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
"Here, pet," Spike told Anya as he passed the former demon a towel.
"I'm not finished yet, Spike." She indicated the coffee cups that remained in the sink.
"Please, for chrissake, at some point today, will one of you women just for once do something when I ask without makin' a bloody great palaver about it?"
Anya snatched the towel, and dried off her hands. "There's no need to snap at me just because you and Buffy have had a fight."
"I'm sorry, pet. It's just been one of those days and it's not half past seven, yet."
"So, what's so important that you had to interrupt my washing up? It really won't look good if there are dirty dishes lying around when Dawn's caseworker gets here."
"I'll give you a hand with them in a minute. I just wanted to talk to you before them three fill all the boxes we've got and head back down here."
"Well, it's like this, we've got this wedding gift, and it's kind of a couple thing, for the night of the wedding, but Buffy has different ideas about what we should be doing, so basically, since it's non-refundable, and you an' Harris seem to be the only other bona fide couple we know. I wondered if you two might want it instead."
"What are we talking about?"
Spike pulled a thick cream coloured envelope from the back pocket of his jeans.
Anya turned it over in her hands admiring the quality of the writing paper and noting the lack of name or address on the front before she slid a nail under the edge of the flap.
"Can I?" She hesitated to rip into the pristine packaging.
"Go right ahead, love. No one else is going to be opening it."
"So how do you know what's in it if you haven't already opened it?"
Anya couldn't contain her curiosity any longer and ripped into the envelope. The contract she found inside was several pages thick, but the front page told her all she needed to know. The remaining pages were just a series of schedules, translating the plain English of the front page into the sort of legalese that eliminated any loopholes. Her eyes lit up and a massive smile appeared on her face.
"Are you sure you don't want this?" Anya asked.
"I'm sure Buffy doesn't an' I'm damned if I'm goin' to spend our wedding night without her."
"Look, she's made her opinion abundantly clear. Now, do you and your considerably less appealing other half have a use for it, or should I just use it for kindling the next time we want a fire in the dining room?"
"Well, if it's going to waste. I mean, if you're sure, but it just seems like this..." She peered at the almost indistinguishable signature at the bottom of the contract. "This L. Hood seems to have gone to an awful lot of trouble over everything. Take the champagne they've ordered for you. I know you're a beer and bourbon guy, but that is the good stuff and a very good year. You wouldn't get much change out of three hundred dollars a bottle. And all the other little extras."
"I know what it says, pet. That's why I don't want it to go to waste."
"Don't you think, maybe you should give it back to this L. Hood, then?"
"Look, he won't be going anywhere near the place. You can take it from me. Please, will you just take the damn thing? I never want to see it or hear about it again. Okay?"
"You're really sure?"
The vampire pulled his lighter from his pocket and flipped it open, turning the wheel against the flint to produce a blue-yellow flame.
"Either you take it, or I set fire to it. You choose."
Anya pulled the pages in towards her body in a defensive gesture. "Alright, then, Mr Grumpy Pants, consider it taken."
Spike flicked his lighter closed and returned it to his pocket. "Right then, just stick it in your bag or your coat or somewhere and just don't mention it again. I'll get the rest of these, if you want to go see how they're doing upstairs."
"You know it won't get any better if you avoid her."
"Yeah, well, at least there's less chance of makin' it worse."
"Tara?" Dawn stopped packing the contents of the bookcase into one of the few strong boxes that they had. "Why would Willow have books down the back of the bookcase so that you would have to take all the other books off the shelf to get at them?" Flicking through the pages of the book the teenager gave a sigh of comprehension before continuing.
"It's okay, it's just early porn. Bondage and stuff, and big groups."
Buffy reached over her sister's shoulder, having re-entered the room silently, and pulled the book from her hands. "Since when did bondage include pulling someone's heart out of their body?"
"Is that what that is? Isn't that too low?"
"No, see you go in under the ribcage and then reach up. It's way easier than carrying round rib spreaders all the time. And you probably didn't need or want to know that."
Buffy passed the book to Tara. "So, is this just gross or is it dangerous?"
Tara began to flip from page to page, skimming the text and occasionally pausing to look at some of the illustrations before she laid it on the floor.
"Well, there's only one good reason I can think of for keeping a book like this, and that's the argument about knowing your enemy. What that doesn't explain is why she'd hide it. But it kind of figures. If she had the book with the summoning in, then she was going to have others." The Wiccan looked disappointed but resigned.
"So what do we do with it? Just pretend we didn't see it? Pack it away with all the others? Or do we burn it or something or give it to Giles or Wesley?"
"I'd give it to Giles," Anya offered from the doorway as she arrived from downstairs. "He did pay for it, after all... And probably most of her thaumaturgical collection."
"You mean you sold it to her and then billed Giles? How long has that been going on?" Buffy asked amazed.
"Oh, since he went away that time and she conjured up Olaf, trying to make that ball of sunshine of hers."
"So you're telling me Willow hasn't paid for anything from The Magic Box-."
"Since Giles bought it, basically."
"But when we cleared everything out there were hundreds of dollars worth of magic books alone."
"A couple of thousand, actually. Magic books don't run cheap. It's kind of a specialised market."
"But isn't that sort of like she's been stealing from him for years?"
"Well, that's what I said, but I detailed everything for Giles in his profit share statements and he's never queried anything. I assume he must be claiming it back from the Council, but I don't know for certain. It could just be that the only numbers he understands are the ones in the Dewey Decimal system."
"Wait a minute!" Dawn interrupted. "You're telling me that I had to work to pay off all that junk I stole, and Willow's been ripping you off ten times worse for years, and you've known about it."
"Well at first, when Giles got back from England, he said it was okay. Anything she wanted that was to help Buffy could come out of his share of the profits as goods for own use. Then, once that was established, everything she wanted turned out to be to help Buffy and the price tags just got gradually bigger and bigger, but that quartz was excessive even for her. If I had known where he was staying I would have called Giles to ask him about that one, but he hadn't booked anywhere when he was at the shop."
"That is so unfair," Dawn protested.
"Yes," Buffy stopped her before she could say too much. "But Willow at least technically had permission to take things, whereas you didn't. Anya would have been within her rights to have you prosecuted, so you were lucky."
"Guys?" Tara interrupted. "I think the point is what we should do with these books."
"Well, I could go through them and the rest of her magic stuff and put to one side the things that Giles paid for and then he can decide what to do with them. I know personally that I will feel much safer when these things are restored to more responsible hands."
Buffy looked vaguely uncomfortable, but she didn't see what other options she had. "Do it. We'll bring the other boxes across from Spike's apartment later and you can check through them."
"Does that mean we can have Kokopelli back, too?" Dawn asked, receiving a nod from her sister in reply.
Anya began to sift through the box that Dawn had just packed, removing several items that had escaped the earlier magical clear out. She was still in the middle of doing this when Tara had to make her excuses. "Look, I'm going to have to go and get ready for class."
"Sure. You're meeting Wes back here?" Buffy asked.
"That's the plan."
"Well, I guess we'll see you later. Do you have to go as well, Anya?"
"Oh no. I told Giles yesterday that I was taking a day off. This will be the first time in months, well, except for the two weddings, that I haven't had to work a six-day week. Of course, I was thinking more along the lines of a manicure and a facial, but they can wait."
Tara hovered in the doorway before she left. "Willow used to keep all her magic stuff in the top couple of drawers of the dresser. You might want to check there, but then most of it should have been cleared out."
Buffy gave her a reassuring smile. "We'll have it all sorted before you get back."
"Anything to take downstairs, yet?" Spike asked when he could no longer find anything downstairs to legitimately occupy his time. The kitchen and living room were spotless, ready for this afternoon's visit. He'd taken the dog out for a walk. Though he knew that at some point soon a trip to the mall was called for to pick up some puppy essentials, food in particular, he couldn't stall any longer.
"There's a couple of boxes, but you'll have to hold them underneath when you pick them up in case they give way." Buffy's voice was tentative, unsure of what sort of response she was going to get but the vampire kept his response neutral.
"Right. Guess I best take them one at a time, then."
He stooped to pick up the first of the boxes and found himself looking into Buffy's eyes as he straightened up again. "I'll get the other one," the slayer said as she picked it up.
Spike raised his eyes heavenward at the prospect of the argument being renewed, but didn't make any further comment as he headed downstairs, Buffy following on behind. With the boxes deposited on the porch, Buffy reached out a hand to the vampire, to prevent him going back in.
Her grip faltered as she became aware of the enormous well of pain that the vampire seemed to be carrying round with him, mixed with a streak of anger she was sure was aimed at her. Her hesitation only lasted a fraction of a second.
"Tell me what's wrong... please."
Spike's mouth opened and then closed just as decisively before he finally spoke. "It'll just wind up in another fight. Leave it, pet."
"I can't leave it. I can feel what it's doing to you. And you should be able to tell that not being right with you makes me miserable."
"How the hell am I meant to feel?"
"I just don't get what I'm supposed to have done. I'm the one who should be going round feeling sorry for myself, not you."
"I am not feeling sorry for myself. Hurt? Yeah. Betrayed? A bit. Mad? More than a bit, but nothing that isn't natural when you find out you're engaged to somebody who thinks you're some totally insensitive, incompetent, idiotic bastard and you're too much love's bitch to even call her on it, because you know that'll just start a whole new fight."
"I've never said that I thought you were insensitive... or any of the rest."
"No, you just explained to me what our wedding night should be like as if you were talking to a retarded three-year-old. Aside from one word, that you seem to have an unreasonable fixation on, have I ever given you any reason at all to think that I wanted our wedding day to be anything other than the most perfect day of your god damned life up until that point?"
"Then, why the hell would you assume that I would turn our wedding night into some bloody perverted circus act?"
"Because you seem to have a taste for perverted circus acts." Buffy answered sounding considerably less sure of herself than she had previously. "You're the one that mentioned a trapeze."
"Not for the wedding night, I didn't, and for your information the whole swing thing doesn't make that much difference for blokes. It's the women who get the bloody benefit so I really couldn't give a toss if you never find out."
"Now, I know that's not true. You get off more on getting me off than you do on getting off yourself."
"Well, right now, this minute, it feels true." Even as he finished speaking Buffy could feel the last of his anger dissipate as if it had never been.
"I'm sorry." Buffy leant in to place a gentle kiss on his lips.
"I'm sorry, too. I guess it was a stupid idea."
"Tell me about it." Buffy asked him, pulling him down to sit the low wall that edged the porch.
"Not much point. Already gave it to demon bint."
Buffy's hand reached up to stroke his face. "Tell me, anyway"
"What do you want to know?"
"Well, how about you start with where we leave the reception and just tell me how you thought things might go."
"That would kind of depend on you, love."
"You start things off. I'll fill you in on what I think as we go along."
"Well, were you planning on having a separate going away outfit or are you still wearing your wedding dress?"
"Wedding dress. Definitely."
"Well in that case I would have to carry you out to the car, so that you didn't get your pretty dress dirty. An' then I guess the next bit depends on what you want to be doing for the rest of the honeymoon. I guess if you want to fly somewhere we'd get a limo, but if we're going to do the sort of touring thing and take the car, then I suppose I'd be driving."
"Don't know yet. Assume you're driving, but I'll be lying against you with your arm around me, like when we went to the beach." She matched her movements to her words so that she had to tilt her head back to see his face.
"Okay, so I'll ask you whether you want to take the coast road or the freeway."
Buffy seemed to consider for a while. "Coast road. We're in no hurry. We've got our whole lives together."
"So, two or three hours later we arrive in LA. Are you going to be all sleepy?"
"Well, I would be normally, but this whole day's just been unreal and I'm still buzzing."
"Okay, so we pull up in front of this building, and I haven't actually been there so I'm kind of fuzzy on the description, but it's sort of old, twenties, Art Deco, but well kept up. Maybe a bit like Angel's place could be if they hadn't kept the same wallpaper and carpets for fifty years. Now, we have to ring a bell to get in. There's a sign on the front door. It says they're closed for a private party, but we ignore it.
So, someone opens the door. It's the owner. She's kind of attractive for an older woman and pretty glamorous, but I couldn't care less because I've got all the woman I want right beside me. There's a guy there as well, and as soon as he takes our bags, I pick you up in my arms and I carry you upstairs when the owner shows us to our room. I don't put you down until she opens up the room for us and I've carried you across the threshold.
There's a big old-fashioned bed and it's got rose petals all over it. Not red ones, but white because that's for purity, and for all I'm not, the way I feel about you is. There are a couple of bouquets of white roses in the room, too.
There's an ice bucket beside the bed with two bottles of champagne waiting for us and a couple of crystal champagne flutes.
There's some food laid out on the dresser, strawberries and some other fruit, stuff that won't go off, if you just fancy a snack. You can have almost anything you fancy though, because the kitchens are fully staffed, all just waiting for you to call and tell them what you want, just in case maybe you were too nervous to eat properly through the day. And that's all good. At least I'm hoping you think it's good."
"It sounds like heaven."
"But that's not what makes it special, because all that you could get in a good hotel. What makes it really special is the fact that the room's enchanted. Whether it's a matter of perception or whether it really does, time seems to flow more slowly when you're in this room. Every smile, every glance, every kiss, every sip of the very fine champagne, it all seems to last so much longer. It's the only place like it on the Western Seaboard and for that one night, it's ours to share... or it would have been." The vampire's voice was wistful and Buffy could see the tension in his jaw as he gazed off into the distance, with his mind clearly on what might have been.
Tears had welled up in Buffy's eyes as she listened to this vampire that so many would say could know nothing about love.
"I'm so sorry," she told him.
"Doesn't matter. Like I said, most of it you can get at any decent hotel. If you're lucky you can even get a sea-view as well."
"I don't want a sea-view. I want the perfect night that my perfect husband-to-be planned for us." She reached under the heavy sweater that she wore to protect against the early morning chill and pulled a familiar envelope from where it was tucked in the waistband of her jeans. "I want this. Exactly how you planned it."
"So you'd already read it then? That's why you came to make up?"
"No, I admit I got a hint as to just how extravagant it was when Anya borrowed a calculator and went into the bathroom and came out shaking, and started trying to give it back to me. I don't know what the figure she came to was, but enough to send her into shock at the idea of that you might really burn it."
"Guess I should have known if anyone was going to know how much those compensation payments came to, it'd be Anya. What with her former calling, I guess she'd be familiar with those places."
"Loss of earnings for the girls, disruption to trade for the house, after all it's not good for business to turn people away and I'm informed Saturday nights are generally busy."
"Oh! ...Anyway, I didn't look. I wanted to hear it from you. So, will you take me?"
"Anywhere you want to go, love. Anywhere you want to go."
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