Faith found her hairbrush in the third drawer she opened in the bedroom. Dragging it through her hair, she glanced at the bed, and seeing that nothing had changed since she had left it, she nudged the mattress with her toe and said, “Yo, Cryptkeeper. Sun’s shining and the birds are chirpy. Get your ass up.”
“Faith,” came the reply in a sour voice, muffled by a layer of blankets. “I am a sodding vampire.”
“Really? Wow, that explains a lot.” She turned and grabbed the mattress with both hands, giving it a good shake. “Doesn’t get you out of this one, though. I’m gonna go pick up Buffy and Angel, so you need to get the guest room ready.”
Spike poked his head out from the covers. “Made it out of Denver, did they?”
Faith put the brush back into the drawer and began the search for the shoes she wanted. “Yeah, B called again after you left last night and said they figured it out. That pilot who’s possessed or whatever is gonna stay in town so they can maybe suss out what’s wrong with him. Don’t know where they plan on putting him, but Oz can probably get the pack to help, since we’ll be no vacancy.”
“No we won’t,” Spike countered, sounding just as sure of himself as he had last time they went over this. “Angelcakes will find any excuse not to share a roof with me. Buffy won’t put up with the combination of any two of us. They’ll thank you most sincerely and find somewhere else to lay their heads.” He sat up and patted around the bed for his boxers.
She found them first and tossed them at his head. “Hey, maybe I’ll just kick you out. Not like your name’s on the deed.” Her shoes finally appeared, and she sat down on the bed to tug them on. “Anyway, give ‘em some credit. They won’t make a fuss.”
Spike rolled closer and latched his arms around her waist to kiss her neck before answering. “Don’t throw me out, love. I’m the one keeps you lukewarm at night. And you’d have to do all the landscaping yourself.”
His lips tickled, and she failed to suppress a laugh. “Whatever, just clean up that guest room before I get back with them.” As she left, she noticed the wall calendar was still on June, and flipped the page to the new month. The image was a moonlit wildlife photograph, which made her smirk. When had her life become so wholesome?
The private plane that was carrying her guests had flown into a private airport rather than Cleveland Hopkins, so it was a longer drive to pick them up, but the parking was much easier. Faith’s first thought when she saw Buffy with her luggage was that she should have found someone to bring a second car. Her Mustang didn’t have much trunk space.
As it turned out, though, she only had two passengers. “Howell got a taxi to a motel,” Angel explained after they had all exchanged greetings and returned to the garage. “He’s got some connections, so he said he’d take care of himself.”
“You’re not even keeping an eye on him?” Faith asked as they helped her load the car.
“It’s really not scary enough to warrant constant supervision,” said Buffy. “Angel, take shotgun, you need the legroom. Howell’s been acting completely normal, he’s just worried that he got touched by a hypnotic suggestion. Least we could do is dig up an answer for him.”
Faith waited for Angel to arrange a blanket around himself to block the sun, and then started the car and pulled out of the garage. “Yeah, Giles called and gave us the same spiel about toxoplasma that you got. We’re on Willow’s mailing list, too. I heard a rumor she may be doing her astral projection thing so she can lecture us while we’re all in the same place.”
Buffy leaned forward from the back seat to stay in the conversation. “Hey, whatever works,” she said. “Last I talked to her, she still sounded a little iffy about getting involved on your turf, but I think that was mostly about Oz. They’ve never really cleared the air. Have you seen him much?”
“Yeah, he shows up when Nina and I hang out sometimes. She’s the alpha female of his pack, did you know that? Wait,” she added, remembering Angel’s connection. “Have you guys cleared the air?”
Angel laughed. “Yes. Months ago. I’m glad she’s happy here.”
“Alright,” said Faith, taking that at face value. “Anyway, Oz does some extracurricular research for us, but he’s mostly sworn to the werewolf population now. Nina didn’t even realize he and I knew each other from Sunnydale until I told her.”
Since Angel had never spent enough time in Cleveland to establish a presence, and Buffy had barely made an appearance, Faith took a few minutes to fill them in on how the current players operated. “We were pretty organized while Dawn was here, but now that we get most of our tips from you guys, these days it’s basically me and Spike reading our email and going out to knock down whatever comes up.”
“And you and Spike are living together?” Angel inquired.
Buffy reached over the seat and smacked his arm. “Angel, leave her alone!” she commanded, sounding appalled. “It’s none of our business who she’s living with.” She turned to Faith. “Are you, though?”
More amused than offended, Faith decided to challenge them and answered, “You’ll figure it out when we get there.”
Angel held up his hands under the blanket in surrender, making him look like a black Halloween ghost. “I know I’m being crass, but I swear, it’s just for the sake of logistics. Oz only has the one extra bedroom, and….”
Buffy flushed and smiled. “Okay, Nosy Guy raises a valid point. We’re trying to avoid the cohabitation thing until we have more of a game plan for...us.”
The car picked up speed as they reached the highway. Faith calculated that they would make it home just in time for Angel to take the blanket off. “Consider your drift caught,” she told them. “My place comes with Spike. Who wants us?”
There was a pause, in which Faith suspected that Buffy and Angel were trying to meet each other’s eyes through the blanket before they decided. Her mouth quirked, but she didn’t interrupt them, and Buffy finally released a rueful laugh. “I’ll stay with you guys, if you don’t mind. Angel and Oz can bask in each other’s silence.”
Spike had been half right, Faith reflected: Buffy was staying with them, but Angel wasn’t. She wondered if it really was about trying to sleep separately, or if Spike was half right about their reasons, too. Either way, they should all be able to handle this arrangement, but that didn’t mean she was going to be off her guard.