Well here we are dear readers, the end of this particular story and before we get all weepy and sad, the next one, the new one, is a direct sequel pick-up - as in it picks up literally hours after the end of this one. I never write alone, as least in spirit, and must thank fourbubbles and tayababy my big n little sisters for always having my back and making sure that no matter what else crazy in life happens they're always there for me! I love you guys and all of you as well dear readers. So don't get too sad, just get ready for the next story! Whee!

Over the next three weeks, Spike and Winnie learned one very hard lesson about house-hunting - pictures could be very misleading. After taking into consideration factors like the size of the family they wanted to make and the location they wanted so they were close to good schools and other families, near a park too for Winnie to take a newborn in a stroller, and close to an easy-access route for work, their budget was sitting cozily somewhere in the neighbourhood of eight-hundred thousand to one million dollars. Once Spike had gotten past his shock of six-and-seven figures being tossed around so cooly in the real-estate agent's office, he began to realize that they were in fact realistic for the needs he and Winnie didn't just have at present but for the future as well.

Then there had been the shock of seeing photos on line versus seeing the places in person; what had looked so cute and cozy on the Remax website was actually a shoebox with an even smaller sized shoebox masquerading as a backyard. It was one of the hard and fast things he and Winnie agreed they could not give up - a proper backyard for their kids was key; it was after all the reason they wanted a house and not a condo with a pretty view.

He was beginning to appreciate a little more how actors felt going on auditions as he and Winnie used every scrap off off-shift time to try and find something they both liked within their price range; by the time Wordy and Shelley's anniversary rolled around on November fifteenth, Spike and Winnie agreed that no matter what, their party conversation would not revolve around their hunt for a house.

'There was that off of Finch that was kinda cute,' Winnie commented as they walked hand in hand towards the Wordsworth home; Winnie always thought that of all the places amongst their SRU family, Wordy and Shelley's felt the most like a 'normal home' with the car in the driveway and actual rosebushes out front. Wordy had become quite an avid gardener in the non-snow months on his doctor's advice and was quite proud of his little veggie=patch out back - a phrase that had unexpectedly caused many giggles for Spike but it didn't negate the fact that the red pepper jelly, the sweet pickle relish and the strawberry jam that little veggie patch produced was top quality.

'Yeah, but it's too close to the highway, when there's a little one in the nursery,' Spike pointed out.

'Wouldn't a baby absorb that as normal background noise as home?' When she got no response, Winnie let it go. 'There was that other one on Carver Avenue but the sandbox of a backyard felt pitiful. For what we're looking to pay, we are going to be happy all over.'

'Exactly. But right now, let's just put it aside and try to enjoy the night.'

'You know everyone's going to ask about the search, right?' Winnie reminded him as they rang the doorbell.

'Nope, I told Team One today at the debrief that if they want to keep their finger count at ten, they won't mention it unless we do first.'

'Five bucks says that goes down like panties at a Def Lepperd concert.'

'Deal.' Spike gave her a kiss on the cheek, then prepared for an evening of alcohol induced interrogation as the door opened and Shelley herself gave them each a warm grin.

'Hey guys, come on in!'

'Happy anniversary!' Winnie offered the bottle of wine along with a card that contained a gift card for Shelley and Wordy to have a kid-free date night. 'A little something from us.'

'Oh you didn't have to get us anything!' But Shelley still took the gifts, bussing Winnie's cheek as she did, then raised her voice ever so slightly to get her hubby's attention. 'Kev! They're here!'

Spike barely had his jacket and boots off before Wordy was there greeting them with hugs, followed by a petite woman with chocolate brown hair that matched her eyes. 'Hey, Wordy, happy twentieth!'

'Thanks, bro. I wanted you and Winnie to meet this lovely lady first thing when you got here so I don't get hurt later for trying to be sneaky.' Wordy gestured to the woman who'd come over with him. 'This is Demetria Mitchell, she lives next door and she is a real estate agent. I mentioned it to you that you two were looking for a house without much luck, and she said she might have some properties you'd be interested in.'

'Oh, Wordy that's sweet, but this is your night,' Winnie started but was cut off when Shelley shook her head.

'We had plenty of friends helping us out when we started our life together, we felt today was an appropriate time to pay it forward.'

'I said the same thing and they insisted,' Demetria added with a little smile, then grinned broadly. 'I've been told you've worked with Wordy for several years now, do you recall any ability to say no to him before?'

'Nope.' Winnie shook her head, then felt her stomach turn over when she saw the look on Spike's face; he really was drawing that line hard in the sand about no house talk tonight, so she pulled out her phone. 'Why don't you give me your email and you can send us the listings, so tonight we can just relax and celebrate Shelley and Wordy?'

'Sounds perfect.'

'Brace yourselves, though,' Shelley warned with a friendly wink at her neighbour, 'she is no pushover and she will ask very detailed questions before she even shows you any houses.'

Demetria typed in her contact info, smiled at the couple. 'I'll be in touch at the start of the week.'

True to her word, when Winnie and Spike set up their appointment the following Tuesday Demetria had a survey for them thirty questions deep before she even asked about neighbourhoods, price-ranges or deal-breakers. Curious as to how this would allegedly take all day, as she'd set aside the almost the entire working day just for them, Spike was willing to go along with it since none of the other agents they'd contacted so far had shown them something that was a 'wow'.

The first forty-five minutes of their tn-am appointment consisted of asking some questions Spike considered to be more than a little bizarre but when it was done and Demetria had compiled the results in her broker's software, there was a list of six houses on her screen all meeting their on-paper requirements; for the first time since he and Winnie had begun this part of their journey together he felt a sliver of hope that finding their dream house could become a reality instead of remaining a vague, nebulous idea.

The second half of their appointment - or what Winnie considered the lion's share of it - was Demetria chauffeuring them to the houses they'd decided they wanted to see. This was the part, at least in Winnie's opinion, was far more important than the questions they'd answered back in the office because there was plenty of opportunity between the viewings to ask and answer what they'd gone over in Demetia's office but as Spike discreetly pointed out to her, Demetria didn't have a high sell rate for just being a slick saleswoman.

The first house on the list both of them nixed before they were barely through the door - it had far too much of a show-off palace type of feel with a huge open concept that seemed to beg for expensive taste that neither of them were inclined to try and keep up with. The second one, while still having the same square footage of the first house had almost the exact opposite effect with too many closed-off feeling rooms, on top of which the offer that Winnie and Spike had to offer a lower selling price and taking care of renovations themselves was met with a resounding negative.

By the time they reached the third house, both Winnie and Spike could feel the other's optimism starting to slip, causing them to grip each other's fingers just a little harder than was necessary.

'We'll find something, we will,' Spike insisted to Winnie, which made her smile in gratitude.

'I know, my love. Hey, look at that.'

She pointed out the car window to the For Sale sign on the house across the street from where they'd parked. 'Demetria's representing that one too. It's like left-cookie, right-cookie in the Twix packet.'

'We can have a look at that one once we're done with this one,' Demetria offered. 'The owner, Jason, he prefers to be home to show off the house, though why I don't know since he's so eager to be rid of it.'

'Why?' Spike gave the property a cursory glance. It was a split-level built into the side of the hill overlooking one of the nicest parks on Islington so that the front door entrance as well as the backyard patio both were on ground level. The pale-blue house with its neat white trim and large welcoming windows, its friendly cedar hedges and flower beds lining the driveway made him think of his grandfather's home in Italy. 'It looks nice enough.'

'Oh it's a lovely home,' Demetria agreed. 'Five bedrooms, a guest bath on the main floor and an ensuite in the master plus a water-closet in the basement rec-room. Full working fireplace, built-in oak bar, sunroom off the kitchen that leads to a cedar deck, excellent for entertaining and cozy family get-togethers.'

'So why is he so keen to be rid of it?' Winnie inquired, slowing her steps as she felt a warm bloom in her heart, the same one she'd gotten when talking about the home she envisioned with Spike and a future family while in their financial advisor's office.

'Garage space,' Demetria explained, her instincts humming; she pulled out her phone to send the owner a text that she had a couple interested and if he was home to show the house. 'He owns his own custom car rebuilding shop and needs a larger garage space but he's already got a double-wide stand alone plus a single attached workshop and the city wouldn't give him the permits to demolish part of the house to rebuild more garage space. Residential zoning and all that.'

'Got it,' Winnie nodded; she'd heard her father talk about things like that when he'd been working in the corporate financing division of BMO.

'Anyways, Jason found a new property, and moved there in July so he's eager to be rid of the empty one he has in name only,' Demetria went on, then smiled when she read the reply from Jason. 'He said if you want to see his place, we have to go now as he has an appointment himself.'

She knocked on the door and smiled when the handsome man still in his work clothes answered the door. His friendly blue eyes traveled over to Spike and Winnie, nodded. 'You must be the couple looking for a first-time home, huh?'

'We are, and we've heard excellent things about this house,' Spike told him as Jason stepped back in welcome.

'Come on in have a look around.'

The moment Spike and Winnie entered there was a single word that sprang to mind - yes. The front doorway area led into an open kitchen with acres of counter-space, a stand-alone island and the upper leg of the C shaped kitchen had cupboards over the counter forming a peek-a-boo area to the dining room. As was mentioned the sunroom was just off the kitchen, and Spike had visions of a small sofa and table there along with a TV for children to watch while the grown-ups played downstairs. The long hallway off to the left led to the laundry room, the full guest bathroom and two of the five mentioned bedrooms - one of which was the master bedroom complete with ensuite.

'It was designed to be on the main floor across the hall from a nursery,' Jason explained, 'but after me and my wife split up it was turned into a guest room.'

'I see.' Images of a safari themed baby room danced in Winnie's head and she imagined having an antique cradle or crib positioned so the east-facing snu would gently wake the little one sleeping inside. 'So the remaining three are upstairs?'

'Yep.' Jason nodded, showed them the staircase at the end of the hallway leading up to the upper level with its dormer windows and freshly polished woodwork. 'The original house didn't have this part and the owners sunk in a lot of money to renovate so they could make some money by having borders here. They retired after they sold it to me, and it still has a lot of the stuff untouched.'

'There a lot of people making offers yet?' Spike said casually even as he made eye contact with Winnie; he saw she shared his thoughts when he felt her cross her fingers against his palm.

'Only one real one and they're still on the fence about the whole renovation prices to the kitchen they want done. It needs a new stove, new fridge, some plumbing issues were happening with the dishwasher recently, and they're trying to decide who should pay for fixing those issues.'

'We'll let you two look around,' Demetria offered; she could sense how much Spike and Winnie liked the house and hoped that Jason running his mouth as he was prone to do about the house where his wife had cheated on him didn't throw their opinion too far one way or the other.

Alone, Spike and Winnie looked at each other. 'What do you think?' he asked her, and Winnie's eyes shone.

'I love it. I feel it so much Mike, and it's in our price range if we offer to make the renovations ourselves. The type of stuff he's talking about, it's easily done with a contractor to our liking.'

'We could even spring for an outdoor grill, like a stone and woodfire barbecue, and with the right oven it could double as a pizza oven.'

'I think we should still play it cool until we see the rest of the house and sit on it, and if we still like it tomorrow we should make an offer.'

Spike wrapped his arms around Winnie, gave her a light kiss. 'I love you so much, Win.'

'Love you so much right back, Mike.'

Three days later, Spike was thankful to have a moment alone in the locker-room after his shower; he wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone because every time he opened his mouth all he could think of was the look on Winnie's face when Demetria had told them another offer had been accepted for the house. She'd been so down she hadn't even cried which was perhaps the most disconcerting part to Spike as Winnie was a passionate woman who always let her strongest feelings be shared.

Sighing, scrubbing his hand over his face, he didn't even bother looking at the caller ID when his phone rang and blindly answered with a polite, 'hello?'

'Mister Scarlatti hello, it's Demetria calling. Quick question, are you and Mz Camden still interested in the house?'

Spike's hand dropped away from his face, and he licked his suddenly dry lips. 'I'm- I'm sorry?'

'The first offer on forty-four Redcar Avenue fell through, and Jason is amenable to your offer of a lower price since you're taking on the renovations yourselves.'

'So...so it's ours?'

'It's yours.' Even over the phone, Demetria's smile was obvious. 'When would you and Miz Camden like to come in to deal with the paperwork?'

Spike mentally flipped through his calendar. 'Monday morning, is that too late? We're both on shift until after your office closes tonight and working the weekend as well.'

'Monday morning is just fine.'

'There's one other thing.' Spike explained his plan to Demetria, who gave a little romantic sigh. 'Think I'll be able to swing that tonight?'

'Absolutely. Come by my office by four and we will iron out the details.'

'Sure, yeah, I can make that work.' Spike glanced at his watch; it was three-fifteen now. 'I have a few calls to make and I'll be there.'

'Wonderful and congratulations on everything.'

'Thanks.' He hung up and because he was alone, Spike let out a short 'Yeah!' while doing a double fist pump before he opened his contact list on his phone and scrolled to the number one person to help him get everything planned. 'C'mon, pick up pick up pick up,' he chanted in a mumble.

'Spiky-Mike what's going on?'

'Dottie, listen I can't talk long but I need your help.'

'What's going on?'

'Is Raf there? Is he on nights tonight?'

'Nope, off until tomorrow afternoon.' There was a rustle that Spike recognized as grocery bags. 'What's up?'

'Dottie, we got the house, the one we thought was going to another coup-' He had to hold the phone away from his ear at Dottie's delighted shriek. 'Listen, sweetie, I need you to focus.'

'Yes, yes, okay, I can do that.' Her words were infused with such glee that Spike was going to have a hard time holding it together to get out of the SRU building with no one the wiser. 'What's the game plan?'

Spike laid it out for her, heard the scratch of a pen on paper. 'Think we can handle it?'

'You know we will make this a night to remember.'

'You're the best, Dot-dot. See you later tonight.'

Dottie hung up from Spike, did a little booty-shaking dance in her kitchen before calling the number one person on the list Spike had given her. 'Sophie! Sophie, it's Dottie, oh my god, you're not gonna-'

'They got the house?'

'They got the house! You know what that means, right?'

'We need to rally the troops to give Spike and Winnie a congratulations on your engagement party tonight!'