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Hell Or High Water

By linkthehero
Backup thread


And I want your pyro, your born-again virgin
Your hands on my insides, your fingertips crawling
And I want your Jesus, your suicide mission
Your lips on the microphone, soft disposition





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linktheheroNolan Gray   101d ago

Patrick’s teeth nipped at his fingers before securing the bit of sandwich and Nolan smirked down at him, lost somewhere between wanting to scold him for the act and wanting to reward him. Patrick’s mouth alone could send him to heaven. Or hell. He didn’t care which. He continued to feed Patrick until the sandwich was gone and he could turn to his own. 

He ate in silence. Their contentment surrounded them much like the blankets: heavy and warm and welcoming. He figured only they would be able to find comfort in a blizzard. He didn’t want to go back out there. He didn’t want Patrick to be stuck here. He had only hoped for this warm feeling. Working all day to return to an apartment to spend all night in each other’s arms. Was it too much to hope for? 

He set his plate aside and slid the rest of the way under the covers. Patrick’s bare legs tangled through the legs of his sweatpants and if he hadn’t already taken his hand, Nolan would have been out of them again. Nolan squeezed Patrick’s knuckles gently and hummed in question when he said his name.

“Hmm?” He let his eyes roam his lover’s. His newly exposed face so easy to see and to read… 

“Are you ever afraid that I may go too far someday?” Patrick asked and Nolan let out a small “oof” when he felt Patrick poke his hip. “Or is that something... you don’t care about?”

Nolan was far too busy looking through Patrick’s dark eyelashes and admiring how much he’d been opening up to even think about his answer to the question at first. He’d always been blunt, but not like this. Not with vulnerable questions.

Nolan had to avert his eyes to start thinking about how to reply. The way Patrick worded that…

“You ask that like you’re worried you might go too far,” he finally said softly and returned his gaze to Patrick’s face. “But I ain’t. I know you wouldn’t really hurt me.” He was practically whispering. “But if I’m wrong, then I’m wrong. And I’d love you all the same. Dig my heart out with your bare hands and I’d probably thank you,” he said, a half smile on his face. “The whole world is fucked up and if I’m not gonna die of old age, then I guess the second best thing would be by your hand.” He found Patrick’s eyes with his own and only then realized what he’d said. He waited a beat for the wrongness of it to settle in, but the feeling didn’t come. “How’s that for romance?” he asked, only half joking, then cleared his throat and looked away. That was one hell of a confession and he wasn’t even sure what it meant.

: Patrick McGee :

If asked, Patrick wouldn’t sugar coat it. He hated when Nolan paused to think about his words but he knew if Nolan were like him- saying whatever the fuck he wanted- that they probably wouldn’t work out as well. Or... maybe they would, he didn’t know anymore. Hell, Nolan had surprised him with his answers and mannerisms so many times he was sure he would fail any personality quiz about the man. 

I mean, what do you know? His favorite color? That he likes jeans? What turns him on under the covers?

There’s no time for hobbies and casual bullshit in the apocalypse, he reminded Caesar begrudgingly. I also know the man’s past so fuck off. 

“You ask that like you’re worried you might go too far.” And whether Patrick’s face confirmed it or not, it was true. But... of course, Nolan wasn’t afraid at all. Always willing to lay his life on the knife, let him ‘dig his heart out’ if he wanted. The country boy was head over heels and maybe Patrick was probably- 

“Excuse me?” Patrick snapped his dark eyes up to Nolan’s face as the other tried to cover up his ‘miswording’ as some romantic pick-up line. 

Did he say he thinks he’ll die beforehand? He would rather let you kill him or be killed then attempt to spend the rest of your lives together? Ha! That’s fucked. 

“Yeah, it’s romantic in a fucked up way,” he agreed. “What? You don’t think you’ll make it? Thought you said you wanted to have a ‘safe’ existence.” 

Why are you getting so offended, hypocrite? You’re the one that runs into and enjoys danger. Who wants to suffer outside the walls. Don’t you think that’s a bit unfair? 

He sighed heavily through his nose, leaning back further into his pillow. “Sorry, your prediction is probably a valid one. What are the odds that we live to be old or that I won’t kill you. Flip a coin, we can bet on it.” That was dark. Maybe Patrick was scared for nothing. Maybe hurting Nolan was some kind of poetic love letter that the other preferred written on his skin. 

And it can end with a signature of murder- traitor. 

He stared at the ceiling, still finding the lack of bangs strange and pondered his earlier self righteous thoughts. Perhaps he was overthinking things- trying too hard. Nolan... obviously loved all of him. Would he notice if he tried to be better? Besides cutting his fucking hair? In the end, was it worth it?

linktheheroNolan Gray   101d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan tried to hide the grin from his face. He really should have expected this response. He wasn’t smiling so much because Patrick was defensive, it was more because he was becoming predictable. And Nolan liked that he was learning. He bit the corner of his mouth to mask it as Patrick berated him for his answer. And while it had been as honest as honest could get and Nolan himself hardly understood what he had confessed, he understood enough to know he should have elaborated.

He watched Patrick lean back into the pillows, his tone not quite sarcastic, not quite serious enough for Nolan to know he was forgiven yet. 

“I don’t wanna bet,” Nolan said, his leg teasing one of Patrick’s absently. He propped himself up on his arm to look down at the grumpy face, forcing himself into Patrick’s vision. “I said if I don’t die of old age. Then I would prefer it to be by your hand.” Nolan ran his free hand under the covers to find Patrick’s hand, pulling it up towards his lips. Pressing his mouth lightly against the knuckles he kept his grip light in case Patrick wanted to pull away. “I told you before. I don’t wanna die anymore. I wanna find a place for us.”

Nolan leaned against Patrick’s side gently. He took in those eyes as he let go of his hand and felt for his waist.

“You won’t kill me,” he whispered softly, his face inches away. His words were strong despite how softly he spoke them, full of belief. He felt like if he spoke the words any louder something might shatter. Patrick or him. He knew Patrick had killed his last lover. And yet he was not afraid. Not even remotely. There wasn’t even a worry in the back of his mind fighting to be heard. “You won’t. Not unless I’m bit or bleedin’ out and beggin’ you to. As for the rest of it… You don’t do anythin’ I don’t already want you to.” He shifted his eyes between Patrick’s, down to his lips, and back up again. “And I plan on lettin’ you do whatever you want to me for a long, long time, yet.”

: Patrick McGee :

Nolan’s face came into view and Patrick scrunched his features, annoyed at how charming he was despite his slightly foul mood. He spoke softly, making it clear what he meant by emphasizing the if he must have conveniently misheard. Nolan was confident and in turn made him feel better and safer even as the other moved in for a closer touch.

“You won’t kill me.” 

Patrick’s gaze was locked with Nolan’s, firmer words spoken as if it was creating a wall between him and his own self doubt. The feelings were complicated but Patrick was sure that he had Nolan on some kind of personal list free from his own murdering hand. Hearing the words out loud helped and a man willing to let Patrick devour and torture him must have been insane. His needs were at times raw and violent and no other person on this planet was going to make him feel this close to being someone’s personal devil.

You must be toxic.

Sure. He didn’t fucking care.

Patrick reached up to swallow Nolan in a deep kiss where they proceeded to make love in a... fairly normal way…

The power returned and the sudden humming of machinery put Patrick on high alert. He untangled himself from Nolan’s limbs and pulled a blanket over his shoulders, peering through the blinds of the bedroom. The entire city was coated in thick inches of snow but there were no longer winds or clouds in the sky. He heard the heater switch on and took the opportunity to change into warm, soft clothes. 

Not too long after, they were boots in the streets, digging out paths and knocking on doors. Men and women were stepping out and Patrick felt his stomach in knots as someone knocked on their door. While he was sure this was all part of the community aspect of Houston, he was positive with the way things were going, they were not leaving anytime soon. At least, not with this abnormal weather. 

The man at the door requested manpower to help get the city out of the snow and make paths to the most needed areas. Patrick held his tongue, not trusting himself to play nice when Nolan was surely better at talking.

linktheheroNolan Gray   99d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan’s bravery was rewarded with a kiss. And then more. And he enjoyed Patrick’s attention any way he was allowed. He was privileged. He was honored. And he was sure only he had the power to turn that ill mood around, and even then sometimes it didn’t work.

Nolan didn’t pay attention to the time. He kissed Patrick’s wrists and let himself drift off into a light sleep, comforted by the feeling of Patrick’s form beside him. In his half-dream state he was in a world where there had been no outbreak. It was a Saturday afternoon. Almost summer. He and Patrick lived together somewhere warm and close to a beach. It didn’t matter how he could afford it. Patrick’s breath on his skin was the breeze coming in from the open window. 

He was pulled out of this dream by the thunk of the generator turning itself back on. He blinked a few times, watching Patrick climb out of bed in a haze as reality came settling back over him. It was light out, he could tell from the light streaming in through the blinds Patrick was looking through before turning to get dressed. Nolan sat up slowly, mourning the disappearance of Patrick’s skin, but he followed suit, knowing it wouldn’t be long before they were called upon.

Nolan pulled on something heavy, already expecting to be put to work. Nolan squeezed Patrick’s shoulder gently when the knock finally came at the door. He could tell he was tense and he let his hand caress his back as he moved past him and towards the door.

It was a familiar face, but Nolan couldn’t place his name at that moment. He nodded at the request for help. “Let me just get my boots,” Nolan said. 

That seemed to be enough for their visitor. He turned and made his way to the next occupied apartment and Nolan closed the door behind him, turning back to Patrick.

“I’m gonna go help,” he said softly, stepping into his boots. The apartment was warming up fairly quickly already and he found himself sweating slightly after he pulled on his coat. He closed the distance between himself and Patrick, placing a hand on the side of his face. “What do you want to do?” 

He would not blame Patrick for staying inside and he fought with a large part of himself that wanted to refuse to leave him alone. He was terrified he might return and find Patrick truly bleeding out this time. He still saw the scene when he closed his eyes sometimes. Had a few moments of panic when Patrick left the bed. But Patrick asked him for trust. He had said he did not want to die, either. He had to believe that. That didn’t mean Nolan had to like the idea of Patrick hurting himself.

Was that why he allowed- no, enjoyed- Patrick to cut on him instead?

Nolan knew they couldn’t stay cooped up forever. The inevitable would come no matter what and he figured it was better to face it head on and ready than in denial. If they were really going to give this place a shot, they would have to do their jobs. And that day was coming as soon as the snows were melted, Nolan was sure of it. Still, if Patrick wasn’t ready to leave this small safe haven, he was not about to force him to.

: Patrick McGee :

“I’m gonna go help,” was a predictable answer for Nolan. Patrick honestly wouldn’t have expected anything less except that, if he asked him too, he was sure Nolan would stay. But he wasn’t going to be that guy today. He also wasn’t keen on being here alone either... 

Patrick sighed and patted Nolan’s hand before pulling it away. “I’ll get off my ass and help.” He was positive that Nolan still worried about him, especially after the other night. That worry wasn’t going away anytime soon and it struck a guilty cord within Patrick that mutually agreed he couldn’t trust himself either. He’d been using it as a coping mechanism for years, he was unsure what he’d need to do to stop. 

Sometimes it feels right. 

Doesn’t mean it ever was. 

Patrick parted from Nolan, digging his boots out of the closet and lacing them up quickly. It couldn’t hurt to expel some energy. After all, he wasn’t killing zombs anymore which took a bit of fun out of his life already. How long have they been here now? Nearly two weeks? Like living in fucking molasses. It wasn’t a mystery that he wasn’t functioning right here but he had to try and keep from suffocating. At some point, he had to adapt. Right? 

Patrick pulled a beanie down over his ears, suddenly self conscious that now he was going to have to look everyone in the eye from now on. Perhaps he didn’t think that one through but he wasn’t going to allow anyone else to see that weakness either. 

Your mother did say once that your gaze could kill. 

He patted Nolan’s ass before following him outside- and fuck was it cold. He was confident Texas never saw weather like this and wondered if the northern states were unbearable. Did the survivors up there freeze to death? 

Patrick was handed a snow shovel and put to work in a different direction than Nolan. He forced a smile, assuring himself and his partner that everything was going to be okay. Thankfully, the work was more than distracting. It was laborious and eerily quiet. It worked unused muscles and forced him to control his breathing between lifts. It also gave him time to daydream about the outside and what he could do with a shovel like this. Caesar too remained quiet. 

By the time he made it to the end of the block, his nose was dripping and his body was tight. Patrick was sure Nolan would last longer especially when they compared body mass and eating habits. He wasn’t as skinny as when they first met but he wasn’t a filled out athlete either. 

Patrick was excused once it was obvious he had exhausted his limited energy and made his way back to the apartment. He shoved the coffee table aside and collapsed in the middle of the living room, kicking off his snow caked boots that started to seep into the carpet. He felt a little better as he heaved on the floor, thinking about starting a pot of coffee and craving a cigarette. If he had to wait a bit longer for his lover to return then that’s what he would do. He won’t let the apartment walls fall in on him. Not today.

linktheheroNolan Gray   95d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan had to admit it was a relief to see Patrick take action. Being isolated together was one thing, but being isolated alone… Nolan was familiar with the brain’s betrayal, and Patrick’s situation was worse. How long before he settled into this new way of existence? If they even chose to stay…

Patrick put his mind at ease with his lighthearted gestures of affection, but only until they were being split up. Nolan worried for a while how Patrick was doing, but he supposed someone would have come for him anything had gone wrong. After a while, the hard work and the cold numbed his worries and his thoughts and he continued clearing his section of road of any snow. He had long stopped thinking about the strange weather conditions, now only putting his effort into making it through.

Nolan’s leg was aching halfway down the street. He supposed he’d live with the pain the rest of his life but found comfort in the fact that it didn’t bother him constantly anymore. The cold seeped through his hands, too. And while he took regular breaks to warm them, his nonexistent pinky refused to join the others. Perpetually cold and numb and angry and… gone. He clenched his fist in his glove and the pinky did not move.

He had managed to ignore it until now. Sure, it had bothered him, but every time it had he had directed his attention elsewhere. It was hard to do that now with the weight of the shovel and the cold pressing in around him. He refused to replay the memory, instead pretending, just for the moment, that he had never had a left pinky. 

He forced himself to limp on, working far more than he probably should have and despite others trying to get him to take breaks. Eventually someone forced the shovel out of his hand and turned him back towards the apartment when they realized he could hardly stand anymore.

He returned, climbing the stairs slowly and one at a time, gripping the handrail. When he opened the door he saw the coffee table had been pushed out of the way and for a moment Nolan panicked, thinking something had happened in his absence. But then he saw the boots, right where they would be if someone collapsed right onto the floor and kicked them off. And he smelled the coffee and he knew Patrick was alright.

Nolan stumbled in, limping to spread out in the empty place on the floor, still damp from Patrick’s clothes. He stared up at the ceiling for a moment before pulling off his boots and gloves and wincing, then realizing he needed a hot shower to set his bones right. He rubbed the socket of his pinky, hoping to remind his brain that it was well and truly gone while stretching out his healed leg. He felt like an old car that had been in one too many accidents and the owner just wouldn’t let it go. He closed his eyes and listened for Patrick moving around, clanking cups, pouring coffee… anything that sounded like home. Anything that told him this was all worth it.

: Patrick McGee :

He heard the door shut and the thump of shoes, happy that Nolan was back. Patrick smiled to himself, catching the emotion in the bathroom mirror. 

Deserve it now? 

He let the smile drop and closed his eyes, thumbing small circles on the still raw scars on his arm from the other day. He felt... there was so much happening yet nothing happening at all. Too many hypotheticals he was sure were going to come to fruition in the next couple days. Snow stopped. Production didn’t but Houston couldn’t be all that fucking perfect. 

With a quick tousle of his wet hair, he replaced the bandages and dressed in an outfit previously picked out. Whoever set this apartment up had great taste, he admitted. Lots of black, nothing too alternative but all insanely comfortable. It was strange not to have to steal clothes anymore. 

Patrick walked in, seeing Nolan collapsed on the floor in the same spot he was previously and smirked. He looked tired- beat. His eyes were closed and his hand was rubbing the spot where once there was a pinky. Patrick’s expression dropped, recalling the dark memories from the military fort as if they weren’t almost a month ago. He took a breath, rubbed his arm for comfort before turning to the kitchen to grab a mug and pour them each a cup of coffee. 

Padded feet crossed the room, setting the mugs on the crooked coffee table and kneeled beside his spent lover. He laced his fingers with Nolan’s, bringing up the hand with the missing finger to his lips. “Welcome back,” he whispered. “Sit up and have some coffee.” 

Patrick scooted back, leaning against the couch as he reached for his own drink. “I overheard some folks talking about how the storm took them by surprise and they may need materials to repair the damage in some areas. You know, since Houston wasn’t built for this kind of weather. I think they’re going to be sending the Industrial Scavengers soon,” he gestured to Nolan with his mug. “Your division.”

His eyes moved to stare at the wall. “I don’t expect you to stay but I’ll probably require you to make all kinds of silly promises.” 

Soft response for someone who’d kill to stay by country boy’s side. 

“But if that Simon guy comes back around and gives me lip about my job performance, I can’t promise I won’t punch that grin off his face.” Patrick smirked, trying so fucking hard to seem normal about everything. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   87d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan listened with his eyes closed, even as Patrick approached. He wasn’t ever quite sure which Patrick he was going to get. He could be greeted with a kiss or a knife to his throat, but he didn’t care. His eyes remained closed until he felt fingers lace with his own and felt the graze of lips against his hand. He couldn’t help but smile through his exhaustion. He did as he was bid and reached for the mug Patrick had brought for him. It warmed him to the very core and he let out a long, low moan of pleasure. He felt like a block of ice melting from the inside.

He set the mug down to shrug out of his coat and boots, listening to Patrick as he did so. He didn’t get up to put them away, though. He only reached back for his coffee. 

Industrial Scavengers. Nolan wanted to scoff. It was a stupid name. He went to take another sip from his mug, but lowered it again when Patrick averted his gaze and added a surprisingly needy confession to the conversation. Of course he instantly covered it up, but Nolan saw through the smirk.

Nolan took that sip he’d been wanting, then awkwardly crawled over to put his back against the sofa next to Patrick. He let his hand wander over to find a knee and squeezed. 

“I don’t want to go,” he said honestly. “But I don’t assume I have much choice if we’re tryin’ to make our place here. I doubt we’ll stay out there too long, anyway. If this took them by surprise then I could see them bein’ worried about another storm hittin’ before winter is over. Wouldn’t want us out there in it.”

Nolan set his mug down and turned his body towards Patrick with a small smile. His hands wandered lovingly, tracing legs and hips and chest. “But I can make promises, Patrick,” he said, leaning in and whispering before catching his lips. “I promise that I’m comin’ back. Nothin’ can keep me from you. We didn’t make it this far for nothin’.” He kissed Patrick’s pale jaw before leaning back and looking him in the eye. His hand had found his face, his thumb working circles into his cheek.

Then he shivered and reached again for his coffee.

It was difficult to relax that afternoon and evening. Cain had paid them a visit, telling Nolan what he already knew. It was inevitable that he would be leaving the city within three days as long as the snow continued to melt. They were asked to do small tasks for the next two days and on the third, Nolan was summoned for the scavenging trip. Their bags were packed for them, weapons provided. All he had to do was meet the group by the gate. Nolan tucked away one of his own pistols just in case he wasn’t fond of what was provided. Then it was time to say farewell.

Nolan had just filled up his canteen at the sink and the apartment was silent. A heaviness weighed over them. It had even been difficult to not give their lovemaking the previous night a tone of finality.

“They say it shouldn’t be more than three or four days,” he reminded Patrick, reaching out for him. “I’ve survived longer without you standin’ as my bodyguard,” he teased, but he knew it didn’t land. He leaned in, kissing the corner of Patrick’s mouth, hoping for more, but not demanding it. “I love you,” he added simply.

: Patrick McGee :

Nolan was soft with his words and touch, an electric reassurance that Patrick needed. He made a good point. With the abnormal weather, they would be idiots to stay out so long without the resources from the city and their group were one of the most valuable assets to Houston. But Patrick couldn’t lie to himself. He would be worried despite the genuine promise. Death was never planned. 

“We didn’t make it this far for nothin’.” 

Wouldn’t that be a bitch? 

Cain’s visit to the apartment that afternoon ruined any hope Patrick had of having a sound mind. He went over specifics with Nolan, giving guidance and direction on what to expect in the next few days as they prepared the city and their equipment. If the snow continued to melt, the trip Outside was a guarantee. 

And the snow melted. Every day he stared daggers out the window and hoped for the worst but nothing happened. Even when his hands were busy, Patrick couldn’t help his mind from drifting from dark and possibly improbable scenarios. It didn’t help that on the night before, it felt like they were covering their bases in case it was the last time. 

Patrick stared at the carpet as he listened to Nolan get ready to leave for what seemed like hours too long already. The morning was gray, the living room was dark and his eyes were heavy from the lack of sleep. He should skip the job duties today. He didn’t fucking care about this place. 

He looked up from his stance against the wall as Nolan reminded him about the length of the trip, as if he would forget. The small joke didn’t land with Patrick but the young man was past trying to pretend that he supported Nolan’s decision and his lover knew it. 

“Right,” he mumbled as Nolan tried for a kiss. Patrick turned his head and landed the kiss fully, taking a handful of Nolan’s jacket into his grip as he pulled him closer. “I love you too,” he whispered, too afraid to say it any louder. “Just fucking come back.” 

He’d never been any good at saying goodbyes. It was always easier when he didn’t have ties to sever but with Nolan... It was difficult. It was different than leaving his family, different than Caesar. He felt like he was watching himself from far away as he walked his lover to the door and let his hand drop to the side once he turned the lock behind him. He could feel his chest caving and the anger building as he stared at the stupid silver doorknob. 

Patrick remained that way for the remainder of the day, wearing the mask of Brutus as he mindlessly did whatever task was asked of him. He wondered how far they were traveling, if they were navigating by car, if Nolan was thinking about him as much as he was. He left the plant nursery early, kicking down a pile of fertilizer on his way out.

Just like a ticking time bomb. We’re going to have so much fun.

linktheheroNolan Gray   75d ago

Nolan Gray

Just fucking come back. That goodbye meant everything to Nolan. He held Patrick’s whispered declaration of love in his heart the entire drive out of the city, promising the both of him that he would. He had to. 

He sat in the back of the armored jeep with Cain and a few others and no one spoke. He wondered if they were all feeling it too; the growing ache and pull the farther they got from the people they cared about. Was it like this every time they left the city on supply runs? Nolan wasn’t sure if he’d be able to stand this…

By the time they reached the town they were going to scavenge it was near lunchtime. Nolan hoped Patrick was eating. The entire day, Nolan couldn’t stop wondering what he was doing. Wondering if he was thinking of him, too.

Simon had said it was dangerous to have them work together as lovers because they would sacrifice for each other. Nolan was realizing it was almost as dangerous to keep them apart because his mind was not with his team. It was back in the apartment with Patrick. Back in the warm bed with tangled legs, lazy smiles, and messy sandwiches.

Two days passed with only minor troubles. Some zombies here and there but nothing they couldn’t handle. Nolan held his own as he always had and they came out the other side of town with a lot more supplies and food than they thought they would. There was one last building. Half of the group wanted to check it out. Half of the group wanted to call it a day. Nolan was with the latter. The sun was going to set in a couple of hours and in the morning they were headed home. Why tempt fate?

But Cain was in charge and Cain had his orders: check everything. If there was even a single bottle of ibuprofen left unfound, it could come back to bite them, or so he said.

So they headed inside. Instantly Nolan knew something was wrong. There were two or three pairs of thundering footsteps above them. The apartment complex was only four floors, so they didn’t have very far to go to find the culprits which sounded much more human in nature than zombie. 

Cain made it his mission to recruit whenever he could, but they were clearly running from something, so they moved away from the running and down the hall, guns drawn. Nolan had found his place in the formation, opening doors and scanning the rooms with his weapon. He was the one that found the newly turned zombie in a room on the left. The man, around his age, stood twitching in the center of the room. Blood smeared his face and he had a knife in his gut. It was clear the change just happened. He wasn’t fully aware of his surroundings, only sniffed at the air like he might find more blood and licked at his lips.

Nolan lowered his weapon and approached him, removing the knife in his stomach. He used it to kill the monster, planting it in his brain. He collapsed. Nolan turned around to find Cain in the doorway.

“Looks like he bit someone durin’ his change,” Nolan said. “Had to have just happened. They might not have even known.”

Cain nodded and gestured down the hallway toward where the sound of running had stopped then led the way. He stopped at the door and Nolan watched as the large man, almost politely, knocked.

“We’re not here to hurt you,” he said through the door. “It’s safe out here now.”

For a long, long time there was no reply. And then there was a shuffle. The door slowly creaked open and a girl looked out at them through the crack, gauging whether to trust them or not as if they wouldn’t be able to force their way inside. What he could see of her, she looked to be a teenager. She was frightened, but her brows were drawn down in distrust. She’d clearly been crying.

“How many of you are in there?” Cain asked her, his voice no different than usual.

The girl studied him and Nolan could have sworn she was about to shut the door on him. Cain was great at recruiting, but his gentle side needed some work. At this rate, whoever was bitten inside was going to change and kill the poor girl… if she wasn’t the one bit.

Nolan stepped forward, only realizing he had after the fact. Her eyes shifted to him.

“Are you alright?” he asked her. “I have bandages and water. Some food.”

Her eyes seemed to light up at that, but still, she did not open the door.

“Is someone bit?” he asked gently.

The girl scanned the crowd, then nodded. 

“Are you bit?”

She shook her head.

“We’re from Houston,” Nolan told her. “It’s safe there. Plenty to eat. Electricity and water to keep you warm and clean.”

“Where were you ten minutes ago? A week ago?” the girl asked, her voice light and breathless, anger and pain seeping out of her in a way that reminded him all too much of Patrick.

“I’m sorry we weren’t,” Nolan said, holding up a hand to stop Cain from speaking. “What happened?”

“Dad went out in the blizzard. We had no food. He came back with enough to get by but he didn’t tell us he was bit. Then he started acting funny and… We were just… we were sitting in there playing cards like always and he suddenly made this… this gurgling sound. And his eyes went wild and he- he bit momma!” She was crying again.

“And is she in there with you right now?”

She nodded. “I don’t know what to do. She told me not to open the door, but she passed out from blood loss. I don’t want to say goodbye. I only opened the door because I heard you all come up and I thought you guys might kill us. I- I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t live without them.”

A muffled voice came from inside and the girl looked over her shoulder, panicked. 

“Can I come in?” Nolan asked, tenderly. He slowly guided the door open without waiting for a reply and she let him inside, just as he knew she would. The others understood that if they followed, things could get ugly, so they waited for Nolan to work his word magic inside. 

The girl’s mother was lying on the couch. The soft spot between shoulder and neck was bleeding and they had tried to staunch the flow with shirts and rags. Nolan knew there was no point. A bite was a bite. 

“Get away… from my daughter…” the woman rasped. 

Nolan looked instead to the girl. “You know what has to happen,” he said softly. “But how it happens is up to you.” 

“What are my options?” she asked, looking over at her half-conscious mother.

“You can leave her to change. You can end her suffering yourself. Or you can let me do it for you.” Nolan held out the clean knife from his belt. “Just know that there is no wrong answer.”

The girl looked down at the knife, then back up to her mother. She seemed to find a resolve she didn’t have before and took it with a shaky hand. She took three steps towards her mother, faltered, then continued. Nolan waited. 

Then this girl raised the knife and Nolan was sure she was going to do it for half a heartbeat. Then the resolve was gone and she lowered it, shaking her head. She turned to look at him. “I can’t do it.”

Before he had a chance to reply, before he even had a chance to blink, the knife was being wrestled from her hand. Her mother found a last spark of strength before she succumbed to the blood loss and the change.

“You will not take my daughter from me.”

In quick succession, the woman buried the knife into her daughter’s chest and Nolan shot her in the forehead. Her head flung back onto the pillow and the girl grumbled to the ground, her own head missing the floor only because Nolan caught her. He realized he couldn’t see. He couldn’t see through the tears in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he heard himself saying.

She couldn’t answer through the blood she was coughing up. He wiped the dark hair from her face and rocked her in her last moments. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” The other’s had crowded in now, alerted by the gunshot, but he didn’t notice. “Forgive me,” he whispered.

“Forgive me, Lizzy.”

: Patrick McGee :

Brutus always wore his hair long. Seeing those eyes reminded him of someone else. Someone weaker. But no matter how he sliced it, Patrick was looking back at a man he didn’t fully trust... and Caesar lived there too... and he was smart enough to know that it wasn’t always Damian who was doing the talking. 

He remembered putting the towel up to block out the bathroom mirror but the rest was a blur of color and trying his best to watch the pictures that were on the living room TV. The first morning after was agonizing. The emptiness, the quiet, even the couch didn’t provide enough comfort to keep the panic from rising in his chest. When did he become this dependent? When did he decide that he didn’t want to exist if Nolan wasn’t here with him? Waiting, the unknown, they swallowed his thoughts into an entanglement of radical scenarios that traveled with him to his ‘job’ and everywhere else he went.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Everything was the result of a very sick mind and when Brutus couldn’t have his way, he didn’t give a fuck about the consequences. The labor wasn’t hard enough, wasn’t distracting enough. He wanted to kill something, wanted to rip out someone’s throat like he used to do before meeting Nolan. Zombies, other survivors. He missed his axe. In the end, he got into a fight with someone over picking strawberries too early and broke the fucker’s nose. 

He remembered retrieving rations and scoring a bottle of liquor from someone who probably didn’t know any better but everything after that was black. The second morning he was on the bathroom floor and could still taste the vile in his mouth. It took him hours to get his ass off the floor and skipped going to the job all together. He bled later that day and spent the rest in black. 

Three or four days

The morning of day three was the hardest, spending most of it berating himself for not keeping up with his ‘trying to change for Nolan’ mantra. He wondered if he should clean up in case Nolan did return that day but couldn’t find the energy to give a fuck. It was starting to feel like he was in that cabin in Colorado again, planning his suicide in some anti-climactic way. 

The moment that thought crossed his mind, Patrick cursed himself, forcing his body into motion to get out of the apartment and be somewhere else. Anywhere else. 

Patrick chose to cling to hope, wrapping himself in enough layers to climb the stairs of the tall apartment complex to the surprisingly available rooftop. There he took a deep breath, finding the direction Nolan and their armored car would return should their journey end today. He stood at the edge, rocking against the wind as he waited for hours. His fingers were numb, his stomach turned but his brain was quiet, feeling alive purely out of instinct as he waited for the possibility of Nolan. He’ll wait until the sun goes down before facing the apartment reality again.

Please come back.

linktheheroNolan Gray   75d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan was in a haze the entire ride home. He avoided looking into anyone's eyes, afraid he would find pity there. He had stepped up to the plate and he had failed. He had seen his niece in this girl, a flaw from the start, and it had broken him all over again. He could not even begin to think about what he might say to Melody if she asked what had happened. Or to Simon and Yates as to why he was a mess after his first outing. He looked down at his bloodstained coat and remembered how he held the girl long after she was dead.

Why hadn't he taken the situation into his own hands? Why hadn't he thought about the mother's fear? Of course he could think about it all now in hindsight, but in the moment, he knew he was doing the right thing. He had given her the power. Everyone deserved that choice. There was no way he could have known it would end like that... Was there?

Nolan felt himself almost wither when they were safe inside the wall again. He hopped out of the vehicle and, without a word to anyone, he headed for the apartment. If Simon, Yates, or Melody wanted to talk to him about what had happened then it could wait. And if it couldn't, they would know where to find him. He pulled himself up the stairs, feeling almost every shred of energy leave him the closer he got to the apartment door. A part of him desperately wanted Patrick to be there to greet him. He had been the only thing he had thought about, after all. Yet another part wanted to be alone, to try to convince himself to stop replaying the nightmare over and over... Of course he knew Patrick might be able to help with that, too, but his shame was so strong. For the first time, he almost felt like he understood Patrick's need for pain.

He closed the door behind him and paused, weighing his options. He desperately wanted a shower. He desperately wanted sleep. He desperately wanted Patrick. He stared into nothing, lost and breathing a little too heavy. His mind was trying to protect itself by going blank but he forced himself to hold onto the images. He couldn't let it happen again. If they sent him back out there, he wouldn't let it happen again. 

Oh god... They were going to send him back out there. His fear surprised him and realized it was because he wouldn't have Patrick. Patrick who kept him solid and connected and alive. Patrick who loved him despite everything. Tears filled his eyes again and dripped down onto the bloodstains. He couldn't do this without Patrick. He'd known that for a while now, but it was really, truly sinking in just how much he needed the man. And he needed him now. He needed him now. And Patrick needed him. And he had left. 

Never again. He'd make sure of it. If they had to leave, they would. Because he couldn't spend another night away from the one person who kept him grounded enough to fight through this hell.

: Patrick McGee :

Patrick blinked through the bitter wind, straining to keep focus for a truck but the longer the day went, the more discouraged he became. 

He could tell it was approaching the five o’clock hour because his need to drink returned with a vengeance. The sun was setting and his gaze lowered to a figure with a bag walking up the sidewalk. At first he thought nothing of it, wondering briefly which drink was going to be his poison tonight... but the longer he stared at the figure, the more he recognised the shape, the walk. 

Patrick’s heart jumped out of his chest and nearly lost his footing on that edge. 

That would have been a fucking embaressing death.

“Shut up, Caesar,” he huffed as he turned back to the rooftop entrance. He threw open the door and tapped the snow off his boots before taking the steps as fast as he could from the tenth floor down to the second. He slipped a couple times on the way down, cursing before pushing himself up again and holding on to the rail tightly as he swung himself from landing to landing. It seemed to take fucking forever going down those steps, every second agonizing and hammering on his chest. 

By the time he reached their door, he dropped the keys and groaned in frustration. Fuck these keys. Fuck that scavenging crew. Fuck these thoughts and their- 

Patrick threw the door open and stopped. Nolan stood there, a couple steps into the living room, back turned to him... and didn’t move. Patrick felt the hairs on his arms stand up and his heart beat louder in his ears. With those instincts kicking into gear, he imagined the worst. Those eyes, had they returned? 

No, no, no, no, no- He let the door close, hurrying closer as he bravely reached out and yanked that man around. The action was harder than he wanted and teetered Nolan slightly. Patrick reached out, his cold fingers brushing against the blood on his coat first to make sure there wasn’t a gash or a wound. Then with every ounce of his own courage, he looked up and saw those eyes saddened, tears streaking down his face and wavering somewhere between here and some place else. 

Patrick swallowed his personal need for Nolan’s attention, instead grabbing Nolan by his upper arms and shaking him slightly. “Nolan,” his voice cracked, dry from the elements. “Nolan, what happened? Tell me what’s wrong.” Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go. “What do you need? I’ll do anything,” he pleaded. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   75d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan didn't hear the frantic keys in the lock. He didn't hear the door open or Patrick's boots stop just behind him in worry. He just stood there, lost and hoping for Patrick's presence but not feeling it. Not until he was wrenched around to face him. Nolan might have been shocked if he wasn't so out of it, yet no shout or gasp came from him, he just let himself be moved. And then he was looking into Patrick's perfect face, his lips moving and sounding like he was underwater. Nolan focused on them and slowly, slowly, he came back up for hair and broke the surface and everything was clear again.

"It- it's not mine," was all he could think to say at first, looking down at the blood like it was foreign and new. When he looked back up at Patrick he saw the panic in his eyes and that made it well up in himself again. "There was... a girl... I didn't... I wanted to..." He couldn't find the words. He couldn't name his guilt. "She reminded me of... And I couldn't save her... I put her in harms way and- and I couldn't-" He let out a sob, gripping for Patrick's arms weakly. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. I can't- I won't-"

He tried to calm his breathing. He was hot. His coat. It was covered in her blood. He needed it off. He pulled back and wrestled with it, unable to get it off fast enough. "I thought I could do this," he said, leaving it on the floor. “I thought I could... move on. I thought I could save people again. I should- I should have known better.”

He needed to be punished, that's what he needed. That's what he always got when he thought too highly of himself. Where was his father when he actually wanted a damn beating? Shaking, he sunk down on his knees in front of Patrick. 

"Tell me I'm useless," he said through his uneven breathing and silent tears. "Tell me I'm worthless." He swallowed hard, his panic finally slowing, but the thoughts remained. He couldn't look at Patrick. He was embarrassed, but it didn't make it any less real. He leaned his face against his lover's thigh. "I'm sorry," he whispered, sounding defeated. It was the kind of apology a child might give their strict father. Or the kind a man might whisper to a soul who couldn't hear him. He said it again. "I'm sorry." This time it was directed at Patrick. He shouldn't have to deal with this, even though Nolan had no idea what this was.

: Patrick McGee :

The display was tragic and Patrick didn’t know what to do. He’d never seen Nolan like this and it was utterly heartbreaking how useless he felt. He’d seen the sadness inside Nolan but not this raw, this fresh. He didn’t know much about the family he used to have but it was obviously more powerful of a memory than Patrick could ever be... 

What a selfish thing to think when this man is clearly broken. Always thinking about yourself Brutus. It’s always woe-is-you. I can’t live with myself because being alone terrifies me. Well how ‘bout this Pat. Look at this thing in front of you and tell me you’re worth more than the love he had for those three people in his life. 

And you think he wants to live on the outside with YOU? You who wants to kill people instead of saving them? Look at him. 

Patrick blinked as he felt himself go rigid as Nolan fell to his knees. “Tell me I’m useless.” 

Look at HIM. 

Patrick felt his breath quicken, keeping his eyes low as he shook his head. No, he had to be strong for Nolan. He shouldn't have- 


“Tell me I’m worthless.” He blinked back tears as he looked down at his lover, at a loss really to understand what it felt like-

You fucking liar. You know what it feels like, you thought about it all the time before you two found ‘happiness’ in this fucking shit show. He’s so much better. Tell him. Tell him he’s no right to be at YOUR feet apologizing to you. He’s a man who loves. He’s falling apart. Do something!

His heart felt like it was going to jump out of his chest. 

Do something you fucking coward!

Patrick dropped to his knees and pulled Nolan’s head into the crux of his neck. He was terrified, shaking and he didn’t exactly understand where that was coming from. Being afraid wasn’t going to help Nolan through this. What the fuck was wrong with him? Was it withdrawals? Fear of the unknown? Feeling powerless and useless? Maybe the fact that Patrick had decided in this one moment he wasn’t going to make Nolan go back out there... not even for him. 

“Don’t fucking apologize,” he was stuttering. What the fuck was that about? Patrick tried to focus on stabilizing his words, speaking slow. “You’re not responsible for saving the world. It’s not your fault- none of it ever was.” Breathe. “You’re going to be okay. You are not worthless. You are strong.” Breath. “You are courageous. No one is holding you to any standard but you and you need to stop living in that man’s shadow.” 

You fucking asshole. 

“Shut up, Caesar.” 

Patrick pulled back, cupping Nolan’s face in his palms. “The only person you should be worried about is me and I you.” Stop fucking shaking, be strong for him. “I’m fucking here for you and I love you. I am never going to tell you anything degrading. Ever.” Especially when asked. How fucked was- 

Hypocrite. Remind you of anyone? 

He fucking missed his hair. He could just imagine what his face was betraying. He wanted to say softer things... but he was afraid he’d turn the conversation around. Caesar was right. This wasn’t about him. Nolan needed him. There was always time to fall apart later.

linktheheroNolan Gray   74d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan felt Patrick join him on the floor and let his face be guided into the crook of his neck. He felt just as scared as he was, shaking and stuttering through his words. Nolan focused on them and slowed his breathing. This all felt so backward. This was usually the other way around with Nolan offering Patrick words of comfort. He tried to pull himself out of it, but he couldn't. He couldn't get in touch with the calmer, level-headed version of himself that rationalized his every thought and movement. 

"No one is holding you to any standard but you and you need to stop living in that man’s shadow." Patrick didn't need to elaborate. And he was correct. Of course he was. But Nolan didn't know how. That devil had been a part of him for as long as he could remember. He had helped make him. A shadow like that was dark and cold and weighty. It wasn't easy to shrug off.

When Patrick pulled back to take his face, Nolan finally looked into his eyes. “The only person you should be worried about is me and I you. I’m fucking here for you and I love you. I am never going to tell you anything degrading. Ever.” 

Nolan felt so small and weak. He felt the way he always did before his father used to come after him with the whip. But Patrick's eyes held nothing but honesty and love and the pain at seeing him like this. He wasn't sure what to do, so he nodded. 

"You and me," he said softly, like a mantra. "Just worry about you and me." He touched Patrick's face gently, outlining his jaw and lips. "I love you," he offered back. Then, after a moment of silence, he leaned forward, pressing his face back into Patrick's neck and letting himself truly lean on him. "I missed you," he mumbled into his shirt. His hands found the fabric over Patrick's ribs and gripped like he was afraid they might be separated again. "I don't... I dunno know what to do. What will make this go away. I want to wash everythin' away. I want to replace everythin' with you..."

He thought of a fleeting desire he had had. Was it worth it? Was it worth bringing up? Would Patrick think him mad? Would he be insulted that Nolan would even think him capable, just because of their previous personal and violent exploits? Nolan gripped his shirt tighter. He wondered if it would help... turning the things that had hurt him into something else entirely...

"Patrick...?" he ventured, leaning back to look into his eyes. He lost his courage. “Take me to bed." He pressed hi lips against Patrick's gently. "Make me forget.”

: Patrick McGee :

“I love you,” the man offered and leaned in again. “I missed you.” Nolan grasped at his shirt beneath the jacket and tugged, desperate. “What will make this go away. I want to wash everythin’ away. I want to replace everythin’ with you...” 

Patrick found himself at a loss again, not used to the collapse of his own anchor that he hardly remembered what he even used to do with Socrates when he was still alive. That world seemed so long ago and he was a completely different person then. What could he do besides hold on? That’s what he needed when he was carving himself up. 

“Patrick..?” His eyes met Nolan’s, red rimmed and aching his heart. “Take me to bed.” A kiss. “Make me forget.” 

He should have planned this reunion better. He should have taken care of himself better just in case- 

What if’s are pointless. 

Patrick frowned, not because he didn’t think he couldn’t get himself in the mood, but because he didn’t think he would be enough. The memory of Nolan’s former family was stronger than Patrick ever could be. How exactly do you fuck love or grief out of someone’s brain or even fear of an overbearing father? In comparison, it seemed so easy to fuck Caesar out of his mind somedays because, hey, he secretly hated him... and he personally murdered that fear. 

Thanks, love. 

But he couldn’t possibly say no. Nolan never said no. And the thought of being good enough overwhelmed him. 

So Patrick forced a smile and patted Nolan’s cheek. “Of course,” he said. “I just a... need a minute. Go get in bed.” 

He remained on the floor as the other slowly stood up, shambling his way to the dark bedroom as if he was a zombie himself. Once he was out of sight, Patrick let out a shaky breath and ran his fingers hair, gripping tight to try and ground himself. Why did it feel there was so much expectation in that bedroom? Sex usually came so easily but the thought of it now had him wavering. What the fuck? Where was Brutus when he needed him? Where was- 

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. Brutus. That’s who Nolan needed right now. A firm hand. The man who didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought and only worried about his own personal pleasure. He wanted to forget, Brutus could make it happen. 

It amuses me that you want to refer to yourself in the third person. 

Disconnection is what assured Patrick’s survival. If Nolan only wants to feel then he’ll remove his own soft feelings from the equation. 

He shed off his layers and reached for the liquor bottle in the cabinet, grateful that he hadn’t eaten at all. He didn’t need Caesar now. It was the drive, the edge that made Nolan quiver under a knife. He would fuck however long, however way Nolan wanted. He just wanted his Nolan back. Whatever it took. 

Patrick relaxed as the buzz finally hit, drinking a little more before grabbing his preferred kitchen knife off the wood block. He made sure the door was locked, thermostat off and lights darkened before approaching the bedroom. 

The bed was like a vortex, seeming to swallow Nolan somewhere within those bed sheets and Patrick was again grateful that he was properly prepared. He stripped off the rest of his clothes, careful of the punishments from yesterday, and put the knife somewhere off to the side. He held his breath as he slid under, finding Nolan’s body to spoon and kissed up his neck breathing across it till he reached the other’s ear. 

: Patrick McGee :

It brought a little light into Patrick’s world when Nolan smiled at the confession. As ridiculous as this whole domestic scene was, he had to try and make it work and god fucking damn it, maybe they could trade jobs or maybe he could become the town butcher or something. That thought almost made him smile as they climbed out of the shower. 

He stepped out of the small room as Nolan dried, not sure when he was going to be comfortable looking at that back again, and took a breath to control the tide of anger that surfaced when he saw the sheets. He should fucking burn them regardless if Nolan needed it. He wouldn’t allow himself to get that lost again. 

I thought you and the color red were one in the same. Time to go back to black. 

Patrick dropped the towel and pulled off the sheets, dragging them to the kitchen to stuff them in a trash bag. When he was satisfied with the blank mattress, he dressed himself and ate a slice of bread out of the bag. His stomach was killing him. 

His eyes met Nolan’s when there was a knock at the door ten minutes later and he swallowed the fourth slice. The poor fucker who knocked on their door was Simon and Patrick almost did punch him this time as he blocked entry into the apartment. He explained briefly and in the vaguest way that for ‘reasons’ they were being transferred to new positions and Patrick smiled wickedly. In another stupid pamphlet, they were introduced to the new roles of Ration Distributor and Labor Consultant. Patrick could roll his eyes with how much Simon fucking tried to make everything sound better then “worker”. 

He and Nolan seemed to relax, finding common ground in making fun of Simon and his workforce and eventually Patrick stopped thinking about the new scars he added to Nolan’s back. Insecurity had him sleeping on the couch that night, the other not hesitant to join him. 

The young man didn’t want to admit it but he actually preferred the new job. It had him constantly moving, never with the same task twice in a row and occasionally he had an axe or hammer in his hand, compensating for zombie killing in the smallest degree. Days turned into weeks and he didn’t dare bring up leaving again with Nolan. He swallowed the uncomfortable feeling and when he felt like he was going to choke from the stability, Nolan was always there. Caesar still reminded him of all the anxieties but he hadn’t cut since Nolan’s return and that was something. 

He realized he’d softened up when he was mildly excited for Christmas in just a couple days even though there wasn’t much to give or any secrecy in a city that was functioning on rations. He learned a couple new songs for Nolan but otherwise, it was just them, together on a snowy day with spiked cider. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   68d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan was relieved with the news that he didn’t have to go back out there. He was given a couple days off before their new jobs started and he settled into the new routine much easier. Even Patrick seemed to be having a better time of it. Nolan thought the variety of the work helped ease his mind somewhat. And Nolan’s job distributing rations helped him get in enough physical work to not feel completely useless and allowed him to talk to people, which he rather enjoyed. He also enjoyed coming home to Patrick every evening, making dinner with him, kissing him goodnight and more.

He could sometimes feel Patrick’s discomfort with the community, but over time it seemed to fade somewhat. He wasn’t sure if he’d just gotten better at hiding it or if he was really starting to warm up to the place.

Nolan, on the other hand, seemed to settle right in once they found their routine. He shared a shift with a man and a woman, Harvey and Rachel. Harvey was about his age and Rachel was a few years younger. He found himself spending a little more time with them when Patrick had odd hours. They’d drink when they had the rations to trade for booze or play card games to pass time. It was the first time Nolan actually felt like he had friends after the end of the world, save for Patrick. The week before Christmas, Harvey even confided in him that he’d been developing feelings for Rachel since they started working together. Nolan gave him the only advice he could: “The worst thing she can say is no. We might all die tomorrow, so why wait?” The next day they were holding hands on their way home from work.

Nolan himself had some thinking to do about his own love life. He knew that Christmas was approaching, mostly because Patrick kept up with the date. Without him he would have lost all track of time. He wanted to get him something, despite the state of the world. He wanted to carve out a little corner of happiness for them.

So he traded some of his rations and took the gifts home to hide until Christmas. When he opened the door to the apartment, he had to shove them in his pocket. He hadn’t expected Patrick to be home so soon.

“Hey,” he said with a smile, trying not to seem mischievous. “How was your day?”

: Patrick McGee :

Patrick looked up from his latest classic literature read, A Christmas Carol, as Nolan walked in, bringing with him a breeze of cold. He adjusted his feet under the blanket from his perch on the couch and mustered a mild greeting. He quickly finished his interrupted paragraph before dog earring it and closing the paperback. 

“Strange,” he replied, peering over at Nolan and his shifty behavior. “Some idiot wants to play nice with me and I don’t think he’s taking my hint that I’m not someone he wants to be friends with. I have enough people talking to me anyway.” Nolan plus one unwanted roommate. 


“There isn’t much to do now that we’re on our holiday break except snow shoveling.” Patrick narrowed his eyes. “How was your day and why are you acting weird?” He wondered if Nolan was breaking an unspoken rule about gifts. They never did anything like that even on Nolan’s birthday- though granted then they weren’t really together. It was hard for Patrick to get the apocalypse notion out of his head and stupid shit like gifts was never something he seriously considered. At his job, he occasionally had to clean up Houston’s border and he could always hear the snapping of undead jaws and growls. 

He did make Nolan drag a fake tree into the apartment though. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   64d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan felt a little guilty having spoken before realizing Patrick was reading. Sometimes he did that and clearly got on his nerves. He supposed it was a bit like interrupting someone in the middle of a movie. He mumbled an apology as he put the book down.

Nolan chuckled softly and shook his head. “You know I’m alright with whatever you wanna do, but you could always try. I mean. If you like him,” he said in response to his day. He sounded a little off and he knew it. He needed to get the presents out of his pocket and quickly. It was the mere fact they were on him that made him so giddy. Charlotte had told him he was never great at keeping gifts a secret.

“What?” he asked nervously. “I’m not actin’ weird,” he said, turning towards the bedroom a little stiffly with his hand still in his pocket. “Day was fine. Long. I’m gonna… change,” he said, easing into the bedroom a bit like a crab walking sideways.

When he was inside he desperately wanted to shut the door, but that would only tip Patrick off even more, so he made a quiet dash for the closet and a bag they never used anymore, tucking the items into a side pocket to wait a few days for Christmas.

Once he changed into something more comfortable for their evening, he came back into the living room and admired the tree as he passed to find something to eat. 

“You hungry?” he asked, hoping to distract his lover from the awkward encounter.

: Patrick McGee :

“I’m not actin’ weird.” 

Patrick narrowed his eyes, watching Nolan leave like he was trying his best to act normal in the most un-normal way. He sighed, sliding back down against the cushions until he heard the other’s footsteps. He rolled off the couch, gathering himself up and placed the paperback on the coffee table with a small thud. “Yeah, you can make whatever.” 

The young man stood up, stretching the soreness from his back muscles from earlier work before joining Nolan in the kitchen. He made himself a second spiced cider, knowing now that the other respected his nightly habit as long as it didn’t spiral out of control. He kept his eyes on the hot steaming cup. “I swear if you got anything, I might start considering being abstinent.” Though, personally, he thought he wouldn’t last long without intimacy himself.

And whether he did or not, Patrick waited the remaining two days, killing time with books and with Nolan. He had just finished making coffee Christmas morning in cheesy little santa mugs he found in an abandoned home and tossed a candy cane in them. He lit a cigarette and nodded to Nolan as he stood by the back door to let the smoke out. “Learned a new song for you and some Christmas carols for shits and giggles.” 

linktheheroNolan Gray   63d ago

Nolan Gray

It was clear that Patrick wasn't buying what he was selling, but he tried his best to play it off while he started dinner. He thought at first that he might have gotten away with it until Patrick his the nail on the head, talking over his mug of spiced cider, watching him cook.

Nolan paused for half a second, betraying himself. He feigned shock and laughed. "Right," he teased. "We'll see how long that lasts." It wasn't exactly a confirmation of his guilt. But he wasn't lying, either. He smiled to himself.

Come Christmas morning Nolan found a mug waiting for him. It was a silly little Santa mug he didn't remember seeing before now and his ever growing suspicion that Patrick was actually rather sentimental about the holiday grew even more. He stirred his mug, perfectly made up already, with the candy cane. Patrick was next to the balcony door so Nolan joined him there, offering him a kiss om the jaw. 

For shits and giggles. Patrick always made doing sentimental things sound vaguely uncool, like he chose to do them on a whim and didn't secretly enjoy it. Nolan knew better and smiled.

"Oh yeah? Is that a kind of gift would you say?" he teased. "Cause that sounds like a kind of gift to me." He reached out, stealing a drag from Patrick's cigarette. "I can't wait to hear them," he added, more serious now to show he meant it.

: Patrick McGee :

Nolan joined him by the balcony door and teased him about the gift of song. “Not a gift,” Patrick pointed as the other slipped the cigarette from his fingers. “Music is a hobby and I learn new songs all the time. I just never directly say they’re for you.” He wasn’t really helping his case and dismissed it with the wave of his hand, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks to betray him. 

He let Nolan finish the rest of the cig as he settled into the couch, taking a sip of his now peppermint hinted coffee and reaching for his guitar leaning on the side. He strung a few practice cords before starting the notes to The Christmas Song

Remember the Christmas morning when I wasn’t there? How disappointed you were when you couldn’t give me whatever sentimental bullshit you had under the tree and you started day drinking? I was at some friend's house- I don’t remember his name anymore, but I didn’t get back to the apartment till dark and by then Christmas was over for you. You didn’t bother with gifts after that.

Patrick paused his playing and took a deep breath, looking up at Nolan, reminding himself that Caesar was dead and that the real person he loved was here... sitting on the couch next to him. Playing the moment off as if he needed another sip of coffee, he resumed the song. “So what is it?” he asked, closing his eyes briefly to imagine the sheet music again. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   63d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan only smiled through Patrick's defense. He was going to take the music as a gift and Patrick's blush told him he knew. He watched the pink bloom across his lover's cheeks and his smile widened when he turned away, leaving him there with the cigarette.

He was glad things had been going so smooth since that awful night. He had been worried they might feel some kind of wall or resentment, but as usual, talking openly had been the cure. He finished the cigarette and turned back to Patrick who was getting himself ready to play some music. Nolan joined him, sitting next to him on the couch and watching Patrick's exposed face, raw with emotion as he strummed. 

Nolan wanted to kiss those long fingers. Trail up his scarred arms to his neck and cheek and mouth. He loved how open Patrick was becoming. He loved rewarding him for his trust. 

Nolan smiled softly at him when he paused the song, reassuring him of- he didn't know what. Then Patrick returned to playing the song and spoke to him. It always fascinated him when Patrick did this. He couldn't imagine how many things had to be going on in the mind in order to play music and speak at the same time.

"I wasn't exactly subtle, was I?" he asked, looking at Patrick's closed eyes. He got up, leaning over the guitar to kiss Patrick's forehead. Then he went to grab the gifts. 

He had found a brown paper bag to put them in. Not the best wrapping paper, but it would do. "They're nothin' special," he said, trying to downplay it for Patrick's sake. He placed the bag next to him on the couch before sitting down again. “I just saw them and thought of you is all.”

The first item was a pocket knife, vintage and clearly well loved. Nolan had been sure to sharpen it well before wrapping it. The handle was engraved with-what looked like to him- a Greek or Roman God of some kind though he was sure Patrick would know. 

The other item was a ring. It was a medium sized silver band with a pitch-black onyx stone. It was simple, but the onyx rectangle was so dark and matte that there was hardly any reflection in it and that alone drew the eye.

"It's not- I mean..." Nolan stumbled over his words. “It can just be a ring, or... or a promise ring of sorts. Just meanin' that... I wont ever leave you. And I love you.”

: Patrick McGee :

“Not in the slightest,” Patrick smiled knowingly as Nolan stood after a brief kiss. After a few moments, he returned with a brown bag, setting it on the couch and down playing the entire situation. Despite his feelings about gifts, Patrick was surprised at himself to feel flattered. It wasn’t like this was the first time the other gifted him something but there was something about Christmas that made it feel a little more special. 

He carefully placed the guitar back down before diving his hand into the bag, the first he instantly recognized as a pocket knife. He examined the handle engraved with the Greek god Zeus with sick silver lightning detail. He instantly loved it, whipping out the blade to see that Nolan had already taken care to sharpen the vintage piece. 

The second item was a ring and his heart nearly jumped before Nolan explained what it was. He let out his breath and slipped it on, knowing that it would look great with his other rings he had laying in a bowl onto the drawer set. 

Wow, feel like a jerk yet that you didn’t get him anything? 

Patrick thought about saying something snarky but he knew this was leagues away from what Caesar would have done for him and he had to treasure Nolan. This wasn’t the time to be an ass. 

So, he scooted over and took Nolan’s face into his hands, kissing him passionately that it really showed his sincerity. “You promise?” he whispered once they parted. “Because I love you too. Thank you.” 

linktheheroNolan Gray   63d ago

Nolan Gray

Patrick didn't have much to say about the knife, but he didn't have to. He could tell from the look on his face that he was in love with the design. He tested the blade and Nolan was glad he had sharpened it. He felt like adding some kind of clause about what he could and could not use the knife for. He didn't want to think about Patrick hurting himself with it. But he didn't want to ruin the moment and he didn't want to give Patrick the impression that he didn't believe he was unable to keep from the habit. So he simply enjoyed the moment, watching him admire his gift.

After his little explanation about the ring, his heart was pounding. He watched Patrick slip it on. He wasn't sure exactly what finger it would fit, only knowing it was too small for any of his own fingers so it would likely work for his man. He tried not to think too much about it when it slid perfectly onto his ring finger.

He expected one of Patrick's signature sparky remarks to offset the seriousness of the moment. If he wasn't ready for such a show of commitment, then Nolan would be fine with that. But to his surprise, Patrick closed the distance and took his face in his hands. His fingers were cold on his cheeks, even over his scruff, and he could feel the weight of the ring. He kissed Patrick back with just as much passion, his hands going to his sides to gently hold him there. 

He smiled at Patrick's words. Nolan said "I love you" far more than Patrick did. He knew it wasn't a reflection of his actual feelings, Nolan was just far more up front and sentimental. So when he did get those words and as soft as he had just heard them... 

He sighed happily. "I promise," he said, barely above a whisper. He pressed his face close to Patrick's, kissing him again before whispering, “Merry Christmas, baby.”

After a brief moment of contented silence, he reached blindly for the hand with the ring to look at it again. “You really like it? I've never been the best at gifts... And I didn't know who was on the knife, but I thought you could tell me.”

: Patrick McGee :

“Merry Christmas, you sap.” He smirked against Nolan’s skin before pulling back slightly as the other examined his hand. Black was always a stark color against his pale skin and the ring seemed to cut his finger like a black gash, and Patrick found that thought very romantic. 

“You can never go wrong with black,” he replied, “And yeah...” He reached back for the pocket knife, laying on his back across the open space on the couch. He held up the weapon to the ceiling, examining the way the light reflected off the silver.  “It’s Zeus,” he grinned, switching it open again. “God of the sky. Ruler of greek gods. Biggest d*ck in the world.” He lowered it slightly, imagining how red would look on the blade and had a small self decremating thought. Don’t go there. I’ve been happy. 

Huh, you’ve been happy. 

Patrick snapped the knife closed and sat up, grabbing hold of the neck of the guitar. “Okay,” he sighed, “It’s not as romantic as your gifts but here’s yours.” He patted the side of the instrument like a metronome before strumming the strings. He closed his eyes, imagining the music for Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra. It felt easier to say cheesy things when it was written in a song. Crap like that didn’t come naturally to him anymore ever since he was out of high school but... 

When he was finished, he took a long drink of his coffee and glanced at Nolan. “Don’t look at me like I’m the greatest thing on the planet. Maybe in Houston but...” He nudged Nolan playfully with his foot. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   62d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan held Patrick close as they examined the ring together. He knew he was fishing for compliments about his gifts, but so what? He wanted to know Patrick liked them. He could always find him something else if he didn't. The way Patrick looked at the ring and then the knife when he reached for it told him that wouldn't be necessary, though.

"Zeus, huh?" He asked. "Biggest dick in the world?" There was a joke in there somewhere, but Nolan only smirked, not wanting to ruin the moment. He looked over Patrick's features, wondering if he was going to regret giving him a knife. He looked at it almost longingly.

Then the look disappeared as quickly as it came and Patrick returned, setting aside the knife and picking up his guitar. Nolan smiled at Patrick's self-deprecating joke. He didn't realize how much of a gift it was to hear Patrick play. To hear him sing. Life music felt magic these days and when it was the man you loved making it? 

Nolan nearly melted, closing his eyes halfway through the song and leaning his head back. Patrick's version of Fly Me To The Moon was a little slower. The acoustic feel of it really suited it and Nolan felt like he had never really appreciated the words before. He was sure Patrick had.

When the song was nearly over, he opened his eyes and watched Patrick play, in his own little world. Another joke at his own expense and Nolan chuckled softly. 

"You are the greatest thing on the planet," he said with a grin, fully aware of how mushy he was being. He kicked nudged Patrick back. "In other words, I love you," he quotes the song in an awful sing-song voice. He leaned over, saying softer, “In other words, baby, kiss me.”

He waited like that, eyes raking over every feature of Patrick's face, feeling his heart lurch the way it did sometimes when they were close and comfortable. He could feel the big, stupid grin on his face.

: Patrick McGee :

Patrick smiled like he was in front of his fucking high school crush. Something about Nolan’s mushy nature brought out the old Patrick in times like this. Someone who wanted to be courted and someone who wanted to be loved as completely as Nolan loved him. 

So with a little blush of reluctance, Patrick put the instrument down and scooted back over into Nolan’s side of the couch. He kissed him, almost completely falling into his lap in the process. Patrick’s words weren’t much but in a world structured by survival it seemed like words held so much weight. Houston was safe, just like Nolan wanted it to be and he couldn’t bring himself to hate that anymore. 

He continued his kiss, letting his fingers run alongside the hem of the other’s shirt, fully aware that it was probably too early to be doing anything intimate. It was Christmas. They were supposed to be enjoying each other's company and watching a cheesy movie. Powdered hot cocoa and songs and stuff. But Nolan was completely distracting. 

: Patrick McGee :

Patrick couldn’t remember a better Christmas and that holiday spirit stayed with him into the next couple weeks and past the new year- which they happily slept through. It was January fifth and everyone was back in the swing of things despite the bitter cold. He mused about next month and the two holidays there where Nolan was only aware of one. Patrick didn’t want to acknowledge it much but he was sure Nolan would be cross if he didn’t mention his birthday. 

The work shift was interesting today. They were welding a crack in the infrastructure of the wall Houston haphazardly built a year ago and it was Patrick’s first time using a blow torch. He was on break as Des continued the repair, yapping out loud as he always did when Patrick was around. Nolan was right though, he wasn’t that bad of a guy. 

Patrick was half listening as he melded down a small piece of iron, molding it into a spherical shape that was just barely bigger than the one on his left hand. Promise ring his ass. He was going to do it. He lifted the cool metal into the cool air, examining it from every angle. Imperfect. Scorched in some places that made it look incredibly unique and he smiled. 


A loud thump on metal startled him and Patrick turned as Des scrambled to push the metal panel back to the wall. Others joined to push the gap closed as hands began to wiggle through. His blood turned cold. Pocketing the ring, he hurried to take the torch to the group but by then the zombs had already pushed against them with sheer numbers. 

Patrick flashed back to the first days of the outbreak, self preservation activating inside him like a switch. There was no time to think. He slipped the touch into its sheath on his hip and picked up anything else of use as he turned on his heel, high tailing to- 

Fuck, where was he going? He could hear the roars and screams and when he glanced behind him, he witnessed Des’ neck ripped open. Blood. It had been a while since he’d seen that much. 

Makes the salvia pool in your mouth. Left- 

Patrick stopped as a truck whizzed past him. Panic was ripping through the city faster than the zombies were getting in and his first thoughts were of Nolan. The rations station was too far a run from here. He’d pass their apartment before he would reach his lover and they would need supplies. 

He cursed. He’d have to trust the communication systems of Houston this time. Cain was sure to sound the alarm and hopefully Nolan would know to meet him at their apartment. 

His lungs were burning by the time he closed the front door behind him and the image of the living room and kitchen nearly brought him to tears. No. This was what Nolan wanted- this is what he wanted. Why the fuck was this happening now? 

Get a hold of yourself, idiot. Put on the mask and pretend you’re back where you were before Nolan. What would Brutus do? 

Patrick grabbed their bags, the two duffles and his pink unicorn and started stuffing them with every useful thing he could fit, prioritizing medicine and food. He kept the panic bottled as he focused on the task, dragging the bags to the living room once they were filled and bundling himself with more layers than necessary. He slipped on his rings and pressed his new knife into his inner jacket pocket. 

He was finished before Nolan appeared and when the seconds continued to tick, his worry began to emerge. 

What if he’s dead? Maybe you should have met him over there you maniac. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   57d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan was starting to believe this might really work. Christmas and New Years gave him a real glimpse into the life they could lead here. A steady work flow. Regular time off. He could hardly believe that everything Melody had promised was true. Of course, he wouldn’t have felt so sure about it if Patrick hadn’t finally been finding his place. It truly felt like everything was falling into place and Nolan for once decided he could trust it.

It was close to midday. Nolan usually went back to the apartment for lunch. Patrick met him if he could, depending on what job he was doing and where he was stationed. Nolan knew he was working on the wall today, so it was less likely. Still, he looked forward to finishing up the current round of ration distribution. He was getting hungry and he wanted to eat some leftovers.

It was when he was headed back to town with Harvey and Rachel to do just that when they heard the alarm sound. This alarm meant only one thing: the walls had been breached.

Nolan’s first thought was, How? His second was of Patrick and the weak wall he’d been helping to fix up.

He broke out into a run, Harvey and Rachel running after him. No. No, no no.

“Where the fuck are you going?” Harvey shouted, grabbing him arm and turning him.

“Patrick,” was all Nolan could get out. His shock and worry had him completely forgetting to use the alias they knew him by.

“You can’t go to the wall,” Rachel said, ignoring Harvey’s questioning look. She always did seem to catch on quickly. “If that’s where they broke in then it’s already flooded with them.” Trucks passed them by, headed that direction, only confirming their suspicions. “If Brutus is still alive, where would he have gone?”

Nolan turned on his heel and went down a different street, not even needing to think about it. “You should get out of here,” he told the two of them.

Harvey shook his head. “We’ll be safer together, you know that.”

Did he? Nolan wasn’t sure. He didn’t know much of anything anymore. He ran for the apartment, lungs on fire, hoping, praying, that Patrick was alive.

When they reached the apartment, Harvey and Rachel waited just inside while Nolan took the steps two at a time until he came to their door. Our door. Our home. If they couldn’t get the hoard under control… they’d have to leave it all behind. Who am I kidding? There’s no controlling a hoard once it’s inside like this.

Nolan burst through the door. Patrick was inside. Nolan saw the bags already packed, saw him ready to go, and the pain of it was outweighed by the relief of seeing him alive. He closed the distance pulling Patrick to him for a tight embrace, then pulled back to check him over for injuries.

“Are you alright? What happened? How many are there?” Then Nolan shook his head, realizing they didn’t have the time. He threw on his coat and grabbed what he could. Trying to channel that version of himself that sought results and solved problems despite the chaos surrounding him was more difficult than he thought. That Nolan had been put on a shelf and the last thing Nolan wanted to do was dust him off. But he had little choice.

He had to take care of Patrick. He had to get them out of there.

“Come on,” he said, taking Patrick’s free hand in his own. He took one last look around the apartment. He could see into the bedroom where they discovered even more about each other, kept each other warm on the coldest nights, fed each other on lazy mornings. The couch where they so recently spent almost the entirety of Christmas making love. 

Nolan couldn’t think about it. His eyes glinted with tears and he sniffed them away. He could think about it later. For now? They had to stay safe. And this home was no longer that… So he led Patrick back down the stairs to join up again with Harvey and Rachel. 

: Patrick McGee :

The door was thrown open, startling Patrick out of his string of terrible imaginary scenarios. This time, Nolan immediately took his thin frame into his arms and Patrick instantly felt a wave of relief as he pressed his forehead into that warm chest. But as quick as it had happened, Nolan was already pulling him back, looking over him for injuries he suspected with a plethora of questions he didn’t have time to answer. 

If Patrick ever thought Nolan was the cool headed one in an emergency situation between the two of them, he was corrected. He... wasn’t the man he used to be and it almost concerned Patrick how easily he slipped back on his old mask. 

Like you were hiding it. 

Nolan had changed here and Patrick felt the incredible need to protect him until they were out of the chaos and panic. Regardless of their mental switch in alpha roles, Nolan took his hand and led them out, hauling the bags in tow. They were going to figure this out. They were going to be okay. They were going to- 

He stopped, pulling out of Nolan’s hand before he was thrown down the stairs in their hurry. Rachel and Harvey stood at the foot of the stairs. He met them- what, maybe twice? They were Nolan’s friends and the one time he joined them, he felt like the old ball despite Rachel’s warm nature. He was still the youngest among them. 

Patrick didn’t factor in the odds of having other survivors join them in their flee. Of course in a city of hundreds of people, he and Nolan were already growing a reputation for being one of the few who lived a year among the zombies. They were experienced. And there was the factor of Nolan and his big stupid heart. 

We fucking hate it. We need to drop the dead meat or someone’s going to get Nolan killed. 

Patrick resumed his descent down the stairs, aware that he had made this meeting awkward enough as it was and took the lead. He was the one who’d almost seen every inch of this perimeter anyway. “You guys should have gone back and got supplies but there isn’t time now. We’ll have to go with what we got.” 

He was angry but he’d have to talk about this later. All he could think about now was the risk of having more then two in a group, the fact that he definitely didn’t bring enough food, and they’d have to stay on foot in the middle of fucking winter until the zombs had stormed Houston. Then they could risk procuring a truck or- god forbid- a minivan. 

Patrick could hear the roars coming from a few streets down and took the back alleys towards the southside of Houston. The breach was in the north east. They at least had a half hour gap in between- 

“Shouldn’t we stop for a weapon or more food or something?” Harvey asked from the rear. “I haven’t been trained on what to do in a situation like this. Can we just chop its limbs off or is it like the movies? Should we get a chainsaw or something?” 

“You skipped that emergency training didn’t you?” Rachel asked, slightly annoyed. 

Patrick was glad neither of them could see his face. He rolled his eyes and gestured around him. “Feel free to grab something when you see it.” 

Of course we’d get the jackass who’s never seen a zombie up close. 

Rachel explained the fundamentals to Harvey as Nolan joined him at his forceful pace. “We might need to stretch our food and starve a little if we don’t ditch them. If the extraction team had been doing their jobs, they’d have wiped every town clean within hours of miles from Houston. There’s nothing out there.” He tried to keep his words to a whisper and knew full well that Nolan was going to try his best and find a solution before they reached that border. “We have a half hour tops before they’d reach us. We can’t stop.” 

linktheheroNolan Gray   40d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan immediately detected Patrick’s hostility towards the others. He hadn’t been like this the last time they had met, but then again, he hadn’t been in survival mode. Nolan felt the need to stick up for the pair, it having been his idea to stick together.

“I felt like it wasn’t a good idea to split up,” he said, shuffling past them and following Patrick outside. He could only imagine the conversations they would be having later… if they survived this.

Patrick took the lead naturally as he always did in the cities. Besides, he knew this place better than any of them having worked all over it and on the walls. Nolan opened his mouth to reply to Harvey, a little frustrated with his lack of knowledge, especially in front of Patrick who was clearly having a hard time with their two becoming four. But Rachel beat him to it, though less friendly than he would have. Still, neither of them had seen any real action. Neither of them had fought any real zombies. Nolan couldn’t imagine any amount of emergency training could prepare someone for the real thing.

Nolan left them to their conversation as they hurried through the alleyways and stepped in stride with Patrick. “Then we won’t stop,” Nolan said, sounding braver than he felt. He felt like curling up. He felt like crying. “But we can’t ditch ‘em. They’ll die without help.”

It was hard enough hearing the mayhem run its course through the city. Harder still knowing that those that had never left the city had little chance of surviving outside it, even if they made it out. Nolan didn’t just feel obligated to help Harvey and Rachel because they were his friends. He felt like it was the only thing he could do in the face of disaster.

: Patrick McGee :

They’ll die without help!

Caesar mocked and Patrick released a deep breath through his nose. He desperately wanted to stop and argue with Nolan but the look on his face, the bravery in his voice held his own tongue. What kind of asshole would he be if he forced the other two to stay while they escaped? Was that selfish? 

Fuck yeah it is. But we want to keep Nolan-

“I know,” he finally said and nothing more. 

And so they hurried, boots splashing in the puddles of slush as the screams and roars became a cacophony in the air. Patrick felt his heartbeat quicken, brought back to a time before Nolan, before his experiences with the undead. But he reminded himself that he was no longer that man and fear didn’t choke him out. 

By the time they reached the southern border, their group of four had nearly tripled- again, thanks to their rumored reputations, more Houston citizens thought it would be a great idea to travel in a large pack than in isolated groups. There was no point in correcting them, panicked people never listened. They functioned on instinct and found comfort in others who were equally as afraid and Patrick understood there was no protecting them all. Unlike Patrick, he also understood that Nolan wouldn’t have the same cold dissociation with others and he couldn’t help but to worry about what he’d do to save a life.

With the help of his lover, they managed to pull away a portion of the surrounding wall. Patrick had seen all the inconsistencies with the border but with supplies limited, it was impossible to repair it all at once. Now Houston was paying for that and as he peered through the hole out into the desolate winter landscape, something in him shriveled and grief replaced it. This was it. Now there was a higher probability of death.

They’re going to get us killed. 

Swallowing his anxieties, Patrick resumed the lead, stepping out onto untouched snow as he listened for any zombs. Most seemed drawn to the commotion on the north end of the city but there were a few stranglers along the highway. That highway led east towards flat land scattered with suburban neighborhoods and high rise apartments. 

“The cars are useless,” said one man and Brutus rolled his eyes, pressing a finger against his lips. Of course there was nothing out there. It was late morning and winter only allowed them a few hours of daylight. 

He glanced at Nolan before trekking up a small hill to the highway metal barrier and stepping over it. As expected, the snow didn’t stick to the pavement. There was still the possibility of black ice but that was a problem to worry about later. He was fucking freezing now and this was the warmest part of the day. They had to get to shelter and barricade until they could travel again. 

“We have to walk all the way over there?” someone said over his shoulder and Brutus bit the need to snap. The pack was beginning to get chatty, panicked as they all emerged from the hole and realized the dire situation they were all in.  

Then someone screamed.

Brutus whipped around as a zombie smashed his head against a car window, cracking the glass and quickly escaping to crawl over a brunette standing too close who shrieked like she was so kind of fucking alarm. He grabbed a hold of Nolan’s jacket sleeve and pushed him ahead. “Run!” Rachel and Harvey followed close behind as the woman’s screams drew out shufflers and sprinters from the surrounding fields and gas stations.

They needed to get to a house or an apartment. Somewhere with rooms and windows. There was no way Brutus was staying locked up in another fucking closet. Not after all his progress and especially with two strangers. 

One scream became many and soon they were faced with a couple of undead. He cursed. They had two- three miles tops before they reached the off ramp towards a neighborhood. They’d have to make these kills fast before they were running in the dark. 

One dove for Nolan and the other clammered for Harvey. Brutus stopped abruptly, grabbing hold of the shuffler, inches from the other man’s throat, and threw it into the pavement. As if on instinct, he grabbed for the axe on his belt and smashed it down into the skull. The crack made him pause for a second, the splatter of black blood staining his new boots. 

Fuck, how long as it been since we’ve killed something? And so much easier without the hair in the way.

Brutus smiled, pulling the axe out of the skull as the elation improved his dismal mood. Now if it was a living person- 

He rejoined Nolan and the other two, silently hoping for further fleshy obstacles.

linktheheroNolan Gray   33d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan was not unaware of the growing danger as more and more people joined their group. He had thought others were finding their own way out, joining up with scavengers, leaving just the four of them. But Patrick and Nolan knew more about the outside world than most of these people and that was appealing to their frightened minds. Still, he couldn’t imagine leaving them, could he?

They would have to, eventually. They didn’t have food or equipment to protect all of them. He would have to give them the rundown on survival and send them on their way. But he wouldn’t leave them in here to be slaughtered like fish in a barrel. 

He helped Patrick open the path and they stepped out onto the snow-packed streets. Nolan pulled his hood up over his head to prevent the freezing wind from biting at his ears and turned to give stern looks to those talking. They weren’t going to last long out here if they couldn’t keep their mouths shut.

As if to prove his point, chaos broke out.The screaming was like a dinner bell and he and Patrick knew to book it. Nolan didn’t glance behind him, afraid to witness the massacre. Pushing on was all he knew. Staying close to Patrick was his only goal.

The two undead cut them off. Patrick’s reflexes were much faster to return than his own. He watched Harvey panic a moment before he was saved by Patrick’s brutal axe swinging. Nolan stepped away from his own shuffling zombie, heart being hard but not hard enough to fool Nolan into thinking he had forgotten how to do this. He pulled his knife from his belt and dove forward to plunge it into its forehead. Nolan let it fall, pulling the blade out while it did. 

With that violent action done, Nolan felt as if the entirety of their comforting stay in the city had never happened. The blood, the fear, the constant danger, it was always bound to return. Patrick had known that… Nolan -, too. He was just too stubborn to admit it. His heart stopped its pounding and returned to normal, not even picking up again when he looked up to see that awful, familiar grin splitting his lover’s face.

“Let’s keep pushin’,” he said, sounding hollow. And they did.

Harvey and Rachel kept up with them. He could feel them observing the two of them and what it took to fight the occasional zombie or two. Rachel caught on quick, using her own knife to kill one. Harvey was a little more shaken with the entire thing.

It was perhaps two hours in the freezing cold before they found a place suitable for squatting in. The neighborhood was upscale and well ransacked already. It was a bad sign for scavenging, but they hadn’t expected much so close to the city anyway. Once inside, they barricaded the doorways just in case. He and Patrick went about their duties in an almost robotic-like manner.

“You guys have done this before,” Harvey said with a hint of amusement and unease as he watched them close all the curtains.

Nolan wished he had something witty to say in response. Instead, he remained silent. Harvey and Rachel had lost their home, too. They had lived there far longer than Nolan and Patrick had. He really should put forth some kind of effort. But he was completely drained and… he sunk down on the sofa and began to rifle through his pack. They didn’t have much. He glanced up at Patrick. Nolan was worried about his lover, too.

: Patrick McGee :

Despite the biting cold, the acts of violence warmed his core and feet. Brutus did what he did best and survived with brutal force. It felt good as if he was in his element of chaos. It only occurred to Patrick later that this was probably a bad thing, frowned upon and really fucking hit him when he stopped to check the bathroom of the home and saw his reflection. Pale skin stained with zombie blood and eyes exuberant from the excitement. 

But Nolan’s alive. 

Patrick sighed and rejoined the group in the living room, feeling more exposed than ever with strangers. Harvey made a comment, more out of unease but that didn’t stop Caesar from making a snarky comment. 

Oh sure, hundreds of times throughout the last year and a half while you were safe and cozy. 

Patrick’s smile was tight, narrowing his eyes at the other man. “Yeah, some of us weren’t as lucky. Kind of an inconvenience to have your home uprooted all of a sudden.” 

“Really, there’s no need to be nasty,” Rachel sighed. “We’ve all just become homeless and the last thing we need is to have any tension between us.” She patted her eyes with her sleeve, picking up the whelming tears. “I’ve never seen so many people die.” 

That was nothing. We’ve seen cities topples and people throwing themselves into hordes and- hell. Pat’s been homeless almost his entire life. 

Had he really gone so cold? Patrick held his tongue, grabbing his little pink backpack of meds as he turned to the kitchen. Empathy was a feeling he rarely tapped into and when he did, he could only bring it up for Nolan. Who... 

For the first time since they arrived, he turned back to look at his lover, hunched on the couch. Expressionless. Their happiness had been ripped out in a matter of hours and Patrick... 

He bit his lip, angry, guilty, embarrassed, anxious. He stomped back over and lifted Nolan up by the arm. “Need a minute,” he told the other two and pulled the other into the kitchen with him. He hid behind the small sectioned wall and pulled Nolan’s chin to face his. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?” 

Of course he’s not alright. He just lost a future. Now you’re aimless again. You promised you wouldn’t make him go outside those walls and now look what the fuck you’ve done because you weren’t keeping on eye on that idiot and making that piece of junk in your pocket. 

linktheheroNolan Gray   26d ago

Nolan Gray

Nolan wished he had the energy to set things right between Patrick and his friends, but that could come later. Tensions were high, they were bound to butt heads and Nolan was going to use that as an excuse at least until he could think properly again.

When his eyes met Patrick’s he knew things were too fragile between everyone to do much maintenance now anyway. Any attempt he might make to smooth things over between them, no matter how friendly, would just turn into eye rolls or worse.

Nolan was so out of it that one moment Patrick was across the room and the next he was pulling him up by the arm. He let him, unwilling- and unwanting- to fight him. He was pulled into the kitchen, walking much like a zombie himself. He surveyed the room a bit before Patrick’s hand forced him to look at him.

Was he alright? Was he hurt? Nolan blinked a couple times, trying to remember the last couple of hours. Something felt off, but it wasn’t that he was injured. He realized that somewhere along the road their roles had switched. Finally, he shook his head, feeling foolish and weak. He was supposed to be holding things together.

“Sorry,” he mumbled softly, reaching out to touch Patrick’s cheek. “I guess my mind hasn’t caught up with my body.” He looked into Patrick’s eyes. The bloody stains on his shirt. “Are you alright?”

: Patrick McGee :

Nolan finally spoke and it wasn’t to say much. Patrick felt the guilty chasm building in his chest, studying those features barely illuminated in the darkness of the kitchen. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. 

“You don’t have anything to be sorry about,” he said carefully, his tongue heavy as he placed a cold hand over Nolan’s. There was a slight tremble as he wondered if his lover was reverting back to that night he returned from the outside. How he became nothing and wanted punishment from him. 

And when Nolan returned the same question, Patrick wanted to back into a corner and shrivel up. 

We’ve never felt so alive. 

“I’m trying to keep it together,” he lied. “Grieving like you. We just lost everything and I didn’t keep my promise to you. I’m sorry we’re out here again. I-” Should have been more careful. “Please talk to me if you’re feeling like you’re going backwards. You’re not alone. I’m here, those two ‘friends’ of yours are here. There’s people that care about you and if you feel like you’re going to shut down, tell me.” 

He swallowed hard. “I will do and be whatever you need me to be. You know that. And if you just need space, I’ll leave you alone. I’ll handle the couple.” 


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