They had been on the road now for three hours and miraculously nobody was dead yet. Although it had been a near thing once or twice.
“Are we there yet?”
“Are we there yet?”
“Are we there yet?”
“Are we -”
“Will you shut up for five minutes, please. We have been on the road for twenty minutes. How could we possibly be there yet if this is a thirty hour trip according to the map.”
“Aw, Spikey. I was bored. And tease-the-Spike is such a fun game.
“Slayer. You are more annoying than a Balrog demon on caffeine.”
“What’s a Balrog?”
“Big one, long whiplash tail, skin is on fire and eyes like embers. Huge bugger. Starts singing after the third latte. Not a pretty sight and you don’t even want to know what it does after an espresso.”
“So, why haven’t I ever heard of it?”
“I killed it.”
Buffy said nothing.
“How was I to know it was the last of it’s kind.”
“Wow, they’re so pretty!” Buffy gazed in awe at the dusky mountains around them, framed by the star-lit sky.
“Have you never been here, Slayer?” Spike was surprised. The mountains were right outside her door, as it were.
“Well, we never really had the chance to travel. You know in the beginning we did travel. The whole family would go away together, mostly Florida, Hawaii once. That was the first holiday after I was called. I’d never seen a beach so white. I could have stayed there forever.” Her voice trailed off.
Spike took his eyes off the road for a second to glance at her, taking in her saddened expression with a frown. “What happened?”
Buffy sighed. “The slayer happened, of course. We stayed there for a grand total of 96 hours. The first night there the hotel had a luau, to welcome the new guests, you know. Really pretty. This big bonfire was in the middle of the beach with all there tables set up around it, and blankets if you wanted to sit on the sand. Flowers everywhere, and all these people in their holiday clothes. All so relaxed, without a care in the world.” As Buffy talked, Spike saw the image she was painting with her words and put a younger, softer Buffy in the middle of it, laughing at the sparks from the flames and giddy with excitement of staying up the night.
“That’s when I saw him. There was this surfer vampire. I mean dressed as a surfer, but pale as the moon, you know. Don’t know why nobody twigged him before then. Anyway, he was walking off with Dawn! She was only 12! She’s always been tall and pretty, so the vamp probably thought she would be easy to fool. I got her away from him - had to fight her as much as him - verbally that is. Was still in sight of the fire, so he gave up without too much fuss. Wasn’t completely dumb, you see.” She sighed again and Spike realised that what was to come would not be nice.
In the darkness of the car, it was easy for Buffy to finally purge the feelings she had long suppressed. “I followed him to his hideaway. There were thirty of them in this cave system shacking up with a couple of demons just because they could.”
Spike whistled. “That was you!”
Buffy shrugged, oddly pleased that Spike had heard of her so long before he had come Sunnydale. “Heard of that, did ya?”
“Well, yeah! ‘S not every day one girl takes on a large nest of vamps without any backup or weapons and lives to tell the tale - even if she is the slayer.”
“Took me two days to work my way through there and the no weapons thing is not exactly true, they had lots of handy furniture standing around all over the place. Burnt the place to the ground in the end and stumbled out. The fire undermined parts of the property and the eighteenth hole on the golf course collapsed. The hotel asked us to leave.”
“Ungrateful gits.” Spike growled, then noticed her incredulous look. “Well, ‘s true. Least they coulda done was say thank you, for saving their guests ‘n’ all.”
Buffy felt a blush start somewhere around her navel, quickly rising, and turned away.
Spike swallowed and tried to get rid of the strange mood pervading the car.
“Then again. Maybe you should thank them. Got to blow something up.”
“What?” Buffy squeaked.
“Well, you know. Your old high school, the cave system, Sunnydale High. Maybe we should call you Buffy the real estate slayer.” He sniggered.
“You are such an idiot, Spike!” Buffy huffed.
Spike cracked his neck and absently rubbed his nose, much as he had down in his long ago days at Eton, and glanced over at the slayer curled up in sleep on the passenger side.
Squinting ahead into the darkness, he could just make out the sign announcing a lay-by.
As soon as they had stopped, he was out of the car like a shot, stretching his back until his spine popped. Leaning back into the car he was faced with a dilemma. The slayer was still fast asleep and waking her too suddenly would be detrimental to his health if she went from sleeping straight into slay mode.
Sliding back into the car, he very, very carefully laid a hand on her back and began to rub it in slow circles, trying to ease her awake.
“Slayer. Come on. Wakey, wakey, time for little slayers to rise and shine.”
“Mmmmhhh. Five more minu’s.” Buffy mumbled, then turned and curled into Spike, stretching on the bench seat until her head was pillowed on his thigh, oblivious to the vampire frozen in shock , hands raised in mid air.
‘I’m dead.’ He thought, then relaxed when nothing else happened, like the slayer waking abruptly and realising where she was, and then beating the crap out of him. The larger part of him snickered however, cataloguing the blackmail material this presented and completely ignoring the tiny spark at his centre dancing with glee that she felt safe enough to sleep around him.
Placing his hand on her bare arm - trying to ignore how soft it was and how it had felt twined around his neck - he resumed his gentle circles.
“Come on, little slayer. Sun’s coming up. Time for good little girls to wake up.”
Buffy slowly stirred, nuzzling into his thigh. Slowly one hand came up and rubbed her nose.
One final twitch of the nose and Buffy’s eyes blinked open. All she could see was black. Blinking a couple of times, she realised that the black was in fact black jeans, which looked awfully familiar.
“Awake then?” A sardonic voice asked.
Buffy yelped and went from horizontal to vertical so fast she saw stars.
“The one and only.” Spike tried and failed to repress his inner poet who was rhapsodising about her flushed cheeks and sleepy come-hither eyes.
Rubbing her eyes, Buffy tried to get over the shock of waking up in Spike’s lap. “Where are we?”
“Layby, just west’a Death Valley.”
“Why’d we stop?” Buffy was still finding it hard to come to complete wakefulness.
“Well, the sun’s coming up in about an hour. You’re gonna haveta drive. Think you can keep it in a straight line?”
“Humpf” She scrunched up her forehead in thought. “What about you? Don’t want you to go poof after all.”
“Why, slayer, I didn’t think you cared.” He arched a scarred eyebrow in her direction. “I’m gonna be in the trunk.”
That woke Buffy up faster than a bucket of icy water. “Uhuh. No way! That’s just…” Words failed her.
“Just what, slayer? It’ll save time.”
“No! I am not driving your dead body around. Forget it. What if we get stopped and they open the trunk. You’ll go poof and I’ll be arrested. No way! Where’s the nearest motel? We’ll stay there for the night - I mean day.”
After mentioning driving past one only twenty minutes earlier, Spike could only watch as Hurricane Buffy swung into action and organised everything to her liking.
Half an hour later, Buffy was less sure of herself when it turned out that the motel only had one room left.
“Well, great idea while it lasted slayer.”
“We’ll take it.” Buffy watched with satisfaction as the vampire’s jaw dropped.
Her bravado slipped somewhat when she walked into the room and saw the double bed dominating it. To overplay her embarrassment she bustled to the bed and plopped her bag on it, then pulling the curtains closed tightly so not even a stray ray of early dawn light could sneak into the room, plunging it into twilight. Although her head knew that Spike could see her perfectly well, it helped that she couldn’t see him. Ostrich mentality at it’s best.
Spike watched her with amusement, deciding to forego his usual snark routine. Casting a jaundiced eye at the extremely uncomfortable-looking chairs by the window, is inner demon bowed to the habits of the gentleman, which his mother had once taken great pains to ingrain on the fibres of his very being.
“You want to take the bed, slayer? I’ll be on the floor.” He was more than amused by the slayer’s dumbfounded reaction.
“That’s … you … why?” she stuttered.
Spike flushed a little, glad she was unable to see it in the darkened room and said nothing.
Buffy took a deep breath, curbing her usual response to Spike-niceness. Reasoning with herself that he had a chip and would be unable to do anything to her that hurt, she ignored the little voice in her that insisted that that may be the case, but the chip would not stop him from doing things to her that would make her feel very good indeed.
“Um, Spike. That’s probably really uncomfortable and - uhm - the bed’s really big.” She blushed and ended in a rush. “Andifyoutouchmeiamsogoingtostakeyourass.”
All thought processes in Spike ground to a halt. The demon didn’t know what to do. This was unprecedented. The void was filled by William.
“That’s a very nice gesture to be sure. I’ll tell you what. You lie under the sheets and I’ll lie under the top blanket. That’s what they used to do in way stations when there was no room. Entirely proper, I assure you.”
Buffy ducked her head and fiddled with the zip on her duffle bag. “Thanks, Spike. Uhm. I’ll go change.”
Ten minutes later a freshly scrubbed Buffy came out of the bathroom, dressed in an oversize sweater and jogging pants, studiously avoiding any glance in Spike’s direction. Moving to the side of the bed closest to the window, she slid under sheets and blanket, all without a single word or gesture.
Spike took his turn in the bathroom, stripping down to his jeans for lack of better sleepware. He brushed his teeth purely for the sake of the taste of mint it imparted and after pottering around for a few more minutes ventured back into the bedroom, hoping the slayer had fallen asleep in the meantime.
Luck seemed to be on his side, as he was greeted by slow, even breaths. Silently he made his way to the bed and slid under the blanket, just as he had promised. Unbidden and not entirely unwanted the thought hit him that this would have been his future - with a few alterations - if Willow’s spell had been nothing of the sort. Going to sleep next to Buffy, with her face the last thing he saw and waking up to her first thing in the evening. Ruthlessly he quashed the sentiment. He was a vampire dammit - lusting after the blood of the innocent and all that, not some love-sick puppy, pining for his lady-love. Careful not to disturb his bed-partner, Spike rolled on his side, closed his eyes and attempted to sleep.