By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Soft lips caressed hers, never asking, never demanding, only giving. Smiling happily, she kissed him back, her hand moving across his chest, never able to record the broadness of it or scale the landscape of his body. Lovingly, she caressed his cheekbones with her mouth, clinging to him and all of his beauty. "You know that I've never loved anyone the way that I love you," he murmured, his voice dark as velveteen midnight. "You're everything that the world needs."
Chuckling softly, she wrapped herself inside of him, passing her hand absently over the spiked mass of his hair. "I'm not the sun," she said, her voice light and carefree, a smile in her voice. "No one should be expected to be a galaxy."
Laughter poured so freely out of his mouth that she wanted to drink it to see if it would get her drunk, like a dark red wine with a bouquet of fresh fruit. Cranberries and apples... That was his laugh. "But you are a savior," he said, and she tipped her head back, hoping to catch another kiss from her darkly beautiful lover. She loved him like the moon and stars, like he was celestial and silvery, someone beautiful and rapturous. He always tasted the same, like plums and faint coppery blood. Life, she thought while kissing him. He tastes like life.
Softly, he pulled away and murmured in her ear. "You're a failure."
Pain, deep and pungent, exploded inside of her chest, and she pulled away, shocked and destroyed by his harsh words. Hurt, she craned her neck away and looked down at him, and what she saw took her breath away.
A face ravaged by disease looked at her with accusing and bloodshot eyes. Teeth were missing from his mouth, blood seeping out of sores that had exploded on his pearly mouth. Patches of his spiked brown hair were missing, and sores were erupting on the surface of his scalp. The face of her lover... The face of an angel...
Glass slammed shut as she closed the door to the medicine cabinet, and her reflection stared back at her incriminatingly. Bereft of makeup, her face was fresh and yet like a ghost to her - she didn't recognize herself. The strraight nose that flared like a flattened star at the end, the soft cheekbones rounded by baby fat that she'd never lose, and the thick eyelashes covering eyes the color of the Great Coral Reef's water. Frowning, she took in her expression, hair slicked back so that the colors didn't show, and she thought for a moment that she caught a glimpse of her old self in the mirror.
The girl who liked lilies and springtime, and wore the scent of freshly cut peaches behind her ear. The girl who would dance like a live flame and laugh while she did it, who stole hearts on a regular basis but loved her collection dearly. The girl who saved the world...
Whorls of color sat inside of the makeup chest, bowls of shockingly dark lip colors, sticks of blueberry violet and whore red, and Buffy stared at herself with the dull glare of a girl who's lost everything, and then picked up the lipstick.
A stirring from the bed interrupted her slow dissection of herself, and Buffy turned her head, seeing a naked back covered halfway by vermilion linen. Spike... His peroxide blond hair turned on the pillow as he slept, the broad muscles of his shoulders pale and bright in the evening light. Black fingernails clutched the sheets to him, but they dipped low enough in the back to see the rise of his taut buttocks. He was exquisite.
Memory flashed and interrupted her gaze, showing her a vision of dark hair printed over the blonde, of larger muscles and darker breaths, and Buffy flinched, stumbling backwards, propelled by the ferocity of her remembered dream. Angel... So accusing and so heavy...
The cigarette lit in the darkness of the shaded loft, and Buffy took in a deep breath of mentholated tobacco, exhaling a cloud of smoke into the misted bedroom. It smelled of sex, but so did Spike. He always carried the heady aroma of utter sensuality, misted slightly with the soft aroma of spent cigarettes. Quietly, Buffy walked to the bed, not making a sound as she padded across the carpeting, bare feet sinking into the soft rug as she crouched by his side, the wings of her robe folding around her arms and legs as she sat there.
Moaning softly in his sleep, Spike turned on his side, facing her now, black lashes closing over startlingly blue eyes, mouth pouting boyishly in slumber, as his black fingernails clutched his pillow and he dreamed of the past. The mouth that spat harsh insults to her earlier was now closed in his fitful repose, and Buffy stroked her fingernails through his hair. She wondered briefly what it would be like when he died. Would he explode into dust, dissolving into nothing more than a remnant of the man he used to be? Would be just fade into oblivion, turning into a corpse in the cruelest of deaths?
Bitterly, she closed her eyes, listening to the silence of his dead breath. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. No matter how he tried to ignite the dead fire, no matter how harshly he taunted her or how softly he held her, she was still dying. They were both dying. They were *all* dying.
The whisper of her ghost came murmuring on the wind, his wine- flavored voice carrying to her across the wastelands of the Northern Hemisphere and down to her doomed sanctuary in Australia. "You're a failure..."
Mouth twisted in an empty sneer, Buffy answered him softly, her voice murmuring inadvertently in her lover's childe's ear. "No one should be expected to be the sun."
And with that, she dressed and left.
And she was still in the club.
Vodka was her poison tonight, a substitute for the tasteless radiation that would later choke her to death. A temporary reprieve from the promise of her oncoming death, and a better way to drown the guilt than... Heavily, Buffy picked up the shot glass and tipped her head backwards, swallowing the liquefied fire that burned down her throat in a clear potion of potency. Her many bracelets jangled as she drank, glowing with the fluorescent light that flowed through them.
Leather coated her body, from her flared carmine pants that rode low on her hips to the matching top that tied in the small of her back. Glitter covered her shoulders as usual, so that she sparkled to hide the tarnish that no polish or love would ever remove. Her fingers shook slightly on the glass, but not from drunkenness. No, whispers of the past had done this, from the slow murmurs in her ear in her dreams to the peroxide blond vampire sleeping stilly in her bed.
Spike... The burn of the liquor wasn't enough. It was a conflagration inside of her body, what he had done to her, burning her to a holocaust until she was an immolation of a girl, and then softly kissed her with a gentleness foreign to her as far as he was concerned. Taken away the guilt, taken away the pain, and yet he couldn't see that that was what she needed. She needed to take the blame and wear it like the glitter covering her skin. She needed to fill herself with the misery or else she'd be empty and frail. Hollow and worn. But in so many ways, Buffy was already vacant and barren.
She was already dead.
Loud, pulsing music pumped through the warehouse, and Buffy somberly turned her head, her hair falling in her face in its multicolored mass of braids. The dance floor was full, bodies twisting and turning in time with the rhythm, beautiful youths clothed in rags of designer clothing, easily accessible for whoever cared about what they wore. Everyone wore jewelry that glowed tonight, given away outside by some teens who'd found the box in an abandoned nightclub. Bracelets, necklaces, and anklets, so that everyone was artificially incandescent. Buffy had woven luminescent pink and green through her hair, like a halo made out of false fluorescence, and she was radiant in her own harsh way.
Wincing, Buffy felt the first glimmerings of a buzz coming on, and tapped her shot glass insistently, calling for another shot of vodka. The clear liquid was poured into her glass, and she threw her head back with a vengeance, intent on drinking herself into a frenzy tonight. She was insistent upon losing herself in liquor and lust tonight, intent on losing the past that she'd only hours ago demanded from Spike. God, even thinking his name hurt. It hurt because she knew him, and tonight she needed something foreign to steal her memories from her.
The voice was Australian, distinctly so, and unfamiliar. Slowly, Buffy turned her head to find a man sitting next to her, a young man, with blond hair the color of crystallized sand and eyes that were indistinguishable in the pulsating lights. Fluorescent bracelets twined over his wrists, and he wore a cream-colored jersey shirt along with khaki cargo pants, reminiscent of Xander... But she wasn't going to think about Xander tonight. She was going to smile at this boy and forget the ruin of the world.
So she *did* smile, and she put the shot glass down on the table, pulling a cigarette out of a slightly crushed pack of Marlboros. "Isn't it always a rough night?" she said, injecting coyness into her voice.
From the shadows of the club, amidst the dancing bodies, he watched her with the boy, glaring at her with the anger of seeing someone intent on destroying themselves. No matter how he loved chaos, he didn't care for its taste anymore, not after all of the ruin that he'd witnessed. He looked at her ridiculous appearance, with the leather clinging to her legs and the glowing necklaces threaded through her hair and twined around her wrists and ankles. Beautiful but stupid - what with her glittering eyeliner and lip gloss. She was a fractured gemstone.
The boy was stealing her smiles, basking in her artificial glow. Silently, he moved through the shadows of the club, the dark wings of his trench coat fluttering around him in an incognito of darkness. Nothing glowed about him, disintegrating into the shadows, with the possible exception of heated blue eyes, drinking her in like the vodka that she was consuming. Did she think that she could keep him tied up in her crimson sheets? Tangled and twined inside of the vermilion... Oh, Spike wasn't a fool. He knew that she had panicked, run away to her foolish nightclubs and her lifestyle of fucking and drinking. Her death before death... Oh, Buffy was truly screwed up now.
However, the voyeur inside of him fed off of her, watching her heavily lidded and drunken eyes flirting with the foolish boy wearing khaki like the whelp the world had killed in California. He was basking in the ray of her lying sun, of the nonexistent light that radiated off of her. Some people would think that there was a fire underneath her skin, but Spike knew otherwise. He knew that she was running off of fumes and nothing else.
Crossing his arms, Spike leaned against the doorframe, watching the lights flicker and flash across the dance floor. The former Slayer stood up and took the boy's hand, drawing him to the dance floor as her braided hair glowed with the luminous neon lights she'd carefully woven through her hair. Slowly, she sidled up to him, running her hands through his spiked hair, styled in a fashion similar to Spike's old sire's, the great and fabulous poof. Angel...
She'd screamed his name when she woke up today, and only he knew that.
Languidly, she ran his hands over her hips, purring in false satisfaction, and Spike watched as their dance continued, feeling a strange ache to be the object of her affection and attention. That was his dance. His tease and taunt, his seductive smile lit by missing kerosene, and Buffy was giving it all away to the whelp that she was dancing with. The whisper of a leather-clad girl ran her hands up the sides of her body, and Spike watched with building anger as she took the boy off the dance floor. She had other plans for him.
Fog curled through the back alley, sheathing her in thick smoke, and the distant sound of sirens could be heard from miles away. He followed her out there incognito, careful not to reveal his surveillance of her. Braids fell down her shoulders in a cascade of decorated color, pouring over her slim and glittered back, and she wrapped her arms around the boy, pulling him to her in a rough and volatile kiss. Anger surged through him, not jealousy, but rage at the fact that she could be so absolutely useless and worthless. She possessed nothing but her thin sensuality, using every trick she knew to make herself forget. To lessen herself so that she was as villainous as she wanted to be. To make her a worthy vessel for her cargo of guilt.
This was what she needed, she thought as she undid the boy's leather belt. No pity, no empathy, no reminder of who she had once been. That girl had died with the rest of them in Sunnydale, an escort to their unwilling and innocent cadavers. She was another victim of the nuclear war, another shadow to be cast on the sundial of the world. Time was running short... Desperately, she kissed him, her fingernails digging into his shoulders and insistently propelling him towards her. No words, no clever repartee, no soft lovemaking. Just this rough and tumble coupling against the brick wall of the warehouse...
Sharp cries echoed against her teeth, probably from his drug- addled ecstasy, and Buffy kissed him anyway, undoing the fly on his khakis and keeping her hands fastened to his hips, and she could sense danger in the air. Could taste it with a tangibility that was marvelous to behold. And then...
The boy fell, fell to the side, blood dripping down his neck in a cascade of crimson, and Spike stood above her, eyes glowing an iridescent gold, face disfigured to reveal the demon within. The boy was not dead; he'd live, but only for a short period of time before the world claimed his life. "You *bastard*," Buffy growled, shoving him with her hands before going slightly mad and beating him into a frenzy. "You piece of *shit*!"
Easily, he blocked her rage-induced fighting, his face shifting back to normal as he cornered her against the wall, placing his hands insistently on her shoulders, not caring for her discomfort or possible pain. "Is this what you want, Slayer?" Spike asked, his voice rough as gravel, low and predatory. "Is this what you think you deserve? You don't want someone to understand you, you just want a good rough shag."
Grinning predatorily, the leather clinging to her skin in a fashion that was decidedly appealing, Buffy sneered at him. "You'll never understand me, Spike," she said viciously, lashing out at him with words rather than fighting. "You'll never understand anything at all. You're worthless."
He met her smile with an arrogant smirk of his own. "Ah, is that the pot calling the kettle black?"
Growling, she kissed him, brutally assaulting his mouth with her own, heat boiling inside of her belly in a mixture of anger and carnal arousal. She wanted him, wanted him to pound into her, to make her into something that she suspected she already was, and she insistently rubbed her hips against his, feeling him harden and ready for whatever she was willing to give him. "Just fuck me," she said into his mouth, her hot breath panting onto his lips. "Don't do anything else but that."
Spike pulled away from her roughly, his fingers bruised from holding the powerful girl so closely, and he glared at her coldly. "You're not worth it." With a final push, he slammed her slender body against the brick, and she grunted with the force of his hands. Disappointed, Spike turned away, leather coat covered in mist, ready to leave her...
And a gunshot interrupted the scene.
Stunned, they both turned, Buffy running towards the point where the gunshot had first rose from, only to hear two more join it. Eyes widening, lips parting in an expression of true horror and dismay, she ran, braids unfurling like a thousand serpents behind her as she ran. He followed, startled by the sound, only to see the results resting behind a bright orange dumpster.
Three bodies lay there, painted in an effigy of blood and blue light, like holy statues tipped over and abused. A woman, her dress ragged and worn, a gunshot clear through her head. A small girl, golden hair stained crimson with spilled blood, held tightly in the dead arms of her mother, blood splashed on the woman's dress. And a man, a gunshot wound straight through his graying temples, the weapon still warm in his loose fist.
Gasping, Buffy fell to her knees, her hair shimmering behind her in a tapestry of braids, choking on her own breath and tears as she looked down at the three. Shaking fingers hovered over the three, but she couldn't bring herself to interrupt the picture that they painted. "Oh, God," she whispered, realizing what had happened. "Oh, *God*..." They were a family, the wedding bands matching and glistening in the cool streetlight, the daughter still clutching her mother and a stuffed bunny animal for protection. There was no murder here, nothing but a desperate attempt to flee the inevitable in a fashion more merciful than what was coming. "Oh, Jesus, oh no, oh God..."
Sobbing wracked her body, and Spike stood numbly behind her, looking at the defiled angels with an expression of stunned horror on his face. Swiftly, he covered up his unexpected pain and reached a hand down to touch the quivering Slayer as her fingers floated over the dead child helplessly. "Buffy, this was their choice," he said, his voice sharpened to try to make her understand. "They made this decision... You can't do anything; they're *dead*..."
Horrified, she shook her head, her braided hair tossing over her shoulders as her eyeliner ran down her cheeks like stained oil paint. "No," she whispered. "No, they're *not* dead; I can still help them. I can still save them, just go for help *now*..."
Roughly, he pulled her to her feet, looking at the expression on her face as she was caught in an insane spiral of grief and terror, and she hit him with useless fists, screaming incoherently at him for interrupting her impossible salvation. "There's still time!" she screamed, and he slapped her, ruthlessly, yelling back at her.
"No, there's *not*!"
With that, she dissolved into incomprehensible weeping, crying for the family that lay beneath her in a tangled pile of limbs and blood, and crying for her own damned future. She wept for those who had no other way out, for the world that had tumbled to its knees, and for the haggard and ruined girl that she had disintegrated into. Covering her face with her hands, heavy makeup staining her palms like stigmata, Buffy leaned against her former enemy, clutching at him as she wailed, and Spike held her, wrapping his hand through her hair and another one across her lower back. All the while, he looked down at the family that had taken their own lives, hypnotized by the way the dead daughter's hair fluttered in the soft breeze like a white-gold banner of surrender.
There wasn't any time left.
(end part five)
Continued in Part Six