spikes_heart and I answer a few more of your questions with this interlude of Beloved, immediately following Angel’s evening a’bed. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
William is still just ten years old.
Yakkety yack, more talk.
Please, as always, read and comment! The muse has been spotted on several occasions trying to break out of the house, but so far we’ve managed to catch her each and every time. Feedback is always welcomed.
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Beloved – Interlude 16-17C – Bound by Love
Angel stilled at the sight of the girl who had first stolen his non-beating heart all those years ago. She appeared to be translucent; he could barely make out the outline of the furniture across the room through her shimmering body. Did he dare move? Would she vanish?
He was startled to find himself still clutching Paddy bear as he attempted to wipe the sleep from his eyes.
“Take a picture, Angel. It’ll last longer.” His little fantasy stuck out her tongue and rolled her eyes at him.
Is it really you? He closed his own eyes, still unwilling to believe the vision before him.
“It’s me in the not-so-fleshy flesh. Sorta sitting on your bed and you don’t have a clue. I could sit on your lap and you’d still be all… clueless.”
She tossed back the golden mane of hair he remembered running his fingers through when they’d first begun… and began a slow crawl up the bed, not making the slightest impression on the bedcovers.
Oh my God! I’m still dreaming… it’s the only explanation. He looked guiltily over at his sleeping wife. Just what he needed – everyman’s fantasy. A wife and a nymph in his bed at the same time.
“I wish you could hear me, Angel,” she murmured, straddling his legs in a fairly intimate position. “It’s been so long since she’s granted me freedom… since I’ve been able to roam around, and now I find that our Will is gone. We have to get him back!”
She’s a ghost! She’s a ghost! She’s a ghost! Huh? “Buffy?” His voice cracked with uncertainty, but he had to try.
Buffy continued as if he’d not spoken. “I miss him so much. Will’s such a good boy.”
“Buffy,” he tried again, louder this time.
The surprised look on Buffy’s face was priceless. “You… you can hear me?”
“And you can see me?”
“Of course not. This is just another dream. A weird dream that’s part of the other dream and I can’t seem to wake up.”
She eeped shrilly and leapt away from him in a totally graceless move. Had she been solid flesh, her flight would have landed her on the floor.
“Oh my God! You can!! It’s about damned time.”
Angel grabbed the comforter and held it to his chest in an odd display of modesty.
Buffy laughed. “Who are you kidding, buster. You’re wearing… silk? jammies. What do you think you’re hiding that I haven’t seen before, anyway?”
“God, Buffy… you’re really here.” He reached out to stroke her face and gasped as his hand passed right through her.
He felt sick with disappointment. “I knew this was too good to be true. Damned hallucinations. I’ve gotta be mad if I can’t tell what’s real from a figment of my imagination.” He looked at the bear in his hands before bringing it up to his cheek. “Nothing is real anymore, Paddy. My boy’s missing, and Buffy’s been gone for so many…”
“Damn it, Angel. I’m real! I’m as real as you and your wife. I just don’t have a solid body and… Gods, I should have listened to Wes and stayed away from you.”
Great. Now my ghosts are arguing with me. Haven’t I been through this once already with Spike? “Go away, Buffy,” he sighed tiredly. “I can’t do this anymore.”
She snorted her displeasure. “Well, that’s just ducky, Angel. Maybe you can give up, but I can’t.” She climbed back on the bed, anger flashing brighter in her hazel eyes.
“Why don’t you just leave me to my insanity? I’d like to know what I did that I’m always saddled with the annoying ghosts.” Looking up at the ceiling, Angel begged: “Haven’t I earned something better than this? Than being haunted by the annoying ghosts? First Spike and then… and could you keep it down a bit? My wife is sleeping.”
“I doubt she’d be able to see or hear me. And… and now I’m annoying?” The infamous Buffy pout made its presence known.
This time, Angel rolled his eyes. “You’re a figment of my imagination that’s keeping me awake when I should be sleeping, so I’d say… yes.”
“Were you always this thick?”
“My Buffy would never be so hurtful to me.”
“And just what would… and hey! What do you mean, your Buffy?”
Now I’m arguing with a ghost. Angel held his hands up in a placating gesture. “Fine, you’re real. Just say your piece and let me go back to sleep.”
“Listen to me, bucko. We could argue about my metaphysicalities all night long… can’t you just accept that it’s me? Really me?” Buffy whined. “I haven’t been around much since Giles…”
“Giles! Did he have something to do with turning you into a statue?” The mere mention of the Watcher’s name fanned the vampire’s rage. “If he’s responsible for you as well…”
“No, dumbass. Remember the garden? The spell? Buffy go poof? How about Dawnie, when she found out what a big liar guy you really are? I should be furious at you for lying to my baby sister, you know.”
Angel had the good graces to look embarrassed.
“Why do you have so much trouble admitting you cared about Spike?”
Huh? “What are you talking about?” he hedged, wondering at her non-sequitur.
“I mean, you spent so much time being angry at a baby because you couldn’t admit you cared about Spike.”
“I’m not angry at William. I’d give anything to get him back.”
“That I believe, Angel. I’m not questioning how you feel about your son now… ten years post being Spike. It took you long enough, buster – and you still haven’t answered my question,” she said, arms held tightly against her chest. “I’ve been here since his first birthday. I watched his little face crumple when you wouldn’t give him the time of day and he couldn’t figure out why.”
He was stunned. How could she have known… have seen…? “And you’re telling me you saw all this? How is it possible with you being a statue and all?”
“My prison is exactly where you put it five years ago. Do you remember the night Little Miss Insano-vamp came to take Will away? That’s the first time I was free. Stuck in the garden, but free.”
“But nobody could see you.”
“William saw me, Angel,” she said softly. “He saw me the day you took me out of the box. And I saw him.
There wasn’t anything for him to say. Angel remembered the strange affinity his son had for the statue.
“I saw everything, buster. And I’ve gotta tell you… I’m awfully proud of you.”
Buffy smiled and unwound her posture, seeming to lean back on her arms. “Uh huh! Who’da thunk it, but the Mighty Angelus turned into a wonderful papa to two fine boys.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Duh? Connor and William? Can’t you count to two after all those years of Sesame Street under your belt?”
“But… I keep doing things wrong, Buffy. I keep messing up.” Angel sighed, remembering Dream Drusilla’s words. “I can’t keep my children safe. No… I can’t save my children.”
“Pffft!” Buffy waved her arm in dismissal. “That’s just crazy talk. Besides, do you think my mother did everything right? Parenting means heartache and fights – believe me, I gave my mother hell, and that’s without all the Slayery badness. But when you get it right… it’s marvelous. And I’ve seen you get it right. Well, mostly, anyway.”
She reached out her hand and ghosted it along the side of Angel’s face.
“But you try,” she insisted. “That’s what makes a good parent. No matter how wrong things go, or how bad the fights get, you just don’t give up.”
Buffy stood up, and began to pace back and forth in front of the bed. “But just so you don’t get a swelled head or anything, you make a craptastic almost father-in-law. Have you heard anything from my sister since she made with the leavage? And how long has it been exactly? I tend to get a bit fuzzy on the details.”
“The last time I spoke with…Giles,” he said, gritting the name out between clenched teeth, “he said she was fine. On her orders, he won’t give me any more information, but I worry. Connor worries. She still won’t talk to him… won’t let him explain he didn’t know about the lie… my lie.”
“I know she’s been writing to Will,” Buffy said, softly. “I hadn’t been able to talk to him since I came back, and I don’t know if he could sense me anymore, but I could see him and hear him. He lived for her letters, Angel. He misses her so much.”
“Will’s only ten years old, Buffy. Still a baby in the ways of the world.” Angel sniffed. “He’s a wonderful boy and I miss him. We miss him… me and Nina.”
“You do realize you’re cuddling his Paddy bear?”
“Yes? And?” Angel grew defensive, but refused to put the bear down.
Buffy looked over at Nina, then back at Angel. “You do realize you have better things to cuddle, don’t you? Someone who’s as deep into this as you are?”
“Oh God… Buffy, Nina… she’s… I love her. I never thought I’d love someone else so…” his whispered words trailed off.
“It’s all right, you know. That you’ve moved on.” Again, Buffy smiled, no trace of hurt in her expression. “She’s a good lady, and she loves Will.” A mischievous grin lit up her face. “And when he comes home, you guys can make with the whoopee and give him a whole litter of puppies!”
Angel shook his head in amazement. “It’s really you, isn’t it?” he murmured.
“Well, duh!” she replied. “What have I been saying all along? And now that we’ve established my real non-corporeality… why aren’t you on a plane to England to tear apart the Council with Giles in person?”
“I thought you saw everything.”
“Don’t play Mr. Smart-vamp with me, bucko. I just know if it were Dawn in Will’s place? I wouldn’t be sitting here and crying about it. I’d be on the next plane outta here and ripping up the Council stone by stone.”
Sitting up straighter, Angel’s anger began to seep through. “I was ready to go, damn it. I’d packed and called in favors… and then that letter arrived.” He stabbed his finger in the direction of the dresser.
“Well, are you gonna tell me what’s in the letter? It’s not like I can pick it up and read it,” she said, a mite testily. “Well, not so much anymore.”
“Those Council bastards scented the letter with Will’s blood! With Will’s terror-laced blood.” Angel lost control of his tears and they fell silently down his cheeks, staining his silk pajama shirt a darker maroon. “They promised his death would be on my hands if I set foot on the continent, and they’d send video as proof.”
Buffy’s eyes blazed with an inner fury. “So where the fuck is Giles? And what is he doing to get Will back?”
“Who knows? The bastard probably threw in his lot with Chalmers and that other idiot,” Angel fumed quietly. “Watchers of a feather sticking together. Because don’t think I don’t know what he tried to do to Spike. He told me, you know. They both told me… at different times. ”
After a moment’s hesitation, Buffy refuted his statement. “Against Spike, yes. It would have been an act of cold-blooded murder. But Angel, he could never harm an innocent child. Especially Will. You should know that. He adores the boy.”
“Like he wouldn’t have killed Dawn… the year you… you… died?” At her incredulous look, he continued. “Spike, remember? Drunk out of his gourd Spike? We had several long nights talking about what went down in Sunnydale. He told me about the threats he made against your sister in the name of ‘doing the right thing’. Buffy, I don’t trust that man.”
“Well, I do. To a point, anyway,” she amended. “Angel, you have to trust this: Giles adores the boy. You can’t deny it. What possible reason would he have for being complicit in kidnapping his grandson and threatening you? Show me some proof, and I’ll back you wholeheartedly, but until then…”
Angel refused to be swayed by her words, and held stubbornly to his convictions. “He let a friend of mine die, Buffy. I called him and begged for his help to save her life. He let his distrust of me kill an innocent young woman. And he tried to take control of Spike once before when...”
The sight of Buffy flickering in and out of sight caused Angel to stop his diatribe mid-rant. Slowly, her form began to solidify enough for her to be heard once more.
“We have to hurry, Angel,” she gasped, panting as if she’d been running for hours. “I don’t think we have the time to argue.”
“What’s wrong? What’s happening to you?” Angel was on the verge of panicking. He hadn’t seen Buffy for over ten years, if you didn’t count the momentary appearance in the garden five years ago and didn’t want to lose her again.
“No, please! I need more time,” Buffy cried out, obviously in pain and being pulled somewhere against her will. “The boy… you promised me…!”
And then she was gone.
Angel fell back against his pillow, still in shock at Buffy’s appearance and sudden exit. What did it all mean? Would she be back?
The alarm on the clock radio turned on, music filling the room as Nina stretched and rolled over towards her husband, reaching out for a morning cuddle. The words of Wilson-Phillips’s “You’re in Love” washed over them both.
You’re in love / and it’s enough for me to know / that you’re in love / so I’ll let you go.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe / that you’re never coming back to me ‘ I’d always dreamed of you by my side / until I would die / But now I see that you’re so happy / and it sets me free / and it’s enough for me to know / you’re in love/ so I’ll let you go
Something clicked in Angel’s heart. Something he’d not known he’d needed, or wanted. Or missed.
They’d both moved on.
Good Lord, don’t people ever stop talking? Listen closely – they might actually be saying something important here.
Please, as always, read and comment! We’ve taken to strapping the muse into her little bed each night. We think she actually likes it. Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless cafe_willa - my inspiration and wonderbeta, and hugs to gillo. We’re just thrilled this chapter didn’t kill her.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Beloved – Interlude 16-17D – Eyes Wide Shut
Lydia knocked on her superior’s door with trepidation. These days, the fear of catching him unawares dictated caution.
Please let this not be one of those days that he’s forgotten to put on his pants and trousers.
“M’busy. G’way,” came the muffled reply.
Risking her dignity and his, Lydia let herself into the office. A quick look around found the answering machine light blinking fullfullfull, papers strewn all over the desk and… following the paper trail she looked down at the floor and gasped. Rupert Giles was slumped against the base of his desk, more reclining than upright, and it didn’t look like it had been his intention. His glasses were askew on his face, and his hair disheveled. It looked like he’d been lying there for hours.
“Mr. Giles?” She knelt at the man’s side, concerned that he’d suffered an injury when he’d fallen.
He was staring at his hands as if they were priceless artifacts. Turned them this way and that; first clenching then unclenching his fists.
“How did it all get away from us, Ms. Chalmers?”
“It used to be so easy. Me, Watcher. Buffy, Slayer. Identify the monster of the week, point at the vampire and the Slayer did the rest.”
“Please, Sir. You need to get up from the floor.” Lydia extended her hand, which he brushed away.
“Now… now we have Slayerstatues, and-and souled vampires. Resurrections and Shan-shanso-shoshan… vampires turned human. Mustn’t kill ‘em – one might save the world.” Giles’ voice was tinged with bitterness. “When did it get so grey?”
This time, Lydia insisted he get up, pulling the frail looking man off the floor and settling him onto his leather sofa.
“It was always gray, Sir,” she said, fluffing a pillow behind his head. “We just never deigned to see it that way.”
As his head lolled back against the pillow, Lydia’s concern grew. “Are you all right, Mr. Giles? Should I call for a doctor?”
“They won’t tell me…” A severe coughing spell interrupted his speech. By the time Lydia had retrieved the wastebasket, the senior Watcher had turned alarmingly pale. He spat into the bin and continued. “They won’t tell me anything anymore. They’ve cast me out. Ignore what I say. Wheel me out like the Queen on parade from time to time, then it’s back in my cupboard just like a bleedin’ bank manager.”
He shivered, pulling up the throw from the arm of the sofa. “Their latest plan… it will destroy so many people if they carry it out.”
Dear Lord, he knows. What plan, Mr. Giles?” she asked anyway, unwilling to believe he had anything to do with it.
“Mustn’t tell. Mustn’t let anyone know. It’s a secret,” he giggled, unable to stop until it turned into another coughing fit.
“Mr. Giles… Rupert… look at me.” Lydia could see there was something very wrong. He was more than drunk. His movements had been jerky, his body shook and his eyes were unfocused. “Have you taken anything? Any medications along with your drink?”
Giles giggled again. “Drink!” he snorted. “That’s the key. Such a pretty green.”
Lydia knelt down beside the desk to reach into the lower drawers, finding a glass-stoppered bottle with at most a finger’s worth of bright green liquid inside underneath. She removed the stopper and delicately sniffed at the contents, dreading the confirmation of what she already suspected: absinthe!
“Oh for God’s sake, Rupert. What the bloody hell have you been doing to yourself?” she whispered.
Breaking the lock on the drawer, she found an unopened bottle, as well.
“Mr. Giles,” she said, shoving the opened bottle in front of the disoriented man. “Where did you get this? How long have you been drinking absinthe?”
“S’a pressie. For being a good boy and signing all my papers.” He reached out for the bottle, only to have his hand slapped away. “Mine,” he insisted. “From His Majestic Arsehole, Wyndam-Pryce, himself.” Once more giggles overtook the man, ending up as body-wracking coughs.
Roger Wyndam-Pryce! She should have known the bastard was behind this. How could he add fuel to an already raging fire like this?
“Sorry,” Giles whispered. “Need to apologize. Make her see. Stop the bloody ringing in my head, over and over. Makes my ears close and my eyes bleed.”
“Apologize to whom, Sir?”
He turned to her, then, grasping her hands and looking directly into her eyes. “Oh, Buffy! I’m so sorry. You were right. Right. Wrong, stupid old man. So sorry, love.”
Damn it! For a moment Lydia thought – had hoped, that her boss was connecting with the real world. Patience is a virtue, she reminded herself. “Mr. Giles, it’s been ten years since you’ve spoken with your Slayer. What could you possibly have done that you need to apologize for now?”
“Smart girl you are, Buffy. Should have known,” he mumbled. “Right, right. And me. So wrong and thick. And stuck.”
Lydia was getting more confused by the second. All she could do at that point was go with his delusions. Perhaps gain some insight into what was driving him to destruction.
He looked at her again, and smiled. “Sweet girl, you’ve forgiven me, yes?”
The pleading in his eyes was heartbreaking. It wasn’t possible that he was seeing her, Lydia. No, in his mind and heart… he was seeing Buffy Summers,
“Of course I have,” she replied, playing along… but she could see he was already removed from their ‘conversation’.
Best to let the man sleep it off before she brought a doctor to call. Rupert Giles was in serious trouble, and it was well past time to act on his behalf.
As she headed out the door, Lydia heard him murmur: “If Spike is that much trouble to handle, I’ll gladly take him off your hands.”
She watched the man pass out as she reached for the phone. There really wasn’t a moment left to lose.
Giles wheeled the giant-sized buggy down the hallway and into Spike’s room. “C’mon, big bad. Time to let Daddy take you home.”
His Slayer guard followed him into the room, chattering happily. All these children needing his protection. Father to many, Sire to none.
“Can we feed ‘im?” the little redhead asked.
“We’ll hold the blood bottles just right so he won’t sick up on himself,” the brunette promised.
“Now, now, children. You mustn’t scare the little vampire. He’s one of a kind, you know.” He turned, walking straight into a wall of brood.
“It’s time for me to take the boy back where he belongs, Angel. I’m sure it’s in his best interest, after all.”
“Back to the chains? Back to the dungeons?” Angel demanded, surrounding himself with a cloak of darkness.
The cruel, evil vibe emanating from the angry vampire made Giles happy to have brought the Slayers with him, guarding his back. If only they’d actually pay attention to him and not the little blond in the bed.
“No, Angel,” he said, soothing a lock of hair from Spike’s vampire visage. “We’ll find a place for him. He’ll adapt, as he’s always done. He has worked for us before, as you’ll recall.”
But the dark vampire wouldn’t listen as he steadfastly blocked the door.
“He’ll be of great use to the Council, with his knowledge of demons and their customs,” Giles insisted. “And if his hands grow back, he’ll have all the fighting he can handle.”
“And if he doesn’t recover? I already have a place for him, Watcher. He belongs with me,” Angel insisted.
“I don’t understand what the fuss is all about. You don’t even like him.”
When he looked up, it was Angelus facing him, the grin gracing his face sending shivers down Giles’ spine, bringing with it the odd flashing images of hands fading in and out, wielding a bloodied chainsaw.
“He’s mine, old man,” the vampire roared. “You’ll do well to keep your hands off m’boy.”
“What? You’re the only one who’s allowed to lay your hands on him? You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Angelus? To push him on his knees and make him beg you for scraps of attention.”
The vampire’s smirk was enough of an answer. Giles knew he wasn’t going to win. It didn’t mean he was going to give up trying.
“He’s a child, Angel. A little boy playing at dressing-up in his father’s clothing. William needs guidance, and you’re the last person he should be getting it from.”
“But I think…”
“Shut up, boy,” both Watcher and Vampire chorused.
“Little boys should be seen and not heard,” said Giles.
“I want my Daddy,” came Will’s teary eyed rejoinder. “I want to go home.”
“Daddy’s here, William.”
Angel was gone, however, and his voice echoed in the room.
“Daddy!” the boy shrieked.
And the world went black.