Nesting and fast moves
Reviews are welcome Chapter 5: Nesting and fast moves
The teens made their way into the Summers home. Simon was at the table with Dawn, using calipers to measure the distance between state capitols on a large road map. A sheet of paper with numerous calculations and Dawn’s tongue tip caught between her teeth as she juggled the calipers showed that most of the work was being done by her, even if the first calculation was marked with Simon’s bold fountain pen written hand. A pile of notes on the table showed that railroads had been given attention as well, with a few famous tunnels and bridges mentioned.
Joyce gave the three a warm smile and a nod. “You’ll be staying for dinner Xander? I’ve got meatloaf enough.” She winked at Willow. “And all kosher too.”
Willow blushed. “O-oh no need to go to such trouble…” Joyce gave her a glance and a quick step took her next to the stammering red head, light squeeze around the shoulders brought reassurance to the girl. “No trouble at all. It would be very impolite for a houseguest to be forced to eat something that does not agree with a lifestyle choice.”
Dawn perked up and Joyce sighed. “No Dawn; that does not mean founding the Church of eating Twinkies gets you out of eating Brussels sprouts!”
Dawn pouted and Buffy laughed. “It will never work Dawn. Never did for the Church of the Holy Chocolate Mousse either.”
Xander looked at Joyce a trifle uncertainly as the sibling banter went on. “If its okay, yeah. I’d like to. Thank you Ms Summers.”
“Good. Growing boys need a lot of healthy food. Study group went well? Nothing left from the box?” Buffy exchanged looks with her friends.
“Sorry, Mom all finished.”
Joyce chuckled. “It’s why I packed them dear. Dawn got ice-cream. Anyway I don’t think it will be a problem. There’s still some left.”
Xander smiled hopefully. “Growing boys need a lot of junk food too?”
Joyce ruffled his hair affectionately and Xander looked at her with large eyes. “After the growing boy eats a proper supp…dinner.” She glanced at Simon who smirked at her involuntary Briticism.
Willow smiled and sat next to Dawn. “So how was your day Dawnie?”
Dawn looked up with the most radiant smile that Buffy had seen on her for months. “Simon is taking Mom and me to the ballet next week!”
Buffy gawped. “Seriously? I thought it was sold out?” She gave Simon a startled look.
He nodded. “Seriously.”
“Wow.” She rose and hugged Dawn. “That’s great. I’m so happy for you Dawn!”
Dawn grinned. “Yeah. It’s totally awesome!”
Joyce cleared her throat. “And it is time for dinner. Shall we repair to the dining room?” She said the latter part in a plummy British accent and Simon gave her an amused glance.
“But certainly Ms Summers.” He gave her his arm in an old fashioned and seemingly unconscious gesture and they walked into the dining room arm in arm. The teens exchanged glances, rolling their eyes and followed, carrying the food.
The meal was eaten in the dining room and the conversation was mostly taken up by questions about the ballet. Xander managed to eat two huge servings of potatoes and meatloaf with salad as Joyce looked on in maternal amusement. They broke up after dinner and clearing the table, Joyce and Simon loading the dishwasher while the children went upstairs for more homework and other school preparations.
Dawn was packing her bag for school when there was a knock at her door. At her yodel to enter the door opened and showed Simon who somewhat furtively entered. “Dawn, I need a favour.”
Dawn gave him a curious look. “Like what?”
“I need your mother’s clothing measurements. Can you get them for me?”
Dawn giggled. “You’re getting her a dress for the ballet!”
“I did say I had sent for appropriate evening wear. Have to keep up the family honour.” He shrugged.
Dawn nodded thoughtfully; then smiled. “Our measurements are all downstairs in a drawer the closet in the dining room. I’ll get them for you.”
“Thank you Dawn.”
“You’ll have to keep Mom distracted.”
Simon winked at her. “I can do that.”
“Okay. Do I get a dress?”
“I don’t think I’d get that past your mother right now.” He looked regretful. “But your mother says the one she made is quite suitable.”
Dawn nodded eagerly. “Yeah, she worked hard on that, it’s really pretty. Want to see it?”
Simon smiled and was duly shown the dress. He took careful note of its cut and colour before he left the room.
Dawn filled up her book bag, then wandered downstairs into the empty dining room, rummaged in a drawer and came up with a Manila folder which she knew contained her mother’s most recent measurements, as well as her own and Buffy’s. After a little thought she shrugged, folded all three papers together and replaced the folder itself. She was going to get a scolding anyway, so she might as well really deserve it. Aunt Lolly’s notes regarding the fact her sister ought to lose some weight from her hips were not going to make it that
much worse. She took a pack of cards out of the drawer as well, walked into the sitting room and saw her mother receiving a fairly passionate kiss in the kitchen. Buffy, Willow and Xander where talking upstairs and Dawn slipped into the kitchen and observed the adults for a bit. Both had their eyes closed. One of her mother’s hands was rather insistently buried in Simon’s hair the other was wandering down his back, stroking him softly through his shirt. Simon had both of his in her mother’s short blonde locks, running his fingers through them with abandon. Dawn thought he had needed very little encouragement to distract her mother. Nor had it been very difficult. She filed this one under ‘things that will make Buffy pound her head on the table.’ She still had to have a conversation with her sister about the goings on in the park.
She cleared her throat.
“Anyone for a card game?”
Her mother pushed herself away from Simon, blushing and breathing rather heavily and Dawn noted that Simon, despite having instigated the distraction was doing the same.
Joyce glared at her youngest daughter, who was to her eye, smirking rather widely. “Ah, Dawn, erm, maybe in a minute Simon and I have to finish errr…”
“Canoodling?” Dawn asked it with honest curiosity and Simon started laughing. Joyce glared at him too.
“That and getting the coffee ready. Go sit at the table, we’ll be right there.”
Simon carried in a loaded tray a minute or so later. Dawn passed him the papers and he tucked them carefully away. She winked at him and stage whispered. “Nice distraction.”
Simon gave her an amused look, winking back. Dawn was a touch disappointed he did not blush.
Joyce came out of the kitchen and the three began a game of Go fish, which was joined after a while by Buffy, Xander and Willow and ended only after Xander had to go home and Dawn to bed.
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It was Monday morning and the Summers family was getting ready for school and work. At exactly seven in the morning a gentleman dressed in a grey linen suit had presented himself at the kitchen door with a box with seven bagels and a grin. Two bagels were to be transported, at her mother’s orders, to the library for the feeding of the ‘hungry males’ and the others were for the immediate consumption by those present. Much to the amusement of her youngest and slightly to the dismay of her eldest Joyce had greeted the visitor with a gentle kiss on the lips that promised rather more. Buffy would swear she saw a flicker of tongue and had proceeded to watch the two with eagle eyes.
Buffy and Willow were ready to leave and Simon would drive them to school and Joyce to the Gallery, then swing by Dawn’s school to present himself to the redoubtable miss Mellowes for early break. Dawn was rather looking forward to showing off her mother’s new boyfriend. Her referring to him by that appellation had made Buffy groan in spite of herself and Joyce blush. But neither Joyce nor Simon had denied it.
The drive to the gallery was short and Joyce spent it studying the man next to her. His hands were sure on the steering wheel and the gear shift. “So when do I see yours?”
She blushed at his surprised glance and the sniggers from the back seat. “Apartment! I meant your apartment!”
Simon laughed. “We can go by there before lunch. Not really interesting, just a couple of newly refurbished rooms, a couch, a bed and a stereo. Oh, and a rather large pile of books.”
“I don’t know, you can tell a lot about a man from looking at his books.”
Simon smiled at her. “Very well, before lunch. Pick you up at 11.30? or 12.00?”
Joyce nodded. “12.00 will be fine” He pulled up before the gallery and she kissed his cheek and looking back at the grinning teens, met his eyes and then kissed him fully on the lips. “See you at lunch.”
Buffy groaned. Willow ‘aahed’ in romantic admiration before remembering she was fifteen and groaning as well.
Simon drove off as Joyce opened the door. The girls sniggered again as he kept glancing in his rear view mirror for a last glimpse of her. They reached the school soon after and the girls got out, walking up the stairs to enter the school. Cordelia was discussing a new bit of gossip with Harmony.
“And my dad says that there are like three dozen construction workers and restorers and earth moving equipment and like a ton of gardeners.”
“So they going to put apartments in there?”
“Dad says some rich dude from up East has bought it as a pied-à-terre. To live in.”
“The whole manor? Alone?”
“Yeah, dad says there was this guy there and he turns out to be the butler! A real butler, can you imagine!?”
Buffy and Willow arrived at the door to the library at this point and went in. “Hey Xander, ‘morning Giles?” What’s new?”
Giles looked up worriedly. “Xander told me that a large property known as Banker’s Manor is being renovated. I’ve been trying to track down if there is any mystical reason why anyone would want to live there. As far as I can tell it lies on the convergence of at least three ley lines. And the surrounding park and gardens has several powerful mana points. Willow, could you check the Council records?”
Buffy swallowed, reminded of her encounter with her first Witch. “Oh goody. More magick.”
Willow sat down at the computer and hacked into the needed files. “Right. Here we go. Property colloquially known as Banker’s manor. Number 1 Gold Rush Avenue. No county taxes owed due to a large loan to set up the city of Sunnydale. Park open to the public unless the house is inhabited by the Family. Bla bla. Request for a full restoration and refurbishment about every 30 years. Kept in pretty good shape, except for the gardens. Call outs by police to deal with burglars and gangs. Sunnydale Private security provides on site protection, called in the cops numerous times. Owned by…” Her eyes widened. “Meier family trust.”
Very slowly everyone in the room turned towards Buffy. Buffy was looking stunned. “Hey, don’t look at me! I didn’t know either! I’ll ask him tonight, ok? Remind me Will?”
Giles nodded, taking of his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. “It may be very innocent. Ley line convergences and mana points are quite often very beautiful. It may just be that.”
Buffy swallowed. “God I hope so. I really couldn’t bear for Simon to be a warlock or something. It would devastate Mom. And Dawn too.”
Willow looked sad and a little frightened. “I’m sure it will be fine, he’ll have a perfectly sensible explanation. Nothing supernatural about it whatsoever.”
Buffy sat down. Her day had just got a little darker a little more quickly than she had thought it would.
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Simon arrived at the Elementary school shortly before the break and sat down on a bench facing the swings, reading the Washington Post
. He seldom read the whole paper, an employee selected such items as Dr Meier should read and he had rarely any time to read more. A few children ran out into the playground as soon as the bell rang and ignored him, as he did to them. Dawn came out talking busily with a girl Simon believed had to be Janice of the unknown last name, whom he had briefly met in the park.
The girls walked over and sat on either side of him and he looked at them in turn. “Ladies.”
Dawn gave him a grin. “I told Janice about the ballet. She’s sooo jealous.”
Janice blushed and glared at her friend. Dawn looked a bit contrite. “So I was wondering, if there is another ballet some day, maybe she could come along?”
Obviously this had not yet been discussed with Janice who looked both surprised, mortified and delighted. Simon laughed. “We shall see what can be arranged.”
A kind looking middle aged lady of considerable girth left the school building, approaching the bench. She held out a hand to him and he accepted it.
“Shannon Mellowes.” She had a strong Scottish accent.
“Simon Mayer. Delighted to meet you.” He bent slightly at the middle as he spoke.
Ms Mellowes gave him an amused grin. “Likeways. I must admit I had to laugh at Dawn’s inclusion of Edinburgh. And her reasoning for it.”
“All this devolution is a terrible thing. I blame Sean Connery.”
Ms Mellowes laughed. “I don’t suppose you’d care to talk about some of these capitals for geography one day? I find it works better if someone who’s been there talks about them…”
Simon smiled. “I’ll take it under consideration. I must admit I find the notion of speaking in front of a horde of eleven year olds quite frightening.”
Ms Mellowes put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You get used to it.” She winked at him and went to break up a scuffle between a few boys.
Dawn gave Simon a quick hug. “Thanks for coming by.”
“You’re most welcome. I’ll come and pick you up this afternoon.”
“Okay, Janice too?”
Simon scratched his head. “Well, let me see, you, Janice, your mother, Buffy, Willow, possibly Xander. I fear it would be a bit crowded.”
“We can travel in the trunk…” Dawn tried her pouty puppy look.
Simon sighed. “I’ll discuss it with your mother. I won’t promise more than that.” He ruffled Dawn’s hair. “See you later Aurora, Janice.”
“Thanks Simon, later.”
He could hear Janice inquiring after the Aurora-thing as he walked away and he smiled.
He swung by the hospital and was asked to consult on the case of little boy with a strange case of breathlessness and diagnosed a severe allergic reaction, most likely to a type of local pollen. It was a satisfying conclusion to his morning and he drove to the gallery to pick up Joyce in a good mood. Joyce instructed Marianne to open the gallery if she wasn’t back on time and Marianne smiled indulgently. Joyce got in the car with a slight blush on her face.
“Just drive before she tells me to be home by eleven and not to let you to get too fresh.”
Simon gave her an amused glance. “You mean there is a chance you’d let me?”
Joyce gave him a mock scowl. “Hush you, and drive.”
Simon laughed and drove, bantering to and fro with her until they reached his apartment building. He courteously held the door for her and they entered. An elderly woman sat on a chair by a small table in the hall, reading a book.
“Good afternoon Mrs. Bryant.”
“Good afternoon Dr. Mayer. A gentleman left a package for you.” She gestured at a large brown cardboard box. Simon looked at the handwriting and sighed.
“Tall, African American gentleman? Very polite and distinguished?”
Mrs. Bryant smiled. “Very polite indeed.”
Simon muttered a few imprecations under his breath, picking up the box. “Thank you Mrs. Bryant. I hope it was no trouble?”
“None whatsoever, Dr. Mayer. I always sit here, as you know.”
“I do, nevertheless, my thanks.” He carried the box easily up the stairs to the door of the right hand apartment, put it down, reached into his trouser pocket, extracted a leather key case, took a key from it and opened the front door. He gestured for Joyce to precede him. “Welcome to my humble home.”
Joyce entered and saw a hall with four doors opening off it, one standing open leading to a bare sitting room. A couch, a high end stereo and a low table with several piles of books on them made up all the furnishings with the exception of a lamp by the couch. A phone sat on the table but it was obviously not plugged in. The carpet was light grey and the walls slightly off white and light blue grey curtains hung at the windows.
“Comfy.” She gave him an amused glance. He looked embarrassed.
“I was hoping not to spend much time here, except sleeping.”
Joyce nodded at the box. “So what’s got you so riled about that? And you obviously know who left it.”
“Miller.” He spoke the name as if the worst of Satan’s servants had decided to come by for a visit.
“And Miller is?”
“My butler. Estate manager really.”
Joyce blinked. “So you have a butler? And why does he leave packages for you?”
Simon rolled his eyes in annoyance. “He thinks I’m unable to do for myself. It’s probably a care package.”
Joyce gave him a comforting pat. “Shall we unpack it in the kitchen?” Simon put the box down.
“I’ll go make a cup of coffee, just put it all on the table. I can move it too the kitchen later. There’s probably underwear in there as well. It’s not as if I don’t know how to use a bloody washing machine!”
Joyce smiled indulgently as he stomped off to his kitchen and used her key to rip the tape of the box. There was a label, very carefully written in a very clear hand. She ripped through that as well. Opening the box the first layer that was revealed were sealed ziplock bag with five pairs of boxers and five shirts. Joyce smiled and placed the underwear on the table. * Well that answers the question of boxers or briefs.* The next layer was coffee, earl grey, Darjeeling and Lapsong souchong teas, cans and jars of jam and jellies, a tin of English custard powder, Swiss chocolate, Belgian chocolate, Dutch chocolate, high quality Dutch cocoa, a large bag of small marshmallows, a small jar of marmalade and two Dutch cheeses, Edam and Gouda. And socks, twelve pairs, again in ziplock bags.
Below that was another taped up box. She shrugged, placing it on the table. Simon was still puttering in the kitchen and she assumed he was trying to get the coffee maker to work.
“Simon! There’s a sealed box in here! And a whole load of food. And some underwear!”
Simon walked in then, carrying a tray with two cups of coffee and what looked like fresh baked slices of cherry pie.
“Where did that come from?” Joyce pointed at the pie.
“I baked it this morning.” He sat the tray down, purposely pushing the neatly ironed underwear of the table. Joyce smiled and picked it up again.
“Simon, you’re being childish.”
He gave her a look. “My staff seems to think I’m unable to do anything for myself. It gets a touch annoying at times.”
She leaned into him. “Especially when you’re trying to convince the lady you’re wooing that you’re oh so normal?”
“It may be considered slightly off putting to realize that there is not just a man who woos but a butler and full staff to take on as well.”
“Simon, I figured there might be as soon as you told me about the multiple billions. If I’d wanted to run I’d have done it then.”
He smiled. “I suggest we have some coffee and pie. I have bread and stuff, so we can lunch here or go out, whatever you prefer.”
Joyce drank her coffee and ate her pie, which was quite good while Simon muttered at the groceries. “Ah yes, I’ve only been drinking this brand of coffee for twenty years, it’s not as if I’d know what to buy.”
She smiled and ruffled his hair. “Simon… I’m sure your ego can handle this. Now what is in the sealed box?”
“Probably spices. Miller would seal them from the rest of the box to prevent contamination.” He rolled his eyes. “He tends to forget I spent years as a medical student eating far worse.”
“Can I open it?”
He shrugged. “By all means, if you’re interested in pepper and cloves.”
She broke the tape and a layer of tissue paper was revealed. Underneath the tissue paper were three inlaid wooden boxes, Joyce picked up the largest as Simon was sorting through the chocolate.
“I think Miller bought these for you and the girls. He knows I don’t eat this
much chocolate.” He was handling the chocolate, not really paying her attention. He started looking through the jams.
Joyce smiled and opened the box. Nestled on a bed of white satin was a necklace made from interlocking twisted esses of gold, hung with small golden hearts, each set with a red or rose coloured gem. A single larger heart hung at the bottom, set with cabochon cut red stones.
She turned the box to him. “Simon…”
He glanced at it and first turned red and then very white. “Oh God…”
“Simon, this is a family Love necklace.”
He put the jar of apple jelly down with a trembling hand. “Yes”
“If I count these there will be fourteen hearts besides the large heart?”
He buried his face in his hands. “Yes.”
“This is supposed to be given to the woman the eldest male of the house wants to marry… To his intended. As a betrothal gift.”
“This is going a bit fast for me.”
“I notice that you did not say ‘for me as well’.” She said it in a dry tone of voice.
“Joyce, I may not have intended for you to see that but it does signify what I want.” His voice was muffled by his hands.
She sighed, running her hand over the heavy gold links, the little hearts so delicately forged showing the progression and changing taste of four centuries of goldsmithing.. “Is it real? It looks
“Yes. It is.”
Joyce gently put the box down. “It’s beautiful.”
“Thank you. Glad you like it.”
“What’s in the other boxes?”
“Probably the other nails in my coffin.”
“Can I open them?”
“You may as well.” He sounded completely despondent and defeated.
“Simon… Look at me.”
There were tears at the corners of his eyes and he looked as if he was about to break. Her heart went out to him. She took his face in her hands and kissed him gently on the lips. “Well at least I know what your intentions are.” Her lips twitched. “Nor am I averse or opposed to them, just a bit surprised. I’m still not running.”
His eyes grew wide. “You’re not telling me to…”
“No. I’m not telling you leave, I rather like you. Rather a lot. But…Simon, how much of this…” She gestured at the three boxes, “Is the pressure of your family? Do you want to marry me to safeguard your good name? Your line?”
He snorted incredulously. “Nothing. And no and no”
She bit her lip and ran her hand over the smaller boxes, glancing at him uncertainly. “Ummm…”
“Curious?” Now that he knew she was not telling him to leave, to back off, he seemed to be recovering his equilibrium.
“Very.” She took a deep breath and opened the smaller box, it contained an old cut ruby ring, the large central ruby surrounded by what she was certain were red diamonds, set in deep yellow gold. Her appraiser’s eyes caught the small maker’s mark. “Charles Lewis Tiffany’s personal mark…” She almost breathed the words.
“Yes. It’s been the engagement ring for several generations.”
She hesitated and then opened the other box. It contained a heavier ring, set with a single wine red garnet the size of a thumbnail. The goldwork was good and the setting fine. “The old engagement ring. That’s been in use since the 1600’s.”
“They’re all gorgeous.”
“But it’s too soon. I can’t believe Miller including them.”
“Indeed. They should be in a safe. The love necklace alone, I’ve never seen, or heard of, it’s like being sold, this old; with your provenance…It’s worth hundreds of thousands. At least. The rings…”
He shrugged. “Most of the family jewels are on loan to museums. It’s not as if there are any ladies to wear them all. These usually reside in the vault at home.”
Joyce smirked. “Is it hidden behind the Rembrandt?”
He mock scowled at her. “No, at the bank. I try to keep the number of portable valuables in the house as low as possible.”
She ran a hand over the necklace again, then suddenly turned towards him and kissed him passionately. He returned the kiss and after she moved away from him, panting, she whispered in his ear, gently nipping his lobe. “Not yet… but I think in the future… yes.”
He groaned and kissed her again. He barely got her to the gallery in time. And they had to buy a sandwich at a bakery for lunch. Marianne grinned a lot.