By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Smoke unfurled from the cigarette, rising up from the slender cylinder of burning and dying ash, curling and creating shapes that seemed perfect for a woven blanket from Egypt. It rested in the crook of the green crystal ashtray, scattering bits of ash like incinerated snow onto the bottom of the glass. Slowly, thoughtfully, Buffy picked up the cigarette and took a hit off of it, contemplating her next move. She exhaled a stream of silvery smoke, and then carefully decided. A choice painstakingly made, difficult to part with...
With a wicked grin, she placed the Queen of Spades down on the pile, and waited for Spike to make his move.
The peroxide blond vampire scowled at the hand that he'd been dealt, and cut his dark blue eyes at her disapprovingly. "You're cheating," he accused, and Buffy arched an eyebrow at him teasingly, fanning through the selection of cards with a wily expression on her face.
"I would never cheat," she scoffed. "You're the one who would cheat at cards, o soulless one." With that, she kicked him, stretching one pajama-clad leg across the bed and hitting him right in the kneecap, smirking when he yelped and swatted at her thigh with his hand. The strong lines of his shoulders gleamed like pearls stretched across bone as he lounged across the bed in nothing but his reliable and well-worn jeans, belt undone and jeans riding low on his slender hips. She admired the lines of his body over the fan of cards in front of her face, impishly scouring his lean and muscled body with her eyes.
He caught her staring at him, and arched an eyebrow at her, amused with her appearance. She sat Indian-style on the bed, carmine fingernails tapping the patterned back of the playing cards impatiently, scanning her hand for moves. Streaks of blue, red, and magenta ripped through her light gold hair as it spilled over her slender shoulders, and locks of it dipped invitingly into the cleavage of her tank top. Embroidered dragons and tiger lilies in different shades of green and violet shimmered on her blue silk pajama pants, and her scarlet toenails were bright splashes of color on her simple dark green bedsheets. He'd convinced her after a week to ditch the trite red linens, and she decided that he was right.
A smirk flowered on his mouth as he watched her, and he drew an ace of diamonds from the deck, instantly placing it on the discard stack. "For your information, Summers, I don't cheat," he said haughtily, and Buffy arched her gold eyebrow, taking a hit off of her cigarette before picking up Spike's discarded ace and adding it to her hand. The vampire inwardly cursed; she naturally had to take whatever he didn't want. "I always fought you quite fairly."
She rolled her eyes and tossed hair off of her shoulder, no matter that it was all pulled back into a frenzied ponytail so that her colored highlights shrieked across her scalp. "Sure you did," she said dryly. "And the Ring of Amara was completely fair. Or attacking me when I was helpless that Halloween. Yeah, Spike, you always fought fairly." She frowned at him as she discarded a seven of clubs. "I always did wonder why you never used a gun on me. Darla did once, but you never did."
Spike shrugged at her, frowning a little as he contemplated the card that she had thrown out of her hand. "I once went to a gun shop and picked up a weapon," he confessed, leaning back a little and remembering the day with much glee. He smiled a little dreamily and gazed off at the curtained glass door. "A rather nice little handgun. Held it in my hand, fired off a couple of rounds, but you know, killing you with it would just be too quick. Too easy. What would I brag about later on to Dru or to the other demons at Willy's? That I killed the Slayer with a bee- bee gun?" Spike shook his head, flipping through his cards and looking down at the spread of diamonds, clubs, spades and hearts. "Besides that, I had all these great plans for killing you."
Arching her eyebrow, Buffy took another hit from her cigarette and exhaled, exasperated with Spike's rambling remembrances. "Really?" she said, her tones flat and disinterested.
Spike didn't notice her rampant disapproval, and if he did, he didn't care. "Yeah," he said, a half smile on his ripe mouth. "I was going to carve you up and feed you to the dogs, or maybe stuff you and give you to Dru as a present... They were nice little plans. A gun would just be... Boring." He shrugged, and Buffy looked at him with flat, disbelieving eyes.
"And if that wasn't the most charming speech I've ever heard, then I don't know what is," she said drolly, and Spike threw a cracker at her head, watching when she burst out into gleeful laughter.
"Sod off," he said, taking her card and discarding a three of hearts. She picked up his card and slammed down a seven of diamonds, a proud smile on her face.
"Gin," she announced, fanning out her cards on the bedspread to display her triumph over him. Spike scowled at her, leaning over to look at her cards.
"You cheated," he accused, and Buffy grinned lecherously at him, shaking her head and pointing out the sets to him. He threw down his hand in irritation, disgruntled with himself for losing to her, and Buffy grinned wickedly, crawling across the bed, the silk dragons on her pajama pants glistening with a dozen multicolored threads. Lithe muscles flowed like water underneath the shimmering dragons, and Spike watched her warily, feeling himself want her just from the expression on her face and from the motion of the embroidered dragons on her legs.
Impish eyes sparkled like California waters as she nuzzled his nose with her own, brushing her lower lip against his in a whisper of a kiss. "Now, Spike," she murmured, moving her tongue to just barely breeze between his lips, "if you keep that up, you're going to be a *really* sore loser." Impishly, Buffy grinned and ducked her head back behind his ear, softly licking the sensitive area that always made him shiver. Spike hissed as arousal shot through his body, grabbing for her and digging his nails into the tattooed small of her back. He growled at her and flipped her on her back, and Buffy grinned at him beguilingly, drawing up her knee and wrapping it around his waist.
Slowly, she drew her tongue down his cheekbones, tasting the sharpness of bone underneath taut skin the color of the moon, and she saw the way that his eyes liquefied when she did it. She smiled, draping her hands down his back, feeling the rich coolness of his skin, kissing the juncture of his neck and shoulder, licking the pronounced clavicle and then nipping playfully at his throat, eliciting a moan and a chuckle from him. Her hands dipped lower as she suckled on his neck, dipping into the waistband of his jeans, and she felt the silken coolness of his hardened cock, stroking it with her thumb. Spike hissed a breath out, and stopped her hand with his. "But you were the winner this time," he said, and she arched her eyebrow at him provocatively.
"Winner takes all," she said, squeezing him slightly and causing him to suck in his breath shortly before hastily agreeing with her.
"Oh, yeah," he said, and when she unbuttoned the fly of his faded denims, she smiled mirthfully at him, claiming the prize that she had collected from her skillful game of gin. "You know, I still... Still think that you cheated..."
A false pout landed on Buffy's ripe little mouth, and she arched her eyebrow haughtily at him. "Spike, it's not my fault that I was dealt a good *hand*," she said, emphasizing her last word by giving his hard cock another squeeze. Spike groaned and then finally shut up, arching his hips and giving her the opportunity to remove the one article of clothing that he wore. "Now, you just lay back and tell me if you think I cheated..."
And with that, she flipped him on his back, lowered her mouth to him and Spike hoped that this was the afterlife he got when the world ended.
Molten honey surrounded him slowly, a warm tongue descending low on his erect cock, gliding around the tip before slowly descending on him, brushing her plump lower lip against the sensitive underside. Multicolored locks of hair spilled down on his thighs, magentas and mulberries spilled with boysenberry threads, all with the occasional natural honey gold shade. Fingers lightly cradled his balls, and he felt like he was sinking into her, moaning and arching, and if his heart could beat, it would have been with the chaos of a timpani.
Thought disappeared as she slowly descended on him, moist mouth taking him in and inviting him inside of her. Groaning, Spike arched his hips and she assaulted him with her tongue, taking him from the hilt to the tip, and her hands slowly, gently rotated his heavy, aching testicles. Buffy was a master at oral sex, something that he never would have suspected of the Buffy of old days in California. The girl who wore prim little skirts and dainty handbags would never have thought messing herself with the dirty business of blowjobs. But the woman in leather and black eyeliner, the woman who had stripped her hair of its innocence by tainting it with a myriad of different colors, was a champion of the sport.
"Oh, Christ, Slayer," the vampire moaned, and the Slayer moved on him with an increasing rapidness, her hands following her mouth, and he felt himself near the verge, approaching climax, moaning and clutching the emerald bedsheets for dear life. His orgasm built and he fell into it, throwing his head back and groaning as he came, and she slowed her motions, coaxing him and moving with him, swallowing his seed effortlessly.
He didn't want to think of how much she must have practiced since her jaunt to Melbourne.
Sleepy bedroom eyes lifted from his lap, and Buffy arched one dusted gold eyebrow at him, her hair a mass of shimmering colors as it fell down her back like a distorted rainbow. "I told you that I never cheat," she said archly, and Spike watched her as she rolled elegantly off the bed and to the bathroom, the dragons on her pajamas glinting at him wickedly as she left him on the sheets.
Water splashed on her face in droplets of crystalline liquid, clinging to the delicate planes of her face, and she washed the taste out of her mouth, never being one for the taste of semen, replacing it with mint and the promise of burned tobacco. She glanced behind her, not expecting to see his reflection, but she did see a cigarette burning in the ashtray, smoke filtering around the room and staining the sheets with its charred perfume. She looked at her eyes in the mirror, peering at herself, trying to find what had changed inside of her and realized that what had changed could be seen in no mirror or looking glass.
After all, he didn't have a reflection.
She wasn't sure what had happened. She only knew that playing gin with Spike and winning/losing (and occasionally cheating, though she'd never admit it to him and fuel his nasty fires) had begun to mean more to her than her old jaunts to the warehouses. Colored lights and cocaine were no longer necessary, not when she'd shifted her addictions over to the peroxide blond smoking in her bed and trying to stack the deck in his favor. She wouldn't lecture him - she wasn't a hypocrite. That was his job.
Her makeup drawer almost beckoned, begging her to put on her face and go dancing, go fucking, do something other than sit here and play innocent games with him as he stroked her hair or touched her face, or argued with her until she wanted to kill him. It was frustrating, infuriating, hateful and spiteful, and yet it was all that she had left in the ruined world. She was fractured and fragmented into a thousand pieces, but he was slowly putting her back together by grinding her into a powder and pouring her into a glass, instead of scattering her to the winds like he should be doing. This tug of war relationship was the best thing that she had going for her, and so she kept it going.
She didn't have the time to be alone anymore.
Suddenly, a scrap of paper flew in her face, and Buffy spun around, startled. It was just him, of course, a wicked smile on his face while his black fingernails contrasted sharply with the party. Just two weeks since he'd painted them and they were already chipped. He bit them when he was bored, and sometimes he bit her. Just playing though. He wouldn't kill her, and she knew it. After all, he didn't want to be alone either.
"You've been invited to a party," he said, and she scowled at him, snatching the piece of paper away from him while tucking an errant strand of magenta behind her ear.
The little piece of paper was inscribed with the American flag. The old Star Spangled Banner, in all of its glory, twinkling at her with the tarnished pride that it carried now. Just seeing it made her heart ache. Buffy quickly looked past it, and read the engraving on the note. It was, indeed, an invitation to a party. A banquet, actually. A dance to celebrate the Fourth of February, a sort of joke to the fact that they'd never have what they all wanted to have - Independence Day. They were inviting any Americans that may have escaped the United States, trying to celebrate their dead homeland one last and desperate time.
Quietly, Buffy took the little piece of paper over to the sink, turning her back on Spike, looking down at the invitation. America... To see it assembled in its broken pieces one last time, to talk to others who felt the burden and the guilt of loving a country that had destroyed the Earth, was something that she dreaded and desired all at once. She hated her homeland as much as she loved it. She remembered the liberty and idealism, the history painted in a wonton need for independence, and how awfully that history had ended.
The Stars and Stripes shimmered at her with the boldness of the crimson colors, and Buffy traced over them with her fingertip, hungering for the country that had been blown to smithereens.
Impatiently, Spike took the invitation from her, and she didn't turn around, keeping her slim back to him. "You aren't actually thinking of *going*, are you?" he asked, and her silence irritated him. Celebrating the cause of their misery was foolery, and she was contemplating going.
"Yeah, Spike, I am," she murmured finally. "I want to go."
Snorting, he threw the piece of paper in the air, and she stared at him coldly as it fluttered to the floor like a dying bird. "You can't be serious," he said, and she rolled her eyes, arching one ashen blonde eyebrow at him.
"Quit telling me what I'm thinking of," she said, and he clenched his jaw at her, looking at the obstinate little mess in front of him. "I'm an American. Plain and simple. I loved my country."
He arched his scarred eyebrow at her as well, the white scar tissue glistening dangerously. "Even after what it did?"
Harshly, she closed her eyes, blinking out his assaulting image. "Yes," she spat, and she looked away, at the little piece of folded invitation in his fingers. "Being an American is something different now. It's not about pledging allegiance to a goddamn flag or singing Bruce Springsteen songs. It's about bearing the burden of sentencing billions of people to death. I carry that responsibility, and I do it because these people deserve someone to blame." She sighed then, wearily and tiredly. "But it's exhausting. It's agonizing. It's horrible to stand there while people spit on your shoes and blame you when you lost everything, too. My family's dead. My friends are dead. My lovers are dead. I'm all that's left, and no one can understand that. No one should have to understand that."
She lifted her eyes to him and then snatched the invitation away from him, crushing it in her fist. "But *these* people understand that! They lost everything too, and they're going to die in a foreign country alone and afraid, and if they want to have a party for everything that they used to have, then fucking good for them. And I'm going."
And then, brutally, he kissed her, because she had been angry and she was incredible when she was angry.
Furiously, she resisted him at first, and then he pulled away enough to calm her nerves so that she would agree to what he wanted to give her. "Fine," he said, looking into the angry eyes of the former Slayer and American. "Go to your party. But give me tonight."
They fought as they made their way to the bed, scraping fingernails against skin and clashing teeth and tongue before he stretched her atop the sheets, the dragons shimmering on her legs with the fiery blues and greens. He removed her pajama bottoms with his teeth, pulling them down around her ankles and revealing the magnificence of her small blue panties, silk, hugging her hips and revealing a small inch between her navel and the edge of her panties. She hissed when he touched her, as though her veins were electric wires, and her back arched as he dragged his fingernails lightly up her thighs, arcing when she moaned. Teasingly, Spike flashed her a crooked grin, and she smiled sweetly.
"You think that's the way to apologize to me?" she asked, aqua eyes flashing at him. "By fucking me?"
Spike smirked at her. "Well, of course not," he said. "But it's a good start."
With that, he took off her panties and said that he was sorry.
Afterwards, as the light crept in through a crack in the curtain, slivering down the room, she brought her hand up to it and let the morning light dissect her fingers and palm. The sunlight crucified her and her lover nuzzled into the crook of her neck, watching the bright light cut through her hand and impale her with dawn. He envied her absentminded ability to move her hand up to the window with such languid grace, never minding the fact that she could do what he couldn't do. Envy filled him, and he wished that he could just walk so easily to the light and let himself go.
But he was tethered to the world, and he was also bound to her. So he stayed in her bed and watched her draw and quarter her own hand with the innocence of the living. A greater death awaited her, he supposed, and maybe his envy wasn't so warranted after all.
Sighing, she turned her head to the side and looked at the full- length mirror that hung on the closet door. She saw herself painted in the colors of afterglow, the generous golds and glistening sweat running across her exposed body, her hand divided by sunshine. Buffy looked at the colors she had placed on herself, and began to speak. "You know, half the time I look in this glass and I don't see myself. And then I think that maybe I understand a piece of you. What it's like not to have a reflection. Not to see yourself in the morning when you wake up, or after you've lost everything that you thought you had."
It was, quite possibly, the quietest confession she had ever given him. Just the murmur that she didn't know who she was anymore, and frankly, he didn't know who he was anymore either. It was impossible to grasp one's self in a world where everything had turned topsy-turvy all of a sudden.
Slightly, she tilted her head at him, and captured his eyes with hers. "Come with me," she said. "Come see the last of America with me."
And so he sighed, and watched her take her hand out of the light, placing her sun-warmed hand on his chest, and knew that it was only a matter of time before her skin couldn't interfere with the inevitable. But until then, he may as well take what he could have.
(end part twelve)
Continued in Part Thirteen