Cover art by Wychwood
Jamie wakes up in his driveway. He sits up and slowly rubs his face, brushing away the tiny bits of gravel where they're stuck to his cheek and in his moustache. He thinks, at first, that he's been hit by a car or something, because that's the only reason he can think of he'd be lying in his driveway, but he isn't hurting anywhere, there's nobody around, and he doesn't remember coming out here. He's wearing the t-shirt and track pants he went to sleep in. He isn't wearing socks or shoes, either. He's cold. He goes to look at his watch, but it isn't on his wrist. Seems like he just got out of bed and came out here, but he's never sleepwalked in his life. He picks himself up, and goes back inside. Sort of on automatic, he wanders into the living room and switches on the TV; on CNN, the camera is trained on an empty news studio. That's weird, he thinks, still not really awake. He flicks channels, over and over; some are playing shows or movies on repeat - Star Wars, The Big Sleep, that show about the doctor, CSI - but a lot of them are just dead, empty. The blinking display on his DVD player says it's four a.m., a couple of hours before he has to be at work.
As he starts to wake up, he realizes he's waiting for the dogs to wake up and come sniffing around to see why he's up and got the television on; he turns on all the lights at last and goes to look in the kitchen for them. He can't find them. Betsy's not on the couch, and Frank and Einstein aren't in their baskets. He goes to check his room, even though they aren't allowed in there, and the yard, in case they ran outside when the door was open. He goes out front to maybe call for them, but now he has the light streaming from his front porch, he can see that on the other side of the road, Ben and Anjita's front door is just hanging open. He crosses over, realizing halfway that his feet are bare on the gravel, and he taps on the open door; he goes a little inside and calls, not liking to raise his voice, but getting more and more anxious when nobody comes, no lights come on. He goes and bangs on Mrs. Miesczy's door, then the Colucci's, then finds that Nathan and Helen's door is open too. Nobody comes. He goes back and turns on the TV again, then the radio, which is nothing but static. He picks up the phone and gets a dialtone, but when he calls 911, it already isn't really a surprise when the phone to the switchboard just rings and rings.
He's maybe frightened, at last, when he sits down on his front step to wait for whatever is going to happen, to happen, watching the sky slowly start to get light, and trying to remember why he was lying in the drive. After about an hour, he realizes that the thing that's been niggling at him for the last while is that he can't hear anything; not a single car, no birds, no dogs barking, not even the highway. It's then that he starts to think that maybe whatever it is has already happened, to everybody except for him. But he waits for the sun to come up, or his dogs to come home. He doesn't really know what else to do.
After a couple of hours of that, with the shadows cast by the houses and bushes down his street slowly getting shorter, he picks himself up and goes inside to make some coffee, and think some. No sense in just sitting around waiting, if there's nobody going to come.
Thirty two hours later, Jamie's moved out to M5. He's driven around some, he's tried the airports and even the coast guard station out in Oakland, but more and more, it seems like he's the only living thing around. M5 is only meant to be a temporary stopping point before he decides what to do, but once he's there, it seems like a good place to be; he feels safer, calmer, and it's closer to downtown than his place, easier to get to whatever he might need. All his tools are here, and the Colt .45. It feels less weird that the dogs aren't around, getting under his feet and snuffling at the bottom of doors.
He sits down with some sheets of paper and starts to make lists of stuff he's gonna need, starts to work out a Plan A and a Plan B based on all the data he has so far, which is that there's nobody alive - or dead, which is the thing he really doesn't know what to do with - in the San Francisco area. Pretty soon, though, the silence there starts to make him twitchy too; he never realized how much you could hear the road from M5, the cars, how quiet it would be when they stopped. He keeps finding that he's just stopped work and is staring into space; it's like his head is full of wool, or something. He imagines, the fourth or fifth time that that happens, that his heart is slowing down; that somehow the human race has stopped, and Jamie got left behind, but he's like a clockwork motor slowly winding down to nothing, now, and soon he's going to just stop too. He stares at the list in front of him on the counter. He was in the middle of writing something that begins enti- but he doesn't know what the hell it was meant to be. He feels dizzy, suddenly; he presses his hands to the counter and breathes, and wonders if he's going to be ill, and then, at that exact moment, there's a crash at the far end of the workshop, and then - Adam's there. It's Adam. He's moving, and breathing. Jamie stares at him.
"Jamie," he says, in a rush of breath. Then he laughs, kind of shuddery. "You scared the crap out of me."
And Jamie's head clears, and everything starts again.
Adam looks bad, his eyes darting everywhere, behind Jamie, like he's looking for someone else. He's got a bag by his feet, which is half open. A can of soda slowly rolls out of it, going under the table.
"So, this is probably a silly question," Adam says, "but do you happen to know why the entire population of San Francisco has disappeared into thin air?"
"Nope," says Jamie, and clears his throat. It's the first time he's spoken in more than a day, and he sounds weird to himself. He wonders how long it would have been before he forgot how to talk. "I woke up in my front drive."
"Yeah, I woke up on my lawn," says Adam. "You know, I think I remember seeing a super-bright light, but I could just be remembering the X-Files or something." He looks up at the lights in the shop for the first time. "Oh hey, you have power here?"
"Yeah," Jamie says slowly. "For now."
"Right, yeah," says Adam. He scoots up to sit on the counter and rubs his hands back through his hair, like he does when he's tired.
"What have you been doing?"
"What have I been doing." Adam takes another deep breath, and rubs his face, then sits up straight and looks at Jamie like he's making an effort. "I dunno. I went to find - to Sarah's first, obviously, then I went around the city looking for people. I was thinking I might just drive out until I found someone, maybe out to my parents."
"In New York?" Jamie says, surprised.
"Well," says Jamie, "You still gonna do that?"
"Oh christ, I don't know, Jamie, I'm trying to process this."
There's a silence. Jamie doesn't know if he should go back to what he was doing and let Adam think, or try to talk to him, or what. Adam just sitting across from him is unsettling; it's almost like a normal day, suddenly, and he can't get his brain to reconcile it. He looks down at his list, but he doesn't think he can concentrate on anything right now.
"Why the hell didn't you answer your phone?" Adam says abruptly. "I called you yesterday like, three times."
Jamie thinks about it, and feels really dumb when he realizes, so dumb that he almost thinks about lying about it to Adam.
"I guess I forgot about my cellphone."
Adam snorts, but it doesn't sound much like a laugh. Then he says, "Wait, you're serious?"
Jamie shrugs, embarrassed.
"You asshole," Adam says, his voice tight. "Oh my god, Jamie."
Out of the blue, Jamie thinks, suddenly, that he should go around all the pet stores he knows, and the zoo, check there weren't any animals locked in. But right on the back of that thought, he thinks that if Adam's dogs are gone too, which he guesses they are, then probably most of the animals are gone, as well as the people, and all the enclosures'll be empty. Then he doesn't want to think about that anymore.
"You want something to eat?"
"Yeah," says Adam, perking up. "Yeah, that would be great, actually."
Later, eating a bowl of soup Jamie heated in the microwave - they're going to have to get a paraffin stove or something tomorrow, before the power goes out, and some real supplies - Adam pauses and says, "So, I guess it makes way more sense for us to just camp out here and wait to see what happens. That's okay with you, right? It's probably safer for us to stay together in case one of us breaks our leg or something. And I mean, we've got everything we need here, and we can just get canned food at the store. I've got clothes in my car."
Jamie hesitates. "I think we'll drive each other crazy if we live together."
"Yeah, in normal circumstances I'd agree with you, man, but I have no idea what has happened out there and I'd rather not go it alone right now. We don't even have to talk to each other, we can just share supplies and stuff."
"Okay," says Jamie. He gets out a fresh piece of paper. He's going to have to make some different lists.
They eat, and then Jamie digs out another mattress and sleeping bag for Adam from the beds they use in the overnight experiments. He shows Adam the lists he's been writing, and Adam nods, and adds some more stuff, and they decide Adam will go out the next day in Jamie's jeep to get some perishables with the two-way radio, and that someone should stay at M5 all the time in case anyone else comes, at least for now. Thinking about it, he decides it's good that there's two of them. It'll make things easier. It starts to get dark around nine, but it's still light enough to read, so Jamie gets out his book. Adam looks at it upside-down.
"You're reading Proust? In French?"
Jamie pulls the big French dictionary out of his bag and puts it on the table beside the book. He picked them up on a whim when he passed the library for the third time yesterday. He shrugs.
"I thought I'd be on my own for a while. It was to keep me busy."
Adam gives him a weird look Jamie can't work out.
"Okay, I'm going to bed, I'll set up in the other office," he says. He hesitates. "I feel like I'm going to wake up and it'll have been a dream, you know?"
Jamie shrugs, and opens the book to the first page. It feels like a long time since he walked along the empty stacks of the library and saw this, and thought it seemed like a good idea. He's tired, but he feels like he won't be able to sleep for a while, so he starts work on the first sentence. He's thumbing through the dictionary to find faible when Adam raps on the doorframe and pokes his head in.
"Oh, hey," he says. "I'm glad you're not, like, abducted by aliens or anything, Jamie."
He looks up. Adam's wearing one of the spare t-shirts and boxer shorts, and his legs look kind of skinny and silly. He looks tired, too. Jamie wonders how he could not have thought to try to find him, before. He guesses Adam's just not the obvious person to think of when everything's gone still and silent.
"I'm glad you're here too, Adam," he says, feeling stiff, formal. Adam snorts and sort of mock-salutes, then shambles back down the corridor.
That's the second day.
Wednesday, June 7th
20 degrees C, fog, wind south.
In Search Of, pg. 1
Even though he can see across several city blocks from his lookout post on the roof, Jamie hears the motorcycle before he sees it, the noise echoing through the silent warehouses and studios of the waterfront area. He tightens his grip on his shotgun, and keeps it trained on the figure until it pulls off its helmet, looks up at him and waves. Adam has kept to the schedule and been in regular radio contact for the last couple hours, but Jamie wanted to make sure. He goes downstairs. It's pretty dim, in the offices; the power went sometime during the night, and they're down to candles and battery-powered flashlights, now, once it gets dark.
Adam staggers into the workshop of M5, shakes out his legs, stretches, and lies down on the floor. He's got dirt all over his clothes and on his face, and there's a bloody scratch on his arm. Jamie shuts and locks the door behind him, then puts down the shotgun. He hesitates. "Are you okay? Do you want some water, or something?"
Adam raises an arm. Jamie decides that that's likely to be a yes. When he comes back with the water, a wet cloth and the first-aid kit for Adam's arm, Adam's dragged himself into a sitting position, leaning against a workbench. He grabs the cup with shaky hands, and slops half of it on himself before noisily drinking the rest.
"Oh, man, that's better," he says. "Dude, there is nothing out there. I went all the way over to the park, then down to Daly, and made a heck of a lot of noise with the megaphone and the horn. Didn't see a single fucking soul, and it is totally silent, no birds or dogs even. There's all -" he waves his hands around, like he can pluck the right words out of the air. "The buildings are all totally empty, and everything's all closed up with nobody inside -" he swallows some water the wrong way, and coughs for a while before carrying on, "and, like, on the 101 there are all these cars just stopped, just standing in the middle of the road with their doors open - it's really creepy, Jamie. It's like walking around in the middle of the night, or on Thanksgiving, or something, but times about a gajillion. I don't think I saw a single living thing for four hours."
He pulls his knees up and wraps his arms around himself, looking really kind of pale. Jamie waits for him to keep talking, uncomfortable.
"Well," he says at last, since Adam seems to expect something, "that sucks."
Adam snorts out a laugh, then puts his face in his hands and shakes for while, still laughing, Jamie's pretty sure, but it's a bad-sounding laugh. Adam wipes his face with his arm at last, leaving a jarring smear of blood on his forehead, and clears his throat.
"So, on the way back from Grant's I stopped by the hospital -"
Jamie shifts, and Adam looks at him quickly. "I know, I know we agreed, but I only went into the lobby, I - you don't know what it's like out there, Jamie, I was freaking out, and I figured if there was anybody anywhere, they'd be there."
"That was stupid. There could have been crazy junkies or something."
"Yeah, well, there weren't," Adam snaps. "It was totally empty."
"So you got lucky. What happened to your arm?"
"Oh, nothing. I scraped it going through a window. It's fine, I had my shots like two months ago."
"You should clean that up. You know we don't have the same healthcare capabilities -"
"Yes, Jamie, okay, Jesus! It's just a scratch. Anyway, we can go back and get antibiotics or whatever we need, it's not like we're in the jungle here." Adam grabs the cloth and rubs quickly at his arm, then winces, and dabs at it more carefully. Jamie wants to tell him more, that they can't afford for Adam to be so careless, now, but he holds it in with difficulty, since it doesn't seem like Adam's going to be reasonable right now.
"What did you do today?" Adam says at last, when the scratch on his arm is just a long, pink line. He mops up the few beads of welling blood, and grabs the Band-Aids, antiseptic gel and gauze.
"I siphoned off some gas from the cars in the parking lot, and, uh, I got the paraffin stove working."
Adam presses the last edge of the sticking plaster down, then leans his head against the side of the work-bench and closes his eyes. After a moment, he takes out their handgun from his coat pocket and slowly unloads it, laying out the cartridges the way Jamie taught him. Then he shuffles to lie back on the floor, and covers his face with his arm. He says, muffled, "Jesus Christ, Jamie, what the fuck are we going to do?"
"Well," Jamie says slowly, "Food and, uh, clean water is going to be our biggest long-term problem. I've been thinking we need to get as many perishables as we can and get our generator going with enough power for a refrigeration system here, then get some boxes so we can lock the food away from rats, 'cause they're going to be a problem soon. We should try to dry some fruit, too. Maybe do some pickling. We need to, uh, get some books and work out what we can grow around here for next year. And," he adds as an afterthought, "we should try and find any animals that are still alive. Preferably some chickens or something. Or a goat."
Adam slowly starts to laugh. "Your first line of defense against the apocalypse is that we learn how to pickle?"
"I can already pickle," Jamie says. "You don't know how to pickle?"
"Of course I don't know how to - look, okay, you can teach me to pickle. But we need to find some other people, man, on the radio or something. That should be our top priority."
"Why?" says Jamie.
Adam takes his arm off his face and lifts up on his elbows to stare at him. "Why?"
"We don't have the resources yet to support anyone except us," Jamie points out, "and how's it going to help to spend all our time messing with ham radio?"
"Excuse me if I'd like to know whether we're the only fucking people left on the planet!" Adam says, his voice going kind of shrill. "Maybe that's a secondary concern for you, but it sure as hell isn't for me!"
"I just think we need to think about survival first."
"Whatever, Jamie," Adam says. "You pickle carrots. I'm going to find what's left of the human race."
"You need to learn how to do all that stuff too," Jamie says. "I could break my leg, or have a heart attack or something, and then what would you do?"
"Oh my god, I'm going to kill you," Adam moans, and covers his face again. "I'm going to kill the second-to-last member of the human race."
"Stop whining," Jamie says. "I made soup."
Adam opens his mouth, then hesitates. "What kind of soup?"
"Leek and potato."
Jamie doesn't want to break into the canned food yet, so he's been drawing up mealplans based on the perishables they have, taking into account that he's hoping to set up some refrigeration tomorrow; there's a fuel generator out back they can use for now. He wishes he'd had those solar panels installed that he's been thinking about for a while.
Adam starts to laugh again, and this time his smile is big. He reaches out and pats Jamie's arm. "Of course you did."
Jamie hesitates, trying to work out if he's being sarcastic. He can never tell, with Adam. He doesn't seem mad anymore, anyway, so when he sticks a hand up, Jamie grabs it and pulls him up.
"You still want to kill me? I don't feed people who want to kill me."
"Dude, you're like Mr. Apocalypse Survival," Adam says. "Killing you would be really dumb."
"What, the fact that something is dumb stops you, now?" Jamie says.
Adam follows him through to the kitchen, saying, "Well, it took an apocalypse."
They argue for a while, and eventually agree to light a beacon or something on the roof every night for the next few weeks at least - reasoning that if there's anyone in the San Francisco area, they'll see it - and otherwise to just concentrate on making sure they have food and water and stuff. Adam can get a radio and play around with it in the evenings. Jamie makes a trashcan fire with wood from the shop, and they sit around it, Jamie with his book, Adam playing some kind of board game on his own. Jamie goes to bed in the end, and leaves Adam there, figuring out how to beat himself.
Thursday, June 8th
17 degrees C, fog and rain, wind south-east.
In Search Of, pg. 3
They're good for water for the moment, the faucets are still working, and there's plenty of bottled water in the grocery stores, but Jamie doesn't have any idea how long the water infrastructure'll take to fail without human monitoring, and doesn't want to rely on what they can't make themselves. For now, they start by filling every available bucket and basin with water from the faucet, before Adam has the idea of going out to get an excavator from their usual rental and digging a big hole in the ground out in the lot, then line it with tarp and taped-together plastic sheeting and fill it with a hose.
"I always thought we should have a swimming pool out back," Adam says, wiping off his face with a cloth.
"We can wash our clothes in it," Jamie says.
Adam laughs, and pulls off his goggles. There's a little spray of dust in circles around his eyes, and he looks like a raccoon. "Are you serious? Dude, we have more clothes than water. We never need to do laundry again, we can just go get new ones."
Jamie snorts, disconcerted. He hadn't thought of that. "What'll you do when you run out of regular clothes? You gonna go around in a business suit?"
"Sure!" Adam says. "Suits, miniskirts, pirate outfits, mascot suits..."
"So this is, like, your dream come true, right?" Jamie says, starting to laugh.
"Oh, sure," Adam says. "Except for the fact that, like, the entire human race has been wiped out."
"We don't know that," Jamie says. Adam shrugs, and doesn't look at him. Jamie goes inside.
They go to the nearest grocery stores, and take whatever perishables they want. Jamie wants to clear out one grocery store totally, because rotting food is gonna become a problem pretty quickly, and then it isn't going to be fun to go get cans of stuff and whatever else they need. They might get sick, breathing in all that mess. Adam says they can just wear masks. They argue about that, too, but in the end it doesn't seem like it'll take too long to just clear out the produce and freezer sections of the nearest Safeway and dump it in a vacant lot a little ways down the road, rather than take all the canned goods back to M5. It takes longer than they thought, though, once they've started, but they keep going, especially once Adam starts thinking about having to walk over rats to get to their cans. Jamie isn't too sure that'll be a problem, though. Seems like whatever happened to most of the people, happened to the animals too. There aren't any birds around, or dogs, or raccoons or coyotes, although there seem to be a few insects, which buzz around their trashcan brazier at night and flit in and out of the flames. He guesses they'll have a cockroach problem soon if they're not really careful.
The visibility is getting better day by day from the roof of M5, but the water vapor from the harbor and the valleys means it's never going to be great, and they don't have a ton of elevation, where they are. Even so, they're sat up there on the roof until ten or so every night before they extinguish it and go to bed, and when Jamie looks up from his book, the only light he can see is theirs.
"You think we can get some power for small units?" Adam says. "With, like, car batteries or something?"
"DVDs, man. A laptop."
"We can't spare power for DVDs," Jamie says. "But the lathe would be handy. Or the bandsaw."
"And I guess there's always electric lighting," Adam says.
"Eh, we don't need that," Jamie says, and Adam leans back in his seat and laughs.
Saturday, June 10th
18 degrees C, cloudy, wind south-east.
In Search Of, pg. 19
They're siphoning off gas from one of the cars in the parking lot when there's a kind of whump that Jamie feels right up through his legs. Dust rises. Jamie braces himself, waiting, but Adam jumps up and yells, "Oh my god, look at that!" pointing to the water spout jetting into the air at the end of the road.
"Aw, crap," says Jamie.
"Dude," Adam says, all in motion, "buckets, buckets right now."
By the time they get out there with the biggest clean-ish containers they can grab from around, the spout's mostly gone down, but they manage to fill a few with clean water.
"Looks like the mains," Jamie says. "I guess we're down to bottled water and rain." Adam's somehow gotten soaked to the skin, his clothes are all clingy and his hair is wet. Jamie looks at him. He shrugs, and grins.
"Hey, I figured it was my last chance to have a shower for a while." He blinks. "I am kind of cold now, though."
"Get changed before you get pneumonia," says Jamie.
They carry the buckets of water back to the lot. Then Jamie writes out a water consumption rota and sticks it on the wall, after working out the approximate volume of all the buckets, the tank on the roof and the hole in the parking lot. He has to guess the average rainfall for San Francisco in June, though. He misses the internet. Adam comes back in a fresh t-shirt and jeans, and squints at the wall as he polishes his glasses on a dishcloth.
"Hey, you know, Jamie, you don't get to make all the rules," he says. "I'm going to do whatever I think is best, and if that means doing the same as you, that's great, but that isn't necessarily going to happen."
"It's just a schedule," Jamie says. "You could do it if you thought of it."
"You know, you've made it totally clear I'm not your first choice to hang out with," Adam says, all sudden and sharp, "But we're stuck with each other now, so can you maybe think about modifying your behavior just a little bit so we don't kill each other or go totally insane?"
"We're not stuck," Jamie says, his face feeling hot. He hates it when Adam catches him off-guard, like that. Jamie never sees these kinds of arguments coming. "You can leave."
"Oh, that's just great," Adam says loudly. "Could you just behave like an adult for five seconds?"
"Could you just make sense for five seconds?"
Adam blows out a breath and shuts his eyes tight for a minute. Jamie keeps on drying up the dishes.
"I'm going out," Adam says.
"Take the radio," Jamie says to his back. Adam grabs it and shoves it on his belt, without looking at Jamie.
Jamie spends the afternoon making preserves. After he's done that, he changes clothes and goes down to the library to get some books about crop rotation and planting, after leaving a note for Adam. He drives slowly and doesn't look around when he gets downtown; he goes in and gets the books, and comes back quickly. Adam gets in about half an hour after him, all white and shaky again.
"It's just fucking creepy," he says, slamming cupboards to get plates.
"Where did you go?" Jamie says cautiously.
"I went up to Pacific Heights," he says. "I've always wanted to see inside some of those fancy houses, but it was just so quiet I freaked out. I got some books about ham radio out of the downtown library. Hey, are those Oreos I see in here? That is going a long way to improving my day right there."
"Okay," says Jamie. They eat soup. He guesses they're done fighting for now.
Sunday, June 11th
18 degrees, cool, cloudy
In Search Of pg.20
They find a bunch of solar panels on the roof of the San Francisco Green Housing Initiative, but they don't get enough intensive sunlight to power anything but a couple of electric lights consistently, and Adam doesn't think it'd be worth the trouble, for now, of working out how to take them down and reinstall them on the roof of M5 without breaking them. All the stuff they really want takes too much power. Adam wants the arc welder, but Jamie thinks neither of them know enough about generators to mess around with that much electricity. Jamie wants the bandsaw, because it's got the widest variety of uses. They argue a bunch about it. For a couple of days, they mostly don't get anything done.
Tuesday, June 13th
20 degrees, sunny, no wind.
In Search Of, pg. 22
They rig up a car battery to one of the big lights from the set, and get a spotlight going up on the roof next to their brazier, shining across the sky. Adam has fun for a while messing around with it and spelling stuff out on the clouds, until it gets too hot and shorts out. The brazier looks dim in comparison, but it's warm. Then Adam gets out the radio he's putting together and futzes through white noise for a while. It's annoying.
"You know," Adam says, after he's finally given up on that and is watching their fire burn out, "of all the ways I imagined the apocalypse happening, this was not one of them."
Jamie looks up soigneux (adj.,: tidy, neat; painstaking, careful). The fire's getting a little low; he adds sack charcoal to the shopping list for tomorrow. "Well, what did you think would happen?"
"No, I mean, I didn't seriously think it would happen," Adam says. "But, I dunno. Pandemic? Nuclear war? Meteorite landing? But what the hell is this? The rapture?"
"Isn't that only for people who are going to heaven? I think there'd still be a lot of people left in San Francisco," Jamie says slowly, turning the pages of his dictionary. Adam chokes on his juice.
"That is totally true," he says, wiping his eyes. "Oh, man. It would be the best party ever. But seriously, what do you think?"
Jamie wonders whether to tell Adam what he really thinks, then decides, what the hell. "Alien abduction."
Adam stops jiggling his knee, and turns to look at him. He doesn't laugh. "Seriously? That's what you think? Not, like, a military experiment gone wrong, or something?"
Jamie shrugs. "If it was the military, we'd all be dead, and probably they'd still be around. I figure it's gotta be some kind of power we don't know about, and there's no God, so I figure, aliens."
"Why on earth would aliens abduct the entire population of San Francisco? Or, the United States, even?" Adam says. The firelight jumps on his glasses. "God, I wonder if it is like this everywhere. I guess someone would have come by now if we weren't in a state of total international shutdown."
"Well, maybe they thought we were making a mess of the place." Jamie goes back to his book.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Adam snaps. "So, what, they just take the human race and put it somewhere else? Or, what, vaporize them? And why'd they leave us? You think they thought we'd rebuild an environmentally friendly society, or something? Should we be building an ark?"
"No," Jamie says. "I guess they missed us, or something. There must be other people out there too."
"And you think they just happened to miss us both?"
Jamie sighs, and closes his dictionary. He hates being interrupted while he's reading. Adam's got his legs over the side of his chair now, and is staring up at the sky and squeezing one of those stupid stress balls in one hand. He's been practicing his juggling, but then he lost one of his balls in the parking lot and he'll have to wait till morning to get it now. It's weird, how dark it gets, now there's no light pollution from the city. Jamie's been a long way from civilization before, but even that never seemed this dark, maybe because he was always expecting it.
"Sure, why not?"
Adam leans back against the low wall and looks hard at him. The firelight makes him look kind of scary, with his scruffy beard and hair, like a Norse god or something, if Norse gods were kind of out of shape and wore glasses.
"Don't you think that's just a tiny bit too much of a coincidence?"
"No. Loads of people know each other. Just happened to be us."
"And the fact that some might say we are specially equipped - some might say even ideally equipped to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment had nothing to do with it?"
"Not really," says Jamie, "we're not that well equipped, we really need someone with medical training. We'll probably die of blood poisoning or something. And we don't know how to farm. And if we were supposed to rebuild the human race, somebody made a bit of a mistake, there."
"Well, aren't you Mr. Optimism tonight," Adam says. He gets up from his chair and starts walking around backward, in circles. It makes Jamie kind of dizzy.
"Stop that," he says. "I'm trying to read."
"Why is it so quiet," Adam says, and he chucks one of his other juggling balls down into the parking lot. They hear it bounce off the roof of a car.
"If that's my pickup, I'll be pissed," says Jamie. "Why don't you just go to bed before you break something."
"I just keep waiting for it all to start again," Adam says, like he hasn't even heard Jamie. "Like, I keep waiting for the sound of planes flying over and people coming to get us, or, like, someone's hit the pause button and soon they're going to press play again and everyone's going to come unfrozen and start moving around again. And I know I'm going to realize sometime soon that that's not going to happen, and I don't know if I can deal with that."
There's an unfamiliar edge to his voice that makes Jamie tense and uneasy. "Well, don't come whining to me," he says. It sounds meaner than he meant it to.
"Fuck you," Adam says. He goes below, stamping down the stairs. Jamie hears a couple of doors slam. He sighs, and opens his dictionary again, but he stares at the page and he can't concentrate on the words.
Wed. June 14th
Adam was gone already when Jamie woke up at 7am, leaving a note saying he'd gone out, and for the first hour or so Jamie liked the quiet and got some stuff done, but for the last few hours it's been making him jumpy. He hasn't been able to concentrate on anything. He's snappish, when Adam comes back.
"Don't just go off like that," he says.
"I left a note, didn't you see it?" Adam says, and dumps three big, heavy books about radios onto the counter, then takes off his hat. He does a big, dramatic, all-over shiver, and rubs his arms. "God, I hate it out there."
"It's not safe to just go out," Jamie insists.
"I left a note, I had the radio, I had the gun. If we stay together all the time we're going to drive each other crazy. Don't get all hyper-protective on me, Jamie, it's not pretty. Oh hey, you got those burgers out?"
"Yeah," Jamie says, then hesitates. "Do you always think about food when you get mad?"
Adam snorts, then looks at him, then seems to kind of loosen up, and smiles a little.
"I guess food is one thing we can agree on."
"Well, that's true," says Jamie. He goes outside to start up the barbecue.
Saturday, June 17th
22 degrees, sunny, no wind.
In Search Of, pg. 30
It's been raining for a few days, so they've been mostly inside, and Adam's been more and more edgy, scrapping with Jamie every chance he gets, being really hard to live with. Jamie's kind of been expecting him to blow up about something, but he isn't ready for it when Adam bounces into the office where Jamie's been sleeping at about 6am, grinning and excited, and says, "Dude, let's go steal some cars."
Jamie lowers himself down from his pushup and wipes his face. "What?"
"Think about it, man, there's nobody around, all the power's down, the roads are almost totally empty, and I have always wanted to drive a Ferrari across the Golden Gate bridge. We could do anything. Let's steal some really fast cars, rig them for remote and race them down Lombard Street. Or, or, we could blow up the Pyramid Building. You wanna drive a streetcar? Or - come on, what have you always wanted to do?"
Jamie takes a drink of water, and tries to think, over the noise of Adam talking. "We were going to work on the solar panels today."
"We've been working all fucking week, Jamie, I am not letting you grind me into the ground," Adam says. "Come on, it'll be fun. I'm going stir crazy here. We've pickled so many vegetables I'm going to smell like vinegar for the rest of my life, we've got enough canned food and water stockpiled to last for a month, and you've planted yams in the parking lot. We're not going to starve yet, and there's all this cool stuff out there that's just rusting away, and it's driving me crazy."
"There's nobody around to patch us up if we get hurt," Jamie says.
"We'll be careful!" Adam waves his hand like he can just sweep away all the ways this could end badly. "Come on, Jamie, I promise you can cause a huge amount of destruction from a very safe distance. Tell me you don't need to let off steam."
Jamie gets up, and wipes the back of his neck and chest with a facecloth. It's not fun to do much of anything with Adam when he's like this, but he guesses blowing stuff up would probably be healthy for them both right now. And if Jamie doesn't go to keep an eye on him, Adam'll try to do something stupid by himself.
"Okay, fine," he says. "After breakfast."
"Awesome!" says Adam, then he disappears. While Jamie eats breakfast, he hears Adam rummaging around, making a mess in the shop, probably; he takes a little while to get ready, because Adam hasn't emptied out the mess in the slops bucket again, and so Jamie has to take it round to the garden he's putting together out back, then disinfect the bucket, then wash his hands properly. When he gets outside, he's kind of pissed at Adam. Adam's wheeling around the parking lot on his little unicycle thing, and there's a whole load of crap in the back of the pickup.
"Hey, you ready?" Adam yells over, when he sees Jamie. "Jeez, what the heck were you doing?"
"Shoveling your poop," Jamie says. Adam wrinkles up his nose.
"Wow, that's gross. You can have first go on our new remote control car."
That cheers Jamie up a little. Maybe this isn't such a bad idea.
Halfway through the morning Jamie's poking around in the guts of a classic Mercedes Adam had scoped out, and he's happy. It's nice to be building stuff for fun again. They use some of their old control rigs they can just hook up anywhere, and although it takes a few hours, they get it going; they take turns timing each other to get the Mercedes down the zig-zag of Lombard Street, Adam laughing and yelling the whole time. A few times, Jamie's able to forget that the noise of the engine and shattering glass and the metal scraping against the bricks is too loud, echoing around the empty streets, and it almost is kind of fun, especially when he breaks Adam's previous record by three full seconds. They yank the Mercedes around the sharp turns until the remote fails and the car flips over one of the walls and down into the main road, making a crash that echoes and leaves weird, empty silence behind it. Dust rises slowly. Adam flops down onto the sidewalk, wipes his eyes, and eats three granola bars and an apple in about fifty seconds.
"Woah, okay, that was awesome," he says, picking apple out of his teeth. "Can we go drive cars off the Golden Gate bridge, now?"
They have one remote rig left. Jamie rubs the back of his head, and tells himself it's okay to take the whole day off. There's something about Adam today, the way he's laughing a little too loud, maybe, that's making Jamie uncomfortable. But they can work out a safe way to do this, they don't even have to be near the thing. "Okay, sure."
They work out that if they put a ramp together, then use a bigger car to push smaller cars off the bridge, they don't need to waste the remote. They stand way back, as much as they can without being out of range, and they slam a Range Rover into a little Prius and shove it right up the ramp Adam made out of some roadworks barriers.
"Okay, okay, stop!" Adam's yelling, jumping up and down. "You'll lose it!"
"I got it," Jamie says slowly, moving the Rover back and into position in fits and starts. He carefully edges the Prius off the bridge. It falls a long, long way, weirdly graceful in the air, like a fisher eagle in a dive, and when it splashes down into the river, Adam leans out over the guard rail so far that Jamie wants to grab him by the collar.
"Dude! I can feel the spray!" Adam crows. "That's awesome! Okay, okay, you want to race it over the bridge, now?"
Jamie sits down in the back of the pickup, and grabs a bottle of water. His thumbs are sore from the controller, his shoulder aches, and he's getting hungry. From here, San Francisco looks like it could be normal, except there should be tons of gulls around, flying up in the cables like it's a ship's rigging, and there aren't. Empty cars are just sitting on the bridge, some with their doors open. It's like a graveyard.
Suddenly, Adam says, quick and surprised, "Hey! Jamie, look over there."
He points, and Jamie sees it. It's kind of shambling aimlessly along the bridge towards them between the cars, over to one side and then another. It's a dog, or maybe a coyote. Jamie thinks to wonder what it's doing out here, if it came from the other side, and what it was looking for, what kind of dumb dog would just wander around on a bridge like that when there's food back on land - and that's what sets off the warning sirens. Adam starts to walk towards it.
"Adam," Jamie says, struggling to talk faster. "Adam, don't get close to it."
"It's a dog," Adam says. "Oh my god, that's the first animal we've seen in weeks. It's probably hungry, we should give it something."
The dog - it's a dog, not a coyote, some kind of collie or something - stops and turns towards them, then suddenly starts to run straight for them. Jamie fumbles the gun out of the glove compartment and gets around the door behind Adam, tries to get a clear sight. Adam backs up, and treads on Jamie's foot.
"Get out of the way," Jamie says.
"Woah, hey, man, what are you doing?" Adam says, and he tugs on Jamie's arm. Jamie slips and his first shot goes wide, but the dog doesn't stop running toward them. "Jamie!" Adam yells, and Jamie shoves Adam back, yanks his arm free and fires again, hitting the dog in the shoulder at about ten feet. It doesn't stop, and he fires again. It flops and somersaults in front of them, a big chunk of its head gone, blood and gunk everywhere on the ground around it, and a hot spatter of it on Jamie's face and shirt.
"Oh my god," Adam says, "Oh my god," and he staggers backwards and falls on his ass. Jamie makes the gun safe carefully, aware that his hands are shaking, then goes to the car to get water and a cloth to clean his face. He hears Adam retching behind him.
"Why the fuck did you do that," Adam says shakily, still bent over and leaning on the car. "What the hell is wrong with you, man."
"It was sick," Jamie says. He doesn't want to talk, his throat feels dry and tight. He feels like he's going to be ill, with the acrid smell of Adam's vomit and the dead dog. "It was gonna bite you. Look."
There's white foam all over what's left of the dog's jaw, but Adam won't look.
"Okay, god, I believe you - ugh," he says, sounding like he might throw up again. "Christ almighty, Jamie." He takes the cloth when Jamie offers it, and wipes at his face, but he winds up just smearing pink over his forehead.
"You're making it worse, let me do it," Jamie says. He cleans the little flecks of blood off Adam's face and arm, then goes to get them clean shirts from the car. After a little while, Adam starts to laugh, shakily, and the tight bands around Jamie's chest tighten up a little more.
"Jamie, of all the scary, wrong things I have seen you do, that was the wrongest. I can't believe you just - killed it."
The limp, messed up body of the dog on the road keeps catching Jamie in the corner of his eye, and it's making him feel sick, and he can't stop thinking about that moment when Adam tried to stop him firing. He can still feel Adam's hand on his arm. "Are, are you fucking stupid or what," he says shakily.
Adam blinks at him. "What?"
"That dog was gonna kill you." Jamie says. His eyes feel hot and his throat is sore and he wants to punch Adam in the face or, or tie him up and leave him here, or something. "What are we even doing out here? This wouldn't have happened if you didn't have the dumbass idea of playing with cars because you're too stupid not to get bored with what's in front of you. You're a, you're a liability."
Adam's mouth drops open, and Jamie turns around and walks away before he can say anything else. He walks for a couple of blocks, then doubles back. Adam's sitting on the back of the pickup, his knees pulled up to his chest. He kind of jumps when Jamie bangs on the roof to get him moving, then runs around to get in when Jamie starts the engine.
"Can we talk about this?" he says.
"No," says Jamie. He's thinking about the zoo. There might have been animals in cages there after all. He should have gone and checked. They're dead now, if they were there.
When they get to M5, Adam gets out, and Jamie wants to just leave him, drive and drive away until he finds somewhere else to stop.
"Jamie -" says Adam, and Jamie reaches over and pulls the door shut, leaving him out there. "Jamie!"
Jamie starts the engine, and when Adam starts to walk around in front of the pickup, holding his arms out, Jamie revs the motor, and Adam jumps back with a yell. Jamie watches him get smaller in his rear view mirror as he pulls out into the road. He drives away, taking whatever turnings he sees first. He could get started somewhere where the soil is okay, plant a garden, feed himself. There's nothing back there he can't start again without.
He realizes, after an hour or so, when he's cooled down enough to look at where he's going, that he's driving the same route that he and Adam did when they were doing the fuel efficiency myth. They drove along the coast until their gas ran out, and Adam jabbered the whole way from the other pickup, his voice fuzzy over the radio while Jamie mostly ignored him. Driving along like this, it's easy to pretend everything's the way it was back then, even though it seems like years ago; it all looks the same, peaceful and kind of boring, if he doesn't look too closely at the cars scattered untidily along the edges of the highway. He wonders what happened, that made them all pull over like that, like something was going on that they just had to see, or someone told them all to just quietly stop their cars and get out. Looking out to the side, he suddenly notices one single bird on a telephone wire, and slows up to watch it; a red-tailed hawk, he thinks. He hopes it's got stuff to eat. It's the second living thing he's seen since the first day, after the dog.
He stops for gas at the same place where they stopped for coffee that day, where some boys came up with their parents and asked for their autographs, and Adam dropped a donut and got sugar all down his pants that he complained about for an hour afterwards. There are two cars here, pulled up next to the filling stations, and he figures their tanks are probably full. One of them is. He slops gas on the tarmac and the car as he tries to get the siphon tube into the tank, spitting out the taste of gasoline. As he listens to it fill up, he thinks about the hawk again. It was the third living thing, he realizes, not the second. The dog was second. The first was Adam.
Turning back onto the highway, he hesitates for a moment before taking the exit back to San Francisco. It's getting dark, but he can't make himself slow down too much, all the same. All his muscles hurt. He wishes he could turn on the radio now, to hear someone's voice.
Jamie lets himself in to the workshop, and slowly washes his hands in the bucket by the door.
"Jamie? Is that you?" Adam yells from the next room. He appears in the doorway. "What the hell was that? Where the fuck have you been? You've been gone for five fucking hours. I do not believe you, I do not believe you, man. You give me all these rules about what I can and can't do and get this bee in your bonnet about safety and procedures, and what do I get when you freak out? Bupkis, absolutely zilch. I didn't know where you were, you didn't have your radio, I thought you were running out on me -"
He seems to run out of steam all of a sudden and stops, takes a deep breath, and just looks at Jamie.
"For Christ's sake, Jamie, you scared the crap out of me, just -" he rubs the back of his head. "Sorry. Sorry. You look like hell. Sit down, I'll get you some fucking food."
Jamie sits down at the table, and after a moment, Adam brings him a bowl of chili, some water, and some Tylenol. Jamie starts to eat, and immediately feels better. He feels Adam hovering, but ignores him, hoping he'll go away; after a moment, Adam says, "It's okay to freak out, dude. It's normal. That was messed up, today. And it was mostly my fault, and I'm sorry. But you have got to try and communicate better with me. I'm not telepathic. You can't just say to me, 'get out of the way', when nothing in the situation conveys to me why I should do so. You've got to tell me what you're thinking."
"Okay," Jamie says. He takes another couple of mouthfuls. He's really hungry, he realizes. The chili's too hot, but he eats it all anyway.
Adam says, with a kind of laugh, "so, you save my life and now you won't talk to me?"
"Thanks for the meal," Jamie says. He wants to say stuff to Adam, but it won't come right in his head.
"Yeah, okay," Adam says. He reaches over, puts his hand on Jamie's shoulder and presses down a little, not quite a squeeze. "I guess that's a start. You want a beer?"
Jamie shakes his head.
"Listen, thanks for saving my life, buddy," Adam says. "Again."
Jamie goes to bed when he's done eating, even though he's not tired; it's easier than finding Adam and talking, or not talking. He used to like just sitting in the shop, but it's a little creepy now, when the sun starts to go down outside and all the weird stuff they've got hanging on the walls, Adam's fiberglass alien, the skeleton and the empty diving suit, start casting shadows. But he can't sleep, and eventually he goes to Adam's room, which is empty, then up to the roof. It's cooler up there, tonight, and a little windy. Adam's messing with the radio, going through channels methodically, saying, "Hello. Hello. Is anyone there?" to each one. He looks kind of silly, lying on his stomach and talking into a microphone. Finally he rolls over onto his back, and sees Jamie. He breathes out a sigh. "Jesus, you scared me. This isn't working, I've got to go back to the library and see if I can find a map of all the repeaters around here, find one and get it working again. I think I'm not getting coverage of more than a few miles, here."
"It'll, uh, probably take a while," Jamie says. "For people to get on the radio."
"You seem pretty sure they're out there."
Jamie shrugs. "Makes sense that it wouldn't just be us."
He sits down in one of the deck chairs, and watches Adam mess with the radio's insides. Jamie tries to gather what he wants to say for about five minutes before he gets out, "I didn't want to kill that dog," which is really only part of what he wanted to say.
"Hey, I know, man," Adam says softly. "I'm sorry, that really sucked."
"You've got to listen to me," Jamie says, trying to find a way to get Adam to understand what he means. "You're not - you're not going to stay alive, if you're not more careful. You've got to settle down."
Adam puts down the pliers. He lies very still. Then he says, "Yeah, the thing is, I'm not really sure I care about that."
It takes Jamie a moment to work out what he means, and then he still can't really believe Adam means it.
"You don't care if you stay alive?" He laughs a little, because he wants it to be a joke. "That's a dumb thing to say."
Adam rolls onto his back and looks at the sky, but not at Jamie. His voice sounds weird, maybe from the position. "Well, yeah, I mean, when that dog came at me my heart went insane and I couldn't get out of there fast enough, so I guess I still have survival instincts, but, like, I keep thinking about the rest of my life here, and I can't do it, man, I can't even think about it, it's like there's this giant yawning chasm in my head in front of me. You know, it suddenly occurred to me in the middle of last night to call my sister. Like, I could just call her! And I couldn't believe she wouldn't pick up. And I found my phone, and it still had battery, and it had two bars of signal for some weird reason, so I called her, and of course nothing happened. But for a second there I thought that was the answer, like, why didn't we think of that sooner?"
He stops talking, and puts his arm over his face. Jamie doesn't know what to say, and there's a long silence before Adam rolls over, picks up his pliers and starts messing with the radio again. After a few minutes, he says, "I keep thinking about what would have happened if you hadn't been here in the shop when I got here."
"You would have run into someone else," Jamie says. "On your way to New York, probably."
"Oh, come on, Jamie, I wouldn't have gotten that far," Adam says softly, still deep in the guts of the radio. "I thought I was the last human being left on the planet. I was going to have a big glass of your whisky, get your gun, and come up here and shoot myself in the head."
"You would not have done that," Jamie says, shaken.
Adam looks up at him finally. He looks at Jamie for a long minute, and Jamie forces himself to look back at Adam's face, because it feels like it's important. At last, Adam says, "Maybe," and goes back to the radio. Jamie wants to touch him, but there's a long way between them, and he doesn't know what he'd do that wouldn't seem weird, that Adam would want. He winds up just doing nothing.
He's still trying to think what to say when they go carefully downstairs in the dark together later, with the flashlight. As he's about to head into his own room, Adam hesitates, then turns around.
"I - Jamie, I - look, I don't really want to sleep on my own tonight, man. Do you mind if I crash with you? I'll just bring my mattress in there, I'll be super quiet."
"Okay, sure," Jamie says, relieved. He helps Adam drag his mattress in, and they take it in turns to point the flashlight so they can find their sleeping clothes, and go out to brush their teeth and go take a leak in the buckets out back. Adam falls asleep pretty fast, once they're both settled in, and all his snuffles and breathing noises are more reassuring than annoying. Jamie wakes up once in the night from some noise or something, and Adam whispers, from close to him, "Sorry, go back to sleep." Jamie does, right away.
Sunday, June 18th
22 degrees, some cloud
In Search Of pg.30
Jamie shaves his face and head in the parking lot, dipping his razor into the bucket, as Adam sits in the shade and waits for his turn to wash. His hair's getting kind of long. He's just staring off into the distance; there's some leftover weirdness from yesterday, and Jamie still feels bad about the things he said to Adam, and twitchy, from shooting the dog.
"Ugh, I feel so gross."
"You should cut your hair," Jamie says, and waits for Adam to say something else, but he doesn't. It's hot out today, and M5 is like an oven inside, so they're mostly staying outside and in the shade. Their shirts are sticking to them. The quiet settles down again, and suddenly, Jamie has an idea. When he's finished shaving, he goes into the back of the shop. He puts off getting another pair of hands as long as possible, but finally, he sighs, and goes to get Adam. Adam doesn't look up when Jamie comes in.
"Hey," Jamie says stiffly. "I need a hand with something."
Adam gets up and follows Jamie without saying anything, but as soon as he sees what Jamie's working on, Jamie can see he's interested.
"I need you to hold this," Jamie says, giving Adam the perforated steel strip and pressing it to the pedal of the exercise bike. "Just hold it right there while the glue sets." Adam sits down on the floor and holds it still, and watches as Jamie fixes the other end to a small piston set. They haven't managed to get the car batteries to power the electric arc welding kits yet, mostly because Jamie doesn't think it's safe. He's using old-fashioned nails and rivets for now, but he'll go find one of the gas welding kits tomorrow, find somewhere to fill it up. When Jamie brings out the PVC tube and the showerhead, Adam starts to laugh.
"Okay, dude, that's really clever."
They slide the exercise bike outside, push it right to the edge of Adam's little swimming pool, then run a hosepipe down into it. It's gathered about four inches of water in the last few days of rain, plus what was left in there before, and after a few dry runs where Jamie adjusts the seal and calibrates the pump as Adam pedals gamely, water sputters out of the showerhead and back down into the pool.
"Woah!" Adam laughs, "It works! Oh my god, Jamie, that's brilliant!" He pedals harder, and the water patters down with a satisfying splishy noise.
Jamie grins, and Adam grins back at him. Jamie shakes the tension out of his shoulders. He feels sticky and hot, but better than he has since before he shot the dog, almost normal again.
Adam says, "You want to go first?"
"Sure," Jamie says. Adam grabs the half-drunk bottle of water from the ground and drinks it down, then climbs up on the bike and waits. Feeling a little silly, Jamie pulls his t-shirt off, then his pants, folds them and lays them on the hood of the nearest car. He doesn't really want to shower in his underwear, it feels weird, and Adam's seen him naked before, so, reckless suddenly, he tugs down his boxers right there in the parking lot before Adam can get weird about it.
"Woah," Adam says, laughing. "Jamie. You're just going for it, there." Jamie ignores him, embarrassed, slides down into the pool, which reaches about midway up his calves, and gets under the spray. It's cold, and he can't help grunting, but he gets used to it after a second, and then it's nice.
"How is it?" Adam says. He's a little out of breath from pedalling.
Jamie scrubs thoughtfully under his arms and over his chest. He forgot to get a cloth or something.
After a few minutes Adam says, "Hey, nice as the view is, I'm feeling pretty gross here, Jamie, can I take a turn?"
Jamie towels off slowly and pulls on his pants as Adam strips, then slides down to wait under the showerhead. Jamie thinks about teasing him about keeping his underwear on, but feels kind of weird, like he'd be looking, or something. Adam yelps when the water splashes down on him and hops from foot to foot, and he soaps up his hair and closes his eyes and puts his face into the spray with a little sigh.
"Don't drop the soap," Jamie says, and Adam chokes and snorts and coughs water everywhere as Jamie laughs.
Adam doesn't offer to move his mattress out of Jamie's room that night, but he sort of looks over at Jamie a couple of times, maybe when he thinks Jamie isn't looking. They've both already changed for bed and Jamie's got his book and dictionary out when Adam says, "You, uh, you mind if I sleep in here again tonight?"
He's already got his head pillowed on his arms and doesn't look like he's going anywhere. He's reading some science fiction book. Jamie doesn't mind, really. It's like camping.
"Sure," he says. "Just don't snore."
"You're the one who snores, man," Adam says, "It's like sleeping next to the highway."
"Go next door, then," Jamie says, annoyed, and Adam puts his hands up and snuggles down more into his sleeping bag. Jamie tries to concentrate on his book. Le nombre de pions humains étant moins nombreux que celui des combinaisons qu'ils peuvent former, dans une salle -
"Is that book good? I mean, are you actually reading it because you want to, or are you trying to learn French, or what?"
Jamie can't switch back into English that fast. "It's okay," he says finally, not really remembering what the question was.
"You, man, you're just," Adam says. "Ninety-nine percent or whatever of the population disappears, and you of all people decide that's the moment to learn French and read a book about the human condition."
Adam laughs. "I mean, don't you think that's just a little bit ironic? You don't even like talking to people, dude, and you're probably never going to meet someone who speaks French again, and you choose now to learn how to do it?"
Taken aback, Jamie thinks about it. "That's not really the way I think about it," he says slowly.
"That's not really the way you think about what?"
Adam laughs. "What do you mean, that's not the way you think about language? It's for talking to people! That's what it's for!"
Jamie stares at the page as the links he's begun to join between the words disappear into nothing, and he's left with a bunch of black and white marks that don't mean anything. He sighs. "I guess I just like the problem solving. It's like math, just, rules."
Adam snorts. Jamie tries to concentrate on the line again. The number of humans being less than the number of combinations - maybe he means 'groups' - they could form -
"Hey," Adam says, and his voice sounds different, so Jamie looks up reluctantly.
Adam points at Jamie's logbook, which has fallen down from the desk onto the floor, and is lying open at the entry Jamie started this morning. Day 14, Sunday, June 18th, 22 degrees, some cloud. Adam reaches over, and picks it up. Jamie gets up from the desk. "Give that here."
Adam doesn't move, so Jamie reaches down and grabs it out of his hand. He takes it back with him to the desk.
Adam says, "What are you, keeping a diary?"
"It's a logbook," Jamie says, irritated and feeling weird, suddenly aware in a way he wasn't before of how Adam's in his room, in his space. "It's private. Don't read it."
Adam shrugs. "Okay, fine. You want to read some more now, or can I turn out the lamp?"
"I'm gonna finish this sentence," says Jamie.
"In search of," Adam says, lying back. "Did you ever watch that show, you remember that, In Search Of With Leonard Nimoy? Oh my god, that was too funny, I used to love that show. I haven't thought about it in years."
"It's In Search of Lost Time," Jamie says. "It's so I remember what page I'm on."
"You could just use a bookmark," Adam says, yawning again. He turns down the lamp on his side, and burrows down into his sleeping bag with a swooshing noise. He takes off his glasses, and lays them down on the floor beside his pillow. Without them, his face looks weirdly big, and his eyes look far away.
"Are you going to shut up and go to sleep, now?" Jamie says, watching him.
"Sure," Adam says sleepily. He's quiet for a moment. Jamie thinks he's asleep, but when he looks over, Adam's watching him instead.
"Hey, so," Adam says abruptly, "if I was the last man on earth -"
"You're not the last man on earth," Jamie points out. "I'm here."
Adam laughs, so quietly that it's mostly just a huff of air. "That is incontrovertibly true." He shuts his eyes.
The room quiets down to the sound of the scratching of Jamie's pencil, the rustle of the dictionary as he turns the pages, and Adam's soft, regular breathing. Jamie sinks deep into it, the structures, the way the words fit together, and keeps working for another forty-five minutes, enjoying it.
Wednesday 21st June
22 degrees, sunny, windy.
In Search Of pg.36
It's late, and they're sitting out on the roof again, both tired and kind of sore. They've spent the day trying out a few ways to dry out fruit, to preserve it. Jamie's hands smell like apples. He isn't sure that any of their fruit is going to work out too well; it's pretty humid, here. Maybe in September, if they can find an orchard with fresh fruit growing. He's thinking about how they saw a rat today. He thinks that's going to be the quickest population to get going again, so they'll have a problem for a while until the predators can catch up. At least the rats'll eat the cockroaches. He's stocked up on Raid.
"So, I was thinking today," Adam says, apropos of nothing, "maybe if we momentarily intersected with a parallel universe in another dimension, the people in this dimension who overlapped with their parallel universe selves got cancelled out."
Jamie thinks about it for a minute. "So, we were already dead? In the parallel universe? Or we were never born, or something?"
"Oh, yeah, I guess so," Adam says. "God, that's depressing."
"Maybe we both died on the show," Jamie says. "In an accident."
"Sometimes I wonder if that is what happened," Adam says. "We blew up that water heater the day before it happened, we could totally both have died that day. If I believed in life after death, I'd say this could be a pretty convincing hell. If I had to pick one idea of hell, it would be everybody disappearing."
"And being stuck with me," Jamie says, trying to make a joke.
Adam smacks his shoulder. "I didn't mean that, come on."
They look out over the dark, silent city, in their little island of light. It's been windy all day, but now it's picked up, and the trees are bending and flexing. Jamie's thinking of putting out their fire and going inside, when he suddenly thinks he sees something. A blink. He rubs his eyes, and looks again, then looks over at Adam to find he's staring in the same direction, screwing up his eyes. He grabs Jamie's arm. "Jamie. Do you see that?"
The light winks in and out again. It's very faint, somewhere across town. There must be a bunch of trees between them and it; they can see it tonight because of the wind. Adam jumps up on a chair, then grabs the flashlight and clambers up onto the higher part of the roof, the jutting part where the big vents are.
"Holy crap," Adam says. "Oh my god, there's someone out there."
"Maybe," Jamie says slowly. "It might just be a short, or, or lightning, or something."
"If it were a storm we'd see it from here, and there's no power in the whole Bay Area. Come on, Jamie, it's got to be something. Let's go look!"
Adam's practically already dashing down the stairs, but the hairs on Jamie's neck are standing on end, he has a bad feeling about it. He doesn't want to go. He doesn't want Adam to go, either. He tries to make himself think faster, so he can talk Adam down before he hares off. "We can't drive round the city at night, we'll have an accident."
They've got a mostly cleared route downtown for supply runs, now, where they've moved away the stray cars blocking the road, but the light is way up in a residential neighborhood somewhere, unexplored territory. Adam slams his fist down on the little wooden table they've brought up here, knocking Jamie's dictionary onto the floor.
"Goddamn it, Jamie, this is the first sign of human life we've seen in nearly three weeks! We've got to go!"
"I don't think we can get up there," Jamie says. "It'll be light in a few hours, what's the hurry?" Adam takes a deep breath and rubs his hands over his face.
"Okay. Yeah, okay, that's true."
The creeping sensation starts to ease off Jamie, smoothed over by relief. Suddenly Adam leaps up, and Jamie tenses up again. "I want to have a better look, I'm gonna go get the binoculars."
He's gone for a while, and Jamie hopes he hasn't found them, but when he climbs up onto the lookout spot and watches the light flicker, he starts to get an even worse feeling, a slow, uneasy crawl of sickness that he decides is fear. When Adam comes back with dust all over his pants and climbs up with the binoculars, for a second Jamie thinks it's okay, then Adam says, "I'm - not sure that's a beacon, Jamie." He looks a little longer, then says, fast and urgent, "Oh, shit, okay, we've got to get out there, Jamie, for real. I don't know what the hell it is, but if it spreads in this wind, half the city could go up."
Jamie gets up and follows Adam downstairs, helps him grab their extendable ladder and all the fire extinguishers they can find and load them in the back of the pickup, but he also gets his gun. When he gets in the car with it, Adam glances down at it, but doesn't say anything.
"I think it's up on Noe Peak," Adam says, as Jamie navigates his way downtown, following the route he's been taking to the library, which he's cleared of the few cars that were blocking the street. It's tricky, and he has to concentrate; there isn't too much on the road, but there's no light outside of the white pool of their headights, and things flash into his vision quicker than he can react unless he goes really slowly. Adam cups the flashlight in his hands to look at the map, and sometimes hops out find a street sign to work out where they are, and Jamie keeps his eyes on the road and the headlights up. Once in a while, they have to turn off their engine so Adam can climb up on the roof of the pickup to see if he can see the flames. About the third time, when they're on the corner of Diamond and Elizabeth, Adam bangs on the roof of the cabin and yells, "Yeah, it's right over there, I can see it, oh, crap, quick, Jamie."
Jamie had thought it would be on the roof of an apartment building, but because the street's on a hill, it looked higher than it was; it's just a residential house, with a sort of upstairs porch on top of the garage, and there's a fire there, and the beams of the roof are beginning to char and smoke. There's nobody around.
"Seems a weird place for it not to be intentional," Adam says, but they're too busy unloading the ladder and getting the fire extinguishers out for Jamie to reply. "I think it's okay," Adam yells, from the top of the ladder, once they're set up. He sprays down onto the roof, then steps out onto it and sprays some more. Jamie stands in the beam of the pickup headlights and holds the base of the ladder, ready to pass up another fire extinguisher. Wet mist settles on Jamie's head and cheeks. The orange glow from above dims, then dies out totally, and Adam coughs in the smoke.
"Hey, Jamie," Adam calls down. " I think someone set this. It's all burned up now, but it looks like they were burning some charcoal in a box. I think I'm - I'm gonna go in, have a look around. The fire was all out here, there's no smoke inside or anything. It's a little funky."
"Adam," Jamie says, his heart beating too fast, suddenly. "Wait up." He grips the base of the ladder, but it's not sturdy enough for him to climb up without someone holding it, and the roof of the house looks totally black. His eyes aren't adjusted enough to see Adam try the balcony door, but he can hear it. He sees, for a second, the flicker of Adam's flashlight.
"It's open," Adam says. "Okay, if I don't come out in like five minutes, come in after me, okay?"
"Don't go in," says Jamie, but he can already hear Adam stepping into the room, and he can't make himself get his voice louder than normal. Adam probably can't hear. He looks at his own hands, white in the headlight beams, and listens, as hard as he can. The house is silent, and silent, and silent. He hears a noise, once, and he wants to go and get his gun, go into the house, but he needs to hold the ladder in case Adam has to come down quickly. He doesn't know what else to do. When gravel crunches behind him, he jumps.
"It's me," Adam says. "I came round the front." He steps into the beam. Jamie sees that Adam's got something slung up in his arms against his chest, a bundle. It looks like a cat or something, maybe dead, the look on Adam's face is - Jamie thinks it's pretty bad.
"Look," Adam says. His voice sounds wrong, too, kind of high, like he's laughing, but he isn't. "I found a baby."
He looks at Jamie, like Jamie's going to tell him what to do. Jamie takes the flashlight from him, switches it off, and turns it over and over in his hand.
"Is it dead?" he says at last.
"No," Adam says, jerking his head. "No. The door was closed, I don't think it - she - inhaled any smoke. I - I think she's okay."
Adam doesn't look like anything's okay. He kind of shakes himself, and pulls the baby closer, up against his chin. She shifts suddenly, and starts to cry, and won't stop.
"How did she, uh, who was taking care of her?" Jamie says, raising his voice carefully over the noise.
"A teenage boy," Adam says. He starts to rock, hushing the baby against his chest and holding her head in his hand, and he hunkers his shoulders down, so he looks smaller, younger. "Her brother maybe. I dunno. God, Jamie, let's get out of here."
"Is he dead?" Jamie says, finding it hard to think around the sound of crying.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's dead, he's dead, just get me the hell out of here, Jamie, please -" Adam's voice gets high and urgent, and Jamie fumbles the flashlight as he tries to retract the ladder one-handed. The baby cries and cries as Jamie loads up the pickup, and Adam just stands there, holding her. He doesn't move when Jamie stands back to let him in, so Jamie takes him by the shoulder and walks him over there, careful not to touch the baby.
"Wait, wait a minute," Adam says, when he's sitting in the passenger seat. "Oh my god, we can't leave him there. He's in the bathroom. Oh, Jesus, Jamie."
Jamie takes a deep breath, and lets it out. "Wait here."
He takes the flashlight, and goes back into the house, picking his way upstairs, and he finds the bedroom first, strips off some sheets, then to the bathroom. He thinks it's going to be worse than it is, but the thing hanging by its neck from the shower rail doesn't look like a person, it's like a sack of potatoes, or something. It's not real. But when he slings it up over his shoulder to cut it down with the knife in his pocket, the boy's head lolls over and his cold, damp cheek touches Jamie's neck. Jamie jumps, and drops him. The flashlight falls out of his hand, and for a second he's in the dark with something soft and dead touching his leg, and he panics, it's all he can do not to break out and run. Then the bulb flickers on again, shining against the tiles, and he goes out into the hall, sits on the carpet and tries not to throw up. It's a couple of minutes before he can go back, roll the body up in the bedsheet and drag him downstairs to the pickup, trying not to bump him on the steps.
"Thank you for doing that," Adam says quietly, when Jamie gets back into the driver's seat. "Thank you so, so much."
Jamie says, "Let's just get out of here."
He drives them back to M5, as fast as he can go while being safe. The baby cries all the way, and Adam talks to her, and Jamie tries not to get them killed. He closes his eyes and rests his head on the seat back when he turns into the parking lot and can cut the engine.
"She'll need food," Adam says, low, beside him. "She's hungry. She's too young for anything we've got, Jamie, she needs formula."
"Okay," Jamie says. "Go inside."
"I - okay," Adam says. He sort of stumbles, getting out of the car. Jamie watches the little circle of the flashlight dance across the tarmac, up to the lock of the door as Adam messes with his key. He waits until the door's closed behind them, then starts up the engine again.
He goes to the department store, where he walks down the aisles in the pitch black and the quiet with the flashlight, pulling down baby formula, more bottled water, baby food in jars, diapers, wipes, everything he can think of. He even finds some bottles and those little plastic sippy cups. He mostly manages to shake off the noise of the crying, but the silence is eerie, and he moves quickly, drives too fast home.
When he gets back, the baby's stopped crying. They're in the ground floor office. She's lying on a pillow on the floor, wrapped up in one of the towels from the kitchen. Adam's lying on the floor beside her, one arm around the pillow and the other under his head. Seeing him there, Jamie almost feels okay again, and he stops to watch Adam for a moment. He's aware, suddenly, of an ache radiating up his jaw; he must have been clenching his teeth the entire drive. Adam stirs, and Jamie sees the glinting reflection of candlelight between his eyelashes as he starts to wake up, so he stops looking at him and goes to start up the paraffin stove, get some water boiling to disinfect the bottles. He figures he may as well make some hot chocolate, too, for Adam. He should have some sugar.
When Jamie comes over with the mug of hot chocolate, Adam tugs himself up into a sitting position. He's shaking, Jamie sees now. His teeth are chattering.
"Hey," Jamie says. "Hey. You're in shock or something." He puts the chocolate down, then grabs a microfleece blanket from the box in the corner, and throws it over Adam. Adam doesn't move, so Jamie tugs it down so it's covering his feet too. "Come on," he says. Adam reaches out, and wraps his hands around the mug, brushing against Jamie's. His fingers are really cold. He takes a couple of sips, and shivers harder.
"That was the worst thing I've ever seen," he says. He takes another sip, curling himself up around the hot mug. His voice is really, really soft, he doesn't sound anything like himself. "He must have just - lit that fire, and hung himself. I guess he couldn't make himself kill her, but - I mean, he must have known she'd starve, he didn't know anyone would come and pick her up. How could anyone do that?"
Jamie thinks that actually it's more likely that rats would have gotten to her before she starved, and he only just manages to not say it out loud. "Maybe he went crazy, or, he didn't know what else to do," he says instead. He feels useless and clumsy, standing there over Adam, he doesn't know if he should sit down next to him, or what. He has a really bad headache coming on. He feels shaky suddenly, like he's going to fall down.
Adam hunches down more. "Maybe. He was feeding her with formula. She looks fine."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be okay," Adam says. "Thanks for the hot chocolate." He looks up sharply. "Jesus, look at me whining. I can't believe I made you go in there and do that by yourself, man, I am so sorry. Are you okay? Look, come down here, put this on. You look like you're gonna faint."
"Come on," Adam says. "Dude, you're not a fucking robot." Jamie sits down next to him, and Adam throws the blanket over Jamie's legs too. The baby suddenly wakes up and starts to fuss, her face screwing up. Adam hushes her, stroking her head absently, and she falls asleep again just as abruptly. Jamie sits back against the wall next to Adam, shuts his eyes, and tries to concentrate on un-tensing all his muscles. His whole damn body hurts. He wishes he could take a shower, he can still feel the dead kid's skin against his hands and neck. Gradually, the warmth from the blanket and Adam's arm and leg all pressed against him start to make it easier to relax. Adam pushes the cup into his hands, and he drinks automatically. He doesn't normally like hot chocolate, but he doesn't care about much right now except that it's hot and sweet. Adam shakes his head when he tries to give it back, so he drinks it all.
"You want to sleep?" Adam says. "I'll make the formula, if you want. Seriously, I could do it with my eyes closed, I've done it a zillion times. Sarah didn't breastfeed, you have no idea what a nightmare that is for twins."
"It's okay," Jamie says. The idea of going up into the dark offices and sleeping there by himself, with Adam and the baby down here, makes him feel - bad. He doesn't want to think about the dead boy outside. He sits there, in the light of the gas lamp, the flashlight and a couple of candles, until the formula's boiled and cooled and they can feed the baby. She goes right to sleep, afterward. They all go upstairs together at about 4am, and Adam falls asleep fully clothed, with the baby on a pillow beside him and his glasses on the other side. Jamie doesn't fall asleep. He lies awake and listens for noises in the gray dawn light, half-dreaming about dogs getting at the body.
Thurs June 22nd
hot, still windy
found: baby (1)
"Did she have any ID?" Jamie says.
"What, in her diaper? Of course she didn't have any ID."
Adam's frying eggs, the last ones they have that are still good, probably. It's about 11.30, so Jamie guesses it's brunch. He feels tired and stupid, like he's jetlagged. The dead boy's still wrapped in tarp in the back of Jamie's truck. He guesses they'll have to bury him today.
"I mean in her house or wherever."
"Oh," says Adam. "I - I didn't think to look, actually. You can go look if you want, I'm not going back there."
The baby's being very quiet, she's mostly just lying on her back on the blanket and watching them. Jamie hopes she's just a quiet baby and not sick or something. Adam doesn't seem too worried, though, and Jamie guesses he probably knows about babies, seeing as how he had some.
"How old do you think she is?"
""I, uh, I'd say she's about eight months old. She hasn't got any teeth yet, but she could be developmentally delayed or something if he didn't feed her enough, although she looks like she's about the right weight - god, I don't even know if she's had her shots, and, and, oh jesus fuck, Jamie, what the fuck are we going to do with a baby?" Adam smacks the frying pan down on the trivet. His hair is sticking up every which way, and he isn't wearing any socks. He's thinking through the logistics of it without going through it one step at a time, Jamie realizes, and he's panicking. They can plan for this, though. They've planned for everything else.
"Well, I got diapers already," Jamie says. "Does she need, uh, breast milk? She can just eat formula, right?"
Adam shakes his head again, like he's trying to wake up. He looks down at the baby's face, and seems to come out from wherever he is a little. "I - yeah, she probably isn't weaned yet. Formula. We can start her on solid foods pretty soon, though. You got baby food already? Oh, that's great, did you find those cups at the store? God, we're lucky she can take a bottle. I guess we can't do anything about the shots. I don't know what the fuck we'll do if she gets sick."
"What do you want to call her?"
Adam coughs out a laugh, and slides out the eggs onto their plates, with some dry oat crackers from a package instead of bread. "Wow, Jamie, you move fast. You want to just go and give her a name?"
Jamie shrugs. "We may as well, if we're keeping her." A funny idea occurs to him. "We could call her Eve."
Adam's eyebrows go up. "We are not calling her Eve, Jamie. That is one hundred percent out of the question. Also, creepy, oh my god, then I'd be Adam and she'd be Eve and she's thirty-eight years younger than me. That is totally gross. No way." He shudders theatrically. Jamie snorts.
"Well, how about Buster?"
Adam stares at him, then starts to laugh for real around his eggs. He's beginning to look a little better than he did last night. "We're not calling her Buster, what the hell's wrong with you?"
"Buster's a good name."
"Okay, firstly, it's a boy's name, and secondly, I can't believe you don't get how inappropriate it - wait, are you fucking with me? You're a jerk, Hyneman."
Jamie laughs, and it's easier, this time.
After breakfast Adam goes back to sleep some more with the baby, covered in the blanket. Jamie leaves the bottle of ready-made formula next to him, and goes to tidy away the fire extinguishers and the ladder. When he comes back, the bottle's half-empty, the blanket is tangled around Adam's legs, and he has his arm flung over his face. Jamie goes out to get his saw and some wood, and starts working out how to make a cot that can go next to Adam's bed. He works on it in the parking lot, so he doesn't wake them up.
In the afternoon, they get the excavator they've been using to turn over the back lot and drive out to Golden Gate Park. It's nice there, Jamie's always thought. He likes the trees. They dig a hole in a place where it's open and grassy, Adam standing back and directing Jamie with the baby tucked up against one shoulder. When the hole's deep enough, Adam puts the baby down on a blanket, they take either end of the tarp and toss the body in. Covering it over again, Jamie remembers being buried in that coffin on the show, the noise the earth made coming down on top of him, the smell of the dust. He shivers. He wishes they hadn't done that, now.
Adam gets back into the cabin with him, settling the baby on his lap, and slaps him on the shoulder. "Let's get the hell out of here and get a drink."
As they drive back slowly to M5, maneuvering the heavy vehicle through the cluttered streets, Adam says, "I think we did the right thing. We couldn't have just left him there. Wow, I guess we're just getting the full apocalypse experience, now. I've never dug a grave before."
"Yeah, you have," Jamie says. "You dug mine."
Adam jerks round. "What?"
"For the myth."
Adam stares at him for a second, then he laughs, shakily. "Oh right, for the - right. God, I thought you meant, like, metaphorically."
"Metaphorically for what?"
Adam shrugs, and stares out of the window all the way home, jogging the baby on his knee and catching her hands every time she reaches for the gear shift.
At three a.m., Jamie wakes up to find the room empty. He goes out to get some water, and Adam's sort of slouched against the wall in the kitchen in the dark, heating formula on the paraffin stove. He's holding the baby easily with one arm up against his shoulder, and she's fussing in between falling asleep. "Don't burn that," Jamie says, and Adam starts awake.
"Oh," he yawns, and rubs his eyes. "Fuck, I forgot about this part. I am too freaking old for this. If we could get that microwave going, Jamie, that's going to make the next six months a whole bunch easier. I can't fucking make her stop crying, I think she's realized that her brother's not coming back and she's being looked after by two strange guys who don't know what the hell they're doing."
"I could try and work on it tomorrow," Jamie says. He watches Adam carefully for a little while, as Adam's head starts to drop back down onto his chest. When it becomes obvious Adam is asleep again, Jamie takes the water off the boil and mixes up the formula, following the instructions on the packet. When he looks up, Adam's watching him. He's smiling, Jamie thinks, although it's hard to tell in the candlelight, and with Adam's beard getting kind of messy, now.
"Thanks, buddy," Adam says. "You know, you don't have to fix everything."
"I know that," Jamie says. "Go get some sleep."
19 20 Friday Saturday 24th June
20 degrees, cloudy, windy
The next day, Jamie experiments with the car batteries, and gets a small motor going. It's enough to power the microwave and the kettle, but it makes a crapload of noise.
Inside, the baby's lying naked on a blanket, chewing on one of her toes.
"Is it hygienic for her to do that?" Jamie asks.
"Oh, sure, I just washed her," says Adam. He starts on another roll of duct tape and kneels down next to the desk. "I'm babyproofing the office, we only narrowly avoided disaster before I discovered that she can open drawers. She might be older than I thought, maybe? Hey, watch her, Jamie, she's fast - hey, hey, get - Jamie, pick her up, she's going to hurt herself on that!"
Jamie makes himself grab her more solidly after she slips out of his grasp the first time. He picks up the naked, wiggling baby carefully around the stomach, since that seems the most solid handhold, and holds her out to Adam. She squeaks. Her skin is hot and incredibly soft against his hands. It's a little weird.
"What, you've never held a baby before? She's not going to bite you," says Adam, half-laughing, looking at Jamie's face.
"I don't like babies," says Jamie. "Take her before she poops on me or something."
"Okay, okay, give me those diapers," Adam says. He shows Jamie how to change a diaper, and keeps up a weird conversation that's half with Jamie, half with the baby, all the way through, his voice going from normal with Jamie to kind of soft and high for her. "And then you hold her legs up like this - yes, honey, yes we do! - and slide her legs through, you've got to make sure she has enough room to move around and it doesn't cut off the blood flow - cos you need that so your legs don't fall off, don't you, sweetheart? What is that? What is that up there? Is it a prop from Alien? Yes it is! - then you pull back the sticky band, like this, and press it down against the blue square. Square!"
"You sound like an idiot," Jamie says.
"She's a baby, Jamie, it's programmed into us to sound like idiots," Adam laughs. "I think it's to do with the frequency they can hear, and repeating words helps them learn how to speak."
"Well, it's not programmed into me."
Adam shoves his shoulder against Jamie's, and tugs on the baby's ankles to make her legs dance up and down. She giggles. Jamie guesses some people think that's cute. "That's because you're a robot from outer space."
He doesn't manage to get the motor any quieter. That night he wakes up in the dark. The baby's crying really loud. Downstairs, in the kitchen, it's exactly like it was the night before, with Adam leaning against the wall, except this time Adam's eyes are open, and he looks so tired that he's about to drop her. "Let me take her," says Jamie, and holds out his hands. "Go to sleep."
"You don't -" Adam yawns hugely, and then sort of laughs, rubbing at his face, and he grabs the counter as he sways. "Okay, clearly self-denial at this point is ridiculous. Are you sure?"
"Just give her here, you look like crap."
Jamie takes the baby. At first it's awkward, but then he realizes it's just like holding a cat or something, and he tucks her up against his chest. She clutches at the hem of his t-shirt with her tiny fingers - it tickles - and immediately falls asleep.
"Are you good at everything?" Adam says. He sounds kind of cranky.
"Maybe she just likes quiet people," Jamie says. He experiments with balance, and finds he can hold her fine with one arm, if he keeps his palm braced against her back. She's so tiny, his one hand easily spans the width of her shoulders.
Adam reaches over and squeezes Jamie's shoulder. "Thank you," he says, and stumbles towards the door. "Oh god, sleep."
Jamie makes the formula, then sits with her until she wakes up. Feeding her goes a little less smoothly, but he figures she knows what to do, and he mostly manages to clean the milk up off her face and clothes when she spits up a little. They'll have to get her some more clothes. He lets the candles burn out, and sits in the chair with her asleep on his lap, making lists in his head until he falls asleep, too. It's peaceful.
Sunday 24th June
20 degrees, cloudy, some rain
"I've got to tell you, dude, this is not something I ever thought I'd see," Adam says, when he comes in later that morning. The baby's lying buck naked on a blanket on the floor, waving her legs around and chewing on a spare screwdriver handle that Jamie boiled up before giving her, because she kept trying to grab it and eat it. It's got no sharp edges and is too big to choke on, and it's bright red, which he figures is something babies like. He's cooking toast. "It's like a Lifetime movie or something. Seriously, it's beautiful."
"Are you going to give that damn baby a name or what?" Jamie says, embarrassed. He's just been calling her 'baby', but that feels silly.
"I was thinking maybe Leia," Adam says. Jamie looks at him. "What? You don't think she looks like a Leia? She looks like Carrie Fisher."
Jamie looks at the baby. She looks back at him with her big brown eyes, and sticks her toe in her mouth.
"She looks like a baby."
"Whatever, man." Adam has a big, bright grin on his face. He stretches, and his t-shirt rides up on his stomach. "Thanks again for last night, by the way, I slept really well. Oh my god, I feel so much better. I'll be okay tonight, I think."
"We can take turns," says Jamie. "I don't need as much sleep as you. I don't want you tired and stupid all the time."
"Okay," Adam says, and he grabs Jamie's piece of toast and stuffs it in his mouth. "A' when you' no' fee'in her, you gonna slee' u'side dow' i' the closet?"
"Never mind," says Adam. "Hi, sweetheart! How's it going today? Did uncle Jamie fit you with any extra parts while I was asleep? Huh? Did he?"
"I'm not her uncle," says Jamie. "You can be her dad, if you like."
Adam's face goes flat, and he looks up quickly. "I'm not her dad, Jamie. I already have kids. Don't ever say that again."
Jamie goes back to the toast, feeling cold in his stomach.
"Sorry," Adam says, after a moment. He sighs, and sits down on the floor next to the baby, and starts poking her in the stomach and making her wave her arms around as she squeaks. "What are we going to do with you, honey?" he says. "Are we going to eat you all up?"
"Oh my god," Jamie mutters, not really meaning Adam to hear, but Adam starts to laugh, stretches right out on the floor next to Leia and presses his mouth against Leia's stomach and makes eating noises as she laughs her shrieking baby laugh, then she grabs Adam's glasses off his face and pokes Adam in the eye with them, and that is funny.
Monday 25th June
20 degrees, cloudy, some rain
In Search Of pg. 37
"No, look, you hold her ankles up, lift her right up off the table," says Adam. He lifts up Leia's legs so her butt is off the diaper-changing counter Adam's made from a table, a towel and some plastic wrap. Leia blows a spit bubble and wiggles her toes. She mostly doesn't seem to care that she's got her naked, crap-covered butt in the air. Jamie wonders when you learn to care about that stuff.
"Then you wipe her butt with the wipe or cloth or whatever, and then you get the baby powder so she doesn't get a rash."
Jamie watches Adam dump powder all over Leia's behind and over the clean diaper lying open on the table.
"Like icing a cake."
Adam snorts, and grabs the diaper. "Yes, just like icing a cake. Okay, you watching?"
He pulls off the tape, lifts up Leia's legs, tugs the diaper under her, lowers her down, sort of pins her legs apart with his fingers, pulls up the diaper and tapes it up around her sides in about two seconds.
"And we're done. You got it?"
"I don't get it, man, you can solder a fifty-mil bolt but you can't put a diaper on a baby. You have no idea, this is so much easier with girls, you don't even have to worry about stuff pointing the wrong way."
Jamie wrinkles his nose, and Adam laughs some more.
"I'll give you a hundred dollars if you change all her diapers."
"Come on, ol' 'dirty job' Hyneman has a problem with wiping a baby's butt? Give me a break."
Leia starts to cry. Adam sweeps her up onto his shoulder.
"I know, sweetheart, diapers suck. You wanna go play 'drink loads of juice so Jamie has to change our diaper again'?"
"I'm not changing yours too," Jamie says. "You can use the bucket out back."
Adam laughs as he jiggles Leia up and down. He seems mostly okay today.
"Hey man, I was thinking, we should go downtown and get some more onesies for her."
Jamie looks at the table. "You can do that later. I'll look after her. There's some stuff I want to get done here."
"You sure?" Adam hesitates. "I was thinking we should go together."
"You need a break."
"Okay, fine," Adam says after a moment. "I'll take the radio and go after lunch."
In the afternoon, Jamie washes a bunch of his shirts in water heated on the stove. They hang on a line out over their dry vegetable patch and flap in the wind like little ghosts on some kids' TV show. Leia's watched him scrub shirts for half an hour and has gotten all muddy where the water's splashing on the ground, so he picks her up and puts her in the tub too, since the water's still pretty warm, and she looks really surprised and sneezes five times. It makes Jamie laugh, even though he's kind of antsy. He tries not to think about Adam being out there, by himself, what might happen. He should have gone with him. He only relaxes when Adam gets back.
Tuesday, June 27th
19 degrees, cloudy, humid
In Search Of pg.38
Jamie wakes up a couple seconds before Adam, because Adam's breathing hard and moving around in his sleeping bag. Then Adam yells, "Fuck!" and jerks suddenly awake. He rolls over and grabs Jamie, just throws his arm over Jamie's chest, presses his face into Jamie's shoulder and holds on really hard. Jamie jumps, but manages to stop himself from shoving Adam away, because Adam's shaking so hard he can feel it. "Oh, Jesus," Adam pants. "Oh my god, oh, Christ. That was the worst dream I've ever had. Fuck. I could fucking feel their teeth, man."
Awkward, and still only half awake, Jamie lies there as Adam bunches his fist in Jamie's t-shirt at the waist, so that his bare knuckles brush Jamie's stomach. It kind of tickles, but Jamie tries not to flinch. He clears his throat and says, "I'm not gonna eat you unless we run out of everything else."
Adam laughs weakly, squeezes Jamie even tighter for a second and then slowly, like he doesn't want to, takes his arm back from around Jamie. He doesn't roll off of Jamie's sleeping bag, though.
"Wow, that was terrifying. My heart's going like a freight train, feel it." He grabs Jamie's hand and presses it to his chest. His t-shirt's hot and damp with sweat, and Jamie can feel his breath on his face and arm. Underneath Jamie's fingers, he can feel the pump of Adam's blood. He wants to pull away, but Adam's holding his wrist with a death grip, so he just lets his palm rest there against the thub-thump, thub-thump of Adam's heart, automatically counting the beats. Adam's breathing starts to slow down, and his hand goes slack around Jamie's wrist. It's early, still mostly dark out. Drowsy, Jamie says out loud, "Hearts are cool."
Adam snorts, and shuffles a little closer to him. They watch Jamie's hand vibrate with Adam's heartbeat, and Jamie falls asleep again, maybe, for a little while. When he opens his eyes again, Adam's still there, with his forehead pressed against Jamie's shoulder and his hand around Jamie's wrist, their sleeping bags all lined up together, and it's weird, suddenly, that they're basically cuddling.
"You gonna stop feeling me up now?" Jamie says, pulling his hand away, and Adam's eyes snap open. He lets go of Jamie right away, rolls right back over the mattress and scrambles out of his sleeping bag, fumbling for his glasses. Jamie isn't wearing his glasses, so all he can see is a pale blur where his face should be.
"Sorry," Adam says. "Shit, I didn't mean to - sorry."
He gets up and goes out the room. When he doesn't come back, Jamie wakes up all the way and puts his glasses on. Leia starts to cry. Jamie gets up with a sigh and feeds her, then tries changing her diaper, because it smells like it needs it, but he does it too tight and then the tape won't stick when he tries again, so he winds up just letting her lie on the towel naked again, but then she pees on it. Adam doesn't come back; Leia fusses, jogging against Jamie's arm, and Jamie's tired and unsettled. He doesn't know how to play with her or whatever, and he doesn't want to go look for Adam; he figures Adam's embarrassed, or something, and thinking about this morning makes him feel weird and sort of sick, like he screwed something up, although he doesn't know what the hell it was.
Adam comes back around midday, when Jamie's in the workshop, trying to get something done. Leia's fussing, on a towel, now. Jamie was hoping she'd just fall asleep.
"Oh, there you are," Adam says.
"Where the hell have you been?"
"Downtown," Adam says shortly. "I left you a note, didn't you see it? It's in the kitchen."
"No. Come and take the damn baby."
Adam comes over and picks her up, grabs a diaper off the pile, puts her into it, then picks her up and walks off with her, jogging her as she starts to cry louder.
"Sorry about earlier," Adam says over his shoulder as he goes up to the office.
Jamie goes upstairs and lifts weights for a while, but he's too tired to do much but get mad at himself.
Monday July 3rd
22 degrees, some rain
In Search Of pg.41
Adam starts having bad dreams all the time. Sometimes Jamie only wakes up when Adam comes back in from going to the bathroom or something, and his eyes are red. Sometimes it's like the first time, when Adam yells in his sleep, or kicks, but he never touches Jamie again, he mostly just gets up and leaves.
"I should go sleep in the other room, man," Adam says, rubbing his eyes one morning, about the sixth time it happens. "It's not fair, waking you up every day too. I'll take Leia with me, it's no big deal."
"We can, uh, take turns with her, you could put her in the other room," Jamie says.
"I probably won't hear if she's in the other room," Adam says. He taps his ear, the one, Jamie realizes belatedly, with the hearing aid. Jamie had forgotten about it; he suddenly wonders what they'd do if it broke, how badly Adam needs it. He wonders if they could make one, or find out where they're made or stored, go get some there, or just go to a senior's center and try to find one Adam could use, if they could even get Adam's out. He's not sure if he's wearing the kind you put in under anaesthetic or what.
Adam winds up dragging his mattress out into the other room, with Jamie feeling kind of mad at himself. But he doesn't know what else to suggest.
Wednesday July 5th
22 degrees, some rain
In Search Of pg.41
"You know what I just realized," Adam says later, after Jamie's done a quick cleanup of the workshop and they're sitting out back. Adam's whittling something, and they're both keeping an eye on Leia, who's playing with some stuffed toys and one of those hard books for babies that Adam found for her at a Walmart. "No TV. I have absolutely no idea how to raise a child without TV."
"We didn't have a TV when I was a kid," Jamie says.
"Well, color me surprised," says Adam. "What did you do, sit in a dark room and read blueprints?"
"No. I mostly did farm chores."
"God," Adam says, and blows sawdust off the dimpled surface of the block he's carving.
Jamie shrugs. "It was okay."
"Didn't you, like, run away from home?" Adam says, staring critically down the grain.
Jamie didn't know he knew about that. He doesn't really know how to explain it to Adam, and by the time he thinks of something to say, Adam's already talking again.
"... what she's going to do."
"I said I don't know what she's going to do, man. I mean, think about what her life expectancy must be, now. I have no idea what to do if she gets really sick, do you? And what the hell kind of life is she going to have? If there's only us, and then, best case scenario, we both die of old age, but more likely blood poisoning or pneumonia or something, and she's going to be left on her own. I just feel - so inadequate in the face of that."
Jamie hates it when Adam makes these sharp turns in his thinking, goes on somewhere Jamie isn't ready for. It feels like too late when he finally gets together a response. "I guess there's not much else we can do."
Adam sighs. "Yeah, I guess not."
Jamie feels prickly and anxious all evening, wanting to say something else, but not knowing what.
"You can sleep with me," he says stiffly, when Adam picks himself up, yawning, to go to bed. He looks at Jamie sharply. "If you need to."
"I'm not a fucking charity case," Adam snaps. Jamie looks at him, and he sighs, rubs the back of his neck. "Sorry. Look, I'm okay. I'm just tired. I'm fine in the other room."
Jamie wakes up in the night to the sound of Adam panting and swearing softly outside his room, his breath catching and sounding wet, like he's trying not to cry, or is crying. Jamie lies awake, stiff and tense, listening to him pace up and down the hall between the offices, and wondering if he should go out; if he should let Adam know he's awake; if he should just grab Adam and haul him back to sleep with him, because at least he was sleeping then. He's sorry he let Adam move out, it wasn't a big deal, but he feels like if he tries to explain that to Adam it will seem like a big deal. And he doesn't know if it'll help. He tries to think about what Kari would do, because she always seemed to know, with Adam. While he's thinking that, he misses her, suddenly and vividly; how she worked hard, and was always smiling, and how her hair shined with a different color what seemed like every other Monday. His head is full of pictures of her, and it hurts, in his chest and his throat. He clenches his fists in the sleeping bag, and listens to Adam outside, almost mad at him, until Adam quiets down and goes back to bed.
Saturday July 8th
19 degrees, cloudy
In Search Of pg.41
It's Jamie's turn to make a run to get supplies. He gets held up; there's a car in his way when he tries to take a short cut, and he has to double back, so winds up being half an hour later than he said he would be, his heart pounding in his chest every time he looks at the clock. He doesn't like to leave M5, he doesn't like going downtown anymore. They're all in a bad state today. Walking back into the cool of M5, through the shop entrance, he hears Adam say, "Stop it." His voice is raised over Leia's squalling. He's sitting on the bench with his face in his hands. "Stop crying, jesus christ, please."
Adam wheels on him. "Where the fuck have you been? Take her. Just take her."
Jamie picks her up, and she immediately stops crying. She snuffles, and presses her face against him.
"Well, that's just great," says Adam. "Don't look at me like that."
He leaves. Jamie hears the pickup engine start, and Adam pull out of the lot. It's a few hours before he hears Adam come back, the door slam, and Adam going straight upstairs, not even coming in to say where he was. By that time, Jamie has a headache from the silence, even with Leia making her baby noises and dropping things. He has to be careful not to snap at her; it's not her he's mad at. Adam comes down a little while later.
"There any dinner left?"
"Make your own," Jamie says.
Adam grabs a box of cookies from the kitchen cupboard, and slams the door on his way out. Leia starts to cry, and Jamie jogs her on his shoulder, looking for a tylenol.
When she's asleep, he tries to read, but he feels tense, overheated. He hurts all over, and every noise starts him awake. He falls asleep, eventually, waiting for Adam's footsteps on the stairs down from the roof.
He wakes up to something incredibly loud. It takes him a very short time to think about the sound and decide on gunshot, because adrenaline kicks through him the second he's awake. The sound came from above him. It's still dark. His clock blinks: 03:41. He waits for the sound of Adam waking up next door. Leia starts to cry, and doesn't stop. There's no other noise. Then Jamie's scrambling to his feet before he knows what he's doing, he's padding quickly down the corridor with the flashlight, he doesn't even need to see that Adam's door is hanging open but it is, Adam isn't there, and his heart is pounding and he's sweating, and his mind is totally paralyzed, stuck on Leia's crying and the empty room as he pulls his shoes onto his bare feet and runs through the corridors to the stairs. The roof hatch is open, a grey, rectangular silhouette; he can see stars in the sky.
"Adam," he says, when he gets outside. He shines the flashlight around, but can't see anything. "Adam. Adam." Jamie can't be quiet, he can't stop checking and rechecking every corner he can see with the light, where is he - there. He's sitting at the edge of the roof, dangling his feet over the wall, with the gun hanging loose in one hand. He's sitting up and looking around, he's fine, he just didn't bother to answer. Jamie gets up behind Adam fast, his mind a fierce, terrible blank, and grabs him around the chest, hauls him back onto the roof as he yanks the gun out of Adam's. He kicks it away in dumb panic, like it's a snake, so hard that pain shoots hot up his leg and the gun spins right across to the other side of the roof and goes over the side. It fires again when it hits the ground, embedding a bullet into the wall somewhere. The noise makes Jamie's ears ring, ratcheting up the speed of his heart, and the storm in his head is like going crazy. Adam twists in his grip and is fighting him, kicking and hitting. Jamie rolls him over and pins him to the concrete, then up and hits him full across the face. Adam grunts and stops moving for a second, so that Jamie's afraid he's knocked him out. Then he shakes his head like a dog, wheezing and winded.
"Jamie," he says between gasps. "Jamie. Calm down. Jesus. Don't hit me again. Get off me, man. I can't breathe."
Jamie rolls off Adam. Adam lies there and coughs and gasps. The whirlwind feeling crashes in again, and Jamie vaguely feels himself sit back on the concrete and put his head down between his knees, because he thinks he's going to throw up, or pass out. Red spots spin across his vision. He maybe does lose consciousness for a second, because suddenly Adam's sitting up next to him, rubbing his back, and saying, "Jamie. Jamie. Hey, it's okay, buddy."
"What the fuck were you doing," Jamie hears himself say. His voice cracks. The stupid panic is still crashing over him in waves, but it's ebbing back a little, now, and Jamie can mostly breathe okay. He can see and hear, although his ears are ringing a little.
"Nothing," Adam says. "I swear to god, I have no fucking clue what I was doing, I was sitting here and I just - it was really stupid, Jamie, it's okay, calm down -"
"Don't," Jamie says, "Don't ever." He means to say, scare me like that, but he can't. He can't let go of Adam's wrist, either.
"Okay," Adam whispers, his palm rubbing a circle into Jamie's back over and over. "Jesus christ, I'm so sorry. Are you okay? It didn't hit you when it went off, did it? Shit, Jamie."
Jamie has to think about it. But he doesn't hurt anywhere except his head. He reaches up and rubs his whole head, over the back, his ears. The stubble is rough and reassuring against his fingers. No blood. He pats down his chest, and feels Adam's hands run down over his arms and legs one by one, checking him.
Adam breathes out a wet laugh. "Dude, we are both so far from fine."
He settles down next to Jamie, and leans against him, and Jamie numbly strokes his thumb along Adam's wrist, finding with his fingers the delicate bones, the tendon, the place where his pulse beats. Adam takes a shaky breath. Then he says, in a messed-up, strangled voice, "My kids are gone."
He's - he's crying, Jamie realizes. Jamie reaches around to hold him so he doesn't overbalance, Adam curls forward blindly and they wind up with Adam's forehead pressed against his shoulder. When Jamie brings up his other hand to Adam's back, holding him in an awkward, accidental hug, Adam starts sobbing for real. He shakes and makes awful crying noises, and his hands make fists in Jamie's shirt. Jamie's mind goes quiet, and he breathes, and holds Adam tight so he doesn't shake himself apart. It feels like Adam cries for a long time, as Jamie watches the sky lighten, and the last stars drift toward the horizon. Finally, Adam takes a deep breath against Jamie's shirt, and starts to tug back against his arms. Jamie's been holding him for so long that he has to think about how to let him go.
"Okay," Adam mutters, and sniffs, and wipes his face on his sleeve. He cracks into a laugh. "Oh, jeez, I got snot on your shirt."
"That's okay," says Jamie. He wants to ruffle Adam's hair, or something, maybe. Adam looks up into his face. Jamie thinks maybe he's going to say something, but then he says, "Oh shit, Leia must be freaking out," and tugs himself up with a grunt. He reaches down, and Jamie, after hesitating a second, grabs his hand and lets Adam help him up. At the bottom of the stairs, the sound of Leia wailing hits them at the same time as the dark.
"Oh, I left the flashlight up on the roof," Jamie says.
"Shit," Adam says. "You get the flashlight, I'm fine, I'll get her."
When Jamie gets back down to Adam's room, Adam's holding Leia and rocking her softly, rubbing her back and talking to her, baby stuff that doesn't make any sense. She's still crying, but she's quieted down a little. Jamie's backing out of the room again to go get her some formula, when Adam turns and sees him. There's some light coming in through the blinds, now, and Adam's cheeks are shining wet again.
He sniffs, and wipes his face on Leia's shoulder. "Tell her you're okay, she's freaking out," he says.
"What do I say?"
"Here," Adam's suddenly detaching Leia from his shoulder and putting her in Jamie's arms. "Just hold her for a sec."
Jamie's kind of stuck with her before he can say no. The volume of her crying starts to drop down again, though, as soon as he gets her balanced against his chest.
"Hey," Jamie says, awkward. He doesn't talk to Leia, mostly. It doesn't seem like there's any point, it makes him feel silly. "You're a good girl. Come on, now, don't get stupid. Stop crying, now." He shifts his arms a little to get her into a more comfortable position, and jogs her up and down a little. "Shhh."
"Okay," Adam says, and touches his shoulder. "I'll go heat up her bottle."
She settles down. When Adam comes back, she's just sitting there quietly, stacked against Jamie's chest, her head under his chin. Adam kisses the back of her head.
"Breakfast time, sweetheart," he says. Then he kisses Jamie, too, on the cheek, like he does it every day. His beard is scratchy, and his mouth is wet. Jamie doesn't know what to say, so he just sits down on one of the office chairs and watches as Adam settles Leia down in his lap with the bottle. She grabs at it, clutching with her tiny fingers. For a while, there's nothing but the sound of her sucking up and swallowing the milk.
"Every time I wake up to her crying," Adam says quietly, "I have this moment where think, why did Sarah bring the twins to work? Then I remember, and it feels like I'm going to just - fall to pieces, you know? Like I could just shatter into a million pieces. Every single time, two or three times a night." He catches a trickle of milk going down Leia's chin with his finger, and wipes it on his pants. "I cannot live here anymore. I am going to go insane if I stay here, with just the two of us and Leia and all our old stuff around. We have to go look for people. If we drive around with the radio, we might pick someone up. We can always come back later, get our stuff. But, I honestly cannot do this here anymore. I'm sorry, man, but if you don't come with me, I'm going to have to do it anyway."
He says it with quiet conviction, and Jamie knows, all at once, that Adam really will leave Jamie here. He thinks it's dumb to leave. He's afraid to; there are so many ways they could get themselves killed.
"I don't want to go," he says.
"I know," Adam says softly. "But you're not okay either. And you will definitely not be okay if I leave you here on your own. You might be okay physically, but, you'd go crazy. We're both already going crazy. When did you last not make an excuse not to go downtown? Why can't either of us go back to our fucking houses? Since when do you sleep with me and freak out whenever I go outside for five minutes - hey, okay! Point made, I'm done."
"I'm - I'm not," Jamie says. It's like his mind bounces off what Adam's saying like a rubber ball, and it's that, more than anything else, that frightens him. He looks at Adam's raised hand helplessly. Did Adam think he was going to hit him again? He's standing, he realizes. He sits down again.
"Okay," Jamie says. "Then we'll go."
Adam lets out a long breath. "Thank you."
Jamie ruffles his hair on his way out, and Adam smiles up at him. Jamie's chest loosens up, a little.
Saturday, July 8th
25 degrees, clear, windy
They start to load up a Jeep that Adam's found a few streets away. Jamie's reluctant to leave his pickup, but they need something bigger for all the stuff they'll need. They argue about which way to go. Adam wants to go south, down the coast - "It's LA, Jamie, the sheer population density means there's a way bigger chance that there'll be people alive down there!" - and Jamie wants to go north, up the coast. "I hate LA."
"That's not a reason, Jamie, for Christ's sake!"
"There's, uh, there's more water to the north. If we're thinking to settle down somewhere, we're gonna need farmland."
"Yeah, but we need to find people first!"
"There won't necessarily be more people alive down there," he points out. "Look at what happened to San Francisco. Maybe there's, uh, there's more chance of survival in less dense populations."
Adam argues some more, but Jamie just doesn't want to go to LA, to the south. He thinks it's a bad idea. Then he remembers about how it'll be fire season soon, and Adam doesn't have an answer for that one. Eventually, Adam throws his hands up in the air and says, "Fine, we'll go north. God, you're stubborn. But if we don't have any luck that way, we're coming back here and going down to LA, Jamie, and that is final."
They have to go downtown a few times, to get fuel for the propane stove, formula, nuts, dried fruit, bedding, clothes, flare guns, tools, engine parts and a spare tire, batteries, water, a car seat for Leia. Jamie forces himself to go with Adam on every one of the supply runs; it's easier, going into all the empty stores with a list, and he carries Leia some of the time, to distract himself. He wants to take a tent with them, but Adam says they can stay at motels, and he wins that argument, in the end, because there isn't enough room in the back of the car, and setting up a tent every night seems like it'll be a pain. Adam has the idea of making a fold-out cot for Leia to take with them, though, one she can't climb out of, so Jamie does it, picking up some fabric on their third trip into town to sling between hollow steel tubes.
Jamie's worked out that they still have enough gas in one of the older welders, so he puts the bars together that afternoon as Adam packs up the car. He doesn't want to have Leia out around the workshop, since he can't make her wear a face guard, but she keeps getting under Adam's feet, so he gets out the baby backpack that Adam brought back from a mom's store they passed yesterday, and puts her in it, so she's shielded by his body from the slag and can't see the sparks.
Leia is a warm, still weight against his back; it's actually quite comfortable, like wearing a heat pack, and as long as she isn't crying, Jamie can work. He looks up once, as he slots the last of the tubes into the frame, and catches Adam watching him. "What?" he says, and Adam laughs. He's got a weird, lopsided smile on his face that Jamie isn't sure he's seen before.
"Nothing, man." He hesitates. "Would you punch me in the face if I said you looked just a little bit adorable?"
"Maybe," Jamie says. He can feel his face heating up a little. "But I'd wake her up."
They drink warm beer on the roof as the sun goes down. They've been up there nearly an hour before Jamie notices Adam hasn't said anything the whole time; he figures he's just tired. It's been a long day, and they go to bed early. They bunk down together again without saying anything about it.
Leia's stopped moving around in her cot, Adam's stopped rustling, and Jamie's about to start trying to relax when Adam rolls over towards him.
"Have you ever shot anyone? I mean, for real, not for the show?" Adam says quietly, beside him in the dark.
Jamie thinks about whether to answer. "Yeah," he says, finally.
Adam's quiet for a moment. Jamie looks up at the faint glow of moonlight coming through the office windows, the reflection off the useless computer screens, waiting for Adam to say something.
"Did you kill them?"
He's quiet again.
"Do you think you could shoot to kill? If you had to? I mean, like, a person."
Jamie thinks about it. He thinks about that dog, running at Adam, the way that had felt. Even if it had been a person, Jamie's pretty sure he wouldn't have hesitated. He likes dogs more than people. But he still doesn't know. It would depend on - and he slowly realizes what Adam's driving at.
"You mean, like, if we ran into trouble out there?"
"Yeah," Adam sighs. "I mean, I'm being all gung-ho here, but I realize that it's possible that if we do find other people, they might not be happy to see us, for whatever reason. I mean, who the hell knows what's out there. I know you don't want to go, man. And I - I appreciate that you're doing this because of me. But I swear that if we find people who are okay, it'll work out better in the long run. I mean, if nothing else, we might find someone who's got some medical training. And we need to have other people around for Leia, we really do."
Jamie thinks about that. He feels better knowing Adam's at least thought about it. He knows Adam isn't stupid, but sometimes, he forgets. He also knows Adam doesn't hurt other people on purpose, and he doesn't look after himself. That's why Jamie's going with them.
"I could do it," he says. "If I had to."
There's another silence, then a rustle, and suddenly Jamie feels Adam's fingers touch his head. Adam sort of strokes him, just above his eyebrow, then sweeps his fingers down over Jamie's face, very lightly, and he puts a thumb on Jamie's cheek. Then he leans over and kisses Jamie there, just where his thumb was.
"Okay," he says. "Night, Jamie."
Jamie thinks, for a second, and not really knowing why, about rolling Adam over and kissing him back, what that would be like. He wonders if Adam would want that. He used to think, sometimes, when he first knew Adam, that Adam was maybe sometimes flirting with him. Jamie didn't like it; it made him uncomfortable, because he could never tell when Adam was making fun of him. Adam never really stopped behaving that way, but they had to work together, and Adam was mostly just really annoying, so Jamie stopped thinking about it. Times like this, though, Jamie almost figures Adam might. Want that.
Sunday, July 9th
24 degrees, some cloud
In Search Of, pg.43
They leave at first light, locking up everything carefully behind them. It's warm, but a little foggy. As they're pulling out onto the highway, Jamie has a thought.
"You want to bring anything from your place? We could go get your Blade Runner gun, or some of your art."
"Oh," Adam says. He hesitates. "We don't have room. We can come back for it, right? I mean, we've left a bunch of those preserves, and loads of tools and stuff, we'll have to come back for those."
"I don't want it," Adam says, after a moment. "You know, I don't think I want any of it. It's like, it was part of that world, you know? It doesn't mean anything anymore." He's rolling something over and over in his hands; when Jamie looks at it, he sees it's the wooden toy he's been making, which he's smoothed down and polished now. It's a weird, rounded shape, like a person in a convex mirror.
The rising sun burns off the mist; San Francisco glitters behind them. Jamie remembers, suddenly, the first time he saw it, through a grimy bus window.
"Thank god," Adam says, shaking his arms out and sitting up a little taller in his seat as they turn onto the highway heading north. He slaps Jamie on the shoulder. "Let's get the hell out of dodge, partner."
Getting out of the metropolitan area is hard; they have to get out to move a few cars - some of them are unlocked and have the keys in the ignition, but lots don't - and they have to double back forty miles to avoid a pileup they run into, the first big one they've seen. The air smells bad there; Jamie winds up the window, and backs across three lanes to do a U-turn on the freeway. The one thing he likes about the apocalypse is how much easier it is to drive. They were lucky the human race didn't disappear at rush hour.
A few miles back down the road, Adam says, "God, I hope they died right away." With a start, Jamie connects the bad smell to dead bodies in the cars, out there in the sun for a month, and feels ill.
They stop for lunch at a gas station, where Jamie grabs chips and candy for Adam, not breathing through his nose because of the rotting food there, stepping over the roaches running around on the floor. He's lucky he isn't scared of bugs. They siphon off gas from a car with a full tank that's parked by a pump, sucking it up through the tube they've brought along with them until the yellowish liquid flows through it by itself.
In the afternoon, as they get closer to the edges of the city's more built-up areas, the roads get clearer, and they can speed up a little. Adam sings some damn song about a monkey for Leia about fifty times. They stop at five in the afternoon at a Super 8 just west of Yuba City, well before it gets dark. Adam's the one who wants to, because his throat's getting sore or something and Leia's getting fussy, but Jamie's relieved, once they get out the car and he realizes how stiff his shoulders and neck are. The motel is empty; it smells a little stuffy, and one of the rooms has a bunch of moldy food and fruit flies in it, but the door's been shut the whole time, so it's mostly contained. Jamie isn't sure how it's gonna go, but Adam just finds the biggest room that has two twin beds in it, and drops both their backpacks down. There's a pool outside that's been left covered, so Adam opens it up, finds a net and sweeps it, then takes Leia in for a while as Jamie sets up the stove. Later Adam tries the radio, and it's quiet, as usual. They go to bed early.
Day 39 - Coffee Creek, CA
Wednesday, July 12th
24 degrees, some rain
They stick to the highways, which are clearer than the side roads. They don't see much, just a few birds. Adam thinks he sees a bear once, way off to the side of the road. Every time they pass somewhere that looks like it might have people in it, even if it's just a roadside store, Adam reaches over Jamie and honks the car horn, but nothing ever happens, except maybe a bird flies up, frightened.
They take a winding route upwards towards Oregon, and they're staying in a cabin they've found a little way off the main road through the national forests when Adam thinks he gets something on the radio.
"It's probably just interference," Jamie says. Adam's totally still, leaning intently over the radio.
"Shh," he says. Leia makes one of her noises, and waves her beret at Jamie. She got a hold of one of Jamie's a few days ago and had chewed it up so much that he didn't want it back. Now she makes a fuss whenever they take it away to wash it. Adam waves his hand at them. "Jeez, Jamie, can you take her out? I'm trying to do this."
"She's going to cry," Jamie says.
"So give her some juice or something. I've been looking after her all day, man, can you give me fifteen fucking minutes of space?"
Jamie takes Leia and goes out to sit on the porch, and watch the tops of the trees sway in the wind. She starts fussing, so he changes her diaper on a towel on the bare wooden boards, careful not to let her roll around in case she gets a splinter, then he gets her the sippy cup of juice and a cookie to suck on, and she quiets down. They're near a place called Coffee Creek. He almost gets why Adam wanted to leave San Francisco, out here. It's a good cabin, it's well-built, and it smells like wood. It's got firewood chopped out back, and a good, clean set of butchering knives, a small generator, gas, a hunting bow, and no TV. There were five sealed jars of fruit preserves in a kitchen cupboard, like a present. It's much easier to pretend everything's normal, here in the woods, where you're not meant to hear anything but the leaves anyway.
Later, when Leia's asleep in her fold-out cot, Jamie's reading on the couch and Adam's sitting on the floor reading, Jamie suddenly looks down to find that Adam's settled against his leg, a warm, comforting weight like a dog or something, and that Jamie's hand is in his hair, like he'd just reached down to scratch him behind the ears without thinking about it. He stops immediately, and Adam makes a quiet noise, like he's disappointed. He doesn't look up, though, or say anything. After a couple minutes, Jamie tries doing it again, and Adam pushes back a little into his hand. Jamie runs his fingers over Adam's scalp, through his hair, as Adam leans back and sighs, all relaxed and sweet, like he hasn't been for weeks, and it makes Jamie feel - tired, or sore, maybe. Kind of achey.
It rains, in the night, and Adam turns over in his sleep and presses his forehead against Jamie's arm. Jamie wonders if he could do something to the car engine, trick Adam into thinking they had to stay here. He's pretty sure it wouldn't work, but he lies awake for as long as he can, listening to the pattering of the rain on the roof and Adam's even breaths, pretending it would.
They start early and press north, getting back onto the highway around midday, and they cross the state line a little while after lunch. They make pretty good time. In the late afternoon, they stop at a little place called Cottage Grove to eat and get some water. Adam looks at the map and stops Leia from chewing on it while Jamie digs through the back of the car, which has gotten all messy.
"There's a town up ahead," Adam calls. "Eugene. There should be a grocery store or something, we can stop and pick up some supplies, probably stay there tonight. You know, that place we stopped for lunch, Ashland, I think I've been there before? I think I went to the Shakespeare festival to see Macbeth there like ten years ago, that's so weird. Dude, what the hell are you doing?"
Jamie's taken everything out of his bag, and it's all laid out on a towel on the ground. "My book isn't here."
"In Search of Lost Time. I must have left it back at the cabin."
"Oh, that sucks," Adam says, tugging the map out of Leia's hands again. "No you don't, sweetie. Where's your bottle?"
"I have to go get it."
"Well, there might be a library in Eugene," Adam says. "Or we can pick you up another copy when we pass somewhere bigger. We'll be in Portland by tomorrow evening, if we can keep moving at this rate, although I think Leia's going to need a break, soon."
"I gotta go back," Jamie says. "I'll take a car in the lot, I'll catch you up."
Adam stares at him and blinks once, slowly. "Are you serious? We can just get another copy on the way, Jamie, no way are you going back to get that book. We're in another state."
Jamie shrugs. "You can come," he says. "But I have to get it."
"Wait, wait," Adam says, and takes the bottle out of Leia's mouth. She starts to cry. He shuffles her up into the crook of his arm so he can feed her one-handed and gesture at the same time. Jamie wonders sometimes if Adam can't talk without his hands. His voice starts to get louder. "You left your book, which is a very common book, in a cabin in Coffee Creek, and you want to drive all the way back to get it, losing us two whole days of driving? Why the hell can't you just get another copy?"
Jamie shrugs. He's starting to get hot and mad, and can see that Adam's starting to get mad too, but he can't see any way out of it. It's like watching two cars careening together, just before they hit. "That one has my notes in it."
"Yeah, and that sucks, and I'm sorry you lost your book, but it's not like you can't just pick up where you left off with a new copy!"
"I'll catch you up," Jamie says. "I'll drive through the night."
"Like hell you will," Adam snaps. "Firstly, I am not driving all day with a nine-month-old in the backseat by myself, secondly, you are not driving all night through the state park with no lights around or anything and god only knows what on the road, and thirdly - can you even hear yourself? Can you hear what you're suggesting? It's insane! It doesn't make any sense! Just - give me one reason why we should go back three hundred miles to get a book that you can replace in the next town. Give me one."
Jamie doesn't say anything.
"You're just so fucking stubborn," Adam says. "You're stuck in your ways, and even though there's a fucking apocalypse and the whole human race is dead, oh, no, Jamie has to stay at M5, Jamie has to work out every morning, Jamie has to wear the same clothes, Jamie has to keep the same pickup, Jamie has to have the same fucking book, no matter how much it may inconvenience anyone else, I am so fucking sick of it, Jamie, I am sick of you just being - being you all the time - "
Adam clamps his mouth shut, suddenly, wheels around and walks away. He doesn't go out of sight. He walks up and down for a while, kicking stones at the one other car in the lot. After a while, he comes back to the car and gets a drink of water, then pours the rest of it over his head, leans on the driver's door, and puts his face in his hands. Jamie goes and stands next to Adam. He takes a deep breath.
"It's important," he says. "That copy is important. To me."
Adam looks at him for a long, long moment. Then he kind of laughs, and drops his head back against the Jeep.
"Okay, fine," he says, almost gentle. "Come on, then. We'll go up to Eugene and stock up, then tomorrow we'll go back and get your book."
Jamie hesitates, then reaches over and squeezes Adam's shoulder, because he feels like he needs to. "Thanks," he says. Adam sort of turns into his hand, so Jamie leaves it there, lets his arm be around Adam for a little while. There's nobody around to see, and Adam maybe wants it.
"My diary's in it," Jamie says. "It's in the book. That's why."
"Okay," says Adam. "It's okay. We'll go get it. What's the hurry, anyway." He snorts. "It's not the end of the world."
An hour or so later, Adam stops in the middle of singing the monkey song to Leia to say, "I'm not really sick of you being you, man. It's probably the only reason I'm still sane."
Jamie looks over at him. He's holding Leia's toy monkey in his hand, holding its hands up like it's doing a dance; he's got some aluminium foil or something woven into a little ponytail of hair on the side of his head, and he's wearing a t-shirt he picked up at the cabin that says, 'Manitoba Brain Injury Research Foundation 2002'. Jamie starts to laugh, and Adam's still giggling when they stop for the night in Eugene.
They stay in a bed and breakfast that night, where all but one of the bedrooms had the windows open, and the rain got in, so the bedsheets have got white and green spots of mold on them. They strip the queen mattress in the only dry room, and lay out their sleeping bags on it. There's a camp bed in the corner, but neither of them offers to take it. It's just them here. There's no one to ask stupid questions or get the wrong idea.
By the time they get the food cooked and Leia settled, they're tired. Jamie's sitting up and reading some book he found on the shelf about ferns, and Adam's lying on his side next to him, settled down with his back to Jamie and his eyes closed. Jamie's absently rubbing the back of Adam's neck; it's nice, like stroking a dog, just letting his fingers brush through the soft hairs on the back of Adam's neck, digging his thumb in a little to feel the muscle under Adam's warm skin. Adam lies really still, so that Jamie has sort of forgotten he's even there, until Adam says in a hoarse voice, "Hey, I - I think you should probably stop doing that."
"Oh," Jamie says, "Okay." He puts the book down, and lies back in his sleeping bag, then reaches over and turns out their camplight. Adam sort of sighs in the dark, and fidgets.
"You gonna go to sleep?" Jamie says at last.
"Look," Adam says in a rush of breath, "Don't get weird about this, but I'll suck your dick if you'll suck mine. Or jerk me off. Seriously, I don't care."
Shock thumps Jamie in the chest. He lies very still, caught off-guard and frozen. He can hear Adam's rough breathing, and feel his warmth against his side through the two sleeping bags. Then there's a rustle as Adam turns over, and Jamie's side is suddenly cold. Adam's voice comes out, muffled and kind of echoey, "Okay, that was stupid. Can you just forget I said anything? Night."
Jamie's tense and hot all over, and can't sleep, for most of the night.
Day 41 - Coffee Creek (again)
Friday, July 14th
23 degrees, cloudy
In Search Of pg. 45
The next day, Adam acts like it never happened. After a little while, Jamie starts to wonder if he dreamed it, or something. They spend most of the day driving back to Coffee Creek, where Jamie's book is lying beside the couch. The two mattresses they slept on before are still lying neatly pushed together in the corner of the room, and it seems silly to make a fuss about it when they bed down. He lies awake, skittish, but Adam doesn't say anything.
Leia wakes up four times in the night, and neither of them get much sleep, anyway.
Day 42 - Coffee Creek-Montague
Saturday, July 15th
23 degrees, cloudy
Found: people (4)
There's a crash, and Adam bursts through the cabin door. Jamie jumps, and nearly drops the glass he's drying. They're getting ready to go, but he didn't see the reason in leaving a mess. Maybe they'd want to come back, some time.
"I got through to someone," Adam says, his voice shaking. He looks more excited than Jamie's seen him since they were last doing the show. "On the radio."
It goes through Jamie like an electric shock. He stares at Adam.
"Other people!" Adam says. "Other people, Jamie, isn't that insane? They're out east, didn't I tell you I thought we should go that way? They're like five or six hours' drive from here I guess, somewhere called Susanville? They gave me their address. It's a couple, I spoke to the guy, Hank, and I think he said his wife was called Judy? Or maybe Julie, the reception wasn't that great. And there are two more people there. Wow, I can't believe this." He shakes his arms out, and hops on the spot. "It was so freaky, talking to someone who wasn't you, I'd almost forgotten how to do it."
"So, we gonna go out there?" Jamie says, after he's managed to work through everything Adam just said.
Adam blinks. "I guess so. Yeah. Yeah, of course! We don't have to stick around there if they don't want us to, but they seem pretty friendly. I mean, we came looking for people, right?"
He starts throwing papers around and messing stuff up in their packs, then pulls out their map of California. "Look," he says, pointing. "Susanville, we turn south on the Five. You think we can make it there today?"
"Uh," says Jamie. Adam waves a hand in front of his face.
"Jamie! Come on!"
"Just, uh, wait a second." Jamie tries to think. His heart is beating fast. All he can think of is that he's got that feeling again that he got about LA, about leaving M5 in the first place. He doesn't want to go.
"What?" Adam sort of balances on one leg and looks at him. "Why?"
"We don't know anything about them."
Jamie shrugs, angry with himself. Adam stops for real, and looks at him.
"Jamie, man," he says softly. "We can't do this forever, you know."
"Yeah, okay," he says. He packs slowly on purpose, until Adam yells at him, but he doesn't say no again. He lets Adam drive.
They're still a few hours away from Susanville when they pass a big sign that tells them they're coming up to Big Rob's Bait n' Tackle.
"Let's stop here," Jamie says.
"Oh, hey, fishing tackle. That's not a bad idea, actually," Adam says, and pulls off the highway onto the dirt track when they come to the sign. They pull the Jeep right up to the entrance and leave Leia in it with the doors locked but the windows cracked, because she's sleeping. They leave the walkie-talkie switched on next to her, so they can hear from inside if she wakes up and makes a fuss.
"Ooh, ooh, my turn," Adam says, already looking around on the ground. He picks up a couple of rocks from the verge of the field that backs onto the parking lot and smashes the window with his second throw, then puts on the gloves and knocks out all the glass at the edges of the frame. When it's clear, he climbs inside, and for a second, Jamie's alone, standing next to a wide, empty pasture field. There were probably horses there, before. He sees a couple of holes. He hopes maybe there are some rabbits left.
There's a rattle, and Adam opens the front door of the store for Jamie, grinning.
"You like doing that way too much," Jamie says.
"Dude, what can I say, I was born to be wild," Adam says, showing all his teeth in a big grin. He pulls off the heavy-duty gloves and spikes his hair back with one hand; it's a little damp with sweat, and stays sticking up in weird ways. He cut it in the bathroom in Eugene with a pair of craft scissors, and it looks messy, now. "Come on, let's go shopping. What do you want?"
Adam hops around the store, looking for god knows what and getting distracted by the different kinds of lure, and Jamie tries to look at the rods. He finds the brand he mostly uses, and picks out a couple, but he's on autopilot. Adam pops up behind him and touches his shoulder, and he jumps.
"Oh! Sorry, man," Adam says. He's standing very close. Jamie's heart is beating fast, and he feels hot and wound tight as a spring. He reaches over, puts a hand on Adam's shoulder and squeezes, feeling the warmth and the muscle and bone of Adam's shoulder through the soft cotton, and Adam stops.
"What?" Adam says. "Are you okay?"
"Just stand still for a minute," Jamie says, and he puts both his hands on Adam's shoulders, then his chest, feeling Adam's heartbeat under his palms, trying to get up his nerve as Adam stares at him. Jamie pushes him gently up against the shelf unit, takes off his beret and his glasses and puts them on the least dusty shelf, then drops down to his knees and flicks open the top button on Adam's jeans. Adam steps back, knocking something over on the shelf behind him, and takes a quick, shocked-sounding breath.
Jamie ignores him, or they'll start talking and never get anywhere. He opens Adam's pants and tugs them down, then yanks down Adam's boxers, and gets Adam in his mouth, even though he isn't hard all the way. Adam makes one of his weird, surprised-laughing noises, then moans when Jamie sucks. His hands fall to rest on Jamie's shoulders, then his neck. It's - a little weird, but he isn't thinking about that, just about breathing and the quiet and Adam's fingertips digging into his shoulders, the noises he's never heard Adam make before. It's been a really long time since Jamie's had sex. He'd forgotten what it's like. He holds Adam still and sucks him as hard and careful as he can until Adam gasps, "Oh - jesus christ - Jamie, Jamie, Jamie -"
He grabs Jamie's shirt and tugs him back, hard. "What?" Jamie starts to say, but Adam just collapses down beside him onto the linoleum floor, and grabs his own dick. He shuts his eyes and presses his face against Jamie's shoulder, whispers, "I can't, standing up - oh my god, bite me or something, fuck -"
Adam makes a noise that is maybe a laugh or a moan, his arm moving fast and brushing against Jamie's thigh. "Anywhere, oh my god, Jamie -"
Jamie leans over and slides a hand up under Adam's shirt, then kisses Adam's neck, sucks and bites down on the tendon, and Adam tenses up, gasps, and comes all over his own hand. He gets come on Jamie's jeans.
"Sorry," Adam pants. He puts his head back against the boxes of silver, artificial bait. His face is all red and his eyes are shut, and he's sweating. "Holy crap. Oh my god." After a few seconds he starts to laugh weakly, and he slaps at Jamie's shoulder. "Okay, of all the things we have done together, that may have been the most ridiculous. I can't believe you blew me in a fishing tackle store, dude, what the hell is wrong with you?"
Jamie hauls himself over to sit next to Adam. He's still breathing hard, and his skin is tingling all over, almost painful. "I've always wanted to have sex in a tackle store."
Adam giggles. "See, you say stuff like that, and I never know if you're kidding."
After a moment, he reaches over and slides his hand over Jamie's thigh, so his fingers are near Jamie's hard-on. Jamie tenses up and shivers. "Hey, uh," Adam says, kind of husky, "you want me to do something about that?"
"Not, not now," Jamie says, feeling helpless and overwhelmed. "Maybe later."
"You jump me like that again, you're going to give me a heart attack," Adam says. He pats Jamie's leg. "Just so you know."
"Okay," Jamie says.
Leia's playing with her little chew-toy in the car seat, and tugging at the picture of the lion on her t-shirt. Adam takes her for a walk-around while Jamie tidies the car, making room for the fishing rods. By the time they come back, Jamie's mostly calmed down enough to drive. Adam holds Leia's hands up and helps her support her legs on the ground. She curls her toes and squeals as Adam bounces her a little so she's almost standing, and he laughs up at Jamie, grinning all over his face.
"You ready?" he asks.
"Yeah," says Jamie. "She driving?"
Adam laughs, happy and loose, and it makes Jamie smile to see him.
It's early evening by the time they get to Susanville; they've had to stop a couple of times to feed and change Leia and let her stretch out a bit, and she's mostly asleep in her car seat when they finally find the right street and pull into the driveway. It's a low-slung, blue house with a wraparound porch, and there's a crucifix hanging in the front window that glows white in their headlights. Jamie parks next to the station wagon in the front yard, then cuts the engine.
"Hmm," Adam says.
Jamie doesn't get what he means until the two people waiting in the tidy front yard come up to them. They're two men, maybe Jamie's age, both wearing nice clothes, like they dressed up for them. They look like Jamie's uncles.
"Hi there," says the man. "I'm Hank, and this is Peter. You must be Adam?" he looks at Jamie. Jamie stares back at him. His face is like a foreign language.
"I'm Adam, hi! It's great to meet you!" Adam says, stepping forward. He shakes their hands. "That's Jamie. Hey, buddy, can you get Leia out?"
Jamie sticks his head in the car to unbuckle Leia's seat, relieved that Adam's taken over. She wakes up, and starts crying.
"Would you gentlemen like to come in and have something to eat?" The first guy, Hank, says. "You've had a long drive. We're just about to have our meal."
"Uh, sure," says Adam. "You okay out here, buddy?"
Jamie nods. The second guy, Peter, watches as Jamie locks up the car, and silently picks up Leia's bag when Jamie gets it out of the back seat.
"You European, or something?" he says. Jamie blinks at him. Finally the guy points at Jamie's head, and Jamie realizes he's talking about the beret.
The man laughs, which seems weird; Jamie isn't sure if it was a joke. He shrugs.
It's the same inside as outside, very neat and clean. They don't have electricity, but they seem to have set up some kind of pump so they have water inside; they must have a well or a spring or something. Adam's in the kitchen, shaking hands with a woman, and there's a man, who Jamie's pretty sure isn't one of the guys they just met, standing in the doorway. He remembers Adam said there were four altogether. The kitchen's got a bunch of Christian sayings in needlework on the wall; several of them are exactly the same as his mom had in their kitchen, even the same patterns. In the front room, Jamie can see that there's a table laid, with a tablecloth and place settings. Adam looks up quickly when Jamie comes in, and Jamie feels a little less boxed in.
"Oh, my!" says the woman, very close to him suddenly. "And who is this adorable little boy?"
"Oh, her name's Leia," Adam says.
Judy laughs. "Oh, it was because she's wearing blue! I guess for travelling it doesn't matter what they wear. But you don't want her to get confused!"
"Uh," Adam says, in a weird voice. Jamie's reminded, suddenly, of listening to Adam take half-hour phone calls from the insurance company. "I feel like that's probably not going to be an issue."
The woman leans over her and says, "Oh, my goodness! Hiya, honey!"
She reaches down to touch her, and Leia screams; Jamie instinctively swings the chair round to his other hand, out of the woman's reach. She stops smiling.
"She hasn't had much practice getting used to strangers," Adam says, "Not since Jamie and me, anyway. Hey, it is so good to see people again, this is awesome. We kind of thought we were the only people left on the planet for a while, there."
"We're so happy you found us," the woman says. She takes Adam's hand and presses it. Adam smiles, and nods.
They move to the other room, where there's more Christian stuff on the walls. Bible quotes, mostly. The window looks out onto the backyard, where Jamie can see a shovel leaning up against a bucket, and a neat row of dug-up earth. Judy serves out a big bowl of some kind of vegetable stew, mostly canned, but some fresh, and Adam settles Leia's seat on a chair, so she can see them. Judy and Hank reach out over the tablecloth and each take one of his and Adam's hands for grace, and Jamie drops his head and closes his eyes automatically. After a second, Adam reaches over and grabs Jamie's hand too.
"Lord Jesus, you give us food, and water," says Hank. "Lord Jesus, you give us each other, and yourself. You give us what we need. We give you our eternal thanks and prayer."
"Amen," murmurs one of the other men.
Adam moves his fingers against Jamie's suddenly, squeezes his thumb. Jamie looks up to see him watching him. Then Hank says, "Amen," and Adam slides his hand away.
They're growing their own food, mostly, making runs to local stores, Hank tells them. "We could have moved closer to the stores, but this is our home," he says, and Adam nods vigorously. The food's good, and there's a lot. Leia's all excited now and makes a lot of her fake-talking noises, and Judy tries to play with her, although Leia mostly only throws her soft toy at Adam.
"She is just beautiful," Judy says. "I guess the Lord left us some hope, after all." She holds Leia's little fingers in hers, then reaches over and takes Hank's hand with the other. She looks like she's about to cry for a second, and Jamie looks at his plate. Hank reaches over and puts his arm around her.
"We've been trying for a child a while now," Hank says softly.
Adam grimaces. "Oh, I'm sorry, that's rough."
"Praise the Lord," the third guy says. "He saved this child so she could save us."
"How's she going to save us?" says Jamie.
Judy, the guy and Adam look at him.
"She'll bring new life into the world," says the third guy. "God brought her to us to make sure we wouldn't be the last." He looks at the others. "Didn't I tell you? The Lord keeps his covenant."
"She's a baby," says Jamie. "The human population's probably too small to have enough genetic diversity to make it worthwhile to reproduce."
He notices that Adam's making a face at him, shaking his head slightly. Jamie stands up.
"I need to, uh," he says.
"Oh," says Hank. "Out back, the door's through there."
They've got the same setup as they had back at M5, buckets, except it looks like there're two sets of buckets, pink and blue. Jamie thinks that's weird. He's glad to get a closer look at the garden; it seems like they've planted potatoes, and there's an apple orchard over the other side of the fence. The quiet, and the smell of growing apples, reminds him of the farm, and he finds himself doing exactly what he always did back then; taking his time, so he doesn't have to go back inside. He's just cleaning up when the third guy, the one who was talking about Leia, raps on the window of the back door.
"Just checking you didn't get lost," he says, with a big smile.
Back inside, Adam and Judy are talking about the show. "Hank and I never watched television," Judy's saying. "Steven, Adam says that he and Jamie were on a television show."
She's smiling, but the men don't look happy about it.
"It was kind of a science education show," Adam says, "It was a combination of scientific method and entertaining explosions. We'd test urban myths, like, can you blow up a house with too many bug bombs, stuff like that. Who really gets to do what they love for a living? It was great, we had such a blast."
"Adam always wanted to bust creationism," Jamie says. "But Discovery wouldn't let us."
"Really," Hank says. Adam looks at him.
"What?" Jamie says. He feels odd, almost like he's angry. He's hot, and his head hurts. "You did."
"So," says Judy, after a silence, "How do you folks know each other?"
"Oh, we met in, what was it, 'ninety four? God, that feels like a long time ago," says Adam. "Jamie got me on on the show, but we worked together before that on a couple of commercials, and on some stuff for fun. When, you know, the apocalypse happened, we had basically everything you could ever need at the workshop, so it made sense to just move in there until we worked out what we were doing. Hey, have you ever been to San Francisco?"
"No - no," says Hank. He looks Adam in the eye. "We don't go there."
Adam blinks. "Okay," he says.
"Why?" says Jamie.
"Hank didn't approve," says Judy.
"Approve of what?"
Suddenly Steven, says quietly from behind Jamie, "And God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth." Judy puts a hand on his arm, and he snatches his arm away. "Why are we harbouring these men under our roof?" he says to Hank, sharp and fast. "They're the reason. You know they are."
"Steven, may I speak with you outside for a minute?" Judy says. He looks at her, then at Adam, then back at Judy. He sits down, and folds his arms.
"Let me show you gentlemen upstairs," Judy says, turning to them. "The house is pretty full, as you can see, but we've got a room for you, if you don't mind sharing."
Steven stands up again, making a sound like he's eaten something bad, and goes out of the room, slamming it behind him. Judy ignores him, and takes them upstairs. They hear the men talking behind them, as they go.
"I don't like this," Jamie says, once the door's shut behind them and they're alone with Leia in the little room. There's a pull-out bed already set out for them, with sheets and blankets.
"Yeah, I noticed," Adam says, and sits down. He bounces up and down, testing the bed. "You want to have really, really loud sex on this?"
Jamie chokes, and coughs, half-laughing, feeling his face go red. "Give me a break."
"Ohh, Jamie," Adam moans quietly, as Jamie tries to keep his laughing quiet. "Give it to me, big boy, oh, yeah -" he breaks off, laughing, when Jamie smacks him on the head.
"You can go sleep in the car," Jamie says. "Sweetheart."
Adam sniggers. But his face is kind of red, too.
Later, Jamie passes Steven as he comes back from using the bucket, in the corridor, and Steven looks him in the face; for a second, Jamie thinks he's going to spit at him. His whole body is still tense and his face is hot when he gets upstairs and climbs into bed with Adam, the metal frame creaking underneath them. After a moment of staring at the ceiling, he turns over and reaches over to Adam. He touches Adam's collarbone, then his hair.
"I was kidding, you know that, right?" Adam says, low.
Jamie reaches down under the blanket, slides his hand down Adam's chest, feeling angry and kind of reckless. He guesses it isn't fair to try to have sex with Adam just because he's mad, but he doesn't care, and he doesn't think Adam'll complain. He gets to his stomach, and Adam tenses up, but doesn't stop him. His breathing's sped up. When Jamie reaches Adam's boxers and slides his hand in, wraps his hand around Adam's dick, Adam makes a whining noise, then grabs Jamie's arm and pulls it up, out from under the sheets. He's breathing hard.
"We can't, man, I'm serious. Let's not push our luck here, okay?"
While he's saying that, though, he's tangled his fingers with Jamie's, and is rubbing his fingers over Jamie's palm. Then he pulls Jamie's hand up and sucks Jamie's thumb into his mouth, rubs his teeth over it, then his tongue. It makes Jamie's whole body tingle, and his arm feel like it's lost all its bones.
Adam drops Jamie's hand onto the bed, leaving Jamie's thumb all wet, then rolls over so his back's to Jamie.
"There, now we're both all worked up with nowhere to go. Happy?"
Adam huffs a laugh. It takes Jamie a while to get to sleep. In the night, he thinks he hears someone outside the door, and he sits up; the bed squeaks, and whatever noise he was hearing has stopped by the time everything's quiet again.
The next morning, Hank asks them whether they'll go with him and Peter to see an airfield that's nearby. He wants to know if they think they can move the field's generator out here, whether they could adapt it for the house. Adam looks at Jamie.
"Sure, we could do that."
"You gentlemen want to leave Leia with me?" Judy says. "If you think she could use a break from driving."
"Uh, well," says Adam. He looks at Jamie.
"No," says Jamie.
"Yeah, I think we'll maybe take her with us, if that's okay," Adam says. "No offence, but she's not really used to strangers."
"Oh sure, sure," Judy says, but she looks kind of sad. She wiggles Leia's hand. "See you later, honey."
It takes a couple hours to get to the airfield; Jamie and Adam take their car and follow the others. When they get there, it seems like Peter and Hank have been arguing; Peter is already walking away when they pull up behind the station wagon.
"Everything okay?" Adam says to Hank.
"As you may have noticed, Steven's a - difficult man," Hank says. "His faith has helped us all through this. But we have some differences of opinion. Peter is his brother, and he finds it hard not to follow Steven on some issues." He waves his hand, and closes the door of the station wagon. "Let me show you this generator. He'll come back, in his own time."
Adam seems like he's going to say something else, but he shuts his mouth, shrugs at Jamie and follows Hank as he walks away.
They work on the generator for most of the afternoon. Adam thinks it's too big, but Jamie thinks they can take off some of the covering to move it. Peter comes back as Jamie's teaching Hank how to use the hydraulic cutter they found in the hangar, and Adam's playing with Leia in the grass. He doesn't say much, but he joins in the work, watching Jamie and Adam the whole time.
When it's time for Leia's nap, Jamie puts Leia in the car, with the walkie talkie, like usual. They're cleaning up and gathering the tools they've collected, ready to take them back out, and Hank's practicing with the forklift that Adam's been showing him how to drive, when the walkie talkie starts to buzz next to them with Leia's crying. Jamie gets up to go to the car, looks over, and sees it pulling out of the lot.
"Oh my god," says Adam. "That son of a bitch. Jamie!"
Jamie starts to run toward Hank's station wagon, and Adam grabs the walkie talkie and starts yelling into it as he runs behind Jamie. Hank leaves the tools and the forklift still idling to run after them.
"I had no idea," he pants. "I swear on my right hand, I had no idea he would do this. Give me the radio. Let me talk to him."
"Give him the fucking keys," says Adam. "I swear to God, you - don't hurt her."
Hank hands the keys to Jamie. As they drive, Hank gives directions to Jamie and talks over the radio to Peter at the same time. Jamie's concentrating too hard to listen.
"You're a better driver," Adam says. "We'll catch up." He's got his hand on Jamie's shoulder, gripping so hard it hurts. After about fifteen minutes, they see the Jeep's bumper flash around a turn ahead of them.
"We can see you now, Peter," Hank says. "Just head back to the house and we'll talk about this. I'm sure these gentlemen will be reasonable. We understand that you're under a lot of strain."
"We should have got the fuck out of here yesterday," Adam says.
The radio dies after about half an hour, and every time they lose the station in view, Adam's hand gets tighter on his shoulder. They pull up outside the house just as Peter disappears into it, carrying Leia. Adam jumps out before they've even stopped moving, and skids on the ground, nearly falling over, before he runs into the house. Jamie unstraps himself as quickly as he can to follow him.
"Be careful," Hank says behind him. "I believe Steven has a weapon in the house."
Inside, Judy's shouting at Peter over the dinner table. Adam's holding Leia gripped tight to his chest. She's screaming the place down.
"They're the Lord's tools, just the same as we are," Steven's saying, over the noise. "The spirit called them here so they could bring her to us, don't you feel it?"
"I respect your beliefs, okay?" Adam says, "But we are not staying here, and we are not leaving her with you. We are leaving right the fuck now."
"You said that you found her by accident," Peter says. "You've got no darn right to her. Do you really think you're the best people to bring her up? Judy deserves -"
"Not like this, Peter!"
"Look, if you think you can just take her from us, you are dead wrong, pal."
Jamie sees Steven look at Peter, then reach behind himself and open a dresser drawer. Jamie's heart is beating so fast he can barely breathe. He puts his hand on Adam's shoulder and Adam looks up, startled.
"Adam," he says, "Settle down." His tongue feels thick around the words. The room goes quiet, except for Leia. "We have to give her to them."
Adam stares at him, starts to say something.
Jamie forces himself to look directly into Adam's eyes. He squeezes Adam's shoulder. "We can't be a family for her."
Everyone in the room is frozen. Adam slowly, slowly sits down. He pats Leia's back. "Okay, man," he says. "If you think that."
"I'm gonna go get her stuff from the car," Jamie says, looking at Judy, at Steven. "Then we're gonna go."
After a few seconds, Steven nods.
Jamie walks through the house, towards the kitchen. Everything is sharp and in focus; he can hear his own breathing, the sound of the wind in the trees outside, his shoes on the carpet. In the kitchen, moving very quietly, he opens the cabinet under the sink, grabs a bottle of cleaner, then closes the cupboard again, holding it all the way so it doesn't make a noise as he walks out to the car. His hands feel clumsy and disconnected, he needs to think, but he knows he doesn't have time. He tries to think like Adam, to be like Adam, to just do stuff without thinking. He starts to take stuff out of the back of the car, big stuff they can replace, so if anyone looks out of the windows they'll see it. Blankets, her box of books, diapers. He thinks about Adam, hopes that he's smart, that he understands. He hopes Adam stays by the door, that he's holding Leia when Jamie comes back. He hopes Steven doesn't decide to come out to check on him.
He moves round to the other side of the car, so he's between their Jeep and the station wagon and they can't see his hands from the window. He flicks open the glove compartment, grabs his gun and shoves it down the back of his pants. Then he finds a used water bottle under the passenger seat from the mess Adam's left there, unscrews the lid, then flicks open his penknife and cuts a hole at the base, making a funnel. He unscrews the station wagon's hubcap, finding it with his fingers in the dark between the cars and trying to make it look like he's bending over something he's got out of the back seat. He looks up at the living room. He can't see the curtains moving, but someone might be watching him. He tries to move faster, pours the bleach down the funnel into their gas tank. The sound of the liquid rattling against the metal seems way too loud, and he almost whispers, "Shhh," to it, thinking every second that someone's going to come out of the door yelling, or he's going to hear a gunshot. Thinking of something else, suddenly, he pulls his knife out of his pocket, flicks it open and stabs the blade into their front left tire, and feels it go through the inner tube and hit metal. The escaping air hisses around his fingers, and he coughs to cover the noise, yanking the knife out and dropping it on the front seat, not bothering to snap it shut. Then he pulls his gun out of his pants, picks up the stuff from the ground, piling it up over his hands, and steps out from between the cars. Just at that moment, the front door opens.
"You need a hand?" Peter says, looking at the stuff in Jamie's arms.
"No," Jamie says. "I got it."
He walks back to the house behind Peter, trying to adjust his grip on the gun while keeping the box and blankets steady, his head thrumming and a sick, twisty feeling in his gut. Peter opens the living room door for him.
"This stuff's awkward," Jamie says, trying to make his voice sound level, standing back to make Peter go first.
"You want to just put it right in there?" Peter says.
"Sure," Jamie says. Peter walks through in front of him. Adam looks up. He's still sitting by the door. He's holding Leia. For a second all Jamie can do is look at him, see all of him in high focus, every detail of him like something Jamie already knew. Then Jamie drops the books and blankets all at once, flicks back the safety on the gun, and points it at Steven. The only sound is a sharp intake of breath, maybe from Judy. She puts her hand to her mouth.
"Put your hands on your heads," Jamie says, slowly, deliberately. It's a rush, now. The adrenaline is making his muscles all jittery, so that he has to tense his finger on the trigger to stop it shaking. Hank, Peter and Judy raise their hands, and Jamie waves his gun at Peter so he steps back, away from Adam. Steven just looks at him.
"Put your hands on your head," Jamie says again. "Now."
Steven slowly, slowly puts his hands on his head.
Adam gets up silently with Leia, and moves around Jamie, leaving the stuff on the floor. When he's in the doorway, he stops, and Jamie feels his hand on his back.
"Get in the car, Adam," Jamie says shakily. Adam squeezes his shoulder, just for a second.
The whole room hangs in suspension as they all listen to Adam's footsteps, the front door opening, the little sound Leia makes when they get outside, the car engine starting. Jamie's fingers are beginning to go numb, he's holding the gun so tightly.
"Okay," he says. "I'm gonna close the door. You won't know I'm gone until you hear us drive away. You stay in here. If anyone comes out before I'm gone, I'll kill you."
He'd worried it would sound like a lie. But it doesn't. Steven looks like he's about to say something, then closes his mouth.
"I'm so sorry," Judy whispers. "We can work this out."
Jamie slowly, slowly walks backwards, and closes the door between them. He stands in the corridor, and forces himself to count to twenty, listening to the silence in the room, the engine idling.
"Jamie!" Adam yells from outside. Jamie covers one of his ears the best he can, presses the barrel of the gun to the door and fires at a sharp angle upwards, so he won't hit any of them, but they won't know that for a moment. Then he runs. He stumbles through the kitchen, nearly slipping on the tiles, then out to the car through the grass, his ears ringing. Adam hits the accelerator before Jamie's even pulled the passenger door shut behind him, and Jamie puts the safety back on the gun and grabs Leia off Adam's lap as Adam reverses them right out of the front drive in the evening dark, the headlamps flashing white on Steven's face in the doorway for a second before they sweep away, and they're bumping along the short road, back the way they came.
After a few seconds, a hand grabs Jamie's wrist, and Jamie jumps, his heart lurching. Adam's mouth is moving; yelling, Jamie realizes after a second, but he can't hear.
"Are you okay?" he reads on Adam's mouth.
Jamie nods, gestures at his ears. Adam squeezes his wrist, and somehow Jamie's hand slips into his; Adam's hand is warm, and he wraps it around Jamie's cold fingers for a second as they bump along the little road in the dark, the beams lighting up the trees on either side of the road in front of them.
"Slow down," Jamie says, carefully trying to judge the right volume from the way it feels in his throat. "There might be deer." Adam looks up into the rear-view mirror, and his mouth moves. Jamie can't lipread, so he guesses what Adam's asking. "I put bleach in their tank and slashed their tires."
Adam laughs silently as he nods, and eases off the gas. Relief bursts over Jamie, suddenly, almost physical, like a shockwave, so that it takes the breath out of his lungs, jolts him back into his seat. When his hands aren't shaking quite so bad, he puts the gun back into the glove compartment. He holds Leia tight against his shoulder, hoping that she isn't crying, because he can't hear her. For what feels like a long time they drive through the evening, then the night, deaf-quiet soft around Jamie like a blanket, and he maybe almost sleeps, Leia's little hand curled around his top shirt button, Adam occasionally touching his shoulder or his leg, like he's just checking Jamie's still there, or reminding Jamie that he is.
"Hey," Adam says softly. They've stopped. He can just about hear Adam's voice now, but it's raining outside, and he can't hear that, even if he concentrates. The sky is gray, dim, the color of a few hours before dawn. Leia is a soft weight in his lap.
"I have to sleep, or I'm going to kill us," Adam says. His face looks gray too. "There's a cottage over there. I think we should stop, man, you shouldn't drive right now."
Jamie thinks about it.
"That wasn't a question," Adam says. "Come on."
When a dizzy spell hits Jamie the second he gets out of the car, he figures Adam's probably right. All his muscles are almost locked stiff, and it's hard to move, at first. They make a weird little group, gathering their sleeping bags, the propane stove, flashlights, a couple bottles of water and the powdered formula for Leia in the ceaseless, silent rain. Jamie is grateful that he didn't leave all the sterilized bottle caps in the box he left at the house.
The cottage Adam's stopped at is unlocked, and it smells clean inside, like cedar wood. There's a double bed in the first room they open, so they don't bother looking for anything else. Everything is a blur by then; Adam moving slowly by flashlight, like he's underwater, assembling Leia's crib, putting the gun on the bedside table and throwing the sleeping bags on the bed. Jamie doesn't even remember getting into them.
Day 43 - Burney? (unsure of exact location)
Sunday, July 16th
18 degrees, rain
In the morning, he can hear the rain again, and Adam's breathing. Leia's getting chatty over in her crib, but she isn't fussing yet.
"You awake?" Adam says, really quietly.
Adam heaves a deep sigh. Then he says, "Hey, did you shoot someone?"
Adam sighs again. Jamie becomes aware, as he slowly wakes up, that the warm, weirdly-textured bit of sleeping bag pressed against his bare arm is actually the side of Adam's head. Adam's worked his way halfway down the bed again in his sleep.
"God, Jamie, you know, there was a minute there, I mean, I thought I knew what you were doing, but I wasn't sure, and when you came back with Leia's stuff." Adam's voice drifts up. He kind of laughs. "I had no idea that you could lie like that."
"I was on TV for four years," Jamie says.
The bed jiggles under them, and Adam's head presses harder against his arm; it takes a moment for Jamie to realize that Adam's laughing silently, or quietly enough that Jamie still can't hear him.
"My hearing's still a little weird," he says.
"It's mostly better, though, right? What is it meant to be, five hours?"
"Okay," Adam says, and pats his leg, Jamie guesses because it's nearest. "Tell me if it isn't totally better by the end of the day." He laughs again, but not as nicely. "Although, god knows why I'm saying that, I don't know what we'd do if it didn't. God, fucking apocalypse."
They don't take their time getting up, even though they're both moving at about half-speed, because Adam's still worried that those guys will follow them, though Jamie doubts it. They take time to brew some coffee and make up some formula, while Adam spends some time with the maps.
"I'm not sure where exactly we are, I was heading in vaguely this direction - what did you say that road was called, again?"
"We should head north," Jamie says. "They know where we came from."
"Yeah, I figured that. Soon as I figure out which way north is."
"It's that way," says Jamie. "The sun's up, we know which way north is."
"I know where freaking north is, Jamie, I'm trying to work out how to get north on this - oh, just go change Leia, or something, you're driving me crazy."
He's smiling, though. Jamie figures he may as well go pack up the car and see if there's any food in this place they can take for lunch.
"Jamie," Adam says, when Jamie comes back in from the car. His voice sounds strange, and Jamie's immediately wary. Adam's holding a slim blue exercise book out in his hand - Jamie's diary. He's holding it open on one of the earlier entries. The page says:
Thursday, June 8th
17 degrees, fog and rain, wind south-east.
In Search Of, pg. 3
JH: A, B, C, D, K
AS: A, B, C, D, K.
He flicks forward again, holding each page open long enough for Jamie to see what he's seen. It's too late to stop him, so Jamie just watches.
Saturday, June 10th
18 degrees, cloudy, wind south-east.
In Search Of, pg. 19
JH: A, B, C, D, magnesium.
AS: A, B, C, D, magnesium, folic acid, keratin.
Sunday, June 18th
22 degrees, some cloud
In Search Of pg.30
Supply run: tires, gas, Esso on Fourth and Sunrise. Cut bar for gate. Tinned fruit?
JH: A, K, folic acid.
AS: A, B, C, G, magnesium. Limp, left (ankle?).
Monday 19th June
26 degrees, wind east. Clouds.
Supply run: vits, water tablets. Chang Pharmacy, Long Ave.
JH: A, B, C, D, magnesium.
AS: same. Leg okay now.
Thursday July 6th
Dry, 33 degrees, wind south. Clouds.
In Search Of, pg.41
JH: A, B, C
AS: A, B, C, K. Tripped. Minor bruises, cuts.
L: formula, mushed apples
Adam lets the book fall closed finally.
"Have you - have you been putting vitamins in my food?"
"Not always," Jamie says. "Just when you were low on something."
"I genuinely do not know what to say," Adam says, slowly flipping through the pages again. His voice is very quiet, but Jamie can't tell if he's mad. "Why didn't you just tell me? Jesus christ, Jamie."
Jamie shifts, uncomfortable. "It was private."
"Your putting vitamins in my food is private to you?"
"I thought you'd kick up a fuss."
Adam looks up, eyebrows raised. "Why?"
"You don't like vitamins."
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
"You said so."
"When we went to that thing in Florida. For Battlebots."
"For -" Adam scrunches up his face, staring at him, then he laughs, without smiling. "That was nearly ten years ago. I can't believe you even remember that conversation. "
Jamie shrugs again, feeling kind of silly. "You gonna get mad at me?"
"I don't know," Adam says distractedly. He turns right back to the first page of the exercise book. Jamie didn't make an entry for the very first day, when he was on his own. He dug out the book from the back of the shop on the second day, and that's the first entry. It's just the date, and it has one other word in it. It says, Adam.
"Oh," Adam says. He flips through the book again, all the stuff Jamie wrote about him, and looks up, into Jamie's face, and suddenly Jamie feels - stripped open, like Adam can see right into him, into his head and his chest. He tries to look away, it's uncomfortable, but he can't. "Oh, Jamie," Adam says quietly. "Jamie, dude. Come over here."
Adam tugs Jamie into a one-armed hug, then ducks around and kisses him on the lips quickly, soft and scratchy. "I love you too, man." Jamie stands still and lets him, caught off-guard. The stripped-open feeling gets worse, or maybe better, Jamie doesn't know. He feels like he's trying to catch up, and it makes him stiff, weird.
"Don't get all mushy on me, now," he says. He immediately wishes he'd said something else, but Adam just laughs, and squeezes him again.
"Okay, buddy," he says. "No problem."
"Okay," Adam says, when they're finally packed up and in the car. "Okay. Let's just get out of here. North, right? God, I want to get as far away from them as possible. Let's just go to Canada."
"We didn't bring our passports," Jamie says, trying to make a joke.
Adam does laugh, for a second. "Ha. Right. And hey, at least it's legal up there."
Jamie frowns, trying to parse that and not getting anywhere. "What?"
Adam looks blank at him. "Us." He gestures around him, at the car, at Leia. "This being-married thing."
Jamie raises his eyebrows, cold jumping in his throat. "We're married, now?"
"No, no, I mean, to that idiot back there." He looks at Jamie for a second, then sits back and folds his arms. "Look, it was a joke, never mind."
Something that's been niggling at Jamie comes back to him, suddenly.
"Did you think I was serious?" he says. "When I said we couldn't look after her."
Adam hesitates. Jamie looks over at him, but he's facing out the passenger window.
"... No," he says at last. "I mean, I didn't really think you would say that and mean it. But, you've got to admit, it's pretty clear this isn't your ideal apocalypse survival situation. And if that asshole hadn't been all about the evil homos, wouldn't you have thought about it? Judy was a nice lady, she wanted a baby, and you've been pretty clear you don't."
Jamie guesses he can't argue with that; he feels stupid for wanting to.
"What about you?"
Adam snorts. "I'm a fucking mess, man, I shouldn't be raising a kid."
"Don't be stupid," Jamie says quickly, surprised at how angry he is. "Don't ever say something like that. You're not a mess. You look after her fine."
Adam's staring at him.
"That would be a bad place for her. She's not a -" Jamie hesitates, stares out of the windshield at the wide sweep of abandoned, sunny highway and tries to work out what he wants to say. "She's a person. She's not a, a baby machine. And you look after her."
"Hey, stop the car a second," Adam says suddenly. They've already slowed to a crawl, so Jamie just brakes and cuts the engine.
"Just, get out the car."
Jamie does, while Adam hops out of the passenger seat and comes round to him. Then Adam presses him up against the side of the car and kisses him hard. Jamie isn't expecting it, and he's half pushing Adam off before he catches up; he winds up just standing there pressed up against the warm car door, his hands bunched in Adam's shirt, kissing Adam back. After a while, Jamie gets his hand up under Adam's shirt where his skin is hot and sweaty, accidentally tugging the top of Adam's boxers, and Adam makes a kind of squawking noise and snorts when he gets a bit of Jamie's moustache in his mouth. But mostly Adam's not a terrible kisser. He tastes like spearmint gum.
When Leia shrieks and chucks something against the car window, Adam pulls away and lets him go, laughing. Both of them are breathing hard and Adam's grinning.
"Just wanted to be able to say I'd done that."
"To who?" Jamie says. He feels like his brain's been turned to mush. It's actually quite nice.
Adam laughs into Jamie's neck. Jamie digs his fingertips into the muscle under Adam's shoulderblade, and Adam makes a pleased noise. "Myself," he says, then says in a high, girly voice, like Marilyn Monroe, "Dear diary, Jamie Hyneman kissed me today, he's so dreamy -"
Jamie snorts, and swats at Adam's ass, feeling his face heat up.
"Ohhh, Mr. Hyneman," Adam breathes, doubling over into laughter when Jamie shoves him.
"That's enough messing around," Jamie says. "Get back in the car."
"You promised my mom you'd bring me home by eight," Adam says. Leia squeals as he reaches into the car and gooses her. "Yes he did, honey, yes he did! Eight o'clock, that bastard, and now we're in fucking Oregon."
"That's what happens when you get in cars with strange men," Jamie says, feeling happiness strange and thick in his chest.
"I guess so!" Adam says. He opens the door, unbuckles Leia from her seat, takes her out and spins her around up above his head, making airplane noises while she laughs. "And they don't get stranger than you."
"You want me to leave you here? Get in the damn car."
Later, Adam puts on a CD, something he picked up at a gas station somewhere, chart-toppers of the fifties. It's lots of stuff about holding hands and going to the movies, probably so Adam can make fun of him some more. Some of them are songs Jamie remembers his mom playing, from when he was a kid. He finds he's missed them.
The driving feels different, after that day, maybe because Jamie thinks they both feel like they can't go back. It feels like they're going somewhere, instead of just leaving. Adam gets quiet and restless, drumming his hands on the door, looking for maps everywhere they stop, checking the radio all the time. They snake up through Oregon, skirting Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, mostly avoiding the big cities because all the cars on the roads are a pain. Leia seems to have settled into living out of the car, although Adam makes them stop a lot so she can get out and move around, because he thinks it's bad for her muscle development, or something. They stop for a day to rig up a little mobile for her to hang above her seat, made out of wood, wire, tape and some circles of fabric Adam cuts from some skirts he'd grabbed off the rack of a thrift store in Puyallup, just because he'd liked the fabric. They stay in farms, cottages, other people's homes. It doesn't feel weird anymore to Jamie, although he thinks it does to Adam, mostly because of how Adam says so every time. They fuck, a couple of times, rolling around hot and sweaty and panting in the dark, trying not to wake Leia. Both times, it's Adam who starts it. They don't talk about it, afterwards.
They don't talk about much of anything, actually. The longest conversation they have in a whole week is one afternoon at a gas station outside some place called Mt. Vernon. Jamie comes out from going to the bathroom behind a bush to find Adam with a handful of mentos tubes and about fifteen two-litre bottles of coke. He's watching the brown jets fountain up and out, one after the other; Leia laughs every time, but Adam is just watching them. Jamie takes one of the bottles for himself, points it away from him and drops the two little white candies in. He isn't quick enough pulling away, and the sticky liquid foams up through his fingers, leaving a sugary mess on his hands.
"Just look at all this stuff," Adam says, pointing at the pile of empty bottles, and, around them, the snaking bridges of highway, which are already starting to grow weeds in the cracks. "All this stuff, Jamie. What in god's name was the point of it? Why the hell did we spend all that time making so much crap?"
He drops the almost-empty bottle and turns to Jamie, so earnest it's difficult to meet his eyes. "Look, man, I've spent my entire life on the assumption that a divine intelligence was the least logical explanation for the world, and I operated on that assumption. And now, it's like, a divine intelligence is suddenly a lot more likely, and I have no idea what the hell I'm supposed to do with that."
"How do you work that out?" says Jamie, watching the spreading lake of coke on the tarmac creep up to his boots.
"Well, quite apart from the fact that the sudden disappearance of ninety-nine point nine nine percent of the human race is pretty damn inexplicable, I've been thinking about what the freaking Old Testament Brigade were saying about people surviving in twos. You and me, and those four - they all knew each other, were you there when they were talking about that? Those two were married, then Steven and Paul, or whatever the hell his name was, went to their church - and then there was Leia and that poor kid, and us. I just don't know if I can believe in that kind of coincidence, Jamie. I mean, what if this is some kind of Noah's ark situation? I mean, I don't think it is. But what if it is? What the hell are we supposed to do with that?"
Jamie shrugs, irritated. "Twelve people isn't statistically significant."
"It's one hundred percent!"
"Only of the people we've met."
Adam carries on like he hasn't even heard Jamie, sounding almost angry. "And you're totally right, there's totally not enough genetic diversity to keep the species going, unless we somehow get everyone left in the world close enough to each other to reproduce, and assuming the whole of North America and the rest of the world has had the same level of depopulation as Northern California, which is a pretty big assumption. So what then?"
Jamie shrugs. He feels awkward, like he's watching Adam have a conversation with himself. "We just try and survive, like we would anyway."
"You know, I used to joke about the apocalypse, like, ha ha, I'd get my shotgun and ride off into the night and build these awesome steampunk-style machines out of duct tape and scrap metal or whatever to defeat the zombie army. But I'm not fucking building anything, I'm not using math or high explosive, those aren't the skills I'm using, I'm changing diapers and driving and making baby formula at four a.m. on a propane stove and - pickling. And thinking how useful it would be if I could, you know, recognize plants? And know the first thing about what grows in what kind of soil?"
"We can learn that stuff," Jamie says, trying to think of a way to tell Adam what he feels, that it's going to be okay. It doesn't really make much sense that he feels that way, but he does. "We know how to learn stuff."
Adam's quiet for a minute. He grabs another coke bottle and fountains it off. It's almost beautiful, Jamie thinks, the way the foam hangs in the air for a second before it drops and splatters on the ground. There's about twenty liters of coke on the tarmac now, and the air smells like artificial sugar.
"Why do you think we destroyed everything we made?" Adam says.
Jamie puts his hand on his shoulder, because he doesn't know what else to do.
"I think you're gonna make your boots sticky."
Adam laughs, at last, grudgingly, and follows Jamie to the car.
Jamie looks at the map. They're maybe fifty miles from the border. "You want to keep going?"
Adam shrugs and says, "Sure, fine, why not?"
In the car, about half an hour later, Adam says, like they've been talking the whole time and he hasn't been just playing with Leia, "Fifty percent of the time I feel like I'm using her as a distraction, and the other fifty percent I think I'm just torturing myself. Do you think it's always going to be this fucking terrible?"
Jamie stops himself from saying 'What?' and makes himself think about it, to try and make Adam believe him when he says, "No."
When they cross the border around four in the afternoon, Jamie says, "Hey, no lineup!"
Adam snorts, and swats his shoulder when it turns out they have to stop after all because they can't get through the damn barrier, and even the lane for buses is blocked by an empty, abandoned Greyhound. The barrier holds them up for a while, but Jamie has some bolt cutters in the trunk. He'd thought they might need them. Adam laughs as the last of the barrier's hinges parts and the barrier falls onto the road with a clang.
"Man, that was even more satisfying than I thought it'd be," he says.
They drag the barrier out of the way, and drive through. They leave the road clear behind them.
Sunday, July 23rd
Deception Pass, British Columbia (Canada)
23 degrees, sunny, some cloud, wind NE
In Search Of pg.60
They turn off the Five the next day, because Adam wants to have a day off driving, and there's a beach marked on the map at a place called Deception Pass, which Adam thinks is really funny. It's not really a beach, it's mostly rocks and some thick, crunchy sand made of clamshells, but they sit and Adam walks around barefoot. Leia tries to eat sand and cries when they put her feet in the water, but after a few minutes she gets to like it.
"There should be ice cream," Adam says. Jamie's lying back and looking up at the two gulls circling. He guesses they're just eating fish, now. Maybe they should leave some trash for them, it might make them happy.
"There's some chocolate in the car."
"That's not the same," Adam grouses. "Hey, toss that sunscreen over here."
Adam puts more on Leia's face and arms. It's a windy day, and kind of cloudy, but those are the worst days for sunburn.
"Do your own neck too," Jamie says. Adam burns so fast.
"Do it yourself, mom."
The bottle thumps onto his stomach and rolls onto the ground. Jamie sits up, squeezes some onto his hand and scootches over to do Adam's neck and upper arms, until Adam's skin is hot and oily.
"You're a lazy ass," he says. Adam laughs.
"I actually meant you should do yours. Want me to return the favour?" Adam says. He's smiling at Jamie in a way that makes Jamie feel a little hot under the collar. It's annoying.
"I'm not lazy," Jamie says, to cover it, and does his own neck and head. Adam snorts, and looks out to sea.
As Jamie's putting the sunscreen away, Adam says, "Hey. Jamie, look over there." He grabs Jamie's knee and shakes him.
Jamie turns around, sighing, and follows Adam's gaze out to sea. It's a clear day. Out, far out on the water, he can see a single white speck, moving slowly across the horizon. Something thumps in his stomach like fear.
He says carefully, "It might just be adrift."
"I don't think it is, man," says Adam. Jamie doesn't think so either. It's going against the wind. They watch it for a while longer. Then Adam pulls out the map. He's only been using it for a few days, but it's getting soft at the corners and dog-eared, and it's got a big messy spot where Leia drooled on it. Adam beats up maps like he beat up every other piece of equipment he ever used.
"That's Vancouver Island over there, right?" Adam says. "It's about, ah, twenty, thirty miles across the strait, although there's all those little islands in between us, look. God, I wonder where they're from. We have to signal them. Why didn't we bring any fucking flare guns? Do you think we should light a fire or something? Oh my god, I'm an idiot, the radio!"
He comes back in about five minutes with the radio, and gets it going, hooks it up. He hails the boat, kinda, cycling through the frequencies Jamie tells him.
"Uh hey, white boat, white boat, we can see you, you're over the other side of the Strait of Georgia, can you hear us? White boat, come in."
"That's not how you do it," says Jamie.
"Whatever, shut up," says Adam. "White boat, white boat, this is the Mythbusters and baby, come in -"
The radio says, "What? Jesus christ, did you hear that? Oh my fucking god, there's someone talking to us."
Adam grabs Jamie's wrist and squeezes, so tight it's probably going to bruise, and all the hair on Jamie's arms stands on end. Leia squeals.
"Hi!" says Adam. "Hello - can you hear me? This is - this is Adam, can you talk to me?"
"... yeah," the radio says. It's a woman. "Yeah, this is Barbara, on the Little Dipper. We can talk to you, Adam."
Leia starts to cry, and Adam makes shushing noises but she doesn't stop, so Jamie picks her up and takes her for a walk along the beach. He forgets to grab his shoes, so the thick sand crunches between his toes, but he doesn't want to go back for them. He feels kind of pinned between the white boat on the horizon, and the weird visual of Adam sitting on a picnic blanket, talking to a little box with an aerial. Leia sniffles against his shoulder.
"I hope it isn't another bunch of freaks," Jamie tells her. She makes a bunch of baby noises that sound pretty emphatic, and scrunches up her face. "Yeah," he says.
"Victoria, huh," says Jamie, as Adam towels the sand off his feet and tugs on his socks. "Are you sure they're not a cult or something?"
"I think they're mostly hippies over there, aren't they?" Adam says.
Jamie makes a face, and Adam laughs.
"The one I talked to, Barbara, she's an RCMP officer, and there's another woman, Rita? Who used to be a college professor of Caribbean literature, something like that. And then I think they said this other kid worked in a pancake house."
"No, there's one more, but I didn't catch her name either. Barbara said she's from Bolivia, she was on a work visa. She's like twenty or something. God, poor kid, can you imagine? So hey, look, if we get a boat or something, do you think you could get us over there?"
"Maybe," Jamie says.
"I think they're okay, Jamie, I asked some actual questions this time, and Barbara sounds really nice. She said they're trying to learn how to fish, but she's the only one who knows how to sail, so they could really use our help. They seem cool, seriously. We can always leave if it doesn't work out."
Jamie looks at Adam. Adam seems okay, not overexcited. Maybe tired. Jamie's tired, too. It'd be nice to stop for a while. He's never been to Vancouver Island, but he's heard it's pretty.
Jamie rolls away when Adam tries to throw an arm over him that night; Adam just turns over, and goes to sleep.
It takes four days for them to be ready to go; Jamie has to find the weather charts, the maps, they have to find some seasickness medication for Adam. For a while they think about driving back to the ferry port and going from there, which is a shorter distance, but this way they can break up the trip on one of the little islands, and head for Sidney. It means abandoning the Jeep, Jamie realizes on the second day, and that makes him even less willing to do it, but it is getting kind of messy and beat up, what with their stuff and Adam eating junk in it all the time and his and Leia's crap all over the passenger and back seats. He mostly feels okay about leaving it behind, after he's thought about it a while. Adam mostly just walks around and gets in the way while Jamie finds a seaworthy boat that he can manage alone, in case the medicine doesn't work and Adam gets sick and can't help him. There are some weird currents round about, some tricky winds; he doesn't let Adam hurry him, this time.
The night before they plan to leave, Jamie goes out and just sits on the boat for a while, on his own, listening to the water lapping against it and looking up at the stars, feeling peaceful for the first time maybe since the cabin in Coffee Creek, maybe since before that. It's that, more than anything, that makes him feel okay about heading over to Vancouver Island, even though he's not really sure it's safe. It feels nice to get his hands on a boat again.
The drive to Victoria from Sidney Bay is way worse than the two-stage sailing trip over there. There are more cars around here on the roads, for some reason, so it's slow, and Jamie doesn't like driving the new car they found, a Ford. They couldn't find a car with the keys in the ignition, so Adam hotwired it. The loose wires are dangerous and it's hard to get it started each time. Adam's antsy, and Jamie's tired. But they get to the suburb of Victoria Adam's marked down on their map around midday, six days since they first saw the boat. There's someone waving as they round the corner towards where she said she'd meet them. It's been a while since the last group, and Jamie gets a little jolt, seeing a new person.
"God, it's weird, isn't it?" Adam says quietly. "I think about how many people I used to see every day, and now I just don't even know how I did it."
"Yeah," Jamie says. They pull up alongside the other car and get out slowly.
"Hi!" says the woman. "I'm Barbara, we spoke on the radio?"
"Oh, right, hey!" Adam says, smiling suddenly.
She's a nice-looking woman, kind of fat, with short brown hair and a pretty smile. She's got an accent, Jamie guesses it's Canadian. "And this must be Leia? Well, hi there!" She ignores Jamie, and smiles down at Leia in the baby carrier. Leia stares up at her, eyes huge. Barbara doesn't try to touch her, just nods and smiles.
"I guess she isn't too used to people yet, huh?"
"Nope," says Jamie.
"Hi," Barbara says to him, and sticks out her hand. Jamie shakes it. She's got a good, strong grip. "Barbara Wingford."
"Jamie Hyneman," says Jamie. "Nice to meet you."
Their setup's kind of disorganized, but they've done pretty well, considering. They've taken over a shambly wooden house, the four of them all living together; Adam walks around touching walls, smiling. Barbara takes them into a living room with paintings of trees on the walls and a view out over the harbour. The college professor, Rita, is reading a medical textbook when they come in. She's wearing two scarves and fingerless gloves, even though it's warm outside, and she looks kind of harassed when she shakes their hands. Her hair is cut real short, so it's just a black fuzz, and her eyes are just a shade lighter brown than her skin. She looks smart.
"Hey, do you think you could help us get some electricity here?" she says.
"Honey, they just got here," Barbara says.
"Look, we don't have to pretend this is normal," Rita says. "Hi, it's really fucking cold in here, Nilda's trying to single-handedly feed us all, Aaron's freaking out in the shed, and I am trying to learn how to set broken bones because I have spent my life learning skills that turn out to be useless in the apocalypse. Hi guys, nice to meet you." She raises an eyebrow, and looks at Jamie. "Nice beret." Then she looks into Leia's seat. "Nice baby. Barbara said you found her in San Francisco? Is she okay?"
"Yeah, I think so," says Adam, "I'm pretty sure she's not malnourished, but she might be, you know, developmentally delayed or something. I feel like maybe she should be making more noise than she is? But we don't know exactly how old she is. I'd really appreciate a second opinion on it, actually. Or, you know, third or fourth."
She gets up from her desk and sits down with a grunt on the floor beside Leia. "Hi there. What's your name?"
Leia just stares at her.
"Leia," says Jamie.
"Ah, the adopted women's hero," Rita says. "That's cool."
Adam laughs, and gets a weird look on his face. "Oh my god, I didn't think about that. You're totally right."
"So, you guys are thinking you'll stick around, right?" Barbara says. "I really hope so."
Adam hesitates, looks at Jamie, then says, "Okay, look, we had a bad experience before, so there's something I have to make very clear. Me and Jamie are - we come as a pair, okay? And Leia's our kid. Is anyone going to have a problem with that? Because if so, we'll get out of here right now."
Barbara shrugs. "No problem here."
Rita leans forward. She has a nice voice, kind of husky. "Now listen, we agreed to let you come here because a couple of us had seen the show and we thought you seemed okay, and you'd be useful to have around. And if you're fucking, that's fine, it's none of our goddamn business. But if you ever - ever - give any bullshit to any of us about having babies or propagating the fucking species, or try to get sexy with Nilda or any of us three - or Aaron, actually - against our will, I'll kill you myself. And if you come to live here, I reserve the right to protect that baby from you too, if it comes to that. You got that clear?"
"Me too," says Barbara. "And I actually know how to use a gun."
Jamie thinks about that. He feels Adam watching him.
"Suits me," says Jamie.
Adam slaps Jamie on the shoulder. "You want to stay for a while, buddy? See how we all get on?"
"Okay," says Jamie.
They talk, into the night, over stew made of fresh fish, canned mushroom soup and rice. They're mostly excited that Jamie knows how to sail. He's never worked on a fishing vessel, but he's sure he could figure it out, given some time. Nilda and Aaron come back, although Aaron falls asleep on the couch the second he sits down. He's young, maybe in his late twenties, with long, curly hair. He's very tall and skinny, and looks like a hippie. Nilda's tiny, only about five feet tall or something, with very tidy hair and clothes. She looks serious. She looks Jamie straight in the eye. "Hello," she says. When she sees Leia, her whole face changes. She talks to Leia in Spanish for a while, and when Leia gets fussy, later, Nilda picks her up and walks her up and down until she stops.
"She is beautiful," she says to Adam.
They sleep on the sofa bed, which is just about big enough for two grown men, although it creaks when they lie on it, or move. It's like the other place, a little, except that Jamie doesn't feel angry, just tired, and he doesn't try to touch Adam. Moonlight comes in through the back window, lighting up a white square on the living room floor. It's weird, to be in someone else's house that's actually someone else's house; to know that people are upstairs, alive and moving around. That Jamie isn't the only one watching out for Adam, or Leia. Adam keeps moving around and waking him up, and at 4am when Leia starts grousing for food, Jamie just gets up and settles into the armchair with her. He naps there until morning, and wakes up with a crick in his neck.
Day 56 (Victoria, BC, Canada)
Saturday, July 23rd
27 degrees, clear, some cloud, wind SE
In Search Of, pg. 83
He wakes up when Adam stretches and yawns, making the bed squeak, then sits up and looks over at him.
"Oh, hey, what are you doing all the way over there?"
"Sitting," says Jamie, feeling weird, suddenly, like he's trapped in a small space. "She was fussing."
Adam lies back down, and sighs.
"I feel like this might be a good place to bring up a kid," he says.
The claustrophobic feeling gets worse, Leia's arm is sweaty and kind of sticky against his, and he's tired of Adam talking. He wants to be by himself, and it suddenly occurs to him that he's not going to get much time to himself ever again, or at least not until Leia's big enough to look after herself, and maybe not even then. Maybe that's what Adam meant, when he was talking about them being married. He guesses there isn't much point in him grousing about it now, though. It isn't as if any of them wanted any of this to happen.
"I'll go find some breakfast," Adam says, rolling out of bed and mussing up his hair even more than it already is. "You okay there? You want to get some more sleep? I can take her."
"No," Jamie says. "I'm okay."
"I hope, yesterday, that wasn't - presumptuous. I should have asked you before I told Rita and Barbara we were, you know," Adam says carefully to him, over some kind of flat bread that Nilda's made out of whatever flour they have here. They're eating in the garden, while Nilda feeds Leia inside. Leia freaks out around the others, even Rita, but she seems to think Nilda's okay, and Nilda had asked if she could hold her for a while. It's weird not having her right by them; Jamie keeps wondering why she's so quiet and looking around for her, forgetting. "But I figured we'd circumvent any bullshit that way. But, look, man, I can tell them you're not gay, if that's what's bothering you."
Jamie looks at him, feeling like he's missed something. "Nothing's bothering me," he says.
"Don't pull that shit on me, man, we've been living in each other's pockets for two months, you think I don't know when you're freaking out about something?"
"I'm not freaking out."
Adam's face goes flat, and he laughs shortly. "Fine, whatever," he says. He gets up and goes inside. Jamie thinks about going after him, but he's too pissed off and confused to try. If Adam's going to be stupid, it's his problem.
There's a house over the road from the place Rita, Nilda, Barbara and Aaron are sharing. It's an old house, with white slattered planks for walls and a tiled roof, narrow hallways and a room upstairs with a skylight. You can see the ocean from the windows, and there's a pear tree in the garden. It kind of reminds Jamie a little of the Caribbean, except for the cold. They move their stuff in there; they strip the sheets from the beds, and find some clean ones in the closet. Jamie takes the smaller bedroom down the hall, because he likes the view. He dumps all his stuff in there, then goes out into the corridor to find Adam standing there.
"You're going in there?"
"Did you want that one?"
Adam rubs his hair and sighs. "No, whatever, it's fine. You sure you don't want the big one? I guess I'm sleeping with the baby then."
Jamie feels a little bad, belatedly. He didn't think about that. "We can take turns. I'll sleep with my door open. Do you mind?"
"Doesn't sound like I've got much of a fucking option," Adam says, but he's gone before Jamie can argue with him.
It's nice and quiet, in his room, with the blue walls and the view. He closes the door, and goes in and sits on the bed. He just wants to think. After a moment, he gets up and opens the door again.
They find some buckets, and dig a toilet out back with a shovel Adam finds in an unlocked shed two doors down. Jamie starts to wish they'd brought more of their tools from California, or that they'd not come so far away. They have to find warmer clothes for Leia, more blankets, because it's cooler at night, and it takes them all morning to find a baby clothes store. Looking for a fuel generator they could move and rig up is slow going, too, because they don't know the area at all, and they argue for the better part of a day about it before they just let it go to deal with later.
The reason they chose this house over the one next door, which was bigger, is that that one had an aquarium in the living room, which is stinking the place out, now, with dead fish and mouldy weeds. Eventually they go back there, because Adam has the idea of cleaning it and using it as a rain collection tank. Cleaning it's a disgusting job, but it is a good tank. They have to scrub it down with bleach three or four times before Jamie'll consider keeping water in it even to wash in. He wishes they still had their homemade shower.
Starting again kind of makes him, both of them, realize how much work they'll have to do to stay alive.
Jamie sleeps with his door open. Leia's actually mostly sleeping through the night, lately, but he still wakes up every night, because of Adam moving around. Sounds like his nightmares have started up again, but Jamie feels weird about asking; he figures Adam probably doesn't want to talk about it, and he doesn't know what to say anyway. Some mornings he comes downstairs early to do his exercises and Adam's already up and looks like crap. He doesn't know if he should ask Adam if he wants to come sleep with him again, or how he could ask that.
Adam talks to the others a lot. Evenings are Jamie's time to take Leia, so sometimes he comes in and they're arguing about the meaning of life or soybeans or something. One time he hears yelling, and he hesitates outside the door, but it's six o'clock. Nilda's saying, "I don't know how you can say that!" She's crying.
"Jamie!" Rita says, turning on him. Jamie freezes. "Do you think the human race has earned the right to survival?"
"Uh," says Jamie.
"Jamie used to think we should all be living off what we caught ourselves and surviving in the mountains even before we were," Adam says. He's lying back in an armchair. Leia's sitting in the middle of the floor, playing with some blocks Nilda found for her. Nilda's sitting down there too, but she's wiping her face on her sleeve and not looking at Leia right now. "You know, back when this first happened? He told me he thought aliens had depopulated the planet because we were fucking up the environment."
Jamie blinks. He feels like Adam's told everyone a secret about him. But he guesses he didn't tell Adam that in confidence, exactly. He just thought there was no-one else to tell.
"And you think that's so crazy?" says Rita.
Adam looks over at Jamie. "Are you going to take her or what?"
Adam was up twice in the night. He's got big bags under his eyes.
"I didn't want this to happen," Jamie says slowly.
Nilda stands up, and tugs her hair back over her shoulders. "But it has happened, and we must live," she snaps at Rita. She walks out, and slams the door behind her.
"God save us from fucking teenagers," Aaron says, from the corner.
"That girl has more iron in her little finger -" Rita starts to say, when Nilda opens the door again, walks across the room, grabs a book from the table, and walks out again. She doesn't look at any of them. Jamie feels tense, and kind of mad, although he's not sure why. He goes and scoops Leia up from the floor.
Jamie hears Adam come in, later. He thinks about going out and talking to him. His chest kind of hurts, when he thinks about it. He doesn't go out.
Day 70 - Victoria, B.C.
Saturday, August 6th
28 degrees, wind NE, some cloud, some rain
As they start to settle down and it seems like they aren't going to move on anytime soon, they start helping out Barbara and the others more. Adam helps Nilda dig over their garden, and Jamie helps Aaron go around the gardens in the neighbourhood to find strawberries, pears, stuff they can eat, and they only meet once or twice to hand off Leia and her stuff. Two weeks in, Adam and Barbara decide to drive up further north to a place Barbara knows from before, a wind farm. They want to check out what's there, see if it's the kind of place they could move to, or if they could move any of the equipment, or replicate it down here. Adam knocks on Jamie's door in the early morning, before they leave. He looks tired.
"You sure you'll both be okay?"
"Yeah," Jamie says. He thinks about touching Adam. "Be careful, okay? Take the gun."
"I've got it."
Adam looks out of Jamie's window for a moment. He looks like he's about to say something.
"I'll see you in a couple of days," he says, and leaves.
Later that day, Jamie catches himself waiting for Adam to fill a silence. He can't concentrate, after that; he keeps looking for Adam, worrying about him. When they eat lunch, he wants to know what Adam's eating, so he can make a note of it.
It's worse on the second day. He messes up some work in the garden, he's so out of whack, and cuts his finger on a kitchen knife when he's washing up. After that, he's so shaky he has to sit down. Leia's fussy; she cries so much in the night that Jamie winds up going and lying with her in Adam's bed, in the bigger room. Adam's left the window open; it's cooler than Jamie likes, but he leaves it. The bed smells like Adam.
After lunch the next day, Jamie hears the car from the grocery store where he's left Leia with Nilda so he can go pick up cans for tomorrow. He tries to make himself finish what he's doing, so he can pick Leia up on time, but he can't. He leaves the cans half stacked on the wagon, and jogs back home. He's sweating by the time he sees the car outside Rita's place. He goes straight in through to the garden, but there's nobody there; he feels a thump of panic, then he hears Adam calling him. He's coming out of the neighboring garden through the gap in the fence they've knocked down, wiping his hands.
"Hey," he says, walking fast towards him and dropping the rag on the ground, and for a moment Jamie thinks there's something wrong, before he's got an armful of Adam, practically crushing him into a hug. Jamie wraps his arms around him, and shuts his eyes, and he can breathe again.
"Okay. Okay," Adam mutters into his ear. "Thank god for that."
Adam smells like the sweat and the garden. He's warm. Jamie rubs his thumb down Adam's spine, and Adam sighs.
"I've got to get back to work," Jamie says, feeling hopeless, and kind of dizzy.
"Yeah, me too," Adam says. "In a minute."
Jamie kisses him on the mouth. When Adam breaks away, he's laughing.
"You miss me, Hyneman?"
Jamie rubs Adam's back again, just to feel him there. He doesn't much feel like laughing. "Yeah," he says. Adam hugs him again.
"We're gonna talk tonight, okay?" he says quietly.
Jamie's on the couch in the living room, reading his book, when Adam taps softly on the door. He's wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants, and his hair's wet and curling up at the sides. Jamie suddenly notices the sound of the rain. It's been cloudy all day; he guesses it broke while he was putting Leia to bed.
"Hey," Adam says. "You busy?"
It takes Jamie a moment to shift from French to English. He puts his book down. The dictionary's unopened on the table; he doesn't need it quite so much, now. He's beginning to think, more and more, that maybe Adam's right, that it's stupid to learn a language you're not gonna speak. He feels sometimes like he can't even speak English.
"No," he says.
Adam comes in, and perches on the side of the couch.
"Can we talk now?"
Jamie starts to say something, maybe a joke, or maybe just no, then he stops himself. His throat feels kind of stopped up. He guesses he's nervous. "Okay," he says.
Adam doesn't sit right next to Jamie, but the cushions of the couch sag in the middle, and he winds up pressed against Jamie anyway. The second they touch, Adam sighs and leans against him, so Jamie puts his arm around Adam's shoulder, just to be comfortable. He's all damp. Adam sits next to him quietly for a little while. Adam never used to be able to do that, but he's getting better at it; Jamie almost misses how much he used to move around. It was always easy to tell what he was thinking.
"I keep thinking Kari would have really liked it here," Adam says at last, with a little laugh. "I was thinking last night, do you realize it's been less than three months since we were just in San Francisco, doing the show, going about our business? It feels like a hundred years."
It's hard to think about Kari. Jamie almost can't remember what she looks like for a moment, but then he can imagine her here, carrying Leia around, showing her the boats. Thinking about it makes his throat hurt, so he stops.
"You know what I used to call you?" Adam says quietly.
"Sure," Jamie says, surprised.
Adam looks at him. "What?"
Jamie thinks back. "Annoying. Obnoxious. A big jerk. Uh, a safety nazi. A piece of shit concrete inspector who had no business talking about art."
Adam laughs, and puts his face in his hands. "Oh, jeez, Jamie."
Jamie shrugs. "It's okay. I called you a baby. And stupid."
"Yeah, but that was true. Although, it was also true that you were a big jerk sometimes. But I shouldn't have said that other stuff, that was - wrong, and, okay, let me start again, here. You know what I used to call you to other people? When I wasn't mad at you?"
"I guess not."
Adam sighs again. He takes Jamie's hand in his and turns it upward, then rubs his thumb against Jamie's palm, like he's using it to think. It feels nice, but it's kind of distracting.
"I said you were my desert island guy. Like, back when I was with Sarah, it would have been her, but after that, you were the one."
"Because we'd build something to get off the island?"
Adam smiles. "Well, yeah. And, you'd probably train monkeys to find food for us or something, and know how to build a wilderness shelter. And you'd look out for me, stop me going insane or poisoning myself, set my leg if I broke it and give me stuff to do when I got bored. And, the weird thing is, that's exactly what you did. That's why, do you remember, in that parking lot when I was having a fucking mental breakdown, do you remember I was saying I don't know if I can believe it's a coincidence. I don't know what the hell to do with that, but it is what it is. I didn't - this isn't just because you're the last man on Earth, or something."
Jamie opens his mouth to say something, although he isn't sure exactly what, but Adam holds up a hand. "I know - I know you're not the last man on Earth. Look, will you just let me finish, because otherwise I'm going to get this wrong. I didn't think I needed to say this, but maybe I do, because I don't know what the hell kind of stick you've got shoved up your ass, but maybe I should make this clear. I know we didn't always get along before and I was a jerk to you a lot of the time and you were a jerk to me too. And if I could have chosen to keep my family over you, I think it's fair to say I would have. But I don't think I can do this without you now. I mean, I literally do not think I can do this without you. I know I am possibly the worst person of all time to be in a relationship with, and I know when this all started you said you thought we'd drive each other crazy, and this is probably not where you saw yourself being ever. So if you are not on board for this, please tell me now. Because I can't take any more of this shit where you sleep down the hall and seem like you're mad at me and I don't know what you're thinking all the time."
Adam looks at him, waiting for an answer.
"Uh, what was the question?"
Adam laughs again, and rubs his forehead. "Oh my god. Look, okay. I love you, Jamie, okay?"
He says it kind of slowly, every word separate, as if he's worried Jamie won't hear him, or something. Jamie just sits for a second, then something expands in his chest, like gratitude, like he can suddenly take in more air.
Adam blinks. "Okay what?"
Adam lets out a breath. He rubs his hand through his hair.
"Can you stop being such a jackass and move in with me?"
"I'm moved in with you."
Adam starts to smile.
"Can you sleep with me? Like, at least some of the time? We don't have to be one hundred percent attached at the hip all the time, I know you don't like that. And can you unpack your stuff, and act like you're staying? Because - do you want to stay here? I'm assuming you do. I do. But, I mean, we can talk about it, if you don't want to stay. That's what I'm saying, man, we can talk about this stuff, I want to do this together."
"I want to stay."
Adam smiles some more, then reaches around and tugs at Jamie until they're sort of hugging. Then he kisses Jamie on the chin, then on the lips. Adam's mouth is warm and soft, and a little scratchy with his beard. They're still not that good at making out, even though they've done it before, with their teeth clicking and Adam muttering, "Ow," when Jamie tries to move his arm out from behind Adam, and Adam nearly falling off the couch and elbowing Jamie in the stomach when he sits on one of Leia's toys. Adam starts to laugh, and he laughs some more when Jamie cuffs him on the head.
"God, we suck at this," he says, wiping his eyes. "Could we have picked a house with a smaller couch?"
Jamie's warm, and flustered, and very conscious of Adam's warm thigh pressed hard against his leg.
"We'll work it out," he says.
Adam smiles at him. "We do work things out, Jamie," he says. "If there's one thing you and I do."
"How about you work out how to stop elbowing me," Jamie says, and tugs Adam against him as Adam snorts.
A little later, Adam mumbles into Jamie's open collar, "Hey, you love me, right?"
Jamie waits for a second, to see if he feels sick, or guilty, or just weird, because he guesses it's an important question, if they're going to do this. But it's actually pretty easy.
"Yeah, sure, I guess," he says, and squeezes Adam in his arms until Adam starts to laugh and say ow.
Friday, 14th Oct, Year 2
Rainy, cloudy, 10 degrees, no wind.
JH: A, B, D, K
AS: A, B, folic acid, calcium supplement, iron* (cut head, scraped knee,
idiot) I was tiling the f*ing roof, Jamie
LS: Under-5s Vitamin Supplement (this tastes AWESOME have you tried it?) -No. Don't eat that.
NR: B, folic acid
RP: iron, F (cough improved)
BW: A, B, D, K
AF: iron, D Jamie it's his birthday
soon next week can we fix up his bike? it's a piece of crap
*and Under-5s Vitamin Supplement. Adam, how many have you eaten? Stop writing in my book.
The seven of them start a radio show, broadcasting in Spanish and English (and sometimes French and Hebrew), which they manage to boost down the west coast. They start to hear from people, scattered around; Keysha and Paul in Denver, Elizabeth and Randy in Seattle, Ricardo and David in some small town near Oakland. A guy called Howard comes out from Edmonton to join them. He'd been working his way west, and had heard them broadcasting. He brings his dog.
On the show, Adam says stuff like, of course, Jamie is an expert in this from surviving the last ice age. They tell people about how to hunt so as not to destabilize recovering local animal populations, and about how to hotwire cars and get generators going, how to find the right antibiotics in a pharmacy, how to secure food from rats, how to sew blankets together to make insulation and cook apples on an open fire, how to grow peaches. They don't pass on any advice people radio in with until they've tried it themselves. And at the end of every show, Nilda, or Leia, or Jamie, because Nilda's teaching them both, says, Los invitamos a intentar esto en casa. And Adam says, Please - try this at home.