Author's Chapter Notes:
Yes, I will be returning to my other fic, Omniscient very soon. It will be short, only a couple of chapters. Also, this won't get too grahic because most of it is based in reality of several different vacations I took. Title is from the Robert Frost poem, Road not Taken.
They were lost.

It was night. And raining.

There was also a noxious smell emanating from the passing woods making her eyes water.

Buffy rubbed her forehead and sighed heavily. She was cramped in the back seat of Xander’s tiny Dodge Omni with her least favorite person in the world, and she had a sleeping bag pushing against the back of her head, causing her to practically kiss the headrest in front of her. Why on earth she had ever agreed to this camping trip with Xander and Willow she would never, ever know.


She’d figured it would be a great summer break get-away before she, Xander, and Willow started their senior year in high school, a time to reflect on where she was headed in her life. She’d accounted for the fact that she would be a third wheel, and so was totally surprised when Xander announced that he would be bringing the bane of her existence, William ‘Spike’ Pratt, along on their little expedition. Once that was discovered - as they were packing up the rusty bucket Xander called a car - she tried to back out gracefully, saying she had a couple books left to read from her summer reading list and should really be helping her mother at the gallery.

That earned her a disgusted look from Willow, who knew she never studied unless there was a gun to her head. Xander looked hurt at the fact that his cousin could instill such loathing in one of his best friends, so he glared at Spike and suggested he should patch things up with Buffy, and apologize for whatever was causing the rift between them. Said blond moseyed over to the trunk of the car, threw in his gear, and slapped Buffy on the backside.

“Forgive me, pet?” He smirked at the outrage plastered across her face. “I’m not the big bad wolf… `less you want me to be.”

“You bastard!” she ground out. “If you think I’m gonna forgive you for taking those naked pictures of me in the shower, you’re seriously deluded!”

His cousin’s eyebrows shot up towards his hairline. “You have pictures of a naked Buffy? In the shower? Since when?” He grimaced as Willow punched his arm.

“Remember that weekend thing we all did `bout three years ago - that Halloween festival in a godforsaken backwater little town?”

Xander nodded, recalling the fun they had all been having until that last night, when Buffy had just glared at everyone and everything. He had figured it was just her time of the month causing her be so moody.

“Yeah well, princess here was takin’ a shower before puttin’ on her fairy wings. I couldn’t resist!” He laughed unrepentantly, looking over at a fuming red Buffy, as he waggled his eyebrows. “Kept her in my spank bank for many a year, mate.”

She gaped at him. “You dirty pig!”

“Oink, oink, love.”

“I am not going, Xander.” The petite blonde stamped her foot. “I refuse to breathe the same air as this - this… filthy, evil, disgusting thing. Forget it!” she yelled at her sheepish friend.

Willow was visibly upset. “Come on, guys, that’s in the past. Can’t we just make with the gooey marshmallow happiness we usually have on these trips? I mean, it’s our last one,” she murmured, tears misting her eyes.

Guilt hung around Buffy’s neck like an ironclad noose. It was indeed the last trip they would take together; each of them would scatter like leaves after graduation. Willow pulled out the wobbly, pouty lip she knew would get results, along with a big sniff.

Buffy sighed in resignation. “Fine. I’ll go,” she muttered, glancing at the decidedly wicked smile Spike gave her.


The trepidation she’d had when starting on the current trip was increased tenfold as they tried to maneuver over the soggy road that lead to their campgrounds. She’d been stuck in the back with Spike for what seemed like forever, and her butt was aching from feeling all the bumps and ruts in the road due to the car having little in the way of shock absorbers. Leaning her head against the window, she closed her eyes, weariness finally getting the better of her.

“You can lay your head in my lap if it’ll help, pet,” Spike said quietly.

Glancing at him, she then darted her gaze to Xander and Willow, who were fighting with a map and each other about which fork to take to get where they were going - which could be Hell for all she knew. Looking back at Spike, she shrugged, seeing nothing but concern motivating his suggestion. Slowly, she laid her head on his leg, never flinching when he gently draped his arm across her upper body, giving her a slight pat before she closed her eyes.

It was some time later when the rocking motion she felt was not from the car. It was Spike, shaking her to wake up because they’d finally arrived at the spot reserved for their tents. Sitting up, Buffy groggily pushed her hair out of her face.

Spike smiled at her and touched her cheek with a finger. “You drool.”

Horrified, she glanced down at his pants leg to see a wet stain spread around a small area, moaning as she hid her flaming face from his view, mumbling her apologies.

“’S okay, pet. I’m used to women droolin’ over me.” He grinned and opened the door to let the cool air in, her heated glare making his smile even wider. “Move along, time to set up and get some nosh,” he said, holding out his hand to help her out of the tightly compact car.

Muttering under her breath about how much she hated him, she grabbed Spike’s hand and slid out from the backseat… only to find herself ankle deep in mud. “Ugh! Xander, are you sure we’re in the right place?” The rain had stopped sometime during her nap and now everything was just a big mud-pit.

The brunet was busy trying to get from the car door to the trunk, so he didn’t hear Buffy’s question. Grousing about how his boots sank in the soft ground every time he moved, he snarled when Willow giggled at his actions, telling him that he looked like a puppet on marionette strings, as he made sucking noises that were rather obscene every time he lifted his foot. Buffy felt laughter well up inside of her and couldn’t hold back a chuckle when Xander held on to the bumper to keep from falling face first into the muck.

“Maybe you should take off your boots; it’ll help,” offered Willow, showing her now mud covered bare feet as she traipsed around the car in quick order.

“Maybe you should help me unload all this stuff,” Xander said petulantly, irritated that his girlfriend got around better without her shoes.

The redhead stuck her tongue out at him and moved to help him when Spike stepped in and starting unloading the gear. “Nah, mate. That’s what we strapping young men are for,” he said motioning for Willow to go with Buffy and scope out their spot.

She nodded her thanks and squished her way to Buffy who had taken off up the hill. They arrived to a flat piece of mud, a fire pit on one side and a picnic bench on the other, surrounded by woods. Both girls groaned at the sight. Roughing it in the wilderness was not high on their list of things to do before they died.

“Tell me why, again, we agreed to do this?” Buffy muttered.

“It’ll put hair on your chest,” Xander huffed out, dropping some of the gear at their feet.

The girls looked down at their bosoms and then to Xander. “Um, ewww,” they said with a grimace, while Buffy went on to ask, “Do you really Willow to have a hairy chest, Xander?”

Xander looked at a smirking Willow – who was playing with her boobs and murmuring how hairy they were going to be by the end of this trip - and recoiled. “Okay, scratch that. No fur-covered boobs on Willow. Like `em fine as they are; nice, creamy, rosy-tipped,” he mused aloud.

“Ahem!” The redhead blushed.

“Why is Red playin’ with her lovely jigglies?” Spike joined them, dropping his load of gear on the ground. “Did I miss somethin’?”

Buffy snorted with laughter and shook her head. Moving away from the scene, she began searching for something. Not spying what she wanted she started to panic a little.

“Oi, Goldilocks, you goin’ to help with the setup?” Spike yelled over to her.

Grumbling, she turned around and yelled back across the clearing. “I will, in a minute!”

“Why not now?”

She said something unintelligible.


“I have to pee first!” She yelled so loudly that it echoed, her own voice coming back to mock her.

The guys started to snicker, but Willow elbowed them both. “Stop. It’s serious when a woman has to use the bathroom and there’s none to be had. It’s not like you guys, being able to write your name in the snow and all,” she griped.

“Brat,” Spike said good-naturedly and pulled on her red braid. “There’s a loo back down the hill a bit. Can’t vouch for the sanity of it, but it’s better than nothin’.”

Calling over to Buffy, the pig-tailed girl motioned for her to follow, trekking their way down the hill in the muck with a flashlight, praying they wouldn’t get lost.

They saw the white square building a short distance ahead of them, but the stench got to them first. “Oh my God,” Buffy gagged.

“Ditto,” Willow agreed.

Braving the situation, they crept into the doorway marked ‘Women’. There were yellow lights flickering off and on, the light bulbs not having been changed in months. Flies, moths, and all kinds of buzzing insects swarmed past their heads and alternately perched on sinks or bathroom stalls with no doors. Trying hard not to think that the flying little monsters could get tangled in their hair, the girls stepped a little further in, holding their noses.

Something they didn’t care to identify had made a nest in the first toilet stall. The second was no better, having something slimy dripping off the seat. By the time they got to the third stall, Buffy’s gag reflex kicked in. “Move, I’m gonna hurl!” she yelled as she passed her friend and ran to the toilet, where she proceeded to empty her stomach into a cavern below that was dug out to hold all the waste.

“Um, Buffy? You might want to come out of there… real slow,” Willow whispered.

“Huh?” Buffy looked at her, wiping her mouth on her jacket sleeve.

Willow put her finger to her mouth in a shushing motion and then pointed towards the ceiling. About five medium sized blobs hung from the rafters and occasionally one would move.

Frowning, she looked at Willow in confusion.

The redhead mouthed a word that sent chills up Buffy’s spine. ‘Bats’.

Turning as white as a sheet, she grabbed Willow’s hand and backed quickly out of the building, tearing into a run once they cleared the smell-infested area. “I still have to pee!” she whimpered.

Unfortunately, they were running in the opposite direction of their camp and further into the woods. They only noticed their mistake when the road disappeared from the left side.

“I think we’re lost,” Willow muttered.

“What was your first clue?” Buffy wheezed after all her running.

Her friend glared. “I think we should turn around.”

“I don’t think I can go any further without peeing my pants. I forgot to go before we left.” Buffy panicked and danced around, trying to keep her bladder from bursting.

Willow laughed and shook her head. “Guess you never listened to your parents when they told you to go to the bathroom before starting out on a trip, did you?”

“Not helping,” the blonde ground out.

“Maybe there’s something back up the road that’s not as-” She gulped. “Dirty.”

They started walking back the way they’d come and luckily happened across a port-a-john that seemed to have never been used. It was blessedly clean, free of insects, and Buffy sighed with relief as she hovered over the seat, relaxing her cramped bladder muscles.

“Must’ve been forgotten by a construction company,” Willow mused outside.

“Thank God for construction companies,” Buffy muttered.

“Feel better?” Willow asked as she exited the little stall.


“Good. Then my turn.” Willow entered and quickly closed the door behind her. A sigh of relief floated through the air.

“I don’t think we should tell the guys about this little gem,” Buffy said when her friend emerged from the port-a-john.

“Neither do I! Personally, I think they should get poison ivy on their nether regions from having to squat in the woods.” Willow spoke from personal experience, having done so at a summer camp one year, and been miserable the entire time after that.

They found the road and followed it back to the car and then up the hill to the campsite. The guys had been busy while they’d been on their little adventure, as the tents and cooking gear were already set up, and Xander was trying to get a fire going.

Hearing footsteps, he looked over his shoulder and spied the girls. “Ladies, dinner will be served shortly.”

Not seeing the bleached menace, Buffy asked, “Where’s Spike?”

“Went to the john. Thought he might find out what was keeping you.”

A loud yell rang out at that moment and they could hear something crashing through the underbrush. “Get these fuckin’ buggers off me!”

They watched as Spike ran up the hill with his jeans barely pulled up and waving his arms around his head. Apparently he’d found the bats. Finally rid of the winged rodents, he stopped short at the sight of the girls and glowered.

“Where the hell have you two been?”

“We decided to explore a little after our bathroom experience,” Willow replied, giggling. She was trying to keep from laughing too much at the spectacle that Spike presented, as his hair was askew, curls drooping everywhere. His jeans were only just hanging on his slim hips and his eyes had this wild look about them.

Buffy had no such reservations, as she laughed heartily at Spike, little snorts escaping here and there. “You should see yourself,” she managed between chuckles.

“Sod off,” he muttered before he buttoned his jeans and moved to help Xander with the cooking.

The girls grinned and followed him over to the fire pit, sitting on the chairs they’d brought, warming their hands with the roaring fire, watching as the clouds cleared somewhat, the stars twinkling here and there.

There was only one condition for the trip - if the guys got to pick what they would do, then they had to cook the entire time. It was a dubious prospect, but worth it, since neither Buffy nor Willow could boil water to save their life. When the guys had chosen camping, the girls had agreed without really considering all that would go into roughing it in the woods for a few days. Now they both silently agreed they would never do it again.

Watching as Spike rolled potatoes in aluminum foil and dropping them into the hot coals at the bottom of the fire, both girls turned and observed Xander as he set steaks on the grill wire he’d brought with them. When he handed them mugs of hot cider, they thanked him profusely.

“I think we should always let the guys pick the vacation, if we get this kind of treatment.” Willow blew across the hot surface of her drink, then took a tentative sip. After several moments of silence, the thought crossed her mind that this was probably the last vacation they would be taking.

Willow was going to college after graduation and Xander had a carpenter’s apprenticeship set up. Spike would no doubt go back to his father’s in London, as he’d graduated the year before, being older than the rest of the group, where he would look for work. She expected he would spend the summers with his mother, Xander’s aunt, in Sunnydale, before really settling down. Buffy was a bit aimless in her future goals, but Willow got the sense she would head towards college anyway. She sighed again and sipped some more of her cooling cider.

An hour later, having eaten delicious steaks and mouth watering potatoes with butter, they finally got the marshmallows out and started roasting them. Xander’s marshmallows usually caught fire and drizzled to nothingness because his attention was focused on Willow and their conversation, hers doing much the same thing. They’d finally admitted their feelings for one another a couple of years ago and had been inseparable ever since.

Buffy sighed and watched the two with a little bit of envy. While she was not one of the cool kids at school, neither was she part of the unpopular crowd. Stuck in the middle, she hadn’t dated much and it was starting to wear on her. Oh, she’d a few crushes throughout the years, but nothing even remotely serious.

“They’re a good pair,” Spike acknowledge quietly, popping a bit of the melting sugary sweet in his mouth.

Shifting over on the log so he could sit next to her, Buffy nodded and smiled. “Yeah, they keep each other sane and grounded. It’s always been that way, even growing up.”

He noted the wistfulness in her voice. “And why is it that your name isn’t tattooed on some lucky bloke’s arm?”

She shrugged. “No one’s ever asked me out.”

Snorting in disbelief, he tilted his head to study her. “I find that very unlikely.” When she sent him a hard glare he went on. “You mean to tell me you’ve never been snogged?”

“Of course I’ve been snogged!” she hissed. “Or kissed… er, made with the smoochies,” she floundered. A bright flush crept up her chest to her face, all the way to her lying tongue.

“Oh, yeah? With whom?” he challenged, not believing her one bit.

“Umm, there was… uh, Riley, and… umm, Parker.” She paused; trying to think of actual boys she might’ve pecked on the cheek.

“And when did those little snogfests happen to take place, hmm?” he taunted.

Buffy chewed on her bottom lip. “Fifth grade?”

Spike was too stunned to laugh; he just sat there with his mouth hanging open. “Are you takin’ the piss, or what?”

Her head hung in mortification. “No,” she muttered. When she heard nothing from him, she continued. “We would all play tag at recess and I always ended up catching one or the other. Now that I think back, I think they really hated being caught. At least by me. They actually liked it when Diane Alban caught them.”

“I really hated Diane Alban. She was always so bitchy - even then,” Willow piped in.

“God, she was such a skeeze. Everyone thought she was a hooker. It didn’t help that my mom told me - at a young age, mind you - that a hooker was a female werewolf,” Xander admitted.

Laughter erupted at the thought of the genial brunet believing that prostitutes were female werewolves. “I was an impressionable youth,” he muttered among the mirth.

“God, mate! You actually believed that tripe?” Spike laughed, tears in his eyes.

“Shut up, Captain Peroxide,” Xander growled.

Laughing along with everyone else, Buffy was glad the focus was off her for the time being. If she knew Spike, however, he would bring up the subject again, and she desperately didn’t want to remember that time in her life. She was about to suggest the telling of ghost stories when thunder rolled in the distance.

“Uh, not again,” Buffy groused, looking to the sky for the lightening that followed. “You set up the tarps under the tents, right Xan?”

“Umm… about that-” Xander hesitated. “Ours kinda ripped.”

“Kinda? How does a tarp kinda rip? Where did you think you were gonna sleep if it rained?” Willow asked with eyebrows raised.

“Looks as if we’ll be bunkin’ with you lovely ladies,” Spike grinned.

“What?” both girls screeched.

“It’s a six person tent, Willow,” Xander grumbled. “It’s not like you’ll be cramped.”

“Oh God, I can see it now,” Buffy moaned. “They’ll snore all night and then drive us out with their unearthly smelling farts.”

Thunder rumbled again and closer than before. A big, fat raindrop landed on Buffy’s nose. “Great. Well, let’s get inside, then.”

The guys went to their tent to gather their sleeping bags, while the girls situated their own bags on the left side of the tent, leaving enough room for the men on the right. They zipped all the screened windows shut and stowed their flashlights and the little weather radio in a duffle pouch near the door.

Xander opened the tent flap and was about to enter when Willow screeched, “Take off your boots! They’re muddy!”

“For Pete’s sake!” he yelled. “It’s starting to rain and you want us to take off our shoes?”

“Now, mister, or there’s no entry. Comprende?” his girlfriend warned.


Xander and Spike shucked their shoes and fell into the tent, ass first. “There. Happy?”

Willow and Buffy eyed the pair. “No, but it’ll have to do.”

The girls had already changed into sweats and tank shirts, crawling beneath the covers of their makeshift bed of connected sleeping bags and blankets, when the guys started taking off their shirts.

“Oh, wait a darn minute there!” Buffy said in alarm. She’d seen a bare-chested Xander, but Spike was another matter.

“What?” Spike asked, eyeing the girls, his soaking black t-shirt half way over his head.

“This is not a clothing optional tent, buster,” the blonde said sternly.

“Never said it was, pet. However, I am not sleepin’ in wet clothes. I planned on changin’ into dry sweats, but if you have other ideas…” Spike leered at Buffy, leaving her flustered at the image he was creating.

“Hardly,” she huffed.

“Don’t know what you’re missin’,” Spike suggested, as he pulled his t-shirt the rest of the way off and flung it down on the tent floor with a wet plop.

“Stop it, guys.” Xander glared at Spike. “I don’t know about you, but I’m dead tired and your pushing each other’s buttons is not helping. Let’s just get changed and under the covers, okay?” He looked over to the girls. “Could you listen to see how bad this weather is going to be or how long it’ll last?”

Willow reached over, pulled out the little yellow radio and switched it on, trying to get a signal. Finally, with her arm stretched over her head, she was able to get a clear signal and the voice started describing the weather for their immediate area.

“Now the forecast for the Whiskeytown Lake and Shasta Bally region including surrounding areas. A high-pressure front will move in from the north creating storm conditions, which will last through the early morning hours. Heavy rainfall is expected and there is a flood warning for Shasta and Trinity counties. Stay tuned to NOAA, All Hazards Radio, for further developments.”

“Rain,” Buffy mumbled. “All night long.” Even Spike agreed with her dour mood just as the first drops hit the tent roof.

Settling on their side of the tent, Spike and Xander turned off the lantern they had burning, pulling the covers over their shoulders to get comfortable and wait out the storm. It wasn’t long before Willow heard her boyfriend snoring.

“Figures,” she said sleepily as she and Buffy crowded together to keep the chill – caused by the damp air – away.

The rain started to fall in earnest now, the wind picking up as the downpour was so heavy it sounded as if it hit upon a tin roof, its noise deafening.

“Oh, bugger it,” Spike growled. He was thrashing about in his sleeping bag, trying to crawl over his still sleeping cousin.

“Hey!” Xander said groggily and got a knee in his chest for his troubles.

“Sorry, mate,” the lanky blond said absently as he finished moving away from Xander to the middle of the tent. “Roof sprung a leak over there. Mind your head.”

“Huh?” Xander’s sleep filled gaze turned to the roof and he got a face full of water dumped on him. “Gah!” he spluttered.

The girls couldn’t help but giggle as Spike crouched at the foot of their air mattress. “Spare a bit of room for us, ladies? It’s a bit wet over there, as you can tell.”

“You’re joking, right?” Buffy glared at him.

“Give a bloke a break, will you?” he ground out in exasperation. “I’m knackered, I’m wet, and all I want is a dry place to lay my head. Not goin’ to try anythin’, least of all with you!” He winced as he realized what he’d just said. That’s far from the truth, you prat, he thought.

Pursing her lips, Buffy affected an air of deceptive calm, even though deep down she hurt. Knowing normal guys didn’t want her, she wondered why it stung so much that her mortal enemy didn’t either. Could life get any worse?

Apparently it could, as the soggy guys edged in around her and Willow, their cold bodies making them shiver from the chill.

Willow had no problem snuggling up to Xander, once she got used to his temperature, and soon they were both fast asleep as the rain gentled a bit.

Spike and Buffy had a harder time drifting off.

“Just a bit of a cuddle, love? I’m freezin’ my arse off,” Spike managed through chattering teeth.

Sighing in irritation, she kept telling herself that his comfort didn’t matter, that he was obnoxious, rude and so many other things she couldn’t think of at the moment. That lasted all of five seconds, until his ice-cold fingers found hers and linked them together.

Even as the chill stole up her arm, it brought along with it a tremendous fire that took her breath away. Oh, God no. Not Spike. Not bane-of-my-existence Spike, Buffy thought, groaning to herself. She’d never felt anything like that before and it didn’t bode well for her peace of mind.

Something suspiciously akin to sympathy wound its way around her heart as she felt his frame shake. “Come on, then,” she acquiesced quietly. She pulled her covers up and he slid in next to her, the heat from her body already warming him.

They lay facing each other in the inky blackness, tension high. “I’m gonna turn over. No funny business, Spike,” she warned, sleepiness stealing the edge from her words.

“Still say you don’t know what you’re missin’, love,” he chuckled softly. Then, he breathed out an Oof as Buffy’s elbow landed on his sternum.

“Go to sleep, Spike,” she mumbled, sleep already claiming her.

He watched her as she drifted off, counting himself lucky to have such an unusual girl in his arms. Sure, she was pretty in an unconventional sort of way, not a beauty by classical means, but it was her spirit that drew him towards her, despite their rocky relationship.

He’d always been attracted to her, since they’d all began those little trips seven years earlier, with their parents. Buffy had been the odd one out, since her mother had often gone on global shopping trips and left the girl to her own design, her father long absent from the scene. Buffy had been allowed to spend summers with Willow when her mother was gone, and they’d all gotten along famously, until that Halloween weekend when Spike couldn’t help snapping a few shots of the woman he had longed for, for so many years.

Being a photography major, he’d taken several shots of Buffy that weekend; some in black and white, others in color. But one he’d taken had stolen his heart and he knew he would never be the same.

Following her into the woods, much like the one they were in now, he kept a discrete distance until she’d found an old stump to sit on, pulling out a small bag of grain and pouring a little of its contents into her palm. She’d sat there for what seemed like hours, quiet and still, until a small doe had approached her tentatively.

Observing her from a thicket downwind of the deer, he’d focused his long-range lens on her, snapping pictures as quietly as he could. The deer, having eaten all of the grain, had allowed her to pet her nose and she’d smiled widely. Spike had to have shifted in the brush, because the doe had scented him and taken off, so he stilled and waited for Buffy to spot him.

She’d never looked in his direction, and instead pulled her knees up to her chin, watching the sunset in the cool October air. The twilight had played over her soft features and brought out the highlights in her dirty blonde hair. Spike had focused once more on her and gasped when he’d looked into her eyes. They were the saddest and yet wisest he’d ever had the chance to look upon. His heart had been irretrievably captured.

And now, as she slept next to him - unaware of his yearning - he wished he could look into her eyes again. He couldn’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t be attracted to Buffy and her gentle spirit. Hell, even animals loved her; she was so peaceful and unassuming.

Slowly, as not to disturb her, he lifted her head and slid his arm under it. She didn’t move, so he then wound his other arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him, spooning with her. He sighed heavily and nuzzled the hair at the nape of her neck, inhaling her scent.

“I would love you, if you let me,” he whispered longingly in her ear, knowing she wouldn’t hear him in her slumber. He felt sleep stealing over him, snuggling closer to her warm body before he drifted off completely.

He never noticed Buffy’s slightly opened eyes, or the tears pooling in them.

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