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Starts with an Earthquake

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Spike fished out a cig and lit it, the flare from the lighter blinding him for a moment. The after-image burned onto his retina and left a bright blur on the inside of his eyelids as he briefly closed them. He wasn’t on watch tonight, so it’s not as if they were depending on him to protect them, but he blinked away the glare and narrowed his eyes, scanning the horizon, keeping vigil.

He could hear them behind him; the core that pushed this motley assemblage of demon fighters and magic users on from one dangerous hotspot to another. It would be far too easy to give up and sink into the despair that was far too common in the bleak nightmare world that surrounded them. Buffy’s “Scoobies” were the heart that held them all together.

One of the baby slayers, Rachel, walked by, the shotgun balanced on her hip incongruous beside the sword at her back and the stake in the waistband of her jeans. She nodded to him briefly, momentarily distracted by a shock of laughter that seemed out of place in the quiet night air. She turned back to the dark, moving out in the direction of the parking lot that held their strange assortment of vehicles – bikes and scooters and even a few rugged terrain trucks.

Behind him, giggles skittered across Spike’s nerves, a glissando of feminine voices, Xander’s bark of laughter a deeper tenor that warmed him inside. He’d hesitated before bringing them the alcohol he’d scrounged – he still thought of them as children, despite everything they’d been through. But in the end, he’d decided they could use a moment to relax and enjoy themselves – they rarely did so these days. Responsibility weighed heavily on all their shoulders.

He turned his back on the dark and headed over to the gathering, picking his way through the cinderblock strewn rubble of the closest thing to a complete, still-standing building in the medical complex where they were taking shelter. They sat together in a circle around the small fire: the slayer and her corn-fed hick; Glinda and Red; demon girl and Rupert; little bit, and his own Xander, passing the bottles of vodka and red wine around as the fire cast their shadows on the crumbling walls behind them. As he settled down next to Xan, they were all scoffing at the watcher, Xander’s eye crinkling with humor as he drew Spike’s hand into his lap, linking their fingers together.

“What do you mean? I have many fond memories of the libraries at the Watcher’s Council. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate answer to the question.” Rupert’s supercilious demeanor was perfectly haughty; it was easy to see he was leading them on. They all laughed as he frowned down his nose at them from his last pair of cracked glasses.

“You’re playing Anywhere But Here, again? Can’t you people come up with a better game?” Spike spread his arms wide, taking in their surroundings. “As if there was any place that wasn’t better than here.”

Dawn rolled her eyes at him, tipping the bottle of lukewarm soda Spike had hunted up for her in his direction. He may not be in love with Buffy anymore, but he knew better than to come between her and her strict rule prohibiting the bit from even tasting alcohol until her 18th birthday. “That’s the whole idea, Spike. Where do you want to be instead of here?”

Everyone watched him curiously, so he shrugged, bumping his shoulder into Xander’s. “All right: with Xander in a Turkish Spa in Budapest.”

That garnered him several ooohhhs and even a couple of sighs, one of which had definitely come from the watcher, and he smirked at them all when Xander kissed his cheek and handed him the bottle of vodka. Unfortunately, Dawn was not impressed.

“That’s what you said last time.”

“Is not! Last time it was anywhere with a hot shower.”

Xander nodded, “And the time before that it was under a waterfall.”

Tara laughed softly. “At least it wasn’t Amy Yip at the water park.”

“I’ll have you know that’s a classic, missy.” Xander shook his finger at her, and smiled when she giggled at him.

“Well, I’m sensing a definite theme, here.” Dawn crossed her arms over her chest, one eyebrow cocked at Spike suspiciously.

Spike tamped out the fag end of his cig and placed it in his carefully guarded supply of loose tobacco. “Well, what do you expect? You mere mortals don’t have my highly attuned olfactory senses. It gets kind of rank around here sometimes.”

“Hey!” Xander smacked him soundly on the arm, but Spike smirked at him, wiggling his eyebrows. “Besides, there’s nothing I like more than a slippery Xander.”

Anya sighed. “I know what you mean. Did you ever try shaving off his hair and oiling him down? All those well-defined muscles and slick, tanned skin…” She shivered. “It’s quite a treat!”

“Anya!” Xander blushed as red as a beet to the sound of various appreciative noises from the women in the group. Dawn fanned herself with her hand as she giggled.

“Haven’t tried that one, pet. Thanks for the suggestion.” Spike took another swig of the vodka and passed it on to a jealous looking watcher, who frowned at the mouth of the open bottle, then obviously steeled himself before taking a hearty swallow.

“It’s okay, Rupert.” Anya smiled up at him seductively as her hand slipped around his leg and squeezed his inner thigh. “You know I prefer brains over brawn.”

“Hey!” Xander cried. “I resemble that remark!”

She leaned in closer to Rupert, stage whispering into his ear. “I’ve been saving something special for you. I found some new toys when we went foraging for clothes yesterday. Have you ever heard of a strap-on?”

This time the groans and the laughter were too closely mixed to tell who was doing which, but they all burst into laughter when the watcher took a spit take of vodka right into the fire.

“Where’ve you been, Spike?” Riley did his best to cover his laughter behind his question, but it was easy to tell he was struggling to keep it under control. “Anything we need to know about?” He was in charge of the patrol schedule, and took his responsibility far too seriously, in Spike’s opinion, but he seemed to have grown into his place in the group, and it was easy to see that he not only adored Buffy, but that the feeling was mutual. That kept him on the side of the living, in Spike’s books.

He shook his head. “Just - refueling, as it were.”

Willow frowned at him. “Well don’t tell me if you’ve been eating Bambi again. I don’t think I could handle that tonight.”

“Don’t worry, Red. There were no deer out this evening. I had to be satisfied with Thumper.”

The chorus of ‘ewwws’ and ‘oh, yucks’ and one satisfied ‘good for you’ from Demon Girl made Spike laugh out loud. He leaned back against the cinderblock and crossed his legs as the conversation moved on to something new.

A year today. It had been an entire year since the hellmouth in Chicago had broken open like a volcano, spewing demons and dragons and uncontrolled multi-dimensional magic across the face of the entire planet, and coming close to exterminating humankind in its wake. But they’d survived. Humans were harder to kill off than they looked. When you took them out one at a time, they came off weak and powerless, but when you pushed them, they rallied together and became a force to be reckoned with. They were survivors.

Dawn was fiddling with the beat up tape player Spike had found for her several months ago, the location of the spare batteries a highly guarded secret that she’d revealed only to him. When the song came on, Spike couldn’t help but smile, watching them all scramble to their feet to dance on the other side of the fire, singing and laughing with each other as if they were still the carefree kids who’d hung out in the Bronze, hundreds of miles and a million lifetimes away.

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -
Lenny Bruce is not afraid…

Spike made sure everyone was otherwise engaged, then slipped out his flask, filled with the good stuff, the warm burn of the scotch heating him from the inside. He handed over the flask, and after a hesitant sniff, Rupert’s eyes widened and he helped himself, twice, before handing it back. Spike smiled to himself as the future of humanity danced on the broken tiles of yesterday’s civilization and relaxed for the moment, singing along to R.E.M.

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.