Dawn looked out of the window of the van Giles had rented, trying to see her new home town. She couldn't see much, because the sun had recently set. They were driving through residential streets with nice houses, which surprised her, because they'd just left the airport. But then, the airport was pretty small; they'd been lucky to get a direct flight from L.A., and even then, Angel and Spike had had to travel in large boxes in the cargo hold. They hadn't been happy about it, and Dawn wasn't looking forward to their tempers when they finally came out.
But she was looking forward to seeing her new home. Giles hadn't been able to find a hotel or other appropriate building large enough for them all to live in, so he'd had to settle for buying several houses on a small private street. He hadn't even been able to buy all of the ones on the street, which should make things interesting when they're all heading off to patrol or coming back covered in demon slime. So Dawn was going to be living in a house with Buffy, Willow, and Xander, which would be weird and fun all at the same time. She was definitely glad she wasn't going to be living with Illyria, who had freaked them all out by showing up as Fred when they'd left for the airport. She was so completely different when she was Fred; she'd been unbelievably sweet the whole plane ride, helping the stewardesses put things in the overhead bins (she'd still had Illyria's strength) and never complaining about how long the flight was, like the rest of them were doing. By now, Dawn just wanted to get as far away from her as possible. Illyria and Spike were going to be living in a small house together, and Dawn had no idea how Spike would manage that.
The van turned down a tree-lined street, dark except for the lights shining from the windows of the houses on either side. From what Dawn could see, they looked like houses you might see anywhere in suburbia, though there was something about them that told her she wasn't in California anymore. The tree branches almost met over the middle of the street, and Dawn could see Buffy, in the front seat next to Giles, looking around for potential ambush points. She rolled the window down and took a deep sniff.
"It smells nice," she said. "Green."
Xander, who had been craning his neck to look around out his own window, turned to her and smiled. "It does seem like a nice town," he said.
"Too Stepford," Buffy said. "All the houses look the same."
"They were most likely all built around the same time," Giles said. "Don't worry; our houses don't look at all alike."
He slowed down and turned onto the private drive. There were six mailboxes next to the turnoff; apparently, the mailman didn't have to deliver directly to the houses on this street. There were large yards on either side of the drive, and then Giles pulled into what was almost a small parking lot on the left of the drive.
"We're here," he said.
Everyone piled out of the van and stood looking up at the white house with black shutters that stood in front of them until the other van pulled up behind them and Faith jumped out, followed by Willow, Illyria, and Gunn.
"D'you see that weird-ass tower on that house over there?" Faith said. "I'm not living there, am I?"
Everyone turned and looked where she pointed. Dawn had to admit that the square tower did look a little strange, especially on a house that small.
"No," Giles said. "You're not living there, and do please keep your voice down. "That was one of the houses I wasn't able to buy - the owners wouldn't sell."
Faith snorted. "It can't have been because of that tower," she said.
"Actually, it was, at least in part," Giles said. "They have recently added that addition to their house." He studied it for a moment, and then shrugged. "There's no accounting for taste, is there?"
Xander had walked a little way down the private drive, but now returned.
"Please tell me I'm living there," he said, pointing at the next house down. "Whoever designed that porch is a genius."
Giles shook his head. "That's the other house with an owner who wouldn't sell. And actually, the same architects designed both the porch and the tower."
"Huh," Xander said.
"If we're not living in those two houses, where are we living?" Dawn said. She was still feeling uncomfortable from the plane ride, and really didn't feel like standing around discussing architecture. Especially in the dark.
Buffy and Willow had been standing, arms linked, looking up at the white house.
"It's this one," Willow said. "Isn't it? This feels like us."
Giles gave her an odd look, but nodded. "Yes, you four will be living in this house, which was the original farmhouse when this whole area was farmland. Faith and myself, along with the three young Slayers and one Watcher trainee, will live in the next house over, which was originally the barn. I understand it's been completely rennovated," he added in a dry tone at Faith's horrified look. "Spike and Illyria have the house past the one with the porch, and Angel and Gunn have the one past that. And speaking of Angel and Spike, Xander and Gunn, will you come along and help me unload them?"
Gunn snorted. "Two Slayers along, and the poor weak men are stuck doing the heavy lifting."
"Who're you calling weak?" Xander said, mock-punching him on the arm.
Giles stared at them for a moment, and then rubbed his eyes.
"I do apologize," he said. "Buffy and Faith?"
In the end, they all piled back into the vans and drove to the house Spike and Illyria would share. Illyria, who had turned back into herself on the ride from the airport and hadn't said another word, took Spike's container out of the van all by herself. Giles unlocked the door to the house and everyone walked around from room to room, except Illyria, who put Spike's container down on the floor of the sunken living room and opened it up. The tour of the house was punctuated by Spike's mild cursing and complaining, along with slurping. Faith's van had stopped at a butcher's on the way from the airport, and though Spike complained about the taste of the blood, he sure drank it quickly enough.
The house was a small ranch, but it had a swimming pool out back, where Dawn suspected she'd be spending a lot of time. It also had, instead of a garage, a strange room with a padded floor and heavy curtains on the windows.
"The people living here weren't vampires, were they?" Dawn asked.
Giles shook his head. "When I toured the house, there was a fancy car there," he said.
"Really?" Xander said. "What kind?"
"I have absolutely no idea," Giles said. "It was orange."
Angel and Gunn's place was also a ranch, but it was slightly bigger and didn't have a pool or weird car room. Angel was much quieter when he got out of his container than Spike had been, but just as hungry, judging by how much he was slurping, too. Giles suggested that they all take the rest of the evening to settle in and meet again in the morning to discuss strategy.
"You'll have to do it without me and Spike," Angel said, looking glum. "No tunnel system here."
"Yes, I know," Giles said, and he actually sounded sorry. "There just weren't any big enough places for sale in town where there are tunnels. The people who built this town obviously weren't aware that a Hellmouth would someday come here."
"You mean they weren't insane warlocks determined to become true demons," Willow said.
"No, they were Moravians," Giles said, which was obviously amusing to him, though none of the rest of them got it. "But we can meet here," he added, "if Spike wouldn't mind using a blanket to get here."
Spike rolled his eyes, but nodded. Dawn noticed that Giles hadn't suggested that Angel be the one using the blanket. They decided on a time, and then finally, it was timme to go to her new home. Giles and Faith headed into their house, which was a nice-looking shingled one set close to the road with a large yard behind and to the side of it. Dawn knew she'd want to go all over it soon - it did still look somewhat like a barn, but in a good way - but right now, she really wanted to see where she'd be living. Buffy unlocked their front door and flicked on the light as she entered, the rest of them trailing after. The entered into a good-sized front hall with a door leading into a large room opening off on either side. There was a staircase off to one side and another door directly in front of them. They peeked into the empty rooms on either side - both had fireplaces - and went through the third door into the kitchen. It was large, airy, and had French doors leading out onto a patio and a large yard beyond. Dawn, Buffy, and Willow just stood there, pretending to look at the counters and appliances, while Xander poked around and found another empty room through a door on one side and steps leading down to a basement, which he said was large, completely finished, and would make a good training room.
"Good," Buffy said. She sounded exhausted.
"Let's go see our rooms," Dawn said, though it took several more minutes for them to actually head upstairs. She wasn't quite sure why they were all so tired, since it wasn't nearly as late by California time, but she supposed it was jet lag. There were four bedrooms upstairs, and there was a little argument as to who really didn't want the biggest one, but eventually the girls ganged up on Xander and made him take it. Dawn ended up with a pretty blue bedroom that looked out over the private road and the house with the weird tower, but she liked it anyway, because it had a window seat and a large closet. She and Buffy would be sharing a bathroom again, but at least it was just the two of them, not lots of Potentials. Dawn started unpacking, but gave up midway through just her suitcase, dug out her pajamas, brushed her teeth, and crawled into her sleeping bag. Everything would keep until tomorrow.