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it's the end of the world as we know it

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It was past midnight and already the lights were off in Babylon, all the dancers gone.  He picked up the last bottle of bourbon in the last gay bar in Pittsburgh. "Immunity," he said, holding it up, and then flung it into the mirror behind the bar.


Josh woke up in an unfamiliar bed, sheets rough cotton, thin blanket, and remembered he was eight hundred feet underground. The intercom was buzzing. "yeah."

"Mr. Lyman, someone's outside."

It took him a second to remember who it was, because it wasn't Ron, and it sure wasn't Donna - she hadn't called him Mr. Lyman her very first day, nevermind--

"Mr. Lyman?"

Clipped delivery, probably from Boston. Josh rubbed his face. That's right, military aid to President Bartlet. He was underground.

"Did you hear me, Mr. Lyman?"

"Yeah." He sat up, and felt the same kink in hs back he had every night from sleeping on an army cot. "Someone's outside," he said, and then he blinked. "Someone's outside?"

"Yes sir."

It was the sir - he finally knew exactly where he was: the end of the world. "Who?"

The aide said, "unknown at this time."

Josh sat up. "What are they doing?"

"Sending someone to get him."


Thank god for the internet, the new millenium's mode of communication - it was possible to conduct business eight hundred feet underground. President Bartlet was on a conference call with most of the leaders of state. "And no one has any idea?"

"No sir," the British health minister said. "Airborne, obviously, passed through inhalation, touch, anything really. I've never seen anything so violently contagious."

"Incubation period?"

A look was passed between the British and French officials, who had the luxury of being in the same room. Finally, one of them said, "no clue yet."

"In other words, I still can't leave. Okay. Let's--"

Josh tuned it out. He saw the Secretary of Agriculture coughing in a corner, and covered his own mouth with his hand.


There were still people alive - in rural communities, and in the cities there was always the hardy, those that were perversely immune. The rural communities would drop like flies eventually, all it would take was time.


"Why Washington?" one of the joint chiefs asked. The guy was visible on the White House gate camera. Someone would watch it twenty four hours a day, because the last emergency broadcast told a worried populace that someone would.

The guy was maybe thirty five. Josh watched him waver back and forth - he was obviously drunk. He looked a bit like Toby the morning after that last Christmas party; Josh stepped away from the monitor. He heard the guy declare, "I got bored."


Decontamination took about a week. To get a vaccination from the guy's blood took twice as long. The British health minister was optimistic. No, they wouldn't reopen the airports.


"They went after domestic terminals," Josh told the guy. "The virus has an incubation period of about four hours - any international flight is longer than that. They'd be forced to turn around or land."

"Cuba's not four hours away."

"We don't fly to Cuba commercially," Josh said. "What's your name?"

The guy stuck his hand out. Josh hesitated before taking it.  "Brian."

"Why are you here, man?"

The guy shrugged. He leaned forward, whether because of the drink or to make a point, it was impossible to tell. "I thought I'd run for president," he told Josh, and grinned. "I figured maybe they'll vote for a fag now - after all, we were living with an fucking incurable epidemic for almost forty years."


"Immune?" Josh asked.

"Immune," Brian answered. he tilted his head up and yelled, "Immune!" and then muttered, "goddamned."


"The Secretary of Agriculture is dead," President Bartlett told them all. Josh blinked. "We won't call it a suicide." He turned to Brian. "Congratulations on your new appointment to the cabinet."

Brian squinted into his whiskey bottle, and said absently, "I want your job."


They were sitting in a room, somewhere in what was left of Washington D.C. There were the remains of stale coffee and donuts on the table. The chalkboard still read Welcome to but the rest was gone. This church had to have once been a bunker, because everything had been sealed up tight when they pried the door open with a crowbar. The President was in the church upstairs.

"Why here?"

Brian uncorked their first bottles of looted scotch. "Because I drank out all the gay bars in DC before I came to you." he passed Josh a bottle. "What do you think took so fucking long?"

Josh said, "and you won't go into straight bars." He stared at the ugly green of the glass. "I did a report once, a two pager, on this article in Time magazine? It said we didn't have any more small pox vaccine. No more. And I said, that's what's going to happen."

"You're boring." Brian sighed. "God, everything is so fucking boring."

"Yeah." Josh drank. "I guess."

"we're babylon," Brian said. " 'And God struck down Babylon, for it was full of sin', or some shit. Isn't that in the Bible somewhere?"

Josh drank again. "I'm kind of an atheist now."

Brian stood up. He faced the blackboard that was covered in dust, and toasted with his five dollar bottle of scotch. "My name is Brian Kinney, and I'm an alcoholic."

Aside from a cockroach scuttling along the edge of the doorsill, nothing answered back.