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
Brandon looked around uncomfortably at the three "people" with whom he shared a hallway.
"Em, I don't want to seem rude, but is it okay if I make this call in private?"
Lily shrugged. "Sure, sure. Young man, he want to speak to pretty girl, no old demon grandma." Lily put a world of disappointment into her tone, as if she were some neglected, old woman who yearned for the arrival of the census taker to ease her boredom. Then, she caught Brandon's eye and winked at him, her face creasing into a smile. "You tell pretty girl Lily say we want to see her tomorrow's night, with happy smile on face, puppy dog on lead and pretty boy on arm. We go here." She gestured through to the flat's living room. "You go there." She pointed back out into the main stairwell of the apartment block. "You come later."
Buffy and Spike followed the old lady into the living room and took seats on the sofa at the far end without ever letting go of each other. The slayer's fingers continued to brush against Spike's side and she hooked her left leg over his right as she turned to her companion. "So just how tee'ed off was Dawnie when you rang?"
"She wasn't," Spike answered. "She was just real disappointed, kinda hurt and doin' her best to put a brave face on it, but headin' for depression anyway. Just figured the idea she might kick him to the kerb would get the daft bugger on the phone sharpish."
"Isn't that kind of manipulative?" Buffy asked.
"Bitlet was hurtin'. Now she isn't. Leastways, not about junior. The kid's hers to play with anyway. He got himself shot and still came back. Quicker he realises his life's not his own any more, the simpler it'll be for all concerned. I just gave him a not so subtle nudge in the right direction."
Buffy rolled her eyes in despair, not knowing what to do with him. Lily chuckled at the pair. "Sometimes is frustrating to be in love with such a bad man with such a good heart," she told the woman.
Buffy couldn't help but smile at the demon's description of Spike. "Always," she corrected the old woman before placing a kiss on the arch of Spike's unmarred brow.
"So, is now a good time for your bad man to admit to ringing his poof of a grandsire earlier or not?"
"Spi-ike!" Buffy began in a plaintive tone, but then she just shook her head before letting it come to rest on Spike's shoulder. "You're a bad, bad man." The reprimand might have had a bit more of an effect, if it wasn't for the unspoken, 'but I love you,' that resounded into his being so that it swamped every part of him, only to be amplified and returned to his lady love.
Lily settled back into her seat with a contented sigh. There were times when being an empath demon was incredibly difficult. To feel another's emotional pain as if it were your own, diluted, but no less real, would make some of her kind turn inward, isolating themselves. Lily strove to remain always open for those she could help, and it was in moments like these that she took her reward.
Brandon's father had left very shortly after the boy himself, saying that he wanted to be at their home if Brandon headed back there and asking the girls to get in touch if Brandon made his way back to Revello Drive.
After that, Wes had been going to go and unpack the car and trailer, but the girls had all volunteered to help. The watcher had felt compelled to point out that Dawn probably shouldn't be doing any heavy lifting and that someone should stay in case Brandon came back or anyone called. In the end, a compromise was reached where Dawn and Tara dealt with the aftermath of the meal, while Wes and Anya emptied the car and the trailer. Since Wes basically decided that he would just leave everything in the hall overnight, it really didn't take that long to unpack. The time consuming part of allocating the boxes to the different rooms and setting things up properly would come later.
So, by the time Brandon rang to speak to Dawn, Wes had been informed that for the purposes of the evening he was now an honorary girl, and got to join in the fest of the lovelorn and their shared tub of ice cream.
"Hi. Can I speak to Dawn, please?"
"Who's calling?" Anya asked from her position at the kitchen counter, knowing full well the identity of the caller. She pointed at her watch and wiggled her fingers at the other three people positioned around the island. Each pulled out a five dollar bill and passed it to the former vengeance demon.
"Oh." Anya let an uneasy silence fill the air between them for several seconds, waiting until she could almost hear the shuffle of the boy's feet. Finally, she asked, "Have you called to apologise?" Tara shook her head at the way the former demon tortured the poor boy. Dawn simply helped herself to some more cool, creamy comfort food. Wes wondered if he'd ever been on the other end of one of these calls.
"Yes. Please, can I speak to her?"
"You're not going to snap at her or call her family rejects?" Anya brought forth promise after promise from the young boy before she even passed the phone over. No, he wasn't going to call any of her family or friends anything rude. Yes, he was going to take her to the party tomorrow night. Yes, he would take her anywhere she wanted to go tomorrow and do anything she wanted so long as he could afford it. Yes, he would hire a limo to take her to the formal and buy her a white corsage. Yes, he would do his very best to see she had one of the best nights of her life.
"I suppose I'll see if she'll talk to you." She rested the phone on its side and then called out Dawn's name as if she were in a separate room rather than right next to the receiver. "Phone. It's him." Dawn scooped another spoonful of ice cream from the tub and let it melt on her tongue before she picked up the handset.
"Hi. It's me." She climbed off her stool and took the phone out onto the back porch to get some privacy.
As the kitchen door closed behind her, Anya let out a sigh. "That boy is nearly as whipped as Spike. Why doesn't Xander call to apologise like that?"
"You do know that what you just did was pure emotional torture?" Wes asked.
Anya nodded. "But Dawn found out exactly how far he was prepared to go before she had to speak to him, so now she can be all magnanimous and forgiving instead of worrying if he's really going to be all anti-demon like Xander but try to cover it up."
Wes looked round the table. "I'm beginning to think that thing about vampires being inherently evil was a mistake. It's actually women."
"Only to men, though. Tara would never do something like that to another woman. And now that you have seen this at work I must call upon one of my former colleagues to turn you into a woman." Anya waited until Wes's mouth fell open at her matter of fact tone before she smiled widely and blinked at him a couple of times. He turned to Tara, finding her having difficulty containing her amusement. Only then, was he really convinced that Anya had been joking.
"I think I stand firmly behind my last comment," he muttered with a smile.
"Should we ask where Clem is?" Buffy asked his mother. "Or will he still be where we left him this morning?"
"He stay gone now till party time. Otherwise we find work for him."
There was a quiet knock at the living room door before Brandon pushed it open and joined the group.
"So, did you get things sorted out with the Niblet, then?" Spike asked.
"Well, she said to tell Lily that she, the puppy and I will all be here tomorrow night. And she said something about wishing she could see Rose's face."
"Oh!" Buffy's mouth formed a perfect circle as a thought occurred to her. "Would it be really rude if we asked whether we could invite someone else? There's a friend of ours and sort of Wes's, but he just got back into town from England yesterday."
"Don't know as Watcher senior would take kindly to bein' described as a friend of mine, pet."
"Well, maybe, Mr Smartypants, when I said ours, I meant mine and Dawn's. Not everything revolves around you, you know," Buffy teased. "Besides you and Giles aren't just friends, you're old roomies."
Spike sighed. "Do us a favour Lil. Just tell her she can ask the old codger. An' park yer arse somewhere, kid. You're makin' the place look untidy." Brandon took a seat on the sofa next to Buffy still looking slightly nervous.
Lily smiled. "I think maybe I should meet this old roomie of William and if he friend of Wes, he welcome." She bustled over to a bureau that rested against the room's side and pushed back the roll-top front. Pulling out the chair that accompanied the desk she sat down and called across to Buffy. "What is your friend's name. Mr What?"
"Mr Giles what?"
Spike smirked. "That would be Mr Rupert Giles, Lil, love. He doesn't use the Rupert on account he doesn't want people to know he's named after a cartoon bear with yellow tartan pants."
Lily was in the middle of writing out an invitation for the watcher when Rosa came running into the room.
"Unker Will! Auntie Buffy!" The girl ran around the end of the sofa and climbed straight onto Spike's remaining leg that hadn't already got Buffy's slung over it. "I told mommy that you would come before bedtime."
"Well, kitten, sometimes Uncle Will has to help Auntie Buffy when she's got important things to do, but if we had to break a promise we'd always do our best to at least ring. And you know I wouldn't break a promise unless I really, really had to."
Spike took in the maroon and gold pyjamas that the little girl was wearing, emblazoned across the back with the legend "Gryffyndor". He shook his head at the little girl. "Everybody wants to be a white hat these days."
"Silly! All the best characters are in Gryffyndor."
"Are not. That Snape guy's a right interestin' bloke."
"He's mean. I don't like him." Buffy sat up, watching the dialogue between the two with a huge smile on her face.
"He saved Harry during that snitchy game of theirs in the first book."
"He picks on Harry and he's head of potions but he can't even use shampoo properly. And if you went to Hogwarts you'd be in Gryffyndor, too. All the bravest people are in Gryffyndor."
Buffy giggled at the look of absolute shock on Spike's face as he fishmouthed "Take that back, munchkin. Only the goody-goody types are in Gryffyndor. I'd be head of house in Slytherin."
"Shan't. Auntie Dawnie told me all the stories about the nasty woman who was inside the nice doctor like Voldemort was inside that professor and how she was trying to find her and how even when she held you prisoner for days and wouldn't let you eat or sleep, you wouldn't tell her where Auntie Dawnie was. And about how you looked after her and her mommy for Auntie Buffy and how you fought the nasty old-man demon and you nearly won but he cheated and pushed you off the tower and even though you were hurt real bad and your heart broke because you thought they'd taken Auntie Buffy away for good instead of her just being trapped in another dimension for a while you still looked after Auntie Dawnie. You would too be in Gryffyndor."
"I guess it was too much to expect your Auntie Dawnie to just read to you like a normal person?"
"This was better," Rosa insisted. "She can't do voices like you do, but 'cause these were about you and Auntie Buffy and her I knew what you all should sound like." The young girl suddenly noticed the youth beside Buffy. She seemed to study his face intently for several seconds, before she made her eyes cross slightly and stuck her tongue out at him.
"Rosa! Apologise right now." Her mother scolded her from the doorway of the room where she'd been leaning to watch Spike's discomfiture. "That's not polite."
Rosa watched the boy. "Sorry." She turned to her mother. "I just wanted to see if he was Auntie Dawnie's boyfriend. She said her boyfriend had pretty eyes like your jade tiger and long eyelashes, but I couldn't tell if he had a cute smile or not because he wasn't, so I thought maybe if I stuck my tongue out he would and then I'd know." She turned back to the youth. "And see... He has. Hi, Brandon."
"You could have just said hello and maybe he would introduce himself," her mother sighed at the little girl's logic.
"I guess I'm just a little late with the formal introductions," Buffy excused herself. "Brandon, this is Rosa. The lady in the doorway is Marie, her mother. Lily is her grandma and her Uncle Clem, who is apparently in hiding at the moment but who you should get to meet tomorrow night, is going to be Spike's best man at the wedding. And for those of you who hadn't already worked it out, this is Dawn's boyfriend Brandon."
The little girl smiled at her mom as if to say, "Told you so."
Spike cleared his throat slightly and looked back and forth between Buffy and the little girl a couple of times.
"Me?" Buffy asked, half-awed and half-excited at the idea.
"Honey, your Uncle Will and I have got a real big favour to ask you and your mommy. See, we just realised that we've got lots of grown up lady friends to help us out being bridesmaids and stuff, but we only know one special little girl who could be our flower girl. So, do you think your mommy would let you stay up late the night we get married so you can do that for us?"
"Mommy?" The little girl's deep brown eyes looked over to her mother imploringly. "Please, can I?"
"No more rude faces?" her mother bargained. "You have to be good from now right up until then."
"Promise." Her mother nodded, smiling as the little girl ran across the room to express her thanks in the form of a hug. Then, the girl started dancing round the room singing, "I'm going to be a flower girl," in a sing-song voice, until all of a sudden she stopped dead. "Auntie Buffy, what's a flower girl?"
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