• This section is for roleplays only.
    ALL interest checks/recruiting threads must go in the Recruit Here section.

    Please remember to credit artists when using works not your own.

Realistic or Modern Patient Zero (A Zombie Survival RP)

OOC
Here
Characters
Here
Lore
Here

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter
1616182629473.png
Part 2
The following is a collab between FireMaiden FireMaiden and myself

Milly blinked a few times as Leliana shifted the conversation from Halloween to what she had just said. She rubbed the back of her neck again, her cheeks flushing pink at the complaint. A small and embarrassed smile crept across her face. It took her a couple of seconds to get her bearings and continue. She ran her finger down the thin line of her scar as she talked. “Yeah. Really mean.” She paused, “Grown ups can be mean too. That’s why mum didn’t like me going outside... or see dad.

"
Your mom...kept you inside?" There it was. In some cases, it was easy to get kids to talk about their trauma. Cases like Leliana's and Milly's were...two sides of the same coin. But, Leliana didn't want to press the matter. "Yeah, grown-ups can be pretty mean sometimes. But just because they're grown-ups doesn't make it right. It's unfair."

Mhm.” Milly bluntly reiterated as if it were nothing. “I still don’t like being outside.” She tilted her head at Leliana’s words, like a little confused bird, “But... you do what grown ups say. And... think what they want you to think.” She keeps working on her puzzle, but the cogs in her head were visibly turning.

"
N-no honey, grown-ups are just people. Like you and me, your age doesn't mean you can't have your own thoughts," Leliana spoke, a shiver running down her some. This sounded eerily familiar. "Milly, how long did you go to public school for?"

Hmm.” She had to think “Until I was nine. Bryce Johnson tied a bootlace around my neck while we were on the bus and after being in the hospital mum wouldn’t let me go back. That’s why Miss Honey would come over and bring that tasty shortcake.” She knocked her knees together as she had now finished the outer layer of the puzzle. Again everything was said with the same air as ‘oh look it’s raining’. “I used to only go outside for school. But after that, not at all except for our back yard.

Leliana was silent for a few moments, brows furrowed ever so slightly. Milly being attacked like that was certainly a good reason to home school her, but keeping her inside permanently was...something else. "
Why didn't your mom let you go outside before that?" Leliana asked, the eye patch laying forgotten on her lap for the moment.

Because of bad people. It was after my dad left. She said that he attacked her and...” her face blanked for a second as she picked up Snowy, preening the fur on the bear’s head “Threw me down the stairs.” Again, a blank face, “But...

Something about that seemed off. Of course, Leliana didn't know Milly's mother or other family, so maybe that is what happened. "
But what, Milly?" Children had voices of their own. And all too often, nobody listened. Leliana knew that first hand.

She twiddled her fingers “
That’s not how I remember it.” She hugged her teddy closely, staring at the floor. She hadn’t told anyone about this before, “Mum says dad had a knife and when he was threatening her, I came out my room and he grabbed my hair and threw me down the stairs.” Her knuckles went white, “But... I remember coming out of my room, and dad was arguing with mum I don’t remember what it was about. But... mum was angry and shouting at him when he was talking calmly. And... she had the knife. Dad must’ve tried to dodge her and he bumped into me. And that’s how I fell down the stairs.” She was gripping onto the bear with shaking hands as she tried to recount that regressed memory, “I-I don’t remember what happened after that... just that dad was taken by police.

"
Milly...there's something that people do called gaslighting. That means, someone will try to make you believe what they want, and it's...hard sometimes to tell what's real." Leliana spoke, shifting a bit to look at Milly. "People do that to try and control you. Don't doubt what you remember Milly, it's what happened." Kids would tell the truth more often than not. And there was absolutely no way Milly would fake something like that. Kids had wild imagination, but there were some things you couldn't imagine. "You don't have to keep talking if you don't want to, but it can help."

Milly blinked a few times at Leliana’s explanation. It made sense, but at the same time, the youngster did not want to doubt her mum. Maybe she had good reasons? But why was her dad taken away if he didn’t do anything wrong? Where was he? And was he okay? Milly looked away from Leliana for a moment. “
...I’ve talked too much. How’s the eyepatch?” She wanted to continue. But... hogging the conversation was rude.

"
Milly, you can talk as much you want to, okay?" Leliana spoke, her tone gentle. It didn't take her much to put two and two together. Milly's mom was an abusive woman who had played a big part in Milly turning out this way. "Talking can help you deal with trauma." Leliana knew how important it was to deal with trauma and Milly deserved to heal. "The eyepatch is almost done, we'll be able to give it to Hector soon."

Okay, sorry.” Milly hugged her bear tighter with a small sigh, “I mean, it wasn’t so bad and, I don’t know. I still love her. And,” she stopped, knowing that if she continued further she’d shut down or start crying. As Leliana answered her question about the eye patch, Milly pulled up her fluffy hood and scooted closer to the nurse, putting her chin on the woman’s shoulder and looking at the eyepatch. “It looks good, he’ll like it. Do you craft often? You’re really good at it. Crafts is fun.” she shimmed a bit closer, at this point, after telling Leliana this, the youngster really felt like she needed a hug but was worried about asking.

Leliana could tell Milly didn't want to talk anymore, so she wasn't going to press. When Milly shifted so she was leaning on the nurse, Leliana moved slightly so it was more comfortable for the both of them. "
I do. I use to sew a lot, and me and my grandma would do some crafts together," Leliana answered, making a slight adjustment to the eye patch size before she kept sewing it. "Maybe I can find something you can draw with. Does that sound fun?"

Milly instantly seemed to lighten up at the prospect of drawing as she nodded eagerly. "
Sewing looks fun can... can you show me how? J-just whenever you'd want to, you don't have to." She stayed snuggled against the nurse with a content little sigh. Even though she missed her mum, she was exceedingly thankful for both Leliana and Beth. She wanted to express that to them more than she could imagine, but she could not find the right words to say. She sniffed slightly and wiped her nose as she observed the nurse curiously.

"
Of course. I'll show you next time I need to patch up some clothes," Leliana spoke, almost done with the eye patch. She was relieved that Milly seemed to have can't down rather quickly, but she figured the young girl would be sticking close to her for a while now. It didn't take her much longer to finish the eye patch. Once the was, she poked two holes in it on either side and threaded some of the cloth she had through them. She only fed a small amount of the cloth through the hole before she turned it over and sewed the shorter part to the long cloth, that way Hector didn't have to worry about it falling out. "And...I'm done!" Leliana smiled, holding it up slightly so Milly could see.

Milly backed away slightly, allowing the nurse to finish. Seeing the finished product, she bounced on the sofa eagerly with a smile "
Ooh I like it! Are you going to give it to Hector now?"

"
I can later," Leliana spoke, leaning forward to out it on the coffee table. He was probably busy or was resting, so she could mother him later. "We can do something fun now!" She smiled, shifting a bit to look at Milly. "Let's go find something to do."
 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter
colt and owen.png

The veteran groaned as she stood up, wiping her sweaty brow with the back of her gloved hand. Putting her hands on the small of her back, she stretched out, feeling a pop in her spine. This was more difficult than she remembered. But she was coping. A pile of clumsily chopped wood sat in a little pyramid next to her feet. Her jacket hung on a long branch from the neighbouring tree of the one she had worked on. If they wanted to stay as warm as they were, especially with the infant, they needed wood. Chopping was hard, with the coupled bullet wound healing within her shoulder and arm, but Colt had been through and felt worse. Her black t-shirt hung loosely on her skinny shoulders, the bandages on her shoulders, torso and arm on full display. Her face was red but not with drink but the effort from work.

Coughing from the cold, she took out her flask and took a careful sip from it. She gave it a small shake. Hearing a dull swirl, she took another before putting it away with a sigh. This was difficult. And she did not know if she was actually making any progress. The pills given to her by the lovely Leliana sat on her bedside. Colt knew she needed them. She had asked for them. But… she could not take them. And she did not know why. Why was it so difficult to take them?

Hrmph…” she sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. She took out the flask once again. With an annoyed grumble, she grabbed the axe in her free hand and started walking around the front of the structure. It was time for her to patrol, going for a ride would clear her head. She could not keep dwelling on this, she had to focus.

A hulking form watched her from across the yard. Sweat clung to his crimson brow, threatening to run into his already burning eyes. It wasn’t enough that the weather out here was downright arctic, but the manual labour was enough to make him damp and sticky in the cold. A hot shower and clean clothes sounded like a slice of paradise to Owen.

He had been avoiding her for a while now. Not because he didn’t want to talk to Colt, but because he was fairly certain she didn’t want to talk to him. She had made her rounds, greeting and meeting with each of the other members of the lodge, but the veteran had seemed to barely look at him once she had returned. The thought made his chest tight and heavy. He knew he had overstepped an unspoken line during their fight. Owen also knew he wanted to make it right, but there had been enough to do to distract him from the tense conversation he was sure to follow. He nodded to Nile to make sure that he was settled without him for a bit and closed the distance between himself and Colt, crossing the hard with a large axe over his shoulder.

Need some help?” He asked sheepishly, calling to her as not to surprise her. It was a poor excuse to start a conversation, but it was better than a lame pick up line or icebreaker. “I’m not good for much other than manual labour, but I am pretty good at swinging an axe.” He flashed Colt a smirk, trying to gauge her reaction. They lived in the same house, the two of them couldn’t go on avoiding each other forever. If he had to be the first one to breach the gap, he was happy to do it.

The burr from the man’s voice stopped the veteran in her tracks. Her shoulders hunched in reflex as she turned to look with the corner of her eye. She had been dreading this moment from the moment she started her journey home. Despite regaining her position within the community’s social ladder and assurance from both Andy and Hector, Colt was very uneasy. Part of her wanted to walk away, but the rational side intercepted, called her a fucking idiot and would not let her go. She did not move but turned her head a little towards him.

Working on those.” She pointed behind her to the trees she had just left. Despite her laconic response, her stomach was twisting itself in knots. He wanted to talk, she could see that, otherwise why would he approach her now when he had not before? What was there left for him to say? She had seen Nile but gave no reaction. She put her flask in her pocket. She was not going to give him any more ammunition. Not after that.

Owen nodded at her order and began his work on felling a medium sized tree. Each swing pulled the muscles across his chest, reminding him of the injury that lurked under his layers of clothes. While he worked he wracked his brain, trying to figure out how in the hell to begin their conversation. Nothing came. He thought back to Andy, and their conversation in her perch days prior. If his sister could get through that, he should have no problems getting through this.

So listen,” he began awkwardly, his voice strained from the force of his blows. "I…" he paused again, stuttering. "Well I mean…" he exhaled in frustration. Putting the axe down to face Colt.

"
I'm really glad you are back," he finally managed. He scratched the back of his head nervously. "I was worried about you. Not that I didn't think you could handle it!" He quickly corrected, worried that it would come across as if he thought Colt to be incapable. "Just you know, we didn't leave on the best of terms and if I didn't get a chance to clear the air, I would have never forgiven myself."

Colt’s axe came down with a dull thwunk and split the small log in half. She breathed heavily from the effort, turning her eyes to him as he spoke.

"
What I mean to say I guess, is that I'm sorry for the way all of that went down. Not exactly my shining moment."

Hm…” Colt hummed, turning away. Putting the axe down, she stood with her arms folded and eyes down. “...I almost didn’t.” She answered finally. What was she supposed to do, act like everything was okay? At his apology, the veteran sighed and circled her fake foot in the frost, not entirely sure how to respond. She was thankful for it, but why did she not feel any better? She opened her mouth, as if to say something else but closed it with a shake of her head, shoving her hands in her pockets. One hand gripped her flask, more out of self-reassurance than a desire to drink from it.

"
Well I'm glad you did." The boy spoke softly, but sincerely, his eyes on the ground. He wasn't sure what she meant, but with the icy way she greeted him Owen wasn't sure he was in any position to pry.

She kept her own eyes down, beginning to turn as if to walk away but the woman paused. And after another second of thought, she turned back around. Colt sat on the stump where the oak once stood with a sigh, her eyes still down as she took her prosthetic off. She had been on it since six in the morning and, taking Hector’s advice, took it off to give her skin a chance to breathe. She pushed her cargo-pants over the stump, knowing that the sight of it would only encourage her to go for the flask. She forced herself to look Owen in the face. Her expression was icy.

I’m still very angry, Owen.” she spoke bluntly as she put her hands back in her pockets. Andy’s words would not let her walk away without at least attempting to resolve this. If she did not say anything now, then she never would. She had to get it out and be truthful. That did not make this any easier. Part of her wished a horde of hostiles would show up just to avoid this conversation. What good would it do? Colt already knew what he was going to say.

That’s fair,” the man replied with a shrug. “There is a lot about our conversation that doesn’t sit right with me still either.” That much was true. While Owen knew in his heart of hearts that there was a lot he could have handled better, he was confident a lot of what he said had merit. Especially about her coming down on Nile. Still, the conversation wasn’t about defending Nile now, it was about clearing the air. Colt had been a good friend of his since the beginning of all this mess and the last thing he wanted to do was let the bad blood between them continue to fester.

I’m not sure anything I can say at this point can take away your anger. I understand it, I respect it, and I acknowledge it, but past that I can’t do anything except what I’m doing now. The amount of people we can trust is slim enough already.” His face turned sour at the thought of Liam. He had seemed so kind and as much as it pained him to admit it, paternal. But after seeing Andy and hearing her story Owen had more than enough reason to mistrust kind strangers from now on.

I don’t want things to be tense between the people I know I can trust. So what do we do?” He asked genuinely. “How do we fix this?

Colt watched the man through a glare. She was a bit taken aback by his response. She had expected some lecture about Nile, but no. Not that she was unhappy about that. But what he said still sent the veteran’s head swirling. As much as she wanted to simply wave a hand and have water flow under this bridge, there was an unbridled sense of frustration that prevented it.

Do you actually understand? I can barely trust people as it is. So…” She growled ruefully and shook her head a bit, “I dunno where it can go.” She had noticed the absence of Liam since she returned. She had not interacted with the man at all but still, there was something the veteran simply did not like. He was… too nice for someone in this world. Colt had not asked about it so assumed he either did not come back with the group, or he had been killed. That would be for the best. The Lodge could not afford another David situation.

“I don’t want this. But,” She turned to look as Arthur had come around the corner and was craning his neck upward to eat from a tree, “
When you use something I told you, and only you because I trusted you, to hurt me, and you knew it would hurt me, then I don’t know how I can move on from that!” She took the flask out from her pocket but just held it in both hands, still watching the horse. Looking into Owen’s eyes any longer would only make her crumble.

I didn’t use it to hurt you,” he said softly, averting his eyes to the ground. “Although I am very aware that was what ended up happening. I meant what I said Colt. You aren’t responsible for any of us. Your help is appreciated. A lot of us would be a lot worse off without you, or even dead. But you don’t have to baby any one of us. I just wanted you to see that. You were talking down to me, like I was some child incapable of making my own decisions.” He shrugged. “Maybe I was hurt that you couldn’t trust my judgement after everything we had been through together. You seemed so focused on bashing Nile and mistrusting him that you couldn’t see that you took one hundred percent of that aggression out on me.” The male sighed and shifted, wincing as he stretched his overused muscles.

I guess I’m used to it in a way. I tend to be everyone's emotional punching bag. Maybe that is because I am easy to talk to…” He shook his head, still not meeting Colt’s gaze. “I’m not sure. But Andy, you, anyone here who has an issue I tend to be the one that gets the brunt of whatever aggression they’ve been holding on to. I have limits too. I was pushed to mine and you got the fall out of that. You didn’t deserve all of it, but I don’t take it back either. It wouldn’t do any of us any good. If we can’t move past that then I understand, but I wouldn’t feel right if I just let stuff go unspoken.

...I didn’t want it to be like that.” Colt still didn’t look at him, her shoulders feeling heavy, “I’m… a stupid piece of shit for doing that to you. And, I’m sorry.” The veteran played with her flasks, her eyes still down. “But I can’t just back off. The thought of going back again without you scared me. And… I was afraid that something would happen to you. You’re right, I don’t trust Nile. And having you defend him without listening to me it just- But…But that’s a problem I have. I shouldn’t take it out on you. It’s just…

She finally looked up, turning to him but not meeting his eyes, “
I… the thought of something happening to you, to any of you… I just can’t go through that a second time. Even though I know it wasn’t… technically my fault I just can’t. And if I can’t help then… why am I here.” She sighed, her anger slipping away, now replaced with a sick sense of guilt and the oh-too-familiar self hatred. She started uncapping the flask. “...I don’t know what to do.

I’m not sure either, but I do know I don’t want any bad blood between us.” He finally looked up to meet her gaze. “Things aren’t always perfect. This many people in close quarters?” Owen gestured around. “We are bound to accidentally hurt each other from time to time. But if I’ve learned anything from my twenty-something years on this planet it is this,” he offered her a warm, sad smile.

Family fights sometimes. But we always come back together. I’ve also learned that family isn’t always blood either.” His face soured for a moment before returning back to a goofy Owen grin.

I don’t want anything to happen to any of you either.

Colt finally took a sip from the flask before looking back to Owen, forcing herself to meet his gaze. Her shoulders came together and the woman almost seemed to shrink. She traced her finger around the JS engraving on the flask as what Owen had said sank in. Family? That was something she hadn’t heard before. Taking another sip, she drummed the fingers of her other hand against it and took in a deep breath.

...I had a nightmare that morning. A bad one.” She sighed, “I’m not excusing my shit or anything, I’m still a fucking- anyway. But… I had withdrawl and I was sick, a-me I was scared and… I wanted you. That was the first thing I wanted. I haven’t felt anything like that since,” she squeezed her eyes shut for a second, still unable to say her name, “y’know. You’ve, sort of become like, I dunno. A brother to me? I guess.” This opening-up stuff was harder than she’d like it to be, “And when I thought you hated me I… My-my point is, I suppose… you all mean a lot to me. And I guess I should back off but, I dunno if I can.” She drank again, a little unnerved at how much she had just talked. It must have been more than she had spoken in the previous year alone.

You are allowed to get pissed at me Colt,” Owen said with a laugh. “Andy does it all the time. And I’m allowed to get pissed at you too. What matters is that we come back. I’m sorry I hurt you. Just like you can’t promise you’ll back off I can’t promise it wont happen again. All I can promise is to do my best not to, and to promise to always do my best to make it right when it happens. That's all I want.

Colt huffed through her nose as she took another, longer drink before finally responding. This conversation was doing a number on her nerves. “
I… can’t promise that I will change.” She blinked slowly, starting to feel quite warm both from the liquor in her flask and her core heating up from this conversation, a small flush of pink rushing to her scarred face, “I’m… I’m glad I’m alive. And you are too. I almost didn’t make it back. I was sure I wasn’t going to. But, I’m glad I did.

There was a moment of quiet, Colt drank again before taking in a short breath. She turned back to Owen, her eyes a bit half lidded from the drink, but despite her growing inebriation she spoke with no uncertain terms. “
I… Love you, Owen.” She blinked a couple of times, pressure building up behind her eyes. The fact he still cared despite what a bastard she had been confused the veteran. But she was not going to question it. All she could do was just gaze at him. It was true, and she meant it.

Hey,” He said with a stupid, smug grin on his face. He pulled her into his chest in an embrace. “I love you too Colt.

The woman did not resist and allowed him to pull her in. Wrapping her own arms around him, she let herself sink into his grip, not unlike the day she told him everything. It was in this embrace that she held her breath for a brief moment before…

It’s Jane.

Owen pulled back and gave the vet a quizzical arc of his eyebrow but then smiled again as realization set in. Surely Colt wasn’t her real name after all. He had never heard anyone else go by it. He ruffled her hair as he pulled away and reached once more for the axe to finish the work he had promised to assist her with.

Alright then Jane,” he addressed her as the blade rose above his head. “Best get comfy because I have a lot to catch you up on.

For the first time in two years, Jane “Colt” Stanhope smiled broadly. Andy had been right, it seems. It was as if years had been taken off her chest. Sitting on the stump, the veteran opened her flask and leaned forward, “
Hit me.

Collab with: Maj Maj (Owen)

Mentions: FireMaiden FireMaiden (Leliana) iden Togy Togy (Nile)
 
Last edited:

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter

The following is a collab between myself and TheMightyRedLemon TheMightyRedLemon
Mentions: Maj Maj (Andy) FireMaiden FireMaiden (Leliana) shadowz1995 shadowz1995 (Hector)

The sky was turning red as time travelled on, bathing the frosty grass in a pink glow. Colt had not seen the sky like this since Afghanistan. Almost blood red, it was almost as if the gates of hell had opened. It meant nothing, she knew this but still, something felt… off. Not off enough to have an effect on her mood, which was in unusually high spirits this evening. After her heart-to-heart with Owen, the veteran was in a better place mentally. For now. However, the only one to be aware of this shift in mindset was the horse, Arthur. Who, in his short stay at the Lodge had practically become the veteran’s confidant. It was about time for Colt to go on her patrol- which by now was practically just an excuse to spend some time with nature away from the chaotic structure that was the Lodge. Arthur stood nearby as Colt had perched herself on a stump, cleaning her grooming brushes so she could give him a swift brush before tacking him up. Colt whistled as she cleaned, which not long after devolved into,

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, keep movin’ movin’ movin, keep them doggies movin’, Rawhiiiiiide!” Arthur’s ears flickered in curiosity, “Rain’n wind and weather, hell bent for leather, wishin’ me girl was by me siiiide!” Colt did not hold back on this, though not to the point where it would alert anything. Andy was the only other living being to have heard the veteran sing anything that was above a moody grumble under her breath. That song had been stuck in her head since she was a toddler. Captain Stanhope watched this show religiously and, growing up in a community of rough and ready ranch folk, it was practically a rallying cry. You could belt it from the top of a corn silo and chances were, you would hear another voice at least a mile away joining in. Colt would have to make do with singing to the horse.

Move 'em on, head 'em up, head 'em up, move 'em on, move 'em on, head 'em up Rawhide! Count 'em out, ride 'em in, ride 'em in, count 'em out, count 'em out, ride 'em in Rawhiiiiiide!

Though the day carried on like most for the acrobat, her usual day to day activity of keeping an eye on those she felt most threatened by was interrupted. A sound that seemed a bit off, at least to her ears, resonated through the air. Curiosity gripped the thin acrobat, leading her to follow the source of the sound. It was not long before she happened upon the mangled military vet singing away cheerfully.

"
No way… you mean you aren't always a grump?" Vanessa called out as she approached, her tone both jovial and surprised.

Fuck-!” Colt jumped as a voice cut through the air, Arthur raised his head and pricked his ears towards the acrobat. Colt, for her part, straightened her cap out, a little surprised to realise that someone had been listening, “Uh… I mean, well, I’m allowed to be, right?” She mumbled as she picked up her body brush and began stroking Arthur’s sleek form with it. Arthur, for his part, dropped his head to graze.

"
Everyone is, I think." Nessa said simply. "It's just strange to see. Good strange." She nodded to herself as though she were agreeing with what she just said. "So... How did ya find the horse?"

Colt did not respond to her initial statement, but Nessa did have a point. After speaking with Owen, she had committed to her promise to Leliana and took the Zoloft. And while Colt did not have a complete understanding of the drug, she could only hope Leli was correct in its effects. Internally, the veteran cursed herself- of course Leliana would know better than she did, she was a nurse for Christ sake. However, at the acrobat’s next question, she stopped brushing for a moment. Letting out a deep sigh, she scratched Arthur behind his withers, making the horse groan in pleasure and wiggle his lips happily. This was his favourite spot to be scratched.

I didn’t.” she responded laconically, “He was given to me.” She stroked his neck as she spoke, her unfamiliarly good mood souring back into a sombre state at the thought of Hank. She hoped he reached the Robinsons safely and they were living in relative safety in their small community.

"
Sounds like there is a story behind that one." Remarked the younger woman.

Yeah…” Colt sighs as she finishes and goes to retrieve Arthur’s saddle, throwing it over the horse’s back as he grazed, “You could say that.” She added before turning to the acrobat.

Did y’want something?

Vanessa looked around nervously for a second before glancing back at colt and asking in a low voice, "
You have been here for a good bit… I was wondering if I could ask you about.." Quickly she shook her head. "No, sorry. Never mind, its silly."

Hm?” A broken eyebrow raised, “What? What did y’want?” She turned around to face the acrobat. Normally she would just brush Nessa off, but… given everything she had heard, she could not afford to not listen, even if it was nonsense.

"
It's nothing. Just me being crazy is all… So, what's the horse's name?"

Colt’s eyebrows lowered into a glare. What was this woman hiding? She opened her mouth to retaliate but paused at her deflection. Still giving her a quizzed look, she took Arthur’s bitless bridle and grabbed his head, pulling it up so she could slip it on.

His name’s Arthur.” The aforementioned horse fluttered his nostrils in a curious knicker towards the acrobat. She must have had an interesting scent for him to be this curious.

"
Pfft.. Isn't that a person's name?" Vanessa giggled.

What of it?” Colt spat defensively, stroking Arthur’s face almost protectively, “That’s his name so it doesn’t matter.” Arthur half-closed his eyes, almost as if he was enjoying Colt’s tone of voice. Which would not be far from the truth.

This caused the young woman to laugh even harder. "
I'm glad you're back." She admitted in between her chuckles.

Colt darted her red eyes, a little annoyed at this response. But what was new? She turned her back and continued tacking Arthur up.

Hm… Me too.” She grumbled. It was a genuine response but laced with her usual layer of frustration, “If you’re going back inside, tell Andy and Hector I’m heading out on my walk and will be back before dark. They know where I go.” She put Arthur’s breastplate over his head and started cinching everything up while he stood still, munching on grass.

The acrobat visibly shivered as if reliving a bad memory. She definitely didn't want to go in if she had to talk with either of them. She was beginning to tense up, and her chest felt tight at the thought. "
Um.." She started. "W...would it be alright if I came with you, actually?"

Colt now turned to face the woman fully as she requested to join her. She blinked a couple of times in thought. On the one hand, they would be more effective in a pair. On the other, Colt knew she would be faster alone. But on the other other hand four eyes (well three and three quarters) was better than two? Finally, the woman sighed and folded her arms.

Y’comfortable with horses?

"
I um.. They are alright. I've had to clean up after them but I've never been too close to one.."

An eyebrow raised curiously, “
Ever ridden one?” Colt asked, taking her flask out of her pocket.

Vanessa shook her head. "
No I've never done that."

...Wanna try?” Colt asked before taking a drink , she herself struggled to believe what she was saying, but here they were. “I’ll hold his reins so I got control of him.” She stroked Arthur’s neck as his ears flicked between the two women as they spoke.

"
You really don't mind..?"

I mean, if you want to.” Colt shrugged with another sip. Of course she would not let Nessa, or anyone else go off on her own with him, but… she would be in full control and she understood Arthur enough to know how he ticked. And they went on this very trek twice a day so he knew the area as well as she did.

"
I think I'd like to... " she said looking at Arthur and smiling. It seemed this horse brought out something positive in Colt, and even Vanessa could appreciate that.

Alright,” She took the reins over Arthur’s head and led him to the stump she liked to sit and ponder on to be used as a mounting block, “Don’t worry too much, Arthur’s well trained..” Her voice suddenly goes up a couple of octaves as she turns to the equine. “Aren’t you? Aren’t you, ya big ugly fucker you,” she took him by the cheeks and shook them like a big dog as she lovingly insulted him. Arthur chuffed and nibbled on her hand, pushing his muzzle further into her chest. The acrobat stood rubbing her arm, the display making her slightly uncomfortable.

Vanessa couldn't really understand why the vet and the horse seemed so happy to be near one another, and it made the voices within her mind chatter nonsensically. Shaking her head, she brushed the feeling aside. "
So um.." She began, "What now?"

A'ight, so.” Colt rubbed her hands together for warmth, “Geddup on the stump, grab the front of the saddle, put your left foot in the stirrup and just swing your right leg over. I’ll keep him still.” Colt didn’t care for Nessa’s uncomfortable expression, Arthur enjoyed it and that was what mattered to her. She grabbed the other side of the saddle and pulled it to keep it straight.

Y’wanna land quite gently in the saddle so don’t throw yourself onto his back.Or I’ll break yours she had to stop herself from saying.

The acrobat stepped up onto the stump and grabbed the horse's saddle up near the front as she slipped her foot into the stirrup. It was easy enough for the lightweight woman to hoist herself onto Arthur's back, though the feeling of the large animal moving slightly underneath her made her feel as though she were off balance despite sitting.

Arthur grunted and lifted his head at the newfound weight on his back but only moved slightly. Colt stroked his nose and looked up at Nessa.

Don’t worry about him moving, just try to go with him. Hold onto the horn.” She gestured to the large stump at the head of the saddle, “If you feel off-balance. So, to make him walk forward, squeeze his sides with your heels.” She chose her words carefully. She had always been told to “kick” horses to make them move and she always hated the idea of that. Not that she thought Nessa did not know the difference but… she was not going to risk it.

The Harlequin quickly grabbed on to the horn with both hands as Colt gestured to it, very much not used to being so off balance. Once she felt a little more secure in her positioning, she gently pressed her heels into the horse's sides.

As predicted, Arthur started taking steps forward. His walk was forward but smooth. Normally Colt would have him walk a little distance then break into a trot but with the veteran holding his head, he matched her pace as she walked to keep up. As they did, she turned to look up at Nessa.

Let your lower half relax, you want your hips to match his strides. It makes it easier for both of you. And try not to look down. Y’wanna look up and between his ears. Your head is heavy and they can tell where you’re looking.” Colt stopped talking, knowing if she went any longer she’d never stop. As they walked, she pulled out her colt.45 and had it hang in her free hand. Already this was more difficult. But she knew what to look for.

Despite the older woman's instructions, Vanessa found it quite difficult to relax any part of her body, let alone her lower half. The way the horse moved under her felt an odd sensation to feel under her, and she wasn't entirely sure she felt comfortable with it. Her gaze, which had been down on the horn previously, now fixed itself between Arthur's ears. "
I...it's not so bad… I've done way scarier things..." she said with a nervous chuckle. "Just feels weird..."

Yeah… it does for a while. You get used to it.” Colt could not remember her first time on a horse. It would have been before she was even born. Her mother rode as religiously as anyone else in her clan’s fold. Colt shook her head a little to get rid of that thought. She could not keep going back to the past. Though… she’d give anything to hug her father one more time. Was he even alive?

The trio slowly wandered their way through the woods. There was talk along the way but Colt was still focusing on their surroundings and what Arthur was doing. She could not afford to let her guard down. They were about to reach the furthest point of her usual trek. Colt was considering asking Nessa if she wanted to swap for the way back.
But before Colt could do anything, she felt a sudden weight at the end of the reins. Turning to the horse, she saw that his head shot up and he froze on the spot and planted his hooves into the ground. His body was tense. Colt felt her stomach drop at his behaviour. Wordlessly, she gave the reins a little tug. Nothing. His head was rising higher and higher, his nostrils flared as if he was trying to figure something out.

"Uuuh…" Nessa called out nervously "What's he doing?" It was clear to her the horse was now alert and up to something, and the young acrobat feared she might be tossed off the horse.

Arthur,” Colt purred and clicked her tongue in encouragement, “C’mon son, you’re fine.” The horse took a few tentative steps forwards before stopping again. He grunted and bowed his neck, again, as if looking for something. Colt grumbled something under her breath. Something was not right.

"
Colt I don't like this…"

Jump off.” Colt ordered bluntly, she was watching Arthur closely. Something seemed to have gotten his attention. She gripped her gun in her free hand as she watched his ears. While she knew Arthur well enough to know he would not bolt off, Nessa did not know that. Not needing to be told twice, Vanessa's feet found purchase on solid ground. She quickly got away from the horse's backside and positioned herself on the other side of Colt. As Vanessa jumped off, Arthur swung his rear where she had just been, his head raised and the white of his eyes gleaming but he was not pulling away from Colt’s grip. The vet stroked his face in an attempt to reassure him. He did not untense his body and his ears swivelled like a pair of satellite dishes, taking in everything around him.

There there,” she crooned but her own voice was tinged with concern. His nostrils were flared and he was breathing shallowly, “What is it?” She almost whispered to him as she tried to follow where his gaze travelled “Tell me.

"
Why is he doing that?" Vanessa asked as she looked around them. She could barely see under the shade of the trees in the fading light.

I’m not sure.” Colt lowered her brows as she looked around. The back of her neck grew hot and her stomach turned, something within her gut told her that they had to leave. Now! “...We should head back.” She went around Arthur’s side and went to grab the saddle to get up.

But before she could… Arthur released a loud chuff and leapt back from Colt, leaving the veteran stunned as she stumbled back and fell on her rear. “
Woah, eeeeeeasy!” She scrambled to her feet, but once she was up she grabbed the strap around her body keeping her shotgun on her back. Arthur reared again, snorting furiously and slashing his tail. She had never seen this before. Colt swung the shotgun around into her hands and cocked it, turning to look where Arthur was staring “...Something’s wrong.

Just as she spoke… her blood ran cold as through the winding labyrinth of dead oaks and redwood, she saw them. Shuffling forms limping, stumbling and crawling with purpose towards them. Their milky eyes almost glowed in the dark, their jaws hung limp and useless. Their grey skin littered with lesions and many missing limbs.

And they were heading straight for them.

SoD final.png
 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter

SoD 2.png
"We need to go!" Vanessa yelled as her head spun around, trying to count the dead that shambles towards them in the shadows of the trees. It was hard for the acrobat to keep track of them as they moved in between the thick tree trunks and bumped into each other. Their groans filled the air and mixed with the sounds of the panicking horse. The cacophony of sounds was overwhelming to the acrobat. She needed to run. All voices were screaming at her to run, only making the pounding in her head and the tightness of her chest worsen.

No.” The veteran growled bluntly, almost in a completely different voice, “If we go we’ll lead ‘em right to the Lodge.” Colt mentally counted the bodies. There were too many for them to take on, and she could not risk the community’s safety. Despite her rising heartbeat and pains in the back of her neck, she was almost unflinching. She looked to Arthur, shaking and pawing the ground in distress. Like the acrobat, he wanted to flee… Perhaps…

Right!” Without hesitation, Colt swept into the saddle from the ground like a well trained trapeze artist. She kept a firm grip on the reins in one hand to prevent Arthur from taking off before they were ready. She reached down to Nessa for her hand, “Get up! Hold onto me, and don’t let go!”

The acrobat quickly grabbed Colt's hand and pulled herself up, her arms wrapping around the vet's waist tightly.

HEY!” Colt’s handgun rose into the air and a loud CLAP rang through the ancient wood, “COME GEDDIT!” And with that, she released the pressure on the reins and without missing a beat, Arthur released a furiously terrified snort and took off. The forest blurred past them like a smeared painting and the wind clashed with her hair as Colt stood in the stirrups and bent low over the horse’s neck, hands forward, releasing his head and allowing Arthur to run for his life.

Vanessa's grip became even tighter as the horse began to run. With every moment she felt as though she might be flung off and into the waiting hands or the horde.

Gritting her teeth, Colt had to fight to keep control of Arthur, who (understandably) wanted to simply charge wildly wherever he felt it’d be safe, but any sharp movement from him would send them both flying into God-knows-what else. All she knew was that she had to get far away.

Are they still on us?!” Colt bellowed to the acrobat, not affording to take her eyes off of the trail ahead to check herself. But from the speed Arthur was tanking at, he was all too aware of the incoming hoard behind him.

It took the harlequin a moment to register the question, as she was so focused on not falling. Taking a quick peek behind them revealed that the dead were indeed still following them. Though they didn't seem to be keeping pace very well, more were coming out of the trees and joining in the pursuit. "
Y..yes, but we are losing them." Vanessa shouted as she turned her head back forward. What had started out as a light hearted experience quickly became a life or death situation.

Colt did not respond to this, staying very cold and calculated. Beneath her she could feel Arthur’s sides heaving from the effort. He would not last like this forever and the last thing Colt wanted to do was break his wind or strain his legs. But they had to escape this wave of monsters. They were not going to give up just because they were lagging behind.

YAH!” She gave Arthur a flick of her heels. Both her yell and the pressure on his sides gave Arthur the encouragement he required to keep going just a bit longer. With his swift gait, they had quite a head against the horde. She had an idea. “Hold on tightly!

Without much else for a warning, Colt gripped the right rein tightly and gave it a sharp tug alongside a thump at the horse’s left side with her fake leg. Arthur’s head jerked suddenly and his body swung to the right, almost on his haunches. Regaining his balance, Arthur lurched forward into a fierce gallop, into the trees.

……………………

After what felt like hours, Vanessa felt Arthur slowing down. "
D...did we lose them?" She asked as she lifted her head to look around them. She could hardly see anything at all in this lighting, but all seemed safe enough.

Colt, her hands aching from the effort, had brought Arthur down the ranks from the intense gallop to a much calmer canter. She squeezed the reins again, bringing the horse down to a slow, restful walk.

She did not answer straight away until she had reached back into her rucksack and pulled out a torch. Putting the torch to her head, she switched it on like a makeshift mining light. Looking around and listening, all she could hear was Arthur’s breath and the twilight fauna.

...It would seem so.” She finally answered.

The acrobat closed her eyes and sighed in relief. "
Good. Let's get back before more show up."

Hmm.” The veteran growled as she looked around. By now, it was long after sunset. And Arthur was exhausted from his terrified run. “We can’t. It’s far too dark and Arthur needs to rest.” She gently signalled for Arthur to stop, which he was exceedingly thankful for. “We should get off, give his back a break.

Vanessa didn't need to be told twice. She was already sliding off the horse's back before Colt had finished telling her to. "
So if we can't go back… then what do we do?"

Colt kept the torch at eye height as she looked ahead. “
There’s a road. Just over there. I… went down it on my way back. I think there’s a gas station. We’d be better off hunkering down there until the first light. It’s too dangerous to go back now. Might have some food or gas we could scavenge too.” With that, she gently started leading Arthur, who still seemed on edge. She stroked his face and sighed, “My poor son, y’got a hell of a fright didn’t ya?” she spoke to him gently. Arthur’s ears swiveled non-stop and his breath was hurried but as the cool air got to him and the silence set in alongside Colt’s voice, he began to calm down; albeit slowly.

The acrobat watched in a moment of silent confusion as Colt started to consol the horse. Shaking her head, she began to follow behind the vet and her companion.

There there,” Colt stroked his neck before turning serious again, keeping her flashlight at eye level. “Don’t make too much noise. And watch the ground. Dunno if there could be any lying there…or another trap by some other tree man she thought inwardly. She also kept one eye on Arthur’s ears. Whenever they erected, Colt would stop the train to look around before slowly continuing.

The younger woman followed behind quietly, careful even of stepping on branches. In this low visibility, it was clear she was on edge. Her eyes kept darting around to every noise and apparent movement within the shadows. If she could see, she was certain she could out manoeuvre anything that might try to get her. The thought of not being able to see a threat, however, chilled the acrobat to her core.

It was only after another half hour that they reached the road. By reflex, Colt raised her hand up in a ‘hold it’ gesture. The greasy gas station stood across the tarmac, its dim neon lights shining like a beacon. But there was a problem. Breathing out slowly through her mouth, she took that same hand and pointed with two fingers.

There’s hostiles over there,” she spoke coldly, “I can see at least four. And no doubt there are more inside the store. We’re gonna have to flush them out before we can do anything else.

"
And how do we do that, exactly?" Vanessa asked in a hushed tone.

Don’t get lippy with me!” Colt suddenly snarled, her eyes glaring straight into Nessa’s. The stare lasted a few extra seconds before she took Arthur’s reins and handed them to the acrobat, “Hold him and don’t move.” Without saying another word, the veteran turned off her flashlight and moved to a couple of trees, closer to the road. Through the two winding trunks, she leaned in for a better look. There had to be a way to get them out there so they would be easily dispatched. Going into a small space in the dark was a bad idea. Feeling around the forest floor, Colt felt her fingers wrap around a small rock. The veteran picked it up in her grip and moved around the tree as silently as she could.

With one swift motion, the rock flew through the night air and landed with a tinny clatter on the tarmac across the road. The second the stone left her fingers, Colt had already made her way back to the horse and the acrobat. Thankfully, Arthur seemed uninterested in the sound of the rock.

Okay,” she spoke almost silently as she slowly and gingerly took the silencer from her rucksack and screwed it onto the nozzle of her colt.45. “Now we wait.” Just as she said that, they had already begun to shuffle out of the station’s building.

"
I wasn't being snippy." Vanessa said in a whispered voice. She looked almost offended by the accusation that Colt had made a moment earlier. The current situation seemingly disregarded, the acrobat felt a deep need to be understood properly.

Colt did not respond to this and kept her eyes on the hostiles. After a few moments, there were about eight outside and there was no activity inside the building as far as she could see. She prepped the gun to be as silent as possible.

Right.” She finally spoke in a whisper, “Here’s the idea. See those three over there? I’m going to get closer, and take em out, that should get the other’s attention. Just… gotta make sure we aren’t seen.

"
What do you want me to do?"

Wait a second.” Colt frowned, trying to figure everything out before doing anything else. Hindsight was a blessing but not after a disaster, so using her foresight to use hindsight would prove hard but useful. “...What do you know about guns?

The acrobat looked between the gun in Colt's hand and her face for a moment before answering. "
I um.. I know that they are loud and they are deadly." True enough that even she could figure out how to use a gun, albeit not well. "I have one in my bag but it's only got one more shot…"

Colt did not respond further than a short growl. That was not going to work. “
Other weapons? Like a knife?

Vanessa smiled. "
Oh I brought plenty."

Good at throwing?

"
Does a starving lion maul the first thing it sees?"

If it wants to live, yes.” Colt turned back to the group before facing Nessa. “Right. Here’s the idea. I’ll get on him,” she gestures to Arthur, “And drive them towards me. You flank around the back of them and take out as many as possible with your knives. They will turn around but keep focused. Once they come your way I’ll bring them back to me with the gun. So we have them in a fucked up game of piggy in the middle, y’got me?” She spoke with a way only familiar to herself. Blunt, clear and not inviting any questions. She looked Nessa in the eye as she talked, hoping the acrobat understood.

Vanessa nodded as Colt spoke. It seemed a smart plan to her, and the Vet clearly seemed to be in her element.

Okay.” She affirmed before hoisting herself into the saddle. It took her a moment to find her left stirrup. With a deep breath she softly clicked her tongue to get Arthur to walk and looked down at Nessa. “Wait until they turn to me.” she added before taking Arthur further away. Before going through with her plan, Colt got out her flask and took the longest possible swig she could. This had so many ways it could go wrong, but she needed to block that part of her brain. Wiping her mouth with her sleeve, she put the empty flask in her pocket and raised her weapon.

PFFT! She squeezed the trigger and almost like magic, one hostile came to a gurgling end as it dropped to the ground like a rock, leaking maroon and dead blood from the bullet wound in the back of the head. PFFT! A second one dropped, now attracting the attention of the horde. With growls and gurgles they turned and, to Colt’s relief did not seem capable of much more than walking. But they were still fast and determined. Bringing her hand holding the reins up, she gently pulled Arthur’s head and squeezed him with her heels. The horse chuffed and brought his nose to his chest, taking steps backwards. Colt’s never blinking eyes did not leave the hostiles and the only sound to leave her lips was the occasional “
shh” of reassurance to her steed. All she could do was hope Nessa would stick to the plan.

Swiftly and quietly, Nessa moved to flank the undead. She had to move in a wide arch to avoid being noticed or heard, but once she was finally in position she pulled three knives from the straps on her thigh and sent them flying one by one. A couple seconds after leaving her hand, each knife found a mark. The first planted itself where the neck meets the back of the skull, while the second knife embedded itself into another zombie's cheek, failing to kill it, and the third corrected her mistake.

'You can't afford to mess up!' 'Only nine knives left!' 'Idiot!!!'

The carnie shook her head to clear the voices while she pulled three more knives and began to aim.

Colt saw this mistake but her face did not change from a stony glare despite her impulse to shout something. They both needed to be precise with their weapons. At the third hit, two hostiles seemed to realise what was going on as they turned towards Nessa and began their groaning shuffle towards her. Seeing her aim, Colt held fire to see what happened next, mentally tracking the closest hostiles to protect Nessa.

Two more knives flew and found their mark as the acrobat began to back away from the approaching dead. With only three left in front of her, she was feeling rather confident. Throwing the last knife in her hand she dropped the left most of the monsters as she continued to back up and put distance between herself and what was left of their adversaries. Looking up at Colt and Arthur, she gave them an excited smile. "
Almost got all of them!" She said, clearly having a great time with all of this.

Suddenly, the harlequin cried out in surprise as a rotting hand reached from behind her and grabbed a fist full of her long brown hair, yanking her backwards.

Vanessa's mismatched eyes now gazed up at the milky white eyes and bloody rotting maw of a long dead woman as she descended upon her. Gnashing teeth stained with blood and dripping with saliva snapped ferociously as they drew closer to the acrobats throat.

'Run!' 'Escape!' 'Going to die..!!'

As panic overcame her, the voices in her head began to go wild. They yelled and whined while she herself let out a terrified scream.

VANESSA!” Colt howled as the rogue undead grabbed her, without much thought she jammed her heels into Arthur’s sides, making the steed jolt into a canter. Rising her gun, she fired twice, striking the undead in the shoulders. Snarling, it turned its hellish head from Nessa, letting out an unholy howl. Squeezing the trigger again, the bullet ripped through the undead’s squishy skull, sending it to the ground in a crumpled heap as the carnie fell onto the ground from how off balance she had been. Colt pulled Arthur up and looked down at the acrobat.

Nessa, are ya-?” Before she could finish that sentence, Arthur suddenly reared his head up and before Colt could process what was going on, the veteran felt a pair of arms grab her in a terrifying embrace. She let out an involuntary yell of pain as she was thrown from Arthur onto the hard concrete. Her attacker snarled and gnashed its teeth, as the last had done to Nessa, trying to get at her throat. Colt did not scream but her scarred face showed nothing more than unbridled fear as she tried to kick it back with her prosthetic foot.

Without a moment to recover or think, the younger woman scrambled to her feet with a forward momentum. Before she was even fully standing she began to charge the creature on top of the veteran. Vanessa grabbed it by the shoulders as she made contact with its back. She put all her weight behind her tackle, sending the zombie and herself skidding across the road, but off of Colt. The acrobat landed hard on the rotting back of the undead, but she wasn't done. As it began to move underneath her, she grabbed either side of the back of its head and began to slam its face into the tarmac over and over, letting loose an almost primal scream.

Colt jolted upright as soon as the weight was off of her. Hearing the scream, she turned to Nessa who seemed to be in a frenzy, violently killing the undead that just had her pinned. Instantly the veteran was reminded of that day outside of the motel, where she had violently murdered a hazmat in a similar fashion. Suppressing a shudder, Colt got to her foot and stood with her gun raised, her eyes darting. Where had they come from? These were not like the hostiles they had seen before. With one hand she reached for Arthur’s reins, but before she could grab them, the horse suddenly whirled away to face the trees, head erect and body unflinching. His nostrils flared to almost twice their size; something caught his attention.

Something moved within the trees.

Releasing an unholy bellow, a hostile leapt from the bushes, hands out and poised to grab, but Colt was ready this time. As soon as it was close, BANG! The hostile’s body jolted back as the bullet tore through its eye. It gurgled and stumbled before finally falling to the ground, twitching violently before subcombing. Panting heavily, Colt turned to Nessa.

Is it dead?

The acrobat was hunched over, breathing heavily as she sat on top of the thing that had knocked Colt from her horse. Blood splattered across the acrobat and the road around the head, which lay in a pile of mush. The sticky red mess thickly coated the young woman's thin fingers and hands, already beginning to dry and flake away in some small spots. She sat back after a short moment and her shoulders slumped as a sigh of relief escaped her lips. "
Da." She said. "Very much dead."

Colt simply nodded at this response but her body did not relax. Her eyes were set onto the trees. Without looking at the acrobat, she took in a deep breath.

...There’s more. And after all that noise, they’ll know we are here and be waiting.” She said bluntly. One eye was kept on Arthur as she said this. “But, if we stay here in the light, we might be okay.” She took Arthur by the reins and stroked his face to calm him, “We can’t leave. Not till tomorrow.

Nessa stood slowly, nodding her head. "
Da…" She replied with a shaky breath. "We going inside, then?"

Yes.” Colt responded with the same bluntness. Despite the stoicism on display, the veteran was mentally drained and worrying. They had to fortify this place to ensure its security until dawn. “I’ll go first. There should not be any more inside but we cannot be certain.” She reaches down and pulls out her knife from the side of her boot. “We need to be quiet from now on. Any more hollering will make us a sitting duck to these fuckers.”

"
Sorry…" The acrobat replied. "I will try to be quiet." She said as she looked around them. She made a mental note to collect the knives she had thrown before they left.

Good.” Colt sighed as she took Arthur’s saddle off and gave him a chunk of carrot from her pocket, “Y’did well, son.” she spoke to him in a softer tone before tethering him by the reins to a pole, in a way that if he were to tug hard enough they would break. “Right. Let’s see what we got inside….” The veteran grumbled as she ran a hand through her sweaty hair.

"
I need a drink.."
 

TheMightyRedLemon

Stars are only visible in darkness
Silhouettes of Doom: Part 3
A RumbleFish & MightyRedLemon Production


-----

It was the dead of night by the time the women had the place suitably fortified. There had been a single hostile inside the station but they were safely dispatched by a well aimed bullet to the head. With the windows boarded and the door guarded by Arthur, who the veteran kept an eye on at all times.

The shelves had been emptied, probably in the first few days of the outbreak. But the pair seemed to have struck lucky, tins of soup and a gallon of gas had been scavenged. And in a back room, blocked off from the inside, Colt had found a bittersweet scene. A dead man with a bullet in his own head alongside a firearm limp in his grey hand alongside a rucksack full of alcohol, some of which had been drunk. The veteran could only imagine what this man’s last moments must have been like. Being sure not to disturb the body as much as possible, Colt took the rucksack and gun.

Now, Colt was perched at the door, shotgun in hand, staring into the night. Arthur stood asleep, resting one hoof and his head stooped down. They were still in danger; he would have lied down if they weren’t. With a sigh, she took her radio out of her pocket and switched it on, setting it to the right channel.

“Andy,” she spoke lowly, holding the receiver as close to her mouth as she could to stay quiet, “Come in.”

"I'm here," came a tired and curt reply from the other end.

“Nessa and me ran into some trouble while on patrol. We’re alive though, we’ve found somewhere to hide out until tomorrow.”

"Do you need back up?" Andy immediately inquired. There were sounds of shuffling on the other end, as if she was already gathering things into a bag. "I can be out the door in five."

“I mighty appreciate the sentiment, but we’re fine. I still got some ammo and Nessa… can handle herself no problem. Besides, we’re too far out and,” The veteran sighed into the receiver, “It-it’s just not safe to go outside in the woods. I’ll explain everything when I get back.”

"Nessa is good when backed into a corner," Andy said with a sarcastic laugh. A few moments of silence followed before the static of the radio clicked back on. "Alright. I trust you to know what's best. Be safe, keep me posted and don't hesitate to call if you need me to bring in the cavalry. I'll be waiting."

Colt smirked a little at the archer’s comment before responding, “I will. We’ll be back by dawn and I’ll explain everything. Keep safe.”

"I'll have coffee waiting," was the redhead's final reply. A sentiment her mother had always told her when waiting for her to return.

“Can’t wait.” And with that, she put the radio down. Her father used to say that whenever she or anyone else in the fold would have a problem. That or telling someone to grab his gun. Colt sat against the wall, still watching Arthur. She groaned and took one of the bottles of wine she had found in that back room, pulling the cork out with her teeth. It had been a very shitty night and she needed some respite.

Vanessa hoisted herself up onto the counter top and lay across it. She was exhausted, and it showed. After a moment of silence, the acrobat began to laugh heartily.

Colt, with an eyebrow cocked turned towards the carny as she started laughing. “What happened to ‘I will try to be quiet’ hm?” She questioned before putting the bottle down for a moment to start unattaching her leg.

"Sorry, sorry." Nessa said as she tried to stifle her laughter. "I am just glad that I live." Sitting up, she looked at Colt. "That was exciting!"

“Hm… Guess y’could say that.” The veteran shrugged before letting out a groan of relief as she pulled the prosthetic off. Her hips were aching and her hands were numb from the strenuous riding. It had been years since she had done anything like that. Her whole body ached from being tackled to the ground. Colt lifted the bottle of wine again but just held it for a moment. “And… Guess I aughta thank you. And, say I’m sorry.” With that, she took a swig.

The acrobat snorted in laughter involuntarily. "Sorry for what? Saving my life?" What could Colt possibly be apologising for, she thought. Hadn't they had fun?

“For getting ya dragged into this mess.” Colt sighed with a shrug before looking back outside, “Oh well. Can’t do nothin’ about it now.” She added before taking another drink.

Vanessa's tone shifted, becoming glum. "Better than my first time out.."

“Could say the same for mine too. At least this time I’m not having to babysit idiots who can’t listen or act rationally. Y’did well back there. I mean it. If I’d gone out alone, I probably wouldn’t have made it back. Y’did good.” Colt swirled the bottle slightly before turning to Nessa, curious at her statement “How so? ” She asked, her tone shifting to one of curiosity. If she was going to be stuck here with the acrobat they might as well pass the time with some chat. The veteran scooted slightly to the side, leaving some room for the circus-woman to sit if she wished.

"How so? You mean my first run...?" The young woman asked, drawing her knees up to her chest so that her feet no longer dangled off the counter.

“Yeah.” Colt reiterated, “How in the name of Christ was this better than your first one?” She let out a loose chuckle that quickly fell into a short coughing fit. Laughing was not the veteran’s strong point.

The acrobat buried her face in her knees to hide her face before she took a shaky breath. "I.. I really messed up… I did something and it almost ended badly for everyone…"

“Huh?” Colt’s brows raised and the veteran stood up at Nessa’s words, still holding the bottle and leaning on the wall since her prosthetic was still lying there on the ground. “...What did you do?” she frowned, her voice turning blunt. Owen had mentioned something about, well, something happening with Andy’s group while she was absent. But what exactly, he was not able to say. She waited for the acrobat to speak, watching her while occasionally turning her head to glance at Arthur outside.

Looking up at Colt again, Vanessa had a look of fear playing across her face.

“Tell me.”Colt almost growled but seemed to manage keeping her voice level.

"I.. I can't! She.." Vanessa stuttered.

“She what? Who and what are you talking about?” The veteran could feel herself becoming annoyed so tried to drown those thoughts with more wine.

The acrobat flinched at the change in Colts tone. "Andy said do not say to anyone…" she stammered, now a little more nervous. She didn't want to upset the veteran, but the memory of how scary Andy and Hector had been in the basement played in her mind. Anxiety shot through her. What if Colt told Andy that the acrobat had loose lips? Or what if Colt decided to attack her? She was in a rough position, and she felt there was no escape.

The veteran let out a frustrated growl and threw a hand up, “Of fucking course she told you not tell anyone. Look, Vanessa, I know something happened that day. And I don’t appreciate being strung along and kept in the dark about shit. Tell me what happened.”

Nessa was quiet for a long moment before she turned on the counter to face away from Colt. "I.. Tried to kill them…" she finally said. "Andy.. And the other soldier.."

Colt felt her stomach twist itself into a knot when the acrobat finally spoke. “...What? was the only thing she could respond with, that was not what the veteran expected to hear.

Vanessa slid off the counter and sat on the ground behind it, hiding herself from Colt's view before she spoke again. "..those marks on Aaron's face… some of the gashes on Andy… when the Lion didn't finish her… I.." She stopped. She knew she had said enough. She closed her eyes and waited. One of two possibilities played out in her mind, and neither were painless.

There was a silence before-

“A WHAT?! Colt fought back the urge to roar those words, knowing the consequences if she did, but honestly, her tipsy head was struggling to wrap itself around what the acrobat had just said. A fucking lion? What the fuck happened?!

"R..r..remember the… The head… Andy brought it home…?"

“Nessa, I was gone for three days! How the fuck did-” she shook her head, “That doesn’t fucking matter, why the fuck did you try to finish them off?”

Another moment of silence passed by. The acrobat bit her lip as she thought of how to respond. "Because… I.. Thought they were going to kill me…" She finally murmured.

Colt blinked a few times, confused. “...Why? Andy’s many things but she isn’t some maniac that murders on a dime. Dunno so much about Aaron but, if he’s the type of soldier he says he was then I don’t see it either.”

"They kept whispering to each other.." She began. "...and.. The voices said they were going to kill me.."

“Voices? Like, in your head, voices?”

Behind the counter, Vanessa curled up and wrapped her arms around her legs. What would the veteran think of her now? The carni was crazy, sure, but she wasn't entirely oblivious. She could tell that Colt found her annoying on the best of days. Now she had just admitted to hearing voices? "Yeshche odna prichina menya nenavidet'..." She muttered with a soft whimper.

“What?” Colt drank from the wine, having no idea what the acrobat had just said. But from her tone and reluctance to speak, it seemed to confirm what Colt had suspected. That would explain a lot if that was the case.

"..um.. I.. Yes, voices in my head… Hector has given me pills to take." Nessa inhaled and let out a shaky breath. "It stops them, he said."

“Hm.” Colt grumbled, taking a mug from her rucksack to fill with the wine. The bottle was hard to hold onto for ages. “Do they help?”

The acrobat gave off the slightest of sniffles before she spoke. "I think so… mostly." With another shaky sigh, she continued. "Sometimes I cannot tell if voice in my head is my voice, or just another voice… are these mysli mine.. Or rambling madness?" The more she spoke, the more inconsistencies cropped up in her speech. Upset as she was, it was hard not to revert to speaking a more comfortable language.

Colt blinked and sipped the wine slowly as Nessa explained herself. She let out a small sigh and blinked. “Hm. I’m not okay with you trying to kill anybody. I’m not even okay with myself killing anybody. But,” she let out a gruff sigh, “I guess I can’t blame you too hard. Don’t make it okay, but, makes things a little clearer.”

"Please do not tell anyone I spoke of it…" Vanessa pleaded, fear in her voice.

There was a long silence. The only thing to break it was the gust of wind through the door and the light clatter of Arthur shifting his hooves for comfort. The veteran had to think long and hard about how to feel about this. But, if she was right, then the people who needed to know already did…

“I think enough people know. Besides; it’s about time I got to keep something from others.”

Vanessa peaked from around the counter, tears quietly streaming from her eyes, her face was a portrait of vulnerability as she looked at the weathered woman. "Spasibo... thank you…"

Colt sighed and leant back against the wall as Nessa thanked her. The veteran sighed and looked down into her mug, “Hm… Can’t say I know what you’re going through but… the whole, little voice thing? I sorta know what you mean.”

The acrobat's eyes widened a bit as Colt said this. "You do?" She now came fully from behind the counter, still sitting on the floor. The tears had made clean streaks down through the dried and crusty blood splatter that blanketed her visage, getting smeared around as she tried to wipe the tears off her face.

“Well… kinda.” Colt slumped against the wall, drinking heavily from her mug, if Nessa was going to be honest, she might as well be. “Y’see. Only Leliana and Ralph knew but, well.” another long sip, “After I had an argument with Owen which ended up being a bit nasty and the reason I was gone for so long was because, well. I left because… because I was going to kill myself.”

"WHAT?!" Vanessa accidentally yelled, quickly covering her mouth. The carni was totally shocked by this revelation. "Why??" She inquired in a more hushed tone.

Colt winced at the woman’s shout and shook her head a little, “I dunno… I was going through withdrawal and I was upset and I was sure that everyone hated me and I hate myself and… it felt like… like I didn’t have any other choice.”

"I do not hate you…" the young woman said softly.

“Really?”

Vanessa shook her head. "No, I think that you are amazing."

“Hm,” Colt sighed softly, refilling her mug, “Y’dunno how much that means to hear that.”

The acrobat chuckled. "Look at you. Clearly your life has brought you much more pain than mine. You are missing a leg, yet you do everything others do…." She said. "I admire that."

“Don’t start with that, you’ve had pain yourself. Don’t go comparing it to mine. But yeah…” The vet spoke with a somber tone, blinking slowly as she spoke, “...Because if I don’t; people die. I can’t go through that… again.”

"Again?"

There was a long pause before Colt relented and finished the mug in one go, refilling it with now shaky hands. “Remember when I told you that… all this,” she gestured to the charred skin on her face and hands, then to the remains of her left leg, “was from a landmine?”

The acrobat scooted across the floor, coming to sit next to Colt. "I remember.."

Before Colt could speak, it seemed that the veteran’s body locked up on its own accord. Her eyes clamped shut and she let out a hard exhale through her nose. She did not want to do it, but, she had come this far and Nessa had spoken about her own problems. With a sigh, she forced her eyes open and took another long drink.

“Well. It… it killed my whole squadron.” the veteran stared straight ahead, “Every last one of them.”

"Oh…" Vanessa said, looking down. "I'm sorry… but I am glad that you did not die too."

Colt put her mug on the ground and pulled her knees to her chest, looking at Nessa with now pretty red eyes, “I suppose but,” she sighed, “It means living without Sasha. And a lot of the time, I don’t want to.” She picked up the mug, giving it an annoyed look, “This is probably the only reason I didn’t do it before.” with that, there was yet another swig.

Vanessa didn't know what to say. She had never had anyone mean so much to her that she didn't want to go on without them, so how could she understand? "I'm sorry… I don't get it, but losing this Sasha person must have really hurt…"

“I think about her all the time. Thinking about how we were… what we were supposed to be, how things would be if-” the vet sighed mournfully and ran a hand down her face, “It… it wasn’t my fault, I know that but… it’s impossible. I want her back so much, a sniff escaped from her nose, “I’d do anything…”

"I think I get it…" the acrobat said after a moment of pondering. "When my parents died, I was taken to… a horrible place… I wished every day for my old life back.."

“Hm…” Colt hummed in thought, still breathing deeply but silently to try and push back the wave of grief she had stupidly brought upon herself with their topic of discussion. Finishing off the bottle, she grumbled something before speaking. “I suppose there’s more to be- we got more alike- fuck, we…” she blew her fringe out of her eyes as she stumbled over her words, “Y’know.”

"Da" Nessa said with a giggle. "I think I get it. Thank you Colt. Tonight was a good one."

“Yeah… could’ve ended worse.” The veteran let out a little sigh, still watching Arthur, “You don’t get many like these anymore.”

"I'm glad to have someone I feel safe around…" the acrobat said as she leaned against the wall next to Colt. "It's… been a long time since I've felt any kind of safe..."

Colt blinked as Nessa sat next to her, pulling another bottle closer. “You… feel safe around me?she asked, her voice now pretty slurred. Surely there had to be more stable people to feel secure around, right? The veteran took another drink out of it while keeping her eyes outside. It was a bit puzzling for her. She knew the others felt safe around her but mainly because of her combat experience and ability to lead, not exactly because of, well, herself. Christ, Colt did not even feel safe around herself.

The acrobat leaned her shoulder against the veteran's as she spoke again. "Why wouldn't I?" She asked. From her point of view, colt was far more trustworthy than half the residents of the lodge.

“Just… never saw myself as, I dunno… safe?”

Vanessa chuckled softly as she leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. "That is more crazy than I am." She murmured.

Colt did not exactly know how to respond to this, other than to let the woman lean into her. Thinking about their conversation and what they had been through that night, she slowly put an arm behind the acrobat, she deduced that she would be the one to stay up and watch and the carny deserved, for once, to feel secure. Besides, she kind of owed her for saving both herself and Arthur.

"You know.." Vanessa said as sleep overcame her mind. "I've always wanted a friend."
 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter

fixed hector and colt.png
Like she had promised the previous night, the trio had arrived home by the first light. The frosty grass glowed a peachy pink as Colt got Arthur settled in his area. Nessa had ventured inside quickly, not that the veteran could blame her. Giving Arthur one final pat on his flank, she left him to graze and head inside. It was early morning, and Colt had barely slept the night before to keep watch while the acrobat slept like an infant probably for the first time in years. Not to mention, the veteran was still a little… soused from the night before.

With a groan, she rolled her shoulder as she turned her attention to the cellar. The hostiles the pair had encountered the previous night were unlike ones she had seen before. Out of everyone, surely Hector would need to know. With Ralph gone, he was their last line of defense when it came to the plague haunting them. After a moment of thought, she rapped the door with her knuckles with a firm and militarant manner.

Dr. Salazar?” She said, “I need to discuss something with you.

The former soldier stood the door for several minutes before the doctor's footfalls could be heard headed up the cellar stairs.

The door swung open gently, the hinges giving their same horror movie whine as always. There stood Hector looking as sleep-deprived as always.

"
Welcome back." He greeted with a roll of his neck, suggesting he had been working for hours without rest. "It's still very early for most people. Is it private?"

I don’t want to alert anyone else. Not yet at least.” The veteran spoke, noting the older doctor’s stiffness. Seems she hadn’t been the only one without sleep, “It’s about the hostiles. Me n’Nessa came across some last night I think y’should know about.

The medic's ruined eyebrow raised in curious fashion before nodding his understanding and wordlessly leading the veteran down into the basement.


The "sterile" odour filled both of their nostrils as they entered the makeshift cellar laboratory. Hector gestured for the woman to have a seat wherever she pleased. He put on a pair of gloves and grabbed some files in one hand and some glass vials filled with strange green liquid.

Years of practice allowed him to simultaneously open the filed and take up a pen for writing while inserting a slide under the microscope and setting the proper magnification.

"
What did you find out about the infected?"

As Colt sat down, she winced and groaned at the pain in her shoulders. Hissing through her teeth, she took out her flask and took a sip from it in an attempt to null the pain. At the doctor’s invitation, she cleared her throat a little to speak.

They took us by surprise, like, they were… fast. And ambushed us. They’re not like the ones we’ve been fighting all this time. One seemed to jump from a tree to try and get Nessa and I got side-swiped by one with enough force to throw me off of Arthur. And both times they went for our throats.” she stopped for a second before scoffing, “Christ alive, if Nessa hadn’t been there y’would see me among them now. But, thing is, when we stayed in the light, they kept back. I dunno if it burns ‘em or somethin’ but they really didn’t wanna come outta the dark unless it were to ambush. And even all night, could feel all them eyes still on us. Like they were just… hopin’ we’d get stupid and walk back into the dark.” She groaned and rubbed the back of her head, feeling a swelling from where her head had hit the concrete.

Hector had been scribbling notes in the file as she spoke and gave a rumble of affirmation when she finished her report. He put the pen down and grabbed the vial again, drawing the viscous liquid out again and pushing a few millilitres into another vial with a white powder inside.

He began shaking it vigorously before responding, "Vagrants. They have been coming up more frequently. The man called David was one as well after he expired."

He spun around in his chair, still shaking the liquid about and asked neutrally, "
Where are you injured? What kind of injury?"

Vagrants?” The veteran spoke up, but before she could continue, she was taken a little aback by the doctor’s question. She thought for a second about denying it, but with her shaking body and the use of drink as a pseudo-medication, nothing said would be believed. After another long swig, the former marine sighed.

Ugh, Christ this feels so fucking dumb…” she grumbled, “I hit my shoulder and head from the fall. Dunno how bad it is. But they hurt like hell.” she answered truthfully, eyes averted, again taking refuge within the flask’s contents.

"
Mm…" he responded with a nod. "I'll take a look at you momentarily. As soon as I make sure this new serum dilutes properly."

The doctor leaned back against the counter and quickly explained his reasoning for the name.


"Vagrants. It's what I've temporarily named the infected that display behaviour outside of the usual symptoms. Increased intelligence, senses, physical ability, physical mutations, etc." His eye honed in on the aforementioned affected areas of the military veteran. "There seems to be no real reason as to why they are different. We only know that the virus affects certain people differently. I'm still trying to figure that one out."

He paused his mixing to examine the liquid inside. Seemingly satisfied, he set it on the counter next to the microscope and began washing his hands and arms thoroughly. His head turned over to Colt and while the scabbed hole where his eye was signified his inability to see the woman, it was to physically display that he was paying attention to her.

"
Why is it that you seem almost ashamed of the fact that you were injured? I believe you said you were ambushed, correct? As in a surprise attack?"

Hm. Must be a connection between those leaping ones. There were too many of the fuckers for it to just be a one- off. Just, what though?” The woman tapped the rim of her flask in thought before turning to Hector with his question.

I don’t know.” The veteran sighed, “Just… still isn’t easy to admit it. Doesn’t feel right. Like, I should’ve expected it.” She winced at the pain in her head and put a hand to the side of it, hoping it wasn’t bleeding.

The older gentleman shook his head in what almost seemed like disbelief. "If that's the case, Ms. Jordan and I may be tied for the most shameful ones in the lodge." The bruising around Hector's neck, shoulder, and face had lightened and was definitely healing but the fact remained he wasn't at 100%. He was barely at 60.

With how his ocular situation was, he never would be again.

Shameful? How the fuck-?” Colt blinked in a matching disbelief, “Y’gotta be fucking with me. This place would’ve crashed and burned by now without you two, so I dunno where you’re getting that from.” She wanted to lean back but her shoulders were as heavy as bricks and the pain was immense.

"
Precisely."

The doctor quickly dried his hands with a towel and moved across the room behind Colt to put on new gloves. The stretch and snap of the elastic material echoing slightly in the dim lighting of the cellar.

"
You must judge yourself with the same scope that you judge others. If you do not believe that Andy should have been expecting a starved lion to attack her or for a bullet to go through her abdomen,".

Dr. Salazar pulled his chair up close to the woman while he spoke. Gesturing for her to remove her shirt so he can get a closer look, "
Or believe that I should have expected the bullet to go through my head or should have expected the existence of Vagrants when I had never confronted one before…"

Hmm…” Colt grumbled something under her breath as she turned around and removed her shirt, revealing a large gash and several big bruises that now joined the canvass of burn, bullet and slash scars from her days of war.

"
Then you should hold yourself to the same standard. I believe that is only fair, correct? Unless you believe you are a higher being than the rest of us?" He said with a neutral tone as he got closer to the lacerations to examine their depth and length.

NO-! Fuck!” Colt snarled as she whipped her head around, which proved to be a bad idea as pain shot through the muscles in her neck and within her cranium, “I-I’m nothing compared to- well not nothing but… Y’know what I mean…” the woman growled, taking another drink from her flask, which was proving difficult from the inability to tilt her head back.

The scientist found the laceration to be large but not very deep. It didn't penetrate the muscle, which was a good sign. It would hurt like hell but wasn't going to require any stitching.

The bruising on the other hand was more worrisome. Even through the old scarring, the black and purple markings heavily marred the woman's skin. The doctor carefully lifted Colt's arm a few inches and found that it traveled down the side of her torso as well. Stopping just below the veteran's left breast

"
I'm joking, Ms. Colt. I know you don't think that of yourself. Also, please keep it down. Everyone else is still sleeping."

The Venezuelan stood up and strode over to the sink to fill a container with water. He collected a few items from the cabinets to clean and bandage her wounds to prevent infections from setting in.

"
You have a long but shallow cut on your back. It has dirt and rocks in which it probably what's causing the pain when you move. I'm going to clean it and make sure it doesn't get infected."

Colt growled in pain but just nodded with gritted teeth at the doctor’s words. The woman had been hurt enough in her life to tolerate this. “
So… goin’ back to the hostiles. D’you suppose there could be a correlation between the ones we saw? I’m used to seein’ ones that are unique, like that camouflaging one. But, that many? There’s gotta be some sort of connection.

Hector shrugged his shoulders in response. The fact of the matter was that he had far too little information on the subject and while he trusted Colt's report, eyewitness testimony isn't the best info to go off of. It wasn't subjected to the soul crushing scrutiny a science experiment must go through.

"
Perhaps. Bottom line is we don't know. I've been researching and experimenting as much as humanly possible. I've only had a handful of weeks to study this virus's behavior and nothing has been conclusive so far…"

I guess you’re right,” the woman drawled, “We really don’t know much more than nothin’ ‘bout all this.

The doctor worked through her response, cleaning and disinfecting the cut and removing the pieces of gravel stuck in the laceration with angle tip forceps. The woman had a solid bump on the back of her head but it didn't appear serious and it wasn't bleeding so he moved on. He applied an antibiotics ointment to the wound and started wrapping the wound in nonadherent gauze to prevent sticking and pain when they inevitably needed to change them.

He handed her two rolls of the very same gauze, "
Have me, Leliana, or anyone who can wrap up a wound change them every 6 hours. Keep it as clean and as dry as possible. If it starts to feel hot or you start to run a fever, come to me immediately."

Thanks, doc. I’ll, um, I’ll do that.

The doctor wordlessly picked up his chair and sat in front of the woman now, his eyes focused on the bruising beneath her breast and alongside her left flank.

"
If there is any pain or tenderness, tell me." He warned before gently palpating the ribs underneath the breast and following the bruising up her obliques. Once he got just underneath the armpit, Colt hissed in stifled pain. That got a sigh in response from the older man. A similar reaction happened when he started palpating the shoulder joint before he was done.

"
Okay, you can put your shirt back on." He stated calmly.

He looked the woman in the eyes as he gave his full run down, "
I can't tell the extent of the damage inside. You might have bruised the shallow flesh or you may have cracked the ribs and top of the shoulder joint. I can't be sure without X-rays and we clearly don't have that luxury."

He paused for a moment before continuing, "
I'm certain they aren't broken, which is a silver lining and regardless of whether they are cracked or bruised, the treatment would be the same."

"
Rest, don't move your torso around, don't agitate the affected area and be very careful when you get up in the morning. Stretching can cause a break if they are cracked. We should proceed as if the bones were cracked just to be on the safe side. It'll take several weeks to heal completely and you should do your best to not move around too much or you could make it much worse and delay recovery."

Colt had stayed quiet throughout the rest of the doctor’s inspection, only putting her t-shirt back on when he instructed. At his final words, she could only look him in the eye. Something about his manner reminded her clearly of the army doctors who not only saved her life after the accident, but practically put her back together and re-taught her how to walk. Lowering her head with a small sigh, she nodded gingerly.

Okay. Thank you, Hector.” she spoke earnestly, looking to meet his gaze again.

He nodded respectfully in response before standing up and making his way back over to the serum he had been mixing earlier. "
If you have any concerns, you know where I am."

The woman groaned as she slowly stood up, using the arms of the chair for support. She watched him turn back to his experiments. Despite the burning question on the tip of her tongue, the veteran ultimately thought against answering.

I won’t keep you from your work, but I’ll keep that in mind.” She moved towards the stairs. “I’ll bring your rations down.” She made a mental note to sneak the doctor a couple more venison rashers as a thank you. The veteran may not have been eloquent with words, but she had her ways.

Collaborated with: shadowz1995 shadowz1995
Mentions: Maj Maj TheMightyRedLemon TheMightyRedLemon FireMaiden FireMaiden
 
Last edited:

FireMaiden

Grade A Bitch
Supporter
Roleplay Availability
Roleplay Type(s)
My Interest Check

coollogo_com-3361339.png
This is Pt1 of a Collab between FireMaiden FireMaiden and Rumble Fish Rumble Fish

It had been a few days since her misadventures with Nessa yet Colt seemed to be recovering fairly. After a couple of days of giving orders from the sofa, the veteran got fed up. Despite the pain within her muscles, she continued with her day-to-day duties. One of which being to watch the food supply. Checking the cupboards and fridge, the veteran grumbled as she wrote things down in a small notebook. While their meat supply was fairly stable thanks to her and Andy’s hunting efforts, they were lacking in other things. Colt sighed and sipped from her flask, looking outside. She was still too injured to ride Arthur and she could not afford another fall. Hector would have her other leg.

Colt rubbed her chin as she checked the time and the weather. It was a clear enough morning with a lack of foreboding clouds. Perhaps she could make a quick run into the city for some more non-perishables. But there were some problems. Colt knew that, despite her own determination, she was too injured to go alone and was vulnerable. She would need some form of backup. Her first instinct would have to ask Owen but, despite their reconciliation, Colt could not help but be apprehensive. What if there were still hard feelings on his part and something could trigger another fight? The veteran sighed as she sipped once more, she still needed some time. Andy was out of action, Hector had his own commitments, Nessa had been through enough with their last outing and anyone else capable was either too inexperienced or not someone the vet was willing to trust with her life. Except maybe…

“…Leliana?” The ex-marine called out, “Y’around? I need you for a moment!”

Something had changed. The lodge it...it didn't feel safe. Leliana already couldn't bring herself to walk around without her pistol, the hazmat attack secured that. David only made that fear larger. And now with Liam...Leliana hadn't gotten much sleep since he showed up. Even with her supply of Zoloft, there was this sense of unease. Of course it wasn't an anxiety medication, but it helped sometimes. Lately though...it was like she couldn't bring herself to relax. Just knowing he was there in town...the nurse could only hope that he'd make a mistake and some infected would get a nice lunch. So, to try and distract herself, Leliana had been throwing herself into small projects around the lodge. Making sure it was clean, doing her best to make some make shift insulation for the broken windows, helping Hector when he needed it. As well as keeping an eye on Milly and the other injured. She didn't know what Colt and Nessa had gotten up to...but it sure was eventually.

This particular morning though, Leliana had been stuck in the bathroom. The night before had been rough, the little sleep she had gotten had been rudely interrupted by a rather violent nightmare. She didn't hurt Beth, thank god, but the deep scratches in her forearms were just one symptom. For the past hour, she nurse had been in the bathroom. Bile stung her throat, the dry heaving making her head throb. She wanted this to be over, but until she calmed down, Leliana would have to deal. A sputtering cough fell from her, the nurse managing to take in a shaky breath just as she heard someone call her name. "Yeah, g-give me a minute!" The nurse called back, taking another shaky breath.

Her stomach was still in knots a few minutes later, but it was probably the best it was going to be. Reaching up, the nurse grabbed onto the counter to help pull her shaking body up. Moving to stand infront of the sink, she took a moment to rinse her mouth out. Would have brushed her teeth, but her's had fallen behind the toilet. Which was gross. Anyway, she walked out of the bathroom and headed downstairs once she was done, looking around for who called out to her. Obviously it had been Colt, so Leliana smiled when she saw her. "What's up?"

“Oh good you’re here. I was gonna-wait, you alright?” the vet instinctively asked, noticing the paleness within the nurse’s face. If the nurse happened to be ill then she would backtrack on her idea to ask her to come with her. It was bad enough that she intended to head out while she was supposed to be on bed-rest, she did not want to drag Leli with her if she was not well herself. Colt had been too hot in her jacket so was just in her t-shirt, the bandages Hector had wrapped her torso and chest in were visible. Sipping her flask, she mentally looked the nurse over. She had noticed a change within her over the last few days, but with her own relationship problems, teaching several Lodge members how to shoot and, recent near-death experience she hadn't been able to speak to Leliana until now.

"Oh yeah I'm fine," Leliana said with a small smile. She didn't like worrying Colt, the vet dealt with so much already. "I just had a nightmare last night, I think I'm still a little rattled," She added with a little shrug. Colt understood that, she knew exactly what that felt like. So there was no need to hide it from her. The nurse moved, looking around to see if she could spot a problem that Colt could have possible called her for before her eyes focused on the older woman again. "Did you need me for something?" Leliana asked, her head tilting a bit to one side. Colt had been injured recently, so it wouldn't surprise the nurse if she needed some help changing a bandage or making some breakfast. Something like that.

“Yeah… they can be bastards.” Colt agreed with a nod, an instant air of understanding in her voice “Had a pretty bad one the other night. I don't blame you at all.” She added before tilting her head up as Leliana asked her what she had wanted. Not wishing to push the matter beyond what made the nurse comfortable, the veteran cleared her throat a little. “I’m thinking of heading out on a short run into the town for some non-perishables. We’re a bit thin.” The vet explained with a so from her flask, “But I’ll need someone with me. You interested ? With some luck it'll be a quick in-and-out, I know some places we haven't checked out yet... only if you want to.” She added awkwardly, sipping again out of anxiety.

Leliana was glad that there was at least one other person in the lodge that understood what it was like. Beth did her best to help, and Milly was just a child...but after that incident with David, Leliana expected her mental health to take a dive as well. The blonde sighed softly as she ran a hand through her hair. Milly was just a kid. Her gaze breifly left the veteran, only to immediately return as Colt started to talk again. They were low on a few things, and it was important to have options for their diet. They'd get sick otherwise. "Sure, why not?" Leliana replied with another small smile. Colt was injured, so Leliana was probably the best bet to go with her. Hector was busy after all and Ralph wasn't there anymore. Something Leliana was still a little bitter about. "I'll need to grab a few things before we leave. That okay?"

"Good," The veteran let out a little sigh of relief. "I'll meet you outside in fifteen minutes then. No rush though." Colt turned to keep writing what they would need to get while they were out. She needed to be precise. They head in, they come out- easy. Without idiots to keep her back, this should not be difficult. Bold thoughts but at this point, Colt trusted Leliana more than anyone. Outside of Owen, she was the only one to know the full extent of what had happened in Afghanistan and, unfortunately, they had shared trauma. Colt wished that they had something other than pain to bind them but it was what it was. Once she wrote everything down, she grabbed her jacket and started refilling her flask for the journey. Despite everything, she was anxious about going back into the city, after what had happened between her and Owen. She could not have a repeat of that, and much of it was caused by withdrawal so she was not taking any chances.

Leliana nodded, turning on her heel once Colt turned her attention away from the nurse. Leliana headed upstairs, quiet as she could to not disturb anyone who was still asleep and snuck into her and Beth's room. She was already mostly dressed, but Leliana decided to change her shirt and her socks into something a little warmer. She needed a better jacket...maybe they would get lucky while they were out. She cracked her knuckles as she sat down on the end of her bed to re-tie her shoes, wiggling her toes inside them once she was done to make sure they were tighter enough. Leliana stood again, opening the top drawer of the dresser. From inside, she took one of her pills and popped it in her mouth to swallow dry. Leliana didn't want to hold them up too long. She then moved to grab the backpack she used for runs, and headed back downstairs to make a small first aid kit incase either one of them got hurt. It didn't take long, a few bandages, some Tylenol, and a needle plus thread was all she really needed. And once everything was settled, she headed outside to join Colt, holding her bat with both hands. "Ready!"

Without Arthur or a car, it took the pair a fair amount of time to get into the city. It was midmorning with crisp air and a rarely bright sky. The pair did not speak much throughout the walk beyond questions about what the other saw. As they slowly and gingerly made their way down the street, Colt kept glancing from side to side. Her eyes were drawn to the pharmacy and she turned her head to Leliana.

“Your meds, you got enough of them?” She questioned, keeping one hand hovering over her gun. She hadn’t told Leliana about the mutant-hostile they had killed within its walls. Honestly, the veteran wanted to completely forget about that day. She looked further down the street. “There’s a gas station, down this road and a little out the town, doesn’t seem to have been touched in the panic.” Colt spoke quietly, “Unless you have any ideas?” she blinked with a tiny smirk, aware enough to know that, under pretty much any other circumstances she’d never ask this.

During the walk to town, Leliana was silent for the most part. For one, she wasn't sure what to talk about. There wasn't much to talk about anyway. Leliana didn't want to press too much for answers on what happened to her, or if Colt had been taking care of the bandages like she was supposed to. Leliana didn't talk much for a second reason as well. She was worried about making noise. With her uncle now confirmed to be back in Aurora, and the infected...Leliana wanted to make sure that her presence was as little known as possible.

"Huh?" Leliana asked, snapping out of the little trance she seemed to have fallen into. "Oh! Yeah, I have enough to last for a little while. And I can ration it if it comes down to that," She replied, falling silent again as they kept walking. "That sounds like a plan. I'd say we could try one of the grocery stores, but those have probably either been overrun or ransacked by now." Without a car, they'd be pretty limited on what they could bring back. And who knows if whatever they found and had to leave behind would still be there when they got back. "We should try finding a car for the trip back. We could bring back more supplies that way."

Colt nodded at her response about the pills and rubbed the back of her sore neck. “Yeah I’m… y’could always take a few of mine if you needed.” She took a drink from her flask as she kept looking around for anything worth scavenging. It felt… strange having taken them for a few days now. Colt did not know how she could describe it but everything felt, in a sense, clearer now. She had not given it much thought but looking back, she found that she had been far more tolerant of Nessa, and completely avoided an anxiety attack upon being ambushed. While she had no way to confirm this, surely the zoloft was responsible.

When the nurse spoke again, Colt stopped. A car? She had never thought of that. The vet mumbled something under her breath in thought. She stared at her feet for a moment before looking back up. “…On my way back from uh… Y’know. Bringing Arthur back, I passed the police station. There’s a couple of cars in it’s impound. If I had to guess their keys gotta be inside somewhere. Only problem is it could be swarming with hostiles.” The vet groaned from a mix of annoyance and pain from her injuries. Fishing into her pocket she grabbed a small handful of pain killers, “…Or I could try and hot-start one on the street. What do you think?” Her eyes went vacant for a moment before turning back to the nurse, “Don’t-Sorry, I’m not trying to pressure you or nothing.” She rubbed the back of her neck again and popped the pills in her mouth.

"Oh no, we both need them. It's okay Colt," Leliana smiled softly. They both needed those meds, and if it came down between her or Colt getting them, Leliana would pick the veteran every time. She hoped that the Zoloft was helping, she knew how hard things could be without help. The dark places it could lead you to...and she didn't what that for Colt. Hell, she didn't want that for anyone at the lodge. Leliana's eyes wandered as the silence between them continued, her eyes scanning their surroundings. The city was quite for now, but that could change at a moments notice, the grip on her bat tightening somewhat.

When Colt started to talk again, Leliana looked back to her. The police station was definitely a good option...but having played Resident Evil 2, Leliana was met with a sense of dread. "A police station definitely seems like the place that would be swarmed. The hazzies could have also taken over, and we don't have the ammo to take them on. Or a knife..." Leliana would try to find one while they were out, it seemed like a good backup weapon. Her gaze shifted away from the vet again, but was immediately on her again when she made her alternative suggestion. Leliana was about to answer when Colt winced and produced a bottle of pain killers.

"I think trying to hotwire one would be safer. Or we can find a house that had a car outside and check inside for keys?" She suggested, watching Colt for a few moments longer. "Are you okay?" The nurse asked.

“Yeah… yeah you’re probably right.” Colt agreed, making a vague gesture to the police station. “Besides. That place would be as hardwired as a bank. We knock the wrong thing over, we’d attract every hostile and hazzie in the city.” The vet thought for a moment. But before she could come up with another idea, the nurse spoke up again. She turned her head to look at some houses a street down. She blinked a few times.

“That’s a good idea. Very good.” Colt nodded her head as she looked down the street, and after a moment, she noticed something. “There’s a car outside that small white house. See it? The one with the telephone pole in front of it?” She pointed towards it, “I reckon, if we’re real quiet, we can slip in there, and see if they got a key.” She was about to put the painkillers away when the nurse questioned her, probably having seen them. Colt sighed and took a couple more of them.

“I’m fine.” She pocketed the pills and took out her flask, “It’s just… I got bashed up pretty bad the other night. They help with the pain. Shouldn’t need them for long. Anyway, let’s see what this car is about.”

As she glanced to the police station, Leliana could have sworn she saw someone or something, looking out of one of the windows. It was just for a moment though, so the nurse was able to brush it off. Still, her grip readjusted on the bat again, nails tapping against the metal for a few seconds before she calmed again. Maybe they should have asked someone else to come with them? But everyone capable was injured. Leliana really had gotten lucky while dealing with David. Leliana was pulled from her thoughts again when Colt spoke, pointing out a car just down the street. "Yeah, I see it. Let's hope it runs," The nurse nodded.

They needed more than just food at the lodge, and if they had a car, they could bring back a lot more than just a few cans each. After all, if they tried to take too much on foot, they'd get slowed down and...that would take end well if they got caught by anyone. "If not, I'm sure it's not the only one we'll find," She added, glancing to Colt again. Leliana fell silent when she spoke, brows furrowing as she watched her pop a few more pills. "I'm guessing Hector checked you out then?" Leliana had been...distracted, so her not knowing what exact happened to Colt shouldn't be a surprise. "Taking more of those won't actually help them work any faster you know," The nurse then chuckled, wondering what exact the vet was taking. But regardless, Leliana nodded, looking back down the street to the car and the house closest to it

Leliana didn't know who had lived there or what they might find, but..."We shouldn't just look for the keys," The nurse mumbled, reaching up to rub the back of her neck. The chances whoever once lived there was still alive was...slime to none. They could find who knows what useful supplies in there. In any of these house.

Colt looked to the nurse whenever she spoke. She seemed… not quite as focused as she usually was about things. She lowered her brows a little in worry. Was something bothering her? Something other than the general worries of being in a monster infested city? When she mentioned Hector, the veteran nodded.

“Yeah he did. Said I’m just bashed up and nothing broken, thank God.” She answered before going quiet. Once they were close to the house, she drew her handgun and cocked it. Colt had heard Leliana’s muttering but chose not to answer. Like… of course they were not only here for the keys. Hadn’t Colt said back at the lodge said they needed more food? The nurse’s mind didn’t seem to be in the right place, but Colt did not feel comfortable enough to pry. At least, not in a situation where they could get jumped at any second. Questions would need to wait until they were in a safer place.

Reaching the front door, it seemed undamaged. But there were scuff marks around the edge, as if it had been slammed. Colt readied her weapon before turning to Leliana.

“I’m gonna look through the letter box, see if there’s any signs of life before we go in. Watch my back?” She asked her quietly, her green eyes looking everywhere. They were right in the middle of the city. Anything could be crawling around here.

Colt was right. Leliana wasn't as focused as she normally was. Something was clawing at the back of her mind and it wouldn't let go. She had to push herself to focus, and even then, Leliana didn't realize when she mentioned not just looking for keys, it was a bit... redundant. "That's good," Leliana finally spoke hearing that nothing was broken. One of her hands left the bat, reaching up to rub her jawline a bit before it returned to the bat. She didn't seem to notice the odd look Colt gave her, her eyes still trying to focus on what was going on around them. She didn't want anyone or anything sneaking up on them.

When they reached the door, Leliana noticed the scuff marks as well. That could mean a few things, most of them that they'd need to be ready for a fight. Leliana took a deep breath, nodding as she readied her bat. "I have your back," Leliana replied with a small nod. She would always have Colt's back.

Colt nodded at her reply before squatting down so the letterbox was at eye level. Gun in hand, she took hold of the and slowly, gingerly lifted it. The bronze lid creaked a little as it was raised, which would have been enough to attract any attention from any being inside. The bungalow had a typical layout. A large open living room and kitchen and doors on the right presumably leading to bedrooms and a single door at the end of the hall, either the bathroom or a closet. With the day’s light, it was dimly lit. The walls were an off white but grimy. It appeared… undisturbed. But Colt was still unsure.

After roughly a minute, Colt slowly got to her feet and grabbed the door knob. “I don’t see or hear anything, but,” she spoke quietly and bluntly, trying to keep her own nerves steady without going for her flask, “We need to be quiet… and quick. Remember; car keys, food and medicine.” Colt knew Leliana knew this, but she could not afford for either of them to lose focus. She did not want to say this to the nurse in fear of unsettling her further, but something felt off but she could not tell what. Gripping her gun, Colt slowly opened
the door and gingerly stepped through.

As Colt looked through the letterbox, Leliana's eyes focused on their surroundings. She wasn't sure why, but she felt like something was off too. Other than just her own issues at the moment, but it seemed too quiet. They hadn't seen really anything since they started their trip. She would have expected at least one or two infected to be spotted roaming around but...nothing. It made her nervous, more nervous than you'd think it would. Out of the corner of her eyes, she spotted something moving, Leliana turning to look only to see a dog. She smiled a little. It looked a bit underweight, but otherwise it seemed okay. That was nice to see.

Finally, as Colt stood up and spoke again, Leliana turned around to face her with a nod. "Right." Leliana would obviously look for as many useful meds and medical supplies as she could. Anything she could get her hands on. She'd be as quick as possible, but as quiet as possible. They needed to do this quickly. "I'll find the bathroom," Leliana whispered, allowing Colt to walk through the threshold first before she stepped off to the side to begin her search for the bathroom.

The further Colt walked in the house, the more it became clear that they had gotten lucky and the place was abandoned. However she could not afford to relax. She gave Leliana a nod before splitting off to the kitchen. Very slowly and quietly she began opening cupboards, not even daring to go near the fridge. Chances were everything inside would be rotten so there was no need for that. Also it stank.

Colt carefully opened a drawer that seemed to be full of miscellaneous things such as pens, post-it notes and other things. The woman hummed slightly as she took the post-its. While she wasn’t exactly succeeding at her plan of cutting down, it was still worth trying. Then, she saw them. A set of black car keys. Jackpot! The vet grabbed them without a word, intending to tell Leliana as soon as she was finished with the kitchen. Colt moved quicker after that. This place was still giving her the jitters, but she did not know why. They had to get out of here and quickly.

Leliana was able to make an educated on where the bathroom was. It made sense for it to be close to the living room, and after opening up a water closet, she found the real bathroom. Stepping in, Leliana immediately began to look through the medicine cabinet and underneath the sink. In the medicine cabinet, she found two bottles basic pain killers, a bottle of amoxicillin, and some Neosporin. On top that, she found some tooth paste. Under the sink, Leliana was greeted by a few toiletries, which was good. Hygiene was important. She checked the shower next, but the remaining bottles were empty. Happy with what she picked up, Leliana slipped out of the bathroom and quietly moved back into the kitchen.

"I'm going to check the bedrooms," Leliana spoke once she made sure Colt had spotted her. People kept a lot of things in their bedrooms, a good number of them could be useful. Vitamins, other medicine, maybe even a weapon or two she and Colt could use. "You find the keys?"

“I did, yeah. We’ll look through the bedrooms then go. I’ll drive us back.” The veteran responded as she continued rooting through cupboards, taking any can or package she could find. She found a half bottle of vodka in one of the lower cupboards but chose not to tell Leliana that as she put it in her rucksack. Overall, not a bad haul. It seemed that despite the mayhem this house had been overlooked during lootings. But why? As Colt took her bag, ready to join Leliana, something caught her eye outside the window.

Something yellow.
 

Maj

Your Majjiesty


UNFINISHED BUSINESS
November 26th, 2018
10:38 am

Leliana sighed deeply as Andy agreed. Maybe it was pity, or maybe she was just genuinely curious as to where she wanted to go. Leliana didn't rush them immediately, letting Andy stay there with her uncle for a while longer before they finally left.

The ride to the small collection of houses downtown wasn't too long. Leliana didn't know how to drive the big U-Haul truck so Andy would have to listen to her directions on how to get to the little house she had shared with her family. As the truck came to a stop, Leliana was the first one out this time, looking over the snow-covered yard. In the driveway, a red Honda civic that looked frozen in place, the tires just a little flat. The screen door slightly askew like it always was, the house itself looked undisturbed. It was a...weirdly comforting sight. "I guess being poor had it's advantages," The nurse chuckled a little. The suburbs would have been ransacked by now, but these houses looked okay. Walking up the sunken stairs, Leliana stooped down and lifted the Garfield welcome mat, picking up the key to unlock the door. Pushing it open, Leliana immediately sighed a little.

It was dusty inside, but looked the same. Evidence of someone sleeping on the couch, sheets and a pillow to make a makeshift bed, and a few things out of place in the kitchen just behind the living room were the only things that might say someone had been there previously. "Welcome, welcome. Make yourself at home," Lelilana chuckled, sighing a bit as her gaze finally shifted to the stairs and bedroom door right in front of them.

Andy gazed around the home as she entered. It felt like life had been here once. Despite the obvious signs of poverty, it felt comfortable and loved. Leliana and her mother had spent a lot of time here, that much was clear. A lifetime of memories were contained just in the small living room.


"Do you miss it?" The girl asked as she stepped carefully after the blonde, careful not to disturb anything. Andy hadn't been back to her mother's house since well before the apocalypse. University and archery practice had kept her busy and once her mother had moved into a lead nursing position she hadn't been home much to visit anyway. Owen still lived there, but she had been avoiding him for obvious reasons.

"Yeah...i do," Leliana admitted. She felt there was no real reason to hide her feelings from Andy, at least on this. "Don't you miss your mom?" She asked, looking over at Andy with a small smile, but tired eyes. It had been what seemed like a lifetime since she had set foot in these walls, and now Leliana was wondering if it had been the best choice. The girl started making her way to the stairs, gently placing her hands on the master bedroom door as she passed before she started to climb them. Family photos lined the wall up, laundry still sat in baskets unfolded, the two bedrooms and the bathroom up there undisturbed. She hesitated at the top of the landing, glancing to the right for a few seconds before turning to the door on her left.

Pushing it open revealed a room stuck in limbo. A bedroom for a child that had just started the transition to a bedroom for a teen before being abandoned. It had been used for storage ever since she was 16 and started sleeping on the couch. Pink walls covered in butterflies, a ceiling stuck with those glow in the dark plastic stars...it made Leliana sick. But, there were a few things in there that might fit Milly. And she knew there were a few baby items they could use as well without having to risk a run into the heart of town. But the room...gave her chills more than the freezing air did.

Andy didn't verbally respond, instead the girl only nodded thoughtfully. It had been a silly question in the end. She watched as Leliana entered what was obviously her old bed room, reading the expression on her face. It was familiar and recognizable. The redhead stood beside her cousin, careful not to touch her. She looked into the room and nodded thoughtfully before taking the first steps into the doorway.


"What are we looking for?" The huntress asked, looking back to the blonde. Andy could easily find the items without Leliana having to, or if she wanted to face down this demon she at least didn't have to do it alone.

"Uh, clothes. For Milly, we never...never hot around to throwing away my old stuff," Leliana explained. The only thing in the room that was bare was the bed frame. Her mother decided it was a good idea to replace it but never got the chance to. Leliana refused to come up here for years, sleeping in bed with her mom or in the laundry room. Then, when she turned 16 and got a job, she was going to but...that never happened. So the bed frame just stayed empty. But underneath it was a blanket. Leliana always hid under there. Taking a deep breath, she stepped in, rubbing a hand through her hair as she looked around. The trinkets told the story of a happy little girl regardless of what she was going through.

On one shelf, old macaroni art, and finger paintings. A dog collar from their first family pet. On the dresser were two kindergarten soccer trophies, a sight that actually brought a small smile to the nurse's face.
"I never was good at soccer. Always wanted to be a goalie, but never got placed as one," Leliana spoke to break the silence, trying to focus on the few good memories she had of her childhood. There were old toys and stuffed animals, and a little box with dried up leaves and a stick. Obviously a little home for a bug of some sort. Among the relics lay a small collection of jewelry too nice for a child to take care of properly, the gems covered in dust and their chains tangled. But they laid on a small dish. Obviously, at some point, Leliana had cared for them a great deal. "Some of these boxes are Christmas decorations, and I think one of them has a bunch of grandma's stuff in it. All the clothes should be in here," The nurse spoke as she made her way to the closet.

Pulling the door open, it immediately caused the nurse to sneeze. A dusty rainbow of clothing, there was plenty to pick from. Most of them would fit Milly, and a few would fit the baby in a few years. But Andy would notice something else. On the floor, pushed to the side of the closet was a large tub of barbie things. Clothes, a house, one of the cars and, of course, barbies. Mutilated barbies.

Andy raised an eyebrow at the site of the toys. By the time all the traumatic shit had gone down with her, she had outgrown dolls. In fact, Andy had outgrown dolls early. She seemed far more keen on having light-saber duels with her brother or going out and hunting in woods with her uncle. The redhead knelt to help her search through the tubs. She chose not to ask about the dolls, despite her curiosity. Just because she and Leliana seemed to understand the other, didn't mean there was any reason to force her to rehash old wounds.

Slowly the girl began to take any clothes that looked like they would be of use and fold them tightly, placing them in her bag. She pushed them to the bottom past the other items that she seemed to carry with her everywhere. A first aid kit Leliana had made for her on her first run with Luca, her broken cellphone, and Colt's handgun. When she felt more confident with it, maybe she would start wearing it on her hip.


"Do you happen to know if Liam was back in Aurora before the outbreak?" Andy finally asked, breaking the silence. "Last I heard he was still in jail, but his being here has various explanations and none of them are good."

The toys had a thick layer of dust on them like everything else in the room, their story rather disturbing. But just like every other item in the room. Dolls were a reflection of how little girls viewed themselves, most of them would cherish them. Leliana however, too young to understand what was going on but capable of feeling that...guilt and disgust, had taken it out on them. The nurse visible tensed a bit when she saw them again, but was thankful the redhead wanted to ignore them. It was a small comfort really. In any case, Leliana was helping Andy pick clothes, though there were obvious ones she was avoiding. Her hands would graze over their hangers quickly, picking up the ones next to them or just avoiding a small group altogether. She folding what she picked tightly so they could lay at the bottom of her bag and there would still be room for other supplies they could possibly grab, her attention finally shifted when Andy spoke.

"No, I didn't, at least not...not absolutely." She admitted truthfully. "Me and my mom both had restraining orders on him and the police were supposed to let us know what he was released," She explained. "My guess is he managed to charm his way out of a 15-year sentence. He sent me a...a message three years ago, so it's possible he was already out at that point," Leliana added, falling silent after as she turned to the small collection of stuffed animals now that the clothes had been picked up. "You know...you don't have to walk on eggshells. You and Owen, out of all people, deserve answers. I don't like talking about what happened but nobody would."

"Its not that I'm walking on eggshells around you," the girl admitted, although she could see why maybe Leliana would take it that way. "I'm just not used to talking about him at all. I guess I sort of got along for a long time by just pretending he didn't exist. Talking about him with you, and Hector and Owen, it's..." she paused, a half folded shirt suspended in her hands as she thought about how to word it. "Surreal I guess? It makes everything harder to ignore, gives the man more life than he deserves." She was the only one that knew about what had happened for so long that there had never been a need to talk about it. With it sort of being the most dramatic thing to happen at the lodge outside of undead and solider raids, the girl felt that Liam's appearance was all she could talk about.

"More importantly," the girl asked with a soft chuckle. "How are we going to tell Owen he's been hitting on his cousin?"

"Yeah, that makes sense. My mom would just...treat me like a child about it instead of just asking what she wanted to know. A lot of people did that," Leliana mumbled with a sigh, packing the last of the clothing she picked away and turning back into the room. She focused on the toys now, picking up a small stuffed bear a tattered old beanie baby. A moose, that she moved carefully. The bear was for the baby but the moose had...sentimental value. "But I understand what you mean." For the longest time, Leliana had kept this buried. It was an awful experience, something a child should never have to go through that ruined her younger years. But once the floodgates had opened, Leliana found she wanted to talk about what happened. If just to get it off her chest. Though when Andy mentioned Owen, Leliana had to laugh. "I say we just rip it off like a bandaid. It's not like we knew." It was very much a Luke and Leia situation without the kiss. But... "He totally has a thing for Aubrey ya know." Leliana chuckled again before falling silent as she looked around. Her stomach had been...uneasy since they arrived, and it only seemed to get worse the longer they were there. But there was another reason she was here beyond supplies and possibly getting another car.

"He must have some sort of Oedipus complex," the redhead said with a laugh. "He definitely has a type. You, Beth and Aubrey? All blondes. My mother was one too." When the girl asked about doing something else Andy only shrugged as if to say 'of course.' She had told Leliana this was a personal run, she had known from the start it wasn't going to end up personal for just her.

"Lead the way chicka," she instructed, coming to her feet with a bag now laden with loot. Luckily it wasn't too heavy, even with her shoulder. Clothes and the like were easy enough to carry.

COLLAB: FireMaiden FireMaiden
mentions: Rumble Fish Rumble Fish shadowz1995 shadowz1995

 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter
1632514080248.png

It was hard being forced to the sidelines. Andy had been one of the more driving forces of the lodge for so long. If she wasn't out helping repair fences and barricades or running for supplies, the archer had spent the bulk of her time hunting and making sure that the meat supplies stayed well stocked. While fruits and vegetables and even carbs had been hard to come by, the lodge hadn't been in any real fear of starvation thus far and that was greatly due to her efforts.

That, however, was before a lion had tried to make her shoulder lunch. Despite Hector's warnings, she had attempting to string her bow once or twice, just to see if she could. Despite her lessons with Colt she didn't have as much confidence firing a gun if things were to go south. It had been in vein, she couldn't even get the string in place so pulling it was out of the question.

So Andy had tried her best to adjust to a more sedentary life style. She gave a lot of her orders from the kitchen table these days, sketch pad and coffee in front of her. There was still plenty to do. The lodge was still in high disrepair and Hector often needed her for a variety of tests for his study of the virus. When she got antsy she would ask Colt for more shooting lessons or walk the perimeter, often taking Owen or a spare body with her since she was in little condition to fight off anything should the need arise.

It had been a quiet morning so far. Many people were still asleep or too groggy to bother Andy yet with questions and concerns. She sat where she did most mornings, with a coffee cup within reach at the table, doodling a mix of notes and sketches across the textured paper of her sketch pad. The gentle whirring of the generator, mixed with the sound of Hector working in the cellar has become something of an ambient comfort as she worked. Signs of life in the silence.

As a floorboard creaked, Andrea's head shot up from her work. Her emerald eyes met the sleepy blue ones of a little girl, still trying to rub the remnants of dreams from her round face. Milly and Andy had rarely interacted. Not for any other reason than Andy didn't trust herself to give the girl the gentle hand that so many seemed to think she needed.

It was obvious to the redhead that something was different with Milly. She was obviously smart enough to have survived so far, but acted far younger than someone at the ripe age of thirteen. Maybe it was some sort of regression as a defense mechanism to handle everything that happened the last few months, or maybe it was just a survival tactic to ensure the rest of the lodge took care of her, regardless it had always struck Andy as odd and so she had never been sure how to act around the child. Not to mention there were plenty of kinder souls that were happy to take care of her.

And yet, maybe they weren't what she needed. Against her instincts, Andy let her thin lips turn in a phantom of a smile as she addressed the girl.

"
Morning Milly,"

Oh, um, morning Andy.” The young girl stammered back as she stirred further into reality. She quickly went to the sink and searched for a cup, “H-how are you?” she added, a little unnerved. It was not as if she was afraid of Andy, on the contrary she understood the red-haired lady to be one of the main protectors of the Lodge. It was only through a lack of real interaction that she was anxious in her presence. Nobody else appeared to be around, or awake yet. She turned her large blue eyes back to Andy, waiting for her answer.

"
Well enough," the huntress answered. Her apple colored eyes darted back down to the paper. Thirteen or seven, it didn't feel fair to bitch about the constant pain on her shoulder or the rising irritability that she had that came with being forced to take it easy. Maybe she couldn't fix a fence right now, or string a bow, but there were other ways to be useful. Helping one of their youngest members learn to help pull their own weight might be among the best things she could do in her downtime.

"
You hungry?" The red haired girl asked, coming to her feet. "There isn't much variety, but I could fry you up a little something."

Oh, that would be really nice,” Milly chirped, the small girl becoming more alert at the idea of food, “Thank you.” She perched at the table with her water, taking a careful sip. She missed lemon tea. And fanta juice. Water was very boring. But it was better than nothing. She looked around the area.

Is Colt around?” she asked before making an expression as if her brain had short-circuited, “N-not that I don’t want to talk to you! It’s only that… I was going to ask her something about shooting.

"
Colt's still out on a run," Andy replied, doing an excellent job at keeping any concern from her tone. "She should be back sometime this morning though." At least that was what Colt had said, but the sound of their conversation on the radio made it sound like she could likely be late.

"
Are you interested in learning?" Andy was already pulling some of the thawed meat out of the refrigerator, way more than she and Milly could consume. Experience had taught her that the smell of food often brought more sleepy people into the kitchen.

Oh,” Milly mumbled, a little disappointed that Colt was absent. But after being asked her question, it was almost as if she had forgotten about that, “Oh, um yes. She’s been giving me lessons… But, I was going to ask her if there was anything quieter than a silencer. I don’t think there is. But, guns are just really scary. You are all really brave just to handle the horrible noise they make. I just, I’d rather use something quieter. I’m a bit scared to ask though.

"
Trust me," Andy said with a sarcastic laugh. "I understand. I hate guns. I'm taking lessons from Colt too. But as it stands, there is something far better suited for somebody like us." The prospect of teaching again brought genuine lightness to the redhead's face. "Eat your breakfast and I'll show you." She put a plate of fried meats down in front of the girl and took a long drink from her coffee.

Collab: Maj Maj
 

FireMaiden

Grade A Bitch
Supporter
Roleplay Availability
Roleplay Type(s)
My Interest Check

coollogo_com-8923983.png
This is part four of a collab between me and Maj Maj
November 26th, 2018
10:40 am
Leliana laughed a bit as well when Andy mentioned an Oedipus complex. "Hey, if you're planning on telling him that, just let me know so I can take cover." After Owen's outburst, no matter how understandable that anger was, Leliana had made sure to steer clear of him. And hopefully, it wasn't that obvious. Anyway, once Andy had given Leliana the okay, the nurse left the room, taking a deep breath as she did. Andy wouldn't know it...but that had been the longest Leliana had managed to stay in there for years. Andy was probably the reason why. Leliana briefly paused in the landing, looking to the other side past the bathroom to what use to be Liam's room. It was empty now, a bed frame and some dusty furniture. The door was locked too, Leliana knew that. It had been locked ever since her mother cleaned it out.

With a slight shake of her head, Leliana headed back downstairs stopping at the bedroom door a few feet from the bottom step. "My mom was already gone when I got home. I went in to check on her and she...she lunged. When Luca picked me up, I was covered in her blood." Leliana explained, her fingers hesitating on the scratched doorknob. "The ground's frozen so we can't bury her but...would you help me burn her?" The blonde asked as she looked to Andy. "Mom always liked the idea of a Viking funeral."

"Of course," Andy said immediately. She was sure the body would be deteriorated by now. The months that had passed since the day of the outbreak wouldn't be kind to her mother's corpse even in the icy weather. Even so, her mother deserved the right. Her own mother did too if her body wasn't in a literal labyrinth of hands and teeth. Andy put her hand over her cousins in a sign of solidarity and comfort, helping her push open the door when her own anxieties caused her to hesitate.

"She's family after all."

As the door was pushed open, the girls would bee greeted with a horrid stench, one that caused Leliana to grimace. Coughing, a bit, she reached up and covered her nose with the collar of her shirt, knowing they'd need to find some masks and some gloves before getting to work. But it was oddly...comforting seeing that her mother's body hadn't been disturbed. It didn't really look like her any more though. What was left of her hair had darkened, congealed blood and tissues matting it to what remained of her head. Her body looked even more sickly than Leliana had last laid eyes on, and the surrounding stain petrified liquids made her eyes sting. But, the cold weather had slowed decomposition just enough they wouldn't have any problem getting her outside.

Leliana had to turn away for a few moments. She had helped burn plenty of bodies, the gore wasn't the issue. It's who it was. Her last memories of her mother had not be what Leliana hoped. They had fought about something trivial the morning of the outbreak. And the nurse never even got to say goodbye. Andy would most likely notice that the back of Diana's skull was missing, brain matter and pieces of bone shattered against the walls and ceiling closest to the bed, it wouldn't take a genius to out two and two together. Taking a deep breath of semi-fresh air, Leliana focused on Andy. "There should be some gloves in her bathroom...I'll look for some masks."

“Sounds good,” the huntress responded with a nod. She pulled off her jacket despite the cold and rolled up the sleeves of the shirt underneath to keep the blood from staining the fabric. Practiced hands went to her hair, unthreading the braid and pulling it high and tight around her skull, twisting the crimson strands into a bun and replacing the elastic to hold it in place. When her cousin returned, Andy had found the gloves from the bathroom and handed her a pair, exchanging them for a paper mask. With care she placed the elastic ties around her cold ears and pinched the metal plate in the front around her nose to secure it.

It was obvious that Leliana had been the one forced to put her own mother down. The thought made her stomach lurch, but Andy quickly quieted it. There was enough here to make her sick, she didn’t need to make any of the matters worse. With the gloves now around her fingers with a satisfying pop at the wrist, the woman moved to get to work.

“My brother had to do it too,” Andy said solemnly. She wasn’t sure if the idea was comforting to Leliana or not. Maybe she would rather not talk about it at all, but maybe she would like to know there were others who knew how she felt. “Our mother turned at the hospital.”

Leliana stood there motionless for a few moments. This...this corpse use to be her mother. Vibrant and full of life. Diana was the kind of woman who struggled to sit still, even after she was bedridden. She would draw, write, play puzzle games on her laptop. She even started writing letters and things for people for extra money. And on days she felt better, well enough to get out of bed, Leliana would come home from work to a warm meal that took her mother three hours but by his was she going to finish it. Now, she was just a shell, a small...broken body Leliana struggled to recognize as her mother. That fact didn't change who this use to be.

Clearing her throat, she finally turned to leave the room. There weren't any masks in there, but she knew were some we're. Her mother had to wear them whenever she left the house for her doctors visits, on the rare occasion they happened. Neither one of them had health insurance so it was...difficult. Taking a deep breath, Leliana moved to find the paper masks, hidden in the table drawer right beside the front door. They got lucky, the box was almost empty but there were two left. Delicate fingers wrapped around the elastic, pulling then out, Leliana noticed something else. Putting the masks down on the table top, she reached in and pulled lit an old photo. There, smiling bright as ever, was her mother. An older woman stood to her side, gray hair pulled back into a neat bun, a cheeky grin on her face, Andrea James stood proud. And between them was Leliana. No more than five in this picture...the sight of it cause a faint chuckle to grace the air. It had been forever since she had seen it. Leliana chuckled again, a drop of water falling onto the picture, she quickly reached up to wipe her face.

It took a moment to stop the tears, there was no time for that now. Clearing her throat again, she folded the picture and stuffed it in her back pocket before returning to Andy with the masks. Exchanging one for the gloves, Leliana quickly put both on before she moved to get the blanket off the bed. When Andy spoke however, she paused, letting her arms fall. "I'm...sorry he had to do that," She spoke quietly, taking another glance down to her mother's body. "I came home from work and she was already gone. And a part of that makes me glad, because she didn't have to see any of this but...she was alone. Neither one of us got to say goodbye." Another pause came as she pulled the blanket off and moved to help Andy move her body. "What was your mom like?"

Andy watched helplessly from the sidelines. This moment wasn't for her, but it didn't erase the feeling that she should be doing something. She had never been the most comforting person, and funerals were uncomfortable for even the most maternal of people, so she just stood with her hands clasped in front of her and watched her cousin mourn. When Leliana spoke up, Andy listened to each word, relating to it. She assumed most people didn't get to say goodbye any more. She had been only feet from her mother and had been helpless to get to her. She was gone by the time Owen found her too. Where she laid now was too dangerous for either of them to go and pay her the respect that her cousin now paid the woman in front of her.

"My mom was..." Andy smiled sadly, realizing how hard it was to talk about her. Other than a passing comment about her from Hector or a quick quip from Owen, Andy realized she hadn't spoken about her mother much at all since she passed.

"The best. I don't know how else to describe her. She was just the absolute best person I've ever met. Kind and compassionate. There wasn't a wayward kid that didn't sleep on our couch from time to time or eat at our table. I think she was one of the few people that actually loved all parts of her job as a nurse. Good and bad, she took it all in stride because I think that helping people was all she knew how to do. " Andy sighed as her voice started to crack, then turned to Leliana and offered her a rare smile.

"She would have loved you I think."

"She sounds great," Leliana smiled, spreading the blanket over the floor so they could move what use to be her mother onto it. The ground would be frozen, but they could burn her. Leliana had spotted a few smoke plumes while they were driving, so another one would go mostly unnoticed. In any case...she didn't want to stick around long enough to see if it was. "I love my mom too. Three years, and she did her best to never show how much her illness was actually affecting her." Diana was a strong woman of course. She worked as long as she could when she got sick, and even after that she didn't slow down until it spread and forced her to. "She would have liked you too. Diana was a big family woman. My...our grandma lived in that foreclosure next door, we had dinner with her everyday," Leliana smiled, moving to take awhile of her mother's legs, waiting a few moments for Andy to grab her arms or shoulders so they could get her on the blanket.

"Might be why she never really believed me," Leliana mumbled without realizing she had. Liam was her big brother, they were close their entire childhood. Learning about what he had done...it tore Diana apart. Andrea, their grandmother, cut all contact with her son, but Diana couldn't bring herself to do it. Not until Liam's laptop was recovered and the evidence put out for the jury and judge to see. "You would have liked our grandma. She once took me a this dive bar. One of her navy friends taught me how to play pool...very badly mind you, but a fight broke out. Grandma knocked their heads together and got them to apologize before the bouncers could even break through the crowd."

Andy moved to assist in the labor of moving Leliana’s mother. She was careful to do so with the same gentleness that she would her own mother. This was her family after all, and even if she had never laid eyes on Diana’s face before, she deserved respect.

The story about Leliana’s- or rather their- grandmother caused Andy to chuckle. She did seem like a hell of a woman. That was someone she could relate to way more than her own mother. The respect she held for Mary Jordan was unparalleled but Andy had always struggled with feeling like she was a bad person for not being able to surmount the unrelenting kindness the woman had shown on a daily basis.

“You know,” the redhead began with a soft voice, lowering her aunt onto the blanket. “For the first time, being like my dad’s side of the family doesn’t actually sound so bad.” It was a fear that the girl didn’t vocalize often, but it had sat with her every day since she and Liam had met. Andy was nothing like Mary, but saw a lot of herself in Liam. Maybe, she was more like her namesake than her dad. Andrea James seemed like a pretty cool person.

“Your mom didn’t believe you?” Andy’s voice seemed almost pained as she realized the weight of what Leli had just told her. She thought back to when her own incident had happened. Her mother had been so concerned and Andy hadn’t told her anything she didn’t have to. There was a lot her mother had surmised based on the medical records that had come back after her return, but Andy refused to confirm anything. She wasn’t sure why now that she was older and wiser. At the ripe old age of sixteen it had seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do. In the end she supposed that she felt she was protecting her mother’s feelings. If Mary had known that the man she had given up everything to protect her from had done this to her, Andy wasn’t sure she would have ever forgiven herself. It had never been her mother’s fault though and despite years of feeling like it was her own or her own stupidity that had caused it, there was really only one person to blame for what had happened to her. Liam was the only one guilty here.

Still, the thought of her mother not believing her had never even crossed her mind. Mary wouldn’t have hesitated to back her up if she had come clean. A lot of things could have been different if her teenage self had been a little less stubborn and a little less ashamed. Owen and her could have had a better relationship, maybe that would have kept him from going to a life of crime. Maybe they could have gotten Liam put in jail earlier. If he had then Leliana never would have…

Andy choked for a moment, a sob she didn’t know she had building suddenly in her throat. Her eyes watered but she forced it down as quickly as it came. The urge to wipe her eyes hit her, but she remembered the nature of what she was doing and the bacteria that was all over her gloves and stopped.

“I’m sorry Leli,” and she was. Sorry for what had happened to her, sorry for not preventing it, sorry that her mother hadn’t believed her or that they were forced to come back to the scene of the crime. There was a lot left unspoken, but Andy was convinced that if she tried that she would cry again and the redhead had enough tears recently.
[/COLOR]
 

Maj

Your Majjiesty


1635850613772.png
Andy led the way out to the shed. She moved slower now with a full belly, but excitement drove her onward. With her permission, Aaron had taken over the majority of her workspace but in reality, what that had some was force Andy to organize the space better. When she pushed the door open, she was pleased to see that Aaron had likely fixed the hinges so it opened much nicer. The metal door glided across the concrete slab floor without so much as a scrape.

The training bow was right where she had left it. Aderyn had been the last person to use it. Andy's excitement darkened. She knew that the girl had a habit of disappearing and reappearing when it was convenient for her but the idea of such a young girl out in the city by herself made Andy's skin crawl.

That's why she was here though wasn't it? Why she had brought Milly to the shed in the first place? She didn't want to think about it, but the girls needed to be able to fend for themselves if things went really south. It was important.


"Here," Andy pulled the bow down off the mount on the wall. It was considerably smaller and lighter than any of the bows she frequently used, but it was great for practice. It wouldn't take down a deer, but it could absolutely take out a rabbit, or even the squishy skull of an undead.

"Do you know what this is?"

“Ooh, yes!” Milly brightened as Andy brought the bow down, “I’ve never seen one in real life but, but I’ve seen people use them in movies.” She tilted her head in inspection, rubbing her chin with her thumb and index finger, “But, it looks hard to use.”

"It's easier than you think," she assured her. "I'm going to have to do my best to show you without demonstration because my shoulder is injured," Andy continued. "But we need another bow user around here anyway. So we can practice." The redhead began a detailed description of how to get the string in place so Milly could try while she watched.

"You never want to leave it strung if it isn't going to be used. It's bad for the wood," Andy instructed.

Milly listened intensely and nodded as the woman spoke, drinking in her words like a warm bowl of soup. Before they had come out, the girl had made a quick detour to her room to grab her drawing pad and pencil (a blue one, she couldn’t find a lead one) and was writing everything down. Once she finished writing down the woman’s description of how to handle the bow, she stood up, shivering a little from the chilly morning.

“Do you practice on trees? Or cans? Did you know that Colt can shoot three cans off a stump without looking first? I asked her if she’d be able to do it blindfolded and she found that funny.” She had never heard the battle-worn veteran laugh before so it was an odd experience, “How long have you used bows for?”

"I have plenty of targets outback," Andy informed her, pleased at the girl's excitement. The Jordan twin actually enjoyed teaching archery. As much as she despised other people, it was the only reason she has taken the captain role on the University archery team rather than just being a standoffish star player.

"As for how long I've been using a bow, I've been shooting for as long as I can remember. Since before I was even younger than you." That brought Andy to something she had been curious about for a long time.

"How old are you anyway kid?"

“That’s amazing! I’ve only ever used those little plastic ones you’d get in Happy Meals. Mum wouldn’t let me play with it though. Or water guns. She said weapons were bad and shouldn’t be used. But… they’re not. Guns are scary but they get rid of the monsters and get food.” Milly realized that she was rambling and cut herself off.

“Can I try it?” She squeaked slightly and shook her head, “Sorry- please can I try it?” Andy was one of the leaders from what Milly saw of her, like Colt and Hector, so wanted to be careful.

Milly blinked as she just realized Andy had asked her another question.
“Oh, I’m sorry-um, I’m 13. I’ll be 14 soon.” She looked away with a little sigh of embarrassment.

Andy's eyebrow involuntarily arched at the confirmation of this information. She quickly recovered however and softened, a small smile brightening her stern features.


"Sounds like Colt has been teaching you well. She's right. Weapons are important for lots of reasons. But there is nothing wrong with sticking to the ones that make you more comfortable. Go ahead and string that thing like I taught you and we will go out back and give it a go, okay?" She asked. In a rare sign of affection, Andy reached down and ruffled the girl's hair. People didn't see her around kids very often, but she had always had a soft spot for them. There were enough people who would hurt little girls without her help.

Collab: Rumble Fish Rumble Fish (Milly)
Mentions: Rumble Fish Rumble Fish (Colt) RayPurchase RayPurchase

 

Maj

Your Majjiesty


1635851133471.png
"Grandma was kickass. If she was still around, she'd be kicking ass with us," Leliana chuckled, reaching up to cross her mother's arms over her chest. At this point, rigor mortis had released enough she was able to do it with little resistance. After that, she started to wrap the blanket around her mother when Andy spoke again. Briefly, the nurse tensed before a soft, sad sigh left her nose. "No...she didn't. Not entirely at least," Leliana answered honestly. "I can't exactly blame her though. Liam and grandma were the last two real relationships she had. My mom didn't have much of a social life. I think it...it was hard for accept that he had put his hands on me." The blonde paused, tucking the blanket around her mother. "Well... that's not entirely true, I did blame her. I was...angry for a long time, why didn't she notice something you know? He gave me this... expensive necklace when I was like 8, not something you give a kid."

Leliana paused again. It all started when she was 4, a family vacation to some lake when Liam and Andrea were visiting. And it just continued from there. Got worse when Diana lost their house and they had to move in with him. Leliana still held some sort of resentment for her mother. Her dolls, bed wetting, she couldn't stand being in a room alone with him. Why didn't her mom notice anything? There's that saying love makes you blind. Maybe that's true, Diana idolized Liam. Her older brother, the one person in the world she could always count on besides her own mother. Leliana understood...but at the same time, she just couldn't. Looking up from the blanket, she noticed Andy's subtle tears. The nurse smiled softly, wanting to hug her but her hands were filthy.

"No, don't be sorry Andy," Leliana smiled kindly, head tilted slightly as she sighed. "There's nothing you could have done." She knew that was something the other woman was thinking. They had to come back to her house, in fact, Leliana was the one who insisted. Andy may have tried to pretend she would this badass with all her emotions expertly kept in check, but she was human. Just like the rest of them. "I have...a few things to explain to Owen don't I?" The nurse finally chuckled. He deserved an explanation too.


“Oh god,” Andy let out a watery laugh. “Yeah I guess so. Dumb ass flirted with his own cousin.” She shook her head. Of course, there was no way Owen was to know that, Andy had just found out recently herself. However, she couldn’t help but hope that would teach him the folly of falling over backward for every blond with pretty eyes he encountered.

“I’m never going to let him live that shit down.” The redhead reached down to grab her side of the blanket, waiting for Leliana to do the same. Her shoulder wouldn’t allow too much heavy lifting, but the two of them could manage to drag the blanket through the house and out the door.

"The only thing making it excusable is we didn't know," Leliana chuckled in response. That and it had never gone past the little flirting here and there. Besides, his eyes had found someone new to look at. As did her own. "He seems pretty close with Aubrey. I'm glad," She smiled, lifting up her side of the blanket to lead Andy out of the bedroom and through the back door right past the laundry room. If Andy could see, there was a small sleeping back in there, left there like someone had been too afraid to move it.


"We shouldn't, it's too funny," Leliana added as they reached the backyard. She leaned against the wall, lifting one leg to help her keep her mother's body off the ground by using her thigh as support while she opened the door with the hand close to it. The backyard was a bit unkept. Tall, but dead grass covered by a layer of frost. Sun-bleached toys and a plastic slide. It was clear they didn't use the backyard much. "After we handle this...we can do a final sweep of the house. I don't have high hopes for my car working, but we can check that too...but I don't want to stick around here much longer," The nurse spoke. And for once, she didn't feel bad about saying that. She knew Andy understood.

"We don't have to be here any longer than necessary," Andy assured her. She helped her cousin situate the body in the backyard, curious as to how they were going to start the pyre. Andy had a lighter, but that would do little to get a corpse to catch fire. They would need fuel at the bare minimum. Putting gasoline on Leliana's mother seemed strange, but they didn't have many other options. The pit they used at home had plenty of kindling to light, and they weren't as lucky. With a sympathetic sigh, Andy tried to catch her breath from hauling the corpse through the house.

"Do you have any kerosene or gasoline or anything?" the redhead asked

"Thanks." It was always comforting having someone around who understood. Andy could have pushed for answers, forced Leliana to reveal anything she wanted. But...as much as Leliana hated that Liam was able to hurt someone else, it turned out for the better. At least neither one of them would have to deal with him now. "I'm glad Owen listened to us," She said, sighing a little as they put Diana's body down. When Leliana straightened up, she sighed again, looking around the yard. At one time, it was religiously kept up. They had family barbeques, would spend an hour chasing lightning bugs, the backyard camping. As much as the nurse hated her uncle, as much as it killed her to admit it...there were good memories. At least parts of good memories.


She snapped back into reality when she heard Andy, the girl puffing her cheeks momentarily. "I think so..." She mumbled, walking back toward the house. There was a small shed thing in the corner, a plastic one you could get from Home Depot for like, 30 bucks or something. She twisted the handle, the door scraping against the ground as it opened. Inside was mostly old toys and pool equipment. Leaning against the wall opposite of her was a weed wacker. And would hear her tut a few times as she scanned the little shed before she took a small step inside after spotting a red container. "I hope there's enough in here."

“We will make it work,” Andy assured her. She took the crimson container from her cousin shaking hands. This wasn’t something she should have to do herself. It caused her thoughts to creep back to her own mother who still laid alone in the hospital, rotting with the other heap of corpses that littered its halls. Owen had been forced to take her out by himself, and she had repaid him by punching him in the nose.

She could be a real jerk sometimes.

Andrea sighed softly as she let the gasoline pour from the container and over the tarp they had carried outside. She was sure to let it saturate as much as it could so that the body would be sure to catch fire before the chemical disappeared. At least the ground in Leliana’s backyard was mostly dry, despite the snowstorms. That would help.


“I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of him,” Andy finally spoke as an afterthought. “Liam? I don’t know why but I just don’t feel like it could be that easy. I think he’s been looking for me for a while and as intimidating as my brother is, I don’t think that’s enough to deter him completely.” The thought sent chills down the redhead’s spine but she did her best not to show it. Goosebumps rose up her arms under the warmth of her jacket.

“We need to be ready, just in case.”

Leliana nodded, carefully stepping back out of the shed to make her way back over to Andy and her mother. It was a hard reality to swallow still. Leliana found it hard to accept that she was gone. That this body use to be her mother. But there was one upside. "Mom always said she wanted to be cremated." Diana had it in writing too, she knew that Leliana wouldn't have been able to afford a funeral and she didn't want to burden her daughter like that. Taking a deep breath, Leliana sat the gas can down as she stood next to Andy, looking down at her mother's body.

Andy took the can and began to pour it over the tarp, Leliana crossing her arms, hands hidden under her armpits to warm them up a little. "No, we...we haven't. He doesn't give up," Leliana mumbled, fingers curling into her jacket. There was something about the attack at Moe's that Leliana hadn't told Colt. What the man said to her. But should she tell Andy? Should...this trip was already dark enough, maybe Leliana shouldn't bring it up. But it could be important in the future.

Leliana bit the inside of her cheek, taking a deep breath. "Liam is relentless, Owen is definitely not enough. I don't think Colt, Luca or-or Hector would be enough either." And those three could be scary when they wanted to be. "Prison couldn't stop him! I was attacked at Moe's because of him!" Leliana spoke, her body dropping as she say down, her trembling hands slipping up to hold the sides of her neck. She was absolutely terrified of Liam, he was the one person in the world that could just...paralyze her. "How are we supposed to be ready for someone like him?"

Andy reached out and took her cousin's hand. Her own was shaking just as badly. She let her fingers lace through Lelianas and squeezed hard.

“I don’t know,” the redhead admitted. It had been the same fear she had parroted to Hector and Owen. They had assured her that she wasn’t alone in this, which was comforting. However, that just meant more people could get hurt in the crossfire too.

“But, we will be.” Andy did her best to sound confident. “We have to be. We don’t have any other choice.”

Collab: FireMaiden FireMaiden (Leli)
Mentions: shadowz1995 shadowz1995 (Hector) Rumble Fish Rumble Fish (Colt) Maj Maj (Owen)

 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter
1635883393192.png

It had been a few days since Milly first drew the string back. After the initial stumbles the young girl had begun to get the hang of it. With Andy’s expertise, it was not long before she was consistently hitting her targets. But now, the pair were walking gingerly through the woods, away from the safety of the lodge. Milly trotted behind Andy as she strode ahead, jumping at every small noise. The last time she had been outside the lodge’s perimeter was when she and Beth had been taken hostage. It had taken a fair amount of persuasion from the red-haired lady to get her out this far.

Still, she trusted Andy to know what she was doing. The woman walked with the purpose of someone who knew these woods. She had mentioned before her hunting trips with her uncle, maybe that was how? Andy liked to talk about her uncle, but not much else. Every other question asked was met with a short answer or a deflection. Milly bit her tongue after a couple of attempts. The last thing she wished for was for her new friend to become angry with her.

Um… Andy, why are we out here?” She asked softly, afraid to speak higher than a whisper.

You’ve been doing well,” Andy assured her, only glancing down for a moment to look at the girl before allowing her eyes to move back to the trees ahead of her. “But you can only learn so much from stationary targets. Plus you can learn a lot of really useful things from the woods. Especially in our current situation.” The reality of it was that Andy couldn’t settle until she knew for sure that Milly had the skills necessary to take care of herself. The more she had talked to others about the girl, the more that her concerns had been realized. In her current state not only was she about as useful to the productivity of the group as an infant, but if something were to happen to separate her from the others, she might as well be corpse food.

Pay attention to the way I step,” she instructed. “Always keep your footing light, even the slightest twig snapping could alert your prey that you are among them.” The woman didn’t state the obvious, but these skills would also keep the girl from being found when she was the one who was being stalked as prey as well.

Hmm, like hopscotch.” Milly mumbled to herself as she took care in following the archer’s exact footsteps. “My prey?” she added, it was hard to focus on so many things at once.

We’re going to turn you into a huntress.

A huntress?” Milly blinked, stopping for a moment. Her mind began whirring a million miles a minute. Hunting? As in, hunting animals? Milly hardly liked eating meat in the first place, having been a pretty strict vegetarian prior to the monsters appearing, but that she could cope with. This was something else entirely. To kill a living thing? The youngster bit her lip anxiously as she tried to focus on the patterns left by the bottom of Andy’s boots in the frost. At one point, she noticed that she was about to step onto a twig and hopped over it. “Um… Are you sure?

Very,” Andy said seriously. She knew the girl was hesitant, most grown ups were the first time they went hunting. Even those who believed that it wouldn’t be an issue always faltered the first time they had to let the arrow or bullet fly. However, Andrea believed this to be an important lesson for the young girl and so they would see this through, no matter what the outcome.

I know it’s uncomfortable,” the redhead continued. “However, there is a lot of stuff these days that feels that way. We all have to do things that we don’t want to for the best interest of our group.

I know, it’s just… killing an animal, I- I don’t know.

Milly rubbed her shoulder with a worried sigh as she averted her gaze, but nodded at Andy’s words. Colt had told her something similar, and she had already come this far in terms of learning guns and now bows. But, the idea of hunting, which itself would involve killing another thing- not a monster, an actual living creature was one that Milly never wanted to consider. But, the woman was right. Sometimes people had to do uncomfortable things to survive. But it did not make this any easier.

Y-you’re going to stay with me, right?

For now,” she assured the girl. “We’re all animals Milly. Humans, rabbits, deer,” the girl shrugged. It wasn’t something she talked about openly, but Andy had become accustomed to killing both live and dead humans as quickly as she did because she had lumped them all together in her brain. Loosing an arrow into a deer was no different than a corpse or a soldier when it came down to it. “Corpses, or monsters or whatever you want to call them. They all go down the same.

Milly put her hands in her hoodie pockets and watched where she stood. As she was about to take a step, the girl paused for a second as she spotted a lump in the snow in the shape of a big branch. Gingerly, she took a big stride to avoid it so all that was heard was the soft crunch of the snow under her feet.

So… you cope. Like how Colt does? And the other adults?” She asked with a tilted head, “…It doesn’t make much sense to me, but maybe it will later?

Maybe,” Andy said with a wry smile. She chose not to say anything else. There wasn’t anything more that words could teach the girl better than action could. They spent the next hour practicing movement, and Andy imparting basic tracking knowledge as they walked.

The familiar sound of leaves rustling alerted Andy sometime later. She put a hand out to tell Milly to stop moving and put a single finger to her lips, telling her that silence was necessary. Her head seemed to tilt akin to a dog who had heard something interesting, waiting for confirmation. She crouched, pulling the young girl down with her as she did. Andy pointed to her own eyes and then pointed to a spot a few feet in front of them.

The rabbit was white, fur blending in nicely among the icy leaves and frost bitten forest floor. She put a gentle hand on Milly’s back and nodded. It was time for her to practice what she had learned.

Milly spotted the rabbit the same time Andy had and already her heart was in her throat. Her body tensed at her teacher’s hand on her back and she turned with an almost panicked look. She took a few turns looking at the rabbit and back to Andy. She gulped softly and could not meet the lady’s gaze.

Wait- now?” She squeaked, looking back at the creature who was nibbling on a small piece of grass without a care in its little world, “I- I don’t know, is-is the wind okay for this?” She stimmed anxiously by wringing her hands together, her blood running cold at the thought of killing the little creature. She knew that this would eventually be the next step, but she was not ready for it.

Andy put a finger to her lips to silence the young girl. Rabbits were skittish creatures. Any sudden noises or movement could set the small thing off and they would lose valuable meat as well as the chance to teach Milly an important lesson. The redhead crouched down, letting her weight rest in her right ankle and left knee, which became increasingly damp from the frosted earth. Her arm snaked around the girls shoulders giving her an encouraging squeeze and spoke softly.

You can do this and it’s important.” Andy’s lips were so close to the girl’s ear, they nearly brushed them as she assured her in the best way she could. Gently, Andrea adjusted the girl’s stance, putting her in a prime position. Then, the huntress nodded down to the training bow to urge Milly along.

Milly froze at the woman’s words and being touched. Breathing deeply and slowly, she had to use every strength she had to not cry and run away. She took up the bow and, just as Andy had shown her, drew the bow back, the arrow to her cheek and eyes forward. The white rabbit lifted its pretty little head and sniffed, causing her to freeze. So many thoughts surged through her head at once. Milly let out a little anxious whine as she tried to prepare herself. What if the rabbit had kits? It simply felt wrong. She had killed a monster before, but that was when it was going to kill Adryen! This rabbit had done nothing to them! But… she had to. It was important. She took in a deep, shaking breath.

And released.

Collab with: Maj Maj
 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter
1639417509845.png
Co-written with: FireMaiden FireMaiden

Colt’s mouth instantly went dry as she ducked below the window, her heart going like a train. Slowly, she raised her head to carefully look outside. Two hazmats, with large rifles were walking with purpose down the street. And the front door was open! They we’re coming right for it!! Shaking and stomach turning, Colt, as fast and as quiet as possible sped-crawled to the room the nurse was in. After being sure the nurse saw her, Colt got close, a finger up to her lips as a signal to be quiet and a look of unmistakable fear and seriousness. “Leliana,” she hissed sharply as quiet as possible, “We need to hide. Now!

Leliana nodded. Colt, after all, knew where she wanted them to search for food so Leliana had no real reason to protest against her driving. Leaving Colt quietly to find a bedroom, Leliana entered the master bedroom. It was nicely decorated, but someone had definitely left in a hurry. First thing, she checked for an ensuite bathroom and got lucky. But unlike the first bathroom, Leliana came across a small collection of vitamins, plus some bandaids. Everything else was unusable. She walked back into the main bedroom to begin her search through the drawers. As Leliana did though, he mind began to wander again. It was like she was on autopilot, looking through the supplies she was finding to judge their worth, but she wasn't entirely there.

Slipping a bottle of melatonin gummies into her bag and closing the drawer, Leliana turned to begin searching through some of the other boxes when she heard Colt. The nurses brows furrowed, looking around to see if she could spot something out before focusing on Colt again. "
Okay, okay, uh..." Leliana had no reason not to trust Colt, if she said they needed to hide, they needed to hide. But there were only so many places they could do that in this room. "There's a bathroom through there, and a closet," Leliana spoke, her voice having dropped to a whisper. She would suggest under the bed, but that would just get them trapped.

Come on!” And without hesitation, the veteran gently gripped Leliana by putting an arm around her shoulder and gently brought her with her into the bathroom. Like she said there was a closet. Inside, she locked the bathroom door and opened the window, in case they had to run. Colt knew she would be in no condition to fight the hazmats head on with her shoulder.

Quick!” She whispered as low as possible to the nurse and once they were inside, she shut the closet door, leaving the two women in the dark. It was tiny, cramped and pitch black. Colt could feel the woman right up against her. She stared directly at the door, holding her breath.

After about twenty seconds, a pair of big, heavy boots began to slowly make their way through the house. There was the clicking of their guns and the low rumbling of the men’s voices. They were on the hunt. And Colt knew theses bastards were not above maiming or killing two women; not to mention one who was already handicapped and the other only having a bat for protection. With her handgun aimed at head height to the door, Colt took her free hand and put it around Leliana’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze of assurance. If anyone was going to get out of this alive, it was going to be the nurse. She had more worth. She tried to keep her breathing steady as she could hear them now begin going into rooms.

Leliana followed Colt without hesitation, her hear beginning to race. She would much rather deal with the infected instead of the hazzies. As they stepped into the bathroom, Leliana looking behind them. How far away were they? What would they do if they caught them? Leliana could think of more than a few things, each one causing her stomach to churn. She also had to wonder if they were still after Andy and Owen. It was...damn it, her thoughts shifted again when Colt drug then into the closet. It was cramped, and dark, and it was an environment that brought more than a few unpleasant memories. But dealing with those intrusive thoughts for a little while was better than getting killed or worse.

Colt didn't need to tell her twice to be quiet, Leliana doing herself to stifle panicked breathing. Shifting a little, one hand dropped to her holster so the nurse could draw her pistol. Of course, it was a last resort incase they were found, Leliana didn't intend to go out guns blazing. All she could hear for the few moments, was her and Colt breathing. Her heart was pounding, Leliana taking a few moments to squeeze her eyes shut. What would they do if they were found? It was obvious someone or something was here, were they going to have to fight? Her mind was going a mile a minute.

It didn't help when she finally noticed the heavy footfalls of the hazzies. Her shoulders tensed further than they already were, hands twitching. She couldn't stop her mind from wandering, and it was wandering to more than what the hazzies just might do to them. Leliana once again did her best to stifle panicked breathing when there was suddenly a weight on her shoulders. It was Colt's arm, the vet giving her shoulder a squeeze it somewhat haloed the nurse focus. Leliana wanted to thank her. Wanted to ask if she still had the car keys. But as the footsteps moved into the room, Leliana had to hold her breath.

Colt stayed almost frighteningly silent as the hazzies made their way through the house, room to room and clearly determined to find anything. As they slowly stalked the halls, their conversation could be heard beneath their masks.

“I told you, everyone smart enough to run from this hellhole did on the first day.” One of them grumbled to the other.

“You also told me that Oberon Ranch had a couple in there but there wasn’t.”

“This again-? There was! I dunno why they suddenly hightailed when they did! Their horse must have gotten loose, the stable was wide open.”

“Really? I checked all through there and the saddle was gone.”

Colt forced herself to suppress a gasp at this. They had tried to go after Hank?! Thank God the man had enough sense to run elsewhere when he did. She could only pray that he was okay and had made it to his refuge among his friends like he had hoped. However she had no time to focus on that. They were throwing open any closed door they could find. Within minutes, they would be found!

Stupid stupid stupid stupid…” Colt barely whispered in frustration at her idiotic idea. Hide!? Was she fucking serious!? They were sitting ducks! They were no match for these men, how were they going to…? Colt felt around the floor of the cupboard, searching for something hard. Very slowly, and very silently, Colt slipped the cupboard door open just enough to see out of. The hazmats had gone into the living room. There were a lot of potential hiding places- they would be there for a while. She kept a tight grip on the nurse’s shoulder. What were they going to do?

Nonononono! Leliana, even with her heart pounding in her ears, could hear the hazzies getting closer and closer. They were talking, what about she couldn't give a rats ass. The closest was their best option to hide in without getting caught, at least it seemed to be. But in reality, it was good way to get them killed. She was panicking, her head already wasn't in a great state to begin with and in this closest...the memories creeping into the forefront of her mind couldn't be so easily shaken away. Leliana had done her fair share of hiding in closets when she was younger, a child hiding from a monster. But...she was always caught. She could see it now, the doors being ripped open and the hazzies opening fire. Either to kill them or keep them from running away...who knows what those sick bastards had in store for them if they were caught. Her hands were shaking, one of them raising slightly to press her wrist against her lips. She needed the help to keep quiet.

Leliana looked at Colt when she heard her speak, the whispering only setting her more on edge. Were they really in that much trouble? Colt was injured sure, but...no, no if it came down to a fight, they were at a huge disadvantage. She couldn't shake off that overwhelming sense of dread. The nurse tensed immediately when she felt Colt's arm around her shoulder, but did nothing to shake it off. "
Didn't... didn't you open a window?" The nurse whispered. If she did, and Colt had the car keys, they could sneak around and make a quick escape in the car right?

The nurse’s terror was feeding its way into Colt’s mind. This would not be the first time she had been forced to hide. In Syria sometimes they would be like this for hours, still as corpses, terrified to breathe, and waiting… and waiting. The veteran forced herself to suppress the urge to scream or run for it. Leliana was on the brink of a meltdown, she had to do something.

Without saying anything, Colt gently took Leli’s free hand, and placed it onto her chest, to the right so she could not feel Colt’s own racing heart. She looked the nurse in the eye, hoping she would understand what she was trying to do. Like Ivan had done back in the hunting shop, she started to take slow and deep breaths, silently instructing her to mimic her. At the nurse’s question, Colt’s eyes blanked for a second.

…Yes.” She whispered before shifting a little in her spot, thinking. After a second, she nodded her head slightly. “Okay…. Here’s what we’ll do… we’ll open the door, I’ll…” she sighed deeply, “I’ll distract them. You get out the window, and, wait…” Colt instinctively put a hand on her flask’s pocket but paused. “…No. No I’m not… Get out the window, I’ll come after you. But uh… You’d need to take this.” She gestured to her prosthetic, the vet hated to do this, but she knew too well that the thing would just drop off if she jumped too quickly or tried to climb.

Leliana didn't mean to make things worse for Colt. But she already wasn't feeling the best, and if it had been the infected, most likely Leliana would have been fine. Or at least in a better state to take care of them. But these were living, breathing men, it...it could only end poorly no matter what they ended up doing. What didn't help, at least not at first, was Colt grabbing her hand to place it over her chest. Leliana at first tried to pull away but after a few seconds realized what the vet was trying to do. Leliana did her best see to.copy Colt's breathing. It was a decent trick, something her mother did a lot but it was...not as effective as people thought. At least for Leliana's case.

Hearing that they did have a way out though caused the nurse to lose some of the tension in her shoulders. They could escape and not even have to deal with the hazzies. But as soon as Colt mentioned that she would try to distract them, Leliana shook her head. Colt seeing in that low light though was fairly slim. "No! You have to come with me!" Leliana protested, brows furrowed in concern. They could do something that drew the hazzies to the back of the house and give them time to go for the car. Leliana didn't relax though when Colt said something about not doing something...maybe it was her flask, maybe she changed her mind. But Leliana did see her gesture to the prosthetic and nodded. "
You'll be right behind me?" After all, there was little the vet could do on one foot.

Always.” Colt affirmed, looking Leliana straight in the eye as she spoke. At least this way, no matter what, the nurse would escape. She slowly creaked the door open. They had moved again, and did something Colt hadn’t expected. They seemed to have found a ladder to the attic. Pulling it down the pair began to slowly climb, their guns raised.

Now!” She barked in a whisper, “Quick!” Slowly and silently, like a prowling lioness, Colt very gingerly left the cupboard, her gun in one hand and her other one outstretched behind her, silently telling the nurse to hold it. Though it was as much for Colt’s own assurance than it was to the nurse. She wanted to know Leliana was still there. The heavy footsteps of their boots above creaked the ceiling. They did not have much time.

Reaching the window, Colt pushed it open as far as it would go. Raising her weapon and facing the door, she turned to Leliana, “
Okay, go!” She whispered urgently. She did not know how much time they had.

Leliana held her breath as Colt opened the closet, doing her best to focus on the goal at hand. Open the door, get across the room and out the window. Once she was out, she'd wait for Colt and the two of them would make a beeline for the car. It was risky. It was terrifying. But they had to do it. In preparation for doing this quickly, Leliana holstered her pistol again. But as her pistol was holstered, so was the slight sense of security holding it gave her.

For a few moments, she squeezed her eyes shut, forcing herself to take a few deep breaths. But Colt's voice sharply hitting her ears forced her eyes open. Leliana waited for Colt to move into the bathroom, Leliana following as quietly as the could behind her. Her eyes flickered between the vet and the door of the room, she was expecting the hazzies to rush in at any moment. For a few moments, Leliana didn't realize Colt was telling her to hold her hand...but Leliana's fingers quickly laces with Colt's once the nurse realized. No doubt Colt would feel the slight tremble of Leliana's hand.

Once they reached the window, she let go of Colt's hand so the vet could open the window. In her panic, Leliana must not have realized she hadn't before...but the nurse was glad she had thought about it. Leliana also hated the idea of going first, but she knew this was how it had to be. Approaching the window, Leliana looked out, checking for other hazzies or infected. Once she confirmed the cost was clear, she tossed her bat out onto the grass below before Leliana climbed out herself. She did her best to land quietly, quickly picking her bat back up. "
Alright, I'm down! Come on!" Leliana whispered up to the window, her gaze shifting between it and her surroundings.

Colt could feel the tremble in the nurse’s hand, prompting her to give it a squeeze of reassurance. The nurse would most likely have noticed that there was a distinct twitch within the veteran. Despite trying to hide it, it was evident that Colt was just as terrified as Leliana was. Colt carefully opened the window and then stayed silent and still, gun raised as Leliana climbed through the window. Colt bit her lip as she looked out of it. The second Leliana was through she would have to follow instantly. But there were some obstacles.

The vet was taller and heavier than the nurse so this would be a challenge. And there was another problem. Her leg. It would surely drop off the second she climbed. And without it the only way out was launching herself like a torpedo. Despite the urge to, Colt avoided snarling obscenities and thought. This would be impossible to do quickly. Reluctantly, she bent down and removed the prosthetic limb, ready to hand it to the nurse.

As soon as Leliana was out, Colt handed her the fake leg. Thinking hard, she took a couple of hops away from the window, trying to stay on the little rug to muffle her foot. She leapt forward in a couple of large hops and jumped. She hit the window half way but managed to stop herself from falling head first down. Turning herself around, she was just about to drop to the ground, she caught a glimpse of big black boots beginning to descend the stairs.

Colt let go of the window and landed on her coccyx. She scrambled to her foot. “
They’re coming!” She whispered to the nurse frantically, “the car, get to the car! Now!
 

TheMightyRedLemon

Stars are only visible in darkness
The sun had begun to peak over the trees by the time Colt and Vanessa rode up to the lodge. The night had been a long one for sure, though the acrobat could not have hoped for a better outcome. As the vet began to take care of her horse Arthur, the younger woman began to wander around the outside of the lodge. It was a bit later in the morning, so she was sure most of the others within the lodge were awake by now. Thankfully, it seemed no one was outside in the immediate area. This suited the carni just fine. ‘I could use some alone time.’ she thought to herself. Before long, the acrobat’s eyes fell on a small grouping of targets, reminding her of the countless hours she had been forced to throw knives and hatchets at similarly patterned surfaces.


‘Proshlaya noch' byla neryashlivoy.’ a faint yet eerily familiar voice called out mockingly to her, sending cold chills down her spine. She felt for the knives she had retrieved last night. The voice might haunt her mind doggedly, but it had a point. Her aim had been terrible last night.


“I am sure no one would mind…” The young acrobat said as she pulled the knives free from their straps and walked towards the targets.


Owen had spent much of the morning rechecking the fence that he and Nile had been repairing the days prior. It doubled as a perimeter check, ensuring that none of the undead had gotten stuck on the fence or were nearing their home. With bat over his shoulders, arms draped lazily over the metal he walked along the property lines, stopping only occasionally to kick the occasional post to ensure its integrity.


The sound of something coming up the driveway had broken him from his work. A quick trot back to the front allowed him to confirm that it was Colt returning. That would make his sister happy. She had kept her cool about it, but the call from the veteran the night prior had made the redhead woman antsy. It was interesting to see how much his sister had come to care for what had started as perfect strangers. He had never seen her as the motherly type, and yet somehow his twin had taken on a sort of caretaker role with all of them. Despite her resistance to it, the role looked good on her, almost natural even.


Back inside, he found Andy and Milly conversing over a sketchbook. He arched an inquisitive brow, but chose not to say anything in fear of accidentally embarrassing his sister. Instead, ex-thug chose to clear his throat to get her attention. Andy’s head popped up as if on queue and Owen gestured toward the yard.


“Colt’s back.” He informed her. Relief flooded Andy’s features and she quickly excused herself from Milly and went for the front door. She gently touched his shoulder in a quick show of affection. Things had been a lot better since their conversation in the treehouse days prior. Andy seemed to move in and out of moods since then, but seemed okay overall with everything considered. More than anything it felt as if the tension between them that had existed for the last several years had finally been removed. It had been overdue, but Owen didn’t care about that anymore. He was just glad it had finally happened.


That brought him to another point. Sounds of someone moving about in the backyard had peaked his interest. Among all the other important things they had cleared the air about, Andy had also divulged the story of her fight with the lion, and the even more thrilling tale of her fight with Vanessa. The redheaded brute walked toward the back doors, letting one of his massive hands ruffle through Milly’s hair on the way. The glass slid open with little force and Owen exited on to the porch.


Emerald eyes watched the acrobat from afar for a few minutes. She was talented, that much couldn’t be denied. He knew for a fact that he would be utterly worthless throwing the knives that she seemed to do with such ease and grace. His bulky form caused the haphazardly repaired steps to groan in protest as he walked down them and into the yard.


“Great shot,” Owen called over to Nessa as he approached her, announcing his presence. “Is that how you got Andy’s shoulder?”



The acrobat had noticed the redhead as he began his way down the steps, but what he said nearly caused the young woman to jump out of her own skin. Andy’s twin was massive in comparison to her small frame, and Vanessa had seen the aftermath of his wrath the other night. She knew for sure that if Luca or this man before her found out about her attempt on Andy’s life, she was dead. Now her worst fears were being realized.


“I.. n..no I.. well… um.. I mean…” the carni stammered as she backed up, her heterochromic eyes darting around nervously in search of an escape. Owen was already close, and wielding a bat no less. Fear bubbled over in her mind as he gripped the knife in her hand tighter.


“YA budu srazhat'sya…! C..come no closer..!”


“Woah, slow down there cow girl,” Owen put up both hands in a gesture of surrender. “I’m not here to pick a fight. I know who Andy is, even I want to commit sororicide once in a while. I’m just glad she’s made of tougher stuff than she looks.” He smiled in an attempt to put her at ease.


“Seriously, I come in peace. Plus I have no doubt you could stick me with that little knife long before I could do anything to you.”


The young woman silently stared at Owen for a moment, clearly unsure of the situation. ‘I am no fool’ Vanessa thought to herself. She knew from experience not to trust men of his stature to not bring her pain of some kind. “You are maybe saying this to get close.. Get my guard down.... You know what I did..”


“Oh my god,” Owen rolled his eyes in a manner that made him look very similar to his sister. “Don’t you think that if I wanted to hurt you I would have done so without announcing my presence? She’s fine, and from the sounds of things maybe guilty of antagonizing someone who she clearly shouldn’t have been fucking with.” He shrugged his shoulders in a dismissive way. Andy had a way of insulting even the kindest of people and intentionally harassing someone known to have a variety of mental disorders was definitely not her smartest move.


“I just wanted to chat about it, but if you really feel that threatened I can just go back inside.”


“You only want to talk…?” There seemed to be no detectable malice or ill intent to his words, and his body wasn't exactly poised to attack either. “S..Sorry… I have been afraid of others knowing.. Andy and the doc… well.. nevermind..” The carni put away the knife as she spoke. She was still very nervous that this could turn out bad, but she was sure others considered him the nice twin. How bad could this really turn out?


“It’s okay,” Owen assured her, placing his bat on the ground in a sign of good faith. “Andy told me. And she’s right, I wouldn’t tell anyone else, especially Luca.” The hulking man plopped on the ground with a gentle thudd, allowing the frosted earth to dampen the seat of his torn jeans.


“Thankfully I know who Andy is, and understand that she isn’t immune to natural consequences of her actions. I’m protective of her of course, but I also know that my sister’s decision to intentionally antagonize someone that she knew wasn’t exactly…” Owen sighed, trying to find a word that wasn’t offensive to Vanessa. “Fully in control I guess? Yeah, let's go with that. Antagonizing someone she knew wasn't exactly in control was far from the smartest decision she’s ever made. I’m not sure what she expected to happen.”


The young brunette seemed to calm down a great deal once Owen had set down the bat. Maybe he really didn't mean her any harm, she thought. His intentions were fully affirmed when he himself sat down, though. A wave of relief washed through her, even as new anxieties began to arise. What was this man's motive behind wanting to talk? Was there one? Vanessa did not know. "I do not know what I did to her that made her dislike me so…" She said, now fidgeting with the hem of her skirt. "Well.. besides breaking the generator… and a mirror…."


“Andy doesn’t dislike you,” the man said with a laugh. He supposed that was a common misconception with his sister. Most people would assume that she disliked them. The truth of the matter was that Andy rarely actually disliked anyone. “I know she talks a lot of shit, most of it hurtful,” the man shrugged. “But if she’s talking to you at all it means she acknowledges you exist. If she actually didn’t like you she wouldn’t talk to you at all. I mean sure, wrecking the generator probably put her in a less than desirable mood, but have you seen the way she talks to me? Or Luca?” Owen chuckled.


“The girl is in love with him and insults him more than anyone.”


"She Does… speak a certain type of way to everyone… but it seems more meant to hurt when she speaks to me.."


“Andy can definitely be more catty when it comes to women. In fact, now that you mention it I’m not sure I’ve seen her be nice to any woman that wasn’t our mother or someone she was sleeping with.” Owen shrugged as if this information wasn’t relevant. He picked at some of the frozen grass near his lap, tearing it from the ground easily and breaking it into even smaller pieces before tossing them aside. It was an idle gesture, as if Owen wasn’t sure how to have a conversation without having his hands busy.


“Plus I mean she’s just like that with you because she’s incredibly jealous of you,” he added as an afterthought.
 

Maj

Your Majjiesty


1639497858593.png
The arrow flew straight. Straighter than Andy had anticipated. It broke through the air with the familiar sound that Andy had come to miss over the last weeks and hit it’s mark. Both the hesitation of the girl and the degraded strength of the training bow worked against her however. The animal had been hit, and well enough that it lay in the snow, but the rapid rise and fall of it’s chest told Andy that the hit hadn’t killed it painlessly. If they didn’t act, the animal would suffer needlessly. Milly wasn’t going to like anything that followed, but the redhead knew that she had to make her do it. Someone had to make her start to see reality for what it was.

Wordlessly, the archer reached into the top of her boot and retrieved her hunting knife. The deer antler handle was smooth and comforting in her own hand but she knew that it would be vile and clumsy in Milly’s, at least for now. There was something akin to sympathy in Andy’s eyes when she handed the blade, handle first, over to the girl.


“We have to finish the job Milly,” Andy confirmed solemnly.

Milly’s small hand gripped the handle as she looked up, forcing herself to look Andy in the eye- something the young girl had always hated to do. With a sigh, she turned to the fallen rabbit. It’s breathing was rapid and clearly painful. It looked up at her with a glassy and terrified eye. Dark blood bled from its wound and onto the once untouched ground. Milly turned her head, her face showing distress but also a reluctant understanding. She could not speak, but nodded, almost afraid to breathe.


“We do it quickly,” the redhead instructed. “We don’t want it to suffer.” She took her own trained hands over the girl’s, leading them to a firm grip on the antler handle of the knife. Andy took the lead, allowing Milly to feel and study how she moved. In reality, a snap of the rabbit's neck would have been the most humane, but it wouldn’t teach the girl anything useful. Weapons were something the girl needed familiarity with, she wouldn’t be snapping any undead necks. Instead, Andy positioned the point of the knife along the hare’s spine, just between the head and vertebra. It would take little pressure to sever it and end the creature’s suffering. Andy nodded to encourage the girl but didn’t take her hands off. She was there to assist and for comfort, but only Milly could make the final blow.

Milly was frozen in what to do. She knew it was in agony but still, it was an innocent life! How could she? The young girl looked to the woman with apprehension as the latter spoke. She looked back down at the rabbit, looking into its terrified eyes as it breathed shallowly and audibly. Its blood seeped onto the snow like a lost innocence. Milly wanted to cry, she wanted to scream and she wanted to wake up from this perpetual bad dream she had found herself in. Back to her mother gently waking her in her warm and clean bed, cartoons on the television and her favorite breakfast ready and a day of snuggling under a blanket and watching Christmas films ahead… but no. She did not do any of these things. Andy’s hands were on top of the girls, guiding them to the right spot, but not leading. The girl would have to be the one to do it. Milly shut her eyes, held her breath and pushed the knife down, wincing as the rabbit’s strained breathing ceased and the woods were silent once again.

Milly stood up, bloody knife in hand and stared at the carcass. One minute it had been alive and content, now all it was was a husk without a soul. She turned around to look at Andy, two trails of tears flowing freely down her face. She said nothing. It had started to snow again, but Milly barely acknowledged it. She stared down at the ground with a vacant look, as if she was thinking deeply.


“I know it isn’t easy,” Andy broke the silence softly. She still knelt beside the rabbit, the dampness of the cold ground seeping into her jeans. Andy brushed a strand of her red hair from her face and then reached out and gently took the child’s hand.

“This was a mercy, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Death doesn’t always have to be sad. Sometimes it’s just necessary.”

Milly’s brows creased at Andy’s words but she did not respond further than gently stroking the rabbit with her fingers, her eyes still downcast. She just gave the older girl a soft nod, her lip twitching as if she wanted to say something but could not find the will to verbalise her thoughts.

“This won’t be the last time you have to do this,” Andy continued to prod. She knew the girl didn’t want to talk, but it was a lesson that she had to ensure it stuck. “It’s not always going to be a rabbit, you know that right?”

The youngster nodded solemnly. She hasn’t told Andy about the monster she had to kill in order to protect Adryen, so it was not as unfamiliar feeling as the redhead had assumed. But that was a villain trying to kill them, this was an innocent life. Milly was not sure if she liked using the bow so much anymore.

“A weapon is just a tool Milly,” Andy insisted, as if picking up on her feelings. “You get to decide how to use it. Sometimes we have to use it for food, like we did today. Sometimes we have to use it to protect others or ourselves. As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, I can’t guarantee that there will always be someone bigger than you to protect you.”

Milly hunched her skinny shoulders and averted her gaze from the huntress. Not out of fear or anger, but so she would not completely break down from the assaulting thoughts now swirling like turbulence in her mind. She knew that already. She just… never wanted to think about it. Instead, she stooped down and picked up the rabbit by its hind feet, like she had seen people do in films, making her feelings quite clear.

“Things…” Andy sighed, looking for the words that would adequately explain her thoughts to the girl. It wasn’t clear to Andy what Milly understood. She said she was thirteen, but mentally she just seemed so much younger. Andy often had to stop herself from talking to her like she was a small child.

“Things aren’t the way they were. And they aren’t going back either. This is just how things are now. I know you don’t like it, but its in your best interest if you get used to doing things like this. I don’t think anyone has really sat you down and explained this to you before, but the world has changed. People have changed. You will have to learn to fight to keep what is yours safe.”

Milly’s eyebrows creased again and her lips pursed. People change. It was as if something had clicked in her head. She looked away fully from Andy, taking in a deep breath in order to try and steady her thoughts. She tried to say something, but all that came out was a noise almost akin to a snarl. She turned back to Andy, her gaze now harder than it had ever been. There had been a question burning at the back of her head for a long time but she still felt like she could not verbalize it. Instead, she looked back to the rabbit with a tilted head and a gaze hard enough to make one think the rabbit would burst into flames from the intensity of her glare.

Andy watched the girl with a cock of a quizzical brow. She wasn’t sure if she was getting through to her, but her words seemed to have some effect on the child. Maybe she had come on a little too strong. With a sigh, Andy rose from the ground, dusting the damp earth from her knees and wiping her palms on her thighs.


“Well come on,” She commanded with a gentle nod back toward the lodge. “That’s enough for one day.”

“Hmmm…” was all the redhead got as a response before the pair began their trek back to the Lodge. It was minutes before Milly stopped in her tracks, the dead rabbit over her shoulder and bow tight in her fist, eyes still on the ground. After another moment of thought, the youngster released another snarly sigh, as if the very basic emotion of anger was one she was struggling to understand.

“…Was it hard?” She finally asked, still with her eyes down, “The first time you killed something?”

“Yes,” Andy confirmed. “I’d be surprised to find someone who would say otherwise.” She remembered being even younger than Milly, looking down the sight of her bow for the first time and the eyes of her prey looking back. If it hadn’t been for her uncle pushing her forward, Andy wasn’t sure she would have loosed the arrow. Owen on the other hand had refused.

“Although, it's a lot harder for some than others.”

“Those men in the yellow suits,” Milly shook her head a little, “It seems… easy for them.” She could still remember being bound, blinded, and held hostage by them. But she and Beth had never done anything to them, it did not make sense. “Why did they want to hurt us? We didn’t do anything, we’re not bad people-“ again that head shake, “I-I always thought, bad things only happened to bad people, that’s what mum said. But nobody here is bad. Colt says she is but I know she’s not. But if that’s the case then…” Milly stopped and her brows creased anxiously. She really did not like the thoughts she was having. She wanted them to stop.

“I don’t think people are good or bad really,” Andy said, kneeling once more to be on the girl’s level. “People are more like shades of grey, rather than black or white.” Her thoughts shifted to her father, could she say that about him? Were there redeemable qualities in him that made him less than vile? “Most anyway,” she amended. “Everyone is just trying to do their best to make sure they can survive. Those men thought they were doing the right thing. To the soldiers, we probably do look like bad guys. That's what makes humans so dangerous, we all think we are the good guys.” Andy wasn’t sure if her explanations were coming through the way she wanted. She sighed.

“It’s a matter of perspective and survival. All we have to focus on is being the ones that survive, that is our priority. First ourselves, and then anyone else here at the lodge if we can do it without endangering our own lives. Does that make sense?”

Milly took a moment to answer as she took in everything the huntress had just told her. With a little sigh, she kicked the snow in front of her, keeping her arms close to her sides. “Don’t see how…” She stopped herself, but she still could not understand why they would target a group of vulnerable people. “They killed Ray.” She added, “For… no reason, that I can see.” She let out a long sigh, her brows furrowed in confusion and upset. “I don’t know. I just want to go home now.” There was a bluntness in her voice. That lodge was not home. Home was the bungalow in the suburbs that Aubrey and Colt broke into. But at this point, Milly was just exhausted. She couldn’t cry about it anymore. If what Andy said was correct, they were all going to die anyway either by the yellow men or the monsters. What was the point? What was the point of anything anymore?

Andy sighed, realizing where the conversation was headed. Had anyone sat this poor girl down and explained the reality of their situation? In a rare show of kindness, Andrea reached down and tucked a strand of Milly’s hair behind her ear, looking into her blue eyes. She let one of her calloused hands rest on her thin shoulder and kept firm eye contact.


“I understand,” she empathized. Andy would also give anything to go back to dorm life and having Sunday night dinners with her mother and Owen every week. “But we all have a new home now. It's pretty beat up,” Andy let out a sad laugh, thinking about the state of the lodge. “But it’s safer than most right now at least. Any home any of us had before we came here is gone now. There is no going back, Milly.”

Milly let out a hum of acknowledgement, unable to look Andy in the eye initially and forcing herself to look. Amazingly, she did not flinch at the woman touching her hair or shoulders. She hated this, but what could she do? Milly was not stupid- she knew that if she had tried to go home, she would either die of starvation without someone to care for her or die gruesomely. “...I know.” She answered finally with a growled bluntness, “I know. And I know my mom is dead. Or captured. Or eaten.” She let out a long huff through her nose and looked away from Andy, her eyes steely. She hated to say this. But it had been something she had been pushing back for weeks now.

“Likely,” Andy confirmed solemnly, “Mine too.” She meant it to be comforting, although Andy wasn’t good at this sort of thing. Ultimately she just wanted the girl to know she wasn’t alone. “I know it’s not the same, but we have each other at least. That's why we have to work as hard as we can to keep the lodge safe. I don’t want to lose anyone else, that includes you.”

Milly shook her head and waved a hand, unsure of how to respond. She wanted to thank Andy for those words but with the amount of turbulence within her, she could not keep a single thought in her head. She looked back to the clearing where they had killed the rabbit then back to her companion. “I… I don’t want to lose anyone either. And I don’t want anyone to get hurt… cause of me.” She blinked furiously, despite her best efforts, she could feel the pressure building at either sides of her eyes.

“Me either,” the redhead confirmed. “So that’s why we have to keep working at this. I know it’s uncomfortable, but the better you are at using these kinds of tools, the better prepared you will be when the time comes for you to have to use them to protect yourself, or someone else here. Do you understand?” There was a pain in Andy’s chest as she spoke. Something didn’t sit right with her about forcing this on someone who seemed so young and innocent. It felt like Andy was being the one to force her into maturity. That felt wrong, but logically the redhead knew it was necessary too.

“You’ve done enough for today though. We can go home if you want.” Andy rose and offered her hand to the girl.

Milly’s watery blue eyes finally looked into Andy’s pine green pair. Though this had only been one of the first times the pair had properly spoken, she felt as though she had known Andy for a long time. She let out a final sigh before accepting her hand, getting up.
“Yes. I do.” she answered reluctantly. It was hard to admit, and she felt her stomach twist from the thought of more pain to come. But what could be done? Nothing, as far as she could see. All they could do now was just try to see the next morning.

Collab: Rumble Fish Rumble Fish (Milly)


 

Maj

Your Majjiesty


1568726500438.png

b7edbfb3be335ace0b99582c7cd8e5b0 (2).pngThe days had all begun to blur together. Andy wasn’t sure anymore how many days had passed since Liam had showed up on her doorstep. Sleep had come sporadically and in ever-changing intervals to the point that the redhead wasn’t quite sure if she was sleeping too much or too little. From the pitied and worried looks she received as she floated around the lodge, she assumed it was the latter. Her body ached, both from the healing, oozing wound on her shoulder and from a variety of anxiety attacks that had crept up on her over the passing days.

They never hit her when it made sense. When stress was running high and five different people were all coming to her with problems or seeking answers, her mind was clear and she was collected. When it mattered, her head was always where it needed to be. Andy never faltered when the stakes were high, her panic never came when she was ready. It ambushed her, coming for her when she was lulled into the comfort of solitude and silence.

It came for her in the depths of the night, when she stared at her ceiling, begging for sleep that never came and dreading the dreams that would come when it finally did. Anxiety ravaged her when she sat in her perch, enjoying the smell of the winter air and watching the snowfall silently to the ground. She found herself gasping for breath behind closed bathroom doors, shower on full blast so no one could hear her over the running water. Her hands shook in the morning when the lodge was silent and she made her first cup of coffee but were suddenly steel again when the first body emerged to sleepily greet her. It was exhausting, but she didn’t know what else to do other than to keep busy, and to keep things moving forward.

Andy hadn’t even spoken to Luca. At first, it was semi-intentional. She wasn’t sure how to face him now that he likely knew the truth of what had happened to her. He couldn’t have been totally clueless. There had been many nights he had held her when she woke to cry for help, unable to escape the memories that filled her senses. She had watched him eyeing her when something made her tense up, or her mood shifted suddenly. Luca was many things. Arrogant, violent, brash, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

He had to have heard the ruckus when Liam had showed. Between Owen’s booming voice in the aftermath and the musical shattering of all his car windows, it would be impossible to ignore even while in an altered state. Andy wasn’t sure how to look at him now. She hadn’t realized how much she had been dreading him finding out until she realized that there was no way he didn’t know. Would he view her differently? Could she stand it if his hard eyes suddenly had pity for her? No one's opinion of her had ever mattered, and despite how many times she tried to tell herself it still didn’t, she hadn’t stepped foot back into her bedroom since it happened.

Andy had found herself outside of it a few times, lingering like a doe hesitant to go to a salt lick. It was tantalizing, tempting even, but the potential threat kept her frozen in place, hand outstretched to the knob without ever actually turning it. She kept tabs on him from afar. Hector had done a decent job of keeping her up to date on his recovery. It sounded like he was starting to pull through the other side of whatever withdrawals were wrecking his system. There was guilt too of course. She should be helping to take care of him, supporting him, checking on him at the very least, however, fear kept seeming to prevail.

She couldn’t avoid him forever it would seem. Fate, or rather, a very large Venezuelan doctor had seen to that. Back outside the door, the huntress stood with a handful of assorted pills she didn't recognize. Luca needed them and according to Hector, there was no one else available to give them to him. Andy wasn't sure she bought that. In fact, she was pretty sure this was a ruse Hector had come up with to force her to quit avoiding her own bed and maybe force her to get better sleep than she had been getting on the futon in the hallway. However, her worry and care for the Italian forced her to only roll her eyes and oblige. Her hand shook as she reached for the doorknob, paused before it reached it, and finally rested on the splotchy green, oxidized brass knob.

The door opened slowly, the familiar creak of the frame washing over her. Where the light used to filter in through the window there were now only small streaks where the plywood didn't quite fill in all gaps of the damage caused by David. It was still enough for Andy to make out Luca's sleeping form on the bed. He was wrapped almost entirely in her large quilt. She didn’t blame him. The fireplace only did so much to keep the lodge warm, and now with all the holes in the walls, and shattered glass, it didn’t insulate as well as it used to. His mop of dark hair was sticky and unwashed, peeking from beneath the plaid blanket. She watched as his form rose and fell in a rhythm so steady, it could only mean he was sleeping deeply.

The redhead sighed audibly in relief. She wasn’t sure if she had it in her to deal with the intense banter that came with almost any interaction with the ex-mobster. Exhaustion had done much to quell the heat of her words. Carefully, she walked across the floor. She stepped with only the poise of someone who knew exactly where every creaky floorboard lay and the grace of someone who had spent most of her life learning to walk soundlessly. Andy eased her weight on the corner of the bed furthest from him. He didn’t rouse, in fact, his breathing didn’t even change. Whatever sleep he was in must have been deep, because Luca had always been twitchy. She assumed from spending most of his life wondering who was going to come to kill him in the night.

Andy placed the medication next to the half-full glass of water on his nightstand. Convinced that he was not going to wake, a slender but shaking hand reached out to push the hair away from his face. It unstuck from his brow to expose a pale complexion and long lashes. Hector said he was doing better, but he looked poor. The edge of his cheekbones was more prominent, likely due to weight loss, and without the ice of his eyes to keep you from looking at him too long, it was easy to see how tired he was, even while sleeping.

Andy realized she sort of missed looking at his eyes. The icy blue that seemed to force everyone’s gaze to avert had somewhere along the line become one of her favorite things to look at. She loved seeing his annoyance when she managed to give him enough grief or the hint of joy she sometimes saw when he found himself looking at her for too long. It was almost a curse to be an artist sometimes. Andy was accustomed to picking up intricate details of a person, both in personality and physicality. However, it made it all the more glaring when things were out of place, and Luca wasn’t himself yet. Not by a long shot.

From the day they were reunited, there had always been heat between them. Hatred or chemistry, it hadn’t been clear. However, he was the first person who had ever taken her verbal poison in stride, kept up with her wit even, and forced her to be on her toes to converse with him. After years of being told how much she had changed and it being insinuated that people missed how she used to be, it had been comforting to find someone who didn’t seem bothered with how she was now. The heat had grown to the point that the flames were impossible not to notice. Her brother and others knew how Andy and Luca felt about each other without it having to be spoken. Without her even realizing it, the flames had turned to smoldering coals. The heat from which didn’t burn but instead warmed her home and kept her safe. He had saved her more times than she could count and in ways that maybe he didn’t even know. Andy had known heat before, but she could pass through flames quickly without being burned, like running your fingers through a candle. However, no matter how much she tried to deny and run from it, she knew that if she tried to pass her hands through the coals, it would sear her flesh from the bone.

Andy sniffed, not even realizing the tears that were welling up in the corners of her eyes. It was coming again. The heat in her chest, the constriction of her throat, the blur to her vision. Of course, it would happen now. She had been so scared to come in here, but now sitting on the bed with him beside her she knew it was where she felt the safest and her body decided to take this opportunity to panic was only further proof of that.

The huntress leaned down and let her lips gently pass over Luca’s forehead and rose, the mattress shifting as she did so. Her limbs shook when she put wright on them, but Andy knew that she couldn’t stay. There was no way she could let the first time she spoke to Luca in weeks be because he woke up to her hyperventilating on the floor. She walked across the room with less grace this time, speed taking priority over care and opened the door. Andy stole one last glance over her shoulder at Luca while he slept and smiled sadly before closing the door behind her.

Mentions: shadowz1995 shadowz1995 (Hector)

 

Hyped_Taco

Pierce the heavens

1639655577887.png
Part 1
November 23rd, 2018
11:30 Am

Ever since the chaos that David had brought to the lodge approximately 24 hours ago, the atmosphere around the lodge had finally calmed down. Or well, that’s what Michael would like to say, since in reality after the giant fucking zombie had been brought down, by none other than himself if he may add, shit had somehow hit the fan even harder.

To even begin to describe what had been going down since last night would be quite difficult and overly long. And hell, he didn’t even have all of the information as to what had happened since he had just happened to overhear some people talking about it. Truly confusing times.

But that was not Michael’s primary concern for the moment. He could ask someone later for a full tldr of yesterday’s events. No, right now he was searching for something, quite literally anything that could combat one of man’s most dreaded feelings.

Boredom.

Both even after nearly half an hour of searching inside his new RV, nothing of interest came up. While he could just try and search his now upside down previous RV, he already knew that it would just also be a waste of his time. Anything of importance had already been moved since yesterday to his new residence, after all, he wasn’t just gonna leave all his shit on an abandoned vehicle.

The neckbeard continuously attempted to think of what to do. He didn’t feel in the mood to write nor draw. Breakfast had already been done so cooking was out of the question as well.

Feeling himself trapped in a dead end street of inescapable boredom, Michael resigned himself to sit down on the Rv’s couch.

Back in the good old days, or as he liked to call it, two months ago, he would have just whipped out his gaming laptop or some manga to kill some time. An infallible method that had worked for him for the last 10 or so years.

Too fucking bad he had left both his entire manga collection and gaming pc back in his house after he’d locked himself out of it by accident. Really, looking back, which kind of dumbass motivation was it to leave his relatively safe house in the middle of a zombie outbreak due to starting to run out of doritos. What was he? some kind of 15-16 year old bad writer making their first post?. What in the actual fuck was he thinking.

Yet all he could do was grieve, for he could only do that…
....
….
Unless… unless he, along with literally anyone else went back to his home to retrieve his rightful belongings.

Leaving his Rv immediately the neckbeard directed himself right towards the lodge. Making his plan on the go, he knew just the person he needed, the one and only person that might just be crazy enough to accept his proposal to go back into Aurora. The right man for the job.

Quickly looking around the lodge, searching the house to find this individual, Michael managed to find him.

Deciding to slowly approach him, as to not appear too desperate for the man, the neckbeard finally reached his location.


“So... Wanna go to Aurora?”

Blinking away the sleep in his eyes, the druggie squinted at Michael.

“...Who the fuck are you?” Nile asked, confused.

“Well, uhh..”

huh. Michael was pretty sure they had met before. Although, given he was currently talking to a literal junkie, he shouldn’t exactly be surprised.

The neckbeard coughed twice before deciding to introduce himself.


“w-Well, I’m- uhh, well, I’m Michael Schmidt. You?”

“Amazon Prime, what do you want?” The sleep deprived man said, expression unchanging.

“Well, you know. Go to Aurora, grab some stuff, get the fuck out as fast as possible back to here, yadda yadda the usual shit ya know?” Michael said, this time without stuttering.

“No. No, I don’t know. Why would I help?” Nile asked, genuinely confused.

“... To help an acquaintance in need?”

“...”

“I got some weed at my place. All yours if you come with me.” Michael said, bringing out his one and only trump card.

“That’s it? I’m a bit addicted, so I’ll bend over backwards to get a fix?” Nile asked, looking genuinely offended.

With a sigh, Nile continued.
“I mean, it works, but fuck you”.

“Fair.” Michael said before Patting Nile on the shoulder. The man made a strange scowling sound at the contact.

“Welp, I’ll be waiting in the RV. Ready whenever you are.” The neckbeard said to the man while heading to the door of the lodge.

Quickly heading in the opposite direction of the man, Nile rubbed at the shoulder of his jacket where he’d been touched. Turning around, Nile trudged towards the lodge.

Owen knew that he resembled a brick wall at times. Rust colored, massive and solid as he was, however that didn’t change the bewilderment that Nile managed to stumble right into his chest. The baseball star had vaguely overheard the conversation between the two of them, evident by the concern now written plainly across his knitted eyebrows.


“Are you guys going on a run?” He asked calmly. “As in...like alone?”

Jumping back in surprise, the unobservant man tilted his gaze upwards to the man. Giving the man a side eye, Nile tried to slip past the behemoth. The ‘talk’ from earlier was still prevalent in his mind, so he quickly resorted to his go-to tactic of ignoring it. “Oh, I’d love to go alone. Should’ve just gotten the address and left without him,” Nile muttered, head down.

"No I meant like…" Owen shook his head, realizing what he was about to say could only come across as condescending. The idea of Nile and Michael out in the Aurora wilds by themselves gave the red head cold chills. The two were about the equivalent of someone's last two brain cells, and if they didn't get each other killed would likely end up causing more trouble for the lodge in some fashion.

"It doesn't matter," he amended. "I'll go with you guys for back up."

“You don’t have to. Like, really, you DON’T have to,” Nile urged, slinking by the man and towards the lodge.

"I sorta do," Owen said with a shrug. "I'm not sure how far you two would make it without me." With that the twin turned to go gather his supplies and let Andy know where he was going.
 

FireMaiden

Grade A Bitch
Supporter
Roleplay Availability
Roleplay Type(s)
My Interest Check

coollogo_com-3361339.png
This is part 3 of a Collab between Rumble Fish Rumble Fish and FireMaiden FireMaiden
Leliana stand in place for a few moments, before she quickly moved to grab and put the fake limb in the veteran's hand before she turned and quickly jogged to the edge of the house. The nurse was terrified, wondering if those few seconds had ruined her chance to get to the car...but thankfully it seemed she would be okay. Turning her head, she started to scan the surrounding area for any of their backup or maybe some of the infected. Her heart was just...pounding, she could feel it in her head, it was almost suffocating. Leliana could feel that certain kind of panic setting in, the kind that if you let it take hold, you'd freeze. "Come on, come on," Leliana whispered to herself, finally focusing on the car. It was one, straight shot. Easy.

Leliana would push up off her knees, peeking around the front of the house to check the front porch before locking her eyes on the car again. She took one, deep breath to steady herself before the nurse would take off. Sprinting toward the car without looking behind her, the you g woman would almost slide as she finally reached it. The nurse scrambled to take cover, quickly looking for Colt again. Would the vet be able to to get to the car before the hazzies came back outside? One of her hands danced over her pistol, eyes darting to the house and then back to Colt. She just needed to be quick. They could be in the car and gone before the hazzies even knew they were there.

Colt had got up and reattached her leg in seconds. She was right behind the nurse, gun in grip. Her mind was running a thousand miles a minute. But for once, inexplicably everything made sense. They were in enemy territory and had to retreat. It was scarily familiar. This reflected in the vet’s expression and speech.

“Don’t look back,” she ushered the nurse in a firm, unquestionable tone, “keep running, don’t stop till you get to the car!” No doubt the hazmats would hear their running feet and soon come outside. They had to go now! As the car came close, Colt raised her hand with the key in it and clicked twice. The white car’s lights flashed alertly.

“Get in!” Colt barked in an undertone. She had to get Leliana to safety, she just had to. The nurse meant too much for the lodge to lose. As she was inches behind her, Colt would be in the car less than a second after Leliana.

Leliana felt like her heart was going to explode right out of her chest, her hands were shaking so badly she knew that if the hazzies noticed them, she'd panic. They needed to avoid that. Colt may think that Leli was important to the lodge, but the nurse knew that Colt was more important. The veteran made sure to keep them all alive, even if Colt didn't realize it, she was important. Leliana, if push came to shove, would do her best to help Colt. Not matter what. As soon as she reached the car, the nurse made sure to stay as close to it as she could, the dust and dirt rubbing off on her hands and clothes, her eyes would move to find Colt. The veteran was right behind her, Leliana seeing the woman raise her arm. The moment she heard the car unlock, Leliana turned and quickly opened the door, slipping her bag off to toss into the car. Just in the off chance they got noticed.

The nurse would once again look at Colt, her eyes lingering on the older woman for a few moments before Leliana would carefully climb up into the car. Once she was safely in the passenger seat, the nurse would focus on the house, watching for the hazzies or any other sign of danger.

Colt kept her body low as she went around the front of the car to its driver side door. With one eye on the nurse and the other on the door, she did nothing until Leliana was safely in the car. She slipped into the driver’s seat and carefully shut the door. She took out her flask from her pocket but before she could take a swig of it, she paused. Despite her rushing nerves and the overwhelming impulse to stamp them down, this would only make things worse. What if she had to flee and drive off road? With a short growl, she put the flask in the cup holder between them.

“Listen,” Colt hissed, “this thing is gonna roar when I switch her on so… belt up.” She gave Leliana another couple of seconds before turning the key. As she feared, the engine bellowed and spluttered to life, no doubt alerting the hazmats inside. Eyes wide and lips pursed shut, Colt slammed her fake foot on the gas, released the handbreak and the car lurched forward. She could not afford to look back as the car peeled down the street, all she could do was pray that the hazamats hadn’t seen where they went. It was a couple of hours later before the veteran felt that they had effectively evaded the threat enough to stop the car. They stopped at the gas station she and Nessa had ventured to a few weeks ago.

Leliana couldn't buckle up faster, the nurse having a white knuckled grip on the upper part of the seat belt. Her heart was still racing, the panicked light not having left her eyes in the relative safety of the car. She was already not in the right state of mind that day, and the stress of dealing with the hazzies...it was causing her to spiral. Leliana would have preferred to deal with the infected walking around over the humans. As soon as the car came to life, Leliana's eyes darted to the house, the nurse pulling her legs up slightly as if that would make her a smaller target. But she didn't see the hazzies, even as they sped away and she turned to see if they would end up following her. They rounded a corner, cutting off her view of the house. Leliana would finally relax back into the seat again...but her grip on the seatbelt wouldn't lessen. Leliana would only seem to truly relax after about 15 minutes of Colt driving them around, bringing one of her legs up to hug, her gazed focused out the window.

Leliana would usually feel her panic leaving shortly after they were away from danger. But for some reason today, it wouldn't leave her. Her thoughts kept returning to the hazzies, to how they had just been...chances upon! Aurora wasn't safe with the infected walking around, that was obvious. But the living were turning out to be the big problem. In any case, as her mind darted, the panic still coursing through her veins, Leliana's stomach would churn. As Colt drove them around, that nausea would only grow worse, her stomach cramping up...Leliana was more than glad when they finally came to stop. Once Colt had parked, Leliana unbuckled and threw open the door to lean out, trying to keep quiet as she lost what little food she had in her system. It hurt. Once her stomach was empty, the young woman could only dry heave, one hand resting on the car door, the other pressed against her stomach. This was part of the reason Leliana stuck to ponytails. After a few minutes, she seemed to calm down some, turning to open the glovebox. And to her luck, who ever use to drive this car kept napkins. Which Leliana would use to wipe her mouth, closing the car door gently so she didn't make too much noise.

"I'm sorry," Leliana spoke, glancing to Colt. Her voice sounded watery, like the nurse was on the verge of tears. "I tried to ignore it."

Colt hadn’t spoken at any point during the mad drive, keeping both hands on the wheel and head darting back and forth from the windshield to the mirrors, craning her neck around to compensate for her semi-blind eye. Despite her stoic disposition, internally the veteran was battling to keep her nerves together. Without their usual suppressor, they were resurfacing much faster than she would like.

The gas station she and Nessa had stumbled upon was the best option. It was hidden by trees but open enough to see oncoming threats. But that was not what she was worried about, she had been watching Leliana the entire time and was deeply concerned. As the nurse emptied her system, Colt stayed quiet, only leaning over and putting a hand on her back as an indication that she was still there. When the nurse spoke, her heart tightened.

“This is my f-“ but she stopped herself. No. Not now. She could not spiral too. She opened her car door, not taking her eyes off of Leliana. Something deeper was going on here, beyond just fear of being trapped. “It’s okay. Get some air, I’ll keep watch.”

Leliana didn't like the idea of getting out of the car just yet. She hesitated, obviously, but after a few moments she would slowly open the door and slip out. One hand resting on her pistol for a few moments, the other gripping her bat. "Do...do you think they saw where we went?" Leliana asked, looking around trying to spot anyone suspicious. The trees didn't make her feel any better, unable to see through them...but in the very least they wouldn't be spotted too easily either. "We should just...just hurry up and get what we need right? Then we can go home an-and forgot about today," Leliana spoke. It was clear by the sound of her voice she still wasn't...right. She was clearly scared, which was odd considering how calm she usually was in town. Even getting cornered by a horde Leliana had only allowed herself to panic for a few minutes. And the fresh air she was getting this time around wasn't helping much. "I really don't want to get caught out here, Liam could..." Leliana stopped herself, biting her lip. "More people could find us."

“No.” Colt spoke bluntly, “They dunno where we went. I’ve driven that kind of truck they got before, we’d hear it long before we see it. Trees are too dense anyway for it to get here. Purposely went around in circles to throw them off.” She looked at Leliana. Something was clearly bothering her severely, something far worse than what they had already dealt with. “You’re the boss.” She added, “We’ll be fast. Once we’re back I’ll hide the car around the rear.” She didn’t want to say it, but if they ever were to be overwhelmed, they would need a back up vehicle.

At the mention of Liam, Colt looked up, stress lines etched across her forehead. Instantly her expression changed to one of deep hatred. Owen told her everything about that… thing. She took a long swig from her flash before taking out her sawed-off shotgun and took another look around.

“…If I ever see that bastard again, ya’ll would throw me to the hazzies for what I’d do to him.” She growled darkly before turning to Leliana. Instant her expression softened and she lowered her weapon. She sighed deeply and approached her, “I’m sorry about today. I promise, I didn’t know they were around. Wouldn’t have asked you to come if I did. Let’s… let’s just grab the first things we see and high tail it out of here. We’ll take the long way. Just in case.” She put a hand on the nurse’s shaking shoulder, “I know they could. But,” she stopped. What was there else to say? Well, something that had been bothering Colt since they first fled.

She stroked her shoulder, now looking into the nurse’s eyes, her expression growing somber and her eyes damp with worry. “…This is about more than just the hazmats. Isn’t it, darlin’.”

Colt's response about the hazzies was actually rather reassuring. Just knowing that they in the very least, wouldn't be caught off. "Oh that's... that's good. That's good," Leliana spoke, nodding a bit. However, Leliana wasn't sure if Colt wanted to go ahead and search the gas station or wait a little longer, her comment about the car confusing Leliana's frazzled mind. But the nurse didn't comment on it, just staying in place. She didn't even realize Colt had picked up on her mentioning Liam until she spoke. The nurse tensed up a little, her gaze focused on the ground, until Colt apologized. "What? N-no you don't need to apologize, you can never tell how these things will go. And it's...it's not even...well, of I felt better we probably would have taken them," Leliana spoke, trying to lighten the mood a little. She hated it when things got tense because of her issues.

Colt continued, causing the nurse to fall silent again...until the veteran asked her something else. Leliana froze up for a few moments, before the nurse gave her a small nod. "Y-yes." She had been a mess all day, and hadn't really improved much. "How...how much did Owen tell you about Liam?" Leliana asked, her voice trailing off a bit.
 

TheMightyRedLemon

Stars are only visible in darkness
"Jealous? Why? Nothing of my life is worth being jealous over!" Vanessa said, getting a bit worked up. "My life has been mistrust and torture. This is the best I have had it in my entire life and Mortverts walk and eat people!" She paused and took a slow, deep breath to calm herself. "What of me does she have to be jealous?"


Owen resisted the urge to laugh. It was pretty ridiculous, especially to someone who didn’t know his sister well. But to anyone who did understand her, it was fairly obvious that petty jealousies were the reason Andy had been cold to Vanessa since day one.


“It’s Luca,” Owen explained, amusement infecting his tone. “Andy doesn’t like many people. She loves even less, and romantically?” Owen groaned as if to show how unlikely that was. “I honestly didn’t think she was capable of it until recently. I’m not sure why a thug like Luca was who caught her eye after all these years but,” he shrugged, showing he had let his feelings on that go.


“She doesn’t even realize how she feels herself I think, but you following him around the grounds like a lost puppy probably didn’t sit well with her.”


Vanessa blinked, opening her mouth to respond but finding no words. She closed her mouth and tilted her head to the opposite side in thought for a moment. "So if I do not follow him around this will make her dislike me less?"


“I’m not sure it's really necessary anymore,” Owen said earnestly. “If she really disliked you that much she probably would have just killed you or left you for dead right?”


"I… yeah… your right…" She said, rubbing her neck uncomfortably. The thought of being stabbed in the neck still sent a chill through her even though it had just been a needle. "She really could have killed me… easily."


“It sounds to me like the feeling is fairly mutual.” Owen looked over to the young woman at his side and gave her a sad smile. The way Andy had told the story, it took nothing less than an act of god to keep his sister from getting sliced up by Vanessa.


“How are you feeling by the way?” The brute asked, tugging aimlessly at the frozen grass. “Is Hector’s treatment working?” It had been Owen that had risked life and limb in the pharmacy getting the medication for the acrobat after all.


The young woman silently tugged at the back of her glove for a moment, staring at the ground absently before answering. "It.. has helped a lot. Every once in a while I can hear the voices faintly… or maybe…" she pulled her knees up close to her chest, a vacant look still in her eyes, as though she was lost in thought. "Maybe I have become so use to them that I just imagine what they would say…?"


Owen nodded thoughtfully. It wasn’t as if he really knew what she was going through, but he could relate to the thought to some degree. Hadn't everyone done that at some point in their lives? How many times had Owen reached for his cell phone because he swore up and down that he had felt it vibrate? Any time he drove his POS camaro around town he had thought he heard weird noises coming from the engine even when they didn’t, just because he was expecting it to do so.


“I think the important part is that it's not so overwhelming that you feel compelled to listen to them any more,” Owen offered. “But I’m far from an expert on these things.” It did intrigue him. He had been around his fair share of mentally unsound people. Drugs did a lot to weaken people’s mental stability, but he had never had the chance to sit down with a crackhead and ask him how he felt about it.


“Are they people you know, or just random voices?” Owen asked. He then faltered, worried that maybe Vanessa wouldn’t want to talk about it. They barely knew each other after all. “But only if you are comfortable talking about it,” he stammered. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”


Vanessa stared at him for a moment, scanning his facial features as if looking for some hint of disingenuous thought, but found only curiosity and concern. "You are strangely kind.. for a man able to destroy an avtomobil'.." She remarked before her dual colored eyes gazed back down at the frosty ground. "They are usually voices I cannot recognize… but sometimes one comes through that I know.." She admitted. "Sometimes I hear Yuri… he was the.. man that raised me… and the Ringmaster…" the young girl said with a shiver that had nothing to do with the outside air.


Owen scratched the back of his head sheepishly. Destroying his car was not among his highest moments. However, the twin didn't interrupt Vanessa to say so, instead he listened with interest. That seemed to line up with other people he had encountered that had hallucinations, although often those were drug induced. Sometimes they spoke to people that weren't there, sometimes they confused Owen for any variety of people from their past.


"Was it him who told you to hurt Andy?" The way she acted made him believe that this Yuri person was less than kind to her. That filled Owen with an anger he didn't quite understand. Maybe it made him remember what his own father had done to Andy, or maybe it was just because the idea of any man taking advantage of a female made him sick.


"I.. think.. maybe." She shook her head. "There were too many voices… screaming… yelling… bickering.. it made it hard to think…" The young woman took in a shaky breath before continuing on, "Eventually one or two voices yelled out over the others."


"Well I'm glad you have some relief." Owen said with a soft smile. "That sounds like it could be pretty exhausting." He wasn't sure he could handle more than his own voice bouncing around in his skull. The man looked over at the woman out of the side of his emerald eye. Something akin to a playful smirk donned is face.


"What about now that the voices have subsided?" The ginger asked. "Any urges to fill us full of sharp objects?" It was a genuine question, and regardless of how it came across, he meant it more as a mental health check than actual concern.


Vanessa stared at him for a moment, confused by his tone. Was he trying to joke or be serious? She couldn't tell. After a moment of deliberation, she shook her head. "No… I have no such urges." The young woman confirmed. "I do not want to cause any more trouble… this is the first time in my life I have been so…. Free.. and I've almost gotten that taken away more than once now.."


Owen wasn’t sure what to make of her statement. Was her ringmaster a slave driver? She had an accent that he couldn’t quite place, but was sure that most others could. Owen hadn’t left Aurora in all of his twenty-two years of life, so he wasn’t sure exactly where the acrobat hailed from. Did that mean she was actually imprisoned or enslaved, or was it just that the abuse of the people in her life had been so extreme that she had felt trapped? Owen wasn’t sure, but regardless it was a life he couldn’t relate to or understand. It sounded awful.


“Yeah, you are free here. We have a few people who like to parade around like they own the place,” he was mostly talking about Luca, but even he had calmed down now that he was feeling under the weather. “My sister is among them, but you can do pretty much anything you like here as long as it doesn’t hurt or endanger those who live here.” He leaned back on his elbows, letting his legs stretch out in front of him, showing off his long form.


“That's what I sort of love about this place despite all the bullshit we’ve gone through. Most of us would never have met or even interacted at all had the dead not come back to life. We have a lot of conflicting personalities and I don’t think we would have come to care for each other if we hadn’t been forced into the same house for months. However,” he turned and flashed Vanessa a warm smile.


“I trust everyone here with my life. We band together and protect and look out for each other. I think that's pretty beautiful actually.”


The young woman was stunned, looking at Owen in disbelief. Her eyes darted back and forth for a moment before she began to laugh. "Are you always this optimistic? It is nothing at all like your sister."


“Me and Andy are more alike than you’d think,” the brute admitted sheepishly. Learning what he had about her past had made that more true than ever. Both of them would protect those they cared about, no matter what it took from them. Vanessa looked back to the ground and sighed softly.


"Thank you.."


“Thank me?” Owen mused. “Whatever the hell for?”


The woman hesitated for yet another moment. What was she thanking him for, exactly? For not attacking her like she originally thought he might? It seemed a ridiculous notion now. "I.. don't know.." She admitted. "For the talk… I suppose.."


Owen snorted in a half laugh, half disbelief. He wasn’t sure anyone had ever thanked him for talking before. In fact, he had spent much of his life being told to shut up. The redhead gave a smile that showed off the softness of his features. The roundness of his cheeks suddenly took over the power of his arms, showing something more boyish in charm than brutish. A hue of pink brightened under his freckles as he scratched the back of his head.


“Yeah,” Owen agreed. “No problem.”

Co written with: Maj Maj
 

Rumble Fish

The Paradise Hunter
1639948816132.png

Hmm…” Colt looked around before turning her semi-burnt face back to Leliana, “best sit inside for a moment. Let us get our bearings before heading back.” She guided the nurse into the station and invited her to sit on the moth eaten sofa that sat at the front, probably while people waited to be seen. Only then did she answer Leliana’s question.

I already didn’t like him. Didn’t really get to tell Owen that I didn’t want him at the lodge because of all the…” the vet growled something and took another drink from the flask, those thoughts still darkened her mind, “anyway, Owen didn’t give me many details. But I do know that he directly hurt them, as in him and Andy. Especially Andy. Badly. Wouldn’t tell me what but basically that if we ever see him again, he’s a fucking dead man. And…” she shook her head, “Ugh just… man’s a fucking… anyway,” she turned her head to the nurse again, “is there… more?” She sat in front of her and leant forward, her expression showing that she had already figured out the answer to that.

Leliana only nodded at Colt's suggestion, looking around again before they started to head into the gas station. She felt nervous about it, but Colt seemed confident in this place . And the nurse had no reason to question the older woman. But as they entered, Leliana couldn't help but walk slowly, listening carefully for anything out of the ordinary. They could be snuck up on at any moment and that could always go either way. In any case, once they were safe, Leliana would sit down, keeping a firm grip on her bat as Colt began to speak. Leliana obviously knew that Liam had found Owen and Nile, so Colt's first comment wasn't a big surprise. "
You're a pretty good judge of character," Leliana chuckled in that pause, not saying anything about Colt taking a drink. The vet earned it.

But her saying that Owen had told Colt about Liam made the nurse nervous. But at the same time...it made things a bit easier. "
There's more," Leliana would finally speak, though she avoided looking at Colt. "First off...Liam is my uncle. Turns out me and the twins are cousins, isn't that crazy? Lived in the same city for years and never knew! My mom was his little sister, and once we lost our house in North Carolina, we moved in with him," That part was easy enough to say, but as she tried to speak again, her face paled. Immediately Leliana covered her mouth with her hand, even knowing there was nothing left to come up. It would take a minute or two before she finally calmed down enough to try speaking again.

"
Do you remember what I told you? About what happened to me at Moe's?" Leliana asked. This time when she fell silent, it was to wait for an answer. And to give her a few moments to process what little information Leliana had already given her.

Colt’s eyes grew wider than plates as Leliana began to speak. Cousins? Already she had so many questions but she chose to stay quiet and let her speak. By the end of it, when she mentioned Moe’s, Colt felt her stomach clench. That had been a conversation had while the veteran was on that bender, and even then she could remember everything. You do not forget something like that, even with the assistance of way too much ethanol.

Yes, I do,” she answered softly. But as the words left her lips, she paused. Her brows went up and she looked the nurse in the eye, “wait… are you saying…that he-?” She did not finish that statement, praying that this was just some kind of dark joke, but even then Colt knew that was impossible.

"
He wasn't who attacked me," Leliana spoke, unable to look at Colt. "I told you the truth, I-I promise but it...it wasn't the whole...the whole story." Leliana would fall silent, obviously struggling. Colt could of course come to her own conclusion, it wasn't that hard to do. She felt nauseous, her face felt hot...god, this was always hard to talk about. Colt would understand that right. "I was four, I think, when it all started. It was just when we were visiting at first, but in 6th grade me and my mom moved in with him. He...he snuck into my room every night," Leliana said, her voice cracking up a bit. The nurse shifted some, putting her bat down on the couch beside her before she pulled her legs up against her chest.

"
It escalated when I was 12...he-he...well, he was finally taken to court after. And he was supposed to be in jail! He got a ten year sentence!" Leliana spoke, her voice cracking, running a hand through her ponytail. "I thought he was still in jail, h-he should be!" Leliana spoke, her voice raising in volume for a few moments before she realized what was happening. Frantically, she looked around, hoping her little outburst hadn't woken anything up. After a few moments of just paying attention, she would relax as best she could.

"
Seeing him at the lodge the other day it...it scared me. He's back, he-he always comes back," Leliana told her, finally looking up at Colt. "I-I'm sorry I didn't tell you, it...it's so hard to talk about, it still...it still hurts..." She was only 19. It hadn't even been three full years since the attack at Moe's. "I had a really...a really bad nightmare last night, about Liam and wh-what happened, and I haven't been able to shake if off yet. It's just...one of those days, ya know?"

Colt sipped from her flask and kept silent as Leliana spoke. Her heart dropped further and further with every word. She chose to say nothing until she was completely finished. At her apology, the veteran shook her head. It was another few seconds before she could articulate any words

That bastard… I’m already going to hell, I know that, but what I’m gonna do to him if I see him again, even the devil’s gonna want me going lower.” She growled softly and pinched her nose before drinking some more. "Please don’t be sorry. I understand. I mean… I’m not gonna act like I know what that’s like, but, I get it. I’m haunted by bad dreams too. It can be really hard.” She sighed gently and shimmied closer to the nurse, “have you told anyone else about this, darlin’?

"
If I get the chance... I'm killing him," Leliana spoke, her voice low. But it held such...hatred. Anger. Colt would know she was serious. Leliana knew that they wouldn't be safe with him out there. Milly wouldn't be safe. As Colt continued to speak, Leliana would finally look at her. It really was nice having someone who understood. They might have had different truamas, but it led to the same thing. Them both suffering in one way or another. "I told Andy...but she already knew. Just...needed to confirm it," Leliana answered, recalling their talk in the graveyard. "Beth knows about what happened at Moe's, but she doesn't know about Liam...and I'm sure Hector knows somethings wrong with me." Leliana would sigh, tilting her head to one side. "David touched my shoulder one day and I was already feeling off...Hector helped me through a pretty bad panic attack."

She'd fall silent after that, lost in thought but it would appear that talking, at least a little bit, helped calm her down. In the very least, she wasn't on the verge of having some sort of attack. "
Hector's a bit of a bastard, but he's nice when it comes right down to it. I made him an eye patch a while ago, but I haven't gotten the chance to give it to him yet."

Hm, I’ll hold him down for you.” Colt spoke softly, before going quiet as the nurse spoke again. She had never heard a tone like that in Leliana’s voice but she understood it. The man was a danger. And the more she thought, the more an unsettling idea made it’s way in… what if he told the Hazmats where they were? She would have to speak to Hector and Andy about it once they were back.

As the nurse mentioned Hector, the vet let out a snort of a chuckle, “
Yeah… he is. He’s helped me too. I’m sure he’d appreciate it greatly.” She had chosen not to comment on David, she didn’t want to scare the nurse with the thoughts she had about him. Letting out a small sigh, she looked to the nurse again. “You’re brave, y’know.

"
That would be helpful, he's huge," Leliana spoke, once more trying to lighten the mood a bit. The worst part about the Liam situation...was that not all of her memories about him were bad. There were times he was a real uncle, almost like a father to her. Those times were far and few between but...they still happened. And even though she wanted him dead, she did likes those memories. Like camping in the living room watching Disney movies, and him building a that swing set for her. The family dinners and always going to pick out a Christmas tree together. None of that would gain him any mercy though if the woman ever got her hands on him. When Colt laughed though, Leliana seemed a little startled, but ended up smiling. "He broods a little more than he should, the eye patch would probably make him look more intimidating," She added with a chuckle of her own before Colt said she was brave. "What? How? I've been a mess all morning!"

The vet laughed again at Leliana’s comment towards Hector, “
Don’t we all,” she snorted, “I know I do.” She calmed down almost instantly with a sigh. At Leliana’s confusion about her comment, she rolled her shoulders a little in thought.

No. You haven’t. The thing is,” she leant forward, flask in hands, her gaze now downward and her untidy fringe falling over her eyes, “…I’ve seen what fear can do to people. In the exact situation we were in. That back there? It happened more than I wanted it to… I’ve been a soldier since I was 17. I was sent to Afghanistan when I was 18. I’ve seen people lose their minds, run out of cover, fire blindly, throw their grenades right into friendly territory because they could not stop to think they were that afraid.” Her eyes suddenly grew wide and her hands went rigid, flashes of those moments racing through her mind. The moment seemed to pass though as, with closed eyes she took a much longer draft from her flask before continuing.

And these were people like me. Conditioned for hell, and many died because of their fear. But…” she smiled sadly at the nurse, “then there’s you. Been through hell even though you didn’t sign up for it, and even there when you were terrified, you held it. You controlled it. I can’t even do that. You’re braver than me.” She paused, Leliana would see that this was difficult to say but she meant it with every fiber of her being, “Y’know, aside from my Sasha… you’re the bravest woman I know.

Leliana listened as Colt spoke, honestly expecting some empty platitude. But this was Colt...Leliana should know better by now. Leliana at first didn't realize why Colt was comparing her to some of the former soldiers she knew, why Colt was telling her about the stupid shit people did while they panicked. Still being a little...out of it, Leliana really didn't get it until Colt finally said what she wanted to. Going through hell, no matter what it had been, seems to work out during the apocalypse. It really surprised Leliana though, when Colt said she was braver than the veteran herself. "
That's not true!" Leliana interjected. "Colt you're so brave! Wi-without, everyone at the lodge would have died a long time ago, I would have died a long time ago!" But the nurse once again fell silent when Colt mentioned Sasha.

"
Your Sash..." Leliana trailed off for a moment, the wheels turning in her head as she tried to figure out just what Colt meant by that. It suddenly seemed to click, Leliana looking to Colt once more. "You...have a girlfriend too?"

Colt looked out the window after speaking, not wanting to say anything more until Leliana had answered. When she mentioned Sasha’s name and questioned her about it, it was a few moments before Colt could speak. She berated herself internally for forgetting that she’d never mentioned Sasha to Leliana before. Or if she had then it was a long time ago. The woman stood up and walked to one of the shelves, grabbing a bottle of red wine that she had put there during her initial discovery of this station. She opened it but just held it right now.

Yeah… she was my girlfriend.” She finally answered, “we were in bootcamp together, in the same squad, the same tours… We couldn’t tell anyone though. Despite what they say, the marines aren’t the most progressive people. I… I was, well, when we finished our last tour, I was… I was going to ask her to marry me.” A sad smile crept across her lips, “She had it all planned out. We’d buy some beat up old ranch she knew about, do it up, raise horses, hell… maybe even adopt some kids. She used to say she could imagine them running about, getting into mischief… she always used to tell me ‘we gotta get dogs, Jane, get two dogs! Sonny and Cher, Jane, that’s what we’re callin’ them, if we can raise them kids’ll be no problem!’ it would’ve been…” her smile dropped and the whistful look in her eye faded as she walked to the door of the gas station, leaning against it as she looked out onto the morning frost.

And then, one day we were out on patrol and…” her voice shook a little, forcing her to stop for a second, “…there was a landmine.” She could not go on, instead she took an extremely long draft from the wine bottle and kept her eyes down, "...Even in those moments, all she worried about was... if I'd still get those dogs."

Colt sighed and took another drink before continuing. “
She was braver than me. She helped me stay grounded when things went very south,” she smiled sadly for a second, “if she were here she’d be co-leading with Andy, yknow that? She… she should be standing here. Not me.

After another moment, the vet blinked and turned to look at the nurse, clearing her throat and wiping her eyes, “
No- sorry um… we were talking about you. You’re just as good as her, I mean it.

"
The military has that don't ask don't tell policy right?" Leliana questioned, though her voice was kept low. She always thought it was stupid, but it was probably for the best. Her grandma had a few stories that always made her skin crawl, so not telling probably kept them safe in more ways than one. Leliana would fall silent though, listening as Colt talked. It was better to change the subject after all, and it was nice to know that there was someone there that would understand her and Beth. Not that she assumed anyone else at the lodge would be an asshole about it, but still. Leliana couldn't help a little smile when Colt talked about how Sasha would go on about the plan she had. It was cute. And sounded like a pretty good plan. "That sounds really nice."

But Colt's tone shifted, changed as the vet explained what happened to Sasha. It was...tragic, just absolutely awful. Leliana frowned, wanting to stand and comfort Colt, but she decided against a hug. If Colt wanted one, she could ask. "
I'm so sorry," Leliana finally spoke in the few moments of silence. "But I'm glad you're here Colt, I wish you both could have been but I'm glad it's you." Colt was important to lodge, strong, and Leliana really considered her a friend. Colt was more often than not there to comfort her and had saved everyone's life in one way or another.

But Leliana would once again be a little surprised hearing Colt compare her to Sasha. "
I...I don't know about that, but thank you Colt. Really." Leliana was feeling better, not 100 percent but better. She would let them both sit in silence for a few moments, looking from the windows to the gas station behind them. "Hey, let's grab what we can and head back," The nurse finally suggested. "I think we've both had enough of Aurora for one day." As she spoke, the nurse would stand, grabbing her bat to look into the rows. But before she walked off, she would clear her throat.

"
I also think...that if you get the chance, you should get some dogs. Sonny and Cher are great names."

Yeah… we had to sneak about a lot. Had some men in my squadron try and…ahem, ‘convince’ me that I was straight. But that’s not important.” She sighed and shook her head at her apology, “It’s… not fine but, thank you.” At her statement about her importance, Colt blinked and rubbed her arm, a little sheepish. Much like how Leliana was unsure about being brave, Colt was unsure about being called important.

Colt was thankful for the nurse to offer that they left, she nodded. “
Good. Best go before any of them start to get worried.” She gathered her things and went to leave with the bottle in hand… but after a moment of thought, she put it back on the shelf. It’d be needed another day but not today. At the nurse’s words, the veteran gave her a tired smile, “yeah… they are. Should find a couple of huskies. I hear they’re musical.” She let out a raspy chuckle before coughing, “um… thanks for coming with me by the way. Just wish it went a bit smoother.” The nurse was more important to the vet than she’d let on, and was just relieved she seemed to be a bit more settled.

Leliana just smiled, nodding a bit. "
No problem Colt, I'll always have your back," The nurse spoke, heading off into the gas station carefully. "I hope we find some soda that isn't flat. I'd kill for a vanilla coke."

Co-written with: FireMaiden FireMaiden
Mentions: Maj Maj (Owen) shadowz1995 shadowz1995 (Hector)
 

shadowz1995

Disciple of Flame
THE THING ABOUT KIDS....


“Leliana?” Andy called as she walked up the rickety stairs. The redhead did her best to ignore the still blood stained paint that was once Shinoa’s corpse. It felt like her whole lodge was now just a mode-podge of quick fixes and crimson stains from the battles fought within. As much as it pained her to admit, the old cabin hardly even felt like the one she had called home for so many years.


Andrea Jordan stood at the top of the stairs in an unzipped hoodie and her bra, oozing stitches out for the world to see. She had gone to shower and when she undressed found that the gauze that had been protecting her wound was soaked through and sticking to her fair flesh. Trying to change it herself had been a mistake. Getting the old bandages off had been hard enough one handed, cleaning and redressing it had proven more than she was capable of.


Andy didn’t get a response as she called for her cousin, instead she only heard light giggling through the walls of her bedroom. She approached the door and went to knock before she thought better of it. If Beth was in there with her, Andy didn’t want to think about what she might be interrupting. Thankfully there was more than one person capable of helping her clean her wounds, even if his bedside manner was more curt.


The dampness of the cellar had become something of a comfort to Andy over the last weeks. She had spent a lot of time down here, either conversing with Hector or doing what she could to help him with his experiments. It wasn’t like she could do much in the way of physical labor. Andy could hear the dryness of Hector’s tone from the top of the stairs.


“Hector can you-“ she called as she walked down, stopping as she came face to face with her brother, also shirtless on Hector’s examination table.


“What are you doing down here?” She asked. Owen raised an amused eyebrow, and gestured to Andy’s half-dressed state.


“I could ask the same thing. I didn’t take you for a gold-digger. Do those even exist now that money has no meaning?” Owen looked to Hector for confirmation. His sister's face twisted in disgust at his implication.


“Disgusting.” Her voice oozed annoyance. “I needed help with my stitches,” she informed him.


“You aren’t the only one with injuries,” Owen argued. “Mine are just more healed than yours. Doc was just checking up on my lungs.”


Hector shook his head at the sibling banter but said nothing. He silently remembered times that patients had done exactly what Owen described in an attempt to seduce him and allowed himself a moment of veiled irritation before removing the cold stethoscope from Owen's skin.


"Without x-rays or MRI's, I can only give you educated assumptions. They seem to have healed well. Considering the circumstances, I don't doubt there will be scar tissue on the lungs. With surgery, it would be possible to fix and restore the lungs to 100% but… obviously that's not possible."


The older man removed the device from his ears and placed it on the nearby counter before handing Owen his shirt, "At best, I would say they will function at 85%. At worst, 70%. It all depends on how you take care of them from here on out."


It went without saying that Owen's smoking was definitely going to force the healing process into the lower numbers but the Venezuelan had spoken on that subject multiple times already and didn't like sounding like a broken record.


“Yes, Yes” Owen said, waving a dismissive hand. “I’m giving it a real college try this time doc.” The large ginger pointed to his left shoulder where a patch sat adhered to his skin. A nicotine patch was stuck amongst the copper body hair. “I grabbed some of these bad boys when we were at the pharmacy. I had hoped I wouldn’t have to use them, I had been doing pretty good on my own. But with everything…” Owen let his eyes flit up to Andy for a moment as if to consider his next words before returning to his cocky grin.


“Everything going on, I had a bit of a relapse. I’m still trying though.”


“How noble of you,” Andy drawled sarcastically.


Hector then turned to the female twin and gestured for her to sit upon "The Perch of Andy". The deep freezer she consistently found herself upon whenever she came down to visit. With a little more difficulty than normal, Andy used her good arm to lift herself up so she could take her seat and shrugged out of the unzipped jacket.


“Oh yes, you have so much room to talk,” Owen retorted as he pulled his shirt over his head, his messy mop of hair only made worse by the static of the cotton fabric. “I don’t think they make a patch for alcohol addiction.”


"No, but there is medication that makes it taste revolting. It causes vomiting and nausea. It has a good success rate." The scientist chimed in while he worked on the young red head. A ghost of a smile played on his lips. Hearing the two quip at each other was actually a relief to the old man.


"It's good to hear you two argue." He said with an out-of-character warmth to his voice.


“Glad we could add some ambiance for you,” the archer’s voice was dry, but a smile tugged at the corner of her own full lips. It was good. Things were feeling like they were going back to normal.


“I actually have a question, while I have you here.” Andy did her best not to wince as the doctor worked on her shoulder.


A pause in the doctor's movements prompted her to continue.


“How much time have you spent around Milly?”


“Milly?” Owen asked, suddenly interested in what his sister had to say. Normally her questions to Hector resulted in long boring conversations about plans for the lodge or his research, most of which his short attention span was incapable of following. However, Owen had spent a decent amount of time around the girl. She seemed to have a soft spot for him and he had saved her life twice. Once at the hotel where they found her and again during the hazmat raid on the lodge.


“What about her?” he asked.


“I recently spent some time with her and I just noticed something was,” She rolled her hand through the air in thought. “Off, I guess? I was just wondering if Hector had noticed anything about her mental state.”


The older man nodded but said nothing. He also had his suspicions about the girl in their brief interactions but the lack of concern of all the other lodge members prevented him from inquiring further.


“She’s just a scared little kid Andy,” Owen retorted with a snort.


“Yeah?” His sister asked pointedly. “How old is she, Owen?” She watched with a smug smile as he opened and closed his mouth, realizing he hadn’t asked.


“She’s thirteen.” Andy looked at Hector once again. “I don’t know about you guys, but she acts like she is about seven, maybe eight at best. I’m not sure if she was just that sheltered or if something more is going on.”


"I would actually say a little younger. Since she has that um…" the hispanic cupped his hands together and moved them side to side as if carrying something before remembering, "Muñeca. The stuffed animal."


He dropped his bloodied hand gesture before continuing, "I had my suspicions and I'm uncomfortable giving a diagnosis without proper scans and study but it is definitely not normal for a girl her age."


He paused a moment to think of his words, "At first, I thought it was a trauma response to… Well… everything. Regressing to a state before one was hurled into their current situation. But as time has gone on, I'm beginning to suspect she is most likely on the spectrum. Regression may also be playing a role but she displays too many similarities to someone with high functioning autism than the former."


“I... may have pushed her too far,” Andy admitted. “She showed some interest in archery, so I taught her how to shoot and took her out hunting. When she killed the rabbit she sort of shut down, started talking about her mother’s death and the like. I’m not sure she actually even realized her mother was likely dead until that moment.” The huntress shook her head. “I’m not so good at the warm and fuzzy part of dealing with children.”


“No?” Owen said with drawled out sarcasm. “I’d say you are downright maternal.” His sister shot him a dirty look.


"Possibly." Hector interrupted before the twins could continue bickering, "I would even say definitely if these were normal circumstances. The fact remains that they are not. I never would have learned to skin animals had it not been for our current predicament either."


The scientist secured the fresh bandages with surgical tape and moved over to the sink to wash his hands. "But the fact remains that this is reality now. La niña got lucky with the last vagrant. It will not happen again. It would be better to be cruel but prepare her for what's to come as opposed to the alternative."


“I agree,” Andy confirmed. “That was my intention anyway. I think the sheer fact that she has remained as oblivious as she has is due to the fact that everyone has been treating her with kid gloves.”


“She IS a kid, Andy!” Her brother retorted, exasperated. “Thirteen, eight, it doesn’t matter. She is a kid. It’s natural to want to shelter her.”


“You’ll kill her.” Andy said bluntly. “What happens if something happens to all of us and she is alone? Do you really think she has even an ounce of the knowledge and abilities to make it out there without us? Or better yet, do you think she can even hold her own ground long enough for one of us to not get killed trying to shelter her?” Andy softened and shook her head sadly. “You almost died protecting her once Owen, and Hector’s right, if he hadn’t mostly disabled David’s jaw she would be another one of the corpses as we speak. Which would you rather do? Force her out of her comfort zone, or have to put her down when she reanimates?”


Owen didn’t say anything for a long time, instead choosing to look at his feet. His sister was right of course. Milly had to learn how to take care of herself, not just for her own sake, but for the sake of the lodge. A group was only as good as its weakest link, and they could only keep protecting her for so long.


“It’s just shitty that the world has changed so drastically that we can’t even give one girl a childhood,” he grumbled, defeated.

FireMaiden FireMaiden Rumble Fish Rumble Fish Maj Maj
 

shadowz1995

Disciple of Flame
THE THING ABOUT KIDS...

“We were lucky Owen,” Andy said softly. “We had a great childhood and our mom was the best. Even before the apocalypse, few kids were that fortunate.”


"That's very true. Having loving parents, even if it's only one, can go a long way for any child. Having a place to call home and a guardian to give you safe haven and guidance is an irreplaceable part of the human experience." The doctor said neutrally, with no change in his expression.


After a moment though, his thorough hand washing technique came to an abrupt stop. The old hispanic stared at the running water blankly before blinking back into the present time.


"At least, that is what I have understood over the years. Not all children are given that luxury, as Ms. Jordan so aptly explained." The doctor finished washing the blood off of his hands and quickly dried off with a clean towel before leaning his back against the counter. When he looked up, he noticed the twins eyeing him carefully, particularly Andy. It was a look Hector noticed she got when some kind of behavior caught her attention. Something that didn't line up with what she knew. Allegedly, he got the same look in his eye for the same reason from time to time.


A black eyebrow raised over the hole where his left eye used to be, asking the silent question of what it is that has caught her attention.


"You know," Andy said so casually, that it would be apparent to anyone who knew her that it wasn't casual at all. "I don't think I know anything about your childhood Hector."


"Yeah, you talk about childhood like a scientist," Owen agreed with a laugh, not fully understanding the situation. "Like you studied it from the outside or something." He said it like a joke, like it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. Andy rolled her eyes at her brother's insensitivity.


"I don't have much of a choice in that regard, Owen." The older man replied. "I'm an orphan. I was raised in catholic orphanage. I don't know who my biological parents are, what they did, or if they're alive. I speak the way I do on the subject because I HAVE studied it. At length. The concept of family has always been a foreign one to me. I just use first hand accounts and psychology to make my conclusions."


"But you were adopted weren't you?" Owen asked, stunned. "I mean family doesn't necessarily have to mean blood. You still experienced it to some degree." He looked over at his sister. "Right?"


Andy didn't say anything. She had heard Hector refer to his mentor on a variety of occasions. It was always matter of fact, much like everything the doctor said. There was little love in his dialect about his adopted father. In fact, Andy had just assumed he was talking about an old teacher. Never once from any of their conversations was she given any indication it was his adoptive father that had taught him his craft.


"My mother must have really intrigued you then." She finally said, speaking softly. "Loving her children the way she did."


"It certainly was… different from what I was used to. I've seen many loving parents in my line of work from all walks of life. Not always the most logical or rational in their decisions regarding their children but always loving. Mary was definitely a special case when it came to you two. It was due to her that I reached my conclusion on what family truly meant." The one eyed man said in reply to Andy.


He turned to Owen right after and shook his head, denying the boy's claim. "To say I was adopted would be a stretch. My mentor, Salazar, was a man of great intellect, influence, and wisdom. There were very few things he lacked. One of those things was a pupil to carry on his knowledge and studies."


A tone of great respect crept into Hector's voice as he spoke of the man who taught him nearly everything he knew. As if the man in question stood right before him, listening to him speak.


"Not to seem egotistical but my intelligence and manner of thinking has been with me since birth. It was a point of great concern for the sisters at the church because I wouldn't play with the other kids. I didn't understand the point of games. I didn't ever cry. I would go days without eating without ever complaining because I understood there was no food. That was why my mentor picked me. It was not because he wanted a son to love and nurture. He wanted a protégé. A youth with intellect to rival his own and potential to surpass him."


His eye now focused on Owen, directly answering his question, "He was very clear during his tutelage that we were not family but teacher and student. I understood what was expected of me and acted within those limitations. On the day he died, he said he was glad his knowledge would live on through me and that he couldn't have asked for a better pupil. I inherited all of his properties, wealth, and assets and have continued his legacy to the best of my ability. That's all we were. Master and pupil. No more and no less."


"Wow… Hector, I don't know what to say man. I know you talk like it doesn't bother you but honestly that just sounds sad…" He sighed. "And lonely." He grunted as he took one of Andy's elbows to his gut in a very clear unspoken message to shut his mouth. Andy wasn't known for being kind, but even she knew when someone was talking out of line.


"Ow.." her brother hissed, rubbing his ribs, undeterred. "But I mean, you have us now. We're family, you know? As much as anyone else can claim to be." Andy sighed thoughtfully but didn't speak. She supposed her brother had a point, even if felt a little cringy to say out loud. They lived together, looked out for each other, and when she went through one of the weakest moments of her adult life, it had been Hector that had picked up her pieces and told her she wasn't alone. It was hard to see the stoic doctor agreeing with them though. It was quite possible they were means to an end, bodies to help protect him while he did his research and in her case, a subject to experiment on.


And yet, Andy had seen him fight tooth and nail for the people of the lodge, had seen him worry when lives were on the line, and even rare kindness when it was needed. She wasn't naive enough to believe that was just his oath as a doctor.


"He's right," she agreed, voice soft and low. "Maybe you don't recognize it because you've never experienced it before but this is about as close to family as you can get."


Hector stared at the two individuals in clear confusion. They were half his age and were attempting to comfort him. The thought was strange to the scientist. He didn't feel like he was someone that needed to be comforted nor did he feel like his story was a sad one. Irregular, sure, but not one deserving of the looks in their eyes.


But, for all of his lack of understanding of the workings of the heart, he understood this to some degree. He understood the message the twins were trying to convey. Whether he knew it, understood it, liked it or otherwise, he was a part of a group of people who looked out for each other. It may not be a "family" in the traditional sense, but it was more than he had ever had.


"I know." He finally replied after a long pause. "I'm not sure why or how I, personally, fit into it. But I do understand that this is closest to a family I've experienced."


A low rumble of a chuckle emanated from the large man's chest as a brief smirk touched his lips, "It only took half of my lifespan, losing the one person that deeply cared for me, half of my sight, and the potential end of society as we know it to find some kind of semblance of a family. If God is real, he is cruel."


“Oh Doc, I don’t know about all of that,” Owen winced, obviously uncomfortable with Hector’s statement. He scratched the back of his head and didn’t make eye contact with him.


“Relax dingus,” Andy said with an amused smile on her face. “Believe it or not, he’s joking. Who knew he was even capable of such human emotions.”


“Oh,” the larger twin let out a light chuckle and visibly relaxed. “Only you would find that funny.” Andy puffed up, glaring up at her brother through her eyelashes.


“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” she snipped. “Maybe you are just to dumb to understand comedy.”


“No, I think I’m just too normal to understand DARK comedy,” he corrected.


"I'm sure the car outside appreciated your normal sense of humor. Because you certainly ripped into it like it was funny." The doc retorted on the smaller twin's behalf, smirk widening a tad more.


“So now you are teasing me?” Owen asked, narrowing his eyes. “Who are you and what have you done with Hector?”

Maj Maj
 

Togy

The Fashionable Crab
LORD OF THE HAPPY MEALS
Maj keeps telling me to post this and I don't know how to do BBcode

With ten minutes coming and going, Nile stepped into the RV and plopped down the backpack he’d stolen from a home supply store onto the seat farthest back. Owen wasn't far behind, the blood stained duffle bag secured across his body. The familiar clang of his bat from inside sounded as he took the steps two at a time and made himself comfortable in the passenger seat. He hadn't been inside the RV since they had all ridden in it during the escape the middle school. Somehow, he didn't recall it smelling so much like cornchips, but he did his best to ignore it.

For the last 10 minutes, nothing noteworthy had happened in the RV, other than Michael checking if the thing still even had fuel, along with having done a very quick cleanup just to try and not look bad in front of the junkie.

While being surprised at seeing Owen, the american ginger version of Schwarzenegger, enter his RV after Nile, the neckbeard would not exactly complain at his arrival. It was a surprise to be sure, but a welcomed one at that.

“So- Uhm, yeah.” Michael said after both other men had sat down.

“We will like, go to Aurora for… Some stuff. We can like, also grab some things you guys want after we arrive tho. But like, don’t die cause M’lad- I mean, Andrea will probably kill me if something bad happens. s- Should be a short trip anyway tho so like, nothing we should probably worry about it.”

An inspiring pep talk if he did say so himself. Nile, to his credit, clapped. A sarcastic slow clap, but a clap nonetheless. Owen only smirked nervously.

“s- So yeah. Let’s go, in and out. 20 minute adventure.”
--------
4 HOURS LATER
--------

Feet nearly slipping on the tile floor slick with blood, Nile narrowly regained his footing and held the kitchen doors closed with his back. His belt was tied around the handles, but it would only last a few seconds against the horde pushing against the door without having help. Nile could tell that the leverage of his feet against the ground was just about the only thing keeping the door from bursting.

He wasn’t suited for this job. His back ached, his arms were killing him, and he felt as if he was being pressed so tightly that he was actually becoming shorter. He was supposed to make barricades, not be one. Huffing as he straightened his back, Nile drew his gaze towards the neckbeard.

“Mikey? Buddy? Wanna open that door now?” Nile said between his own pants as the double doors knocked against his back relentlessly.

“i- I’m trying to!” Michael yelled at Nile while frantically trying to pull open the door with the entirety of his strength, yet it simply refused to bulge by even an inch.

Owen, now freed of the stray undead that had been trying to chomp at his ankle, threw himself against the doors that Nile was guarding. The remains of his attacker only added to the gore-fest that was the floor, brain matter and blood still sticking to the hem of his jeans.

"I got this, go help Michael," the redhead commanded. With the sound of the belt beginning to give, Owen slid the handle of his bat into the handles and kept as much of his body weight against the doors as possible. As soon as there was an opening to escape he would reclaim his weapon and bolt.

Giving a thumb’s up as he caught his breath, Nile darted across the kitchen towards the freezer door, stopping mid stride to stare towards the right side of the kitchen.

“They’re getting through the drive-through!” Nile declared as he slammed himself against the door, pulling with all his might.

“fuck Fuck FUCK!” the neckbeard yelled in a desperate tone.

Continuously trying to open the freezer’s door, despair began to spread through Michael’s body. Would this really be it?, hell, he knew that fast food would probably be the thing to kill him in the end yet he didn’t actually think that he would die in a Mcdonalds.

In a desperate last attempt, Michael held onto the door handles with a near death grip and pulled with his entire strength one last time. And to the surprise of the neckbeard, the door finally gave in.

“I- IT WORKED!” He yelled in an excited voice while signaling to his 2 companions the now opened room.

“Yeayeahyeah, gogogo!” Nile spat off, keeping his eyes on the horde crawling in from the drive-through. Bodies landed on top of eachother, pushing each other against the tiles as glass dug into their unfeeling flesh.

“Now or never!” Nile yelled to Owen to be heard over the moans as he stood in the doorway, waiting.

Owen knew as soon as he took his bat from its place through the handles that the undead would be able to pour in to their heart's content, but they were getting in through other avenues regardless. The freezer felt like a bad idea, a literal back corner that he was sure there was no other escape from, but they didn't have many other choices. Maybe with some luck they could wait them out and the horde would dwindle enough that they could smash their way out once they had regained some strength. He looked at his weapon again and decided to grab it. If he was going to have to eventually carve a path for the trio back out of this hellish, clown loving establishment, he wasn't going to be able to do it with his bare hands.

Owen threw his weight against the doors hard enough to be able to give the bat enough slack to give way and slid it free. In a smooth motion he turned on the ball of his foot and sprinted across the dining room, vaulting himself over the cash register counter and into the freezer where Nile stood yelling for him. Once inside he helped his shorter companion pull the door shut, and slumped against the metallic walk with a sigh.

"Honestly?" He asked with a heavy huff of air. "I'm not even sure how we fucked ourselves this bad. You guys okay?"

“Hell no man!. I’m nowhere near close to ok… thanks for asking tho.” Michael replied to the red head while sitting down on a pile of boxes. At this point, if the horde didn’t kill him, his legs would after all the running they had done before.

Leaning against the wall, shrouded in darkness, the smell of rotting meat wafting into his nose, Nile pushed his shirt over his nose and mouth as he fumbled for his flashlight. Flicking on the bringer of light, the man slowly panned the beam over the room. There was barely enough width in the freezer to turn around, the room was practically pitch black, and every movement of his foot threatened to trip him over a pile of happy meals with rotting patties.

He’s stayed in worse motels before.

Tags: You know who you are
 

Maj

Your Majjiesty


1640643897006.png
“My leg’s been making this weird popping noise whenever I move it to the right ever since we fell onto that horde” Nile said nonchalantly, rolling his knee. “I’ll walk it off”.

“Hey, so like, as long as it doesn’t hurt it's probably nothing.” the neckbeard said.

“Here man,” Owen mumbled through a mouth full of flashlight. It was pointed down into his duffle bag. “I don’t have anything stronger, but It should help with whatever swelling is going to come.” He tossed a half full bottle of ibuprofen toward Nile. The sounds of the undead occasionally wafted through the thick walls of the freezer, allowing the feeling of hopelessness to sink ever deeper into his bones. He tossed Michael and Nile both a water bottle before positioning the flashlight between his knees and opening one for himself.

“Are we even anywhere near your place?” He asked the neckbeard.

“Wha- oh, yeah… We’re like two, maybe three blocks away from my place. Like, 10 minutes tops.” Michael replied.

The neckbeard considered getting up and looking around the small freezer, but honestly, after all that running and fighting from before all he wanted to do was to lie down. And so he did, on top of the pile of boxes he had been sitting down for a while. They would be stuck in here for a while anyway, so there was no rush to check the room yet.


“This...this is a new low” Nile muttered, gaze drifting about.

“I’m beginning to question your definition of ten minutes,” Owen said with a grumble. Hadn’t Michael also told him that the entire run was going to be ten minutes in and out? That wasn’t really his fault to be fair. Some of it was, most of it wasn’t. Runs never went according to plan, it was why he had forcibly inserted himself into their run to begin with. Now having caught his breath, Owen stood with his flashlight in front of him, blood smeared bat still clung tightly in the opposite hand and began to check out the freezer in more detail.

It absolutely reeked in the confines of the metal walls. Likely all the food that had once lined the shelved walls had rotted without power. However, with a city full of rotting bodies all the smell did was turn Owen’s nose. He was less concerned with that and hopefully finding a way out of the very smelly freezer. For the first time in his life, Owen regretted never working in fast food. Surely they trained you for this sort of thing? Not the zombie part, of course.


“Anyone have any bright ideas?” Owen asked. The sounds of the undead outside were still stirring, but maybe less so. If there were other options before he tried taking them on, he was open to them. “Because I don’t know about you, but becoming lords of the walk-in doesn’t really sound like my idea of a good time.”

“We smear ourselves in the rotting big macs and walk outside. Either we smell dead enough to fly under the radar, or the zombies take pity on us for conceiving such a stupid, pathetic plan that they just let us go. I volunteer Micky as our test subject” Nile said, grimacing as he wiped a disgusting, indiscernible looking pus off his pant leg from where it seeped out of a pile of wrapped burger patties. Nearly inhaling a couple dozen flies after turning his head to inspect the rotting mess, Nile gagged violently.

“I’ll respectfully refuse your… volunteering proposal.” Michael said with a tired tone.

“Jesus...y’know, at some point, death is a preferable option” Nile muttered, not daring to move his body more out of fear of what vile amalgamation he’d touch.

The neckbeard saw Nile gagging violently at the pile of wrapped patties with a disgusted look, now also being too scared to look at whatever the hell might be inside the pile of boxes he was now lying in.


“That might work,” Owen said with a sad grimace. “I think Hector mentioned that smearing yourself with zombie guts deterred them.” He shuddered in a motion similar to Nile and added. “But let’s leave that as our last resort, yeah?”

Grunting in agreement, Nile set to work tossing boxes off of the shelves. He needed somewhere to sit, and he’d much rather die than touch any more of the floor than he had to. While pushing a wet box off of the shelf, something stuck to the side of his glove. Frantically trying to shake the substance off, Nile made a small, pitiful noise that garnered him no sympathy.

Groaning, the man sat himself on top of the shelf, barely having to crane his neck to avoid hitting the ceiling with his head. The one upside of being short, apparently. Inspecting the glove tainted by the vile substance, Nile visibly gagged as he saw that some indiscernible filth had solidified, melted, and solidified again on the palm of his glove in seconds. The glove couldn’t be salvaged, he could already tell that the substance was so toxic that it was eating through the lining of his glove. Then again, he didn’t dare take it off out of fear of what he’d touch with his bare hand.


“What were we even going to grab at your place? Family photos? A birthday card collection? Pokemon cards? That one Rubiks cube you solved when you were a preteen?” Nile asked, nauseous as he tried to null out the world around him. “The fuck was this all for again?”.

And now, he got asked the question he was dreading the most to come. Deciding to sit up after having lied down for a while, Michael prepared himself to answer. Given that they were going to go to his place and help carry most of this stuff, it would be useless to lie about it, so he would unload the whole package right here and now

“Obviously almost none of what you mentioned. I wanted to go back to my place to grab some of my shit obviously. Some of the stuff being like my gaming laptop, some manga…. uhhh”. Michael thought for a moment about what else he wanted to get, and decided to exclude some of the more… adult rated material out for the moment.

“Some drawing material given that I’m currently running out of it at the lodge, that one zombie survival document I made like a year ago but forgot before locking myself out of the house… oh! and some movies, I guess, cause I swear that if I have to rewatch one more goddamn Disney movie for the millionth time while Milly’s watching the tv I will go insane.” Michael said, having finished his small rant about the small catalog of movies at their small base in the woods.

"And well, I guess you would be correct on the family photos one. Although, I only have them on a USB tho, cause, come on, who the fuck uses photo albums anymore?" The neckbeard said, now having finished his full listing of ítems he was after.

“Awww man,” Owen growled, rolling his head back in frustration before letting his eyes settle on Michael’s face. “We’re going back for your hentai collection aren’t we?” The redhead covered his face with his hands, allowing one of the massive palms to rub down his face in aggravation.

“i- I...” Shit.

“i- It may be one of the secondary items I may or may not wish to acquire back, yes, but it’s rude to assume that!” Michael said while fixing his glasses.

“If I die in this moldy McDonalds for some anime thighs I swear to god Michael I will haunt you till the end of my ghost days.” He reached for the radio on his belt, and sighed again. The thick walls of the freezer were seemingly blocking out any hope of signal. There went his plan of asking Andy to send someone to rescue them. He racked his brain for more ideas. This wasn’t his normal forte. Owen was the dude who bashed brains together and fought people out of a corner. He was not the idea guy, but with the backup he currently had Owen was coming to the conclusion that he might be best suited for the job.

Not inspiring stuff.

Collab: Hyped_Taco Hyped_Taco Togy Togy

 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top