Author’s Notes: Okay, I forgot that Spike had never flown IN a plane before, much less flown one himself. Also I have never been of the opinion that Illyria is a demon. She’s a god. Predates demons and humans both.
Part 1: Arctic Autumn
The truck sputtered to a halt a few hundred yards from the trading post. Silver lining, Spike told himself, pushing open the door and getting out onto the rutted pavement. He cast a glance at the overcast sky and pushed his sunglasses up. The days were getting shorter, and his sun-headaches were less frequent. The northern reaches would be good for him.
“C’mon,” he said to his comrades. “Maybe we can get some petrol out of the pumps.”
“Staying here,” Angel said. As usual. He lay down on the back seat, pulling his knees up so he could fit big body into small space, and closed his eyes.
But Blue emerged in her stately way, testing the ground with her booted feet and stepping fastidiously across the puddles. “It is cold,” she announced, looking around at the new snow dusting the pine trees. She reached out her hand and touched the air. “This is cold.”
“That it is, love.”
She didn’t like the cold. Fortunately, neither did most demons. The further north they travelled, the fewer monsters they encountered. And with any luck, the demons– dumb as posts, most of them, and ignorant of earthly geography– would never learn about the other continents, including the one just a few hundred miles west.
Blue was a good sport, all in all, and just zipped up her Gore-tex vest against the cold. She spent a moment with the zipper, up and down, running her fingers along the join, marvelling at the technology. Spike watched, enjoying this, the way she discovered the world he’d occupied for so long. She didn’t like this world, but she had a sense of wonder about its many aspects.
Finally she was done absorbing the conundrum of zippers, and looked up at him. He offered her his arm, and she studied his wrist, his bicep, before she put her hand in the crook of his elbow. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him. He imagined she trusted him as much as she trusted anyone. More. But she was like a cat– she had to check a surface out before she touched. You’d think by now she’d have checked out his surface sufficiently, but she was wary of change. And he’d changed, because now he was wearing a sweatshirt underneath his leather duster, and that made his arm a bit bulkier. Not like the Spike arm she understood from previous encounters.
They walked a hundred feet or so before Spike looked back at the truck, standing alone and dirty in the middle of the two-lane road. “You think Angel’s okay?”
Blue considered this. “Yes.”
The nuances of human behavior were mostly lost on his indigo goddess Illyria. Angel was alive, and intact, so he was okay. Spike wished he were similarly oblivious, and didn’t notice that Angel did nothing lately but sleep, that he wept silently as he dreamed, that he had to be reminded, even forced, to eat.
Spike suspected Angel would kill himself if he ever got enough energy.
Vampires didn’t commit suicide. It was the greatest of sins for a demon. Spike had only considered it that once, when he was newly chipped and miserable for Dru and figured his unlife was over anyway. And he hadn’t even tried that hard– attempting to stake himself when all he had to do was walk out into the afternoon.
Vampires didn’t off themselves. But Angel wasn’t a vampire anymore. He’d gotten his precious shanshu, but his beloved Powers got the last laugh. Being a human was bloody miserable, that’s what Angel found out, having forgotten what he must have learned the first time around. Couldn’t have been two weeks after the apocalypse that he came down with a putrifying cold. The look on his face when he first hacked up blood…. Spike found some antibiotics in an abandoned pharmacy on the road north, and Angel recovered quickly enough. But then there was the intestinal upset, and the damp of the Northwest, and now the cold wind. And Spike was pretty immune to it all still, though he complained of the chill just to keep Angel company.
Angel resented him, nothing new. But now Spike couldn’t blame him. Angel woke up after the apocalypse to find all his friends dead– the only two left standing the two he couldn’t stand– and himself a puny human. And a day or two later, they found Spike was … something more than he’d been before. A vampire still (even now, Spike had to go half-game-faced to reassure himself), but one who didn’t need blood and wasn’t allergic to sun– except that he got headaches when the sun was too bright. And sunburns on his delicate skin. The curse of the English, along with the gambling and drink, that is.
All the strength, the sensory acuity, the immortality of a vampire– Spike still had that. Just none of the disadvantages. He didn’t know how it happened, and he knew it wasn’t fair. He wasn’t the hero of destiny, the chosen champion of the Powers-that-be. But he was the one both of them regarded as rewarded.
Angel’s Powers had played a last joke on him, and who could say why. (Well, Spike had his theory, not that he’d ever share it with Angel– his grandsire had spent a century denying the demon within him, so they blessed him by taking it away, and with it went his strength and power and will to live.) So of course he resented Spike, resented being dependent on him, resented being stuck with two immortal beings of superstrength. Resented that they could still find some pleasure in this blasted world, because he couldn’t.
Sometimes Spike wished Angel would do it and get it over with– take one of the shotguns under the truck seat and ….
Well, no. Spike didn’t wish that. Spike wished Angel would just be happy, or as happy as anyone could be in a world where evil almost won and left a dessicated landscape behind.
Not so dessicated up here, thousands of miles north of the epicenter. Now Spike could see, between the gas pumps, a tub of autumnal mums. Alive. Well-tended.
Amazing. Someone was living at the trading post. They hadn’t seen any signs of life, human or demon, for two hundred miles. Spike let Blue’s hand go, gestured her to stay back, and approached the parking lot. There was a light burning in the window of the old log building, under the non-working OPEN sign. The grounds looked neat and tidy, and there were the outlines of last summer’s garden alongside the building.
He beckoned Blue forward. She was good to have around, just in case. So they walked together to the door, and he called out, “Anyone here?” as he pushed it open.
No one answered, so he entered, Blue right behind him. The single room was dark, but lined with shelves, stacked with dry goods. Spike breathed deep. It smelled like baby powder and motor oil and yesterday’s lasagna dinner. It smelled good. Blue silently began gathering supplies into a basket, as he’d taught her in the abandoned 7-11s all the way up here, scavenging tins of food and bottles of beer. Spike prowled around, looking for the occupant, but the human smell was hours old.
So he took a plastic bag from the counter and found a gas can and took it outside. There hadn’t been any electricity this side of the Rockies for months, so the pumps didn’t work. He slid the bag over the nozzle, poked a hole, and began sucking. The smell almost made him gag, but eventually he got some suction going, and stuck the nozzle into the can and let it fill.
He was just reseating the nozzle when he heard footsteps. He capped up the can and waited. Eventually an old man came around the corner of the building, a rifle in his hand and a brace of rabbits hanging from his belt. He halted when he saw Spike. “Howdy,” he said.
“Hey,” Spike answered. “Didn’t realize anyone was still here.”
“Yeah. Me and no one else.”
“Well, we’re passing through, headed north. Stopped by for some supplies.” Spike was hoping that the man would just say to help themselves, but instead he nodded and led the way back into the store.
He saw Blue and stopped dead, so that Spike almost ran into his back. “You got a lady, huh?”
“Yeah.” Spike circled the old man so that he was between the rifle and Blue. Not that the rifle would hurt her. It was just the gentlemanly thing to do. “So. What sort of currency do you take up here?”
The old man kept his eyes on Blue. She ignored him. He licked his lips and said, “What you got?”
Spike pulled out his wallet and counted out American and Canadian bills. They were worthless, but maybe the old man was crazy enough to take them.
He wasn’t. “What else?”
Spike said, “Got two boxes of bullets. In exchange for supplies and petrol for the truck.”
And we’ll let you live, he almost added. But he wasn’t evil anymore, even if the old man was regarding Blue with a look that ought to get him killed, and just might. Blue wasn’t as scrupulous as Spike.
“Okay. Two boxes of bullets. Help yourself.”
Spike took some batteries for his CD player and some candy bars from the counter– and saw the computer sitting in the middle of the desk blotter. The monitor was flickering.
“Yeah,” the old man said proudly. “Battery power. I rigged it up myself. Internet and everything.”
“In–” Spike took a breath. “There’s still an Internet?”
“Well, sure.” The man gave up his regard of Blue and went behind the counter. He clicked the mouse and the screen lightened. “It’s not like the old one. But there are plenty of sites left. Forums. In the east and Europe. I figured out how to connect through– you’re too young to remember short wave.”
“I know short wave. But–”
“Well, it works like short wave. Through radio waves. Figured it out myself.”
Spike set the batteries and candy on top of a stack of never-to-be-paid bills. “Would you mind if–”
The man looked over at Blue, who had gotten another basket. “Well, now, son, that’s going to take more currency. Like your lady there.”
Spike sat down at the computer and typed an address into the browser. “She’s yours if you want her.”
The man chortled and walked heavily down beside the hardware shelf. Then Spike heard a strangled gasp and looked over. Blue was crushing a tin can in her fist. Blood-red stewed tomatoes seeped through her fingers and on to the floor. “Spike,” she said. “I broke this can.”
“That’s all right, love,” Spike said. “We’ll clean it up.”
The man was backing away, out the door. “Take– take what you want,” he muttered and disappeared.
Spike grinned at Blue, calmly setting the squashed can back on the shelf. Then she wiped her hand on her workshirt. She’d taken off her catsuit when he told her he only had sex with naked partners. Now she dressed like he and Angel did– shirt and jeans and boots. Only she looked prettier than Angel did. The leather catsuit was balled up under the truck seat, and once in awhile, she put it back on, just so she could take it off again. He kind of liked those times.
Blue wandered around, checking the shelves against the supply list she kept in her brain. And he typed in a couple webpages– BBC was still up, but not MSNBC– but the connection was slow and flickering, and he was wary of using up the batteries reading news he couldn’t use. W&H.com was all gone, but he already figured that. He tried a European URL, and found that Man U was still among the living, had just beaten Arsenal 3-1. This almost unmanned him. His hands were trembling as he clicked on the free email forum and entered his old address – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apocalypses had no effect on spam. He found thirty solicitations to regrow hair, and got into the old rhythm of clicking delete and then enter. And he was about to delete the 31st when he noticed the email address. email@example.com. He sat for a moment, staring at the address, too scared to click on it. But finally he did, and there it was– long and sad and all Dawn.
Spike, I’ll try once more. I guess you’re not there. I guess nothing’s there. But I’ll try.
We’re okay. Whatever happened over there in the West didn’t cross the ocean, so everyone here is okay. Andrew says hi if you’re still alive. We’re going back and forth between Rome and London. I’m learning Italian. Buffy’s okay, I know you want to hear that. She’s got a new boyfriend, I know you don’t want to hear that. But she’s pretty sure you’re dead for real this time. So am I. I think most everyone’s dead there. I guess the east is ok. Well, not ok– there’s like no commercial air travel anymore to NY or anywhere, but there’s some kind of government, and we get reports that everyone’s rebuilding. The Euros are sending lots of aid. I’m glad we’re here and not there.
We’re pretty safe. All the witches on three continents– I mean, Europe, Asia, and Africa– got together psychically (or something like that– you have to ask Willow) and put up a demon barrier along the coasts. So even if they could get across the ocean, they couldn’t get in. I don’t think. That’s what Willow says anyway. We still have the Euro demons, and they’re feeling empowered by what happened over there, so they’re keeping Buffy and the others pretty busy.
Giles is letting me do research, so that’s cool. Xander’s sticking pretty close to London. He likes it that they speak English here, and he likes the beer. I mean ale. He always drinks an extra pint in your memory. Just thought you’d find that funny. He drinks way too much, but Giles says everyone does in England because the weather’s so gloomy. Oh, don’t worry. I don’t drink way too much. Like Buffy would ever let me.
I bought a Ramones greatest hits CD and listen to it a lot and think of you. I miss you. I wish we’d had time to be friends again.
Love, your bit
Spike set his forehead against the keyboard and closed his eyes. He held everything in tight, his fists, his joy, his fear, held it in and kept it. Dawn. Buffy. The world.
He felt Blue’s hand on his shoulder, and turned his head. She almost never touched him in that way, except in bed. Her warm fingers touched his cheek. “Weeping. You are like Angel.”
At this, he sat up. “I am nothing like Angel. Only time I cry–” these days, anyway– “is from happiness.”
She tilted her head and considered this. Then she gave him that Spike crazy look that every woman he’d ever known eventually gave him. Even his mum. “That makes no sense,” she said. “Less sense even than the rest of this world.”
He turned back to the monitor, scanning Dawn’s email again. “Go get Angel, love. Make him come with you. Tell him I’ve got good news.” When she just stood there, implacable, he added, “Please. Your worship. I humbly implore your glorious aid. You are king, queen, and prime minister of Angel-carrying.”
That was all she ever need to cooperate– appropriate recognition of her superior status. She departed happily enough
While she was gone, he typed out a quick note.
Bit, yes, I’m here. A-OK. Glad you all are doing well. Not so good here, but maybe not as bad as you’ve heard. California is done for, and Oregon, and Washington, and most of BC.
We’re in Alaska, and it’s pretty much deserted, but no demons to speak of. Don’t know if you know what happened. There was the usual apocalypse, demons from another dimension, and we might have been able to handle it. Only there was this fail-safe mechanism at W&H, so when they attacked the building, it sent out electrical pulse, all that, caused some earthquakes, opened up a couple baby hellmouths. More demons. Damned senior partners. I’d sue them, but all the lawyers got crushed. Illyria, this ancient goddess who is with us, opened a portal and that sucked most of the demons in, and so it’s not as bad as it might be– plenty of demons left, but not enough to colonize.
The humans who survived headed east and south. I don’t know about Mexico, but I think South America’s probably all right. And the army got up some barriers in the Rockies, so east of Denver might be okay. Think there’s been some damage, but they’re functioning again. Trouble is, there’s a line of Moregen demons patrolling the Western slope, so no one can get out that way anymore.
We’re headed north. Demons don’t like the cold. So we’re hoping we can find some way across the Bering Strait. We’ll contact you all when we get into Russia.
Don’t worry about me, bit. I’m right as rain. Tell Buffy Angel’s here with me. He pulled the humanity card, so he’s all pink and beating. Tell her I’ll get him there safe. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to email you again– Internet cafes are as scarce as good beer at the Bronze– but maybe by spring I’ll be there and show you where all the cool London vampires hang out.
The truck broke down in Tanner, on the south coast of the Seward Peninsula. It was a bleak place, but they spent a few days in a tin-sided house there, waiting out a storm. The house was abandoned, as was most of the town, but the rooms were clean, if a bit dusty, and the sheets smelled okay. It was cold, and Spike spent most of the time in bed with Blue. Angel had taken a room at the other end of the house, and for once they didn’t have to try to be quiet. Not that Blue ever tried, but sometimes Spike remembered that not everyone was fortunate enough, these days, to have a willing partner in pleasure.
Not that Angel would know what to do if he found one.
Spike thought of Buffy sometimes. He’d given her up a long time ago. She was right to move on. They weren’t ever really together anyway. Never made each other happy. Well, she made him happy– it didn’t take much– but he never made her happy. Maybe the new boyfriend did. Besides, Blue needed him. And everything had changed anyway. Buffy was the past. The present was the cold and the blasted land and the demons. There was no future that he could see. Just today over and over.
But maybe– no. Maybe they’d get to Europe. And when they did, well, he knew what Buffy wanted. She’d said so often enough. She’d see human Angel, dump her current boyfriend, and set up house. And maybe then Angel would smile again.
And then he and Blue would go off somewhere and find some demons to kill. She was good at that, even without the whole portal-opening thing. And he’d be happy. He owed it to the others, the ones who didn’t survive, to be happy enough for all of them.
The third day in Tanner he sent Blue to the abandoned general store to get supplies. Then he pulled his coat tight around him and walked along the gravel street, past derelict houses, to the little one-story library. It was noon, but almost dark here just below the arctic circle.
He settled down at a scarred formica table to read his book by flashlight. He just needed a refresher course. Years ago, well, decades ago, he and Dru had stolen a single-engine plane to escape Germany. They knew better, yeah, but Nazis tasted so good. Even now, his mouth watered with memories of those well-fed monsters in human face. But the idyll couldn’t last. Dru was a bit too noticeable, with her constant mutterings about the future and the darkness and blood everywhere. So in the dead of night, they’d taken out a few guards at the airport, climbed into a plane, and started it up.
He was younger then, and more impulsive. It wasn’t until he got the damned thing into the air that he remembered he had to land it.
They were lucky they had vampire healing, that’s all he could say.
Couldn’t count on that now, at least for Angel. So Spike did what he used to do well, back when he was human– study up.
He took the book, and a few others he’d once owned and loved. He left a big bill at the circulation desk. The librarian would probably never return, and anyway, US money was useless. But at least he wasn’t stealing. Not really. Just making a longterm borrow.
Of course, he still had to steal the airplane. The owner was long gone, and it was all for a good cause, so Spike managed to ignore any pangs of guilt. It helped that he was so damned good at this– breaking and entering and hotwiring. It was too bad, really, that he’d been born into a genteel family, and then reborn into a prominent vampire family, because his real vocation wasn’t gentleman-scholar or murdering aristocrat marauder. There was a good reason he was a champion at Grand Theft Auto.
He sat in the cockpit, focusing the flashlight on the diagram of the ignition system, and smiled. He could do it. Get them away. Save them all. Escape this wasteland and ….
Go home again, to London. Get Rupert to make him a real cup of tea. Drink Xander’s last pint of ale. Watch Groundhog Day again with Dawn. See Buffy (just see her, that was all).
He went back to the house and collected Blue and Angel and the few possessions they couldn’t leave behind– Spike’s CDs and Blue’s catsuit and Angel’s photos of his friends– and headed down the empty street to the little airstrip.
Angel protested when he saw the plane, and who could blame him. It looked like a tube of toothpaste with wings and skis. But Blue shoved him aboard, and Angel fell silent as Spike crossed the wires and the engine came to life. And then they took off. He could feel Angel’s knees pressing hard against the back of his seat, and after one particular gut-wrenching turn, Angel’s hand gripping the headrest. “Relax,” Spike said in his most sincere tone, over the roar of the engine, “I know what I’m doing.”
He didn’t. It was scary when he looked ahead and he saw a white landscape merging into white ice and then a white horizon. But he had the instrument panel, and his senses, and when he closed his eyes, he could feel the right direction. That way, there. That was towards home. He opened his eyes quick, before Angel saw and complained that he was flying blind. And he flew, blind, into the whiteness.
It was most of an hour before he felt it– the wrongness. The tightness. The air compressing so much around him that he couldn’t breathe, not that he needed to breathe, but still… He was in a vacuum and he could hardly see. “Angel,” he said as loudly and calmly as he could. “You okay?”
“Sure. As okay as I can be, trapped in a tin can 500 feet above the ice with you driving.” Angel sounded fairly happy about it. He knew what lay ahead, if they survived.
It took her longer to reply, because she had to analyze the situation first. “I am well.”
So it was just him, feeling the tightness. The only demon in these parts.
He took a deep breath and yelled, “We’re setting down,” and before Angel could object, he pointed the nose and cut the throttle, and with a thump and a bump, they slid onto the ice, casting up a wake of the whitest of snow.
They finally skidded to a halt. Spike pushed open the hatch and clambered out of the cockpit, sliding down to the ice. Angel followed, and then Blue. It was full dark, but the snow caught all the light and reflected it, and Spike breathed in the icy bits of air. Silently he yanked out their bags and set them down.
Angel was regarding him with a shrewdness that reminded him they’d known each other, one way or another, in three different centuries.
Angel didn’t ask what was wrong.
“Can’t go any further, love.” He gestured to the whiteness ahead. “There’s a demon barrier there somewhere. I can feel it.”
Blue frowned. “There is no god barrier.”
“Right. So you can walk through. Walk over the border. Keep going.”
She tilted her head and looked at him. Her eyes were eerie, almost as pale as the moonlit snow. “I will not come back.”
“Yeah. I know.” He pulled her close, trying to feel her warmth through the layers of parka. He knew she wouldn’t stay long in this dimension. Not for him. It wasn’t a place for her.
He bent and put his mouth to her ear, her wool cap scratching at his nose. “You go on. Take care of Angel. Once you get to a settlement, he’ll know what to do.” He licked at the bit of exposed lobe, tasting the taste of her. When they first made love, she had almost no taste. But now there was salt there, and heat, and something sharper than sorrow.
Then he let her go, and she stood before him, her parka glowing royal blue against the milky landscape. She reached out and stroked his cheek just once, then picked up her bag and Angel’s and trudged towards land.
Angel waited. He was all bundled up, only his dark eyes visible between his scarf and his ski cap. His hands were gloved two layers deep and jammed into his pockets. It was probably 40 below, but at least there was no wind. Angel would make it. Blue would make sure of it.
Spike said, “You got something to trade?”
“Bullets. Rubies. Two Willie Mays rookie cards. If they don’t work, she can scare ’em into cooperating.”
“Good. Okay. Well. I’ll see ya.” That sounded stupid, so Spike said quickly, “I’ll winter there in Tanner. Probably head southeast when the days get long again.”
Angel nodded, and started after Blue. But then he turned and came back with that same unhurried stride. He took hold of Spike’s shoulders and pulled him close. Spike could feel on his forehead the warmth of Angel’s mouth even through the scarf.
And then Angel released him. “Be good.”
“Be happy,” Spike replied, and watched him walk away.
He waited until they’d reached the slightly higher level that was land, and only then did he get back in the plane and fly east.