Volume 2: The Dead Zone (2/6)
Written by: Shawn
Summary: 18 hours into their road trip Buffy and Xander encounter a little problem in Bellefonte, Kentucky.
Rated: R for adult language, naughty humor, and BtVS-styled violence.
Category: Romance/Humor/Action-Adventure Ship: BX always!
Timeline/Spoilers: Post the BtVS finale "Chosen." In 2003 the Scoobies traveled with Giles and Robin to England to help rebuild the Watchers Council. That lasted for two years until April of 2005 when Buffy, Xander, Willow, Dawn, Faith, and six S.I.T's were sent to Cleveland in May of 2005 to officially keep a day to day watch over the Hellmouth there. BX began dating in 2005 just before they left England. All else is explained within.
Timeline/Spoilers Notes: I have not and never will write a story with a one-eyed Xander because it made no sense whatsoever, IMHO, for him to lose the eye. It felt like they weren't using him for anything and he wasn't important to the plot, so lets just take something from him. rolls eyes Xander has both of his eyes here.
Disclaimer: I own Zippo. Joss and Mutant Enemy own it all.
My personal archive: http/groups. Notes 1: No angst, sadness, or heavy drama here. Just a crazy, action packed, romantic story about two people and a road trip that will change their lives forever. Hope you enjoy it. Fun times are ahead.
Authors Notes 2: The Scoobies and S.I.T's live in a seven bedroom, three bathroom home.
The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready. -Henry David Thoreau
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey. -Babs Hoffman
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. -Augustine (354-430)
I am one of those who never knows the direction of my journey until I have almost arrived. -Anna Louise Strong
It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end. -Ursula K. LeGuin
Some nights were simply magical.
With her small hand clasped firmly in his, Xander led Buffy down a stone path that curled into the park just ahead. After enjoying a very romantic dinner at Chivago's, they enjoyed a romantic horse drawn carriage ride around the nearby Lyons Park, and now strolled through the moonlit park at their leisure.
A truly beautiful evening thus far.
They hadn't spoken since exiting the carriage, choosing the quiet route instead. Tonight's special, and they both know it. Accept it as such, and so things are progressing slowly. A set pace to an inevitable conclusion. They walked hand in hand past the immaculately sculpted stone fountains, a vibrant rose garden, and the many delightful secluded nooks where strollers enjoyed a little privacy.
Xander appreciated the warm weather a great deal, but not nearly as much as the woman he loved.
She's a dream wrapped in silk.
From the moment he picked her up to now, Xander could hardly keep his eyes off of Buffy. She wore that slinky black dress like a second skin, tantalizing him throughout dinner. Her look tonight was a perfect blend of class meets lust. She charmed every man that looked her way this evening, but none more then the man that loved her with all his heart.
Envious stares came their way from appreciating older couples enjoying the evening as well. Buffy saw them, smiling the whole while. She knows they make a very good-looking couple. Even more so tonight when they're dressed up. Xander called their date a 'very special occasion.' Pizza and a movie just wouldn't do. So a trip to the hair saloon and to the mall for a new dress was undertaken earlier. Her boyfriend looked so handsome in his dark blue button down shirt and slacks.
Buffy's a little misty-eyed as they transversed along a path leading to a large artificial lake where rowing boats could be hired. She's quirky and tough and sometimes a bit more withdrawn than she wished she were, but she's definitely not stupid. She knows her Xander, and then she knows the difference between him and tonight's Xander. Also hers, but so much more grown up and serious. Flowers were given to her the moment he saw her. Beautiful, expensive flowers. He wore that antique silver watch Willow bought him for his birthday two years ago. The one he's only worn on special occasions, and only three times since he received it. His jokes over dinner carried with them a flair that was not usual for him. They lacked his trademark silliness, choosing to amuse her with his humorous inner thoughts of work and their friends. He sat up straight. He ate his food as close to normal as he was capable of. A far cry from his familiar Neanderthal-like approach. It was just different. He was different, and she noticed. The way he gazed at her lovingly all night long. Less with lust than... dare she admit it, awe. She blushed under his tender affections more times than she could count.
The hardened Slayer of legend wasn't reduced, yet evolved into twenty-five year old woman who had a feeling everything in her life was about to change. Something truly profound was on the horizon. Something that equally terrified and thrilled her.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Buffy lifted a curious brow. "My thoughts are only worth a penny?"
"After springing for that 'last in the rainforest before extinction' flower bouquet and that half-a-years salary dinner... among other purchases," he added mysteriously enough, "You'd be lucky if I could afford a penny for your thoughts. I might have to put them on layaway for some lent. Then again, maybe you should just lend them to me instead."
Ah, there's her Xander. Over the top as usual. And so sweet. "I'll tell if you do."
"Those are tough terms."
"You consider meeting me halfway tough terms?"
"I'm a guy, Buff."
"You're going to do it, and that's final."
"You're so sexy when you're bossy."
He could always make her smile. She gently squeezed his hand as they reached the lake, gazing out over the moonlight reflecting the surface of the water. Buffy inhaled the brisk night air and felt invigorated. "I'm thinking that while I have had a great time tonight, it's really not us. We're pretty casual and stuff. Takeout and a movie aren't boring to us. We usually prefer it," she said, stealing a glance his way. He looked so deep in thought. And nervous. "So I'm wondering, why go all out for the Harlequin romance kinda date when we do just as well on the couch with a bottle of wine and a DVD?"
Offering her a slightly shaky laugh, Xander guided them to a park bench. He sat down, and then pulled her into his lap and kissed her deeply before she could say a word. They fell into that age-old rhythm of lips and tongue, not caring in the least that they were out in public. Her arms slipped around his neck, her fingers caressing the soft hairs on the back of his head. This was a stolen moment in time and it was beautiful.
"What was all that for?" Buffy sighed when he stroked the side of her face with the back of his hand. She leaned into his touch.
Xander took a long, deep breath. He seemed to be psyching himself up for something. "A little while ago I was thinking about how I've known you for nine years." Sighing, Buffy nodded in his arms, her hand absently stroking his forearm. "That's a long time, you know."
"Almost a decade. Next year it will be."
"I've loved you all nine of those years," he confessed to her. His direct and serious expression was focused solely on her "I've been madly in love with you for the past year and some change."
"Me too. All of that, I mean. The loving you and stuff, " Buffy stumbled over her words as her emotions bubbled to the surface. His stares and his kisses and the things that he's said and done and the way he's treated have all been amplified in the last three months. She's tried to ignore it. Push it away. Think of it as no more than him being romantic and sweet. He knows how to treat a woman well. But it's more than that. Far, far more than that. He's emotionally exposed himself in every way. He's been trying to make a point to her. One no man has attempted to make before. "You're still here."
Her whimsical phrase caused him to smile. "You sound surprised."
"Men haven't exactly proven themselves to me over the years."
"Always." That pleased him and was the point, after all. "Now tell me what's on your mind?"
Taking her hands in his, he held them on her lap, and took his own dear time before speaking again. "I've been wrong about a lot of things in my life, honey," he began, stroking her palm. "I'm so far from perfect and I've made a ton of mistakes and I've hurt people that I cared about. I guess what I'm getting at is that I'm a very, very human kind of person."
"As opposed to a mutant or alien?" she teased, trying to follow his lead. He did smile.
"I'm not saying this right, Buff. I'm trying and all, but..."
"Just be yourself."
"Myself isn't good enough for what I have to ask you tonight. I have to be better than I've ever been."
Suddenly, everything became all to clear. Buffy exhaled a breath she didn't even know she was holding. She's scared and she wants to run and hide. She also wants to hear him out and accept that she's not a teenager anymore and that things aren't' the way they used to be and that he's not the man she befriended the day she met him, but the man she now so deeply loves. "Just go for it," she said even as her heart pounded in her chest and the butterflies flew in her stomach.
"I love you."
The first tear that fell signaled more and she could do little to hold back the tide because she knew exactly what he was about to do. He gently set her on the bench, then moved before her, and down onto one knee. Her hand quickly covered her mouth as the tears fell, one after the other. This moment wasn't tragic or sexual or anything that marked any other intimate moment in her life. This was unique. This was Xander. This was perfect.
"Buffy, I have to ask you a very important question." Xander's sweating and he knows he's sweating and he's so happy he used her deodorant before they left because it's strong enough for a man but made for a woman. Why that suddenly went through his mind at this time, he'd never know. "If you say yes I'll be the happiest guy on the planet. If you say no I just might jump off the nearest cliff, or sky dive with no parachute, or go swimming with some sharks. Maybe wrestle some grizzly bears at a circus, or..."
"Enough," Buffy declared as she wiped away a few more tears. "Just ask so we can celebrate."
"Celebrate?" Xander's eyes widened with such unbridled joy he thought his heart might burst out of his chest.
"Yes." Testing out that word felt of so good. A dress rehearsal for what was to come a second later.
"Do you know where you're going?"
Her smile slowly began to falter. "Huh?"
"I said do you know where you're going?"
"Wha... Xander, I thought..."
End of dream sequence
US-60 WEST Xander's gray 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Monday, July 29, 2006 11:30 PM
Her hands were clutching onto something... something solid. She was sitting up right, but not on a park bench. There was music playing. Kelly Clarkson maybe? And she definitely wasn't outside.
Coming around slowly, Buffy yawned a couple of times in succession, blinking her eyes until at last they opened and... and...
'OH HOLY CRAP!' Buffy mentally screamed to herself as she gripped the wheel so tight she nearly tore it from the steering column. Up ahead she saw nothing but the road stretching endlessly before her. She swallowed hard a few times, blinking away the last of her sleepiness as reality set in. Okay, at least they were alive.
Buffy's eyes opened as wide as they ever had before. Reality hit her like a ton of bricks. She's behind the wheel of Xander's car, and all of a sudden she remembered everything. Two hours ago she noticed he was getting tired after having driven several hours straight already, and offered to take over the driving for the rest of the way to the motel in Bellefonte. He tried his best to politely pretend he wasn't tired, and then flat out told her that he feared her driving skills and ability to navigate the open road. Somewhat insulted, Buffy defended her sketchy driving record, reminding him of having been in only two accidents thus far this year, and five in the previous three. She pouted, flirted, and promised naughty goodness when they reached the hotel if he would let her take over for a while. Begrudgingly, Xander admitted he was tired and could use some shuteye. After checking the map, he figured they were not all that far from Bellefonte, so he relented, pulled over, and gave Buffy her way.
And then promptly fell asleep ten minutes later.
'Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I am so screwed! Okay, Buff. Calm down and think.' The Slayer recalled that one of her favorite songs came on the radio at 11:10 PM. She quickly glanced at the car's console clock and saw that it was 11:30 PM. Shockingly enough, she fell asleep behind the wheel for twenty minutes, all the while still driving. 'Damn cruise control,' she mentally muttered in her head. Sparing a slow, careful peek Xander's way, he's reclined the passenger seat back as far as it could go and was facing away from her, sleeping, snoring softly. 'Thank goodness.' Buffy exhaled a shaky breath, gripped the wheel tighter, and tried to regain her bearings. She remembers listening to the radio while looking out for their next right turn on Bob McCullough Drive. She had been sure it was coming up soon before she fell asleep and now feared she passed it altogether. She's lost and she knows it. 'Xander will never, ever let me hear the end of this. Not ever. I was doing 50 miles an hour while asleep. I could have run over a poor defenseless road animal, or driven us off the highway into a ditch, or hit a truck or Bigfoot or something. Oh well, there's only one thing to do. Wake him up, confess everything, and see if we can figure out where we... No... no, no, no. I will lie. I have to lie. Telling the truth here will only result in years upon years of teasing. A cover-up is needed. And I know just who to call to help me cover this up.'
Turning up the music a tad, Buffy slowed the car down to around twenty miles per hour, then pulled her cell phone from her purse and attached her earpiece for hands-free driving. Xander slept so deeply and she's never been more grateful for that than she was right now. Looking up at a road sign, she saw that she was five miles from Roberts Drive. She pressed number three on her cell phone and waited until a very sleepy, and slightly slurred voice picked up five rings later.
Her best friend sounded drunk. Not a good sign. "Wills?" Buffy whispered into the small speaker piece dangling alongside her neck. "Willow, wake up. I need your help."
"Buffy-wuffy," the Wiccan chanted loudly, rolling over in bed. "Why are ya talking so quietly?"
She's giggling wildly. This was not good. Not good at all. "Listen very carefully, okay?"
"Have you been kidnapped, Buffy-wuffy? Is that why you're talking so quietly? Are you being held against your will? Are you tied to a chair?"
Patience. Buffy knew she needed patience. "Okay, you're drunk. I get that. Please just sober up for second. I need the brilliant witch, not the drunk witch."
"I'm not all that drunk, Buffy-wuffy. I just had a crappy day at work and I went to the bar with Faith and Dawn to unwind and listen to a band play some band music and then they had those super sweet grape drinks with the cute little umbrellas, and you know I can't resist drinks with little umbrellas. I even stole a few and shoved them in my purse. I'm so silly sometimes."
Willow's just laughing to herself and Buffy's about to lose her mind. "Wills, hon. Please go to your computer and hop on Map Quest. I need your help. Please, just do it." Silence... "Wills?" More silence... then snoring. Loud snoring. "This is not happening," Buffy shook her head, pressed end on the cell phone, cursed a few times under her breath, and then dialed number four. It rang six times before Dawn picked up.
"Whoever this is do you realize it's almost midnight and I have early classes tomorrow?"
"Dawn, listen to me."
"Why are you whispering? I can barely hear you. Are you some kind of pervert? Speak up."
"I need you to go on Map Quest."
"You need to see my breasts! You freaking perv! Who are you?"
"It's your sister, you idiot. It's me. Buffy. Check your Caller-ID."
"Why are you whispering like that?"
"I'm in a bit of a jam."
"Yeah, well you and Xander left all of us high and dry today, so you can get out of your own mess. I'm sleepy."
"Dawn, please. Just hop online for a second and get on Map Quest. I'm kinda lost and I need your help."
"You need your head examined. You ran off with your hottie boyfriend for a road trip and left us with the Brat Pack. You really and truly suck. In the history of the world of people who suck, you are their Queen."
"Dawn, if you don't get your bratty ass up out of bed and on your computer so help me God I am going to maim you with a ham and post your naked baby pictures on the internet."
"Do your worse, sis. You're on your own. Oh, and I'm raiding your closets tomorrow. Love you. Stay safe. Tell Xan I said hi." Dawn hung up.
Buffy considered the many medieval torture techniques she was going to perform on her sister. They'd have to wait until she got home. She only had one last person to call. One last shot. She dialed number six. It rang several times, and then Faith's answering machine came on.
"I ain't here and I don't give a damn if you call back. Bill collectors can kiss my ass. You'll get it when I get it. Do not try to inform me of your ability to lower my car insurance or tell me how your satellite digital cable is cheaper than the one I already have. I'm an over worked, stressed out cop and will beat you with a nightstick. PS, if you're hot, a good friend, or have info that might save the world leave a message at the beep."
'damn, Damn, DAMN!' Buffy pressed end so hard she almost broke her cell phone, then pressed number six again. Sometimes you gotta try Faith twice. Six rings later...
"Yo, B. What the fuck you calling me so late for? I ain't got no bail money until next my payday."
"I need your help."
"Why are you whispering? You kidnapped or something? You and Xander doing something freaky naughty?"
"No, there's nothing freaky naughty going on. I'm lost. I fell asleep while driving and now I'm lost. Xander's asleep next to me. I am trying to avoid the utter embarrassment of waking him up. I want you to hop online and go to Map Quest. Pull up US-60 WEST and then a turnoff called Roberts Drive. I need to know if that leads into Bellefonte, Kentucky. Hurry."
"You are seriously having a Blonde moment. How could you fall asleep behind the will? That only happens to senior citizens."
"I don't need a lecture from a ex-con."
"Bitch, I'll hang up on you."
"I'm sorry, alright. Please help me." Buffy heard grumbling and a few curse words, but at least Faith was getting out of bed. "I know I owe you one?"
"You owe me five and I'm counting."
"Okay," Buffy smiled, relieved that she finally found some help. She heard some key presses being typed and waited patiently. The sign that read 'One Mile to Roberts Drive' caught her attention. "Hurry, Faith."
"Alright, B. Here's the deal. You need to... sssshhhhhkkkkkssshhhkkkkk."
"What? I need to what?" Buffy pleased into the small receiver, only to notice her cell phone said low battery. She almost threw it out of the window. Her grimace was legendarily pained. Roberts Drive was coming up fast. She was flat out of ideas and resigned to her fate. Buffy took a deep breath and took the exit. She'll eat a heaping helping of crow, but she had to get directions from somebody. These exits usually led to gas stations or restaurants. Any help would be appreciated right about now.
The exit led her three miles down, surprisingly enough. She expected to see something as soon as she turned off, but instead the road curled into another road that resembled a street. She saw a gas station up ahead and a larger building just behind it.
Xander's stretched next. Sighing, she buckled down and prepared for the worse. She knows she'll never hear the end of this, but whatever. She might as well take it like a man... uh, woman. "Honey, I, uhm... I got the funniest story to tell you." She wore her brightest smile, showing lots of white teeth.
Xander blinked his eyes open, then craned his neck about. When he gazed out the window his lips curled into a smile. "I am so proud of you, sweetheart. You made it here all by yourself. Not that I doubted you could," he hesitated to say at the end.
Buffy was listening, but then again, she wasn't. For up ahead was sweet salvation, otherwise known as the 'Swifty's' End of the Road Hotel, their destination in Bellefonte, Kentucky. Apperantly US-60 WEST didn't have a turn-off for Bob McCullough Drive, but became it. Lady Luck must have been be smiling her way and somehow she found her way here all by herself. Leaning back while wearing a confident smirk, she tossed a glance Xander's way. "Told ya so."
"I know, I know," he conceded, even lifting his hands in a mock show of defeat. "I should have never doubted your amazing driving skills. You are the Ben Hur of the highway. You are the Moses of the road trip circuit. I love and adore you."
Pulling into the driveway of the roadside motel, Buffy wore a grin from ear to ear. "Thank you, sweetie."
Xander figured he would be wise to take the knowledge of knowing Buffy fell asleep while behind the wheel and her subsequent calling of all their friends to his grave. Surely he would miss out on years of teasing and joking, but at the moment his girl was beside herself with pride in having done something she felt he thought she could not do. He loved her enough to let her enjoy this moment.
"Perhaps I should drive for the rest of the trip as well."
"Honey, we'll discuss it later." She even pumped her fist when she killed the engine. That little gesture made him want to marry her so bad. And if she's not too tired tonight, he intended to ask. "I'll get our bags. You go and get us a room."
"Sounds like a plan to me."
"I love you," he said after her. She turned around, gracing him with the sweetest expression on her face.
15 minutes later
'Swifty's' End of the Road Hotel Tuesday, July 30, 2006 12:20 PM Bellefonte, Kentucky
Swifty Myers looked like anything but his namesake.
"There'll be no cooking in your room, so don't try it. There's diner down the street and a convenience store that's open late. Buy your grub there."
Buffy and Xander nodded, listening to the motel's owner/manager. They had just signed in for the night. Swifty sat in an old brown leather recliner behind a desk that had obviously seen better days, with one of its legs missing. Books braced under it held the desk upright. Swifty's diminutive height for a man his age, looking to be around five foot four, wasn't complimented by the obviously over three hundred pound weight class of his body. He possessed a harsh face of hard, wrinkled lines and a nose that looked as if it had been broken and reset more than a few times. His voice seemed to glide along each exhale of air he was able to inhale, as if the words towards the end of what he said flowed in a rush. He smelled like cigarettes, and yet he wasn't smoking and there wasn't an ashtray on his desk.
"Everyone who stays here is real quiet and friendly," he smiled oddly at the end. "They keep to themselves and mind their own business. I suggest you two do the same, comprenday?"
"Gotcha," Buffy acknowledged while doing her very best not to stare at the glass eye he wore. The color of which did not match his remaining good eye. She had to nudge Xander to get him to stop staring. Swifty's outdated "Where's the Beef" T-shirt stretched mercilessly over his broad upper body, while his to-tight-for-a-man-his-size jeans left a lasting impression of ewww.
"Don't be doing any drugs either."
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that," Xander assured him. "We're drug free. We don't even drive over cracks in the street," he joked, and found no sense of humor whatsoever coming from the hairy, overweight man. Looking up on the wall, he noticed a 'Dawn of the Dead,' 'Revenge of the Living Dead,' 'Return of the Living Dead,' 'Day of the Dead,' and 'Island of the Dead' posters that hung behind his desk only underscored the all around odd feel of the motel. The bumper stick stuck on the front of his desk that read 'Brains Are For More Than Thinking' didn't set his mind at ease either.
The modest sized hotel was six floors high, with eight rooms on each floor and a rather large pool out back. The dull, withered brick exterior looked almost ready to be torn down. There were no plants or anything whatsoever that spoke of welcome landscaping, or gave off a sense of comfort. Oddly enough, business seemed very good, seeing as how nearly the entire parking lot was full and they only had two rooms left for rent. Adding to the oddness, neither Buffy nor Xander saw one light on in any of the room's windows from the outside, nor had they seen anyone except Swifty since they signed in. Not even one person strolling the lobby to get a pack of cigarettes or a pop or candy bar from any of the four vending machines. No security guards or hotel staff of any kind was around.
It was strange indeed.
"Here are your keys." Swifty handed a set to Buffy, and then Xander. The smirk he wore borderlined on downright giddy, as if he was looking forward to something. His chipped teeth, what few he had left, were an unholy sight to behold. "I hope you enjoy your stay. I'm sure everyone else here will."
With a courteous wave each, Xander grabbed their overnight bags and followed Buffy to the elevator. It opened right away. They stepped inside and the doors closed.
"That guys jeans were tighter than Faith's. He had an overabundance of junk in his truck. I tried to look away, but it was like a car wreck. I just couldn't." Buffy shook her head, grimacing from the memory. "How did he fit all of that in there?"
"He had to have help. Or a forklift. And I can't imagine he has any blood circulation left." A shudder blew through Xander's body. Swifty gave him the creeps.
"He looked pale. And where in the world did he get that 'Where's the Beef' shirt? That was so 1988."
"That's a lonely man, Buff. EBay and the internet are his late night mistresses."
"He was incredibly hairy too."
Both of them shuddered. Some things just weren't right.
Having considered this ever since they arrived in Bellefonte, Xander asked, "Honey, did you notice how quiet the whole street looked?"
"Yeah, but it is late. Maybe things close early here."
"There wasn't even another car on the road. Not even a police patrol car."
Loving him meant knowing where his mind was going long before he did. She turned her body into him, and leaned against his shoulder. "Do not go looking for Hellmouthy weirdness, okay? It's late and we're a little tired, that's all. Everything is as it should be."
Slipping his arm around his girl, Xander relaxed for her benefit. Just a half hour ago she was so bubbly, playful, and happy for having found her way here without anyone's help. He'd be damned if he said or did anything to break her good mood. Especially tonight. "I'm gonna hold you to that."
"Just hold me," she told him with such affection dancing in her eyes. A 'ping' later and the elevator doors opened. Buffy led them out and down the hall, searching for room 4-D. "End of the hall."
The Neanderthal in him loved the way her jeans were hugging her so right. "Wherever your sexy behind goes, I shall follow." She laughed ahead of him as they moved down the hallway. No lights where on under any of the doors to the other rooms. He wanted to shrug it off, but for some reason he just couldn't. Then again, Buffy's not worried and what he had planned in the next hour was far more important than any pesky worries he might have. Pushing those thoughts aside, he's at the door just when she opened it and walked inside.
"It's not the Hilton, but it's not bad," Buffy appraised upon her first steps into the room. Small, as she had expected it to be to be. But it smelled good and the sheets and bedspread on the Queen sized bed looked clean. A nightstand and a green dresser with a vanity mirror would suffice. There was a small twenty-inch TV/VCR combo in the corner. Her next stop, the bathroom. She peered inside. "Hey, it's got a tub and it looks clean."
Xander paid her no mind. Having dropped their luggage at the door after having shut it behind him, he strode over to the bed, sat at the edge, and then fell backward, sighing in relief at being able to lay down again. "I do not care how many lovers have done the deed on this mattress, or if money exchanged hands for such deeds. It's a virgin to my poor back tonight." He heard Buffy chuckle at his remark from the bathroom. "As soon as we leave that wax museum tomorrow we are high-tailing it outta this one horse town."
"I didn't see any horses," came cheerfully from the bathroom.
Her good mood was infectious. "Anyway," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He heard the toilet flush, and then a minute later looked up when Buffy exited, walking over to him until she stood between his legs, gazing down at him with such a lovely expression. "There's nothing like a good pee, is there?"
"Nothing in all the world." Somehow, she knew he'd say that. Her knees bumped against his thighs just to mess with him. "Are you tired?"
"Of course not. I'm ready to take on the Boston Marathon right now. Point me out a bear to wrestle. And I'm not talking about a fat, wisecracking bear with a picnic basket like Yogi. I'm talking one of those big grizzly bears that just ram their fists in rivers and snatch fish swimming by. Oh, and tell Lance Armstrong I'm ready to race tonight too." He sat up when she straddled his lap, her arms twining around his neck.
He's such a man to her sometimes. The kind that effortlessly over-exaggerates just to make those around him smile. She loved him for the man his was, and the little boy she still caught glimpses of from time to time. "So, you're ready to run the Boston Marathon, wrestle a grizzly bear, and race the seven time Tour De France champion?"
"And I'd still have the strength to give you a couple of hours of hot loving." He wiggled his eyebrows, something that never failed to make her appreciate his ability to enjoy life.
"You are so silly." Leaning in, she brought her lips down on his, merging softly as they settled into a delightful rhythm of back and forth. Xander pulled her down on top of him, his strong arms now encircling her as their kiss deepened into something just this side of hungry, but far to lazy and enjoyable to push to far, to fast.
After a long, satisfying moment, Buffy lifted her lips from his, and then laid her had down on his chest, sighing as the world fell away and they were the only two people on earth. "Wasn't I amazing in how I found this place? I didn't have to consult the map one time. I looked at it just before you fell asleep, and then I was cool. When you woke up we were here. I want some praise, darn it."
"You," he grinned before pressing a kiss to her temple, "Were magnificent."
She didn't see him rolling his eyes, though she felt him tighten his arms around her. "I was wrong and should have never doubted your driving or destination finding abilities."
"Oh, that was good." He kissed her temple again, laying his head next to hers. There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in her mind he loved her the way she'd never been loved before. "Continue."
"Is this going to lead to sex?"
"Complimenting your girlfriend can go a long way towards reaching that goal."
"You are the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, the waterfalls, the clouds in the sky, and everything else I can't quite think of right now."
"You just earned a hand job." He laughed against her hair, and said no more, content to cuddle with her on this motel bed. Quiet moments were to be cherished.
They were like this, often times. Silly and affectionate in private. Around friends and family they acted the way they always did, only stood or sat a little closer. After almost ten years it was too hard to change. They weren't ever prone to acts of PDA or anything so clichéd. But in private, that was another story. Both readily admitted a starvation for affection, something they truly missed. But not now. What they've built, this relationship of there's, its a beautiful thing.
"I have never been happier than when I'm with you?"
So comfortable was his embrace that Buffy had begun to doze off until his voice caught her attention. "That means the world to me."
"You mean the world to me."
Perfect best described how she felt in his arms. Soft, feminine, and all his. She's a strong, smart, couragious woman with an unpredictable side only matched by her stubborn streak. He wouldn't change her for the world, and what was cool was that she didn't want to change him either. She fell in love with the 2004 version of Xander, who was only the natural progression of the teenaged one she turned down for a date years ago. He didn't do anything except grow up, as did she. And now here they are. And he's ready to do what he's wanted to do since the New Year began.
With one hand tenderly caressing her back, Xander said, "How about I run down to that convenience store and grab us a bottle of wine and some snacks? You can find us something to watch on TV, and when I get back we can relax and unwind."
Somewhat surprised, Buffy lifted her head from his chest, now gazing into his eyes. "And here I was expecting some hot love making."
"That's coming, baby. But, uhm..." He gently pushed her aside on the bed, sat up, stretched his arms out and slipped off the bed. He turned around slowly. "A little alcohol might end the evening in a most relaxed way. And some chocolate wouldn't hurt either."
Where was this coming from? "Okay."
"And when I get back," he added while he was already reaching for the door knob, "I'd like to..." he took a deep breath, "I'd like to ask you something important. Alcohol might aid my nerves in doing so."
Sitting up slowly against the headboard, this all suddenly made sense to Buffy. Xander was looking very nervous and shaky, as if he was teetering on the brink of passing out. Join the club, she thought, unable to say anything else. She nodded for a while because she had no other response. He's going to ask her tonight. Ask her to be his wife.
Good God almighty!
"Okay, so, I'm gonna go get the wine and snacks and I'll be back, k?"
Buffy searched for the words, but nothing came out. More nodding took place. Xander left the room and she finally exhaled the breath she'd been holding ever since she figured out what he wanted to do tonight. She wanted to take a long, hot shower and put on her sexy underwear, dance for some strange reason, and then have a nice cleansing cry... okay, maybe not the cry. That's not her. But there will be much smiling and sex afterwards.
Now all she had to do was will her body to move.
The parking lot for Lil' Bit of Everything Convenience Store Tuesday, July 30, 2006 12:45 PM Bellefonte, Kentucky
"You my good friend, cost me more than my first three cars combined. If I don't get a yes answer then I want my money back, plus interest and free gas for a year."
In the palm of Xander's hand sat a 1.5-carat round diamond engagement ring with a platinum cathedral setting. Nestled inside a sterling silver engagement ring box, he pondered how one of the smallest things he's ever purchased was now the most important thing he ever bought.
From behind the wheel of his car, he sat there and stared at the ring for a long moment while gathering his courage and wits about him. It was a clear night and parking lot was as empty as the streets, with not even a truck parked anywhere nearby. None of that mattered to him in the least. The decision had been made and tonight was the night.
He's going to ask Buffy to marry him.
Smiling wistfully to himself, he thought over the years and all that led to this event. Friends and enemies and loved ones and those lost to the good fight. Anya and the manhood and maturity he developed during his time with her. His parents and the example they set for him to fight tooth and nail to achieve so much more than they ever had or believed he ever could. Joyce and the wonderful example of being a parent and a good friend to her children and their friends. Tara and the beauty of the love she shared with Willow. His experiences, thoughts, feelings, triumphs and failures all led to this night when he would finally claim the one woman he's always loved.
Oh yeah, he's freakishly scared, but looking forward to asking Buffy to be his wife.
Shutting the small box, Xander slipped it back in his jacket pocket. "Tonight's going to be a great night." He just knew it. Nothing was going to go wrong because he said so. Positive thinking, that's his motto these days. With a wide grin on his face that couldn't be knocked off by Mr. T from Rocky 3, he hopped out of his car and walked inside the brightly lit convenience store/gas station hybrid. The door jingles signaled his arrival.
"Good evening, sir."
His kindly wave at the lady behind the counter came with a second glance that took in the whole of her appearance. His eyes did a double take. She looked to be at least eighty years old. A short, very slender woman who wore thick glasses. Her long gray hair complimented a face that he figured was probably lovely once upon a time. As striking as her advanced age was for a woman operating a late night convenience store seemingly by herself, her eyes held a powerfully intense gaze. From one look he could tell her mind was sharp and alert.
"Hello," Xander finally replied after he shook himself free of whatever came over him.
"My name is Ruth. Can I help you find something?"
She didn't seem to blink. Could she blink? And she wore an interesting smirk Xander couldn't quite understand. "Uhm, no. That's okay. I see the liquor section back there. It's usually always back there in stores like these."
"Ah ha, an experienced shopper." Ruth nodded as her eyes followed the new customer as he waked through the store. He sure was a handsome one, she considered with an appreciative glance. Some fifty years ago she might of came from around the counter and flirted with him. He did have one world-class butt. "So, you're new in town?"
"Yep," Xander said as he perused the candy bar selections. He already had a bottle of wine and some deodorant in his hands. "My girlfriend and I are in town to see your famous wax museum, and then we'll be back on our road trip tomorrow afternoon."
"That wax museum attracts so many people."
"Is there anything else you could recommend we do in town before we leave?"
"Not really," she replied. "It's pretty dead around here."
Xander figured as much, it being a small town and all. "No biggie. Me and my girl are kinda eager to get back on the road anyway."
"Sounds like fun, unfortunately."
Xander wondered what she meant by unfortunately, but shook it off. Maybe she was just this side of senile, at least a little. Two Watchchamacallits, two Snickers, and a bag of peanut M&M's were his snacks of choice. He carried his bounty to the counter and laid them down. "This will be all." As he reached for his wallet, out of the corner of his eye he saw three men about half a block away approaching the convenience store on foot. They sure were walking slowly. "I thought I was the only one up this late," he attempted to joke with a smile.
Slowly, Ruth lifted her eyes to him, her lips curling. "Yeah, people stay up pretty late around here. It's hard to sleep when you... you know." She winked.
For some strange reason Xander did not like that wink at all. "That's cool. I was starting to think this was a ghost town," he laughed.
"Oh, that's about seventy miles down the road. This is a zombie town."
Xander thought she sure had a good sense of humor for a woman her age. "Zombie town?" he laughed. "And here I thought I was in funky town."
Ruth gestured towards the door, drawing his attention. "See those three slow lumbering fella's. They ain't coming here for lottery tickets or condoms," she explained sarcastically. "There coming here to eat you. Emphasis on the eat part."
Xander held her stare for nearly a minute and then burst out laughing. He pointed at her as if to say 'You got me good.' "Ruth, my dear," he hoped to charm the aging lady. "If those men are coming here to eat me they are walking so slow it'll take them a hour to get here at the very least." He waited for Ruth to admit she was just messing with him. She never did, instead quirking a curious brow. "Are you going to tell me they're vampires or something?"
Xander peered out at the somewhat wandering men, who upon closer inspection seemed to be dressed in very dirty ragged clothing and had some serious skin issues. A swelling dread began to grow in the pit his stomach. "I saw Dawn of the Dead two years. Those zombies were running like track stars on steroids. These guys look like the poster boys for a arthritis special." "So you're used to believing what you see on movies is real?"
"Ruth, I've seen more crazy crap in my life that you wouldn't even believe. I was almost eaten by an insect woman. My best friend turned to the dark side of the force once and I had to pull her back from destroying the world. A young woman I came to love like a sister was really a ball of ancient energy turned into human form. I was possessed by a hyena once, and let me tell ya, that wasn't like a birthday party. I know some TV and movie stuff is real."
"Calm down, calm down. I saw Dawn of the Dead as well. Those zombies were an idealized bunch. The ones that frequent this cursed town are your garden variety George A. Romero sort of undead. They ain't got much up here," she poked a finger to her head. "But they can attack in numbers and bite hard. They will try to turn you into the undead if they don't eat you. I'm not one hundred percent sure since they are kinda unpredictable."
Scratching his head at the lack of good luck his life has always enjoyed, Xander saw that two other slow walking zombies had joined the original three zombies. They all had their arms raised and were almost bumping into each other as they crossed over into the parking lot.
Rapping his hand on the counter, a jovial Xander turned to Ruth and said, "Please tell me Ashton Krutcher is hosting a new show called 'Punk'd for People who aren't Famous'? Please tell me he's going to hop out any minute and yell surprise?"
"Sorry. You're not being punked, or whatever you called it. Those zombies are going to come here, walk in this store and eat you. Or turn you into one of them. Maybe a little of both. Either way it's gonna hurt like the dickens."
"Okay, what in the hell is going on here?" Xander demanded to know. Suddenly he heard something heavy drop. He saw that Ruth had laid a big duffle bag on the counter.
"Inside this bag I got two Remington pump shot guns, a shitload of shells, three grenades, and a couple of bottles of Avalon bottled water. Even though I can't help you fight, I like to give nice fella's like yourself a chance at least."
Exasperated as he looked around, Xander shouted, "What is this! A zombie travel bag!"
"For the most part, yes."
"Aren't you afraid they are going to hurt you?"
"Me?" she laughed, shaking her head. "I'm cursed along with the town. There are only five living people in all of Bellefonte. Everyone else is very dead. Have been for well over fifty years."
More Sunnydale-like weirdness for him to deal with. At least the zombies were slow walkers. Xander simply could not wrap his brain around his newest predicament. "Tell me the whole story. Who cursed the town?"
"I don't remember."
"What do you mean you don't remember!"
"Sonny, I'm 165 years old. I barely remember my own name. All I know is that no one since the curse came into effect has made it out of this town alive."
"Why hasn't anyone ever searched the town for missing people and stuff like that?"
"This country elected George Bush Jr as president. Are you really banking on sanity here?"
Dammit! Sometimes Xander hated logic. Especially when he agreed with it. "Is there a way to uncurse the town?"
"Don't you want to get to your little lady friend and make sure she's okay?"
"Ruth, if those zombies get to her first, they're the ones in trouble. I'll be heading back there soon enough. For now I need some answers."
"If you kill one hundred zombies within twenty four hours of your arrival inside city limits then the curse will be broken."
"Okay, who told you this?"
"I don't remember?"
"When was this told to you?"
"How do you know that killing fifty zombies will work?"
"Call it a hunch."
No time to keep bantering with the scary old chick, Xander threw the wine and snacks in the gun bag.
"Hey! Aren't you going to pay for those?"
"Call it a donation." Having learned how to properly operate and fire weapons overseas in London, Xander loaded the pump shot gun and then slung the duffle bag over his shoulder. "Shooting them in the head is still the best thing, right?"
"Yep. Blowing out their knee caps works well too."
"Are you sure you're going to be alright?"
He was an honest to goodness nice fella. "I so wanna have sex with you?"
Xander kind of groaned and shook and shuddered. "You just scared me far more than the zombies do."
"I have that effect on men," Ruth said with a shrug. "Don't try your cell phones. They won't work here. Cursed town and all."
Xander knew he had to get to Buffy right now and high tail it out of town. "Uhm, thanks for the guns and candy bars and stuff."
"Oh don't worry about it. You'll be dead soon enough."
"Your optimism is inspiring," Xander muttered as he exited the store. He raised the pump shot gun, aimed, and blew the head off one zombie from twenty feet away. Thankfully, they hadn't reached his car yet.
"Brains... brains... BRAAAIINNNSSS," the zombies began to growl in unison.
"This is so not happening!" Xander grunted while firing twice more, taking out the legs of one zombie, whose bloody limbs flew in opposite directions. He got the other in a headshot that even impressed him. The crimson splatter flew everywhere. "Giles, I'm sending you a bouquet of roses as soon as I can for all those gun lessons."
He tossed the duffle back in the passenger seat, jumped in his car and started the engine. Sparing a glance into his rear view mirror, he strapped his seat belt on, and then gunned the engine in reverse and slammed into the final two zombies. The impact knocked them off their feet. Their frail bodies landed hard and rolled across the concrete.
Xander put the car in drive and then looked ahead. Zombies... many, many zombies now began filling the streets from all directions. "Crap!" He gunned the car and began swerving and dodging as many as he could on his way back to the hotel. "MY LUCK SUCKS SO FREAKING BAD!" he was overheard by the zombies yelling as he drove past him. "DID I EAT PUPPIES IN ANOTHER LIFE OR SOMETHING!"
'Swifty's' End of the Road Hotel Buffy and Xander's room on the fourth floor.
Tuesday, July 30, 2006 1:20 PM Bellefonte, Kentucky
The definition of the word was simply that it is so; as you say or ask. It's used to express affirmation, agreement, and or consent.
For Buffy Summers that definition felt woefully inadequate in describing what the word meant to her tonight. While standing in front of the dressers vanity mirror in the sexiest underwear she brought for the trip, she said the word 'yes' a few times in preparation for being asked the most important question of her entire life.
Dabbing on a little of her new Carolina Herrera 212 perfume, Xander's personal favorite, she tried out saying the word in a couple of different voices so that she could nail the proper tone. She had to appear both shocked and overjoyed while not revealing that she's known for quite some time he was going to ask her to marry him. In her opinion the word 'yes' meant that her whole life as she knew it was about to change for the better. That her singlehood was over and she was now an 'us' rather than a lonely 'me'.
She was more than a little ready for an 'us'.
"Yes, Xander. I will marry you," Buffy declared to herself in the mirror while spraying on her Victoria's Secret Whispering Mist body spray. Fresh from a very fast shower, even though she was going to put on the same clothes she had been wearing so she would appear unsuspecting of Xander's proposal, that didn't mean all the hot celebratory sexing that would follow her 'yes' didn't require a little something special. So she pampered herself a bit just for fun.
Her giggly laughter embarrassed her even though she was all alone. She felt there was magic in the air tonight. She put her clothes back on while trying to imagine how Xander would ask. Would he surprise her by putting the ring in something she had to open like a bag of potato chips? Her sweetie had that odd kind of mentality. Maybe he would tell her to look away at something, and then when she looked back him he'd be holding the ring out to her? Or would he pace the room nervously while trying to find the right words to ask her? Perhaps he'll just go the traditional route and fall to one knee, profess his undying love, and beg her to be his wife even though she knows the last woman who said yes was left at the alter.
All were interesting possibilities. Buffy just wanted to get it over with and be engaged. While she didn't have a Leave it to Beaver-type outlook of their future, or the unrealistically optimistic view of an immature woman, she did love Xander with all her heart and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
At age 25 she knew she was ready for this next step. She felt energized and excited by the life ahead of her. He was the one she had been looking for all along. Her prize at the end of the day. Things were definitely looking up.
Buffy walked to the open window and peered through the curtains. The pool was closer to the hotel than she thought made sense, but whatever. She looked for signs of Xander's car... or any car on the street at all. "Where is he?"
Grinning, she thought that he probably took a drive to the wax museum after asking for directions just so he wouldn't have to look for it tomorrow and ask for directions in front of her. He was such a man sometimes. Even that side of him made him all the more special to her.
Strolling over to her purse on the bed, she reached inside for her cell phone and dialed Xander's number. All she heard was static. Shaking her head at the stupid machine and dumb plan she had because she was to lazy to sign up for a new one, she tossed the offending object back in her purse. A quick glance back to the window still didn't reveal her what she wanted to see.
One thing was different though. Down the street she did make out some old people walking. At least by how slow they were moving she assumed they were old. Maybe taking a midnight stroll because of the good weather? It looked to be around eight of them.
No biggie, Buffy shrugged. She's getting engaged tonight. Nothing else mattered. All was right in the world. Good had triumphed over evil. The happy ending was in sight.
Without warning her ultra-sensitive hearing picked up a rambling noise from outside the room. It sounded as if some one was dragging something down the hall. "I see I'm not the only night owl around here," she was happy to note from her perch on the edge of the bed.
As they sound grew volume it seemed to blend into a constant groaning that began to weird the Slayer out just a bit. All of a sudden a loud thud sounded against the door, as if someone used his or her fist.
"This better not be some drunk person looking for his room." Buffy walked to the door and tried to peek through the keyhole. She could barely see due to the placement of the hole and her diminutive height. Cursing her genetics for the one-millionth time, she opened the door.
Three truly ugly men with the kind of skin Proactive Solutions Acne & Blemish Control couldn't hope to help stood there and stared at her. Their faces were grotesquely mutilated and the rank stench from their defiled, grungy clothing caused Buffy to take a step back.
As she slammed the door in their faces she was hardly afraid as much as clearly annoyed. Hopefully this was some big ole practical joke and when she opened the door it would be some frat guys who saw her walk in, thought she was cute and wanted to scare her and then apologize and ask her to a late night pool party.
Yes, Buffy Summers vacationed on the river of denial quite often. She liked it there.
"Hahahahaha, you guys are so funny." With a positive outlook on things, she swung the door back open and waited for the joke to commence. There was just no way she was staring at three zombies. This was Kentucky. Kentucky was, as far as she knew, zombie-free. Sure, they had that Jeepers Creepers thingy, but he wasn't anywhere near Bellefonte. "Come on guys. It's late. Jokes over."
She waited as they slowly lifted their arms and began growling. Their gnarled faces took aim at her. And when she saw through the gaping hole that was supposed to be the stomach of the zombies on the right, well, she knew what the score was. "Dammit!"
Buffy slammed the door again.
Try as she might to ignore it, her Slayer senses were going haywire. Danger was all around her of the dark and foreboding kind. She had to think fast. Xander wasn't back yet and she had to get the hell out of here. But what if there were people in the hotel who didn't know what was going on? She couldn't just leave them behind.
The zombies began banging loudly on the door. So loud the doors hinges were shaking.
First things first. She grabbed her suitcase, shut it, and then grabbed Xander's. She ran to the window and tossed them outside near the pool area. Second, thankfully someone left a broom in the bathroom. She walked in, grabbed it, snapped it in two and now had a couple of weapons.
When in Rome...
The heavy hotel room door exploded off its hinges from the devastating blow of Buffy's forward kick. The power of which smashed the zombie behind it into the wall so hard the plaster cracked. The splintered door pieces embedded in his body. The other two zombies barely had a second to react, and couldn't fast enough if they had more.
Attacking the one on the left first, Buffy slammed one jagged end of the broom stick through it's mouth with such force it burst through the back of it's neck. The other zombie reached for the Slayers throat, until it's was punctured by the other end of the broomstick.
Both fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Still groaning and shifting, but at least they weren't trying to get back up.
Buffy spun around when the zombie up against the wall shoved what was left of the door away, and then lunged for her. She promptly sidestepped it, wrapped her arms around its neck and twisted it all away around so that he could see behind himself. The zombie heaved blood from what was left of its mouth as it twitched, grunted, and then fell face first to the floor.
"This is some crazy shit."
Buffy didn't curse often, and what she said was odd considering all that she had seen in her life. But why did it have happen tonight of all nights? Here of all places? She shook her head in utter disbelief. Who had she so fucked over in another life to deserve this?
Running down the dimly lit hall as fast as she could, Buffy began banging on every door and checking to see if any were unlocked. "EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!ZOMBIES ARE GOING TO TRY AND EAT YOU! THIS IS NOT A JOKE! ZOMBIES ARE IN THIS HOTEL AND YOU WILL DIE IF YOU DO NOT GET OUT OF HERE NOW!" She yelled up and down the hall until she reached one room that was unlocked.
"Sorry to interrupt, but you need too..." Buffy stopped on a dime and stared at the horror before her. She almost threw up right on the spot. She felt like she needed to take a five-hour bath to remove the dirtiness from her. Two zombies were having sex on the floor in all their disgustingly naked unglory. They were writhing and shaking and thrusting and...
"YOU ZOMBIES ARE SICK! I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW YOU COULD DO THAT!" Overcome with ewww beyond words, Buffy rushed in, tore the door of it's hinges with her bare hands and began slamming it down on the two zombies so hard their their frail bodies broke apart. When she was sure they were dead... uhm, dead-er, she shuddered from the sight of what she had just seen. "I'M FREAKING OUT HERE!"
Stomping done the hall, she searched in vain for wall-mounted fire alarms. Anything at all to signal that peoples lives were in danger.
Buffy found a janitors closet. Looking inside she saw a baseball bat. It was the closest thing she could use as a weapon. Gripping it tightly, she hit the hallway running and saw several zombies blocking one end, while and six were by the elevator.
Buffy's eyes focused her fury. Her blood pumped venom. She snarled, and then proceeded to shove her size 7.5 foot up their collective undead assess.
"MY FIRST NIGHT IN SUNNYDALE I WAS ATTACKED BY VAMPIRES!"
The crack of the bat against one zombie's skulls shattered his flesh and bone across the wall behind it in an array of dark red.
"THE FIRST TIME I HAD SEX MY BOYFRIEND STARTED KILLING PEOPLE THE NEXT MORNING! I DIDN'T EVEN GET ANY CUDDLE TIME!"
Buffy punched one of the zombies heads clean of it's body, and then went to work on three more, battering them with vicious body shots that sent them clear off their feet due to her immense strength.
"I GOT MY BUTT KICKED BY A VAMPIRE NAMED SUNDAY ON MY FIRST DAY OF COLLEGE!"
"BUT!" Buffy smashed her fist in the gut of one zombie and felt all his ribs give way. "I WILL NOT!" She roundhouse kicked another zombie into a fatter one behind it. "LET YOU UNDEAD JERKS!" She kick-flipped off one wall and shoulder tackled into three zombies and began beating the unholy crap out of them. "INTERFERE WITH ME GETTING ENGAGED! I DIDN'T BRING YOU INTO THIS WORLD BUT I WILL TAKE YOU OUT!"
Ass was getting kicked in every direction.
Gasping for air and thoroughly infused with her Slayer calling, Buffy stood covered in smelly zombie ooze amidst a hallway full of dead body parts and the bodies they were once attached too. She stepped over a few and glanced out of a hallway window. Thankfully she saw Xander car finally pulling up in front of the hotel. "Wait until he hears about this."
Five Minutes Ago.
'No stop signs, speed limit. Nobody's gonna slow me down. Like a wheel, gonna spin it. Nobody's gonna mess me around. Hey Satan, payin' my dues. Playin' in a rocking band. Hey Momma, look at me. I'm on my way to the promised land. I'm on the highway to hell. Mmmhmm, highway to hell.'
"Oh great. Nice depressing music to inspire me to stay alive during this night of the freaking living dead!" Xander felt a little out of his mind, and then quickly changed the radio station as he put the pedal to the metal. He needed to get to Buffy.
'I'm so tired of being here. Suppressed by all my childish fears. And if you have to leave. I wish that you would just leave. 'Cause your presence still lingers here. And it won't leave me alone. These wounds won't seem to heal.
This pain is just too real. There's just too much that time cannot erase.'
"You're not helping me Evanescence!" Xander squinted his eyes, swerving and weaving down streets now filled with dozens of zombies. No law enforcement meant no need to heed any traffic laws. He zoomed past stop signs and ignored all red lights. He changed the radio station one more time.
'The White Zombie and Rob Zombie marathon is about to begin, Strap yourselves in for five hours of zombie music.'
"Honestly, God. Are you just up there laughing at me? Is that it? Am I heavens joke or something?" Having had enough, Xander shut off the radio as soon as the hotel was in sight. His heart was beating a mile a minute, but as worried as he was about Buffy he knew she was more than capable of taking care of herself. The problem was that the streets were now filled as far as the eye could see with the undead. There were too many to count and they were all converging, albeit slowly, on the hotel.
Having gunned the last three blocks at 75 MPH, Xander pulled up in front of the hotel. Two lumbering zombies covered in filth sauntered of the hotel entrance, and upon seeing him began advancing on his car.
Adjusting what was in the duffle bag, Xander slung it over his shoulder and hopped right out of the car. He fired a perfect shot that detonated the first zombie's head into bloody fragments that flew in every direction. The second zombie seemed to look at the body standing beside it decapitated. Paying his headless comrade no mind, he wanted to feed and his target was nearby.
Rushing it, Xander made his move first, bashing the butt of the shot gun into the zombies mid-section with all his strength, and then delivered another hard blow to the side of it's head that sent it crashing down onto the concrete sidewalk. One well placed blast to its neck seperated its head from its body. "Thank you Faith for getting me hooked on Resident Evil. Video games might be violent, but just in case you're ever in a fight with zombies it can be highly educational."
Dashing inside the hotel, Xander ran straight toward Swifty Myers desk and aimed the gun at his head. "I know all about this towns wacko curse, ageless Ruth, and the zombies. I have questions and I want answers. I want them now."
Staring down the barrel of his tenant's shotgun didn't seem to deter Swifty in the least. He focused his one good eye on Xander while scratching his fat belly. "Hey fella, I wish you all the luck in the world. I hope you survive and all that. I really do. The problem is no one has in the seventy-nine years I've been running this place. So I'll answer any questions you have. I just wouldn't bet on you living past the next," he checked his watch, "hour or so."
"The old lady at the convenience store told me..." Suddenly, Xander spun around and fired twice, nailing the kneecaps of a tall zombie that was creeping from around the corner wall. His legs literally blew apart. His upper torso was still trying to crawl across the floor. "About a way to break the curse. We have to kill one hundred zombies and the curse will be broken, right?"
Swifty shrugged as if he didn't care until Xander cocked the gun again. "Yeah, that's true, but no one ever has. You are horrifically out numbered and will eventually run out of ammunition. There are well over seventy zombies in this hotel alone and more on the way." He pointed over Xander's shoulder at the street facing the hotel that was quickly becoming crowded with the undead. "You only got so many bullets and that little hot girlfriend of yours is knee high to a grasshopper. I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't already zombie-chow."
At that very moment an ear splitting shatter of glass and concrete sounded from outside the hotel. Xander and Swift saw dust, crumbling blocks of dry wall, shards of glass and three zombie bodies each missing a limb fall from the sky. It didn't look as if they had been thrown out a window. It looked as if someone threw them through a wall with a window attached.
Wearing a confident smirk, Xander nodded toward Swifty. "My honey ain't even a little afraid of the undead. They should be afraid of her."
"She's up there all alone."
"I'd feel sorry for them."
"You'll still be overwhelmed soon enough," Swifty pointed out as he lazily lifted his feet up on his desk. "You're going to die tonight."
Xander knew that verbally sparing with the fatso wasn't going to save his or anyone else's life. "Are there any other people alive in this hotel?"
"Nope. Just you, your gal, and me."
His career called out to him and he listened. Xander used his mind and quickly formulated a plan. It wasn't a great one, and it would probably get him killed, but it at least made a little sense. "Where's the hotel basement?"
Just around that corner," Swifty pointed out. The young man ran past him without saying another word. "Say your prayers, buddy. You're going to die tonight."
Ten Minutes Later
The bone-jarring force of Buffy's fist impacted against the hulking zombie's head tore and part of it's jaw-flesh from it's face, leaving him with half of one. The punch shifted its wobbling frame sideways as it stumbled. She grabbed the back of the zombie's head and rammed it face-first through the wall in one of hotel rooms she had run in while searching for people.
"One more down and hundreds to go." Her bat broke six zombies ago. She ran out of the fifth-floor hotel room and back into the hallway. The elevators weren't working and neither was her cell phone. She had to fight her way here in hopes of finding someone else alive, but so far she hadn't found anyone.
Just a little while ago she heard gunshots. Xander hadn't brought a gun with him, but if that was him or if he hooked up with someone with a weapon she was sure he was doing exactly what she was. Trying to save lives. "My future hubby has a good head on his shoulders," she told herself for comfort. "He'll be alright."
Another troubling component was that she smelled something odd in the air. This old building still had radiators aligned on the bottom of the hallway walls. It smelled like... she sincerely hoped it wasn't that.
Upon turning a corner, Buffy felt the thick calloused hands of a zombie hard wrap around her throat. It's ghastly mouth opened as if it were about to bite her with crooked, rotten teeth. Her hands gripped it's wrists and wrenched outward, tearing the zombie's arms from it's body. She began beating the armless undead and the other four that were with him with it's arms. At one point she jammed the entire limb through the chest of a zombie, and then she smacked another so hard it's body partially tore from the waist up.
You just didn't fuck with a Slayer. You just didn't.
"Gross," Buffy thought upon inspecting herself in a mirror. She's covered in blood, zombie ooze, and sweat. Only the sweat belonged to her. Thankfully, the undead were slow moving and easy targets, but their numbers were growing. If those things worked the way she knew zombies were supposed to then if they bit her she would become one.
"Never a dull moment," she quipped as she carefully moved down the hall while banging on every door she came across. She didn't have me to go to the sixth floor, and had decided that after sweeping this one she had to find Xander. She knew he could take care of himself, but she had no intention of letting anything happen to him ever. She loved him far too much for that.
Six in rapid succession. The blaring seemed to grow louder from the north stairwell. Buffy sprinted there and then heard...
"BUFFY, WHERE ARE YOU!"
She could breathe again and silently sent a little prayer upstairs. "I'M UP HERE, XANDER. THE FIFTH FLOOR!"
She looked down the winding stairwell and saw her honey firing and reloading as he ran up the stairs. He was drenched in sweat and looked nearly exhausted. Still, he was alive and that meant everything to her.
As soon as he reached the fifth floor, Buffy flung herself in his arms and hugged him tight. "I was so worried about you."
"We smell so bad, honey."
"I know. But at least we're still alive."
"You wear zombie goo beautifully," he said, smiling down at her. Despite the slight bruising her hug might have given him, he hid the pain well.
"Sweat makes you look... uhm... sweaty." She appended, "But sweaty in a cool and sexually satisfying sort of way."
"Less banter. More run." Xander grabbed her hand, looked around and quickly found what he was searching for. "Come'on."
Buffy was led down the hall to a window that faced the front of the hotel. "Oh boy," she nervously croaked as she peaked out and saw the entire area surrounded by dozens of zombies. Men, women, even children of the undead all coming to kill them. "You just had to see a wax museum. didn't you?"
Her accusatory tone wasn't helping. "How was I to know we'd wind up in the town of the living dead?"
"On our next road trip you are not picking any destinations."
"If we live through this one, fine." Xander spun around to face her. "I have a plan. It's kinda loony toons, but it is a plan."
"Does it involve a helicopter airlifting us out of here?"
"Believe me, you're gonna wish it did." A door swung all the way open behind them as five female zombies women slowly entered the hallway and came straight at them. "You take the three on the left."
Xander took the fight to the zombies as he used the butt of the shotgun and cracked it against the side of one zombie's head. The violent collision caused its neck to twist in a sick sort of way as it crumbled to the floor. The other zombie grabbed onto the shotgun as they struggled over it.
Using his superior height and weight, Xander drug the zombie over to the window and swung his whole body around so that the zombie was flung half out of the window when he let go of the shot gun. He bent down and grabbed the zombie's legs and then threw her out of the window. She crashed down on a pile of the undead all entering the building.
When he looked back to the hallway he didn't see Buffy or the other three zombies. But he saw that a door was off one of the rooms. He winced upon hearing bones breaking and bodies being thrown and Buffy's fighting grunts. Slaps, vicious kicks, the tearing of a body part... "I bet that leaves a mark," Xander frowned.
Seconds later the Slayer walked out of the room while brushing dust off her hands. She was smiling. Xander just had to ask, "Did you kill all the zombies like a good Slayer?"
Jazzed from the fight, Buffy wasn't in the mood for jokes. "We're gonna be dinner if you don't start talking about this plan of yours soon." Sniffing the air again, she grew very worried. "Oh my God."
"Not God. Gas. Nice, colorless natural gas," Xander was proud to report. "Two crazy folks in this town told me that there's a curse on the town and if we kill at least one hundred zombies within twenty-four hours we'll break the curse."
"So that means all the zombies will die?"
Xander thought it over. "Uhm..."
"Who told you this?"
"Ruth, the 165 year old convenience store worker. She gave me the skinny on Deadville."
"And you believe her, why?"
"At this point it's some information over no information." Buffy nodded, not able to argue with that. "Okay, as soon as I got back here and talked to fat boy, I went into the hotel basement. This old structure uses a big Johnson furnace from the 1940's. None of the rooms here have individual heating controls. So I blew out the pilot light on the furnace and then turned up the heat as far high as it would go. This entire hotel is now being flooded with flammable gas. We're gonna blow this place sky-high and break the curse, or at least get away and run from the cops. Either or."
Brilliant or insane? Buffy wasn't quite sure which he was yet, but she trusted him with her life. "Anyone else alive in this place?" He shook his head. Good. "Okay, what's your escape plan?" While nibbling on his bottom lip, Xander appeared as if he were about to speak and then he pulled back a bit, looked down at the floor, then away, then back at her apologetically. He gave a half shrug. "Please do not tell me you don't have a escape plan?"
"Hey, I did my part coming up with a break-the-curse-plan. You're asking a lot of me. I just ran up five flights of stairs."
If she didn't love him with all her heart she'd ring his neck. Pacing back and forth a couple of times, it hit her. A nice, simple escape plan. He wasn't going to like it, but oh well. "Follow me and don't look back."
"Trust me, I love walking behind you when you're wearing tight jeans."
"No flirting while zombies are trying to eat us." Buffy led him back to the stairwell, kicked the crap out of two zombies that had made it to the fifth floor and then ran up towards the sixth with Xander in tow. When they arrived Buffy didn't stop at the sixth, but ran up one more flight of stairs to the roof.
Buffy kicked the metal door so hard it half hung from it's mounting. They walked across the roof to its left edge, and then it's right. Perfect, she thought. "Okay, we're here."
Xander could hear the zombies coming in greater numbers as they flooded the stairwell and likely most of the hotel lobby by now. "Did you call for a helicopter?" he hoped against hope. Buffy glared at him. "Sorry." She pointed down.
The swimming pool.
Xander scratched his head and then it hit him. His eyes widened and he began backing away from the edge. "Oh no. No way. What's your back-up plan?"
"I don't have one?"
"That's the same as a back-up. Sorry. This is it." She hopped onto the ledge, balanced herself, and reached for him. "Just hold my hand and we'll jump together. We just need something to ignite that gas."
Xander wasn't a fan of heights and jumping off a six-story hotel wasn't his idea of a good time. "This is like Fear Factor without the safety nets."
"Life's a gamble, honey."
"No, life sucks. Particularly mine."
"And I suppose mine's perfect?" He laughed and then took her hand. She saw him reach inside the duffle bag over his shoulder and produced what looked like a grenade. "You have got to be kidding me."
"Ruth gave it to me. She was kinda cool in a old, scary, wanted-to-sex-me-up sort of way."
"A 165 year old woman wanted to sex you up?"
Xander paid her laughter no mind. As the zombies filed in three at a time on the rooftop he pulled the pin from the grenade and threw it over their heads at the stairwell. He saw it drop in. "One."
"THREE!" Buffy and Xander shouted as they jumped from the roof and began free falling down. A massive explosion erupted around them but they couldn't see anything. Their hands seperated as they tried their best to assume something resembling a diving pose. When they hit the water the twin splashes was drowned out by the deafening bluster of fire and debris as the hotel was rocked by one blast after another. Roaring flames escaped every window and a part of the south side of the building literally fell off as the structure blew up.
Desperate for air, Xander twisted and turned under water. He felt sore everywhere, but had the presence of mind to start kicking his feet while swimming for the surface. He shouldn't have survived that fall but you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. His grandfather used to say that. When his head crested he saw Buffy on the other side of the pool. "You okay, honey?"
"Never better, honey." Buffy pulled herself up out of the pool, and then walked over and helped Xander. Side by side they stared at the burning hotel as pillows of thick black smoke rose into the night sky. Every single window blew out. Glass and concrete and all kinds of other stuff were strewn out everywhere across the ground. "So, you think the curse was broken?"
Xander walked ahead with Buffy following him as they rounded the hotel. "I don't see anymore undead. That's of the good."
Upon reaching the front of the building, Xander and Buffy ran towards his car. Aside from a lot of dust, a few dents, and splotches of zombie goo, it seemed to have survived the blast pretty good.
"You two don't look any worse for wear."
Buffy sought the unfamiliar voice followed by Xander. A black 1965 Cadillac Deville pulled up alongside them with Ruth at the wheel.
"The curse is broken. The zombies are all dead again. And you've freed the five of us," Ruth gestured to the three old men in the backseat and Swifty, who sat beside her up front. "You did good."
"Are you the girl who wanted to sex up my honey?" Buffy asked out of the blue. She had never met a woman who was 165 years old before. She didn't look a day over eighty.
"Oh yeah, but I could see he only loved you. After all, he did pass up flirting with me," Ruth grinned a wide false teeth-filled grin. She tossed a set of keys toward Xander. "My house is the first one-story brick home on Koster, about two blocks that way," she gestured down the street. "Go and grab a shower, change clothes, and get a good nights sleep. I have plenty of food in the fridge, so help yourselves. Just lock up when you leave."
"Thanks," Xander replied while staring at the keys.
"Yeah, thanks," Buffy added with a gracious smile. "So where are you guys off to?"
"Where going on vacation to the most sinful, exciting, butt-kicking, sexy place on earth," Ruth said.
Buffy considered, "Vegas"
"No, Iowa. Tata. Have a great life you two. And thanks again." With those parting words Ruth took off like a bat out of hell, gunning her car straight out of town.
Standing next to their car covered in zombie slime while surrounded by dozens of fiery zombie bodies and a hotel currently burning to the ground, Buffy and Xander shared a nice kiss because whatever the heck else were they supposed to do. This was one wild and insane night, which pretty much summed up the last decade of their lives.
"You know honey," Xander stated while holding her in his arms. "I was going to ask you a very important question tonight."
"Oh reeaaallly?" Buffy did her best to look surprised.
"Yeah, but I wanted the setting and moment to be perfect." He looked around them and sighed. "This really isn't it."
"Anywhere we are is perfect, Xander."
"I know, its just..."
He was as sweet as he was surely the love of her life. And it dawned on her that as badly as she wanted him to ask her to marry him; he just as badly wanted to ask. The moment was a special one he was looking forward to and for her he wanted the setting to be perfect. So for him she could be patient a little while longer.
Buffy yanked his collar down so that she could kiss him again, and she did for a long time. "I'm sure we'll have another perfect moment real soon. It's not like either of us are going anywhere."
Curiously enough, Xander thought he saw a hint of understanding and recognition in her lovely hazel eyes. He tried to figure it out, but gave up when she beamed that beautiful smile of hers at him. "Let's go to Ruth's house and grab a shower."
"And a good nights sleep."
"And some hot early morning loving."
Buffy laughed all the way to the passenger side of the car. "Let's go."
The End of Chapter 2
Chapter 3: "Possession."