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
“Bollocks!” The vampire balanced on one leg in the middle of the still mostly empty parking lot, bringing his other knee up so that he could rest the dog basket that was filled with dried kibble and canned dog food on his thigh. This freed one hand to try to pry his phone out of his now rather awkward to reach front jeans pocket. Just as he managed to locate the object of his search, the technological wonder stopped ringing.
“Serves you right for wearing pants that are so tight,” Buffy told him. “Who was it?”
Spike checked the missed calls option and shook his head. “New one on me. Leastways, it’s not in the directory. Prob’ly some telemarketing git. An’ you’ve never complained ‘bout the pants before.”
Buffy leaned back slightly to catch an appreciative glimpse of vampire butt. “Not complaining now, either,” she teased. Just then, Buffy’s phone began to ring. “Or not a telemarketer,” she added. Somehow her struggle to cope with the carriers filled with the remaining purchases and Rogue herself, on her new choke chain was far less amusing than Spike’s one-legged balancing act. Spike had refused to take the dog while he was using the orbs. He said that the original chain they had used was so short, Rogue couldn’t really pull too far or loosen the chain around her neck very much. With the longer chain he was aware that too sharp a jerk, especially with more than vampire strength, might actually injure the dog, which rather neatly left Buffy to keep her under control. Again, by the time Buffy managed to retrieve her cell, the caller had rung off.
“It’s Clem. He’s using one of the cells we got in LA. That’s why you didn’t recognise the number. We still need to program all the new ones into your phone.”
“Let’s get this stuff back to the car before we ring him back. He’s probably just checkin’ numbers for tomorrow night. Lily’ll be goin’ into overdrive in preparation.”
The pair had just settled into the front seats of the DeSoto and Spike actually had his phone in his hand when it rang again.
“Clem, mate. Good job we weren’t doin’ anything that needed peace and quiet. What’s up?” The vampire’s face took on a more serious expression. “Human?” he asked.
After another couple of seconds, Spike took the phone from his ear and turned to Buffy. “Anya reckoned Red an’ Harris wouldn’t be comin’ till after half twelve, right?”
“That’s what she said,” Buffy sounded slightly puzzled.
Spike shifted the cell back into position. “Yeah, Clem? We’re comin’ over there now. Talk to Dave ourselves. Thanks for the heads up.”
“Dave?” Buffy asked as Spike started up the car and swung it from the lot with a screech of tyres, sending Rogue sliding along the back seat.
“Manager at that bar I took you to. The one where you met Clem. Turns out Wrinkly decided to keep out the way of the women by spending the next couple of days over there, which is lucky for us, because now we know that there’s some new wanker in town who seems to think we’re his business.”
“We? As in the two of us? Or as in the Scoobies?”
“As in the two of us.”
“So, what did Dave tell him? Who is he?”
“Human or at least he looks and smells that way. Not of the normal ethnic persuasion for Sunnyhell. Other than that, I guess we’ll find out when we get there and talk to Dave.”
“So what’s this guy look like?”
Dave shrugged as he poured a brace of tequila to go with Clem’s beer. Putting the bottle down he raised his right hand to indicate a height a few inches taller than Spike and then held both hands apart at shoulder height to give an idea of build.
“Black,” Spike kicked Buffy as gently as he could on the shin, as soon as he saw her mouth begin to open. Dave continued, oblivious to the hour-long lecture on political correctness he had just escaped. “Bald, late twentiesss, early thirtiesss, earring, attitude.” The bartender’s forked tongue gave him a slight lisp, but it wasn’t like anyone was going to call him on it. The demon seemed to consider. “You want a drink for the dog?”
“Not if you’re talking about a swap,” the vampire replied, “but I don’t suppose a half pint of beer’ll do it any harm.”
“What? The guy’s got to make a livin’. The dog’s takin’ up space in his pub. It’s not unreasonable to expect it to drink.” Spike tossed a generous bundle of notes on the bar. “Get yourself one as well. So when was this?”
The barman paused again. “Tuesssday.”
“An’ when he was askin’ ‘bout us. What exactly did he say?”
The barman looked uncomfortable and developed an undue concentration on Rogue’s beer which he was in the process of pouring as he spoke. “Sssaid he was lookin’ for the Ssslayer and her pet vampire.”
A muscle ticked in Spike’s jaw. It wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before, or wouldn’t hear again.
“So what did you tell him?”
“Asked him if thisss looked like a place the Ssslayer would hang out.”
“And what did our friend have to say to that?”
This time the barman gave a hurried glance at Buffy before jerking his head to indicate he wanted to speak to the vampire on his own.
When Spike finally made it back to where Buffy and Clem were waiting, he paused just long enough to knock back one of the two tequila shots and pass the other to Buffy. “Drink up, pet. We’ve got another bar to go to.”
“So, what did he say?”
“You don’t want to know, pet.”
“Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t.”
“Okay, you want to know, but I’m damned if I’m going to tell you. Joyce would’ve been lookin’ out her axe if she heard me use language like that in front of you. Let’s just say that when I catch up with the guy he’s going to have a messy meeting with my fists.”
“And that’s as much as you’re going to tell me.”
“Except for the fact that we’re going to go look for that wanker that got chucked out the poker game that night you were here.”
“Okay, I’ll go for the diversion," Buffy conceded. "Why?”
“Because after Dave fobbed the guy off as best he could, certain others were seen having a lengthy discussion with him.”
“And you think we’re going to find him where?”
“Well, if he isn’t here, that leaves Willy’s and a couple of other less salubrious establishments where I wouldn’t take a lady to check out,” Spike replied without taking his eyes off the road.
“Isn’t it kind of early to assume that he’s started drinking for the day?”
“If he was just likely to be drinking, then, yeah. What you’re failing to take into account is that a dealer goes where his market is.”
“And what does he deal in?” Buffy inquired.
“Anything and everything he can get his hands on and in this case I suspect it was information.”
“You didn’t mention this before.”
Spike's left eyebrow lifted a fraction. “As I recall I introduced the whole bunch as lowlifes.”
“Yeah, I remember and then you brought one of them to my birthday party and he turned out to be one of the good guys.”
“So… I guess in Clem’s case I exaggerated," Spike admitted, "but it doesn’t make it any less true ‘bout the rest of them.”
The occupants of Willy’s fell silent as the blonde pair made their entrance, this time without the pooch in tow. If there was going to be a fight, then a dog tangling round their legs was going to be nothing but a nuisance. Spike might not be happy about the risk to the DeSoto’s upholstery, but that was something he was going to have to live with, or not. It was the fact that the demon tried to get out in those first few seconds that gave him away. Everyone else had frozen in place when the duo entered, knowing that their arrival meant trouble for someone.
Spike was across the room in a fraction of a second. The demon’s feet left the floor as Spike picked him up by the scruff of the neck and slammed him face first into the back door of the bar.
“Was that what you were looking for?” he asked as he rammed the craggy faced demon again and again into the metal reinforced wood.
“You shouldn’t -.”
“Shouldn’t what?” Buffy asked, joining him. “Shouldn’t peel your face a bit at a time as if it were an incredibly ugly artichoke until you tell him what he wants to know? I think he should. Seems to me you should just about be softened up ready for the peeling.”
“Dave’s. Tuesday. You were seen talking to a big black guy who’d been asking about us. I want to know what you told him,” Spike informed the demon, as yellowish green ichor oozed from between the plates which made up the dealer’s face.
“Didn’t tell him nothin’,” the demon slurred.
“You know, when Pinocchio lied, his nose got bigger. I guess this works in reverse… Can I?” Buffy asked.
Spike took a firm grip on either side of the demon’s head. “Go ahead, pet.”
As the Slayer’s hand reached out toward the most central of the chitinous protrusions that made up the demon’s face he suddenly found a streak of previously unknown loquaciousness.
“I just told him what any demon in town could have told him. Mostly it was just a case of confirmation.”
“About the chip. How you’ve been batting for the wrong side, so that between the people you pissed off when you had a pair, and the demons who don’t appreciate traitorous little bastards, there’s no one left save her who’d have anything to do with you. That for the last few months you’ve had her scent all over you. That maybe some time last century you might have been the slayer of slayers, but now you’re just her fuck-toy. And you’re easy meat for any human that wants you. And believe me, this guy wants you.”
Buffy punched him so hard that the armoured plate on his nose actually cracked in two and fell off, but she grazed her knuckles at the same time. It was probably the fact that Spike was instantly more concerned about her than their ugly friend that saved the demon from a broken neck.
As Spike released the demon to check on her hand, Buffy gently placed a hand on his chest to stop him coming closer. “In a minute, Spike. I’ve got something I want to make very clear to this guy, and to anybody else who might have anything to say on the subject.” Buffy’s voice rose so that it could be heard by all the bar’s occupants. She held up her left hand, palm inward, so that the diamonds on her finger caught what light there was in the dingy bar.
“This tells those of you who hold with human convention that there’s a lot more between me and him than just a whole bunch of incredible sex… But seeing as most of you in here don’t hold with human convention, maybe this is something you understand a bit better.” She pulled aside her hair so that the recently renewed claim scar was in plain view. “Now, all you people had better get the picture real quick. I am his, he is mine, and anyone who messes with either one of us had better be ready for all the hurt that a master vamp and a slayer can do between them. Are we clear?”
She turned back to the demon whose offensive remarks had prompted the outburst, screwing up her face at the sight of the open sore where his nose used to be.
“That has got to hurt! I figure unless you want to hurt some more you should come up with a name and a way to get in touch with him.”
“Don’t know how to get in touch with him. Figure he’s probably checked out as much as he’s goin’ to.”
“But you do know a name…”
“Said his name was Wood, Robin Wood, like Robin Wood, Robin Wood riding through the glen, but not.”
“Believe me, this guy is not goin’ to look like Richard Greene when we’re done with him,” Spike retorted.
“When your girlfriend’s done with him, you mean.”
“Maybe, but, hell, as long as I’ve got scum like you to cope with, I can let her have the humans.” Spike rammed the demon’s head into the door one last time, only this time he didn’t make quite so much effort to hold back. There was a loud series of cracking noises, almost like the noise of someone breaking into a lobster shell and when Spike released the demon he slumped to the floor.
Spike slid an arm around Buffy’s shoulders. “Let’s go home, kitten.”
“What the hell?" the vamp spat out. "I guess nobody bothered to explain to micro-brain that it isn’t half past twelve until the big hand’s on the six and the little hand’s between twelve and one!”
Spike pulled up in front of the house, taking care not to block Xander’s car in, since he expected the carpenter to be leaving very soon. Buffy wondered why the vampire was suddenly keen to take the dog after his previous reluctance until he marched up to where Dawn and Tara were standing and turned the lead over to the teenager.
“Why don’t the two of you take the mutt inside and see if you can get her calmed down?” he asked, thereby creating the perfect excuse to get the two people he most wanted out of Willow’s way safely out of the picture, before he turned his attention to the witch.
“Just where exactly in my little speech did I lose you yesterday, Red? I thought I made it clear that I didn’t want you 'round here when you were goin’ to be upsetting Bit and Glinda. So is it that you don’t understand English or you can’t work out how to use a phone?
And you,” his gaze bored straight through Xander. “Even if she didn’t tell you that she’s not supposed to come round here without calling to make sure Glinda and Bit aren’t around, it didn’t occur to you that we would want to be here when she turned up?”
“Since when did you end up in charge, here?” Willow asked.
Buffy took her stance next to the vampire, linking her hand with his. “Since I agreed to marry him. That puts him on an equal footing with me, and so far, he hasn’t said anything I’ve got a problem with. Your things are all on the porch. If you find there’s anything missing when you get where you’re going you can give us a list, but as far as all the stuff from the shop is concerned, if Giles paid for it, it’s his and it’ll be returned to him. For now, I’d like the keys to our home back.”
“Buffy?” Xander tried to intercede. “Isn’t that kinda harsh? Don’t you think she should at least get to pack her own stuff?”
“What the hell do you think we’ve been doin’ here all mornin’, you stupid wanker?” Spike exploded. “That is it.” He waved an arm toward the bags and boxes on the porch. “Now, just take it, and get the damn crone the hell away from Bit and Glinda.” Spike picked up a nearby box and shoved it into Xander’s arms.
“Or you’ll what, Fangless?”
“Or I’ll build a bloody bonfire on the front lawn and burn the whole bloody lot.”
“Xander…” the witch tried to get her friend’s attention, but he was only interested in Spike.
“You and what army?”
“If there’s only you tryin’ to stop me it won’t take an army.”
“Xander!” Willow’s voice rose in volume. “Spike isn’t chipped any more.”
“I can stop you … Huh?” The brunette spun to face his childhood friend, dropping the box he carried with a crash as he turned to stare at her. “What the frick did you just say?”
“I said Spike isn’t chipped any more. He hurt Sam and his chip didn’t go off. You know he bit Buffy.”
“But-but that was just. I mean, endorphins, ‘cause it... If it had… he would.”
“What? If the chip was gone I would have killed you all in your sleep, already? Yeah, right. Some of you ain’t worth the effort. And some of the rest I even like.”
“But, you knew.” The carpenter stared at Willow. “You knew and you didn’t tell me.”
“I only found out on Wednesday.”
“This is Friday, Will. Anya’s been in that house with him all morning. Buffy and Dawn and Tara are all living in that house with him. How could you keep this from me?”
Buffy slapped the near hysterical man, finally getting him to shut up. “We didn’t tell anyone. I made a decision that it was something I preferred to be kept secret, and, given your reaction, it would seem that I was right about the fact that if we told you all you would broadcast it loud and clear for Riley, the Initiative and whoever else might be eavesdropping to hear. Congratulations. You’ve just put my family’s lives in more danger than they already were.”
“I’ve put your family in danger. What about the fact that Dawn’s sharing a house with an unfettered murderer? What about the fact that that’s my wife in there?”
“Get this straight, Xander. One thing I would never compromise on is the safety of my friends and family. I know that Spike is not a danger to the people around him, but if you keep pushing this, I wouldn’t blame him if he felt compelled to kick your ass and I might even be inclined to help.
Take Willow and her things and go, and before you come back, just get your head around this concept. I would never have agreed to marry Spike if I hadn’t believed that with or without the chip, I could trust him.”
Buffy turned to Willow and held out her hand. “Keys?” She waited until the other woman pulled her keys, still on Joyce’s key-ring, from her pocket and passed them over. Then, she tugged at the arm of her vampire. “Come on, fang boy. It’s nearly lunchtime and there’s a puppy in there that hasn’t had its breakfast, yet. We better unpack the car.”
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