It's a new day, the sun peeking through patchy clouds, and they're back on the road. It's different this time, though, and not just because Logan is keeping pace with the van on his bike, exhaust pluming up behind. It's because of Keira. Clive could swear he can still feel the butterfly-light touch of Keira's lips to his. She surprised and delighted him with the tentative kiss, but disappeared into thin air before he could so much as reach for her. Attempts to get her alone after that were futile, leaving him simmering with frustration.
Now he's pressed up between her and Jess in the backseat once more, and Clive is hyper-aware of Keira's body against his. He might just go mad before they reach the coast.
For her part Keira's just as aware but she can't get Sam's reaction - well, his possible reaction - out of her mind. Surely he can't expect her to remain celibate though? She's not a fucking nun. She wrinkles her nose, watching out the window, wondering if she should bring it up with him. When he's not busy fucking Ryan. She rolls her eyes and increases the pressure of her thigh against Clive's just a fraction.
The silence is agonizing. The whoosh of wind past the partly-open windows is a loud buffer, but the complete lack of conversation inside the van plucks at Clive's nerves, and those are already stretched much too tight. "Do you have any tips for me on how to become a better shot?" he murmurs to Keira, taking advantage of the opportunity to look her full in the face.
"Practice," Jess says, and Clive frowns.
"I didn't ask you, Ginji," he tells her, and she shrugs. A hint of a smile creeps onto her lips.
Keira smiles. "We can set up some targets wherever we are next and I'll show you," she offers. "Antony's got some silencers we can use on the guns and I'm sure he won't mind us using up some ammo if it means you're a better shot."
"Great." Clive lets his gaze linger, taking in details of her face, her hair. Her eyes.
Ryan glances back, and his own eyes widen before his attention snaps to Sam. Has Sam noticed the burning tension between Keira and Clive yet? How will he handle it when he does notice? "Antony, what's your favourite sex position?" he says, pitching his voice so everyone can hear him. "We need a little conversation going."
Antony gives Ryan a look in the rearview mirror. What the fuck? "I don't have one. As long as my partner's enthusiastic and willing, they're all good. You? Or should I ask Sam?"
"Nah, we haven't been together long enough yet," Ryan says with a dismissive shrug. Antony seems grumpy at being asked, but there's still a light of something in his eyes that Ryan chooses to interpret as teasing. "Luke, what about you?"
Laughing and shaking his head, Luke says, "You really think I'm answering before you do?"
"Me? In water," Ryan replies after a moment of thought. "The bath, the ocean... I'm not picky. I just love water," he grins.
"I like walls," Clive says decisively, and Jess dissolves into giggles. Which is worth the price of admission, assuming he hasn't just put Keira off. He fights to keep from glancing aside at her.
"Me too," Keira says, keeping her gaze firmly locked on the horizon. "Walls and counters."
Fucking hell. Clive can't stop the mischievous grin spreading across his face.
"New question," Jess announces, hoping to turn the conversation around before Clive earns his fool ass a beating from Sam. "Once we're on the island and we have everything we could possibly want, what's the food you want first?"
"Steak," Alex answers, without even thinking about it. "One that Antony cooks."
"No, I meant yourself," Jess protests, but has to laugh again. "It's cheating to have him cook it for you."
"Seriously?" asks Alex, turning around in the middle seat to look at her. "I have to cook it myself? Maybe I don't want to live off canned beans and grilled cheese sandwiches forever and a day."
"I want pasta," Luke says with a sigh. "Fresh pasta with garden-grown tomatoes..." He looks to Sam and Antony. "What kind of animals are on the island?"
"Sheep and cattle, a couple horses, maybe some goats," Antony says, glancing in the rearview mirror. "Seals, seabirds, there's fish when the weather's decent. We'll want to take over enough stuff to make it through the winter though."
"Seals?" Jess asks doubtfully. A brave new world, indeed.
"Seals," Ryan echoes, thinking about meat to be cured, blubber to be rendered... "We're all going to need to learn a bunch of caveman skills. Maybe once things settle we'll be able to find books with instructions." He's looking forward to it, he realizes. 20 years of schooling, and he's revving up at the thought of butchering a seal, which can't possibly prove to be a pleasant task. "I'm excited to build something." To build on the driving hope of a new life for all of them.
Antony's gaze goes to Ryan in the mirror. Impressed. "Me too," he admits. "It'll be hard-going at first, I don't want anyone thinking it won't, but it's the best chance we have to do more than simply survive."
Those words... Well, they damn near sound encouraging to Alex. Particularly given the source. Smiling a little, he shifts his rifle against his shoulder and takes Luke's hand in his. Survive. Build. Together.
* * *
Clive shakes his head, trying to make out details of hulking buildings in the gloaming light. "Nah, I think we're stopping. We're almost there," he says, and on cue a seagull shrieks overhead. "Are we walking from here?"
"Yeah." Sam nods. "It looks like it's blocked up ahead and we can't take the van anyway, so we'll make a couple of trips." He waves at Logan as he pulls up alongside them. Opens the door and gives him the same rundown.
"I can probably fit through with the bike," Logan offers. "If you want to give me a couple of boxes."
They pile out of the van and Alex controls his wince at unfolding his long legs from the cramped space. The last thing he wants is for someone to think he's hurt so that he can cause even more delays. Sam and Logan start sorting out the cargo, and Alex turns to steal a kiss from Luke. "For luck," he whispers, grinning at his lover. He figures he must be crazy, feeling so intensely about Luke, but the funny thing is he's completely comfortable with it.
Luke grins. "I'm pretty sure I need even more," he says, pressing close for another kiss while he can.
Logan watches them for a moment as he bungee-cords the boxes to the back of the bike. "You'd think they weren't going to see each other again," he says to Sam, but he's not complaining or anything. Not really. If anything, he's jealous. Not specifically of either of them, but of having someone, being with someone in this messed up fucked up world.
"Another place that looks deserted," Ryan murmurs, looking around at the ramshackle buildings which get thicker, deeper into the town. He hitches his pack onto his back, then slips the rifle strap over his shoulder. "What do you think?" he asks Antony. "Did the roamers just fall off the edge of the earth into the sea?" Oh, what a joy that would be; he thinks back to his conversation with Sam the other day, and he can picture trying to sail across water teeming with hostile snarling bodies.
"I'm hoping the ones here just headed south and any others straight down from the city," Antony says, but yeah, it's creeping him out too. "I'm sure there'll be ones in the water but we'll choose wisely and it shouldn't be an issue." He gives his own bag one last adjustment, screws a silencer onto his gun, making sure he's good for ammo, his knife in his belt and motions for everyone to head towards the docks. "Look lively, people. Just because we're not seeing anyone doesn't mean they're not there."
Crowded though it was, Jess is sorry to leave the relative safety of their van. She feels exposed against the gray sky, and frowns as she checks her bullets one more time.
Clive readies his own weapons, but he's watching Keira. He saw Alex and Luke sneak in their private moment. And the desire to kiss Keira is a fire burning in him. But it's not the time, with everyone involved in their preparations, alertness rising as they parcel out the accumulated stuff they've triaged as most important. And no, he doesn't have a clue how Sam would react, but regardless he doesn't want to distract the man at a time when they all need to focus. Including him. So instead he gives Keira a little smile, and promises himself, Soon.
She smiles back but quickly drops her gaze, making sure she's got as much as she can comfortably carry before falling in behind Antony. Walls. Just the thought makes her wet.
"I'll bring up the rear," Sam tells Ryan, nodding for him to go ahead. He believes in the island one hundred percent and all they can accomplish there but fuck, he just wants to be there already.
They fan out as they move into town, which is just as eerily quiet as the last one was. Ryan's alert for any flicker of movement, but the sodden houses seem to blend with the gloomy sky, and the shriek of seabirds is the only errant sound. Logan is long gone ahead, and he wonders how long it will be before the man returns with some report of their sailing prospects.
Antony's extra-careful steering them through the blockade of cars. This is man-made no doubt, but whether it was meant to slow down people or walkers he doesn't know. A sudden move catches his peripheral vision and he holds up a hand, signaling for everyone to stop right where they are.
Snapping his rifle to aim, Alex scans the buildings. He doesn't know why Antony stopped them, but something about this place has him on edge. A bucolic seaside village it's not.
His paranoia pays out an instant later, when an arrow shoots past him, damn near before he even hears the twang of a bowstring.
Ryan's face goes hot and he drops to the ground and rolls, looking wildly around for the source of the attack. It's a coordinated ambush, two men stepping out of a dark entryway plus a woman and another man slipping into view from an alley.
"Guns down! Put them the fuck down and get your hands high!" one of the men bellows. "There are more of us than you, so do not fuck about!"
"I don't believe you," Antony says calmly, training his sight on the (presumed) leader's forehead. One shot and he'll blow the guy's brains out. "And we're just passing through, so let us by and we'll be gone in no time."
"You okay?" Sam asks Ryan, heart in his throat, gun aimed at one of the fuckers as well.
"Yeah," Ryan reassures him automatically, and then the penny drops when he realizes his cheek is burning and he puts that together with Sam's tone of voice. It's just a graze, got to be. That's what he tells himself, but he's not going to drop his rifle to check.
"You should believe us," says another voice from behind them. Clive keeps his sledgehammer at the ready, but shifts his weight to casually settle back into a grappler's stance.
"We'll let you keep your gear, but you're giving us your guns," the leader announces. "Your women'll stay with us, too," he says with a gesture at his comrades. "Marsha's been looking for some female company."
"No," Jess says instantly, and the leader raises an eyebrow, looking at her like she's nothing more than a confused puppy.
Antony shakes his head, gun and voice as steady as ever. "Nope, that's not happening. We're taking our gear and our guns and no one's staying behind. You can have what's in the van. We were planning on coming back for it but you can have it. There's still a decent amount of supplies in there." He catches another flicker of movement, this time behind the leader and his lackeys. Logan. He doesn't let on at all, but thanks whatever fucking deities there are he thought to give the man an automatic rifle last night.
"Fuck all this negotiating," the bowman growls, and takes a steady aim at Sam this time.
Meanwhile, one of the other men smiles down at Jess. "Don't worry, luv. We're not going to hurt you." His expression transforms into a leer as he looks her over from head to toe and back. "Unless you force us to."
His gaze chills her to her core, a palpable filthy thing she can feel crawling over her body, and Jess instantly breaks into a cold sweat. "You shut the fuck up. Don't look at me. Don't look at her," she snaps, her pistol aimed dead center of his chest.
"Nahh, luv, we'll be such good friends." He nods towards the grimy careworn woman standing a couple meters from him. "Just ask Marsha, she loves all the personal attention. Come quietly, now," he says, reaching for her like he's a courtly gentleman asking for a dance. Right.
"No!" She fires before she even realizes her grip tightens on the trigger, and watches in fascination when the force of the shot blows him off his feet, slamming him to the ground.
"Bitch!" another man yells, running at her with a knife. In that instant the world seems to slow, nearly frozen between the space of one breath and the next. Clive drops his hammer to the ground and meets the asshole halfway, leaping into the air and slamming both feet into him.
Jess's move leaves them no choice. Antony takes out the leader and the guy beside him, Logan dispensing of the other two just as quickly.
It's a shock to Clive how fast it all happens. Apparently Antony and Logan are simply done talking, what the fuck? "Stay down, stay the fuck down," he orders the guy he tackled to the ground, shaken by the smell of spilling blood around him. Fresh blood, hot and bright and coppery. More shots fly and Jess rushes the guy with a wild berserker growl, pistol in hand and finger on the trigger-- "No!" Clive shouts, grabbing her round the waist and lifting her off her feet.
She struggles against him, kicking uselessly at the air and sobbing. "I'm going to kill him! Let me go! I'm going to fucking kill him!" she shrieks, and the man actually cowers from her, flattening himself down on the bricks.
Standing over a fresh corpse of his own, Alex watches the drama with wide eyes. He kicks the dropped knife out of reach, and quickly disarms Marsha -- easily done when she puts up no fight. "Hey man," he tries, uncharacteristically hesitant. Not that Clive can hear him.
"No! Fuck you, let me go!" Jess yells, and Clive hugs her tighter against his chest.
"No, Jess!" Someone has to stop this, this is fucking insane, if she'd just see reason... "You're not going to kill an unarmed prisoner!"
Ryan shakes his head. "I will," he says with a shrug, and takes the guy out with a single headshot.
Clive's grip loosens and he eases Jess back to the ground, stunned, hardly noticing when she spins and begins to pound on his chest with her fists.
"Jess!" Keira wraps her arms around the other woman from behind. "It's me, Keira. We're good. We're fine. We're safe again." Trusting that that's true, that all threats have been dispatched. "We're going to head straight for a boat and get the fuck out of here."
When Keira's voice filters through, Jess all but collapses. She clings, big shocky sobs shuddering through her body. It's not over, it's never over, but her brain is swiftly retreating from the harsher points of reality, and slowly she cries herself out.
Six, seven... Ryan tots up the number of bodies on the ground and turns to face Marsha. He keeps his rifle up, but carefully aims to the side of her. "Are you staying here?"
She stares at him in wonder, wiping away tears of her own and getting to her feet. "No," she says softly, the first time she's spoken during the encounter. "I have some debts to repay." Her gaze rests on the redhead for a moment, still crumpled against the other woman, before she turns to look at the fighters her group was fool enough to take on. In a practical tone, she asks, "Can I have some of their guns?"
Antony nods, Logan joining them. "Take 'em. You can have our van too," he says, tossing her the keys. "There's no weapons but there's some food and clothes and enough gas to last you a good ways once you're done." He'd intended to come back for the rest of their supplies but now he just wants to get everyone on a boat and out of here as fast as possible.
She nods and bends to collect the few guns scattered on the ground. Ryan is making the rounds, methodically spearing each corpse through its brain to prevent them rising again. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asks the strange woman.
Pain shards through him at the smile on her face, sad and relieved and haunted, all at once. "Better than for months now," she assures him.
"All right. Your people, where are they camped?" he asks, a little worried they have yet to stumble over the main part of her group. But she points northwest and so Ryan wishes her luck, then watches her pick up the discarded bow and arrows, then thread her way through an alley. He wipes his blade clean, and considers his own situation. The bleeding on his cheek has slowed to a mere trickle, he can tell that much just by feel, which is excellent considering he's got no desire to fuss with the wound right this second. Exposed as they are. He goes to Sam's side. "Should we have offered to help her?"
Sam shakes his head. "You asked if she was staying, Antony gave her a ticket out of here. That's enough," he says, checking out the cut on Ryan's cheek. "You're gonna have to let me clean that up once we're on the boat."
Logan's busy watching Jess and Keira. "Is she okay?" he asks Antony.
"She will be," Antony says, making a quick visual inspection of their group. "The guy just-- he triggered the wrong person."
Clive is still stunned silent, mentally replaying the events of the last few-- was it truly only minutes? He shrugs his pack back on, though he doesn't recall ever putting it down. The bloodthirstiness of his comrades disturbs him, more than he could put it into words. Permanently taking down the undead is one thing, and he accepts it as a grim reality of this new life. But blowing out the brains of live humans... He just can't make that sit right in his soul, somehow.
Her tears are finally washed out again, and Jess steps back from Keira, her shoulders hunched. Her eyes burn with salt and she feels like a brittle husk, but they triumphed here... she thinks. Nothing in this world actually feels good.
"Did you see anything suitable?" Antony asks Logan as they make their way towards the docks. He wishes it hadn't had to go down the way it did but once Jess flipped out - not that he blames her - they had no choice. It would have been them on the ground otherwise.
Logan nods. "There's a few options and no walkers that I saw. But when there was no sign of you guys after a few minutes I left everything and came back." Even though he'd had a pretty good idea he might be walking into a shitstorm.
Antony gives Logan a grim smile. "I'm glad you did. Those guys weren't going to negotiate and there was no way in hell we were leaving anyone behind."
"They wanted Keira and Jess?" Logan guesses, both shocked and sickened, although he shouldn't be. Fuck. All those months living with his friends had sheltered him from just how awful the outside world had become but he knows what men are like, a lot of men, when they're given an excuse to give in to their baser instincts.
Alex holsters his gun and crosses to Luke, taking his lover into his arms. He hugs him tightly, reassuring them both, breathing in vitality.
Luke presses close. "I thought we were goners," he confesses.
"Yeah. I kind of did, too," Alex breathes. He permits himself to cling for a moment longer before he steps back and grabs his gear. "Let's get the fuck out of here, yeah?"
"Yeah," Jess whispers, overhearing him. She wanders slowly among the bodies, pausing first by the man she shot dead. And then second by the one who rushed her. Considering him for a long moment, she then looks up to meet Ryan's eyes. "Thanks."
He nods and falls into step beside Sam. Doubly alert now.
Logan drops back as Keira comes running up to Antony. "Are you okay?" he asks Jess, careful not to get too close.
"Yeah, of course. Who wouldn't be okay, right?" She pushes a loose strand of copper hair behind her ear. "I'm running low on bullets, though."
"What do you need?" Logan asks, eyes following that movement. He bets her hair is real soft. Not that he'll ever be touching it, which is something he needs to resign himself to.
"Nine millimeter?" she says, lifting her eyes to meet his. "Just... just a few," she hurriedly adds, hunching into herself again.
"Here," Logan drops his bag from his back and roots around in it, coming up with a box of shells. "It's not full, maybe half, but you're welcome to them," he says, offering it over.
"Thanks." Since he's already stopped she does the same, loading up on the spot. "And what do you call that... that?" she says with a nod towards his military-calibre automatic weapon. "The 'Saved Your Asses' rifle?"
Logan grins. "It's a Colt M4 Commando," he says, holding it up for further inspection. "Antony brought it from the military base they looted but he didn't want to give it to anyone without the proper training."
"Ah." She nods, duly impressed. "I thought you were a police officer. They trained you to use assault weapons?"
"I was a member of the ESU," Logan confesses, starting to walk again. "Emergency Services Unit." It's a confession he's only made to Antony so far and he still hesitates before clarifying further. "Basically S.W.A.T." Although the ESU was so much more than that.
"Oh. That's cool." Jess has heard of S.W.A.T. teams, sure, although ESU is an unfamiliar term to her. "Did you specialize in hostage situations and that kind of thing? You sound like a handy guy to have around."
Logan nods. "That sort of thing," he says, keeping it simple. "And I hope so, but I know there's people who don't like cops on principle. Luckily your group already has a few military guys."
"Yeah, and we're grateful to have them. Four experienced warriors, plus Ryan's some kind of doctor," Jess says. "Funny how people's standards change. Their priorities, really." She blows out a breath. "I didn't have much contact with the police in my former life, I'll admit. This is a new one on me." That might be the slightest hint of a smile, tugging at her mouth.
"We're good guys, most of us," Logan says, breathing a sigh of relief as the docks come back in view, his bike and their supplies with it.
There's a small cluster of boats, and then a couple moored deeper. "Do you know what kind of boat Antony wanted?"
"Just something to get us and the supplies to Arbroath, I think," Logan says. "But we'll want something big enough that we can stay on for a night or two if needed and a place to put my bike." He points out one or two boats. "Something like those. I can sail but Antony really knows his boats so I'd go with his choice."
Clive scans each of the boats in turn, eyes peeled for the slightest bit of movement. But no, it looks like most of them weren't too smart to go overboard. "Should we even bother shooting them in the water?" he asks Antony.
Antony shakes his head, leading the way down one of the docks towards a gorgeous 40-footer. "Not if we can avoid it," he says. "We need to save the ammo." He glances at Clive. "Can you keep a look out? I want to check this one out."
"Yeah, sure." Clive looks back to take in the rest of their crew, everyone wary and on their guard. Good.
A quick once-through and Antony comes back up. "I think this is it," he says. "No bodies aboard, the tanks are full and there's berths for eight." He glances at Logan. "And we should be able to bungee the bike to the back."
"Any spare diesel? Is the motor intact?" Alex asks, already climbing carefully aboard. At least this trip will cut down on the hiking factor for a day. He figures he should be good as new soon, if he can rest his leg just a bit.
"And, those of us who haven't ever sailed a yacht like this," Ryan says, holding Jessica's hand to steady her while she hops onto the deck, "where do you want us? Besides out of the way, I mean."
"This model has two fuel tanks," Antony explains. "And they're both full. There's also a full propane tank for cooking and a blackwater tank too. Not that too concerned about that. And anyone who's not actually sailing the boat can sit up top or down below, wherever they're comfortable. Anyone get seasick?"
"Right, because we need one more fucking thing," Jess mutters. She descends the stairs to explore belowdecks.
"Antony, Alex, me. Logan? I think the four of us are officially the crew," Clive says, and starts chivvying their packs downstairs to strap into the hold.
"I can do a few things," Luke says, setting out some food in the kitchen. "I've been sailing before, but you'd have to tell me what needs doing."
Above deck, Antony curses under his breath. "Guys? Incoming. We'd better get everything in and strapped down asap."
"What, don't you want to say, 'All hands on deck'?" Ryan asks, and flashes Antony the hint of a wry grin, taking aim on the herd moving towards them.
"Fuck this town," Clive mutters, standing on the dock and shaking out his arms. "Logan, let me give you a hand with your bike."
Logan hands the last few boxes of supplies over to Sam and Luke, ignoring the growing moans at his back as he and Clive lift the bike onto the back steps of the boat and fasten it down tightly with rope and bungee cords. He hears Ryan take a couple of shots, hears the dull smack of bullets into dead flesh, and a shudder runs through him. I'm not fucking looking, he thinks, untying the mooring lines and pushing the tail end of the yacht away from the dock before jumping on. I'm not fucking looking. Although he does, now that he's on, another smack coming right behind him. Fuck. The walker dropping into the water as the engine starts up and Luke takes out two more walkers scrambling to get on.
Frowning, Alex keeps his sights trained on another as it shambles over the edge of the dock. Into the water. At first it looks like it might actually follow them, but then it begins to sink inexorably into the sea. "Why don't they float?" he mutters to himself. "Shouldn't they fucking float?"
Jess stiffens in alarm, watching the dead bob in the wake of the boat before disappearing beneath the surface. "Are they swimming?" she asks, nervous with new fears. "Do you think they can swim?"
Clive considers, catching his breath and standing back from the front line. Leaves the shooting to the ones who are good at it. "No," he decides, after watching for a moment longer. "They're starting to bob back up, but they're not fucking swimming."
"They don't take stairs, they can't open doors," Luke says, standing close to Alex, watching the more decayed walkers slowly sink, the fresher ones bobbing, reaching after the boat. "It makes sense they wouldn't be able to swim."
Time seems to stretch out, the walkers tumbling one after another off the docks. In reality, though, it's mere minutes before Antony is guiding the boat out of the bay and into the open water. A collective sigh of relief, and Ryan asks Sam, "Could you help me with this now?" He points to the wound on his face. "I mean, I can clean it, you don't have to. But," he shrugs, for lack of greater eloquence, "I'd like it if you could help me."
Sam nods. "I'll clean it for you," he says, grabbing Ryan's hand and pulling him below. "Does it hurt?" It looks like it would - a lot - but Ryan seems fine which is probably all down to adrenaline.
"Nah, just stings. It'll start throbbing tonight and then I'll be grumpy," Ryan warns in a teasing voice. He sits down on a bench seat that runs the length of the main cabin and digs around in his pack, pulling out sterile bandages and alcohol. "If you're okay with cleaning it, then I'll take a look and make sure it doesn't need stitches. I don't think it will, though."
"I can do those too if you need me to," Sam volunteers, quickly washing his hands in the sink. He uses the alcohol to gently and carefully clean the blood from the wound and Ryan's face. "You're gonna have a scar either way."
Ryan hisses through his teeth at the disinfectant's bite, but stays absolutely still. "Yeah? Will I look ruggedly handsome?" he jokes, and flips open the round compact mirror he stashed with his make-do first aid kit. He winces when he sees the gash on his face, but at least the edges look fairly even, and though the flesh is raw Sam did a good job cleaning it up. Scrubbing his own hands with alcohol, he then uses a sterile swab to spread antibiotic ointment over the length of the wound.
"Do you need to take some antibiotics too?" Sam asks, applying the steri strips Ryan gives him.
"Yeah." Ryan hates to dig into their precious med stash, but he'd be an idiot not to follow his own orders. Giving the lie to his words, he pops a pain pill as well, then restows the supplies. "I haven't looked around yet. Want to explore with me?"
"Sure. Antony said there was enough room for everyone, or I guess one short now we have Logan, but someone'll have to keep watch anyway," Sam says, checking out the kitchen since it's right there.
"True." Ducking his head to keep from banging it on the low overhang, Ryan follows Sam out of the cabin and into a room which proves to be a cramped berth, almost entirely taken up by a bed. "That's good, there's storage space in here, too," he says, opening one of the top cupboards. "Not much, though." He looks at his lover, daring to let his vulnerability show for an instant. "Hey. Have you got a minute?"
"Yeah, sure," Sam says, smiling at Ryan. "What's up?"
"Just..." Ryan lays his hands on Sam's shoulders and moves in close, kissing him softly. The urgency is of a different kind than usual, fueled not by lust but by pent-up terror. "I was actually scared for a few minutes there."
Sam exhales softly and nods, pulling Ryan in against him. "Me too," he admits. "I can't remember the last time I felt like that. Not even in the tunnel."
For long moments Ryan is silent, trying to barricade himself in Sam's embrace. "It used to matter, you know? First, I had to get over killing the dead, again. But killing the living...? I'm not certain I even should be over that."
"I'm not," Sam says bluntly, his voice still soft nonetheless. "I justify it to myself. I know it's them or us. But I remember each and every one and it's not something I'll ever get used to."
Ryan nods, then rests his forehead against Sam's shoulder. "Tell me we'll get there."
"We'll get there. I know we will," Sam says, holding Ryan tight. "And we'll bitch about the cold and how hard everything is at first but at least we'll be safe."
"I don't mind things being hard," Ryan murmurs with a little smile. "The cold, I'm not really used to. But I'll be happy to adapt." With you.
"We'll keep each other warm," Sam promises, knowing they should really probably go check on Antony and make sure he doesn't need anything. But there's Alex and Clive and now Logan and they've barely left the docks anyway. "Lie down with me for a few minutes?"
"Yeah." There's nowhere to go: Ryan steps back and his calves hit the bedframe. He lets himself flop down and pulls Sam to come with him, seeking his vital warmth.
Sam pushes the door closed with his foot and wraps himself around Ryan. "I would go fucking nuts if I lost you," he whispers.
Ryan's surprised to hear him say so, but there's no denying the flush of contrary happiness in his blood. "I'm not going anywhere without you," he whispers back. Tangles his fingers in Sam's hair and kisses him.
Sam licks into Ryan's mouth and grinds against him. All the fear and the tension of the day suddenly rolled into a tidal wave of lust.
The intensity doesn't surprise Ryan; hell, he matches it, all the adrenaline and fear bubbling into a molten mix. He rolls to his back and pulls Sam on top of him, already lifting his hips to rub his stiff prick against him.
Groaning, Sam pulls back and shakes his head. "Naked, now," he growls, shifting to the side to shed his own jeans. "I'm not coming in my pants."
Ryan laughs softly and obeys, sitting up so he can strip out of everything. It feels good to shed the clothing he's been wearing for a few days now. But it feels even incredibly better to lie back and feel Sam warm and nude against him, pressed together from head to toe.
"Hey guys. Have you seen my bag?" Keira says, half-opening the door before Sam kicks it closed again.
Fuck. "No. Ask Clive," Sam calls back, kissing Ryan, biting at his lips. "He brought them down."
Keira blinks. There's no doubt in her mind what's going on behind the door and it's so fucking not fair.
Ryan snickers and wraps his legs around Sam's hips. "I always loved sunset sails," he teases. "This is even more romantic than I remember."
Sam laughs. "No kidding," he says, shaking his head. He kisses Ryan again, unable to ignore the way they're pressed together, his erection nudging into Ryan's cleft. Fuck fuck fuck.
Anger tightening her jaw, Keira stamps upstairs. Sure enough Clive's on deck, deep in conversation with Antony. "Clive. Sorry to interrupt." Ha. "Can you show me where you put my bag?"
Clive blinks, surprised by her tone, and nods. "Yeah. Of course." He leaves Antony to it and leads the way downstairs. "The berth furthest aft is a bit smaller than the others, so I put your stuff in there just in case you girls wanted the space to yourself," he explains, pushing the door open for her and stepping back to get out of her way as best he can. Not much, considering that these ceilings and passageways were apparently designed for much smaller men.
"Get in here," Keira says, pulling Clive inside. It's smaller than small but they'll have to make it work. "Close the door and keep it closed," she adds, turning to hop up onto the end edge of the berth. She makes quick work of her boots and shimmies out of her leggings, leaving her skirt on.
It's a hell of a sudden turn of events -- from Clive's perspective, anyway. But it looks like she isn't even wearing underwear, and he's no idiot. He grabs Keira and presses her against him to devour her mouth, one hand tangling in her hair.
Keira moans into the kiss, licking deeper, letting their tongues tangle for a minute before she pulls back enough to get her hands on his zipper, drawing it down and pulling his cock out. Oh fuck, yes. The weight and girth of him wetting her anew. "I want you in me," she breathes, "and I want you fucking me like you mean it." She's not some doll, some breakable figurine, and she's damned if she wants to be treated as such.
"I don't have a rubber," he warns, struggling to form coherent thoughts when she's got her hands on him like that. He pushes her thighs apart and rubs her pussy, then pushes two fingers inside her with a moan at how slick she is.
"I don't care," Keira says, and she doesn't. She knows guys and there's something good and decent about Clive and about the way he treats Jess. And the fact that he even thought to say that? Yeah. She doesn't care. "Fuck me," she grates out, grinding down on his fingers. She needs him now.
His blood's on fire with her words, her obvious desire. He drives home in one smooth motion. She takes him fully, so deep he feels he'll go mad. Cupping her ass in his hands and holding her in place for every sharp thrust.
Anywhere else and Keira would be wailing with pleasure, but here she wraps her arms and legs around Clive and nudges her face under coat and shirt, sinking her teeth into the curve of his shoulder as he lets loose, fucking her like she asked, like he means it, like he's going to drill right through her and fuck, it's good, so good, she's needed this for months now, needed it so badly. She muffles her cries against his skin, a flood of wet soaking him as she comes for the first time, her legs and arms tightening, urging him on.
He groans, the sound nearly strangled, and claws himself away from the edge. This is too good, too fucking good to be over so damn fast. He slides his hands up Keira's thighs and guides her ankles to his shoulders, pounding in from this new angle and knowing he's got mere seconds left in him.
Keira cries out, biting down on the sound as quickly as she made it. She comes again, one orgasm melding into the next, her body quivering, cunt clamping down around him, again and again.
Liquid pleasure streaks up Clive's spine, and he digs his fingers into Keira's ass. Comes in a rush and empties himself into her sweet body, muscles seizing and then melting.
"Ohh," Keira moans, feeling him come inside her. It's probably stupid and foolhardy but right now, in this moment, she feels more alive than she has in months. She eases her legs down from Clive's shoulders, wrapping them around his hips again and clings hard, kissing him.
He slips both hands into her hair and takes the kiss deeper, the edge of desperation dissolving into sensuality.
Finally pulling back, Keira gives him a soft smile. "That was even better than I'd imagined."
Clive gently rubs his thumb along her bottom lip. "Have you been imagining it much?"
"Some," Keira admits then asks, "Were you?"
"Yeah. For days now." He has the good graces to look a tiny bit sheepish. "I was trying not to, though. Trying to be respectful of you, and your--" your grief, he thinks, and cuts off that train of thought. "But then you kissed me, and suddenly it was all I could think about."
Keira's small smile becomes a full out grin. "At least we were both in the same boat," she says, amused by the fact they actually are. "And I appreciate you behaving yourself. I don't know how Sam'll react, but I can't be in mourning forever." She gives Clive another kiss. "Can you hand me my tights?"
"Yeah." He pulls out of her with a reluctant sigh and collects her discarded clothing. "You, ah. You took my mind off things. Thanks," he says, and drops another kiss on her lips before forcing himself to buckle his belt and back the hell off.
Keira smiles. She really likes him. "Hopefully we'll get to do it again. Somewhere with more room and a decent wall."
That fetches a true grin. "Now I have something to look forward to," he says, careful to open the door as shallowly as possible and preserve her privacy as he slips out of the berth.
"Give us a few minutes?" Antony says to Logan when Clive returns, waiting until the other man steps away before adding bluntly, "That took a long time."
"Huh?" Clive hasn't totally tuned back in yet. Then he shrugs lightly. "I didn't know. Lost my watch." He puts his hands into his pockets, and wonders what Keira will look like nude, how her body will open to him. Abruptly he realizes Antony knows, and he feels his face heat, his jaw tight.
Antony shakes his head. "Is it serious?" He doesn't necessarily trust Clive to tell him the truth but he trusts himself to read the man.
Clive hesitates, wavering on what he's comfortable with saying. What he's ready to admit to himself. "I want it to be," he replies after a moment. "I can't speak for her." He eyes Antony. "You never met Cal?" If he recalls correctly, Antony only found Keira and Sam after Cal's disappearance.
"No. I met Sam and Keira when they were trying to find him," Antony says, checking their bearings again. The wind's starting to pick up, the clouds overhead getting darker, and he's considering they might have to find cover and drop anchor for the night.
Clive scans the horizons as well, automatically making calculations in his head. "27 knots, from the southwest," he says, reading off the anemometer. "29." At least it's blowing them away from shore, rather than up against it. Of course, they don't want to go too far into open water, either. "What's your plan?"
"There should be an inlet up here," Antony says, nodding ahead of them. "We can take shelter, drop anchor for the night. The waters are deep enough we shouldn't have to worry about visitors but we'll still keep someone on watch." He exhales noisily. "Look. I don't have any right to tell you what to do, but if you're of a mind to take some advice, I'd get ahead of this with Sam. The longer it goes on, the less he'll understand, and I don't want to deal with a blow-up when we're on the island or trying to get there."
"I see." Clive studies him for a long moment, weighing his words and all they're not saying. Then he nods. "I appreciate the advice. And you? If Keira wants this to continue with me, are you all right with it?"
Antony leans back, taking a good look at Clive before he answers. "I want her alive and I want her happy. I've spent the last few months teaching her the skills and confidence she needs for the first and obviously you're her answer to the second. I don't have a problem with that."
Clive gives him a slow nod. "I want to ask you something," he decides after a moment of further consideration. "What happened today -- if that asshole hadn't threatened the women, would you have killed them?"
"No." Antony shakes his head. "If I thought there was any way we all could have walked out of there, we would have, and if they hadn't been looking for an easy mark, we could have offered them something better, but they didn't leave us any choice."
But, but, but...! Clive blows out a breath in resignation. He needs to reconcile himself to facts, he knows. It's just that his nature kicks against such brutal realities regardless. Rolling out his shoulders, he tries to shrug off the morning as best he can. "Want to take a break and settle in? I can cover things up here for a bit."
Antony starts to say no, his instinct to remain at high alert, in charge, micromanaging every second. But he's exhausted -- and starving, now that he actually pays some attention to his body's needs. "Thanks. We should hit the inlet in another half hour. Logan'll help you drop anchor."
Clive nods in acknowledgment and takes his place. It's probably best he has some time alone to process his thoughts.
* * *
"Think so?" Ryan smiles a little at the thought. "And here I figured it was the perfect time to take a break," he murmurs, trailing his finger over Sam's bicep. Enjoying the simple intimacy between them, for once without worrying about attackers at the gates. "I'm more worried about the tongue-lashing we might get from Keira. Is she the grudge type?"
Sam chuckles. "She might be, but hell, I had to listen to her and Cal--" he says, suddenly breaking off. Fuck.
Ryan winces with regret when Sam goes tense beneath him. Lifting his head, he meets his lover's eyes. "I'm really sorry about your brother. Were you two close?"
"Yeah." Sam nods. "We weren't when he was little. There were eight years between us and I sort of resented my parents for taking away my only status but by the time I was headed into uni, we'd become really good friends."
"That's good." Ryan smiles a little, trying to picture Sam as a boy, one with a worshipful little brother following him everywhere. "I'm the youngest of three. Sisters, two and four years older than me. They were at each other's throats pretty constantly -- really only unified when they were torturing me," he says with a chuckle. "They used to dress me up, makeup and all, and call me Princess Seraphina."
Sam bites his lip at that. "Seraphina?" He grins.
"I was a princess," Ryan insists before a snicker escapes.
"If you say so," Sam says, laughing. "Seraphina. You know I'm going to remember that."
Propping his head in his hand, Ryan simply enjoys basking in his lover's smile. "You have a really sexy laugh," he murmurs. "Has anyone ever told you that?"
"A couple people might have mentioned it," Sam says, ultra casually before breaking into another grin, his eyes sparkling. "No. Just you."
"Seriously? Liar." Ryan grins and smooths his hand over Sam's shoulder. "I really like you naked, too."
"Good, because I like you naked too," Sam says, giving Ryan another kiss. "In fact, I can't wait for us to be somewhere where I can spend the whole day in bed with you."
"Mmm, maybe on the next boat," Ryan muses. "Because once we reach the island we'll probably be beaten for lazing around when there's so much work to be done." He glances up at a creak, and is reassured by the steady repetitive rocking. "I... I kind of didn't think we'd manage this. Like, we'd get here, but I thought the odds of us leaving here over water were..." He shrugs a little. "I don't know. A pipe dream."
"I know." Sam nods. "I thought Antony's plans were crazy at first too. I thought he was just blowing hot air, or trying to give us hope even if he didn't really believe it, but then I figured out he's not like that. He wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't absolutely certain we could make it."
"Hmm. Yeah, he's not entirely what he seems, and I'm only just starting to be able to read him," Ryan murmurs. Reluctantly he sits up and pulls his shirt back on, shivering a little. "What did he really do before this? Do you know?"
"I can guess from what he's told us," Sam says, reluctantly sitting up as well. "He was definitely Special Forces at some point, really deep dark stuff, but then I'm pretty sure he went private. I'd say a mercenary but I don't think it was that simple. He really knows his stuff. When we were at the base, he knew everything and he mentioned hacking their systems back in the day so I don't even know. As I said before, he's a walking survival guide."
"Well, shit," Ryan murmurs, thinking that explains an awful lot. He flashes Sam a grin. "I'm glad he's on our side. Fuckin' Terminator."
"Yeah, no kidding," Sam says, grinning back. He leans in and kisses Ryan again. "We've got a good group. Hopefully we can find a couple more to add to our numbers. An even dozen would be perfect if we could find another woman or two."
That sobers Ryan up in an instant. "Jess went berserker today. I think she really might've kicked that bloke to death if Clive hadn't stopped her." He's not sure which option he's less comfortable with.
Sam shrugs. "He picked the wrong person to fuck with," he says. "If she's been raped, and I think we're pretty sure she was, I don't blame her for reacting like that."
Nodding, Ryan sighs heavily. "And Clive? Did you see his face when it was all over? He looked fucking devastated." He shakes his head. "I don't understand that. It's like he actually thought we could walk out of there without taking them all down."
Sam's silent for a moment. "I guess it's hard to accept that sometimes the only difference between the good guys and the bad now is that we wouldn't shoot first." Or rape women or eat other people. Christ.
"Yeah. Maybe... maybe that's what he needs to hear. Although I think he might really be in the shit with Jess now." Ryan shudders lightly, then looks at Sam with a crooked grin. "But I think he can fly," he jokes, "did you see that? Some kind of ninja shit."
"I didn't really," Sam says. "I was busy with my own guys. Was he really that good?"
"Yeah, actually. I definitely wouldn't go hand-to-hand with him." Ryan pulls his jacket and jeans on, then tries out the tiny vanity. "I think these taps are actually running cleaner than what we're used to," he says, surprised. Digging a cloth out of his pack, he dampens it and swabs at the dried come on his hip. Then he offers the cloth to Sam.
"Thanks," Sam says, taking the cloth to clean himself up. "Can I ask you something, without you freaking out?" He needs to at least know, regardless of the answer, so he can stop it from being on his mind.
The question pulls Ryan up short. "Am I prone to freaking out?" he asks carefully, unsettled by the thought that he might be unaware of it.
"No, but you didn't look too happy with me the last time I started to say something," Sam says, thinking there's his in. "When I grabbed the lube from the pharmacy."
Oh. Right. Ryan stretches out - as best he can anyway - on his front next to Sam on the bed. "I was surprised," he admits. "Because we'd talked about it just a little, and I'd said..." He blows out a breath. "I thought it was very confident of you. And I didn't understand why you had that confidence."
"I didn't," Sam says. "But I thought if we ever wanted to... I think Alex and Luke are using hand lotion or Vaseline or whatever they can find. Things are uncomfortable enough these days without adding that to it."
Ryan studies his lover's eyes for a long moment, gauging how much trust he feels for this man whom he's known such a short time. As if time is even the same concept that it used to be. He whispers, "It's only ever been uncomfortable for me. I don't know why the fuck--" Stopping himself, he looks away.
"Hey," Sam reaches out, wrapping his arm around Ryan's waist and tugging him in close. "It's not even close to being a deal-breaker for me but I wish you'd let me try and change that for you. We can start out slow, experiment a bit..."
"No, I know what it feels like, Sam," Ryan says, rubbing at the furrow between his brows. His face is on fire now, and he couldn't even articulate why he feels the shame he does. Not measuring up for a new lover. "I've gotten fucked. It's not new to me."
"Okay." Sam nods and leans in, kissing Ryan's shoulder. "I meant what I said. I'm not going to push. I'm really, really happy with the way things are and if that's not something you want, it's fine by me." It still sucks but he means it. The last thing he wants is Ryan feeling unhappy or uncomfortable. He's already getting to the point where Ryan's happiness might be more important to him than his own.
Nodding acknowledgment Ryan tries to relax once more. His eyes abruptly find wide open. "Wait. How come I'm the bottom? Is that supposed to be a gaydar thing?"
Sam laughs, his own cheeks heating a little when he responds with, "I never said I wouldn't bottom. I just don't on a regular basis."
"Mm-hmm. As opposed to me, on a regular basis," Ryan says with a roll of his eyes. He chuckles and kisses his lover.
Sam's wise enough not to say another thing on the subject. Just kisses Ryan back, losing himself for a long moment. "I guess we should go up. See what's going on."
"Right." Ryan grins, with a flash of guilt over ditching his fellow sailors.
* * *
"It's peaceful, isn't it?" Logan says softly, having been careful to make at least a little noise as he approached.
"Yeah." Jess nods, watching him. "It's amazing. I don't know when was the last time I didn't feel every second like my skin was crawling, like they were creeping up on us." She shudders, only partly from the cold.
Logan nods. "I was lucky enough to spend most of my time in my friends' house and we had it all boarded up but I was still constantly afraid they'd find their way in."
With electricity cut and light pollution from the cities absent, even this close to shore the sky is a vast dark expanse, stars twinkling through the cloth of clouds. She studies his profile in the moonlight. "That must have been awful, what you said about how your friends turned and you had to get out fast. Especially after being lulled by months of peacefulness."
"It was. It was all my worst nightmares come true, and to lose both of them in such a stupid way..." He sighs and shakes his head.
"I'm so sorry," she says, and huddles deeper into the woolen pile. After a moment she confesses softly, "I had to kill my gran."
"Did they get her or did she die of natural causes?" Logan asks.
"No. I killed her," Jess says again. "She was bitten by a walker trapped on a fence. She begged me to help her before she turned." A tear slips down her cheek and she swipes at it with the back of her hand.
"I'm sorry. I really am," Logan says softly. "You're giving them mercy but you're the one who has to live with it."
She snorts a humorless laugh. "Yeah, well. You know what they say about karma." Turning her face to the sky, she searches for familiar constellations. "Do you feel like you've been punished, since?"
"No." Logan answers honestly. There are things he feels he's being punished for but they're all from before. "I know they would have wanted me to put them out of their misery. They wouldn't have wanted to hurt me or anyone else." He's quiet for a moment and then takes a seat beside her. "You feel like you are?"
Automatically she shifts away from him, but she tries to keep it as imperceptible as possible. "Yes. I used to be a good person, before all of this."
Logan catches the movement but he doesn't remark on it. Stays right where he is. "The way I see it, you're still a good person. You're not going out of your way to hurt other people and you're just trying to stay alive the best you can."
Smiling bleakly, Jess confides, "I am so pissed off at Clive." Another tear, wiped away just as impatiently. "He's my best friend in the whole world, and I'm furious because he wouldn't let me beat a man to death." Still a good person, right.
"At the risk of sounding like a shrink, I expect that's because he stopped you from getting your closure," Logan says. "He was seeing a guy who'd said a few nasty words and you were seeing a guy who was going to hurt you if he could - just like the ones before," he adds softly, daring to broach the subject. "And he hasn't been through it. He doesn't know."
"He doesn't know," she echoes softly, putting her fingers to her lips. Then she snaps her eyes to his, her gaze penetrating. "Why do you understand?"
Logan looks at her. He can't have said what he did without being willing to come clean. "My wife," he says quietly, after a moment. "She was raped shortly after we moved to New York. He was never caught and we spent years in therapy."
Whatever Jess was expecting, it didn't remotely resemble that. "I'm so sorry," she whispers, watching his expressive face. "Did it...?" She swallow hard and tries again. "Did she ever... find closure, like you said?"
Logan shakes his head. "Unfortunately, she didn't. She suffered from depression before it happened, and after... sometimes we'd go a year or two and she'd be fine and then something would trigger her." He looks at Jess. "I loved her deeply but she wasn't a strong person and I'm not saying that because of her depression or the rape. She just... everything wounded her. She wouldn't have been able to handle the world the way it is now. But I do know, if we'd ever found the guy, I would have let her blow his fucking head off."
The tears begin in earnest now and Jess finds no amount of blinking will hold them back. So she drops her head to her knees and tries to cry as silently as possible, shame and humiliation and despair welling up inside.
Shit. Logan feels like an absolute heel. He starts to reach out but quickly thinks better of it. "You're not her. You're not her or your sister," he says softly. "What happened to you doesn't define you. You are so strong and everyone in this group knows it except you."
Maybe it's meant to be praise, but the words fall like stones on her shoulders. Abruptly she gets to her feet and pushes her hair out of her face. "Who's on watch next? Do you want me to wake them for you?"
Of course he'd say the wrong thing. He's had years of experience with that. "It's Antony but let him sleep. I'm good."
"Are you sure?" Bundling up the blanket, she looks at him doubtfully. "You need to sleep, too. We'll need everyone tomorrow." She bites her bottom lip. "Do you want some tea, at least?"
"If you wouldn't mind," Logan says, watching her. Wishing there was something he could say or do to make things better. "I'd love some."
She nods and turns away. Tries not to trip over Clive's long sprawl of legs when she moves past the lounge area where he's sleeping on a bench, into the tiny galley. She starts the kettle warming, and reflects on her first instinct, which is to feel like a complete idiot -- trapping the new guy in a fucking pity party like that. On the other hand, maybe he needed a chance to get out the things he said.
Holding the mug of hot tea - precious herbs from her stash included to steep as well - she carefully climbs back up to the deck.
"Thank you," Logan says, taking the tea from her, the mug warming his chilled hands. "We'll need to find heavier coats and gloves. It's only going to get colder the next few months."
Hugging herself, she nods and starts picking her way back. But just before the stairs, she turns and looks at him once more. "When you were... you, in your former life," she says, "did you save people?"
It's not the easiest question to answer - not with the place he'd been in when the world went to hell - but he nods and gives her a small smile. "Yeah, I did. It's why I joined the force in the first place."
Jess considers that, eyeing him steadily. After a moment, "You're good at it." She disappears below decks.
The words take a moment to sink in and Logan swallows hard, a sudden lump in his throat, grateful he didn't fuck up after all. He takes a sip of his tea and sits back, gazing at the stars, thinking about how much further they have to go and whether they'll all make it. He sure as hell hopes so.