It had been just the two of them for weeks, and it felt like even longer. Tonight was a barricaded house they'd been brave enough - hungry enough - to take back from the dead family that had obviously thought they were safe.
The broken window on the bottom floor said otherwise. But, it was easy enough to board up and they figured they wouldn't be there long enough to draw much attention. The house was shelter, and there was enough food to make staying a day or two worthwhile.
"Don't eat so fast, dude... you'll get sick." Wyatt narrowed his eyes at the man sitting beside him on the floor, when Eddie grinned at him around a mouthful of peaches - heavy syrup dripping down his chin - he made a soft sound of disgust.
"Fucking peaches..." Eddie sighed, scooping another section even as Wyatt glared at him. "I know, I know... be thankful for what I've got..."
Hiding his can in his jacket a long moment, Wyatt finally produced the once mocked blue and yellow can with a smirk; "Who wants meat?" He paused, popping open the can as though uncovering some miracle.
"Jesus, meat..." Eddie set aside what little remained of his peaches and slid close enough to his friend to nearly climb into his lap; "I don't remember the last time I ate meat."
Wyatt remembers, despite attempts to burn it from his memory, they weren't the only ones in camp that went to bed reminding themselves that at least it wasn't human. Waving aside the memory with a shudder under his grubby jacket, he handed Eddie a scavenged fork and took a bite before his friend could. The salty, meaty, almost-ham flavor was enough to crush any lingering Spam jokes he would have made before the world went to shit.
"Man, this would be awesome if..." Eddie started, his mouth full.
Wyatt cut him off, "It's electric. And I'm not starting a fire this close to the city." It was sensible; they barely made it out of town alive between the dead and the living.
"Sucks..." Eddie responded quietly.
A lull passed between them as they savored each bite with small groans of what little pleasure they could derive out of it. It was only the low, rumbling growl that caught their attention as they finished it off.
"Shit dude..." Eddie whispered, tracking the sound to a pair of shining yellow eyes at the top of the stairs in the nearly dark room." It's a cougar!"
"It's not a cougar..." Wyatt whispered, catching movement beyond the glow of their survival candle. "Why would it be a cougar?"
"Whatever it is, it's definitely not happy..." Eddie said after it let out a low yowl.
"Probably starving..." Wyatt whispered, pushing up on his feet; "Lucky its owners didn't get it when they went feral."
Eddie laughed nervously, he hadn't seen a cat since... well, not alive anyway.
"Hey there kitty..." Wyatt whispered, met with another tense growl. "It's all right little dude, we're alive... and not looking for a meal..."
"Shut up, you'll scare it off." Wyatt hissed, catching a flash of a long ginger tail whipping aggressively. "Here kitty kitty..."
"Dude, there's catfood of the back porch, like a case of it!"
"And you're sitting on your ass? Dick."
"Fine... fine..." Eddie muttered, adjusting his beanie as he got up. "I'm taking the axe."
"Go." Wyatt inched forward, standing at the bottom of the stairs where he could see the rail-thin feline in the shadows, its fur bristling as it let out another warning yowl. "It's okay dude, we've got yummy catfood..."
"Shit. Shit. Shit." Eddie's voice hissed into a high pitched whimper as he slammed the door closed. "We got company."
Wyatt sighed, watching the twitchy cat disappear deeper into the dark at the slam. "Please tell me they're dead." At least he knew Eddie wasn't panicking, so it couldn't be that big of a threat.
"One on the porch, two in the yard. They totally saw me."
The dead ones were stupid at least, slow... and he didn't feel so bad about doing what they had to do. Wyatt considered the gun for a moment, but they didn't need a dozen more coming toward the noise if they planned to stay the night. "Ok... feeling decent?" They had food and water in their system, which was more than they could have said the day before.
"Fuck no. Little asshole can starve, I'm not going out there."
Wyatt frowned, offering a look that they both knew meant they were going to feed the damn cat.
"I mean it; you can risk your own neck for the rabid fleabag..."
"Fine." Wyatt shot back, "Good luck sleeping in the car tonight. Alone."
Eddie crossed his arms; "You so wouldn't."
Mirroring the crossed arms, Wyatt stood firm. "I'm not the one who needs to cuddle to fall asleep."
"Not fair, dude."
"I'm going with or without you." Wyatt snatched the gore spattered hand axe from Eddie's hand and headed toward the back door.
"Christ dude, I can't believe you're risking your skin for a kitty."
"Nobody deserves to starve to death because they don't have thumbs, man." Wyatt shrugged.
Eddie didn't respond. When Wyatt opened the door a crack to peer out, he came up behind him and whispered; "What's the plan?"
A half-smile stretched Wyatt's lips despite the grim sight outside, "You distract them, and I’ll grab the box and kill anything that gets too close."
"Oh great. I'm bait." Eddie sighed, "Again."
"You got a better idea?"
The smaller man was already climbing on top of the sink and opening the only window not boarded on the bottom floor to climb out.
It should have been easy, but like everything else since the world went to shit it wasn't. There weren't three, but there was no way Eddie could have seen the two shambling around the corner of the house toward the porch as Wyatt grabbed the box. One guy could stay out of reach of three of them pretty easily, leading them in a wide circle around the yard's fence, but when he saw the pair heading straight for Wyatt he knew they had to get while they still could.
"Watch your back!" Eddie called as quietly as he could, trying to keep just out of reach of both the fence and the dead.
Wyatt, hearing the words but missing what his friend had said, picked up the box and looked up to gesture for his partner to make a run for the door when he was grabbed - impossibly strong fingers catching his jacket and yanking hard enough to send the axe down the stairs leading up to the porch. Startled, Wyatt lurched backward and fell hard, dragging the dead man over the railing and on top of him - clawing and biting.
Eddie's blood ran cold, a surge of adrenaline rocketing through his system as he took off across the yard. Snapping up the axe, he jumped the busted steps to plant it as deep as he could in the head that was perilously close to taking a bite of his only friend.
"Behind you!" Wyatt cried, pushing the dead thing off him, the axe stuck in its skull.
"Unarmed here, run!"
Scrambling on all fours, Wyatt crawled back through the open door and flopped down onto his back, kicking the door closed as soon as he saw Eddie's dirty sneakers by his head. "That could have gone better."
Gasping for breath, Eddie said, "Tell me you weren't fucking bit. I swear to god..."
"I'm fine..." Wyatt closed his eyes in an attempt to steady his racing pulse. "You fine?"
"Not dead yet."
"Good," Wyatt breathed, "Uh... okay... plan B."
"Fuck plan B." Eddie shot back, dropping the heavy box on Wyatt's chest, offering a wild grin when the other man's eyes popped open. "You owe me a whole can of Spam for that. And a blowjob."
Laying there a long moment, equal parts exhausted and shocked that Eddie had even thought to grab the box in the struggle. "You lost the axe."
"You have better upper body strength." Eddie smirked, offering a hand to help him up off the floor. "I saved your ass."
"Fine." Wyatt rolled his eyes, accepting the hand up. "I'm gonna feed the cat."
It was pretty much insane, but what wasn't anymore? Eddie fished a prized can out of the pack with their shared food supply and retrieved his fork, savoring the food as he watched Wyatt climb one stair and then the another - watching in curious fascination as the cat circled the open can, taking tentative sniffs until the larger man slumped back down beside him.
"Watch this..." Wyatt smirked, opening a second can of oceanfish delight and setting it down beside him; "my Mom used to collect strays when the free clinic came around."
"You're fucking nuts." Eddie replied around a big bite. "We almost died for a cat."
Answering with only a shrug, Wyatt shucked off his grimy jacket to check out the finger-bone bruises on his wrist. After a long moment, he let himself relax into Eddie's comforting shoulder and close his eyes. "I was bluffing; I wouldn't make you sleep in the car."
Eddie chuckled, "I know. Asshole."
The quiet stretched comfortably between them and as soon as the first can was gone, the cat disappeared once more into the darkness. Satisfied the creature was fed, and lulled by Eddie's rhythmic sleep-breathing beside him, Wyatt let himself drift off for their usual fitful light sleep.
Awakened some time later, Eddie couldn't help but have a sleepy grin when he felt something fuzzy and stiff push under his palm. "Damn Wy... can't wait till morning..." he murmured, closing his fingers to find something round and purring that was definitely not Wyatt. Startled, he opened his eyes to find the warm ball of fur curled up next to him, nudging its head under his palm somewhat eagerly. "Aww... hey there kitty dude."
"Hmm?" Wyatt answered with a groggy groan.
The cat licked its chops, purring all the more contently when Eddie scratched behind his ears.
"Kitty!" Eddie cooed, laughing a little louder, "I think your cat likes me."
"Kitty?" Wyatt opened one eye, looking over his friend down to where the cat snuggled closer. "Aww... that's kind of cute."
"Yeah, eat it up while it lasts... I gotta piss."
"Dude. Way to ruin the moment."
"We're having a moment?" Eddie faked a groan. "I told you, we're not allowed to have moments."
Wyatt reached across his lap, gently stroking the thin cat's back. "Just a little longer man, I need this."
Sweeping his scratching fingers around the collar that hung loose around the cat's neck, Eddie let himself smile and kissed Wyatt's cheek. "You owe me, dude."