By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Chapter Five: Reno, Nevada
“Coming all the way to Reno
You’ve written your own directions
Challenged the laws of change
You know who you are
You’re gonna be a star”
--REM, “All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star)”
“What if you woke up one morning and couldn’t remember who you were? Didn’t remember anything about yourself, anything about the world you were living in, anything about the people you loved or the history you made? Would you flip out? Go a little psycho? Would you try to find out? Or… Would you maybe be a little relieved? I know that sounds terrible, but that’s sort of what I did. I think the reason I let myself go ten years without knowing anything about myself is because I didn’t really want to know. I think that I knew it was bad.
“But fuck, man, I didn’t know that it was this bad…”
She has been sitting at the bar for forty-five minutes. He knows; he has been keeping time on his watch. She won’t talk to him, won’t glance in his direction, and it is beginning to hurt his feelings. Fuck, what can he do about it? He has given her a million reasons in the past two weeks never to speak to him again. Liar. Bastard. Control freak. Would-be artist. She calls him these names in poisonous tongues, slaps his face, fucks him hard and then throws holy water in his face.
Simplicity is now her style. No more fanciful colors, no more turquoise sequins and red feather boas. Kiss the plastic Mardi Gras beads good-bye. Make your peace with the cornrows and the tight little shorts that showed off her fantastic red legs. She’s thrown them all out in exchange for white shifts that leave most of her tattooed skin exposed. The ink hurts him every time he looks at her. She uses her tattoos as weapons, throwing words and phrases at him, abandoning him in the middle of the day while he sleeps to go mark herself up again.
What wonderful new words she has now. What devastating memories she can now select from. The latest one glares at him with a condescending attitude that he cannot believe she remembers:
“You’re beneath me.”
What does he call her now? Is she Buffy or Joan? He thinks that she is a lifeless ghost of these two remarkable women, someone who is distraught with the fact that she has lost herself as always, something dead and rotting. Memory. Memory is the most terrible punisher in the world. For the first time, he thinks that he understands it all.
Fuck, he never will.
The bartender is drooling all over her and she knows it. She looks lovely in white, with all of her red skin exposed and her blinding hair down around her shoulders. All night long, his eyes have been wandering over her body and reading the words engraved into her skin. Does he understand them? Does he know what she is from the words in her body and the sentences strung together like black pearls? Can he decode the mystery like Spike refuses to do?
Spike. Randy. She doesn’t know who he is anymore, and they are beginning to fall apart underneath the great pressure of the world’s collapse. They are approaching California now, the vast wasteland that is the key to her past, and with every mile that they make she thinks she is coming together or falling apart. They argue constantly, and she cannot bear the sight of him. Every glance is just another reminder of a lie that he has told her. Even his own name…
“So, what’s your name, sugar plum?” the bartender teases, and she doesn’t know how to answer him. She always thought that she was Joan, the white- haired fury of a girl who loved a vampire and could make the fire burn brighter. But is she Buffy now, the Slayer, the warrior, the sister? All of her words and memories are painted on her back. She cannot deny who and what she is.
“I don’t know,” she says honestly. “I can’t ever get that question right, no matter how many times someone asks me.” She shakes it off and taps her glass. “Want to go ahead and refill my drink? You remember what I had?”
He nods his head. “Sure,” he said. “You had a Manhattan.” Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him shake his head and snort out a bitter laugh. She hopes that he remembers what a mistake New York City was for him. If it wasn’t for the Big Apple, he would still have his life made out of lies and she might still have a shred of compassion for him. Fuck him. Fuck everything he has ever told her. He didn’t tell her shit. “That’s gonna be five bucks, though.”
A tight smile stretches her lips. “Wrong,” she says. “You’re not charging me anything for it, buddy.” She leans in and beckons him near with her eyes, daring him to make contact, begging him to give her the intimacy that she craves. “Did she pay for her drinks when she was here the other night? Or did you just let the tab slide because you were scared of her?”
Startled, the bartender pulls back, clutching his bottle of Midori close to his chest. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he stutters, and she laughs, resting her elbow on the bar and playfully twirling with a strand of white hair.
“I think you do,” she taunts. “Pretty little redheaded woman? Funky black eyes? Probably mumbling something about magic and women?” Her eyes flash at him and she feels it; it’s a strange, burning sensation blazing behind her corneas, searing through her senses. Something is different. Something is new, changing inside of her, and she feels it ripping through her bloodstream, screaming through her system, begging for release. Unleash hell. Unleash everything.
Frightened, the bartender steps back even more, backing into the tower of dusty liquor bottles that he has collected since the end of the world. One topples over and spills cheap tequila onto the floor, the glass smashing with a satisfying noise that almost makes her purr. “She… She was only here for a little while. Said something about going to L.A. for a day, something about waiting for someone. I don’t remember everything.”
Casually, she arches her eyebrow at the pool of tequila at his feet, and then gives him a flirtatious smile, reaching inside of her plain white dress and procuring a worn book of matches. “Think a little bonfire might jog your memory?” she asks, and it’s a sick, twisted pleasure when he begins to sweat blood. “Do you want to know something really interesting? I bet you never would have guessed this one.” She leans in conspiratorially. “I used to be a Slayer.”
The vampire bartender moans, shakes his head. From a distance, he watches with a look of total and utter dispassion, because he knows that she’ll kill him without a second thought. For the past ten years, he has tried to deter her from following the path that once killed her. But blood is calling now, the electric blood that she possesses, the fucked-up need that once tormented her and now seduces her. Ten years is nothing compared to instinct.
“Sunnydale,” the bartender gasps. “She said something about Sunnydale.”
Gratefully, she smiles at him, and he closes his eyes before she throws the match on the ground anyway.
Hell breaks loose in that moment as the other demons and vampires scream as the bartender bursts into alcohol-soaked flames. He opens his eyes and sees her eyes glowing feral, furious yellow-gold, like ambers burning, and the fire engulfs the tower of old liquor bottles that stands furiously behind the bar. A furious explosion sounds, and there is bright flame everywhere, dancing on the bartop, mingling with her wild, pained laughter.
A snarl sounds, and he watches painfully as a demon tries to tackle her to the ground, only to be deterred by the elegant sweep of her leg as she throws him to the burning floor instead. The sound of agonizing screams fills the bar, and in the distance, a broken-down jukebox suddenly lights up, playing the music that she loves. Furious hip-hop blares throughout the blazing bar, accompanying her brutal ballet as she flawlessly disposes of two vampires, impaling them on an upturned barstool.
“Bitch!” one older vampire snarls. He has come prepared for a fight and wields a sharp, handcrafted axe that glints vivid carmine in the heat of the inferno. For a moment, her eyes return to that mournful shade of green that he fell in love with over a decade ago, and he can’t let her do this alone. He never can stand idly by while she is chopped to pieces, even when he fails to save her. Slamming down his lukewarm beer, he takes the jagged remains of the bottle and throws the glass into the vampire’s face. The demon howls and the screams don’t register with him. Fuck him. He made her a promise. Made her a vow.
_”You have to protect her.”_
Before he can finish the job, a poor substitute for a stake appears and slips into the vampire’s chest with a disgusting, bone-curdling sound of wood entering flesh. The vampire stares in shock at the vampire who has betrayed him by aligning with the Slayer, and his accusing eyes dissolve along with the rest of him into nothing more than dust.
Flames jump and leap around them, but their enemies are gone. They stare at each other with damning eyes, and she suddenly slams her fist into his face, making him spit bitter blood and stagger backwards. “Like a good fight, Spike?” she taunts, stepping closer, her hair wild and smeared with demon’s blood. She looks primal. She looks dangerous. It breaks his fucking heart that he’s not her Randy anymore.
But she's not his Joan anymore, either. She has been doing this the whole trek to California, the whole damned way. Looking for fights, looking for ways to make him hate her. She kills without thought now, her anger and rage at her condition spilling forth in a shower of blood that is never her own. Look at me, she seems to scream. Look at what you made me. And she is right. He made her this way, this vicious killer, this bad and naughty girl in sunburned skin.
He wants to throw up.
There is a swirl of white fabric and then her stiletto heel connects solidly with his face. He thinks he hears his jaw break, but the pain is minimal compared to what he feels when he looks at her shattered eyes. “Does it hurt?” she snarls. “Bet you’re regretting a whole lot of shit now, aren’t you? Bet you’re regretting all of it.”
Ah, this is so familiar. Memories of her run through his head like arsenic- laced sugarplums. Slip of a girl with long blonde hair spitting insults at him and throwing money at him in the middle of an alley. Cold, frozen woman closing the door in his face, expelling him from her household. Furious, anguished angel slamming him into walls and scarring his heart before fucking him into the night. He remembers all of it while she snarls at him and throws another fist into his stomach.
Wincing, he falls backward and tries to fight it off. The urge to return to the eternal dance they had always committed to, the fury and the spitting. But she is still on fire, the bar blazing behind her with the awful stench of burning wood and liquor. It smells like a spontaneously combusting wino. “You think you know so much,” he mutters, and she smiles hatefully, throwing him against a wall and grabbing him by the lapels of his leather duster.
“You know more than you’d ever let me know,” she accuses, and then with a burning vengeance, she kisses him hard, bruising his mouth with the hot weight of her lips. Sharp teeth bite at his lower lip, her fingernails dig into his neck and draw blood, and her body is crushed against his like she can bury herself in his body.
Glass shatters behind them as she throws him onto a rickety table, causing the wood to splinter and break, and then she straddles him, unbuckling his trousers and settling the intense heat of her over him. “Is this how it used to be, Spike?” she taunts. “How you used to fuck me before you tricked me into falling in love with you?” When he says nothing, it only serves to fan the fire, and she slams his head into the floor. “Answer me, goddammit!”
“Yeah,” he says hoarsely, and a wild laugh falls from his mouth as she grinds her hips onto his, all of her electric heat threatening to send him into flames. “Just like this, ducks. We made buildings collapse.”
She screams and it doesn’t bother him; she screams a lot nowadays. Like the pain is too much for her body to contain. Like the anguish is spilling out of her in volcanic fits and spurts.
“Fuck!” she howls, slamming him against the wall, and she melts for a moment against his body, the coolness of him briefly soothing the furious heat pumping through her veins, surrounding her with flames, seeping through her skin. She’s so tired of fighting, but she can’t stop this rage from leaking from her. Everything is so hot and she needs him inside of her now, needs him to take the awful heat away and make her whole again.
Flames snarl and crackle around them, the roar of the fire intensifying as she pins him to the wall and bites at his neck, taunting him with his vampirism, wondering if this is how their story should go. “Did I fuck you like this?” she whispers cruelly, tearing his shirt away from his body with her strong, painfully hot hands. “Don’t lie, Spike. You’ve done enough of that to last me a lifetime.”
Three, actually, but fuck it, who’s counting?
The worst is that he still can’t resist her. Love is permanent and stubborn and refuses to flee him when he should push her away. Even in the past, he knew that this would only destroy her, but he never imagined that her ashes would still be so beautiful. When she brings her mouth to his chest and starts trailing kisses down his body, arousal is sudden and damning, and he moans as he arches his back, begging her to stop and begging her to continue. Roughly, she unzips his fly and then gives him a furious, heartbroken look.
“Why can’t I stop loving you?” she demands, her eyes painfully bright. “I should hate you, but I can’t…”
With a swirl of white fabric, she hikes her dress above her hips and throws off the skimpy pair of plain white silk panties, throwing them into the flames and letting the silk incinerate. A shudder runs through his system and she notices it, his long lashes resting on his cheeks, like he can’t bear to look at her. “Open your eyes,” she demands, wrapping her arms around him, pulling his hard cock out of the fly of his jeans. “I want you to see what you’ve done while you’re doing it.”
They collide in a storm of flawless white skin and blazing red, and he remembers this part all too well. Spinning around, he slams her against the wall and she threads her legs around his waist, screaming when he enters her, head slamming against the dirty brick wall. Gasping, sweat breaks out on her brow while he thrusts inside of her, and she digs her jagged fingernails into the nape of his neck, the half-moon wounds oozing dark blood as they fuck.
Once, they made love in abandoned hotel rooms, on storm-swept beaches while dunes rustled behind them, in flooded skyscrapers. She would moan in ecstasy while he caressed her nether regions with his mouth and he would stroke her furious snowy hair with his fingers while her head bobbed over his erect cock. They were poetic when they were together, something unbelievably beautiful, and now they are just playing war like they used to do.
Writhing against the wall, her back raw from being scraped against the old bricks, she bites at his earlobe and makes him moan, heat burning inside of her belly, churning inside of her stomach, emanating from her skin and scalding his cold flesh. “Spike!” she screams, and a thousand images of him flash through her mind, compiled from several different histories. Spike, Randy, Spike, Randy, Spike…
When she comes, she doesn’t know who has just fucked her. She doesn’t understand, but the entire bar shoots up in flames, and then as she comes down from the dreadful climax, the flames begin to wither and fade. Smoke billows through the air as he buries his face in her neck and orgasms, holding onto her like she might disappear with the dying fires.
A dead expression fills her eyes, and she slowly pushes him away from her, forcing him to put her down on her feet again. They say nothing, merely looking at each other, missing what they used to have and what was destroyed by the revelations of the past. History is a destructive force; he knows this now. He thinks that he understands it for the first time.
_”I think it might break her.”_
It has broken the both of them.
Coldly, dispassionately, she smoothes her white dress with her hands and refuses to look at him as she ties her mass of white hair at the nape of her neck. “The bartender said she was going to Sunnydale,” she says listlessly. “That’s the name tattooed over my heart. What does it mean?”
Ironically, he cocks his head at her and zips up his jeans. His legs are shaking. “Home is where the heart is, pet,” he murmurs, and she nods her head, throwing him a bottle of whiskey like it’s some sort of great gift. Drunkenness is probably a good place to be right now.
“Then we’re going home.”
Before she can leave him, he calls out to her in a tired, beaten voice. “Tell me why,” he says, just as he always says, and she stills herself, hand on the doorknob, ready to run.
“Because you’re convenient, Spike.”
As she walks out the door, he can only laugh bitterly, wistfully, heartbrokenly. How funny life is. How amusing history can be. It repeats itself constantly, twisting and twining into a circle, and now he has returned to square one again.
She only fucks him to bleed.
(end part five)
Continued in Chapter Six: Sunnydale, California