By Annie Sewell-Jennings
She sat on the balcony in a portrait of light, leaning against the wooden rail and looking out at the beach that spanned out in a landscape of flourishing violet and blue. Damp hair still wet from her shower scattered along her back in a coiling mass of multicolored highlights and bared shoulders, dotted lightly with freckles. The cream-colored nightgown that she wore was simple and almost pure, like flawed innocence, and that was appropriate for her. It fell to the floor in a shower of simple elegance, and smoke from her cigarette furled around her face in a blossom made of gray. Tilting her head to the side, she looked at the ocean, and he watched her, admiring the beauty that she had suppressed and hid underneath skimpy clothing and dark eyeliner.
Images flashed through her mind as she watched the ocean, the waves crashing with a consistency that was remarkable. The chorus from an old Peggy Lee song came to mind, something that her mother had always played. "Why does the sun go on shining; why does the sun seem to shine? Don't they know it's the end of the world? It ended when you said goodbye." Frail moonlight fell through the skies, so frangible that she thought it might break before hitting the surface of the earth. Yet the moon kept shining, kept rotating around the earth in a slow circling, and the sun would rise tomorrow in a dazzling display of gold.
Turquoise waters glistened like a still gemstone, and she heard the constant percussion of waves hitting the sands in the short distance. The thought of drowning came to mind, the possibility of losing herself in the aquamarine waters and ceasing to breathe underneath tons of liquid... She could become driftwood, hollow and forgotten, and perhaps she'd eventually crash upon the shores of California again. Maybe she'd one day return home...
Cool fingers slipped over her shoulders, tiptoeing across the canvas drawn on her skin, and Buffy turned around, furrowing her brow in confusion. It was Spike, obviously, his chipped fingernails absently sketching shapes on her skin. "What are you doing?" she asked, and Spike shrugged his shoulders, the black tee shirt a sharp contrast with his white skin.
"Drawing constellations," he said. "Drusilla does that sometimes. I'll wake up and she'll be drawing on me with a razorblade. Scars me up for a few hours, but being a vampire is the best plastic surgery out there, no matter what anyone else tells you."
Chuckling, Buffy trailed her finger across the scar that branched across his dark eyebrow, the white skin soft and shining as scar tissue often does. "Is that how you got this?" she asked softly, and Spike shook his head, grinning at her a little.
"Before I was turned, I had a fondness for robbery," he said. "Turns out that some people don't like robbery so much."
Wryly, Buffy smirked at him. "Wonder why," she said, and he kissed her fingertip, resuming his absent doodling on her skin. She took another hit off of her cigarette and exhaled into the night, the smoke curling upwards to the heavens, dissipating before it hit the star-painted atmosphere. "Willow had this dream once about painting on Tara. She was writing a Sapphic poem on her back. I always thought that would be beautiful to see - I wonder if she ever did it in reality."
Spike's snide voice answered her. "If she did, I hope that there are Polaroids."
Buffy considered elbowing him for being a pig, but she decided to let it go. It was nice, this old banter assumed between them, and it was relieving to be able to talk about the past without wanting to scream. She could remember the good memories, such as Willow's love with Tara, and he could remember Drusilla's fondness for sadomasochism - if that was a fond memory in the first place. Their memories were decidedly different, sharing different sets and different personalities, but she was calming down. She was able tonight to remember without feeling guilty.
It was a step.
Child's laughter wafted to her ear, and Buffy looked down off the balcony to the beach below. A child was dancing on the sands, her father standing nearby, holding a kite in the shape of a Chinese dragon, exotic and vividly colored, the tail of the kite tied with different colors that shone in the light like satin. The child was blurred by shadow, but Buffy could see the joy in the way that her shadow ran and skipped. Smiling softly, she bowed her head, until the memory of the dead little girl clutching her dolly and held tightly in her mother's arms came to mind.
Her skin stiffened underneath his touch, and Spike shook his head, knowing what she was thinking of. "I don't know why you keep blaming yourself for that," he said. "It's not like there's anything you could've done. It was their choice." //Good for them,// some little part of him whispered. //At least they had the courage to go on and do it instead of being a big poof.//
Brokenly, her head shook from side to side, and she felt the distance grow inside of her, as though her soul was being stretched out by pain. "I know that they did," she said softly. "But what a choice..."
Spike snorted a little, irony and bitterness heavy in his voice. "Rather ironic, isn't it, that suicide is usually considered to be an act of cowardice?" he asked, looking at the slope of her neck, and wondering what it would look like if torn open. "And yet I rather admire those blokes for having the wrinklies to do it." Troubled, Spike snatched the cigarette from between her fingers and took a long hit off of it, the menthol unfamiliar and only mildly soothing, before attempting to pass it back at her. Tilting her head at him, she acquiesced and gave him the cigarette, pulling another one out of her pack and lighting it, the alabaster silk rippling across her bronzed body.
"You're afraid to die," she said, and he glared at her defensively.
"Well, there's no need to broadcast it, now is there?" he said, taking an angry hit from the borrowed cigarette. "So what if I am? I was promised immortality and now I'm fucked. So yeah, I'm a little hacked off that I'm dying, and I..." He swallowed a little, lowering his voice to dark, embarrassed tones. "I never thought about it before. I've tried to kill myself, waking up and trying to throw the curtains aside, or carve a stake for myself, but I can't. I can't work up the bloody nerve to off myself." Angrily, Spike tossed the cigarette off the balcony with a flourish, watching the spark sail through the night and then tumble down the cliffs, disintegrating into black.
She turned around, smiling at him a little sadly. Lowly, Buffy rubbed his shoulders with her fingertips, and she leaned across to rest her cheek against his chest. "Then don't be afraid," she said lightly. "Don't think about it. So what if we're all going to die? So what if we're scared? Our time hasn't come up yet. We're still alive. I know that it might not feel like it or seem like much, but maybe we should just make the most of what we've got."
Live to the fullest... It was a nice idea. A welcoming idea. To embrace the world that was left, to laugh and be filled with joy before the end of the world came... She smiled, thinking of running through the tide pools that collected on the beach in front of her house while holding a kite, just like the little girl on the beach right now, or lounging in a chaise with a glass of wine while reminiscing over the good old days. To think of the past without pain, to remember instead of torture...
Buffy arched her eyebrow at the peroxide blond vampire who was intent on drawing a map on her skin, and she lightly caressed one angular cheekbone. "It's a nice thought," he finally commented, and when she smiled at him, he scowled at her. "Don't think I'm going all soft on you," he said in warning. "I've never been one of those fluffy kitten types. That was Angel's job, and he handled it quite nicely."
The memory of her lover's face came to mind, with his beautifully soft mahogany hair and his skin that was like brocaded porcelain, cool to the touch. She thought of thinking of him with pain, but instead she remembered him with a fondness. She remembered making love to him in their single sweet coupling, of touching his mouth and knowing that he was the one who would always understand and embrace her, and it was a good thought. "Angel was a good man," she murmured. "He was a good person, no matter what demons haunted him. I love him." She didn't say it for his benefit, but rather for her own, and Spike bit his tongue and choked back a nasty remark.
"You know what I miss?" Spike said. "I miss peaches." At her confused look, he rolled his eyes. "Not *your* Peaches, but actual peaches, you ninny."
Arching her eyebrow, Buffy looked at him strangely. "You like peaches?"
Spike grinned at her. "Yeah, I do," he said. "Vampires have a fondness for fruit. Good substitute for blood. When this bloody chip was still functioning, I ate fruit by the truckload. Something to sink my teeth in, you know. It's like chewing gum on a non-smoking flight. But I always fancied peaches above the rest of them." At her look of curiosity and almost fondness, Spike shrugged and turned away. "Too bad that it's not peach season anymore."
Smiling a little at him, the first real smile she'd given him in a while, she raked her fingers through his hair. "The real victims are the fruit," she said, and he snorted a little laugh for her, amused by her random thoughts. She had always been such a strange woman - wearing platform sandals with daisies embroidered in the leather while kicking his ass from Sunnydale to Cleveland was just one of her many quirks.
Sighing, Buffy leaned back over the rail and looked down at the beach below. It was unfamiliar terrain to her, Australia, a place where spiders could kill in a second rather than the more unusual (but more familiar for her) vampires and demons. A place where cliffs and jagged rocks signified beach area rather than sand dunes or boardwalks. She ached for California, missed its sweet softness and its smooth sands. She yearned for the good old days, and was suddenly struck with a sharp pang of homesickness.
"There was a road stand in Sunnydale that Riley used to stop at to get fruit from," Buffy murmured, her voice low and cool, like a sea breeze. "Fresh apricots and great apples, and figs. He had a thing for figs. When he found out that Giles had a fig tree in his courtyard, he was giddy for the rest of his day. Free fresh fruit - he'd feed it to me sometimes when we were in bed. But the orange peels got the sheets sticky, so I banned those." Sensible and smart - Spike bet that she'd done it with the little pout that she often utilized to get her way.
"Dru liked bananas," Spike said thoughtfully. "In Brazil, they fry them for breakfast. Fresh off the vine, allowed to ripen there, and they were bloody amazing. Nothing like them in the whole world."
Bonding over fruit... She was actually about ready to laugh at the absurdity of it, discussing their lovers' fruit preferences with each other like they were old chums instead of mortal enemies thrown together in the ruins of Earth. It was almost nice, this civilized conversation between the Slayer and a vampire, and she tilted her face up to kiss him softly on the mouth, lingering slightly on the curl of his lower lip.
"Peaches are my favorite fruit too," she said serenely, and left him in a state of surprise as she walked off the balcony and into the house, her long white nightgown and crimped colored hair trailing behind her like a punk bride.
When he walked inside, following her with an odd compulsion, Spike saw her stripping off her white nightgown so that she was only clothed in a pair of black silk panties, her breasts ripe and rare in the nightgown. She opened up the closet doors and revealed a massive wardrobe ranging from casual to slutty, and she picked something out of the more comfortable genre. She pulled on a turquoise spaghetti-strapped top and a pair of blue jeans that were cut off below the knee. Clamdiggers - he'd stolen her fashion magazines while she was sleeping earlier in the day, before turning to the morning paper. Her slender feet slid into a pair of simple platform sandals and she smiled at him appealingly. "I need to take a walk on the beach," she said, shoving a pack of cigarettes into the waistband of her denims. "You're free to join me."
Spike considered it, weighing the option carefully. Stay here in the Slayer's house or see how amazing her hair looked while being caught on the wind... "All right," Spike decided, and he picked up his own pack of Marlboro Reds, jingling his gold Zippo lighter in between his hands, tossing it back and forth out of boredom. "Let's go have a romp by the sea."
A boardwalk led from the house to the beach, long and sturdy, enough to survive a storm and possibly the end of the world. Stairs crawled down like spiders' legs to the rocks, stretching down the sands and across vivid green sand dunes. Seashells coated the railing in an artistic fashion; whoever had previously owned her house had a flair for decorating. The tide was low, revealing a long distance between the boardwalk and the sea, and she stood there for a moment, watching the waters wax and wane, washing on the shores like soft fingers made of foam and aqua.
She seemed clad in sea, in the turquoise top that she wore, as she bent over to fight the impossible battle of lighting a cigarette on the beach. The ocean winds were always moving, and Buffy cupped her hand around the white Bic while frowning, a cigarette hanging between her lips. Sighing, Spike pulled out his own Zippo and lit her cigarette for her, bending his own head down to light his Marlboro Red. Menthol was for sissies, no matter how good it tasted.
Manicured fingers slid the Zippo out of his hands, and she looked at the inscription, smirking when she read it from the shadows. "Roller Racer?" she asked, and Spike snatched the Zippo out of her fingers, pocketing it in his jeans.
"Present from the giant poof when I was still wheelchair-bound," he said, his mouth twisted in an irritated sneer. "Pillock thought that he'd make a ninny out of me because I couldn't walk around. Stole Dru and made fun of me whenever he could." The bitterness in his mouth was sour and irritating. "Guess he did make a fool out of me in the end."
One slender gold eyebrow arched at his statement, and Buffy shook her head, taking her cigarette out of her mouth and holding it between two fingers. "You're not a fool," she said, sparks flying off of her Marlboro as the wind blew in from the water's edge. "I used to think that you were, but you're not." She flashed her eyes at him mischievously. "You're rash and impulsive, and probably in need of a little Ritalin, but you're definitely smart." Before he could give her his patented arrogant smirk, Buffy spoke again. "But you've got an ego the size of the Empire State Building already, so don't think I'm going to stroke it for you."
He gave her the smirk anyway, eyes flashing in a primal manner that had always managed to shake her to the core. "Something else you'll stroke?" he asked, and she rolled her eyes, stepping away from him, hiding a smile. She wouldn't let him know that his brand of smug sensuality charmed her, or else he'd never stop using it on her.
Groaning, Buffy kicked off her sandals and let her feet sink into the plush and moist sands near the water's edge. Tidal pools had collected in the wake of the receding tide, revealing miniature kingdoms of sea life. Hermit crabs crawled in and out of the waters, carrying swirling shells on their backs, and schools of minute fish swam eagerly through their newly carved surroundings. They scattered quickly when the former Slayer stepped into the tidal pool, the waters lapping serenely at her slender ankles. He watched in amusement as she was careful not to flick ash from her cigarette into the pool, not wanting to disturb the serene landscape that had settled over the hours.
"Tidal pools are the neatest things," she said, her voice and words sounding almost giddy. Maybe the drunkenness hadn't worn off from their stint at the warehouse from earlier on in the night. "They're like little outdoor aquariums."
"Except that you don't have any of those little skeletons to put in the bottom of the tank," Spike reminded, and she ignored him, bending down to pick up a conch shell that was pearly pink and lustrous in the light. A few scattered barnacles clung desperately to the shell's polished surface, but she thought that they only added to the peculiar beauty of the seashell, and considered stealing it away from its resting place in the tidal pool. Considered taking it and putting it on her mantle like a prize.
Instead, she replaced it in the waters, and turned her head out to the sea.
The tumultuous motion of the water was something that had always fascinated her. Tides never ceased or slowed, no matter what happened to the rest of the world. Nature did not depend on mankind for operation. Towns and civilizations would die, were dying now, in fact, but the waters would still bestow beautiful gifts of the sea on the land, even if no one ever saw them.
Narrowing her eyes, Buffy gazed out at the distance, looking down a stretch of beach. It was abandoned on that side, the houses darkened and lights extinguished. For a brief moment, she felt the suddenness of their impending death. This was how the world would feel when humanity died. This was the desolation and destruction that would soon descend upon them in the most impenetrable of nights. They were in the twilight of the world now, that heavy and rich period of time when the sky glimmered with a cerulean glow and the stars just barely twinkled, sun descending and moon stealing its place. They were suspended in a state of extended dusk, before the night rose and they all fell into an everlasting slumber.
Sweet humidity coursed through her blood as she stood there, bare toes murmuring through the waters, and Buffy realized in that moment that they were experiencing what would be the world's last summer. There would never be an autumn, with its resplendent and showy foliage, or a winter that shimmered like endless vampiric skin on the landscape, and spring would never blossom and unfurl in radiant colors and perfumes. This was their last season on the planet, the last months that they would ever be able to grasp. Perhaps this was their final opportunity to taste the saltwater on their tongues, their last chance to wade in water, and their terminal try for happiness.
It was a better way than living like the dead.
A wavelet rippled out and touched her calves, and Buffy grinned, looking down at the lacy waters with mischief and joy brewing low inside of her chest. Wicked ideas were stewing inside of her head, culminating and combining with the feeling of absolute freedom on the strip of sand. Quickly, Buffy shot Spike a mischievous glance, and flicked the cherry off of her cigarette, watching the ash burn and sizzle into darkness in the wet sands. After she tucked the butt away in her pocket, careful not to litter, Buffy winked at the peroxide vampire and tore her tank top off of her head, peeling the fabricated ocean away from her skin in favor of the actual sea. She wriggled out of her clamdiggers and panties, and took off for the waters, streaking the short distance into the cool waters, laughing like a madwoman and leaving the vampire shocked.
Peals of laughter fell from her mouth like wind chimes as she dove gracefully in between the waves, letting the seas swallow her. She disappeared underneath the darkened waters, and Spike ran out to the water's edge, gaping at the girl who had decided so unusually to act like a child and not an emptied whore. She emerged from the waters in a pool of multicolored hair, sleek and sweetened by seawater, and Buffy laughed as she took in the expression on his face. "Get your ass in here!" she yelled, and Spike groaned, bending over and putting his cigarette out in the wet sands, not caring enough to think of the litter.
"Angel was right," he muttered confidentially to the hermit crab. "I *am* a big ninny."
And with that, he peeled off his clothing, shedding black to reveal alabaster, and dove in after her, graceful as a dolphin, cutting through the waters like a blade. For a moment, being surrounded by the waters was like being encased in the womb, nurturing and kind, and Spike remained there, floating calmly, briefly contented to be immersed in something as familiar and liquefied as the ocean. Breath was not an issue for him; he could remain in the water for as long as he liked, and yet he surfaced with a flourish, droplets of water flinging away from him as he shook them off. A high-pitched cry of absolute joy sprung up from Buffy's throat as she yelled with bliss, and she laughed with a happiness that was almost insane.
"What in the bloody hell are you *doing*?" Spike yelled, and Buffy grinned impishly at him, her wildly colored hair floating on the surface of the water like mad seaweed.
"I'm having fun!" she yelled back, splashing water at him with her slender hands. "Instead of moaning or weeping, I'm having fun!" And with another banshee-like scream, she dove underwater and surfaced next to him, her fingers climbing up his bare torso and wrapping around his neck, a wild grin on her face that seemed barbaric and utterly charming, like an eight-year-old about to put a whoopie cushion on the teacher's seat. It was enough to make him almost smile.
"You're a loon, Summers," Spike remarked, and Buffy just continued to flash him that winning and adorable grin, mouth wide and eyes dancing like the waters that she was surrounded in. "An absolute loon. You've lost the plot."
"Well, then why don't you help me find it?" she drawled, and she ducked her head under the water, manicured nails tickling his feet in a fashion that was irritating and endearing. Yelping, Spike dove underneath the waters and felt warm limbs, liquid and smooth, and small and young breasts underneath the embrace of the waters. She was laughing outright when he pulled her out of the waters, saltwater entering her mouth and forcing her to spit in an utterly unladylike fashion.
Spike smirked at her, and she slapped him, not cruelly, but playfully, grinning as she did it. In response, he shoved her, and she cackled with laughter, leaping on him to try and dunk the offending vampire. As she wrestled with him, her smooth copper skin beaded with water and sweat moved gracefully over his body, her slender shoulders and smooth, aquiline figure caressing his body in an inviting caress. The cool water did nothing to deter his arousal; it stimulated him instead of crippling him. She was exquisite and easy with the waters, avoiding the waves that threatened to knock her over, gracefully flowing in the tides, and her Slayer training taught her how to bring him underneath the waves with ease, until he was submerged in seawater and salt.
Grinning wolfishly, the bleached blond emerged with water clinging to his slightly wavy locks and trailing down the forked scar in his dark eyebrow. "You know, Slayer, I haven't been skinny dipping in aeons," he said, and Buffy arched her eyebrow at him devilishly, scouring his bare chest with her eyes, drinking in the beads of water that clung to and poured down his abdomen in a trail of moisture.
"Well, this is my first time, so I guess we're pretty much prudes together," she said wickedly, and then pressed her body up to his in a crush of coppery skin, binding his mouth to hers in an enchantment of saltwater and sensuality. A battle of cool and warm took place as their tongues fought for dominance, a minor parody of their own constant war that neither of them would ever win. She slid her hands down to the small of his back, swapping positions with him, and he bunched his hands in the soaking silk of her hair, kissing her slowly and contentedly. She tasted like saltwater and tobacco, and he tasted the same way.
Grinning, she flashed her eyes at him, like pale seawater ringed with darker circlets of jade, hidden underneath flared dark honey eyelashes. She gravitated the ripe plum of his earlobe, flicking her tongue against the lush droplet of flesh, tasting the salt of the sea on his skin. His voice was like honey fermented in London, so beautiful that Buffy wanted to taste his consonants and vowels, to gorge herself on his vocabulary of mysterious slang and curses so exotic that they were almost quaint instead of coarse. "Remember tonight for me," Buffy murmured. "You're going to be around a little longer than I will at least, and I want someone to remember how wonderful this feels after I'm dead."
Tangling her fingers through the fine hairs that hit the nape of his neck, Buffy fastened her mouth to his again, arching her back so that the tops of her breasts, tipped by fine nipples the color of coral were exposed from the depths of the ocean. She was exquisite, so magnificent that he wanted nothing more than to dip his head to her and take her pert young breasts into his mouth. When he saw the look on his face, the former Slayer smiled in a coquettish fashion and acquiesced to his unspoken demand. The feel of her heated skin covered in the cool waters was ravishing, like fire that could never be extinguished, no matter how much water was poured onto its flickering flame. Smiling beatifically, Buffy bent backwards and let herself float in the waters, as Spike lowered himself to her body and dunked his head beneath the waters. She could not see him, not even a flicker of lightning hair exposed by the waters, but she felt the track of his mouth as he descended low on her body. A kiss landed in her navel, and another one made its way on the inside of her thigh, until she felt him part her legs, like he was diving for pearls.
Ecstasy clouded her vision and thoughts as she felt his lower lip brush over the intimate and heated folds in between her legs, that generous mouth pleasuring her in a fashion that was less brutal and more loving. A teasing tongue slid inside of her briefly, and she jerked backwards, a low moan erupting from her throat that was instantly stolen away by the wind. A sweet symphony of sexuality building inside of her, reaching for its crescendo, and he played her body magnificently. She should have known that he could be so good at this, with his infatuation with constant motion and the way that his body radiated sex with every singular movement.
Throbbing, pulsing, her body floating buoyantly on the surface of the water, Buffy cried out when his tongue whispered over the aching bundle of nerves covered in her secret folds. A sharp gasp was ripped from her mouth, and she opened her eyes, looking at the stars that flickered in the midnight sky. Everything was still for that moment, as though time had stilled for her, giving her this moment of bliss in water. She was living in the funnel of the hourglass, sands shifting all around her, but she refused to move from this capsulated portion of time.
Frenetically, Spike's tongue moved over her, and Buffy arched her back, her body on fire with the joy of being consumed, and she came with a furious joy, laughing instead of crying, and the rapture of being so filled with happiness. It didn't matter in that moment that the world was coming to an indefinite and horrible end; she was happy then. She was content. When he surfaced from the waters, liquid sluicing down his high and haughty cheekbones and pooling on his lower lip, Buffy kissed him with a smile and tasted herself on him. It was the first glimpse of who she was in months.
"Come back to the house," the former Slayer said to the vampire. "I've got a new perspective on life."
Spike grinned at her. "And what's that, luv?"
She winked. "I'm alive right now, and I'm going to make these final days into one hell of a party."
With that, she kissed him heartily, and then dove underneath the waters, leaving him no choice but to follow her.
(end part eleven)
Continued in Part Twelve