered, “Drusilla.” He shook his head in disgust. “Her stench is everywhere in this place. I should have killed her the last time she threatened Will.”
“Can you find her?” Nina’s voice was shrill with fear. “We can’t have her terrorizing our son!”
“I’ll hunt her down and tear her head off with my bare hands, Nina. This won’t happen again.” Angel held the car door open, and Nina gently settled Will in the back seat before sitting next to him. “Nobody hurts my family and gets away with it.”
As the car roared off into the night, Drusilla stepped out of the shadows in the alley behind Pearl, the corpses of her first three victims as yet undiscovered in the trash bin. “The Angel-beast still thinks he rules the nest and the wolf bares her teeth to protect her young. It’s all for naught in the end. I shall have my Dark Prince back, and he shall care for Princess like he used to. No more pup in need of whelping. Just a little bit longer and we’ll paint the town red as he promised me so very long ago.”
She giggled softly, shaking her curls in the light night breeze. “I will have what’s mine once again. I brought back Grandmother and I’ll have my Willie back and we’ll be a family once again… even without Daddy.”