Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
SECTION 2 - ANOTHER SUITCASE IN ANOTHER HALL
So what happens now?
(Another suitcase in another hall)
So what happens now?
(Take your picture off another wall)
Where am I going to?
(You'll get by, you always have before)
Where am I going to?
(Don't ask anymore)
(Barbara Dickson, Lyrics and Music by T Rice and A Lloyd Webber
[I know. I know. I'm eternally sorry but the lyrics kind of fit.])
Friday, May 17th, 2002
"Hey, lazybones. Time you were up." Buffy tried to gently chivvy the vamp into wakefulness.
"Wha'? Whatimesit?" Spike stalled pulling Buffy closer.
"Em, well, it's five thirty two."
Spike pulled the covers back over his head. "In the a.m.?" he asked.
"Well, yes, but I need you and your amazing vamp climbing abilities."
"At this time in the morning, unless I haven't actually been to bed yet, I can tell you there's only one thing I'm interested in climbing."
"Well, Mount Buffy is about to get up and start dealing with this room so that we have a hope of getting everything packed by the time Dawn said it would be ready."
"And where are my climbing abilities supposed to fit into the picture? You want me to hang a trapeze above the bed, now that we've got the room to ourselves?"
"No. Does your brain ever get out of the bedroom?"
"Not when you're in it."
"The bedroom or your brain?"
"Either," the vampire responded with a wicked grin.
"And why a trapeze? I never really got that."
"Then I guess we'll have to find different accommodation next time it's just the two of us in LA so that you can see for yourself."
"You know hotels with trapezes in the bedrooms?"
"Well. I never said it was a hotel as such. More like a brothel, but we can rent the room without the room service."
"You!" Buffy's gasp of outrage was swiftly silenced as Spike wound his fingers through her hair and pulled her close for a kiss, but as soon as she was able to regain her breath her protests continued.
"I can't believe you think I would go to a brothel with you. That is so humiliating."
"And that is so narrow-minded. Guess I better cancel the booking for the first night of our honeymoon, then."
"Did your brain get fried with all this going out in the sun or something? Why would you ever think that I would go to a brothel with you?"
"Looks like it did." Spike rolled to the edge of the bed and stood up, going in search of the jeans he had abandoned last night. As soon as he spotted them he pulled them on, the rip of his zipper being pulled up sounding a death knell for the discussion.
"So? What was this climbing that you wanted doing?" Spike asked his tone harsh.
"When we moved in, we flattened all the cardboard boxes and stored them up in the crawlspace."
The vampire grunted and had left the room before she could respond. Needless to say when Buffy moved to follow him, pulling the top sheet from the bed to wrap around herself, she was almost run over by the puppy in Rogue's effort to beat her out of the door.
When she made it to the landing, the hatch to the crawlspace was already open and cardboard boxes were raining down through the hole. However, only a fraction of the boxes she had expected appeared before the vamp swung down and tipped the hatch cover back into place as he dropped silently to the floor again.
"Is that it?" she asked indicating the sparse half dozen boxes.
"I'm goin' to go with yes, seein' as how the rest of the boxes up there were all between the leak in the roof and the damp patch on your ceiling, but if my word's not good enough then feel free to climb up there for yourself."
"Spike? Please." Still clutching the sheet with one hand, she reached out with her other to try to smooth away a patch of dust that decorated one of the vampire's sharply defined cheekbones.
"Please, what? What would madame like now? Let me guess it must be my job to clean up the dog crap in the bathroom, after all it was my dinner it ate so it must be my job. Or did I miss doing the breakfast in bed? Can't be that you've got an itch needs scratchin' 'cause I'm sure I offered just before you got all 'Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' on me."
"Well, pardon me if I don't want to spend the first night of our married lives in a brothel."
"Don't worry about it. I'm sure we can get a nice room at a nice suburban Holiday Inn instead. I'll give the contract to Anya. I'm sure she'll appreciate the thought even if you're too damned uptight."
"Well maybe in that case you should have beat Xander to it and married her instead of me."
"Well, you know, there's times I think I'd be better off."
The words sank into a well of silence and when Buffy finally spoke her voice was tremulous and unsure. "Really?"
Spike's voice softened in return. "On a very rare occasion when I've fried my brain from too much sun, but soon as I see you smile the idea goes straight out of my head."
"So you don't really wish you'd married Anya?"
"Pet, if you don't know by now that I love you in a way I have never loved anyone else in my entire existence then I've obviously been inadvertently speaking Swahili for the last two years."
Dawn's head appeared at the doorway to her room. "You know, arguing at this time of the morning in public is way antisocial, but can you at least do the making up in private?"
"Not really," Buffy answered, "seeing as how you're going to be in the bathroom cleaning up the mess your dog left last night."
"Hey, I'm not up. I'm supposed to be resting. I was just wanting you two to be quiet so I could go back to sleep."
"Think again. For one thing, if Spike ends up being the one to clear that up then I would suspect that dog might well be making a return visit to the pound. And for another, you're the one that said we would pack Willow's stuff so don't think you're going to sit in bed and paint your nails while we do all the work."
"I was thinking more of lying in bed and sleeping." Dawn's protests died at the expression on her sister's face. "But I guess I'll just get dressed and clean up the bathroom."
"Good call, Bit."
Buffy waited until Dawn had gone and then led the vampire down to the kitchen, taking him through the dining room to try to avoid disturbing Wesley. She got him to sit down while she put the coffeemaker on and set a mug of blood to microwave. Then, while they waited, she came to stand between his knees, her arms wrapping around his neck, so that they were eye to eye.
"Now, were you serious about having booked us in at a brothel for our honeymoon?"
"Just the one night," Spike grudgingly admitted.
Spike shrugged. "Look, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Just forget it. We'll do something else. It doesn't matter."
"But it obviously does, otherwise you wouldn't have got all uptight about it."
"I wasn't the uptight one. Just forget it, pet. I'll give it to Anya like I said. Her an' .him'll have a hell of a time."
"Look, I'm sorry. Another time maybe. just not... not then." Buffy's eyes implored him to understand, to lose the kicked puppy air that seemed to hang over him. "Our wedding night should just be about you and me and how we feel about each other. Not sexcapades hanging from a trapeze."
"Which bit of "forget it" didn't you understand, Buffy? Just drop it. I get the message. I fucked up. Why don't you just arrange whatever you want? Just so long as it doesn't involve me turning into a big pile of dust, I don't really care. I'm obviously just too incompetent to be left to organise anything on my own."
The vampire pushed his stool back away from her and grabbed a roll of trash bags from under the sink before heading back upstairs. Buffy was grateful, despite the early hour, when the phone rang giving her something other than the circling mug of blood in the microwave and holding her sheet up for her to concentrate on.
"Hi, Summers residence."
"Buffy, it's Anya."
"Talk of the devil," Buffy muttered under her breath but the former demon seemed oblivious.
"I wasn't sure if you would be up or not, but I thought if you were, since Xander said you were moving Willow out that you might need help. Moving's a friends thing, right? Oh and I found out some news last night that you might be interested in."
Then Buffy heard Xander's voice in the background, a much beset moan of, "Ahn?"
"Oh, and Xander wants to know where Spike took Willow last night. She's not answering her cell and he wants to make some futile effort to stop her before she tries to reverse Evie's curse, but I told him he was bound to be too late already, but he's all guilty because he didn't think to tell her about how the curse worked when she rang last night. So now he's trying to take it out on everyone else."
"And just out of curiosity, how does the curse work?"
"Well, it's really clever. But are you sure you don't want me to save this for when I come to help? That way I can tell you all at once."
"Sure, that sounds good."
"Should I bring doughnuts, too?"
"Doughnuts would be the best thing about this morning so far," the slayer sighed.
"I'll get Xander to drop me off on his way to work, then."
Xander's voice sounded in the background again. "Ahn? Willow?"
"Look, Anya, how about I track down Spike and get him to call you back?"
"I thought he was staying with you until Wesley either went back to LA or found a place of his own."
"He is. He's just-. Wait a minute." Buffy turned her attention to her sister, who had just walked through the living room into the kitchen. "Dawn, go see if you can find Spike and find out where he dropped Willow last night."
The teenager rolled her eyes and passed Buffy a newspaper wrapped bundle. "Hold this till I get back."
Buffy tried to work out how to hold the sheet, the phone and the bundle of dubious provenance that she had been given by her sister. The longer she held the parcel the more sure she became of what was in it, and the more sure she was that she didn't want to be holding it at all. Maybe this whole puppy deal had been a bad call.
Dawn came trundling back downstairs with a slight limp that reminded Buffy that maybe she shouldn't be running messages after all.
"Have you opened up that scab on your leg again?"
Dawn shrugged. "It's just a little bit. Spike'll clean it up for me after breakfast. And he says she's at the shitty motel by the off-ramp."
"The Sunnydale Motor Lodge."
"Well unless there are suddenly two shitty motels by the off-ramp, I suspect that would be the one."
"Is this what I think it is?" she asked as passed the bundle back to the teenager.
"Well, you're the one who told me to clean it up."
"Outside bin, now."
"Where did you think I was going when you interrupted me? And what the heck have you done to him this morning? If he wasn't a vampire and a guy I would swear he had PMS."
Buffy waved her sister toward the back door. "Anya, hi, you can tell Xander she's at the Sunnydale Motor Lodge."
"Okay, I'll see you in about half an hour."
"Sure... and Anya?"
"In case I forget to say it later... Thanks."
A bleary-eyed Wes, stumbled into the kitchen at this point, dressed in a more rumpled version of yesterday's clothes. "I guess it's officially morning, then?"
"See? Like I said it's really clever. It means if she goes really bad, then, she'll probably kill herself before she can kill too many other people. And... if she actually studies all the proper books and learns all the stuff about the nature of magic and how to use it properly and she isn't too conceited to pay attention to it, then she'll be back to looking her own age within a couple of years of study. Well, near as she can, with the blood on her hands."
Anya, along with all the current occupants of the house were gathered in the living room, having coffee and doughnuts before the serious business of moving Willow's stuff could begin. Wes had retreated to Spike's apartment, in search of a shower, some clean clothes, and Buffy suspected another hour or two of sleep. Noticeably, the engaged couple were separated by most of the length of the sofa, one dog and one teenager. Spike had already filled several trash bags with clothes and bedding and deposited then on the front porch, but that was as far as anyone had got by the time the former vengeance demon arrived.
"B-but didn't we stop her? I thought we got there before she could..." Tara began to argue and then realised that everyone else in the room seemed to know something she didn't.
"Well," Anya continued. "According to what Evie saw in her head, you know that Madre de Dios or Sangre de Madre or whatever that she told us she bought on the black market? Guess what? It just slipped her mind that she went out that morning and murdered Bambi's mom."
Tara looked even more crestfallen than the others.
"You all knew. Didn't you?"
Buffy sighed. "Spike and Giles suspected. The rest of us found out last night."
"I don't get it," Dawn announced. "You knew that she would have killed Rogue, but you're acting like this is a bigger deal again."
"Because to a Wiccan it should be. The deer is a symbol of innocence and purity. It's probably about the worst sort of sacrifice she could have made, short of human."
"So, like I said," Anya continued. "In theory, she should be able to reverse the ageing, but in practice the only way to overcome the blood on her hands would be some sort of massive sacrifice on her part."
"So, your friend Evie is basically forcing her to be good?" Tara asked.
"Well, you could say that, but it's not so much about forcing her to be good or evil as forcing her to examine her own actions in comparison to a code she claims to adhere to.
I mean Evie has no qualms about the men I've tortured and killed. She wouldn't think twice about the stuff that Spike's done, either. I mean it's not her personal style and Willow should be grateful for that, but she's not the type to condemn anyone for a bit of slaughter. I think it was the hubris of the whole thing that tee-ed her off, especially coming from someone whose supposed religion is all about the opposite."
"The who-what?" Dawn asked.
"Hubris. Prideful insolence," Anya explained.
"And you say the more she tries to reverse it, the worse it'll get?" Dawn asked.
"Well, of course, because that would be a selfish use of magic. And to judge from what I heard of her conversation with Xander I was right about him being a bit too late with the warning."
"Dawn!" her sister reprimanded the teen.
"I don't see what's wrong with speaking my mind. Seems to me that Willow had it coming. It also seems like you promised days ago to tell me how this was all her fault and you never have."
It was Tara who answered the teen. "After the meeting at Lily's, Willow sent Sam an email. I think she thought she could warn them off."
"But it had the opposite effect." The teenager finished for her. "That's what she meant about me being an object lesson. I got to pay the price for Willow's arrogance."
"That's the way it looks from here, love." Spike spoke for the first time since Anya had arrived.
"God... I wish I hadn't kicked her ass out already, so that I could do it again."
Spike bent over from his position on the arm of the sofa to kiss the teenager on the top of her head and drape an arm around her shoulders. Buffy looked on and was ashamed to find that she was jealous of her own sister as the vampire gently stroked her hair.
"Oh, and I've got some other news," Anya babbled. "Evie could remember the last slayer and vampire who were mated."
"So what happened to them?" Buffy asked
"That's just it. Nobody knows. Just one day, next slayer appears and no one ever saw either of them again, dead or undead. Evie said there were all sorts of theories. She thinks the Council killed them both, but that's really just one possibility. This was all about a couple of hundred years before my time, though, so it's not as if I can make any sort of first-hand assessment."
"That settles it then, pet. Once this woman from Social Services has been, you get to keep the marbles."
"Don't be silly. They're far more useful to you, with the daylight thing."
"Reckon I'll just have to be silly, along with all my many other faults, 'cause being able to go out in daylight won't mean a damn to me with you dead."
"Em, guys. Weren't you meant to be not discussing the daylight thing in the house?" Tara reminded them.
"Balls! Well, I guess if that wanker Finn's still listening, he can go shag a sheep or whatever it is that they grow in Iowa."
"Look, remind me when I get back from LA," the Wicca told them. "I think I can disable any bugs or cameras they have in the house. I wasn't sure how to do it without taking out the phones and stuff as well but I think I have a lead on how to adjust the spell. I just need to do some more research before I try it."
"Thanks, pet," Spike smiled over at the Wicca and it began to seem to Buffy that everyone in the room was basking in the warmth that was non-sarky Spike except her.
"No biggie. I mean I'll be living here, too, so it's in my own best interest."
The rest of the "meeting" passed in a blur for Buffy as she got to watch the vampire seemingly manage a half-hearted smile for everyone except her. Then, when Anya volunteered to do the washing up, she saw how he slipped from the room when he thought no one was looking. And to judge from the smile on the former demon's face when she opened the envelope that he gave her and read what was inside, the vampire might have given her The Hope Diamond rather than a night for two in a whorehouse.
Buffy even began to wonder if he was right. Maybe it was her who was being uptight, or maybe it was some shard of self-respect that you lost along the way if you were ever demonised. Doubtless Xander would have something to say on the subject, but then she wasn't sure if it would help her case or destroy it.
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