200 Years by Reremouse


Chapter 5

"Fucking stop squirming, Harris." Spike puts his knee on Xander's thigh and a hand on his shoulder. Isn't half as comfortable as using the git for a sofa but there's points to be made. "You're a vampire. It's not like you can be uncomfortable."

"What? Vampires can't be uncomfortable? Is it some kind of rule? Because I hate to remind you buddy - I never got the manual."

Spike's knees slide between Xander's and he flops gracelessly onto his chest. "You don't have any circulation. No circulation means it can't get cut off. Git."

"But you're heavy. Sure you haven't been packing on the pounds since you became human?"



"I'd stake you if it wasn't too much effort," Spike says and wonders where he's heard those words before.

Then he remembers.

Mostly because Xander's grumbling. "Cuts off my circulation and steals my lines. You're worse than the cat."

"You have a cat?"


"Got peckish?"

Xander clears his throat and looks away and Spike wishes he hadn't asked.

"That's disgusting."

"He was a little bastard anyway." Xander shifts around one more time. Spike's weighing the value of a knee to the balls against his immediate sex life when Harris finally stills and changes the channel.

It's footie and Xander's got a heavy arm over Spike's back.

And it'd take more energy than Spike's got to knee him in the bollocks.

Spike waits for the commercial. "Didn't really eat it, did you?"


They're silent through a beer commercial featuring wet tee-shirts and micro miniskirts by mutual consent.


"Used to be a Rifvod living across the hall. He got peckish."

"You get the going rate?"

"Yeah." Xander's thumb caresses the remote.

Spike considers the telly.

It's big. It's new. It's expensive.

"It was a siamese wasn't it?"

"Blue point."

"Fair trade."

The commercials end and Spike picks car grease from under his fingernails while they watch Liverpool trounce Luton. He flicks greasy blobs of fingernail grunge onto the carpet.

"I'm going to have to clean that up you know," Xander says.

Spike waits until the commercial to answer. Gives him time to think one up because it's just not good for a vamp's reputation to hoover the carpet but it's pretty nice living in clean digs. While Pepsi cola tries to convince them to rot their teeth with its products, Spike squirms around and throws a leg over Xander's hip.

He's answerless so he changes the subject.

"Got the car running," he says.

"That'd be great if I had anywhere to go."

"Never know. You could."

"I get more nervous every time you say that," Xander says and hoists Spike's leg up over his hip bone until his jeans dig into his bollocks and make them tingle. "Like you're going to rent-a-mob and we'll have to flee to Canada." Xander traces the seam with a fingertip.

More tingling.

"Not Canada," Spike says. "Bloody cold up there."

"I don't want to flee."

"Gets the blood pumping."

"I don't have any circulation."

"Shh. Game's back on," Spike says even though it's not a competition anymore, the game. It's a slaughter.

So when Harris starts to nibble his neck and he's got his eyes closed for the winning goal, he graciously lets Harris carry on.

"Not that I'm planning to flee, mind you. Or changing my mind - but if we were gonna flee, where would we go?"

"Dunno," Spike tells Xander's boots since they're all he can see from his position flat on his back on a creeper under the car. The Chevy's dripping oil on him and his left thigh feels slimy where the grease seeped through. "Ever been to Pittsburgh?"

"That's not much of a flee."

"Flight," Spike corrects. "Start small."

"What's in Pittsburgh?"

"Decent Chinese food," Spike says and kicks his way out from under the car. He tucks his hands behind his head and stares up at Harris.

"You're covered in oil."

"Yeah well you're covered in fry grease."

Spike doesn't stand up so Harris drops down to his haunches. This close Spike can smell the fry grease and it makes his stomach growl.

"Gross, Spike."

"Bloke I knew by the name of Harris used to eat a lot worse than this diner serves up, mate."

"Harris, Harris. You talk about that guy so much, I'm starting to think you've got a crush on him," Xander says and sits down on the floor. "What's up with that?"

"Don't know. He was a self-righteous git who ate too much. Should've seen the gut on him," Spike says, pleased when Xander involuntarily looks down at his stomach.

"Must be another Harris then," Xander says and Spike's got to admit he has a point. A man could use Harris' ribs as a washboard these days.

"You could eat criminals," Spike says because it has to be said. In fact, it's been said at least once a day since Spike caught Xander sucking down a sharpei. Xander's giving him a speaking look and Spike speaks right back with two fingers. "I don't have a record. Pillock."

"You don't have a legal identity either. It's only a matter of time."

"Don't need an identity. I have an identity."

"Cops must love you," Xander says and lays down with his head under the car. It'll serve him right if it leaks on him.

Spike wipes his hand on a rag that might've been yellow once and tosses it away. "It's early. Why aren't you in the kitchen like a good domestic creature of the night?"

"It's my lunch break," Xander says and the whole criminals conversation takes on new poignance.

"Then again," Spike says, "I've done a lot of things in my time that could be considered criminal."

"In every nation in the civilized world," Xander says and in the shadow of the car, his eyes glow gold.

It's fucking creepy.

And bloody hot.

"You always make small talk with your afternoon tea?" Spike asks, pulling his tee-shirt up over his head. He's grimy with motor oil and reaches up to wipe his neck clean but Harris' hand is in the way.

"Don't," he says and when Spike finds himself flat on his back on the concrete with Harris' bumps up against his neck, he goes along for the ride. Lifts his arms and stretches his neck and rubs grease into Xander's tee shirt and jeans.

By the time he comes with a rolling shudder that makes his toes go numb, he's left black hand prints on Xander's arse.

They look good.

He lies there with his tackle out while Harris zips and tucks - too sated to move and appreciating the view. Harris has another half of his shift to finish and hash waits for no man.

"We'd go to New York," Spike says when Harris has his hand on the doorknob.

Harris twists around and grins at him. He'd look like a goofy happy kid if Spike didn't know better. "That's more like it."

Problem is - Spike's New York doesn't exist anymore and neither does New York's Spike. He fingers the bite on his neck - it's hot and puffy, infected and it doesn't like the motor oil Spike smeared in every time he stopped working on the car to rub it. He'll have a tattoo when it heals.

He lies on the concrete fucking exhausted and stares at the ceiling because the sex and blood high's long gone and Spike wants to drink a beer and go to sleep until he feels - bloody ha ha ha - human again.

He touches the warm and ragged edges of the bite and tries to remember what it was like when Dru bit him but all he recalls is the white noise of a junior bank clerk's first orgasm. God, he'd been a sad bastard.

Sadder than Harris and that's true. It gives Spike enough hope for Harris' future to push himself to his feet and stagger around the corner into the diner where he orders coffee and a plate of whatever Harris has got on the range which turns out to be sausage and eggs.

Spike drowns them in ketchup and starts to eat.

"That's so gross," Harris says while Spike's shoveling egg scraps, ketchup and a few parsley leaves into his mouth on a piece of toast.

"Yeah," Spike agrees and reaches for another piece of toast. Talks with his mouth full and spreads it with jam that claims to be strawberry. "They ought to fire the cook."

"He's probably fucking the owner." Harris picks up a sugar packet and taps it against his fingers.

"In that case they should definitely fire the cook. Run him out of town on a sodding rail."

"Man - you're harsh."

"Can't abide a bloke who sleeps his way to the top," Spike says.

"Around here, it's sleeping his way to the lower middle. And anyway, I hear he's got a thing for a homeless mechanic he's got living with him."


"Yeah. Personally I don't know what he sees in him."

"Probably a great shag," Spike says and drinks his coffee.

Chapter 6

Spike keeps being a great shag and being a great shag keeps Spike in orgasms, smokes and pie.

He's been in Pennsylvania long enough to get caught in a snowstorm and come into the diner shivering and shaking melting ice out of his coat collar.

He's been in Pennsylvania long enough to learn the jukebox's selection of Christmas hits hasn't been updated since 1971.

And he's been in Pennsylvania long enough to learn that the pie cook at the Prancing Pony's got a creative streak - or he's an on-again off-again alcoholic.

"What the fuck's this?"

Betty the graveyard waitress picks up the plate and sniffs. "Quince."

"Fucking quince," is all Spike's got to say to that and he eats it fast with three cups of coffee.

And he's starting to think Xander's chubby ex-vampire taunts won't be a joke much longer but fucking hell - a man's entitled to pie while he can still enjoy it.

See - Spike's made up his mind about things and he's a man with a plan. A plan spun over lemon meringue and latticed peach and crunchy-sweet pecan. A plan spun over a la mode and black coffee from the bottom of the tureen.

Spike's a man looking death in the eye - all right, Spike's a melodramatic git fucking Death every night and twice a day.

And it's time Death paid him back.

If Xander won't be a proper vampire for Spike to live through vicariously, Spike's got no choice but to show him how its done.

It's the honorable thing to do.

The white hat thing.

The good guy thing.

And it's about time Spike made another big sacrifice to the cause.

Can't waste a souled vampire on hash after all - they're not a dozen a sodding penny and Spike's still got some pride.

Pride and bloody tight jeans.

Spike surreptitiously loosens his belt a notch and pops the button.

And orders another slice of pie. Life or death's not a decision made lightly.

Spike orders the pie a la mode.

Xander's working the day shift when the brunette and the blonde come in and Spike's got a moment trying to squint through a glamor that isn't there before he goes back to his pancakes. They're burnt and they've got wobbly edges and he drowns them in syrup until they're mush.

The girls order orange juice and muffins and Spike shamelessly snoops on their conversation.

One's on a diet and the other eats like a horse.

One's from Brooklyn and the other's from Seattle.

One's boring and the other is - Spike's attention wanders back to his pancakes - boring.

But he's got food now and food for thought and no problem walking through the swinging employee's only door with the apostrophe he was mostly successful in scratching off and into the kitchen. He dumps his dirty dishes in the sink for Walt the dishwasher and hops onto the counter.

"Your ass is on the counter."

"It's a kitchen, Harris. The counter's seen worse." Spike found a battered copy of Kitchen Confidential on Xander's bookcase and read it cover to cover. Good times.

"Yeah okay."

Spike thinks twice about another helping of pancakes - or anything else - then gets back to the point. "Cleveland's less than four hours away."

"Three and a half at night."


"Said that." Harris squirts water on the griddle and disappears in steam, scrape, scrape, scraping crunchy remains of greasy - grease - off the scratched steel.

"Where there's a hellmouth."

"If you've seen one hellmouth, you've seen them all," Harris says when he reappears and cracks a couple of eggs into a corner. They sizzle sunny side up while Spike and Xander wait for Spike to press the point.

Spike presses. "Bit's living in Cleveland."

"So's Buffy," Xander says and upends a can of hash. "Heard Dawn lost an eye."

And that's not a subject Spike's ready to talk about in this lifetime so he grabs a fork and forks up a mouthful of hash. "Needs pepper." Xander pours pepper from a box and Spike cuts to the chase. "Why isn't this place crawling with Scoobies?"

Harris doesn't answer in words.

Doesn't have to.

He jerks his head toward the corner of the kitchen and a pile of sticks and bones, feathers and stones that Spike knows stinks like sulfur and candyfloss to a vampire's nose. "Blind Cadria, is it? Didn't know you were into arts and crafts."

"I got into all kinds of wacky fun at summer camp," Harris says and flips the eggs onto a plate.

"Thought you weren't hiding."

Xander hands the plate to Spike. "Table eight. Earn your keep."

Spike thinks about humanity.

A bloke might suppose it's on Spike's mind all the time but he'd be wrong.

He only thinks about once - twice - a week aside from a spare thought here and there while he's giving in to his body's insatiable demands to shit, piss or - one memorable morning - puke his insides into the petunias.

But those are fleeting thoughts.

Fleeting bugger this shanshu for a lark thoughts.

Right now Spike thinks.

Past the sweating and the stinking and the noise of his own gurgling insides.

About humanity.

And about the human survival instinct that got off William The Bloody's tour bus fourteen exits and a Denny's back.

He scrapes shaving cream off the pink and black tattoo of a bite and flicks it into the sink.


Is about flexibility, Spike decides. Growing up and growing old and getting wrinkled and dying. Change and sodding well dealing with it. Vampires can change but most don't.

Thing is, Spike did.

And now Spike's human, he's shying away from change like an aging soap star.

Spike's also decided he's a control freak. Or Harris decided it for him when Spike growled and tied both of Harris' hands to the headboard with a length of twine when they kept wandering. If there's change, Spike bloody well wants to be the instigator.

"Deep thoughts?"

"Fucking buggering bollocking hell, Harris!"

"You're bleeding."

"Anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on a man with a razor to his throat?"

"No." Harris steps around where Spike can see him. He's licking his lips.

"Could've asked. Greedy sod." Spike's got his hands full of Harris and the sink under his thighs. There's a trickle of water from the tap neither of them's fixed running down his left buttock and cool dead lips are fastened over his shaving cut and pulling the thoughts out of Spike's head one by one 'til there's one left.

Humanity can bugger itself.

Spike gets cut a lot after that. Slips in the kitchen. Clumsy with his razor. Greasy gouges working on the chevy and every time it's followed with the same cool dead lips and a bloke who never could take a hint.

Xander's licking the scar on Spike's knee when Spike gets tired of hinting, starts tempting.

Starts tempting with a warm thigh where the femoral artery gushes and rushes and skin smells so good. "Don't be shy."

Xander's got two slick fingers jammed up Spike's arse and a disbelieving look on his face. "You call this shy?"

"Well - not shy as such."

"Seriously - what's up with you tonight?"

"Been thinking."

"Not a good thing to say while fucking."

"You're not fucking me - bloody hell - all right. Well I said it before you were - right." But Spike's not prepared to lose this thread. He's clinging to it with both hands - metaphorically since both hands are busy with handfuls of Harris.

"Thinking," Xander says.

"Thinking I'm shirking my responsibility," Spike gasps with curling toes. "Shirking my duty."

"Which duty is this? Because I'm here to tell you you've got the whole providing Xander with orgasms duty covered."

"That's pleasure, pillock."

"Covered," Harris insists and Spike acknowledges he's not in a place to argue.

"Shirking my duty," Spike says again while Harris works over that spot inside with a single-minded focus Spike's got to admire, "as a vampire."

Harris stops.

Spike stops. Except the parts of him inside that go on pumping and pulsing and breathing.

"You're not a vampire."

"Think I'm human?" Spike says because isn't that the bloody punchline? He's alive and breathing and no more human than he ever was dead. And when Xander shifts - a slow out and a slower in, comes down to breathe in deep the whole living, breathing miasma Spike's got clinging to him - he nods. "Go on, pet. You know what to do."

And Spike's going to be embarrassed if Harris doesn't.

But he does.

Fang and cock and bloody beautiful body 'til Spike's having an out of body experience complete with fireworks and free porn and not to be missed - and when Harris pulls away and looks like he's got something to say Spike clamps down and holds him in place with all the strength a human body's got.

Whatever Harris has on his mind can sodding well wait until tomorrow.

"Stop now and I'll fucking well stake you."

For last words, they're not bad.

Chapter 7

Spike's back.

And if not a bloody animal, he's a wild man unleashed.

Because even the bad guys taste like pie in the Prancing Pony's neighborhood and Spike's eating well.

Eating, fighting, shagging. He's a machine and the drywall in Xander's apartment's got a dent in it shaped like Xander's head.

There's another shaped like Xander's elbow and Spike's knee and it's about time somebody showed Harris how a real vampire shags.

"The world moved," Harris says. "At least the wall. The wall definitely moved and may not be structurally sound anymore." And he's right because a bloke hasn't shagged like a vampire until he's brought the sodding house down.

So now they're sated and sprawled on the couch and there's footie on the telly and a can of Beer Nuts open on the table. And Spike's got his fingers splayed on his belly and his fly open because he can't be arsed to close it. Be needing it open again soon enough.

Spike takes a slug of Wild Turkey and passes the bottle.

"Thanks," Harris adds. Good manners - Spike appreciates that.

"Car needs spark plugs," he says after Keane scores and the network goes to commercial. Tottenham's having a good season and, "needs paint too."

"The car needs paint to run?"

Spike reminds himself that stupid's a guaranteed quantity when Darla picks 'em and takes back the bottle. "Needs paint before we're seen in it."

"It's blue."

"And?" Spike takes a slug.


"And?" Spike prompts and relinquishes the bottle. It's getting dangerously low but there's a case by Spike's foot waiting to be opened.

"Okay and orange. It's called an accent color, Spike. Look it up."

"Poof," Spike says and "paint," and lights up a cigarette because the car's in bloody good shape but it's painted like one of Harris' old shirts. Spike's appointed himself minister of fashion sense in their partnership "And spark plugs."

"You're such a big spender with my money."

"Ta for the loan."

They both know it's not a loan. If it was a loan, Spike would intend to pay it back. Spike doesn't. They also both know there's a diversionary shag or a blow job or a fast and dirty hand job in it for Harris whenever he brings up the subject and Spike hasn't heard any complaints yet.

He drops a casual hand into Harris' lap and feels around till he's got an eager palmful of Harris and fondles him through two beer commercials and a NASCAR preview before he comes.

"Spark plugs," Harris gasps.

"And paint."

"Spike I'd give you a pony right now. You want a pony?" Harris rolls his head to give Spike a bright-eyed, dazed look like Spike's the best he's ever had and Spike's ego's on the brink of orgasm with all that stroking.

Spike stretches his arms along the back of the couch and he can feel himself grinning. Yeah, suck on that, you shanshu-giving wankers.

William the Bloody's bloody well back.

Spike gets his spark plugs and paint job and keeps working on the car till it's sleek and black and purring like Barry White's kitten.

One day it's ready.

"Car's ready," Spike says to his cup of coffee, oily black and already staining the sides of his cup. It smells like burnt rubber and Spike takes a flask out of his duster and tips the whiskey in.

He waits for Harris to object, to tell him its against the liquor laws or some such but instead he holds out his cup and waits for Spike to pour whiskey in it.

Spike does.

They drink.

Harris has come a long way. Might be hope for him yet.

Xander sets down the empty cup and wraps his hands around it. "So, car." The thick pottery holds the heat well and Spike's forgotten how good it feels on dead palms. "I guess you're leaving."

"You're not that stupid." Spike fills both mugs half way with whiskey and shakes the last few drops from the flask into Xander's.

Xander drains it in one and thumbs a bead of it off his upper lip where it quirks. "Where're we going?" That's more like it.

Spike's made up his mind about that at last. Somewhere between a mug of Harris' paramedic leftover special blood and a cup of coffee strong enough to strip paint. "South," he says and toys with a sugar packet.

He's back on the liquid diet these days.

"South," Xander says like a man who's pretending to consider something he's already made up his mind on. "I'm thinking - not so safe for guys like us and for once I do not mean vampires."

"Very prejudiced of you, Harris."

"Yeah I used to be prejudiced against evil vampires and look where that got me."

Spike's got to admit he has a point.

"Won't be anything you can't handle." Harris doesn't look happy and Spike amends. "Won't be anything I can't handle. Won't let anything happen to you."

"Okay." And that appears to settle it. Xander takes their cups and returns wreathed in steam that smells like road work. Spike takes his cup and upends the sugar into it more for something to do than any desire to drink it. "What's down South?"

"Couldn't say. Never been there, myself." Spike taps a sugar packet against the counter and rips the top neatly off. "Kudzu I suppose."

That day's filled with boxes spilling over with Harris' possessions, whiskey and private lewdness and Spike riding Xander's cock with his head thrown back and his hands splayed on the floor and digging furrows into the carpet.

This is how it's supposed to be.


Right here.

Sticky with each other and gasping for breath. It's not pretty and its not porn but it's blowing the back off Spike's skull and when it's time to leave, he checks the trailer with his motorcycle, tosses Harris the keys and wobbles into the passenger seat.

Dying takes a lot out of a bloke and he hasn't got his stamina back yet so when Harris stands by the passenger door staring at the keys like a great ape with a game boy, Spike grabs him by the belt loops and chucks him into the driver's seat. "You're driving," he says and closes his eyes.

"I don't know where we're going."

Spike closes his door, doesn't open his eyes. "South."

"Which way is - ?"

Spike points.

Xander drives.

Great invention, the automobile.

Worth clawing out of the earth for.


"Don't actually have to bury a bloke when you sire him, y'know. It's all bollocks to weed out the liabilities."

"What makes you think I didn't bury you for fun?"

Spike looks at Harris who's driving with his knee while he lights a cigarette and grins like a complete berk. "Git."

Xander's still driving and the back seat's filling with the familiar detritus of the road trip. Crumpled cigarette packages and empty crisp bags.

The whiskey empties clink delicately whenever Harris takes a turn and lull Spike into sated comfort in between roadside motels.

Harris picks the cheap ones with faded signs and peeling paint that smell like fifty plus years of unwashed travelers and have mangy dogs who crawl under the desk whining when Xander goes up to pay.


These aren't the kind of places that ask cheerful questions like 'where are you going?' and 'where have you been?' and 'you're really pale'.

That last one's never a question.

Spike revises his opinion of Harris' survival instincts but he'd kill for a good, hot shower.

Of course, he'd kill for the daily newspaper these days.

He thumbs absently at his lower lip and ashes on Dear Abby.

The door jingles cheerfully open behind Spike's left shoulder and the desk attendant thrusts a sunburned hand at him with sixty cents in change. "You forgot your change."

Spike stalks back to the car in disgust and stuffs the newspaper in the back seat.

Xander's squinting at the map with a finger in Lexington County. "Is southwest as good as south? Because I seriously think we missed a turn in Columbia - "

Spike's aware of the desk mistress waving cheerfully at them and grabs the map, throws it after the newspaper. "Sodding drive, will you?"

"Okay - jeez. What crawled up your ass this morning?"

"That'd be you."

"I dunno if I'd say I crawled. It was kinda thrusting action."

Spike licks his lips and fumbles a cigarette lit. "Fucking drive, Harris."

Xander shifts into first and pulls out of the lot after looking both ways. "I remember it pretty clearly, Spike. It was definitely thrusting."


"Again, not technically the right - "

Spike snorts and turns his attention out the window. Xander's hand is heavy on his thigh and he leaves it there.

It's comfortable.

It's familiar.

It's two blokes and the open road, shagging each other blind and stupid in cheap motels.

It's paradise if you ask Spike and paradise is only missing one thing.

"Pull in here."

"You've gotta be kidding me - hey! Driving here, fuckwit!"

Because Spike grabs the wheel and jerks the car right till it fishtails off the road and Xander slams on the brakes under a neon sign that says Georgia Peach Pie and Major Fawcett's Famous Pecan Pie.

Spike's out and walking by the time Xander gets the key out of the ignition and sliding into a booth when Xander catches up to him.

It's warm inside and the air smells like sweets and grease, coffee and onions.

Spike orders the strawberry-rhubarb.

And after Xander's done glaring at him and shredding the corner of the menu - he orders the peach.


How I Got Turned Into The Evil Undead - Xander Harris

Fall 2000

Xander wakes to humming.

Humming and hands in his hair and a humdinger of a hangover.

He decides to keep his eyes closed longer because - hey - aside from feeling like his head's gonna explode, the hands and the humming are kinda nice.

Nice but weird since he's pretty sure it's not Anya humming. She hums things like the Money Song and Lets Get It On - and sometimes Fur Elise. His Ahn's a strange girl.

But this isn't any of those and it takes him a while to place it.

"That's from Lady And The Tramp," he says once he does.

"That it is, beautiful boy."

And make that definitely not Anya humming. He'll start wigging soon. Probably as soon as he remembers how he got back to the basement from the Bronze last night - or as soon as he really thinks about the pain in his neck that doesn't feel as much like a pulled muscle as he wishes it did.

"So - are you a lady?"

She laughs - and laughter is a good thing right?

"No. I'm the tramp." Cool fingers slide down his face and over his Adam's apple and he swallows hard.

Then: "Hey! I'm nobody's lady!" He opens his eyes and that's a mistake because there's a vampire smiling down at him. Really smiling like she knows the secret of life and it's all one great big joke.

Which Xander kinda suspected all along but it's not the kinda thing a guy likes to have confirmed while he's - y'know - living.

And he must've said that out loud because her hand's wandered somewhere south of the belt and her lips are right over his and Xander's body never gets the memo that getting hard for predatory women isn't healthy.

Really isn't healthy because she says, "I've always wanted a boy with a sense of humor."

"There's a really funny guy I work with," Xander says because his mouth never knows when the fat lady sings. No fat lady here.

"You're very funny," she says and he wishes she'd stop petting his neck. Actually, he really wishes he could stop enjoying the way she's petting his neck.

"Look - you're beautiful. Sexy. Probably way too good for me. You don't - " He's muffled by slim, strong and kinda room temperature fingers which is a good thing - at least for her - because when the eyes turn gold and the fangs come out he's pretty sure he screams like a girl.

She smiles again and this time the smile's a little less like the secret of life and a little more like the secret of ending life. His. "That's okay. I like my men rough around the edges," she says and Xander's world explodes from the neck out.

Xander's used to waking up unable to remember what happened the night before.

He's got a system.

He drags himself out of bed and checks himself out in the mirror for bumps, bruises, contusions - freaky claw marks.

And then he'll repress it all and make himself some breakfast.

There's only one flaw in the process this time and as flaws go, it's a big one.

Because in the mirror a whole lot of nothing stares back at him.

"You'll get used to it," Darla says and he makes a funny choking noise and stumbles away, bangs his shin on the toilet and overbalances into the shower.

And that would've been that except for those two crazy kids on Lover's Lane saved by the bell - the bell or the chanting or the big burning soul crammed into Xander's chest that lights him up like the Fourth of July.

He doesn't like to think about it.

Xander shoves his backpack into the overhead bin and slouches down in his seat on the Greyhound until the overhead lights go off and nobody can see he doesn't have a reflection.

It's Xander's new system where he spends the days in bus terminals and crams his backpack into storage lockers when he goes out looking for a butcher shop then collects it and climbs onto the first departing bus with a thermos and a straw, bound for - wherever.

He knows he should call somebody back in Sunnydale - maybe Giles - the way he knows Willow knows where he is and what happened to him.

He's heard her chant before.

And he knows it's kinda girly to be angry about this, maybe as girlyman as it was to leave Sunnydale without telling anyone anything.

But a guy should get to stop being the butt monkey when he's dead.

"Route 4414, Detroit to Pittsburgh. We're gonna be leaving in ten minutes, folks."

He'll call once he finds a place to settle down.

Souled vampires never work out well for Sunnydale anyway.

And besides - it has so been done.

Xander flips the top off his straw and sucks a warm mouthful of pig.

It's not actually that bad.

He falls asleep somewhere between Cleveland and Akron.