Theme: The Apocalypse
There are probably a million of these out there, and I haven't read that many, so this is the smallest of small samplings and obviously the ones I liked best. They also feature a nice blend (in my opinion) of this type of story (pre-, during-, and post-apocalypse), as well as different kinds of world-endings (aliens, disasters, mysteries), and different types of protagonists (modern day warriors, modern day royalty, regular kinds of guys). There's also a range of word counts. We have a little bit of everything over here.
On with the end of the world...
[#37 - Last Outpost of All That Is by eighth_horizon / gekizetsu]
Title: Last Outpost of All That Is
Author: eighth_horizon / gekizetsu
Word Count: ~61k
Link: http://eighth-horizon.livejournal.com/54410.html (fic announcement)
Story Link: http://gekizetsu.net/sn/lastoutpost.htm
Download links: http://amalthia.mediawood.net/ebooks/viewstory.php?sid=114
Author's Summary: The boys struggle to deal with a world that's almost unrecognizable. Searching for what they need keeps bringing them face to face with each other.
Oh, what's this now? Supernatural fic? SAM AND DEAN?! Yes yes, OKAY OKAY, I ADMIT IT. leashy_bebes started it with a rec in her 100 Things list and it just spiraled from there. Whatever, I'm going with it.
What better guys to throw into an Apocalypse than these two, yeah? Yup. Survival instincts and skills, know their way around the country, already have an arsenal in the trunk of the car in which they live, yada yada. If anyone's equipped for the world to end, it's a Winchester.
I love how the Apocalypse goes down in this story. It just... happens. I'll include the beginning in my excerpt below. The story is told day by day, how they deal with everything (in their exceptionally and increasingly Winchester sorta ways), what they go through trying to suss things out, how they both freak out about different things. Lots of smart little observations like, "His watch still kept the time, nothing but a manmade concept trapped against his wrist." The author has a definite gift for storytelling, and I could have read so much more of this--it's one of those kinds of stories. (It was also one of those spontaneously-cry-at-the-end type of stories.) And the way their relationship came around was very realistic, I thought; I like to be eased into the Wincest in longer stories, and she does a great job of that here.
Saturday, September 13th, 2008; 4:29 am EST
The world ends while they’re asleep.
Sam’s first memory of that morning – nothing woke him during the night that he could remember – was a sudden crash of consciousness. He remembered nothing of what had gone on in the darkness prior...and then there was everything.
He’d sat up and turned his head toward Dean, always toward Dean, one commonality in the ever-changing and uncertain life they led. Dean slept on, face down, one arm dangling toward the floor, the skin beneath his eyes bruised with exhaustion. They were in some small but carefully kept roadside motel just outside Calloway, Virginia, one more stepping stone to yet another strange place further on. One more break in the asphalt ribbon that served as their yellow brick road, that ephemeral promise of an end somewhere, somewhen, an idea other than that the road went ever on. Waiting for their real lives to begin, or end so fast that it didn’t matter anymore.
He had known, right away. Dean was alive and breathing, but the world was not, not in the ways he was used to.
He had seen his first real death at five, the first one he could remember, in any case. Sam had been asleep in the back seat and Dean was riding up front when a coyote crossed the road in the dark, and John had mowed it down rather than risk swerving with Sam sprawled out unbuckled in the back. Dean had told him that, later, that it was the way of things and that family came first, something their father would say over and over until a later day when he changed his mind. Sam had not taken it as a token of blame; he’d understood that these things happened, that the coyote had made a choice and then his father had had to make another as a result.
He had watched with wide eyes while it thrashed in the eastbound lane in the sullen glow of the Impala’s brake lights, shrieking, alive and broken and struggling to get the former to overcome the latter.
Dean had not let him see the shot from his father’s gun that stopped the coyote from thrashing around. He heard it all the same, the finality of it, and it didn’t sound anything like it did when Dean was target practicing.
When he’d looked over the back seat and out the window again, the coyote was still. Not the still of sleeping, not the still of waiting; still in a way that Sam grasped even then. You could look at anyone or anything and know immediately whether it was alive or not, without waiting to see if the chest would expand with air again. The vibration of everything that lived was louder in its absence than in its full, unfurled hysteria. It was subtle from a distance, but terribly obvious all the same.
The world, at first glance, was dead.
There's also a coda, written by Maygra: Not for Samson in the Temple. It's a little over 3k (I wish it had been 30k), but it's a good little follow-up to the main story.
[#38 - It's not the end of the world (but you can see it from here) by corilannam]
Title: It's not the end of the world (but you can see it from here)
Word Count: ~33k
Link 1: http://corilannam.livejournal.com/131608.html
Link 2: http://archiveofourown.org/works/390043
Author's Summary: Arthur, Prince of Wales, finds it hard to accept that he and Merlin have no future. Then he finds out that neither does anyone else. (fusion with the movie 2012)
So, as the summary says, it's a fusion with the fantastic (ha) movie 2012, but you don't need to see it to get the story--don't even bother with the movie, really. I love John Cusack to little bits, but the movie was lacking. The story, though, is not.
And it's all the better for hitting on three of my favorite fic tropes: post-breakup (I don't know what it is about the heartfail, dealing with the angst, and then seeing them get back together, but I love it--and I'll be doing a whole list of Things of just those stories); Modern Royal AU (Prince Arthur of Wales? Yes, please. I love all the intricacies that come with a prince trying to date a regular dude); and the Apocalypse (because sometimes the world ending makes you do crazy shit, and who doesn't love reading about crazy shit?).
The story: When the world's going to end, royalty finds out first-ish, right? And what if you, said royalty, are given a chance to save (literally) any one person you want in the world? Who gives a crap if that person is off saving the world (not literally) somewhere in Africa and probably doesn't want to see you? You'd still want him around. Right?
That's the premise, pretty much. Excellently executed. There's a scene in the story with Uther that just broke my heart. So good.
[Super-long excerpt here....]
Here, have a really long excerpt:
Merlin ducked, unfortunately, and held up his hands as if to deflect Arthur's unreasonable temper. "I thought it would be easier. I thought if I saw you again, I wouldn't be able to go."
"Go where?" He sounded helpless and stupid, and he hated himself for it. "What, Africa?"
Merlin's head jerked on his neck in a parody of a nod. His eyes were getting wet, as if he were the one with the right to cry. "I don't want to leave you. I don’t."
In an instant Arthur move forward and seized him by the shoulders. "Then why? You owe me that much."
Merlin looked back at him, so close Arthur could see the damp clumping of his eyelashes. "Because I'm not happy, but I didn't understand why until I went to the conference."
Arthur's fingers were cramping around Merlin's shoulders, but he only tightened his grip. The words hurt more than his fingers. "Because of me."
"No! It's not about you, Arthur." Merlin tried a smile, but it was growing weaker with each attempt. "You're not even a prat anymore. At least eighty percent of the time. Maybe seventy-five."
"If you’re leaving me, then it’s about me." He could certainly go on the internet anytime and read a laundry list of his personal failings. He had never given it much heed before.
Merlin shook his head. "I can't live your life, Arthur."
"I never asked--" he started to protest until Merlin shook his head harder.
"No, you're right. I'm not living your life, I'm living in the shadow of your life. I thought I could be happy with that, but when I talked with all those people who were doing what I used to do... I can't spend the rest of my life being your--your mistress, Arthur."
Ten minutes ago Arthur would have teased with a casual insult and waited for Merlin to laugh himself out of his mood. Now he felt his future hinging on saying exactly what he meant.
"I always meant to--" He stopped himself and started again. "You know I'll marry you right now. We'll wake up a registrar."
"I'll call my father. He won't dare tell me no, and if he does, we'll appeal to Parliament. Who else is there to succeed him?" Arthur felt his mouth tightening in a mad grin. "I've figured it all out, Merlin. I've had a plan for ages now."
"I know you have." Merlin laughed with a distinct edge of hysteria. "That's exactly what I'm terrified of. I know what you were trying to do in Japan."
"Merlin. You're not making any sense. As usual." Arthur frowned in confusion, until he remembered the silk pouch in his pocket and the love token inside.
Merlin drew back, taking a full step away. "I can’t marry you, Arthur. I can’t be your consort and go around pretending I’m royalty. I can’t live that life for the rest of mine. I was never meant to."
"Not your destiny?" His voice sounded sharp, but inside he felt small. I thought I was your destiny, he wanted to say, but never would.
"Whatever you want to call it, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing." He held Arthur’s gaze as he kept shaking his head, panicky but resolute.
"You always say that it’s the local doctors who really run things," he shot back. "They don’t need you. You don’t belong there, Merlin."
Merlin’s face went cold. "And I belong here? At least there I’m useful to someone."
As opposed to Arthur, who served little purpose in the modern world except as an outdated vestige of a historical legacy less and less relevant by the minute. His jaw clenched. Of all people, he had thought Merlin saw him as something more.
"You’re useful here," he persevered. "You raise the money that buys the medicine and equipment they need to do their jobs."
"But I’m not very good at it." Merlin gave a short laugh. "Believe it or not, Arthur, I was damn good at my job before. I built relationships and made commitments that I didn’t have the right to break just because a prince gave me a wink one day."
"I see," Arthur said, because he could think of no other response to hearing the risk he had taken, the devotion he had given, reduced to so little.
Merlin bit his lip and gave him an apologetic look. "I didn't mean it like that. But Arthur, the people I work with there see well-meaning Westerners come and go all the time. Rock stars, politicians, kids on their gap year—yeah, even royalty. They play with the children, they take pictures, they raise some money, and they leave. Don’t get me wrong, it does help."
"Why, thank you," he muttered.
"But the local staff you’re dismissing —- it’s their home, their people. They can’t just get on a plane and forget about it until it’s time to write the next check. And yeah, they do amazing things, but they still need people who will stay and fight with them and not give up when it gets tough. I thought you’d understand that, Captain Pendragon."
The hell of it was, he did. He did not want to listen, because it hurt and made him feel so small that he would still take Merlin away from those people if he could, but he could not pretend he did not understand.
"We could still be together," he started, stubborn to the last against fading hope. "You could still go--"
"No, I couldn’t. It wouldn’t work for either of us, and you know it." Merlin’s breathing was ragged and choked, and Arthur hated him just a little for being the one who could cry. "I love you, Arthur, but we were never meant to have a future together."
Arthur turned away for a moment, unable to look at Merlin as he gathered himself for one last assault. "Merlin—"
"Merlin?" called a voice from the living room, followed by the slam of the front door.
Arthur stiffened and turned to look at Merlin, who ducked his head with a sigh. "Back here, Lance," Merlin called.
A second later Lancelot du Lac appeared in the doorway of Merlin’s bedroom, holding the jacket Merlin had left on the coffee table. "Merlin, are you ready? The flight leaves – oh, excuse me, Your Highness."
Arthur just stared at him. Lancelot du Lac, who felt free to waltz into Merlin’s flat without so much as ringing the bell. Lancelot du Lac, who stood ready to collect his prize, holding Merlin’s coat as though it was his privilege. Arthur had already lost before he even knew there was an enemy to fight.
"Yes, I see," he said and moved toward the door.
"Arthur!" Merlin said sharply. "Arthur, wait."
There seemed to be nothing else to wait for, but he did stop and turn back to Merlin. His hand slid into his pocket and pulled out the silk pouch he had carried from the other side of the world. "I almost forgot," he said. "Brought you this. You can take it with you, if you like."
"Arthur, no," Merlin started. The pain on his face was sweet salve to Arthur’s anger.
Merlin tried to back away, but Arthur seized his hand and lifted it. He pressed the pouch into Merlin’s palm, then one by one, closed his fingers around it. "Really. You deserve it, after everything you’ve been through."
Then he turned and walked away, clapping Lancelot on the shoulder as he passed him at the doorway. "Bon voyage," he said with a casual bonhomie. "I’ll be down there for the Cup next week. Maybe I’ll drop by and take some photos."
He made it back to the car before the hollow feeling in his stomach turned to actual sharp pain. Above him, the lights of Merlin’s flat still shone, even when he squeezed his eyes shut as hard as he could. For the first time, he wished he had not driven himself.
But he could not stay here, with those lights over his head and Merlin coming out the door at any moment. He put the car into gear and drove back to the life Merlin had not been able to bear the thought of joining.
He and Merlin had no future.
Two weeks later, he found out that neither did anyone else.
Royal Arthur? Check. Break-up? Check. Hint of the Apocalypse? Check. Next!
[#39 - When Morning Comes by Starlingthefool]
Title: When Morning Comes
Word Count: ~9k
Author's Summary: If life were fair, anyone who managed to survive the apocalypse would be given a fuzzy blanket, some tea, and a nice bed to hide under and weep.
Life is not fair, obviously, and there's no actual end to the end of the world. Instead, there's grief and pain and mud and death, there are minor miracles, and there's the love that gets you out of bed in the morning, despite everything. Life goes on.
This one is a bit different from the previous one--this is more about what goes on after the Apocalypse occurs. It's a modern AU, so not Prince Arthur of Camelot waltzing around, post-apocalypting with a sword, but a modern Arthur. Turns out he's able to handle the end of the world pretty damn well anyway.
In her AN, Starlingthefool says this was written for a Happy Ending fest. Apparently she likes to make her characters work for their HEAs, because these two have a tough road, and somehow, it all goes down in less than 10k. When I went to pull up the fic so I could write this, I was shocked to see how not long it was, because in my head, it's at least 25k. She did a great job fitting so much into so little space.
This is the aliens-end-the-world story I mentioned at the top. War of the Worlds type thing. Who needs an asteroid when crazy scary monster things can show up and kill everyone? I don't--I'm fine with aliens. Particularly when I can picture Bradley James saving people rather than Tom Cruise.
Long ago, Merlin recognized this truth about himself: he was kind of rubbish at most things. He couldn’t cook without burning the food, do laundry without shrinking a sweater, or do the washing up without breaking a glass. The list of his non-skills was seemingly endless: he couldn’t keep appointments, meet deadlines, turn in assignments.
Arthur – who was dismayingly good at many things, like rugby and understanding economics and being attractive – liked to tell Merlin that he’d be dead within minutes if the apocalypse ever happened, and Merlin quite cheerfully agreed with him.
They were both been wrong about that, but it was a close call. The fact that Merlin lived through the initial invasion was due to one very handy canister of gasoline, a book of matches, and Arthur’s absurdly good sense of timing.
“Honestly,” Merlin says, “What self-respecting alien species invades on a Wednesday? Wednesdays are for skivving off work and eating yesterday’s leftovers. Who the fuck does anything so ambitious on a Wednesday?”
He and Arthur are huddled in a shelled-out building in what, this time last week, was a suburb of London. There’s a steady trickle of gunfire in the distance, interspersed with the eye-watering whine of the Mantidae’s sonic weaponry. Eventually, the gunfire cuts out, leaving an awful droning silence.
“Merlin,” Arthur says. “With everything they’ve done, are you really going to complain about their bloody timetable?”
The Mantidae look like four-foot tall praying mantises with long, curving fingers instead of claws. Their skin is hard and plated, nearly impenetrable to gunfire. Their eyes look like faceted gems. Their fingers end in sharp barbs that can rend human flesh into flayed stripes with one swipe. Nobody understands why they’ve come, or from where. It was an ordinary, boring Wednesday afternoon; and then it was the end of the world.
“I hadn’t finished watching the last season of Lost,” Merlin says. He has been crying steadily for two days. It’s all the dust and smoke in the air. “They couldn’t have waited until Sunday?”
“Ah, but Sunday’s the day for a lie-in,” Arthur says. “Who wants to be invade when they could stay in bed until ten-thirty?”
They shrink back further into the doorway as they hear engines overhead. The craft hovers, then moves on.
Merlin wipes his eyes. Damn smoke.
“I can tell you how it ends, if you want,” Arthur says. “Lost, I mean.”
“Don’t you fucking dare, Pendragon.”
“Oh, come on. It really wasn’t that–”
Merlin kisses him for the first time to shut him up. He kisses him the second time because the world is burning to cinders all around them, because they saw an untold number of people die in the last forty-eight hours, because Arthur is warm and there and gloriously alive, and Merlin can’t think of a better person to spend the end of the world with.
Arthur kisses him back, which is good, because otherwise it would have been a very awkward apocalypse.
So, a bunch of angst, a healthy dose of humor, and eventually it might live up to its purpose for that Happy Endings fest.
Any particular Apocafics you like? Let me know!