Part 2

The closest place still open at this hour was a roadside bar called The Hairy Spider, a dark, dingy hole-in-the-wall whose patronage generally wore lots of leather and preferred transportation of the two-wheeled variety. Blossom wrinkled her nose as they entered, but Brick felt right at home. Then again, there weren't many places Brick didn't feel at home. He helped her to a somewhat isolated booth at the back and sat her down. Then he shrugged out of his red button up, rolled it up, and gently slid it under her ankle. Her eyes alighted on the muscles of his chest as they bunched beneath his black tee-shirt. Before he could notice she looked away and thumped her head back on the wall behind her.

"I'll just be a minute," he said, and went to the bar. "I need a pitcher of ice and a clean towel," he told the bartender.

The barkeep leaned over the counter to ogle Blossom. "What, you and your girl get into an argument, you had to put her in her place?" His tone was conspiratorial and understanding. Asshole.

"No." Brick matched his tone. "Some other jerk tried to, and she cracked her foot on his face." He looked over at Blossom. "Looks to be sprained pretty bad, but ..." He looked back at the bartender and smiled. "At least she won't be drinking all of her meals through a straw from now on. Other fellow can't say the same."

That shut him up. Averting his eyes from Blossom, the bartender gathered up everything Brick asked for.

"Oh, and a bottle of Jack and two glasses."

"We got Jim Beam."

Brick sighed. "Fine. Got any food?"

"Grill's closed. We got chips and salsa. Except we're out of salsa."

"Chips, then." When the man turned away, Brick swiped the wallet from a drunk patron sitting behind him and dropped a couple of bills on the counter. "Bring it over there, will you?" He picked up the ice and bandages, then noticed the bloke eyeing Blossom nervously. "Relax, buddy. Just move real slow don't make eye contact, and she won't strike." Brick winked at him, then started back to the table. "Oh." He turned back. "Where's the nearest place to crash?"

The bartender nodded his head toward the east. "There's a motel about a mile on down the road."

Brick nodded, and returned to the table, dropping the drunk man's wallet easily in the chair beside him. Poor man didn't even look up. He set the stuff down, lifted Blossom's leg, and eased her boot off of her foot.

"Stupid boots," she grumped. "Not a good fashion choice for Tarantino-style desert showdowns."

"That wasn't Tarantino-style." Brick picked up his coat and tossed it into the other seat, then took its place, resting her foot in his lap. "No guns." He spread out the towel and poured some ice into the middle of it, then gathered it up and pressed it to her bruised ankle. "There now. Better?"

"Mmm hmm."

The bartender brought their order over. He kept his eyes lowered, almost spilling the chips in his hurry to get away. Blossom frowned as she reached for one. "What's his deal?"

Brick shrugged. "'Guess he's shy." He opened the bottle and poured them both a shot of bourbon. "Here." He shoved her glass in front of her. "That'll help numb the pain."

Blossom bit into her tortilla chip, grimaced, and dropped it on the table. Then she bypassed her glass and went straight for the bottle. She took a big, long swig, following it up with that face she always made when she drank hard liquor. Brick grinned as he tossed back his own drink. Blossom leaned back against the wall, settling the bottle in her lap, and watched him tend to her ankle.

"Why do you do that?"

"Do what, Babe?"

She didn't answer right away, just sat and watched as his thumb absently stroked her instep. "Take care of me," she said at last. "Or try to, at least."

"You know why."

"Yeah." She took another drink, and shuddered. "But ... why?"

Brick looked at her.

Blossom closed her eyes and leaned her head against the back of the booth. "Why do you ..."

"Love you?"

She nodded.

Brick considered this, and moved the rag over her foot. "You'd know if you ever listened to me."

"What, that I make you feel alive?"

He glanced at her.

"See? I do so listen. I just don't get - I mean, is it an adrenaline thing? The thrill of being around somebody who could kill you?"

Brick's eyes narrowed. "Is that what it is for you?"

"No!" She sighed, and took another drink. "I just - I'm trying to understand. It's not like I've given you a whole lot of encouragement in this department."

"You really don't get it." He shook his head a little, then reached for her glass and drained it. He set it back on the table, careful and deliberate, lining it up with his own glass. "It's hard to put into words. Not without sounding like some god-awful poet, at least."


He waved his hand and shook his head. "Nothing. It's just ... when I'm with you, it's like ... like everything stops. And there's this bubble around us, and outside is the world, your sisters, my past ... everything that says I shouldn't love you." Was that a tremor in his voice? Fuck, this was worse than when she pant'sed him when they were five. "And I feel like I can't breathe, like I've forgotten how, and I start to panic. And sometimes I think I can practically hear my heart beat." Jesus. He wished she'd stop staring at him with that mystified look with her lips parted in surprise. "And all of the reasons I know we shouldn't be together become utterly meaningless, and I start to think I'd trade everything for just one smile from you. And it's peaceful, and passionate, and everything's new. Like I'm new. Like I just might have it in me to be a man, y'know?"

He looked at her, but she was intent on inspecting the bottle.

Brick sighed. "Guess you don't. Anyway. It's not that you make me feel alive, Blossom. It's that you make me feel human." He went back to tending her foot, "All ... vulnerable, and poetic, and caring about things I have no business caring about, and I should hate it, but I don't. In fact I can't get enough of it." He shook his head. "I told you once that I never really felt alive until I got killed. Truth is, I didn't know what living was. Until you. There." He secured her bandage and looked at her. "All done."

"That is so sweet." She had her elbow on the table, her head propped against her fist, and there was a sleepy slur to her speech. The bottle of Jim Beam was half empty.

Brick took it from her. "Not that you'll remember any of it when you wake up next. C'mon. Let's go turn in, get you to bed."

She smiled and leaned forward, resting her chin on his shoulder. "Now you're talking." She ran a hand over his chest, caressing him through his tee-shirt. "Bed good. Brick pretty."

"Blossom drunk."

"Am not."

"Right." He stood up and helped her to her feet. He held her till she was steady, then let go. She wobbled backwards and fell back into the seat. "'Course you're not." The girl never could hold her liquor.

"Maybe a little."

He nodded. "Time to go sleep it off."

He helped her back up and out to the car. It only took a minute to find the motel, then another ten or so to check in.

"I want a tattoo," Blossom said when he went back to the jeep to retrieve her.


"There's a tattoo parlor over there." She pointed across the highway. "It's open all night. Come on! Let's go get some."

"Sorry, no. When you're drunk the word 'permanent' takes on a whole new meaning. 'Sides, I think they have rules against doing it when you're drunk."

She pouted as he helped her to her feet. "Butch has a tattoo."

"Yeh, well. Reason number two why I'll never have one."

She leaned on him and let him help her limp towards their room. "It's a stupid tattoo, though. I could never figure out what it's supposed to be."

"I don't think they had that rule when he got his. Now quit dawdling. Sun's coming up and I'm tired."

She stopped. "My ankle hurts. Carry me." Brick rolled his eyes and picked her up. Blossom wrapped her arms around his neck. "Where are we, anyway? This looks like the Bates Motel."

"What's the matter, Red? Afraid Norman Bates might get you in the shower?"

"Pfft. I could totally take that psycho." She giggled. "Psycho." Her fingers pulled the band out of his ponytail and curled in the fuckin tresses as she sucked his earlobe into her mouth.

Brick drew in a sharp breath. "Um, Blossom ..."

She suckled the skin just under his ear and began working her way down his neck, taking her own sweet time as she went. Brick closed his eyes and leaned against the building. If she didn't stop they might not make it to the room. He opened his eyes again and saw that the sky was beginning to lighten. He shoved himself off of the wall and continued on. Their room was just a couple doors down.

"Babe, if you want me to keep carrying you you'll have to work the key. It's in my pocket." Her hand slid down his back and over his hip, then slipped under his shirt and into the front pocket of his jeans, her fingers digging around, searching. It was getting a result, but not the one he was looking for. "Shirt pocket, Red. Please hurry."

She stopped nuzzling him so she could see what she was doing as she fished his keys out of his shirt. She held them up, dangling in front of his face.

"Lovely," Brick said, "but those are the car keys. Try again."

Blossom frowned and reached forward to dig in his other pocket. This time she found the right key. Brick held her steady as she unlocked the door. It took several tries, but eventually she got it open. He carried her inside and set her on the bed. As he turned to shut the door, she grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him to her, sliding it off of his shoulders. Arms snaked around him from behind, hands roving over his chest and stomach as her teeth nibbled at the base of his neck. Brick closed his eyes and moaned, leaning back into her embrace.

"Blossom," he whispered.

Her fingers snuck beneath his waistband and grabbed the hem of his tee-shirt, pulling it free and working their way underneath. "Blossom," he moaned as her hands caressed and molded to his bare skin. Then, "Blossom, stop." He couldn't believe he just said that. Even so, he grabbed her wrists when she failed to comply, and twisted around to face her. She struggled to pull free, but he held firm.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"This isn't why I brought you out here."

She jerked her arms out of his grasp. "Then why did you?"

"To give you a break, and to have some fun. And maybe to get you to talk to me."

"I don't want to talk," Blossom said, and reached down to stroke him through his jeans. "And I am having fun."

Brick tried to think about undesirable things. Getting knocked on his ass by Buttercup. Watching Boomer get gum stuck in his hair and he and his brother shaving him bald last winter. The ridiculous drunken strip tease that stupid bitch his brother had dated had done in their living room before he'd gotten fed up and 'suped out, sending her screaming from his shack. That last one was actually pretty funny. Brick grabbed Blossom by the shoulders and pushed her away from him. "Blossom ..."

She arched an incredulous eyebrow. "Are you saying you don't want me?"

"I'm saying I don't want you like this."

Blossom got up from the bed. "When did you get so picky?"

Brick stood up as well. "Since you said that being with me was killing you. I don't want you sobering up and deciding you hate me all over again."

"I don't hate you," she said. "I won't hate you when we're done, either." She reached for him, but he batted her hand away.

"Maybe not. How 'bout yourself, then? 'Cause, knowing that I inspire self-loathing is such a turn-on."

Blossom rolled her eyes. "Come on, Brick." She stepped up to him."I want you. And we both know you want me." She reached for his belt and started undoing the buckle. Brick felt his resolve crumble as she pressed her warm body up against his and kissed the line of his jaw and throat. He sighed, and buried his face in her hair, breathing in her scent. "Besides," she mumbled between kisses, "it's not like you'll get another chance. You might as well go with it."

That did it. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her towards the door.

"Ow! What are you doing?"

"Throwing you out."

"You - what?"

He pushed her over the threshold. "Bye, baby. See you when we've both cooled off." He shut the door and threw the bolt. With a sigh, he rested his forehead against the door. Then he banged it on the door in frustration.

Blossom pounded on the door. "Brick! Let me in!"


"Where the hell am I supposed to sleep?"

"Car's unlocked, make yourself at home!"

"You son of a ... Brick! Open this door!"

"Sorry, can't."

"Brick!" More pounding. If she weren't drunk and injured she'd probably kick the door right off its hinges. She sure sounded pissed off enough.

He found the remote control and turned on the tv, turned it up as loud as it would go, and flopped on the bed. Her hollering still came through loud and clear. He dug in his pocket for a couple of quarters and plugged them into the Magic Fingers machine on the headboard. Then he lay back and put a pillow over his head, closed his eyes, and tried not to feel like the world's biggest asshole.

Blossom pounded on the door again, and jiggled the knob. "Brick!" Her voice sounded more whiney than demanding. "Come on, Brick! My ankle hurts!" It didn't really anymore but he didn't know that.

All she could hear from the other side of the door was the television and some kind of motor. He was ignoring her. Bastard. She turned around and slumped against the door. What the hell was she supposed to do now?

She shoved her hands in her pockets, and felt something metal in one of them. She pulled her hand out. Keys. Brick's new jeep's keys. An evil grin spread across her face.

The bed stopped vibrating. Brick threw off the pillow, turned off the TV, and listened. She'd stopped begging to be let back in. Maybe she was ready to behave. He got up and went to the door, peeking through the peephole. Nothing. He put his ear to the door and listened. No breathing, no heartbeat. Couldn't smell her, either. Maybe she went to sleep in the car, after all.

He shrugged and turned back around, ready to turn in himself when he heard a car start up, followed by the screeching of tires and the crunching of metal and the tinkling of broken glass. Brick went to the window and yanked the shade open.

"Oh, balls," he muttered at the sight of his car lurching out of the parking lot and onto the highway, a tail light smashed and wires hanging out of the hole left in its place. He thought about going after her, but she was already too far. It wasn't that he couldn't catch her. But they weren't in Townsville and with all the damage that would surely be inflicted to the area if he were to go after her… it would draw too much attention. Then her family(sans Bubbles of course) would find out and… In frustration he tried to kick the nightstand over, but as it was bolted down he only succeeded in smashing the drawer.

There was nothing he could do now but wait for her to come back. If she came back. Brick went back to the bed and fell across it on his stomach, pulled the pillow back over his head, and hoped like hell that he hadn't just been ditched.

A vague sense of horror settled over Blossom as she stared at the car. She really didn't know if some of the dents and scrapes had always been there, or if some were the result of last night's accident, or if she had put them all there. She folded her arms and chewed on her bottom lip as she circled the car again. The missing taillight - that was hers. She remembered backing into a pole as she'd left the motel that morning. The big dent in the passenger door she didn't remember seeing before, but she couldn't say where it came from. How the green paint got on the front bumper was anybody's guess. It clashed severely with the jeeps black exterior.

Blossom sighed and rubbed her aching forehead, then she got in the car and started it. What the hell had she been thinking? No, she corrected herself as she gazed down in disgust at the bandage covering her left shoulder - what the hell had she been drinking? She supposed she could blame this all on Brick for serving her alcohol in the first place. He knew she was a lousy drunk. But she couldn't even accuse him of getting her drunk so he could seduce her. As much as she wished for that particular memory to be fuzzy, she knew full well that she'd thrown herself at him. Again. And he'd said no. What the hell was that all about? All that stuff about how she makes him hear his heart beat and ... something about humans, and then he said no? Not that she didn't appreciate it. But he locked her out! So she couldn't bring herself to feel too bad about taking off in his car. She just wished she was returning it in as good a shape as she'd found it.

Though technically, it wasn't really his car.

The sun had reached its peak in the sky by the time she pulled into the motel parking lot. If she parked at a certain angle, maybe he wouldn't notice the damage.

As she approached their room she saw that the door stood ajar. She knocked lightly and pushed it open. "Brick?"

A maid straightened up from making the bed and looked at her in surprise.

"Oh, sorry," Blossom said. She started to back out, then stopped. "Um, the guy that was in this room – red hair, probably really cranky - do you know if he checked out?"

The maid shook her head. "No hablo Ingles."

Blossom nodded. "Thanks anyway." She left the room and headed to the office. "Excuse me," she said to the desk clerk as she entered.

The clerk looked annoyed at having to put down his comic book. "Single or double?"

"Actually, I was wondering if you've seen the guy I was here with. Red hair, about yea tall ..." She held her hand several inches above her head.

The clerk nodded. "Red hat and a pony tail?"

"Yeah." Blossom smiled. "That's him."

He nodded again, and picked up his comic. "He checked out."

Blossom felt her smile fade. "He did?"

"About ten minutes ago."

"Did he happen to maybe mention where he was going?"

The clerk thought a minute. "Said he was having girl trouble. He was gonna walk to the Spider to see if he could get a drink before heading into town."

"Thanks." Blossom hurried back to the Jeep and pointed it towards the bar. She hoped she wasn't too late. What if he'd already left, and she had to take herself home? What if he was seriously pissed at her? What if he got ambushed by another monster and she wasn't there to help him? Blossom felt her lip quiver as she stepped on the gas.

In less than a minute the bar came into view. Even better, so did Brick. He was walking along the shoulder, shrouded in darkness except for his hair, which gleamed like fire in the sunlight. She pulled up behind him Brick turned and raised a hand to shield his eyes from the dust she'd stirred up.

Relief shone on Brick's face at the sight of her, but then his eyes fixed on the bumper. He circled the jeep, giving the whole thing a once-over before ending up on the driver's side. Blossom felt a tiny pang of nostalgia as he planted his hands on the door and leaned down to look at her; it had been a long time since he'd looked like he really wanted to kill her.

"Move over." It was almost a growl.

For once, Blossom did as she was told. She tried her best to look contrite as he got in and put the jeep in gear. Without another word, he pulled back onto the highway and turned around. She didn't know how many miles they'd gone, with him staring straight ahead, a scowl on his face and a muscle dancing along his jaw, but by the time they crossed the state line Blossom couldn't take the silence any more.

"Are you planning to be this broody for the rest of the trip?"

Brick didn't say anything, just looked at the road. Then, "I don't brood. I'm having a well-earned sulk. There's a difference."

"Does it help if I say I'm sorry about the jeep?"


Blossom sighed. "Look, I didn't mean to-"

"I don't care about the car, Red." He glanced at her, then shook his head in irritation. "Does it even matter to you that I spent the whole day out of my mind with worry?"

Blossom stared at him for a moment. "Of course it does." Then her shoulders stiffened. "But maybe you should've thought of that before you locked me out."

"Wouldn't've done that if you could've remembered that I'm not your own personal slave."

Blossom softened, and looked down at her hands. "I know." She looked out the window a moment, then back at Brick. "Thanks."

He looked at her and arched an eyebrow. "For ...?"

"For not taking advantage. Though I have to admit, I'm a little thrown. I mean, I was ready and rarin' to go, and you ... I just thought you still wanted to."

"Believe me, Babe. You pull anything like that while you're sober, and all bets are off."

She smiled. "I'll remember that."

"How's the ankle?"

Blossom looked down at her foot, and flexed. "It's back to normal."

Brick nodded. He glanced over at her, then did a double-take at the bandage on her shoulder. He reached over to touch it. "What's this?"

Blossom flinched away. "It's nothing. Just a scratch."

"That happen in one of your accidents?"

"N- Yeah." Blossom nodded. "Yep, that's how it happened."

"Uh huh." Brick's eyes narrowed. "That wouldn't happen to be the sort of 'scratch' you get from a needle, would it?"


"You got a tattoo."

"Did not."

"Come on, let's see it."

He reached over to lift the bandage, but Blossom swatted his hand away. "Stop! It's not anything. It's stupid."

Brick snickered as he looked back at the road. "I didn't really peg you for the self-mutilation sort."

"I'm not." Blossom pouted. "Not sober, anyway. You know, I think someone forgot to tell them about that rule you mentioned."

Brick broke into a full-on smile. "Didn't get too far in daddy's car after all, did you?"

Blossom rolled her eyes. Could she embarrass herself any more? "I can't believe I even made it across the street. I think I passed out as soon as I parked the car. When I woke up again they were just opening up, so I went in. I was only gonna look."

Brick pulled the car off the road and killed it, then turned on the dome light and turned to face her. "Let's see it."


"Not going anywhere till you show me."

"I could throw you out and take the car again, you know. I had all day to learn how to drive it. The parts where I was awake, at least."

"You're not going to strand me in the ruddy desert, Babe. Now come on. Lemme see."

Blossom closed her eyes and sighed. "Fine."

She sat still and let him peel away the bandage. "Mm. Not bad. A heart made of rocks. At least you got something relevant."

"They're not rocks," she said quietly.

Brick looked at it again, then leaned down to squint at it. He pulled back to gaze at her in astonishment. "Are those bricks?"

"I was drunk," she reminded him. Turned out she could embarrass herself more.

"'Course you were." His voice trembled a little. He reached over to trace an outline around the heart, then the graffiti B+B that was made to look like it had been spray painted on the brick wall/heart.

A thrill shot through Blossom as his fingertip grazed her skin. She swallowed, hard, and pulled away. "Don't let it go to your head." She fixed the bandage back in place. "All I did was point at a picture in a book."

"Right," Brick said in that tone that meant "bullshit." He turned off the light and started the car. "Doesn't mean a thing."

"It doesn't," Blossom insisted, but the satisfied look on his face told her he wasn't convinced. Time for a subject change. "I got some brochures."

Brick blinked. "What?"

"I went to this gas station to clean up." As she spoke she rummaged through her bag and pulled out the brochures. "They had a bunch of touristy stuff. Turns out we're running parallel to the old Route 66."

Brick looked back at the road and smiled. "Ah, Route 66. Brings back memories... There was this one time in Albuquerque, right after I nicked this car -"

"If you start talking about good times with your brothers I swear I'll jump out."


"Anyway," she said, browsing through one of the pamphlets, "there's not really any cool roadside stuff until you get to - Ooh! Can we go to the Grand Canyon?"

"Didn't you fight some lizard monster there once?"

"Oh, right." Blossom continued flipping. "Oh, hey. If we make it to Texas, there's the Cadillac Ranch, or ...!"

"Yehaw," Brick drawled boredly, "let's go see that. For added fun maybe we can dress up like pioneers. You can take pictures of me and my new ten gallon hat, send it as a postcard to the folks back home. I'm sure Buttercup'd get a kick out of it."

"Party pooper," Blossom grumped. "You got anything against stopping to eat?"

"Next town we come to, we'll stop for a bite. How's that?"

"That's good," she said, putting her brochures away.

The next "town" consisted of a mammoth truck stop that also contained a McDonald's and a Baskin-Robbins, a couple of motels, a bus station and post office, an old-timey diner and a total of two stop lights. It had taken them another seventy-two miles to get there. By the time they pulled up in front of the diner, Blossom was famished. Brick didn't look so good either.

Both of them looked and felt better after they'd eaten. Brick had charmed the waitress into bringing him his burger a lot thicker than the restaurant allowed. Blossom had managed to scarf down her entire omelet and two of the pancakes that came with it. Now they sat in companionable silence, Brick smoking, Blossom sipping at her third cup of coffee and taking occasional pokes at her last pancake.

Brick's gaze drifted around the diner, taking everything in. He drummed his fingers on the table, tapping out the beat to a song that only he could hear as he fidgeted in his seat. For not the first time, Blossom wondered if it was possible for them to have ADD. Maybe he could've succeeded better at the whole Big Bad thing if only he'd had some Ritalin.

He turned in his seat to look out into the non-smoking part of the diner. "Hey! A jukebox!" He laid his cigarette in the ashtray so he could fish in his pocket. After a moment he came up with a handful of quarters, and stood up. "Any requests, babe?"

She looked up at him with a straight face. "Anything by Britney."

"Like hell! Not on my quarter, Red."

"Then surprise me." She took a sip of her coffee as Brick whirled around and sauntered to the jukebox. Blossom watched, admiring the way his red shirt draped across his shoulders as he leaned over to study the selection. A whiff of smoke from his unfinished cigarette caught her attention. She picked it up and tapped it on the side of the ashtray, knocking off the long column of ash. Then she held it up and contemplated it for a moment. She wondered what was so great about it. She'd even see Buttercup sneaking a smoke on occasion. On impulse, she brought it to her mouth and wrapped her lips around the tip. It tasted like Brick. She breathed in, inhaling a lungful of smoke and then choking on it. She tossed the cigarette back in the ashtray and sputtered into her hand. She was still coughing and trying to wave the waitress over for some water when Brick returned to the table, carrying a glass, an eyebrow arched in amusement.

"You want a pot brownie with that, Babe?" He handed her the water.

She took it from him and gulped it down, but tried to play it cool just the same. "Already tried that," she said when she could talk again.

Brick was lowering himself into the booth, but he froze in mid-air and looked at her. "Really?" He recovered and finished sitting down, amusement creeping into his voice. "Been helping yourself to my fridge, have you?"

She wrinkled her nose. "Ew. No." She shrugged. "It was no big. Buttercup dared me."

"I see." He picked up the cigarette. "Not one to back down from a dare, are you?" He held her gaze as he deliberately wrapped his lips around the filter. A shiver ran down Blossom's spine. Why didn't smoking look like a disgusting habit when Brick did it?

The song coming from the jukebox ended and changed over to something Blossom recognized. Her eyes widened. "Did you pick that?"

Brick nodded as he put out the cigarette.

"I love this song."

"I know." His eyes locked on hers for a moment, then he gave her an embarrassed little smile and looked away. That always got to Blossom more than any of his come-ons or sexual posturing. Those moments when he seemed a little shy, like just being with her overwhelmed him. Those moments, she knew, were real.

Blossom looked around. They were the only people in the smoking section. She stood up and held out her hand to him, swaying slightly to the beat of the song.

Brick looked up at her, confused. "What do you ..."

"I've never danced to this song before." She looked at him expectantly. When he didn't budge, she rolled her eyes. "You gonna make me dance by myself?"

In one fluid movement, Brick was out of the booth and she was in his arms, her temple resting against his cheek as they moved to the music. She closed her eyes and breathed him in. He smelled so good. At that moment, Blossom could almost believe that there really was a bubble around them, and nothing outside of it mattered. The rules of home didn't apply to them here.

As his hands moved down to rest at the small of her back, she tightened her grip around his neck. When the song ended, she pulled back a little to look him in the eye, and the pretense of dancing stopped. Now they just held each other, and she stared up into the burning red of his eyes.

"Blossom ..." His voice and face both filled with trepidation.

She let go with one arm and brought a finger to his lips. "I'm sober."

He nodded a little. "Well in that case, we-" She kissed him, effectively shutting him up. As Blossom closed her eyes and opened her mouth to deepen the kiss, she forgot all of the reasons why she'd ever believed she should give this up. Brick's hands wandered up to tangle in her hair, to stroke her face. Finally, he broke off and rested his forehead against hers. Blossom smiled as he panted, struggling to catch the breath he'd lost.

"Think we've driven far enough today," he said at last.

"Motel across the street," Blossom said. "How fast can we get a room?"

He bit his bottom lip and winked at her. "Not fast enough." He reluctantly let her go, and went to pay the check.

Blossom hung her head off the table and gave the motel room an upside-down inspection. She took in the damaged furniture and the hole she'd accidentally kicked in the wall.

"We are so screwed," she muttered.

From the opposite end of the table, Brick laughed.

"I mean the other kind," she clarified. She sat up and glared at him. "How are we gonna pay for this?"

"I was thinking we'd leave before they find out. Good luck sending a bill to my shack."


"What?" He heaved a sigh and sat up. "It's not that bad, really," he said, looking around the room. "The bed's still in good shape, seeing as how that's the only surface we've yet to grace with our presence. And this table ..." He pounded on it, and bounced up and down a little. "Nothing wrong there. Place needs some tidying up, is all."

Blossom stared at the hole in the wall, unconvinced.

"Look, if it means that much to you, I can pay for the damage. You ask me, it'll be worth every penny." He leaned forward to kiss her shoulder.

Blossom shrugged him off, and sighed. "What the hell is wrong with us?"

Brick rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you're about to tell me."

Blossom stared at him for a second, then shook her head. "I just mean, how come we can't have normal sex, like normal people? In a bed, without breaking it? Without breaking each other?"

"We're not normal people. And if you were really so keen on normal, you wouldn't keep coming back to me, would you?"

Blossom didn't say anything. She drew up her knees and hugged them to her chest.

Brick let out a derisive snort and leaned back to regard her with wonder. "Y'know, Red, you're probably the only girl on the planet who fantasizes about the missionary position."

Blossom really wanted to hit him, but she didn't want to crack any more plaster. "That's not ..." She clenched and unclenched her fists. "I just mean ..." She shook her head. What the hell did she mean? She looked helplessly at Brick.

Realization dawned on his face. "You want us to make love."

"No! I mean, I wouldn't put it in exactly those terms, but -"

Before she could say more, Brick took her face in his hands and pulled her to him for a kiss. Not the feverish, lusty kind she was used to, but sweet. Soft. He stroked her cheeks with both thumbs as he pulled back to look at her, his eyes searching hers for some kind of answer. Or maybe for the question she couldn't bring herself to ask. Whichever it was, he must've found it, because he got off of the table, scooped her up, and carried her to the bed.

He laid her down and stretched out beside her. He brushed her hair out of her face, the tenderness in his expression matching his actions. His red eyes locked on hers. "Is this what you want?"

"I ..."

"Shhh." He brushed her lips with his. "Don't ruin it. Normal people don't play games." His voice was raw silk. "Do you want this?"

Blossom'd never felt so helpless, so exposed. Not with Brick. As easy as it would be to shove him away and flee to the safety of their pointless bickering, or even a good brawl, she instead felt herself nodding.

Brick lowered his head to trail kisses down her neck. His lips lingered on her collar. She tensed. He raised up to look at her. "Say it." He kissed her forehead, her eyelids, her lips. "Tell me, Blossom," he whispered. "Tell me what you want."

She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, leaving herself fully exposed. "Make love to me."

He made a happy little choked sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sigh. Blossom opened her eyes and saw that he was looking at her, his face a mixture of joy, awe, and disbelief. Something inside her melted as she realized it was the same expression he'd worn the first time he'd seen her again, the night she returned from the grave.

She reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand, and made her request again. "Make love to me, Brick."

He caught her hand in his, and pressed her palm to his lips. "Gladly."

His fingers entwined with hers as he kissed her wrist, the inside of her arm, the crook of her elbow. Then he released her hand and slid his fingers, feather light, up her arm until they grazed her tattoo. He paused to look at it, stroking it with a softness she wouldn't have believed him capable of, then placed his lips on it in a reverent kiss. A hungrier one followed as his other hand roamed her body, molding to her every curve, pausing here to caress, again there to squeeze, worshipping every inch within its reach.

Blossom moaned, but he silenced her with a kiss. She responded with eagerness, wrapping her arms around him. When he pushed her legs apart, she let go, placed her palms on his chest, and pushed him onto his back. He watched her with surprise and curiosity as she crawled on top of him.

"We don't want to get too carried away with the normal," she said, sitting up. He grinned, but then his face went slack and his eyes closed as she slid onto him, exquisitely slow, taking all of him in.

"Blossom," he whispered. He just lay there for a moment, and Blossom waited while he gathered himself together. Then he opened his eyes and pushed himself up till he was sitting. She gazed into his eyes as she began to move. Slowly at first, then their rhythm increased in urgency. Emotion flooded through her - feelings she didn't want, that she couldn't let him see. She closed her eyes, and arched backwards until her hair brushed the bed. Brick cradled her in his arms as he bent with her, lowering his head to her breast. Blossom whimpered. Too much ... he'd broken the barrier, gotten under her skin. She gasped as this demon in her arms touched her in ways that none of her other lovers ever had.

They sat back up, her movement frantic, her breath ragged. She had to end this. Brick held on to her tightly, desperately, as though he could sense her slipping away. As the wave crashed over her, he touched his forehead to hers, stroked her hair, and made soothing noises. Then his voice tightened and he couldn't say anything as he threw his head back in rapture. Through it all, he didn't let go.

He raised his head and looked at her. She couldn't meet his eyes, just slumped against him and rested her head on his shoulder. She couldn't stop shivering. He kept holding her, slightly rocking her back and forth.

"I love you, Blossom," he whispered in her ear.

Not knowing what else to do, Blossom began to cry.

She slept, and Brick held her.

It hadn't taken long for her to cry herself out. Then she'd curled up in the bed next to him, her head on his shoulder, and fallen asleep. Brick could see a glow around the edges of the thick curtains that told him the sun was up. His eyelids felt heavy, but he fought to stay awake.

He never got to hold her. Not like this.

Chances were, he'd never get to again. He wanted to savor it, to burn the sensation into his memory. Maybe, though ... just maybe he would get another chance for this. Something happened this time, he was sure of it. But then, he'd been sure before, only to have her deny it. It wasn't as though he could trust his judgment where she was concerned. He wanted her so badly ...

It was possible he'd just imagined it all of those other times. But he hadn't imagined this. That she was in his arms now instead of pretending like she was alone in the bed was all the evidence he needed. She could no longer deny what was between them, could no longer deny him.

But if she did?

Brick shifted onto his side. She let out a contented sigh and buried her face against his chest. He felt himself losing the battle against sleep as he focused on the lullaby rhythm of her breathing and heartbeat, the way her body warmed his just like it warmed the blanket that covered them. To be that close to her, and not have her ...

But at that moment, he did have her. All of her. He couldn't go back to the way it was before. She'd said that she was using him, that it was killing her. But what was killing her, what was killing them both, was her refusal to confess the thing that shone so clearly in her eyes in her most unguarded moments. He didn't need to hear it as much as she needed to say it, even if she only ever said it to herself.

He couldn't allow them to fall back into their old patterns. Not after tonight. When they both woke up again, things would be different. Whatever it took, things had to change.

Before they really did kill each other.

Blossom frowned at the empty bed. Hands on hips, she looked around the room. His clothes were gone, too. She went to the window to peek out into the parking lot, and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the jeep. But then, he didn't need really did he? He could fly just as easily as her. Did he leave? Surely not. Not after… Blossom shook her head at her own paranoia as she rummaged through the suitcase Bubbles had packed for her. After tossing her towel aside, she got dressed, then took her makeup bag to the sink. She unwrapped the towel on her head and started to go back for her hairdryer, but decided to let it air dry instead.

She did her makeup on autopilot, her mind occupied with wondering where the hell Brick had gone. The sun hadn't been down for long, so he couldn't have gone far. Probably just out for a smoke. She paused to give her reflection a wry smile. He probably wasn't any more up to evening-after conversation than she was. On the one hand, she felt relieved to not have to talk to him just yet. On the other ... he wasn't around to irritate her, to say something idiotic that would distract her from the memory of last night, make her forget how it felt to fall asleep and then wake up in his arms.

A hand appeared beside her, wrapped around a Styrofoam cup. Blossom jumped.

"Brought you some coffee," Brick said.

Blossom looked at him. "Don't sneak up on me like that!"

He looked surprised. "Sorry, Babe. Didn't think I could sneak up on you."

She sighed before taking it out of his hand. "Thanks." She took off the lid and set the coffee aside to cool. "Guess I was a little preoccupied."

"Lot of that going around."

Blossom focused on her make up instead of looking at him. "We should head back tonight."

Brick made a noncommital noise. She glanced at him. He leaned against the dresser, hands shoved deep in his pockets, eyebrows drawn together as he contemplated a worn patch of carpet.

She turned back around and leaned in to apply her mascara. "It'll take us, what, two days to get home? I should call before we leave, make sure somebody's there." She shook her head as she dipped the wand back in the tube, then started on her other eye. "I need to start thinking up a good explanation for work. Somehow I don't think they'll buy the kidnapping excuse."

"We don't have to go back."

Blossom sighed, closed up the mascara, and threw it in the bag. "Brick ..."

"I mean, yeah. We'll go back but who says we have to stay?"

"Um, my family, my school, my job, the Mayor ..."

As she spoke, his arms crept around her waist and he nuzzled her neck. "Haven't been any real big nasties for a while. Nothing your sisters couldn't handle."

"With who? Your brothers?"

"They'd manage." He lifted her hair and kissed the nape of her neck. Her resolve began to fade. "We could go anywhere you want, just the two of us. Anywhere in the world, for as long as you want." As seductive as his voice sounded in her ear, she also heard a tinge of desperation. "Doesn't have to be forever."

He had a point. Blossom closed her eyes and for the moment just enjoyed the feel of his hands on her body. This was the farthest away from home she'd ever been, the closest she'd come to a real vacation since she was a kid. Would it really hurt to let him show her just a little bit of the world? Just for a little while?

She opened her eyes and took in her rapt countenance. It shocked her, how happy she looked at the prospect of running away with Brick. Her resolve returned. She pulled his hands away. "I can't."

"Why not?"

She picked up her coffee and turned to face him, holding it in front of her like a shield. "Mojo -"

"Is old, Red. Not much of a threat, last time I checked."

"You should know better than to underestimate him!"

"I'm not! I just…" He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. "Look, it was just an idea. Just ... forget it." He walked toward the window and righted a chair that had toppled over the night before. Then he plopped down and swung a leg over the arm.

Blossom ran a finger around the rim of her cup. "I wish I could." Brick looked at her, surprised. "I just ... The town… my sisters… they need me. I'm a Powerpuff girl. I'm their leader." He nodded, then pulled the curtain back and stared out the window. Blossom sipped her coffee as she turned to pack her things.

"So," Brick said after a long silence, "what's gonna happen when we get back?"

She shrugged. "I'll go to work and convince them not to fire me. Shouldn't be too hard with all the blackmail fodder I've got against them. Not that I'd actually use it."

Brick stood up. "I meant, what's gonna happen with us?"

"Oh." Blossom grabbed a shirt out of her suitcase and began refolding it.

"Well? What's it gonna be? We a couple now? You gonna go home and tell your family about us? Or will it be, 'Sorry, Brick. It's been fun, but I can't use you right now. Go wait in your shack like a good vibrator until I get another itch.'"

Blossom shook the shirt out and folded it again, making careful, deliberate creases. She'd let him have that one. She deserved it. After a deep breath, she looked at him. "Brick, last night -"

"Don't." He held up a warning finger. His eyes were furious and pleading at the same time. "Don't you dare tell me that didn't mean anything to you."

"Last night ... is a really nice memory, Brick. Please don't make me think of it as a mistake."

She'd never heard him laugh quite so bitterly. "A mistake," he muttered. "The only mistake was bringing you out here instead of hightailing it out of town like I should've done long ago." He paced the space of floor between window and bed. "No," he amended, "my first mistake was ever staying in fucking Townsville to begin with!"

Blossom laid her shirt in the suitcase and smoothed it out. "You really feel that way?"

"What do you care?"

That stung. She fought to keep her voice steady. "I care, Brick. For whatever it's worth."

Brick flew over the bed to stand next to her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her to face him. "Tell me you love me."

She gently removed his hands, squeezing his wrists just hard enough to remind him that she was just as strong as him. "Don't do this. I told you, I can't -"

"You can't?" He jerked his wrists out of her grip. "What's that mean, Red? Can't work up the feeling, or can't let yourself?" He sneered at her. "Won't is more like it." He turned around and stalked back across the room.

Blossom's fists clenched. Why was he doing this? This was worse than that first morning when they'd woken up together. Why did he always have to ... She saw her coffee sitting on the end of the dresser. She grabbed it and threw it at him. Most of it spilled as it flew across the room. The cup barely tapped him on the back of the head, but it got the point across. Brick turned and stared at her, eyes narrowed, as he sluiced the remains of the coffee off of his shoulder.

"You think you know me so well!" Blossom gave up trying to be the calm and rational one. "You're always giving me these speeches about what I need, what's best for me. And I'm sick of it! But you know what? You're right. I won't. I won't get involved with you, Brick."

Brick pointed at the bed. "You don't call this involved?"

"This-" she repeated his gesture, "- has been fun. But it's over. Time to get back to real life. And real life doesn't include you."

He gawked at her for a moment. She could tell she'd hurt him. She didn't want to, but God, it was like trying to free a wild animal that didn't want to be cut loose. If she hurt him enough times maybe he'd get it through that thick skull that he shouldn't be with her.

But then he smiled. A pitying smile. "See, that's where you're wrong, babe. This is reality. Back there," he gestured out the door, but she knew he meant Townsville, "it's ... well, it's Egypt."

Blossom rolled her eyes, but he didn't stop.

"So you go on back to the land of denial." He moved towards her. "Bathe in it. Soak it up. Do the fuckin' backstroke." He took something from his inside shirt pocket and laid it on the dresser. "Maybe someday you'll really convince yourself that we never had anything worth trying for."

Blossom went over and picked up a Greyhound ticket. One way from here to Townsville, with an exchange in Los Angeles. Departure time in less than an hour. "What is this?"

"This is where we part ways. You go home, have yourself a nice, long life, without any Brick around to muddy things up for you. Or, be miserable until the next big nasty comes along and puts you out of your misery. I'll pretend you're doing the former."

Blossom checked the envelope again. One ticket. "What about you?"

Brick shrugged. "I haven't decided yet. Tell the boys ... just tell 'em I'll write."

She looked up at him as all of this sunk in. "You ... you're leaving ..." She almost said "me," but the word died on her lips.

"Already left, Babe. Just not going back."

"Not now ..."

"Not ever."

Blossom shook her head. "But you ..." You don't leave. No matter what. Not even when I try to make you.

"You think I want to?" How could be so calm all of a sudden? "You think I ever wanted any of this?" He shook his head. "I have to go somewhere, clear my head. Cut my losses and move on. Figure out a way to stop ..." He swallowed, and put his hand over his heart. "A way to not feel this anymore. Because this," he gestured back and forth between them, "is killing me."

Blossom stared at him, stunned. "So that's it? Here's a bus ticket, have a nice life?"

He sighed. "It doesn't have to be." He returned her stare, the pleading back in his eyes.

She looked away from him.

Brick nodded. "Figured as much. Get your things, I'll drive you to the station." He turned and walked out the door.

She wanted to tell him 'Don't bother'. She could fly there herself but as she turned, the door slammed behind him and she couldn't bring herself to follow.

He drove her to the Greyhound station and saw her onto the bus. Neither of them said a word - not even goodbye. Soon, the bus would pull away and take her home, and he would get in the jeep and drive out of her life forever.

The Professor would be happy with the news. Buttercup would probably be indifferent - disappointed to lose such a useful resource, but not heartbroken to see him go. Bubbles would be upset though, and would probably blame Blossom.

And she'd be right. Blossom was getting left again, and for once, it really was all her fault.

But it was for the best. She would go back to Townsville, and have nothing to do with her counterpart anymore. Just as it should be, as it always should have been. Things would be so much less complicated. For both of them. He'd get over her, eventually. He'd be fine. So would she. Without him around, she could finally find something normal and healthy to fill up the hole inside her, to make her feel like this was the right thing to do.

If she kept staring at the seat in front of her, refusing to look out the window, to acknowledge his presence, then maybe she could convince herself that all of that was true. But she allowed her gaze to drift back to where he stood watching the bus. He looked so lost. She could see his heart breaking right before her eyes.

Blossom faced front. So, what? After five years of not being able to get him out of her life, he gets to decide that it's over? Just like that? One last fuck 'n' fight, and that's the end of the Blossom and Brick story?

"This is so stupid." Blossom stood up. "Sorry," she told the old lady next to her as she stepped over her into the aisle. The driver boarded as she pulled her bag out from overhead. He took his seat and reached for the door lever. "Wait!" Blossom started for the front of the bus.

"You'll have to take your seat, Miss," he said. "It's time to pull out."

"I'm not going," she said as she passed him. "Sorry." She got off the bus and stood back. The bus started up, and she tried to ignore the romantic movie music that ran through her brain, the way her heart sped up when she thought of the look he'd have on his face when the bus pulled away and revealed her standing there. As the bus did just that, she realized she was holding her breath. She let it out in an irritated sigh when she saw that he had his back to her.

Rolling her eyes, Blossom shouldered her bag and walked toward him. As she drew closer she could hear a stream of curses punctuated with the sounds of him pounding on his car. She reached him just as he gave it a good kick. "Bitch!" he shouted, and stalked after it when he sent the poor battered jeep skidding into the street; reared back to kick it again.

"You wanna say that to my face?"

He almost fell on his ass as he spun around to face her, but he wound up slumped against the jeep, staring at her. *That* was the look she'd expected to see. She glanced down at his bloody hand. "God, Brick." She reached out and gently took it in hers, holding it up to examine the damage. "What the hell did you do that for?"

He pulled it away from her as he got to his feet, and grimaced as he shoved both hands in his pockets. "Missed your bus."

Blossom glanced back at where the bus had been, and shrugged. "Guess you'll have to take me home."

"Why should I?"

Blossom let out a single, humorless laugh and focused for a moment on the bugs swarming around the streetlight behind him. Of course he was going to make this difficult. "How about, because you're the one who brought me here, and you're responsible for getting me home?"

"I paid your bus fare," Brick said. "I did my part. This was supposed to be goodbye. You want me to take you home? Then tell me." He got down in her face, his eyes boring into hers as he carefully enunciated each word. "Why ... should ... I?"

Blossom felt her lip tremble and the sting behind her eyes as tears began to well up. She looked away. She would not cry in front of him. Not again.

They stood like that for a moment. Then she heard him sigh, and he brushed past her, back towards the station.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"To get you a new ticket."

"Brick -"

He stopped, and waited, but whatever she was going to say refused to come out. Without turning around, he said, "Say it, Blossom. For God's sake, just spit it out." His voice sounded raw and tired. "If you want me to stay,babe ... you know the magic words. Say them, and we can both go home."

Idiot. Didn't he get it? Didn't he know that the "magic words" never conjured up anything but pain and misery? She could say them ... she could even mean them, and maybe it would be good for a while, but it couldn't last. They were destined to destroy each other. Maybe not in battle, but if she gave in to this, sooner or later their passion would burn them both away until there was nothing left. Funny that their love would be more of a danger to them than the hatred they used to share.

Wait a minute ...

Brick started walking again, and went to stand in the ticket line. Blossom watched him in a bit of a daze as she replayed her thoughts. He was determined to end this tonight if she wouldn't give him what he needed to continue. Maybe it really was for the best. They could both get out, get the hell away from each other before they did any more damage. Yeah. 'Cause what's happening now isn't bound to leave you both hurting for a good long while, is it, Buff?

As he reached the ticket window, she backed up until she hit the jeep, then deflated against the hood. She buried her face in her hands as a sob escaped.

"I do love you."

It came out in a whisper, barely audible even to her own ears, but it was as much of a shock to her system as if someone had screamed into her ear. She let out another sob. Then she sucked it up and wiped her eyes, looking up in time to see him coming toward her.

His hands were empty.

He came to stand in front of her, leaning over her in that intimate way of his, his face at once lit up with hope and clouded by wariness. "Say it again."

She stared at him. "How did you ..." Duh. They both had super hearing, stupid. He could hear when she got into trouble on the other side of the town over the noise of his television. Of course he could hear the one thing he'd been waiting over a year for her to say. Even if it was whispered from twenty yards away.

He reached up to wipe her cheek with his thumb. "Please, Blossom."

"I ..." She swallowed. It was already out, and she couldn't take it back. No place to go but forward. "I love you."

She'd had no idea that he had dimples. He'd never smiled that wide in her presence before. She only got to glimpse it for a second before he kissed her, wrapping her in his arms and stroking her hair. He broke off the kiss, and that smile returned. "And again?"

Blossom touched a hand to his cheek. "I love you." Every time she said it, it got easier. She matched his smile even as tears of a different kind blurred her vision. "Oh, God, Brick. I love you so much."

He cupped her face in his hands and kissed the track of her tears from the top of her cheek to the corner of her mouth, then she turned to catch him in a full kiss. She tasted her tears on his lips. For some reason, this made her laugh.

Brick pulled back and arched an eyebrow. "What?"

"Nothing, just ..." She wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "God, look at us."

"Yeh." Brick looked a little sheepish as he ran his palms across her cheek. "We make quite the pair." He dug in his pockets and produced a wrinkled napkin. "Here."

"Thanks." She took it and blew her nose. She glanced up and realized he was watching her, still smiling. Embarrassed, she dabbed at her nose and pocketed the napkin.

"So," he said, "we officially in love now?"

"Looks like."

He nodded. "And when we get back to Townsville?" His smile wavered just a little, and his voice held a hint of trepidation.

Blossom closed the gap that had formed between them and slipped her arms around his waist. She raised up on tiptoe and planted a reassuring kiss on his lips. "We'll tell them. First thing. No more hiding."

Brick just looked at her for a minute, his face full of wonder and disbelief. Then, as if to assure himself, he bent down for a longer, lingering kiss.

"Then," he said at last, and went to open the crooked jeep door for her. "Let's go home."

The End