Era/season/setting: Post-series (immediately post-NFA)
Rating: R for language, sexual situations
Summary: Lorne needs to get out of LA. Spike has a car and no reason to stay. Can this Odd Couple survive the road trip from hell? And will Buffy ever catch up?
Takes place after Not Fade Away, comics do not exist. Rated R for foul language and sexual situations.
Seasonal Spuffy note: I fear I shall likely not get to the Actual Spuffy before the end of this round, but I could not resist posting a chapter or two of this road trip fic I have been noodling for months when the SS theme is Road Trip. Rest assured there is Future Spuffy. Thanks to Seasonal Spuffy for getting me to drag this off the backburner and turn the heat up!
I have 2 chapters for this free-for-all day. Hopefully will have more by next weekend, but please do watch my EF and AO3 in the months ahead for updates!
Chapter 1: San Bernardino
Spike stalked down the row of cars, ignoring the shards of pain radiating from his cracked ribs, the dull ache of bruises, the sting of what felt like a thousand tiny cuts. Not the Lambo, nor the McLaren. He curled his lip at the Bentley. Definitely not the bloody piece of shit poseur Alfa Romeo.
He could take the Viper, it was a sweet ride, sleek and candy-apple-red -- he paused in front of it for a moment, considering -- but no, it wouldn’t be fun any more. It had only been fun because it was Angel’s favorite.
He kicked it as he moved on down the line, the shattering glass of the headlight not nearly as cathartic as he’d hoped.
The one he chose -- the one he’d wanted all along, really -- was parked in the furthest space of the executive garage, likely purchased for its rarity rather than any real cachet. The 1961 DeSoto, last of its kind. It was close enough to his own treasured vehicle, sold to finance his trip to Africa, that when he slid behind the wheel he felt dizzy with nostalgia. Driving to South America with Dru. That ersatz stakeout with Buffy. Taking out the bloody Welcome to Sunnydale sign, time after time, like a bloody tradition. He’d always known where he was going, driving his baby, always had a song on his lips and the wind in his hair -- metaphorically, of course, he hated having literal wind in his hair, it set the curls loose.
He sat behind the wheel for several minutes, wondering where he should go now.
“Away from here, you berk,” he finally muttered to himself, and that gave him the impetus to turn the key in the ignition.
The DeSoto came to life with a smooth purr that was almost insulting. Bloody thing had its original body and interior, probably even original paint, but he’d wager the engine had been souped up both mechanically and magically to make it worthy of Wolfram and Hart. He knew the glass was an upgrade -- every bloody vehicle in the garage was fucking necro-tempered and daylight-safe for vamps -- and they’d even done something with the radio, put in a cassette deck that looked like it was original even though it couldn’t be -- no bloody cassettes in 1961 -- but otherwise it was a bonafide classic. Just the sort of vehicle a law firm CEO might take out for a weekend pleasure drive along the coast. He could almost see Angel popping in a bloody Barry Manilow tape, that fucking incredulous grin on his face as he headed out to drive in the sun….
Spike gritted his teeth and shifted into gear, screeching out of the garage into the night.
“Where am I? Oh, crumbcake, I wish I knew.”
Lorne sighed and glared at the flat tires on the passenger side of his XC90 -- tires, plural, because that’s how karma worked, except okay, not karma, karma was supposed to be in your next life, so the real question was, what had he done in his past life to deserve this? And what was his next life going to have to do to make up for this one? Could he send his next life a note of apology? Maybe a classy flower arrangement?
“I took the scenic route,” he told the roadside assistance lady. Lisa, she’d said in soothing tones, like he was a runaway horse. “That was my first mistake. Like I can appreciate the scenery at three in the morning. So I think I passed, um, an art gallery of some kind? Or a commune? And now I’m by a stone wall. With graffiti. I didn’t think graffiti artists came out to the middle of nowhere, but apparently they do.”
Lisa murmured something noncommittal, typing away.
“So, um….” He glanced at his watch. “I passed Nealeys Corner about ten minutes ago, headed to Cajon Junction. No, not the 15. I, um, took Route 66. Real smart, huh? And then there was this… I don’t know what it was. Metal something or other? And both my tires are totally shredded. If they were wheat, they’d be a breakfast cereal. And, you know, I only have one spare. Does that seem a little short-sighted to you?”
Lisa kindly refrained from pointing out that one was the standard number of spare tires in basically every vehicle ever made; he appreciated that, and appreciated it even more when she pinpointed his location. “San Bernardino, huh?” The song bubbled up in his head, but he squashed it down. “So, Lisa, what can you do for me this fine morning? Almost morning,” he corrected, glancing at the lightening sky in the east. “Morning’s thinking of being a thing soon.”
He listened carefully, heart sinking down to his toes. “Uh-huh. A tow. To the nearest Volvo dealership. And where is that?”
He turned and gazed back down the road, distracted. Were those headlights?
“Ontario? Oh, sweetie, that’s back the way I came. You sure you don’t have one the other way?” They were headlights; he watched warily as they approached. “I really, really don’t want to go back to L.A.”
The car zoomed past, not even slowing, a huge black boat of a car. Classic, Lorne thought absently, briefly jealous of both the style and the fact that it was in motion in the direction he wanted to go. “All right, a tow would be lovely. There’s bound to be a Hertz in the area, right?”
There was an ungodly screech as the black behemoth braked, coming to a standstill a few hundred yards down the road. The smell of burning rubber wafted back, strong enough to make Lorne’s eyes water. Holy crapola, Batman, he thought bitterly. Either I’m about to get robbed, so tonight can be a perfect storm of misery, or they’ve found me. Which is worse.
Lisa said something reassuring about help being on the way.
“Uh-huh,” Lorne distractedly muttered over his cell, watching as the car executed an abrupt, somehow sullen three-point turn on the narrow highway, heading back in his direction. “Yeah. Thank you-- Lisa, was it? Yes. Thank you. I’ll be waiting for your call. Bye now.” He disconnected as the hulking classic swerved into the pulloff, stopping abruptly a few yards away, headlights bright as stage lights.
“I told you, I’m not going back,” he called out before the door even opened. Because really, who would come down this road looking for a convenient mugging victim?
It wasn’t Angel’s bulky shape that emerged from the car, though, and Lorne was briefly offended that the big guy couldn’t be bothered to come himself, even as he pulled himself up even taller to face Spike. His unwelcome Good Samaritan had left the engine running and he didn’t bother closing the door either, just stepping around it and leaning up against the hood, pulling out a cigarette. His hair practically glowed in the light of the moon, just past full. Something loud and tuneless that Spike undoubtedly considered “music” blared out the open door.
“Don’t think your sexy undead Steve McQueen act is going to convince me, either,” Lorne went on, folding his arms. “You can tell Angel--”
“Angel didn’t send me,” Spike growled around his cigarette, profile briefly illuminated by the flare of his Zippo. He had a black eye, dark as the night around them, and his knuckles were bruised and raw.
“Oh.” Lorne suppressed a tiny flare of hurt. “Well, that’s good. But I’m still not going back. I’m done.”
Spike just took a deep drag, staring off across the road as he exhaled a huge cloud of smoke. “Car trouble?” he asked, voice neutral, like they were strangers. Which Lorne had to admit they kind of were. He’d gotten to know bits and pieces over the past months, but really most of what he knew about Spike was what Angel had told him. Angel had always been between them.
“Flat tire. Tires.” Lorne sighed, turning to lean against his own car, staring off at the moonlit hills. The sun would be up soon, assuming the world wasn’t ending after all. Was Spike the type to have a relaxed smoke in the face of the apocalypse? Or had Angel won? He felt it on the tip of his tongue -- did we win? -- but the we stuck in his craw. They weren’t a we any more, hadn’t been since Angel had asked him to kill. Since he’d agreed to kill, based on a song.
No, he wouldn’t ask. He didn’t care. He really, really didn’t.
Spike wasn’t volunteering any information; he took another puff at his cigarette, and another. “Need a ride?” he finally asked.
“Not back to LA, I don’t.”
“I’m not going back, either. No reason to stay.” He wasn’t singing, but his casual words sent a rush of cold through Lorne anyhow.
“So Wolfram and Hart won after all?” Lorne glanced back towards the glow of the city; it didn’t seem any more red than usual.
Spike glanced at him sidelong. “Didn’t say that. Job’s been done. World’s all safe for puppies and Christmas.” He regarded the cherry of his cigarette. “Just figured it was time to move on.”
Something felt off about that, something about the way Spike was standing, curled into himself like a hedgehog, but Lorne steeled himself. He didn’t care what had happened. He was done, done with Angel and done with death and done with Los Angeles, shaking the dust right off his feet, and he’d be done with Spike, too... except that Spike had a car. A car that was headed in the right direction.
“Yeah,” Lorne said heavily. “I need a ride.”
Spike tossed his cigarette butt to the pavement, grinding it out under his Docs. “Can take you as far as Needles.”
“Needles?” That name seemed weirdly familiar, but Lorne was very certain he’d never been there. “What’s in Needles?”
“Dunno,” Spike shrugged, looking up at the moon.
When he didn’t elaborate, Lorne sighed. “All right. I’d love a ride to Needles.”
“Right.” Spike turned without looking at him, moving stiffly, and slid behind the wheel. The door slammed shut like a gunshot.
Lorne’s phone rang then, and he glanced at the number before answering. He didn’t recognize it, which was good. He’d rather talk to a telemarketer than anyone he knew. “Hello?”
It was Lisa.
“Thanks so much, sweetie,” he said when she’d passed on her update. “Can you let that driver know I’m not going to be with my Volvo after all? I’ll just leave the keys in the cupholder. And, um, tell the dealership they can keep it. Or, you know, crush it. Set it on fire. Whatever. Ciao, sweetie!” He disconnected before he thought better of the bridges he was burning.
He swiftly gathered his small pile of belongings off the front seat -- cassette tapes and a box of Krispy Kremes -- and popped the trunk to get the suitcase he’d packed before he went on his “mission,” full of expensive suits and bright ties he doubted he’d ever wear again. He really needed to own more brown, the way he was feeling. 1970s brown velour of shame. Sackcloth.
He tossed it all on the back seat of Spike’s beast of a car, taking only the donuts up to the front. Wincing at the volume of the screaming from the radio, he slid onto the bench seat. It figured Spike’s car would have state-of-the-art speakers.
Though for a moment he welcomed the noise. Maybe if his eardrums blew out, he’d never have to listen to anyone sing, ever again. Though then he’d also never get to hear anyone sing, ever again, not even Frank Sinatra.
Maybe that was what he deserved.
Spike didn’t look at him, frowning as he fiddled with something on the dash. Under the car’s dome light, his bruises seemed harsher, livid purple against his pale, pale skin. There was dried blood in his hair. “You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” Lorne sighed, shifting the seat back to make room for his legs. For some reason, this made the radio even louder. “This is going to be the road trip from Hell,” he muttered under his breath, wrapping his brown leather coat a bit more snugly.
Spike grinned, shifting into gear. “Better buckle up.”
He screeched into a U-turn and peeled off down the road.
END CHAPTER 1