The year is 2050. Eight years ago the world was ravaged by the outbreak of a virus dangerous enough to raise the dead back to life, but changed. Deformed. The virus affected some, leaving them immune but disabled. Others it infected and perverted. And the lucky ones? They survived, but lost friends and family along the way. Will they find a cure? Can they find hope as they struggle through the world that has been left to them by cruel chance? One group bands together to survive. One group facing a world that no longer seems to have room for the living. And if they fail? If they're caught? Well... it's a fate worse than death.
Character Relations/Important Info: --- Noah Czerny has been bitten Ronan Lynch and Noah Czerny are traveling together Ronan Lynch has lost his father and is looking for his brother Rue and Will Byers have just run into each other Will Byers is looking for his mother and brother L Lawliet is alone and looking for a cure Orpheus is alone and wants to save the woman he loves Sherlock Holmes and Crutchie Morris are traveling together Crutchie Morris was infected as a child and is now immune Kelsier lost his wife before the outbreak Kelsier and Nico di Angelo are traveling together Nico di Angelo is on the run
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 11, 2019 1:04:51 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan lay flat on his back next to the campfire, his eyes on the stars over his head. Sometimes he wished he knew what constellations were up there, so he could amuse himself by finding them at times like this. Other times he reminded himself that people had made up the constellations in the first place, and he could make up his own that were just as good if not even better, so why would he have wasted time studying something that dumb? However, he was currently in the middle of the former. He reached out straight in front of him - which was straight up, since he was on his back - and pretended to flick a star with a reddish hue out of the sky. That done, he sat up, shivering as he realized the fire had gone out. Because of course it had. He wasn’t a camper, dammit! He let out his breath in a low hiss and began to work in building the fire up again, though he doubted it would start up again. He had been surprised enough when it had started once
Sherlock ran a hand through his dusty black curls, trying to make sense of what he was looking at. “Is it some sort of code? A language I don’t know? Could be their language, of course, but all they do is groan and that’s not much of a conversation, is it?” He muttered to himself, flipping through the magazine he was reading and landing on a scientific page. His eyes lit up, and even the old, extremely dusty attic he was sitting in seemed a little bit cheerier. “Ah, there we go, I knew it was in here.” He cleared his throat like someone in the middle of a public speech, then began to narrate the whole passage out loud as he read, his enthusiasm only dimming somewhat when he reached a theory someone had already proven completely false, which was a lot like capturing the Snitch and still losing the game in his opinion.
Kelsier approached the store carefully, his weapon - it was a long knife, one he’d actually made - raised. As he got closer, he listened. Whatever else you could say about the undead, they were loud and usually hard to miss when you were really paying attention to them. He slid up closer to the wall and peered inside, his movements carefully. There were a couple zombies inside but nothing he couldn’t handle, so he circled back around and finally stepped inside, very, very quietly. He dropped and began to scoot forwards, towards the place the food would be kept, it there was in fact any food. There had to be, right? Wrong...but it made him feel better to pretend, so he did.
Rue was in a tree. She was standing out on a thick limb, surveying the ground under her like a bird might look for worms, only she was looking not for prey but for predators. There were a few undead around but not many at the moment, and none with eyes on her, thankfully. She could do without the “Try To Eat Rue” game today. She moved forward, inching step by step until she was as far as she could (mostly) safely go, and… She jumped, stayed weightless in free fall for a moment, then landed on the roof of some kind of store and rolled until she hit something solid. She straightened up, tossing a glance backwards over her shoulder. A couple had heard her and followed her away from the tree, but not enough to be a problem, and even those few were quickly losing interest. She smiled a little and turned, heading for the opposite side of the building. It was best to make good time while the weather was acceptable.
L had chewed his fingernails down as far as they would go, and he still had no idea where to even start. A cure. He just needed a cure. Should be easy, right? Wrong...the survivor got to his feet and shook his head like a dog, a huge yawn intercepting him as he wandered towards the window of the library. Before, he would have begged for the opportunity to spend days buried in books, but that was before. Now he longed to learn, longed to keep it in his head, and to never sleep again until he cracked the code. It didn’t help that the code may or may exist, but he was trying, wasn’t he? He sighed, feeling defeat as he closed yet another boom with no mention of anything like the virus. He was trying, at least.
(Back In Time) Noah had quickly learned: stay out of sight and avoid going near other people’s fires. Not only that, avoid starting his own. As much as it hurt him, the last thing he needed was a group… the last thing he wanted was people to put in danger. He didn’t know whether to blame himself or blame his friend, but the truth was that he wasn’t supposed to be alive. He sucked in a deep breath, adjusting the bandage that covered up part of the back of his neck, where the bite was - low enough down, fortunately, that his sweater covered it. He rubbed at the spot on his cheek, then - the one that looked like dirt, but that he knew was a sign of something much worse. The spread of the disease that had planted itself in his blood. So far… well, so far he had experienced some moments where he felt like he… changed… but most of the time he felt like himself. He just knew he couldn’t keep anyone near him safe. It had been five years since the bite, and it just seemed to be getting worse, little by little. He grit his teeth and frowned, clinging on to the memories of his childhood like they were the only things keeping him grounded. Maybe they were. He couldn’t remember sometimes. He couldn’t remember who he was supposed to be sometimes. A sob rose in his throat, but he pushed it down. For now he needed to get a sense of what was around him. He had seen fire a ways away, but it had since gone out. Which didn’t really make sense… curiosity got the better of Noah and he moved forward, through the open space with a sort of quiet that seemed unnatural. He could see a boy, no older than he was, crouched over the fire. Unable to see the boy’s face, he shifted, only to step on a branch which gave a loud crack and undeniably gave away his location.
Crutchie had been looking for shelter for what felt like far too long, and the onset of fall was making his leg feel worse every passing day. It was a constant reminder that the chill of winter was coming and that it was entirely possible that Crutchie wouldn’t survive. The building a few yards away was… well, it was Crutchie’s only hope before he passed out in the middle of the street. That was an exaggeration, but he knew for certain that his leg wouldn’t hold him for that much longer. He adjusted his makeshift crutch and moved towards the building, wincing at the way the fabric around his chest seemed to cinch and almost cut through his skin. The door was open, which was either a good sign or a very bad one. On high alert - he hadn’t survived this long by not being careful - Crutchie entered the space and listened. Nothing, except… from far away a voice droned on, as though in conversation with itself. Crutchie had learned the hard way - anyone infected with the virus badly enough for it to make them dangerous couldn’t speak so clearly. It took that capacity away. And if the voice were to break off in a few hours? Well, that was about how long the virus took to set in. Less than a day and you were nothing like you once were, with only your body to identify you by. Even if that were the case… Crutchie had a few hours. And as long as the man didn’t hear him moving down here, it was almost safe. Safe enough to take a nap anyway.
Nico had been crouching in the store for a few hours. He knew he couldn’t stay much longer, but nobody had seen him enter, and therefore nobody would be able to find him there. He was hiding as far away from the cameras as he could, though he doubted even his father had access to those anymore. In fact, he doubted that there were many cameras that still worked anywhere in the world. Despite that, he remained as careful as he could to avoid being seen through one. He had no idea how his father managed to keep tracking him, but he really would prefer not to take any risks. What scared Nico more than that was he had been found by zombies. Maybe they hadn’t realized he was there yet, but they had entered and Nico hadn’t been able to find a replacement for the gun that he’d run out of ammo for a few days before. Not that it really mattered - he was a terrible shot, but the guns he stole from behind the counters of some stores were the only thing that kept him alive some days. He was still bleeding from the sprint he’d burst into to get here - he hadn’t noticed the sharp branch until well after it had cut him. He’d left a trail of blood here, which meant that as soon as he’d patched it up - and he really was doing his best to do that - he should have left. The only problem was that the zombies had arrived before he’d been able to finish up, and the scream he knew would come with cleaning out the last bit… well, he wouldn’t survive the zombies knowing where he was, especially not without a weapon. (Present Day) Will needed a weapon and ammo as quickly as he could get it. He’d finally run out of bullets from his father’s old hunting gun. He’d made sure to take the weapon itself and as much of the ammunition as he could find when he eventually made his way back to his house, but that had been a long time ago. He’d gotten by for at least a year and a half with what he’d scavenged from their old shed, but he’d been weaponless for a month now and he hadn’t been able to catch a full night’s sleep for fear of being hunted down. There were so many of them. They were always growing in number and they never really seemed to die for good. Well… he knew that they did, eventually, and there were ways to keep them from coming after people again, but… the truth was most people had been too hurt to kill their loved ones, so more had been left wandering around than was strictly necessary. A sick feeling rose in Will’s stomach, but he pushed it away. He just needed to get a gun and some ammunition from this store and he’d be fine. He’d brought the empty weapon with him on the off chance he’d find the right type of ammo, but that was a long shot. A really long shot. This was the fifteenth place he’d been since he’d ran out… everywhere else had already been looted. And then he heard something on the roof and his heart stopped. He sucked in a breath and loaded his father’s gun with the ammo he had found (fortunately the right type) and moved towards the entrance to the store. If it had been the undead on the roof he’d defend himself… he’d gotten good at that.
Orpheus was tired. He was tired and hungry and his feet hurt, but that didn’t stop him from walking. He was going to find a cure, somehow. It was all that could save Eurydice. He forced away any thoughts that told him he may never see her again - she was far away and not herself, and it was entirely possible that someone would kill her before he got a cure back for her, but it was his only chance. They’d survived this far, and it was because of her. He’d… he hadn’t really… it wasn’t that he had ignored her and refused to help, it was that he was sure that there was a way to keep the zombies more human if they were exposed to music. And he’d worked on that for as long as he possibly could, tuning the world out in his endeavor to get it right. He’d managed to find basic tunes that kept them distracted - that played into the parts of their brains with still-human structures… he carried his guitar with him now because it was a way to distract the creatures long enough to get away and keep himself safe. And that was all he needed to try to find a cure. He lifted his instrument up and began softly strumming it. He had fit a thicker couple of strings onto it - strings that played notes so low they triggered fear receptors in a listener’s brains. Fear receptors that were especially vulnerable in zombies. He tried not to play all the time, but he needed the peace of mind from it now.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 11, 2019 11:45:49 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan was on his feet before he had fully registered what had spooked him, his pocket knife snapping open and pointed forward at whatever had made the noise. There was a shape, there. It was oddly quiet for the undead...it was quiet even for the living for that matter. He glared at it for a second, then bit back whatever it was that held him back and began to stalk slowly towards the shape. “I see you. Don’t you dare run.” He called, his voice as sharp as the corners of the dark tattoo creeping up over his shoulder, his blue eyes like the knife in his hand. He’d learned a long time ago that you hit first or you didn’t hit, and he hadn’t stayed alive for this long by taking punches. “It you’re dead, come at me so I can finish you off. Ditto if you’re alive,”
Sherlock was getting more annoyed by the second. The magazine was boring, the room was boring, he suspected the whole damn world was boring it you didn’t count the zombies, which were only semi boring. He didn’t count the zombies, because there were none near enough for him to run tests on them. And he wanted to run tests, he wanted to know what it would take for them to stay dead, whether they could heal, whether they would burn, how they would burn...he wanted to know everything. If he was afraid of them, it was showing itself in a very odd way indeed. He was like child with a science kit, only his test subjects were frustratingly difficult to obtain without getting bitten, which would be so inconvenient he avoided it with unusual care. He didn’t have a death wish, he had scientific curiosity and a lack of mental stimuli. So he was listening to the silence well enough to hear the faint creak of something entering the building. He went quiet, listening with his head to one side like a dog, then suddenly scrambled to his feet and crawled to the side, peering out from behind a shelf to see who it was. He frowned. It wasn’t...it couldn’t be a human, could it? No...he hadn’t seen another survivor in months, and this one looked injured, probably something up with the leg, the way he walked said it wasn’t new, how was he still alive? He should have gotten eaten by now. Curiosity paired with boredom won in the end and he stood up, tall and imposing and very, very visible. “Hullo.” He called, raising a hand in an awkward sort of greeting. “You’re not bitten, I hope? Haven’t seen another human in ages, however did you survive for this long with that leg?”
Kelsier moved carefully, easing into the store with the zombies in front of him. He didn’t want to be seen, but if he was, he could deal with it like he’d dealt with all the other almost impossible situations he’d survived. Survival was not about the situation you were in, it was about how you dealt with it. Kelsier had seen so many people give up, or say they hadn’t given up but simply accepted that the world was irreparably broken now, and that, eventually m they would all die a horrible death. Kelsier didn’t believe that for a second, because I’d he stopped smiling it really would be over, and he refused to accept that. The world was bent, not broken, and he planned on helping fix it if he could. But he knew he couldn’t do it alone, and so he watched and waited for another survivor, another human in the world who could help him. Thump. The zombie went down without a sound, Kelsier’s knife in its brain. He had to tug on it to get it out, and by the time he did his luck had begun to turn; the second zombie had spotted him and was staggering towards him with incredible speed, its mouth wide in a wordless scream of rage or hunger or both. He kicked it down and as it fell he went with it, plunging his blade towards its dead eye. It stopped moving instantly, and he straightened up, looking ruefully down at his love silver shirt, which was now stained with dark blood. “Damn. They better at least have some cranberry juice here to make up for that.” He muttered, and headed for the drink section, still wary as he always was.
Rue moved quickly, as you did when you didn’t want to die. She was all the way at the other side of the building when she heard it: the low click of a gun being loaded, right under her feet. Which meant.... She swore internally, her muscles instantly going tense. Other people were worse than the undead, in her opinion. Zombies she could outsmart easily enough, and as long as she stayed off the ground she was pretty much safe. That, she could handle. People, on the other hand, could climb, outsmart you, and probably wanted to kill you and steal all your (currently nonexistent) supplies. People with guns were very good at the last step, typically. She didn’t move. Maybe, maybe if she didn’t move a muscle they would go away. Maybe they would assume she was a bird, or a squirrel, and not bother checking. She wished, not for the first, time, that she was a bird or squirrel.
L was just reaching for another book when he heard it: a low, faint musical note like a guitar, He frowned. Okay, he hadn’t slept in....how long....well, a while, anyway...but auditory hallucinations? He didn’t have time for that, not now. He didn’t have time for anything but his project, so he tried to ignore the sound. It didn’t work. There was something that drew him to it, something he didn’t have words for. Finally he dropped the book on the floor and headed for the window, his dark hair slipping into his face as he peered out at the street. There was a man out there, playing a guitar. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. There he was, still very real against the dark buildings behind him. L couldn’t quite grasp what he was seeing, because it was something he would have thought normal before, and something that was pretty much impossible after. He frowned, then, tentatively, he knocked on the window to get his attention. If the man attacked, L would have time to escape. If he was, somehow, as friendly as he looked, well.... L wanted to talk to anyone who dared to play a guitar in an apocalypse.
Noah didn’t move, but there was something about the voice that was too familiar for comfort. He cast his gaze away, shock overcoming him. It was the now time-hardened voice of a boy who had been almost everything to Noah when they’d been little. He didn’t want to put the other boy in danger, but… well, in the simplest terms, his other choice was to flee. And that was all he had done for the past several years, and he was tired. He was tired of being alone because even before he’d been bitten people had a tendency to look right past him. He was tired of worrying all the time that he was going to put someone in danger just by virtue of a sacrifice he hadn’t even been asked if he wanted to make. He was tired, and this… this was an opportunity. He could run - he’d always been good at that, speeding past danger and towards… well, nowhere… but it felt like he was rooted to the ground. “Ronan?” His voice sounded smaller than he’d intended it to, and hoarser than he’d imagined it being. How long had it been since he had spoken? Much too long, that was for certain. He knew he was taking a gamble. What if this wasn’t his old friend? What if Ronan didn’t remember him? If there was one thing about being Noah Czerny, it was that people didn’t seem to remember him for long.
Dammit. Crutchie tried to curl in on himself a little bit more, but he knew he had already been found. There wasn’t much use in trying to hide now, especially since it didn’t seem like the man was going to attack him. That was new. People were beginning to get desperate, attacking friends and foe alike because anyone else alive meant more competition, and often it was easier to kill another human being than it was to kill a zombie, because you could justify it as a mercy after all the hell you’d seen yourself. Well… that was how Crutchie imagined it. He hadn’t killed anyone, human or zombie. He intended to keep it that way, but as the world became harsher and harsher it seemed all the more unlikely that he’d get through without hurting anyone. The other human was large, this time, easily capable of hurting him if it turned out that Sherlock wasn’t interested in mercy. Crutchie sincerely hoped he was - he would much rather get out of this alive than be killed by another human being, though at least it seemed he’d managed to escape locking himself in a building with any of the undead. Yet when he spoke… well, his hesitant voice made up for his imposing figure, and Crutchie was almost compelled to answer in a friendly tone until he heard the next part of his question. “Not bitten,” Crutchie replied, voice small, though he tried to deepen it. It was an attempt that failed miserably. “And perfectly capable of surviving just as well as you, thank you.” It was a hard defense, one born of too many people underestimating him or attempting to attack him because he was the most vulnerable. He hadn’t survived this long by letting people think he was weak. “Leg don’t change nothing,” he added, in case Sherlock hadn’t gotten the point. It was just bravado, really. He knew he didn’t have the strength to get up and fight this man, or even to run away. He would never survive if he tried that. He cursed himself internally. He really hadn’t meant to put himself at someone else’s mercy.
Nico heard something. It was too quiet to be zombies, though the thud of a body falling to the ground was sickening and too close for Nico’s comfort. He backed up further against the aisle, feeling the large liter bottles of long-flattened soda up against his back. He could hear footsteps, but ones that were carefully masked so as not to be heard. Heart racing in his chest, Nico squeezed the small figurine that rested in his hand. If someone found him here… no, that wasn’t good. He couldn’t be found by his father. He didn’t know what the consequence would be, but he knew it wouldn’t be good. He didn’t want to die. As hard as it was, Nico knew he had to do something. He was unarmed and terrified, and whoever was here with him obviously had a weapon of some sort. He said a silent prayer of thanks that his arm had been cut rather than his leg, and though he was still bleeding from it, he wouldn’t pass out anytime soon. It could get infected if he didn’t take care of it in time, but… well, that was an issue for then. Now he had to get out. Being found by his father’s people was worse than being bitten, of that he was positive. So he made a break for it. He forced himself to his feet with his tiny bag of stuff, figurine still clutched tightly in his palm because at times it was the only thing that gave the boy strength. He wasn’t well enough to sprint at full capacity, and heaven knew he was emaciated enough that his body hated him for any long period of exertion, but he ran. He swerved around the corner, dashing right past Kelsier’s field of view. He hoped he was fast enough that the man wouldn’t see him, but he tripped over the dead zombie, crashing to the floor, arms splayed out. And because apparently the world hated him, his wound had opened even more.
Will heard whoever was moving above him freeze. He was terrified of the idea of someone hunting from above, maybe watching him as he had entered into the store, and the best way to scare them away would be to threaten them, right? He sucked in a breath of air, closing his eyes for a second before he pushed his way out of the door into a wide open area, where he could see the rooftop. He had the gun aimed, safety off, when he realized what he was pointing at. Although he had learned never to underestimate people, least of all people his age, the truth was that he hadn’t seen very many young people on their own. And this girl… she looked scared. He couldn’t place why, but it felt like looking in a mirror except for the fact that physically, the girl looked nothing like him. Hands shaking, he lowered the weapon and met her gaze, straightening up and flicking the safety back on. “Who are you?” He asked, though he new that was a question most people were loathe to answer. It was like giving someone a part of yourself that they could do anything with, and Will knew why that was scary. “I… I won’t shoot, I promise.”
Orpheus could feel someone watching him. It was an eerie sensation, like someone was hunting you, and were too quiet to say anything, but Orpheus had tried to learn the difference between the eyes of a friend and the eyes of a foe. He ignored it for a moment, then heard a knock. His fingers fell from the guitar, emitting a rather clattering chord as he turned to look. What met his eyes was an almost too-pale face with large eyes and an inquisitive expression. A foe would have attacked without getting his attention first. And despite his pale features, the man in front of Orpheus was very clearly not a zombie. Hesitantly, Orpheus raised a hand in greeting and smiled softly. He approached the window, shifting the guitar so most of its weight was on his back, and moved forward, trying to see the least threatening he possibly could. He knew it was hard to judge between a friend and foe here, and L had very much made it clear that he was a friend. Orpheus hoped he was casting the same impression on the man in the window, but it was hard to tell. He wiped a bit of sweat from his brow, tilting his head in a question. How did he get in? He wanted to talk to this man, who had been polite enough to show hm that he wasn’t alone instead of just… well, he knew there were plenty of people who wanted to use his guitar for firewood. So far he’d been lucky enough to avoid too many of those. More often than not, people were just interested in hearing his music. Orpheus could understand why. There wasn’t enough of it left in the world. Music, that was. Not his in particular.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 11, 2019 23:34:41 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan froze, shock electrocuting him and stopping his heart. Of all the things he’d expected the dark shape to say, (mostly either groans, nothing, or threats)...hearing his name spoken out loud in that low, hoarse voice was like hearing a song you used to listen to when you were a kid, or the smell of your favorite food. He wanted to lower his weapon. He didn’t want to lower his weapon. He took another step forward, then stopped. Because it couldn’t be Noah. There was no way it could be Noah. Noah was probably dead in a ditch somewhere, and he never let himself forget it. “Come over here where I can see you.” He called, his voice still harsh, though the words were softer, more uncertain. “Right now.”
Sherlock cocked his head to one side, giving Crutchie an intense scan. He was no stranger to how harsh people could be, especially now, but if he was worried about being attacked he was hiding it well. Evidence of his stay here was strewn all over the floor in the form of empty cans and books piled on magazines piled on more books in haphazard piles. It looked like the den of a mad scientist, and he looked the part with his wild curls and piercingly sharp blue eyes. He’d been here a while, that was clear. He was thin, but so was everyone else, and the windows looked like they’d been barricaded by a caffeinated five year old; boards piled against them in apparently no order at all, in a way that could easily be knocked over at any time. “Not bitten.” He repeated, and if he wasn’t satisfied by Crutchie’s word he wasn’t showing it. Really, he was satisfied that he would be able to tell I’m the boy was lying to him, and didn’t bother wondering what would happen if he was wrong. “Good for you. Although, that’s obvious, isn’t it? You’d be dead if you weren’t capable of surviving, of course, just like I would be. Anyway, what are you doing here? I haven’t seen another living person in ages, I thought the human race had gone extinct.” He placed a sort of emphasis on the last word. It was hard to tell how he felt about the concept. “My name is Sherlock Holmes, apocalypse survivor and scientist.” He stepped forward and extended a gloved hand, meaning to shake Crutchie’s.
Kelsier let out a gasp and twisted out of the way as something sped towards him - no - past him, headed for the door. At first he thought it was one of the dead gone mad, but no zombie could sprint that fast. This had to be a survivor, and he realized with a stab of dismay that it was probably him that had spooked them so badly. He was tall, and decently strong, things that kept you alive and got others killed nowadays. As the figure went down, Kelsier realized it was just a boy, and his heart gave a little shudder like it was threatening to break. How old was he? It had always been hard to tell, but now it was even harder because children were forced to grow up so fast in order to stay alive. He moved forward at the sight of the blood, scanning the wound for signs of imminent danger to the boy before he so much as spoke. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He said it firmly, raising his hands so Nico could see he didn’t have a weapon. “I kill the dead, not the living. Although if you don’t get that wound taken care of, you might switch sides sooner than you want to.”
Rue waited. She wanted the person under her feet to go away so badly she thought maybe she could force them to, but the movement seemed to state otherwise, and suddenly she was staring right at a gun aimed at her head. She didn’t move a muscle. She knew she could, she wasn’t frozen, but startling the boy with the gun was a death sentence so she stayed where she was, staring down at him, her heart beating rebelliously in her chest as though fiercely proving how alive she was. How easy it would be to end her. He didn’t shoot. She didn’t understand why; was there something wrong with his gun? But no, he hadn’t even tried. Was he considering whether she was useful to him? She knew she wasn’t, all she could do was run from the undead and eat whatever leaves she could find. Anyone could do that, and most people could do it better than she could. “Rue.” She said, surprising herself with her own rough voice. Truthfully, she’d been too surprised at the question to consider not answering it. “My name’s Rue. Um...who are you?”
L watched as the man turned, meeting his wary gaze. He looked...surprised? Yes, he looked surprised, though whether it was because L wasn’t a zombie or because L wasn’t trying to kill him was a bit unclear. He guessed it was probably the latter, because zombies didn’t typically knock on anything with as much precision as L had had. He smiled back, an odd sort of expression on his thin features. It was like he wasn’t really used to doing it, and had forgotten all the muscles involved. He pulled back a little bit as Orpheus approached, his eyes widening just a little bit. What if he was actually a killer, luring his prey with music? Maybe getting his attention had been a bad move. It was just... Maybe it was the music messing with his head. It had been so long since he’d heard anything that could count as music, it drew him in with an irresistible pull. Like moths to a flame, he mused, and he couldn’t help wondered whether or not the light was hot. But the man with the guitar seemed friendly, and if he wasn’t, L could always kick him. So he held up his hand in a wait a minute gesture and headed for the door, which was well hidden in the wall with leaves and vines and even extra bricks here and there. Once he’d excavated it, he pulled it open and peered at Orpheus through it. “Hello.” He said simply, shifting his weight back and forth. He supposed he should say something else, but.... He really just wanted to hear the music again.
Half of Noah was still itching to run, but Ronan hadn’t attacked. Which meant that he recognized Noah’s voice, which meant… which really meant that Noah should run. He would be cruel for giving Ronan false hope, but the last thing he needed was to hurt Ronan. The last thing he needed was to lose control and bite him and… he couldn’t be responsible for his best friend’s death. And it was like he could feel the virus eroding away at the back of his head. He should turn and run. He should keep his friend safe, but the awful cowardly part of him took a step forward. And then another. And then more and he couldn’t stop and he felt hot tears streaming down his face because for the first time in years he wasn’t alone. He wiped the tears away before he was fully in the light. Suddenly there he was, illuminated by moonlight, ragged and fading, rubbing at the smudge on his cheek as he waited for Ronan’s judgement. Waited to see if his old friend really remembered him. Too much had happened since he’d last seen the other boy… part of him even now was screaming not to trust Ronan. Not to trust him like he’d trusted Whelk. But he knew Ronan. He knew he could trust him… he knew Ronan was all sharp points and rough edges until you saw past that… Noah just hoped he was still the same inside as he had always been.
It was odd, Crutchie thought, to see a human being living in the same place, like it was their home. Home was a foreign concept. Had been even before the apocalypse, but now even more so… yet Sherlock seemed to be living here like humans had before they began to live their lives on the run. Of course Crutchie had heard of forts - gatherings of people that vowed to protect each other, but he’d also been warned to stay away from those. They required work to stay safe inside, and if you couldn’t work, they tossed you aside in worse condition than they had found you. And as much as he hated to admit it, he really wasn’t capable of that kind of work. The way Sherlock said “good for you” made bile rise up in Crutchie’s throat and he almost spat at the man, but the truth was he was here on Sherlock’s hospitality, and the man was in good enough shape to not only kick him out, but also beat him up badly before he did so. And Crutchie had learned the hard way not to trust people or give them a reason to hurt you. “I needed a place to spend the night,” Crutchie admitted, hating the vulnerability in his words. “I planned to be out of here in the morning before you even realized anyone had been here. Turns out you’re not as oblivious as a lot of people are.” He’d taken to spending the night in old basements, where it would be difficult for zombies to get in. Unfortunately, Crutchie had all the mobility of a zombie and less of the endurance, which made surviving harder than he cared to admit. And now it was up to Sherlock whether he lived or died. But Sherlock was extending his hand, which… that was a sign of hospitality. Hesitantly, Crutchie shook the extended hand. “Cha…Crutchie Morris,” he murmured, correcting himself as he remembered the name he’d been given by the group he had traveled with for a while. It was worlds better than his real one. “Apocalypse survivor. Though we ain’t the only ones.”
Nico had turned around, laying on his back now as he scrambled away from Kelsier with as much dignity as he could muster. He was still on the ground, and he was clutching at his wounded arm, eyes wide like a trapped animal. There was no guarantee this man wasn’t set from his father, but… well, he didn’t look the part. Perhaps that was the point, perhaps he was trying to gain Nico’s trust… the boy shook his head of the thoughts. That wasn’t going to keep him alive now. “The wound’s fine,” Nico snapped, fear putting him on edge. “I was taking care of it before they found me. I don’t need…” he hung his head, wincing. The truth was, he wasn’t sure what to do now. He could keep running, but Kelsier was the first friendly person he’d met since… well, since things were normal. But Kelsier could just as easily be his father’s agent. He wanted to get away, but leaving here meant being on the run again, and… and didn’t Nico deserve it? After everything, didn’t he deserve to be hunted down and maybe changed into one of the dead and living out his final days in fear? He got to his feet, far too unsteady for his comfort. “You aren’t going to survive much longer if you refuse to kill the living when they’re vulnerable.” He was one to talk. He… well, he’d killed two living, breathing human beings. One had deserved it, and one was on accident. The truth was, though, that all of the death that had resulted from the apocalypse? That was on him, no matter how hard he avoided killing the living. And he did try to avoid it.
“Rue,” Will repeated, the name tasting strange and unfamiliar. When was the last time he’d talked to another human being? When was the last time he’d talked to anyone his own age? Some days it felt like he couldn’t even remember what that age was. He had been so desperate to find his family and avoid other human beings that he hadn’t let himself see them as humans. Not that he’d killed anyone - he didn’t think he had it in him to actually do that - but he had to defend himself. And defending himself meant not even trusting what he saw with his own eyes. “I’m Will. Will Byers.” He stuck out a hand for a handshake before realizing that she was on the roof and he was on the ground and she probably didn’t trust him enough to come down to his level and he was decidedly not a good enough climber to make it through the roof. “I thought you might be…” he frowned, not sure how to describe it. “I dunno, someone a bit more threatening.” He cracked a grin, letting his hand fall back down to his side. “I uh… you have no reason to trust me, but I… I have food, if you want some.” He knew that was stupid. He knew he should have kept his food supply to himself, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t want to be alone anymore, and this was the first chance he had gotten to maybe travel with someone else. He wasn’t going to squander it.
It was odd, finding someone who was willing to smile. It wasn’t that it was a particularly rare occurrence, but… it took a lot of work to get people now to remember that there had been good things at some point. To remember a world before there had been no music, or no laughter, or… well. Before the world they lived in now. And whether it was naivety or stubbornness, Orpheus firmly believed that they could at the very least make the world they had been dealt good enough to live in. To really live, not just survive. He waited as L moved away from the window and towards the door - which Orpheus wouldn’t have even considered to be a door. “Hello,” Orpheus murmured in response, voice not as hoarse as most of the voices he’d heard recently. It was as though people had stopped talking. He wasn’t willing to do that. He wasn’t willing to lose the only beautiful thing he could create in a world that seemed so determined to squash down what could be considered beautiful. For someone relatively tall, his voice sounded much smaller than it should’ve. Not from fear or anxiety or anything, it just seemed… gentle was probably a good word for it. He shifted his guitar back to where he could play it, raising his eyes to meet L’s. “You heard me playing?” It was a question that didn’t need an answer as Orpheus lightly strummed a chord, then shifted his fingers for another. “There’s… there’s something about the physiology of the dead…” he was stumbling over his words a bit, but it seemed like he knew what he was talking about, “That dislikes notes in a frequency we can’t hear. So I have the extra strings here… but mostly I don’ know how to survive without the music. I can… I can play something for you, if you’d like?”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 12, 2019 14:26:26 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
It was Noah. Ronan had a flash of memories. Noah, crying because someone had snapped his new red crayon in half. Noah, staining his upper lip white whenever he drank milk. Noah, watching scary movies and screaming at every jump stare, but refusing to go to bed because “he could do it.” Noah, riding his skateboard faster than Ronan could follow with his eyes, landing like a bird, flying free, free, free. Noah, standing broken and scared, a smudge of dark dirt on one cheek and eyes that betrayed his tears. Noah, waiting for Ronan to kill him, because that’s what humans did to other humans, alive or dead. And hand Ronan threatened to do the exact same thing. “Dude, you look like hell.” He said finally, a weak attempt to cover the tremble in his tone. He folded the knife and slipped it back into his pocket, then whistled, a low, comforting sound, “Thought you were dead. Everyone else is. Come on over, I have...” He frowned down at the sputtering, weakly smoking attempt at a fire. “Well, I have some cold beans, if you’re hungry.” “If” was hardly a necessary word there. If Noah was the same kind, gentle person Ronan had known forever, there was no way this surviving had come naturally to him, not the way it did to Ronan. Because as much as he hated to admit it, as hard as it was...killing the zombies wasn’t as hard for him as it felt like it should be.
Sherlock grinned, oblivious to the effect of his words. It was painfully obvious that “Crutchie” was a nickname of sorts, and he was pretty sure he could guess what it came from. He glanced down at the boy’s leg, eyebrows raised. “Char...char...Charlotte?” He guessed out loud, a smirk that was neither kind nor exactly unkind touching his sharp features. “Yes, I can see why you’d rather go by Crutchie, I would too. Anyway, welcome to my humble place, home of experiments and learning, science and solved problems. I’m a detective, and the world is my case.” He looked a little bit crazy as he said it. Then again, who was sane these days? All the sane people got eaten, or so Sherlock assumed. His smirk deepened as the boy went on, and he turned, gesturing to the building. “Well, here you go! A safe place, zombie-free and filled to the brim with learning opportunities. I can tell you all sorts of interesting things about the dead, and they are dead by the way, no brain activity and obviously no heartbeat.”
Kelsier wasn’t hurt by being snapped at. If anything he was relieved, because Nico was a wounded tiger but not a dying one. Not yet. He didn’t know the backstory, but he could tell the boy was afraid of much more than the dead, which raised the question: who was after him? A family member? Someone he’d gotten on the wrong side of? Maybe he’d stolen from the wrong person, or killed the wrong acquaintance somewhere along the line. He didn’t move forward, but he didn’t move back either. His hands stayed up, and his hazel eyes were gentle as he spoke. “My name is Kelsier. I swear, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m just trying to stay alive, like most of us are lately. Here, look.” He inclined his head towards the backpack he was wearing. “I’m gonna put this down and back away. There’s antibiotics in there, and bandages and a little water. No food, unfortunately, but right now that wound is your top priority. It gets infected, and you’re done.” He paused. “Now, you can let me help you, or you can take of running. But whoever ‘they’ are, they’re gonna have a much easier time finding you if you’re hurt and on your own. I have experience with injuries.” He cracked a smile. “And I don’t eat people. I read somewhere that they were bad for you.”
I’m spite of the situation, Rue scowled down at him, folding her hands over her tiny, emaciated chest. “I can be threatening.” She informed him, the way a kid might tell you that yes, they were perfectly capable of going down the slide by themself. She dropped the act a moment later. Will looked around her age, so she didn’t take his comments as personally, because surely he too knew what it was like to be clinically underestimated. Plus, he looked kind, and that in itself was such a rare quality that she wasn’t entirely sure she believed her eyes, or her ears. She tried to be nice, and she’d never killed a zombie, but she knew how to fight people off and escape before they knew where to look. Running was what she did. It was what she was good at. But she found, as he offered her food, that though she had no reason at all to trust him, she wanted to. A wave of exhaustion crashed over her, nearly knocking her over, and hunger and loneliness followed in quick succession. She hesitated for a moment longer, fighting herself, then gave in and began to climb down the side of the building. “I’m coming down.” She called, in case he thought she was attacking. “Don’t shoot me, okay? And please don’t be lying about the food.”
L could tell instantly that this man had spoken, probably more in a day than L had in a month. He had no use for speech anymore. There was no one but himself to talk to, and his thoughts served that purpose just fine, didn’t they? He was ready to fight back if it came to it, but he looked at ease, somehow relaxed even, as he took Orpheus in silently. He nodded simply. It was clear he’d heard him playing, so he didn’t see the need to respond more than that. As Orpheus went on, however, his eyes went huge and he leaned forward, as though he could see inside the other survivor’s brain if only he moved close enough. “That’s amazing. How did you figure it out?” He inquired, too excited by this information to notice the offer at first. If there was something about a sound that hurt the dead, that meant there was something in them that could be hurt, which meant perhaps it was more like a parasite than he’d thought. Was it possible that music could be the cure? It was an option he hadn’t even considered, but nothing he’d tested so far had done anything at all, not make it worse and not make it better, so the mere chance of finding the missing piece made him dizzy with excitement, “Is it a higher or a lower pitch that does it?” He continued, then blinked. “You offered me something, didn’t you?”
Noah wanted nothing more than to rush forward and hug Ronan, but so much had happened and so many people couldn’t stand the feeling of someone else against them. People had learned to fear humanity as much if not more than the monsters they were liable to become after death. But he cracked a smile at Ronan’s words, the recognition in them and… he pushed back another wave of tears that threatened to come as he was overwhelmed by everything that faced him. It was so good to see Ronan again… to see his best friend after years of forcing himself to believe that Ronan was strong enough to survive because he couldn’t handle the alternative. “Just got back,” he quipped, voice too strained to make the joke come off as lighthearted as he’d meant it to. The truth was, he was starving. “Haven’t had anything as good as cold beans in a while,” he admitted, staring at the ground. He dreaded the day his hunger turned from normal food to something darker. Right now, though, he was fine. He had to be fine, or else… well, he’d figure that out then. “Did you…” he found that the words wouldn’t come, even as he tried to push them forward. “Did you see anyone else… I mean any… any of our friends?” He didn’t actually know if he wanted to hear the answer, but part of him did. He wanted to know who to hope for… and who to give up on. Not that he wanted to… not that he wanted to believe that any of their friends could be actually… so many people had died. And he wanted to ask Ronan what he had seen, what he had done over the past few years, but then he knew he would have to answer that question for himself… he squeezed his eyes shut when he thought Ronan wasn’t looking. Whelk, holding a hand out for him to grab as they ran, Whelk, turning around with eyes that were crueler than anything Noah had ever seen, Whelk’s hands on his shoulders, pushing back, Whelk, running away. And Noah had killed, that day. For the first time. His skateboard making contact first with one zombie, then the second, but by then it was too late… he shook the thought away as best he could.
Crutchie bristled, turning away from Sherlock. “Call me Charlotte again, I dare you,” he muttered, eyes flashing with a sort of annoyance that he rarely showed. It wasn’t like he could actually do anything to hurt Sherlock. He was pretty sure they both knew that, but that didn’t mean Crutchie didn’t want to try. There was a sort of smugness about Sherlock that was really getting at him, though he knew that Sherlock’s kindness was likely conditional. And there was no doubt about it, Sherlock letting him stay was most certainly an act of kindness. “Please,” he managed, though the word hurt him. “It’s Crutchie. Nothing else.” Perhaps if he phrased it more kindly Sherlock wouldn’t rescind his offer to let Crutchie stay for a bit longer. Crutchie wasn’t sure if he had managed to accidentally find the place of a madman, but honestly a kind madman was better than someone cruel, regardless of their level of sanity. “Have you solved the problem of why so many people have died yet?” It was a mean question, he knew, but he didn’t really understand what the point of solving any other problem would be. “You sound like you know more than anyone else does,” he added, somewhat reluctantly. “Hit me with your best shot. What do you know about the dead?”
Nico didn’t know why, but he trusted Kelsier. Which was a stupid decision, really. He had trusted people before and it had ended in nothing but heartache and hundreds of bad habits that were now almost impossible to break, and an amount of self hatred that could really only be described as unnecessary. But Kelsier had told him his name, and he’d left out the backpack, and… and he was right. And it wasn’t that he thought Kelsier was going to hurt him, it was… he didn’t want to be deceived again. And he certainly never wanted to face his father. Not after everything. And Kelsier was steady enough - or insane enough - to crack a joke about it. Nobody his father would have hired would do that, right? Eyes fixed on Kelsier like a wounded animal watching a predator, he reached forward and grabbed the bag as quickly as he could. He knew the wound needed more stitches… but there was nothing to sterilize the needle here. Kelsier was right. Nico wouldn’t make it for long on his own and with an injured arm. He grabbed the antibiotics out of the bag, then grabbed the water as well as a second thought. He wasn’t using all of this man’s supplies, especially since he hadn’t been lying about the contents of the bag. And if there was a tracker… well, a tracker would be easiest to hide in a bandage. Nico squeezed his eyes shut and ripped a strip off of his shirt, dousing it with water and doing his best to clean the wound without wincing. All the while he had his eyes on Kelsier, even as he slathered some of the antibiotic ointment on and tied a new strip around the wound until he could get access to fire. It really needed stitches… silently and still just as stand offishly, Nico placed the supplies back in the bag and pushed it towards Kelsier. He swallowed, feeling like a caged animal despite the fact he could leave at any time. “Thanks,” he managed, the words softer than he’d meant them to be. “Why?” he asked into the following silence. “One less human means less competition. Why… why help me?” It was like he was choking on the words, unable to even meet Kelsier’s gaze.
“You can be threatening like I can be threatening,” Will quipped, lips quirking up into a smile. He knew neither of them really had that ability, and it was mostly due to their age and small stature. Neither one could pull off the intimidating look well. He liked Rue, he decided, though it was probably too early to decide something like that. They had just met, and for all Will knew Rue had a history of allying with people and then murdering them. It didn’t seem like she did, though, and despite most of humanity being awful… well, people were still people. And that meant there were a lot of good ones out there, and if you found them in the right place/time, things could go how they had gone before the apocalypse had started. Not that Will remembered that period of time particularly well. It had been dragging on for so long, but society had really only started to disintegrate about four years before. He could still remember organized government, even as it was falling apart. He could still remember kindness. And Rue was coming towards him, accepting what he supposed had been a figurative olive branch. He was grateful, really. He was willing to lose some of his food if it meant that he had someone to go through this with, right? “I never said it was good food,” he added right as Rue neared the bottom and he rummaged through his bag. “But it’s better than nothing.” He tossed her a pack of jerky he had salvaged from a shop a long way away, still packaged and somehow still zombie-proof. Hopefully she’d see the vacuum seal and realize there was no way he could have poisoned it or anything. “And I already promised I wouldn’t shoot you. I don’t go back on promises.”
Orpheus let himself smile at L’s question. It hadn’t been much of a scientific experiment as L seemed to think, but… well, it had worked, hadn’t it? “Their ear canals don’t funnel noise like ours do, so they hear some things a lot differently. If you play a note low enough, it’ll reach them and their nervous system will react in such a way that they feel the need to leave. It doesn’t really impact the living. Worst it could do is give you chills and a bad feeling.” He shrugged. “I… I don’t know how I figured it out,” he admitted. “It just made sense, I guess.” It sounded like he might be bragging, but his tone quickly banished that idea. Although not exactly modest, it was clear that everything he was saying was just fact, nothing exaggerated or said because it made him better than anyone else. He smiled at L, not quite understanding how, but loving the idea that L was so interested he hadn’t even heard Orpheus’ offer. Human passion… that was a thing that even now never died. Passion and curiosity. That was what was going to bring the world back into tune. He strummed another quiet chord, humming a harmony with it before he posed the offer again. “I can play something for you. I… I don’t know much of what was popular before the virus struck, but if you have a specific request I could try, or… I could play you one of the things I’ve been working on, or…” he blushed, stuttering. “I could stop, if you wanted, I…” he didn’t know how to read L. Truth was he didn’t know how to read a lot of people, and he often came on much too strong, sharing too much of himself when others weren’t interested. He knew, deep down, it was the music people were after, not him. He was just more than happy to be a vessel for it.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 14, 2019 17:31:37 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan smiled. The joy of seeing his best friend again, after everything, was enough to make him almost forget the horrors he’d clawed through to make it this far. He’d killed on the first day. He remembered the first time: three had come at him, faster than he’d thought they could go, screaming and snarling as they ran. He’d had nothing to defend himself with. In the end, he hadn’t needed anything. It had been too easy, much too easy for him to bash their heads in. He’d been sick afterwards, but less than an hour later he’d done it again, and again, and he’d known that he would keep surviving no matter what it took because that was who he was; nothing if not a fighter. Boxing was only different than surviving when you played by the rules. Ronan never did. He’d just smiled and bent down to grab the beans when Noah spoke and he stopped, his hand around the cold metal can and nothing moving but the beat of his heart, slow against his ribs. “Don’t ask me that.” He said sharply, and straightened up, tossing the can towards the other boy with a careless air that didn’t match his expression. Was Noah clueless or cruel? If Ronan had seen anyone they knew, they’d have been here with him, alive and well because Ronan had protected them and Noah wouldn’t have to ask because they could tell him themselves that they were fine, just like he was. All fine. The world was burning, and Ronan’s blue eyes were just as hot as he turned away. “No. I didn’t see anyone.”
Sherlock chuckled. He’d clearly hit a nerve with that one. Okay, he hadn’t meant to, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t use the information he’d gotten out of it to his advantage, right? Like what, genius? His brother’s voice mocked him and the smirk fell as quickly as it had come, turning into something more flustered and less...well...unkind. He cleared his throat awkwardly and tried for a nicer smile as he went on. “Crutchie is fine, call me Sherlock, I hate it when people call me Holmes.” He blinked and looked away. No, he hadn’t solved that problem, but that wasn’t a fair place to start. It was like seeing whether someone was a proper mathematician by asking the, to calculate PI to the last digit, or mocking a philosopher for not knowing the origin of the universe. He did know a lot about the dead, but he didn’t know what no one else had been able to find out. To do that, he needed more time and better resources and also food. “No.” He said coldly, then softened a little. “Best shot, I can do. They’re like parasites, controlling the central nerves system mostly, which is why you’ve got to go for the brain. They aren’t ‘alive’, at all, more like rabies and the flu turned into a super virus, with us as the main targets. Apparently animals can’t turn, I saw a cat with a good bite and she’s still here, it’s been ages she’d have definitely turned by now, it could effect other animals I suppose but not cats. Humans turn relatively fast, there’s just enough time for the virus to kill you and take over and that’s why there’s a short period of time when you actually look dead. Questions? Comments?”
Kelsier watched the boy move, making no moves himself. He recognized the look in his eye: it was the look a mouse gives a new toy. Watchful. Waiting for it to turn into something deadly, because it usually did. But at least Nico had enough sense to realize his options were limited, Nico reminded him of someone he’d met before, a girl he’d helped survive. She’d been all caution and careful looks, eyes that never slept and heart that beat too fast as a rule, until one night she’d let him watch for danger while she got some rest. She hadn’t acted like it was a monumental, unheard of occurrence, but he'd never forgotten it. That’s what Nico looked like now. To afraid to trust, too wounded not to. As he finished, Kelsier didn’t retrieve the backpack, just inclined his head a bit at the question. “Why.” He repeated, and had to think for a moment. Why what? Help an injured boy? It was what he did; it was who he was. What would he be without it? “Because I kill monsters. Doesn’t make me one of ‘em. Besides, who said it was a competition?” He smiled again. “I was hoping there was some food in this building, but I’m guessing you already checked, right? What do you say we take a rest and go see if we can find dinner?”
Rue stuck out her tongue at him, then flushed, realizing that that probably made her look even less threatening. Oh well...he seemed nice enough. Maybe there really were still nice people in the world, after all. “All food is good food.” She tossed back with feeling, and caught the package, ripping it open with a jerk and beginning to stuff the jerky in her mouth without even thinking about whether it was poisoned. Not her smartest move, but she was just so hungry. And it was good....damn it was good. Her eyes closed and a sigh went through her whole body as she swallowed, then stuffed another piece in, and another, untilmthe bag was empty and she no longer was. Which she hadn’t exactly meant to do. She didn’t quite dare look at him as she lowered the empty bag, her breath suddenly constricting. “Um...sorry...I didn’t mean to eat all your food...I c-can help you get more, I promise.” She blurted out quickly and took an involuntary step back, away from him. She didn’t want him to be angry, but she could understand if he was. Why couldn’t she just have slowed down long enough to think?
L’s eyes went a little bigger, and he watched Orpheus smile as though he had never seen the expression before. It had been a long time. Okay, he still smiled sometimes, but that was getting rarer and rarer every day, and soon he supposed he wouldn’t remember how. So many others seemed to have forgotten the skill, the only reason he hadn’t was because he still had hope for a future, in the shape of a cure in his pale hands. “I see.” He murmured, leaning forward a little to study the instrument. “That’s an amazing discovery. Do you know anything else?” He asked it eagerly, like he really thought Orpheus might just know the answer to all of his questions. Of course he didn’t really believe that, but any information was a step closer to his destination, right? “No, don’t stop.” He said quickly and his eyes went huge, his hand shooting out and almost grabbing Orpheus’s before he restrained himself and pulled back. He was surprised at himself. Usually he didn’t particularly care whether people came or went, and he never, ever tried to force them to do anything. It was pointless, for one thing: people did as they pleased. It was also extremely unpleasant to try to do. Not that he didn’t convince people. That was different. He thought he was right, and he explained why, but he didn’t make anyone else believe it if he could help it. Now, though, the thought of Orpheus leaving him was too much, and he bit his lip. “Please? I would like to hear one of your songs.”
Noah looked away. He hadn’t meant to offend Ronan with his question, it was just… well, he wanted to know if his friends were alright. And he was sure Ronan wanted to know too… and if Ronan had seen anyone, then at least Noah could let go of that tiny, painful shred of hope that lurked so deep inside of him. Because he’d been unlucky. He’d always been unlucky. And he hoped he had been more unlucky this time than the rest of their group, because… well… because he couldn’t imagine any of them dying. They didn’t deserve that. Seeing Ronan was… Noah had cried, hadn’t he? Seeing Ronan was like proof that Santa Clause was real. He supposed he couldn’t expect more than one miracle in one day. He caught the can of beans, almost afraid to open it. If he ate something that Ronan also ate… they had no idea how the disease was spread, and if he had it - which he was sure he did, if only because he knew that he blacked out sometimes - then the worst possible thing he could do was pass it on to Ronan as well. Ronan didn’t deserve to die like that. “They’re fine,” Noah whispered, more to himself than to Ronan. “They all have to be fine. They’re…” he didn’t complete his thought. They’re better than me in almost every way. No way they’re anything but fine. Though he knew that chance was cruel and played just as much into survival as capability. He rubbed at his cheek, not able to meet Ronan’s gaze. “I’m sorry,” he added, taking a small step away from his friend. Maybe if he turned his attention to the food it would be fine, but… he couldn’t eat it if there was any chance Ronan would eat from it as well. Suddenly he wasn’t hungry anymore.
Crutchie recoiled, eyes blazing as Sherlock had the audacity to laugh. He wanted nothing more than to punch him, but he forced himself to remain civil, not quite appeased by the following remark, but understanding it was as close to an apology as he was going to get. Besides, he knew he had struck a chord as well, so he figured he could lay off until Sherlock said something else demeaning. Even if it wasn’t true, he could convince himself that anything rude he did was solely in retaliation. The boy found himself surprisingly drawn in by the tale Sherlock was beginning to weave. It was more than most people had figured out before the power lines went down, and after that… well, it was difficult to keep track of scientific discovery if there was no way to find out about other people’s research. It was obvious that Sherlock had been as thorough as he could be given the circumstances. The idea of a virus controlling a corpse was terrifying to him, but it did make sense. After all, there was no humanity left in the dead. And why there had been a few blessed hours when his parents… he grimaced. When his parents had ceased their screaming and had lain in silence before their heads had jerked up and they’d left. Then suddenly words were pouring out of him before he could even stop to consider if they were a good idea. “I was infected when I was six.” He lifted his gaze, now hardened, to meet Sherlock’s. “Same symptoms as the dying, same…. same thoughts in my head and that was before we knew the dead could live again. I-I had the virus, and then it left. I couldn’t walk right anymore, but I didn’t die.” He hadn’t broken eye contact, but now his gaze softened and he looked away. “My parents both died, and… I don’t even know if they were… if they were killed a second time yet, but…” he swallowed, straightening up. “You’ve got a better idea what’s happening than anyone else, and if… if I can help, whatever it takes, to solve it…” he hoped Sherlock would understand what he meant. He’d be a willing test subject if it meant saving millions of lives. That was the only reason Crutchie was willing to give so much of his story so soon after meeting Sherlock. “Please.”
“It’s always a competition,” Nico replied, eyes angry. “That’s what life is. If you survive, someone else doesn’t.” Nothing Kelsier had done fit in with Nico’s understanding of the world. There was only enough room for a select few survivors. The planet couldn’t support any more than that, and everyone, whether they knew it or not, was vying to be one of the lucky ones. That’s what Minos had told him at least. And his father seemed to believe that Nico had created that system, hadn’t he? Little little boys who let slip more than they should have weren’t guaranteed a spot… especially when one slip caused the death of billions. And Kelsier said he killed monsters? Nico really should have been his first target, then. He pushed the thoughts as far away as possible, trying his best to comprehend why someone would be kind… why someone would share their name so easily… it had to be a ploy, right? “There’s some food in the back,” Nico informed the man quietly. “Not enough for more than a day, but a little bit.” Nico had been tempted to take it, but it wasn’t a common brand. That was probably why it had been left behind by whoever had raided the place earlier, and Nico hadn’t touched it because a wrapper with a rare brand name could be the difference between him escaping his father and him being found. If Kelsier wanted it, he could have it. Nico would be out of there as soon as there was a clear exit.
Amusement sparked in Will’s eyes. He knew too well what it was like to be ravenous, and how that made one forget decorum entirely. Obviously Rue needed the food more than Will had, otherwise she surely wouldn’t have scarfed it down so quickly. In any other circumstance he might have been angry, but now he wasn’t. Maybe because Rue was the first possible friend he had met since he’d been separated from his mother and brother, maybe because she seemed just as desperate as he felt, maybe something else entirely. “Don’t worry about it. Shouldn’t be too hard to find more, especially if we stick together.” He realized after a moment that maybe Rue wasn’t interested in that. Maybe she was just going to leave. “I just mean… if there’s one person keeping watch then there are more risks we can take, and it’d be easier to survive. For both of us.” The words felt stupid as he said them. Why would Rue want to stay anywhere near him? He’d threatened to shoot her not ten minutes before… “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to,” he added, looking away. “I just thought… well, that it might be easier. And maybe I’m a little tired of being on my own all the time.” He cringed internally. Now he just sounded manipulative, and he didn’t want Rue to stay with him because she was scared, or out of a sense of obligation… maybe she preferred being on her own.
Orpheus shook his head. “I’m… not a scientist, I guess,” he replied quietly. “I just know that the thicker the string the deeper a sound it will produce. And there are some sounds that are so low that humans can’t hear them, and those cause instinctive reactions in us… that frequency is just a little higher for zombies, and happens to be within our hearing range.” It wasn’t that he’d done experiments or anything, just that he had observed it, or maybe like it had come to him in a sudden moment of understanding. “I don’t really know what that means practically, but I do know that it can keep zombies away at least a little bit when I don’t have a better way to fend them off.” His eyes widened at L’s sudden reaction, but he obliged. People were desperate, and music helped. Orpheus understood that. The only reason he was still alive was because of his music. It made sense that other people might have a similar connection. “Do you mind if we…” he began to say something, then changed his mind. He didn’t want to impose upon L’s space, especially not by inviting himself in. Instead, he began to play. He kept a steady undertone of notes so low it was like the listener could feel them vibrating, against a counterpoint of some higher notes and his own voice intertwining, impossibly high, to create a sort of tapestry of sound. He let himself smile between the gaps, eyes closed as though he had transported himself to the world he was singing of. A world where the tragedy they were living in could be resolved. He poured himself into it, let himself believe in this future that so many had given up hope on. It was all he had, after all, wasn’t it? Hope? That was all anyone had. Finally, he stopped, voice falling low and ending on a whisper as a deep note shimmered in the air before dissipating and leaving the two in silence. “I’m out of practice,” Orpheus admitted, breaking the spell, “But that’s the best I can give people.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 15, 2019 17:57:43 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan wasn’t actually mad, but even he couldn’t tell. Everything felt like anger a lot of the time, especially anything like sadness or fear or the crushing knowledge that your friends, your family really, probably weren’t okay. “Eat.” He snapped, feeling suddenly very annoyed with the fact that Noah was still holding the beans. “What do you want, a ****ing table? Just eat the damn beans, I know you’re hungry.” He turned back to the fire and began to poke at it fiercely, as though he could light it again out of sheer force of Will. Really, it was surprising the heat behind his blue eyes didn’t spark. When at last he’d gotten the flames going stood up, almost looked at Noah, then thought better of it. “Don’t say that. They aren’t fine, and neither are you.” He said roughly, because half of him still expected to turn around and find nothing but air behind him, because Noah Czerny and Adam Parrish and Richard Gansey were all bitten and either wandering around as stupid brainless corpses or rotting in a ditch somewhere, and he couldn’t make himself believe otherwise. So he didn’t look.
Sherlock actually shut up as Crutchie began to speak, more out of surprise than consideration. He hadn’t pegged the boy as someone to share so much so quickly, but here he was, spilling his story for Sherlock’s benefit. It was only after he’d finished that Sherlock realized why he’d done it, and a slow, almost manic grin began to creep its way over his features. “Really?” He asked it like a kid with a new video game they’d assumed was too expensive. Gleeful shock. Because people didn’t just offer themselves up to his work like that, they kicked and screamed and told him he was crazy, they knocked over his vials and sometimes him too, because he didn’t think like them. He didn’t say the things the same way, or just *get* how he was supposed to talk to them, and so they didn’t listen to him, and he did it himself. Idiots. “Idiot.” He said it out loud, and bounced on his heels. Too much energy, not enough to do with it in this claustrophobic building, talking helped but not as much as moving, moving, always moving. “Idiot. You want to help me? You don’t even know what I’m trying to do, you couldn’t possibly understand a third of the things I know, and you want to help?”
Kelsier raised on eyebrow. “Doesn’t look like it.” He commented, his eyes moving to Nico’s arm for a fraction of a second. “It looks to me like me surviving means you get to see another day. But maybe I’m just a glass half full kind of guy.” He smiled, and meant it. “I think people need to stick together to survive. The living aren’t our enemies, the dead are. I helped you because I won’t let rotting corpses change you I am, and I don’t think anyone should.” He shook his head slightly. “Okay, maybe I have a bone to pick with whoever started this whole thing, but other than that I don’t have a problem with anyone who doesn’t have a problem with me. And see? Me helping you gets me food. We both see another sunrise tomorrow.” He hesitated then, but what harm could it do. “I get that you’re running from people, and you have no reason to trust me. Well...almost no reason.” He amended with a glance at the bandages. “But I miss traveling with people. I’d like to have you along, but only if you’re willing.”
Rue blinked. She’d expected fury, or at least irritation, but he actually...smiled. And laughed. when was the last time she’d heard someone really laugh? There wasn't much reason to anymore, something she hated about the world when she had time to think about it. She missed the days where a song could make someone smile, or a rainbow would be noticed as more than a possible indication of rain. She missed the days where she wouldn’t have to wonder if Will would slit her throat in the night and eat her. Mostly, she missed her siblings. She knew they weren’t all alive, but....some of them had to be, right? Her mother, her father, they had to be okay. She blinked and looked down, willing herself to be strong, to turn down his offer and walk away. Safe. It was always about avoiding risks and staying safe. She was tired, tired of walking and tired of having no one to talk to. No one to keep watch at night and no one to share her food with when she found it. She didn’t know how to cry anymore, but she thought now would be the time if she did. “Me too.” She heard herself whisper, and cringed at how achingly, desperately alone she sounded to her own ears. “Really? You really want to travel with me? You...” She took a step forward, then another. “I can help you.” She said earnestly. “We can survive better that way. I can teach you how to stay off the ground and help you find more food.”
L listened, first to Orpheus’s quiet, gentle voice, then to the even more gentle music. His eyes closed, a look of deep peace came over his pale face. He looked almost dead himself: pale and thin, with a posture worse than most zombies, but the look on his face was pure human. Orpheus’s voice was beautiful and somehow both happy and sad, and so human it hurt but something more too. It was like he was inside L, and his voice was telling a story, and it was a story he’d heard before but a long time ago and he’d forgotten the plot. So he listened, and swayed slightly, and when it was over it took a long time for his eyes to open again. “Your best is more than enough.” He breathed, letting the spell break inside of him. He held the pieces in his hand for s long moment before he let them blow away and turned, waving a hand over his shoulder. “Please, come inside and have something to eat. I found a stash in this house that should last us both a couple of days.”
Noah stared at the can for a moment longer, still hesitant to dig in. Maybe Ronan wasn’t advocating they share food now, but eventually he would, and then if Ronan caught the virus… that was on Noah. That was on Noah for not running away like he should have. For being too much of a coward to exist on his own for much longer. “I’m fine,” he murmured faintly, setting the beans on the ground besides him as he took a seat just beyond the light from the fire. It was as though if Ronan saw him too clearly he would see the truth. And Noah knew that would break his friend. The truth was he was ravenous, but even more than that he was scared. Scared for his own life and even more scared for Ronan’s. How long would it take for the other boy to see how much of him had begun to degrade? There were days he couldn’t remember things that should have been clear as day, days when his hands felt like they weren’t his own… he choked the thoughts down. “I’m alive,” Noah managed in response, because it was the only comforting truth he had within him. He knew better than to lie to a Lynch brother. Especially Ronan. “And you’re alive. Which is better than I feared this morning.” He picked at the grass in front of him, not quite letting himself attempt to catch Ronan’s gaze. The other boy looked at people like he really saw them, even if there was a mask of judgement over it usually. And, like most people, Noah wasn’t used to being seen. Especially not now.
Crutchie bristled. He was volunteering to let Sherlock use him for whatever experiments he wanted, and Sherlock’s only response was to call him an idiot. Which officially made Sherlock the least grateful man in the history of the universe ever. “Regard the Great Scientist Sherlock Holmes, who only accepts help from the very brightest and eschews the company of all but the pompously arrogant,” he replied melodramatically, a thick layer of sarcasm over his words. He glowered at Sherlock before his expression flipped almost instantly, anger and desperation and some sort of insatiable need crowding his features, battling to be seen above the rest. “Fine!” He snapped, staring at a spot of ground near Sherlock’s feet. “Fine, maybe you are, maybe you are more intelligent than anyone else, I don’t even know you, but…” he fumbled over his words, too many threatening to spill out of him. It was as if his previous melodrama had been his last attempt to contain everything else inside of him. “Maybe I can’t grasp your superior intellect because I’m just a common person in a perfect position for you to mock, but… damn it!” He sucked in a breath, obviously seething. “You… you… look at me!” He was practically shouting now, aware he was making a scene but not caring enough to stop. “I wasn’t supposed to survive the first time, and I don’t give a f*ck if there’s a reason or not, but if someone offers to help you, you take it! There’s no pity to worry about anymore, and there’s… there’s… you’re the only one I’ve ever met who’s trying to stop this! You’re the only one who cares about figuring out what happened to people, or why it’s happening, and… and maybe if you would take your head out of your ass you’d see that maybe you need me to do that.” He was breathing hard, but his words had drawn to a halt. He closed his eyes and began again, voice softer this time. “So maybe it’s not about wanting to help you. Maybe it’s about making something out of a life when the only other option is running and starving and fighting until I run out of luck. And maybe my obviously tiny brain understands that when you have a chance to try to make a difference, you don’t let go of that chance.”
Nico tucked his arm close to his chest, glaring at Kelsier for a moment. What was frustrating was he couldn’t even contradict the other man. “I would’ve been fine without you.” It was a lie, and they both knew it, but it was one Nico needed to believe. If he couldn’t survive on his own, what was the point? How could he justify moving forward if he couldn’t do it independently? He never wanted to be tied in with another person again. Ever. But the way Kelsier smiled, like the world wasn’t going up in flames, like if he turned around there would be a world where those who died stayed dead… it was stupid. Kelsier was stupid for smiling, for allowing himself that one little bit of hope. “You don’t know who I am,” he said simply, though it wasn’t clear to what he was responding to. Perhaps the comment Kelsier made about not letting the world change him. Perhaps to the comment about whoever started the apocalypse. If once he’d doubted his father’s accusation, any shred of confidence in his own conviction was gone. The apocalypse was his burden to bear, and it was almost funny that Kelsier had no idea he was talking to the very person to blame for it all. Offering to help him, no less. A dark smile touched at his lips before vanishing. “You gave me antibiotics, I showed you the food. We’re even.” So why did he want so desperately to go with Kelsier?
Trust was hard to come by these days. Will knew nobody willing to give it, and he kept his own locked up in a little box inside his heart. Yet for some reason he was willing to crack it open a bit for Rue. Maybe because she had the same loneliness he did bottled up inside. Maybe because human beings weren’t meant to be alone for as long as he had been. And then Rue was coming closer, and it was like that precious moment he’d shared years ago with his best friend, when they had decided to be friends because they were alone and scared and it seemed like everyone else in kindergarten had already made friends… it was that instant connection that really shouldn’t have been there but it was there nonetheless. “And I’ve got a gun, so we can defend ourselves easier… and…” it seemed like Rue was willing to do it, though Will for the life of him didn’t understand why. “They always used to say two heads are better than one, and… thank you,” he murmured, not sure how else to say it. He knew getting attached to another person was a bad idea, but he also couldn’t imagine anything else that would make his life feel a little less like hell at that moment. “If we’ve got someone on watch I might finally be able to start a fire,” he murmured after a moment. “It’s been too long since I really felt warm.”
Orpheus practically beamed at the compliment, but he really wasn’t sure he deserved it. He was just someone who clung a little too tightly to what had made him happy before, as it was the only thing keeping him sane in the aftermath. Of course it was also the reason he had lost Eurydice, but he was going to get her back. He’d found the secret now, he just needed to work it into something that could maybe turn zombies back… if that was possible. He didn’t know if it was, but he knew he had to try. “I don’t want to impose,” he murmured after a moment. He didn’t know if he was worth inviting inside and sharing food with, especially because he was a stranger. He wasn’t going to continue saying no if L offered again, though. There was a time and a place for being polite, and some signals of politeness were better shed in the face of an apocalypse. “If you’re serious, though, I would love to stay for at least a little bit… been a while since I last saw a friendly face.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 16, 2019 7:03:48 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan didn’t want to look at him, but when Noah sat down there was nothing he could do besides stare. He looked so tired, and scared, and like the Noah Ronan had known years ago. Like he wasn’t really different, and the apocalypse hadn’t broken him beyond repair yet. Was that a stupid thing to want? To be whole? Ronan longed for it, but only in the deep part of his heart he never looked at if he could avoid it, because he knew it could never happen, and why torture yourself with dreams? He let out his breath in a low, frustrated huff as Noah put the untouched beans down. “Stop trying to be all heroic.” He said flatly, and kicked at the grass as he sat back and stared at the warm fire instead of his friend. Not that he hadn’t seen it. The smudge on Noah’s cheek, the paleness of his skin, the look in his eye...he’d seen things. Ronan could tell. And he could tell that, for whatever reason, Noah wasn’t eating right now. As the other boy continued, Ronan almost softened, but not quite. “Yeah.” He agreed, and poked at the fire again, then made up his mind and headed over to sit by Noah further away from the warmth. “I really thought you were dead, man. Between the two of us, we should be able to beat this thing to a pulp, yeah? You in?”
Sherlock tilted his head, startled as Crutchie began to yell at him. His mind moved, fast. What was this about? He supposed it could be about him saying “idiot” but usually people just snorted at him. Crutchie was really, really angry. And Sherlock wasn’t sure why. He took a step back, like a dog backing away from an unfamiliar smell. Oh. Oh. Crutchie’s fierce words washed over him like freezing rain, and he tried to pull them apart to see what they were made of. “So this is about the idiot remark.” He breathed finally, mostly to himself. “You took that way too personally. Everyone’s an idiot, it has nothing to do with how big your brain is or what I happen to think.” He took another step back, confusion clouding his sharp features, and licked his lips. “Don’t delude yourself. I don’t care. I just want to know why the dead suddenly started up and wandering around when they've no business moving at all, much less going around biting people. You don’t have to stay if you hate me that much, I won’t force you, but if you want to make a difference you’d better be prepared. Becoming my test subject is not for the faint of heart.” The last words had a heavy emphasis, and he shoved his hands in his pockets. It made him look like a sulky five year old. “Do what you like. I won’t force you. Maybe I don’t like you much, either.”
Kelsier nodded simply, putting his hands up in surrender. “Maybe I don’t know who you are.” He agreed softly, gently. “And you don’t know who I am, and we have no reason to trust each other, right? So why do it?” How to reach this boy? He didn’t want to leave Nico alone, not because he didn’t think the other survivor could take care of himself, but because he was afraid that he could. Defending yourself against this world always had a price, and for anyone that still cared, it was a high one. He wanted to tell Nico he could trust him, but he knew he couldn’t say that without sounding exactly like whoever had hurt the boy, so he tried a different approach. “Well, you don’t have to trust me to travel with me, right? You can make me always walk in front of you, you can prepare the food, you can take all the watches. I’ll let you do that, if you want, but I hope that you’ll let me help you too. It’s only fair, right?” He glanced behind him, towards the food. “You can’t make it through this without trusting someone eventually, you know. And I’m not saying that person has to be me, but...” he looked back, meeting Nico’s dark eyes steadily. “I would be honored.”
Rue didn’t trust easily, but right now she was just so tired. Maybe Will would kill her. Maybe she was stupid for ever turning her back on him, for eating his food and letting him watch for danger while she slept, but she didn’t care. She wanted to trust someone so badly it was like a physical ache inside her, longing to be relieved. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could have made it on her own. “I have a knife.” She offered. “And I can help find food, and fight off the zombies if they attack. I’ll try to be useful to you and be a good part of the team, I promise.” She wanted to hug him, but she didn’t quite dare, in case he thought she was attacking him. But he’d appeared right as she’d needed something more to keep her going, and now she knew that that something more was people, and she wanted to find more of them. Maybe if they could get a group together, they’d all be okay. Maybe they could beat this world and prove that humans weren’t done after all, that the dead didn’t get to destroy the living so easily. “I can keep watch!” She exclaimed, and turned, unsheathing her knife as she did. It was odd, being on the ground after spending so long high above it, but it was also comfortable in a way. She wasn’t alone. There was someone behind her, who had her back, who she could help. She was really, deeply grateful for that.
L looked back, his head tilted as he saw that Orpheus hadn’t followed. Did he not want to? That was odd. L had yet to find someone who wasn’t interested in rest and food, especially now, and he couldn’t imagine he’d done anything to upset the other man already. “There’s canned peaches.” He said, as though that fact alone could override any hesitation Orpheus had about entering. Then his expression cleared. “Please, come in. It’s hardly my home, more of a temporary shelter. And I would be grateful for the company....it’s been a while.” He sounded a little mournful at that. “Anyway, I want to talk to you more about the frequency that effects the dead, and I can’t do that if we’re both standing around outside, right? Come in and sit down, I’ll get the food.”
Ronan was different. Of that Noah was sure, but he could still see so much of the old Ronan behind this new one’s hard shell that it was almost like seeing the sun during a solar eclipse. Ronan was there, still so bright he was blinding, but masked by something dark and cold and almost foreign. Yet Noah could still see his Ronan, clear as day, behind it. And he was half convinced it was going to kill him, seeing Ronan unchanged in that capacity. “I’m not a hero,” Noah replied simply. It was the truth. Of all their friends, he had been the coward, the most likely to end up as a damsel in distress. He was never the hero in their make-believe stories, even if sometimes he had secretly wanted to be. It was no surprise that he hadn’t managed to attain heroism in real life either. “You know that.” His voice was soft, almost able to be passed off as a distant whisper rather than anything tangible or human. But if there was one heroic thing he could do - and maybe saving Ronan’s life was heroic - he would do it. Not because it made him the hero, but because it saved the life of someone who deserved as long a life as he could get. He almost backed away once Ronan came near him, but he wasn’t a skittish animal. He was the same boy that Ronan had last seen years ago, wasn’t he? He couldn’t give any impression that he wasn’t… not if he didn’t want Ronan to start investigating. The smile he cracked at Ronan’s words was small, but it was there. “I’m in,” he murmured, forcing himself to meet Ronan’s gaze because something about his old friend gave him more courage than he had ever had before. It would be like old times, right?
Crutchie frowned, not really understanding what Sherlock was saying. It hadn’t been a personal affront, at least not intentionally, but in a way that made it even worse. There was no place for a sense of superiority when everyone was doing their best to survive, right? It seemed like Sherlock hadn’t listened to a word he said, though, and despite the fact that it made Crutchie angry, he was no more inclined to leave than he had been when he had first arrived. Sherlock might be aggravating as all get out, but he really was Crutchie’s best option. “You don’t…” he stumbled over the words, trying to put the right ones in order. “You don’t really get people, do you?” It wasn’t even as much of a question as it was a rhetorical statement. Or maybe he was just weird when it came to people, maybe Crutchie wasn’t the easiest to deal with. That was also entirely possible. “I just met you, how could I possibly hate you?” His tone was annoyed, perhaps, but no longer angry. “You’re still the best option I’ve got, and as far as I see it I’m the best you’ve got as well. I don’t see anyone else lining up to help with your research, especially nobody else who’s survived the virus. And liking doesn’t have much to do with it.” There was a touch of resignation on his tone, but no residual anger. It was almost as though he’d blown up at himself, not Sherlock. “I don’t care…” he swallowed, still seeming to struggle with the words, “I don’t care how hard it is. I don’t care if I can’t understand anything you’re doing… I got lucky, and I want to know why. And you had… you had the balls to question me about that. Nobody says anything nowadays unless they’re certain of it. Trust me.”
Nico had no idea why Kelsier was so insistent, but there was something about it that made him want to go with the man. Which was terrifying. He tried to squash down the instinct as far as it would go, because his instincts had betrayed him before. They would easily betray them again. Logically, though, he was tempted by Kelsier’s offer. People were less likely to attack if they saw that there were two people rather than just one scrawny boy, and it wasn’t like he was getting sleep anyway. Staying up for all the watches wasn’t much different from what he’d been doing now anyway. “The world stopped being fair a long time ago,” Nico muttered under his breath, something flashing behind his dark eyes. He was far more easy to read than he would ever have admitted. “And you’re wrong. Trust leads to far more hurt than it does anything else.” He had trusted, more than once, and it had burned him alive as it backfired. He wasn’t going to make that mistake no matter what Kelsier said. “And you’re stupid for trusting me. I don’t owe you anything. What’s to stop me from killing you in your sleep and taking your supplies? How do you know I won’t trade your life for mine at the earliest opportunity?” He was being purposefully antagonistic and he knew it. Because he didn’t know what he was capable of anymore. He didn’t know what he would do if he had the choice to save his own life at the cost of someone else’s. Well… that wasn’t quite true. He knew his life was worth less than most others. He was stupid and reckless and self-sacrificial when it came down to it, but only when he let himself trust someone. Which was why he wasn’t going to let that happen again.
Will smiled, which didn’t come as easily for him as he would have liked it to. He hated that people had to be useful, though. He hated the idea that if someone fulfilled their use there was no point in keeping them around anymore. He hated the idea that someone was accepted simply because of what they brought to the team, but that was the way the world was. There was no way around it, and he had done his best to make himself useful. To himself, primarily but now hopefully to Rue. “I hope we don’t have to fight too many people off,” he admitted quietly. “I really am a good shot, but I don’t like…” he trailed off, hoping it didn’t make him sound weak. There was a part of him that still saw the zombies as human. That still wanted them to break from whatever trance they were in and look down at themselves and realize that they had fallen prey to something, but that they were okay now, and that they could still find their families and convince them that everything was going to be okay. But they lived in a world with no happy endings now. “We’re a bit too much out in the open now,” Will replied nervously, glancing back at the store he had exited. “We should try to find somewhere that isn’t as easy to get to if we want to avoid any of the undead, and… and honestly, if we want to avoid other people, too.” He didn’t want to admit it, but he was as scared of some of the living as he was the dead. They were just as volatile, and their goals were certainly not as clear. “Maybe one day we could go hunting,” he murmured after a moment, thinking of what it would be like to eat real, cooked meat. It had been too long. And the “we” was too easy to slip into… it felt natural in a way Will hadn’t been prepared for.
“Canned peaches?” Orpheus repeated, a smile spreading across his face again. “Been ages since I had anything as good as that.” It was a sentence that easily could have been understood as sarcastic, but there was something about the young man that implied he was incapable of saying anything that wasn’t genuine. And if L didn’t mind the company, Orpheus was happy to join him. There was a part of him that felt guilty for accepting the kindness of other people. Part of him that felt like the only reason Eurydice was gone was because he had been so consumed in his search to figure out what music meant to the undead that he had saddled her with all the responsibility of survival. She was dead because hadn’t provided her with everything he had promised, and he had only made it this far off the hard work of others. It was unfair. Before, he had worked as much as he could to earn a living, but now… now, he was useless except for the music he provided. And he didn’t want to take advantage of L that way. He didn’t want to ride on the man’s coattails as he’d done so unintentionally with Eurydice. He told himself it wouldn’t happen again - that the music was where it needed to be and there was no reason to let it consume him again - but a tiny part of him still felt that his music was the only thing that he could devote himself to. The only thing that could fix what was wrong with the world, if only for a moment. So why had it cost him so much? “Thank you,” he murmured after a silence that was far too heavy to bear the weight of.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 16, 2019 15:54:05 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan smiled grimly. No, Noah was no hero. He was just brave enough to walk into a haunted house, but not enough to make it all the way through. Ronan was all jump-first-questions-never, and though it got him in trouble it often got him back out of it. He liked to think he was brave, not stupid, but when it came down to it he didn’t think it was all that different, and so he couldn’t really tell. He wasn’t a hero either, though. If Noah was a coward (and Ronan didn’t think he was) then Ronan was his temper. Angry words in the heat of the moment, sharp glances and raised eyebrows that could kill, and hands that needed to hit something. The only question was what. He punched Noah’s shoulder lightly. “Yeah, I know.” He said, and his voice was almost gentle. Almost. “Me neither. But the world doesn’t care if you’re a hero, the world cares if you can throw a good punch and have decent reaction time. And you’re still here, so that proves you can surivive this world. Whatever that’s worth.” Probably not much. But having his best friend back was enough for Ronan, despite the fact that they were probably all that was left of his makeshift family, despite the fact that Noah looked dead on his feet and still refuses to eat the beans. The smile didn’t stay long, and when it was gone his eyes were hard. Not angry, but not gentle, either. He nodded, silent, and held out a fist for Noah to bump. Just like before everything, when they’d been young and stupid and the world had been kind and forgiving, “Hell yeah, dude. But first, you should get some rest. You look like a zombie.”
Sherlock was really confused now. He’d expected that once Crutchie started yelling at him he wouldn’t stop for a while, but it seemed the rage had left as quickly as it had come, leaving...he didn’t know. He could tell the boy still wasn’t pleased with him, but he wasn’t yelling anymore, which was a good sign. You don’t really get people, do you? The words explained something, anyway. No, he didn’t “get people”, any more than you could “get” an alien culture you’d never heard of or seen before, or a language so different than your own you couldn’t even figure out how to make the sounds. He tried, or he used to try harder, but it was difficult to try to do something everyone got mad at you for doing wrong. Sometimes, he admitted to himself, he didn’t try. Sometimes he let the words come as they were and watched as people flinched away from him like they suddenly smelled what he really was and hated it. It was like that now. He hadn’t meant to offend Crutchie, but he hadn’t exactly meant not to, either. He’d said what he thought and let the consequences be what they were, and now he was getting the results. He shouldn’t have been surprised, but he couldn’t help it. “I’m a high-functioning sociopath, so no, I don’t ‘get people’.” He said shortly. “All right, I can use you, but it won’t be fun and I can’t guarantee you’ll survive. I’ll need to be testing your blood and skin cells, your hair, I'll need to look at that leg and ask you all sorts of personal questions about your family, background, eating habits, everything. So don’t get yourself into more than you mean to.” It would have been a kind warning in any other tone, but Sherlock seemed incapable of sounding kind, so it more sounded like reading the possible side-effects on the back of a medicine bottle.
It would have been easier to just leave the boy and go his separate way, keeping all the food to himself. Counting himself lucky that Nico had been wounded, because he was right. Humans had never been trustworthy, but now they were worse than the dead in some ways. They had motives, and enough brains to think of some pretty creative ways to hurt others. Traveling alone was much safer, when you happened to look strong and were not injured. Nico was neither of these things. Maybe that’s what drew Kelsier to him. Not the fact that he was helpless - he wasn’t - but the fact that the world was built harder for people like him. Because of things he had no control over, surviving moved from difficult to nearly impossible, and Kelsier hated that about it. He hated that Nico hadn’t really had a chance to grow into whoever he truly was, Maybe he could help fix that. “You might,” He agreed, still smiling. It was like nothing phased him. “But I’m not stupid. I believe that trust is worth some risk, because a world without trust would be a very dim world indeed. I choose to trust, and I do that while knowing the risks. You could slit my throat and take my supplies, leave me to turn or sell me to whoever’s after you, and I would be stupid if I didn’t acknowledge that, but I do acknowledge it. Saying you can’t trust someone because there’s risk is like saying you can’t be brave because you’re afraid; you can’t have one without the other.”
When Will smiled, it made his whole face look kinder, less like a survivor of a horrible accident and more like a boy you could befriend at recess. She liked this Will, even if that was a dangerous thing to do. She knew better than to underestimate people because how often had she been underestimated, just because she was small? Her size could cause her trouble, but she could also use her lightness to her advantage, scaling trees no one else had a hope of climbing and hiding in attics that couldn’t support an adult, or even a healthy child. She was like a cat; she was often in places it didn’t seem possible for her to exist in. “Agreed.” She said, nodding and glancing around for the first time. She was getting careless already, with another set of eyes to watch her back. She made a mental note to make sure she didn’t do it again. Then another thought occurred to her, and she looked sideways back at Will. “Hey...how well can you climb? Being high up is much safer than the ground, and usually you don’t even have to kill anything up there. I’ve never killed one of the, befo-“ She cut herself off, suddenly flustered. “I mean, I could, if I needed to! I just meant...y’know...I haven’t needed to, not that I can’t...” Dammit, he was going to think she was some kind of weakling now. She couldn’t afford to keep spilling her guts to strangers like this, it wasn’t like the careful girl she had to be now, that she’d trained herself to be.
L wouldn’t have caught the sarcasm even if there had been any. He was getting the food ready, opening the cans with a real can opener and pouring them into real bowls, a feat which was by no means easy or common anymore. Really, he’d gotten lucky enough to find this building with supplies still in it, but he did like that it made him look competent and prepared in front of his new acquaintance. “Here you go.” He said, handing a blue bowl to Orpheus and taking the other one for himself. They were sweet, in the thick liquid they were canned in, and he savored the taste and he chewed and then finally swallowed, content. It was a wonder he was still alive. He’d been bad at caring for himself before the apocalypse, never mind after Watari was no longer around to put him in bed whenever he passed out, or cut his hair and give him food. L had wandered for a long time after he was lost, not knowing what to do with himself on his own, but eventually he had found food and stayed where he was until it was gone. That was how he’d been staying alive so far. When it came down to it he knew it was just luck that he hadn’t been found by anyone with ill intent towards him, or hunger bad enough to bother him, but no one he’d seen had been as friendly as Orpheus was. All right. So Orpheus was the first person he’d seen. But still, he was friendly, and L was grateful for that much. And he was alive. “So, what’s your name?” He asked after a pause, picking up another peach with his fingertips and dropping it into his mouth.
Noah watched Ronan carefully, watching his friend’s thoughts unfurl like scrolls of paper in his sharp eyes. It wasn’t that Ronan was easy to read, it was that Noah was similar enough that he was able to see Ronan’s thoughts through the flickering of his gaze. Or at least sometimes. Nobody would have expected it, he figured. The angry boy and the forgotten one, having anything in common? Even he thought it was far fetched at times, but it wasn’t to him. Not anymore. Because they had always gotten along, no matter what had happened between them. It wasn’t even that Noah was as quick to forgive as Ronan was to offend, it was that there was an easy silence between them that could just as easily develop into a rapport. There was the teasing and the warmth and the squabbling and the tangle of limbs and souls that could so easily characterize brotherhood. He glanced down at his shoulder and gave an amused exhale, leaning subconsciously towards Ronan once the punch was gone. Because this was the Ronan he loved so fiercely, this was what he would lay down his life for even when he was too petrified to move. This boy was all that was left of the family that made Noah feel bigger than he was, that transformed him into someone who was willing to take risks and do the impossible. Sometimes it felt that Noah was losing himself. He was losing his grip on who he was supposed to be, silently slipping away from life. If he screamed, he knew nobody would hear him, no matter how close he was to the edge. But having Ronan here made things feel normal again, almost. Wordlessly, he pressed his fist against Ronan’s for a moment before letting his hand fall back down to the ground. “What if I were a zombie?” The words slipped out, completely monotone. Perhaps he was cracking a particularly distasteful joke. It was unsettling, in a way that Noah was quickly becoming used to.
There was the explanation, rattled off as simply as it would have been in a a report on a patient’s diagnoses from a doctor who didn’t particularly care about bedside manner. Because it made sense, but it also made Crutchie want to swallow his words. It was still true that he felt Sherlock was ungrateful, that he was brusque and didn’t particularly care about how his words impacted people, but it wasn’t a choice he had made. it wasn’t someone being rude or demeaning for the sake of being rude or demeaning. That didn’t mean Crutchie wouldn’t react if Sherlock were to be condescending again, but it did mean he was more willing to give him a little bit of leeway. More than he’d usually be inclined to give, at least. It would take some work - the only thing that riled Crutchie up faster than anything was a sense of superiority, and Sherlock had that down to a T. This would be… an interesting experience, to say the least. “I’m not asking for fun, or easy, or even safe,” Crutchie returned, eyes steely. “I should’ve died a long time ago, and though I don’t have a death wish…” he gave a tight smile, “This is the closest anyone can get to a life’s purpose, even if it fails.” The truth was, part of him wanted to be known. He’d always been tough as nails with a past he didn’t want to talk about, but he’d lost so much in the past months that opening himself up to someone, even if it was for something so impersonal, seemed rather tempting. “Fine. Only condition is you don’t keep me locked up like a lab rat. I may be willing to give my life if it comes to it, but I won’t give you all of my freedom.” He had to hope that the condition would be acceptable to Sherlock, because the truth was… if Sherlock asked, he’d probably be willing to give that too. This was a chance he had never been given, and he’d always wanted an explanation. Why? Why had he survived? What made him special when so many others had died? He didn’t know why, but he trusted Sherlock. The man wasn’t kind, and he did seem to have his own motivations, but he was upfront and honest in a way most people didn’t seem to be. Crutchie didn’t doubt there were things he would try to hide, but part of him didn’t much care. If Sherlock was going to kill him he’d rather be killed by someone who was honest about what he was going to do rather than someone who would pretend to be nice and kill him later for kicks.
Kelsier’s smile was infuriating. It just never went away, and that… that wasn’t right. How had he escaped alive and unbroken by a world that was so desperate to tear people down? There was nothing to be happy about, as far as Nico was aware, and he hated that part of him wanted to reach out and cling to Kelsier because he was the only ray of sunlight in a world that had been plunged into a cavernous darkness. Nico wanted to prove then and there that Kelsier had nothing to smile about, but he had no weapons, and he knew deep down he couldn’t bring himself to do that even if he could. His own hope had been destroyed forever ago, but who was he to crush someone else’s? “Bravery is just selfishness that others praise you for,” he muttered, but he knew Kelsier wouldn’t listen to any more of his cynicism. he had done absolutely nothing to deserve Kelsier’s trust, and yet the man had given it freely. The most precious gift one had…and Kelsier had gifted it to him. His heart, shattered and calloused and time-hardened, beat in his chest as though begging him to reach out. He was convinced that Kelsier was delusional, that he had imagined a world that was better than it actually was, but he believed so firmly in it that it was difficult to look away. If Kelsier knew who Nico actually was… if he knew the mistakes that rested on Nico’s shoulders, if he knew how much blood was on the boy’s hands… he would have run away, or even killed Nico. Anyone in their right mind would have. He didn’t remember the incident well, but he did know he’d been confused, at first, when his father had pointed his finger, and then he’d understood. How could he not remember starting the apocalypse? “You’re going to regret having me along,” Nico managed after a moment, meeting Kelsier’s gaze with his own. “But I’ll go with you. No trust involved, though. Mere convenience.”
Will frowned, looking at the roof where Rue had been perched only moments before. “I used to be okay at it, I think,” he shrugged. “I haven’t really tried since, but I could try now if you think it’s safer. Anything that makes us less of a target, really.” He wasn’t scared of heights, really, it was just that he was unused to making his way up and trusting that he wouldn’t fall. He was small enough and light enough that he didn’t think trying would be exceptionally dangerous, at least. He was about to say something else when he heard Rue and then heard her leap immediately into trying to take back what she said, as though her words made any difference. “I’ve only killed one,” replied quietly, staring at the ground. “I’m used to hunting… deer and rabbits sometimes, and that’s usually what I use the gun for… my brother was good at killing them, but I don’t know where he is now, and…” damn it, why was he about to cry? This was really not a good first impression. He pushed away the thought and fixed his gaze on where the wall met the ground. “Mostly if you shoot in the right place it’s a good distraction. They’ll think you’re somewhere that you aren’t, and they’ll… they’ll go after a trail that isn’t real. But I’ve only had to kill one and it… it felt so… it felt wrong,” he admitted. There, if Rue felt bad for giving too much of herself, Will had just given far more.
Orpheus was impressed by L’s setup. It was the most normal thing he’d seen… well, in a long time. He’d never understood the use of fancy china before any of this had happened, but now even using real bowls felt like it was some special occasion, rather than something that had once been quite commonplace. When was the last time he had been given the luxury of actually sitting down to a meal? He knew he wasn’t great at taking care of his needs - if he got too into his music he had been known to forget to eat at times, but even when his eating habits were what was now considered normal, there was never any time to safely sit down to eat something out of a bowl rather than straight out of the can. “Thank you,” he said again, taking in the scent of the peaches and smiling to himself. It was so sweet, a scent that was now - like almost everything else nice - a luxury. He reached into the bowl and picked one up, laughing to himself at the slimy texture. It was sweeter than he remembered, and also more tangy. It was as though the flavors had exploded in his mouth, reminding him that once upon a time there had been hand cooked food that took forever but actually tasted good, pies and stews and cookies and tarts… there was none of that anymore. He opened his eyes after a moment, adjusting the red bandana he had tied around his neck - careful to avoid staining it with his now sticky right hand. “My name’s Orpheus. What’s yours?” He had a feeling he had met more people than most had… people tended to trust him because of his music, and he couldn’t help but trust people in return. Yet he couldn’t help but feel like L was different. This wasn’t the first time he’d been given food in exchange for music, but this was the first time someone had actually cared about how he’d found out about the frequency, or had even cared to ask about the frequency in the first place once it had been mentioned. Or maybe it was just that it felt like something was beginning, though Orpheus couldn’t quite figure out what.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 17, 2019 9:58:53 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan was just starting to settle down when the words hit him. What if I were a zombie? “I’d shoot you in the head.” He answered just as casually, but there was no smile on his face as he glanced at the closest thing he considered to be his brother. He wasn’t sure he was joking. That was what you did with zombies, right? They weren’t the people you knew anymore, they were something else, masquerading the body around like a deadly puppet. It was sick, but Ronan was used to it, and you laughed at what you couldn’t beat to give yourself the upper hand. There was safety in being careless, even with your words, and Ronan was a master of it. “Same if it were me.” He added, looking away, back at the fire. The heat felt good on his face, and the smoke made his eyes water in a pleasantly painful way. “You shoot zombies in the head, end of story, no exceptions.” The question was; could he do it? He’d already killed more zombies than probably most, some he hadn’t even needed to, just to blow off steam. They were dead, so what did it matter anymore? He felt wild and free when he was fighting them off, like he usually only did when he was dreaming. He hated to think he would feel that way about ending Noah, but...if his friend were really dead.... “Don’t even joke about that.” He added suddenly, the snap back in his tone like it had never left. “You’re not a zombie, and you’re not gonna be one, either. You literally just promised me we’d kick this thing’s ass together, don’t you dare back out like a coward now.” It was a low blow and he knew it, but he couldn’t lose anyone else. He’d lost too much of his heart already.
Sherlock met his eyes, surprised to see determination there. There was fear too of course, but he would have been more perturbed if there wasn’t, given how 99% of the humans race would react to such a situation. At any rate, Crutchie was serious, and that’s what counted. Sherlock nodded curtly, agreeing to the terms as fine with him, and turned to head back to his books, satisfied that nothing he did should now come as a surprise to the other survivor. “Come on, then.” He called impatiently over his shoulder, and retrieved a long needle from a table in the corner. It even looked decently clean, though to effect was ruined a bit when Sherlock dusted it off with his gloved hand. “Blood sample first, I think. Once I get that testing I’ll give you a full physical examination and see if there’s any visible symptoms of the illness that could help, and we’ll start on the questions.”
Kelsier knew what the world was. It was cold and hard, unfair and brutal and unforgiving, as evidenced by the fact that Nico was small and emaciated and convinced Kelsier was going to hurt him. It was in spite of this, not in denial of, that he smiled and laughed and helped others remember how to do the same, because the world needed laughter now more than ever. It was one thing he could do in a world where he could do very little, so he did it. It was as simple as that. And Nico needed it. When was the last time the boy had smiled, really smiled, not that dark humorless version that had nothing to do with joy. Kelsier was going to see Nico laugh. He’d made up his mind, and he prided himself on being too stubborn to be talked out of anything he’d decided to do. Because that was how you got what you wanted. People yelled at you to stop and swore you were wrong, tried desperately to make you believe it, and you didn’t listen and charged towards your goal with your head down and a smile on your face. “No trust expected.” He agreed, hands raised as though surrendering to Nico’s terms. “In that case, we ought to have a full meal, don’t you think? Let’s grab that stuff you saw back there and head out, see if we can find more before dark. Then we can camp and have a proper dinner. Sound good to you?”
Rue listened silently, shocked and touched at the same time as Will told her his story. It was like being given a cake by someone you’d thought you were in a fight with. Warmth filled her, strange but wonderful, and she nodded as he finished. It was her turn to give something now. “I’ve always been fast. I’ve just been lucky that I’ve never had to do it.” She told him quietly. “There’s been times when I almost have, but there was always a way to get out of their reach. Get up high. They can’t climb, and if you jump from roof to roof they lose track of you pretty quickly.” She hesitated. “I’ve never killed one by hand, I mean.” She amended even quieter, and now there was a faint tremble in her tone. She’d never talked about this before, not with anyone, not even herself. She’d barely let herself even think about it. “Once they cornered me in a building, I was on the roof, and they couldn’t reach me but there were so many of them, and...and the wall was going down. It wasn’t going to hold me for much longer.” She swallowed. “So I set it on fire. I had a match I had been planning to use for a campfire that night, and I...I burned them all up. I jumped down and ran until I collapsed, but they were all dead by then. I was just lucky I didn’t meet any more, because...I don’t think I could have killed again.” There. It was out there. She didn’t look at Will in case she saw something in his eyes she couldn’t unsee, and waited for him to tell her that never mind, he was fine on his own. Better that then with a monster.
“Of course. Thank you.” L said with his mouth full, raising an eyebrow. Orpheus...unusual name. Then again he was hardly one to talk. “I’m L. Nice to meet you.” He continued, and ate his last peach, then tipped the bowl to drink the sweet syrup. When he was done he turned to look closer at Orpheus m his big eyes on the guitar mostly, though he did give the man a good inspection too. “May I hold it?” He asked abruptly, inclining his head towards the instrument. He sucked um his fingers one by one to clean the sticky juice off them, and his eyebrow was still raised in a sort of question mark. “It that’s alright, I promise to be extremely careful with it, damaging it would be unacceptable. If I do anything to it, you have my permission to shoot me.” He said it in such a flat, matter-of-fact tone that it was almost impossible to tell whether he was joking, and his dark eyes gave nothing away as the watched Orpheus unblinkingly, looking directly into his.
No you wouldn’t, a tiny voice hissed in the back of Noah’s head. Because he wouldn’t ever ask Ronan to kill him. He may be a coward but he would sooner turn alone and scared than force Ronan to kill him. Because the truth was, he knew the other boy too well. He knew the hard face Ronan put on and he knew what more or less lay behind it, and he knew he could never, ever ask Ronan to kill someone he considered family. That would be the cruelest thing he could do to the other boy, and he wouldn’t let his cowardice make him that unkind. “Right,” Noah replied aloud, but his voice was quiet. He knew it had been an unfair question, but it was good that Ronan had chalked it up to a joke. Because Noah didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to delude himself. There was no cure and he was going to turn, fully, any day now. He just had to hope he would have the wherewithal to run away when he felt he was about to turn for sure. He rubbed at his cheek, staring at the ground. If the mark started to grow, that would be when he needed to leave. He hoped Ronan couldn’t see though Noah as easily as it sometimes felt the other way around. Perhaps because Noah’s mask was almost indistinguishable from the person hiding underneath it. He shuddered, violently. It seemed like his question had perturbed Ronan more than the other boy cared to let on. And then Ronan said something else, and the words cut right through Noah’s heart. He was cruel, letting Ronan believe he could save him, letting his friend believe he was alright. Cruel and selfish above all else, and he knew he should have run the moment Ronan had noticed him. “Never said I was backing out,” he mumbled, not meeting Ronan’s gaze. “S’long as I can we’re gonna kick its ass.” It was a promise, something unusually serious in his voice. It was also meant to be more of a throwaway comment - something Ronan hopefully wouldn’t read too much into.
Crutchie’s heart raced at the sight of the needle, but he forced himself to take a deep breath. There was probably no way to properly sterilize it, and he knew that he had basically signed himself up to die, but the reality of it staring him in the face was not quite what he expected. Yet he managed to school his expression before Sherlock noticed as he eased himself to his feet and limped a bit forward. His leg had certainly stiffened up since he had sat down, and it protested against being moved now. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, moving swiftly over to where Sherlock was preparing the needle… if what he was doing could be called preparation. He wanted to ask what had made Sherlock start doing this, wanted to know details, but he didn’t know how to ask. He didn’t want to break what felt like an uneasy truce between the two of them now. Patiently, he waited, holding Sherlock’s gaze when he could but otherwise focusing on the wall or the ceiling as he settled in to what was probably going to be the rest of his life. He just hoped it was worth something. It had to be, right?
Nico would come to love that about Kelsier, but for now he was content to just be annoyed by it. The strange man who wanted him to travel with him and who wouldn’t stop smiling despite everything the world had to throw at them. Probably the strangest person Nico had met, because there was no malice behind that smile. Or if there was it was very, very well hidden. He gave his full attention to Kelsier at the sound of a full meal. It was true, he was starving. He hadn’t had a proper meal in… who knew how long. Since McDonald’s closed down for good, probably, and Nico couldn’t actually recall how long ago that had been. Ever since then it was hard to start a fire when he was worried about being found at any moment, and it was even harder to force himself to avoid certain snacks in abandoned stores because the trash could easily leave a trail. He didn’t know how his father kept finding him, but he knew he had to try to do everything in his power to avoid leaving any sort of tracks, and often that meant skipping meals. Other times, when he could actually sit down to eat, it was hard to keep the food down whether because of all of the thoughts swirling around in his head or simply because his body wasn’t used to it. Not that he would actually tell Kelsier any of that. Slowly, he nodded and, like a skittish animal, moved to grab some of the snacks from the back. He stopped on his way to grab a lighter from the front desk, surprised to see even one still remaining. He furtively stuck it in the pocket of his black jeans and reached into the satchel he kept hidden against his body to make sure he still had a needle and some surgical thread. Good. He could probably stitch himself up, then.
Will listened, clinging tightly to his rifle, not because he was about to shoot but because it made him feel slightly safer to have it always in his hands. And he saw the way her face seemed to crumple as she told the story, because it seemed she, like him, hadn’t been able to fully separate the zombies from the people they had once been. But Will didn’t believe, for real, that they would ever be people again. He didn’t think there was even a chance for them. It was the only thing that made killing them feel like the right thing to do, and in a world where they just had to survive… well, they had to do what they had to do, whether or not it was right. “My brother and his girlfriend were good at setting traps for them,” he murmured, eyes downcast. “They killed a lot of them, because they thought if they could keep them away from our home it would be fine. And I watched, and I didn’t stop them. And they look… they look human, sometimes.” He frowned, shaking his head. “What I’m trying to say is I don’t care that you killed them like that. We all have to do it at some point and… and I don’t want to,” he admitted, but he kept going. “I don’t want to, but they were dead already, Rue.” His voice was soft. “And I don’t know if any of us can get away without blood on our hands.” It was a horrible thing to realize so young, that in order to survive sometimes you had to take a life, even if it was in a way that was often considered underhanded. It was war, but the other side wasn’t human anymore. There were no casualties for the zombies because they were already dead, right? “Let’s not… let’s not talk about killing zombies any more tonight, if that’s okay.” He glanced ahead of them, trying to find someplace secluded enough to build a fire. That would be the main goal for the night.
“Nice to meet you too,” Orpheus replied, savoring his peaches a little bit more than L seemed to. He still had a few left at that point, and was slowly taking bites - he knew it had to hold him over until he was lucky enough to find a meal again. He hadn’t ever met anyone whose name was just a letter, but for all he knew it could be a nickname. There was nothing wrong in taking a nickname if there was too much attached to the name you had before. Or maybe he had just been given a strange name before - there had been all sorts of those when Orpheus was growing up, he was pretty sure. At L’s question, Orpheus’ eyes widened in surprise. He met L’s gaze for half a second before he turned the guitar so it was resting against his chest, slowly lifted the band over his head, and held it out so L could take it if he wanted. “I won’t be shooting anyone, even if they intentionally break it,” he replied, though he hoped that didn’t give L the motivation to just smash it. “It took me a while to add on the extra strings, and I’m not even sure you could call it a guitar anymore, because guitars do play very specific notes, and…” he trailed off, realizing he was rambling. “S-sorry.” He let his gaze drift down to the instrument. “I can teach you how to play, if you want. I had to… move the strings around and they aren’t the same thickness as a usual guitar, so it’s not how you would traditionally play one, but… it’s not that hard to learn.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 17, 2019 16:52:13 GMT -5
This whole conversation felt wrong, and Ronan hated the tone of Noah’s voice. Quiet, resigned like he’d just accepted he was going to die. It was like he’d given up, and Ronan had the sudden impulse to slap him. Noah didn’t get to give up. It was the two of them in it together now, them against the world, and he didn’t know how he’d survived for so long on his own because now it felt impossible. Noah was a part of him, more than Declan ever had been. How could he talk about being a zombie like it was some kind of joke to him? “Good,” was all he said, because he didn’t know how to say the rest. He poked at the fire with a stick until it caught, then traced a pattern in the air with the light, like he used to do with sparklers on the 4th of July. It wasn’t as fun as he remembered. He dropped the stick back in the fire and looked back at Noah, scanning him with a frown on his harsh features, his tattoo bright in the light of the fire. He didn’t know what had happened to him, and he wanted to ask, but he didn’t know how to start. How did you begin to ask what had happened to someone who had been through what Noah undoubtedly had. Ronan sighed, letting the moment pass. Then he picked up to can of beans and used his pocket knife to open it. With the lid he scooped up a bite and ate it, then handed it to Noah without looking at the other boy. “Eat. Just....please eat.”
(Trigger warning: needles) Sherlock approached with the needle, meeting Crutchie’s eyes for a moment before looking away to prepare his tubes and vials. He’d managed to gather an impressive collection of them, from various random schools mostly. He’d gotten lucky with the needle, and in his defense he had sterilized it as well as he could, he just hadn’t needed to use it for a while. Hence the dust. Besides, he was out of alcohol now, and boiling things worked better than nothing but it was far from ideal. He didn’t warn Crutchie before sliding the needle into his arm. The blood ran into a thin tube and collected in a small glass vial, and then the needle was out and Sherlock was turning away, putting the blood in a makeshift slot in what looked like a homemade chemistry set. That done, he turned back to his subject and sat down. He looked...happy. “That’ll take about an hour, so tell me, what have you eaten in the last twenty-four hours?”
That got his attention. There was no surprise in Kelsier’s eyes as Nico responded instantly to the idea of food, and he moved quietly to help pack up what was in the back. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for now. And they’d find more, if they knew where to look, which Kelsier thought he did. He watched Nico take the lighter and nodded approvingly, taking one for himself too, before following the younger survivor outside. He’d been alone too long. Having someone beside him, even someone who might slit his throat if they thought it would do them good, felt like a breath of fresh air when you were drowning, and he kept breathing it in. The last person he’d traveled with had been his wife. He didn’t let the thought show on his face, but he couldn’t help wondering if the same thing would happen to Nico. Was that his fate, to forever give his heart away and forever feel it torn apart? Not that he’d given anything to Nico yet, anything but the trust that he wasn’t about to be stabbed to death in his sleep, but he knew it was a possibility he was allowing by walking beside another beating heart. So why? Why risk going through that again? It was worth it. It had to be worth it. He would never regret his love for Mare, no matter how painful it had been in the end, and he would never keep his heart locked away and watch it shrivel into nothing. Hearts were meant to be shared and broken, and then you kept going, and the world tried to break you and you smiled in its face. “Let’s see...I was going to head to that building next.” He said over his shoulder, pointing to a far off place that looked like either a store or a museum. “All the obvious places are probably stripped to the bone, but there’s still some slim pickings in the places no one thought to check.”
Rue looked at him. Well, stared, really. Because it was hard to believe he was serious, that he both understood that killing the, felt so wrong and that she’d had to do it anyway. That if she hadn’t she would have died too. “Thanks.” She said quietly, and she offered him a small, uncertain smile. It wasn’t easy, but maybe if they stuck together it would get just s little bit easier. She nodded at his suggestion, relief clear on her face. “Yeah, good idea, I don’t wanna think about it anymore. Let’s see if we can find a place to spend the night.” She looked back at the building she’d been on top of, then at Will, as though assessing the likelihood he could get up there. She decided it was in her favor. “I think we need to get off the ground. I’ve been sleeping on roofs and in trees, and it’s been working well for me so far. There’s a lot less of them up there, and there aren’t a lot of people, either.” Which was why she was alive, and alone. She’d avoided groups, even ones that looked friendly, and she would have avoided Will but...she didn’t know what, she’d been alone for a very long time now, why was today the day where it became too long? Or maybe that wasn’t it at all. Maybe it was the first time she’d met someone who was so much like her.
L set his bowl down on the floor, and watched as Orpheus slowly ate the rest of his. He was savoring it like it was his last meal, which, he supposed, it might be. It was a reasonable thing to do, only L enjoyed his food by pretending he didn’t have to make it last, a luxury in the form of someone’s pantry and a lot of luck. He supposed that was almost over, though. He hadn’t told his new acquaintance, but these peaches were the last of his food. The bare pantry tugged at the back of his mind, and he knew he’d have to break the news to Orpheus that this wasn’t, in fact, a haven filled to the brim with canned peaches, but that could come later. Right now, there was a guitar waiting for him to play it, He took it gently and looked down at it, like a child gifted the antique sculpture that had sat on their mother’s desk for as long as they could remember. It was heavier than he’d expected, but no so heavy that he felt close to dropping it, so he pulled his eyes away and looked at its owner again. “That’s fascinating.” He said simply, and though it could have been sarcastic there was no trace of it in the survivor’s tone. “It’s a bit of a hybrid between a guitar and a defense system, then. The low frequency must effect one of the changes that happen after you’re dead, which makes sense because I’ve observed they have better hearing than most living, myself included. Like dogs.” He touched the strings without playing them. “I would be grateful for that.” He added in a softer tone. “For more reason than one.”
“You know I wouldn’t…” Noah grimaced, knowing he didn’t have the right words to reply. He wanted to tell Ronan exactly how he felt, what he was afraid of, but… he couldn’t lie, and he didn’t have the words for the truth. “Believe what you want of me, but I’m not leaving.” He couldn’t look at Ronan, because there had been a part of the thought that had been left out: I’m not leaving without a fight. Which meant that at some point he would have to tell the truth. He would have to tell Ronan that he had been bitten, because he had made a promise and there was no way he was walking away when he said he wouldn’t. But one day was not now. Now he could watch Ronan track patterns in the sky with the fire that burned at the end of his stick, now he could let himself almost believe that nothing had changed, really. He stared into the fire once Ronan dropped the stick, the flames dancing in his eyes and illuminating hints of the horrors he was trying to hide. There was something dead behind his eyes, but it was there for only a moment before he turned back to look at his friend. And then they were back to the food, and Noah… Noah couldn’t risk it. He’d eat on his own terms, later, but he couldn’t share with Ronan, not without telling him what was wrong, and that was the last thing he was willing to do. “It’s your food,” Noah replied simply, as though that was the best argument he could make. As though he wasn’t hungry. He had no idea how the virus was spread, just that the quickest way to turn was to be bitten. Just that, four years later, it was still coursing in his blood and he wanted to scratch away the bite that refused to heal as though… as though it was nothing. As though it would get rid of the poison in his blood that could so easily contaminate another person. That could kill Ronan in a way it had failed to kill Noah.
Crutchie’s breath hissed in at the sudden pain, then he released his breath slowly once it was done. He glanced down at his arm, relieved that it hadn’t hurt as much as he thought it would, and also relieved that it didn’t appear - at least not yet - that it would get infected. Then again, he didn’t know if you could tell that right away. It wasn’t really a hypothesis he wanted to experiment with. He felt a lot more like a patient at a doctor’s office than he did a test subject, though he supposed that could probably be chalked up to the fact that he hadn’t been to an actual doctor’s office in years and didn’t really remember what they were like. The boy found it was harder than he had anticipated to read Sherlock. The man seemed to find join the oddest things, though he supposed this was probably the first chance Sherlock had been given in a long time to continue his research, and it was obviously a project that was quite important to him. Sherlock’s question, then, brought him back to reality. “The last twenty-four hours?” Crutchie repeated, letting his mind drift back. He could hardly remember what he had been doing the past twenty-four hours, especially as days started to blur together and nights weren’t comprised of pure sleep, it was waking up and moving and then falling asleep again, trying to avoid being found. “I had an apple yesterday… I was lucky and found an apple tree someone was still tending, though I don’t know the type… since then?” He thought for a moment. “Half a can of beans, and that’s about it.” He suddenly realized that he was very, very hungry.
Nico glanced in the direction Kelsier was pointing once he had made sure all of his affairs were in order, squinting into the distance. It was hard to see past the greasy hair that swung into his face. He obviously hadn’t taken much time trying to get it out of the way of his eyes - that or he wasn’t sure how to do that. It seemed, then, that he was probably more unarmed than he had let on with his bravado. Any sharp weapon would have been useful in keeping his hair cropped shorter. “We make sure security cameras are down first,” Nico warned, shoving his hands into his pockets and making himself as small as possible. As though that would make him less of a target if Kelsier were upset with the suggestion. His instincts were less those of a boy who had been attacked by the undead, and more reminiscent of a boy who was afraid of the living. It was a subtle difference, but it was there, and he was worried it was obvious enough that Kelsier would see it. “Sometimes places that still have stuff have been untouched for a reason.” It wasn’t necessarily related to the first thing he said, but it was a gentle warning. It was odd, he thought, that Kelsier would be traveling with him for as long as the arrangement was convenient. For Nico, at least. It was odd thinking that his strategies now had to shift from those that would be useful for a small boy traveling on his own to those that would be useful for a man who could look imposing, if he would wipe that ridiculous grin off of his face. It was an asset that Nico resented, but one he wouldn’t hesitate to use in his favor for as long as Kelsier had deluded himself that this was a good idea. The boy watched Kelsier for a moment, waiting until he started walking - there was no way Nico would be willing to walk in front. He was only staying with Kelsier because his father was looking for a boy traveling alone, not a boy traveling with a man. That was what he told himself, at least. There was no other reason for him to go with Kelsier, no logical reason he would willingly put his life in the hands of a stranger. No other reason he would risk the chance of trusting someone in spite of himself and paying the price later. Right?
Will stared up at the building warily. There was no way to build a campfire up there, which was less than ideal when it came to warmth, but he was willing to sacrifice warmth for safety, at least for tonight. And he wasn’t entirely sure he could make it, but if Rue believed he could then he at least owed it to her to make an attempt. He waited for her to take the first steps. He knew for a fact that if she marked the way he could follow her with relative ease, but picking the best way to get up on top of something was definitely a skill he lacked. A skill he would probably need to work on if he was going to stay with her. “Tomorrow night we find somewhere secluded and sleep on the ground. If we manage to catch any game we can at least use a fire to cook it, and then if you’re uncomfortable on the ground we can ditch the fire and find someplace high up to sleep. I… I think everything will be safer if we have one person on watch at all times, though.” He had kept watch before, though he knew his mom and brother and Nancy had always given him the easiest shifts, because they were worried about him. Because he was the baby of the family. No matter how much he had resented it then, he wished they were here now. Not necessarily to take the responsibility from him, but because he missed having someone to take care of him. He missed having people who knew who he was and who he could trust in the face of danger. Who knew what the right thing to do was at any given point. Rue couldn’t do all that, Will knew. But he did hope that he could sleep a little easier with someone by his side. He hoped that his fear would pass, eventually. He hoped it would feel less alone.
Orpheus set his bowl aside once he was done, offering L another smile. “Thank you,” he said again, figuring there was no harm in thanking his host as many times as he could. There was no such thing as being too polite or showing too much gratitude, at least not if it was genuine. The care with which L held the guitar was new to Orpheus… he had let some children hold it in the past because they had been born after the whole mess had started, and had never been given a chance to feel what a musical instrument was like. They were often rough with it, though they did their best not to be. There had been a few others - old musicians, the like - who had been allowed to hold the guitar, but even they had forgotten the delicacy with which an instrument often needed to be handled. It was as if they had been greeting an old friend. L looked like he was holding a child he was a little bit afraid of, lost in the beauty and elegance of it. It was an endearing sight. He had never really thought of the guitar as a weapon of any sort - and that was what a defense system was, wasn’t it - but L’s analysis wasn’t incorrect. “I haven’t actually seen if dogs can hear the frequency,” he murmured, thinking that he ought to do that at some point. It was likely that the notes were just out of the range of zombies and just within that of dogs, considering he hadn’t heard any dogs howling when he played. “It’s too low for us to register, really,” he murmured, reaching across to pluck it. No sound seemed to come out. “Anything just a little bit higher would make us feel uneasy…” he demonstrated, plucking two of the strings together and sending a shiver running up his own back. “I was always fascinated by that when I was younger.” He looked back up at L, meeting the young man’s dark, unblinking gaze. “Here,” he murmured, shifting the guitar, careful not to touch L because people tended to be uncomfortable with contact nowadays, and placing it in a playing position.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 18, 2019 16:45:38 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan just nodded. Did he believe Noah? That depended on what you meant by believing him. If you meant “do you believe he’s telling the full truth”, the answer was, bluntly, no. He knew Noah’s eyes, and there was something else in them now, something deep that Ronan was pretty sure he couldn’t reach. He didn’t like thinking that Noah was different, but he knew they all were now, and the truth was that he couldn’t trust that this was the same Noah he teased and bothered and poked and defended on the school playground. The truth was that that Noah, and that Ronan too, were as dead as the monsters they now killed. But if you meant “do you believe Noah is trying to tell you the truth”, the answer was a firm, unhesitant yes. This new Noah had grown from the old one, and there was nothing in that old Noah that would have lied to his face, convinced him to trust it and then stabbed it in the back. He didn’t know how he felt about the new Noah, or the new him, but how different from the old ones could they be? He gave up with a snort as Noah still refused to eat. “Fine. If you start seeing double don’t complain.” He said, and out the almost untouched can down, his own appetite mysteriously gone. “What have you been doing this whole time, anyway? Since I lost track of everyone I thought you guys had all gone off somewhere together,” He hadn’t thought that, but he’d wished he had, and that was nearly the same thing. Thoughts of Adam and Gansey and Blue wedged themselves in towards his brain and he imagined throwing them bodily out and bolting the door behind them. “You really didn’t see anyone?”
Sherlock nodded, as though that were the normal amount to consume in a day. Well, it was now. No point holding yourself to outdated standards, right? He got up and scratched the information down on a scrap of paper, then sat down again, only to get up a moment later to peer at his chemistry set. “Do you have any chronic illnesses or allergies.” He asked next, watching the blood closely as it began to bubble. Right on time. “Anything that runs in the family?” He was getting excited, and it showed. His movements were quick and decisive, and his eyes kept flitting from place to place like a bird from branch to branch, unable to sit still. This was all getting so interesting all of s suddenly. Maybe he’d just needed s new project, after all.
Kelsier noticed the hair with some interest, taking it to mean that Nico either didn’t know how to cut it or lacked the tools needed. Long hair was a thing of the past as far as practicality went, and Nico didn’t strike him as the type to have it for fashion purposes. Too bad the likelyhood of him accepting help with his hair was pretty much zero. “Security cameras?” Kelsier repeated, surprise flashing across his hawklike features as he slowed for a moment, then continued at his regular pace. Because of course the boy would think of that. He was being tracked by someone, or someones, wasn’t he? And though Kelsier hadn’t thought the cameras would still be working, it wasn’t like it was impossible. Plus, Nico looked like he expected Kelsier to hit him for making the suggestion at all. Which meant if he hadn’t been inclined to go along with whatever the younger survivor wanted before, he was now. “Got it.” He said simply, and if he’d let slip his surprise at the idea before it was gone now. Nico could have been stating the obvious for all Kelsier’s tone betrayed. Because Nico was right, he could see the difference between a boy afraid to die and a boy afraid to be found, and Nico was a flashing neon version of the latter. He worried that the boy was planning to ditch him already, but there wasn’t much he could do if he wanted to leave, and he wasn’t going to become this kid’s new dad overnight. He was just a traveling companion, sharing the road for as long as convenience allowed. “Anything else?” He added, then stopped at a large brick wall in front of him. Around or over it? He picked over, because it wasn’t that high and he couldn’t see how far out of his way around would take him. He started to climb, shooting Nico a smile. “You good to scale this?”
Will didn’t look thrilled at the idea, but there was nothing Rue wanted less right now than to try and sleep on the ground. Somewhere in the back of her head she was convinced that the night she did that was the night she died, and so if she never did that, she should survive to adulthood. Right? It was stupid, but it helped a little, so she clung to the idea. If Will refused.... He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. She didn’t want to be alone. She let out her breath as he agreed to follow her, for tonight anyway. Tomorrow was a long way off, and she could ignore it for a while before she would have to convince him again to stay off the ground. Stay safe. Stay with her. “Agreed.” She said, to the part about the person on watch more than anything else, and moved towards the building. Her feet slipped into place easier than walking, and she began to climb, using exaggerated motions so that Will would have an easier time copying her if he wanted to. Having grown up on an orchard, trees were easier than buildings, but she’d been high up in the air as early as her memories started and climbing higher than parents wanted her to since she could walk, and there was piece with the cool wind on her face, blowing her wild curls back. She reached the roof and pulled herself up, then looked back down and smiled tentatively. “Come on. It’s nice, I promise.”
“You said that.” L pointed out mildly. He was amused, not annoyed, at how much Orpheus felt the need to thank him. It was like he’d saved the other man’s life, when all he’d done is give him half a can of peaches. Maybe that counted as saving someone’s life nowadays. He’d only seen the dead since the power went down, and though he’d talked to himself in order to keep himself relatively sane, he couldn’t quite remember whether how he sat in a crouch with his bare feet under him was normal or not, or whether he was supposed to cradle a guitar in his arms like a baby, or maybe an explosive. He did know that Orpheus wasn’t pretending to be glad to be here though, and that warmed him. It was a wonderful thing to be appreciated. The shudder at the note Orpheus played was strange, almost unpleasant but not quite. Fascinating was the word he was looking for. He let the other man adjust the instrument in his arms and found his fingers on the strings. He tried to play one. It gave a low, shaky sound. He tilted his head and played another one, all the way up to the top, one at a time. “I don’t know how you make songs out of this.” He admitted, glancing helplessly up at his new acquaintance.
Noah hated the way Ronan was looking at him, like he was a completely different person now. Like he wanted to see through Noah’s thoughts, to see the person underneath. What he hated more was the fact that deep down, he wasn’t sure he was the same. He felt like a monster wearing a costume, just waiting to be unmasked and called out for what he really was, no matter how hard he tried to push against the process that was happening in his genes. And he couldn’t shake the feeling that with everything he did that was unlike what he would have done so long ago… he was losing Ronan. He didn’t know how he could make sure his friend didn’t die and still be the boy that had died the moment he felt hands on his shoulders pushing him down. He rubbed at one of his shoulders, squeezing his eyes shut. He didn’t want to be here with those memories… he didn’t want to be any different than Ronan remembered. A shudder ran down his spine and he tried to keep his gaze locked on the ground. “I didn’t see them,” he murmured, something unnerving in his voice. “There were boys a year older than us that… took me in.” It wasn’t quite a lie, but it wasn’t a whole truth. “I was with them for a bit.” Why had Whelk taken him in? Why had he accepted his company? Deep down Noah knew the answer. He was easily manipulated and a lot of people had fun with a “best friend” who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Who would go along with whatever without argument. Who was spineless and cowardly and would accept the brunt of a friendship as long as it meant he wasn’t alone. “And then we got separated, and I’ve been alone. Four years eight months and five days.” He rattled off the numbers in a monotone voice, as though it didn’t mean anything to him, though he knew it did. “Until now.”
Crutchie frowned at the question, racking his brain. “I don’t know,” he replied honestly. “I was six when my parents died. I remember them speaking in hushed voices about something, but that could mean anything. I don’t have anything that I know of, but there might be something that will happen later… my father was worried about memory problems, I think.” That was the best he could offer, based on half-remembered fights he had overheard as a child. He looked at the test tube, surprised that it had started to react so quickly. He didn’t really know what Sherlock was looking for, but he was interested. Perhaps the detective would tell him, or perhaps he would just assume that Crutchie wouldn’t understand. It was odd, he thought, how excited Sherlock seemed to be getting. Well, if it helped humanity and gave his new… companion… joy, then he wouldn’t complain. He wished he could help more, though, not just with uncertainties that he had been too young to understand. “They thought it was a resurgence of polio when I was younger,” he added, as though that would help. “I’m sure you know the symptoms, though.”
It was odd, Nico thought, that there were people who didn’t have to worry about security cameras. And even more odd that Kelsier hadn’t been angry with him for the impudence of suggesting that he wasn’t aware of what was, for Nico, a very real threat. Kelsier hadn’t even reacted… uncertainty stirred in Nico’s blood, trying to figure out what was with this man he had agreed to travel with. Kindness never came without a price. He shuddered to think what Kelsier might expect from him eventually just for this basic kindness. Perhaps it would be best if he left after this meal. The meal that he would cook because he didn’t trust Kelsier to do it. And even more than that, he was frightened of the idea of being indebted to Kelsier. Nico didn’t understand. Nico didn’t understand why Kelsier was asking his opinion, or trying to make sure he was as comfortable as possible, even in a life threatening situation. It put Nico more on edge, frankly. “Yes,” he replied quietly, launching himself to the first obvious handhold. He cursed under his breath as his palm scraped against it, but he held on tight, wincing at the strain now placed on his wounded arm. He’d have to be careful of climbing with that. Luckily the handholds and footholds were close enough together that he was able to make it up with few issues. He paused halfway up, scanning the ground behind them and hiding his face as soon as it seemed like he saw movement. It was just a shadow, though. Nothing threatening. Nothing that could be after him. Had he really gotten away this time? Probably not for long, that was for sure, but… he swallowed, pulling himself up the rest of the wall and hopping off on the other side, back against the wall as soon as he got his footing so he could see in every direction. He took a deep breath. This wasn’t that bad so far. He just had to keep on his guard. More than he usually did.
Will followed, sensing Rue’s hesitation to spend a night on the ground. She had her superstitions, it seemed, and he had his. It would be a shame if they turned out to be entirely incompatible. Because he couldn’t sleep without having a fire before, to warn off zombies and make him remember, if only for a moment, what home felt like. What it was like to be warm and safe with light illuminating his face, even if he couldn’t bring himself to laugh like he used to. It was harder than he had anticipated to make the climb, but watching Rue had definitely been helpful. They were about the same size, and though his muscles weren’t as good at pulling him up as Rue’s had been, they had a similar path to the top. There were a few easier side steps that Will had to make to leverage himself up, but he made it up with nothing going terribly wrong. Nice? It didn’t seem nice being so far from stable ground. Though he supposed they were closer to the stars. “Did you learn the constellations before everything happened?” Will asked quietly, trying to pick out some of the ones he knew. It scared him that his memory of some of them was slightly fading. He remembered poring over books with his mom, her pointing out the ones that he couldn’t quite make out, and the two of them showing constellations to Jonathan… it was really the only way to keep grounded when he world felt like it was spinning out of control. He looked out, careful not to get too close to the edge. “I suppose I see what you mean.”
Orpheus reddened, realizing his mistake, but at least it seemed that L wasn’t angry with him for it. He had just learned it was better to be polite. And he’d been overly polite even before the apocalypse. It wasn’t like it was a new thing. He smiled softly, awkwardly scratching at the back of his neck. “You learn the notes first,” he returned, coming closer to L and shifting the man’s fingers so they pressed on the right strings. “The chords, first, and then some of the individual notes, and then you learn to play them in order. You can’t get a song right off the bat,” it wasn’t a criticism, merely advice. “This chord here is C. Slightly adjusted, of course, because of the extra strings. And A is different if you have a regular guitar, but…” he trailed off, blushing. He was rambling again. “You were uh… more interested in the science, weren’t you,” he backed up a few steps, fingers subconsciously forming the different chords that made up the songs that were so close to his heart. The last song he had sung for Eurydice… the first… the first song that had startled the zombies… everything he had locked in his mind because music was how he saw the things he couldn’t process… it was how he solved his problems. “But there are lots of chords. And you learn, eventually, which ones sound good together.” He looked back up at L, waiting to see if he wanted to keep the instrument for a few more minutes or if he had lost interest.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 20, 2019 14:20:05 GMT -5
Ronan’s eyes didn’t change from their bright, hard light as Noah told his story, but he did listen closely to every word. He owed whatever group had taken the other boy in, more than he could ever repay, but he wasn’t likely to ever meet them. Not least because they were probably all dead. No sightings of the people that made up their broken little family, though. Ronan hadn’t thought he’d gotten his hopes up, but there there fewer, plummeting like a stone to his gut anyway. He shook his head slightly, impatiently sending the sensation away, and instead fixed Noah with a, intense, measured stare. There was so much he wanted to say, and none of it was something he could put into words. Cautiously he reached out and grabbed Noah’s hand, his thumb slipping down to feel the other boy’s pulse, and his blue eyes fluttered closed as he found it. He hadn’t really believed he wasn’t dreaming up until that moment, and he sucked in a low, inward gasp as it hit him. Alive, alive, Noah was alive. “I thought you were dead, man.” He said it like it was offhand, but the look when he opened his eyes said something else. In that moment, he sounded like a lost kid. “Damn. Here’s to random groups of strangers.”
Sherlock nodded, brushing his black curls with his fingers as he considered that. The symptoms of polio were, as Crutchie had predicted, standing by in his head, ready to be accessed. It was more helpful than the younger man probably realized, and when Sherlock began to scribble down messy notes on a notebook he’d taken from his pocket, he added every word of the information, not just the parts that sounded relevant. He trusted his mind to hang on to all those parts, but what of the hits he didn’t think he needed now, but might later? If Crutchie died, Sherlock planned on losing nothing but a test subject. His information had to be protected. “Lie down. I’m going to feel your leg.” He said left, grabbing a stethoscope off the wall (he’d gotten it from the first place he’d raided: a doctor’s office) and removing his long coat for convenience. The blood was boiling hard now, and some sort of chemical reaction appeared to be happening, though it was hard to tell exactly what without knowing what else the mad scientist was doing to it. “Where exactly is the damaged area? Is it your whole leg, or just a bit of it?”
Kelsier watched Nico climb, ready to catch him if necessary, but not expecting it would be. He was right; the boy made it to the other side with less difficultly than the older survivor had expected, and as he jumped down Kelsier climbed up after him. It was easy for him, having the full use of all his limbs, and so it was only a moment before he dropped down beside Nico and took a step away to give him some space if he wanted it. He liked having the company, even if the company was stressed beyond believe and might kill him tonight. It was better than being alone, which Kelsier prided himself on being good at, but had been doing since he’d lost Mare. It was odd to have someone else with him, but pleasant all the same. He moved to head towards the building again, then stopped, listening. Growling. Feet. Moaning. It was a ways away, he thought but too close for comfort, and coming from the way they were headed. He frowned, and glanced down at Nico. “Do you hear that?”
Rue’s smile widened as Will began to climb, her eyes sharp as they watched his movements, the fear that he would fall thumping in her chest. He wouldn’t. She’d made the right way up clear enough, hadn’t she? Fo someone used to climbing, maybe, but Will wasn’t, and anyway anyone could fall no matter how good at climbing they were, At least he was coming. She hoped that he would let her lead them to places off the ground, because if he refused...she wasn’t sure she could deal with that. It was important to her, more important, maybe then having a friend in this mess, no matter how desperately she longed for one. But not tonight. Tonight, she could watch as Will pulled himself up over the edge of the roof and dragged himself away from it, safely high off the ground beside her. She looked up at the question, and her eyes softened at the sight of the stars high over her head. It almost felt like home, to be bathed in starlight somclose you could almost brush it with the tips of your fingers. “I used to memorize them.” She said quietly. “When I went stargazing by myself. I look at them every night and saybthem in my head until I fall asleep.” And she began to point them out, first the most common ones, then down the list, pausing now and then so he could jump in if he wanted to.
L watched, fascinated by his own hands against the strings. It was true, he was far more interested by the science, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want this. The feeling of the instrument in his hands like a friend, the idea of playing music as beautiful as Orpheus’s had been...it tugged at something deep inside him that he hadn’t realized was missing. He glanced up as Orpheus backed away, puzzlement bright in his dark eyes. “I’m interested in both. I presumed you would be here long enough to teach me the science and the music, but if I was wrong, you can leave any time.” He said it like he didn’t care either way, but he didn’t give the guitar back, either. He didn’t want to. He played the C chord gently, watching Orpheus like a hawk, waiting for him to make his decision.
Noah froze when Ronan grabbed his hand. He wasn’t sure what Ronan was doing until he felt the other boy’s thumb brushing against the blue vein that pumped blood to his still beating heart. For how much longer? the voice at the back of his head demanded, and Noah shuddered. No. He wasn’t thinking about that now. His heart was still beating and he had found Ronan and for all he knew his heart would go on beating for as long as he could make it. And it would be his heart pumping his blood, not a stupid virus’. He saw the look on Ronan’s face, just for a second, so unfamiliar. It was like a string that tugged at him and pulled him close and he couldn’t help it as he threw his arms around Ronan and held on for dear life for just a few seconds. Because this was Ronan. Ronan, who had an image to uphold; one it seemed like he himself bought into sometimes. Ronan, who was always the protector. Ronan, who wasn’t scared of anything. Ronan, who Noah hadn’t hugged in years, even before they’d split ways. He pulled back, rubbing at the smudge again and staring at the ground. He wanted to apologize, but he wasn’t going to. He couldn’t tell Ronan the truth about his survival - how at the end it was in spite of the group that had found him rather than because of. But he had pressed every bit of himself into that hug, and if Ronan was upset at him for it… well, so be it. It was what he had needed, and he had a sneaking suspicion that Ronan had needed it too, even if he would never admit it.
Crutchie peered at Sherlock, watching him write frantically. It seemed like whatever had happened, or whatever he had said, was at least of some help to the other man. He was the closest to a mad scientist that Crutchie had ever seen, and part of him felt drawn to that, though he couldn’t say why. Though perhaps mad scientist came with the necessary caveat of “also incredibly abrasive and doesn’t think about what they’re saying.” Crutchie would just have to get used to that part. Without hesitation, he obeyed Sherlock’s command and lay down on the table, squeezing his eyes shut. There was no pain now, but sometimes when it hit something the wrong way it would send a jolt of pain running all the way up his spine. Sometimes nothing more than the weather would do that… it really depended on the day. Sherlock’s question took him by surprise. “I uh… I can move the hip, I suppose. Everything else won’t respond when I try to move it. Hurts sometimes, real bad…” he grimaced, thinking. “When it does it feels like all the nerves are on fire, stiffening up and cramping and then the sensation goes away and I can’t feel anything there anymore.” It scared him, the idea that a zombie could be gnawing on his leg and he really wouldn’t notice until it hit the right nerve.
At least Kelsier seemed to understand the concept of personal space. That was a small relief. Nico was about to tell Kelsier to start moving - as soon as he finished silently berating himself for going up the wall first, of course, because Kelsier could have killed him at any time - when he heard the noise. No. Despite being more afraid of humans than zombies, that didn’t make the zombies any less terrifying. “Nice idea,” he muttered, though whether he was being sarcastic or not was a mystery. It had been a good idea, he thought, but it had obviously fallen through. There was no way they were going near if they could hear the zombies this far out. He had never understood why they had a tendency to clump together. It would have made more sense for them to be solitary beings, but he supposed human nature was still alive enough in them to drive them together in groups. It ached to think hat they were more free to live in a mockery of human society than humans themselves were. Because as much as he hated himself for it, it was a relief to have someone else breathing nearby and walking a few feet ahead. Convenience, he told himself. He could leave at any time. It wouldn’t be a problem. “Think we could take them?” There was something reckless and dangerous in his eye - an unarmed, terrified boy with everything to prove. An act of bravado, at the very least, but Kelsier really didn’t have to know that.
Being up high felt exposed. Will had been taught to stay low and hide - hide and make sure they don’t see you because they rely most on hearing and sight. If you stayed still enough and quiet enough, you’d be safe. They didn’t have great motor control either, so if you hid well enough, somewhere that was hard enough to get to… if you were always covered, you’d be safe. But this… this was as out in the open as one could be, and it made him almost sick. Not that he’d tell Rue that - from what he’d gathered it seemed like she felt the same way on the ground - but he hated this. The stars, though… hearing Rue name them made it feel okay, if only for a moment. “Cassiopeia,” he added, his voice just barely a whisper. “Cygnus,” he smiled softly, glancing at Rue as she named them, going in a different order than he always had, but it didn’t change that she knew them. The same information was stuffed in her brain tying her to the sky and the Earth at once, all of the stories of magic and adventure that had been popular before the end of the world. “I haven’t let myself look for them recently,” he admitted, taking a few steps closer to Rue. “I almost felt like if I did they’d be gone and I’d be lost, but…” he trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid. Neither of them were lost, now. They had each other and they had the constellations and that was better than Will had gotten in a long time. He wasn’t about to jinx it, especially not in a world where anything could flip at the drop of a hat.
“I… yes, I’d like to stay, a bit,” Orpheus smiled, as though there had never been a question of his wanting to. There was no way he was going to pass up shelter and friendly conversation unless L wanted him gone. The world was too lonely to forsake humanity when you found it, especially when it seemed to be getting rarer and rarer. Something about L said that he might have felt the same way about Orpheus… or at least his guitar, by the way he hadn’t relinquished it. “I know much more about the music than the science, I’m sorry,” he murmured, taking anther step forward and adjusting L’s fingers for another chord. “A this time. It used to be really popular before… I suppose it would be now, too, but… I don’t know if anyone but me still plays.” He frowned, tugging at the bandana around his neck. “Try… try applying a little bit more pressure with your fingertips. It might hurt a little bit at first.” He rubbed his own fingertips against his palm, feeling the callouses formed there rough against the softer skin of his palms. “You get used to it after a while.” Not that he thought L would actually try to play again after this, so getting used to it wasn’t even in question.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 21, 2019 7:46:58 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan stiffened, much like a cat, as Noah’s ams closed around him. Shock pulsed through him and then there was the overwhelming desire to fight back, hit, punch, bite, anything at all to protect himself from the pressure. It was over before he could react, and he was blushing. Ronan, who beat his nightmares back every day, who always stabbed the undead with as much force as he could muster, who hadn’t hugged anyone since long, long before everything went wrong...was trying and failing to look angry. “.....I’ll take the first watch.” He said finally, clearing his throat as though that would fix his voice. It didn’t. His voice still sounded strange. He leveled a finger at Noah. “You, rest. We’re moving on tomorrow, and I don’t want you collapsing or anything,” He picked up a stick and began to aggressively prod the fire, sending sparks flying up on a wave of heat. He had nothing and everything to prove, and he told himself the hug had been for Noah, that he hadn’t enjoyed it and he didn’t need the other boy at all. Noah needed him; he didn’t need Noah. He was fine on his own, fine to fight and die by his own hands, just like he’d always been. Was it a lie? He didn’t let hims of ask that. A lie meant you knew the truth, and that was one thing Ronan had no way of closing his fingers around.
Sherlock nodded, a sort of hum in the back of his throat to show he’d heard. Crutchie was obedient, he had to give him that. The older man had expected more resistance, even from someone who had offered themself up willingly to do whatever he needed them to, because humans were rarely compliant and even more rarely not angry about it. Crutchie seemed both helpful and eager to please, and Sherlock couldn’t help being stunned by his luck in running into him. A survivor willing to put himself at risk in the name of science? Sherlock had assumed he was the only one. He moved forward and joined Crutchie as the younger survivor lay down, and he began to poke and prod the leg, his fingers sharp and experienced as they tested the nerves he knew were there. “Severe nerve damage.” He said finally, his eyes sharp and unyielding as they guided his fingers. “Similar to the zombie illness, it’s taken over your leg butnnot the rest of you, that’s interesting, I wonder why! Well, I suppose you aren’t bitten, so it never made it to your brain, does it ever spread at all? Is there anything you know will make it worse or better? Has it changed over time?”
It sounded like a lot. Kelsier listened hard, trying to pinpoint exactly where they were coming from, but he couldn’t tell for sure. It might have been the building they’d been headed for, or it could be a neighboring one. He supposed it didn’t matter much. Their plan was shredded. His head snapped down to stare at Nico and he raised an eyebrow, the edges of his lip quirking up at the idea. It sounded like something he would have thought of, not the terrified boy who wanted so desperately to stay alive, above all else. It was dangerous, but couldn’t Kelsier protect them? He was strong, and a good fighter, and the dead didn’t get to make their choices for them, right? He was torn between the right answer and his answer, and for a moment he didn’t speak. Then he grinned. “You bet we can. What weapons do you have? And how good at hand-to-hand combat are you? I’m not gonna get you killed within five minutes of meeting you, but there’s no way I’m letting a corpse make my decisions for me if you’re game.”
Rue glanced at her friend, and with a jolt of discomfort she saw how uncomfortable he looked up here. Her heart seemed to fall, both because it meant he might leave if she insisted on staying off the ground and because she wanted to share how free and birdlike she felt, nearly touching the sky. And it was safe. The dead couldn’t climb, and it was rarely that she met the living and even rarer than they noticed the twelve year old high above their heads. Usually she would lay low until they passed, and she should have been more careful with Will, she knew that, but... She wasn’t sorry. And she hoped they could work something out that worked for both of them. Because she wanted to keep another beating heart near hers for as long as she could, but she wasn’t sure she could live on the ground the way he clearly did. But for now, they listed the stars, and she began to relax as he added in his own, some of them ones she hadn’t known. She felt...peaceful, more than she had in a very long time, and for the first time in weeks, or months, she wasn’t thinking about the family she’d lost. She was thinking about the stars over her head and the friend coming closer to her, and how much she’d give for this moment to last forever. This was the moment she would choose to live in for the rest of her life if she could. But it would end, and so she clung to it like she was drowning and it was a piece of wreckage keeping her head above the waves. “Lyra. Eridanus. And....Canis Major.” She closed her eyes. That was all she knew. “I always loved the stars.”
L nodded, nor surprised but a little touched. He’d never considered himself an ideal companion, but you could hardly afford to be choosy anymore, so he supposed he would have to do. He was breathing, at least, which had to count for something. “That’s all right, I can work out the science on my own.” He reassured the other man, his big dark eyes slipping down to rest on the guitar again. “It’s the music I need you to teach me. I don’t even have a place to start with it, so I couldn’t teach it to myself.” He wasn’t humoring Orpheus, he did want to learn. Saying something he didn’t mean was not something L did, not unless he had a reason like wanting to see what the other person would do. In this case, he had no reason to test Orpheus, and so he meant every word he said. “Oh, it does hurt.” He said in apparent surprised as he obeyed, pressing the strings harder as he played the A chord. “I suppose I’ll get callouses, though. When did you start playing?” A. C. A. C. It was hardly a song yet, but he was getting there.
Noah couldn’t force himself to look at Ronan, because there was an unspoken agreement that they didn’t do that. There were no hugs between Noah and Ronan because Noah had always gotten his share from Adam and Blue, who didn’t mind Noah clinging on to him. Ronan… well, it had always felt like the two of them were closer than anything, but they didn’t do hugs. Never. And Ronan moved on like it had never happened, which suited Noah just fine. It had meant everything to him, and he didn’t really care what the aftermath looked like. Though he was at least a little bit relieved that Ronan didn’t seem angry. Or maybe he did… it was hard to read him sometimes. Harder now, Noah realized. “Don’t be stubborn,” Noah murmured, the words easily slipping from his lips. He was rubbing at the spot on his cheek again, as though maybe it would come off this time. Or maybe he was just making it worse. “Promise you’ll actually wake me up for second watch.” He knew his friend too well to trust that he would take care of himself if there was someone there to protect. He was already risking Ronan’s life by being there, he didn’t want to make it any worse than it already was by letting Ronan neglect his own health. It was odd, Noah thought, that Ronan was ready to start living life with a friend now. The casual use of “we,” as though every minute Noah had here wasn’t stolen, as though it wasn’t selfish as hell to stay here.
Generally, Crutchie hated people touching his leg. Logically, he could see them doing it, but he never felt it. And when he did it sent waves of pain through his entire body. Luckily, it seemed that Sherlock knew what he was doing, well enough to at least avoid causing Crutchie too much pain. And though the boy would never admit it aloud, he was grateful for it. He was still a little bit unnerved by how excited Sherlock seemed about what he was finding, but he knew better than to question it. It would either result in an answer he didn’t want to hear, or one that made a little too much sense. “It hasn’t spread away from my leg at all,” Crutchie replied, shaking his head. “Never could understand why it’s contained there, but I won’t complain. It’s been… well, it got worse for about three years and then it stopped spreading at all. I… I was worried I was gonna turn but I never did.” He gave an almost cocky smile. “It tried to kill me, but I’m still goin’.” There was only so much serious thought he could take about his condition - he’d learned very quickly that optimism was the only way to survive. “Reacts to temperature, sometimes,” he murmured, looking down at it. “Or if it hits something and that thing hits a nerve, I guess? I dunno… some days it hurts real bad and there’s never really a pattern.” It would have been much more convenient if there were some sort of discernible pattern, but no luck there. “If I walk too far, too. But that’s a different kind of pain and it’s easier to get used to.”
Apparently, Kelsier had a death wish. Because Nico had been bluffing, at least a little bit, but the rest of him wanted to get in there and fight zombies because it was easier to fight them than it was to think about the rest of his life and how quickly things could turn south. He swallowed, crossing his arms. “No weapons, but I can fight better than most.” It was a simple answer, but also sort of a challenge. Because it was a risk, letting Kelsier know he was unarmed. It was a risk he was willing to take, because this was how he could prove himself. If he could do this… well, then Kelsier wouldn’t doubt him or try to kill him, right? Or maybe not. Maybe if Nico presented himself as a threat he’d be just as likely to be Kelsier’s next victim. He was still operating under the assumption that the living killed the living, nearly indiscriminately. That was what Minos had said, right? He forced himself to turn his back on Kelsier, taking a few steps in the direction of the zombies. So much for stitching up the wound in his arm - he would have to do that later. Now was zombie-killing time. Deep in the back of his mind, an uneasy layer of gratitude began to settle - glad to be heading into battle with another person, even a person who was a threat still. Even someone Nico would rather have been without, because having anyone was a hazard, but it might be easier to pass underneath his father’s radar if he had a traveling companion.
It was easier for Will to get used to not having solid ground beneath his feet when he looked up and named the stars. It was just… easier… and he was getting more used to it the longer he was up high. He smiled softly, pointing out one last one that Rue had missed - which was more than made up for in the ones that she could identify that he’d been unaware of - before letting his gaze drift down towards the girl. “Thank you,” he murmured, though he wasn’t sure what exactly he’d meant by it. Perhaps for being another living soul when the living were so fragmented that you couldn’t trust anyone anymore. Perhaps for making sure he was safe so high up, or perhaps just for looking at the stars with him. Even he didn’t know if it was that or something else, but it felt good to say. He let his eyes drift closed for a moment before he shook his head and glanced back up, trying to remember the constellations Rue had named that were unfamiliar to him. He knew he couldn’t remember them all, but he felt the need to remember at least some of them. “You can see them better now,” he admitted, voice quiet. “I mean… before… I wasn’t very old then, I know, but there were streetlights and house lights and you couldn’t see some of them. And now you can see them all.” It was a weird thing be optimistic about, he knew - the chance to see the stars - but he couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help clinging on to the one silver lining he had in a terrible situation.
Orpheus breathed in, relief flooding through him that L wasn’t going to make him leave, and that he wasn’t upset because Orpheus didn’t quite understand all of the implications of his discovery. They would be an ideal team, it seemed, if L was interested in working in teams. Because Orpheus had hoped for longer than he cared to admit that maybe what he had learned with the music would translate to some sort of cure. Eurydice’s eyes flashed through his memory, panicked and then glazing over as the virus set in once and for all. He had told her to stay. Told her he would be back, with a cure. Told her he wasn’t coming back without one, and he would come back if it was the last thing he did. She hadn’t understood him, of course, but he’d said it anyway. But maybe a cure was just wishful thinking. He wasn’t going to mention it to L - not yet, at least. He was distracted by the thought of L playing long enough to get callouses. Would L be alright with him staying for that long? Better yet, would Orpheus be able to justify staying that long? He hoped so, secretly. “I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember,” he admitted, smiling. “I was about three, I think, when my uncle first handed me a guitar? I didn’t understand it, then, but I do now. Good job, by the way. Do you want a few more chords?”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Sept 27, 2019 19:37:24 GMT -5
(Back In Time)
Ronan wasn’t sure what was different about Noah, but there was something. He seemed...older and younger at the same time. It was hard for Ronan to put words to the waves he felt coming off the other boy, but he could tell there was something - somethings - that he wasn’t saying. Secrets were a way of life, especially now that there was no one left to trust. Friends turned on each other, enemies banded together for a short while, united against a common enemy...until they weren’t. Nothing was the same as it had been, least of all the people forced to live in the world as it now was. Ronan knew there were secrets Noah wasn’t telling him, and there were secrets he wasn’t telling Noah, and they’d tell each other when they were ready. Maybe that would be never. He couldn’t say, even to himself, that he was okay with that, but he wasn’t going to pry it out of his friend if Noah didn’t want to tell him whatever it was. He hesitated. The silence stretched for a moment, then another, as though he were weighing how to get out of the promise he didn’t want to make. “Yeah.” He said finally, reluctantly, because he didn’t lie. If he said he’d wake Noah up, he’d damn well do it, even if he’d rather do almost anything else now that he could finally protect someone again. Not that he’d ever admit he felt that way. He barely admitted it to himself. He poked at the fire again, then shook his head and gave a short laugh. “We should go. Find the others. I mean, I though you were dead for sure, but here you are healthy as anything. Sh*t, man, what if they’re still out there somewhere?”
Sherlock nodded, his fingers sure as they danced over Crutchie’s leg, apparently finding everything the scientist needed to know. Based on his expression anyway, which was bright and cheerful, almost manic with the thrill of having something to do. “You’re very lucky it happened where it did.” He said, and stepped back to check on the blood sample, which was now bubbling furiously. “It could have happened on your back and paralyzed you, or killed you, what that goes without saying. I can guess why it didn’t spread; it isn’t designed to be caught like that at all, it’s supposed to kill you, it isn’t programmed to just be in your body like that. The reason it’s worse some days could be your body fighting it, could be it trying to spread, could be any number of things, I wouldn’t worry about it if it hasn’t killed you yet it probably won’t.” He paused to take a breath, and to check a few other chemicals bubbling away. When he returned, he looked a shade more serious. “You’re dehydrated. Badly. When did you drink last?” It’s a wonder I could draw your blood so easily. Come on there’s water...somewhere around here, I think, there should be a source or I’d be dead. I deleted where it is. Come on, help me find it.” And he got down on his hands and knees and began to crawl, peering intently around as though he expected a bottle of purified water to appear around the corner. He wasn’t exactly wrong; there was no way he’d survived here as long as he had without water, but....
Kelsier hesitated, regret flashing through him as soon as he heard Nico’s words. The boy was unarmed. There was no way Kelsier was taking on unarmed kid into a battle against the undead, it just wasn’t happening. But how was he supposed to say that without sounding like a condescending adult? He considered his options, looking for a way out. He could pretend he’d been joking. Would that work? He didn’t think so, but then again maybe Nico was looking for a way out and just needed an excuse? Why couldn’t he have just said no in the first place? Why did he always have to show off? “Maybe not.” He said at last, choosing his words very carefully. “You probably still don’t trust me enough to fight beside me, which is fine by the way, but still. You can’t be watching me and watching your back at the same time, and ahile I’m sure you could beat me in a fight, I’d rather not get into one at all, much less while fighting fifty corpses. New plan: let’s head to the nearest city and see what we can scavenge.”
Rue felt herself smile as her body relaxed, the nerves of the day finally bleeding off into the cool night air. It was good to be with someone else. She had only just met him, but she felt so starved for this that she couldn’t help pouring herself into it, trusting that he was who he said he was and that he wouldn’t kill her tonight. It didn’t feel like a choice to trust him; it felt like a basic need she’d gone far too long without. “Thank you too.” She said it back, because “your welcome” sounded like she’d given something without getting anything back, and she felt like the opposite was true. Will hadn’t needed to follow her up here when he was uncomfortable with it, but he’d sacrificed that for her and she was grateful to him. More than he probably knew. She looked up at the stars and sighed, mentally cupping the ones she’d just learned in her hands, feeling them on her tongue. She didn’t want to forget them. She wanted to remember them forever, so that whenever she looked up she’d remember tonight and that no matter how bad it got, there was always light at the other end of it. She needed to know that, and she though - hoped - that Will did too. “That was one of the first things I noticed when it happened.” She answered softly. She knew what he meant; not just that the stars were brighter, but that there was always something you could hold onto when things were the worst. “When I looked up, everything was so bright. The night sky isn’t as black anymore, it’s so....beautiful now.”
L glanced up, seeing the faraway look in Orpheus’ clear eyes. He was remembering something, he realized - something that had happened. Maybe something this moment had reminded him of. Maybe someone. L played the chord, back and forth, and felt his heartbeat slow. It was an odd sensation to effect yourself like that, but it wasn’t a bad one, so he didn’t stop until the other man spoke again. “That’s very young to start. No wonder you’re so at home with it.” He answered, and glanced down at the instrument thoughtfully, as though he could read Orpheus’ childhood on the strings. Did he realize what an incredible gift he had? He’d found something that affected the undead, he’d found something that L could begin to use to build a cure, and he didn’t even seem to know how amazing that was. L wanted to tell him, but he didn’t know how, so instead he nodded simply. “Yes, thank you. I would like to learn to play a song, if you wouldn’t mind teaching me. I would also like to learn the chords that most affect the undead. I might be able to use the information.”
Shot in the head. That was the fate that awaited Noah if he told the truth. And as much as he tried to push away the thoughts, it wasn’t easy to separate Whelk pushing him in the first place to Ronan killing him now. Except maybe that Ronan would think of it as mercy, and Whelk had just been selfish. He pushed back a sob that was threatening to build in his throat. He couldn’t afford that right now, not when Ronan was willing to respect him enough to share watch with him. “You can’t be stoic all the time,” Noah murmured, heading towards the fire, where the smudge on his face was even more distinct. He wouldn’t have, but he was cold and the idea of warmth was just a little bit too tempting. It had been too long since he’d last felt the warmth of fire so near to his skin. Perhaps, he thought distantly, it would scare the part of him that was threatening to turn even further down. They didn’t like heat, right? Or maybe Noah was wrong. He had avoided people and zombies enough that he wasn’t sure how much of his memory was accurate and how much were maxims he had silently repeated to make himself feel better. Not lies, exactly, but half truths he had clung too in order to survive. He was getting mostly settled on the ground when he looked back up at Ronan. “They’re all stronger than me.” There was nothing but truth in the statement - no doubt or self-deprecation, just acknowledgement of fact. “It’s just a matter of whether their luck has held out this long.” Logically? It wasn’t likely. Yet Noah still felt like they were out there somewhere. Like they’d get to see the rest of the group again. He had a feeling not knowing was worse than whatever closure they could receive. “We’ll start in the morning, then,” he added, concealing a yawn. “Goodnight, Ronan.” The other boy was so close, and Noah wanted. He wanted to get nearer, he wanted to spill everything that was keeping him up, he wanted to smile against the firelight they way they did when they were merely roasting marshmallows instead of doing their best to survive. He forced himself to look away and lay on the cold ground, face illuminated by the flickering flames.
Crutchie didn’t need to hear that he was lucky, but he supposed it was good to know that, at least in Sherlock’s opinion, it wasn’t likely to spread. He knew better than he cared to admit that he had gotten luckier than anyone he had ever met. Because he had survived, and he knew he was going to continue to survive unless something went very, very wrong. Or unless his luck ran out. Though having lost use of one leg, as Sherlock had pointed out, was worlds better than most of the other possibilities. Although if he weighed heartbreak against death, the truth was that he didn’t actually know which was worse. All he knew was that he didn’t have it in him to stop fighting. He would struggle for every breath if it killed him. And, given the way the world was, it probably would. “Drink?” Crutchie asked, surprised by Sherlock’s complete change of topic. It was almost as though there was concern under Sherlock’s voice, and not in a way that made Crutchie feel like a test subject. There was genuine humanity in the detective’s words, and though Crutchie had known that he was likely capable of it, he hadn’t expected it to be directed towards him. “It’s been a while,” he admitted, accidentally letting some of his confusion slip into his voice. “What dya mean you deleted it?” He questioned, moving off of the table and easing himself back into a walk. “I’m fine, really,” he added, though he knew Sherlock was right - dehydration was a nasty thing to deal with, and Crutchie was thirsty to the point he couldn’t really feel it anymore. Why was Sherlock concerned about him enough that he was willing go on his hands and knees? It didn’t make sense… Sherlock didn’t make sense, and against Crutchie’s better judgement, it confirmed that he’d made the right choice in staying. If he were going to be someone’s test subject, it might as well be a man who had an idea of how to fix the world, who, despite all indications otherwise, was not unkind.
“Scared?” Nico challenged, flashing a humorless grin. He didn’t know if he actually wanted to fight the zombies or not, but he was restless and in pain and he knew that fighting things that couldn’t feel in the same way humans could - that didn’t have the same complex motivations - was a way to relieve stress. There was no second guessing a zombie’s motives or worrying about what would happen to their family if you hurt them. Because they were already dead, technically. Their families had already mourned. And besides that, Minos had taught him well. You make sure you appear to be the toughest one in the room, and they’ll either challenge you or leave you alone. Either way, you have an answer and therefore the higher ground. Although Kelsier was right. He didn’t trust him to fight besides him, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t willing to fight. It just meant his attention would have been divided. Dangerous, maybe, but no more so than living a normal life was now. Or… at least what constituted normal now. “Have you actually been to any cities lately?” Nico asked, hand resting at the side of his hip like he expected a weapon to be there but found nothing. “They’re crawling with the undead, and even worse with humans.” It had been a long time since Nico had seen New York City, and the truth was he didn’t know now how far away he was, but he had a feeling he was closer than he was comfortable being. There was a chance that the nearest city… well, it could be the very place he had vowed never to return.
Will watched Rue for a moment, his own smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He knew that he might regret this later, trusting her so quickly, but maybe she was right. Maybe they ere safer from the undead when they were up high. He could work around that - there would have to be compromises made (they could sleep up high as long as they had a fire beforehand, things like that) but he wanted to make this work. He wanted it more than he remembered ever wanting anything else. “Sometimes,” Will murmured, the words burning inside him as though he had wanted to share them with someone for far longer than even he had realized. “Sometimes, I think hat there were people, before cities and lights and technology, before any of this existed, and they… they looked up and they saw this exact same thing.” He paused for a moment, tilting his gaze up towards the stars, so clearly defined that it was almost like he was dreaming. “And they lost it when they started building everything up and making civilization and society and coming up with modern ideas and gadgets and… humanity survived for so long with just the stars and what they had around them. Which means…” he sucked in a breath, knowing that he was probably going to sound stupid if he voiced the last bit of his thought aloud. He didn’t know if he cared. He hadn’t even told his mother of Jonathan, because everyone else seemed to have given up on everything but staying together and staying passably alive. “Which means that one day, maybe we’ll get back to where we were before. Long after we’re both dead and our children have faced the world as it is. It’s gonna take… forever, really, but… I think we’ll get there. Or… I like to think so.”
Orpheus nodded. He knew most people didn’t discover the things that mattered most to them until much later in life, but he supposed he had gotten lucky to have had a poet for a mother and an uncle who was willing to take him to family that helped foster art and remind him to love and enjoy it even when his feelings towards his absent mom got in the way. But that was long ago, and now he was just a boy with a guitar and a weird phenomenon that helped keep him safe in a world where nobody could claim to have any relative safety. “You’re picking it up quite quickly,” he smiled, watching L switch adeptly between chords. They weren’t the same consistency of sound yet, but that would come with time and practice, and for now there were just chords. “You’ll need one more chord for some of the more basic things,” he informed L, moving the man’s fingers to the correct position. “If you want to affect the undead more, you’re going to have to use the bottom two strings in more chords. It’ll make it more discordant, but eventually you’ll learn how to blend them in more seamlessly.” Sometimes they rattled Orpheus, sounding harsh and unnatural to his ear, but he had a way of covering it up, at least in theory. His voice - extraordinarily high for a man - was able to balance out the low, earth-shaking frequencies that rattled the zombies. It was for the sound rather than the protective quality, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it helped. “See, if you don’t have a finger on the bottom string, but you angle your pick there… yes, like that… they’ll hear it better. And they’ll go away.”
“What, I’m stoic now?” Ronan snorted, grinning in spite of the deep sense of wrongness coming off of Noah in waves that nearly knocked him down. “Think you’re getting me confused with Richard “stick-in-the-mud” Gansey.” He almost sounded offended, but really it was just that the idea of being mistaken for the leader of their little gang was so unlikely it was hilarious to him. And in spite of the reality they now lived in, in spite of everything, Ronan laughed. It was a sharp sound, impossible to tell between kind and unkind unless you knew him. If you did happen to know him well enough, you could tell that it was indeed intended as a weapon, but one aimed away from anyone in particular; at the sky, perhaps. He stopped as suddenly as he’d began and patted Noah on the head, then kicked some dirt on the fire. “Attracts them.” He explained simply. The humor had left his face, leaving behind only a sort of dark mask over his features, his eyes bright and blue and impossible to read. “Yeah.” He said, quieter but no softer. “They are.” He turned his face away from Noah, staring at the dimmed flames that still hurt his eyes, and thought about the people he’d left behind. He thought they were dead. He’d thought the same about Noah, but the other boy’s sudden appearance had done nothing to the chances of the other’s survival, so he still thought they were dead. A part of him kept opening his mouth, trying to say things like “but what if they’re okay? What if they need you, somewhere?” He mentally slapped this part of himself and sent it to his dungeons like the traitor it was. He would not give up hope, not ever, really....but he couldn’t expect to ever know p, either, because that would kill him eventually. “Night.” He said back, only half paying any attention to the flickering flames or the boy drifting off to sleep, for the first time in who knew how long. His mind was on the days and weeks before, the moments that had slipped through his fingers like most. He was turned away from Noah still. His hand whipped up and flicked something away from his eyes, and he focused on watching the dark air around them.
“I mean I deleted it. Gone. Out of my brain.” Sherlock sounded a bit agitated now. Truthfully, he felt that the longer it took him to find water, the more likely Crutchie was to pass out or something, and that would be all kinds of inconvenient, not to mention tedious. He straightened up finally and rotated, eyes closed as he pictured the room as it was yesterday. Had he had anything to drink yesterday? He didn’t remember, but he probably had or he’d be lightheaded by now, so he tried to remember exactly everywhere he had gone. Upstairs. He opened his eyes and dashed upstairs, thumping the steps loudly in his hurry. Where, where, where, where, where - aha. There was a dog crate in one corner, shoved carelessly against the wall. In it something was snarling and ramming against the walls, rattling the bars with angry force. A zombie, blindfolded and hands tied. It was too old to look particularly human anymore, but it clearly was still very capable of fighting, and wanted to, judging by the racket it was making. “Oh, shut up.” Sherlock muttered to it, and grabbed the water, intending to sprint back downstairs.
Kelsier didn’t respond to the challenge, didn’t even narrow his eyes. Nico was the scared one, even if he didn’t know it himself, and he was hurting and angry and just trying to exist in a world that craved his blood. The boy reminded Kelsier of himself, actually. When he’d been young and reckless - well, more reckless - he’d fought every battle too. He still felt that way a lot of the time, because it was easier to go through the motions of a fight, taste death and fight to stay alive, than it was to believe in someone else. To trust someone else. Fighting was easier than walking away. And looking into Nico’s dark eyes, Kelsier thought he knew which one he had to pick this time, in spite of what he wanted. “I am a bit scared of dying, actually.” He said calmly, meeting the boy’s challenging stare. “What happens next? I don’t think about it much to be perfectly honest with you. I suppose I’m more scared of turning into one of them though. At least when your dead you find out what happens next.” He tilted his head, frowning slightly. “No, actually, I haven’t been to a city in a long time. Why? I guess it makes sense that they’d be packed with hordes, but I hadn’t thought of that. Well...where do you want to go?”
Rue listened, and she was smiling now, a soft smile that said she wanted Will to keep going. She wanted to listen to his quiet voice all night, giving her hope and telling her that humanity’s story wasn’t over yet. They could find a cure, maybe, or maybe they could learn to live with the dead and build homes and gardens anyway. Maybe zombies would just become the next predators that had to bear, the same way people used to deal with lions and wolves. It sounded impossible in her head, but when Will said it, she discovered she could believe it. She could believe that the world hadn’t ended yet. She looked at him, and she could tell he believed it too, and that made it a hundred times better for her. The stars glittered like moonlight on water, cold and clear and so, so bright. She knew it didn’t make up for everything bad in the world, she knew it wasn’t fair and it never would be, but... “Someday people will sleep in beds again.” She whispered back. “We have to believe that, I think. Years and years and years from now, there’s going to be ice cream shops and toy stores and dog parks again, and people will get home from work and turn on the tv and always have dinner waiting for them. And until then...” She swallowed. He’d opened himself up to her, so she supposed it was only fair that she do the same. Trusting him was hard, but...she thought it was harder not to. “Until then, at least we can count the stars. And we can still sing, and there are still rainbows and sunny days and flowers. I like to think that means it isn’t over for us.”
L let Orpheus adjust his fingers, watching with the rapt expression of someone completely hooked. He *was* hooked. Music had always fascinated him, but if he was honest he had never expected to be able to create it. It was like being told wings weren’t necessary for flight after all, and that every human could soar if they only learned how. It was like that, but more scientifically plausible. L played the last chord, then went through all three slowly, hesitating as he got his fingers in the right position each time. “It’s amazing, I never expected to be able to create this.” His tone was low, awed by the power in his own fingers, like a child discovering they could paint. “ He shifted to the bottom strings and plucked them experimentally. Orpheus was right about the odd feeling they caused: the hair on the back of his neck stood on end and he shuddered, then did it again, and again until he wasn’t shuddering anymore. “I think we should get used to how it feels. We can’t afford to be distracted at a time when we need to use it the most.” He suggested, glancing up at his new friend. Hopefully, it would be easier to remember the chords in time. L hadn’t forgotten them exactly, but it did take him a minute to switch his hand back to the right position, and when he played the C chord it was just slightly wrong. He frowned and adjusted his hand until it sounded right again.
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Dark Sun: Great StarClan I hate hangnails...
Sept 18, 2021 22:57:46 GMT -5
Dark Sun: I had just gotten cozy in bed and it forced me to walk all the way upstairs just to trim it off, and then back down again.
Sept 18, 2021 22:58:35 GMT -5
✿𝔇𝙖𝙬𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧✿: i hate hangnails
Sept 18, 2021 23:02:33 GMT -5
✿𝔇𝙖𝙬𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧✿: One time I had one and it pealed off some skin
Sept 18, 2021 23:03:37 GMT -5
✿𝔇𝙖𝙬𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧✿: IT HURT SO BAD
Sept 18, 2021 23:04:33 GMT -5