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Black Cotton



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Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:54 pm
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DivinePrincess says...



sur·viv·al
sərˈvīvəl
noun
the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.


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BACKGROUND:

Spoiler! :
In 2064, scientists continued to work on vaccines that potentially could prevent cancer or cancerous tumors. They continued to work, only to form a dangerous and almost deathly drug that could kill bacteria within an instant. They kept the drug in a large vault, where they invested in money to continue the research on this drug and its effects on plants, animals, and humans.

Furthermore, within the next year, they started testing. They began the testing with plants, only to find out the plants stopped photosynthesis and died within about two weeks. The scientists then tested animals. This effect was different. The animals almost become rabid, trying to kill anything in their path. Many animals had to be put down or killed to contain them. Eventually, under illegal circumstances, they tested the drug on a man. The man eventually contracted a huge virus that started out at the flu, and soon led to the rotting of the skin, rabid behavior, and eventually death.
Little did they know, the virus became lethal and almost immediately contagious.

Nobody found out about the man, or the drug. The myth is that they hid the body underground. As time passed, the scientists started feeling the symptoms of the virus and ended up killing themselves before they could feel the worst of it all. It was too late though, the virus was already spreading around the world and therefore, the population began to drop drastically until there was barely anybody left.

Bamboo is the only one known cure for this virus and is only found in discrete areas of the world. It's a plant that only grows in certain countries like Asia, where the virus is not located. This eases the pain of the virus and can indefinitely, after time, cure a person back to health.

There is no known name for the virus. The people that are left call the virus “Black Cotton”, because one of the first symptoms is cottonmouth.

The symptoms of “Black Cotton” are hard to distinguish, but once discovered become deadly:

- Dry mouth or "cottonmouth"
- Rotten odor
- Headaches/ nausea
- Desire to kill
- Major drop of body temperature
- Sensitivity to light
- Dilated Pupils
- Rotting flesh
- Paranoia



It's 2068. You and a group of friends are the last people left, or so you think. Ever since everything went downhill, it seems as though humanity is completely lost. The town you stay in resides near a long forest and mountain range. Plants are slowly dying and the food sources are decreasing as time goes on. Corpses lay on the sidewalk, as cars stay parked on the sidewalks-- deserted for weeks on end.

Who can you trust?

You stay in an abandoned apartment building downtown. You sanitize everyday, deeply. The virus continues to spread. Your family has died off one by one, so you and your group of close friends made a pact to always stay clean and careful even though the world around you is infected.

Will you go insane, or will your friends become your new sense of sanity? Let's test your characters patience.

Please check into the discussion topic if you are interested in joining, or just simply submit a character profile! I'd like to have an even amount of boys and girls.

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Last edited by DivinePrincess on Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  





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Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:57 pm
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DivinePrincess says...



Rebekah "RJ"


Two weeks ago the news was still running. I would flip the channel in our tiny apartment every morning, and then one day it just stopped. I’m guessing there was no one left to film it, or maybe they just gave up because nobody was watching it. Overall though, I know that we’re the last ones left in this city.

My eyes land on the radio to the left of my air mattress, and I sigh when I hear nothing. There’s a channel all the way in LA that has music, but I can barely hear it and it just sounds like fuzzy music and old people singing. I turn it off quickly as possible as Adriana enters the room, looking as angry as she always does.

“Good morning sunshine,” I smirk as she glares at me.

“Don’t even start with the jokes this morning, I’m not in the mood, RJ.”

I throw my hands back and look around as if a police officer just told me my Miranda Rights, “Okay, okay. My bad.”

My birthday is coming up. Two days away and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do for it. I mean, what could I possibly do? We barely leave the apartment and when we do we don’t go far in fear of getting the disease. The most we ever do here is play cards—and even then touching the same thing over and over again is sketchy.

I move out into the living room and make eye contact with everyone else, “Good morning,” I make my way to the kitchen; Bo already making some toast in the toaster.
He nudges me with his elbow playfully, “Any news? They said the storm is coming by Thursday. Should we move out or stay in?”

I glance at him and steal one of his pieces of toast, “No. The news was gone about two weeks ago. The outlets stopped working yesterday so I couldn’t charge my phone. The only way to tell is to watch the sky ourselves.”

Bo stops buttering his toast and looks at me, “Watch the sky?”

“What else are we supposed to do?” I look back at him, “Unless you have a better idea.”

We look at each other for a few more seconds before he shrugs, “Yeah. We’ll watch the sky.”

I nudge him like he nudged me and flash a quick smile before heading back into the living room, where everyone else sits, playing cards. I sit down next to Aaron and watch them play while eating my toast.

They call me the pretty girl of the group. The one who always makes people laugh and can never make a serious face. The mom of the group, the sister of the group.

Especially with Adriana mad all the time or always trying to fight someone whenever she gets pissed off, it comes in handy for me to be here. I’m the only one she really gets along with.

Bo and I get along very well. We make sure everything runs smoothly while everyone else feels comfortable. I don’t have an enemy, in this time of crisis having problems with people could just start even more problems and we need each other right now.

I glance out the window at the deserted streets and bite into my toast, wondering why we were the only ones who were smart enough to get together and survive.
  





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Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:02 pm
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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...



Aaron Marshall


Jumping up from his section of the floor his heart racing and breath labored. He could still feel the heat from the fire of his nightmare. Getting up from the small pile of mats and blankets he paused a moment as he saw his reflection in the mirror across the living room. Scarring over his left side was a terrible eye sore. But certainly not the worst thing that he has seen recently.

Pulling on a t-shirt he sighed as he looked out the window. The sun hadn't come up yet. It was normal. He was usually up before everyone else, followed closely by Adrianna. Even with them being flat mates, the former military woman and the scarred programmer, they hardly spoke to one another.

Aaron had his usual ration of oatmeal with nothing in it so that others would have the opportunity to have something sweet with their breakfast. With the nearest grocery store more than ten blocks away, any luxuries were few and far between.

Staring out the window the one thing he really wanted to do was just open it and let the air in. Just for a little while. But it was a rule for all of them. As little contact with the outside as possible. As little risk to ourselves and the group as we can manage.

The days just drone on it seemed. RJ, as she liked to be called, still listened to the broadcasts for information. Aaron knew that it was useless. Any help wouldn't be extended to those that were out of range, and not to a bunch of regular civilians. But it kept her busy. It was the only thing that anyone could hope for in these times.

Aaron wasn't sure who brought up the idea to play cards for cleaning duties today. But it seemed like a fine way to pass the time. Of course, Aaron was hard to read with the scarring on his face, he already had a good lead on the others at the table. With Bo in the kitchen and Adrianna taking watch that just left himself and the two medics of the group.

There was the more robust surgeon, Dan, and then there was the nervous Lily. The fact that the little group had two individuals with a good amount of medical training made them very well off. Between the two of them they were able to ensure that everyone remained healthy...for the most part. The minimal exposure quarantine had been their idea and they gave us general guidelines to follow with cleaning up.

"I got three of a kind," Lily said, to the exasperation of Dan who just got latrine cleaning for today.

"Not bad there, flower," Aaron smirked as RJ came and sat near him. "But...I'm afraid you will be doing dishes tonight. Full house, Eights over threes."

"Damn it!" Lily huffed throwing her cards at Aaron playfully. "I hate playing cards with you."

Aaron chuckled as he collected the cards together to deal out the next hand.

"Uhh...guys. We have a problem," Bo said from the kitchen. Everyone turned to the well built man standing at the sink. He slowly opened the cold valve to the fullest...and nothing happened. Then he opened the hot and got the same thing. "Looks like the water pumps finally gave out."

Aaron stood and hurried to the bathroom opening up the bath faucet to the same result. "Bo's right. Water's out," Aaron confirmed as people looked to one another with worry.

"We won't survive long without clean water to drink," Lily said. It was something we all knew but it needed to be voiced.

"I'm going to the roof," Aaron said as he grabbed a large sheet to take with him.

"What are you gonna do on the roof?" Dan asked.

"I'm gonna get us water. Adrianna, I need as much charcoal as you can find. No ashes, I need the burnt wood itself. Briquettes will do if necessary. I've seen a lot of barbecues on the balconies so there should be a good supply of them. Take Bo with you and get them to the roof.

Dan, I need you to take a knife and get the entire length of the fire hose from the hallway on this level and the lower level. Lily and RJ you come with me."

Everyone nodded and headed out. This was how it was. Someone had a plan and the rest of us trusted that they knew what they were doing. No leaders. Just the one that knew what to do would just...step up.

At the roof, Aaron got the first breath of outside air that day. It was filled with that faint smoke. He wondered if the fires were still going in the streets. But they didn't have time for this. He headed to the object of his idea. The water tower. Thankfully there was a spout on it that they would just need to rig up to fit the hose that Dan was bringing.

Nearby it was the next piece that he needed. The plastic drums that had been used to bring up the pea gravel for the roof. The three of them got them rolled over to the side of the building where their windows were at. Didn't take long for Dan to come back with the hoses followed by Bo and Adrianna with the charcoal.

"Getting ready for an old fashion barbecue?" Bo asked with a smirk.

"I'm making a water filter," Aaron said as he took one tub and began cutting a hole to attach the hose. "Plan is to rig these barrels to filter the water and hold it until we open the nozzle of the fire hose and have it let out exactly how much we want. We will have to fill the top barrel with the water on a regular basis but...it should get rid of any contaminates."

"Where the hell did you learn this?" Adrianna asked.

"Bear Grylls," Aaron admitted. "This will take a little bit to get rigged up if everyone wants to head back down. I'll stay up here and get this dealt with as fast as I can."

Aaron got to work with a hand saw as the sun was beating down on the roof top. Focused on his work he didn't realize that Bo had remained behind with him.

"Dang," Bo laughed, taking a seat beside him. "It's been a while since I've thought about Bear Grylls. Did you like his show? Or was it shows. Man vs. Wild was one, right?"

Aaron jumped when he heard Bo's booming voice behind him. Letting his heart settle down he chuckled. "Yeah man vs. wild was one. Only one I really watched. Mainly read the books. Lots of survival stuff in there. Of course, those were all about surviving out in the wilderness. Nothing like this." He motioned to the practically dead city. Normally there would be car horns and sirens going on. Instead there was silence. A dead, deafening silence.

"Wait, there were books?" Bo asked, surprised. "I didn't even know that. If I did I probably would've devoured them as soon as I found them. I couldn't stop reading as a kid. It was like an addiction, really. But it was better that than any of the other things that were offered to me."

"Can't imagine a muscle head like you being a book worm," Aaron chuckled as he got the sheet stretched through the first barrel and began crushing the briquettes into smaller chunks.

Bo laughed. "I think everyone else in my life was surprised too. Though, to be fair, I was a real scrawny kid, so maybe then I fit the profile. I didn't start putting on muscle 'til my teens."

"Some of us are blessed that way I guess," he said beginning to fill up the layers of the filter for use. Setting the other barrel to catch the water and making a spout for the hose to use. "Personally, I didn't really excel in anything. Got into coding after high school."

"Oh, coding? What kind of stuff did you like to code?"

Aaron paused a moment before getting the seal seated properly. "I was working on a program that would detect electrical fires before it becomes too late to escape the house. I was gonna try to make them mandatory in all future housing developments."

"Wow, that's really awesome. Here I was with my mind going straight to like, video games. But something like that, that really means something."

Aaron lowered the hose down over the side of the building near their windows before he stood up. "Doesn't mean jack now," he said heading to the tower with the other hose. "World's gone to hell. Not much a programmer can do if they don't have any other skills to them."

Bo nodded slowly, giving a mouth shrug of understanding. "I mean, I guess all I meant by that was that it's noble of you, in a sense. You wanted to make something so that what happened to you wouldn't happen to other people. And that says something about your character that still matters even though the world's the way it is now. All bleak and all."

Aaron shrugs as he got the fitting climbing up to the bucket he opened the value of the fire house and the water came rushing out. "Some people run from their demons...others find ways of keeping the demons at bay," he said as he watched the water from the first barrel start filling up and trickle out of the spout to the second barrel.

Bo stood up, watching beside Aaron as the water began to flow. "And then there are the people who face them head on, and usually get pretty scratched up in the process." He pointed to the scar on his face with a small grin. "Like me."

"What get that from a Chihuahua?" Aaron smirked.

Bo laughed. "I wish. But no. Motorcycle accident. Was fleeing some not-so-nice people who had more beef with my father than they did with me, but you know how it gets with gangs and stuff. Everything's more personal than anyone wants to admit."

"Actually I don't know about that stuff," Aaron said shutting off the hose to the filter barrel. "Alright. Let's head back. Pray that this works." Heading down the stairs to the apartment he opened the window and looped the hose inside and got out a bowl.

"How do you know it will be clean?" Lily asked.

"You can taste it generally," Aaron said, as if he really knew. Opening the valve he let the water splash into the bowl. "At least the hose system works." Taking a drink of the water he gave a nod. "Tastes clean to me." He offered the bowl to anyone else that wanted to try.

"I'll try it, I guess," Bo said, taking the bowl and sipping it. After a second of pondering, he shrugged. "Hm. It tastes fine to me."

"Water will have to be rationed like the food now. And we're gonna need an alternative for bathing," Dan stated.

"We'll just have to share baths," Aaron remarked. "Poker for who goes first tomorrow."
  





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Fri Apr 20, 2018 2:03 am
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soundofmind says...



Andrei (Bo) Petrov


Bo tried not to think to long upon the practical longevity of their stay in the apartments, but when the water went out he was hit with the very real reminder that they truly were on their own. He was glad that others in their small group had skills and knowledge that he didn't to collectively pool so they could make do, but at the same time, he wasn't sure when that wouldn't be enough. Water was their biggest necessity next to food, hygiene products, and disinfectant. How long would rain water last them? What would happen if they needed to move for some reason?

Bo stopped his thoughts abruptly at the chance of them having to change their home base. That was too many hypotheticals and not enough of what he really needed to worry about. With a shake of his head, he got up from the couch in the living room and entered the kitchen, where RJ stood with the cabinets open, writing down a list on a pad.

"We're running low again, aren't we?" He asked.

RJ looked up at Bo and then glanced back at the pad, "Yeah... I expected this to happen, we've been eating the same food for three weeks."

Bo walked up, looking down at the list. "It's too bad we can't just bring the whole store back with us, huh."

"I mean, people could mistake you for the incredible Hulk because of how big you are," RJ smiled, trying to lighten the mood.

"That plus me carrying a whole building on my back? Yeah, we don't wanna scare people."

RJ shook her head and went through the cabinets again one last time before looking back at Bo, hesitantly closing the pad of paper and shoving it in the pocket of her sweatshirt, "You coming this time?"

"Of course," Bo said with a nod of his head.

"I'm going to get my boots on... Don't forget to sanitize before we leave because the storm is coming soon and I'm not taking any chances," RJ left the kitchen and made her way to the hallway.

Bo nodded again, following behind her as they made their way to their room - which was essentially split in two. RJ's bed took up the left corner of the room, and Bo's bed sat in the right corner. Since they'd all made their homes here in a rush, with not much more than what they could carry on their backs, the room was sparse and poorly furnished. Most of Bo's clothes were folded in neat piles at the foot of his bed, and the few books he had were stacked by his pillow.

Reading was his main escape.

Bo plopped down on his too-short-for-his-height mattress and grabbed his hoodie, and pulled it over his head. Then went on the socks, the boots, and the persistent washing of his hands, arms, and face. Then the sanitary gloves, and the mask pulled over the face, stopping just below the eyes. Or in his case, eye. Then, he slung his big, backpacker-style backpack over his shoulders and stood up. As he turned to RJ, they locked eyes, seeing that both of them were geared up and ready.

"Wellp, off we go." He said, leading the way out the door.

"Right behind you," RJ chirped, following right behind him.

As the two marched off to the front door, Lily, Dan, and Adriana watched them from the living room.

"Stay safe out there," Lily cautioned, indicating clearly with her tone that she was worried. Though that was normal for her, it was good to know she cared.

"See if you can get something besides canned beans," Adriana muttered. "If everything there hasn't gone to rot, that is."

Bo simply smiled, laughing a little. "We'll do our best."

"But really," Dan added. "Be careful."

RJ nodded, and Bo pointed at Dan with two finger guns. "We will," they unintentionally said in unison, and right after, looked at each other and giggled. RJ turned around and opened the door, shaking her head, and the two were off.

-<>-


The store was about a block away, but RJ and Bo had been fortunate to not run in to anything, or anyone on the walk there.

The trip there was always somewhat unsettling, seeing the city they once knew to be full of life and activity so dead and quiet. It wasn't even that there was rubble, or anything to indicate that such a devastating thing had wiped out so much of their population. Everything was still there. It was just that now, it was uninhabited. Abandoned. Empty. But the troubling nature of the environment was almost all but forgotten when Bo and RJ walked and talked together under the tall city buildings and the now, overcast sky.

Because they were siblings. Not by blood or on paper, but by the bonding strings of childhood friendship and time-strengthened trust.

Bo looked down at RJ, noting the focused look on her face as they walked the streets. It was a look that he'd become familiar with in their childhood, that he noticed resurfacing more and more in the present. He knew that, in part, it was because of the state of their world, and the pressures of survival weighing on their shoulders. But he kept feeling like there was something more going on inside that she wasn't voicing. No, he knew there was.

It had been about a month since it happened.

Before the six of them lived in that apartment, there were seven. Adriana, Lily, Dan, Aaron, Bo, RJ, and RJ's boyfriend. Jarren.

Jarren used to be the one who'd go out with RJ to get the food. That was when he got exposed to the virus. That was when he came back, started showing symptoms, and got sick. They'd quarantined him to a lower level apartment while they scoured the city for the cure, but as the symptoms got worse, they couldn't watch him suffer anymore. Jarren became a danger to himself and to everyone else.

So Bo shot him.

Everyone had come to terms with it. They were running out of time, and Jarren wasn't going to make it. Jarren knew he wasn't going to make it. RJ asked him to put Jarren out of his misery. He'd said yes. No one was there when he pulled the trigger, but he was sure they all heard the shot from the floor above.

And he was sure that they all had mixed feelings. He knew he did.

As the store came in to view, Bo broke the lapse of silence.

"Hey RJ," he came to a stop. "Are you... okay? What's going on?"

RJ nodded before glancing around again, "T-This whole thing... It's just scary, you know?" She stuttered. She pushed her dark brown curls behind her ear and smiled a weak smile, "I think I just miss him."

Bo couldn't see the smile behind her mask, but he didn't have to. "I know," he said softly. "If you just want to like, talk about it. I'll listen."

RJ laughed a little bit, her eyes starting to water as she spoke, "I missed my period. I was supposed to get it last week. When you guys were sleeping I snuck out. And before you can say anything-- Yes I was sanitized. I had no... I didn't know what else to do. I went down to the pharmacy and got a test. I took it. I'm pretty sure I'm a month or so in. I don't know. I can't have a child right now, Bo. I just can't. Not without Jarren."

Bo looked at her with wide eyes. She was pregnant. Normally, he would congratulate someone upon hearing such news. But this was entirely different.

"Oh god, RJ." His words came out before he knew how to say them. "I'm... I'm so sorry. But... we - we'll help you, RJ. In any way we can. And you don't - don't apologize. It's okay. I know this had got to be really hard for you. I mean, would I have appreciated it if you told me, sure! But I totally get it, and like..."

He trailed off as he looked into RJ's tearful eyes, and he sighed - heart wrenching with sadness for her. He didn't have the right words. There were no right words.

He put an arm around her shoulders, and hugged her tight.

"You'll get through this. We'll get through this. Okay?"

RJ weakly hugged back, trying to stifle her tears.

"I just - I don't want to have a child without - He's -" her voice hiccuped as she fought back the crying. There was a long silence as they stood in the street before she finally finished the sentence.

"He's gone."

Bo looked out over her head at the street behind them, letting her cry - or rather, repeatedly try to hold back the tears so she wouldn't fill her face mask with tears and snot.

Jarren was gone. And he was the last one to see him alive.

If only they'd found the antidote even a day sooner...

-<>-


They both walked into the store pretending like they weren't feeling the effects of the emotional hangover following what just occurred. Bo scanned the store with his eyes, to see if it was clear, and from the front, it seemed to be. Bo and RJ both gave each other a nod before they went left, making their way to aisle 9, which had all of the canned foods. It was an aisle in which they were both familiar. Bo routinely took his bag off his back, unzipped the top, and let RJ stack cans of food on the bottom of the bag, filling it up a little over half-way. When Bo slipped the half-full backpack back on, he turned to RJ.

"You wanna grab some bagged stuff?" Bo asked.

"Yeah, next on the list is rice, pasta, and all the nutritional supplements. Vitamins. Blah, blah, blah."

Bo chuckled. "Okay, okay, I'll stop asking you to read off the grocery list."

"Yeah well-" RJ's voice fell silent as the two heard the clattering of something falling echo through the store. RJ froze, and Bo pulled his gun, not willing to risk the possibility of someone hostile (and clumsy) approaching. He looked down at the end of the aisle, and it was then that they saw the figure stumble into view.

It was an old man. Probably in his late fifties, if Bo had to guess. He was unkempt, with his greying, rotting skin stinking up the aisle even from afar. A similarly sick lady followed behind him. If Bo had to guess again, he'd say she was his wife.

"Stay back," Bo barked, pointing the gun at the couple with no real intention of firing, but hoping it would scare them out of coming any closer.

The old man seemed to attempt at mumbling, but between his raw, red tongue, and the rotting flesh around his mouth, nothing intelligible came out. Bo's expression hardened as the couple ever so slowly advanced forward, ignoring his words of caution. It was clear that they were in the very last stages of the disease, and were in too much of a haze to heed his words. For a moment, he wondered if it would be a mercy to just shoot them right there. But then he glanced back at RJ's terror-filled expression and he thought it best not to. That was something more that she didn't need to see. And... he only had so many bullets. He couldn't put every diseased person they ran into out of their misery with a bullet to the head.

"RJ, come with me," he commanded, taking her hand more roughly than intended and pulling her away, if only to shake her out of her shock. He started explaining as they hastily walked away.

"Let's check aisle two to get the rest. If it's clear I want you to grab it all as quickly as possible and throw it into the bag, and then we run out of here. Got it?"

"Y-yes," she muttered as she fell into step with him, taking two steps for his every one, as he walked with long, hurried strides.

As they passed several aisles, Bo noted three people in aisle four, and one in aisle five. He didn't stop to observe how sick they were yet, but he didn't need to look. He had to assume the worst.

They marched into the empty aisle two and Bo flipped his bag around, ready. RJ however, stood there, hands shaking with uncertainty for a moment as she, panicked, searched the shelves for what they needed.

"Rice. Pasta. Vitamins." Bo listed off, reminding her.

"Yeah." RJ gave him a quick nod, before she ran up and down the aisle, piling said things into her arms. Barely able to carry them all without them falling, she hurried over and dropped them all into the bag, letting her arms fall with labored breathing.

Bo zipped up the bag and threw it on his back before grabbing her hand again.

"Let's go," he said, before running with her to the exit, bursting out the revolving door. They kept up the run for a block past the store, before slowing down, both catching their breath.

"We'll have to-" a breath, "-disinfect everything when we get home," Bo heaved.

"It'll-" inhale, "-take so-" exhale, "-freaking long-" inhale, "-to do that," RJ replied.

"Then I guess-" exhale, "-we better hurry back."
  





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Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:19 pm
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Elinor says...



Dan

Dan woke that morning with a sense of deflation. That night he'd dreamed of Jen. They'd been dancing at a wedding-- their wedding. And just like that, it was over. He was lying on a section of a floor he shared with five others. He'd slept in. Everyone else was already awake, getting ready to go about their day.

He wearily stood up and made his way over to the kitchen, munching on a dry, hardened piece of toast. Lily was there, finishing up her breakfast.

"Nice day," she said as she started cleaning the dishes.

Dan nodded. He liked Lily, but he wasn't in much of a mood to talk. The dream was still so vivid in his memory. He wondered what this day would be like if the world was still normal. Would he and Jen be planning their wedding? Would they already be married? Maybe in a year or two, they'd have a child on the way?

It had been a year, and he still hadn't gotten used to thinking about her in the past tense. He'd never even had the courage to give her the ring, even as she lay dying. He'd lost it long ago but he still kept her picture in his pocket. He caught others staring sometimes when he looked. Even if they didn't say anything, he knew they felt bad for him. But it wasn't like that. Jen gave what he needed to keep going.

Helping the terminally ill. That had been her dream. She'd wanted to work in a hospice. Dan would never have had the strength to do it.

Jen had explained to him once, on one of their first dates.

"These people, they've been to hell and back. Don't you think that what they need is someone to hold their hand, look them and eye and tell them that it's going to be okay?"

"But it's not going to be okay," Dan had said. "Those patients have terminal illnesses."

"Yes, but at least they'll be comfortable. And maybe even happy."


Comfortable. Maybe even happy. Dan thought about that a lot now. He thought of Jarren, how things had seemed even a little less complete since he'd passed away.

It wasn't an ideal situation, obviously, but he did feel a sense of camaraderie with the others. It was funny how life worked out that way. Before the virus, they'd all gone about their lives, and others had been faces he'd smiled as they walked by in the hall or in the elevator. Now, they were all each other had.

As hard as it was, he was determined to survive this. He helped the others fix the water and after, Bo and RJ went out to get supplies. When they came back, both were out of sorts.

Dan and Aaron had finished their chores and now were passing the time by playing Gin Rummy. The cards had been a stocking stuffer Dan had gotten one year at Christmas from his grandmother, a gift she probably hadn't thought too much about, but it was sentimental to him.

As they played, Aaron was in the midst of the story about his martial arts classes.

"I never took anything like that," Dan responded.

Aaron nodded vaguely. They weren't the most chatty of the group, but Dan liked Aaron, respected him.

A little while later, RJ and Bo returned with supplies, but both were out of sorts.

"Is everything okay?" Dan asked them.

RJ shook her head.

All our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them.

-- Walt Disney
  





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Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:14 pm
Bellarke says...



Adriana


Adriana stood out on the balcony, staring out at the dark land before her.

She thinks of the boys. They all just left to go get some food. "Please hurry back. Please." She silently begs the 'gods'.

Then, she hears a door slam.

Tanner walks out onto the balcony, and wraps his arms around her from behind.

Then whispers, "They will be fine, Ad." In her ear.

"What if they arnt? Huh?" She turns and faces him, looking him in his blue eyes.

"They will. You are just like your foster brothers, strong, you know that?" He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

"I know, but there are thinks that I cant fight, Tanner."

He runs his hands through his sandy hair, a sad expression on his face. "Lets get to sanitizing, before they get back."

"Okay." Tanner has been her friend since as long as either of them can remember, and they just recently got together, and he already knew how to get her do anything in that relationship.

And yet, in the back of her mind, she knew it would all have to end. But she just kept pushing it away. It hid in the darkness of her mind, behind all of the lovey dovey thoughts in her mind, tainting them.

Youngblood
Say you want me
Say you want me
Out of your life
And I'm just a dead man walking tonight
But you need it, yeah, you need it
All of the time
Yeah, ooh ooh ooh
  





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Thu May 10, 2018 10:37 pm
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DivinePrincess says...



Rebekah
My eyes scanned the wood floor with a sense of nervousness. When we returned to the apartment I wasn't sure what to say, or what to do for that matter. We almost died, Bo and I. As much as I tried to forget it, there wasn't much I could do.

"Is everything okay?" Dan asked, his voice weary with concern.

I opened my mouth to speak before Bo inturrupted my thoughts, "Yes... we ran into a little problem when we arrived to the store but luckily we found our way out."

Bo and I glanced at eachother as I opened my mouth to speak once more, "We got everything we needed."

I make my way to the kitchen, a sense of nausea coming over me, and stop at the old, washed up countertop to rest my elbows. Bo makes eye contact with me across the room as everybody sits back down at the couches to continue their game of cards.

I've never been one for secrets. This one kills me.

I almost thought of telling everyone sooner. But the idea of judgement and dissapointment would overwhelm me and trust me; I'm not in the right mindset for all of that. Ever since Jarren died I've been a completely different person and they've all realized it. Almost everyday I get asked if I'm 'okay' or if I 'need anything'. What I need is my boyfriend back.

He was the one I confided in beyond Bo, and he's the one that always made sure we were safe. He sacraficed his health for us.

Jarren was a tall man, with dark coarse hair. His skin was dark like wood and his eyes were a bright green like how the trees used to look outside. He always cared about others, and he never left one of us behind. The mistake we made was leaving him behind, letting him go to the store alone and catch a case of Black Cotton.

When the symptoms started setting in, it was only a few hours later. He began to act irritated and sluggish, as if he gained 30 years. We knew something was wrong. Only about two hours later he started throwing up and his skin began to peel and turn a pale color, leaving his eyes glossy and his lips chapped.

Bo and Aaron knew it was happening. They never said anything to me. Not one word until they knew it was for sure.

We moved him downstairs into another room far away from us and gave clear instructions to everyone else in the house to not go down there unless fully sanatized and covered. A day later, Jarren was struggling to hold on. He began to starve. That's when I gave Bo the 'okay' to let him go.

I couldn't even say goodbye.

As Bo and I broke eye contact, I sat down on the couch with everyone and cleared my throat. "Guys," I looked at the floor, "There's something I need to say."

Bo slung his arm around me in support and I started to admit what I'd been hiding, "I'm pregnant. I know what you are going to say. You're dissapointed, this is bad timing... I know. I just need help and support. I'm not sure what to do or how to protect this child."

Everyone just stared at me in awe, as someone began to open their mouth.
  





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Wed May 16, 2018 1:03 pm
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Synnoev says...



Lily


Lily let out a shocked gasp, hands flying to her mouth at RJ's announcement. The rest of the group beside Bo seemed similarly stunned, each taking a moment to process the huge news. They were only barely recovering from the loss of Jarren, and now this?

Aaron was the first to speak up, face set in determination. "RJ, none of us are disappointed in you." He looked around the rest of the group to see them nodding in agreement. "But still, how long have you known about this? You can't keep this kind of stuff a secret."

"I wasn't- I've only known a few days for sure," RJ replied, tugging at her sleeves and looking down. "I was afraid of what-" Her expression grew more troubled, and she squeezed her eyes shut for a moment as if trying to keep her composure in front of the group.

"Hey." Lily slid off her space on the sofa to kneel beside RJ, slipping her hand into RJ's and squeezing it tightly. "We can..." She glanced back at Dan. "We can help, right?"

Dan nodded, rubbing a hand over his jaw. "We'll need some new supplies, but we're due a medical run anyway." He lifted his gaze to meet RJ's. "You're going to be fine, okay? Don't worry."

RJ nodded, squeezing Lily's hand in return. "I'll come too. It's my-"

A chorus of vocal disagreement drowned out her words midsentence, and she glanced down sheepishly. "Guess I should have seen that one coming."

"I'll come with you two," Aaron pitched in, standing up and stretching his arms to the ceiling. "We'd better hurry up if we're going to go today."

"Not today," Lily replied, the words escaping her before she could stop them. At the others' curious look, she stumbled to think of a rational excuse. "It's already midday and w-we raided the closest pharmacies before so... we're gonna need to go further, right? I don't want to get stuck out when it gets dark. We should take the time to work out where we should go first."

Dan frowned, but didn't argue. "We could use the extra time to plan so that we get everything we need. First thing tomorrow?"

Both Lily and Aaron nodded in agreement, and the latter made his way to the main table. As he spread out a map of the area across the table, she went over to join, kicking herself internally for being so obviously reluctant earlier. Even in this situation, she still hadn't been able to shake her fear of going outside. She always tried to pull her weight inside the apartment block as much as possible, but it didn't help to alleviate the guilt over letting the others go outside on supply or scout trips far more often than her. But now, for RJ, she needed more than ever to put aside her fears.

Still, even as the three of them discussed the best options for pharmacies to raid, her increasing anxiety remained a constant presence that stayed with her for the rest of the day.

~◆◇◆~

Lily awoke from sleep with a strangled gasp. Another nightmare, this one worse than usual. Memories of the first few weeks of the outbreak often plagued her dreams, visions of people she'd loved succumbing to the disease one by one as she failed to save them. Her students, colleagues, her friends, then Jarren ... This time though, it hadn't been a memory, but instead a nightmare of RJ becoming infected.

She sat up among the bedcovers, looking around the dark, moonlit room. "RJ?" she whispered. "Adriana?"

There was no reply aside from the soft sound of even breathing. Lily pressed her knees against her chest for a moment, then rose, careful not to wake the sleeping girls, and headed into the main room. Maybe a drink of water would help.

As she closed the door behind her, moving slowly so that the latch didn't click, a whispered voice came from across the room. "Couldn't sleep?"

She turned, seeing Aaron come into focus as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. "Nightmare. You know, the usual," she replied softly, heading to the kitchenette to pour a small drink of water from her rationed bottle. She came back and huddled on the sofa close to where Aaron was perched in his usual spot gazing out the window. "What about you?"

"The usual," Aaron echoed, still looking out into the dark streets. It wasn't unusual for the both of them to be awoken in the night by unpleasant dreams. A moment of comfortable silence passed, then- "You're scared about tomorrow?"

Lily pressed the glass tighter to her chest. "It's stupid," she replied, voice barely audible.

"It's not stupid." Aaron turned back to face her, his expression hidden by the darkness. Only his silhouette was visible against the faint light of the moon. "We'll be fine tomorrow."

She gave a doubtful hum in response, lost in thought as she stared down into the rippled reflection of moonlight in the glass. The others were braver, even RJ with the most to lose. But then, they were all coping with their losses in different ways, she mused. Maybe it was time to find a new coping method, be better for the group. She set the glass down finally, standing with a lengthy stretch to the ceiling.

"I'm gonna try and get back to sleep," she announced softly, "Try and sort my head out so I'm not-- so I'm good for tomorrow." With a sleepy wave, she padded back to the girls' sleeping room to get rest for the next day.
  





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Thu May 17, 2018 10:51 am
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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...



Aaron


"I get that you're an early bird, Aaron. But did we have to leave at the crack of dawn?" Dan asked through the yawn.

Aaron gave a glance back to Lily before he spoke up. "Well...Lily had a point yesterday. We may know these steets pretty well, but I don't know them well enough to try and find my way through them in the dark."

"Still too damn early," Dan responded as the trio made their way down the deserted street.

Lily had gone back to sleep. She looked better than she normally did. More determined that usual. Aaron didn't really sleep anymore after he awoke. Standing guard at the window was all he really felt like he could do in those moments.

His fear was that something would go wrong and they wouldn't react fast enough. Someone ending up dead. That's what happened to Jarren.

"Let's go over what we need again," Aaron said as he cut across the intersection four blocks down. Only another five and they would be at the nearest pharmacy to them.

"Normal Medical supplies are a given," Dan answered covering another yawn. "I need to get RJ some Prenatal medications and maybe some regular iron supplements."

"What about formula and diapers?" Lily inquired.

"If they have them then great, but I don't plan on us making two stops today," Aaron said over his shoulder. He suddenly paused and waved everyone back into one of the alcove doorways created by the empty business on the street.

From the intersection was a shambling form. It seemed confused, like some sound it was trying to follow only made it go round in circles from the echo.

"What do we do?" Lily asked, unable to keep the nervousness from slipping out in her voice.

Aaron slowly moved over and grabbed a piece of rubble that lay near a burned out car. The moment the tortured soul had its back turned, Aaron hurled the concrete rock as hard as he could down a different way in the intersection. The clatter of stone and metal made the brain dead creature hurl itself toward the sound in search of the person that was never there.

They hurried on after that. Keeping quiet as they moved from hiding place to hiding place. They were in uncharted territory here, and no one knew what might be around the bend.

"That's the pharmacy up there," Dan said panting. Wiping the bead of sweat from his brow.

"Alright," Aaron said looking around. "We get inside, I do a check, then we get what we need. Just like we always do."

Rushing across the street the three of them prayed they weren't spotted by one of those screaming corpses as they made their move. Lily suddenly stopped, staring at something off to the side. Aaron made it around the car and looked to where she was staring.

Pinned against the car was a body, shot through several times by arrows. It was a young woman, about Lily's age, which may have been what made her stop. "At least someone put her out of her misery," Lily muttered quietly.

"Let's just get inside," Aaron said ushering her in. Glancing back at the body, his nerves were on edge. The woman pinned to the car didn't have any visible signs of the virus. Which meant that whoever pinned her to the car...knew she was still human.

Getting inside, one never would have expected that it had been months since someone had set foot in the pharmacy, besides the layer of dust on everything. Even the quiet music was still playing over the speakers.

Aaron quickly went around and made sure there weren't any of the infected before he got to the large front door. "Make it fast guys," Aaron said his eyes narrowed on both ends of the street.

There they were, quietly packing things into their packs when a sudden cry came from outside. Aaron ducked down by the door as he watched a man go running down the street. Any thought that the man was making a break from a few of the infected was quickly dismissed when a shot rang out and the man collapsed to the cracked asphalt.

Aaron could see that it hadn't been a killing blow. The man was still trying to crawl away as a small group of people came into view. A couple of them holding some smaller rifles as they laughted and talked among themselves.

"What they hell are they doing?!" Dan said storming toward the door.

Aaron quickly got up and held him back from leaving. "No. Keep searching."

"We can't just do nothing!" Lily hissed back.

"That's exactly what we're going to do," Aaron snapped back. "Those men have guns...and from the looks of things they know how to use them. We have just ourselves. I don't know what the situation is out there, but we have more important things to do than try to mediate something that could end up getting all three of us killed. Did you get everything?"

"I still need the prenatal medication. It will be behind the counter," Dan answered through his teeth.

"Get it. We may have to leave in a hurry," Aaron said before heading to the door and quietly bracing it to keep the men outside from charging in.

"This feels so wrong," Lily commented as she watched the group raise their rifles and take aim.

"There's nothing that we can do," Aaron said. The very nature of his voice making it very clear that he didn't like the fact that he was having to stand by and watch either.

"How can they do this?"

"Everyone copes with all this differently. Not all of them are pleasent."

As the shots rang out, Aaron heard Dan give out a cry from the back. He was currently fighting off an older man in a white coat. The side of his face rotted away to the point that sections of bone were peeking through.

Tackling Dan to the ground the infected man began trying to bite at him, strands of what used to be the man's blood dripping onto the pinned doctor.

Aaron ran as fast as he could grabbing one of the metal canes on his way before he took the biggest swing he could muster at the old man's head. Knocking the infected away and continuing to beat on him until he didn't move anymore.

Rushing back Aaron reached out for Dan before the younger man held up his hands and began speaking quickly and urgently. "NO! No! Don't touch me! I'm....I'm infected."

Aaron felt like he was going to throw up. He failed. He got one of his group infected because he didn't take the time to really look the place over.

Hearing the shuffling behind him, Aaron raised the bloodied cane again as he saw a dark haired man with cresent shaped earings.  He held his hands up in surrender. "I'm not here for trouble. I want to help."

The door at the front lurched from bodies being thrown against it.

"They must have heard the commotion," the man said.

"Is there another way out of here?" Dan asked.

"There's a window in the office," the dark haired man replied. "It's how I got in here."

"Show us!" Aaron demanded as he saw the door give another lurch. The brace wouldn't hold much longer.

"What about Dan?" Lily questioned.

"I said I would get everyone back and I meant it. We'll deal with it when we get out of here."

Everyone hurried out the window as the door gave and the group began looking for the source of the commotion.

The four of them ran down the road with everything they had. When they stopped, Dan dropped his pack on the ground and sighed. "Damn it! I should have checked that room before opening the door."

"It wasn't your fault, Dan," Aaron said picking up the pack. "I didn't check the place like I should have...it's my fault." His knuckled turning white as he gripped the strap of the bag.

"What do we do about him?" Lily asked nodding to the dark haired man catching his breath.

"He saved our necks," Aaron said walking over to him. "We don't have much...but we have an apartment building we are staying it. If nothing else it's secure and it's out of the weather.
  





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Elinor says...



Dan

By the time they got back and put him on his cot, Dan had just registered being stared at by everyone else. The other two had dragged him in and he hadn't been laying down for a second when he got to his knees and vomited all over his pillow. He sat there for a moment, not sure what to do.

RJ rushed to find something she could put the soiled linens in, but Bo stopped her. Whispered something to her and then resumed the job himself.

"He needs help," Aaron said.

"No, really?" Bo responded.

Aaron said nothing.

"What happened?" Bo then demanded.

"Nothing, we just..." Aaron said. His voice broke.

Stop fighting Dan wanted to say, but instead came another round of vomit, this time, on the floor.

"Get him a bucket!" RJ said, also on edge. Aaron kept looking at him with a worried look but he didn't say or do anything. Lily returned with a bucket and a cold compress for his forehead.

"He can take my cot for now," Lily said.

Their voices were beginning to become blurred; it was harder and harder to make out what they were saying.

Soon he registered that he was lying down. Lily was kneeling over him. The others were watching from behind.

"It's going to be okay, Dan," she said.

Sometime later, she turned the others. "God, his face...."

This was how it had happened with Jen.

"Dan, I'm scared," she said as he'd clutched her sweat-soaked hand.

"It's going to be okay," he'd told her, knowing full well that it was not.


As delirious has he was, Dan was concious enough to understand what was happening. Was this really it? Was this really how it all ended? Maybe so.

He dreamed of a boardwalk amusement park. It was a perfect summer day, and he was walking in a group with the others, towards a massive, towering rollercoaster. Jarren was there too. He and RJ walked arm in arm behind the others. He turned to his left and saw her smile. That smile that made him weak.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself," Jen responded. He extended his arm. She wrapped hers around his and they all began to walk.

They all laughed about something. They were walking by the food stands now, and RJ turned to one. "After, let's get cotton candy!" RJ she playfully. They'd all more or less agreed by the time it started to fade away.

Maybe there would be days like that once this was all over.

All our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them.

-- Walt Disney
  





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soundofmind says...



Andrei (Bo) Petrov


Bo reached into the back of the freezer where the small bottle of bamboo extract was hidden for a moment like this. He knew Jarren wasn't going to be the last to get the black cotton, but he didn't expect it to be so soon. He could hear everyone else talking in the living room - confused, slightly panicked, and worried. Partially about the newcomer, but mostly for Dan. Bo glanced into the living room from the kitchen as he closed the fridge, making eye contact with Aaron, who stood on the outside of all of the conversation. With a small wave of his hand he gestured for Aaron to come aside and talk.

Aaron gave a wary glance at the others before silently making his way over. Bo could tell from the look in his eyes that he was already blaming himself for what happened to Dan, and he addressed him calmly.

"So... what really happened at the pharmacy?"

Aaron gritted his teeth as he moved off to a point that he couldn't be seen. It took everything he had not to put his fist through the wall. "We got to the pharmacy with little issue. There was a group of people outside....killing this guy. They weren't infected or anything. Just normal people. I didn't check the pharmacy like I should have. Dan opened a door and...." Aaron explained as he braced on the wall. physically trying to keep himself from doing something stupid through will power alone.

"There was someone in there who was infected?" Bo asked.

"There were....maybe eight of them. They shot this guy through the leg to slow him down...then they just...plugged him..." Aaron said as he turned leaning on the walls. "I knew that marauders would happen eventually but they are already going around killing anyone that isn't in their group. I nearly had to put Dan into a head lock so he didn't run out there."

Bo nodded slowly, his face serious with his brows lowered. "I'm glad you guys didn't run into the thick of it... or you guys might not've come back at all."

"I screwed up alright! Dan is infected because I messed up!" Aaron roared as he hit the wall with his fist. "Stop pretending like this is okay!"

Bo put a steady hand on Aaron's shoulder and looked him in the eyes. "Hey. Look. No one's saying it's okay that Dan's sick. All of us are worried about him, and we're going to do everything we can to help. But you can't go blaming yourself. Things weren't what you expected and you did what you could. Yes, you can learn from this. But I'm just happy you all came back, okay? We're in this together."

Aaron fumed as he tried to get himself under control. "How can I not blame myself? My only damn job here is keeping them safe out there and I can't even do that! We already lost Jarren. We can't lose Dan too. We're screwed if he doesn't get better and. It's. My. Fault."

Bo let out a quiet sigh. "Aaron, you made a mistake but you don't have to let it own you. And Dan's fate is not your responsibility alone. It's all of ours." He lifts up the bottle of the antidote. "And we have this." He sets the bottle back down. "You're goin-"

Bo didn't get to finish his sentence as Lily stepped into the kitchen, looking at the both of them with a bit of awkwardness.

"...Lily." Bo said, going to grab the antidote.

"We should give it to him now. The longer we wait the faster is spreads."

Bo nodded, and as Lily stepped forward to pour their best estimation of what Dan would need to get better, Aaron stepped back and head out to the fire escape going up, disappearing beyond the frame of the window above. Bo's attention was split between Aaron's quick escape and Lily, who poured the extract into a cup with worried, shaking hands.

-<>-

Bo passed through the living room to the empty bedroom where they'd set up Dan. RJ was hovering by the door, watching him. Bo set a hand on her shoulder, and she stepped aside, worry lines creasing her face.

"Do we have enough? Will the antidote be enough?" She asked, peering into the room at Dan, whose eyes were glazed over. They couldn't tell if he was awake or asleep or alert or out of it.

"I don't know," Bo whispered honestly. "But we'll do everything we can do save him. Just like-"

"-just like with Jarren." RJ looked down and away. "I know... I know," she said softly, before turning away back down the hall. Bo's heart sank into his stomach, but he didn't know what to say to her as she left. She knew he was sorry for how everything happened. But it wasn't his fault. And it wasn't hers. And anything he could say had been said before.

Bo lowered his gaze to the floor before returning them to the sick man on the cot. With gloves and mask and every precaution possible taken, Bo stepped into the room and knelt beside him.

Dan was already starting to show the beginning signs of the fast acting disease. His mouth was dry and chapping, his pupils were irregularly dilated, and Bo could feel through his gloves that Dan's body temperature was dropping. He adjusted the heating pad on Dan's forehead, and spoke gently.

"Okay Dan, stay with me bud. You've got a lot of life left ahead of you, okay?"

He propped Dan up against the wall, helping him into a sit. For a moment it looked like Dan was going to puke again, but thankfully he didn't. Bo held up the glass.

"You're gonna need to swallow."

Bo tilted Dan's head back with one hand and Dan opened his mouth by himself. Bo couldn't tell if that was intentional based on the lack of response from Dan, but it worked.

He tilted the glass and slowly poured some of the drink into Dan's mouth. He stopped the flow. Dan swallowed, and Bo smiled.

"Good job. Just a little bit more, alright?" He said as he continued to pour more, let him swallow, and again until it was all gone. Once the glass was empty he set it on the floor by the end of the cot for the time being while he helped Dan lie back down, as comfortably as he could have him. As he stood up and looked down at Dan, he could see RJ standing in the doorway again out of the corner of his eye. He could also hear voices raised from the living room.

He waited a moment to make sure Dan didn't throw up right away, but RJ gave him a look like he was needed. As he left the room and passed her she backed away so she wouldn't touch him, but they again exchanged quiet words.

"Don't go in the room."

"I won't. I'll just watch from here."

"Okay," he said as he removed his gloves carefully and set them in the wash bin that he would again, get to later. As he entered the living room he peeled the mask off his face. Adriana wasn't happy.

"You'd let in a complete stranger after what you saw at the pharmacy?! What if he's one of them? We can't trust him!"

Bo frowned. "Him being..."

"Ripley. Ripley Baumgartner," the dark haired man replied, looking somewhat annoyed at Adriana's loud disapproval of his existence.

Bo rolled his sleeves up his arms before extending a hand and giving Ripley a firm handshake. "I'm Bo. I'm sure you've met everyone else."

"That I have..." Ripley replied with a furtive glance at Adriana.

"You can't seriously be considering letting him stay, Bo," Adriana protested. "Do we even have the resources to house another person? And how do we know he's not just going to rob us for everything we have?"

"Ripley staying isn't a debate," Aaron said as he stepped back into the room, his shoulder wet from having loaded up the barrel up above for them to use. "If he hadn't been there we would have been riddled full of holes by the marauder group that blocked us off at the front. He stays...at least for tonight. It's the least that we owe him."

Bo looked over to Aaron, then back at Ripley. He wasn't eager to welcome someone he didn't know at all into their home, and he was aware of all of the possibilities of what could go wrong. But if Ripley had helped his friends get back safely, they did owe him.

"He stays for the night. After that we can talk long term," he said, looking to Ripley. "That is, if that's something you'd want."

Ripley looked quietly to the floor, considering it.

"You don't have to have an answer now," Bo said. "But if you're willing to pull your weight and want to stay with us, as dysfunctional as we may be at times, I'm not opposed. Life's rough out there alone."

Adriana growled with frustration, glaring at Bo from behind Ripley. Bo just shrugged.

Lily came out from the hallway with RJ by her side, almost looking a little less worried than usual. But that wasn't hard to beat.

"It looks like Dan's taking the antidote well so far. But it's a little soon to tell," she said as optimistically as she could manage. Despite the doubt in her statement, a unanimous wave of relief swept over the room.

"Oh, and Ripley?" RJ asked. "You'll be staying in the room with Bo and Aaron, since Dan's cot is free."

Ripley nodded. "Thanks."

-<>-

Bo decided to pull an Aaron and sit up on the roof that night while everyone was sleeping.

What Aaron said about the marauders... the people who shot and killed the healthy to defend their territory, or to take out the weak... he wasn't able to get it out of his mind. He had expected violent groups to rise up in the midst of the national crises and he knew that there would be no one to help them. But he worried for the others in their group who were not as... hardened to violence as he. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't nice.

They already had to fight for survival to retrieve their basic needs, and they all knew those things were limited. But with people shooting others down on the streets he couldn't in his right mind send anyone out there without himself - because at the moment, he was the only one with a gun. And even then, he only had so many bullets before it would be rendered useless.

He would have to get more. They would have to build up a collection of firearms just as much as they would need food and water and disinfectants. It was just another thing to add to the list of things to worry about.

With a deep sigh, he rubbed his eyes and looked up at the dark sky. No stars could be seen through the thick, bushy, clouds, and the only dim light was that of the soft glow of the moon behind them.

"What is it Bo?" Aaron said as he began working on a slow leak. "You don't pull me up here unless you have something on your mind."

"I'm going to have to go to my old apartment. It's a few miles away. I have... a stash there. If these marauders are really that violent, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves."

Aaron nodded. "So why the hesitation?" he asked. "There something you're not telling me?"

Bo sighed. "It's... well it's not exactly about that. I'm always worried about us but..." He held his head in his hands, running them through his hair. "... I just can't get Jarren out of my head, man."

"Because of how soon it's been? Or because of Dan?" Aaron asked in a hollow voice. He finally tightened the nut down and slid out from underneath of the water barrel.

"I mean. Part of it's 'cause of Dan like - he brought it all back I guess." Bo paused, gesturing at the air as he grasped for words. "It's - I-I mean I know you know I... come from a criminal background, and, I guess it's just... I don't know, it was different with Jarren. It's not like fighting for your life and it's not like - I mean - I would've rather done it than anyone else and I still would! I just-" Bo sighed again. "I mean, I don't have to tell you how messed up it is."

"No you don't," Aaron sighed as he took a seat beside him. "Just like you don't have to tell me that we can't stay in this apartment building forever." He gave Bo a look. "We let everyone say that everything will be fine here. But we both know that the food will eventually run out and this water will only last so long as it rains. And with the marauders it's only a matter of time before they find us."

"Which is why I want to go out tomorrow. It'll take me a day to get there and get back."

Aaron nodded as he looked to the stars. "Ya know I think about how we can survive this. Especially when the bullets run out. I've been thinking about a forge. Making protection and weapons for us. Eventually find a place that we can actually make it somewhere that we can actually live...not just survive."

Bo looked over to Aaron. "You mean out in the country or something?"

"Well if we want to make it through this, then we need a dependable food source. And a well for water. We can't get that here in the city. But we can't make that trek as we are now. We don't have the supplies and there is just the two of us to protect them as well as Adriana. They would have to learn how to protect themselves...and then there's the baby."

Bo looked back out at the dark city. "...I wonder if we could start preparing and collecting supplies now... so that when the baby is born, we could be ready. I don't think we should wait any longer than we have to."

"You know that means convincing the others to leave the only place that they know is safe."

"It might not be safe in a few months - or hell - even a few weeks, depending on how fast the marauders move through the city. I know we already have enough to worry about with Dan and RJ right now, and the new guy, but... we need to act soon. I think deep down everyone knows we can't stay here forever. It'll be scary for all of them - all of us, - but if we can train people like Lily and Dan to fight for themselves, we might have a chance."

Aaron nodded as he looked up to the clouds that were coming in. Flashes of light coming from the darkened clouds. "We better head inside," he said opening the barrels he had left on the roof to collect water. "That storm looks like a bad one. Don't think anyone should be out in it."

Bo looked out as a roar of thunder reverberated through the sky, and lightning struck once more. He nodded, and followed Aaron back inside. If the storm was going to persist through the day, or the next few days, he would have to postpone his trip. But he promised himself that as soon as the rain let up, he would go, and return with... well, lots of weapons.
  





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Synnoev says...



Lily


With a slow exhale, Lily carefully pressed the syringe into Dan's arm, giving him another dose of the bamboo antidote. Though he seemed to be recovering well, they still knew virtually nothing about the progression of the virus, so the group had decided it was better to play it safe. This incident had almost halved their supplies of the antidote already, and there was no telling if Dan would still need more to fully recover.

Lily discarded the empty syringe and peeled off her gloves, then pressed her hands against her face, rubbing at her eyes. The past twenty-four hours had been draining, both physically and emotionally. She'd stayed up most of the night with the newcomer, Ripley, taking turns to watch over Dan and monitor his condition. The rain had picked up in the early hours of the morning, and was now hammering down on the windows, hardly helping with Lily's building headache. A light tap sounded on the door, and she glanced over her shoulder to see Bo peeking through with his one, tired eye.

"How's he doing?" he asked, voice groggy.

Lily shrugged. "I think he's doing okay, but, honestly, I'm not sure. He seems stable, that's all I know."

Bo pushed the door open and slipped in, walking up to Lily and looking down at Dan. He looked exhausted. "Well, there's not really any way to know for sure. But you're doing your best," he said, giving her a pat on the shoulder. "So that's what matters."

"Is it?" Lily looked up at Bo sharply.

Bo blinked, and looked back down at her with a straight face. "Yes. This is a test. You're being graded. Do your best."

Lily turned her gaze back to Dan, shaking her head slightly. "I know you're joking, but if Dan d- If Dan doesn't recover... we're all in so much danger. You know that, right? If I can't do this, then-"

Bo grabbed her hands, stopping them from flailing around in the air as she panicked. He held them up a few inches from his face and looked her in the eye. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, as if instructing her to do the same. Lily let out a slow, shaky breath, eyes still wide with panic.

"Caaaaaaalm," he said slowly.

Pulling her wrists away gently, Lily nodded and turned her head away slightly to rub at where tears had started to well up. "You're right, just ... distract me or something."

Bo puffed out his cheeks and pulled out his ears, then scratched under his arms in a monkey-like fashion.

"Like this?" he asked with a cheeky grin.

A laugh escaped Lily, and she covered her face with her hands again. "What are you doing? I mean, it's working, but still."

Bo only replied in surprisingly accurate monkey noises, acting like he couldn't understand her as he squatted down so that he was imitating the pose of an ape. Another repressed giggle came from Lily, and she tugged at his shoulder slightly in an attempt to pull him back up. Bo only hopped away on all-fours.

"Okay, super funny, you should get up now." At another string of monkey noises from Bo, she let out another laugh, then stopped short as the door handle started to turn. "Seriously, get up getupgetup-- Oh, hi, Ripley."

Bo froze for a split second as Ripley entered the doorway, then jolted up to his feet, fully composed, as if he wasn't just on all fours making monkey sounds.

"Hello, there," he echoed with a slightly strained smile.

Ripley greeted the two with a nod, gaze lingering suspiciously on Bo for a brief moment. He turned his attention to Lily and Dan, peering past her to see how Dan was doing. "How is he?"

"He's still stable. I gave him another dose around ten minutes ago, so just keep an eye on that for now." Lily met Bo's eyes across the room, holding in an exasperated smile.

With another nod, Ripley peered over Lily's records of Dan's condition over the night, then met her eyes with a polite smile. "I'll take care of him for the next four hours. You should get some rest too, you look exhausted."

Bo pat Lily on the back. "Catch some nice z's for me. I'm missing the last letter in my alphabet."

"Alright, I'll see you later, Ripley." She let herself be led out the room by Bo, then waved goodbye to the pair of them and went to curl up to sleep on the sofa.

++++++++

Several hours later, Lily was awoken by a light shake of the shoulder. A warm bowl of food was pushed into her hands as she blinked awake to see RJ peering down with a slightly worried expression. "You doing okay? You were pretty out of it earlier."

Moving to sit up fully on the sofa, Lily looked around to see the rest of the housemates minus Dan sitting around on the sofas or the floor. Ripley was sat at a slight distance from the rest of the group, still watching with a wary expression.

The relative quiet within the apartment was broken by Adriana. "You two were on the roof for ages last night," she said, nodding to Aaron and Bo. "What's up? You two planning something?"

Bo made brief eye contact with Aaron, but Aaron looked away and at Adriana.

"We were talking about something I've been thinking about for a long time, and I'm sure all of you have considered at some point. That being, we need to move and get out of the city if we want to survive in the long term."

Lily felt her stomach drop, and she looked over at Aaron, mind racing. He was right, of course, but the thought of leaving their safehouse for an uncertain future was something she'd avoided thinking about since they'd found some semblance of stability here. Especially with Dan's weakened condition and RJ's pregnancy, this seemed like the worst possible time to discuss moving their small group.

"But we can't move. Not now," RJ said in a low voice, cutting through the group's stunned silence.

"We wouldn't move right away," Bo said quickly, before anyone could list all of the reasons they were all already aware of. "But we were talking about building up to the move. Preparing for it. Getting supplies, but also training you guys to be more equipped to face what might be out there. Like hostile people. Like the ones you saw yesterday."

"You want us to fight them?" Lily asked, voice small. "I thought our plan was just to
avoid that kind of thing and stay safe here."

"We can't bet on avoiding them forever," Aaron replied. "Groups like that are looking to conquer and will find us eventually. If not because they need more people, it'd be because they want our supplies."

Adriana nodded. "I've been thinking about this too. Those groups are getting stronger and more desperate. We need to get out of here as soon as we can. As soon as Dan's healthy enough, we leave."

There was a small pause before RJ cleared her throat, looking down at her stomach. "But there's still..."

"That's why I suggested we leave as soon as the baby is born," Bo said.

"You really think we can wait that long?" Adriana questioned, giving him a pointed look. "That's still months away. At the rate things are going, we could run out of supplies by then, or some group of marauders could find us. We're dependant on dwindling store stocks and rainwater. That's not sustainable for eight to nine months with the amount of mouths we have to feed."

"If we have to leave, I agree with Adriana," Lily said, the words coming out slowly. "The streets are so dangerous, we can't take an infant out there. Our safest bet would be finding a safe spot while RJ's still in her first term. It's a long shot though."

The group buzzed with tension over the thought of moving. They hadn't had a major disagreement like this since the early days of the virus, when they'd agreed to band together and lock down their small apartment block from the outside world. Those days had been fraught with disagreement, from tiny things like sleeping arrangements to huge, days-long arguments about whether or not to look for other survivors. Still, so far they'd manage to survive and become a stronger team despite their differences.

"I... I might have an option," Bo spoke up, considering the logistics. "It's still a bit of a long shot, but we could potentially hole up at my old place. It's a little closer to the outskirts of the city. That might give us a little more time. But that's only if it's unoccupied."

Aaron nodded, and the rest of the murmured their agreement, some looking more doubtful than others. "That could work. But for now, we need to wait for Dan to recover."
  





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DivinePrincess says...



RJ


RJ stood there, paralyzed, as Lily inserted the syringe into Dan’s arm. Her eyes went watery, almost as if she was about to cry. RJ could barely watch, the images of Jarren coming into her mind in flashes. The pain he was in, the amount of grief that caused her, was now projected onto the rest of the group.

When the deed was done, she walked to the living room where everyone was sitting and passed out. She woke about an hour later to Bo checking her pulse playfully, “Just wanted to make sure you were alive.”

“Oh, stop it,” RJ smiles and sits up slowly, glancing around to find Lily passed out as well on the sofa.

She bites her lip and stands up, heading to the kitchen to make her a bowl of rice.
Bo watched her, concerned, “RJ you haven’t gotten much sleep lately. I’m not sure if that’s happy for you or the ba—,” She cuts him off, “I know it’s not. But she needs to eat and everyone else is asleep so I’m doing what I would want done to me.”

Bo shrugs and sits back in his place, everyone playing cards around him, like every night.

Once the food is done, RJ taps Lily on the shoulder and proceeds to ask her if she’s feeling okay.

Everyone then starts talking about moving, which scares the crap out of RJ. This baby was a part of Jarren, the only thing she has left of him. The only reminder that he was not fully gone yet. But if they move, there’s a strong chance she’ll be extra vulnerable and get infected, which could ultimately harm the child.

Bo starts talking about staying at his old place, which eases RJ’s doubts a little bit.
“That could work. But for now, we need to wait for Dan to recover,” Aaron said, throwing down an ace of spades.

RJ nods in agreement and looks out at the dark sky through the windows, noticing something particularly concerning. The large tree that always stood outside of the window was now gone, or at least looked gone. The air looked cloudy, not like a normal hazy night, and RJ stood and walked over to the glass to get a better look.
Bo watches her, as does the rest of the group, and her face goes absolutely pale, “I don’t know if we have enough time to wait, guys. I say we start moving tomorrow night.”

Aaron and Bo stand up and walk over to the window as well, Aaron murmuring some curse words under his breath.

“Why… Why? What’s going on?” Lily struggles with her words, not even daring to look.
“The air is polluted to the point that it’s killing almost every living thing,” RJ looks at her, sitting back down. “We need to move. As soon as possible. Or else Dan won’t even be able to make it through the night in the next week.”

Aaron nods, the new guy, Ripley, freaking out almost as much as Lily is.

“How are we supposed to move Dan when he can barely even stand up?” RJ asks, running a hand through her hair.

“We’ll figure something out,” Bo says, his eyes meeting RJ’s, “Don’t worry, we’ll be fine. We just need to figure out a plan.”

“Oh yeah, like that’s even possible in a matter of hours. I don’t think you guys understand how serious—,” Adriana speaks before being cut off by Aaron.

“We know exactly how serious this situation is. Thank you, Adriana.”

RJ sighs heavily and both Bo and Aaron take their seats back, “Any ideas?”
  





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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...



Aaron Marshall


It was Aaron's turn to watch Dan, though he had protested a great deal. Bo wouldn't let him run from it. Asshole, he thought. But deep down he knew it was a good friend. Made him face what he needed to face.

Dan looked....terrible. Sweats and chills as his body was fighting the infection. Even with the antidote that they had saved up there was no knowing how much they would need to give him for him to make a recovery. Then there was the emergency move that everyone was frantic over. Right now everyone was putting as much food as they could into anything they could use to carry them and putting water into any container that could hold a liquid. They could only take the stuff that had been filtered through the contraption that he had built just a couple days before. Now it seemed like wasted effort to even make.

Aaron couldn't just sit there and do nothing, watching Dan struggle through the mistake that rested on Aaron's shoulders. The handiman he was he was already working out a method of transporting Dan safely. Dan couldn't move on his own right now. He needed to rest as much as he could to get better. Aaron couldn't let someone else die. Not like Jarren did. He couldn't let his mistake get someone killed.

There had been a small trolley downstairs that he remembered sitting on its side outside the building. They needed a stretcher to get Dan down the stairs though, and that is what Aaron was currently working on. Currently seeing how a metal flag pole and a water ski could do as supports. A cot center acting as the sling he tried to put his own weight on it....and the metal pole gave out sending him crashing to the floor.

With a frustrated growl he yanked the bent metal out and was about to hurl it across the room when he froze in place. Dan's tired eyes on him as Aaron had let out one of his few outbursts of anger. Dropping the aluminum rod he sighed as he took a few breaths.
"How are you feeling?" Aaron said trying to control the guilt and anger that he was feeling from overwhelming him. It was a stupid question. How was he feeling? What kind of question was that? Aaron knew he didn't have anything else that he could say at this time.
What else was there?

Dan sighed. He was still having hot flashes and was afraid that rather than answer Aaron he was going to throw up again, but he managed a simple "better". And it may not have seemed like it, but he was getting better. Jen had never made it this far. Neither had Jarren.

Still, time seemed to move at its own speed. He didn't know long it had been, only that the others were taking turns at his bedside. It was a funny twist of fate he supposed, to be the patient rather than the doctor for once. Dan had told them multiple times that before, he'd rarely, if ever gotten sick. There had been one bout of scarlet fever when he was six, the chicken pox when he was ten, enough for him to have a sense of how terrible it really was, enough for him

This seemed to be worse than any of that. Dan still couldn't really move, but he was more lucid than he'd been in a while. Enough to think about how he was going to survive. How hard the others were working to make sure that he did, and how he had to meet them halfway.

Aaron sighed as he looked at Dan. "I...I'm sorry," Aaron said. "This...is all my fault."

"Aaron...don't."

"It's my fault," Aaron growled.

"It wasn't! Aaron none of this is your fault!" Dan flew into a fit of coughing that sounded like he was trying to hack up a lung.

Aaron moved over a glass of water for him to take.

"I have one damn job in this place...and I keep screwing it up. With you....with Jarren."
Dan took a few steady gulps from the glass before setting it down with a sigh. "You can't blame yourself for all that. You weren't even with Jarren when he was infected."

"Exactly...." Aaron leaned against the makeshift table as he felt like pulling his hair out. "I wasn't there. I didn't feel like going out that day. So I asked Jarren to go for me instead. Then he got infected...because I just didn't feel like going out. Had I just sucked it up and gone, I would have been the one infected. I would have been the one that turned...that Bo had to kill. Out of the two of us Jarren was better. He was a leader. He knew what to do.

"We're just bidding time here. He would have had this place locked down and better off than having to deal with me. RJ would have her lover...her kid would have a father."
Silence settled on the room as he Aaron's words sank to the floor.

"Everyone would have been better off if it were me and not him," Aaron sighed.

Aaron wasn't looking for comfort. He knew the truth. Out of everyone there, he was the one that had the least connection to anyone. The least amount of use. Everything he did could have been found in a Field and Stream magazine. Jarren was more important. His death rocked all of the group. Every single one. I wouldn't have had the same impact,

A thud from the other room sounded followed by a curse by some muffled voice.

"What's with all the noise? What's going on?"

"Remember that group we saw? We're worried about them following us here. That and we can't sustain a permenant life here. We are going to go to Bo's. He has a weapons stash of some kind. When you recover, we're going to head to the country side. Find a place were we can keep the baby safe."

"Thanks," Dan said with a smile. Aaron gave him a confused look. "You said when I get recover, not IF I recover."

Aaron nodded. "Anyway I was looking for a way of getting you downstairs without you walking. Work in progress."

The door opened and in came Lily. Aaron gave a nod before turning his gaze to Dan giving him a nod. Collecting the items he headed to the door.

"Aaron," Dan said with a grunt to sit up a little more. "Jarren wasn't your fault. What happened to me wasn't your fault. And you are important to this group. If we lost you it would be just as tragic."

Aaron stepped out letting the door close.

"Wish I could believe that," Aaron muttered to himself.
  





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soundofmind says...



Andrei (Bo) Petrov


Bo buckled the strap across his chest and pulled it tight, making sure the backpack was secure. The atmosphere was tense as everyone hurried around the apartment, stuffing the last of their essentials and belongings into their packs as they got ready to leave. Everyone was leaving Dan for last, but Bo, Lily, and RJ kept hovering around his room in passing.

Bo looked down at the remaining things in his room. It had already been sparsely populated by material things, but with all his clothes packed away, all that was left were his few books beside his now bare mattress. He stared for a good few seconds before the chatter in the hallway pulled him away. The stare was all he needed for his goodbye. They weren't taking extra personal belongings, and he never had much, to begin with.

"The little wagon thing downstairs is good to go?" he heard RJ asking.

"Yes," Ripley nodded. "Blankets in it and everything, and extra supplies. Still enough room for Dan, if we prop him up."

"And the stretcher?"

Aaron spoke up, further down the hall. "I figured something out. It's in Dan's room."

RJ sighed in relief as Bo passed her. "That's good," she said quietly, then turned back to Bo, grabbing his wrist. "Is that everything?"

Bo smiled a small smile. "Should be. I think we can head out in a few. I'm just gonna go check on Lily. Last I saw she was still packing."

RJ looked up at him and put a hand on his arm. "...Okay. Tell her to hurry," she urged softly, with a sigh. Bo nodded in return, giving her a quick hug before he hurried out of the apartment with his pack on his back. Ever since the outbreak, the group had consolidated their living space in what was RJ's (used to be RJ and Jaron's) apartment, but most of them still had apartments of their own throughout the building. They'd just moved out to keep a strict quarantine for themselves when things started.

Bo walked down the dusty hall, stopping at the last door and knocking.

"Lily? You almost ready?" he asked.

A short pause, then the sound of Lily's voice came from inside the apartment. "Bo? Are we leaving already? I still need to just- Can you hold on for a bit?"

Bo leaned his head on the door. "Uh, RJ's trying to get us out soon as possible so we have as much daylight as we can. I guess uh - is everything alright? Do you need help with anything? How much longer do you think you need?"

"I need- Um, can you come inside? It's unlocked."

"Oh! Uh-" Bo grabbed the handle and opened the door, taking a second to get in as he spun around the narrow entryway with his backpack on. "-Yeah, sure! What do you-"

He stopped, staring at Lily, who was standing in the middle of a massive mess. Various items were strewn all over the room, and picture after picture lined the walls. Bo had forgotten just how sentimental Lily was. It appeared she kept... everything. Which was fine when she had a whole apartment to store it in, but when they were in a survival situation and had to pack light that made things much different. He opened his mouth to say something but first let out a sigh before anything else, scratching the back of his head.

"Oh geez. Wow. Uh. Do you have... anything packed?"

Lily frowned. "I have my actual bag packed, you know." She waved a hand, gesturing vaguely upstairs to the main apartment. "The one Aaron helped me pack. But he told me not to bring all this and I... I don't know, I'm just not... ready."

She looked up at Bo with worried eyes. "We're really leaving, aren't we?"

Bo's heart sank a little. He'd had to make lots of goodbyes in his lifetime, and had forgotten that, for most people, it was a lot harder. Things carried memories. Memories carried emotions and attachments. His gaze flickered down to the floor, but he managed to look up and smile a small smile for Lily. "Yeah. It's really happening... and I know it's scary," he spoke gently. "And I know you won't be able to take all of this with you but-" he began to walk up to her, stepping over things on the floor. "-You'll still have us. And who knows? Maybe, sometime in the future, we'll be able to come back to this place and look back at everything. We don't really know. There's a lot of unknowns, but... it'll be okay. Or, as okay as we can make it to be. I know it's hard to leave, and change is scary - this kind of change, in the midst of a, messed up world even more so - but... you've made it this far." He finally made it beside her, nudging a small stack of books away with his foot. He put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed reassuringly. "You can do it Lily. "

She leaned into him unthinkingly, still scanning the photos covering the walls. She'd always liked to display them before the crisis, but the walls had only become truly covered in a frantic night at the very beginning, a few days after the emergency power lines had gone down. Later, after their group had decided to stick together in RJ's apartment, she'd still often come down here in the early hours of the morning after a nightmare.

Closing her eyes, she exhaled shakily, emotionally exhausted from hours of rifling through an apartment's worth of memories. "It's just, they're all gone. They're all... and it's never gonna be like it was. I ... I don't want to-" Tears started pricking at the corners of her eyes and she rubbed them away quickly. "I don't want to forget," she finished quietly, feeling Bo's embrace pull her tighter.

"I know. But we'll help you remember. I'll help you remember," he said softly.

"Thanks, Bo." She looked up to meet his gaze with a soft smile. "Anyway, we should leave," she said, pulling away and staring over the walls once more as if trying to burn each image into her mind. "I don't think I should be in here anymore."

Bo watched as Lily's eyes continued to jump from photo to photo. "That's probably for the best," he said in quiet agreement, making a small wave of his hand to head towards the door. "You wanna get your bag?"

Lily turned to look at him, the sorrowful look still present in her eyes. She nodded, hurrying off to grab her bag in her room, and returning with it on her back. Bo gave her a few affectionate pats on the head in hopes of making her sullen expression turn into a smile. Glancing up in surprise, she reached up to stop him mid-pat and tug his arm back down. Her gaze flicked between their joined hands and Bo's eyes for what seemed like a long moment before she let go with a brief squeeze. "We're holding up the others."

Bo grinned, eyes following her hand as she let go. "It's okay," he said as he turned for the door, looking back at her. "You can just say it's all my fault."

-<>-


Bo lifted one end of the stretcher while Aaron had the other. Dan wasn't that heavy. At least, not to him. Though no one in their group beside him stood past six feet and had as much bulk as him either. He often dreaded the thought of the others having to deal with his unconscious or sick frame if it ever came to it, but he tried not to think about it.

Aaron and Bo awkwardly turned the stretched out of the hallways, squeezing in and out of doorways at odd angles to keep Dan steady and level in the air. Going down the stair was the hardest, but Bo was the one going backward (being taller and all), and managed to keep Dan from slipping off.

Once they got Dan tucked into the four-wheeled wagon cart, with blankets all around him, propping him up and keeping him snug, Bo pulled it out, leading the others outside.

The sky was gloomy. But not just in a stormy way anymore. The air looked... polluted, and even through their face-masks, something felt off as they breathed. Bo supposed... RJ was right. They really did need to leave the apartment complex, and not just because of other people in the town, or water and electricity failing.

Bo looked back at the others, most of which looked fine. Everyone was looking to him for directions. They were going to his place after all. He nodded, smiling beneath his mask.

"Alright folks, listen up," he began in a voice that mimicked that of airplane announcers just before a flight took off. "Dan, please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. And crew, keep your eyes and ears open for any movement. Do not leave the group for any reason, but if you need to go to the bathroom, there's a gas station at the end of the street on the left. I'll be leading the way, so just follow me, and let's try to keep our voices low as us-"

"Bo. You're wasting daylight," Adriana snapped.

"Aaaaaand I'm wasting daylight," Bo concluded. He waved a hand forward and pulled the cart, sticking to the sidewalk for Dan's sake. "Let's go."
  








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