I humbly offer up my contribution. Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to work on this, so it came out a lot more rushed than I had intended. I might revise it at a later time.
Title: Holidays in the Sun
Summary: Post-Chosen. After that school bus comes to a stop, Buffy just wants to keep going. It’s funny how a road trip and a Sex Pistols album can help in the healing process.
Warm California air teased gently across Buffy’s face and through her hair as she rested her head against the bus window frame. She had opted to crack the window open, letting the wind accompany the vehicle’s rocking movements in its soothing, dozing effect.
She was exhausted, and for the first time in a long time, she was able to fully enjoy it.
It had been a few days since the mass implosion of her home (the fact that anywhere could be home now was a startling realization), and the adrenaline-fueled combat mode had finally receded. Now she had time to embrace the pleasurable ache of stretching her worn muscles, of opening her mouth in a monstrous yawn. She could now fully appreciate how utterly easy it was to sleep when you were this tired. She closed her eyes against the warm afternoon light, letting it coat her skin in a delicious, sensuous heat. She completely ignored what everyone else was doing; for once, she didn’t have to worry about it.
Buffy Anne Summers curled up in her seat in the sun and had what might have been her first cat nap in seven years.
When she awoke, it was because she was done sleeping. Her body was naturally waking up on its own. Not because of nightmares, prophecy dreams, slaying emergencies, work, or even school. She just didn’t need anymore.
Her internal clock told her that it was now early morning, and as her eyes opened to the vast landscape laid out before her, they were met with the panorama of a desert sunrise. She took the opportunity to enjoy this quiet, private moment and how the light cast striking colors and shadows across the layers of cloud and sky.
Everyone seemed to be sleeping on the darkened bus, but as Buffy looked down the aisle, she noticed the illumination of headlights. Buffy rose from her seat, stretching and cracking her back as she stood. She softly walked to the front of the bus, careful to avoid any feet or legs sticking out into the aisle. There were only a few Potentials (Slayers, she reminded herself) left among the group. The most injured of them were taken to a hospital in the nearest town immediately after the fight. This included Robin Wood, and Buffy was a bit surprised when Faith opted to stay with him.
“Are you sure?” Buffy had asked as they both stood in the waiting room. “You can come with us.”
The offer was sincere, freely given, and from the way Faith looked at her, Buffy knew that she could see it.
“It’s cool, B.” Faith said, giving Buffy the most genuine smile she had ever seen from her sister Slayer.
“I’m making my own path now, you know?”
Buffy returned a true smile of her own.
Buffy’s hand grazed over the back of the seat where Faith had been just a few days before.
I’m making my own path now.
She scanned the sleeping bodies huddled in different groups and pairs along every other row. Willow and Kennedy were cuddled together in deep slumber, and the remaining Potentials had seemed to form a protective cluster. She was amused to find Dawn and Andrew together, the former instinctively shrugging the other off whenever he unconsciously slumped onto her. Each face she passed bore varying degrees of bruising and exhaustion. Giles was passed out in a seat near the front, his jacket draped over him and his glasses tilting off of his face. He looked so worn and old. Buffy managed a sad smile for her Watcher and gently removed his glasses, tucking them securely in a front pocket where they wouldn’t be damaged. By process of elimination, that meant Xander was on night duty. As she neared the driver’s seat, she saw that her deduction had been right.
She stepped up next to him, leaning forward enough to get out of his blind spot. It was still surreal to realize how literal the term was. He noticed her after a couple of moments.
“Oh, hey Buff,” He said, glancing at her quickly before turning his eye back to the road. “I’m guessing that nap was much needed. You were going Rip Van Winkle for a while there.”
“Yeah,” Buffy responded. “It was nice.”
She thought carefully about her next sentence, wondering if she should mention it or not.
“Xander, are you sure you’re comfortable driving at night?” Or at all?
He waved a dismissive hand at her.
“Hey, I’m fine. Passed the driver’s test and all that.” He smirked faintly.
“Besides, it gives me plenty of thinking time to stock up on eye patch references.”
Another fast glance in her direction.
“Pirates are only funny for so long, you know?”
Buffy smiled softly at him. “Yeah.”
She sat down in the first row behind Xander. He couldn’t see her now unless he completely turned around, but he knew she was there. They ended up joined in a companionable silence for a while, and she quietly looked out the front window.
Her eye caught a jack rabbit skittering across the road.
Xander suddenly chuckled. Buffy looked at him questioningly, though he couldn’t see it.
“You know what scared her the most?” He asked, still facing forward. “How many breeds of them there are.”
He affected a slightly higher pitch as he adopted Anya’s blunt tone of voice.
“’They already come in one brand of horror; why do they feel the need to diversify?‘”
His voice dropped back to normal, taking on a faintly somber hint.
“I never did fully figure out why she was so afraid of them…”
Buffy didn’t know what she should say, so she just stayed silent. She had a feeling that he wasn’t really looking for a response anyway.
A roadside shopping center was visible in the distance.
“I’ve never been so happy to see a Super Target,” Xander quipped. He snuck a quick peek at the slumbering passengers. “Guess we’ll stock up on supplies, get some breakfast.”
He looked to Buffy as she came to stand beside him. He nodded his head towards the back of the bus.
“Wanna get everyone up, and we’ll look around?”
Buffy wandered around the store, ignoring the sometimes not-so-subtle glances at her disheveled hair and torn, dusty clothes. It had actually been one of her goals to find a decent pair of unripped jeans and a shirt without speckles of dried blood, but she instead found herself browsing along the music section.
She eyed the selection of CDs, remembering with a little pang of regret that all her music had been swallowed up with the rest of her town. Not that she had had much time to actually listen to it, but it was the principle of the matter. She had time now. She could build up a whole collection if she wanted to. I wonder if they have New Kids on the Block?
She strolled through the rows of music, hoping to find something that caught her interest. She was scanning through the second half of the alphabet when something attracted her eye. Her fingers reached into the row of discs and pulled out a CD with an ugly off-pink cover and green lettering.
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols!
“Yeah, right.” Buffy immediately scoffed, and moved to return it to the stack.
Only… when she tried to lift her hand away, her fingers wouldn’t let go.
She stared the cover down, thinking of blue eyes and drunken songs.
No way, she told herself. I don’t even like punk. They can’t sing, and have horrible outfits, and just drink and piss everywhere. It would be a waste of money.
Fifteen minutes later, she was back on the bus, holding the disc as well as a new CD player and headphones in her lap. When Xander moved past her to find a seat of his own, he spotted what she held. She wanted to look away when he made eye-contact, feeling extremely self-conscious. But he just looked at her, a soft expression taking over his face, and nodded before moving on. She looked down at the case in her hands. After a moment, she quickly stuffed it into her bag.
She didn’t even like punk.
After all the Potentials were gone, after all the stops and bus rides and plane tickets and hospital bills, Buffy was left at a crossroads.
She could do anything she wanted.
She could go to England with Giles and help reform the Council and see Dawn become a Watcher. Or fly away to Africa with Xander, or to South America with Willow, or visit Faith in Cleveland. She could have that vacation in Disneyland she always wanted.
But when that school bus finally stopped, she found that she just wanted to keep on going.
A wanderlust had crept into her muscles, urging her to keep moving. So she decided to stay behind and go it alone. She was finally going to take a vacation, with no one to worry about but herself.
And she was going to do whatever the hell she wanted.
Buffy got herself a car. It didn’t matter what kind, just as long as it was durable and could handle very long distances. Technically, she didn’t have a license, but after being accused of or framed for murder no less than three times over the course of her young adulthood, she didn’t find the thought of being pulled over that worrisome. She had no particular location in mind, and enjoyed the freedom of not having to. She just figured to head east from California and see where it took her.
She took scenic routes, taking her time to explore whatever towns she came across, whether large or small. Most of the landscape she took in for the first week or so was desert, with its endless horizons and vast blue sky. It was only a couple of days after crossing the border of New Mexico and Texas that she finally saw green plains and hills as she entered the heart of the state.
It was a balmy summer night under a clear starry sky as Buffy drove past large grassy fields on either side. Trees bordered them in the distance, and she sometimes saw enclosures where livestock or horses would graze during the day. She rolled down the window, letting the warm air blow through her hair. It would have been a picture-perfect road trip cliché, if only she could have found a radio station that didn’t suck. She turned the dial, huffing in frustration as it which from classical, to country, to jazz, to some obscure college radio station. She just wasn’t feeling it. She reached over and fished through her glove compartment, hoping she had remembered to bring something decent with her on this trip. Her hand pulled out a case with a familiar pinkish cover. For a moment she just held it before her.
I won’t even like it, she told herself.
There was a wary pause, and then a whirring, technological sound as the CD slipped into her car’s disc player.
She was right, she didn’t like it. At least, not in the way she thought one would usually like music. She didn’t even know if she would classify the vocals as “singing”, but rather loud, angry rambles of ridiculous, aggressive lyrics. The guitar was dirty, raw, and uncomplicated, accompanied by a persistent, thumping drum. It sounded ugly and unpolished, and her first instinct was to turn it off.
But even as she cringed against the assault on her ears, she didn’t stop listening. The more she let it play, the more she tried to figure out what about it fascinated her. There was something about the raw energy behind the wild strumming and the angry abandon channeled through the vocalist’s cries that kept her enraptured. Something that allowed her to look past horrible aesthetic choices and unintelligible slurred words. There was some tight knot deep inside her that, if she admitted it, felt satisfied when she listened to this. Or at least, not as heavy.
Though the music was loud and rioting, the night was getting later and she was growing tired. She could have tried to find the nearest motel or inn, but as she observed the peaceful, open landscape she was struck by a different idea. She didn’t know if it was necessarily a good idea, but then decided that she didn’t care. She pulled the the car over to the side of the road and then drove onto the grass of an empty expanse of land. She slowed to a stop and turned off the engine, letting the frantic guitar fade away. She leaned the seat back and kept the windows down, letting a warm breeze tease across her face. She observed the stars and bright moonlight through her front window as she laid back and got comfortable. She ended up drifting off the the sounds of summer cicadas.
Buffy sits on her bed with her back against the headboard. She is wearing pajama shorts with a tank top. Spike is sitting opposite of her and painting her toenails black. She wrinkles her nose and frowns in distaste as she studies the color. He notices.
“Hey, don’t frown at me,” he says, pointing at her with the small polish brush.
“You’re the one lettin’ me paint your wigglies a color you don’t like.” He lowers the brush and stops brandishing it at her at her. “Don’t know why you picked a color you don’t like.”
She avoids his eyes as he looks at her in exasperation. She slowly opens her mouth to speak.
“…It just reminds me of…”
She looks at him for a moment, then away again.
He sighs, “Yeah, ok” and resumes his work.
The sun was gradually rising in the horizon as she awoke. It created a picturesque landscape as she sat up to see the stretching road. Time to keep moving.
Days turned into weeks as she kept moving and moving. She never stayed more than a couple of days in any given town. Desert turned into hills that morphed into marsh that finally became the coastline. She went north from there. Then for a while she didn’t know what direction she was going in, she just went. Then that “a while” became longer and longer. Fields and streams and cities and ports just formed into one big dreamscape within her mind. All the while the road was the focal point in her head, giving her a definitive path to center herself around. She knew that she dreamed frequently, but her mind never seemed to want to keep ahold of it when she woke.
They are on her bed again. This time half-dressed, with Buffy in her bra and jeans and Spike shirtless. He sits up against the headboard, and she straddles his lap. They kiss leisurely, playfully. Her hands crawl up and down his back, gliding over smooth muscle and taunt skin. He caresses her shoulders, then slides down her sides.
Spike suddenly smacks her ass.
“Hey!” She yelps, pulling back and glaring defiantly at his devilish little smirk. She quickly slips her hands underneath him and gives his own rear end a hard, almost painful squeeze.
“Mmmm,” He moans, closing his eyes. “Do that again.”
Buffy merely rolls her eyes and swats him on the chest.
“You ever question if liking to be smacked around by me is a healthy thing?” She asks, quirking an eyebrow.
He just shrugs.
She sighs dramatically and plops down on top of him, allowing her head to rest on his shoulder. His fingers snake around to the small of her back, stroking lightly up and down her spine. She finds that her own have found their way to the nape of his neck, leisurely running along the skin and playing with the short, blonde strands of hair. She closes her eyes and lets herself dwell in the moment.
After a couple of minutes into the silence, Spike whispers softly, “Love you.”
Buffy opens her eyes and looks past him to the morning light of her window. She is silent for a beat, then says quietly,
“…You know, you don’t have to say it all the time.”
Though she’s not looking at him, she can feel him frown. His arms fold around her waist, holding her securely to him.
“Want to,” He says. “Need to.”
Suddenly, for reasons not entirely clear to her, she feels very self-conscious. She hides her face in the crook of his neck.
“I don’t know why,” She whispers.
“Because I love you,” He replies simply.
I don’t know why.
…Almost three months after she started her journey, she found herself right back where she started.
It was a bright and clear as it was the day that Sunnydale collapsed. Warm wind tossed and tangled her hair as she stepped out of the car to behold the sunken pit where her home used to be. Her boots kicked up dirt and dust as she walked to the edge, peering down into the huge, desolate cavity. She sat down and let her legs dangle over the side. It had been three months, and she still didn’t know if she had really processed it. She scanned the debris, wondering if she would somehow be able to pick anything out. Wondered if she would instinctively know where the Espresso Pump used to be, or the high school, or her house.
She wondered if there was anything left of him…
As she intensified her search, a heavy feeling began to sink deep down inside her. There was a soft shaking in her hands.
There was absolutely nothing.
Nothing of the buildings, the streets, the memories, the moments. Nothing of her life, nothing of him. Just dust and dirt and rock.
Was she stupid for expecting anything else?
A shivering sigh escaped from her, and she clenched her fists tightly. Buffy jerkily rose to her feet and made swift, purposeful strides to her car. A loud slam, and then she was charging back, clutching a pink and green CD in her hand. She stopped before the crater, cocked her arm far back, and chucked the disc as hard as she could into the abyss. A few seconds later she heard a faint, echoing crack.
Still not satisfied, she grabbed a good-sized stone that lay at her feet and sent it flying into the crevice. Then she found another, and another. Buffy soon lost herself in furious craze, grunting and shouting as she found whatever she could, whether it was rocks, dirt clods, or debris, and hurled them one right after the other at the giant scar that had been her town.
As she stepped forward to deliver a good swing of her arm, her foot slipped. She had stood too near to the edge. She suddenly stumbled forward, down into the gaping chasm. She rapidly tumbled down the
precipice, snagging on rocks and rubble as she was jostled about. She frantically clawed at the sloping earth, desperate to find a hold. Her hand suddenly caught on a sizable boulder wedged into the dirt wall, and she jerked to a halting stop that made her arms ache. She clung to it for a tense moment as she willed her heart to calm itself. Then slowly, carefully she climbed, eventually making her way back up. She pulled herself over the top and collapsed, shaking from the adrenaline and high emotion. Big, sloppy tears fell down her face as she took in deep, quivering breaths. They left streaks on her cheeks where the dirt and dust were washed away. She didn’t know how long she laid on the ground like that.
But eventually, the tears stopped. She regained control of her breathing. She picked herself up and dusted herself off. She stared one last time at that gaping hole in the earth. Then she turned as she wiped the wet from her eyes, got in her car, and drove off.
The next day, she made a call.
“Giles?” She said, trying not to let the hoarseness of her voice be heard. “I think I’m done now.”
There was a brief pause on the other line before the response came.
“There is already a room waiting for when you arrive.”
She hung up the phone, gathering the rest of the things she would need for her last drive to the airport.
Little did she know, that in her hurry to be rid of the case, she had left the CD in her car’s disc player all along.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/429422.html