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The beginning after the end

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I said, “Let’s find a roof.”

She said, “Let’s find a bed.”

And the thing is, it wasn’t something I would ever have thought I would have any objections to, and, in fact, I didn't really—finding a bed still sounded like a fantastic idea, and getting into that bed with Amy sounded like an even better one.

The only problem, and I wasn’t even sure I could call it a problem, except for in all of the ways that John is always a problem—the only complication was John, and even he was acting very uncomplicated and non-problematic as he said, “Alright, friends, be well, go with god, good luck on your quest, don’t do anything I wouldn't do, I’m gonna go check and see if my apartment’s still there.”

It’s not like it was a surprise—John is many things, but he was not then and has never been a cockblock, and Amy had said the word bed with a very specific inflection, one which, again, I had not then and have never since been known to object to, and John knew both of us well enough to notice.

Again, I know, it’s hard to figure out what about that moment was so problematic.

The problem, if I felt like being honest, which I really, really didn’t, was that after the day we’d had—hell, after the last week, after this whole, stupid episode, I was having kind of a hard time liking the idea of letting John out of my sight.

Well, John or Amy, definitely, but I had built in reasons for not wanting to let go of Amy that didn't sound weird or inappropriate, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to justify the same for John.

So when he turned down the street to his apartment, leaving Amy and I to our own devices, I shouted, “Wait!” and then realized I’d have to come up with some kind of follow-up statement if my goal was anything besides John turning around to blink stupidly at me, while Amy turned toward me with a look I couldn’t read.

“We could grab breakfast, first? Or—” I looked up at the rapidly darkening sky, “dinner? Breakfast for dinner? Then you can go and do your thing, and we,” I tightened an arm muddied from digging Molly’s grave around Amy’s waist, “Can go find a bed while you go see if anyone looted that shithole of yours.”

John nodded, which was also predictable—the day John turns down waffles and a fuckton of bacon is the day I check to make sure he hasn’t been replaced by a monster-clone of himself—but Amy, equally predictably, noticed the flaw in the plan.

“Where do you think is going to be open?” she asked. “What restaurant do you think is even going to have any food to serve that didn’t go bad when the town lost electricity, never mind where has enough employees that didn’t get slaughtered in all this?”

“Then we drive out of town,” I said, getting a little desperate then, because breakfast really had been the best, non-crazy-sounding reason I could come up with. “I’m sure there’s a car around that we can borrow or steal—”

“Or John could just take us both home to his bed,” Amy said, leaning even closer into me as the rain pounded down, but looking at John, all thoughtful-intense eye-contact.

“What?” I asked, and, I can admit it now, my voice got a little higher than its normal register.

It was enough to get Amy darting her eyes back my way. “Why not?” she asked. “Nothing you haven’t done before, right?”

And there it was. I remember, I blinked my eyes closed long enough to feel at least five individual raindrops smash against my right eyelid (I wasn’t counting the ones on my left because why bother, right?), and let me tell you, the eyelid is a finite and angled surface, that number of drops hitting that motherfucker is a pretty good indicator that a palpable pause happened while my eyes were closed. It was a palpable pause that was totally justified, though. It was the palpable pause of the other shoe dropping. I knew, I knew even as I did it months ago that I would regret telling Amy about the time John and Jen and I had a threesome.

While I was taking that pause, that moment to reflect and get rained on and reflect some more, John whooped out a laugh and told me, “She’s got you there, dude,” and, “I’m down if you guys really are.”

“Of course we are,” Amy replied to him as I was blinking my eyes open, which, I was pretty sure even then, was pretty bad threesome/more-long-term-threeway etiquette, answering for me like that. I tugged my arm away from her a little bit, and she let me go, and she blushed, but she didn't say anything else, like she was waiting for me to contradict her if I didn't want to be a part of this plan. Clearly I wasn’t going to get any sanity from her. Which was weird and out of character, but I guessed getting caught up in a zombie outbreak and then having to help save the world via facebook and then watching your dog die could do that to a person.

I turned to John then, because while he’s usually not the best person to go to for sanity, he is generally pretty good for not involving me in bizarre sexual situations (just bizarre every-other-kind-of-situations) and for not radically changing his personality in the face of fucked-up shit.

The shit that had been fucking us up for the last few weeks or so must have completely bypassed John’s usual threshold, though—that, or wanting me and Amy in his bed wasn’t actually that radical of a change from normal—because he looked at me and he said, “Dave, there were a couple of times when I was pretty sure you were dead, man. And not even, like, regular-dead, either—torn-apart-and-brains-splattered, brain-hijacked-by-monsters kind of dead.”

“What the hell?” Amy asked, staring at John like he was threatening something instead of just working through the aftermath of it.

“What? He isn’t.” he told her.

“Yeah, but you didn't tell me that’s what you were thinking,” she told him, eyes blazing, “You were thinking this when you were flaking out on me after we went back to my dorm, right?” John nodded, a little actual shame detectable in his face, and I had the sudden thought that, whatever weird thing we might be thinking about doing as the three of us, Amy might back out of it before John finished trying to convince me he was in.

“Yeah, but, like, I couldn't tell you,” John told her, and for this part of the conversation, I might as well have been dead, I was so little a part of it—like these were things they needed to say just to each other. “You’d have run off and done—something like what you did. Something that could have got you killed. Dead-Dave wouldn’t have wanted that.”

And that? That kind of did it for me. There they were, this crooked-toothed, long-haired dumbass with a death wish who’d flown an entire automobile through the air to come break me out of a prison surrounded by robot killing-machines, just taking it on faith that I wasn’t a monster even after I’d proved that I was by once killing and replacing a former, non-genetically-engineered version of myself, and this firecracker redhead of a girl who ran head-first into danger even when she thought the situation on the inside hadn’t been so bad, because she would never ever abandon someone she’d chosen as hers, this girl who was so good that just deciding I had to try and think like her made me able to save the world.

There they were, the two most important people in my life, the two people I wouldn’t know how to live without, and all of the sudden, I knew what Amy must have meant. All of the sudden, it all felt very simple.

“Right,” I told them, clapping my hands together in a way that momentarily reminded me of the way my adoptive mother used to as she started cooking a meal, an image so horrifying in this particular context that I then buried it deep in my subconscious with the hope that nothing I did would ever remind me of it again, “Okay, yeah. Let’s go see if John’s still got an apartment, and if he does, let’s go fuck in it.”

After, my phone rang.

This was particularly strange, because John had had my phone in his pocket since I used it to leave him a message on the seat of that borrowed motorcycle over a week ago, and it that time, it certainly hadn't been charged.

It was even stranger because somewhere in the period where the three of us were fighting a magically summoned buffalo in the middle of an abandoned burger restaurant on our way to knock out a cell reception blocker, John had stopped, dropped and, probably unnecessarily, rolled, and smashed both the screen and a significant portion of the plastic casing. There was no possible, earthly reason why the phone should still have worked.

I leaned across Amy’s drowsy, post-coital form to dig through the pocket of John’s discarded, filthy jeans, fish out the shattered phone and press the ‘answer’ button.

Since there was no screen, there was no way to know who was calling, but the determination of the call to come through even given the state of the phone gave me some idea.

“Hello,” I said.

“Dave? Dave you’ve got to get over here, there’s a—there’s this thing here, Dave, you won’t believe me if I tell you what it looks like so I’m not going to tell you, but I don’t think I’ll make it out of this apartment alive if you don’t come and bring me some kind of weapon,” a slightly younger version of John’s voice told me, voice a little high and squeaky with fear.

I looked over at our contemporary John, who was lying on his stomach and looked like he was pretty much out cold, shimmied down low on the bed so his feet, ankles and calves stuck out off the foot, dangling into the air, one arm slung across my thighs so the palm rested on Amy’s ankle where her knees were pulled up to her chest, her body turned towards me.

Our contemporary John had just fallen into the rest that comes at the end when something crazy and terrible happens and you somehow manage to make it out alive. The John on the other end of my phone was in the panicked, vibrating-horror phase of his very first crazy and terrible moment. In the peace and exhaustion of my own mind at that moment, I felt like I could afford to keep my voice calm and even and tell him, “John, I’m pretty sure I’m on my way, or that I was on my way by the point where you are. It’s going to be okay,” I told him, only adding occasionally, for a while, in the privacy of my own mind, where it couldn't do any harm.

The John on the other end of the phone call sighed like my moment of being reassuring had actually managed to reassure him, and told me, “I knew I could count on you, buddy.”

“Yeah,” I told him, “Always.” Then I flicked off the already clearly dead and broken phone with my thumb, dropped it onto the floor and flopped back onto the bed.

Amy cracked open an eye and scooched closer again, until her curled up body was a ball of warmth against my side, her head resting on my shoulder. “What was that?” she asked me, voice dazed and sleepy.

“Oh, just our past catching up with us,” I told her.

John was the one who roused himself from an apparent stupor to respond to that one, raising his head slowly and grimmacingly, like it weighed a hundred pounds, and asking me, “Didn’t I tell you you’d be getting calls from me from that night for the next eight years?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I flicked his stupid forehead with my middle finger and thumb because he was being an asshole and he knew it, and he should know that I knew it too. Then I combed my fingers through the front part of his greasy been-through-fire-and-brimstone-since-he-last-washed-it hair, because shut up, that’s why. Because you get to do that with anyone who sounded like they were almost sobbing just before you made them come not twenty minutes before, anyone who whispered, I thought you were dead, Dave against your skin as you fell apart under his hands and your girlfriend’s mouth, whether that ‘anyone’ is your crazy asshole of a childhood best friend or not. I ran my thumb across the line of his eyebrow because he was there and alive and I fucking wanted to, dammit.

I felt Amy’s breath against my shoulder and groped with my other hand to find hers, before closing it lightly around her left wrist, just above where her hand would have been. I looked away from John just long enough to kiss the top of her head, remind myself that, yes, they were both here, both alive, both beside me, before I told John, “I should just change my number one of these days. Let the next sucker to have it deal with the next two years of your random, first-night-on-soy-sauce, time-displaced, dipshit tweaker phonecalls. Maybe I will. Maybe when I get a new phone, because that one is totally finished, I’ll get a new number with it.”

“Sure you will,” John said, flopping right back down face-first onto the mattress.

“You don’t believe me?” I asked, warming to my indignation a bit. “You just watch me, I’ll do it.”

“We believe you, babe,” Amy told me, her voice dropping into that pitch that always means I am actually asleep, but am humoring you by agreeing so you will shut up.

Listen to the lady,” John told me, sounding, if possible, even groggier than before, and really, I needed to get in on this ‘sleep’ thing, I was exhausted down to my bones.

“I always do,” I told him, certain he’d be too far gone to even hear me. As if in response, that was when I heard him start to snore.

And that was it, that was the end of the zombie apocalypse for me. I lay down on the corner of the pillow that Amy wasn’t hogging and I let my eyes close, John snoring on one side of me, Amy curled up in a taught ball of girl-who-has-watched-too-many-people-die-this-week on my other. I let my eyes close and I fell asleep, and I didn't wake up until 36 hours later, and by the time I did, most of the restaurants that served breakfast in town had already reopened. Nothing like a crisis of supernatural proportions to send people scurrying after the comfort food, especially since not everyone is willing to replace comfort food with threesomes when trying to reassure themselves that the world can make sense again.

Most of them should probably try it though, at least once. It worked really well for us.