Title: Route 666
Era/season/setting: Post-series (immediately post-NFA)
Rating: R for language, sexual situations
Summary: Lorne needs to get out of LA. Spike has a car and no reason to stay. Can this Odd Couple survive the road trip from hell? And will Buffy ever catch up?
Takes place after Not Fade Away, comics do not exist. Rated R for foul language and sexual situations.
Seasonal Spuffy note: I fear I shall likely not get to the Actual Spuffy before the end of this round, but I could not resist posting a chapter or two of this road trip fic I have been noodling for months when the SS theme is Road Trip. Rest assured there is Future Spuffy. Thanks to Seasonal Spuffy for getting me to drag this off the backburner and turn the heat up!
I have 2 chapters for this free-for-all day. Hopefully will have more by next weekend, but please do watch my EF and AO3 in the months ahead for updates!
Chapter 2: Highgate
Giles had told her the Cedar of Lebanon in Highgate Cemetery was more than three hundred years old, and she had no reason to disbelieve him; as she stood with her hand on the rough bark, Buffy could almost feel the weight of the centuries, the ghosts of the past lingering around every corner.
Not that the ghosts were her problem. In fact, she’d been specifically instructed by the caretakers that she was to leave the ghosts be. They were what she was there to protect.
A year ago, that would have been kind of a freaky request, but after her time in London, and Italy, and Romania, and a good dozen or more old European cities, and now back in London again, she’d gotten used to the fact that the Old World was, well, old. She could hardly turn a corner without running into a building that had, like, a thousand candles on its birthday cake — sometimes literally, the streets were kinda narrow — and it was not just not uncommon, but downright run-of-the-mill for benign ghosties to be treated like members of the family.
When one of the cemetery caretakers had come to their headquarters to request aid, Buffy had seen enough weirditude that it didn’t creep her out at all. So maybe she’d grown as a person? Or maybe she was just getting jaded.
You have to come, the matronly caretaker had begged. The Mad Old Woman has been hiding in the Egyptian Avenue, and the Shrouded Figure has been cowering behind the stone lion. She won’t even talk to Gavin, and he’s her favorite. Nobody has seen the Devil Ghoul for weeks, and we’re getting worried. Please, there’s something in the cemetery that doesn’t belong. Can you help us?
Buffy had volunteered before anybody else could. She was getting tired of all the desk work and meetings and stupid administrative stuff that went along with running an international anti-vampire organization. She needed to get out in the field and kick some ass.
Now if the ass-in-need-of-kicking would just show up, already!
Buffy could feel her muscles twitching, already impatient from the lack of action, and she shivered, fingers clutching at the three-hundred-year-old tree’s bark, awash in dread. She’d needed to get out, but god, she hated hunting in England. Hated it, hated it, hated it. She hated it so much that every few weeks she’d just take off, heading to whatever European city she could pretend needed her, just so she could not be in England for a while.
Because every vampire she staked sounded like either Giles or Spike.
Giles had given her The Look when she’d said as much to him, wryly pointing out that there were a good dozen regional accents at the very least, and that with some egregious simplification, but for Pete’s sake! She couldn’t be expected to know what the difference was between Brummie and Geordie, or whatever jibber-jabber Giles had tried to explain to her. All she knew was that sometimes when a vamp talked to her, they were all Fancy English, so they made her feel like she was killing Giles, or else they were Punky English, and made her feel like she was killing Spike.
She didn’t tell Giles that she felt a whole lot worse about the Punky English vamps. She’d never actually killed Giles, after all.
She took a deep breath and consciously relaxed her hand before it started digging grooves in the bark of the Really Old Tree, but it didn’t stop her from remembering how it had felt. Her hand clasping Spike’s. Fire, actual flames, wreathing their hands. His eyes burning even hotter.
His eyes, dying right in front of her.
Goddammit, there was supposed to be something evil to kill here. When the hell was it going to show up? If she was going to stake an English-accented vamp, she wanted to get it over with.
It had almost gotten to be a routine, really, Buffy stakes Punky English vampire. Buffy flees to somewhere in Europe that is blissfully sans-Punky-English-vampires. Buffy has regrettable sex with non-Punky-non-English-someone-or-other. Buffy regrets regrettable sex and comes back to England. Rinse and repeat, often enough that Willow always had a freezer stocked up with Phish Food when Buffy ended up back in Jolly Olde.
On her last trip to Italy, ostensibly visiting Dawn but really just continuing the cycle, she’d almost gotten in over her head, and Dawn had lain down the law. It was bad enough that Buffy was setting a bad example for her only sister, she’d fumed, but did she have to pick the most famous morally-ambiguous supernatural guy in the country to do it with? It was like Buffy was trying to get killed.
And Buffy hadn’t really been able to argue with that. She had gotten reckless, like she was trying to find a lover who’d finally finish the job Sunnydale had started, and that realization had been enough to convince her to break things off with the Immortal and come back to England.
He’d taken the news with a philosophical shrug, which was a clear sign she was making the right move. Was it too much to ask that he at least try to convince her otherwise?
But anyhow, Willow had been ready with the Phish Food, and Giles had been ready with a stack of paperwork and Executive Decisions that needed to be made, and the Friends of Highgate Cemetery had been ready with a job, and so what if she was saving ghosts instead of living people? Beatrice-or-whoever clearly felt the ghosts were her family, and that made them worth saving. Right?
A flicker of movement caught her eye, and she focused on it like a laser, dizzy from a wash of relief, because she was so tired of being alone with her thinky thoughts; she leapt down from her high vantage point and set off towards where she’d seen the flutter of white. Which she supposed could be one of the ghosts, but right now a Mad Old Woman seemed a lot more fun than another round of thoughts spinning around and around like a whirlpool sucking her inexorably back to that moment.
Flames and hands and eyes, his eyes —
She shut it away and sank into the hunt instead.
She paused when she reached the overgrown jumble of monuments where she’d seen the flicker of movement, barely breathing; there was a giggle from a little further down, and she chased that in turn, following hints of movement and sound until she realized she had come back to where she started, the Circle of Lebanon, where a row of dark catacombs arched along a packed dirt walkway, half covered with green moss and clover. She’d wandered the circle earlier, absently reading the epitaphs and the carved names in the mottled, licheny stone, glancing at the doors. Another way in which the Old World was old — she was used to the manicured lawns and pristine white stone of Sunnydale’s cemeteries, as featureless and bland as a suburban lawn.
Highgate, on the other hand, was a jumbled mess of skewed monuments, statues of dogs and lions and a thousand angels, overgrown with shrubs and ivy and moss, the stone weathered and discolored and worn to softness. The crypts were massive and ostentatious in a way the presumptuous upstart Alpert Crypt had only dreamed of, literal mansions for the dead. The caretaker had told her, with a shockingly matter-of-fact air, that the undead didn’t generally settle in Highgate, as it was too old even for them to feel comfortable, and certainly she hadn’t sensed even a glimmer of vampiric energy from behind any of the closed doors she’d passed.
All the doors were open now.
Buffy cautiously stalked along the crypts, stake in hand, peering in at the dusty sarcophagi that had lain undisturbed for years, closing each door as she verified the interiors were clear. The dust didn’t even seem to have been touched, piled thick as snow on every surface, and she silently sent apologies to the residents for whatever mischievous intruder had disturbed them even that much.
When she reached the far end of the circle and closed the last door, she heard it again, the laugh, except closer, and she raised her eyes once again to the ancient cedar tree, to the very spot where she’d stood herself, eyes narrowing at the sight of the white-clad figure whose hand now rested on the tree’s trunk.
“Drusilla,” she murmured, somehow feeling not at all surprised.
“Hello, poppet,” Drusilla said softly, eyes shadowed in her pale, pale face, lips curved in a wide smile. “Miss Edith told me I would find you here.”
“Funny,” Buffy said lightly, inching out in a circle to a better vantage point. “Here I thought I was the one looking for you.” She hadn’t really interacted directly with Drusilla much — she’d always been focused on Spike, and had barely exchanged five sentences with his paramour — but Buffy knew how dangerous she was, and she wasn’t going to take any chances. The question was, how was she going to get close enough to stake her when she’d lost the high ground?
Drusilla laughed again, sounding merry as a child on the swings. “There’s looking and there’s finding, and I’m not the one who’s lost, am I?” She leaned into the cedar’s trunk, both hands caressing its bark. “Lost and found, and we both know it’s not me you’ve been searching for in the nights, all the cold nights, flesh and blood and skin. It all burned away, all the skin and the flesh and the blood and the bone and now you hunt for it every night, but you’ll not find it, nor him. Not that way.” She pushed away from the tree then, dancing lightly on her tiptoes a little ways away, to where a branch dipped low enough to tangle in her dark hair.
Buffy swallowed, mouth dry, staking Drusilla suddenly the last thing on her mind. “He did burn,” she said softly. “He’s gone now.”
Drusilla pulled the branch down in front of her, peering impishly through the green, hair tangled like a spider’s web. “As if you were on fire from within. The moon lives in the lining of your skin.” She stepped back then, glaring daggers. “He stole it, you know. Stole the words and the moon, stole under your skin, stole the treasure I’d claimed when I made him strong.” She lifted her pale face to the just-waning moon. “You’re all thieves.”
“I don’t steal.” Buffy’s hand tightened involuntarily on her stake. She remembered those words on Spike’s lips, breathed into her ear like a promise. She hadn’t known at the time they were a prophecy.
A secret smile played across Drusilla’s lips. “A thief and a liar, too,” she said, clicking her tongue in disapproval. “You stole them both, you wicked girl. Stole them and made them dust. I really am quite cross.”
“Angel chose his own path, and so did Spike,” Buffy said shortly, circling again, trying to get her head back in the game. “And Angel’s fine, last I checked. Though I hear he’s become a lawyer or something.” She hadn’t really kept up on what Angel was up to, after punching him in the nose for what the amulet had done, but Giles had said he’d keep an eye on things.
“Dust,” Drusilla said sharply, stopping Buffy in her tracks. “Dust and gone, and gone and dust, and now my boy’s gone too, the fire spit him out and he shook the dust away and left the City of Angels behind. He’s lost.”
“Yes,” Buffy said. “Burned and gone.” She’d thought she was out of tears, but she could feel them at the corners of her eyes anyhow.
“Foolish girl,” Drusilla scoffed, darting around the tree’s trunk and peeking out the other side, eyes mischievous. “Lost can be found.”
Buffy laughed, bitterness on her tongue like bile. “Not that kind of lost.”
“From the City of Angels to the City of Winds,” Drusilla sing-songed, eyes closed, swaying as if to music. “Through the eye of a needle and over the rainbow and under the tower, forever falling.”
“Okay, now you’re just making stuff up.” Buffy brandished her stake, hoping she looked more threatening than she felt. “Look, the nice ghosts that live here — or not live, but — whatever. They’re tired of you squatting in their cemetery. Can you just take your cryptic behind off to, I don’t know, Timbuktu?” Giles might blow a gasket at her letting her go, but Buffy hadn’t lived to the ripe old age of 22 without knowing how to choose her battles. Taking on Spike’s ex while she was still tearing herself up over his death was not a winning proposition, and she knew it.
Drusilla’s eyes popped open then, fastening on Buffy’s face with frightening lucidity. “He’s looking for you,” she said clearly. “Just as you search for him. But you’re both looking in the wrong places.” Her eyes wandered off again then, like a cat distracted by a butterfly. “Miss Edith wanted you to know.”
“Did she, now?” Buffy whispered, head whirling. No way. There was no way the crazy vamp was saying what she thought she was saying. No way.
“I didn’t want to tell you,” Drusilla pouted, eyes sullen. “But she would insist. She was really quite rude.”
“I must be going, now,” Drusilla said in a brisk voice, suddenly sounding like a busy socialite, fingers wiggling in a dainty farewell worthy of the Queen. “Do give him my regards.” She spun then, dreamily, her white skirts belling out about her, and with a final flash of her long white fingers she was gone.
“Well, that wasn’t freaksome at all,” Buffy grumbled, ignoring the sick anticipation in the pit of her stomach. Because there really was no way. Buffy had felt Spike burn. She still had the scars on her hand. He was gone.
But her mind kept racing, as she reported back to probably-Beatrice — who listened with relief in her eyes, as apparently the Shrouded Figure had already made a morose, broody appearance — and then headed off down the streets towards the tube station — it was too early for a train, but she could likely catch a cab there — and when she was halfway there, she set her jaw and pulled out her cell phone and dialed.
“Giles? Sorry I woke you.” She really wasn’t. “Yeah, I took care of it. But, um, we need to talk. Can you call the Scoobies in the morning? Set up a meeting for, say, eight? Not the whole Council, just the old gang. There’s some stuff we need to talk about. Kind of unofficial.” She rolled her eyes at his reply. “No, I’m not going off to Greece tomorrow for another ‘sabbatical.’” She paused, then went on in a rush, before she could think better of it. “But I might be going to California.”
She flipped her phone shut and broke into a run.
END CHAPTER 2
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/637771.html