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Bloody but Beautiful

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Lafayette was actually going to kill him this time. John had done some crazy things in his life, but nothing could top this. He was carrying a man not too much taller than himself, blood covering his clothes and face as well as an eye being gouged out, his brown hair pulled back behind John's arm in a tie. The only thing was, he was a bitten. A newly bitten but a bitten nonetheless.

It's been years, years of trying to survive though it hasn't been completely hard. Nobody knows what happened or why it happened but that it was in a lab, a chemical reaction, but it spread like a disease and it took a year to find out why. Scientist Charles Lee was able to raise the dead, in a terrifying way much different than what you'd see on T.V. and movies. They were smart, the ones who didn't die injured were just as athletic as anybody else, but they didn't get tired and didn't need food. They were called Reawakens, or Awakens which were the ones taken directly from their grave. The first one was taken care of with caution until the uses of them were discovered. They could work without stopping, manufacturing items in top speed and could even go places people alive couldn't, they could cheat death while having another chance at life. 

Then they woke up more, thousands becoming millions in no time, using them for work without treating them like they were humans. Because they weren't- not really. That's when everything went downhill. They Awakens knew what they were, but they knew nothing of their old life and were forced to live as something entirely different than what they were. They couldn't feel things physically like people could, but they could emotionally, they could tell how unfairly they were being treated and started attacking the living. It started as an accident with them just trying to attack to be mean, but that's when they found it to be contagious.

Bites would kill people slowly, infecting them with something nobody understood, so people were forced to watch them die slowly, then come back. They'd come back differently though, they never actually died just got infected. A part of their minds would change, they would think like an Awaken and want to hurt and kill those who did the undead wrong but they'd keep that old part of their minds that contradicted it. Somehow it seemed worse to be a bitten, they had their old lives to live and they never forgot them, their bodies would decay until there was nothing left, and slowly they'd become an Awaken. It was a worse fate by far.

There was something about the man in his arms though, he'd definitely seen people get bitten before and for survival he's had to bash some heads, but watching him get bitten then left there triggered something, whether it was the act or the man, he didn't want to leave him.

Something must have clicked inside him when he picked up the dying man because something pushed him harder, pushed him to keep this man alive, and John didn't even know his name. He rushed up the stairs knowing full well what was following him and knowing full well the the man in his arms was only weight added onto him that could cost his life. But he was a weight he didn't want to let go of.

He pushed up the stairs to the top floor, finally reaching the door marked with liquids to hint at the chemicals scattered around that were found to be fatal to the Awakens. He had a small breather on him that was inserted into the mouth, but he only had one, placing it into the strangers mouth who opened the eye that wasn't gouged out to look at him. He had tears in his eye and could only open it so far, barely able to accept the breather. John held his breath for as long as he could, unlocking the multiplying locks to get into the base, the Awakens that we're following him having given up or having known about the chemicals earlier. He took a deep breath when he stumbled into the apartment on the top floor, slamming the door behind him.

“John?” He silently sent a prayer to whoever was up there,  hoping Laf wouldn’t be as mad as he thought he would be. “John if that’s not you I’m-”

“Yeah- uh, it’s me.” He looked down at the man in his arms one last time, getting a scared one-eyed look back. He sighed and stepped out of the doorway and into the apartment. “Look, I know we aren’t-”

“John. Did you bring one of them back?” He stayed silent, looking down again. He nodded his head quickly, trying not to meet the eye of the bloodied body under him. “You know what we must do with him. It will be a better fate than suffering through the process.” He heard a high pitched whine, trying hard to ignore it, but he couldn’t when he felt tears wetting his arm. He instinctively grasped him a little tighter, pulling him close to his body and shaking his head again. “John, please, don’t make this harder for us…” He shook his head again, retreating into the small corner.

“Please, can we at least try, I know you and Herc are working on something… we can’t let him die. Please . Just try? ” John had never begged like that before, and he didn’t know why this time was so different but the beast that awakened from before didn’t want to let him go. Laf let out a sigh, the bridge of his nose pinched between two fingers, letting go with another sigh.

“We’ll discuss it when the rest of them get back.”

John scowled at him but didn’t retort knowing that it would get him nowhere, just moving past Laf to the bathroom. He placed the man on the toilet, closing the door behind him and starting the water in the bathtub. Despite the outbreak people were able to continue their normal lives for the most part, especially in big cities that were being protected by the government like where they were near. The only chance you had of getting attacked in a city was if they were ganging up in abandoned building, like normal gangs, so it was a pretty low chance but it still happened. Luckily for them it meant a working stove and running water, even in their run-down section of town, so it’s not like they were complaining.

He started by carefully using his pocket knife to cut up his shirt instead of trying to pry it off his blood soaked body, a small smile forming when he got it off.

“Can you tell me your name?” He wasn’t really expecting an answer, the man couldn’t even hold his own body up, let alone speak.

“A-Alex.” It was hoarse and gritted out, pain flashing across his visible features. He looked close to tears again and John would hate to admit it but he looked so small and innocent sitting there he wanted nothing more than to kiss him. He hoped Alex couldn’t see his blush with only one eye.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” He motioned to his eye with one hand, wetting a washcloth with the other. Alex grimaced but shrugged.

“My eye is still there if that’s what you’re asking” John let out a sigh a little too loudly, hearing Alex let out a lighthearted breath next to him, he really didn’t want to deal with a missing eye. He wasn’t even entirely sure he knew how to.

John took the wet cloth and placed it on Alex’s chest, wiping away the dried blood from his to his stomach, only stopping when he found the cut. It wasn’t large but it wasn’t really small either, blood was still trickling out of it, so John cleaned it up quickly and bandaged it before moving on. He made quick work of taking of his pants too, keeping his boxers on, and swiftly cleaning the blood off his legs. He carefully picked up Alex again, carrying him bridal style the few feet to the tub before gently setting him in and turning off the water. Alex put his arm on the side of the tub and let it drape over the edge, sighing as the water worked around him. John pulled his hair back in a ponytail, grabbing the blood covered cloth and wringing it out in the sink to wash the blood out, bringing it to the side of the tub. He kneeled down next to Alex, giving him a minute to relax. He watched Alex sink a little deeper before daring to disturb the silence.

“Would you like me to lea-?!”

“No!” He felt a something wrap around his forearm, looking down to see Alex’s small hands gripping him. He looked up a little further, bringing his hand up to stifle the gasp threatening to escape his lips. Traveling up his forearm to right below his elbow, a large bloody semicircle was tearing into his skin, the veins around it turning a sickening green.

“Oh, Alex…” He felt tears prick at his eyes and once again started thinking about how little he knew about him. The wound looked fresh, which was always a good thing, meaning they might be able to extract the infecti before it soiled his blood stream.

“Please don’t leave, I c-can’t-” He hiccuped, gripping John’s arm a little tighter. John pried Alex’s hand away, letting it rest in his own hand instead.

“I’m John, by the way.” He saw tears in his eyes, human tears- once again a good thing- reaching up to wipe them away. “And I’m not going to let that, or anyone, hurt you.”

He took the cloth in his hand and soaked it in the water, wiping down his face and carefully around his eyes, mentally noting every injury and bruise he came across. The one that slashed across his eye seemed in need of immediate attention, John grabbing the kit under the sink and pulling out the bandages. He placed a small gauze over Alex’s bad eye, using his hands skillfully and quickly to wrap the bandage around his head in never ending circles until he was completely sure it was on securly. He took Alex’s arm, bundling it up in his lap.

“I need you to take a deep breath for me.” He looked up at John, eyes wide with fear and confusion. “Deep breath, I’m not going to lie, it’s going to hurt.” He watched tears slip down his face and almost didn’t want to do it, “It’s going to be a lot worse if we leave it there…” He wasn’t sure if he was talking more to himself of Alex, but he took a deep breath. Alex mimicked John, sucking in. John looked around the room quickly, finding Alex’s old discarded shirt and balling it up, placing it in his mouth. Alex looked up at him, sweet big innocent eyes making John want to back down, but he couldn’t. “Deep breath, deep~” He grabbed his pocket knife, Alex squeezing his eyes shut when the blade touched his heated skin. Alex whined under the touch, John wrapping his other hand around Alex’s elbow to steady it.

“John, John please…” He wasn’t sure what he was pleading for, because knew the infected area had to be removed. Maybe it was to be quick or slow, anything that wouldn’t let the fear linger in the air. “J-John?” It came out muffled by the makeshift gag, but it came out clear enough and for a split second he saw something lingering his his eyes, hope and love and regret. Regret that he had to hurt Alex, regret that it wasn’t him who was bitten instead, hope that this will work and he won’t lose Alex anyway. Then he swung.

Alex was pretty sure he started screaming before the knife even touched his skin. The cold blade sunk into his soft flesh with ease, blood dripping from the newly forming wound but it was a vile green instead of promising red, pain searing up his arm. It felt like he was being set on fire and thrown into snow at the same time, his mind not sure if it shout shut down or scream a little louder. Tears were streaming down his face in ungodly amounts, the blade sinking a little deeper. The agonizing pain of it falling further was like nothing he’d felt before, the blade slicing through his flesh and veins in one slash, reaching the point were there was too much blood to see the accused flesh. The raging fire burning in his arm never left, his mouth screaming cries of pain into the shirt while his mind’s scream echoed off his skull in a dull pain that was nowhere near what he felt in his arm and never would be. When he finally felt the blade leave his arm, completely taking off the bitten section, he wasn’t sure if the pain of it leaving was worse than it entering. He was gasping through the gag, not able to see through the tears covering his eyes.

Then John started pushing.

A harsh yell rushed past his lips, his whole body shaking in a way he couldn’t control, John gasping next to him. Alex instantly regretted it when he looked down. His ran was bleeding profusely, which along would be enough to make him pass out, but the blood that was coming out was a repulsive green color much like it was before. He instinctively bit down on the gag harder, trying not to scream when John’s thumb slipped into the cut, letting out small whimpers. His brain was screaming at him with everything it had, wishing for nothing more than for it to stoo, but it never did. He looked up from the wound, John's hands covered in generous amounts of blood red and green alike. John pushed a little harder, pain flaring through his arm like a knife, an ache permanently keeping his arm in lock. He could feel the rest of his body, only aware of what was happening to his arm. He shrieked out to John, the pain from his arm flaring through his entire body.

“We’re almost done baby girl, we’re almost done…”

The nickname flew above both of their heads, nobody questioning it, like it’s been there their since forever. Alex pushed himself into the comfort of his words, sinking into the voice that repeated the soft words of support. He looked at his arm, the blood had stopped coming out in green clots, but switched to a steady red stream, not sure if he should be relieved or scared.

John was just as relieved as Alex was when it ended, loosely dropping the knife on the floor, focusing on Alex’s arm. He heard Alex suck in a breath and whimper when John moved his arm to rest on the edge of the bathtub, the water turning a light red. John scuttled around the bathroom until he finally found a clean towel, wiping around the wound as subtle as he could, trying his best to ignore the sobs that left Alex’s mouth. He cleaned it up as best he could, but with a gouge that size it was hard, looking through the kit for ointment.

“It’s gonna sting, deep breath… 1. 2. 3. Hold! ” When he put the oil on the cut, all Alex could think was; sting was an understatement. It felt like his arm was stabbed again, everything burning through another sob, too much pain flooding his systems. He wasn't able to notice when the drip of of ointment stopped and gauze was put on the cut, more bandages wrapped around his arm, only John whispering to him,

“It’s over, you did so well baby girl, I’m so proud of you…”

John stood up next to the tub, dipping his hands in the water to wash them up, picking up Alex in a helpless heap right after. He ignored the water covering Alex, pulling at the drain. His clothes became cold and wet with the contact but he didn’t care, placing Alex on the floor so he could wrap a towel around him, then more bandages around his arm. He twisted Alex around before picking him up again, so he wouldn’t touch his injured arm, squeezing him against his chest. He felt Alex curl up against him, keeping his arm hanging down, pushing his face into John’s shoulder. A sob breaking through the silence, making John flinch before holding onto Alex a little tighter, letting him cry it out. John brought him as close as he could, feeling how skinny Alex really was. He looked really bad too, his arms and legs looked frail and delicate, his face so ghostly. It really made John wonder how long Alex had been alone on the streets, how long it’s been since his last meal.

“J-John, everything hurts! ” John sat down on the floor, placing Alex in his lap so he was straddling him, laying his head back on his shoulder. It didn’t stay there long, John placed his hand on Alex’s cheek, making him look at him.

“Hey, hey, look at me. That’s a good thing right? That means you’re not being affected by the bite. You’re still human.” He watched Alex give him a pained nod before taking in a shuddering breath, laying his head back on John’s shoulder. “Do you wanted me to get you some clothes?” Another nod. He put him on the floor, leaving the room in a rush, returning just as quickly with a pile of clothes. “Here’s some sweat pants, but I didn’t bring a shirt because we need to be careful with your wound.” John put the clothes on the floor, Alex looking up at him with tear filled eyes. “Do you need help…?”

Alex nodded his head, hesitating for a second before, closing his eyes. John layed Alex’s head back on his shoulder, pushing their bodies as close to each other as they could go. He picked him up slightly, the only work Alex having to do was hold his hips up slightly so John could slip his boxers off. Alex was in too much pain to care that he was naked in front of a stranger, a cute on at that, hoping he wouldn’t have to move anymore. He lifted his hips one more time, basking in to comfort of the soft material against his scratched up legs. He sighed when John picked him up again, opening the bathroom to leave, indicating he wouldn’t have to move for himself just yet.

When John walked out of the bathroom, Alex finally got a good look at his surroundings. Saying the apartment was huge would be an understatement. It was like a penthouse, large open space next to a fireplace, filled with blankets and pillows. Standing from where he was the front door was in a little hallway, looking more like an indent in the center of the giant living space. There were four couches, assuming two had been on each side of the door, but they were all pushed in front of the fireplace in a square, two mattresses fitted in between the square to make one giant couch - er bed - that could easily fit seven or eight people. They were big couches, or maybe Alex was just really small. On the other side of the indent there was a giant table with chairs that didn’t match and misfitted plates, easiest the largest table he’s ever seen. The kitchen was right next to him, connected by and island counter to the living roomish bedroom thing they had going on. Bar stools lined the outside of the large kitchen, were a man was leaning over the island, a phone in his hand.

“Hey Laf,” John spoke from above him, the man looking up and smiling up at him.

“Come John, and bring your friend.” His voice was lidded with a thick French accent Alex couldn’t tell if he should feel welcomed by or under authority. It could sway either way. John moved forward hesitantly bringing Alex with him, like he had a choice. “I must apologize for my behavior before, I was just on edge.” John quirked up an eyebrow,

“What’s had you further off the edge than normal?”

“That’s what we will wait to discuss with everyone… along with him.” He motioned to Alex, letting his hand fall. “He’s a bitten, we don’t-”

“I got it off.” Laf tilted his head, “Just like Liza.” He heard him suck in a breath.

Eliza was a sensitive topic for everyone, especially Maria. Eliza had been bitten a while ago, she was cornered in an alleyway, screaming for anyone. Maria had been working for the Reynolds Rebel company, a terrible company that helps the Awakens. The kind of help they gave wasn’t for the benefit of anyone thought, they would help Awakens and Bittens trap humans, covertly of course, and kill them. Maria was there to help the “zombies” hold Eliza down, and in return for the companies service, they didn’t get bitten. But Maria had enough with the company, and her abusive boyfriend who owned it, pretending to help until the very last minute when she snatcehd Eliza and ran for it. They stopped in an alleyway after running for a solid hour, when they thought they were safe, one that never gave up bit them both. Maria who was still - technically - working for the company was immune to the bite but Eliza was not.

Eliza told her to leave before it got worse, Maria said no, and forced Eliza to tell her where she lived which led her here. She told everyone what happened and promptly cut off a section of Eliza’s leg, knowing a lot more about the poison than anyone else, they let her stay. She quit her job, but she’s still immune which makes her a very valuable asset to the team. And kind of an outlaw because you can’t really ‘quit’ Reynold’s but it hasn’t been a problem yet. Her quitting also gave them valuable information, like that fact that if she’s still immune it’s not some magic voodoo shit that ends when you leave the company, it’s something physical that can be replicated. Maria just wasn’t sure what, she was a physical worker at the company, not one of the chemists.

“You know this is exactly what happened to her, if we-”

“We will talk about it when everyone gets here.” He had his hand up as a signal for John to stop talking, putting it down on the table.

John moved into the living room, swiftly maneuvering himself over were the corners of the couches met while still securely grasping onto Alex. When he seated himself on one of the couches, he put Alex down next to him, finally taking him in fully. He was very, very frail, it seemed like he hadn’t eaten in years, barely had any meat on his bones.

“Oh, Alex,” John cooed out, completely missing the blush on Alex’s cheeks. “Are you hungry?” Alex scrunched his eyebrows together, then nodded swiftly. He was starving and honestly couldn’t remember the last time he ate. John jumped up and walked over to Lafayette, who probably made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When he brought it back he ripped it into pieces and fed it to Alex, who enjoyed to action very much, with one arm completely unusable and the other was scratched up and bruised in a way that made it painful to move but not impossible, it was difficult to maneuver for himself. They sat in a comfortable silence for a while, only hearing the clicks from Laf’s phone, until a pounding broke the trance.

Then the door flew open, crashing into the wall next to it, more people flooding through the doorway. Five people stood in the doorway, all out of breath and frantically trying to barricade the door and lock it all up again. Two girls who looked remarkably similar stood next to each other, their curly dark brown hair tied back behind their heads, with bandana being removed from their faces to reveal their lips. Two other girls stood next to them, one with long straight black hair that feel loosely behind her, Alex looking at her with a nagging at the back of his mind. She looked so familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. The other girl had light brown hair, her skin the mediocre between the straight haired girl and the two curly haired ones, gracefully covering one eyes, but it was pulled back swiftly to reveal a black eye. He couldn’t see the girls clearly though, standing in their way was a buff giant with a bandana tied around his head, his hair curling around it.

The taller of the two girls who looked alike wiped something off her face. “You’re never going to believe me, but I swear someone’s stomach hit me in the face.” She stood so elegantly and with purpose, her voice ringing out in such a familiar way…

“ Angelica! ” The three other girls came into view shortly after her, looking at Alex dead in the eyes. In unison, all three of them spoke.

“Alex.”

Chapter Text

Alex watched Angelica’s elegance fall apart, her voice dropping into a cry, tears gathering in her eyes.

“Alexander!” Her lip started quivering and he could tell her sister weren’t that far behind. Alex turned his head, loosening his grip on John’s arm.

“Will you help me get over there?” He whispered, not far from tears himself.

John nodded curtly, jumping over the side of the couch and bending his legs to land, hitting the floor with a pound. Alex lifted his arms like a lost child, letting John wrap his arms around his waist, setting him on the ground as gently as he could. It was a long process of trips and shaking legs to get him from one side to the other, John never letting his hand off his hip the whole time. When they got there it was a flurry of laughing and crying and words floating around him, the four girls surrounding him. He felt his body give way to the words, not even really hearing them but knowing they were being said, John struggling to hold up his weight but not giving in, Angelica reaching out to help. John scowled, feeling a tug at his chest, feeling hesitant to share the load with Angelica, pulling back slightly. She didn’t seem to notice, or care though, tears rolling down her face in thick drops through her smile.

Alex choked on a sob, swallowing everything he would have said. This moment was too precious for words. He felt so much bubbling up in him, He almost forgot he needed someone there to hold him, practically jumping into their arms, or maybe it was the other way around, nobody was really sure anymore. They all found a short lived comfort in each other’s arms, laughing and crying for no particular reason until Lafayette’s voice rang out low and steady amongst the sobs.

“I am terribly sorry for breaking the moment, but, I think some explaining must be done.”

“I’m gonna havta’ agree with Laf here.” The girls backing up slowly, giving John and Alex a breath.

They retreated to the dining room table, all the pieces from before clicking together, like the reason they had a huge dining room and a makeshift bed good enough for 10 people, though that part was still rather unclear. One side of the table had a bench crafted from wood and scraps of metal, John and Alex sitting on it so Alex could lean on him. Everyone else gathered around them, seating themselves in an order he assumed was from habit of sitting in the same place every day. Laf quickly put plates and cups on the table, a water pitcher soon following that was swallowed up by the newly arrived people, probably having run most of the way there. Laf sat down at the head of the table, after bringing some sort of soup, Alex shifting slightly next to John, it was like Lafayette belonged there for some reason, seeing him at the head of the table calmed him down. It was a good thing he was in authority it seemed. He belonged there and it was right. He smiled at everyone,

“Did you find it?” A few gazes fell, Eliza chewing up the inside of her lip.

“No, we checked all the places you recommended, but we were tracked down…” Angelica’s voice was pretty, nice and calm. It set him further at ease.

“Tracked down?”

“By the Reynolds.”

“Oh”

“If you don’t mind,” Alex rested his head on John’s shoulders, everyone missing the blush that rushed down John neck. “What are you looking for?”

“We are looking for a plant that has… certain characteristics, that could help us and our dear Eliza.” Alex quirked up an eyebrow, silently asking for more of an explanation. “Oh, John hasn’t told you?” He moved his head to looked up at said boy, who was trying all too hard to ignore his gaze.

“John?”

“She was bitten. Just like you, except it took us longer to get to hers, and it’s affected her way more.” His gaze leaned to Eliza, but her gaze was following Johns, looking at the same invisible point on the far wall. Angelica was not shy to voice any of her concern, unlike Eliza, she lost her elegance in a second and replaced it with a cold anger.

“You were bitten?! ” He felt John tense under him but he didn’t have the energy to sit up. “How come you didn’t tell us?!” Her voice was angry but her eyes were littered with concern.

“I wasn’t planning on keeping it a secret, did you plan on telling me Liza was bitten?!” He braced himself on the table, lifting his body off of John ever so slightly. He instantly regretted his movements however, pain flaring through his system like a rocket, trying his best to hold in the whimper. He felt like he could black out from the way the blood rushed out of his head, until he felt John shift to move underneath him. He did it so subtle so Alex didn't have to lose his ground to Angelica, keeping him upright. He made a mental note to thank him later. They all watched something dangerous flash between the two, eyes narrowed and fists clenched.

“I’m not the one who’s been keeping secrets!”

“I know you aren't. Eliza is!” He heard a gasp, regret flooding his last waking senses. He didn’t want to drag Eliza into this, it wasn’t her battle, but his mouth ran too fast for his mind to catch. “I’m sorry- I didn’t-” His voice cracked, swallowing his pride for a second but it didn’t undo the damage.

Alex!” This time it was Maria, arms wrapped around the raven haired girl, her hair falling over her eyes again. “We thought you were over that. Turns out you haven’t grown up yet.” She practically growled those two words, her voice shaking. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, those words stung too close to home.

“How would you know?! You two left me on the side of the street, I had to steal and kill to survive! You have no idea how much I’ve grown up .” Silence. Under the table John grabbed his hand, tears pricking the edges of his eyes. Even after fighting with the people John knew best, he still took Alex’s side. And they were still practically strangers, he was ready for so much more in spite of it. He watched the table spin into madness after his words.

“Eliza! You told me he left you!” She ducked her head down, Maria standing over her like a mother bear.

“Actually she didn’t tell you anything, I did. And I did it to keep her alive!” Everyone knew Eliza was crying under the weight of everything, but they couldn’t find it in themselves to lose their pride. Not during a war - it was never a good thing. “It’s because of him she was raided on in the first place, The girlfriend of the man who writes like he’s running out of time?! How valuable could she be, as a human? NO. As blackmail. As a fucking zombie- and I couldn’t- I still couldn’t save her.”

Alex felt his throat tighten, he would give anything to be out of this room, anything to will his mind and mouth to agree at stop causing so many problems. Anything to make it stop.

“Guys, so w-we all have so-some explaining to do- b-but could we at least try to hear each other out?” John was quivering on the inside, showing through his voice in a stutter like he always did when he was nervous. He normally hated it, but he was the youngest next to Peggy and it really helped in his favor sometimes, all of them visibly softening around him. Peggy who had been silent the whole time was close to tears herself, jumped at the impending silence,

“This is a fucking war. How are we going to survive if we can’t even stand each other?! If you guys can’t get your act together, I’m going to leave and you can watch me hand myself over to those blood sucking fuckers and you can watch them bite my arm off for all I fucking care!” Dead silence. Nobody had ever heard Peggy swear so much in one sentence, or really at all for that matter, she was the one who could always see the positive in everything. Everyone sunk a little, if Peggy was that on edge then they must have been bad.

“I really did miss you guys…” They heard Alex mumble under his breath, Eliza promptly bursting into loud sobs.

“I’m sorry! And so the fuck is Angelica, because we were both being bitches.” Maria smiled down at her girlfriend, her eyes still watering from before,

“So am I.”

John mouthed something to Peggy, who smiled in response, the air immediately lightening around them all, the tension dissipating in a second. Laf and Herc eyed each other from across the table, they were fond of all the yelling but they had a feeling it needed to happen.

“Back on topic…” His eyes swept over everyone in mock sarcasm, giggles erupting from somewhere. “You couldn’t find the plant?” Everyone shook their heads, looking a little broken down.

“What plant is it?”

“It’s called a Crested Iris , and we’ve checked everywhere but… not such luck.” Anglica spread her palms as if to show that they’ve found nothing.

“That’s because those are native to the South.” All eyes looked at John, a shocked silence settling over everyone, even Lafayette’s mouth was opened a bit. “You wouldn’t tell me what we were looking for, how if I knew I would ‘Jump out the window and not stop searching till I found it’” He eyed Hercules, who looked a little sheepish under his gaze, “Even if I did do that, I sure woulda’ found it a hell lot faster than you.” Despite his toned down voice, he looked happier than he had in a while, as well as everyone else.

“Oh my God, John!” Peggy jumped up, wrapping her arms around John across the table. “I can’t believe you knew this whole time!” She laughed, everyone standing up around her, dinner discarded.

Soon John and Alex were the only ones sitting at the table, everyone else dancing around the open living room. They were content watching, until Alex saw the way Eliza limped when she was spun, her the way she kept all her pressure on one leg. He turned his head to John, smiling at Peggy and Hercules, dancing some sort of swing. Alex tried to move off of John and into a more comfortable position without disturbing him, his attempts proving fatal when John spotted him.

“Here…” John, once again, wrapped his arms around Alex’s waist, hoisting him onto the table in front of him. John changed his position so he was balancing on his knees on the creaky bench, resting on his heels. “How’s your arm?” John looked at the bandages covering most of both of his arms, taking Alex’s hand in his own. He lightly touched the top of it, retreating immediately when Alex flinched back. “Sorry, heh.” He put it back in Alex’s lap, moving a bowl of soup closer to them, “You’re going to eat, then back in the bath. We’re going to check your legs too.” Alex smiled, then opened his mouth, accepting the spoonful of whatever Laf had made.

The warm liquid slipped down his throat, a groan igniting in his chest. It had been a while since he had something so smooth, homemade and comfortable. He felt a strange comfort in being treated by John, the fact that he cared so much about Alex and was trying his hardest to make sure he was comfortable really hit him hard. He’d never had a family, not really, sure he’d been in the foster system for a while and when he wasn’t he was in an orphanage, but deep inside he knew he never belong there. Those people would never care for him the same way they cared for their own, it was just human nature. He never blamed them but that didn’t make it hurt any less. But now he was with John, and he was safe. The world was changing for the worse, everything around him crumbling to pieces, but with John he feels more loved than he had in awhile.

“Earlier, someone said Eliza was changing… how?” John chewed his lip like he was considering the question, but he really didn’t need to.

Eliza was changing, clearly changing. Though she’s still obviously human, her body staying the same for the most part, no decaying or any red alerts. Except for maybe a few. Some nights Eliza wouldn’t sleep, but be perfectly fine in the morning, not even one snarky comment or bob of her head. At first it was just something that happened, one person staying awake to make sure the were safe, then Hercules would experiment and the chemicals were found, they no longer needed some to guard at night. But it never stopped. Someone would wake up and find her wondering the house at three in the morning or sewing something at midnight. Everyone tried to brush their shoulders off, hoping that maybe if they didn’t pursue it it would go away, and some nights it did, just not all nights. Not most nights. Then there was the more worrying problem, some nights she would be up doing something - in the complete dark - without a problem. It was a little harder to turn a blind eye to, that meant the others, or at least Bittens, could see in the dark. That would give them a lot more of an advantage than they’d like to admit. Even with her mark removed, she still showed these traits making them all wonder what would have happened if it stayed a little longer. The only thing giving them hope right now was that the traits never progressed, she could do that and only that, nothing more nothing less. No more changing, no more changes, no more messes to clean.

“She doesn’t sleep anymore, not really at least.” He pushed the spoon past Alex’s lips again, “And she’s got night vision - or something .” He pulled on the spoon, Alex having clamped down on it, his eyes wide. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you…” He scooped him off the table and bundled him in his arms, walking to the bathroom. “Please don’t be afraid, we’ll keep you safe.” He squeezed him lightly, feeling him relax slightly. John placed Alex on the long counter next to the sink, watching him eye the toilet silently. He ignored it for the moment, pulling the pant legs up and folding them at his knees.

Looking over his legs, without touching, was already enough to see he wasn’t going to be able to walk on his own for a while. His ankle had gone slightly purple, probably fracturing it or twisting it at the least, swollen from his foot to the end of his calf. They were scratched up, lines growing up his legs like a cat tried to claw the bone from his leg, the blood a dried up brown. He looked up at his face, noticing him still distracted, then looked back down to his legs that had started shaking slightly.

“Looks like you’re stuck with me for a while… Your ankle is twisted.” Alex looked back at him, smiling sheepishly, “Which means you’ll have to get comfortable telling be about basic human needs.” He blushed a beet red, knowing he was figured out, raising his arms for John to pick him up. “I’m not going to bite, okay? I want you to be comfortable with me.” He tried jokingly but it came out way softer than he’d intended. He bent Alex down slightly to pick up the toilet seat, stripping Alex’s pants off quickly, both avoiding each other’s gaze, and placed him. He walked across the rather large bathroom, turning on the bathwater just after he heard Alex sigh in relief. He saw Alex slouch out of the corner of his eye, looking under the cabinet for towels. He pulled out a warm fluffy one in white bringing it back over to the bathtub, putting it right next to the bathmat, testing the water with his fingers. The water was rising rather slowly in the large bathtub, deciding he would put Alex in now so he could take off his shirt after he was put in. He picked up the boy one last time setting him gently in the warm water, his body relaxing more than it had all day.

Alex closed his eyes and rested his body against the back of the tub, only slightly aware of John stripping him further. The warm water closed in around him, soothing the scratches on his leg and the soreness of his not-cut-open arm, pleasantly settling around him in a blanket of heat. Once again he found himself thinking about how lucky he was that Alex had picked him up when he did, those ruthless monsters trying their hardest to make him miserable, he was left there to die. Then John came around the corner, dropping whatever he had been carrying to pick up the battered and bloodied Alexander Hamilton. He was able to calm him down after a newfound fear rested in him, making him see things and feel things worse than anything before. The looming fear of becoming one of them, turning against his own kind, and killing just for fun sank somewhere too deep to fish out, but John was trying anyway. John…

“Why?” John startled awake, dozing off on the towel next to Alex in the bath.

“Huh?”

“Why? Why did you save me?” He felt his voice shaking, like he was afraid it would be because John was a nice person and that’s what he did to the injured. But that’s what it was wasn’t it? They were strangers, there was no way Alex was special to him, like he wanted to be. Still he felt his body shake with the effort of holding back tears of anticipation. John lifted an eyebrow before blushing, red circling around each of his freckles in a way he could get used to seeing. He mumbled something before ducking his head down, the blush darkening. “What?”

“It’s stupid.” Alex didn’t find this stupid.

“I don’t think it is.” He lifted his head, the blush still evidently there, eyes big and warm.

“I just felt something. I saw you broken at the foot of an abandoned hotel, and something clicked.”

“Something clicked?” It really did. Alex could feel it too.

“I just wanted to save you, and take care of you, and be with you… and you must think I’m crazy. We barely even know each other and you didn’t really have a say in what I did and-” Alex chuckled, covering his mouth quickly.

“We can change that…” He smirked, a baffled expression overtaking John’s features. “I would love to get to know you, John Laurens.” Then a smile. Bright and toothy, maybe it was a dumb smile but neither felt that way. Then they were laughing, John pulling Alex forward so they met at the edge of the tub, John pushing his fingers into Alex’s hair, taking the lead because Alex couldn’t. His lips were soft, way too soft for someone who was just beaten up in an ally, skillfully moving against John’s in a way he didn’t realize would feel so nice. One arm snaked around his neck, push John forward until the top of his body was hovering just above the water. It was soft and warm, nothing rash or harsh, it was everything he’d wanted it to be since he was a kid. When they broke apart for air looking dazed and all too pleased with themselves, neither was disappointed at the lack of contact, just happy.

“I would love to get to know you, Alexander Hamilton.” They each let out girlish giggles, smiling at each other with their eyes closed tightly and full of emotion.

A harsh knock pounded against the door, startling them apart despite being on the other side of the door, more pounding following the first.

“John? Alex?!” it was Angelica, sounding rather frantic, “There are only two bathrooms in this building and nobody’s willing to disturb you guys, but like, a huge line has formed, so could you let me in?!” John laughed a little, Alex looking a little worried, wrapping his arms around his torso. John chuckled at him as well, the only one who was obviously not being affected by anything.

“Are you okay with her coming in?” He nodded but looked around, about to protest- “Don’t worry, this happened so many times, we put a curtain up.” He pointed at a cloth suspended in the air by a rod he must have missed. He grabbed the bottom corner of the cloth, flowers swirling around in intricate patterns of black and white glitter, closing Alex inside with only a small gap left so he could still see John who was heading to the door. He opened the door, laughing after being pushed to the side by a distraught Angelica, not even bothering to close the door. Leaving that to John she rushed to the toilet, sighing much too dramatically when she got there. John closed the door behind her, striding back to sit by Alex. He watched John quizzically at how he sat right in front of the toilet, that was obstructed by the curtain, watching her like this happens everyday. Well for all he knew, it did.

“We’re going to watch a movie, if you want to join?”

“Totally, we’ll meet you out there in a minute.” He heard Angelica wash her hands then leave, locking the door before closing it for them. It happened so much they had a casual conversation. Weird.

John laughed after she left, he loved how close they were. And they really were. All of them had this trust that formed through this apocalypse, everyone needed to rely on each other in a way they didn’t have to before, making them so much closer than they ever would have been on their own. Having each other helped too, they were able to lead an almost semi-normal life with having so many of the things they had before, like electricity and water, and movies. It wasn’t bad at home when they all had each other there, outside was a different story. That’s why all of it was so new to Alex. He was used to staying up all night for multiple nights, having to look out for himself and be on high alert with no rest, the fact that they could have this down time awakened something in him. He felt the initial rush of fear, what if they really weren’t safe and would be take tonight? What if it’s my fault? What if…?

“Not tonight, Alexander. You’re getting rest. Stop worrying and be happy.” John picked him up, placing him on the soft white rug, wrapping the white towel around his naked body. He rubbed it up and down his sides, warming his arms and legs with it as gently as he could. John scoped over his Alex’s arms quickly, making a spur-of-the-moment decision to change them in the morning. It was totally going to hurt Alex to take them off, especially now that it’s so deep and fresh, as well as the gauze sticking to his skin. He really didn’t want him to deal with that right now, not during the only times he’s been given to unwind.

John lifted Alex’s leg up, sitting across from him, delicately laying it in his lap. He got a long piece of thick cloth from under the sink, wrapping Alex’s leg. Alex sucked in a breath at the pressure being added to his twisted ankle, though it was a dull ache compared to what his arm had felt, squeezing the towel. He tucked the end of the cloth into the layers of the continuing bandage on his leg creating a makeshift brace until they could get a better one, slipping the gray sweatpants from before on Alex as well as keeping his shirt off.

“Will you explain… the couch? Just the couch, like why?” John chuckled, picking up Alex so he could wrap his legs around his waist, his arms resting on Johns shoulders, completely straight. He smiled at him,

“It took us a couple of years to gather us all in one place, and it only got more dangerous, and at the beginning we just didn’t feel safe. We needed to be around each other, able to touch and feel and know we’re all there and safe. We also didn’t have and locks on the door or anything, cause we broke in after everyone left for the city.” He rested Alex on the counter so he could open the door, not even untangling their arms, walking out to find everyone jumbled in the living room.

“Who ever owned this place was really… creepy. He has, like, every horror movie I’ve ever seen commercials for, plus some.” A girlish voice echoed from the cabinet under the TV hanging from the wall. They chose the largest house they could find, not really thinking about the perks of choosing one that probably belonged to someone rich.

“I don’t think the necessarily makes them ‘ creepy ’.” another voice from the couch.

“Ooh, John an’ Alex, getting fancy over there~” Hercules shouted from the couch, laughing voicing over their stuttering. The two ended up ignoring them, smiling to each other they popped themselves on the couch/bed. Angelica sat on the couch closest to the kitchen, and the only one facing the TV like a normal couch, legs spread in front of her on the mattress in between the couches. John pushed his back into her spread legs, laying Alex on top of him so they were sitting in layers. He felt Anglica take his hair out of the band, running her finger through it, doing the same to Alex. Peggy sat on her left side, Maria and Eliza snuggled together on the couch to their left, Laf and Herc doing the same on the one to their right.

“Is a horror movie really something we should be watching now .” Hercules questioned from the side, Peggy giggling.

“Of course it is, it’ll prepare us.”

Nobody questioned her logic, just murmurs of agreement and giggles.

It’s not like it would really help them.

Not really.

Right?

Chapter Text

“They can’t do that!" Hercules screeched at the television, Laf clicking it off as fast as he could. “It’s their job to fix this fucking mess! They can’t leave so many people defenseless like that!” Alex hudled John in the corner, despite being the one in his lap he was wiping away tears from John’s face.

Hercules, amongst Angelica, Maria and Peggy, was screeching at each other, shouting out random insults and spitting at the TV. John flinched under Alex when something shattered somewhere, sounding remarkably like a beer bottle being crushed. John pushed his face into the crook of Alex’s neck when Anglica growled angrily into the air. Nobody wanted to see what they saw, but it was like they were forced to. The blank screen of the TV hadn’t been so blank anymore, the face of their hated president George Frederick flashing through the black, and in a few words swept the whole apartment into a fit of rage and tears.

Three days. Then we’re having a total shutdown.

Alex had to agree with Hercules on this, while most of the time their opinions varied greatly, there couldn’t be anyone in the world who agreed with him. Except for maybe the Government. They weren’t agreeing, the houses tearing each other apart and separating the nation that was supposed to be theirs together. Massive death tolls clocking in every second, the rate of their nation’s safety slowly dropping to nothing with the increase of Awakens. They could kill, but they couldn’t go to jail. They could steal, but no money would be owed. Everything about them just cancels itself out because they were so… not. They just weren’t. They couldn’t be and shouldn’t be, just a paradox within itself. They weren’t treated like people, so they had no rights, but that also meant they had no rules, then again it meant they couldn’t go to jail only because we can’t implement it because it’s against the law. But they have no laws. We do, they don’t. Cancelled.

But this isn’t a math problem.

All of it made his head hurt too much, surprising even himself with his lack of words for the event. Either way the Government has to figure it out not run away like they are. A total shutdown. Nothing would run, like a machine without its power source, everything would fall apart and corrode under the pressure. In just this household alone everything has already fallen though nothing has happened, nobody dared bring up what might be going on elsewhere. Another smash sounded around the room, Laf’s voice covering it up in angry breaths. Alex kept hold of John, not exactly sure why he was acting this way, but he wasn’t stupid. He’d call it daddy issues but that sounded way too crude and fake. These were real, feeling that nagging in the back of his head that John was seriously suffering and the only thing keeping him from falling apart right now was his broken boyfriend on top of him.

“Deep breaths, baby, just like that…” It seemed like just moments ago the roles were reversed. How did it all change so quickly?

“I d-d-don’t w-w-want-” He cried out, whining openly in broken sobs.

The screaming stopped, the breaking and the fighting stopping too, only hiccups and stutters being left. Peggy gasped and let her hand instinctively cover her mouth, Eliza in a similar position. They heard Maria whisper something to Laf, who proceed to lead Hercules past the double doors of the largest  room in the apartment. Glass vials filled with liquids lined one of the walls, but that’s all Alex was able to catch a glimpse of before the doors sung shut. Angelica ran over to John, Eliza and Maria following to haul Alex off his lap, each of his arms spread across their shoulders. They kept most of his weight on them best they could, but his ankle rested painfully on the ground under him, adding on time to what he assumed was already a few week, at least, to heal. John was picked up by Angelica with surprising ease, holding him bridal style while he wept, carrying him over to the couches.

John was fine for a solid five seconds before more waves uncontrollable tears flooded him, Alex’s name being cried out in dismay. The two girls carried him over, pushing him on the couch a little too roughly but he didn’t really blame them. He thought he was rather heavy, until John picked him up, but based on who was just carried to the couch and by who, he wasn’t really sure how anyone fell on the scale. Besides he wasn’t really one to judge on things like gender, Angelica could be a wrestler and still be as beautiful as she was now, she definitely had the strength to. John had started pushing away from Anglica by then, trying to pry her arms off his waist to crawl to the man sprawled on his back. He called out to him with so much emotion pouring out of him, feeling pain bubble in his chest at the sight, Alex held out his arms so he could crawl openly into them. He was acting so small it was almost endearing, he needed to be taken care of right now and he needed someone to make decisions for him, he just needed to be taken care of. Despite this he carefully maneuvered himself between Alex’s legs, careful not to disturb them, as well as keeping his arm a safe distance away. His forehead rested on Alex’s chest, burying it in with his arms wrapped around his waist, legs tucked up under him.

Maria pulled on Eliza and Peggy, urging them to leave him alone unlike so many times before. They knew what he needed in times like this, Maria and Angelica especially and if Maria thought they should leave him be, they probably should. Normally he wanted as many people in the room as possible, talking to him and touching him, to keep the peace by focusing on him.

“We’re going to go get supplies, tell Laf.” Maria whispered to Angelica, motioning to the other two girls to gear up.

“Be careful girls, the Black Market isn’t something to mess with.” Several nods followed, Maria slipped her arms around Angelica’s neck to give her a backwards hug, then followed the other girls to the ficilet by the door. Peggy pulled up her hair in a ponytail of cascading curls, all of them inserting their breathers so a small circle covered their lips, scarves wrapped over them. They pulled on boots, daggers and other small weapons worming their way in them, an assortment of other sharp objects finding home in their cloths. Peggy even made it a point to hide chemical sprays in her cleavage. Maria’s hair laid over one eye in elegant waves, though no one would be as concerned to see a girl with a black eye now, it must have be more out of habit than actuality. It seemed so crude that people had to be so prepared just to step outside, on top of the Government doing nothing to fix it, he felt a pang of anger flare through him, his eyebrows creasing in thought.

Three days.

“We have three days to prepare. Don’t waste them.” His voice was rough, deep but not mean, sounding almost like Lafayette but he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. Peggy’s eyes darkened, looking over to him, something hidden in them nobody wanted to mess with. Then they nodded. They knew, of course they new they needed to be prepared because if they weren’t…

He heard the door shut, feeling John jump slightly in his lap, not realizing they were ready to leave already. He pushed his dishevelled hair, revealing a pair of closed eyes with eyelashes that were still covered with tears. Droplets laid randomly on his dark eyelashes, making him look smaller than he’d seemed at first. He hugged his shoulders tighter to his body, he finally felt like he was giving back this time. John had been taking such good care of him while he didn’t nothing and just got pampered. Equal wasn’t a term he was keen on using for this, but it seemed to fit, but on a thin line. They didn’t need to be equal, it was a relationship not a competition, yet somehow he felt at ease knowing John has a weak spot to share with him.

“You have to be careful with him.” Alex jumped, breath spiking, doing his best to keep quiet. He tried to get his heart rate back to normal, Angelica shifting around so he could see her better. “He tries to be strong for us, but he’s holding himself together with a string. It’s easy to break, and when it does he needs special attention.” Her eyes got softer, along with Alex’s, both gazes drooping to the sleeping boy.

“Why?”

“It’s not my place to say, but I assure you he’ll tell you when he’s ready.” She leaned over, placing her hand on John’s back. She grazed her fingers sympathetically over his back, his muscles unclenching at her touch, smiling down at him. “I will tell you that you’re the only other person he’s allowed to touch him like this. Normally only I or Eliza can.” He felt his chest pure at that, thankful John was letting him in.

“Does this happen a lot?” She shook her head, curls shaking wildly with it.

“Only when it reminds him of-” She looked at Alex but she’d already said it, “Home.” He averted his gaze. Home was something she knew not to talk about with him, the word or the concept, he hated all of it. A home and a house weren’t the same things, at least not to Alexander. A house was were you lived, it was what you’d use as the basic dictionary definition, it was just a house. Home wasn’t just a house, it was your family, the things you love and a place to be safe, you don’t have to be scared to be you and nobody turns their backs against you. It was safety. “I’m sorry-”

“It must not have been a home.” She removed her hand from his back,

“It really wasn’t.” Angelica bit the inside of her lip, warily eyeing the two. “I know it’s probably not the best time…” He lifted an eyebrow, still focusing on John. “What are we going to do if the Government shuts down?”

“The only thing we can do.”

...

“Survive.”

~~~

Broken glass littered the sidewalk, crushing into smaller bits with every step, from ungodly amounts of broken windows. The large brick buildings that towered above them were crumbling at various rates, making it look like the the remnants of an explosion. Not that they didn’t doubt it was on of sorts, like the gangs of Awakens that prouled at night or of the testing sites for the Black Market. The cracked sidewalks were rooted next to an equally disturbed road, a mirror image of the cracked sidewalk they were on along the other side. The eerie silence was enough to make their skin crawl, even in abandoned towns something was always making noise, whether it be cats that found home on cracked floorboards or the trees that lined the cities bristling in the breeze. But today there was only silence, nothing to hear and the only thing to be seen was the cracks that linded almost everything, like it was all connected and broken together.

Peggy wrapped her arms around her torso, hating the feeling of walking through abandoned streets, but knowing full well something was watching. She looked up at a street sign, black endless roads coming together to form a cross, ‘Black Cat’ printed on the label with a small ‘rd’ next to it. She tried to repress another shiver, now was not the time to be superstitious. Maria grabbed her by the arm, she was really the only one who knew where she was going, pulling her into the broken doorway of an, at least, seven story building. It smelled of musty laundry, the lingering smell of wet clothes surrounding her, a smashed desk in the center of the room being the center of attention. It was crumbling in the middle, standing right infront of a broken pillar that reached the ends of the desk, the welcoming design being crushed with it. Maria walked up to the desk, a confidence sashay of her hips filling the two with a shred of serenity, glass breaking when she brushed it off the countertop. Maria waved them over, Eliza and Peggy warily eyeing each other, dipping down behind the countertop.

They walked over to Maria, briefly grasping the knowledge that this wasn’t a regular store, holding their breath they tilted their heads around the desk.

“Woah.” Peggy gasped out, Eliza stifling a similar exclamation.

Maira had pushed aside one of the larger rocks that had fallen from the desk, a hole no larger than Lafayette gazing back at the, resting it not too far from the hole. The pitch black pit was smaller than the rock, so it would lay on top of the hole, permanently amending the rock with the small shape of the square. From the top it looked like a regular rock, broken and edged, but the square at the bottom was a clear indicator it wasn’t. Peggy pushed the rock, surprised when it moved from behind Maria to on her side with the small touch, confirming her suspicion that it was a carefully crafted… something else. It was as light as a cardboard box, but it was much sturdier and firmer, so not cardboard, but she couldn’t figure out what it was. She wasn’t too keen on really trying to figure it out anyway. Eliza stared down at the gaping hole cautiously, her lips pursing together so tightly they turned white.

“What’s at the bottom?” Maria looked around vigilantly, pushing a single finger to her lips. She made a small shushing sound, pleading with the rest of her body.

“It’s not safe to talk out here.”

“But-”

“I need you to trust me. Please.” Eliza swallowed but nodded, looking down at the hole then at Peggy. “Jump down. That’s all you have to do- I know it doesn’t help, but I need to go last. Have to close the gate.” Peggy groaned internally, her eyebrows weaving together cautiously, she made it sound like a portal to somewhere she honestly shouldn’t want to go, but that only intensified the flame of adventure inside her. Eliza looked like she was ready to vomit, her face turning a sickly white, making her look even more frail than she was. That only urged Peggy on further, she had to be tough for her sister, be brave for her, take the fall for her, take the leap of faith.

She slipped one leg into the hole at a time, it suddenly feeling much more deep, hanging off the side so far her thighs were being scraped against the uneven cuts of the side. She was preparing herself for the push off the side, almost wailing in relief when Maria stopped her. Even if it was for just a second, it gave her some time to gain confidence.

“Give me your phone, breather, and supply kit.” They all had small bags that hung off their belts, holding a weapon (obviously), a first aid kit, phones, money, and their breathers. She gave her a quizzical look before unhooking the hinge that connected it, a similar click sounding from Eliza, handing over the bag. Maria took out the larger bag that slung over her shoulder, placing the bags in it before zipping it up again. Maira gave her a sheepish smile, “Waterproof.” Peggy barely had time to process what she said her hands returning to the edge next to her to boost herself off. Then it clicked,

“Wai-!” Maria looked at her almost apologetically a hand finding its way to her back.

“Hold your breath.” Then a push.

~~~

John woke up disoriented and stiff, his body not used to sleeping in the middle of the day, or on someone for that matter. His cheeks were still wet with tears, his mind slipping back to what happened, wiping them with the back of his hand. He pushed on either side of Alex, lifting his body off him, admiring his sleeping form. He was so skinny and frail but he looked so angelic with his eyes closed and all tension gone without a trace. He smiled down at him, his hair falling around his neck and past his shoulders, never wanting to look away. Then a chocolate brown eye was staring back at him, the other one closed, a smile forming under it.

“Hey.” John let out a rather girlish giggle, rolling off him.

“Hey, beautiful.” The other eye shot open, a blush traveling down his neck. An undignified squeak, trying to push his lips against the smile. He helped him sit up on the couch, pushing his back for everything else being too sore to touch, pulling his hair back in a fresh ponytail to match John’s. “Hey- uh- I’m sorry about earlier I-”

“Don’t be sorry, please, Jack,” He blushed at the nickname, his shame and embarrassment fusing together, “It sucked that you felt like that, but I was so happy I got to take care of you. Especially after everything you did for me.” John smiled at Alex’s grin, pushing their lips together, in a messy kiss. It was all still new to John, but he was definitely going to get used to his lips on his own. Their teeth clacked against each other, saliva collecting around their lips, breaking apart only for air.

“Come one, charmer, we need to check out your arm.” His face fell immediately, knowing full well it wasn’t going to be pleasant for either of them, but also knowing it had to be done. Alex pouted, his bottom lip sticking out teasingly, rolling his eyes at him, John stood up. He stepped out of the connected corners of couches, pulling the couch with him so it would be easier to pick Alex up. Alex brought his legs together so John could cradle them, picking him up bridal style once again, his head logging to the side. He stuck his tongue out at the floor, watching the shellacked wood breeze by in John’s arms. He kicked open the bathroom door and set Alex on the counter, pushing and locking the door with a click.

He pulled out the first aid kit from that same night, setting the white box on the counter and popping the lid out of it’s hatches, taking a deep breath. “Ready babygirl?” Alex nodded, crossing his legs at his ankles. He flinched when John grabbed his arm, hyper aware of all the tingles under his skin, his warm fingers wrapping around his elbow. He found where the bandage ended and unraveled it, pulling at the bandages as light as he could, Alex biting on the sounds he was willing himself to keep inside.

The wound was horrifying. It was obviously still open and huge, giant , the only upside being it wasn’t infected. John honestly had no idea how it didn’t bleed through the bandage, but then again he wasn’t paying as close attention to it as he should have been. The gash was bleeding vigorously over John’s arm once again, pouring over his hand and onto the counter in a puddle of red, Alex giving into the whimpers passing his lips.

The next part was a series of punctures to his skin, John pulling a thread through Alex’s broken skin. It didn’t hurt nearly as bad as getting the wound did, but with it so close to the irritated and very sensitive nerves, it was pretty close. Alex started crying openly halfway through, but John kept going, wrapping it in a clean bandage thicker than the last one, just for the extra relief it gave them. John wanted to make sure the stitches stayed safe and the wound wasn’t open for infections, as well as the constant pressure soothing Alex’s arm and mind, both of them feeling safer with the extra padding.

When John carried him out of the bathroom they found Laf in the kitchen, a distressed Hercules pacing the floor. John gave Alex’s temple a soft kiss before setting him on one of the bar stools at the island separating the kitchen and the living room. He pushed him on further, the cold counter feeling nice against his pain-heated legs, making sure he was a safe distance away from the edge.

“Laf? Herc? What happened?” Lafayette bit his lip, busing himself on the phone he had in his hand. He continuously called three numbers on his phone, each time the same emotionless voice of the recorded woman answering instead of who he wanted. He came close to throwing his phone multiple times, angered whines bubbling out of him instead, his face scrunched and his body tense.  His eyes were dark and lined with worried eyebrows. Hercules decided to talk for him, easing his voice in nervously, cautious around John.

“They confirmed it, the government. The three days starts tomorrow.” John sighed, sounding tired, he had assumed it would have happened not even giving it a chance to turn around. “We need to get out of here, and find the Crested Iris , so we planned on telling everyone we planned on living in the South for a while…” He trailed off walking over to Laf who was on the verge of having a mental break down. John gave him a once-over, it must be really bad for him to be this scared. He could tell Alex could sense it too, the way his brows furrowed in concentration, observing and storing every move they made along every word that spoke. “Then they explained it more.”

“Explained what more?”

“The shutdown, it’s going to be a lot worse than we thought, John.” He inhaled nervously, hugging Lafayette from behind for both of their comfort, continuing regretfully. His voice shook, sounding so fidgety in a way he’s never heard before. “It’s not going to be safe around the cities anymore, it’s already going to be hard getting out of hear, but with all the added attention it will be much worse.” Alex quirked up and eyebrow Hercules didn’t miss. “In those giant cities, where so many people are safe by protection from the Government, what’s going to happen when it shuts down?” John heard Alex gasp beside him, no time given to figure it out himself.

“It’s going to be a massacre .”

“Without the protection, those Awakens are going to fight- they are going to kill and take everything they want, and with the Reynolds by their side, their going to know about it and they are going to be fucking ready.” John pushed a hand up to his lips, biting the finger bent in his mouth.

“We get three days to prepare-” Alex’s head snapped to Hercules, who was practically laying over Laf, whose face was hidden in his arms on the counter.


“But so do they.”

The silence that was destined to come after a conversation like that was too much for John, pulling Alex’s arm like it was his lifeline reeling him in. He embraced him for a second, just enjoying his warmth and the way it felt having his head buried in his chest, and for a second he gave himself the time to think.

If this was going to happen, it was going to be awful. So many innocent lives who thought they were safe were all probably safe in their houses, dread filling them at what they knew was coming. Everyone was slowing figuring it out, panic was spreading like the Black Death. He could see it all in his mind, Children becoming orphans, family breaking apart, innocents dying, being bitten . He whimpered at what this meant for them, what it meant for him and Alex, for Laf and Herc, for the girls-

The girls .

“H-Herc,” A beat passed, “Where are the girls?”

“That’s the thing, Angelica was trying to tell us something when the article came up. She was gone in a second, but we think she was trying to tell us where they went.”

So? Call them!"

“We tried!” John felt a cold dread settle in him, the aura around them plummeting the the lowest. “John, we don’t know where they are. They aren’t picking up, and the only thing the phone is saying is they’ve been disconnected.”

Tears filled his eyes, looking into Alex’s he felt a sense of calm, a sense of protectiveness. He needed to be brave for Alex, needed to be strong for Alex. “We need to get ready.” Laf looked up from the table, his expression a mix of hope and fear, like nothing he’d ever seen him wear.

“What do we need to do John?”

“Prepare yourselves. We’re finding those girls and we’re getting out of here .”

Chapter Text

Darkness, everywhere, there was nothing to be seen, or felt, or heard, or-

Yes there was .

Water, she could here waves, distant and choppy, Maria’s voice ringing out above the pounding. Hold your breath. She squeezed her eyes shut, giving her a sense of control, like it was only dark because she wanted it to be. The wind whipped around her, the scarf that had been tied around her waist flying off sometime during the jump, her hair snipping at the sensitive skin of her cheeks. The crashing from below got louder, fear coursing through her like her blood, everything she’s ever felt scorching her mind and nerves, her body feeling like freezing fire. The terrifying feeling of ignorance flushed through her for a split second, that brief moment of doubt, that maybe Maria was wrong or she wanted them dead. For a split second she forgot she was Eliza’s girlfriend, she was her sisters pride and joy, her sister’s lover and best friend. For a split second she forgot about Eliza and for the split second after she felt she deserved to hit rocks instead of water. Her poor sister, the one who’s going through the worst right now, left her mind with only fear and deceptivity breaching through the surface.

A shrill shriek left her lips, the feeling of falling in her gut and swimming around her settling to comfortably in her bones, she was more scared than she’d like to admit. She felt her back and arms spasm violently, the ‘nervous ticks’ she got when she was stressed or anxious, over executed thoughts finding way to her mind. Things were starting to settle faster the more she thought, her eyes closing so tight they almost hurt, tears spilling down her cheeks. She still hadn’t landed on anything yet but she couldn’t decide if she should be grateful or thankless. She could here the waves getting closer, opening her mouth to take in a deep breath before swallowing it down again, forcing her body to get used to the lack of oxygen. Then she heard a scream. Delicate and frightened, everything inside her collapsing with the scared cry. But at the same time it built it back up. The high pitched voice sounded so small and tiny, reminding her of how delicate the girl above her was, even at a year older, she was always considered the small one. She felt the urge to cry out to the girl, tell her everything would be okay - but it wasn’t , they were falling and it hasn’t ended - it wasn’t okay. She opened her mouth, not sure what she wanted to say or if she should say anything, then-

The scream she let out was swallowed by the waves collapsing around her, the water slamming her with more force than her body could handle, the air leaving her lungs with the howl. Pain shot through her back, spreading through her nerves until everything was on fire, her nerves stinging with the impact. She willed her body to move, everything stiff and aching under the crushing power of the waves, her body begging for the air she couldn’t have, staying broken in the water.

The water was freezing cold, but it took only a second for her quick witted mind to pick up, despite being in a panicked situation. The fall was long enough to be scary, dark enough for you to doubt, but when you hit the water you live. The water is cold but not cold enough to kill you, and suddenly everything cleared from her mind. The fogginess was washed away with the cool water, letting it sink into her bones and freeze her mind over, leaving only enough room for rational thinking. She broke through the surface with a gasp, breathing in deeply before she was sucked in again, pulled under the water with her mouth wide open. She closed her mouth but not before she inhaled the frozen liquid, her lungs filling painfully, her body spasming against the waves. She tried desperately to get herself up again but everything was becoming even more uneven in the darkness, her arms failing her along with her legs that had started flailing around desperately in an attempt to get her above the waves. She felt unsteady, even more so than before, the only indicates that her eyes were open was the stinging feeling of the liquid pounding against her ruthlessly.

She felt her lungs pushing against the intrusion, forcing her to open her mouth once again to only intake more water, coughing with the only energy she had left. She was moaning out in the water but no sound came out, just her body thrashing unnoticing beneath the waves, her frantic movements doing nothing. She felt her eyes instinctively close, feeling nothing with her brain shutting down, only barely aware of the water moving her down the stream and into the open arms of another. She screamed, trying to gain someone’s attention, but again no sound left her lips. The arms looped under her arms, hoisting her out of the cruel waves still beating against her legs but she couldn’t tell. Her eyes were still shut but it wasn’t of her own account, everything seeming to get darker than it already was in the pitch blackness, her body numb from the lack of oxygen and the cold keeping place in her system.

The only thing she really noticed was when lips found her own.

She wasn’t thinking, barely even feeling, her lips warming up immediately though she could barely tell. She felt her body force a breath, pain of the suffocation filling through her like she just now realised she was dying. Then the lips left and she was coughing, water spewing out of her mouth, the burning in her throat lingering with every drop of water flying passed her lips. She sucked in a breath, too deep and her body spasmed again, throwing her into another fit of coughing with excess water volting from her lungs. Her brain was pounding against the sides of her skull, the dull ache nothing compared to the way her lungs felt as if they were being burned from the inside out. She started to regain feeling before control, her hands and legs shaking with nervous tics jerking her body against itself, still beyond her control. She was vaguely aware of the knife being pressed to her skin, so quickly it then was gone, her jacket being thrown somewhere and her shirt sliced down the center. Her bra was still intact, but a thin line cut through the first layer of the bonding, the only remnants of the blade being there. Then the lips were on hers again, but stronger, more sure, more water spitting from her lungs.

She the eyes she never knew she closed, light flooding into them immediately, closing them again at the intrusion. She got a brief look at the soft brown blurred color of the person above her and helping her sit up, throwing her body into another fit of coughs with more water spewing from her mouth. She could was starting to regain her senses, or at least started paying attention to them, hearing footsteps rush by and the shuffle of items nearby. It was obvious this happened a lot because the only person next to her was the one holding her and smacking her back like a baby. She opened one eye slowly, letting it adjust to the light before opening the other one. Her arms were sore when she lifted them to her face, wiping away the bleariness.

She looked out at the three faces in front of her, two familiar, one not. Eliza and Maria were equally as drenched as herself, but in a much better condition, Maria soaked but fully functional and helping Eliza who was standing hunched over and coughing out sprinkles of water. The other person was a bit more of a surprise, looking a lot like Lafayette, from the hair lining his chin to the curls framing his face in bunches. It was voluptuous, and everywhere, in a way that Lafayette's wasn’t, less elegant but still regal. He looked down at her, concern scrunched in his face with his eyebrows, his eyes wondering. He had a hand on her back, the same spot Maira’s had been before she almost killed me, helping her stand up over pushing her down. He smiled at her when she whipped her hand away, her fierceness pulling at him in a way it probably shouldn’t, her eyes moving past his with a blush.

“Thanks, my name is P-!” Maria dropped pulled Eliza in one go, pulling at Peggy’s waist, cutting her off mid-sentence. Peggy looked all out annoyed, her body turning a light shade of red, she pushed away from Maria and Eliza who looked ready to vomit.

“What’s your problem?!” Maria looked just as sick as Eliza, her wet hair pulled away from her black eye in a loose ponytail behind her head.

“We need to be cautious here! You can’t give people any personal information, especially not your name.” She whisper yelled at Peggy though her gaze was on something else. She held Eliza to her side, her body shaking with oversensitivity. That was another great side-effect they’ve witnessed so far, completely sensitive to everything, including temperatures. That was until they reached the next stage, when all feeling was lost. Peggy shivered but it wasn’t from the cold, the countless bittens she’s heard wailing in the streets filling her head. “We just need to get in and get out. We’re splitting up, thought it’s not the best idea, it’s better than staying here any longer. She handed Peggy her unmarked bag and pushed her in a general direction, grabbing Eliza by her hand and pulling her closer. “Stick with him.” Maria nodded to the frizzy haired man, “I know him, he’ll keep you safe. Meet us back here in an hour” She gave one more looked at Peggy, one begging for forgiveness from before. She smiled at her, forgiveness, even after she almost killed her. She gave her a shaky grin, adding softly, “And hey, don’t do anything you’ll regret. These people are known for bargaining.”

She gave a shaky laugh and walked off, leaving her with the stranger from before. He smiled and waved her over, “You might wanna put your jacket back on.” He gave a flirtatious smile, totally forgetting her shirt had been cut off. Ah, so he wanted to play like that.

“Nah, I think I’ll keep it off.” Her bra was black with three straps crossing across her chest on each side, her cleavage peeking out between the hatches. It definitely added to the badass look she got in her setup, though it was for protection not fashion. She was pretty mature bodywise for her age, she’d definitely been catcalled before and this wasn’t anything new, but she’d be lying if sometimes she didn’t enjoy pushing them on. She watched a blush creep up his neck, though he tried to hide it, smiling to herself she pulled the jacket over but kept it unzipped. She wasn’t one to get shy in front of people, and had maybe a shred of modesty, but she could fuck over anyone who tried to touch her.

“My name is Jefferson, by the way.” She smiled, hesitating before returning the introduction. Don’t tell people your name. But he told you his. Still .

“Schuyler” She smiled, happy her last name could totally pull of as a first name. He pulled her to the side, all sense of pleasure gone in an instant. His face darkened almost immediately, his eyes looking sunken.

“Why is Maria here?” He whispered at her, his breath smelling like champagne. Peggy quirked up an eyebrow, her mouth twisting together.

“We need supplies, didn’t you hear the news?” She whispered back, in a rush. Jefferson’s face fell, his bushy hair covering his face. Peggy was backed up against a wall his hand next to her head. He was really tall compared to her small frame, feeling constricted she walked out of the small alleyway he pulled them into. She twisted to her left, going to opposite way than that in which she came, her mouth falling open. She wasn’t sure if she would be amazed by something that’s supposed to be so bad.

Thousands of people, wandering around like in a literal market, tents pitched up and marquees leading to giant domes. It was a completely different world than what she left, colors and smells dancing around her in an intricate dance, everything so beautifully placed like a carnival. Her eyes went wide, Jefferson trailing behind her looking dazed and worried, her excitement exploding into a thousand colors she couldn’t even begin to describe. It looked so adventurous and she yearned to touch one of the tents and eat the food like she’d get magical abilities. She smiled wider than she did when John figured out where the Crested Iris ’ were, but this, this was way better. She was ready to run to the city infront of her when a hand pulled on her shoulder, stumbling back into the chest she’d been leaning on earlier.

“You can’t forget where you are.” Somehow that only sparked her interests more, a good story always had a little danger in it, didn’t it? “This isn’t a carnival where the worst that could happen is being ripped off.” He looked absolutely serious, swallowing the urge to laugh at him, he couldn’t be serious.

“Seriously? This place looks like a dream- it actually looks difficult to find anything I’ll actually need.” She began to walk in the direction of the tents, only to be stopped once more.

“Skylar. You’ve obviously never been here before, and they will pick up on that like this .” He snapped his fingers in her face, looking genuinely worried. She let out a sigh, knowing she wasn’t going to get anywhere with him she shrugged off his hand and kept walking. He entered the city of sound, marveling at everything people and tents surrounding her and placed in intricate roads of square turns and round twists. People yelled from their booths, advertising insane things like a weapon that explodes on impact, or acid that burns through human bone. She became a little more wary when she approached a tent that looked promising to the things she needed. It was darkly lit and the tent itself was a dark grey to suit the silver of the chains that hung from the sides. She swallowed but approached anyway, trying to seem like the enthusiasm didn’t leave in a solid three seconds. The owner was a bulky man, looked about thirty, and resembling one of the gruff men of a motorcycle gang you’d see beating people up in pubs at midnight.

“Whas’ a prett’y youn’ lady like yourself doin’ down here?” He had an accent she couldn’t place, his voice deep and menacing. She puffed out her chest, trying to stand a little taller than she was.

“I’m looking for chemical diffusers. Have any?” She played off as cool, placing her hand on the table in front of her, ladened with knives and bombs. She pulled out a clear case, small circles that extended to rounded rubber parts to me inserted into the mouth. They were a light shade of blue which seemed out of place in the man’s hands. “How much?” She tried not to vomit when he gave her a perverted grin of yellowed, crooked teeth, no doubt from drinking.

“How ‘bout you open yer’ jacket a lil’ wider fer’ three?” She smiled at him, or at least hoped she was. Getting only one more was the goal for today, being incredibly hard to come by and way too expensive for anyone to make it was like mining for silver. Getting three for a little peek at her already exposed chest wouldn’t harm anyone right? She swallowed her pride for a second, eyes settling on his grin, he was disgusting, everything about him screamed rapist from the creepy eyes to the crooked smirk. She let a beat pass before pulling at the sides of her coat, spreading it further than it’s resting place were the two sides almost touched completely, exposing her toned stomach and covered breasts. He smiled down at her chest, longing to zip up the jacket but holding it firmly past her waist, he reached out and snapped one of the strings.

It took all of her will power not to revolt at the touch, shivering in a way she’d hope he’d mistake for something good, swallowing down the bile she felt rising in her mouth. Her throat burned with retorts, her fists clenching around the zipper of her coat in an attempt not to connect them to his jaw. He pulled his hand away to her relief, the anger boiling past the point her body could take but still she swallowed it down. He gave her another smug smile, her nails digging into her palms so hard she felt they were bleeding, knowing that if she snapped he’d turn back on his offer. He got out a silk cloth wrapping four of the breathers into it and tying it with a small ribbon, handing the pouch to her. She tensed when his hand lingered on hers for a little longer than needed, sighing when it left. She gave him a ‘sexy’ smile, licking her lips and turning away, her body easing almost instantly after stepping away from the booth.

She wasn’t sure how she felt wandering through the path alone again, her body not letting the feeling of unease go after the encounter. She tried to tell herself it was worth it - she even got an extra breather - but it seemed to deny any comfort she pushed into her mindset. She almost cried in relief when she saw the familiar puffed out hair of the friendly stranger.

She broke into a run, pushing past people and ignoring their ugly complaints, running into the man. She tried not to be as handsy as she wanted, feeling a hand slink around her waist, suddenly she wasn't so safe anymore. The way that man looked at her and touched her slinking back into her memory, pushing against him but the hand held her waist tighter. She opened her mouth, a retort dying on her lips when she looked up. That’s not Jefferson .

The man’s hair was similar, yes, but she didn’t seem to notice how Jefferson’s casual clothes were switched for a velvet suit in a deep red tinted a light purple. She felt her throat constrict at his eyes, they looked so… sure. She wasn’t able to explain it any other way, the way he looked like he could convince you of anything, the mishvie that glinted in his bright blue eyes and the way his skin that mimicked the warm skin of Jefferson’s felt stronger.

My my, what have we here? ” He had a thick french accent, barely able to decipher the words that he hissed out, his voice sounding remarkably snakelike. But not scary, intimidating, but not scary. “My sweet princess, do you want to make a deal?” He let go of her waist, every sound around her disappearing, the only thing she was able to focus on was the way his mouth barely moved but his sounds were sharp and clear. Her mouth opened involuntarily, his smile more like a permanent leer. “I can see desperation in your eyes, maybe you’d like to save some lives.” He pulled her into a nearby tent that was just as velvety as his suit, the color matching his black shoes. He closed the curtain after her, pushing at her shoulder into the circular tent.

It was a mystic beauty, the tent and everything in it reminding her of all the movies she’d watched with fortune telling. The way pillows and blankets were strewn lazily around the floor, tassels folding over and under the carpets that were layered among each other, the pillows organized in a circle. Gems sparkled against the light of the orb in the center of the brown wooden table in the room, hanging from beads that connected to the top of the pointed tent, making them look incredible. Like the stars she longed to see every night, but it seemed that once she couldn’t have it anymore it was the only thing she wanted. He placed the dazed teen on a pillow, other bodies coming to form next to her and around her, a total of eight all seated on tasseled pillows of different colors. They all looked older than her, all equally drugged out like the room was filled with a glittering poison that rendered them useless against the awe, the only one younger than her was a small ten year old boy with raven black hair covering his forehead in a messy wave.

“All of you, I can see it, are in dire need of something secret.” His rhymes only added to the magic of the room, her body slumping onto itself and sagging closer to the floor. “Let’s start with the oldest and work our way down,” He pointed to a boy who looked relatively young and fit for being the oldest in the room, his eyes showing a dire need, “You’re trying to save the one with a silver crown.” Of course that didn’t make sense to Peggy, but in the dim blue lighting of the room he turned paler, his body becoming fuller unlike Peggy’s that slouched further. She noticed him moving around the room counter clockwise, saying something that struck just the right amount of horror in each person, only stopping when he reached Peggy. “You my princess are quite different. Neither seems to be insignificant. The one who’s been with you you’re whole life, or the one whose arm was cut at the knife?” She swallowed, everything becoming a littler clearer than she needed. He was talking about Eliza and Alex, the two bittens, the two she wanted to help more than she could. She sat up a little straighter, her gaze lingering on everyone sitting in the circle with her. They all want the same thing as me . To save a bitten.

Her thoughts were cut off just in time to hear the small boy whimper when the man swooped infront of him, no less elegance than before. “You my boy have a dying mother, but what you wish not for another. You wish to make your mother proud, by showing her you are unbowed.” She could almost hear all their hearts pumping in union, everyone holding onto a breath they weren’t ready to let go of. He stood up straighter and whisked his eyes around the circular tents, his eyes lingering on hers a little longer than anyone else's. She suppressed the shudder in her bones, feeling the small boy get a little closer to her. She reached her hand to the side, not letting her gaze stray from the blue glowing sphere in the center of the room, feeling a shaking hand grasp it and intertwine their fingers.

When the man came back, he came with a tray filled with various liquids in containers that swirled around each other on intricately detailed glass that let the colors of the crystalline liquor. He placed it on the table, picking up the orb delicately and placing it in the center of the tray so it remained in the center of the room.

They all missed the gun he put on the table .

“I can see what you all need, but one person will not succeed. Heed my warning before we start, you are all strong of heart, maybe if one were to turn away, you’ll all see another day?” When nobody moved he sighed, “I can see all thy desire, but I didn’t force you through the fire.” He looked torn, his hands moving to the gun on the table, they heard it click but still no one moved. They watched him place a bullet in it, revolving it until no one could recall the one that held the lethal metal.

“It think you all know of roulette, seven are safe but one holds a bullet.” He cocked the gun, pointing it at the woman just to the left of the silver haired teen in front of her.

The shot rang out, but still no one moved. She didn’t yell only looking merely shaken at the intrusion, almost like she didn’t believe it was real, but Peggy could feel it, she knew someone wasn’t going to live to get out of the tent. A vial filled with a red liquid, mimicking blood but thinner and clear, was handed to her outstretched palm. The same thing repeated twice, each one surviving the shot at their head, but with each passing moment everyone had turned as white as snow, all blood draining from them. The young adults got restless, knowing that only of them wasn’t going to survive, the chances of doing so getting slimmer and simmer. Peggy felt a small hand in her palm squeeze tighter. Then finally it stopped at her, she was number four, exactly halfway through, the gaze from before that lingered on her for a fraction of a second longer - maybe longer - flooding her memories until that was the only thing there.

What if he chose you? You’re dead. Say goodbye.

The gun was cocked, she didn’t let her eyes leave the orb, squeezing the small hand back.

Then the cold metal touched her overheated temple, and the trigger was pulled.

Chapter Text

Click…

All in a second, her hand squeezing that little boys painfully so, everything falling on her like anvil. What’s wrong with her?! Bantering with her life, not giving it a second thought, just going with the flow of the river. That so wasn’t like her, and for a moment fear coursed through her her body like lightning, everything that had just happened following her and shifting through the haze. She could see the man who gave her the breathers, and she could see the man who lured her into this deadly gamble of life and death, and somehow she still couldn’t see why she let him. She wasn’t submissive, she never was and never would be, so why had she been now? When she needed her sense the most it vanished without a trace, not even one voice staying to tell her this wasn’t normal. All this passed in a second, but it wasn’t fast enough, it would never be fast enough.

Click , the gun was cocked. A second passed - one second with sense - click , the trigger was pulled - One second passed, one second with sense - she wasn’t going to be afraid of this bullet. Not if it was for Alex, and certainly not if it was for Eliza. In the brief second before the second click of the gun, his finger lodged under the trigger, she looked up. Her eyes were hard and serious, a brief flicker of life dancing between them, the man in the velvet suit meeting her I gaze and pulling the trigger.

It all happened too fast, the flashing, the sound, the pain , but she was still breathing. She let out a guttural scream, her voice not even making a noise, just pushing at the bile rising in her throat, burning with the throb of her shoulder. She instantly regretted looking down at her shoulder, the blood dripping down her arm in giant drop of bright red was nothing compared to the butt of the bullet sticking out of her arm, the feeling wavering between numb and too much to handle. Tears sprung bright in her eyes but that was the least of her worries, her mind leaving with the blood soaking into the pillow under her bent legs. She felt small hands work their way up her arm, watching a bandana leave the wrist of a young boy and wrap around her shoulder, the pressure it applied feeling absolutely terrible. She let out another yell, the people around her following suit but the man in the center, who seemed completely unharmed, ecstatic if anything.

“My dear, you took the blow, so no one as any further to go. You saved their lives as well as many more. All I said you had to do was survive, and because of the little boy on your arm, you’ll stay alive.” He handed her two vials, both glass and containing a red liquid, connected at the bottom by their tips, swirling around each other like an infinity sign and blooming off into corked openings. She took them with her good arm, tears streaming down her face. She felt her body sink down against the carpet, feeling colder and firmer than before.

The last thing she remembered seeing was a small boy with black hair standing over her body, whispering her a lullaby in Spanish, the pain was too consuming though. Her eyes shut and her body went limp against that floor.

~~~

It didn’t take them long to find Angelica, walking down the street and just as clueless as them, her voice cracking when she spoke and her stuttering steps matching her shaking arms. Alex was on John’s back, his good arm was wrapped around his neck and his legs around his waist, Laf and Herc running a few steps in front of them. Alex had argued that it would be better to just leave him at the flat, to not have to haul him around with no purpose, but John fought vigorously with him. He noticed how John’s grip on his legs never lessened.

Angelica was out of breath, her voice visibly in the late fall air, the sun setting above her heaving form. Lafayette groaned when they caught up to her, knowing it wasn’t safe to be up when they couldn’t see well enough to defend themselves. He leaned her up against the wall, pulling on the jacket they grabbed for her when they noticed she hadn’t grabbed it herself, slipping it over her shoulders. Hercules looked out beyond the broken sidewalk, his hand covering the onslaught of sunlight from the golden sun the set the sky on fire. It barely did anything to shield his eyes, but it was enough to see a figure turning out of a cracked building that rested on the corner of an intersection.

“Angelica?” He got a huff in response, “Where exactly are they?” They hadn’t realized they didn’t have the answer until the question was put out again, Alex’s legs squeezing around John’s waist. Her half lidded eyes drooped with her lips, her face sinking into tears she wouldn’t let spill.

“They went to get supplies.”

“Angelica. Exactly .” She bit her lips, her hands fisting the coat covering her bare shoulders, pulling them closer to her body. “ Angelica.”

“The Black Market.” It wasn’t more the a whisper, but Lafayette's gasp was. She was quick to defend herself, knowing it would get her nowhere, but not willing to let it go unnoticed. “But the things we needed -”

“We couldn’t have gotten somewhere else?!” Hercules’ voice was directed at Angelia but his gaze was still on the shape running in their direction, whether the man knew it or not.

I wanted Peggy to get something specific.” Her voice was cold and sour all of a sudden, hissing and bobbing her head at the duo, Alex and John shrinking under their gaze. “But I’d forgotten what it would take to get it- hell, for all I know she won’t even be chosen and she doesn’t even know I want her to get it, but-”

Angelica!” Her voice was cut off by a shrill sheik nobody knew Lafayette was able to make. “You know what they do to people there! Eliza and Peggy don’t!”

“But Maria does!” Hercules punched the side of the wall the poor confused Alex and John flinching slightly at their reactions. All the information Maria was able to store in her brain was always helpful to them, but they never liked discussing it, only using and forgetting. It was like knowing how to use a dagger. It wasn’t something people just taught and sure it was helpful to them now , but it makes you wonder why they know something like that in the first place. But they don’t ask and Maria doesn’t tell. Simple, and no one gets hurt, emotionally or physically.

Except someone was getting hurt this time, emotionally and physically.

They only had a second to catch their thoughts before the man reached them, eyes down and hair whipping wildly around his face. He ran directly into Hercules, almost falling to the sidewalk with the force of it. He hissed at them, grabbing Hercules’ shirt in attempt to steady himself, squeaking then sighing all in one breath when he saw his face.

“Y-You , must- oh dear Lord- be Hercules.” He forced out, southern accent thick, his chest heaving so much it looked painful to watch. Alex moved his arm to rest above John’s chest, stuffing his hand down the opening of his jacket and feeling his heartbeat through his shirt. He was glad it was beating as fast as his own. He almost choked on his own spit when the man looked up, his breathing become more regular, meeting the eyes of,

“Jefferson.” He smirked at him, then instantly felt it fall, realizing he was still on John’s back and probably didn’t seem menacing at all.

“Hamilton.” Hercules looked between the two

“How do you-”

“Maria.” Jefferson and Hamilton glared at each other from their spots on the sidewalk, not willing to elaborate. Angelica stood up against the wall, ignoring the glares she gathered from the two boys, grabbing Jefferson’s shoulder and pushing him up.

“You need to tell us where they are, it isn’t safe anymore. And if you know Maria you’d have to have seen them.” She held her tongue before spitting ‘ Not that it was before’ not wanting to push her luck with anyone. Jefferson gave her a blank stare, shrugging her hand off his shoulder. He went to open his mouth, a snarky remark vivid in his features but Angelica cut him off again, but this time with big pleading eyes. Nobody else could see it, but whatever she mouthed to him softened his features, taking her by the hand and pulling.

“Follow me.”

Everyone exchanged glances but nothing was said, John jumping up with Alex on his back, chasing after the two figures running ahead of them. Alex sighed into the wind, heat radiating through him like a heater, it felt good to be cooled off. He could hear the others following and knew they’d pass them soon, a small pang of embarrassment mixing with the heat uncomfortably. He buried his face in John’s neck not willing to watch when he heard the others passing, he should’ve just stayed home, those voices telling him he was useless singing a chorus in his head. He tried his best to ignore it, this was about the girls, they needed to help the girls and if he was here right now he might as well help them. He tried his best to squeeze his arms around John’s torso, just so John didn’t have to worry about Alex flying off when he couldn’t get a grip, but it was too painfully on his arms. He was almost flung off when they came to a sudden stop at the corner, Angelica and Jefferson twisting into the building so fast they almost missed where they ended up, twisting into a run down building right behind them. They twisted around a desk to find Angelica and Jefferson crouching beneath them.

“Not all of you are going to be able to come. I recommend Feisty-” He pointed to Angelica then Lafayette, “And the Empire State Building over there.” They didn’t even have time to scowl at the nicknames before he started talking again. “The Black Market is a ruthless place - brutal, inhumane and deadly. The only reason people even go there is because nobody else had what they need.” That was common knowledge, to everyone really, even people who didn’t barter there. But what wasn’t was… “But TBM doesn’t function without people, so they make it seem better than what it is.” He swallowed, his face souring under their gazes. “Beneath this rock his a river. A river that’s being controlled by people to get you right to the brink of death - but won’t kill you.” He pulled something out of his pocket, three things, all matching in color and design. They looked just like breathers.

“What aren’t you telling us?” Alex had been sat down on the floor right next to Angelica, eyeing Jefferson like he would pounce any second. “I’ve debated with you for years Jefferson, I know the way you talk. What you do, what you don’t, and you always bite your lips when your leaving out something important.” Everyone’s gaze turned to his mouth where, just as stated, his lip was tucked beneath his teeth delicately.

“The water is drugged. They twist your brain, evaluate your eyes, makes you act like a drunk and lets you see a carnival instead of a slaughterhouse.” He pushed the breathers into Angelica and Lafayettes palms, “These will filter through it, but Peggy didn’t have one.” They nodded, not letting themselves think too long about what might be happening to her while they slaved away above the surface.

It only took a minute for them all to jump. No goodbyes were said, because no one was leaving.

~~~

That left Herc, John, and Alex left to themselves with in the breaking walls of the building. They blowing wind couldn’t reach them anymore, and that’s when Alex realized it was hot. Really hot. Too hot.

He let John pull him so he could lean against the wall heat flaring through him with every touch to his skin. When John pulled away from him, all his control snapped.

John! ” Damn, he sounded so broken. Honestly speaking thought, he was, every part of his mind was only able to focus on how fucking hot it was . His body overheating but wanting nothing more than to be with John, to be in John’s arms, just to be held. But it was too hot . John’s head snapped around so fast it almost popped from its place in his neck. Alex was whining , openly and sounding so wrecked , though John hadn’t known him for that long he knew this wasn’t something that normally happened.

“It’s so hot!” He only got more confused, it was actually rather drafty due to the open walls and missing door. He looked down at Alex, looking flushed and breathing too heavily for what little physical activity he’s been doing lately. He knelt down next to Alex, putting a hand on his cheek, not prepared for the mewl that passed his lips. Alex lunged for his arm, practically pushing his face into it like he’s never felt that kind of touch before. He twisted his lips into it, kissing the palm and rubbing his face with it. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Hercules watching, a look John couldn’t quite read from the angle resting over his features. It didn’t seem like a bad look, amused if anything, but he also looked like he knew what was going on.

“Uh- Herc?” He heard a chuckle. Hercules was laughing, at him, at Alex , and he still had no idea why.

“Yes John?” Joking bastard.

“You know what’s happening, don’t you.”

“John, we both do. It happened to Liza.” Click, boom.

It was a fucking Bitten thing. Hercules had been studying her, a lot closer than the others he meant, and they were like wolves. In more ways than one. They hunted in packs, sure, but they also had a system. Alphas, Betas, and Omegas. Eliza was an Omega, that became clear when she went into her first heat. Pouncing on anything she could touch, practically eating Maria alive when she came home. Keening on all touches like a cat. Like Alex! Shit, shit, shit.

Tonight, he was going to find out if Alex was an Omega, or an Alpha. They were the only ones that reacted like this during their first bites, they knew that much for sure. Alex was going into Heat, or going into Rut. John looked down pitifully at Alex, whose eyes were full of pain and hope. John almost melted at the sight, his body reacting all to readily to his big brown eyes. His baby was hurting! Was the only thing running through his mind, bringing his other hand down to Alex’s hip, his arms finding home around John’s neck. He felt him buck up into nothing, crying out when nothing satisfied him. John bit his lip, there was no way either of them were ready for this, they had just met! But he knew these things were painful experienced alone, emotionally and physically. Maybe they could get by without actually… going at it. He wanted to do it with Alex, for sure, but Alex wasn’t in any state to give consent and John wanted it to be special. For both of them.
Either way, they still had to wait. Wait for Peggy to be okay, wait to get back home, and wait for the three days of preparation. This was going to be so rough on Alex, not even going to be staying at home but instead plowing through trees to get to the south. He felt his heart clench at the thought. His poor baby.

Chapter Text

Alex was not doing okay, his body was aching and burning, like it was plummeting towards the sun. All the small touches John gave him were either not enough or too much, but never right. He didn’t even understand what was happening to him, let alone how to deal with it. He could hear John trying to speak to him, his body falling in and out of space, his voice wavering with each word. He could barely even focus on the words he heard around him, his vision blurring with heat and want . All he wanted was for John to hold him, talk to him- but he was. Wasn’t he? He could hear his voice, not the words, could feel his touches, but not where he wanted. So what did he want?

He wanted John to touch him . Touch him in places he’s only ever explored himself, wanted him to talk to him, tell him he loved him . But he wouldn’t! Alex bucked up his hips, whining loudly when they hit John’s leg, which was pushed back. It felt good, So good.

Oh , huh. John did know what Alex wanted. He could process that much for himself, his mouth falling open in a moan. John pushed his knee into Alex’s crotch again and- Oh it was perfect. Alex’s hips stuttered under John’s leg, his lips pressed against the obscene noises he was making. He only had half the mind to feel embarrassed, barely processing the fact that it was, his face red with both heat and embarrassment. His eyes were closed in pure bliss, his body finally getting what he wanted. What he needed. His erection was pressed against his jeans painfully, but with each push of John’s leg the pain was quickly forgotten only pleasure sweeping over of him. He could feel his impending orgasm, building beneath his navel, he was close, so fast but, so close -

Then it stopped.

Alex felt tears prick his eyes, the heat returning full force and even worse than before. His dick was downright painful now, and it only seemed to be trapped in a space that kept getting smaller. He whined out and opened his eyes, instantly regretting it, his blurry vision keeping his head held back. The heat was almost unbearable now but it was nothing compared to the fear he felt when his vision cleared, his head aching at the sight.

Men, all dressed in black, their faces covered by masks that were strung over their lips. Hercules was bashing his arms together, the men holding them back struggling to contain him. He was easily larger than them but each arms was held by two men, keeping him locked in place while another set of mean brought a metal chain over. He looked more angry than scared, his muscles twitching under the hands that held him down, his face contorted with a scowl. His head logged to the side, meeting John’s gaze, his heart bursting on the spot. He was kneeling only a few feet away from Alex, lunging forward with all his might, two men keeping him from snagging Alex. His hair was a mess and he looked so distressed, his eyes flickering from Alex’s face to the space next to him, his lips urging to cry out to him. Alex was ready to cry out too, his own voice seeming louder than the scuffle and shouts from the others, the men staying completely silent except for the grunts coming from where Hercules was laying on the ground.

In a matter of seconds, John’s open mouth was tied down, an old navy blue cloth shoved so far down his throat he could see tears in John’s eyes from trying to ignore the intrusion. It was so painful for Alex to watch, his own mouth shouting out instinctively to John only to have a similar gag pushed into his. Alex bit down on the cloth immediately, keeping it from going in any further than it already was. His jaw was already starting to hurt from how far open it was being pried, on top of the heat he still felt coursing through his blood. His vision was starting to blur again, the heat was momentarily forgotten, only for a second, for his mind to catch onto the situation. He had no idea what was going to happen to any of them, Hercules still struggling against the bodies piling on him, then the heat was back. His mind fell back into space, everything forgotten, his only thoughts were John, how much he needed John with him. He was only spurred on by the thought that he couldn’t have him.

He heard unfamiliar shouts, mixed with the muffled cries from John, and he was lifted from the ground and placed in John’s lap. John let out another whine, pushing his forehead to Alex’s overheating one, the coolness calming him for a split moment. Alex looked up with him, his eyes filled with tears that were spilling from his cheeks, Alex wanting nothing more than to wipe them away, to tell him it would be okay. He also wanted nothing more than to grind down on John, get the relief his body was begging for before he couldn’t take it anymore. It was starting to get painful, his legs starting to hurt with the restraint of holding back, his whole body starting to sweat vigorously with the continuous waves of heat.

His body was crying out in agony, not sure what to do or feel-

A crack pierced the silence, his vision going completely black, returning only long enough to see John’s eyes scream while his mouth couldn’t, wide open with tears streaming down like waterfalls, wetting the gag beneath them. Another crack sounded throughout the room, something swinging between Alex and John’s faces, before he could process anything his world going black- right next to John’s.

~~~

Angelica was sputtering in Lafayette’s arms, the breather may have filtered the water- but it would have been nice to know it would still flood her mouth. He wasn’t doing anything, just holding her while she coughed but somehow it was enough. She knew someone was there. When she was finally able to control her choking, it took all of his strength to keep her from lunging at Jefferson, fighting against him with the small amounts of strength she could muster. Luckily for him, Laf was still stronger than her and was able to recover quicker, pulling her back with much less of an effort than her pushing forward.

What the actual hell, Jefferson!” She hissed, directing another punch to his jaw, knowing it wouldn’t collide but hoping anyway. “Why-!” Laf had moved his hand, covering her mouth with his giant palm, forcing her jaw shut so she couldn’t snag him with her teeth.

“We are to let him speak if we are to get answers chéri. ” She huffed through her nose, groaning. She dropped her fists, hooking her hands around Laf’s arm, his hand never leaving her mouth. She closed her eyes for a moment, it was almost comforting, feeling the weight of him everywhere. She felt protected. She sunk in his arms, feeling the vibrations of his chest when he spoke. “What aren’t you telling us about the river?”

“I’m not so sure myself- It’s a lot more complicated. It’s not like I was included in the design plan… just taught. The ‘drugs’” He made air quotes with his fingers, “Aren’t even really that. It’s almost like a bacteria- small bits placed into the water then it just… grew . Multiplied. Spread.” He took Angelica’s breather off the ground, having been tossed haphazardly across the concrete, wiping it with his shirt. “It’s still not completely safe to be this close to the water without a filter. Especially not for her, it’s been known to affect women slower, but when the effects start to show…” They let him trail off, Laf separating her lips to slip the guard in her mouth, helping her stand.

“Where was she last seen?” Lafayette kept his arm around Angelica while they walked, her eyes coming in and out of focus with each step. She looked ready to pass out, swaying with each step like she was drunk off the water, letting Laf support her fully though she never took help if it wasn’t absolutely necessary to her.

“That’s what I’m unsure of, the last time I saw her, she was so sure she could do this on her own- but she was already under the effects of the ‘ drugs’ .” Angelica lifted her nose to the air, inhaling deeply-
“Do you guys smell that?” She sniffed again, sighing through the mask that warbled her speech, talking without the use of her teeth. The boys looked at each other, inspiring the air themselves. They did smell it, disgusting air wafting around them, making them feel dirtier than they already were. It was awful, smelling of human waste and sewage, but Angelic keep breathing in more like her life depended on it. “Let’s go find what it is!” She practically lunged from Laf’s arms, nausea from the smell catching him off guard, only holding on because she was so weak herself.

“That’s what the ‘drugs’ do, it messes with your senses. Makes you see things that aren’t there, makes music play over and over when it’s not there, makes you smell something good out of something bad… it’s one of the worst things that can happen to you. It makes it really hard to trust anything again…” Jefferson finished in a way Lafayette didn’t want to pry into, he sounded distant himself. It made his skin crawl, the thought of losing the things you should be able to trust, like being deaf or blind- yet they still go on.

It made Laf feel bad honestly, the thoughts, the thoughts of people who are blind or deaf. They were made to rely on those things and for some twisted reason, it was taken from them. He knows they manage just fine, they can even handle situations better than others, picking up on signs others wouldn’t notice. Blind people have a beautiful way of seeing in the world, picking up on feelings and sounds, smells and tastes, everything and anything they can use; they do. Deaf people can pick up on people’s body language, how they’re actually feeling based on if they fight or stand completely still. Depending on how well you know that person, how they usually react to things, it’s easier to pick up on things that are easy for you to notice. They get by, they do it so magically and in a way others would never understand, but he still felt cruel for thinking about how bad it would be for Peggy. This was so sudden, and in a time like this, it was so barbaric to take away the only thing she had left to trust.

When they turned around the corner, leaving the poisonous river behind, Angelica lit up, so oblivious to what was right in front of her. It was horrific.

Tons of tents, pitched up in what reminded him of a medical field, were pushed up against each other, people wandering through them excitedly. The various colors of whites, blacks, and grays only dulled the underground further, the wet floor mixing with the smells already lingering in the air. Metal, blood… death. It smelled like dead bodies, mixed with the metallic smell of the weapons and the smoke from bombs being blasted above and below the ground. The ground shook, the ceiling shook, and giant crash shattering Laf’s already fragile balance. Angelica looked all to overjoyed at the sound and feeling, only adding to his horror. He brought the bottom of his shirt to his mouth, trying to keep his body from rejecting anything inside. It only got worse the more he looked, Jefferson only looking modestly saddened by the place, letting him take over the job of keeping Angelica steady and from running off.

It’s beautiful .” They heard her whisper, both men looking ready to fall apart.

Dead bodies hitting next, the thought, the smell, the sight . Completely covered in blood, their bodies not even visible under the red coating so thick it almost looked like paint. The smell was too much, looking away before more piled onto the first. The one thing he was able to notice over it all, the bodies were distinctly female shaped. Their naked bodies being piled over each other, some of them still breathing , moaning out to anyone passing by though nobody seemed to care, or they were too far gone to be healed.

Lafayette wanted to simultaneously run to the bodies and run the other direction, wanted to help almost as much as he wanted to bolt from the room, leaving his cool facade in the river. It was so terrifying, just imagining what they’ve been through was almost too much for him to bear, shaking violently from the floor not remembering when he’d collapsed.

“Laf, Laf please.” Jefferson was looking directly at the bodies, tears in his eyes. “We can’t let them know we’re awake.” A cold dread settled over both of them, swallowing he stood up and tied his still wet bandana around his mouth to mask out the smell, swiping it off immediately after seeing Angelica’s exited features. Nothing was safe anymore. Not even wearing his own clothes was a safe bet, but he had no other choice. He almost wanted to give in, be oblivious like she was, but knowing it was better that he wasn’t was the only thing keeping him going. Knowing Peggy needed him to be awake, Angelica needed him to be awake, that kept him going.

He stepped into the mess, not knowing how bad it would actually be.

Each tent held its own horrors, weapons to poisons, bombs to guns, a deadly battle swapping from each tent to the next. More bodies were pulled from each tent, noticing how much larger they were than what was seen from the selling openings. Screams could be heard coming from various places in the sea of cloth, morbid and high-pitched. Almost all of them were female, the few male one’s also seeming more delicate, fragile or breaking. Shivers ran up and down his spine, trying to get him to turn around but he didn’t.

“I know where we need to go… I didn’t realize- How could I be so stupid! ” Jefferson was looking absolutely frantic, pulling at his hair with wide eyes, tears spilling down his cheeks.
“Jefferson? What- What are you talking about?” Laf took Angelica from his arms, pulling her against her own will, keeping her from reaching out to the men in the tents, looking almost too big to be human.


Ugh! NO! ” He pulled on their hands, leading them through the tents in a sped up version of a walk. It was hard to notice their swift movements in the crowd of exhilarated glances, leading him through the swarm. “Today is… the eve of…” He pulled them into an allway, a crack in the wall that was barely big enough for them all, Angelica stuffed on the inside. There was no other way to get out but the way they came in so she couldn’t run away from them, his voice a hushed whisper. “I can’t tell you everything now, but I will tell you what you need to know.”

Lafayette pulled Angelica closer to him, her voice wavering in when she spoke, the poison finally wearing off. Just not quite.

“Tomorrow, thirty years ago, a deal was made. A bad, deal that would change the way the world perceives everything. Scientist Charles Lee, the only one crazy enough to experiment with the dead was thrown out of college, but not before he stole his life-long project. He mixed what he had with the blood of various animals trying to find one meant to enhance speed, strength and all out efficiency of every task. Wolves. But what he wasn’t prepared for was how it would affect everything else. He wasn’t aware that the body he used the elixir on was dead until days later. Then they kept going, not only did it meet their requirements, but it eliminated exactly what they didn’t want. ” He took a long breath, letting it sink in before continuing.

“He wasn’t prepared for it to spread the way it did, not only the traits- but the death . It only worked on the dead.” Only on the dead? “Which means when they Awakens bit others, it only kills them . Yes they may get so of the effects of being an actual awaken, but you don’t become on until you’re dead . It kills you, then brings you back ‘better than before’.” He let out a forced chuckle, his mind breaking down everything he just said.

“Before all this happened, he made a deal with a Mr. Reynolds; the father of James Reynolds. He gave Lee, the only one crazy enough to pursue this crazy idea, everything he needed-” A shout. A very distinct shout, speaking in French. Aidez-moi! Help… It was Peggy. Her voice was so weak, so frail, croaking and shriveled. Another voice followed, Spanish this time then in English, easy to tell as a little boys. They looked at each other, looks of pure panic before following the voice that would scream in and out of focus.

The twisted out, Angelica, almost actively okay, at their heels. They followed to voice past bodies and tents, ignoring the lingering gazes of the owners and the bodies that seemed to be glaring as the pasted. Even at their speed, it was too late, approaching a shrunken figure, bloody and bruised but still alive. Purposely still alive.

They ran, faster than they ever had before, their lungs heaving for air they couldn’t have and their legs aching for a break they weren’t going to have. Peggy was laying on the ground, her shoulder gaping and covered in blood, her sex bleeding through her black underwear, pants around her ankles. It would have seemed like her menstrual cycle had started if it wasn’t for the knife laying a few feet away from her, her underwear torn, only covering her by the tattered shreds still hanging down. Then the little boy. They would never be able to repay him, Peggy crying against the wall, not able to pick herself up, but the boy could. He stood in front of him, his black hair matted to his skin with blood, a gash running across his forehead, the knife next to Peggy was in his hands in seconds. They should’ve reacted faster, should've run faster even if they couldn’t have. It was obvious they’d been fighting for a while, the lanky man covered in just as much blood as the little boy, his own knife slashing at the little boy. No mercy, from either of them.

They should’ve be stronger, faster.

The boy had to get close, in one last futile attempt to keep the man away from Peggy… lunging himself right into the man’s outstretched knife. But not before throwing his own. With a killer aim, piercing the man right where his heart was beating, just as his stomach was impaled. Both fell to the floor, but the older man died before they could get there. Tears in all of their eyes, including Angelica’s, rushing to they bleeding trio of bodies. Whatever had been flowing through Angelica’s veins was wearing off completely now, and even if it hadn’t, there was no way to cover up what was just witnessed.

Angelica rushed to Peggy, both crying out to each other and cradling in each other’s arms. Tears and blood mixing together in a sorrowful concoction. Jefferson ran to the boy, pleading with his eyes that he survive, resting the dying boy’s head in his lap.

“Peter, Peter , please!” Peggy held up a hand, stifling the gasp through her tears. “Brother, why-why are you here?!” Brother. Guilt and regret flooded Peggy, all her senses screaming at her. This is your fault! It’s your fault his brother is dead!

“Oh my goodness.” Angelica had tears in her eyes, but wouldn’t let them spill, unknowingly for herself or for Peggy. The boy held out a vile, a glistening red liquid swirling around inside, identical to the two tied vials Peggy had tied around her neck.

“F-for a b-bitten. But- it’s no-not a cure…” Peggy looked absolutely scandalized through her tears. “J-just to help. It’s for h-heats and r-ruts. You giv-give it to the-their sig-nificant other… to help e-ease t-t-the p-pa-pain.” He took a shuddering breath, though it seemed too painful, his eyes begging for it to end. “I-I g-got it f-for… M-Me so I co-could help Di-Dany w-with her h-heats… give it to someone w-who needs it… for me?”

He handed the vial to him, his hand covering Jefferson’s with blood. He closed his hand around the little boys, keeping him taut to his body. The brothers were holding hands when he let out his last breath, sighing when the pain finally subsided.

Jefferson broke down, his body shriveling when the boy’s eyes were closed by Laf, carried to a nearby scattered blanket and covered. They pushed it up against the wall, Angelica moving from Peggy, by her request, to hold him. Sadly the grieving couldn’t last as long as necessary, a swarm a pounding footsteps alerting them of their situation. Jefferson took a long look at the bottle, taking the string from Peggy’s neck and adding that one to the line, tying it back around her neck. His gaze harded and he stood, followed by Laf. They covered the two girls, knowing they wouldn’t be able to fight what was coming.

Men, their outfits having some consistency, looking like deformed military ensemble in all black. Guns and knives were strapped around various places on them, surrounding to small group with no hope of escape. They didn’t try to fight back when they pulled out ropes, four of the men approaching cautiously, the other four there pulling out guns and taking aim. Peggy, who already couldn’t move, was picked up and carried so gently they almost had hope, until the bodies of all those innocent girls flooded their minds. Nausea overtook Lafayette but he kept his head high when the ropes were forced around his wrists, too tight, burning the skin. Jefferson and Angelica followed suite, letting their hands be tied with little restraint. Blindfolds were next, exempting Peggy once again.

They were led somewhere away from the tents, the shouts of excitement and wonder fading the further they went. When they finally made it to where they were wanted, Peggy let out a strangled whine.

“Liza!”

The blindfolds were removed, to reveal five bodies chained to a wall. Emotions sparked against one another, John and Eliza were chained to the solid metal wall with cuffs, their hands hung above their heads and legs spread forward. On the opposite side of the room, Alex, Maria, and Hercules were chained in similar positions, all their blindfolds still on.

Before a single words could be said, shouted, or screamed, gags were pulling back their lips, choking them with their own yells. Lafayette was tied next to Eliza, and Peggy next to him. On the other side Jefferson was tied next to Hercules and Angelica next to him.

Then the blindfolds were removed.

Chapter Text

Screams, muffled and clear alike, filled the closed in room. No longer were they surrounded by cloth and tents, but a dungeon, barely any light to be seen despite the window. The sun was almost completely set, and it was easy to tell they were above ground again through the small window way to high above them to see anything except for the fading light, leaving them squinting at each other’s silhouettes.

“Alex!” John cried out helplessly against the bonds, pulling against them though they did nothing.

John! hnng-” Alex was hurt, everyone's minds reaching the same conclusion simultaneously. No way it was okay for his arm to be above him like that. Same with Peggy whose legs were bound open with a bar, still bleeding onto the stone floor. From next to her Angelica could hear Thomas whimpering in his bonds, kicking at the floor and trying to get their attention in any way they could, Angelica doing something similar. If they could just…

“Angelica?” Alex was speaking above the frightened cries. “Angelica? Answer me!” She tried yelling out, the bonds only seeming to get tighter with each sound she made. Somewhere around the room she heard a high pitched voice say ‘bound’, maybe whoever it was saw Angelica before the sunset, the air suddenly getting cooler. Small amounts of light sang through the window, the very wisps of Angelica’s hair visible in the pale moonlight, her body closest to the small frame of glass.

Then a silence fell, a deep scary silence, the kind of emptiness that was filling the space they were to afraid to fill. It was desolate understanding, that something was going to happen to them, and nobody knew what. They could die , everything would end here and they couldn’t do anything . A hopeless emptiness that shattered with a voice.

“Mari?”

“Yes Liza…” It didn’t even sound like a question- just abandonment.

“I love you.”

~~~

They were shaken awake, violent gestures, pulling at their legs, arms, and heads until there was no way the thought of sleeping was an option. All bodies ached with the pain of sitting in the same position for too long, but nobody more than Alex, who’s arm had started bleeding again from the position, pins and needles being the least of his worries, his arm painfully dangling in the shackles. More men and black stood before them, untying the leather bonds that held the mouths of some open, their jaws aching when they were finally released. Angelica let out a small gasp when hers was taken off, earning her a smack to the face.

Soft gasps floated around the room, mouths immediately being clamped shut. Angelica just set her eyes forward, ignoring the man and ignoring the stinging red of her cheek.

Thomas looked absolutely terrified, his eyes screaming, to plead, to understand, but nothing. None of the men gave him a second glance, the only time they even came in contact with each other was when one of them kicked his side. His body bent at odd angles, trying to keep away from his boot, forcing his hips and arms to crack against the floor. Alex was in no better position, and neither was Hercules, all being poked and prodded by various tools. Alex was in the worst shape, tears spilling down his cheeks from the relentless jabs at his arm, already raw and sore from having it strung above his head so far. He curled around himself, clenching his fists in attempt to ignore the pain, more black clothed men sulking over.

They all watched in horror, nobody wanting to watch, but nobody looking away, disgust looming over them like a shadow. His clothes were ripped from his body, sailing across the room in tattered pieces, his legs, mouth, and eyes forced open to be inspected. A curtain of black clothes and covered faces kept him from view, but nobody’s gazes could leave them, not wanting to see but wanting to know.

John was an absolute mess, his hair and clothes disheveled, pain scoring across his face. His chest ached for Alex, like he was the air being ripped from it, the need to protect him making his thoughts irrational. He wrenched at his restraints, tears dripping down his arms and legs, Alex needed him - to fight back, to save him, he was being tortured while John watched .

Three of the men abandoned Alex, heading over to the struggling boy. It gave John a centered view. He felt more tears push past at the sight. Alex’s clothes were gone, completely, leaving him open and vulnerable to the men. But not only that, John could see everything . Alex was red, blushing and whimpering in the arms of a man with a darker skin tone from what he could see. Alex was hard, his cock flushed and heavy, but what caught John’s eye was the bulb at the base,

A knot .

Alpha.

He wasn’t sure if Alex was in pain, or feeling pleasure, his hips bucking into the air for anything- but getting nothing. It was obviously hurting him, his arms, his legs, but he continued, needed something to satisfy his first rut. John pulled at the restraints, Alex needed him! John knew how painful ruts and heats could be alone, without anyone to mate with, or to just take the pain away . John knew he couldn’t do much, not if he wasn’t an Omega, but he could do something .

The three men from before slotted themselves next to John, forcing him to look up at them. He kicked his legs weakly, aiming for anything that would hurt at least a little, the restraints keeping him completely immobile. One of them reached into their pockets, fingering around for something.

Peggy watched in horror, her mouth falling open in a silent scream as a vile of shining red liquid was pulled out.

It was identical to the ones still wrapped around her neck, the see-through bottle twisting at the bottom, the liquid thick, slinking around like syrup. She felt her stomach seize up, she didn’t want anything - not if theses people were using it. Regret and hatred flooded her senses, tears welling in her eyes, how could she have been so stupid!

It was her fault they were captured, of only she could’ve seen past the facade. It was her fault Alex was being tortured, his arms bleeding over his features, his knot heavy and painful. During his first rut . She bit back a whine, frustration growing with her tears. It was all her fault! And she was going to try to give them the exact same fucking drugs, as they were. Bile rose in her throat, making her body double over. Vomit spread across the floor in a disgusting river, moving down to the drain seated right below the window. She didn’t know how long it came, how long her body was hunched over, or how long it took her to spend herself before the guards came over. John breathed a sigh of relief, their arms no longer poking at his face and skin, but his worries came right back when they made their way over to Peggy.

The largest one pulled a key from his pocket, tossing it to one of the three now next to Peggy, who slid it into her cuffs. They click off, opening and letting her slip helplessly to the ground, her body barely supported by her arms that were chafed, weak, and frail. They hoisted her up by her arms, slugging her to the door, and out of it.

Angelica and Eliza cried out, fear of what was to happen to their sister settling around them in an ice cold embrace. Cuffs clanged against the wall, trying to chase after their sister, but the door was already shut behind them. The only hope they had was that she’d be taken to a doctor to be treated, and right back, but the odds of that…

Too low to be a thought. Too low to be an expectant. Too low to even be a care.

Angelica and Eliza caught each other’s eye, their cries ceasing. If they wanted to survive, they need to play along. At least for a moment. Then their eyes were gone, ghosting over the room to find the source of the cry, all eyes on John. One man was still left- the one with the vile.

John choked on a cry, his face being forced up, tilted and open. The large man stuck his fingers down his throat, gaining a gag, spreading his cheeks. John’s arms and legs were flinging wildly, shouts from various people sounding through the room. His throat was moving involuntarily, alone adding to the discomfort. Fear, pure fear was flowing through his veins, making his body already too sensitive, his throat burning from the feeling. His eyes snapped shut when he heard the vial open, thumbing the cork off with a large popping sound, his body jumping at the snap. He twisted his arms in the chains, wrapping them around his arms so he had something to grab onto, feeling the tip of the glass resting on his lips. He felt it shift, and the red liquid came in contact with his lips.

It tasted like heaven.

Sweet and tangy, spicy and smooth, sliding down his forced open throat with ease. His lips wrapped tightly around the bottle, milking it of every last drop, licking around the edges and dipping his tongue inside. The fingers were gone, letting him drink the liquid himself, moving to tip it back a little further. John’s head fell back, allowing it to slide down his throat, his gag reflex not even trying to stop it. He wasn’t sure how to describe it, perfect , the only word he could seem to place. It was sweet at certain points, shifting to something salter in a second, vaguely reminding him of-

Alex. It tasted like Alex.

It tasted like his ever shifting attitude, or his adorable faces, making him the perfect combination. It tasted like his lips when they kissed, the way their tongues danced in the spicy dance they created. It was perfect, just like Alex.

Suddenly he felt all too afflicted, torn between spitting the rest out or trying to gulp out more, his body wanting nothing more than to continue but his brain screaming it was wrong. He swallowed. The liquid forgotten, the fingers leaving, all too soon, everything was gone. He was left empty, longing for Alex in his arms and his taste back in his mouth. He cried out, the man walking over to Alex where-

He was unlocked. Followed by another, and another, and another until they were all free, uncuffed and sore. John was last, his body falling from the cuffs with gladness, his body aching to lay down on something, anything that wasn’t a hard stone wall. He tumbled to the ground, hoping to reach the door. Angelica knew too, they needed to get out- and they needed to now. Recovering quickly she bound for the door, Eliza hot on her trail, lunging over the bodies still unable to pick themselves off the floor, meeting the door. She slammed into the wall, the door clicking as it shut with everyone still trapped inside. She growled, banging her fist against the metal, everyone shuddering at the deafening echo.

She slipped to the ground, dragging her body against the wall. Her feet folded under her, bending comfortably after the night of being forced straight. Eliza sunk next to her, their hands wrapping around each other in any small attempt to find comfort.

“Peggy... Oh my god, Peggy! ” Tears were shredding down her face, her eyes bright and burning in a way they’ve never seen her wear. It was terrifying. Eliza made a face at Maria, hoping for support.

“Angie, you did everything you could to get her back! None of this is your fault!” Angelica shook her head, her lips shaking.

“All of it, I was supposed to be there, to protect you and her- And I wasn’t!

Everyone slowly made their way over to the weeping girl, hesitantly pulling her from lap to lap, a show of support. Except for John and Alex.

“J-john?” Alex was still under his cuffs, his good arm curled around his bad. Completely stripped and naked, Alex was wound up in John's arms, curling into his warmth. “I'm sorry! I didn't mean to get us caught! It's my fault, it's all may faul-” John twisted his fingers through his hair.

“No, it's not your fault- not even a little.”

“But it is-” John threw him a worried glance, tightening his embrace, “They could smell me John, smell this-” he wiggled his hips, exposing the knot wrapped tightly around his arousal. He sounded frantic, worried.

“Alex, baby-”

“No, John!” He pulled John's face to his, brown eyes pleading for him to understand. “They told me!” He whispered, “They said I was a bad Alpha, bad Alpha for exposing myself. Bad Alpha for getting my Omega taken.”

“Alex what the hell are you talking about?!” They were shouting through they're whispers.

“John, they were talking about you! You're my Omega. That's what they gave you, John! They did something to you- like what the bite is doing to me!” He was crying now, John's grasp loosening. He felt it sink in, what did they do to me? John's mind spinning under Alex's gaze. What did that make him? Did they make him an Awaken? How?

“John, John I'm so sorry-” John felt his heart ache through the fear, the fear of what was  happening to him, what they would do to Alex, or what they were going to do to any of them. Alex was worried John would be mad, at him. The pain laced in his features didn't help, making it look as though he was taking it all onto himself.

John placed his hands on either side of his face, letting Alex calm down on his own, lacing his fingers through this hair. He leaned in, letting Alex close the space between them. It was warm, soft, and sweet, their bodies pushing against each other. Alex's arousal was pushed against his hip, the knot settling at his leg. He dropped a hand from his hair, letting it travel down Alex's waist and hips, reaching his legs. Alex shuddered

John looked hesitantly to the side. Angelica had calmed down, her breathing evening out and her tears dried, everyone still huddled around her. His gazed leaped back to Alex's, his body flushed and his legs spread. Tears were leaking down his cheeks unwillingly, trying so hard to keep his hips down from we're John's hand rested on them. It spurred something in him, making him urge to please his Alpha. Gotta be a good Omega.

Wait, what-

He was not an Omega. He was not a wolf, what was he thinking?

John.” Oh- but Alex sounded so desperate, so ready for anything- for everything. And John was so ready to give it to him. He grazed his nails up Alex's leg, reaching the knot.

“Okay, baby, you need to tell me if anything hurts.” He reached out slowly, prodding it with his finger. It was firm , stiff, blood only enlarging it further. Alex whimpered, curling around him further. “You okay?” Another small noise emitted from Alex's throat, along with the slight raise of his hips.

“John, please-” his pleads were cut off by a voice, a deeper one, slightly muffled. Alex's eyes went wide, his legs snapping shut, pulling at John's sweatshirt.

Jefferson was looking- well his eyes were covered but he definitely wanted their attention- past Angelica, and at the pair. Alex's clothes, tattered and torn, were thrown across the room and unusable, making John strip of his jacket quickly. He slipped it easily over Alex's slender frame, the sleeves reaching slightly past his hands, falling over his knot. He felt a pang of guilt when Alex's bucked into the contact, still needing the stimulation.

Jefferson kept his hand hovering over his eyes, looking defeated. John quirked up an eyebrow. He wasn't blushing, and was seemingly unfazed by their somewhat crude actions. He looked crushed , ashamed, like he was sorry for what was about to happen.

“There's some things you're all going to need to know…” Angelica's tears stained cheeks lifted, forcing herself to look stronger than she was. Eliza and Maria huddled next to each other, Laf and Herc spreading their arms for Angelica to shove in, basking in their comfort. Alex balled himself up in John’s lap, letting him pull his sweatshirt down and hold him tighter.

And so he did, watching Laf curl up, the memories of their previous treks flooding back. He told them about the deal, how Charles Lee was out of his mind, but just the right person for Reynolds. How he experiment for the living on the dead, not even realizing he woke the dead until days later. That's when Laf had the courage to listen again, his walls breaking and building in rapidfire confusion.

“Reynolds gave Lee everything he needed. In return, he got to watch him, to observe him . He got to know what he used, how he used it, and when. He had all the information he needed for an antidote.”

That's why we're immune-” Maria blushed, shifting under everyone's gazes. Jefferson sat silent, only looking at her with a blank stare. Shifting ever so slightly, his face lit up. Undeniably smiled, through everything he's said, heard, and done today. He grinned.

“You worked for them, didn't you! ” Maria flinched back, like she was ready to take a punch. She was an outlaw, nobody was allowed to know she stopped working for him- cause you don't just quit. But she nodded, stiff and hesitant, ready for an attack.

“That means you're immune!” Everyone exchanged glances, giving him time to let it sink in. Of course they all knew that, so it was hard to imagine someone who didn't. She nodded again, one arm up in defense, the other wrapped tightly around Eliza.

Do you remember anything they did to you?”

They all looked taken back, his voice deeper and more menacing. It was scary how fast it changed, fear lacing with the unease from before, their bodies tingling and on edge. Maira shivered, her arm falling to her side.

“How could I forget?” She huffed out a breathy chuckle, nerves mingling with her voice. “It was a needle- and injection- filled with white, thick , liquids. When they put it in, all I could feel was burning, everything was on fire. ” Eliza pushed the arm around her shoulders off, changing their positions so Maira was in the inside of the huddle.

“What about after, do you remember anything after?!” He was on his knees, pushing to her like an excited little kid, on the concrete floor. His hand was remarkably close a thick puddle of red liquid. Maria whimpered, shivers running up and down her body.

John freed one hand from Alex's grasp, pulling on Jefferson’s shoulder.

“Lay off her, why don't you? She's been through enough!” He shoved the hand off, anger flooding his features.

“I can't just lay off her , she's the only one who can fix this! ” John visibly stumbled back, his voice once again different than before. His eyes were glowing with eagerness and pain, trying way too hard to get answers from an unwilling victim. John wasn't going to let that stand.

They had a family, and everyone had their place. John would protect every single one of them with his life before letting them die without a fight. Him and Maria weren't necessarily the closest, but they definitely were close. They had such a deep relationship on the inside, because they could both relate. Relate to the abuse. Relate to the pity and the sorrow they never wanted to get from others. They meant to much to each other to lose.

“What do you even mean?! John's hand had found him on Jefferson's shoulder again. This time Jefferson's shoulders sagged under his fingertips, taking a breath.

“She can help you, what they gave you isn't just cherry flavored punch. She can help Eliza, and Alex, but we just need to know what happened to her .”

John let his hand fall, curling back around Alex reflexively, traveling back to his arousal. Alex shuddered when it got there, biting backs moan when John began poking at it again. It was helping just as much as it was making it worse, his body thankful for stimulation, but ungrateful for how little.

“Please- do you remember anything that happened after?” Eliza spread her arms a little, letting him place a hand on her knee.

“I remember getting so hot, so unbearably hot- then a got one of those.” She pointed back, Alex's legs once again spread, settling on the knot.

“You… grew a knot…?” She nodded. “Anything else?” His voice was softer, everyone slowly edging back towards him, hoping he knew what he was doing.

“Then they gave me something else. Dark, dark color, couldn't tell what it was.”

His smile was soft but sure, holding back anything else he wanted to say, scream, or shout.

“It makes sense- all of it. It finally makes sense .” Hercules made a motion with his hand, urging him to continue.

“These ruts and heats, and what they're doing to you guys and- and Peggy.” His gaze hardened suddenly, eye darkening. “Before I can tell you anymore, there's something you need to understand.”

Alex whimpered, catching everyone's gaze. They were too worried to feel embarrassed or ashamed by the boldness of their moves, John's hand wrapping around the knot between his legs.

“This, this is good- John you need to keep going.” He didn't question it, only twisting in ways that got the best reactions fro. Alex, doing just what he was told, and just as Alex needed.

“When you're bitten, you're assigned a place. You're an Alpha, or an Omega. Simple?” He waited for confirmation, sucking in a breath when he got it.

Everyone was leaning, waiting with emotions buzzing between them. They were finally going to get the answer to the problem, after trying to solve it for so many years.

“That's when it gets complicated.” He waved his hands around, motioning for Eliza. “She's already had her first heat, hasn't she?”

Maria nodded, looking confused, slightly ashamed by Jefferson's disappointed voice.

“That's why her process has begun, she-” Lafayette gasped, a hand flying to his mouth, Angelica's mind racing to the same conclusion almost immediately after.

“It's triggered by heats or ruts- but that means-”

“Alex isn't a bitten yet!” Laf interjected excitedly. Hercules shook his head, waving his hands around.

“Please catch up those who don't understand your beat up sentences.” Jefferson nodded enthusiastically, ridden with excitement.

“During your first rut or heat, you can choose to succeed to it, or tough it out. The thing is, if, you don't satisfy the urges, it triggers something that begins the process but-” Angelica whooped excitedly, her voice and excited addition to John's, who was catching.on right behind them,

But, if you do satisfy it, nothing gets triggered! Or-”

“Or you could get the extra piece of the puzzle we don't have.” Maria added, pointing to her arm. Hercules’ mouth fell open, disbelief and hope spreading across his face in a smile.

“Exactly. You could get those medications, those injections , that will forever satisfy the need. But since you've had it in your blood, bites can't poison you anymore.” Jefferson leapt from his place in the floor.

“Just like Maria.” John waved his hand, mimicking Angelica's stance.

“Just like Maria.”

The fear washed away, a new understanding flooding through them like a river. They could finally make things right again, all they needed was to find out what they put in Maira. John squeezed Alex. He could finally protect him, finally make things right for them. They could finally be happy, together and out of the war.

The peace was shattered when the door opened again.

Everyone scrambled away from the swinging hatches, pulled at others and sinking into the corners. John couldn't force himself to move, not with so little strength and leaving Alex wasn't a thought.

Peggy was carried through the door, her clothes ripped so much they barely covered her body, thrashing in the person's arms. It was that same dark skinned one as before, obviously a man with his taller stature and broader shoulders. Peggy was whimpering in his arms, twisting with each step. Thomas took a step forward to meet the man, holding his arms out for the girl.

Peggy lept for his arms, tears streaming down her face, her cried getting louder. Everyone flinched back, what had they done to her?

Alpha, need alpha-!” She curled in his arms, rutting against his arms for anything to relieve the pressure. Alex gasped feeling his arousal swell, bucking into John, unintentionally. He buried his face in John's neck, eyes shut tight, trying to mask Peggy's smell with John’s.

Then the man pulled down his mask-

James-!”

“I'm going to get you out of here.”

Chapter Text

Shh!

John looked up, keeping Alex tight in his hold. He had started shaking, trembling with what, he didn’t know, straddling John’s legs and curling his head against his shoulder. His knot was pushed right up against his stomach, skin to skin, John’s whole body flushing. Suddenly it was all too hot, his arms shivering around Alex, coiling around him.

“I have five minutes, so you need to listen- now.” Alex looked up at John, tears in his eyes, catching his lip between his teeth. John lifted his head to see the man named James, whose face was still partially covered by the cloth, trying to ignore the heat spreading between their bodies, mingling in the middle.

“James-”

“No, please, I shouldn’t even be doing this-” He sighed, “Look, do you want to get out of here or not?”

He watched Jefferson gaze around the room, his gaze lidded and cold. He didn’t miss it soften when it reached Peggy, sitting on the lap of Angelica, taking deep controlled breaths. She cry out, but regained control on a second, inhaling through her nose, out her mouth. Jefferson clenched his fist, his gaze meeting John’s for a split second, another moment, so short, but lasting so long, a mutual connection passing between them. John twisted Alex’s hair, forcing his head back to his chest, feeling Alex mimic Peggy’s breathing against him.

They needed to get them out of here.

“Yes- I’d do anything.”

“Good. I’ll be back here right before the sunsets, we’ll form a plan then-” Jefferson yanked on his wrist, pulling James closer to him.

“I know you know about the shutdown. We need to be out of here before then.”

“Thomas, that’s in two days there’s no way-” Jefferson’s gaze fell, fear glazing his eyes. He whispered to himself, mouthing ‘two days’ so clearly John could see it. Two days until a total massacre. He could tell Alex reached that conclusion too, feeling him seize up in his arms.

“We have to. Please. Madison.” He turned around, the dark skinned man looking to John for the first time since stepping into the room. He looked troubled, crossing his arms, looking to the door.

“I don’t know-” He held up his hand, cutting of Jefferson before he could intervene. “There may be a way… but I need to get someone else on our side.” He spun once again, grabbing Jefferson and pulling him into a hug.

John could hear sniffling, tears gathering in Jefferson’s eyes. “I’ve missed you- where have you been?” He stiffened, John tried not to pry, but he couldn’t seem to tear his gaze away.

“I couldn’t stay-” He hiccuped, finally wrapping his arms around his friend. “I couldn’t do that  to people, James…” They broke apart, Madison nodding.

“I know- but they don’t. If we want this to work, you need to tell them… everything .” Jefferson’s shoulders fell, his body sulking at the departure. James’ deep voice fell to a whisper-

Everyone jumped, a hard pounding sounding as if it would break the door, Alex crying out- his voice matching with Peggy’s. Madison pulled at Jefferson’s arm, looking frantic, Jefferson’s fingers still tightly wrapped around his wrist.

“Please, I’ll be back, but I need to go-”

“Find Them?”

“Thomas?”

“Lucy and Mary. They know you, you’re the only one left they can trust- please. Find them for me.”

Madison broke free from his grip, giving him a curt nod. He rushed to the other side of the room, stopping the awful pounding that was working into their brains, flinching with every smack. He was pulled out instantly, the locking soundly clicking after. Jefferson leaned against the wall, sinking to the ground. He lowered his head into his hands, his body sagging against the brace of the wall. He was taking shaky breaths, whimpers sounding around the room. At least Maira had coaxed Eliza to sleep, rocking her tightly in her arms, her even breathing soothing those around her.

Nobody dared head Madison’s word, knowing Jefferson was to explain this to them, but nobody moved. He stayed on the wall, focusing his empty thoughts to the floor, every trying to come to terms with the new found knowledge. They kept their thoughts to themselves, letting the silence settle around them in a calm embrace, feeding them ease. It was only broken by the interchanges moans from Peggy and Alex, their aching bodies never letting them rest. They were all thankful they could be held, the cuffs dangling, unhooked, against the wall, trying to be okay with what they were given. But they needed more, their bodies yearning to be closer in different ways, Maria and John knowing they were soon to fall into the same trance.

John could feel Alex grinding against him, subtly shifting his hips, in hope of nobody noticing. He was whimpering with pain, the dissatisfaction of so little finally getting to him, the fear of knowing what will happen if he doesn’t submit to his bodily needs edging him on. John wanted to help him, having no qualms with getting his hands a little dirty, but also knowing Alex might. He didn’t want to push him, despite the situation, knowing Alex would take him up on his offer, though not as consenting as he hoped it could be.

“What they did after they raised the dead was so much worse.”

Multiple heads shot up, Jefferson’s head still staring off, his gaze glazed to nothing. Maria moved to cover Eliza’s ears, hoping she would stay asleep. It was weird how Eliza worked, he sleeping schedule being different ever since the change, but it was also quite similar. She could stay up at night , she could see at night, but it would always seem to catch up to her. Like if she stayed up all day, she’d be fine, then all night, she’d be fine, then all day again- still fine. But , those three sleepless days would catch up , despite feeling fine before hand. She was still human after all, and it would crash like a sugar high.

“It’s why I’m here.” Lafayette glanced to John, their gazes sending shivers down each other’s spines. “They found out that they could make people who weren’t really people. I-if-” He choked, wrapping his arms around himself. “If they breeded an Awaken with a human- you get this creature , that was still human, their hearts would pump and they needed air… but…” His head fell into his hands.

“But they don’t need the same things humans do.” All gazes turned to Maira, none were shocked, only pained. Of course she would know- she’s been through more than anyone deserved to go through in that place. He looked at her, the only one who seemed to understand what he was trying to say. He silently pleaded her to continue for him, catching it, his eyes watering.

“They… They don’t need food or water . They live off feelings - I don’t even understand it. They just need affection and their lungs breath. Praise and their hearts pump. All they need is to be loved once a month and they can do things normal humans can’t- without the fear of getting infected, or turning on their species.”

“The perfect middle ground.” Lafayette added breathily from next to Hercules. Maria nodded.

“Exactly.” Alex whimpered, forcing John’s ear to his mouth.

That’s what Jefferson is .” He whispered in his ear, wearily looking over to him. Alex shook his head violently, like shaking off the memories. “Never seen him eat anything. Only ever seen him with his family.” John brought a hand to his mouth, a gasp forcing through his fingers.

“Oh, Thomas…” He whispered, seeing him making eye contact with Laf.

“Those bodies-!” Lafayette almost screeched, his voice pitching higher than they’ve ever heard it. “Those- those- Oh my god .” Jefferson only nodded.

“That’s what they do here. They rape- they kill- and they dispose. I was forced into it because my mother… But I couldn’t stay, I had to change something so I-” his voice shook, tears spilling down his cheeks.

“You took the girls- the ones who’d end up just like your mother-” Alex whispered.

“What are we missing?” Angelica interjected, noting the subliminal understanding passing between the two. “What are you two…?” Once again Alex shook his head, pushing his forehead to John’s.

“I knew him first.” Was all he got, which was enough for a question, at least.

“Jefferson… how long have you known Alex?” He gave a weak smile, wiping his tears with his palm.

“Since he was twelve… Alex?” Alex nodded, giving him permission to share his story. He pushed a kiss to John’s lips, it was heated, but calm. His lips hot and wet, but meant to be small and chaste. His only request was for John ‘not think any less of him’ leaving John confused and broken, he couldn’t ever think any less of him .

Jefferson gave a long pause, thinking of how to start. “... Mary and Lucy found him on the streets, alone, beaten and battered, but safe. He wasn’t a bitten- er- not yet. They brought him back… to Maria.”

Her eyes went wide, the attention make her pale. She swallowed, “I know those girls like my own sisters, when they brought him to me, the same age as me, alone, his family gone… I couldn’t leave him- but I knew he couldn’t stay. Not with the Reynolds.” She shifted under their gazes, obviously uncomfortable with where the story was going.

“I sent him to the Jeffersons, they were connected to this mess even more than I was, but he had connections. Connections that could keep him safe. The only problem being-”

“Alex is stubborn.” Jefferson gave a weak chuckle, Alex blushing redder, trying to bury himself further into John’s chest. “After a few years of hiding him, he said he didn’t want us to risk anymore for him. We got into a huge fight- and he left. Just like that. Said he’d rather be bitten than risk me getting punished because of him.”

“That’s where we walk in, I’m guessing.” Angelica adding sarcastically. Maria avoided their gazes, her voice cautious.

“We only kept this from you guys to keep him safe-”

“I’m sure.” Angelica turned, moving Peggy with her. Even through her overheated mind, Peggy had the smallest amount of sense to feel mad at them too. How could they keep something so big from them, like it didn’t even matter? Were they really that small to them?

Peggy couldn’t help but feel like she deserved it. Almost like all the bad things that have ever happened to her in her life were just adding up to this moment. That grand moment were she majorly fucked things up, twisted her own mind , got them all captured , and to top it all off, was injected with something that not only made her a lab experiment- but almost a bitten . She bit her lip though, keeping her mouth shut and her silence screaming.

On the other side of the room, Lafayette and Hercules were huddled in their own corner, tightly bound in each other’s arms. Hercules was honestly scared himself, never having seen Laf so shaken by anything before.

“Herc, the bodies I saw-” His lips trembled, his French accent thick. It was almost hard to understand, “‘Zey were so… horrifying .” Her started trembling, forcing himself into Hercules’s arms. “ Those were the people he was talking about, non? ” He whispered, nudging to Jefferson. “They were breeded … what if that is what is to happen to us?” Struggling to use the right words, frustration brimming in his eyes. Her growled, curling into Hercules. “I’m so tired, so scared. I do not know what I am to do anymore.”

John watched the exchange, his heart melting with every word. It only burned more when Lafayette and Hercules curled around each other, ending it with a sweet kiss, their eyes shutting. The midday sun shone through the window, lighting up the room in an orange glow, but it seemed dead, unlike the golden appearance it normally had. Alex was still whimpering on John, most of the others trying to sleep after their rough night.

Angelica took Peggy over to Jefferson, letting him curl around both of them, eyes closing with relative ease, even Angelica nodding off. Eliza was still soundly sleeping in Maria’s lap, she being the only one attempting to keep awake.

John wasn’t going to wait any longer though, his poor baby was hurting, the whimpers only getting louder as the room got quieter. He gave a brief gesture, getting another in return, trying to tell her what he planned on doing.

(Sexual Content)

“Alex?” He whispered, turning them to face the corner. He gave a small noise in acknowledgement, lifting his head. John hooked his arms, twisting Alex around in his lap so he was facing the corner. Alex panted at the contact, grabbing at John’s arms, just to keep them in contact with his skin. “Just tell me if I need to stop, okay?”

Alex nodded, his body burning from the contact. His knot was still large and pulsing, trying to rut against anything he could, searching for the pressure to leave. When he was finally seated back in John’s lap, relief flooding when John whet to remove the sweatshirt wound around him. It felt tight and hot, his skin burning with every touch of it to his skin, the cold air soaking into his skin like a spring breeze. It was soothing his hot skin, his muscle relaxing against John. It was almost peaceful.

John pressed butterfly kisses to his skin, nibbling at his neck and ears, peppering him with affection. His fingers trailed down his bare skin, thumbing over the curves of Alex’s body, marking him with his fingers. He heard John gasp next to him, John’s own arousal becoming rather noticeable. He began to whimper, burying his face in Alex’s neck, still trailing his fingers down his body.

“I can smell you-” He inhaled deeply, making Alex’s skin flush. “So sweet, baby girl…”

His fingers finally made it down to his thighs, the soft flesh bending around his fingers. John masaged the tense muscles in his legs, bending his knees so he could reach the calves, rubbing his fingers up those too. Alex sighed, enjoying the soft touches, though he longed for them somewhere else, he moved his arms to his lap, letting them fall between his legs and John’s.

He wasn’t prepared to find it wet .

“John?” He choked on a moan, the feeling only intensifying his want. He felt his knot throb, like he body knew what was happening to John. For all Alex knew, John could be bleeding, but his body was enjoying it. That’s when he smelt it. I can smell you … It was sweet, intense, John. His body was reacting to it’s smell , like he actually had that capability… but then against so was John.

“I’m-” he repressed his shiver, “ Lubricating. I can feel it .”

Alex wasn’t sure why the spurred him on. You’d think he’d find it disturbing, or scary , but he loved it . The thought made his cock jump and his knot throb, the smell driving him crazy. “John, John please - touch me! ” He thrusted his hips, crying out when he met nothing. John was quick to cover the sound, his hand flying to Alex’s mouth, dipping two fingers in.

“Gotta be q-queit baby girl.” He grunted, making sure Alex could still breath around his fingers.

He snaked his fingers back up Alex’s legs, stopping at the crease of his legs, playing with the soft flesh between his legs. He brushed a single finger against the knot, Alex trying all too hard not to bite John’s fingers off, his loud moan choked by his fingers. John curled more fingers, twisting them around the base of the red flesh. Alex humped up, ecstasy burning his blood, almost crying out when the fingers receded.

But then they were back.

Fast and sudden, the pressure so much, but so little. Alex cried out around his fingers. So good- Alex couldn’t process anything but the feeling of Alex’s fingers around him, pushing around the tender flesh. Shocks of pleasure coursed through him, making him buck into the waiting hand, feeling it move ever so slightly up his shaft.

“M-m-more p-please, ah! ” John squeezed tightly were the shaft bent the bulb, twisting it, making Alex’s head spin. His was unchorherent now, a moaning mess of puddy in John’s grasp, the feeling of John working his fingers up his dick making him shudder. When it reached the head, he was done for.

He’d been so on edge for hours , his body begging for the release he knew he couldn’t have, but now he was getting it . His mind sang when it trailed over the head, then back down the shaft, tightening right before the bulb, staving off the release he so longed for. Alex whined, chasing after the stolen feeling, frustration making his balls ache.

“John-!”

John took the finger out of his mouth, covering his entire mouth with his palm. Alex was going to make a move to bite him, until he heard something. The small subtle clicking of footsteps, getting louder and closer. John leaned as close as he could, the sound almost outside their door.

Pretend to be asleep .” He rushed, connecting his head with Alex’s shoulder. Fear flooded right next to the heat, mixing into something indistinguishable. He let his head lull to the side, his neck exposed and his mouth open, leaning on John’s neck, trying to even out his scared breaths. It didn’t take long for the footsteps to stop- the reced. The door wasn’t even so much as touched, not sure if that worried more than scared them.

The heat coiling in his belly was quick to return, the sudden onslaught of emotions forgotten. Alex pushed from his lap, scurrying to spin around in his lap, his knees hitting the floor on either side of John’s legs. His pushed his hips against Johns, forcing moans from both of them. He didn’t waste any time, enjoying the teasing, but enjoying the pleasure so much more. They grinded against each other, Alex whimpering and pulling John’s hand to his lap, forcing him to wrap his fingers around the knot.

Alex paused, forcing his hands into John’s zipper, fingering for the zipper. He was quick to unbutton and force down the zipper, shoving his hand into his boxers. John mewled , forcing his hips into Alex’s hand, who pulled out John’s cock. It was flushed as red as his skin, the head red and swollen, hard and heavy in his palm. It was small compared to Alex’s, but he assumed it was only because of the new addition to his body, rubbing the knot against it experimentally.

It was incredible.

The feeling of skin on skin was one thing, but this brought it to another whole level. He felt connected with John, their moans syncing to the movements of John’s hand, twisting his palm and thrusting his hips. The stimulation was beautiful, making them cry out to each other, voices quaking and cracking.

Alex saw stars when he came, the tight build up finally releasing, pleasure coursing through his veins like a supernova lighting up the galaxies, his back arching and his toes curling. “ John!” He shot all over his hand, that last spark sending John right over the edge. He thrust his own hips up immediately after, Alex still moving his hand through his orgasm, using his come to wet John’s leaking cock, milking him of his orgasm. His eyes rolled back, his mouth falling open in a long shuddering moan, Alex’s name on the playing on the edge of his lips. He shot out hto stripes of pearly white, dirtying them further.

Alex feel onto John, ignoring his messy hand, scraping as much off as he could on the floor, his heart racing. They struggled against each other to catch their breath, Alex slipping down John further, curling in his lap. The heat around him finally cooled enough to breath, complacent at ease. He let his eyes drift, listening to the slowing of John’s heart, following his own, barely feeling it when John moved his head, slipping the sweatshirt onto his neck. Careful with his injured arm, he pulled the sweatshirt over him, covering his naked body.

Alex and John curled around each other on the stone floor, the summer air seeming lighter. A soft breeze floated through the window, snuggling further in their corner.

They were all past dreams when the lock clicked, the door creeping open.

All except Maira.

Chapter Text

“Jefferson- Jefferson - !”

Alex grunted at the noise, burying himself in the sweet warmth engulfing him. The sweet smell of sugared amber flowing around him peacefully, so strong, but so nice. He smiled, forgetting the events of the past days and focusing solely on the feelings surrounding him and the scent lightening him.

But the sounds persisted.

Jefferson!”

It sounded angry, worried even, but Alex couldn’t find it in him to care, wanting to stay exactly where he was for a little longer. The smell grew stronger as the shape around him moved, pulling him closer. He purred, his body fitting perfectly in John’s. By this point the man had woken everyone, hearing people standing and shuffling, Jefferson finally answering the call.

“Madison, I thought you weren’t supposed to be back until later?” He meant twenty-four hours, which obviously had not passed yet, though it was dark. The room was cast in an eerily cheerful glow, the moon shining beautifully among the residents, bright and large. Bright and Large… Alex cracked open an eye, a draft catching him off guard. It was obvious the heat from before was gone, his bare legs cold from the exposer all night. Except… He looked to John, his eyes were barely open, squinting at the light. Squinting at the light . In the middle of the night. In a small, one window room?

Suddenly he was all too awake, aware of his body, aware of his presence. He could feel the icey stab of the floor, and hear frantic whispers beside him, the stabbing pain shooting up his arm. He bit the moan it threatened to draw, keeping his eyes on Eliza, sleeping peacefully near her sisters. But that wasn’t the only thing that caught his eye. His breath caught in his throat, choking on air, flinching with surprise.

The entire window had been blow off . Bombs and screams making him shriek.

Glass was littering the floor, shards dangerously close to his bare skin, half the wall taken with it. Over the whispers he could hear the shouts he missed before, the cracking of gunshots, and screams , screams ringing in his ears. Moonlight shone over the endless expanse of space, stars twinkling in the dark, the moon large and bright. His eyes glittered with the beauty, quickly shaken from his trance when the screams echoed louder, closer , fear building up. John was searching for Alex’s body next to him, suddenly aware of the missing body, his hand finding only broken glass.

Alex looked around the room, Laf and Hercules kicking at glass and heading for the giant crack in the wall, holding onto the frail parts that were still intact. They bent over the exposed floor, eyes darting from the broken wall to down below it, heads cast through crack in the wall. Lafayette let out a gasp, his head snapping back up, a ghostly white. He pushed himself away from the wall, bracing himself against the wall. Alex let his gaze falter, exchanging from him to Madison, pulling at Jefferson. He looked terrified, meeting his gaze before turning to the girl, giving a hurried nod. Alex looked at their sleeping forms, still in to deep a sleep to be shaken from their slumber, seemingly oblivious to the bombs crashing around them.

The building shook, dust and rocks tumbling in small bits, breaking even smaller after stinging them. The braced each other, John shooting up like a bullet, wrapping his arms around Alex. Alex tried to make a point, trying to shout over the bullets being shot below them and the bombs being blown around them. He’d started shaking, not processing anything except; they needed to get out. He pulled at John, grasping at his shirt when he stood up, pushing Alex against the wall. He could see his lips moving, his breath mixing with the dark air filtering through the window, forming words he couldn’t hear

Then his heat was gone, his body receding, making Alex’s chest heave and the tears leak.

His mind blacked, the gunshots sounding like the rushed needle sharp drops of rain, the tumbling rocks hitting him. Suddenly He was back with his mom, curling, helpless, in her arms, tears streaming down both their faces. He grabbed at her arms, wanting nothing more than for them to wrap around him, but they weren’t there, disappearing in a second. He cried out, searching for the warmth of a body through the wet, cold, hard winds.

He fell forward, pain shooting up his arm, making him shriek. He was shrouded in pain and confusion, his mind spinning so fast he couldn’t control it. His body slipped forward, only slightly aware of the glass scratching at his skin, leaving streaks of red up his arms and legs. The building shuddered again, everything with in it shaking too, screams piling amongst each other. Alex’s mixed with them, screaming until it felt like a bear ripped up his throat, curling around himself for the little comfort it brought.

He slammed himself against the wall, pain shooting up his back, arm, and leg. He saw white, but anything was better than the inky blackness that would follow him if he opened them. He choked, feeling warmth pass between his lips. It tasted metallic, blood , pooling under his tongue. But anything was better than the fear he’d taste if it wasn’t that. He inhaled, smelling a storm , electricity and rain mixing into a deadly combination right in front of him.

He was drowning, in his feelings, in the lack of touch, of warmth, of love . Knowing that if he opened his eyes, his mom would be gone and he’d be left alone. Useless, proclaimed dead, broken and beaten. He clutched his chest, wailing. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, didn’t dare open his ears to what was around him. Tears coalesced with the blood dripping from his mouth. He couldn’t tell what was real, what was fake, what was his mind, what was someone else’s. He was alone, a nothing compared to everyone else, a nobody to everyone else. His mind was screaming at him, but he could barely hear it, a voice- a voice was screaming at him. A scared voice, just as scared as him. It was stronger than the rain- the gunshots- tougher than the wind… but soft. Sweet, delicate. Loving .

J-John, I n-need you, I-I-

“Shh , baby girl…” So sure, so gentle. “I’m here. Not leaving. Never leaving.”

Alex cried in relief, his shivering body engulfed by a warmth, a soft sweet warmth all around him. The wind was gone, blocked by the body that was keeping him safe. He buried his face in John’s neck, his honeyed scent surrounding him in a serene hold. His instinctively moved forward, letting John cradle him into his lap, crying out in pain. It flared through his senses, making more blood pool in his mouth, sputtering out in a panicked act.

The blood sprayed over John’s clothes and face, spotting him with red. He was quick to wipe off his skin, ignoring his clothes and focusing on Alex. Alex was a shaking crying mess, his eyes glazed over, focusing on the darkness beyond the hole in the wall. It was easy for John to tell he wasn’t okay, knowing first-hand what it was like to fall into an anxiety attack- trauma related or not. He was surprising himself by how well he was handling the situation, normally being the one that needs to fall back on someone, to be held and comforted. Maybe it was just because it was Alex. His Alex that had been fucked over tenfold, who didn’t deserve this, or maybe it was the thought that if he dropped now, nobody was going to make it out.

He held onto that small sliver of resolve, keeping it close in his mind. He wasn’t going to drop, not when Alex had already fallen so far.

He bundled him up in his arms, pulling whimpers from Alex’s lips with every movement, ignoring how each one shattered his heart. He folded Alex’s legs over his arm, letting him nestle in his fingertips, not having the heart to deny him anything. He let out a long sigh, heaving them up with a strained groan, his muscles aching at the sudden strain. Alex cried out again, the arm lodged between John’s chest and Alex’s side squeezing out to dangle between their bodies. He had almost forgotten Alex was hurt, his arm bleeding through the bandages and onto the floor, dirtying John’s clothes further.

He rushed over, as fast as he could with Alex in his arms, to the group huddled around the still sleeping girls. Lafayette wash prodding at their bodies, moving their heads from side to side, and twisting their arms. Madison and Jefferson made moves to do similar, each taking a sister.

That’s when John noticed it.

Maria was missing.

He gave a half-hearted sweep of the room, knowing deep inside she wasn’t there, but looking anyway. He felt guilt swell in his chest. How had he not noticed she was gone? She literally just disappeared . And you didn’t notice . He choked, pulling at Hercules’ shirt.

“Where’s Maria?” He tried to keep the franticness out of his voice, hearing it creep through. Hunk’s unease look did nothing to his nerves, shifting around with Alex in his arms.

“That’s why Madison came back so early. They realized who she was- they took her John. Drugged and took her. That’s why they’re checking them-” He nodded harshly to the boys crawling over the bodies on the floor, feeling around for injection spots, John assumed.

They all jumped when Laf let out a please ‘ha!’ his thumb pressed against Angelica’s neck, pushing against her skin. “Look…” He moved his thumb, keeping the skin a pale white with the pressure, revealing a small red dot. The dried blood was old, not knowing when they were injected, or when the effects would wear off. Hell, they didn’t even know the full extent of the effects.

Another sound cracked in the distance, followed by a distinct crumbling. Glass was being shattered next to the sound of rocks tumbling, and avalanche sending gust of winds flying through the opening, shrieks racing down the road. They all jumped, their senses seeming to increase with every rumble. Alex whined, burying his face deeper into John’s neck, inhaling his comforting scent. John swallowed his own fear, looking to the door, noticing the lock. Broken and laying in front of the door, the shining silver noticeable against the cement.

Madison growled, picking up Eliza and handing him to Hercules, who took her acceptingly. Madison helped Jefferson balance Peggy in his arms, seating her so Jefferson was grasping at her legs, forcing them around his waist, the rest of her body balance against his torso. Her head rested on his shoulder, the mark against her neck deep and red, darker than they rest. Madison in turn picked up Angelica, pulling her arms around his neck from behind, wrapping her legs around his waist, forcing them to clutch his sides.

Lafayette was first, creeping towards the door, hearing shouts sound from behind the closed metal. He pushed against it, slipping when it opened so effortlessly, catching himself before his hit the glassy floor. His eyes glinted, crouching, picking up a rather large piece of broken glass, taking a part of Alex’s ripped shreds of clothes - if they could even be called that anymore - tying it around the bottom of the glass. He held the cloth-covered part, keeping his hand from being cut against the sharp edge, working his way out the door first. Jefferson was out next, followed by John, Madison, the Hercules, all in tow.

The hallway was a surprising change compared to the room, the floors a tile that you’d find in a hospital, matching the pristine walls and fluorescent lights. Lights were blinking and swaying, loose on their wires and swaying from wall to wall, some broken completely and laying uselessly on the floor. They trampled through the rest of the hallway, John’s brain wracking for any reason they were being bombed, running purely on adrenaline. They still had twenty-four hours before the shutdown…

John’s knees buckled, a jolt of electricity running up his spine. A huge crack sounded, it sounded so close , a bang sending shivers up their spines. Out of nowhere a blast exploded, the hallway tumbling to pieces behind them- the ground crumbling beneath their feet.

He shrieked- a crack like a whip snapping in the air, the floor gone.

Then he was falling, curling around Alex, his body giving way to gravity. The wind whacked against his clothes, painfully slapping against his skin, watching the pale ground get closer-

His body spasmed, his arms letting go of the body in his arms, another scream teared from his throat, his body slamming into the ground. Pain erupted, his back numb from the pain, his head aching agonizingly with the rest of his body. His vision went white, the breath gone, wheezing to inhale anything other than smoke- or anything at all.

Something shouted above him, a loud thump making his body jolt with fear, falling so fast again,

“JOHN!” A girl shrieked into his ear, making him cry out. A ringing resided, loud and high against the brain, pulling his arm painful to his ear. He flailed against the floor, his arms twitching and his legs shaking, crying out to anyone. It hurt, everywhere, to move, to scream, but he kept going, trying to sit up- to get out.

Hands were traveling up his body, his face bruised, each touch shooting pain like a bullet, making him scream. Almost instantly the hands were gone, leaving him alone to catching his breath, smoke, sunset colors surrounding him. Reds flared angrily next to hot yellows, a searing heat boiling him, the heat making his eyes water.

Thunder rumbled, tremors running through their bodies. Lafayette had retreated from the group, running over to the body lying motionlessly on the floor. The explosion broke Angelica from her trance, weaving unsteadily over to the unconscious body of Alex, mere feet away from John’s. They all stood, the previous floor shattered around them, bits of the ground clumping together, a giant crack looking up into the sky. Hercules and Madison had received the easiest of the fall, being furthest away from the epicenter, they fell long after the floor actually cracked, much unlike John who seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Him and Alex tumbled first, receiving the worst of the blow with no competition, hitting the ground head on, unlike Alex who landed on John before twisting off in a contorted mess.

Angelica dragged Alex’s frame over to the men, Laf picking up John who howled in objection.

They regrouped away from the fire, two girls still unconscious, resting heavily on the boys, Laf and Angelica switching for them. Eliza would be easier for Laf to carry versus John, giving him to Hercules, who took John. They twisted down an endless amount of hallways before they were far enough away from the flames engulfing the building to be safe.

“What’s going on?! ” Angelica screeched, out of breath, her eyes screaming with her mouth. She coughed, heaving against the wall while the others caught their breath.

John watched blearily around them, shabby and broken, looking like they escaped a war. He looked over to Alex, whine indignantly at the sight. He was unconscious, easily so, but covered in blood, his bandage coming loose to reveal-

Dried blood. Dried blood.

When they fell asleep, Alex’s arm had started bleeding again. There wasn’t anything John could’ve done to stop it, except sing him to sleep and hope the pain left- but it was a lot of blood. Too much to dry in a matter of hours.

“Anyone?!” Angelica motioned vaguely to the cracked floors and ceiling, the bombing still heard from outside.

“We ran out of time.” John’s eyes went wide, breathlessly whispering in her direction. He watched their bodies sag in realization, all except Madison’s. “You knew !” He nodded, long and sad.

“We were running out of time- but they wouldn’t let me come back. Worried, they were worried.” He choked out, fanning the smoke gathering around them. “By the time I came back- it was too late. We had to get out.”

“But what’s happening here ?!” Hercules voice from above, John still useless in his grasp.

“Emergency protocol.” He answered simply, his voice dropping to a deep, menacing tone. No one dared ask him to elaborate, his face dark enough to silence them. But Jefferson, who’s remained relativly silent the whole time, knew.

“We can’t give them any advantages. Weapons- chemicals- bombs .”

“But that’s what the Black Market is -”

“Which is why their blowing it up.”

“You guys are blowing the fucking place to the shreds?!” Her disbelief plastered over her expression. She shook her head, inhaling what she could through the smoke. She pushed against the wall, lifting herself up. “Then we need to get out.” Her elegance was back, almost like it was never gone, her mind commanding and her voice inforcing. John didn’t try to get up, knowing he’d be better off cooperating than trying to walk himself, ease the load but pull the reins the wrong way.

Angelica faltered, turning to Madison and Jefferson. “You two know this place better than any of us. We need you to take control.” Jefferson stepped back, shrinking visibly.

“No, it’d better be Madison.” His accent was thick, John noted, much like his own, only indicating this was shaking all off them to the core. Far worse than anything they’ve ever faced before.

“There’s an exit, not too far from where we are it’s just… closer to their designated area.” A beat passed, “We had an area specifically for Awakens… it’s not even possible for it to still be intact…” He let the sentence die off, nobody wanting to hear it end. “But it’s out best bet.”

“Our only bet.” Jefferson added, “The stairs on the other side have been blown.” Must’ve been where they bombed , John curled around himself, tears spilling. Scary. He couldn’t think, couldn’t process, only fear . You’re not safe anymore . Not even there to keep Alex safe anymore. He whimpered, wishing Alex was still tight in his arms. He gave one more weak attempt to reach out at him, pain searing through him at the slight motion. He cried out faintly, letting his arm fall in dismay.

He didn't even feel the building shift.

Then again.

Until they all did.

Rubble was sliding down the hallways, their ankles bending to keep them upright. Their world started spinning, the glass window on the opposite end of the hallway shattering, with a deafening shriek. More loose stone and tiles tumbled out, breaking the frail wall that was holding much more pressure than intended, the building slipping the further.

All heads shot to the side when Angelica’s voice pitched- but was cut off, gravity's hold yanking her to the surface. She slipped, her body falling towards the window, so quickly they barely had time to process- but she did. Door knobs stuck out at her, grabbing one she pulled it open with her weight, using it for leverage. She groaned, feeling the building shift further. She watched, her eyes wide as the bodies still balancing above started to fall, the building breaking at the seams.

Before Laf fell a put Eliza on the floor, aiming her for the open door, letting her unconscious body slide down, flinching when she hit it. Glass gathered around her and under her, everything slipping. He followed her down, pushing himself slowly on the half-tilt, trying to keep as much control as he had, working his way down.

But, the bonds of steel were not strong enough, the building giving final lurch. Bombs could still be heard, the smell of smoke and dirt thick in the air, but nothing was thicker than the fear.

The entire wall cracked , crumbling to pieces underneath them, everything onto falling. Screams, fearfully sudden screams, were wrenched from them, the ground finally giving way. Their bodies twisted as they fell, John’s entire body screaming next to his weak whimpers. His chest seized up, Hercules’ arms nowhere near him, his body tumbling to the space below. The entirety of the wall below him was glass, every single object that landed on it, whether it was as large as him, or as small as a pebble, spider-webbed the glass. The cracks fanned out, the endless darkness beneath him becoming prominent.

He should have been ready- oh god, he should have known .

The lights blinked out like a horror movie, his head filling with dread. From the end to him, each light flickered like a candle, making his face contort, the darkness chasing him until it finally caught up. He felt his body slip further, hitting the door Eliza was occupying with Laf, hearing it creak under the added weight. His breath caught in his throat, feeling it become harder and harder to get a full lung of air, trembling. The darkness of the night engulfed them, with every shift of the building, and every groan of the holds it had.

He didn’t even process what he was doing until he was doing it.

He’d heard that scream. No! The sound of a body sliding down the floor, groaning an all too familiar groan. He heard a door open above him, the a clang, two bodies taking up the space. Madison was one of them- but Alex was not. He heard a gasp, down below, his head reeling and adrenaline kicking in, Alex’s screams getting louder the further away he got, painfully sliding down the very thing that should be under their feet.

So John jumped.

Chapter Text

John almost screamed when a hand grabbed his own, ceasing his descent. I have to get to Alex! His mind cried, pulling against the large hands. He kicked against the ground, twisting his body and tugging his arms. He scanned up his arm, looking at the tan palm attached to it, then to his face. Lafayette's wide eyes were relentless against his, his cheeks puffed out from the exertion of keeping John up.

“John, do not do anything rash. Look.” His voice was strained, but remarkably calm, hanging from the open door, John looked down to see-

Alex. Fine, okay, good. He was okay. Relief flooded him, but it was short lived, quickly draining into dread. Alex was sprawled against the glass, his arms and legs open, the sweatshirt hiking up. The cracks his impact made on the glass were so small, they wouldn't have even been noticeable. If they're weren't so many. Packed so tightly together, the small lines might as well be as long as snakes, thicker than a python, making it almost impossible to see through.

With each breath Alex took in, more cracks spread, making him freeze. He looked up to John, his eyes big and scared. John noticed the dark line over one eye, not even remembering when the bandage was still on. It made his heart burn, seeing him so useless above the breaking ground, how one wrong move could end it all. He watched Alex tense up beneath him, his body aching but staying stiff against the panes. John looked up at Laf again, rethinking.

If he let go of his hand, he’d tumble right into Alex. If it was somehow able to support Alex, there was no way it was going to support him too. He smacked his head internally, thankful Lafayette still had sense left, at least some that was clouded with emotion. This is war . There’s no time for feelings. No matter how much you pray for them to stay .

“Okay. We need to think this through.” He finally admitted, feeling his muscles strain as Laf pulled him up. The was hauled over the edge, hearing the door creak with more added weight, looking over to Eliza. He looked into the room, the door was- thankfully -close to the side wall, allowing more room on the door for John, Eliza and Laf slipping into it. He curled his head around the side, biting his lip at the sight of Alex again. “Stay there! It’s going to be okay, alright baby girl?”

He wasn’t sure if he was expecting a response or not, but Alex barely gave a nod, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. John didn’t even want to think about how terrifying it must be for him. He looked back to Lafayette, “What do we do ?” His voice was quivering, it sounded so broken . He whined, wasn’t even the one in danger right now and he couldn’t control something as trivial as that.

Lafayette shook his head, biting his lip frantically. A habit they all grew into after this mess started.

“I don’t know.”

John felt everything shatter.

His eyes pleaded, his body leaning over the side of the door. Laf didn’t know . Laf always knew, he was the one with the plan. They one who worked best under pressure, besides maybe Angelica-

Angelica .

“Angelica!” He cried, voice hoarse, searching over the doors above him and beside him. He almost sobbed when her head popped over the side, opposite and just one above him.

“Shirts.”

Simple, easy request. One small word passed her lips, but all at once, the shifted around on the door, Eliza doing the same in the room, quick to strip out of the little material they had left. Nobody questioned her, and nobody froze, swiftly chucking their shirts to the door above them, making sure to ball them up so they made it to the door. Eliza took of her tank top as well, leaving her open in her bra, matching the shirtlessness of the two boys next to her.

“I have an idea, but it’s pretty crazy…” Hercules moved next to her, doing something with the newly acquired clothing no doubt, Angelica’s ponytail messily falling over the side of the door. “Look down there, right under Alex’s feet.” She pointed, though it did nothing from their point of view, John and Laf’s eyes traveling down. John felt his stomach tumble, watching Alex curl under the attention, fear-pale, and shaking. His poor baby .

“The wall is entirely window, clear panes and panels, but-” She cut herself off, grabbing something beyond their vision, “If you look close enough, part of the window isn’t as cracked as the others. It’s not glass. ” They’re eyes shifted, cold-dread-mixed relief washed over John, the twitching mixture of emotions making him shiver. He wanted to scream at the world, or vomit at it’s cruelty, but thank it for who ever decided to take safety precautions on this particular window in the hospital. John sucked in a breath, meeting the contraption Herc and Angelica had made.

It was a twisted mixture of colors and fabric, tied together as tight as they could with their thickness, making a rope two times longer than he. At the end, a small metal hoop was tied, what it was he didn’t know, the circle no larger than his palm. He watched with escalating hope, the tightness of Angelica’s features, the concentration in her eyes, as she tied the very tip round her wrist.

“Angelica?” Eliza questioned, watching her lower it into what seemed like empty space.

But it wasn’t. Lafayette grabbed Eliza’s hand, pushing his thumb along the muscles inside, soothing her rushing heartbeat. The small ring of metal clinked against something, making them jump. John followed the trail of shirts down, still unsure of its purpose, when he finally reached the bottom. He really should have trusted her, there never would be a reason to doubt Angelica.

The ring had rapted against a doorknob , and it wasn’t really a knob at that, just a handle. One swift pull and the door was flying open, followed by collective gasps, and a heartbreaking son of relief. Alex was still curled up at the bottom, more pale white lines etching in the foundation, but now they could get closer. He smiled. For the first time in what felt like years, he genuinely smiled.

They watched with flipping unease as Angelica grabbed Hercules’ arms, slowly dipping her legs over the side of the door like she was stepping into a pool. Hercules helped her twist her body, chest pressed up against the thickness of the door, her legs curled underneath it. It really put into perspective how far apart the doors actually were. When they lay straight, you could fit another body between the gap, making them shiver with fear.

“Angelica…” Lafayette perched positively next to John on the door, watching his (basically) sister work her way down the door. The tension in the air was so thick, between Alex’s place on the window and Angelica’s death defying plans, crushing everyone’s chests. Hercules helped her the best he could, stretching over the door so his feet clung to the edge, folding his arms so Angelica could gain a few more inches less to fall. “Please, be safe.”

And they let go.

The sound made John’s body ache. The way it hit the door, the way the hinges creaked and the door groaned under her weight. It was painful knowing how the door was barely supporting her, how it was almost completely up to her to save Alex. That felt wrong to John.

They heard Eliza whimper, pushing herself back into the room with a cry. Lafayette gave John a pleading glance, Help Angelica , he could almost feel the desperation in it. He’d be lying if that wasn’t exactly how he felt too, the burning to be with his love, with his family, his friends, to just be safe.

Angelica quickly unhooked the ring, the shape bent but otherwise still usable, lowering it down to the door below her. Taking the shirts, she re-tied them, making sure to keep it tight-

A loud metal groan broke the concentration, the building shuddering. Thomas and Madison, who were above them, exchanged a look of panic, feeling everything shift a little more. One more mistake, missed movement, and they building would be completely vertical to the ground. The only thing keeping the top of the building from falling completely, was the balcony beneath them, but that wasn’t going to hold up forever. When they building breaks, that cement is going to shatter, and so will everything else.

He felt his sense light up, fire burned somewhere, people were screaming, smoke, smoke was filling the room. He felt adrenaline rush through him, faster, harder, like it hadn’t been before. He could hear the gasps, followed by a warning, Jefferson’s accent unknowingly thick. He felt his body jump, like he was living in a subspace, everything slowing for the briefest of seconds. He couldn’t feel anything accept the onslaught of air, soaring through it until his feet hit the door. Then he was with Angelica, and for the briefest of seconds, he knew what he needed to do. He wrapped his arms around her body, using every ounce of strength he had to push her into the room the door was latched onto. He ignored her cry, ignored her arm trying to pull him back, instead he took a breath and for the first time in years, he prayed.

Pain. So much pain. Everywhere.

He vision blacked out, but it was back in an instant. Blood dripped down his face, wetting his lips and making his mouth taste like metal. The fear that shrouded him before was nothing compared to what he felt now.

Nobody knew how it happened, but from anybody else’s point of view, it was pure fucking luck .

A giant metal beam had fallen, Jefferson’s shout of warning clouded by the sound of the creaking and the breaking. It had taken the door with it, but it missed all the one’s before it. It had fallen straight, curving just enough to take the exact spot Angelica had been occupying, but god she was smart.

The shirts had been transferred, in those spilt seconds of pure luck they keep seemingly having, Angelica managed to tie them around John’s wrist. And that wasn’t even where it stopped. The beam chucked a large portion of the wall- er floor -leaving barely enough space for it to land like a tightrope, running straight across the flat.

Hell was starting to seem welcoming, the way they were being saved by nothing more than a prayer.

John cried at the pain, his arm jerking, his shoulder splinting under the pressure. The shirts had fixated themselves around multiple nails, the tough stitching of Hercules’ clothes keeping it together. And Alex, oh Alex , he could practically feel the fortune bubbling around them. Of course he saw the beam coming, falling, he was at the bottom after all.

The felt the glass shatter before he got a good jump, but the small little hobble he gave was just enough. Just enough to catching the falling body of John, yank him with the shirts. Eliza’s shrieks summed up the dead silence, the only one willing to voice exactly what they were feeling. John felt a leap of hysterics, a laugh choking him with tears. They fled his face, mixing with the blood, making it pink and salty. His body shook with the effort of keeping hold of the makeshift rope, and to Alex, unable to imagine what the boy was feeling. Alex’s arm was throbbing under his grip, John’s around wrapped as tight as it could be around his waist, blood pouring from it like it was missing.

They weren’t even ready to breathe, both suspended by fear.

Dust clouded everything around them, the beam upsetting the last sliver of hope they had. It building tilted, cement cracked, and so did the faces of everyone.

Things were always happening too fast to process,

Bodies, two- three- now four… Landing on the beam. The metal didn’t make a single sound, supporting the weight fully. Lafayette and Angelica were there, right next to Hercules and Madison. Then they were being pulled, shirts ripping, safe. In mid air. But stable. Next to them, Jefferson landed, Eliza not far behind, face wet, red, and puffed. John assumed he looked the same, Peggy still curled in Hercules’ arms. Angelica took off first, her boots banging on the rod with every step, the thick metal allowing barely enough space for one body. They followed her, single file, jumping with sprained legs and ankles, black eyes, battered and bloodied bodies, drowing the pain in a strange mixture of hope and fear.

“I need you guys to trust me!” Her voice was rough, but she still screamed, warning them for something they would never be prepared for.

“We always do!” Alex screeched back, his voice no louder than a whisper. Something about hearing Alex speak, even if it was close to nothing, made John go a little faster, and lose all second thoughts. When Angelica leapt from the beam, soaring openly through the air, John did too, no second thoughts. There was no time. Never was.

John knew. As soon as She landed, sending up rocks, sand, and dust, that this was planned. Angelica knew what would happen, somehow he knew Angelica planned something ever since they’d been caught. Maybe it was Jefferson, dumb luck, or just her fucking mind that got them out of this, but she did it. She knew the building would fall. Knew what to do when it did. Knew this roof would be there to catch them when they jumped. Hell, she knew they would have to jump.

But How

“Angelica.”

“I know. I will tell you everything, but now is not the time .” She hissed pushing past him with her eyes set. Alex flew into her arms, knocking them all down in a line, but it broke his fall.

“John! John! OhmygodJohn!” He cried, twisting from her arms and into his. Fresh tears leaked from his eyes, mixing with the overzealous amount of blood pouring from them. They wrapped around each other like vines, breathing in the tainted smell of each other, bodies aching for each other’s warmth.

Multiple bodies landed, crying and curling, letting everything sink in.

“Take cover!”

John and Alex jumped up, seized by fear all to quickly, seeing Madison run up to them. He pulled them underneath him, laying over and covering ever small piece of skin with his body. They shook, feeling exactly what they were hiding from.

The balcony had finally given up.

A colossal wind swept over them, sending the contents of the roof flying. It was a twister in a desert, hair pulled painfully, their bodies barely shielded by Madison feeling rocks and sand stab into them. Holding their breath and sealing their eyes, they waited, hearing the telltale sound of the building hitting the ground. Everything around them puffed up in one final after-blow, Screams emitting from below.

“Eliza?”

Maria?!

Madison, slowly, stepped over them. He reached out, snatching John’s arm and helping him up. He tried to suppress the moan of pain tipping his tongue, his shoulder screaming in agony. John let Alex curl under his shoulder, leaning on him to keep his weight off his bad leg.

They adjusted to the voice, worn out and scared, meeting the sweet- much needed -sight of Eliza hugging-

Maria

“But you were taken!” Speaking before he could stop himself, John bit his lip, more blood pooling under his tongue. Her eyebrows creased, looking to Angelica and biting her own cherry red lips. The dark-skinned girl sighed, the tiniest traces of guilt etching her flawless features. “What the hell just happened?” He continued, almost pleading for an answer.

Angelica jogged over to them, kicking up sand as she ran, wrapping an arm around each neck. Her breath was warm against their chilled skin, meeting were their heads connected, “I promise I’ll tell he guys later, but please… trust me .” Alex smiled once again, both noting that his voice could no longer be any louder than it was,

“We always do.”

“Duck.” She whispered, pushing their shoulders down.

They collapsed in a heap, John’s hands hovering over Alex’s ears when gunshots fired. Two loud bangs, the fire far, but the impact near. Liquid garbled, hitting the floor next to them, spraying them with a thick liquid. Alex screamed, burying himself further into John, hugging tighter.

When the fire ceased, the splattering stopped, they looked back up at Angelica. She had jumped a distance away, leaving a gap for them to see Maria. The gun was held in one hand, steadied by the other, but she wasn’t the one that fired. Eliza was pressed right up against her, chest to her back, aiming the gun in Maria’s hand, her own fingers strong on the trigger. They didn’t dare look at the mess behind them. Eliza nodded at them, letting her hand fall away from Maria’s.

“We need to get out of here.” her voice was the clearest it’s been all day, like Maria was the one who was stabilizing her. It really didn’t seem that hard to believe, especially feeling Alex pressed against him. Alex was John’s reason to continue, so why couldn’t Maria be Eliza’s?

“But first-” Jefferson stood from his place underneath Hercules, pushing the man of him, his sentence cut off by Angelica, wearing something that could only be annoyance.

“I promise I’ll tell you guys everything later .” Jefferson closed his mouth.

Lafayette stood up next, taking Peggy so Hercules could, then giving her to Jefferson who took her surprisingly openly. Alex pulled John closer, trying to reach his ear, “John…”

He pressed a finger to John’s head, the pain lost from the spur of the moment, pain searing at the touch. “ Alex!” He screeched, tightening his fingers around his wrist.

“So much blood…” Alex had turned a pale white, scanning over their bodies, only to find a severe lack of clothing, except…

He yanked his arm out of John’s grip, keeping his arm hanging in the air. Alex tried to be quick, he really did, but he only had one usable arm, pulling and prodding at the knots Angelica made in the shirts. When he finally got one undone, John was already soaked in blood, using that one as a towel instead of an actual bandage like he planned. Mopping up the blood, he got Eliza to untie the rest, her fingers fast and nimble. She knotted it around John’s forehead, sharp bolts of pain shooting down his forehead, flinching back at the feeling.

Alex kissed him, closing his eyes into the feeling.

“What do we do now?” He choked out, wiping tears from his face. John wiped the blood off his own face, and lips, then met Alex again, forcing hand behind his head.

“We trust Angelica.” Alex smiled, looking over to her expectantly. She grinned right back, but it was quick to fall, making every tense with worry.

“It’s defintaly not safe to stay in the city, but I know where to go.” She looked to John, then to everyone else, who caught on just as quick. Except for Alex, the only one still searching for clarity. “We need to go down south… John…”

“No. No , he’s just as bad as them.”

“But he’s the only hope we have, there’s a train we can catch if we hur-”

I said no! ” John gripped Alex hip so tight it hurt, but Alex didn’t care, he just wanted to know why they were so upset.

“Angie?”

She swallowed, sparing him a sympathetic glance. “We have to John.” Alex opened his mouth again, John’s tense body showering him with unease, ready to question when Angelica cut him off again, “We need to see your father.”

With that, John’s body fell, eyes closed, hitting the dust. Alex stumbed next to him, tipping in surprise and falling right next to him.

“John? John?”

Chapter Text

This is going on Hiatus until I can catch up with myself. I get really distracted trying to write this and just need to find more inspiration-

It will be back, soon, but until then I'll write whenever it hits me and until I have a few more chapters stacked up this'll wait.

Sorry, but it'll be back

Soon. I will try and I love this story so I am not abandoning it.