Road Trip

Written by Glassdarkly, November 2007

Buffy swerved to avoid a tree that had leapt out suddenly from the side of the road. Why were the trees around here so much more aggressive than the ones back home, she wondered? For that matter, why were these roads so narrow? Okay, so British cars were smaller than American ones, but not that much smaller.

"Ouch!" Cordelia's head had impacted against the side door with a dull clunk. "Watch where you're going, you moron!"

This was too much. Buffy turned to glare at her passenger. "Calling the driver a moron? Soo not a good idea!"

Cordelia ignored her. Instead, she made a big deal of rubbing her forehead and peering in the mirror for bruises.

Buffy scowled. Then she had to jam her foot on the brake as they approached another bend, sending Cordelia lurching forward. Easing around the bend in second gear – she was getting the hang of the stick shift now – Buffy put her foot down again. They were running out of time.

"I have whiplash," Cordelia moaned. "Why did I say I’d do this?"

Search me, Buffy wanted to say, but she clamped down on the words and bit out, "Have you worked out where we are yet? This demon isn't gonna slay itself, you know!"

On either side of the road, high hedges hid the surrounding countryside. Everything was very green and lush, which wasn't surprising since it never seemed to stop raining.

Beside her – and it was totally the wrong side for the passenger to be sitting and just - weird!- Cordelia stared down helplessly at the map, which was upside down and creased in all the wrong places.

"I think we're on one of these little yellow lines. No clue which one, though. They all look the same – or maybe it's just a join? And tell me again, why couldn't Giles provide us with a nice, neat little Thomas Guide, instead of this monstrosity? Is it some kind of lame Watcher practical joke?"

She grimaced. "What's more, you realise that between us we're living down to men's expectations big time?"

"What do you mean?" Buffy slowed down to a crawl to negotiate another bend. Then she jammed the brakes on hard. There was a car coming the other way – not a big one, just the regular two wheels at the front and two at the back kind, but it still seemed to be taking up way too much space. How were they going to get past? She swerved in to the side of the road as far as she could, scraping along the hedge. Branches rattled on the windshield.

"Watch out!" Cordelia had her hands over her eyes. Then the car dipped down horribly to the right, one wheel spinning in empty air as they teetered on the edge of a ditch, while the other car went past, horn blaring loudly.

"What's his problem?" Buffy turned round in her seat to glare at the receding vehicle. Until today, she'd always thought of the British as more polite than regular people – except for Spike, of course – but she was beginning to change her mind.

Cordelia's hands were still over her face. "You're on the wrong side of the road."

"Oh."

And that was another thing, Buffy thought, crossly. Why did the British have to be so contrary? Why couldn't they just drive on the right like sensible folks everywhere?

She spun the steering wheel over hard. The rental car groaned and protested but at last all four wheels were back on the tarmac. Buffy glanced up at the sky, which was grey and louring, the way it had been since they'd touched down at Heathrow. It wasn't easy to tell, what with the rain, but sunset couldn't be far off.

She veered back onto the left-hand side of the road.

"What did you mean – about us living down to men's expectations? What expectations?"

Cordelia’s brow furrowed in puzzlement as she stared at the map.

"I mean, you can't drive and I can't map-read, though of course I don’t blame myself for that. I mean, I didn’t figure I’d ever be stuck with you in a car that’s, like, a million years old and doesn’t have GPS."

She peered at the map more closely. "But even so, it’s embarrassing. We couldn't be more of a 1950s sitcom cliché if we saw a mouse and jumped on a table screaming. I'm just soo glad Angel isn't here to see us."

"I can so drive – and mice are cute." Buffy decided to ignore the mention of Angel. Best not to go there.

The hedges had levelled out. They were driving between rain-swept green fields that dipped and rose again towards the grey smudge of the horizon. It was all kind of pretty in spite of the weather, but Buffy was beginning to think they were going round in circles.

That could just be because the roads were so bendy, though.

"Why does this demon have to be slain exactly at sunset anyway?" Cordelia complained. "Surely a minute either way won’t matter?"

"Not according to Giles. He says that if we miss our moment, that's it. World go boom."

Cordelia turned the map around 45 degrees, and then another, like that might help somehow.

"Giles is always saying that. If I had a new pair of shoes for every time Giles says that, I'd so be Imelda Marcos, only way younger and prettier, and not so evil. And tell me again, why couldn't Giles come with you? Or Willow? Why me?"

"Giles has the flu, like I told you. It was all he could do to get out of bed for long enough to call some old Watchers’ Council buddy and fix it so we could drive in this country with no questions asked."

Buffy was sick and tired of repeating this spiel but Cordelia kept making her do it at regular intervals. "Besides, the prophecy was very specific. 'The vampire slayer and the seer will confront Grak the Devourer at the place of Hanging Stones at sunset', yadda yadda. Last I looked, I was the vampire slayer –"

"- and I'm the seer." Cordelia heaved a deep put-upon sigh. "I get it. But there're other seers, aren't there? I mean, Spike’s part of your merry little band these days, right? Couldn't you have gotten him to call up that insane ex of his and then brought her along instead of dragging me all this way out of my comfort zone? I don't do well in a damp climate."

Buffy tried to imagine, without success, Drusilla co-operating in such an enterprise. It would be like trying to herd a bunch of cats out of their heads on crack – not that she'd ever seen a cat out of its head on crack, but Drusilla probably had.

"And think," Cordelia went on, "you could've killed two birds with one stone by slaying the crazy bitch afterwards. A win-win situation for everyone."

"Enough with the whining!" If anything, Buffy thought, the road was getting even narrower. "Do you have the least idea where we are yet?"

"No!" Cordelia threw the map down into the footwell. "This is dumb! You map-read. I'll drive."

She huffed at the expression on Buffy's face. "I saw that look, Buffy Summers. I'll have you know, I've been driving for way longer than you. I even drive Angel's car sometimes and boy, does he love that car!"

"Angel trusts you with his car?" Buffy turned to gape at her in astonishment, just as another bend came up. A moment later, they were in the ditch again – both front wheels this time.

"Now look what you've done," Cordelia said, plaintively.

"Me?" Buffy grabbed the parking brake and pulled it hard. She switched off the engine. The car lurched forward and then seemed to settle, creaking and groaning ominously. There was a moment's tense silence except for the ping of protesting metal and the steady patter of rain on the windshield.

Cordelia folded her arms across her chest and took in a deep breath – show-off! Buffy thought. Cleavage that good ought to be illegal, especially near Angel - "Yes, you," Cordelia insisted. "Everyone knows drivers shouldn't let their passengers distract them. Now what are we gonna do?"

Buffy glanced at her watch. It was nearly 3.30pm, which, according to Giles, this time of year gave them about half an hour until sunset. Not long to get the car out of the ditch, find out where the hell they were and then find Stonehenge. Not for the first time, she wished Willow had perfected that teleporting spell, but so far, even with Tara's help, it had been a total bust.

They were on their own.

"First," she said, "we get back on the road. You get behind the wheel and put this heap of junk in reverse while I try and push it clear of the ditch."

She opened the driver's side door and stepped out onto the muddy grass verge. Within moments, she felt half-frozen, as the bitter wind drove the rain into her face. Her feet slipped and slid on mud – the same mud into which the car's front wheels were gradually sinking and which was caking her boots in seconds.

Grasping the front bumper, she pushed with all her might, while Cordelia kept her foot steadily on the gas pedal. Even with full Slayer strength duly exerted, however, the car was reluctant to budge, like it preferred to stay in its nice comfy ditch rather than be driven any further by said Slayer.

It wasn’t fair, Buffy thought. She’d driven the whole way from Heathrow and though it'd been unnerving at times, it had worked out mostly okay until they turned off the – was it the motorway, they called it here? Cordelia had only hidden her face behind her hands and screamed a couple of times, and the second time it had totally been that truck driver’s fault for swerving in front of them. He should've looked in his left-hand mirror, because how was Buffy to know you weren't supposed to overtake on the left here?

The car moved a fraction of an inch and then settled back into the ditch.

"Step on the gas, can’t you?" she called, pushing harder.

At her words, the engine noise rose to deafening levels, followed by the tortured sound of wheels spinning vainly in search of traction. Buffy felt something soft and wet hit her in the face and looked down to see mud flying away from the spinning wheels in big, wet clumps to splatter all over her. The front of her shirt was covered in nasty brown goop.

She gasped. Then she shut her mouth tight as she felt sticky wetness on her lips. The last thing she wanted was a mouthful of dirt.

"Sorry about that." Cordelia was leaning out the driver’s side window. "Before you go postal on me, I just wanna say that I knew not to rev the engine - but it's totally not my fault you ended up covered in mud. It's yours."

"Huh?" Buffy stared at her. She was wet and dirty and cold and now she was hanging on to her temper by a thread. "How the hell is it my fault? I just told you to do it, I didn't make you do it."

Cordelia had the grace to look sheepish. She opened her eyes all wide and innocent in a way that Buffy had a nasty feeling worked very well on Angel.

"I'm sorry," Cordelia said, again. "It's just that when you use that voice – you know, your Me Slayer, You Minion voice - people just want to do what you say. So I did. The burden of leadership, huh?"

"I have a Slayer voice?" Buffy wiped ineffectually at the front of her shirt, but it just made things more smeary. She glanced up at the sky. The rain was coming down harder than ever – and time was stopping for no one, like always.

Why did this Grak the Devourer have to make his big entrance at Stonehenge anyway? Okay, so world-famous landmark - been around since the Stone Age – but really, what was wrong with the beach at Malibu?

"Try pushing again," Cordelia said, in an encouraging tone. "I thought I felt it move before. Also, I promise to go easy on the gas this time."

There was nothing else to be done, and no saving her outfit, so Buffy grabbed hold of the bumper again, lifted it as high as she could and began to push. This time, the engine noise kept to a steady thrum, thrum. Buffy pushed. Then she coughed. The air was filling up with gasoline fumes. At this rate, she was going to choke to death before they ever reached Stonehenge.

Then, "It’s coming!" Cordelia yelled, excitedly. "Keep pushing!"

Buffy put her head down and pushed harder. The muscles in her arms protested, but then she was sprawling on her face on the muddy ground while the car slid smoothly back onto the road.

"Yes!" Cordelia air-punched out of the window. Then she looked at Buffy. "Oh."

"Don't you dare laugh at me!"

Buffy climbed slowly to her feet. She looked down at herself. She couldn't have been muddier if she'd rolled in the mud on purpose. Her hands were covered in dirt. She looked round vainly for something to wipe them on, but there was nothing except grass and yet more mud as far as the eye could see.

Cordelia had turned off the engine. She climbed out of the car. Just for a moment, her lip twitched. Then she said, "Oh hey, it's not so bad, Buffy. I mean, it's just mud and you know, it could be demon goop, right?"

Buffy looked down at herself. She looked at Cordelia's immaculate clothes – her designer shoes – and those were really, really nice shoes.

"What would you know about demon goop?" Suddenly, she felt like crying.

Cordelia had gone around to the trunk of the car and opened it. She fished about inside and produced a spotless white towel and a blanket.

"Here." She handed Buffy the towel. Then she shook the blanket open and wrapped it round her shoulders. "Pity we can't stop to get you a hot drink but maybe afterwards we'll treat ourselves?"

"How?" Buffy wiped her hands on the towel, sullying the pristine whiteness with sticky prints. Her eyes still had an annoying tendency to well-up but at least she could wipe them now her hands were clean.

Cordelia grinned. "Easy. Wesley told me the name of a good hotel near where we're going – says it has great showers, unlike most places here – and Angel paid me expenses in advance so we can totally afford it."

"Expenses?" Buffy allowed Cordelia to steer her round to the passenger side door, open it, and push her in. She drew the line at letting Cordelia fasten her seatbelt, though.

"It's okay, Cordy. I'm fine."

She watched as Cordelia walked round to the driver's side, got in and started the engine.

"Why are you being so nice to me?"

Cordelia grimaced. She signalled left, glanced back over her shoulder and pulled out into the road.

"Because you're the one that can map-read?" she said sarcastically, but she smiled to take the sting out of her words. Buffy took the hint. She picked up the map from where Cordelia had discarded it in the footwell.

Once she had it the right way round, and once she’d worked out what was mud and what was actual road, it didn't take long to find Stonehenge and then the place where Cordelia had insisted they turn off the main highway and take a short cut. It was true, Buffy thought. She was good at map-reading – always had been. Giles said it was all down to her heightened Slayer-sense of spatial awareness, but whatever.

"It's not far." Suddenly, she felt an awful lot more optimistic. "We'll come to a crossroads in a minute. When we do, take a left."

"You're the boss." Cordelia moved up a gear. She was driving fast, but smoothly, steering into the corners.

"Well," she demurred, quickly, "when I say you’re the boss, I don’t mean you’re the boss of me, cuz that’ll never happen. I just mean you’re in charge of this mission."

"Sure, I get that." Buffy glanced sidelong at her. That sounded more like the old Cordelia – by her own admission, the nastiest girl in Sunnydale history – but even so, she didn't seem quite like she had in high school.

"In answer to your question," Cordelia went on, sounding faintly embarrassed, "I'm not being nice. I don't do nice, if you recall, but I do know a lot about demon goop – been covered in it more times than I like to remember. So I'm not about to laugh at someone whose gotten splattered in the line of duty."

They turned left at the crossroads. The road was wider now. They were heading east and the sky in front of them was growing darker by the minute.

Buffy glanced at her watch. 3.45.

"Better step on it – and take the next right."

"Sure." They were pushing it, but it didn't feel like it now, even round the bends.

"You're good." It was a hard thing to admit – to Cordelia, of all people – but after the terrifying ride she must have given her since Heathrow, Buffy felt she had to fess up.

"Thanks." Cordelia didn't take her eyes off the road. "I've had a lot of practice in L.A. – driving Angel on missions and stuff? Sometimes, you need to get places in a hurry." She slowed down to take the right turn, glancing at Buffy as she did so.

"And you're good at map-reading. I remembered from that visit to the zoo in sophomore year? You were the only one who could follow the zoo guide well enough to work out where stuff was."

"Oh." Suddenly, Buffy felt a laugh bubbling up inside her. "Are we bonding?"

"Bonding? As if!" Cordelia looked scornful. Then she grimaced. "Maybe a little. After all, when you get covered in demon goop on a regular basis, you learn not to freak out about the small things, right?"

"I guess you do," Buffy agreed. "Turn left at the junction ahead and we should be nearly there."

"Yeah," Cordelia went on, blithely. "After all this time in the demon-fighting business, what with the visions and blinding headaches, I understand you a whole lot better." She gave Buffy a sympathetic look. "I mean, your life's totally crappy, you're gonna die young and you have zero chance of dating a normal guy. It sucks."

"Huh?" Buffy glared at her in indignation. She opened her mouth to say that she could so date a normal guy, because - Riley! But then she remembered the Initiative and Adam and Maggie Walsh and bit her tongue hard. Maybe 'normal' wasn't quite the right word after all?

"But the thing is," Cordelia went on, "My life is more than usually crappy too these days, and I don't see myself living to a ripe old age without my head exploding. As for dating – well, there was Xander Harris, but he's, like, a demon magnet and totally lame, so he doesn’t count. Then there was Doyle– and he actually was a demon, plus he died on me, so you see, the dating thing can go bad on the best of us."

She slowed down for the junction. "So the way I figure it, and much though it pains me to say it, you and me aren’t such poles apart as we used to be."

"I guess so." It was a gloomy thought, but Buffy had to agree.

"Either that -" Cordelia looked worried suddenly - "or we're turning British. I mean, Wesley's all moan, moan, moan, and then, I so mustn't grumble. What's with that?"

Buffy laughed, the sombre mood broken. "I don't know, but it sounds just like Giles."

They came smoothly to a halt at the junction. The road – the A303, according to the map -was quiet. It seemed most folks had too much sense than to be out on a night like this.

Cordelia turned left and there, up ahead of them on a little hill islanded by roads, was Stonehenge. It was difficult to make anything out through the rain, but there didn't seem to be anyone around at all –or any way of getting to it.

"Quick! Turn that way!" Buffy pointed to the right, directing Cordelia towards the parking lot, and they turned off onto another road, with the monument on their left.

"It doesn't look like much," Cordelia said, scornfully, but Buffy could feel a mounting excitement within her. Her Slayer senses were going apeshit. Whoever this Grak the Devourer was, this place didn't like him and it wanted her to know it.

"Pull in, pull in!" The minute they drew up in the empty parking lot, she was out of the car and rummaging in the trunk for her axe, then she was off and running. The drying mud on her jeans made them stiff and hard to move in, but time was running out so she ignored the discomfort and kept going.

"Hey, wait for me!" Cordelia was coming after her. Buffy considered telling her to wait in the car and save those gorgeous shoes, but when she glanced back over her shoulder, Cordelia had an axe of her own. When had she become so eager to get down and dirty? Again, with the spectre of Angel looming, it seemed best not to go there.

The monument was fenced in on all sides, but the barrier wasn't much of a hindrance to a Slayer. Buffy was up and over the chain-link fence in a moment. Okay, so she had to stop to help Cordy over, but still, basically no problem.

"Don't wait for me! Get going!" Cordelia pushed her – and something was happening ahead, amongst the looming stones.

Away from the road and seen close up, they were much more impressive – great, grey slabs of rock towering way over Buffy's head, some of them balanced precariously on top of others like the roof on a giant's house that had half-fallen in.

There was a patch of bare ground in the centre of the circle and in the centre of that, at the base of the biggest standing stone, someone had lit a fire that sparked and sent clouds of dirty grey smoke into the air. In fact, that same someone – some creep in a long, red hooded cloak, was still there.

He was chanting in a language that Buffy didn't recognise – not that she recognised many, in spite of Giles's best efforts - and waving his hands around a lot. He didn't seem to have heard them coming.

Buffy stopped. Her hands tightened on the axe. "Okay, mister. Stand up and turn around nice and slow and you won't get hurt - maybe."

The red-cowled figure froze in the act of making an arcane hand-pass. Then, "It’s a fair cop," it said, with a nervous giggle – a man's voice with a British accent –"I'll come quietly."

Cordelia had caught up with Buffy by this time. She was a little out of breath, which made Buffy feel just a tad smug. Cordelia might be all down with the demon-fighting these days but it seemed she still needed to work on her fitness.

Red Riding Hood did what he was told, revealing himself as a young, pudgy-faced guy with a wispy ginger beard. He blinked in surprise when he saw Buffy and Cordelia. Then he puffed out his chest and straightened his shoulders, trying to look macho and threatening.

"You don't look like the filth." He'd adopted a blustering tone that reminded Buffy just a tad of Spike. "You site security, or what?"

Filth? Buffy looked down at her clothes. Okay, so she was filthy but there was no need to be personal.

She opened her mouth to give the guy a piece of her mind but Cordelia cut in quickly.

"I'll ask the questions, mister. Who're you and what are you doing here?"

At the sound of her voice, the guy's mouth gaped open in astonishment. Then he began to gush.

"You're Americans," he burbled. "That's so cool. Are you here for the Ascension too? I ask because I've got a lot of American friends on the 'net who're devotees of Grak. We chat all the time. I did hope some of them would make it."

He glanced around at the dark, threatening mass of stones, the sheeting rain and lashing November gale. The sky to the east was black.

"Bit of a disappointing turn out really, but mustn't grumble, I s'pose."

Cordelia gave Buffy a sidelong glance and rolled her eyes.

"What'd I say?" she muttered.

Then she folded her arms across her chest in that same strategic position, and suddenly the guy was transfixed.

"What's your name, freak?" she demanded.

The guy kept staring. Buffy saw him swallow hard. "Derek Potterton. What’s yours and do you –" he gave Cordelia a look of puppy-like devotion –" um, have a boyfriend?"

Cordelia made a disgusted face. "That depends. Do you happen to be not just a total nutso nerd freak but also a billionaire software designer who's still into the whole Dungeons and Dragons thing and just slumming it?"

"Um –" Derek said, again. Then he sighed. "No."

"In that case -" Cordelia’s voice was stern - "I most definitely do have a boyfriend – not that it's any of your business."

"Me too," Buffy put in, but Derek didn't even glance her way. It was kind of disheartening, even if the guy was some kind of demon-worshipper. Obviously, being covered from head to toe in mud played havoc with a gal's dating prospects just as much as being the Slayer.

Buffy glanced at her watch again. 4.03. If this Grak was as punctual as the prophecy said, he should be here any minute.

Derek must have seen her looking, because he glanced at his own watch. Then he looked over his shoulder to where his fire was sputtering in the rain.

"So –" he said, backing up a pace, "if you're not devotees of Grak, why are you here?"

"Oh," Cordelia took a firmer grip on her axe. "Just admiring the world famous landmark. Why do you ask?"

Derek looked faintly suspicious now. "But you do know about Grak? I mean, you didn't even ask who he was." A malicious grin split his face. "And you're not devotees. Do you know what he'll do to you when he finds you here?"

"Do tell." Cordelia adopted a fighting stance – rather clumsily, Buffy thought. "Then again, don't."

If Cordelia had hoped the girl power stance would intimidate Derek, she was out of luck, because suddenly, Derek whirled round. He ran back to the fire and threw himself down in front of it, chanting at top speed and waving his hands about like a maniac.

"Uh-oh." Cordelia moved back behind Buffy. "What?" she said, off Buffy's look. "You're the Slayer. I just see stuff."

Great, Buffy thought. When it came down to the slash and bash, she was on her own as usual.

Derek's hands were raised in an imploring gesture.

"Oh mighty Grak," he intoned, "your servant has lit the banefire in the place of your Ascension. Come, oh master, and take possession of your kingdom."

Buffy took a moment to wonder who wrote this stuff, though she was pretty sure that in this instance, Derek had written it himself, and the unknown language he'd been speaking in before had been Klingon. She raised the axe to shoulder height and balanced on her toes.

A shape was forming in the midst of the flames – something tall and horned and with far more teeth than it could possibly need. Huge arms, thick as tree trunks, spread wide revealing a powerful chest covered with thick, horny skin, like hide.

Derek stared up in shocked awe.

"Bloody hell!"

The apparition threw back its horned head and laughed and from above, a flash of lightning seared down from the sky and lit the scene bright as day just for an instant.

"At last!" Grak roared. "I am free from my prison. Now – now – the world will tremble before me! Mountains will crumble, cities will fall. All will die screaming in a ruin of fire and brimstone!"

"Yeah, yeah." If you'd heard one power-mad demon boasting about ending the world, you'd heard them all, Buffy thought.

She ran two steps forward, vaulted onto Derek's bowed back and swung the axe with all her strength. A moment later, she was leaping back to the ground – the same ground over which Grak's head was bouncing, neatly separated from his shoulders.

Buffy set the axe-blade down and rested her weight on the hilt. On one side of her, Derek gaped in stunned horror, while on the other, Cordelia dropped her own axe and broke into rapturous applause.

Buffy couldn't help preening a little, in spite of the mud. Suddenly, she felt almost quippy.

"Maybe next time he'll do what any self-respecting would-be world-ender does and be fashionably late –not that there'll be a next time."

Derek got to his feet. From the look on his face, he was about to cry.

"You killed him!" His tone was aggrieved. "You sodding well up and killed him!" He sounded like Spike again, except a lot whinier.

"Well – yeah." Buffy rolled her eyes. "He was gonna end the world, you numbskull, and you’re in the world, so he was gonna end you."

"Oh." Derek looked amazed, as if he hadn’t even thought of such a thing. Then, "How did you do it? You’re just a girl."

Buffy was about to give him the one girl in the all the world spiel but Cordelia cut in before she even had time for the basics.

"She’s a super-powered vampire slayer. I’m a seer. There was a prophecy. End of story. Now run along home before your mom sends out a search party."

"Bugger." Derek hugged himself. His long red cloak was sodden and so was his pathetic little beard – and, Buffy thought, the two colours clashed horribly. Then he heaved a deep sigh. "I ‘spose you’re right."

He brightened just a tad. "If I hurry, I might be home in time for tea. She’s making shepherd’s pie tonight."

"Well, there you go, then." Cordelia made shooing motions with her hands and Derek turned to go. He looked back over his shoulder longingly at her. "Are you sure you have a boyfriend?"

Cordelia put her hands on her hips and frowned horribly. "I said, shoo – or I’ll set the Slayer on you."

"Noo!" Derek gave Buffy a scared look. Then he ran, like a large, scarlet-robed rabbit.

Cordelia squinted up the sky. It was almost fully dark now. "Well, that was weird – and a bit anticlimactic."

Buffy was looking at the huge demon body sprawled across the open space between the stones. The fire had gone out when Grak fell on it and there was a charred smell in the air. She wrinkled her nose. "Eww!"

"Yeah. Shall we?" Cordelia gestured with her axe towards the parking lot and Buffy nodded. They started walking back the way they’d come, leaving the stones to brood in peace.

"What do you think will happen when they find the body?" Cordelia asked.

Buffy shrugged. Stuff it, maybe, and display it in a museum? They had a lot of museuems in Britain, right? Just now, she couldn’t care less. The mission was completed and she was beginning to feel the full extent of her mud-coveredness - not to mention the rain was coming on harder than ever. The hot showers Cordelia had talked about were beckoning ever Buffywards.

"Is it far to this hotel?" she asked.

Cordelia shrugged. "I have no idea. I'm just the driver." Then she grinned. "One thing I do know, though, is that they do the best cream teas in Wiltshire. At least, that's what Wesley said."

"They serve tea with cream?" Buffy made a face. That didn't sound very nice. She was sure Giles wouldn’t approve.

"No, dummy!" Cordelia rolled her eyes. She watched as Buffy leapt over the fence, then tossed her axe for Buffy to catch while she climbed over herself.

"It means scones with butter, strawberry jelly and whipped cream. Wesley says it's yummy."

It did sound good. Buffy frowned. "It sounds way fattening."

"True." Cordelia jumped the last couple of feet to the ground. Then she grinned. "Tell you what, we could share one and halve the guilt, seeing as we've bonded and stuff."

They jogged the last hundred yards to the parking lot, with night closing down around them. Cordelia's hands were cold and fumbled with the key, but then the car door was open and they were in the dry at last.

There was a moment's exhausted but satisfied silence. Cordelia sighed and stretched.

"We make a good team."

Then she frowned, as if realising what she'd just said. "Not that I wanna be in a team with you or anything, but we just do."

"Likewise," Buffy assured her, but in spite of that, they smiled at each other, temporarily at peace.

It could be worse, Buffy thought. She might be wet-through and covered with mud and intimidated by Cordelia’s all-powerful cleavage but after all, there was this cream tea in store and they'd saved the world.

She really mustn’t grumble.