Rating: PG-15 for language
Disclaimer: Just remember – I own nothing!
Authors note: I know it's been a very long time – but here it is if anyone is still interested! I apologise for any typos, I beta my own work so I may have missed something – please point them out if you find them. And if it lessens the irritatation at all Buffy has been driving me nuts for the last 6 months by getting stuck on her motorcycle in Kansas and refusing to move on! Grr – damned writers block...
There was dust in her hair. Dust in her hair and in her eyes and caked on her hands and her skin, despite the black leathers and matt black helmet that encased her like armour. Somehow the dust always managed to sneak in, through the gaps between gloves and sleeves, at the ankles where boots met leather pants and up the back of her neck where it joined gleefully with the sweat that was pouring down her skin, forming a lovely kind of pale tan mud that was so not this season's colour. And more to the point it itched. Itched and after a few hours started to chafe and then by the time evening drew on escalated itself to a tango dancing, samba hipped annoyance to join with the other small aches and complaints that arose as a result of spending far too long in the sun on a motorbike that was still, despite all the adjustments Faith had made to it, a little too wide in the seat to be totally comfortable. She shifted again, conscious of every lump in the padded seat and every bump in the road as you can only be after eight hours in the saddle, with only a brief comfort break around lunch. The road was driving her on, miles passing beneath the tyres like poetry, life worn down to the basics, the road the wind, the relentless urge to move. She was hunting and the pulse low in her stomach was beating in time to her heart, pushing little things like food and sleep into the background. But enough was enough. She needed to eat, she needed the brief 3 or 4 hours that were essential to help keep a slayer on top of her game and more to the point she needed a shower. 'Cause she was pretty sure that she stank.
She pulled into a motel near St Louis as the sun was setting, streaks of red and orange limed with gold painting the sky and the tarmac, the Kawasakirasping down from a sotto voice roar to a purr as she pulled into a parking space. She patted the chassis affectionately as she switched off the engine and dismounted, being careful to secure it with the immobiliser she always carried in one of the panniers. It was her baby this bike and she was careful of it as she was of few other physical possessions, not so much because of what it was but because of what it represented – freedom and the ability to leave things behind. She had discovered since Sunnydale that those were things she needed, almost craved. It was as though those seven years of forced intimacy in a small town, seven years of patrolling the same cemeteries, the same streets and parks had built up a wanderlust that wouldn't be quenched, given her itchy feet and a desire to roam that surprisingly only Faith of all those claimed to know her seemed to understand. It had been Faith in fact that had suggested the bike, having seen the gleam in Buffy's eyes when the dark slayer had rolled up to the Cleveland house on her Harley Davidson. And it had been Faith who had pointed out to her that the reason she was such a crap driver was not due to her inability to drive but rather that the reaction times of everyone else on the road were something less than half of what theirs were. So in a car slayers as a general breed were an incitement to accident. But on a bike…. On a bike they were free to react as fast as clear roads and the limitations of a machine could let them. And that was pretty damn fast. She had been convinced after one lesson and one wildly exhilarating ride through the moonlit streets of Cleveland. The next day the two of them had taken the ridiculous amount of unused back pay that she had accumulated and had hit the dealerships leaving the motorcycle jungle telegraph drooling in their wake.
And her baby was the result. She patted the metal again affectionately as she slung a saddlebag across her shoulder, helmet left secured in its box but leathers still tight against her skin. It was a truck stop as well as a motel and she could feel the lustful glances from the various men hanging around the forecourt and staring through the diner window but she ignored them, giving off winter artic vibes. She couldn't do anything about the wholly predictable effect that she was having - petite blond in black leather, but she didn't have to indulge them either.
The room was basic, scraggy double bed with faded counterpane, almost unnecessary in heat of late summer in the Midwest, but more importantly it had a good lock on the door and a shower. Bliss. She washed quickly, stripping the dirt from her hair economically then dressed in clean jeans and a shirt, leaving her leathers to air. Supper was quick, a surprisingly good omelette and fries, and she was tempted enough to stay for the blueberry pie that the matronly waitress pushed upon her, muttering under her breath disapprovingly about young girls who were far too skinny. The maternal concern brought a brief smile to her lips but the taste of the pie nearly undid her, too similar to her Mom's favourite peace offering to be anything but painful, and she could only manage another bite or two to please the waitress but she added a generous tip to the bill when she paid. Due to her consistent blanking of all the other patrons she only had to kick one guy in the groin when he offered to get friendly and wouldn't take no for an answer. It was a better result than normal as sometimes the score had ended up in the double digits.
Sleep. She needed sleep.
The hunting pulse pulled her out of slumber before the sun was even fully up in the sky and she thanked chance and providence for 24 hour diners. A bagel and cream cheese, coffee and sandwiches pushed upon her to take with by the other waitress who was just as maternally orientated as her sister and she was on the road again with her baby, the tarmac blurring into oblivion before and behind her. She felt like she was outside time, only the pulse that throbbed in time with her heart, a growing sense of urgency, the road and her baby existed in this place with her. All else was blur and shadows, people and cars moving too slowly to really be tracked, like the shimmer of heat haze off the road that you see from the corner of your eyes.
The sun beat down but she didn't really notice, focused inward, listening intently to the guide that was leading her. Turn here, it said, no not that road, this one, cut across here, it's faster, now speed up, slow down for the traffic. This road, this one. And she obedient servant followed on, in thrall to its whispered commands.
Sunset hit her as a surprise, the rapid drop in temperature and the darkness that was a slayers natural home triggering an end to her self absorption. And there was something else going on as well, her spidey sense making itself felt strongly enough that it overwhelmed any other thought or action. It led her to park her bike some distance from the diner she saw illuminated in the distance and pad her way in closer, pulling the shadows with her as she scoped out the terrain.
Three vampires who had staged a smash and grab on the diner by the look of it. Truckers or Hells' Angels in life, in death they were just as fat, greasy and obnoxious as they had been when they still needed to breath. One had already drained one of the patrons and the second was already scoping out his chosen victim, a tired man in a crumpled business suit who looked completely disbelieving that this could possibly be happening to him. The third was terrorising the waitress, the limp body of the short order cook on the floor showing what had happened to the only individual brave or stupid enough to put up any kind of resistance. She slipped around the back, looking for an entrance. She could just charge in from the front, three unfit, overweight vampires were hardly a challenge these days, but one thing dying three times had taught her was that discretion genuinely was sometimes the better part of valour. There was no way that her slaying career was going to be ended in a diner somewhere in the middle of nowhere outside of Topeka. There was a back door that led through the kitchens. Reaching into air she triggered the pocket dimension that Willow had personalised for her, choosing her weapons, leaving the scythe alone- too big for the enclosed space, pulling out five stakes that went down the side of boots and into her waistband. Her leather jacket she left at the door, too stiff to be ideal to move in.
Then as always, things very quickly became a blur of dance and death. She caught them totally by surprise and she wasn't in the mood to inform them of who was destroying them. They caught on quickly enough when the first's smile at the delectable morsel that had just appeared changed abruptly to an open mouthed O of astonishment as a flung stake caught him squarely in the heart.
"Slayer" the second hissed as he threw himself at her and a quirked smile touched her lips as she kicked him across the room and then flung another stake that pinned him to the wall for a brief moment before he disappeared into dust. The last was more wary, circling around her, heading for the exit. She circled with him to cut him off, feeling the diner's four patrons and the waitress scrabble to get behind her as she did so. He charged, she feinted and he went flying past her with a roar of surprise. It was pretty obvious that he hadn't been very smart when he was alive and being dead had only added to the problem. She spun in a deadly pirouette as he came back at her and the last thing he knew was a pair of implacable green eyes and the sensory thud as a stake buried itself in his chest.
Buffy glanced around the room, just in case she had missed any vamps lurking and then brushed herself off briskly. The stakes disappeared back into her boots and she straightened and eyed the still huddled diner customers wearily. She hated this bit, especially the looks on their faces as though they weren't sure if she wasn't going to attempt to munch on them next. She pulled her hair down from its messy ponytail and started putting it back in a slightly neater shape and it was this unexpectedly domestic action that seemed to reassure them more than anything she could have said. The businessman collapsed on a stool, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one with a shaking hand, the waitress fumbled for the coffee pot and started dispensing coffee to everyone and the truckers and the older woman just stared.
Buffy ignored them all and went to check on the unfortunate that the vamps had got to before she arrived. It was instantly clear that there was no chance of recovery; his throat had been gnawed on until it looked like raw beef and his eyes were glassy and vacant. She grimaced and reached down to close his eyes, adding his face to the list in her mind of all the people she hadn't been able to save. It was a long list.
Thankfully the cook was starting to come round, sitting woozily upright with the waitress pressing a wet towel to his head. But they were all still staring. Enough already.
She turned to face them and put her hands on her hips. "Okay, here's the deal. This is the ultra short version. Those things were vampires. Vampires exist. So do lots of other things. I kill them. That's what I do. Get it?"
She pierced them with a glare until they nodded hesitantly, like mice hypnotised by a cat. "Unfortunately this guy is dead, so you're going to have to call the police. My suggestion is you use the old attacked-by-a-mountain-lion-heard him screaming-found-the-body excuse. Because if you don't you're going to get into a whole lot of confusion that you really don't want to deal with." She shrugged. "But it's your choice. And now, I've got to be going."
She moved to the door and the waitress reached out a hand to stop her, removing it rapidly as Buffy raised an eyebrow at her.
"Wait, we just, we can't, what do we do next?" she stuttered.
The senior slayer's gaze travelled over the other woman's face, seeing the lines that care had put there, the tiredness that even shock couldn't dislodge and her face softened a bit. She reached out a hand and touched the other woman on the arm, ignoring the slight reactionary flinch.
"Live. Go on. Get up tomorrow and the next day and go to work. It'll be easier if you just forget this ever happened."
"But what if…"
"They won't be back. They're gone. But if you want to make sure it doesn't happen again, here are some things you can do."
Rapidly she gave them details of Vamp prevention 101. Crosses, holy water shooter guns, bits of wood, fire. How to check, what to do, how to (hopefully) not get killed.
"But remember…" she concluded "that they are stronger than you, faster than you, so don't try anything stupid. Just survive." It was all she could do for them. She couldn't afford to stay or get a slayer posted here on the off chance that a few vampires might pass by.
The man in the business suit frowned as she finished her lecture, looking her up and down in an assessing and slightly disparaging way.
"You killed them," his tone was accusatory and faintly disbelieving as though it was obvious that anything she could kill wouldn't be too hard for the rest of them to dispose of. She met his eyes and let the slayer show through and after a moment he flinched and looked away.
"Yes, I did. But that's what I do." She moved to the door and this time no one tried to stop her. "Hey, does anyone know a good motel around here?"
The waitress pointed out the window and down the highway, her hand only shaking a little now. "There's a Super Eight about 20 miles on."
"Cool. Well I'll be going then."
The waitress just nodded, still staring, but just as Buffy stepped out the door she called out.
Buffy half turned and raised an eyebrow in enquiry.
Taken aback, Buffy paused for a minute and then gave her a full on dazzling smile in return.
"It's no problem. Just doing my job. Be well."
And just like that, like some old west gunslinger she headed on out of dodge. Bad guys slain, populace mostly saved, spidey sense happy, not a bad night after all.
She stopped briefly at the motel the waitress had recommended but the hunt had her in its grasp, beating at her with an overwhelming sense of urgency that only allowed 3 hours sleep before it pulled her out of slumber with a gut wrenching vision of a grey wave encompassing the planet and the pulse beating so strongly that she felt it through her entire system, like her body was a drum being played by a giant, invisible hand. It was only 2 am and she snarled to herself as she pulled on her leathers reflecting that who ever was in charge here was both bossy and demanding and obviously didn't take such things as her need for an occasional nights rest into consideration. Then it was her bike and the road, Route 1-70 unending in front of her, headlights bisecting the darkness, the purr of the engine between her thighs and the endless, unceasing beat of the pulse.
It was only when she passed Colby, the scattered lights of the town still bright in the pre-dawn darkness that she began to twig that something more than just random chance was going on. Wherever she was going it looked like at least part of her route led her into Colorado. Daniel was in Colorado, in Colorado Springs to be exact, and at the rate she was going it looked like the pulse was leading her right to him. Daniel who worked at some kind of military installation. Daniel who would probably recognise the vision of the guarded entrance tunnel from her dream. Daniel who she had thought was her friend, just her friend and not connected to any of the supernatural wackiness that was so prevalent in her life. She steered the bike over to the hard shoulder, braked and put it into neutral, suddenly so pissed at the world and the fucking powers-that-be that it was all she could do not to scream out loud. Couldn't she have just one thing that was just hers? One thing that wasn't connected to saving the world, or being a Champion, or fighting the fight against the powers of darkness? Her meeting Daniel had been so statistically out there, so unlikely, so much a mixture of chance and luck that she had managed to convince herself that it was just serendipity, just karma on her part that she had been there at just the right moment, at the right time on the right day to intervene and pull his fat out the fire. And when he had felt so compelled to find her to say thank you she had just put it down to him being the decent kind of guy that she now knew that he was. And all the conversations, the bubble of warmth that she felt when she saw he had sent another email, the appreciate glint in his blue eyes when they had met, the strength and firmness of his fingers twined about her when they had held hands, all those things that had felt so precious because they were just about her, just her – Buffy. Not "Summers" not the "Senior Slayer" not "the Slayer" (because she always heard the capital S in peoples voices even when it was the other girls who were gossiping). Not "the Chosen One", not "the Champion", or even "Dawn's sister". Just her - Buffy Summers, just a girl who despite herself and all her history had found herself liking a guy for no star crossed reasons, no dreadful fated destiny, but just because he was funny and smart and stubborn and irredeemably decent and made her smile, even when everything else in her life was turning to shit.
She only realised that she was crying when a blob of liquid trickled off the edge of her lowered cheekbone and splashed onto the black leather of her gloves. It was just that it was so typical, so normal in her messed up life that the powers would find some way to screw her over even more than they had already. She had to accept that nothing she did had anything to do with chance; nothing would ever just be about "Buffy". And she tried, god knows how she had tried, especially since she had grown mature enough to truly understand what it was to be a Champion and a Slayer, tried to whole heartedly bear the weight of the duty on her shoulders with no resentment, tried to be the prefect slayer, to keep innocents safe and uphold the light and be a role model for the hundreds of super powered girls who looked up to her as their leader. But sometimes she was so lonely it was as though she looked inside herself and saw a gaping echoing hole where her heart had been, the little part of her that was still "Buffy" swamped beneath the overwhelming demands of the Slayer. It had been Buffy, not the Slayer who had written back to Daniel, Buffy who had scooped precious time from her schedule and her duty to meet her friend in New York, Buffy, not the Slayer that had harboured a wistful hope that someday their friendship might become something more.
And now reality had come crashing down again, smashing all those barely formed hopes and dreams into dust. The powers had wanted them to meet, the powers needed Daniel for some reason connected to her dream of world-endage and as she knew only too well, when the powers were involved it was almost guaranteed that the whole thing would end up with the two of them hip deep in some kind of supernatural crap. And then he would know exactly who she was and what she did and he would never again look at her and just see Buffy, rather than Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
She didn't know for how long she cried, for lost dreams and hopes and inevitability and the crushing stupidity of her attempt to have something just for her but by the time she wiped her eyes and blew her nose the sun was starting to peak up over the horizon and the flatness of the landscape was painted in swaths of reds and gold. She snuffled a few more times and then put on her game face, hiding the disappointment and the hurt behind a predators mask as she put the bike into gear and hit the road again. She was the Slayer. And would be as long as she lived and maybe even beyond. And if the part of her that was Buffy had to pay the price for humanities continued existence, well then as they said in the Corp – suck it up Marine.
But the tiny little part of her inside that never gave up hope dared to daydream that even with the powers interference maybe she would be able to grasp just a little bit of happiness before everything went completely up the spout.