Chapter Eighteen

Buffy tried not to smile as she looked over at Faith who was as white as a ghost and gripping her armrests so tightly that they creaked under the pressure. Her eyes were clenched shut and her lips were pressed together in a straight line. It was her first time on an airplane and she wasn't dealing so well.

And the fact that her reaction was so severe while the plane was only boarding didn't bode well for the actual flight.

"You need to try to relax," Buffy said calmly.

Faith opened her eyes and glanced over at Buffy without turning her head which was pressed firmly back against the headrest.

"You relax."

"I am relaxed."

"Stop braggin'!"

She closed her eyes once again and Buffy had to cover her mouth to stop from laughing. Big bad Faith could take on a nine-hundred pound Chitunda demon with her bare hands but she couldn't take a two and a half hour flight in first class. It was hard for Buffy to digest.

"How is it possible that you were ready to face three men with guns but you can't take a simple flight?"

"At this point I'd rather take on the guns."

"Well it's too late for that. They're already on a plane back to England."

"Good for them. I hope they fuckin' crash." Suddenly Faith's eyes shot open. "Fuck, wait, no. I take that back. No crashes today. Nothin' but good karma here."

The last of the boarding passengers walked by them and Buffy smiled as they passed, hoping that they hadn't heard their conversation. She didn't want to get kicked off any planes today. When the coast was clear, she turned to Faith and spoke quietly.

"Flying is safer than driving."

"Listen B, if humans were supposed to fly we'd have wings. Haulin' us around in big tin cans in the sky is the stupidest idea in the history of ever. And if I wanted to . . ." she froze as one of the stewardesses closed the door with a loud thump, ". . . what the fuck was that?"

"They're just closing the doors, calm down," Buffy said.

"I thought we already covered the calming down thing, yeah? Ain't happenin'. Just get that heavy cinderblock you call a suitcase and hit me over the fuckin' head with it. That's the only way I'm . . . what the hell is that noise?"

Faith's eyes were wide as she glanced out the small window to her side. She'd wanted the aisle seat but Buffy had told her no, afraid Faith would get up and try to jump out the door once they were in the sky.

Buffy listened carefully to determine what Faith was going on about and figured it out once she got a peek out the window.

"It's just the wings, they're raising the flaps."

"What the fuck for? Is the plane about to turn into a fuckin' Autobot?"

The passenger in front of them cleared his throat and Buffy smiled apologetically when he looked back. When he turned away, Buffy glared at Faith and whispered harshly.

"You need to lower your voice if you're gonna keep freaking out. And clean up the language. If they kick us off of this plane we're stuck in California, right where the Council will look for us first."

"Fine fine, fuckin' fine," Faith replied, getting one last curse in there. She continued to stare out the window, her knuckles white from gripping the armrests so hard.

Buffy shook her head and looked out into the first-class cabin but then she remembered something.

"What's an Autobot?"

"Transformers," Faith said. The look on Buffy's face must have relayed that she was still clueless because Faith elaborated even more. "Robots in disguise?"

Buffy shrugged her shoulders, still unaware of what Faith was talking about, and grabbed the in-flight magazine from the pouch of the chair in front of her. She opened it and flipped casually through the pages, trying to find something interesting to read.

"Let me guess," Faith began mockingly, "you were one of those kids who played with Barbies and My Little Pony and all of those other stupid girly toys, right?"

Her eyes still focused on the magazine, Buffy replied, "I'm sure they were only stupid to the kid who dressed their robots in Barbie's wedding dress."

She heard an indistinguishable sound come from her side and looked over to see Faith giving her the most confused look she'd ever seen. Had it been on anyone else she'd have called it cute.

"I don't even know what to say to that," Faith said. "What the hell are you talkin' about?"

" ‘Robots in disguise'?" Buffy said as if obvious, repeating Faith's description from a few moments before.

Faith shook her head, a look of complete disbelief on her face. She let go of her death grip on the arm rests and scratched the back of her head, then ran her fingers through her long hair.

"Guess that settles the question if you're a natural blonde or not."

They settled into what was the most comfortable silence they'd had since they'd arrived at the airport. Faith finally seemed to be a tiny bit less worried and she reached into the pouch in front of her for her own magazine. Finding it empty, she leaned over the armrest and peeked over Buffy's shoulder, trying to find something interesting to read on the same page she was reading.

"Don't, that's creepy," Buffy said. She moved a bit more toward the aisle but Faith just leaned further over with her. "I'm seriously considering hitting you over the head with my carry-on bag at this point."

"Got a feeling there's rules against assault and baggery on planes. Might just have to pucker up again if you wanna keep me distracted." Faith wiggled her eyebrows and Buffy grunted with distaste and used her elbow to push Faith away from her.

"You know, I had a feeling you'd go there," Buffy said neutrally. She reached down into one of the smaller bags she had stashed between her feet and rustled around a bit. After a moment she plopped a small stack of papers onto Faith's lap. "Know that I stole those for you from the twelve year old boy that was sitting next to us at the departure gate."

Faith looked down at her lap and her eyes lit up as she turned the small stack around so that she could read the brightly colored covers.

"Comic books? You stole me comic books!"

"I sure did. That should buy me three hours of silence, right?"

"Shit, at least! Thanks B! I take back all that shit I said about you being a prissy little girl."

Buffy clenched her teeth and tried to keep focused on the magazine she was holding. "You didn't say anything like that."

"Oh," Faith replied and seemed to be trying to find a way to backtrack. After a minute she shrugged. "Well sorry I thought it then. Whatever. We good?"

"Perfect," Buffy said through her still clenched teeth. "Juuuuuust perfect."

She focused on her breathing and keeping calm and barely noticed the small motion when the plane began to slowly back out of its place at the terminal. Faith must have felt it though because the comic books slid to the floor with a quiet slip and Buffy suddenly began to hear the sound of the armrest creaking once again. She wasn't going to look, wasn't going to pay any attention to it, really, but when she heard a loud crack, she knew that she just couldn't ignore it.

"Shit," Faith said, holding the now broken armrest in her hand. She was as white as a ghost again and breathing hard and quick. "Shit, shit, shit."

Stowing away her previous annoyance for another time, Buffy let it all go with a deep breath.

"Hey," she said calmly, "it's fine, Faith. Everything is fine."

"Feel like I'm gonna lose my lunch here."

"Then let's be prepared for that, alright? Come on, let go of the armrest, it's not gonna help you now."

Faith did as she was told and the armrest fell to the floor with a soft thud. Her hand immediately reached out for something else to grab onto and in its haste, grabbed onto Buffy's hand. Buffy allowed the contact and actually laced her fingers through Faith's, gritting her teeth when Faith clasped on way too tight.

The plane began to approach the runway and Buffy quickly grabbed the barf-bag from the back of the seat in front of her. She tucked it in Faith's free hand and then sat back, watching the girl carefully.

"Just breathe."

"You better not tell anyone about this," Faith said through her clenched teeth and Buffy smiled.

"Your secret's safe with me."

Luckily for Buffy, Faith didn't need to use the barf bag. Once they'd finished their ascent and were above the cloud cover, Faith seemed to find a sense of peace that stayed with her through the rest of the flight. She seemingly forgot about the comic books on the floor at her feet and instead looked out the window the entire time. She even forgot to let go of Buffy's hand until Buffy got up to the bathroom.

When Buffy returned to her seat they didn't hold hands again . . . until the plane began to descend. Faith's new sense of calm went right out the window during the landing. As they pulled up to a small log cabin in an airport convenience van, Buffy was still rubbing her sore hand. She didn't think it'd ever feel right again.

"This the place Xander told you about?" Faith asked, leaning forward to check the building out.

"Looks like," Buffy said. "He didn't book reservations for us because it could be traceable but he said there are tons of vacancies and that it's supposed to be pretty isolated."

"I'll say," the driver said. "This has to be almost a hundred miles off my route."

"And we told ya we'd make it worth your while, didn't we?" Faith asked. "B, pay the man." She stepped out of the van and grabbed their bags from the back along with a few bundles of towels, bedding, and basic supplies they'd purchased from a store along the way. Dropping them on the wooden porch of the cabin, she began to check the place out.

Buffy pulled the small manila envelope from her purse and pulled out two hundred-dollar bills. She handed them to the man and then pulled out another fifty-dollar bill, holding it just beyond his grasp.

"You never saw us, right?"

"Forgot your face already, sweetcheeks," he replied. He grabbed the fifty from her hand and winked, barely waiting for her to step out of the vehicle before pulling away.

The sun was already beginning to set and Buffy looked around the area, taking in the tall trees and the mountains that seemed to completely surround them. The small cabin had a sign on it that said ‘check-in' and there was a row of electric golf-carts for rent alongside it.

"Stay out here with our stuff, I'll go check us in." Already half way up the steps, Buffy stopped and reached into her pocket and tossed her cell phone to Faith. "Call Giles and let him know we're here?" Faith nodded and Buffy continued her ascent.

Stepping up onto the wooden porch, she opened up the screen door at the top of the steps and stepped inside, a high-pitched bell alerting the clerk to her presence. He quickly got up from his recliner and turned off the television he'd been watching, then made his way behind the desk and smiled amiably.

"Welcome to Seven Hills. Do you have reservations or are you looking for a place to stay while passing through?"

"We don't have reservations but we aren't exactly passing through either. We're calling it an extended holiday." Her tone was chipper – maybe too chipper – but it just made the man smile even bigger.

"Well that's great," he replied. "We have plenty of cabins available and even a few that are long-term. I can give you some great weekly rates because we haven't quite hit tourist season yet and the regulars don't come until at least July."

"That sounds great," Buffy said, smiling. "Are there a lot of campers registered right now?"

"Only a handful, honey, and they're mostly in the short-term section. If you'll be staying with us a while we'll probably stick you in one of the more private areas at the back of the range. That is, unless you'd like to be nearby."

"No, no, privacy is good. We just want someplace nice and quiet to relax."

"Then I've got the perfect cabin for you," he said. He reached behind him onto a splintered wooden shelving unit and produced an old key, along with a bunch of paperwork. "Now this paperwork is all just a formality. We have to keep it on record here for tax purposes."

"It's not a problem," Buffy replied. "Is cash okay?"

"Cash is king," he joked. "But you are eighteen, right? I need at least one person of age to fill out the paperwork for insurance purposes."

Buffy nodded and reached into her pocket, pulling out her drivers license. She slid it over the counter and, after a quick inspection by the man, she tucked it safely away. Quickly filling out the forms, she gave them one last look-over before handing them back.

"Looks good," he said as he quickly perused them. "You'll be staying at the Walker Cabin. It has two bedrooms, a kitchenette and bath, a brand new fireplace, and a nice cozy living room. I think you'll find it a perfect place to relax."

"Sounds great," Buffy replied, breathing just a little bit easier.

They were almost out of the woods now. All they had to do was figure out a way to stop the mayor and the council. Okay, so maybe not as far out of the woods as she'd thought, but at least the threat of immediate harm was gone and they were still breathing.

"Here's a map of the campgrounds," he said, placing a color brochure on the counter and opening it up until it displayed the map. He drew a circle around the cabin they were in and then a line down the twists and bends of roads until he came upon a cabin way out in the middle of nowhere it seemed. He circled the cabin and slid the map closer to Buffy. "That's your best route. My wife Sue runs a small general store along the way if you need any last minute items. It's open from noon til nine every day. Your cabin's a good three, three and a half mile hike from here but you girls are young. I'm sure you can make it in no time."

Buffy frowned. Camping? Not so much her thing. The cabin made it more tolerable than tent camping but hiking through three-plus miles of wilderness with their bags did not sound like a fun time. She looked out the window and bit her lower lip as she spotted the golf carts.

Frivolous, maybe, but she was still a city girl and she wasn't willing to part with basic amenities at this point. They weren't yet at the point of desperation.

"Is there any chance we can rent one of the golf carts? For a few days, at least. We'll need to hit the general store tomorrow and I think it would be wise to have something to load everything onto."

"Of course." He turned and pulled a key from a row of hooks on the wall and handed it to Buffy along with another form to fill out. She quickly scribbled her information on it and handed it back to him. "The fee is twelve dollars a day. You're responsible for plugging it in and charging it up once you get to your cabin."

"Not a problem," Buffy said as she pulled some money from the manila envelope. "Here's sixty, just so we don't have to drive down every day."

"We have a maintenance crew that does the rounds every day. If you decide you've had enough fun with the cart, you can have them take it down for you if you like. Just make sure it's charged," he replied as he took the money and put it in a small metal cash box. "Other than that, enjoy your stay and let me know if you need anything. My name's Charlie."

"Thanks Charlie," Buffy said with a smile and made sure she had the keys and everything else she'd gone in there with. Satisfied that she had everything, she walked out through the creaky old screen door and immediately noticed that Faith had abandoned her duty of watching their baggage. "Faith?"

She looked around the immediate area but still saw no sign of the girl.

"Faith? This is just great!" she whispered harshly. "I leave you alone for five minutes and you leave our only belongings to be bag-napped!"

But Buffy's annoyance quickly gave way to panic. They needed to stay within one hundred yards of each other. If Faith had wandered off . . . god, there could be no way of telling where she was if she was laying dead somewhere!

"Faith!" she said a bit louder and nearly jumped out of her skin when a loud thud sounded off to her side. She jumped back to see Faith standing there, having just jumped down from the cabin roof. "Are you insane!"

"Not since I started Scooby-rehab," she answered easily. "The reception's shit out here. Couldn't get a signal so I tried to get to higher ground."

"Well do you think you can be a bit more discreet next time?" she asked in a loud whisper, putting on a fake smile and waving as Charlie peeked out the window at them.

"Sure thing, B. Next time I'll just put on my Superman costume and fly around ‘til I get a signal. That better?" Ignoring the look Buffy gave her, Faith picked up a couple of the bags and looked at Buffy. "So where we headed?"

Buffy bent down and picked up the remainder of the bags, wincing at the pain in her still sore hand. Without so much as a word, Faith took the bags from her and waited for direction. Trying to hide her surprise, Buffy cleared her throat a little.

"Uh, our cabin is pretty far so I rented one of the golf carts for a few days." She held out the key and Faith somehow found a way to grab it from her despite the fact that she was carrying all of the bags. "My name is on the cart, Faith; I'm driving."

"You've got a gimpy hand, you can't drive."

"You're the reason for said gimpyness!" She followed after Faith who started off toward the golf carts.

"Details, details. Fact of the matter is that I've got the key and I ain't givin' it up. Now you've got two choices: You can ride on me or you can walk alone."

"Ride with you," Buffy corrected warily and Faith grinned.

"Details, details."

She winked at Buffy and found the car that matched the number on the key. It was plugged into the electric but she disconnected the cord without much ado. Dumping the bags onto the back and securing them with a strap, she hopped into the drivers seat and started it up. She backed it out of its space and pulled up alongside Buffy, giving her a sexy grin.

"C'mon and take a ride with me, B. If you play your cards right I'll let you honk the horn."

Buffy raised an eyebrow and took a deep breath. There was nothing more she would have liked to do than blow Faith off after that but it was gonna get really dark really soon and she was pretty sure that there was at least one bear lurking in the forest that preferred Buffys to picnic baskets. Besides, she'd have to practically run after the cart in order to keep Faith in their hundred yard bubble.

That bubble was going to get very annoying very quickly.

Saying nothing, Buffy climbed into the passenger seat and had to quickly grab onto the dashboard as Faith took off at top speed.

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