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Love Is The Only Thing We Have Left

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You were positive that your current actions would gain you an hour long lecture from Karkat about just how unbelievably moronic you are. You smile at that, stupidly thinking that that hypothetical argument would be silly and unnecessary. You sometimes seem to forget just how serious your situation was, and just how dangerous those things were. You couldn't bring yourself to take Karkat's possible reaction seriously.

You knew your way around the Safe Zone more than anyone else, and the only one that could possibly get close to beating you at it would be your boyfriend, Tavros Nitram, who constantly followed you through the complex and dangerous set of tunnels underneath that part of the city that connected to the outside of the Safe Zone, mainly because he wanted to make sure you would not do anything as stupid as actually step outside it, and would only explore on the inside. Nothing more.

But he wasn't here with you right now, and that had been your intention. He wasn't supposed to know you were slowly making your way through the secret sewer that lead outside the Safe Zone, a loaded gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other and a bright grin across your face. You hoped his anger would be brief and would make room for his sure to come surprise, excitement, and happiness. You just hoped you could make him smile. He didn't do much of that these days, with news of those things getting dangerously close to the Safe Zone and almost breaking in a few days before, as if the motherfuckers were starting to actually gain some sort of consciousness and prepared an organized ambush. You shook your head at that, not wanting to think about it. You didn't like the despaired face he wore when he sometimes looked far into the distance, to the bit of street he could see right outside the Safe Zone from the top of the house you shared with many other people. You also didn't like the idea of those things breaking in and hurting Tavros. Ripping his skin. Make him one of them and forcing you to kill him. You didn't want to think about it, and you were happier than ever at your incredible ability to ignore glaringly important problems like those at will. It was your only talent.

You slowed your pace down as you got closer to the exit of the tunnel, turning off the flashlight and readying your gun just in case. You knew those creatures weren't smart enough to find their way to these sewers, but you had to make sure you wouldn't get hurt and fuck everything up.

Once the afternoon orange sunlight became visible and the tunnel came to an end, you stepped outside and looked around quickly, a concentrated frown in your face. You climbed up the wall towards the actual street and took cautious glances around before relaxing a little, and started to make your way around the neighborhood. You took out a wrinkled piece of paper from your pocket and read the address, thinking that it was such an amazing miracle that your Tavros had lived just a few blocks from the now Safe Zone. He had been blissfully lucky and had gotten out of the mess unharmed rather quickly. Unlike you, who lived several blocks away from that place and had stayed locked up inside your house for weeks, eating the canned food you so luckily had stocked up just because your mother never did learn how to cook and canned goods were so much easier to deal with when attempting to cook a dinner.

Her corpse had laid rotting in her bed for all that time you were locked inside, her head crushed after the dozens upon dozens of blows you delivered to her skull just to prevent her from turning into one of those things. You don't like thinking about that either. You had not been able to move a muscle for hours after that, your eyes fixed unnaturally wide on her nonexistent face.

You hurried your pace as you noticed it was getting a bit darker, and you cursed at yourself for actually being dumb enough to go out at this time of day of all the others you would have chosen. You guessed you didn't really have a choice now. You focused on finding the house Tavros had pointed out had been his when you had asked, the little fucker giving you his address as he thought nothing of it, probably just a little glad he could say the name of his street and his house number, feeling as if he was giving it out while doing some sort of errand like he did so during the times before the breakout. He would definitely get angry at himself for not suspecting you would be stupid enough to use that information to venture outside and find it.

After a few minutes of cautiously making your way through the neighborhood, oddly not finding a single creature, you spotted the pretty house almost at the end of the street. You grinned widely as you went over your imaginary list of things you would look for in his house, before breaking a window with your flashlight and crawling through to step on the living room’s carpet, for a moment forgetting that noises attracted those things like bees to a colorful flower. You were too excited to remember something so vital as that.

The first thing that hit you was the painfully normal scent. It smelled sweet, like rotten flowers and fruit, but it also still smelled of the wood polisher his father must have used just before the news spread like wildfire when the virus broke out, despite it being a few months ago.

You gripped the gun even tighter as you peeked into the kitchen and searched the living room, opting to actually venture inside the kitchen to search for a plastic bag that you immediately used to stuff a few framed pictures of Tavros’ family that littered the living room. You eyed the stairs before making your way up with the bag in your hand, having left the flashlight on top of the small kitchen table.

You stood at the top of the stairs for several seconds, looking both ways into the two open rooms at either sides of you before peeking in, only catching your own reflection on the bathroom mirror, which made you gasp before squeaking, and catching a glimpse of the poorly lit master bedroom. You guessed the closed door right in front of the staircase was Tavros' room.

You slowly twisted the doorknob with your hand, taking sharp glances around the small room before deciding it was empty and stepping inside. You tried to turn on the lights but it obviously didn't work. You made your way to Tavros' bed instead, and found a plush toy sitting by the pillow on his undone bed. You smiled sadly at the mattress, the sudden thought of a much calmer life coming to you. You wonder what it would have been like for you two to have met under different circumstances. You wondered what it would have felt like to make love to him calmly in his own bed, his father probably out running errands, Tavros’ voice flowing freely out of his mouth to accompany yours instead of having to stifle gasps when you dared do it in your shared room with at least two more people sleeping inside it, the rest of the people in the house sleeping in rooms close by. You did that very sporadically, when the urges were too much to ignore. You weren’t aware your roommates weren't deaf or stupid and would always wake up to those noises, rolling their eyes through thick blush as they tried to block out the quiet gasping. "Fucking homos" they would mutter afterwards among themselves. But they wouldn't tell you or him anything, petty fights over those sort of things not seeming something necessary or like the right thing to fight over. You all were dreading for your life constantly. A pair of definitely not straight guys sleeping together wasn't all that important anymore to the majority of people, surprisingly.

You quickly stuffed the stuffed bull plush inside your plastic bag before looking around and going through his things, finding a deck of Fiduspawn cards that he sometimes rambled about, telling you how much he missed playing with those. You looked around for a while more before sighing, not knowing what else you could add to your bag in this trip. You figured you could always come back now that you knew the way, with some tips as to what Tavros missed the most. You thought you probably covered the basic things. You began to think it was starting to get dangerously dark.

You turned around and started to make your way out of the room, closing the door behind yourself after the brief thought that maybe closing it would prevent any creatures from going inside if any entered the house. You wouldn’t want your boyfriend's room to be polluted by those disgusting sons of bitches. You wouldn’t forgive yourself.

You quickly made your way out of the house through the main door after unlocking it, closing it behind you, stopping on your tracks when you came face to face with about five creatures that had been waiting for you outside the house. You didn’t even have time to think about how they had consciously decided waiting for you was a smart thing to do, allowing them more space to chase you with their unnatural speed for a creature that used to be a human being. Your swallow thickly, your blood going cold.

This had been a bad idea after all. They were too many. You thought about the gun you had stuffed inside the bag just to make it easier to go about Tavros’ things. You slowly began to reach for it, a quick glance shooting down to the bag to search for it before you blindly darted your hand into it to get it out, and you began to sprint towards the Safe Zone before you even had tightened your grip around it, hearing the rapid footsteps trail behind you horrifyingly fast and loud. You began to pant immediately, your eyes wide and your blood racing and filled with adrenaline, a wave of burning cold panic going through your body to keep you moving, your mind instinctively ignoring any thoughts that didn't involve figuring out how to get out of this alive.

You ran the blocks as fast as you could, surprised in the back of your mind that they hadn't yet caught you, not realizing that it might have something to do with your really long legs.

Right before you found the trench and jumped down to it, you forced yourself to stop, gun so tightly gripped in your hand that your knuckles went even whiter than usual, your eyes trying to fix themselves on the creatures as rapidly as you could, the thought that you simply could not let those things find their way to the Safe Zone through your little secret passage overwhelming you. You had to eliminate them. You had to prevent a catastrophe. You had to die if it meant preventing Tavros from getting hurt from that mistake.

You manage to shoot one of them directly in the forehead as it launched forwards, just before one of them tackled you backwards and you both fell down into the almost dried up open sewer trench. your head basically slammed against the concrete. You didn’t even let yourself pass out. You lifted your arms and legs as you pushed that thing off of you with all your strength just enough to help you get some room to shoot it in the head, not hesitating before you did so. You got up immediately after that thing fell backwards with the blow to then run the opposite way from the tunnel as the other three ran after you dangerously close.

You tried to turn your head around as you ran and had to slow your pace down considerably to attempt another shot, being lucky enough to hit one of the creature’s shoulder before finding its cranium, blood and brains splattering over one the others that was running right behind it. It got slowed down by the limp body in front of it enough for you to fix your attention on the other one, but it was too close, terrifyingly close, and it tackled you to the ground before you were able to aim. It began to drool and screech on your face as you tried to push it off, whimpers beginning to escape from you as you felt that it was way stronger than the last one that had caught you, and you felt it shake and twist violently as it tried to reach the skin of your face and rip it off with its blackened teeth. You screamed for help. You were way too far from the Safe Zone to be heard. And even if you were heard by the guards at the door, they wouldn't rescue you. You had been already catched, and they didn't even need to guess that. The way you screamed was far too familiar.

You gathered up the rest of your energy as you attempted to push the thing off of you, hearing the other one running towards you, and you managed to force your hand up to its head as you tried to not let it get any closer to your face with your other hand pressing strongly against his chest. You tried to aim. You found its temple. You closed your eyes and pulled the trigger. You felt a revolting mixture of meat and blood splatter on your face. You pushed the creature off immediately with your eyes still closed as quickly as you could, your free hand trying to rub some of the wet, gooey stuff off your face before opening your eyes once again to come face to face with the other monster, feeling it almost embrace you with its violent, forceful arms as it wrapped them around you, letting you smell the sickening stench of rotting meat and sweat just before you felt its teeth break your skin and dig hungrily into the flesh between your shoulder and your neck, and you cried out a ripping scream both from the pain and the utter terror, feeling that thing try to rip your meat right before you forced yourself to blindly aim the gun at his head, not caring if it hurt you along with it, and pulled the trigger before it was even successful at eating a piece of you. It still almost left the flesh hanging under your shirt. But it would probably heal under any other circumstances. But you knew better than to even nurse those thoughts.

You wouldn't be human for long enough to even see the blood begin to dry up.

You stood there in shock, blood covering you, pain shooting through your body like bolts of white electricity, your breath shaky and erratic, your eyes wide and your tears trailing down your cheeks and helping drag some blood off of them.

You stood there for almost a full minute before you let the gun drop to the hard concrete and you eyed the bag on the floor, and you began to walk towards it slowly, painfully, until you picked it up with violently shaking hands and you made your way slowly to the tunnel to drop it at the entry, hoping that maybe Tavros would see it if he ever got that far into the tunnel, if he got worried and assumed you did something horribly stupid and he went out to find you, something you wished desperately he wouldn't do. But at least he would find those things, and maybe think twice before doing something stupider. Looking for you outside the Safe Zone.

You let yourself sit beside the bag, back against the tunnel’s wall, your breathing ragged and exhausted, and closed your eyes to wait for the moment in which your mind would start to race like some crazy highway until you would forget who you were, why you were there, and would forget what the word human even meant. Before the hunger for human flesh would become so great you would eat anyone close enough to you. Even their brains after crushing their heads with your own bare hands.

You felt sick and had to move to your knees and palms to vomit, your shoulder hurting from the convulsing and pressure.

You sat back down even more exhausted, and you closed your eyes again as you began to sob.

You didn't want to die. You didn't want to turn into one of those things. You didn't want to leave Tavros. If you could only receive another sweet kiss from him, one of those soft kisses that told you more than he would ever say; that let you know he loved you more than anything and anyone, that told you he would give his life for you if he ever had to do it, that told you you meant the whole world to him and he would rather die before letting you go. Love was such a miraculous thing, and so strong now that there was nothing more important than that, since it was the only thing any of you had. It was all  anyone had now that they only spent time waiting for their imminent death. The only thing that gave them enough strenght to keep on living.

You sat there and sobbed until you couldn't keep going, even if you tried. Your eyes ached like they hadn't ached in a long time, not after you had to kill your mother with your own hands and had to see her body twitch and shake under your blows. You stared into the distance then, seeing the dark, concrete wall of the tunnel, noticing it was very dark. Just a few minutes more and there would be no more sunlight left. You sat there for a few more minutes, a frown beginning to tug at your thick, bushy eyebrows.

Why weren't you a monster yet?

You stared with a concerned look on your face, and ventured your fingers through your shirt to check if it had even bitten you. The bumpy surface of your skin proved it. The pain and stinging it caused gave you even more reasons to believe so. Why weren't you a creature? You ran your fingers through your hair as you began to breathe harshly again, confusion consuming you whole, your eyes searching the dirty, hard floor for any kind of answer. It always took less than 10 minutes for a human to become a creature. You had been sitting there for over half an hour.

You stood up with a lot of trouble, feeling your legs almost giving in from how sore they were. You touched your hands to your face and something clicked in you, and you almost gave a hysterical laugh from pure incredulity. 'Are you fucking shittying me?' You wanted to say out loud, but you couldn't even speak. You hadn't transformed. You soon realized you most likely weren't going to either.

Maybe you had imagined it bit you in your panic. You crossed that thought out yet again. You took off your hoodie and your shirt and checked the horrible wound, just to make sure, just to ease your confusion. You definitely were bitten.

You stood there for a few seconds before you took your hoodie back in your hands and began to spit in the cloth, beginning to rub the moisture into your face and scrub the dried up, rich blood off your skin. You kept spitting and rubbing until you were almost certain you had gotten most of it, and threw the hoodie to the ground before putting your shirt back on. The hoodie had received most of the fluids and your black shirt was clean apart from the huge stain that had formed around your shoulder. At least the shirt was black, so it wouldn't be immediately obvious, or not as obvious as a pale face covered in blood, at least. You grabbed the plastic bag in your hands again, and started to walk into the almost pitch black tunnel, remembering you had left the flashlight at Tavros house. You doubted you would run into anything, including a creature. You suddenly guessed it didn't matter anyways.

You hadn't turned into one of them. You guessed another bite wouldn't do anything. Or at least you hoped so.

You walked until you ran into the heavy door that let into the sewers of the Safe Zone, and opened it up with a great deal of pain from your shoulder from the strain. You crossed the door and closed it quickly, and made your way to the exit, finding a wall similar to the one at the other end, and climbed it with difficulty as you tried to suppress a groan of pain.

You quickly made your way through the streets, hoping you wouldn't find any soldier on patrol, hoping they wouldn't find you oddly suspicious, hoping they wouldn’t notice your wound, hoping they wouldn’t finish you off before you could explain and they gave into panic. You knew it wasn't likely. You couldn't stop the sickening fear anyways that was making almost painful butterflies pool in your stomach and made you shake from something else than the cold you were now feeling.

You made your way safely to the house, finding all the lights on. Of course, it had barely gotten dark an hour ago or so. You breathed in as you got ready to rush inside, thinking you would hide the bag under your bed, would avoid Tavros if he was there, and would rush to the bathroom to wash up and bandage your wound.                                 

Thankfully everyone seemed to be gathered in the living room chatting and eating, and though they noticed you step inside, no one spoke to you besides a hello and a shrug at your lack of a response. You cringed when you realized Tavros was there, and you bit your lips painfully hard when you heard him stand up and follow you. You quickly shoved the bag under the small bed you shared with him and searched for a change of clothes, picking one of the other two shirts you had and grabbed some pajama pants, rapidly turning around to get out of the room, running into Tavros.

He stared wide eyed at your probably puffy face, and you prayed harder than ever that he wasn’t also staring at any trace of blood you had missed.

"Gamzee... What's, wrong?" He asked quietly, slowly starting to walk towards you.

"Nothing!" You blurted out far too quickly, and rushed past him before he even had a chance to go after you, almost pushing him.

"Gamzee?" He called again, but you were quick to lock the bathroom door behind you, and you began to strip. You could feel him standing at the other side of the door for a while, but you knew he would leave eventually.

You got out of the shower several minutes later after scrubbing every trace of blood and meat you could get from your hair, trying to ignore the inmense pain. You felt so thankful that the Safe Zone still had electricity and water. It was almost a miracle. It didn't matter if you had to share the small bathroom with 10 people. You couldn't care less when you had this privilege. You kind of wished the water came out at least a little bit warmer, though.

You searched the cabinets for bandages and alcohol, and quickly disinfected your wound, not knowing if it made a difference, holding back silent cries of sharp, deep pain. You bandaged your shoulder as best as you could, and stared at yourself for a while in the mirror. You looked presentable. You could get away with a few lies.

When you finally got out of the bathroom, you headed directly to the bedroom, wanting to sleep it all off. You got to your bed and sat at the edge, and heard footsteps approaching that quickly entered the room, and Tavros was standing there with such a worried face you got a tight knot in your throat.

"Gamzee..." He said again, and rapidly sat next to you on the bed, not wanting you to get away. He looked into your face and you tried to ignore him, feeling his warm hands creep up your face and brush it with his knuckles. "What's, wrong?" He asked once again. "You were, crying." He said with a sad tone, and you wondered if it was because you haven't cried in his presence in a very long time. You know he knows something very bad happened. You were quiet, stubbornly quiet, and licked your lips over and over again viciously. "Gam-"

"It's nothing, Tavros." You assure him, and actually manage to give him a faked smile. He always was able to see right through those smiles when you were this bad. He seemed to be a bit hurt by your lack of honesty.

"...You can, tell me, Gamzee." He spoke softly as he brushed a humid strand of hair behind your ear. You were looking into his face, wanting to hug him, to cry into his shoulder.

"I don't wanna go and done talk about it." You mutter then, weakly, trying to smile again, feeling tears prickle your eyes. You knew that answer was probably the right one. He most likely wouldn't push it. He seemed to think through your words, his face unreadable. He finally smiled at you this painfully sad smile, and you knew he wished he could do something, anything, to prevent you from feeling pain. You breathed out a sob at that, not being able to contain it. He almost immediately pulled you into a hug, making you bury your face into his neck, and you found more tears to shed. You cried for seemingly endless minutes, soaking his shirt with tears and snot, wrinkling his shirt with how tightly you were gripping and pulling it, knowing he was crying as well from the way he tried to suppress gasps and quivers. You guessed it was from the loud and desperate way in which you moaned, whimpered, and bent over your stomach from the emotional pain. You knew that sort of despairing sobbing was always disturbing and hard to listen to. You felt guilty.

You eventually gathered the strength to let him go, and you quickly tried to wipe your nose before he could see it dripping. He pulled his sweater sleeve over his hand and lifted it to your face, and before you could protest, he started to wipe off your tears, and dried what remained of the wetness under your nose.

"I'm sorry." You mutter then, shakily. You knew he couldn't possibly know just how sorry you were about many more things he thought you were probably sorry about.

"There's nothing, you have to apologize for, actually. But, it's okay..." He smiled to you then, soft and sweetly, and you saw his eyes red and watery. Even like that he looked beautiful. You swallow hard before speaking again, your words coming out serious.

"I love you." He looks at you in this way that always made your insides melt, and he slowly leaned in to your face, tilting his own and aiming for your lips. You almost kissed him. You almost kissed him, but something clicked in your head once again just before your lips touched, and you moved your face away from his. You knew that despite not being a creature (yet?) you still had that thing's poison running through your damned veins. And you knew enough about those things to know that saliva was enough to pass the virus around. He looked confused and a little hurt when you looked at him again, but he quickly decided on pressing his lips to your forehead instead. He whispered against your skin.

"I love you too."

You let him kiss your face before you decided to lay down, exhaustion weighing over you, and he soon changed into more comfortable clothes to then cuddle into your warm body to sleep. He spooned your body and held you tightly, his nose pressed against your hair and breathing out hot air that soothed you.

But you couldn't sleep. Even after the rest of your roommates entered the room and eyed you funny before turning off the lights for good.

Another thought went through your mind.

You were still infected, and the virus might just take longer to kick in in you. You couldn't sleep. You couldn't sleep beside him. You couldn’t risk it.

You waited until you felt his breathing evening out and heard him snore lightly, and carefully got out of bed, trying to not wake him. You put on your shoes and looked at his sleeping form for a moment before walking towards the door, grabbing one of Tavros’ sweater that was too big for him anyways in your way out, unaware that he was quietly watching you just as you left the room. Unaware that he ended up hugging the pillow after waiting for you to come back for a full hour.

Chapter Text

It was well past 2 PM when Tavros decided he had given you enough time alone and went looking for you, soon enough finding you sitting in the trench of one of the dried up sewers that didn't really lead anywhere, since it had been blocked completely after this area was declared a safe place. You often come to this area when you want to be alone, since it was always so quiet and no one ever ventured that far away from the main habited area. It still is a safe part of the city of course, inside the Safe Zone completely, but it is just so lonely that no one really dares to come here alone. No one likes loneliness and silence anymore.

Tavros carefully crouched down before jumping down to where you're sitting at, and made himself comfortable right beside you on the cold, hard ground. He was quiet for several seconds, just looking at you as you chewed on the inside of your cheek and looked to the ground.

"Hey..." He finally muttered, lifting a hand to brush your hair and place a black lock behind your ear that stubbornly went back to its place immediately after he did so. "Are you, uh, okay?" He says in a worried tone. You purse your lips tightly and sigh.

"Yeah." You lie, and he takes a moment to reply.

"I really don't think that's, true, honestly." He keeps his eyes on you. You keep quiet until you suddenly decide to change the subject.

"You think these motherfuckers are ever gonna come up with a cure or some shit that will fix all this fucking mess?" You ask with a frown, your eyes set on his face. He considers your question for a moment in silence, his eyes looking to the ground.

"Yes." He finally replies, but you sense doubt in his voice. You nod anyways.

"How do you think they can go all up and about doing something like that?"

"You mean, how can they find, a cure to the virus?" You nod. "Uh... Well, if it's a virus, like they had said, then scientists could try out some way to, create a vaccine, or something... The same way they have always done with, diseases, and such. But you, probably already knew that..." He chuckles nervously and rubs the back of his head, probably feeling silly for being obvious. You think his answer is valid, though. "They could find something that, kills the virus... Or they can find out a weakness, on those things." You figure the first option meant salvation for the monsters, while the second one meant annihilation.

"They could... all up and maybe find some motherfucker that resists the virus and use their blood." You say, and he looks at you funny.

"Uh... that could be a, very good way to go about, finding a cure, I'm sure. But the thing is, there is no one that fits the required traits... Everyone turns into those things. I think that sort of luck only happens in movies."

"But it's possible." you insist stubbornly, and he frowns as he thinks it over.

"Yes, I suppose. I just think it is, unlikely. But yes, it can always happen. It would be a, miracle, as you would say, if a person like that was still alive, though. One that resists the virus, I mean." You chuckle. A miracle. You briefly wonder if you really are a miracle. How else could you be still alive and human after being bitten?

"Where did you go yesterday?" He asks after a few moments, breaking the momentary silence and drastically changing the subject. You purse your lips tightly again. You assume he is asking both about yesterday afternoon, and last night. Probably whichever you wanted to answer. You remember the bag you brought for him from outside the Safe Zone, and wonder if you are brave enough to give the contents to him now. You decide you have to do it eventually, since you risked your life to give him back some of his memories. You guess the surprise wouldn't betray that you had gotten hurt at all, but you decide to wait a little longer just so that he doesn't associate your irresponsible trip outside the Safe Zone with your uncontrollable crying that same day. He would ask what you had seen or what had happened. He would maybe even see right through you and force you to stay still as he looked for wounds on your body.

"I was just hanging around." You shrug.

He stares at you again. God, you wish he wouldn't do that. You know he is trying to read you and you are so afraid he will succeed.

"I... wish I could do something..." he trails off and you wonder if he means that he wishes he could do something to help you from feeling sad ever again. You know he wants to know which painful memory had finally broken you down yesterday. You shake your head with a sad smile. He doesn't say anymore, and instead just sits by your side for a few minutes, until he finally decided to scoot even closer to you and rest his head on your shoulder, pressing a soft kiss there before doing so. You were glad it wasn't the injured one.


 

Another day has gone by and you still are human. You are now convinced you are immune, and you have been thinking about telling somebody about it. Someone you could trust, that wouldn't decide to shoot your head before you even had a chance to explain, thinking it was a better idea to prevent you from turning and killing them.

But first you decide it's time to give a certain someone their birthday present, despite it being a few weeks away still. Better sooner than later, or so you think, and with the constant worries looming over you, you guess it's better if you try to get that over with. You practice a confident smile that would assure him it had been a piece of cake to retrieve the items, and that you had made it back safely, absolutely unharmed.

Once you felt as ready as you would probably ever be, you waited until you were alone in the bedroom to check on the bag, and bent down to reach under the bed for it. You see some brownish, dried up blood covering the white plastic in random spots. You empty out the contents on the bed, and quickly shove the bag under the bed again, thinking of discarding it later, and you check the stuff to see if anything has blood on it. Everything is spotless, but the picture frames have cracks all over them and are just barely holding together. You shake your head a little disappointed, but you realize it probably doesn't matter all that much as long as the pictures are fine, which they are.

After a few moments of carefully looking the things over, you leave the presents alone and get out of the room to fetch Tavros from the living room, where you know he is chatting with Aradia, one of the girls that lived in the crowded house that had become his friend rather quickly.

You drag Tavros away with a quick apology and lead him to the room, telling him to close his eyes before letting him inside. You check to see if he's not peeking before you make him sit on the bed carefully, and quickly grab the plush toy in your hand, suddenly anxious.

"I got a surprise for ya, bro." He begins to giggle at that, and you know he is suddenly excited, a big grin spreading across his face.

"Okay..." You take one of his hands in yours carefully and see him purse his lips with anticipation. You place the stuffed animal against his palm to let him feel the softness of the cloth, and he frowns with smile as he begins to squeeze it lightly, probably guessing it was a plushie. You are sure he hasn't even seen one in a very long time.

You lick your lips before speaking.

"Open your eyes." He slowly does as told, his eyes quickly darting to see what was in his hands. His eyes widen and he gasps as if he had just seen a ghost, and you see a hand dart up to his mouth and cover it rather harshly in surprise.

"Oh my God..." He murmurs, lifting the toy with both of his hands to his face, looking it over with a confused and marveled expression, his eyes squinting when he began to grin widely.

Before he had time to process anything else, you grabbed one of the pictures from beside him and held it up, calling his attention to the small pile of photographs on the bed. He let down the plush on the bed and breathed out again, his hands running over the frames as if he couldn't decide which one he wanted to hold and look at first, or which one he wanted to kiss.

"Why... How did-" He stoped speaking before his face became drastically serious and scared, his eyebrows pulling together as he fixed his stare on you. "Gamzee, where did you get this?" He asks. You expected as much.

"Somewhere." You shrug with a smile. He lifts his hands to his face and groans loudly.

"You got out of the Safe Zone." His voice sounded worried even though you were right in front of him and out of danger. "You got out... God... Gamzee that, was very, very stupid." He lets his hands fall from his face and he looks at you again, biting down on his lips as he tries to hold back tears. Oh hell no, you don't want him to cry from anything else that wasn't happiness.

"I wanted to go all up and give a brother a surprise!" You say as you get on your knees in front of the bed, holding his face with your hands. "I thought these things would make you happy even for a little while." He lets a tear fall from his eyes before he wipes it off quickly, a moment of silence setting between you two.

"Don't... do it again." He says finally in a whisper, and looks at one of the portraits. The glass was cracked but the picture of him and his father was still intact. He breathes out a laugh, and you are certain it is from pure happiness. "... Thank you." He whispers then, and sets the picture aside to hug you tightly. "Thank you." He repeats as he nuzzles into your neck and gives you a soft kiss on your pale skin. You feel some pain from the tightness of the hug, but you don't let it show at all.

"You're motherfucking welcome." You gift him the hugest of grins you can muster, your heart beating madly at the sight of his glowing face as he squishes the plush toy. You haven't felt this happy in a very long time and it amazes you for a moment just how happy he can make you with just a smile. You suddenly think it had been worth it in the end.

He lets the plush down on his lap and looks at you for a few seconds, lifting a hand to your face. He cups your cheek and lets his thumb rest on your lips, and he slowly begins to rub it across them. You pucker your lips and kiss it before smiling. He giggles lightly before he starts to lean in, his own lips starting to part. And God do you want to meet his soft and warm lips with your own and let your tongue run over his. But you move your head in the last second, and he kisses your cheek instead, a frown beginning to grow on his face when he pulls away a little. You can read the confusion on his face. He leans in again, this time resting his forehead against yours.

"I want, to kiss you." He admits in a whisper, biting his own lips. You breathe out a soft laugh before leaning away and standing up, making him frown even deeper.

"I love you." You reply instead, successfully faking a smile. "Sorry, I don't feel any kind of good on my stomach right this second, I gotta go." You point a finger in the direction of the exit, and you see him nod, understanding you meant the bathroom.

"Okay." He says, and looks down at the stuffed bull again. You quickly get out of the room, cowardly deciding to hide in the bathroom for a few minutes before you get out and head to the street.

Chapter Text

You are walking slowly along the street, your thoughts firmly set on Tavros. You had loved the way he had smiled because of you. You had loved to be able to make him happy, even if it was for just a little bit. You know how much he adored his dad, and you know how much he had suffered when those things had gotten a hold of him just as they were being escorted to the now Safe Zone as it was being established. The few soldiers that were protecting them as they ran through the streets to a safer place simply hadn't been enough to hold them off. Tavros' dad had saved him when one of those things had gotten a hold of him, giving a soldier enough time to shoot it in the head, telling Tavros to run ahead with a ripping scream from the pain of a bite and to turn away before the same soldier had to shoot him as well. And you know Tavros feels horribly guilty about that. If only he had ran faster. You suddenly feel a wave of nausea run over you, but you try to ignore it as best as you can. You aren't about to throw up in the middle of the street.

You frown to yourself as you keep thinking about Tavros, wishing things had been different for him.

You are torn from your thoughts just as you approach the main entrance to the Safe Zone, the loud voices of a large crowd calling your attention. You frown deeply as you begin to walk faster, getting closer to the cluster of people, and try to get on your toes to see over the heads in your way. It isn't really a hard thing to do thanks to your height, and you soon see what the fuss is all about. They are opening the gate. Your eyes widen with expectation as you see the soldiers yell orders at each other, guns tightly gripped in their almost shaking hands. Opening the gate always was a risk.

"Get back!" One of them hollers at the crowd, moving his hand in the air to get the message across as the people begin to back away from the entrance. You do the same, but you continue on your toes as you try to get a better view. Once the gate is fully opened and the people are standing to the side instead of in the way, a large vehicle begins to enter the Safe Zone, lifting dirt as its tires scratch the ground, the roar of the engine filling the air and muffling the murmurs of the people. You grin widely and begin to laugh, watching as the vehicle comes to a stop near the entrance, the gates beginning to close right away. You are sure this only means one thing. You don't even let the thought that he hadn't come back alive cross your mind.

The doors open and some soldiers begin to climb down the vehicle, sweat covering their faces from the heat that surely had been suffocating them in the crowded space, and you spot him, his short height being easy to identify.

"Karkat!" you yell as soon as you stop laughing from excitement, and a few people in front of you turn their heads towards you with a grunt for nearly leaving them deaf. You push the people aside, earning more whines from them, and quickly get to the guy you had just called. He was looking up at you, a smile starting to creep on his face despite him not really wanting to let it show.

"Hey-" He begins to reply, but you cut him short as you pull him into a tight hug and nearly lift him off the ground, making him grunt and begin to squirm and push you away. "Let me go!" He protests, the familiar sound of his now grumpy voice ringing in your ear. You finally let him go and take another look at his face, your hands cupping his cheeks and holding him in place. He pushes you away again, hitting your chest. "Godammit Gamzee, you're embarrassing me." He hisses, and you let your hands down to avoid embarrassing him further. You know you can be embarrassing sometimes. And you know he really dislikes it, from the amount of times he has told you so.

"I'm sorry, bro. I just missed you so motherfucking much!" You jump in place and he nods, pursing his lips, his eyes darting away for a moment.

"Me too, moron." He replies then, and that's enough for you. He sighs deeply as he begins to dry his forehead with his palm. "Does this place still have running water?" He asks, and you nod as a reply. "Great. I smell like shit, I have no idea how you managed to hug me without gagging." He says and you can't help but giggle at that. He was right, but you honestly couldn't care less. He had been gone for over a week, and it was obvious that all the group had done was hide, search, kill and attempt to sleep.

You feel another wave of nausea and feel as if the floor is shaking, but you frown and try to focus. You need to stay calm. You take a deep breath and hope he didn't notice, and you turn around to lead the way towards the small house.

"Come here motherfucker, lets get your clean on and some food inside ya." You say and hear his footsteps trail after you before he taps your arm and hands you the large gun in his hands.

"Hold this. I have to take this thing off or I'm going to die from how fucking hot it is." You hold the weight in your hands and take a look at it as you continue walking.

He does most of the talking as you approach the house, mainly chatting about the amount of dead people they had encountered in their trip, and sounded truly crestfallen at the fact that they had only found one person alive, trapped inside an apartment complex. Their job was search for survivors and get them in the safe zone, and every time they make a new expedition, they come back with less and less people. He thinks there is no point in continuing anymore. He thinks it is a better idea to head East and find the other Safe Zone that was supposed to be established several miles from where you are now. No one is truly sure if it's still there, or if everyone had already died since they lost contact soon after the first week after the breakout. But he thinks it is worth a shot, and you agree with him.

You swing the door open and enter the house, and find Aradia sitting on the old couch chatting with Tavros, the living room deserted asides from them. You guess the rest of the people was still at the gate. Aradia raises her eyebrows at the barechested guy behind you, and you see Tavros grin widely before standing up from the couch even if all he did was wave at Karkat from his spot.

"Hi." Was all Karkat said after giving them a wave of his own, and Tavros gives you a funny look when he sees the large gun you have in your hands. He knows you have a pistol somewhere in the house that you had just in case, but you doubt he had seen such a gun up close. You suddenly remember you had lost that gun for sure. "Where was the bathroom in this shit hole again?" Karkat asks soon after, and you leave the gun on the dirty coffee table before walking ahead of him, showing him the way. You stop by the room first and look around the place before raising your voice towards the hallway. "Yo Tav, can you lend a brother some clothes?" The house is small and you know he can hear you just fine.

"Sure." He replies after hesitating, and you begin to go through his stuff to get some clothes that might fit your small friend. Tavros wasn't that big himself, and was skinnier than Karkat for sure, but you managed to find a short sleeved shirt and some of sweatpants that you handed to Karkat. He took the clothes and stepped aside before you walked towards the bathroom, and after opening the door for him, he stepped inside and closed the door after him without another word.

You walk towards the living room to sit on the loveseat that was free for a change, and you plop down into it, exhausted despite it being barely 4 PM. Aradia is the one to notice it.

"Are you alright? You seem to be quite tired." You look towards her before replying, seeing Tavros purse his lips. You hadn't slept with him last night either, but he hasn't asked why yet.

"I'm all tits sister, don't worry about it." She nods at your answer and your reassuring smile, but Tavros keeps his stare on you. You know he wants to talk about it now, and that the excitement for the presents you gave him earlier today had already worn off and he was ready to focus his full attention on you.

"You should probably, take a nap." He says in a low, worried voice. You consider it in silence for a moment, and the exhaustion weighting over you makes it nearly impossible to not give it some serious thought. "Come on." He says before you can reply, and stands up from his spot. You consider not getting up at all, but he is standing there, waiting, and you're pretty sure he won't take no for an answer. So you get up hesitantly, using your hands to help you up, and you stagger a bit as you walk towards him, only earning you more worried looks, now even from Aradia.

He takes your hand and guides you towards the room, and you sit down on the bed. You really want to lie down on its soft surface and forget about the hard concrete of the sewers. And you do so, slowly letting yourself lie sideways on the mattress, and he climbs on the bed to sit beside you rather than lie down, and begins to pet your hair lovingly. He runs his fingers through the strands, slowly and carefully trying to get rid of some knots, and ends up brushing his fingers over your cheek. You sigh deeply with your eyes shut, and focus on the sensation of his fingers before turning your head a bit to place a kiss on his hand, softly, lovingly, and go back to resting your head on the pillow and closing your eyes to surrender to sleep. A whole minute passes by before he speaks up, defeating the purpose of forcing you to sleep.

"What's going on?" He whispers, and you sense a tone of both curiosity and slight desperation. You know he can feel that something is off, and you know he can just feel that it isn't a good thing at all. He waits for you to reply before sighing deeply, letting his palms caress your face before going down to your shoulder softly, and you flinch and gulp as you feel a bolt of pain shoot through your body. He doesn't seem to think anything of it as he continues down your side, probably thinking he just had tickled you. You frown with worry and frustration. The area around the wound is getting even more sensitive, and you think it is probably getting actually infected. You know you have to take care of it again and clean it, but the thought of rubbing alcohol into the open wound is enough to give you a shiver and make you not want to do it at all. A soft brush of Tavros' hand was enough to make you almost grunt. You don't even want to think about how it would feel to rub a cloth against it. "You do know, I wouldn't leave you, right?" He asks then, whispering. You don't answer. You're not sure why he just said that; you obviously know, even if you sometimes wonder why. "You wouldn't, leave me either... right?" You notice the sad tone in his voice. You swallow before deciding to speak up.

"I would never even motherfucking think about doing such a stupid thing, what would give you that fucking idea?"

"I'm sorry." He replies instead, and shifts in the bed to lie down behind you, spooning you, letting his hand pet your hair as he gets his nose close to it. You can feel his warm breathing on your scalp. You can feel his lips kiss your hair. He lets his hand touch your side again, letting it rest by your stomach and slide towards your front, going up to touch your chest as he kissed your head again, and again, and soon moved his lips to your neck. You gasped quietly and moved your head to give him better access, and bit your bottom lip as hard as you could when you felt his lips move up and down on your soft flesh. His hand rubbed your chest before going back down, and he ran his palm over your leg, from your bony hips to your knee and back up again, letting his fingers lift your shirt a bit and touch your bare skin. His lips find your shoulder blades and he kisses your back, and you stiffen and dig your nails into your palms as you feel him kiss your shoulder, more pain torturing you before he rolled his lips to the side of your head and kissed your ear, kissed your cheek, and tried to shift in the bed to lean over your body just enough to find the corner of your mouth. You turned your head to hide it in the pillow before he could successfully kiss you, and you were able to pick up from his frustrated exhale that he wasn't happy about that.

"I'm... really motherfucking tired." You say lamely, licking your lips.

"Of course... Sorry." He says, and moves away from you to give you some space. You haven't made love in such a long time that you just know he is really wishing you would let him touch you, to the point that he even ignored the fact that you had only laid down to get some rest in the first place. You also know he is getting upset about you not letting him kiss you. You're pretty sure he is getting the wrong idea from that. You just hope he isn't assuming that you just don't desire him anymore.

He pushes his body up and sits on the bed again, resting his back against the wall as he does so. You close your eyes and feel him looking at you, watching over you and making sure you slept and rested, and you soon fell fast asleep.


 

Your own screaming woke you up before Tavros had a chance to shake your body and do it himself. You try to focus your eyes and look at his face, and immediately use your arms to sit up, your breathing erratic and desperate, pain coming from your shoulder in waves as if it was beating. You cover your face with your hands and feel it completely wet with a mixture of tears and sweat, and try to dry it off with your palms and your arms before you lift your face up. You see Aradia standing by the door and Karkat in the middle of the small room, his eyes fixed on you, his face distorted with worry. You sigh deeply and try to calm yourself. You breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, and hear Karkat begin to speak.

“What the fuck happened?” He sounded almost breathless. You think he probably had ran into the room, and by the looks of it, had gotten scared. You notice the intimidating gun is in his right hand. Probably just a habit that he won’t be getting rid of any time soon when he hears any kind of screaming.

“Motherfuck.” You reply, drying up your cold face, getting the moisture you had missed, feeling your shirt stick to your torso.

“He had a… nightmare.” You hear Tavros breathe out, and you can tell Karkat was making him nervous. “Put that, away.” He says calmly, or trying to keep calm. He doesn’t really know Karkat that much like to trust him, even if he had no reason to distrust him at all.

“Fucking hell.” Karkat sighs deeply, and you see him fidget with the gun. It had been probably loaded. “You fucking scared me.” He is glaring at you, and you honestly feel a little guilty. Were you really making such a huge scene? You feel the bed move as Tavros gets off, and you see him search around out of the corner of your eye.

“Take that off.” He tells you, and you hesitate for a moment before almost takingyour shirt off.

“I’m fine.” You tell him, but he gets closer and puts the fresh shirt on your lap.

“You can, get sick.” He explains, and you nod slowly. You see Aradia move from her spot and completely leave the room, and Karkat stand there, just looking at you. You look into his face and see the pity written all over it. He must think horrifying memories are resurfacing again, and haunt you in your sleep. You try to remember what you dreamt of, but you can’t remember anything else besides the sickening fear and terrible sorrow. You don’t want to remember anymore.

“I better take a shower.” You say as you stand up, and promptly leave both guys alone in the room. You can’t help but think that they would definitely talk about you while you’re in the bathroom, but you guess it doesn’t really matter.

The wound has stopped hurting, but that pain is replaced by a powerful headache and an irresistible need to vomit. You bend over the toilet and gag loudly a few times, but you haven’t eaten anything the whole day and nothing comes out. You simply haven’t felt hunger.

You take a quick shower to get the sweat off of you, and try to carefully clean the wound with the water. You step out and dry your body a little before looking for the alcohol and bandages, and take a look at the wound on your shoulder. It looks hideous. You feel a wave of fear at that. If the virus doesn’t kill you, an infection will surely do the trick. You sob as you clean the open wound with a ball of cotton, the pain being too much to bear, your nails effectively digging into your palms and leaving red marks that resembled little smiles.

You think you should probably face the consequences already.

 

Chapter Text

He’s looking at you now. You know he is getting impatient from the way his eyebrows went from a curious arch to a deep, annoyed frown. He wants you to spit it out, you know it, but you also really don’t want to do this anymore. You know you have to, though; the pain the wound is causing you keeps getting worse, and you are afraid that something will happen to you. You have no idea exactly what could happen, since you don’t know what to expect. You just know that you need to do something quick, anything, and try to get help. And you decided Karkat was your best bet.

He sighs and squats down, refusing to sit on the concrete floor. He is staring right at you, watching you pace and open your mouth as you attempt to speak before you decide to close it, afraid of saying it. You don’t know how he will react to your confession. You don’t know if he will freak out like you fear he will, or if he will wait for you to explain it all, and then make a plan to get you better. A plan to make you useful for a change, even if the only thing actually useful about you is your blood, probably. You eye the gun you had forced him to bring along with regret; you had thought that maybe it would help him feel safer if he did lose his shit, but now you realize it might also present a far too soon threat towards you.

You lift your eyes to meet his again, and he opened his mouth to speak.

“It’s not like I’m not enjoying our little quality time here in this foul smelling piss-stained shit-hole you so much like to spend time in, but could you fucking spit it out already? You’re making me fucking nervous, and it’s outright creepy that you dragged my ass all the way out here and away from the rest of the human population just for a little chat.” He admits, and you nod with pursed lips. “Did you fuck something up?” You frown at his guess and shake your head. You take a deep breath and hesitate before finally speaking, deciding you would never be actually ready, and might as well just get it out of the way.

“Listen bro…” You say, your hands going up in front of you, as if you wished to calm him down before you had even told him anything. “I don’t want you to go about and get your freak out on, alright, just let me do my talking and wait.” You decide on saying, and he gives you this quizzical look that you guess meant that he was surprised to hear you talking in such a serious manner for a change. He nods anyways though, and you lick your lips over as you think of the best way to break it down to him fast and clear. You wish you had planned this out a little better.

You decide to take off your shirt on a whim, even if you are not sure if this is the best way to go about it. You see him sneer at your stripping for a second, until he noticed the bandage that wrapped your shoulder and covered most of your trapezius, and his eyes widened a bit after a moment. You look at yourself and notice there is some brownish blood that filtrated from the wound, staining the bandage enough for it to be really noticeable.

“... What the fuck happened to you?” He asks then, standing up from his squatting position before taking a few steps towards you.

“Hold on motherfucker, don’t come closer.” You warn him, and he snorts.

“Okay?”

“Uh, alright bro, there’s no fucking way I can go about this that probably won’t make you all scared and shit…” You say slowly, and you hesitate before speaking again, getting to the point. “I all up and got myself bitten.”

He looks honestly confused as he raises his eyebrows.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I motherfucking got bitten, bro!” You say again, but this time you raise your voice a little, making a soft echo surround you both as your voice bounced off the tunnel’s walls. He was quiet for a moment. You noticed your breathing was getting harsher.

“Like by a fucking dog or something? oh please, don’t tell me you have rabies or some shit, there’s no fucking way we can get you medicine for that.” He looks worried, and you shake your head.

“Motherfucker, I got bitten by one of those damned things.” You look away to avoid seeing his reaction, your own heartbeat pounding in your ears. “By an infected mother fucker outside of the Safe Zone.” you say, and promptly shut your mouth to keep quiet, your nostrils flaring as you try to get enough air into your lungs.

He is quiet too, and you don’t dare lift your gaze. You think you hear him mutter some curses after a full minute, but you can’t be sure. You finally lift your eyes when you hear the metallic sound of the gun being loaded.

“Gamzee…” His voice trembles as he says your name, and you think you have never before seen such horror on his face. You feel horrible. The gun is shaking in his hands and pointing straight at your face, and you can’t look at anywhere else that isn’t the trigger. You feel your throat going dry and your eyes start to sting.

“Don’t shoot me.” You tell him with a shaky voice, and decide to lift your eyes to meet his again. “Just wait, don’t fucking do it.”

“Gamzee, you know-” He cuts himself short as he swallows thickly. You manage to push your fear aside enough for you to come up with an explanation.

“Karkat, it was a couple of days ago.” You say. He doesn’t say anything. “I’m still human.” You see his face become blank, as if he simply didn’t know what to feel, or think. “I didn’t turn into one of those sick motherfuckers. I have no fucking idea why, but I just fucking didn’t.”

“That’s impossible…” He finally says in a whisper, shaking his head. “It’s fucking impossible.”

“Karkat, how long have I fucking been here with you? Long enough to turn into one of those bitches, right?” He looks you over for a moment before his eyes fix on your shoulder again, and he starts to lower his gun slowly. He looks incredulous.

“Are you sure it actually…”

“No fucking doubt.” He sighs heavily and shakes his head before unloading the gun.

“Okay.”

“I don’t got no idea what to do.” He glares at you.

“Gamzee, if this is one of your fucking twisted, sick jokes, I swear I’m gonna shove this fucking gun so far up your ass you’ll be spitting bullets for a week!” He snaps at you then, the echo of his angry voice repeating itself for a few seconds.

“I ain’t joking, best friend.” He looks you over for a while, not wanting to believe you.

“...Let me see it.” He breathes out after a moment, approaching you with quick steps after leaving the gun on the ground. He lifts a hand to your shoulder to start undoing the bandages, eager to see if you were telling the truth. You let him do the job as you lifted your arm to help him, and you hissed when you couldn’t take it anymore as the cloth stuck to your infected flesh. He cringes too, and gives a hiss of his own, as if he felt your pain. “Holy shit.” He says quietly, and leans a bit closer to take a good look at the wound, standing on his toes. He’s searching for the human teeth marks, you assume. You guess he found them from the way he took a few steps back, the dirty, bloodied up bandage in his hand, his face a clear mask of both fear and confusion. “This can’t be.” He repeats again. “Just… holy shit.” He breathes in deeply and begins to pace anxiously. “This is fucking serious. You can’t tell anyone else Gamzee, they’re going to fucking off you without even letting you say goodbye to the fucking lame loser you call a boyfriend. Fucking hell.” His pacing comes to a stop and he approaches you again, and he hesitates before taking the dirty bandage to your skin again. “We’ll get this cleaned up… it looks like shit.” He wraps the cloth over your shoulder, passing under your armpit and over the damaged muscle above, close to your neck, and tied it as best as he could for the time being.

“Hurts like a bitch.” You say with a humorless laugh, feeling the wound pump like a heart, each beat a more powerful sensation of pain.

“Obviously. I’ve seen enough people turning to know the pain is fucking unbearable. It’s better to kill them before they start turning, that way you save them the suffering.” He tells you with his stare fixed on your covered shoulder for a moment, as if he was remembering. He touches your neck with his fingers, quickly deciding to press his hand against your skin before laying it flat on your forehead. “You’re burning.” He sighs and backs away, lifting his hands to his own hips. “How the fuck did you even manage to get yourself bitten? Were you seriously stupid enough to get out of here?!” you shrug. “Did your stupid boyfriend go with you? Should I fucking slap him across his ugly face for being such an equally brainless asswipe?”

“No, no, bro, he doesn’t know about this shit.” You say a bit hurriedly, suddenly scared of the thought of him finding out.

“... He doesn't?” Karkat asks with a deep frown, disbelief on his face. “You went out of the Safe Zone by yourself? Did your paternal figure drop you head first on the floor when you were a snot-faced stinking child or something? Wait, forget that. Gamzee, you do know you’re gonna have to tell him, right?"

“I don’t wanna…”

“If he finds out any other way, he’s gonna be fucking pissed. You have to tell him, this is fucking serious, you don’t know what could even happen to you, Gamzee, no one has seen this sort of shit before.”

“I don’t wanna go and get the motherfucker worried.”

“Fuck that. If you don’t tell the guy, I’m gonna tell him, and it’s gonna be worse for you. He has a fucking right to know what’s going on.” You keep quiet for a moment, your eyes fixed on the ground. You know he is right.

“Alright…” You mutter, but you are lying. “I’ll tell him.”

“Good.” He breathes deeply and closes his eyes for a moment, his hands going up to his face to rub it. “You’re so fucking stupid.”

You laugh sadly at that as you put your shirt back on, wishing things had been different. Wishing you had come back unharmed with your precious bag for Tavros. You suddenly feel your head get light and begin to spin, so you stagger to the nearest wall for balance. You press both of your hands against the concrete, refusing to let your knees bend and drop you to the ground.

“Gamzee?” Karkat says cautiously, but you hear his voice far, far away. You press your forehead against the hard surface and groan, feeling a bolt of sharp pain sprout from your wound and spread to the rest of your body like acid, and you feel like vomiting yet again, your insides twisting. You drop to the ground heavily on your knees, getting on all fours to gag as you try to dig your nails into the solid ground. “Gamzee, God!” Karkat hurries towards you and puts a hand on your back, and you know he can feel you shaking, feel you jerking forwards from your choking. But nothing comes out of your mouth yet again. You try to remember the last time you ate. You fail to remember. You grunt again and try to get up, letting Karkat help you with the nearly impossible task. “Come on, we have to go.” He says with worry, staggering a little when you lost your balance and he had to hold you up. “We’ll figure out what to do later.” You nod slowly, feeling your body get unbearably cold.

 


 

You opened your eyes slowly, feeling your eyelids like sandpaper against your eyeballs. You try to focus your eyes and see where you were, and you found Tavros face as he leaned over you, standing next to the mattress.

You look around with a frown and feel your head spinning, and you feel his hand press against your forehead to both keep you in place and check your temperature. You hear him exhale heavily.

“It’s not going down.” He murmurs mostly to himself, shaking his head before sitting beside you on the bed. “How are you, feeling?” He says softly, and you grunt before replying.

“Fucking tits.” You joke and try to laugh, only managing to get the nausea to come back. He doesn’t say anything else after that, and just looks at you as if you had done something wrong. You suddenly remember everything that has happened in the last few days, and your eyes widen in fear.

“Where’s Karkat?” You croak, and you see him look away before you can see his expression. “Tav?”

“He went out, about half an hour ago.” He replies when he meets your gaze again, and you desperately try to read his face and see if he already knew; But you can’t read him for the life of you. He stays quiet for a moment more before finally speaking again, his eyes softening as he caresses your face with the back of his hand. “He brought you in unconscious…” He says “Said something about the flu.” You don’t tear your eyes off of him as he speaks, a deep frown forming on your face. “I think he went to see if he could find medicine, or, something...” He trails off before reaching over you, and he grabbed a white cloth that had been sitting there with his right hand. He brings it to your face to wipe off the sweat from your forehead, going down the bridge of your nose, stopping to dry off the moisture on your upper lip. He sighs deeply and sets the cloth aside, looking you over with a defeated expression. “You’re soaking wet.” He’s right. You suddenly notice the way your shirt and pants stick to your body, and your hair to your scalp. It could be worse, though, or so you think.

“I’m fine, bro.” You assure him, and attempt to sit up with your elbows. He pushes you back down before you can get far, and you let out a loud grunt and a hiss when you felt his hand push against your shoulder.

“S-sorry.” He says quickly, yanking his hands away from you at once. “Where are you, hurting?” He asked then, sounding a bit confused. You shake you head with your eyes fixed on his. You begin to think he probably doesn’t know your dirty little secret yet.

“Just. It’s my head, I’m fine.” You lie. He doesn’t look all that skeptical, though. You think of getting up but you can’t move too much. You feel so tired.

He gets off the bed and looks around the room, and you see him crouch down near the bed to pick up a shirt that belongs to you. He looks it over to check for spiders before standing by your side again, and leaves it on the mattress before grabbing the end of your shirt with his hands.

“Wait, hold on!” You grab his hands and push them away, your eyes going wide.

“I’m just, helping you.” He says with a frown. “You have to take this off. Keeping it on will just, make you even sicker.” He tries again, getting a hold of your shirt to pull it up, and you lift your hands again to catch his. You miss, and he is the one to get a hold on your wrists to push them away before trying again. You give in to your fear for not being able to get away, and you don’t really think your next action through.

“Don’t touch me!” You press your palms against his chest and push him away with all your remaining strength, making him stumble back and fall on his bottom. You see him sit up quickly with surprise written all over his face.

“Fuck!” You almost yell when the sharp pain strikes you again, and you shut your eyes close with a hiss as you lift a hand to your wound in a protective manner.

“...Gamzee.” You open your eyes again to see Tavros staring at you from the floor, a pained expression replacing the surprise and confusion. You feel the base of your stomach tighten. You have never done anything like that before. Not to Tavros, at least. You’re not sure what to say.

“I’m sorry…” You murmur just as Karkat comes into the room, and he eyes Tavros before shooting his eyes towards you.

“Is… everything okay?” He clears his throat and stares at Tavros, and the other looks up to meet his eyes. He begins to nod slowly.

“Yes.” Tavros mutters and begins to get off the floor, not daring to look at you in the eyes anymore. “I was just, leaving.”

“Tav.” But he doesn’t look at you as he walks out of the room quickly, his footsteps going down the hall and into the living room before you hear the front door shut loudly.

“What happened?” Karkat asks right away, his eyes looking at you accusingly. “Did you tell him?” He closes the door and walks towards the bed, taking a seat right next to you. He presses a hand against your forehead too, checking your fever, but he doesn’t say anything. You shake your head slowly.

“No.” Is the only thing you say, and he seems to get tired of your silence after a while.

“Okay. I brought you some antibiotics. They might help.” He shows you the box in his hand and places it on your chest. “I… also spoke to Meenah.”

Chapter Text

You could never describe the pain you felt when Karkat scrubbed your wound with alcohol.

He had made you sit on the toilet’s seat as he worked, a concentrated frown on his face, his small, expert hands working over it and squeezing the area to check for pus. You tried your best to keep quiet and still, but God was it hard, and God did you wish you could just die on the spot.

He had helped you into the kitchen after that, and forced you to eat a little after your reply to the question “When did you eat last?” had been a painful, careless shrug. You didn’t feel hungry, but you knew better than to refuse the food. You thought it might even help you regain some strength, something Karkat had insisted was a huge possibility. The food tasted like cigarette ashes to you.

He made you swallow some pills after that, and sat outside the house with you on the curb, until the evening became night and the air became chilly, and you began to feel your strength come back.

You are sitting there right now, your buttocks feeling slightly sore and numb, but you feel so much better than before. The pain is still there, but it’s not as potent as before. The nausea is also gone. You feel incredibly grateful towards Karkat, and grateful to the higher powers for making it possible for you to get medicine in times like these. You just wish the medicine was able to cure you from the actual virus too, though, wish is a stupid thought to nurse.

You sigh deeply and run your hands through your hair, remembering that Tavos still hasn’t come back. You don’t know where he went exactly, but you have a pretty good idea. He had the habit of wandering off into the furthest and loneliest part of "town" when he wanted to think, much like you. He wasn’t all that afraid of being alone anymore, unlike the rest of the population inside the Safe Zone.

You see Karkat stand up and stretch his back out of the corner of your eye, and you look up at him just in time to see him speak.

“Time to go.” He murmurs and offers a hand to you, and you stand up with only a little bit of trouble. “Are you feeling alright?” He says before beginning to walk, and you nod. “Good…”

He walks ahead of you towards the main gate since the soldiers’ quarters are there. He had told you something about the General being in a reunion when he had tried to speak with her, but he hadn’t gone into details, and you honestly were too distracted when he had mentioned it. Now you are curious, though, and you really want to know what’s awaiting you. Because you are sure this is about you.

You find yourself to be only a few meters away from the soldier’s quarters when you spot Tavros, laughing at something the girl with him had just said. You squint your eyes as you get closer with Karkat, and you hear Karkat curse under his breath. You realize the girl in uniform is Nepeta, a close friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You wonder when she had gotten back. You wonder if maybe she had come back in the same vehicle as Karkat, and you just hadn’t noticed.

She is the first one to spot you.

“Gamzee!” She calls out with a wave, but doesn’t run to you as she used to do. Instead she stays in place, waiting for you to get closer, all the while throwing glances in Karkat’s direction as if she didn’t know if she should say ‘hi’ to him as well. You throw your own set of glances in Tavros’ direction, expecting him to look at you funny, but he instead just smiles softly at you. You can’t help but feel horrible about pushing him like you had done, and yelling. You just want to hold him now and kiss his forehead.

“Hey sis.” You wave back at her when she is rather close to you, and she opens her arms for a hug. But Karkat grabs your arm and pulls you away from her, leading you towards the small building reserved for the General’s reunions.

“Yeah, we are kind of busy right now and don’t have time for that shit, so goodbye.” He says harshly, and Nepeta purses her lips before letting her arms drop to her sides.

“Busy?” Tavros says in a quiet tone, his eyes looking over you and Karkat curiously.

“Yes, busy.” Karkat says and rolls his eyes, stepping towards the door to deliver a few loud knocks on the wood.

The door swings open almost immediately, revealing a tall woman in uniform with a large gun visible on her back and braids that almost reach the floor. Those were the traits that stood out the most to you at least.

“Yo, grumpy face.” She grins widely at your best friend, and soon steps back inside with a motion of her wrist for him to follow her in.

“Move.” Karkat mutters to you, pushing you in before you could say anything.

The room is larger than you expected, a wide window on the left that lets you see the cluster of soldiers outside, chatting, laughing and organizing guns and provisions on top of boxes and wooden tables that were barely holding together. There is a large desk against the wall that you guess is hers, and you see her walk towards it to sit on the surface instead of the chair. She crosses her legs and tilts her head back, trying to look down at you despite your size, a large smile on her lips.

“Shello.” She says to you, and quickly looks at Karkat again just as he is closing the door behind him. “Tell her to come inside too, shouty.” She orders him before looking at you again. “The Nepeta girl.”

You look at Karkat and see him open the door, popping his head through to yell at Nepeta to get inside. You manage to get a look of the outside, seeing her walk towards the door rapidly, seeing Tavros look after her in confusion, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes going up to meet yours. You could almost read the question ‘what is going on?’ on his face. And he looks honestly frustrated.

Karkat closes the door after Nepeta gets inside, and she steps closer to the center of the room.

“You look weird without your uniform, soldier.” The girl with long braids says in a teasing tone, and you assume the question is directed at Karkat seeing as he was the one to grunt, and he is wearing Tavros’ own worn out clothes. “Don’t look as fine.”

“Shut up Meenah, this is serious.” He mutters with a glare, and she snorts. You wonder why, being the General, she doesn’t scold him for being disrespectful.

“What is serious?” Nepeta is the one to speak, and she looks at everyone in confusion.

“Yeah, grumps, down to business.” Karkat looks at you and you wonder how much he had already told Meenah, if he had a chance to actually speak to her at all.

“Okay…" You hear the hesitation in his voice. He looks right at you again as if he is searching for reassurement, and you give him a slight nod and a lick of your own lips. "He’s-He’s immune to the virus.” He blurts out, and you keep your eyes on Meenah to see her reaction. She raises a thin eyebrow as she looks you over skeptically, with a slight expression of disdain on her face.

“How can you know that?” She says almost mockingly, the question being open for either you or Karkat. But he is the one to speak.

“He came in contact with it and didn’t transform.” You look down at Nepeta after he finished speaking, and you see her eyes widen in surprise before looking at you, confused.

“What?” The smaller girl asks you in a hushed tone. “What do you mean came in contact?” She speaks louder this time, and you see Karkat glare at her.

“He was bitten, you fucking idiot.”

“Reely?” You turn your head towards Meenah as she begins to laugh loudly, her white, shark-like crooked teeth standing out even more against her dark skin. “How long ago?”

“A few days.” You say.

“How the fuck did you manage to get yoself bitten, buoy?” You chew on the inside of your cheek a little nervous.

“I got out.”

“Out of the Safe Zone?”

“Yeah.” You try to shrug, but decide that you should not try that ever again. The pain isn’t worth it.

“That’s intelligent.” She snorts and fixes her glasses, her leg swinging to the floor as she got on her feet again. “Where was it?” She gets closer to you and looks you over from your head to your feet.

“Outside.”

“I mean on yo body.” You hesitate before pointing to your shoulder, and she raises her arm to touch you just as you back away from her. “I wanna sea.” She says simply, grinning widely as she keeps her stare on your covered shoulder.

“You’ll see it when I change the bandages again, Meenah, I just fucking cleaned it up an hour ago or something.” Karkat says annoyed, and she bites on her bottom lip before giving up and backing away.

“Aight, chill.” She goes back to sitting on the desk, and she stares out the window for a moment. You see Nepeta move out of the corner of your eyes, standing by your side and leaning closer to speak. You look back at her curiously.

“Does it… hurt?” She asks.

“Like a bitch.” You say and try to smile, and she gives you a pitiful look.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t go apologizing sister, it ain’t your fault. It was all me.” She considers your words for a moment with a nod, and suddenly widens her eyes slightly. “Oh, poor Tavros too…” She says mostly to herself, and you bite your lips before speaking. Karkat cuts you off before you manage to say a word, though.

“He doesn’t know. And I will fucking end you if you decide to tell him without Gamzee’s permission.” She nods right away, but her eyes are set on you. You get the feeling she wants to say more, but that those words are only for your ears.

“What do you want me to do ‘bout it?” Meenah finally speaks up with a sigh. Karkat is quiet for a while, but soon replies.

“Isn’t it obvious?” He scoffs. “Well, we want to know if there’s any chance that other safe areas are still existent, and if there’s any chance that at least one of them is doing any kind of fucking effort to find a cure.” Meenah laughs again, and you decide you don’t really like the sound of it.

“You think this guy can be the key to the cure?”

“Well… I don’t know! But if there’s even a remote chance of that, then fuck me, I think it’s worth a fucking shot!” Karkat steps forward to talk to her in a more face to face manner, and you are left behind to stand by Nepeta. “We can’t just stay like this forever! You know it’s only a matter of time before this sector’s water supply is shut down, before the electricity is shut down, and before we run out of food. Not to mention there are fucking murderous cannibals running around just outside these walls, waiting for the best fucking chance to break in and kill us all! We have to do something, Meenah, and you know it.”

“And you should know I have no way of knowing if other Safe Zones are still a thing, shouty.” She replies with a calmer voice than you expected. He opens his mouth to speak again, but just ends up groaning. “Besides, I don’t think another Safe Zone like this one has a chance of having people qualified to find a cure. You need a lab for that, smart people, and all that fancy shit we don't got. Just look around you here. Filled with useless prawns and needy people.” You see Karkat’s shoulders slouch in defeat.

“I know.” You purse your lips at the disappointed tone in his voice, and realize that not everything is as easy as it seems at first.

“...So we need to find a place that was closed off safely, and that also has an appropriate... laboratory?” Nepeta speaks up, making Meenah set her eyes on her. “Because… I used to go to a University close by. The Rosswood University, and I’m sure they had a huge lab they used for research. I had a friend that studied Medical Sciences there before being transferred…” She trails off when she sees all of you are staring at her. “I mean… Maybe there’s no one alive there anymore that can work on this, and maybe there's no way to make a cure after all, but…”

“That sounds like a plan to me!” Meenah interrupts with a clap of her hands, startling you for a second. “Problem is, that’s a suicide mission.”

“How is it different from all the other field expeditions we’ve done?” Karkat seems to have recovered his previous determination.

“Well, it’s… very far.” Nepeta mutters.

“There you go.”

“We can make it. And this time it’ll be actually worth risking our fucking lives. If it works out and we get there safely, and if there’s any useful douchebag sitting in that hypothetical lab, we might have just saved the rest of the human race!” Meenah lifts an eyebrow at him. “I'd rather die being actually useful for a change than searching for more survivors. There are no more survivors in this area. It’s a major waste of time, bullets and gas.”

“And if there’s no useful douchebag sittin’ in the lab?”

“Then we fucking hatch another plan and look for another place we can try our luck at.” Karkat says with resolve, and you all stare at Meenah to hear the verdict. A wide grin spreads across the girl’s face and she chuckles, getting up yet again to stand before Karkat.

“That’s why I love you, shouty. Fucking strong ass character.” She pats Karkat’s shoulder with affection, making the other step back and grunt half heartedly. “Whale. I say we do it. What the hell, we’re all gonna die anyways!” The way she laughs makes you think she doesn’t fear death at all, and might even welcome it gladly. “Whaddya say, lucky buoy?” Her eyes are set on you, almost shining with what you are pretty sure is excitement. You guess she probably was already bored of sitting around all day when she wasn’t leading an expedition, and had been praying for something like this to happen. Praying to get some real, worthwhile action.

You gift her a smile before speaking up.

“I say we better get our hurry on with this shit. I might not even last that long up in the world of the living.” You see Karkat shoot you a glare that scolded you for even thinking about dying, but you purposefully dismiss it. It isn’t like you aren’t sure that’s exactly what awaits you anyways. Death. You don’t really see any way that all of this can end up with you getting cured anymore. You still hope that you can be useful, though, and that anyone else gets a chance at living again thanks to you, for fictitious as it sounds.

“Then it’s settled. You in, soldier?” You see her ask Nepeta, and the girl beside you nods firmly.

“Of course!” She gives you a sweet smile, and you can’t help but return the gesture.

“Aight, now get out. I gotta think which of these losers I’m gonna leave in charge, cause there’s no way in hell I ain’t going. We leave tomorrow afternoon.” She turns her back to you and goes through her messy desk, and Karkat promptly goes to the door to get you out.

You look around as soon as you step outside, trying to spot Tavros; but he is gone, as you halfway expected. Nepeta seems to notice what you are doing from the way she clutches your arm and pulls softly, making you follow her. You notice Karkat went back inside the building, closing the door behind himself. You guess he wants some time alone with her while they can have it, and you are pretty you know the reason now. You might ask him later on anyways, though.

You begin to walk by Nepeta’s side, feeling the night’s chilly breeze ruffle your hair softly. She is quiet for a while, and you don’t really feel like starting a conversation. You really want to get to the house and sleep. But what you really want to do the most is see Tavros’ pretty face. You are trying not to think about it as hard as you can, but all of this only means one thing: You will have to leave Tavros behind. You swallow harshly and try to think of anything else, but the thought of never seeing Tavros again is making it impossible for you to even breathe properly.

“How are you feeling?” Nepeta speaks up at last as if on cue, and you glance in her direction.

“Could be all kinds of better.” You say. She’s quiet for a few seconds more before speaking again.

“Do you think this will work out?” You take your time to consider it. You truly are not sure.

“I think we can get there just fine.” You say “But I’m not all that positive that there’ll be any motherfucker alive there, waitin’ on us.”

“I think the same.” she says thoughtfully before changing the subject. “What were you doing outside?” There's a frown on her face as she speaks, curiosity dripping from her voice.

“I was, uh… I went to Tavros’ old house.” You always did trust this girl, and you don’t think there’s any harm in being honest. She has confided in you plenty of times in the past; well, mostly only a few weeks ago. It seems like a really long time ago though. It was mostly when she and Karkat hadn't volunteered to bear the burden of protecting everyone inside the safe zone with their own lives, and they spent their days trying to get by the same way you do right now, and everyone else does.

Karkat had always dreamt of joining the army, or so he had told you, but he didn't get a chance to enlist before the breakout. He hadn't graduated yet, and he had wanted to finish high school before nursing thoughts of protecting the country from the sure to come war. To him, that was the perfect excuse to fulfill his dream.

Thoughts of the country being under attack had been in everyone's mind for the last few years before any of this happened, and the people often spoke about different ways the war would finally start and by whom, each scenario being more unlikely and ridiculous than the last. Plans of other countries wanting to give the first blow with biological weapons had been the most popular conspiracy theory, and even though no one wanted to take that seriously, everyone knew it was a huge possibility. You could say the looming threat of war and weapons like these were the reason why so many people to action so rapidly when the attack had finally come, and you are a little grateful for that. Safe Zones had been possible only thanks to that, which is the reason why there is also a huge, unused bunker far off to the other side of this particular Safe Zone, just in case bombs were the chosen ones instead of any other deadly, cruel weapon used against the innocent.

In any way, Nepeta hadn't planned on joining the army before, and had only gotten the idea to "enlist" thanks to Karkat. It didn't mean she was doing it for him; she just hadn't thought about using her strong, resistant body to help before, and if this small boy could do it, then why couldn't she? She had told you a secret when you asked her her reasons, and you had laughed and agreed it was a good idea: She would also enlist to make sure he would come home safe after every mission. She loved him after all, even when Karkat deliberately ignored her feelings for the best, and didn't reciprocate in the least of ways. She paid no mind to that. She would still protect him. You had decided she was a person you could trust after that day with no more room left to doubt.

“...Why?” she said, probably having a vague idea of why you left the Safe Zone to go to your boyfriend's house.

“I wanted to bring some of his stuff back here. You know. Memories and shit. Nice stuff so he can remember his daddy and his life before shit went down and screwed us all up.”

“That’s… sweet.” You see her face glowing with a bright smile, and you can’t help but chuckle. “You must love him furry much.” You notice the slip of the cat-pun right there. It still amuses you how she does that, even when she decided to make an effort to stop with them. Something about being too childish, she had told you before, once she started wearing the heavy uniform.

“Hell yeah I fucking do. More than anything.” She makes this quiet squeaking sound, and you giggle this time at her reactions. “What?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s just really cute.” She sighs and looks ahead, and you wonder what she is thinking about. “... He also said he loves you very much.” You can’t read her face when she looks at you. You really should start learning to do so; or maybe everyone around you except for Karkat is just very good at hiding their emotions.

You nod at her words and look to the ground, watching your feet move as you walk slowly.

“You must tell him.” She says, and you meet her eyes to see the worry in them. “Talk to him.”

“I don’t want to.”

“You have to.” You shake your head stubbornly. You don’t want to tell him. You know he will worry, and you know he won’t be happy at all. You don’t know what to do. You know you have to do it. You can’t leave without giving him an explanation, without speaking to him at least one more time, being honest. You feel a tightness in your chest as you begin to realize this is all so sudden, and so, so scary.

“How am I even supposed to go about doin’ that shit?” You say, realizing your voice sounded at least 10 times more desperate than you intended it to. But you really are incredibly desperate inside. You wish you could control yourself, but you can’t, and the next thing that escapes your lips is a weak sob. She immediately pushes you to the side and makes you sit on the curb carefully, being extra cautious to not touch the area that was supposed to be wounded on your shoulder.

“It’s okay.” She tells you, standing in front of you before getting on her knees and begn to pet your hair. This only makes you want to cry even more, and you do so, feeling that with her you can just let go, at least this one time.

“I don’t wanna hurt him.” You whisper, feeling tears run down your face quickly. “I don’t wanna leave him. I fucked up so fucking bad, sister.” She rubs her thumbs over your cheeks and dries off some tears, a firm expression of both worry and kindness on her face. You reach out your hands and try to pull her close, getting her to wrap her arms around you protectively, getting her to hug you as you begin to cry your eyes out against her chest. You notice she almost smells like your mom. You pretend you really are in her arms.

 

She takes you to your house after your little scene before going off to her own place hesitantly. You thank her for putting up with your pathetic shit, and she just gives you a worried look before hurrying off. You wave a goodbye and step inside the house, feeling the warm air welcome you. You look around the living room, seeing no one there in the darkness. You make your way to the bathroom quietly to wash the salt from your face and try to calm down, and you sit on the toilet seat to think with a vacant expression on your face.

You finally get out several minutes later, and you decide to head for the living room to rest. You notice a lamp is now on, the one that sits right by the couch, and you find Tavros sitting there. He is hugging his legs as he reads an old book of Aradia’s. He lifts his eyes as he sees you get closer, and he sets the book down immediately, closing it without saving the page. He places it on the armrest of the couch, and keeps his stare on you as you walk towards him, following you with his eyes until you sit right beside him.

“...Hey motherfucker.” You whisper after a moment, a soft, tired smile forming on your lips. He chuckles quietly before returning your smile, and he lets his hand find yours to hold on to it.

“Hey.” He sounds almost as tired as you do. You let him entwine his fingers with yours gratefully as your eyes lower themselves to look at the sweet action.

You remain quiet as you look at both of your hands holding each other, observing the contrast of his tan skin against your pale one, his thick fingers wrapping around your long, bony ones. You love the sight, and you wish you could just look at it forever, and feel his hand in yours until time stops existing. But as the seconds pass by you can feel the tension in the room getting heavier, and after a full minute of silence, you feel like you could cut the air with a knife if you wanted to.

He wriggles his hand away from your grip and you feel your stomach tighten for a second at the loss.

“Your eyes…” He whispers and you force yourself to look at him. “They are, red again... And swollen.” You purse your lips and nod curtly.

“Yeah.” You subconsciously straighten yourself up and move away a little. He lets his head rest on the couch’s backrest, his eyes never leaving your face. You can almost read the questions in his eyes, but you can also read the hesitation to ask them. He must think he is being annoying by now.

You keep your eyes on his for a few seconds more, trying to imagine what will happen after you tell him. You made up your mind. You can’t bring yourself to keep him in the dark much longer. You don’t know if it actually will do any more good than harm, but you decide to do as Karkat and Nepeta advised, and you are beyond changing your mind now, no matter how scared you are.

“Listen, Tav…” You decide to speak up before he comes at you with the questions. You want to make this simple; keep it quick, clear, honest. “I have to tell you something important.” He tenses up right away with a frown on his face, and sits up more comfortably. He suddenly looked all too ready for bad news.

“...Yes?” He murmurs, and you swallow thickly. You try to find the right words just like you had done with Karkat. You decide you didn’t want such a graphic approach with him.

You set your eyes on his firmly and begin to breathe deeply.

“I don’t… I don’t know where to begin, motherfucker.” You laugh dryly, but the sound resembles a sob. He nods as a reply, probably too afraid that if he speaks up you won’t speak anymore. You try to swallow the lump that’s choking you now, but you fail, and you feel tears start to well in your eyes. “Please-” You clench your teeth in an attempt to avoid crying. You shake your head angrily, your hands going to your face to wipe off the water from your eyes before it falls down your cheeks, and you set your eyes on his again firmly. God, he looks so worried and scared now.

“Tavros, I…” You count to ten in your mind and blurt out: “I got infected with the virus. Bitten. I got bitten by one of those nasty motherfuckers outside.” You try to not speak too fast, too loud, but you’re not doing a very good job at that “It was a bunch days ago already, and I didn’t turn into one of them bro, I’m still fucking human.” You breathe in to speak again, but you’re suddenly not sure what else you can say. Your mind has gone blank. You force yourself to not avert your eyes, and you almost gasp at his horrified expression.

“Wait… what?” He breathes out, “I don’t… I don’t understand, Gamzee, what are you talking about?”

“A creature bit me, Tavros, an infected bitch from outside of the Safe Zone.” You speak slower, making sure he understands. “I’m infected. But I’m not one of them. I don’t got my know going for if I’m gonna turn into one or not, but for now I ain’t. I’m still human.”

He nods. He blinks once and looks away.

“Oh.” Is all he says, his eyes looking anywhere else besides your face. He stands up suddenly, his breathing picking up speed, making his nostrils flare with the effort. He looks at you as if he is about to ask if you were joking, but he must have seen something on your face that made it obvious that you weren’t.  “What? Wait-When?” He says shakily instead, his eyebrows furrowing.

“A few days ago.” You all but whisper.

“What were you doing outside?” He is trying hard to not raise his voice too much, but you can hear the way it breaks and quivers, and know someone is bound to hear you. You don’t answer. “Goddammit Gamzee, answer me!” He is breathing too fast, too loud. He is getting very angry.

“I…” You trail off, and don’t continue. You know he will pick up exactly when you had gone out. But he is too heated up and doesn’t push that one.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“I’m telling you now, bro-”

“Shut up!” You have never seen him nearly this angry before, and you have no idea what to do. He chokes when he tries to speak again, so he takes a few seconds to breathe in and out before speaking. “Why didn’t you tell me, Gamzee?” He repeats, his whole body practically shaking, his chest heaving, and that’s when you realize he’s not breathing properly. You stand up and grip his arms tightly, trying to pull him towards you. He tries to jerk away and push you, but he just can’t. You manage to hold him up when he suddenly loses his balance, and you sit on the couch carefully, sitting him on your lap as you wrap your arms around him and hug him from behind.

“Breathe, Tavros, breathe.” You plead him, petting his head to calm him down and rubbing his chest with your other hand. “Breathe, come on.” You say, and feel him make the effort. “Slowly. Deeply.” You remind him, trying to remember what you had done last time he had an asthma attack. Asides from panicking, of course. It had been a really long time ago, and you’ve tried to avoid him getting stressed like this to prevent another episode. Last time it had occurred when an infected had managed to get inside the Safe Zone, managing to infect at least three people. He hadn’t seen it, but the screams and the rapid news had been enough to set him off. “Come on Tavros, please.” You whisper, your mouth against the side of his face, leaving sweet, yet desperate kisses on his cheek. “It’s gonna be okay.”

His chest starts to lift more regularly, and his body is relaxing into yours. You breathe in deeply yourself, not realizing you had stopped. “There you go.” You kiss his cheek a few more times, and he begins to make the effort to get off of your lap and sit beside you instead. You’re surprised to see he’s still not letting himself cry.

“I’m okay.” He lets you know, and takes a few more deep breaths just in case. You watch him close his eyes and breathe. You watch him try to swallow. “God.”

You want to say something more, anything, but you have no idea what. You want to let him think it though, let it sink in at least. He is able to speak after almost a minute.

“Where did it bite you?” He whispers, looking you over.

“Here.” You touch your fingers to your shoulder carefully. He stares at the spot before scooting closer to you, and begins to take off your shirt as he had tried to do before. Now you let him. You let him see the bandages covering your shoulder, let him lift a hand towards it to test how much pressure he can apply before hurting you, and you let him go off to the bathroom to come back with the medical kit as if you hadn’t cleaned up the wound already. You let him undo Karkat’s work and remove the cloth, set it aside, and take a good look at it. You let him take your hand in his as he gasped nervously, to then feel his lips press against the back of your hand softly.

“I’m sorry.” He whispers against your skin before kissing your hand again, as if he had something to apologize for.

He begins to gently pat a cotton ball against your wound, making you shut your eyes tightly and throw your head back with a groan, but you don’t pull away.

“Mother fuck.”

He finishes off rather quickly, and soon begins to wrap your shoulder with a fresh cloth that he ties as best as he can. He helps you put your shirt back on afterwards in silence, and he just sits there with you. Sits there, eyes set on yours with this pained expression that you despise because it makes you feel horrible, his mouth parting when he wanted to say something that he soon chose not to say.

You feel your eyes heavy and your body beg for sleep, and you decide to lower yourself to rest your head on Tavros’ lap with a sigh. You feel so guilty. You feel so angry at yourself. So exhausted. You can continue this conversation tomorrow, now that the worst has passed. That's what you think, at least, in your sleep deprived haze.

His body starts to shake faintly, and you hear him try to quiet down as he begins to cry, petting your head. You grab on to his legs and shut your eyes even tighter, feeling tears well in your own eyes and fall on his pants before you couldn’t take it anymore and fell asleep.