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Five Things Jack Never Expected (or, Thanks a Ton, Apocalypse)

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Back in middle school, or maybe even further, when kids like Xander Harris were playing at being the X-Men, saving the world, Jack O’Toole was stealing those kids’ lunch money.

If he used his imagination for a game, which wasn’t often, it was more of a… mundane imagining. Cowboys and Indians, or Cops and Robbers. Sometimes, when he was feeling really creative, it was Robber Cowboys fighting Indian Cops.

The point of this anecdote is to say that Jack never thought about ending the world himself, because he couldn’t even picture others doing it. His plans of mayhem, such as they were, went no further than intimidating others, stealing things, and blowing stuff up (mainly the school, but he was open to suggestions). The whole “raising the dead” thing was more of an anomaly for Jack than it would have been for anyone else.

The thing is, of course, that you don’t have to intentionally start the apocalypse. You do a few little things, the other guy ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and apocalypse, always the mistress of opportunity, steps in.

In this case, “stepping” is more of an “exploding violently, and with monsters”.

 

1. Jack hadn’t expected anyone (well, maybe excepting Harris) to be in the school so late. So when he heard the sounds of a fight, and a should that sounded a lot like “Aim for the head!” he felt a momentary regret over his bomb placement. Sounded like they were right in the blast zone. Of course, being dead himself, he didn’t feel too much regret.

When the sound of the explosion (a much less impressive sound than he had hoped, he noted with disappointment) was followed by some sort of…. roaring screeching thing, he turned and ran. He may be dead, but he sure as hell was a lively sort of dead, and there was no point in tempting fate.

In his (he would later insist) “manly retreat for tactical reasons,” he nearly missed the fact that he was being outrun by a giant dog, three vaguely familiar girls, and the school librarian (of course, he couldn’t be sure it was the librarian, never having spent much, or any, time in the library). Knowing that getting away safely from any sort of animal (or cop) consists mainly of running faster than the slowest person with you, he ran faster.

He definitely didn’t believe it when the people jumped into a stoner van and got ready to take off. He started to yell for them to wait, more out of habit than anything else, but they actually stopped (more paused, really) so he could jump in. Surprised, he took the blonde’s hand, and the car started to move even before the door was shut.

He looked out the back window as they drove away from the school. He may not have turned to salt (what, you think an Irish boy doesn’t know his Biblical references?), but the place definitely looked like it was being smited. He rethought that, deciding that it definitely looked like hell. Not the “dude, you look like hell” hangover, or the “dude, you look like hell” just risen from the dead. More of an actually engulfed in flames, terrifying and unfamiliar shapes emerging. Almost idly, he wondered if Harris had been in the school. He was pretty sure he didn’t care.

 

2. Another thing Jack hadn’t expected was to get himself press ganged into serving in what looked like a never ending battle. Going on two years, and he was pretty sure he’d fought about a million bad guys. There was some cracked out Sisterhood of Jeeves, monsters that looked like something out of a bad acid trip, and vampires.

Vampires, Giles had explained to him in about five seconds, before Jack found himself with a stake in hand, were dead. And evil. And evil because they were dead (Jack wasn’t really sure of which was the cause and which was the effect. He was pretty sure English people were supposed to make more sense, not less).

Not dead like him, Faith had added. Jack didn't think his death and undeath had affected his soul, and he hadn't tried to suck any of their blood-- at any rate, they needed fighters. Jack was also pretty sure the fact that they couldn't to spare the energy to take him down was something, too. Well, maybe Willow wanted to, as a sort of revenge or something (though what he had done to her, he couldn’t even pick out from his years of bullying. Probably nothing too bad, he reasoned, or he’d remember it.).

But yes, their rule was that souls were important, and they didn’t kill things with souls. This was before they had needed to fight any humans, back when they were only fighting a seemingly endless string of vampires, and snake things, and the occasional superstrong people with giant heads.

 

3. Jack hadn’t expected to enjoy Cleveland much. It was supposed to be less of a monster stronghold than the other hells. So he was excited for that, a little.

But no, the highlight of that particular sidetrip had been MrG getting into an argument with some old English guys (who must have, what, swum to America? Jack had meant to ask), and it ended with Summers punching one in the face. She had actually laughed, which scared even Jack, (because when people who spend all their time moping and not talking laugh, it’s fucking terrifying) and the end result was lots of supplies. And much nicer old people.

The world was in shambles, with more hell busting out all over the globe, but it looked like the tide was turning.

Of course, the real danger would always end up being people, not monsters. Now, Jack was suspicious of other people by nature. He wouldn’t hesitate to screw someone over, so he always assumed the worst of everyone. It was usually a good idea. But he had mainly been trying to anticipate attacks from people doing things he would do—stealing shit, blowing up shit, beating up… shit. But powerful people? The ones who were important and supposed to be responsible for everyone else?

He’d thought they would know better.

 

4. Jack never expected to be finding the bright side of nuclear fallout. Hadn’t even known there was one. But the great thing about radiation sickness, he drunkenly elaborated to some increasingly wary campmates, was that there was less food for the monsters.

Regardless of how creeped out you were by Jack, most everyone agreed with him. There weren’t any more annoying bugs, that was nice, although there were always reports of giant roaches. Not ones you could ride, unless you were really small, but chicken and even dog-sized ones that could feed a family for a few days.

Jack was secretly hoping to find some mutants, with like, superpowers and stuff. Faith said that it was the dumbest idea she’d ever heard, and she may have had a point (even though he wanted humans with natural powers, not whatever the hell magic stuff she had going on). Anyway, once he realized that they were shooting pretty much anything that moved on sight (mostly things that weren’t human, but a few that looked it), he pretty much let that idea drop.

He definitely kept looking at the bodies when he had cleanup duty, though.

 

5. Jack hadn’t expected the apocalypse to be so… pretty awesome. It was a lot like being in high school, but with none of the boring parts. He had free run of anywhere he wanted, got to shoot monsters, and even if the world was going to shit, he was pretty convinced of his own well being.

It’s probably pretty hard to kill a man who’s already dead. Especially since, out of everyone at the camp, there were only three people who weren’t currently suffering from radiation sickness. Apparently, every nation known to have nukes (and a few that weren’t) shooting them off in what they were sure was self defense can really mess up the environment. And even though the slayers weren’t really suffering yet, he could see that it wasn’t much longer before they were sick, too. They were moving slower, their bodies overworked with the effort of repairing the damage every day. Hell, if the disease didn’t kill them, some vampire probably would get lucky.

Jack was pretty excited, to be honest. “The Last Man on Earth!” “The Man Nothing Could Kill!” Yeah, he was badass. He was going to be king (of what, he wasn’t quite sure). He was almost disappointed that he couldn’t figure out how to bring anyone else back for him to rule over.

He was taking a walk around what he had decided to call “Jack’s Castle” when he almost ran into Willow. She wasn’t looking too good—although, a damned sight better than most people—but the girl she was in deep conversation with looked fine. Jack grinned. He’d always known Willow was into girls (he actually hadn’t, but he was totally going to take credit for knowing, when he went back to camp and told everyone).

Jack edged closer, hoping to hear their conversation, and maybe see some making out.

“So it’ll be better?”
“You know that’s not how it works.”
“Just different.”
“Right. You should try to be as exact as possible.”

Willow started to cough, and the other girl stood up, alarmed.

“I’m not a medical professional! I don’t know how to deal with this!” She crouched down, carefully out of the way of Willow's coughs, patted Willow awkwardly on the back. “You need to say it.”

“I wish. I wish that whatever happened that day, back in the library, the day the floor exploded. It didn’t happen. And Xander and Oz. And Oz and Xander didn’t die. They’d have helped. And that none of this happened.”

Willow kept on coughing, harder, and Jack almost felt pity for her. Poor girl. World is what it is. Wishing doesn't change that.

“Done."