Wet by Reremouse

When the world ended, it wasn't so much an end as a line in the sand the world double dog dared him to cross. It wasn't fire and brimstone, nukes and international warfare.

It was...wet.

It was the world waking up from a long nap in the sun and shaking itself like a dog with fleas, then plunging into cool running water to wash away the unwary rabble.

The world ended with earthquakes, sinking land masses, a flood.

And began wet.

Mold and mildew, brine and sea-salted air with the skirls of sea birds - regular gulls, nothing mutant - and the splash of fish.

Well, and other things.

Like the displaced demons who found it safer below - where it was dark all the time, a silently swirling landscape of fish and drowned cities, lit by natural phosphorescence where everything moved slow and sensual. Where the blood lasted longer for some reason, tingling sluggishly in dead, saturated flesh. Where it was safe and lazy for the inhuman. Xander crouched down to pick up a sea-tumbled rock, and threw it as far out into the Nevada ocean as he could. Where it was creepy.

And when a vampire said 'creepy' - look out.

Xander threw another rock into the waves and squinted into the moonlight for the distant splash, swallowed up in the white-capped ruffles of a nighttime breeze that meant another storm was on the way. Which was - great. Just great.

More water.

The ocean had never seemed so overwhelming until the world became a series of islands on a tropical planet and the price of beach front property had really bottomed out.

Xander dropped backward, flopping down onto the scraggly sea side grass that smelled a little like sun, a little like plant - but mostly like fish that'd been left out too long. So Xander lay there in his fishy bed and watched the stars spin and the big dipper skim the tip of a pine. And waited until the tide came in and lapped at his heels, and the sea breeze brought mist with it.

He didn't look up when the water parted. Or when the thrash and splash resolved into stumbling footsteps. Not until Spike dropped their duffel bags and straddled him, blocked the sky, the trees, the stars - and dripped.

Spike rubbed vigorously at one ear, shuddering. "Bloody fish - no sense of personal space."

Xander grabbed clammy knees and tugged, the water, mud, kelp - unfortunate small sea creatures - squishing out of Spike's jeans between them and Spike made a face all the way down to Xander's where their lips met and clashed, cool to clammy cold. Hints of the mango Xander'd eaten earlier to sea salt and fish. "Okay, the snacking on the job, Spike? Really gross."

Spike ignored him and stood up, squelching his way up the slope and into the trees. "Where'd you stash the rest of my kit?"

"There's a hole half way up the oak." Xander rolled to his knees, unzipping the first bag and tipping the water in it out onto the grass before rummaging - and whistling at the wink of precious metals, rare jewels. "Find a sunken pirate ship?"

Spike snorted and returned with his cigarettes and lighter, coat draped over his arm. "Not bloody likely. Picked the locks at Caesar's." He crouched next to Xander and unzipped the other bag, lifted a tangle of heavy gold chains in the hand that didn't hold a smoldering cigarette. "Reckon we could buy passage with a handful. Settle in Denver for a while." The cigarette crackled when Spike drew on it. "Dry out."

He flicked the butt into the waves and Xander watched it wink out with a shiver. He zipped his bag and shouldered it, stood up in a breeze that'd become a wind stiff enough to give him hypothermia if he was still alive. "Beats walking," he said, and turned to lead the way back up the slope.

Under the ocean behind them, fish flitted through the casinos of the Bellagio and the MGM Grand.

Vegas slept.

It was raining.

Raining slow and steady and dripping big fat droplets off the eaves and into the rain barrels below.

This was nothing remarkable - in these brave and soggy post apocalyptic days.

So of course Spike remarked on it.

"Gonna build a sodding bunker in Denver. Some place so far underground, the bloody drips will need a fucking map to find us." Then he pulled a pillow over his head, tightened it over his ears and tried to go back to sleep.

"What time is it?"

"How the fuck should I know? Look at the clock."


A yellow eye glowered at Xander beneath the blanket, under a fold of pillow. It promised violence on probation. "You forgot to wind the fucking clock again, didn't you?"

"I forgot to wind it," Xander said at the same time.

"Bloody hell."

"Excuse me, Mr. I Grew Up Before Duracell."

"Fuck me. Has the train come in?" The pillow slid off Spike's head as he sat up, crazy halo of kinks and curls around his face.

"As if I'd be sitting here watching you try to sleep if it had." Xander let the curtain drop and stretched, knuckled his eyes and had to admit Spike might be onto something with the bunker. With quiet. Without the incessant drip-drip that was like the leaking sink that always unrepaired itself in the middle of the night.

And Xander understood the whole concept behind Chinese water torture now.

Understood how the steady drip drip drip could drive a man insane. Take away his reason and leave him a reasonable balloon who looked the same but only had empty space where the reason was supposed to be.

Neither of them had had a full night's sleep since before the world ended.

And it wasn't like either of them had started out with extra heaping barrels full of sanity.

It was all really starting to show.

Spike had even tried to sleep underwater - until a really enterprising eel gave him the rudest possible wake-up call.

So no sleep. Lots of rain. Lots of drips, and sloshes, and shh-shh of waves and tides and wet, tasteless sounds like the blorp of an occasional air bubble.

Xander had to admit keen vampire senses weren't all they were cracked up to be when the world was this vocal. They'd be hallucinating big wheels of cheese and lesbians in ice cream trucks by the time they made it to Denver.

He went back to looking out the window while Spike went about his evening routine which consisted of stumbling out of bed, tripping over blankets and discarded clothing, cursing - and finally lighting his first cigarette of the day. They were going to be really fucked if the tobacco plantations ever shut down. Beyond the curtains, out on the street, Xander watched two kids haul on a mule's bridle.

"School's out," he told Spike, who was sprawled naked on a cheap kitchen chair, newspaper spread out before him, open to the rail timetable. "Probably around four."

Spike grunted and marked a place on the rail timetable with his finger and Xander turned back to the window and watched the mule drag two kids back down the street in the other direction.

God, he missed TV.

"I'm gonna go find something to eat."

Spike waved a hand at him. The hand said 'Go on, mate. Have a fresh young one on me.'

Or maybe the hand said 'You're a sick tosser, Harris. What kind of vampire lives off horse?'

But Xander was impervious to the hand.

Also hungry.

And if he lived on crap as a human what made Spike expect him to suddenly switch to great nutrition as a vampire?

Horses, the canned Spaghetti-O's of the animal kingdom. Cheap, convenient, reliable - and pretty safe unless you did something dumb with the can opener.

But God, he'd kill for a Twinkie.

Or a rabbit.

Xander hesitated near the kitchen, the delicate grass-and-fur smell from the rabbit hutch winding enticingly with the fresh ocean smell.

Maybe for dessert. Because man could not live on Twinkie alone - and Xander had tried.

Besides, nobody came hunting for the pale guys who never went out in the sun when a horse turned up a few pints low. "Hi there, uh - " Xander checked the plastic pocket with the horse's ownership papers, "Vlad. Vlad? What kind of weirdo names their horse Vlad and when did I step into irony world?"

Vlad looked at him with a mild eye that shrugged and said it wasn't his fault. It wasn't like the other horses in the pasture called him Vlad and made fangy faces at him.

He might have agreed about the irony though.

Well - if he wasn't a horse.

When Xander made it back to their rented room, Spike was wearing his jeans and working on a crossword puzzle. It was weird, the things that went away and the things that stayed after an Apocalypse. As it turned out, a city just wasn't a city without a good printing press.

And Mount Charleston, Nevada was quite the city.

Its newspaper had more than one section.

And a word-jumble.

"I W N E T K I. K I N E T I....bloody hell. W?"

"Twinkie," Xander said, with longing.

Spike stared at him and scowled at the newspaper, muttering under his breath.

Then he filled in 'TWINKIE' on the word jumble and tossed the paper away with a snort. "Anyone good to eat?"

"There's a nice horse named Vlad in the stables."

They stared at each other until Spike grabbed his duster and marched out the door muttering about everything wrong with the new generation.

Xander returned to staring out the window - the new MTV, where M stood for 'Mule' and the whole TV part was wishful thinking. That little gray one had a gleam in its eye as it trotted past on the way to the docks.

On the horizon, he could see the puffs of steam against darkening gray clouds that meant the train was coming in to the harbor.

A tern perched on the apex of the terminal roof and stared at him like he was a fish.

Xander touched his ticket through the bulk of his jacket.

Because he was just crazy enough - just desperate enough to think the tern might be up to some kind of ticket-stealing operation. Stealing tickets and selling them on the black market in exchange for...for...whatever the hell terns dreamed of in the middle of the night.

Or maybe it was just looking for an easy ticket out of Nevada like everybody else.

On the other side of the squat wood-and-rope fence, the cars bobbed, tall and wide, and down, way down, water sloshed and slapped against their sides.

Xander shivered.

Their tickets were a long way from the first car. Away from the roar and chuff of the engines - near the back where it was quiet. Or as quiet as things ever got in the wild, wet west.

Slosh and slap.

And engine noise could be an improvement.

Anything that drowned out the wet would be an improvement.

Spike was trying to light a cigarette, muttering. Between the humidity and the wind, most people out west had switched to Skoal. Spittoons were a new and old hazard. Spike was one of the few stubborn holdouts and personally Xander thought smoking lost some of its cool if it took that much effort to get the cigarette lit.

"Would the gentleman care for a blowtorch?"

"Sod off." Spike mumbled around a satisfying cloud of smoke, snapped the Zippo closed and tucked it away. Smoked and glared up at the bulk of the train's Economy car. "Come on," he said, and then he was glaring at Xander from above, standing on the roof of the economy car. The cherry of his cigarette flared and then guttered, winking out and Xander heard Spike curse and fumble for the Zippo.

When Spike'd sired him at the end of the world, filling his mouth with blood instead of water, Xander hadn't exactly envisioned a future where he'd be jumping onto train cars - or a future where trains were barges and the West was a big bath tub. Okay, when Spike had sired him, Xander hadn't been thinking much at all - but 'this is so not a good way to die' might have crossed his mind once or twice.

He took a running jump and landed next to Spike with a dull thud of boots on wood and the world around him expanded to horizons and the sweeping bulk of Mount Charleston's tip with the city crawling up its side, ramshackle rotting wood in the old town and sturdy rock in the new. There was no good reason why this mountain survived the quakes and the others didn't - maybe the Paiutes were right all along and the gods favored them.

Stranger things had happened.

Like most of Western North America sinking under water.

Nobody knew why. And Xander just knew he wouldn't be eating any Paiutes.

Spike had given up on relighting his cigarette and stuck it behind his ear. Then he stood there with his arms folded and coat flapping in the wind like a movie super hero surveying his city.

Xander snickered.

"I do not look like a sodding super hero." Spike muttered it under his breath but Xander heard it anyway and grinned. "'Sides - that'd make you my sidekick."

Xander shrugged. "I have some experience in the sidekick role."

They'd be in the last car, the car with luxury items like working hot water heaters, hot food, and a metal hull - and no questions asked of its passengers which was nice when passengers in the forecars were on the menu. It was a long ride to Denver and Spike had a thing against rats.

Xander had never asked. They tasted okay to him.

Kinda gamey.

But not bad.

One of the engines was testing its machinery. Hum and stop. Hum and stop, sending vibrations through the planking and ripples through the water beneath them until they vanished into the gently peaked wavelets of the bay.

"Don't want a sidekick," Spike said midway along the third car, their boot-falls muffled in the wind that was getting stronger the further they went along the snaking length of the train.

"Kinda late for that," Xander said even though it wasn't what Spike meant.

Yeah, yeah, partners, blah, blah. Xander had comedic schtick to maintain and he didn't have a partners routine yet.

Spike took the cigarette from behind his ear and stuck it in his mouth. The paper was graying with moisture and Xander knew he'd have to let it dry out if he ever wanted to smoke it. "Git."


The cars rocked beneath them and Spike put an arm out to steady Xander when he staggered.

Twenty one cars.

Xander counted them while they walked and they dropped into the warm darkness of the twenty first.

The sun would be up by the time the last car was boarded and they'd be asleep.

Slosh and slap and creaking timbers in the cheap cars.

Xander kicked off his boots and crawled into the bed, taking the side against the wall because he hated waking up on the floor.

Howl and dip, the wooden cars of the train clattered together and every morning, Xander woke up expecting to find their luxury accommodations cast adrift, a new nomad island on the landscape.

And Xander was getting tired of waking up to a faceful of Spike every time the train heeled to port.

Unless it was starboard.

Xander was too preoccupied by a mattress that'd developed a fetish for diagonalism to think in nautical terms.

Two in the afternoon, somewhere over Utah, and Xander was peeling Spike off him, crammed against the rail of their bed and tangled in the sheets trapped under the soundly sleeping undead. Who slept on and Xander hoped Spike was dreaming of being crushed by a giant pinball while Xander crawled over him and was then thrown across the cabin by the playful floor.

"Okay - that's gotta stop." The floor never listened. Xander never expected the floor to listen. It just laughed at him in its woody way and ruffled its splinters menacingly at him and Xander had to get off the train before he went crazy - crazier. He got into his pants - one leg at a time, same as always.

Mostly always.

And the exception was never to be spoken of.

He rubbed his chin, grabbed a handful of door and staggered his way into the wood-paneled interior hall that smelled like perfume and goat. Xander's stomach growled and lurched simultaneously.

He went with the goat.

The big mama goat because the kids always trotted up with big trusting eyes and cute little hooves and Xander just couldn't. And he suspected that the daddy goat - were big male goats called rams or was that just sheep? - could kick his ass with one horn tied behind his back.

Mama goat could leave bruises, sure. But bruises healed faster than crushed bones. Xander had proof.

He picked goat hair off of his tongue and zigzagged his way down the hall.

The train's whistle blew and Xander saluted the queen of the seas - unless that was the camel caravan of the seas. Yup. That was them, one big long circus train chugging along toward the mile high city. The way the lights swung in the hall and the crystal rattled made for the crazy, crazy shadows.

And nausea.

Should've eaten baby goat but Xander had unvampirely issues with eating things cuter than he was.

He shoved open the cabin door for a little old fashioned romantic snuggle with his squeeze.

"You look like a sodding tick."


Spike rolled over. Not that he had a choice in the matter when the train pitched hard enough to toss Xander out into the hall again.

"I feel like I'm gonna barf."

"Anyone ever tell you you're fucking romantic, Harris?"

"Funny you should say that." Xander shuffled out of his clothes and rolled over Spike into the bed. Sprawled there like a dead thing - ha ha - and grabbed Spike's hair, jerking him to his throat. "So do something about your lovin' tick boy. Breakfast in bed."

"You stink like a goat."

Xander gave Spike a speaking look. The look said :Duh.

Xander said: "I prefer to think of myself as zee juice box of love."

Spike was speechless.

His look wasn't. It said: sad, brain-damaged wanker and then went away somewhere beneath Xander's jaw to puncture his skin for vamp-cycled goaty goodness.

There were sighs of relief and tangled limbs and two bodies rolling across the mattress with the swells of the sea.



"When will we get to Denver?"

The train bucked, rolled and Spike shoved himself off the wall, burrowed grumpily into the blankets and sheets and pillows like a snake.

Outside, a man was shouting.

A baby was screaming.

"One fucking day before I kill everyone on this bloody train and burn it to the bilge."

"Yeah and then how're we gonna get to Denver, Mister Plan Man?"

Spike uncovered an eye to glower at Xander. "Walk."

"Nuh uh. There's eels down there." Xander burrowed into the blankets with Spike. Warm and goat-filled.

Mostly dry.

"Sodding eels."


"You're a vampire."

"And you're gonna tell me there's nothing out there you find creepy?"

"Well - there is that McDonald bloke with the big shoes and the - "

Xander's hand forestalled him. With haste. "Say no more."

"Creepy," they agreed together.

The whole partnership concept was making progress and Spike was surprisingly inventive when bored, warm, fed and with about a dozen good reasons not to go on a violent boredom-quelling rampage of bloodlust and terror.

Also surprisingly cuddly.

"You're thinking about killing the guy in the cabin next door again aren't you?"

"Am not."

Loud, well-fed human snores rattled the wall between the rooms, unaware of and unquelled by the baleful glare of suddenly golden eyes. The man next door slept on.

And Xander cleared his throat.

"I'll smother him with a pillow, pet. Nobody'll be the wiser."

The snoring man died in his sleep somewhere over the drowned rubble of Grand Junction, Colorado on a starless and goat-filled night and it was novel to wake up to the cessation of noise.

Or the cessation of noise after the cessation of sounds of scuffling. Looking back on it, the only surprising thing about any of it was that Spike woke up to the noises too. Cuddled like a lamprey while one heartbeat next door slowed and stopped.

And another pounded on.

It was kind of disturbing when natural causes like vampires weren't involved. "Shouldn't we - give him mouth-to-mouth or something?"

They listen.

"Too late for that," Spike announced eventually, stretched luxuriously and burrowed down into the covers, heaved Xander over him like an extra thick duvet. "Already dead."

A door closed in the hall and footsteps crept away.

Spike nodded approval.

Somewhere in the darkness, a goat bleated.

They said life at sea made men do strange things. And so did lack of sleep.

When the passengers disembarked at the bottom of the Parachute Cliffs for the climb up to Rifle, the guy's death went down as natural causes. Pretty much everything counted as natural causes after the world ended.

It was another certainty.

Like goats.

And mules.

"Bloody, buggering, come on, you!" Spike heaved the mule's bridle only to dig four furrows in the ground with the creature's hooves. Xander had to give it credit - it looked impressed.

His own mule sidled a few steps away from Spike and kept an eye on him.

"It was trained for riding, Spike."

"I am not riding a sodding mule to Denver, Harris."

"It's another hundred and fifty miles. At least."

"Walked further before now."

And when it seemed like that was all the answer Xander was going to get, he nudged his mule back onto the trail because he wasn't going to walk a hundred and fifty miles to Denver.

"Oi! You!"

Hoofbeats clopped up behind him after not long and boots not long after that, and Xander was kinda getting the hang of that old mule rhythm. "They're also trained to follow each other."

"Sod off."

"We could have gotten a carriage. Or a cart."

"Wasn't paying those prices."

"Could have killed the driver."

"Too many witnesses."

They rode and walked in silence for a while. "Oh, all right. There weren't any sodding carts worth stealing."

"Just the one with the women and children in it, huh?"

Xander listened to the snick and hiss of the Zippo and filled his lungs with clean sea air and second-hand Marlboro. "Wouldn't have stolen that one anyway. Wouldn't have made it past Glenwood Springs."

"Uh huh."

"Bloody cheek."

"At least it's not raining," Xander said because it was the kind of thing vampires like Xander Harris said when huddled with a really testy vampire inside a two man pup-tent with two mules tethered out front on the first bright and sunny day they've had since the world ended.

Spike gave him the evil eye - and with Spike, that eye came with extra evil.

Xander was impressed. "Look, I'm just saying. Sure it's not the greatest place to be stranded and it'd pretty much destroy our - okay, your - big bad image if anyone saw us like this but at least nothing's dripping. I think I picked moss out of my shoe this morning."

Only the Zippo answered him. It sounded testy too.

"And hey - lit cigarette. Non-soggy."

They stared at each other again - they were expert in the staring at each other business. They'd put in a lot of practice time since Nevada.

Eventually, Spike said: "Hoo bloody rah," and rolled over to smoke at the wall of the tent, proving there's just no pleasing some vampires.

Xander sighed, wiggled until a rock wasn't digging into his ass anymore and tucked his hands behind his head. "That's the spirit, Spike."

Xander got comfortable.

Spike smoked.

And Xander was glad he didn't have to breathe.

Well - except to talk. And after about an hour, he conceded the talking was inevitable. It was that or dust himself out of boredom and that'd really be a shame after getting this far. "So, Denver. What's a hip young vamp like me looking forward to in a place like Denver?"

"Bloody hell. Trying to sleep here."

"You know, you wouldn't be this tired if you'd just ride the mule instead of dragging it."

"Fuck off."

"Come on, Spike. It's this, me figuring out how many bottles of beer on the wall it takes to make it to sunset or a rousing game of I Spy and there's only one option that's not gonna get old really fast."

Spike rolled over and propped his head up on his elbow and the phrase 'gimlet stare' trotted through Xander's mind. He wasn't sure what a gimlet was, but he was pretty sure he was looking into a gimlet stare. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with a G."

"Git," Xander said tiredly. "And that was in no way predictable."




"Sad tosser."

"You're not bad at this game, Harris."

"Lots of practice."


"Do I even need to dignify that? You kinda suck at this."

"Can't help it, can I? Only have eyes for you, pet." Spike lit another cigarette and squinted at Xander through the smoke. Extra condensed evil. "Come on, now. W."

"Wanker. It's not too late for bottles of beer on the wall."

"Go to sleep, Harris."

In the end, they compromised. Spike slept.

And Xander talked Denver with the mules.

Because nothing builds a relationship like compromise.

"'Sodding sunny days,' you said." Xander said and flicked mud off his fingers and water out of his eye.


It was the best he could do since shaking his legs had a tendency to make his mule turn around to give him a look that said 'I can shake you like a bad habit any time here, buddy.'

Xander was getting fluent in mule.

And Spike.

"Bloody cloudless skies, you said."

"Fuck off."

"I spy with my little eye something beginning with a V."

"Vampire. Pillock."



"Even vultures wouldn't be out in this weather. Not even after the end of the world."

Spike lifted his head to squint across the peaks and valleys of the landscape. Rain streamed from his cheekbones and nose. "Volcanoes?"

"Okay - really good guess. But also no."

"Fine - what?"

Xander coaxed his mule a little faster, putting a few extra precautionary steps between him and Spike. "Very wet vampire wishing he hadn't pissed off the rain gods."


"Made you look."

There wasn't much else to say on the mud road to Denver in the pouring rain except 'God, I'm tired of rain,' and that got old really fast.

"God, I'm fucking tired of fucking rain."

But Spike always found new and exciting ways to change it up.

"So - Denver," Xander said.

"We're gonna live in a cave on a hill. Middle of a mountain. Only come out on clear nights to feed."

"And I'm thinking we're gonna get really hungry."

"We'll keep goats."

Xander twisted in his seat to get a good look at Spike. A really good look. A look that took in slumped shoulders, dripping hair, muddy toes. A guy willing to keep goats if it meant keeping dry. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with an R."

"Rain," Spike said immediately. And morosely.

"No." Xander slowed down until they were side by side.


Xander shook his head.

Spike drooped impossibly further. "I give up."

Xander put his hand on Spike's shoulder and squeezed.

The duster squished.

"Really miserable vampire."

"Got that right."

Xander gave the mules a sad look. "Do these things go any faster?"

As it turned out, mules had four speeds - 'slow,' 'slower,' 'stubbornly digging in' and 'apple orchard ahead.'

"Sodding apples."

"They're good." Xander held one out only to falter under the strength of Spike's glare.

"Vampires do not eat apples."

"But they're crunchy."

And sweet.

And in a world without Twinkies, that counted for something in Xander's book.

"Fine. Give it here." Spike wearily took the apple, tiredly slid down the tree to sit next to Xander and watch their rides to Denver contentedly make pigs of themselves.

They crunched together in silence and Xander fed the cores to the mules.

"It's not that bad - they had to rest some time." He stood up, collected two more apples from the next tree over - because he'd learned his lesson about picking wet fruit from wet trees with grouchy vampires sitting under them - and tossed one to Spike. "And anyway, mules taste better when they've been eating fruit."

Spike looked at the mules, appalled. ."I'm not drinking mule blood, Harris."

"What? Why not? They don't actually mind much." Apples were really growing on him - and part of Xander was starting to feel kind of cheated nobody'd ever told him apples were that good back when he had health to worry about.

"You don't get less disgusting, do you?" Spike shook his head. Sadly. And ate his apple.

The way Xander looked at it, it was progress. "No. Not really." He sucked juice from his palm. "I never went to Denver before the world ended."

"Hasn't changed much, I suppose. No electricity, mind - and hot showers are hard to come by - but it's dry."

"I could do dry," Xander agreed.


They got to Denver by mule.

They did dry.

And the cave on the mountain turned out to be a lot more like the top two floors of an apartment building dirt cheap because there was a lot to be said for the kind of stamina and night vision vampires had and humans didn't.

Also for not having breath to catch around the fourteenth floor.

Or the twentieth.

Or the thirty-sixth.

So unlife in Denver amounted to luxurious electricity-free squalor three hundred and seventy dry feet above the ground - and about a thousand and fifty mostly dry feet above sea level which was about a thousand and forty nine feet of bliss as far as Xander was concerned.

They sold the mules.

Bought a big bed.

They didn't leave the building for a week and the tenants on the lowest ten learned not to venture out above the twelfth unless they wanted to stagger back home a few pints low.

And their little dogs too.

"I can't believe you ate the poodle."

"I didn't eat him. I just - " Xander spread his hands helplessly - because being dead hadn't really improved his vocabulary a lot outside of really English insults. "I just lightened him up a little."

Spike snorted. "You're an embarrassment to the undead."

"I'm a survivor, Spike," said Xander the undead - but undusty too so he figured himself for a winner there. "If I'm lucky, I'll survive long enough for the world to figure out how to make enough electricity out of steam to power a television."

Xander waited for a snide remark about television.

About the youth of today.

About how shallow it was to miss television.

Didn't happen.

Instead, Spike sighed, lit another cigarette and exhaled wistfulness. "Never did find out if Chad was the father of Vincent's love-child."

"So not gonna contemplate that."

"You're closed-minded, Harris, that's what. Could've been a real romance, those two."

"And you say I'm an embarrassment to the undead."

"Well - yeah."

"At least I'm entertaining."

"There is that."

They laid there together in companionable silence. Rain continued to fall on the roof two floors above and cool air that didn't smell like fish puffed through open windows.



"We made it to Denver."

"Only just noticed, did you?" Spike mumbled around his cigarette, grinned around it - there wasn't much Spike couldn't do around a cigarette, Xander was learning. "Always were a bit slow."

"And that in no way impairs your likelihood of ever getting another blow job."

"I'll take my chances."

"We're in Denver," Xander repeated.

"Fine. Yes, Xander. Look at us here. In Denver. Which is where we are. Together." Spike sat up and squinted at him through the smoke. Waited. Waited a little longer. "Was there a point to this?"

"Yeah - what now?"

Spike fiddled with the cigarette. Ashed into a purple agate thing he'd scrounged from somewhere and shrugged. "Suppose we wait for the world to start up again."