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You're Ready And You're Willin'

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Scooby-Doo stopped talking the night Fred and Shaggy were killed, the night Velma and Daphne had to accept just how unprepared they were for an actual supernatural threat. They were good at what they did, the best, but men in masks just weren't the same as hordes of starving undead.

Shaggy went first. That itself wasn't a surprise, at all, but the way it hit Velma, the way the realization she'd never have to chase him out of another kitchen where he was endangering his life for a sandwich again made her stomach clench up tight, that was a little bit of a shock. Fred...Fred shouldn't have died. Fred should have been smart enough to stay away, get out of there the second Shaggy got bitten, but - well, he didn't.

The worst part, worse than watching Shaggy's too-quick transformation, watching him turn on Fred while Fred was still trying to get him out of there, get him safe, had been when they realized as long as Fred and Shaggy's bodies were still intact, there was danger. It was easy, at least easier, in the moment, to tell herself that they wouldn't want to live as zombies, that if she'd been bitten she'd understand, maybe even ask for, the small fire they burned Fred and Shaggy in.

Scooby's last words were Raggy? Ro!. Velma misses his voice, some days - most days; can't always keep from wincing when he opens his mouth and a vicious bark comes out instead.

*

Daphne and Velma spent a week customizing the van, repainting, renaming - Mystery Machine had been Shaggy's idea, and it's not as if anything now was really a mystery to be solved - poring over whatever mechanical books they could find in Velma's oversized library to figure out how to make it deadlier. No, safer.

And for a second, for a little while, things were...things weren't okay, they'd probably never be okay, but at least Velma could see it, could see spending the rest of her life outwitting zombies, Daphne and Scoob by her side. They'd adapted before, from a loose-knit group of friends to a gang of successful vigilante crime solvers, and the loss of Fred and Shaggy shouldn't mean they can't adapt again.

*

It's too quiet, the night Daphne dies. Daphne's been so brave, so fucking competent, reaching in herself and finding some reserve of steely resolve Velma wouldn't have ever guessed she had. Daphne found them guns, found them knives, fashioned them outfits both deadly and somewhat fashionable (it's heartening to see she is, in some ways, still Daphne). It was Daphne who used the last Scooby Snacks on Earth to turn Scooby-Doo into a vicious zombie-eating machine, and it was Daphne who spent a weekend with a book and a stolen set of tools, learning how to fasten a chain onto Velma's glasses so securely she'd never lose them again.

And it's bullshit that Daphne dies the way she does, scouring an abandoned hunting goods store for ammunition while Velma fuels up the Misery Machine across the street. When Velma finds her, she's just a torso and head in the middle of a pile of zombie bits. Scooby's tearing into an arm, now; Velma will tell herself it's not Daphne's until the day she dies.

If Scooby still talked, she'd ask how it happened, how he let it happen, why she with her total lack of protection was fine, but Daphne's guns and Scooby-Doo's help weren't enough. Sometimes, she's glad he doesn't talk any more.

*

The infestation gets worse and worse. They need to resupply, low on food and gas and bullets, and maybe find somewhere to sleep that's a little more comfortable than the back of the van, but every time they stop, every time it's quiet enough Velma feels relatively safe getting out of the van, they're ambushed.

And every time, they fight off the horde, turn the shambling bloodthirsty masses into piles of dog food, but Velma's tired, and hungry, and her arms are so scratched up she can't see any skin for all the dried blood, and every minute it gets harder to swing her machete.

So she gives up for now, leaves the van where it is and climbs in the back with Scooby. He's restless, more than he usually is after so many kills, pacing the back of the van and butting his head against her arm. Against the same arm, in the same spot, and - oh. Velma hates to do it, but she uses one of their precious water bottles to rinse off her upper arm, expose the spot Scooby-Doo's so fixated on.

The wound is huge, open, ragged around the edges. It looks like - Velma can't even form the word in her head, gets as far as bi- and shuts down. It can't be, because she would have noticed if she got bitten, if any zombie mouths got that close to her arm. Still.

"Scooby," she says, in a voice too shaky with hunger and exhaustion to be as steady as she wants it to be. "Scooby, if this is a - if it's - Scooby, if I turn, you need to kill me."

The words come surprisingly easily. Of all the things Velma never, ever expected to say to their big, friendly, dumb dog, those might be top of the list.

"When it starts," she says. "You have to - I don't want to be like that. I don't - you have to."

Scooby still doesn't talk, just rests his head on her knee and looks up at her with eyes more solemn than she would have given him credit, even now, for being able to be.

*

In Velma's dreams that night, Shaggy and Fred and Daphne are alive, are fine, and Scooby-Doo is with them, dopey-sweet and talking. And Velma chases them down, one by one, mostly zombie but still human enough to know exactly what she's doing.

*

Velma wakes up with a pounding headache, so hungry she feels like it's been years since she last ate, and with dream-Scooby's sad Relma? echoing in her ears. Every joint and muscle aches when she sits up, but her arm - in the light of day, it looks fine. Not fine, but not...not.

"Come on, Scoob," she says, while she ties a scrap of fabric - green, bright green, must be Shaggy's shirt she ripped for her bandage. "We've got work to do."