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Nathan Durand

"Cross me, and I'll make sure zombies aren't the only thing you fear out here."

0 · 544 views · located in Post-Apocalyptic America

a character in “Bullets and Brains”, as played by Scarlet Loup

Description

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"Cross me, and I'll make sure zombies aren't the only thing you fear out here."




The Basics




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Full Name
Nathaniel David Durand

Nicknames
He usually doesn't even tell anyone his full name, Nathaniel. Instead, he
introduces himself as Nathan and commonly goes by Nate.

Gender
Male

Age
Thirty-five

Ethnicity/Race
English and German; Caucasian

Sexual Orientation
Bisexual, though he prefers women

Prior Occupation
First Sergeant in the US Army

Current Occupation
Second in command; he purposely leaves out the "unofficial" part




What's on the Outside




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Hair Color: Chestnut that appears almost reddish in direct sunlight

Eye Color: Light green

Height: Six feet, two inches

Weight: Two hundred pounds

Tattoos: On his right pectoral, Nathan has "This We'll Defend" tattooed. It's the US Army motto and he received this tattoo after his honorable discharge. He also has matching tribal bands tattooed on his biceps.

Piercings: In his youth, Nathan had both ears pierced because that was the cool thing to do. Nowadays, these piercings have closed up and he only has minor scars from them.

Scars: Nate still has a small bullet hole-shaped scar in his left forearm where he was once hit with a bit of shrapnel. He's also got a few nicks on his hands from his knife slipping in his grip. His most noticeable scar is a long mark on his left calf from his Achilles tendon surgery.

Character Color: #990000

Description: Standing over six feet and weighing 200 pounds, Nathan Durand truly isn't a force to be reckoned with. Well, not unless you have a death wish. He has few tattoos and scars, but both are still quite noticeable to the naked eye. He's quite proud of them, too, and cares not if someone points them out. In fact, he even boasts about his scars at times except for the scar he received from his Achilles tendon surgery. His chestnut-colored hair is usually kept quite short and messy in style. Nate often has a short stubble of beard on his chin and cheeks. He's a well-built man and has remained in prime condition even as he nears forty years of age.





What's on the Inside




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Personality:
{Hot-headed, Outspoken, Protective, Charming, Deceitful}
Heartbreak and pain have taken Nate and turned him into a shell of what he previously was. Before his medical discharge, he was a lively individual who had no regrets besides tearing his Achilles tendon earlier in high school. He was grateful for the good fortune he had, and really seemed grateful for his life. Seeing him now, one would be shocked to know this about him. Nathan's broken, torn apart by what he perceives as failure in the Army, his inability to keep his wife, and the loss of his daughter. He shows symptoms of bipolar disorder regularly now, though they've been present since he returned home with his injury. Nate can come off as charming and compassionate one moment, and then hot-headed and rude the next. He can basically be described as a modern day Ares, the Greek god of war. Nate does know how to lead, but he does not do it well. His tactical skills are above average, and he flies into the fray both fearlessly and violently. However, he's a sore loser and grows angry when he loses an argument or fight.

He's always been a violent individual. When confronted with problems, he tends to use his strength to his advantage, because he feels it is one of the only things he has on his side. Luck has certainly never favored him. He also tends to speak his mind quite loudly in most, if not all, situations. When wrong, he grows quiet and resentful. Violence does not faze him as much as it once might have. He's been hunting for years and was in the Army for over a decade years. Because he's lost everyone he's cared about, Nate is extremely overprotective of the remaining people in his life that he still cares about. But, deep down, he is excited for this "adventure". For years, he's played the stay at home dad, and it's driven him stir-crazy. He misses his family, of course, but this is finally his moment to make something of himself again. One can never truly be certain of Nate's current emotion and, therefore, he is no better than a ticking time-bomb.
Hobbies:
  • Used to hunt for sport
  • Football or soccer in high school and with family
  • Surfing and kayaking in his childhood
  • Occasionally, playing video games

Habits:
  • Needs something to chew on from gum to a cigarette to a tooth pick
  • Wears his socks tightly and hates when they bunch up around his toe or fall below his heel
  • Hurries to the front of a group and demands to be the "leader"
  • Drives with one hand on the wheel

Oddities:
  • He still walks with a subtle limp from his surgery, and fears tearing his Achilles tendon again
  • Nathan is slightly allergic to cats and has "seasonal allergies"
  • Previously struggled with alcohol and could potentially relapse

Likes/Loves:
  • Running, especially sprinting
  • Cheesecake with strawberries
  • Having the upper hand in a debate
  • Classic rock
  • Coffee with cream and sugar
  • Beer
  • Sex
  • Humid, hot weather
Dislikes/Hates:
  • Hard liquor
  • Loud, sudden noises
  • Staying still or silent
  • Cats
  • Golf and bowling
  • Cooking/baking
  • Resistance
  • Socks





What Makes Us Special




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Strengths and Weaknesses

Character Skills/Talents:
  • Nathan is a skilled gunman and has excellent aim.
  • Despite his usual hot-headed and crude behavior, Nate tends to come off as quite charming at first. It is only later that he grows arrogant.
  • He's had time over the past few months to hone his tracking skills, which he retained from his childhood.
  • He's surprisingly quite smart, at times, and is an average tactician.
Character Flaws/Weaknesses:
  • Subconsciously bonds with others to the point where he's clingy.
  • Runs the risk of tearing his Achilles tendon again.
  • Nate tends to believe that his ideas are better and that his Army rank gives him seniority.
  • He's so overprotective, he'd kill to defend his loved ones no matter the cost.
Secrets:
He struggled with alcohol after being discharged from the Army // Angry with a subordinate, Nate attacked him and later blamed the other soldier by saying that the lower ranked man attacked Nathan first // His marriage was falling apart before the apocalypse began and his wife had filed for divorce

Fears/Phobias:
Tearing his Achilles tendon again // Losing loved ones // Death, or at least an unceremonious death




What's Done Is Done




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Biography

Place Of Origin: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA

Birth Date: January 13, 1983

History:
Life began for Nathan in mid-January in the Outer Banks. He was the son of a mechanic father and a lawyer mother who met via a case his mother was on. The two married quite soon after they began to go out and Nate was born only months later. More or less, he grew up in the water. From a young age, the ocean was his best friend, and he showed no fear when a large wave would knock him over. Surfing and kayaking, therefore, came easily to him, and he would continue these hobbies into adulthood. His sister, Lily, was born seven years after him. Like a typical brother, Nate tried everything in his power to rid the household of the little girl. But, by the time he was ten, this hatred finally turned into love. In fact, he grew so attached to Lily, he refused to let her out of his sight until he was forced to once she started preschool. His youth was full of outdoor activity, despite seasonal allergies. He would spend the summer hunting and swimming, and then spend the winter sledding and skating.

Sports came easily to Nate, too, and he made the high school soccer team with ease. Though he initially lacked the muscle mass for the football team, Nathan also joined it and rose in the ranks of his high school class. It seemed he would go to college on a sport's scholarship and go into a respectable, white-collar profession. Things were ideal and it seemed as though he were floating on Cloud 9. In the spring of his junior year, Nate first strained his Achilles tendon while sprinting during exercises. He was out for the soccer season and, in the fall of his senior year, failed to make the football team, too. Dismal and wondering how he'd get his scholarship now, Nathan was intrigued by a commercial for the U.S. Army. He made the soccer team in his senior year, but he still joined the Army against his parents' and his sister's wishes.

The first year was miserable. He missed his family, the beach, his old friends. Yet, he took quite quickly to Army life. In fact, by the time he'd come home on leave, he'd long to return to his second home. However, there was one thing that kept him coming back over and over again to North Carolina: his girlfriend, Wendy. They'd met when he was a senior and she was a freshman. Despite his time overseas, the two wrote each other and video chatted almost constantly. He proposed a year after she'd graduated high school, and they were married in the summer of 2004, and their daughter, Penny, was born soon after. Jayson, their son, would be born a few years before Nathan's discharge.

Over the years, he would increase in rank until he was, after thirteen years, a sergeant first class. He was at the height of his career, in fact, when everything came crashing down. Jogging around base, he decided it would be fun to challenge a fellow soldier. The two slowly increased their pace until, without warning, Nate bolted forward and tore his Achilles tendon. Unable to move without pain, he was sent into surgery and emerged with a limp he's retained until this day. Unable to run without physical therapy, Nathan was given medical discharge and sent home to the New York apartment his wife had purchased.

He was a broken man after his medical discharge. Thirteen years of his life were gone, wasted. He tried to pursue a college degree, but he quickly realized it was not for him and returned home as, to his dismay, a stay at home father. Wendy, meanwhile, provided for them through a hair salon. Initially, he yelled quite often and took his frustration out on Wendy, who began to stray further and further from him until, one night, two years after his injury, a drunk Nate finally made up to her. This truce did not last long, but Lucille was born nine months later. For a while after Lucille was born, Nate regained is composure. In 2016, he relapsed and took up drinking, as if that would solve his problems. Obviously, it didn't. Years passed and, while he was quite a loving father, Nathan's marriage crumbled to bits until, by the summer of 2018, Wendy filed for divorce. Unable to hold a steady job since his discharge, however, Nate remained in their New York apartment until the outbreak.

When the apocalypse occurred, Nate was at home with Lucille. The children had gone to school, and his parents were visiting from Kitty Hawk. His parents had gone out for a walk, and returned with the startling news that a man had run up and bit Henry. They thought nothing of it at first. Nathan went out for a jog, thinking everything would be fine. By the time he returned, his mother had also turned and the two made their way to Lucille's room. Nate, fearing only for his daughter's life, grabbed a table lamp and knocked his mother and father over the head with it until their zombified bodies fell still. He was too late, however, and his daughter died in his arms before he could call an ambulance. Either way, he was unable to reach any emergency services. His children and his wife never returned, as far as he knew, to the apartment. After a week, Nathan gathered up his guns, food, and clothes, and piled them into his Jeep Wrangler. Afraid of being alone, he also brought Oakley, his Rhodesian Ridgeback. He drove only a few blocks before running into a small group of cars formed in a blockade. It was here that he met Robyn Dempsey, the unofficial leader of the current group. Very quickly, he gained the favor of Robyn and the two bonded through their loss of family and friends. Over time, as the group moved into rural New York, he was promoted to her "second in command" for his hunting and shooting skills.

Family Tree
Father: Henry Durand, 67, deceased
Mother: Sandra Durand, 68, deceased
Sisters: Lily Durand, Thirty-one, unknown
Brothers: N/A
Wife: Wendy Durand, 34, unknown
Children: Penny Durand, 14, unknown; Jayson Durand, 10, unknown; Lucille Durand, 5, deceased

Happiest Memory: It is hard for him to decide, but he best memory is most likely when he was promoted to First Sergeant. He wasn't present for the birth of any of his children, so these memories really can't qualify as favorite memories.

Saddest Memory: The two memories that plague him the most are losing Lucille, his youngest child, to the zombies and having to be discharged from the Army after tearing his Achilles tendon. He watched first hand as his "parents", zombies by then, went after Lucille. Though he was able to fend them off eventually, they had already bitten her. He watched, heartbroken, as his youngest child turned into a zombie in his arms.

So begins...

Nathan Durand's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo

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There is an unnatural stillness in this new, demolished world. It hangs about the country like a heavy, stifling blanket. The sun creeps over the horizon, washing the quaint, New York town in a soft, amber glow. Still, it is frigid. The temperature dances around under fifty degrees (Fahrenheit, of course). It will warm as the sun rises further, but the air carries a chill with it. The sight might have been breathtaking, really, if the streets were not teeming with halted cars and rotting organic matter. Dew tries to cling to the grass, but it is quickly displaced as a pair of boots trudges across it and cuts through on to the road.

Nathan Durand is not a subtle man. In fact, he is a very blunt man both in movement and in words. Still, he manages to keep his footfalls relatively quiet as he pads across the street with the rifle held by his waist. The man walks with a subtle swagger, obviously on purpose, yet his gait also registers a limp that is more obviously. Those who have known Nathan Durand for weeks now are familiar with both. At his feet, a middle-aged Rhodesian Ridgeback trots, head perked and constantly swiveling around. Nate moves with the demeanor of a high school jock. Not the nice, intelligent kind that might find his way to an Ivy-League school but the blundering idiot of a sports fanatic who might have hit his head a few times. Nathan even looks jock-like in an old Nike shirt and cargo shorts.

His fingers tap against the barrel of the gun to no particular rhythm, and he chews on a piece of mint flavored gum. He merely does it to look cool and collected. Shattered windows and dislodged doors greet them as the group moves deeper into the town, passing from the residential area into what was once a quaint town. It was probably lively, bustling with life, but now it's empty except for a few roaming figures. Nate lifts the repeating rifle and holds it across his chest as he turns to address the group.

He may not be officially in charge of anyone, but he certainly acts like it. Besides, Robyn is back at the camp, and doesn't someone need to take charge? The real answer is no, of course, but Nate would say otherwise. "We're looking for food and medicine right now, got that? Grab other supplies if you think they'll help, but the last thing I need is someone getting bitten for a fucking pair of cute flip flops or something." His words are crass, and he curses without a filter in front of Milo. He's never really bothered to use a filter in front of children in general especially his own children, who cursed like sailors for years. "Stay with at least one other person, alright? Watch eachother's backs."

He looks to the kid then. Nate wonders if Robyn even realizes he's missing, for she'll certainly grow anxious without him there. Bending his knees to be at the kid's height, Nate looks him in the eye. "I want you with me. No running off and getting killed, you hear?" Perhaps James reminds him of his own son, Jayson, who was only a year younger than Milo when the apocalypse began. Pushing it out of his mind, he straightens up and looks over the ragtag group analytically. "Meet back in twenty minutes." With that, he wiggles a finger to call Milo to him, and he begins to trudge off toward a obscure, family-owned supermarket, gun raised.

Nate stops in front of the automatic doors and pulls at them, yanking them apart to provide a gap to walk through. He rolls over a rotting pumpkin, left for a month in front of the store after Halloween, with an outstretched foot and leaves it between the doors to prop them open for a quick escape. Outside might be light, but without windows in the back of the store or electricity, darkness envelopes the smaller group as Nate trudges past the check-out counters, stepping over piles of overturned boxes of candy and magazines. Things go smoothly until Nathan flips on the flash light he's taped on to his gun. The beam of light reflects off of over two dozen pairs of eyes that all train toward the sound of the soft footfalls on the tile floor. "Well, fuck," Nate breathes, finger steadying on the trigger of the rifle as Oakley tenses by his feet.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo

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Milo:

Milo looked through his binoculars, scouting around from his perch. Milo had silently and quickly climbed a nearby tree while Nate wasn't looking to scout out the perimeter. He looked through some of the nearby windows, seeing what houses didn't looked robbed as well. The quicker they moved, the better off they would be. So far, it looked clear of zombies, but he figured he would make sure. After double checking quickly, he quickly and silently climbed back down and took position behind Nate.

He had mixed feelings about Nate. He was kind of bossy, but he didn't baby him. He hated that. Just because he was a kid, it seemed like people thought he was incompetent to have common sense and pull a trigger. He was better, and being a kid made him better. He could sneak by zombies better then anyone else. He could fit through small crawlspaces and windows. And he had been taking care of himself already for years. At least Nate seems to respect and recognize that.

Milo made an expression with his face, bending his elbows downward and having his palms facing upward. That was his expression for "Really?" in response to the flip flops. He shook himself as if he was shivering, which meant "Too cold". It was a bit hard to translate at first, but eventually you could usually figure things out.

Milo could speak, clearly and well. Its just that speaking hurt him. Whenever he spoke, it caused him pain. The more he spoke, the more painful it got. So Milo communicated through imagery and sharades, as his father never gave enough of a damn to teach him sign language. Besides, he would have to teach it to others. This was, at least in his opinion, easier to learn, even if it was sometimes difficult to understand.

As they entered the store, Milo looked around. It had been looted quite a bit, but there was some food still. Edible food, anyways. There was loads of stuff that had gone rotten or stale. The entire store stank. As Milo turned a corner, he quickly took cover as he spotted a zombie digging into the meats. He then noticed two others. He took out his pistol, before realizing something and silently cursing.

The meat in the isle is only what they had out. They would have stockpiles more in the back. And if they heard a noise...Milo quickly but quietly ran back towards Nate, not making a single sound with his step. However, when he spotted him, he also spotted all the zombies. He took out his pistol, as he heard the other zombies coming towards them.

He looked at Nate. "Got any alcohol?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates

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#, as written by Felilla
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The cool breeze was something that New Yorkers would normally enjoy. It meant snow, Christmas, a new year, a new start. Now, it only meant death. The small rag tag group would have to move southwest, like geese migrating in the winter; maybe the Virus hadn't spread outside of the United States. It was wishful thinking, but in a world like this, who was going to shoot down the hope of a new life? Aspen Bates definitely wasn't.

She tread quietly, years of hunting taught her how to move as if she were a deer grazing in the woods. She had been telling the "leaders" of the group about moving south for days now. It seemed like no one wanted to listen though. From their perspective, she could kind of understand. They were a large group, which meant that large supplies of food and water were needed to keep them all alive. It was tricky to just make sure everyone was fed. If they moved, what were the chances of them finding a store or even a house when they needed it?

Aspen sighed silently as she followed Nate and the others. She and her brother Layton were in the rear, seeing as they were some of the best shots in the group. Between the two of them, Lila Belle looked around, sniffed the air, and dropped her head before repeating the process. Only a puppy and she was already one of the most well behaved dogs Aspen had ever seen. The teenager looked away from her dog to glare at Nate's back. He was planning on raiding a store. While it seemed like a brilliant idea to most of the others, Aspen thought that it was a fairly useless attempt. Any store near a populated area was not likely to have much supplies left. There was also the issues of the zombies. She had a working theory that they gathered, like herds or flocks of animals. Of course, this was only a theory.

Normally, Aspen would've stayed back at the "house", but she had to try and find some chocolate. She knew that if she hadn't come, Layton would've forgotten it, and the poor chocoholic girl would go without it. It was getting harder and harder to find the substance and she knew she's have to stop soon, but she couldn't help it. Plus, she needed to see if she could find some more inhalers for Layton. The ones they had now weren't going to last forever.

She ran a hand through her auburn hair as Nate pulled to a stop. "We're looking for food and medicine right now, got that? Grab other supplies if you think they'll help, but the last thing I need is someone getting bitten for a fucking pair of cute flip flops or something. Stay with at least one other person, alright? Watch each other's backs."

Aspen glanced at her brother, who nodded back at her. Nate bent down to talk to Milo. Sometimes, she wondered if she was the only one that noticed how much the kid hated it. When he stood up, he looked over at the entire crowd, "Meet back in twenty minutes."

Without another word, Aspen swung her rifle over her shoulder, glancing at Layton. "Look for ammunition, too. We'll check the gas station first. Zombies seem to avoid them."

Layton nodded and the two traced their footsteps back to a gas station they had passed on the way to the center of town. Aspen led the way, Layton walking backwards slightly behind her. Layton swung his flashlight around inside the abandoned gas station, not seeing anything. He nodded to his sister and the two stepped inside. Lila Belle stayed outside, still on the alert. As her brother disappeared to the other side of the store, Aspen walked around the counter, searching through all of the medicine. She lifted up each of the containers, shining her flashlight on them. Advil. Tylenol. She purposely avoided anything liquid as she searched through the pills. Layton peered over the counter, nearly giving his older sister a heart attack. "Don't do that!" she hissed as she stood up and put all of the containers into her backpack, "Find anything good?"

He nodded, Course I did. Do expect me to not find anything?"

Aspen rolled her eyes and leaned against the counter. "What'd you get?"

Layton chewed his gum softly as he sorted through his own backpack. If anyone had been looking into the bag, they might have thought Layton had lost his mind. It would make sense. Any cans were wrapped up in toilet paper and the bags of food had all been stuffed at the bottom of the backpack. Not long after the first infection, Aspen realized how dangerous it was to carry cans around. They were loud and hit against each other. So, she figured out that wrapping them in toilet paper was the best way to keep the quiet. The best part? You could still use the toilet paper afterwards. Aspen grabbed some baby wipes and hand sanitizer and swung her rifle up before turning to Layton, "Let's move."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson

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#, as written by mich22
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The brunet shivered as the chilled weather cut straight through his blazer. "The air has a bit of a bite to it today," he mused to himself. He looked out over the city, swathed in the sun's warm hues. However their situation could not be forgotten with abandoned cars and debris strewn around as the stark reminders. It was hauntingly beautiful sight. Funny how little time had passed, and yet, nature didn't hesitate a moment to reclaim its land.

Nathan, their official unofficial leader every moment Robyn was out of earshot, was quick to bark out his orders. With an absentminded smile, Adam murmured his usual sort of vague compliance, followed by a quiet yawn. The aloof doctor was even more out of it than usual. Dark circles adorned his hazel eyes, he was getting close to dragging his own feet--he hadn't been sleeping recently. Nightmares, you see. But he absolutely refused to believe he was having a case of insomni--he yawned again. Alright! Maybe a slight bit of insomnia. Either way, he wouldn't waste the medical supplies on his own sleep troubles. He'd find the root of it, and dig it out with his bare hands if he had to.

Perhaps it was because it had been exactly a month since the outbreak. A sad sort of anniversary to be celebrating, wouldn't you say? Soon enough it'd be his birthda--He tossed the thought out of his mind. No, what mattered now was gathering medical supplies. They had a long journey ahead of them, and there was no doubt there would be injuries along the way. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes to gather everything he needed. Right. He could do this. Unfortunately, he hadn't really absorbed that last instruction--you know the 'buddy system' one. His plan was to make a straight beeline towards the pharmaceuticals. No luxuries, just the essentials. Painkillers. Gauze. Bandages. Any sort of disinfectant, alcohol would do. And sleeping medication if there was room.

Eager to replenish his supplies, Adam headed towards the same supermarket and took a long stride into those darkened doors, not too far behind Nathan and the young boy. His frame froze when the room was lit by Nathan's flashlight. Perfect. He had to bite back his disappointment; looked like he'd have to ration what he had left for a little while. "So--" He spoke barely above a whisper, rewinding his motion at mid-step, "Not twenty minutes then."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates

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#, as written by krashby
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The most unsettling part of this whole thing may have been the silence. A once bustling and lively world fallen to stillness, hushed. Should one have stood still and listen, they could almost hear the sound of their own heartbeat. Anna didn't like it. The silence set her on edge. All her life she lived in cities, raised to be comfortable with the constant cry of the car horns and the bang of gunshots in the distance. Even on the calmest nights of her childhood, there had always been the rush of water and crash of waves outside her doorstep.

This level of silence... this was unnatural. And the most unsettling part was that silence was so easily shattered.

A chilled breeze brushed past the nape of Anna's neck. The chill rolled up and off her shoulders, carrying with it wisps of blonde hair which rose into the air for a moment before falling softly, peacefully down. A shiver began at the top of her spine and traveled deliberately down, through both arms to the tips of each finger, down to her stomach, her legs, her toes. Pale skin tightened and drew goosebumps to every surface of her body. Hastily she drew her arms across her chest to pull tighter the jacket she wore. It was a faded grey, light, cheaply-made thing that did little good in keeping out the cold. But it was the only one she had. And anyways, there was nothing to be done about the chill that rested within her.

It was hard to say if anyone who had known Annabelle Richards -- in the before that is -- would be able to recognize her as she stood now. She had been praised for her beauty since, well... since as long as she could remember. But now, in the after, there hardly seemed anything remarkable in her appearance. Her skin was pale and bland, sickly almost. Even her eyes, bright blues which used to shine like light through crystal, even they seemed to have sucked in the grey and lifelessness of the world she now found herself living in. Along with her grey jacket, she wore running shoes trimmed with purple and dark jeans which hugged snugly but not uncomfortably on her legs. Her hair was pulled back in a hastily-make bun, loose strands falling down on either side of her face. A silver heart-shaped locket hung from a chain around her neck.

Leaves crunched under her shoes with every step. She followed at near the back of the group, just ahead of Aspen and Layton. In the weeks that had passed since this whole horrible thing started, Anna had not become any more accustomed to the anticipation and fear that came with wandering into the unknown. She appeared as though to have some sort of nervous tick, the way she glanced back over her shoulder every other moment. With one hand she tugged nervously at a loose wisp of hair. In the other she tightly grasped the handle of a pistol. So far, she had yet to be forced to pull the trigger, but it was only a matter of time before that changed.

"... last thing I need is someone getting bitten for a fucking pair of cute flip flops or something." She had been hardly listening as Nate spoke, but she jerked her head up at that part, her attention refocused. He wasn't looking at her, of course he wasn't, and yet... She couldn't help the suspicion that him saying that was directed at least partly at her. Maybe she was crazy, very likely in was all in her head, she was sure that was it... and yet since arriving in the group she had been unable to shake the feeling that the others saw her as a joke. But then, could she blame them if they did? The previously pampered rich girl was ill suited to the stresses of survival, and though she put in her full effort to contribute all that she was capable, she simply lacked the skills the others possessed. More often than not she felt that all she could accomplish was getting in the way.

Slowly the group began to disperse, and Anna felt a sudden twist in her gut. She placed a hand over her abdomen. She closed her eyes and stood still waiting for the moment to pass over. Oh god, not now, please not right now... It was no use. Anna sprinted suddenly from her spot, ducking behind a nearby building. A flagpole waving no flags stuck out from the ground, and she grabbed on for support as she hunched over and heaved. With a sickening splash the contents of her meager breakfast spilled out onto the grass below her. When it was done, she closed her eyes, desperately attempting to spit the horrid taste from her lips. "Look," she whispered under her breath. "Baby, fetus, whatever you are right now... If this thing is going to work out between us, you can't do that so much. At least wait until other people aren't around."

Finally she straightened back up, sighing. Just look at me, she thought bitterly. I'm trying to reason with a fetus. Jesus...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Tugging her threadbare jacket close Kat knew that one of the things she’d be on the lookout for would be a coat to guard against the coming cold. The days seemed to be flying by now that winter was on the way and Kat didn’t seem to find the chill in the air particularly bracing. Give her tropical breezes and warm sunshine any day of the week. The idea of an island vacation made the twenty-nine year old smile dreamily. She could see it now; she’d finally get a tan and drink something blue with an umbrella in it while sitting on white sand.

Startled back to the reality of their situation by Nate’s declaration she shook her head wryly. “Flip flops, really? Now a good pair of boots, that would be a whole different story.” Kat couldn’t help but tease as she listened to Nate’s orders. Of course she’d do as she was told, at least for the most part. While Kat might possess a smart mouth she still preferred surviving to anything else and the second in command was usually right more than he was wrong. Lifting a hand to check the revolver at her waist she moved to grab the hunting knife she always carried.

Watching Aspen and Layton pair up and set off Kat girded her loins and followed Nate, Milo and the good doctor into the supermarket, assuming that Annabelle wouldn’t be too far behind. The smell in the abandoned market was nearly more than Kat could bear; the rotting meat and produce were nearly gag inducing. The thin brunette remained silent as she trailed behind the group, her gaze lingering on torn magazines with headlines that no longer mattered and celebrities who were in all likelihood dead. It was surreal and the urge to giggle was quickly suppressed by the presence of a horde of zombies.

Kat, taken over by adrenaline, grabbed her revolver and prepared to defend herself from the onslaught of the dead. There were at present count only the four of them and while Milo was a badass he was still a kid. The odds didn't seem to be in their favor but Kat was a reasonably good shot thanks to her father, a surge of confidence flooded her mind as she steadied herself and prepared for the worse. “So have we decided if this is going to be a fight or a flight situation?” Kat asked, her voice low and raspy as she aimed her revolver at the horde.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Michael:

Michael was unsure about how the groups split. Two people seemed to immediately disregard it, and Nate had for some reason or another chosen to bring Milo with him. Michael was very cautious and very concerned for the younger members of the group, same as Robyn. And he was fairly certain they shared a special worry regarding Milo. The boy could barely speak without causing himself intense pain. Granted, he seemed good with a pistol or a hunting rifle, but he was still worried about sending a boy so young out on these trips.

Of course, if they didn't, he would just sneak off on his own. Milo hated be treated like a kid, even though he was one. Michael just wanted to keep him safe, a residual influence of what he did in the NYPD. Saving people. And he had...concerns...about Nate. He was worried he might be abusive, or a pedophile. Michael couldn't help it, the NYPD and his High School had taught him to constantly be aware of dangers.

However, he knew he couldn't talk Milo out of it. He hated being babied, and as far as he knew, Nate babied no one. That, and he had to admit Milo has certain skills. He seemed like he was the only one, or at least the best, at sneaking past zombies. He didn't have NYPD weapons training though.

Hoping Milo would be safe with Nate, he turned his attention to the rest of the group. He noticed Annabelle running off behind a building. He decided to follow her, and make sure she was okay. When he caught up to her, he noticed a pile of puke nearby. 'Are you okay? You are not sick right? I could walk you back if you are" he said, asking with his usual kind and polite voice.

In truth though, he knew he felt worse. He had a nightmare last night, about his fiancée, and his unborn son. Perhaps that is why he was so protective of Milo. But then again, Michael cared about anyone he believed to be innocent or a part of their group. Didn't matter how useful they are, all life is precious in his eyes. "you going to get sick again?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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The quiet was eerie. Without realizing it, one grows very used to the sounds of the hustle and bustle that is bound to be produced by cities during everyday monotony. The sounds of cars, engines revving and horns honking, and the presence of others. Distant laughing, shouts, or talking just gets tuned out after so long of just living life, just white noise that no one really notices. But, now, when it's completely absent, one starts to miss it. Even nature seemed to have lulled itself into a quiet state from the shift of the norm, the trees no longer sounding as loud as swift breezes blew through their branches and the birds didn't sing their songs with the same vigor as before. At least, that was how it felt to Cyan. Like the world was slowly walling itself away, receding into a dormant state. The only sound he could hear now was sneaker soles scraping against the pavement.

Cyan kept himself near the front of the group's small herd. Tucking himself in the interior, just behind their temporary leader, Nathan, and little Milo, but in front of the good doctor and Kat. With his shoulders hunched up to his ears, the hood's drawstrings pulled taunt, and his arms pulled inside his hoodie's bulk, Cyan looked a bit odd as he kept pace with the rest. The mute looked odd most of the time, both lanky and pale, without much substance to his body at all, and generally looking like a bully's prime target, but he had a real reason as of now.

He hated the cold with a -- Ahem -- fiery passion. If the weather so far as dipped anywhere below 70 degrees, he was absolutely miserable. The teen cursed himself for not staying back at 'Home' with their true, yet unofficial, leader and the others, where he could of at least cocooned himself in blankets as he worked. But, alas, he guessed he was a tad more useful out here than back at base, more eyes to look for supplies and more hands to carry it. His own miserable state was no excuse for being lazy.

With his head in the clouds, Cyan heard nothing of the orders barked at them from Nathan, nor the witty but rather unnecessary comment about cute flip flops. He had just continued walking along at his same pace looking at the scenery, unaware that the group was splitting itself up and going it's separate ways until reality started to seep back in, and he realized he was alone. Pausing his walk, a small burst of panic seizing in his chest, he took a moment to free his arms from his jacket, turning in slow circles to try and find a familiar face.

Being alone was dangerous for the mute. He couldn't cry out if he needed help, and he wasn't fit enough to fight off any unpleasantness that might come his way. Cyan didn't carry a gun like the rest, either. He was a terrible shot, wouldn't even be able to hit a target at point-blank range, and would do more harm than help if one was placed in his possession. So, to stop any friendly fire and avoid casualties, he steered away from firearms. The only means of protection he carried on his person was a crude bat, the head of it being a mess of two-inch nails for 'effectiveness', clipped to his belt.

Seeing a wisp of a jacket disappear into a doorway, Cyan broke into a light jog toward a large supermarket building. They must have went inside when he wasn't looking. Thank the heavens that they hadn't up and left him while he daydreamed, because then he would be in some serious trouble.

Stepping carefully over a rotting pumpkin that held the sliding doors ajar, he nearly knocked into Adam as the doctor recoiled. Pursing his lips in dismay, Cyan moved out from behind the other man, not wanting to get pushed back into the moldy holiday decor. The room was dark, and the teen found himself squinting to try and make anything out.. There were only a few (And rather weak) light sources. One being the door Cyan had just entered from, and the other being the flashlight crudely duct-taped to Nathan's rifle. Following the beam of light with his eyes, and the tense muttering of his group mates, he, too, spotted the horde. The teen sucked in a breath through his teeth, eyes blown wide in fear. Cyan's hand dropped down to his belt, fumbling blindly to unhook his bat, not being able to tear his gaze away. Whatever may happen next was most likely not going to be pretty.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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#, as written by Felilla
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There was something about the silence that Layton Bates found disturbing. He had lived in the city his entire life, so he was accustomed to the bustle of everyday life. It felt strange to be in a world where everything was an eerie silence. Well, not completely silent. He could hear the scuff of people's shoes against the pavement and if he tried hard enough, he could hear the breathing of the others. Layton adjusted his brown coat, wishing for something a bit warmer. He could remember better days, when all of this was some delusional theory he had thought up. He never imagined he'd be living it. Aspen let out a silent sigh next to him. She had changed drastically in the past month, but then again everyone had. When things were simpler, Layton would tease his sister for wearing so much makeup. It was odd seeing her without anything but the occasional dirt smudge on her pale face. Layton could feel a stubble on his chin. The other males in the group had long since given up shaving, but it was a small comfort for the teenager.

He hiked his old backpack up, the one he had kept since the beginning of this entire thing. It was almost empty, save for a granola bar or two ad his dad's wrench, so he knew he'd have to fill it up to the brim. He only had to hope that wherever Aspen decided they were going would still have food and medicine, as well as some gum. It was his sister's routine to go to simple places like gas stations and small, family owned stores before hitting the houses. She, unlike the others in the group, would avoid grocery stores (or any large store for that matter). She had told him about her theory, and he was kind of starting to believe her. He ran a hand through his brown hair as Nathan barked out orders. Layton was kind of glad he decided to not join the military. He hated being told what to do.

Aspen glanced over at him and he nodded back. It was not unlike the two of them to have some unspoken communication. They were closer than most siblings, even before the outbreak. The past month had bonded them closer together than Layton thought possible. He figured if they could live through escaping New York City, they could live through this winter. Secretly, he wished they could've brought a car. It would be so much easier to carry things, stuff as much as possible into the vehicle then drive away. That way, they could get warmer clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, whatever was needed to survive a harsh winter without the comfort of indoor heating. However, he also knew that cars were too loud. They would attract zombies left and right if they brought one.

The Bates siblings separated from the rest of the group. They had survived two weeks on their own, they knew what to look for. Aspen swung her rifle onto her shoulder. In the past month, layton had also noticed that she was getting very comfortable with weapons. She was a hunter, but she had always seemed reluctant about holding a gun. "Look for ammunition, too. We'll check the gas station first. Zombies seem to avoid them."

It was like Aspen to notice things that others seemed to disregard. She probably had some theory about why zombies avoided gas stations too, but she never really talked about her theories unless she was sure they were true. Layton walked backwards as his sister walked normally. The two of them had become comfortable with doing things like this. A zombie could easily sneak up on you, so could a trigger happy human. Their boxer pup Lila Belle walked between them, treading almost silently. When they approached the gas station, Layton swung his flashlight around. He didn't see anything, so he nodded to Aspen. The two of them entered the abandoned building as their dog waited outside. Aspen ducked behind the counter to looked for medicine while Layton started moving through the aisles.

He started by finding some toilet paper before getting any canned foods. The gas station must not have been very popular when the world was normal, because most of the stuff was still in place. He left the refrigerated aisles alone, knowing that anything in them would've already gone bad. Honestly, he would kill a man for a bowl of ice cream. When his bag was almost full, he made his way over to Aspen, meaning to ask if they were checking out the houses next. He bent over the counter, nearly giving her a heart attack. "Don't do that! Find anything good?" she stood up, grabbing baby wipes and hand sanitizer off the counter.

"Course I did. Do expect me to not find anything?"

Aspen rolled her eyes as she did a look over. "Let's move."

"Where we going next?"

The older Bates sibling looked at her watch, "It's already been fifteen minutes. We should probably head back."

Layton nodded and the two of them left the gas station.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Elias Grant Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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|| Outfit ||
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Silence had long since befallen the world. No longer were there honking horns, laughing children, or large planes zooming above head. There were often dying and fearful screams here or there, mingled with the sounds of Mother Nature, whom had reclaimed her lands. But the most prominent, ruling, and horrifying sounds were the groans. Not the kind you hear coming from your parents' and older siblings' rooms late at night when they think you're sleeping tight, all snug as a bug. The groans of corpses, walking and rotting and looking for flesh to devour. It had been some time since the living dead (and not the sexy ones with fangs that Hollywood and lonely female writers pushed to the unwashed masses) had overtaken the world. Those that didn't join their ranks either ran or died trying. Art was one of those who ran. If it weren't for her Kela and Robyn and Nate, she figured she might have died after a month. Art was agile, flexible, strong, intuitive, and she knew how to survive in the wild. But there had been more than a situation or two where running wasn't an option and her hunting knife wouldn't have been enough to save her. Despite this, she still volunteered to go alone while some others headed in a group to ransack a ghost town (zombie town?) for supplies. Nate and Robyn, of course, insisted that she go with the group but she decided otherwise and left fifteen minutes ahead of them.

The silence around the town was not quite so...silent in her neck of the woods. As out of place as could be was the Mission Impossible theme. She was humming as she darted around, crawling under cars, twirling around corners with watchful eyes. Her Timberwolf/Husky padded playfully around with her, her tongue lolling out of her maw and dripping with saliva. To others, it may seem as neither of them took the situation seriously or simply didn't care. The fact was, she was confident. She hadn't seen signs of any hoardes and figured she'd be able to escape easily, whether she had to drop some stuff or not. Her target was not the grocery store. It was the local Dollar General. Her trusty GPS lead the way and she was quick to heft her empty backpack, tightening her grip on the straps. “Kela. No room for failure. No barking. Understand? No ladridos.” The blue and gold eyed dog gave a low snort in response. It had taken a month for her to train Kela to respond to her new commands and it was well worth it. She was the perfect companion for keeping watch, her species heightening her senses and her training and wolf blood heightening her instincts and reactions. The canine was strapped into her harness once used for farmers market trips, prepared for transporting the necessities when Art had a little red wagon.

If there was one thing that Art would absolutely not put up with, it was funk. Toothpaste, extra toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, rags, and various other toiletries were put into the bags that went into the cart before she set out to fill her own backpack, constantly sidestepping to avoid fallen merchandise with the flashlight of her phone strapped to her thigh lighting up the place. Candy was the first on her list. She needed her sugar and would not do without. She had stocked up on stuff and was headed out when she spotted a cute jacket and squealed just a bit, snatching it up quickly. She figured she might as well grab some more clothes. Winter was coming and not to mention, washing clothes had become a luxury. And poor Joshamee and Isabelle were growing like weeds. She stuffed every bit of clothing that she could into a black thirty gallon trash bag, hauling it over her shoulder and finally leaving. No signs of the undead. While her backpack wasn't quite heavy, the clothes had caused her to walk hunched with knees a bit bent; She didn't want it to tear. Sucking it up, she braved the nippy air and maneuvered her way back towards "home". It wasn't too far of a jog but she had to walk this time around.

And then she heard it.

The sound of feet dragging against grass and concrete, groaning and moaning. She wasn't even a mile away but running wasn't an option. Kela lowered her head and issued and low growl, her lips pulling back to reveal a nice set of sharp teeth. “Estable. Maniobras evasivas.” She didn't need to bring her finger to her lips to hush her pal - and she couldn't - to send the message. “Ir a Robyn,” she whispered. Kela gave a light nod of understanding as her human companion set down her black bag of clothes into the wagon before pulling out a notebook she had gotten for Cyan, writing quickly.

Clothes & stuff in big bag. Lots of hygiene products. Few games for the kids. Snacks too. Found zombies and I'm going to go check on the others. Robyn, write my story if I don't make it back. And take care of Kela. I love you guys.


P.S. Bury me in the powder blue jacket with the white faux fur lining the hood. It's fabulous.
♡Art♡


The dog took off at a careful trot down the street with perked ears, towing her wagon with her. Taking a deep breath and telling herself that everything was going to be fine, she headed off towards the sounds. There weren't many, just four. But where there were four, there were more. She only prayed that they were all in small groups and not traveling like a pack of wolves. The idea of killing them made her stomach turn and she could feel tears well up in her eyes. Don't see it as killing them. You're liberating them. If, God forbid, you were to become one of them... Would you want me to let you roam around, rotting and looking for humans to eat? Or would you want me to end your suffering? It isn't cruelty, but now the greatest kindness you can do someone.
Nate was right. Drawing out one of her bowie hunting knives, she whistled loudly and drew their attention. Moaning and groaning, they shuffled towards her and she walked towards them. Crying the whole time, she jammed her knife into each of their faces, using as much force as she could muster. Rotted flesh and blood that was almost tar covered her hand as the bodies fell. Her vomit wasn't too far behind, making the stench all the more terrible. If she lived then she would definitely down some Listerine. Painfully swallowing the disgusting aftermath, she headed out, taking more careful steps.

The others might need her help. She wasn't quite as useful as the others; She was a decent shot with a bow and arrow but she didn't have the equipment and using her knife made her vomit. She wasn't just going to abandon them though. Her creeping turned into a jog as she followed Nate's previously given directions, finding that they weren't too far away. The pumpkin wedged between the automatic doors gave away their presence and it made her heart clench. What if they were in there and dead.... Or dying. Taking a breath that tasted of vomit, she grimaced and headed in. “Olly olly oxenfree,” she whisper shouted. It didn't take her long to spot them. She maneuvered her way to Nate's side, excusing herself silently. Seeing what they were all staring at caused her to puff up her cheeks, heart dropping. “I got stuff, babe. Kela is on her way back to base now... We could run.” It was a futile attempt, she knew. She knew Nate would probably prefer to take down the zombies now.

♤♡♢♧♤♡♢♧


The cart was heavy but she was strong. She couldn't let down Art. Nose to the air, Kela trotted past vehicles with zombies trapped inside, abandoned homes, and decapitated and decaying bodies in the streets. Her wagon pulled smoothly behind her as she headed to the outskirts of town. There was no pep in her step until she saw home. A small farm house encircled by vehicles, the grounds littered with tents for those switching out for guard duty or those who simply didn't want to sleep indoors. She gave a long, low pitched howl as she stopped before taking off. She barked at Elias as she passed him but didn't stop until she reached the steps of the house. She howled and barked more, vying for Robyn's attention. Joshamee and Isabelle were the first to reach her, removing the harness and freeing her from the wagon. “Robyn! Robyn!” While Izzy had been holding the antsy canine in an attempt to calm her down, Josh had gotten Art's note and began screaming for Robyn.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Nathan pulls himself downward into a crouch while his eyes remain fixated on the zombies before him. A few walk right into the shelves beside them as if not fully grasping the concept of a shelf. Others drag themselves along the length of the section, moaning softly as if greeting their fellow members of the undead army. Of course they aren't greeted each other, for Nate knows they are nothing more than lifeless corpses, revived by the disease.

He looks to the side as he hears a soft voice inquiring about alcohol. Next to him, Milo pulls out a pistol. At first, Nate flushes, assuming for just a split second that the boy is asking rhetorically and hinting toward his past alcoholism. Then, of course, he realizes that he has yet to disclose this secret. Nate gives a quick shake of his head and looks to the boy, standing beside him with a gun in his hand. Again, he reminds him of his own son had Wendy allowed him to teach the boy how to hunt. She was quite adamant about making sure the kids didn't even know they owned guns. "Not on me, kid," he says softly in his accent that somehow mixes the South with New York. Slowly, he shines his flashlight up at the signs hanging above the aisles, proclaiming what would have been found within them. "Adult drinks" is only three aisles away. "Give me a second..." He pivots and rises, coming face to face with Kat. "Fight. I'm not letting those fuckers keep us from supplies. Hold your fire." His voice is little more than a deep whisper, and he shoots looks over his shoulder occasionally. Nate misses the doctor's comment completely, and that is probably for the best, for he would have definitely replied with a retort.

The first sergeant flicks off the flashlight and begins to circle around the cash registers to make his way toward the drinks. His boots, though he moves slowly, still make a soft thump on the ground with each step. His eyes take a while to adjust to the lack of light, but by the time he moves past the liquor, he can see a few dim shapes up ahead. They should have cleared the place out first, but Nate wouldn't vocally admit this. His hands graze along the labels of a few bottles as he moves along, squinting at the labels. As his fingers close around a bottle of vodka, he thanks the most-likely dead owners for carrying high proof alcohol. Nate lays his gun down and shoves two bottles into his backpack, side by side. He stops and looks up, a pack of Miller High Life before him. It couldn't hurt to celebrate if they got the hell out of here. Nathan jams a knife into the thin cardboard and removes a few cans. Wendy's no longer here to scream at him, thank God. He's out of the aisle almost as quickly as he entered.

When he returns, he makes sure that the cans of beer remain under the sweatshirt he shoved in the pack before leaving. Nate lays the bottle before the boy and cuts the bottoms of his shirt's sleeves off to use as wicks. The makeshift Molotovs are easily assembled, and once they are done, Nate pulls out the Zippo in his pants pocket and places it in Milo's hand. "Throw them one at a time as close to the middle as you can, or go for something flammable. I don't want the fire to die quickly." He looks back at Kat and Cyan. "We'll go in and through as many as we can. Avoid gunshots. Blunt force or stabs." Nate lifts his gun again and turns the light on, causing the undead to look toward them again. A deep breath in, a deep breath out. He prepares to rush into the fray when he hears Art from the door. "You're late," he muses, left corner of his mouth turning upward in a grin. "You know we can't run. We need the stuff in here."

As the first Molotov is thrown, Nate pushes himself upright and moves toward the flames along with the zombies who were startled by the sound of glass breaking. Knife clutched in his left hand, he moved and jammed it into the base of a zombie's skull. The flashlight that remains turned on moves crazily as he moves in between the zombies, weaving between their bodies. Finally, he merely drops the gun and double-hands the knife so he has more driving force as he slams the blade into the eye ball of a zombie. A month of this has trained him well, and the knife slides through with ease before he jerks it sharply. More filter in from the adjacent aisles, moaning softly as they wobble over. In moments like these, he loses himself in the thoughts that pester him all day. His regrets, his poor choices (though he would never describe them as "poor"). His knife flies through another's temporal lobe, cutting through the rotting skull with remarkable ease.

Nate's face turns into a very visible grimace as blood spurts on to him, joining the stains that are there from the others. As the first Molotov dies, he looks back toward the cash register and prays to God that Milo waited to light the next one and didn't follow him. As the crowd of zombies thins, he begins to move back to his gun and backpack. Nate slings the latter over his shoulder and begins to move down the aisles, limping quite quickly down them as he searches for non-perishables.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Milo:

Milo checked an adjacent aisle and saw five zombies shuffling down towards them. The smell of old meat was masking their smell, but the zombies were starting to take notice of them. It seemed like the meat in the store had attracted every zombie in the town here.

When Nathan handed him a Molotov, Milo climbed up onto the shelves to get a better look. That is when he saw something bad. There were zombies coming down the halls, and would soon surround the others. He took out his flashlight and flashed it in someone's face, he couldn't see who, before turning it off and waving to them. As the fire of Nate's Molotov raged, other zombies instead of walking through the fire went around, while some of the zombies who went through the fire survived and charged towards the group while being on fire. As Nate's started to die, he threw his Molotov to help seal up that attack route.

The group was now getting surrounded, as the zombies were coming in through the doors behind him. The store was filled with supplies though, because contrary to popular belief and what the movies showed stores didn't deplete of supplies so quickly. This store still had plenty of food. Not counting the food that had gone bad. The smell of the rotted food was atrocious though, because the power had gone out. No refrigeration, no computers, no cell phone recharging.

He tried to look for other ways to help. Then he got an idea. He pushed a bunch of heavy boxes into the next aisle (and onto some zombies, which slowed them down and actually killed one of them). As the zombies were now all grouped together. He then pushed that aisle, causing it to fall down and smash them all. He jumped to another aisle, and looked in some boxes. Toilet paper, soda bottles, beer bottles. He took some of the beer bottles out, but he lacked cloth or a lighter. So instead, he threw the bottles at the zombie heads, hoping the glass would break and do enough damage. He threw the first bottle, which missed entirely. The second bottle hit it straight in the head but didn't break. It did break it's decayed neck through.

Milo continued to look in more boxes, as a few zombies took notice of him and began climbing. He found plastic knives, bleach, baking soda, flour, beads, hand lotion, napkins, more beer, dog food, and bugspray. He saw some lighters in the aisle, but two zombies were there. He threw a number of bottles at them, then quickly grabbed some toilet paper, beer bottles, and bugspray. He through the improvised molotovs right at the zombies, and finished them off with a flamethrower to the face. He then kept to his high ground and looked at what the others were doing.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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Esther peered inside where one zombie, hunched over on his knees, was eating the flesh off of a once living man. It was disgusting. She could feel her stomach churning. But there was only one, she had this under control. She set her backpack on the ground and took one last indulgent puff from her cigarette before taking it from her mouth and resting it on the pack. She approached slowly, cricket bat in hand.

She nudged the zombie in the back with the cricket bat, and as expected, it slowly peered around, locking her eyes for a moment before reorienting itself towards her, then began to stand. That's when she struck, stepping forward and putting her body weight into a swing that would send decayed teeth and blood ticking and splattering against the opened glass door that in its opened state, was facing them. It hit the ground with a thud.

She wanted to puke... She hit it again, blood fountaining into the air. It twitched. She hit it again, this time, angry. She could have swore she saw it move again. She hit it. Why was it moving? Why wouldn't it stop? Why wouldn't it die!? The head was in strewn pieces now, but she could swear... It was still alive. She hit it over and over, so angry at this... Thing. This monster, this horrid creature that ripped so many families apart. "Just fucking die!" She screamed... That snapped her out of it. Was... Was she hallucinating? She didn't know how long she'd been there... She felt dizzy. Oh how she wished she could take one of those Xanax right now.

She dropped her Cricket bat, too tired to maintain its grasp. She began mumbling out incoherent song lyrics, they all drew together before she changed octaves. "Down in a hole... Losing my soul..." she sang as she hesitantly picked up her bat, smeared with blood and other organ material. For the first time, she looked at the man who had been being eaten... 'Man' being used loosely. He was a husk in his stomach area, the whole section of his abdomen gone... But his face was intact. He was handsome. Very handsome. Her eyes suddenly began to well up with tears, but her expression didn't change. She inched towards the man, pleading with her sense of empathy to allow her to pass him without throwing up. Just step by step... She couldn't take her eyes off of his wound. She began to make out the anatomy charts she'd seen in health class, seeing what'd been eaten, and what hadn't. She heard his screams. He did not move, she did not see them... But oh god did she hear the-

And just like that, fate had elected to repay her negligence. A corpse tackled her from the blind spot on the opposite side of the wall of which she passed. It bit at her, but only got the hood of her jacket. She swung around with the meager amount of energy that she had left, whacking it in the stomach. It released its grip on the now perforated hood, but kept towards her, it was touching her, its decayed hand swiped her face. She barely arched her spine with all of her energy, the hand caught her lip ring and yanked it out, blood spewing down her face. She screamed, falling back into the corpse of the deceased, handsome young man. It closed on her, still standing. Without thinking she reached a hand behind her, drawing a revolver from underneath the young man's thigh. It was a blur, oh what luck! How the hell was she going to live? She pointed the gun roughly at the creature's center of mass as it prepared to tackle onto her. "Click. Click. Click." "Son of a bi-" "BANG."

The corpse fell back, stunned. She stood up, looking around in disbelief that she was still alive... She grabbed her cricket bat with her free hand and sprinted out the door, still physically drained and panting heavily. She scooped up her backpack and slung it around her shoulders, forgetting her cigarette for the moment before frantically searching the concrete for where it had fallen... There, she grabbed it and slid it between her lips, taking a generous drag and letting the smoke drift out of her nose for just... Just a moment of relaxation. No, a second. An instant.

She snapped back to reality, seeing the corpses begin shifting out of the door, she jogged off. Where would she go? ...What's the next logical place for food? A supermarket. Not much over-thinking was necessary. She jogged down the street, leaving the shuffling corpses in her wake... She rounded the corner and approached the entrance, something else was going on inside... Not again. She thought about leaving, but her curiousity wouldn't allow her. She slowly peered in, finishing her cigarette and resting the butt in her bottom left coat pocket. "People..." She whispered. She stood frozen in the doorway, watching the ruckus. Her cricket bat in her left hand, and the revolver with one bullet tucked safely away in her pack.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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#, as written by mich22
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Fight. Alright—well…the mild doctor didn’t even bother to check his pockets. He did not carry a gun, of any sort. Believe him, dear reader, when you’re with someone who has eyesight like Adam Dawson, you’d be downright glad that the nearsighted man chose not to carry deadly weapons. Nathan returned to them once again, but Adam couldn’t help quirk an eyebrow at what he had brought back. Alcohol? He was sure a zombie outbreak would make anyone crave a good strong drink but really now wasn’t the time to be worr—oh. Nathan began unceremoniously stuffing his makeshift wicks into the necks of the bottles. If anyone or anything was ever thirsty for a Molotov cocktail, it’d certainly be the undead. The corner of his mouth twitched upwards during his quiet observation. The closest the man’s been to a smile in ages.

Lights flickered with the monotonous drone of florescent lights. Was someone tampering in the breaker room? Hazel eyes quickly adjusted, grateful for the extra light and scanned the aisle headings. Target locked. Pharmacy. Once those bottles were lit, there would be very little time to spend scavenging the store, and he didn’t plan on squandering a second of it. On the positive side, it seemed that their small party had grown. Art had joined in at Nathan’s side, already successful with her own ventures. That shock of red hair could only be none other than Aspen. As Nathan drew back his arm with his newfound weapon, the faintest whisper had notified Adam to look towards the doorway. A reclusive girl stood there, bloodied cricket bat in hand. She was battered up something awful. He’d have to patch her up later, no doubt. Uncertain on whether she was keen on letting her presence known to the others, he gave her the minutest acknowledging nod, before the shattering of glass and flame sprung their operation forwards.

You know, sometimes, it’s hard to believe how fast things melt into chaos.

“Sorry.” Adam ducked down around them, feeling the heat of the flames lick his skin. Nathan would probably do more than scold him for splitting off from the group later. The others, Nathan, Kat, Cyan, they were the fighters. He was--well, he didn't really know what he was. He wouldn't be of any use to them there, but he did know what he could do. Gathering medication was his priority. Should someone choose to come with him, then all the better, but he would not ask someone purposely to carry him as a burden. With the zombies, momentarily confused by the sudden noise, smoke and flame, he hurried his way over to the correct aisle. Though he sacrificed one hand to hold his blazer to his mouth and nose as a prevention of smoke inhalation, the other hand readily grabbed packages of bandages, bottles of rubbing alcohol—he’d really love to hop behind the counter for access to the stronger medications—but Tylenol and the like, even a few Unisom sleeping aids, should do for now. He hastily added whatever was left of those to his supply. But the call of more effective supplies was too strong. One flicker of his eyes towards the counter, a pause, and anyone who saw would know what he was about to do.

He made a dash for it, clumsily sliding under the flip-open partitioning door. The bottom shelf contained mainly opioids, but he could work with that. Wonderful. Tramadol, buprenorphine, methadone, were all gratefully added to his sack. The doctor went busily to work, but so immersed he was--

--that he did not notice the zombie lurking on the opposite side of his shelf.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Kat swallowed nervously as she put away her revolver and took up her knife. She knew that the noise would attract more attention than they needed but she liked the idea of being able to keep her distance from the undead. Now it’d be close, down and dirty work something she wasn’t nearly as confident in. Watching Nate and Milo spring into action, the twenty-nine year old former student laughed to herself. It was brilliant and the distraction gave them time to at least grab something making this whole trip not a complete loss.

Hearing noise behind her she immediately whirled around and prepared to defend herself against whatever had snuck up behind them. With relief she noted Art and Aspen’s arrival. “Nice of you to join the fun, wouldn’t have wanted you to miss out.” Kat called in greeting, a sardonic grin sliding across her face. Turning her much needed attention back to the zombies, she was surprised to see the Doctor split from the group and go racing off. No explanation offered and not much in the way of protection. Kat had two options she could do as Nate commanded or she could run off after the Doc and make sure he didn’t get gruesomely eaten. With new arrivals on hand to help she figured that this might be the time to disobey.

“We’ll be back!” Kat cried over the din beginning to emerge from the market. The sounds of the dead; growls, guttural groans and howls were insanity inducing. Knife in hand she took off in a sprint after the Doc, grateful that she could at least see where she was going. By now the smoke was beginning to roil and soon enough they’d be trapped in here, blind and unable to find their way out before succumbing to smoke inhalation or the horde of the undead. Catching a glimpse of the Doctor ahead of her Kat put on speed, the hanging sign for the pharmacy giving away his plan.

Tripping over the torso of a torn in half zombie and rolling her ankle, Kat instinctively and frantically pulled herself away from the chomping jaws of a young woman with stringy dark hair, now a mindless killing machine. As the rotting half-woman scraped her way towards the prone brunette on the tiled floor, Kat came to her senses and rose to her knees to gain better leverage. With a quick thrust of her hunting knife the zombie was well and truly dead. Heaving a sigh of relief Kat made it to her feet and tenderly tested her ankle. A minor sprain, she’d have to grit her teeth and bear it or become some ghoul’s main course. With only a minor limp to betray her left ankle’s weakness she finally made her way to the pharmacy.

Kat caught the figure of the Doctor, quickly and steadily emptying the shelves of the pharmacy. It was a brave move to go off alone without much for protection and all for the greater good. Her respect for Adam grew as did her fear once she noticed the shambling corpse in the back shelves of the pharmacy with him. Scrambling quickly through the partitioned door with about as much grace as a water buffalo she landed on her twisted ankle and winced as she drew the revolver from her side. Fuck the noise, the fire and its ensuing din were attention grabbers what would gunshots harm now she figured as she took aim and fired. The bullet tagged the corpse in the left shoulder, slowing it down only a moment before it resumed its lurch towards living flesh. Trying to steady herself and her quickened heartbeat, Kat took aim again and this time hit pay dirt or at least rotting brains.

“Hope I didn’t startle you, Doc, but we gotta go. This whole place is gonna be an inferno soon.” Kat explained herself loudly due to the ringing in her ears from the gunshots. Taking a moment to limp through the shelves, Kat scanned them quickly and frantically until she found what she was looking for. Grabbing the lithium and whatever else seemed pertinent she stuffed them into her backpack and made sure there were no lurking zombies to grab her as she crawled back through the door. Lucky for them the fire had attracted most of the attention; pulling up her scarf around her mouth she did her best to breathe clean air as she motioned for the Doctor to follow her out. “Oh, this could’ve gone so much better.” Kat mused aloud as she limped her way towards the rest of the group and ultimately the exit.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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#, as written by mich22
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”Bloody He--” The man jumped, his hands reflexively twitching towards his head to protect it, as two gunshots rang through the air at an uncomfortably close proximity. He looked back to see Kat with a smoking gun in her hand. A zombie corpse lay not too far from him or the girl—it only took a moment more for him to put the pieces together. Yes, he was startled…but better startled than dead. It took a few moments more to wipe the shock from his face. He was lucky that she had followed him here. With a simple nod, he briskly jammed a few more items into his shoulder bag and tightened the clasps.

He jogged after Kateryna, in time to hear her musings about their scavenging job. “Ah, but it also could have gone worse.” He said, forcing his lips into a smile. It was rare to hear him speak without being prompted to. But he was trying to be optimistic about it, at least. Admittedly, the thought wasn’t very uplifting. His pep talks were about as good as his jokes were funny. In essence, not funny at all.

Adam noted though that she had new limp in her walk. “Here--” He couldn’t help but feel responsible for her injury, “Put your arm over my shoulder.” He offered gently. He had a manner of speaking that exuded his own sort of quiet authority. They were steadily making their way back to the group. The light cast from the propped open door put his mind at ease a little. Thank goodness, the faster they got out of here, the better. As per habit, he began to run a headcount and check of everyone in their small group. Nathan may be the leader, but Adam still watched over every one of them, just in a more subtle manner. Not everyone had come out unscathed, but that was to be expected. He could see that as Nathan collected materials off of the shelves, he as well, had a limp. The rest, including himself, were battered and bruised. Not to mention the untold damage to the lungs that smoke inhalation had caused to all of them. Obviously, he wouldn't be able to patch them all up now--you know, with the zombie infestation in this town and all that, so the least he could do was give her a little support to keep the weight off of her weakened foot. Running would not come easily to her for the next few days, or even weeks, depending on how bad the sprain was.

On the bright side, his medical sack was now heavy with good supplies. He felt better equipped than usual, more confident to make this great journey south, they'd been planning. He knew that their group would go through it all quicker than hungry children with candy, but it was better than having them starve, if you knew his meaning.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar

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She needed someone. Robyn needed moral support, someone to crack a joke about the entire situation. Hell, she needed Art, but as far as she knew, Art was dead. She was usually extremely laid back, but it was certainly difficult for anyone to remain composed when one of their closest companions in the end of the world was gone. She looked at the bodies, trying to identify them as she twisted the sleeves of her hoodie slowly. Perhaps she only kept her composure around the less composed members of the group. Robyn knew Shanti was strong, and she would understand the fear Robyn had.

"Do you really think she's...okay?" Robyn asked, looking at Shanti, her forehead crinkling in concern. She gave a soft sigh. Stop working yourself up, Robyn. You're not helping. Her mental pep talk seemed to have a positive effect on her, for she slowly grew less forlorn. It also helped that Shanti pointed to the footprints on the road, left in blood and gore from the surrounding zombies. She was about to tell Shanti they should follow them when the crash sounded. Instinctively, Robyn followed Shanti as Kela most likely followed either her or Lizzie.

Yes, let's say that's what happened. She ran into town. Art would do that. Shanti's smile did reassure her even if the fear returned soon after. And then there was the gunshot. "Oh God," she breathed, taking off at a sprint toward the town, pistol rubbing awkward against her hip from its place between her flesh and the belt she wore. They weren't supposed to shoot. Nate didn't want them to shoot. Why did they shoot?

Robyn paused in the street, far enough from the store that she couldn't notice the smoke at first but close enough that she could make out the figures of Nate, Art, and Oakley. She almost fainted as relief filled her, but Robyn regained her composure quickly as she noticed Art laying down beside Nate. "Art!" she called, moving toward the two figures at a slightly slower pace as she caught her breath. Shit, shit, shit. Nate looked up at her, still wearing his slightly worried smile.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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{A fabulous collaboration between myself and Scarlet Loup}


Art rolled her eyes, already knowing Nate's answer before he gave it. He wasn't predictable – She just knew him well enough. Sighing, she watched as the molotovs were thrown and busied herself with trailing behind him. She almost felt bad for letting Nate be the protector in the situation, hiding behind him as he stabbed the zombies moving towards him, but she figured that he didn't mind too much. She let off steam with midnight dances and he liked to stab dead people. Everyone had their quirks. Besides, she recalled a point in time where he mentioned that he didn't mind saving her ass. She smirked a little at the memory before realizing that he had cleared their area, immediately producing a large black trash bag from one of her backpack side pockets. “You people eat canned soup, right?” Even in this situation she joked, teasing in her voice. She knew very well that they ate canned soup. It was often that Nate teased – and sometimes reprimanded – Art for not eating what the others did.

A few of the others probably saw it as her being uppity - She wasn't one to sit down and explain herself these days and to be fair to them, she kind of did seem a bit prissy for it being the zombie apocalypse. She still spent at least twenty minutes every morning and night on her hair and pouted about her clothes being dirty. Lord knows that the organic eater wasn't about to slurp down a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. She had literally turned such food down to eat wild mushroom and grass soup instead. There was a time when she thought Robyn was going to die from simultaneously choking on her coffee and having a heart attack when Art suggested they all go nude during the summer. Robyn assured her that there would be none of that.

All were such fond memories that kept her smiling even through dark times as she used her thigh-strapped phone light and Nate's gun light to select food from the shelves. There were lots of soups and dry ramen packets in this aisle along with those sides that you need only to add water, heat up, and stir. She made sure to grab all the three cheese instant mashed potatoes that she could because Joshamee loved them. Isabelle, on the other hand, was more of a fan of macaroni and cheese.

There was something exhilarating about killing in the mind of Nate. Video games could provide a mockery of what the carnage was really like, but it was nothing like the real thing. It was much like giving an alcoholic a can of soda. There was no auto-aiming in real life or unlimited ammunition for your pistol. This was real life, and there was no way to restart the mission. And he loved it. Wendy thought he was crazy when he tried to take Penny out shooting. Crazy bitch. Maybe she was one of the zombies he slashed through now. The knife moved with a bit more strength. Filed for divorce. How dare she divorce him? She’d been far too nonchalant about it, too.

Nate looked up as the door’s lock clicked. It was too late, far too late. He’d stayed up by himself after the kids went to bed, waiting for Wendy to come home. As she entered, he flipped the light on and watched her jump in surprise with cold, calculating eyes.

”Where the hell were you?” he asked, his voice soft despite his steely gaze.

“Out.” She moved past him and set her purse down on the table, heels clicking on the wood floor, as he stood up and moved around. Wendy had never really lost the beauty of her high school years. She was still a slight woman who preened just about every morning. He rubbed at the stubble of his unkempt facial hair as she turned around, dress twirling slightly.

”Where?” he asked quickly, moving closer to her, hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. She shrugged and turned away from him, occupying herself with a magazine on the stained coffee table. Wendy toyed with her hair slowly, running a hand through the bleached pixie cut. His throat caught, for she only did that when she was nervous.

“Nate. It’s not working out...we’re not working out, babe. I...called a lawyer.” His brow furrowed, and he chewed the piece of gum in his mouth with more vigor. “I think it would be best for us both if we got...a divorce.” He caught the gum between his teeth and stared at her without expression, jaw clenched. He slowly opened his mouth and then he closed it again as he walked back toward the kitchen, head held between his hands.

“Honey...please don’t just walk away from me,” Wendy said, a sigh of exasperation leaving through her frowning lips. “We can’t just keep living this God damn lie, Nathan!” He turned to her, and she met his gaze, tightening her jaw as if mimicking him. “I don’t love you.”

The stack of dishes hit the floor violently, knocked in a sharp movement as Nate shoved past. ”Fuck you, Wendy. Fuck you!” He had wanted to say something snarky, something moving. Instead, he cursed her out and continued to do so as he moved down the hallway, past the kids' rooms. He disappeared into their bedroom with a loud slam of the door that woke the kids. He’d woken up the next morning to a pile of divorce papers in place of his wife.


He physically shook his head at the heat of the nearby flames licking by his face. There was no time to think about her. Art piled food into the bag beside him as he passed by again with his bag and gun in hand. ”Can’t be too picky when the world’ gone to shit,” he replied, smirk returning to his lips. ”I’m going to grab protein bars. You coming?” In truth, he didn’t want to leave her behind. Not because he didn’t trust her to protect herself-- well, partially because of that-- but because he liked keeping the others in view. It lessened the chance of a casualty, and in turn, the wrath of Robyn who would undoubtedly lose trust for him if one of the survivors perished.

He hardly noticed the limp in his step anymore. The health aisle, packed with powdered protein shakes and supplements, was quite easy to find and navigate through. Zombies had no use for the products there. As he set his backpack down, the beer cans clanked together slightly and made a soft ding in response to the first few protein bars.

Nate was zoned out again. Art paused with him, canting her head to the side as she observed him until he came to. The fire was moving across the aisles and they had to get out. She pulled the gray fabric of her Nirvana shirt over her mouth as some form of protection from the thickening smoke. She could smell the plastic and paper burning stronger now, the thick cloud of smoke starting to sting her eyes. Squinting, she pulled her shirt down and gave a cough, following him. “I'm not sure setting fire to the whole store while we're all in here was the best idea,” she teased. She knew full well that Nate would never make such a decision if he thought for a second that even one of them wouldn't make it out alive.

Nathan looked quickly over his shoulder and replied with a short chuckle. ”Well, it worked out good except for the-” He paused to cough. “Smoke. Besides, it adds to the excitement.”

“Next aisle over.” She walked past him and headed into the next aisle – Cereal and snacks. She didn't bother looking too hard as she grabbed every Quaker and General Mills brand item she could, shoving it into the bag. A brush of movement against her back caused her to turn and speak. “Oh – Are you ready to le-” She was cut short as she saw the flaming, rotting corpse with gaping maw reaching for her. Her voice became a shrill scream. Her knife found its way into her hand again and she quickly and immediately began stabbing the zombie in the face until it crumpled at her feet.

She could hardly stand the stench any longer, burning rotted flesh smell now wafting directly beneath her nostrils and attacking her olfactory senses in the most horrendous of ways. As was usual, her killing of a zombie was followed by a hearty vomiting session. She slipped in the blood and guts as she turned in an attempt to not get any on the bag or the now for-sure dead body. Grunting, she ended up with her earlier meal on her jacket, headphones, hands, and some of it on her face. Whimpering in disgust and just a bit of fright, she pushed herself up and grabbed her bag, taking a moment to breathe. Didn't do her much good - Her shirt smelled like vomit. So did her hands. And the air was thick with smoke.

Nate finished piling what remained of the protein-heavy snacks into his backpack before standing up and slinging it back over his shoulders. The store was quite bright from the slowly spreading flames now, so he flipped off the flashlight and looked around. Art was nowhere in sight, of course, for she wasn’t the type to follow mindlessly. You had to respect her for it, but it was also worrisome. His protective nature kicked in, and he moved back down the aisle, gun held at his hip.

”Art?” he called, waving smoke from in front of his face with a quick movement of his hand. ”Where are you, damn it?” He turned and peered down the cereal aisle where she was located. A look of relief moved across his face as he moved closer, but it disappeared as he noticed the vomit on her front. ”Aw, shit, Art…” he murmured, brow furrowing as he stepped over the dead undead corpse. Nate made sure to breathe through his mouth as he leaned down to help her up the rest of the way, but that only caused him to cough harshly from the thickening smoke. ”Let’s head out, okay? Meet up with the others.” Nate moved ahead of her, clearing his throat.

“I'm... I'm comin', Nate.” Art tried to keep up, dragging her bag behind her. Fuck! I should have double bagged it! The bag began to tear and she quickly put away her knife. Dry heaving, she felt like passing out until she remembered that she'd probably die if she did. She prepared the remaining three bags, stuffing one inside the other and beginning the slow transfer of goods from the ripped bag into the more sturdy set of bags. She forced herself up and toted the bag over her shoulder, her knees buckling under the weight as she trudged towards the exit. “Guys! Let's go!” There was a gunshot in answer and she immediately picked up her pace.

”Get the hell out of here!” he shouted, throat feeling scratchy from the mixture of stress on his vocal cords and smoke. It wasn’t difficult to make his way out of the store and back on to the streets once the smaller, fallen shelves were stepped over. Once he was out in the open, away from the store, Nate turned around again and looked for a trace of Art. Twenty minutes had obviously come and gone, but he fought the urge to make a snarky comment about it until the others showed up with their spoils.

Art wasn't too far behind Nate... Okay, maybe about twenty-three minutes behind him. But she made it out, nearly collapsing at his feet. She gasped and drank in the semi-clean air like a fish back into water, closing her eyes. Resting against the bag, she shielded her eyes and glanced back at the store. “Should we leave the stuff and go back in? Can't be much longer before that fire reaches the cleaning aisle and I don't want anyone in there when that plastic melts and those flames hit the chemicals.” She gave him a worried look, reaching up to ask for assistance in getting up.

Relief washed through him as Art moved out of the building. Sure, she collapsed on to her bag of food and whatnot, but at least she was out of the store. He set his gun down along with his backpack by the spot Oakley had settled down when the going got too tough for her. Nate moved to her and crouched down, balancing on the balls of his feet as she spoke.

”No, you’re not going back in,” he said, making his voice firm to avoid arguing about it with her. Nathan offered a brief smile, trying to lighten the situation. ”Can’t have you wasting food like that.” He joked, referencing the way her stomach rejected its earlier meal. He reached down to help her up, but Nate walked her away from the store instead of toward it. He supported her with an arm below her armpit, ensuring she wouldn’t fall. ”Do you want me to leave you to head back in?”

Art grumbled unintelligibly under her breath when Nate assured her that he absolutely wasn't letting her go back in, making her way away from the burning building instead. She didn't complain too long because she knew she wasn't going to win. Nate tended to win these sorts of arguments more than she did. Sighing, she momentarily decided to act like a child, throwing her head back and letting out a whine. “But I can heeelllllppp.” It accomplished nothing and served no use other than a brief second of amusement. She hated when things got serious. People got all serious. Then they got their panties into a wad. People argued. People got angry. People got sad. It was all so depressing. At his final words, it was almost reflex, her reaction. She threw her arms around his shoulders and mock swooned. “No! Nate! I don't ever want you to leave me! Who shall keep me warm at night?” She peeked to see if there was just a hint of a smile on his face, giving her own cheesy smile.

It was a wonder at times that she was their third in command.

It was also a wonder that nobody had outright told her that she was mentally unstable. She wasn't, obviously. But you can see how someone might think that.

He gave a bit of a forced laugh, the worry beginning to overshadow his amusement. Still, he managed to retain a smile as she pretended to swoon in his arms. To put it bluntly, he was quite dense. Inference had never been his strong suit, but he certainly wasn’t stupid. He blinked at her a few times, wondering to himself whether she was to be taken seriously. Then again, it was Art, so perhaps it was just her being her not-so-serious and flirty self.

”The smoke must have gotten to you worse than I thought,” he replied, still trying to make light of the situation as said smoke spread within the store. He hadn’t shared a bed with someone since the divorce was filed. In fact, he hadn’t really had a bed since the divorce process began.

He pried her hands off of his shoulders gently and set her down before rising. ”Don’t go running off, alright?” he said, looking at her with as much seriousness as he could given her swooning. As he moved toward the door, he continued looking back at her, pointing his index finger and middle finger at his eyes and then at her in an “I’m watching you” gesture. He wouldn’t enter the store, but Nate pushed open the door and shouted in again, calling for them to get out. He didn’t want to outright abandon them, but Nate knew that it wouldn’t do the group much good if he went in and died alongside them. He was extremely practical when it came to decisions. Nate’s emotions were hardly a part of these executive decisions. As a few more filtered out, he picked up his belongings and moved back toward Art with them in hand, Oakley following behind. ”I’ll give ‘em a minute, and then I’ll go in after the stragglers, okay?”

Art gave a silent nod, rolling over on her side and closing her eyes. The adrenaline was winding down and she was tired. She hoped that Kela had made it back safely and that Robyn wasn't too worried. Robyn was probably going to smack Art when she saw her alive and well. She didn't mind though - It was nice having someone that cared that you were alive. She gave the faintest of smiles and yawned, pulling her headphones over her ears and plugging them into the phone still strapped to her thigh. “Galaxy, play Metallica, For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The phone replied with a ding and a smooth “Of course, Art” before the metal music began blaring into her eardrums, forcing her to keep awake.

"Art!" Nate looked up suddenly, still wearing that half-amused smile he'd given Art as Robyn approached at a half-run, half-walk. Nathan looked down again and shook Art before pulling the headphones up slightly so they rested on her temples instead of her ears.

“Whaaat?” The younger woman whined and sat up, rubbing her eyes. “You know I hate people touching my headphones when I got my jams,” she grumbled under her breath before looking towards the sound of footsteps from the opposite direction.

"Mom's here," he told her, utilizing the name many in the group had adopted including Art. Nate normally would not have referred to the older woman by the name, for Robyn was less than twenty years older than him. Still, he knew Art would be receptive to the nickname and would recognize it. The red head knelt by Art and looked down at her. "God, Art...my God, how crazy are you?" Her voice didn't sound as frantic now, for Nate was one of the ones who needed her to stay level-headed and calm. He was far too unstable and trigger-happy. "I thought you died." She sighed and looked to Nathan. "How did it go...?"

"Successful, I believe." He stood up slowly, his feet seizing up from crouching. "Still waiting on a few, but we have supplies."

“Everything's fine. From my run, theirs, and then my run with them... I'd say that we've got enough food for a while for everyone. Assuming nobody steals our shit. Oh! And clothes. Nothing Gucci, but it'll keep us warm. We could blanket raid ater this.” Art pushed herself up and embraced Robyn, hugging her tightly before moving to Nate's side, wrapping her arms around his side. “On a much lighter note!” Art prepared herself mentally for the prank she'd been waiting to play on them both forever and this just seemed like the absolute perfect time for it. The actress put her skills to work and beamed a happy smile. “Nate and I are totally an item now!” She gave her most joyous of squeals, giving Nate a tight squeeze and leaning up to place a kiss on his dirty cheek. But with the chunks she's blown and concrete she's eaten in the past hour alone, her lips weren't exactly clean either.

Robyn's smile returned rapidly as Art began speaking about the supplies they'd gathered Hell, what would she have done if Art didn't make it? "I guess we'll have to make do with that," she replied, playing along with the joke. Robyn wasn't even sure if she'd worn anything from Gucci in her life. With the condition the world was currently in, she probably wouldn't in her remaining years either. She relished the hug, holding Art tightly as if letting go would mean losing her. When they finally parted, though, Robyn watched in confusion as she latched on to Nate, who seemed just as confused.

"We...are?" he replied, his words a mixture of question and statement but mostly question. He took the hug well, of course, for he would certainly never reject her from hugging him. He'd learned not to do that, for she was always hugging someone. Plus, she hadn't reacted well when he first rejected her hugs. She followed the constricting squeeze with a peck on his scruffy, dirty cheek however, and he made a brief expression of both fake and actual disgust mixed with the remaining confusion as she did so. He certainly didn't hate the kiss. In all honesty, he did appreciate it. Or perhaps that wasn't the right word. Regardless, he allowed her to do so without pulling away. The amusement showed plainly on his face now as he turned to look at her. "You're delirious," he told her, fighting to sound serious. He wasn't an actor in any sense of the word. Placing an arm around her from under her armpits again, he started to stand and pull her upward. "Let's get you back, okay?" His limp added an unnecessary little bounce each time they moved, but he kept a decent pace as he moved her along, away from the chaos of the burning building. "You're crazy. You know that, right?" He was joking, of course, but there was something...quirky about her.

Amusement flickered beneath the surface of her visage but didn't once show as she looked at Nate adoringly. That is, until he told her twice that she was crazy and began to tow her off. Time to really sell it! With the smoke in her eyes it wasn't hard to muster up some tears as she threw herself away from Nate and onto the pavement like some Disney princess in pain. It actually did hurt as she hit the concrete but the more tears the better. She whined some and looked back up at Nate with a tear stained face. “I'm not crazy, Nate!” Something that her shrieking suggested otherwise. “I thought you liked me.” Her bottom lip poked out some as she quivered with mock hurt (and a bit of real physical pain), putting on a show for everyone about. Humiliating Nate wasn't exactly the idea but she knew they'd laugh and kiss and makeup later. Regretfully, minus the kissing. Unless things went better than expected. She placed her face in her hands and cried a little more, taking a moment to let it sink in. She knew Nate hated it when she - or anyone else - cried. She shamelessly played on his emotions before looking up at him again, crinkling her nose delicately. “I guess I am crazy to think...we” She stopped and choked up, burying her face in her hands again.

Her skills had not lessened in her time away from the stage. As Art threw herself on to the concrete, he turned a light pinkish color. The more she whimpered and cried, the deeper the color of red became. "Art..." he mumbled, leaning down to begin pulling her back on to her feet. With the backpack on his shoulders and his gun in one hand, it became too hard to do, so he crouched on the pavement beside her. His face was a bright scarlet now, and he rubbed at the back of his neck slowly. "Come on...don't do this," he replied, keeping his voice low. "I-I like you." He wasn't sure in which context they were speaking, though he could assume she meant the "like-like" kind that elementary school students whispered about. For now, he referred to the amicable type. Maybe he did have those feelings, but there was far too much going on the worry about such things. Art peeked up at him with one eye, her distraught expression slowly becoming one of amusement. She leaned up to his ear, whispering softly. “Yeah, I know. Just wanted to hear ya say it. Now, go play firefighter.” The possibly insane actress kissed his cheek again and made a shooing motion, setting herself upright quickly, dusting herself off. “I seriously need to bathe and brush my teeth,” she whined to Robyn as she moved back towards the store only to grab her large black bag, heading back over to those who had made it out. “I think we could all do with some nice "hygiene-me-time" tonight, right?” Her smile was a polite and normal one, acting as though there weren't a building with zombies, fire, and other group members right behind her. Pretending it wasn't happening helped her not break down.

His grin returned quickly, almost taking over as his blush slowly died down. "Screw you," he muttered as she kissed his cheek. “You know where I sleep.” "Don't get yourself killed, okay?" Again, he moved toward the building and waited, occasionally shooting a glance at Art. God damn it, it was hard to tell when she was pulling your leg.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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Shanti followed behind Robyn, who took off when she saw the others. Shanti figured they would have to leave quickly to avoid the undead that would be attracted by the noise. Lizzy came back after seeing the others come from the building, which yes had been set on fire.

Shanti looked at it What a waste she thought to herself. Nate's need to cause destruction had struck again. Yet she hung back, knowing full well that she was in for a lecture one way or another. She had to smile though at Art's antics, smiled then roll her eyes. The others followed out, and it didn't look like they lost anyone to whatever was inside the building. She looked over at the Doc who was helping Kat, but she was also looking out for more undead. Anna came over and talked about finding another woman, Shanti glanced in the newcomer's direction...yeah something else was more of an accurate assumption.

The girl looked away and down the street, either the majority of the undead had been in the store, or they were hiding. She only saw a handful lumbering their way, "Can we play reunion back at base," she said to no one in particular. She didn't want to be wasting anymore time inside the town, which was creeping her out as it was. She shivered slightly even though she had an extra layer on from that morning. She had changed weapons figuring distance would be a better option at the moment. Risking a glance at Nate, she said nothing else, positive that mouthing off wasn't a good idea anyways.

"I am sure the kids are worried about you," this time her comment was to Art, she would have admitted that she was a little worried herself, but Shanti kept the face without expression. She gave the actress one of her small smiles instead after a minute, "good think you got big feet, or would have never found the trail leading here."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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Adam exited the building with a rough cough to clear his lungs. The only regret, perhaps, would be the waste of supplies they had caused with their little light show. They hadn’t even taken a small fraction of what that store contained, and now anyone else that came would only be disappointed by ashes and dust. It may not be their problem in the future, but it may cause trouble for others in the future.

He noted that the group was already abuzz with chatter and seemed to be in good spirits. He gazed softened admiringly. The fight for survival, as much as you’d think would tear people apart, had actually brought them all closer together. Though, he couldn’t quite say he’d compare them to family just yet, they were dear to him, in some way. One would never be able to tell that they just came out of a burning building. Robyn and Shanti had even come to join the party. It was so rare to see the founder of their group stray so far from the children back at camp. Art and Nathan were up to their usual dramatics again. Sometimes he really wondered if they were--he quirked an eyebrow at Art’s announcement to Robyn. Oh good for them. The obvious fluster and confusion on Nathan’s face almost brought a smile to his lips. He did hope they’d invite him to the wedding.

His head snapped up at the call of his name. Oh goodness, he’d been completely lost in his thoughts again. He hoped Kat hadn’t noticed. Had she been speaking to him? A little blonde was jogging over to them—ah Annabelle. A flood of questions came soon after. ”Our plans went a little awry.” The cause of that seemed obvious enough, ”Yes, we’re all more or less in one piece, not to worry.” He shot Anna a quizzical look however, when she informed them that her scavenging had resulted not in clothing, or food, but another survivor! She turned around and the strange froze like a deer in headlights. Even disregarding the torn lip, the poor girl looked scared out of her wits. Adam looked down at his other companion. ”You should be alright for now, please let me look at that ankle when we’re back at camp.” Even so, he apologized again to Kateryna for dividing his attention from her so often.

The brunet took a gentle step forward to greet the stranger. Whatever terror she was feeling it certainly showed on her face. ”Hey--it’s alright. He spoke softly, “It's alright to be frightened...we all were at one point, but I promise you, you’re safe now.” Admittedly, shy, frightened, and sick children had given Adam a lot of experience speaking to the timid. He was an unassuming man in daily life, but as soon as you were his patient, he always gazed at you with a rare, irresistible prejudice in your favor. As if you were understood as much as you wanted to be understood. As if you he regarded you with the impression of you, at your best, that you hoped to convey. “We were just about to return to our camp. There's food, a warm fire, and a safe place to sleep. You’re welcome to join us. I can patch you up there as well.” Practiced fingers reached into his sack, pulling out a cotton pad. He held it at the level of her broken lip, to allow her to see what he was holding. “May I?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand

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Sitting around the short flames of a camp fire just outside of the farm house, Nate's first beer went down easily. Sure it wasn't cold, but he didn't really mind when it was freezing around them. He'd pulled on a double layer of sweatshirts over the Nike shirt. His shorts, which hadn't kept him very warm that morning, had been swapped out for heather gray sweatpants. He seemed to have no intention of nursing the beverage in his hands, for he downed it like, well, an alcoholic who had been starved of alcohol. Nate would never diagnose himself as such, of course, but he certainly had a problem when it came to alcohol. Meanwhile, he swore it was different because he tended to drink beer, not hard liquor. What he failed to understand was that it wasn't any different when you drank enough to intoxicate yourself just about every other night. There was a time when days blurred into one under a wave of alcohol-induced stupor.

When buzzed, Nathan was a slightly more bearable man. He was still cocky, sure, but he was more agreeable. He was less likely to butt heads with you. Instead, he was more inclined to prod you verbally until it led to conflict. Nate might have stayed to speak with the others, but he also knew he owed it to them to watch the camp a bit that night. After nearly killing them all, it was his silent way of trying to win back their complete trust. He left the emptied can beside the fire and stood slowly and stiffly. He cocked the Beretta 92 in his hands as he walked past the others and stopped by the little circle of cars and trucks. Nate burrowed his hands briefly in the outermost hoodie he wore with a large "Durand Auto Repair Shop" across the front. His father had made sure Nate had a new one each time he outgrew the previous one. Nathan had realized only after he left to join the Army that it was merely a way to advertise the shop. But if that were the case, why the hell had his old man continued to send them after he was discharged?

Nate didn't care enough to think about it. In a brooding manner, he leaned on the hood of his Jeep Wrangler and sipped from the can. He wasn't sure why, but "Gimme Shelter" came to mind, and he hummed it lightly as if the zombies would certainly reply to some Rolling Stones. It was too quiet for his liking, but whereas many missed the sound of cars beeping and people chatting, he yearned for his children running about, wreaking havoc. Nate Durand just months before would have been glad to be rid of the little buggers. God, Penny hadn't stopped speaking about some party during the last normal week. Jayson was begging for a new video game system. Lucille was angry about some trivial kindergarten business.

In the present, Nate chuckled to himself and toyed with the strings on his hoodie. He certainly didn't miss having to deal with Wendy coming home late, smelling of sex and unfamiliar cologne. He wondered now if she ever tried to hide the fact that she was sleeping with others while still technically married. Granted, their love for each other was already over before she'd begun to bring other men home. Perhaps he was even glad that she wasn't here with him. She'd only add to his stress.

Obviously, Nate would not acknowledge the fact that his wife had every right to divorce him. He would not acknowledge the fact that he had become quite a horrible person upon his return home and that he was lucky she didn't throw him out of the house. Hell, he still wasn't an admirable person. Whether he actually knew it and merely chose to ignore it was unknown to others.

A shape moved just beyond the cars, and he lifted his gun to shoot...only to realize it was Oakley. He hadn't even realized the dog had gotten out in the commotion that followed their return to camp. It was a good plunder, but many were still disgruntled about the burnt down building. "You've gotta do what you've gotta do," he mumbled to himself, words slightly slurring together not from the alcohol but from the quiet way he spoke.

There was a sudden itch, a craving, that began to nag him slowly at first and then full force as if life depended upon it. The urge to pull out the second can of beer floated about in the back of his mind in a maddening manner. Pros and cons were hardly weighed before the tab was pulled and Nate started sipping the drink, taking care this time to consume more slowly. After all, he only had one can after this.

There was a difference, of course, between responsibly drinking and alcoholism. Nathan Durand had most certainly transitioned into the latter.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Art

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→Outfit←

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The run was a successful one and Art was happy that everyone had made it out alive, though she hadn't thought for a second that anyone would die. The walk back to home base had been a rather chatty one, but there never was a silent moment with her about. Everyone carried something back home and she could see the look of relief ashing over the faces of those who hadn't gone out for a run when they saw that nobody had gone missing. Kela took off to harass Minnie and Art could only laugh. She was greeted by Isabelle and Joshamee rushing into her legs, nearly toppling her. She quickly eased her mind that she was fine and suffered from no impending doom before shooing them away to finish sorting out the clothes that she'd grabbed earlier. They were reluctant but she sealed the deal by promising them delicious candy and maybe some popcorn later if they could get done in enough time to help her cook.

As the freezing evening came upon them Art had set to work to prepare a nice evening for everyone. The house was warm and Art had passed out hygiene products before gathering up a bagful of food, Joshamee and Isabelle trailing behind her along with Kela. Her eyes danced over the drinking figure of Nate, flashing him a winsome smile before kneeling by the fire. She had to remove her jacket because it was too hot before she began to show the kids how to make kebabs and hobo stew. They all began taking aluminium foil and putting in various meats and vegetables and herbs and seasonings with a plop of butter on top and a bit of water. Art shaped the aluminium foil into bowls and closed up the tops a bit before placing them all inside the fire. The kids didn't need much help skewering mushrooms and vegetables for the kebabs, comparing it to roasting marshmallows.

They all stepped back to admire their handiwork before Art shooed the kids away to go and bathe. She had already bathed herself, feeling much better. Dusting her hands off on her grey sweats, she pulled her blank black and white varsity style jacket back on and moved towards her brooding friend, plopping onto his lap gently. With a gentle smile, she sat on the edge of his knee, her own feet on the ground as she pushed up just a little to keep from placing all her weight on him. She wasn't heavy, but she wasn't blind either. She'd seen his limp. Without warning, she took the can of beer from his hand and brought the rim to her own lips. It was a harsh and sour taste that was left lingering on her tongue though the liquid went down smoothly. It didn't warm her insides like whiskey though. “Ech — ” she made a gagging noise and winced, recoiling and holding the beer away from her as she made a face. “Just say the word and I'll get some of the good stuff from my stash.”

There was an awkward grin shared between them before silence fell and they both watched the fire crackle. The way the orange and red flames danced about, licking at the air and wood was mesmerizing. The scent of the food cooking wafted through the air and tickled her nose in a delightful way, making her smile. She hoped that perhaps everyone would sit down together for a meal. They needed to talk about their next move — If they were to move at all. The farm house was a good place. There had even been crops still living when they got there. Not many. But the soil was fertile and there were some animals that hadn't escaped. There was a small barn, a well, a lake with trout only a twenty minute walk away and a bit farther provided salmon. It was a good place.

But maybe they should keep moving, looking for other survivors and heading south where winters wouldn't be so harsh.

She cleared her throat and turned her body a bit, rubbing her thumb against the slightly warm can nervously. “Uhm... Look, babe. Nate. I'm really sorry. About earlier. I know it was probably the wrong time and place to be goofing off... And I didn't mean to embarrass you.” She fidgeted uncomfortably and looked back at the fire as she spoke. There had been some grumbling here and there that Art shouldn't have been acting foolishly and busying herself with embarrassing Nate and flirting when others were still inside a burning building with zombies. Michael and Minnie and Harry had certainly given her an earful when Robyn and Nate had disappeared. “Just, don't be too mad at me. Kay? You and Robyn are the only ones I really trust.”

Art didn't like when people she cared for were upset with her. She hadn't initially thought that Robyn or Nate would be too upset with her tomfoolery. Maybe a bit irritated, but not angry. With the thought placed in her head that they were, she quickly felt the need to apologize. She'd apologize to Robyn later, figuring Nate deserved the first apology since he had been the target of her antics. She adjusted her cowgirl hat, her kitty beanie was with her other clothes being washed by Minnie who had been assigned wash duty. Art turned her green-gold eyes, a touch of blue flecks visible in the firelight that danced across her face.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Art

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The smell of food wafted toward his position outside of the vehicle circle, but Nate chased away the alcohol-induced craving with a few bites of some chocolate and peanut butter flavored protein bar between the sips of beer. He had also heated up some can of a some creamy soup earlier. When it asked for a can of water, Nathan had merely poured the remainder of his Nalgene full of water into the warped pot. It wasn't half bad, but then again, it was one of those meals you couldn't fuck up.

He cast a look over his shoulder for a moment, watching Art interact with the children. It was a shame she would never meet his own children. They might have enjoyed her enthusiasm. She flashed him a smile, and he returned it quickly, though it didn't seem to show as much in his eyes as it should have. Either way, the lack of a good light source probably hid that fact. Setting his can down on the car's hood, he slid off and unlocked it. In a minute, he set up a far more comfortable folding chair on the grass beside his Wrangler. Nathan was in mid-sip of his beer when Art sat down in his lap wordlessly. He didn't take note of the way she purposefully distributed her weight on his right knee more than his left. Instead, Nate merely raised his eyebrows in quick, soundless greeting as if keeping with a theme.

Mid-swallow now, she snatched the can from his lips. Her reaction brought a smile to his lips, which he licked subconsciously not in a sexual way, but to clean them of the lingering alcohol. It still could be taken as the former. A shrug accompanied by a tilt of the head and a bit of an Elvis lip. "Not really my thing. Too rough, and it burns." Nate shifted slightly. "Wendy wouldn't let me keep that shit in the house anyway. Kids could get into it." An alcohol-induced chuff of laughter. "Fucking control freak, that's what she was. Made me keep the guns in a safe." The silence fell after his anecdote, if it could even be called that. It was more of a burst of vexation.

Nathan diverted his gaze as if that might clear the air and evoke conversation. The side of the farm house seemed to suddenly catch his attention. He hated this breed of silence. No. He despised this silence. It was similar to the silence that had come between Nathan and Wendy after the divorce was filed. It wasn't the same, and he was smart enough to realize this, but it still unnerved him deep down. Nate's mind didn't linger on the group's future. He knew they needed to move soon. It was cold, and there was no way they would make it without warmth when winter hit New York. Then again, Nathan wasn't the kind of man to consider other opinions. Instead, he was the kind of man to let the ideas of others pass through one ear and out the other before carrying on the way he originally planned to. Was that a bad thing? He would say no, of course.

Art's voice caused him to look back at her, light green hues catching the light of the flames subtly. Nate nodded, slowly at first and then with a bit more vigor. Just the mere thought of his blush, though he hadn't seen it himself, evoked a rush of blood to the face. He prayed it blended into the glow of orange light flickering across his face. Nathan was not the type to get flustered either, but public embarrassment was the kind of thing that made others watch you closely, too closely. He didn't need that when he already knew too many questioned his ability to lead.

"Nah, no, it was fine," he said, using the two negative interjections as if trying to prove something or doubly reassure her. "You didn't embarrass me..." There was a temptation, a sudden urge within him, to return the one-sided flirting that had been coming from Art for the past few weeks. He was also the kind of man to act on an impulse. "...sweetheart." There was that smirk on his face, the one that accompanied cockiness. There was no true reason behind the flirting besides, perhaps, a loneliness evoked by alcohol and the mention of his wife. "Can't really be mad at you. They all got out." Sure, others would be unable to search it for supplies now, but it was survival of the fittest now, right? It weeded out the competition. He had never been an overly compassionate man, and the fight for survival did not help this at all.

"Well, I mean, there could have been a better time for it," he replied afterward, shifting again so that one arm brushed against where she perched on his lap. The other hand reached for the beer and plucked it from her hand with a smile to accompany it. He took a sip from it, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. "But, nah, no harm done. Couldn't blame you either way. Handsome man like me carrying you from a burning building. Enough to cause any woman to swoon." His lips moved around the last word, stressing it, his mouth forming a quick pucker like a kiss as he spoke.

The blatant cockiness was reminiscent of a high school boy who assumed the world and every woman who wandered about its surface was his. It was reminiscent of the Nathan Durand that Wendy dated years ago admist whispers and rumors about the freshman and the senior. It was even reminiscent of the Private First Class Nathan Durand she had married when she was only eighteen.

It was nothing like the man Nathan Durand truly was.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Art

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Art smiled as Nate assured her that he wasn't angry, even flirting back with her in a teasing fashion. She leaned back against him, resting her head right next to his, letting her arms wrap around him as much as she could. “You're the best.” Giving one last squeeze, she moved a bit to steal a kiss. How could she not? It would be absolutely criminal of her to simply let such a handsome man pucker his lips for no reason! It wasn't one of her usual kisses either. She pressed her lips firmly against his, cupping his face with one hand. She thought he deserved it after everything he'd done for everyone and all that he'd been through.

Or maybe she just really wanted to kiss him and saw his puckered lips as an opening for fair game. Either way, she was glad that she did. She let her eyes close to take the kiss a little deeper, practically straddling him at this point. But the sound of the door being pulled open brought her back down from her brief euphoria. She grinned at Nate and kissed his nose before squirming unceremoniously from his lap. Giving him a wink, she turned back to the fire as the two bathed children ran up with flimsy aluminum trays with a handful of forks. Art carefully used the tongs to begin pulling out the food that was surely well done by now, setting them on the trays.

His lips twitched into a grin as she leaned against him, and Nate shifted his arm around her waist slightly to better hold her, even though it was unnecessary given the fact that she wrapped her arms about his neck. "Thank you," he replied, managing to make the cocky remark sound like flirting by speaking in a low tone, tongue lingering on his front teeth for a bit longer than usual to stress the words. His puckered lips were captured in a sudden kiss. Even he knew it was a different kind of kiss. It was not the playful, teasing kiss he was used to. No, this one was strange. It was a passionate kind of kiss he hadn't shared in ages. A familiar hunger overcame him, and Nathan found himself pulling her closer, his arm tightening about her waist in return, pulling her closer fervently.

Perhaps he felt he deserved this as Art thought. He probably believe that. Nathan was not the humble type. Oh yes, he deserved this after the shit he'd been through, the shit he would go through. He sat up a bit more so that his body pushed against hers in a movement so sudden it might have seemed awkward. He was saved the embarrassment, for the door opened. Art pulled away, pecked him on the nose, and left him without warning. Nate watched her over the edge of his beer can as he finished off the beverage. He couldn't exactly remember the last time he'd kissed like that. Any dates he went on after Wendy called it quits never interested him. They just lacked something. Nate still wasn't sure what that something was, but he probably never would. As the kids disappeared back inside, he let out a soft huff of laughter as if to attract her attention again.

"You can't just get a man excited like that and then leave him," he teased, though there was some truth behind those words. He hid any true intentions behind a smirk that had been plastered on his face. "It just ain't fair, gorgeous."

Art pushed her hat back into place, the kiss having knocked it askew. There was a light blush in her cheeks and a heat that went to her ears and it wasn't the result of the fire she was so close to. After the kids had left she moved away from the fire altogether to go and get plastic forks from her Rogue along with a bucket. Returning, she had turned the bucket upside down and made it into a makeshift table for the food she saved for the two of them. Josh and Izzy were likely just as tired as they were hungry, especially after a warm bath. They wouldn't be making a round back outside and she didn't want to go in.
She looked up at Nate with a light smile, rolling her eyes at his words before strolling back over and straddling him again.

“Now, you should know by now, mi amor. I can and will do whatever I pretty please and I'm not usually a fair person.” Her smile had become a confident smirk as she placed her hands on either side of his face, one slipping to the back of his head, her fingers running through his hair. “But... I can make an exception. You're my babe, right?” Her accent flowed smoothly and heavier in a sultry, airy tone that she soon found out as a teen that American men loved. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his again, this time in a gentler and far more intimate manner. They both deserved this.

He relaxed back in his chair once more, for he was still sitting up from when he had leaned into her while kissing. Nate still beamed at her, a row of straight teeth flashing back at her. Her eye roll only provided further amusement for him. Nathan tossed the can over his shoulder as she straddled him once more. " 'Course I know," Nate replied, his hands moving along her freely now that he had freed his other hand. "You can't blame me for getting a bit worked-up, though. Any man would." His smile remained cocky, as per usual. It was as if he didn't know how to smile differently. Her touch felt as if it left little sparks of electricity across his scalp while her fingers raked through his short, brown hair.

"You're a doll," he said softly, teasingly, at her offer. " 'Course I am, honey." Nathan spoke softly, though not necessarily in a sultry manner like Art. It was more of a whisper of some sort to just keep with some sort of theme. His eyes closed instinctively as their lips met again, but he moved with a bit more passion as if the kiss was too slow for him. His hands pulled her closer with a quick jerk from their position around her waist. Wasn't this adultery? The thought crossed his mind for a moment, but it left just as quickly as he pulled away for a moment to catch his breath. Almost as quickly as they had parted, they rejoined, accompanied by a soft moan from Nate.

“You are very greedy,” she laughed as she broke the kiss again. This... It felt good. Being kissed, held, caressed. The last person to handle her this way was her father and it was far from pleasant. After that she never let another man touch her again outside of the theatre. But she actually wanted Nate to kiss her and hold her. He certainly wasn't lacking in experience and seemed to be enjoying himself. But, it made her feel safe and wanted and maybe just a little bit loved. She wasn't about to start holding his hand and naming their future children any time soon but she did like the idea of them having a closer relationship. This made her happy and it made him happy. In times like this... People needed to stay happy.

She went in for another kiss, her tongue dancing across his. He tasted like beer and soup. She didn't mind the beer but the soup was gross. Not enough to push her away though. However, she could feel his hands exploring. She didn't mind it at first and even let her own hands slip under his layers of clothes to press against the muscles of his chest. But as his hands slipped under her shirt and jacket and she felt his fingers brush against the scars littering her back, the disruptions in her otherwise smooth flesh, she seized up. Her breath caught as she went rigid before jerking back, falling out of his lap. “No! ... Not my back... Not there... You can't touch there! It's ugly! Bad!” She fidgeted as she breathed heavily, pulling her knees to her chest. She needed her pills. But he didn't know. Just... Just Robyn. He'd think she was crazy. She wasn't crazy!

"Is that a bad thing?" Nate replied in regards to her comment about greed. He followed the statement with a laugh at both of their comments. It was wonderful holding a woman again. He'd been on dates and had sex with others even after the divorce was filed, but it was never this passionate. At least these encounters didn't feel as passionate as this did now. His breath came quicker and heavier due to the arousal. His pride had been crushed, demolished even, after his discharge and the divorce. Now, he felt as if he ruled the world. Nate mentally needed this. He was cocky about it, though, to hide the extent to which he actually craved physical contact.

The kisses increased in intensity until she began to ease her hands up the layered hoodies. Nate's breath caught in his throat as if he were taken by surprise, which he was to some extent. He took this as a sign that doing the same to her wouldn't be frowned upon. Nathan's hands moved along her waist first, tracing the shape of her body with his hands quickly. Hurried hands paused at the band of her bra before he began to move them along her back. His lips were still puckered when she fell backwards before him and curled into fetal position. "Whoa, hey," he said, brow furrowing as he held out a hand as if to calm her. Nate slid up to the edge of his chair. Did he move too quickly? Was she having second thoughts?

"What the hell?" He didn't say it in an angry manner. In fact, it sounded more confused and concerned. Nate offered a quick, toothy grin. "Look, I'm sure it's not bad, baby girl. What's it? Birth mark? Scar? Hey, Wendy had those stretch marks and stuff, it's no big deal."

Art quickly scrambled away from Nate and headed back towards her Rogue. She scrambled around the glove box until she found two bottles of pills, hurriedly uncapping them and popping them into her mouth. The ringing in her ears and the voice in her head began to die down as she slumped in her seat, curling up a bit. Sighing, she clenched her fists and exited the red vehicle, trudging back to Nate. She sat back in his lap gingerly, avoiding his gaze. “I-I'm so sorry about that... I forgot to take my medicine today.” She looked down towards the fire, scratching her palms nervously as the began to think about whether or not she should confide deeper in Nate. Why wouldn't she? She trusted him. She wanted to be close to him but she couldn't if he thought she was crazy.

“I accidentally killed my mom when I was nine. We were arguing at the top of the stairs and she was trying to take my new camera. I lost my grip and... She went down. I had to live with my dad and brother to escape foster care. Cuba doesn't really have a healthy environment for foster kids. It was fine... At first. But. Things got really bad when he started drinking. They hurt me, Nate. In a lot of ways. It took me seven years to get away.” She carefully shed her jacket and then her shirt. Art always wore a jacket or a sweater, disallowing anyone from seeing the scars on her arms and back. And the half sleeve on her right arm. With her back to him she showed him the scars, some fading and some a bit puckered. She gave a light shiver from the chill.

“Since then, I've never been... With anyone. Not... Like... Like this. I have to take medicine for... schizophrenia to stabilize my moods,” she admitted in an ashamed tone.

He retracted his hand slowly, pulling it away with a look of confusion as she hurried off toward the car. From where he sat, he couldn't see what she was doing in the car. Instead, he merely heard what sounded vaguely like pills being shaken.

"You, ah, you okay?" he asked slowly, brow furrowing and then cocking in a mixture of confusion and concern. He held her loosely as she settled into his lap again. For a moment, Nate tried to grab her attention, to direct it back toward him. It was fruitless, though, so he merely waited and listened as she spoke.

"Nah, it's okay," he said softly, starting to move a hand as if to rub her back. He quickly decided against it given what had just transpired. Nathan had heard some dark tales in his life. He'd seen things no one should see. Friends had been blown to smithereens yards away. This seemed different though. Perhaps it was because he hadn't expected a girl like Art to have such demons. "I'm...I'm sorry to hear that, sweetheart," he said softly, having the decency to stay solemn as he spoke to her, lips drawn into a subtle frown. As she raised her shirt, Nate subconsciously leaned forward and ran a hand along her back, feeling the scars slowly.

He fought to find a way to connect to her, to make her feel less ashamed. "I, ah, was on medicine for depression and stuff for a bit," he finally said. A bit meant he'd tried it for a week before he threw the bottle away. She didn't need to know that. He moved her about on his lap gently so that she was almost facing him. "It's alright. We've all got our demons, right?" Nate leaned up and kissed her again, forcing himself to do so gently.