Bullets and Brains

Post-Apocalyptic America


a part of Bullets and Brains, by Scarlet Loup.


Scarlet Loup holds sovereignty over Post-Apocalyptic America, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Post-Apocalyptic America is a part of Bullets and Brains.

15 Characters Here

Nathan Durand [24] "Cross me, and I'll make sure zombies aren't the only thing you fear out here."
Annabelle Marie Richards [18] "I'm not the type of person who survives something like this."
Adam Dawson [18] "Why doesn't anyone listen to the doctor?"
Art [17] "Smile. We're still alive. Think of it as a clean slate."
James Milo [16] A hunter who is quick on his feet and even zombies have trouble noticing him. He is also a partial mute, as he has difficulty speaking.
Kat Savchenko [16] A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
Esther Lille [13] "I sold my soul for drugs. Happily."
Aspen Bates [13] "My mom always told me to keep moving forward, but I just want to stay where I am now."
Layton Bates [10] "Who wants to hear about the time I almost punched a police officer?"
Robyn Dempsey [10] "A mother knows what her child's gone through, even if she didn't see it herself."

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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#, as written by krashby

Anna bit her lip. She wasn't entirely sure if this woman was hearing a word she spoke. She appeared otherwise preoccupied, but with what, Anna could only guess.

What Anna did know was the longer they both just stood there, the more danger they were in. She looked to the doorway of the supermarket. Aside from occasional movement it was difficult to make out what was happening within, but the sounds... Anna shuttered with every clash and bang and moan that reached her ears. Behind the woman's head she could see some kind of strange light, and the smell of something... burning? Was that fire? All Anna could think was that so close to her someone she knew could be injured, or bitten, or dying. She knew for a fact Nate was in there, and last she saw little Milo had been following close behind...

There's nothing you can do, Anna told herself. Those people in there know how to fight, not you. They know how to take care of themselves. Besides, this woman needs help. I can help her. The rest can take care of themselves...

That's what she told herself, anyways.

Anna's attention snapped back when the woman in front of her seemed to... convulse a bit, like someone being suddenly awoken. Anna couldn't be sure, she hadn't been watching very closely. But now that she looked closely she could see that the woman's whole body seemed to be shivering. Shaking. Anna wasn't sure which was the better word. Either way, she leaned down slowly to place her pistol on the floor, and then she used her free hands to unzip her grey lightweight jacket and pull it off of her, revealing underneath nothing more than a simple purple tank top. The small black outline of a heart could be seen tattooed on her wrist. A chilly breeze brushed upon her newly exposed flesh, but she ignored it, taking a step forward and than another, moving just slightly out of arm's reach of the woman.

"W-why would... You... Help me?" the woman had said.

"Because," Anna replied, reaching her arm out to offer the extra jacket. She met the woman's eyes, blue to blue, each set haunted by separate demons. "There aren't that many of us left. We have to look out for each other... or else none of us survive."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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She stared at the woman for several long seconds, suspicion and contempt in her eyes... Before her gaze lifted slightly. She straightened her back, painfully. She was just taller than the woman. Her legs were wobbling slightly.

"I'm not cold... I-..."

She looked off, realizing that she didn't want to finish that sentence. She returned her focus to Anna

"...Keep it. I'm fine." She reached down and picked up the gun, using her other hand's pointer and middle finger to arm the safety (An amateur way to do so.) And handed it back to her, forcing a half-smile. Maybe this woman could help her. For now. 'Don't trust her Esther. Don't trust her.' For once they were right. She looked at the woman with what was her best resassurance, eyebrows raised, and something that resembled what she remembered to be a 'smile.' Forced, completely.

"It... It's not cold."

She held out the paddle for the woman to hold it (Ready to snatch it back if need be.) and (Presuming she takes it.) She yanked on her sleeve and the Velcro came undone. In one 'RIP' the sleeve was in her hand, she rolled it up tightly in a matter of seconds and jammed it into her pocket, fastening the placket this time. Her arm was tattooed in black with names, notes and musicians from shoulder to fingertip. And her veins had small circles on them that looked like bruises. On the top of her shoulder, she had the face of a man with long hair, and as it went down , straight lines circled her arm with musical notes, all the way down to the bottom where an 'A' was on her wrist with chains wrapped around it, circling her whole wrist. "Stayley" was tattooed on her palm, and "Layne" on the outside of her hand. A bass cleft in front of her fingers on both sides of her hand, and her fingers contained the notes to two different songs using her fingers as the lines to a bar. Her note tattoos around her ear and down her neck the only other visible ones. She smiles another forced smile at the woman.

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

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#, as written by girlwt

Shanti followed Robyn out of camp and into to town, on her guard and knives at her sides. They followed Kela to the pile of zombie bodies, "Robyn, I don't think she is there," she said as she took a good look at them, someone had put up a good fight, and Art was more willing to live then to let four zombies take her down. Shanti glanced at the ground, footsteps led farther into town, "Maybe she went to look for the others," she continued.

She heard something crash nearby, and smelled something, "Lizzy," the beagle took off, having the better sense of smell, and probably could recognize someone's scent. She hoped the other dog would follow, she looked back at Robyn, "We can only think that she just beat the heck out of these guys and then went into town, and it sounds like trouble so keep you guard up." She knew that she didn't have to tell Robyn that, and she said it in a quiet manner, not like an order, but as a reminder. Shanti gave her a quick smile.

Shanti moved from where Robyn was, but only took a few steps away, she sort of thought if the other needed to continue digging she would just let her, but truthfully she sort of hoped that her words would snap her out of it. She actually said a silent prayer that she was right and Art really went to go look for the others. Somewhere nearby she heard a gunshot, "Fuck," it was a silent curse, "Robyn come on, it really does sound like trouble."

She wasn't kidding when she said she didn't like towns, full of nothing but zombies and people who wanted to take you out for their own enjoyment. This was turning into a really bad day.

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: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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#, as written by krashby

The hand holding Anna's offer fell lamely back down to her side. Slowly she pulled her jacket back over her, chilled skin thanking her for the slight comfort it provided. All the while she watched the woman carefully. When she began to reach for the gun left on the floor, Anna tensed and froze. She'd let her guard down. Should she try to turn and run? Should she try to grab the gun back. Her hesitation was too long; if the woman wanted to put a bullet in Anna's head, she easily had the time.

But she didn't. Anna's mouth hung open slightly as the safety was put on the pistol and then returned to her. Even more surprisingly, the woman released her one of her own weapons to her. The smile on her face was, well... less than convincing. Anna returned one just as weakly. This woman seemed very unstable, which in these days meant nothing but danger, and the lack of trust between the two strangers was obvious. And yet the woman released her weapon. Anna took the bat in her free hand, tilting her head slightly in confusion.

The next part was the strangest of the entire exchange. Anna shuttered at the rip of velcro, looking through the doorway immediately in fear that the noise would attract the undead. But of course, the commotion within was more than enough of a distraction to keep all the zombies occupied. At first Anna thought that the woman was simply trying to show her tattoos, but Anna couldn't understand why. Especially in a situation like this. "Those are... nice," Anna said anxiously. Reason told her to flee now, but she seemed to be glued in place. She looked at the arm. As an aspiring musician, Anna had spent years listening to and studying a wide variety of music and could recognize most of the musicians tattooed into the woman's skin... though admittedly, most of it wasn't exactly her first choice in music. It was only after she looked closely did she see the bruises. They looked like... injection marks... "Oh," Anna said. She felt dumb for not realizing sooner.

Gunshots. Anna jumped in place. They were far enough away for her to be safe, for now, but she had been in this group long enough to know that gunshots were only used in desperate situations. "We need to go," she said, attention snapping back to the present situation. She could smell the fire burning. Inside, she could see figures emerging to the exit. She could only hope everyone made it. "If you want help, follow. If not..." Anna handed the woman back her bat, and then she turned to head back to safety.

The rest of the group was emerging from the building. Anna did a hasty count in her head to try to figure out if anyone was missing. There seemed to be an injury or two, but nobody looked to be, well... dead. Thank goodness. Anna scanned for who she was looking for and found him quickly. "Adam," she called, jogging over to the doctor. Kat was limping on his arm but appeared otherwise unharmed. "What happened?" she asked once her reached them. Stupid question. Zombies happened, that's what. "Is everyone alright? I found a girl over there, by the supermarket. Not one of us. Her lip is busted over and bleeding quite a bit, and she might have other injuries but I'm not sure. But... I think something else is wrong with her..." Anna looked back to see if the woman had followed.

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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#, as written by girlwt

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: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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She took her paddle back enthusiastically, letting go of a troubled breath.

"If you want help, follow. If not..."

The woman spoke before trotting off. Esther took a deep breath in before walking after the woman, more nervous than she'd been in the last month. She knew she couldn't survive on her own. Not by a long shot. The woman trotted about taking roll, and Esther simply fell into the middle of the group, standing awkwardly by herself. Deja vu. She spied Art from the corner of her view, noting her grey Nirvana T-shirt. 'Say something. Seem normal. Approach her.' All ideas. Ideas she wanted to fulfill. None of them came close to reality.

She saw the woman that had spooked her earlier had stopped and was talking with two people, one of them a man and the other a woman. She slowly walked over to the three, paddle idly swinging at her side, eyes at the floor. She became anxious on her way over. 'Turn around. You can still leave. Go. GO. GET AWAY!' she suddenly became fearful, and anxious and filled with terror. All these people, the smoke venting from the front door... The chatter... The crowd. She was suddenly mortally terrified by the prospect of a single being's attention resting on her.

She stood behind Anna, frozen. Anxious beyond expression. Her palms were sweating, her mind wouldn't keep straight and she could feel her heart beating out of her chest. What if they talked to her? What did they think of her? She was a freak. She looked at her inked arm without changing the direction of her head from the ground, just her eyes shifting uncomfortably. She didn't want to move. She didn't want to attract attention. She didn't want to exist. But she did. She looked up from the asphalt for one moment... A moment too long, her eyes met Anne as she turned around, and she froze. Terrified in fear that she may be forced to open her mouth.

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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#, as written by mich22
Image Image

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: Art Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar

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#, as written by girlwt
(Collab with Little Fox, sorry our colors are very similar)

Art watched as Nate walked away, rolling her eyes every time he looked back to glance at her though there was a smile of amusement still on her face. Her head turned some at the sound of Shanti's voice. Lizzy was there with her (of course) and Kela sat as well, waiting patiently to be acknowledged. Art's smile became a grin as gave a sharp whistle. Kela bounded over and almost toppled her companion, pressing her nose against Art's face. “Big feet? All the better to dance with, my dear Shanti.” She gave a soft laugh and pushed Kela down but kept one hand on her head. “The kids alright? I know they practically die inside when I'm not there. Well - Everyone does - But, they're okay?” Ever the serious one (yeah, right) Art gave the other young woman an upward nod.

Shanti looked at the other, a smile still present on her face, "They are fine Art, just worried, of course your note didn't help much," Shanti had not actually read it but she was sure it had a melodramatic tone to it. "So tell me you guys actually got something out of there before it went all to hell" Shanti could feel the heat from the store, as again her eyes went to the street.

Art plopped onto the ground and moved her headphones down from her temple to her neck. “Woah - My note said if. I'm somewhat offended that you'd think that I might not make it out alive. I live. It's what I do. The note was just a precautionary measure.” Art really was quite confident in her ability to survive this zombie apocalypse since she had teamed up with Robyn and it showed through her daily antics. One might say that she didn't even really know that the world had gone to hell. “I don't know about the others but Nate and I snagged a pretty big haul. Protein bars, protein powders, cereal, snack bars, those icky sides where you just add water and heat. And soup. Lots of soup and noodles.”

A chuckle fell from her lips, as if anyone would take Art seriously at all, Shanti was sure that she would stop to entertain the zombies just for the hell of it. "Well next be sure to put, oh I am just kidding at the bottom, so you don't give someone a heart attack,". She glanced in Robyn's direction with that, she had been worried with Robyn's reaction. However she didn't want to embarrass her, so it was a general statement. She had been worried a little bit too, especially after seeing that pile of zombie bodies. After Art answered her second question, all she did was nod, and it her stomach finally found the moment to growl. She had forgotten to eat anything that morning as she was out of camp before the sun came up. Slightly embarrassed, she looked down at the ground, "Sorry, I guess you naming all that food made realize how hungry I was.'

“Well, as soon as we get back to base I promise to whip us all up something really delicious. We need to use the rest of the veggies and herbs from my last run before they go bad anyways.” She offered Shanti a look of understanding.

"Sounds good, she said in reply. Now all that was left was to actually move out and go back to base. She looked about, who were they missing anyways, not that she expected anyone to take role in the morning, but to make sure they weren't leaving anyone behind would have been nice.

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: Robyn Dempsey

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As Nate brooded and contemplated, Robyn sat inside the farm house at the wooden dining room table which must have been impressive before the apocalypse began. While he was busy pretending to be the strongest member of the group, she stayed with those who were intelligent enough to realize the house would be the best place to sleep. Already, some of the children had curled up in blankets and sweaters by the wood-burning stove for a nap. Thank God the previous owners had thought to keep that. She wondered now where they were. There had only been a zombie or two within the farmhouse when they arrived, not the family (or at least the entirety of) that must have lived here. It wasn't worth worrying about now. Robyn knew she'd only succeed in upsetting herself.

Instead, she looked back to the maps before her. Candlelight flickered on the table, and she held a flashlight for good measure. She'd been working on the maps for a while now, picking up more as they moved along. That grocery store probably had maps before it burnt down...again, not worth worrying about. No, Nate had done what he had to do, right? He sacrificed the majority of the store to keep the others safe. That was a very fair trade-off. Then why was it still bothering her? Her brow furrowed in visible consternation, but she reverted to some sort of serene expression as she continued to look over the roads she had traced in bright red Sharpie. Alternate routes were in a mixture of blues and blacks and whatever other colors she could find.

A sound caught her attention, and Robyn looked up quickly. As a piece of ginger hair fell in front of her eyes, she realized the sound had merely been the creaking of a floorboard beneath the napping form of a napping child. She smiled in an endearing manner and subconsciously pulled her phone out of her pocket. For just a moment, she also wondered what she'd do when the battery of her phone died. Just as quickly, she forced it out of her mind and pressed the capped Sharpie against her cheek.

Don't dwell. It won't help anyone. You'll worry them.

Right now, her priority was moving south. If Phillipa was with others, they would also move, wouldn't they? Of course they would. Right now, those around her, the ones that she knew were relying on her, needing support.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards

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#, as written by krashby

The guitar didn't belong to Anna, at least not before. No, her own baby was long since lost, probably still back leaning against her bed frame in her dormitory room, if it hadn't been destroyed by zombies or looters. Out of the three guitars she owned back home, her dark wood acoustic Gibson had been her pride and joy, her one first true love. She had often teased Daniel about it, telling him that she if the choice had to be made she would pick the instrument over him. And now, she had lost both in one cruel and fatal swoop.

The thing -- it could be classified as little more than a thing -- that Anna held now had been looted by her just a few days ago from a different little town the group had been scavenging, where Anna spotted it in a store window and separated from the group to retrieve it. She couldn't help it. Perhaps the others had scowled at her for risking her life over a non-essential -- she recalled Nathan's comment about flip flops just earlier today -- but if so, they just didn't understand. The didn't understand that music was the only thing left in the fragile girl's life, the only familiar thing for her to cling and allow her some glimpse to the normality, the only thing to keep her sanity intact.

The guitar she now owned was nothing compared to the ones she owned before. It was lightweight, smaller than she was comfortable with, a guitar meant for beginners. It was a cheap thing with cheap strings, and Anna was gentle to ensure that they wouldn't break too soon. Who knew when she would run across replacements? The sound was lacking, but it played, and that's what mattered. At least the size had it easy to carry when the group had to move from one base to another, though Anna knew that if the time came when they needed to flee suddenly, the guitar would have to be abandoned. Anna didn't like to dwell on that possibility.

She sat alone in one of the bedrooms of the farm house. She had a small bag and blanket rolled up against the wall, which along with the guitar and the clothes she wore were her only possessions. The sheets and mattress of the bed had been gone before they moved in, so Anna sat back against the wall as she strummed a melody. Without any picks, she strummed with her fingers, playing as softly as possible as to not draw attention of zombies outside. In solitude, the music was her personal haven from the hell outside these walls. She quietly sang along as she played:

"I have seen the rain
I have felt the pain
I don't know where I'll be tomorrow
I don't know where I'm going

I don't even know
Where I've been
But I know
I'd like to see them again

Spend my days just searching
Spend my nights in dreams
Stop looking over my shoulder baby
I stopped wondering what it means..."

(Song credit: I Have Seen the Rain -- Pink (written by Jim Moore)

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adam Dawson

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#, as written by mich22
Image Image

Thankfully, the travel back was much less eventful than the scavenging mission. Soon everyone at camp heard that the group had come back richer in supplies, and poorer in one charred grocery store. He was pretty sure they weren’t that torn up about it though. As comfortable as this farmhouse had gotten to be, he had the feeling that they had lingered here for far too long. It was time to move on. They were a large group, so naturally they were bound to attract both the dead and the not-so-friendly living to their establishment.

Outside, he noted that Nathan had a fire going. Not necessarily because it was dark as of yet, but probably to fend off the cold. Cruel winters had taken better people than them. Adam brushed a forearm against his grimy forehead. What he wouldn’t give for a hot shower right now. He supposed you couldn’t be too fussy at in times like these though. Until the group was ready to shove off, the doctor decided to bid his time by taking inventory of his supplies. With Robyn in the dining room, and the children and a few others in the bedroom, Adam was left on the moth-eaten sofa in the living room. He thought it best to leave the leaders to their own thoughts and devices. Besides, he never really had much to say anyways.

Bottle of pills, antibiotics, disinfectant, and a few more miscellaneous objects were splayed across the coffee-table in front of him. There hadn’t been much time to be especially attentive to what he had grabbed at the pharmacy. It was vital to know what you did and did not have, and how fast you were going through it, so an inventory check-up had to be done eventually. He didn’t need to use a pen and paper for this task—not even the dead could harm his exceptional memory. Not to mention he had seen far too many movies in which paper records are tampered with to cover up theft.
“All things considered, we’re fairly well-stocked,” He thought to himself, looking contentedly over his catch, “—could do with a few more bandages thou--” The quiet strumming of a guitar drifted in. He couldn't quite place whose voice it was.

{ I’ve seen the rain }
The metallic pitter patter of water against the car roof. Tires skidding. Metal crunching. Glass shattering.
{I’ve felt the pain }
"...Thomas...?" His own frightened, broken voice. There was so much...blood. He wouldn't last through the night.
{But I know I'd like to see them again }
"I'm sorry--I'm so, so sorry."

Adam’s jaw tightened, the color gone from his face. His grip around a bottle of medication was so tight it looked as if his aim was to strangle the life out of it. The man could have been mistaken as a statue, cold and grave as marble. Time, it seemed, could not heal all wounds, even for a Doctor.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Art

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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

0.00 INK

{Collaboration between Scarlet Loup and Little Fox}

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.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey

0.00 INK

Joshamee Cortez
{Collaboration between Scarlet Loup and Little Fox}

The brother and sister both had equal amounts of kebabs and aluminium foil bowls of stew on their trays as they made their way into the house. They would yell out for everyone to come and get their grub on but such actions could draw unwanted attention. They separated as they got inside, carefully walking about to find anyone that they could serve. Joshamee found Robyn first, smiling bashfully as he offered her some food. “I made it all by myself... With Art and Belle.” The cute child set the tray and forks down to peel open one of the foil bowls, releasing delicious scented hot steam. Carefully, he picked it up by the tips and set it on the small end table next to Robyn with a fork before offering her a kebab to go with it.

Robyn looked up from the maps quickly as she heard Joshamee's voice by her elbow. She quickly capped the highlighter in her hand and met his endearing smile with a smile of her own. It was the same smile she used at work before the world went to shit, but it certainly wasn't insincere. Instead, it was one of those smiles that seemed personal, as if there was only the one smiling and the one receiving the smile. It made you feel special no matter who you were or where you came from. The red-head swiveled on the wooden chair, turning to face the young boy. It smelled wonderful, really, and she was suddenly aware of her hunger.

"It looks great," she replied, pulling her hair up into a more manageable bun as she spoke. She took the kebab from him with a genuine "thank you" and nibbled on it slowly, savoring the taste. "I think this is better than anything I've ever eaten from an actual restaurant!" She set the kebab down on the table and took up the foil bowl, which she brought to her lips after attempting to cool it with a few breaths. "When this all ends, you three should definitely consider opening your own place." She had purposely chosen to use "when" not "if". Word choice was a priority these days.

Joshamee knew he should probably get to serving everyone else but he instead simply ran off to deliver the tray to the kitchen, taking one of the kebabs and stews for himself before rushing back to Robyn, sitting at her feet as he ate the warm, but still a bit hot food. He didn't want to spit out the piece of venison that was burning his tongue so he only held his mouth open making airy "Ahhh ahh ahh" breaths as if to cool off the meat before quickly chewing and swallowing.

Grinning up at the redhead that he had taken to calling "abuelita" every now and again since he viewed Art as a mother and Art viewed Robyn as her mother. “What if we find a small town to clean up? You guys can get rid of the zombies and then we can start uh...” He paused to think of that word that everyone else was always using. “Settle! Yeah! We can help people who don't have a big family like we do! Me an' Art an' Izzy can make food for them. Muy delicioso!” He gave a wide yawn before taking another bite.

“My mom was a cop. But her little brother, mi tio Ignacio, he had his own restaurant. He made really yummy pollo con arroz. That's Spanish for chicken and rice. Have you had it before? What about grilled chicken salad or steak salad? He could make really good steak with parma... Perma... Parmara... Parmesan sauce with cheese and shrimp! Mommy said he didn't pay taxes though so he had to go away.” He gave another yawn accompanied by an innocent and adoring gaze that fell upon Robyn, the young Latino subtly (well, not so subtly) scooting closer to her.

Robyn nodded along as he spoke to her. She didn't do so in the way many adults did, using the slow bobs of the head to absentmindedly acknowledge the ideas of a child. No, she nodded genuinely, listening to him as one might listen to a professor. He was too young to deal with this. He was too sweet, too innocent. Josh didn't deserve this. None of the children did. "I think it's a wonderful idea. Everyone needs a family, right?" She was well aware of the make-shift family dynamic they'd created, and Robyn adored it. For just a moment, she wondered if this would be her only chance at being a grandmother. Would she ever hold Phillipa's child in her arms?

His family story evoked a slight frown. She was familiar with stories of students losing family members for various reasons: drug use, jail time, suicide. She'd met a few children who had dealt with a parent being deported. For some reason, it seemed different as Joshamme told her. It felt closer to her, like she too had lost an uncle. The boy yawned and moved closer. The red head smiled at him like a parent might. She eased herself on to the ground, careful to not crush his small foil bowl. "I'm sure he knew how to cook very well. I'd love to meet him some day." Again, she did not say "would have". Even if he had died, it would be better for all of them if she spoke hopefully. "Hey, why don't you go get ready for bed, sport? We might have a long day tomorrow, and we'll need your help."

Bed? Why did he need to go to bed? The boy yawned while attempting to protest and insist that he wasn't tired. He didn't even finish his food yet. “Will you tell me a story, abuelita? And make sure nobody eats my food?” He looked at her with big brown eyes filled with innocence, clambering into her lap and resting his head of dark curls against her chest as though her breasts were pillows. “I like stories about dragons... But no scary stories.” He gave another yawn and closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around her arm in front of him.

She held him in her arms for a moment, hugging him against her. Maybe if it had all been different, she and Beverly would have had a son, too. Maybe. "Of course I'll tell you a story," she replied, her voice growing softer instinctively, for he was closer now. "No one will touch it." With one arm around him, holding the boy to her chest, she pushed herself up into a crouch so that she could grab the leftover food and place it on the table. Her other arm tightened around him, holding him in a better position. The walk to the kitchen from the dining room was not far, and she was able to place him amongst the piles of blankets without straining any muscles. A child or two were also curled up nearby, but they were fast asleep by now. "Get yourself comfortable, alright?" A story about dragons? Her mind raced to think of something. Beverly was the one who made up stories. Robyn merely read them from story books. Still, it couldn't be too hard, right?

Josh grinned happily and settled in more as he closed his eyes. He loved stories! Isabelle used to tell him stories but she wasn't very good at making new ones. He'd never tell her though because she might get angry or maybe he would hurt her feelings. He was pretty sure Robyn had plenty of good stories to tell that would give him good dreams. He had to have his stories before he went to sleep or he would have bad dreams. He didn't like telling people about his nightmares because then they worried. He didn't want to make anyone worried. Josh knew that they were all already worried. Zombies tended to do that to you.

Besides, he needed to be strong. He wasn't a baby anymore and he needed to take more responsibility. To make himself more useful. He could cook and feed the dogs. He was also very fast and graceful but they'd never let him be a scout or a scavenger. He was too scared and always freaked out and froze when he saw zombies. He saw them and he knew that they used to be people. They used to be someone's mom or dad or brother or sister. He couldn't kill them but he was always too scared to run.
She was not ignorant, and she knew that the zombies terrified the young boy. Again, she wished that they had not had to face this at such a young age. Robyn could only hope that life would become easier as time went on, but she knew this wasn’t the case. The entire country had been torn apart, and it might never be fixed effectively. The only they could do was be brave. As a side note, she also hoped Josh would find courage to face this new and terrifying world. A story came quite suddenly to her.

”Once upon a time, there was a castle, and this castle belonged to a Queen and her two children, Princess Belle and Prince Josh. Prince Josh was a curious child, but he found it hard to be brave sometimes. One day, he wandered out into the woods by himself, and he came face to face with a dragon.” Here, she stopped for momentary dramatic effect. ”He was scared, as any person would be. The dragon spoke to him and asked for his name.”

”Josh replied in a scared voice, and he spoke to the large dragon. He was afraid, but he knew that dragons liked to eat people sometimes, so he grabbed the sword at his belt and held it before the dragon. ‘I’m not afraid of you!’ he shouted, waving the sword about. The dragon laughed then, and smoke billowed from his nose and mouth. ‘Eat you?’ he asked. ‘Oh no, I don’t eat humans!’” She stopped once more and looked toward Josh. [color=#006600]”Prince Josh was safe from danger, but he had been brave.” She opened her mouth as if to add something to the train wreck of a story. Instead, she merely leaned forward and kissed Josh on the forehead lightly. [color=#006600]”The end. Good night, Prince Josh.” As his breathing slowed, Robyn stood again and walked out into the kitchen, leaving the sleeping child peacefully curled up on a pile of blankets.