William is ten years old (He will get older eventually, we promise)
Once again William’s at the front and center of things. And… we get visits from two, count ‘em two long missing characters. Sort of a guest appearance, you might say.
Please, as always, read and comment! The muse has poked her head out of the closet, wearing a nice magenta wig this time. She thinks it’s quite fetching. Feedback is always appreciated.
Goddess bless willshenillshe - beta extraordinaire and my sunshine, and gillo for her Brit expertise and sense of humor. I’m still giggling over Fyarls doing calligraphy. Don’t ask. **grins**
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
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Beloved – Interlude 17-18 – Ghost in the Machinery
Nathaniel placed the large pink quartz on the table in front of William. “I want you to focus your mind on the crystal, lad. Nothing else. Block out all sound; all thoughts… look for the flaw in the center of the stone.”
“Stop fussing over the demon, Chalmers. It knows what it’s supposed to do.”
The younger Watcher’s jaw tightened at Roger Wyndam-Pryce’s harsh words. The old adage of catching more flies with honey than vinegar should apply here.
Will did as he was told and stared into the crystal. He quickly succumbed to the lull of the soft sound emanating from the stone and was soon pliant and open to suggestion, oblivious to the world around him.
They had been trying to reach the boy’s demon side for nearly the entire two months of his incarceration with spectacularly poor results. At most they’d managed to produce only minor agitation in the hypnotized child. That night, however, there was a new element in the mix.
Wyndam-Pryce removed a small, intricately-carved wooden box from his jacket pocket, extricating the pre-filled hypodermic needle and injected the blue fluid directly into the fleshy part of William’s shoulder.
Not even a flinch at the needle’s penetration. Perfect.
“Begin, Chalmers,” the elder Watcher barked. “I’d like to get somewhere with this today.”
“Spirits of the interregnum, we call upon you. Show us the true face beneath the false. Bring forth the heart of the demon essence within this child. Spirits of the interregnum, we beseech thee!”
William simply sat limp in his chair; unmoving and unaffected, as usual.
Five minutes passed, then ten. Nathaniel timed the boy’s breathing and checked his heartbeat. Both were substantially lower than normal due to the combination of hypnosis and drugs. He knew they were playing a fine line here, and it wouldn’t do to let the lad die from simple neglect. An exceptionally watchful eye was called for.
Without warning, the boy jerked backwards in his chair. Will appeared to be unconscious. Eyes closed, he said nothing. Shudders ran through the small frame as he began to emit a high keening sound, not quite human and younger than the body it emerged from.
It wasn’t hostile. The sub-vocal sounds were more of a scared whine than a prelude to an attack, but it made Nathaniel wish he’d had the foresight to have strapped the lad down with ropes or chains. Wyndham-Pryce in his arrogance had been sure the serum was sufficient to control the demon.
Roger leaned over the boy and grabbed a handful of bleached curls, yanking his head backwards. “Show yourself, demon,” he snarled.
Yellow ovoid irises stared back at him, eyes filled with tears. The whimpering increased and a familiar tang filled the air as William’s bladder released.
Triumph flared in the man’s face as he sidestepped the puddle on the floor. “What does it feel like, demon? To be helpless? To be at the mercy of beings stronger than you?”
Hisses and whimpers issued forth, punctuated by an occasional weak growl, but the child/demon made no move.
Wyndam-Pryce, however, backhanded the boy.
“Don’t pretend to be human,” he yelled, obviously irate at the lack of response. “You’re nothing but a vicious beast in human’s clothing.” Another backhand left the child on the floor, curled into himself and sobbing, his clothing soaking up the urine near the chair-leg.
Nathaniel rushed forward, unable to stop himself. He grabbed his one-time mentor about the waist and pulled him away from William, preventing the older man from kicking the prone figure.
“Physical intimidation is uncalled for, Sir.” Nate panted, trying to be as respectful as possible under the circumstances while physically restraining his superior. “The creature we’ve managed to call forth seems to be exceptionally immature. Perhaps pre-verbal. It might not understand anything you’ve said so far.”
A bright blue aura surrounded the boy. The Watchers’ breath huffed out in misty puffs of condensed moisture as the temperature in the room dropped considerably.
Will uncurled from the fetal position he’d held and stood, staring at Roger Wyndam-Pryce with opaque blue eyes. Cocking his head in an awkward, sideways position, he began to speak.
“How dare you touch that which is not yours, filthy human?” an imperious voice resounded from the child’s mouth. Definitely not the demon initially contacted, and most assuredly not William’s own. “The half-breed is one of my Chosen, therefore under my protection. I will not allow such muck as you to defile him further.”
“How dare you…” the elder man sputtered. “You interfere with things above your station, demon. Be gone. You are not welcome here.” He drew himself up to his full height, preparing to deal with the demon interloper.
Illyria-William advanced on him with an awkward gait, as if unused to his body; much like a praying mantis with its eyes fully focused on its prey.
“How dare I? You subjugate your own young with a casual cruelty I’ve not seen since I first walked between dimensions and you object to my defense of my pet?” Illyria-William sneered, the effect intimidating enough that the Watcher stepped back. “You are too far beneath me, human, to understand the full glory of my being. My name is high and well known amongst the Old Ones. I was before the dawn of time and will be again after its demise.”
A frigid blast of wind swept through the office, causing books to fly from shelves and papers to swirl from the desk, despite Nathaniel’s best efforts to hold them down.
“The demon you seek has been cleansed and granted clemency for its prior actions,” the creature wearing William’s skin continued. “How dare you put your needs before those of Powers far greater than yours?”
“That demon deserves to rot in hell where it was spawned.”
“And all humans are barely above the ooze that used to squish between my toes yet I do not smite you from this plane of existence,” Illyria-William intoned.
“You must be here for a reason, Old One,” Nathaniel cut in. Apart from defending the lad in their custody. “Perhaps you will tell us what it is that brings you here for this demon-child.”
William rounded on Nathaniel head-first, body following almost as an afterthought. “So it speaks for itself, finally. Tell me, weakling. By mere association with that one, you condemn yourself. Do you have the fortitude to stand up for what is right in defense of the innocent?”
Power rolled off the boy’s small frame in waves. Nate calculated the risks involved in taking down the creature whilst it was hampered by the weaknesses of its container.
“You cannot think to defeat me, puling human. Your very silence condemns you.” Turning back to Roger Wyndam-Pryce, the William-creature shuddered once, twice, before stabbing an accusatory finger in his direction. “I grow weary of your obtuse nature and refusal to see beyond your limited viewpoints. I will send an emissary in my place – perhaps he will make you understand the errors in your judgment.”
William fell to his knees, moaning as they impacted with the floor. When he rose, his movements were far more human, and his eyes… gone were the opaque blue irises of the demon. In their place was a pair of totally human blue eyes, though not the boy’s natural color.
They sought out Nathaniel.
“This really needs to stop, Sir.” William’s voice was soft and beseeching… and somewhat familiar. “It is nothing short of a power-play for your own, personal agenda.”
“False words from a demon emissary,” Roger Wyndam-Pryce gritted out through clenched teeth.
“No, Sir. They’re mine, alone.”
Nate drew up short at the soft, cultured tones coming from the boy’s mouth. No, it couldn’t be… Over the years of the boy’s schooling, he’d come to recognize his posture, as well as the cadence of his speech. Hearing it from William brought back the memories in clear focus.
“I died, Father, yet I am being allowed to speak on the behalf of this child.”
Bloody hell. It is!
“Father…?” Wyndam-Pryce looked apoplectic. “What kind of demon trickery is this?”
“No trickery, Sir,” Wesley/William replied. “When a God mourns a mortal, that mortal is not allowed the peace of the afterlife. When a God has affection for a demon, it is protected. It is coveted as a prized possession, for it belongs to a God… an Old One. The demon you have been torturing – not to mention the child it is entwined with – is a favored pet of Illyria, God-King of the primordium.”
Nathaniel had been focused on William for the past few moments. He’d become lost in his old memories and could well imagine the boy growing thinner and taller; his hair darkening; a pair of wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose…
“Wesley,” he murmured. “Is that really you?”
Once his colleague had articulated the truth, Roger was forced to accept what was playing out in front of him. “How dare you defile my son’s memory by manifesting in this abomination?”
Wesley-William smiled; condescension visible in eyes that seemed so much older than their ten years.
“You haven’t changed an iota, have you, Father? Remember the cupboard? It was one of your favourite places for me when I’d not do your bidding quickly enough, or failed you in some other perceived way.”
“I raised my son with the best of intentions.”
The possessed child’s blue eyes flashed, and he pointed an accusatory finger at the older Watcher. “You did what was best for you, Sir. You hid me away when I failed to live up to impossible standards. Standards you held nobody else to, I might add. I allowed you do those things to me out of ignorance. I will not allow you to continue to do them to another child. To an innocent.”
Roger Wyndam-Pryce couldn’t keep the disappointment from his voice as he looked past his son’s spirit towards the younger Watcher. “They weren’t impossible demands. Not for those with the fortitude to see them through. Unlike…”
“Yes, I know, Father. Unlike me. It was always easier for you to help others. To show them and guide them along the way. I had to do it all on my own – to live up to the great Wyndam-Pryce legacy. To be worthy of being called your son. Yet, when I did manage to accomplish one of your more onerous tasks, you simply shook your head, as if I’d finally learned how to keep my nose clean.”
“Don’t you dare speak like that, boy. Not to me!”
“You can’t intimidate me any longer, Father. You held very little sway over the last years of my life. You hold no dominion over me now that I’m dead.”
“Then what the bloody hell are you doing here except to bedevil me?”
The man had turned an unhealthy shade of red, and Nathaniel began to worry for his heart.
“I’ve come to ask that you return the boy to his parents post-haste.”
“Ah, yes. Nathaniel.” Wesley-William rounded on the younger Watcher. “Perhaps you’ll listen to reason. You always were rather bright… at least according to Father. Young William is a special case. Unique amongst vampires in that he sought out his human soul and fought to repossess it. Alone in the fact, that unsouled, his demon fought alongside the Council’s Slayer…”
“One that you failed to control.” Roger Wyndam-Pryce spat. “You became the Council’s biggest source of embarrassment.”
“Gentlemen, if you please? Time is of the essence. You need to remember this demon also fought against demons despite the bull’s-eye it painted on his back. Without a soul to urge him onwards. Rather remarkable, I’d say. Wouldn’t you, Father?”
The man’s silence was deafening.
“Under dire circumstances, this newly-ensouled demon sacrificed his existence for both the Slayer he’d come to admire and the rest of humanity. The very Powers That Be held him to be special enough to redeem both demon and man. They are both as innocent as any human on the day of their birth. Not just the man, Nathaniel,” Wesley-William pressed. “But the demon as well. This is most significant.”
“The demon was cleansed of all its sins, of all its wrongdoings. It knows no evil beyond what the two of you have introduced it to. It’s a baby, Father. What you’re doing is teaching it to distrust mankind all over again. You’re making the very situation you want to avoid – enmity between demons and humans.”
“It’s a monster,” the man insisted, turning his back on William.
“And yet, I have thought that of you, as well.” Wesley’s expressions were shaped by the child’s face, but were easily recognizable by those who knew him. “I never thought to survive my childhood.”
“Liar!” he roared, losing control of his emotions for the first time. “Even dead you mock me and belittle my work. Your mother would have smothered you in pap and allowed you to be weaker than you already were. You were strong because of me, boy. You survived because of what I taught you.”
“But you see, I haven’t survived. I’m dead because of what you failed to teach me.”
“I obviously failed to teach you not to work for demons.”
“No, Father. You failed to teach me how to trust myself. You failed to teach me that family has a heart of its own,” Wesley-William sighed. “That boy has a destiny and you’re keeping him away from it.”
“Roger!” Nathaniel’s consternation echoed that of the spirit.
“I came here to beseech you on behalf of the greater good, not to argue the failures of my upbringing.” Wesley’s voice rose as William’s body began to tremble. “My time is growing short here and I need to relay a warning. A final warning. Release the boy. Let him go home and find his way amongst those who love him.”
“Or what? You’ll haunt me?”
“The vampire who fought for his soul was made human for a reason. His soul had been given a choice – to pass on his final destination; to rest in heaven. To find the peace and love he’d craved in life and unlife or come back here… to be reborn.”
What the bloody hell is he going on about? Powers? Nate knew he would have to get back to this – try to contact either the demon or Wesley again, privately, for a metaphysical discussion, if he had the time.
“He had been informed that upon his return he would find the love of family, yet suffer pain and heartache. In compensation, however… those he loved would find a longer, richer life on earth. Again, he made the selfless choice. Again, he put the wellbeing of others above his own. You are a part of that pain and suffering, Father, and it must stop. Now.”
This time it was Roger pointing the accusatory finger. “You… you lie! The real… my son… Wesley would not speak such twaddle. Powers that Be. Choices as to heaven or being reborn. Ludicrous nonsense – a demon’s ravings.”
“I’ve never been more myself, Father. To you, I was a ghost long before I died.” With a sad shake of his head, Wesley-William’s voice faded away, and the boy’s own eye color reasserted itself. He sat down on the chair he’d started out in, body wracked with uncontrollable tremors.
As at the beginning, William jerked backwards once more, his body convulsing.
“Roger, you must administer the antidote, immediately. The lad’s been under too long.” Nathaniel feared that the child had been pushed past his physical limits.
The box containing a second syringe dropped from the old man’s nerveless fingers. He turned and left the room, showing no regard for the flailing boy – the subject of his hatred and disdain.
Nathaniel quickly retrieved the syringe and emptied its contents into William’s arm. Within seconds, the tremors had ceased and the boy collapsed into his arms.
William awoke with a jerk, feeling oddly displaced to find himself wearing different clothing and in his own bed instead of Thing One’s office. Thing Two was sitting in a chair next to the bed, staring at him.
What did I do now?