Neil hurtled down the alley in front of him, and Andrew cursed the fucking musical apocalypse for ruining a sight he otherwise would have enjoyed very much. As it was, he was red-faced, panting, and trying to keep up with Neil, who was somehow having no trouble at all, looking graceful and incredibly, incredibly fast as he ran.
He called ahead for Neil to wait, then checked his phone, to see Nicky had sent him his location- an alley a few streets away. They picked their way through the back-alleys towards them, and Andrew silently cursed whoever had decided to line this very narrow alleyway with shrubs. Wymack had once offhandedly mentioned something about the council turning this area into a park, but due to lack of funding Andrew was currently having to climb his way through bushes.
Neil looked slightly doubtful of the route they’d chosen to take, and like he was ready to bolt- clutching his duffel bag to his chest, eyes scanning wildly. Ridiculously, he was still the most attractive person Andrew had ever seen. He imagined how that conversation would go, and almost laughed out loud.
So, I know this is probably a bad time, because we could be turned into singing zombies at any minute, but do you like movies?
He could almost imagine Neil looking at him like he’d lost his mind- yeah, Andrew, you know what? This is a bad time.
Hmm. The amount of time he spent thinking about Neil was beginning to become an issue.
He was brought back to the present by Neil pointing at a dumpster, and the collection of trash cans sitting next to it. Andrew sighed in relief, about to call out for Nicky, but Neil grasped his sleeve and looked at him, panic in his eyes.
“Oh my god, what the fuck was that?”
Andrew smiled grimly. “I told you it was scarier than it sounds.”
Neil gaped at him, then shook his head as if in wonder. “You were right.” He blinked, panting heavily. “I didn’t think about the implications. Oh my god, I didn’t think about it!”
He looked like he was spiraling into some kind of panic attack, so Andrew grasped the back of his neck and made blue eyes meet his own. “Listen, Neil, shh.”
They stayed like that for a few seconds, the fog in Neil’s eyes clearing as his breath leveled out. When Andrew thought he was able to stand on his own without collapsing, he stepped back.
“It’s alright, okay?”
There was a metallic crashing that made Neil almost jump out of his skin again, and Wymack came busting out of one of the trash cans.
“No, it’s not alright, Andrew!”
Andrew glared at him. “Shut up, Wymack. You’ve already scared the shit out of him.”
Wymack seemed to register Neil for the first time, and grunted an apology as they both ignored Neil’s muttered declarations that he was ‘fine’.
“Well, Andrew, tell me- how the hell am I supposed to pop out of a trash can and not scare the shit out of you?”
Andrew didn’t miss the way Neil flinched away from Wymack’s gruff voice. Usually, he’d just ignore the man, but with his hand on Neil’s neck, able to feel his erratic heartbeat, he snapped back at the man.
“I don’t know, give us a warning to something next time!”
There was a loud banging on one of the other trash cans, and Neil instinctively ducked for cover and Andrew pushed in front of him. Nicky popped out, hair messed, and Andrew relaxed his stance to glare at him, too.
He had the grace to look vaguely sheepish. “Sorry, I tried to warn you.”
Neil looked up at him, his hand still tangled in Andrew’s sleeve, and swallowed. “Who are these people?”
Andrew let his hand fall from Neil’s neck. “My cousin, Nicky, and Wymack, who I do not remember telling him to bring along.”
Nicky smiled apologetically. “Well, I wasn’t just going to leave him there! Mr Davidson kept calling people into his office and they kept coming out singing!”
Wymack nodded. “It was the same at the bank, the butchers, and the post office.”
Andrew pulled up a map of the island in his head, and put it together. “They’re all downtown. We were just at Beanie’s.”
There was another metallic banging, and Riko popped out of the last trashcan. “You didn’t invite me!”
Andrew sneered at him, loudly telling Neil that ‘this is Riko, he’s an asshole.”. Riko scowled.
“Shut the fuck up, Andrew. If you want to stay in our hiding spot, you’ve got to be quiet. There is something going on, and we don’t know who we can trust, so Andrew, get in a trashcan.”
He noticed Neil, and gestured for him to leave. “You, beat it.”
Even through his haze of panic, Neil still managed to scowl at him. “Uh, fuck you?”
Andrew moved forward, flashing one of his knives at Riko. “Neil stays with us.”
Apparently, not even the threat of dismemberment stopped Riko being an asshole. “I don’t know him!”
Nicky looked between them in confusion. “Yeah you do! That’s the barista from Beanie’s, you know...” he paused, seeing Andrew’s knife, but decided to be stupid anyway, “The latte haytay!”
Neil scrunched up his nose, and it was the most adorable thing Andrew had ever seen. “What?”
They ignored him, Riko looking at Nicky like he’d grown another head. “Nicky, that is not the latte hottie, that’s the crabby one who won’t sing when I tip him! Where’s the blonde girl? You grabbed the wrong one, Andrew!” he slammed a hand against the lid of one of the trash cans, and they all jumped when a police siren blared, steadily getting closer.
Nicky let a grin spread over his face. “Oh, thank god! They’re here! I- I called Erik, he’ll get us out of this!” He ran towards the top o the alley, where the car was pulling up, and waved frantically.
“Erik, sweetheart? Erik, baby? Oh, Erik, thank god you’re here. They’ve gone crazy!”
Andrew, with dawning horror, remembered what Nicky had said that morning. That Erik had been singing. He rushed forward, ready to drag Nicky out of the way of the six-foot blond walking towards them, but it was too late.
Erik pulled his gun, and Nicky stumbled away in confusion. “Erik? What-?”
Nicky’s husband was wearing sunglasses, the ones Katelyn had gotten him for Christmas last year. All the cops were, in fact- two others fanned out behind him in a triangle formation, blocking off the alley completely. What was more disturbing was the man’s grin as he held the gun pointing at Nicky’s chest.
When he opened his mouth, it was to sing.
“Sir, I need you to take a step back. You’re facing the law, not the clerk at the Ga-ap.”
Nicky stepped back, his hands still reaching up as if to touch Erik’s face. Andrew pulled him away, standing in front of the huddled group as the cops moved in synchronization.
“Yeah we’re cops, yeah we’re cops, you better shape on up!”
Nicky tried to push past him to get to his husband, and Andrew had to grasp his shoulder to stop him. “Get away from him, Nicky! He’s one of them!”
“You’d better empty out all of them pockets! But don’t empty out all of them pockets! Yeah we’re cops, yeah we’re cops, and we make sense.”
Grins plastered on, the cops nodded, bobbing their heads to an imaginary beat. Then, they burst forward into a line, slowly advancing while they did jazz hands.
“Show me your hands! Show me those jazz hands, get ‘em up or you’ll end up in cuffs!”
Nicky screamed, clinging onto Wymack as one of the cops advanced with handcuffs, but the woman backed away before she reached him to rejoin the line of dancing.
“Show me those hands, show me those jazz hands! Or I might be inclined, to shoot you up!”
The cops moved forward, grabbing Wymack, Riko and Neil by the arms. They held their hands up, terror evident on their faces, but even now Riko managed to be condescending. He smiled at the cop who was now behind him, grabbing his right arm.
“Look, my ID is in my back pocket-“
The cops ignored him, moving their captive’s hands in synch. “You go 40 in a 35, check your mirror, you’ll find hell has arrived! Cause we’re cops, yeah we’re cops, we’re up in yo shit!”
They threw them to the ground, dancing away before they could get up.
One of the cops, the woman, turned to Erik, still singing as she held up her radio to him. “Kathy lost her cat in a tree.”
Erik grinned back. “Contact fire, not the HFPD! Cause we’re cops, yeah we’re cops!”
“Her cat is dead.” The woman sung it without any emotion visible other than the huge smile that stretched the faces of everyone infected.
Erik pulled out a megaphone, and the police car’s siren began to blare again as the police danced to it. |
“Step away from the vehicle. Step away from the vehicle. Get back in the vehicle. Get back in the vehicle. Slowly get out of the vehicle, slowly get out of the vehicle! Do the things I say, I’m a cop!”
The cops danced towards them hands in the air. “Get those hands up, get those hands up, get those hands down! Get those hands down! Up, down, up down, I’m a cop!”
Backed against the wall of the alley, Nicky and Riko had decided to try and follow the instructions, frantically tripping over themselves to comply.
“9-1-1 emergency call, got a 4-1-1 at the shopping mall. Better pack your heat and utility belt, any mall-rats comin’ in hot, they melt. Grab your 9 millimetre and donut bucket. Want my badge number? Put it in your mouth and SUCK IT!”
They held out threatening fingers, but Nicky approached Erik carefully. “Erik? Sweetheart... I’m you husband! Erik, baby just talk to me.”
Andrew had his heart in his mouth as, with shaking fingers, Erik removed his sunglasses to look at his husband.
“Nicky?” His voice was hoarse, and the word was spoken as if Erik was in pain, crushed under an invisible weight. Andrew let Neil clutch at his sleeve, and they watched in tense silence as Erik fought whatever force was overcoming him.
Nicky reached out a hand slowly, and for a second Andrew thought it would work.
And then Erik’s grin snapped back into place, and he slid the sunglasses back up and lifted his gun.
Nicky screamed, and Erik sung the chorus of their song while the other cops advanced, jazz hands ready and singing the back-up harmonies.
“Show me your hands, show me those jazz hands!”
“Doo bop a da-ba da-ba, doo bop a da-ba da-ba.”
“Get ‘em up, or you’ll end up in cuffs! Show me those hands, show me those jazz hands, or I might be inclined to shoot you-“
Erik collapsed to the floor, and Wymack stood over him with the trash can lid he’d used to knock him out. For a second, Andrew was frozen, watching the same blue fluid from the coffee at Beanie’s seep out of Erik’s skull.
In those precious few seconds, Nicky grabbed Erik’s discarded gun, holding it up with tears streaming down his face.
“Get back!” His hands were shaking, but the gun was trained on the cops behind them. “Just stay away, just leave us alone!”
The cops looked between each other, then ran, hands above them and shouting in an alien voice Andrew couldn’t understand.
Nicky collapsed onto Erik’s slumped body.
Neil had never been a particularly empathetic person. In his defense, he’d never actually needed to be- he hadn’t had anyone left to care whether they lived or died, not after his mother had died in Seattle. Sure, he liked Andrew. He didn’t know what he would have done without the man’s comforting steadiness, with a hand on his neck grounding him to the present, tethering him to the world when his mind was swirling. His mother would have slapped him for the weakness, for needing someone to rely on when he was in danger, but she wasn’t here anymore.
So he didn’t know Nicky. He didn’t know any of these people, and Wymack’s height and gruffness made him flinch, and Riko made him want to run from the danger Neil was sure he was capable of, but it didn’t stop him feeling something almost like sympathy as he watched the man sob over his husband.
“Oh, my god!” Nicky was hyperventilating, cradling the German man’s head in his lap. “His head is open!”
Riko snapped, gesturing angrily. “Well, he had to do something, Nicky! We were going to die!”
Nicky’s fingers found the blue leaking out of Erik’s skull. “Oh, Jesus, his brain’s falling out!”
Riko recoiled from the stuff in Nicky’s hands. “Well, put it back, then!”
“I don’t know how! I’m not a doctor!”
“Nicky, that’s not his brain, it’s blue!”
Nicky glared up at him, tears still streaking his face. “Well, how do you know, you’re not a doctor either!”
Riko turned away in disgust, and Nicky muttered. “I need to see a doctor, he needs to get to the doctor! Oh, Erik, baby...”
Neil stepped forward, crouching next to the crying man and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Nicky- It’s Nicky, right?”
He nodded morosely.
“Yes, okay, listen, we have to get out of downtown. The hospital is downtown, we can’t go there. I have some bandages, I can hold Erik together for a bit, but we’ve got to go, okay?”
Nicky nodded, and let Neil kneel next to him, and after rummaging through his duffel bag, slowly patch up the fluid leaking from Erik’s skull. If he ignored the way the blood soaking through the white gauze was sickly blue, the wound wasn’t too bad- he had a scar almost exactly like that on his own skull, where hair hadn’t grown for years afterwards.
When he looked up, bandages expertly secured, Andrew was watching him with something indescribable on his face.
The man blinked, hazel eyes snapping down to Erik as he spoke. “My brother, Aaron, is a doctor, and his wife is a surgeon. Well, used to be. She quit a few years ago, got paranoid about a guy from her university who was stalking her. Their house is a fortress- Aaron was terrified that he’d show up for her when he was out, and put gates and alarms around the whole house.”
Neil gulped at the idea of being trapped, hunkering down in a fortress. His own house had been a fortress, back in Baltimore, but it had never kept him from danger, not when the monsters were already inside. No, his instincts were to run, always to run- his mother had drilled that into him well enough, with a lifetime of hiding, and a promise as she lay dying on a beach in California, bleeding out like Erik was now.
But it was his best option. He had a gun, half a million dollars in bonds, a fake identity and eight outfits- that was enough, when you were running from someone. But this wasn’t his father, this was half an island, out to turn him into a musical zombie. This wasn’t anything he’d ever dreamed of having to fight.
Plus, maybe Andrew’s sister-in-law and brother could fix Erik, could help them.
So he nodded up at Andrew. “If Aaron’s house is fit for an apocalypse, let’s go.”
Nicky looked at him, panicking again. “An apocalypse? Is that what this is? Maybe we should go to a church-“ He cut himself off to recite a stream fo prayers in Spanish, so fast that Neil’s rudimentary knowledge couldn’t keep up.
Riko interrupted. “No, no, no, no, no. We are all from different denominations, alright? We can not split up. I am a Presbyterian, I’m not gonna die in your dirty ass Methodist church, alright?”
He jabbed a finger at Nicky, before turning to Wymack. “I say we go to Andrew’s nut-job brother’s panic room.
Andrew growled at him in warning, but Nicky nodded. “Okay.”
Neil pulled out his lock picks, looking around for something to cut wires with. “Let’s take the squad car, I can hotwire it-“He stopped, because Andrew was looking at him strangely again, and was holding up Erik’s car keys. Shit. He hadn’t actually had keys to one of the cars he was driving for years.
They piled into the car, with Erik propped up against the window, and all Neil could think about as they made their way to Aaron’s house was that it was just his luck that after all these years of surviving, he’d finally found somewhere he was almost happy; and then. The world had come crashing down.