Actions

Work Header

The Revised Zombie Survival Guide

Work Text:

"Shawn, do it!"

Henry's voice was loud and firm. The same tone that had told him a few hundred times growing up that his dad knew what he was talking about. That Shawn should do as he was told.


His finger slid against the trigger. "Dad..."


"Shawn..." That was Gus, two feet behind him, keeping watch, waiting for Lassiter and Juliet, who would be here in two minutes. Two minutes and they could deal with this and he wouldn't have to.


"I can't," Shawn said, just as firmly, just as stubbornly as he had in response to that tone of Henry's every time he'd used it, since Shawn had turned eight.


"Yes, you can." Henry was determined.


Shawn glanced down to the blood dripping down onto the floor. Thousands of memories assaulted him at once and he shook his head. "Stop it. No. I'm not going to shoot you."


"Shawn..." Gus sounded worried. That meant they were getting close. Just a couple of minutes.


"Shawn, you have to get out of here," Henry told him, sounding far too calm and rational for someone bleeding profusely from the bite wound on his arm. "I don't want to hurt anyone. You have to do this. You have to do it now."


His hand wasn't shaking but it felt like the rest of his body was. "Please, dad, please..."


"I'm proud of you, Shawn. You need to go and help your friends. Stay alive."



# 5. Planning is all well and good, but when it comes down it, you'll have limited options. The perfect scenario only exists in your head. What vehicle you drive, what weapons you have, what direction you're headed - you can't control any of that. So stick with the people you trust and work together.



The echo of the gunshot startled Shawn awake.

Gus mumbled in his sleep beside him, but didn't wake up. Shawn looked around, wondering how long he'd managed to sleep this time.

Lassiter was watching him from across the room. He didn't bother asking what he'd been dreaming about. Shawn nodded anyway and got carefully to his feet.

"What time is it?"

"Five-thirty," Lassiter answered, glancing towards Juliet who was curled up on what used to be Chief Vick's couch. She'd have to wake up soon, Shawn knew. Lassiter always let her sleep longer than she asked. But then she did the same for him, so neither ever complained.

"You should sleep now," Shawn told him, though he knew it was useless. Lassiter slept less than Shawn these days.

"They took the Mission last night," Lassiter said quietly when Shawn got close enough that Juliet and Gus wouldn't be disturbed.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

Now there was only the station left. Twenty people left in all of Santa Barbara. It didn't take a genius to work out what would happen next.

"We have to move," Lassiter was saying. "We're not safe here. We need to get out of town."

"And go where, Lassie?" Shawn said, trying to keep his voice calm and quiet. "They've closed all the borders. Even if we get out of town, they're still out there. They're everywhere."

"So, what? We should just sit here and wait to die?" Lassiter's voice got louder. Shawn could hear his anger and frustration; could feel it radiating from him in waves. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't really anyone's fault.

Juliet jerked awake and looked around, confused for a moment. Shawn could see when the memories of where she was and why returned. Her face, soft in sleep, hardened and she straightened her shoulders.

"What's going on?"

Shawn missed the days when Juliet's voice was light and playful. He missed her laugh, her smile. It was funny to think that was only a couple of weeks ago.

Gus groaned and rolled over, waking as soon as his head slipped from the cushion and hit the floor. "What?"

Lassiter glared at Shawn, who glared back.

He really hated it when Lassiter was right.

"We have to go."

“Go where?” Gus asked, getting quickly to his feet and moving closer to Shawn.

“North,” Shawn answered, just as Lassiter said, “South.”

Gus glanced from Shawn to Lassiter as they rounded on each other.

“This is not up for discussion, Spencer,” Lassiter said, his voice even and firm. “We need to go somewhere hot and damp. We’ll take a boat and go south.”

Juliet was nodding in agreement. Even Gus looked convinced.

“Bodies decompose quicker in that climate. If we could find somewhere defensible, we can survive until this is over.”

"How long is that going to be, exactly?" Shawn asked. He watched as Lassiter's hand flexed into a fist and thought that maybe, if he tried really hard, he'd actually get punched in the face this time. "How many zombie apocalypses have you lived through?"

Juliet was between them in an instant. "Okay, that's enough. Both of you. Shawn, you know it makes sense at least to take a boat. They can't swim. It's an extra line of defence."

“Then take my dad's boat,” Shawn said, ignoring Gus’ frown and looking Lassiter straight in the eye. “Go south. Stay together. Don’t get killed.” He paused before adding, “Don’t let Gus get killed.”

“And where are you going?” Gus asked, sounding as angry as Lassiter looked.

“I need to find my mom.”

Shawn knew it was selfish. They all had family, most of whom they hadn’t been able to save. But none of them had had to shoot one of their parents in the head, so Shawn figured he was allowed to be selfish this time.

Lassiter clearly didn’t see it that way. “You don’t even know if she’s alive and you want us take a road trip to God knows where to find her?”

“No,” Shawn argued. “I’m telling you I’m going and you should stick to your plan and stay alive.”

"We're not going anywhere without you," Gus stated, folding his arms across his chest, daring Shawn, or Lassiter, to disagree.

"Shawn, please," Juliet said, trying to sound reasonable. "It's suicide. You don't even know where she is. She might have gone to the country, to the mountains. She could be anywhere. And even if she is still there, there's a good chance she's... infected."

"I know," Shawn said. "I know that. That's why I want you to go south. I'll find you again, if I make it..."

"Don't be ridiculous, Spencer." Lassiter cut him off, glancing back out into the main station where people were slowly starting to wake up. "We're all going. Though I'd like to make it clear from the outset that this is the stupidest idea you've ever had. And I'm placing the blame for its inevitable failure, squarely on your shoulders."

"Noted."

"We're going to need weapons." Lassiter said, and Shawn saw his hands tightening around the shotgun. "More powerful ones." He closed the door to the office and lowered his voice. "O'Hara, you need to organise these people. Tell them to head for the docks, take boats and head south. They're going to need to take provisions, but only what they can carry. They're going to have to split into groups. Take the biggest boats they can. They'll need to be searched first. Tell them to stay off the deck when they're in sight of land and keep the radio manned and on an emergency frequency. They need to get as far south as they can, but they'll only be able reach land at night and they're going to have to do it armed to the teeth." He stopped and sighed, looking around the room quickly. "Guster, stay with her. Don't open the doors until we get back, but be ready to go when we do. Spencer, you're with me.”


# 1. It doesn't matter what caused it. Maybe it's a virus. Maybe it's a Government experiment gone wrong. Maybe an alien spaceship crashed and a parasite is reanimating the dead. None of that matters. The dead shouldn't be able to move of their own accord. So be they zombies, vampires or Frankenstein's monster, stop thinking about why, and start thinking about getting the hell away from them.



"Spencer, I swear to God," Carlton said upon entering the station and being accosted by Shawn and Gus. "If you've dragged me down here on my night off for one of your little pranks..."

"Pranks?" Shawn said, clutching at his heart. "Lassie, you've wounded me. I'm wounded."


"You will be," Carlton growled.


"Shawn," Gus snapped, trying to drag his attention back to the reason for this rendezvous.


"Yes," Shawn said. "The spirits have called me here, to tell me that that bite on Alfie Taylor's leg was not an animal bite..."


Carlton huffed loudly, even as he followed Shawn down to the morgue. "For God's sake, Spencer. We've been over this. It was probably a dog or a cat, it's torn up so there's no way to tell for sure. It certainly wasn't a human, so can we just drop this?"


"Woody disagrees," Shawn said, pushing open the door to the autopsy room. "Don't you Woody?"


The room was empty, but there were signs of a struggle. Shawn took in the upturned table and tools strewn across the ground. There was a trail of blood leading into the next room.


Gus clapped a hand over his mouth and started to back away.


Carlton pulled out his gun and stepped in front of Shawn, signalling him to keep quiet.


Shawn stayed a step behind Lassiter, and they inched towards the door.


The window in the door gave them a view of the back of Woody's head as he worked. Shawn gave a sigh of relief and turned back to smile at Gus, who visibly relaxed. Carlton lowered his gun and pushed open the door.


"What the hell happened in here?"


Woody turned slowly at the sound of Lassiter's voice. His movements were halting and his body twitched unnaturally. His face, when Carlton finally saw it, was covered in blood, and his eyes were white and glassy. He gave an unnatural hiss at the sight of Carlton and started to shuffle slowly towards him.


Lassiter, instinctively, raised his gun again.


"What are you doing?" Shawn yelped, grabbing Lassiter's arm. "Are you crazy? It's Wood..."


He caught sight of Woody for the first time and felt his breath catch. His heart stopped.


"Lassie," he said, stepping back. "Lassie, is that...?"


"Get. Out. Now," Carlton said firmly.


Gus, who had only seen Shawn's reaction, was gone before Carlton had finished speaking.


Shawn and Lassiter continued to move backwards as Woody came towards them. Shawn took a second to be impressed that Lassiter's hands didn't shake.


"Maybe he's sick," Shawn said. "He could have caught something. Remember that episode of Community where they ate the bad taco meat? I've been trying to get you to look into that Mexican place on Laguna and..."


"Spencer," Carlton said calmly. "Get out."


"What are you going to do if I don't?" Shawn said, eyes fixed on Woody, who was still advancing. "Anyway, I still think he's just sick."


"Look at his neck, Shawn."


Shawn didn't really need to look, since his eyes had been fixed on it for what felt like hours, but it gave him something to focus on beside the fact that Lassiter had just called him Shawn and he never did that unless there was trouble or single malt whiskey involved.


The left side of Woody's neck was torn open and his blood covered the front of his white lab coat. The wound wasn't bleeding now, and Shawn was no medical expert, but kind of damage and severe blood loss meant Woody should have been occupying one of the slabs in the morgue, rather than stumbling through it towards them.


"He's dead," Shawn said. "Isn't he?"


Woody - or whatever it was - gave a ferocious sounding roar and lunged at them.


Carlton fired two shots and Woody's body crumpled to the ground at their feet.


"I think I'm going to throw up," Shawn said. "Lassie, what the hell is going on?"


For one brief second Shawn saw pure fear and panic in Carlton's eyes.


"Lassie?"


"I have to do a search down here. You find Guster, get upstairs and cordon off this area. No one in or out, do you understand?"


"You're going to have to come out," Shawn said. "How will I know you're not a zombie?"


They stared at each other for a minute, silently agreeing to pretend Shawn hadn't just said... what he'd said.


"Let's go upstairs, get Gus to stand guard and then we can search together. Safety in numbers. Are you with me?"


Carlton looked like he wanted to argue, but Shawn wasn't backing down this time. He grabbed Lassiter's arm and started to lead him back upstairs.


"I'm going to need a gun."



# 2. As Buffy once said - Weapons. Weapons. Weapons.



Carlton had a plan to survive every situation from getting lost in the woods to nuclear war. Some people - his mother and his ex-wife - thought he was over-zealous, paranoid and delusional. In reality he just liked to be prepared. Sure, the chance of him crash landing on a remote island with a small group of friends and or colleagues was minuscule, but at least he'd know what to do if ever did happen.

In the two weeks that had passed since that fateful night in the morgue, Carlton hadn't had a great deal of time to take any comfort in the fact that he'd planned for this. People he'd cared about had died, occasionally at his own hand. Preparing for an apocalypse was a lot more fun than the actual apocalypse part.

"Guns, guns, guns," Shawn muttered as he followed Carlton into the armoury. "Any preferences?"

"Just as many as you can carry," Carlton said, tossing him a bag. "Don't forget the ammo."

"You don't have to come with me," Shawn said after two solid minutes of silence. "I know it's a stupid idea. I know I'm probably going to get myself killed."

Carlton sighed. "Spencer, if you're trying to get me to disagree with you..."

"I'm not."

"Good, because this is insanity. You're putting all of us in danger. You're reckless and irresponsible."

"So why are you coming?"

"Because, as strange and annoying as the thought remains, I don't actually want you to get yourself killed. And if you think I'm traveling to South America with Guster complaining in one ear and O'Hara complaining in the other - complaining about you and how you being an idiot is somehow my fault - well then, you're an even bigger idiot than I thought. I'd rather be eaten by zombies."

"I thought we weren't using that word."

"Suck it up," Carlton told him, zipping his own bag and swinging a collection of rifles onto his shoulders. He was sure that once upon a time, that would have raised at least a smile. But Shawn never smiled anymore, and somehow that just made the whole insane situation worse.

Instead, Shawn nodded and hefted his overflowing bag into his arms. "Let's go."


# 6. Always take a minute to consider your options. Even the safest route will have obstacles. Be prepared to adapt.



The safest route out of the city was the Pacific Coastal Highway. Mountains on one side, the sea on the other and not much of anything between Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

"You missed the exit," Juliet said with a frown, pointing to the other side of the empty road. "Carlton..."

"We're not using that road," Lassiter said firmly, in a voice that brooked no argument.

Juliet hadn't been intimated by it for years. "It's a safer road," she argued. "There won't be any....one there."

The speedometer hit 110 and Gus made an agitated noise in the back seat. Both Lassiter and Juliet ignored him.

"For one thing," Lassiter said, in a tone that made Juliet want to slap him, "I can't go this fast on that road. Unless you want us to crash over a cliff into the ocean."

Juliet sighed, annoyed and frustrated, and worse still, knowing he was right.

"And for another," he continued, sounding slightly less patronising, "there's only one gas station until you get back to the 101. We're going to need gas."

Shawn was bouncing nervously in the back seat. From the corner of her eye Juliet could see his gaze flicking between the two of them.

The speedometer was pushing 120 now.

"Do we have to go this fast?" Gus asked, earning a snort from Lassiter.

"Yes. Calm down, Guster. I have been trained."

Juliet glanced back at Gus, who didn't look convinced, and gave him an encouraging smile.

Shawn started to hum danger music.

"Spencer!" Lassiter snapped, which only made Shawn hum louder. Gus seemed to relax though and he rolled his eyes.

Juliet reached out and put her hand on Carlton's knee. His glance at her said 'I'm sorry' and her smile in return, 'Forgiven.'

~

They made it to Maricopa before the gas ran out.

It was a small town. Gus thought that it had probably fallen pretty quickly after the outbreak started. With any luck, all the inhabitants had started out towards Bakersfield for fresh... Gus' stomach rolled and he scrambled out of the car as soon as it came to a stop, dry heaving beside the pump until Juliet's hand started to rub his back and Shawn knelt down beside him and passed him some water.

Lassiter ignored them and started to fill the car, hissing at them to stop making so much noise and drawing attention.

"There's no one here," Shawn said, looking around.

"You don't know that," Lassiter snapped.

For once Shawn didn't argue and that, for Gus, was the scariest part of this whole thing.

If you discounted the zombies.

His stomach heaved again and Juliet murmured something about getting him something to help. As though Dramamine would cure zombies.

She pulled out her gun and checked it, patting him gently on the back as she got to her feet.

"Shawn, let's go."

"What are you doing?" Lassiter asked.

"We need food, Carlton. Water. First aid equipment." She focused her attention on Shawn and summoned up her most professional voice. "Nothing that will go bad within a day. Nothing with too strong a scent. Nothing too sticky or difficult to eat. Nothing with mint in it. Grab as much as you can - chips, chocolate, energy bars. I'll do water and medicine."

Shawn nodded, taking out his own gun. "Any requests? Gus? Lassie?"

"Yeah," Lassiter said, grabbing his arm. "Stay low, be quiet and hurry up."

Juliet and Shawn raced over into the building, leaving Gus sitting with his head resting against the pillar and Lassiter, ever vigilant, scanning their surroundings.

"Are you okay, Guster?"

Gus nodded, even though he wasn't. None of them were. He appreciated the effort though. "I get sick, riding in the back, that fast."

Lassiter nodded and then went back to the pump when it clicked to full. He topped up the car, then pulled out two gas cans from the trunk and started to fill those.

"I have to say, I'm impressed by the survival kit," Gus said, watching him. "We never would have made it this far without you."

Gus and Shawn's plan to survive a zombie apocalypse had been drafted up when they were fifteen and hadn't undergone any substantial changes between then and two weeks ago. Shawn had announced that they could take Henry's boat, a stockpile of food and a bunch of movies and wait it out. The government, he'd said, would have a strategy in place to deal with the problem and after a couple of weeks things would go back to normal.

In actual fact, the government had clearly considered the idea of zombies as stupid as the majority of the population and hadn't been prepared. If there was any government now, Gus imagined they were safe in some nuclear bomb shelter while everyone else was left to deal with the threat.

And Gus could admit that if he had to bet on anyone surviving an apocalypse, Lassiter would be right next to Shawn at the top of the list. For one thing, Lassiter was much better prepared than anyone else had been. He'd laid out a plan and to his credit, he'd included Shawn and Gus in it. Gus sent up a little prayer of thanks that he hadn't abandoned them to head off down the coast alone.

He eyed the Motel 6 across the street with longing. "Where are we going to sleep tonight?"

Lassiter's mouth was pressed into a firm, thin line and Gus knew if it were up to him, they'd just keep driving. Even he had to sleep sometime though, and there was no way anyone but Lassie or Jules was driving that car.

~

The apocalypse, it turned out, was the one thing that movie makers got right with surprising accuracy. Long bouts of sitting around worrying, followed by heart-stopping moments of terror and despair.

Shawn had had plenty of time to ponder this during those long bouts of sitting around, waiting for something to happen. Once this was over, he was going to make a movie. He wondered if John Cusack was too old to play him. Then he wondered if John Cusack was still alive.

Juliet entered the building first, gun raised and ready to shoot at the first thing that moved. "Clear," she said a second later and pushed her gun back into the waistband of her pants. "Go," she said firmly, pushing him towards the food.

The silence was deafening. Shawn couldn't bear it for very long.

"Jules," he said eventually, his voice ringing loudly through the quiet store, "who would you want to play you in the movie I'm going to make about this?"

Juliet sighed heavily and Shawn wondered if she had finally reached her breaking point. She didn't tell him to shut up though, so he continued.

"I was thinking Taye Diggs for Gus, or maybe the Old Spice guy. He's cool."

He'd filled one basket. His second was half full. Juliet appeared behind him and started pulling bottles of water out of the fridge.

"Shawn, we don't have time for this."

"I think Lassie would want Clint Eastwood to play him, but he's far too old. I think we're looking for someone younger; strong and dynamic. You think Clooney could pull it off, or do you think he's too short?"

"Shawn," Juliet said again, but this time her voice was quiet and warning.

"And someone sweet but feisty for you... "

Juliet's gun appeared beside his face and Shawn froze. "Jules?"

"Start moving towards the door, Shawn," she said firmly.

Shawn looked over his shoulder and saw the... person, dead person, zombie... shuffling towards them from the back of the store. He dropped the bag of chips he'd been holding and reached for his gun.

"Shawn, I said move."

"And if you think I'm leaving you here alone, you really haven't been paying attention for the last five years," Shawn told her as he quickly glanced towards the door and then back at... it.

"What if there are more of them?" Juliet asked, stepping up to stand beside Shawn. "You have to get to the car. It's your mom we're looking for."

Shawn felt a pang of regret that he had put his friends in danger. "We're both getting out of here, Jules. You get to the door, I'll shoot it, and then we run."

He saw Juliet nod from the corner of his eye, then the faint sound of stifled gasp when another zombie appeared.

"Or we could both shoot, then run."

"I like that one," Julies said, switching her aim to the second body.

"On three?"

~

The gunshots actually made Carlton's heart skip a beat. He withdrew his own gun automatically, quickly stashing the filled gas cans in the trunk.

"Get in the car, Guster," he snapped, though Gus was already half inside.

He hadn't taken more than two steps towards the store, though, when the door burst open and Shawn and Juliet stumbled out, running at full speed towards them.

"Start the car!" Shawn yelled, just as a zombie appeared in the doorway behind them. "Lassie, start the car!"

Carlton threw himself across the hood in a move that any other time would have had Shawn and Juliet both whistling and cat calling, and had the car started in seconds. Gus pushed his door open enough to yank Shawn inside. Juliet turned as she reached the passenger door and levelled her gun at the thing.

It was too close, closer than any of them had gotten in a long time. She could feel its fingers brush against her shirt, scrambling for purchase.

The shot fired at point blank range and Juliet was immediately covered in blood and rotting flesh. She practically jumped the rest of the way into the car and Carlton tore out of the gas station as fast as he could.

"Oh my God," Juliet said, still shaking from the shock and adrenaline as she stared down at herself. "Oh my God, this is disgusting."

Gus made a noise from the back seat that sounded suspiciously like he was going to vomit.

Shawn, thankfully, rolled down his window.


# 3. Anyone who tells you they’re not afraid is lying. It’s okay to be scared.



Two emotions battled for dominance in Juliet's mind.

The first was pure, unadulterated fear. That one had been present for the last two weeks and she had been suppressing it as best she could, ever since Lassiter had given her a little shake on Day Two and told her he would keep her safe, she just had to remember she was a cop and his partner and not a snivelling, pansy-ass baby. She had punched him several times in the arm, until he'd smirked and raised an eyebrow at her, after which she'd punched him again and called him an asshole. She really did love him sometimes.

The second emotion was disgust at being covered in blood and bits of brain and dead skin. That was the one she decided to go with.

"This is the most revolting this that has ever happened to me," she said, carefully picking a lump of something red and squishy off her shirt with shaking hands. "And that includes the time you vomited on me."

Carlton glanced at her, his face scrunching up in a way that was always followed by an apology. Juliet wasn't sure if he was apologising for the zombie or the vomit, but she appreciated it all the same.

"We have to pull over," Shawn said as soon as the town disappeared from view.

"Are you kidding me, Spencer?" Carlton argued and Juliet thought he might have purposefully pressed down on the gas.

"Gus is sick," Shawn countered, his voice quiet and determined.

One look at Gus told Juliet that Shawn was not exaggerating. "Carlton, stop the car."

~

For the second time in an hour, Gus scrambled from the car, inhaling deeply in an attempt to stave off his nausea. Shawn was behind him in an instant, silently passing him what remained of the water.

"We're going to die, aren't we?" he asked after a long drink. "We're going to end up like that thing. Or eaten by it."

"Gus, don't be a startled mongoose," Shawn said, in what Gus thought was an overly light manner. "We're all going to be fine. We have Lassie and all his guns." Shawn pointed towards Lassiter who was leaning against the car, helping Juliet pick zombie entrails out of her hair, though if possible, he looked even more disgusted than she did. It wasn’t the look of strong reserve he’d been hoping for. “You’ve got red on you,” he told Juliet, in what he was pretty sure from her expression wasn’t a helpful comment.

"That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen happen," Gus said, unable to tear his eyes away.

"I'm not particularly thrilled about it myself," Juliet said, flicking a piece of bloody flesh off her trousers.

"I can't ride in a car with that smell. I'm sorry. I have a very delicate system."

Lassiter rolled his eyes, but kept whatever thoughts he had to himself.

"I know you do, buddy," Shawn said, rubbing his hand over Gus' back.

"Well there's not much I can do about it," Juliet said, now wiping her neck with Lassiter's once pristine white handkerchief. "I mean, I can roll the window down, but I need a shower."

All three of them looked meaningfully at Lassiter, who sighed.

"Fine. We'll find somewhere tonight to rest. I want to get as far as we can before then, though. We're just wasting time otherwise."


# 4. Sleep is important. Food is important. You may not want them, but you will need them.



They crossed the border into Oregon at 9pm and Shawn breathed a sigh of relief when Lassiter turned off the road at the first motel they came across. There were only 12 rooms, forming an L-shape next to a gas station. It looked deserted to Shawn, but he knew better than to trust that instinct now. He’d been wrong too many times lately.

"O'Hara stay here with Guster," Lassie said as soon as he'd parked. "Spencer, with me."

He climbed out of the car, ignoring Juliet's protests, and Shawn hurried after him, not wanting to deal with either detective when they were in a bad mood.

"We need to search the rooms," Lassiter murmured, looking around for danger as he stalked towards the front office. "You three need sleep."

"We four need sleep," Shawn corrected, immediately looking back towards the car to avoid Lassiter's frown. "You look awful."

"Gee, thanks," Lassiter snapped back. "I thought I was here to keep your ass out of danger. I didn't realise I had to meet the Shawn Spencer Approval Rating for my appearance."

"Lassie, please," Shawn said, the tiniest hint of a smile tugging at his lips. "You know you always meet that. I just meant, you look tired. Hence the need for sleep."

"Spencer, we don't have time for this," Lassiter said, though Shawn noticed the faintest loosening of his shoulders. Whoever would have thought his teasing would make Lassie declench? That defeated the whole purpose of it.

They reached the office and, seeing nothing inside, quietly entered. Lassie withdrew his gun and indicated for Shawn to move around the room to check the other door while he checked the one closest to them. Normally this would have prompted Shawn to ask (loudly) what Lassiter was talking about, but for once he dispensed with the pretence that he didn't know, and did exactly as he was asked.

Both rooms were empty, which Shawn was grateful for.

"You think we'll be as lucky with the other rooms?" he asked, when Lassiter appeared behind him.

The car horn answered the question before Lassie could.

~

"Sir..."

There was a five minute period, once his mind had cleared of touching, heartfelt sentiment and he remembered he was alone, when Carlton considered running after Victoria and begging. He couldn't say exactly what stopped him. Maybe some newfound sense of pride or maybe he was just tired of running after someone who clearly would give anything not to be caught.


So instead he sat back down at the table and finished his scotch.


"Sir, we're closing now."


The waiter had very kindly refilled his glass three times once Carlton had mentioned the divorce, but clearly he was trying the patience of the remaining members of staff. They probably had families to go home to, Carlton thought as he drained the remainder and got to his feet. Loving husbands and wives. Children who would no doubt be tucked up in bed at... he checked his watch.


Midnight.


He made his apologies and left a generous tip on his way out.


Home was the last place he wanted to go. Big empty rooms, free from personal touches. It wasn't as though he spent a lot of time there. He worked so much. That was why he was alone. He couldn't drive anyway, not after drinking so much, so quickly, so he walked in the direction of the station, because that was the direction he was always headed.


Half way there he stopped, remembering he'd switched off his phone before entering the restaurant. He'd imagined that it would be a step towards proving to Victoria that work didn't come first.


There were a couple of emails he could reply to from the office and a voicemail from O'Hara. He dialled into his message service and started walking again.


"Hey, Carlton, it's me. I know you're with Victoria and you won't get this until late, but Shawn called about some missing girl up at the old Camp Tikihama site. He sounded a little freaked out, so I'm going to drive up and see what I can find. I hope it goes well with Victoria. I have my fingers crossed for you. I'll check in, in a couple of hours."


There was no follow up message, no text, no email.


At the station, McNab was working the night shift and he sat alone behind the front desk. He smiled at Lassiter and stood up to greet him. "I didn't think you'd be in tonight, boss."


"Have you heard from O'Hara?" Carlton asked, looking over towards her desk. "She went somewhere with Spencer."


Buzz shook his head. "I haven't heard from her. It's been a pretty quiet night."


Carlton nodded and turned on his heel, leaving as quickly as he'd arrived. He hurried back to his car, calling her cell phone as he did. The phone rang out, giving him the option of leaving a message.


He couldn't drive all the way out into the mountains if she was actually safe at home and simply hadn't checked in because there was nothing to report. If Spencer had been on some flight of fancy, or worse, trying to get her alone for a romantic rendezvous, there was no way she'd have called him back. She wouldn't have wanted to listen to his thoughts on Spencer. Not again.


Carlton drove to Juliet's house as quickly and as calmly as he could. There were no lights on, but it was almost 1.30 now. There was a good chance she was asleep.


A plaintive cry pierced the air and he spun around, looking for the source. The storm earlier had knocked over the trash can and, hiding under one upturned box, was Juliet's cat. Britta.


"Hey," Carlton crouched down beside the box. The cat was drenched and looked utterly miserable. "You look how I feel," Carlton said and he reached inside to pull her out. "It's okay," he said, pressing the cat to his chest and wrapping his jacket around her. "It's okay now, girl. Where's your mom, huh? Isn't she home yet?"


Carlton considered his options. Several scenarios presented themselves but neither leaving the cat out in the rain, nor having it run loose in his car seemed viable. Besides, he had an emergency key.


"Do you think this is an emergency, girl?" Carlton asked and Britta mewled mournfully. "Your mom would be so upset if anything happened to you. I'll take that as a yes."


~

Carlton raced back towards the car, with Shawn close behind him. He stared around the parking lot, looking for whatever it was that had made O'Hara panic and, seeing nothing, stopped beside the car and quickly pulled open the door.

Gus was in the driver's seat, arguing loudly with Juliet.

"It could have been a zombie," he stated emphatically, waving his hands in the direction of the windshield.

"It was a cat," Juliet replied, with a worrying amount of ferocity.

"It could have been a zombie cat..."

"Hey!" Carlton shouted, silencing them both immediately. "I am not going to play grown-up to you three for the rest of my life, however short I am currently wishing it to be. Get it together."

“I didn’t do anything this time,” Shawn said, but looked away sheepishly when Carlton gave him a withering look.

Juliet nodded curtly and slipped out of the passenger side door. Guster climbed out of car, giving Carlton a somewhat apologetic smile.

"Now we are all going to search this place. Twelve rooms shouldn't take more than ten minutes. O'Hara, you take the four rooms on the left. Spencer, take the four on the right. And take Guster with you."

With that he turned and started walking towards the remaining four rooms that made up the foot of the L-shape, wondering how his perfect plan for surviving the apocalypse had turned into glorified babysitting.


# 10. Time doesn’t stop even if it’s not that important anymore. Laugh when you can. Love when you can. You won’t survive if you don’t.



They finished the sweep in eight minutes and met back at the room they had parked in front of. Thankfully, it seemed the entire place had been deserted for some time. Shawn and Gus raided the snack machine, so they at least had some food. Juliet was just thankful for running water.

She stepped into the shower, closing her eyes as she turned her face into the spray and ran her fingers through her hair. She used a whole tiny bottle of shampoo making sure her hair was free of zombie brain, and a bottle of body wash scrubbing herself clean.

Then she started to cry.

It had been two weeks of mounting terror, wishing that she could go back to tracking down thieves and vandals and murderers - even serial ones - because as least there seemed to be some order to that. Even tied to the top of the clock tower, staring down at death, she had known what was happening and why, and had accepted the choices she'd made in getting there. But no one had any choice in this. Evil surrounded them and she was starting to think it would catch up with them eventually.

Juliet tried to stifle her tears, not wanting to draw the attention of the others. Gus was scared, Shawn was traumatised and Lassiter had shut down every emotion. She wasn't going to create more problems by having a breakdown. She just needed to get it all out of her system.

~

"I'm fine," she said for the twentieth time, when they were finally back on the ground and the Chief was standing over her and watching while the paramedic checked her over.

"You're not fine," the Chief assured her, once she had the all clear.


"Chief..."


"Go home. Come in tomorrow to give your statement."


Juliet wanted to give her statement there and then. Her body was still throbbing, blood pounding with fear and adrenaline. She wasn't going to sleep. Possibly ever again.


"Chief..."


Carlton was beside her in an instant. He'd never been more than two feet away from her since the roof and his presence was unusually calming.


"Carlton, I'm fine," she said, even as she jumped when he touched her elbow. "I want to give my statement now. We have to find him."


Something in his eyes flickered at that and he nodded, guiding her gently towards his car. "I'll drive you home. You can make your statement to me."


That seemed like the best option Juliet was going to be given, so she relented, pleased for the silence of Carlton's car and glad that he was behaving like himself, when everything else in the world seemed suddenly upside down.


She stared out of the window, trying to catch up with her own thoughts. They were parked outside of Carlton's house before she realised they'd set off.


"Did they get Abigail?" she asked suddenly, wondering if she'd been told earlier. Had Gus told her? He'd been talking a lot. Smiling a lot. Happy she was safe. Shawn was happy she was safe. He was with Abigail. They got to her in time.


She sighed and nodded before Carlton had a chance to answer. "Yeah. Good. Good."


Carlton led her inside, oddly careful not to touch her. She'd flinched earlier, hadn't she? He should know better.


"Do you want a drink?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer before pouring two glasses of scotch. He downed one and refilled it, before pushing the other into her hands. "Drink," he ordered. "Sit."


She drank and she sat.


"Food?" he asked, moving towards the kitchen.


"No," she said quickly, pressing a hand to her stomach. The very idea made her feel ill. "Don't go."


It was a stupid thing to say. Far too revealing. She wanted to take it back but it was out, and it was true, so she stared him down. Carlton had frozen, confusion written in every line of his face and muscle of his body.


"I'm serious," she said. "Please."


He relaxed just as quickly, but she knew him well enough to know it was faked. He shrugged out of his jacket and pulled off his tie, then collapsed down onto the sofa, leaving a whole arm's length of space between them.


"Do you want to give your statement now?"


Juliet fell just the tiniest bit in love with him.


~

All three men froze when the first muffled sob reached them from the bathroom.

Shawn and Gus shared a look, while Lassiter stared at the closed door, none of them entirely certain what to do next.

"Someone should go and see if she's okay," Shawn said eventually, earning an annoyed snort from Gus and a look from Lassiter that would have turned lesser men to stone.

"Are you seriously going to use the apocalypse as an excuse to seduce Juliet?" Gus asked and Shawn grimaced because that hadn't even crossed his mind.

Much.

"Is it an apocalypse?" he asked instead of answering. "I thought that was the end of the world."

"You don't think this is the end of the world?" Lassiter asked, momentarily distracted from defending Juliet's honor with his death glare.

"An apocalypse is actually a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind," Gus recited, causing a moment of irritated harmony between Shawn and Lassiter.

"Guster," Lassiter growled warningly.

"It means the end of the world too."

"Seriously," Shawn interrupted, getting back to the matter at hand. "Someone needs to go in there and make sure she's okay. Gus?"

Gus shook his head. "I don't know what to say. I'd quite like someone to comfort me right now."

"Lassie?" Shawn said, unable to deal with two distressed friends at the same time. "You want to make sure she's okay, while I remind Gus that he's thirty old years old and not five?"

"Fine," Lassiter sighed, straightening his shoulders. "But I blame you for every bruise she gives me."

~

"Just a minute," Juliet called when Carlton knocked on the door.

He looked across the room at Shawn who gave him a wave, directing him into the bathroom. He cleared his throat and gripped the door handle.

"I'm coming in."

Juliet was still behind the curtain in the bathtub, for which Carlton was supremely grateful.

"Carlton, please," Juliet sighed. "I'm fine. Just give me five minutes."

She's turned the shower off, so Carlton assumed she was done. He unfolded one of the large bath towels from the rack and held it up and out towards her, closing his eyes.

"Here," he said and then after a moment added, "I'm not looking."

There was some rustling of the shower curtain and another sigh. Carlton had learnt to stand his ground where O'Hara was concerned and he ignored her. One foot hit the floor, then the other, and then she'd stepped close enough that he could wrap the towel around her.

"You can look," she muttered after taking the towel from him. "I don't need to be coddled, Carlton. I'm fine."

She raised her head to look him in the eye and he nodded curtly, then wrapped his arms around her.

It It took five seconds for her to loosen up and wrap her arms around him in return. Then she closed her eyes and laid her head against his chest.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?" he asked, genuinely confused. "Did you create a virus that infects the dead and turns theminto flesh eating zombies?"

"No," she said with a snort and he smiled against her hair. "I'm sorry I'm not as strong as you are."

Carlton wasn't surprised by the words, or her belief that he was some sort of emotionless automaton, even if she should know better.

That didn't mean it didn't hurt, just a little bit.

"I wish I didn't have to be," Carlton whispered honestly, tightening his arms around her. "But we all have our roles to play." He looked down at her and smiled. "Why do you think I haven't killed Spencer yet? He's the plucky comic relief."

Finally, Juliet smiled and a laugh bubbled up, loosening the tight knot that had formed in Carlton's stomach.

"And Gus?"

"As close to a medical expert as we're ever going to get," Carlton said, leaning back against the sink, with his eyes closed once again, while Juliet dressed.

"And me?" she asked, amusement in her voice once again.

"You're the heroine," Carlton said simply. "You have to make it."

"Carlton..."

"No, no," he said, holding up his hand. "I've had this planned since I was sixteen. Granted we're going in the wrong direction, on a fool's errand, but I'm not letting some zombies beat me, or you, or those two idiots in there. We are getting through this alive."

"Yes, Sir," she said and he opened his eyes to find her grinning at him, hand raised to her head in salute.

"Don't mock me."

"I'm not," she said, stepping close again and kissing his cheek. "Thank you."


# 15. CONSTANT VIGILANCE



"I don't think I can do this, Shawn," Gus said when Lassiter closed the bathroom door behind him. "Is this how life is going to be from now on?"

Shawn sat down on the edge of the bed next to him and nodded. "Yeah, probably it is."

Gus's face twisted up on horror. "What kind of motivational speech is that?"

"An honest one?" Shawn said with a shrug. "This is The Walking Dead now. Life has become that thing we always joked about." He sighed and rubbed his face. "It's really not that funny. Unlike The Walking Dead."

"No," Gus said. "It's not funny."

"We've been in bad situations before," Shawn pointed out. "And we survived because we're smart. We can get through this."

"We survived," Gus corrected, "Because Lassie and Jules always turn up on the nick of time to save us."

Shawn smiled. "Then aren't you glad they came along?"

"Shawn..."

"I don't know, okay? I don't know what we're going to do. I don't know how this is going to turn out." Shawn stood and and started pacing the room. "Two weeks ago everything was fine and now it's all gone to hell."

"Shawn..."

Shawn ignored Gus's gentler tone and grabbed his gun from the dresser, where he'd set it down.

"Lassie needs sleep," he said, checking the clip. "I'll do the watch tonight."

"We need to talk about this, Shawn," Gus tried again, but Shawn shook his head.

"Not now," he said, but meant not ever. "Just try to sleep. We're safe for a while."

Gus watched Shawn carefully until the bathroom door clicked open and Juliet emerged followed by Lassiter.

"What's going on?" she asked, looking between them. "Are you okay?"

Shawn nodded curtly. "I'm on watch. You three rest." Lassiter looked ready to argue, so Shawn turned away and went to sit by the window. "Just this once, could you all trust that I know what I'm talking about?"

Gus lay down on the bed and pulled a blanket over himself. Juliet climbed onto the other bed and tugged at Carlton's hand.

Lassiter didn't move.

"Shawn," he said quietly.

Gus closed his eyes. Juliet slipped under the covers and turned her head away.

"Not now, Lassie," Shawn said to Carlton's reflection in the window. "Sleep now."

~

Carlton was dreaming.

He knew he was dreaming because he was warm and safe and though he couldn't quite remember why, he knew that had to be a dream.

The sand was soft under his hands as he leaned back and watched the sunset. The sea stretched out in front of him and he smiled, breathing in the clean, salty air.

"This is my best memory," he thought.

"No, it's not," Juliet answered aloud, and he turned his head to the left look at her. She was shaping the sand in front of her into a fort.

"How do you know?" Carlton frowned. He moved his head to see the dimming sun bouncing off her golden hair. "It's perfect."

"Well this never happened," Shawn said from his right. He was sucking some frozen yellow goop through a straw.

Gus sat on his other side, licking at an ice-cream. "It's not a memory if it never happened."

Carlton looked back out at the sea. "It feels real," he said. "I can smell the sea. I can smell that pineapple juice thing."

He looked back at Juliet. The fort was complete and featured tiny horses and people. She smiled at him and rested her head on his shoulder.

"Lassie," Shawn said, starting to rub his arm. "Lassie, it's time to wake up."

"No," Carlton said, sliding an arm around Juliet's waist. "It's perfect here."

"No, now, Lass," Shawn said, sounding more urgent. "Wake up!"

~

Carlton came awake in a rush, opening his eyes to find Shawn leaning over him. Juliet was ticked against his side, asleep with her head on his shoulder. She mumbled a little, starting to wake.

"We have to go," Shawn said. "They're outside."

Carlton was out of bed in seconds and parted the curtains just enough to peer out of the window to find the parking lot swarming with zombies.

"Where the hell did they come from?" he hissed.

Shawn shook Juliet awake and held his fingers to lips. "Sorry," he mouthed.

"It doesn't matter where they came from," Gus said, sliding on his backpack. "How are we going to get to the car?"

Juliet and Shawn joined them at the window, trying not to create too much movement for fear of any of them noticing. Quick, sudden movements drew as much attention as their smell or the noise they made. Shawn knew from experience that if you ran, they ran too.

"We need a diversion," Shawn said. "If they went after one of us, the rest of us could escape."

"Right," Carlton agreed. "I'll draw them away, you get to the car."

"Exactly," Shawn said. "Except, I'm going to do the drawing and you are going to drive."

"Spencer, this is not up for discussion," Carlton said using his best Head Detective voice.

Shawn smiled. "No, it's not." He held up his gun. "You and your kickass pursuit driving skills can catch me up."

"Shawn," Juliet said, "this is a crazy plan. You're both insane. There has to be another way. What are they going to do, come knock on the door and find us? We can wait it out."

“If they do find us in here, even by accident, we’re dead,” Shawn said, motioning around the room. There was only one door leading out and one window, each facing the same direction. “We don’t have food in here. Even if they just stay for a week, we’re still dead.”

"They're getting closer," Gus said. "Shawn..."

"Lassie's going to save me, Gus," Shawn said. "That's what Lassie does." He held out his hand and Gus bumped his fist. "You are going to save me aren't you, Lassieface?"

"Would it kill you to call me Carlton just once?"

"It might," Shawn said and grinned a little, bouncing nervously. He grabbed Juliet around the waist and kissed her.

"Shawn..."

"Just needed something to keep me going," he said. "Get ready."

~

Shawn threw the door open and ran, screaming and waving his arms, towards the centre of the group before veering off and disappearing around the corner.

"I'm going to kill him," Lassiter muttered. "Guster, have you got everything?"

Gus nodded and started taking slow deep breaths. No matter how many times they did this, it would never get any easier. Henry had once told him that when he felt nervous he should visualise something he liked and breathe deeply. He'd been doing it a lot lately.

"It's okay, Gus," Juliet said, in an overly calm way. She looked terrified.

"I know," Gus said, trying to reassure her for once instead of the other way round. "It's Shawn. Shawn can get through anything."

"I'm still going to kill him," Lassiter said. "O'Hara?"

"Ready."

The door swung open and Lassiter and Juliet started shooting before they'd even stepped outside. They stayed huddled together in a group as they made their way to the car; Lassiter slightly ahead and Gus sandwiched between him and Juliet.

"Get in the car," Lassiter shouted once they'd cleared the area on one side enough to get by. Gus hated having to step around the rotting corpses, as he always worried they might not be completely dead, but Lassiter grabbed him after the first tentative step and pushed him into the car. Juliet clambered in behind him and then over the seats to start the car.

Lassiter was still shooting, trying to kill as many as he could before they got too close.

"Carlton!" Juliet shouted, which made him stop and slide into the car, slamming the door closed just as a bloody greying hand hit the window.

"Drive!"

Juliet backed up and swung the car around in one swift motion, then followed the route Shawn had taken away from the motel.

~

Shawn thought he'd probably done more exercise in the last two weeks than in the last ten years of his life. It was times like these that he really hated his former self. Adrenaline only got you so far and he'd never really liked running, even when his life depended on it.

The problem with zombies, he considered, (apart from the evil flesh eating part) was that they were really persistant. Yes you could run, but you couldn't run forever. Apparently they didn't have that problem with walking.

The screech of tires behind him made him grin and he forced himself to keep going. The car was alongside him a minute later and he glanced across in time to see Lassiter lean over and push open the passenger side door.

"What took you so long?" Shawn laughed as jumped inside and slammed the door closed.

Juliet rolled her eyes and put her foot down, putting as much distance as possible between them and the motel.

"I'm going to kill you," Lassiter said, his hand still fisted in Shawn's shirt where he'd grabbed him to help pull him inside. "I'm going to kill you with my bare hands."

Shawn put his hand over Lassiter's and squeezed.

"I was worried about you too."

~

"Juliet!" Shawn shouted, banging on the door of her apartment. "Juliet, open the door."

Gus rounded corner at the end of corridor and jogged up to Shawn.


"Where's Lassie?" Shawn demanded. Gus pointed back the way he'd came just as Lassiter appeared.


"Keep your panties on, Spencer, I'm right here."


Shawn nodded and started to bang on the door again. "Juliet!"


The door swung open, just as Shawn raised his hand to knock again. Juliet stood there, a vision in a short silky dressing gown. Shawn took in her bare legs and messed up hair and licked his lips. He rocked forward a little, unable to stop himself trying to catch a glimpse of her...


Gus hit him on the shoulder hard.


"What the hell is going on?" Juliet demanded. "I was on my way to bed."


"It's urgent," Shawn said. "Can we come in?"


Juliet stepped aside and Shawn managed a smile as they entered her apartment. "This is nice," he said. "Very you. I can't believe I've never been here before."


"Shawn," Juliet said, "what is this about?"


"I think you need to sit down," Lassiter said, locking the door behind him and fastening the chain. He grabbed her elbow and propelled her over to the sofa. "Sorry," he murmured as he let her go and went to check the windows.


"Carlton, you're scaring me now," Juliet said.


Shawn and Gus sat either side of her. Shawn took her hands in his. "You trust me, don't you Jules?"


Juliet nodded. "Of course I do. You know I do."


"And you know I'd never lie to you unless it was absolutely necessary."


Gus cleared his throat loudly. Lassiter snorted and shook his head. Juliet nodded again.


"Shawn," she said slowly, "you need to tell me what's going on, because you're really freaking me out."


Shawn looked at Lassiter, who nodded and sat down opposite her on the coffee table.


"There were zombies in the police morgue today."


Juliet looked at Shawn, then Lassiter, then Gus and sighed.


"Get out."


"No, really," Gus said. "I promise we haven't been drinking, or doing any drugs. Lassie saw them."


"Carlton..."


"Woody's dead," Lassiter said, gaining her full attention. "His throat had been ripped open. He tried to attack us. This isn't a joke, O'Hara. I know the word zombie is..." He shook his head. "It's really happening."


Juliet stared at him for a minute and then stood up, pushing past them. "You're crazy," she said. "You're all crazy. How can there be zombies? Zombies aren't real. They're made up, just like vampires and werewolves..."


"It could be a virus," Gus said. "Or an alien."


"These are just movies you've seen," Juliet snapped. "Carlton, tell them."


Lassiter fidgeted slightly but kept his eyes locked with hers. "It's happening," he said.


A loud crash outside made them all jump and Lassiter pulled back the blinds enough to see the street. Juliet ran over to join him.


A car had ploughed into a lampost right outside. Smoke was rising steadily from the hood. A few other cars had stopped and people were milling around on the street, some on cell phones, some taking photos. The car door was pulled open and the driver helped from the wreckage. His neck was bent at unnatural angle, his movements were spasmodic and slow. Once he stood, steady and unsupported, he grabbed his saviour by the arm and bit down on his shoulder


"Damn," Lassiter said, taking out his gun. "You three stay here. O'Hara, get dressed."


Shawn took out his own gun and moved to follow Lassiter.


"Spencer..."


"We've covered this," Shawn interrupted. "You go, I go. Like Titanic. You're Kate, I'm Leo."


"Leo dies," Gus pointed out.


"I'm Kate, you're Leo," Shawn corrected and patted Lassiter's shoulder. "I won't let you die though. We can take turns on the raft."


"Do you know you're still talking?" Lassiter asked. "O'Hara, get dressed, get armed and wait here until we get back. Guster lock the door and don't open it for anyone but us."


Gus nodded. "I wasn't going to."


"Be careful," Juliet called, still watching things unfold on the street. "I can't believe this is happening," she muttered. "I have to be dreaming."


Shawn paused in the hallway long enough to hear Gus lock the door and then ran after Lassiter.


"How are we just going to shoot someone in the street without making everyone panic?" he asked, as he and Lassiter stood watching the floors tick down in the elevator.


"I don't know," Lassiter said, tightly. "Do you have a suggestion?"


The elevator doors slid open and then stepped out together, guns raised as they made their way out into the street.


"Don't get bit?"


~

Juliet drove until they reached the outskirts of Medford then found a quiet looking gas station to fill up.

"I'll do it," she said, pushing open the door. "We should eat too."

Gus picked up his back pack and passed Carlton and Shawn a candy bar. Shawn held out his hand for another one.

"For Jules," Shawn explained as Gus reluctantly passed him another one.

Shawn got of the car and hurried round to Juliet, holding out the candy. She thanked him and tore the wrapper open.

"Where are we going, Shawn?" she asked once she'd eaten half the bar. "We can't drive forever."

"Last I heard from her she was in Seattle," he said. "If she's not there..."

"We get in a boat," Juliet said. "And go south."

Shawn looked away, across the empty street, towards the empty buildings. He would never get used to this, even if he lived to be a hundred, though the likelihood of that was diminishing by the hour.

"I miss noise," he said. "I never realised how much it made everything in my head quiet." He looked back at Juliet. "I'm sorry."

"We didn't have to come, Shawn," Juliet said, topping up the tank. "We could have gone our own way. It wasn't up to you."

"You're here to protect me, because I'm selfish," Shawn argued.

Juliet stepped closer and hugged him. "No, we're here because we're your friends. And I'd rather spend the last days I have with you and Carlton and Gus, than alone in a rainforest, or whatever the plan is. And I know Carlton feels that way and Gus too."

Shawn closed his eyes and hugged her back, tightly. "My dad told me to help you," he said and felt Juliet stiffen slightly then tighten her arms. He hadn't mentioned Henry since it had happened. He wasn't ready to mention him now, but he forged ahead in a rush. "And I'm just putting you in danger. He would be so disappointed in me."

Juliet pulled back enough that Shawn could see her face, then shook him.

"Your dad would never be disappointed in you," she said firmly. "He'd be proud you were trying to save your mom."

"You have parents too," Shawn murmured and saw the pain flicker in her eyes before she masked it.

"Well then I guess we're headed to Florida after this," she said, pushing Shawn back towards the passenger door. "Zombie apocalypses are good for road trips."

She climbed into the driver's seat and smiled over her shoulder at Carlton and Gus.

"Seattle, then Miami," she said. "Any objections?"

Carlton looked like he was about to make several, so Shawn laughed and pushed at Juliet's shoulder.

"Let's go."

~

"I'd say a couple of weeks," Gus said as they sat huddled around Carlton's desk. "I don't know how long the incubation period is, but it can't be long. With Woody it couldn't have been longer than six hours."

Everyone else in the station was carrying on as normal. There'd been a slightly increased call out rate from the average Tuesday morning, no reports of hoards of reanimated dead bodies roaming the streets. No reports of any in fact.


"What do we do?" Juliet asked Carlton, drawing everyone's attention away from Gus, for which he was extremely grateful.


"We have a job to do," Carlton told her and she straightened her shoulders and nodded. "You two need to get out of town. Get your parents. Get on a plane..."


"A plane where, Lassie?" Shawn asked. "You don't get to stay here and have all the fun without us."


Gus really wanted to argue in Lassie's favor on that point. Juliet spoke first, and saved him from doing so.


"Carlton's right, Shawn," she said, which earned her the snort Shawn always made at those words. "Our job is to protect the public. You're civillians."


"And you're our friends," Shawn argued. "We can't just get on a plane and leave you here to fight zombies alone. Right, Gus?"


Gus stayed quiet.


"Can we please not call them that," Lassiter said. "I'm having a hard enough time without having to hear that word every five minutes."


"What would you like us to call them?" Shawn asked? "The Living Dead?"


"The Walking Dead?" Gus offered.


"The Evil Dead?"


"Resident Evil?"


"Inferi?"


"The Borg?"


"The... Wait, The Borg, Gus?" Shawn asked. "You're seriously offering The Borg as an example of zombies?"


"You said Inferi," Gus said.


"Because they're dead and they're reanimated by dark magic," Shawn argued. "The Borg aren't dead."


"They have a hive mind," Gus said. "No independent thought, only basic instincts, an undead appearance..."


Shawn shook his head. "I can't even talk to you when you're like this."


"You know I'm right, Shawn."


"Shut the hell up," Lassiter snapped and for once they both did as they were told.


Juliet was rubbing her temples. Gus fished some aspirin out of his pocket and offered her one.


"Spencer, you go find Henry. Guster, tell your parents to get of town."


"What will you be doing?" Shawn asked, watching Juliet's hands shake as she tossed back the pills.


"Patrolling," Lassiter said. "You have a gun. Take a radio. Go, stay together and come back. Understand?"


"You're the boss, boss," Shawn said and grabbed the radio Lassie was offering. "We won't be long."


~

A bump in the road jostled Shawn awake. It was night now but Lassiter had insisted they keep driving. Shawn glanced behind him to see Gus and Juliet were also asleep, curled together in the darkness.

“You’re awake.”

Lassiter’s voice was low enough not to disturb Gus and Juliet, but it still made Shawn jump.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Shawn asked, settling back in his seat. “I see your observational skills are top notch, as ever.”

“Shut up, Spencer,” Lassiter hissed back. “You’ve just been asleep a long time.”

“I was dreaming,” Shawn said. “About my dad.”

He watched as Carlton’s hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“Did you like my dad?” Shawn asked, and smiled a little when Lassiter gave him a look. “Eyes on the road, cowboy. I’m not asking if you wanted to shack up and start adopting kids with him. Just, as a person, did you like him?”

Because Lassie was Lassie, that obviously required some thought, so Shawn pulled his half eaten Snickers out of his jacket pocket while he waited and took a bite.

“Henry was a good man,” Lassiter said at length and Shawn turned his head to watch him speak. It was odd, he thought, how different Lassiter looked now. Another one of the many things Shawn knew had changed forever. “He was a good detective and -”

Shawn shook his head. “Lassie, I know my dad was good at his job. That’s not what I’m asking.”

Carlton’s mouth twisted a little and he sighed. “Henry was a pain in the ass, much like you. He and I argued a lot. He was stubborn. He had a really short temper. He always thought he was right. Much like you.”

They turned off the highway and the moonlight shifted so Shawn could see the curve of Lassiter’s mouth.

“Yeah, I liked him,” Carlton said. “He was very brave. You should be proud of him.”

“I am,” Shawn said. “He saved us. Me and Gus. We’d be dead if it wasn’t for him and I... I killed him.”

“You didn’t kill him,” Carlton said firmly. “The bite killed him. He knew that.”

“I should have been able to stop it,” Shawn said. “I couldn’t save him. It’s my fault.”

“Shawn, listen to me,” Carlton said, using a tone Shawn had only heard him use once before, “you are not responsible for what happened to Henry and you cannot keep blaming yourself. You’re making yourself ill. We’ve all noticed. We’re all worried about you.”

This was an odd moment, Shawn thought, to realise that Carlton Lassiter actually cared about him.

“I like you too, Lassie.”

Shawn could see his mouth curve again. He looked more relaxed somehow.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Shawn didn’t. “You know there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” he said instead, glancing out into the darkness and then back at Lassiter’s profile. He smiled, wishing he had a camera to record the moment. “I’m not psychic.”

“Uh huh,” Carlton said, making Shawn frown. “So how do you do it?”

“Wait,” Shawn said, turning fully in his seat to watch him. “What do you mean, ‘uh huh’?”

“I’ve been saying that for five years, Spencer, what do you want?” Lassiter glanced at him. “Oh my God,” he said in overly exaggerated surprise. “I’m so shocked. No wait, how about, I told you so?” He snorted and shook his head. “How do you do it?”

“I can’t believe you’re not going to make a big deal about it,” Shawn said, feeling vaguely disappointed. “This is huge.”

“No,” Lassiter said, “it’s not huge. Of the four of us, only Juliet believed you. She’s going to kick your ass.”

“This is the apocalypse’s fault. If this was a normal day and we were at the station, you’d have been making a huge scene right now.”

“No, I’d be claiming the hundred Juliet owes me. And the fifty McNab owes me. And the fifty...”

“That’s a huge scene,” Shawn insisted. “You’d have cuffed me and dragged me in to see the Chief.”

“I can cuff you now if it would make you feel better.”

“It would make you feel better is what you’re trying to say.”

“No,” Lassiter said. “What would make me feel better is gagging you.”

“Kinky,” Shawn said. “Don’t you think you should buy me dinner first?”

~

“I still can’t get through to your mom,” Henry told Shawn as they drove down to pier. The reports of violence had increased quickly in a few days. The infection, whatever it was, was spreading quickly. People were starting to panic.

Gus’s parents had agreed to go and stay with Joy, with little persuasion. It had taken longer to convince them that Gus had a reason to stay in Santa Barbara. The news reports however had made it clear that nowhere was safe. The infection was spreading nationwide. Canada and Mexico closed their borders. Flights were grounded. The military had been called out to all major cities to assist with evacuation and to curtail violence and looting. Santa Barbara was making do with their police force.


“She was in Seattle last I heard from her,” Henry continued. “She hasn’t been answering her phone.”


“She’ll be fine,” Shawn said, mostly to hear the words aloud himself. “It’s mom. She’s smart. Where do you think I get it from?”


Henry snorted and Shawn caught a glimpse of a slight smile on his face. Somehow it helped to ease the knot of terror coiled in his stomach.


There were people running in every direction when they arrived. A man was holding a screaming woman by the waist, preventing her from running back onto the pier.


“What’s going on?” Shawn shouted as they ran towards them. “What happened?”


“My daughter,” the woman sobbed. “She’s still there. We were separated trying to get away from... Please, help her.”


~

Lassiter was laughing. He was probably going to wake Gus and Juliet, but Shawn considered it was probably worth it. He could probably count the number of times he’d heard Lassie laugh on one hand. And three of those had to have been related to him falling down in some way.

“It’s not funny,” Shawn said, but he was laughing himself. “You have no idea how hard it was for me growing up. Eidetic memory and my dad testing me at every opportunity.”

“That’s how you scored a hundred on the detective’s exam,” Lassiter said, nodding. “Now it makes sense.”

“Maybe I’m just naturally gifted,” Shawn said and Lassiter laughed again.

“Of course you’re naturally gifted,” Lassiter said. “It’s incredible. Why didn’t you take five minutes to explain?”

“You wouldn’t have believed me,” Shawn said. “You were very confrontational that day.”

“I just wanted the truth, Shawn. Yes I know, sometimes I like the glory, but don’t try to pretend you don’t either. Mostly I just want the truth.”

~

Henry always stayed ahead of Shawn when they were patrolling, something which caused Shawn no end of irritation. Shawn was a better shot and had better reflexes than his dad. Henry was just being... Henry.

They stayed low as they ran onto the pier and ducked out of sight once they reached The Harbor Restaurant. There were two zombies feasting on a dead body about ten feet away.


“I’ll take them out,” Henry said. “You run past.”


“Dad, they move like... well, like dead bodies. Can’t you shoot them and then both of us run?”


“Do you have to argue with everything I say?” Henry asked. “Can’t you just run when I tell you to run?”


“Of course I’m going to argue when you’re being ridiculous,” Shawn said. “Oh great. Now they’ve spotted us.”


The zombies had turned and caught sight of Henry and Shawn. Shawn raised his gun and fired two shots. The bodies crumpled to the ground.


“You have to do everything your way, don’t you, Shawn?” Henry said and moved forward, keeping his back against the wall of the building.


“Oh that’s rich, coming from you,” Shawn hissed back. “Your middle name should be ‘control freak’.”


Henry shushed him and stopped moving. “I heard something.”


Shawn closed his eyes and concentrated, picking out a faint sobbing not too far away.


“It’s her,” he said. “She’s close.”


Henry nodded and they started forward again.


There was another group of zombies huddled around an unfortunate body, right in front of the steps that led up to the Longboard’s patio.


“Is she up there?” Henry asked and Shawn shook his head.


“I can’t tell. It’s possible.”


“Can you get to the main door, if I cover you?”


This time Shawn didn’t argue. “Probably. Think you can catch up in time if it’s locked?”


Henry grinned. “We’ll find out, won’t we.”


Shawn grinned back. “On three. One, two, three.”


Henry walked forward slowly, putting as much distance as her could between him and the group of zombies surrounding the door, before shouting, “Hey!” to draw their attention. They turned, snarling at the prospect of fresh meat, and began to shuffle towards him. Henry ran toward the other end of the pier, drawing them away, and Shawn had to fight against his instinct to stay and make sure Henry made it to the other side safely. Instead, he waited just long enough to ensure their backs were turned, before he bolted for the restaurant entrance.


He couldn’t see anyone downstairs. The tables were upturned and there was blood pooling in various spots on the floor, but no movement. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and listened.


The faint sound of crying had him racing up the stairs a second later. He paused at the top to listen again, then crouched down to look under the tables on the patio. It was clear. He made his way further into the restaurant.


There was a muffled sob behind him and as he turned, a tray of glasses fell off the bar and crashed to the ground. He jumped forward, pushing himself up so he was lying half over the counter and smiled at the little girl hiding there.


"It's okay," Shawn said, holding out his hand when she screamed. "I'm not a zombie, really, I got these bags under my eyes from playing Mario Kart. Your mom sent me to get you." She sniffled, cowering in the corner. Shawn swung round and dropped down in front of her. “It’s okay.”


The girl launched herself at him and hugged him tightly. Shawn lifted her up and moved quickly out to the patio, looking over the glass to see if he could make out Henry. Most of the zombies were gathered around the end of the pier, and for a second Shawn felt his whole body tense up in fear, before he caught sight of the lone figure swimming back towards shore.


"Don't tell him I said this," Shawn said, mostly to himself. "But my dad's pretty smart."


The girl didn't raise her head from where it was buried against his neck.


"Can you swim?" he asked and she shook her head.


"Great," Shawn sighed, scanning the area again. There were still a few stragglers nearby, enough to cause a problem once they got down to the pier. And there were plenty of places Shawn couldn't see, where any number of zombies could still be hiding. "What's your name?" he asked, crouching low as he started down the stairs.


"Mary," the girl said, quietly, against his neck.


Shawn nodded and shifted to pull out his gun with his other hand. "I need you to be quiet, Mary. We're going to have to run, and there might be loud noises. Can you be brave for me?"


Mary hesitated, but nodded.


He set her down on the ground and knelt on front of her. "When I say run I need you to run all the way back down the pier to your mom, understand?"


Mary nodded again.


"Good girl. And don't look back. Not once. Promise?"


"Promise."


"You're really smart," Shawn said with a smile. He took hold of her hand and squeezed it. He drew in a sharp breath before walking out, trying his best to be quiet so as not to draw attention. There was one zombie a few yards away, but it seemed to be heading in the other direction. He could feel Mary's hand shaking in his, but he edged them further along the dock, until she stumbled, drawing the attention of two zombies nearby.


Shawn pushed her forward. "Now, Mary, run," he shouted. She ran off down the pier and Shawn turned to find the zombie almost on top of him. He hooked his foot around the thing’s legs and tripped it backwards, then fired once into its head. Blood splattered along the dock and onto Shawn's shirt, making him cringe, but he turned and ran, staying a step behind Mary. "Run faster!" he yelled to Mary as he watched her sprint towards the end of the pier. He could hear noises behind him, but didn’t dare look. He just had to go a little faster, a little further, and he'd be there. Ahead, he saw Henry pulling his truck up.


~

They’d fallen into a comfortable silence. Shawn was pleased that they hadn’t disturbed Gus and Juliet too much.

“I miss him,” he said, once the words had worked their way around his brain enough times.

Lassie, to his credit, didn’t say anything. He just sat and waited, a light tilt of his head in Shawn’s direction was the only indication he’d heard.

“I spent so much of my life mad at him,” Shawn said. “I don’t know that he knew that I...”

“He knew, Shawn,” Lassiter said quietly.

Shawn shrugged. “People always say that. But you don’t know. I never said it. Even then, I couldn’t say it.”

Lassiter sighed, but Shawn thought it sounded more thoughtful than irritated.

“Shawn, you know your dad loved you.”

Shawn nodded. “Yeah.”

“So he knew,” Carlton said.

“When did you get so smart?” Shawn asked a minute later. He suddenly felt very tired.

“I’ve always been smart,” Carlton said. “You just bring out the worst in me.”

Shawn smiled as his eyes started to droop. “That’s funny,” he said. “You bring out the best in me.”


#17. There’s nothing wrong with hoping things will get better. Just try to be realistic.



"Come on, come on, come on," Juliet muttered as the phone continued to ring. She looked towards Chief Vick's office, leaning to the side to catch sight of Carlton gesturing emphatically.

"Detective O'Hara?" McNab said, drawing her attention as he stopped in front of her desk. "Are you okay?"


"Fine," she said. "Just fine. Are you? You're looking a little drained. Why don't you take a vacation?"


The phone was still ringing. She hung up and immediately dialled again.


"I'm saving my vacation time for Christmas," Buzz said with a smile. "We were thinking of going to - "


"Go now," Juliet said, looking him right in the eye and putting every ounce of conviction into her voice that she could. "Just go. I'm serious. Something terrible is happening."


The door to the Chief's office was thrown open and Carlton strode out, looking ready to kill. Juliet hung up the phone again and rounded the desk.


"What happened?" she asked, stopping him in his tracks. "What did she say?"


"She said I needed to take a vacation or she'd be getting another shrink in to monitor me," Carlton growled. "What's it going to take to get people to listen?"


"People are going to have to see it," Juliet said. "Who believes in zombies without hard evidence? You would have called this crazy two days ago."


Carlton rolled his shoulders, but didn't contradict her. "Did you get through to anyone?"


Juliet shook her head. "It just keeps ringing out. My mom isn't answering either."


"Mom," Carlton sighed, "damn it." He ran his hand over his face. "Lauren. Victoria..."


"It's okay," Juliet said. "I'll call them. They might actually answer." She pulled his phone across the desk and opened his address book.


There was a sudden buzz of activity near the entrance, and Shawn appeared with Henry a second later.


"Well, it took some convincing," Shawn said, when they stopped next to Carlton's desk. "But Mrs. Wilcox next door was a big help."


"What are we doing?" Henry asked.


"Convincing the Chief I'm not crazy," Lassiter said. "She might listen to you."


Carlton led Henry back into the Chief's office. Juliet smiled nervously at Shawn and picked up the phone.


"Who are you calling?"


"Carlton's family," Juliet said. "I offered. Mine aren't answering."


"Your brother?" Shawn asked, hopefully as he stepped closer.


Juliet shook her head. "If he doesn't want to be found, I won't find him."


Shawn nodded. "So, Lassie's mom huh? Good luck with that."


Juliet's smile turned a little more natural. Shawn looked away while she made the call and then as soon as she hung up, asked, "Where's Gus?"


~

Juliet woke with a start and looked around. Gus was still asleep, leaning against the window. She sat up from where she’d been lying against him.

“Why are we stopped?” she asked, making both Carlton and Shawn look back at her.

“Jules, you’re awake,” Shawn said and held out a cereal bar for her. “Eat this.”

Juliet took it and started to eat automatically. “Carlton?”

“There’s a car up ahead,” Carlton said. “There’s someone in there.”

“Alive?” she asked. She nudged Gus awake and pushed the remaining half of the cereal bar into his hand. “Eat that.”

“What’s going on?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

“We don’t know if they’re alive,” Shawn said. “We’re going to find out.”

“Wait, what have I missed?” Gus asked.

Juliet pointed out the car. “You’re not going though,” she said, patting Carlton on the shoulder. “You’ve been driving all night.” She pulled her gun out from under the seat and checked it. “Let’s go, Shawn.”

~

Shawn was halfway out of the car before Juliet had even stopped. He raced towards the Gusters’ house, pulling his gun free of his jeans as he did so.

The front door was open and Shawn paused in the doorway. “Gus?” he shouted. “Are you there?”


He heard Juliet’s footsteps behind him and he pointed her towards the kitchen as he made his way into the living room.


“Gus, it’s me. Jules is here. Are you here? Can you speak?”


The living room was empty. He made his way back to the hall and started up the stairs just as Juliet came out of the kitchen.


“There’s nothing there,” she said as she followed him. “There’s only Gus’s car outside. Maybe he left with his parents.”


Shawn shook his head. “He’d have told me. He’s not answering his phone.”


“Try calling it again,” she told him.


When they reached the top of the stairs, Juliet stepped in front of him and waited while he took out his phone and called Gus.


They both strained to hear any noise.


Juliet shook her head. “Okay, we tried. Just stay close.”


They advanced along the hallway. Juliet pushed open the first door.


“That’s the spare room,” Shawn said, seeing it was empty.


“We’re checking them all,” Juliet said, moving across the hall to the next door. “What’s this?”


“Uh, Joy’s room.”


That one was also empty. Shawn wasn’t sure whether or not to be relieved.


“Gus?” Juliet called out. “Are you... Where are you?”


The next door was Gus’s room. Shawn stepped in front of Juliet and pushed the door. “I got it.”


An apple came flying through the air, slapping Shawn in the head. "Ow!" he hissed, ducking behind the door instantly.


"Gus?"


Juliet asked, hesitant. There was a long moment of silence, in which she and Shawn exchanged confused glances, before finally Gus' voice came through the door, sounding terrified.


"Is that Juliet?" he asked, clearly nervous. "Or zombie Juliet?"


"If we were zombies," Shawn said seriously, "would we tell you?" He winced as Juliet punched his shoulder.


"I'm armed," Gus said again, and the sound of something that was probably a banana hit the other side of the door.


“Are you throwing fruit?” Shawn asked incredulously.


“Zombies eat meat, Shawn,” Gus said.


Shawn pushed the door open again and stepped inside. “So you’re trying to convince them you’re made entirely of...” He bent down and picked up a banana and potato. “Fruit and vegetables?”


Gus peered out from the closet, then emerged slowly. “It was working.”


Shawn looked around. “On what?”


A broken moan sounded behind them and Shawn and Juliet turned slowly to find an old woman in the doorway.


“Is that Mrs Harris from next door?” Shawn asked as they backed away.


“Uh huh,” Gus said.


“And she’s a zombie now?”


“Uh huh,” Gus repeated.


“Is she the only one here?” Juliet asked, steadying her gun.


“As far as I know,” Gus said. “My parents took the car. I was just grabbing a few things.”


Juliet nodded and fired once. Mrs Harris fell to the ground.


Gus pressed a hand to his stomach. “I’m going to throw up.”


“Do you have what you came for?” Juliet asked, and Gus pointed to the bag on the bed. Shawn grabbed it and pushed Gus ahead of him as they followed Juliet out of the room.



# 9. There are other people out there like you. You're all on the same side. Treat them well.



"What do we do if they're not zombies?" Shawn asked as they approached the car.

Juliet's mouth was set in a grim line as she considered the question. "I don't know," she said. "Let's just find out who they are first."

When they were about twenty feet away, both the driver and passenger side doors were pushed open. A man and a woman emerged, with guns aimed at Shawn and Juliet.

"Lower your weapons," Juliet shouted. "I'm a police officer."

"I'm not sure the police exists anymore, honey," the man said. "And in case you hadn't noticed, you'd pointing a gun at my girlfriend."

Shawn kept his own gun trained on the man. "Let's all put them down then, shall we?" he said. "On three. One, two..."

The woman sighed and lowered her gun. "Jeff."

Jeff did as he was told. Shawn and Juliet, followed suit.

"We're not infected," the woman said, walking slowly towards them. "We're trying to get to the coast. We thought maybe if we took a boat we could go somewhere. Anywhere."

Juliet gave a reassuring smile. "We're on our way to Seattle. Have you seen any other survivors?"

"Not many," the woman said. "We started out with a bigger group. We got separated. I don't know what's happened to them."

Shawn looked at Juliet and then back at the car where Carlton and Gus were waiting. "I hope you find them again."

"Do you have supplies?" Jeff asked and rolled his eyes at the look hisgirlfriend gave him. "We're down to our last bottle of water, Annie."

"We don't have a lot," Juliet said. "We can give you some water though. We really need to stock up though."

"There's a town not far from here," Annie said, pointing the way they were all headed. "It's bigger than anywhere we've been before though. It's probably crawling with ... them."

Juliet glanced at Shawn, who nodded. "Lassie's not going to be pleased though."

"Leave Carlton to me," Juliet said and held out her hand to Annie. "I'm Juliet O'Hara, this is Shawn Spencer. We can help each other out."

~

"I don't like this," Lassiter said as they followed Jeff and Annie's car into Eugene. "We don't know these people."

"What do you think they're going to do?" Shawn asked, once again sitting next to Gus in the back seat, while Juliet sat up front. "Feed us to the zombies? Why would they?"

"We have food, water and weapons," Lassie pointed out. "And a better car."

Shawn pursed his lips. "I like them."

"You liked Martha Stewart too, and look how that turned out." Gus said.

Shawn pouted. “But she made such decorative napkin animals.”

Gus rolled his eyes. "I'm with Lassie. I say we ditch them."

"We're not ditching them," Juliet said firmly. "They're trying to survive. So are we. We help each other or we all end up as zombies."

Shawn nodded. "Live together. Die alone."

"Are you quoting Lost now?" Gus asked. "Is that what we've come down to? You're actually quoting Jack?"

"I'd be a good, Jack," Shawn said. Gus snorted in derision. "What?"

"If anyone in this car is Jack, it's Lassie," Gus said. "He's in charge, but we all hate doing what he says."

"Hey!" Lassiter said.

"I don't hate doing what he says," Juliet said, earning a grateful smile from Lassiter.

"That's because you're Kate," Gus said. Juliet grimaced.

"So I'm Sawyer?" Shawn asked. "You have to give me Sawyer."

Lassiter nodded. "Yeah, you're both con men."

"See, Lassie agrees with me."

"Why do I have to be Kate?" Juliet asked. "Can't I just be Juliet?"

Shawn grinned. "That makes us a couple, you know?"

Juliet groaned. Shawn ignored her.

"Who are you?" he asked Gus. "Everyone else on that show is pretty messed up."

"C'mon son," Gus said, incredulously. "I'm Desmond."

Shawn, Juliet and Lassiter all burst out laughing.

"No," Shawn said. "Who are you really?"

"Screw you, Shawn," Gus said. "I am the coolest person in this car. I can be Desmond."

"Juliet is the coolest person in this car," Shawn corrected.

"Thank you."

"And, you and I are pretty much the same level of coolness," Shawn continued.

"Hey!" Lassiter said again. "So I'm the least cool out of everyone?"

"Yes," Shawn and Gus said in unison and bumped fists.

"I hope you both get eaten by zombies," Carlton said.

~

Shawn protested vigorously at being told to stay by the door with Gus.

"Someone needs to cover it," Juliet said, squeezing Shawn's arm tightly. "We don't know what we're going to find in there. We need an exit plan."

"Uh," Gus said. "I'm all for staying out of the action, but could someone else be the exit plan? What about them?" He pointed to Annie and Jeff in the car next to them.

"I don't know them," Carlton said. "I don't trust them. O'Hara you take the girl. I'll go with..."

"Jeff," Shawn said. "Can you ask him what hair gel he uses? His hair is strangely perfect for someone fleeing from zombies."

Lassiter stared at him for a long moment before getting out of the car and walking away to join Jeff, who emerged at the same time.

"Are you armed?" he asked, mildly impressed when Jeff lifted his shirt to show off the two handguns tucked into holsters at his side, but trying not to show it. "Can you shoot them though?"

"Paintball Champion three years running," Jeff said, looking over at where Annie was now talking to Juliet. "You know the rules. Stay together in groups, keep your eyes open, grab whatever you can carry."

Carlton crossed his arms. "I'm in charge here," he said, but Jeff ignored him and walked quickly towards the entrance to the store. Carlton hurried to catch up, walking faster than normal, even with his long legs.

Jeff pressed his face against the window, trying to peer inside. A few lights still flickered inside, probably from a backup generator, but it was hard to see from a distance. He couldn't tell if anything was moving inside, which didn't put his fears to rest. It was better to know what you were up against than to be surprised. "I can't tell," he admitted, and rolled his eyes as Lassiter insisted on checking himself.

"I can't either," Lassiter admitted after a moment, pulling out his firearm. "So let's just get this over with."

"How do we get in?" Annie asked as she and Juliet joined them.

Carlton pointed his gun at the sensor above the door and fired. The doors slid open.

"Hopefully that means none of them are in there," Juliet said. "Good luck, partner."

She and Annie went left on entering the store. Carlton and Jeff went right.

Annie moved to get a shopping cart, and Juliet paused, taken aback. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"It's a line of self defense," Annie said as she began to wheel it toward the canned goods. "And, this stuff is pretty heavy."

"It makes noise," Juliet hissed.

"So do you," Annie pointed out. "Now stop talking and keep a look out."

~

"Water's down here," Jeff said, peering down one aisle. He kept his back to the shelves and ran down to the water bottles. Carlton stayed close behind him.

"We're going to need something to move them," Carlton said. "Or this is going to take a while."

They both looked around. There was a door marked Staff Only at the end of the aisle.

"They might have a cage or pallet jack," Carlton said. "We could pile some stuff up."

Jeff nodded. "After you detective."

Carlton braced himself against the wall and pulled the door open slowly, trying to see, but it was pitch black inside. "Shit," he said quietly to himself, straining to hear anything.

"Well?" Jeff asked quietly, nudging him a little. "Go. We haven't got all day."

Carlton glared at him, but moved forward into the room. He could make out something shiny in the corner, and moved over to it slowly. "Got it," he whispered, and began to push the pallet toward the door quickly.

There was a growl in the darkness and Carlton froze.

"What was that?" Jeff hissed.

"Go," Carlton said, holding his gun up and pointing into the darkness. "Take all the water you can, get the girls and go."

"Dude," Jeff said, but Carlton was in no mood to be argued with. "Get out of here," he shouted. "Lock the door."

Jeff hesitated another second, but a cry rang out from the darkness and he was moving, scrambling out of the room with his gun drawn. Behind him, he could hear snarls and two gunshots.

~

"What was that?" Juliet asked across the store, pulling out her gun and scanning the area quickly. She exchanged a glance with Annie and they took off sprinting towards the sound, shopping cart in tow.

Jeff slammed the door closed behind him and grabbed two huge water water barrels just as Annie and Juliet rounded the corner.

"What was that?" Annie asked, scanning over Jeff. "Are you alright? We heard gunshots."

Juliet looked up and down the aisle. "Where's Carlton?"

Jeff put the water in the cart and grabbed the handle and Annie's hand.

"He's in there." Jeff said, indicating the door with a grim expression. "There's no light. He told me to go and get you out."

Juliet reached for the door.

"He's gone," Jeff said. "And so are we, before they get out." He pulled Annie along towards the exit.

"Dammit," Juliet hissed, and began pounding on the door. "Carlton!"

Something heavy threw itself at the door on the other side, trying to claw its way out. A hand broke through the glass on the window of the door, causing Juliet to scream and scramble backwards. She could feel where some of the glass had brushed her cheek, and thought the wetness dripping down her cheek was probably blood. But all she could think as another gunshot rang out was that at least Carlton was still in there, alive.

~

"What the hell is going on?" Shawn yelled as Jeff and Annie barrelled past them, through the door.

"Get our stuff in the car," Jeff told Annie firmly, then turned back to Shawn and Gus. "Your friend Lassiter saved our lives, but now he's trapped in the warehouse. I'm sorry."

"What?" Shawn asked, looking quickly toward the closed doors. "Where's Juliet?"

"Inside," Annie said, watching as Shawn took off sprinting inside.

"Shawn!" Gus shouted, but it was no use.

Shawn raced through the store to find Juliet covering the door to the warehouse.

"Jules," he gasped as he skidded to a stop beside her. The door was rattling furiously and there were three arms stretching out through what had been the glass panel.

"He's in there, Shawn," Juliet said tightly. Her mouth was set in a grim line. "We have to help him."

Shawn lifted his gun and fired off a shot, causing one of the arms to slump down. It just gave one of the zombies more room to move through.

"Watch it," Juliet snapped. "You could hit him."

Shawn raised one brow. "So what's your plan? We fight them off with tomatoes? I keep telling Gus that doesn't work."

"Shawn," Juliet growled. "You're not helping."

The door rattled again and strained against the force batting against it.

“How do you know he’s still...?” Shawn asked, but couldn’t find it in him to finish the sentence.

“He fired a shot.”

“Just one?”

“He only has so many bullets, Shawn!”

Shawn hesitated, looking around. "Go," he said, pointing to the door. "I'll get him out."

"What?" she asked. "You need backup."

"I have a plan," he lied, trying to glare at her. "Now go."

She hesitated and he pushed her away. "Go!"

She backed away, watching as Shawn stepped closer to the door.

"Get out!" he yelled again and grabbed the door handle.

Shawn waited until she was out of sight before staring down at the two zombies trying to climb their way through the small window in the door.

He didn’t know that he’d ever really been this close to one before and had time to really look at it. They were both snarling at him, teeth bared and eyes dead and cold, their features distorted just enough to be recognizable as different and wrong. It made his blood run cold.

As far as ideas went, this was probably the worst one he’d ever had. Shawn took in a deep breath before jerking the door open and taking off running down the aisle. But there wasn’t enough distance between them, and before he could do more than stumble a few steps, there were two of them on top of him, all three crashing to the floor in a tumble of limbs. He screamed without even realizing it, and fired his gun, just praying he hit something, anything.

There were still hands scrabbling at him though, and he could feel nails tearing at his shirt and feel its breath on its neck as he struggled with it, trying to keep it at bay. This was it. He was going to die, or become one of them.

Three more shots pierced through the screaming, and blood and guts were sprayed over him. "You are such an idiot," Carlton said, furious, as he began to push the bodies off Shawn. "Do you even know how much of an idiot you are?”

Shawn stared up at him, chest heaving and nerves singing. Carlton yanked Shawn up from the floor and growled, “Another five seconds and you’d be dead."

Shawn stared at him, still a little dazed. “Yeah but you saved me, Lassie. I knew you would.”

One glance over his shoulder told Shawn they couldn’t get out the way they’d come in, not without battling through dozens of the things. Lassiter was covering them, but they couldn’t just stand there waiting.

“This way,” Shawn said, tugging on Carlton’s arm. He started to run towards the back of the store, and the illuminated fire exit sign. They burst through the door, into a short, empty corridor, and pushed back against the door as the zombies started to try to force their way through behind them.

“What now, genius?” Lassiter yelled, over the moaning and thumping of the bodies against the door.

“The door at the end of the corridor gets us outside,” Shawn said and laughed, the adrenaline coursing through his body making him feel almost superhuman in that moment. “Then we just have to get to the car.”

“I really do hate you sometimes,” Lassiter said, with a glare that should have scared Shawn into submission, but instead onl made him laugh louder.

“Liar,” Shawn said, and grabbed Lassie’s shirt, dragging him down for a quick, hard kiss. “Brace yourself,” he said with a smile when he pulled away. He pushed himself away from the door and ran at full speed down the corridor and out through the fire exit. A quick glance around, told them they were safe for a while. “Lassie,” he shouted. “Come on.”

Lassiter cleared the corridor in seconds and slammed the door shut behind him. He leaned against it for a moment, breathing hard.

“What the hell was that, Spencer?”

“Us escaping a zombie hoard with style,” Shawn said and held out his fist for Lassiter to bump.

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Lassiter said, ignoring Shawn’s hand.

Shawn shrugged and started to jog away, back towards the parking lot.

“Spencer!”

“Come on, Lassie,” Shawn said. “Gus and Juliet will be going out of their minds.”

Carlton caught up with Shawn in a few seconds and Shawn tried to ignore the looks Carlton was shooting him. He’d just decided to give up and say something when they heard the gunshots.

There was only one car left in the parking lot when they rounded the corner of the building, running at full speed. Gus and Juliet were standing on either side of the car, shielded by the open doors, firing at the swarm of zombies emerging from the open front entrance.

Shawn and Carlton started to shoot as they ran over to the car, taking down a few that were getting too close. “Every zombie in town is going to be able to hear this,” Carlton shouted as he skidded to a stop beside Juliet.

“We were waiting for you,” Juliet shouted back.

“Start the car,” Carlton told her, covering her as she ducked inside. “Guster, get in.” Gus dove into the open passenger side door. “Spencer...”

“You first detective.”

Carlton clenched his jaw and fought against the urge to shoot Shawn in the shoulder. He climbed quickly into the back seat and pushed the door open on the other side for Shawn. “Get in!”

“Just a second,” Shawn said, ignoring Carlton, Gus and Juliet, whose voices were now all raised and telling him to get in the car.

There were only five zombies now, too close for comfort, but Shawn knew he could take them. One, two, three...

His gun jammed and he reached for his other one, but the fourth and fifth zombies were on top of him too soon, and this was worse than last time.

Their hands closed around his arms. He could hear Gus and Juliet screaming in the background, but all he could see was rotting flesh as they writhed on top of him. Two more shots rang out and he was freed under their dead weight a moment later when Carlton grabbed him and pulled him into the back of the car. Juliet waited only until the door was closed and then sped off.

Shawn leaned his head against the seat and closed his eyes, still breathing hard. He could feel Carlton’s hands pushing the remains of his shirt off and moving over his chest, checking for bite wounds, but couldn’t even work up the energy tocomment on it. He didn’t comment on the way Lassiter was holding him against him, either, gripping him like he thought Shawn might disappear if he didn’t, but he mentally filed it away to remember later.

“You’re fine,” Lassiter said eventually. “An idiot, but fine.”

Shawn nodded and let his head fall to the side, against Lassiter’s shoulder.

“If you ever do that again, I’ll kill you,” Carlton said, squeezing Shawn’s arm enough to leave a bruise.

“I’ll help,” Gus snapped and Shawn smiled against Lassie’s shirt.

“I love you guys too.”


# 7. Before you go in, think about how you'll get out



Seattle was the first big city any of them had seen since the outbreak began. The highway approach was empty, but the closer they got, the more cars appeared on the other side of the road, until it formed one gridlocked block that seemed to stretch on forever, disappearing somewhere into the city horizon.

“Oh my God,” Gus breathed, staring out of the window. “That’s...”

“Horrible,” Juliet said. “All those people.”

“Where do you think they went?” Gus said. “Do you think they’re all … you know?”

“Let’s just hope they’re not all in the city,” Lassiter said. “I saw The Walking Dead.”

“Yeah, we should have brought a horse,” Shawn said, earning an irritated look from from Gus. “Oh come on, you were thinking it too.”

“Where was your mom staying?” Lassiter asked, his voice raised to shut down Shawn and Gus’s argument before it got started.

“The Crowne Plaza,” Shawn said. “It’s near the convention center.”

“And the highway,” Juliet said as she followed the route on the map with her finger. “We’ll be there soon.”

Shawn nodded. “We need a plan.”

~

The street appeared empty when Carlton stopped the car outside the hotel

"You guys, stay here," Shawn said. "If I'm not back in an hour, go without me."

"You're not going on your own," Juliet said. "I'm coming with you."

"We all will," Gus said. "We've come this far."

"We can't leave the car," Shawn said. "What if someone takes it? What if they surround it?"

"I'd rather not be in it if they're going to surround it," Gus protested.

"Lassie," Shawn said. "You have to agree with me on this. Someone needs to stay and defend the car. It's our only escape route."

Lassiter stared out of the windscreen, his eyes flicking around as he considered their options.

"Carlton," Juliet said, with a warning in her voice.

He shook his head. "Shawn's right," he said and started the car again. He drove around the building and into the parking garage. "We need to protect the car, but I'll be damned if we're leaving you to do this on your own after everything." He parked near the fire exit and turned in his seat to address them all.

"We'll take some extra weapons. I'll go first, then Shawn, then Gus, then Juliet. Which room was your mom in?"

"728," Shawn said.

"We stay in the stairwell until we get to the right floor. Everyone stay silent." Carlton said, with a pointed glare at Shawn and Gus.

"Lassie, you don't have to worry about us," Shawn said. "The last thing I want to do right now is talk."

Carlton nodded. "If she's not there..."

"Then we leave," Shawn said. "I know."

Carlton nodded again. Juliet gave a hopeful little smile. Gus squeezed Shawn's shoulder.

Shawn took a deep breath. "Let's go."

~

The stair well was pitch black. Lassiter pulled a small pocket flashlight from his jacket and switched it on, letting the light skim around to shine on the ground and walls. He grabbed Shawn's hand and put it on his shoulder. Shawn did the same to Gus, who did the same to Juliet. The stairs felt never-ending as they climbed higher and higher. Carlton kept the light just ahead on the ground so as not to draw attention. His eyes strained to see through the darkness and he had to shorten his stride to make sure the others were with him. Shawn couldn't remember a time the four of them had spent so long together without saying a word. Out of everything they'd done, this was somehow the most terrifying.

After four floors, Lassiter stopped dead and reached behind to squeeze Shawn's arm. Shawn peered around Lassiter's shoulder and froze. The small circle of light had landed on a foot, which had started to twitch. Lassiter slowly slid the torch higher, following the body slumped against the wall, until they could see its face.

Shawn felt, more than heard, Gus's sigh of relief. It wasn't his mom.

Carlton raised his gun, but Shawn squeezed his shoulder and then pulled his arm to the left, searching for any more of them. Finding nothing, Carlton fired once at the zombie's head, and then started to climb again.

They’d climbed 198 stairs when Lassiter stopped again and searched for the exit into the hotel. Shawn felt his heart speed up an his stomach rolled at the thought of what might be waiting for them on the other side.

Very, very, carefully, Lassiter pushed down on the door handle and pulled it open. They all flinched a little against the sudden stream of light that greeted them. Carlton held his finger to his lips and then moved ahead, followed by Shawn, Gus and Juliet.

They stayed with their backs against the wall as they hurried down the hallway, trying to stay as light on their feet as they could. Room 728 appeared before Shawn had time to brace himself for what might be on the other side.

“She wouldn’t just be in there,” he whispered. “Why would she?”

“Shawn,” Gus said. “We have to check. Then you’ll know.”

“I’ll go,” Lassiter said. “Then you don’t have to see.”

“No,” Shawn said quickly. “I have to do it. I dragged you here. God, what was I thinking? I can do it.”

“Spencer,” Lassiter said. “I know that usually I would be dancing up and down the corridor to hear you say you were wrong, but we really need to hurry up and do this.”

Shawn nodded. “How do we get inside?”

Carlton pushed him aside and aimed his gun at the lock.

“No!” Shawn said. “Then they’ll know we’re here.”

“Shawn, we don’t have much of a choice at this stage,” Juliet said quietly. “Unless you know some magic way to open a door.”

“And I already shot one back there,” Carlton said. “Let’s just get in and out as fast as possible.”

He fired twice at the lock and then quickly opened the door.


# 19. Forgive yourself.



Shawn supported Henry as they stumbled through the door and Gus slammed it closed behind them and locked it. Henry collapsed down on the sofa, gripping his arm. Shawn ran to the kitchen to get the first aid kit.

"Shawn," Henry said when Shawn dropped to his knees in front of him second later and grabbed his arm. "Shawn, stop."


"Where's the damn antiseptic?" Shawn said, rifling through the box and ignoring Henry. "You can't tell me you didn't restock this. You're anal about this kind of stuff."


"Shawn," Henry said again, sounding terrifyingly calm for the situation. "You can't fix this with antiseptic and a bandage. It's a bite."


"You don't know," Shawn said. "You're fine. Look at you. It's just some blood. You'll be fine." He finally found a wipe and started to clean the wound, keeping his eyes fixed on Henry's arm. "We'll bandage you up and it'll all be okay."


"No," Henry said. "You know what this means. It's too late."


"Don't be ridiculous," Shawn snapped, finally looking up. "Please, dad."


“Shawn,” Gus said. “They’re coming this way.”


“Call Lassie,” Shawn said, not looking away from Henry.  “You can’t really want me to...”


He could hear Gus in the background, talking frantically, but he couldn’t make out any words. Henry took his gun from where it was tucked in the waistband of his jeans and handed it to Shawn.


“I don’t want to turn into one of those things,” he said. “So, yes. I really want you to do this.”


~

The room was empty.

Shawn could see his mom's makeup spread out in front of the mirror next to the TV.  The bed was unmade and a couple of books sat on the bedside table, next to a half drunk cup of coffee. Her suitcase was open and her clothes were scattered around the floor nearby. He sat down on the edge of the bed and picked up a scarf.

"My dad was the bravest person I've ever met," he said and glanced over at Gus, Lassiter and Juliet who were waiting just inside the doorway. "I never gave him enough credit for everything he did for me. He wouldn't have dragged his friends all over the country for no reason."

"He would for your mom," Gus said quietly, joining him on the bed. "Or for you."

"That's right," Juliet said as she sat down on the other side of Shawn and took hold of his hand. "Your mom might be alive, Shawn. She's smart. Just like you." She gave Lassiter a pointed look and then leaned her head on Shawn's shoulder.

Carlton took a couple of awkward steps forward, obviously unsure of what to do. He settled for leaning against the desk, facing Shawn, and crossing his arms.

"Henry knew that you could survive this," he said, watching Shawn's hands play with the scarf, rather than the look of despair on his face. "And I know we can survive it. All of us. You have to forgive yourself though, Shawn. You can't keep carrying around this guilt. You didn't cause this. No one blames you. Least of all Henry."

Shawn squeezed his eyes closed against the tears burning his eyes. His shoulders began to shake as a month's worth of fear and angry and pain threatened to overwhelm him. Juliet and Gus wrapped their arms around him. It felt to Shawn like they were holding him together.


# 18. Cherish your memories. The good times were still good. Don't forget.



“That was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen,” ten year old Shawn said as he jumped off the bed and went to press rewind on the video. He spun in a circle and mimed kicking a zombie. “Rargh! I’d kill all the zombies.”

“Is it over?” Gus asked from where he was hiding under Shawn’s the covers.


“It’s over,” Shawn said, pulling the blanket off Gus. “You’re such a wuss.”


“I’m not a wuss,” Gus said with a pout. “I just don’t like zombies.”


“No one likes zombies, Gus. That’s the point,” Shawn argued. “And that movie was so cool.” He threw another imaginary punch. “If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’m going to be the best zombie hunter in the world.”


“Why would you want to hunt them?” Gus asked. “I’d just want to stay away from them. Find a nice quiet, uninhabited island and wait for it to be over.”


“Awww, Gus,” Shawn sighed, falling onto his back on the bed. “Why do you have to spoil it?”


“You can go and be a zombie hunter if you want to, Shawn,” Gus said. “I’ll be on an island, by myself.”


“No,” Shawn said. “I can’t be a zombie hunter without you. We’re a team. If you’re on an island, I have to be on the island with you.”


Gus looked at Shawn for a moment, a little surprised, then looked down at the Transformer sheets he was still sitting under. “I guess if you want to be a zombie hunter, we can do that,” Gus said.


“Really?” Shawn said. He sat up and grinned at Gus. “Awesome. We’re going to make the best zombie hunting team ever.”


“What if one of them bites me though?” Gus asked. “You’ll have to kill me.”


Shawn frowned and shifted the tiniest bit closer to Gus. “No I won’t,” he said. “I’ll just keep you locked up. And I’ll feed you raw meat, like a lion at the zoo. And I’ll train you not to bite me.”


“You would?” Gus said, perking up a little.


“Well yeah, of course,” Shawn said. “You’re my best friend.”


There was a perfunctory knock at the bedroom door and then it swung open to reveal Henry.


“Hi boys,” he said with a smile. “What are you up to?”


Shawn jumped up from the bed and tried to kick the video case under his desk before his dad spotted it. Henry of course, noticed immediately.


“Dawn of the Dead?” he said and bent down to scoop up the box. “Did you watch this?”


“No,” Shawn said, but Gus was nodding. “Gus!”


“You shouldn’t be watching movies like this,” Henry said. “You’re too young.”


“I’m fine,” Shawn said. “It’s not going to give me nightmares, it was awesome.”


“It’s graphic and violent, Shawn. I don’t want you watching these movies.”


“Dad!” Shawn argued. “That’s not fair. All the other kids watch them.”


“Gus, do your parents let you watch these movies?” Henry asked and smiled at Shawn when Gus shook his head. “See?”


“It’s not fair,” Shawn said. “How will I be prepared for a zombie invasion if you never let me do any research?”


Henry patted Shawn’s head and started to close the door behind him, taking the movie with him. “I’ll write you some rules.”


~

“We should go,” Carlton said quietly when none of them had moved for several minutes.

“Carlton,” Juliet chided him. “Give Shawn a few minutes.”

“We’ve had a few minutes,” he replied, his voice still quiet and firm. “It’s not that I don’t understand and I wish I had time to give, but the longer we stay here, the more dangerous it is.”

Shawn nodded and rubbed his hands over his face. “It’s okay,” he said. “Lassie’s right. That was the deal. We just have to go somewhere and try to stay safe.”

“We’re not actually going to Florida, are we?” Gus asked. “Because it’s 3,320 miles from Seattle to Miami and - ”

“We’re not going to Florida,” Juliet said. “Not in a car anyway. We’ll find somewhere. An island. A beach. We’ll make it.”

“Jules...” Shawn said, but Juliet stood and shook her head.

“No, we all agreed to this. This is the end of the line.”

“Juliet...” This time it was Carlton, looking at her oddly. “It’s okay. We all know what we have to do.”

“We’re all alone, all of us. But we have each other. We’re a family now.”

“A weird, slightly incestuous one,” Shawn said, needing to break the tension.

“You know that’s right,” Gus said and bumped his fist.

“Guys,” Juliet sighed frustratedly, but Carlton stepped over to her and gripped her shoulders.

“Ignore them,” he said. “You’re right. This is no time for any of us to freak out, okay? We just need to get to a boat. We can figure the rest out later.”

“Right,” Shawn said, standing and checking the clip in his gun. He held out his mother’s scarf to Juliet, who offered him an apologetic smile as she put it in her pocket. “At least going down the stairs should be easier than up, right?”

“I hope so,” Gus said, bending down to rub the back of his leg. “My quads are killing me.”

Lassiter moved past Shawn, squeezing his shoulder once, and peered through the door.

“You’re such a pansy,” Shawn said, shaking his head.

“Me?” Gus asked, raising one brow. “I know you are not implying that you are in better shape than me.”

“Shush,” Lassiter hissed, drawing his gun. Shawn and Gus looked from him to each before, before falling silent. Lassiter stepped back slowly, motioning Shawn closer so that he could take a look as well.

The hall was teeming with zombies, wandering around slowly. They seemed to fill the entire hall, and they looked worse off than any that they’d come across before. Their stomachs were sunken, their limbs were twisted at unusual angles, and they looked hungry .

“I told you not to fire that gun,” Shawn whispered, once they’d moved away from the door so that Juliet could see for herself. Gus had backed himself up to the furthest wall and was watching them all, nervous and trying not to be sick.

“What are we going to do?” Juliet hissed. “How do we get out?”

“Maybe we could pretend to be zombies,” Shawn said. “They do that in movies. It almost always works.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Lassiter said. “We’re not pretending to be zombies.”

“I’d say it’s that or one of us makes the ultimate sacrifice,” Gus said.

“We smell alive,” Carlton pointed out. “We can’t just shuffle along the hall moaning and hope they don’t notice.”

“You think of something then,” Shawn said. “We’re kind of out of options.”

“How many guns do we have?” Juliet asked, pulling out her own to check how many bullets were left.

“Not enough for all of those,” Shawn said, shaking his head.

Lassiter sighed, but nodded in agreement. “Even if we can make it through the hall, we have no idea what’s waiting in the stairs. Or outside by the car. Guns alone isn’t going to work.”

Shawn glanced toward the window and Gus, where he was still pressed up against the wall. “Anyone feeling particularly like King Kong today?”

Juliet pulled the net curtain away from the window. “There’s a ledge,” she said, and pushed open the window. “The floor below has a balcony.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Gus said. “You want us to climb out onto the window ledge and jump onto the balcony below?”

“We could tie the bedsheets together,” Juliet said.

“This isn’t a Disney movie,” Carlton said.

“To be fair though,” Shawn said, “Juliet would make a fantastic Disney princess.”

Gus nodded his agreement. “That is true.”

“It’s our only way out,” Juliet argued, ignoring Shawn and Gus.

“What if the next floor down is just as crowded as this one?” Lassiter asked.

“Carlton, we have no choice,” Juliet said firmly. “Shawn, check the cupboard for more sheets. Gus, help me strip the bed. Carlton, cover the door.”

It took them longer than Carlton would have liked to tie together three sheets and get the window open, but at least it looked like it would hold. “Tie it to the bedpost,” Juliet said, lowering the other end out the window to the balcony below them. “And tie it tight, Shawn.”

“I’ve got some experience in this department,” Shawn assured her, but Carlton rolled his eyes and moved to take the sheets out of his hands.

“These aren’t fuzzy handcuffs,” he growled, starting to use a sailor’s knot to tie it to the bedpost. “Stop messing around.” There were more zombies in the hallway now, and a few had been sniffing around the door like they could sense something was just a little off with this particular room, but he didn’t want to frighten them any more than necessary. He just wanted to get them moving faster. “We need to get going,” he said again, “now.”

“Ladies first,” Gus offered, peering out the window.

Juliet drew in a sharp breath before crawling onto the ledge of the window, gripping the bedsheets with both hands. Gus and Shawn held it tight to keep it straight and tight for her as she began to slide her way down slowly.

“That wasn’t so bad,” she said when she reached the sixth floor, glancing over her balcony to the next floor. It was a much steeper drop to the next row of balconies, maybe two floors this time. “We’re going to need the bedsheets again though.”

“How do we do that?” Shawn asked. “Lassie?”

“I don’t know,” Carlton said, glancing between the door and the window. “Guster, your turn.”

Gus visibly flinched but held tightly the sheet and climbed out of the window.

“You can do it, Gus,” Juliet called. “You’re doing great.”

“I’m so proud of you, buddy,” Shawn shouted down to him. “You’re like Will Smith, right now.”

Gus dropped down onto the balcony and Juliet hugged him tightly.

“Your turn, Shawn,” Gus shouted.

“You heard the man, Spencer,” Carlton said. “Out you go.”

Shawn snorted. “I don’t think so.” He reached up to tap Lassiter’s head. “I know what you’re thinking. If I go, you’ll just throw us the sheets and stay up here like a martini.”

“It’s martyr,” Carlton said, and Shawn didn’t like that he didn’t even sound exasperated. He almost seemed grateful. “And you have not heard it both ways.”

Shawn pushed him closer to the window. “You’re going.”

“How do you think you’re going to get down? I’m taller than you, it’s going to be a lot easier for me to jump down than you and your short little legs.”

“I’d be offended if you weren’t freakishly tall.”

They both turned as they heard something clawing on the door, snarling from the other side. Carlton pushed him again. “There’s not time for this,” he snapped, moving over to the bedpost. “You go, I’ll throw down the sheets, and then I can swing down. It’s not that bad of a drop.”

Shawn looked ready to argue, but there was a distinct thump on the other side of the door as something threw itself against the wood. The door rattled after, as the sound of something clawing its way inside kept up a persistent beat.

“Fine,” Shawn said. “But so help me, Lassie, if you aren’t right behind me...”

“Now,” Carlton hissed, and waited until Shawn began to lower himself down before beginning to work at the knots tying the sheet to the bed.

“I’m down!” Shawn called a moment later, as something threw itself at the door again. Carlton tugged the rest of the sheet free, moving quickly to the window and tossing it down.

“What are you doing?” Juliet asked, nervous.

“I’ve got this,” Carlton promised, and began to crawl out onto the ledge. One quick glance behind him revealed the door, bent unnaturally under the weight of the zombies from the other side trying to make their way in, and fingers coming from under the door, on the sides... He cursed quietly and dug his nails into the ledge, lowering his weight down as far as he could go. He hung there, wondering just how well he’d really thought through this plan.

“Now what?” Shawn asked, watching him, worried.

“Stand on the railing,” Juliet said, “maybe you can reach his legs. We can hold you.” Shawn moved quickly to follow her instructions, just as something crashed loudly above them, the door to the hotel room finally giving way.

“No time for that,” Lassiter shouted. “Get away from the edge.”

“Carlton,” Juliet yelled, as Gus pulled her back against the building.

Lassiter let go of the ledge and dropped straight, bending his knees and rolling onto the ground when he hit it.

“Ow, ow, ow, fuck,” Carlton said. “Damn that hurt.”

Juliet and Shawn knelt down beside him immediately. “Are you okay?” Juliet asked, running her hands over his legs. “You’re insane. Why would you do that?”

“We needed the sheets didn’t we?” Carlton said. “And now we have the sheets and I’m here, just slightly bruised. Stop fussing.” He pushed them away and got to his feet.

Juliet put her arms around him and pulled his arm around his shoulders. “This isn’t for you, it’s for me,” she said, silencing him when he tried to protest.

“Only five floors to go,” Gus said. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

“Great,” Carlton said, snatching the sheets off the ground and starting to tie them to the railing. “Next time, you can go last.”

As it turned out, though, they didn’t need the sheets again. From the third floor balcony, and only a slight bit of maneuvering onto the building scaffolding, there was actually railing steps leading down the rest of the way. Shawn couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so grateful to step both feet back onto the ground.

“Keep quiet,” Juliet said, peering around the corner to where their car was parked. The parking lot still seemed empty, but they all knew better than to trust appearances. After some silent hand gestures between Juliet and Lassiter, Lassiter was left looking angry while Juliet dodging away from them toward the car, keys in hand.

“The pier isn’t far,” Shawn whispered. “And there are snack shops along the way. They may be more deserted the closer we get to shore. There’s less... food sources that way. We’re going to need to stock up.”

Carlton nodded. “And we’ll need fishing poles, but we can get those at the docks.”

“You’ll be doing the fishing I hope,” Shawn said. “Providing for the family.”

“We’re all going to have work to do, Shawn,” Carlton told him. “This isn’t going to be a pleasure cruise.”

“It’ll be more pleasant than things have been up until now,” Shawn said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.

“She’s coming,” Gus whispered and seconds later the car slid to a stop beside them.

“Come on boys,” Juliet called through the open window. “We don’t have all day.”

~

After two less than successful scavenging sessions, Gus thought there was no way they’d make it through this one alive, but Juliet managed to pull the car right up to the door of the mini-mart and ten minutes later the car was full of food, basic first supplies, and some bits of hardware Lassiter had deemed it essential that they carry.

“We should do another couple of runs,” Shawn said as they drove the last half mile to the docks. “If we can fill up the boat, we’ll get further.”

“We have to find a boat first,” Carlton said. “Lets do one thing at a time.”

There were several to choose from. Juliet drove slowly past the line of bobbing masts, waiting for Carlton to pick one.

“We want something big,” Shawn said.

“But not too big,” Carlton argued. There’s only four of us. It needs to be small enough that we can actually sail it.”

“So not that one?” Shawn asked, nodding to a full-sized yacht. He grinned to himself at the look Carlton shot him.

They finally settled on a catamaran with sails. “We won’t have gas or fuel forever,” Juliet said after checking the living quarters below deck for any signs of zombies. “Sails will come in handy.”

“And,” Shawn said, grinning excitedly, “it looks kind of like the boat from Jaws!” He began to hum the theme song, pleased when he thought he saw a smile playing at the corners of Carlton’s lips.

“You know,” Gus said, considering. “Sharks really don’t seem so scary anymore.” He held out his fist to Shawn, who bumped it.

“You’re idiots,” Carlton sighed, looking at their car parked a few yards away with sadness. He wished there was some way to take it with them, but he knew better. There was no telling though when they’d need to return back to the mainland, or where they’d end up. “Go see if you can find fishing rods or more fuel on some of the other boats. We’ll get the supplies out of the car.”

“And keep quiet,” Juliet said. “You don’t know where they might be hiding around here.”

Shawn and Gus hurried away and Juliet started to carry things onto the boat. Carlton pulled the two barrels of water from the trunk and stored them safely aboard, then went back to help her.”

“I always wanted to live on a boat,” Juliet said, when she dropped the last armful of food on the table. “Looks like my wish came true. I never expected it to be like this though.”

Carlton brushed away a lock of hair that had fallen free from her ponytail and kept covering her eyes.

“I know,” he said. “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to live like this.”

She smiled at him sadly and squeezed his hand. “So long as we’re alive.”

They went back up onto the deck and Carlton started to instruct her in readying the boat. She followed his instructions, happy to have something to concentrate on that wasn’t escaping from a near death situation.

Gus and Shawn returned thirty minutes later with some fishing poles, and various other bits of equipment Shawn had thought looked promising as they’d searched the other boats.

“Lets make another run to get supplies,” Juliet said when Carlton had snapped at them one time too many for getting in the way.

“Actually, I have something I need to do,” Shawn said, earning a inquiring look from Juliet and Gus. “What? I do.”

Juliet held up her hands. “Okay, okay. Just don’t disturb Carlton while he’s working,” she said. “Let’s go, Gus.”

~

It was nearing sunset when Gus and Juliet returned and unloaded another carload of food and water onto the boat.

Shawn was sitting on the edge of the jetty, scribbling on some paper and barely glanced up at them as they passed by.

“Ten minutes and we’re leaving, Guster,” Carlton said, when Gus handed over the last gallon of water. “Go and get him aboard.”

Gus nodded and hurried back over to Shawn. “Are you ready?”

Shawn looked up from his notes and nodded. “Yeah I just need another minute.”

Gus sat down next to him and tried to peer at the paper. “What are you writing?”

“It’s nothing,” Shawn murmured, tilting his arm a little so Gus couldn’t see.

“Shawn,” Gus said, irritated. “What are you doing that you won’t tell me about?”

“Nothing,” Shawn said again. “It’s just private.”

“Private from me?” Gus asked. “What do you keep private from me?”

Shawn snorted. “Oh come on, Gus,” he said. “It’s not like you tell me everything.”

“I tell you most of everything,” Gus said. “Unless there’s a good reason. Is there a good reason for you not showing me what you’re writing?”

“Yes,” Shawn said. “It’s private.”

“Is it about you and Juliet?” Gus asked.

“No,” Shawn sighed.

“You and Lassie?” Gus was watching him carefully, one eyebrow raised and an incredibly smug look on his face.

“No,” Shawn said. “You don’t know anything.”

“I know you kissed him,” Gus said. “And I don’t think it’s fair that you have kissed both Lassie and Juliet on this trip and I haven’t kissed anyone.”

“Do you want me to kiss you?” Shawn asked with a smirk and pursed his lips, leaning towards him.

Gus pushed him away. “You must be out of your damn mind.”

“Lassie? I can talk to him for you,” Shawn said. “I can’t promise I won’t get jealous.”

“If you’re not going to take this seriously,” Gus said, folding his arms.

“I’m not being serious?” Shawn laughed. “If you want to kiss Juliet, just do it. You don’t need my permission.”

“You’ve been after Juliet for five years,” Gus said.

“Yeah,” Shawn said, “and I’m crazy about her, but I don’t think we’re living my the normal rules of the world anymore. There’s just going to be the four of us now, forever.”

Gus stared over at the boat where Lassiter and Juliet were preparing things. “Just the four of us.”

“Is that scarier than the zombies?” Shawn asked.

Gus considered for a moment and finally shook his head. “I’d rather be with you guys than anyone else.”

“Me too,” Shawn said with a smile and looked back at his writing. “My dad gave me this,” he said quietly and Gus looked at him sharply. “It’s a list of rules for surviving.” He smiled a little to himself. “I’m just editing it a little.”

“Why?” Gus asked quietly.

“For someone else, if they ever find it. I want other people to know the kind of person he was.” Shawn handed Gus the sheet of paper. “What do you think?”

Gus took a moment to read over what Shawn had written and then handed it back. “I think that’s perfect,” he said. “Exactly right.”

Shawn smiled and nodded a little. “Thanks man.”

Gus pulled him closer and hugged him awkwardly until Shawn moved and wrapped his arms around him in return.

“Your boyfriend is waving us over,” Gus said against Shawn’s ear a minute later. Shawn pushed him away and laughed.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“He is so,” Gus said, getting to his feet and helping Shawn to his.

“Why don’t you try calling him that?” Shawn asked.

“Because he’ll shoot me in the face,” Gus said. “And the only way I’m letting Lassie shoot me in the face is when I’m a zombie.”

“I wouldn’t let Lassie shoot you in the face if you were a zombie,” Shawn said. “I told you. I’d lock you up and keep you as a pet.”

“Thanks man,” Gus said. “That means a lot.”

Lassiter’s waving had become more frantic. Shawn smiled and shook his head, bumping his arm against Gus’s as they walked back towards the boat.

“You really think we’re going to make it?” Gus asked.

Shawn put his arm around Gus’s shoulders. “Yeah,” he said. “I think we’re going to be fine.”

They climbed aboard and Shawn gave Lassiter a quick salute. “Captain.”

“Stop messing around,” Carlton said. “We’re ready to go.”

“So are we,” Gus said.

“I need a bottle,” Shawn said. “Does anyone have a bottle?”

“Yeah, Juliet said and disappeared below deck for a minute, then returned with an empty glass bottle.

Shawn rolled up the paper he’d been writing on, placed it in the bottle, and refastened the top. “Cast off, Lassie. Get us going or... whatever. Let’s go.”

Carlton dragged Gus away to help get them moving. Shawn stayed where he was looking out at the city as they slowly started to get under way. The trees swayed in the wind just past the shoreline, before giving way to the tall buildings, stretching upward for what felt like forever. The glass even shimmered in the sunlight, looking bright and promising.

“We’re safe for a while,” Juliet said, joining him and looking out at the horizon. “Feels good doesn’t it?”

Shawn smiled and nodded. “Feels incredible.”

She linked her arm with his and smiled at him. “What’s that?” she asked, tapping the bottle.

“My dad,” Shawn said.

“Your dad?” Juliet asked, incredulously. “Shawn, come on. You don’t have to tell me.”

“I’m serious,” Shawn said. “I never got to say goodbye. Not really. I want to do something to give him the kind of send off he deserves.”

Juliet squeezed his arm. “That’s a wonderful idea, Shawn.”

Shawn squeezed her arm and nodded. “Thank you.”

“Hey!” Lassiter shouted drawing their attention. “You two can come help, you know? This thing isn’t going to sail itself.”

Shawn and Juliet share a grin and saluted at the same time.

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Juliet said and ran over to help Carlton. Shawn set the bottle down carefully, keeping it out of the way until they eventually made it out to sea, and hurried over to help Gus.

~

If eating a proper meal that Carlton had caught and Juliet had grilled hadn’t felt odd enough, Shawn considered, then being assigned to wash dishes was somehow even stranger. He sat by the edge of the boat, dipping their plates down into the water until they came up clean.

He could hear laughter on the other side of the boat as Juliet and Gus sat cross-legged, playing a game of Scrabble that they’d found below deck.

“Hey,” Carlton said, sitting down beside Shawn and taking the last plate to help him. “This is weird, right?”

Shawn grinned at him. “Weirder than a zombie apocalypse?”

“Maybe,” Carlton admitted, laughing a little. Shawn couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard him laugh, but it felt good. And a little scary. Maybe a lot scary.

They dissolved into silence, happy to listen to Juliet and Gus bicker over whether or not depone was a real word - it was and Juliet would have to learn not to argue with Gus where Scrabble was concerned, Shawn thought. After a moment, Carlton hesitated, pulling out Shawn’s mother’s scarf from his pocket. “Juliet told me that I should give this back to you.”

Shawn took it from him and leaned back against the side of the boat, staring at it as he dragged it through his fingers. “I want her to have it,” he said. “Juliet deserves pretty things. Not zombies and death and...”

“None of us deserve this, Shawn,” Carlton said, settling down beside him. “This is madness.”

Shawn half shrugged and waved the scarf around. “Maybe.”

“Your mom was a good woman,” Carlton said. “Even though she thought I was crazy.”

“You did your psych evaluation in character as Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge,” Shawn said. “You were crazy.”

“Maybe,” Carlton echoed Shawn, with a smile and bumped their shoulders.

“Wow,” Shawn laughed. “Is this all it took to get you to loosen up? An apocalypse?”

Carlton shrugged. “There’s not much point in fighting after everything we’ve been through. You’ve told me all your secrets. You already knew all of mine.”
“Wow,” Shawn said dryly. “The rest of our lives are going to be pretty boring then, huh?”

“I’ll take boring,” Carlton said, still smiling. He leaned down to kiss Shawn quickly, but hard.

Shawn blinked at him for a moment after, pursing his lips as he considered. “What was that for?” he asked finally, when his brain could come up with nothing better to say.

“Payback for earlier,” Carlton said.

“Nothing to do with wanting to kiss me then?” Shawn asked, delighted at the way Carlton turned his head to hide his smile. “Okay then,” Shawn said, starting to get to his feet.

“Where are you going?” Carlton asked, reaching to grasp his arm.

“I’m not going far,” Shawn promised, moving to retrieve the bottle he’d set aside earlier. He was back a moment later, sitting down beside Carlton.

“What’s that?” Carlton asked as Shawn unscrewed the top and took out the paper. He wrapped his mother’s scarf around the note and slid the whole thing back into the bottle and refastened it.

“This is my goodbye to my parents,” Shawn said. “So they’re never forgotten.”

He stood up and threw the bottle as far as he could, watching as it disappeared into the darkness.

“Goodbye, dad.”

~

The Revised Zombie Survival Guide

Dedicated

to

Henry Spencer

The bravest man we ever knew

 

My dad gave me a set of rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse when I was ten. That may sound like a strange Christmas present, but if you knew my dad, you’d know it came from a place of love. Love and scary, anal-retentive control issues.

I’ve updated the rules as my friends and I have been travelling. I added a couple of new ones. I think my dad would be pleased with them. I hope he’d be pleased with me and everything I’ve done.

I don’t know what’s going to happen now. We’re taking a boat and going south. Maybe we can find a tiny island for the four of us and live off pineapple and coconuts until this is over. It can’t last forever.

# 1. It doesn't matter what caused it. Maybe it's a virus. Maybe it's a Government experiment gone wrong. Maybe an alien spaceship crashed and a parasite is reanimating the dead. None of that matters. The dead shouldn't be able to move of their own accord. So be they zombies, vampires or Frankenstein's monster, stop thinking about why, and start thinking about getting the hell away from them.

# 2. As Buffy once said - Weapons. Weapons. Weapons.

# 3. Anyone who tells you they’re not afraid is lying. It’s okay to be scared.

# 4. Sleep is important. Food is important. You may not want them, but you will need them.

# 5. Planning is all well and good, but when it comes down it, you'll have limited options. The perfect scenario only exists in your head. What vehicle you drive, what weapons you have, what direction you're headed - you can't control any of that. So stick with the people you trust and work together.

# 6. Always take a minute to consider your options. Even the safest route will have obstacles. Be prepared to adapt.

# 7. Before you go in, think about how you'll get out

# 8. Sometimes you're going to be bored. Really, really, mind-numbingly bored. Those are the good times.

# 9. There are other people out there like you. You're all on the same side. Treat them well.

# 10. Time doesn’t stop even if it’s not that important anymore. Laugh when you can. Love when you can. You won’t survive if you don’t.

# 11. You're going to get irritated with the people you're living with. You're going to argue. Sometimes you'll be right. Sometimes they will. Just remember, no argument is worth dying over.

# 12. Learn basic first aid. There's more out there to hurt you than zombies.

# 13. Always have a back up plan. Preferably more than one.

# 14. Don’t draw attention to yourself. There’s nothing wrong with hiding.

# 15. CONSTANT VIGILANCE

# 16. Don't fight unless you have to. It never gets any easier.

#17. There’s nothing wrong with hoping things will get better. Just try to be realistic

# 18. Cherish your memories. The good times were still good. Don't forget.

# 19. Forgive yourself.

# 20. If you find this, good luck. I hope you have friends like mine who can help you make it. I don't know that I will, but I believe in them and they believe in me. That has to count for something.