The desert landscape stretched endlessly on either side of the long, straight highway. The heat shimmered off the asphalt adding to the illusion of infinite distance. Rupert Giles, former Watcher and fellow survivor of the Sunnydale collapse, blinked repeatedly. Yet the illusion persisted. Perhaps it wasn’t a mere illusion, he thought glumly. Perhaps this road was like the emotional distance between he and Buffy. No end in sight. He heard movement in the seat behind him and plastered on a neutral expression. But Willow was not fooled. “You okay, Giles? Want me to drive for a bit?”
“I’m fine, Willow. You should rest. Don’t worry about me.”
“Giles. You’ve been driving for hours and you’re exhausted. Kennedy has her license. Let her drive for a bit.”
The Watcher shuddered, remembering all to clearly the drive out to the desert with the potentials. He had foolishly let his California driver’s license expire and therefore had to depend on the few potentials old enough to drive. The experience had been so harrowing he’d gone out the next day to get his license reinstated. “I’m fine, Willow. I promise I’ll stop at the next town, alright?”
“Do you even know where the next town is, Giles? Seems like we’ve been driving forever without seeing anyone.”
“I’d imagine the lorries need petrol stations, at the very least.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Willow look at him strangely. He sighed, “The trucks need a place to er, gas up.”
Willow put her hand on his shoulder, “I knew what you meant Giles, I was just teasing. After all this time I think we can all understand your British idioms.”
“If she means we speak Brit, then what she said,” Xander piped up from a few rows back.
“Yeah, but we still measure distance in miles, not kilometers,” Dawn added.
Giles spared a quick look in the rearview mirror, wondering if Buffy was going to be drawn into the conversation. But, she remained quiet, staring out the window.
“Give her time, Giles. Things are still a bit raw right now.” Willow squeezed his shoulder and took a seat next to Kennedy.
He had been driving nearly an hour and there was still no sign of civilization. They’d managed to siphon some gas from an abandoned Mobil station, but nothing looked promising as a place to stop and rest. He rubbed the back of his neck and winced, the desert sun having left him with quite a nasty sunburn.
A small hand soothed a cool gel onto the burn. He looked up into the mirror expecting to find either Willow or Dawn and nearly swerved when he discovered it was Buffy. “That looks pretty painful. One of the girls liberated a few supplies while you and Xan were taking care of the fuel problem.”
“Thank you. It does feel better. Uh, Buffy.” Whatever he was about to say was halted by Buffy.
“Not now, Giles. We’re both exhausted and emotions are pretty raw. I don’t want either of us saying something they regretted.”
He nodded. As much as he wanted to talk things out with her, she was right. This was not the time or the place. That’s when they noticed the small crop of buildings just off the road which thankfully included a motel. Even if it were deserted, it would at least offer them temporary shelter. Perhaps it was a sign, like Buffy applying a balm to his sunburned neck, that the distance between them was not insurmountable.