Author: spikes_heart and liliaeth in their first ever joint effort
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Pairing: Angel/Nina, Gunn/Anne, sort of S/B, with hints of A/B
Setting: One year post NFA
Disclaimer: If they were ours, would we be writing fanfic?
Feedback: Yes, please!
Archive: Ask us, nicely.
Warning: Not a B/A fic
A/N: Spoilers for the entire run of BtVS and AtS - our take on what happened after the lights went out
Beta'd by: A sneak appearance by Willa!
Summary: Before the Powers that Be withdrew from the playing fields, they made one last move with their favorite pawns - leaving Angel to clean up their mess.
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Beloved – Interlude 12-13B – Boys Night Out
2012 – Two Years After “The Betrayal”
“Are you sure you want to eat here, Will?” Connor wasn’t altogether comfortable with his brother’s choice of restaurants. After all, Bella Cucina had been a favorite haunt for him and Dawn.
Will shook his head enthusiastically. Ever since he’d gotten home from school it was all he would talk about. He’d stuck Paddy bear inside the flap of his backpack and bounced up and down on the car seat within the restraints of his seatbelt, repeatedly kicking the back of the driver’s seat.
It was time, Connor thought. Time to leave the past behind and just get on with life. It’d been nearly two years already with no word from his girl.
“All right, little bro – tell the lady what you want for dinner.”
Looking for all the world like he had a secret he wanted to share, Will motioned to the waitress to come closer. “I want a big plate of cal-ma-ri an’ spaghetti,” he whispered. “Not fried but… um, soaked? In butter?”
Three pairs of eyes turned his way.
“Oh, you mean sautéed?” Sharon, as her nameplate read, prompted, and looked to Angel as if to confirm the order.
Angel smiled. “Give the kid what he asked for. And I’d like an order of chicken fingers and double French fries, please.”
By this time, Connor’s eyes were popping out of his head. Not only had Will ordered one of Dawn’s favorite dishes, but his father ordered solid food. When Sharon turned towards him, he ordered Penne ala Vodka and two pitchers – one of beer and one of Mountain Dew – Will’s favorite soda. He had the oddest feeling the little guy would need something sweet to wash his dinner down with.
Unable to sit still, Will grabbed several breadsticks from the basket in the middle of the table. “Look, Dad. If I bite off the bottom, I can make ‘em lean like that tower in Italy.”
“What is with you and Italy today, boy?” Angel ruffled his son’s hair, earning himself a slight punch to his shoulder. “You know we always have Chinese for Connor’s birthday.”
“Got a secret,” Will said smugly, crossing his arms over his chest. “It’s a surprise for Connor, an’ I’m not telling until after dinner.
Connor laughed. His brother looked like the cat that ate the canary, right down to the yellow feathers peeking from between his lips. “A surprise, huh?”
“Bet I can guess,” he said before blowing a straw wrapper in the boy’s face. “Is it in your backpack?”
“Is it a new game for the PlayStation? The one you’ll probably want to come over and play?”
“Nope,” he giggled, shaking his head back and forth.
“My favorite shortbread cookies from Susina’s Bakery?”
“Nuh uh. And that’s two strikes.”
“One more and I’m out, eh?” Connor stroked the scraggly little beard on his chin, feigning a pained look. “Could it be a very quiet puppy to keep me company when you’re in school?”
“No more guesses, silly. I’ll tell you after dinner.”
“Then it’s a good thing dinner is here already,” Angel said, moving the cutlery and glassware aside to make way for their plates.
The look on Will’s face as their waitress placed the dish of sautéed squid covered in tomato sauce before him was priceless.
“Last chance, boy. Are you sure…”
“Dad!” William’s indignant shout caused heads to turn in their direction. “I said I wanted cal-ma-ri, and I’ll eat it.”
Connor had to admit the boy gave it a valiant effort. Will brought the first forkful to his lips and started to chew. And chew. And chew some more.
He handed his brother a glass of soda without saying a word.
The boy forced the straw between his lips and swallowed, hard, forcing the squid down his throat. It was the second forkful that defeated him. Holding his gag back was beyond his control as it neared his lips.
Looking at his eldest son first with a soft smile, Angel took pity on his youngest. “How about changing that delicious looking calamari for my chicken fingers and fries? I’m so not in the mood to eat them anymore, and you’d be saving them from going to waste.”
The boy’s sigh of relief could be heard throughout the restaurant.
Connor covered his mouth with his napkin to keep from laughing at his little brother’s dinner debacle. What on earth made Will order that god-awful meal? Nobody but Dawn could stomach it, and that included himself, and he’d grown up in a hell-dimension.
Watching Angel and Will together, Connor knew he’d made the right decision. This is what his childhood could have been like… would have been like, if he’d been raised by his real father instead of Holtz. If it hadn’t been for that bastard, Sahjahn, he’d only be eleven years old – just three years older than Will.
His sigh was tinged with a touch of regret for his own loss, but he didn’t… couldn’t… begrudge William for getting all the love Angel obviously held for his son. No matter what, Connor knew he was loved.
After dinner and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday by the restaurant staff, accompanied by three plates of something called ‘Death by Chocolate,’ it was time for gift giving.
“Dad, I want to turn things around today,” Connor began, and handed Angel a manila envelope. He watched as the vampire’s eyes grew moist as he read the contents.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked, raw emotion choking his voice.
At Connor’s nod, Angel stood up and grabbed his son close for a crushing hug.
“What’s the big deal about a bunch of papers?” Will looked a little put out by Angel’s display and the look of joy on his brother’s face.
“Look at this, Will. These are lawyers’ papers changing Connor’s last name to Dowell, like us. One big happy family,” he said, counting off: “Me, Angel Dowell; Mama, Nina Dowell; you, William Pratt-Dowell; and now Connor Dowell.”
Will shook his head unhappily.
“What’s the matter, bro?” Connor gave the youngster a poke in his belly. “Not happy to have me share your name?”
”No,” he murmured. “That does make me happy. But… but… she’s missing.
And the light bulb went on.
“So that’s why you stuck those awful tentacle things in your mouth, you crazy kid? Because of Dawn?”
Will nodded. “She was s’posed to be a Dowell, too,” he sighed. “An’ she should be here.”
Connor hefted his brother into his arms. “I know it’s not fair, buddy. Gods, do I miss her.”
That seemed to snap Will out of his sad mood. “Oh! My birthday present.” He scrambled out of his brother’s embrace and tore into his backpack. “Here,” he said, handing him a purple envelope.
Of course he recognized her handwriting immediately. “Dawn sent this to you? You know where she is?” He grabbed Will’s shoulders tightly, along with the now crumpled letter – trying to stop himself from screaming aloud. “You have to tell me where she is, kiddo. I’ll do anything to…”
“What do you mean, no?”
“This is the first time Auntie Dawn’s asked about you in two years. An’ she made me promise not to tell you before today.”
“Connor, let the boy go.” Angel spoke softly, prying his eldest’s fingers from Will’s already bruised shoulders. “You’re hurting him.”
He dropped to his knees in front of Will, murmuring his apologies. “Forgive me, kiddo. I just got so excited about Dawn. How long have you been hearing from her?”
Will hesitated, a look of fear in his eyes.
“It’s okay, I promise I won’t be mad.”
“Since before I was seven years old. She made me promise, Connor.” He pulled his brother closer, and whispered into his ear: “She’s still really mad at Dad.”
Angel seemed surprised. “Does Mom know you’ve been getting letters from Aunt Dawn?”
“Lotte and Hugh hide them when the mail comes in. Daddy, please don’t be mad,” Will begged. “I just want Aunt Dawn to come back, and-and maybe Buffy, and I just want them back. With us.”
Scooping the boy into his arms, Angel rocked him gently. “S’okay, kiddo. I’m not mad at anyone. I won’t even yell at Charlotte or Hugh. But you have to tell Mom about the letters. No more hiding, okay?”
“’kay, Dad. I’ll tell her when we get home,” Will sniffled. “Promise.”
Connor read the note. Apparently Dawn was back working for the Council and based in Italy. The letters went through Giles’ post office box, and he forwarded Will’s replies onto her. Only the last bit referred to him, and he ran his finger over the words again and again, trying to pull something more out of the simple words: How is Connor doing these days? Is he okay? Is he happy?
Maybe one day, she’d come back to him. To them all.