Chapter 16: On the Road Again

A/N: Here ends Buffy's time in Sunnydale…and the active Diagnosis Murder involvement. They may make an appearance or two later – I'm not sure.

Warning: Phobia trigger at the beginning.

Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. CSI: Miami characters belong to Anthony E. Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, Ann Donahue and CBS. Diagnosis Murder characters belong to Joyce Burditt and CBS. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

LAX airport

Next day…

As Buffy entered the ramp leading to the plane, she started to hyperventilate. The farther she went, the worse it got. Finally, they brought her back out and sat down in the hard, plastic chairs outside the gate. "Oh dear," Giles murmured softly. "I had hoped this wouldn't be an issue after Buffy did so well at the hospital."

"What do you mean?" Calleigh asked in concern while she tried to calm her cousin down.

Aware of the public setting, Giles carefully edited his response. "Two of Buffy's greatest fears are being in a hospital and being in enclosed spaces – or more specifically, being buried and having to dig her way out. Since she seemed okay in the hospital, I hoped that her amnesia would keep both fears at bay."

Unbeknownst to him, Buffy's reaction wasn't due to her 'buried' fear; it was a visceral, subconscious response to an environment similar to her entry into the hell dimension she spent time in during her time in LA. Since she hadn't told Giles about her trip yet, he had no reason to consider it as a cause. And with no memory of it herself, she didn't understand her reaction either.

Given her almost paralyzing fear of the tunnel, Giles offered an alternative solution, "I can drive Buffy to Florida."

Horatio saw the worry in Calleigh's eyes, and suggested, "Calleigh, you have plenty of vacation time accrued. Why don't you drive with them?"

Calleigh almost collapsed in relief. "You sure?"

"I'm sure, sweetheart. I'd go with you, but somebody's got to keep the kids in line," Horatio teased. "Don't rush the trip, either. Enjoy getting to know your cousin again."

With the final boarding call being made, they said goodbye to Horatio and went to the car rental desk, where they decided on getting a convertible…just in case Buffy reacted to an enclosed car after being in it for hours a days over several days. Then they sat down in a nearby diner to work out a tentative trip route. They figured they could make it to Miami in about a week, even with taking their time.

Even though they hadn't planned on driving, they still managed to get to Phoenix before they stopped for the night. All three needed to do a little shopping since their bags were already on their way to Miami. After that, they settled into a hotel, and Giles sat poolside, watching the girls relax in the water while he considered his employment options.

While he loved books, being a high school librarian wasn't the job for him. He did it to have a legitimate reason to be in Buffy's life. He only wanted to deal with people who respected books as much as him, not one who used them as coasters.

Martial arts instructor was another possibility because of his training, but he didn't want to do that either. His duty was to train the Slayer – and perhaps anyone who wanted to assist her, assuming that happened again. He didn't want to risk injury from training those not in the know keeping him from being by Buffy's side.

His time at the British Museum was pleasant enough, and might be worth considering doing again. He would have to see if Miami had any decent museums near the level of his old employer.

Another possibility would be to own a magic shop, but Giles didn't think he had the retail personality. But he assumed an area like Miami would have a few practicing witches, or at least people who thought they were, so a shop would probably survive.

To borrow an American colloquialism, if Giles had his 'druthers', he would love to do some research and/or translation work. There was something so satisfying about looking for answers that nobody else could find, and finding them in some obscure tome. It wasn't quite on the same level of staking a vampire, but it was a lot safer as well.

Next day…

The following morning, the three travelers went to the Phoenix Botanical Gardens for a few hours of sightseeing before grabbing a snack, then continuing their road trip. To Giles' surprise, Buffy fell asleep less than an hour later.

Smiling fondly at the younger blonde, Calleigh explained, "Buffy always falls asleep in the car during road trips. She probably didn't yesterday because she was all keyed up from the airport thing."

They tried to talk over the wind caused from having the convertible's top down, but quickly found they had to keep their questions and answers brief. Then Buffy startled them as they crossed the Arizona/New Mexico border.

"Stop at the next town!" Buffy cried out, causing Giles to swerve slightly.

Alarmed, Calleigh turned in her seat and asked, "Are you okay? Did you have a bad dream?"

"Umm, not sure," Buffy replied hesitantly. Now that she was awake, she wasn't sure about her strong feelings – or at least how to explain them in a way that wouldn't make them think she was crazy. "I just know that we need to stop for some reason."

"Perhaps it was a Slayer dream," Giles offered reasonably, forgetting that neither of them would know what he was talking about.

Sure enough they asked in unison, "Slayer dream?"

He glanced in the rearview mirror briefly and explained, "Dreams that tell you about something that greatly affects slaying in general or you in particular. You usually complained about how cryptic they were."

Buffy snorted in derision at the usefulness of dreams like the one she just had. "If they're anything like this dream, I can see why. Some flashes and a vague sense of what to do? How is that supposed to be helpful?"

As it was daytime, Giles assumed it was either something other than vampires or they would be staying the night, if not longer. For Calleigh's sake, he hoped it wouldn't take too long to resolve.

Since Buffy didn't know what to do, they followed the images she remembered, which led them to a gas station parking lot. They took the opportunity to take a bathroom break, fill up the car's gas tank – although it didn't need much so early in the day. Then they waited…and waited…and waited. Just as they started to think about getting something to eat, Buffy perked up in the back seat.

"Her! She was in the dream!" She pointed at young blonde girl who was looking around nervously.

Before they could stop her, Buffy jumped out of the car and started walking over to the edgy girl. Fortunately, she was smart enough to approach her carefully instead of just sprinting over to her.

As soon as she got close enough to touch the girl, Buffy felt tingly again – the kind of tingly she associated with supernatural people. "Uhh, hi there. My name is Buffy, and I think I'm supposed to help you. Have you been bitten in the last month or so?" The girl looked at her in confusion, so she guessed again, "Or maybe you suddenly got strong…like really strong?"

"No," the girl stuttered.

"Really? Huh, wonder what the tinglies are about then. You're cute and everything, but I don't think that's it. At least you don't feel evil, though. Are you evil? Course you probably would lie if you were, right?" Buffy babbled.

The girl looked like she was fighting back tears, but answered, "I try not to be, but Daddy says I'm evil. He says that all the women in my family are."

"That sounds strange. Maybe Giles will have an idea what's the what. Wanna have lunch with us?" Buffy asked in a friendly manner, hoping the girl would take her up on the invitation.

Smiling shyly and dipping her head down to hide her embarrassment, the other girl replied, "That would be nice. My name's Tara."

A/N: I've decided to go through my files and edit/post whatever I had written in an effort to wake up my Muse to finish my old stories. If it's really bad, I'll go back once the stories are finished and try to make them better. For now, I just need to write.