DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.  And the chapter titles are courtesy of Miles Davis.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Spike figured out Stella was lying and put it together that Willow was snatched and probably on her way to New Orleans.   At Giles’ suggestion, Spike is taking Buffy there while the gang remains behind to ensure she isn’t still in Sunnydale…

*************

Chapter 3: Miles in the Sky

Surprise of all surprises, the stubborn chit had refused to let him come up to her room while she grabbed her things for the trip.  Oh sure, Spike thought as he sucked hard at the cigarette, his cheeks hollow as he inhaled the smoke, savoring the delicious burn it created inside his chest.  She follows me into my place while I pack up, usin’ that old song of “can’t trust you, you’re evil” routine, makes a few wisecracks about my lack of décor, and even manages to break the one good piece of kit I’ve been able to nick by forgetting her Slayer strength for two seconds.  But when it comes to seein’ where she hides her unmentionables, all of a sudden, I’m Ol’ Faithful, and good enough to be left guarding the car.  Like a damn watchdog she keeps on a very short chain.  Like somebody’s even goin’ to bloody well steal it anyway.

His hand went out automatically to stroke the metal behind him, fingers deathly white against the ebony of the curved hood, his head turning to gaze affectionately at the vehicle against which he was currently leaning.  Sorry ‘bout that, pet, he crooned silently.  You know I love you, right?  It’s just I think I’m the only one with brain enough in this hellhole to appreciate your real beauty.  Which might actually be a good thing ‘cause then I don’t have to worry about some frat boy nicking you from under my nose or something.

As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Spike was looking forward to this little road trip.  It had been years since he’d visited New Orleans---a fact he’d neglected to share with the Watcher when the issue had been brought up---and the prospect of returning was enough to make his mouth water.  Now that was a city that knew how to appreciate vampires.  It was a virtual smorgasbord, with tourists who were just begging for a little danger, and every pleasure imaginable able to be satisfied.  You just had to know where to look for it.

And he did, that was for certain.  Though he couldn’t hunt on his own, Spike figured he knew enough people, could call in enough markers, to have a grand old time while they were there.  He’d just have to find some way to ditch the Slayer when he wanted to have his real fun.  Somehow, he had a feeling she would object to some of the escapades he had in mind.  “Evil” would probably be the first word out of her mouth, followed quickly by one of those nose punches he hated so much.

Speaking of the Slayer…his hand dropped from the car, his blue gaze turning back to scan the darkened dorm in the distance.  She’d been a bit off ever since they’d left the Watcher’s.  Maybe it was just her worry for the witch showing through, but somehow, Spike didn’t think so.  None of her gibes held their usual bite, and it wasn’t as much fun to play the innuendo game if she wasn’t giving it her all.  No challenge, and if the Slayer was anything, it was challenging.  Could be she’s still fussed about breaking up with G.I. Joker, he thought.  Buffy didn’t cry over just anything and those had been real tears out in his cemetery.

As the memory of her face floated in his head, those shiny hazel eyes of hers glowing incandescent before being turned away from him, a small tug in the pit of his stomach caused his mouth to tighten.  I’m not worried about her, he tried assuring himself.  I’m just interested in keeping my skin intact, is all.  That Stella was most definitely human, and if the Slayer’s not up to her game when this all goes down, who’s goin’ to be there to watch my back? 

It was a lame excuse, but he was sticking with it for now.  Denial worked for him.  Especially when it came to thinking he could in any way be going soft.  On the Slayer.  It was bad enough wanting to shag her senseless every time he saw her.  Or smelled her.  Or thought about her.  He wasn’t about to go adding wanting to kiss away her tears to the list as well.

Her scent came to him first, before he could even see her form, and Spike grimaced as his erection sprang to life beneath the black denim.  On second thought, maybe this road trip was a really, really bad idea.  He was going to be sporting a hard-on for the next few days with her smelling like that and being in touching distance.  And hard-ons and driving didn’t mix.  Unless, of course, there was somebody attached to the other end of that hard-on.  A hot little mouth, or a Slayer straddling his lap, sliding up and down, all slick and warm, oozing down her thighs, and…

Fuck.  This was going to be a long trip.

Spike frowned when she came into view, eyes darting from the one bag slung over her shoulder to her unsmiling face.  “That’s it?” he asked.  “You’re gone for half an hour and that’s all you’re bringing?”

“I was making some calls.”  She stopped in front of him, hazel steady on his.  “I wanted Mom to know I wasn’t going to be home for a while.”

His eyebrow lifted.  “You told your mum you’re goin’ cross country with me?” he asked incredulous.

She rolled her eyes.  “Don’t flatter yourself for being worthy of the truth, Spike,” she retorted.  “I told her Will and I were taking a post-final road trip, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg.  I don’t need her worrying about both me and Willow.”

When she turned and headed for the rear of the car, the vampire followed, taking the bag from her before she could say a word and slipping his key into the lock on the trunk.  “And you don’t think she’s goin’ to suss out your little lie?” he asked.  “What if she gets together with Red’s parents?”

“Not going to happen.”  Buffy watched as Spike carefully placed her duffel in amidst the cooler and bag that were already in the car, situating it so that it wouldn’t move during the drive, noting with a small frown the sleeping bag and tent that were stashed in the farthest corner.  When did he put those in there? she thought, and quickly shoved the question aside.  Don’t wanna know.  “Ever since that whole sitch when Mom and half the town tried to burn us at the stake for being witches, she and Mrs. Rosenberg have kind of been all avoidy about each other.  I have no fears about her checking up on it.”

His brows shot even higher.  “Somebody tried flambé-ing the Slayer?  And I missed it?”  He shook his head as he slammed the trunk shut, tutting under his breath as he sauntered to the passenger side of the car.  “Remind me not to take any more holidays from this place if that’s the sort of sideshow I’m goin’ to miss.”

“I am not---.”  She stopped, frozen in her steps, staring at him like he’d just sprouted wings.  “What’re you doing?” she demanded.

The frown on his face held for a moment as he struggled to understand what she was referring to.  It was only when he glanced over and saw his hand holding the edge of the door he had just opened for the Slayer that his eyes widened, his body jerking back and away as if the metal of the car was suddenly searing his skin. 

“Habit,” he barked, his mind scrambling for some kind of explanation she would buy, scolding himself for forgetting yet again.  He couldn’t meet her gaze as he stalked around to the driver’s seat.  “For Dru.  She…liked that sort of thing.  For me to be all…Galahad.  Bad habit.”

For some reason, his excuse disappointed her.  Spike had, for a split second, seemed bordering on the gallant, normal in a my-mama-raised-me-right kind of way.  Kind of like Riley had been.  All about the manners.  She’d always liked that about him.  Not that she was in any way comparing him to Riley.  But to think that the vamp had only done it as a reflex, that he was in any way equating her with that psycho Goth queen from hell, both saddened and enraged her, causing a riot of emotions to go flurrying through her head in a struggle to escape the confines of her skull.

Ignore it, ignore it, she intoned silently as she slid against the black interior of the car.  If you start paying too much attention to all the little things that drive you crazy about Spike, he’s going to be dust before you make it out of Sunnydale.

“…second shift,” Spike was saying, and Buffy jerked her head to look at him as he slid his key into the ignition.

“Huh?”

“I said,” he repeated, his annoyance driving his sapphire gaze to glare at her for not paying attention the first time, “you should probably get some sleep so that you’re good and rested when I need you to take the second shift.”

“Second shift of what?”

“Of driving?”  He said it like it was completely obvious.

Buffy’s eyes went wide.  “You expect me to drive?  It’s your car.  And it’s old.  And…weird.  And it smells kind of funny.  I’ll even bet all the pedals are in different places and you’re only asking me to drive because you want me to turn us into wrapping paper for some stop sign.”

A frustrated growl rumbled from Spike’s throat.  “For one thing, she doesn’t smell.  That’s vintage leather you’ve got your ass parked on.  The only time my baby has ever had an olfactory issue was when I came back to Sunnyhell last year, pissed out of my head because of Dru, ‘cause I just didn’t give a damn then about keepin’ her clean any more.”

“Dru?”

“The car.”

“Oh.”

“Secondly, a car is a car is a car.  You’ve got your gas, you’ve got your brake.  Go.  Stop.  Go again.  It’s not brain surgery.  Even your little Slayer head should be able to keep that straight.”

“Spike---.”

“And third,” he said, interrupting her as he reached across her lap to the glove compartment, forcing Buffy to press herself back into the seat to avoid his touch, “do you have any bloody idea how far it is to New Orleans from here?”  He pulled out a small atlas and dropped it unceremoniously onto her lap.  “We’re talkin’ almost two thousand miles here, pet.  And there is no way in hell I’m clockin’ that kind of mileage without a little help.”

“Spike, I---.”

“I am here under duress, Slayer.  Remember that.”  Spike’s grip was vicious as he wrenched the key in the ignition, the engine roaring to life in front of them.  “If you think for a second that I’m lookin’ forward to havin’ your hot little body anywhere near mine---.”

Her hand shot out and grabbed his arm, yanking it away from the steering wheel before he could pull away from the curb.  “Spike!” Buffy barked.  “Will you stop already?  I’m trying to tell you something here.”  She waited until he was looking at her, blue eyes glittering in the dark.  “I.  Don’t.  Drive.”

That wasn’t what he was expecting.  A frown immediately creased his features.  “What do you mean, you don’t drive?  Everybody drives.  Next to baseball and braggin’ about your superiority, it’s the American national pastime.”

“Well, this American doesn’t.”

Silence.  “You’re serious.”  When she nodded, Spike fell back against his seat, banging his bleached head against the rest.  “Bugger,” he muttered, eyes closed.  “How do I get myself into these messes?”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Buffy said.  “You eat when we stop for gas and potty breaks.  I’ll be the navigator.”  She opened up the map in her lap and looked up at him expectantly.

“With my luck, we’ll end up in Butte,” Spike said under his breath before looking back at her in clear annoyance.  “What about sleep?  Even if I drove straight through, you’re looking at thirty-four, thirty-five hours there.  I’m not sitting on my ass for that long without getting at least a little something out of it.”

She knew he meant the occasional nap, but the implication of something other reddened her cheeks, driving her eyes to the map in front of her.  “Maybe we can work something out,” she said.  “But this is about Willow, Spike.  I’m not wasting any time I don’t have to.  I can’t risk that.”

The reminder of why exactly they were doing this sobered the vampire, and he pursed his lips, watching the young woman seated next to him.  He didn’t know if it was the heat, or her anxiety, or the flush of their recent argument, but the Slayer’s skin shone in iridescent beauty under the harsh light of the streetlamp, her heart an erratic thumping that seemed to reverberate through the car.  His irritation dissolved, to be replaced with a resigned acceptance.  How did she do it? he wondered.  This seesaw of emotions she created in him made no sense, and as someone who usually followed his heart instead of his head, the whole thing was making him dizzy.

“Tell you what,” Spike said, his voice low.  “You promise not to get us lost, and I’ll just catch a few winks when the sun’s the highest.  It’s hard for me to drive then, anyway.  That way, we can be in New Orleans…two, two and a half days, tops.”

“Agreed.”  She flashed him a quick smile that surprised both of them.  “I’m good with maps.  You’ll see.”

The vamp nodded and turned back to the steering wheel, just glad the issue was resolved.  As he dropped the gear stick into drive, he heard her confused voice pipe up from the passenger seat.

“Spike…where’s the air conditioning?”

*************

Buffy frowned as the car began to slow down and Spike turned the wheel to pull it into the gas station.  “Why are we stopping?” she asked.  “We can’t be out of gas already.”

“No, but this is the last station for a bit, so I thought I’d fill up on petrol before I had to start worrying about running out.”  He shot her a lewd grin.  “Unless you want to be stuck with me in the middle of nowhere without a lick of petrol in the tank, ‘cause then---.”

“Ewww, no,” the Slayer grimaced.

He shrugged, pulling the keys out of the ignition.  “Suit yourself.  I’m goin’ to get me some smokes, too.  You want anything?”

She shook her head, propping her head up in her hand on the open window to stare out at the neon in the glassfront of the station.  This had been his one concession regarding the lack of central air; as long as the sun was down, she could keep the windows down to allow a breeze to cool the interior of the car.  So far, it wasn’t too bad, but she just knew that the days were going to be hell.  Blacked out windows with no way to cool it down?  She was going to fry.  Buffy, thy name is toast, she thought tiredly.

*************

The music was too loud in the overly lit space of the gas station, but that was mostly to keep him awake.  He hated working the graveyard shift.  The only reason Carol kept putting him on it was because he was the only one of her employees to ever have dealt directly with a vampire before.  Stupid bitch, he grumbled.  I graduated with Buffy Summers; of course, I’ve dealt with vampires before.  Didn’t mean he had to like the distinction.

Still, it was usually pretty easy work.  Not very many people stopped by once the sun went down, so he could spend a good part of his shift looking at the porn behind the counter.  Right now, he was halfway through this month’s issue of Penthouse’s Letters.  He was just about to start a story about a guy, a girl, and an inner tube, when he heard the engine roar up to the pumps, and looked up in anticipation of his customer.

Ice ran through his veins when he saw the DeSoto come to a halt and the familiar blond head appear in the driver’s side window.  Shit.  Spike.  What the hell was he doing here?  His mind raced, scrambling in his panic to find a solution, and his grip automatically tightened around the stake he kept hidden behind the extra till rolls.  Spike never paid for anything when he stopped by; of course, he usually only stopped by when he was either coming to or leaving Sunnydale, so thank god it didn’t happen that often.  And if he was in a foul mood, the bleached vamp just might decide to have himself a midnight snack as well as a top-up on that beat-up piece of junk of his.  Shit, shit, shit. 

The Slayer.  Yeah.  She’d take care of him.  Maybe if he called Buffy…

His eyes widened even as he was reaching for the telephone.  Though he couldn’t hear what was being said, the gas attendant was able to pick up the accented baritone of the vampire as he climbed out of his car.  But that wasn’t what stopped him from picking up the receiver.  It was the unsmiling face of Buffy Summers leaning over from the passenger side to say something unintelligible in response to whatever Spike had just said.  She looked hot, and tired, and god, she was just as gorgeous as she had been in high school, maybe a little thinner, but still…

Focus, he reminded himself sharply and positioned himself behind the cash register, making sure to keep his eyes on the car outside, watching as Spike pulled the nozzle from the pump.  If Spike’s got the Slayer, that means she’s not in any position to help you.  Maybe he’s vamped her.  Fuck, he was a bloodshake for sure if that was the case.  No way could he handle two vampires.  Except she didn’t look like a vampire.  Well, for that matter, neither did Spike, not really.  Except when he went all fangy and started ripping into people’s necks.  I wonder what it’s like to be a vampire, his mind wandered, and he grimaced as he realized he was getting away from the subject at hand again. 

Focus, he repeated.  Stay alive.  Don’t stare at Spike.  Or the Slayer.  It’ll probably just piss them off.  Pissed off demons and angry humans with super-power strength were not generally good things.  Stay alive.  I wonder why she’s with him.  Maybe she’s only gone evil.  An evil Slayer.  That wouldn’t bode well for the citizens of Sunnydale.  God, she’s hot…

He jumped when the bell over the door jingled and Spike came sauntering in, that leather coat of his flapping around his ankles.  Why am I so scared of him? the attendant thought as his eyes darted between the vampire heading straight for the back cooler, and the mirrors mounted in the corners of the stores, the same mirrors that lied to him by showing him as the only person in the store.  I’m taller than he is.  I probably weigh more.  Shit, he’s actually not that big of a guy.  Maybe it’s just all the black leather and the outdated punk look, he debated.  Maybe at heart, he’s just a card-carrying member of the Walt Whitman club, and the whole Big Bad image is just a huge fabrication to hide some major insecurity.

He almost laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of his train of thought.  Yeah.  Right.  And my name’s Little Lord Fauntleroy.  Spike’s a badass and everybody knows it.

The thump of the sodas hitting the counter was muffled by the rustle of the candy that followed soon after, and the attendant slid as far away from the blond vampire as he could and still be able to reach his merchandise to ring it up.

“Two packs of---,” Spike started, and then stopped as two of his favorite brand of cigarettes suddenly appeared on the counter.  “I had fifteen in petrol, too.”

The attendant frowned as the vamp pulled a wad of cash from his duster pocket.  Shit, he was going to pay for it all!  Had the world stopped turning?  A quick glance stolen out to the car afforded him a brief glimpse of Buffy.  Maybe Spike was turning a new leaf.  Maybe that’s why the Slayer was hanging out with him.  Maybe they were dating now, or something.  Hadn’t there been rumors about her dating a vampire when they’d been in high school?  He’d seen her hanging around the Bronze with some older guy a couple times.  Dark.  No neck.  Too much forehead.  A hot chick like Buffy could’ve done better…

Quickly, his fingers punched in the amounts on the register.  “Taking a little road trip?” he asked, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible.  Maybe if he’s talking, he won’t think about eating me, he thought.  Keep his mouth occupied with something other than biting.  I wonder if he’d like some nachos?  Of course, then I’ll just have to make some more up---.

“Headin’ to New Orleans,” Spike replied.  He was staring curiously at a display behind the counter.

“Really?”  The attendant hit the total button.  “Is there some kind of party going on there or something?  Because you’re the second car I’ve had through here tonight who’s headed there.”

When the vampire whipped his head around to stare at him, the cashier felt his fear return, settling in his stomach like a load of ball bearings as those blue eyes flashed at him.  Shit, he thought.  What did I say?

“Was it a van?” Spike demanded.  A shaky nod.  “Who paid?  A bloke?  Did he have a cute little redhead with him?  Too perky for her own good?”

He frowned.  “A black van, yeah,” he stammered.  “A guy paid, but he was all by himself.  The only reason I know where he was going was because I asked him about his accent.  He sounded like something off Gomer Pyle.”

“What did he look like?”

“I dunno.  Like a guy.”  He cringed as this answer only seemed to infuriate Spike further, his mind searching for something---anything---he could give the vampire.  “Tall, kinda thin.  Light brown hair.”  The memory jumped at him, lighting up his face.  “Oh!  He had this mark on his wrist.  Like a scar or something.  I saw it when he handed me his money.”

“What did it look like?”

“It was weird.  I’ll draw it for you.”  Grabbing a napkin from by the nachos display, the attendant hastily sketched out what he’d seen, handing it over to Spike as quickly as he could.

The vamp took a minute to study it, dark brows knitted together as he mulled it over.  After a moment, he carefully folded the piece of paper and stuck it in his coat pocket.  “Thanks,” he said distractedly.

His eyes widened.  Did Spike just show gratitude? he thought wildly.  He hung back, waiting for whatever other shoe was going to drop and hit him over the head, right before it sucked out all his blood.  Spike still had the roll of bills in his hand, and his gaze had returned to the display behind the counter.

“Toss one of those in,” he said, gesturing toward the box.

Easing himself back so that he only had to look away for a second---he’s trying to distract me, that’s it---the attendant saw the display of handheld fans.  “One of these?” he asked, picking up a blue one.

“Yeah.”  There was a short pause, where Spike glanced back out to the car before returning his steady gaze to the nervous cashier.  “Make it one of the purple sparkly ones.”

*************

She was pretending to be asleep, her cheek stuck in sweat to the leather headrest, the air from the open windows tickling her nose with the tendrils of her hair it kept picking up and blowing around.  She couldn’t help but wonder if Spike knew she was faking it, if those damn vampire senses of his could tell the difference between a sleeping Buffy and an awake Buffy, but quickly decided that she preferred not to know.  It was just easier that way.

Stopping at the gas station had turned out to be a good idea, even if it had been Spike’s.  Not only had they gotten confirmation that the van Spike had seen was on its way to New Orleans, but they’d gotten a fresh clue as to the identity of this Freddie guy.  That’s who they were assuming had snatched Willow.  The description they’d been given seemed to match with the one Tara had shared.  Minus the scar, of course, but the blonde witch just might not have seen it in the dark of the Bronze.

Buffy had stared at the drawing the gas attendant had made, memorizing the formation of the two conjoined circles with the line splitting their intersection, and felt an overwhelming urge to turn around, drive back to Sunnydale, and give it to Giles.  This was most definitely a research thing.

“We can find a way to fax it back to Rupert,” Spike had said before she could vocalize her thoughts.  His blue eyes had bored into hers, too murky to be easily read in the moonlight as they sat in the car.  “We know now that we’re on Red’s trail for sure.  We don’t want to lose time by backtracking at this point.”

She didn’t know where this sudden concern for Willow was coming from, but Buffy knew he was right.  Go back now, and they lost whatever advantage they had by following after them so quickly.  Plus, this gave them an excuse to stop more frequently to check to see if anyone else saw the van.  And if, for some reason, they came across it themselves, well, then, all the better.

They had Stella to keep an eye out for, as well.  Spike had confirmed the route the bus would be taking on its way to New Orleans, and they were going to stick with it as closely as they dared without losing too much time.  Buffy had a few words she wanted to share with the singer she had yet to meet, most of which she would never have been able to repeat in front of her mother.  The Slayer didn’t take too well with liars.

Beside her, Spike was humming under his breath as they drove down the highway, something she didn’t recognize, seemingly taking care not to get too loud to disturb her.  How much music must he have listened to his in his lifetime? she wondered aimlessly.  A century worth of songs bouncing around in that skull of his, as well as a century worth of history, and a century worth of experiences, and…

“If you’re not comfortable enough to sleep, I can always pull over so that you can stretch out in the back,” Spike said, his voice low, interrupting her train of thought with a quiet rumble.

Damn.  He can tell when I’m not sleeping.

Slowly, Buffy lifted her lids and stared at the strong profile outlined against the open window.  He had one arm propped up in the window frame, fingers tapping against the roof outside, while he dexterously steered the car with his right.  The moonlight spilling across the interior of the car left half his face half in shadow, the other half gilded in silver, turning the blue of his eyes into limpid pools of ebony.  There was no tension in his muscles, his jaw relaxed for one of the first times ever in her presence, and she silently remarked at how youthful it made him look, almost…vulnerable.  Wouldn’t he love to hear that…

For a split second, that sense of normalcy she’d been fighting ever since he’d walked with her in the cemetery washed over her in a pillow-soft embrace, coaxing a wistful smile to her lips.  He was just so damn surprising. 

He’d emerged from the gas station with the last-minute soda she’d requested, and then proceeded to wordlessly hand her the portable fan he’d bought for her as well, even as he kept his gaze averted and concentrated on tucking his cigarettes into the visor over his head.  Her thumb had grazed over the sliding on/off switch, sending the tiny plastic blades into a frenzy before clicking them back to lifelessness, wondering what in the world would possess the chipped vamp to do this.  It wasn’t like she asked him to.

Yeah.  Surprising.

“I’m OK,” she said, and tore her eyes away to straighten in her seat, staring out at the California countryside hurtling toward her.  Or was it Arizona already?  Could be.  They’d been driving long enough.  “Just…thinking about Willow.  And stuff.”

He didn’t answer.  No reason for him to, really, Buffy thought.  Willow wasn’t his friend, after all.  Absentmindedly, she mirrored his position, resting her elbow on the edge of the window and cupping her hand to catch the wind as they drove along, every once in a while letting the air catch her arm and throw it back.

Spike stared at her, watching this and the road for over a minute before finally speaking up.  “What the hell are you doin’?” he asked.

“Aeropalmics,” she replied automatically.

“Aero whatsits?”

“Aeropalmics,” she repeated, glancing over at him. 

“That’s not a word.”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a sniglet.”

“And what in all that is good and evil, is a sniglet?”

Buffy sighed.  “It’s kind of a like…a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn’t.”  She began catching the wind again.  “Aeropalmics is what you call measuring wind resistance by cupping your hand out the car window.  Mom has a whole book of them somewhere.  We used to sit around on long car trips and make up our own.”

Somehow, the idea of Joyce and a miniature Buffy playing word games tickled Spike to no end, and he smiled, imagining what those rides must’ve been like.  “Well, if you’re not planning on sleeping,” he said, “why don’t you share some?  It’ll help me from going loopy from sitting here and staring at the same old boring road for hours on end.”

As a plan of distraction, it was actually kind of a good one, the Slayer thought.  Absolutely impersonal, no mention of Willow to create further anxiety when she wasn’t in a position currently to do anything about it, and totally silly.  It would work.  “OK,” she said, deliberating for a moment before brightening.  “Here’s one.  Did you know that I’m aquadextrous?”

“What’s that?”

“That means I can turn the faucet in the tub on and off with my toes.”

Spike grinned.  “Doesn’t surprise me.  You’re the Slayer.  You could probably stake a vamp with those toes.”  He shot her a sideways glance that swept over her bare legs, settling briefly on the painted nails visible through her sandals, before returning to the road ahead.  Bet she could do a lot more with her toes, he thought, and felt his cock rise at the prospect.

Buffy didn’t notice, too lost in trying to remember more from her childhood games.  “Oh!  This one’s good.  Mom always said, that when I was little, I suffered from pajangle.”  She waited expectantly for him to question the new word.

He didn’t fail her.  “What’s pajangle?”

“It’s when you wake up, and your pyjamas are completely turned around by a hundred and eighty degrees.  Front to back, and back to front.”  She smiled widely, the memory of Joyce’s face as she would try to explain how on earth a three-year-old could do such a thing diverting her temporarily from their most recent crisis.  And the fact that she was stuck in it with Spike.

In spite of the absurdity of their current conversation, Spike found himself relaxing in the Slayer’s presence, muscles slowly unfolding from tight furls as he laughed at her stupid definitions, shook his head at her silly stories.  His erection never went away, but in the warm space of the front seat of the DeSoto, for a while there, it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t until she’d drifted off to sleep, her legs tucked up beneath her as her golden head slumped against the leather behind, did it occur to the vampire that they had probably just managed their first real conversation.  One that didn’t involve insults, or threats, or repeated sexual innuendos.  Granted, they’d just spent the last forty-five minutes talking about words that weren’t really words, avoiding anything remotely real, but it didn’t dim the accomplishment, at least not to him.  Oddly enough, it left him feeling pleased.

The twinkle of the stars in the horizon caught Spike’s eye, and he sighed, lips quirking, leaning heavily back into his seat.  He didn’t know what the hell was going on.  Not in his head, not in her head, not in this bloody car.  For some reason, though, at the moment…he just didn’t care.  He was just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

*************

Her dark eyes stared up at the stars in the sky as she leaned her head against the glass.  She was too wound up to sleep, too excited about the events of the night to let go of the tether her head had on the waking world and succumb to the ravages of rest.  The smile that rose to Stella’s lips was gleeful.  For once in what was a long, long time, life was finally going her way again.

She was leaving Sunnydale a lot sooner than they had planned.  The gig was just an excuse to be in the town, to give them the means to afford such an excursion.  They had the name they needed, had seen the pictures so that they knew who to look for, and had anticipated going to her on the college campus, talking to her there, drawing her in, maybe even telling her the truth to see if she would come of her own accord.  Never had they dreamed that Willow would come to them, be the one to seek her out. 

That was what finally vanquished the doubt that had still resided in Stella’s mind prior to the show. 

It was meant to be. 

She was meant to be. 

Because Willow had known.  She had seen the recognition in the redhead’s eyes.  Not even death could strip that knowledge from her…

 

To be continued in Chapter 4: Honky Tonk