Rating: This chapter PG
Warnings: This chapter, language, AU.
Summary; How *do* you pick up your life when you are one of the last 20% of the surviving population from Z-day. Is there such a thing as happily ever after?
AN: So this is not just a sequel to ‘NEW DAWNS’ but it is also after the game, and that is why I slapped the AU warning on, because it’s pure speculation on my side what happens next. I admit I have played a little too much half-life, but just go with it. Some might argue that Nick is terribly OOC, and he could be, but I actually do think that he is a deep thinker when he is not surrounded by flesh eating zombies. This is un-betaed.
Prologue, in which we learn what happened next.
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There’s a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away
Come fly with me, let’s float down to Peru
In llama land there’s a one-man band
And he’ll toot his flute for you
Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue
Loving is easy when you think you might be dead in the next moment, you just sorta follow your instinct and throw all caution in the wind. Because you never <i>’really'</i> stop to think about the consequences. That is what happened to Ellis and I, or at least for me. It felt right, it felt perfect, it felt like I had finally found my way home in some twisted way, if we don’t count the circumstances, Z-day and all. But maybe the world had to end for me to change my ways, or at least see the errors in my past. Looking back was something new for me. Did I love Ellis? I think I did, yeah I did, and I think I still do in some way. But I should perhaps rewind a little, we got rescued and flown to the evac centre, it wasn’t exactly what I had had in mind, I don’t know why I pictured the CEDA evac centre as nothing short of the garden of Eden, which it was not. It was just a ship, it was cold, cramped and I would have been miserable, was it not for Ellis at my side. And since none of us spoke out upon our arrival, we were located in different places, we did meet up, happy and relived that the nightmare seemed to be over. Were we ever wrong, the nightmare was just about to begin. We snuck down below by the engines where the noise made sure not a lot of people would be there, and made love. At least I like to think that is what it was, not that the sex was greater than other sex, or the orgasm was supernova, but it was the reluctance from the both of us to let go of that spiritual link, oh yeah, and the physical too. I just wanted to stay there for the rest of my life, listening to Ellis softly laughing under his panting as he tried to regain his breath, his heart beating like mad, just feeling like Siamese twins.
We were not Siamese twins, we weren’t even close. We learned that when we suddenly had to get to know each other, like for real. I will never forget those forced conversations we had about nothing important. For other people it would be considered chit chat, but for me I got this sinking strange feeling, that we had nothing at all to talk about. Nothing at all in common. I told myself it was just me being a cynic, that we would be fine, we knew who we were. My mother always told me that love was not a sprint, it was a marathon, she would frown, and get this tired look to her face, bitter and worn, looking at my dad, and I knew it was not a marathon she cared to be a part of. This scared me for ages, I have been so afraid to suddenly wake up one day trapped like a little confused animal, or maybe with someone that I didn’t even know any more, that I always stayed clear of ‘serious’ relations. And before I met Ellis, I lived for the chase and the sprint. And here I was, desperate to tell myself that we would make the long run, we had faced death and.. well yeah almost the extinction of mankind for fucks sake, and we would damn well suck it up, and gain some common ground.
I could see it in his eyes, I could hear it in his voice. He stopped talking about engines and comics, and I stopped trying to make him understand the rules of black jack. We stopped talking all together, and in the end all there was, was what we had when we were alone, when we fucked, no words were needed, and so that was what we did. Like we tried to hang on to something we both knew was futile. I don’t really know if he got bored, or if he thought that I was just using him as a stress release, but I do remember how I felt when I saw him and that girl, Jackie, I still remember her name, that little bitch. I saw him smile, that little secret smile he had, and he caressed her cheek.. He caressed her gently goddamit! I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like everything was sucked down into my abdomen, only to settle as a chaotic tingling pain. I never called him out on it, but I knew, I just knew our time was over, that we had served whatever purpose it was we had in each others lives. I just turned and walked away, not making a effort to contact Ellis again, and I can only come to the conclusion that he liked it that way, because he never did try and contact me, even if we were on the same ship for another month.
Later I transferred to another ship, I didn’t leave a note, I just left. It made me feel like a coward, but on the other hand I was just not about to question the mutual silence, sometimes it’s better to just run. And what did I get out of all this? Looking back, what pieces of Ellis did I take with me? I am not sure, but I know that things didn’t really work out like I had planned them to, believe me, I tried everything. I cursed the world for not just swallowing me whole like everything else, why should I survive just to get this karma lesson or whatever the fuck it’s supposed to be! I wallowed in self-pity for a while, and I tried to pick up where I left, telling myself something about spots on a cheetah, but it just didn’t work. I still had my charms, I still had my poker-face and smooth tongue, but none of that helped that I felt like a black void inside, like I had safely tucked my heart into Ellis’ pocket and left it there. But then again, a hustler without a heart is great at his game, right? Wrong! I couldn’t even make my scams sound plausible, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even get with some faceless stranger and fuck it all away. And I hated Ellis for sucking the fun out of everything. I hated myself for doing what I promised myself as a boy that I never would, getting trapped in a marathon that wasn’t my choice to run.
It took me the longest time to admit that I had been an idiot for not confronting Ellis when I had him right there, a deck below me. I had overwritten my instinct, and acted like I would have in the old days. And here I was, broke, miserable, and angry with myself for allowing myself to fall in love, for this feeling consumed everything else, it polluted me, until I wasn’t sure what was me any more. One would think I knew, I was not the same man as before I met Ellis, screw z-day and the apocalypse or whatever the hell people said it was, there was a before and after Ellis.
I don’t even know why I transferred back to the ship I had left two years earlier, maybe it was momentary insanity. But besides conning people out of the lifesavings, the only thing I was really good at was cooking, funny I know, and people would not take me for a good cook, but I am, and I have been told so on several occasions. So I thought I might as well pitch in for the greater good of the survivors community, and took up a job in the kitchen at the evac centre where I was at the time. Thinking that I would spend numbing hours on something else than staring at the walls, and plus I sorta hoped I would meet some people who’d take my mind off things.
It was with mixed feelings I now found myself in the harbour, seeing the damn ship out on the water, holding my ID card and transfer papers in my hand. “Sir?” A voice said, I blinked rapidly and turned towards the sound, shaking myself from my spell. “Yeah?”
“Your papers?” The soldier asked, smiling a friendly relaxed smile. I handed him my papers and ID, which he looked over with a very superior expression, and I was sure he didn’t understand 90% of what the papers said. Finally he looked up at me, still smiling. “Very well, Mr..” He glanced down at the ID card.
“Nick will be fine.” I said, snatching my ID back.
The soldier nodded, looking a little puzzled. “Okay, you just report over at building 102, I’ll call ahead so they know you’re coming.”
I nodded, and looked out into the giant harbour area, building 102 huh? I saw building 14 and figured it would be tons of fun looking for bloody 102. “Straight ahead and then to your left, walk till the very end of the road!” The ID check-in soldier called behind me, apparently sensing my confusion. I turned halfway and smiled, “Thanks.”
The soldier waved and smiled, “It happened to us all the first time we came here.” He yelled, “Did you know that Evac station 26 is the…”
“I’m sure it’s fascinating, but I gotta run.” I groaned. Turning and walking in the direction he gave me.
I missed my white suit sometimes, like now when I found myself in the massive kitchen that supplied Evac station 26, dressed in the obligatory CEDA <i>Health & Nutrition</i> staff uniform, white and green. I fucking hate that uniform. It’s not that it makes my ass look big or something, but because it annoys me that the CEDA top goes on and on, in the radio, in pamphlets, you name it, about how important it is not feel survivors guilt, but to give your hands to the commune, so we can build a new world in the ashes, or rather rotting decay, of the old. But how are we supposed to rebuild the world, dressed like something out of an 80ies sci-fi movie, the fucking lot of us. The only thing telling us apart was the color code on the suits. Somehow this was not how I imagined that finally reaching the safety that Rochelle and Coach gave their life for, would be like this.
There had been major outbreaks of bugs and cholera, all in the wake of way too many people being forced to live on very little space. This was the third world we knew from the telly, just alive and in the flesh, right here around me, just polished and chromed. I ran a hand through my hair that was slowly growing out again. When the doctors had realised they could not contain the common disease outbreaks amongst the survivors, they disinfected us instead, taking away all possible living conditions for lice, scabies, you name it.. all killed with a shaver, fumes and ointments.
“You got all that right?” The kitchen chef said next to me.
“Yup.” I said smiling disarming, not having listened to a single word.
“Good,” He said, “Now run along and find your bunk, just be back at four so we can start dinner.”
“Will do.” I said, shaking his hand. With the hand not holding mine, he handed me some papers and another ID card. “Be sure to give your old one to the desk jockeys up on command bridge.” He said, smiling fatherly at me. “Promise.” I said, nodding.
I didn’t want to go back on the ship, I don’t know man, I am not normally the sentimental type, I am not someone who misses my long lost brother when it rains on asphalt or something. Yet this damn ship just represented a period of my life I never cared to relive. Grabbing the bull by the horns I got into one of those smaller boats and left for the ship. On the trip there, I watched the ripples in the water, wondering what I was doing here, what was it I hoped to find? Truth was that I had asked for this transfer myself, and in all honesty I was beginning to doubt myself now that I was here. Was I hoping for Ellis to jump in my arms and elope out into the infested wastelands of what used to be towns, cities and villages? To get back what I felt I lost? I didn’t even know if Ellis was still here, or if he even wanted to talk to me. And this was assuming he was still single. If that was my idea of a stellar plan, I needed to have a reality check, and I knew it. I laughed softly to myself at my own idiocracy, making some of the other passengers look worried at me. “What?” I asked still smiling, making them all look away. I reckon they were afraid I was crazy, because that had happened to quite a few people around here in the past. See people didn’t really all deal well with shooting their spouse, mother or children, and some people just never got over it. I know for a fact there is a whole part of the ship way down in the bottom of it, that is holding the incurable crazy. I don’t understand why they don’t just put a bullet through their head, but then again, some parts of humanity might have survived, bollocks it had to be respect and co-existence.
Getting to the command bridge and back was the same old shit as the last place I was, they just took my old ID card and wrote something down, I reckon they like to keep a track of people, now that all you have is your name and a survivor number, social security id’s died with civilization. And me? I am Nicholas E. Hayden 396-04092, Health and Nutrition team 3. Sounds fancy, but in reality I just make mashed potatoes and beans.