***Part Twenty-One***

Buffy handed the Jeep's keys to Spike without question when they were ready to leave. The uncomfortable dinner with Buffy's father and his late twenties live-in went by without incident. Buffy's dad scored points for acting like nothing was wrong or out of the ordinary about Buffy showing up there unexpectedly. They were taking their bags with them on the chance that Angel would offer them a room at the Hyperion. The less time Buffy had to spend with Wanda was for the good as far as Buffy was concerned.

Sadly, Buffy came to realize through dinner that Wanda was not evil and actually seemed to love her dad. Buffy did not understand how Wanda could not think that she might be replaced with the next secretary. In Buffy's eyes once a cheater always a cheater, her dad or not that's how she viewed it. If you break a vow once you'll do it again. Maybe that was why the couple was not married. Buffy did not really care to think on that, her dad living with a woman young enough to be Buffy's sister was bad enough.

She loved her father, but it had taken her a long time to stop blaming herself for her parent's getting a divorce. Her mom had not been dead for that long, they had two children together, and yet he acted like all was right in the world. Did he even miss her? Did he ever regret leaving her?

"It was nice to see you again, Buffy and good to meet you Spike," Wanda said, offering Buffy and Spike a flawless smile. Even her teeth were perfectly white and straight. Buffy had never spent a night with her dad and Wanda, so she had no idea if the woman ever had a bad day. Dawn would know Buffy would have to remember to ask Dawn what Wanda looked like when she woke up in the morning. Hopefully, no better than the Wicked Witch of the West looked.

"Thanks, we might be back later tonight I told Dad I'd call him before coming back," Buffy said trying to be polite. This was Wanda's house after all she did not want to burn the bridge and not be able to come back. And Buffy realized, sort of sadly, that in a Cordelia sort of way she could have been friends with Wanda if they had met under different circumstances.

"I'm going to take the bags out to the Jeep, pet," Spike said.

"And I'm going to go do the dishes."

"Thanks, Spike," Buffy said overlapped with Hank's, "I'll be in to help you in a minute."

"Are you going to be okay," Hank asked once Spike and Wanda had left them alone.

"Yeah," she said with a shrug. "I can handle the Council. I didn't mean to put you in danger, Dad."

"No, honey, it's okay. I had some time to think about it all when you were resting and I probably didn't react the right way. Typical for me I suppose, so I'm sure you're not surprised. I just wish your mother had told me. I had no idea."

"It's no big, Dad. I'm sure she just didn't want you to worry about things or think she was doing something wrong with me. You won't tell Wanda, right?"

"No, I don't think she'd believe me anyway."

"Good. It's better she not know."

He cleared his throat lightly and got that uncomfortable look on his face as if he was about to confess something, or apologize for not being there for her or Dawn for years. She hated that look, because nothing ever changed no matter how often the apologies came. He always stayed away. Buffy had contented herself a while ago that it was just her and Dawn, no one else.

"Honey," he started and stopped.

"Yeah, Dad?"

"How's the job going?"

"It's going good. It beats coming home smelling like grease covered in milkshake stains every day."

"I," he said, pulling out his wallet. "Here," he said, handing her a check.

"Dad," she asked taking in the check. It was made out to the mortgage company, and it had lots of zeros in the number.

"The house will be yours, sweetheart, once you send that check in. Free and clear. Just do me a favor."

"What? Anything," Buffy said still unbelieving. She held the check in her hand after she folded it in half afraid that it would disappear.

"If you need money, if you fall onto hard times, come to me for help, don't take out a mortgage on the house. If I can't help you, I'll find a way to help you. You're a twenty-two year old woman who owns a nice house, maybe you can't appreciate that now, but one day you will."

"No, Dad, I do. This is," she said still not believing. "It's unbelievable. I don't understand."

"There's nothing to understand," he said kissing her forehead. "Tell Dawn I love her."

"I will, Daddy, thank you," Buffy said still dazed. "Did Spike do this?"

"Well, no, Spike didn't do anything. He did mention some things to me, yes."

"I'm going to kill him."

"No, sweetheart. He told me nothing I shouldn't have already known and seen on my own. I thought you were fine. I had no idea things were that bad, that your mother left you in that state. I didn't know. You never told me, never came to me for help. And here I've just been buying Dawn clothes now and then."

"It's okay, Daddy, I didn't know how to ask for help."

"Well, now you do. I'm going to start sending you money every month for Dawn, too. I'll have to figure out how much after that check, but if nothing else you'll have a little extra coming in." She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. "Uh, sweetie," Hank said and Buffy drew away.

"Sorry. Thanks again."

"You're welcome. Once things are settled, we'll talk about college for the two of you, too. Spike mentioned you wanted to go back and Dawn's going to want to go too."

"Yeah. This will help, having no mortgage I mean."

"I know it will. I'm glad you came, honey. You're welcome here anytime. I don't know about that Spike, though. Is he safe?"

Buffy smiled. "As safe as any man is, Dad."

"Do you love him?"

"Yeah," she said simply not quite able to look him in the eye. Not that she was embarrassed, but it was just strange talking about this to her dad.

"Just be careful, I don't want to see you hurt again."

"Me neither. He's real good with Dawn, so I don't think he'd hurt me just to avoid hurting her."

"Well, that's something. You know, if you don't want to come back here before you go back home, we could have lunch before you leave."

"Won't Wanda know anyway?"

"There's nothing wrong with my having lunch with my daughter alone."

"Okay, I'll think about it. Thanks for dinner and for everything."

"You're welcome. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry it took someone else telling me to do this."

"No, it's all right. It hurt, I admit, but I was so busy last year," she trailed off, realizing her dad did not even know she had died. She had not told him that part of her Slayer history. "I just never got around to seeking out help."

"You must get that stubborn streak from me," Hank observed as they walked toward the Jeep.

"I think you and Mom were both stubborn, so Dawn and I are doomed."

"Just my luck," Spike quipped, standing by the driver's side door smoking a cigarette. Spike was surprised to see tears in Buffy's eyes and was about to tear her father's head off for upsetting Buffy when she was already upset when Buffy hugged him.

"I'll call you soon."

"You do that, or you," Hank said addressing Spike. He handed Spike a business card. "You seem to be the collector of the numbers. There are all of mine if you need them. If I'm not here or at the office Wanda can tell you where I am. She knows where I am better than I do I think."

"Thanks," Spike said, glad to see some concern in Hank Summers, even if it was only temporary. He slid the card into the pocket with the cell phone number Giles had given him. "You ready then, Slayer?"

"Yeah. Bye Dad."

"Stay safe, Buffy."

"Always," she said, getting in the Jeep as Spike got in on his side. "Well," she said in the car as she waved to her dad. Spike reversed the Jeep and headed back toward downtown LA.

"That wasn't so bad, though, I don't like his girlfriend."


"She's too," he paused looking for the right word. "Chummy."

"Was she flirting with you," Buffy asked somewhat teasing but somewhat put off by the idea.

"Well, no, not exactly, but she was more attentive to me than your mum ever was if you get my drift."

"Yeah," Buffy said and fell silent. "I'm surprised he's stayed with her for this long. I sort of expected it not to last. I always figured he and Mom would get back together. Once I was gone from the house and no longer there to cause arguments."

"Well, I think your father now realizes that your actions were not what they appeared to be. I never understood why your Watcher did not let you tell them. Giles always seemed more conscientious than that."

"Well, Giles wasn't my only watcher and I don't know. I guess I just took the whole secrecy thing to heart. And plus," she said with a shrug. "I did try to tell them and they had me committed. What was I supposed to do then?"

"I see your point. Then again, I guess you wouldn't have ended up in Sunnydale if they had known."

"I guess not. Not that I couldn't have done my Slayer duties in LA."

"Of course, but the Hell Mouth seems a more appropriate place for the Slayer to be."

"Can we stop somewhere before we go to the hotel?"

"Sure, pet," Spike said simply, accepting her request without question.

"Thanks," she said and told him where to go.

Spike got out of the Jeep but remained there seeming to sense she wanted, needed, to do this alone. She knew without looking back that he had slipped into game face in order to see her clearly in the dark. She had nothing to leave on the plot that was eerily devoid of any decoration. Even his tombstone was simple and straightforward, merely giving his year of death along with his name, Merrick Jamison-Smythe.

For some reason, seeing his name reminded her of when she first met Wesley. She had not treated Wesley very nice, but she had been comfortable with Giles by then. She had come to like Giles, love him even, and had not wanted another Watcher. Merrick had died before she had gotten a chance to accept her calling.

"I wish we had more time," she whispered. "I think you would have liked Giles. He never mentioned knowing you, so I don't know if he did or not. I think he suspected I didn't want to talk about you at first, and then life just sort of went on and we never talked about my time as the Slayer before Sunnydale."

She remained there for a few minutes and felt a bit of a catharsis at having come there and talking to him. She returned to the Jeep in silence, offering Spike an appreciative smile that he got into the Jeep without asking the mundane question, "Are you all right?" Obviously, she was not and the question did not need to be asked.

He placed a hand on her knee once the car was in gear, remaining silent. The touch was welcome, calming, keeping her in the present rather than falling into the temptation of dwelling on the past. "Thanks for stopping," she said when they were nearly to the Hyperion.

"No need to thank me, Buffy. It's not as if we're on a tight schedule or anything. Even if we were," he shrugged simply, downshifting as they approached a red light. Even while shifting he did not stop touching her completely, his pinky finger touching her until he could put his hand back on her knee.

"You nervous?"

"A little. I'm not sure if Peaches is going to bash my face in or not."

"He has no reason to."

"He knows I hurt you, Buffy."

"It's not his place to bash your face in, he learned that with Riley. Not unless I ask him to anyway." They pulled into the alleyway that ran alongside the Hyperion and parked the Jeep. She slid her arms around his neck and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him once outside the Jeep. "Don't worry so much. We'll be fine."

They walked through the doors that led to the hotel lobby, now operation central for Angel Investigations. She recognized Cordelia, but did not know the other two who walked out with barely an acknowledgement of their presence. Had it been that long since she had visited Angel in LA? They had met once after she had been resurrected, but otherwise, she realized it had been that long. They were both living their own lives, sometimes they would share information but it was via telephone. Dawn emailed him sometimes, but Buffy just was not computer friendly enough to tackle the email generation.

"Buffy," Cordelia said in a surprisingly enthusiastic tone of voice.

"Hi Cordelia," Buffy said simply. She felt Spike stiffen at her side and offered his hand what she hoped was a reassuring squeeze. "Is Angel here?"

"Nope, he went out a little while ago but will be back soon. We were expecting you, so he knows you're coming."

"You were?"

"Well, I had a vision," she explained.

"So, no one came by looking for us or anything."

"No," Cordelia said as if she thought Buffy might be crazy to ask the question.

"Okay, good. So, are we supposed to wait for him then?"

"Yeah, he just went to meet with a prospective client. It's been pretty quiet lately. Fred and Gunn just left on assignment."

"Oh," Buffy said simply still not quite used to Cordelia being in LA with Angel, working for Angel. It was just too bizarre. "You remember Spike?"

"Oh sure, hi," Cordelia said with a casual wave of her hand. "Give me a minute and I'll take you guys to a room. It will have a refrigerator, but no stove or anything. So, cooking you'll have to do in the kitchen down here if you do any. There's blood in there, too," she said seeming to pay attention to Spike for the first time.

"Right, thanks," Spike said. "I guess I'll go out and get the bags then." He released Buffy's hand and was gone in a flash. "Damned vampire stealth," Buffy muttered. But she sensed Spike just wanted to get out of here for a little longer if he could. Buffy did not blame him, being left alone with Cordelia was not exactly her idea of a prime way to spend the evening either.

"So, how are things going? You said they're slow."

"Yeah. Not much going on for the most part. Your average, run of the mill stuff, but nothing tripping the radar or anything."

"Good," Buffy said, walking toward Cordelia.

"It's pretty brave of you to bring your new to see the ex."

"Angel can always tell us to leave if he doesn't want us here."

"He wouldn't do that. To you. He'd do it to Spike I think in a heartbeat, but not to you."

"So you're Buffy," said a younger male voice. Buffy turned in the direction of the voice, her senses at attention though she could not detect anything about the teenager exactly.

"I am Buffy," she said simply. She remembered now why she hated coming here. She felt like she was under a microscope when she met anyone that knew Angel and knew of Buffy and Buffy's role in Angel becoming Angelus a few years ago. It was one thing to be famous as the Slayer, but another to be famous as Angel's ex, Buffy.

"I've heard a lot about you, almost started to believe you weren't real. Just a figment of everybody's imaginations."

"Nope," Buffy said sarcastically. "I'm the real deal." She thought she heard Cordelia say something, but she was too quiet. "Who are you?"

"I'm Connor."

"You're Connor?"

"Yeah," he said, stiffening defensively.

"Wow, okay, I mean, I had heard about the whole taken to a hell dimension thing, but just never really believed you weren't a baby anymore. It seems like just yesterday I heard you were born. That was unbelievable in and of itself."

"I suppose so. You're shorter than I pictured you."

"I get that a lot," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Buffy and Connor stared at one another neither saying anything else. Was he worried she had come back to hurt his father? She hoped not, she would rather die than hurt Angel surely everyone knew that, ex or not. Sure she had sent him to a hell dimension once, but that was beyond her control. It was either that or the end of the world and she had to act as the Slayer not Angel's lover in that moment.

"Got the bags, luv," Spike said from across the lobby.

"Connor," Cordelia said still sorting through papers. "Would you show Buffy and Spike to their room?"

"Sure," he said, softening visibly at Cordelia's voice. "The bedding and towels are clean. There's cable and a telephone in the room. There's even a T1 connection if you need it. If you make any long distance calls, leave money for them. Otherwise, make yourself at home."

"Thanks," Buffy said, having no idea what a T1 connection was. "Just a bed is good."

"Speak for yourself, Slayer. I hope we get premium cable channels."

"Spike," Buffy said with a roll of her eyes.

"No movie channels," Cordelia said without lifting her head from the desk.

"Damn," Spike said.

"Hush, honey," Buffy said flippantly as Connor started walking up the stairs. Buffy guessed they were supposed to follow him. He certainly was not a man of many words. "I wonder where he gets that from," she muttered.

"What was that, pet?"

"Nothing," Buffy said simply. "Just rambling."

Connor opened the door to their room, which was rather large. It was not big enough to be a suite, and the sitting area portion of the room was not separated by a wall or anything but it was big. "Wow," Buffy said admiringly. "Are all the rooms like this," Buffy asked.

"No," Connor said simply.

"Okay," Buffy said, hoping the boy would talk a little more.

"Fred and Gunn's room is furnished. So is Cordelia's, Angel's, and mine. But Cordelia and I don't stay here right now."

"Oh," Buffy said not sure what the deal was and not sure it was her place to ask.

"But he does have a few rooms, this being one of them, that he fixed up for the occasional visitor. I think his goal is to one day fix it up, restore it to how it was years ago or something. I don't really know."

"Oh cool," Buffy said, noticing for the first time that the wallpaper on the walls was definitely antiquated looking, as was the furniture and everything.

"No one told me Angel came back."

"I don't know about that. He came back a few weeks ago," Connor said simply not meeting Buffy's eyes. Spike placed a hand on her shoulder and tightened his grasp almost painfully. "If you want to come back down, I'll show you where the kitchen is. And the blood," he said, glancing at Spike. It was the first time Connor had really looked at Spike and Buffy was not sure what she saw in the boy's eyes. Contempt? Hatred? Both came to mind.

"Sure thing, Connor, we'll be down in a bit. Thanks for showing us to the room and everything."

"Spike," Buffy admonished as he closed and threw the lock almost without giving Connor time to leave the room entirely.

"Slayer," he said warningly. "I got woken up at the ass crack of down by your Watcher telling me that you and I are now on the Watcher's Council Top Two Most Wanted list. I shared you with your dad all damned day, had to sleep in a bed with the door open and worry that if I laid a bleedin' hand on you your old man would cut it off. I'm here with you at your ex's, surrounded by people who know him and lord knows what they know about me through him. Not to mention that kid scares the shit out of me."

"Why," she asked curiously. She had felt her Slayer senses tingle when Connor was near, but they did not get all full blown tingly like they did when evil was around.

He gripped her shoulders almost as tight as he had a moment ago to caution her about her conversation with Connor. She understood now that was what he was doing. He drew her to him, the look in his eyes was wild, his demon unchecked despite her looking into the blue eyes that belonged to William. "Hello? Child of two vampires. It should scare the shit out of you, Slayer. Vampires are not supposed to be able to add to the population. Not to mention I didn't like how he was looking at you, the vibe I was getting off of him when you brought up Angelus' return. But creepy child of Angelus and Darla aside, I just wanted some alone time with you outside of a car. Am I not entitled," he asked?

"Yes," she said, on edge from the look in his eyes.

He released his hold on her shoulders. "I don't mean to frighten you, Slayer, and whatever Angelus' spawn might be I'm not here to get involved with their issues. We're here to lay low, collect ourselves, come up with a game plan, and deal with the Council so that we can get back to Sunnydale and on with our lives."

Buffy sat on the bed, glancing at the phone. She should call Giles, but not from a landline. He might have put his own life in danger warning them. "Cordelia might be able to help, with her visions. I hadn't thought of her before."

"There's a thought," Spike agreed, sifting through one of his bags. "You up for a shower, pet?"

"Is that your way of telling me I'm a pungent Slayer?"

"No, it's my way of telling you that I want one and am inviting you to join me. We didn't take one before we left Sunnydale and I just figured after driving and all you might want one. It'll help you relax some."

"Well, since you put it like that."

"Oh? I need to give you an incentive besides my company to get you to join me in the shower?"

"You betcha," she said, taking the check her dad had given her out of her pocket. "Hey, we need to go out tonight."

"Okay," Spike said in the process of getting undressed. "What for?"

"I need to stop at a mailbox. Before the shit hits the fan I want to get this check in the mail so it doesn't get lost or anything."

"What check?"

"Oh, my dad gave me a check to pay off the house."

"Really, pet?"

"Yeah. He said a little birdie whispered some words in his ear."

"I did no such thing. Not really," he said, turning his back to her as he shed his jeans. She had an unobstructed view of his back, butt and the backs of his legs. Michelangelo's David did not come close to matching Spike's perfection at least as far as Buffy was concerned. Not that she had ever seen David up close and personal or anything. It still felt new seeing him nude through the eyes of a lover rather than whatever blinders she had on last year. "I just made him realize you were too stubborn to come begging for help and that he still had an obligation to Dawn if nothing else until she was eighteen."

Unbidden, she walked to him, he had to hear her with his enhanced hearing and all but he did not flinch or turn toward her. He remained standing there naked in the middle of the room and she touched him, shyly at first. His muscles flinched under her light touch but otherwise he remained motionless. She traced a path with both hands starting at his shoulders, her mouth following the same pattern until she reached the small of his back. She caressed his butt with her hands, sliding a hand to either hip around to his front.

Her breath caught and she bit her tongue when her hand met with the evidence he was ready for her. "Are you sure it's a shower you want," she asked huskily against his ear.

"I," he said and stopped his head falling back slightly as she wrapped her hand around his length. "I was sort of thinking of combining the two, luv."

She smiled as she kissed his shoulder and then his other one. "Lucky me. I hope they have a great big water heater."

"Do you now?"

"Yeah," she said and stepped away from him. He groaned softly and she laughed. "I'm right here, but I have to get undressed too if I'm going to shower with you."

"I know I just hate that moment."

"What moment?"

"When you step away and the warmth is gone," he admitted, his back still to her. She froze midway taking off her pants at his admission. "I live for that, crave it sometimes."

"Well, I'm not going anywhere, so you can give into your craving all you want."

He nodded his head simply and walked toward the bathroom sleek, regal and graceful like a proud lion walking on two feet instead of all fours. She had talked him into holding off cutting his hair for a little while, wanting him to make sure it was truly what he wanted. She liked it longer and at this moment with the fresh bleaching it added an almost unearthly look.

She heard the water running, the shower was turned on as she entered the bathroom. He stood waiting for her not hiding the fact he was aroused, that he wanted her. "Were you waiting for me?"

"Yeah," he said almost shyly, contrasting his confident exterior. "Ladies first and all that."

"You just wanted to make sure you got the temperature right."

"Well, that too, but it sounded better that I was trying to be polite."

She laughed with a shake of her head and pulled the shower curtain back to step into the huge tub. "Oh my god, Spike, we could swim in this thing."

"Yeah, I noticed that too," he said clearly amused. Whether he was amused by her reaction to the tub or to the size of the tub itself she did not know. "I was thinking we might be able to spend a while in there, but then the others might think we got lost or something and come searching for us."

"Let them search then," Buffy said. "Get in here, Spike," she bid.

He entered a minute later bearing soap, shampoo and washcloths for them both. "I'm going to smell like a bleedin' woman," he said as he sniffed her shampoo.

"You're going to smell like me anyway, so what's a little floral shampoo added to the mix?"

Spike smirked with a slight pout no doubt trying to get to her and it worked. Buffy sensed there was a bit of a testosterone thing going on with him but she was willing to let it slide tonight. She would not particularly care to be thrown into sharing space with Drusilla, and admittedly would do whatever it took to let Drusilla know Spike was hers now.

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