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Realistic or Modern Those That Remain

The rest of the day past by in the blink of an eye and every single moment of it was spent with the two of them together. Ruby didn't stop to think about the rumour mill that might be churning, or notice the looks and whispers that were passed her and Grim's way as they trundled around camp like a pair of lovesick teenagers, simply because she was far too wrapped up in him to pay attention to anything or anyone else. They hadn't had the chance to get to know each other like this before, despite feeling like they already knew each other inside and out. There was an understanding between them but the spoken knowledge that often came in the shadows when the sun went down was something they'd both saved until now, when they could whisper to each other parts of themselves, uninterrupted by the constant threat of death. Ruby fell asleep like that in the end, facing Grim as she contentedly listened to one of his answers and she stayed that way until morning, way after he'd woken up before her, just like usual. She was so warm and comfortable that she hardly noticed the kiss brushed to her nose, or the minutes spent beforehand of her great lion king watching her with those amber eyes she'd never get tired of looking into.

A soft moan left her lips when she felt warm breath tickling her ears, rousing her to consciousness. "Not again," she mumbled, although she couldn't help but nuzzle against Grim's bearded cheek, olive eyes fluttering slightly. "That maybe true," she continued around a yawn, "But on the other side of midday would have been nice." As her eyes opened fully however, and at the sight of Grim hovering above her, Ruby's sleepy expression very quickly began to merge into something much more... wicked. Her arms looped around his neck without warning and she pulled him down to meet her, her hands working their way into his hair. "Unless you didn't plan on us getting up just yet..."

Their fate was sealed with another kiss and luckily for Ruby, around a couple of hours later and after lunch time, the two of them were showered, dressed and looking much fresher, albeit with bruises littering their bodies that at least their clothes covered for now. Ruby was leading Grim towards his truck to retrieve the yeast when Erin started towards them from the other side of camp, her expression a straight line as she considered the two and how they were stood closer together, how Ruby looked a little flushed and... twinkly. "You got a sec, Rubes?"
"Hey, Erin. Sure. What's up?"
"I missed you at breakfast this morning." Around a smirk, Ruby made a very pointed attempt not to look at Grim in that moment.
"Oh, yeah. I had a bit of a lay in is all. Thought I'd better take Syra's advice if I want to keep her on side." A small smile was what Erin offered in response before the older woman's eyes slid to Grim and then back again, which is about when Ruby realised that Erin had meant could she have a second with her alone. The consideration made the redhead frown a little but regardless, she turned to Grim and tapped a hand to his chest. "Meet me back here once you have the jar?" Then assuming that he did just that, she turned back to Erin.

"Whatever you need to say, you could have said it in front of him y'know."
"I know that. Look, Ruby, I'm very aware that you're still recovering but we received word today that there's an abandoned campsite cropped up just north of us. Travellers were passing through and it looks like they left in a hurry for some reason, left behind a load of stuff. I thought about asking someone else but..."
"But you know I'll make a better job of it."
"Right," Erin chuckled. "So, what do you say? You up for it? I've already spoken to Riley and he--"
"Wait, what? Riley? Why have you spoken to Riley?"
"So he can go with you." Ruby paused all of five seconds before scoffing, dramatically.
"Um, Erin, I'll go but I am not going with Riley. We're not exactly on speaking terms right now."
"I know, and that's exactly why I think the two of you should go, chat about whatever it is that's... bothering you both and then--"
"No can do, sorry Erin. Either I go with Grim or I don't go. And besides, Grim has the truck. If we go together we'll be there and back within the afternoon."

A silence followed this suggestion, one in which Erin clearly felt incredibly torn, if not majorly pissed off that whatever plan she'd had, had backfired. It made so much more sense for Ruby and Grim to go, they both knew that and so in the end, after battling with herself for a few moments, she let out a sigh. "Alright, fine. Go with Grim. But I hope you know what you're doing, Ruby. Don't get too close to the fire if you don't want to get burned." Then with one final squeeze to her shoulder, Erin stalked away again, leaving Ruby to simmer in the aftermath of whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.
Damned if Ruby wasn't the most persuasive person ever. Grim's plans of early morning baking were swept away with a simple kiss and a slide of her skin against his. The fact that she ached for him as much as he did for her made him a most enthusiastic morning lover and he peppered her skin with marks of his adoration. Much later, when breakfast was long over and lunchtime was well on its way did the two finally emerge from their hedonistic den of sin. Grim had opted for a pair of jeans and a faded white v-neck tee and he walked with Ruby towards the truck to get the started when Erin stopped them. Grim's relaxed face twisted, turning into something neutral as Erin pointedly avoided looking at him while Ruby made light of their late appearance. There was a moment of pointed silence where Erin briefly glanced his way before looking pointedly at Ruby.

The message was clear, and Ruby twisted patting him on the chest and asking for him to retrieve the blackberries on his own. Grim remained silent, his eyes searching Ruby's for anything hidden. He'd stay if she wanted him to, whatever Erin wanted wasn't important. However Ruby seemed confident in her abilities to handle the situation so he nodded, his gaze narrowing on Erin as he spoke.

"I wont be long." With that he turned on his heel and marched towards the truck, his brain whizzing to life over whatever it was that the two of them might be talking about. Had he overstayed his welcome? It was likely. Despite his aid in bringing the camp their latest supplies it was clear he was walking on a thin line around the group, especially when he irked one of their own as much as he had. He approached the truck lost in his own thoughts, and just about missed as Riley stepped around the hood of the truck, something like victory plastered to his grin.

"Leaving so soon?" The boy jeered. "Of course you would, especially now that Rubes and I are going out on a mission." Grim's spine straightened, and he paused with his hand on the handle and glared daggers towards Riley and his stupid fucking face.
"The Doc hasn't cleared her to leave." He hated himself for even speaking to Riley, but everything in him wanted to ensure that this was all merely a lie- that Riley was just trying to stir up another fight and truly get him kicked out. Riley's smile only bloomed more.
"That's not what I heard. Erin just gave me and her the go ahead. That's probably why they're having that little tête a tête over there." Riley leaned against the hood of the truck as casual as ever, his head jerking to the two women as they spoke and Grim found he couldn't keep his eyes away from Ruby. All his plans came crumbling down around him and he did his best not to show it outwardly. He shouldn't make any rash choices, he needed to wait, needed to hear it from Ruby's lips herself. He could feel the metal of the handle crunching under his death grip and with every ounce of strength within him Grim tore his eyes away from the scene and wrenched open the door as Riley muttered under his breath. "Good fucking riddance, fucking disgusting what you were doing with her." If Grim was going to grip the jar of blackberries any tighter it might explode in his hand. With jerky movements Grim shut the door with a slam and twisted on his heel. He was going to get to the bottom of this.

"Keep your hands off of her you sick old fuck." Riley's threat had rage coursing through him and had the boy known the only thing keeping him alive in that moment was a promise to two women he might have kept his thoughts to himself. Grim didn't say anything as he walked away, though he dearly wanted to rip off the boy's arm for touching his truck. Instead he marched towards Ruby who stood alone now, who looked as equally as angry as he did.

"I'm going to need an explanation right fucking now Ruby." Grim kept his back to Riley, using his frame to block Ruby from his sight. He would have dearly loved to have gouged out those eyes for even daring to look in Ruby's way. "Why is fuckface over there acting like you're about to take a trip out of the camp with him?" The jar of blackberries trembled in his hand, and had Grim been thinking properly he might have worried over the fragile starter. Instead it took everything within him not to toss the damn thing on the ground and just pick up Ruby and steal her away. If her camp thought they could separate the two of them he would become their worst fucking nightmare.
The words turned over and over in her head, but not because Ruby couldn't understand them, because she was trying to find a different meaning. So Erin didn't like Grim, she knew that much, but physically trying to separate them? That felt like a new low and something that she had absolutely no doubt Riley had had a hand in organising. The thought in itself caused a deep shade of red to flush through her cheeks, although she remained blissfully unaware of Grim's own encounter, until she heard footsteps behind her, followed by an anger that she could feel from the distance still left between them. The redhead turned, confusion furrowing her brow as she mistook his temper for an accusation.

"Hey, hey, hold up, grandad. What the hell are you talking about?" Now that he towered above her and she found herself leaning back slightly to look up at him, she was unable to see Riley, or the smirk that graced his lips. However, when the question came out and shed light on the whole sorry situation, her olive eyes flickered in the general direction of fuckface, then to the direction that Erin had walked away in, then finally back to Grim.

"Because he's a fuckface, you idiot," she suddenly growled back at him, loud enough for Riley to hear she hoped. "I am not about to take a trip out of camp with him. Erin, and clearly Riley, tried to make it happen but I reminded her that you have a goddamn truck and now we're the ones taking the trip." Her eyes briefly flickered to the fist that curled around the jar of blackberries and without warning she reached up to snatch it from him before he added more bloody bandages to his arm. "Did you really think I'd agree to that? With how things are right now? Thanks a fucking lot for trusting me, Grim. That's real nice of you." Ruby scoffed but the anger couldn't quite mask the hurt in her eyes, the hurt and... the confusion. Vulnerability. And now she was lashing out at the only person she knew how to take it, despite the reality of it being directed to the campmates who seemed to want to gang up on her. Perhaps she had this all wrong and Grim had simply been asking, but as always when it came to the two of them, blow ups really didn't do them any favours when it came to crossed wires.

"And even better, we're giving them exactly what they want right now because you couldn't do your breathing exercises for five whole fucking seconds." Then in a flurry of what was mostly attempt to stop him from seeing tears in her eyes that Ruby hadn't been aware were coming until it was too late, she thrust the stupid jar of stupid blackberries back into his chest and turned on her heel to head back towards her room. "Keep your stupid blackberries," she yelled back at him, "You'll need them for your solo baking session."
Despite his best efforts, Grim still had managed to make Ruby just as mad as he. Rather than rationally asking her what the heck Riley was going on about he'd all but shouted at her, for something that hadn't at all been her fault. Deep crimson coloured her cheeks and she spoke loudly agreeing with his sentiment about Riley's face and how much he looked like a fuck, though truthfully it felt like the only thing that they agreed upon at the moment. She growled at him explaining that she had refused to go with Riley and before relief could make his shoulders relax she barreled on, accusing him of not trusting her.

She snatched the jar from his hands and he looked at her, almost as if he was struck dumb. He caught the barest hint of trembling in her chin and noticed the way she tucked her lip tightly against the other before scolding him once more. He didn't even look down at the jar she thrust back at him, unable to take his eyes of the slowly growing well of tears that threatened to spill over in her eyes. In that moment he knew he'd gone too far, that his words spoken in anger and frustration had lanced deep through her. She sought to escape him and had she just been angry with him he would have snatched up and settled this between them right then and there, but those goddamn tears had him frozen in place.

For half a moment his anger threatened to lash out, and the stupid male part of himself wanted to smash that jar of blackberries on the ground and be done with it. He considered turning away from her as well and marching to his truck and leaving all of this behind. The only thing keeping him there was her, and if she wanted nothing to do with him then he might as well make the rest of the camp happy and leave, and yet when he told himself to do just that he felt rooted. All Grim could do was watch her retreating form while he clutched tightly to the small jar in his hands. Long minutes after she disappeared from his sight he looked down and lifted the jar to his eyes. He could see the gathering of bubbles and fermented parts of blackberry floating at the top and bit back his sigh of relief that it had survived both of their furies. If the yeast could survive them, then perhaps there was still hope for the both of them.

Grim's teeth ground against one another as he took his first step, following in the same footsteps that Ruby had taken. It pissed him off that she'd run from him, that she hadn't been brave enough to show the most vulnerable parts of herself. He'd been under the impression that honestly and vulnerability had been the name of the game they were both playing with one another and not only did she run but she went back on her promise of baking bread with him, and that just wouldn't fucking do. It almost surprised him that no one dared stop him as he barreled through the camp and into the sleeping house, though he wasn't fully aware of the fearsome image he made. Wild hair and even wilder eyes.

He was up the steps and at the end of the hall in a matter of moments, and like all the previous times when she'd closed the door on him, he ripped it right back open. His amber gaze snagged on her and he closed the door behind him. Unlike the previous times however, Grim didn't crowd her- wanting to respect the space she'd clearly sought from him (albeit not exactly in the way she'd likely been hoping for). Instead he placed the jar down on a nearby table and then leaned against the heavy wooden door, folding his arms over his chest. He thought of explaining himself, of questioning her until he was blue in the face but the words never came, he didn't like the idea of her running again. Instead he regarded her with an almost disappointed expression.

"When do we leave?"
Don't cry. Do not fucking cry. The words played like a mantra, on and on in her head with every footstep that she took. Yet at the same time, her vision became more blurred, her bottom lip more prone to trembling. She could already feel the guilt beginning to drown the fire that had caused this in the first place, the way her anger had been misdirected and come out in all the wrong ways. Before Grim, if she'd blown up at someone she would have stewed for days in her own feelings, believing herself to be right until they were the ones who had to come to her, before she'd even think about apologising. Yet here she was, snivelling like a child because she wanted nothing more than to run into his arms and sob until her throat was hurting. And that scared her, which made the whole cycle feel even worse.

When she finally made it back up into her room, slamming the door closed behind her, she paced a little before giving up on herself. In the end,it was all Ruby could do to drop down on her bed and use her pillow to bury her face in, as if she was ashamed of even the air seeing herself like this. In truth, Ruby was hurt, but mostly by Erin and the way she saw fit to try and intervene, as though she didn't trust Ruby to sort things out with Riley herself. And even worse, she'd attempted to drive a edge between her and someone who was clearly, very fucking important to her without so much as a second thought. Ruby wasn't used to people not... trusting her. She'd always been on it, instinctive... clever.

More tears spilled over as her thoughts switched to Grim next, the hardest of the two to consider. Ruby didn't usually run away and especially not from him, yet here she was. She wasn't sure what it was, but something about him seeing her cry scared the shit out of her, as though she was frightened he might think less of her if she crumbled, as though he'd drop everything and get in his truck and leave without her for being a damn baby. Deep down she knew this wasn't true of course, but her mind was spiralling and right now there was nobody to pull her out of it.

Minutes later the door behind her opened and Ruby didn't need to look over to see who it was. "Go away," she ordered, bringing a hand up to wipe at her red and puffy face, while twisting her head slightly so that he couldn't see her. However, it was when he asked his question that a flame rippled back through her and with a jolt, the fiery redhead sat up to look at him, having the audacity to stand by her door like that, looking so wild, and strong, and everything that she knew him to be. For a moment she just stared at him, but for once she managed to swallow down the words she wanted to throw his way, mostly when she saw that he almost looked... disappointed in her. Just like she'd thought he would.

"Tomorrow afternoon," Ruby stood then, wiping at her face again and looking away. Stop crying. Stop it, right fucking now. "Why are you here, Grim? If you're just going to stand there like a damn statue, can't you go and do it somewhere else? I'm not in the mood."
Seeing her there, laying on the bed reminded Grim of days long gone. Ones where he would blast the saddest song he could find and punch his pillow until it was nothing but a mess a shredded stuffing. While he may not have fully understood Ruby at the point and he was certainly angry with her, he couldn't stop but feel the painful thump his heart made when she ordered him away.

"Not right now." His gruff tone was meant to indicate that him leaving was not a fighting matter but ever the insubordinate Ruby of course disregarded his words. She didn't immediately lift the pillow from her face and he could see her twisting, lifting her hands under the cover of the pillow. When she did finally sit up at his question he knew the reason why, fresh tears she'd been unable to quell dotted her skin just under her eyes. She regarded him with the fury that he'd been hoping for- and yet his stomach soured as a pearl of a tear glistened on her lashes. She stood telling him that they would be leaving tomorrow afternoon and he nodded, thought she of course missed it in her haste to turn away from him.

A harsh laugh ripped out of his chest when she told him she wasn't in the mood and he pushed himself free of the door, taking one big hulking step towards her. He didn't touch her, deciding there and then that this was all in Ruby's hands.

"Alright Princess, if that's how you want to play then this is how we'll play." Another step closer and he was hovering right behind her, still refusing to touch her. "If you want to re-neg on our deal that's fucking fine too." He should apologize to her, tell her that he shouldn't have snapped his fears out at her but how could he when she didn't even want to look at him? "I'll take you to wherever you need to go tomorrow afternoon, and if you want to stew in whatever bullshit is keeping you from even turning around right now then knock yourself out." There was a long pause, one pregnant with his desire to crush her to him and vow to take away all the pain that coursed through her. Instead he took a step back, moving from her and back towards the door. Along the way he picked up the jar, and the bowl of flour they'd made the day previous. Even if she didn't help him, he was going to make some fucking bread.

He glanced over his shoulder at her, something like misery flickering through his powerful features. "I'm not running from this Ruby. Not from you, your anger or your tears- but if you tell me to leave I will." The door handle twisted in his palm and he slipped away from her. Giving her the space she'd demanded. He wasn't sure where he was going to bake his bread but an idea propped up in his mind and Grim began to make his way towards the little shack that held the ailing Tim.
Once more, their miscommunication was their undoing. Ruby thought one thing and Grim thought another, so much so that Ruby did not turn when he laughed, and she did not turn when he approached her. His words cut through her like a knife, yet she couldn't bring herself to disagree with him. She didn't want to go back on their deal, had no intention of doing so but right now, she just... needed him to understand her, yet she wasn't giving him any indication of that, or helping him to in anyway. Her hands clenched by her sides in an attempt to stop herself from reacting to him, because he was right. She was stewing in this bullshit shame, but the embarrassment at showing her emotions only seemed to intensify with his reaction because she truly believed that he was disappointed in her pain, rather than her embarrassment.

The silence pulled on after he had spoken and still Ruby didn't move, not when he picked up his jar, not when he told her that he wasn't running. In her own mind she didn't believe him, because it was easier to think that he was running from her, not that she was pushing him away. It would allow her to be angry to cover her hurt and that's what she wanted.

God, she was so fucked up.

When the door finally closed behind her was when the first sob came, then another and another until finally, she was properly crying for the first time in as long as she could remember. Maybe it would have been fruitful in that moment for her to try and understand why, but as the tears fell, she simply could not bring herself to do anything other than feel.


Tim was not expecting visitors that afternoon, but that wasn't to say that he didn't enjoy a surprise drop in, even if this one was particularly unexpected. The old scientist was a smart man and he knew he didn't have long left in him, despite not quite understanding why. His body was frail, failing, to the point that when a knock came upon the door he was unable to stand to open it. Instead, he called out for whomever it was to come in, before attempting to sit up a little straighter in his seat.

He had lost weight since Grim's last visit, even though it had only been around a day ago. His greying eyes looked wearily up at the larger man, but he still managed a smile. "Now then, you are not who I was expecting to walk through my door today," he mused, and then gestured with a bony hand for him to take a seat.

"Is our young gem not with you today? I hear that the two of you have been quite inseparable since you returned." Despite his ailments, Tim still seemed to manage a twinkle in his eye.

"So then, my boy. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Visiting the ailing old man was likely a mistake. Grim stepped away from one problem and into another; Tim's little shack smelled stale, like medicine and neutrality as a body prepared to become a corpse. The slight hiss of the oxygen tank caught Grim's attention as he settled in the seat across from the old man as directed and laid his goods on the small coffee table laden with notes and books. When asked about Ruby, Grim found he couldn't quite meet Tim's eyes, he was afraid he might see the same sort of disapproval Erin and Riley seemed to shower him with. Their disdain dripped like water and all but washed him out of the camp, he hated himself for the echo of Riley's words that resounded in his mind calling him a sick old fuck. In all honesty the boy was probably right, he had no right in slipping into his baser desires with someone like Ruby.

"She's, ah, having a bit of a lay in." Quickly he jumped into the second question grateful for any question that wasn't directly about the redhead and his overwhelming feelings. Was she still crying? Fuck, the guilt was all but tearing him apart. "I was hoping to make use of your stove and kitchen, sir." Grim's calloused hand gestured to the small pile of ingredients. "I've got the means to make some bread."

"Dear heavens, bread?" Tim's gnarled grey hand fluttered to his chest. "I haven't had bread in years. Mind you Thomas's stew is splendid but a body get's tired of the same thing." Grim husked out a laugh and stood as Tim gestured that the kitchen was all his to use. After adjusting Tim's chair and oxygen tank so that he could watch on Grim got to work cleaning the space and prepping the old counter for the eventual dough. The stove was wood burning and so Grim took the opportunity to get it warmed up before anything and with a healthy blaze going he turned back to the counter and got his bowl ready. Yeast, water, flour and salt- it was simple enough in its ingredients but took its time and effort to get the consistency just right. Grim's muscles bunched as he worked, every once in a while Tim would ask a question and Grim would patiently explain to the scientist what was happening next.

Partway through a knock sounded at the door and both men lifted their gazes and spotted the mass of black hair and big eyes that was Syra peeking through the door at them.

"Oh hello, I was just popping by to check that you've taken your meds Tim?" Syra stepped into the space as Tim's brow furrowed.

"Hmm, you know dear I'm not sure." Tim looked apologetically at Syra. "Come on in, Grim's making some bread." Instantly Syra was at his side and Grim felt the tips of his ears go pink as the curious medic peered around his arm and into the bowl of dough that was steadily taking form. This kind of positive curiosity was a far cry from the fear and disdain he'd come to expect from others.

"Oh my god." Syra's hands clapped delightedly together and she hustled around the counter over to Tim's bedside table. She checked and once she was assured Tim had taken his meds she took a seat next to Tim and the two chatted like old friends while Grim finally was pleased enough with the consistency and was able to pull the dough from the bowl so he could knead it properly on the counter. The doctor and scientist watched the weary baker, their mouths turning upwards as he lifted the dough and flipped it in a practiced motion, and when it was baking in a small tin later Grim found himself grilled by their numerous questions. He did his best to answer in short curt sentences, but their interest demanded to know more and soon he explaining all about Lotta Loaves and the sorts of things he used to make."

"I don't mean to be dramatic, but I'd kill to try one of your lemon bars." Syra leaned back in her chair just as an old time dinged from the counter and Grim moved to his feet. Within moments the loaf of bread was resting on the counter and Grim held his knife over the still steaming bread. He cut carefully through the bed, unable to stop the grin of pride at the crunch of the crust and the smooth glide of the loaves innards. He passed around the slices after cutting and he watched as both Syra and Tim exclaimed over his creation, their eyes closing as their teeth sunk into the warm bread. Carefully Grim grabbed a clean dishrag and wrapped up two slices into it.

He approached Syra with his little bundle and pressed it into her hands.

"Could you take this to Ruby for me?" He asked softly. He expected questions, more needling, but instead he found nothing but compassion in the doctors face.

"Sure thing Grim. I'll get it to her right away."
By the time that the knock came at her door, Ruby had calmed down a smidge. She was laid on her bed, reading a ridiculously cheesy romance novel that she put down upon hearing she had company. She knew it wasn't Grim from the knock itself, but that didn't stop her heart from flipping wildly at the mere possibility. Her thoughts had not yet righted themselves into some semblance of logic, but her anger and hurt had quelled enough for a longing to have settled amongst them, for the simple fact that she missed him when they were apart. Especially when she didn't yet know how long they had left with each other.

"Come in." Sitting up a little straighter when she was it was Syra, the older woman gave the younger a wave and wandered over to the bed. "Hey, Rubes. How are you doing?"
To this, Ruby simply shrugged, assuming that Syra didn't know the ins and outs of the argument that had transpired. "I'm okay. Resting up. Doctor's orders."
Syra smiled as she sat on the end of the bed, holding Grim's small package between her hands. "I'm glad to hear that. I actually came here under strict orders myself." Then decisively, she handed the bread over, which Ruby looked at, looked at Syra and then gingerly took it and placed it in her lap. "From who?"
"I'll give you three guesses," Syra gave a playful eye roll. "Though I suppose it's the least I could do after he baked up a storm for Tim and I." She gave a small pause before adding softly, "I think he wanted to make sure you didn't miss out either."

Ruby's heart once again, was hammering rather erratically under her top as her hands began to unwrap the small package, the smell of... warmth, and home and everything good hitting her nose almost immediately. It was something she had never smelled before, or seen; the bread looked golden on top and soft in the middle, fresh, and she wanted nothing more than to ravish it. Yet, the pit of guilt in her stomach prevented her.

"It's really good," Syra offered gently. "Even Tim was able to enjoy some." Ruby nodded, still unable to speak for the moment. "You know Rubes, I really saw a different side to him today. I don't know what's going on between the two of you and I don't need to know but it's clear he cares about you, a lot, and that's a rare thing to find in this world. I don't want to speak out of turn but sometimes you just gotta grab onto it, with both hands as tight as you can. Ignore everything else. Everyone else. You have to do what's right for you."

Olive eyes had once more filled with tears at the advice she'd needed to hear and Ruby, raising her head managed just one more nod and a slightly sheepish smile, despite herself. "Alright hon," Syra smiled back and gently chucked the redhead under the chin. "I'll leave you to think on that, okay? But if you need to talk Rubes, just know you can always come to me for some... let's say, unbiased advice and support."

"Thank you, Syra."

Once she was finally left alone again, it wasn't long before Ruby had wrapped the bread up again to savour later and was heading back out into the camp. She didn't fully understand her feelings still and neither did she understand Grim's. Would he even want to see her, after she'd let him down, after she'd gone back on their deal, on what she'd promised him? She had no idea, but of one thing she was certain and that was that she just really wanted to see him. what she would do or say when she did she wasn't sure, but for now, the yearning she had was enough to see her taking a seat on the rock they had used for grinding wheat the day before, and waiting for Grim to emerge from Tim's shack.

Within the shack however, now that the older man was filled with bread and looking a little perkier than he had in days, he was studying Grim as the larger man tidied with a sort of elderly wisdom. "I've been meaning to ask you something son," he began. "After our conversation with young Ruby the other day. Have you and her, by any chance, spoken any more on taking the torch from me, in regard to those rumoured... artefacts?"
Tim's question made Grim hesitate, his cleaning cloth snagging in place as his body seized with the magnitude of Tim's question. It wasn't that he hadn't tried, but Grim still couldn't help but feel a failure that there was no concrete answer he could give the old man. He took his time folding up the cloth near the slightly rusty sink and leaned against it before answering. With his arms folded over his chest Grim let out a long sigh.

"We did speak about it. I am not sure if Ruby will be joining me, but I will be making the trip up to Fort Haven soon. I'll make sure to keep my eye out for any similar markings." It was the best he could do. Grim wasn't about to open the door to Ruby's past with another person, it felt wrong to find out anything about her from someone else. There was far more reward in the pieces of herself she chose to give him. Tim nodded, a slight shuddering cough overtaking him for a moment, and Grim rushed to give the man a cup of water. The old man may have a healthy tinge of pink to his cheeks but Grim was no fool in thinking his bread was that healing.

"Hmm, I had hoped there might be bravery in numbers but it seems the fear is a sickness just as strong as this infection." Tim stroked his weathered skin, just along the the side of his jaw, Grim blinked a little confused at what on earth the old man was alluding to but he remained quiet. "Its so strange Grim, I can't help but feel so strongly over this. I should be glad that even one person is willing to continue this venture for me. Since bringing home that artefact in the cave... things have been so fuzzy- But when I look at the two of you I see it so clearly." His dull eyes implored for Grim to understand, and Grim couldn't decide whether he was witnessing a lucid moment or the ramblings of a madman. Either way, Tim needed him to listen and he would do just that. Amber eyes bore witness to the hope that bloomed within death. "Do not give up on her. Promise me that."

"I... promise." Grim's knuckles turned white as once more he felt compelled to promise more than he thought he was capable of. Ever since Ruby thawed his heart the damn thing lead him down the paths that seemed so painful. Tim seemed placated by his pained words and gestured to the bed in the corner of the shack.

"Mind helping an old man once more?" Grim nodded, and the two of them worked together to get Tim settled between the sheets and resting comfortably in the centre of the bed. Grim was about to take his leave when Tim's weak hand snagged his wrist and the old man gave him one more bit of parting wisdom. "There are times to be gentle, and then there are times to fight for what you need, son." Rather than asking for clarification Grim just found himself nodding along. The two men shared a lingering look before Tim's eyes slipped closed and Grim took his leave. He stepped quietly out of the house, closing the door gently behind him and turning.

The camp was laid out before him, a few trees scattered over the grounds mingled with the buildings and centre fire. He could see the familiar shapes of Riley and Erin sitting together, their heads bent closely together as they spoke. Jack lingered near Thomas and the two of them passed Jack's flask back and forth. He took in all those things, before letting his gaze fall to the person he wanted to see the most. Ruby sat on her rock, her legs folded under her. Her soft hair fluttered in the light breeze and Grim felt an understanding in Tim's parting words of wisdom dawn on him. It was time to fight.

His long legs ate up the grass between them, and soon he was towering over her, a predatory grin aimed directly at her. "There she is." He rumbled, catching her chin and ensuring she looked only at him. Beyond her he could see heads turning and hear voices quieting- they had an audience. Perfect. "I suppose I should have told you that if you fail to keep up with our deal that there would a be a punishment for you Red." He murmured, his thumb moving from the line of her jaw to press lightly against the seam of her lips. He wasn't fighting fair, but he didn't have it in him to care about how this looked. There was so much unknown, so much left hanging in the air that it made him feel crazy. He was losing his mind with the need to keep her and perhaps he was interpreting Tim's advice wrongly but... fuck it.

"Since I neglected to tell you I'll give you a choice of punishment." Grim's tongue circled over his top teeth, and he caught the motion of someone standing to get a better look at the both of them out of the corner of his eye. Absolutely nothing was going to stop him however, not when he craved her like his next breath. "Option one: I put you over my knee and we both count to ten for everyone to see. Option two: we go back to your room and I take you right in front of your open window and make you scream. I'll make you scream so much everyone will know who you belong to and anyone walking by will know that I'm a fucking slave for you." He lifted his thumb from her lips. "What's it going to be Princess?"
Completely unaware of what had been spoken about in Tim's shack, Ruby remained just as oblivious when Grim finally exited and began towards her. She had her back to the door, was fiddling with a thin blade of grass between her fingers. In fact, she sensed Grim before she saw him and when she finally did turn, she was slightly taken aback by the way he was swallowing up the grass to get to her. She'd had no idea what she was going to say to him, how they might reconcile but putting herself in his space had been the first step and it would seem as he reached her that Ruby thankfully, didn't need to think about what she was going to say at all, as if as usual, he knew exactly what she needed.

Olive eyes met with shining amber when he looked down at her with a grin and Ruby could already feel her chest fluttering because she knew that look, and she knew what it meant. It irritated her no end to realise that he thought he could have her when he wanted, but in reality she liked that irritation and... it was absolutely true. She'd drop everything to spend even one second in his company, whether she wanted to admit that or not. Regardless, she allowed him to use her chin to tilt her in his direction, her own gaze beginning to smoulder when his thumb moved tantalisingly across her jawline and pressed to her lips. It took everything that Ruby had not to bite.

Everything else fell away in those moments, the audience they had, the way the breeze rustled her red hair, the shack behind them. She was solely focussed on the man in front of her, threatening her with punishment. He laid out the options before her and Ruby could feel her body tingling, a sensation to focus on that replaced the dread she had put herself through in the last couple of hours. They may have trouble with verbal communication but this was different, this was how they spoke to one another, their love language for want of a better word. He was coaxing, probing, fighting. And now all that was left to do was fight back.

Slowly raising to her feet, Ruby didn't make any effort to step back as she did so, or drop her gaze from his. Her lips had parted slightly upon hearing option two and her skin felt tight and hot to the touch. She knew that Grim knew the effect he was having on her, how he was a fucking slave for her, but she was for him too. "I think..." She began slowly, moving forwards, allowing her chest to press into his. "... that you should know better than to try and punish me, grandad." Ruby countered, walking her fingers slowly, painfully slowly up his muscled arm, towards his chest. "Because there's no way in hell that I'd give you the satisfaction without putting up a fight first." When she reached his neck, she paused, cupping her small hand around the ink there. "So wherever you think is best for the sake of the fuss I'm about to kick up..." Her thumb idly traced the markings. "... I'd be more than happy to meet you there."

Without warning then, Ruby's grip tightened just a fraction and she leaned so that her lips were only inches from Grim's ear. "My Room? Five minutes?" But Red didn't wait for an answer before she stepped away from him, again purposefully slowly, and she only looked away once she'd turned to saunter in the direction of her building.

Ignoring the baffled and slightly concerned looks from the onlookers, Ruby headed inside, her heart thundering, and when she actually reached her bedroom, she purposefully sat herself on the windowsill, watching the door and... waiting. It wasn't clear why she delayed the inevitable, but in her own mind, it was to tease him as much as he seemed to want to her.
Jealousy was a strange thing, it warped and twisted ones mind until what seemed perfectly logical turned out to be pure insanity. Riley had stopped listening to Erin, his dark eyes focused on Nordic giant and the way he held what could have been his. Never in their years together had Ruby leaned into him the way she was now pressing into Grim, and Riley longed for one press of her chest against his. Maybe, just maybe if he held her like that she might see how things could be between them. Grim's forceful nature seemed to alight something within Ruby and Riley couldn't help but salivate at the thought of wrapping Ruby's hair up in his fist like he imagined Grim might have done. Maybe then she might look at him and whisper filthy nothings into his ear. Riley shifted in his seat, unable to keep still as impatience and anger fueled him more than his own beating heart.

Hadn't he been there for her? He'd been the one to sneak out of the sleeping quarters late at night with her so they might look up at the stars. He'd brought her food and helped to patch her wounds each time she returned from outside. She should be fucking grateful, and the fact that she wasn't was like a punch to the gut. His gaze narrowed on the way Ruby seemed to turn the giant man into a puddle at her feet as she pulled away. Even from this distance, Riley could see the mischievous light in her eyes as she sauntered away from him. He took in the gentle roll of her hips and the curtain of red hair that swished with every step she took, further away from him.

"Be right back." Riley cut off Erin midsentence, and without apology he stood and headed straight for the building they had first interrogated Grim in. He should have just shot the old man then and there and been done with it. Hindsight was twenty, twenty Riley supposed. He wouldn't be making that mistake again. Once inside of the building Riley headed straight for the small room the housed the radio, and after taking over for the man who had been listening in previously Riley settled in his chair and regarded the communication device with a sick sort of smile.

Grim forced himself to wait the five minutes, and then another minute more. If Ruby wanted to build up anticipation he could certainly partake. He leaned heavily against the tree, counting the seconds and ignoring those that looked on with a sort of morbid curiosity. There was a deep secret part of himself that hated to think of Ruby remaining in a place where she was regarded like a sort of strange experiment or like a pet rather than a normal member of the camp. Ruby had proven herself time and time again each time she left the camp and returned with supplies they had desperately needed, and yet despite that, the fuckers couldn't seem to give her the respect she deserved to live her life as her own.

He could remember it all too clearly, the feeling of nothing and freedom that came the moment he abandoned his post. It had been terrifying to suddenly have no one lording over his day. Grim could eat, sleep and shit however he liked and he thought he'd never willingly go back to a life where the command of another had any hold over him. He sighed refusing to acknowledge his debt to Rivers for the moment. Pushing from the tree Grim turned towards the house in which Ruby waited for him and he took a deep breath, his eyes closing before he let the magnetic pull Ruby held over him take over.

Moments later he was pulling open the door to Ruby's room and a pleased smile forced the corners of his lips up when he saw her there, leaning against the sill. He took his time approaching her, slowly closing the door behind him and flipping the lock. He stalked up to her like a predator about to pounce and stopped just in front of her, his head tilting down to take in the sweet way she regarded him.

"Hmm, this certainly doesn't seem like a fuss." He mused, recalling her words from moments ago. "Could it be, do you want this as much as I do Red?" They had let their anger get the better of them and it certainly wouldn't be the last time. There seemed to be a disconnect between the words they spoke and the feelings they held deep within them. However when they were like this, when they could touch and tease there didn't seem to be anything they couldn't resolve. Each sigh and gasp of pleasure was a truth, a bind that wrapped tight around them. Eager to get his hands on her and feel that deep connection Grim tugged Ruby off the sill and twisted her so her back was pressed to his front and she could look down out of the window.

"Last time I had you against this window it didn't go so well." Grim's nose dragged along the ivory of her neck, his teeth nipping at the junction where shoulder met neck. "I'm not letting you out of this one so easy, not when we have to get something straight between us." He bit harder, his hands curling around her hips and digging slightly into the fabric of her pants. "You have a right to your anger and your space Red, as I have a right to mine. As long as we can settle like this after we'll be just fine." He soothed the spot he'd bit into with a soft kiss before lifting his head, a wry smile darkening his features.

"Now... I think it's time to make you scream my name."
Unaware of the storm that was brewing around Riley's plans for revenge, Ruby's gaze remain pinned on the door to her room when it began to open, her heart leaping involuntary into her throat. Grim moved with painstaking precision, as though he was trying to control himself in the build up to this, just as she was. She didn't move when he started towards her but rather sat, watching, daring, smirking slightly when he loomed above her and she tilted her head back to regard him with feigned innocence. "Mm, perhaps. Or maybe I'm simply buying my time."

Every part of her felt like it was tingling with the anticipation, which was only heightened by the space that remained between them until Grim was the one to close it. He'd tugged her from the sill and pressed her back into his chest within seconds and Ruby all but melted against him, powerless against the effect he had on her, unable to kick up a fuss even if she wanted to. Which she didn't. Her lips parted slightly to allow her increased bursts of breath to escape and her head tilted to grant Grim better access to her neck as she recalled the heat of the last time they had been in the position and now suddenly, they found themselves here again without restraint. A small whimper left Ruby's throat involuntarily when he laved into the crook of her neck, and instinctively her hand came up to cup the back of his head, curling into his wild mane of hair. She couldn't think, couldn't feel, see or smell anything past him. He was everything, and it was about time that she started admitting that to herself.

His hands on her hips, much larger than she was caused her to press back against him a little harder, intent on making him squirm even a fraction of the amount that she currently was. "Grim..." She breathed, more softly as he kissed where his teeth had been previously, her head tilting his way so that she could see him, look at him. For despite their heat, he was simultaneously melting her heart by assuring her that they could always fix things between them, if they wanted to. It was more effort than anybody had put in to keep her around and Ruby's heart twisted up at the thought. "We'll be just fine," she echoed in a whisper, finding his eyes, wanting him to see this moment of vulnerability, the sincerity she was allowing. Only did her expression change at his next command, her lips tugging into a smile. "Not before I make you scream mine, grandad." And with that she closed the distance between them.

People usually said that the best thing about falling out with someone was the making up, but never had that been true in Ruby's life until now. They remained by the window just as Grim promised, possibly making way more noise than was socially acceptable. Every sweet gasp, every moan; she wanted him to have it all, and have it all he did. Ruby was utterly steeped in pleasure, their apologies, their understanding sweeping wordlessly through them with each kiss and touch that dizzied them into oblivion.

This time when it was over, Ruby felt as though she couldn't move as she basked in their afterglow; Grim was curled around her on top of the bed and she still had her back to him, how this had all began. Her hand was still in his hair, scratching softly against his scalp and she was happy just... existing with him like this for a little while longer. For a little while longer until she pressed a kiss to his knuckles, and hummed around her consideration of a question.

"Can I ask you something?" She began lazily, carefully. "Did you... did you really think I'd go out with Riley? Instead of you?"
It was when Ruby looked back at him, her olive eyes wide and filled with hope that Grim truly knew once more it would all be well. She repeated the his promises and he praised her for it, murmuring that she was perfection and everything she did pleased both the man and the animal that resided within him. She promised that her name would be the only thing leaving his lips and she stuck to her word. By the end of it, he was certain more than half of the camp had heard his roar of ecstasy. He'd deposited them on the bed when their limbs could stand no more and curled his arms around Ruby as she lazed over him. Her question came a while later and Grim considered how to best answer her.

"I kept telling myself not to believe him." Grim sighed, his head tilting back a bit as his eyes looked up sightlessly at the ceiling. "But I guess there was a part of myself that agreed with what he was saying. Why would someone like you give me anymore time than you already have?" Grim's teeth clicked together, the only sign that the words bothered him even now. "It's nothing that you've done to make me feel this way..." His eyes drifted down from the ceiling and he lifted a hand to tug lightly on a few strands of Ruby's hair. His finger circling around the lock and curling it around the mid part of his pointer finger. "Well... maybe the grandad comments initially, but they've grown on me." Grim chuckled softly. There was something seeking in his gaze as he looked up at her, there was no mistaking the touch of fear in the coals of his eyes.

"Why choose an old man when you could have someone your age?" Even after the end of the world and the lines of right and wrong blurred Grim couldn't keep himself from the worry that he was taking far more than he should from Ruby. It was very likely he'd always worry that Ruby might find something new and shinier than him, how could he not when their difference in age made it more likely that he could be her father. His nose crinkled at the thought and he pushed the intrusive thoughts and the echoes of Riley's voice from his mind.

"I didn't know if you'd follow Erin's orders, I don't know enough about your life here to know if everything you do for these people is done willingly or if its just following orders. There was so much I didn't understand and it scared me." In one moment they were lounging and in the next Grim had flipped them, taking his position of power over her in an effort to combat the way his next words made him feel so fucking venerable. "I reacted poorly, and for that. I. Am.... sorry." He hated apologizing, hated knowing that he'd done something to hurt her. He would do better next time, or at least he would try to be better, though with how the world had shaped him it seemed a bit like a lost cause to try and better himself- but for her he could try his damnedest.

Whatever her answer was Grim took comfort in it. They would never be perfect together, nor would everyday be a joy but it was moment's like this; where they lay together tangled up with nothing between them that made it all worth it. They slept soundly that night, blissfully unaware of the growing threat headed their way, and the morning sunlight was bright and cheerful doing nothing to foreshadow the storm of anger that would soon be upon them. Instead Grim got ready for the day, feeling cheerful as ever. They would be leaving the camp for a quick moment and he couldn't even begin to describe how happy that made him. No one but the open road and his girl next to him. Truly it seemed perfect.
She didn't know for certain if he would answer her, but there was something about these moments after, the rawness of each time that they came together which seemed to open a doorway for them both, a sort of two way passage of emotion and thoughts. Plus, this had been the deal and although Ruby had rescinded on her part, at least she had bore her punishment. The thought in itself caused her to smile slightly to herself, though the expression was stolen away when Grim began to speak.

For the most part, the redhead silently listened, though by the end of it all she found herself frowning because how could he... possibly think that about himself? About them? That he wasn't good enough for her, too old, too... far gone. She'd fucking ring Riley's neck for making him feel that way and although her features were soft when she turned back over to face him, her eyes simmered with unspent anger aimed at the boy who seemed to be at the very root of all of their problems at the moment.

"Aj..." The name was uttered softly as a small hand reached up to cup his face, encouraging it to the side so that he was looking at her. The use of his real name was simple enough but she hoped it portrayed what she intended it to. That she didn't see his age, their differences but rather... him, why they were so perfectly matched in every way. "Someone like me is lucky to have someone like you," she told him sincerely, honestly. "Do you know how damn lucky I feel that you're willing to put up with a brat like me? Because you see beyond all of that, all the anger, the... wall, just how I see beyond your age, your grumpy ways, your filthy mouth in the bedroom." On the contrary, she loved that about him and he knew it, which was shown by the briefest of smirks. "You're just... you, like I am me and that's who we are when we're together. Nothing else matters." Then she added, more quietly. "I've never had a connection like that with anyone as long as I've been alive. You're special, Grim and you're... you're special to me. Don't you ever forget that." Leaning up towards him then, she kissed him once on the lips, slowly, but then she lingered after his apology, allowing their noses to brush.

"I'm sorry," she smiled, "But was that... Did you...? Did you just... apologise?" Ruby kissed him again but she was giggling, despite herself. "Jesus Christ, could you say it again, a little louder this time? Hang on, let me see if there's an old tape recorder around here somewhere..."

The rest of their evening together melted into affectionate silliness and just like always, they stayed up whispering to each other for most of the rest of the night. They also awoke in a similarly usual style, of Grim's consciousness pre-cursing her own until he practically dragged Ruby from their pit so they could get breakfast.

If people were looking at them, Ruby ignored it, in favour of the two of them putting on a united front against whoever wanted to say anything different. Riley was nowhere to be seen and around lunchtime was when Erin finally made her move.

"Ruby. Grim." Her greeting felt a little strained but Ruby pretended not to notice as she raised from the log she had previously been sat on. "Erin."

"We're about ready to get you geared up if you want to come with me?" Without waiting for an answer however, she turned on her heel and after a few seconds Ruby turned to raise her eyebrows at Grim, followed by a nudge of her head and then finally footsteps in the direction of the weapons store.
In the past, the use of an old name that he long thought dead and gone might have irked him. He'd heard that name used in pain, when soulful eyes that matched his clouded over from infection. He'd heard it at four AM sharp many mornings as he was pulled from an uncomfortable cot and set upon the wall to guard. It had been a long time since he'd heard his name used in such a peaceful way. Grim didn't think about the past as much when Ruby was around, instead he found himself looking forward to the future, to the next moment with her. He was touched by her words and actions and a warmth settled over him like a thick blanket.

The warmth carried through the night and well into the morning and when he dragged Ruby out of bed and into the fresh air Grim felt the floating sensation even when others looked at him like he'd grown a second head. There was a sort of smug satisfaction within him when camp members flushed and averted their gazes as they passed by- clearly they had been heard. He and Ruby enjoyed their morning together speaking softly and ignoring the piercing gazes that carved holes in their backs. Grim felt even more elated when Erin approached them, signaling it was time for the two of them to get ready. He had to admit he wasn't expecting to be shown to the weapons store and wondered if perhaps Erin was starting to warm up to him? Though from her strained greeting he couldn't have been sure.

They followed Erin into one of the buildings and down a hall, a single man stood guard at a heavily locked door and he moved to the side when Erin approached. Within a few moments the door was unlocked and Erin stepped aside letting both Grim and Ruby enter the room. While Ruby's camp certainly wasn't a treasure trove of guns and explosives it was certainly a lovely collection made even more so from their journey to Strand. He looked over the mass of weaponry with an appraising eye and spotted a dark cluster of fabric on a nearby table, approaching Grim lifted the mesh fabric to reveal a bullet proof vest, one that seemed to be about Ruby's size.

"Here." He tossed her the vest and made a move towards the ammo when Erin's voice stopped him.

"I am sorry Grim but there isn't one in your size..." The camp leader leaned in the doorframe, her arms folded over her chest. She looked tired, and from the way she was looking at Grim he figured it would be better just to accept what he figured was a fabrication, he had no right to demand any of their resources and thus he wouldn't. As long as Ruby had protection he would be alright. He nodded his head, the only sort of confirmation he could give of hearing her and turned to Ruby. There was something automatic in the way he approached Ruby and ripped open the Velcro of the vest. He wasted no time pulling it on her, and with clearly practiced motions he tightened the Velcro around her torso and ensured it was on snuggly. After grabbing just a little more ammo Grim was ready, he had his own weapons in the truck that he didn't mind using. He didn't want to give Erin any more reason to distrust him.

Erin walked them out to the gate and after giving them both clearer directions on where the camp was likely to be found she took a step back. Grim was too busy loading into the truck to notice the way the woman's teeth dug into her bottom lip. Erin seemed to be in a slight internal battle before finally giving in and reaching out to gently snag Ruby's wrist. Quickly she pulled the young woman toward her, a hushed rush of breath mingling with her orders.

"Leave him there." Erin pressed a deadly looking switchblade into Ruby's hand, curling the red head's fingers around it. "I know you see it Ruby, the strain that he puts on the camp. I'm begging you to please think of your family, of those that love you." Erin's eyes implored with Ruby. "I don't think I can let him back in here with out something going terribly wrong... and after the way he treated you last night." Erin's throat bobbed in a thick swallow. "The whole camp could hear Ruby... This has to end now, before you're responsible for something much worse than just hurt feelings."
It was clear to Ruby that Erin was frosty with them but she chose to ignore it in favour of walking closely by Grim's side, unwavering in her good mood because they deserved to spend some time together, just the two of them, outside of this place... this place that was starting to feel less and less like her home the more the days went on. She couldn't think about that now though as they reached the weapons store and instead, Ruby put her mind to the task at hand and what they needed. In fact, she was so engrossed in rifling through a stash of knives that she didn't notice Erin's halting of Grim trying to find a vest for himself, and god help her if she had.

His looming shadow covering her was what alerted her to his approach and Ruby stood when she felt his presence, looking from him to the vest that he held out for her. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments and with a nod, the redhead allowed him to step forwards and fit it onto her, snugly, her gaze never leaving his expression. She understood why he was making sure that she was covered, making sure that she would be safe. Grim was protecting what was his and for the first time in a long time, Ruby was intent on letting him.

They eventually emerged around a half an hour later heading to Grim's truck with their goods, with him taking the lead in loading the vehicle up. Ruby had just been about to follow suit when she felt a grip upon her wrist and twisting in surprise, she was met with Erin's hushed instruction. For a long moment, Ruby simply stared at her friend, green eyes searching her features as the blade was pressed against her palm. "Erin, what--"

"Leave him there."

And then it dawned on her. Exactly what Erin was asking her to do.

Taking a step back, Ruby was unable to hide the hurt that flickered in her chest, the betrayal. Her cheeks flushed slightly at the mention of last night; oh, at the time, she had absolutely been aware that the camp could hear, it would have been impossible for them not to, but for it to lead to... this? The redhead shook her head slightly, disbelieving of the choice that was being put in front of her. Her home or him. She had to choose.

It took Ruby a moment to gather herself as fear, anger, heartbreak; every possible emotion prickled along her skin, causing her to shiver against the breeze that whipped through her hair. Everything about this felt unfair, dirty. The person who she loved, who had been like a mother to her didn't act like this, wasn't so underhand. Ruby concluded silently that there was someone else behind this ultimatum, someone else that would not win in pushing her away from the people she cared about. Someone else she would deal with upon her return.

In the end, Ruby took a breath as she heard Grim rustling around at the back of the truck and wordlessly, she opened her hand and let the blade clatter to the floor, her gaze never once leaving Erin's. They remained poised, watching each other until Ruby turned away, a clear message in her actions when words felt so impossible. The same silence followed her as she clambered into the passenger seat and slammed her door shut, watching through the wing mirror as Erin bent down to retrieve the knife and with one final look towards the truck, turned and headed back into the camp. Ruby let out an exhale and only attempted to straighten her features when Grim joined her; for some reason telling him felt wrong, as though it wasn't quite the right time, as though... she knew how he might react and the fallout that would come with it. So, she purposefully decided on not telling him for now, and instead reaching to around herself to pull on her seatbelt.

"Ready, grandad?"
Once their weapons and supplies were secured Grim pushed the tailgate closed giving it a tug towards him to ensure it wouldn't fall open on them during the drive. His feet felt light, like there was a slight bounce to his step and damn it all, was that a soft hum emanating from the back of his throat? An old familiar tune that reminded him of nights in the club when D.Js were pitted against one another in a battle of beats and drops. He felt like a kid on Christmas morning, the open road and time with the woman who put a song in his heart being exactly what he'd asked for. He reached the drivers side door and thankfully bottled that shit up before Ruby could see or hear and opened the door. Warm eyes regarded Ruby with a sort of rosy haze, he was the curve of her mouth and didn't read into it. In his mind Ruby was just as elated as he, and he wasted no time in twisting the key and hearing the old engine rumble to life sending vibrations through the cabin.

Their drive was amiable, moments of comfortable silence only to be broken but a sudden wondering or question. They took gravel roads to get to their destination and with it being only a small distance away it brought Grim a slight bit of disappointment as they spotted a scattering of tents hidden among the brush just up a hill. He parked a fair distance away, though had there been anyone at the camp they would have had no issue hearing the rumbling of his truck as it halted behind a few thick trees. Both Grim and Ruby kept their eyes peeled, seeking out any sort of movement that might indicate a survivor or an infected. Nothing; nothing but the way of the overhead branches and leaves that provided small spattering's of shade. Both looters sat still for a long minute, their eyes focused on the task ahead, and when nothing immediately charged or made itself known the two shared a look. To appease himself Grim reached out to flatten his hand along the velcro that held the vest tight to Ruby's chest, ensuring she was safely tucked away in it.

"Hmm, not sure if I'm discovering things about myself here and now, but the idea of you in combat boots and only this makes my mouth water." He tugged on the stiff collar of the Kevlar playfully. His wolfish grin was devastating and when he stepped out of the truck and circled around the back he had to suppress the hum that wanted to come forth once more. It seemed company was everything, because Grim was more than happy to walk into danger as long as she was there, the work felt like a fucking vacation. Together they pulled their weapons from the truck, and when Grim's cloth mask was pulled over the nose he found he was grateful for the cover as his mouth automatically widened into a sort of unhinged grin. when Ruby twisted from him, ready to move her way up the hill he couldn't help but swat a possessive hand over her backside. When she turned back to him, presumably to glare, he lifted his hands in mock surrender.

"Sorry, I'll be serious now. I swear." He tried to sound convincing but he wasn't sure if Ruby would buy it. He did however turn to the task at hand and ensured that Ruby's back was covered as the two of them began to creep their way up the hill, keeping their ears pricked for any sounds. Only nature's song and the breeze greeted them however, and quickly the two were pressed against the trunk of a large tree and peering around it's bark, their eyes taking in the small cluster of hunting tents. There were no vehicles but Grim could see the evidence of them from the tire tracks that had eaten up the earth in their haste to escape. Tent flaps waved slightly in the wind, and Grim found it odd to see just how quickly the camp was evacuated. He could make out a few mugs still half full sitting around the stones that banked what had once been a campfire.

"This feels off." He whispered. It was like the camp was frozen in time, full of life one moment and void the next. He couldn't smell the tell tale signs of death or infection, he could only hope whatever had scared the group was long gone.
There was an irritation settling in Ruby as Grim gunned the truck to life and they set off onto the open road once more, an irritation that was born out of so many conflicting emotions, but one that settled upon the easiest reason to swallow, which was that Erin was stealing something from her that would have previously made her just as happy as Grim was; and she could tell that he was, from the way he spoke with a tone less burdened than usual, from the way he drummed his fingers lightly on the steering wheel. Ruby wanted to feel all of that and more, and in a way she did, but perhaps not in the way she'd wanted to, because her head was suddenly so damn full of the weight of a choice that she didn't believe for a second that she should have to make. That all being sad, she tried to mask her internal struggle as best as she could though, simply because she didn't have the heart to ruin this for Grim too. Their time together, just the two of them felt so precious; why shouldn't they take every opportunity to enjoy it?

Along their short but sweet journey, Ruby pulled out her map from the glove compartment again, scribbling down the directions they were headed in while she and Grim mused aloud to each other as the world passed by around them. Only did she fold it away again when he signalled what he'd spotted up ahead and the two of them immediately dropped back into survival mode with a simple look and nod of acknowledgement.

The small cluster of trees uphill from the encampment provided them with the shelter they needed to lay low and just observe for a little while, to make sure that what they were about to walk into wasn't some kind of fucking trap. When nothing seemed immediately off however, Ruby had just been about to suggest they get closer when she felt a slight tug on her vest, olive eyes narrowing as Grim confessed that he was getting turned on by his once more less than innocent thoughts. Ruby rolled her eyes, despite the fact that she too was enjoying the mental image of winding him up in such a get up. "Perv," she chided, though the grin he shot her way sent her into an near internal god damn frenzy, one that she tried to hide with a smirk as they finally hopped out of the truck.

A few moments later and their weapons were gathered and Ruby had turned when she felt the hand swat at her ass, her whole body immediately halting and whipping to face Grim once more. Only her eyes were visible above her own cloth mask and they were blazing, until he raised his hands and Ruby took it upon herself to lean in to murmur in a deadly quiet by his ear. "Behave yourself, grandad," she uttered, close enough that they couldn't see each other, "Otherwise I'll rethink my plans on how to make that little fantasy of yours a reality."

Ruby didn't hang around to wait for Grim's reaction as she turned and sauntered up the hill ahead of him, only glancing back once over her shoulder with a satisfied smirk because despite her feigned scolding... she was quite enjoying the attention.

For now, that saw the last of their playing with one another as they lowered once they reached the crest of the mound in front of them, eyes skimming the tents below for signs of life. It was quiet, eerily so, which only drove them to being even more careful the closer they got. The tents flapping in the breeze made it feel somewhat more abandoned, spooky almost, and Ruby shivered a little as the same breeze ruffled through her hair. Her eyes scanned the half empty mugs, the tyre tracks, "Whoever they were, they must have left in a hurry," she mused as they circled around several of the tents, before eventually coming back to stand beside one another. "If the people left, it's most likely the infected did too, probably chasing them. No point in them sticking around if there's nothing to eat." Then with a shrug, Ruby continued, "Shall we get what we came here for then, or--"

It was at this point that a cracking snapped behind them however, and mid-sentence, Ruby immediately dropped into a crouch, gripping Grim's arm and pulling him behind the nearest tent with her. She didn't say a word as she watched, her heart beginning to drum, the adrenaline kicking in. A silence followed but then around five seconds later... more movement and something that sounded like... sniffing. Ruby glanced at her partner and unsheathed a knife from her boot... waiting... listening... trying to make a plan that wouldn't get them both fucking killed despite the fact that they currently had no idea what they were going up against.
The tip of his tongue ran over the tops of his teeth at Ruby's tantalizing words; of course he should have known she would be more than willing to take whatever his depraved mind could conjure and make it into blissful reality. Grim followed after Ruby, forcing his eyes away from the tempting image that was Ruby in full gear heading up the hill. He watched as she took in the camp, eventually moving forward to peer through the open tents and wander through the space, her logic dictating that what ever had sent the camp into its rush to leave was long gone, like its inhabitants.

"Makes sense." Grim spoke softly as he walked up next to Ruby, his gaze still sweeping over the scene almost as if he found her words too good to be true. It was at that moment he and Ruby both heard a noise, a deep crack like a branch being stepped upon and in the next instant Ruby was dragging Grim by the arm and pulling him behind a tent. He crouched, gripping his gun tightly to his chest as the two of them forced their breathing to go quiet and their ears to strain for anything that might tell them what they were dealing with. Deep rapid sniffing entered his ears and Grim felt his brows draw down, there was something familiar about that noise but he couldn't quite place it. He heard the clink of one of the mugs tipping over and spilling its contents onto the soil.

Grim's eyes met Ruby's and the two of them shared an intense long look in which they both silently worked through their next course of action. It was like a whole conversation played out with only the lifting of brows and meaningful looks. Eventually the two of them agreed that Grim would peek his head out and Ruby would provide cover if they were charged immediately. As silently as he could Grim shifted his weight, moving so that he could peek around the side of the tent. His hand touched the ground, balancing his weight as he slowly leaned and took in the sight at the centre of the camp. For half a second he thought it was a bear, and he couldn't stop the reflexive reaction in which he quickly pulled back. Wanting to confirm that it was indeed what he saw Grim quickly moved back into position and forced himself to better take in the sight.

Hang on now, bears didn't have long fluffy tails like that, nor did they wag like that. Grim's eyes travelled up the fluffy body, taking in the way one of the creatures legs was curled up almost protectively so it's limb did not touch the ground, and the heavy matting of fur that lined the creatures neck. Holy shit, he was definitely looking at a dog, a massive one at that. Looking back to Ruby he gave her a quick nod, letting her know it was alright before pushing to his feet and stepping around the tent. When the dog to notice of him, it's ears instantly went back, it's tail dropping low between its legs while a pitiful whine left it's lungs. Chocolate brown eyes looked up at him fearfully, but instead of running away it seemed the poor thing, with it's hurt limb had no choice but to drop low and appear like it wasn't a threat. Grim's heart instantly broke for the thing.

"Poor guy." Grim crooned softly, taking a gentle step forward and halting when the whine grew louder. "We're not gonna hurt you." Grim's gaze flashed to Ruby. "Do you have any water? Maybe we could fill up one of the mugs and see if he needs something to drink."
Their ability to communicate without words had developed quickly, simply because they had both found themselves in numerous situations where their lives depended on it. That being said however, Ruby sometimes wondered if there was more to it than that. Their connection ran deep and it had buried itself within them both faster and stronger than either of them could have anticipated. They knew each other better than they seemed to know themselves at times and she couldn't help but wonder how much of that aided these moments, the way that one look communicated so much.

Moments passed until finally a decision was made and Ruby quietly shifted so that she was behind Grim, but light on her feet, ready to cover him in whatever situation they were about to launch themselves into. The tension in the air was palpable as he started to gather his weight, allowing him to grip onto the side of the tent and slowly, ever so slowly... lift his head over the top to see what it was that was close by. The instinctive reaction for him to reel back in surprise caused Ruby to loose a breath she hadn't realised she had been holding, and a small hand gripped tightly into her partner's shirt as he steadied himself to get a better look. With an urgent panic about her, she tugged at the material on his back, eyes wide as she tried to demand that he tell her what they were dealing with. In the end however, it was a quick nod that finally comforted her pounding heart.

With her knife still held tightly in her hand, Ruby allowed Grim to stand and step around the material that was still pinned into the ground, with her following closely behind. It only took a few steps for the poor creature to come into sight before them and Ruby found herself staring at an animal she had only ever seen in the distance on her travels. Until now. It was a dog. A dog that looked like it was injured, as though it was absolutely petrified, more so of them than they were of it. That being said however, Ruby moved cautiously, instinctively reaching out to hold Grim's arm as she stayed a little behind him. When he crooned and took a step forwards, Ruby pulled him back. "Wait," she whispered, a surprising amount of fear in her voice. For someone who wasn't easily spooked, it would appear that a potential dog had her heart leaping into her mouth, a terror gripping her body. The redhead had learned of the uncertainty of infected, but animals... the bear was her main experience of this kind of thing, and look how that had turned out.

"Is it... Is it safe?" The question ghosted across her lips in a whisper as she looked from the dog to Grim and then back again, although when it started to keen, its tail wagging softly, those large dark eyes dipped in a bow, she had to admit that a swell of sympathy flooded through her system. "Y-Yeah, I've got my canteen. Hang on."

Finally letting go of Grim, Ruby unhooked the metal bottle from her belt and slowly, carefully lowered to grip a bowl that stood between them and the animal. Her eyes never left the creature as she unscrewed the cap and poured the liquid into it, before nudging it towards him. The dog didn't hesitate in hopping over and dunking its nose into the fresh water, lapping quickly and greedily, which despite her nerves, caused Ruby to smile. "There you go," she murmured. "That's much better, huh?"

Then finally, still crouched in front of him, she twisted to look back at Grim over her shoulder with a smile that looked almost childlike around the wariness that still lingered. "I've never seen a dog so close up before."
It never occurred to Grim that Ruby might have little to no experience with dogs. The experience of humanities best friend was so deeply ingrained in him from a time long gone that he didn't stop to consider what a person born outside of that time might react. Certainly it was fear from the way her hand gripped his arm like a vice and her words were spoken in a sort of hushed awe, like she was afraid that the mighty beast before them might attack at any moment.

"You're alright Princess." Grim spoke over his shoulder softly, aiming his words towards the small red head that had tucked herself behind him. There was something incredibly pleasing about that fact, she had leaned into him and trusted him to protect her. The thought had him straightening a little as Ruby cautiously stepped to the side and found some water for the dog. Grim watched with careful eyes, everything about the dogs body language indicated to him that it had no intention of attacking, but things could go differently at any moment. However when the dog crept forward and began to lap at the bowl filled with water he let himself relax. There was something incredibly wholesome about the sight before him, Ruby crouched before beast of a dog looking at it's hunched shoulders and patterned fur like it was a thought provoking piece in a gallery.

Grim let his heart lead in the moment, and he found himself unable to resist joining Ruby in her crouch. The way she'd looked at him just then... sent his heart into a funny sort of flip that he had no words to even begin to describe.

"No way, with a face like that I assumed you spent your weekends with the canine verity." Grim deadpanned as he lifted a hand to brush a playful finger down the line of her nose. "Make sure you let em sniff you first before you go out and touch it." Grim demonstrated with his own arm, holding his hand out and downturned for the dogs curious nose to press against. Its nose was cool against his skin and textured with soft bumps and crevice's. Gently Grim reached to brush his fingers against the dogs matted hair along his jawline and he let out a noise of sympathy. "Poor guy's been out here a long while, his coats a disaster." It was automatic and Grim slipped into the soft sort of voice that people tended to reserve for only the cutest animals and babies. "We'll get you sorted big guy." Gently he pulled back and with a curious gaze he turned to Ruby and gesture that she try the same. "Your turn." He told her with a wry smile.

Chocolate eyes regarded Ruby with interest and the dogs deep huffing breaths had it's nose creeping curiously towards the red head. Before Ruby could move however it seemed the gentle beast needed to get a little more comfortable and without much ado it plopped its rump on the ground in a small cloud of dust and bent it's head towards Ruby. Grim was certain that if Ruby stood next to dog it's head might reach above her hip. Touching a steadying hand to Ruby's shoulders Grim watched on as two souls grew acquainted. He took note of the way the dogs front paw rested lightly on the ground, ensuring that no body weight would be pressed on it's aching limb. For half a moment he wondered if it was a break they were dealing with but the cause of the dogs pain became evident when he spotted the gleam of metal shrapnel embedded deep into the pups paw.

"Feeling like playing some doctor Red?" Grim was about to push himself to his feet when a high pitched screech sounded from the bottom of the hill, sending the dogs hackles up and a low grow to emanate from deep in its throat. Grim scrabbled to get his gun pressed to his shoulder, and his military training took over as he swept his gaze over the surrounding area, instinctively he placed himself between the noise and those he wanted to protect. Another noise sounded, and it's deep guttural groan sent a chill down Grim's spine. Whatever it was sounded like it was coming right for them.
His deadpan almost saw Ruby pushing him over but she refrained, mainly so as not to startle the poor thing in front of them. Instead, she gave him one of her famous Ruby looks and turned her attention back to the dog, watching intently when Grim demonstrated to her how to appropriately greet the animal, to give it time to take in their scent and feel comfortable enough to accept contact. The sight of the large figure next to her doing just that and crooning was enough to melt Ruby's heart and she couldn't help but give him a sideways glance, the corners of her lips twitching just a little in what could only be described as something close to adoration. The gentle giant side of Grim was not something she saw often, but when she did it did funny things to her insides and she only managed to turn her thoughts away from the image when he encouraged her to take her turn.

As if the dog could feel her uncertainty, it plopped itself down further onto the ground just as Ruby had reached out a hand, causing her to pull away immediately until he started to wag his tail and lowered his head. Smacking her lips together, the redhead crept a little further forwards and eventually reached her fingers towards his nose, allowing him to snuffle her and then pair it with several small licks against her skin, that immediately made her giggle. Such a simple gesture seemed to seal the deal between them as Ruby's hand moved to the top of the dog's head, stroking the tufty fur there and gently roaming over his ears, which he was all to happy for her to do. "Hey boy," she murmured, a natural smile placating her features. "That feels nice nice, huh?" Without fully realising that her own voice had taken on Grim's crooning tone, she went to turn to him when the screeching from behind them cut her off completely.

Instinctively, Ruby was back on her feet beside her partner, the dog behind them growling as it sensed whatever it was that was coming their way. "Grim," the redhead breathed, reaching for his arm as he put himself between her and where the sounds were coming from, pulling him back a little. Olive eyes remained on the trees as a violent rustling began, before quickly to scanning their surroundings, her mind scrambling to try and make some kind of plan... until it very quickly became too late to do so.

The group of infected burst through the trees, snarling, shrieking, heading straight for them. There was four that Ruby could make out as she pulled the shotgun from her shoulder and crouched down to take aim, her hands trembling. The first shot she fired hit and took one down almost immediately, but the second went wide and after that there was no time to take another as something bigger, something she had never seen before burst through the trees after the others. The infected was larger than an average person, an average undead, but everything else it held in common with them that ran before it; the infected, rotting skin, the holes that had been chewed through its body, the beginnings of roots that crawled through where its organs had once been. For a long while Ruby could only stare until she realised that they didn't stand a chance up against so many and something so big and when she did...

"Run," she breathed, her voice hoarse. "We need to run." Whipping behind her as if remembering something, the redhead glanced at the dog who was baring its teeth towards the threat and then back to Grim with clear panic in her expression. "Can you carry him?"
The first of the shots rang through Grim's ears, and as Ruby's aim hit true sending the infected crumbling to the ground Grim took aim as well, squeezing the trigger lightly once his sights were aimed directly between the eyes of another. He didn't think he'd ever get used to the way skull and skin caved in on itself. With only two remaining it seemed as if this fight would go their way when the arrival of another had fear licking his skin like flames. The great hulking giant, rotted from within and gnarled with roots and overgrowth had the Norse warrior taking a stumbling step back just as the dog let out another whine.

Ruby's whispered order had Grim jumping into action, "on it." His gun was hoisted over his shoulder and the two looters whipped around, their feet digging into the earth as they worked to propel themselves away from the threat of this new creature. He wasted no time in scooping the massive dog into his arms, ignoring the way the dog squeaked out in surprise in pain as it's leg was jostled. It's bark of alarm was met with the deep echoing scream that seemed to reverberate the trees around them. "Easy now buddy. For the love of god, don't bite me." His words came out garbled and strung together as both Grim and Ruby tucked tail and rushed down the hill towards the truck. Behind them Grim could hear the dull echo of the infecteds hurried steps as they struggled against their rotted corpses to keep up with them.

"Get the door!" Grim called out to Ruby as they rushed forward and when they reached the truck and the door was open Grim unceremoniously dumped the dog inside and wasted no time in clambering in after Ruby. His hands shook as he fumbled with the keys, through the front windshield he could see the creatures hurling themselves down the hill as the largest of the group took careful lumbering steps towards them. The truck roared to life as Grim wasted no time in throwing the vehicle in gear and pressing his foot to the floor as the first of the infected reached the hood of the truck. It threw itself over the hood, it's fingers scrambling for purchase against the smooth metal, and Grim had to swallow thickly as a pair of dead eyes regarded him with a sick sort of hunger before it slipped from the roof. He heard the crunch of bones and flesh as the truck bounced over the body. Grim was too busy keeping his eyes on where he was going to spot the threat that now approached from the drivers side door.

Had he been watching Grim would have seen the giant of an infected pick up his pace, pushing one foot in front of the other until he was hurtling down the hill. It's shoulder's were braced and with a mighty roar it plowed right into the side of the truck, bending the frame of the door in and shattering the glass of the driver side door. The truck lifted, it's wheels lifting off the ground for one heart stopping moment before crunching down to the earth. Grim's eyes were wide and he body reacted on instinct, pushing the gear shift down and once more trying to get the truck away from the impending threat. A hand reached into the cab, through the broken window, its twisted fingers grasping as air as the tires finally found a point of friction and with the engine roaring they finally managed to pull away from the massive threat, pulling it's arm forcefully from the cabin.

Already Grim could tell they weren't going to get far with the state of the truck, it's old rusted body had likely suffered extensively from that hit. With a regretful look towards Ruby he twisted the wheel sending them through a patch of trees towards the open road.

"I'm not sure how far we're gonna make it. We may need to make a stand." His grip tightened over the wheel as he remembered that all of his grenades had been used for the bear, and with a muttered curse he twisted his head to peer behind them, no longer able to use the driver side window to see if they were being followed. "Shit, they're still on our tail." The truck shuddered with the effort to keep up with the speed he was demanding of it and Grim's mind scrambled on what to do. Beside him Ruby and the dog were jostled by the road and he knew without a doubt that he needed to do everything in his power to protect them, even if it cost him everything.

"In River's weapons cache... there's a few pieces of C4. Once we get far enough away we'll rig em to the truck. Send the fucker sky high." He looked to Ruby for a brief second wanting to see her face before turning his attention back to the road.
There was no longer any time to consider if the dog would hurt them; it was risk being bitten or be killed and Ruby knew as Grim did that they had to take the risk.

They reached the truck in record speed with Ruby flinging open the door so that he could deposit the animal into her seat and so that she could haul herself in after it, slamming the truck shut behind her while Grim rushed to his side. Within moments he had the engine gunned to life and the redhead instinctively looked to where the threat was now gaining on them. She had never, ever seen anything like this before and the way that the fear drained the colour from her face showed as much. Her heart was thrumming in her ears as he jolted the gear stick and surged them forwards, just as the first infected reached them. Thankfully, he was no match for the sheer size and weight of the truck but unfortunately for them, the same couldn’t be said for the lumbering creature that was now only centimetres away from them.

All too late did Ruby look away from their intended destination, to see a large wall of rot approaching them, approaching the truck, Grim… “Grim!” Her scream pierced through the echoing roar that smashed into their vehicle alongside the infected’s engorged body, rattling around those on the inside and tilting their only cover to an almost unperceivable angle. The truck just about managed to stay upright, though the dint in the side of it signalled that its life was nearing an end if it even made it through this battle, which was looking less and less likely even as they managed to speed away, with Grim gunning them for the trees.

Ruby’s mind buzzed with fear, with adrenaline, with the impossibility of the situation they found themselves in, as she tried to think, just to think of something, anything that might get them out of this. The truck shuddered around them, the shrieks of those tailing them growing ever closer, but when Grim finally came up with a suggestion, a plan… Ruby whipped her head towards him at the mention of what he was saying, of what it meant. “No.” She said pointedly, shaking her head, the muscle in her jaw working through the tension. “No. There has to be another way.” But despite her words, her mind was coming up blank.

“Grim, we can’t. It’s the truck, your truck and I… I…It all came out panicked, more emotional than she intended it to as she looked at him, her fear and vulnerability incredibly palpable in that moment. If they did this, then they’d lost their safety net, the one thing that could get them out of anything. Their chance to be together. But as she looked down at the trembling hound that lay between them, looking at her with those big brown eyes and then back to the man who had so quickly become her everything, Ruby knew, she just knew that they didn’t have any other choice. Not if they wanted to get through this. Not if they wanted to live.

“You’d best step on it then, grandad,” she breathed her decision, turning back to face the windscreen. “You keep her going. I’ll get us set up in the back.” Then before he could argue with her, before they could even think about saying goodbye if this all went to shit, she hauled herself through the broken window that led out into the back of the truck, assessing how long she had and what she’d need to do if any of the creatures caught up with them.

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