A/N: Here is chapter three :) I'm thinking about changing the genre from general to supernatural, but not sure yet, heh. Hope it sounds okay so far!

Chapter length: 2886

Onward!


Chapter Three: A Warning

"Please, 'lec."

"For me."

A swift jab downward of a knife, a blade given to him in friendship, only to end in blood…

Alec's eyes snapped open as he woke with a gasp, heart beating a mile a minute as he sat up, fingers clawing into the cement floor beneath him. Quickly, his eyes darted around but nothing was out of the ordinary – he wasn't in that building, answering his friend's pained pleas. He was in an abandoned store, in the back room – the pantry. It was cold and dark but safe enough, with a heavy metal door and thick cement walls.

He was safe. There was no reason to worry.

"Please, 'lec."

Alec closed his eyes, digging the heel of his palm into his forehead, clenching his teeth. Silas was okay now. He wasn't in pain, and he wasn't in this fucked up world. He didn't have to worry about anything more. Alec didn't have to worry about him. He didn't have to fear he was in pain, because there was no more pain where his friend was. Silas was away from all of this, just like his family.

That didn't mean he liked what he did. That didn't mean he wished he hadn't done it. Maybe the bite wasn't always fatal – maybe Silas would have been okay if given the time. Maybe Silas was immune.

Alec sighed and shook his head. No one was immune – that was insane. Too many people had died for anyone to be immune. If there was such a person like that, the government would have found them and used them to create a cure by now, to stop this infection from spreading, to stop people from dying.

As far as Alec knew, no one was immune. At first it spread through saliva. The infected individuals kissed their lovers, or let their children drink after them, before they knew anything was wrong. Then it spread to the lovers and children, and just kept spreading. Alec knew that was how the zephro mutation, or ZM, spread. The neutrohale mutation, NM, was different. Alec didn't know much about it because, as a young teen, he'd found it more useful to study zephroes, since they destroyed everything he had. It hadn't been a neutrohale that had taken his family from him. It hadn't been a neutrohale that bit Silas and left him begging Alec to kill him.

As far as he knew, there was no cure, no way to stop it. The CDC, to his knowledge, disbanded long ago, as had the government. It was every person for themselves now. There was no stopping this.

Life just kept going, and he was happy his family wasn't here to witness the end. He was glad their suffering was over, even if it meant he was here all alone. At least they were okay now.

I'll join you guys soon, okay?

And he would. One day he would join them, and wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, he got to his feet and lifted his backpack, slinging it over a shoulder before he pushed open the door to the pantry. He paused momentarily, glancing around, but was greeted only by sunshine and birds chirping. The sound made him smile. He didn't get to hear that sound very often, but it usually meant things were okay.

The presence of the mutations left the wildlife eerily quiet.

He pushed out of the abandoned store and down the street. He had no idea where he was going, but he couldn't stop. To stop could mean certain death, because eventually something – or someone – would show up. Humans might not have been as bad as the mutations, but they couldn't be trusted either.

Briefly, Alec's thoughts strayed back to the guy he met a few days ago – Caleb. He seemed nice enough, and he did save Alec's life, but the thought of the two of them traveling together was simply absurd. Traveling with someone meant there was a liability. They would just get in the way. It was much easier to travel alone.

Besides, people couldn't be trusted.

Alec had been alone for years now – ever since he killed his friend. At first he traveled with a group, but left when they became too inhuman for his liking. The world changed people these days, after all. Eventually they started becoming like monsters themselves, selfish and cruel, and he didn't like it, so in the dead of night, he left. And he'd been alone ever since.

It certainly wasn't going to change now.

"I wouldn't go that way if I were you."

The sudden voice left Alec flinching as he whipped out his knife and spun in the direction of the noise. He found Caleb leaning casually against an old house, the white paint chipped and faded.

"Huh?" he grunted, not lowering his blade.

Caleb pushed off the wall and approached him. "I wouldn't go that way if I were you."

"Well, I'm not you."

The blonde shrugged, blowing the strawberry strands out of his face. "Hey, you wanna get yourself killed, no skin off my back. Just thought I should warn you." He turned and started walking in the direction Alec had previously come from, quietly humming to himself as he fingered the strap of his gun, slung over one shoulder to rest on his back.

Alec sighed and shook his head. "Why are you warning me?"

"Lots of zephroes back that way," Caleb tossed over his shoulder. "Not that you care or anything. I mean, you don't need help, right?"

"Right."

Alec watched as Caleb disappeared from view, and then turned and eyed the direction the guy cautioned against. If there were really zephroes that way, how would Caleb know? If he'd been that way, he would have been attacked.

If he was trying to scare him, it wasn't going to work.

Hunching his shoulders, Alec moved forward.


Thirty minutes later, it started to rain. First it was a few drops here and there, but then, as always, came the downpour. Scowling, Alec moved toward the nearest shelter – an old gas station along the edge of the road. Weeds grew out of the long-empty pumps. Alec lightly pushed the broken glass aside and ducked under the bar on the door to enter.

Lightning flashed across the sky as he sat on the counter of the little mini-store, next to the cash register. It was open but no money was in it. With the amount of dust on it, Alec guessed there hadn't been any money in it for a long time. Money was pretty much useless now, unless one used it to make a fire or something. It was just paper.

Thunder clapped and left Alec sighing, because it seemed like this storm might last a while. It didn't surprise him – it was mid-April, after all.

April showers bring May flowers.

That was what his mom used to say. A faint smile crossed his face before he shook it away. He dropped his backpack next to him and unzipped it, pulling out a sandwich he'd managed to make himself earlier. Finding food was always the worst, but sometimes he got lucky. Today he managed to find bread and meat that wasn't bad. Somehow. He didn't want to think about how he got it.

Instead he focused on the food as he bit into it, releasing a contented sigh as he chewed. It'd been so long since he'd actually had food food, and not just something he could find in scavenging. It was a wonder he was healthy at all, since most of his meals consisted of old candy bars he managed to find while looking around. He'd tried his hand at hunting a few times, but he was never very good at it. He just wasn't good with guns, and it was too hard to get that close to an animal with a knife.

It was just as he was finishing his sandwich that he heard it.

Faint snarls, but there was no mistaking that hungry rumble. Alec swallowed down the last of his food, snapped his bag shut, and got to his feet, grip tight on the knife. He was stupid and forgot the gun in the bag, because he'd been safe last night, so right now all he had out was the knife. He wasn't sure how much good that would do.

You idiot. Caleb warned you. Why didn't you listen?

Because it seemed unlikely Caleb could know such a thing unless he'd been there himself, and Alec doubted the guy would be alive if he'd actually counted more than one zephro at a time.

Carefully, Alec stepped toward the side door, off to the left. He watched the broken glass he'd come through, but saw nothing moving outside, except the rain trailing down the sides of the windows. Lightning struck in the distance and the thunder drowned out the low growling for a moment.

He was just beginning to twist the knob of the door, freedom so close, when a growl sounded from behind him. Stiffening, he held tight to his knife and spun, coming face-to-face with the gaping jaws of a zephro. With a yell, he threw his arm up just as the zephro moved forward, managing to catch the mutation in the neck. Dark blood, almost black in color, sprayed from the wound and Alec's nose twitched. He almost forgot about the smell.

At the moment, though, he had one angry zeprho glaring at him. The wound did little except piss it off. If given the chance, perhaps he could have made it do some damage, but as it was, he was royally fucked.

He held tight to the knife slick with the mutation's blood and waited for the end to come.

But it never came.

"Alec!"

The voice started not only him, but the zephro as well. The creature snarled and hissed and then lunged at Alec, claws outstretched and swiping. Alec jumped back as much as he could, and felt it when a hand landed on his shoulder, yanking him away from the oncoming attack, but it wasn't enough. Pain sparked through his left side and he gasped as his legs gave way and he hit the ground on his ass, arms wrapped around his middle.

The zephro snarled and moved toward him, eyes focused on the blood already squishing through Alec's fingers.

"Hey – hey, come get me!"

The voice was familiar. Alec forced his suddenly blurry eyes to scan over and watch as Caleb stood in the center of the mini-store, aiming the AK at the zephro. The zephro snarled and rose taller – they had this nifty way of disjointing a part of their legs which made them seem taller somehow – as it locked in on him and sprang forward.

Alec tried to breathe out a warning, but it wasn't needed.

Crack! Crack, crack!

The zephro dropped to the ground, missing a head. Bits of brain matter and blood splattered all over the floor, and Alec forced himself to look away as bile rose in his throat. A second later, hands pulled at his arms, unwinding them from his middle. Angrily, he slapped them away.

"Go away," he hissed. "I'm fine."

"You don't look so 'fine' to me," Caleb said with a scowl. "I told you not to come this way – and what do you do? You come this way!"

"So did you."

"Only to stop you from walking to your death," Caleb snapped back.

Alec blinked at him, frowning.

"Let me look at the wound."

"Huh?"

Caleb narrowed his eyes. "Let me look at the wound." He pried Alec's hands away and inspected the claw marks. A faint smile crossed his face. "You'll live, though I'm not sure that's good news. You're kind of an asshole."

"Gee, thanks," Alec muttered. " 'cause you're such a ray of sunshine."

"Compared to you, yep. C'mon, babe – to your feet."

Hands wound around his arm and lifted. Soon he was on his feet – shaky, but otherwise steady.

"We need to get out of here," Caleb said.

A part of Alec wanted to argue, but he knew Caleb was right. The sound of the gun firing would draw attention. Any other zephroes in the immediate area would be there within minutes, and that was something they definitely didn't need.

As much as he wanted to push Caleb away, he knew the only reason he was standing was because of the way his arm was slung around the smaller man's shoulders. Right now, he needed Caleb to remain upright. Soon, though, he could go on his merry way and be alone.

But right now, he had to endure it.


They didn't go very far. Alec's vision kept fading in and out, but he knew if they went too far, he'd be unconscious right now. Caleb leaned him against a wall and disappeared for a moment, before he returned and helped him into a nearby house.

"Not safe," Alec said.

"You have no input," Caleb said with a smile. "But your opinion is noted, acknowledgement is pending."

Alec rolled his eyes and then groaned. Everything was starting to hurt. His side felt hot and cold with blood and the wounds throbbed.

Caleb led them through the house and into the basement. Alec's eyebrows raised because he hadn't thought of that. Most of the houses through here didn't have basements because they didn't get tornadoes. Eventually, he'd just stopped checking.

Basements were good places to hide simply because once underground, it became hard for the mutations to catch someone's scent. Of course, they could still break in if they really wanted.

They moved carefully down the creaky stairs and into the waiting darkness. Caleb sat him down on the last step and disappeared into the darkness. A moment later, Alec was blinded by light. Caleb moved toward him.

"We should be safe enough here, for now," he said, and then shrugged. "At least from the zephroes."

Alec nodded. Neutrohales were another matter entirely.

"There's medical supplies in the back, if you think you can manage."

He nodded again. Caleb rounded a corner and was gone for a few minutes before he returned with a duffel bag in hand and knelt in front of Alec.

"How do you know where everything is?" Alec couldn't help but ask as Caleb pulled out some bandages.

Caleb shrugged. "This used to be my house, once upon a time. I travel through here at least once a year."

"Why?" Alec never visited where he used to live.

"My parents are buried here. I try to visit them when I can," he said, giving him a look. "Now be quiet and hold still." He twisted open a bottle. "Take your shirt off."

Alec glared.

Caleb rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you look simply thrilling shirtless, but I just want to look at your scratches, tough guy. Or I could take it off for you. Your choice." Then he sat back on his heels, folded his arms across his chest, and glared.

Finally, Alec sighed and nodded. It was harder than he thought, taking his shirt off, and in the end Caleb had to grab the top and help him, because his side was far too sore for him to lift his left arm properly. He stared at the ground as Caleb dropped the shirt aside and moved toward him with the bottle.

"Lean back."

Alec sighed and did so.

"This is probably gonna hurt, you know, more than a little," Caleb said with a shrug. "But try to be quiet, please. You can claw the hell out of my arm if you want."

"I've had antiseptic before. I'll be fine."

"That wound is deeper than you think, babe."

"I'm fine."

"Whatever you say." With that, he tilted the bottle forward and the liquid ran over his wound and down his side.

And holy shit, it was liquid fire! He inched away from it and unconsciously reached out toward the closest, solid thing he could grab, which happened to be Caleb's arm. His nails dug in but to his credit, Caleb didn't make a sound or pull away, just continued pouring. Then he put the bottle down and grabbed a rag, dabbing at the claw marks. More pain spiked through him and he growled, managing to release Caleb's arm long enough to bat his hand away.

"Sorry, babe," Caleb said, frowning. "Had to be done."

He dropped the rag aside and picked up the bandages.

"Sit straight up."

"Fuck you." It hurt.

"I'm just about tired of your attitude," Caleb said, tossing him a glare. "If you don't want my help, fine."

"I don't."

The blonde tossed the bandages aside and got to his feet. "Fine. Deal with it yourself." He picked up the duffel bag, shoved everything but the bandages inside, and stepped around Alec, up the stairs.

"Where are you going?" Alec asked, watching him.

"Does it matter?" Caleb shot back.

With that, he opened the basement door – a pretty thick one by the looks and sound of it – and shut it with a snap.


A/N: And there's that ;) Hope it sounds okay! Thanks for reading and please review!

~Averick~