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All We Have Is Each Other Sometimes, And That’s OK

Chapter Text

If you were to tell Ted Spankoffski that very morning that he would be fighting unknown government agents with the very same person who had gotten his fling and his best friend killed in the midst of a musical apocalypse on the same day, he would have ignored you.

Yet here he was.

He didn’t even know these people! Right before Paul had been dragged away, he had mentioned a...PEEP (Ted’s immediate thought had been those marshmallow things), so Ted was pretty sure that was who those guys were. Now he was attempting to ward off the...things with a biology professor he had known for less than a day. So, yeah, they were as dead as Ted’s coworkers. As the two were danced into a corner, Hidgens squeezed Ted’s shoulder to get his attention.

“One of them has a gun.” He whispered. Ted nodded and locked his eyes on one of the agents’ gun holsters. Before he could maybe tackle them and take the gun to save both their sorry asses, he was restrained and put into a chokehold by the lead singer. His companion wasn’t doing much better. Ted was losing oxygen quickly, and he was sure he would die or be infected any minute now. Or maybe both. Maybe he would be choked and then become a zombie. Was that not how it worked? Either way, it didn’t matter to him. His life had been nothing special, nothing worth actually wanting, maybe this was how it should go-

A gunshot rang out, and a chunk of blue flung itself out of the agent’s ear as his grip loosened. Ted fell to the ground in a heap. Professor Hidgens held a revolver with shaky hands. The rest of the musical zombies scattered and the biology professor dropped the gun and ran to help Ted up. Ted coughed as Hidgens took his hand and led them blindly around.

“A helicopter’s s’possed to meet us here. Paul said so.” Ted commented when they passed the landing spot Paul had hurriedly told him and Emma about before “Greg” and “Stu” took both of them away. The biology professor glanced at him before stopping. He looked around and spotted the giant X on the ground.

“Here?” He scuffed the place with his shoe.

“Mm-hm.” The whirring of helicopter blades reached Ted’s ears. A helicopter was flying down towards them and Hidgens pulled him back. Ted grinned weakly when he knew they were safe.

“Hey!” He called, waving his other arm in the air. “We’re the only survivors! Down here!” Even though it was a silly proclamation; of course they were the only survivors. A lady opened the door, revealing two passenger seats. She glanced at their interlocked hands before glancing back in front of her. Ted noticed and quickly tore his hand away from Hidgens’ and, maybe too aggressively, got into the passenger seat. His companion followed and buckled his seatbelt. The helicopter flew into the air. No one spoke.

“Ted?” The professor’s voice was soft.

What ?” Ted growled. It wasn’t the nicest answer, but the “hand holding” thing had messed him up.

He had survived. He had survived with the same person who had shot Charlotte, the same person who had doomed Paul to an inevitable fate, the same person who had a gentle hand on his shoulder, the same person who had saved him yet who had also doomed him. 

“…Maybe a seatbelt would be a good idea?” It was meant to be a suggestion. Ted decided to ignore said suggestion and instead leaned forward towards the woman flying them out of Hatchetfield.

“Hey, lady? Uh, thanks. You really saved our asses back there.” He chuckled. When he got no answer, he gave up and looked out the window. The tiny peninsula of his hometown seemed so small, and Ted almost couldn’t believe that there had ever been enough space to live comfortably. “Hidgens, I think I can see your house from here.” He commented, eyes landing on the relatively small block of building that looked an awful lot like the professor's house. He turned back when he didn’t get an answer. Somehow, Henry had fallen asleep with his face pressed against the window pane. He was mumbling something, occasionally humming as well. Ted stared at the way his chest rose and fell, thinking once more about surviving with a person he barely knew, before yawning. Actually, sleeping sounded like a really good idea right now…

And, who knows? Maybe once they got to the mainland, they’d never have to see each other again.

He looked back at Hatchetfield one last time. Was he sad to leave? Well, if you ignored the billions of singing zombie things roaming around and how it was miles safer to get off the island, then yes, a bit. While Hatchetfield had been his home for as long as he could remember, Ted’s life had never been the best there, on that island in the sea. Maybe it was time to start again, make another, fresher name for himself. He just hoped it wouldn’t be in fucking Clivesdale.

“Goodbye, Hatchetfield…” His eyes slipped closed.

Chapter Text

They were taken to a hospital first, a clean one, in Clivesdale. They were asked the standard stuff like their names, where they (used to) work, how they managed to survive a hoard of singing zombie motherfuckers (as Ted had called them in a description), and their relationship with the other.

“Companion.” Hidgens had answered immediately. Ted glanced at him but kept his mouth shut. He realized it was his turn to answer.

“Uh…a friend of a…” What had Emily (had that been it? It started with an e, right?) been to him? An annoying barista that Paul preferred over him, sure, but what about in positive terms? Did he even have anything…?

Uh…nope.

“A friend of an annoyance.” He settled on his answer, not caring about the way it made the biology professor shoot him a half-glare.

“I take back what I said.” His voice wasn’t exactly icy, but it did not sound pleased either. Ted ignored him. Hadn’t Eliza (fuuuck what was it?!) mentioned that she had been his favorite student? Oh, well, too fucking late to take back what he said now. Not that he wanted to. Colonel Schaeffer, the lady who had flown them away from Hatchetfield, simply nodded and wrote it down on her file.

“You’ll have to stay here for a day or two so we can make sure that there are no complications from being in close contact with a possibly deadly substance. We have just a few more questions regarding your new living situation.”

“Oh, you mean our new lives in which we have no connection to who we were?” Ted didn’t mean to sound rude or ungrateful because really, PEIP was helping them a great deal, but he was under a lot of stress at the moment and if he didn’t let it out somehow he would crack. Schaeffer nodded again, not at all affected.

“That is correct, Mr. Spankoffski. We’ll give you the files soon enough. Now, just a few more questions, then I’ll leave you two alone.” She assured the duo. She looked at her file for a second. “We need your confirmation on housing. We have two very lively homes in order, yet also a singular apartment. Would you two like to be separated or together? The files will change if necessary-“

“Together.” Hidgens said, not even giving Ted a chance to think about it. “We’d like to stay together. Please.” Ted glanced at the professor. His face showed no trace of what he was thinking. He always disliked those types of people. Colonel Schaeffer nodded.

“Understood. Good luck to you both.” She left them alone. Then Ted was left in a pristine hospital room with a biology professor who wanted them to stay together for some reason. Was Ted mad at the decision? He would be lying if he said yes. He had never been to Clivesdale, much less the state of California. Planes were almost non-existent in Hatchetfield; the island was so small that there was no need.

...Wow. He was in Clivesdale. And, not a day later, he was going to be in California. On a plane. With Heather’s (it had an ‘eh’ sound, he was sure if it) professor, who wanted to stick with him through this despite barely knowing him. Because they were off to California, by themselves. To live together.

Oh, boy.

Thinking about the vastness and noise of the Golden State made Ted feel a bit sick. He swallowed thickly and gripped the blanket. Neither of them were too hurt from the catastrophe, but that was only a physical analysis. Ted was starting to miss his coworkers (were any of them actually considered his friends?), and it hadn’t even been a day. He wasn’t sure the professor had had many people in his life, considering his attachment to his student. Still, Ted wasn’t one to judge. Hell, his best friend hadn’t even invited him to a stupid coffee shop when he’d asked (well, more like demanded...now that he thinks about it, that might have been part of the problem), and the rest of his “friends” had barely even talked to him, oftentimes refusing to have lunch with him.

Actually, that might have been why Paul was considered Ted’s best friend. Not only was he the only one who would eat with him, even joyfully discuss the shitshow that was CCRP’s employees, but he would genuinely care about his well-being at times. If Paul were here right now, Ted would be able to return the favor and try to (he says try to because he had never been good at caring for people) fuss over him for once. But Paul wasn’t here. Instead he was left with Emma’s professor, who didn’t even seem to remember he was there. Stealing a glance, Ted saw he was tapping his fingers together, mumbling lyrics to something that Ted couldn't remember the name of, and frowning. Ted would have let him be if anything music related, no matter if it was from an actual human or not, wasn’t a huge threat to him keeping his cool and not breaking down.

“Hey.” He called and, wow, his voice was raspy. Hidgens didn’t look up. Ted glared. He never liked being ignored. “Hey!” Still, the professor seemed too into whatever he was doing. Ted groaned and would have thrown something (soft, of course. He didn’t want to hurt him too badly) at him if he was not genuinely a bit scared of the professor changing his mind and leaving him alone in cold, large California. So, instead, he stood up and walked to the other hospital bed. Despite him being right there, Hidgens didn’t look up, eyes focused on his fingers tapping together. Ted leaned forward, dipping the edge of the bed with his hands. “Hey. Hidgens.” To his credit, Henry did stop fiddling with his fingers for a few seconds, but then he went right on as if he hadn’t heard Ted. The other man scowled and poked his shoulder. The professor blinked and looked up in slight confusion.

“What?” He asked mildly, not fully back from wherever his mind had been. Ted wanted to comment, but he didn’t.

“Stop that.” He said instead. Hidgens tilted his head, setting his hands down on his lap.

“Stop what?”

“Humming and shit. Stop it.” Fine, he could have been nicer. But a small slip in his composure wouldn't stop him from being a grade-A asshole. The professor stared at him, lips parted, before looking down at his hands. Ted was glad he didn’t have to look into his eyes.

“...OK. Sorry.” Ted nodded and walked back to his hospital bed. There was a window just next to it and, having nothing better to do, he switched courses and looked outside. Clivesdale was more...modern than Hatchetfield. Well, not really modern. More like...new. The little island had stayed mostly the same, sometimes getting a new building here and there throughout the years. “Ted?” He turned from the streets of Clivesdale to Henry, who was twisting the ring on his finger.

“Yeah?” He leaned on the windowsill and looked at his shoes. They were uncomfortable, too tight and too brown. If they were a lighter color, then he would be fine. Why didn't he choose a lighter color today?

“Who did you have? Back in Hatchetfield?” It was quiet, as if he hoped Ted didn’t hear. Ted blinked.

“Uh, like family or…?” Hidgens shrugged.

“Yeah. I guess.” Ted thought it over, though he really didn't need to.

“For my family, I really only had my, uh, my brother. Other than him, there was Paul, Bill...Charlotte, sorta. And sometimes my boss, Mr. Davidson, but he was more for...business.” Why were his work colleagues suddenly so personal? It wasn’t like he really knew any of them! (Except Paul. Awkward, silly, stupid Paul who hadn’t been entirely selfless but not entirely selfish either. People-pleaser Paul that actually enjoyed talking to Ted about normal everyday things. Paul, who was so - too - similar to Ted that it was like looking into a mirror). He coughed when Hidgens didn’t respond. “Uh, what about you?” The professor, who had been staring in front of him, straightened at his voice.

“Me? Well, there’s Emma, obviously, and Alexa, though I suppose she wouldn’t count to other people.” Ted hummed shortly, not really caring.

“So you don’t have family?” He asked anyway.

“No. Emma was the closest thing to family I had. Well, her and Oliver, my nephew. We used to talk for a bit when he would be allowed at my house.”

“Hm. My brother was dating an Oliver. Uh, he worked at a movie theater.” He wasn’t sure why he was giving him such personal information, but he felt this need to talk about Peter more. Hidgens didn’t answer. Ted looked up from where he was staring at his feet. The professor was looking right at him. Ted shifted in his too-brown shoes.

“...What?”

“Oliver worked at the theater. Said the pay was shitty.” He mumbled, analyzing the younger man with piercing eyes. Ted blinked.

“Oh. That’s...interesting.” What was he supposed to say here? ‘Sorry’? ‘That’s sweet, we might be related’? ‘We both lost someone important to us, both of which were important to each other’? ‘I don’t care, now shut up’?

OK, maybe not that last one.

“Mm-hm.” He didn’t elaborate, which Ted was grateful for. Their staring got interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Come in!” Ted yelled, tearing his eyes away. Colonel Schaeffer opened the door, holding a file. She nodded at both of them and walked in. Ted waved. Henry simply put up a hand in greeting for a split second. Schaeffer opted to sit in the chair nearest to Ted’s bed.

“Hello. How are you two holding up?” It was said in a business tone, one Ted was only vaguely familiar with. She really did want to know, but she had to keep a professional air around her.

“Oh, we’re fine.” Hidgens answered, having had time to get over his conversation with Ted. Schaeffer smiled.

“Good. I needed to give you both this.” She held up the file. Ted walked closer and grabbed it. He opened it to see a picture of him on one page and a picture of the professor on the other. Both pages were filled with text and Ted realized there was a second page for both sections. He gave it to Hidgens for him to inspect.

Henry didn’t look at it.

“Uh, what is this?” He asked, looking at the yellow folder in his hands, tracing the side.

“The papers inside are your new identities, along with some additional information on your pasts with each other. I suggest both of you read it soon to familiarize yourselves.” Ted hummed, staring at the folder and contemplating all the different situations this organization could have put them in. It couldn’t be too weird, right? He hoped not. Schaeffer stood. “You’ll be off to California tomorrow. Good luck.”

“Uh, Colonel Schaeffer?” Hidgens asked quickly, “Is there any chance that I could maybe…work as a biology professor again?” His fiddling with the file became more rapid, Ted noticed. It was a lot like what he did whenever he got nervous. He chose to ignore it. The colonel gave Hidgens a smile.

“No can do. There can’t be any tie-ins to your old lives, no matter how minuscule. However, I’m sure you’ll be happy to find we’ve still put you in a teaching position.” She left, telling them that this might be the last time they see her. Ted didn’t really mind.

It felt stuffy in here all of a sudden.

Hidgens gasped and Ted felt compelled to look over. His companion was grinning and his eyes were lit up. The file was open.

“What’s…up?”

“Ted! I’m a drama teacher! I’m a drama teacher at Seaside High School!” He sounded so excited and pleased with himself even if he hadn’t earned it. Ted tilted his head, wondering what was so exciting about that.

“My first love was, and always will be,…musical theatre!”

No, actually. That made sense, looking back. Hidgens let go of the file and seemed to be vibrating with excitement. His hands balled into fists and he shook them up and down, making the hospital bed creak a bit. Ted blinked.

“Hey, uh…what’re our new names?” It seemed rather important. Hidgens stopped and cleared his throat, sobering up quickly. Ted thought back to when he had been humming happily.

Maybe he shouldn’t have told him to stop…

“Yes, of course. Uh…” He scanned the names. “Yours is, um, Thomas Riddleston. Mine is-“

“Wait, wait…Like that one dude in Harry Potter? The evil bastard, with his stupid fuckin’ snake?” Ted interrupted. He didn’t remember much about the movies, but he remembered that kid. He scoffed. “That’s a stupid choice.”

“…Harry who?” Right, isolated for years. That’s what Emma had said, anyway.

“No one. Anyway, what?” He looked at him expectantly.

“What? Oh! Yes. Um, mine is…” He squinted, “Robert Hughes.” He blinked and grinned. “I like it.”

“Glad you at least like yours…” Ted murmured, looking out the window again since there was nothing else to say. The streets were still new and fresh and modern, and it was getting late. Tomorrow they would be on a plane to their - he guessed, considering Hidgens had asked to be put together - new apartment in a place far away from his hometown. He looked back at Hidgens, who was muttering something about Waitress , tapping one hand on the bed railing, with the other hand holding the file with his finger running across the edge.

Maybe their new situation could be…OK. You know, moderately.

Chapter Text

“Commander Lee will give you the designated folders containing your credit card information and passports. He’ll be driving you to the airport and then you’ll be on your own from there. You’ll have a week to get accustomed, then you’re both off to work.” Colonel Schaeffer explained at the front desk of the hospital. “A cab will be arriving...here in five minutes.” She pointed to the map she had given them of Clivesdale, finger not far from the hospital. Ted nodded and let the professor take the map and fold it. “Good luck. Stay strong and you’ll get adjusted quickly.” She walked away unceremoniously. Hidgens pulled Ted out on the road, looking at the map PEIP had given him.

The street was immediately too loud. Of course, Hatchetfield had always been loud, but now everything - the cars, dogs barking, car horns, all of it - just made Ted feel as moldable and tearable as a pile of clay. The sunlight beat down on him, he felt hot, a car honked from somewhere in the distance; it was too loud. Someone bumped into him, they muttered something that didn’t sound like an apology, and he would have fallen if he could take a step. His legs wouldn’t move and why was he in a city, why wasn’t he back home where it wasn’t so loud and crowded, was he alone? He remembered he had come here alone. Did he move here? Why did he move? Where was ‘here’ ? Why was he not at work? Where was work? Just a block away. Just one more block, then he would be in his office with no one there but the occasional visit from Paul and - where was Paul? Had Ted moved without saying goodbye? It seemed like something he would do. Had he said goodbye to Charlotte? Or Bill? Or Melissa? Or was he just that selfish? Leaving to wherever here was, without so much as a note? Serves him right, really, if they hate him even more now. Charlotte won’t have to worry about an affair. Something like a choked whine escaped his shivering form.

Hidgens turned from where he was looking at the street signs. The man he had arrived here with was standing in the same spot, arms wrapped around himself and staring at a stop light. The professor tilted his head, walking back. His companion looked like he was well past the verge of throwing up, face clammy and pale. He was breathing quick, short breaths from his mouth. Hidgens really didn’t want to have to deal with cleaning up vomit, so he tentatively set a hand on Ted’s shoulder.

“Ted? You...there?” Ted doesn’t blink and just slightly glances over. Hidgens started again. “Ted, the cab’s coming in four minutes. Can I lead you?” He tightened his grip on his shoulder just enough so that the other could be informed of what he wanted to do.

“Uh-huh.” It was a mumble, but Hidgens would take it. His hand slipped into Ted’s and he started slowly leading them down the street, glancing back occasionally to make sure his companion was OK. If the professor was honest, this was the exact reason why he had answered before Ted could deny them being put together. He hadn’t seen exactly what Ted was like, but he had seen what Emma was like, and the two were scarily similar. Hidgens didn’t dare think about what could happen if Ted was left alone in such a state of disorientation. Also, yes, it might have been a tad selfish on his part. But, in his defense, he was also a bit discombobulated as well. Being so out in the open without a safe area like his house was not the most grounding thing.

After a few confusing twists and turns, with Hidgens having to reassure Ted a surprising amount of times whenever a bus or a truck passed by, they finally found the place where the cab was supposed to pick them up. Just in time, as well. Henry got in first and let Ted get in by himself. As the driver got them to the airport, he explained in further detail what Schaeffer couldn’t, handing them a second folder.

“I’m assuming Schaeffer has already given you the other folder. This one contains what you need to travel.” He handed Hidgens (as Ted was currently still gripping the professor’s hand and breathing in and out deeply) the folder and kept driving. “I suggest you read the first folder now if you haven’t already. It’ll be easier to process.” Henry didn’t really like the sound of that. He set the folders in the bag the colonel had given to him and compromised to read them with Ted when he was in a clearer state of mind. Maybe at the airport. General Lee dropped them off, bidding them yet another farewell.

“Mr. Kinsley will greet you there to get you settled.” Then he left in his bright yellow taxi. Hidgens really handled most of the interactions, excusing Ted’s mental absence as illness, even buying food for them both. He didn’t eat; he wasn’t hungry, honestly. It was just for Ted, who was still unresponsive to anything the professor said.

If Henry were to guess, Ted’s slight mental detachment came from a few different factors, but mostly an abundance of noise and, as much as he didn’t want to admit it, change. The fact that there were a lot of young kids at the gate didn’t help the noise situation, but Hidgens tried his best. He was no expert on comfort, barely even able to pull himself together most days, but sometimes he would have to be whenever Emma came around. He grabbed Ted’s other hand and tried to look him in the eyes.

“Ted, dear?” The ‘dear’ just slipped. It was like he was talking to Emma, and that gave him some comfort, some sense of normalcy. “I need you to focus on my voice.” He kept his tone slow and even. “I get it, right now is difficult. But I need you for this. I wouldn’t have put us together if I didn’t need you. We need to do what the commander wants. I need you, OK? Can you calm down?”

Children were screaming and clapping and just generally not being a good presence. Children weren’t even allowed at work, and now he was surrounded by them at the gate of a plane headed off to California with Henry after discussing a new identity with a bunch of government agents because their homes got taken over by singing zombie fuckers and he was alone with no one and he couldn’t do this it was too much ugh-

Hidgens was never one for physical contact, especially if he wasn’t warned about it beforehand so, instead of hugging Ted like he originally planned, he just sort of put an arm over his shoulder and pulled him close. Ted didn’t struggle and gratefully laid his head on his shoulder. Henry sighed and rubbed his shoulder with his thumb.

“We’re alright, Ted. It might not seem like it, but we’ll be alright.”