Chapter 1

The end of the world had not been good to Jeremy Wample. Then again, the world had ceased to be rainbows and sunshine for everyone after the infection, but Jeremy assumed it was being particularly devious towards him today. The sun lay dying in the sky, the last shred of foggy light fading into gray as he ran across the ash laden forest floor. For twenty minutes he had been running away from some undead thing that refused to get off his trail, some poor soul, maybe a baker or call center agent at some point, was now a rotting corpse chasing after him, seeking its next meal.

"Just fucking die already" Jeremy grumbles under his breath, trying his best to zigzag, but even with only one foot the thing had shown incredible determination, something he probably lacked when he was human, Jeremy thought darkly. He wasn't one for positive thinking anymore, not after all the hell and shit he had to wade through just to stay alive. Three long years had gone by since everything in the world went insane, since governments starting bombing small parts of the United States and Canada in the hopes of wiping out large populations of the undead. It hadn't worked, they were still popping up like cockroaches all over the world, and when it seemed that one eventually died seven more took its place.

Regardless, Jeremy didn't care about all those other creatures at the moment, not when one wouldn't just leave him the hell alone and he debated whether he should just turn around and empty a few rounds into its skull. But he hesitates, curses under his breath and keeps running. It was stupid to fire a weapon in such a vast area where any undead skulker or local cannibal might hear and come running, or shambling in other cases. Perhaps he could lure it closer and stab it in the head. No, then that would open him up to a lot of risks, like getting blood on his skin which in turn could seep into any small, hidden cut on his body. Nowadays, after three years of diluted virus in the world, it was almost impossible to become infected by just blood to skin contact. The disease was spread by the undead creature's bodily fluids having direct contact to any cuts or open orifices. He had already gotten it in his mouth once before, but promptly spit out what he could and washed his mouth out quickly with water.

"Never again" Jeremy thought aloud, remembering the blind panic that had raced through him the moment it had happened. He remembered sitting against a tree, screaming and crying to nothing why it had happened to him and that he didn't want to become one of those things. But he had only been twenty at the time, new to the massive change that had swallowed the world and he thinks that if it happened now he'd just shrug it off and go on his way. Of course, he couldn't be sure, there were so many conflicting what-if scenarios, so many different emotions that someone could go through and he thinks, after some deep soul searching in the few seconds he stops to catch his breath, that maybe he would be too afraid to pull the trigger.

"Shit..." he curses, seeing his hobbling companion quicken its jerky pace towards him and he wonders if the creature later goes home to all the other undead corpses and jokes about hating fast food. The thought doesn't make him smile, if anything he cringes at the idea of more of these things congregating anywhere all at once. After all, he's been witness to two hoards already, so he doesn't want to see another one as long as he lives. And who knows how long that will be? Jeremy pants softly, watching the crippled form stalk closer and he turns away briefly from it to stare down a hill where the sight of the highway greets his tired eyes. He thinks for a moment that maybe, just maybe, if he were on the hard surface that it might force the ragged thing behind him to falter and trip with no soft earth to act as a crutch. "Come on you piece of shit, let's go."

He lets the thing get only six feet away from him before he's running down the hill, worried for a second that maybe the thing will just jump after him and knock him down. So, he doesn't look back, just keeps running until his feet hit the asphalt so hard he's amazed that his ankles don't snap in half and after years of dodging death, it would be the most laughable and pathetic way to go. But he corrects himself and stumbles forward into the middle of the road. He takes it in for a moment, sees old, rusted out cars that have been abandoned for years and a child's carrier stained with a murky, brown rust colour, likely blood. He tries not to focus on that; instead, he's fixated on the lumbering figure emerging from the tree line. It trips and falls with a sickening crack, and when it lifts its head its jaw is dislocated and hanging limply from its withered looking skull. Jeremy does all he can to stop from retching and searches for something heavy to crush its head with. After all, if movies and video games had taught him anything in his youth, it's that head shots were money.

He searches around quickly and sees it; two large cinder blocks holding up a piece of plywood next to a burnt out old car that once made for a makeshift table. He runs to it, kicks away the old board and strains to pick up the large block. He huffs and feels like he'll vomit from the weight of it, his malnourished body unable to lift so much as a gun these days. Still, he persists and slowly drags it closer to his assailant. Jeremy's surprised by the time he gets back to it, finding it wriggling slowly towards him, its legs dragging behind it brokenly and he realizes that the loud snapping noise was a collective sound of various bones, not just one. It lifts its head when he gets close enough to end it, it's boney, and flesh starved fingers reaching out to him in a grim handshake. He pities this thing. He wonders if maybe it had a family, if it was a mother or father, because months of decay have left it indistinguishable. The undead thing makes an inhuman hiss and lurches forward, but its last effort is futile as Jeremy lifts the block with a surge of adrenaline and smashes the heavy concrete down onto its head.

The damn thing bursts like a balloon filled with cherries.

This time Jeremy does vomit as the smell of rotted brain matter and old, stale blood fills his nostrils. He pitches forward and spews only bile into the mess left by the block, adding insult to injury for the poor diseased freak now one with the pavement. He drops his backpack and hits the ground with a groan and rolls away from the mess before curling into the fetal position, his hand clutching at his stomach as it lurches and he thinks that this dry heaving is probably worse than death.

"Fuck..." he swears, tears forming at the corners of his eyes, his throat burning and head aching from the sudden loss of nutrients. It took him days to find that pack of crackers, and now it lays wasted in a puddle of blood and sick. He lets out a lonely sob, either from hunger or his adrenaline wearing off, he's not quite sure and simply lies there, listening to the world around him. He's run too long, not eaten enough and his head is pounding with a headache he's had for days that constantly reminds him that he's going to die if he doesn't do something about it. But, right now, he says fuck off to the reminder and rolls onto his other side, away from the mess.

Jeremy sighs and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand before staring up into the sky. It's six o'clock, he thinks, or maybe it's morning. He doesn't really know anymore. The scientists were never stumped about how the dead had begun rising, but for all their training and education they could never figure out why the rest of the world was affected. The days were foggy, eternal dusk most of the time and when the sun went down there wasn't a light anywhere in the world. All Jeremy had was a flash light and a lighter for his artificial sun and only a small pup tent to keep the rain and undead things at bay. Apparently they could break down doors in houses but got confused by the concept of tarp suspended by sticks.

Another large sigh escapes Jeremy but he quickly holds his breath at the sudden scrape of footsteps in the distance. He sits up quickly, rigid with a different kind of fear. He listens hard, tries to stop his erratic breathing so he can hear. The sound of scuffling footsteps approaches him gradually but not in the drunken, disoriented way that the undead walk. No, it's too coherent and even and he quickly climbs to his feet, grabs his belongings and hides behind one of the many chard car bodies. Jeremy swallows nervously as he hides, realizing he has a great opportunity here as well. Normal, functioning humans often carry food on them, or at least refills of ammo, and he thinks that the rifle strapped to his back will make a wonderful bargaining chip, loaded or not.

He waits another few minutes before the newcomer appears. It's a man; the height alone gives that away, as does the build. He looks dirty; his hair is a mess of grime and God knows what else. Most of his face is hidden behind a scarf but Jeremy can see slight traces of an unkempt beard under it and his head is covered by a rain hat. He looks like a poor man, but then Jeremy knows he also looks worn-down and disgusting. He was once blond and slightly tanned after all, but the years of unclean water has left everything on his person a brown and gray mess, mud and even blood now caking most of his clothes. Of course, as luck would have it, his filthy appearance confuses most of the undead things and allows him to get around without being detected as easily. Besides, who does he need to impress nowadays anyway? And apparently this grubby traveler shares his opinion.

Whoever this man is, he's prepared, and carrying a small travel suitcase behind him, its small wheels squeaking softly as it follows him along. Jeremy shakes with almost giddy joy at the sight of the large duffle bag that the man carries close and figures that he keeps all his food in there. Jeremy lets out a breath, tries to calm himself before running out there halfcocked, because who knows if this guy has a weapon or not. So he waits, and watches as the man passes by his hiding place and stops to stare down at the little mess he made earlier. Jeremy curses inwardly, hoping that the man ignores the obvious signs of fresh gray matter and doesn't question whether he should quicken his steps or not. Instead, the man lingers only a second longer before starting on his way again and in that instant Jeremy comes out of hiding and slowly removes the rifle on his back and aims it at the man. A nervous lump forms in his throat as he inches forward before announcing his presence.

"Stop right where you are, old man!" Jeremy yells and he expects the other man to jump or to spin around sharply, anything, but the man simply turns slowly, casually and acknowledges the gun first before he even sees Jeremy. "Good, you know what this is and what it does. So, drop everything you have on you and step away from it. NOW!"

"..."

"Are you deaf! I said drop every fucking thing you have on you!" Jeremy demands again, but the man just looks at him long and hard through the dirty lenses of his glasses. When he speaks, it startles Jeremy more than he thought it would, but it's not surprising considering he hasn't heard another human being in quite some time.

"Why? That thing isn't even loaded."

Jeremy starts, his stomach dipping with nervous butterflies from the accusation. How in the hell did he know that? It's not something a person could know at a glance and, judging by this man's appearance overall, Jeremy knows he's not from the military or ever trained with weapons. So he scoffs, lowering the gun in a nonchalant way as he glares at the other man, but no matter how confident his body language is, the blue of his eyes shows too much uncertainty.

"Pretty goddam presumptuous of you, what makes you think it isn't loaded? Want me to pull the trigger and find out? Or, better yet, you could just put your shit down and walk away and spare us both the headache."

"It's not loaded; anyone with a rifle wouldn't be stupid enough to stand four feet away from their target. Rifles are for distance, so either you're a shitty shot or that thing isn't loaded."

"W-What..?"

"Now, this, on the other hand, is loaded" the man says, producing a rather intimidating sawed-off shotgun from his side, the long tattered coat he wears obstructing it from anyone's vision. Jeremy tenses and instinctively lets the rifle fall to the earth with a resounding clatter as he holds his hands up and steps away. It's an incredibly human action that, for a moment, makes the other man blink with surprise and lower the barrel of his gun.

"I'm not a cannibal, I wasn't going to eat your anything, man; I just need...something, anything" Jeremy explains, still backing away even with the gun now resting at the other man's side. The stranger doesn't follow after him, but spares Jeremy the panic and slowly places the gun down to the ground and drops his duffle on top of it. The large bag makes a loud, dull thump as it collides with the ground and despite the fear that grips Jeremy he can't help the desire to just jump forward and tear the thing open.

"...What's your name?" the man asks as he removes the scarf from around his face and the hat from his head. Jeremy relaxes slightly at the motion, recognizing it as a simple gesture of trust and introduction. The man is younger than he initially thought, not nearly as haggard looking since the removal of the old, dirty cloth. His eyes are brown and maybe his hair was once too, but like Jeremy the decline of the earth has not been good to either of them. Yet Jeremy remains still, not sure at first if he should be giving out his name, but then he remembers, who in the world, in this hell, would his name benefit?

"Jeremy. Jeremy Wample" he replies softly.

"I'm Andrew Wells" the man, Andrew, says with a small smile, one that instantly makes Jeremy sag with relief. It's a pleasant flash of teeth, unlike the numerous malicious smirks over the past few years from other survivors he had run into. They usually tried to befriend him just so they could turn on him a second later. Any food, any weapons, even clothes, were often stolen from Jeremy his first month after the infection, but since then he had learned his lesson. Trust no one and always keep a knife close, just in case. Despite that, though, Jeremy offers his hand to the other. Andrew regards the offered hand before slowly reaching out and shakes back. "So, how old are you, Jer?" Andrew asks as he kneels down to his bag and pulls the zipper open.

It's an odd question to Jeremy, to be asked his age when he believes it to have no real purpose, not now anyway and even with his mind still confused with the concept, he doesn't miss the nickname given to him. "Twenty-three, but why should that matter?"

"Just making conversation, I haven't spoken with anyone that didn't want to eat my flesh in months" Andrew replies as he rummages around his bag. Jeremy stares down at him and moves forward cautiously as his brain tells him to still be wary of this traveler. Just because Andrew seems nice doesn't mean he won't snap up and cut his throat. Jeremy continues to step closer but stops and jerks backwards slightly as Andrew removes something quickly from his bag and Jeremy expects the worst.

What Jeremy gets, however, is a can of soup held up towards him, the tin dusty with age. The simple, silver ring pop-top is the epitome of beauty to his eyes and he takes the can without question. With no etiquette he rips the lid from the can of beef stew and drinks it like a fine wine, each chunk of meat and vegetable tasting like heaven on his tongue and the simple flavor once so underappreciated is now as precious as gold. Jeremy consumes the whole can in under two minutes and he lazily fingers at the inside of the can to gather any remaining drops of gravy and greedily sucks it from his dirty fingers, not even caring that his ratty beard has bits of carrot in it.

Andrew huffs a small laugh and zips the bag closed, and slings it up on his shoulder before picking the shotgun up from earlier. Jeremy doesn't notice the action as he continues to clean out the contents of the can and he only looks up when he hears the crunch of gravel under feet. Jeremy gasps softly and drops the can to the ground quickly to run after Andrew. The older man continues on without much of a direction and only slows slightly when he hears Jeremy running up behind him. He tenses a moment, not sure if the younger man is going to pull a knife on him or remove a revolver from his coat pocket. Instead, he keeps looking forward and stops when Jeremy moves in front of him, his young face clearly confused, his wide blue eyes filled with panic.

"Where are you going?" Jeremy asks as though he expects Andrew to have stayed with him. It wasn't his intent; he's always been alone and intends to keep it that way.

"South, I think. My compass is broken" Andrew says distantly, squinting up at the gray sky, anywhere except Jeremy. The younger man frowns, certain Andrew is avoiding him intentionally.

"We should stick together, man, it's not safe out there alone" Jeremy says. Andrew doesn't agree. He's seen too many scenarios of groups 'sticking together' before, of men using their women as currency in the early months of the disaster. He witnessed horrible acts towards children, death and maiming and it wasn't even the undead things, but people destroying people. Andrew frowns and shakes his head at the concept of living through more of that, of being used by someone, even this kid. This kid; he's all by himself, dirty and emaciated from years of scavenging for a meal, for a place to sleep in safety. This kid hardly out of high school, and losing the right to be normal, to find a career, to get married, to start a family.

Andrew curses to himself and runs his hand through his dirty hair. He grimaces and shakes off the excess dirt clinging to his fingers before facing Jeremy once more. "...You're right, I suppose" he says and for an instant there's a soft glimmer of hope deep in Jeremy's eyes. The kid is so lonely, starved for a shred of affection now that he's met someone who isn't trying to hurt him or steal his belongings. Sure, he should have just shoved the guy away the moment he drew a gun on him, loaded or not, but Andrew isn't that heartless. Andrew knows that despite Jeremy's innocent exterior that there could very well be a psychopath lying in wait. So, he weighs his options and looks the boy over with critical, deciphering eyes; the young man is very thin, exhausted and malnourished, yet Andrew knows that he does have strength in him if the puddle under that cinder block he saw earlier was any indication. Strong enough sure, but Andrew is certain given his age and broader build that he could fight him off if such a scenario ever arose.

"Really?"

"Yeah, but listen, I watch out for myself okay? You better do the same, because if you get grabbed by one of those Freaks, then that's it, I'm saving my own ass, got it?" Andrew says, hoping his threat sounds convincing enough to the other. Jeremy nods with his gaze hard and determined.

"Yeah, I get it and I'll do the same" Jeremy replies, then sighs and looks around, suddenly not sure where they are at this point. Jeremy had run so long from the undead thing that his navigation is shot. "...So, where are we going?" he asks, following Andrew as the older man starts off towards the south.

"South" Andrew replies gruffly, his hand coming up to his face to cover it back up with the cloth. Jeremy thinks that it must be to keep out the ash that floats around most of the world now, from wood fires to piles of dead bodies that line the highways too frequently these days. He wonders, vaguely as he follows Andrew along, if breathing the ash of the undead things will infect him and, soon, he too would be feeding on the flesh of his own kind.

"Why south?" Jeremy asks, shaking away the unwanted feeling of dread as he palms at the back of his neck to ease it of little nips of terror. He's not ignorant of how the virus is spread through obvious means, but when the world and its governments were set into chaos, so little was disclosed about the infection and all it contained. Even still, it scares him and he finds himself moving closer to Andrew out of instinct more than anything. After all, Andrew is tall and broad, despite being so poorly nourished, and older, so he's sure to have his head on right and know what to do. He seems to be a decent person to trust in for now, unless Jeremy ever has to put an end to him.

"South because it's warmer down there and I don't know if you've noticed, but the days are getting colder here. So you have to keep moving, keep gathering supplies as you go. And I don't mean just food, but weapons, anything to defend yourself against the Freaks. Oh, and if you see a dead body, undead ghoul or not, take its boots if it's wearing any. The last thing you need is wet feet and infected blisters."

"How the hell do you know this shit?" Jeremy asks as he walks along beside Andrew, stopping only long enough around an old car to pick up a tire iron. There's dried blood on it, but he ignores it and deems it a suitable weapon.

"I've been living through this shit for four years and before all communications went down I was researching the hell out of survival skill websites and books I took from the library. As for the feet thing, well, that's just common sense."

Jeremy shrugs the comment off and observes the metal pole in his hand, and tests the weight of it in his grip before swinging at the side mirror of a car they walk by. The car erupts in noise, the alarm thought to be dead from years of disuse, now blares like a tornado warning siren and it echoes down the highway, causing an explosion of crows to burst from a tree close by. Jeremy covers his ears, the sound a massive shock from years of nothing but the wind and occasional groans of the undead. Andrew turns sharply, his eyes comically wide as he looks to Jeremy, clearly wondering just what the hell he was thinking.

"What the fuck did you do?" Andrew screams over the sound, but Jeremy's still covering his ears, forcing Andrew to shove him aside to get to the front of the vehicle. He drops his gear and opens the door to pop the hood. From there he throws the large sheet of metal up and begins to rummage through the guts and wires of the car and pulls at several of them until the sound stops, leaving only the dull ringing in their ears.

"Is it over? Christ that was loud. Shit, man, sorry, I didn't-" Jeremy doesn't have a chance to finish his sentence before Andrew is smacking him across the face out of panic and frustration. "What the hell, man!"

"Do you realize what you just did? We need to fucking run, now, because you just successfully alerted every goddamn freak in a four mile radius to our presence! They would have heard that and they're going to be here soon."

Andrew slips past Jeremy towards his bag and rummages around through various pockets before producing several rounds for a shotgun and a rifle. Jeremy watches the other man load the weapons and inches closer to him out of fear of another slap to the face. Instead, what he gets is a box of ammo being tossed to him. Jeremy nearly drops the box but manages to keep it in his hand and reads it, his brown furrowing in further worry.

"Hurry up and load your rifle" Andrew says hurriedly as he places the shotgun down into the dirt and works on loading a pistol. The younger man obeys, his breath coming out in uneven pants as he fumbles with the cartridges, his eyes darting back and forth nervously until he hears it. He can almost taste and feel his heart jumping into his throat as a booming roar of groans and shrieks rise from out of the forest. Andrew curses somewhere at his side as the older man rises to his feet, his equipment now strapped to his back. He's abandoned the cloth from around his face to help him breathe better and he looks around the surrounding wooded area just as fearfully as Jeremy. No matter their age differences or their upbringing can stop both men from being terrified.

With a final click of Jeremy loading his rifle, Andrew sees the first small wave of the undead creatures emerge from the woods and he swears again before grabbing Jeremy by the hood of his jacket. Jeremy doesn't react, doesn't bat an eye, but follows obediently as Andrew leads him away from the old car that caused all this shit and hides behind it.

Andrew sighs, his breathing erratic as adrenaline pumps furiously through him and he thinks he just might pass out from it. He's only ever been around three or four hoards in the three years since the end, but seeing it again is always like the first time. Some of the undead are fast, like Olympic track runners, while some shamble about respectively. A person can never tell what they're going to be up against at first with how they manage to get people so easily, by almost pretending to be slow and idiotic. But, man, can they ever move and it scares Andrew more than all the jagged teeth and claws about to come their way.

"What do we do, Andrew?" Jeremy asks, so uncomfortably close to the other man that Andrew looks over at Jeremy and wants to cry at how young and terrified this boy looks. He could even laugh, as well, realizing that they're huddled together like two kids in a tent telling scary stories.

"Well…" Andrew starts, licking moisture back into his chapped lips and he holds his gun to his chest tight enough that his knuckles turn white "we run, as fast as we can to the south. Run and don't look back, if you do you'll just trip, so keep your eyes ahead and don't stop. The second we find a car with windows intact we hide, got it?"

Jeremy nods and cringes at the sound of more murderous growls and hisses off in the distance. They're safe for now, of course, because the freaks can't see them yet, but it won't take long for the creatures to find them, they're won't be safe forever. All they can do is run.

"Alright, on the count of three, okay? One….two….Three!" Andrew whispers harshly and the two clamber from their hiding spot into open road. The hoard behind them erupts into a roar of cries like a nightmare song and the thundering of old, brittle feet chase after them almost instantly. Jeremy has run before, he was doing it from old One-Foot earlier that day, but this was different. Most of the cretins behind them had functioning legs, well, as functioning as a walking corpse can have. Yet they're still so quick despite all that and it's almost like the undead knew that Jeremy had been running for so long because they certainly don't slow down. Jeremy's legs are exhausted and he's hardly keeping up with Andrew, while the other man is already advancing quite far in front of him.

"Move, kid, move!" Andrew yells at Jeremy as he keeps running, his leg pumping furiously as the undead pursue them. From behind him Andrew can hear the younger man panting harshly and listens to his uneven steps, but figures there's nothing else he can do to help Jeremy. The boy needs to run as fast as he can and he needs to do it now. Jeremy has the same mindset, knows he's exhausted but continues, egged-on by the desire to live even if it is in a gruesome hell of a world. Jeremy wants to die on his own terms, not being ripped to shreds still screaming from a group of snarling monsters. His breath hitches at the thought and he looks over his shoulder quickly to see how far away the undead are.

The creatures are on their heels, hissing and snarling, their sharp claws reaching out for the two living humans, their eyes wild, bright pinpricks of sickly yellow inside their rotting skulls as they track every movement of their fleeing meal. Jeremy wishes in that instance that he had heeded what Andrew told him and kept his eyes ahead, because in a blink of an eye he's lost his footing and falls to the ground roughly, his ankle screaming at him for being so stupid. He cries out, because he doesn't know what else to do, and tries to drag himself up but his foot won't allow him to get traction. It's a sprain or a break, Jeremy doesn't know and he ends up screaming for Andrew. The other man actually hears the thud of a body hit the road first and assumes it's one of the walking corpses, because, God damn it, he had warned Jeremy to keep his eyes forward.

"Andrew! Help me!"

He hears that, knows the familiar sound of screams for help and skids to a halt to look back. Andrew has managed to distance himself from Jeremy by sixteen feet already and he looks up from Jeremy's fallen figure to the creatures that advance faster now that lunch has been served. Andrew watches while his legs lock and he's not sure what his brain wants him to do. He can see the monsters getting closer; can almost see every dirty wrinkle in their gray skin as they run towards Jeremy. From the ground, Jeremy tries to scramble up using his rifle as a crutch but it does little to help him and instead he resorts to looking up, his eyes catching Andrew just standing there, frozen with uncertainty.

Andrew had warned Jeremy already that if shit got too intense he would cut all ties with any baggage and save himself. It's what he told himself, but apparently Andrew's heart and humanity have very different ideas. "Shit…" he curses and despite all the little mental pep talks to watch out for number one, he instead runs towards the massive group of undead things that want to eat him. Andrew bolts from the spot, his legs no longer frozen and useless and he gets only five feet away from Jeremy's fallen figure before one of the walking dead leaps from his place in line and jumps onto Jeremy. The younger man screams and struggles, his fingers digging into the slimy flesh of the creature's throat to hold him at bay while the other hand tries beating the son of a bitch with the butt of the rifle.

Andrew looks beyond the sight of Jeremy fighting off the undead being to see the others quickly coming up behind them. He needs to get the kid out of there now or go on without him. "Jeremy! Push him up and away from you! Get his head up!" Andrew demands through the fray and he aims his pistol to get a decent shot. He could use his shotgun and really do some damage to the ugly bastard, but then he risks hitting Jeremy. He's by no means a master marksman, a good shot at best and he waits for the opportune moment, knowing he'll only get one chance. "Damn it, Jeremy, do it!"

"Get the fuck off!" Jeremy screams at the ghoul, pushing it high enough with his arms to expose its head to Andrew's sight. The other man takes his shot just as the monstrosity opens its mouth wide to claim Jeremy as its meal. Its head explodes, the cranium bursting like bad CGI in a Hollywood movie as the gore and skull remnants shower down on Jeremy before the body is kicked away into the ditch. Andrew runs over to him, a bottle of water already dug out of his bag as he throws it into the other's face to wash the blood away quickly. Jeremy sputters and wipes his face, spitting to make sure he gets it all out. He looks up, sees Andrew standing there panting hard before the older man grabs him by the arm and slings it over his shoulder to help support the other as they run.

"Andrew, you-"

"Shut up and move!" Andrew yells, pulling Jeremy with him like a ragdoll. He already risked his ass for the kid, he won't do it again, or so he tells himself anyway. They run, uncoordinated and messy, the hoard behind advancing heatedly, all blood thirsty and ignorant of their fallen comrade. Andrew fills in what little silence that remains with profanities that would make a biker blush as he continues to run with his arm wrapped around Jeremy so tight that it hurts the other man. Jeremy says nothing and keeps running to keep up with Andrew, but stops short when Andrew comes to a sudden halt. "Oh thank Christ!"

"What? What is it?" Jeremy asks his voice laced with panic as the undead still chase them. Andrew doesn't say more and just grabs the other, dragging him towards a massive traffic pile up. It spans well over forty car lengths, the vehicles obviously abandoned at some point when things went to hell. Andrew takes to climbing across the cars as soon as they reach them rather than going around them. He figures that the undead are so god damn persistent that they'll climb over anything to get to them and with their lack of proper motor skills will probably fall flat on their faces.

Jeremy follows without question and ignores Andrew's offered hand as he manages to pull himself over the wreckage with ease now that his ankle doesn't hurt as much. There wasn't a tree in his backyard growing up that he didn't climb. Despite Andrew's swiftness on foot, Jeremy beats him in his ability to climb and in seconds he's already over to the other side of the pile up and waits for the other man. Jeremy looks about nervously now that he's found himself temporarily alone on the other side and hears the scuffling of worn shoes against metal. He gasps in surprise when Andrew falls against him and manages to catch the older man before he hits the ground and cracks his skull open.

"Thanks" Andrew breathes in relief before pointing a finger ahead slightly to the left. Jeremy follows the direction he points and sees a white van, probably for deliveries of flowers, maybe a pastry truck at some point, either way, it has intact, tinted windows and it looks spacious. It's a four wheeled refuge.

"That thing? We might as well slap 'free candy' on the side and drive it by a playground."

"Shut up and run, man!" Andrew demands, pushing Jeremy away from him as he runs to the truck and all but slams into the back end in his haste. Andrew pants and pulls the door open, gagging when the smell of stale, rotting food and years of filth reach his nose. It doesn't matter though, he's laid in worse and when Jeremy finally meets him at the truck he pulls Jeremy inside and closes the door behind them.

"Down, get down!" Andrew hisses softly, laying his head away from any of the old food and dead maggots still in the semi-empty van. Jeremy does the same, both of them flattened as far down as they can go on opposite sides of the vehicle. They stay away from the windows and keep their heads down. From the light spilling in from the front windows they see shadows rush by and soon hear the roars and confused groans of the undead outside. The only sound in the van is the ragged, harsh breathing of the two occupants and occasional buzzing of insects somewhere in the van's front seat.

Jeremy trembles softly, his adrenaline wearing off slightly to allow fear to creep in and he stares intently at Andrew from across the gap, his eyes wide and filled with terror. Again, he's just a kid with no real life experience of such horrors to make this all easier and even after three years there is no way he can become immune to these feelings. He still cringes when he hears the shrieks of the undead in the distance, still cries himself to sleep out of loneliness and of memories of family and friends lost, and still shakes with trepidation each time he nearly avoids running into one of the walking dead. He's far too young, too human, in the world run by the undead to be accepting it the way it is now.

Andrew knows this, sees it when he looks over at the young man folded in on himself and he watches as Jeremy's eyes dart back and forth from the windows as the shadows run by. He frowns and moves between the gap to reach out and gently touch Jeremy's arm to get his attention. "Hey, calm down, close your eyes, ignore them" Andrew whispers so softly that Jeremy has to strain to hear him but does as he says, praying that the charcoal coloured tint truly keeps them hidden from the eyes of demons. Andrew shifts when he hears Jeremy's breathing even out and is amazed at the boy's absolute trust in another person, but, then again, how many would come back and drag him away from such a massive threat? Not many, he muses.

"You came back for me. I guess all that talk was just bullshit, eh?" Jeremy whispers into the dark of the vehicle, and there is a smile in his voice which Andrew hears. "Thanks though, for being a decent human being."

"You're welcome" Andrew replies quietly into the dark and he blinks tired eyes as the light from outside slowly disappears into night. The monsters outside howl like wolves at the moon and the two men inside the van shudder at the grotesqueness of it, but somehow, in a weird way, it's a little less frightening with each other as company. Jeremy falls asleep and Andrew is thankful that the younger man sleeps softly with little noise and can continue sleeping even through the scraping and weak bangs against the side of the vehicle.

Jeremy continues sleeping and as the shrieks in the distance begin to fade, Andrew eventually follows, the years of suffering, of endless fleeing finally catching up with him as he falls into a dreamless sleep for the first time in months.