Rating:FR15, due to themes. Hints of past G/E and borderline G/X
Summery:This was the way the world had ended, not with a bang, but with a whisper. In a post-apocalyptic world, Rupert searches for a solution.
The First Last Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives
In the end, Rupert was one of the lucky ones. He supposed that was what anyone would say, if anyone had been around to say it. He was tired, which wasn't a surprise, and relieved, which was.
At least the fighting was over. The end had come and gone, and the world could fall no further, but still, he couldn't simply lie down and accept it.
Fallen rubble and shattered glass crunches underfoot, and the remarkably clear air is permeated by the stench of death, something which has become a constant companion in his journey, and the reason why he prefers to stick to the open country while moving. He only goes into the cities at night, and he never investigates the ruins too closely when he does so.
Rats the size of cats have dug their nests in the graves of thousands, and roaming pack of dogs hunt down anything that moves, fighting with demons for a scrap of flesh, having quickly reverted to that far more wild side of nature. A lot of the people that had survived the word of the Whisper Men had gone mad with the new world that they had inherited.
Not him, though. He wasn't sure that he had ever been entirely sane in the first place, at least not since his twenties. He knew what it took to survive, had taken live before the end, and put a lot more people out of their misery since. When a person was coming at you, with their eyes blank and empty, wearing blood and dirt like war paint and showing the signs of having survived a hundred other scuffles, then that was when instinct took over.
This town was the last stroke of what was once civilisation, and he was glad to be leaving it behind. It was easier to forget, without the constant reminders.
He navigates at night by stars that have never been clearer, using the cover of darkness to keep himself safe from whatever manner of other creatures shared this seemingly empty county with him. It seemed that the demons didn't like the desert any more that people did.
He drunk from the rain, pure clear fresh water that fell more frequently than it even had before. Even now, the desert was showing signs of life, plants that hadn't bloomed there in hundreds of years starting to show their heads.
Even in the midst of death, we are in life.
Pausing for a moment, he takes a deep breath, and shifts his pack down from off his back, raising a bottle of water to his cracked lips.
“Are you sure this is the best idea you've ever had? Setting that free? You promised him that you'd never go there again.”
“The installation was underground, and he was fine last time I checked. None to happy, but still alright. Besides, I can't do this alone.”
The ghost of Buffy stood beside him, unmoving in the dry, desert wind. In truth, he wasn't sure half the time if he was talking to ghosts, or to figments of his imagination. Maybe that was why he seemed so rational, in the face of everything. But then, more than a few people had called him calculating throughout his life.
He hoped that if Buffy had been killed, then she was in that heavenly realm that she had found once before. She had been in L.A when it had happened, and that was where the disaster had radiated from. He hoped that she was gone. A mad Slayer was the last thing that he needed to come across, especially one who had once meant so much to him. He had kept the Sylphian extract from the Circumentum, a reminder to never be so stupid again, and now it was reassuring to have it on hand.
As the last traces of the town fade into the twilight hills, he raises his head and looks up at the massive full moon that hangs in the sky, just above the dunes. It looks almost like he could reach out and touch it.
Moon cheese would be a nice addition to his jerky tonight, he thinks dryly to himself, wondering if Xander would have appreciated the joke.
“Nah, man, that's the sort of humour that you find on the back of a chip packet,” supplied another familiar voice, and he catches a glimpse of another shadow, another ghost chasing him, out of the corner of his eye. This ones he's almost certain is a figment of his imagination. Xander was in Africa, well away from civilisation already when the fall had come. One last trip, before he came back home and settled down, and they started to work out exactly what there was between them. A matter discussed, but never acted upon.
Now, with the wisdom of hindsight, he wishes that he had seized every opportunity that had come his way, even if it had meant burning out like a star gone supernova. If had had never left London, then he would have never known one of the most pure people that he'd ever met, but then, on the other side of the coin, if he hadn't left Ethan then he never would have been setting himself up to fail.
The nights are cold out here, but his old bike jacket has seen him through hundreds of miles already, and it will see him through the end of the world yet. There's a flick-kinfe in his pocket, with a battered handle and the initials ER burned into the wood, another remnant of the life he's now searching for. The crossbow over his shoulder is used sparingly, as it's not always possible to retrieve the bolts after firing.
He's a lot thinner than he was before, all wiry muscle coiled and waiting to spring, and he wore his boots in months ago.
“Miles to go until we sleep,” he speaks to the blazing stars, not expecting a reply. The dunes shimmer and dance in the distance, and he tucks his hands deep into his pockets. There's braying and howling in the distance, the sounds of excitement, and a scream that's all too human, cut short with a note of finality. There's nothing that he can do, he tells himself. Whoever screams in this savage landscape is already a dead man.
He knows the stories as well as anyone else does. Or did. When all hope is gone, there's still one more rumour to chase. Centuries ago, or so the story says, a man sacrificed everything for the gods, excepting his life, and was rewarded for his pain with a very special book, The Book Of Days. The book was meant to update itself, keeping a record of everything that happened, and reading a page from it, aloud, is meant to be like opening the entire world to a bookmarked page. If he could find it, and remember all of this, then maybe he could save the world once more. But...
“There's no way I can track it alone.” he says to himself, again.
“Come on, old man,” whispers a frightfully familiar tone, one that's been whispering in his ear for decades already, “once more around the block, and then we'll call it a day. We'll relax, and you can read me a story. We'll see what the world makes of us this time round the merry-go-round.”
“Remember that day at Brighton? We drunk until we couldn't stand, and spent the night under the docks.”
How far back should he take the world? Where should he start reading?
“Oh, don't go getting sentimental on me, old man.”
“You'd better still be alive, you spiteful bastard. It'd be just like you, to have gone and died on me, just when I need you.”
“Forget that. Talk to me, yeah? Tell me a story.” this time the voice has a note of Xander in it again.
“Once upon a time there were six fools...” his voice echoes out over the sand.
Lowering his head against the bitter wind, he walks on as the desert night swallows him up like it has so many other old bones.