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For the Want of a Nail

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When B decided to run from Glory, it wasn't like she didn't have a destination in mind. No spur of the moment decisions for her; she made a call to L.A., to Angel, to ask for his help. As if the big guy would say 'no'; he just wanted a nice, clear battleground. You know, where the innocents were less likely to be hurt. Of course, if we lost that battle, that'd be it - there really wouldn't be any more innocents left in the world.

The plans that B and Angel made didn't actually bear fruit. While B and her Scoobs were driving off into the sunset, in a rickety old RV I wouldn't have stolen on a bet, much less paid money to rent, a gang of knights - on horseback, even - attacked. Which ought to tell you what bad shape that RV was in, if men in armor, on horses, could catch it. The knights did some real damage to the RV, too - no one was getting a security deposit back, that's for sure. Willow still tells stories about Buffy being on top of the RV and battling whatever came near her. Giles got stabbed something fierce and the RV limped into an abandoned service station, where the Scoobs could hole up and lick their wounds. B got hold of Angel and told him about the knights and Giles and then made a call to someone she thought was a friend. Too bad she called Ben, who was Glory's human cage. Soon as Glory saw Dawn, she snatched the kid and left.

B kinda went a little nutty after that. Willow and Spike took charge - yeah, he was helping them out then, had some fixation on B - what is it with her and vamps, anyway? - and managed to get Giles to the hospital. Spike and Xander went to get more weapons and see if they could get any more info on Glory herself - a little too late, but you know what they say about hindsight and twenty-twenty - and Willow started working on bringing B outta her funk.

In L.A., Angel and his gang pulled some strings to get me outta the pen early - way early - and we all headed out to the 'Dale, since that's where the battleground was gonna be. Not our choice, Cordy bitched about it the entire way or at least until someone, I think it was Fred, that little girl they'd rescued from some place called 'Pylea', asked her if there was a better way to plan it. When we arrived, no fanfare or nothing, in Sunnydale, we found Willow and most of the gang holed up in some magic store that Giles owned, trying to run plans while a blond chick - Willow's girlfriend, Tara - screamed in the background. While she caught Angel and the fang gang up on what was going on, I checked out the weapons. Willow told me that B and Spike were making a run to get more, which Angel didn't take very well. Wes and Giles managed to exchange more than civil words and actually started working out some sort of a plan. Anya and Xander weren't doing much to help and they suddenly disappeared into the basement of the store. They came back a while later, all ruffled and beaming and yelling about something they called a 'Buffy-bot', which made Willow vanish into the basement, too.

That left me, Gunn, Cordy, Angel and Fred upstairs twiddling our thumbs. I'd have given anything for a demon to burst in and attack then and there, just to release some of the tension. Instead, B came out of the basement, a huge grin on her face, and said to Angel that he was 'bloody stupid and his hair stuck straight up'.

Gunn and I lost it, Cordy started to round on B and Angel was holding her back while Anya shouted that B wasn't B, she was some sex toy that Spike had made because B wouldn't sleep with him.

Willow rolled her eyes. "Great, Anya opened her mouth again."

"He what?" Angel asked. He reminded me of a bull, about ready to charge.

"He wanted to have sex with Buffy, she didn't want to have sex with him, so Spike had a robot made." Anya shrugged, as if this was a regular thing. Hey, it's the 'Dale, it could be. I hadn't thought we'd gotten as far as robots, though.

"It was a real shock, seeing her," Xander pointed at the robot, "on top of Spike." He shuddered once.

"I can imagine," Angel said dryly.

"No, you can't." Anya shuddered, too.

"Enough," Willow said, clapping her hands. She turned to face Angel, plastering a huge Willow-smile on her face and said, "We can use the bot to tire Glory out. Or something. I programmed the bot to fight vampires and demons and Glory sure is one of those."

"A bitch, you mean?" B looked like she was running on sheer nerves as she walked through the door. I wondered when she'd last eaten. Spike plowed in behind her, saw Angel, saw the bot and his eyes got really big. I thought he'd run but after swallowing hard, he skulked to the side of the store, out of the big guy's direct line of sight. "Angel," B said, in that breathy way of hers.

"Buffy," Angel said. You could see that everything in the world disappeared for both of them right then. Xander rolled his eyes and made some noise when the two met in the middle of the room, giving each other a swift, fierce hug. Then they stepped back and the rest of us came back into focus but I noticed Angel kept a hand in the middle of B's back, probably to keep her standing upright.

"We got weapons," B said, gesturing towards Spike, who straightened when everyone looked at him. "Do we have any real plans?"

"Mr. Giles and I have been discussing some possibilities," Wes said.

"I'll take anything," B said, slumping down onto the staircase.

"Within reason," Angel added.

"Glory will not be expecting a second Slayer," Wes said, nodding at me. I grinned. Damn right she wouldn't be. "Nor additional fighters of Angel's caliber."

B's eyes were tired. "Did anyone explain to you that she's a god?"

Wes squatted in front of her, his hand resting on her knee. She stared at it as he said, "Yes. I understand that, Buffy. I also understand that Glory has your sister and is holding her captive. But Glory does have a human cage or so Mr. Giles has been explaining to me. If we can get her to retreat to that cage, we may be able to deal with her." There was a dark undertone to his voice and I knew that he didn't mean in a 'send her to jail' sort of way. It sent a little thrill down my spine to hear Wes say something like that. He'd changed a lot from that squirrelly Watcher who'd come to replace Giles so long ago.

"So, how do you propose we do that?" Xander asked, rubbing his hands together. "Everyone pile on her all at once? 'Cause, Glory's a brain sucker. She took Tara's brain," he pointed at the screaming blonde, "just like that."

The L.A. gang took that in while Willow said, "Xander," sounding hurt.

"Sorry, Will, just wanted Wesley to be sure of what he's getting in to."

Wes patted Buffy's knee and rose, settling his glasses in place. "I dare say I do, Xander," he said mildly. His gesture took in the room. "We have two Slayers and two vampires reknowned for their destructive tendencies."

Angel didn't quite wince and Spike puffed out his chest. They both caught each other doing it and glared at one another. I rolled my eyes.

"We also," Wes continued, "have two Watchers, albeit one is a bit inconvenienced at this time."

"Bloody hell," Giles rasped out, "I can fight."

B stared at him. "Not if you don't get some color in your cheeks," she said.

"We also have a powerful witch," Wesley said.

"If there was a way to help Tara, we'd have two powerful witches," Willow said, glancing wistfully at the blonde.

"And you have me," Anya said, "and Xander. Go on, honey, tell them what we're good for."

"Yes, please do," Angel said, folding his arms.

"Besides donut runs," Cordelia said, not quite under her breath.

Xander's mouth flopped open like a fish's but Anya jumped in. "We're very handy. We've helped Buffy numerous times."

"They've been very helpful," Willow said, in a 'I'm trying to keep everyone from everyone else's throats' kinda way.

"And we supply more than donuts," Anya added, nodding. "Like," and she stepped away from Xander and made a flourish, "a weapon to take on a god."

Everyone stared at the horkin' big hammer. B's eyes actually lit up. "You're right, Anya," she said, something sort of like hope creeping into her voice.

"That's my girl," Xander said, enfolding Anya in a hug. "Pretty and smart."

She beamed back at him before wriggling free of his grip. "But we need additional plans."

"Yes," Giles said, struggling to stand. Cordelia, closest to him, helped. He nodded his thanks. "Though a weapon strong enough to fight a god is an excellent thing." He made his way towards the table, loaded with books.

"You make plans," B said. "I," she rose slowly from the steps, "have to do something." She laid a hand on Giles' shoulder as she passed him by and disappeared through a doorway at the back of the store.

Spike stared after her then nodded. "Right. Plans. Let's get 'em started, shall we?"

* * *
As the day went by, we worked out a plan. I know Giles went in to the back to talk to B and came out with a scowl. Whatever the talk was about, it hadn't gone over well. Angel helped with the planning as long as he could then disappeared back there, too. I kinda trailed after him. Wasn't like I was any good with the books. Point me at something, I'll pound it. Other people could be the brains to direct me.

"Hey, Faith," B said, when I walked into the room. "I expected you sooner."

I shrugged, taking in the work-out equipment. The punching bag looked like it'd received its share of B's wrath. Angel was busy studying the weapons hung around the room. "I'm not the planning type," I said then, after a few seconds, "I'm not interrupting, am I?"

B shook her head, smoothing her hair back out of her face. She looked even more tired now than she did a few hours earlier. "Just a break," she said, rising from the ugly green couch stuck against one of the walls. Her movements were still fluid but I was wondering how long that would last when she went back to the punching bag and started whaling on it again.

"Uh, B," I said, when Angel didn't seem likely to speak, "are you sure you wanna go wasting your energy that way?"

Grunting with each blow, B said, "If I sit still, I go crazy."

Angel slipped across the room to her, catching the bag in mid-swing. "Buffy," he said gently as she paused, breathing through her mouth and glaring at him from under the hair hanging in her face. "Faith is right. You need to rest."

"Angel, that hell-god has my sister and plans on killing her. I can't rest." She took another swing at the bag, shoving it back into Angel's chest. He didn't even wince. "I can't plan." A side kick. "I can't even think." A punch. "All I can do," she bounced backwards and took one step forward, turning that forward momentum into a snap-kick, "is this."

"B," I said, wondering what I could say that Angel wouldn't be able to but B's head cocked to the side and her eyes narrowed. The big guy and I followed her to the back door. B yanked it open and stood in the doorway, me and Angel crowding in behind her.

A vamp had a kid cornered in the alley.

"Whatcha doing?" B asked, stepping outside.

Angel folded his arms and leaned against the door frame, obviously settling in to watch the show.

The vamp turned around, all fangs and ridged face. The kid swung from his grip. "Who wants to know?" the vamp asked.

"Just me," B said. "Oh, and my friends." She hooked a thumb over her shoulder at us.

"He's gonna eat me," the kid said, his voice quavering. "Run!"

B sauntered along the alley. "Are you actually gonna eat him?" she asked in such a baby-doll voice I had to fight to keep back the giggles.

"I'll have you for dessert," the vamp promised.

Angel rolled his eyes. "You might wanna rethink that," he said.

"What, you gonna stop me?" the vamp sneered.

"Me?" Shrugging, Angel said, "I don't have to."

"He doesn't," I said, nodding my agreement. "I mean, you're probably gonna be dust in the next thirty seconds."

"Thirty?" B said, flashing a mock-hurt look over her shoulder at me. "You don't think I can take him faster than that?"

The kid was glancing from one of us to the other, all wide-eyed. I kinda felt sorry for him. "Don't you people get that he's a vampire?" the kid squeaked.

"Yeah, yeah, we know he's a vampire," I said.

"He's got those head ridges and fangs," B said.

"And yellow eyes," Angel added.

"And really bad breath," B said, wrinkling her nose and waving a hand in front of her face.

"You're pissing me off," the vampire roared, dropping the kid and rounding on B.

"Oh, goody," she said. "I was starting to wonder how long it'd take."

The vampire made a grab for her but she ghosted out of his way, leading him back away from the kid and towards us. The kid was on his knees, no where for him to go except past B and the vamp. I hoped he didn't try to make a bolt for it but he stayed down, watching the show. Kinda like me and Angel.

'Cause B was in her stride.

She was like a mist in front of that vamp. He couldn't lay a finger on her and it made him that much angrier. She leaped up on a packing crate to get out of his reach and kicked him in the jaw, making him stagger back towards us. He started for me and Angel but Angel got all toothy and he stopped, those yellow eyes wide. "You're a vampire," he said. "Why aren't you helping me?"

Angel grinned. "That would be playing for the wrong team."

"Who are you people?" the vamp asked, trying to keep all three of us in sight as B tossed a piece of wood over his head to me and then another to Angel.

"He's Angel," B said, pointing. "You know, the vampire with the soul? I hear he's kinda famous."

"A-Angel?" the vampire said, his head swinging from side to side.

"And I'm Faith." I tossed back my hair. "I probably don't have as big a rep as these two but I used to work for Mayor Wilkinson."

"I didn't know vampires could get paler," B said, frowning. "Angel, did you know that?"

"No," Angel said, "but he does look a little peaked."

"We'll have to tell Giles," B said, sounding almost like her perky self. "It could be important."

While we were talking, the vamp tried to grab B. She let him get close but twisted out of his grip. Grabbing his arm, she flung him into the alley wall. He groaned, managing to turn around, eyeing B. "Who the hell are you?" he asked, his voice nearly a whisper.

B stepped in close. "Buffy," she said sincerely, raising the piece of planking, "the vampire Slayer." She stabbed into the vamp's heart and he dusted with a wail. She stared down at the dust, dropping her makeshift stake in it.

The kid scrambled to his feet, his fingers resting on the wall behind him. Her head turned slowly towards him. "Go home," she said. "Sunnydale isn't safe after dark."

"B-but," the kid said, looking at Angel.

"He's on our side," B said. "Go on." She made a shooing motion.

Bolting past the big guy and me, the kid stopped at the alley opening, turning back to stare at B as she joined us. "How'd you do that?" he asked. "You're just a girl."

Her smile was tired. "That's what I keep telling people." She moved between Angel and me, back into the building.

"Go home," I said as Angel turned to follow B. "Get out of here."

The kid ran and I closed the door, locking it behind us.

* * *
I left Angel and B in the work-out room. He'd convinced her to do that slow-mo martial arts thing. It seemed to be calming her down but it just made me jittery so I went to see what everyone else was doing.

Everyone else was gone.

Okay, so Giles was in the office, his eyes closed and the door partially closed. Xander and Anya were missing, along with Gunn, Fred and Cordy. Willow sat with the blonde, rocking her and telling her stories very softly. I didn't really care but Spike wasn't around, either. I spun when I heard a noise behind me but it was just Wes, coming down the stairs to the upper levels of the store. "Seems a little quiet here," I said, shoving my hands in my back pockets.

"The others went to get something to eat. Fred wanted tacos," Wes said. He had an armful of books. "Mr. Giles is resting."

"Saw that," I said as he walked past me to lay the books on a table top.

He started flipping through them, not even bothering to sit down. "Mr. Giles thought there might be more information in one of these books," he said absently.

"Wes?" When he didn't pay attention, I said his name a little louder.

"Yes, Faith, what is it?" Wes sounded a little impatient, a little tired. His eyes were red. Hell, we'd all been pushing it since Angel got me outta jail and B and her gang had been at it even harder.

I glanced around, made sure Willow was distracted with her girlfriend and sidled closer. "Lay it out, Wes. How much of a chance do we really have?"

He sighed, removing his glasses to rub his eyes. "Truthfully?" he asked, not really expecting an answer. "I don't even think we have a billion to one shot. Mr. Giles contacted the Watchers' Council and they haven't a clue what to do." His voice turned grim. "I take that back. They suggested we kill Dawn."

I considered the idea for a second then dismissed it. B wouldn't go for it. Hell, I wouldn't go for it. Dawn had been like a brattly little sister to me, back when I'd been in the good graces. "There has to be another idea."

"Yes, that's exactly what Mr. Giles said." Wes smirked. "Perhaps with a tad more emphasis."

"So then," I let out a breath in a rush, "tonight could be the night."

"It could." His eyes were so blue. I wasn't sure if I'd ever noticed that before. He turned back to the books and he started flipping through the pages again. "Unless a miracle happens."

"I don't exactly believe in miracles," I said.

He paused in his page-turning, looking straight ahead. "I'm afraid that I don't either, despite both Buffy and Angel's ability to seemingly create them."

"Yeah, they've got some sort of luck," I said.

"They're champions." His eyes flicked at me as he said it.

I raised a shoulder, almost as if to ward off a blow. "And I'm just a wanna-be."

He rounded on me, taking hold of my upper arms tightly. "You are not," he said, his voice a hiss. "You are on your way to redemption via a difficult route. That does not make you any less of a person than either Buffy or Angel."

"I killed people," I said.

"And you think that Angel hasn't?"

"Not since he got his soul," I retorted.

Wes glanced away. "I wouldn't be too sure about that," he muttered, so low I could barely hear him.

"Not Angel," I said though my voice held a lot less heat. "He wouldn't."

"Perhaps not. But he went through a very trying time earlier this year," Wes said, "trying for all of us. What he did after he fired us, I'm not quite sure."

"Fired?" I interrupted and Wes shook me into silence.

"He returned to us eventually, somewhat changed. And what happened on Pylea affected him as well."

"But you're saying he killed someone," I whispered.

"I'm saying that there is a possibility," Wesley corrected. "And that he is still seeking his redemption from the Powers. For a time, though, he walked alone and during that period, well, he hasn't exactly told us what happened." His face took on a grim cast and I pondered that for a few seconds. Angel, doing the wild thing? Following in my footsteps? Wow.

I realized that Wes was rubbing his thumbs across my shoulders absently. "Wes," I said, as much to change the subject as anything, "do you really think we'll die tonight?"

He blinked and stopped rubbing. "There is," he said, choosing his words carefully, "a distinct possibility."

"Then," I reached up and grasped his wrists, praying to those Powers that maybe I wasn't going to make a huge fool outta myself, "while the kids are gone and B's with Angel and Giles and Willow aren't up to paying attention, we do the thing that people who figure they're gonna die the next day do."

"Faith," Wesley said, his face expressionless.

"If you wanna say 'no', you've got that right," I told him, "I mean, I hurt you. I know I did. But just for now, before I die, I want someone to hold me and tell me things are gonna be all right."

"Even if it is a lie," Wes said softly.

"Yeah." I mustered up a smile at him and he glanced around, taking note of Willow, engrossed in her girlfriend and Giles, still holed up in his office.

"I'm not sure," he said.

"Wes, please. You're the only person I can ask." I gave his wrists a squeeze. "You're the only person I really trust here, outside of Angel and we all know his compass points one direction." I let a little more need in my voice. "Please?"

He looked down, between us. "It's terribly improper," he said in that stiff, British way and I swallowed my disappointment, releasing his wrists. "But sounds like a good idea to me."

I froze and he gave me a tiny, wicked grin. "Willow," he said, raising his voice just enough to catch her attention, "I believe there's something in the basement that could be of assistance in our battle. Faith and I are going to go look for it."

Willow smiled faintly at both of us. "Sure," she said. "If anyone asks, you're...busy." She turned her attention back to her girlfriend, saying, "No one should be alone right now."

I managed to blurt out a "Thanks," before Wes all but dragged me down the staircase. I guess I wasn't the only one with needs because once we hit the floor, he turned around, hauled me up to him and kissed me hard enough that our teeth clashed. I ran my hands down his back, feeling the corded muscle there as he pulled me closer, moving his head so he could get better access to my mouth. God, I'd almost forgotten what kissing felt like, what the feel of man's body could do to mine. He smelled good, musty books and male and I could almost eat him with a spoon.

We both knew there wasn't much time for the nice stuff and one of his hands slid around my ribs and up to cup my breast. My back arched automatically at that warmth and he pinched my nipple 'til it peaked. I moaned into his mouth as I ground myself against his thigh, my hands reaching down to grab his ass for a squeeze. He panted against my ear, his breath moist and hot as he said, "I want you."

I nipped at his earlobe. "You've got me." Dragging my hands around his waist and to the zipper of his pants, I pressed my palm against his cock, feeling it jump at the touch. "God, that's nice."

His hips thrust almost automatically against the pressure. "Could be better."

I reached for his belt buckle. "Let's see how good it can be."

* * *
By the time we got upstairs, everyone was back and I have no doubt they'd guessed what Wes and I were doing in the basement. Well, if the bitemark on his throat didn't give it away, the fact that my nipples were standing at attention would have, right? Spike leered at me and muttered as I passed by that if I wanted a go with someone who could keep up with my Slayer stamina, he was right there. I popped him on the back of the head and went and joined everyone else.

The plans were finalized and now we all knew our parts . We let Willow's girlfriend, Tara, lead us to Glory and Dawn. The battle started and it lookd like we were winning. Willow managed to suck Tara's mind back out of Glory, which was a big shock to the hell-god and the thing with the Buffy-bot kept Glory off-guard so B and I could double-team her afterwards. Anya was right, that big hammer was a handy thing. When Willow heard Dawn screaming up on this massive scaffolding, she sent Angel and Spike up there to rescue her. They fought their way up, past people under Glory's power, like Tara had been, and these scabby Jawa-things, until they reached the top of the tower and found out a demon had already started the ceremony. He wasn't waiting for Glory, he wanted hell on earth now.

Between them, the vamps threw him to the ground but Glory managed to get away from me and B and tossed both Spike and Angel off the tower. I got caught trying to help Wes and Cordy, so I didn't get a chance to see the fight topside. I could hear it over everything, though; Glory's screams and B's warcries. Angel tried to crawl back up the stairs - the fall hurt him more than I realized at the time - but what happened was B fought Glory to a stand-still then knocked her off that damn tower.

But the ceremony to open the gates had already been started. Dawn's blood was running and there didn't seem a way to stop it and to keep the gates from opening. So B did what any hero would do, got ready to close the gates herself.

With Glory down, her little friends and crazy people had stopped fighting, so we did have a chance to see what happened. Some dragon thing flew through the gateway, squealing and Spike, standing next to me, said, "Bloody hell, the bint's gonna jump." Xander must've seen, too, because I heard him shout and Angel, too. I couldn't say anything, my throat was all closed tight. The word, "Please," kept running through my mind but I don't even know who I was saying it to. B turned and started down that runway, hair flying behind her like some pale gold cape and I knew it would literally kill Angel if B died.

And then Dawn tackled B.

B nearly fell off tower, her legs dangling in space and she was shouting at Dawnie, screaming, "No, Dawn, don't!" She swung up onto the runway and grabbed for her little sister but Dawn flung herself into the gateway - and they both went over the edge.

The sky just seemed to explode into lightning bolts, all simmery and blue, a halo around the two of them. Angel made some sound, a howl I heard even over the booms - then B and Dawn fell out of the sky.

Vampires, even hurt ones, are fast. Fast enough to catch two bodies, dropping out of a light show like babies from storks. It was too late for Dawn. She almost dissolved in Spike's arms, just became some green mist that drifted away while he wailed.

But B...B survived.

Well, at least a part of her did.

Giles and Wes have all sorts of theories about it but what it boils down to is that B's not exactly B anymore. Wes calls her 'feral', which he says means that she's gone to a wild state. It's probably the best definition for whatever it is. B doesn't talk much anymore and she doesn't really care how she looks, and for B, that's something big. She skulks around in the shadows like the big guy most days and avoids strangers if she can. Queen C, me and Wes stayed in the 'Dale after the big fight and Giles refused to let B go off alone so he went to L.A. with Angel.

They rode it out pretty well when Darla, Angel's sire, came back to Angel, pregnant with a miracle child. You'd think the kid was actually B's, the way she guarded Connor. She mourned his loss to that bastard, Holtz, just as much as Angel did. When the kid came back as a teenager, Connor glommed onto B, probably because she took him down while he was trying to kill Angel. Or maybe he just wants to get into her pants. Either way, B can be pretty persuasive, with words or without.

Now, B and the kid are hunting partners - it's the best way to put it. Connor looks up to her the way he doesn't (or won't, Wes says) look up to Angel. I've seen the kid and B come in after a night on the town - bloody, bruised, clothes torn and these shit-eating grins on their faces. B usually pounces on Angel as soon as she catches sight of him in that total 'alpha bitch' way she has now. Angel doesn't seem to mind much, hell, he doesn't mind at all. I think he misses the old B, though; sometimes I catch him watching her and he's got this expression on his face that isn't really explainable. No one really asks him to, either.

We all join together to fight the Big Bads that need a little reminder who's in charge in Southern California. I mean, in SunnyD, we've got two witches, me and a Watcher as well as Cordy and her visions and Anya and Xander. Whether we really want him or not, Spike hangs around, sometimes moaning to me about how he's not getting enough shagging in (my threat of cutting off his cock only made him shut up for about a week). The Fang Gang has three hard-hitters in Angel, B and the kid and Gunn ain't exactly one to turn down as a guy to get your back, either. They've got their own ears and eyes to the demon world with this green guy, Lorne, who keeps them up on the news. Pylean Fred has her goofy ideas but her cleverness keeps the Brute Squad out of jams and Giles patriarchs the whole thing.

Things aren't the same as they were, yeah, and it took some adjusting but Tara and Anya like me and Willow and Xander are coming around, slow but steady. I've got a Watcher who's great with the books and in the sack when we need a little R&R and Spike, who's not too bad a companion. Cordy seems happy enough; she's dating some guy who isn't in 'the biz' and we haven't met him yet but there's still time.

I once asked Angel if he was happy, in the not losing his soul way and he told me that while things hadn't worked out the way he'd expected, or even hoped they would, he was content. Of course, B was sitting on his lap when he was telling me this, rubbing her cheek against his shirt and a few minutes later, they'd disappeared up to their bedroom.


I think I could learn to live with that idea.

* * *