Chapter 1: Into the Dark
Rain splattered against the windshield, wipers doing little to clear the obstruction. It was simply coming down too hard. I need a better prescription, John thought nervously as he squinted at the road through his square glasses. It was revealed to him only in the small oval of light the headlights cast. It was almost completely pitch black out, thanks to the storm, and it was getting harder and harder to see. Harder to stay awake, too. He'd been driving nonstop for three hours now, and his travelling companion could do little now to keep him awake. John glanced over at him, concern in his eyes.
Dave was asleep in the passenger's seat, his arms crossed over his chest, head nodding quietly against his chest. The hours upon hours he had driven them that day had taken their toll - dark bags hung under his eyes like bruises against his pale skin. It had taken one hell of an argument to get the stubborn man to pull over and let John take a turn driving, but the moment they'd got back on the road, Dave fell straight to sleep. John wished he could take off the gas mask that obstructed the bottom half of the ginger boy's face - he was sure his friend's sleeping face would be adorable - but it was far to risky.
He turned his gaze back to the road and adjusted the strap of his own mask with one hand. It wasn't actually risky to remove them, he reminded himself. They were fine in the car, especially out on a winding country road like this - there were barely any people around at all. But even pulling the mask down for a moment filled John with a sense of terror that he could not control. It was too deeply engrained at this point. Besides, this wasn't even their car. Who knows what could have happened in it last - what horrible gases and diseases could be floating around them right now. John squirmed in his seat, the very thought making his skin crawl and his heart pound. What if - oh gosh, he just couldn't stand it. "Dave... Dave, wake up..."
Dave stirred but did not obey, turning his head away from John and making an irritated face before going back to sleep. John waited a moment, glancing from him to the road and back. When his friend did not wake, he frowned and touched Dave's shoulder, giving him a small shake. "Dave-"
The deer came out of nowhere, and John didn't have time to react. He screamed and his foot slammed on the break. There was a thunk and the poor thing went flying, body skidding down the road and out of the circle of headlights. John sat there, gasping for breath, his knuckles white as he clenched the steering wheel, pressed back into his seat as far as the hot leather would allow.
"John, what the fuck, man?" Dave had woken up and was looking at his crazy car-mate in horror and mild disgust.
"S-Sorry," John whimpered. And then he began to shake, eyes welling up. "Oh gosh, s-sorry... T-The deer just... surprised me. I-I didn't... Oh gosh..."
"John, calm down, it's okay," Dave soothed him. He was much more comforting now that he'd had a second to wake up. He put an arm around John, pulling his friend in to his chest.
John shook, crying quietly into Dave's shirt for a while. He felt silly, crying like this over a deer with everything else that was going on, but... He couldn't help it. His nerves were a rattly jangled mess and Dave was the only thing that could ever make him feel safe. His best friend in the whole world. His only friend in the world, really. He felt so safe in Dave's strong arms. Like all the rest of this horrible world did not matter.
"I should go out and check. Make sure the engine's okay."
John's heart stopped at Dave's words. The motor had gone silent, even though John had not shut off the car. And it couldn't be stalled - it was an automatic. The taste of fear began to rise up in his throat. "No, you can't!" He sat up, eyes pleading, his hands clenched tightly in the fabric of Dave's shirt. "D-Don't go out there. It's dark. W-We don't know what could be out there. J-Just stay..."
"We have to keep moving." Dave shook his head. As scared as John was, and as much as he hated making him like this, they could not just sit here. "I'll just be out there for a minute, okay?"
"No! Not okay! D-Dave, w-we can just stay here. S-Stop for the night, get some sleep. You've barely slept at all lately." John pulled his mask down around his neck, looking up at Dave pleadingly. "Don't risk it..."
"John, we can't just - Hey! Put your mask back on." Dave tried to push the mask back over his mouth and nose but the other man shied away from it, shaking his head stubbornly. "We can't stay here, John," Dave sighed, tugging his own mask down so he could give him a properly stern look, his uncommon red eyes meeting John's watery blue ones. "I know you're scared, but if we stay here, we're sitting ducks. They'll find us. You know they will."
Shoulders hunching up, his eyes dropped down to his lap. Dave was right. He was always right. How did he always stay so cool and logical, no matter how scary the situation? It was amazing. He looked out the car window, into the crushing black night. The scant light in the car, thrown by the dashboard lights, wasn't quite enough to illuminate the raindrops as the fell, but the glass was wavy and distorted from the water of the storm. At least it might cover their scent if they exited the car, John considered miserably. If there are any around, they might not smell us... John turned back to Dave, opening his mouth to say something more - but Dave silenced him with a long, warm kiss.
John's eyes fluttered shut and he relaxed into it, his tongue rubbing back against Dave's. It made his heart warm - that he and Dave were such close friends. Dave made him feel so safe and loved, and in return, John gave him kisses and cheered him up when he got angry or sad. Which did happen more and more often now - it made sense. Dave had lost so much lately. And John wished he could do more for him. A sad sound escaped his lips when Dave finally broke apart from him, reclining his seat back so he could crawl into the back of the car. John twisted, looking after him. "I-I'm going out there with you."
Dave glanced back at John, busy getting together a flashlight and a tool box, just in case. There was no point in arguing with John about that. As much as he wanted John to stay in the car, he needed a lookout in case something decided to sneak up on him while he was fixing the car. He sighed, passing John a loaded shotgun from the back seat. "Grab a flashlight," he told the other gruffly before pulling on a raincoat - as dorky and un-ironic as it was, he'd rather not get soaked out there. He pulled his gas mask back up, nose wrinkling at the smell of being encased in that stinking rubber. He hated it, but it was necessary. He didn't want his fucking brains to melt or his skin turn grey and cadavery. That would be a goddamn billion on the one-to-ten scale of Not Cool, Bro. He stepped out into the rain, right into a puddle. He swore as the water seeped through his converse and into his socks, chilling his toes. Just perfect. He made sure the door was locked - he'd get back in on the passenger's seat side, and didn't want any unwanted visitors sneaking into his car while they were trying to fix it. He stomped around to the front of the car, glad that John had the sense to pop the hood for him before getting out himself.
John hurried to meet Dave at the front of the car, holding the shotgun in shakey hands. His eyes moved rapidly and he peered out into the dark, keeping his back to the car. He avoided looking into the light that the headlights were still casting. Dave had taught him early on that doing so would kill his night vision, and so now he was very careful to keep his eyes on the shadows. Thee more he stared, the more he could begin to make out - the grass at the side of the road, a few rocks and a barbed-wire fence - they were in farm country for sure. He swallowed, walking carefully around the edge of the light while Dave worked. He looked out to the other side of the road, but could discern nothing different there. The hiss of the rain covered up any sounds of nature, the farms, or whatever horrid creatures lurked in the night, just beyond the range of his vision. He nervously adjusted the strap of his gas mask, tightening it and trying to create a better seal. He looked down the road, suddenly remembering that poor deer he'd hit. He felt awful for forgetting it, but there had been more pressing matters on hand. He walked to the edge of the light, down the road, peering into the dark. It couldn't have flown that far off. He'd only been going about sixty when he'd hit it, so the body should be nearby. His eyes slowly began to adjust to the dark, but he still couldn't see it. Where could it have gone? It didn't get up and run off, did it?
"John, I'm done." Dave was right behind John when he spoke, making him jump. "What are you looking for?"
"J-Jeeze..." John put a hand to his chest, feeling the pounding of his own heart. He gestured into the darkness. "Wondering where the deer went. It should be nearby."
"Does it matter? S'not like we can eat the damn thing," Dave pointed out, always the ruthless one. But he was curious too. He pulled out his flashlight and pointed it down the road. He walked forward, John following him hesitantly. When he could no longer see properly, he flicked on the light.
Five pairs of orange eyes reflected back at them in the sudden burst of light. The infected crouched over the deer, blood dripping form their pale grey lips and hands - they'd ripped the animal apart - glistening red entrails poured out over the road. They stared back at the two horrified boys, surprised themselves. But the surprise did not last long. Lips pulled back from receded gums and red-stained teeth, their hisses audible even over the rain. Only when they rose to their feet and began to stumble towards John and Dave did the two men break from their paralysis.
"RUN!" John screamed, grabbing Dave and sprinting back toward the car. He could hear the infected coming after them, running. He let go of Dave's hand, running to the driver's side door. He yanked it but it didn't budge. STUPID! He'd locked the car! He dropped the gun, fumbling in his pockets for the keys oh god, oh god. His hands would not stop shaking - it was too late. The fastest infected - a large male - charged at him, the bony yellow protrusions on his head making him look like the devil himself. John stumbled back and fell into a puddle, his elbows jarring painfully against the wet asphalt. "Dave!"
The cry did not go unheeded. Dave shoved back the infected that had pounced on him, his head whipping around at the same time that his gun did - he never went unarmed. One bullet to the head of that man who dared charge at his John. That's all it ever took. He turned back to his own fight, firing a single shot into the eye of his attacker, her brains exploding out the back of her head into the night.
It's not like these people were beyond hope. They were just sick. But that was not important right then. Cool and efficient, Dave took out the slower three, each with a simple, painless headshot. It was the merciful way to do it, at least. Finally, he lowered his gun, listening to the quiet hiss of the rain, and John's hysterical sobbing from the other side of the car. Finally satisfied that his gunshots had not attracted any others, he walked around the front of the car. It was easy to jerk John back to his feet by the arm - the other man was a useless mess at the moment. Dave had to clench a mental fist around his heart - there was no time for comforting him now. John needed to pull himself together or they'd never make it to help in one piece. "Give me the keys and get in the car," he growled, giving John a shake to make him focus.
John blinked his huge teary eyes and nodded dumbly, handing over the keys. He picked up his shotgun, a heavy sense of shame welling up in him. He got in on the passenger's side and curled up in the seat, letting Dave take charge once again. He'd really screwed up this time. "Sorry," he murmured miserably, pulling his feet up on to the seat and wrapping his arms around his knees as Dave got in and started up the car.
"It's okay, man," Dave sighed, not even bothering to steer around the bodies. He drove straight over them, his face grim. "Just don't lock ALL the car doors next time."
"R-Right." John felt so very very stupid. Dave had taught him better than that in the months they'd been running together. It was a stupid mistake. A stupid, foolish mistake that could have killed them both. Sometimes he wondered why Dave even kept him around. Sure, they were friends, but he was a liability at this point. A warm hand interrupted his dark spiral of shame and self-loathing, fingers intertwining with his own. He looked over at Dave lovingly, smile hidden by his mask, but obvious in his eyes. Liability or no, Dave would not abandon him. With Dave, he was safe. No matter what. He leaned back in his seat, keeping Dave's hand in his own and watching the others face as the adrenaline wore off and he grew tired. John's eyes began to droop shut, but he didn't have to worry. Dave's eyes would never leave the road. "Thanks for saving me again, Dave," he mumbled, drifting off.
"Of course," was Dave's grunt of a reply. He glanced over at John, now fast asleep and his eyes grew strangely wet. It was quickly blinked away and the red gaze returned to the road. "I love you," he said, though it might as well have been to himself. The road twisted off into the distance, and took them away. Neither of them knew where, and neither had any place to go to. They just kept going. It felt now like it's all they'd ever done. In a couple hours, the sun would begin to rise behind them, but Dave kept driving west, into the dark.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Timing
BREAKING NEWS: ALTR-VIRUS NOW GLOBAL - MILLIONS DIE IN PANDEMIC. IS THIS THE END OF THE WORLD?
Survivors live in fear as the hateful virus spreads, mutating loved ones and twisting them into evil creatures, bent on devouring living flesh. Populations dwindle as the infected stalk the earth. The cure has yet to be found. Will John and Dave survive?
"If you were patient enough, and lucky enough to find the right timing, the hell-hole provided a unique opportunity. It was like this place - this world - had been made for him, rising up from the chaos of his anti-social dreams like a gift from the dark Messiah himself." - Gamzee Makara, Graverobber
Homestuck AU with trolls as humans.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Silence drifted through the grey streets along with the fog. The abandoned skyscrapers clustered together in impossible labyrinths of alleyways and empty streets. Shop windows were broken or boarded up. The parks were empty and the normally pristine grass was long, swaying faintly in a small breeze. Plants were beginning to poke up through some of the pavement, causing deep cracks and crevices - treacherous footing if one was not careful. There were no cars driving to deter the rapid growth. They sat parked at the sides of the street, or lined up at stoplights, never moving, even when the light turned green.
The city was frozen. As if all the people in it had just drifted away, up above the fog and the smog one day, finally leaving the world in peace. But that was not the case. He had seen it. He knew where the people had gone. He knew what had happened to them, and he knew it had been a long time coming. It was judgement time.
See, first, the people had begun to get sick. They'd turn pale. Grey-like. Get all feverish and hot. They'd slip into a coma. Some would die - just slip off into the darkness inside themselves, but others would sleep. Just sleep and sleep and sleep. His old man had gone into the sleep. He'd collapsed on the floor of that shit-house they'd been squatting in, and he just wouldn't wake up, no matter what you did to him. Then one day, while you're tending over your loved one like a good kid, they do wake up. Screaming. And all that's showing of their eyes is the whites, except they ain't white any more. Bloodshot and orange-y. Wrong.
The newspaper said it makes your brain swell up like a motherfucking melon, ready to burst. And that's what makes them mad. Flesh-hungry. And the longer you're sick, the worse it gets. And then the bone spurs start poppin' up outta your skull. That's how you could tell that a person was really far gone. They get these big-ass horns-
Gamzee broke out of his reverie, popping up from his crouch by the end of the turned-over bus. He'd been staking out the park across the street for a good two hours now, watching the infected from across the street. When the virus first struck, so many people were dying that the city morgues just couldn't keep up. Mass graves had to be set up, like it was fucking Medieval England with the Black Plague and all that shit. This park held one such grave, but it was less a place of rest for the dead now and more like a great big feeding ground for the flesh-hungry infected that now ran the place. But if you were patient enough, and lucky enough to find the right timing, the hell-hole provided a unique opportunity. It was like this place - this world - had been made for him, rising up from the chaos of his anti-social dreams like a gift from the dark Messiah himself.
Gamzee slipped around behind the bus and crawled into it through a broken window, crawling across the ceiling to watch now. The pack had noticed something on the far side of the park, and they were beginning to move, staggering in that awkward half-dead run away from the hole at the centre of the park. "Fresh flesh is best," Gamzee chuckled to himself, tightening the bandana he wore over his mouth and nose. It was crude means of protection, but the white cloth had been the best he was able to find at the moment to protect him from the airborne strain of the virus. Gas masks were hard to come by and expensive, being in such high demand. He waited as long as he could before slipping back out of the bus - the infected appeared to have all moved away. He grabbed his long-handled shovel, just in case and took off, still crouched low.
He stopped, back pressed against a tree just by the edge of the grave. God, the stench of rotting flesh got him, even through his bandana, making his eyes water. He peeked around the tree with a grin - the coast was clear - and leapt down into the hole.
The drop was only six feet or so, but it made his knees smart when his feet hit the ground. But that hardly mattered. "Jackpot," he exclaimed to himself. He pulled a pillowcase out of his baggy jeans and, like a greedy kid at Halloween, began to pick out his loot. The bodies were piled on top of each other, like some sick, horrific orgy, eyes peacefully shut, their skin torn and maimed by the ones who fed upon them. Gamzee went through pockets, digging out cash, change - anything of value. A nice pair of shoes went in, a pair of earrings, a wedding ring and some necklaces.
And then he saw it - up near the top of the pile - a gas mask. Some poor dead fucker had just made Gamzee's day. He stuck his shovel into the pile, using it to help haul himself up, like a hiker with a walking stick. It was disturbing - the feeling of soft, rotten flesh and brittle bones creaking and shifting under the thin soles of his shoes. He shook his head, footsteps making the smell waft up even worse. "Worth it," he reminded himself, crouching next to the cadaver with the gas mask. He glanced around, eyes on the alert for the sound of approaching infected. No sign of the hoard yet. He smirked, loosening the straps on the mask. The cadaver looked fresh, though a little grey, but he didn't want its head coming off with the mask. He grabbed and yanked it off, holding up his prize. The cadaver jerked and gasped, yellowed eyes wide. "SHIT!!" Gamzee screamed with shock, falling backward.
He tumbled end over end to the bottom of the pile, world going black for a moment as his head bashed into the ground. "Uughh~" He moaned, vision slowly swimming back to him. He could hear the infected coming, slowly stumbling down toward its prey. Gamzee blinked, clearing his head with a shake. "Motherfuck!" He sat up and dove to the side, just as the monster pounced. It shrieked, enraged, and slashed out at him with dirty, overgrown fingernails. He scrambled back to his feet, the world reeling around him. He felt sick. "Bro, chill the fuck out. It's not like you need it!" He clung to the mask, backing away from the angry grey man. This didn't seem to calm him any. Again it charged him, this time much faster now that they had solid dirt footing. Gamzee cursed, booking it around the pile of bodies. The pit was deep - too deep for him to pull himself out of it without that asshole catching his legs. He hadn't thought this through at all. He giggled, then laughed, shaking his head at his own stupidity. It was all one big motherfucking joke at his own expense, wasn't it. He turned sharply, scrambling up the pile a quickly as he could. He sprinted, half running, half falling across the top of it. Muscles in his lanky legs bunched and he leapt.
He hit the grass and rolled, tumbling in a flail of long limbs once again. He flopped on to his back, giggling from the adrenaline rush, the gas mask still clutched triumphantly in his hand. His celebration was cut short by the angry screeching of a little girl. He sat up quick, in time to see the pack of infected returning, charging across the field at him. "Oh fucker..."
"John, no." Dave said cooly, red eyes focused on the bumpy road. Cars lined the streets of the abandoned city, making it a little difficult to navigate. More than once he'd had to change their route entirely to get around a blocked off intersection. It was frustrating, but a lot safer than walking around through an unfamiliar city. Who knew how many infected could be waiting, lurking just inside the darkness of those broken down shops. He had to keep John safe.
"But Dave..." The buck-tooth brunette persisted, voice muffled by his mask. "You've been driving for the past four days. You need a break. I can drive. It'll be fine."
"The last time you said that, we hit a deer and nearly got eaten," Dave pointed out. He didn't say it to be mean. It was just a fact. John was a terrible driver.
This seemed to silence John, but he crossed his arms, turning his head to look out the window and pout. "DAVE! LOOK OUT!"
Instinctively, Dave slammed on the breaks and braced for the collision. Nothing happened. He opened his eyes upon hearing peals of laughter coming from John and looked over at him - his friend was shaking with laughter, holding his sides as tears welled up.
"Y-Your face... Oh my god, Dave..." He wiped the tear from his eye and grinned at Dave. "Gotcha."
"J-John... FUCK! I nearly PISSED myself. Jesus! You are the worst fucking practical joker EVER!" Dave pounced on him, giving him a few solid smacks upside the head while John laughed and tried to block them, wrestling back. Dave couldn't help but smile a little, though it was hidden behind his gas mask. The little derp thought he was hilarious, and to be honest, now that the scare had worn off, he felt giddy from the adrenaline. He sat back, shaking his head, trying to regain some of his shattered cool. It wasn't often that he lost it like that, but John knew how to get to him. He cleared his throat. "Don't EVER do that again." He ignored John's giggling and took his foot off the break, easing back out on to the road.
The second he got back up to speed, John exploded again. "DAVE!"
Dave noticed the man in time to slam on the breaks, knocking him off his feet rather than killing him. The ginger could not even deal with this right now. He threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "Seriously." He looked over at John, shaking his head. "Well done."
"How is this my fault? I-" John squeaked as the man reappeared by his window. He was scraped up and bruised, and had a crazy look in his eyes. He banged on the glass, screaming for them to let him in. A second later, they knew why. A pack of infected - the biggest John or Dave had ever seen - came tearing around the corner. There had to be at least fifty of them, all shrieking and snarling, eyes wild, all at various stages of infection. "Dave... Dave we have to go!" John twisted, quickly unlocking the back seat door, letting the poor stranger in.
Dave would never have let this crazy fucker in, but it was too late now. He was in the backseat already, screaming at Dave to drive as well. Dave hit the gas and pulled the fastest u-turn the world of automotives had ever seen, then slammed his foot down to the floor, taking off down the road. He did NOT want those fuckers crawling all over his car. They left the monsters far behind, and soon Dave slowed down, back to a normal speed. He turned down a side street into a more residential area, pulling over and stopping the car. The houses were empty, their windows black - they'd been evacuated with the rest of the city. A few fall leaves skittered down the road like urban tumbleweeds, blowing through this ghost-town on the quiet wind. He doubted the pack would be able to catch up with them now. He pulled his gun. "You. Out of the car." He turned in his seat, unbuckling and gesturing at their unwanted guest with the muzzle of his weapon.
"Can it, Egbert." He was not in the mood to deal with John right now. He was too nice for this kind of thing. "He doesn't even have a mask on. For all we know, he could already have the virus."
That shut John up. He looked at the man in the backseat with fear now, hand drifting to the shotgun that sat next to him. He looked this new man over. He was scrawny, ribs showing through his skin. He only had on a pair of beat up jeans and purple sneakers. He certainly could be in the primary stages of infection.
"I dropped my new mask," Gamzee panted, closing his eyes. "And I am not going anywhere," he groaned, covering his face with a hand. "You dumbass motherfuckers ran me over. Least you can do is give me a ride." He could feel the bruises blossoming on his back and thighs, and the scrapes up his back burned fiercely.
"I said get out of the car," Dave growled. "We gave you enough of a fucking ride now piss off."
Gamzee whined. "Come on, help a brother out." He looked at John pleadingly. "Just gimmie a ride back home..."
"Where's home?" John asked, curiosity piqued. Perhaps this man had someplace safe they could stay the night.
"Just on the edge of town. I mean, it's not MY home, but it's a safe place. We could all stay there. Plenty of canned food and drinking water. I think some crazy old vet' built it. Place is like a bunker. He's gone now though. Left when the city started falling apart. He was one of the smart ones. He saw the judgement coming and split."
Well that was... unsettling. Dave glanced over at John. He's never been the religious type and this guy... something about him felt off.
John did not seem bothered. He looked over at Dave and raised his eyebrows. His heart had lifted at the prospect of actual food and possibly a bed to sleep in. He and Dave both desperately needed proper rest, and some time spent NOT in a car would be amazing. Also, John realized, it had been several days since either of them had had a proper shower. But even considering all that, he needed Dave to agree. If his friend did not want to trust this stranger, John would stick by him. they'd just have to find someplace else to stay, or keep moving.
Dave sighed. He could tell just by John's face how badly he wanted a rest. Dave knew they both needed it. But he was hesitant. Infected were not the only dangerous things in this world. It's not like the survivors all banded together and formed a big happy family. People fought to survive. It was instinct. Nature and shit. And if killing off some poor defenceless fuck to steal his food, or their car, was what it took to survive, people would do it. Dave eyed Gamzee, sizing him up. He was skinny, and unarmed. He was also pretty badly beat up from getting hit by the car. Dave was not as tall as him, but he was muscular and well trained, thanks to Bro's rigorous schedules growing up. Sometimes Dave wondered if his bro had know that this was all coming, and had been preparing him for it all this time. Whatever the case was, Dave was confident he could overpower this man if it was necessary. "Sit up and put on a seat belt," Dave grumbled, shifting the car out of park and pulling away from the side of the road. He glanced in the rear-view mirror, making sure their new passenger obeyed. "You'll direct us there. John, keep an eye on him."
John nodded, hand on his shotgun, and turned to smile a little at Gamzee. His mask covered it, but like always, the smile reached his eyes. "Don't worry, we'll get you all patched up soon. I'm John, and this is Dave, by the way." He hoped their new friend was sociable - it would be nice if they could talk rather than sitting in uncomfortable silence - John hated that. It always wound up making him ramble.
"Name's Gamzee." He nodded his head. "Take a left up here and head for the highway." He smiled behind his handkerchief. He may have lost the gas mask, but things seemed to be working out in his favour quite nicely today. His eyes slid over John appreciatively, and he leaned back in his seat, relaxing and tucking his hands behind his head. He'd been right all along. In the chaos always lay opportunity. If you were lucky enough to find it, follow it, the world would throw everything you needed into your lap. You only needed the ambition to reach out and take it. And take he would. He just needed to wait for the proper timing.
It was allllll in the timing.
Gosh this chapter took a while. At least it's up in time for Halloween. How you all enjoy it as much as the last! <3