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Time To Pretend

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Dinner had been a pleasant affair, what with all of them on speaking terms after years of radio silence. With nobody being shot at, no ominous dark cloud hovering and cyborg mysteriously missing, everyone was at ease. They had come together once more to create a new album which quickly followed into a tour. They were in the US leg of their concerts, momentarily taking a night to themselves. It was suppose to be a simple set of gigs, interviews and maybe a couple appearances.

The atmosphere surrounding their table at the time had been relaxed, Murdoc spared the name calling and kept his alcohol consumption moderate. Things were going swimmingly in Stuart's opinion, they were friends again, a family. Unfortunately nobody accounted on a bizarre and rapid change in their immediate situation. He couldn't recall how they were separated, granted it was a free for all following the panic. Someone should have known to grab him, should have kept him close because following the rush of people he remembered losing them quickly. It was dizzying and horrifying how fast he got disorientated among towering buildings during the frenzy at the start of the outbreak.

———

He swung his freshly obtained bat, chalk full of nails and spikes courtesy of some unlucky bloke two streets over, halting a walking corpse mid groan. Like a sack of potatoes the body dropped, a grotesque squishing noise following the thump. Quickening along, 2D barely waited to confirm the thing was actually dead. He meandered through an alleyway following it down to the opposite opening and paused before hand to catch his breath. This tour was suppose to be easy. Sing for hundreds, chit-chat in some mindless interviews and go home.

Pressing his back to a welcoming solid brick wall, 2D heaved as he attempted to gather himself. He clutched the bat betwixt trembling, white-knuckled hands while he hesitated a moment. Seventy-two hours in and things had fallen apart before his eyes; it all went to hell in a hand basket. Letting his head fall back he mentally belittled himself for managing to lose himself further as time went; for getting split from the other three. As he regained his breath he patted himself over, feeling for a carton of fags he knew were on him. A faint scraping sound gave him a start and cautiously peeking around the edge of the alley he sought out the source. 2D sighed spotting a crow picking at trash left askew on the road beside an overturned car. Returning to his task, 2D slid the pack out one handed and maneuvered it around to get one between his lips. Using his knees to hold the bat he pulled a gaudy purple lighter from the same pocket and gave a few attempts getting the cigarette lit.

Just the action of smoking eased his nerves. He exhaled slowly and let his shoulders sag. He enjoyed a good zombie flick every once in a while, but it was better when safely tucked under a blanket, possibly high. This was too much.

Somewhere in the distance there blared a repetitive car alarm, drawing attention from zombies in the vicinity. Despite having a draw for flesh or brains the creatures congregated among the vehicle, attracted to disruptive sounds. Crows had flocked to the city to scavenge the debris and bodies littering the roads, nobody would complain, it was near empty save them and the undead. Any of the straggling survivors had hightailed from the core of the metropolis in hopes of avoiding the brunt of the outbreak. 2D wondered if his friends had taken off as well, it would be understandable given the circumstances. Sighing again he flicked the finished smoke away, resting there minutes longer than he should.

A shrill ringtone jingled from his pocket, a rudely happy tune specifically picked to annoy Murdoc. Coming abruptly out of his thoughts, which caused him to drop the weapon, the singer was momentarily surprised the bassist was calling, that phones still seemingly worked. Heart jolting with panic he scrambled to bring the device out and answer.

Pressing the smartphone to his ear, 2D waited for a greeting. When none came he cleared his throat. "Hello?"

Desperately waiting for a response he strained to hear anything. He frowned, curious if he was pocket dialed. A muffled sound came through closely followed by a resounding thunk by what 2D guessed was the other man's phone dropping.

‘Get it in the head! The head!’

’I know! Watch your back!’

They were getting further from the phone and he could hear it. He gripped the device, frantic to garner their attention regardless of how unlikely.

“Guys! Russel, Murdoc! It's 2D, please don't go!”

He could make out some sort of shuffling and disembodied groans. Russel said something more but a strange thump reverberated and the line cut out. 2D eyed the phone, hoping someone would call back. He knew they wouldn't.

“Don't panic, don't panic.” He muttered the words like a mantra, struggling to keep his cool. They were alive and so was he, that was good enough for now.

Shoving the smartphone into his pocket, 2D stooped and grabbed the dropped bat. Smacking the brick with a determined grimace he poked his head out, gave a precursory glance and nodded. Moving from his spot he hastily took off down the street, examining the mess of wrecked stores and general destruction. He had to find a safe area to hole up before dark, anywhere other than some space with garbage bins. He would take his chances finding the others tomorrow when he had more daylight.

- - -

Hours after outbreak most people had taken refuge either in their homes or took to fleeing. Murdoc and Russel found after separation it was easier to hole up in their hotel. Both had been too stunned in the aftermath of their restaurant escape to coherently formulate plans outside hiding. Russel suggested staying put in hopes 2D and Noodle would find their way back. Their hopes dwindled as hours turned into days and on the third morning it was decided to look for them. Ever vigilant, they soon discovered the rapid change in the surrounding area and took up arms for protection. During their travels they found it easier to avoid main locale where zombies gathered. However it became increasingly difficult to completely avoid the freshly distorted corpses so Murdoc suggested the nearby mall for shelter. It gave them a moments reprieve; they would need to move again too make full use of their daylight.

Shouldering their way into the surprisingly empty shopping center, from what could be seen, Murdoc nodded to a stairwell. Russel ascended behind the satanist, occasionally scanning either side as he went for any unwanted attention. At that given time it seemed they would be left in peace, for how long was any ones guess.

"This can't be real.” Russel wiped his brow of sweat. He flexed a hand, then swapped his crowbar to do the same with the opposite palm. "I thought Kong was a contained thing. Noodle cleaned it up so this can't be the same shit."

"Of course not.” Murdoc massaged his temples, he gave a small pained moan under his breath. Russel winced at the noise, well aware the bassist hadn't drank anything for three days and was probably fighting through withdrawal symptoms. He briefly felt sympathetic over Murdoc's minor plight, though not enough to suggest looking for a substance to abuse.

"Bugger, this fucking headache is persistent."

"There might be a drug store here. Should point out it's noon and we really can't be standing around, man."

“This whole situation is fucking great.” Murdoc grunted, he mashed the heel of his hand into his one eye, rubbing firmly. "I've lost my singer and Noodle."

Murdoc tried to keep his voice steady and low, conscious that noise would draw zombies in. The drummer planted himself on a small metal bench and rested his stained weapon on his lap. His blank eyes caught sight of some brain matter stuck to his sweater. Grimacing he carefully picked the bits off, pretending it wasn't human tissues covering his shoulder. He watched Murdoc pace from his peripheral.

“Didn’t know you cared.”

“Of course I care!” Murdoc forced himself to calm, voice leveling off. "Despite popular belief I sometimes enjoy you people. Even faceache is tolerable on occasion."

The percussionist left unsaid instances where Murdoc found 2D more than just tolerable.

"The feelings are mutual.” Russel peered up towards a skylight. "we shouldn't be sitting here. I worry 'bout 'D and Noodle. Mostly ‘D."

Russel realized he was repeating himself, but felt it important to continually point out the incredible circumstances. He wasn’t sure if it was shock or disbelief.

"Fuck. We're completely fucked."

Clearly growing more agitated, Murdoc pivoted and booted a waste bin. The wobbly sound echoed throughout the mall. Both of them jerked and Russel motioned silently at the the satanist, fear and exasperation printed across his face.

“Don't make so much noise Muds. Do you want them coming about again?" Russel only spoke after no undead came crawling out of corners. Murdoc rightfully looked contrite. "Look, Noodle can definitely handle herself. 'D will probably just hide or run so he's probably fine too. Lets just take it one day at a time and keep hoping for the best.

Noodle had proven how capable she was and although not explicitly said, 2D was rather resilient after years of torment. Russel had some doubts but figured voicing it was moot given how obviously distressed Murdoc was over the singer and guitarist. Sugar coating it felt more appropriate.

They whipped around at shattering glass from a level down. Exchanging a short glance, Murdoc pressed his index finger to his lips and gestured to a darkened store. Scurrying into the jewelry shop they both ducked behind some counters, careful to avoid stepping on anything noisy. In that moment Murdoc removed his brass knuckles to crack and massage his fingers. It soothed his anxiety some, however ultimately his withdrawal was giving him shakes that no amount of fidgeting could hide.

"Y'think it's another zombie?"

"I can't tell.” Russel edged his face up over the opaque part of a display case, eyes darting about. "I can't see nothing. Maybe it's looters."

Murdoc remained seated, unsure what would be worse; a mangled corpse out to eat them or an unlawful looter willing to fight them for useless trinkets. Russel sat down, tense in the shoulders. They both listened, waiting for the inevitable groan or voice of a survivor. What they unexpectedly heard instead was a yelp and the pounding of shoes, tailed by gurgling moans.

"It's a survivor.” Russel shifted to stand only to be halted by Murdoc grabbing him. He squinted through the dim security light flashing over them, puzzled. "We can't leave them, they probably need help."

“You leave and we give up hiding, Russ, and for what? A survivor who'll possibly kill us or get killed? Don't bother playing hero.”

"We could use the help watching our backs man.” He yanked his arm from the bassist, disquieted by Murdoc's cowardice, yet seeing some logic in the statement. "Lets just see if we can help, humanity doesn't need to rebuild on disingenuous actions."

"Fine, lets go be good civilians in the face of certain fucking doom. Don't bitch to me if this goes tits up."

Russel pushed to his feet, ignoring the bassist in favor of getting out of the store quickly. Murdoc grunted when his stomach flipped in discomfort; either his racing pulse made him want to vomit or he hadn't eaten properly for hours. Maybe a bit of both.

The percussionist slide back in the entry of the establishment, eyes wide. Faltering, Murdoc stared back, hand clutching to an undamaged portion of the display case to steady himself. The look made his heart pound harder.

“Hurry up! It's 'D. He needs our help, they're all over.”

“Fuck." Murdoc clambered to trail after Russel, shoving his brass additions on. "Where is he?"

For a minute he could hear nothing but the rush of blood in his ears, fear addling his already jumbled mind.

What if he gets hurt? What if he dies?.

He was pulled from his thoughts, quite literally when Russel pulled him towards the stairs. "I saw 'D run this way, c'mon man wake up, we've gotta get to him before those damn monsters do."

They nearly tripped on their way down, catching sight of the vocalist. 2D had climbed up a cellular service booth while attempting to beat a hungry creature back from clawing feebly at his trouser leg. Russel gave a hearty roar while clubbing them away from the singer; he hoped to draw attention to him and Murdoc and allow 2D a chance to get down. The satanist felt immense relief wash over him at seeing a bedraggled vocalist thankfully devoid of injury.

“I am so glad to see you two!” 2D sagged against the upper portion of the wrap around sign when his leg was freed. The tension visibly drained away from him.

"We're glad to see you man.” Russel shoved what looked to be previously a fast food worker away, whacking another viciously. Murdoc clocked an unaware zombie in the neck, satisfied when it crumpled.

“Where’s Noodle?”

“We got separated.” Murdoc shifted closer to the booth and reached out, palms up. "Get down from there you idiot, Russ can hold them a minute.”

2D took the offer gratefully, almost tumbling off into Murdoc. Russel came barreling into them, urging them towards the other direction. "Lets get out of here. Way too many coming around."

Rather unintentionally, that 2D could discern, Murdoc gripped his thin wrist and dragged him through the shopping center.

Murdoc had an overwhelming urge to keep the vocalist near, fearing the man would vanish if he let go. The drummer dodged a couple new comers while he kept in step with them. Upon discovering an exit they pushed and pulled at the locked doors.

"Oh of-fucking-course these doors would be locked."

"Do we go back?" 2D peered over his shoulder at the slow moving members of the dead, ambling towards them. "Never mind."

"They move slow, lets just find another way out.”

Russel sighed and turned round to face the small crowd.

"Lets go before they swarm."

Edging around the horde of zombies, the three of them made a break for it once in the clear. Russel lead them out into the parking lot through the set of doors they first entered. Outside was no better and among the vehicles and rubbish were more stumbling undead. Murdoc nudged both men and they promptly vacated the vicinity.

As they wandered they happened across a firearm store between a coffee shop and antiquated building that had condemned stickers. Russel rolled his eyes behind the other two when they pressed up against the caged glass. He was underwhelmed seeing such a place, noticing his companions were surprised made him grumble.

"Should grab us a couple guns."

Russel stopped beside Murdoc and peered in as well, shaking his head partly. "You've never fired a gun Muds, what makes you think it'll be any easier."

"Well I don't know! I can't keep punching my way through this shit.” Murdoc held his hand up to point to the brass adorning his knuckles an irritated sneer on his lips. "It gets fucking tiring. Wouldn't you rather have energy to keep moving?"

You should have thought ahead, grabbed the damn wrench I offered you.” Russel grit his teeth and took a deep breath. “I don't want to dissolve to arguments every time we stop, lets get your guns and go. We need shelter, food and water... and we still don't know where Noodle is."

"I hope she's okay.” 2D pulled away from the shop front to try the door, miraculously finding it unlocked. Murdoc pushed the door further open and stepped in, 2D waited for Russel before following them in, closing the door gently. "Do you think she went back to the hotel?"

"No. We waited for you and her to return."

Russel examined some of the weapons lining the wall of the establishment; guns deeply bothered him, but if it meant life or death he would take up arms, begrudgingly. Murdoc removed the metal from his palms and slid himself up over the counter, foot bumping small displays onto the floor. Thankfully sealed away in the store it barely made noise outside the space they occupied.

2D remained by the door, anxiously eyeing the surroundings beyond the glass. He couldn't make out any nearby zombies but his eyes honed in on a single crow perched on a tipped trash receptacle, staring at the singer with its small head cocked unnaturally. It was deathly still. Shuddering under the strange gaze, 2D moved from its field of view.

The vocalist was unnerved by the animal and so watched Russel and Murdoc. "Where do we go from here? How are we to find Noodle at all?"

“How should I know,” Murdoc grabbed a case of shotgun slugs. "Search high and low for her and survive. That's the plan for now."

Setting two black shotguns upon the countertop, Russel snatched a box of ammo to load the weapons. He didn't trust either man to properly do so, plus he had a better working knowledge of the items. 2D stepped a little further into the store. He inspected the black gun in Russel's palms, wary of the device even though they had done promotional pictures with said things. Those were props and these were real, far more dangerous if mishandled.

"Do we need guns? Theys moving pretty slow out there, I imagine we can get around without making more ruckus."

"And what do you plan on using when your bat breaks? I hardly see you scaring the undead with your girlish screeching and flailing." Murdoc leaned forward on the counter. "it would be amusing mind.”

Incensed at the sarcastic insult of his person, 2D frowned at the bassist. It seemed, if momentarily, they would come to blows but Murdoc bowed his head, hiding a brief look of guilt. The singer relaxed and glanced away, assuaged by no following barbed comments. Russel cleared his throat, uncomfortable in the growing silence.

“Enough of that, we have more important things to focus on.”

Despite his attempt at dissuading further unease between them, 2D and Murdoc remained quiet. Their silence occasionally disrupted by Russel loading slugs. 2D rubbed his abdomen when his stomach chose then to gurgle angrily, clearly hungry. Somehow that brought a lighter atmosphere to the three of them and both Murdoc and Russel chuckled.

"Can we find something to eat? I'm starving.”

“Clearly.” The bassist picked at his nails.

"Probably should before you fade away.”

"And rum."

"And apparently rum.” The drummer snorted. "Because of course you need that."

"I do. Would you rather I vomit constantly and pass out due to dehydration? Just curious, asking for a friend.” Murdoc deadpanned while tapping his nails against the counter. Agitated due to the withdrawal.

"Yeah, yeah.”

With the shotguns fully loaded and a bag of ammunition ready, the drummer pushed one towards the satanist while keeping one to himself. Hesitating a tick, Murdoc grabbed up the weapon, cradling it delicately. With none of them eager to leave, Russel sighed and took initiative. He scrutinized the road outside before tensing.

“Here we go.”

One by one they strode out into the road, sticking close. None of them sure where to start or where to go.

“We came from that direction so lets head this way.” Striding forward with purpose, Murdoc gestured down the road opposite from where the mall sat. Neither drummer or singer had complaints and thus followed his lead.

They proceeded between vehicles, ears acutely tuned for stray zombies or possible survivors. Although slow moving and cautious, they made good time traversing the mostly deserted city. Thankfully they had no need for the guns and everything remained eerily quiet save a couple scraps of paper fluttering around. As the sun dipped they found themselves moving around at a quicker pace, searching for a place to hole up. Barely a word passed among them while seeking shelter.

Matters became worse when their main source of light dwindled until it was car fires and flickering signs clinging to the last bit of power flitting throughout the city casting a glow. Murdoc muttered curses under his breath and within moments the three of them were huddled closer to each other, more so than before.

“I can’t see shit.”

“Me neither, we should have gone into that apartment a block back.” Russel griped, trepidation coating his words while he sought out a viable building not ravaged by bodies or crashed cars.

2D whimpered and accidentally bumped into the satanist. “Watch where your going, idiot.”

“Sorry.”

Something clattered in a side street causing them to jump.

“Lets just go into that place.” Russel urged. “I can’t see any bodies around, probably safe enough.”

A couple groans echoed from an unknown location, melding together with new sounds of hasty stumbling. 2D whipped his head about looking for the source, heart in his throat. Distracted as he was, the singer yelped when Murdoc roughly grabbed the scruff of his coat, unceremoniously dragging him towards a building.

The three of them disappeared inside, hiding behind some potted plants in the entry. Nearby in the lobby a putrid smell of rotting flesh invaded their senses. 2D gagged, eyes watering.

“Smells awful.”

“Shush.” The satanist hissed. “Breath through your mouth.”

With the blanket of near darkness upon them they couldn’t make out who or what was shuffling by faster than a normal zombie. Soon after it passed they all collectively sighed in relief.

“We should get into a room for the night, we’ll have to look for Noodle tomorrow.”

“Anyone got a light?”

“I do,” 2D dug his smartphone out lighting up the screen to open his flashlight app.

“Give me that.” Taking the phone, Murdoc stood and scanned the lobby of the shabby hotel they had stumbled upon. There were overturned pieces of furniture and the body of a woman laying haphazardly over an ottoman, dead.

No movement occurred after a quick look around the space so they silently decided it safe to proceed. Russel took up the rear, turning left and right slightly to keep any surprises to a minimum despite the minimal lighting. Murdoc peered around via the flash light, it looked no different to their hotel minus the quality. Another woman lay draped over the lobby desk, half eaten with a ragged, gaping hole in her head. Murdoc cringed, backing away from the desk, quickly glancing over the rest of the counter for useful items but not seeing anything.

With no immediate danger presenting itself, Murdoc made for the stairs, barely getting a foot on the first step when something crashed behind him. Whipping around both him and Russel looked around frantically for the culprit.

2D froze in fear, shoulders hunching as he inched from the mess of water and glass he unintentionally made. When eyes landed on him he ducked his head.

“I can’t do this.” Russel moved to the steps, heading up. “C’mon lets get into a damn room before the whole city knows we’re here.”

The drummer disappeared up the stairs into the dark.

“I’m sorry, it was an accident,” 2D muttered, he wiggled his foot seeing a loose set of laces.

“Whatever, nothing came of it.” Murdoc beckoned the singer over, also glancing down to what had the man so occupied. He sighed seeing the untied shoe. “Sit down, I’ll tie ‘em up.”

Relieved the bassist hadn’t snapped he plopped himself down on the steps. Murdoc leaned the shotgun against the wall beside the singer while propping his leg up and patting his thigh. Understanding the silent prompting, 2D lifted his foot and planted it against the older man’s leg.

“Thanks.”

“Should invest in velcro.”

Muscles loosening, 2D snorted at the suggestion. He watched deft fingers expertly tie double knots into his laces. With the flashlight app shining upwards it lit up the room so when something lumbered behind the satanist 2D was able to see it. Bloodied hands came out towards the bassist and without thinking he put his leg down to yank Murdoc away from the creature, causing them both to fall into the stairs painfully. Murdoc gave a confused grunt. 2D hissed, tense all over again with an arm full of bassist.

“For fuck sake Stu—”

“Zombie!”

Turning partly while against the singer he caught sight of the bulky looking male zombie. 2D gripped unrelentingly at his shoulders, blunt nails digging into the material of his shirt not allowing much movement. The monster was closing in on them so Murdoc struggled to shove his foot into the middle of the rotting torso, keeping it back.

“Let me go! I can’t do fuck all like this!”

Seemingly realizing how unhelpful his hold was, 2D released Murdoc. The satanist got the shotgun up, angling himself to lay on the singer’s chest to smack the butt of the gun into the zombies head as it came back. With enough hits the creatures neck crunched and horrifyingly it waned towards them. They both stared wide eyed, momentarily scared. Thankfully the corpse wavered, falling backwards and twitched but didn’t get up. A beat passed where Murdoc sagged against the vocalist, arms draped to the side of each long leg pressed to his ribs. 2D noticed he had bunched up the older man’s shirt yet again and released the fabric.

“Russ is probably wondering what the fuck we’re doing.” Finally removing himself and standing upright Murdoc held his hand out to the singer. “This place is giving me the creeps.”

Mildly surprised at the offer of help a second time in a row, 2D grasped the hand and got to his feet. Retrieving the phone, both of them trailed up after Russel. They didn’t give a thought to how close they came to death just minutes prior.

“What the hell were you two doing down there? I heard some noises.”

Pausing in the hall to the first floor of rooms, Murdoc fumbled over an explanation. He avoided throwing 2D under the bus and made a quick lie about getting disorientated. Russel left it at that and jabbed his thumb over his shoulder.

“Most of the doors are locked but that one isn’t. Pretty sure it’s safe, save the body laying in the doorway. One of you help me move it.”

Murdoc sighed and pushed his gun into 2D’s arms. With Russel taking the torso and Murdoc at the feet, they both moved the actual corpse from the door. 2D held it open for them when they returned and after a perfunctory search of the room they sealed themselves in. Russel slid the latch closed and visibly slumped, shoulders lowering.

Giving an experimental flick of the switch, Murdoc grumbled, “guess power is officially gone. How much battery life you got left on your phone Dents?”

“Forty-three percent. I’ve been conserving it in case.”

“Hand it over, I can’t see fuck all.”

“Muds it drains the battery, just use my lighter.”

“Yes, fine, gimme your damn lighter.”

The satanist waggled his hand, unsure where 2D had moved too in the room with the flashlight off. A small object was placed into his hand which he graciously turned on. Fire light brightened the small hotel room.

Russel spotted an unused queen and quickly claimed it by setting his shotgun on it. Murdoc squinted around the room for a fridge or booze. He deposited his gun on the desk supplied in most rooms and squatted next to the nearly camouflaged fridge.

“I’m getting some shut eye. I suggest you two do the same.”

“Will do.” Murdoc grinned widely while he pulled out a six pack of beer.

2D kicked his shoes off and settled on the second queen nearer to the window. He reached out and tugged the curtains mostly closed and placed his bat against the material to keep them drawn. With so little light coming off the lighter he could barely make out the room, but what he did see were two beds, a television set on a wall mount, kitchenette and a desk where Murdoc currently stood. Said man was chugging through what appeared to be his second beer, hands trembling. The tremors are what ended up stifling the small flame and dousing the room back into darkness. It was at that exact moment that Russel gave a half snort, half snore, fast asleep on the bed he chose.

“How can he sleep after all the shit we just went through?”

“Maybe he’s too tired to care?”

Caught off guard, mostly due to no visual cues, 2D started at a weight dropping on the bed next to him. Despite the darkness he knew it was Murdoc if the smell of cheap beer was any indication.

“You should slow down, you might not get anymore after this.” 2D shifted his coat off, gently placing it off the side of the bed. Murdoc grunted in irritation but didn’t verbally respond. “Do you think Noodle is okay?”

“Sure.” There was a hesitation like Murdoc intended to speak some more but the quiet was replaced with Russel’s soft snores.

“That sounded unconvincing.”

“I’m not going to fill your head with bullshit altruism. Noodle’s a tough kid and I’d hate to be on the receiving end of any sort of pain she deals out. Is she okay? I have no idea, I can only imagine she is given the type of person she is.”

Murdoc could be quite affectionate towards Noodle, even if he couldn’t discern the man’s facial expressions he could hear it in his words.

“Can I have my light back?”

“I don’t know, can you?”

“Muds c’mon, just give it back. Please.”

He huffed when the small object was pressed into his chest uncomfortably hard. Taking the item he grumbled about Murdoc’s lack of tact. Shuffling his body down he turned onto his side, back towards the other man. The pillow held the scent of cologne and shaving cream which reminded him this wasn’t his own hotel room, that everything was all too real.

Somewhat rancid breath ghosted over his cheek while a firm arm slithered around his waist. He jerked up into a sitting position, which he was sure startled Murdoc more than the man would ever admit.

“What are you doing?” He knew exactly what Murdoc was doing.

“Thought that was obvious.”

“You’re drunk.”

“Barely.”

“I don’t want to do this again Murdoc.” He sounded far more tired than he felt. Far older than he remembered.

For an instant he assumed the bassist had receded, resigned himself to either sleeping on the floor or turning away.

“I thought I lost you.” The admission wasn’t slurred or rushed.

It was unnerving how genuine the comment sounded. He wanted to fall into the false security Murdoc always created between them. So desperately wanted to pretend their past didn’t exist, that they could start over. He needed to put distance between them.

“Do you think I could get a shower going?”

Murdoc made a puzzled noise at the question and thus didn’t stop 2D from climbing off the bed.

“Wanna bet I can make it work?” 2D chuckled awkwardly while patting the ground for his discarded coat.

“Stuart—”

“Gonna have me a nice shower, yeah? You just stay put.”

A hand groped for him in the dark so he hastily tripped his way around the furniture and sealed himself in the washroom. Slumping against the wood 2D sighed heavily, his chest clenched painfully. He fiddled with the handle for a lock but found no such mechanism so he gave up and felt around for the shower-bath combo. The darkness was suffocating and he tried to ignore old memories surfacing. He completely forgot he had a source of light.

His hand bumped a tap which he twisted, hearing the rush of water. “Yes.” He laughed after managing to get the shower running, pleased that despite all of it the water was still working. For now at least.

Stripping down he hopped into the shower, shivering at the mostly lukewarm water cascading over him. Washing the three day old grim from his body and hair was heaven sent and though he wasn’t a fan of lavender, he would use whatever he could get. After he would probably be freezing but for now this was amazing. Only he was disrupted by the door being nudged open somewhat loudly. Had there been light and less duress to keep quiet he would have yelled at Murdoc and possibly thrown a bar of soap at the man.

“Stuart—”

“Murdoc go away.”

“Hear me out—”

“Just stop.”

“Come on…”

2D gave an aggravated sound at the back of his throat, fumbling to shut off the stream of lovely water. He stuck his head out from the curtains, completely unable to see Murdoc’s form in the pitch black.

“Fine, you have most of my attention. Can’t really see you though.”

“Probably better that way.”

“Wait.” 2D frantically felt around near the shower on the wall for a rack or hook with towels. “I’m not talking to you in the nude.”

Murdoc gave an impatient sigh, resting into the counter of the washroom. He listened to 2D pat surfaces for a towel, he assumed. The minimal buzz from the six pack barely covered his anxiety, not enough to discuss emotional topics, but he couldn’t see a better moment. Here in the depths of a hotel after a zombie outbreak miles away from home. He heard wet feet touching the tiles and the waft of semi-warm air from the confines of the shower.

“Decent yet?”

“Moderately. What’s so important that you need to talk to me in the shadows?”

Suddenly his idea of discussing the growing rift between them was too much. Everything was closing in on him. All past attempted to talk were faded with intoxication; this one would be fresh in his mind.

“Murdoc? You still there?”

“Yeah.” He swallowed, throat dry with his nerves. “Yeah I’m here.” Was he though? He felt far away whenever he attempted to step up for his mistakes.

“Well what did you wanna say? I’m freezing my arse off here.”

“I know shit between us hasn’t always been peachy.” He could hide under the blanket of darkness, it made talking easier by a pinch.

“That’s an understatement.” 2D snorted, voice tight with restrained agitation.

“Lately things have been good yeah?”

“If your underhanded insults in interviews count as good, then yeah, things have been good. Mate.”

“I’ve been trying, give me some slack. It’s not an overnight bloody change.”

“Twenty years Murdoc, it’s taken you that long to realize how terrible you are. You always spin these huge elaborate webs of lies to make everything about you, make people feel sorry for your woes. But where does that leave me? Any of us? I’ve tried for years and I’m just tired.” 2D blinked, surprised by his pent up frustrations just bursting. Today seemed to be the day it all popped.

“Christ.” Muttering more to himself, Murdoc shifted further into the bathroom, leaning from the counter. “Been saving that have you?”

“I think so.”

“Look Stu, you and I both know I’m not a nice man.” Murdoc reached out, fingers catching at 2D’s forearm. The singer flinched out of his touch and he sighed. “I’m working on my shit, which doesn’t mean I’m better by any means, but I’m trying. Can’t we put aside our baggage for now and have a truce? I sorta miss what we had, us.”

“You gonna say it? You gonna say sorry to me?”

“Sorry.”

The apology fell flat.

2D laughed, sharp and high. “Very sincere Murdoc, thank you.”

“I am sorry.” He found 2D’s arms and held them gently. “I’m sorry alright?”

He really didn’t want to do this right now.

Murdoc slid his hands up the damp arms to the singer’s neck, thumb resting against his pulse. 2D gripped his towel tight, heart jumping at the tenderness, something he hadn’t experienced often from the bassist, not for an extremely long time. Definitely not this intimately.

“I’m sorry, really sorry.” Murdoc got up in 2D’s personal bubble, cupping the taller man’s face carefully, thumbs rubbing the others cheeks and smoothing over the remaining drops clinging to the skin.

“I need you to mean it Murdoc.” 2D used one hand to push the other away. “You made me want to die, took advantage of my caring nature and just put me down. It took me years of therapy to be any semblance of me again. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

“I’m still sorry.”

“I don’t think you even know what you’re sorry for.”

Murdoc fought to find proper words to prove he did. The longer he let silence reign the more he realized he didn’t know what one thing he was sorry for, there were years of turmoil stacked a mile high. Maybe he was sorry for all of it, he didn’t know.

“I’m tired and cold so if we’re done I wanna try sleeping.”

2D remembered his psychologist mentioning forgiveness being a key factor for his healing process. Honestly he could see how that would help sort his feelings out, but out of spite he refused. He forced himself to focus on his anger over the incidents of their previous records, the violent nature of their relationship and the time spent recovering. Even now the bassist could not properly apologize and own the horrors he put the singer through, admit he was wrong. A small part of him wanted to take advantage of Murdoc, hurt him even a little. He would never though. 2D felt his anger drain away.

The bassist was a damaged human, he had serious problems that needed dealing with, but given the state of the world it was pertinent 2D focus on survival. He needed to put aside his boiling rage over Murdoc’s indiscretions at least for now.

“We can have a truce? Like you said.”

“You forgive me?”

“Far from it.” 2D shimmied in the dark around the bassist. “For now lets pretend I do.”

Murdoc said nothing and when 2D was able to find his discarded clothing and exit without interruption he relaxed. He briefly wondered if he could sleep through the slight throbbing behind his eyes.

Well after the vocalist had left him to his devices, Murdoc awkwardly found his way through having a shower. He mulled over what 2D said, lightly thumping his head to the tiles repeatedly, frustrated at his own lack of empathy or struggle with it. He loathed heart to hearts, opening up and talking about what made him, him always turned his stomach. He always assumed the singer understood his stance on their often turbulent relationship, he hardly hid it with the soppy lyrics he wrote. Obviously he would need to look beyond music to fix the bond between them; would be difficult with all the other fun things occurring.

He joined his band-mates shortly after his shower, donning only his underpants and damp hair. Russel slept on completely oblivious to the heated conversation and apocalypse. Murdoc could hear the snuffled breaths from the drummer, muffled into his pillow. Momentarily he considered avoiding 2D potentially elbowing him in the morning by sharing with Russel, but the muted grey light of early twilight shone through curtains on the lack of space that bed held. Mussing up his hair he made for the half empty bed, crawling under the covers next to the vocalist.

2D was fast asleep on his side, facing away from Murdoc. A bare shoulder was visible in the dim light, peeking out from the duvet. Gentle as possible, Murdoc slipped an arm under the pillows, shifting close to the sleeping singer. He wrapped an arm around the slim waist, maneuvering 2D back into his chest. The man barely stirred, snuggling further into Murdoc unaware. Murdoc nuzzled into the moderately dry azure hair, smiling to himself. He kept his arm tucked around 2D’s middle, pretending that things between them were okay.

He could deal with the consequences later.

———

Light shone directly into Murdoc’s closed eyes making him grumble tiredly. Pressing his face further into a warm neck he breathed deeply, he was content to stay put.

“Muds.” 2D sounded half awake. “Muds you’re tickling my neck.”

Murdoc wanted this to last just a little longer. He spread his fingers along 2D’s stomach, snuggling up closer to the tall man. Pleasant memories of early hours after a concert flooded his mind. They would relax in bed for hours, smoking and bouncing ideas off each other while comfortably tucked under warm blankets. Sometimes they would dissolve to more carnal activities. He clung to those select times where his personality didn't get in the way.

Without thinking Murdoc ran his hand further up 2D’s chest, brushing a nipple. He laid lazy open mouthed kisses from the pulse point to under the quickly reddening ear. Mostly running on muscle memory.

The singer ground his backside into Murdoc’s hips, somewhat eager for more attention. Groggy and unaware of their situation it came as a shock when Russel cleared his throat loudly.

“You two better not get frisky, I do not wanna see that.”

Both of them broke apart, 2D sitting up and shielding himself with the blanket which left Murdoc exposed. The bassist squeezed his legs shut, mildly embarrassed.

“Wasn’t aware you two were back at it.” The blasé tone didn’t match Russel’s exasperated expression. “Again.”

“We’re not!”

“I wouldn’t have minded.” Murdoc grumbled.

“Ugh.” 2D dropped his flushed face into a hand. “it— no, that wasn’t. I don’t even know, that was just habit.”

“This habit too?”

A hand groped his erection firmly. 2D squawked, both embarrassed and alarmed at the bold move. Not giving much thought he launched at the satanist, knocking them both to the floor in his attempt to wrestle for dominance, spitting vitriol at the older man for being insensitive and inappropriate.

Russel groaned. “Will you two quit it, you’re grown men for crying out loud. If you wanna screw or whatever, do it when I’m not around.”

“For fuck sake— let go of my hair will you, it was all in fun Stu!”

“Fun! That wasn’t funny Murdoc!”

“Stop it. If you two make too much noise we’re gonna have issues other than whatever your shit is.”

Like a switch both men stopped, instantly reminded of the danger lurking just beyond the borrowed hotel room. Disentangling from each other they got up, shamed for their childish antics.

“Get dressed, both of you, we have to get outta here and look for Noodle. I would prefer using all the daylight we can.” Russel rose from his bed and closed the conversation by disappearing into the washroom.

Neither man could look at the other so they dressed, exchanging no words. When Russel came out again they were ready to leave.

Murdoc glanced out of the room, wary of stray zombies possibly lingering in the hallway. He was relieved to see nothing other than a mess and quietly stepped out, shotgun at the ready. 2D tiptoed out after the older man and Russel followed at the tail. Eager to get to open space they moved as hastily as one could manage with little sound. Reaching street level they paused upon seeing a couple survivors wearing gear for protecting their faces and bodies, like patchwork of different outfits, looting about in some vehicles nearby.

“Shit.” Murdoc rounded a corner with the other two and crouched, watching the people via a broken window. “I’m not sure about you two, but I don’t want to meet these people.”

2D nodded in agreement. Russel bit his bottom lip, worrying the flesh anxiously.

“Maybe we should try?”

“No.”

“Who unanimously voted you apocalypse leader?”

2D rubbed his stomach when it grumbled. Murdoc eyed the vocalist a tick before frowning at Russel. He kept his voice low. “I’m the fucking band leader that’s why. There’s no vote. Whatever I say as a band leader applies as a fucking ‘apocalypse leader’, we clear?”

“Crystal.” Russel muttered.

“Good.”

Murdoc left it at that and when they were sure the survivors had moved on they proceeded to the streets. To avoid further run ins they headed opposite to the people, which thankfully ended up being the same direction originally chosen. Having decided it best to find food, mostly due to the singer complaining about hunger pangs, they stumbled into a deserted McDonalds.

Once thoroughly cleared of any threats Russel raided the bits of stale food available to them and sat with the other two to eat. Murdoc picked half-heartedly at a moderately fresh muffin while his companions ate four day old fries and defrosted apple pies.

“Should try eating more than just a muffin, Muds.”

“Not hungry.”

2D offered up half of his soggy pie. Making a face of disgust, Murdoc shook his head. His stomach turned at the idea of trying to swallow the cold, slimy and overly sugary pastry, if he could even call it that. What he needed, no wanted, was vodka or rum. He would take whiskey right now, anything to push his thoughts back down and cover his jitters.

“You can have some of my chips if you want.” The singer tried to share the soft potato sticks and while he wanted to take the offer, if only to squish the growing discomfort in his stomach. He knew it wouldn’t actually do anything.

“I’m fine.”

Nonplussed at being turned down twice, 2D resumed eating quietly, not enjoying the food anymore than Russel or Murdoc.

“Where are we going after this?”

“The same direction we’ve been going for a day now. Noodle is bound to show up somewhere.”

2D stuck another miserably cold fry into his mouth, chewing around the firmness of the starchy potato. He pressed his cheek into one of his palms, blankly staring at the table top, contemplating too many things at once. He shook his head to rid himself of a potential migraine, sighing.

“We could try taking a car, might be faster.” Russel nodded towards the parking lot. “I’m sure someone forgot keys in one of these vehicles.”

“Aren’t we avoiding too much noise? A car could be a target not only for those dead things but other people looking to steal or start shit. I imagine whoevers left is having a bang-up time rifling through the trash.”

Neither man noticed 2D having an internal battle with himself. He paused mid bite to frown at nothing. He hated trying to figure out his feelings, writing stuff down had always helped but now he had no journal. A hand squeezed the back of his neck, it was an affectionate gesture with no ill intent. 2D glanced to Murdoc at a loss.

“We’re pushing on.”

“Oh.” He looked upon the mostly untouched half-spoiled food in front of him. Pushing the stale fast food away he scooted towards Murdoc to get out of the booth. Said man didn’t move so 2D ended up tucked up beside the other. “Er— you gotta move Murdoc, can’t exactly get up.”

“Before we head out, you and me need a word.”

“Okay…”

2D noticed Russel was up by an entrance door, standing guard and turned away. He swallowed around a forming lump in his throat. Sliding back from the satanist he stared at Murdoc’s chest, less confident to the other night in complete darkness.

“Last night, I probably could have made a better effort.”

“I don’t understand.” He raised his eyes to look at the bassist.

“This is difficult for me, uh— satan, okay. Here’s the deal faceache, I’m gonna let you chose one thing a day that you want me to, I don’t know, work on or stop.”

“Like a challenge?” 2D cocked an eyebrow, baffled by the turn of events.

“Sure, that. I succeed you reward me. I fail you can punish me, yeah?”

Pursing his lips in dissatisfaction, 2D looked from the bassist to the fries. “How is that gonna work? Why should I reward you for things you should just do? Being nice to me shouldn’t be some challenge Murdoc.”

“Remember, I'm going to try? This is me trying, I’m throwing up a white flag here. I don’t have my medications or a therapist so I figure we could work like a team.”

2D sighed, he felt exhausted all over.

“Look—”

“Stop calling me names. No nicknames either. It’s either Stuart or 2D, nothing else.” He puffed his cheeks up, glowering at the older man comically. “You manage that one I’ll give you something nice. Fuck up and I get to kick you in the crotch.”

“Uh—”

“Deal?”

“This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I thought it up.” Murdoc cringed.

“Well you want to work together on your issues? This is my first request. Work on it.”

Nodding with a grimace, Murdoc slumped slightly when the vocalist hefted himself up from the booth to climb over the table. As 2D touched down to the ground a zombie plastered itself to the McDonalds window, thumping against the glass repetitively.

Murdoc gave little chance for 2D to recover from his scare before he was ushering the singer to a side entrance. Russel followed through after them, pumping the shotgun and aiming. In unspoken agreement, Murdoc and Russel made sure to keep 2D between them while making their way out of the gathering crowd. The singer remained silent, noticing but giving no objection, it made him feel safe.

Given the noise their movement and Russel's shotgun created, more zombies set about massing around them from all angles.

“Great.” Murdoc sighed. “Fantastic.”

“What about the subway.” Russel indicated to a ground level entrance across the street.

“We really shouldn’t.” 2D shook his head hard.

“We’d be out of sight though.”

The singer remained mute upon Murdoc and Russel making a path towards the subway.

‘What’s the point of putting my opinion out there if I’m just ignored?’ 2D thought to himself while he was forced to follow the men.

They took to the stone steps heading into dank depths beneath the city. Rotting flesh, stagnant water and other foreign yet unbearably overpowering scents invaded their nostrils. The three of them hesitated at five steps from the bottom. It was rather dark save a couple emergency lights running. 2D covered his mouth and nose, breathing through his fingers in a feeble attempt at covering smells. He only ended up tasting it and coughed.

Behind them the groaning horde lingered at the top, putting pressure on them to move. With urgency to get out of danger Russel practically hopped the last steps. Murdoc got a hold of 2D and urged the vocalist into the awaiting carnage.

“This or up there. Down here looks safe to an extent.”

“Muds this isn’t a good idea. Every movie I’ve ever watched always has creepy dark tunnels or subways that zombies come crawling out of to get the main characters.”

“‘D, man, this is real, not a movie. ‘Sides, looks like the bodies down here are actually dead.”

The singer whined pathetically, wringing his hands against the handle of the bat.

“It looks flooded though, something could be lurking in the water.”

“Well I’m sorry princess— er, 2D, would you like to go back up there? Maybe get eaten alive? Hm?”

Whimpering softly to himself, 2D cautiously walked to the edge of the yellow line on the subway platform. Appearing black in the low lighting, there was the occasional ripple from water dripping off a burst pipe. The other two stood next to 2D, staring into the unending blackness.

From behind them a body came tumbling down the steps, bones cracking upon impact with the bottom. Faintly a couple gunshots could be heard top side.

“Shit.” Russel lowered himself into the thigh deep water making a face, “no choice now. Wait don’t the tracks have electricity in them?”

Murdoc shrugged. “Doesn’t seem to be on.” He examined the flickering emergency lights. “I think these are on some sort of battery power, maybe a generator.”

2D hesitated, watching Murdoc drop into the water next.

“Ah fuck, this’ll ruin my boots.”

“It’s the end of the world, who cares. We can probably find you another pair.”

“Good point, Russ. Well c’mon 2D, we haven’t all day.”

The vocalist whinged again before finally slipping into the water, cringing at the temperature drop.

Murdoc and Russel moved through the water with ease, just avoiding large debris or the odd bloated body. 2D held his bat to his chest, following the men ahead of him. The few emergency lights that lit the way barely helped once in the tunnel.

As they moved through the thigh high water the sounds of guns and shouting grew distant until all they could hear were their hurried movements. They tromped through the dark, for what felt like an eternity, not speaking. Everyone was on edge, worried any other noises would attract unwanted attention. 2D hoped Noodle was fairing better than them.

Incapable of discerning shapes beyond Russel and Murdoc ahead of him, 2D missed the grotesque body bobbing in the water. When the soggy texture of waterlogged flesh and clothing brushed by his leg he yelped in terror. Upon seeing said body it further fueled his fears and the vocalist jerked away, tripping through the water into a mangled portion of a subway car. When the drummer and bassist whipped around on the man, 2D disappeared under the water, flailing desperately.

“Stuart!”

“2D!”

Squeezing his eyes shut he unintentionally gulped cool yet utterly foul water which made him choke in shock. Unable to get his bearings he jerked in the water, limbs kicking out and catching on something immovable. A line of unexpected pain cut through his leg and he attempted to yell only to get more water in his mouth. For a terrifying minute he thought he would die right there, drowning like an idiot, but then he was yanked up by hands. Shakily he grabbed for whoever it was, clinging while he coughed up disgusting water.

“What the hell happened?”

Distress was written all over Murdoc’s face, his voice edging on panicked. Russel looked no better and without further questions they both got the vocalist to the ledge running alongside the tracks.

“‘D, man, what was that? Did something pull you down?”

2D gasped sharply when he finished coughing most of the water up. Murdoc pushed his soaked hair from his face, hand moving to rub his back soothingly.

“Just take a moment to catch your breath.”

“Sorry, I’m sorry. I— I was startled… I didn’t mean to cause so much noise.” tears began welling up in his eyes and no matter how hard he fought it they fell anyways. “Sorry.” He hiccuped while roughly wiping at his eyes.

“Are you hurt?”

“I think I cut my leg. I’m sorry.”

Both men set aside their weapons in favor of carefully maneuvering 2D so they could look over his injury. The singer trembled while motioning to the leg in question. Murdoc rolled up the jeans, squinting in the dimness.

“Doesn’t look that bad, I think.”

“Lets get out of here, then we can bandage him. We can hardly see down here.”

“Good point.” Murdoc rolled the material down and looked at the sniffling man. “You able to handle that?”

“Y—yeah.”

“Then let us resume.”

Unsure where they were exiting, Russel headed up first, vigilant. The drummer winced against the light, taking a moment to adjust before scanning the area. No zombies presented themselves so he signaled the coast was clear. Murdoc came up next, helping 2D along.

“I guess the first order of business would be to get 2D patched.” Murdoc indicated to the other man’s leg.

Nodding in agreement, Russel took the lead, meandering through vehicles and trash. The city landscape was eerily similar to before with the addition of loose debris fluttering around. Dark clouds hung overhead which had a dreary effect on the buildings.

With Noodle still missing the three men trudged on, ever aware of darkened shops and empty cars. Uncomfortable under the stare of crows hovering about in the desolate city. 2D hissed off and on, his gash burning with the movement. Murdoc aided the singer by keeping an arm around the thin waist, offering his body for support. Miraculously not complaining about the wet line 2D was creating on his clothing.

Had they paid proper attention to the dirty papers lying on the ground and half stuck to buildings, any one of them would have discovered a place to go. A military encampment formed at the international airport, a safe place for survivors.

2D stepped on a couple fliers stuck to the ground, his calf bleeding sluggishly behind the cover of wet trousers. Everyone was on high alert so attention was elsewhere rather than on him or the pamphlets.

Chapter Text

By mid afternoon they ended up cutting their search for Noodle short. 2D was struggling to keep up without wincing and while Russel wanted to keep going, he couldn’t bring himself to push the singer. Holing up in an abandoned apartment for the night proved rather uneventful. They had little struggle getting in and found the place nearly fully stocked. Murdoc assumed the previous tenants had fled without packing, it was good for them. Before bed there was a minor argument over their sleeping arrangement. Russel refused to share a room with the bassist and vocalist again and put a halt to further complaints by hiding in a spare room. Too tired to piss and moan about nobody listening to him, Murdoc retired early.

He hated that his forced sobriety was making everything near impossible to focus on. He found himself quaking in the master bedroom on the right side of the massive king size bed at god knows what hour. He hadn’t wanted to share with 2D while he was a sweaty, shaking mess, but the singer insisted. Probably too scared to sleep alone which was ironic given it was Murdoc he was sharing with. He came out of his hazy thoughts to notice there were no giraffe limbs splayed over him and that his bed mate was damn near matching his quivering.

Murdoc furrowed his brows, puzzled over the odd sleep pattern, he could feel the tremors over his own. Shifting he moved along the mattress towards the singer, leaning over the fitful man. What little moonlight shone in through the window was blocked by his figure.

“Stuart?”

He figured it couldn’t be a migraine, he had watched the singer pop a few codeine caplets from the medicine cabinet. He pressed a hand to the sweaty forehead, 2D groaned in his sleep and squirmed. Pulling back he watched on further confused why the man seemed to be in the throes of a fever. He tugged the duvet back and uncovered the curled up body. Eyes narrowed in the near darkness he examined the singer as well as he could. There was a patch that appeared blacker than the sheets around where he knew 2D had gashed his leg.

“Damn.”

Murdoc was sure what he could make out was blood.

“2D wake up.” He nudged the man roughly.

The singer remained in his feverish state, making a few muffled noises. Murdoc growled and shook 2D harder.

“Stuart wake up!”

“W—wha?”

“You’re bleeding all over the bed.” The bassist patted along the bedside table, attempting to find a small flashlight he put there earlier.

“I’m what?” 2D sounded groggy, but not from sleep.

“Just how many of those pills did you pop?”

2D didn’t answer his question, busy scrubbing at his face.

Murdoc flicked the flashlight on, shining it down towards the singer’s legs. Blood was soaking the makeshift bandage and now the bed. The satanist frowned, it wasn't like 2D to keep discomfort to himself, he complained about headaches the moment they formed.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were still bleeding?”

“I didn’t want to be a nuisance.” 2D mumbled, massaging his drug addled head.

“Well not saying anything you still managed that.” Murdoc left the bed, absently setting the flashlight aside. Light shone on the singer and room.

Grumbling he went into the connected bathroom, digging through the medicine cabinet for medication and first aid supplies. He probably should have offered to clean the gash up properly. He had been distracted by looking for alcohol. 2D remained where he was on the bed, quaking from feeling both hot and cold simultaneously.

Murdoc realized his folly when he barely made out anything in the cabinets and then attempted to flick the light on, irritated when nothing happened.

“Will you bring the torch, can’t see a damn thing.”

Eyeing the flashlight, 2D hesitated to move off the bed. When the satanist gave an impatient huff he grabbed the small object, light bouncing all over with the movement. Slowly he slid from the bed. Standing he wobbled forwards a step or two before a stabbing pain shot through his leg and he collapsed with a weak cry of surprise.

Rushing out at the sound, Murdoc happened upon 2D laying on the ground, pushing to sit up.

“Okay, take it easy.” The satanist helped the singer get upright.

“I don’t feel good Muds.”

2D held his head. The singer’s stomach rumbled loudly and unnaturally.

A rush of anxiety filled his person as he watched 2D.

“Just get your arm around my shoulders, I’m going to move you back to the bed.” The bassist crouched, an arm under thin legs and a hand settled on 2D’s lower back.

2D slung his arm around Murdoc’s bare shoulders, leaning into him. The bassist grit his teeth, grunting as he hefted the rather heavy singer up into his arms and carried him back to the bed. He dropped 2D gently.

Laying on his back and making no further complaints, 2D shivered and rubbed at his head continually.

“Sit tight.” Murdoc scooped up the light and hurried back into the washroom.

Under the sink he shoved items around until he happened upon a first aid kit. Holding the flashlight between his lips he examined the contents, assuring the rightful things were present. Before returning to 2D he gave a quick scan over the medications in the cabinet. Other than codeine, there were numerous bottles of prescriptions he knew would be useless for the singer. Murdoc put the light in his hand and stepped out, stopping at the bed.

“Be thanking your lucky stars or whatever, I found a first aid kit.”

2D gave a weak smile and thumbs up.

Setting aside the kit, the satanist reached over and undid the vocalist’s jeans. “Lift your hips.”

“What? Why?”

“These are soiled and it’ll be easier to clean up your leg without them on.” He pulled up on the belt loops, urging 2D to lift his waist.

Too ill to dispute Murdoc, 2D lifted his backside slightly. He was also too warm in the face from the fever to feel any embarrassment when the bassist worked the trousers off. Said article found its way to the floor somewhere in the dark. 2D jerked when warmer hands grasped his rather cool legs. The satanist scooped up said limbs so he could sit with them over his clothed lap.

“You should have said something.” Murdoc used the kit to wedge the flashlight so he could use both his hands.

“Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Murdoc removed the soiled bandage Russel had applied earlier in the day. “You should be, bleeding all over.” 2D rolled his eyes while a particularly bad shudder wracked his body. “Satan, you’ve bled a lot.”

Murdoc dug out some alcohol swaps, ripping the packs open to clean up the crusting blood. 2D winced, his skin felt overly sensitive around the injury.

“I’ll try to bleed less in the future.”

Murdoc tilted his head when the blood was cleaned away. Strange black veins spread out from the opening in 2D’s skin, like branches from a dead tree running in all directions. He brushed his finger over the veins quite able to feel the difference in texture. The black lines were hardened under a thin layer of skin with almost no give.

“What’s wrong?”

Murdoc didn’t look up. He prodded the veins closest to the gash, mildly fascinated and disgusted when blackened ooze seeped from the hard lines.

“Murdoc, what’s wrong? Is it worse than we thought?”

“What? No, it’s fine— er, just a bit infected. I’m gonna disinfect it with some rubbing alcohol.”

He knew lying wouldn’t serve him well, but scaring the singer was unnecessary. He grabbed a half used bottle of rubbing alcohol and unscrewed the lid. 2D watched him intently, sweat gathered at his face.

“Try to keep quiet, it might sting.”

Pouting more to himself, 2D nodded quietly and stared on as the bassist pinned his legs with an arm and poured the antiseptic liquid over the wound. A cold burn crawled up through his leg making him squirm. He whined gently and struggled to keep his noises to a minimum. Some part of him wondered if Murdoc got a kick out of causing him any sort of pain. He blinked when the pain ebbed away and he saw Murdoc wrapping the injury neatly.

“You need any more codeine?”

Despite himself he melted under this gentler version of his band-mate. He hated how easily he forgave people.

“And some water, please?”

“Yeah, you get under the covers.” Murdoc cleaned up the mess of medical supplies and tucked 2D under the blanket.

When Murdoc huffed at the big wet spot on his jeans 2D prepared for some snarky comment. Surprisingly nothing came and the older man removed said wet jeans. The satanist sighed and flicked the flashlight towards the bedroom door.

“I’m going to the next room, I’ll be back.”

Unable to stop himself, 2D grabbed for the older man, anxious all over again. “Stay please. I’m scared.”

Murdoc stood next to the bed, silently in agreement with the vocalist. “I won’t be long. Hum to yourself or something.”

Letting go, 2D hugged himself tightly, reminded fleetingly of the dank and wet room back in the middle of the ocean. Even given the years between then and now he still had moments of relapsing memories. Shaking the thoughts away, 2D rubbed his arms humming a song softly. He was safe and Murdoc wasn't leaving him for days, just a few minutes.

Murdoc left the bedroom door ajar while rummaging through cupboards. There were a few candles scattered around in the kitchen, nearly burnt out with wax dripping onto the surfaces beneath them. It cast a warm glow over varies spots in the room making it seem like it was only a power outage and not some world ending crisis.

Opening the fridge the satanist gagged to himself, shining the light on what might not be off. Grabbing a few bottles and setting them aside he moved to the pantry. Seeing as the previous occupants left in a rush there was a fair amount to pick from. In no time he was moving back into the bedroom, nudging the door shut. He unloaded the items and quickly got the bottle of codeine, shaking a caplet into his hand. 2D took the medication dry before Murdoc had sat next to him.

Murdoc held the drink up for 2D, aiding the other with somewhat steadier hands. The vocalist struggled to swallow around the thickness in his throat, he drank some of the water before Murdoc replaced it with dry food to eat. Eating little, 2D mostly drank water, finishing two bottles.

Once satisfied the bassist tugged the blankets up and laid back. He motioned the blue-haired singer closer, situating 2D’s head against his upper chest. The vocalist curiously wondered where the charitable streak was coming from. He fought to not flinch when Murdoc rested a hand against his head. When fingers carded through his hair he still winced in preparation of a hit. A discontent sigh came from above him at the reaction.

“If you get sick, wake me.”

“Feels like I’m dying.” 2D wondered if he was dying, everything was aching and codeine did little to hide that fact.

Murdoc made a face 2D couldn’t see. His mind raced back to the black veins.

“Shut up. You’re not dying you idiot. You just have a fever.” Murdoc rubbed and petted at 2D’s hair and neck soothingly.

“If I am, dying I mean, I don’t wanna leave things bad between us.” 2D mumbled against Murdoc’s skin.

“Stuart I swear to satan. You’re not dying.”

Murdoc relaxed when 2D’s breathing seemed to settle out. He finally flicked off the flashlight in his opposite hand, putting it aside. Closing his mismatched eyes the bassist made an effort to sleep. He would have missed 2D talking if the singer’s face wasn’t pressed to his chest.

“I have to reward you for mostly not calling me names.” The words were mumbled. Lips pressed against his chest. “Thank you for trying.”

Murdoc shifted his hand, combing his fingers through blue hair and over an ear. He heard breath hitching.

2D felt warmer than his fever.

“Get some sleep.”

“You can use nicknames.” 2D yawned. “Only nice ones.”

Murdoc rolled his eyes exasperated. “Go to sleep Stuart.” He couldn’t help the small grin forming. “We can talk ‘bout this shit tomorrow.”

2D remained silent after that, finally managing to sleep. Murdoc stared at the ceiling in the dark, watching morning slowly filter in.

———

Upon rousing from sleep, what little he got, Murdoc noticed 2D was tracing patterns along his chest. Occasionally the singer ran his fingers over old scars, unaware Murdoc was awake. The second thing he realized was the vocalist wasn’t sweaty and seemed rather perky. After a moment it seemed the younger man recognized the more alert breathing and stopped touching, leaning up to look at Murdoc.

“Sleep well then?”

“I feel like I could run a marathon if I’m honest.” 2D smiled faintly, not sure if some sort of verbal assault would come.

“I feel like death.”

“Sorry for keeping you up last night.” The singer sat up, tucking his legs close to himself. “I appreciate it, you helping me. It was nice of you.”

Resting an arm over his eyes, mostly to avoid looking at 2D, Murdoc grunted in answer.

“Your gash looked pretty bad. Probably going to need antibiotics. Or a proper doctor.”

“Well you’re a proper doctor yeah?”

2D teased, resting his chin on a knee, not at all cold while he sat in nothing but his underpants.

“Ugh, hardly. I barely remember that phoney test. All I can recommend is you get something to keep your fever down and painkillers.”

“It feels fine today. I feel rather good, no fever now.” 2D shifted and moved his leg around, intentionally dropping it over Murdoc’s bare midriff. “And it’s not spotting or coming through.”

“Should still redo it, clean it up again.”

Lowering his arm he peered down at the pale calf resting placidly against his stomach. 2D was right, he couldn’t see any blood seeping through. For a short minute he considered yanking the taller man over so 2D was straddling him. He missed the close familiarity and intimacy early mornings held from their past. With what little sun was streaming in through the partially closed blinds, he could briefly admire 2D’s sleepy demeanor, blue hair tussled and eyes hazy but warm.

“I guess, though wouldn’t agitating it make it worse?”

“Cleaning it and getting fresh bandages on help.

2D started to pull his leg back. He halted when Murdoc settled a hand on his ankle. It felt fairly hot on his skin, which he attested to lack of clothes and the cool air.

“2D—”

“Murdoc.”

Murdoc furrowed his brows in annoyance at being interrupted. “Last night you were feverish.”

“I feel fine now.”

“You were shaking worse than me.” 2D shrugged in reply which made Murdoc sigh in irritation. “Today we’re gonna look for a drug store or a clinic. Maybe a hospital, anywhere that carries drugs.”

“But Noodle—”

“Don’t argue. You had a fever, you don’t just get over it in a night.”

“But it’s not bothering me anymore.”

“Stuart!”

2D jerked surprised by Murdoc’s outburst. The bassist spoke softer. “Noodle can wait a few hours. If you’re ill we need to address that right away. Not exactly safe in this situation.”

“Is that your medical opinion?”

“Don’t be a smart-ass—”

“Don’t call me names.” 2D scowled.

“Christ.” His ire was growing so he paused and forced himself to take a couple calming breaths. 2D watched on, astonished by the restraint.

Murdoc pushed himself up and got a firm grip on 2D’s thigh, tugging the vocalist over into his lap. He held fast to 2D’s narrow hips, keeping the man where he was straddling Murdoc.

“Murdoc you can’t just—”

“Listen Sunshine, I need you to do this for me alright? You were ill last night and it fucking scared me. That cut is infected and it has to be treated with more than some rubbing alcohol.”

“Okay.” 2D mumbled, barely audible.

He was mildly stunned by the confession and term of endearment attached to the statement. If his heart sped up at the genuine concern he wouldn’t say.

“We’re stuck in the middle of a fucking crisis, not conducive with an injury or sickness.”

“You haven’t called me sunshine in a while.”

An uneasy silence formed between them. Murdoc chewed the inside of his cheek while drumming his fingers against 2D. He looked anywhere but the singer, not able to make direct eye contact.

“It was kinda nice.”

“Great, sharing time is over, get off me.”

“Wait, Murdoc, it was only an observation.”

Dislodging the vocalist from his lap, less than gently, the satanist got to his feet to stretch and rummage through a nearby dresser. He could feel the dark eyes boring holes into his back, it made him uncomfortably warm.

“Nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Finding some clean clothing that fit semi-snugly, Murdoc continued to avoid 2D’s unnerving stare. He dug through 2D’s coat, bringing out the pack of smokes and purple lighter.

2D huffed. “Those are mine!” He made to clamber off the bed only to gasp sharply when his leg gave out under him, he collapsed much like before.

The bassist gave a surprised noise in his throat when 2D flopped hard to the floor.

“What in the hell? Did you just trip?”

“My leg.” 2D hissed, struggling to hide his pain while griping his thigh. “My leg is having a spasm, it hurts!”

“You just told me it felt fine.”

“Well it doesn’t feel fine now!”

“Sweet satan, give me strength.”

Pressing a smoke behind his ear, Murdoc pocketed the lighter before putting the smokes back. He crouched near the singer.

“Maybe it’s a sign that I was right.”

“For f— just help me up Murdoc!”

Scooping the singer up via his armpits took a few attempts. Upon having the taller standing again he felt nails biting into his forearm.

“Oh, I feel dizzy.”

2D lurched forward, nearly toppling had it not been for Murdoc catching him around the waist with his opposite arm. The vocalist clung desperately to the muscles of Murdoc’s bicep while tilting his head down to vomit suddenly. Startled and grossed out the satanist hastily moved his feet from getting splashed.

“Holy hell, warn a man.”

“I—I’m sorry.” 2D slurred through snot and tears.

“Okay, okay.” Murdoc carted the lanky singer away from the puddle of sick. “Have a perfectly good toilet ready for use.”

He half carried, half dragged Stuart to the washroom. Nudging the toilet seat up with his foot and nearly tumbling at the distribution in weight on one leg, Murdoc carefully set 2D up with the porcelain bowl.

“What’s going on in here?”

Russel pushed the master bedroom door further open.

“I keep hearing shouting and thumping. You two aren’t messing around in here are you?”

“Make yourself useful Russ, go grab some water. 2D is indisposed.”

“He got a headache?”

“More or less.” Murdoc didn’t give further information.

Russel gave an affirmative noise and went about shuffling through stuff in the kitchen.

Under normal circumstances this particular occasion would be routine if 2D had a migraine. Watching the younger wretch into the stagnant toilet water made his gag reflexes act up so he looked away. He winced when small needling points of pain caught his attention. Tilting his head he spotted a couple bloodied marks on his arm.

“Fuck.”

Without prompting he went to the bed and looked around for the discarded first aid kit, hastily getting alcohol swabs once found. Cursing to himself he scrubbed the small cuts abrasively, hyper aware how bad this situation could be.

Russel paused in the doorway, face carrying a baffled frown over Murdoc’s behaviour, two bottles of water in each hand.

“What’s wrong with you man? Look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Russel chuckled at the somewhat overused joke.

“Nothing. It’s nothing.” Murdoc tossed the little wipe trying to appear relaxed. “Bumped myself trying to help Dents to the bathroom. Guess I got nicked.”

“Did you also bump him on the way there?” Russel raised a brow, mostly teasing as he leaned in the doorway of the bathroom.

Murdoc didn’t answer.

“Hey ‘D, got you some water, think you can keep it down?”

“Maybe.”

While the drummer aided the singer with the beverage, Murdoc paced the master bedroom. He knew something was very wrong with the vocalist, something that started with the gash. Squeezing his shaking hands he groaned to himself, he could barely function beyond simplistic actions and thoughts. Mashing the heels of his palms into dry eyes, Murdoc paused his pacing to articulate a plan. 2D would need antibiotics for the injury on his leg and so would he if his own minor cuts became infected.

“You doing okay?”

“Not really.”

“What’s going on? You two didn’t have a fight again didja?”

“His gash is infected and he had a fever last night. We need to find proper medication, antibiotics.” Murdoc gestured to his arm where the small cuts were beading with blood. “Fuck and now I have these courtesy of ‘D. Whatever is going on with him might happen to me.”

“Do you think it’s related to the undead shit going on?”

“How should I know? Fuck I can’t deal with this.” Murdoc clutched at his sleep-mussed hair. “Noodle is missing, 2D is sick and there is nobody out there to help us.”

Russel stood there, momentarily stunned to silence while watching the bassist dissolve into a frenzied rant.

“I haven’t had a proper dose of liquor in days so I can’t sleep, I can’t fucking think and the tremors are buggering up my ability to do anything. It’s utterly maddening that I can’t find a fucking bottle of anything harder than 5% beers which did shit all!”

Leaning from the toilet, 2D observed from the floor. His vision was blurry from tears over retching and his hair stuck to his face from cooling sweat.

“Muds, man, it’ll be alright. You’re still capable enough to function, we’ll just find a map and get to a nearby clinic or hospital. Things are gonna work out.”

“This illness.” Murdoc motioned palm up, towards 2D. “Has a short window before it kicks you in the ass.”

Russel waved a hand. “You feel fine now, right? Lets go get medication quick. Maybe there are military blockades at the hospital, who knows.”

“Y—yeah, hospitals are great places for information and supplies,” 2D rested his head against the toilet.

Murdoc fixed his hair and took deep breathes. “Yeah, yeah. Okay. We’ll do that.”

“What about ‘D?”

“What about me?”

“Can you even walk?”

“I’ll carry him.” Murdoc grunted.

“We should just leave him here, it’ll be quicker.”

“No!”

“If we leave, we leave together. Stuart can’t be left here to fend for himself while he’s like this.”

“Logically he would slow us down, sorry ‘D.” Russel gave the singer an apologetic look. “We could cover more ground if you stay put.”

“Please don’t leave me here alone.” Sheer panic emanated from the taller man.

“We’re not.” Murdoc placated calmly, he glanced at Russel sternly. “We’re not.”

“Fine. Whatever man, lets just get outta here before it’s dark.”

Russel left the room throwing his hands up. He worked at packing supplies and other necessary items.

Murdoc slipped into the washroom and sat himself on the edge of the tub. 2D eyed the older man anxiously, his hands were tight on the porcelain. The singer was normally pale with his usual healthy flush. At this given time the man looked sickly with a pallor to envy Snow White.

“We’re gonna figure this out, Sunshine.” Murdoc knew how ridiculous bringing Stuart was with the other’s condition. Some twisted little piece of him couldn’t leave 2D out of his sight, needed him constantly next to him.

———

With the singer out of commission, Murdoc put together a light bag for 2D to wear. He re-did the bandages for 2D and when it came time to leave he stretched his limbs and back in preparation to piggy-back the tall man.

“Y’sure about this Muds?”

“I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t.”

Russel stood at the master bedroom door, impatiently awaiting them.

“What about your back?”

It was an innocent question, 2D was honestly concerned for his well being. Maybe it was lack of sleep or alcohol, probably both, but he felt his hackles rise and tried to bite off his retort to no avail.

“Fuck off, I can manage carrying your scrawny ass around. You weigh what? Eighty pounds wet?”

2D mumbled an apology.

“Lets just get out of here, c’mon,” Murdoc huffed while pivoting to drop one knee to the ground while holding his arms behind himself.

2D hesitated, his face flushing some in embarrassment. This wasn’t the sort of help he expected from the older man.

“Just fucking hurry up 2D before I change my mind.”

Placing all his weight on his good leg he struggled a moment to balance himself. Sliding his arms around the other’s shoulders he grimaced when he couldn’t feel much of his leg from the knee down and thus couldn’t properly bend down. Thankfully he hardly had to think about it when two hands reached around and cupped his thighs. 2D yelped when Murdoc got up and bounced him partly to adjust the new weight. He unintentionally gripped at the muscles flexing under Murdoc’s shirt.

“You feeling me up?”

“No! I don’t wanna be dropped.” 2D hid his face into the somewhat fresh shirt Murdoc was wearing.

“Not going to drop you, relax.”

Russel snorted. “Almost wish I had a camera.”

“Bugger off Russ.”

Murdoc carried the singer behind Russel. Heading down the stairs from the apartments was a test of his muscles. Gritting his teeth he let his mind focus on the discomfort carting Stuart around brought, it distracted enough from his sobriety for now.

They had to stop every so often to allow Murdoc a chance to readjust the singer. At one point he hooked his arms under 2D’s legs, locking his hands together so he didn’t have to shift constantly. Travel was stunted and by the time they reached a proper corner shop for a map book it was midday, granted it took a while to find said location.

Peering around outside the store, Murdoc spotted a bench where he quickly deposited 2D. He near collapsed beside the singer once free of the weight, wiping his brow and face inconspicuously. Russel searched within the map books for a simple one while they relaxed. 2D massaged his legs, frowning at lack of feeling in the bad one.

“I really need a drink right now.”

“Could have a smoke?”

“Yeah, pass us one.”

2D snickered and grabbed the forgotten smoke tucked behind Murdoc’s ear holding it for him.

“Ah, right, thanks.”

Lighting up with the borrowed lighter, Murdoc took a quick drag before holding it out to the singer. 2D took it gently, copying Murdoc.

“Looks like there’s a hospital a couple blocks over. Think you can manage that much walking?”

“Course.”

An obvious lie that both 2D and Russel ignored.

“After we should try and head to the airport.”

2D looked over his shoulder at Russel. “Why there?”

“There’s a few fliers on the window over here, says there’s a military encampment for survivors.”

Murdoc nearly gave himself whiplash.

“how far is that?”

“A fair distance Muds, I don’t think you can carry ‘D that far.”

“How far?”

“On foot, probably two days travel if we were all capable. Four since 2D can’t walk. That’s just a guess.”

“Maybe Noodle is there.”

“She probably is, I hope so anyways.” Russel lowered the map book he held.

“We should just take a car.” Murdoc nodded to one of the abandoned vehicles.

Russel and 2D looked at the vehicles still operational around them on the streets. Although aware he had suggested it first, Russel let it slide not wanting a disagreement with Murdoc.

“The roads are congested, but we could try.”

Murdoc hopped off the bench, marching towards a vehicle, energy renewed at the prospect of driving. He jiggled a handle, pleased it was unlocked. Getting into the driver side of the vehicle he pried cords out, fiddling. He laid out against the rubber mat while he worked.

2D puffed away on the smoke, massaging his thighs continually with his free hand. Russel sat next to the singer. Both of them observed the bassist.

A few choice words came from Murdoc then the car rumbled to life.

“I’m a genius.”

The satanist stood patting the car, “not anything like Stylo, but it’ll do.”

At the brief mention of the dreaded black vehicle, 2D tensed. terrible memories flitting in and out. Russel seemed unaware and Murdoc hadn’t noticed the change.

“Damn, any other hidden talents?”

“Too many to share. Lets get rolling boys.” Murdoc dragged the R out on rolling as he made a sweeping motion with his arm. “I wanna get this shit on the road. The quicker we fix up and find Noodle the faster we can be outta here.”

Assisting the mute singer into the backseat of the vehicle, Russel smiled gently, patting Stuart on the shoulder. Map book and pack in hand he moved around and got comfortable in the passenger seat, nestling his shotgun by his feet with the supplies.

Murdoc slid into the driver side, door closing abruptly enough to bring 2D out of his mind. With a ton of automobiles surrounding the streets and sidewalks it took every ounce of Murdoc’s concentration to weave through the tight path. Persevering, Murdoc swung the dinky four door Toyota through obstacles like a professional, maybe dinging the sides once or twice. Russel directed the older man, occasionally pointing a direction and reiterating verbally.

The dull ache in his muscles from carrying the lanky man kept him at attention. With forced detoxing clawing away shreds of his mental capacity, he depended on outside pain to keep aware. He hoped, fleetingly, that Russel and 2D were sufficiently preoccupied with finding Noodle to notice his continued agony. He held the steering wheel firmly, it helped cover his trembling.

“It’s raining.” Russel peered forward.

“Astute observation Russ.” Murdoc gave Russel’s dark look a smug grin.

A zombie slammed into the side of the car making 2D shriek. Both front seat occupants were jarred from their small banter when another walking corpse flung across the hood, rain water distorting its already horrifying features.

“What the hell?”

“Where did they come from? I didn’t see any before this!”

Russel yanked up his shotgun prepared to lay down fire if they broke through the windshield. Faintly through the near torrential downpour they could make out zombies amassing among the wreckage of cars and from smashed out stores.

“Muds go faster, there’s a lot of zombies.”

2D’s panicked voice came out shrill and distracting.

“I’m trying my best here.” Murdoc swerved the Toyota in an attempt to dislodge their extra passenger. “These fuckers are clingy. How far is the hospital?”

Russel pointed to a blurry H sign. “Left here, hospital is up the road.”

Obliging, Murdoc whipped the car to the left, finally forcing the zombie off the hood only to stop at how blocked the road was. There were abandoned police vehicles creating a road block at the base of a small hill leading to the hospital. Squinting through rain, Murdoc could barely make out the medical facility.

2D whimpered from the back, sinking in his seat when more zombies began approaching through the haze of rain.

“We could make a break for it.” Russel looked at the bassist, a small amount of panic written on his features. “They’re slow, real slow.”

“Stuart can’t walk.” Murdoc glanced through the mirror at 2D. “Fuck, the sidewalk is blocked too. Shit.”

“Man we need to make a choice.”

Murdoc shoved his seat back, bumping the singer’s leg accidentally. “We run. Cover me, I have to get Stu out of the back.”

Russel nodded, his breath coming heavier. 2D shot terrified looks between both men.

Sharing one last look, Russel gave another nod as he shoved his door open and hopped out, shotgun at the ready. Disappearing from immediate sight, 2D jumped when the gun went off once, then twice. More shots started to ring out.

Murdoc yanked the back door open and urged the vocalist towards himself. “C’mere Stu, no time to waste.”

Scooting towards Murdoc he shakily grabbed for the man, getting to his able leg unsteadily. With fear coursing through their veins, 2D was momentarily thrown for a loop when Murdoc hefted him up into his arms. Had it not been such a dire situation he might find the stormy weather and being carried bridal style romantic.

“Lets go Russ.” Murdoc dug his fingers into 2D’s legs and ribs to keep him close.

Russel backed up towards the older man while pumping the shotgun again. “I got three shots left before I have to reload.”

Tucking himself tightly to the satanist, 2D watched the zombies behind them stumble towards them. Russel remained at the rear while Murdoc meandered through empty cars, leaning this way and that to avoid scuffing himself.

“It’s just up the hill.” Russel shouted over the rain. “Go straight there, I’ll catch up. I forgot our supplies.”

Somewhat speed walking between vehicles, Murdoc turned briefly to look down at the drummer firing on another undead that came close. He chewed at his lip, unsure he should power on without the percussionist. The rain drenched him and Stuart thoroughly, chilling them to the bone the longer Murdoc hesitated.. Without prompting Russel glanced over and waved his arm.

“Go!”

“You better not get fucking killed!”

As the satanist got further up from the other man 2D could make out less and less over Murdoc's shoulder, until all he could see were faint outlines of trucks and sedans. He could hear the occasional shot through heavy pattering.

When they finally made it under the cover of the Hospital entry where a red SUV was lodged, Murdoc gulped at air, setting 2D on his feet shakily. The singer held himself up on a beam, shivering from being drenched. Clutching to his knees, Murdoc hunched over breathing hard.

“Fuck.” He fretted. “Fuck, fuck. I should have grabbed the other shotgun and helped. Christ.”

“He’ll be okay.” 2D glanced out into the rain, voice weak. “Russel is smart.”

Both of them jolted when a corpse in the SUV groaned and flailed feebly, trying in vain to climb out but unable due to a seat belt strapping them in. Murdoc pushed his slicked hair away from his face while he caught his breath. They stood near the entrance, waiting for Russel to join them. A couple minutes ticked by where they grew increasingly anxious for the drummer. Then as the rain started to let up a bald head crested the hill near an ambulance.

Utter relief washed over them when Russel walked over, mainly soaked and sporting no injuries.

“Ey’, thanks for waiting.”

“Don’t ever do that again.” Murdoc scowled.

“What? Save your collective asses?”

“Thank you Russ.” 2D smiled sweetly, just thankful the man was okay.

“Welcome ‘D.”

“Lets be quick.” The bassist groused, avoiding and emotional outpouring. It swirled around in his gut, being both thankful and nauseous with no way of expressing it properly beyond grumbling.

Russel caught the meaning behind the attitude. He nodded towards the entry. Murdoc helped 2D hop into the hospital, Russel following behind them. A mangled hand swiped at them as they passed the SUV, but there was adequate space to avoid it. Even though they entered first, Murdoc and 2D quickly lagged behind and so stopped at the receptionist area. Going on ahead, Russel poked his head into empty rooms, searching for a medication section while also clearing the area of potential unfriendly guests.

Watching Russel make his way further, Murdoc paused with 2D in the waiting room beside the check in desk. 2D briefly noticed that the sopping wet clothing hardly bothered him.

“Guess he’s eager.”

“Don’t blame him.”

2D could feel the bassist shaking against him.

“Are you cold or something?”

“No. I’m soaked if anything.”

“You’re shaking like a leaf, what’s wrong?”

“Detox. Haven't been this sober in, well never.” The bassist joked sourly.

Murdoc brought 2D around to a plastic chair, dropping him into it a bit unceremoniously. 2D grunted at the impact against the chair.

“Try not making so much noise Dents, you might wake the dead.” Murdoc snorted softly.

2D scowled, “I didn’t drop myself into a chair Muds, could have been gentler.”

“I’ve been sticking up for your weak arse all day, carting you around like it’s 1997 all over. I even gave you a cuddle before this morning.”

He snapped abrasively while rummaging through drawers in the nearby desks. He winced under the sound of his rough voice, knowing damn well it wasn’t 2D’s fault, but still taking it out on him.

Glaring into space, 2D kept from retorting. Quite quickly he let the aggravated feelings slip away. Murdoc was trying and set backs were to be expected. No matter how much he wanted to yell, he knew a screaming match would do little to solve their problems. He rubbed his hands together, nearly wringing them. Expressing himself with Murdoc was arduous, but he could pull through. This morning had been nice and he honestly missed experiencing early morning snuggling. Memories of years upon years of torment constantly ruined any progress he made towards fixing their relationship. He craved something normal, some semblance of average or pleasant. He wanted the satanist to understand why he was upset, to own his mistakes and apologize once in a while.

“Why can’t you be nice to me? What have I done to receive flack from you? You’ve done pretty good and now you’re snapping at me for being concerned.”

Now behind the singer, looking through stuff, Murdoc halted.

“I never asked for this, being constantly shit on for nothing. I realize that not everything will be okay immediately, but what did I do now to have you be mad?” 2D smoothed his hands over the wet jeans he wore, adding more softly. “I hate fighting. I hate feeling insignificant.”

Murdoc glanced over through the clear partition at the wet mop of blue hair seated a few paces from the desk. He guiltily cast his eyes downward fighting to find his voice.

“There are nice things.” He should stop now. “I made you famous. You’ve gotten to sing and I'm not always at you.” He squeezed his fist tightly and pressed it to his mouth mentally preparing for a blow out.

“Ta’ for that, I’m famous.” 2D's voice ran dry with heavy sarcasm. “All of it was worth the beatings, the verbal abuse and even Plastic Beach so long as I was famous.”

2D felt confidence swell as he pressed on, voice strong.

“You know I suffer from constant sometimes debilitating migraines, nightmares and panic attacks. ‘Course you know that.” 2D gesticulated with his hands while keeping his back to Murdoc. “But yeah I'm famous, so there’s that? And hey, the world is over so I guess my fame did shit all for me.”

Admittedly his sourness over the past had faded with time and maybe he was hyper focused on one thing. He felt it necessary to get his bad emotions out. The only remaining issue he truly struggled against was Plastic Beach. However hard he fought those particular memories they were the worst. Part of him wanted to hurt Murdoc, even an iota of the pain the bassist put him through. He had in the past, but it was fleeting and far between. Speaking with a specialist only got him so far and honestly he wanted to stop dragging the baggage around. He couldn’t use music to convey his thoughts, not this time; no matter how easy it was to write out, it never brought across the full impact of what he meant.

“Not sure why I keep trying, it’s stupid. Keep thinking I can change you or something.”

Relaxing, Murdoc stared to the ceiling before he felt calm enough to speak. Guilt reigned in his anger, he was supposed to be working on that.

“You’re not stupid.” Murdoc moved around and sat beside 2D. “Sure your brains are scrambled and you forget shit, but you’re not stupid. Brilliant singer.”

“That’s all I am though? A good voice, occasionally a good punching bag.”

“Why can’t we do this when I’m piss drunk?”

“Because you have to own up to your mistakes at some point.” 2D leaned back in the chair.

“I’ve never been a good man.”

“I just want you to love me like I love you. Isn’t that easy enough? I’m not asking for much Murdoc.” 2D stared resolutely at his own lap. “I don’t understand why you make things so complicated… I’ve always admired you and all you’ve ever done is belittle me.”

The whole world stood still and Murdoc felt all the air rush out of him at the confession. He was use to lyrics expressing everything, and sure it was selfish to make Stuart sing his love confessions when the singer was too hopped up on pills to understand. Right now was too much, this frank discussion left bare too much and he wasn’t ready.

A small voice asked him when he would be ready if ever? Now was no more appropriate than the day before or the time before that, but he knew something had to give. Here 2D was laying down the foundation for something better, something healthier. The fact that he was willing to give Murdoc a second, no probably a fifth chance after their history, should be proof enough that he wanted something for them.

“I— satan, words are hard for me. Emotions are fucking difficult.” Murdoc took a deep breath, finding soon after speaking he couldn’t utter anymore.

2D turned bodily in the chair and tilted his head to catch the mismatched ones.

“Twenty years Murdoc. We’ve been dancing around each other and playing this twisted game for twenty years. I’m done waiting for you to get your act together. Either you want to make things work, properly, or you don’t. Simple as that.”

He felt extra sweaty thinking about an intimate discussion into their relationship and the issues surrounding it. 2D watched him, silently urging him to continue with his dark eyes. Murdoc stared at the ground definitively trying to verbalize his feelings.

Coughing to clear the tightness in his throat, Murdoc momentarily glanced at the singer. “I’m shit at this.” Murdoc paused.

“Hard for you, I know.”

“I can’t undo everything or be some picturesque version you have of me knocking about in your head. I’m a monster.”

“You’re not a monster Muds. You just have bad habits.”

“Of course you’d say that, you seem to love broken shit.”

“Maybe I do.” 2D sat back sighing. “I love putting broken things back together and making them work again. Studying the little pieces, the components that make the whole and finding a way to set them together so the whole works. Maybe it’s not perfect but it’s something and that’s better than nothing.”

2D started to twiddle his fingers.

Wiping his palms on damp thighs, Murdoc watched his feet and ground again. "I was seeing someone before."

“A shrink?”

"Sure, whatever.” Murdoc grunted. "Point is I was trying to clean up my act."

"That's good Muds, nothing wrong with getting help or talking."

"I know that.” The satanist snapped, voice sharp. 2D flinched, instantly making Murdoc feel guilty all over. “Sorry. I’m sorry.”

Huffing more to himself, Murdoc reigned his breathing in and focused on remaining calm. He reminded himself that lashing out wasn't helping anyone, he had no reason to given it was just him and 2D. The man wasn't mocking him.

“This would be easier drunk, fuck.”

“It wouldn’t mean much to me if you were.”

“Fair point.” Murdoc tapped his foot anxiously. “I want you. I always do, it’s distracting and frustrating how much I think about your stupid hair or the stupid smiles you make when you’re playing around with your keyboards.”

Before 2D could interject Murdoc continued, barrelling forward so he didn’t stop and realize he was rambling.

“I care about you of course, it’s terrifying how much. Being a better person than I am, we wouldn’t be discussing this shit. And honestly I want all that sappy shit you prattle about. Waking up together, the cuddling, all of it. I’m scared of wanting that because I don’t deserve it. I just don’t.”

2D forced the bassist to look at him by grabbing at the man’s palm.

“Start with a proper apology Murdoc, own up to your mistakes and work from there.” He smiled softly. “The best things about us are when we get along. That’s all I want, all the time.”

Genuine adoration reflected in the singer’s dark eyes. Murdoc swallowed his pride and came in close to give 2D a kiss. Black eyes widened in surprise.

Pulling back Murdoc shifted his hand over the vocalist’s. “I’m sorry Stuart. I’ll keep saying it till you believe me.”

Heart beating rapidly, 2D stared back at the older man partially alarmed. The gently spoken words were followed up by another kiss, it was short and sweet. He blinked when Murdoc brought his cold hand up and laid multiple pecks on the top side.

His voice sounded far off, disbelieving. “Maybe once more?”

“You are really pushing your luck right now.” Murdoc gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry.”

“I like hearing it.” 2D leaned over the arm rest between them. “Again.”

Rolling his eyes, Murdoc moved back and crossed his arms over his chest, uncomfortable. He let the singer’s hand go. 2D saw the stiffness in the older man's posture and wondered if he should lay off.

“I’m sorry.” Murdoc murmured.

What little barriers he built up for dealing with a volatile bassist crumbled away at the continued proof Murdoc was willing to try; for them.

“Thank you.”

2D felt their heart to heart taper off with a grunt from Murdoc. Sliding his hands back to his own lap, the singer glanced over at the noise of Russel returning. Both of them watched the drummer step into the small space beside reception.

“Yo, I found a medication storage, what are you two doing sitting around? I gotta do everything here?”

Murdoc pushed up from the chair. “Yeah, yeah.”

2D grabbed the satanist’s wrist, tugging harder than he meant which caused Murdoc to jerk back a bit.

“What in the blazes 2D?”

“Sorry.” 2D loosened his hold. "And thank you so much for say—”

“For fuck sake.” Murdoc yanked his arm away. "Don't get all soppy on me."

Not waiting, Murdoc walked away, leaving Russel and 2D behind. The drummer glanced down at 2D.

“Sorry man, didn’t mean to interrupt whatever that was.”

“It’s okay Russ. I can stay here till you two are done.” 2D realized saying that was pointless seeing as he couldn't walk.

Hesitating a moment, Russel squeezed 2D’s shoulder in a show of comfort. Soon enough 2D was sitting alone in the waiting room, unable to see further than the reception desk and some seats, 2D traced patterns bored. He picked at his nails a moment later, contemplating things.

He often wondered what a relationship with the bassist would have been like had the man been any semblance of pleasant or normal. He just wanted the jumble of emotions to straighten themselves, he hated being perplexed by complex feelings. Gave him a headaches, though currently he didn't have one which was a miracle in itself. He was unsure if he should fully forgive Murdoc or let their thing work itself out slowly, the man seemed willing to improve.

Quite abruptly something clattered to the floor on the opposite side of the half wall divider. 2D sat ramrod straight looking about for the disruption and who caused it. Nobody was around, but the singer was on edge.

“Guys?”

Soft clicking was heard as something rounded the corner of the counter. 2D peered, wide eyed at the soaked dog standing by the entry of the seating area. The singer wheezed nervously at the sight.

“Nice doggy.” 2D whimpered, he could see patches of fur missing and bloodied spots.

The dog bared it’s teeth, growling. 2D breathed faster seeing the blood and flesh stuck between the stained teeth. The dog was infected. The vocalist wondered where the animal had wandered in from.

“Oh shit.” 2D panted out, voice quivering.

Attempting to keep his movement subtle, he slowly nudged one of the other chairs in front of himself. The dog growled again, stepping closer. 2D kept his eye on the dog and in the seconds before it pounced he jerked the other chair in the way, yelping when the force ended up knocking him over.

With a plastic chair pressed to his chest he screamed when a bloodied maw chomped at him. The dog was half impaled on a thin metal leg, bleeding all over his thighs while trying to eat him. He shoved up against the chair to keep the dog away.

Murdoc and Russel gave each other uneasy looks while browsing the medicine stock.

“That can’t be good.”

Bolting back to the waiting room, Murdoc reached 2D first. He happened upon a deranged mutt growling and nipping at 2D, trapped on a plastic chair. The singer fought against the animal desperately, not able to shove the chair and dog away completely. Murdoc cast all reason aside and jumped in, kicking the animal and chair off the singer. 2D used his arms to slide away, tucking up under the desk.

Cursing himself for not grabbing the second shotgun when he had a chance, Murdoc backed up from the struggling dog. Said canine was viciously fighting against its trapped limb to try and get at them. Russel slid into the section, nearly toppling when his foot slipped. He paused before silently deciding to shoot the animal.

For a moment Murdoc stood there, wondering if things had been different that 2D could have died. It put things into perspective.

“That noise will attract others, lets do this quick.”

“Yeah.” Murdoc started, trying to regain his senses.

“Get the medication Murdoc. We’re getting the hell outta here.”

2D crawled out from under the desk, quaking. Russel came over and got the singer to his feet.

“C’mon man! Get the medications, we don’t need to waste more time here.”

Murdoc nodded and quickly vacated the area. 2D covered his face, trembling violently his heart hammered in his chest. Russel got the singer seated.

“Alright ‘D deep breaths, through your nose and out your mouth.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so useless.” 2D warbled miserably.

“Well you managed to avoid getting bit so you can’t be that useless,” Russel teased while rubbing the singer’s back.

2D hiccuped while crying into his hands, mortified to be reduced to a blubbering mess yet again. Russel continued to sooth him, even when the bassist returned with a bag of medications. Murdoc shifted his weight back and forth on his feet. Awkward that the singer was bawling his eyes out; more awkward that he wanted to sooth the man with hugs and kisses.

“Got the antibiotics, lets go.”

“Gonna need another car.” Russel kept rubbing 2D’s back.

“I’ll get a car.”

“We better go together Muds.” The drummer aided the singer with hobbling. “Lets get going.”

Composing himself, Murdoc grabbed the bag of medication and lead them back out. They hastily made for a two door truck, not picky about their vehicle choice.

Murdoc worked his magic as fast as possible, mumbling a swear here or there when he shocked himself. When the truck sputtered to life they wasted no time entering the vehicle.

Practically crawling into the back seat, what with limited space, 2D sniffled to himself still visibly shaken with the incident. Stopping from sitting at the wheel, Murdoc sighed and slipped into the back seat with the singer. Russel made no complaint and took the driver side, wasting no time getting them moving.

Despite the clinging wetness of their clothing, the satanist pulled 2D over into his side.

“You’re alright.”

2D nodded and sniveled some more. Murdoc rolled his eyes while resting back against the fabric seating. He tugged 2D in closer, arm securely around the taller man.

“You’re alive Stuart, no need for crying.”

Russel looked at them in the mirror. If he was honest, he couldn’t understand how an apocalypse was pushing them closer together. Their dynamic confused him and while he got the strange co-dependence they shared, he wondered how healthy it was. Part of him wished all of this was a horrible nightmare. He considered the two men chatting covertly and figured if they weren’t fighting then it couldn’t be all that bad.

“Hope Noodle is safe.” Russel murmured as he ran a hand over his face tiredly.

He needed her to be safe, otherwise he might not stay sane with just Murdoc and 2D as company.

Chapter Text

Driving became a nightmare with night creeping closer. The further they got towards the airport the tougher it was to navigate the roads, especially with the headlights flickering. Finally Russel pulled over. He watched the fresh wave of rain continue on as if the world hadn’t ended a couple days back. The drummer gave both back seat occupants a check to make sure they were still alive. He sort of grinned upon seeing them dozing against each other. Whatever pain medication Murdoc nabbed, along with antibiotics, was working wonders on both of them.

Visibility had dwindled with rain at night. He sighed when the truck sputtered. He had no idea where they could go, it was nearly pitch black out.

“Hey, Murdoc.” Russel reached around and nudged the older man in the knee.

“Hm?”

“We have to crash somewhere for the night, truck is hitting empty and it’s dark. I have no clue where we sleep tonight. It can’t be in here.”

“There’s a few shops here with gating on the windows, could always stay in one of them.”

“I suppose that would work. Not very comfortable.”

Murdoc shrugged, yawning. “May have places upstairs or something.”

Russel tapped his fingers on the steering wheel to some unknown beat. The rain hitting the car was mesmerizing. He let his mind wander not hearing the bassist talking to him at first.

“What about that shop? It’s got gating.”

“Hm? What?”

“Here I’m the one high and you can’t be bothered to focus. The store next to us has gates. Lets hole up there for the night.”

“Yeah alright.”

They sat in silence for a moment, rain hitting the metal of the truck continuously. 2D slept on, head comfortably nestled into Murdoc’s shoulder.

“What’d you take?” Russel glanced over his shoulder. “I might want something to sleep tonight.”

“Oxycontin. Fantastic stuff really.” Murdoc pushed Stuart’s head up lightly.

“Really? Isn’t that a bit strong?”

“It helps with the aches since I can’t seem to find a lick of alcohol anywhere. It’s the fucking apocalypse and there’s no booze. How does that even work?”

Russel sighed moving his hands in a placating manner. Murdoc reached around and tried to open the passenger door, fiddling with the handle.

“Fucking door is jammed. Why are all the doors in my life jammed?”

“It’s locked man.”

The satanist squinted and unlocked the door. Climbing out of the vehicle and instantly getting soaked, Murdoc reached in for the tired singer. He grabbed at 2D’s arm, urging him to move out of the car. Russel stood next to the driver door, basking in the rain for a moment.

At this point 2D was heavily doped up, draped over the satanist as the man tugged his limp body along. The singer couldn’t move his left leg at all and it dragged while his right leg half attempted to function. Murdoc was reminded of nineteen ninety-seven all over again and tried to keep the lanky body from slipping completely. Russel took up the rear, keeping an eye through the thick rain for any unwanted visitors. Not that he could see further than a foot. Struggling to get into the darkened shop, Murdoc awkwardly pressed the door open with his side. Once inside Russel locked the door, hoping the glass would do for the night. The musty store appeared rather undisturbed.

Murdoc sighed when 2D’s head lolled forward and the man practically drooled.

“For fuck sake, you've had pain medication before.”

“What did you give him?”

“Same thing as me.”

“You didn’t.”

“I did. What does it matter? It’s keeping him happy. Sort of.”

“Murdoc you can’t give that shit to people with head injuries.”

“He’s had it before.”

“He got off it ten years ago.”

“What? No he hasn’t, I’ve seen his bottles.”

Russel took 2D off of Murdoc and got the poor singer seated in a semi-comfortable spot on the floor. 2D smiled faintly when Russel crouched in front of him.

“‘D how are you feeling?”

“Goood.” The singer drew his word out, drooling unintentionally.

Russel shook his head as he carefully cleaned 2D's mouth with his sleeve, moderately grossed out.

“See, he’s fine.”

Russel scrubbed a hand over his face, feeling the stubble growing in since last he shaved. The store they were in looked like a comic book store so he wouldn’t be lucky to find more supplies. Setting the supply bag on the floor near 2D he looked through it for water and food. They were getting rather low already. Russel tried to ignore his growing stress.

“Oh shit!”

“What?” Russel looked up alarmed. He glanced to Murdoc who had moved behind the counter.

“A good ol’ bottle of rum.” Grinning widely, Murdoc shook the bottle and held it up for Russel to see.

“You can’t drink that man.”

“Why the fuck not? I’ve been dying for a sip.”

“You took some hard painkillers. That shit doesn’t mix.”

Murdoc looked at the bottle unperturbed.

“I’ve done worse.” Murdoc twisted the lid off only to have Russel yank it out of his hand. “Hey!”

“I am not dealing with you drunk and sick. You’ve been doing pretty good without so far.”

The satanist gestured, a vulnerable expression on his face while eyeing the bottle desperately. His mouth felt dry. Russel sneered and turned the bottle over, dumping it’s contents. Murdoc slammed his fist down on the counter separating them.

“For fuck sake! Just one drink wouldn’t have killed me.”

“Spoken like an alcoholic.”

Murdoc kicked the chair near him, knocking it over. "I am an alcoholic!”

“If you keep it up you’ll alert the whole god damn neighborhood.”

Murdoc swore and clenched and relaxed his fists. He gave in finally and shoved a cash register off the counter in a fit of pique. Russel hissed.

“Murdoc!”

2D stayed put listening but not putting together what was going on. The satanist threw his arms up and kicked a few things in a rage while Russel put the empty bottle on a shelf. He approached the bassist and grabbed Murdoc, halting him from flailing like a child having a tantrum.

“Enough! We are trying to survive for fuck sake. I don’t know about you, but I want to live.”

“What’s with those noises?” 2D cocked his head which nearly had him flopping over.

Murdoc snapped his head to the blue hair over the counter. Shame rushed over him at his ridiculous behavior. Russel let Murdoc go when he saw the man come down.

“Fuck.” The satanist rubbed his face, exhausted and embarrassed. Being sober had it’s merits, but it also made him feel like an ass.

“You good?”

“Yes.”

The satanist glared heatedly at the drummer standing nearby. He hated how easily his temper flared. His shoulder and arm gave a twinge of pain so he massaged the ache away. A violent urge to vomit overwhelmed him suddenly and with no warning the bassist leaned over and puked. Coughing up what little he had consumed his mind started to race. He felt overly warm.

How long has it been? Am I already getting a fever?

“Is this part of your detox?” Russel stepped back, nose wrinkling in disgust.

“No.” Murdoc wiped his forehead, suddenly less enraged and more scared. “I might be sick too.”

“Like 2D?”

“Yes.”

“Great. Now I have to drag two of you around.”

“At least I can still walk.” Murdoc coughed again, dry heaving.

Russel propped the singer against a shelf. “I’m gonna set up a sleeping area. We’re gonna get out of here tomorrow the instant we can.”

———

There was a soft hum of some machinery, a generator. Murdoc wondered what it was powering, the machine sounded close to finished. Staring to the ceiling, the satanist glanced to Stuart sleeping beside him. Their sleeping arrangements were becoming routine by now. The drugs seemed to help the singer sleep through the discomfort his leg had to be causing.

Russel slept opposite to them seemingly dead to the world and its chaos. Murdoc turned his head to the left to watch 2D’s shoulder shift with his breathing. A small battery powered lamp sat in the far corner of the room giving enough light if they had to leave in the night. Using an arm he lifted his hand to gently nudge 2D’s shoulder.

2D took his sweet time to turn over onto his right side, facing the satanist. He looked rather sleepy.

“What’s up Muds?” 2D kept his voice down.

“Can’t sleep.”

2D yawned and Murdoc sort of smiled.

“What?” the singer blinked tiredly.

Brushing over the question, Murdoc sat up and nodded for 2D to get up as well. The singer frowned in confusion but pushed himself up.

“How’s your leg?”

“Numb.”

“You willing to come with me?”

“Depends, where are you planning on taking me?”

He brought his hand up, brushing the singer’s cheek. “Somewhere private.”

“I guess so.”

“Don’t sound too excited,” Murdoc rolled his eyes while getting up.

2D took the offered hand and carefully stood. He wobbled and leaned into Murdoc while hopping out of the room they were set up in.

“Make a great pair we do.” The singer rubbed his own nose when he spoke.

Murdoc nodded. "It would seem so."

“Sorry for getting you sick too.” 2D peered at Murdoc in the fading light.

“I’m sorry too.”

“What for?”

2D narrowed his eyes, waiting for some nasty comment. Murdoc remained quiet while taking 2D into a separate room.

“I bet this sofa pops out into a fold out bed.”

“Oh?” 2D strained to make out said couch. He sat where Murdoc left him, sure they were in the staff room of the comic store.

Murdoc rubbed his knuckles along the singer’s cheek once more. “I figure this is better than a kip on the floor.”

2D shuddered at the feel of the other's hand a second time. He told himself not to fall for every small gesture. There was a bigger picture.

After taking extra medication, the lack of alcohol was the least of Murdoc’s worries for tonight. He kept thinking about that instant with the dog or the rainy horde and how a split second longer they could have been dead. He moved towards the couch and fiddled around in the darkness until he chuckled.

“What?”

“I was right.” He unfolded the hidden bed.

2D hummed in answer.

The satanist brought the lanky vocalist to the pull out bed, flopping with 2D which made them bounce partly. He laid with the other on the lumpy mattress quiet for a moment.

“What were you sorry for?”

“For being a prick.”

Eyes softening, 2D smiled.

“You really meant it then?” 2D whispered teasingly. “Saying it till I believe you?”

“You deserve someone nicer.”

“I think.” 2D started, joking tone dissipating. “You deserve to be happy. With me.”

Murdoc half snickered, half huffed. “Such an optimist.”

Part of him realized that somewhere during this apocalypse things had become mildly easier to speak about. He attested that to the fact nobody was around to complain plus some pressure to keep their relationship steady. He wondered when it became considerably less difficult to appreciate 2D and his innate ability to convince him to do just about anything. He analyzed the past couple years to pinpoint when, but found he was just a schmuck for the vocalist and it probably started early on. He was slow to notice.

“I look at the positive side of things. I really appreciate this by the way. I appreciate you.”

“Good. Glad to hear it.”

"You need someone there to support you.” 2D hesitated. “I’m still willing to try.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes, but you need to put a bit more effort in.”

"Fresh start then?" Murdoc blanched when 2D smacked his chest rather hard. "I can't undo the shit I've done 'D, it's done. I can keep saying sorry but—“

"Don't pretend it didn't happen and be good to me. I’m not going to be hundred percent every waking moment so be patient, more patient with me, deal? I'll work on catching myself from pushing you.”

“If you wanna be with this fuck up, it’s a deal.”

“We’ll work at it as a team. I mean it Murdoc.”

“Fine.”

Come morning, 2D assumed the man would sink back into his usual argumentative self. He was beginning to enjoy their nightly encounters however fleeting they were, some deep topics were being hashed out. 2D found each time they talked his jumble of feelings started to settle more, so long as Murdoc didn't set them back. Shifting, the singer curled up into Murdoc. He was surprised the bassist didn't pull away or comment snidely. He caressed his hand along the man’s side and stomach, pleased by the small but important steps they were taking.

He took a moment to run his hand up over Murdoc’s sternum and chest, subtly feeling the firmness of muscle.

“Well now I know you’re feeling me up.”

Flushing horribly, 2D thanked the darkness for hiding his embarrassment. He went to pull his hand away but the older man stopped him. He buried his face to muffle his nervous laughter.

“Knew you had a thing for fit men.”

“Shush.”

Murdoc turned onto his side, snickering while casually putting an arm around the singer.

“Whatever happens, you know I.” 2D swallowed awkwardly. “I care about you.”

“Good save.” Murdoc mumbled.

“You know what I meant.”

They settled in the quietness of the room, relaxing to a degree. 2D dozed off shortly before Murdoc, barely catching the man whispering endearing words into his hair. He felt Murdoc press his mouth against his head, careful and with nearly no pressure. Keeping his eyes closed, his heart raced. For an instant it was like they were young and sharing in a private moment together after recording. The satanist use to sing disjointed lines of song when he thought the singer was asleep, his way of being tender 2D supposed. The vocalist smiled stupidly to himself, he shouldn’t be swayed so easily, but then he was a sucker for sweet talk..

Listening to 2D breath he mimicked the pace and before realizing it Russel was waking them both for a new day. The satanist blinked feeling strangely refreshed at having finally acquiring a decent amount of sleep.

2D whined, burrowing his face into Murdoc’s shoulder, obviously not wanting to greet the day. Russel sat, setting water bottles and granola bars down next to himself on the small table.

“Where did you get that?” Murdoc lifted his head only enough to look over at the drummer.

“Found a stash in here. We don’t have a lot left in the way of dry food.”

The satanist rested his head back. Russel cleared his throat.

“We need to get outta here so eat something and lets go.”

Murdoc heaved himself up dislodging 2D who grumbled at the satanist. Russel unscrewed a bottle before passing it to the older man, then when 2D finally sat up he passed another to the singer. 2D chugged the water while Murdoc stared at his bottle. At the insistent prompting from Russel via a firm look, Murdoc exhaled an expletive under his breath. He tried to copy the singer and gulped the water quick, it was tasteless and warm, but his throat appreciated the hydration. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was until now. 2D shook his head at the satanist when he went to lower the bottle.

“You have to finish that. Part of detoxing is keeping hydrated and well fed.”

“He’s right. Plus since your immune system is compromised it’s best you keep your strength up.”

Murdoc tossed the bottle behind himself after finishing it.

“There. Happy?”

Russel grabbed something, unwrapped it and shoved it at the satanist. Murdoc turned his nose up at the decidedly healthy looking nature bar.

“Don’t give me sass man, you threw up and it was all bile, so eat the damn bar or I’ll hold you down and make you.”

2D didn’t need help taking what was offered, grabbing a few bars to eat. The bassist snatched the bar biting a chunk off and chewing. He found the taste wasn’t awful, but he certainly wouldn’t have picked it willingly. The drummer sat back, pleased the older man had listened. Despite how frustrating both of them could be, they were sort of a strange family. 2D was an easier person to handle in Russel's opinion.

Their situation looked up when they found the weather had cleared. Sun shone down on the unfortunate state the surrounding city was in. Murdoc stood with the singer near the entrance of the shop his hand gripping the jeans at 2D’s waist. 2D brought a hand up shielding his eyes as he looked around. Not a single zombie could be seen, which was odd but completely useful given their state.

Russel motioned to a blue jeep parked along the road, driver side door ajar; a much nicer ride compared to the rickety pick up truck they had ridden there in.

“Maybe you can walk me through hot-wiring a car?”

“Best you let me and Stu handle that, you’re better with a gun.”

The drummer gave an appreciative smile at the compliment. 2D hung onto the bassist’s shoulders, hopping with his good leg as they made way to the jeep. Murdoc let the singer lean against the vehicle while he pushed the door open further, then nodded his head to the steering console.

“Get yourself down to fiddle with the wires.” Murdoc stepped back to let the singer through.

Russel stood guard a few paces away, his shotgun at the ready and the bag of ammunition and supplies hanging off his shoulders. With his own shotgun long ago misplaced in the beige car near the hospital, Murdoc was weaponless. The singer similarly forgot his bat; him and 2D would have to depend heavily on Russel from there till the airport.

Struggling down onto his back, 2D laid out on the mat. It was a little cramped with the steering wheel a mere foot or two from his face. Murdoc reached in and popped said wheel up further so it wasn’t as confining. He shot a quick smile at the older man.

“Underneath the steering column there’s wires and junk, you gotta pull them out carefully.”

2D nodded and turned his face towards the mess of coloured wires left exposed towards the back of the space. He started when Murdoc shifted to stand over his legs and lean down.

“Don’t get too excited.” The satanist leered. “Just making sure you don’t fuck up.”

“You’re practically on me.”

Ignoring 2D he got in relatively close, one arm holding himself against the driver seat so he didn’t topple. He was essentially caging the singer to the mat, granting almost no room to move.

Despite himself, 2D flustered while maintaining a professional face by bringing wires out to see properly. Russel peered over briefly then turned to face opposite once more. He had nothing to say. So long as their flirting didn’t stop them from getting out of here.

“Y’see the red wire there, almost twisted around the white one?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll need that one. Careful.” Murdoc watched the thin, dexterous digits work the wires free. He loved those hands.

“What now?”

“Uh— you… D’yeah remember after filming 19/2000?”

Face coloring, 2D smacked his lips loudly not entirely certain how to touch the subject.

“You wore that—”

“Yes okay, I remember.”

Some proverbial flood gate was released and Murdoc gave the singer a smug yet charming grin, all sharp teeth. The older man got in far too close for it to be considered anything but improper. He wasn't sure where the change came from.

“Murdoc.” 2D was abashed how fast his heart fluttered in excitement. He did absolutely nothing to halt the other. “We should try focusing.”

The low growl Murdoc emitted was positively predatory and in spite of his previous statement, 2D found his hands delving into mussed up black hair. Their lips crashed together fiercely, teeth clicking momentarily. With his good leg the vocalist wrapped it half ways round Murdoc, mind drawing a pleasant blank if for an instant. Nothing else mattered other than warm hands running along the underside of his thigh and up his shirt on his side. Soft gasps were swallowed in deep kisses and honestly why had he been so opposed to doing this? They practically melted against each other, a mess of eager hands and mouths.

The hand gripping his thigh slid down to squeeze his backside firmly, it caused his hips to jerk up. The friction was fantastic on his growing interest so he ground up against Murdoc making the other man groan into his mouth. They broke away briefly to catch their breaths, barely inches between them.

“I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

2D tugged Murdoc back in, kissing slower and with a sweeter edge. He worried the man’s bottom lip gently while keeping one hand tangled in dark hair. His other hand rested comfortably at the small of Murdoc’s back. The longer their kissing went the more 2D could feel Murdoc tremor against him. Concern flooded him and he parted to ask what was wrong only to have the satanist kiss him fervently, eager to smother him under a barrage equally ardent kisses that rapidly drifted down his jaw and along his neck. He could feel something wet on his throat that wasn’t a tongue. There wasn’t a chance to delve into why the bassist was crying because the man jerked at Russel smacking the jeep loudly.

"Break it up you two!”

Embarrassed at having smacked his head on the steering wheel, Murdoc rushed to disengage from 2D and stumble back. He hurriedly pivoted to hide his obvious bulge. 2D went beet red and bent his good leg to shield himself while fiddling. Russel motioned, exasperated with them.

“Not the best time for that, c’mon.”

“Fuck.” Murdoc wiped at his face somewhat red as well.

Caught in an awkward position, 2D hastily worked at the wires, smiling sheepishly at Russel when the jeep purred to life. Russel glowered, clearly displeased by their lapse in judgement.

“Just get in you two.”

———

With Russel driving, Murdoc took the time to catch some sleep against the passenger window. It was near impossible with the uneven texture of the road. He resolutely kept his eyes shut, too scared to face either 2D or drummer. He didn’t want to explain his earlier actions. Russel drove them through alleyways and back roads, mainly avoiding the ghostly traffic jam in the highways. The ride continued on in awkward silence which despite himself, Russel enjoyed.

Looming in the distance the international airport sat, pristine and clearly in good shape. Among the field and space left open around the place were a few downed planes and straggling zombies. Nearer to the end of the street, Russel contemplated taking them off road. He stopped near the edge. Murdoc roused from his light doze to look around. His head pounded painfully, which he accredited to sobriety or terrible sleep.

“Why’d we stop? We here already?”

2D leaned forward over the storage console between the front seats.

“Nearly. Looks like military whipped up a decently safe place. I can’t get further this way though so we’re going off road.”

“Are those zombies?” 2D piped up while pointing out towards the hordes surrounding the fencing in patches.

Russel nodded. “Guess they’re attracted to the survivors.”

To the side of them, Russel spotted a couple undead wandering close. They seemed uninterested in them. Cranking the wheel to the right, Russel pressed the gas after swapping the jeep into four by four mode.

“Lets see how well this baby handles.”

“Satan can we not, I’ve got a migraine.”

Russel ignored the satanist and took them off the road onto some grass. 2D hooted in the back, bouncing around thanks to the rough terrain. Murdoc scowled as he clung to the handle above the door. Driving towards the airport, Russel put his foot to the ground, laughing deeply. They needed a reprieve from the depressing situation.

Upon closer inspection the military blockade curling itself around the airport was massive and fortified. He stopped the jeep at the gated tunnel, noticing how flimsy this section was compared to the wall defenses. Rather quickly men and women in head to toe uniform opened the gates, spread out around them toting semi-automatic weapons and ushered them through the chain-link tunnel. Once safely tucked inside the same people stood at the ready, guns aimed directly at their vehicle.

“Very warm welcome indeed,” Murdoc muttered.

“Do you blame them?”

A loud speaker crackled to life with a voice holding a distinctly American accent. Definitely someone from New York.

“Step out of the vehicle slowly and keep your hands visible.”

Russel undid his belt. Murdoc looked at the bigger man, partly anxious.

“This looks a little wonky.”

“We can’t back out now Muds. Noodle has got to be here.”

Disallowing Murdoc a chance to refute the drummer climbed out of the jeep, hands lifted in sight for the military officials.

“There are two guys with me in the car, one of ‘em has a leg injury and can’t walk so I’m just gonna give him a hand.”

The military personnel edged closer to Russel and the jeep. The percussionist cautiously opened the back door and motioned 2D over. The singer took a shaky breath before climbing out, using Russel for support. Murdoc stayed seated in the passenger seat, he felt off about the whole set up.

“Come on Murdoc, get out of the car. These guys are serious about doing things a certain way.”

“Better not get shot.” Murdoc slipped out, hands raised.

Russel aided 2D as the three of them were herded towards a makeshift medical station. Guns were still trained on their backs even as they entered the small tent. A couple of doctors glanced over at their entrance.

“These three have to be tested.”

A female doctor waved them over while situating herself at a table with equipment. The set up was haphazard but it worked well enough for the situation. There were containers with vials, swabbing kits and small motorized generators powering electronics. Russel spotted a laptop wide open on a fold out table. He couldn’t read what it said in the print, but the title was bold: Vaccination. It stood out starkly and he considered it a second, wondering if they had cures here.

“I either need a swab or a pin prick of blood. We test the sample with this.” She held up a vial of clear fluid that came out of a pack of numerous vials. “If it goes pink you’re clean. If it goes black, well lets just say we wouldn’t need to put you out of your misery.”

She proceeded to gather up three swabbing kits, handing them off to each of them. When she turned away Russel and Murdoc exchanged a distressed look. The satanist looked from the corner of his eye, watching the military men and women hover. Without consulting his band-mates he turned to them.

“I forgot something of importance in the jeep, think I could grab it before the test. I promise it won’t take long.”

The two military persons closest to him momentarily lowered the weapons and nodded.

Russel took that moment to swap himself twice with his own kit and 2D’s kit before anyone noticed. 2D blinked, stunned both by the act to spare him and the confirmation that the drummer and bassist assumed him infected. He shouldn’t be surprised, the numbness in his leg was a sure sign something was wrong, whether from infection or something else.

“Here.” Russel handed the kits back to the doctor. She carefully tested both swabs getting two negatives which cleared them.

Seeing the pinkness in the fluid eased Russel and made 2D anxious.

During this moment the satanist returned with the military escorts to pass over his swab. The older man fiddled with the purple lighter, having used it as a distraction at the vehicle. When his results also came out pink he was momentarily confused.

“What the he— er… I mean of course I’m clean, why wouldn’t I be?” Murdoc coughed to clear his throat.

“You three are cleared, you can go inside. You might want to take your friend to get treated for his leg injury.”

Neither Russel or Murdoc wanted to hang around and get discovered so they were quick to agree with her. Lead further onto the airport property, the three where deposited by two officials near the main entry. The doors were opened and both personnel motioned them in. They briefly realized their supplies and weapon were confiscated and they were essentially back to square one.

“Go to the information center just up the stairs to get figured out.”

“Thanks.” Russel nodded to them and when they left the three of them relaxed.

“I suppose we should get situated.” Murdoc pulled 2D’s arm over his shoulders, alleviating Russel.

There were a few persons moving around in the building, nobody obviously marked as a regular survivor. It made them nervous not seeing others like them.

“I’m infected.”

“You’re not.”

“I have to be, you two went to great lengths just now to protect me. What other reason would there be other than being infected."

“Look ‘D, even if you are there has to be a cure or something to treat you. Especially in a place like this.”

Murdoc tugged the singer closer to himself.

“Besides, you haven’t gnawed on us so obviously it’s not infection. Probably a bit of blood poisoning.”

2D paled at the thought. The fever, vomiting and numbness could be explained away with a simple diagnosis of blood poisoning, maybe a common issue. The clawing hunger bubbling up within him for something other than normal food every so often, that couldn’t be pushed away with some simple medical prognosis.

“Muds.” 2D whispered brokenly, more to Murdoc than both of them. “Muds, I’m dying. I think I’m dying. I’m not well.”

“No you’re not. You’re gonna be fine Stuart.”

Everything is wrong. I’m wrong. 2D thought. He couldn’t even pretend this thing would be okay.

He felt faint and barely remembered being moved towards a temporary information booth with higher ranking officials. It all blurred and his surroundings changed to that of a triage unit. There were beds lining walls with narrow paths. Russel had vanished from his other side and he panicked, looking for the drummer.

“We’re gonna work this shit out.” Murdoc mumbled while flagging a doctor down only to have them hurry by commenting on the queue. Had his arms been free he probably would have grabbed the man and shook him violently.

Neither of them were prepared for the shriek of joy from none other than Noodle.

“2D! Murdoc!”

They both glanced around for the abrupt voice of the young guitarist. Noodle threw her arms up smiling widely as she nearly barrelled the men over, hugging both of them tightly. She was wearing a red-cross uniform over the clothing she’d been wearing the night they were separated, which meant she had been scooped up right away.

Unable to contain their elation at finally finding the elusive woman both men respectively hugged her.

“I am so glad to see you two!” Noodle smiled through teary eyes, overwhelmed with happiness.

“Hey no crying, we’re fine. Little worse for wear mind, but in one piece.”

“We looked all over for you Noodle. I’m happy you’re safe,” 2D spoke softly, eyes lit up.

“Wait, where’s Russel?”

“He’s waiting for us just outside.”

Noodle smiled wider. “I cannot believe you three managed to find me. I couldn’t leave after they brought me here. I thought the worst.”

Reality of his grave issue returned and 2D sighed, looking down towards his bad leg.

“I’m a bit not good.” 2D said.

“What do you mean? You have to be okay otherwise they would not allow you entry. Though you're in here so there is an injury?”

2D rubbed his face, avoiding Noodle’s searching eyes. Murdoc inhaled sharply. Noodle peered between them, fretting silently.

“He’s sporting a nasty gash on his leg.”

“Oh, well that’s nothing.”

2D frowned at the satanist. “I’m infected.”

“Shut your yap, we don’t know that.”

“Stop lying.”

Noodle drew back at their bickering. She scanned the room for an empty bed before deciding on a corner bed recently vacated.

“Lets get a private spot before we make any conclusions.” Gesturing to the bed, Noodle encouraged them forward.

Both men nodded. The guitarist gave one more scrutinizing look of the room, assured nobody had paid much mind to them before enclosing them with a curtain. Helping Murdoc, she got 2D comfortable before sliding a pair of latex gloves on. She had seen infected individuals brought in, but they never reached triage. She couldn’t let anyone find out about Stuart if he was sick. Using the general background noise and a lower pitch, Noodle explained the overall situation while grabbing items. She crouched near a wooden box attached to the bed and grabbed up some alcohol wipes and clean needles.

“I've been here close to the start. I was discovered wandering around only a couple hours after outbreak.” Noodle paused to have 2D point out his bad leg. Murdoc stood beside the bed, anxiously shifting his weight. “It’s a mess right now. Government has seemingly fallen or abandoned the people and military agencies have taken jurisdiction. Currently they have control over this facility and are working alongside a group of overzealous scientists and medical officials that survived.”

“Why am I not surprised? It figures military take over the instant any world altering scenario occurs.” Murdoc nudged 2D to move so he could be seated on the firm mattress alongside him.

“Lets have a look and see how bad it is.”

Noodle gently rolled the cuff of 2D’s jeans up. Murdoc chewed his thumb nail upon seeing the black veins had expanded beyond the bandage. They seemed thicker than before and he cursed himself for not doing better to monitor the gash. It could have been avoided had he or Russel properly flushed the injury right from the get go. Murdoc trailed his eyes to the guitarist, gauging her reaction. Judging from the wide eyes and agape mouth it was not a good sign.

“You said it wasn’t bad. You said it was fine.” 2D clutched the blanket under him.

“It wasn’t last I checked. I swear.”

He was digging a bigger hole for himself. Right now he didn’t want to fathom the gravity of 2D’s precarious state.

Noodle chewed her lip anxiously while undoing the bandage, peeling the material back only to halt when flesh came with it. The singer breathed heavier, he couldn’t feel it but seeing his own skin coming off was horrifying.

“Okay, 2D it looks bad. It really does. However I can work with this. We have antibiotics we can administer.”

“My leg is rotting!”

Noodle and Murdoc both shushed him rapidly. 2D held his face between pale hands as he whimpered.

“I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good.”

With clear uncertainty, Noodle grimaced while removing the bandage fully. Thick pieces of blackened skin came off. Using an arm she covered her mouth, fighting her gag reflex at the sight of pus and black muscle tissues. Murdoc abruptly covered 2D’s eyes and shot a grim look at Noodle.

She turned away choking a moment as bile rose in her throat.

“I can’t feel it anymore.” 2D’s voice shook. He cupped his hands over the one shielding his eyes. “I’m dying. I’m going to die.”

“No, no. It’s going to be fine Stu. Noodle’ll fix you up and you’ll be right as rain.” Murdoc wrapped his arm around the trembling vocalist. “Nothing a tetanus shot and some antibiotics can’t fix.”

“Okay.” Noodle swallowed loudly. “Yes, medication— just— uh, stay here and do not let anyone see.”

Near fleeing, the guitarist disappeared through curtains.

Sniffling aggressively, if only to stave off the inevitable crying, 2D gripped Murdoc’s palm in a vice. He was scared. Murdoc tucked 2D into his chest, his free arm and hand curling around his head as if to protect him from everything.

“Focus on breathing.”

Murdoc’s voice soothed over the pounding blood in his ears. He moved his hands to grasp feebly at the older man, clinging desperately. Muffled against the other, 2D bawled, breath coming unevenly.

Carding his fingers through the greasy blue locks and pressing his cheek to the somewhat matted hair, Murdoc felt a horrible ache overtaking his chest. He had no words for the devastated man in his arms so he silently cradled him.

Likewise, 2D couldn’t speak through his gross sobbing, snot clogged his nose and he was sure Murdoc’s shirt was soaked where his face was. His hands stretched the fabric as he held fast. Barely aware of Noodle’s return he kept himself firmly hidden. The bassist continued to stroke his hair.

“I have some things here to treat the site.”

“What sort of medications?”

“This is a heavy cocktail of antibiotics to boost his immune system. It may make him vomit, unfortunately, so I have an IV drip for fluids.”

“Is it going to work or what?” Murdoc examined the varies things Noodle had laid out on the rolling tray. “Don’t give him false hope if this shit won’t work.”

Noodle fumbled for a moment. She was having a difficult time seeing the vocalist like this. Thinking back to the strange room with the glowing, industrial fridges with weird little vials she contemplated mentioning them. There were suppose to be three types, differing in colour if she remembered correctly. Hesitating she fingered the needle, carefully measured antibiotics within it.

“I have heard whispers, doctors talking about an antiviral vaccination. They have been working on it for a while before this whole thing occurred.”

Curtains were parted and a blond man leaned in. Noodle jerked, ears burning while she intentionally blocked view of 2D’s leg.

“Dr. Nelson. What can I help you with?”

Murdoc watched their exchange.

“Hey, I’m down a nurse. Would you be able to assist me? After you wrap up of course. It’s no rush.”

“Give me a few minutes.” She said, adding a charming smile for good measure.

“Thanks, you’re a life saver Natalie. I’m in conference room A3. Come along when you finish.”

Dr. Nelson ducked out before hearing Noodle respond. Murdoc left unsaid how gross he thought the name, there were pressing matters at hand.

“So this vaccination, can you get some? Does it work?”

“I do not know how well the results are. That portion of the rumours are always absent, however I know where they hold them. I can get some later in the evening when the rush dies down. Bear with me until then.”

“Very reassuring.” Murdoc muttered.

“It is the best I can offer. 2D, I’m going to administer the antibiotics okay? Then I will set up your IV. After that I want you to rest.” She placed a gloved hand over the pale ankle.

Leaning from Murdoc’s cocoon of arms he rubbed his face. Eyes puffy and red he only offered a nod.

“Please look away.”

Obliging, 2D rested into Murdoc, exhaustion claiming his body as more tears decided to fall. He closed his eyes and tried to mentally wander from the situation. Murdoc avoided staring directly at Noodle’s hands. She cleaned the site thoroughly, detaching herself from who it was while she wiped away blood.

“How did this happen?”

“Got chased into the subway. The place was flooded and he gashed himself in the water.”

“Were there bodies?”

“Yeah. Fuck, this is my fault.”

“I hardly feel you could control this happening.”

Noodle finished cleaning the location, the wipe came away saturated black and brown. She grabbed the needle and deftly pressed it directly into the worst portion of the injury. Murdoc purposely turned his head.

“Are you or Russel injured?”

“Stu cut my arm.”

Upon looked to Murdoc, Noodle spotted the little crescent shaped cuts. Even from this distance she could tell they were fine. She chose to ask anyways to ascertain her visual diagnosis.

“And you are uninfected?”

“Yeah.”

“How did he cut you?” Noodle tossed the needle and wipes.

“What’d you mean? With his nails.”

“Well had you been bitten or scratched with more depth then you would be sick as well. Have you had any fever symptoms?”

“Not sure.”

“Murdoc,” Noodle sighed exasperated. “Have you or have you not?”

Worn out from terrible sleep and detoxification, Murdoc rolled his eyes.

“Not that I’m aware. I got sick and threw up but attested that to being fucking sober.”

She came over and pushed up the sleeve to eye the tiny cuts. Her deduction was sound, there were no black veins.

“I’m mildly surprised you have remained upright without alcohol.”

The older man looked cross at her statement. Noodle set up the saline bag on a rolling hook which worked through manual means instead of machinery. Prepping a needle she gently prodded 2D to pass his palm over.

“Toochi, please do not distress too much. I will get you the vaccination. You will walk away from this.”

Having not used the pet name since she was fifteen, Noodle wanted to come across more empathetic. She felt awful for the pianist and only hoped her misguided venture to snatch untested drugs wouldn’t fall short.

“Thanks love, I’ll try thinking positive.”

With quick fingers, Noodle did up fresh bandaging over his leg, deliberately covering all of the veins from sight. Noodle patted the singer’s good foot, squeezing affectionately when she finished.

“I will be back late tonight. Murdoc stay with him.”

“I plan too.”

“Don’t make this about you.” Noodle surveyed a couple frustrated expressions from the older man.

“I won’t.” His reply came out gruff.

2D laid as he was, eyes red. Desiring to stay and catch up, the guitarist knew she could offer no other solutions currently. Plus with Dr. Nelson expecting her she really didn’t want to draw attention to her makeshift family. One last resolute nod then she left in a flurry of curtains.

Murdoc marveled at his luck. It was wholly unfair. 2D wiped at his face tiredly, an occasional sniffle coming from him. Their roles should be reversed. Just when they finally found a compromise, a balance to their mending relationship. What would he do with himself if Stuart died?

“When it comes to that—”

“Don’t you dare.” Murdoc gnashed his teeth to stave off blowing up. An irrational feeling took hold. “Don’t you dare ask me that. You’re not fucking dying.”

“If I do—”

“No. Absolutely not.”

“Murdoc please, I want it to be you.”

“It won’t come to that. You’re gonna be fine.”

2D picked at the bedding, eyes transfixed on his own leg.

Murdoc examined the floor, his body was getting an eerie cold sweat and a horrible feeling of impending doom. It swarmed his chest making it harder and harder to breath normally.

Voice barely above a whisper, 2D took one of his clammy hands. “I love you.”

“Don’t do that.” The satanist stood. “Don’t do this to me. You aren’t going anywhere.”

“What should I say then? I want you knowing if things go South.” 2D didn’t look up.

“They won’t. Y’heard Noodle, they have a cure.”

Maybe he was on the verge of a major panic attack or clawing desperately to the tiny glimmer of hope, but he couldn’t admit there may be some truth to 2D’s comments. Should the singer die and become reanimated he wasn’t sure how he would handle it. He sure as hell couldn’t handle the thought of it.

“In the coming days I may not be Stuart anymore.”

In a fit of disparaging emotions Murdoc kicked an unassuming stool over. Jabbing a finger at the vocalist he fought against the burgeoning anxiety claiming his senses.

“Shut your fucking mouth.”

“But it’s not for sure Muds, I’m probably going to die.”

“You’re not!”

“I am.”

Helplessly pacing beside the bed, Murdoc dug two fingers into his pulse and struggled to breath through his nose and out his mouth. He hadn’t suffered a crippling anxiety attack in years, since Plastic Beach.

2D blinked, astonished. “I’m sorry, I hadn’t meant to set you off.”

Reaching out for the satanist 2D was momentarily stunned when said man whacked his hands away. Then as if ashamed of his actions, Murdoc fled from the section. Inadvertently barrelling past a couple volunteers creating a scene.

2D settled his hands back in his lap. After the disruption the room resumed the buzz of activity, aloof to the suffering vocalist. He sat alone, silent and waiting for his untimely demise.

Chapter Text

He ended outside the building, crouched behind a wall gasping for air while panic overtook him. Under normal circumstances he would hide in his room back on the beach, drink himself to a stupor and pretend it hadn’t happened. With no alcohol available he suffered through the attack without aid. It took a great deal of mental strength to remain still, to not scream in frustration and draw attention. And only when he felt himself did he venture from the spot in search of someone with cigarettes.

Running out on Stuart was not his best moment, but then he had many of those so what’s one more?

He thanked a military man for handing over a couple fags and even lighting one for him. The nicotine forced his nerves to settle some and he wandered the open region of the airport. His mind played over wildly different scenarios where everything ended happily. Tapping the cigarette to rid it of excess ash, Murdoc felt his mind slipping to darker thoughts. 2D might change, but he could always keep the singer, just find a gag for him. Like a sick version of a pet.

He shook his head, frowning towards the ground. That wasn’t appropriate. His body quaked off and on from his sobriety so he forced himself to still and failed. Maybe he could escape into the city with the singer, disappear and leave it at that. Live the last few days with the man in a fuzzy lie. They could set up home in some dead persons place, pretend to play house. Something miserable and desperate wanted to end it. He could get a gun and make a twisted suicide pact with 2D, a fucked up Romeo and Juliet death. Mashing the spent smoke under his boot he tucked his hands into the deep pockets on his jeans. He didn’t know how long he had stood around outside, but the sky seemed darker.

Pivoting he strode back towards the entrance of the airport. Right now he needed to save face and apologize yet again. Pushing the door open Murdoc avoided someone stepping out and headed towards triage. He hoped his absence went unnoticed by the guitarist over the past couple hours. Wandering through the medical room to the back area where the singer was situated, Murdoc hesitated outside the curtain. Taking a deep breath and slowly letting it go he pushed the sheet aside relieved to see 2D sleeping on the medical bed under a blanket. He seated himself on the edge of the bed alongside 2D.

“You feeling okay now?”

The satanist jerked when the singer cracked an eye open.

“I thought you were sleeping.”

“Can’t.”

Murdoc wasn’t surprised.

“Sorry for—”

“Forget it. I’m the one who should apologize.”

2D shifted himself bodily, patting the sliver of space. Murdoc acquiesced the offer, laying on his side with the singer, pressed awkwardly close. He had to allow a slim thigh between his just to avoid slipping off the edge. 2D grabbed the inverted cross, fiddling with it when they were comfortable.

“Think I could make a deal?” 2D winked playfully, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Doesn't work like that.”

2D pouted when Murdoc didn't go along. He lowered his hand to Murdoc's chest, petting along the thin material.

“Figured if I went out I would still be performing well into my fifties. Maybe even later. Or doing something boring.”

Murdoc watched the singer’s long fingers trace over his shirt.

“Not saying being in your fifties is old or anything.” 2D looked at the bassist.

“Watch it.”

“You hardly look much older than when we first met to be honest. A little more fit now.”

“My devilish good looks remained timeless have they?”

2D snorted. “Absolutely. I’ve always been a fan of Beatles knock-offs and serpentine tongues.”

“Never complained before.”

“No, I guess not.” The vocalist smoothed a hand up over Murdoc’s arm. He gave it a squeeze, admiring the thick muscle.

Mildly amused by Stuart’s excessive interest in his body he relaxed under the scrutiny and touches. It took a fair amount of work to reach a point where exercising was enjoyable rather than difficult. While the singer gave appreciative gropes to his arm he dragged his own palm over 2D’s thigh, dipping it back over the perk ass hidden in jeans to return a firm squeeze.

2D smiled unflinchingly at the satanist, clearly unperturbed by the hard grope Murdoc was giving him.

“Love you.”

“Don’t get on that again.”

“It took me a couple years after Gorillaz formed to understand what it was. I’ve always admired your irritatingly smooth charm and smug determination to get what you want. I even remember the first time I admitted it.”

“‘D can we not?” Murdoc loosened his hold, all too aware of what instance 2D was recalling.

The memory was piercingly clear in his minds eye and he both cherished and hated it. Turn out during that particular encounter was saccharine. 2D panted those words heatedly in his ear while they fooled around under the covers. He remembered them being startlingly sober and how unfortunately he returned to his usual self come morning. He had kicked the singer out. He’d been terrified of falling into vulnerability. The worst part was Stuart’s crushed face when he shouted at him. They would continue messing around for years off and on and every time Murdoc wondered what things would be like if he wasn’t a disaster.

2D’s eyes roved over Murdoc's features while his hand rested over where the other man's heart was. Murdoc maintained eye contact, quiet yet nervous.

“You were scared, I understand that.” He cupped Murdoc’s scratchy jaw. “Gonna miss this, our chats. Sort of got use to them. Almost like the world melts away.”

Taking a somewhat shaky breath, Murdoc brought a hand up to cover 2D’s, cradling it softly.

“Keep talking like that and I’ll start shit.” It was an empty threat.

2D watched their hands. The bassist brought the bony palm down to admire thin fingers. It saved the older man from having to keep their eyes locked.

“Never admit it often. I’ve always admired your hands.”

“My hands?” baffled, 2D looked at Murdoc.

“They’re big and slender. Delicate. Always putting stuff together or playing an instrument. My hands look shit compared to yours. Got scars all over and crooked fingers, just like me.” He rubbed over 2D’s palm. “S’why you’re the singer, much prettier. All slim and elegant looking.”

“Oh.”

Cheeks coloring at the admission, 2D eyed the satanist fondly.

“Everything ‘bout you is pretty. Love tall things, love blue and love you,” Murdoc said it in a rush, avoiding black eyes.

Sucking in air and struggling not to act too ridiculous over finally hearing it the singer swallowed audibly. His heart clenched as he realized everything was happening too fast. He didn’t want to die, he wanted to stay here in this moment forever. Relish in compliments and endearing niceties.

“You’re handsome.”

Murdoc snorted, he left unsaid how little he believed that. 2D kissed his forehead, his voice muted.

“I like the little things, those genuine smiles you give me and your laugh that sounds happy. I even like your gross tongue and rough hands.” 2D grinned. His voice went from teasing to soft. “Or the way your heart flutters when I rest my head on you.”

“Does not flutter. I’m not a bloody school girl with a crush.”

2D rested his head against Murdoc forehead. He gave the older an amused smirk which received a disgruntled look. Cheeks equally as flushed, Murdoc narrowed his eyes when 2D tilted his head to kiss his nose.

“Definitely does.” 2D could feel said heartbeat, how quickly it pounded under his hand.

Murdoc had miserably wasted twenty years not saying anything. Ultimately there was no guarantee the supposed vaccination would work. He slide an arm under 2D’s head and pillow allowing more room for the singer to curl up. They drifted into silence, in a relaxed position against one another until 2D fell asleep. Murdoc stayed with the singer, unsure when he closed his eyes too. Mentally and emotionally drained his dreams were of nothing. He was content to enjoy what time they may have left in amiable quiet.

———

“How bad then?”

“I would say rather bad. He has lost a decent amount of skin.” Noodle sipped from a moderately hot coffee.

Russel sat opposite her nursing his own hot beverage. He didn’t like being right, but he knew something was wrong when 2D couldn’t walk or even move the limb.

Noodle kept glancing to the military gentleman posed near the cafeteria seating. If she spoke quietly he probably wouldn’t hear her.

“What are his chances?”

“Currently not good. However.” Noodle again eyed the soldier. Russel gave her a raised brow at the action. “There are things occurring here that are of ill minds. We need to keep 2D’s condition secretive or risk him being removed from us.”

“When you say that I can’t help but wonder if you mean experimentation is going on.”

She took an unpleasant gulp of the bland coffee. Russel copied her if only to have something to do while he waited for her.

“Upon arriving they asked for volunteers to aid in medical concerns. Being as I had no way of leaving I took up a position.”

Russel nodded slowly. For a third time she peered at the camouflage wearing man, concern written on her face. Russel could see now she was anxious to talk on possibly sensitive subject matter, so much so even the average soldier gave her pause.

“They forced us to secrecy Russel. Asked we not speak to anyone of what nefarious things happened in back rooms. They drag infected individuals in, in any state and they disappear to a sanctioned off area.”

“Aight, keeping ‘D safe is top priority then.”

“I only catch rumors of what goes on. Dr. Nelson, the man you saw me with earlier, he is involved heavily with the experiments. I can only ascertain that they intend to create a cure for the virus, but from what I saw there are three types of anti-viral vaccinations in the works. It seems overkill when there are no mutations that I can guess.”

Noodle mentally ran through an imaginary set of vials, each a differing color and each a separate level of succession to its predecessor. Faintly she remembered browsing a few files on Dr. Nelson’s computer discussing the different reactions each had, but she had only read two excerpts before said man caught her. Thankfully the man had assumed she was waiting for him and let slide the fact she was hiding out in his office.

Russel ran a finger along the edge of the Styrofoam cup, contemplating what to ask. He could safely assume Murdoc was sitting in with the vocalist, they were practically attached at the hip.

“So there’s three types. Do you know off hand what they do? Are they all meant for curing this virus or no?”

“They are colored, I think, and I only know little. The red apparently induces increased rage within the infected person. They become more violent and stronger. The other one I read on was a green vaccination. It creates a bond between the body's white blood cells and the virus to have them work in tandem. So from that I can hazard a theory that it creates an internal immunity but the host becomes a carrier.”

Rubbing a hand over his face, Russel sighed. It was a lot of information to absorb after only supposedly finding safety.

“So they don’t cure it, they exacerbate the virus. What about the last one?”

Noodle shrugged. “I do not know but another doctor, Dr. Webber, mentioned that one succeeded as they intended. I can only assume it does its job.”

“Does Murdoc or ‘D know about this?”

“Not fully. I only had time to explain part of the situation.”

“You planning on getting some tonight then?”

She nodded. Russel sighed again, tired.

“Okay. You need help with that?”

“No, I cannot bring you, it would be too obvious then. Plus I would rather they not know who my friends are, they may punish you instead of me if I was caught.”

“Baby-girl I don’t feel good ‘bout this. What happens if you do get caught? They gonna take you away?”

“Not necessarily. Please have faith in my abilities Russel, I will use every precaution.”

The drummer shifted restlessly. He knew Noodle was a capable young woman, she would be fine. Even so, a small part of him clinging to the little girl she used to be, worried she would get hurt. He wanted to help badly but feared bringing her ire if he pestered. He forced himself to jump to a new topic, something lighter.

“It’s a grace finally seeing you, spent almost a week in Murdoc’s company. Nearly thumped him good for his idiocy. ‘D was manageable, but hell they were a real test of my patience.”

Noodle smiled fondly as she tried not to laugh, for the moment distracted. She rested a hand on Russel’s wrist.

“You are too good a person for that. Besides, Murdoc seems far more subdued without his vices.”

“Yeah, he’s doing okay. Gives us grief occasionally, nothing I can’t handle.”

Lapsing into silent companionship, they both smiled at each other. The two of them looked no better than the other with greasy skin, matted hair and stubble all supplying each with a true apocalypse appearance. Noodle sunk further into her seat while itching at her dark hair. The temporary bandana she had tied in it barely contained the mess of black locks. Also didn’t help with the discomfort it gave her head. Russel shared in her suffering with a warm chuckle while scratching his chin. The facial hair was grey in parts giving him a patchy appearance.

“Feel you baby-girl. Haven’t shaved in a couple of days and it’s showing.”

“There are facilities here and toiletries you can use. I might use them later my hair is horrid.”

“That rats nest on your head is hair?” Russel teased.

Shoving the percussionist’s arm playfully, Noodle laughed. He gave her a reserved yet delighted smile, pleased to hear that little bit of joy from her despite the current events. Rapidly her facial expression morphed into a pensive frown. He watched how quickly her mood shifted back to upset.

“Whatever the outcome Noodle, know you did all in your power to help ‘D. None of us are gonna blame you.”

“I should have ventured out, tried to find you three.”

“Don’t go beating yourself up over it. We’re all safe right now.”

“Mostly.” Noodle said weakly.

She perked up the instant the military official stepped from his posting. Russel shot a short look over his shoulder before turned to her.

“I will make my attempt now. Please go about your evening normally. After I have visited 2D and Murdoc I will come see you. We can meet over by gate C, less survivors around that area and no chance of being bothered by foot patrol.”

“Go on Noodle, I’ll be there when you finish up. Be careful.”

She stood and patted Russel’s shoulder before taking the unfinished coffee with her. Chucking the beverage into a receptacle she headed towards triage.

There was a night doctor with a few volunteers busying themselves with patients so she ducked past. On the other end of the room, which originally was a sort of locker room for luggage, Noodle slipped out the second set of doors. Glancing down either end of the white hallways currently shrouded in generator powered lights she saw no one and relaxed. Hurriedly she walked to the left, deeper into the bowels of back rooms signified only by plain doors with small glass windows. Most of the doors had temporary labels smacked over them to identify the rooms use.

At last reaching the end, Noodle paused in front of particular door labelled simply with a large black X. She looked nervously to the hall she had come down before pushing the door open cautiously. With limited military personnel available after the outbreak Noodle wasn’t one bit surprised at the lack of guards around. Too many survivors in main areas to watch she would guess.

Satisfied she hadn’t been discovered she moved further into the odd industrial sized closet room. The hum of a battery powered generator caught her attention briefly. It was powering the glass fridges set up on a table against the wall.

She gaped in bewilderment at all the clear fluid in the vials lining the shelving within the fridges. They all had white labels and appeared no different from one another.

“No, this— Damnit, they aren’t colored.” Noodle cursed in her native tongue. “I should know better. They color coded based on characteristics. Unless I have the wrong room, I was sure they were colored.”

Groaning, Noodle opened the closest fridge and took a glass vial. Reading the classification label she sighed in frustration.

“What is this suppose to mean?”

The label read: TX: #0000FF, not something she understood.

She grabbed one from the other two and read them as well. It revealed no more than the first one. All three were labelled with the TX followed by a numerical sequence. Putting them all back she leaned into the wall, considering her options.

“I could take all three…”

But that still left her with a chance of giving 2D the supposed red vaccination. Examining all of the fridges once more, Noodle made her decision by grabbing from the first and second glass refrigerated units. She hoped this was the right choice. She pocketed six vials uncertain how many would do the trick. For a moment she wished they were back in the restaurant. Her mind drifted to the warm memory.

———

Their dinners were half finished and the table had the occasional empty wine bottle and cups of varies alcoholic beverages long since drained. It was a cozy atmosphere surrounding them and if they were a bit boisterous, nobody seemed to care. With wait staff weaving between patrons and the near overwhelming buzz of other groups chatting it would be hard to point out their table for being noisy. It was an active evening and the restaurant toted great drinks and even greater times so it was bustling with people.

Noodle clinked cups with each man, grinning ear to ear while Murdoc toasted something or other. Probably exclaiming his genius over producing another banging album. She couldn’t care less with the fuzzy feeling running through her. As they settled in their seats the satanist began to regale them with a farfetched tale of adventure from his time away. Despite being moderately inebriated, Noodle followed along for the most part, giggling in spots when the older man gestured wildly.

Russel laughed, deep and genuine, from across the table. 2D snorted mostly underwhelmed by the bassist spinning his story.

“You got a better one then?”

“Oh definitely.” 2D spoke louder to be heard.

Murdoc gave a sharp smile. “Please go on. I want to know what you consider the most ‘metal’ experience in your life. It oughta be good.”

2D had leaned forward in his seat, pausing for dramatic effect. Murdoc rolled his mismatched eyes at the action. Unintentionally, Noodle also moved closer to heard the singer.

“I once worked at this place, it was kinda boring but it got me by y’know?”

Somehow Murdoc caught on and groaned, exasperated.

“Here I was minding my own, cleaning up supplies when this strange light bounced off me. I thought maybe I was seeing things.” 2D gesticulated with his palms. “paid it no mind and kept at it. There were a couple customers browsing and… BAM!”

Noodle jolted back, hand over her chest as she laughed regardless of the scare. Russel huffed in amusement.

“I was hit by a car and the rest is history.” 2D stuck his tongue out at the satanist for good measure.

Russel started to snicker at Murdoc’s sour expression.

“Oh satan.”

“‘D man, I would say that’s probably your best story yet. Really left us hanging till the end.”

“Hardly!”

2D bit his lip to try and keep from smiling. Russel wiped fake tears from his eyes grabbing his drink.

“Cheers mate.” Murdoc bemoaned.

“Awe, you’re welcome Muds.”

Murdoc shot 2D the dirtiest look while the singer snickered. Noodle knew nothing bad would come from the exchange. Murdoc was less abrasive towards 2D as time went on.

There was a crash behind them as someone screamed. The four of them looked over confused at the disruption. People were halted, frozen at the sight of someone biting into a woman’s neck. Blood gushed and time resumed. It almost felt surreal, like an act had the woman not looked genuinely horrified as her life drained away. The person then went further by ripping flesh from the woman, gnashing on bloodied hunks.

“Wha—What the hell?”

Glass shattered as people slammed through windows, groaning and groping at the customers. Some tried to fend off the crazed looking monsters while others scattered. Not sure what to do Noodle yelled over the sudden chaos.

“We need to leave!”

It was a sobering moment.

It didn’t take long for them to get mixed into the crowds of people exiting the restaurant and the people in the streets. Cars crashed, people fled and Noodle felt herself being pushed away from her band-mates. Terror filled her veins when she couldn’t spot blue hair. Someone grabbed her wrist, dragging her away from the restaurant. She tried to fight them off but they gripped tighter. Everything passed in a huge blur. She focused on her labored breathing while running, anywhere, she didn’t know where.

For the first couple hours after outbreak Noodle wandered hopelessly lost, sore and missing her shoes. At some point she had removed them to sooth her feet only to be nearly assaulted by some person who wasn’t really a person anymore. Depending on her innate abilities to fend for herself, she survived. Barely the dawn of the next day and a military caravan had quite literally scooped her up and whisked her away. She hadn't felt settled or safe.

———

Shaking her head to rid the memories from her forethought, Noodle cracked the door open a sliver and peered out. Nobody was in the immediate area so she slid out of the room and closed the door softly. Casually striding down the hallway, appearing every bit confident despite being uneasy. All she had to do was reach triage, snatch a couple needles and hide in 2D’s section. Shouldn’t be hard.

“Natalie?”

Noodle stopped, apprehension permeated her as she slowly turned towards Dr. Nelson. An unpleasant sweat formed at her hair line when he approached her, lab coat fluttering with his movement.

“Evening Dr. Nelson. Can I help you with anything?”

“Wanted to thank you for earlier.”

A small part of her relaxed, only some. She didn’t trust this man.

“Of course. You’re welcome.”

“You’re up fairly late. Something bothering you?”

“Just clearing my mind. It is much quieter back here so I wander back and forth. I can leave if I’m causing a problem?”

“Not at all.”

Although hidden, it felt like the vials were burning in her pockets. She knew it was the fear of possible discovery causing her mind to run wild.

“Actually I was heading out.”

“We could walk together.”

“Excellent, I’m meeting with a friend.” She mentally belittled herself for sharing that. Years of interviews should have trained her when it was appropriate to share.

He walked with her, quiet a moment. Noodle felt her palms sweat.

“I was unaware you had friends that had made it.” Dr. Nelson cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Sorry that was inconsiderate.”

“He made it in today, a surprise for me.”

“Well nothing wrong with that.” He continued with her towards the back doors to triage. “How were your last patients? One seemed rather upset.”

Noodle felt sweat beading on her forehead close to dribbling down. Somehow it seemed like Dr. Nelson was probing for answers or that could be her paranoia playing up.

“I assume it was relief?”

The doctor laughed as he resumed walking with her. “Suppose that makes sense. Poor fellow, probably happy to be safe. Tomorrow evening are you free?”

“I might be, I cannot be certain with unexpected patients.”

“I was thinking if you were we could catch a bite to eat together. If you’re not opposed?”

Noodle wanted to gag. She wasn’t opposed to eating and chatting with strange men, her life had consisted of many occasions such as that. Normally for appearances or interviews. However Dr. Nelson made her uneasy and she knew well enough that he involved himself with the experimentation occurring. She wanted to say no but thought better. It could be advantageous for her to accept.

“Of course not. We could grab drinks and some food in the early evening?””

“Absolutely. I’ll see you around Natalie, I have to go do some work on a pet project. Goodnight.”

Dr. Nelson smiled giving her a wave as he parted ways with her at the entry to triage. Noodle hesitated as she gave the man a small uncomfortable smile, waiting for him to leave. Once sure he was gone she stepped into triage and scanned the room for potential interruptions. Then feeling secure enough, she moved to disappear behind curtains. She hadn’t expected to see both men crammed onto the rather tiny hospital bed. She crouched near the attachment shelf to dig out a couple clean needles.

“Seems you two are in a relationship once again.”

Noodle wasn’t looking for an answer so when Murdoc leaned up to reply she jolted and nearly dropped her things.

“Work in progress more accurately.”

“You're awake.”

“Am I? Hadn’t noticed.”

Noodle rolled her eyes at his sarcasm. 2D seemingly slept on unaware of their conversation.

“Got the vaccination then?”

“I have two types… I made a mistake.” Noodle held up a vial from each pocket. “Not sure which to administer.”

“Ah, might be an issue. Why are there two types?”

“Right. Let me explain the rest.” Noodle set the vials aside while she got a clean needle free of its packaging. “There are three vaccinations, I cannot say why, and each have varying degrees of success. One causes more fault than naught and the other two seem to work moderately well. I have no idea if I brought those two.”

Murdoc’s blood pressure rose and his jaw clenched. He tried to remain calm, but the more Noodle spoke the tenser he got.

“What do you mean there’s three vaccinations? I don’t want you sticking foreign shit in him if it’ll worsen his condition!”

“Murdoc quiet, it is late and we do not want attention drawn to us.”

“Gimme that, I refuse on Stu’s behalf.”

“Wha—? What’s going on?” 2D blinked lazily.

“Go back to sleep.”

“Murdoc I have to give him something. Antibiotics will not do.”

Murdoc snatched the first vial he saw and scanned the label. Noodle huffed, aggravated with the behavior. She prepped the first needle with the secondary vaccination while moving to the bandaged leg.

“Is this the cure?” 2D blinked owlishly at the guitarist.

“In a manner of speaking.”

“She doesn’t know which one it is or what it’ll do.”

Removing the mildly soiled bandages from the revolting injury site, Noodle paused to swallow uncomfortably. 2D stared, eyes nearly bugging out at the black mess. Previously he missed properly examining it. Like before his breathing picked up and to alleviate some of his building anxiety he fiddled his fingers.

“Don’t look at it.” Murdoc grumbled as he replaced his arm around the singer’s head.

He didn’t feel the injection going in but he certainly felt the stinging heat expanding from the injury site. Gradually the hot sensation filled his leg and the blackened area burned more and more with the seconds. Gasping sharply his leg tensed and he hunched forward out of Murdoc’s hold to grasp at his thigh, blunt nails digging into the skin.

“W—what is this? It hurts!”

Triage was dimly lit and mainly quiet, save the odd noise from a fitful patient. Noodle flapped her hand frantically and Murdoc muffled the vocalist with a hand. Despite the obvious pain 2D was in she set about getting her second needle done up. Someone coughed beyond the curtains.

2D grit his teeth behind Murdoc’s palm, fighting to keep quiet through the scorching pain running rampant further up his leg and into his waist and abdomen. Murdoc shot a distraught grimace at Noodle, assuming the absolute worst.

Noodle pinned 2D’s ankle, poised with the other needle when a door creaked open and soft voices reached them.

“That test went better than expected.” A female voice.

“I say the results were skewed. We’ll need a second subject.” An unknown voice.

Under her the vocalist’s muscles twitched and finally he seemed to settle. Murdoc kept his hand firmly planted on the other’s face, tense and still. They could hear the two walk by their section at a slight distance. Not wanted to waste more time, Noodle used her weight to steady the limb in case and started to press the needle in. Unexpectedly 2D jerked violently, freeing his leg. The resounding noise of the needle hitting the floor was almost deafening. The voices abruptly stopped.

Heels clicked as they approached them.

Without thinking, Murdoc dived for the needle and grabbed both it and then Noodle. He shoved the young woman behind some curtains bunched up against the wall behind 2D’s bed. He put the needle under some blankets and covered 2D’s leg just as a woman with dirty blonde hair parted the curtains.

“What’s going on here?”

Appearing relaxed, seated on a stool safely in front of Noodle’s hidden form. Murdoc casually popped a smoke in his mouth and glanced to the doctor. He only had two left from the soldier.

“Dropped my light.”

“You can’t smoke in here.”

Clicking the obnoxious purple lighter on he inhaled once the end was lit. 2D bunched up the blanket, wringing it nervously while he watched. The burning pain was tapering off.

“Sir.”

“Yes?”

“You can’t smoke in here. There are other patients, some are sensitive to smoke.”

“Y’see him.” Murdoc nodded towards 2D. The woman looked at the singer and raised a brow, but nodded. “He’s terrified of hospitals, look at him shaking on the bed. I can’t leave the poor sod alone.”

She examined 2D once more, confirming he indeed looked petrified. Sighing she rolled her eyes.

“Fine. Don’t make it a habit while in here.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Put off by his snippy response she turned and closed the curtains, leaving them be. When the voices resumed and disappeared Noodle shimmied from behind the curtain. 2D sighed out in relief.

“Very quick thinking.” The guitarist patted the bed for the needle, producing it a minute later.

“Worked well enough.”

She again pinned 2D’s leg and before anyone could protest she gave the injection. Unlike the first shot this one created a cooling throughout the injury. 2D winced and wiggled his toes, pleasantly surprised he could do so, so quickly. Murdoc seemed to notice as well.

“How are we suppose to know?”

“Once feeling returns to his leg.”

“Well?” Murdoc looked questioningly at the singer. “You’re moving your toes.”

“I still can’t feel much other than a tingle, it’s all cold feeling.”

Noodle discarded the waste in the small bin beside the bed. She caught sight of her bare hands and thanked whatever higher power there was she hadn’t jabbed herself on the needle. She would still need to wash them, in case. Watching the vocalist wiggle his toes with stilted movements made her smile.

“I need to wrap this up and meet Russel. Murdoc there are water bottles and food at the canteen they have set up outside of triage. You need to eat. Both of you do.”

Speaking both figuratively and literally, Noodle grabbed out some clean bandages for the grotesque wound and covered it. When she glanced up to see if the satanist had heard her she was momentarily taken back by the irate expression on said man.

Though speaking at a low volume, Murdoc’s words were harsh.

“You ever fucking string me along like that again I may as well end it myself.”

“Don’t you dare get huffy just cause, Murdoc.”

“You were asking me to fucking end it—”

“Yeah, if I was a zombie. Didja want me stumbling ‘round eating people?”

“No, but that’s aside the point.”

“No it’s not. I was asking someone I care ‘bout to put me outta my misery. Put some meaning into my death instead of a random person doing it.” 2D twiddled his thumbs.

“Ooh I swear.” Murdoc bit his fist to keep from snapping. He opened his mouth once more, to continue their triad but decided against it. “Fine. Whatever.”

2D smiled at his lap, silently elated the older man stopped himself from making matters worse. Noodle smiled haplessly at the commonplace bickering.

“I need to go. Keep an eye on him and check his injury every few hours.”

Unable to wait longer, Noodle patted 2D’s good foot and nodded to Murdoc. She turned, halting when both men mumbled their thanks.

“It is not over, thank me when you are walking and well.”

Not waiting to hear their responses, Noodle rushed out. She wanted to shower before visiting with Russel. Her nerves were fried from all the excitement.

A thick and uneasy quiet settled between them like a haze.

“I’m sorry for riling you up.” 2D whispered.

“Idiot.”

Murdoc sniffed and crossed his arms, resolutely sat on the stool away from the singer. He put the cigarette out with his heel a moment later. He wanted to remain by 2D’s side but needed a momentary distance to mull over the hushed confessions they spewed at each other. Frustrated more with himself, Murdoc was attempting not to take it out on Stuart. It was a struggle.

“You don’t have to be embarrassed Muds, I stand by what I said ‘bout you.”

A palm reached out and rested on the bassist’s arm. Murdoc batted the vocalist away, somewhat agitated. It wasn’t a switch, he couldn’t ignore his growing discomfort over sharing things. He knew there was no reasoning behind it, 2D quite obviously had no plans to belittle him. Much the opposite.

“Oh don’t go closing off. Talk to me.”

“What is there to say? Gone and fucking said it all haven’t I?”

“You’re doing well. Come sit with me please.” 2D pleaded.

Stubbornly the bassist stayed seated, he leaned from 2D once more. The singer sat back heavily with a loud sigh.

“Murdoc come here.”

“No.”

“Don’t be childish.”

“Give me a minute.” Murdoc grunted.

Catching the tense cadence, 2D plucked at the blanket. He knew prodding the bassist continually would lead to a blow out.

“Alright.”

He curled up on the bed missing the comforting warmth having Murdoc close gave him. The satanist stayed on the stool, stewing to himself while being emotionally untouchable. 2D faced away from the other man, tucking his legs up under the blanket, his injured leg was freezing to the touch.

“Being a bit silly.” the singer muttered.

Murdoc peered at the back facing him. "Go to sleep.”

Closing his eyes, 2D endeavored to sleep. His chest was tight and he felt a growing restlessness enveloping him. It was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

A whole twenty-four hours passed before either Noodle or Russel visited the singer. Murdoc came and went after the uncomfortable night together. Although the older man came across seemingly fine, 2D was conscientious of the quieter demeanor. Murdoc maintained a decent level of banter with him off and on through the following day but refused to outright talk on any sensitive topics or share the bed. 2D could only assume the bassist was mulling over his thoughts and waiting for a change in his leg and health.

Russel visited first, opting for a one armed hug upon seeing 2D. He sat and chatted to the vocalist about nothing particularly exciting. It kept his focus for an hour before Russel decided to head out and eat. 2D craved the attention and missed when the other left. Quickly following the drummer, Noodle poked in with a small smile while seating herself where Russel was previous. The keyboardist was elated at the visitation. As the percussionist, Noodle stayed for a short time and at the end administered a second shot each, something 2D found made him squirm at the varying sensations. Murdoc was thankfully not present during that.

When she slipped away to work, 2D examined his partially covered leg. The jeans were pulled back in place, covering his ugly marred limb. It still felt incredibly cold, even touching the skin it was cool. He frowned at the limb, concerned whether he would garner more feeling other than that and if wiggling his toes was the limit of mobility he’d get. Murdoc chose that moment to step back into the sanctioned off spot, tugging the curtains back hastily so nobody disturbed them.

2D flipped the thin blanket over his leg. He didn’t want the satanist asking about it.

“Saw Noodle on my way in.”

“She visited for a bit.”

Murdoc hummed thoughtfully, sitting at the foot of the bed. His hand slipped beneath the scratchy material covering 2D's legs.

“What are you doing?”

Instead of answering him, Murdoc rested his palm on the freezing ankle of his bad leg. 2D hated to admit how pleasant the heat felt. He was pleased to feel an inkling of anything in his injured leg. Whatever Noodle had given him worked far better than the intravenous bag he finished yesterday.

“Any better today?”

“Not exactly. Cold feeling.”

“You wanna try walking?”

He eyed Murdoc suspiciously, wary that it was some weird trap. Murdoc raised a brow, though 2D could barely tell.

“Truce.”

“Okay.” 2D sighed and whipped the blanket away.

He struggled a moment to wiggle himself to the edge of the bed. His leg refused to behave how he wanted. Murdoc took the chance to shift said limb for him and help him stand. He gripped both hands when they were offered. And with a deep breath 2D took his first step, almost gasping that he managed to stay upright. His leg wobbled dangerously, but didn’t give under his weight. Charmed to be able bodied enough to move shakily, 2D gave Murdoc a gap toothed grin.

“Looks like Noodle picked right. Lets get a shower.”

Nodding rapidly the singer was keen on a shower despite his Bambi legs. With Murdoc’s support he hobbled with the man out of triage. They wandered a bit to find someone willing to stop and give directions to an area to clean up. 2D turned his head about while they moved, intrigued at the set up within the airport. Partitions for lineups had been cleared away to make room for military stations. Passing by a customs room, the vocalist spied a base of operations where battery powered equipment was being used to monitor what, 2D couldn’t tell.

It was strange seeing something commonly used for travelers being reduced to world crisis response location. 2D remembered, faintly, the night they came in at this very airport. They had been going on empty, straight from their European portion. Russel had slept the entire flight, Noodle listened to music and he yapped Murdoc’s ear off. Secretly he knew it helped ease the other with his dislike over flying. There was no bombardment when stepping off due to the late hour. They had all literally grabbed their luggage, shuttled to the hotel and crashed in separate rooms. Now here he was only a week or so later under entirely different circumstances.

“There’s the area,” Murdoc muttered beside him. “Was beginning to think they lied.”

Only a few days ago him and Murdoc had been on tenuous ground, dancing around the topic of their broken relationship. They, now, having discussed more than he ever expected and sharing an odd truce, working to rebuild something better.

Murdoc lead the singer into a dank yet appropriately lit bathroom. Through the middle was a wrap around mirror and sinks. Opposite to either side were stalls which contained toilets both assumed. Stepping in further the satanist spotted a space between the line of stalls and wall to their immediate right. Aiding 2D along he peeked to the other side to see showering stalls.

Both of them eyed a couple trolleys with bundled towels and toiletries.

“Perfect.”

With assistance 2D was maneuvered into a stall and sat on a fold out bench. Murdoc kept the door open while helping himself to toiletries and bundled towels. The man made small talk while setting things along a small shelf opposite 2D in the stall.

“It’s good you got mobility back.”

“Yeah, I’m glad too.” 2D smiled and hunched forward to work his runners off.

He nudged a shoe off then grunted reaching down to remove his other shoe. Socks came next causing the singer to blanch at his horrendous smelling feet. Waving his hand he sat back up undoing the jeans. After the night in the hotel they hadn’t found another functioning shower. They were reduced to having a quick scrub down with dirty clothes and stagnant water. Straining, 2D lifted his hips with his good foot pressed to the ground. Working the jeans down his waist the singer plopped back and sighed. Perched on the bench in nothing but his y-fronts he wondered how he'd shower with his leg.

Murdoc stepped into the stall and nudged the door shut.

“Couldn’t wait I see.”

Shaking his head he carefully got to his feet teetering some, still not capable of full function over his leg. Thanking his long limbs he held onto the top of the stall.

With the limited space there was an awkward air about him now that Murdoc was hovering close. Said man feigned ignorance and began removing his shirt. Before 2D could stop himself his eyes trailed the reveal of skin, enjoying the lingering softness mixing with hard lines of muscle. He couldn't remember a time when the bassist had looked this healthy. Thoughts tripping over one another, 2D coughed when Murdoc undid his trousers.

“Why are you stripping?”

“Thought it was obvious.”

“Not to me,” 2D wheezed as he avoided looking at the other any longer.

“You’ve seen me naked plenty of times. Hell I’ve seen you in the buff too. Fuck ton of unflattering shit been shared between us, no need to be a blushing virgin.”

“I realize that. It’s just—”

“Just what? Worried you’ll like what you see?”

Some part of him was worried about that. Worried he may get carried away if he started.

He kept holding onto the top edge of the metal, cheeks warm and face downcast. He watched the floor where he saw the edge of Murdoc’s boots. Within moments the boots were gone and it was a bare set of feet in his line of sight.

“Quit that.”

Hands reached over and hooked the sides of his underpants. 2D squawked indignantly and latched onto Murdoc’s wrists to halt him. In doing so the singer lost balance startlingly fast. He felt his leg straining to maintain his upright position.

“Stuart what the hell’re you trying to do?” His voice was harried and the hands had moved to hold him up. “Planning on cleaning up in pants you idiot?”

“No.” 2D grunted and looked at the shorter man. His eyes averted to broad shoulders and he covered his face one handed, somewhat embarrassed at how ridiculous he was acting. “Can we shower now?”

“Can we?”

Giving a dramatic sigh 2D bodily turned and took hold of the metal wall. Murdoc sniggered as he reached out before the singer could object, or even see, to yank his underpants down, nearly tripping him. 2D yelped at the firm swat to his bottom. The noise reverberated throughout the empty washroom and 2D twisted himself to glare, humiliated and rosy cheeked.

“Murdoc!”

“What? Told you, seen it all before. Hurry up will yeah.”

Grumbling to himself, 2D stepped out of the last article to cautiously ascent the minute step into the shower section. The unrelenting grip he had on the wall top didn't go unnoticed by Murdoc. Said man shut the curtain, sealing them within the tiled space. For a moment it was quiet, then Murdoc cranked the tap and a rush of stinging, frigid water caught them by surprise. Spitting a couple expletives, the satanist hastily turned to hot.

"Least it works.”

For a moment they both stood next to one another half under the spray.

"Hold on. Got some shit for cleaning, nabbed it from the trolleys."

2D spared a short glance at the shorter as he ducked out. He looked forward at the grimy tiles, momentarily lost in thought. Heat from the water felt like pinpricks of pain and he winced settling his entire palm under the stream. It was too much all at once.

Stepping back into the small shower cubicle, Murdoc set a bottle of generic shampoo on a corner ledge. He held up a white bar of soap so 2D saw.

“Need help?”

“Maybe,” 2D mumbled. He tried to steer his thoughts away from the gutter.

Apparently satisfied, Murdoc lathered the soap between his hands. He crouched near the singer's legs, head down to focus on soaping up each set of ankles and calves. 2D tilted his head to watch, fascinated to be on the receiving end of such benevolent attention. Meticulously his legs, sans the area of his bandage, were cleaned in quick hand motions. He never knew the bassist could be anything other than rough, especially in a vulnerable position.

“I’d say it’s easier now than before.”

“What do you mean?”

“All limbs you were, always having to manhandle you this way and that. Fucking nightmare accomplishing anything."

“Figured you tossed me on the couch during those visits.”

"I only wish it had been that easy. Mandated schedule to adhere too. Feeding, cleaning, exercising your giraffe limbs. Real pain."

Snorting loud enough to be heard above the water, 2D used a hand to stifle a laugh threatening to escape. Despite the grousing, Murdoc hardly seemed perturbed over the incident. The vocalist knew better, Murdoc only acted aggrieved for show.

“My apologies, someone decided to ram-raid my place of work with a bloody car."

"Stood out like a pillock, gawking all slack jawed."

"Difficult to respond any other way with mere seconds before impact."

"Fair point." Murdoc gave a brisk head shake, as if to rid himself of some ill thought. "It wasn’t all horrid. Good for company.”

2D shivered under the hands smoothing along his thighs. His awareness of how close Murdoc was in conjunction to his groin made him self conscious. Ignoring the mild discomfort, the singer shifted to alleviate the butterflies forming. It made him feel queasy, like his first time. Rough palms brushed over sensitive spots making him bite his lip. Murdoc drove forward with their conversation, surprisingly polite about 2D's obvious reaction to the touches.

“Managed to get you listening to decent music. You'd listen to anything I blathered on about." Discreetly Murdoc gave the vocalist a teasing brush of his hands while cleaning the other's pelvic region.

Curling his toes, 2D clutched at the metal wall all the more. He was mildly impressed at the restraint not to openly tease him over a semi. He wrongly assumed Murdoc wasn't in the mood or at the least distracted by his need to talk.

"Never got an answer outta you, of course. That part was incredibly boring."

Rising, Murdoc used the bar of soap to trace over 2D's abdomen, scarcely high enough to avoid outright touching singer where he wanted. The vocalist stared at a point in the tiles where mildew had gathered, striving to keep a neutral expression. Momentarily 2D considered a snide response but lost his thought when fingers skimmed his ribs, tickling him. A loud giggle erupted from him which bounced off the walls.

"Always gave off these funny little noises whenever I did that."

“Quit that.” 2D flushed.

Still, he loved the familiarity and gentle nature of the gestures. He wished some semblance of his memories during the coma could be recalled. Murdoc tickled over his ribs again, forcing another abrupt snicker out. Huffing, 2D batted Murdoc from doing it once more, a fond smile adorning his face.

“There we are. Got you smiling,” Murdoc said plainly. “Been a shit few week, need to smile once in a while.”

2D stared directly at the satanist, his heart was in his throat at the action.

“You’re not mad?”

“No?”

With his offset balance he struggled to hug the bassist after letting go of the wall. To his relief Murdoc caught him around the middle with a confused grunt.

"What's got you so soppy?"

"Just happy."

Considerate of 2D, Murdoc pushed the other back to stand properly. He patted the singer on the cheek then resumed cleaning up the taller man. Both were alleviated from matted, uncomfortable hair after using the shampoo, which stunk of imitation grapefruit. From there the shower passed in companionable silence, broken by the alteration in water hitting tile. When Murdoc shut the water off and snatched up a towel he used it on the vocalist first. At first it came across ingenuous, but quickly Murdoc wrapped the scratchy towel about his waist and tugged hard. Forced away from the wall, 2D used broad shoulders to steady himself. He frowned down at the other.

"What'd you do that for?"

Smirking, Murdoc pressed impossibly close, his arms replacing the towel.

"Now's the chance to get a good look."

Guiltily 2D glanced sideways, cheeks warming up.

"C'mon, no need to be shy Doll."

Swallowing audibly the vocalist peered at Murdoc. Hesitantly 2D leaned in and tentatively laid a kiss on the other's cheek then nose, moving achingly slow towards the mouth. Astonishingly Murdoc waited patiently, giving the reigns to the vocalist, allowing the other gauge the speed. Many kisses had been exchanged during their torrid past, always in a flurry with no meaning. Here and now there was no rush to push past a simple feel of lips on lips. 2D slotted a hand into thick and wet dark hair while his other palm gripped at Murdoc's upper back. He tried to convey decades worth of emotions through one long, heated kiss.

Securing his arms, Murdoc pivoted them and crowded 2D into cold tiles. Their kiss broke apart only to be replaced by hot, open mouthed kisses along the awaiting slender neck. A small, breathless laugh escaped the singer at the eagerness. Warm palms stroked over his thighs, one being pulled up so Murdoc could grind against the vocalist. 2D gasped gently while his hands smoothed along shoulders and upper back, getting a feel for the new definition there. He wanted to savor the moment. Only the instant it became more ardent a distracting pain emanated at the back of his skull, spreading out and increasing. Squeezing his eyes shut, 2D attempted to ignore it but it only worsened. Groaning he halted the satanist.

Thankfully Murdoc recognized the signs of discomfort.

“Head hurts.” 2D supplied.

Having spent two decades with the vocalist, Murdoc nodded and begrudgingly brought 2D out of the shower. Knowing the other wouldn't be capable of anything more with a burgeoning migraine he gave the other a peck on the chin to show he understood. He properly finished rubbing down the taller and quickly assisted 2D back into dirtied clothes; they had no other option. When able he helped 2D plonk onto the fold down bench to get himself dry and dressed. It was in these moments he noticed the other holding his head and wincing more and more. An instant concern filled Murdoc, maybe 2D was suffering some latent side effect of the vaccinations.

“What’s wrong? You feeling off?”

“Relax Muds, it’s just a headache.”

He considered the singer before being eased at the notion of it only being just that, a simple headache. Sure everything should be treated as special during however long after vaccination. However in the end he let two decades worth of familiarity smother his concern and resumed slipping his footwear on. From there he gave 2D something to hold onto while hobbling as they left the washroom and their mess of towels.

———

Every so often 2D would shift, his bottom going numb from the seating. Murdoc cocked a brow over his discomfort while spooning cold beans into his mouth. 2D sighed and leaned his head into an open palm, massaging his temple. Maybe he was just agitated over the persisting headache threatening to become worse.

“Y’know they have shit for migraines, we could have grabbed something.”

“It’s not that bad.”

Murdoc rolled his eyes, clearly not believing him for a moment but not arguing the point.

The secluded little corner they found for themselves made him feel better, he hated strangers watching him in pain. Murdoc set the can down on the table catching his attention.

“Probably off cause you haven’t eaten. Eat.”

Staring down at the open can of chilli in front of him, he groaned while mushing half his face into his hand. The idea of eating what essentially looked like dog food turned his stomach so badly he almost felt he may keel over. Murdoc nudged the food closer to him and gave him a stern frown.

“Eat.”

If only to avoid Murdoc's true ire he plucked the plastic spoon up and swirled it in the mucky chilli. Grimacing he scooped some up and took the bite. Tasting some sort of meat, vegetables and beans all jumbled up in an almost sweet sauce, 2D choked it down. He wasn’t fond of the meat or really any of it, but figured beggars couldn’t be choosers. Plus the bassist seemed more relaxed with him eating.

Occasionally the odd person bypassed the small seating area, though very few given the hour. 2D watched the large window nearby, rainy weather painted the glass in rivets of water blurring the outside imagery to inky squiggles. He wondered if there were planes outside, sitting in the dark, unused and useless now. He also contemplated where they would go from here, what they would do seeing as transportation was basically gone and zombies roamed near and far. Would they attempt to rebuild?

“Gonna toss this.” Murdoc stood and stepped off to wherever a trash bin was.

Barely a second passed when a strange stabbing pain formed in his stomach. Wincing he smoothed his hand over the area. It increased and within moments 2D was doubled over gasping in agony.

“Shit. What’s wrong?”

Murdoc rested an arm over his back, leaning in close by his side.

He could barely form coherent thoughts let alone words. The pain was overwhelming and it felt like something was shredding his guts from within. 2D moaned, both terrified and incapable of expressing his problem to the panicked bassist. Just when he thought it couldn’t increase an indescribable burning rose through his chest and suddenly he was coughing and puking up blackish bile all over the table and floor.

“Sweet satan that— fuck, okay, c’mon we need to get you to medical.”

Murdoc attempted to slide an arm around the tall man but 2D yelled and jerked away. The singer hunched in on himself as he heaved more viscous black ooze out. Some even dribbled from his nose as he shook and whined pitifully.

This was exactly what he worried about. Fretting, Murdoc struggled to keep his voice level.

“Stuart— Stu, listen uh— Fuck, I’m gonna find some help, just, you stay put…”

2D shot hands out and gripped at Murdoc’s shirt, clutching so tight he nearly tore the fabric. He looked up at the man, thick, dark gunk staining his lips and running down his face. His eyes were bright with terror.

“D—don’t leave me!” The singer’s voice was croaky. Murdoc opened and closed his mouth like a fish, eyes darting over the vocalist’s scared face.

“Hey, is everything alright over here?”

Murdoc craned his head to look over to who had spoken. He considered the rather young military man and his weapon.

“N—no, no. Nothing wrong here.”

“Muds… Muds I feel wrong, something is wrong with me.” 2D mumbled as pain ebbed away and turned into an intense need for something.

His unrelenting hold to the satanist dwindled and he felt himself slipping into himself. Murdoc turned his back to him to shield the vocalist from the soldier approaching.

“Sir if your friend is ill we have facilities.”

“He’s fine.”

Murdoc sounded far less sure of himself than he wanted and clearly the official heard and proceeded to remove his weapon. He had a mere instant to figure out his plan.

Things were decided for him when an inhuman growl emitted from behind him. 2D, or rather whatever the monster was, lunged for him and arms surrounded him tightly. Murdoc gave a startled yelp as him and the vocalist fell back to the tiled floor. The impact dislodged him from the hold and he rolled away, holding his head. Everything spun unnecessarily while he laid on the ground, disorientated. He had no idea how hard he cracked his skull on the flooring, but he saw black dots in his vision. Distantly there was a shout and gunfire. He turned himself slightly to look around only to catch a blur of blue hair and camouflage tumbling to the ground through cafeteria chairs. A shriek of unadulterated horror rung out and Murdoc felt a shiver run through him. Then he heard it, the distinguishable noise of meaty chunks of flesh being ripped apart and eaten, the harsh gnash of teeth around flesh…

He remembered that sound from the restaurant, it was unforgettably distinct and terrible.

Struggling to maneuver himself up, Murdoc hesitated to get to his feet. He groped for a chair while cradling his head in one hand, finally pulling into an upright position. His eyes honed in on black eyes watching him intently. 2D’s mouth was bloody with a piece of human muscle hanging from it. Heart racing, Murdoc stayed put, not sure what to do. Stuart didn’t conform to the average zombie behavior. The man stared at him, clearly aware of him and steady where he crouched by the fallen soldier.

He’s not Stuart anymore.

He didn’t want to believe that, he couldn’t. They were just talking not minutes ago.

When 2D made no move, Murdoc felt moderately safe in getting to his feet, slow and cautious. He held his hands out in a defensive manner while backing up.

“Please don’t do this to me Stuart, you were doing fine.”

Although he spoke calmly, there was a slight tremble to his voice and he continued to step backwards. He was anxious to create space between them in case the worst happened. 2D cocked his head and in one smooth motion came to his full height. Murdoc’s breath caught in his throat and he accidentally bumped into cafeteria furniture, stumbling. Any minute someone would come across both his and the soldier’s corpse. There would be an uproar and it would be his fault for not trying to put an end to the monster in front of him. He had to get his hand on a weapon.

The singer casually picked the hunk of human tissues from his mouth, complete articulation as though it was food stuck in his teeth. It was bizarre to witness and for a minute, Murdoc thought it was all a horrible dream. Unwavering, 2D walked one step, then two, towards the bassist, no pain evident in his face over the injured leg. A fact Murdoc was faintly aware of as he hastily tripped over chairs to get further from 2D.

“Okay love, lets play nice yeah? Please? I know we have a sordid past, but we can look beyond that,” Murdoc gasped petrified.

He put a couple tables between him and 2D, hoping desperately it was enough to dissuade the other. What he hadn’t expected was 2D near leaping over the barriers as though he were in an olympic sport. Giving a weak noise of fear, Murdoc fell over an abandoned mop bucket and ended up flat on the floor, a whoosh of air leaving him. The vocalist towered over him, blood drying on his already filthy shirt. Cowering he covered his face and curled up slightly as if that would stave off clawing hands and dull teeth digging in.

He felt the vocalist hover over him, a face pressing into his hair and breathing deeply. This was followed by a nuzzle. Utterly confused he lowered his arms to peer at the other man. 2D was caging him to the ground with his upper torso, buried into his hair, sniffing like an excited dog. Experimentally Murdoc prodded the man in the side, to see if there would be a reaction. An unexpected giggle escaped and 2D huffed as though coming back to himself.

“I’m sorry for scaring you Murdoc, I’m okay now.”

Murdoc froze, eyes going wide like saucers. He gaped up at the singer who leaned up to eye him back.

“Did I hurt you?”

Stained palms with dirtied nails felt along his head for injury. Murdoc could only blink dumbly while 2D fretted over him.

“Sorry for knocking you down Muds. I got a little out of hand.”

A sharp somewhat unhinged laugh bubbled up and escaped from Murdoc as he gawked at 2D. He was unsure how to comprehend what just occurred.

A little out of hand he says— Only a little. Just full on mauled a man to death with your bare hands! How am I suppose to take this? How?”

Another hysterical giggle came from the satanist. 2D helped Murdoc sit up.

“Stay away from me!” Murdoc scuttled back on his hands and backside. “I don’t want to end up like him.”

2D cast a hurt expression at the bassist as he crawled towards the other. Murdoc found himself trapped between an unrelenting wall and 2D.

“I would never hurt you Murdoc. I admit to being tempted, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything heinous. I thought the man was going to shoot you so I tried to focus on keeping you safe.”

Somehow the admission was endearing. Twisted as the following occurrences were, 2D hadn’t actually intentionally hurt him. The vocalist hadn’t even paid mind to him once Murdoc was on the ground. Narrowing his eyes, Murdoc watched 2D bring a hand forward.

“Please believe me, I wouldn’t hurt you.”

2D cupped Murdoc’s face, leaving a small trail of blood, and leaned in close. He rested his forehead against the satanist’s head. He was sincere and strove to convey that in his eyes.

“This is against my better judgement, because either I’ve died or I’m utterly stupid.” Murdoc brought the singer further in, hugging the man hard to his chest. “You don’t get to do this shit to me Stuart. I’m the asshole, not you. I thought you were gone.”

“I’m here.”

Despite the blood coating his clothing, Murdoc buried his face into the keyboardist’s neck. He clutched the singer tightly. Hands carded through his mussed up hair, soothing him. Everything was wrong. 2D was wrong. He should have put an end to the situation then and there. However the fool in him that loved the man unconditionally had no will to end it. He almost didn’t believe this was happening right now.

Faintly the stomping of many sets of boots approached their location. 2D released Murdoc and gripped the man’s face in a rather firm hold. Murdoc winced under the singer’s hands.

“Muds, they’ll kill me on sight.”

2D was absolutely right, they would see he was an abomination and gun the singer down where he stood. Murdoc hefted himself up and yanked the taller man after himself, dragging him beyond the area and out of sight before soldiers could see them.

The rational part of his mind screamed at him that he would die if he did this. He had no self preservation if he decided to fulfill this demented scheme he was hatching. Pulling 2D around a corner and into an empty Starbucks he ducked with the lanky man. His self-absorbed psyche, the piece of him willing to use others to get to the top, remained surprisingly silent. All he could hear rattling about was fear of getting caught and losing 2D for good. His sick devotion to keeping them together won out in the end.

A wet kiss was placed on his cheek, which brought him from his unnerving thoughts. 2D gave him a gentle smile and all other thoughts vanished. He would keep the singer safe, he would protect the idiot from anyone.

They stayed huddled in the Starbucks behind the counter, quiet and waiting for things to cool down or at least pass them. With the urgency of their situation, Murdoc didn’t mull over the true underlying issue. More focused on wiping the face held in his palm, he considered their options, mind wildly flitting from one idea to the next. Otherwise it was a long hour sitting uncomfortably on the stone floor, breaths held every time someone hurried by or a commanding voice directed someone. 2D kept close to Murdoc and against all odds nobody seemed to spot them.

Chapter Text

Around roughly four thirty in the morning a small alarm had woke people around the airport. Military men and women rushed about ushering survivors, medical personnel and volunteers towards seating areas. There was a jumble of confusion from the tired people and only snippets of what may be the issue. The drummer found himself standing among strangers rubbing sleep from his blank eyes. Unaware the problem was due to his two friends he tried to catch from others what might be going on. Moving through the crowds Russel found the guitarist in around survivors and civilian volunteers. Noodle gave the drummer a tired smile when they bumped into each other.

“Got any clue what the hell is going on?”

“No idea,” Noodle yawned, “I guess a zombie got in? I mean one infected is not a big deal. Probably.”

“Man I thought we left this when we got here.”

“Well only one death occurred so hopefully it does not go into a full blown panic.”

Noodle rubbed her face tiredly, looking around. Russel honestly just wanted a proper nights sleep, it wasn't asking much.

“Did you happen to see Toochi and Murdoc?”

“Nah, haven’t seen those two for almost a day now.”

“They are probably mixed into the crowd with us,” Noodle continued, seeking out someone tall with blue hair.

Granted there were hundreds of survivors at the airport base, spotting one head of blue should have been easy. Noodle scratched her arm lightly not seeing 2D anywhere. She assumed that if they found 2D they’d find Murdoc. The drummer had a better height advantage, also giving the people a scan for someone tall. 2D was always a good beacon to hone in on through a throng of people. Neither of them could make out the singer or the bassist, but it was dim and there were a lot of people.

Russel patted her shoulder softly, “who knows baby girl, maybe they’re still in the medical section.”

“I guess so.”

Noodle had a nagging feeling that something was terribly wrong.

———

They dodged in and out of rooms, noiselessly meandering around patrols looking for 2D, not that they knew it was specifically 2D. However the singer was covered in blood which was a big indicator. Murdoc kept studying the singer, mind racing. The singer caught the satanist staring, though Murdoc hardly hid it.

“What?”

“I don’t know what to think or feel right now, I'm at a loss. I'm never at a loss 2D, I'm always sure of myself.”

2D halted in a small storage room, closing the door behind themselves softly. He could easily make the other man out in the dark, eyes adjusting to the low lighting. Murdoc couldn’t see much of anything. 2D made sure to face the other man.

“What’s wrong? Why are you unsure?”

“You ate another human being! In front of me no less, not exactly easy to forget!”

“Muds,” 2D hissed, “keep it down.”

“You weren’t you then suddenly you were, but you’re not!”

“I am me, I’m still 2D,” the singer rested his hands on Murdoc’s shoulders, “I’m sure of it. I still have the same thoughts and feelings, I just feel better. Like a better version of me. Kinda hyped actually.”

The bassist fought the urge to shove the singer’s hands off himself, almost frightened of getting squeezed ruthlessly.

“I know I wasn’t myself before, but I kinda was, I just had this really strong urge to eat something. Like when you’ve binged two days on just rum and wake up the third day starving for actual food.”

“This is nothing like me. At all.”

“No I only meant the feeling, it’s uncontrollable. I just wanted to sate that hunger.”

“You tried to kill me.”

“I’m sorry about that,” 2D slid his hands up the satanist’s neck, more careful when cupping the man’s face, “I won’t do that again.”

“You’re getting fucking blood all over me,” Murdoc squirmed out of 2D’s hands.

“Oops, sorry.”

The bassist scrubbed at his face and neck, trying to wipe the traces of blood off himself by feel alone. He was antsy, 2D could see that. Looking around the small closet for something to clean up with, 2D spotted some cleaning rags. Taking one for himself, the singer rubbed his face and neck, then his hands. Grabbing a second rag he put an end to Murdoc’s futile attempt to remove the blood.

“I’m sorry for getting you into this mess, I never meant for things to get so crazy.”

Murdoc held still, listening to the singer. 2D finished and dropped the rag like the other.

“It’s like suddenly my inhibitions are lowered,” 2D continued, “obviously I would never eat someone, but I just wanted too so I did.”

“What’s stopping you from doing that to me?” Murdoc’s voice was fearful.

“I don’t want to eat you. I don’t think I would have done it back there either.”

The bassist wasn’t convinced. A niggling voice kept saying to turn 2D in because this wasn’t healthy or safe.

2D stepped closer to the satanist, who in turn stumbled back bumping some brooms. The singer chuckled crowding the shorter man. Murdoc took a sharp inhale, pulse jumping when he was pressed to the wall.

“I promise I won’t hurt you. I forgave you for all your past misgivings, maybe you could forgive me for my lapse in character?”

2D leaned closer, trying to duck his head into Murdoc’s neck. The man scrunched up, hands pushing on 2D’s middle.

“It’s not about forgiving here Dents, you ate someone and it’s bloody terrifying,” Murdoc tried to sound casual, but the tremble in his hands betrayed him.

“I’m just trying to show you I won’t hurt you.”

“We’re currently being searched for. You are. I don’t think snogging in the closet like a couple of school boys is appropriately how you show that.”

2D grumbled and grabbed the hands on his stomach and interlocked their fingers lightly.

“It’s not fair that you get to torment me for years and still demand something from me. I do one thing and I can’t even get you to properly look me in the eyes. You’re practically shaking against me, it’s upsetting.”

“Stuart that- those things were bad,” Murdoc clenched at 2D’s hands, “they were fucking horrible things and I don’t deserve any forgiveness. This thing you did was also not good and it’s not something you can put out of mind.”

“You want me listing the stuff off by every year? Things that can’t be ‘put out of mind,’ or can I just say one thing in comparison to my indiscretion?”

“Please don’t go there, I’ve apologized.”

“Well?”

“Yes okay!”

“You don’t get to be on your high-horse about this! You don’t.”

“You’re right okay? You’re fucking right. I’m wrong. What I did was wrong and I’m going to keep saying sorry until you believe me.”

“All I want is for you to see me as me, not a monster. Please. I don’t want you being scared of me.”

There was a bit of irony in 2D saying that to Murdoc of all people.

Murdoc broke their hands apart and tugged the singer into a hug, burying his face into 2D’s shoulder avoiding the dampness lingering near the neckline. Taking a deep breath 2D nuzzled into the satanist’s hair, smiling softly. It wasn’t fair. Murdoc could feel an urge to hold Stuart for as long as possible, sooth the man and try to make everything okay again. He had no right being mad at the singer for something he wasn’t capable of controlling. He wasn’t in a position where he could criticize his actions over Murdoc's own past actions.

“I feel the same,” Murdoc ground out, voice muffled against the singer. He never expected to admit it to the man.

“Huh? About what?”

“You, you twit.”

“Oh,” 2D hugged tighter, elated.

“Fuck! Too hard,” Murdoc gasped.

“Oh! I’m sorry Muds, I didn’t realize.”

Holding his ribs, wincing, Murdoc caught his breath, “don’t expect me to be all sappy and shit for you. I would like to get out of here alive first.”

“We don’t have to rush this instant, this is a pretty stellar hiding spot.”

2D fiddled his fingers awkwardly, not that Murdoc could even see that. The tone of the singer’s voice gave away his intentions. Murdoc was reminded of their brief slip in judgement in the jeep outside the comic book store.

“We are not fucking around in the closet while the threat of death is hovering over head, it’s a real mood killer thanks.”

“But we’re here, nobody would find us if we’re quiet.”

“You’re really pushing this,” Murdoc was still leaning into the wall behind himself, “we need a plan.”

“For sex?”

“No! You numbskull, to cover your obvious bloodied state. Someone will look at that and think you’ve just wined ’n dined on some poor sod.”

“I sort of did do that,” 2D cleared his throat softly.

“Don’t remind me, please. Fuck,” Murdoc tried to will his thoughts away from earlier.

“Why not lend me your coat? That could cover my shirt.”

“I happen to like this coat.”

“Muds,” 2D whinged in annoyance, “just give me your coat.”

The bassist mockingly whined back at the singer before huffing and removing the leather coat. He thrust it forward, hitting 2D in the chest. The singer grunted and took it, frowning as he slipped it on and zipped up the front.

“We were making so much progress, now you’re being a prick again.”

“You want me to be nice?” Murdoc asked rhetorically.

“Yes, for once. Be nice to me, like all the time. Nobody will care if you are, and shockingly you might find it’s not so bad," 2D gave a pause in his speech to take a deep breath, “you’re giving me mixed signals, it’s confusing. One minute you tell me you love me then you’re telling me to fuck off. Which is it Murdoc?”

The satanist stood uncertain, not quite able to make out the singer. On the one hand he wanted to shout it for anyone to hear, but the other side of him the dominantly emotionally scarred side of him didn’t. Didn’t want to appear weak or succumb to all the things related to love. Affection was difficult for him.

“Well? Is this some sort of game for you? I won’t have it.”

“Things are complicated,” Murdoc gestured helplessly in the dark.

“You’re so full of shit, forget for a moment the other stuff that happened. Tell me whether you want me or not!”

“Stuart quiet down.”

“Don’t tell me what to do! Just answer my question.”

Voices and heavy walking was approaching their location though because of the heated nature of their debate they missed it.

Murdoc reached for the singer, grabbing at the leather coat, dragging him close. He abrasively dug his fingers into blue hair, dragging 2D into a kiss, missing his mouth in the dark. It worked in silencing the taller man. 2D corrected the kiss, shoving Murdoc back against the wall somewhat forcefully. Wincing to himself, Murdoc ignored the taste of foreign blood in the singer’s mouth.

Distantly the bassist heard the door handle being jiggled. Murdoc jolted in surprise when 2D nudged a leg between his thighs and hands groped his backside roughly. He hadn't expected 2D to get so aggressive. He could feel fingers squeezing his bottom almost appreciatively. The door opened and the satanist was mortified they actually had got caught like two teens yet again. He didn’t let it show of course.

“Gentlemen is this really an appropriate time for this?”

2D groaned in frustration, resting his head on Murdoc’s shoulder. The bassist glanced over to the soldier.

“I have a thing for zombies,” Murdoc blurted, mentally smacking his face, “gets me going.”

“I’m going to have to ask you two to join the others in the waiting area. We have a threat loose and we wouldn’t want you two getting hurt. Please,” the woman had the decency to give them a moment to adjust themselves.

Coming out of the closet, the two were escorted down to join the rest of the survivors. The tension seemed to dissolve between them and the bassist nudged the singer with an elbow, giving him a grin. 2D snorted and looked away.

“I can’t believe you said that.”

“I’m obviously a raging lunatic at this point, I should go with it,” Murdoc dropped his grin slowly, “I’m no good at this.”

They seated themselves away from others, watching the sunrise from a large window. Murdoc stared pensively at the grounded planes and military vehicles surrounding the area outside the immediate building. 2D swapped seats and sat close to the older man. The singer brushed a finger along Murdoc’s jaw.

“You need to shave,” 2D felt his own stubble, “so do I.”

Hesitating a moment the bassist took the singer’s hand. His heart raced while he held the other's hand, he could see blood under 2D's nails. He could work with this situation and 2D being some sort of in-between monster. The world was over after all, who would say shit about them now? 2D leaned in and gave Murdoc a peck.

“I want there to be something between us, again.”

2D nodded, encouraging the other to continue.

“With everything going on I don’t want to wake up one day with you trying to kill me or leaving. I don’t deserve to ask you to stay considering our history.”

“I won’t,” 2D insisted, “leave or kill you. Admittedly I’ve been tempted.”

“Fair point. This condition needs to be dealt with.”

“We’ll wait till this all dies down and talk to Noodle, see if she can help.”

2D smiled fondly at the older man intertwining their fingers, setting their hands against an arm rest between them.

———

Normally Noodle wouldn’t care too much that she couldn’t find the singer or bassist, if they’d been at home that is. After a couple hours stood around, she had seated herself with Russel, quiet and worrying.

“I’m sure they’re okay,” Russel broke their mutual silence.

“Honestly you are probably right, I keep over thinking.”

A few shouts could be heard and everyone was on high alert, pacing and talking louder. Noodle stood with Russel, hovering near their seats, trying to see what might be happening. After some time the military presence dispersed. The survivors and volunteers were finally allowed to go back to their spaces, being told the problem was dealt with. Noodle sighed and rolled her shoulders to loosen up.

“I do not think sleep will come to me anytime soon, want to grab a drink and maybe sit for a bit?”

Russel gave a nod in agreement to her request. They hovered back as survivors made to return to their areas. With less people Noodle spotted the singer and bassist sitting at the windows.

“Hey, there they are,” Noodle smiled, making her way over to the men.

Russel tucked his hands in his pockets, following the guitarist. 2D saw them first and waved.

“Morning, it’s good to see you out and about 2D,” Noodle plopped down across from the two.

Russel took a seat beside the guitarist. The drummer looked at 2D and Murdoc’s joined hands. Noodle saw as well, looking at the two of them.

“Are you two together again?” Russel sounded exasperated.

“It’s in the works,” 2D answered.

Murdoc remained quiet, afraid he’d say something foul and muck things up between them. The singer gave the bassist’s hand a squeeze, being aware of his grip to keep it gentle.

“I wanted to ask you, do you know what the stuff you gave me does?”

“It is an antiviral vaccination for the virus, supposedly to eradicate it and help the person heal. Why?”

“What sort of evidence do you have to say, support that theory?”

Murdoc raised a brow, listening to the singer talk so affluently. He hadn’t noticed till now how well spoken the taller man was becoming recently. Noodle hummed in thought, trying to recall if any of the people brought in actually got better in the strange tests being conducted.

“I can only assume that it does work, but I have yet to see anyone walk away from the testing they do. Like I said before, they do some surprisingly horrible things to infected survivors.”

“So you’re not sure that what you gave me is actually a cure?”

“Well, not entirely. One of the doctors told me it was though, I sort of believe him.”

2D wet his lips nervously, “I don’t know what’s 'appening, but I don’t think it cured me.”

“How so?”

“Well,” the singer rolled thoughts around in his mind, “I sort of ate someone earlier.”

The two stared at the singer. Murdoc looked uncomfortable with the statement. Noodle glanced around before scooting closer to the edge of her seat, leaning in.

“Uh- sorry could you repeat that, did you say you ate someone?”

“Yeah, I’m the person they’re actually looking for. I don’t know what 'appened, it just did,” 2D gesticulated with his one hand, “I’m fairly certain I’m still infected, but I kept my faculties. It’s done wonders for my confidence.”

“This cannot be a good thing,” Noodle commented.

“Well other than the mishap earlier, I’m rather sure this isn’t all that bad. I can finally think clearly, I can walk again,” 2D motioned to the injured leg, “and if I want something I don’t diddle around debating whether I should get it.”

“But you ate someone Toochi, that is most definitely not good.”

“Well there’s no evidence other than my shirt, but Muds lent me his coat till I can change.”

The guitarist was at a loss for words, peering at the bassist for answers the man couldn’t give. Murdoc avoided Noodle’s questioning stare, looking down at his lap. Russel scrubbed his face with one hand, he gestured with his free one.

“You mean to tell me you’re okay being this? ‘D man you can’t go around eating people at all, forget casually.”

2D unintentionally tightened his hold on Murdoc’s hand, grinding the man’s bones slightly. The singer felt cornered. The satanist hissed and yanked his hand away, holding it close to himself. The singer instantly felt terrible.

“Sorry, Muds.”

“Russ is right, this can’t be left like this Dents,” Murdoc rubbed his hand, “you’re going to slip up and do some real damage.”

“I’ll get better, I’ll work on keeping in check,” 2D reached for the hand he’d harmed, “I can work with this, honest.”

Sighing Murdoc let 2D take his hand again. Noodle pressed her hands together deep in thought.

“Maybe I could find out some information without being too obvious.”

2D gently massaged the bassist’s hand in apology while listening.

“You mean take that doctor’s offer up? I don’t like the sound of that.”

“It might be well worth it, at the least I can get some information from him. He likes me.”

Russel grunted at the thought of some greasy doctor putting the moves on the guitarist. Noodle rolled her eyes. Murdoc sort of smirked, almost delighted at the disingenuous behavior Noodle was displaying.

“Dr. Nelson is harmless. He knows things and I think he would be willing to share with me if I agreed to a date. Throw a little charm in there and he should spill his secrets.”

“That’a girl,” Murdoc's smirk widened, sharp teeth visible.

“I don’t like it, but it does sound promising,” Russel sighed.

Noodle nodded her assent before getting to her feet, patting her thighs.

“Let us get that coffee Russel, I’m going to need it if I want to function after no sleep. You two keep out of trouble, please. Try not attacking anyone else Toochi.”

The guitarist stepped away, not worried about Russel following her. The drummer stood too and moved, patting 2D’s shoulder.

“We’ll figure this shit out man, just hold on yeah?”

2D gave the other man a civil smile. Russel went off to get a drink with the guitarist. The singer turned his smile to Murdoc, watching the older man warmly.

“Lets see if we can get a bed and actually sleep this time.”

2D chuckled his approval and soon enough they went off in search of a decent bed to claim.

———

After coffee with Russel, Noodle gave herself a couple hours of sleep before she approached the doctor. Deep down she was uncomfortably thinking about how to get answers out of the man. She didn't want to use anything nefarious to receive the information she needed, but ultimately it was 2D's life on the line if she couldn't.

Locating Dr. Nelson had been an easy case for Noodle. She looked in the usual spots the man took to, to relax after the questionable surgeries he performed. He was all smiles upon spotting Noodle approaching him.

“Natalie! Long time no see,” he was clearly tired, but elated to see her.

“Hey Dr. Nelson, sorry it took so long getting back to you about that offer,” Noodle sat near him, intentionally close.

“It’s been a busy few days. You can call me David, or Dave for short.”

“Well Dave,” Noodle drew his name out, “are you still game for a bite to eat? I’m starved.”

“Absolutely! I know there’s little selection, but how does some canned fruit salad sound?”

“Amazing,” Noodle gave a small laugh, trying not to sound forced.

Moving towards the canteen set up in the airport, Noodle kept a pleasant distance with the man. It’s not that he was inherently ugly, but she wasn’t attracted to men so pretending to pour herself into this ‘date’ felt incredibly wrong. She debated to herself how to put the moves onto the man to get him to talk. It felt rather fake thinking of all the sitcom styles she could try.

“It was pretty scary earlier with the break in,” Dr. Nelson, or rather Dave commented.

“I figured the military had things handled,” essentially they did.

“I suppose you’re right, they never actually found the infected though.”

Dave kept his voice low so not to alert persons around them while they spoke. Noodle blinked to herself, semi-surprised the man was already willing to drop truths to her. Squishing the bafflement Noodle nodded slightly.

“That is concerning,” Noodle was impressed at her ability to sound so relaxed.

“They’re keeping an eye out for any suspicious behaviors. I’m thinking it’s an escaped infected from the back labs.”

Suddenly Noodle realized this man just didn’t care at all what he spilled. She was in awe at the blatant disregard for secrecy that Dave seemed to hold. His arrogance would probably be his downfall.

“Why do you say that?”

Their conversation paused while they reached the front of the queue, gathering their canned goods, already opened. Walking to a set of seats and table, Noodle sat first watching Dave quietly.

“Well we’ve been testing out vaccines as I’m sure you’re aware,” Noodle nodded just to have him continue, “we’ve had some startling results actually.”

“Bad results or good?”

“Depends on how you look at it, but don’t let me bore you with that.”

Noodle mentally cursed. She didn’t want to appear desperate for information. Taking a couple bites of the overly sweet fruit chunks she regarded her options going forward.

“Other than earlier, how’ve you managed? How’s your friend?”

“Well enough, I mean the world has ended. It has been so continuous with me lately I have hardly stopped to think what this all means.”

Dave nodded in understanding.

“I lost my sister before all this.”

Noodle felt her heart go out to the man, but only for the feeling of loss which she understood. The man still had a lot of disturbing qualities to him if the tests and surgeries he partook in proved anything.

“I sort of had a family, not the typical nuclear type.”

“No siblings or parents?”

“I had ‘dads’ and sort of a brother,” Noodle explained, steering away from detail, “I had a really unconventional upbringing.”

Fondly Noodle had flashes of lopsided birthday cakes, awkward movie nights, and Murdoc letting her have a beer for the first time at twelve. She smiled faintly to herself, Russel had lectured the bassist for hours. Dave chuckled at her expression and Noodle came back to herself.

“Looks like you had a pretty decent childhood.”

“Just remembering some fun moments,” she looked down at the can of fruit, “my family isn’t perfect by any means, but they are mine so I guess that counts for something.”

Noticing Noodles use of present tense, Dave tilted his head slightly.

“Are they still around? Was under the impression you had no family left.”

Noodle looked at the man across from her, suddenly aware how stupid it was of her to reminisce. She was trying to get answers out of this man, not spill her life story.

“Well yes.”

“Oh, are they here?”

Mission abort. Noodle thought.

Dave frowned slightly, almost cross at her for withholding such information. It was a ludicrous reaction considering Noodle was only an acquaintance.

“Yes.”

“I figured you knew those strange men, you seemed rather chummy. Cynthia mentioned you were constantly visiting them.”

Suddenly vexed at how he was responding, Noodle cleared her throat.

“I do not see how my family is any of your concern, you and I hardly know each other.”

Her voice barely wavered. Dave sneered, clearly disagreeing with her.

“I trusted you with important information Natalie, I’m appalled you couldn’t bother to give me the same courtesy.”

“Ugh, Murdoc's right, that is a horrible name.”

Standing abruptly, Noodle glared at the man.

“You don't get to- no, you don't deserve to know anything about me. Just because you shared delicate information stupidly, does not mean I owe you anything. You’re an idiot to think any woman, let alone anyone, wants to hear about your medical exploits or torture of sickly people. You should not be mentioning it to begin with.”

Dave stood immediately as well.

“Don’t worry that information won’t be getting out anytime soon whatever your damn name is.”

“Do not fuck with me buddy,” Noodle gritted her teeth, “I am a force to be reckoned with.”

With that Noodle shoved the table at the man, making him grunt when metal met his crotch before she pivoted, stomping away agitated. A part of her realized how irresponsible it was threatening the doctor, but the boiling anger helped her ignore that. Clearly the man was so full of himself, enough to think she would just smile and nod to his garbage.

2D’s condition filled her mind when the rage subsided partly. Noodle rubbed her face, she couldn’t let his situation get out, they would need to leave or risk Stuart being taken as a test subject. Suddenly anxious, Noodle looked around to make sure she wasn’t being stalked before she went on the hunt for her band-mates. Things had gone from moderately safe to treading thin ice. The guitarist desperately willed her legs faster, she needed to warn the group. She had royally fucked up.

Chapter Text

Roused from sleep felt far worse with his growing sleep deprivation. His eyes burned, reddened at the corners, and his mind screamed at him to remain asleep. Russel could yell to the heavens, it had been roughly three or four hours. Noodle was shaking him still despite his eyes sliding open, she was frantic. The drummer tamped out his frustration when he observed her panic.

Rubbing at his empty looking eyes the drummer cleared his throat.

“What’s going on baby girl?”

“I fucked up Russ, I told him I had family here after all the shit he mentioned to me, he plans to hurt you guys!”

“Whoa, whoa, deep breaths Noodle,” Russel sat up properly to assess the distressed woman.

The drummer was no stranger to threats against his life, hell he lived with a man that had literally kidnapped him once. Noodle started to ramble again, voice hurried and some words getting mixed together in her dread.

“I let myself get distracted thinking about stupid things like cake and beer, he asked about you guys and I told him you were all here. He knows about Murdoc and 2D 'cause people have seen me around them too many times! What are we going to do?”

“Hey, okay you have to slow it down. Firstly, Muds and ‘D can handle themselves,” Russel rubbed her upper arms soothingly, “lets take a moment to figure things out okay?”

Noodle nodded, breathing through her nose and out her mouth, sighing. She started to come down, relaxing more with each breath. Russel gave her arms one last squeeze before he settled back against the bed.

“First off, were you followed?”

“No- I do not think so, I did not pay attention.”

“Alright,” Russel looked back to the entry, not immediately seeing anyone, “second, we should probably figure out a place to go if we’re to leave.”

“The only thing I could think is either we go North or South. Either it’s too cold or too warm for the virus to sustain it’s self. I don’t know though because there’s so little information here.”

Five military member marched into the room, guns trained at the ready. Noodle looked over, eyes wide, scared. Russel glanced over seeing them too. Dr. Nelson trailed them and pointed towards Noodle and Russel.

“Both of them. Ms. Niccals broke our agreement to silence and has told her family.”

Noodle clenched her teeth, her hands fisted tightly. Russel patted her arm softly, shaking his head at her. They were quickly surrounded and some sleepy persons looked over confused. None too gently they were pushed along out of the room, guns kept pointed on them.

“You’re an asshole Nelson! People should know what you’re doing here.”

“We’re making history here Natalie.”

“What history? The world is over!”

“Baby girl, don’t provoke him, just comply for now.”

Biting her tongue, having some restraint, Noodle walked along with the drummer between their armed entourage. Dr. Nelson followed along meeting with another group of soldiers waiting in nearby walkway.

“There’s two other men, one is short, dark hair and the other is tall with bright blue hair. Hard to miss.”

Noodle glowered hatefully at the doctor’s back, standing with Russel. The doctor looked over briefly.

“Page Cynthia and Gerald as well.”

“Sir?”

“These four are a real threat to our work, we want to keep that under wraps. Just page them and have them meet us in Lab C.”

The soldier nodded while grabbing their walkie talkie. Dr. Nelson left it at that, walking off. Noodle peered at Russel.

“Lab C is where they take the infected survivors.”

Russel made a face, “shit.”

State of safety had gone from thin ice to utterly fucked. The escorts proceeded to force them along to the dark recesses of the airport where makeshift laboratories had been set up for testing.

———

Watching the bassist sleep may have been considered creepy, but 2D honestly didn’t care. Currently he lay on a bed beside the older man, on his side. They couldn’t find a bed to share, which was fair since only single cots were available. The singer smiled, gazing at the slack expression on Murdoc’s face. The man had practically passed out the moment his body hit the cot. Sleep evaded 2D and he wondered if maybe it was his new condition that disallowed it. Not that he minded.

Enthralled with the sleeping satanist, 2D missed the arrival of the military group sent to fetch them. He didn’t miss the guns being aimed at them or the stern voice asking them to come with them. Confused, 2D reached out, pushing Murdoc’s shoulder distinctly upset at waking the man.

“What now Dents?” Murdoc grumbled.

“Sir we need you two to come with us. There’s been a breach of security and we were informed a Ms. Natalie Niccals discussed sensitive details with both of you.”

Abruptly Murdoc sat up, shaking his head to wake up better.

“What’re you blabbering on about? I don’t know shit.”

“Muds,” 2D warned as he nudged Murdoc again.

“Getting sick of fucking guns in my face,” Murdoc got up, accompanied by his singer.

They were taken to the lab where both Russel and Noodle were sat in some office chairs, guns also pointed at them. Murdoc groaned upon seeing them. The singer and bassist sat where prompted. For a while they sat in silence surrounded by military personnel. lazing in his chair, Murdoc peeked at Noodle

“That date go sour?” Murdoc asked.

“He started to act like a pretentious prick, thinking I owed him information. I sort of lost my cool and shoved a table into his junk.”

The satanist sniggered. Russel looked at Murdoc irritated.

“This isn’t a good time to be laughing man.”

2D rested his elbows against his knees, anxiously twiddling his fingers. Murdoc rolled his eyes at Russel, clearly disinterested in playing nice. The bassist twisted his chair to catch 2D twitching.

“Will you quit that, you look like an addict waiting for a fix.”

“How are you so calm?” 2D warbled.

“Live in the moment Dents, it helps.”

Russel rested his cheek on his hand, leaning into the arm rest on his chair. Noodle folded her hands together, fiddling her thumbs gently. Three lab coat wearing doctors stepped into the room, one being Dr. Nelson. Noodle recognized Dr. Cynthia Webber, but the third man she didn’t know well enough.

“So delighted you four could join us. What freaky bunch you are.”

“You said one of them was injured?” Dr. Webber turned to Dr. Nelson as she spoke.

She slipped on some gloves. Dr. Nelson pointed to 2D making the singer freeze.

“I’m fairly certain that weirdo was hurt. Natalie was fixing his leg the first time.”

Murdoc sneered at the comment.

“My damn name is Noodle." Noodle grunted loudly.

Dr. Webber raised a brow at the outburst, but waved them off, “have him transferred to my lab down the hall. I’ll start my examination there.”

2D tried to scoot his chair back only managing to bump into another soldier. He was grabbed unceremoniously by his upper arms and rather boorishly taken off. Noodle gripped her seat hard, eyeing the people around them. Murdoc leapt from his seat attempting to make a grab for the singer. He was roughly shoved back into his chair. Russel bit his lip, sitting tense beside Noodle.

“You can’t fucking do this!” Murdoc gestured enraged.

Cringing away, Noodle and Russel winced in unison when the butt of a gun was conked over Murdoc’s head. The Bassist slumped over unconscious. Dr. Webber took her leave, heading to her lab where the singer was being moved too.

“You three are a problem,” the unknown doctor commented, “lets get them put away for now.”

With a simple hand gesture the soldiers near the guitarist and drummer gave them similar treatment and moments later everything went blank for them.

———

An unknown amount of time passed for the singer. Unfortunately for three other involuntary participants things dragged. Dr. Nelson and the unnamed doctor with help from some armed officials had the three strapped down to uncomfortable beds.

Murdoc yelled at the men till he was blue in the face. Noodle kicked and screamed as well, imitating the bassist to a T. Russel put up resistance in a calmer manner, loudly stating his rights as a human being. Mostly they were ignored and at one point they gagged Murdoc since he ended up being the loudest. The doctors set up kits for drawing blood.

“You know what I just noticed, you people look strangely similar to this stupid CD my sister bought me.”

Dr. Nelson had flashed a CD case for them to see. Noodle struggled in her bindings spitting vitriol at the man. The case had their faces on the front in four squares. Later Noodle wouldn’t even remember half of their conversation.

“Shit music in my opinion,” he tossed the case onto a desk near a CD player.

Murdoc gave a muffled retort at the comment. The doctor chuckled at the bassist’s reaction.

“Have you finished setting up those injections?”

“Yeah,” the other doctor tapped the needle lightly.

“Lets get started shall we?”

The beds were wheeled into a separate room for testing. In the end they gagged Russel and Noodle too just to avoid being spat on again. Dr. Nelson took notes while the other pried open eyes, shining lights, basically giving them a precursor physical without letting them stand. It was impersonal and uncomfortable. They set up the blood kits to draw blood from the three of them.

Part way through the gags were removed. Drugs were administered. Russel was the first to pass out. Murdoc fought the drugs off for longer, still spitting insults at the men, slurring his words. Dr. Nelson rolled his eyes and gave the bassist more than the recommended dose to knock the man out.

Noodle was left, only lightly drugged. She lost track of time, feeling weak with the large bag of blood they’d drawn. She felt feverish. Things flashed in and out.

———

He barely cracked his eyes open, wincing at the light. 2D blinked a bit more at the brightness blaring down into his face. He didn’t remember passing out. He tried to bring a hand to his face to block the light but found it restrained. Something cold and metal pressed into his arm and wrist; his whole body actually. He lifted his head to look and found he couldn’t do that either.

Bewildered he darted his eyes back and forth in attempt to see beyond the whiteness. His pulse spiked when he couldn’t make out anything.

“It looks like his infection has mutated. He’s got higher functions. His body is working in tandem with the virus, I’ve only seen this in that other case.”

“He’s out survived the other patient. This is unprecedented. Impressive really.”

“How are the other three?”

“Safely tucked away. They won’t be bothering us.”

2D felt tears stinging at the corner of his eyes.

“Please just let me go,” he mumbled, “I won’t hurt anyone else. It was an accident.”

“He seems capable of emoting still, that’s beyond what we expected. I think the combination of Vaccine type one and type two being mixed has given way for something we couldn’t have expected.”

“We don’t need a weapon that emotes. We need a killing machine that will obey and help clean up the mess we’re in.”

The singer sniffed, trying hard not to sob outright. He was terrified and these unidentified people were talking of him like some sort of item, not a person.

“Well lets get a dose of type three,” a female voice, new to the conversation.

Finally the light was turned off. 2D blinked rapidly, tears sliding down his temples as he tried to see around him. Given his limited ability to move he was able make out the doctors from before standing at the foot of the gurney.

“We need to administer it carefully. We over do it and it could just reverse this rare condition he’s in.”

“We should prepare the others to the same level as him, we have three of them. He can be the base and the others can be our tests to see how another one can be made.”

They were going to hurt the others. Suddenly 2D felt a surge of protectiveness fill him. How long had he been out? Were the others okay?

“Don’t! Don’t touch them,” 2D shouted, startling the doctors, “if you touch them I’ll— I’ll kill you! I’ll rip you apart and eat your insides!”

The doctors all shared a chuckle. Dr. Nelson motioned to his restrains.

“Good luck with that buddy. That can withstand even the most pumped up infected.”

The singer felt hot tears pool in his eyes again at being mocked. He struggled against the metal clasps. There were two on each arm and leg, one over his head and finally one over his chest. Apparently undaunted the doctors resumed their conversation, discussing the level of infection to introduce to the other three band members. 2D felt humiliated at being ignored and for being unable to break out. He released the tension in his body, finally letting himself cry pitifully.

After long debate the doctors dispersed and two left while the female doctor, Dr. Webber remained. She moved around out of 2D’s partial view, tinkering about in things. He sniffled and tried to blink his tears away.

“You don’t have to do this, please, just let me go.”

“I’m sorry, but we haven’t had a break through in months.”

“Months? B-but this has only been going on for a week or so,” 2D mumbled weakly.

“I suppose talking won’t do any harm,” Dr. Webber sat at her desk while prepping needles, “this whole thing started probably six months ago.”

She drew a reddish fluid from a vial, 2D couldn’t see what she was doing. Her desk was at the end of the gurney by his head.

“There was an accident in a lab, doesn’t matter where at this point. Some sort of viral outbreak occurred. It was contained, only transferred via bodily fluids.”

Her chair made an irritating noise as it grated against the floor. 2D could tell one of the wheels had jammed by the noise. She had the needle in her hand. 2D eyed her and the needle, anxious.

“During the containment of this lab the virus mutated, became capable of transferring via water. Suddenly it was a much more serious problem. We, us scientists, started around the clock work to find a way to combat it.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Well after today you probably won’t be around to remember.”

“What is that?”

“This is the third anti-viral vaccine we have, it usually induces increased aggression in subjects. You’re a special case though, we don’t know how it’ll take with you. Only giving you a third the dose so fingers crossed.”

“Please no. No. I don’t want anymore shots,” 2D renewed his struggle.

Dr. Webber smiled demurely at the singer. She patted his cheek almost affectionately.

“You remind me of my boyfriend, never liked needles.”

“No no no!” 2D wailed, “Just leave me alone!”

Dr. Webber held 2D’s arm still enough to give him the shot. She leaned up and turned tossing the needle into her bio-hazard bin under the desk.

“There, that wasn’t so bad now was it?”

Burning filled his veins, creeping up his arm into his shoulder. The singer whimpered pathetically, incapable of moving to ease the sensation away. Dr. Webber moved away from him and started to click at something. Distantly 2D knew it was a computer keyboard.

“It burns, it burns a lot, please make it stop,” the singer felt delirious, muttering as it over took him.

Everything was going red. 2D wished for death, anything nicer than this horrible state of fire trapped inside him. When the singer ceased whining the doctor looked over, curious if the man had actually died. She was sure she had given him the smallest dose.

“That’s unfortunate,” she stated, standing to have a look.

2D remained still, deathly still. Dr. Webber sighed checking the singer’s pulse, but found none.

“This wasn’t the result I hoped for.”

She gave a disappointed huff and sat back at her chair heavily. She began to furiously type out the results. The other two would surely be just as dissatisfied. She wasn’t aware of how long she was typing until she glanced at the clock. Nearly three hours.

“I suppose I should have the body removed,” Dr. Webber peeked over at 2D.

She decided it wasn’t worth checking him again, he had no pulse. They could put his body on ice for autopsy later. Unaware of her mistake she looked to the soldier posted by the door.

“What an utter waste. I hope things are working better for the other two,” motioning to the man standing guard, she pointed to the singer, “can you get that moved to our temp morgue, please. I’ve never seen someone succumb so quickly to that vaccine.”

The man nodded stepping up to the gurney. He unclasped 2D’s head and chest, then one arm. He was quiet well he worked, trying not to disturb the doctor further. Dr. Webber muttered to herself continuing her typing. Undoing another clasp the man didn’t notice 2D open his eyes. A hand shot up digging sharply into his windpipe. He choked on the sensation of having his airway grabbed so painfully. The man looked to the black pits staring back at him from the supposed corpse.

Dr. Webber turned on her chair interrupted from thought by the odd noise. Momentarily she couldn’t grasp the situation.

“Jesus Christ!” Dr. Webber reached for a gun under her desk. Hands scrabbling for purchase in her panic.

2D growled and squeezed violently, tearing the man’s throat open. Blood showered down on the singer as he let the body slump down. He tore open the clasps on his other arm and practically ripped through the ones on his legs. His hands were bloodied both from the soldier and from cutting himself open on the metal. With purpose he swung himself off the bed, twisting himself to face the doctor.

Dr. Webber shrieked as she fired on the singer, realizing too late the safety was on. Smiling grimly 2D descended on her.

The guard outside the room busted in to the singer hunched over Dr. Webber’s body, something fleshy in his mouth. Aiming the man started to fire. 2D rushed under the gurney, pushing it up length wise, tipping it over, shoving it towards the man with speed. Startled by the bed coming at him the man sidestepped only for the vocalist to tackle him.

Pressing desperately at his pager his cries gurgled out when he was ripped apart, barely a chance to fight back. The pager laid to the side by the soldier’s twitching hand. The man had pressed the wrong button so the alarm remained silent. The singer leaned up from the bloodied body, he scanned his surroundings, seeing no other threats. In part he wasn’t all aware of his actions, just an instinctual feeling to protect and feed.

He hardly bothered eating the corpse and lumbered off on steady feet, searching out something, he wasn’t sure what. He painted a rather gruesome image.

———

Elsewhere Dr. Nelson tapped the vial of blood in his hand. The guitarist lolled her head around tiredly. She didn’t know how much blood had been drawn, she felt faint. She was horizontal which made her feel worse. The world was spinning subtly.

“What a name, Noodle,” Dr. Nelson started as he prepped something, she didn’t care to look, “how did you get that name?”

“It’s all I could sssay,” Noodle giggled at how slurred her speech was.

She had no idea if Murdoc or Russel were in the vicinity, she hadn’t heard them say anything for who knew how long. She didn’t even know where she was anymore.

“Oh sweetie, I need you to stay with me. Just a bit longer and we’ll let you have a break before part two. You’re a real trooper.”

He was cruelly teasing her, she could tell, but she was just so tired.

“W-where are my friends?”

“Oh your friends are being well looked after, I promise. Only the best treatment for the world famous Gorillaz. Who knew we were in the presence of celebrities!”

Noodle blinked her eyes out of sync, confusion swarming her mind. When had she mentioned that? Did she?

Dr. Nelson flicked a needle in his hand that held something clear. He gave the guitarist a thoughtful look.

“This might be easier if you’re out for the next procedure.”

His partner stepped in from another room, connected by a door.

“I finished with the other tests. Seems the one guy finally passed out, had to give him a third shot.”

“I wonder if Cynthia is having much luck on her end?”

“I can go check, need anything well I’m out? Coffee? Tea?”

Dr. Nelson waved the man off, “no I’m alright.”

The unnamed doctor left, closing the door behind himself. Dr. Nelson maneuvered Noodle’s bed towards the other door. He paused to check her restraints.

“Did you want to see your friends? I’m sure they miss you.”

She didn’t like his tone. If she wasn’t so damn tired she’d wipe that smirk off his face.

Chuckling at her feeble glare he wheeled the bed into the next room which seemed similar in design to the previous. Noodle blearily looked around, unsure where to look. He loosened the strap over her head, turning her face to look over at two other beds. Russel and Murdoc were also strapped in, but seemingly asleep or still. Noodle felt her eyes burn with tears.

“What’d you do to them? Are they alive?” Her heart pounded painfully, but dully.

“They’re just fine. I’m sure.”

“You’re fucking messed up.”

She felt like a small child, trapped, afraid and unable to protect herself and her family. She didn’t understand why this was happening.

Dr. Nelson gave her a cold smile, “when you lose everything and I’m sure you will, you’ll understand why we’re doing this.”

Leaving the strap slack on her head he pushed her bed where he wanted it. He turned a light on, moving it to shine in her face. Noodle squeezed her eyes closed, she just wanted to leave this place. The doctor flicked on some music. Noodle felt sick when she heard the familiar tune and voice waft through the air.

“I’m surprised I didn’t recognize you sooner, probably all that grime hiding your pretty little face.”

She didn’t respond. He moved around her running machines and varies tests instead of administering the clear liquid to her. She felt like the man only kept her aware to blather on irritatingly.

“I actually went to your concert with my sister, decent show. I didn’t think that’d be the last time we’d see each other.”

“So you’re a fan?” Her face was sweating under the lamp making her feel ill.

“Not really, she convinced me to go. Bought me a CD and everything. Honestly I can’t stand the music. It’s a bit funny though, listening to your own music at the end of all things.”

Noodle could hear the soft lilt of 2D’s voice singing his verses for the song. Dr. Nelson jolted when something or someone slammed the door in the other room.

“What now?”

The doctor hesitated, staying where he stood. Noodle wiggled weakly in her restraints. Dr. Nelson advanced to the door, cracking it open to peer out. He honed his eyes to a trail of bloodied prints on the floor. Then he saw the busted door across the other room and the leg resting at an awkward angle near the entry. His eyes darted around the room, puzzled but growing uneasy. He kept the door only slightly parted, scared to step out. The CD player changed songs, on shuffle. The heavy beat of Charger started to play.

2D filled Dr. Nelson’s vision suddenly, swarming him. He gave the doctor a horrible bloodied smile, slapping the door open with more force than necessary. Dr. Nelson scrambled back making an aborted noise as his shoulder hit the device holding the light. Noodle blinked, wincing as she stayed still, willing her nausea down. Light now gone she could open her eyes. Dr. Nelson screamed as he fell to the floor, scurrying away from 2D. The singer stalked the man till he was trapped before pouncing. Noodle stared on in horror, eyes unable to look away. He looked like her adoptive brother, but in that instant he wasn't. 2D was all cruel smiles, blood caked to his face and staining his hair. Her breath caught when the singer dug his teeth into Dr. Nelson's throat. Fighting the leather, Noodle felt bile rise in her throat. She didn’t recognize that man, that monster. His hair was practically purple with all the blood in it. Giving a feeble cry, Noodle fought to get her arms free. She couldn’t hear over the rush of blood in her ears and the stupid CD playing so when 2D came into her field of view she shrieked.

“NO! NO!”

“Noodle! Relax!”

“STAY AWAY!”

“I’m not gonna hurt you Luv. I’d never hurt you!”

He wiped bloodied hands on the bed haphazardly then he cupped her face softly.

“Noodle it’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you. Please calm down.”

Noodle blinked big tears out of her eyes to stare at 2D. She saw a glimpse of Stuart not the creature from moments ago. He was covered in so much red. She hiccuped as she started to cry harder. The singer let her face go and started to remove the straps. Small splotches of red were left on her face blurring under her tears.

“It’s okay Noodle, it’s okay now,” he scooped her up close, hugging her into his chest.

The guitarist sniveled clinging to the singer, completely ignoring the warmish blood soaking his front. He rubbed her back soothingly, holding her close.

“You’re safe now, I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

“You scared me Toochi, you weren’t you,” she blubbered, “you looked like something else.”

“I know Luv, I know. I promise I wouldn’t ever hurt you okay?” 2D used his nickname for her, trying to ease her anxiety.

“Okay,” Noodle held tighter to the thin man.

2D gave the guitarist a kiss on the head, leaning back finally. He swiped his thumbs over her cheeks accidentally smudging some blood on her while trying to clean away the tears.

“I’m going to wake up the other two, you just catch your breath okay? Don’t look in the corner.”

Noodle nodded. She rubbed her face, shaking. The blood loss and adrenaline rush made her feel detached. 2D moved away and undid the straps on the other two. He prodded them both rather hard. Russel grunted after enough poking. Murdoc didn’t budge, entirely unconscious.

“Hey Russ.”

“‘D? That you man, you look pretty red.”

“Uh yeah, I’m a little messy right now,” 2D tried to scrub his hands on his jeans again, “we’re going to need to leave.”

Russel felt similar to Noodle, weak in the limbs and exhausted. 2D poked the bassist again. Murdoc continued to lay there in drug induced sleep, mouth slack.

“Are you two able to walk?”

Russel gave a thumbs up when he pulled himself into a seated position. His vision swam with black spots. He could feel the drugs in his system affecting his mind, but knew it wasn’t a heavy dose. Noodle wobbled as she stumbled to where Russel was. She leaned into the man.

“I feel so sick,” Noodle held her head.

“Same baby girl.”

2D helped Murdoc sit up, though he flopped forward some, unconscious still. The singer rested a hand on the satanist’s chest to hold him up. Noodle had obvious tracks on her face from crying. Russel got a good look at the singer, recoiling at all the blood.

“Christ ‘D what did you do?”

“I dealt with the problem. I don’t know how long till they notice so we should try and get out of here.”

Russel stared, 2D snapped finally.

“Russel! Not the time to have a crisis okay? I’m not gonna hurt any of you. You’re my friends.”

The drummer slid a hand over his head gulping audibly, still trying to comprehend everything. 2D manhandled Murdoc like a rag doll, heaving him up into his arms. Noodle would have laughed at the display if she wasn’t so torn and sick. Russel finally moved off the bed, wavering while walking, using the wall to support himself.

The singer took the lead, carrying the bassist against his chest bridal style. Noodle avoided looking around at the carnage the singer had left in his wake. Russel gave Noodle a glance, his blank eyes were wide, frightened. She just nodded in understanding. They followed the taller man silently.

———

Taking breaks frequently for the drummer and guitarist made leaving, an otherwise easy task, tedious. 2D realized he couldn’t push them and didn’t entirely mind. He had to shift the limp man in his arms a few times. Murdoc’s head kept flopping back, it looked uncomfortable.

“Where are we going to go?”

“I don’t really know,” 2D answered.

“We’re gonna need some kinda vehicle,” Russel huffed, trying to catch his breath.

Noodle rested back against the wall wiping her forehead of sweat.

“Isn’t he heavy?”

“I’m a lot stronger now,” 2D grumbled when the bassist’s head slumped again, “he’s difficult even when drugged.”

They resumed, traveling through the back ends of the airport, the lack of lights hiding them to some degree. Unfortunately it was hitting late afternoon, early evening and people were awake, milling about. 2D hid in a small conference room with the other two.

“I can’t go out there, you two need to regain your strength so you need to get food and rest. I’ll stay here with Muds,” the singer set up the satanist against the wall, “I’ll come get you two when it’s dark.”

“Toochi you can’t stay here.”

“I’ll be fine. Hopefully they don’t check in on the good doctors for a little while. Till then please go recover. You two look relatively normal.”

Russel sighed.

“And, well, Muds aint gonna be going anywhere till the meds wear off.”

“Please, please don’t attack anyone else Toochi, please. Promise me, us, that you won’t kill anymore people.”

“They were going to hurt you.”

“Please!”

“Okay, no more killing. Promise.”

2D smiled softly for her. The image was ruined by all the drying blood smeared on his face. Noodle faltered, but wanted to believe the singer meant it. Russel observed the singer, he could see the man was holding himself with purpose. There were no fidgets or nervous ticks. When he finally caught 2D’s eyes he saw that despite the changes the singer was still himself under the guise. He saw the anxious look.

“Be safe man,” Russel smiled back, albeit still concerned.

Noodle opened the door, making sure the coast was clear. She and Russel gave 2D one more glance before slipping out.

“Just you and me Muds, at least for now,” 2D plopped next to the slouched bassist.

He tucked the man into his side.

“Once we get on the open road it’ll be better, we can put this all behind us, pretend for the time being that everything is normal.”

2D looked down at the mop of semi-curled black hair resting against his shoulder. He wondered if he was like this the first time Murdoc had run him down.

“It’ll be like an extended road trip, we could even nick a couple bottles of wine for you,” 2D laughed to himself.

The singer’s expression turned somber. His voice came out weak, almost choked.

“What am I becoming Muds? Am I a monster?”

Murdoc didn’t say anything. The singer covered his face with a free hand before dragging his hand to his mouth. He muffled his quivering breaths by biting his knuckles. He was a monster.

Chapter Text

Bored senseless, 2D wandered the conference room for a bit. He sat and played beats out on the table in another moment. He laid upside down off the table talking to Murdoc's slumped form. From hour to hour the singer performed varies feats of flexibility while talking to the Satanist.

Growing restless he rolled around on the ground. He nudged the bassist’s boot. Of course currently he got no reaction. He pouted. Every so often he would peek at the analog clock hanging in the room. An incessant voice in his head told him that it was only a matter of time before the bodies were discovered. However as the hours passed into night, finally thought 2D, no alarm was sounded. The singer knelt in front of the satanist checking his pulse on his wrist, thankful to see it still existed.

“You’ve been so boring Muds, how did you do it with me?” 2D tugged the dead weight of the bassist towards himself.

“I sort of see the appeal talking to someone who won’t talk back, but conversation is pretty drab innit?”

With only minor struggle, 2D scooped the man up off the floor. The singer grumbled when Murdocs head lolled back.

“Christ I feel like you’re intentionally doing that, just to spite me or something.”

Bumping his shoulder the older man’s head fell forward. 2D smiled.

“Much better. Lets go have ourselves a shower then grab the other two. Hopefully nobody sees.”

The singer started to snicker, “imagine explaining this to someone. Yes sir I’m just taking my drugged friend to the showers. Oh don’t mind the human remains and blood on me. I was hungry earlier.”

2D felt only partly deranged talking about his brutal murder of six people in a chipper voice. Maybe he was finally losing his mind. Walking towards the door his hand fiddled for the handle while trying to keep a hold on Murdoc.

“You’re so unhelpful Muds, least you could do is open the door for us. That’s what proper boyfriends would do.”

Of course Murdoc remained uselessly unconscious in the singer’s arms. Successful after a few attempts, 2D nudged his way out of the room looking back and forth before feeling it safe to continue. He whispered to the bassist while walking through the darkened areas of the airport.

“Does this make me insane for chatting to you without any answers? I mean I am directing my talking to you. Can you even hear me like this?” 2D slid into the temporary showering area, “Is this considered a drug induced coma? Now that I think about it, this is actually rather alarming. Just how much did they give you?”

He looked at himself in the mirror then Murdoc in his arms. Strangely Murdoc looked rather small.

“I look very unpleasant like this and I’ve forgotten shit we need for a shower.”

Chewing his lip he glanced around for a safe place to tuck the bassist away.

“Listen Muds, I don’t want you thinking I’m leaving you, but we need towels and all that. Not that carting you around isn’t fun. You’re a lot smaller than I thought.”

2D chuckled again before pivoting away from the mirrors and finding a good spot for the limp satanist. He tucked the man in so he wouldn’t flop over. The singer leaned in kissing the older man’s head affectionately.

“I’ll be right back Muds.”

2D thought about the parallels to when they had showered a day or two ago. He shook his head and hurried out of the dank room, cautious of patrols or random survivors still up. Unbeknownst to the singer the corpses were being discovered.

———

Once redressed and cleaned of blood, yet again, 2D carted Murdoc off to the conference room before looking around for Russel and Noodle. He noticed almost immediately there were far more military members patrolling the airport. Acting casual he avoided being questioned and discovered the others sleeping in a shared area.

Rousing the guitarist and drummer he urged them to come along with him to the conference room. They’d need to make some plans on how to make a mad escape. They walked along, keeping their heads down to keep anyone from recognizing them. Safely sealed in the conference room again, 2D closed the door with a click. Patting his jacket pockets he pulled a small flashlight out to flick on. He’d found it in one of the cases when grabbing clothing.

"I think they know about the bodies now,” 2D wandered towards where he’d left Murdoc.

He shone the light around noticing the absence of the bassist.

“And we’re missing Muds,” the singer paused when someone grabbed his ankle.

Jerking and almost shrieking, thankfully covering his mouth, 2D shone the light towards the source of the hand. Murdoc winced, he was hunched over a trash bin. Noodle came to the bassist’s side patting his back.

“glad to see you alive.”

“I feel like garbage,” the satanist coughed, “what’s happening?”

“We were going to discuss how we get out of here.”

Noodle moved away from the bassist to perch on the conference table. Murdoc shifted himself enough to face the group, leaning on the trash bin in his lap. He didn’t care what the others thought. Russel took a place beside Noodle, resting his hands against his upper legs.

2D paced between them, flashlight flickering between the floor and wall.

“I remember seeing some unused ambulances near the airport, kept to the side.”

Murdoc remembered as well, “could use them to leave. say we need to toss a body. Pose as doctors.”

Most of his speech was bogged down with grogginess. The anesthetic used to keep him under leaving him feeling distinctly achy in ways he knew were probably not good. 2D shone the light on himself.

“I could be the corpse.”

Noodle nodded, seemingly agreeing to the idea.

“We could steal some coats from the medical area.”

“It cannot be that easy,” Russel vocalized, “they’re not gonna let a buncha’ doctors out.”

Murdoc stooped to his feet, faltering a moment with dizziness. He straightened up feeling pin pricks of discomfort throughout his body.

“It can, it will, I’m Murdoc bloody Niccals. The world may be over, but I’m not going down without a fucking fight. We’re leaving. Lets grab us some coats.”

2D chuckled at the bassist, “lets take it slow.”

“I’m fine,” Murdoc didn’t feel fine.

The three of them could see the bassist was certainly not fine as they traversed the airport. The older man was sweating excessively and practically wheezing half way through their journey. Noodle tried to take the satanist’s pulse but was swatted away. Russel frowned.

“You are not fine, just let us stop a moment. Catch your breath.”

“I said I’m fine, fuck. Lets just keep going.”

The singer watched the shorter man, concern glinting in his dark eyes. Murdoc motioned 2D’s expression off, he walked past them. He knew the increased sweating, pain and short breath all signaled a delayed reaction to the anesthetic, possibly something worse. If they could get out first he would deal with the issue then, for now he pushed himself to keep moving. 2D shrugged at Noodle and Russel, following the satanist.

“Fine, but don’t blame us. We tried to help your sorry ass, man.”

———

Retrieving lab coats turned into a small debacle when the bassist snatched some medications, popping a couple pills at the protest of his friends. He cited he knew exactly what he was doing, that taking something would help his symptoms. He lied saying his withdrawal was causing them. Admittedly he had kept some Oxycontin on him, but couldn’t find it upon waking; the pain meds had been keeping him sane through the sobriety.

To distract from his rather hasty and morally ambiguous decision to self medicate, Murdoc grabbed the singer forcing him down to a hospital bed. He whipped a lab coat on and urged the other two to copy him. Adrenaline going, he yanked a sheet over the singer telling him to keep quiet. Murdoc took a deep unsettling breath, his chest felt tight.

“This isn’t going to work,” Russel complained.

“It’s going to work, have some faith.”

Without further hesitation they pushed the bed through to the back where they’d been before hand. Murdoc hissed at 2D while they kept an even pace with the bed.

“Act dead Dents, they need to think you’re a corpse.”

“Shouldn’t be hard,” 2D mumbled.

“Shush, dead people don’t speak.”

Murdoc continued on with the other two past some soldiers guarding the busted door of the lab they’d been locked away in hours prior. One of the guards halted them.

“What’s this? Where are you three going?”

“What does it look like? It’s a fucking corpse. We have tests to run!”

Noodle shot Murdoc a look before stepping forward, “please excuse him, he’s been working non-stop. We had someone die during tests. Figured an autopsy was in order then disposing. What happened here?”

The soldier eyed them, especially Murdoc who was breathing a bit hard.

“Just a small mishap, were you not informed? New protocol was put in place, all doctors and scientist are to be escorted to prevent further incident from occurring.”

“We were pretty deep into our examination, we missed the commotion. Is there a person available to escort us to our temporary morgue?”

Murdoc clutched at the bed tightly, his vision was wavering. Russel kept shooting the bassist alarmed looks. The guard eyed them once more before nodding to the other person. None of them realized that was a signal to follow at a distance.

“I can escort you three.”

“Thank you, we shouldn’t be too long.”

The soldier was fairly obvious in his distrust of them. He walked with them, hand ready to pull the semi-automatic weapon hanging on his shoulder. Noodle was tense in the shoulders while walking. With the movement Murdoc focused on the bed, trying to control his breathing to sound less harried. An ache was creeping into his neck and shoulders as they proceeded. Noodle subtly directed the distracted man by holding the side of the rolling bed. She had seen enough of the back halls and labs to know approximately where they needed to go.

The squeak of the wheels kept them company in the silence. Upon reaching the temporary morgue, none of them had expected to see two doctors preforming an autopsy. Noodle froze, surprised. Russel mouthed a choice word. While the others looked confused at their group, Murdoc pressed his hands together and surged forward, slamming his hands down into the exposed neck of the soldier. He felt his body shake with the motion.

When the man went down, Russel stared at the bassist. Noodle opened her mouth, thought better and closed it. She hastily scooped up the weapon off the man popping the magazine out and tossed both components. She pointed to a fire exit at the back of the room urgently.

“What in the high heavens is going on?” One of the doctors shouted.

“Lets go ‘D,” Russel tugged the sheet away.

“Good God!” The other doctor yelped at seeing 2D.

The singer hopped off the bed. Quickly they rushed by for the back doors that lead to the exit. 2D shouted apologies at the two doctors before disappearing behind the doors. As soon as the fire exit door closed three soldiers slammed into the room startling the doctors again.

Noodle took the lead running, lab coat flapping around her. Russel came in close second behind the guitarist. The hallway was narrow and unpainted, nothing like the ones around the main areas. 2D lagged behind to make sure the satanist kept up. Noodle shoved the exit door open forcefully, only then registering they hadn’t planned their exit well. Russel came up near her peering around.

“Where are the ambulances?”

“I d-don’t know, we didn’t think this through very well.”

At the end of the hallway some new soldiers hollered at them. 2D and Murdoc took a brief look back. Guns were aimed.

“Stop or we’ll shoot!”

“Fuck! Fuck, run! Just go!”

2D grasped the bassist’s wrist, jerking the man forward. Though his heart was thumping excruciatingly fast in his rib cage, Murdoc sprinted with the singer. They practically collided with Noodle and Russel, forcing them out of the hall into the open air of the early morning. Shots whizzed by them and hit the doors. Noodle felt reminded too much of the El Mañana shoot, ducking as she ran with the three older men.

“They should be close by,” 2D gestured frantically, “I saw ‘em closer to the entrance!”

Time seemed to slow as they made their way to the entry of the airport. The soft glow of dawn highlighted an ambulance, plus a few other emergency vehicles. With bullets flying and feet hitting the asphalt, Noodle nearly skid around the ambulance. She scrambled to yank the back of the vehicle open. 2D almost threw the guitarist into the back before jumping in himself, slamming the doors. Murdoc clutched his chest as he claimed the drivers side, mentally screaming praise to Satan there were keys. For a moment lady luck seemed to give them reprieve.

“Drive man! Drive before we get fucking pumped with lead!”

Cranking the ignition the Ambulance sputtered dangerously before rumbling to life. Russel yelped when his window shattered; he pressed back into his seat. The satanist got the large truck going, hurdling to the check point they had entered.

Knocking about in the back, Noodle clung to some netting while the singer pressed himself to the opposite wall. The stretcher between them rattled loudly, thankfully locked in. Russel motioned forward.

“Don’t stop man, just gun it!”

Heeding the request, Murdoc thrust his foot into the pedal. People moved away, some fired on them, but mostly nobody managed to stop the ambulance rocketing towards the gate. Russel shielded his face when they flew through the fencing, obliterating it, cracking the windshield when metal flung against it. Barbed wire caught onto the side mirror before screeching off the metal.

“Sound off! Whose alive?”

“Alive!” Noodle shouted.

“Alive,” 2D groaned, laying in an uncomfortable position in the back.

“Thank fuck,” Russel muttered.

Behind them the military ceased their chase when groaning undead decided to use the opening. Although not many around, it was enough to overwhelm anyone from following the rag tag band.

Noodle burst out laughing, nerves frayed as she collapsed onto the stretcher. 2D joined her, anxiety tapering off. Russel smirked, clearly in the same boat.

“I can’t believe we just fucking did that!”

“I can’t believe it actually worked! I promise I will never doubt you again man,” the drummer shoved Murdoc’s shoulder slightly.

2D and Noodle giggled in the back, trying to catch their breath. Murdoc breathed shallowly, finally succumbing to intense pain through his shoulders and left arm, he slumped slightly to grip at the arm, the ambulance swerved violently. Russel gave a shout of surprise, grabbing for the steering wheel, straightening them out.

“What the hell man!”

“I’m having a heart attack!”

“What? You’re kidding right?”

“No I’m not!”

The bassist groaned in agony trying to ease the increased pain in his chest. Russel reached with his foot, pushing Murdoc’s away from the gas.

“Jesus! Noodle, ‘D, someone, give me a hand. We need to stop!”

The singer slipped his arm around the Bassist’s shoulders to hold him back from the steering console. Russel wiggled his foot around to press on the brake. Noodle shoved fallen medical supplies off the stretcher, lurching when the ambulance stopped. The drummer got the ambulance into park and with help him and 2D got Murdoc onto the stretcher.

“What do we do?”

“AED, find an AED,” the bassist gasped.

Russel stayed at the front of the vehicle, not wanting to get in the way in such a small space; he watched on in fret. Noodle dug through supplies on her side while the singer scanned fallen objects and cubicles. He spotted a red zipped bag with AED printed on it. Scooping it up he set it on the stretcher near the satanist’s head.

“How do I use this?”

Already close to complete heart failure the bassist shoved his own shirt up feebly, beyond talking. He jabbed at his torso limply, the spots necessary for the device. Noodle grabbed the bag and unzipped it. She set the AED up and flicked it on. When the machine did nothing she smacked it, panicked. 2D chewed his nails. Russel ran a hand over his head, anxiously looking around for anything to help. Noodle fiddled shakily with the device, she flicked it on and off.

“He’s not breathing, what do we do? He stopped moving!”

“CPR,” Noodle suggested, voice high.

The AED pulsed suddenly making the bassist’s body jolt partly, not a lot. Noodle stared momentarily startled. When the device did it a second time the young woman leapt into action, she tilted the man’s head back listening for any breathing.

“What if he doesn’t make it?”

“Find a blanket or something warm to put on him,” Noodle leaned over the older man and started to give quick chest compressions between the pulses.

2D rubbed his eyes, hardly clearing away tears as he looked for a blanket. Russel tugged off the coat he had on, passing it to the singer. Haphazardly 2D laid his own jacket, Russel’s jacket and a recovery blanket over Murdoc, keeping his chest clear. Noodle built up a small sweat performing CPR on the man and for a tense minute 2D and Russel watched, breath held. When the satanist finally sucked in a sharp breath after another shock, Noodle gave an overjoyed cry. She hurried and removed the device, hugging the bassist. Russel let his breath go in a grateful manner.

“Don’t ever do that again! You stupid old fuck!”

2D joined the guitarist, hugging the satanist with her. Russel brushed his thumb over the corner of his eye chuckling tiredly.

“What the fuck is everyone laying on me for?” Murdoc garbled confused.

“You died you idiot,” Noodle cried, “fucking hate you, scared the shit out of us.”

“Is that all? No need for the water works,” despite that Murdoc weakly patted both of them, still disorientated.

Noodle leaned up gulping a few deep breaths to calm herself. 2D sniveled against the older man, still rather upset. Cleaning her face on a sleeve, Noodle checked the man’s pulse, monitoring it to make sure. She sniffed and distracted herself with checking the satanist so not to start crying again.

“I know we should rest a moment, but we’re still too close to the airport. We need to get moving.”

Russel nodded, “I’ll drive this time.”

The drummer climbed into the drivers seat. Noodle petted at 2D’s hair softly.

“Toochi, give me a hand, we need to get him properly under the blanket.”

The singer bobbed his head as he moved away. The bassist felt his heart clench at the mess 2D was in over him. The singer had redness forming around his eyes. Gently grabbing the singer’s large hand he gave it an affectionate squeeze. Very lightly, 2D returned the gesture before he righted the bassist’s shirt, helping Noodle cover the man properly. They laid the straps over the satanist only securing them to keep the man steady. The ambulance started to move again, a more sedate pace.

———

“I could really go for a rum and coke, maybe straight vodka. Beer. Anything really.”

“You just overdosed on something and had a heart attack like an hour ago,” Noodle gave the older man a bemused smile, “you already want back on the wagon?”

“Only one drink?”

“No. No smoking, drugs or alcohol for you,” 2D gave the man a stern frown.

“I was in the throes of cardiac arrest well before I took those pills. One of them was suppose to stave it off. Obviously I miscalculated.”

The petulant expression 2D gave Murdoc made the satanist choke on a laugh. He winced when he did, chest and torso aching.

“It’s not funny Muds! You died.”

“Well now I’m alive, give it a rest.”

Russel piped up from the front seat, “I don’t think Muds is capable of making bodily decisions for himself, who votes we treat him like an invalid?”

“I’m okay with that,” Noodle commented.

“Right, lets take my body autonomy away, that’ll solve my issues.”

“You stupid prick,” 2D murmured, “you scared us. You could have just died for good. Doesn’t that scare you?”

Murdoc glanced at 2D.

“Fucking terrifies me. Am I going to whinge about it? No. I’m alive, that’s all that matters right now. Live in the moment Dents, it’s a great life motto.”

“I could have lost you, what would I do then?”

“Hopefully off yourself too and join me,” at the sour look the singer shot Murdoc, the man back pedaled, “I don’t know Stuart, I didn’t intentionally die. You’d have Noodle and Russ.”

The singer sulked miserably to himself, “it wouldn’t be the same.”

Noodle slipped out of her spot, climbing into the passenger seat at the front. Although there wasn’t much privacy she didn’t want to pry by watching them bicker. The satanist searched for the singer’s hand only to have 2D snuff him, leaning away.

“Don’t touch me. I’m so angry with you.”

“Stuart.”

“You can’t even take my feelings seriously and things were improving. I was scared I’d lose you for good,” 2D bumped into the cubbies when Russel hit a pot hole, he winced, “I acknowledge your feelings, but you can’t give me the same?”

Fiddling with the straps, Murdoc wiggled free. Shifting over on the stretcher, which lacked much space, the bassist patted beside himself.

“C’mere,” 2D shook his head so Murdoc grabbed at him tugging him closer, something he wasn’t suppose to be doing, “I’m sorry, come lay. Please.”

Yielding, 2D somehow squeezed his lanky body on the stretcher beside the older man. Murdoc tucked his arm about the singer’s waist, holding him close. 2D rested his head against the man’s arm, frowning.

“Oh stop that, I apologized.”

2D struggled to keep from crying. Murdoc sighed pressing his forehead against the singer’s.

“I’m okay Stuart and I’m not gonna go anywhere if I can help it,” tilting his head slightly, Murdoc kissed the singer’s nose gently then his mouth.

“Your reckless and clearly insane,” the singer muttered against his lips.

Murdoc rolled his eyes tiredly, he squeezed the singer with his arm kissing him again. From there they remained quiet, relaxing awkwardly on the stretcher.

———

Russel drove until the ambulance ran dry, pulling over on the shoulder. They had been at it for hours, long since safely away from the airport. Noodle slipped out to stretch and crack her back.

“I wonder if we’re close to the water yet.”

Closing his door, Russel twisted his body to alleviate the numbness in his lumbar. The back of the ambulance opened and 2D hopped out, stopping to hold a hand out to the bassist. Murdoc would normally smack the offer away, but given the strain his body felt from earlier he graciously took the hand. Stepping down onto the ground he grimaced, rubbing his chest a bit.

“I guess we have to walk from here?”

2D peered around the ambulance at Russel.

“Yeah, not much else we can do without gas.”

Noodle came around stepping up into the back of the ambulance. She rooted around the supplies, making a bag of items to take with them. The guitarist made sure to stuff the AED into the bag.

“How’re you feeling Murdoc?”

“Sore as fuck.”

The guitarist nodded, she couldn’t expect the man to feel too well given the circumstances. Once she felt there were enough supplies in the bag she came back out, passing Russel and 2D their coats. The singer draped his over the bassist who ended up tugging it on properly.

No sense of where they were in conjunction to the water, they walked along. Houses lined the streets on either side, a suburban area. Most homes looked ransacked or open from people having fled. Toys and other common things laid strewn on spacious lawns, forgotten in the hurry. Noodle rubbed her arm seeing a few soggy newspapers mashed into the grass under a sprinkler. The device was giving a weak trickle of water, otherwise lacking the amount necessary for a stream. Some family vehicles remained permanently trapped in half opened garages. Yet strangely there were no zombies scattered around.

Something clattered at the side of a home, indiscernible for them where the noise originated. A black cat came out from under a vehicle, trotting up to them meowing. The group gave a collective sigh of relief upon seeing the untidy cat. It purred curling it’s thin body around their legs, looking for attention and food.

“Poor creature,” 2D mumbled.

“Looks like it hasn’t had much to eat for a while,” Russel crouched, gently petting the cat.

The cat nuzzled into the man’s hand, purring loudly. Noodle looked around for any other animals or threats.

“Lets just call it, we can stay in a house and recover. We need to eat, so does this little guy.”

Russel scooped the cat up, which relaxed in his arms content to be carried. A little more walking and the four of them decided on a beige house with an open garage door. 2D and Noodle released and worked the garage door closed. Once shut Russel let the cat down. The animal stuck close, purring still.

“Let me check the house,” 2D stepped up to the door to the house, “I’m stronger and faster.”

Unable to argue with the singer’s logic, the three of them including the cat, stayed back. The singer stepped into the house, closing the door softly. With no electricity running through the home it was dark despite the light from midday. 2D crept through the house carefully, checking all the nooks and crannies for any surprises.

He found a pantry full of dry and canned goods. He gagged at the pungent scent of rotting vegetables in the fridge which was ajar. Nudging it closed he proceeded upstairs. The third step from the top creaked and 2D paused to listen for any movement. Relaxing at no immediate sign of motion the singer continued. He checked through the rooms. A sadness washed over him at the sight of an infants room, painted in bright green with a lonely crib sitting among baby toys. He closed the door softly, resting his forehead on the wood. Desperately he hoped that the family and baby were safe somewhere away from all this.

Finally leaving the door he checked the last two rooms, a washroom and the master bedroom. He found no lingering unwanted guests and so came back down to the garage.

“It’s all clear.”

Looting through the home Noodle found a makeshift way to create a contained fire. With Murdoc’s help the two made food, the bassist needed a distraction. 2D looked at a dated map with Russel, unsure what they were doing.

“We started here,” Russel pointed to the airport, trailing his hand along a street, “now we’re roughly here. We need to get here.”

The drummer pointed to the water front. 2D sat back on the couch.

“Can’t we just make merry here forever?”

Noodle glanced up from what she was cooking, the kitchen being open to the living room.

“We are not staying here Toochi, I want to go home,” Noodle meant England despite the Spirit House having been their home for a while.

Murdoc hummed in agreement opening a can of food just to dump it into a bowl and put on the floor for the cat. The black animal began inhaling the food, not caring what it was. The satanist gave it’s head a pat or two.

“How are we gonna cross an ocean though?”

“Boat, plane, swimming, I really don’t care so long as we go home.”

“Do you think people are sick there too?”

Noodle paused what she was stirring.

“I don’t know, nobody mentioned anything about infection spreading beyond. For all we know the world is actually over. I want to hold out some hope it isn’t.”

Murdoc leaned on the counter near the guitarist. Everyone let pensive silence fall over them. If there was nothing left beyond North America, they would have to adapt.

Noodle served soup to the men before sitting on the island counter with her own. 2D stared at his bowl. He wasn’t hungry for soup. He couldn’t be sure what he was hungry for, but the idea of eating normal food put his stomach off. Sighing the singer set the bowl aside.

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“Not really, probably stress,” 2D smiled at the guitarist softly, “I’ll eat it later.”

Dropping the topic, Noodle nodded while eating.

———

Sleeping arrangements were split into shifts, Noodle suggesting someone should be awake to keep a watch or listen for any disruptions. Too weary to argue they agreed on turns. Russel volunteered for the first watch. The drummer sat up in the living room with a large wrench from a tool kit and the black cat. He waved night to them when they ascended the stairs. Noodle found a kids room with bunk beds and shrugged.

“Night you two.”

Left standing in the hallway, 2D slipped his hand into Murdoc’s, leading the man to the master bedroom. Pushing the door open they stepped in.

“Feels weird using someones bed.”

“I’m sure the owners wouldn’t be too upset.”

“Probably dead.”

2D swallowed, moving away to close the door. The singer leaned on it watching the satanist tug his shirt off. The setting sun cast an array of soft pastels on the room and man.

“You look really good in this lighting.”

Murdoc glanced at the singer, face set in an unreadable expression. Pushing off the door 2D strode closer, hands cupping Murdoc’s face. The bassist didn’t tug away so 2D felt encouraged dipping his head down to kiss the man. He kept it slow, barely creating any heat between them. Hands settled on 2D’s hips bringing him in closer.

Further spurred on by Murdoc sliding his arms around him more snugly, 2D moved his hands to tangle into the bassist’s hair. The singer parted his lips slightly to tease the other man’s lips into opening. Suddenly 2D was being pushed back, with little force.

“I can’t do this.”

“What, why? Was it too much or too little?”

“No, I meant my heart,” Murdoc rubbed his chest, one arm still securely around the singer, “not good timing.”

“Oh, we could just cuddle? No harm in cuddling right?”

Murdoc grabbed the singer’s chin with his thumb and finger bringing him close. He pecked the taller man before completely pulling away. 2D watched the man settle out in the bed before nudging his shoes off to join him. The singer snuggled close, pressing himself along the length of the older man. Murdoc raised a brow at the other feeling a hardness against his thigh.

“Excited much?”

“Shut up.”

Murdoc grinned tiredly while playing with 2D’s hair. The singer shifted to rest his head under the satanist’s chin, ear against his chest. Smiling to himself, Murdoc relaxed marginally. He kept his hand buried in 2D’s hair letting his exhaustion lull him to sleep. The singer listened to the man’s heart beat calmly under his head, unable to sleep. Under his breath he counted the beats to Murdoc’s heart, trying to soothe his mind. He found closing his eyes and matching the bassist’s breathing did nothing to fool his body either. 2D thought bitterly it was rather unfair how his favorite things were being ruined by this virus. He stayed still and loose so the satanist could continue to sleep while he remained unfortunately awake. At the least he could be aware should Murdoc’s heart have any other issues. Time passed and as morning peaked a light glow illuminated them and the room. The singer disentangled from the sleeping bassist to work his stiff joints. For a moment he could pretend it was some romantic get away, almost.

Although the four of them wanted to rush out the door and get to the water, it took almost a week before they decided to leave. Mostly they wanted to make sure the satanist was capable enough to take the journey. Secondly they felt horrible leaving the cat so they brought the bedraggled black animal with them. Lastly it was nice playing house without fear for their lives, but it had to end sometime. They packed, armed themselves and got fresh clothing before heading out on the seventh day, sun high in the sky. It was going to be a good day.

Chapter Text

This particular day was a horrible day. The sun had rose steadily higher into the sky. It got increasingly hot as they made way to the waterfront. Upon reaching it they were all sorely disappointed to see no water faring vehicles; none that operated. In the rush it seemed people had made off with boats, maybe in hopes of reaching Europe or somewhere not infected.

Noodle kicked a few rocks while they stood there at the ocean front, despondent. Their new feline companion mewed softly, twisting herself between legs and purring. Murdoc had been opposed at the idea of keeping her, even stating not to name her. He ended up breaking his own decision and named the poor cat Kraken after his favored rum. Said man dug out a half empty carton of smokes and a scuffed grey lighter. Surprisingly Noodle and Russel nabbed one off the bassist and for a few moments the four of them smoked in companionable silence.

The breeze off the ocean was salty and rather powerful, ruffling hair and clothing. Blowing out into the wind, Murdoc sighed.

“Suppose we could keep going along the beach till we find a boat.”

“What’s the point?” Noodle rubbed her eye while she smoked, “we’re tired. We’re hungry and we’ve been wandering around from place to place since this shit show started. We’re no further than before.”

Russel finished his cigarette first, dropping it and mashing it out under his sole.

“Could always set up shop somewhere, make a life in the ruins.”

“Fuck that,” Murdoc grunted.

“You rather we keep meandering about till we all either die of starvation or infection? Both sound pretty shit man.”

2D listened to them talk among themselves, quietly working on his own smoke. He felt more lethargic as the day wore on. He wasn’t sure why. Murdoc nudged him jolting him from his thoughts.

“Well Dents?”

“Huh? I wasn’t listening, sorry.”

Murdoc rolled his eyes, irritated.

“I asked you what you prefer? Find a boat or play house?”

Part of him wanted to return to England, but the thought of being on some vessel in the middle of the Atlantic terrified him. He shuddered at the thought of creatures in the depths; whales namely.

“Can’t we just stay here, maybe give it some time? Who knows maybe someone will come out here to help in rebuilding or what not. S’how it works in the movies.”

Noodle flicked her half finished smoke into the water, crouching to scoop Kraken up. She pet the cat softly.

“So that’s two against two. Maybe we should draw straws or flip a coin.”

The satanist waved a hand dismissively, frustrated. 2D fiddled with the hem of his borrowed, well it was his now, coat. His smoke remained forgotten when he dropped it. Russel dug through his bag, crouching to find what he wanted. Pulling out a change purse he produced a quarter.

“Why the fuck do you have that?”

“I figured money might be useful if we found other survivors.”

“Monetary value vanished when zombies happened.”

“Shut up man, I thought it might be handy, now it is. Lets flip a coin. Heads we keep looking for a boat since you refuse the use of a plane,” Murdoc gave the drummer a rude gesture, “tails we stay here till we find another opportunity to leave.”

Noodle patted Kraken, standing near Murdoc seeing as they both wanted to leave. Russel used his thumb to flick the quarter into the air. They all watched it come down, landing tails up. The drummer looked at Murdoc and Noodle.

“Guess we’re staying for a bit.”

“Fuck,” Murdoc turned away, “just fucking dandy. Lets go play house till we all die.”

The bassist kicked some debris grunting in pain right after. 2D fiddled his fingers lightly watching the guitarist and drummer. Noodle sighed.

“We may as well find somewhere contained, maybe within driving distance. Sure we could find a vehicle with a key.”

Russel nodded as he put the change purse away and righted his bag. It took some convincing to bring Murdoc round to the decision, but in time the man gave in.

Following their new plans they found some vehicles to stock with supplies before detouring out of the city center. Less density equaled less zombies. In the days that went with their travel away to a semi-secluded home on some land, 2D felt his energy slip away. It became harder and harder for him to function till one day the singer just collapsed in their temporary home. Russel found the tall man sprawled on the ground appearing dead to the world. With help from the others they transferred 2D to the living room couch of the home.

“He’s breathing still.”

“He has a pulse too,” Noodle cupped her chin.

“Probably fucking sleeping then,” Murdoc leaned down pinching the singer, which gave him no response.

Murdoc stood back beside the others shrugging.

“Maybe he just needs a nap, it’s been pretty hot lately and Toochi never does well in the heat.”

They left the singer to his nap, not finding anything wrong with the man that warranted immediate attention. Occasionally one of them would check 2D. It only became a problem when the singer remained in his slumber for more than a day. They found themselves standing at the couch watching the tall man again.

“Maybe he’s in a coma?”

“No, this is something different. I’ve seen him in a coma.”

“Then what? He can’t be sleeping.”

“Hibernating?” Murdoc rubbed his neck, “maybe it’s part of the virus.”

“I’ll be back tonight,” Noodle slipped away heading upstairs.

When she returned both Russel and Murdoc gave her a questioning glance.

“I’m going to ride out to the hospital or a clinic and see if I can find some lab equipment or testing devices. We’re utterly blind when it comes to 2D’s condition, I want to know what’s going on.”

“You’re not going alone,” the bassist looked ready to add more to his comment, but Noodle frowned.

“I don’t need to remind you that I’m capable.”

“Be safe,” Russel said softly.

Noodle gave them a firm nod before slipping out. Her car started up and within minutes the blue vehicle was speeding off down the dirt driveway. Russel moved off to feed the cat. Lifting 2D’s legs, Murdoc flopped into the couch, letting the singer’s legs drop onto his lap. He leaned on his hand, clearly bored.

“Y’know this wouldn’t be so terrible if I had something to cure my boredom. You’ve been no help,” idly the bassist began to stroke the singer’s clothed calf, “could be writing our next big hit, but no. World had to end. Last fucking concert too.”

2D shifted slightly under Murdoc’s hand, but otherwise remained, or appeared, asleep. Waiting to see if the singer roused, Murdoc groused when he was disappointed. Resuming his ministrations, he traced patterns into 2D’s leg. Russel stood in the archway of the living room watching the bassist.

“If he’s breathing he’s probably fine.”

“I know he’s fine. I’m not worried.”

Russel looked unconvinced. Murdoc stared firmly at a spot on the ground, trying to look casual.

“Whatever man, you do you.”

The drummer went back to the kitchen. An hour later Murdoc vacated the living room, letting 2D lay on the couch alone. The day passed in a sluggish manner, Russel and Murdoc tried to keep cool. When Noodle returned it was nearly ten at night and the house was lit up with candles. The guitarist came in with a box, which she deposited in the small office off the living room. Both men came to inspect what she had brought back.

“Y’sure this shit will be any use?”

“Yes, don’t touch that,” Noodle smacked the bassist away, “I can use it to analyze samples. It’s not much, but it may help me understand what the virus is doing to Toochi. So far we’ve all been too distracted with other stuff to think about how he’s managing.”

“And you know how to analyze samples? When did you have time to learn?”

“During the time between albums and tours where we weren’t exactly all on speaking terms.”

Murdoc made a sour face not commenting further. Noodle smiled softly.

“It’s in the past. Anyways, I can’t really set up in the candle light so I’m hitting the hay.”

The floor boards creaked behind them. With alarming speed everyone whipped around prepared to fight only to find 2D standing there.

“Toochi! You’re awake, how are you feeling?”

“Hungry,” 2D voiced slowly, wavering where he stood.

“I can make you something to eat,” Russel grinned lightly.

2D shook his head.

“I can’t eat that stuff anymore.”

“What stuff?”

“People food, normal food. I just vomit it back up. I didn’t want to upset anyone so I hid it,” 2D leaned on the door frame cupping his elbows, “I think I can only eat people now.”

An awkward yet tense silence settled between them. Noodle rocked on her feet slightly.

“Well, you haven’t attacked any of us so that’s good, but I don’t know how long that would last.”

“I won’t—I wouldn’t hurt you guys.”

“We know you wouldn’t 2D, but when you disappear,” Noodle gave an unhelpful motion with her hands.

“You become a fucking monster you’re not you anymore. We don’t know what to expect. You nearly ate me the first time.”

“You won’t let that go,” 2D huffed.

Murdoc muttered something about the singer not letting a certain incident go while crossing his arms. 2D glared at the satanist before thinking better of an argument, he relaxed his features.

“I think I’ll be fine without for a bit, but I might collapse here and there,” 2D sighed rubbing his arms, “it’s not as strong as before, it could increase though, I really don’t know.”

Noodle glanced back at her box of lab equipment, “I’ll set up tomorrow so I can start taking some tests. It’s not the best setting, but that can’t be helped.”

The guitarist shooed the men out of the side office. With that they dispersed to separate areas of the house. Russel retreated upstairs to a room, closely followed by Noodle. 2D planted himself on the couch quietly, flickering candle light illuminating him. The bassist flopped down onto the furniture beside the singer. He rested his arms on the back rest portion of the couch. With no prompting the singer shifted over, resting against the bassist. He dropped his head down onto Murdoc’s shoulder, smiling to himself when the older man slipped his arm around him.

His body felt strange, almost like he had drank too much coffee. Somehow buzzing with energy, yet exhausted from lack of sleep or food, he wasn’t sure. He felt Murdoc’s cheek press against his messy blue hair. For a moment he was safe and okay, he could momentarily ignore the subtle changes to his person.

———

The days dragged into weeks and soon almost four months had passed living in the farm style home. They had made it their own, playing out some mockery of house. Murdoc had found the monotony laborious on his mind, finding no way to alleviate it other than to write in journals he found during bi-weekly raids. He was slowly slipping into a state of sobriety he never imagined reaching having ran out of smokes one month in. Strangely it improved his mental state enough that he was decent human being. The other two found it greatly helped conversation and game nights.

Noodle set up her make shift laboratory in the small office off the living room, studying samples of 2D’s blood. The conditions for study were unsanitary, but she couldn’t do any better. The heat also made slaving over samples difficult and sweaty. She found focusing intently on reading textbooks and blood increasingly hard. Russel suggested raiding a hardware store for plastic sheeting to at least seal in the area, she decided that was more work than it was worth. The drummer had left that debate alone, focusing on Kraken and making life moderately easier without electricity. Somehow they managed.

Occasionally they found new ways to entertain themselves, card games, raiding stores, fireworks, really just anything to keep the draw for self destruction at bay. They even took up instruments in a visit to a music store. Russel found building things for their duration at the farm home created a moderately fun environment. Even Murdoc found routine in their post apocalyptic situation.

However as the days went 2D became less active and despondent. He would sleep for days on end, somehow remaining as normal as one could while infected. This feature of their new life was the only struggle. Other days the singer would actively wander the house or fields nearby the home, aimless and unaware he was doing so. Occasionally when 2D slipped away the bassist would come into the kitchen harried, scrambling to find the singer. Both Russel and Noodle decided after the fifth time to tie the taller man to a cord so he didn’t disappear entirely. Today was such a day.

Noodle used some string to play with Kraken, leaning on the kitchen table, snickering at the black cat. The summer heat left her too drained to work on 2D’s condition. Russel was trying to construct a greenhouse alone in the front yard, thankfully shaded by the home. In a daze 2D hobbled by the drummer his hand crafted cord leash dragging behind him, hooked around his waist.

“Hey ‘D, how’re you holding out buddy?” Russel wiped his brow, glancing to the blue haired man.

The singer mumbled incoherently stumbling off. Today wasn’t a lucid day Russel assumed. He shrugged and resumed working on the wood frame. Despite the lack of electricity and running water, it became essential for them to make something similar to an outdoor shower. It served it’s purpose even if it was horrible. At the least they could be clean and have a way to keep morale up. Russel was proud of his handy work regardless of complaints. The front door opened to reveal Murdoc brandishing a towel, soap and a hand cloth. Russel raised a brow in question.

“Not for me,” was Murdoc’s response as he crouched to grab the long cord laying on the ground.

He yanked the thick line until the singer came back around the house towards him. Russel nodded in understanding.

“C’mere Stu. Feels like I’m taking after a fucking dog.”

“He’s not responsive today.”

“He hardly is anymore,” Murdoc dropped the leash and gently pressed the supplies into 2D’s arms, “take those, you need a bath.”

2D grasped the stuff loosely, dropping the bar of soap. Murdoc sighed and bent to scoop it up. He had no energy to feel frustrated at the singer. Setting the soap onto the pile of things he stood beside the singer. Resting a hand on the small of 2D’s back he urged the singer to walk with him. With the heat they all built up a sweat easily, Murdoc took to wearing a t-shirt and shorts, it’s not like anyone would tease him; they were all roasting in the same weather.

“Y’know it might be easier if—”

“I’m an expert at looking after this idiot, I think I can manage.”

Murdoc lead the taller man around to their make shift bathing station, out of view from Russel. The drummer snorted while resuming his work. Bathing the singer was an ordeal that normally resulted in Murdoc getting quite soaked. At the end of it, dressing the tall man was equally frustrating because the singer always attempted to walk off nude. Today was no different and Murdoc cursed off and on while getting the man into underpants.

“Will you just stop moving,” the bassist forced the singer to sit on the wooden bench near their shower station, “holy hell.”

Murdoc dried the mop of damp blue hair. He hated how lackluster the singer had been lately. He moved his hands to cup the blank face.

“You have a knack for freaking people out.”

He slumped at 2D’s lack of response. Pulling away he got the man into his clean shirt and worked the khakis up long legs.

“Y’know as far as your fashion is concerned this isn’t a terrible look for you.”

Murdoc admired the singer thoughtfully. The soft green polo worked well with the dark brown of the khakis. Maybe it was a bit self-absorbed dressing the singer in one of his favorite colors, but the blue and green were pleasant to see.

2D perked up, head cocking to the side like an animal. The bassist gave the other a troubled look, perplexed at the sudden awareness. He looked around for what could have caused the singer to snap to it. That was when he spotted a person, a normal uninfected individual in the field attempting to hide in the taller grass. His eyes darted to the singer then the leash.

“Stuart no,” Murdoc reached for the leash.

His gut told him if he didn’t stop the singer they would be in a whole lot of shit. The instant he reached the taller man with the leash 2D took off running.

“Fuck! Stuart!”

Dropping the long cord he bolted after the singer. He swore breathlessly at his shorter legs.

“2D! Don’t eat him!”

The survivor gave a surprised shout and jolted to their feet, turning tail and making to get away. By now the shouting had attracted Russel and Noodle, both of which came around looking about baffled. Unknown to any of them at that moment, other survivors were approaching from afar, watching the events unfold.

In a show of great athleticism, Murdoc leapt at the singer, taking him down hard to the ground with a sharp exhale of air. 2D growled and struggled to yank the other man closer, having successfully grabbed the man’s ankle.

“No! Sweet satan you cannot eat him!”

“What the fuck is that?” The survivor kicked at the singer’s face which aggravated 2D further.

Murdoc panted heavily, striving to keep his grip on 2D. He grunted painfully when 2D harshly elbowed him in the ribs. His hold loosened just enough for the singer to surge forward and pin the other man down. A stuttered scream rushed out of the survivor when 2D bit into the man’s arm, ripping huge pieces of his muscle and flesh off. Murdoc stared on in horror, holding his side. The singer devoured the chunk, dipping back in to rip the man’s neck open.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Murdoc covered his ears.

“Okay, everything is okay. Fuck!”

Bloodied hands grabbed at his face after a seemingly brief moment. A few long moments had passed.

“Muds,” 2D sounded like himself, “Muds are you okay?”

“We need to stop meeting like this,” he voiced weakly, slowly uncovering his ears.

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t hurt you did I?”

The satanist shifted onto his front, stopping at the imagery of human entrails spilling out on the sides of broken ribs. 2D quickly pulled the bassist away from the corpse.

“Just uh, don’t look at that.”

“I won’t be sleeping for a while,” the bassist muttered.

“I broke Noodle’s promise,” 2D pouted, his innocent expression ruined by blood and unidentified chunks on his face and clothing.

Murdoc looked around the singer towards the house at the mention of the guitarist. What he saw made him give a panicked holler.

“O-Oi! Let ‘em go!”

Some strangely dressed people were hauling the two band members away towards trucks. Murdoc was lost, had this been some elaborate plot to capture them? 2D blocked his view rather quickly. Murdoc opened his mouth to protest when a horrible spray of blood hit him. Stunned he blinked, grabbing onto 2D when the man slumped into him. The singer clung to him wincing. There was a darker rush of blood from somewhere on the taller man’s chest or shoulder, Murdoc couldn’t discern where.

“S-sorry ‘bout breaking that promise,” 2D’s legs started to give out.

“Who cares about the fucking promise you idiot, just keep talking.”

People were converging on them. Murdoc made an effort to hold 2D up, distressed with the strange survivors surrounding them. A man raised a hand, hesitant.

“It’s alright buddy, we’re here to help you. Just let the infected go and come with us.”

Hugging the singer tighter to himself, Murdoc bared his sharp teeth.

“Back the fuck off! Let my friends go and leave us the fuck alone!”

“Sir we’re not going to hurt your friends or you.”

“You shot Stuart!”

“Stuart is infected and he just attacked one of my men.”

2D whined pathetically against Murdoc, his grip slackened. Murdoc caught a person trying to circle further around them.

“Get away! I don’t want your fucking help!”

The main man nodded to the other person. Murdoc hissed when a small dart hit his neck.

“We’re going to take care of you and your friends, you’re safe now.”

Everything went sideways. Blearily he could see Stuart’s face in front of him. Boots entered his vision and then he was lifted. He watched the singer’s form get further away as they dragged his limp body. The strangers apparently felt no need to make sure and left 2D to lay in the grass and dirt, a pool of blood forming about his shoulder. Murdoc blinked and everything finally went comfortably black.

When the trucks rolled away a soft breeze blew through the fields. Kraken watched from the window as her new owners were taken away, followed by the darkening of the skies. Coincidentally after months of heat it chose today to rain.

Chapter Text

His eyes slid open slowly. He felt dazed and winced at the small stinging drops of water hitting his face. Shifting onto his side he grasped his shoulder, hissing at the sharp pains. Memories of what had happened came back to him and he lifted his head to look around. He couldn’t make out anything other than wet grass, the remains of the man he had attacked and his own pool of coagulated blood. How much time had passed? Forcing himself up he groaned when his joints almost protested.

“Muds?”

Looking about he couldn’t see the bassist or anyone for that matter. Holding his shoulder he stumbled back to the farm house, pushing his way into the building. Kraken came out of hiding mewing incessantly.

“Where is everyone?”

He gave the cat a questioning glance.

“I guess you can’t tell me much, you’re just a cat.”

Kraken meowed loudly, clearly demanding food. Huffing with little humor he hobbled around, careful to avoid tripping on the cat to get her food and appease her. He explored the house finding nobody. So the strange people had taken them. Sighing he slipped into the bedroom Murdoc had claimed. He needed to assess his injury and he knew there was a big mirror in the bassist’s room.

Attempting to remove his shirt proved difficult when his shoulder protested the movement. Growing frustrated he sat heavily on the bed, he would work on his khakis then. After many stuttered gasps and cringes he finally kicked the clinging fabric away. Taking a deep breath he quickly struggled his way out of the shirt, he cried in pain. Shaking he clutched the wounded area, hunching over himself. It took him a moment to catch his breath. When he was able he wandered over to a body length mirror covered with a sheet which he tugged away to see himself head to toe.

“Oh god,” he leaned closer to inspect the bullet wound, but all he could see was a blackened area with dark veins spreading from it.

The skin wasn’t broken or bleeding anymore. He touched at the spot. It was tender, very tender but healed over. He pulled back looking around confused. How long was he unconscious for? Where were the others? Were they okay? He started to pace, anxiety rising. Admittedly he was concerned about his own well being, but thinking about that made his nerves more frazzled.

“What do I do? What do I do?”

He clutched at his hair. He felt so useless. He was all alone with no idea how to find the others. He stopped and chewed on his thumb nail. What if they were already dead? Abruptly he shook his head, ridding that thought from his mind.

“I—I need to clean up and redress. Start small and work up to the bigger things.”

Not entirely sure where his clothing was he made to the dresser and sifted through Murdoc’s clothing. He pulled a pair of faded grey jeans out and a simple navy blue shirt. He glanced down to his rather wet underpants and figured the older man wouldn’t mind. Grabbing some simple white underpants he worked on changing those first. It took a few tries to dress, but he managed.

Slipping out of the bassist’s room he ducked into Russel’s room and found himself some socks. He nabbed a baseball cap as well. He came downstairs again looking for some shoes. Kraken trotted over to him, purring. Tucking his semi-dry hair into the cap he crouched to pet Kraken.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. I can’t leave you here, but I can’t really take you.”

He stood again spying some hiking boots by the front door, which was ajar. He closed the door softly before grabbing the boots then a coat Noodle had hung up above them. Once dressed to go he looked at Kraken again.

“Did Russ leave your harness in his room?”

Kraken sat and watched him back. He sighed and went back upstairs. Returning to the cat, now carrying the harness and dog leash, he got Kraken set up.

“This place is no use now without the others. We’re going to take a nice long drive, see if we can’t find something.”

He packed some bags and loaded up the black pickup truck Russel had chose. Kraken had hissed her displeasure at being put into the vehicle, he ignored her. Starting the truck he pulled out only to stop and stare at the house quietly, contemplative. He bite his lip resuming his journey down the dirt driveway. He needed to find his friends.

Flicking the CD player on he chuckled at the familiar music of a pop singer. Kraken settled on the passenger seat, grumpy. He grinned and bopped to the music. He had no idea where to look, but he figured they had a fifty-fifty chance going one way or another.

“Guess it’s just you and me for a bit, have to get use to each other. Gonna have to remind me to feed yeah, I’m a little forgetful. Hope you don’t mind I eat humans. Only bad humans, I think.”

Kraken’s ear twitched at his voice.

“I never hurt my friends. Don’t tell them but I had to fight this horrible instinct to eat for so long. I’m kinda beat, mentally. When that guy showed up it seemed like a good idea to have a snack. Muds didn’t agree, but I can’t control myself sometimes.”

The cat made an annoyed noise when they hit a pot hole. She tucked her legs in when no more bumps happened. He continued, music turned low.

“You seem to like me despite my strangeness,” he smiled at the cat.

Kraken appeared to be listening, but honestly she was dozing. He didn’t mind. It was slightly different in his mind, talking to the cat rather than Murdoc while he was drugged.

“You’ll see, when we get home things will be better, I’ll learn to manage my eating habits and you can come live with us. You’ll like it Kraken, we’ll get a nice big home for you to wander about.”

The weather picked up again so he turned the wipers on.

“I really hope they’re okay. I don’t think I could manage if I lost them.”

Kraken had her eyes closed. He sighed gripping the steering wheel watching the road while Britney Spears sang under the rain.

———

The singer drove for a while, stopped places and searched in and around buildings or homes. Nothing stood out as a clue for him. Then again he wasn’t even sure what to look for or what constituted a clue. When night came he kept going, he didn’t need sleep anyways since the mutation happened.

2D was a little under prepared when a zombie appeared in front of the truck on the street. He hit the brakes which made the sleeping cat jerk, rousing her. Agitated with the singer, Kraken hissed, hopping down from the seat to hide in the bags on the floor. 2D gave the cat an apologetic look.

“Sorry Kraken, give me a moment.”

He peered into the night at the zombie walking by the truck, clearly disinterested in him. Part of him feared attack but he figured with his increased strength he could take an undead easily. Sucking up a deep breath, 2D hopped out of the truck closing the door. Idiotically he realized then that he could have just run the thing down. When the walking corpse ignored him he frowned.

“That’s just rude,” he strode over, standing in front of the upright rotting body.

Waving his hand in front of the zombie’s face, 2D tilted his head puzzled.

“Am I invisible?”

The zombie brushed past him, tromping unevenly off the road into a ditch. When the body fell into the water and groaned, unable to articulate enough to climb out, 2D just watched still confounded.

“Weird,” 2D squinted uncertainly, “but maybe useful? I could test this. Noodle would be proud.”

He saddened at the thought of the young woman. Hurrying back into the truck he put the vehicle back into drive. Moving along he tapped anxiously at his thigh, one hand resting on the steering wheel.

“Sorry again Kraken, didn’t mean to give you a scare, gave myself one.”

Said feline remained nestled in the bags. He drove well into the morning, nattering here or there to the cat, just to fill the void with no other people. Occasionally over the next two days he parked to feed the black fluff ball, let her out to do her business and walk her around. Both of them spent another day of travel before the truck ran out of gas. 2D fussed trying to start it multiple times then finally gave up.

“You fancy a walk Kraken?”

Kraken was comfortably snuggled inside a bag, she hardly noticed the singer’s dilemma or question. When 2D unceremoniously scooped her up from the warmth of clothing she mewled loudly, angrily. The singer cooed to her as he hooked the leash to the harness.

“Awe sorry, I know it sucks. We can’t stay in the truck forever,” 2D opened the door and slid out with the cat, “besides once we find the others you know Russel will be frettin’ all over ‘bout your well being.”

He reached in grabbing the most important bag, it carried cat food, a couple weapons and clothing. Nudging the door shut he set off with Kraken, gently tugging the cord.

“Y’know this reminds me of when I was tied up, I wasn’t entirely there but I remember everyone being worried about me. I had a leash too,” he glanced to Kraken, she was less than pleased, “I feel terrible scaring everyone again. I can’t seem to stop that.”

2D worried his lip while they walked.

“Do you think they regret keeping me around? I must be such a burden.”

Kraken trotted beside him, ears flattened in her irritation at having her harness on. 2D thought back to the farm house and his hazy memories.

———

His vision wasn’t focused, everything had a blurred appearance like he was looking through fogged glass. His sense of touch and smell worked in tenfold, which is how he recognized the faint smell of peppermint gum and old cigarette smoke approaching. His mind supplied him with an image of the bassist, even if his eyes couldn’t.

“What are you doing way out here again? If you keep this up we’re going to leash you up like a mutt.”

He understood the words though his mind struggled to give his mouth some to speak back. There was a noise, crunching and suddenly he was looking away from the muggy image of Murdoc to beige fields. He couldn’t locate the noise, but somehow he knew it kept drawing him outside.

“What are you gawking at? There’s nothing out here Dents. C’mon, lets go inside,” a warm hand slipped into his, “I like it better when you’re close.”

Part of him wanted to protest and explain that there was something out there, watching them. He didn’t know how he knew this, just that a part of his mind sensed another person. Murdoc tugged his arm, leading him away from the noise. He was frustrated and so, so hungry. It took every part of him not to turn on the shorter man.

“Tonight you’re gonna stay with me, sick of coming downstairs to find you missing. Gonna give me another heart attack.”

Time meant nothing to him, he honestly had no idea how much time had passed since entering this state. It was somewhat pleasant, living in a haze; it also sucked, he would go in waves of hunger and lucidity.

His surroundings changed as did the temperature. Murdoc lead him upstairs, he nearly tripped, his motor skills were dulled as well. They stopped at the top, he wanted to return outside.

“I miss you,” he felt warm hands cupping his face.

He missed the other too. He missed being normal. If he could just eat he would be okay, everything would reset and his mind would return. Thumbs rubbed his cheek, the skin was again warm and a little rugged.

“I haven’t the faintest if you even understand me like this,” his head was pulled down some and the other man kissed him, the heat from his mouth was much more intense than his hands.

The kiss was brief, probably because he couldn’t articulate a response to the action. Murdoc sighed almost melancholy sounding. The hands disappeared and soon enough so did the fuzzy image of the bassist.

“Just stay here, I mean it.”

For once he was able to obey a command, if for a few minutes. His body and mind was drawn to the field again. There was someone there, he just had to find them.

———

2D hummed a tune while they walked, he would have to thank Murdoc for being so gentle and patient with him. It must have been difficult for the satanist. It honestly must have been hard for all of them, seeing 2D in such a way. Kraken hissed loudly, bringing him out of his strange yet pleasant memories. The cat had stopped, fur puffed up. The singer stopped too looking about for the cause of such rigidity in the cat.

“Kraken there’s nobody about, c’mon. We need to find shelter before night.”

2D lightly wiggled the leash trying to convince Kraken to walk. She remained stiff and ready to attack or flee. Having a peek around once more, 2D spotted nothing abnormal about their surroundings. The road was empty and neither side held anything of interest. He tugged the cord with some force, Kraken skittered behind the singer. Frowning he turned and crouched.

“Kraken I haven’t a clue what’s got you so scared. There isn’t a soul around.”

After a moment the cat seemed to relax. 2D felt more than lost about the feline’s apparent behavioural shift. Sighing he put it out of mind, standing and resuming their journey. There was a faint noise in the air that caused the singer to halt again. Tilting his head up his eyes widened comically at the sight of a plane.

“T-that! That’s a plane! Kraken look’it that!”

The aircraft was high in the sky yet low enough to make out some detail. 2D saw the British Airforce emblem on the side. He waved his arm frantically, almost certain they couldn’t see him.

“I have to let everyone know! Oh god this is fantastic,” he grinned widely at the cat then stared back to the plane, watching it go off towards he didn’t know where, “do’yeah know what this means? It means there’s got to be a military in England. S-so even if infection is there, there’s some sort of centre. We can go home!”

With renewed vigour, 2D scooped Kraken up and took off at a faster rate down the road. He needed to find the other three as soon as possible. Murdoc’s fear be damned they were going to take a plane. Kraken dug her claws into 2D’s clothing, very much disturbed by his exuberant behaviour and manhandling she was experiencing.

———

2D cocked his head at the road sign. Kraken was back to being on the ground. The road forked ahead of them. The singer looked to the left seeing trees. He glanced to the right seeing…trees.

“Ugh, I don’t know which way to go.”

He felt hopelessness again. Some groaning and shuffling made him jerk around, startled by a small horde of zombies stumbling along out of the trees onto the road towards them. He remained tense and unmoving. This was his chance to test the theory. Kraken meowed anxiously. He picked the cat up and held her close. The bodies stunk horribly of decaying flesh. He gagged. When the zombies made past him and Kraken, one of them bumped into him growling, 2D went with the motion. He was lead down the right side.

“This isn’t so bad Kraken…I mean sure they reek and I feel like that one smeared pus on me, but this could work. They seem to know where they wanna go.”

Kraken couldn’t disagree more. She struggled in 2D’s hold. The singer kept her in his arms a little tighter.

“It’s like I’m one of them, it’s creepily flattering and terrible all at the same time. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m rotting.”

2D examined himself while he walked with the zombies. His skin looked moderately normal, a little tan. He figured all the sun he got from wandering the fields did that to him. Briefly he thought to the healed injuries on his shoulder and calf.

“I don’t feel rotten. Maybe I’m deteriorating inside?”

The familiar buzz filled his ears and his vision blurred. Kraken hissed and spit at him. He stopped and let the zombies shove past him. He spotted a struggling group of survivors, three, two men and one woman. His heart rate increased. They were on the road between cars, something had happened and one of them was trapped. 2D shook his head trying to recover himself.

“No, no eating them. I can’t do that again, Noodle would be so disappointed with me.”

But just one wouldn’t be so terrible.

Dropping Kraken, who landed safely and ran to hide from the singer, 2D clicked his teeth.

“Just one. One isn’t so bad,” he walked into the group of zombies ambling towards the panicked survivors.

One of them ran forward and started to peg off zombies. When he came to beam 2D in the head the singer grabbed the iron shovel, halting the man. The guy gave 2D a petrified look, staring into black. 2D grit his teeth, he gripped the handle so hard the wood started to splinter.

“I won’t hurt you, I won’t. I can control myself,” the man jerked away from the singer bewildered.

2D dropped the shovel. The clatter and twang of the metal vibrating loud enough to bring him back to his self.

“that thing just SPOKE!” The man scrambled to help his friends.

“I-I’m sorry! I won’t hurt you,” 2D held his head as he stumbled towards them, pushing a few straggling zombies away.

“Oh fuck! What the hell is he?” The woman’s voice was shrill.

With casual ease 2D broke the last few zombie’s heads with an elbow to the face. He breathed hard through his mouth, the urge to feed pounding viciously in his mind. Reaching a hand out towards them he swallowed audibly.

“I can help you.”

“Stay the fuck away you— monster!”

“No, I promise I’m not actually that bad,” 2D leaned into a car watching them cautiously.

They stared back, clearly on edge. Ultimately they weren’t certain how to deal with the singer. 2D could see the second man was trapped in a car which was pinned between the barrier and another car. He gestured to the stuck man.

“I could help you,” 2D wondered to himself how.

“You won’t hurt us?”

“No, no I’m good. It comes and goes, I can behave.”

The woman and man exchanged a look before backing up some to allow 2D room to approach the car. The man inside the pinned car stared intently at the singer. Hesitating 2D scrutinized the vehicle against the driver side door. He could try pushing it.

Stepping at the side opposite to the two survivors 2D planted his hands against the edge near the hood. Grunting 2D pushed hard against the vehicle. The metal waned under his hands, denting inwards with the pressure. Narrowing his eyes 2D tired more earnestly. Finally the car gave some, skidding towards the survivors, it was slow but definite. His shoulder flared with pain causing him to stop. Slumping into the car to hold his sore side, he huffed.

“That was insane,” the woman stared at 2D in awe, making her way around to the now freed car.

“What are you?”

2D blinked owlishly at the other man, “well I’m a musician.”

“Right. Look man if you want to come with us you’re welcome too. We could use someone like you.”

It was such a kind offer. 2D rubbed the still sore area on his shoulder.

“I can’t. I’m not safe.”

“You would be so useful,” the woman looked over.

2D sighed, “I gotta look for my own friends. Thanks though.”

They accepted his answer and when capable they left him there. He was grateful because he felt his mind slipping. He held his face groaning. He almost jumped them, but he hadn’t. He was good. Scrubbing his face he lowered his hands remembering Kraken.

“Oh bugger,” 2D stepped away from the car, “Kraken! Here kitty kitty.”

He found himself crawling around looking under cars for the cat. When he found the black animal he coaxed her out, taking the leash.

“Sorry love, I shouldn’t have left you.”

2D knelt to give her kisses and pats, soothing her. Kraken eased into his affections, purring softly.

“Lets you and me get ourselves a place for the night.”

———

2D stared at the ceiling his limbs spread wide. Turning his head he was disappointed to see only Kraken curled up beside him. He missed Murdoc and their nightly conversations. Looking at the ceiling again he sighed. Now aware he was safe from harm, at least from zombies, he held no fear just resting wherever. He made a mental checklist.

I eat people.

I don’t sleep.

I don’t think I’m decaying. Maybe?

I’m no closer to finding everyone than the day before.

I don’t get migraines anymore, that’s honestly a bonus.

Pretty strong. I mean I pushed a car.

I miss making music. I miss normal.

The last one brought a deep ache in his chest. He missed writing music and singing. Practice with the gang and late night movies. Smoking on the front step with Murdoc. Discussing current events and painting nails with Noodle. Reading while Russel cooked. He squeezed his eyes shut staving off his tears. Nothing would ever be normal again. He brought a hand up, smudging the start of his tears. So much time had passed with his condition that he wasn’t sure if he could ever achieve normalcy again.

Breathing deep, 2D exhaled into the silence of the room. He had found an abandoned home with which they could spend the night. Or at the least a couple hours. And though he no longer craved it a nice couple drags off a smoke would have been grand at that moment. Being unable to sleep made him bored. Boredom meant he started thinking. Groaning he brought both his hands to his face, Kraken made a noise of discontent. 2D peeked a look at her.

“Sorry Kraken, don’t mind me. I’m having a mental breakdown. But now you’re awake, maybe we could hit the road again?”

She curled up and drifted back to sleep. 2D pouted petulantly.

“Well now, just have a nice long nap, enjoy it for me will you,” 2D grumbled and tugged the ball cap over his face, “I’ll just have me a nice long wank, won’t that be nice? Nobody here to complain ‘cept you.”

With no reaction from the cat 2D lifted the hat and rolled his eyes.

“If I start dwelling on thoughts too long give me a swat. Can’t let my mind wander too far or I’ll just end up being a mess of snot and tears.”

Dropping the hat over his face again 2D closed his eyes and tried to visualize something peaceful. Granted his imagination could be vivid, he always found it tough to fantasize. His reality was always far more insane than anything he could imagine.

Come morning he fed his furry companion before heading out. Kraken was more amendable to wearing her harness, meowing off and on to 2D. The singer snickered at the talkative cat.

“Someone is in good spirits.”

Traveling for hours, pausing again for Kraken to eat, drink and do business, 2D wanted to make it a fair distance. They did manage to make it to the next town or city, 2D wasn’t sure how big the location was. The first thing he noticed was the fair amount of undead wandering around.

“Much more active here, c’mon Kraken lets have a poke around. Might find some clues or something.”

Exploring the general vicinity 2D happened upon some evidence of recent activity. Whether it was from the people that took his band mates he couldn’t be certain. Tire tracks left on a road heading up through the town, or city, towards an unknown destination. Shrugging to himself, 2D figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

———

The singer regretted the stupid thought, ‘it couldn’t hurt,’ because damn did he hurt now. Wincing, 2D picked some prickles out of his clothing. The tire tracks lead to a home where a crazed man and his wife had assaulted him the moment he set foot on their property. Fleeing with the cat had landed him in a bush or plant, something scratchy. He grumbled and shook his clothes a bit to be rid of the pin pricks of pain.

“If I make stupid decisions on behalf of us please just meow loudly or something.”

Kraken made no indication that she agreed or disagreed with him. 2D found himself sighing for the umpteenth time that day.

“This is turning into a nightmare.”

He wondered if he’d slip into another haze without food. He dreaded that.

“Lets try our hand at some hot-wiring,” his thoughts quickly slipped to the satanist, “I sort of remember how to do it.”

2D found them a decent vehicle that had good mileage, that he knew of. Hooking the leash to something he set about hot-wiring the car. A few good attempts later the car rumbled to life. 2D hooted in victory before clambering out of the cramped spot on the floor of the car.

“Now we can travel much faster, or until the gas runs out.”

Talking to the cat eased his crushing loneliness hovering at the back of his thoughts. She couldn’t verbally respond, but it was good enough knowing she could listen. Transferring her to the car and tossing his bag into the back he shut the door and off they went.

———

Time passed and as hours became days, 2D felt the clawing urge to feed ebb away his mental facilities. At this point he wasn’t sure where they were, how far they’d gone or if he’d ever find his friends again. Their transport had lasted a substantial amount of time and 2D even managed refueling. Their current residence was a marginally large town with smashed out stores, festering bodies and trash blowing about. His mind was slipping the longer he went without food and in the last day till now he hadn’t spoken a word to Kraken. Speaking was too difficult. His only will to continue was to make sure she was well cared for and finding his friends.

Parked at the side of a street in the main drag, 2D stared ahead blank and unseeing. Kraken meowed and broke his trance. He turned to look at her confused. She clawed at the door like a dog to be freed, possibly to go to the washroom or something else. 2D struggled to follow the request, climbing out of the car with her leash in hand. Momentarily he wondered what cat would taste like, but made a face before the thought fully formed. He had some of his wits about him, he wasn’t going to succumb to these zombie needs that easily.

Kraken meowed again, trying to move around and get them going. 2D sighed and walked with her, glancing around to see if anything stuck out. Nothing did, of course. It truly felt like a horror film now, everything was in shambles no matter where he looked. Brought from his dazed viewing he jerked when Kraken bolted, frightened by a zombie wandering near, her leash slipping from his slack grasp. Fear clenched at his heart and he attempted to go after her, but too late. Standing in the middle of an intersection he fiddled his fingers.

“Kraken,” his voice warbled from disuse, “Kraken come back…please. I can’t do this alone.”

She was gone and it was his fault.

“Stupid, so stupid. They’ll be so mad at me,” 2D mumbled, voice slurring the more he drifted into his hungered state.

And like a switch he suddenly couldn’t comprehend why he had been worried. Sure she was gone, but she was a cat. Cats could look after themselves. Distantly he heard a noise and altered his path wandering away from the street. Searching for the noise he happened upon a small group of flesh eaters stumbling off into a more ritzy looking sector. Not realizing he was following on, 2D went with them, if only to see where that noise was from. It reminded him of the field.

They came to the perimeter of a rather elegant and gated college. Strange, the noise emanated from within the boundary. 2D shuffled along with his new friends seeking an entry. Time ceased for him while like this. It was almost night time when something whizzed past him causing one of the bodies to collapse. His mind screamed bullet and gun, but his body just toddled on like no one’s business. Another zombie dropped and faintly 2D heard louder noises, voices. Shouting maybe. There was a disconnect between his mind and body, enough so he couldn’t quite discern what was going on. His vision was no help and he relied on hearing and smell. Bodies dropped around him like flies until suddenly it was only him standing at the back gates to the property. His mind knew it would be him next, it had to be, but there was no shouting. The guns were silent. The gate creaked open and before he knew it arms were around him, crushing him in a hug. It was warm and safe. He smelt peppermint gum and cigarette smoke.

Chapter Text

Although unconscious for the start of the journey, the strange survivors placed a bag over Murdoc’s head and zip tied him. Russel and Noodle were treated in a very similar fashion. The three of them spent nearly the entirety of the trip like that, minus pit stops to allow them a chance to stretch and do business. After it was obvious the survivors wouldn’t answer questions they remained quiet. It took roughly two days to reach the unknown destination, at which point the bags were removed; the zip ties being taken off previous to arrival. The three of them were mentally and emotionally exhausted after spending two days getting next to no sleep with burlap bags over their heads. When the local area was revealed they honestly couldn’t be more surprised.

The grounds surrounding an old stone work college were bustling with activity, people were moving about either tending to a large garden or other varies plots for self sufficiency. Noodle was impressed by the level of community occurring within the walls, despite the outside world. Taking that moment to stretch soreness from stiff joints, Murdoc cracked his back, he wouldn't compliment these people for a job well done. They had no reason to drag them here in such a manner. Russel was wary of the scouts standing around them, guns held close.

“Come along, we’re gonna take you three to meet with the council.”

Too tired to argue the three of them followed the armed survivors into the college. Rooms had been converted into storage for supplies or varies sleeping quarters. People inside glanced at them curiously, there happened to be children among the survivors. The teacher’s lounge was where the council sat in wait for their arrival. They seated themselves across from the strangers. Noodle rubbed her eyes to rid the sleep gathered in them. Russel hid a yawn behind a fist, trying hard to look more aware than he felt. Murdoc barely made attempts to look at the people across from them, he stared at his hands, still stained in flaky dried blood.

“We welcome you to our humble home, I hope the journey was quick.”

“Your people dragged us into a truck and put bags over our head. Not the picture of welcoming if you ask me,” Noodle crossed her arms over her chest, leaning back into the couch.

“Yeah, what the hell was up with that? Could have just asked us," the drummer frowned.

A few of the council members gave placating gestures, smiling benignly.

“We cannot apologize enough for the treatment which you received while getting here,” the speaker was an older man with a greying beard and no hair on his head, “we hadn’t expected our scouts to bring you back in such a manner.”

“What is this place and why are we here?”

“Well this is a safe haven, we’ve fortified this college campus for survivors. We send scouts out to find struggling survivors and have them watch them, see if they’re violent. We don’t want violence here. If the people show promise we approach cautiously and ask if they want to join us.”

Russel snorted derisively, “real cautious my ass. Your people came at us without introductions man, we were doing just fine.”

One of the men decked out in guns cleared his throat gaining everyone’s attention. The bearded man motioned for him to speak.

“Things escalated and we had to take out a target. The thing killed Greg. We figured it was in the best interest—”

“Best interest? It was in your best interest to kill Stuart was it?”

Murdoc clenched his hands so tight he could faintly feel his nails biting into his flesh.

“You shot him and left him there. You people should'a fucking left us alone!”

“Hey you people were harboring that thing like a fucking pet,” the scout pointed at Murdoc menacingly, “and you let it eat my friend so you got no place accusing me of shit!”

Murdoc leapt at the man, barely giving Russel and Noodle a chance to catch and restrain him. He furiously spat his words out.

“YOU shouldn’t have been there! Stuart wouldn’t have done fuck all if you had of left! Nosy fucking arseholes you lot are, spying on us!”

“You have a lot of nerve! We saved you, you ungrateful prick!”

“I wasn’t in any fucking danger! None of us were! It’s YOUR fault he’s dead!”

The council members tried desperately to cool the situation by stepping between the two men. Both of them were being kept back from each other. Murdoc started to give into the tugging by his friends, he heaved a shaky breath.

“He’s dead,” Murdoc covered his face with a dirty hand, “he’s fucking dead.”

“It may be wise to hold a meeting with you three later, after you freshen up and eat.”

Nodding to the scouts the bearded man gestured for them to take their guests off to clean up. The one scout grunted and he shook his friends off and without much force he urged them along. Noodle and Russel rested a hand each on the bassist, directing him, shooting concerned looks at the older man. Murdoc waved them off, sniffing while they walked. The scouts deposited them in the communal shower room of a changing room. Towels, fresh clothing and toiletries were stored in the lockers.

“Clean up. We’ll take you three for food afterwards.”

With that they were left in the large tiled room. There was the small echo of water dripping somewhere in the room.

“What do we do now?” Noodle whispered, “we lost Toochi and now we’re stuck here. They’re not going to let us leave.”

Russel felt weary, like a rubber band that had been over stretched, he just wanted to sleep and maybe just never wake up. Russel sighed and went to a locker, dug out the meager supplies for cleaning up then moved to the showering section.

“I’m gonna play along until we find a way outta this. I gotta hold onto that hope that things will work out or I’ll fucking lose it.”

The drummer stepped away and got himself a shower going after stripping. Noodle glanced at Murdoc. The bassist kept staring at his hands. Biting her lip she rubbed her own arm awkwardly. She’d never seen the older man like this, at least not while completely sober.

“You should clean up Murdoc.”

She winced when the man shot her a sharp glare. Noodle knew it wasn’t meant for her, the man was clearly distraught and struggling with his emotions. Stepping back from him she jabbed a thumb over her shoulder towards the showers.

“I’m gonna leave you to it,” turning Noodle proceeded after Russel into the large section.

She took a far shower, knowing she wasn’t out of sight, but trusting both of them implicitly not to stare.

Murdoc sat heavily on a bench, back to the showers. He barely moved, even when Russel and Noodle were well finished and dressed. The drummer gave Murdoc’s shoulder a friendly squeeze and Noodle rubbed his back affectionately. They both left him to wallow alone, which he was thankful for. He buried his face into his filthy hands.

———

The following two days preceding their arrival the council gave them a tour and orientation about what was expected. Noodle was silently still impressed by their combined efforts to make a community; however she wouldn’t congratulate the people who killed 2D. Russel asked questions for them, like how they got their supplies, how they managed to have running water, and so on. The council had answered cryptically which shot off the first red flag for the drummer. Murdoc just stuck close to the percussionist and guitarist, hardly saying much, seemingly stuck in his own miserable world. They were told nobody left unless under punishment for disobeying rules, which were simple: no harming others, behave and do your part.

And within that same week they were joining the fray of workers. Noodle took up with their gardening group, wanting a means to see how they cooked and prepped meals via fire powered stoves. Russel took up helping with the children, he found it relaxing to see young happy faces in spite of their situation. Murdoc begrudgingly took up guard duty, the work was quiet and strangely cathartic for his fragile state of mind. He kept to himself at his post, only ever stuck there once in a while with one guy who also avoided talking. Mostly.

It was their fourth night in around dinner time that they gathered around a small table in the school cafeteria. Food was served and conversation took up the noiseless room rather quickly. Murdoc pushed the vegetables and ground meat around, cheek resting on his closed fist.

“It’s been almost five days,” Noodle sipped on her water, “maybe you could say something? Just let us know you’re still here.”

Russel chewed his food making a face at the flavor. Murdoc sighed and dropped his fork, he pushed back from the table to stand. Noodle watched the satanist get up.

“Lost my appetite.”

“Murdoc,” the guitarist sounded dismayed, “please just talk to us.”

“You want to sit in a circle too?”

“You don’t have to be defensive, we’re all coming to terms with the same information. You don’t think we’re upset too? You’re bottling it all up when you know damn well Russ and I are here for you. We’re all you have left now.”

Murdoc clamped his mouth shut, grinding his teeth. Noodle stared up at him imploringly, conveying how much she wanted him to open up to them. He shook his head and turned, leaving quickly. The guitarist exhaled slow and shakily.

“Give him a bit of time baby girl, he’s stubborn, but he’s also probably hurting.”

“I’m sad too, we both are. It’s not like we won’t work through this.”

Russel gave the young woman a hug with one arm, squeezing her upper torso into his side. Noodle leaned into him, dropping her head against his body.

“I hope he didn’t suffer,” the drummer commented.

“Same.”

———

Lack of emissions allowed the sky to clear and the stars shone brightly. Leaning back in the chair on the watch tower erected near the back gate, Murdoc hummed a song to himself. He was amazed, after his out burst and all, they willingly gave him a rifle for his job. The ladder creaked and his tower partner hefted himself up into the space. Murdoc ceased his tune the moment the man appeared.

“You’re here early.”

“figured I’d get a head start.”

The other nodded as he sat himself with a huff into the chair at the other side of the tower. A beat passed with no words exchanged. The man turned his head a bit to look towards Murdoc only seeing the back of his head.

“So you like music?”

“What of it?”

“Heard you humming to yourself.”

Murdoc sighed, “yes, I’m in—I was in a band.”

“Oh yeah? What sort of music?”

“Just about anything now that I think about it, no borders.”

The guy shuffled his chair around to properly face the bassist.

“You play an instrument then? I play drums, well I use too.”

“Bass guitar.”

Murdoc felt uncomfortable talking about this subject something that normally would have him bragging.

“A friend of mine played bass, he also sang some. Poor sucker kicked the bucket after getting bit, had to put him down.”

The satanist shifted in his seat and rubbed his sweaty palms against his jeans. He finally spared a glance over his shoulder at the other man. This topic made unwelcome thoughts of 2D swarm his mind.

“Why are we talking?”

“Figured we could shoot the shit, not much happening. Tell me ‘bout yourself, you got a family?”

Noodle wanted him to open up but talking to her or Russel made him clam up. Maybe he could divulge things to a complete stranger, but then he would have to see this man every other day for who knew how long.

“In some sense of the word, I suppose.”

“You got a wife and kids then?”

His brain unhelpfully gave him a faded memory of the four of them grinning for photos during a tour. He missed that life and the oddly simple image of them being domestic outside of performing. That would probably never occur again.

“I haven’t a wife, never interested me. I do have a sort of adopted daughter and friend here. They’re my band mates actually. Been through thick and thin together.”

“Each to their own,” the man smiled, “what’s your kids name?”

“Er, she’s self named herself Noodle. It sort of stuck.”

Granted it was the only English word they recognized when she arrived. The man raised a brow.

“Interesting, how old is she?”

“She's twenty-seven. Would prefer if she was ten again.”

The man chuckled warmly, “I miss those years, when they’re young. Easier to please. I miss my boy being that age, always impressed with everything I did.”

Murdoc knew how that felt. Noodle had been his shadow a lot of her youth, she did trail 2D and Russel as well, but with him it was a special bond. He never pictured himself a parental figure given his own childhood but Noodle hadn’t minded his rough edges.

“Can you cover tonight? I have something I need to attend too.”

“Sure thing. Nice talk.”

Murdoc slid down the ladder, bending his knees to take the impact before he was off in search of the guitarist. Before hand he nicked a pack of cigarettes from a table in the cafeteria along with the lighter sitting beside it. Finding Noodle was easier given the small vicinity of the grounds and college.

“Oi, you ’n me, lets go.”

Noodle glanced up from a book she was reading to eye Murdoc.

“What for?”

“I’m feeling charitable,” Murdoc shook the pack of smokes, “git your arse up.”

Slapping the book closed the young woman rose from the bed to follow the older man out. She kept in step with him on the way out.

“What’s this about? You seemed eager to avoid me, well us, earlier.”

“Don’t question it,” the satanist stuck a smoke between her lips before she could protest and then one for himself.

When Noodle rolled her eyes and used her lips to prop the cigarette up he lit it.

“Horrible influence we were on you.”

Noodle snorted and inhaled, she didn’t smoke nearly as much and the cravings never struck her. Murdoc got his own started and continued walking with her until they were outside the building.

“Fairly certain it was more a nature vs. nurture,” Noodle blew her smoke out, “thankfully I knew the difference between good and bad.”

“Obviously not well enough, you stuck around.”

“What’s got you all sentimental old man?”

Murdoc took a deep breath, “this whole thing is pretty fucked up.”

“Being replaced with a cyborg was pretty fucked up.”

There was no bite to her comment, Murdoc tensed regardless.

“Nobody wants to let that go, the world is fucking over for pete sake.”

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Murdoc grumbled under his breath before slouching.

“I’m sorry too. Should have tried harder.”

“Y’know it’s not your fault right?”

“Isn’t it though? It’s always my fault. I wanted to go through the subway.”

Noodle furrowed her brow confused. She paused raising her smoke to give him a sideways glance.

“What are you talking about?”

“We were surrounded and Russ suggested the subway,” Murdoc fought to keep his breathing even, “Stuart didn’t want to and I ignored him. He got the fucking gash down there in the water. If we hadn’t gone down there none of this would have happened. He’d be his stupid self but he’d be alive. Safe.”

Noodle stood closer to the older man and dropped her head onto his shoulder. She slipped an arm around his, holding it tightly.

“You can’t be sure of anything Murdoc.”

The satanist continued to smoke while she leaned into him. Noodle let her cigarette fall and gently mushed it out with her foot.

“Lets steal a couple bottles of wine and get raging drunk with Russ.”

The bassist peered down at her. Noodle smirked at him when he grinned in return. Murdoc’s half finished smoke lay on the ground forgotten, smouldering. Sneaking into the kitchen after hours and snatching a couple bottles more than necessary, they made to leave. First Noodle cracked one open right there in the kitchen taking a swig. Murdoc snorted and grabbed it from her to take a long chug from the glass bottle.

“Save some for Russ you boozer,” Noodle giggled juggling three bottles in one arm.

“I haven’t had a lick in months, I plan to get properly smashed,” Murdoc tilted back and started swallowing down more red liquid, he missed this.

He knew the percentage was low enough he could get away with drinking more and silently hoped his sobriety made it easier to get drunk. Stumbling a bit from tilting back he nearly dropped the two other bottles he held. Noodle rolled her eyes and gestured.

“Lets go,” she headed to the door quietly, “and be quiet.”

Murdoc set the empty wine bottle down carefully and slipped back out with her. By the time they reached Russel a second bottle had been discarded along the way and both were rather pleasantly buzzed, not enough on Murdoc's end but it was a good start. The drummer looked at them less than impressed.

“Why are you encouraging him baby girl?”

“C-come get drunk with us in the basement, we need a break. It can be like old times!”

“Shhhh,” Murdoc shushed her snickering.

“You two seem kinda gone already,” Russel tried to keep the smile from forming, “ah hell, lets go.”

Giving a victory hoot Russel promptly halted the noise as he ushered his drunken friends out of the sleeping quarters hastily. Helping both five-foot-something guitarists, Russel chuckled as he lead them down to the basement of the college, avoiding being spotted. Murdoc rambled on about nothing important while Noodle laughed in random intervals over what the man said. Russel smiled fondly to himself, it wasn’t a healthy coping method, but for one night he could admire the try. Tomorrow they could face consequences. Once safely tucked in a storage room with makeshift seats they began passing around a third bottle of wine.

“We-we should make it interesting,” Murdoc stumbled his words.

“Why man? Isn’t drinking interesting enough?”

“A game, a drinking game. Best way to remain happily drunk on this cheap shit is to make it fun.”

Russel shrugged, “Whatcha got in mind?”

“Never have I ever,” Noodle spoke louder before covering her mouth, “sorry.”

“Yeah, yes, that is a perfect game. Rules are simple—”

“Muds we know how to play.”

“Fine fine, shall I go first?”

When nobody rushed to go he lolled his head exaggeratedly, “oh hell don’t clamber for it. Alright, never have I ever had a threesome.”

Promptly the satanist took a sip. Noodle yanked the bottle from Murdoc a short moment after and took a drink. She lowered the bottle and looked between the two men staring at her.

“What? Don’t be so surprised I’m not some prude. Also that isn't how you play you geezer.”

“Shaddup.”

“Christ,” Russel rubbed his face, “never have I ever been in a car accident.”

“Oh rude,” Murdoc grunted taking the bottle back, “I have one or five little incidents and everyone says you’re a bad driver.”

Noodle leaned back partly on her stool, “never have I ever fucked a man.”

Murdoc gave her the evil eye but took another sip. Russel laughed lightly.

“Never have I ever been to the fair.”

Noodle couldn’t think of a time where she visited a fair, not that she was interested in doing so. Russel took the bottle and had a decent drink. The drummer wiped his mouth and tilted his head in thought.

“Never have I ever picked my nose and ate it.”

Noodle guiltily took a sip. Russel closed his eyes laughing.

“We raised you better than that,” Murdoc quipped.

Noodle coughed on her wine.

“Shut up! Totally didn’t. I was a rock star, got to do whatever I wanted.”

The drummer hummed in agreement, she had been a bit unruly at times and constantly mimicking some rather bad aspects of a certain someone. Noodle cleared her throat, her speech was still moderately intelligent.

“Never have I ever snorted milk out of my nose.”

When neither man had taken a sip she grumbled and took another sip. Murdoc rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“Never have I ever shot a gun.”

“You’re working as a guard though,” Noodle handed the bottle to Russel.

“Eh, seemed easy.”

“What are you gonna do when some zombies come around?”

“Hope none come to my side. Anyway back to the topic at hand.”

Russel realized in that moment that the satanist never did fire his weapon back in the beginning, it had always been him. Part of him wondered why, though he figured some people were anxious about shooting firearms. He’d been uneasy handling the guns, but he felt his life depended on it. He examined his company, they were fairly sloshed, enough to be comfortably prodded to share feelings.

“Never have I ever cared for a comatose patient.”

Murdoc stared at Russel, begging silently for the bigger man to not delve into discussion about 2D. Tonight was suppose to be about getting drunk and unwinding. Noodle passed the bottle to Murdoc and he swirled the bottle a bit.

“You gonna drink? I know you have.”

The satanist hesitated, he remembered looking after 2D.

“In interviews I normally lied about how we started,” Murdoc sighed, “embellish and bend the truth to make it sound good.”

“How so?”

“Jus’ told ‘em what they wanted to hear.”

Noodle rested her hands on her thighs, listening to the bassist.

“Well there aint much to bend man, most of the shit in our backstory is true.”

Motioning with his hand and the bottle, spilling some, Murdoc tried to elaborate with his muddled words, “no, I meant I didn’t bang him up more while lookin’ after him. The second incident was a fluke. I was so fucking embarrassed that I lied about it. Was ready to quit making music and a band, just settle down and look after a sodding vegetable. Was all soppy over the arsehole.”

“Did 2D know?”

“‘Course he did! I made him promise not to tell people.”

“I don’t get you man, if you were so damn infatuated why not just be together normally?”

“Weren’t we playing a game?”

Sensing the bassist was done sharing, Russel leaned back some. Their game resumed after the awkward confession. In the end they all somehow found comfort laying on the floor together sleeping off the effects of their over consumption. Come morning there were three sluggish and hungover persons going about their jobs and a few angry council members trying to find the missing alcohol and culprits. The three of them barely slid under the radar and from there the days blended together. However after their sneaky game of never have I ever they became more relaxed talking about less than pleasant topics within reason. Murdoc would usually have nightly smoking sessions with Noodle, blithely telling her about different things 2D and him did before Gorillaz. Somehow it helped, recounting memories about the singer. Russel started to join them in the place behind the college for a few puffs, though he really found cigarettes distasteful. They shared a few laughs over some ridiculous stuff that had happened to them over the years, gently broaching the topic of Plastic Beach only occasionally. It wasn't all terrible.

———

Weeks passed and although not reasonably long, Murdoc and the other two fell into routine. They found solace in each other and the few new friends among the strange strong hold. Despite there being no outward warning signs, they still felt on edge; possibly remnants of constantly fighting the world while trying to survive. Russel complained nearly every other meal that the meat always tasted funny and every time he did Murdoc lost interest in eating.

When they had a night to themselves to chat about the past and possibly future, many hilariously bad ideas were broached. They did so without aid from liquor, much to Murdoc’s chagrin. The wine binge made him ache for the liquid courage all the more and Noodle regretted giving him a foot back on the horse after he’d done so well. Regardless they found balance and somehow they were finding time to heal, slowly.

Murdoc befriended his tower partner, a retired accountant, Michael. The man made easy and light conversation with the bassist any other night, bland topics, safe in Murdoc’s mind. Such a night was no different. They were sat with their rifles, feet propped on the ledge discussing instruments, mainly guitars since the bassist preferred them ultimately. Michael hardly minded dipping into Murdoc’s territory of expertise. Both of them gave pause when they heard shuffling beyond the stone wall. It was still dimly light out and visibility was moderately good, neither of them had seen anything come near from their spot.

“It’s been weeks and I’ve only ever seen maybe ten of them fuckers dare to come near, always the front.”

“Could be a bird,” Murdoc commented while dropping his legs to lean forward.

Michael got his gun up, positioning himself for the inevitable appearance of an undead walker. They both held their breath only to jerk surprised when a black furry thing darted out of the bushes and through the wrought iron gates. Michael unintentionally fired a shot hitting a tree. Murdoc smacked the man in the arm.

“It’s a damn cat, what’re you doing?”

“It startled me!”

Murdoc rolled his eyes and glanced over the opposite side of their tower to see where the animal ran off too. Cocking his head in confusion at the bright fuchsia leash sticking out from under a bush he got up.

“That thing has a leash, maybe some poor sod lost their pet.”

The satanist made his way down from their perch to investigate the feline. Upon closer inspection the cat hissed at him defensively.

“Oi oi, not gonna hurt you, you stupid creature,” Murdoc grabbed the leash lightly tugging the terrified animal out from under the bush.

When the cat was fully revealed he stared in disbelief at the familiar harness Russel had chosen months prior.

“Kraken? What in the hell are you doing here? How?”

She spit and squirmed when he scooped her up.

“Quit that now, y’know who I am you furry devil. How’re you alive?”

After a few seconds she seemed to settle, recognizing the satanist. She purred in content, finally relaxing in his arms.

“How in the blazes?”

His mind couldn’t keep up with the racing thoughts and questions. She was wearing her harness and leash, which only the four of them knew about. He startled from his thoughts at a loud noise. Kraken clawed him tensing when Michael started to fire shots. Murdoc looked at her then to the tower, his eyes widened. Stuart was alive, he was okay! That had to be the only explanation for Kraken being here.

“S-stop shooting! Wait a minute mate!”

Scrambling to tie Kraken down to a bush branch, which she found distasteful, Murdoc nearly tripped trying to get up the ladder.

“Mike stop! Don’t shoot him!”

“Shoot who? There’s zombies coming over!”

The bassist hauled himself up into the perch, scrabbling for purchase. Michael shot into a crowd of stumbling zombies hobbling along towards their back gates. They had very little in the way of light as the sun dipped, so distorted faces danced in and out of sight through the foliage. Murdoc desperately scanned the rotting bodies for a familiar head.

“Just stop!” Murdoc waved at the man to lower his weapon, but Michael ignored him.

Just then a body dropped and behind the corpse Murdoc spotted the flash of blue underneath red, he was lumbering along with the horde. The man had a dirtied ball cap on, covering most of his bright blue hair. For a brief moment he froze, too stunned to believe what he was seeing. Michael reloaded and while Murdoc had his minor crisis he aimed for the tall pretty boy’s head. Jerking into action Murdoc shoved the barrel of the gun making Michael miss the singer.

“What the hell man? We need to clear out this mess before they get at the gate.”

“Don’t shoot the man with the red hat!”

“He’s one of them!”

“He’s not!”

Michael frowned at the bassist before resuming his firing, he cleared out the main cluster of bodies before once again directing himself towards 2D. Panicked Murdoc grabbed his forgotten weapon up and clubbed the other man over the head. Michael slumped into the small wall around their perch, rifle tumbling out of his hands to the ground. Palms sweaty and heart pounding, Murdoc looked around to make sure nobody saw the commotion. Dropping the gun he practically leapt from the tower and came to the metal gates. His hands shook while unlatching the gate. He nearly knocked 2D over, hugging the taller man tight, holding him close.

“You idiot, I thought you were dead! We all did.”

2D muttered garbled nonsense against Murdoc’s hair. The satanist leaned back to look at the singer.

“You’re in a state,” alarmingly Murdoc thought about dragging a person out like a sacrificial lamb.

“Look mate I’m not about to feed someone to you,” Murdoc knew somehow he would give and break that statement, he was honestly considering the option, “I could lead one person out…do you hear me right now? I’m bonkers. I’m fucking elated too. You’re alive! I don’t know how you did it, but you’re alive.”

2D swayed in his hold, not looking at him. Murdoc squeezed the singer’s arms.

“You stay put, just stay here. I have to tell Russ ’n Noodle.”

The satanist gently pushed 2D into the tree line to hide him, “please don’t disappear. I should make sure Michael is fine, I clubbed him good.”

2D stood there, his head was cocked slightly, eyes bright white instead of black. Murdoc slid his hands down to the singer’s elegant hands, holding them delicately.

“I could get someone,” Murdoc shook his head, “no I won’t. I can’t do that.”

Somewhere along their journey from being a band to now Murdoc had probably lost bits and pieces of his sanity; he blamed the unfortunate imagery he encountered while in 2D’s presence. He brought the singer’s hands up kissing each of them softly. Recognition flickered in the bright eyes and the singer blinked the white away.

“Murdoc?”

“Hi Stuart.”

“Where? What am I doing here? I feel horrid.”

The bassist patted the taller man on the cheek, affectionate yet rough. Murdoc leaned back from 2D, rubbing his knuckles. The iron gate whinged as it was pushed further open, Murdoc looked towards the scout flashing his light around.

“Shit, you need to stay hidden.”

2D rubbed his face struggling to stay lucid, he barely registered Murdoc’s words. Soon the man was missing and he slipped back into a serene haze. Murdoc approached the scout, scowling some when he could make out Jason’s features. The same man who promptly shot the singer weeks prior. This could work in his favor, Jason and him still didn't get on well. Murdoc felt resolute in his quick, yet irrational decision. Jason studied the bassist a tick before frowning.

“Why the fuck are you outside the line? What’s going on here?”

Murdoc let a devilish smirk fill his face, casually saddling up next to the man.

“I saw some brat wander through, came down to inspect.”

Jason felt momentary fear at the thought of a child wandering off alone. The expression Murdoc wore made him second guess that feeling. The satanist wrapped an arm around him, edging him down the slight hill towards the trees.

“I don’t see anyone out here Niccals.”

Holding more firm to Jason’s shoulders, Murdoc steadied his nerves. It was a split second choice and he direly hoped things didn’t turn sour.

“Oh there was definitely someone down here, swear I heard giggling.”

“You’re just fucking with me. Look I get we got off on the wrong foot.”

Forcing Jason further into the trees Murdoc sneered as he pulled his arm back. Jason turned only for Murdoc to shove him hard a few times until he tumbled to the ground.

“No hard feelings mate,” Murdoc stared down at him, hands resting on his hips.

Jason made to get up when some leaves crunched above his head. He peered up seeing glowing white eyes and an eery smile. He shot Murdoc a look then 2D suddenly aware how perilous his situation was. Strangely thus far, the singer made no move to attack; the tall man was poised though.

“You’re stark raving mad! Call him off!”

Murdoc gave a thoughtful glower at the man as he nonchalantly leaned into a tree, he glanced towards the singer, “he shot you 2D. Have at him.”

Said singer gave Jason seconds before descending upon him. Jason used his gun to shield himself in vain, 2D was much stronger and grappled with the man, pushing the weapon down with little effort. Jason strained against him, gasping in terror when 2D got closer.

“You psycho, what the fuck is wrong with you? Get him off me!”

Murdoc examined his nails, a small hysterical laugh bubbled up when he thought about the situation, “I am mad,” his tone deadpanned, “mad you shot him.”

2D dug his teeth into Jason’s forearm leaning heavily into the man. Jason shot a hand into bright blue, knocking the baseball cap off. The singer growled loudly chomping harder until he tasted blood. Jason shouted for help while nearly tearing 2D’s hair to get him off.

“You better not muck his hair up, I happen to like it.”

The man screamed at the bassist, horrified, it was short lived when 2D broke off his arm to dive into his neck. Jason’s life sputtered to a stop abruptly, throat gaping when 2D came up. Murdoc covered his eyes, sliding down the tree with weak legs at the sight. He still had no stomach for 2D’s impromptu meals. Had Jason deserved this? Murdoc felt he did, but he also knew it was pretty fucked up leading a person to slaughter.

“Satan help me, I just aided in murder,” Murdoc stayed seated on his backside, watching on through his fingers while 2D ate his assailant. He laughed nervously while cupping his head, “I can’t believe I did that. What have I done?”

He saw 2D lift his head from Jason’s gaping body, the man was a rather quick zombie.

“You’ve done this to me, I can’t seem to make sane decisions when you’re about. I’ve gone and let you eat someone. Willingly!”

“We could make a murder duo,” 2D joked while crawling over the body towards the bassist, blood dripping off his face, “I missed you so much Muds.”

“I’ve never helped someone murder a person.”

“Oh he was a bad man, he’s been eating other people too.”

Murdoc looked from the mangled body to the singer in front of him. He lowered his hands.

“What?”

“His stomach contents, he ate someone recently,” 2D smiled toothily, leaning close to kiss the satanist, he smeared the other’s cheek with blood, “thank you for helping me.”

It took the satanist a moment to collect himself, meanwhile the singer pressed closer to the sitting man. 2D tried to kiss Murdoc again but the older man halted him and pointed at Jason’s corpse.

“Run it by me again, he was eating people?”

“Yeah, middle aged woman, late thirties.”

“How in the hell can you tell that?”

“I dunno, the taste? Almost like ground beef, but definitely human.”

“Of course,” Murdoc laughed again, voice cracking, “they’re fucking cannibals.”

Some people gave a holler by the gate, Michael one of them; that answered his earlier concern for the man. Murdoc gripped 2D’s upper arm, tugging him up and behind the trees, hiding in the darkness. 2D observed the people come down from the gate with flashlights.

“Suppose I eat them too, would that be over doing it?”

“Yes,” Murdoc hissed, “I only had issue with Jason.”

“What about Noodle and Russ?”

“We’ll have to come back for them, lets get outta here before we’re spotted.”

Wordlessly they disappeared further into the sparsely grown trees. Light from flashlights bounced off the surrounding area until finally they were far enough from being seen. 2D lead Murdoc to a home on the outskirts of the college campus smiling stupidly in the dark at his luck.

“I’m so glad I found you.”

“likewise,” Murdoc wiped his face of drying blood, he felt sick to his stomach.

For weeks they had been eating people. Somehow Murdoc feels they should have noticed. Everything had been so peachy and nice, nobody really gave any indication. Of course it was too good to be true. 2D moved about the house quietly, able to function in near darkness. He came back momentarily when the satanist hadn’t moved.

“Should move to a bedroom, unwind, catch up?”

Groping in the darkness for 2D, Murdoc’s hand caught the singer’s waist. He held his fingers loosely around a belt loop on the singer’s jeans.

“Lead me, I can’t see a thing and lighting anything would give us away.”

Attentive to Murdoc’s inability to see, 2D meandered through obstacles, voicing what the man need avoid while making for a bedroom. Closing the door behind them 2D divested himself of Noodle’s sweater coat he had borrowed; this removed half of his mess. Wiping his face with the fabric 2D watched the bassist carefully make for the bed, sitting once sure he found the right furniture. Although dark 2D could see Murdoc burying his face into shaky palms.

“I need a distraction,” Murdoc muttered, “my mind is racing.”

2D dropped the jacket and backed up opening the door.

“Give me a moment, I’ll be back.”

Not able to stop the singer given his disadvantage, Murdoc stayed seated. The door opened and he heard 2D walk off into the house somewhere. Flopping back on the overly cushioned bed Murdoc groaned. He had no way of blaming alcohol or drugs for his lack of clarity with Jason’s untimely death. This scared him. Was it murder? Darkly he knew he wanted to snuff the man out, 2D being as he was just gave him an excuse. The floor creaked and sudden movement gave to weight shifting beside him on the bed. He could smell mouthwash on 2D’s breath when the man leaned close.

“Would this be a good distraction?” The singer slipped his leg over Murdoc’s waist, straddling him.

He barely made out the shape of 2D’s body and face. Given what had happened he wasn’t sure he could ignore what he’d done. The singer pressed a warm kiss to his cheek. There was a unsettling nausea rising from his stomach, despite it he slid his hands over 2D’s thighs to rest on his hips.

“Nobody here to interrupt us, completely alone.”

“Is this your version of dirty talk?”

“Oh shut it, I was trying to put you in the mood.”

Murdoc grunted slightly, “my night went off handle the moment you showed up, I’m trying to wrap my brain around everything that’s gone on.”

The singer sighed and laid himself against the bassist, tucking his head under Murdoc’s chin.

“How’d you survive?”

“I think my shoulder healed. It’s all black now.”

“I’ve done some shit things. This is beyond fucked.”

“Is it though? Obviously that man had some low morals to be eating people.”

“He might not’ve known.”

“Or maybe he did,” 2D leaned up again, “maybe it’s some obscure lottery system they have and nobody told you guys because you’re new. They can’t be finding too many people off the streets it’s basically deserted. Plus telling you, you would definitely not wanna stay.”

The singer had a point.

“That can’t be sustainable, in less than a year it would collapse. Not enough people about to look after the place ‘cause they’re eating each other.”

Murdoc rubbed his face groaning. 2D tilted his head watching him in the dark.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m gonna be sick.”

“Think happy thoughts?”

“Weeks Stuart! I’ve been eating people for weeks,” Murdoc winced.

“I’ve been eating them for,” the singer paused to count on his hand, “well nearly six months? Maybe a bit less.”

“You’re a fucking zombie, you have a good excuse. I’m going to vomit.”

Murdoc wriggled out from under 2D and rolled to the edge of the bed coughing. 2D slid up next to him, rubbing his back. The satanist choked on bile, having not consumed much dinner.

“We make a lovely couple,” 2D commented while Murdoc finally threw up on the floor, “we can’t leave Russ and Noodle there too long. What if one of them gets picked for dinner?”

The bassist spat some phlegm and bile onto the floor with his mess, “can we not talk about cannibalism?”

2D helped him sit back, using his borrowed shirt to wipe the man’s mouth. Murdoc blindly batted him away. They laid side by side once everything was said and done.

“Did I actually assist you though? Would remaining on the sidelines while you did your thing be considered that?”

“I don’t think so,” 2D smiled, not that it was visible, “I’m getting better handle over this. y’see I didn’t jump him right away even though I wanted too.”

Murdoc had noticed. 2D continued, “I scared these people on the road way, then I moved a car for them.”

Murdoc drifted in and out, listening to the singer chatter on about his adventures, his voice was oddly soothing. Before realizing it his eyes closed and he slipped into a light sleep. Heightened levels of stress caused his dreams to carry nightmarish flashes of a slaughter house and his friends hacked into pieces being served to him. Waking with a start he panted, looking about abruptly to clear the visual. Early morning light streamed through the curtains and 2D was nowhere to be seen. Instantly his panic had his heart going again as he moved to the side of the bed, foot slipping on his own sick. He slammed down on his back yelping, then swallowed on his gag reflex. He could feel the cold slick vomit seeping into his clothing.

“Muds?”

2D looked in from the bedroom doorway.

“What’re you doing on the floor?”

“Mopping up my mess,” the response was sarcastic.

The satanist got to his feet carefully yanking his sweater off and tossed it to the floor, closely followed by his socks.

“Where were you?”

“Making a surprise.”

Murdoc made to a dresser, digging through the contents for replacement clothing, “what sort of surprise?”

“For you.”

The bassist paused a bit surprised, “oh?”

“Come out when you’ve dressed.”

With that the singer vanished. Yanking a white shirt from the confines of the drawer, Murdoc tugged it on as he went, forgoing socks for now. Before the living room he ducked into a bathroom to rinse his mouth. He saw the bottle of mouthwash and gave himself a swig to swish about. When he came out 2D was sitting in the open living room of the home at the coffee table where two flutes of clear liquid sat alongside some food. It looked rather pathetic and under presented since the food was lacking quality and the drinks should have been champagne.

Some how it managed to fluster the bassist enough that he stood awkwardly at the couch.

“It’s not much, but after all the trouble last night I wanted to make it up to you.”

Romance was not his thing. It really wasn’t. He still felt stupidly flattered by the gesture.

Murdoc came around and sat quietly on the couch across from 2D. The singer passed him a plate of cold beans from a can, surprisingly fresh looking cheese slices and apple. The fruit threw the satanist off seeing as there couldn’t possibly be healthy fruit by now. 2D chuckled at his scrutinizing stare upon the pieces.

“There’s an apple tree in the backyard, no idea how good they taste since it’s late season.”

“That water?”

“Vodka.”

Murdoc failed to keep his mouth from inching into a genuine smile. 2D gave him a fond look back.

“I really shouldn’t encourage drinking so I won’t mention it to Russ or Noodle.”

Murdoc reached for the glass and took a taste, happy to see the singer was telling the truth. 2D grabbed his own flute and clinked it against the bassist’s, giving him a demure smile. If this was the kind of romance he had to deal with he could manage. 2D took dainty sips from the glass, mostly watching Murdoc with unrestrained anticipation.

“You like it?”

“Sort of vapid given our circumstances.”

2D slumped mildly hurt. Murdoc looked at the food voice clearly conveying his self-consciousness.

“Of course I like it ‘Dents. It’s nice.”

The singer perked up, “yay.”

Still disconcerted over the whole cannibalism thing, Murdoc unhurriedly ate the food, appetite still absent; he didn’t want to upset the singer again. 2D swapped seats and settled in next to the older man, casually resting his arm around Murdoc’s waist. The satanist barely startled at the act, in fact he leaned into the taller man while he exchanged between eating and sipping at his vodka. He wanted to savor what little he had.

Part way through the drink 2D lifted his arm to run his cool fingers along Murdoc’s neck, brushing against his ear and jaw. The bassist swallowed audibly when the singer pressed along his side, dipping into the opposite side of his neck.

“I could just eat you up.”

It was meant to be endearing, but after witnessing the singer in action it felt sinister. Murdoc squeezed the glass in his hand, close to breaking it. 2D nuzzled his nose along the trembling pulse on Murdoc’s neck.

“Sorry that’s probably more creepy than sweet now that I think about it,” 2D mumbled against the other’s skin.

“A little.”

2D used his other hand to grab the half finished food from Murdoc’s lap, leaning away to set it aside. Next he reached to set the flute beside the plate. The singer straddled Murdoc’s lap resting his arms against his shoulders. Hesitantly the satanist held 2D’s hips.

“Does this make you uncomfortable?”

“It makes me something,” Murdoc itched to reach out for the drink.

“Do you want to stop?”

“I don’t know what I want right now.”

“That’s fair.”

2D stayed put, he brought his hands up some to play with the dark hair at Murdoc’s nape, it was getting somewhat longer.

“Could work on plans to break Russel and Noodle out?”

“Yes, we should.”

Neither of them moved to do so. Murdoc wondered briefly how an apocalypse pushed them together after years of fooling around off and on. They never put a name to their odd relationship, wasn’t his style. He wrongly assumed the singer had felt similar; or maybe he had been wrong about himself.

Craving some sort of distraction he decided to give into this. Murdoc gently moved his hands up under 2D’s shirt, gliding his fingers along the cooler feeling skin of the singer’s sides. He glanced up from beneath his fringe at the singer enticing the taller man with a heated look. 2D tilted his head down making Murdoc follow his motion, capturing the bassist’s mouth in an eager kiss. It was still early enough in the morning that the people at the survivor camp would just be rousing for daily routine.

The singer lifted his arms when Murdoc insistently pulled on his shirt. The bassist tugged it up over his head, tossing it aside to run fingers over the gunshot wound. 2D glanced at the blackened area.

"Looks nasty, I know."

Murdoc leaned close and kissed over the sensitive black scar, "matches your eyes."

2D shivered when Murdoc continued to kiss along his shoulder to his neck. The bassist slid his hands over 2D's hips, pulling him closer. The older man was much warmer feeling, 2D leaned into him, tilting his head to make room for the mouth trailing along his skin. Timing was maybe inappropriate, but the singer didn't care. The the shared intimacy between the chaos going on, on any given day it was a nice reprieve. As more clothing was shed, 2D attempted to keep quieter, muffling himself against a couch cushion or behind Murdoc's hand. They didn't need a zombie interrupting, there had been enough of those in the past couple months.

Chapter Text

Barely three hours after the debacle both Noodle and Russel were dragged into the teacher lounge to the sight of antsy council members and distraught scouts; plus the unusual sight of one familiar ruffled black cat. Noodle scooped up the bedraggled feline, soothing her no questions asked. Russel sat on the couch with the guitarist a moment later, petting Kraken as well, thrilled to see her well but also incredibly confused. The council members finally sat adjacent to them on their couch. The bearded man, of whom none of them learned his name, clasped his hands together and took a deep breath.

“The three of you have only been here roughly three or so weeks.”

Noodle and Russel exchanged looks of concern, the man’s tone was exasperated.

“In that time you have stolen five bottles of wine, drank nearly four of them, stolen cigarettes and your companion, Murdoc, has yelled at three children on separate occasions and made all of them cry for absolutely no reason,” Noodle tried not to snicker, instead choking on the noise. The member was less than amused.

“Now he’s gone and lead Jason from the grounds and disappeared after killing him.”

Noodle sobered up, blinking in surprise. Russel cleared his throat.

“Look, Muds is a lot of things, arrogant, rude, often tactless and a bit obnoxious when drunk—”

“Prone to unintentional belligerence and plain disgusting half the time,” Noodle added, “but he’s definitely incapable of murder. He gets squeamish at the sight of loads of blood. How exactly did this guy die?”

Russel hummed in agreement, "it’s unlikely he killed this guy.”

“All those things you’ve described make him sound like a damn sociopath! You’re sure you know this man well enough to defend him?” When the council member brushed over Noodle's question she narrowed her eyes suspiciously.

Both nodded without hesitation.

“We’ve both known him for nearly eighteen years,” Russel stated.

“Him and Jason didn’t get on well.”

“Doesn’t mean he’d kill the guy.”

The bearded council member turned to his companions and they discussed in quiet murmurs about what to do about the situation. Noodle and Russel sat in tense positions nearly at the edge of the couch. Kraken settled on Noodle, mainly content to be safely held by one of her human owners. The atmosphere remained uncomfortably strained until the man turned towards them again.

“Unfortunately we don’t share your sentiment over your friend. Evidence says it was foul play. Until further notice you two are banished.”

“Wait, you’re kicking us out cause you found some dead guy and Muds is missing? Flimsy accusations man.”

“Because you three arrived together you two need to take responsibility for his actions. Unless he steps forward.”

“He’s missing,” Noodle held her forehead with her hand flabbergasted over the stupidity of their comments, “how—what the fuck? Do you even hear yourself?”

The bearded man waved them off, “take them to grab their things and ‘remove’ them.”

Russel sighed, “lets just get our things and fuck off. I can’t take this up and down shit anymore.”

The older men and women stared at their backs as the scouts escorted them from the room. Noodle and Russel split off to go to their respective sleeping quarters to gather their supplies. Both received a guard each. When they met up again they were lead from the building towards the front gates where some vehicles sat. Not questioning the way in which they were leaving the campus, Noodle and Russel got into the back and sat quietly. Once away the truck drove further in the opposite direction of where Murdoc and 2D had gone; neither of them knew this. The drive took them through some sparse forest into an industrial area of the city nearby. The person driving didn’t converse with them so the hum of the engine was their only comfort until they seemingly reached their destination. Russel stared out the window, catching the word, ‘refrigeration,’ briefly before the vehicle pulled into a facility.

Stumbling about in dazed hunger a few straggling zombies groaned at their arrival, weakly making attempts to get to the loading bay. A sniper from the top of the building easily took care of the minor problem. Nobody came in or left unless he said so.

“Where are we?”

“Why are we here? You could have easily just shoved us out the gate," Noodle tried to remain calm.

“Shut up, this is where we take all you fuck ups.”

Noodle gave the driver an affronted look, firstly confused and secondly offended by the accusation and tone. Russel noticed the inside of the building was lit up with running electricity, something he hadn’t seen in months, something that also concerned him. The car parked and momentarily it was dead silent, then from both sides people garbed in head to toe black clothing whipped their doors open, seemingly materializing out of nowhere. Scrambling to respond, Noodle punched the man on her side hard in the neck; he choked on a noise coughing, backing away. Kraken screeched in panic, trying to flee, but got caught by her harness and leash which was attached to Noodle’s wrist. The guitarist grunted and rushed to remove her buckle.

Russel yanked his off, having lucked out with a smaller stature person on his side, easily holding them back with an arm. He jumped out, gripping their wrists, turning them bodily to ram into the driver stepping out. More strangely dressed individuals, about ten or so, came flooding into the area with rope. Few held what looked like masks for anesthetic gas.

“What in the fuck is going on here?”

“I think this is some food packaging facility for us,” Noodle leapt from the car, crouching to scoop Kraken up then shift and give a well placed kick to another person’s chest.

The drummer clenched his fists tightly baring his teeth, “oh hell no, I did not survive this long to get fucking cannibalized!”

They quickly got overwhelmed by the darkly clothed people, despite their desperate attempts to fight their way out. Noodle used her strength to grab the roof rack behind her with one arm, lifting herself to kick two people in the head while carrying their feline friend. Russel whipped one of his bags into some people, dodged being grabbed to make his way into the open door of the driver side.

“Get in baby girl! We’re getting out of here,” he put the car into drive.

Noodle jerked when the vehicle started to move with her hanging on. Almost loosening her grip she clung to the rack awkwardly. She flung Kraken into the backseat, practically jogging beside the four door when Russel got the truck going.

“Ah! Russ! Wait I’m not in!” She tossed the leash into the car so Kraken wasn’t yanked out by her. Just as Russel turned slightly and the door came closed against the guitarist causing her to lose grip.

Yelping in pain and surprise Noodle tumbled to the ground, rolling to a stop on the cement floor. The weird people descended on her before she could comprehend. A mask was put over her face as the guitarist viciously kicked and twisted about. Holding her breath she pushed at the mask only to have her arms restrained. Gasping sharply she felt light headed and fuzzy, distantly she heard Russel shout for her. Quickly they hauled her unconscious body off to be processed.

———

Russel couldn’t bring himself to leave no matter how panicked he was and so he stopped at the exit gripping the wheel. In the mirror he saw them drag Noodle off and approach him. He didn’t know what to do. Someone yanked the driver side door open and pressed a gun to his temple.

“Step out slowly. You're going to come with us or so help me I’ll end it right here.”

Lifting his hands slowly, Russel slid out and stood beside the truck. Thinking about it this technically sealed the deal, even if the man shot him he was basically being lead to his death. The person, their driver whose lip was bloodied, dug the gun into the back of his head.

“Lets go big guy.”

Russel was urged forward and lead deeper into the facility. Once away from the exit and the running truck the black clad people proceeded to close the loading bay door lest zombies potentially drift in. The drummer wondered in the back of his mind whether he could fight his way out, over power the driver and take the gun. His fear of being shot made him consider otherwise and so he continued until he was stopped at a frozen meat storage room. There was a person sliding it open to reveal to the drummer both human and animal bodies strung up.

“I am not getting in there.”

“You are.”

The gun dug sharply into the back of his neck making him sweat nervously.

“Get in.”

Russel swallowed audibly, he could not be expected to off himself this way, it was horrible. He would freeze to death alongside the horror show they had created. He assumed the animal bodies were from before the fall of civilization. The driver cocked the gun.

“I don’t care how we do this, I can either shoot you and dump your bleeding body in there or you step in willingly.”

At least if he had his facilities about him he could try and figure out, in short time, how to get out of this mess. Maybe. Russel closed his eyes tightly and stepped through the threshold into deadly cold air. Once fully sheathed in below freezing temperatures he turned, hands still up defensively.

“Good. Better this way. Stress makes the flesh taste off.”

The drummer gave the man a horrified look as he dropped his hands to tuck them under his armpits.

“You people are fucking sick. This is sick! Nobody actually leaves do they?”

“Well other than your friend, no. Be thankful, this is a gentle death.”

The man chuckled, tone cruel and nodded to the person at the door. Russel watched with growing dread as the door slid shut until he was encased in dimly lit ice. Shivering he looked around, straining to see something to help him. He could reopen the door, but he expected the man to be waiting with the gun. Sighing softly he closed his eyes and tried to keep his thoughts pleasant while biding his time. Give it a few minutes, no longer then bust out and pummel that smug fucker.

He had no way of telling time other than to count seconds. So he counted down one minute, then two until the minutes had lapsed in a blur of freezing and shivering. His hands and limbs felt dangerously cold and numb when the door opened for him. Looking up baffled, his eyes landed on Murdoc standing in the doorway to the freezer, handgun grasped loosely in one hand. Briefly he thought he was hallucinating given the amount of time he stood there slowly shaking and losing heat.

“Well don’t just stand there!”

“Holy fuck you have no idea how happy I am to see your ugly mug right now,” Russel rushed out of the meat storage thankful for warmer temperatures.

“I resent that,” Murdoc muttered, “Dents is grabbing Noodle. We’re gonna borrow their truck.”

The satanist chuckled when he said borrow. Russel did a double take when he realized what the shorter man said.

“2D is alive?”

“Yeah, he found his way to us by sheer fucking luck.”

Russel worked feelings into his fingers and feet while they hastily walked along, occasionally pausing so he could shake his limbs. He was beyond thrilled to hear the singer had survived his ordeal, he would probably get more emotional upon seeing him. They didn't account for the darkly dressed people hovering in and around the facility.

———

Waking with a start, Noodle noticed instantly how cold she felt. The next thing she perceived was everything was upside down. Her head felt overly stuffy with all the blood rushing to it. Peering around she jerked in horror at the body hanging beside her, stripped bare and missing pieces of their body. Swaying with the motion she hugged herself, terrified, unsure if Russel was safe or in a state like her. Keeping her breathing slow and relaxed Noodle tilted her head to look up at her ankles, swearing anxiously to herself at how secure they were.

“Okay,” voice quivering she rubbed her arms, “I haven’t hit the worst stage of hypothermia before death. Toes and fingers are numb, but limbs and core body temperature is still viable. I’m still clothed too so bonus.”

Sighing out into the freezing air she watched her breath momentarily.

“Think Noodle. They only recently put me in here.”

Craning her head to search the area she felt her heart jump at the sight of so many dead bodies hanging like meat. Nothing stuck out as useful and she relaxed herself again.

“If I don’t figure this out I’ll pass out from the blood in my head.”

She could already feel the loss of sensation in her legs from the position. Looking up once more she bite her lip. It wasn’t ideal, but if she could hold herself up maybe somehow she could unlatch from the meat hook. The guitarist started to swing herself up, grunting with effort to use her own legs as leverage. Huffing she flopped back to hanging upside down.

“I am not dying here. I’m not.”

Growling loudly, Noodle swung up again, scrabbling for her ankles. She mentally cheered at her success. The slight dizziness from being upright made her pant and fight to keep hold. Gritting her teeth she grasped tightly to her ankle with one hand while endeavoring to grab at the chain of the hook. The ice-cold metal barely phased her when she clenched at it. Desperate, Noodle knew if she didn’t succeed during this attempt it was over, her limbs were starting to lose direly needed warmth and thus strength.

The guitarist reached up with her other hand achieving the desired outcome of taking hold of the chain. Closing her eyes briefly she felt tears of relief prematurely welling up. Pushing herself, the guitarist grabbed for the chain again to tug herself more upright, but misjudged the distance and swiped air. Gasping in bewilderment, terror stilled her heart as she slipped back losing her firm hold. Swinging back and forth, desperately trying to swallow proper breaths, Noodle tucked her arms in close to her torso. She shivered violently. The guitarist felt blood drain down to her head again. She was a super soldier for fuck sake, she should be able to handle a little cold. She couldn't feel her legs or feet anymore.

"LET ME OUT!" It was irrational and Noodle knew they wouldn't listen.

Pushing herself one last time, she slowly reached up to try and climb up her legs and bend in half, but the try fell flat. Growing increasingly distressed Noodle rocked herself in the cool air, she could feel her mind narrowing to a point. The fug claiming her mind blurred her thoughts together.

This couldn't be the end. Noodle didn't want to die like this, body cut up to feed to survivors. Yelling weakly she started to cry without tears. That's all she seemed to do lately was cry or get mad. The imagery around her wobbled with her swaying motion. Her breath swirled around her and she felt so sleepy. Closing her eyes tightly Noodle thought of happier times, warm memories. As her mind slipped into unconsciousness, her arms flopped down and she dangled there. The coloration to her face had drained minus the sickly purple tinge along her lips and eyelids. The freezer door creaked open to outline the image of a tall, thin man.

———

“Here brat,” Murdoc stopped her in the halls of Kong Studios, an unopened low-percentage beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in his other, “happy birthday or whatever.”

She smiled widely at the grouchy bassist taking the cheap alcoholic beverage, holding it tight with elation. With a moment of hesitancy she stared up at him, unsure how to proceed. Grunting the man brought his long nailed finger forward, slipping under the tab and pulling it till the can gave a fizzle noise.

“Knock yourself out kiddo,” Murdoc took a puff off his smoke, watching her.

Ever attempting to please the man, when he held nothing but high praise for her, she took a large gulp of the offending liquid. Swallowing she grimaced, sticking her tongue out. Murdoc gave a genuine laugh at her expression reaching out and ruffling her already sloppy hair.

“Acquired taste, give it a couple years.”

Russel chose that moment to appear in the hallway, probably on his way to find her. He frowned the moment his eyes laid on the can of beer. Murdoc stuck the cigarette into his mouth grunting when he knew the drummer was revving up for a lecture. She stood there, can grasped between small hands. The drummer approached with heavy steps.

“What the hell Muds? Beer?”

“What’s wrong with a little beer?”

“Christ man she’s only twelve, you cannot give twelve year olds alcohol. No kid should get that for their birthday!”

“Well fuck me, I don’t know what little girls want!”

She watched them argue. Russel had always been the voice of reason during the short two years living with them. It was a wonder she managed to survive with a raging alcoholic bassist and a pill addicted singer; not that she was incapable, far from it. And although her English was still sparse she could convey enough with few words.

“Get her a stuffed toy or a new instrument, anything other than drugs, smokes and alcohol. It’s like you don’t think outside of yourself sometimes man.”

During that brief moment she had been so thrilled Murdoc remembered her birthday, last year was a bust; man didn’t even say anything. It was so fleeting, that bubble of excitement.

“Oh Noodle, just hold on. You're so cold."

The singer held the guitarist close to his chest, carrying her out of the meat locker. He came upon three strangers in their almost ritualistic looking black clothing. 2D stood still, Noodle tucked up in his arms. With menacing steps they used sharpened tools to usher 2D back into the cold storage with Noodle. The singer looked for a safe option where the guitarist wouldn't be harmed. Setting her down near the entrance of the frozen room he turned on the three figures, he glared and took an imposing step towards them instead. Startled they held their weapons up in defense. 2D rolled his shoulders.

"Muds said I could go wild."

Shooting a hand out he grabbed a blade with force, shoving it back as he avoided the other two in his advance. He wasn't feeling overly hungry at the moment, but figured he may as well take what was offered. Sliding his arm around the man before the other two could attack he snapped the fragile neck, dropping the body. The other two came at the vocalist brandishing what looked like a machete and cleaver. Dancing to the side, 2D dodged being cut by the cleaver as he tried to get at the person's neck. He hadn't expected a sharp pain in his back close to his kidney. Grunting in pain he growled as he clawed at his current victim before whipping around on the second, machete sticking out of his side. The wound oozed blood sluggishly, thankfully stopped from gushing due to the blade. Murdoc would probably give him shit later for being careless. 2D yanked the woman close by her wrist, gripping tight he could hear bones cracking. Throwing her into the meat cleaver man he pounced when they were distracted, sparing no time to dig fingers and teeth into flesh. He barely ate much before wiping his mouth and hastily scooping up Noodle again.

"Damn I'm sorry luv, I shouldn't have left you by the cold," urgently 2D hugged the cold body and rushed away from the mess he had made, "we just need to wait for Muds and Russ then we're out of here. Promise no more pit stops."

Her fifteenth birthday was amazing and had been a wonderful set up. Russel bought her CD’s she wanted, even though given their recent bout of success she could have purchased them her self. The thought was there.

2D haphazardly baked a cake for the occasion, lopsided and distinctly too salty to be edible. He was covered in flour and flakes of icing sugar when he presented it to her, expression timid in expectation of rejection. Despite the flavor she thanked him profusely, stomaching a piece to make him smile. All of it had been great.

Except Murdoc had again forgotten her birthday, or at the least she assumed so. When all was said and done she retired to bed, smiling to herself. In the coming year they had video shoots to do for their lead hits, for now they could relax back on the coattails of so many chart toppers and royalties.

Opening the door to her room she started with surprise to find the bassist sitting on her bed, looking over a CD case. He looked rather casual in his usual dark fitted clothes. Confused she hesitated in the doorway to her own bedroom.

“How’s ‘bout you ’n me go for a spin in the Geep?”

“It is raining though.”

“Is it? Right, maybe another time.”

The satanist rose from the bed, dropping the CD onto it lightly.

“Got a better idea, come share a couple of drinks, celebrate your birthday with some style. None of that kiddie bullshit.”

A couple years ago she would have readily agreed and still now even she wanted to say yes but a disembodied voice of Russel told her alcohol was bad. Biting her lip she fiddled her fingers, a strange nervous tick she acquired from 2D.

“Russel has said it is bad, should I not listen to him?”

“Now listen here Noodle,” Murdoc stepped closer, hand cupped near his mouth as though to keep others from hearing even though nobody was about, “the way I see it you either live your life how you want, other people be damned or you follow someone’s rules till you’re as boring as the rest of ‘em.”

The guitarist could see the logic in his crude statement, but also the flaws.

“‘Sides, drinking while you’re underage is fun, the thrill of danger and all that other shit.”

Smiling softly she remembered nodding in agreement. The satanist lit up like a Christmas tree, seemingly surprised she had agreed. Slipping his arm around her shorter stature he grinned, leading her off to the recording studio where apparently he had prepared ahead of time. She assumed he would have drank either way.

Somehow her fondest memories of him were always with alcohol. She had gotten drunk for the first time that night.

2D turned the truck on and turned it around, speeding out of the facility. Turning the heat up to max he glanced to Noodle bundled in blankets beside him in the truck. He was too cold to warm her bodily. The singer also cursed their luck. Russel and Murdoc were missing and he couldn't take on that many people at once. The sniper shot at the truck a few times until 2D was too far away.

"Noodle I don't know what to do! They're going to ground Russel and Murdoc up and feed 'em to the survivors! I panicked, I left them there!"

Noodle was unresponsive, lips still purple-blue and skin the color of porcelain. Kraken, who had safely stayed in the same truck, meowed from the back. 2D drove erratically through the industrial area of the city. The wound at his side bled profusely when he removed the blade, but rather quickly clotted, 2D was immensely grateful to his strange virus for it's weird quirks.

"Noodle you have to wake up please. I need your help. I'm so scared right now. I'm useless without everyone," 2D's voice strained on the edge of frenzied.

She had spent years without a birthday wish, without a cake or any presents. Finding herself in the aftermath of El Mañana had left her bitter and as time passed she felt a burning rage build and crumble at how stupid she was for thinking he had cared about her. She knew the plan was idiotic, but stupid fifteen year old her had agreed.

When she found herself on the hunk of grotesque pink trash floating miserably in the middle of nowhere she decided to bring herself to forgive him; enough time had settled her rage and so had the pitiful social media comments. Then she saw the horrible mechanical mess resembling her and all she could see was red. Storming the picturesque studio she remembers assaulting him, grabbing the off white sweater and twisting hard, practically lifting him.

“Noodle! You’re alive! I figured the rumors were just that, y’know, but here you are in the flesh!”

“You—how could you Murdoc? You replaced me with that hunk of cogs and wires! Do I mean so little to you?”

She dragged him up against the wall higher, both impressing and scaring the bassist greatly with her strength. He gripped her arm carefully.

“No never, Noodle, I—I needed a guitarist—”

“Oh of course, it’s all about the stupid fucking band, who cares about the actual people involved right? Where is Toochi? You replace him too or is he somewhere in this shit pile you call home?”

“He’s here, safe. Look Noodle you have to know I wasn’t replacing you. She’s a terrible imitation to the real thing!” Part of her wondered how 'safe' 2D actually was given the obvious deterioration in Murdoc's person.

Dropping the satanist she pushed her mask back, frowning at him through one bad eye and one good. Murdoc sat on the floor against the wall, staring up at her.

“I was ready to forgive you, I really was. I let myself put to rest the whole incident years ago, but then I come here and you’ve gone and replaced me like I’m not worth anything other than the musical talent I provide. I looked up to you…”

“I only made her because I missed you, I missed you so much Poppet,” Murdoc struggled to his feet using the wall for support, reaching for her, he pulled her into a tight hug just holding her close.

She hesitated to hug him, fighting tears back when she finally buried her face into his shoulder. In the following years he would always say sorry in small ways, attempt to make amends and although she would teasingly use it for things she forgave him each time, silently.

———

Coming too, Murdoc wondered if he was dreaming. Everything was the wrong way up and overly warm. Wincing he rubbed the back of his head, quite aware he was upside down. There was the scrape and grind of metal on metal that made the satanist glance around by twisting himself. He blanched when he saw other people strung up, naked and appearing dead. He suddenly noticed he had no clothing on and felt bile in the back of his throat. There were two people dressed in butcher's clothing and plastics working at tables. Blood ran off the surfaces like rivers, body parts were wrapped like meat being brought to and fro. Murdoc looked around for Russel, but couldn't spot the bigger man. This wasn't real. His face started to feel cold and numb in spots as his heart rate increased, this was a horrible nightmare. Squeezing his eyes shut he tried to breath through his nose to calm his erratic heart, but all it did was give him a coppery scent filling his senses. The hook he was hanging from shifted and he started to move closer to a man looking at the selection.

"Well look'it that, this one's alive. Guess the guys didn't bother to freeze the meat."

Murdoc panted anxiously when the man crouched nearer to his face, still above him some. He couldn't form words, in the ensuing dread building in his mind and chest.

"Normally you fuckers are dead before joining us, not a pleasant feelin' being hacked up while alive," the butcher gave Murdoc a pitying look, "guess we'll put you outta your misery."

Standing the man moved away to press a button for the conveyor device Murdoc was hooked too, he was singled out. Approaching him again, the man produced a cutting tool for quartering animal bodies. The satanist watched, eyes wide and glassy as the tool came closer to him. He hoped it would be over quick, he closed his eyes and mouth, trying to restrain himself from screaming. Cool metal touched his neck then pulled away.

"What's the matter now?"

"Looks like a couple got away, we need some extra security though. Seems they killed quite a few of our members."

The man grunted clearly irritated at the turn of events, "give me a moment and I'll be up."

A stinging heat radiated from his right shoulder, like two hot prongs before they were removed. Cracking his eyes open, Murdoc tried to examine the now bleeding shoulder. The man patted the bassist's side roughly.

"That'll help make the slaughter easier on you," it sounded like the man was mercy killing him, but he left soon after speaking.

Both butchers left the room leaving the satanist hanging about with multiple bodies and an assortment of parts. Watching his blood drip and disappear into grating beneath him, Murdoc swallowed loudly. He was being drained like an animal before getting gutted. Struggling to swing about he looked eagerly for something to help himself, a lever or anything he could use to pull himself up some. His blood pounded in his ears as he reached out for a table that was closer since being moved. His right arm seized in pain so he let it drop down. Gritting his jagged teeth he stuck his good arm out, hooking his fingers into the bloodied grating. He used that to propel himself back and forth more substantially and forced himself to grab the table edge. His one arm protested the treatment, but he worked through it. Gasping harshly he turned his head back and forth for the electronic device for moving whatever he was stuck on.

The wound on his shoulder bled down his arm with the new position. Spotting what he needed he stretched his arm out for it, his grasp slipped on the table when his own blood made the surface slick. The bassist clenched at the metal table, reaching once more for the key to freedom.

"I'm not trained to deal with zombies, that's why we got fuckin' guards and people with weapons."

Huffing, Murdoc hurriedly scrambled for the device, hand closing over it. He glanced over it to find something that would help, but it was just a bunch of discolored buttons with no words, having been worn from use. Cold sweat fell over him when he heard the men coming down steps towards the room, he jabbed all the buttons hastily. Rather abruptly all the chains loosened and the bodies including himself were dropped unceremoniously to the ground. Laying in a heap for one sweet moment, Murdoc caught his breath. The men stepped into the room in that instant and the satanist shrugged his bruised ankles free, stumbling to his feet.

"Oh looky here, looks like someone got lucky."

"S-stay the fuck away from me."

Murdoc took up the quartering tool, trembling visibly and trying hard not to fall on his ass. He felt ridiculous, completely naked and bleeding, but it couldn't be helped. Both men split and attempted to circle the shaking bassist. Lashing out, Murdoc tripped as he walked back, smacking into another table.

"You've got bit of fight left in you, impressive really, but you're wounded. Just come quietly, we'll even put you under. Won't know the difference."

Brows pinching the satanist barked out a laugh, "you people-I'm not, I won't just lay belly up now that I have a fighting chance!"

Unexpectedly a large figure rose up from the ground behind one of the men, equally as nude but without extra injuries. The moment Russel gripped one of the butchers in a choke hold the bassist flew shakily at the other man, swinging the sharp edge down against the other. Not letting up, Murdoc grimaced as he hacked at the man's chest and neck, warm blood hitting him. This was the first time the satanist had killed another person who wasn't already a zombie. Hands grabbed Murdoc's wrists, halting his continued stabbing and cutting motion.

"He's dead," Russel carefully got the bassist to drop the weapon, "c'mon man."

Murdoc was pulled away from the mangled butcher, still quivering as his adrenaline started to taper off. Wiping at his face angrily, the satanist choked on raspy breaths letting the panic swell. Russel rubbed his upper back, slightly awkward.

"Muds, hey, it's gonna be alright man. We're alive... Normally I could help you come down, but we're both covered in blood and naked so just try to hang on okay? We need to get outta here, the danger isn't over yet."

But the panic was consuming him and all he could do was hyperventilate. Russel slipped an arm around Murdoc and directed his panicking companion out of the room, careful of disemboweled torsos and limbs, looking for somewhere to get clothing. Ducking into a small locker room, Russel closed the door and got the satanist to sit on a chair. Murdoc cupped his face in messy hands, wracked in hiccups and small sobs. Biting his lip, Russel opened cupboards and lockers looking for anything to help cloth them. He yanked some overly large pants and shirt on, cringing at how it hung off him, then grabbed up another outfit, obviously belonging to the two men they killed. The last time he dealt with a panicking Murdoc, this severe, was years ago. He crouched on his knee working the straight cut jeans onto the older man.

"Shits gonna be okay man, you and I we stick together. Stuffs fucked up, but we're family and we watch each other's backs."

Once he had the bassist in some pants he got up to grab the dry cloth at the small sink, which was probably dirtier than it looked. They had no choice. Performing some shoddy first aid, Russel bandaged up the older man's shoulder then got the shirt on him. Murdoc struggled to calm down, wiping his eyes and nose. Russel poked his head out of the room looking for anyone alerted.

"Thanks."

The drummer didn't skip a beat, "you're welcome, think you can manage an escape?"

Sniffling audibly, Murdoc rose from his seat, stepping closer to the bigger man. Russel gave Murdoc a quick look, noting the redness about his eyes, but not commenting. Something about other people panicking put his own panic at bay.

"Yes."

"Alright, we're gonna need weapons- shit, what about 2D and Noodle."

"They've escaped, I heard them talking about it before-" Murdoc swallowed quietly clearly uneasy thinking about what transpired.

"I got you, okay. We need a route out."

Not for the first time Russel was acting as a buffer, somehow always making sure everyone else was okay above himself. It made him an admirable person and Murdoc respected that in the man.

———

Stopped on a deserted back road, 2D thumped his head into the steering wheel. He had driven away so fast and so far he barely paid mind to where he was going. He noticed color had slowly returned to Noodle's face, her lips were more pink than blue. The singer tucked the blankets around her more snugly.

"I've gone and fucked up Noodle. Russ and Muds-" 2D blinked rapidly, "it might just be you, me and Kraken from now on. I-I don't know how we're gonna do it."

Noodle groaned softly from the fabric nest, shifting about slightly. Momentarily 2D brightened, worries tossed as the guitarist blinked her eyes open tiredly.

"Noodle! You're awake, oh thank goodness!"

The young woman grumbled vexed at being smothered in a hug and musty blankets. Her joints were stiff so she had difficulty pushing the singer back.

"Toochi?"

It dawned on Noodle that the singer was sitting beside her, alive. A rush of happiness filled her cold body and she weakly launched at him, hugging him back, grip tight.

"You're alive!"

"The same could be said about you," 2D snickered, elated.

"How?" Noodle leaned back to search his face for answers, then she tugged his shirt to look at his shoulder.

"The injury just sealed up, I'm really not sure how it works."

Seeing the veins and blackened area where the gunshot had pierced 2D, Noodle frowned in some concern as well puzzlement. The singer seemed no worse for wear over the change. Sitting back she glanced to the back seat then back to the vocalist.

"Where are Russel and Murdoc?"

The wrecked expression he gave her was wrought with guilt and sadness. Noodle shook her head slowly.

"We were suppose to meet at the truck," the singer rushed to explain, "I had to work through some people but I got there and Muds hadn't shown yet. Noodle I-I couldn't wait, we were getting shot at."

The guitarist snapped, "so you what? Left them there?"

2D flinched at her tone.

"I'm sorry I didn't want too, but I didn't want to lose you too, I panicked!"

"You left them there! Take us back! Take us back now!"

"Noodle I can't I- I don't know where we are, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

"We have to go back for them, we can't leave them!"

"It's been hours Noodle...I just didn't stop."

Shoving the blankets off the guitarist kicked her door open, stepping out to breath deeply. She paced, legs wobbling, running hands through her hair mussing it up further. She adored 2D, he was her big brother, but she also loved her two dysfunctional dads and he was trying to tell her they were probably dead. They couldn't be.

"They can't be," Noodle's legs gave out and she collapsed on the side of the road, "2D we have to go back, please take us back. They're not dead. We still have time."

Her voice quaked as she sat hunched in the dirt and grass. 2D climbed out and rushed to her side, kneeling next to her. He wrapped her in a tight, but not too firm, hug, holding her into his chest.

"If we go back we risk being captured."

"I want to destroy that facility. I want to burn those assholes alive," she seethed.

The singer pressed his cheek to Noodle's head. The guitarist hugged him back, fingers digging into his back and side. He felt beyond guilty for letting his fear overrule rational thought, he should have stayed. Noodle and him sat like that on the road side for a while, just finding comfort in each other.

———

Noodle and 2D sat side by side, silent in the truck. The vehicle rumbled and bobbed slightly as they drove over the rougher terrain of dirt roads. Noodle had made the singer pull over at a gas station so she could acquire snacks and a map of the region. She told him to take the back road back to the main highway, which they would take towards the college campus. The young woman refused to believe Murdoc and Russel were done for, though logically it had been hours. 2D grabbed a smoke from the pack Noodle had got at the gas station.

“Oh! I completely forgot,” 2D flicked his fingers, smoke falling from his mouth, “I saw a British plane. It was flying about to some location.”

“You decide to share this important tidbit now.”

“I only remembered now,” the singer frowned, “it was an air-force plane, I think. Or it had some British emblem on it.”

"Okay? So what?" Noodle didn't want to think about going to England, she wanted to focus on saving their friends. Potentially.

"Well it means there's probably safety in England?"

"We can deal with that after Toochi. Right now we need to get back to the college."

2D faced forward once again. Kraken was settled on the seat with Noodle, buried in some of the blanket she kept around herself. The guitarist felt much warmer now. Despite the warmth there sat a deep seated chill in her bones that she couldn't quite shake. A beat of silence passed between them, somewhat strained. Nothing but the empty road and twinkling stars high above as they drove along. 2D started to tap a beat on the steering wheel, his nerves were somewhat fried. Noodle tapped her foot in time to 2D's fingers. The guitarist wasn't upset with 2D, he did what he thought was appropriate. Noodle leaned against the window tiredly, partly scared to close her eyes and wind up back inside the meat locker.

"I'm sorry Noodle."

"Stop apologizing Toochi, it's not your fault. Just think positively okay?" Noodle kept her voice even and placating. 2D nodded choosing to remain quiet after that. They drove until the sun rose, Noodle felt the strain in her eyes from no sleep.

———

Russel shoved the bassist down into the bushes making said man grunt in surprise and pain. The drummer laid next to the man mumbling apologies. The satanist rolled his damaged shoulder slightly, wincing. Outside the industrial meat packaging plant there were streets with more facilities, but outside that there was a thick forested area. It wasn't ideal, but survival was more important than running barefoot through broken things and under brush. Escaping had been a game of cat and mouse that took them two hours to accomplish, thanks to nearly getting spotted three times when everyone was alerted to their escape. Once they managed to flee the sniper and disappear into the run down buildings then tree line, Murdoc relaxed substantially. Unfortunately people from the facility decided it was more important to find them than let it go.

"D'yea suppose they saw us?"

"I don't think so, it's hard to tell from this distance."

"They should just let it go, they have plenty of food," Murdoc stuck his long tongue out at the thought.

"Probably some strange rule or some shit that they don't let anyone go."

They watched a guard dither near the tree line then decide against it and walk off. Sighing in relief, both Murdoc and Russel heaved themselves up and quickly continued off into the forest. They made an unfortunate run in with some zombies and detoured around them, trying to remain out of sight of guards and zombies. As night fell upon the city, they found themselves stumbling out of the forested area and into a small neighborhood tailed by zombies. Winding down towards homes Russel hissed when he sliced his foot open on something. Murdoc ventured to assist the drummer and get away from their small gaggle of fans groping out at them. Slamming into a house, they both pressed their back against it.

"They're gonna get in."

"Maybe they'll leave us alone?"

"Doubtful. We should bandage your foot and find shoes," Murdoc sighed, "actually we should disinfect it to be safe."

The telltale noise of zombies came moments later, followed by the thumping of rotting limbs. The drummer and bassist shoved furniture in front of the door before making a light source. They ended up making more sound than the undead corpses at the door. Stumbling and bashing items in the darkness more than once the satanist cursed. Russel flicked on a lighter from a drawer, it would do.

"We better be quick, they'll wise up and come around to a window or something."

"Yeah."

Russel limped about looking for first aid. A growing crowd gathered at the house with each passing moment, smacking and clawing at the door. Via fire light Murdoc hurriedly yanked a kit out from under a sink and propped the other man's foot up. Pouring rubbing alcohol on the injury, Russel grit his teeth, otherwise he remained marginally still for the bassist. They had no time to make sure it was a hundred percent clean so Murdoc tightly wrapped the gash. Swapping spots the drummer quickly helped Murdoc pull off the makeshift dressing from his shoulder.

"Damn he got you deep."

"Just rinse it, we don't have time to dawdle."

Russel cringed as he got the older man to lean forward then poured the antiseptic liquid over the rather deep wound. Gripping his upper arm to halt himself from leaning away, Murdoc bit his tongue nodding. The drummer got the gauze out and rushed through wrapping up the site. Gunshots rang out in the night.

"Fuck," Murdoc pocketed the lighter and Russel tied off the proper dressing.

Carefully sliding the shirt back on they listened, still hearing zombies at the door and distantly a gun, then two guns.

"Those stupid fucking things are going to lead them here."

"Lets sneak out the back."

Murdoc blindly stuffed the medical kit back together before he and Russel slid the back patio door open and darted out. Traveling in starlight was damn near impossible and dangerous. Guards had brought their search to the same area and the added bonus of zombies wandering about made everything worse. While running on empty, both of them fought through their exhaustion to make a stealthy get away by foot. This unfortunately agitated the drummer's injury and he left bloodied foot steps every second foot fall. They weren't aware of this or that it gave zombies something to seek out; the men following them also found it useful.

Chapter Text

Noodle watched scenery blur past them, temple bouncing against the window slightly. 2D kept shooting her looks, concerned but unable to form the proper words to break the ice. The guitarist could feel the dark eyes on her every so often. All she could focus on was getting back to the facility or college. Only when she was completely sure, would she unleash hell. She may just do it regardless.

2D chewed awkwardly on his lip while watching the road, unsure if the young guitarist even wanted conversation. He caught movement and noticed Noodle petting Kraken. Swallowing 2D reached out to flick the CD player on, not aware if there actually was any music. Momentarily it was quiet then a strange almost psychedelic tune started softly, gaining volume gradually. Noodle glanced away from the window to look at the singer.

“Thought a bit of music would help.”

She hesitated before giving him a delicate smile, bopping her head mildly to the beat. Turning the volume up the vocalist tapped his fingers, speeding up. The alternative music temporarily gave him the sensation of being high, which caused him to chuckle.

“What?”

“Sounds like your stereotypical high in music.”

“Same could be said about us,” Noodle quipped, voice more playful.

“I happen to think our music is more upbeat, maybe for road trips or raves.”

“Such a stark different, road trip and rave.”

For a moment they both snickered, basking in the camaraderie between them. Noodle sobered a minute after, voice dejected.

“What if they are dead Toochi? What do we do then?”

The singer shut his eyes fleetingly before considering his words carefully. In the past he floundered with his word, now he was experiencing a similar muddle. What could he say?

“Lets not decide till we’re sure, yeah?”

The guitarist slumped some. 2D apprehensively fiddled his fingers against the steering wheel, not sure how to save his flop at reassurance.

“If we don’t find them,” 2D caught her meaning, “can we at least have a burial thing for them?”

“Of course,” the singer felt tears prick at his eyes, he didn’t want to do a burial it was too final.

Unsettling quietness came between them while the strange indie music bubbled on. Noodle resumed her position against the window, distant again. 2D forced down his burgeoning desolate thoughts and tried to hum and feign brief ignorance, be happy if only to keep from breaking down.

———

Awaking to the unforgiving grooved metal of the storm drain under a road, Russel groaned as his body protested movement. Murdoc rolled his stiff shoulders, cringing at the damaged tissue and muscle of his right shoulder.

“How’s your foot?”

“Damn sore, your shoulder?”

“Not much different. We should probably get a move on.”

Neither of them wanted to swap conversation given their exhaustion.

Crawling out of the pipe they peered around. Determining the coast clear they climbed out of the ditch onto the road. Their night of travel brought them away from major populated areas where they traversed a back road. Cold, tired, sore and wearing ill fitting clothing with no shoes they resumed course on the deserted road. The weather was dipping into mid Autumn and both shivered off and on. A little while passed them as they walked, feet blackened from filth, and blood for Russel. The rumble of a vehicle engine caused them to perk up and turn around. A truck was speeding down the road towards them, coming from the direction of the facility and city.

“You’ve got to be kiddin’ me,” Murdoc mumbled.

Russel motioned off the road towards the ditch and grass.

“They can’t follow us if we book it into the trees.”

The Ford truck gained on them which finally urged them to take off back through the ditch and up the other side. The vehicle skidded to a stop near the shoulder and people hopped out. Rushing through the forest and occasionally cursing at sharp underbrush, Russel and Murdoc tried to stick together. Two scouts followed them into the moderately spread trees. Infrequent shots hit trees or whizzed by, thankfully missing them.

“Where do we go?” Murdoc asked breathlessly, voice edging towards hysteria.

“I don’t know, just run! Damn! Maybe they’ll leave us alone if we get distance between us.”

Adrenaline could only take them so far so it was no surprise when they had to stop briefly to catch their collective breaths. Using a slight incline to hide behind a couple trees.

“I can’t keep doing this,” Murdoc panted, hunching.

“You have too man. We’re not dying out here, you’re not leaving me out here alone,” Russel grabbed at Murdoc’s upper arm, shaking the older man slightly, “you and me are not dying here!”

Russel needed reassurance the older man wouldn’t clock out, he needed them to stick together.

The satanist started to nod, still breathing raggedly. They shared a look before they resumed running. Despite their pursuers being persistent, their aim continued to fail, unless they weren’t attempting to kill them. They ran until somehow they managed to turn themselves around, not sure where the road or the city was. They couldn’t make out the two men and took another moment to pause, disorientated.

“If we keep going we’re gonna get lost,” Russel hesitated with the bassist.

“What are you suggestin’ then?”

“Maybe we hide and take ‘em.”

Murdoc gaped at the drummer, displeased at the suggestion but too out of breath to dispute it. Russel stared back, clearly at wits end and much too tired.

“Listen, either we fight back or they’ll chase us til’ we drop and what then? We’ll get shot or dragged back. Do you want to be ground beef man?”

Murdoc felt a spike of fear run up his spine, he shook his head vehemently. They would have to drag him back dead if it came down to it.

“What’s your plan then?”

“We need to make noise, then hide and wait to pounce.”

“That’s it? Russel that’s fucking full of holes! We’re basically painting a target and saying ‘hi I’m right here!’ What if they’re too near and see?” Murdoc gesticulated, harried.

“Then lets get moving and keep your voice down man.”

The drummer caught Murdoc’s sleeve, pulling him to keep going. They fought through sweat and pain to put more ground between them. However the two male guards quickly gained, making it obvious they were more prepared to out run their escaped prisoners. Sprinting through the trees, Russel pushed to find a decent location to hide his large frame. The satanist kept in pace with the drummer, trying to follow his lead. Alarmingly Murdoc made a noise between agony and astonishment before going down quite suddenly. Russel nearly tripped when stopping, scrambling to come back to the bassist.

Murdoc laid on his side, breathed hard through clenched teeth, clutching his upper thigh. Red formed around his hands on the dirtied pants. Russel watched in awe for a second, almost disbelieving.

“Shit,” the drummer wiped sweat from his face, he drew a blank, “shit!”

Murdoc whinged in pain while digging his hands into the covered wound. Distantly a disturbance in the brush worried them, the men were coming. The satanist groped at Russel with a bloodied hand to catch his attention. Voice overwrought with unbidden distress, Murdoc tried to talk the drummer back down.

“Russ—Russel! For fuck sake, please—just help me! Help me up or—or tie off the wound, you cannot leave me here.”

“Okay, yeah,” Russel swiped his hand over his face again, dirt and sweat mingling on his features.

Crouching, Russel tore some material from his oversized shirt, breathing unevenly in his anxiousness. Tugging the thick strip of fabric around the bleeding leg the drummer tied it off firmly making Murdoc grunt. A tree splintered beside them as a shot rang out and Russel swung the bassist’s arm over his shoulders, dragging the man to his feet. They hurried off through the trees.

Russel’s rational brain tried to explain how the parallels for now and months ago made him a hypocrite. He shook the thoughts away because ultimately his brain was right, he was unreasonably carrying dead weight with him due to sentimental attachment. The drummer could almost laugh at himself, somehow the satanist was damn near as important to him as 2D was to Murdoc. And after all he said they weren’t going to die there or leave the other alone.

Glaring into the foreground, Russel fought to keep moving, the satanist gripped the bigger man and his thigh while gritting through hurried movement. Dehydration, starvation and no safety for nearly twenty-four hours, maybe more, was keeping them on the fringe of delirium. The trees started to blur together as they made their way and in time the firing tapered off as well. Neither of them noticed as blood pounded in their ears. It was increasingly plain that the bassist was having problems stumbling along. This is when Russel finally stopped, practically collapsing with the older man, hitching breaths passing between them. Murdoc flopped onto his back, hair askew and sticking to his face. His leg continued to bleed subtly through the haphazard bandage; he had no energy to put pressure on it and irrationally hoped it would kill him. The drummer lay back beside the satanist, inhaling deeply to gather himself.

Blinking back wetness, Murdoc watched the sky through the tree tops, “when I pictured my death it was a little more dramatic, more flare. I wanted to go out in some amazing blaze of glory, fans devastated but satisfied I had given enough to the world. Maybe over a hundred years old.”

Russel choked on a breathless yet weak laugh, “of course. Nothing less for infamous Murdoc Niccals.”

“Never suspected I would be ground into meat for kids in a stronghold during some fucked up apocalyptic dystopia. Zombies were the only threat, when did it all dissolve into this messy soup?”

“I dunno man. People break down, lose their wits when they lose family. The institutions meant to keep us safe let corruption turn rational into ridiculous as the world falls to pieces.”

Murdoc hummed in agreement, he found his mouth too sticky to talk anymore.

They laid in silence, waiting for the men to come upon them, drag them away. Time ticked away and wind swayed the trees above them, ruffling their clothing. Staying still was more comforting than moving. Murdoc grimaced when he shifted his leg and spikes of stinging heat ran up and down the limb, he felt like a pin cushion covered in injuries. Growing mildly curious, Russel heaved up on elbows, glancing around them. The drummer saw no one in their general vicinity.

“Ey’ Muds, don’t go writing your will yet. I think they stopped.”

Murdoc cracked his eyes open, unaware he’d closed them. He smacked his chapped lips, cringing at how thirsty he felt.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m seeing no one man, I think they actually fucked off,” Russel pushed up into a sitting position, he felt similar to the bassist.

“That can’t be all. They chased us like a pair of lions eager for a kill.”

“I’m telling you, there is nobody around. They left.”

Groaning, Murdoc sat up to have a look.

“What the fuck? They put in so much damn effort to get us then bugger off? What? Can’t finish the job? I was probably too easy a kill they got bored.”

“Whatever it was I’m thankful.”

“Live another day just to die tomorrow,” Murdoc grunted as he sighed, his leg and shoulder would get infected if they didn’t get treated. He couldn’t imagine how Russel was fairing.

“Lets worry about tomorrow when it comes.”

Russel gave them a couple minutes to let it sink in that the men had in fact left. He wasn’t sure why, but he would take what they could get. Helping Murdoc to his feet they made their way towards where the road was suppose to be. It ended up being hours of growing extra weary and hunger gnawing away at their stomachs before they stumbled upon the road. By this point they were faint and the overhead sun peeking out of overcast clouds didn’t help. They decided to walk alongside the road under cover from trees. No words were traded, both too drained to formulate thoughts alone.

They survived being harvested and chased only to fall victim to the elements. Murdoc succumbed shortly after the sun had passed high noon, muttering he couldn’t keep going before dropping like lead. The temperature was still cool and somewhat windy near the road. The drummer backtracked, using a tree for support.

“You gotta keep going,” Russel’s voice cracked, throat dry.

Murdoc shook his head, face rather pale and sweaty. Hanging his head the drummer pathetically urged the satanist to get up. When the older man just closed his eyes, breathing sedate, Russel reached out to give Murdoc a firm shake.

“Don’t you dare give up on me, we need to stick together.”

“Too tired,” Murdoc mumbled, “can’t go on.”

Russel growled, a small burst of energy boosting him and surged forward to yank the satanist up. Murdoc groaned at being upright.

“We’ll collapse when I say we can! I’m not losing you too, I’ve already lost enough friends in my life.”

No further complaints were made from the bassist and so they resumed trudging along. As the sun descended to early evening, Russel took to the road, limbs shaking at the strain. Murdoc struggled to follow, more tempted to lay in the dirtied water of the ditch. The road stretched on for miles with, trees lining one side and distantly a few houses on the other. Russel nudged the satanist voice partly eager, mostly tired.

“Look, houses. We just need to get our asses there and we should be okay.”

“Sure.”

On moderately even ground it was easier to make strides and thus movement was increased marginally. And with eagerness spurring him on, Russel felt some energy pour into him from somewhere. They continued until the first of five or six houses loomed before them. The drummer glanced around to notice it was the start of a small township. Murdoc cared less about where they were and more about trying to work the door open with listless limbs. It was apparent after some jiggling of the handle that the door was locked. The bassist slumped into the door sighing. The drummer leaned out to glance around the property. Two cars sat in the gravel driveway, fairly dusty given the forested area.

“Locked.”

“I’ll check the back.”

Russel stepped off the small porch, barely a few paces away before the door rattled, unlocked from within and the satanist yelped when he tumbled to the ground. A small elderly woman blinked down at the bassist, startled. Russel stared dumbfounded.

“What in heavens are you people doing? I’ll have you know it’s a crime to break into a person’s home,” her stare was stern and voice assertive despite her diminutive stature.

Murdoc shifted and scooted over to Russel’s legs only to have the other man lift him back up. They both watched the woman warily.

“We didn’t think anyone was home,” Russel supplied awkwardly, “we’re sorry for startling you.”

“What a state you two are in.”

“You got water and food? Maybe a proper medical kit or supplies?” Murdoc gestured to his bloodied pant leg.

“Oh my, you two are in a state. Goodness, please come in. I will fetch some water and food. My daughter can patch you up.”

Both too weary to argue or feel suspicious over the woman’s sudden kindness took steps into the home. They were ushered to a comfy little living room, couches decked in pastel stripes while the extra pillows had floral designs, it clashed horribly. The flooring was a deep brown faux wood paneling littered in scratches from years of shifting furniture. Murdoc spotted some black and white photos perched on a book shelf along with a well worn violin in a glass case. Curiously he thought it odd an instrument locked away when it was meant to be played. The living room was otherwise neat and not a single item out of place other than them standing in the middle of the room. Neither of them wanted to sit even though their bodies craved relaxation. The woman patted a couch.

“Please, have a seat. I will get some water to start,” the lady turned and cupped a hand over her mouth, “Yvonne!”

Murdoc and Russel exchanged a look of discomfort before sinking into the couch, stiff despite their exhaustion. Someone timidly poked their head around the corner of the living room archway, pale flaxen hair sliding off their shoulder. The woman huffed and gestured the other into the room.

“Heavens girl, come in here.”

Yvonne stepped around the corner to reveal a tall, spindly body with medium length wispy blonde hair. The woman fiddled her long fingers, appearing nervous. She had dark bags under her eyes and hollow cheeks, she looked almost sickly. Briefly Murdoc had a flash of 2D standing in the entryway, her mannerisms too similar. The image was ruined by the swell of small breasts and wider hips.

“This is my Yvonne. These two are in need of some medical attention, be a dear and grab your kit.”

“But mother—”

“Yvonne no arguing. Get them fixed up,” the mother stepped around to stand next to the young woman, “how rude of me, my name is Ines. You two are?”

“Russel.”

“Murdoc.”

“Well Russel and Murdoc, sit tight. I’ll bring you food and water.”

Ines left the room quickly, leaving her daughter who eyed the two men suspiciously before she also stepped out. Russel rubbed his face, hands catching on the stubble all over his chin and jaw. The satanist was in a similar state.

“Feel bad, maybe we should offer some help?”

“What does it matter? We’re gone the next morning anyways.”

Yvonne came back with a hefty first aid bag. She dropped it heavily on the coffee table, knocking a small stack of magazines aside.

“You two are English?”

“Just me.”

She opened the kit quiet again.

“How’d you two manage not getting tossed into that mess out there?”

“We just kept to ourselves. My mother has a decent enough garden to sustain us well enough.”

“What about water?”

“There’s a well so we still have some running water. I’m sure my mother will offer you time to clean up after or before eating.”

“We can’t thank you two enough, if there was—” Russel was interrupted.

“Yes. Now, where are you two hurt?” Yvonne kept her voice even, the shy attitude suddenly replaced with competency.

“Bottom of my foot, I cut it on something.”

“What about you?” She looked at Murdoc.

“Shoulder and leg. I was shot and stabbed,” Murdoc watched Yvonne pull out the necessary items. He swallowed at the case with proper medical needles.

“I’ll start with you,” Yvonne motioned Russel’s foot onto the small table while slipping on latex gloves.

The drummer grimaced when she removed the soiled bandage and proceeded to clean it of dirt. It stung, but with repeated battering from running left it desensitized enough to ignore. Yvonne was solely focused on his foot.

“You a doctor or something?”

“Paramedic,” she spared Russel a short glance, “before that I was a nurse.”

Swabbing the area down she made a whooshing noise through her teeth at the injury site.

“You’re in luck, not severe enough for stitches. I would suggest if you continue, that you wear shoes and clean it regularly.”

Russel nodded not sure if he should thank her. Yvonne cleaned up the site to her satisfaction then properly bandaged the gash. Stripping the gloves she got a fresh pair on before moving towards Murdoc. At that moment Ines came in with a moderately large tray, bowls of something hot and bottles of water sat on it. Russel assumed they had to have gone into the town at some point to have the water bottles.

Yvonne moved her bag to the floor so her mother could set the tray on the coffee table. Ines smiled kindly at them and motioned to the food.

“Please eat up then you can wash up. Our water doesn’t have great pressure, but it runs.”

“Thank you,” Russel smiled, more subdued, he reached for a bowl of what looked like tomato soup. He hesitated when he felt how hot the bowl was and set it back on the tray.

“It’s nice to have guests after so long.”

Murdoc noticed Yvonne roll her eyes at the elderly woman’s words.

“You need to remove your shirt and pants if I’m to patch you up.”

Normally stripping down wouldn’t have bothered him, not for a woman he was trying to bed say a year ago. This, now, was incredibly awkward, plus he hadn’t even got underpants during their escape so he wasn’t sure taking the baggy jeans off was appropriate.

“Well?”

“I’m not exactly decent under these.”

“I don’t care,” Yvonne sounded annoyed.

Murdoc sighed and removed his shirt, sliding it off over his head which ruffled his already rather matted and messy hair. He winced at the movement and settled his arms at his lap again once he could. Yvonne moved in closer making him tense, he wasn’t a fan of strangers invading his personal space abruptly. Cold yet elegant fingers unwrapped the bandaging on his shoulder to have a look. She clicked her tongue while examining the injury.

“That’s rather deep. Looks like you have some muscle damage,” Yvonne leaned out making eye contact with Murdoc, “I can sew it up after flushing the wound but I can’t guarantee you’ll have complete mobility in your shoulder or arm without pain afterwords.”

“Whatever, nothing I’m not use too.”

Yvonne wasn’t put off by his comment or appeared that way. She kept her gloves on and started to prep the necessary items. Russel chatted quietly with Ines, asking simple non-invasive questions about them and their lives leading up to this moment. Yvonne brought the needle up after gently flushing the site and Murdoc jerked back, unintentionally startling the woman.

“What?”

“I have an aversion to needles.”

“Don’t we all?”

Murdoc forced himself to relax, knowing damn well he needed the injuries treated. Looking to the side he examined the small single pane window and bookshelf with the violin. Yvonne started pressing the curved needle through his skin. He winced and fought from squirming under her. Outside the window was a large backyard with some trees and cars. Frowning he squinted noticing three or four vehicles outside, which would mean there were about six in total on the lot. Murdoc briefly glanced at Ines then Yvonne. Ines was too elderly to drive and her home was only two stories so there couldn’t be that many people in the house.

Yvonne patched up the sutures and leaned back to remove her gloves and clean up the needle. Grabbing some emergency medical scissors, Yvonne saved the bassist taking his trousers off and cut open the spot and bandage. She nudged Murdoc’s side to have him lean over so she had complete access to the spot. He obliged, silent, he was feeling rather anxious again thinking about the cars parked in the back. Russel seemed none the wiser as him and Ines chatted, he drank some water but held off from soup. Murdoc hissed when Yvonne cleaned the bullet graze on his thigh.

“Looks like you got pretty lucky, no major spots were hit.”

“I’ll count my blessings,” Murdoc looked at the blonde woman firmly, voice on edge.

Yvonne gave him a questioning look, “you doing okay?”

“Peachy.”

Slightly weirded out by his stare she resumed working the gunshot wound. Murdoc started when he saw Russel reach for the bowl of soup catching the intent look Ines was giving it. He blindly reached out and batted the drummer’s arm for attention, nearly knocking the soup out of his hands.

“Hey man watch it,” Russel set it the tomato soup aside again.

“Just wait mate, it’s not fair I get to suffer through this while you eat in front of me,” and he was damn hungry, but something just felt off about this situation ever since he saw the cars, or maybe he was paranoid.

Ines seemingly saw it as friendly banter and chuckled. Russel sighed and slumped back into the couch and waved his hands.

“Fine, I’ll wait. Not like it’s much difference.”

“Granted I’m starved, we both are, maybe we could clean up and have fresh clothing? Asking a lot I realize,” Murdoc clenched his teeth and closed one eye when Yvonne started to sew up his thigh, it was much more painful.

“Oh heavens yes you two are a bit dirty. I have a washroom you two can use. Clothing I’m not sure, my husband was a slight man, I may have something.”

Sighing in relief when Yvonne finished, Murdoc relaxed back into the couch when it was properly patched. The blonde woman leaned away and put her pack together. Ines smiled and motioned.

“Come, I’ll show you two to the washroom.”

Russel gave a weary sigh and stood from the couch. Murdoc struggled a moment but managed on his own. He snatched up the water bottles, Russel’s half full, and followed the home owner and Russel. Ines showed them to a rather large room with a porcelain claw foot tub set on a nineteen-fifties black and white tiled floor. Around from the entrance was a small dated toilet with a fuzzy salmon coloured seat cover and a sink of a similar shade. The mirror had cracks in the corner that spread further. Russel stepped into the room first, then Murdoc, both of them glanced around. Ines moved the door to reveal a narrow linen closet set in the wall.

“I’ll find you boys some clothing. The water doesn’t have good pressure so I wouldn’t bother with a shower. Take your time and mind your injuries.”

Ines smiled again kindly and every bit a good hostess before vacating the bathroom and closing the door. Murdoc flicked the lock and grabbed Russel’s arm and tugged him further from the door, whispering harshly.

“There are multiple vehicles in the backyard, way more than they need.”

“What’re you going on about?”

“Russ I saw four or so cars,” Murdoc gestured in the direction of the back yard bottle in his hand, “plus the two in the front, that’s six cars. What does a little old hag and her daughter need that many vehicles for?”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes I’m fucking sure. Something weird is going on here.”

Murdoc paused and shoved Russel’s water into his hands and then opened his own bottle, chugging the clear liquid. The drummer watched semi impressed as Murdoc finished the whole bottle with a loud gasp. The bassist wiped his face.

“I don’t like these women. Not to mention how the two scouts just stopped following us, what was up with that?”

“I don’t know, maybe they lost track of us?”

“Something isn’t right.”

Russel finished his water quietly, watching Murdoc pace with a limp. Lowering his head the drummer also dried his face with the back of his arm.

“Maybe they’ve always had that many vehicles. Could just be old cars.”

“No, I saw a Toyota F150 back there, bright white, newer model.”

“Look, we don’t know anything about these two. Ines gave me little to work with, so until we can, lets just go with the flow. Clean up, redress and regain our strength. We’ll leave right after okay?”

“What if they’re cannibals too?”

“I doubt every other survivor we run into is gonna be a cannibal Muds, I think that was a contained situation.”

Turning away, Russel turned the tub on to the pleasing site of running water. Like Ines explained there was no pressure behind the running water and it was cold, but any sort of water was fine. Russel plugged the tub and let it fill. Murdoc sat on the toilet seat and waited for the tub to fill as well. He was unconvinced about the two women but he would bide his time, he was too weak for a fight.

———

Noodle breathed quietly as physically possible, back pressed to the facility they had escaped only the other evening. 2D stood beside her, poised to jump. They were waiting patiently for the patrolling guard they knew was coming. Horrifyingly Noodle realized she was urging her adoptive brother to violently murder people and for a minute had a small mental crisis; was this appropriate? Should she be egging him on? What would Russel and Murdoc say? Noodle shook her head slightly. 2D gave her an odd look but she ignored it. The heavy boots of the guard were heard approaching. The guitarist glanced up towards 2D, cringing at the white pupil-less eyes. The singer slid away from the wall and he stalked around the corner out of sight, he had insisted Noodle not watch. At the first startled noise, Noodle covered her ears firmly, only blocking some of the sound out.

Minutes later 2D gently tapped her arm, careful to not get anything on her. Noodle glanced at him, uncovering her ears. The singer had tried to clean up some and thankfully removed most blood from his face and hands. Noodle swallowed and gave him a firm nod before they moved to a side entrance. She avoided looking at the dead guard.

Wandering through the facility made the guitarist shiver involuntarily, she kept thinking of the horrible meat locker. Ducking in and around stacked boxes and random corners they opened frozen storage rooms looking for—Noodle hoped not to find them like that. 2D tugged Noodle back behind their current hiding spot when a couple people walked by wearing the black uniforms minus face masks. Once out of earshot 2D let the guitarist go.

“How many more of these meat lockers d’yeah think there are? We’ve already checked,” 2D counted on his hand, “four I think.”

“I don’t know and I don’t care, we’re checking every single one. And if we don’t find them we take someone and make them talk.”

“Okay,” 2D bit his bottom lip, concern filling his eyes.

Noodle kept her eyes trained elsewhere, she would think about the fallout after all was said and done. When they felt safe enough they continued until voices drifted through the hallway heading their direction. Noodle froze. 2D panicked and grabbed her, dragging her back to the boxes, they made a ruckus when some of the boxes toppled. Both of them scrambled to right the boxes but quite suddenly two persons in the creepy black garb came upon them.

“What—who are you two?”

2D exchanged a quick look with the guitarist before he sighed and launched forward at one of them. Noodle tossed a box at the second person before jumping on them and pinning them. The vocalist trapped the woman in a headlock, which she fought to escape with no success. He squeezed her throat some to keep her from making too much sound.

“If you make a noise,” 2D growled, “I’ll tear your neck out.”

“Toochi! Christ, cool it,” Noodle gave him a stern yet scared look.

Feeling cowed 2D coughed and spoke softer, “I mean I won’t hurt you if—wait why am I not threatenin’? I mean these people voluntarily kill and eat others. I kinda have too cause well y’know.”

Noodle straddled the man she was pinning, holding his arms painfully up against his back.

“I dunno, because Russ and Murdoc wouldn’t want you to be like that?”

2D kept to himself the incident with Jason and sighed again, “fine. If they ‘ave killed them though I’m not playing nice.”

“I’ll join you. Now,” Noodle created pressure on the man’s arms making him gasp in pain, “two guys, you people took them when we tried to escape. What have you done with them?”

The woman in 2D’s hold coughed and cleared her throat, “do you have any idea how many people come and go in this place, you’ll have to be more specific.”

The singer tightened his arm over her neck making her squirm, he glared at her then the man on the floor.

“Older bloke with dark hair, busted nose and tan complexion.”

“The other guy is black, a bit bigger, bald and straight white eyes, super hard to miss.”

“They’re gone,” the man grunted under Noodle.

“What do you mean gone? Did you people kill them? I swear to god if you did I’ll fucking destroy everything and all of you!”

“N-no,” the woman rasped, “they escaped a couple hours after—killed the butchers. I don’t know w-where they are! None of us do. Scouts went out after them but came b-back empty handed.”

2D brightened, “they’re alive!”

“Where are those scouts?”

“Back at the college,” the man winced.

Groaning 2D loosened his hold on the woman but not enough for escape. Noodle gave him a grin, eyes alight.

“This is gonna be a wild goose chase. Lets head to the college,” 2D made to shove the woman away when Noodle waved at him to stop.

“Toochi we can’t leave a trail of bread crumbs, the moment we run off these two are gonna alert someone.”

2D cocked his head, “so we kill them?”

“We burn this whole place.”

“Oh! Right,” 2D nodded in understanding and remembrance, they had extra gasoline cans for the truck, but they could use them for arson.

Moving the man and woman, they forced the two into a meat locker with some struggle, hoping no one heard their cries for help. 2D grunted as he bent the handle until it was unusable. Noodle shoved a couple heavier boxes in front to block the door if they managed to escape. Moving quietly throughout they slipped out the way they came in and loaded up with a gas can each. Noodle closed the doors to the truck gently so not to make more noise than necessary. Hastily they poured a trail from the side entry through the main floor to flammable things to help their soon to be budding fire. Tossing their cans into a side room, Noodle produced a packet of matches.

“Shall I or would you prefer?”

“The honor is all yours,” 2D smiled down at the guitarist.

Noodle took a single match and struck it along the abrasive starter, both her and 2D stared at the little flame. Dropping the small fiery stick they quickly moved away when the gasoline lit and trailed off through the building. It seemed less populated during the midday, but this would get the point across regardless.

“We better get outta here,” 2D took off with Noodle, hurrying to avoid being caught.

Safely outside they stood in cover of the neighboring abandoned building beside their parked vehicle, waiting and watching. Noodle stood closer to the singer in case they were interrupted by a wandering zombie. 2D dug out his pack of smokes from the truck and plucked one for himself before offering one to Noodle. She graciously took one, using her lips to hold it she took a match from the booklet and lit it. Getting both their smokes going they stood in companionable quiet, puffing the cancer sticks hoping for a small show.

Nudging 2D, Noodle nodded to a lower window. The smoke and fire was rapidly taking off inside the facility, more so than they expected.

“Well that puts me at ease,” 2D held his cigarette between two fingers, “we should take off. Lets get those scouts. Find out where Muds and Russ are.”

Noodle bobbed her head and dropped her smoke half finished. The singer copied her and they both slipped into their parked truck where Kraken lay in wait for them, meowing happily when Noodle cuddled her.

———

Nightfall came and nothing terrible occurred to them while in the company of Yvonne and Ines. Murdoc was still on edge, uncertain of the two women after all the turmoil and suspicious amount of cars. After cleaning up, which Russel and Murdoc awkwardly did in each other’s presence, Ines brought them fresh clothing and the soup. After she explained that her late husband was somewhat tall and thin, Russel had wrongly assumed nothing would fit. He was mildly concerned when he managed to slip on the larger clothes belonging to the dead man.

He had stood in front of the mirror in the guest room after changing. The drummer stood so he he could see from the side and cringed at how much he had shrunk in the months following the outbreak. Granted he was still larger than say Murdoc or the other two, but he certainly saw the change stress and less food had brought. It was also apparent he wasn’t getting enough nutrition or sleep from the sallow appearance of his face. The bassist leaned on the door frame, lazily knocking on the door, quiet since it was late. Russel glanced over, morose expression set on his weathered face.

“What’s got you so sullen?”

Russel gestured to his body. The satanist stepped properly into the room, nudging the door shut with a foot.

“Don’t let it get to you, we’re all feeling the effects. Trust me,” Murdoc sat on the rickety little bed.

Giving Murdoc a once over, Russel could see the bassist’s face was more angular and the clothing hugged his thin frame. The drummer sighed.

“I didn’t even notice how bad it was till now. Everything was so go-go. I don’t remember feeling this tired at the farm house.”

“We had access to preserves, canned goods.”

Russel carefully sat himself beside the bassist, the bed left little room so their thighs brushed. The drummer dropped his face into his hands. Murdoc delicately laid a palm on the drummer’s upper back, a small gesture of comfort.

“How’re we suppose to find Noodle and ‘D man? They could be anywhere by now. It’s probably just us now.”

Murdoc brought his hand back to his lap.

“I hadn’t thought that far yet.”

The bassist rose from the bed.

“I’m bushed, we’ll deliberate this shit in the morning,” Murdoc pacified Russel with hand motion, “we can’t do much else. You said so your self, we bide our time then take off. 2D and Noodle will be fine.”

The satanist stepped out leaving Russel alone to his thoughts. The drummer shifted and laid out on the much too small bed, feet sticking over the edge. His eyebrows drew together as he stared blankly at the ceiling, not really seeing it. Taking a deep breath the drummer sighed, he slid his eyes closed trying to find sleep. Russel counted the seconds, breathing in every eight seconds and holding it for three before releasing. It was an old trick to help relax his body. Eventually his mind drifted on, pleasantly empty and dreamless. Tomorrow was a fresh day.

Chapter Text

During the night Russel drifted in and out of sleep, constantly alerted to noises he didn’t recognize. No matter how exhausted he felt he couldn’t seem to get a solid couple of hours. Not since the frozen storage incident. Sighing he rubbed his freshly shaved face and stared blankly into space, aware the morning sun was rising by the dim light filling the room. He closed his eyes trying once more to sleep but was jolted from this by a thump in the hallway. Blinking rapidly, Russel strained to listen for more noises but none came. Confused and definitely unable to sleep he rose from the bed and stretched his sore muscles out. Someone cursed softly from the hallway before movement continued on to the stairs.

Russel poked his head out to look around not seeing anyone. Slipping out he moved to the room beside his, knocking softly. There was no immediate answer so he pushed the door open. Seeing the bassist snoring, laying on his side Russel relaxed. Maybe Murdoc’s paranoia was rubbing off on him. He left the room and closed the door, wandering back into his. Sitting on the bed he laid back yet again, he would try sleeping through the morning.

———

“Oi, Russ. Russ,” Murdoc nudged the drummer lightly, “Ines made a huge breakfast. She has actual meat ‘n everything.”

“I don’t think I could eat meat,” Russel yawned cracking one eye open to look at the satanist not sure when he fell back asleep.

“Pork sausages, powdered eggs, fried beans ’n toast. Real proper brekkie.”

He opened his other eye and sat up, “who can argue with that?”

The drummer hardly hesitated to follow Murdoc downstairs where indeed Ines had made a huge breakfast for them. The little old lady gestured to the seats meant for them, smiling.

“I hope you gentlemen slept well enough, I know my beds aren’t all too good nowadays.”

“Like a baby,” Murdoc commented.

“Well hopefully you have a big appetite.”

Ines served them up a heaping plate of food each to which both of them eyed the amount surprised. Yvonne took less, slightly put off at the amount. Ines served herself last before sitting with them.

“So tell me, where are you two from? You seemed rather lost yesterday.”

Pausing mid bite Russel thought of how to answer the question. Murdoc beat him to the punch.

“We came from the city.”

“Oh dear, that place is nothing but trouble. It’s good you two managed to make it out safely.”

“We lost two friends,” Russel ate some eggs smiling at the taste.

“That’s unfortunate.”

“They’re alive, we just got separated.”

Ines nodded in understanding, apparently glad to hear that. A couple minutes passed in quiet where they ate and drank peacefully. Murdoc was still uneasy about them, but he hid it well. Occasionally between eating and listening to Russel chat with Ines he glanced around the room. He spotted two separate doors, one that he saw lead outside and another, locked tight. He found that odd, maybe he’d investigate it later.

After the hefty meal Russel offered to clean their plates but was promptly shooed from the kitchen. Murdoc thanked the woman for the food and moved on to the living room. The satanist kept eyeing the violin before he caught sight of the window, Yvonne stepped into the room.

“You keep looking at the violin. Do you play?”

Murdoc turned. He glanced at the violin then Yvonne.

“Sure, it’s just a smaller guitar.”

“Did you want to play it?”

He was certain the woman was distracting him from asking about the vehicles. Shrugging, Murdoc went along with her game.

“I’ll give it a try.”

The blonde removed the instrument from the glass case. She held it out to the bassist who took it gently. He was partly confused at how willingly she passed over what must have been an important family treasure, he was a stranger. Truthfully he had a small level of experience playing a fiddle. Yvonne held a bow which he took as well. Plucking the strings he cringed at the sound. Sitting he fiddled with the tuning pegs and fine tuner nobs, tweaking them until he recognized the notes.

“You seem to know your way about an instrument.”

Murdoc found it strange how disinterested Yvonne appeared, yet her voice betrayed her by sounding intrigued.

“I play guitar and some piano. It translates well enough if you’ve got skill on other stringed instruments. Part of a rather famous band in fact.”

Russel snorted from where he stood at a different book shelf. Raising a brow, Yvonne sat next to Murdoc, keeping space between them.

“Which band would that be?”

“It doesn’t matter now, worlds gone isn’t it?”

Bringing the violin up the satanist struggled a moment to settle his chin without the proper shoulder support. Grunting he steadied the violin and brought the bow up, surprisingly with proper finger positioning. Russel looked over in mild curiosity, having never witnessed the bassist play anything but his preferred bass or guitar. Gliding the bow over the strings he awkwardly tumbled through a Beatles song. Occasionally hitting the wrong note or shifting his hand too soon. The drummer was semi-amazed. Murdoc huffed and stopped. He lowered the small wooden fiddle.

“I had no idea you could play a violin man.”

The satanist grunted, not giving the drummer a proper response. He felt rather uncomfortable with his audience.

“What else can you play?” Yvonne smiled when she asked.

Murdoc repositioned the violin and started up at a slow pace, hands not use to the finger board or angle. It took a moment but Russel chuckled suddenly, identifying the familiar song. The vocals and drums were missing, but he got the gist of the song.

“Clint Eastwood?”

Murdoc halted with a small screech on the E string, he flustered slightly and lowered the wooden instrument.

“Yeah.”

“It’s good.”

Yvonne nodded, “you can play all you want, it won’t be a bother.”

She stood and politely excused herself to do whatever it was she needed too. Russel sat on the couch near Murdoc.

“When did you take up violin?”

“I didn’t.”

Russel frowned, “so you just picked it up now?”

“No, I didn’t take up fiddle. Not properly,” Murdoc held the bow and violin as he moved from the couch to the small single pane window.

The drummer watched from where he sat. Murdoc nodded for Russel to come over. Sighing, Russel joined him at the small window.

“Look.”

Peering out the filthy glass Russel gave the crowded yard an astonished glance. He counted four vehicles like Murdoc had mentioned, including the white Ford F150.

“That is a lot of cars for two people.”

“Right?”

“We can’t jump to conclusions Muds, it could be any number of reasons.”

The satanist gave Russel a bothered look.

“What reasons?”

“Maybe others use to live here or Yvonne brought cars back with supplies? I don’t know man.”

Murdoc popped his lips in thought. Ines appeared in the entry way of the living room.

“What are you two staring at?”

Both of them jolted from the window like two kids caught with a hand in the cookie jar. Ines seemed unperturbed.

“curtains,” Murdoc gestured haplessly, “you have lovely drapes.”

Russel gave Ines an awkward yet small smile, nodding. Ines chuckled at their strange behaviour and waved them off.

“You boys are odd. I have to tend my garden, you two keep out of trouble.”

Shaking a finger at them in warning, quite hilarious given she was shorter than Murdoc, Ines vacated the room. She grabbed a small bag and slipped out a side door by the kitchen.

Russel smacked Murdoc in the upper arm, “the drapes?”

“I panicked.”

———

With nothing to occupy himself other than dusty copies of nineteen-eighties TV magazines, books printed in another era about chemistry, and the two musical instruments, Murdoc grew antsy. Russel busied himself tinkering with the piano sitting against a wall in a side room with heavy drapes bleached from years of sun pinned back from windows. The satanist sat on a moderately stable wicker chair, knee bobbing.

“If you keep that up I may have a beat,” Russel didn’t bother looking at the other man.

“You can’t even play.”

The drummer purposely hit a high note on the old piano. Murdoc gave the back of Russel’s head a disconcerted frown.

“We should leave.”

Russel took a moment to turn himself on the small wooden bench to face the bassist.

“Where are we going to go Muds? Where?”

“Anywhere. I don’t like it here.”

“We leave now and we may never see ‘D or Noodle again. Best option would be sticking it out. They have a much better chance finding us this way.”

The satanist fidgeted, picking at his nails.

“They’re up to something.”

“Maybe they’re just nice people and you’re paranoid.”

Murdoc gave Russel an exasperated look, his foot continued to tap. The drummer eyed him examining the nervous ticks, sighing dismayed. He didn’t want to go on the run again.

“Murdoc, take a couple minutes and look at this from a logical point. We have no supplies, no transportation, we’re both suffering injuries and we have no idea where we are,” Russel rested his palms, flat, against his upper thighs, “what about 2D and Noodle? I get you’re scared—”

“I’m not scared.”

Russel tried to keep his ire down, “you are and it’s fine, there’s no shame being scared. Hell, I’m terrified right now. We’re completely lost and without direction.”

“Please don’t get preachy.”

“If it’s bothering you so much, go ask them about the cars.”

“No,” Murdoc looked away from the drummer, “I do that and next thing you know we’ll be given a basting and cooked up.”

“Then you need to let this shit go, at least for now. They haven’t tried anything.”

Slapping his knees abruptly and abrasively, Murdoc stood and walked out of the room not stopping to discuss things further. Russel contained an irritated noise and turned himself back to the ivory keys.

Another night approached with quick succession. Russel found himself staying in the same spare room on the same terrible, short and rather lumpy bed. He stared at the fading light on the ceiling. Off and on he heard creaks and whines. His brows cinched tightly when he closed his eyes.

Fuck.”

Russel pulled himself from the bed and stood at the door, he hesitated, listening for more. Silence met his ears and he decided now was a good time as any to peek out. Opening the door he caught sight of the bassist’s back retreating to the stairs.

What is he doing now?

Taking a steady breath, Russel stepped out after the satanist. He reached the top of the narrow stairwell as Murdoc met with the last step.

“Hey, what in the hell are you doing man?”

Murdoc halted and glanced through the darkening house at the drummer. He placed a finger to his lips, shushing Russel. Right after that Murdoc motioned the other to follow him, quietly of course. Finding himself complying, Russel came down to meet with the satanist. Whispering, if only to keep them concealed in the darkness.

“What are we doing?”

“Yvonne disappeared in and out of the basement a few times, figured I’d have a look. She’s hiding something.”

“Not this again.”

“Listen, you can join me or bugger off. I didn’t ask for you to come along so don’t bitch if you’re not gonna help.”

“Fine.”

Part of him was curious and stupidly he trailed through the kitchen towards the basement door. The door had a heavy deadbolt keeping it locked. Something about it’s appearance made it foreboding. Murdoc worked the lock open, wincing at a thunk the door made when it swung open before he could catch it. They exchanged a look, waiting for someone to come inspect.

Nobody came.

A cold draft spilled over the top step, invisible, yet creeping over their uncovered feet. The darkness in the depths of the basement felt impossibly black.

“Well, it’s a basement.”

Murdoc dug a lighter from the confines of the grey slacks he was borrowing. Flicking it on it gave some illumination to them and the kitchen. Turning the bassist held the light up some to see the first couple of unpainted steps.

Steeling himself, Murdoc cautiously took each step one at a time, keeping the small flame out in front. Russel hesitated, less sure if he wanted to continue the investigation, it felt wrong. Murdoc gestured rapidly to Russel making the decision for the drummer. Once caught up they both descended into the thick dark of the basement. At the bottom landing the light showed a rather sizeable amount of clutter tucked in close to the stairs.

“Looks like your run of the mill basement.”

When the fire on the lighter went out the satanist cursed softly and flicked it until it lit up again. Their hearts remained fast even when no obvious danger presented itself. Exploring the bountiful stacks of random items, Russel spied a couple gaudy paintings and travel trunks. Murdoc scanned around to the opposite side a minute later and spotted a clothing rack, two rusty bikes, and what looked like a full body skeleton held together with wires.

“What is all this shit?”

“Family heirlooms maybe.”

“Most of it is useless garbage.”

Russel’s foot caught something on the cement floor, it skittered across the flat surface making a peculiar sound. Both men looked to the ground, lighter above to see what the item was. Neither of them were medical experts, but without previous knowledge it was obvious the bone was human. A femur if Murdoc was guessing right.

Heart rates spiked all over again, but they outwardly kept their cool.

“Maybe it fell off that science thing.”

“Nah mate, it’s got shit attached to it.”

They stared at it a minute longer. The door to the basement loudly slammed shut and both of them could hear in the quiet following the deadbolt sliding back into place. Neither were sure if someone had just shut and locked it because it was open, or if someone knew they were down there.

“I should have never listened to you.”

“Look I’m sure we can explain why we’re down here and things will be fine.”

Russel strained to see a window or separate exit.

“I mean it isn’t as if they’re actually cannibals,” Murdoc swallowed, tone joking.

“No of course not,” Russel quipped.

“Besides, they would notice we’re gone sooner or later.”

“Or they might not.”

“Think positive Russ.”

“You’re the one who suggested this stupid idea.”

“You’re the one who came with, I didn’t force you or anythin’.”

The bassist had a point. Russel silently belittled his choice.

Squinting in the darkness, Murdoc moved towards a boarded window above his head. He reached up, testing the strength of the wood.

“Oi, maybe we could pry these off.”

Russel came up beside the satanist.

“Muds I aint gonna fit through that tiny ass window.”

“Sure you can,” Murdoc struggled to pull on the board, but his height prevented proper leverage.

“You can probably squeeze through, I’ll boost you.”

The thought of leaving Russel alone in the dank, unfinished basement at the mercy of whatever Yvonne or Ines had or had not planned made his stomach churn.

“I’m not leaving you.”

Russel stared at Murdoc. The drummer smiled, small but appreciative. The satanist awkwardly diverted his gaze.

“I’m not asking you to leave, I’d hope you wouldn’t man. Just climb out and come around and get me out.”

“‘Course, I can manage that.”

Russel took the lighter from the bassist, wandering back to where they saw the travel trunks. Dragging them back over to the dinky window he stacked them so he could stand on them, having a slight advantage over Murdoc height wise. Passing the light back, Russel started to yank on the semi-damp boards. Holding the lighter up for the drummer, Murdoc stood to the side uselessly.

Russel tore boards off one by one, avoiding getting splinters, “It’s gonna be a tight squeeze.”

“How tight?”

“You claustrophobic?”

“No,” Murdoc frowned, answering slowly.

“You’ll be fine then.”

Stars twinkled in the sky, high above, Russel could barely make them out at his angle. He stuck his hand out to feel against the small window, getting a general understanding of how to open it and how big it was.

Murdoc felt apprehensive, his hand keeping the lighter lit, trembled.

Pressing his hand flat against glass and pushing, the window completely gave, sliding along the cement with little resistance. It seemed the house wasn’t well made or hadn’t been updated with proper functioning windows. When he was unable to reach any further, Russel brought his arm back.

“Ready?”

“No.”

Murdoc pocketed the lighter, hands feeling for Russel’s shoulders. The drummer cupped his hands together for his foot, which the satanist couldn’t see for the life of him.

“C’mon,” Russel grunted when Murdoc finally put his weight into his hands.

Gritting his teeth he hefted the older man up to reach the concrete ledge for the window. Murdoc slid his arms through, fully pushing the window out onto the grass, then grasped at the outside edges. Hefting himself up and through he bite his lip when the bullet wound rubbed against cool cement.

“Fuck this is smaller than I thought.”

Murdoc was really thankful he didn’t suffer from claustrophobia otherwise he would never have taken this opportunity. Working out of the window he grabbed grass to pull himself out, Russel’s hands pushed on his feet until the drummer could no longer do so. His shoulder tweaked in pain so he laid for a moment, watching the stars. The many automobiles parked in the backyard took over almost all available space. There was no garden that he could see. Turning his head he squinted to see the rest of the yard, which had covered piles of something. What? He wasn’t sure and didn’t actually want to know.

“Muds you okay?” Russel was muffled due to being unable to fully reach the window.

“Yeah,” Murdoc crawled back over to the window, keeping himself out of immediate sight incase someone came around.

“Careful.”

“I’m going to slip in through the kitchen, I'll have you out in no time.”

Russel gave an affirmative noise and stayed put, not that he could do much. Murdoc made to his feet, treading through the grass slowly, keeping his ear trained for noises. He peered around the corner of the house towards the side entry to the kitchen. Murdoc took a deep and steady breath before moving onto the gravel driveway towards the door. He stepped on a sharp rock and hissed in pain, annoyed at the lack of footwear. Thankfully the journey to the door was rather short.

He tried the handle and muttered praise that it was unlocked. Pushing it open the door was quiet, nobody was in the kitchen that he could see. Using the lighter again he navigated the kitchen carefully until he could unlatch the basement door. This time he opened it slowly so it didn’t swing. Russel came up the stairs rather quickly, stepping out beside him.

“Lets get out of here.”

“Now you want to leave?”

“Yeah, there were more bones. I couldn’t see them, but I felt them.”

Not arguing, Murdoc lightly closed the door again and they proceeded to wander the house in search of supplies.

In the dead of night both of them left the house, walking back onto the road, finally wearing shoes. Granted they had no proof the two women had any ill intentions other than the human bones and vehicles.

The moon sat in the sky, casting enough illumination onto the surrounding area for them to safely walk. They both had a small pack each with a meagre supply of water and food, enough to get them a few days before they needed more. Russel kept thinking about 2D and Noodle, possibly looking for them and never being able to see them again. The last thing Russel remembered with Noodle was being separated and put in a meat locker.

“Stop doing that,” Murdoc tucked his hands into the pockets on the coat he stole.

“Doing what?”

“That, the moping.”

“I’m worried about Noodle and 2D.”

Rolling his eyes, Murdoc sighed, “give them some credit, they’ll stumble across us. 2D did before hand, shouldn’t be hard to do again.”

The drummer had no rebuttal to that and afterward chose to walk in silence with Murdoc. They passed the other homes as they drew closer to the small township. Keeping a good distance they skirted the core and found a building to hide in for the rest of the early morning. Most of the zombies around shuffled along, mostly sagging rotten flesh and bones. Hardly a threat.

———

Beating a man senseless wasn’t Noodle’s proudest moment, but as a new day dawned she felt her need to find the other two turn desperate. 2D let her do as she felt necessary, trying to keep his comments to himself. He held her from burning the college down citing that there were innocent children and people there. She took her anger out on the scout they nabbed and then proceeded to leave him beaten and bloody for zombies.

The singer found himself in the passenger seat of the truck, comforting Kraken while the guitarist drove down the back highway. Going on limited information from the scout, they followed the road back to the burnt facility and down towards a small town.

“Noodle you’re driving uh—fast, rather fast.”

2D found in the time since infection not much seemed to scare him, too badly, like before. Other than of course losing his friends, being alone and maybe the scarily similar driving Noodle and Murdoc shared.

“They could be anywhere along this road, we need to make up for lost time. Keep your eyes open and look for them.”

2D pet Kraken to sooth both himself and the cat, it wasn’t working.

The first home whizzed past them on the right hand side, then the next ones. Rather quickly they were entering the township of something, 2D missed the sign.

“Slow down—” 2D jerked when a single zombie flew over the hood of the truck, “okay Murdoc maybe take it easy, yeah?”

Noodle slammed on the breaks and slapped the truck into park, she shot the singer a foul look. 2D glowered back, again calming Kraken.

“I’m not that bad.”

“You’re turning this search and rescue into a crusade, which is making you more upset. Maybe we should take a break, ‘cause if they survived being eaten and shot at they will definitely live another couple hours without us.”

“The more time we waste dawdling the more likely we’ll never find them 2D. I don’t want to stop until we find them, safe and breathing or so help me.”

“The guy said they were on foot right? They’re not gonna get far on foot. They’ll tire out and rest, they’ve probably stopped here to find food and water.”

Grumbling, Noodle agreed to the singer’s logic.

“Lets just stretch and—and knock a few heads? Killing zombies might relieve some stress?”

“Yeah, fine.”

Noodle shut the truck off and moved from the driver side to stand and stretch. 2D relaxed and carefully moved Kraken to the back, patting her head gently.

“You stay here,” 2D smiled at the black feline softly, Kraken laid down and watched him close the door.

Noodle wasted no time grabbing a weapon from the bed of the truck, testing the weight in her hand by swinging it around. 2D leaned against the opposite side of the truck, eyeing the guitarist. She paused to look back.

“What?”

“There’s nothing wrong taking after your parents.”

Noodle’s face pinched up in discontent.

“I definitely think there is in this case,” she slumped a bit, pressing herself to the truck while resting her arm and the wrench over the cargo bed.

2D set his arms on the edge, “not necessarily.”

“Where have you been? Don’t you remember how badly I battered that guy hours ago?”

“Well he kinda deserved it,” 2D shrugged.

Noodle slid away from the truck, “lets go kill some zombies.”

“Avoidance is Murdoc’s favorite way to deal with uncomfortable conversations too.”

When 2D came around she elbowed him in the ribs, not hard enough to hurt.

“Enough psychoanalyzing me, I thought we were gonna get my mind off my crusade and relieve some stress.”

The singer held his hands up, conceding.

With no immediate food, namely fresh human, the undead fell into an almost hibernation, standing still among darkened areas. Finding a few to bash took Noodle time and she found herself climbing into destroyed store fronts to beam a couple motionless zombies. 2D remained at a distance knowing full well he was a repellant of sorts. The guitarist gave a shout, of triumph, which gave the singer a momentary spike of terror. He fought with himself not to rush in and play hero. Noodle came about covered in flecks of decaying human and coagulated blood, shit eating grin on her face.

The vocalist relaxed.

“Better?”

“Much, it’s actually cathartic beating the life out of the undead.”

“Good. That’s mildly disturbing, but good.”

“Don’t worry, you’re safe Toochi, I like you too much for that,” the guitarist winked in jest.

He smiled and chuckled, “thanks?”

Noodle dropped the heavy tool into the back of the truck and stretched her arms. 2D rested against the vehicle crossing his arms loosely.

“Are we to continue or call it a day? It’s getting kinda dark.”

“Keep looking.”

2D accepted the answer and once Noodle clean to a degree, they hopped back in the truck to resume. Noodle drove them in and around cars in the area, but after a while she started to feel dismal. It took her a couple minutes more before she pulled over beside a string of small shops with apartments above. They were on the out skirt of the town, having drove through the core.

Noodle sat there staring ahead, unseeing. The truck continued to idle while she was doing so.

“We staying here for the night?”

“I guess.”

The guitarist finally shut the truck off. Abruptly it began to rain, heavily.

“Lets get inside,” 2D gathered up their bags as he pushed his door open.

Noodle sighed and scooped up Kraken. They both rushed into the building, getting wet regardless of haste. Shaking off excess water 2D crouched and dug out Kraken’s harness and leash, doing her up. Kraken attempted to make it difficult by flopping but the singer only smirked when he managed to get the device on her. Noodle peered around, pushing her hair from her face. There were no zombies present, not that they were surprised given there seemed to be less as they went.

The guitarist pointed to the ceiling

“Lets get upstairs.”

With some fuss, Kraken fought against the leash which 2D tugged on with a frustrated huff.

“C’mon Kraken, enough of that.”

The guitarist snorted and picked up their feline companion, she cooed to the cat and pet her damp fur. 2D dropped the leash and took to exploring the space for a set of stairs.

“She likes you better,” the vocalist pushed open a door to the side of a few shelves.

“I’m a natural with cats.”

2D glanced up the dark stairwell before shooting a look back at Noodle.

“Let me go up first.”

“You don’t need to baby me Toochi.”

2D gave her a petulant look.

“Fine, go ahead. Kraken and I will wait.”

The guitarist waved her free hand, motioning him to go up. Nodding, 2D disappeared up the stairs, taking them slowly and listening for movement.

Reaching towards the door at the top, 2D kept his breathing quiet as he opened said door. Peering around the small hallway he continued through, not able to hear anything off. Creeping along he poked his head into a few rooms before coming into a living space with furniture, the blinds were closed so the room was shrouded in darkness. His eyes adjusted to the minimal light and his ears caught the slight creak in the floor behind him, too late. Pain exploded in his head and stars filled his vision, he gave a pained yelp, stumbling forward clutching his head. Unable to see through the sudden cacophony of distorted imagery he tripped and collapsed over the coffee table.

Faintly he heard a metal object drop and panicked breathing. he dizzily tried to right himself but to no avail, he slumped into the ground again. Hands were on him, turning him over and touching his face hurriedly. Briefly there was a flash of light skittering across his vision.

“Stuart oh fuck, I’m sorry I—I didn’t know it was you.”

“Damn, how hard did you hit him?”

“I—hard, but I thought, agh—”

2D groaned rubbing his head, he felt a slight headache forming. Murdoc snatched the torch from Russel and started to scan over 2D’s head, looking for blood. The satanist couldn’t find any and instantly worried for internal bleeding.

“I’m fine,” the vocalist winced. The pounding in his ears was clearing and the pain turned into a throb.

“The hell you are. Just got clubbed with a metal pole,” the bassist felt along the singer’s head for a distortion in his skull, “all I do is put dents in your head.”

“It’s okay, you didn’t know it was me.”

When 2D went to sit up, as the dizziness tapered off, Russel settled a hand on his back helping him. Murdoc continued to fret, but the singer calmly moved his hands away. Despite the ache in his head, he felt relatively fine, like it was a minor bump to the head. The drummer patted 2D’s back smiling.

“It’s damn good to see you again, really good.”

Holding his head the vocalist gave the other a gap toothed smile before turning some to hug Russel with one arm. The satanist held the flashlight, moderately uneasy.

“Happy you’re in one piece,” 2D pulled back and glanced at Murdoc, the satanist gave him a guilty look, “don’t be so put off Muds, it was an accident. ‘Sides my head is startin’ to feel better already.”

Murdoc grunted in surprise at the sudden armful of 2D. The singer held him close, trying not to crush the man. Slowly the bassist returned the gesture, stroking 2D’s back one handed, easing into the hold.

2D’s hands moved and cupped the satanist’s face. Murdoc blinked, nonplussed. Cool lips found his in a fierce kiss, something the bassist was unprepared for. Russel coughed, awkward, and shuffled away giving them space. Leaning into Murdoc, 2D pressed him into the floor, nearly straddling him. Dropping the torch, Murdoc quickly returned the kiss, hands scrambling to pull the singer impossibly closer.

“C’mon you two,” Russel voiced, exasperated.

The flashlight shifted on the floor, rolling to illuminate Noodle standing in the door way, Kraken in her arms.

“Babygirl,” Russel made quick work reaching the guitarist and pulling her into a warm hug.

Careful of the cat she hugged the drummer back, a few relieved tears gathering in her eyes.

“I’m so glad you’re okay, that you’re both okay.”

Noodle felt the weight hanging on her just dissipate as she almost collapsed against the drummer. Kraken squirmed to be released so Noodle carefully let the cat drop to her paws. Arms free she embraced the other tighter. A moment later she glanced to Murdoc and 2D and cleared her throat. Parting from one another, somewhat dazed and flustered Murdoc cleared his throat while 2D leaned off him.

“Got carried away.”

“S’nice,” 2D mumbled, lips reddened.

Murdoc carefully shifted out from under the singer and got to his feet, fixing his trousers. Noodle awkwardly gave the satanist a hug which he returned. Surprising her further Murdoc gave her head an affectionate kiss.

“Figured you would be fine,” the bassist supplied, “toughest brat I know.”

“Awe,” 2D cooed, upright again.

Murdoc huffed and pushed 2D’s face away, no real aggression behind the action. Russel snickered.

“Piss off, both of you.”

Noodle grinned, “missed you too.”

“Hell,” Murdoc turned away, embarrassed but mostly able to hide it in the dimness.

Russel grabbed the light and set it up on a shelf to brighten the room some. The drummer picked up Kraken and gave her kisses, pleased to see the cat alive as well. She made a small purring noise, rather content to see her favourite human.

2D ran his fingers over the goose-egg forming on his head, wincing. He removed his hand when he caught Murdoc looking at him.

“We’re all together,” Noodle wiped her eyes.

“Yeah,” Russel gave a small but content smile, holding Kraken.

“I’ll grab the bag I left downstairs,” Noodle gestured, “we have some supplies.”

The bassist sat on the arm rest of a small recliner giving Noodle a thumbs up, tired and weary. All smiles, Noodle made her way back downstairs. 2D went to follow but the satanist reached out, catching his wrist. Casting a questioning look at the older man, 2D remained where he was.

Directing the singer over he grabbed narrow hips and rested his legs, open, on either side of the taller man.

“Glad you’re okay. Was worried ‘bout you,” 2D tilted his head downwards, making eye contact.

Russel stepped out with the cat, floor waning as he moved. 2D glanced at the retreating back of the drummer before his attention was drawn back to Murdoc.

“You are okay, right?” he attempted to check for injuries on the older man by eye.

“Shoulder is buggered and I’ve been shot, but otherwise yeah, I’m fine.”

Something about Murdoc’s tone made 2D disbelieve his claim but he didn’t know whether to push the topic. The satanist dropped his eyes to mid chest, his hands tightened on 2D’s waist.

“‘M sorry ‘D.”

“What? For earlier? Don’t worry ‘bout it, my head is fine Muds. Just a bit’a lump is all.”

“No.”

Murdoc avoided looking anywhere other than 2D’s chest.

“Sorry for everything.”

2D stepped in close and enveloped the satanist in his arms. Murdoc rested his face against the chest, listening to 2D’s rapidly beating heart.

“I know,” 2D brought one hand up to pet through dark hair.

Murdoc’s hands clung to the back of the singer’s shirt, almost desperate. He squeezed his eyes shut trying to will away the wetness forming. He could feel the past few days catching up with him, the anxiety, fear, and unbridled need to break down.

“Thought I was gonna die.”

“You’re safe now. Won’t let that ‘appen ever again.”

Noodle and Russel came back into the room to set bags down. Both exchanged a look with 2D who tried to wave them out discreetly. Exiting quietly, Noodle urged Russel to follow.

“Lets light up the kitchen, we have candles,” the guitarist mumbled, she vanished behind the doorway with Russel.

2D continued to embrace the seated man, running his hands along the shaking back, trying to sooth the other. Murdoc kept his face hidden against the singer, hands bunching the other’s shirt tightly along his lower back. The singer heard Russel and Noodle mingling in the next room, light streaming from the area to the hall, just faintly reaching the entry to the living room. He peered down at the messy dark hair. Scooping a hand under Murdoc’s chin he made the man lean back enough to properly see him. Before the satanist could wipe at his face, 2D brushed his thumbs along Murdoc’s cheeks.

2D then took Murdoc’s hands and lightly got him to his feet, pulling him to the couch. Once they were both seated he gently brought the bassist against himself, laying back.

“I’ve got you,” the singer spoke softly.

Comforted by fingers carding through his hair yet again, Murdoc relaxed on the singer, enough to drift off. 2D hummed, listening to the older man breath. Noodle appeared with some water and food, pausing upon seeing Murdoc sleeping on the singer.

“Maybe later.”

2D nodded. The guitarist left them be. Tomorrow, plans about their possible future would need discussing, until then they were safe and together.

Chapter Text

Morning sunlight streamed through windows, brightening the rooms. Fall was turning the leaves to shades of red, orange and yellow. The four band mates found themselves waking to the knowledge they were finally tucked away, safe, where nobody could see them. Noodle had roused first, going about making a breakfast with limited food; it wasn’t appetizing in the least, but when the others joined it had been consumed rapidly. 2D of course forwent eating. Hydrating and scrubbing down to refresh themselves, the following hour was spent looking over a map. Noodle and Murdoc spread said paper over the kitchen table, pinning it down with small objects.

2D stood beside the drummer, cupping his elbows while he watched them. Once smoothed on the wood surface Murdoc turned to grab a felt from the small cup on the counter. He hunched over the map of North America and circled the town they were in.

“Alright, here’s the plan,” Murdoc capped the marker, “we’re currently located here. We need to move from here to here.”

Tapping the circled location the satanist slid the closed writing utensil along the map to the airport they had left months ago. The paper creased under the pressure. Murdoc gauged the individual reactions of unease, distraught and confusion.

"A boat isn't an option anymore," he begrudgingly admitted, "so we're going by plane."

Nodding, Noodle sat at one of the chairs to examine the map closer. Murdoc tapped the airport with the felt.

“My math isn’t perfect, but given the distance this will take us ‘bout a week. It means backtracking towards the farm house, which also means bypassing the campus. Finally we return to the military encampment at the airport, it’s the closest with functioning aircraft.”

Noodle peered at the map, finger trailing the winding lines meant to represent roads. She traced another path before looking up.

“That would be the quicker route,” she leaned back to glance at the three men, “we will need weapons, food, water and medical supplies. Plus Toochi has not eaten in roughly three days?”

2D nodded to confirm her statement.

“What’s that mean?” Murdoc crossed his arms, expression bemused.

“Well after so many days his body goes into a metabolic hibernation to conserve energy, he needs to consume living tissues to keep his body functioning. How many days Toochi?”

“Uh, well last two times it was a couple weeks before that, should be okay.”

Russel sat down to take the pressure off his healing foot. He stroked Kraken’s head, “we should find two capable vehicles, get gas and root through the apartments or stores. There don’t seem to be much for zombies wandering around.”

“Good idea Russ,” Murdoc rested his hands on his waist.

2D rocked on his feet, “so who flies the plane then?”

“I will.”

“You will? Hows that?”

Noodle found displeasure in delving into her time in the program. Shifting herself to face partly away from the others she sighed. Three sets of eyes watched her.

“Among many things, I am a capable pilot. I was given knowledge and training during my informative years in the program, guess it has use now.”

“Regular G.I.Jane, you are.”

Noodle smiled faintly at the odd compliment.

“It’s settled then, Noodle flies the plane, our jobs will be to make sure that isn’t a fuckin’ nightmare. Any opposition is dealt with upon entry to the base. If it’s still standing.”

From there the guitarist made a list of necessary items they would need for the journey and subsequent assault on the base. With no time wasted by midday they were on the move. Unintentionally, or maybe intentional, Murdoc and Russel were placed between the singer and guitarist while searching other buildings for provisions. Although 2D was a natural zombie repellent, neither him or Noodle wanted to take a chance.

Making quick work of the stores they backtracked when enough was found. If necessary they could hit up a gas station on their travel.

Noodle took up the drivers side to the truck they had been using. Russel situated himself with Kraken in the passenger side. 2D and Murdoc climbed into the back seats. The guitarist started the vehicle and quickly got them turned around.

“How did you two manage to find us?”

“We backtracked to the facility,” Noodle glanced at 2D and Murdoc in the back via the mirror, “got information. Moved along.”

She saw the satanist narrowing his eyes at her.

“Seems a little vague,” Murdoc tilted his head to look at 2D.

The singer watched Murdoc, smiling fondly. It was infectious and the bassist found himself giving a small, dopey smile back. Pleased to be back with the singer, Murdoc struggled to form words to express just that. Last night was mostly spent clinging to the singer, apologizing constantly. For now all past transgressions seemingly on the back burner due to their extenuating circumstances.

“Toochi and I threatened a few people. We did what I thought necessary to find you two.”

“I’m grateful,” Russel ruffled Kraken lightly, “wouldn’t know where to look for you two.”

Neither backseat occupant paid Noodle or Russel any attention.

The satanist scooted over to the middle seat, his thigh bumped 2D’s leg. Draping an arm around the vocalist, Murdoc pressed close to the other’s side. 2D melted against the older man, his cheeks coloring when they shared a tender kiss. The satanist ran his thumb along 2D’s pulse, just barely touching his skin. Something about having 2D bundled up and near him made all the turbulent feelings calm. The past couple days fading enough to relax and enjoy the intimacy he always assumed he never wanted.

“Honestly it was touch and feel at points.”

“How so?”

“We had such limited info, it really was luck we ran into you two at the town. We could have easily bypassed it. Glad we didn’t.”

“I kept telling Muds we needed to stay put, crashed with some other survivors that housed us.”

“I’m amazed there were other survivors.”

“Nice people, definitely hiding some dark secrets.”

Murdoc tuned in briefly at the mention of his name, but quickly diverted focus back to the singer pressing his face into 2D’s neck. The taller man snickered quietly when Murdoc left a couple small kisses along his throat. Thrilled to be able to do this, be all over the vocalist without the constant cloud of disagreement, Murdoc found he couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

“Were they cannibals?”

“Unfortunately,” Russel sighed, “didn’t seem that way, it was chance we figured it out.”

Noodle pulled back onto the highway.

“Seems more people would rather eat each other than work together. I cannot see the point, just become vegetarian or cultivate animals again.”

“Too difficult I guess.”

2D flushed darker when he felt a hand slide along his thigh, up and up, until it dipped between his legs to cup him. Murdoc smirked against his neck, rubbing the bulge in the singer’s jeans.

“Did either of you two want to stop for more supplies at the neighboring town?” Noodle kept her eyes on the road.

Murdoc leaned away from 2D, just enough to talk clearly, “yes. Could use some blankets, maybe a pack of ciggys.”

2D squirmed against Murdoc’s hand, terrified of their friends noticing, but rather enjoying the sensation.

“Personally I’d like if Muds kept his hands to himself while we’re all in the car,” Russel grunted.

“Spoil sport,” Murdoc rolled his eyes and removed his hand.

2D blew out some air he unintentionally held, face impossibly red. He rested his own hands over his obvious erection, ducking his head. Murdoc stroked the back of the singer’s neck, lips coming close to 2D’s ear.

“Later then, Gorgeous.”

“It’s a date,” 2D pecked the bassist, still warm in the face.

Russel and Noodle both shared a brief look, rolling their eyes in amusement over the rather sappy exchange of words. If they weren’t fighting then it was all good.

———

The first couple of days traveling through to the meat packaging facility, or what was left, and past the college campus buzzed by quickly. Getting a second truck, 2D and Murdoc opted to ride together while Noodle and Russel remained in the original vehicle. Noodle dispersed walkie-talkies to each truck so they could remain in contact. They exchanged idle conversation over the devices, occasionally switching to companionable silence.

Each pair swapped after each night, at one point 2D ended up with Russel, chatting about music. Murdoc and Noodle discussed interests in movies and places. By the third night that they pulled over to sleep, the singer and bassist struggled to set up their own truck tent while the other two set up with no difficulties. Noodle had suggested raiding a camping gear store for the supplies, they only ran into a couple zombies who were herded away by 2D.

“Do you two need help?” Russel raised a brow, watching as 2D got thwacked in the face by a thin rod.

Murdoc covered a snicker by coughing, looking apologetically at the singer.

“Please,” 2D pouted as he rubbed his cheek.

Noodle smiled and gave the drummer a hand setting up the opposite tent. With the tents done they went about getting cooking utensils going. Kraken nestled down in the tent Russel and Noodle intended to share. For once it felt pleasant, they were somewhere on a deserted back road, barely any foliage around. No zombies, no animals, nothing. Sort of like an impromptu camping trip.

The drummer set up the portable camping stove, something they acquired at the same store as the tents, bringing a large pot water boiling. Noodle brought their medical kit from the main truck and some bundled clothes.

“Time for a bath,” she chirped.

“More like sponge bath.”

“Same difference,” Noodle passed out a cloth to each of them, “afterwards we can start on dinner. Maybe tea for you Toochi?”

“Sounds nice, yeah.”

Each took to wetting the clothes down and cleaning their faces and such without full on stripping in front of one another. Russel finished first and set the pot aside to get going on dinner. Noodle propped a camping chair out, dropping heavily into it, sighing in content.

The singer disappeared around the second truck to clean himself more thoroughly, or as much as one can with a wet cloth. Murdoc joined the taller man a moment later, holding a roll of fresh bandages.

“Mind givin’ me a hand?”

“Could do more than that.”

Murdoc was pleasantly surprised by the offer. 2D winked at him, smiling charmingly despite having a wet cloth down the front of his trousers.

“Later, yeah perv,” he gestured to the respective spots on himself with injuries, “need help redoin’ the bandages.”

“Sure, give us a moment?”

“Don’t stop on my behalf.”

All suave confidence dissipated and 2D blushed, hand and cloth coming out of his jeans.

“Now whose a pervert?”

Murdoc leered salaciously as he got in near to 2D’s side, murmuring heatedly, “well you seemed to be offerin’ a show.”

The years between each fleeting spurt in their off and on relationship had been longer each time they stopped. Usually only occurring during tours or collaborating. To Russel and Noodle it seemed as though they were constantly at each other when not fighting. Truth be told, until recently it had been almost ten years since they fell into bed together. That being said, it was also only recently that their relationship had a decent basis with mutual understanding and more communication. Those early years had been… unhealthy.

The build in desire between them was palpable, continually growing, 2D had to consciously keep his hands to himself when they finally got private moments. He was sort of pleased to see it was mutual if two days ago was any indication. This also meant he was relearning his sexual confidence around the bassist, it felt totally new to him even if they had done this song and dance many times before. Jerked from his thoughts, 2D blinked as a hand groped his crotch rather firmly.

“Muds w-wha— the others,” 2D hissed, voice unsettled in his embarrassment.

“What? I’m jus’ gettin’ you to redo my bandages. Nothin’ naughty.”

2D gave an aborted noise between a whine and gasp when Murdoc massaged him through the jeans.

“Muds we shouldn’t,” the singer sounded unconvincing.

Murdoc pressed himself closer to the vocalist, hand rubbing over the bulge teasingly. 2D clutched the cloth tight in one hand, trying to keep quiet as he turned towards the bassist, hiding his face on Murdoc’s good shoulder. Tilting his face some, Murdoc kissed 2D’s ear softly.

“Gonna show you how sorry I am,” he kept his voice warm and gentle against 2D’s ear, “for however long you want me.”

“I always want you,” 2D squirmed, mumbling against Murdoc’s clothed shoulder, “in the truck, please?”

Murdoc slipped his arm around the singer’s waist, bandages still in his hand as he directed 2D towards the back door of their truck. All awkward limbs, 2D managed to pull himself up into the back seats closely followed by the satanist. With the door closed the bassist lightly tossed the roll into the front seats, doing the same with the damp cloth in 2D’s hand. He then pushed 2D down to the cushioned bench seat. The singer thanked whoever left this truck with keys, the back windows were tinted and with their tent set up it blocked the rear window.

———

Later into the early night they idly shared some snacks and cigarettes, that Murdoc brought from the truck. The smokes gave off a sweet and cloying scent, surrounding their air space with peppermint smoke. A large comforter was spread on the asphalt at the end of the trucks for them to lay on while watching clear skies. Autumn chill settling in as it grew darker.

“S’nice being able to see the stars so clear,” 2D spoke around his fag, ash dangerously close to spilling on his face.

Murdoc plucked the precarious cigarette from 2D and flicked it for him, away from the blanket. He grumbled when the singer turned to kiss his cheek in thanks before taking it back.

“Remember when Toochi made that horrible cake for me? Way too much salt in it.”

2D cocked his head to glance at the guitarist affronted.

“Yeah,” Russel removed his cigarette to speak, “what about it?”

“What did you guys do with it afterwards? I had one piece and it vanished.”

“I worked hard on that,” 2D groused.

“It was a sweet gesture Toochi, honest.”

“That was eons ago, who cares what happened to it. Probably got tossed,” Murdoc stubbed his smoke out on the ground.

“Just curious.”

A beat passed between them. Something streaked across the sky, momentarily bright before dwindling.

“Suppose Europe is stable, what’re we plannin’ to do?”

“Guess we could recuperate, make music again? Move on?” Noodle tossed the butt of her smoke.

“Get therapy,” Russel added, “get ‘D checked by proper scientists?”

“Not sure what I have can be reversed, been like this for a while. S'not so bad, ‘m getting better.”

Noodle sat up, look of consideration on her face. Her mind wandered to the virus and the long term effects to exposure.

“Murdoc,” Noodle looked at the satanist who glanced back, “you’re not infected.”

“I bloody hope not.”

“None of us are infected, 2D excluded. I just had a thought. As far as we know this virus is transferred through bodily fluid, right? I assume blood, sweat, and everything else,” Noodle paused face screwed up in thought.

Russel frowned. 2D remembered Dr. Webber mentioning water as well, but he didn’t think to share that.

“What’s your point Noodle?”

“Back at the farm house I used the equipment I had to study samples of Toochi’s blood and blood from an infected. I have to fill in some blanks but his blood was strikingly similar to an infected, give or take, leads me to believe 2D is contagious or at least a carrier.”

“Contagious? I can’t be, none’a you are sick.”

“I know. Especially Murdoc.”

Murdoc joined Noodle, sitting upright as well.

“If Europe is okay, surviving, it’s because it will have barricaded from the virus. Least likely case, the rest of the world is completely oblivious. We could potentially introduce a deadly, high kill rate virus to the uninfected populous.”

“We can’t just leave him here—”

“Nobody is saying that Muds,” Russel pushed himself up.

“If I was deadly I think you’d all be dead by now.”

“Well another explanation is your virus is mutated to a point where normal infectious parameters don’t occur. You could still be a carrier just incapable of passing it on through the usual means.”

“We can’t know that for sure,” Russel crossed his legs.

“Actually, third option, we’re all immune to 2D in particular by some twist of fate. This one could explain away why for whatever reason Toochi doesn’t attack us when hungry. Maybe the mutations caused a sort of genetic alteration that allows him to retain his memories while 'hibernating'.”

“Gonna give me a headache thinkin’ ‘bout this shit. We’re all moderately healthy, lets leave it at that.”

“I like that option,” 2D remained laying, “sounds nicer.”

“Before this conversation delves into some fuckin’ philosophical mumbo-jumbo about whatever I’m getting some shut eye. Dents, you coming?”

“Sure.”

Murdoc got to his feet, holding a hand out for the singer, helping him when he grasped the proffered palm. Russel yawned, realizing how tired he felt.

“Night you two. Try to keep quiet, don’t want the undead snooping around.”

Murdoc fingered Russel while his other hand got a rather large handful of 2D’s backside just for spite. The vocalist huffed and climbed up into the tent him and Murdoc claimed. Noodle cleaned up their supplies before she too got into the tent on the opposite truck. After settling into her rather comfy sleeping bag, Kraken tucked close, she caught what sounded like whispering from the other tent. Rolling her eyes exasperated, she buried her head into her pillow, pleased things were going decent for them.

———

They rose from the depths of their respective tents, ate and washed up, then packed their supplies and hit the road. They reached the farm house by late noon and further by night. A couple days disappeared before finally reaching the suburbs around the airport. In need of fuel they agreed over the walkie-talkies to stop at a gas station. Russel grabbed their cans to fill, sitting to siphon while 2D suggested him and Murdoc browse the selection in the store portion. Noodle gave the singer a knowing look to which 2D avoided. Both men wandered off to the door of the store.

Noodle sat on the hood of a truck watching her companions doing varies tasks. Russel was attempting to siphon gas to fill some canisters, he kept spitting when he accidentally did it wrong a few times. By the entry to the gas station she spotted Murdoc slapping the singer’s backside causing said man to skitter and sputter. 2D whipped around on the satanist whispering heatedly to the man. She snorted softly.

“What? Something wrong?”

Russel looked up from what he was doing to peer at Noodle.

“If Europe is normal, do you think they will dissolve back into old habits? I sort of like this new dynamic.”

Russel cast a look towards the two men in question, both now inside the store of the gas station.

“This situation has been a strange blessing in disguise for their relationship. Expedited the healing process. Kinda hard to be at odds when the world is falling apart, we need each other. Maybe it’s not proper, but it’s worked in our favor. Murdoc can’t be fighting with 2D while he’s fighting zombies and other violence.”

“True.”

“‘Sides, I can’t see Muds slipping back into old habits if Europe is fine. Half the world is gone, not exactly easy to resume normal course when fifty percent of the fan base is dead.”

Noodle tucked her legs up, resting her chin on a knee.

“I want a proper shower, need one. I would love to shave too.”

The drummer choked on a small laugh. Noodle smiled warmly at the noise.

“Glad your hope for a bright future remains intact.”

“Someone has to do it.”

Noodle shifted and hopped off the truck.

“How much longer for that?” She gestured to Russel’s siphoning.

“I have two containers full.”

“Going to go hurry along the boys.”

“Gonna get an eyeful, baby girl.”

“Truly I have seen much worst,” Noodle gave the drummer finger guns while smirking.

Russel shook his head, delighted. The guitarist marched towards the gas station store. She stopped outside to peer in for the other two but didn’t see them in the immediate area of the entry. Raising a brow, Noodle pulled the door open and stepped in. She hoped they weren't actually messing about.

“Toochi? Murdoc?”

Abruptly both men came stumbling in from a back storage room, 2D slamming his back into the door, holding it shut. Noodle started at their entry. Murdoc shoved stuff in front of the door, a bit frantic.

“What happened?”

“Big—really big thing, monster,” 2D jerked when the door was rammed from the opposite side and he bounced against the metal, “came in a loading door. It’s huge!”

Murdoc came over, slid his hands under Noodle’s arms and quickly carted her to the exit.

“Hurry Dents, we need to vacate.”

Bewildered, Noodle went with the motion, rushing back outside with Murdoc. 2D quickly jogged after them to get out.

“Russ lets go,” Murdoc let Noodle go to step over to his truck.

The guitarist trailed after, stopping when the singer yelped. A large brown bear lumbered around to the front, clearly having figured its way out of the store. The bear stopped close to the singer, It could smell fresh human. Plastering himself to the gas pump nearest to the store, 2D stilled. Noodle stared, eyes transfixed on the rotting bear, she was between the two rows of pumps. Everyone was frozen, unsure how the animal might proceed. Russel rose to his feet cautiously, him and Murdoc being the furthest from the creature. The satanist backed up slightly, edging towards the truck he knew had guns.

“Noodle,” Russel spoke lowly, “step backwards slow.”

“That thing is gonna be faster than me,” Noodle kept her eyes glued to the bear.

Said animal sniffed the air, muzzle titled up showing off how the flesh was missing from it’s bottom jaw revealing blackened muscle and sinewy. 2D inched his way around the pump, careful not to be too sudden. The bear made a bone chilling noise, guttural and deep, before it made for Noodle.

Turning she bolted, smacking into the second set of pumps in her attempt to jump through them. Russel grabbed her arm, yanking her close as the bear thumped into the machine, growling. It corrected its course rapidly and ambled around the pumps to come at both Noodle and Russel. The animal raised up and Russel moved, holding Noodle to his chest acting as a shield. Last second 2D jumped between the bear and Russel enduring the full force of its clawed paw coming down along his chest. 2D stumbled into Russel’s back, eyes watering at the fresh and sudden bloom of searing pain.

Hungry and desperate the bear roared when all it could suddenly smell was infected blood from the singer.

“Oi! Over here you fucking lummox,” Murdoc stood up in the bed of Russel and Noodle’s truck, shotgun in hand, “everyone down!”

Dropping down, well 2D basically crumpled, the three of them held their collective breathes. Murdoc fired at the animal’s skull, missing and catching a limb, he winced at the kick back on his mangled shoulder. He pumped the gun, firing again catching what was left of an ear. Enraged the bear moved towards Murdoc, bypassing the other three. When it seemed he had to get up personal Murdoc hopped from the truck, pumping it again, getting closer to fire directly into its head. He didn't account for how fast the animal was and nearly tumbled, thankful the end of the truck caught his back as he directed a shot to its skull before the bear could clobber him. An explosion of bone fragments and diseased brain matter spattered all over. For good measure he shot it once more, watching it hobble before flopping over actually dead. Momentarily Murdoc stared at it, breathing ragged with his adrenaline.

From the ground Noodle and Russel looked at the bassist in awe. 2D hugged his torso, moaning in pain. Snapping back to reality, Murdoc narrowed his eyes.

“Stuart you utter twat!”

Murdoc stomped over to the singer who was writhing on the ground.

“What were you thinkin’ jumping in front like that? What am I suppose to do if you fuckin’ die?”

Setting the gun aside the satanist knelt to undo the jacket and have a proper look at the mess. Despite his tone, Murdoc was shaking as he got the bloodied fabric out of the way to see the damage. Breathing a sigh of relief, Murdoc caught 2D’s cheek in a rough hand, staring down at the singer firmly. The gashes were just that, deep, but no where serious enough to be panicked.

“You ever do something that stupid again I’ll— I don’t know! You stupid twit.”

“I can heal faster than Russ and Noodle,” the singer panted, "it just made sense to do it."

“Toochi you idiot, you could have been seriously hurt!” Noodle crawled over, voice aggravated yet grateful, “but also thank you.”

Russel huffed, “can we please just make it to the airport in one piece?”

“That depends.”

“On what?” 2D rested back against the ground when his wounds started to clot enough to ebb away the pain. He could breath easier.

“On whether you insist on playing hero every time something goes tits up.”

2D gave the bassist a thumbs up, "I'll be good, promise."

Murdoc ran a hand down his own face sighing.

“Lets get going, hate to find out if this fucker had friends.”

———

The road back to the military encampment around the airport was devoid of zombies, and thankfully animals. Around early evening they bypassed an abandoned ambulance parked on the road side and Murdoc shuddered remembering all too clearly the events during that day. 2D patted his thigh giving him a shy but understanding smile, unsure how Murdoc would react. The satanist covered 2D’s hand with his own, shooting a quick look at the man before watching the road.

From there it was a relatively short trip to the airport which they reached by nightfall. Parked at a safe distance, they camped for the night and once light enough Russel perched on the truck with binoculars, scoping out the vicinity for activity. Noodle fed Kraken before joining the man.

“What sort of planes do you see?”

“Big ones, do we need a big one?”

Noodle mulled it over a minute.

“The flight from here to England is about seven to nine hours if we make no stops, which I really don’t think I could. We’re going to be right over the Atlantic ocean after all. I will need a bigger plane, it’s,” Noodle counted under her breath, “over five thousand kilometers.”

“Are there any people hangin’ ‘bout?” Murdoc came around from the opposite truck.

Russel peered through the binoculars again.

“Pretty quiet over there.”

“Lets go then, may as well do this before someone decides to intervene.”

Stuffing the binoculars back into the pouch they came with, Russel hopped down onto his safe foot. The drummer climbed into the passenger side of the vehicle, letting Noodle claim the driver side again. Murdoc returned to his spot at the wheel in the other truck. Noodle glanced through the window towards the satanist and felt a playful grin tug at her mouth. Murdoc glanced at her, raising a brow, catching her intent despite the space between them.

“Hang on Dents,” he leered starting the truck up, shifting into drive and slamming on the gas.

“O-oh no,” 2D gripped the seat.

Noodle cackled and followed in hot pursuit, Russel gave a smirk of his own. With no other vehicles on the road going to the airport they could race along safely. Noodle drove intentionally close to them so Murdoc sped up to pass her. Noodle cursed good naturedly and tried to pass the man. As the airport grew bigger, Murdoc and Noodle were tied and eventually both crashed through the remains of fencing skidding to a stop across from each other.

Opening her door, Noodle jumped out breathing deeply, smiling. Once the others were outside she gave the satanist a smug grin.

“What’re you smirking ‘bout? I clearly won.”

“I’m pretty certain I did.”

“Noodle won,” Russel interjected, “it was close, but she had a foot on you.”

“Ha!”

“She did not.”

2D stumbled out, stopping beside the bassist.

“It was definitely a tie.”

“2D you’re suppose to support me, you’re on my team here,” Murdoc patted his own chest as he spoke.

“Oh— uh, Muds definitely won then,” 2D affirmed

The satanist slapped his own face. Noodle snickered and scanned the area for people or zombies. The place was empty other than them.

“It’s a bit dead. Think it was our fault?”

The irked looks the three men gave her for the pun made her stifle a snicker. The timing was probably inappropriate but she was in good spirits.

“Won’t ever know will we? Lets get inside to inspect, maybe they left shit we can use.”

In an unanimously silent agreement the four of them headed into the airport, cautious for any unexpected action. Pushing a door open they all poked their heads in to look around. Nothing seemed to be moving around so one by one the four of them entered the large building. Luggage was strewn about the further they went. In spots there were smears of long since dried blood, on the floor and walls, some were hand prints. Noodle cringed upon seeing the palm shaped marks.

“Should we even bother with splitting up? To cover more ground?”

“No,” Murdoc shook his head, “definitely not. Shit goes wrong too quickly these days, better we’re all together.”

With the decision made, journeying through the open areas of the airport revealed more information. A couple utterly destroyed and fully decayed bodies were laying in heaps around the deeper areas of the airport, missing chunks. Obviously a zombie feast occurred. The smell was pungent and only thickened as they approached.

“That is horrendous,” Noodle plugged her nose, “I guess we can hazard a guess that things went south after we left, maybe right away.”

“Seems so,” 2D moved over to nudge a decomposing mound.

Whatever it was, a gaseous noise erupted from it and the pile caved in. 2D skittered away gagging.

“Okay lets not play with corpses. We need to find a flight manual, repair supplies and any other tools necessary for maintenance. Oh, and fuel.”

The guitarist urged the men to a safer location while listing items. They stopped in a seating area, far from gassy, festering blobs.

“Why d’yeah need all that? We should be able to just go.”

“These planes have been sitting here for possibly a year, much longer than normal with no one checking them. I don’t even know if they’ll start let alone have enough fuel. So basics, lets check them all and work from there.”

“That could take weeks,” Russel groaned, “we’ve already traversed through hell and back for what feels like forever.”

“I know! I know that. I’m sorry, I realize everyone is eager to get out of here, I am too, but there is no way we will be that lucky to find a fully functioning plane with all it’s systems just set to go,” Noodle massaged her temples, voice strained, “I mean we have no way of contacting anyone until in range since the places aren’t linked. We’re going in this blind.”

“Is it possible to have this shit cleared away, if we find a decent plane, in say a month?”

Noodle gave Murdoc an aggravated stare, “I have no idea how long it would take. If we work on it tirelessly, maybe.”

2D cleared his throat catching his band-mates attention.

“I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, but in two weeks, or so, I won’t be much use. I can already feel it.”

“Fuck,” Murdoc settled his hands at his hips, pacing, “that’s right, that’s gonna be an issue. This mission has to be expedited. If Dents goes all dopey, we’re fucked. England or Europe being okay or not, they will take him away or gun him down if he doesn’t jump someone first.”

“We split up the tasks.”

“No splitting up—” Murdoc started.

“You wanna get out of here in a week? Well all unspoken rules are out the window Murdoc because now we have to have shit done in six days.”

2D twiddled his fingers, he felt terrible being the cause of stress.

“What do we gotta do baby girl?”

Noodle rolled her shoulders.

“Murdoc you look for maintenance supplies. Russel I need a manual dealing with take off, landing, controls and the works, preferably a few books for different models. Toochi since you’re much stronger you can come with me, we need to test planes and possibly fuel them.”

The satanist fidgeted and the drummer remained quiet while nodding. Although rather anxious about being apart, Murdoc went off with Russel in search of tools and books. Noodle and 2D headed back outside and made rounds to check the planes available. The guitarist made sure to scoop up Kraken out of the truck for the little adventure.

The day consisted of working around the clock to find a viable airplane to work on, the first two were a bust. The drummer and bassist made a trip through the airport upper levels looking in conference rooms and offices for information books or manuals. It was left unsaid how apprehensive Murdoc felt about going off alone to find tools. Russel made no comment. He was aware and gave the satanist an out by offering to help him afterwards. He didn’t want to be alone either.

They poked in and out of rooms, extremely attentive for zombies or more bears, though the latter was less likely. Sure that maintenance tools were down a level or two, they avoided it for as long as possible. Maybe it was PTSD or just plain bad vibes, something was keeping them from exploring the lower area despite needing too. Russel sighed when they discovered a flight manual between an indistinguishable corpse and an open luggage case. The drummer flipped through the book uncertain whether the plane model on the front mattered.

“We’re gonna have to face it sooner or later, guess now works,” Russel motioned to the manual, “got this, lets go browse the tool selection.”

“Yeah, fine. Lets get this over with.”

Taking the long route back to the main floor, Murdoc and Russel bypassed the pile of rotting flesh that spewed gas earlier. As they wandered further more piles were seen, littering the area like strange pus pods made of human tissues. They regretted forgoing weapons upon entering. With the sun high in the sky, a rather clear day, it casted a soft glow through exits and side windows, enough to light the place. Ignoring the mounds the airport was peaceful if a bit derelict. Walking in tandem, Russel scanned the right side while Murdoc glanced along the left side. Passing a couple stores and bathrooms, one which Murdoc recognized as the one him and 2D used. When they made by the triage area the satanist stopped.

"Lets have a quick peek, maybe the poor sods left something good behind."

"Yeah, sure, not like we need to rush this instant."

Pushing through the doors, both drummer and bassist wandered into the triage area only to be assaulted by putrefaction. Wheezing sharply, Murdoc abruptly covered his mouth and nose. Russel did a similar action, stifling urge to throw up. Forcing through the horrid stench, Murdoc went for the infection treatment section, Russel barely managed to keep up. The drummer was lose on where the other was leading him. Soon enough they were in a back hallway, the smell less prominent.

"Noodle mentioned a back room with vaccines. Wanted to get us a bargaining piece, if the shit is laying around."

"Not a bad idea."

Nodding in agreement the satanist went down the hallway with Russel, peering in through small windows on doors. None of the rooms appeared impressive enough to investigate, but Murdoc figured he wouldn't know which one unless he did. Russel motioned him over a minute later.

"This what you want?"

Murdoc peered into the room. Three glass fridges lay in pieces, antiviral vials shattered and spilled all over.

"Damn. They did a real number on this place. Don't think there's much use in picking up broken glass, may as well resume course," Murdoc deflated, voice tired.

Russel shrugged, the detour was nice a distraction. Both backtracked, rushing through the festering section and back into semi clear air. They scoped out the remaining shops, trying to find a maintenance door.

“I don’t see anything for repairs.”

“There has to be something. It’s an airport, they would’ve needed shit to fix the planes right?”

“Sure,” Murdoc tensed when something moved in his peripheral.

Halting he whipped around to look for whatever he thought he saw, fear coursing through him. Russel paused beside him also trying to see whatever set Murdoc off.

“Did you see that? Somethin’ just moved over there,” Murdoc waved his hand towards the darkened gift shop.

Russel examined the satanist before stepping forward to find anything in the darkness. Before hand he would have excused the bassist for being paranoid. After the Ines and Yvonne incident he decided to take the man’s word at face value. He set the manual on the ground before going further.

“Careful Russ, it could be a zombie.”

Russel ran his eyes over items on the floor for a suitable weapon before settling with a small wooden chair from the nearby cafe. Scooping the furniture up he advanced on the shop, teeth gritting.

“Whatever is in there, human or zombie you better not mess with me man, I’m at wits end here. I’ll start trashing shit, yeah dig?”

Breathing harshly, Russel stopped at the entry to the gift store, chair lifted at the ready. His eyes darted around, adjusting to the dimness. There was nothing. Lowering the chair he let a shaky sigh slip out of him. Turning back around he laughed, a tight sound, and rubbed half his face while looking at the bassist.

“Christ man.”

Murdoc grinned back weakly, “fuck, we’re a pair aren’t we?”

“No more freaky jump scares,” Russel stepped towards Murdoc, “don’t think I can handle this anymore.”

“You and me both, I almost wish the heart attack put me out before shit got bad. Almost.”

The percussionist put aside the chair to grab the book, when he leaned over a thin, pale figure of a woman was standing behind the drummer. Ratty blonde hair covered her face and a stained limp lab coat drooped off her frame. Grin sliding away and blood draining from his face, Murdoc grabbed at the other man. Lightening fast the woman had Russel in a choke hold, the drummer coughed and struggled in her arms, back arched.

She was smaller than the man but the strength she exerted terrified Russel. Murdoc grabbed the hefty manual Russel was unable to grasp and without thinking flung it into the blonde head over Russel’s shoulder. It was a knee-jerk reaction and barely thought out. However it seemed to work and the woman growled letting Russel go to right her mandible. Briefly Murdoc caught the name tag attached to her coat. In bold letters the name, Cynthia Webber was written.

Not stopping to think about what that meant, Murdoc urged Russel, who grabbed the book and then took off with the bassist.

“She— she was movin’ around normally!” Russel gasped.

Glancing over his shoulder, Murdoc gave a frantic yell, pushing Russel to run faster.

“Oh fuck me she’s recovered. Run Russ, run!”

“She’s like ‘D!”

“She can’t be!”

They dodged around a corner and towards the exit. Items clattered behind them and suddenly there were more just like her clambering out of hiding spots, coming to get them. Rushing out the door they closed them, leaning on the glass and metal, panting.

“What do we do? We’ve stumbled across a fun new terror,” Murdoc barked out a harsh laugh.

“We get in the trucks and drive around to the planes. Grab ‘D and Noodle— Flee? I don’t know. Christ I don’t know man.”

Glass shattered and both of them darted for the trucks.

———

The Boeing had been left open at the side so they figured it was worth a check. They searched the cabin to make sure there were no unwanted guests before going to the cockpit. The guitarist set Kraken down on a seat before rummaging through the small sleeping quarters for anything of use, she turned up nothing. 2D sifted through the seats and around them and only found pre-trip check lists. The singer looked at the knobs and screens.

“So you know all this stuff?”

“Sort of? I learned the basics of smaller aircraft, like helicopters. I need a manual to brush up and maybe pass on some rudimentary knowledge to one of you, ‘cause I need a co-pilot.”

2D plopped down into the co-pilot seat. He pretended to flick some switches making sound effects. 2D mocked at grabbing something, Noodle was unsure what so she watched on interested. He cleared his throat attempting and failing to sound stern.

“Attention passengers this is your captain speaking—” he made a static noise and grabbed the yoke, jiggling it, “oh no, seems we hit some turbulence! Please be seated and put seat-belts on! Oh no we’re going down— kzzzt— we’re crashin’— kzzzt—”

Noodle’s nose wrinkled with her huge grin. She plopped down in the captain seat and started to actually flick things. Momentarily startled when the plane started up like an old computer, Noodle and 2D exchanged an elated look.

“We’re in business! Only the third plane in too!”

“Where’s the fuel gauge?”

Noodle leaned forward watching a display, she squinted while reading over the information on the screen.

“Well it’s a fair amount, I think we could make it? I don’t know the full logistics of fuel to flight distance. We should try fueling up and work from there.”

“This is fantastic, Muds and Russ will be glad.”

Grin morphing into a pleased expression, Noodle reached around for the pre-trip check list.

“I’ll go over the deets and check the systems, see if we can’t get out of here within the next couple days.”

2D nodded and rose from the seat. He pointed towards the entry.

“I’ll work on fuel.”

“Awesome.”

The singer ducked out and carefully made his way down the narrow steps to ground. Humming happily to himself he went about figuring out how to fuel a plane since he had no idea. During the course of his exploration of the nearby vehicles, two trucks came hurdling over. 2D stood and watched baffled as the trucks stopped roughly, skidding some in front of him. With alarming speed, Russel got out of the first truck, grabbed some stuff from the back and rushed up into the plane. The satanist hopped out and made straight for 2D.

“W—what’s goin’ on Muds?”

“No time,” Murdoc manhandled the vocalist towards the steps.”

Distantly some strange inhuman screeches were heard. 2D decided it was better not to fight the bassist and went back up into the plane. Once in Murdoc turned, sat and shoved with his legs to get the rolling steps away.

“Baby girl, we need to go.”

“What the hell? You guys didn’t listen, we can’t just take off without doing a full diagnostic check of the plane and fueling it,” Noodle remained in the cockpit while talking.

Murdoc sealed the door with a resounding clank noise.

“Well we have a small issue.”

Standing from the seat to glance through the window, Noodle blinked, “what the hell are those?”

“No idea, but lets not find out. Here,” Russel came in holding the manual out to the guitarist.

Taking the book Noodle stared at it. Russel frowned, brows pinching in worry when she continued to scrutinize the book.

“What’s wrong?”

“Russel this is for an Airbus a380, it literally says that right on the front.”

Murdoc leaned in, “what’s the difference? The cockpit looks similar to the picture.”

“No, no it doesn’t! This is a Boeing 747,” Noodle took a calming breath, “okay, this is fine. Different layouts, similar buttons and shit right?”

“You said you knew how to fly one of these,” Murdoc tried to keep his voice even.

“The cat is on the plane?”

Russel nodded, “she was sleeping on a seat.”

“Which of you is the quickest study?”

The singer was stood behind Murdoc at the end of the narrow path to the cockpit. Awkwardly 2D rubbed his arm and shook his head. Russel rubbed his palm over his head giving Noodle a similar uncomfortable response. All eyes landed on Murdoc. The satanist hunched partly, shaking his head vehemently.

“Oh no. No. I refuse, I fuckin’ hate planes! Damn miracle I’m even on one.”

“Man I watched you pick up a violin and play it, you said you’d never learned one.”

“You learned piano pretty quick too,” 2D chimed in.

“Yeah because once you’ve learned notes playing anything becomes fuckin’ easy! That hardly translates to a damn plane!”

“You built cyborg without prior engineering skills,” Noodle stared the bassist down, tone flat, “and as I recall you have a great working knowledge of sound boards which bare a striking resemblance to this.”

She motioned to the cockpit, all lit up. Murdoc swallowed, a cold sweat building on his face.

“I really hate planes,” his voice was losing the abrasive edge.

“We have no choice. I have no idea if those things down there can get in or wreck anything. Obviously we can’t refuel so we take our chances. We have a decent amount and it’s only a seven hour flight, hopefully, but I need a co-pilot.”

Snatching the manual from her hands, Murdoc made his way to the co-pilot seat, sitting heavily. Opening the book he started to brush through the basics, occasionally scanning around him to place a word to a knob or switch. Noodle sat back in the captain seat and put the headset on.

“I’m warning all of you right now, I’m not sure how this will turn out. We may die.”

“Well lets hope not.”

“Yes,” Noodle went over the pre-trip sheet, flicking a few things and turning dials, “I can do the basic stuff like take off and flight, after make sure you’re ready to assist when we are because from there I don’t know what issues might crop up.”

“Fuck,” Murdoc flipped through the book trying to learn things in the span of however long he had.

“Go buckle up boys, we’re taking off now.”

Russel shuffled out of the cockpit and found Kraken, sitting with her. 2D situated himself beside the drummer, buckling up. Unconsciously 2D started to bite his nails.

Noodle muttered to herself as she got the plane moving, she anxiously kept rechecking things, making sure everything was in order. The satanist fretted next to her, browsing through chapters with haste. Without proper direction from the tower control Noodle constantly leaned up to peer out the window, not really seeing much of anything. The strange zombies were missing from their field of view.

Repositioning the plane along the runway took a small amount of time given there were no other aircraft vehicles blocking the way or coming in. The bassist ran a hand through his thick hair, eyes scanning through the text. A faint twang rang up through the plane from underneath them.

“Here we go,” Noodle bit her lip.

Slipping her fingers over the notches of the handle between them she started to press it forward. The plane gathered speed and the numbers climbed as they made down the runway. Clutching the manual, Murdoc watched in disbelief as the aircraft surprisingly managed to take off; his stomach churned. Noodle kept an eye on monitors and leaned around to turn a dial or flick a switch.

“Put your headset on,” she gestured to it beside the bassist.

Eyeing the headset, Murdoc warily put it on, adjusting the mouth piece. Noodle pointed to the navigational display screen, then to another screen showing other garble. It looked important, but Murdoc honestly didn’t understand what he was looking at.

“That’s fuel and this is altitude,” she jabbed the numbers on the screen, “this is our compass, we want to stay on this heading to reach Europe okay? If I deviate you have to let me know because I’m going to be busy watching everything else. If for some horrid reason I lose consciousness, hopefully not, you’ll have to know this shit to take over.”

“Please don’t do that,” Murdoc ground out.

“This lets you know how level the plane is. Obviously we want to remain as steady as possible.”

Murdoc sighed, tension in his body made the healing wound on his shoulder twinge.

“Obviously. What’s that?”

“Shit, uh- that’s landing gear.”

She fiddled around only to receive an alert there was a malfunction with the landing gear. They hadn’t even made it to proper altitude and already there was an issue. Groaning indignant, Noodle pressed back into the seat, correcting the plane on its ascent. The drag would expend fuel quicker, she didn't mention it to the sweating bassist.

“Murphy’s Law,” Murdoc muttered.

“Murphy’s Law,” Noodle parroted in agreement.

Noodle steadied them when they reached the correct altitude and relaxed. The satanist resumed looking through the book, trying to ascertain details for their disquieting flight home, hopefully enough to make a feeble attempt at piloting.

Chapter Text

Although their start was rocky at best the bulk of the flight passed relatively fast and without many issues other than the malfunctioning landing gear. Noodle commented here and there over the following seven hours about different functions that Murdoc needed to monitor for her. The satanist absorbed the information, knowing damn well it was important to remember. The closer to land they came the more turbulent the air was. Dark storm clouds and violent winds shook the aircraft about. Noodle flicked off autopilot and took control once again, motioning Murdoc to be aware.

“Make an announcement to our passengers,” Noodle grinned, “tell them to be expecting turbulence.”

“Why? What’s the point?”

“Christ, Murdoc have a bit of fun with this, you’re glistening and I can see it from here.”

Murdoc grunted in acknowledgement for his discomfort and sweating. Despite having relaxed a few hours ago the sensation of flying still disrupted his stomach. Snatching the intercom device he pressed the button.

“Attention Doofus and Dimwit, we’re hittin’ turbulence so maybe buckle in and stop wandering okay? Oh, half off on baggies of peanuts, only $59.99 a baggy, real deal.”

Noodle laughed when she heard a muffled shout from 2D saying that wasn’t a deal. Hesitating a moment Murdoc smirked and pressed the button once more.

“Oi Dents you should play the stewardess, got the perfect little arse for it.”

The guitarist cackled at 2D yelling a profanity, clearly embarrassed. Setting the round device back, Murdoc snickered.

“There you go, now you’re getting into the spirit of it.”

“This isn’t horrible,” Murdoc stretched his legs a bit, “a little too cramped for my liking.”

“Could be worse.”

“Don’ jinx it Noodle.”

A voice crackled through over the radio asking them to identify themselves. Eyes widening comically, Noodle rushed to response, explaining in hasty words who they were and what they were planning. At first the person talking back was confused that any plane was coming from North America, considering air traffic from there ceased. Noodle quickly elaborated about the situation both in the Americas and in the cockpit, how she and Murdoc were not certified pilots. She had rudimentary knowledge on flying and well Murdoc had none other than a dated book meant for an entirely different plane. After a few pieces of dialogue from her and the unnamed person it was decided she would come down to a cleared runway. With how close they were, Noodle started to prep for such things, making sure to tell them about the jammed gear, which she assumed wrongly was completely out.

“Tell the guys that things are looking good, that at least the UK is active.”

Murdoc cleared his throat to make another announcement when a horrible sound boomed somewhere outside of them. The plane shook and started to tilt down to the right. Abruptly an alarm beeped and Noodle groaned as she quickly reached around to compensate for the sudden loss of one engine. Murdoc looked at her startled, anxiety filling him again.

“It’s okay Murdoc, these kinda planes can handle losing one engine. I’ve compensated, we’re good.”

The bassist eyed her skeptically. Noodle smiled benignly, not wanting to freak out the already worked up man. She looked away to radio in the change. The air control tower gave her simple directions to fix trajectory.

Murdoc licked his lips and tried to keep his breathing steady.

“Things always work out for us, they have so far, so nothing says it can’t continue that way.”

The moment she finished speaking both yokes dove forward and the plane tilted, nose first. Murdoc gave a startled noise, instinctively grabbing for the yoke to try and pull up. Noodle yanked back on hers and their combined effort brought the aircraft partly up. They wobbled in the air with the change and unfortunately they were losing too much altitude too fast. The satanist watched the numbers continually lower frighteningly fast. Noodle growled pulling back again, finding the weight behind the yoke too hefty for even her.

Noodle reached out and fiddled with unknown things, Murdoc observed her motions baffled still struggling against his yoke. Moments after the plane seemingly steadied into the proper position with whatever Noodle did. Murdoc honestly didn’t want to know at this moment, his heart was pounding. If they could land that would be fantastic in his books.

“See! See? We’re good Murdoc. Nothing stops us.”

A minute or two passed and everything was working itself out, they were on route to the proper landing way and turbulence seemed to fade away. Murdoc took a calming breath. Even with their altitude drop, systems seemed to function within normal parameters, a miracle in its own right.

“Oh, I see the runway, we’re getting closer now, finally. Can’t wait to greet civilization with open arms.”

Murdoc had no witty comeback, too scared if he spoke something bad would occur. Noodle ignored his unease.

“Just think, I can add this to my future resume, piloting,” she was trying to lighten the mood.

She gave a humorous snort at her own comment. In that instant whatever proverbial straw broke the aircrafts back chose that very second to snap. Their second engine blew out and black plumes spewed from it, visible to their greeting party below. Rather uncomfortably the plane started to coast into their destination, descending rapidly. Their destination was laid out with flashing lights and emergency vehicles at either side. In the distance the city was lit with twinkling lights a beautiful sight after so long without electricity.

Murdoc felt an eerie calm sweep over him when the plane glided towards the tarmac. He could hear the blood rattling in his ears, making all the blaring alarms fuzzy. He wondered momentarily if this was what it felt like before dying, this calm almost soft lull. He only remembered it happening once before.

“Oh— Oh shit we’re, okay uh,” Noodle gulped audibly, jiggling her yoke carefully to direct their plane, the weather was surprisingly clear now, “Murdoc—”

She looked to the man, seeing the frozen look of terror on his face and his loose buckle. For a horrifying instant Noodle had a flash of when he came back from the restroom, how he complained at the confining nature of the buckles. The man had forgotten to redo it. Noodle used the remaining seconds before impact to undo herself and fling over the controls to try and buckle the man in, hands scrabbling to snap the pieces together. There was a soft click as arms encircled her body crushingly tight, one around her head and the other around her waist, just as everything slammed horrendously into the ground.

Fuselage broke off from the wings as the plane skid to it’s side, bouncing on the jammed landing gear. Breaking into parts the cabin scattered along the tarmac, leaving a trail of mangled metal hunks, chairs and other foreign debris. The cockpit, snubbed from the initial landing, tumbled to the side only to stop once it collided with part of a wing. When the screeching finally ended the emergency crews swarmed the space, rushing to put out potential fires and holler for survivors.

Onlookers from the indoor portion of the airport watched on in abject horror as crews scrambled to garner control of the situation. Many people filmed from smartphones, murmuring heatedly among themselves, pressed to the glass like it was a zoo with animals on display. Nobody could look away from the utter destruction.

Maybe it was luck or maybe it was the heavy weight almost laying against her, but Noodle found herself mostly unharmed despite all of it. Carefully dislodging herself from under whatever it was she held her head and groaned. Looking at her hand she winced seeing a little too much blood.

“Can’t put this in my resume,” she coughed, feeling a sharp pain in her ribs, “great, broken ribs.”

Laying herself against some smooth metal she blearily frowned, wondering where Murdoc could have gone. With the cockpit completely dislodged from the rest of the plane there was cool evening air rushing in, settling over her. Briefly her mind supplied her with a alarming image of the bassist smeared across the black runway.

“Murdoc?” Fear made her voice tremble while calling for the man.

Noodle propped her head up to glance around. At first it looked like a jumble of cords, panels and other confusing objects. It was moderately dark due to night blanketing the UK. Squinting in the dark she spotted it, a boot, sticking out from behind the copilot seat. Holding her side, Noodle wiggled her way over to have a proper peak. She wish she hadn’t. Murdoc was slumped over into the console, back angled entirely wrong, blood covering the buttons and dials around his face. It appeared the seat belt had snapped in the torrent of movement.

“Murdoc,” Noodle dragged herself closer, hand shaking as it reached out to prod the man as gently as she could, “this isn’t funny. Murdoc c’mon.”

Just when she started to think the man was dead he sucked in a feeble breath and made a small noise, free arm moving. His dark hair covered his one eye which opened to half mass, clouded over with pain. His hand twitched and the bassist’s long fingers gave a spasm.

“Don’t move, don’t move! You’re badly hurt. You can move your arm s—so that’s a good sign right?” Noodle smiled weakly as she grasped his twitching hand, “you don’t get to scare me again Murdoc. You already died once, don’t fucking do it again. Just hold on okay? Hold on dad. Don’t fucking die on me.”

Noodle squeezed the hand like it was her life on the line, eyes blurring rapidly.

“Don’t you dare die. S—stuart and—and Russ would be so sad. I’ll be so sad.”

The satanist gave her hand a pathetic squeeze before his labored breathing became stuttered. Noodle began to openly bawl while clinging to his hand, pleading under her breath for him to just hold on. People in heavy uniform stumbled upon them and in the following hours they were carted off to the closest medical facility, personnel stabilizing them as well as one could in a moving vehicle. It was one of the longest nights for Noodle since joining her little makeshift family.

———

“You can’t take him! let him go!”

“Ma’am he’s infected, we cannot let him roam about.”

Two armed military officials held a physically ailed Noodle back while 2D was carted away on a stretcher, strapped down and clearly unconscious if the IV meant anything.

Noodle clawed out at the stretcher holding 2D. It had only been six hours since they were brought in and the guitarist cursed the hospital and military. They were all tested during their journey to the facility.

“He’s my brother! You can’t take him away from me! You’re taking my whole family away!”

She didn’t care how hysterical she sounded. Russel was under observation and Murdoc was still in surgery, practically on death’s door. They couldn’t take away her last family member, 2D wasn’t even capable of defending himself like he was. The man holding her arm, careful not to jar her bandaged torso, tugged her back further.

“Miss he’s infected. The minute he wakes he’ll attack people.”

“He won’t! Toochi wake up! He won’t hurt anyone!”

A couple medical staff approached with a sedative and instantly Noodle screeched. Panic set in and she punched one of the men in the throat. With her sudden advantage she broke free and ran after the people with 2D, arm cupped around her broken ribs. Someone shouted behind her. Noodle nearly tripped going around a corner, chasing down the personnel. She was not losing anybody today, she refused. With a fierce yell she threw herself, shoulder first, into one of the staff, barrelling them to the ground and nearly joining them. She grabbed the stretcher, righting herself and reached across to tear the IV out of 2D’s arm and yank off restraints.

The two military persons were back on her in minutes and Noodle kicked, fighting them to no avail. She was lifted from the ground, a small attempt to get leverage over her flailing. A doctor hurried over with the needle.

“Get it away! Get it away! TOOCHI!”

She was back in the meat packing facility, they were going to lock her up. Noodle struggled harder, kicking the doctor in the face. Said doctor held their face and looked for the needle. They were going to freeze her and eat her. 2D started to rouse, virus working away the medication rapidly.

“Get that IV back in him, he’s waking up!”

“Christ she’s unruly, get the sedative!”

“Toochi! Toochi kill them!”

Frenzied by her panic, Noodle flailed so much the man holding her had a hard time restraining her enough to allow for the doctor to get close again. With a startling roar, 2D whipped himself off the hospital stretcher only clothed in a gown and his underpants. Shoving the bed with force he knocked it back into two persons before jumping at the military man holding Noodle.

“Let her go!” He got his arm around the man’s neck, choking him, “let her go now or I’ll break your neck!”

Everyone was still in fear, bewildered that a man deemed infected was upright and talking. Originally 2D had been brought in like the others for treatment, but upon testing him they kept him under. Slowly the man lowered the squirming Noodle and raised his arms defensively.

“Where’re Russ and Muds?”

Noodle coughed and stumbled around to hold onto 2D’s side, eyes wet. She trembled against the man. 2D finally let the man go, pushing him hard into the other stunned people so he could hug her close.

“What’s wrong luv, where are they? Are you ‘urt? Did they do it? I’ll kill them,” 2D grit his teeth and glared at the medical and military people watching them.

“Russ is under observation and Murdoc is in surgery,” Noodle gasped trying to calm herself while holding close to the taller man, “w—we’re at the hospital. They tried to sedate me and take you away.”

“Y—you can talk!”

“Of course I can talk.”

He felt a little ridiculous in his Y fronts and a thin gown. Everyone stood with bated breath, waiting for 2D to make the next move. Eyes darting to the two men with weapons then the doctors, he calculated how to get out of this mess without making an actual mess.

“Noodle, luv, jus’ stay behind me.”

As he spoke he nudged her. Noodle shifted around 2D till he was towering in front of her. He shielded her and maneuvered them around to the stretcher. Both military men started to pull their guns.

“Make another move and I’ll kill her,” 2D grabbed one of the nurses over, putting her into a headlock, “shoot and I’ll bite her. The kinda virus I ‘ave is special, I don’ know the repercussions of infecting someone.”

Guns were lowered, but not dropped. 2D urged the Nurse with him while Noodle held the back of his gown, staying behind him. With no warning the singer kicked the stretcher at the two armed men, momentarily disarming them. Nearly throwing the nurse into the fray of doctors and personnel 2D turned and grabbed up Noodle, running down the hallway. Noodle clung to his shoulders, fingers digging into his skin. He hid them in a dark room once far enough into the hospital.

“Toochi what are we going to do? They have Murdoc and Russel,” Noodle whispered, aware there were people sleeping in the room, patients.

Briefly she wondered if maybe they were overreacting. 2D cautiously wandered through the dark to the little closets near each bed.

“We’re going to get dressed and bust them out.”

“Murdoc is in surgery.”

“Okay, we’ll dress then,” 2D dug someone’s clothing out and started to dress.

The vocalist grabbed some elderly woman’s clothing and helped the guitarist into them. For a beat there was guilt at basically robbing sleeping people. It was fleeting. Noodle stepped out first closely followed by 2D who hid his hair under a hood. They peered around and when deemed safe enough proceeded down the hallway.

“We need to find where Russ and Muds are or where they’ll be.”

“Toochi, Maybe we should leave, it might be safer if we get outta here before they find us. Russel and Murdoc aren’t infected and— and as much as I want to be here for them, you’re at risk,” Noodle turned to face 2D, glancing up at him.

“We can’t jus’ leave them. Again.”

“They’re being tended to by medical professionals. I’ve been treated and I can assume you’re healed. We would make matters worse by trying to take them.”

The singer sighed, “you’re probably right. I might have a place for us to stay if we’re where I think we are.”

Noodle dipped her head solemnly, distraught at the prospect of leaving the other two, this time fully intentionally. There was nothing for it seeing as both of them were laid up. With silent, resolute nods 2D and Noodle slipped out into early morning pedestrian traffic. Noodle paused to glance back at the hospital, heart aching.

“We’ll be back for you two, just hold on,” Noodle went with 2D when he motioned for her.

Neither were prepared for the onslaught of people, just going about their day like half the world hadn’t fallen. No one batted an eye at their ridiculous clothing that clearly belonged on older people. With 2D’s somewhat fast healing there were no obvious markings on him showing he had been injured hours prior. Noodle was thankful her hair covered the gash on her head and broken ribs weren’t visible.

Despite the normalcy both of them were skittish and avoided human interaction at all costs while making their way through the city. They had no money, no shelter and no transportation. It was like surviving on the move all over again, except this time they couldn’t just steal a car or break into a home.

———

Murdoc came too an indeterminate amount of time later, vision muddied in one eye. Blinking slowly he glanced down to his own chest which he saw rising and falling almost mechanically. Hazily he looked over the room he was in, there was medical equipment, monitors beeping and a respirator machine to the side keeping steady time. Some confusion filled his eyes when he spied plastic beyond the bed and beeping devices. Trying to work his mouth around the breathing tube all that escaped him were muffled, near silent noises. Red flags waved in his head, this situation was weird and wrong, he wasn’t infected.

Some people dressed in bio-hazard uniforms entered the plastic case his bed was sealed in. Murdoc jerked, unsettled by their appearance, a jingle of metal against metal catching his ears. He tugged his hand weakly and realized it was cuffed to the railing of the bed. One of the persons peered at him intently.

“Welcome to the world of the living Mr. Niccals, you gave us all a scare during your surgery. Weren’t sure you’d make it,” it was a woman, “I hope you’re mostly comfortable, the cocktail of drugs I prescribed should alleviate any discomfort you would be feeling after your extensive injuries.”

Murdoc being unable to talk, laid there, chest rising and falling continually without fail.

“I’m sure you’re very confused, which I assure you is a side effect of the drugs. You’re in the hospital, in London. You were airlifted here approximately two months ago,” she gestured with a hand soothingly when Murdoc blinked astonished, eyes wide, “we had to keep you under a medically induced coma. The head trauma you sustained was rather terrible and the swelling was continual, thankfully it’s toned down finally.”

Murdoc jangled his handcuff. The doctor hummed before she answered.

“That was for if you were like your friend.”

He didn’t understand what she meant. It showed on his face, enough so that she resumed talking.

“Your blue-haired friend is infected and he’s— how should I put it? He’s unique. He breaks all rules of how the virus effects individuals.”

She was talking about the singer. Abruptly he panicked wondering what horrible experiments they were conducting on the man.

“Under normal circumstances we would have put him down, to put it nicely, however he ran off with your lady friend. The alterations to the virus have manifested in such a strange way, he’s capable of maintaining his self, something we have never encountered in our experiments.”

Murdoc felt nausea bubble up the more she spoke. He shook his wrist, so slight due to lack of strength. The metal rattled again and she paused, seemingly coming back to herself.

“My apologies, I was rambling there. Please don’t mistake my curiosity for cruelty Mr. Niccals, had I known before hand we never would have had your friend carted off. We would have spoken to him and most likely quarantined him similar to you. That brings me back to the original dialogue I started,” she cleared her throat and turned to grab some utensils from a rolling table.

Murdoc couldn’t turn his head with the brace snugly clasped around his neck, something he just noticed now. The female doctor fiddled with a couple needles and vials; he felt a cold sweat build on his person as the sight of them. The other person in the enclosed room was busy monitoring some screens he could only assume he was hooked up too.

“I realize you’ve most likely been through a hell of a lot if the healing injuries are any indication, so I’m going to explain everything as best I can while you’re aware. My name is Harriet and I was the one who pieced you back together. When you and your friends arrived we tested all five of you for the virus as per protocol and found two infected individuals.”

Harriet turned back to him holding up a vial of blood, he wasn’t sure whose. He was hyper aware of her statement, mind lethargically catching up and rolling the information around.

“Maybe it’s not clear Mr. Niccals but you’re the second infected individual. Had we not been looking properly we might have missed it,” she set the vial aside, “I can’t begin to imagine what occurred over there but whatever it was or however you contracted it the viral structure and composition is wildly different. Both of you are infected on different levels. It's got pieces of the original virus in there and some new mutations from your blue haired friend, but it's uniquely suited to you. For all we know you could all be infected, it’s just that varied.”

Murdoc mulled over her words. He had no way of explaining what happened, nor did he really want too. Reliving the events would be asking a lot. Plus given his current state it wasn't actually a possibility for him.

“Mainly what I’m saying here is you and your friend are a threat to normal people and unfortunately he’s missing. I realize you can't tell me where he might have gone. Also have no idea how to explain this but I may as well say it. During your crash your spinal cord compacted together and while I've done everything I can, I'm not entirely sure you'll be walking this off. That being said,” Harriet paused with a smile hidden behind a plastic view screen, "you're healing extremely fast for someone in your position."

Some part of him cursed the vocalist and Noodle for leaving him, not quite grasping the extent of his injuries. They had left him and Russel to the mercy of strangers. Logically, though his mind feebly offered up this thought, they were right in escaping. Sure Dr. Harriet could say she meant no harm, but really that could be a lie. Unintentionally he zoned out and missed half of whatever she was describing.

“— so I’m going to keep you two under watch and meanwhile you just relax and heal. We’re working on finding a vaccine and another bonus you've just provided us with a missing piece, we could be finished in as little as five months! Oh shoot, I’m rambling again. Sorry for keeping you, I’m sure you’re still pretty tired despite ‘sleeping’ for a while. By the time you wake again you might be more aware.”

Harriet moved to one of his many tubes and started up a drip of clear fluid. He worried when he would wake again, concerned it could be months later. He wanted to see someone he recognized, Stuart, Noodle, Russel or even the damn cat. He only trusted them, they never lied to him. Faintly he blearily made out Harriet’s friendly smile behind her bio-hazard helmet. He never got the chance to get more information. Heart rate slowing his lopsided vision blurred until he drifted back under.

Unbeknownst to Murdoc or really any one of them, Harriet and her partner put sole energy into studying the samples they had from 2D. The mutations in the singer’s virus were so far gone it was a wonder the man had not become a walking corpse, at least in their minds. They also poured hours that turned into weeks and months towards the vaccination, a cure. It was coming along swimmingly.

———

As time continued on, Noodle and 2D remained at large while the bassist and drummer recovered. With the potential threat of 2D’s condition being a concern, bulletins were passed out with old band images of him and Noodle. By the six month mark they were capable of hiding in plain sight, avoiding military search parties that swept the city constantly.

Noodle tugged her toque down slightly, bright orange hair poking out from under the black material. The weather was pleasant despite the cool air of spring lingering. Both of them hovered near a parking meter, watching two military officials walk down the street opposite of them. 2D could see the small papers in their hands, mostly likely old images of him and Noodle from before all this. Noodle tugged at her bright pink coat awkwardly.

“You keep pickin’ at your clothes it’ll look suspicious,” 2D flicked his smoke away then blew at his brown hair to get it out of his face.

The singer grunted and pushed the hair back some only to have it sweep back into his face. He gave it up as a lost cause and nudged his fake glasses up his nose.

“Do you think it’s been long enough? Murdoc was in bad shape.”

2D shrugged slightly before he grabbed Noodle’s hand and tugged her along the opposing way to the men.

“I hope so, cause at this point I don’t know how much longer we can hide here. They’re startin’ to notice squatters going missin’,” 2D lead the guitarist by hand through a group of people, both of them appearing no different than anyone else in their weather appropriate clothes.

Although 2D found no difference in temperature he chose to dress appropriately, less attention that way. It had taken months to procure a sort of base of operations outside the city, tucked away with food and transportation. Said vehicle was nicely parked two city blocks from the hospital of which they were approaching by foot.

“I’m sorry Toochi, I didn’t even know I wa—”

“Noodle, it’s alright. Neither of us knew. You can’t help it and I completely understand. Honestly I should considerin’,” 2D gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.

Wetting her dry lips Noodle nodded quietly, scurrying along with the taller man. The medical facility sat across the street from them moments later and she was dreading what would follow next. 2D took a deep breath, cold hand slipping from an equally cold yet smaller hand.

“You know what to do,” he glanced down at her, face set in a determined frown.

Planning had been on the back burner after an unforeseeable issue cropped up. However with things back on schedule Noodle steeled her nerves and turned, crossing the street alone, doing so when traffic was moving. When a car flung her to the ground she barely had a chance to make a noise, it had the desired effect as everyone halted. 2D winced but restrained from rushing to the scene, wandering back from the action as people swarmed.

Within minutes of the incident, Noodle was rushed into the hospital across the way. 2D would just have to wait for her signal outside and hope she didn’t get caught.

*

*

*

Her smartphone beeped softly exactly at twelve am sharp, alerting her to complete awareness. Shutting the alarm off, Noodle sat up from the hospital bed, shoving the blanket off and hopping down onto bare feet. She removed anything hooked up and quickly silenced the monitors so nobody inspected. Rolling her shoulders and cracking her back she grimaced at the tightness at the hip area. She expected it after being hit by a car. No worse for wear she hastily redressed and ripped her hospital tag off.

Quietly the guitarist sneaked her way along through the hospital, dodging staff and hiding in small areas. She approached the nurse station where a lonely lady sat fiddling on a phone. Noodle looked around for some sort of distraction and decided last moment to duck into a room. Searching for an ailed person in darkness, she disconnected their devices, waiting for it to beep loudly before vacating and slipping behind some hospital equipment. Waiting, Noodle watched for the nurse to notice. A minute passed and the guitarist rolled her eyes and walked over.

“Excuse me,” Noodle leaned over the counter, “there’s a guy down the hall jerking around and I can hear something beeping. Isn’t that serious?”

The nurse looked up abruptly, “what? Which room?”

“Like two or three rooms down, I noticed it while walking by.”

“Shit,” the woman pocketed her phone and rushed out of the station. No questions asked about who Noodle was or why she was there so late.

The instant she left, Noodle came around and woke the computer up. To be honest she barely had a clue how to search people, but she would take her chances. Typing fast, Noodle glanced through the list looking for a room number and name. Ears acutely tuned to extra noises, she leapt from the station when footfalls could be heard. Disappearing before the nurse returned, Noodle caught the elevator down a floor, heart rate increased with her close call.

Stepping off she hurried through hallways looking for the appropriate section, thankful she forwent wearing the pink coat. When the opportunity presented itself, Noodle snatched up some medical personnel clothes and used it to avoid confrontation. Palms sweaty, she kept wiping them on her slacks while wandering through a particular area, eyes reading labels urgently. When she caught sight of the correct one she looked back and forth, cautiously, then proceeded.

Momentarily it felt like being in the airport, slinking around under the guise of suspicion. Shaking her head, Noodle pushed those memories away, she had a plan to keep in motion. Walking past areas she gave pause at noticing a clipboard hanging from a door with one word in bold letters.

“Cat?”

Hesitating in the vacant hallway, Noodle contemplated inspecting. She wasn’t sure how much time she had but the chance may pass her by. Trying the handle she grunted when it didn’t open. Again glancing around, Noodle squeezed tighter and forced the handle open, pushing the door ajar to look in. She was awestruck seeing none other than Kraken, sleeping on a hospital bed curled up in a black ball. Striding over Noodle scooped her up and held the animal close, face nuzzling into the soft fur. Kraken mewed in confusion.

“Kraken you are one stupidly lucky cat, I can’t believe you’re okay,” the guitarist grinned and kissed the furry fiend on the head much to Krakens displeasure, “you’re coming with me. You have to be a lucky charm.”

Stuffing Kraken into one arm, Noodle left the room and continued her search.

“Lucky furball, I swear. Toochi will be happy to see you, all the guys will be.”

Noodle halted further down the hallway at another door. Setting Kraken down, Noodle fiddled the handle, thankful to see it was unlocked. Slipping into the room with the cat she was semi-surprised to find a large plastic encased section with a bed and machines within its confines. Anxiously, Noodle moved around the sealed area, looking in at the single occupant.

“Russel? Russ it’s me, Noodle,” she pressed up against the plastic, “are you aware?”

The form didn’t rouse so Noodle moved over to the entry and undid it, stepping into the small space between where another thick vinyl door sat. Throwing concern aside she unsealed that as well and fully stepped into the space, moving around to Russel. Nudging the man she jolted when Russel turned over fast, grabbing her wrist tight.

“Russ it’s me,” Noodle’s voice wavered.

Blank eyes fixing to her the drummer relaxed his grip and sat up properly. He looked bewildered yet elated, eyes lighting up at seeing her.

“Noodle, baby-girl damn, sorry I thought you was another damn doctor,” he held his arms open, “c’mere. I haven’t seen you in— too long, missed you. Though I don’t remember you having orange hair.”

Laughing softly Noodle leaned into him, hugging tight to the bigger man. She buried her face into Russel’s chest, trying to refrain from crying. The drummer petted at her hair, holding her close, noticing their furry companion on the floor. Leaning back some he pointed to Kraken.

“You’re kidding me, she survived?”

Noodle wiped her face and grinned while grabbing up Kraken, “she did, should rename her Lucky for how fucking lucky she is. Say hi to Russel Kraken.”

Russel took the feline from Noodle and cuddled the cat close despite the protesting noises.

“How did you even get in here? This area is sanctioned off for people potentially carrying highly infectious diseases.”

“Uh— well, I lied to get in. Toochi and I have been planning for a while. Which brings me back to my original thoughts, I’m so sorry we left you and Murdoc here, we had too. You two were injured, worse than me and him.”

Noodle looked down, face contorting with guilt. Russel shook his head.

“Don’t do that baby-girl, I’m not mad. If anything I’m thankful you came to bust me out,” Russel snorted humorlessly, “it’s been hell here. They constantly do tests, promise they won’t keep us, yet they do. I haven’t seen Muds in months so I got no idea what he’s like.”

“Bust you out I can, can you walk?”

Russel nodded in confirmation and slid off the bed. Noodle helped him disentangle from cords. Removing them set off the monitors so Noodle quickly shut them down like she did hers. The drummer kept Kraken in his arms and suddenly they were exiting the room and carrying on. Russel wobbled occasionally, legs a bit weak from lack of walking. Noodle noticed the man had put on a healthy amount of weight again, looking less sallow from what she remembered.

“They kept me well fed, but there wasn’t much in the way of moving around other than that confined space. Felt like I’d lose my mind.”

“I’m sorry we took so long,” Noodle bit her lower lip, worrying it.

“I get it, it’s fine. You’re here now. No more saying sorry, 'kay?”

"Okay."

Noodle kept an eye out for Murdoc's room.

“Toochi and I were being searched for and we had no where to go, we left and set up a safe place for us. Somewhere outside the city limits. Military did show up at our place a few times looking for us, but well…”

Noodle motioned to her hair. Russel nodded quietly in understanding.

“Hows ‘D anyways? It’s been months, can’t be easy keeping from eating people?”

Noodle paused beside the room Murdoc was in and rocked on her feet, awkward expression filling her face. Brow rising, Russel tilted his head at her slightly unnerved.

“There’s been a new development,” the guitarist fiddled with the doctor coat she had on, she intended on continuing when there were voices.

Startled, both of them rushed into the room, closing the door softly. Russel backed up from the entry and moved to the far side of the rather large room, out of immediate sight. Noodle stood next to him and both of them held their breath, waiting anxiously for the people to pass. Faintly the voices carried away as they left. Both of them exhaled, muscles relaxing.

“What development?”

Russel and Noodle jolted and whipped around, Kraken mewled startled by the jerky motion. Murdoc leaned against the hard plastic cage around his bed, the material was clear like glass but sturdier. There was air being filtered in and out by a machine, sealing the man completely within. He angled his face to look over his shoulder at them. Murdoc’s hair was short and wavy, stopping short of his eyebrows. There was a long grey scar running along his entire back that was visible with his hospital gown parting behind him.

“Murdoc you’re okay!”

The satanist sneered, keeping his face tilted to the side.

“Yeah. Okay.”

Noodle hastily dug out her phone, “you’re up and moving around, that’s definitely an improvement in my books.”

Neither bassist or guitarist examined the gambit of emotions twisting in their guts at finally being reunited after the crash. Noodle opened a new message on the phone, looking down instead of at Murdoc. Guilt roiled in her gut, acidic and horrible; she should have come sooner or tried harder.

“It's been a while.”

“I know, I’m sorry. You were badly hurt,” Noodle mumbled, “I didn’t want to leave but they were gonna kill Toochi. One thing lead to another and well we fled.”

Now the guilt was burning her insides, eating away at her from the inside. She needed to keep it together just a little longer, until they were safely out.

Murdoc hesitated, “so, Stuart is alright? You too?”

“Yes. He and I haven't stopped planning this thing for a moment.”

Pointing to the double ended entry of the plastic cage, Murdoc walked over to it on his side. Something was different about the satanist, he behaved calmly. His gestures were lacking enthusiasm. Noodle hoped it was a temporary thing that changed once out.

“You got the key card?”

Clicking in a text message, Noodle examined the door.

“Better.”

Noodle grasped the scanner and ripped the card reader out entirely, plastic fragments fell all over. Russel gaped in stunned silence. Murdoc regarded Noodle with trepidation, finally facing her. There were three major, yet jagged looking, ash colored lines running from Murdoc’s eye. Each one went out along the right side of his face to his ear, temple and into the dark hair line. Noodle stared in awe at the satanist’s right eye which was pitch black with a bright blue iris, nearly neon in colour.

“You’re infected?”

“So are you,” Noodle pushed the doors open to look at the satanist face to face, head leaning in close, “what the hell happened to your eye.”

Russel poked around to have a clear look. Murdoc covered his bad eye with a hand, grumbling, only realizing now they had seen it. Noodle and Russel gawked at the bassist.

“Take a fuckin’ picture. Can we get outta here already?”

“Yes okay. Also clothing,” Noodle motioned to Murdoc’s gown, “have you got any?”

“No. Obviously. Don’t you think I would have dressed had I known!” Murdoc motioned angrily to his own body.

Noodle relaxed, that was definitely the old Murdoc talking. Sarcastic wit stinging like always.

“Glad to see your snarky attitude didn’t take damage,” Noodle urged Murdoc out of the enclosure.

Noodle peeped out from the room, gauging whether it was safe to proceed. The hallways reminded her too much of the facility and with caution she stepped out, gesturing the two men after her.

“Why does your eye look like that? Is it part of the infection?”

An aggravated sigh met Noodle’s probing questions so the guitarist dropped it, momentarily. Noodle nabbed a couple sets of scrubs for the men to change into, which barely helped but was all they had. Sneaking out of a busy hospital was more complicated than escaping a meat packaging facility. Noodle chucked her stolen lab coat and quietly led Russel and Murdoc back the way she came, direly hoping nobody stopped them.

Occasionally Murdoc cocked his head around or pretended to scrutinize stains on the scrubs to steer clear of others noticing his eye. When they rode the elevator to the main floor, for the road level exit, Noodle snagged Murdoc’s borrowed scrubs by the hem of the shirt. She squeezed the material tightly, a silent show of how happy she was the man was marginally okay. The satanist patted her hand softly as the doors slid open.

Awkwardly leaving the metal box they made a straight path for the automatic doors at the general entrance. Dr. Harriet spied them upon heading in for an early shift. Her and Murdoc made eye contact and she instantly whipped around. Murdoc shoved at Russel and Noodle.

“Faster,” he snapped, “go faster.”

Speed walking out of the moderately busy hospital into the drop off zone, Noodle tried to spot the get away vehicle. Jabbing her index finger in the direction of a green van she rushed towards it. Behind them Dr. Harriet came out hollering.

“Don’t do this! You’re all a threat!”

Noodle yanked open the sliding door on the passenger side when she was close enough, other hand making a sweeping motion.

“Get in!”

Murdoc hesitated near the van, looking back to Harriet waving frantically at them. Noodle pushed the satanist into the automobile and shoved the door shut. Within minutes 2D drove them out of the parking lot just as nearby military trucks came into the area for a routine check in. Gripping the steering wheel the singer casually passed them, covertly avoiding looking towards the drivers. In the mirror 2D saw Harriet practically throwing herself into directing the military back towards them, thankfully none of them clued in.

Noodle slumped into the seat and sighed heavily, “what a horrible night. Too many noises and too many people.”

Running a hand through her bright hair she shimmied up in her seat, looking around at the other two and Kraken.

“You two okay? I mean as okay as one can be after all the harrowing shit we’ve been through?”

Russel shrugged, considerably quiet while comforting the cat.

“We gonna talk about how you two are infected? When did that happen? Also what the hell is wrong with your eye Murdoc, that’s what that woman looked like.”

Noodle faced forward, “maybe we should wait till we get home?”

“Nah, I think we should discuss this now.”

“Stuart got us infected,” Murdoc crossed his arms, “not intentionally. You’re infected too Russel.”

“What? When?”

The drummer looked between 2D’s eyes in the mirror and Murdoc. Suddenly and strangely uncomfortable, Murdoc cleared his throat.

“Er—”

“We ‘ad sex,” 2D blurted, “multiple times.”

Murdoc rubbed his face exasperated, “well yes we did, but it was mostly from swappin’ spit,” the satanist sighed as he continued, “Dr. Harriet, that bird gesturing at us, said I had a different strain. Apparently it mutates while bringing other trademarks of the original strain.”

“So your eye?”

“When Dents heals the area is black after, yeah? My eye and face got smashed up, thus the black eye. Also you two got it from me,” Murdoc shrugged, nonchalant.

“I assumed Toochi gave it to me.”

“No, you and Russ shared the wine with me.”

“Damnit we did,” Russel groused.

“‘M sorry, this is my fault. If Muds had’a just let me die none of this would be happening.”

“Shut up Dents,” Murdoc kicked the back of the singer’s chair hard.

“Owe!”

“Don’t fuckin’ do that woe is me crap. We’re all alive, we’re back in society and somehow you two have managed without causing the fall of civilization," Murdoc sniffed, trying to act indifferent.

Adding as an afterthought, Murdoc mumbled quietly, "plus what would I do if I let you die?”

2D caught sight of Murdoc's hair in the mirror. He would need to talk properly with the man once home.

“We usually bury the bodies after consumption. Less chance of problems”

“Awe hell I don’t wanna be eating people, man.”

“We don’t need too Russ,” Murdoc threw his hands up, “you and me obviously don’t have issues with hunger like Dents and apparently Noodle.”

Noodle gave a quick nod in confirmation to the statement. 2D chewed his lip anxiously.

“Didn’t you three get stuck at the cannibal camp for weeks?”

“Yeah…”

“So how long ‘ave you two been up and aware?”

Russel hardly hesitated, "months. I've never noticed a hunger."

Murdoc cupped his face muttering to himself, "agh I’ve only been awake for three days. Fuck!”

“Does this mean you three are gonna be eating people now? How the hell are we suppose to make that work?”

“Uh— that is, I have control over myself now,” 2D rambled, “Noodle is difficult. We tag team, usually squatters and single people with no family— oh god we sound like serial killers.”

“People should get big dogs or something,” Noodle added noncommittally.

Murdoc groaned loudly and covered his face, “I thought it was just a fuckin’ bad eye I’d have to deal with! Now I have to add cannibalism— I’m not eating people!”

“Should change our name to Zombiez,” Russel commented.

2D laughed almost explosively, car swerving slightly. He fixed the car while tapering off. Murdoc squinted irritably at the singer then drummer. The guitarist giggled along with the vocalist.

“This isn’t fuckin’ funny.”

“Well it kinda is,” Russel started to grin, “what happened to living in the moment? At this point we’re basically the walking dead, Gorillaz style. May as well enjoy this ride until the government or military catch up to us.”

“Satan, I cannot believe this shit is occurring right now.”

“Ooh how about The Undead, think anyone has that name?”

“Noodle do not encourage this garbage!”

Somehow it was like no time had passed between them from the crash till now. They all dissolved into friendly bickering while 2D took an exit towards the home him and Noodle purchased. The area was small with a couple homes spread around a little town center. It was located far enough outside the main city areas that they weren’t bothered much. The less excitable the home the less attention. When the van parked in the driveway of a less than opulent home, both drummer and satanist leaned forward to stare at the place. Noodle huffed as she exited the vehicle, sliding the back door open.

“It’s not that bad, you should see inside. I think you two will like it.”

“I’ll take your word for it baby-girl,” Russel stood next to her, Kraken still securely in his arms.

Murdoc slid out next and eyed the shabby building bottom to top. The yard was designed with little concept of attractive landscaping in mind. Paint was peeling off the brown door and the roof seemed to be missing shingles. The satanist started when 2D came to his side, smiling warmly and barely hiding unbidden excitement at seeing Murdoc. Raising a brow, Murdoc held his palm out to the singer, not at all surprised when 2D nearly scooped him up into a tight embrace.

“Shit taste in houses you two, sorely disappointed,” Murdoc hugged the vocalist back, struggling to hold in his own delight at having armfuls of 2D.

Noodle snorted while blowing some orange hair out of her face. Nodding her head she lead the drummer inside.

“C’mon 2D, we shouldn’t hover outside, we are wanted bio-hazards after all.”

Murdoc was disconcerted at the sight of brown hair instead of blue. He didn’t necessarily hate the color, more he was use to and enjoyed blue. It was one of his preferred colors. 2D, if possible, held Murdoc tighter trying desperately to meld them together.

“I promised nothin’ bad would happen to you and— and it did. I failed you,” 2D leaned out to look at the bassist, eyes watery, “I can’t seem too— eh… what’s up with your eye?”

“You just noticed?”

“I was concentratin’ on the road. It’s so—”

“Disgusting, I know. Thinkin’ of getting an eye-patch.”

2D took Murdoc’s face in his hands, watching the shorter man uncomfortably close. Murdoc shrunk away from the intense scrutiny.

“Alright enough of that.”

“You’re gorgeous.”

“2D c’mon, I look like some fuckin’ eldritch horror in the making.”

“I love you.”

Abruptly shut up, the satanist felt heat in his face. 2D smiled, thumbs smoothing along the reddened cheeks. Surprisingly maintaining eye contact, Murdoc took 2D’s waist to bring the man in close once more.

“Love you too, idiot,” he kept his voice low, reveling at the way 2D’s face lit up, “now can we go inside?”

“Oh— yeah, course.”

———

Establishing a life among civilized people never took and the four of them soon discovered that keeping a low profile worked better. So use to constant danger and potential threats around every corner, most time was spent hiding away, safe from anything. Balancing a schedule for ‘feeding’ slowly took shape. Russel found he didn’t need to eat to keep aware, something Murdoc envied. It became a monthly routine to take a quick car ride into the city for one of the three. Such an excursion was planned in advance to avoid military conflict as they were still effectively at large.

Most times they frequented dirty little bars or pubs in dank locations, keeping appearances by coming off as good friends out for a drink. Nobody seemed to recognize them and their momentary fame faded to old news. Although they weren’t out making music for the public anymore they kept up with practicing at home, finding a common place to bond. Sometimes discussions about the things they encountered were broached, but most often nobody wanted to talk about their nightmares.

Tonight in particular they were comfortably sat around a small booth table, hazy atmosphere surrounding the bar. Russel nursed a bottle of beer, glancing off and on at a television set sitting above the bar across from them, partially intrigued by current events. Noodle grinned while flicking some fruity beverage at 2D, content to rile the man up.

“Quit it,” 2D huffed and lightly tossed some ice flakes at the guitarist, “brat.”

This earned the vocalist a snort from Noodle, she sipped on the brightly colored beverage, underwhelmed by 2D’s response.

Murdoc rolled his mismatched eyes hidden behind sunglasses. He was seated beside the taller man with an arm securely around 2D’s thin waist. The place was moderately full, people filling the background with chatter. Everything felt bland, almost menial yet safe. Things were normal if they ignored their oddly striking position, hiding in public areas while using flimsy disguises. If he was honest, Murdoc still vehemently hated 2D’s use of brown hair dye. He missed the natural azure color.

Russel looked to a man sitting alone at the bar rising and heading to the back hall where the washrooms sat. The drummer nodded his head minutely. 2D sighed, it was his turn tonight. He wasn’t feeling too hungry, however it was important to keep from going into a state. Kissing the bassist on the cheek before he vacated their table, 2D mentally pep talked while trailing after the stranger.

With the singer gone Noodle leaned forward.

“You two were insanely loud last night.”

“Were we? I hardly noticed,” Murdoc ran his finger around the rim of his cup of water.

Although the temptation to drink was still present, Murdoc oddly found comfort just having a glass of water nearby. Wasn’t the same by taste, but the sensation of drinking was fulfilled well enough.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Noodle you don’t sleep, none of us do.”

“Okay well I was meditating.”

“Since when?”

“All I’m asking is for some consideration, we live in a dinky house and the walls are thin. I don’t wanna hear you two getting freaky.”

“Buy some ear plugs?” Murdoc rested his face on a closed fist.

Russel nudged the bassist.

“Is that us on the TV?”

Noodle continued to drink while Murdoc looked to the television set. The channel was on some news broadcast where dated photos of them were being displayed while some woman spoke lines of dialogue. Russel finished his beer and set it down, peering around. Nobody seemed to notice except for a couple looking at them intently through the smokey room.

“Should we leave?”

“Dents isn’t back yet, we can’t just skip out on him.”

“They’re talking to the bartender, Muds I think we need to leave.”

“Fuck,” Murdoc pushed his cup away and scooted out of the booth.

Noodle sucked back her drink before joining Russel and Murdoc. The drummer tossed a couple pounds on the table before hastily leaving the vicinity. The pair of people watched them leave while the bartender dialed up to give a tip. The three of them shuffled around to the alleyway, narrow and dark beside the bar. Murdoc removed the sunglasses to settle them on his head. Red and blue eyes squinted into the dimness and sighed.

“I guess I’m gettin’ him.”

Zombie or not he hated blood and guts. The satanist headed down the space, getting closer to an all too familiar noise deep within.

“Oi, Stuart, we need to take off. Quit chompin’ down on the poor sod.”

2D cocked his head over to Murdoc, who stopped a meter away cringing.

“I haven’t finished though.”

Murdoc grit his teeth, mildly grossed out as he came forward, reaching down to grasp 2D by the upper arm. Tugging the singer up and away from the semi eaten body Murdoc pulled 2D closer to wipe the man’s face down. 2D batted the satanist away, annoyed.

“C’mon, we’re going right now.”

“But the body— Muds we can’t…” 2D gestured helplessly at the body of the lonely man.

Murdoc examined the corpse a second too long and felt his gag reflexes triggering. Coughing to clear his throat he looked away. Despite getting the craving himself now and then he still thought it was disgusting. 2D hadn’t eaten much of the man but Murdoc pacified the singer by hugging him around the middle and planting a kiss on 2D.

“You practically ate the man clean, leave it,” Murdoc lied.

2D leaned into Murdoc, swayed into believing the shorter man. Coming out to the mouth of the alley the four of them quickly took off, missing the distant military vehicle approaching. Once in their shoddy van they sunk into the seating, staying put in the slightly crowded parking lot nearby to the seedy joint they were at.

“Where’s the mouthwash?” 2D looked over the back seat from the middle section.

Murdoc grabbed the singer’s trousers by a belt loop and brought 2D back onto the seat.

“For fuck sake, stay down. They’re driving by.”

A light shone through the parked vehicles, theirs included, and for a tense minute none of them spoke. They all held their breaths, terrified of being found out, the moment passed as did the truck. Sighing heavily Noodle relaxed upright in the front seat.

“So we’ll wait, then circle a few times before home.”

“Yeah.”

Noodle started the van up roughly ten minutes later and they cruised away under the radar. The night was creeping upon the sleepy city and while they circled the area, constantly just out of sight from scouting military personnel the body in the alleyway twitched. Noodle took them home, tunes pounding throughout the van while taking the highway out of the city.

In the late hours leading to twilight when an employee dumped some trash they noticed a long congealed puddle of blood and fleshy bits but no body. Tilting their head baffled they stepped over to the blood. Something knocked over random alleyway debris behind them and when they turned the last thing they witnessed was neon blue rings floating in the darkness.

 

*

 

 

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Two Years Later…

Slamming the weaponized bat into a raging woman, Murdoc used his foot for leverage to yank the stuck nails from her pulverized head. She gurgled pitifully, her flailing weakening to nothing as blood drained from her blackened brain and fragmented skull. The satanist tugged the black bandana from his face, motioning to her corpse with the bat.

“Oi, Dents, got you dinner.”

2D swung his fire axe with such force he cleaved a head clear off its body. When the headless zombie dropped heavily the singer looked over while he rested the axe against his shoulder.

“Romantic,” 2D deadpanned.

“I try,” Murdoc stepped over to the singer, bumping hips with the taller man.

2D glanced down at his cracked digital wrist watch, “Noodle is late.”

“Could use the time to get familiar,” the bassist winked while sliding his free hand into 2D’s back pocket, squeezing firmly.

“Well if you’re offering,” 2D grinned.

The telltale noise of an engine rumbling brought them out of their flirting to see a rag top jeep rolling towards them. Gaudy, as well as poorly done, camouflage decorated the modified vehicle.

“Yo! Old men, get your asses in the car, we’re going cruising,” Noodle hooted while pumping a fist out the driver side window.

Clearly her portion of the trip was more successful than theirs.

Russel was zoning out against a large machine gun mounted in the back of the jeep. 2D bopped hips with Murdoc playfully before trotting over to the passenger side door. The bassist stepped up to the driver side and waved Noodle out of the seat.

“Awe c’mon.”

“In the back brat.”

“Rude,” Noodle undid her belt and climbed into the back next to Russel and Kraken.

Murdoc snorted while taking her place. Revving the jeep, Murdoc fixed his seat and the mirror, smirking back at the guitarist and drummer.

“How about some classic tunes?”

“Classic how?”

Tapping a beat on his knee, Murdoc was surprised when 2D started to snap his fingers alongside him. Noodle elbowed Russel to rouse him from his stupor. The drummer grunted and gave Noodle a gentle smile at her excitement. Snatching up her guitar packed between boxes of supplies she strummed on it. Murdoc put the jeep into drive and shoved his foot into the pedal, momentarily the tires spun before the vehicle took off.

2D shouted the lyrics over the whipping wind as he bopped his head, Noodle joining at her parts. They drove through the city-scape, occasionally ramming a neon eyed zombie through makeshift spikes along the front. Russel shook his head amused. Maneuvering through totaled cars and debris, Murdoc genuinely found it was cathartic surviving with his friends. His family. Sure they essentially caused a second apocalypse but they were together and somehow this time it wasn’t nearly as terrifying. They had all they could eat thanks to 2D’s mutated virus, meant they were the top of the food chain.

“Muds join in! Even Russ is singing,” 2D’s eyes turned into black slits when he smiled at the bassist.

Heart skipping a beat, Murdoc found it wasn’t a struggle joining them in their merriment. Not anymore. The four of them sang to the vast empty city, their only audience the undead creatures meandering through the streets or flinging across the hood. Though it looked bleak, given that most of humanity had fallen victim to a stronger and much worse virus, they could carve out a new future for themselves. A sort of bittersweet future.