Author:  Meltha

Rating:  PG

Feedback:  Yes, thank you.

Spoilers:  None.

Distribution: and the Bunny Warren.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  Humans grow old, die, and move on, but vampires remain.  A portrait of Spike many years from now.

Author's Note:  Warning - Character death.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.

Last One Standing

Spike wandered into the first bar he saw that night.  As bars went, it was about par for the course these days.  Like everywhere else, it was packed to the gills with people.  An array of lights spattered the bodies of the dancing patrons, if you could call what they were doing dancing.  Granted, his own terpsichorean tastes tended to center around the waltz, though a mosh pit was always good for a bit of fun.  Still, the strangely desperate knee and elbow gyrations that had become the vogue in the last seventy or so years never ceased to make him feel slightly queasy.  

He managed to squeeze between the press of bodies, remembering with sharp fondness the years before deodorant had been banned along with a wide variety of things that had proven to be eating up the ozone, until he reached the olive and maize burled pseudo-wood of the bar.  Thankfully, there was no awkward mirror behind it.  He tapped smartly on the service link on the bar's surface, and spoke clearly into towards it.

"Bourbon," he ordered succinctly.  "Bill it to account 5783APZ25."

As the glass rose smoothly through the top of the bar's solid holographic top and directly into his hand, he took a moment to wince over the complete lack of a bartender.  Waitresses, waiters, chefs, garbage collectors, postal carriers, maids, janitors, bartenders… they all belonged to antiquity now and had for over a century.  The computer had phased out a lot of creature comforts that the humans today didn't even know enough to miss.

Glass in hand, he picked his way back across the dance floor, avoiding flailing limbs and managing not to spill a drop of bourbon in the process.  The pulsing music of the dance floor became less earsplitting as he reached the shadows in the back, and the crowd thinned as much as it ever did.  He was able to find a table with a single chair, and he sat down heavily, staring at his drink.

"Well, pet," he mumbled softly to no one visible, his voice lost under the background noise, "it's your birthday again.  Cheers."

He tipped the glass in a smooth motion, draining the contents quickly then staring unseeingly at the spectacle of the crowd while his hand automatically rubbed the chain that hung around his neck and under his shirt.

Spike didn't drink much anymore: only on her birthday and the anniversary of her final death.  Granted, he had spent almost a full century completely drunk following Buffy's sudden heart attack at the ridiculously young age of 31.  The doctors had said there was some sort of abnormality in her heart, something they would never have been able to pick up on with the equipment they had back then. 

The vampire had moments of sobriety back then for whole months at a time, enough to make sure the ones she cared about were doing well, but they never knew he was there, of course.  None of them, after all, had particularly liked him.  Xander obviously wanted him dead, Willow felt uncomfortable with him, Giles was leery of dealing with another vampire with a soul, and Dawn, to his eternal unhappiness, had never forgiven him.  There were days when he would have gladly handed over his soul to the fires of hell for the rest of time if only she would have given him one real smile, but in all her long life she never did.  Of course, he'd never given her the chance since he disappeared from sight not long after Buffy's death, never allowing the others to see him on the occasions when he silently killed demons who were lying in wait for Willow or the vampires who had picked Xander as a particularly appetizing target.  They never saw him perched inside the belfry of the church on Dawn's wedding day, and by the time her hearse had pulled up near the crypt he had once called his own, there was no one left who would have recognized the silent man with the startlingly blue eyes.

The years following Dawn's death were bleary at best.  For decades he had done very little, and there was a day when he woke up in a hotel room in Chicago and realized with mild shock that he hadn't spoken a word in over thirty years.  It had never occurred to him to do so.

Not long after that the Purge had begun, and he suddenly had a purpose again that he never would have suspected.  Humans, it seemed, had abruptly wised up.  The technology crawling over the globe had finally exposed the demon world to mortals, and, as they so often did throughout history, they feared and hated what they didn't understand.  Waves of violence had crashed down on anything that smacked of magic or the supernatural. 

Spike could have passed as human.  He didn't have any outward signs that he wasn't exactly as he appeared to be unless he let his face slip or was stupid enough to stand in front of a mirror, and his soul meant he didn't trip off any of the warning detectors humans had rigged for exposing his kind.  Strangely enough, it was his ability to hide that had drawn him out of hiding.

Many peace-loving demon species were on the verge of obliteration due to the fanaticism that was gripping most of the planet, and even many humans were at risk.  Witches and psychics were both being hunted.  There were refuges, though, hidden in the few places people hadn't yet penetrated, and Spike had been one of the key underground guides who sought out surviving demons and human-non-desirables and brought them to safety. 

He had no idea how many he'd helped save during the dark times, but he knew Drusilla wasn't among the number.  During one of the Purge raids, he's seen her, from a distance, burned at the stake.  He had no idea whether they'd caught that she was a vampire or that she had the Sight, but he couldn't help feeling sadness over her demise.  She'd been evil, but after Angel had turned human and, to Spike's great amusement, become a priest then died in his eighties, Drusilla was the only one left from the old days.  He'd felt rather grateful that there was nothing he could have done to stop it if he'd chosen to, blown her ashes a soft kiss, then continued leading his tattered group of witches quietly into the surrounding hill country.

Eventually, people had become busy with other things, and the demon population had faded into legend.  The few who still believed in them were considered crackpots, and the world kept turning.  Still, Spike was fairly certain that the Purge had achieved at least one of its goals, and he was startled when he heard his thoughts spoken behind him.

"You," said a female voice behind him.  "You're the last one, aren't you?"

Spike set his glass back down on the table, then turned towards the speaker.  She was exactly who he had thought she would be:  a young girl, perhaps sixteen, with a determined set to her mouth and the glint of fire in her eyes that could mean only one thing.  She was a Slayer.

"S'right, luv," he said clearly as he took in the older man standing perhaps forty feet away and typing furiously into his hand-held computer journal.  "Must be your Watcher.  Tweed or no, they stand out like sore thumbs in any age.  Get the name right, pops," he called loud enough for him to hear.  "It's Spike.  Don't fancy it being misspelled."

The girl was still glaring at him with fury, and he gave her a lazy smile.  "I'm not about to challenge you to a fight, kid.  Haven't fed from a human in a very long time and I'm not planning on starting up again soon, so feel free to toddle off.  It's not a good day for this sort of thing."

"I am too," she said, making no sense at all.

"Do what?"

"The last one.  I'm the last Slayer.   There only needs to be a Slayer for as long as there's vampires, and since there's only one of you left, this is the end of the line," she said evenly.

Spike considered for a moment before he nodded.  "Makes sense, I suppose.  Nice meeting you and all, but I've got at least ten more bourbons to get through tonight, so if you don't mind…"

"You don't get it, do you?  As long as there are vampires, there will be Slayers.  As long as you're around, we keep getting called.  Lucetta, the one before me, took out the last group of vampires living in the Andes, but one of them got her before it dusted. Now, you're the only one left. I kill you, then I get to go back to a nice, normal life, and no more Slayers get called.  Now, you want to do this here or outside?" she asked as she pulled a stake out of her sleeve and regarded him coolly.

He looked at the young girl standing before him, barely more than a child, her fighting stance obviously flawed, and realized the true enormity of the situation.

"What's your name?"  he asked her in a strangely gentle voice.

She was obviously surprised by the question.  "Uh, Elizabeth."

Spike smiled widely.  "Of course.  Should have known.  Well, if this is going to be the final battle, perhaps we should go out to the alley for tradition's sake, eh?"

"Okay," Elizabeth said in an uncertain tone as she followed him through the door in the back of the bar and into a deserted, litter-strewn alleyway.  Her Watcher trailed behind at a safe distance, obviously transcribing the events for posterity.

As he took in the image of the Slayer, stake raised, her black hair blowing in a sudden wind and her almond-shaped eyes glittering in the dim light, Spike felt a pang around his heart.  Buffy hadn't been much older than this the first time he'd met her.  A whole string of young girls that stretched back as far as time had had their carefree years taken away by duty and violence, but tonight it would end if this one were the victor. 

"Right.  Well, let's have at it then, shall we?" he suggested as he made a sudden lunge towards her.

She sidestepped him pretty well, he thought, allowing his own force to throw him against the cement wall of the bar, cracking it.  He gamely wheeled round again and avoided her attack by leaping over her head as she rushed at him.  She kicked out at his legs as he landed, and though he could see the move coming from a mile away, he let her sandals connect with his shin.  He spilled lengthwise over the pavement, and in a second the girl had turned him over and was straddling him, stake raised.

She could almost swear he gave her a wink as the wood struck home and the alley was filled with the sound of dust softly whooshing into oblivion and one strange, incongruous clink.  Curiously, she picked up the necklace that had fallen to the pavement.

Excerpt from the Watcher's Journal, January 27, 2527

Elizabeth, after a stunning series of movements on her part incorporating training steps number 38, 22, and 55, was able to bring down her foe, a vampire named Spike, with relatively little difficulty.  After a full planetary sweep, the Council is now certain the earth is entirely free of vampires, so Elizabeth has been returned to civilian life.  The necklace that was found amidst the vampire's dust appears to be made of gold, and the small locket it bore was opened to reveal a pair of two-dimensional photographic images from the early part of the twenty-first century, both of them significantly degraded through time.  The subjects of the photographs seem to be a pair of young women, one blonde and one brunette, but they are unidentified by name.  It is most probable they were victims of the demon, but why he chose to retain their images for so long will remain a mystery.