Please, read, enjoy and set a few encouraging words of your own down in comments. Looking forward to hearing from you. **smooches**
Early 2023 – Will is 19
“Hello, dear girl,” Giles said into the phone when Nina picked up. “It’s time for another Will report.” He could practically hear her smile.
She laughed. “That’s sweet, Rupert, but we both know I left girlhood behind me ages ago.”
“Not to me, you haven’t,” Giles chided gently. “It seems like everyone is younger than me – even your ancient vampire of a husband. What is he now… five hundred years old?”
Nina snickered in amusement. “Now, now, Rupert. You know Angel’s just shy of three hundred.”
“Still good looking? No sign of horns or ridges or cloven hooves?”
“Sorry to disappoint, old man,” Angel said, obviously having taken the phone from his wife. “Still as young and handsome as ever.”
“Well, then,” Giles murmured. “I’ll just have to update my journal some other time.”
“Enough about us, Giles.” Apparently Angel’s patience was in short supply. “Will’s been with you for a couple of months now. How’s he doing? Is he eating? Relaxing? Interested in anything besides the internet? Treating Lorne right? I mean, when we ask him, he says he’s fine, but that tells us nothing.”
Giles smiled softly at the worry in the vampire’s tone. “Slow down, man. Will is doing well. In point of fact, he and Lorne are at the stables as we speak. The lad favors one of my mares – Ruffian. I named her after that poor American mare that had to be put down after breaking her leg during a race.”
“Does Lorne ride?” Angel couldn’t keep the amusement from his voice.
“Unfortunately, no,” Giles answered. “The horses tend to shy away from him. But he’s taking it in stride, happily relaxing on a chaise with a drink in hand when weather permits.”
“Does Will go out alone, or is he accompanied?”
“Angel… Will’s a young man, and can actually be out of my sight for more than five minutes at a time. He’s perfectly safe. The horse is gentle-natured, and Will’s a natural in the saddle. Almost as if he were born to be on horseback.”
An uncomfortable silence lasted for a few moments, before Giles continued. “I know you have reason to worry, given what’s happened to the lad in the past. Between Lorne and myself, we’re keeping a watchful eye for anything meaning harm, but if you want Will to snap out of his self-imposed hermitage, you have to let him find his way. Saddling him with babysitters won’t be helpful in the long run.”
“I know, I know,” Angel sighed, the weight of the world settling onto his shoulders. “Nina and I can’t help but worry, Giles. He means everything to us.”
“That’s quite an admission, old son,” Giles laughed. “No longer emotionally constipated, I see. Will’s been good for you.”
Angel chuckled. “And you, too. Who’d have thought that Spike would be so ingrained in our hearts all those years ago?”
“He’s certainly growing into the vampire – man – we used to know. His is not a face easily forgotten.”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” Nina interrupted. “Give me the phone, sweetie. Hi, Rupert. Enough about Will for just a moment. How are you doing these days? It’s been too long since we’ve seen you.”
Giles was touched. The kindness in the woman’s voice warmed his heart. “I – I’m fine, Nina. And so is Lydia. Time and physical therapy have done her a world of good. Not that she’ll ever be at her pre-explosion peak, but she’s doing so much better than before. And she adores having Will and Lorne here to coo over.”
“You forgot to mention love, Rupert,” Nina reminded him gently. “When a woman is loved, she can’t help but blossom. Hugh is absolutely over the moon that his older sister has found some happiness at last.”
Giles smiled. “I never thought I’d find love at this stage of my life, but she’s been a true godsend. And before you ask for the umpteenth time, Will is no burden. Getting to spend time with him, healthy and grown, makes us happy. And Lorne is quite the charmer.”
“That’s so good to hear,” Nina said, softly. “Is he coming out of his shell? At least a little bit?”
“Well, we’ve gone to a pub in the center of Bath – The Pig and Fiddle – a couple of times. Good nosh, and the only connectivity is human contact. Will has, in fact, played darts with several of the local lads. I have a feeling he’s not playing his level best to avoid suspicion, but he’s having fun. I’m sure this whole Grand Tour will be good for him. And for you, both.”
Giles could hear Angel and Nina’s sighs of relief.
“One question, though,” he said, thoughtfully. “How long has Will been in the habit of talking to himself?”
They had to give him credit for trying, Will thought. These past months with his grandfather and Lydia and Lorne were starting to take their toll on his sanity. If it weren’t for Buffy’s companionship, Will would have torn his hair out by now. Of course, he needed to become more circumspect about it. Several times he’d caught the attention of Grandpa Giles or Lydia, both of whom looked at him as if he had two heads.
Will turned around at the sparking feeling running up his spine, first checking that he was physically alone in the room. Buffy’s beautiful smile was contagious.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he murmured softly. “I think it’s time to get off the farm for a bit. I mean, it’s been nice spending time with Grandpa Giles, but I’m in freakin’ England… of my own, free will. Wanna try the sightseeing thing with me? And Lorne, of course.”
She ghosted her hand along his cheek. “I guess. I mean, I wish I could kill something. Evil! Kill something evil!!” she emphasized. “Anything to work off some energy. And you know I’d follow you anywhere.”
“I got it, I got it,” Will laughed. His tone turned sober when he looked into her eyes. “I don’t know how you can stand it,” he said, mirroring her gesture from moments ago. “All these years, unable to really interact with anyone. You’re so strong and brave, Buffy. You’re one hell of a woman.”
Will couldn’t believe the crimson blush on her cheeks, nor the tears filling her eyes, “And yet another Spike moment, I guess?”
“I know they’re just words,” Buffy murmured, “but Spike was… memorable. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for him. Tucked under my feelings for you.”
“What can I say, baby? Seems I’m special enough to have caught your notice twice now.” Will smiled. It was nice to be able to talk about Spike without flashing jealousy over his previous self. “So, do you have any ideas about where we should go tomorrow?”
Buffy sighed, shaking her head slowly. “It’s been great sitting with you at the pub, and watching you ride Ruffian, but I can’t eat, or keep up with you on the horse. Since the only thing I can do is look, how about we go to a museum? I’m sure there’s plenty there for us both to enjoy, and if you’re talking to yourself, I’m sure nobody will notice.”
William thought for a moment before asking, “Why can you ride with me in a car, but not on a horse?”
“Huh!” Buffy huffed. “Don’t ask me to be all ‘splainy about ghosty physics. I don’t have a clue as to how or why I can follow you anywhere, much less be touchy with things around me from time to time.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Will reassured her. “I’m sure we can do the museum thing. I’ll talk to Grandpa, and see what he’d recommend.”
The next morning, Lorne stood in front of the main entrance to the Victoria and Albert museum with Will, and unbeknownst to him, Buffy. Will cocked his head to the side, looking at something Lorne couldn’t see, and his body posture looked uncomfortable, as if he didn’t know what to do with his limbs. He’d made most of the two and a half hour trip in silence, occasionally muttering to himself under his breath, and Lorne was beginning to worry about the success of this expedition.
“I think your idea to come here was fabulous, crumpet,” Lorne said cheerily as they walked into the building. “We’re in a wonderfully historic country, and seeing the sights can be a moving experience.” He wrapped his arm around Will’s shoulder, gently herding him in the direction of the museum.
“They certainly don’t skimp on the ambiance here,” Lorne enthused, craning his neck to look at the ceiling as they entered the lobby. It was an immense room, replete with columns and archways and a skylight dome. “All this marble and mosaic work is to die for.”
Will nodded, his expression lackluster, looking at the multitude of statuary and the glass enclosed curio cabinets.
“Come on now, boychik,” Lorne chided. “A little enthusiasm would go a long way. There has to be something here to put a sparkle in your eyes, or would you really rather turn around and go back to your grandfather’s place?”
Shaking his head as if to clear it, Will sighed. “Sorry to be such a bummer, Lorne. I guess I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
Lorne pointed to a poster hanging above the entrance to a stairway. “Musical instruments. That’s gotta be right up your alley. Wanna give it a go?”
Once again, Will cocked his head before answering. “Sure, and I’ll try to be more upbeat.”
Lorne rolled his eyes at the pun. Still, it was better than nothing.
After an hour of checking out pianos, harpsichords, guitars and many other stringed instruments of varying sizes and shapes, they expanded their viewing to other instruments. Basically, if it could be blown, strummed, beaten, picked, plucked, shaken or otherwise interacted with, they saw a representation of it.
“Now that wasn’t too bad, eh, buckaroo?” Lorne prodded. Will’s demeanor had definitely picked up a bit. “So, where to next?”
It took a moment before Will replied, looking a bit uneasy.
“Uh… how about checking out the fashion history displays?”
Huh? “Would you mind repeating that, son?” Lorne couldn’t believe his ears.
This time Will rolled his eyes. “Yes, Lorne… I did say the History of Fashion display.”
Rather than question the kid’s choice, the anagogic demon simply nodded, happily heading towards the proper rooms.
“I’m just gonna wander a bit by myself, if you don’t mind,” Will said as they entered the exhibit. Bad enough he had to be here, much less have someone – besides her – witness it.
“I thought he’d never leave,” Buffy said happily. “I’m glad to have you to myself at last.”
With a snort, Will said, “Just me, you and hundreds of others, eh?”
“Not like they can see me,” was Buffy’s rejoinder.
“Which just makes me feel like a damned fool, talking to thin air.” Will sighed, raking his hand through his hair. “I just wish… wait a moment –” He’d been beating a rhythm against his jacket when he felt it. “I must be the world’s biggest idiot!” he exclaimed.
“I just solved our problem, dear heart,” he said happily, pulling a small piece of plastic out of his pocket.
“A blue tooth!”
Will nodded. “And it’s got power,” he said, noting the blue LED light. He quickly adjusted the wire around his ear and settled the earpiece in place. Now he looked like anyone else talking on his phone. Totally non-conspicuous.
“All righty, then. Show me the way, Buffy. What do you want to see first?
Hours later – at least two or three – Will was more than ready to leave. Buffy, however, was still entranced by the displays of ballgowns and underwear, wedding gowns and peasant garb. Luckily for him, Lorne approached, beaming happily.
“So, had your fill of pretties yet?” he asked, glancing at his watch.
“Done!” Will heartily agreed. “As much as I love… as much as I enjoyed all this,” he corrected himself, looking at the floor, “if I see another corset or pair of linen underwear, I’m gonna scream. Unless they’re being worn by a beautiful woman,” he added. “Ow!”
For a moment, Will was sure that Lorne was going to pick him up like some injured damsel.
“Nothing,” he scowled. “Just got kicked in the ankle by someone in passing.” He tried hard to glare, but the sound of Buffy’s laughter was too infectious.
Lorne smiled back, unaware of Will’s companion. “I should be saying it’s time to hit the road, but I have a surprise for ya, bucko.”
The young man’s cocked eyebrow wordlessly asked the question.
“Your grandfather pulled a few strings and managed to book both a room at a local hotel for the next two days, aaaaand…” he drawled, obviously trying to draw out the tension, “…a pair of tickets to tomorrow’s Manchester United versus Arsenal football match.”
Will stared at the tickets in Lorne’s proffered hand, then rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what Grandpa’s obsession is with soccer. I just don’t get it. I didn’t like it when I had to play for school, and if I had my choice, I’d prefer not to go.”
The simultaneous sighs of relief from both Lorne and Buffy brought an amused smirk to his face.
“You know Spike would be turning over in his grave – if he had one – if he heard you dissing Manchester United,” Buffy snickered. “But I, for one, am…”
Will looked up when Buffy didn’t continue. She was gone. No warning, no ‘see you soon’, just gone. He knew something wasn’t right. “I think it’s time to leave England,” he said. “Something’s wrong at home. I can feel it.”
By the time they’d gotten back to the Giles ranch, Will was extremely agitated, throwing his stuff haphazardly into his luggage. Despite entreaties from his grandpa and Lydia, Will was adamant about leaving – looking to Lorne for support. The anagogic demon just nodded. The look in Will’s eyes and the stubborn set of his jaw was enough to call the airport and immediately chart their course for home.
Oh! If anyone is inspired enough to come up with a fresh new banner, I would be most appreciative.