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
Xander took a couple of seconds to use his cell phone before he found himself following the heavily laden blondes through the back door of the house. Spike didn't say anything when he noticed the man following them, but he made sure that the door was shut and locked behind him so that Willow didn't follow him in.
Anya looked up from her spot on the sofa as her husband entered. "I've said my piece, Xander. I'm not getting in the car with that woman, so you might as well go. I'll make my own way home later."
"Anya, you have to come with me. You're not safe here. None of you." He looked round at Dawn and Tara. Obviously Buffy was a lost cause and way too strong for him to manhandle, but he had to get the others out of there before something awful happened.
"We have another apocalypse? Are Riley and his friends going to come back?" Anya asked.
"No, but that thing," he said nodding at Spike, "is back to his old self."
"Really?" Anya turned to ask Spike. "You're back to the killing?" She sounded no more than mildly curious. "I mean you wouldn't want to kill me, would you? And if you hadn't wanted to keep Xander safe for me, you wouldn't have given him those orbs, even if Giles said that you had to keep them now, you wouldn't have given them to him in the first place, if you wanted him dead, would you?"
"No, pet. I prefer the world when you're in it and happy. Might wish you'd found somebody better than this wanker to make you happy, but unless you were to ask me, or he lays hand on any of my women again, I wouldn't hurt either of you."
"So why do you want to take me away?" she asked her husband.
At this point the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it," Tara said as she headed for the door, opening it to admit Wesley.
Anya used this interlude to quietly question Spike. "You'd really hurt Xander for me if I asked you to?"
"Hell, pet, the state the bugger had you in that last time, I'd've beaten him bloody, chip or no chip, if you'd asked me to."
"Well, thank you. If Xander ever shows the bad judgement to leave me again, I may take you up on the offer."
Xander simply stared back and forth between the pair as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Wesley, you're a watcher. Tell them they have to get out of the house. They can't stay here, not with him. He'll kill them all."
"Who?" the watcher asked calmly, trying to make sense of the younger man's apparent ravings.
"Who do you think? How many ravening vampires do we have around here?"
Wes looked over to where Spike stood on the borderline between the kitchen and living room, his arms around Buffy's shoulders as he pressed a kiss to her hair, trying to calm the small woman as she seemed almost ready to explode.
"None," the watcher answered, entirely unruffled by the question.
"But he's not chipped any more!" the carpenter insisted.
"Well, I had surmised as much when Lindsey put him in charge of the attack on the hotel. It hardly made any sense if he was going to collapse in pain the first time he hit someone and Lindsey has never been stupid. Then, when Buffy sent him to deal with Sam, that confirmed it."
Tara nodded, as if to indicate that she had come to the same conclusion. Spike caught her eye and raised an eyebrow. She shrugged and gave him an encouraging smile in return.
"Am I the only one here that hasn't checked his brains at the door?" Xander demanded, looking round the room. "Dawnie, you must see that you can't stay here?"
"Why? Now Spike can protect us all from humans, same as he could from demons. That makes us even safer than we were before." The teenager moved to link her arm through the vampire's. "Did you get the collar I wanted for the poor little puppy that Xander's best friend Willow was going to kill, Spike?"
The vampire nodded but his eyes did not leave Xander's face. "Course we did, sweet thing."
Xander noted that said puppy was also standing just to one side of the group, lip curled back at the outsider's hostility to her new people. "I don't believe you guys."
"And I don't believe you," Buffy finally intervened. "You've had your little rant. No one, I'm glad to say, is interested. Perhaps, now you would stop insulting my fiancé and my hospitality. You came here for Willow's things. They're on the porch. Take them and go."
"Buff, are you throwing me out of here?"
"I told you to think about things before you came back here. Instead you charge in here and make doubly sure that if the eavesdroppers couldn't hear you from the garden then they would hear you in here. You act like a total..." Buffy paused.
"Arsehole? Fuckwit? Wanker?" Spike gave her a few suggestions.
"All of the above, and then you act surprised that I don't want you in my home? Just when did you get the impression that the title friend gave you the right to treat me, my home and my loved ones with disrespect? When you can be civil, when you're ready to apologise, then you can come back."
"Look, Buffy, I'm sorry if I upset you-."
Buffy cut him off. "When you're ready to apologise to Spike, Xander. To me is good, too, but Spike's the important part."
"No way. That guy is death on legs and when he kills you all it won't make me happy, but I will say I told you so."
"Fine, but you won't say it here. Get out."
"Anya?" Xander turned to his wife.
"I'll see you back at home, Xander. You choose your friends. I choose mine. Spike was the only one who really stood by me when you walked out on me and assuming I'm still welcome here, I'd just as soon stay around."
"You're always welcome," Buffy told the woman in a gentle voice. "And thank you."
Xander looked round the room filled with determined faces and decided that discretion was the better part of valour. His reinforcements would be here soon. For now, he would gather Willow's things and wait.
"Fine, I'll see myself out."
When he left he couldn't resist slamming the door violently. He was surprised to find the porch clear, the bags and boxes all packed and Willow waiting in the front passenger seat of his car.
"What the? I mean I know there wasn't much, but?"
Willow wiggled her fingers as if that were answer enough.
"Will, should you be doing that? Curse an' all?"
"It's not black magic. It's just convenient."
"Isn't that meant to be the point? That you're using magic to suit you rather than when you should?"
"So now you're a magic expert? Are you going to tell me what I'm doing wrong, now? How I'm supposed to be a danger to everyone?"
"Willow, will you just be quiet? We have more to worry about than your bruised ego. All the people in that house, in this town, even, could be in danger. You know what Spike was like before he got the chip. How on earth could you leave me out of the loop on this for two days?"
"Anywhere I've seen you have been all the places we think they had bugged."
"And you didn't think that it was more important? You didn't think that it might be a good idea if maybe Riley and his people did know? That maybe they should come in there and drag that bleach-blond freak out into the sun without his precious orbs?"
Willow opened her mouth to tell her friend what he wanted to hear. He was the only one who had stood by her. If she admitted now that the real reason she hadn't told anyone about Spike's confidence was that she really didn't believe the vampire was a danger to anyone then Xander would turn against her like all the others,
"Xander..." She hesitated briefly. "He won't hurt anyone. I know you don't want to believe it, but..."
"I thought you said it was Spike that caused all the ruckus. I thought you-."
"I was mad at how things turned out, okay. I was mad that he tried to warn me away from people I care about, but that doesn't mean I think he would kill again. He... after he saw Dawnie, if he didn't kill Sam, then he won't kill anyone."
"Will, are you really telling me that you trust that killer?"
"Enough to sleep in the same house as him, knowing that the chip was gone," Wilow admitted.
Xander could only sit and stare before he rested his head on the steering wheel to await Giles' arrival.
Spike looked on while Dawn put the purple collar on the puppy, who was too interested in her kibble to realise what a heinous fashion crime was being perpetrated against her. "I was dealing with it," Dawn pouted.
"And if your big sis had heard half of what I heard you say as we were pulling up I don't know whether she'd hug you or ground you," Spike told the girl. "I'm going to go with the first one. C'mere, you."
The teenager moved into his open arms. "So why'd you send me inside? I can cut it." She looked up into his face as she protested. "I'm not twelve any more."
"Pet, it's nothing to do with what age you are. You want the truth, if Red put her mind to it there isn't a one of us she couldn't wipe the floor with. Not as I really think she would, not deliberately, but when people are hurtin' sometimes they do things they wouldn't otherwise. So indulge me, huh?"
"So I'm supposed to hide because you're a wuss?"
"When it comes to my girls gettin' hurt? Yeah."
"And I'm your girl?"
"You know it, love. So, how did you sleep last night?"
"You mean did the Olympic sex games keep me awake?"
"'Mongst other things."
"I don't think I'd have slept much, anyway."
Spike took the youngster's chin gently in his hands and turned her head until she could see his face. "You do know that you're way more important to us than... well... You know that whatever we might be doin' we'd come runnin' if you wanted us."
"It's okay. I figured you two could use some alone time and I thought Tara might be glad of someone to talk to for a bit, which she was, so..."
"Well thanks for the consideration, Niblet, but just remember you're our priority. Okay? If the only way you can get a decent might's sleep is sharing with us..."
Dawn made a face at the vampire, her eyes gleaming wickedly. "As if I'd have been able to sleep between those sheets!"
"We could've come an' messed up your bed."
"Gross. You and Buffy are not doing anything in my bed. If anyone is going to make my bed all wet and sticky, it'll be me."
"Better bloody not. I smell anythin' in that room that I shouldn't be smellin' an' lover boy'll be goin' home with a knot tied in it. An' as for makin' the bed wet an' sticky, that damn dog of yours drools in her sleep."
"Thought she was supposed to be sleeping in the bathroom."
"She was until your sister decided to open the connecting door. Then, the mutt decided it was sleeping with us. I suppose I should just be thankful at least she didn't crap in the bed."
Spike grabbed one of the kitchen stools and pushed another toward Dawn. "You talked to your big sis about taking young Mikey with you tomorrow, yet? Come to that, d'you even know how much his dad's told him? Does he even know that demons exist?"
"No, no, and I don't think so."
"But you think he'll cope?"
"I'm hoping. I thought, maybe, if he comes over tonight, if you need to help me prove the point, you could flash a little fang. That way he's got a day to think about it and take in everything before he meets the others."
"Well, I guess it makes sense, unless you wanted to wait till after the dance in case he gets cold feet."
Dawn gave a little smile and shook her head. "He won't."
"You seem mighty sure about that. You best go find your sister, then, run your plan by her and tell her you're goin' to need some jewellery to show off that dress before next Friday. See if she can come up with anythin'. I think she mentioned some watch of Joyce's."
"What about you?" Dawn asked.
"I'll be through in a bit, when I've cleared this lot up." Spike indicated the various bandages, Band-Aids and ointments scattered around. As soon as Xander had been expelled from the house Spike had applied his efforts to tending to Buffy's grazed hand and then the renewal of the dressing on Dawn's thigh and a check on the cuts on her feet. Then, he'd found time to feed the dog.
"Let's just go," Tara decided. "I don't know what they're up to or what they're waiting for, but I don't see why we should change our plans."
"Are you sure?" Buffy asked the girl.
"Sure. Besides, Wes'll protect me, won't you?"
"Protect you from what?" Dawn asked joining the huddle at the front door. She stood on tiptoe to peer through the distorting glass panes. "What are they still doing here? You don't think they're going to hang around until the caseworker gets here and cause trouble? That's our driveway, right? If they don't go, we can get the police to come and take them away for trespassing or something? Buffy? I want to stay with you and Spike and Tara. Make them go away."
"Dawnie, I don't know. It seems like if we go out there and tell them we want them gone before the caseworker gets here, then, if it turns out that's not what they're waiting for, we've just given them the perfect ammunition."
"I'll go," Anya offered. "I shall tell Xander that Dawn finds his continued presence upsetting and request that he leave immediately."
Just then a very tired, hot and rumple-suited Giles jogged into view, one hand clutching at his side as if he had a stitch. He didn't even see the two people sitting in the car in the driveway, he ran straight to the front door, which Buffy pulled open when he was about two feet away, so that when the man looked up he found five people looking back at him from the doorway.
Spike came sauntering through from the kitchen to join the group. "Afternoon, Rupes. Nice of you to drop by, saves me from ringing you later. Are you available to go for a fitting for your suit tomorrow morning? ...Shit, love. We didn't ring Marie last night. She's goin' to think the vicar said no."
"You're all alive?" Giles asked.
"Ye-e-es," Buffy answered, unsure why he might think that they wouldn't be.
"Aside from Dawnie's bits and pieces and some grazed knuckles I picked up from a demon's face this morning. Any reason why we shouldn't be?"
Xander by this point had left his car and joined Giles on the doorstep.
"You said something terrible had happened and that I needed to get here right away."
"It has. Spike's not chipped anymore."
Giles pulled his glasses off and turned on the young man. "You are aware of the fact that I don't have a car at the moment."
"Well, I knew, but until I saw you running up the street I kinda forgot," Xander admitted sheepishly.
"And you just thought it would be an amusing pastime to see if you could make me have a coronary. I thought they were in real danger, not just something your fevered brain came up with."
"But it is."
"Xander, surely even you must have realised that Spike has changed over the last few years? If Buffy chooses to put her faith in him, knowing him more intimately than any of us could ever hope to, or even want to, then, we must simply trust her judgement.
For heavens sake, just grow up and let the past go. We don't have time for you creating scares where there are none. This is the Hellmouth. There's quite enough genuine mayhem."
"Actually, real scares too. Creepy guy asking round in demon bars about me and Spike. Of course, I don't know what he actually said as Spike thinks it's inappropriate for a lady's ears, but I get the impression that we're at the top of this guy's hate parade. And the only advantage we did have was the fact that he thought Spike was chipped. So I guess it depends who sent him whether he heard Xander's little hissy fit or not."
"It was not-." Xander tried to deny the infantile nature of his outburst, but caved at the glowers from Buffy, Dawn and Anya and a knowing smirk from Spike.
"I don't care any more, Xander. It's over half an hour since I asked you to leave and you're still parked in our driveway. Why is that?"
"Giles is a guest. Giles is welcome to stay. You know the conditions you have to meet before the same can be said for you. Dawn is supposed to be resting. You and Willow being around is making her tense. She can't rest when she's tense. Go away." Taking Giles by the arm and drawing him into the house, she let Dawn get the door. The teenager slammed it just as loudly as Xander had when he left, this time it closed about six inches from his face.
"Wes, before you go, since Giles is here, we may as well go through this once rather than twice, just in case either of you recognise the name or the description or anything," Buffy suggested.
"If it's a single man, it's unlikely he's actually a Council operative, but I wouldn't put it past them to employ a freelance or point a loose cannon in your general direction."
"He's Council alright," Spike interrupted. "One way or another. He's got to be. Who else but that bunch of wankers, no offence, would talk about slayers betraying their mission?"
"Is that what you wouldn't tell me?"
"That, pet, is about as much as I could repeat of what he said."
"It does sound fairly watchery. I mean uptight Travers watchery, not rebel watchers watchery..." Buffy's voice faded away.
"You said you had a name and a description?" Giles queried.
"Black bloke, maybe Wes's build or just a bit broader in the shoulder. We've got a name. If it's real his parents must have been either a right pair of sadists or a couple of morons," Spike gave his opinion.
"Just tell us, Spike," the elder watcher responded wearily.
"Robin Wood," Buffy answered. "Mean anything to anybody?"
"Oh dear lord!"
"Care to enlighten us, Wes?" Buffy asked as everyone turned to stare at the man.
"I'm only guessing, but, Spike, that second slayer you killed. Her name..."
"Was Nikki Wood," all three men chorused together, as realisation dawned.
"Spike!" Buffy's irritation was evident in her tone. "Is there anyone remotely connected to the Council whose family members you haven't killed?"
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