Null was ten when the world burned.
His father kept him in the basement of their estate for entirely different reasons, but he had started to prepare the cellar as a bunker when he never came home. Null always considered him paranoid. But he heard the destruction, the earth rumbled and his family home crumbled around him.
But the basement stayed strong.
He lived off tinned food and grains for months, as well as the large stock of water his father prepared. It was soul crushingly lonely, the only company in the whole world was a working radio that either crackled pure static or an occasional heart breaking cry for help.
An infinite amount of time seemed to pass before the raiders came.
He blinked and he was on top of a tall building, looking down the scope of his anti-material rifle. Shaking off the old memorie, he went back to observing the window of an old supermarket.
A dark shape shifted in the window, he took a shot.
It slumped down with hardly a yell. Staring down the scope, he could see the body of the raider leader he'd been waiting for.
“That’s the last of them,” he muttered to himself and pulled his goggles down over his eyes. Easing to his feet, he slid down his rope ladder, pulled it down and headed the store he picked the raiders from.
The air was thick with age, dust hovered in front of his face. Everything was a thick, murky grey with a heavy atmosphere.
“I doubt this was worth the effort.” Null huffed, wandering the trashed isles. He shoved the occasional label-less can into his pack, smiling with the thought of playing 'dog food or meatballs' with Petyr again.
From where he stood he could see a door, closed and marked with signs of attempted forced entry.
“Amateurs,” he hummed and carefully wandered over, stepping over toppled shelves.
‘Managers office’. Oh lucky days, he thought as he slowly picked his way in.
Inside the room was a desk, with a skeleton slumped in the corner, clothes rotting off the bones. Behind them as a wall safe, untouched.
“I’m sorry..” He whispered and stepped over the body, precariously unlocking the safe.
There were bags of coins inside, and large stacks of paper money. Shoveling it all into his pack, he gave the room a closer look. On the desk was a picture, faded and dusted but of a man and a child. He brushed his thumb over the glass, carefully tucking it into his pack. There were a few packs of cigarettes, some packs of painkillers, a bottle of wine in the lowest draw of the desk and a phone. Long dead but hopefully fixable. The wine went into his pack, the rest into the hidden pockets of his leather jacket.
Maybe it was the family picture, but he decided he should walk home.
Home was a small town, with a few hundred people in put together houses made from the shells of the buildings already standing. There were three places of interest for travelers, a bar, a doctor who newcomers needed an escort to meet, and further out was the scrap yard. The town had a farm, a clean water supply from the river and a handful of merchants but any good town did. The local militia patrolled by him occasionally, giving him friendly greetings.
He passed through the town quietly, leaving the painkillers in the post box where the doctor lived, and wandered down quiet road to the scrap yard.
Petyr Belvoirs family owned much of the land before the bombs hit, and since none of his family were around anymore, Petyr had slowly gathered useful people together to form the town that stood today. Yet he remained on the outskirts, in the hollow shell of his family’s home. Many cars and bikes stood outside, to be fixed when the parts somehow fell into his hands. Inside was his workshop, filled with wasteland junk that had purpose waiting to be found. Getting to return here was what kept Null going.
Null passed the gate, careful of the electrified fence, and knocked on the reinforced door.
Null did as told, finally feeling at peace as he entered the workshop.
“I take it that’s you, Null?” A familiar voice yelled. "I'd know those heavy footfalls."
“Mhmm, I’m back from my dangerous journey.”
“It’s all self inflicted you know,” a door opened and out stepped Petyr, his blonde hair all tied up and wearing as much of his protective gear as possible. A greasy hand print was smeared across his face.
“Did you get me any gifts?”
Null chuckled and shrugged off the pack, pulling out the wine. Petyrs face lit up and rushed over to take the bottle.
"You bring the most wonderful presents!" Petyr grinned, rushing off to get glasses from the kitchen. Whilst Null stood, he got the phone out his pocket and found Petyrs corner where he has a number of old mobile phones, putting it on charge.
"Before we share a drink, why don't you enjoy a shower? Its been almost a month since I last saw you and you definitely haven't bathed." Petyr called from the other room.
Null chuckled and leaned on the door frame. "Why don't you come join me?" He said with a purr.
"Maybe I will, sport." Petyr leaned back against the counter, allowing his coat to slip from his shoulder.
He felt his mind stop for a second as heat rolled across his face. He stuttered a few times before just walking off to the bathroom. Petyrs laughter followed him down the corridor.
Petyr had made his shower by hand, and was one of the few luxuries he could enjoy when he went home. He was going to be home now for awhile, able to enjoy a place to rest his head and not watch over his shoulder the whole time.
After the shower, he trailed back to the kitchen to find Petyr sat on the kitchen counter, two glasses of wine next to him.
"You left in a hurry," The other man chuckled. Petyr was almost mythical, his voice a quiet song and Null wanted nothing more then to fall into his eyes, sky blue and filled with such a cool intelligence.
"I wasn't expecting you to flirt back that hard," Null chuckled, stepping over to the other man to take his glass.
"Maybe I'm tired of the flirting."
Panic spread in his chest, hoping he hadn't been making Petyr uncomfortable all this time.
"Maybe I want you to actually make a move." Petyr chuckled, bringing the glass to his lips. "Its cruel out there, Null..."
Petyr reached out and tugged on Nulls jacket, pulling him close and bringing their lips closer.
"You should catch happy moments where you can," Null could feel Petyrs breath against his lips as he spoke, letting out a soft groan as he pressed into a kiss, eyes fluttering closed.
Petyrs arms fell over his shoulders, pulling him closer as the kiss turned hungrier.
"You don't need to go again," Petyr frowned, watching Null as he gathered all his travelling supplies. He'd been home nearly a month now, he needed to go out and travel further then before. Find others like him, find rare supplies. Be useful.
Null lowered his head. He could easily stay, become a mechanic and never risk his life in the wastes again. Settle with Petyr. The thought made him smile, yet his hands still packed his bag. Combat knife on his hip, rifle slung on his back. Pistol for back up.
"Someone needs to do it, my love." He smiled sadly, tears pricked his eyes as he stepped close. Petyr closed himself off, crossing his arms and turning away. Null stopped for a moment before going over to the radio, tuning it into the towns radio broadcast. A soft melody kicked in. Perfect, he thought.
He stepped over to Petyr again and offered his hand. Petyr looked up at him from the corner of his eyes.
"You're an ass," he frowned yet took Nulls hand.
"Maybe so." Null chuckled and pulled Petyr close, feet moving to the song. Petyr had taught him to dance, was patient with him as he constantly messed up.
Petyr rested his head against Nulls chest, eyes closing as they swayed together.
"I need to do this, my love." Null brushed his hands through Petyrs silky blonde locks.
"I know you do," the other man said with a sigh. ".... I love you." The confession was almost a whisper, nearly drowned out by the radio.
"You make it so hard to go," Null hid in face into Petyrs hair, hands tightening on his lovers hips for comfort. "I love you too."
The road had never felt this lonely before.
He didn't see another person for weeks. No raiders, no travelling merchants, nothing. As each hour passed he'd stop to look behind him, think about what he had at home.
Petyr's laugh echoed in his mind. Guilt crushed his chest and he took a step back, turning as if being pulled towards the body of that laugh.
"...One more adventure," he whispered, grasping the handle of his pistol. "Bring back something useful. Don't be a fuck up."
He walked further into the city, no signs of life anywhere. Cities tended to be less populated, far to many hazards and places for raiders to set up shop. Whoever survived abandoned the cities, left the giant skyscrapers the crumble.
He'd been wandering for nearly fifteen years now, nearing twenty since he was taken by the raiders.
Why am I doing this? He thought as he stared up at the darkening sky. A droplet of rain hit his cheek. He shucked off his pack and jacket, feeling the cool rain on his weary skin. Felt good to feel something against his skin that wasn't denim or leather baking in the daytime heat.
Petyrs soft voice filled his mind. 'I like the rain, makes everything vanish for awhile. Reminds me of before.'
He closed his eyes, soft pattering against his skin reminding him what its like to feel.
"Now what kind of idiot takes off their armor in the middle of the city?" A voice from behind called.
He knew that voice. That voice pulled the rubble away from the cellar door of his old home.
"I don't know, what kind of idiot approaches a man with a loaded gun in his hand?" Null turned, aiming directly at the raider leader. "Get out of here, Thorn."
"Now Null, thats no way to greet your old mentor." Thorn was an older man, build like a brick shit house and a huge scar tracing over one side of his face, with that eye removed.
"Kidnapper might be more appropriate." Null snarled. He could see the glint of a handful of snipers in a few near by buildings. He was trapped. "What do you want, Thorn?"
"Well I'd been hoping to get my prized pupil back. You were so good for me, just that little morality in your head getting in the way."
"I'm not raiding with you, I made that clear when I took your eye with me."
"Funny, I wasn't giving you much of a choice."
Other raiders started to approach from behind him, giving him no chance of escape. He had to get home to see Petyr again, and he couldn't do that if he got himself killed.
"Are you going to come quietly?"
He didn't say a word as he picked his pack and jacket up, a raider taking both his pistol and lovely rifle away.
He felt like a prisoner on the way to the gallows, marched between two sets of four bandits with Thorn leading. He might of well of been, Null knew Thorn had plans for him.
Petyr didn't want to worry about Null, he didn't. The man was strong, and smart and had survival skills that rivaled everyone in this town. He just wanted him home.
He wish he'd done more, done anything to keep him home even a day longer. Lock him in the house, throw away the key, hide all his stuff, chained him to the bed, been more seductive not just sad. It was coming up to over two months without him, and usually Null was never out longer then six weeks.
"If you're concerned, we can follow his path." Kes, the towns bar owner, said as he cleaned glasses.
"Yeah, our dogs can find anyone." Kes' business partner, Velkyn, said.
"Whats your fee?"
"...Set us up with a shower system and we'd go to the end of the earth to find your boy."
"Fine, but I'm coming with you and I only do the shower once we get back."
It had been a long time since Petyr travelled. He'd done so after the world ended, and came home to find the local villagers had slaughtered his whole family in desperation for food and supplies. By the time he returned, both his childhood home and the village was deathly silent. He buried his family, cleaned up the mess then got to business making a workshop.
He blinked out the memory as his head knocked into Velkyns back.
"Why are we stopping?"
"The dogs have the scent strong in this area but there's a heavy concentration of raiders. Look at all the tracks."
There were tracks for nearly twelve people, one of which was much more labored in the patterns. Panic set in, if Null had gotten caught up with raiders then he could be dead. Though most raiders killed on sight, and with no body or blood then he could just be hostage.
Velkyns dog, a slick black German Shepherd named Treasure, bounded over to them.
"Show us, girl." The two men gave chase, keeping to the walls of buildings to avoid getting caught. She pawed at a rusted mental door at the base of an old building, then trotting over to a large blood splatter across some rubble. It looked like there was a tussle, like one last effort to escape took place.
"This him, girl?" Kes took a scrap of cloth from his pocket, a ripped part of a shirt that Null wore constantly. The dog sniffed it again and bounded in place, wagging her tail.
"Thank you girl." Kes rubbed Treasures ear and grabbed his shotgun. Velkyn had his silenced pistols and Petyr himself had his faithful carbine.
"Ready for trouble?" Kes asked as he did final checks on his armor. Velkyn nodded, taking the lead.
"If anything, we kill some scumbags today."
The basement was old, walls covered in blood and grime as the stench of decay hit them no matter the facial protection.
Velkyn took out three before anyone reacted. Kes managed to slide behind a wall and caught a raider in the chest with his shotgun, scattering them over the floor. Petyr took up in a corner and picked off two as Kes reloaded the barrels.
"What the fuck!" A raider screamed as they rounded the corner, to be torn off their feet by Treasure and had his head loaded with 10mm rounds.
"Good girl," Velkyn coo'd as he reloaded his gun.
"Thats seven so far, there should only be four more." Kes shifted slightly to peer round a corner, motioning with his hand that they could move onto another room.
Petyr caught a glimpse of light and shot on instinct, hearing a body hit the floor. "Make that three."
"You little shit!" A raider screamed, meeting a shotgun to their temple.
"Wheres your boss, big man?" Kes grinned, charm still easing into his voice like he's back at the bar. "Now, you should tell me because I'm feeling real trigger happy."
"E..End of the corridor..." the raider gulped.
"You take any prisoners lately?" Velkyn pressed the chamber of his silencer against their throat, grinning.
"A-around four weeks ago. An old member of our team, he-he's being tested as we speak. Stress white hair, freckled brown skin."
Petyr unloaded two bullets into the raiders eyes, his jaw clenched so hard he felt like he might shatter his teeth.
Velkyn pushed away the body and took a quick peak down the corridor. "Someones guarding the door at the end there."
"Allow me," Petyr reloaded, without really thinking and quickly moved out of cover. As quickly as he did, he shot. A bullet nicked his ear as he pulled back. A thump came from the end of the corridor.
"Petyr! I know you're worried but that could of been your skull!" Velkyn pulled him aside as Kes and Treasure went into the corridor.
"My boyfriend is in there with an incredibly dangerous man. I know you and Kes are complicated but I know you'd risk anything for him!"
"Risk is different when Null deserves to see your face when we rescue him! I don't know what we would of done if you'd died. What would we of said? 'sorry he got just outside before a raider blew his brains out?'."
Petyr took a deep, shaking breath. Some tightness in his chest left, and he just looked down. Velkyn wrapped his arms around him.
"... I'm sorry I brought up your relationship with Kes like its somehow a point in my corner of the argument."
Velkyn chuckled shakily. "Lets get your boy back before we talk about mine."
The four of them were at the door, knowing there was no way the leader inside didn't know they weren't there.
"All loaded? Excellent." Velkyn muttered as he fidgeted with the lock. It clicked. "On three.. One, two, three!" Velkyn kicked the door so hard it shattered into pieces, and all three of them with guns aimed at the leader in the back of the room. There was no one else.
"Where is he?!" Petyr yelled, throat crackled.
"You must be Petyr, Null mentioned you a lot. Said you'd come find him and raise hell." Thorns voice was slimy, he hissed as he spoke. He was holding Nulls anti-material rifle, Petyr could see the modifications he'd made for that gun.
"I know you've hurt him, and I'm going to make you feel everything you've done to him." Petyr took a step into the room, carbine aimed and ready.
"But he's been such a good boy, I can finally sleep at night now he doesn't scream constantly."
"You killed him?!" Petyr nearly sobbed there, barely holding it together.
"Oh no, I stitched his mouth up. Shame, he had a great mouth."
"Rot in hell you fucking asshole!" Petyr snarled and shot him directly in the throat, making Thorn stagger back. Petyr grabbed the combat knife on his hip and dove at him, stabbing into the raider leaders chest until it was nearly a pulpy mess as Velkyn and Kes tore him away.
"I need to find him," he growled as he tried to wrestle out the other mens arms.
Treasure howled at them, drawing their attention to a wallpaper covered door. She scrapped at it, managing to open it a crack.
Petyr burst out the other mens arms and scrambled over, pulling it open. Decay and rot hit him like a wall, making Petyrs eyes burn.
Inside was near indescribable. Null was hanging from a rope attached to his arms, meat hooks digging into the palms. He was in a forced crouch, legs quivering. His body was clothes-less, covered in so much blood he could hardly see Nulls skin.
All three ran over, slowly helping the tortured man down so he could finally relax his muscles. His lips were sewn shut, his eyes unfocused and far away.
"Oh handsome, I'm so sorry," Petyr sobbed over his lover, trying to bring some comfort to him. He couldn't, he needed to get to Ashes who was a whole two weeks walk away. He didn't have any of his bikes or cars, nor the tools to put one together.
Null didn't respond, eyes trailing Petyrs movements but he seemed defeated.
"I can't make this better," Petyr hunched over, pressing his forehead against Nulls, tears dripping onto the other mans blood stained cheek. Nulls body shook at each drop. "Oh sunshine, what did they do to you?" Petyrs voice quivered, smearing away his own tears.
"I can make something to carry him home, I'm sure." A steely resolve overtook him, he was going to get Null home and better.
He used one of the matresses he found and a bedframe, got several bike frames and wheels from outside and working. It took days, in which Velkyn and Kes would go out to find whatever they could to help ease Nulls suffering. The result of two days worth of work was a scraped together hospital bed. A wheelchair might of been easier but Null's legs were in a bad way, he was going to need freedom.
The road home was difficult, with nearly a solid two weeks of pushing Null and having to care for each other. By the time they were nearly home, they were out of food and Null was starting to take a turn for the worst. No amount of comfort worked, he was in constant pain and Petyr didn't even want to remove the stitches, incase he'd restart any bleeding. He was having to mix their limited water with their limited food to give him anything.
"Go get Ashes, girl," Velkyn passed the last piece of meat to Treasure and she took it and ran into the town. She alerted the two guards on patrol near the roads, then kept going. Within moments, militia were surrounding them to take the bed from them and help them into town. Petyr perched on the bed and put a hand on Nulls.
"Five more minutes, sunshine."
Ashes was the kindest man Petyr had ever known. Born the year the earth burned, he taught himself how to care for people. Read books, watched old videos found in hospitals, got training from other doctors who were trained before it all went down. He was dedicated.
"I removed the stitching in his mouth, he's got a drip for pain relief and I've cleaned all of the inflicted wounds he's taken. A lot got infected but I think I'm on top of it. But I think he's going to be emotionally damaged for life, and he may be unable to walk again." Ashes clutched his clipboard, pulling Petyr close.
Petyr was shaking, stomach barely containing whatever he last ate.
"Thank you Ashes," he reached out and touched the doctors hand, who took it and gave it a squeeze.
"Anytime. I also want you to come to me for therapy for what you saw, okay? I want you back to your old self. Unsure and quiet doesn't suit you."
Petyr chuckled weakily. "I can't have you all thinking I care, can I?"
"Exactly," Ashes smiled, giving him a hug. "You also need to forgive yourself." He whispered.
Null spent a long time staying at the doctors surgery, and Petyr made sure to visit each day. Little changed day to day. Colour returned to Nulls face, the wounds slowly healed but he rarely opened and Petyr wasn't sure his partner was in there. He couldn't blame him if he'd trapped himself away, but he was so desperate to just hear his voice again.
"A new trader came to the shop today and he gave me this, you love these." Petyr took a family portrait out of his bag and showed it to Null, who still had his eyes closed, but he didn't seem to be sleeping. It was of two women and their cat, Petyr was going to put it with the others Null has brought home but knew Null would like to see it first. He put it down by Nulls hand and rummaged around his bag.
"I had my first therapy session with Ashes today," Petyr frowned, looking over Null. "Turns out I had a lot more baggage then just...finding you... Who would of thought, huh? 'What do you mean you finding your family slaughtered in their own home scarred you for life?' Well yeah, even you could of told me that I know." Petyr chuckled to himself then sighed, putting his head into his hands.
"I miss you so much. You're right next to me and I miss you like I'd miss the air from my lungs." Petyr looked over to Null, who was now gripping the frame.
"...You'll come back to me, I know it."
Once Nulls torture wounds had healed, Ashes let Petyr take him home. He had been keeping his eyes open longer, and once they got Null a wheelchair he seemed to improve more. Petyr often sat with him in their 'garden', which was a mismatched mess of brown, dry earth and sickly grass and ruined cars and bikes. He seemed happiest with the collection of frames he had, though it was hard to tell. He never whimpered in that corner, never clawed at the handle of his chair or pulled at his own hair.
Nights were hardest. Null had constant night terrors, screamed and cried until Petyr stroked his head. He didn't like touching Null awake, but this only helped ease his sleep.
"I'm here, promise. I'm keeping you safe, okay?" he soothed into his ear. "I'm right here..."
Time passed and the thrashing slowly ended.
His name caused his breath to catch in his throat.
"T-Thats it sunshine, its me..."
Null didn't speak again, but his arms snaked round Petyrs hips and held him close. He didn't even catch his own tears streaming down his face until he was sure Null was at last asleep.
"Is the radio okay, darling?" Petyr had been working most of the day, finally working on the shower he'd promised the boys at the tavern. He could hear the music from the other room, the local radio that he'd helped get back online.
Then it clicked. The song playing was the one they danced to before Null left. The wrench in his grasp fell to the ground with a clatter. Slowly he raised to his feet and went to the other room. Null was staring at the radio, large tracks of tears running down his face.
"I'll turn it off, I'm so sorry sunshine." Petyr reached over but a hand grasped his wrist.
"I-Null..." Petyr eased his hand into Nulls, voice quivering. Legs giving out from under him, he clutched onto Nulls hand and pressed his forehead against Nulls knee.
Quivering hands ran through Petyrs hair.
"You're back," Petyr sobbed. "Even if its for this moment, you're back."
"I... don't want to go back," Nulls voice was like dirt, cracked and dry. "I feel like dark clouds have been lifted..."
Petyr looked up at him. "Can I hug you?"
Petyr carefully slid his arms around his love, careful to avoid problem areas. "I've missed you."
Null gave the softest snort of a laugh. "gross, you have feelings... I missed you..."
Petyr may never cry this much ever again.
Walking took much longer, but they had all the time in the world now. Null happily sat out in the garden with Petyr to listen to him ramble on about cars and machine parts, he'd hold tools and pass them over. They attended therapy together, and more then once all three of them just held each other as they cried. They got better, together.
"You know, the second I can stand for longer then ten seconds I'm going to marry you." Null chuckled as he pulled apart an old watch.
Petyr looked over at him slowly.
"Well...That ruined my surprise a little..." Petyr chuckled, scratching his cheek. "I was going to propose the next time we did your physiotherapy..."
Null couldn't contain his laughter. It was a good laugh, one Petyr had missed so much. It had been a dark void in his heart that was finally filled again.
"We're both a mess," he cackled, pulling himself back to a full sit in his chair. Petyr walked over and hugged him tightly, moving into a deep kiss.
They danced to their song at the wedding.
Petyr lied, he cried the most this day. But it was okay, so did everyone else.