Buffy put things into boxes while Dawn, Willow and Anya finished cleaning the kitchen. Spike and Xander were in the living room with Dawn's new sort of boyfriend. The leftovers had been packaged for Xander and Anya to take with them and a slice of pie had been set aside for David to take home with him when he left.
"David seems nice, Dawnie," Willow said. Buffy had to agree, but anyone would be an improvement over Justin.
"Yeah, he is kind of shy but he's nice and he likes art."
"That's great," Willow said. "Don't you think so, Buffy?"
"Yeah, art is good," she said automatically, glad she had been listening. She had left out just enough dishes to cook and eat with for today's dinner, and now they were all put away. All that remained was some paper plates and plastic utensils.
Buffy and Willow had spent the week packing, Dawn helped when she was home and did not have homework. Even Spike had helped which had surprised Buffy to no end. Today, Thanksgiving, was their day of rest. Tomorrow it would be moving and then unpacking. Dawn was ecstatic about moving into the mansion, Willow was a little apprehensive because she did not want to appear to be a freeloader.
"Dawnie," Buffy said, having no idea whether she and Willow were still in the middle of a conversation. "Why don't you go on out there?"
"Are you sure?"
"Sure, unless you want to help me clean out the freezer."
"Then go," Buffy said, offering her sister a smile. Buffy let her hair down, rearranged it and pulled it back again. "Will, you can too, if you want."
"I'll help, Buffy."
"I don't have to help since I don't live here, right?" Anya asked.
"I don't mind, it will give me something to do," Willow said.
"Thanks, and no Anya you don't have to help," she said and poured herself a glass of wine. It was not the best wine, but it tasted okay to Buffy. Buffy did not drink often, but her mom had always served wine on Thanksgiving and Christmas. "Do you want some?"
"Just one glass," Buffy said with a shrug. "I want to relax, it's been a long week, a long day, and it will be a long weekend."
"Are you nervous about Angel coming tonight?"
"A little," Buffy admitted. "I mean, what if he's changed his mind?"
"Buffy," Willow said in a tone that Buffy recognized as Willow telling her she was crazy for thinking that way. "He's called since you've been back, right?"
"Yes," Buffy admitted.
"And he sent you the centerpiece for today, right?"
"Yes," Buffy admitted. She had been thrilled to get the flowers and Willow knew it. It was what made her hope that Angel would come earlier today.
"I don't think you have anything to worry about, Buffy. Honestly. He loves you, he really does."
"I don't know Angel well enough to offer my opinion," Anya said.
Buffy smiled with a shake of her head. "It's okay, Anya, but thanks."
"But Xander never sent me flowers," Anya added.
"What are you ladies yammering about in here?" Spike asked from the doorway.
"Nothing," Buffy said as Anya said, "Angel."
"Well, they're both the same thing, aren't they?" Spike said. "Is Peaches coming tonight then?"
"Yes, but I have no idea what time, sometime between now and six thirty tomorrow morning."
"Thanks for the sun cycle update, Slayer."
Buffy took a sip of her wine and opened the freezer door. "Anya, if you want any of this stuff or think Xander might, you're welcome to it. You can have anything except the Baskin Robbins."
"Ice cream, Slayer?"
"Yeah, I have my vices."
"I thought that was Peaches."
"Food type vices," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"Speaking of Peaches, I heard his car out front."
"Really?" Buffy asked.
"Really," he said dryly.
"Go ahead, Buffy," Willow said trying to be encouraging. "There's nothing in here that can't wait until tomorrow."
"You're right," she said and walked to the living room where Dawn was sitting on the floor next to David, their backs against the couch. Buffy was tempted to ask why they did not sit on the couch but the floor was less cozy so she decided to keep quiet.
"DB's just in time, isn't he? The food's gone, the clean-up's done, and the packing's done."
"Xander," Buffy scolded as she opened the front door and sure enough Angel's Plymouth was on the driveway behind the Jeep. It was a nice car, and old, but beyond that she was clueless about cars. He was almost to the house when she opened the front door. "Hi," she said and hugged him, kissing him lightly not wanting to give her neighbor's a show.
"Were you watching for me?"
"No, Spike heard your car."
"Oh, I was trying to surprise you. He's inside?"
"Well, you know Thanksgiving, family and all."
"Does he know you consider him part of the family?"
"Yeah, I've told him that."
"I'll bet he loved that."
"Actually," she said, sliding an arm around his neck. "I think he did. I think belonging somewhere means a lot to him."
"I believe it, it's one of the things I love, and hated, most about you, you made me feel like I belonged."
"Well, see, you're both a part of our family and belong here so it works out real well that way. Do you have bags?" He gestured to the bags at his feet Buffy had not noticed until now. "Okay great. Ready to come inside?"
"Do we have to?"
"Where else did you have in mind?"
"Buffy, your friends don't think very highly of me."
"Only Xander, and he's over it by now."
"Right," he said. He took her hand, which went a long way to reassuring Buffy that he had not had a change of heart. He paused at the threshold as if uncertain he was still welcome.
"You don't need an invite," she said.
"Thanks, sorry, it's just been a while," he said softly. He stepped over the threshold and Buffy watched as his eyes darted from the dining room at his right to the living room at his left. "Memories."
"Yeah," she said softly. He set his bags at the foot of the stairs and let Buffy lead him to the living room.
"Nice to see you DB," Xander said with a sardonic grin.
"Xander," Angel said with a low sigh. "Willow, Spike."
"That's Anya," Buffy said, pointing at Anya in the kitchen doorway. "Xander's fiancée."
"I've met you, haven't I?"
"Yes, Thanksgiving outside the dean's house. His wife gave me pie," Anya said. "And the Indians gave Xander syphilis." Buffy laughed at the look on Angel's face. "I guess I should thank you for your help, Xander could have died and we wouldn't be getting married."
"Right, er, you're welcome," Angel said with a glance at Buffy. She gave him a look of her own telling him she would explain later if he cared to hear the story.
"And this is David," Buffy said, "Dawn's friend," she added, realizing they might not be at the stage to openly call one another boyfriend and girlfriend.
"Hi," Angel said softly and Buffy knew how he felt, very much like she had felt visiting him. Dawn stood by waiting for a hug, which Angel gave her. "Hey, kiddo, you excited to move?"
"Totally, I can't believe you got her to agree to it."
"Me neither, I must have said something right, huh?"
"Right," Spike said from the kitchen doorway. "It was those things you said, you of many words."
"Spike," Buffy cautioned.
David walked toward them and offered Angel his hand. "Nice to meet you, sir," he said.
"You can call me Angel," he said glancing at Buffy, another unspoken question passed between them. All Buffy could do was shrug in response. Dawn had picked a boy with manners. He had called Buffy and Willow ma'am until they told him he did not have to.
"I'm going to walk David to his car, Buffy."
"Okay, Dawnie, don't be long," Buffy said, hoping she did not sound too mom-like.
"You let her do that?" Angel asked as soon as the front door closed.
"And you'd want to say good night to me in front of a room full of virtual strangers?"
"I see your point, but she's fifteen. He drives?"
"Yeah, he's older than she is. He seems like a nice guy, Angel."
"I've checked him out, Peaches," Spike offered, a beer in hand. "He seems all right."
"You did?" Buffy asked.
"I wanted to know who he was, so yes, I checked up on him. I wanted to make sure he was who he said he was and not another repeat of Halloween. I made you a promise, Slayer, just because you're back doesn't mean I'm going to shirk that."
"Thanks," Buffy said, relieved and chagrined.
"Xander," Anya called from the kitchen.
"Buffy's offering us food from her freezer, why don't you come see if there's anything you want."
"Sure," he said, standing from the chair and went to the kitchen while Willow put on her jacket.
"Where are you going, Will?"
"I'm going to visit Tara. She called while you were outside with Angel," Willow said.
"I don't know why she didn't have dinner with us, there was more than enough."
"I asked her, but she felt uncomfortable being around all of you right now, you know because you're my friends."
"Oh well, tell her we missed her and bring her some leftovers and some pie."
"Thanks, I already have some," she said. "I'll see you later. Good night, Xander, Anya, Spike. Glad you made it, Angel," Willow said with a smile.
"Me, too, Willow," Angel said. "Good night."
"Thanks," she said, flipping her collar up. "I don't think I'll be back tonight, Buffy. I stripped the bed and everything, so my room is all set."
"Thanks, Will, have fun," Buffy said, offering Willow a hug before she left. "Let's get your things upstairs," Buffy said to Angel.
Spike laughed, glancing from the TV to where she and Angel stood. "Is that the best you can come up with, Slayer?"
"Kids these days," Xander said from the kitchen, apparently listening to the conversation.
"You should talk, Harris," Spike admonished and Buffy could not help but laugh. If they had a dime for every time Anya made some sexual innuendo about Xander they would be rich.
Buffy took one of Angel's bags and led him upstairs. "Wow, it looks empty," Angel said once inside her room. Buffy regarded the room, he was right it was empty. Everything was packed in boxes, her closet was bare, her dresser empty, only the sheets on her bed made the room look lived in.
"Yup. We're ready. When the movers come they'll just have to load the truck."
Angel set his bag down and ran his fingertips over her comforter. "Good," he said distantly, and Buffy realized he was probably thinking. It had been years since he had been here, lots of memories both good and bad were in this room. "I'll be here through Monday."
"The case worker is going to come by on Monday."
"I know," Angel said simply. "She called yesterday saying she wanted to meet me. I look forward to it," Angel said dryly as he sat on the bed, but he was smiling.
"Since when do you look forward to meeting anyone?"
"I know it will help you keep Dawn, that's all."
"You know you're spending so much money on all of this. Having the mansion cleaned, the grounds taken care of, and the movers."
"Again, because it will help you keep Dawn. Buffy, if I let you move in there looking like it did they would take her away based on the condition of the house. I'm hoping Xander can do some repairs in his spare time for extra cash."
"He'd do it," Buffy said, sitting next to him on the bed. "I can't possibly repay him for all the money he's saved me. What are we going to tell Mrs. Kroeger?"
"Do we have to admit we're involved? We could set up one of the guest rooms and tell her it is mine. You'd just have to make sure and put everything back once I've left and you've done the laundry."
"I get to do your laundry, too?" Buffy asked with a laugh. "I didn't realize that was part of the deal."
"I would hope you'd wash my things, I don't plan on having to pack a bag every time I come here. I'd like to basically have two homes, here and there."
"With this home being the one you come to only when you can," she said with a pout.
Angel leaned back and drew Buffy to him. She rested her head against his chest and sighed softly as he ran his fingers through her hair. "I'm working on it, Buffy. I'd love for you to move to LA, but I realize this is where you were asked to perform your duties and I can't ask you to shirk them. But I don't know how much use I'd be here or even what I could do."
"I know," Buffy said. "I guess we don't have to tell her, we'll just have to make sure Dawn knows not to say anything. And Spike who ordinarily I'd worry about saying something just to get back at me or you, but he would never hurt Dawn so I think he'll keep his mouth shut."
"He'd better," Angel said gruffly but he was calm.
"I'm glad you got here early."
"Me, too. I wish I could have gotten here in time for your dinner."
"I wish you could have, too, it was a good dinner. Dawn made the pie, Xander and Anya brought the wine, and Spike made the gravy."
"I'll bet that was a treat."
"He actually did a good job, and I think he liked having something to do."
"What time are the movers going to be here?"
"Sometime between eight o'clock and noon, I gave them the rundown of what all we had to move."
"Yeah, it shouldn't take them too long to load this stuff up."
"Most of this stuff is going to look rather out of place."
"Only if you think about it that way, Buffy. The structure and the furniture don't make a home. And these are your things, your mom's things; they belong with you and with Dawn. If nothing else, we can store them and Dawn can have them when she moves out."
"Which won't be happening for years, at least I hope not. She's only fifteen."
"Like when she's fifty?"
Buffy snuggled against him, her fingertips tracing small circles on his chest through his shirt. "Sounds good," she said. "I haven't had a lot of time to just sit and relax this week, but now that I'm lying here with nothing to do I have to admit I'm excited."
"I'm glad you are," he said, placing his hand over hers. "You ready to go back downstairs?"
"We don't have to."
"I don't want to be rude."
She laughed lightly. "Okay," she said sliding off the bed.
He stood from the bed and stood behind her, his arms going around her waist. He kissed the top of her head and she rested her head against his chest. "I missed you."
"I missed you, too. And Happy Thanksgiving, thanks for the flowers."
"You're welcome; it was the best I could do, sorry."
"It's okay, you're here now, and it's not like you'd have eaten anyway."
He kissed her ear and whispered, "probably not, but if you have any whipped cream we could make use of it."
"Angel," she said a little shocked at the comment.
"What? Ice cream then?"
"I, no, I," she stammered.
"What's wrong? Why so coy?"
"No reason, you know I don't remember much about that day, Angel. I don't even remember what exactly we did with the ice cream."
"Well, I should refresh your memory then, though I realize some aspects will be missing. You know my having a heartbeat, being human and the whole being able to take you out in the daylight thing."
She turned in his arms and touched his face with her hand. "All things way overrated."
"You're just saying that."
"No, I'm not. I'm not used to talking about that sort of thing, but am willing to learn."
"Buffy," he said and paused. "I didn't mean to embarrass you."
"It's okay, and hey, we have ice cream and some whipped cream left over from Dawnie's pie, so you can choose."
"Sounds good," he said, sliding his hands over her hips to the curve of her bottom. "I might just choose both."
"I thought you wanted to go downstairs."
"I did, I do, I was just touching my girl, making sure she was real."
"Is this real enough for you?" she asked before kissing him, deepening it for just a minute before drawing away.
"For now, but I want more proof."
"I'm proof girl."
"Just the girl I had in mind, too."
"See, so that works well."
"Before we get sidetracked on the proof thing let's go downstairs and be social. I assume we'll be calling upon them to help this weekend, so it might pay to make with the talk."
She pouted, but knew he was probably right. "Oh, all right, if we have to."
"Buffy, they're your guests; you can't be rude and not say good night to them or anything."
"I think they'd understand, Xander and Anya are like bunnies. You'd think they do nothing else the way Anya talks."
"Well, see, exactly, we don't want to look like them, do we?"
"You're scraping the barrel for excuses there."
"Yeah, but if we're extra nice to them and throw in the promise of pizzas, we'll be done unpacking or at least operational by tomorrow night," he said, drawing her against him. His hand traveled the length of the back of her body, sliding between her legs briefly before moving to cup a breast. "And then we can have the rest of the weekend and all of Monday to do with as we please."
"Okay, you've convinced me already. Let's go downstairs then."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com