"You donít think this is gonna work either, right?" I say at last.
B nods slowly, her fingers white-knuckle tight on the steering wheel.
"The gang will freak."
I smirk. B can be so damn *middle-class* at times.
"The gang? Christ, B. I could care less what your friends think." I ignore the look she gives me. Did she really think I would come back to town and try to buddy-up with her groupies? "Six months ago my photo was on every paper and TV within a hundred miles. You do remember that whole wanted for murder thing, right?"
"You got a better suggestion, *F*?"
"Canadaís nice this time of year." Yeah, Iím deliberately trying to piss her off. Iíve had four hundred miles to think about how goddamn *stupid* this whole idea was and by now my guts are in a knot. Might as well share the joy.
Faith's giving me that smug, know-it-all look she likes to use when she wants to tick me off. I've been seeing it a lot since I admitted that going back to Sunnydale was not the best idea I ever had. She was right, of course, but after twenty-four hours the attitude is wearing pretty thin.
We're sitting in a greasy truck stop in the middle of New Mexico and Faith is just *loving* the looks that we're getting from the other customers. She's in her element, and she knows I'm way out of mine.
She gulps another coffee; black, four sugars; and smirks. I fight the urge to punch her, but only because I've realised what she's trying to do. She wants me to end this, to give her a reason to run, because she can't find one for herself. It's not going to happen. There's no point. Every time she runs, something draws us together again. It's like magnets. Opposites attract.
She doesn't look like Faith any more. Not the Faith I know, anyway. We got her hair cut before we left California. It was a pretty savage change: the back and sides are all but shaved, with only the fringe left long. Faith, with her usual tact and good taste, refers to it as her 'dyke cut'.
"You know I'm right, B." the hair may be different but the smug grin is pure Faith, "We gotta ditch the van. It's a piece of crap, anyway, and the Council's gonna be looking for it."
"Then what? You want us to walk out of here?"
"Then we pick up some new wheels." She shrugs.
She waits for me to refuse, the way I tried to do when she stole her new clothes from a laundry twenty miles back. Blue jeans and an LA Lakers sports jacket. Not like Faith at all. Of course, that was the point.
But the only thing I refuse to do is let her scare me off.
"Okay. Let's do it."
For a moment, Faith looks like she's about to swallow her tongue. I give her a bright smile and head for the door. It's the new me. Buffy Summers: Vampire Slayer and auto thief.
Itís midnight, we're forty miles north of Dallas and I still can't believe that B agreed to steal a car. We took the second-hand Chrysler straight out of the car yard. It's about six years old and getting a bit grimy, but there's nothing wrong with the way it runs.
I'm blasting along the interstate at about twenty over, seriously unlicensed and more than a bit stoked at the way B breathes faster every time I let go of the wheel. I do it again now, steering with my knees as I reach in back to snag a soda. B's eyes almost bug out of her head. I bet she wishes she never let me drive. But I can see she's not about to admit it. Put a Rollins Band tape in the deck right about now and life would be damn near perfect.
"So where are we headed, anyways?" I yell. We have to shout, since I have my window wide open and the air is rushing in. Sure, the ride came with A/C, but I like the roar of the wind. Besides, it's playing hell with B's hair.
"St Louis," she yells back, her eyes never leaving the road, "Provided we live that long." Damned if she doesn't actually sound like she's enjoying herself.
"Then what?" We haven't talked about a final destination, yet. It's been almost two months since either of us stayed in one place more'n a few days, and the habit's proving hard to break.
"Then we're out of cash!" she yells, and gives me a broad grin. Hell, did I say she was *enjoying* this? She's *loving* it.
Iím sitting on the floor of a cheap motel in St Louis, watching TV. Faithís on the bed behind me, braiding my hair. Not something I would have thought sheíd enjoy, but she gets fidgetty when sheís bored, and she gets bored easily.
"We should patrol." She says suddenly. See what I mean?
"When did you become so keen?" the news comes on. Forty new graves have been found in Kosovo. I think about changing the channel, but we donít have a remote and I donít want to move. "We have six bucks to our names, and slaying doesnít pay so good. Or hadnít you noticed?"
Sheís silent for a moment, then tugs on my braids excitedly,
"No reason it shouldnít."
"Last time I checked, there wasnít a big market for our talents."
"Maybe not," she swings off the bed on to the floor next to me, "but some of these vamps have a fair bit of crap in their lairs. We could dust a few, pawn the stuff, make a few bucks."
"That." I say accusingly, "Sounds remarkably like a plan."
Iím pretty buzzed by the time we get back to the motel. Fourteen vamps dusted and two bags full of stuff to sell. Not bad for a nightís work. Bís in front of me, carrying a pizza we grabbed on the way back. The smell; and the sight of her ass in those jeans; is driving me crazy. Hungry and horny? You better believe it.
We spend the next half-hour on the floor, stuffing pizza in our mouths, swigging cheap bourbon we lifted from one of the lairs and laughing at the crap some of these vamps have bothered to keep. And then B finds the teddy. No, not a stuffed toy. One of the *other* sort.
"What do you think?" she grins and holds the black lace up in front of her.
"Not your colour." I say as nonchalantly as I can, given that my pulse is doing its best to set a land speed record.
"Want me to try it on?"
Do I ever. Of course, the idea scares the crap out of me as well.
"B, you do realise a vampire used to wear that, right?"
"Yeah." She leaps to her feet, "but *I* boinked the undead, remember?"
"B," I stand up as well, "what are you tryiní, here? This ainít you."
She steps closer, well inside my personal space. I can feel the heat from her, and smell the faint spice of her sweat from the hunt. And I know. I know where this is going. I know her.
We kiss, and her lips are like fire on mine. It takes my breath away, but I take comfort in the fact that I know where this is going. Because I know her.
Weíre on the bed, and her hands are inside my shirt and Iím surprised that sheís so bold, but I know where this is going. Because I know her.
Weíre naked, and her thighís between my legs and her teeth are at my neck and I donít want to, but I moan her name and lose control, and at last I realise.
I *never* knew her.
She sobs my name at the end, moaning into my shoulder, her nails raking my back.
I pull away, smooth back her hair as she stares at me, glassy-eyed, then walk over to my bed.
"Night." I say, quietly.
And I turn off the light.
For ten minutes we both lie there, not speaking. I watch the blinking red dots of the digital clock beside my bed silently, listening to her breathe.
And then I hear the creak of bed-springs as she sits up.
Moments later, she spoons me, her body warm against my back. Gently, her lips nuzzle my shoulder. Itís her silent way of admitting defeat.
So why donít I feel like Iíve won?
I wake up the next morning expecting excuses and accusations. I can still taste the bourbon in my mouth and I remember B was hitting the stuff pretty hard. It gives her the perfect Ďoutí and I wonder why I never saw that last night. This whole trip we've taken has been a test of wills between us. Yeah, I've won a few battles. But last night, when I came to her bed, I lost the war.
So thatíll be the way it plays. Sheíll tell me it was a one-off thing, just the booze talking, a stupid whim that will never be repeated. Sheís going to get some and get gone, the same way I do. The same way they *all* do.
For a moment I lie there, furious with myself for letting her do this to me. I sit up, intending to return to my own bed, but the anger seeps out of me, leaving me empty. I should leave now, before she leaves me. Itíll be easier that way.
Strong fingers snake around my wrist, and she rolls over, pulling me close as she does so. Our faces are only inches apart, and I can feel the warmth of her breath slide into my mouth.
For a moment we hang there, silent, and I expect her to tell me just how screwed I am.
Instead, she quirks an eyebrow at me and croaks, in a voice roughened by last nightís exertions,
"We got any pizza left?"
"Finished it last night."
B smiles slightly, and I can't breathe, because suddenly I know things will be okay.
"War's over, Faith. Come back to bed."
She pulls me down, and I let her. Checkout isnít Ďtill eleven, after all.
It takes four days to get to Columbus from St Louis. Slaying for fun and profit isnít the growth industry you might expect it to be, and it was pretty obvious after the first night that we could get gas, or a motel room, but not both. We opted for the motel room. Funny, that.
Itís Faith who comes up with the plan, again. Itís obvious enough, really. We sell the car to someone who asks no questions, then Ďfindí ourselves a new one. Somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice is telling me that weíre seriously off the rails here, but Iím way past caring. Want. Take. Have. So long as no-one gets hurt, whereís the harm?
So now we have one of those mass-market little Korean things. Faith moans about the lack of Ďgruntí, but itís a smarter choice than the Chrysler: totally anonymous and it runs on fumes. Which is helping us stretch the cash we have that little bit further.
"Where we headed for, B?" Faithís watching me drive with her eyes half-closed, one arm hanging out of the open window.
I glance at her, then flick my eyes back to the road. I probably *should* tell her. Sheís not going to like it, but she canít be too far off guessing, by now.
"I was thinking of Boston." I try to make it sound casual, but it comes out somewhere between strangled and blurted. Not my finest moment.
She sits up in a hurry.
"Boston." I repeat, sounding a little more comfortable this time. She stares at me,
"You planned this all along, didnít you, B?" her voice is tight, "Thatís cold."
"Not all along." I deny, "I decided whilst we were in New Mexico. Right after we got the car."
"Close enough." She falls silent for a moment, staring out of the window, "Why?"
"You mean why Boston?" I realise itís a pretty stupid question, "At first because I wanted to piss you off. Now Ö" I trail off, "Now, I donít know why. But I still want to. Besides, you know people there. We can find a place to stay, or something."
Faith shakes her head,
"The people I knew in Boston were not the kind of people you ask for a favour, B." she mutters, "Not unless you can pay for it."
I donít answer. Weíre still going.
Things fall apart in Cleveland. Itís the day after B admitted where we were headed, and about three after I worked it out for myself. Weíre in another motel. This one is better than the last couple, but not by much. Weíre side by side on the bed with a half-empty bottle of the cheap stuff between us. Bís had most of it. I guess sheís feeling bad about the whole Boston deal.
The news is on. We watch it most nights. I think B likes to see all the crappy things ordinary people do to one another because it make her feel less guilty about blowing off the whole Ďchosen oneí slayer deal.
Iím just thinking that they must be pretty freaked back in Sunnydale by now when I get proof positive of that very fact. The news has switched to a fresh story and suddenly Iím staring at a picture of myself. Thank Christ itís from before I got the dyke cut.
"- from a California penal institute and is now believed to be at large in the Columbus area. She is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached."
"I liked your hair that way." B remarks, absurdly, and I know sheís as freaked as I am.
Then it gets worse, because suddenly Bís face is on the screen.
"-fy Summers, who may be a hostage or accomplice of the fugitive."
The screen cuts to Joyce, tearfully asking B to make contact with her, before itís too late.
Goddamn, weíre screwed.
You ever have a moment when you realise that nothing you do is ever going to change what happens next? I thought Iíd had mine when I walked into the Masterís lair four years ago. But thatís nothing like now, as I stare at my mom on the screen.
In the far back of my mind that little voice is sounding smug now, as I learn just how quickly things can go wrong. Five days. For *five days* Faith and I had something between us other than pain and anger. Something good. And now itís going to be ripped away.
And all I can think of is that Iím never going to see Boston.
We have a bit of a lead on the cops, but Columbus to Cleveland is only a short hop, and theyíll close it pretty quickly. Iím on my feet and planning whilst B is still watching her mom.
"They think you may be a hostage." I seize on it as our only chance, "We gotta use that."
"Huh?" B twists her head slowly to look at me, and I remember how much of the booze she knocked back.
"You want a drink?" I pick up the bottle by the neck, offering it to her. Sheís about to answer when I shift my grip on the bottle and smack it into her forehead.
B tumbles off the bed and Iím on top of her immediately, checking that sheís out but not too badly hurt. Sheíll have a nasty bruise for a few hours. That should help.
Two minutes later I burst out of the room as noisily as I can. I spend about fifteen seconds on smacking the guy at reception around a little, then I take off at high speed in the car, my pockets full of the cash from the till.
I leave the door to our room open. Someone should find B before she comes round. With the bruise and the way I left her tied up, the cops will be ready to buy any story she gives them.
And Iím sure it will be a good one. Bís a smart girl.
The cops bought the whole hostage thing. A few tears were all it really took. But the gang knew better, and I didn't try to pretend otherwise. Now, things are over for me in Sunnydale. Iím not the person I wanted to be when I came here. Iím not the person I need to be to make this work. Itís all falling apart. Willow went to Oxford. She and Tara have a place together there. She called, at first, but not anymore. Xander and Anya left soon after: theyíre finally doing the Kerouac thing.
Which leaves Giles and Mom. The two people who could never walk away from me. So I have to walk away from them.
If there is one image I still have from my time with Faith, itís roaring down the highway in the dead of night, the speed limit just a memory and no-oneís hands on the wheel. Hurtling into darkness. On a collision course with something, but never knowing what it is.
Iím on that course again. But at least now I know what Iím rushing to.
Canada. Itís a wicked cool country. Wild terrain, not many people, bitterly cold. A good place for getting lost.
And when youíre in Cleveland, itís just across Lake Erie.
So I came here. Deep in northern Ontario. Where no-one will ever care enough to find me. Sure, it can be lonely, but the beer is good, the people in the nearest town donít ask questions, and the wild things in the woods are *really* wild.
I hear her footsteps in the snow and stand to watch her coming. Did I say no-one? I guess I was wrong. I usually am, about her.
"Hey, B." I say quietly, "It took you long enough."
"What can I say?" she shrugs, "Traffic was a bitch."
Damn, itís good to see her.