"Beat Still"

Can you tell that it's been raining around here? Actually, I'll be honest that is a coincidence. Hah.


Alabama

Two Years after the Treaty:

Conrad was outside.

No that that was particularly interesting on its own—her ladyship might have been a retiring semi-agorophobe in a past life, but necessity had stripped that away years ago. What gave Worth pause, as he stalked past the window on his way to the kitchen, was that the clock on the mantle clearly pointed to four.

Four twenty-five, actually.

And Conrad was sitting on the porch, in the rain, with his arms crossed over his knees.

Worth pushed the screen door open and made his way across the warped planks, shoeless feet pushing up irritated splinters. He poked Conrad's back with one boney toe.

"Oi," he said, "tryin'a get yerself boiled out here?"

The vampire frowned up at him, sniffing slightly. There was a slight red tint to the crest of his forehead, like an old sunburn.

"It's plenty dark," he replied, gesturing out at the purpled sky with one slender artist's hand.

"The hell it is," Worth snorted, poking him again. "'M I the only one round here with a decent sense'a self preservation? Jesus, get outta the light 'fore ya bake yer brain inta mush."

"Hey, here's a novel idea," the younger man retorted, "how about you keep your nose out of my business, huh? If I say it's safe out here, then it's fucking safe out here alright?"

"Well its yer funeral. Though if ya got a deathwish 'n all, coulda done us all a favor an' offed yerself months ago. Let me have the bed ta myself. Y'know, done somethin' noble with yer inglorious demise."

Conrad reeled back and elbowed him in the calf, scowling as Worth started laughing and dropped to the ground. A thin mist of fractured raindrops splattered their legs. Conrad had one of Hanna's paper cranes in his hands, Worth realized now, a little newspaper one made of print so smudged that it was more gray than black and white. Hanna was still making them, here and there, where people could spare the supplies. When they first hit the road that dismal smoky spring he'd made towers of them, liberating all the origami paper he could find on their long trek across the continent, stacking them in awkward piles under the bed and in the glove compartment. Worth had been more than irritated when he found a gaggle of them in his sheets.

And then Hanna had started passing them out, leaving a few behind in every town they visited, handing them out to children and leaving them in tree branches. It wasn't the keeping that made them magic, he had insisted; it was the making.

Conrad tugged the bird's tail.

"You know this is the only way I can see daylight," he said, at last, determinedly looking down. "Even if it's not really daylight. It's the best I can do."

"Thoughtcha didn' miss it?" Worth answered.

The vampire shrugged. After a moment, he tossed the gray crane into a nearby puddle. "I guess I just don't want to forget," he replied. "It's worth a headache. It's not even a bad one."

The rain didn't let up for another day.

-TBC