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.])
Disclaimer: Okay, this is a little bit late, but I never said I was organised. For those of you not on the mailing list, this is to let you know that the whole Angel quandary/ phone call idea didn't come from my imagination, but from that of my beta reader t_geyer. It was her email entitled "A silly idea" that brought so many of you so much enjoyment.
Friday, May 17th, 2002
Buffy was thinking that this could rapidly become one of her favourite pastimes. There was something both restful and arousing about watching Spike at work in the kitchen. His movements were so concise and efficient, not to say that they were without his usual flare, but he always seemed to be in perfect control of what was going on around him. It was a total contrast to the bombsite that the kitchen became when she endeavoured to cook.
"Earth to Buffy! Tara was trying to tell you something. if you can take your eyes off Spike long enough to notice that you're being spoken to."
"Wh-what? I was listening. I just... I mean..." Buffy stuttered in her confusion.
"She said, pet, that Doc's shop had been cleared out and that the watcher thinks my newest baby brother is responsible," Spike informed her as he brought a plate of pizza garlic bread through to deposit it on the coffee table. He snagged a single slice to munch on as he made his way back to the kitchen.
"I thought vamps and garlic weren't supposed to mix?" Tara asked a question that had been troubling her for some time.
"That does seem to be the general consensus. I mean, to a vamp, the smell can be pretty overpowerin'. Peaches used to have a fit if he smelled the stuff. Thing was, I got into all the spicy food. Chilli, curry, piri-piri, buffalo wings, you name it. Then, when I had a go at cookin' for myself, I realised that every single one had garlic in. Go figure. Never bothered me, yet."
"Wait up, galloping gourmet. Doc's shop is empty?" Buffy asked as the conversation finally permeated her Spike-addled brain.
Tara nodded. "The shutters were ripped apart and the shop was totally emptied, except for the cash register. They left it. And there were two envelopes, one marked William, which Wes has, and one marked Angel, which he left."
"What about the body and the apartment in back?" Buffy asked
"The body was gone, and they left the sort of day to day stuff, groceries, clothes and stuff, but it looked like they took any books or papers they could find."
"Guess we're goin' to manage two LA phone calls in one day then, pet."
"Why?" Buffy asked, sure from Spike's smile that there was more to the answer than just letting her ex know of the letter's existence.
"Well, if there's some nasty trick on those envelopes, I'd just as soon Peaches opened his first," Spike responded with a smirk. "We've got a guinea pig. Might as well use him."
"Evil? Unscrupulous? Downright naughty?" The vampire cocked an eyebrow at her, his tongue running across his upper teeth before he went back to stirring the pasta sauce he was making.
"You can't set Angel up like that."
"Can't?" Spike asked in a tone that plainly wanted to know if that were a dare.
The discussion, however, was interrupted by the doorbell.
Dawn dashed for the door with Rogue following behind, barking her head off at the interruption.
"So did the- Wes manage to load everything in one trip, or is he going to have to head back up there?" Spike managed to change the topic of conversation to something more suited for general consumption before Dawn ushered in her boyfriend. Rogue immediately proceeded to try to lick the newcomer to death. Spike tossed his head in disgust at the dog's perfidy.
"One life, all packed up and space to spare."
"Hi!" the youth greeted the others in the room. "Dad's just parking the car and getting Dawn's assignments." He gave Dawn an apologetic glance. "He said he'll be in in five minutes, just that there's some guy trying to reverse a trailer into the driveway across the street and not having much luck so he's kind of blocking the road."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Glinda, can you keep an eye on everythin'? Make sure nothin' sticks, but no testing the sauce in the small pan. It's got my secret ingredient in. Me and Buffy best see if we can give our new neighbour a hand. Niblet, mind your manners and take Brandon's coat for him. We'll be back in a minute."
It didn't take long for the two superhumanly strong beings to uncouple the trailer and manhandle it to the far end of the driveway, though Buffy was more grateful than she would have liked to admit that she had the orbs. Soon, both the trailer and Wes's car were safely parked on the driveway of his new home, leaving space for Mr Michaels' pickup on the street outside Buffy's house.
Spike hung back to speak to Wesley, informing him that if he cared to leave the unpacking for an hour or two, then he would be able to eat along with everyone else and most likely get a helping hand when people were done.
Buffy meanwhile moved to intercept Mr Michaels as he climbed out of his pickup truck, offering to carry the books and papers he had with him.
"It's really good of you to come, Mr Michaels, and it's a huge help picking up Dawn's assignments and her books from her locker. Thank you."
"It's Andrew and, the way I see it, I brought Brandon here knowing it wasn't an ordinary town. I owe it to him to tell him, but it would be pretty difficult without exposing him to sensitive material. I guess with your help I can bring him up to speed without him thinking that I've gone too crazy."
"We just want Dawn to feel like she doesn't have to be ashamed of her family and their friends. She was pretty disappointed when we wouldn't let her bring him to our engagement party because some of the other guests were demons. Since then, from what we've seen, we think Brandon will probably take our friends as he finds them. We think he's earned a degree of trust, and it's not fair to him if he's going to find himself in certain situations because he's dating my sister for him not to have any understanding of what's happening. And, Dawn's got an invite to a party tomorrow night and she wants to take him. But, I guess before we get that far we get to have dinner. And by the way, I'd pass on Spike's 'special' sauce, unless you're keen on pigs' blood."
Spike gave a derisive snort and Buffy turned to find that he and Wesley were just behind them. "As if I'd offer my special recipe to just anyone. That'd be right."
"It didn't stop you getting Dawn to taste it."
"Served her right for putting extra salt in the other sauce before it had reduced down."
"I sometimes wonder which one is older, him or Dawn." Buffy commented. "Sometimes they make me feel about a thousand. You must feel the same living alone with a sixteen-year-old."
"Well, I would, if it weren't for the fact that Brandon's eighteen."
There was a sighing as Spike drew in a huge breath, but instead of bellowing like he wanted to, he exhaled again quietly. "That girl is going to be the death of me. So help me, if she knew he was three years older and didn't even tell us, I am going to..." Spike paused, his eyes looking heavenward for inspiration as his nails bit into his palms.
"Yell at her for five minutes and then end up cuddling on the back porch?" Buffy suggested.
Spike hunched his shoulders. "Probably... Come on, if we don't get back in there, Bit'll feed all the garlic bread to that bloody dog. He is in her year at school, though, right?"
"Yes," Brandon's father agreed. "What with getting dragged all over between me and his mom they ended up placing him a couple of years behind most kids his age."
"Well, at least she didn't flat out lie about it, then. That's something, I suppose."
"Spike, we're hardly in a position to complain." Buffy tried to make a case for the defence.
"No, you and his serene Angelicness were in no position to complain. We are two adults. There's a world of difference." Spike turned to Brandon's father. "Look, actually, against my better judgement, I quite like the kid, though I'd never tell him to his face. I can't say I'm happy about the age difference, but I can see that in his position it's probably difficult to find common ground with girls his own age who're looking to go off to college, but if he does anything to encourage my Bit to grow up too fast, I will tar the living daylights out of him. I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from."
"I think any father would."
"Right then. Welcome to Casa Summers." Spike pushed open the front door of the house and stepped back to let Wes and Mr Michaels through ahead of him and Buffy.
The meal passed with a nervous anticipation as everyone waited for the main entertainment for the night, or rather everyone except Brandon. Even the teenager was aware of the tension in the air, however. For once Dawn was eagerly clearing away plates, almost before people had finished with them, in her effort to have the meal over as soon as possible, only to be thwarted when Spike announced that dessert would be another ten minutes.
Finally, everyone had had their share of baked Alaska with fresh raspberries and then coffee, and Spike excused himself for long enough to top up the nicotine in his system before "the talk". Buffy helped her sister and Tara to clear the table, leaving Wes to entertain their other guests for a few minutes. When she slipped onto the porch to wrap her arms around her vampire from behind, he simply sighed and leaned into her touch.
"So, you're happy with what we all discussed earlier? No last minute second thoughts?" Spike confirmed the limits of just how much information the group were currently prepared to share with the Michaels men.
"Nope. For now, at least."
"You do know that Bitty could probably carry this off better than either of us?"
"Rogue could probably carry it off better than either of us, but since we didn't brief Wes, we're all we've got unless you fancy making Tara do it."
"I guess not. Think she'll float a pencil or something to help make the point when we tell him about magic?" Spike threw his half-smoked cigarette across the yard and turned within the circle of Buffy's arms, a gentle hand pushing her hair back from her forehead so that he could press his lips against her temple.
"If you ask her nicely," Buffy assured him. "I think she might."
The vamp pulled back from her embrace, tilting his head to either side until his neck clicked and then he rolled his shoulders back, straightening to his full height. "Okay, love... I guess it's time to do this." He took a deep breath and made his way back through the kitchen to where their guests were now congregated in the living room, drawing Tara and Dawn from their kitchen chores en route. "The dishes will still be there in the morning, ladies. Time for Doctor Spike and his travelling medicine show. Performances twice daily, Monday through Friday and three times a day on weekends." All of a sudden the bombast of Spike at his evil best was back with a vengeance. Buffy didn't even complain as Spike lit a fresh cigarette one-handed as he swaggered into the living room with his other arm still wrapped around her shoulders.
Tara took up position in an armchair flanking the blonde couple as they took centre stage in front of the fireplace. Dawn moved Rogue out of the way so she could sit next to Brandon on the sofa.
"Alright, kiddies. Time for show and tell. Who here believes in magic, real magic not David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy bullshit?"
Tara tentatively raised her hand, Dawn raised the hand that wasn't attached to one of Brandon's like an arrow, Wes raised a casual forearm from the arm of his armchair and Anya nodded her head emphatically. Brandon looked around the occupants of the room as if they had all sprouted extra heads, finally turning to where his father sat beside him.
Spike gave Mr Michaels a sardonic glance. "Guess you didn't tell him what happened while he was unconscious at the hospital, then?"
Mr Michaels tilted his head on one side, raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "He thought he must have got hit on the head and imagined being shot. I couldn't really come up with a better explanation. I guess later tonight I'll tell him the truth." Brandon looked at his father as if he were speaking some strange foreign language.
"But I did get hit on the head. I have the lump. What's going on here?"
"I guess we have a sceptic in the house, so maybe it's time for a little history lesson. This little burg wasn't always known as Sunnydale. The first settlers here were Spanish. They called it Boca del Infierno. How's your Spanish, Brandon? You know what that means?" The vampire raised a questioning eyebrow.
"The Mouth of Hell?" the teenager asked, still unsure where this was going.
"Well, I guess the education system isn't totally up shit creek. So, back in the day the locals called this place the mouth of hell. These days the Anglos stick a pretty name on it, and try to pretend they don't know what happens here. Sunnydale, sounds like some nice leafy meadow where it only rains if the people living there give their permission, but there are some of us who remember the real name, some of us know that the forces of magic, good and evil, are stronger here than almost anywhere else on the planet.
Glinda, care to give our guest a demonstration? Doesn't have to be big or flash, just a little something he can't explain away."
Tara shrugged and levitated an ashtray from a side table to hover in mid-air by Spike's hand. The vampire's cheek muscles tightened on one side as his eyes gleamed with amusement at the witch's choice of demonstration. He moved his cigarette to his mouth drawing deeply on it and incidentally freeing his hand to take the ashtray from the air and place it within easy reach on the mantelpiece. He drew the cigarette from his mouth and flicked the sizeable quantity of ash that had accumulated at its tip into the receptacle. "Thanks, pet, couldn't drop ash on Joyce's rugs."
Brandon looked from Tara to the vampire, and then at all the faces around the room, seeing that he and his father were the only people in the room who didn't seem to regard floating ashtrays as a run of the mill part of life.
"I think we finally have his attention, Niblet. Better hold on tight to that hand of his or he might be about to make a run for it.
"See, the thing is, it's not just magic that's stronger. There's an energy to the Hellmouth. It draws to it those demons and creatures of the night who have evil in their blood. I mean, compared with humans there really aren't that many demons in the world. Some of them live in seclusion in the forests, in the mountains, in the seas where they don't have to deal with the ever-spreading tide of humanity. These guys, they don't bother anybody. They live their lives and some of them probably have never even heard of the Hellmouth.
No, the ones who come here are the vampires an' the other evil bastards, the ones who want to open up the Hellmouth and destroy the world. You don't find too many friendly demons in Sunnydale. To most of them, human equals food or prey of one type or another..." He let his gaze travel slowly up Buffy's body. "Or most humans. Wes, I think this would be your cue. You know the speech we're lookin' for."
Wes gave a sardonic smile at being drawn into the carnival, but at the same time the speech was one he had learned by heart in childhood and never yet had the opportunity to use. He didn't so much speak the words as orate, but his amusement at Spike's overblown production number never left his eyes.
"Into each generation a slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil."
Spike took a last draw on his cigarette as the watcher spoke, stubbing it out as he neared the end. "So, one girl, in the whole damn world... Why, you say, are we even bothering with this? Chances are she's off in the Philippines or sipping wine in Paris. No such luck. See, that one girl is right here in front of you. She's got the strength, she's got the skill, she's got the sacred duty and she's also, like it or not, got us.
She's got Watchers, guys like Wes here, big with the languages and the demon lore and she's got Anya here, who probably knows even more about demons than Wes does, seein' as how she was one for a little over a thousand years, so you know who to speak to when you're havin' problems with your history assignments.
She's got Glinda an' Red with their magic. An' she's got me." Spike finally shifted into game face. "I watch her back. Actually, I watch as much of her as I can any chance I get, but you've probably already noticed that." Spike gave a rueful smile and extended a hand toward the younger Summers, slipping back into his human visage as he did so. Dawn released her grip on Brandon's hand and rose to her feet, slipping under the outstretched limb and wrapping an arm behind his waist. Her changed position gave her the perfect view of Brandon's shocked face and she smiled softly at him, mouthing the words, "It's okay. Promise."
In contrast, Spike gave a deliberately unsettling grin before continuing in his oratory. "Now you know why I'm not about to insist that Buffy here demonstrates her demon-slaying talents for you. So, this all brings us to the stuff that Bitty here really wants us to tell you. Like I say, most of the demons hereabouts aren't exactly nice guys. Hell, I'm not a nice guy, but there are a few who are. Bit's got an invite to a party tomorrow night, and she's kind of hopin' that you'll accept what we've told you, and that you'll act as her escort for the event so you can meet some of our friends.
There's one other thing she wanted explainin'. She didn't feel right 'bout the fact you've leapt to some conclusions that might not necessarily be the right ones.
Last year, we ran across some trouble in the form of a hellbitch called Glory. She decided to use the Niblet here as a sacrifice in this big ritual she had all set up. Buffy, bein' Buffy, showed up in the nick of time and saved the day, but you get someone who's lost their marbles or someone with second sight an' to them Bitty here looks like a great green light. To us, she's the same annoying smartass she always was." Spike's teasing grin took the sting out of his words. "People like the woman who kidnapped her see her as... Well, who knows how their minds work? But if anyone or anything is different from them, as far as they're concerned, it's fair game to treat them however they want. Some time, Bit or your dad will explain why I have my own little grudge against people like her, but that's beside the point.
If you think Bit here looks like an angel, then no one in this room with the possible exception of the lady herself is likely to argue with you. Personally, I feel that way about every woman in the room. They're all something special.
Now, I know this is a hell of a lot to take in, but what I want you to really understand is the amount of trust that we're putting in you. In a lot of ways, we've just put ourselves at your mercy. I just hope I read you right and Dawn read you right.
Bit, there's some sodas in the fridge. I reckon maybe you might want to take your fella out to the back porch so he can see the stars while he thinks his big thoughts. Help him keep things in perspective. See if you can answer any questions he's got, within reason." Spike flashed from solemnity to wicked humour in an instant. "But just remind him if he tries to run off that we're holdin' his dad hostage an' it's a long walk home.
So, Andrew, fancy a beer?"
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