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Realistic or Modern Those That Remain

"Fuck, I know..." Grim could see Ruby's mind landing exactly where his had been moments earlier. To lose the truck it would mean the end of so much more than a means of transport. He couldn't whisk her away at a moment's notice, nor could he return to Grant Rivers a free man with his desired cargo soon to go up in flames. He couldn't think of another way and from the way Ruby lifted from the seat and began to make her way towards the back she had landed on the same conclusion. He didn't like seeing Ruby clinging to the side of the truck while it was moving and it took everything within him to not shout at her to be careful. He had to trust she would get her part done as she trusted him to keep this rig going for as long as he could. The dog gave out a pitiful whine next to them and Grim quickly reached to give it a scratch behind the ear.

"Hold on buddy." Returning both hands to the wheel Grim kept his eyes trained on the road only flicking his eyes to the passenger side mirror a few times to keep track of Ruby's movement. When she disappeared from his sight Grim felt sick to his stomach. Now certainly wasn't the time for self reflection, however he could all but hear his sisters mocking tone in his head. Looks to me like Avery's got more than a crush! Looks to me like Avery's in lo-. The engine sputtered, coughing up smoke and jarring him back to the task at hand. A quick peek out the smashed window confirmed that while a little slow the infected were still hungrily chasing them, the infecteds roar was a mighty bellow behind them and it made both Grim and the dog make small noises of fear in return.

"Come on Ruby." He could feel the truck slowing, unable to keep up with the demands of the grassy plane he steered them through and it's own damages. Glancing towards the mirror Grim waited for any sign of the redhead. His grip turned white on the steering wheel and he began to seek out a spot for the truck to find its final resting place. In the end he knew it was the right choice, and all emotion he held for the transport vanished, he could find another; Ruby however was irreplaceable. He managed to get another few metres of distance out of the dying engine before it gave off one last shudder and gave out completely.

Wasting no time Grim hoisted himself, his gun and the dog out of the cabin. The beast went willingly this time, it's hackles lifting from it's perch over his shoulder as it spotted the incoming threat. "Good boy." Grim muttered in response to the mighty bark from the dog. Moving as quickly as he could Grim rushed towards the back, keeping his gun lifted and pointed towards the infected. He didn't bother to look back at Ruby, and instead took aim for the large infecteds head and pulled the trigger.

"How we looking Red? You've got less than a minute." He fired again, and gritted his teeth as his second shot hit, sending the corpses head snapping back, and yet it did not falter in its rush to get to them.
It was much more difficult to stay upright in the back of the truck than Ruby had anticipated. Grim was purposefully moving them through a trickier terrain to gain ground but the small redhead was being thrown around all over the place as she pulled back materials and moved boxes to try and find where the dynamite was waiting for her. More than once was she knocked on her ass as she tried to keep an eye on the shrieks and screams from behind her, making sure that they weren't gaining too much so that she'd have to stop and try to fight. Luckily Grim had her covered in that sense and the more that the truck began to sputter and cough, the easier it was for her to maintain some kind of momentum. When she finally came across the explosives, she muttered a grim sounding, "Bingo," before she began to pull out the clusters one by one, spreading them around the back of the truck so that they could envelope the whole thing.

Once they were all set up was when the truck finally sputtered out into a complete stop and she watched as Grim pulled himself, his gun and the dog from the front.

It was the first signal she needed to pull that blessed lighter from her pocket. One flick, two. The first set was lit within seconds, followed by the third just as Grim began to take aim at their intended targets. It was when she reached the fourth that she hit a snag, the flame flickering but not quite catching. "Shit... Come on." Grim's warning seared through her like a wild fire of panic, because if they waited much longer then it wouldn't just be their half-eaten friends that'd be barbequed. The word 'run' had once more been lingering in the back of her throat when the damn thing finally caught and with as much strength as she could muster, she flung the lit explosive through the smashed window into the cab.

"Move! We need to move, right now. Go, go!" Frog-hopping over the side of the truck one final time, once she was sure that Grim had the dog and himself, their small group started as fast as their legs could carry them away from the ticking time bomb that they had left behind. They flew into the trees, weaving this way and that yet never quite losing sight of the other. It was only when Ruby heard a gigantic screech that she turned to look over her shoulder... at the same time as the explosion hit.

The shudder of it sent her down, crashing against the woodland floor, her ears ringing with the impact. Instinctively, her hands had curled around her head as the heat of the flames poured from where the truck was now being engulfed by what could only be described as an inferno. Smoke quickly followed, making it difficult to see, to breathe as Ruby groaned and turned onto her back, fear lancing through her when she realised that she couldn't hear, or see Grim anywhere.

"Grim?" Her voice was hoarse, not loud enough as she tried to stumble to her feet. "Grim? Where are you?!"
Ruby shouted for him to run and Grim wasted no time in hauling ass away from the truck. Their legs ate up the ground and the two of them wove through the thicket doing everything within their power to escape what would soon be a fiery inferno. Grim heard the blast moment's before he felt the rush of its force that toppled him and the dog to the ground. Both man and animal let out similar noises of pain and surprise as twigs, stones and earth dug into their bodies. With a groan Grim did his best to force himself up and peer over at the centre of the blast. Even from this distance he could feel the heat of the flame that licked at the ground around it. What was once his truck was not a giant pillar of fire, fueled by petrol and rust. He didn't catch any movement, whatever had been after them it seemed was either dead or scared off.

The smoke billowed through the brush, a dark curtain over the sun that sent ash raining down on them. Coughing lightly Grim forced himself up further, and he looked franticly around for Ruby as he heard her soft voice calling out his name.

"Here!" The smoke made it so hazy and it took him a moment to spot her as she leapt up to her feet. "We're here." Grim's head twisted and he took in the sight of the pitiful and fearful looking dog, its leg curled up once more and tail down between his legs as Grim stood and plucked it up once more. "We need to keep moving." Grim managed to choke out in a cough. He desperately wanted to check over Ruby and the dog but now wasn't the time, despite how much his heart begged for it. He didn't speak again as the two of them made their way further from the blast sight and ever so slowly out of the smoke that clogged their lungs. Though he did stop once to look back, his dark amber eyes reflected the blaze and he felt the muscle in his jaw clench as he regarded what remained. Everything was gone, his clothes, his weapons, Rivers weapons. Even the fucking little stuffed squirrel that had stayed on the dash.

Grim's first breath of fresh air was cut off abruptly as his lungs revolted and he had to pause in his gait to cough out whatever smoke remained within him. Now that they were free of the infected and the blaze Grim took the time to scan his surroundings. While still in the woods they seemingly had stumbled upon what had once been a hiking trail. In front of them were overgrown pit toilets with a covered dusty sign that had likely once depicted where the trail would lead. He could just barely make out what appeared to be a lake and from the looks of it, it was just up ahead. With a grunt he nodded his head to the signage to direct Ruby's attention to it.

"Think you can make it there?" He asked as he gently placed the dog back down on the ground. He gave it what he hoped was a comforting pat before stepping away and approaching the woman he'd sacrificed everything for. As soon as she was within arms reach he had to touch her, both of his earthy hands cupping either side of her face as he regarded her. "Are you hurt?" Even if she did answer him he let his gaze sweep over her, like he needed to see for himself. "You'd tell me if you were hurt right?"
That blinding panic, the gut-wrenching fear. It wasn't something that Ruby believed she'd ever get used to, was such a big part of the reason she was so terrified of accepting Grim as anything more than someone she took into her bed every now and then. And yet... that's exactly what he was so much more than, something that he had become to her over time and all at once. Ruby cared for him so deeply, in a way that could no longer be dislodged or removed. He was a part of her heart, her life, her future and that was why she was stumbling through the smoke trying to find him, risking anything and everything just to make sure that he was okay, that he was alive.

The redhead had to swallow a sob when she heard him calling for her, blindly moving towards his voice until he came into view, clutching the terrified animal in his large arms. Olive eyes raked over him as amber did her, yet there was hardly any time to ensure he was okay as the smoke inhalation began to get the better of them, the coughing and spluttering haunting them both as they began once more through the trees.

When they finally reached clear of it all and Grim spotted the sign, Ruby coughed against her hand, trying to fill her lungs with fresher air, and with a nod to his question, she had just been about to head towards the lake when she felt large hands reaching out for her. Turning to face him, the dog now quivering on the floor beside them, her eyes finally met blazing amber, her hands reaching up to cover his that had enveloped her face. "I'm fine," she told him softly, imploring him to read her expression, to see her truth. "I promise, I'm fine. I'm not hurt. I'm okay." Her reassurances reached for him, wanting to comfort, wanting Grim to see for himself that she was unharmed. His concern for her twisted something within her chest and for a moment they just stood looking at each other until... another explosion, from back where they had left the truck, smaller this time but enough to make Ruby look away, just for a moment.

"Grim," she breathed, finally turning her attention back to him and then without warning she pushed herself forwards, burying her face into his chest, her arms clinging to the back of his shirt. "Your truck, I'm... I'm so sorry." Even without him ever telling her, Ruby knew what that vehicle had meant to him, what he had in there, what he...

Abruptly then, as if she had realised something with such a thought, Ruby pulled back to look at him, her eyes wide, frightened. "R-Rivers' weapons," she all but whispered, her face paling. "Grim... Tell me... Please tell me they weren't..."
The way Ruby held her hands over his made Grim want to melt to the ground in relief, she was alright. The should probably get back to finding a safe spot to figure out what was next but in that moment Grim couldn't seem to make himself let go of her. He couldn't be sure but it almost felt as if his heart might ache too much if he wasn't touching her. In the distance another muffled blast sounded and he watched as Ruby's eyes flicked back towards the dark plume of smoke that steadily rose over the trees behind them. She surprised him then, instead of pulling away and getting them further away from the blast she folded herself into him, wrapping her arms around his back and digging her fingers into the fabric of his shirt.

Her quiet apology had him making a small noise, a low rumble in the back of his throat that could only mean he appreciated how she felt for the situation. His hand curled up, holding the back of her head as she burrowed into his chest. He'd been about to press a gentle kiss to the crown of her head when Ruby stiffened in his arms and pulled back. For half a moment he thought he'd done something wrong when her fearful eyes regarded him. His brow's pinched together as Ruby pieced together what truly had all gone up in flames.

"Shh, it's alright Ruby." His calloused hand gripped her waist, giving it a gentle squeeze, he still didn't pull away. "I'll figure out something else." Finally he stepped away from her and moved to pick up the dog which had curled up near their feet, he grunted only a little with the creatures weight. There was a sort of hopeful way that he looked at Ruby next. "Maybe he thinks I'm dead." With a chuckle that he really didn't feel Grim stepped towards the path that seemingly led towards the lake. He and Ruby wandered in silence, but that didn't stop him from occasionally glancing her way and wondering if she knew as well as he did that Rivers would stop at nothing to get what he wanted.

If anything he should probably leave Ruby, leave her camp and keep her safe from his wrath. It was probably the heroic thing to do, and Grim wondered if he had any hero left in him. It didn't feel that way when he considered letting Ruby's camp burn so he could have her. The trail to the lake was thankfully a short little jaunt, making them step heavily up a hill, and past thick bushes with red fruit that looked a lot like raspberries to him. Over it's crest Grim caught sight of clear blue waters and rocky shores that were framed by thick pines. Had they not just been through hell he would have stopped to appreciate just a fine view, but with the injured dog in his arms and the weight of River's wrath pressing over him he wandered over to a stone picnic table that was old and dusty and laid the dog on it's surface.

"Alright buddy. Let's see what we can do for you." With only the clothes on their backs and what they had around them to help, pulling out the piece of metal from the dogs paw was going to be a slight ordeal. He wasted no time in pulling his shirt from his head and tearing the sleeves off with a small knife he'd kept in one of his many pockets. Once they were removed he slipped the fabric back over his head, his strong arms and tattoo's gleaming in the late afternoon sun.

"Ruby, do you want to hold him down or remove it?" Grim asked as he started to shred the sleeves into thin bandages. "We may need to make a fire and cauterise the wound depending on how deep it is... let's hope not." With a heavy sigh Grim looked down at the dog, whose chocolate eyes regarded the both of them with a wary sort of trust. In a way it reminded him of the way Ruby had first looked at him. "You need a name..." He mused, reaching to brush his hand over the dogs silky ears.
"No, not it's not alright Grim, it's..." Fucked. That's what she wanted to say, but his dismissive tone and the way he turned away from her stopped her from stating the obvious, as she realised that probably wouldn't be hugely helpful right about now. His reaction confirmed to her that he'd already thought about this, it wasn't a surprise. Thought about it and done it anyway to save them.

A small swell of emotion gripped around Ruby's throat as she watched her gentle giant reach once more for the cowering dog and then tried to make a joke of the situation, one that the redhead did not reciprocate, could not reciprocate. They both knew damn well Rivers would find a way to Grim to get what he wanted, was probably already chomping at the bit to do exactly that. Suddenly they were on even more borrowed time than before.

For the rest of the walk up the trail, Ruby remained quiet, pensive, completely caught up in her own thoughts, trying to think, trying to plan. If they stayed with her camp, they'd lead the bastard right to her people and... to Grim and to her, and she had no doubt that he wouldn't hesitate in taking back what he assumed was his. Running however, was also no longer a viable option for either of them; the smoke and the flames made that very clear, which left them with very little else to consider. She was so deep in her own head as they walked that she didn't notice the view either and almost walked straight into Grim when he stopped them by an old picnic table.

Olive eyes regarded him curiously, wearily when he tugged his shirt off and began to rip and cut it into pieces, revealing muscled arms and the tattoos that disappeared beneath his t-shirt. God, what Ruby would do to trail them with her mouth right now, she considered silently as she watched him work, and how the dog seemed to watch him too, before Grim redressed himself and then asked the dreaded question. The redhead looked from him to the animal, and smacked her lips together. "I think you'd better hold him," she offered quietly, coming to stand beside him and gently patting at the dog's matted fur. There was a comfort in the way it looked at them, whining softly, lowering his head with submissiveness. It didn't take long for Ruby to come up with her suggestion for what they should call him, and she was more than happy to get lost in the fantasy, than think about their reality.

"What about Stanley?" She asked, not looking from the brown eyes that now looked back at her. Ruby gave a small shrug. "It kind of sounds a little like Strand. I figured it's quite fitting considering where we met." This time however, she did look up at Grim with earnestness in her expression, before reaching out to scratch behind the dog's ears once more. "Do you like it, huh?" She asked him, carefully moving her hand towards his bad leg. "I wonder what you were called before... where you came from." As she spoke, Ruby nudged her head in the dog's direction, signalling for Grim to take his place, hoping that her voice might soothe him through what was about to happen.

"This is going to hurt a little," she went on, trying to look through his fur to get a better view of the injury. "But it'll be better for you in the long run. I promise." Gentle fingers probed at the shrapnel that was responsible and the dog gave a yelp and tried to move away, but when he found that he couldn't a low growl began in the back of his throat. "Shh, easy now boy," Ruby comforted, and then approached slowly once more before glancing sideways at her companion.

With how much was left unsaid between the two of them it was a wonder that their eyes did nothing to betray the storms the brewed inside of each of them. Had Ruby been privy to the tumultuous thoughts that raged like a caged beast within Grim perhaps she might have been afraid, though knowing her she probably would have smiled right into the eye of the storm that was Grim. He hated the pain the dog was in and he despised knowing they would cause it more. When Ruby suggested that he be the one to hold the dog Grim grunted in his assent and moved to stand behind the dog. His touch was as gentle as Ruby's voice, working slowly through the matted fur and weary muscles.

"Stanley huh? Alright." A dull ache bloomed in his heart at the name, it reminded him a bit of his parents and their affinity for strange names that still somehow worked. Ruby continued speaking, moving slowly and carefully towards the metal barb that gleamed in the late afternoon sun. Grim moved with her, and soon his arms are tight around Stanley and his body weight hovered just above, ready to hold him still in the blink of an eye. When Stanley began to growl slightly Grim tightened his hold, turning his head to the side to catch Ruby's eye as she readied.

"Do it Princess. I've got him." Grim's body tensed and he found he couldn't look down at the paw or what was to come next. Instead he twisted his head and looked down at the hackles that were bared almost unwillingly towards them. "Easy now." He muttered just as he caught Ruby's movement out of the corner of his eye. In the next moment a high pitched whine echoed in the hills and forests around them and Stanley's resulting barks and growls hurt his heart as he held the tired dog down. As emaciated as he was, Stanley put up a good fight and Grim struggled to keep the poor dog down for a few solid moments.

"Shhhh." Both he and Ruby worked to soothe the beast and when finally the bandages were wrapped tightly around Stanley's foot the two looters looked at one another, a small countdown starting before the two of them leapt away from Stanley and gave him the space he needed to feel in control once more. Grim watched, jaw tense as the dog moved off the picnic table, holding its paw high once more. A few more barks were aimed in their direction before Stanley's nose sniffed down at his paw. Cleary exhausted from the ordeal Stanley circled once, twice and then plopped right down where he was, paws extended as he laid his giant head down. Lifting a hand to Ruby's shoulder Grim squeezed gently, "good work Red." His arm fell heavily to his side then, thunking hard against his hip as the events of the day began to catch up with him. Suppressing the heavy sigh the threatened to spill from his lungs Grim turned, finally giving himself a moment to take in the scenery.

Mostly still water gleamed from the above sun, and in the distance he could spot a small family of ducks that merged their heads under the surface looking for small nibbles of food. From this vantage point the earth looked untouched by calamity though Grim knew he looked just over his shoulder he would still see the thick smoke of what had once been his life. The weary warrior slipped his hand into Ruby's and with a gentle tug he leg her towards the waters edge, settling them down on a bit of drift wood just on the shoreline. Small rocks littered the ground and Grim bent to grab a flat looking one that fit nicely in his hands. He made a soft noise and then let instinct take over as he reared his hand back and let the stone fly. It skipped once over the waters surface sending ripples over the gleaming water before tripping and sinking to the bottom. Grim scowled at his poor attempt of skipping a stone and kicked out at the rocks below him as if they had been the cause of the problem.

"It'll be a little bit of a walk to get you back to camp but we should be able to get it done tomorrow." Lifting his head to the sky Grim pursed his lips. "It's a little too late to start any journey through the woods now I think?" He looked to Ruby for confirmation and when she gave her answer he let himself look back down towards the waters edge. Perhaps he was feeling a little unhinged after everything but Grim couldn't find it within him to care as he suddenly stood from the log and began to kick off his shoes. In a matter of seconds he'd shucked his clothes leaving his skin bare. With purposeful steps he dipped his toes into the water and shivered a little at how fresh and cool the water was against his skin. It sent goosebumps up his arms but he didn't let that deter him as he charged forward until he was almost waist deep. It took a yelp of courage for him to get his nethers submerged but once he had he looked over his shoulder and shot Ruby a look with an arched brow.

"You coming?" He asked before falling back and letting the dark waters of the lake envelop him.
The ordeal of removing the metal from Stanley's paw was more upsetting than she had realised it would be. Without a way to communicate what was happening, he was scared, in pain and didn't know if they were trying to help or hurt him. Ruby moved as quickly as she could, shushing him gently as she plucked the metal, tossed it off to the side somewhere and then set to work on wrapping the makeshift bandages around the bloody wound, tying the ends in a double knot, despite the struggling and whining that echoed through the trees around them. Once she was done and she and Grim looked at each other to ready themselves, finally stepping away in tandem, Red didn't realise she was trembling until her companion rest a large hand upon her shoulder. With an exhale, she gave him a small nod and then made her way down to the water to wash the blood from her hands, taking a moment to try and calm herself.

Once Ruby stood again, it was the first time that she properly took in where they were. The beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees and hills, the view seemingly untouched by the chaos that the world had fallen into. It was peaceful, provided some breathing space away from what had just happened and what would happen, and for a small while she was happy to stand and watch Grim attempting to skim stones across the water. A glance over her shoulder was enough to tell her that Stanley was resting after his ordeal and so her attention for now could remain on her partner and the suggestion he was making that they didn't quite have time to make it back to her camp tonight. With the sun just beginning to set in the sky, Ruby let out a small exhale. "Yeah," she nodded slowly. "I think it is. We don't exactly have much with us in terms of... Unless," she continued, thinking aloud. "There were all those tents back there weren't there? Maybe we could use that place as a makeshift shelter of sorts for the evening?"

Interrupting this plan in the next instance however, was Grim's movement back to the shore of the lake. Ruby tilted her head slightly to watch him, though her brow began to furrow when he started to remove his clothes. "What... what are you doing, grandad?" However, it was when he removed his pants that she realised, olive eyes widening a little despite how much she was enjoying the view. "Grim? Come on, it'll be freezing in there! What are you... Are you crazy?" Despite her questions though she found herself smiling at the sight before her, the way her gentle giant yelped slightly before dunking himself under. "You are fucking crazy," she giggled with a shake of her head, but despite her words, she didn't hesitate when he asked her if she was going to go in too.

Ruby began to strip from her top, pulling off her shirt and the vest beneath, followed by her jeans and any remaining underwear. She took one step into the water, and then another, squealing a little as the ice lapped at her calves. "Oh my god, oh my fucking god, this is... it's like ice!" A few more steps and Ruby was still shaking her head, trying to breathe through her giggling. "Okay, okay, after three, one, two..." Then all of a sudden she dunked, full head under, emerging gasping and swearing as she trod water. "Fuck, fuck, fuck. Jesus Christ."

It didn't take her long to adjust however, and once she was casting her arms out through the surface ripples, she realised how... good, that she currently felt. "You know," she said, slightly breathlessly. "If you get your ankle wrapped in a fucking... water weed, I'm not going to save you." Then with an impish grin, she splashed water towards him, before following suit and making her way over to where Grim floated, jewels of water droplets sparkling amongst her red hair. For a small while she didn't say anything as she tried to catch her breath, twisting to look around them until her gaze finally settled once more upon the man responsible for where they now found themselves.

"This is nice, huh," she added, more gently this time as their eyes met before she reached out for him, wrapping her arms over his shoulders. "I reckon you're a little romantic at heart, grandad."
He knew it was probably better that they head right for the tents and make camp, they had only a few hours of daylight left but Grim couldn't bring himself to make any more responsible choices for the day. All he wanted was to float in the water with his girl. His head tilted up, watching with hooded eyes as Ruby muttered her curses at him. Despite her words that called him crazy she wasted no time in stripping free of her clothes. He had to laugh as the redhead psyched herself up to go in the water and he lazily spun a circle in the water as she made her way in. Now that his body had taken a moment to adjust he enjoyed the cool air over his skin. They were in deep enough now that the water lapped at his chest when he stood and when Ruby approached he tilted his head, watching her as she took in the sights around them.

"It really is." He murmured in agreement when she spoke. It was so easy for her to reach out and wrap her arms over his shoulders, and under the depths of the water he hooked his strong hands over her thighs and pulled her flush against him. She was like a koala while he was her tree and he wouldn't have had it any other way. "You're also right about the tents and making camp there." He said softly, drawing them in a wide circle letting the cool lake waters dance between their bodies. "We'll at least have a few things to take back to the camp." He said, though he regretted it instantly. Talking about the camp felt a bit like talking about the future and he wasn't ready to discuss what the future had in store for them. He knew if Grant Rivers had a say it would certainly be painful. His grip on Ruby tightened by the slightest degree.

"After this Erin will definitely want to wring my neck." He made the joke in an effort to steer the conversation away from what hurt the most, but it wasn't enough. Discomfort slithered through his veins like snakes taking hold and squeezing and he combatted it with the first thing that came into his mind. He moved to his full height, keeping Ruby anchored to him. She was given a brief flash of his intent only moments before, a devilish smile and a hasty breath in just as he threw them both backwards and submerged the both of them under the lakes dark waters.

Lake plants tickled the skin of his back as he sank backwards, and he held them there for a moment before surging upwards and breaking the surface of the lake. He let out a bark of laughter as once more air filled his lungs and with one hand he pushed back the hair that had come to rest over his face. Helpfully he did the same to Ruby's hair, assisting as she struggled to pull the red strands from her face. Fondly he tucked a drenched lock behind her ear.

"You really are ok?" He asked after a moment.
He pulled her against him and Ruby's legs gladly followed suit, hooking around his waist as he drew them both in careful circles around the water. The moment was calm, peaceful - exactly what they needed after something so stressful. If Ruby closed her eyes, she could imagine the scene in some kind of alternate universe, where the two of them weren't constantly looking over their shoulders, where they were on holiday together somewhere, nestled away from everything and everyone to focus solely on themselves and what they meant to each other. It was his mention of the camp however, that shook her out of this little daydream and as their eyes met, Ruby's features instantly softened at the pain she could see in his.

"It'll be okay," she reassured him, her fingers playing with the strands of hair that rested at the nape of his neck. Whether she believed those words however, was yet to be seen. As if Erin needed anymore reason to want to cast Grim out - now that he no longer had a truck, he really wouldn't be seen as much use to them. The redhead however, tried not to let these worries show; at least not yet, anyway.

"Mm, she'll have to get through me first," she joked instead.

Needless to say, Ruby was not prepared for Grim's playfulness in the next instance and she only noticed last minute that he was planning something. Her eyes narrowed. "Grim, what are you--" But before she could say any more, he'd fallen backwards into the lake and with a squeal, Ruby went down with him.

The dark, cool waters enveloped them both, bubbles flitting to the surface in the surprised disturbance before they both emerged again, Ruby spluttering and coughing the whole entire way. "Jerk!" She yelped, batting Grim's tattooed shoulders and squinting her eyes as he helped her to brush the dripping red locks from where they'd been stuck to her cheeks. As their gazes met again though, Ruby's was shining with her smile, her breathlessness only tempering when he asked her if she was okay. It was a good question; was she really? In all honesty, she didn't know but right now, right here, the answer could at least truthfully be yes because wherever Grim was, and so long as she was with him, things felt... good.

"Yes," she breathed gently, "So long as you're okay, I'm okay." Then without answering any further, Ruby leaned in and pressed her lips softly to his. One of her hands moved to cup Grim's jawline as they moved together, parting and closing their mouths in unison. Ruby pushed herself into his grip a little more and only when she eventually pulled back, she nudged the end of her nose against his, droplets still sparkling from where they'd gotten caught in her eyelashes. "And you're really... okay too, aren't you?"

There was so much more she could say but right now, Ruby simply didn't want to. What she had just communicated with very few words at all, felt like enough.
There was no doubt in Grims mind that Erin would be more than happy to have been done with him and if only he knew how much that was true. He hadn't been privy to the conversation Ruby and Erin had shared earlier, and perhaps it was for the best that he didn't know. Likely he wouldn't have returned with Ruby, nor felt so inclined to return her to her home. Instead of thinking all of those things however Grim just smiled down at Ruby as she muttered that Erin would have to get through her first. Truly it was the most rewarding feeling to have someone choose him time after time, he wanted to hold onto that feeling forever.

After dunking her he couldn't help the low rumble of a chuckle that reverberated through him as she batted him away, trying to sell that she was mad. Grim however knew better, he knew the difference in her eyes when the sparks there were born of fury or lust. However in the moment there was something kinder about those deep olive pools that he could sink into. it took him a moment to understand that they had been staring silently for a while, until finally Ruby answered his question. Her words were more reward than she could ever know and he felt words that he hadn't uttered decades want to bubble up to the surface.

Her kiss was sweet and gentle, the kind that he could enjoy for hours while they playfully nipped and caressed lips. When she turned the question on him, Grim was silent for a long moment, suddenly at war with himself. His hands held tightly to Ruby, inked fingers settling over her hips and splaying wide as he did his best to use all logic available to him to shut down the less than convenient thoughts in his mind. He couldn't be in love with her, that was too close, too fast and yet he knew without a doubt that moving on from Ruby wasn't a possibility. He wanted to keep her, make her scream his name and most of all he wanted to take care of her- surely he could do all that with out such pesky emotions such as love getting in the way. Grim cleared his throat, realizing he'd been silent for a beat too long.

"Just dandy." He lied, hoping it was at least somewhat convincing. Unable to help himself, he lifted a hand from her hip and brought it to the back of Ruby's head, curling his fingers into her wet hair and making a fist so he could tug her head back. He kissed her thoroughly then, letting his tongue linger over the taste of her, moving her head so she was perfectly angled for their pleasure. It took all of his willpower to end the kiss moments later, and when he pulled back his amber eyes were dark coals upon her. "We should probably head to the camp, get ourselves situated." With a quick glance to the shoreline he spotted Stanley still resting and pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"Hopefully he can walk some of it..." He mused to himself as they began to make their way back onto land. "The fucker is heavy."

The trip to the tents was fairly uneventful, both Ruby and Grim walked around the site of the crash, avoiding looking at the burnt metal and flesh, Grim's nose wrinkled against the smell and he clicked his tonuge catching Stanley's attention and encouraging the dog to keep up with the two of them. They made it to the top of the hill where the tents were just as the sky turned a deep shade of orange signalling the final hours of the day. Both Ruby and Grim got to work, checking through the tents and deciding on which they would use for the night as well as making a fire. They were able to scrounge up a few bits of food and ate them companionably around the small fire banked by pale stones. Above them stars twinkled happily as Grim rose and stretched, his body aching from the days events. Together, along with the dog they clamoured into a dark green tent now filled with bundles of sleeping bags and blankets. With Stanley nestled up between the two of them Grim reached over to grip Ruby's hand.

Whatever tomorrow would bring them they could handle. As long as they stuck together.
Grim's response hadn't convinced her, not truly and a spike of worry settled within Ruby's chest, one that was at least easy to forget about when his lips claimed hers once more. Perhaps they both had things that they were keeping from one another, the redhead considered as they made their way from the water and finally got changed again in preparation for setting up camp. The thought wasn't exactly a comforting one, but she could understand it at least - they wanted to protect each other and she trusted Grim enough now to know that whatever he did, he did it because he thought it was best.

Despite all of the uncertainty that lingered over them that night, there was something tranquil about laying beside Grim in the small tent, with Stanley nestled between them. For a long while, Ruby didn't even attempt to sleep, but simply lay on her side, with Grim's hand in her own, watching her two boys. Hers. That sense of belonging wasn't something she had felt since... her mother, if she was being honest with herself. The camp had been like her family, but not like this. This felt different. Special. And it was something that Ruby knew she needed to fight for.

The next morning came around all too quickly and it was Stanley that woke the redhead first for a change, the dog licking at her face and whining until she scratched behind his ears. It wasn't long after that, that she woke up Grim too and the two of them got ready for their journey, scavenging what they could from what was left of the camp and trying to carry as much as possible that wouldn't slow them down too much. Neither of them suggested going to pluck through the ruins of the truck and without looking back, the three set off back towards Ruby's camp.

By the time that they arrived, they were shattered, practically on their knees. Ruby herself was starving, weak and she could only imagine that Grim felt the same.

The front gates were open for them, but even as they approached Red noticed that something felt... wrong. Off. There weren't many people about and everything was quiet, quiet enough to send a shiver down her spine. Stanley whined from where he stood beside her, a noise which turned into a low growl when Erin exited from one of the nearby buildings. The older woman looked pointedly between Grim and Ruby and then her eyes fell to the dog that stood between them.

"Well this wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I asked you to bring back supplies," she announced, though there wasn't as much bite in that statement as Ruby assumed there was supposed to be. "Where's the truck?"
"Truck's gone. We got jumped by infected and we had to... use it." Erin considered this information and nodded slowly, but her gaze was elsewhere, darting.
"Erin?" Ruby stepped forwards. "Is everything okay?"

There was a tense silence then before Erin shook her head and if Ruby hadn't known any better, she could have sworn that her eyes looked red. "I'm... I'm sorry, Ruby. while you were gone, he... he..."
"Who, Erin?" Ruby took a step towards her, reaching for her arm. "Who?"
"Tim... It's Tim. He's gone."
The journey back was grueling and by the time they made it back to the camp Grim's arms were aching with the effort of keeping his load up. He dumped those supplied on the ground the moment they were within the gates and let his arms blessedly sink to his sides as he took stock of the camp around them. The usual fire was missing, the stone cold and devoid of warmth as only a few people mingled around, their heads bowed. Immediate alarm bells rang through his mind and instinctively Grim stepped closer to Stanley and Ruby, settling his hand over the dogs head. Erin's arrival continued to itch at his sense of wrong, especially when little to no anger was directed at him. He let Ruby and Erin speak and with each passing word a sense of ominous cold settled over him.

Tim. The weary old scholar was gone.

"This is a terrible joke." Grim accused Erin, his amber eyes blazing with anger. There was no way, not a chance that the old man was gone- he couldn't believe it.

"It's not a joke Grim. And frankly your presence here isn't welcome. I had thought Ruby understood." Erin's chin lifted in defiance, letting Grim know she wasn't impressed with his antics but he couldn't have cared less. "You've done enough for this camp." Her angry words were timed in rhythm with each stride she took towards him, a finger thrusting against his chest. "You've caused unrest and made my soldiers fight amongst themselves."

"That was no fault of mine, if you can't keep your boys in line." Grim seethed, swatting Erin's hand off of his chest. Stanley's growl amped up an octave but both Grim and Erin were too blinded by their anger to notice.

"The strain that you put on this camp was enough to kill a man. A good man!" Erin roared, a fresh bought of tears streaming down her face.

"Don't you dare put that on me." Grim raged, his anger propelling him forward. He wanted to scare Erin and force her back just by using his size to get in her way. The leader however didn't comply and she tilted her head back to deliver her final blow.

"You just couldn't keep it in your pants, couldn't respect our home and now you've gone and turned on of my best against me. I hope you're proud of yourself." Erin's voice shook with the gravity of her words. "You're the reason everything turned to shit! You fucking killed Tim." Grim's ears were ringing with the force of his anger, and before he could even register what his hands were doing he had the loathsome woman's hair in his grasp- fisting it tightly to pull her head back and expose her neck so he could rest his sharp blade there.

"Go ahead." Erin urged, not even struggling against his painful hold. "Show her the monster you really are."
Erin's words hit her from nowhere, knocking the wind from her, suddenly making it feel very difficult to breathe. Sound seemed to fall away in that moment as Ruby tried to process, to understand that... Tim. Tim was gone. She hadn't been here for him, hadn't been here to help, hadn't...

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion then while Ruby struggled to think, to feel anything beyond the gut-wrenching grief, the guilt. Her hand lifted to her throat as if trying to alleviate the pressure there, her vision blurred. Even Stanley's wet nose nudging against her hand couldn't quite shake her out of it, couldn't quite bring her back again, his low whines of concern echoing somewhere at the back of her mind.

Then suddenly the shouting, there was... anger, Grim's voice... Grim. He was here, he was beside her, he was...

The dip back into sharp focus moved Ruby's olive eyes to the scene happening before her, the accusations that were pouring from Erin, the way that she could see Grim, moving towards her, losing control. "Grim," the redhead tried, her voice hoarse, tears streaming down her pale cheeks. "Grim, please..." He didn't hear her though, either through his own anger or because she couldn't currently project. Within moments he had Erin by the hair, a knife at her throat. It was enough of a panic to kickstart Ruby into action, not for fear of what might happen to Erin, but for him... if he did this, they were outnumbered. They'd never get out of here alive.

"Grim!" Ruby surged forwards but stopped short of touching him, because she knew better than anyone that any wrong move right now could cost them.

"Grim, look at me. Look at me. Stop it, stop... this. Right fucking now, I swear to God. If you do this I will never forgive you, do you understand?" The pain in her voice was evident, as it was in her features. Then she turned to Erin.

"And you... you think this is what Tim wanted, huh? Grim is no more responsible for tearing this place apart than I am, or you are! We could have been happy here, if you'd just... if you hadn't..." Her words were cut off by a broken sob as she realised that there was no coming back from this, that she had to choose. Her time was up.

"I can't do this," Ruby shook her head, beginning to back away. "I-I... I can't..."
It was like everything with Grim had compressed, forcing his hold on Erin to tighten until his knuckles turned white on the hilt of the knife. He struggled for each breath, the weight of his own anger suffocating him and making him feel like he was underwater. Ruby's voice was muffled, her own heartbreak dulling her ability to recall Grim as she'd done in the past. Erin's smug smile infuriated him and when the leader opened her mouth to speak again his brain couldn't could understand what she'd said. It was enough to know that she was mocking him that pushed him right to the edge. Everything was out of control for Erin and seemingly she needed someone or something to blame but Grim's anger outweighed any sympathy he might have had for her. Sharpened steel bit into Erin's throat, a thin red line and small drop of blood that felt so fucking euphoric. He'd been about to push further, ready to see that fucking look transform into one of horror when finally Ruby's sharp voice drove through his anger.

In an instant he looked up, his pupils shrinking as the focused on the woman who was breaking in front of him. A deep growl emanated from him as she pleaded with him to stop, to end this and he wanted to, it just took a moment for the rest of his body to catch up. His brows furrowed with the focus it took to slowly detach finger after finger from Erin's hair. But it wasn't fast enough, she crumbled right in front of him, the fear and sadness claiming victory in her olive eyes. It hurt like a ton of bricks to his chest when she took a fearful step away, chanting that she couldn't possibly do this.

"No..." Grim released Erin with a shove, his own knife clattering to the ground between their feet. "Ruby, don't you dare."

"Don't listen to him!" Erin recovered quickly from the shove, pushing herself back up to her full height, sending a commanding look towards Ruby. Instantly Grim twisted, his face dark and twisted with his rage.

"She's saved you from me, but if you utter one more thing to her I cut out your fucking tongue." He didn't mean it... probably. Erin however didn't know that and he watched with vicious delight as her pale skin turned a few more shade lighter with his threat. Done with the camp leader he turned away, not looking back as he went to what mattered most. Ruby was a few more steps away now, the pain of her loss so clearly etched on her face that he felt like the weakest man alive knowing he couldn't take it from her. He'd give anything to see that suffering face transform into one of peace.

He didn't make it another step to her however, the loud sudden boom of a horn had him flinching. It was short, followed by two more bursts that had the entire camp coming alive around him. People poured out of buildings, rushing towards the walls and open gate hurrying to shut it. Stanley was none to pleased with the sudden ruckus, his loud barks echoed through the camp, but Grim had no time to settle the poor thing down. He could gather enough information from the chaos around him to know that those horns meant they had company.

"Fucking hell." He muttered, as he moved to Ruby. He was about to take her arm when Erin's dark chuckle made him twist. He had only a beat to take in what he was seeing, and his muscles bunched as he tried to push Ruby behind him. He could only brace as the knife he'd thrown to the ground now gleamed from Erin's hand as she walked menacingly towards them.
Grim was reacting in his own way to everything that was happening around them. Tim's death, Erin's blame, her anger. Ruby knew that, somewhere deep down and she understood, that he had that same streak of emotion flowing through him as she did, that was sometimes uncontrollable, irrational. Over the time they had spent together, she had learned how to temper it for him, as he had learned to do so for her. But how could they do that for each other when all of a sudden, everything felt as though it was falling apart?

Red hardly saw either of them as the knife was dropped to the ground, as both Grim and Erin rounded on her, as she began to back away, looking between them like a frightened animal. Even Stanley's warm body nudging up against her hand couldn't quite pull her out of her, out of her grief, her confusion, the way her mind ached with the decision that was pressing down on her, forcing to constrict her lungs, her airways.

And then, the impossible happened, pulling them all once again from their predicament.

The sound of a horn, somewhere close by, people running, yelling, in all different directions. A focus on securing the gate, on getting the women and children to a safe space underneath the camp. Ruby knew what this mean, knew it deep in her heart - it was what her camp were always prepared for, what they always feared. An invasion. An attack. Not one by infected, hell no, those were easy compared to attacks by humans.

Olive eyes widened, the sound seemingly shaking her out of her stupor and before she knew it, instinct had taken over and she was reaching for Grim at the same time as he was her. Her gaze studied his, her own almost black with fear, silently communicating, trying to explain that she needed to stay, to help to protect her home. But just as she opened her mouth to speak, the chuckle, the sound so out of character that it took a moment for Ruby to decide where it was coming from, stealing her attention. And when she turned to see Erin, holding the knife, advancing, she felt her chest constrict, her stomach lurching as Grim pushed her behind him.

"Erin..." Ruby breathed, shaking her head. But the older woman didn't seem to hear it, didn't seem to hear anything that was going on around her.

"It's the only way, Rubes. I tried to tell you. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn't listen."

"Erin... put the god damn knife down! Do you not hear what's going on around you?" The redhead was backing up now, and pulling Grim with her. "If you do this, you won't have a fucking camp left to defend!"

Her pleads fell on deaf ears however as Erin continued to approach. "I'm sorry, Ruby. I really am. But it's for your own good."

What happened next could only be described as an explosion. Erin launched, dagger raised towards Grim's chest... at the same time that the doors to the camp were blown apart, as people, bodies were sent flying, as people... so many people with guns, shooting, yelling, poured into what had once been Ruby's home.
If there was one thing Grant River's hated, it was waiting. Fort Strand's arsenal should have long been his and each time he found himself looking at the barren walls of his weapons storehouse the tight hold he kept over his rage loosened. He'd killed twice in in the past month, fueling his impatience and righteous anger into eliciting the sweetest screams from the whores he'd bought and paid for. Fucking was all well and good, but there was nothing quite as euphoric as when they begged him for their lives and later, for their death when he hurt them over and over again. He'd been about to claim life number three when his second in command Clay, had pounded his fist against the door, making the woman at his feet let out of soft keening noise as she collapsed in a heap of bruised flesh.

Clay had been right to interrupt him, and by the time River's had reached the radio room, the thick sheen of sweat that coated his skin was fueled by the anticipation of knowing that soon he'd have what was rightfully his. With a careless swipe at the moisture over his upper lip Grant lifted the microphone to his lips.

"Well now, Riley is it? I hear you know where my guns are."

Two lives lost at his hands became four after hearing the news of Grim's defection. Both men manning the radio didn't even see it coming, they worked over their stations twisting knobs and listening to the radio waves, they were good workers but Grant had absolutely no intention of letting the men hear that escape was even a possibility. Hope like that didn't belong in Haven. Grim would have to be punished, it was time for him to learn who this world really belonged to. What was left of his supplies was loaded into a small convoy of heavily armoured vehicles, many of them stolen from military bases. Grant kept to the middle of the pack as they drove, keeping his Jeep safely away from the dangerous positions of the front and back, knowing he much preferred for the expendable men to take up those positions.

Riley's information was good, and when they spotted the little camp with it's high walls and weathered buildings Grant could feel the slow build of anticipation. His hands were wet over the steering wheel as he barked his orders to the men from the open window. He itched to hear the screams and cries for help.

"Leave no prisoners." He snarled the last of his command, just as the trucks around him rumbled to life and soldiers gave their weapons one last check as the horns of alarm sounded in the distance.

Within the camps walls chaos raked it's twisted claws over the looters and their dog. Anger melded with helplessness and Grim struggled against throwing Ruby over his shoulder and running even when the deep olive and black pools of her eyes had stated with no uncertain terms that she would be defending her home. Ruby was all the home Grim had ever known in this world and so there was no choice; he would stay. Every muscle within him tensed, ready for Erin as she stalked towards them, her dark hateful words had him instinctively bearing his teeth. Stanley's deep growl beside him matched his own and when Erin launched herself at them Grim was given no time to react as the gates of the camp blew wide open. The heat and force of the resulting blast sent him stumbling back into Ruby, as Erin pitched forward. Her momentum caught up in the shock wave of the blast that had the window's cracking in the nearby buildings.

Grim caught a glimpse of the knife still clasped tightly in Erin's hand just before Stanley's dark fur blocked his vision. The massive dog had hurled himself forward, his sharp canines digging into the sensitive flesh of Erin's arm. His weight sent Erin toppling to the side and with his jaw's clamped tightly around Erin's arm he gave a vicious shake of his head. Erin's scream might have made him uncomfortable had she not just been about to kill him. Grim wasted no time in retrieving the fallen weapon and with a sharp whistle he caught Stanley's attention. There was no time to form a plan, no time to help Erin, not when the sharp sound of gunfire filled the air, and the ground broke up in small explosions of dust and dirt as bullets embedded their way into the ground.

"Cover! Now." Grim whistled again and Stanley was hot on his heels as he grabbed Ruby's hand and pulled her towards the nearest building. Members of the camp returned fire, pointing their guns towards the smoking gate and sending a return barrage of bullets against the armored vehicles that poured into the camps space. Grim caught sight of Jack at the other end of the same building, his rifle pressed firmly to his shoulder as he took aim. At his feet were a few other weapons. "Coming up on your six." Grim led the charge of the small group towards Jack and the older man grunted as Grim wasted no time in picking up a rifle and throwing it for Ruby to catch. He picked up another and quickly popped a fresh round of ammo into it's barrel.

They worked as a team, reloading and shooting towards the convoy. Grim took aim and found his mark was true as one of the men on the roof of a truck went down with a painful scream. Over the ruckus Grim heard what sounded like feedback from a large speaker before a familiar voice that sent ice through his veins spoke, amplified by the speaker.

"Mm, what a precious little camp we have here boys. What a shame they decided to keep what was mine." Grant River's laugh echoed through the walls as another cry of terror was cut of abruptly. "Grim, Grim, Grim." He didn't have to see River's to know the man was shaking his head in disappointment, like a parent might for a disobedient child. "Come out and play Grim." Instantly Grim's eyes were on Ruby. The gears in his amber eyes were turning as thought after thought piled on him.

"I can get him to stop this." Grim spoke, though he didn't sound convinced, beside them Jack huffed out a humourless laugh.

"River's doesn't stop. Ever." Jack muttered, his gaze seeking out Ruby in a way that seemed to convey a sense of understanding towards her.

"Fuck!" Unable to stop himself, Grim's fist pounded into the side of the building as more screams filled the air in the camp. Rivers was still mocking him, promising him they would have such fun. "This is all my fucking fault."
Ruby couldn't believe what she was hearing, what she was seeing.

The explosion rained down on them just as Erin surged forwards and she and Grim only just managed to stay on their feet when Stanley leapt into actions. He was a snarling mass of teeth and fur as he sunk them into Erin's wrist, her screaming echoing above the many yells and calls of the women and men who were passing by, trying to get into position.

At one point in her life that screech of pain may have haunted her but now? Ruby realised that... she cared more for the dog trying to defend them than she did the woman who had tried to kill the only man she had ever loved. Erin was not the mother figure she had known, not anymore and it was for this reason that the redhead let herself be dragged away as bullets began to fire, zipping around them and pummelling against the ground.

Within moments, she, Grim and Stanley were under cover and heading for Jack who had a vantage point over the invaders and an arsenal of weapons at his feet. Red didn't hesitate in catching the rifle passed her way as she loaded it up and readied her aim, taking up position beside the two men. She had just been about to ask what the fuck was going on when a voice... that voice... his voice, sent a ripple of freezing cold fear to prickle down her spine. For a moment, Ruby pulled back a fraction, her skin almost deathly pale, eyes black as she met Grim's gaze.

They knew what was happening. Rivers had come for him. Had come to retrieve his debt, debt that Grim could not pay.

Ruby shook her head as the reality of their situation coursed through her, as those words did alongside Grim's suggestion that he could stop this, that... it was his fault. His fist reverberated off the wall beside them and the redhead moved quickly to stop him, gripping his arm and forcing him to look at her.

"No. No. This isn't your fault, do you hear me? You didn't ask to stay here for the week, it wasn't your idea to take the truck, to go to that camp, it was.. it..." It was hers.

Ruby swallowed, had just been about to admit as much when that crackling speaker caught their attention again. Rivers was having far too much fun and they could tell.

"Come on, Grim. You're not really going to let me pluck off these innocents one by one, are you? Just to cover your own ass?" A rumbled chuckle. "Pathetic."

The redhead clambered towards the window then, eyes suddenly scouring, searching for where that voice was coming from. She used the target of her gun to spot the jeep that held the speaker system and when she did... "I'm going higher." She looked at Grim with determined resolve, and once more gripped at his arm. "Stay here. Cover me. And take care of Stanley." Then before he could argue, she pitched forwards and claimed his lips with hers, fiercely, deeply, telling him everything without saying a word.

When she pulled back again, their eyes met. "Jack? Don't let him come after me."

And then she was gone, heading straight for the stairs.

The night air was cold at the top of the building, a breeze rustling through her red hair as Ruby clambered to the edge and peeked over the top, trying to find a point where she might get a clear shot. It didn't take long for her to load up her aim, to find that speaker system and the men moving within the vehicle. Whether it was Grant or not she couldn't be sure, but damn it, she was willing to take the risk.

Propping her rifle up in the edge of the building, Ruby inhaled deeply, her index finger brushing the trigger that she had just been about to pull when suddenly--

"Psst, Rubes!"

"Jesus... Riley?! What the fuck are you doing here?"
The grip Ruby held over his arm was tight and it brought halt to the incessant voices within him, they hissed in his ear promising him that he would bring Ruby nothing but heartache and pain- but with each touch she'd drugged him into forgetting how harsh the world could be. He hadn't thought it possible but the woman who gripped his arm tightly had brought back the spark of hope he'd long thought dead. Ruby was struggling to find the right words, the words they both seemed to afraid to bring to the light because that might make the blame that much truer. River's voice echoed, a teasing lilt that was a stark contrast to the rapid pops of gunfire.

"I don't like this..." Grim's eyes darkened with his new purpose; despite his responding growl. Ruby's plan made sense and before he could tell her to be careful Ruby surged forward her lips capturing his in a deep searing kiss. She was everything, sinking deep into his pores and filling him with all the unsaid words that lingered between the two of them. The scrape of his teeth over her bottom lip was how much he didn't regret a single thing about this. The brush of tongues spoke to the power he saw in her, the trust he had in her to use it. The heavy pant of breath and the lingering stare as they pulled apart was the loudest of the silence between them. This isn't over.

"Jesus, you two." Jack sent Ruby a salute- rolling his eyes at Grim who looked like he was half a second from clambering up and after Ruby. "Here!" Jack threw a clip of ammo Grim's way and the warrior had enough sense left in him to catch the bullets and slide them into his rife. Both men shot one another a look before tilting around the side of the house and letting a few more shots fly.

"This isn't working. We need to get closer. I can't get a good sight on the trucks." Grim muttered as they pressed their backs to the wall and waited out the responding fire. Jack huffed out his agreement a hand snaking into his jacket pocket, his flask gleaming in the light. The man twisted the cap off and gave its contents a hearty glug before tossing it in Grims direction and letting him do the same.

"On my mark." Jack rumbled, giving the rifle a loud click as he slid the next bullet in place. When the signal was given both men rushed forward, Stanley hot on their heels. They stepped between the buildings and rushed towards the orange glow of flames and death. Grim kept expecting a shot to ring out from above but there was nothing, alarm bells rung in his mind but there was nothing he could do. They found cover behind an some old rusted over barrels and hunched down there before lifting, finding their mark and firing.

Laughter sounded from within the trucks and one of the soldiers rushed forward, and before Grim could understand what was happening Syra was snatched roughly by the hair and jerked backwards; halting her escape. The doctor let out a pitiful scream her nails clawing at the soldier uselessly as he hauled her up against him and pressed a gun to the kindly woman's head. In the scuffle Syra's glasses fell from her face and were smashed underfoot. Jack and Grim wasted no time, their guns taking aim and firing together sending two bullets careening across the way and digging deep into the mans skull. Syra screamed again, her captor slumping over and sending her falling to the ground with the dead man on top of her.

"Come on move!" Grim muttered, waiting for Syra to push up and crawl away. But she didn't. He could see her struggling against the heavy weight over top of her and Grim let out a curse. He shouted two quick orders, "Jack cover me, Stanley- stay." He wasted no more time, pushing himself up from their hiding place and rushing for Syra.

"There he is!" Grant's gleeful voice shrieked.
"I could ask you the same question." The way his eyes glinted... it was almost as if nothing had happened between them, as if Riley had suddenly morphed back into her old friend, the guy who'd been like a brother to her. Ruby knew better than that though, didn't like the way she felt like her skin was crawling as he moved closer. Instinctively, the hold on her gun tightened.

"That wasn't an answer."

Riley's lips curled into a smile as his head tilted. "Come on, Rubes. Don't sound so suspicious! I saw you come up here and I came to help, obviously. It's fucking chaos down there."

"Right." Ruby frowned, "I'm sorry Riley, but how did you intend to help me, exactly?"

"Well, I..." It was the first time he looked a little unsure of what to say. "There's a place that I know about, under one of the buildings. A safe space. I think we should go there. Let me... protect you."

There was a pause before the redhead laughed a little, the sound uncertain, humourless. "Are we taking the rest of the camp?"



"Look, we can't save everyone. You know who that is down there right? I know you do. He won't let up, not until he gets what he wants."

"I know." Ruby made her first mistake then, as anger began to simmer in her chest. She turned away from Riley and retook position. "Why do you think I'm up here?" In fact, she was so intent on taking that shot then, at ending this all together that she didn't hear Riley creeping closer, didn't realise that he'd pulled a gun until--

"Riley! What the fuck--"


He hadn't wanted to hurt her damn it! However, Riley was many things and an idiot was not one of them. He knew she wouldn't come willingly, knew he'd have to take things into his own hands, just like he'd had to in the first place. "I'm sorry, Rubes," he muttered as he drew her unconscious form towards him, scooping her up into his arms. Where she belonged. "But this is for your own good."

It wasn't particularly clear if Riley knew the extent of Ruby's connection to Grant Rivers and perhaps if he had, he may have thought twice about what he was about to do. Or perhaps not.

Moving stealthily through the chaos, he carried Ruby around the outskirts of the camp and slipped through the back gates, which had also been blown wide open. People screamed, ran in all different directions and he was able to pass through without detection, knew exactly where to go, where attention wouldn't be focussed. Upon seeing him approaching, Rivers' men raised their guns and Riley stood up a little straighter.

"Easy now. Rivers knows me. I'm Riley and this... this is someone who I think he'll want to see."

The last thing Riley wanted to do was use the love of his life as bait, but if it meant a fresh start for them both, if it meant that bastard would die trying to save her then... this was the only way. And he was going to take it.
"Well now! If it isn't the great Grim himself. Looking a little worse for wear aren't you?" River's voice crooned, before it turned into something dark. "Don't kill him!" The shot's paused, the weapons that had been aimed for Grim lifting to the sky as River's new orders were instantly followed. For a moment it was silent, the echo of gunfire a memory until the space was filled with soft crying. Inhabitants of the camp curled around one another, mourning the dead that lay in their arms. Old Tom one of them- his vacant eyes staring sightlessly at the firepit he'd toiled over. Grim didn't spare River's a look, not until he had Syra out from under the corpse and behind him. He made a move to return them back to cover but River's voice stopped him once more, finally he twisted- seeing that River's had situated himself at the back gates of the camp- well away from the fighting. He was surrounded by men and weapons.


The bastard didn't have it in him to get his hands dirty. Grim growled low- his amber eyes blazing with the knowledge that he couldn't get anywhere near River's without at least thirty bullets entering him first. His gaze darted everywhere, searching for anything that could get them out of this predicament. Where the fuck was Ruby with her rifle, why hadn't she taken the shot which would have been so clear from the roof. He didn't dare look up her way just in case one of the men noticed his interest. The camp was well and truly surrounded, filled to the brim with enemies at every corner. Grim could feel the familiar trickle of his brain shutting down- forcing the fear away and replacing it with a bored expression. Behind him Syra cried into the back of his shirt, her hands twisting up the fabric.

He kept waiting for River's to make his demands- to say anything but nothing came. It was only when Grim spotted a figure in the distance, headed right for the back gate and out into the open did he understand why nothing was said. His eyes squinted, trying to make out the form, he couldn't hear what was being spoken but when the figure turned around and Grim spotted the unconscious Ruby in Riley's arms he went deathly still.

River's exited his car, his steps slow and languorous despite the bloodshed around him and it took every semblance of control within him to keep still as the fucker lifted a hand to Ruby's red locks and lifted it. Grant's mouth and nose touched the hair, and even from this distance Grim could tell he was taking a deep inhale. He couldn't stay quiet anymore- damn it.

"You'll take your fucking hands off of her Rivers!" He roared, taking massive steps forward leaving Syra behind. He didn't bother to look behind him- he was too focused on the scene unfolding before him. Had Grim looked back however he would have seen Jack and Stanley rushing forward, their weapons pointed at the men who looked at Syra with greedy eyes. Grim didn't stop moving forward, even as men rushed to move in front of him their weapons aimed directly between the eyes.

"Let him pass!" River's shouted over the scuffle, sending the soldiers backwards once more as Grim stormed up to the gates. He was halted only by the deadly gleam of River's pistol shoved hard at Ruby's temple, a sick sort of smile marring the leaders face; cracking it in two like shattered glass.

"Riley my boy- you didn't tell me that Grim's little whore was a Cosgrove. I'd have come much sooner." Grant crooned, never taking his eyes off Grim as he dragged the weapon down, pulling it along the lines of her skin that Grim knew and loved. "Where's my shipment Grim?" Grim didn't respond, slipping into his old quiet self that knew it was better to say nothing. His hands tightened into fists at his side. "Little Riley here was telling me all about your misfortunes with the truck, its certainly a shame you weren't able to keep up your end of the deal. You took what was mind and now I'm going to take something of yours."

"Don't." The word escaped before he could stop it. His fear for Ruby and what River and Riley might do fueling him more than any sense could. "She isn't a part of this Rivers. Kill me and be done with it. Just let her go."

"Well that hardly sounds like a punishment." Rivers chuckled, his head jerking in a silent command for his soldiers to surround their little group. Sharp pain hit the backs of his knees and Grim came tumbling forward to the ground. He lifted his head, gaze filled with pure hatred for the man that had once saved his life. "You're going to live Grim, and you're going to spend every day knowing that her blood is on your hands." Grant's free hand clenched tightly at Ruby's jaw, forcing her head up so that Grim could take one last look at her. "I can't wait to find out if she screams as pretty as her whore of a mother." With a rough shove he pushed Ruby's face away, gesturing that Riley hold tight to his charge and follow him. Over his shoulder Grant shouted out, "burn it to the ground boys!"
What happened next could only be described as utter chaos, even more so than before, and Ruby remained unaware of all of it – for better or for worse.

There was a moment when Riley felt… an inch of regret bubbling in his chest, when that loaded weapon had stroked down Ruby’s pale cheek. He had known Rivers wouldn’t end her there and then… right? Right? And yet even as he knew deep down that he’d done the right thing, he couldn’t help but worry for the unconscious girl in his arms as he loaded her with himself into the back of Rivers’ jeep, couldn’t help but wonder what lay in store for them now. If Grant really did plan to seek revenge upon Grim, which he wanted to be a part of more than anything, then he just hoped that Ruby wouldn't be collateral. He could protect her. He would protect her.

“I want him alive,” Grant ordered to the last of his men, jutting towards Grim with his thumb. “Make sure he sees first-hand the consequences of fucking me over.”

Unsurprisingly, Rivers was one of the first to leave behind the scene of devastation. He left his boys to finish the job, knowing they’d do exactly what he’d asked of them, making sure that Grim watched every single burning burn down around him, making sure that any one that was left but him were taken care of.

There was a beautiful satisfaction in knowing that he’d won this round, and that he’d come away from what he thought would be a shit show, with a prize much greater than he ever believed he’d find again. Ruby’s mother had been a delight in the time that he’d used her; doing pretty much anything that was asked or demanded of her to keep her little one safe. Grant had kept true to his word that he wouldn’t harm her, at a price, a price Ruby’s mother had been all too willing to pay to keep her baby safe.

And Ruby… she had escaped physical harm, but the emotional scars, the torment of hearing her mother scream, night after night… those sounds still haunted her nightmares, still echoed through her mind when she was at her darkest.

It was several hours later when the redhead finally began to stir, a pain throbbing deep inside her temple. She groaned a little as she tried to sit up, tried to sift through the fog of her mind as trembling fingers retracted from her head, covered in red. Ruby frowned a little at the sight, as if trying to work it out and the more she tried to ease herself up, the worse her dizziness became, the nausea overwhelming her.

Where was she…? This place, it seemed… familiar. Cold. Hard.

Olive eyes tried to peer around, tried so damn hard to stop from closing as visions of bars, metal, rusted bars flitted in and out of focus, as the sound a door somewhere in the distance slammed shut, only for another to be opened and then… footsteps. Closer, getting closer, until…

“Ah, good. You’re awake little one.”

That voice… Ruby knew that voice… would know it anywhere, it…

A figure, bending down in front of her, coaxing…

“Bet you never thought you’d find yourself back here, did you?”

Ruby met the milky, cold blue gaze of Grant Rivers and suddenly everything seemed to snap into place with startling clarity, and she was scrambling back against the wall, into the corner before it even felt like a conscious decision to do so… cowering. Vulnerable.

Rivers rumbled a chortled laugh at the sight. “Now, now. There’s no need for theatrics Cosgrove, is there? I’m going to take good care of you whilst you’re here.”

No… no. This couldn't be, it wasn't... Her mind was racing, her heart thundering and yet all that Ruby could manage in the end, all that she could force her lips to form, her voice to crack around was one single word. A name.

“G… G-Grim..”
Amber eyes tracked the dust cloud of the retreating Rivers, the vehicle dipping and bobbing with the landscape and with each passing moment Ruby was taken further and further away from him. As the distance grew larger between them it was like all the warmth and hope she'd brought to life in him wilted- replaced with something monstrous and cold. He could hear the men behind him, giving orders and moving away to complete the orders they'd been given, from the cheery banter and barks of laughter it was clear that the men were like little boys on Christmas morning- all to eager to burn down what had once been Ruby's home. It was a like a drum was pounding deep within him, and what was likely only a few passing seconds expanded.

Flecks of dirt and stone battered his hands and knees, kicked up by the men around him as they moved away from him. Grim's hands curled into fists, digging deep into the earth and filling his hands with the mixture of soil and rock.

"You'd better fucking watch, old man." A soldier griped at him, shoving into him with his knee and forcing his head to the side. Jack, Syra and Stanley stood at the centre of the camp along with a few of the remaining survivors. They huddled in close to one another and Grim took quick stock of who River's had left behind. Five men surrounded him, while another five held the camps inhabitants at gun point. Already they were gesturing for the women to come closer, ready to have some fun. A low growl left him, and Grim reacted without thinking- his body jerking up and twisting as he hurled dirt and stone into the men's facing making a few of them rear back in pain.

"Hey!" One of the men shouted out, making the group surrounding the hostages turn to see the commotion just as Grim snagged the deadly looking shotgun from one of the men's hands. He wasted no time, his hands skillfully pumping the gun, sending one, two and then three shots into the soldiers around him. He heard shots coming from the camp and without thinking pulled one of the men in front of him to act as a shield. Just in time too, the man jerked and shuddered as bullets burrowed deep within him. Shouts of alarm sounded from inside the camp and more gunfire followed quickly in its wake.

He couldn't see what was happening, and he forced himself not to look, not when the darkness and anger within him was more useful to him in the moment than his own heartbreak. With only one man remaining of the five that had surrounded him Grim reached for him, letting his shield fall to a useless heap on the ground. The soldier was good, but Grim was better, his muscles bunched anticipating the pistol and moving quickly to sent the weapon up and twisting. It was a quick reversal, one that had Grim pulling back the hammer as he used the soldiers momentum to sent him forward. Fighting was like an intricate dance, anticipating your opponents moves and using them to achieve victory. A quick step to the side and a rough jerk had the man's back pressed against his front, the gun pressed painfully against the man's cheek. The metal dug deep enough into skin that a small trickle of blood escaped down the side of the gun. The man whimpered helplessly against him and Grim finally let his attention turn to the camp.

Jack had seen the same opportunity as Grim, and when the men had all looked away he wasted no time, lifting his rifle up and sending shot after shot while the camp he'd spent years protecting threw themselves at the soldiers who remained, using their numbers against those who remained. More screams filled the air, and then finally the world around them grew quiet once more. Syra stood next to him, her big eyes wider still as a jerky hand came to rest upon Jack's arm.

"Jack..." The way she spoke his name made him feel like she knew something he didn't and when Jack was assured the men around them were dead he followed Syra's gaze, dropping his eyes to his chest and the dark bloom of blood that was seeping through his clothes.

"Oh." He didn't feel the pain, the shock of seeing all the blood that should have been inside his body rendering him a bit dumb. It was then his legs gave out on him, and Jack collapsed right in front of Syra making the poor doctor scream once more in alarm. She dropped to her knees, suddenly remembering that she had the skills to help Jack- but it was too late. Another shot rang out through the camp making the survivors jump and look up in alarm. Within seconds Grim was at Jack's side, while Stanley huffed at the dying mans head.

"Ruby-" Jack bit out, his voice growing gravelly with the effort it took to breath or speak. Grim only shook his head and Jack's eyes darkened with purpose. A bloodied hand reached up to grip at Grim's shirt dragging him closer. "Fu-Fucking get her, Grim. Promise m-me" Jack's eyes closed, his grip just as strong on Grim. Memories flooded through Jack's brain- a brash young girl joining the camp, her eyes haunted with screams and terror. Seeing Ruby laugh with Erin while they sat around a campfire, or the way she'd preened when he'd ruffled her hair and told her she'd done a job well.

Syra's hands were pressed tight to his chest, trying to staunch the flow but with each passing moment it grew clearer and clearer Jack was on deaths door. Soft sobs left Syra's lips, and she pressed tightly to the man she'd considered a good friend. Soft whining filled the air as Stanley laid his head down on Grim's lap. They stayed with him, waiting until the bitter end; the last of his life blinked out with a rattle of lungs and the dimming of what had once been warm eyes. When it was done Grim once more realized that he felt nothing- without Ruby he was a shell, an instrument of pain and violence.

Jack's hand fell to the ground as he stood and Grim looked around the camp and the destruction around him. With the soldiers gone, he had his pick of transportation.

"Grim..." Syra's voice sounded so weak, and she flinched a little when he turned his blazing eyes to hers. "Wh-what do I do?"

"Bury your dead. Drink until it stops hurting." He sounded bored, almost robotic. The kindly doctor's brows furrowed at him, as if she knew his answer was not at all the right one.

"What will you do?" Syra still wasn't letting go of Jack.

"What I do best."
It wasn't clear how long had passed since Ruby had woken up. Maybe a day or two, judging by how hungry she was, how dry her mouth felt.

Men she didn't recognise had stopped by with skimpy rations of food and tiny glasses of water; just enough to keep her alive, she guessed and if she hadn't been desperate... she might have considered not accepting anything at all. Ruby didn't know where it had come from, what could be in it and she didn't trust any of them as far as she could throw them. These were Rivers' men, and that's all she needed to know.

Since that first time she'd woken to see him, Ruby hadn't seen Grant or anyone else she recognised... except for Riley, who seemed to stop by every hour on the dot. She didn't remember much but she knew that he was responsible for this, knew that he'd handed her over, that he'd gotten into bed with Rivers somewhere along the line. He tried to explain to her, but Red was having none of it. Even in the state she was in, dirtied and bruised, every time he sat down in front of those bars and poured what he thought was his heart out to her, she curled into the corner a little more, turned her back on him, showing him that she didn't want to hear it.

It was unlike how Ruby usually was, all fire and life... yet right now she was scared. Terrified, actually. She didn't know what had happened to her home, her friends, her family, to... him. The thought in itself caused a bubbling anxiety to well inside her chest, Grant's wicked laughter echoing through her mind when she'd asked him. He hadn't given her an answer. He'd simply laughed and left her alone with her own thoughts that he knew would be enough to torture her.

Today was the first day however, that Ruby couldn't take the silence anymore.

Riley sat down in front of the bars as usual and began to speak, but what he wasn't expecting, was for Ruby to mirror his movements.

She was unsteady on her feat, wobbly and weak, but she maintained her composure as she crossed her legs, dead, olive eyes looking into brown.

"Where is he?" Her voice was hoarse, cracked. Riley blinked, his features a muddle of emotions; confusion, realisation, anger, hurt.

"You know I can't tell you that, Rubes."

"You can," Ruby stated plainly. "You're choosing not to. Do you... Do you want to hurt me, Riley? Is that it? More than you already have?"

"No, Ruby, that's not... I did this to save you. You know that. I had to get you away, had to make you see that Grim, he's not--"

Small hands slammed on the bars. "Don't you ever say his name," Ruby hissed, the first fire she'd shown since she'd arrived. "You don't get to say his name. Not until you tell me where he is."

Riley's own expression hardened then and he dropped his gaze, shaking his head and lightly scoffing to himself. "He really had you wrapped around his little finger, didn't he, Rubes?"

Had. Didn't. Why was Riley speaking about him in past tense? Was he...? He couldn't...?

Ruby swallowed, watching as the man before her pulled himself to his feet. He didn't look at her again as he turned and headed for the door. "A word of advice. If you want to get through this, you'll do as they say." The words made no sense as they echoed through the room in Riley's wake, or at least that was until two strangers appeared through the door seconds later, with a key to undo her cell. Ruby was immediately on her feet, swaying slightly, her heart humming in her throat as they gained access and came towards her, as she tried, she really tried to fight them off but was very quickly sent tumbling down again with a swift knock to her cheek.

Hands, large hands gripped roughly at her arms, hauling her back onto her feet. The redhead struggled feebly as she was dragged from the cell, towards the door they'd first come through, into a corridor and then... another room. A room with a bed and... straps. A bed that they were leading her to.

Ruby started screaming long before they even tied her down, but she didn't stop fighting. Not once.
Night gave way, the stars fading out of sight as the suns golden rays peeked over the horizon painting the sky pastel. It was something Grim would have stopped to appreciate with Ruby at his side. He'd have wrapped a thick arm around her middle and drawn her closer, letting her use his chest as a place to rest her head while they marveled that such beauty could still exist. He'd been nothing but foolish to sink into that dream with her, and he'd known, he'd fucking known how bad it was going to hurt the moment he couldn't reach out for her.

And yet he'd fallen all the same. The words, a truth, trapped within his chest.

He kept his eyes off the sky, and instead focused on gathering all the things he needed for his journey. He didn't think to help, knowing that each second he wasted was a second more Ruby was in captivity. He encountered no resistance from the camp, not when he piled weapons into the back of a deep green army truck with a canvas top over the back bed. Stanley remained at his side as he filled a bag with provisions, taking only what he needed and leaving the rest for the camp. Syra had become the leader, her tearful instructions were accepted without delay and all around him the camp worked to save the injured while respectfully disposing of their dead. He couldn't spend another second more with them, not when Ruby was far away from where she belonged.

Grim opened the passenger door for Stanley and the dog hopped in, it's tongue lolling out the side of his mouth in a way that might have made Grim smile a day before. He closed the door with a sharp snap and turned around, coming up short when the small doctor with her wild hair and squinting eyes stood right behind him.
"Our radios are working, so you better send word right away when you get her." The doctor ordered, she held something tightly in her hands and Grim forced himself to nod his agreement. The cold monster within him didn't have the space to make those promises and yet he couldn't stop thinking about what Ruby would say to Syra- how she might treat her. "Here!" Syra thrust her arms at him and Grim blinked down in surprise at the flask she held out to him.

Jack's flask.

"He'd probably want you to have it. You were the only one who could seem to stomach it." She smiled weakly at him and Grim didn't bother to correct her as he accepted the gift and pocketed it. Jack was as much a distiller as he was alive. "B-Be safe alright." Again he said nothing, his dark eyes peered down at her like she was no more than an obstacle in his way. Syra eventually got the silent message and with a small noise she moved to the side and Grim walked away from her without looking back.

He drove all day, stopping along groups of cars to gather gas and let Stanley do his business. The cab of the truck was silent, save for Stanley's soft pants as he pressed his nose against the glass and watched the trees and destruction move by, his ears perked with interest. It was well past nightfall when Grim was forced to bring the truck to a halt and come to terms with the fact he was falling asleep at the wheel. Just for an hour, he would get the rest his body so deeply craved and continue on. Pushing the seat back Grim glanced over to the passenger seat. It was a different setting, but not unlike the truck he'd painstakingly kept working for years. It felt empty without a certain redhead next to him.

His eyes shut, the darkness overtaking him. Had he known it was his last day with her he would have spent longer in the lake, taken her along the rocky shores and whispered all of the things his heart had been too afraid to say. The nightmares came back without her, the fresh screams of terror as a bakery window caved in on itself. The shriek of his sister as a man fell upon her, tearing at her clothes and viciously tearing into the skin of her shoulder. There was so much blood, and Grim had frozen staring at the sight with unblinking paralyzed eyes. Josie screamed his name, forcing him to act.

The cleaver was mainly used for separating dough, a long blade useful for mass production, but now it gleamed in his hand as he raised it above his head, hesitating only a moment before he brought it down on his sisters attacker. There was a sickening thud of flesh and bone separating and Josie scrabbled to get the body off of her while working to cover herself. Avery hauled her up the rest of the way, pulling her close and hugging her.

"I'm- I'm so sorry. J.J, fuck I'm sorry."

"No... you saved me." J.J's soothing voice did little to hide the tremor of fear that moved through him.

"Did I kill him?" His voice was barely above a whisper and his sister leaned in to listen to him, her eyes darkening the closer she drew to the exposed skin of his throat.

"I think so." She whispered, not looking back at the corpse at their feet. Dimly Grim was aware of the screams coming from outside, but it was already too late.

A deep growl had Grim sitting up, gasping for breath as the worst of the memories unfurled- cut short by another growl from Stanley. Quickly Grim's eyes moved over the scenery around them. He'd parked in a small treed area by the road, he couldn't be sure of the time or how long he slept but that didn't matter. All that mattered were the bright pair of headlight's heading down the road, moving right towards them.

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