By Annie Sewell-Jennings
SUMMARY: After the world is destroyed by nuclear apocalypse, Buffy and Spike meet up in Australia for what may be the last summer on Earth. Buffy/Spike
DISTRIBUTION: My site at http://anniesj.net/ and at the UCSL site – please request for other places. :-) Also, note that this story will not be archived at my website until all parts of the story have been posted to the lists and newsgroups that I selected.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story was inspired by the story of "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute, as well as the updated version of the story as soon on Showtime, starring Armand Assante, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown. The film is poignant, exquisitely shot, and subtly moving, as it displays the end of humanity in a very calm and remarkable way. I can't stop thinking about the movie. I dream about it. I contemplate it. I fear its possibilities.
And I am inspired by it.
Thanks to Phillip-Morris, the unwitting sponsors of this work. Without my Marlboros, I don't know where I'd be.
Also thanks to Alanna, for making me read "Iolokus" (XF genre by MustangSally and RivkaT, and a truly inspired piece of work) and therefore helping me acquire the bitterness that inspired Buffy and Spike's dysfunctional relationship in this piece. The Mooselet will always kick ass.
Most of all, thank you Heather, for keeping me on the right track and keeping me writing this story, no matter what reservations I may have had about writing two fics inspired by the same film. This one is the fleshed-out version of what I truly wanted to write, and I'm glad that I could take the time to write this story in the way I wanted to write it.
Lights still flashed.
Noise still echoed.
And all in all, the world kept turning...
And she kept breathing.
Silver light flickered maniacally inside the confines of the warehouse that had been converted into a dance club by the desperate and frightened youth of Melbourne; the factory where gigantic fans swirled underneath the insane beat of electronica and added to the thickness of constant bass. Christmas tree lights decorated the poles and twirled through the club, and this was her world now. This was her kingdom, her Hell and her heaven, all decorated by gaudy lights and glass bulbs that flickered frenetically. This was where she would end up dying.
It was as good a place as any.
Streaks of crimson and magenta flickered through her white-blond hair and hung in her face as she slugged back a drink. Liquor wasn't really hard to acquire nowadays. It was just a thing. Just something that she could drink if need be. Something to numb the pain. Something to take away from the fear of what was going down around her. It's the end of the world, girlfriend, a voice from the past murmured in her ear, and she shook it off. Shook it all off. This was just a dance, just a ball, a millennial festival that was planning on lasting until the end of days actually came. It was an escape that ran nonstop, twenty-four/seven, and she was there for most of it. Sometimes she was fucked-up, out of it because of booze or drugs, but she was always there nonetheless.
The bar was crowded. The dance floor was jammed. Beautiful young people wearing nearly nothing or nothing at all, fucking so that they didn't have to feel and drinking so that they didn't have to die. She had fucked half of them before, so that she could escape, and it was just a fuck so it didn't really matter. Nothing really mattered now. Not when the world was crashing around them, on the brink of destruction, and it wasn't her place to save it. Not this time.
So maybe she was going to drink to that tonight.
To the world that she had nearly died trying to save. To the world that had stabbed her in the back.
A strangled laugh erupted from her coated mouth. Oh, yes, she was drunk already. Drunk and fuzzy, like a peach. A memory floated through her alcohol-muddled mind; it was a memory of peaches. Their soft, lovely flavor, the texture like skin... She missed fruit. Missed peaches. Missed bananas and apples and pomegranates that would coat her fingers like blood. Fruit was now almost impossible to find. Farmers had abandoned their crops for other climates, finding no point in feeding a country that would probably die. Yes, the fruit were the real victims of the war.
Yes, she was probably drunk.
A braid of bright red hair fell in her eyes, and she irritably swatted at it with her hand, her skin pulsating with the colors of the nightclub. All clubs were supposed to be closed, and curfews had been issued, and yet she had ignored them all carelessly. Most of the youths had, and the police allowed them their freedom. After all, what was left? Schools were emptied and drunkenness ensued. Liquor laws be damned - the Armageddon was approaching.
And so what if Buffy was afraid.
The flicker of a cigarette lighter sparked, and she lit the slender Marlboro between her lips. She had once been so repelled to smoking, hating the idea of inhaling poison, but soon the poison would be everywhere. Fuck the lectures that claimed smoking took ten years off her life - they were ten years she would never see. No matter if the world made it through this crisis; Buffy would die before she reached thirty. Such was the curse of the Slayer.
She thought about dancing. She oftentimes did. Sometimes she would sleep with men, but lately she found herself mixing up their faces. Their features would shift, move and blur, until she was gazing at the imprinted memory of a former friend, or a loved one, or even a lover. And she would find herself fucking her past, but it never went away. The world was crumbling all around her, and yet it was still alive. Somewhat.
Multicolored threads of hair fell in her eyes, and she let them hang, resigning herself to the wildness of this new world, refusing to fight it. Why should she? What good would it do now? Smoke curled from her cigarette, performing its own slow and sensuous dance as it trailed toward the ceiling, and Buffy exhaled thin, distilled smoke from between her lips. Her skin glittered, her body displayed in a shirt that barely covered her, and yet she still felt dead inside. Numbed with fear. Everything was changing, and the entire world was held in suspense, waiting for the possible horror that could be unleashed any day now.
All that she could do was finish her cigarette and start another one, chain-smoking until the dominoes all fell.
"You know, that's a nasty habit."
The voice was familiar. Not even vaguely familiar, but indefinitely familiar. Horribly familiar. Everything familiar was terrible anyway, if only because it was in fact familiar. The low, murmuring sneer. The taunting apparent under layers of North London and bass. These were elements that she recognized instantly.
Sighing, Buffy turned around. "You're one to talk, Spike."
The vampire smiled. Seeing him brought pangs of nostalgia and longing for others, for her family and for her friends, for those she loved and for Sunnydale. For California. For America. It didn't matter who this man was, or what he was, because she knew him and recognized the world that she loved inside of his glaring lapis lazuli eyes. Everything that she had left behind, everything that had died, was inside of her enemy's eyes. It pained her to see them there, to see the life that had been so effectively and permanently extinguished, smoldering in the ashes of the vampire's eyes.
Leather crackled as he sat down, and she closed her eyes briefly, hurt by the lingering smell of America on his clothing. Bitterly, Buffy turned her head, exhaling a stream of smoke from between her painted lips. "Why are you here?" she asked, her voice low and hollow, even to her own ears.
That chuckle... It was the sound of taunting, of old battlegrounds and of a time when life had been complicated but still plausible. "Looking to get drunk," Spike said, his black nail polish chipped and incongruous, revealing the glimmering moonstone of his fingernails. A low gaze covered her from head to toe as the vampire inspected her. "I take it that you've already accomplished that. You look plastered, Slayer."
Slayer... She flinched, grateful to the errant locks of hair that fell in her face, concealing the deceitful reaction to Spike's barb. She wasn't plastered. Not yet. She was tipsy, but not so drunk that she couldn't remember. She could still remember the shimmering excitement of battle, or the laughter of Willow, or the dark passion of Angel. No, she wasn't drunk enough yet. "There are a dozen other bars in this city, Spike," Buffy said darkly, still smoking her cigarette and refusing to look at the arrogant, angular face that had returned to haunt her. "Go have your fun somewhere else."
She heard the grind of a cigarette lighter from beside her, and smelled the scent of burning tobacco add to her own mentholated brand. The sound of his false exhalation and the murmuring trails of his cigarette smoke wafted towards her. "Well, you know, I heard that this was a pretty good dive," he said. "Heard you're here an awful lot. Shagging whomever you want, whenever you want, and all that. So I figured that maybe I'd come here, get a decent drink, and maybe end up getting a good shag from someone as lovely as you." The last words were a taunt, a sneer, as all of Spike's words were. Insults were his specialty. His talent. He excelled at making her bleed.
Spike knew her.
Oh, and did he know her well... It hadn't taken him long to track her down once he found out that she was in Australia, following her from Sydney to Queensland and finally down to Melbourne, to the warehouses and factories that the angered and confused youths had claimed as their own. Perhaps they should have them - after all, if there was any fun that could possibly be had in this fucked-up mess, then it should be had. But Buffy Summers had been having more than her fair share of fun.
And the girl sitting before him was barely her.
Heavy makeup coated her face, liquefied rubies staining her lips and streaks of carmine marring her teased and long white-blonde hair. Glittering jewels had been pasted carefully on her eyelids and cheeks, so that she shimmered like a fragmented gemstone. Black eyeliner had been applied with a heavy hand, taking away the carefree and fresh California girl image that she had once exhibited, and a slender strap was sliding down her shoulder as she smoked, revealing skin that was as bronzed and beautiful as ever. The red snakeskin dress clung to every curve, and it shimmered as she moved, like her glittered skin. All of these unholy children wore similar attire, from her platform sandals revealing vermilion toenails to her multicolored plastic bracelets.
And it was not just her new look that was different. It was her attitude. Her emptiness. Her hollow eyes and her concave voice. She was a ghost, a phantom, as though she had already died. It was disappointing. In a city filled with urchins who were terrified or numbed by fear, Spike had hoped to find some fire in the Slayer. He had hoped to find something interesting. And all he found was a shell of a girl, fragile and breakable.
Her scarlet fingernails tapped her cigarette impatiently, and she signaled to the bartender. "Hornsby for me," she ordered, and then she turned to Spike, giving him a long and irritated glance underneath her sparkling eyelashes. "And a Guinness for him. Put it on my tab." Nodding, the bartender went to get her drink, and she sighed, crossing her legs and revealing bare thigh due to the high slit of the dress. "Consider it a going-away present."
Spike arched his eyebrow at her. "You're planning on leaving?" he asked, and she shook her head coldly.
"No. You are."
Two brown bottles were placed in front of the old enemies, and Spike took a long swig of the strong beer, swallowing it and feeling the alcohol burn down his throat, radiating throughout his body. "And where would I go, ducks?" he asked pointedly. "Back to the Hellmouth? In case you haven't noticed, the Hellmouth's expanded. Matter of fact, it might just have covered the whole bloody Northern Hemisphere." A snide and bitter grin twisted his generous mouth. "So I think I'll just stick out here in Melbourne, thank you very much."
Frustrated, Buffy shook her head, not believing what was going on. Of all the people to escape a nuclear war... Of all the people to meet her in Melbourne... It had to be *Spike*. Of course. He seemed to survive anything and everything. "What is *with* you?" she asked. "Does being an asshole somehow make you invulnerable to radiation?"
Sweetly, Spike tilted his head at her. "If it does, luv, then I'd say you've got a long life ahead of you."
Buffy clenched her jaw, looking away at the crowds of people dancing around her. Bodies writhed and glistened with sweat and body glitter underneath the pulsating strobe light, and a hunger to join them seized her. If she walked away from him, if she moved onto the dance floor and went home with somebody else, and then packed up and left the city, she might escape. She could move down the coast, near the places where the cliffs were rocky and the grass shimmered like precious stones, and drink herself into sleeping through the apocalypse. And she wouldn't have to face him.
"Whatever, Spike," she muttered, preparing to abandon him, and he grabbed her wrist, encasing the fragile bones and cheap bracelets inside of his strong hands. Furiously, Buffy fought him, struggling against his grip, glaring at him venomously, as if she could poison him with her eyes.
"Now, you're not going to get away just yet," Spike sneered. "I've got quite a few things to say to you, Summers, and you're not leaving until I've gotten my way through it. So don't think that you can run off somewhere and ditch me in the middle of this pisser of a city like I'm one of your ninnies, because Spike's not exactly neutered anymore." With that, he growled at her, low and primal, guttural and visceral, and she glared at him, hating him with a vengeance and a passion. "So sit your ass down on that stool before I rip your bloody throat out." With that, he threw her onto the stool, watching with a twisted glee as her wrist bruised from the raw brutality of his grip. It was as though his fingerprints had been tattooed on her skin.
Silence hung between them, though the noise in the club was almost deafening. Someone three chairs down had taken out a slender plastic straw and was snorting cocaine freely. Another girl was giving head to a young boy. Nothing mattered. No privacy, no public law. It didn't matter now. And she was sitting here with a vampire that she hated, her wrist bruised and her blood boiling, as Spike calmly resumed smoking his cigarette and took a long drink of his beer. "Do you think that just because I left Sunnydale I'm not the Slayer anymore?" she said coldly, a ruthless note entering her voice.
"No," Spike said, his words slicing into her like a dagger. "I know you're not the Slayer anymore."
The impact and intention behind his words wasn't lost on her. So what if she'd changed? How could any of them possibly expect to stay the same when the world had changed around them? Environment influences the individual, and consider Buffy Summers a victim of atmosphere. Buffy flicked ash from her cigarette into a chipped glass ashtray coated in the remainders of dozens of other smokes. She then leaned in close to him, so remarkably close that he could feel her breath on his mouth. It was the first time that someone had breathed that close to him in ages. "I could kill you if I wanted to, Spike," she said lowly. "I could take this barstool and stake you right here in this club, and everybody's too fucked up to notice or care. So if I were you, I'd leave right now before you really pissed me off and go somewhere that's else. Got it?"
There was a smoldering look in her seafoam eyes, as though dead ashes were still simmering, waiting to be extinguished. "I'm not leaving," Spike said. "I don't fancy being alone right now, pet, and judging by your bed-hopping lifestyle, neither do you. It was a real pisser to get out of America before the shit hit the fan, so I'm planning on enjoying myself here down under. And pissing you off was always enjoyable." He flashed one of those devilish and predatory grins, so conceited and arrogant, so egotistic and self-assured that she envied him, and then took her cigarette from between her fingers with remarkably sharp reflexes. After taking a hit off of it, he exhaled it into her face and grinned. "Got it?"
Furiously, she took her cigarette back and ground it out in the ashtray, refusing to taste anything that had touched his wicked mouth. "You said you wanted to say something to me," she said, pulling out her pack of Marlboros and procuring another cigarette. After lighting it and exhaling a stream of smoke in his face, she arched her eyebrow. "Are you going to bullshit around it or is there actually a point to all this verbal sparring?"
Satisfied, Spike leaned back in his barstool, gripping his beer in his hand and taking a good long swig before resuming smoking his own Marlboro Reds. "You fucked up big, Slayer," he said, chuckling to himself. "Abandoning Sunnydale for Australia the first chance you got, robbing Giles blind so that you could run away... You know, they all died back in California, on the Hellmouth, and you managed to survive this all, just to die here. I think that's rather funny. Makes me respect you a little, ducks."
Selfish... It had been selfish. But the nightmares... The screaming of sirens, the rockets blasting through the air while streams of smoke fluttered behind them, and then the crashing of screams followed by an everlasting silence - all had haunted her dreams. She had prophesied it, knew it from the sensation of dreaming of the future rather than the past, and she'd had no choice but to run. Run to the place where all would be safe. Run to the coral reefs and the endless party, the ball to last them through the apocalypse, and she'd *tried* to warn them all. Tried to get them to safety. But they didn't believe her... None of them had *believed* her...
"I couldn't save them," Buffy whispered, her voice soft and hushed with the guilt of surviving. "I couldn't save any of them. I tried, tried to warn them, tried to get them to leave the country, but none of them listened to me. And I got so scared..." She cut herself off before she revealed too much, before he knew what lay beneath the girl clad in glitter and snakeskin, the betraying serpent that she was. "How did you get out?"
Spike exhaled and shrugged his shoulders at her. "Drusilla. She contacted me. Told me that the whole thing was falling to pieces and that Miss Edith was going to have a tea party in Sydney, or something of the like. You know Dru - always garbled and great." Buffy might disagree with him on the "great" part, but she understood. Drusilla had also dreamed of apocalypse. The two had always been bound together somewhat by their prophesies and power, something that semi-disgusted Buffy. "So I followed her down here." He shrugged. "She never came. The bombs dropped and Drusilla was still in Brazil when it happened." He shook his head. "She's probably still out there somewhere, wandering around, but not for long."
"Why?" Buffy asked, and Spike smiled snidely at her.
"Radiation might not hurt vampires, but it does hurt people," he said. "In fact, it pretty well knocks out anything left living. So that means that the restaurant's closed to us bloodsuckers - once you people go, our time's limited. Maybe we'll get by feeding off of each other for a while, but it's dead blood. Borrowed blood. So you can add vampires to the endangered species list."
It was a thought that had never even crossed her mind - the fate of the vampires of the world. They were as doomed as their human counterparts, damned by the mistakes of mankind, all because a couple of military men had decided that a war was worth killing off the entire human race.
For a moment, even just a glimmering of a moment, Buffy felt some sympathy for Spike. It was camaraderie born of being survivors in a world where no one could really survive. The feeling of having to watch the world die...
"I'm sorry," Buffy said in a hushed voice, tapping her cigarette on the ashtray. "No one should have to do this. No one should have to watch all of this."
The music throbbed, beating and moaning, and Spike turned his head away from her briefly to take in the life that she had decided to lead. It was a maniacal life, one born of anger and despair, one where life was an emptying glass and the liquid had spilled over into strobe lights and enraged music. He caught sight of a young girl and her lover passing by, their bodies moving in synchrony, crying in a melange of bass and soprano. What once would have pleased him now only gave him pause - for the same thing would happen to him soon.
"You want to know something about your old enemy Spike?" he asked, not taking his eyes off of the despairing couple. "He's terrified of dying." The irony in that statement was evident and thick, and she didn't comment on it. "After all I've done, after dying once myself, I look at this all and think 'I don't want to die like this'." His voice softened. "I don't want to die like this."
Softly, her hand brushed over his, and he was startled by the whisper of fingertips coated in scarlet. "Neither do I."
The loose possibility of fingers entwining remained; she cupped his hand in hers and looked at the world around her. It wasn't fair. Not for any of them. No one deserved this sort of heinous fate, doomed to walk the earth until the mistakes of others claimed their lives. The soft whisper of a cigarette being extinguished in glass interrupted the silence between them, and a slower song began to pervade the atmosphere, taking over for the hyperactive beats and rhythms that had been set up.
The Slayer turned her head and looked at the vampire sitting next to her. Impossibly dark and luxurious eyelashes covered his penetrating blue eyes, and she saw in his face the etchings of weariness and fear, his lips slightly parted and his other hand holding his head, black fingernails digging into lightning hair. Empathizing with him was strange to her, but he understood how it felt. How it was to lie in wait for the inevitable, knowing that the world had crumbled and would continue to deteriorate until there was nothing left but the Earth.
And yet when she looked into his angular face, those dramatic cheekbones and the straight, aquiline nose, she saw her old life. Saw the days of impassioned fighting and battle, of love and laughter, rather than panic and desolation. Saw the friends who had died for nothing. Saw her lovers and her dreams, her extinguished fantasies and hopes. It was like looking into immolation, and rediscovering memory. All of her efforts to bury her past were exhumed by this villain that she had once sought to destroy.
Now all she felt was the desperate need to autopsy her life through Spike.
Hushed breath hung between them as the song continued, with nothing but low piano and the voice of Nick Cave. "Why did you try to find me, Spike?" she asked, and he opened his eyes halfway.
"Because I thought I might kill you," he said. "But there's no point in it now. No point in being enemies when the world's going to end." He shrugged a little, and took another swig of beer. "I don't know, Slayer. Maybe you had the right idea coming here. Fucking your misery away. It's not like there's a lot of high hope left."
No, there wasn't.
Her fingers wrapped around his, twining through the tapering porcelain. "This is a good song," she said, and he knew what she was asking for. What she was inviting. And why the hell not? It wasn't as though there was any reason to hate her now. Burying the hatchet was easy when she'd be dead within months anyhow, and he would follow her to her grave soon. And so he nodded, and followed her to the dance floor.
The rapid pulsation of light had stilled to nothing more than ethereal and eerie blue, drowning the teeming crowd in electric cerulean, moths and dust shimmering in the light. Dancing slowed to a quiet rhythm, the youths of Melbourne falling into a silence as they all began to think of what was approaching. The storm of radiation, the winds pushing downward to the south, bringing the foolery of the Northern Hemisphere to extinguish the last candle of humanity.
Slowly, awkwardly, the two came together; she linked her arms around his neck and his fingers splayed across the frenetic snakeskin fabric coating her back. It was strange, foreign, unlikely and otherwise impossible, and the enemies refused to look at each other as they formed an unusual embrace. Slowly, she began to dance with him, the coolness of his body heartbreaking. Her skin would soon be that cold. That dead. That lifeless. All for nothing... "What a waste," she whispered, and he reached up to touch her hair, a frantic mess of color that didn't necessarily make her alive.
Sighing, she pressed her cheek to his chest, listening to the silence of his dead heart, and her eyes closed, fear suffocating and swallowing her. She had warded off death a thousand times, avoided Apocalypse and diverted disaster. But this time there was nothing to stop it. Nothing to fight.
Fingertips drifted shakily to the base of her skull, and Buffy wondered how it had come to this. How it had come to a dance with her enemy in an abandoned Australian warehouse after nuclear war. Yet it felt relieving to dance with Spike, to partake of pleasure and refuge with someone who had lost as much as she had and had shared her memories. He understood her, perhaps. She understood him. Luxurious slowness propelled her to him, and Buffy's fingers curled underneath the lapel of his leather duster, aching for the girl who had died in Sunnydale.
Aching for herself.
Piano and aching bass murmured through the club, and Buffy looked up at him, watching as he looked down. She saw everything that she had once loved about herself inside of his fathomless eyes, touched by centuries. The entire history of man and its madness was etched in Spike's piercing and intense lapis eyes, forever engraved in blue. She wondered what would happen if she tried to tap into that. Tried to steal the memories of man. Slowly, she closed her eyes, and craned her neck forward, and pressed her mouth to his.
The velveteen of her ruby-coated lips was soft and warm, inviting, memorable. He hungered for her as well in spite of who and what she was, or perhaps *because* of who and what she was. She was the Slayer. She was his enemy. But she was also familiar. She was all he had left in the world, and whether it be love or hatred, he kissed her back and felt the memory of what life had once been like in her mouth.
The kiss ended softly but quickly, nothing more than a whisper of passion suffocated by a scream of sorrow, and they pulled away, looking at each other with startled expressions. Fearful expressions. They were the looks of those who had sinned, of those who feared the possibility that stretched between them, and of those who were going to die.
The song ended, and silence ensued, not a single person in the club speaking. They were all that was left of humanity, these crowds of youths frightened and afraid, haunted by their memories and by all that was destined to come for them. It would be their last summer, their final season in the sun, before the years would end with a stunning swiftness. The end of days was coming, and there was no avoiding it now.
It was time to leave; people were beginning to head for home, even though the party would continue without them. Buffy was tired, exhausted from being confronted by her past, and she pulled away from Spike, looking at him underneath eyelids painted and bejeweled. "Where are you going?" she asked, her voice husky and slightly hoarse from smoking too much too soon.
"Don't know," Spike said, his voice low and equally raspy. "Where should I go?"
Uncomfortably, she took his hand in hers, and swallowed reservation. "With me."
And the party was over for her.
(end part one)
Continued in Part Two