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A Few More Days Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by RHunt   
In the morning, Vion seemed like a different man entirely. Perhaps it was because he knew he was now safe with us or that he was fed and not being chased by zombies. Either way, I was glad to have another male around and hoped that he would be able to over come his fears to help us in the future.

When I had first awoken, Vion and Mabel were sitting next to the fire. He was laughing at her as she made circles with her fingers and then placed them over her face like glasses. For a brief moment, I thought he might be mentally handicapped, but for some reason or another, I just couldn’t accept that explanation. Who was this man? And how did he survive for so long? Judging from the night before I couldn’t imagine him surviving on his own.

Standing up from where I had been sleeping, I sat down around the fire. Gina was on guard in the corner, though it seemed she had drifted to sleep during her shift. That was unacceptable, but I wasn’t going to cause a fuss. The last thing I needed was Alec to throw a fit. No harm, no foul, but I would talk to her later when we were alone.

“Morning, Elliot!” Mabel said cheerfully.

“Morning, Elliot.” Vion echoed, but with less enthusiasm.

I smiled at each of them, before noticing Vion’s incredibly light eyes. The center was a gray that was outlined with a dark blue, but I had never seen eyes like that before. There was something strange about this man with us. He was almost inhuman in the way that he looked, but on the same token he was most definitely human. I suppose the best way to describe him would be that he looked like an angel. If at any moment two dove-like wings popped out of his back, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

Looking over my shoulder, I heard Alec stirring from his slumber. At times, he could be hard to wake. I knew, though, that even though he was laying down, he could still hear us talking.

“Vion, how have you survived this long?” I gathered up the courage to ask over a few moments.

He looked at me with confusion, “Survived this long? I don’t understand.”

I hadn’t heard it the night before, but I could detect an accent this morning. I just couldn’t put my finger on where I had heard it before. “From the infected ones. The ones chasing you last night.”

“I stay hidden most of the time. They caught me while…” He stopped talking briefly as if he were thinking, “while I was digging through the trash for food.”

I brushed off his pause as embarrassment. I wouldn’t want to admit that I ate trash either, so I nodded. “Where are you from?”

“Here.” He responded quickly.

“Oh, you have an accent, I thought maybe…”

“No, I’m from here.” He snapped and looked at the fire before him.

“Alright, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Alec came to sit next to me. He frowned at Gina, who was still asleep in the corner. “How long has she been asleep?” He growled.

“I told her to nap.” I responded before Mabel could answer.

I don’t think that Alec believed me, but he wasn’t going to argue with me in front of the others. He had told me and Olivia that we needed unity and that little things had to be allowed to slide. He was practicing what he preached in those moments.

He began to dig through one of our bags with the canned food, “Not much left. It might last us three or four more days if we stretch it.”

“We have to find meat.” I told him, “Rats, dogs, anything will do. There has to be something around here.”

“We should see an animal or two as we move out of the city. Speaking of which we should get moving.” His eyes wandered over to Vion. “You aren’t hurt, are you? You can carry some items, right?”

Vion’s eyes were blank as if he were trying to understand what my brother was saying, “Yes.” He answered right before Alec was about to repeat himself.

“Yes, you are hurt or yes, you can carry some shit?”

“He’s fine, Alec.” I snapped. “What the hell is your problem this morning?”

He didn’t answer me, instead got up and shook Gina quite roughly. “Wake up, we need to get moving.”

Gina’s eyes turned to me with annoyance as Alec walked past her and began to gather our items.

“We can’t have our shit spread out like this!” Alec barked, “We have to be ready to go at any moment!”

Mabel looked frightened from his sudden outburst. She clamped onto Vion’s hand. It surprised me to see that she would turn to this stranger for safety. From the look on Gina’s face, I think she was just as shocked.

Vion stood and dropped Mabel’s hand, “I will help.” He told Alec while he picked up one of the bags.

I wanted to say something to Alec about his attitude that morning, but in front of the others was not the best place. I would have to discuss it with him later.
---***---

We spent the next few days traveling out of the city and into the nearby farmlands. For the most part, we were safe from zombies outside the city. They seemed to be pack oriented, even though they hunted in small groups of no more then three. It was easier for them to find a pack once they were inside the city. I learned this from speaking with Gina, not from my own observations.

It took a couple days, but Gina admitted to be part of a team that was looking for a cure and studying those infected. Her partner was Colin Giordano, Mabel’s uncle. He apparently was one of the world’s foremost experts on exotic diseases. She spoke of how they never determined how the virus spread or even how it attacked the body. Cole knew more as she worked mostly with the sick, while he tried to study the disease.

She had read some of his reports that stated there had been no females who had been mentally deformed by the virus. Only males seemed to go into the state that I called a zombie. She said that females were either immune to the virus or they would die from it. It was unknown to them why the virus acted so differently with the male and female brains. There was also proof that around eighty percent of females died from the virus. Fifty percent of men died, while an even number of men were immune or were mentally infected.

What shocked me the most was when she told us that there was no single point of origin of the virus. It appears the same day in multiple areas on earth. The spread was so quick that it was impossible to prepare people for it’s coming. They knew months in advance that most the world’s population would not survive.

I remember the first day that I saw news footage of what was taking place. It was Houston, Texas that was first attacked. The hospital halls were filled with the dead or dying. The shops were being looted, children were crying for their parents, and parents for their children. I had looked at Drew, my boyfriend, and mumbled a truth that at the time I didn’t actually believe. “It looks like the apocalypse.” I had said.

Rumors of terrorism spread about, until reports of the virus taking roots all over the world began to come in. Every country was under attack, there was no safe haven from this virus. No where that we could hide. All we could do was sit and wait for it to find us. We knew it would come for us and we only prayed that we could be some of the lucky few. Now that we were among those lucky few, we wished that we hadn’t been.

Death would be so much easier then the hell that we were living in now. All this could end with one bullet, but there was more on the line. One of us falling could mean that the rest would die with them. We all needed each other to endure. No matter how strong we thought the others were, because the truth was, everyone was just carrying around their strong faces. We all acted as if we weren’t afraid of what was to come. No fear in the horrors that we had already been through. No regrets in what we had done. It was all a lie.

The truth was that every single one of us was terrified. Afraid of any slightest movement around us or anyone who was not part of our group. Even some in our group kept us on our toes and left us suspicious.

We were also tired. The combination of physical exertion and total fear just drained us all of any energy that we had. Some of us showed our exhausted with angry outbursts, others were just too beat to even talk, and I was just empty.

My entire existence was wrapped around keeping the group organized and alive. I had stopped caring about what would happen to me. I had stopped caring in general. All my attention and effort was spent watching the country side around us. Half the time, I didn’t hear what people were saying to me. With so little food, I barely ate my own share. I gave most of it to Mabel, who in turn would often share it with Gina and Vion.

Vion, on the other hand, seemed to have endless energy. He was nothing like the scared man that we had first met. He seemed braver and stronger now that we had left the city. It might have been due to the fact that we hadn’t seen a zombie in days or perhaps the group brought him courage. He had even stood up to Alec during one of his temper tantrums. I will never forget the look of disbelief on Alec’s face when Vion ordered him to silence himself.

I think Vion stood up against him, because I just lacked the strength to keep Alec calm. All his life, Alec looked towards me for courage and I was failing him. He could see that my will had been taken from me. I had to force each step to be taken, each breath to be inhaled, and each thought to be spoken. I was so tired and I just wanted this all to stop. I just wanted to wake up and find myself in bed with Drew.

It would never happen as I wasn’t so delusional to not to recognize reality. I knew all our lives were hanging in the balance. I just didn’t care anymore.

Those were my thoughts as I sat in the field a good distance away from the campfire. The stars were shining so brightly and so beautifully. The grass beneath me was still green and moist from the light shower an hour before. I had seen several birds flying above us that day and even a rabbit had crossed our path. Nothing was affected by the death of most humans.

It was almost like nature had enough of us. She no longer wanted to deal with how quickly we were spreading and how much we were destroying. So, she sent the virus. One that did to us what we were doing to her. She spared a few people, just like we spared a few forests. Yet, she also mutilated some of us like we do to her landscape. I didn’t want to believe this was Earth’s punishment, but at times, it just felt that way.

“Your share.” I heard Vion’s voice say behind me.

I felt him put a coat over my shoulders and then he offered me a small bird on a small branch. I had no idea what kind of bird it was or how Alec had managed to catch it. I honestly didn’t want to know. “Let Mabel have it.”

Vion sat down and offered it to me again, “Starving yourself to death? Would be better for us if you just shot yourself in the head.” He pulled the handgun that I had given him out of his belt and offered it to me.

“What is that for?” I asked.

Both of his hands were out, one with food and one with the gun. “Giving you a chance to live and a chance to die, pick one.”

“That isn’t funny. Mabel needs the food more than I do.” I turned my eyes back to the skyline.

“That’s not true. Mabel gets her fill.” Vion nudged both of his hands towards me. “Alec may give the orders, but you are the real leader here. He looks to you for strength and advice. He needs you in order to go on. You are failing all of us by allowing yourself to be taken by the darkness of your heart.”

“I don’t give a shit who I am failing. I am too damn tired to care about…”

“That’s not true. You do care. If you didn’t then you would have laid down a long time ago. You wouldn’t had stood up for me that first night that I found you. You wouldn’t be walking on tomorrow. You do care and I think that’s your problem. You don’t want to care.”

I stared at him for several moments as I was unsure of what to say. “You don’t know me. Don’t think you know anything about the secrets in my heart.”

“I don’t think that I know, Elliot. I feel the same way. We all feel the same way. Everyone of us wants to lay down and die. We want the others to just not care if we do, but we know that they do care. You know that if Gina, Mabel, or Alec… hell, maybe even me, if one of us chose to quit you would fight us. You wouldn’t leave us behind, just like we wouldn’t leave you behind. Unless you give us no choice.” He nudged me again with the gun. “Now, I am asking you. Do you care about what happens to us? If you don’t, use the gun.”

I looked down at his hand. My mind wanted me to pick up that gun and as I reached for it, I found myself with the bird. I began to nibble on it, which brought a smile to Vion’s lips.

“You had me worried there for a moment.”

“Who are you?” I asked him.

He looked at me curiously, “I am Vion.”

My head slowly shook. “No, there is more to you. I know you aren’t from around here. I know that is something strange about you.”

He grinned and stood up, “I get that a lot.” He said to me before walking back to camp.

---***---
I don’t recall the days that past by after that. I do remember thinking of that gun every time I thought negatively about my life. It wasn’t that I thought about killing myself but instead Vion’s voice would replay in my mind. He was right that the group would be better without me if I just wanted to end it all, but maybe there was a reason that I had survived. It may only be punishment for what I had done or perhaps it was because deep down inside I knew that I could.

With his words on the forefront of my mind, all I could do was focus on ensuring the group’s safety. Alec, Gina, and Mabel all needed me as much as I needed them. Any selfishness would mean the end of us all. So, we trudged on.

Eight days passed and we went through about the same number of cities. There were battles fought between us and the zombies when we were tempted to enter the city for food. We made fishing poles out of strings and branches, and we even shot a few dogs for meat. Every time we did, Mabel would break down in tears and we would have to persuade her to eat it. Now, Alec would yell rabid dog whenever he shot one so Mabel would think that there was a reason to kill it.

I remember having conversations, but forgetting what I had spoken about just moments later. My entire life was set on moving forward and nothing more. Most of the time I sat away from the camp, and prayed that they would leave me alone. They never did. Alec and Gina let me be most of the time, but Mabel occasionally would wander my way. It was Vion, however, that refused to leave me to my darkness. He would join me and we would speak on mostly superficial things. At times, I didn’t think he knew what I was talking about, but I had long ago stopped trying to figure out what was odd about him.

“Look!” Mabel cried out as we walked down a dirt road.

All eyes turned to a farm in the distance as we watched a frame for what appeared to be a barn being pulled up. My eyes turned curiously to Alec to see what he wanted to do.

“That can’t be zombies.” He mumbled to himself, but I overheard him.

“No, it can’t.” I replied.

Mabel took off towards them before we had time to discuss our plans. Gina called out her name before chasing after her. We had no idea who these people were or even if they were still people. I knew that zombies weren’t intelligent, but that was from meetings with them that lasted only a few minutes. They could have an intellect that I was unaware of.

Vion was soon running after Gina and the girl, which left Alec and I with no other option but to follow them.

“Mommy! Uncle Cole!” Mabel yelled out as we ran, though we were too far away to see the identities of anyone. Her arms were spread wide ready to hug her long lost family.

I saw a man near the old farm house drop some lumber and start running towards us. I couldn’t see him clearly enough, but I knew that he was heading towards Mabel.

“Mabel, stop! Please!” Gina cried out.

“Mabel! Mabel!” The man yelled out to her.

“Uncle Cole!” Mabel screamed.

Gina stopped dead in her tracks and stared at the man running towards them. Suddenly, she cried out in a voice that was full of tears. “Cole! Oh my god, Cole!”

Vion was still between us, but he slowed his pace so he could run with Alec and me. We watched Mabel being scooped up into the man’s arms and he hugged Gina when she approached. A group came over from the barn and some from out of the house. They ran towards us. A woman screamed Mabel’s name at the top of her lungs and when she reached the girl nearly squeezed her to death in her arms.

“My baby! My baby!” She cried when she ripped Mabel out of Cole’s arms. Her entire body shook with what I assumed to be overwhelming joy, and tears streamed down her face.

Vion, Alec, and I came to a stop a few feet away from the group. I couldn’t believe our luck, we could have walked right by had Mabel not spotted the barn being built.

After a few moments of the group welcoming their long lost companions back, I heard Gina speak. “Cole, these are the people that saved Mabel and me.” She touched the tall, tanned skinned, dark haired man on the shoulder to lead him over to us. “Alec and Elliot.” She introduced us when they reached us.

“I… I don’t know how to thank you.” He shook Alec’s hand and then my own. “We thought that both Gina and Mabel were lost to us.”

“You saved my baby!” A short, dark haired women pushed through them and hugged both me and Alec around our necks. “You two are angels! Sent from heaven!” She kissed us both on our cheeks which left some moisture on our skins. “My heart was broken when I watched them take my baby away and I could do nothing. You two, you are my heroes.” She pinched our other cheeks.

Alec and I stood flabbergasted at the reception that we had just received. It didn’t end there either, almost everyone came up to thank us. The words heroes and angels were repeated multiple times. By the time that everyone had thanked us the sun was beginning to set. Vion had also disappeared but to where I was uncertain. I had seen him over by the barn trying to help them, but lost track of him as time went on.

Finally it was just Alec, Gina, Cole, and myself standing down the road from the farmhouse. Everyone else was finishing up their chores.

“You two… and that other man with you are more then welcome to stay.” Cole told us. He kept touching my arm when he spoke and looked at me with curiosity whenever our eyes met.

“We will have to think about it.” Alec told him.

“You can’t be serious!” Gina squealed, “Where else would you go?”

“She’s right. We are trying to create a community here. Along the way we found around twenty people, so we are around fifty strong now. We left notices in all the cities we passed for any survivors to come here.”

“We never saw any notices.” I told him.

Cole rose an eyebrow, “Then how did you find us?”

“Dumb luck.” Gina answered. “Mabel saw you putting up the barn.”

He looked over his shoulder at the barn and then back to us, “If I didn’t believe in miracles before I am a believer now.” He joked.

Gina giggled and squeezed his upper arm.

A somber look returned to his eyes as he turned his gaze back to Alec and me. “You must stay here, we could always use more people. We have prepared gardens and there are plans to start building cabins for each family next summer. We found cattle along the way and the nearest zombie infested city is days away.”

“I said we will think about it.” Alec growled.

“Alec, come now!” Gina snapped.

“It’s alright, Gina. We can’t force them to stay if they don’t want to. Give them some time to talk it over.” He put his arm around her shoulder, “Let’s go help with dinner.” He looked back to me, “We will call you when it’s ready.”

I nodded my head before I watched them make their way back to the farmhouse.
---***---

“What do you think?” Alec asked me.

“Of what?”

“Staying here?” His answer sounded cynical.

I shrugged with my eyes still looking at Gina and Cole in the distance, “Sounds a hell of a lot easier then moving on. I doubt we will find another place like this.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. We should just keep moving.”

“Why?”

He didn’t say anything just stared at Gina and Cole making their way into the house. Cole’s arm was still wrapped around Gina’s shoulders.

“Oh.” I said, “I didn’t realize that you had grown to like her in that way.”

He gnarled, “I just lost my wife and daughter, don’t you dare fucking think that I have feelings for any other woman!” He turned his back to me and walked over to a tree that was across the road, but not far behind us.

I watched him sit down and sighed. It wasn’t jealousy that made my brother want to leave, instead treachery. He had some feelings for Gina that I hadn’t seen before and he thought it would dishonor his love for his wife and daughter. Gina would be a temptation and he didn’t want to put himself in that position.

I walked over to him and sat down, “I’ll do whatever you decide, Alec.”

He pressed his lips together, then shook his head. “I miss them so much, Elly.” Tears began to swell in his eyes. “Lesley, Lauren, Olivia, Mom, and Dad, all of them. They are gone forever. We’ll never see them again, and I can’t help but feel like I am a traitor to them for staying alive. As if I sacrificed them for my own selfishness. Why the hell didn’t I die too? Why couldn’t I have been taken?”

I placed my arm around him and rubbed his shoulder, “I wish I had an answer, Alec. I really do. I’ve been asking myself those same questions since this all started.”

“Lauren was the love of my life, before all this I couldn’t imagine myself without her. Now, I thank God that she isn’t here. She would never be strong enough to survive this and I wish that I wasn’t either.” His voice broke as he spoke and the tears began to fall down his cheeks. I knew that he finally felt safe enough here to let his emotions take over. He could finally release all the pressure and pain that he had kept locked away for so many months.

“Everyone was affected by this. We are all hurting inside, but for some reason we have survived. You and me, we managed. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and I wish that I could tell you that everything will be alright. The truth is, I really don’t know.” I sniffled trying to hold back my tears and be the big sister.

He didn’t say anything just continued to cry and lay his head on my shoulder.

“Remember how we use to talk about mother nature finally getting rid of her pests. That eventually we would push her too hard and she would fight back. Maybe the time of humans has past. Maybe she wanted to send us back a few hundred years and stop us.”

“Maybe we did die and this is hell.” He said.

“Maybe.” I nodded my head. “I want an answer of how and why just as much as you do. I know that knowing the why would make me feel so much better, but I doubt we will ever know. This just is. We can accept to live by these new rules or we can die. Those are our options.”

I rubbed his upper arm as I watched them finish placing the frame of the barn up. Alec just cried and I let him soak my shoulder without a complaint. It was time for him to let it all go and I knew that I was the only one he could do this with. I wish there was someone that I could release on, normally it would have been my mother. Alec wouldn’t be able to handle his own pain along with my own, so I held strong.

He needed me to be his big sister in those moments. The big sister who chased off his bully when he was a kid. The big sister who force fed him his medicine when she babysat. The big sister who had all of life’s answers and was so sure of everything. I couldn’t be a scared human being, but instead the all mighty protector.

As he cried I thought about all that we had been through and knew that it was far from over now. We still had to make this community work and decide what we would do with ourselves now. I doubted that these people needed a police officer and army sergeant. We would have to find other jobs to make ourselves useful here.

“We should have done everything to save her.” Alec mumbled.

“Who?”

“We risked our lives for Gina and Mabel, but not our own sister. We were too worried about injuring ourselves and we abandoned her.”

I shook my head, “We didn’t abandon her. We had to prepare ourselves first, not just jump blindly into his lair. Olivia wouldn’t have wanted us to get ourselves killed.”

“We could have tried harder.”

“We did the best that we could. We had no idea that the zombie was going to… do what he did. It wasn’t our fault.” I lied, as I had felt like it was since the moment I had seen her lifeless body. I couldn’t let Alec suffer that thought and had to put it at ease.

He sighed, “I’m glad you think that.”

“So, is it Gina that makes you want to leave?”

“She reminds me of Lauren.”

I nodded, “Yeah, I get that vibe from her as well. Strong but soft at the same time.”

“I hate her for it. I know that I shouldn’t, but it pisses me off whenever she makes me think of Lauren.” He grabbed my wrist and sat up to look at me. “There are times that I just want to reach out and choke her to death. There are other times that I was really glad to have her there to remind me of what Lauren might say or do. It’s confusing.”

“Grief often is.”

“Dinner is ready!” Mabel came running up to us.

“Thank you, Mabel.”

“Uncle Cole said you were pretty.” She giggled.

I chuckled as Alec and I stood up, “Alright.”

“Do you think Uncle Cole is pretty too?”

I laughed and took the hand she offered out to me. With a quick swipe to her butt I sent her on ahead of us. “Play matchmaker with someone else.” I turned my eyes back to Alec, who was trying to hide any signs that he had been crying. “You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

---***---
After dinner was over, I volunteered to help with the dishes. It seemed that most people ate and slept outside unless the weather did not permit. They all brought their dishes back in while twelve individuals began washing them. The two bathroom sinks and both sides of the kitchen sink were in use.

I found myself stationed next to Cole with several others behind us. They were drying the dishes with some towels. I noticed that Cole would briefly look over at me but quickly divert his eyes back to his sink full of soapy water. I wanted to ask what his problem was, but thought it was better not to cause trouble in front of the others.

“We can finish up in here. Have a goodnight.” Cole told the others.

They gave their goodnights and headed out the door. Mabel’s mother, Melinda, informed us that we would be sleeping in the house. Two others had given up their beds so Alec and I could have a room. We insisted that it wasn’t necessary, but they were avid about us not sleeping outside.

“What happened to your neck?” Cole asked when everyone was out of the room.

“Zombie bit me.”

He rose an eyebrow, “Zombie?”

“Ah, yeah, one of the infected people.”

He chuckled for a moment, “Zombie, I like that.”

I nodded and looked out the window in front of me. I could see several people who were recently in the kitchen heading towards a bonfire in the distance. The kitchen had been exactly what I had expected. The outside of the farmhouse was red and white, and the kitchen was decorated with yellows with several pig and cow ornaments. It was just like any farmhouse that one would see in the movies.

Turning around I laid the dish down on a towel and returned to my sink. Cole remained silent beside me as he scrubbed a dish, but I caught him looking again.

“I could take a look at that for you.” He offered.

“Gina already took care of it. Besides it’s been a while since it happened.” I swallowed and continued to scrub. He was making me uneasy.

“Has she looked at it since? Have you changed the bandage? I have medication…”

“I’m fine.” I growled, then immediately remembered myself. “Thank you for your concern, but I am alright.”

Cole nodded, “I was asking because Gina’s wound was infected. With your injury so close to your neck…” He shook his head, “You said you were fine. I’ll take your word for it.”

We both fell silent again. I decided that Cole’s stares were from worry of my wound and hoped they would stop. That was until he did it again and this time it was for a moment longer then he normally held his glance.

“Why the hell do you keep staring at me?” I snapped my eyes over at him.

His cheeks reddened and words seemed to fail him. “I’m… I’m sorry.” He placed a glass cup on the towel on the table. When his hands were back in the dishwater, he cleared his throat.

“Well?”

His dark brown eyes looked up to me while he cleared his throat, “Ever meet someone so attractive in your eyes that you keep trying to steal a glimpse of them?”

My cheeks reddened at that point, “Oh.” I turned my attention back to the dishes.

“I normally am quite the charmer. Those aren’t my words but Gina’s and some other people that I know.” He scrubbed one of the pots, “Normally, I would just give you a greeting and try to find out about you. After a little talk, I would ask you out on a date.” He chuckled, “Where would we go? Out to pet the cows?”

I giggled in return. Not a humorous giggle either, but one that I hadn’t used since I first met Drew. It was definitely one to cause flirtations. I recoiled my laughter when I realized and returned to my chore.

As Cole and I scrubbed the last of our dishes, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye. He had an Italian look to him. His eyes were a dark brown, his hair black, and his skin was olive tone. Though his features were smooth they were definitely masculine, but his height was no more then one or two inches more then my own.

The glimpses that I had gotten of his hands looked to be of a doctor. They were soft, but it was obvious that recent hard work had begun to roughen them. My own hand was growing a callous and I was quite certain that Alec faired no better.

“What kind of doctor were you before all this happened?” I asked.

Cole pressed his lips together and seemed to cringe as if the thought hurt him. “I mostly did research work. What were you?”

“Police officer.” I responded quickly.

“I would have thought you were a college girl. You just have that look about you.”

I nodded, “Some cops have degrees.”

“I didn’t mean to imply…” He sighed.

“I quit college after I got my associates in psychology. My true calling was police work. I guess I always knew that, but my mother hoped that at least one of her kids wouldn’t end up doing dangerous work.”

“What was your brother?”

“He was in the military and my younger sister was a skydiving instructor… among other dangerous sports. She was basically an adrenaline junkie.”

Cole snickered, “Not my family. My mother would have died had any of my brothers and sisters picked those professions. Two doctors, a lawyer, an electrical engineer, and a business owner.” He raised his hands with two fingers sticking up on each and made the quoting gesture.

“What type of business?”

“Oh, the import/export business, at least that’s what he told us. I think he sold drugs or joined the mafia. We never asked and I don’t think my mother wanted to know. She liked the fur coats for Christmas that he gave her and she didn’t question where he got the money for it.” Cole smiled.

I returned the smile and our conversation died down for a moment, “What were you researching?”

“Before the outbreak? I worked on…” He paused in his speech as if trying to decide upon the correct words, “various projects. Afterwards? The virus.”

I was about the ask him what he had learned about the virus, but the kitchen door opened at that moment. Vion’s slender form entered and he grinned.

“Hey.” I smiled, “Where have you been?”

“Looking around.” He walked around the table to stand behind me and began to massage the small of my back. I normally would have jumped away, but he hit a spot that had been aching for weeks now.

“Find anything of interest?” I asked and noticed Cole staring at Vion’s hand touching me.

Vion laid his chin on my shoulder and shook his head. He had never been extremely touchy with me before and it was beginning to creep me out. I didn’t want to over react in front of Cole, so I allowed him to continue. Perhaps, it was the new relaxed atmosphere that brought out Vion’s true self. It had done so for Alec and myself to some degree, so this may have been the true Vion. That was the logic I decided upon to make myself comfortable.

“Well, I’m done. I just have to finishing drying these off.” Cole announced.

“I’ll do that.” Vion told him with his head still on my shoulder.

He nodded, “ Thank you. I’ll be down in the basement all night if you need anything. Either of you.” Cole seemed to rush out of the room.

Vion continued to rub my back and lifted his head away from my body.

“You are acting strangely.” I told him.

“It must be knowing that we won’t be ambushed at any moment. It allows one to relax.”

His fingers on the small of my back left a tingling sensation as he worked his way upward. His touch was unfamiliar to me and for the most part uncomfortable, yet it felt very relaxing. After a few moments, I was almost completely comfortable with the idea of his ministrations.

“Looks like he left his reading glasses.” Vion pointed to the glasses in the window sill.

“I don’t recall him wearing glasses before.” I turned my face towards him and found him just inches away from me.

“He had them on his head when we first met him.”

“Your memory is better then mine.”

Reaching out, he plucked them off the window sill and handed them to me. “Why don’t you take them down to him? I’ll finish up in here.”
---***---

I knocked gently on the basement door and when no reply came, I cracked the door open slightly. Calling out his name softly, I waited for him to respond but there was none. For a moment I stood staring down at the wooden stairs and wondered if it would be alright to head down there. I decided that Cole didn’t seem the type to hide anything so I stepped onto the first stair. When I was in far enough, I was able to shut the door behind me and continue down to the basement.

My nose was filled with the scent of bleach and other cleaning chemicals which only became stronger the further I went into the dark depths. At the end of the stairs, I found a dark room and another door. There were some shelves to the side which contained the cleaning agents that I had been smelling previously.

I knocked on the door in front of me and waited for Cole’s response, but received none. Trying to gain his attention, I knocked three or four more times, before I called out his name. With a sigh, I opened the door and was immediately blinded by the bright florescent light.

The basement looked like it had been transformed into a laboratory. Against the wall to my left and the back wall were tables filled with beakers and other science equipment. The generator ran next to the door with a few small gas containers sitting beside it. A small fridge ran beside that. The generator was rather loud and the basement only echoed it’s sounds. I was surprised that I couldn’t hear it upstairs.

There was no sign of Cole in the room, so I tried to call out his name again. When no answer came, I walked over to the tables and glanced over some of the paperwork. Cole’s handwriting was terrible and the words I could read were meaningless to me. I never did do very well in science class.

“Hey.” I heard a voice say behind me.

With a start I spun around.

Cole stood with a lab coat on next to a door that I hadn’t noticed before. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I was in the bathroom.”

“I knocked and called out to you.” I don’t know why but I had his glasses behind my back.

“Yeah, I couldn’t hear you in there.” He pointed to the door with his thumb.

We stood in silence for a moment before Cole began to move things on his table. He looked like he was searching for something. I walked over to him and placed the glasses in front of him.

“They were upstairs on the window sill.”

He grinned, “Thanks. I was just looking for them.” Placing the thin frames over his eyes, he chuckled. “Really completes the aging doctor look, doesn’t it?”

“Maybe if you wore them further down on your nose.” I teased.

Cole set them further down his nose and began to lick his lips. We both chuckled before my eyes began to look over some of his equipment. “What is all this?”

“Gina and I are still trying to figure this virus out. If we could find a cure then we could help some of the infected… or we can kill them.” He sighed. “I’ve been working on it since she’s been gone and haven’t really come up with anything.”

He grabbed a chair and placed it next to another. When he sat down he motioned for me to sit with him. “I’ve been testing blood samples of people in the group with us. The virus dies immediately upon contact with their white blood cells. Yet, white blood cells tested by those that became infected didn’t respond to the virus. They acted like they were a natural part of the human body.”

“Why not give the infected patients white blood cells from those immune?”

“We did. However, it only prolonged their deaths or mental deterioration. We have to find out why some people’s white blood cells react to the threat and others don’t. When we have that answer then we will be closer to a cure.”

I nodded, “I see. Anything that I can do to help?”

Cole shook his head, “I wish there was.” He sighed and looked over at some notes that he had been writing. “Actually, Gina and I could use a lab assistant. It would help if someone was able to do the small tasks for us while we worked.”

“What kind of tasks?”

“Fetching chemicals from the shelves, putting items in the machines, just minor duties that most students can do. I can teach you how to run most of the machines. It would be better then working outside in the heat all day.”

I grinned, “I think I am capable of that.”

“Working in the heat or being our assistant?” He joked.

“Being an assistant.” I gave a half grin as I was uncertain if he really wanted an answer from me.

Cole rubbed my upper arm but then seemed to remember himself. “I didn’t realize that you and Vion were together. I feel terrible about what I said earlier. I wasn’t trying to hit on you. Just trying to explain truthfully why I kept glancing over at you.”

“Vion and I are not together.”

“The way that he was touching you speaks otherwise.”

“I agree, and it was as much as a surprise to me as it was to you. I don’t know what came over him.”

Cole watched me for a moment. I think he was trying to decide if he wanted to believe me or not, “Well in that case, I was hitting on you.” He stood from his chair.

“You’re pretty straightforward about your feelings. It’s rather shocking at times.”

He walked over to the other table and began to move things around, “I’ve never been one to waste time on formalities. If I find a woman attractive, I tell her so. If she tells me to go fuck myself then I move onto the next.”

“So, you like to date a lot then?”

Cole chuckled and he began to mix two chemicals. I had no idea what either of them were. “I have had my fair share of dates in my lifetime. All in the search for Miss Right, but I never found her. When I was seventeen, I thought I did. We dated for four years before she dumped me for my best friend, who went on to become a plastic surgeon. They went on to married and she got free surgery.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“What about you?”

I shrugged, but since his back was to me he couldn’t see it. “I dated my boyfriend, Drew, since high school. We were on and off during college, and just friends for a while after that. We had been dating for a couple years by the time the virus came around.”

Cole looked over his shoulder, “He wasn’t immune, was he?”

“No. No one in my family was but me, Alec, and our sister.”

“Your sister was immune?”

I nodded, “Yes, but she didn’t make it. Zombie got her.”

He frowned deeply and shook his head, “To be immune to the virus only to die by the hands of those infected. How terrible. We’ve lost some of our own to the… the zombies, as you call them. One of the girls with us saw her father in that state. We tried to pull her away but she broke through us and ran to him. Since we were being attacked by others at the time, we had to deal with them. By the time we were able to track her down, her own father was raping her. Didn’t even realize that it was his daughter anymore.” He swallowed.

My eyes dropped to the ground, “The virus makes them into someone they are not. Did she survive?”

“We killed him and rescued her. She killed herself a few days later.” He put a plug into the tube of chemicals that he was mixing and set it aside. “I had to mix that up before morning.”

I watched him sit back down beside me. His eyes held an intense seriousness as he looked me over. “Gina won’t tell me, but I need to know. Did those ’zombies’ rape her?”

“Why?”

“I have reason to believe that the zombies are trying to procreate. No females have gotten the mental deterioration that I am aware of. They are either immune to the virus or they die from it. I think that they are attempting to impregnate women, but do not know their own strength. It’s vital that I know, because if she is pregnant…” He swallowed.

“You fear what may be born?”

Cole nodded, “I fear that she may give birth to one of them and refuse to let the child die.”

I dropped my eyes, “Have you asked her directly?”

“Yes, and she dodged the question. This is important, Elliot, I have to know.”

I looked back up into his eyes, “When we found her, she was being raped. She may have mentioned that they had been using her for a while since her capture.”

As I watched him stare at me, I could almost feel his heart drop. “Thank you.”

“Don’t tell her that I said anything. Obviously, she didn’t want you to know.”

He nodded, “I won’t.” Standing up, he held out his hand to me. “I’ll show you to your room. You should get some sleep now.”

“Are you going to bed?”

“I have other things to do down here.”

I looked over the vials and paperwork, “Can I help?”

Cole smirked, “Sure.”

---***---
When I awoke the next morning, I was laying on a sleeping bag that Cole had out next to the bathroom door. During the evening I had gotten tired and decided to take a nap. Cole had promised to wake me up, but from the look of sunlight shining through the small window, he had not.

“Morning.” I heard Gina’s voice chirp.

Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes, “Good morning.”

“There is some breakfast upstairs for you.” She told me.

When I stood up, I could see her sitting in the chair that I had previously occupied. Cole was no where in the room and I figured that he had probably gone to sleep. Gina was looking over some paperwork as I left the room.

Upstairs, I found Alec sitting at the table. He was eating the last of his breakfast that looked like some sort of soup with green leaves in it. There was a bowl on the counter waiting for me. I picked it up and sat down across the table from my brother.

“Did you sleep late?” I asked him. Seeing how there was no one else eating breakfast, I figured that he must have slept in as well.

“First time that I have slept in a bed for months. I milked it for as long as I could.” He grinned.

I hadn’t seen him smile in a long while, and it did my heart good to see some humor return to him. Alec was the jester in the family growing up. We never thought he could make it in the military, but the military actually gave him some maturity. He still goofed around a great deal whenever we saw him. After all that we had gone through, however, I was beginning to wonder if all his humor had gone.

Of course, I didn’t really have much of a sense of humor myself in the past few months. It felt like we were acting more like robots then human beings. We should have done something to relieve the stress and the pain, but there was no time to mourn. I think we were finally able to feel safe enough here to realize our losses and let ourselves begin to heal.

“Vion keeps getting weirder.” Alec mumbled to me as I took a bite of the creamy soup.

“Blah, this soup tastes like shit!” I stuck out my tongue.

“I think it’s some sort of spinach soup. I’ve eaten worse.” Alec lifted up his spoon and allowed the soup on his spoon to drain back into his bowl.

“I’m sorry, what did you say before I interrupted?”

“I said Vion is a strange man.”

I rose my eyebrow, “Why do you think that?”

“Last night, Gina and I went out to the bonfire after dinner. He was walking around and rubbing people. Someone would complain about an ache and he would massage them. Not like he was trying to make it feel better. Hell, it barely looked like he was touching them and he would lay his head on them.” Alec frowned, “Then the strangest thing happened. I was telling Gina about your back so I could find out about the medications they have here. Vion asked me how you hurt your back and I told him. After that, he didn’t say anything to me. Just stood up and headed back to the house.”

My eyebrows came together, “That’s odd. He came in here and was rubbing my back last night. Cole thought that he and I were a couple because of the way he was touching me.”

Alec didn’t look like he was keen on the idea of Vion rubbing my back. “That’s not even the worse part. This morning, he left with a few others to go fishing for dinner tonight. He kept saying how he had never gone fishing before or seen a live fish.”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked back down at my shoes, “Something isn’t right about him.”

“Ya think?” He said sarcastically.

“Good morning.” Cole walked into the kitchen. He had some pajama bottoms on and looked as if he still needed a couple more hours in bed.

Alec glared at him as he entered the room. I couldn’t be certain, but I thought my brother was aware of Cole’s affections towards me. Alec never approved of any man in my life. Even Drew was a good friend of his, but he threatened him to keep him away. “I promised that I would help with the barn.” Alec stood up and gave me a look that told me to be careful.

Cole took Alec’s seat with his own bowl. He slid Alec’s bowl to the center of the table and examined the contents of his breakfast. “Mmm, puke.”

I giggled, “Do I even want to know what this is?”

“What? You think that I know?”

“Well, it is your sister that cooks.”

Cole smiled, “She must have just thrown some things together and prayed everyone could tolerate it enough to swallow. We don’t yet have enough food to be picky about what we eat.”

“I think I was eating better when I was eating dogs.”

He suddenly burst out with laughter. For a moment, I thought he would dip his face in his food, because he was laughing so hard. As quickly as he had started laughing, he stopped. His face reverted back to his serious stare, “Did you really eat dogs?”

“Yes, I really ate dogs.” I must have sounded insulted, because he apologized immediately.

“I didn’t mean to offend you. I thought you were kidding.” His cheeks reddened slightly as he stared down at his soup, “Did Mabel eat them?”

“Yes.”

Cole bit his lower lip, “Do me a favor and don’t tell her mother that.”

I stared at him in a confused fashion for a moment, “Why not?”

“Let’s just say they are both dog lovers and leave it at that.” Cole took a couple bites of his breakfast. “I think that’s enough for me. Time to get back to work.”

“How long have you been asleep for?”

He shrugged as he stood up and placed his bowl in the sink, “Two or three hours.” Before I could respond he started to talk again, “I am sorry that I didn’t wake you up. You looked like you really needed some sleep. When I went to bed, I didn’t think that you would appreciate me waking you up to sleep upstairs.”

I ignored his apology, “You can’t work on two hours sleep.” I put my own bowl in the sink.

“The hell I can’t.” He looked offended.

“No, you can’t. As a doctor you should know that people need…”

“I know what people need. At this time, however, my health is irrelevant. I need…”

“To sleep for another six hours. Gina is down stairs. She can take care of things. Go back to sleep.”

Cole lifted his index finger near my lips, as he opened his mouth to say something I snapped at his finger with my teeth. Alec use to stick his finger in my face when he was upset and I would always pretend to bite it. My brother would always move his finger just in time before my teeth met with his flesh. Cole was not as quick. I always wondered if I would actually hurt someone if I bit them. The answer turned out that I wouldn’t.

He watched as my front teeth gently placed pressure on the tip of his finger. I was slowly applying more as the moments ticked by. A grin formed on his lips and he dropped his hand, “Alright, I guess you win. But only because you resorted to violence.”

With that said, he turned around and went back upstairs to his room. I was pretty sure that I shocked him which had left him with nothing to say. My ego, however, wanted to believe that I had somehow excited him. I giggled to myself and washed the three bowls in the kitchen. Afterwards, I went downstairs to see if Gina needed any help.
---***---

Days past into weeks, and I found myself up all night with Cole and spending the afternoons with Gina. She did not seem interested in speaking with me. I heard that her daughter had died shortly after she was captured and thought this was the reason for her behavior. I thought that she had engrossed herself in her work to forget her loss, but after some time I noticed her glares. I continued to rinse out and dry some of the vials and beakers that Cole had asked me to clean. Upon occasion, Gina would look my way with a stare that was less than friendly. I would return our eye contact with a grin.

I had no idea what I had done to make her upset, and I hoped to remedy the situation. Three weeks was far too long for someone to remain angry with me when I did not know why. As I dried out another beaker, I gathered the courage up to ask her what the matter was.

Clearing my throat, a strand of my hair fell from behind my ear into my eye. I had cut my hair recently and some of the short strands didn’t want to stay in my hair tie. Buying some more time, I played with the strand of hair to fix it behind my ear. I did not know why I was so intimidated by Gina, perhaps it was the thought of what her answer might be that scared me.

She suddenly glared over at me and my shyness gave way to anger. “Why the hell do you keep looking at me like that?”

Gina sat frozen for a moment with a look of start upon her face. I suddenly realized this was deja vu and if she admitted that she thought I was pretty, I would kill myself right then and there.

Her eyes watched me for several long moments, and they slowly transformed from shocked to angry. “You really want to know?”

“I asked, didn’t I?”

“He’s mine. I’ve been working with him for years. Don’t think you can walk right in here and take away all the time that I’ve put into this.”

I rose my eyebrow, “Excuse me?”

Gina’s frown deepened, “You saved me from an awful fate, and I thank you more then words can express. But I love Cole, and I will fight you to the end for him.”

“What gave you the impression that I have any interest in him?”

“The two of you down here all night. I’m not stupid. He use to work with me, but now…”

“His sleeping schedule is different. Why don’t you stay up?”

Her glare towards me only thickened, “Stay away from him.”

“I have lettuce sandwiches.” Cole announced as he walked into the room with a plate.

He handed me a sandwich with butter and lettuce on the inside. The bread was nothing more then flour and water, and it tasted just like flour as well. I really couldn’t complain, it was better then some of the food that we had been eating.

Gina gave me one more glare, before taking a sandwich from Cole. “Thank you.” She said with a smile.

After we ate our dinner, Gina told us that she was going to bed. I couldn’t believe after she had just yelled at me about spending the evenings with Cole, that she would just leave us alone together. Cole chuckled as he sat down in Gina’s seat.

“The two of you behave.” She winked at him.

“Oh, you know we won’t.” He responded to her, which caused her to stop and glare over her shoulder at me.

At first, I wasn’t bothered by what she had said. That was until I started to understand that she had forbid me to do something. I immediately became interested in pissing her off, but I didn’t want to pull Cole into the middle of it.

“Hey, have you been down to the lake yet?” He snorted, “What am I saying? Of course, you haven’t. You’ve been down here since you arrived. We should go.”

“That’s alright. I’m not really interested in a big pool of water.”

“A big, natural, beautiful pool of water, thank you.” He said as he looked over some of the notes that Gina was writing.

I giggled, but didn’t answer him. I hoped that would tell him that I hadn’t changed my mind.

“Come on, we can call it a first date.”

“Cute, but no.”

Cole turned his chair towards me and crossed his arms, “You have been flirting with me since you arrived, but now you are saying no to a romantic evening by the lake with me?”

I frowned, “I have not been flirting. I have no idea where you got that from.”

“No, huh?”

“That’s what I said.”

He chuckled, “So, if I got up and kissed you right now, you wouldn’t be affected at all.”

My frown deepened and I crossed my arms before leaning against the table. “It might hurt our friendship and I would definitely hit you.”

We stared each other down for several long moments, before Cole grinned. “I think that might be a risk that I am willing to take.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, I think you are bluffing. I think you have been flirting with me. You just are too proud to admit it.”

“Right.” I said sarcastically.

Cole ran his fingers through his hair before he stood up and came to stand in front of me. I kept my defiant look when he grinned. His eyes fell towards my hands as I uncrossed my arms. He wrapped his hands around my own to stop any attacks that I had planned. It almost made me chuckle but I held my stone face.

“You think that will stop me from hurting you?”

He shook his head, “No, I think this will though.” He raced his lips to my own.

My first reaction was to pull at my arms to release my hands from his grasp, but he held them firmly. I wasn’t entirely sure if I would have pushed him away or embraced him had I gotten my hands free anyway. I was rather relieved that I didn’t have to make the decision. He pressed his body closer to mine, trapping our arms between us. To my disbelief, I realized that I had begun to kiss him back.

In all my life, I had only kissed one man and that had been Drew. Even in that case, it had taken Drew nearly four months for him to kiss me after we got back together. I always moved slowly in relationships, or perhaps it was Drew that did so. It may have also been that I needed some sort of contact with another human being. I missed being held at night and constantly being in contact with another’s skin. I may have allowed my guard and pride down in those moments, just to have what I missed so deeply.

I felt Cole release my hands. His own hands began to slide up my arms until they reached my shoulders. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. All I could think about was my loneliness and Drew. As Cole’s hands touched my neck, I began to cry.

Cole immediately pulled his lips from mine as my blubbering could not be ignored. He looked confused for a moment, but did not say anything. Instead, he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and allowed me to sob into his shoulder.

“It’s okay, Elliot. I promise that it will all get better from here on out.” His hands gently rubbed my back. “Everything will be alright.”

I don’t know how long we stood there with my cries being muffled by his shoulder, but Cole just continued to hold me. I think he was surprised by my sudden burst of emotion, but I think he also understood what had happened. I was letting go of the tragedies of the virus. It would take me many more years to heal, but the process had finally begun.

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