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
"Okay, so am I imagining things or did that seem to go rather well?" Buffy asked as she and Spike stood on the front porch to wave goodbye to an apparently satisfied caseworker.
"It went fine, love."
"Maybe. Maybe she's going to go back and start a background check and then when she can't tie things up.-" Buffy couldn't believe that things had gone so smoothly and now began to panic as she dwelled on the more frightening possibilities.
"Love, she won't find anything wrong when she checks. Trust me. It's not the first time I've done this."
Spike shook his head. "Changed identity, dozy. It's all taken care of."
"Cross my unbeating heart."
"So what now?"
"I guess that depends on Bitlet. She looks as if she's about ready to fall asleep on her feet. Reckon if she's okay to crash out for a couple of hours we could go give demon bint a hand for a while. The estate agent might have sent someone 'round to put a new window in and reconnect the electricity this morning, but it didn't look like Cardboard's soldier boys had been busy with the housekeeping."
"Realtor, and you don't look all that well rested either."
"Well, seems like some wench kept me up most of the night and then woke me up at some ridiculous hour of the morning."
"Why don't you grab a couple of hours as well? I'll help Anya, but I think we've skipped about as many patrols as we dare, and I don't want you getting hurt because you're fighting tired."
"What about Bitty?"
"We'll wait till Tara gets back so she's not alone and get back before she goes to bed."
"Promise if there's anything you need help with, you'll fetch me." Spike couldn't deny just how tired he was and he knew it. Buffy's suggestion made sense. After this morning he wasn't going to risk another argument by refusing, especially as he suspected that Dawn might just sleep more readily if she had company.
"I promise." Buffy stretched up on tip-toe to place a chaste kiss on his lips. "I'll take the cordless over with me, just in case."
"Reminds me, I best ring Lily and see what she says about Red's half of that invite. Should I tell her we'll swing by before patrol to see Bite-size?"
Buffy smiled as she imagined the little girl's face when they asked her to be a flower girl. "Sure. We might even have time for a story, if you're lucky."
"I think you mean, if you're lucky. I don't know which one of you was more interested in Bilbo last time, you or the sprog."
"That is so not true. I mean I like hobbits as well as the next girl, but that wasn't what was keeping me so interested." Buffy's eyes gleamed as she teased him.
"Do tell, pet."
"Well, I'd consider it... if you weren't conceited enough already."
"With a girl like you, I'd say I've got reason to be." Spike drew her back into the house, his arm resting around her waist before he pulled her to him in a lingering kiss.
"Just because you're in the hall doesn't make you invisible, you know," Dawn chimed from her seat on the sofa, after she had given them a count of five to remember that she was there.
Spike raised his head and gave a sigh. "You know I loved Joyce, right, so don't take it as disrespectful if I wonder why on earth she couldn't have bought a house with a few more doors."
Spike didn't bother to head for bed when he had made his phone call to Lily. He simply got Dawn to shift forward slightly so that he could spoon against her back on the sofa as she watched The Quiet Man. Telling Dawn to go to sleep, he figured, would be counterproductive. There was far too much scope for thoughts of Sam and her ordeal to intrude as she waited for sleep to come. It was far better if she could just drift off while her thoughts were occupied by John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. So, he stroked her hair as they lay together, until her eyes drifted closed.
Buffy wasn't the least bit surprised to find that by the time she had made a thermos of coffee for her and Anya and raided the kitchen for some more rubber gloves, a couple of diet sodas and some cookies, both of them were out for the count. She pushed her swag, her cell and the cordless phone into a small backpack, dropping it by the front door before she turned back to place a kiss on the forehead of each of her loved ones, neither of whom even stirred at the caress, though the dog curled at their feet did raise a sleepy eyelid.
She made a last double check on the curtains in the room, ensuring that there were no gaps that might allow a beam of sunlight to fall on Spike as the sun shifted around while he slept. True to his word, he had insisted that she take the orbs, a situation she wasn't entirely happy with, but like Spike, she was reluctant to bring any more friction into the relationship until the backwash of this morning's events had fully dissipated. She looked at the two of them, so at peace together and wondered why she had ever thought she should keep them apart.
It took all her willpower to turn away from them, closing the front door behind her as gently as she could. Spike's eyes stayed closed, his features relaxed and stunningly beautiful, but as the door closed with a gentle click, he whispered softly, "Bye, baby."
Dusk was turning to darkness as Buffy and Anya decided that their job was done. Windows gleamed. Kitchen cupboards were scrubbed and opened up to air. Varnished floors and kitchen linoleum were mopped and waxed and the bathroom no longer looked like a grimy left over set from a horror movie. Buffy doubted the watcher would be able to move in tonight in any case without any furniture, but at least he wouldn't get four years of dust all over his things when he dropped them off.
She and Anya were just about to head back to 1630 for a well-earned shower and change of clothes. Buffy had assured Anya that her taller sibling would have no objection to lending her something. That was the point when the phone rang.
Buffy grabbed the handset from the pile of things she had emptied out of her bag. "Summers residence, well sort of." Buffy scooped the other bits and pieces back into her pack as she spoke.
When the caller made himself known, she rolled her eyes and passed the phone to Anya.
"No, dear. I won't be back for some time. Yes, I had noticed that it was dark. That happens every night after sundown. I'm sure Buffy or Spike will see that I get home safely, or Wes, if he's back by then. No, dear, Buffy's invited me to eat with them. Why don't you microwave a TV dinner or two?"
Buffy's eyes widened at that. "Two?" she mouthed.
Anya nodded in confirmation as she listened to Xander's next comment. "Honey, if you feel like that, why don't you just come over and apologise to Spike for this morning and to Dawn and Buffy for whatever got you all sappy about having lost them yesterday and I'm sure that they would invite you to dinner, too. I hear Spike is a wonderful cook."
"Well, if that's how you feel, I'll see you later. Lots- ."
Xander obviously tried to stall before Anya could hang up on him. "You don't say? An expensive looking cream envelope with the address in black fountain pen, all very ornate? You thought I would want to open it myself? That's sweet, but it's quite alright. I already know what it is. Why don't you open it and do the R.S.V.P. thing. You can call Lily and tell her that we would both be delighted to join her in welcoming Wesley to Sunnydale tomorrow evening. No, Xander, you don't have to. I suppose I can call her later, but you did promise you would go with me, wherever the next meeting was and this is pretty much a Scooby meeting with drinks and food. Willow? Well, I don't know. The envelope was addressed to both Tara and her... Hang on. Buffy's shaking her head."
"Spike called Lily and told her that they had broken up and that Tara was moving in with us and Willow was moving out, and she said if it was going to make things awkward for Tara and the rest of us that we shouldn't pass the invitation on, that she would maybe have Willow over another time to make up for it."
"You heard that? ...Fine. Xander, I haven't pushed you over any of your problems with Spike or Buffy, but if you try to pull that 'if Willow's not welcome then I'm not going' crap to cover up because you're being paranoid and racist about going to a party thrown by perfectly charming people then you will be sleeping on the sofa for at least a month. Goodbye."
With that the former demon hung up on her husband and passed the phone back to Buffy.
"You sure you can hold out that long?" Buffy asked as she slung her backpack over one shoulder and the two women made for the door. Before Buffy had even finished her question the phone began to ring again.
"Tell him his attendance tomorrow night is non-negotiable and I don't care if he's starving to death. I'll be home when I'm ready and not before and I want him to stop calling me."
"Just stop calling. If you have any sense at all you'll go tomorrow night and Anya will be home if and when she decides to come, okay?" Buffy responded, her voice raised as soon as she picked up the call. Her face blanched as she watched Anya lock up behind them.
"Oh, hi, Angel. Sorry... I thought you were Xander."
"You and Xander are fighting now?" Angel scribbled another note on his piece of paper.
"Only about the important things. To what do we owe the honour?" Buffy waited as a car made its way down the street before she and Anya crossed over.
"Oh, I just wanted to say thanks for the heads up, and see maybe if next weekend was okay for that meal Spike mentioned, and whether it would just be you two, or whether you would be bringing Dawn and Willow or any of the rest of the Sunnydale crowd down with you again?"
"There's supposed to be a meal? And well, Willow moved out this morning."
Angel made another scribble. "Spike didn't tell you? Maybe I should speak with him. I might have misunderstood."
"Em, you'll have to hold on." Buffy rummaged in her bag for her keys. "He and Dawn were sleeping when I last saw them. They were both pretty tuckered out 'cause I got them up early this morning. I don't know if they'll be awake yet?"
"Spike and Dawn are sleeping together?" Angel couldn't keep the mix of anger and surprise out of his voice any longer. "What the hell is going on up there? First there's the blonde in Spike's coat, then you tell me Willow's moved out, you're arguing with Xander, and Spike's sleeping with your sister because you woke them up early this morning?"
Buffy held the phone away from her ear with an evil grin on her face. "Anya, why don't you take the first shower? I'll be up to get those things for you in a moment."
Buffy peered through the doorway into the living room. She saw that Spike had moved and that only Dawn and Rogue remained curled up on the sofa. Making her way towards the sounds of movement coming from the kitchen, she pressed the receiver to her ear once again. "Angel, I guess Spike must have got up. There's just Dawn and the latest member of his harem all curled up together."
Spike appeared, raising an eyebrow at her words and wondering what was going on as Buffy tried desperately to stifle her giggles. She shifted over next to the blond vampire and held the receiver out so he could hear as well.
"Buffy, something is obviously going on up there. I think maybe it's some sort of spell. Just please, don't let Spike sleep with anyone else before I get there."
"Grandpa, nice to hear from you. What's up?"
"Spike? What the hell is going on with you and Willow's girlfriend? She came swanning into the hotel, like her and Wes own the place, wearing your coat and reeking of yours and Buffy's cum!"
"Well, she would do seein' as she spent last night in our bed!"
Buffy doubled over gasping for breath.
"But I think maybe you're getting' a little over excited about it, considerin' we weren't in it at the time.
Bloody good job we hadn't christened the sofa before last night or you'd have been thinking I'd buggered the watcher an' all." Buffy slid to the floor clasping her stomach.
"Then, what did Buffy mean about your harem?" the older vampire asked his still-grinning counterpart.
"I do share a house with four females, you know, the latest of which just happens to be canine before you get any more ideas."
"And the coat? You wouldn't let anyone except Dru touch the coat."
"Glinda's family. She was the closest thing Bit had to a mum while Buffy was gone. Red played house, but she never got over bein' nervous at bein' in charge. Her and Bite-Size never got close. Glinda was the one that helped the Niblet through. She could have anything of mine that she wanted that isn't already promised to a certain other blonde who is crying her eyes out on the floor here, 'cause she's laughing so hard at the very idea of me and Tinkerbell , especially seein' how in all the years I've known the witch she's never even shown the slightest sign of bein' attracted to anyone as didn't come with a pair of boobs attached."
"So she just decided she wanted to borrow your precious coat in the middle of summer for no reason and you said 'fine, pet, there you go'?"
"Would you like me to draw a diagram and email it down to you? Her and Wes took the bike so that he could bring his car back. Because she didn't have any leathers of her own, I loaned her my coat. As to her smellin' like anything else, she spent the night in Buffy's room because now that Red's been kicked out on her arse, an' I'll leave explainin' that till we're face to face otherwise you won't believe it, Buffy thought, for now, me an' her should have her mum's room. Now, did you understand that or were the words too big?"
"So Buffy was joking when she said you were sleeping with Dawn and some other woman?"
"I was curled up on the sofa giving Bit a cuddle to see if she would sleep, and when I woke up I had a soggy patch on my leg where the great drooling lump that is Bit's puppy had used me for a pillow. Does that answer your question?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Did the watcher pass on the message?"
"Yeah, he did. Thanks. I'll see to it."
"Don't think we'll be down this weekend but we should be able to swing it for next, if you want to sort out a reservation," Spike suggested.
"How many from your end?"
"Lorne knows a nice place that serves demons but you might want to take the girls dress shopping first."
"Like they need an excuse? See you a week on Saturday." Spike hung up the phone and pulled a still tearful and hiccupping Slayer to her feet.
"Don't know whether to be pleased or insulted that you find the idea of me and another woman so funny," he told her as he kissed away her tears, savouring their salty flavour.
"Spike, even Angel thought if you were cheating on me it had to be because of a spell. That should tell you something.
I love that I absolutely don't have to worry about you ever doing more than look at another woman... And of course, you know if you did, I'd have to castrate you," she added with a wicked smile.
"Hey!" Tara tossed Spike's motorcycle keys to him as she stood in the doorway of the crowded living room. The vampire only just grabbed them from the air before Rogue could intercept. "I'd forgotten how much fun that could be."
"Well, you made an impression on The Poof, love. Said that you and Wes went swanning into the hotel as if you owned it. Made me feel right proud that did."
Tara's mouth quirked upwards at the corners before she looked down at her feet, embarrassed to be the centre of attention. "It's the coat. You just have to act Bad," she mumbled. Spike heard her clear enough, though.
"Can't argue with that, pet. Leastways, it always worked for me." He gave her a welcoming grin. "'S the watcher with you or did you leave him behind?"
Her eyes met his again and she smiled her lopsided smile. "Left him in the dust back in LA."
"Well, now we know why grandpa thought I'd been corruptin ' her. I guess I'll just stick the pasta on and if he doesn't show by the time it's ready we'll stick his in the oven and tell him it's 'al forno'."
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