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How to Survive the Apocolypse Without Coffee

Chapter Text

Max used to be on the little league baseball team as a kid. His dad liked it, though he never came to any of his games. And he liked it because he got to get out of the house more often. Staying in that house was fucking awful, and Max would do anything to get out of there.

When the virus came around, his dad was struck down by it. If he were more like a dad than he was, that is, checking up on his son more than once a week, Max was sure he would’ve caught it too. He’s sure he would’ve caught it if his shitty ass school wasn’t on break.

The last time the TV actually worked, he saw that the world had entered an international emergency. Billions were infected, and millions were dying. Researchers were searching for a cure as fast as possible.

Soon after the electricity shut off, his dad passed away. It was the dead of winter, and he had no chance against the cold with his already weakened immune systems. Max threw a blanket over him when he discovered his father. Hospitals weren’t accepting new patients anymore, and I mean, he was dead. The morgue wasn’t open, and either way, how was he to communicate to them that his father had died? The phone had stopped working days ago. So this’d have to do. Max definitely didn’t cry. Why would he care if he was dead? He didn’t care. He didn’t care about him. He didn’t cry. He didn’t cry.

Max didn’t leave his father’s house. He didn’t have anywhere to go, anyway. His relatives all resided in India, and most likely were all dead by now. He locked the door to the basement and called that that.

Max was good at preserving food. His dad didn’t go out for anything but work, to buy alcohol, or when he noticed the fridge was completely empty (which, mind you, would sometimes not be for weeks). Max always smuggled some stuff from school home, and hid it in his room. There was enough preservatives in those things that they would last into the next century. Despite his attempts to ration out his food, by a month after Max’s dad passed, his source was almost completely depleted. Max was down to eating maybe a pack of animal crackers a day. Max was just thanking whatever higher being that their water pump was not electric, or else he knew he would be fucked right now.

Now that Max didn’t have anything better to do, and in order to preserve energy, he brought all his stuff downstairs into the living room. It wasn’t like he had much stuff, but anything he could move he brought. He brought his 3DS (which was still impossibly a little charged), the one baseball bat he owned, his pillows, his blankets, his ukulele(which he learned to stay out of the house yet again), his book bag, and finally, Mr. Honeynuts. The stuffed bear, though Max would never admit it, was his prized possession. He slept with the bear beside him, usually hugging up to it. It was ragged, but that what made it all better. He dumped all his books out of his bookbag, and debated on satiating his boredom by reading them.

No. The day he willingly read those books would be the day he died. When it got cold that night, he threw those books into the small blaze inside the fireplace to keep him warm.

Max jolted awake when he heard a loud thud from somewhere. He grabbed onto the bear with one hand, and a baseball bat with another.

He heard a loud groan coming from the basement. Max’s heart beat against his ribcage. Everything in him was telling him to run, but his fucking curiosity was burning like the fire inside the fireplace. Which, really by now was mostly embers.

Max picked up his backpack, and stuffed his bear in there, some food and a water bottle. Max planned on running, but louder than the roar of his blood was the thunk-thunk-thunks of the wood behind the basement door. Max was frozen in place, unsure of what to do. Of course, this was the beginning of every shitty horror movie, but in the situation, it was weird. Max didn’t know why, but he had to know what was behind the door. Max grasped the bat tightly, and walked towards the basement, trying to satiate his curiosity.

When the door came down his curiosity was completely satiated. As a matter of fact, Max felt like he could puke from the sudden overload of information. Oh, and more importantly- the stench.

The stench of the month-old, rotting corpse of his dead father staggering in front of him. It was like his father didn’t notice him.

Max held up his bat. His mind was running a million miles a minute. He couldn’t decipher a thing that was being screamed throughout his mind. His father’s eyes finally met his.

His father lunged, taking off in a dead sprint towards Max. Max dodged, and his father ran into the wall behind him. Max was sure how he was breathing wasn’t good for him. When his father turned and ran towards him again, Max swung the bat as hard as he could. He winced at the feel of what used to be his dad’s skull cracking under the wooden bat. His father stumbled backwards, but was still standing. Max took the first lunge, terrified for his life. He drew back and swung at his father again. The reanimated corpse crumbled to the floor.

Max couldn’t stop himself. He raised the bat over his head and brought it down on his head. Once, twice, three times.

Max snapped to his senses when he heard the shatter behind him. Max jumped three feet into the air. He looked around, but finally spotted what shattered.

The only family picture there was of his family before it all went to shit. His mom stood, holding a toddler him, and his father held onto her, his arms wrapped around her and his baby. Max picked up the shattered frame. a shatter went across his father and mother’s face. Max looked back over to his dad.

His skull was caved in, and he didn’t move, one inch. He was dead.

He was already dead, you shithead- What the fuck was that then? WHATTHEFUCKWHATTHEFUCKWHATTHEFUCK-

Max felt the static come back to his skull. Max couldn’t sort through his thoughts. All he knew is that he had to get out of here. He killed his dad- no he didn’t, he was dead before- he killed him again! The cops would be here soon. No, the cops were gone. The law enforcement was gone. The fights in the streets that went on weeks before was evidence of that. But now, as Max now noticed, everything was silent. Silent, silent, silent. Max would listen to his father’s shouts over this silence. He’d listen to the screaming and fighting in the streets rather than this silence. He’d listen to his dad’s- a lifeless corpse’s moans rather than this silence.

Because then, there was something. Now there’s only this silence, the static, and this picture of his family.

His dead family.

Max pried the frame off the photo. He cut his hands a little, but he got it out with minimal blood loss. He had to get out of here. Right fucking now.

Max stuffed the photo in his hoodie pocket and grabbed onto the blood covered bat. The boy stepped over the corpse’s body, and pushed the door open. He jogged into the dead of night.

Chapter Text

Max had seen TV shows and movies based on the topic when he scrolled through the channel guide. All the zombies were slow, and incompetent. These couldn’t be zombies, in life, the corpses were fast and strong, but still at least still stupid. If they were smart- Max shivered. He didn’t want to think about how many times he would be dead right now.

Max shivered in a tree in the forest behind his house, his hoodie not doing much to contain heat in the cold winter air. He curled in on himself. Max wanted to sleep, but knew he couldn’t. Even if the cold wasn’t a thing, he’d never be able to sleep. His mind wouldn’t clear. Every time he closed his eyes he saw his father’s caved in skull.

Max counted the pine needles on the trees around him until the sun finally came over the horizon. Max felt more safe- if that was even possible- going out during the day. Maybe he’d be able to scavenge some sort of food. He continuously thought of going back to his house, but he told himself not to. It’s probably leaking with zombies now. Max huffed. He’d just have to steal. It wasn’t like his delinquent ass hadn’t stolen before, and now it wasn’t like anyone would care. But it felt weird. And wrong.

God, what’s wrong with me? He slid down from the tree as carefully as he could, and landed in the dew covered ground of the forest. Max forced himself to be as silent as possible, though wanted to do nothing else than scream and make as much sound as possible. Max was a stubborn son of a bitch, and would not go silently into the night. He’d go silently into the day. Well- never-fucking-mind.

Max tightened his grip on the bat- which he thought would be impossible- once he reached town. Max saw a few moving blobs in the near distance, but his stomach growl forced him forward. His throat was parched as well, and he knew thirst was an avid killer. Max gritted his teeth.

Once the city began to form more clear shapes, he could hear more moans. The groans were increasing in frequency and loudness, and Max’s fists were paler than the moon. As Max made his way to a gas station, he had to run away from a few of the corpses. Max wouldn’t have dared try that last night, but now though they spotted him, they couldn’t run. Max rationalized that it was just that they couldn’t run during the day. Max didn’t want to chance it though.

Max pushed the door open to the gas station. It was very run down, from years of wear and tear- and also the few days- weeks- months maybe?- of this… apocalypse. It was obviously ransacked, but Max knew his way into the backroom. As he unlocked the door, he grasped onto the bat hard. Nonetheless, his heart leaped when he heard a groan as the metal door creaked open.

Max raised it, preparing for a fight. When the door was fully opened, he felt almost bad.

Sitting there trapped under a shelf was a disheveled ex-worker of the establishment. Max couldn’t tell if she starved when it fell on her, or if she died on impact. Nonetheless, she was pinned and couldn’t move. Max glanced around the room. He avoided the reaching grasp of the woman, and got over to the supply shelf. Just out of the woman’s reach was a pack of water bottles and some dry noodles, and a small assortment of candy and chips. He frowned, but still grabbed the goods and stuffed them in his bag, leaving it unzipped since all of it wouldn’t fit inside. The shelf started to scrape against the floor as the corpse began to drag it with her. Max decided now would be a good time to get out of the building. He shut the door behind him, gave a quick once through the store, finding a few more meager supplies- first aid and some canned meat- and rushed out the door. Max wanted to make it back to his safe spot with plenty of time to spare.

Max passed his old neighborhood as he was making his way back into the forest. There was no zombies around, and it seemed safe for the time being. Max did still need supplies, like to have a shelter. It wasn’t like he would go back after this. And it was only barely noon, if the sun said anything. There’s no risks, right?

Max’s body wandered back down to his house, door thankfully closed. Max opened the door to see dry blood crack over the wood panelling, and his father’s corpse splayed across the floor. Max gently dodged it, and ran upstairs to grab another bag so he could carry more stuff.

Max scavenged the house, bringing around anything useful to the kitchen. In the end, he had his DS, the rest of the food and water in the house, even more first aid supplies, and stitching supplies, old clothing, a tool set, an axe, a small tent, a flashlight, and his ukulele. Max knew he couldn’t fit it all inside his bag, and he groaned. He’d have to make another trip, or awkwardly trapeze back to his safe haven, leaving himself vulnerable to attacks. So make two trips it is. Max huffed. He stuffed the second bag with the necessities. That is, with the axe, the tent, his DS, the first aid, the flashlight, and his uke. Max put one strap on each shoulder to try to even the weight, but he still usually leaned to one side rather than another.

Max stepped over the corpse, and went back outside, preparing to travel back to the forest. Max felt ice fill his veins when he noticed the sun was much further down in the sky than he previously thought. He choked. He’d have to come back tomorrow to get the stuff. It would be dark soon.

Max rushed into the forest, letting himself find the innermost tree of the forest. He knew the forest rather well, if he didn’t say so himself. Max dropped the bags onto the soil, rolling his sleeves. He pulled out the folded up tent, and began to set up the spikes and such to put up the tent. The sun went down as he finished putting it up, and he placed the flashlight down in the tent to light up the area, but not attract much. Max shoved his bags into the tent. Max sat in there for a moment, but eventually came out with food, water, and his bat and climbed into the tree. He didn’t feel safe on the ground.

Max snacked on some potted meat and a few crackers. It was honestly the closest thing he had to meat in maybe a month, and it tasted heavenly, especially since he hadn’t eaten in a day or two. Max was content.

The day had exhausted the young boy, especially since he hadn’t slept much the night before. Max knew he wasn’t a person who moved in his sleep, but the distance from here to earth was still worrying, especially with flesh eating monsters around. But despite this, with a full belly and exhausted belly, Max drifted off into a light sleep, semi-waking him every time a noise was made. But sleep nonetheless.

Chapter Text

Consciousness came quickly, but left him groggy. His entire body ached. His neck was stiff because of his poor sleep posture. Max groaned, forcing himself to become aware of his surroundings. He was still in the forest, and all of his things were still below him. He was still in the tree.

 

He slid down the side of the tree rather ungracefully, but he landed on his feet with minimal scrapes. It was too early for this shit. He needed coffee. But of course, with his predicament, it would be quite difficult to get any. But he’d kill for some right now. Max crawled into the tent, and stretched as he laid back on the ground. The earth beneath him was still and hard, but it was infinitely better than the tree. He spread out like a starfish. Max just wanted to go back to sleep, but he didn’t. He had to go back to the house again before sundown, and Max knew he would sleep all day long if he had the chance.

 

And now, since he was more awake, the static came back. The images came back. Max couldn’t escape them, only when he was exhausted from what he could tell. Max groaned and forced himself up. Max decided he could leave the majority of his stuff here, keep the tent set up. Max pulled the duffle he got yesterday, and dumped all the shit he got yesterday out. He grabbed his axe and put it in the duffle, and the bat. He slung the bag over his shoulder, and pulled himself out of the tent. He decided he needed to go ahead and head out.


Max dragged his feet as he walked towards civilization. He didn’t know why he was so tired. Well, he could give assumptions, but it could be any combination of the many problems he had currently. He tried to make himself more alert, but he felt disconnected from his surroundings. It pissed him off to no avail.

 

Max finally found himself in front of the house. Max could’ve sworn he closed the door when he left yesterday. Max let out a low, throaty groan. Fuuuuck, Max thought, and raised his axe. There was definitely some corpses in here now. It had to be, it was his fucking luck. Max poked the door open with the axe.

 

When the door stopped, Max backed away, then after hearing nothing, he snuck in, placing his back against the wall. He left the door slightly opened, so he could make a quick escape if needed. Max’s heart hurt from hitting his ribcage like a truck. He slid his back against any solid surface along the wall. Max’s heart stopped when he saw that his father’s body had been moved. The blood stain was like paint on the ground, but the good shit, not the one that was peeling off the wall.

 

Max heard a gunshot, and took off. Whatever was in there was not fucking worth it if there was gonna be something- some one, shooting at him. Max sprinted, only hearing the thumping in his ears. He could feel the crunching beneath his feet, and he ran back to his tent. He shoved his over exhausted body into the tent, and laid there for a few minutes, heaving.

 

It wasn’t until he pushed himself up that he realized the searing pain in his left hand. Max bit his lip to refrain from screaming, but a muffled fuck was audible. He didn’t see how he fucking missed the small but obviously there hole through his hand. He dropped the axe to the ground.

 

The fucker shot me, Max thought, or maybe said, he didn’t know. He didn’t care. Blood oozed from the wound. Max winced. Max might be decent at treating most injuries, but his dad never kept a fucking gun in the house. Well, rather, Max never knew where he kept it. It was fucking New Jersey, and nonetheless in the suburbs of Newark.

 

Max just bit down into his hoodie, as he had nothing else to bite down on, and pulled out his first aid and stitching kit with his shaky right hand. At least it hurts, Max thought, his hood getting damper as he opened the first aid. If his left pinky and ring finger were getting numb, Max didn’t acknowledge it.

 

He pulled out the rubbing alcohol inside of the first aid kit. Max fumbled with it until he finally unscrewed the top, and then poured it. It felt like the wound was set on fire, but Max kept on. Pain works, pain keeps us alive, pain is good, pain is good pain is good-

 

Max dropped the bottle, but most of it was gone by then and it only splashed out a little bit. Max cradled his hand to his chest. His vision went blurry as tears edged at his vision and slid down his cheeks. He grabbed the gauze and dried his hand and eyes.

 

Max forced his shaking hands to cooperate with him as he messed with the top to the stitching kit. Max had some butterfly stitches. It covered a small surface. This would work, right?

 

Max’s hands shook too bad in free air, so he pinned his hand between his legs and wrestled with the stitches. Eventually, he got them to cover both sides, and to his annoyance(and great fear), both sides continued to bleed.

 

Max grabbed the bandages from the first aid kit, and wrapped it up tight. He saw blood coming up slowly through the layers, like a blood blister, but it didn’t quite reach the top. He couldn’t feel his fingers, but this was a better alternative to bleeding out.

 

Max laid the hurt ligament on his chest. He couldn’t tell how long he just laid there. Breathing. Just, doing an average, human thing. A thing he could have not been doing right now if the person hadn’t missed, or something. Whoever it was, they had a fucking awful shot. His head? wasn’t there.

 

“Hello?” Max heard in the distance, and he tensed up. What the fuck, What the fuck what the actual living fuck- This is it, I’m gonna fucking die. I can’t defend myself like this- Max laid still.

 

He heard rustling nearby, and he held his breath, and shut his eyes. He heard plastic rustle. A masculine voice yelled.

 

Gwen! Oh my god, I think he’s dead!” He whimpered, as he stumbled away. Max’s shit was in his duffle. Just play dead, just play dead, they’ll go away-

 

“David,” ‘Gwen’ said with a done attitude, but went to the front of the tent.

 

Suddenly, he felt hot breath down his neck and face. Max couldn’t control his nerves after that. He punched her in the face, and kicked her to the side as he scrambled out of the tent. Fuck that noise, Max began to run.

 

But suddenly, long, lanky arms wrapped around his waist. Max was trapped. These fuckers were gonna kill him. He wasn’t going to live to be a teen. He wasn’t going to live to have sex, or to drink, or whatever adults and teens do. Here’s where he was going to die. In a shitty excuse for a forest. He didn’t have a way out. He was stuck and Max felt his body go slack but his mind was racing. He didn’t know when they were going to hold a gun up to his head and just finish their job, but he knew it was coming. Max wanted to struggle, but he knew it was just going to make it worse on him. Either way, they were just going to hunt him until the end of days if he was to escape. End it now instead of suffering for days, weeks, maybe.

 

But Max didn’t feel or hear anything. Maybe he had died and he just didn’t feel anything? But no, he could still feel the hot throbbing of his hand. Max slowly willed his eyes to open, and his eyes burnt even in the low light. Max was… back inside his tent. He didn’t remember how he got there. He was against the back wall of the tent, and the two adults were covering the exit. They were in a hushed but heated conversation, and Max slowly began to shift for his bat. If they were giving him the chance, he was going to do the only thing he could do. Disappoint them, then kill them. But as his body became uncurled,  he saw the redhead(s?). The girl’s red hair was obviously dyed from before the event, and it was closer to brown now. Anyway, they turned turned to him and stuck their hands out in a sign of peace.

 

They’re planning on how to kill you, Max’s mind deadpanned, and Max crumpled again. The man crawled towards him. Max hissed at the red head, and he flinched back. Max hid his injury behind his back. They may know his injury, but they can’t reach it as easily if they are to hurt him. “Hey, kid,” The woman finally spoke, throat raspy. Max warily looked up to her, then looked away to the man again.

 

“You’re the bastard that shot me, aren’t you?” Max grounded out, trying to make himself sound older and more tough than he actually was. Max could virtually feel the man’s heart stop. “No, no, that was her-“ Max saw her death glare at him. “But yes, that was us… We realized you were just a kid-“ The man choked.

 

“I am not a kid, for your information, you fucking cunt,” Max swore, lying for the most part, but they didn’t have to know that. He at least got them to pause.

 

The woman spoke. “...Right. Listen, we wanted to take you back to our camp. I-“ Max didn’t let her finish, jaw halfway dropped in disbelief. “You fucking shot me, now you expect me to go anywhere with you? You’ve got to be shitting me. Take all my shit. I don’t care about it. Just leave me the fuck alone and let me live, Jesus fuck…” Max trailed off, running his right hand through his hair. The woman looked irritated. “Listen here, you little shit-“

 

“Uh, kiddo, listen,” The man cut the woman off, “We were extending that as a peace offering. We felt awful about it. We wanted to help you out, there’s a bunch of o- kids there!” The man tried to make it sound enticing.

 

“Why, now that you put it that way, absolutely! I’ll go!” Max snarked, and the man-boy couldn’t tell sarcasm. “Fuck no! You could take my organs! You could be some sick fucks trying to turn me into a fucking corpse!” Max screeched. The man looked dejected.

 

“I… Okay.” The woman took a breath moved towards the mouth of the tent. “I can see that’s your final answer.” The woman motioned towards the redhead, who sat frozen. “Get your ass up, David. We need to get going if we’re going to make it back before dark.” ‘David’ sat still for another moment, before pulling out a pen and paper. He shoved it to the small boy after scribbling something down. “H-here’s the address. Come by if you want.” David whispered, then scurried back out. “Again, we’re sorry about your hand! We really didn’t mean to! Alright have a good evening!” The man shouted outside of Max’s tent. “Bye, fucker! See you in hell!” The woman’s voice rang out. Max didn’t move until their footsteps disappeared, and then he only peaked out to see if they were hiding. The sun was setting, and they weren’t anywhere to be seen.


What the actual fuck was that.

Chapter Text

Max couldn’t climb up the tree that night- damn idiots, almost getting me fucking killed- so he zipped up the tent that night, and slept. Slept, meaning, falling to sleep for minutes, then waking up after either hearing some noise, or having a brief vision he was murdered by those corpses, or worse, the assholes that he met earlier that day.

 

Max still wished he had coffee. He was so exhausted. His hand became stiff and sore as he laid there. Max felt sick once he could feel the warmth of day on his limbs. Even if it was winter, he felt warm and sticky and sluggish. Max didn’t feel like moving at all. Nonetheless, he knew it was getting late in the day. And he needed to get something done today. Anything. Max sat up and sipped some on a bottle of water. He needed more water. He was running out. Max weighed his options to do with the remaining time of the day as he stared into oblivion.

 

I definitely can’t fucking go back to the house now. Excuse me, he didn’t want to get shot again, possibly and killed this time. Max’s injured hand throbbed in hot pain as he thought about it. He clenched his teeth. Guess we’re getting water at the lake today, Max decided. He pulled all the empty water bottles together and placed them into his backpack.

 

Nearby, Max knew there was a lake. Max used to sit there all the time before all this shit. He’d come home a mess from jumping in it some days to piss his father off. But that was before, he guessed. Things were different now. And he was alone. As always.

 

Max plopped down next to the lake, and drew out the emptied water bottles and absentmindedly filled them. The scenery around him was actually green, and thriving. If Max didn’t know any better, he wouldn’t have guessed that there was something wrong. But Max was smart. He’d like to think he’s smarter than most kids. Actually, scratch that. He is smarter than most kids. Especially now that a lot of kids are dead. He was practically a genius.

 

Max got up from his resting spot, once done, and packed up all the water bottles to go back to the tent. He took care not to hit his hand after trying to put his weight on it to stand. Which hurt like a bitch, mind you.

 

Max wandered back to his site, his throat felt drier than the desert, so he pulled out one of the water bottles and took a gulp. He felt like one of those survivalists on TV. He guessed he was, at this point. Whatever.

 

Max arrived back at the tent sluggishly, and tossed the water to the back corner. Max still had a little while before the sun set, and God, honestly he didn’t feel safe in the shabby little plastic tent.

 

Max picked up the axe, but immediately dropped it once it came in contact with his left hand. He growled. God fucking dammit. Max lifted it with his right hand. He was going to make a little shelter. Doing it with one, nondominant be damned.

 

Max swung hard at the tree, like how sometimes he clotheslined people at school. It hit the tree, but it didn’t chop it down like he expected it too. Max struggled with the axe for several minutes, trying to pull it out. Somehow, eventually, he got it out. Max hit it again, and went through the same process over again and over again until finally, the tree fell over. Max felt a wave of accomplishment come over him, before realizing-

 

He didn’t have a fucking clue of what to do now. And it was getting dark. Max searched dutifully in his mind. He couldn’t bring anything up in there. God damn it. He’d just have to wing it then.

 

Max pulled the thicker, longer branches over towards the tent, and cut them more to size to fit over it. It didn’t do much really, it made the tent even more cramped and cluttered really. It didn’t even give him any security. But whatever. It was dark out now, and he didn’t want to risk venturing out again tonight.

 

Previous nights, Max hadn’t noticed how fucking dark it was. But tonight, he couldn’t even see his hand in the darkness.

 

Max didn’t like the dark. He wasn’t scared of it- he just fucking hated it. He hated feeling helpless and vulnerable to things, and here, in the dark, he certainly was. Max felt like he needed to move, but it was also like all blood flow stopped moving to his feet. He withheld a whimper. Fucking pussy. He clenched his teeth.

 

Soon, the feelings passed, leaving his heart racing. Why the actual fuck did that have to happen now? Max pressed his tongue on the back of his teeth. Max shut his eyes, turning onto his non-hurt arm, using as a makeshift pillow. He needed sleep. He was going crazy.

 

Max, for another night, laid there, barely lucid, but still awake in the stuffy, unsafe world. He thought his life was at his very worst before all of this. Now, Max wished he could go back to that time. He didn’t care if his father was neglectful. He didn’t care that his mom was dead. He didn’t care that he had no friends. He just wanted the humdrum of his life to come back. He wanted the monotonous whispers to be there, not the silent cicadas that screamed in his ears.

 

But would that ever be accomplished?

 

Fuck if Max knew.

Chapter Text

When Max could next truly say he was lucid, his stomach rumbled uncomfortably, and his throat was itchy. Max sat up, groaning, and downed a half empty bottle of water. Max took off his hoodie to reveal his undershirt. Even in the winter, he felt like he was in the middle of some forest fire that was literally melting his face off. Max groaned.

 

Unlike the day before, Max had no plan of moving during the day, unless it was to rush out to use the shitter that was the wondrous outdoors. He had to go out a lot nonetheless. Everything hurt, nevermind his hand. Everything was awful.

 

Max could barely focus on anything that day besides the pain in his abdomen, but he did his best to distract himself. He did everything he could think of, eventually deciding to use the rest of his battery on the DS. He had to beat this one fucking trainer. His anger at dying- or well, fainting- so many times helped distract him from the pain from his abdomen, and that of his hand. That and, the eventual accomplishment of beating the trainer. His DS shut off after that. Max thought he would’ve killed himself if it had died before he beat the trainer. He tossed it away after that.

 

After departing to take a shit, he pulled on an old sweater. He was cold again, even as it warmed up. It was complete bullshit. Max wanted to play some ukulele, but his hand refused to even lift the weight of the stringed instrument in his hand. It could handle some shit on the DS, but no, a ukulele is too HEAVY. Complete. Bullshit.

 

Max felt the air get slightly cooler, indicating the onset of the night. Of course, fucking of course, his gut decided to start to scream at him to go outside and take a shit. He wanted to die. Max felt around for his bat, and then he somehow found the flashlight. His eyes burnt as he turned the flashlight on, resulting in him immediately turning it off. He threw it to the side. He was just going out for a shit.

 

When Max unzipped the tent, Max noticed something was off. Heat lightning struck through the sky, though there was barely any clouds in the sky. Oh yeah, and the sky was red. The sky was fucking red. What the actual fuck. Max would’ve fucked off back into the tent if he had a choice, but his stomach screeched at him to get out. Fucking hell. Max creeped out of the tent, bat in his right hand. Just take a shit, go back in, go to sleep. Get this fucking over with.

 

He swore he heard a snap in the bushes nearby, and his grip tightened on the bat. Max bit his tongue. He wanted to scream. You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die, you’re gonna- His mind, which had been like swimming in honey all day, had suddenly been swarmed by a horde of bees. It wouldn’t shut up again. Of course, this happens to him. It’s Max, after all, he deserves all the shit. He deserves to suffer. He just wanted to take a shit.

 

Then of course, life took another shit on him. The next few moments became a blur. His mind was coated in tar and molasses.

 

Max felt it before anything else.

 

He felt the claw marks on his skin, digging into his left arm.

 

He felt teeth sink into the outside part of his arm.

 

He heard his scream.

 

Max flung his body away, running on pure adrenaline. His left arm swung uselessly backwards, and he saw a small, undead girl in front of him. She screamed loudly, causing Max to stumble backwards. She tried to tumble over him, but he pushed her back with all his might. She stumbled back, letting out a harsh scream. While she was distracted, Max batted her dead in the skull. She stumbled dopily, and Max somewhere in his mind found the common sense to kick her knee in. He was getting dizzier, and missed more times than he wanted to. But that didn’t take away the pleasure of her moans of pain when he nailed her.

 

Eventually, though, she stopped screaming. Max wanted nothing more than to slump over and go to sleep, but it was like molten lava was poured onto his mind. And his fucking arm. Another mass of corpses ran at him. His blood thumped dully. This was it. This was how he was going to die. He really was fucked this time. He stumbled onto his feet, not wanting to just give up. He raised the bat, then-

 

All the corpses were gone. What the hell?

 

He felt the dirt, the noise. It wasn’t silent. Max didn’t know where he was. He couldn’t remember. Was he dead? He didn’t know. He didn’t think he was dead, given the very, very real pain in his left arm. Actually, it was going numb too. So maybe he was dead. He could taste- blood? It was irony. Not like the literary device, like, the actual thing. Periodic table bullshit. Max had tasted blood before. No, he wasn’t some vampiristic fuck, he had his fair share of fights. He could smell- well, he could smell. His sight was too shitty right now to see anything. It was already dark as hell, and the darkening at the edges of his vision surely didn’t help.

 

Max felt light-headed. He needed sleep. How long had it been since he last slept, truly? He didn’t remember. Actually, now that he thought about it, he didn’t remember a lot of things right now. His mind felt numb, like it was filled with static. But not bad static, like, one that was good. One that was just… Peaceful for once. No images, no coherent thought, no nothing. He must be really tired. The only time that everything shut up was when he was tired. It was nice. He should just sleep. He was safe. It was cold- but warm. It was silent, yet loud. It was dark, but light. The world was still.

 

He drifted off into the night as he distantly felt himself being lifted from the ground.

Chapter Text

David had never seen a kid’s eyes look so- dull, and hardened, before he met Max.

Gwen and David had left the kids for a supply run. David felt weird about going into other people’s houses to loot their stuff, but Gwen reasoned that they weren’t using them anyway.

She was proven wrong once she shot a little kid in the hand. She was aiming for his knee, but missed. Gwen was horrified once she realized she had shot a human kid. She stood frozen, but David had already moved on to chase the boy. So Gwen was forced to follow.

Gwen thought David was over exaggerating when he said he thought the kid was dead. But he laid there, unmoving, and she thought she actually fucking killed a child. She almost shot him again when he suddenly bolted from his spot, thinking he had become a zombie.

Gwen and David felt awful. This kid was just trying to live, and they nearly killed him. But he was a kid. He can’t survive for long alone. They didn’t want to watch another kid die.

The next few days, the two argued about the ethics of going to see the kid again. It went so far as to one point, a few of the kids told them to shut the fuck up, they were going to get them killed. It did little to deter them, but they did quiet down.

It was the night of the Blood Moon, the night when the hordes would most often come. The kids were old enough and intelligent enough to handle their own guns, but David didn’t want to leave them there. But simultaneously, there was a kid they could kill by leaving them alone out there.

And suddenly, his legs were carrying him back towards where they were only a few days ago.

He was too late. He was too late. He watched as a zombie come behind the boy, and viciously bite into his arm. David winced as he heard the loudest scream he’d ever heard in his life. David’s vision went blurry as he looked to the ground. He failed, he failed again.

He flinched when he heard cries and thumping noises mixed with groans. He finally looked up, desperate hope filling his heart. The hope grew as he saw the boy sitting on top of a now mangled corpse. The bat broke unceremoniously, but the boy seemingly didn’t realize. He was bleeding heavily, and looked insanely panicked. His eyes were locked in the distance, and he raised the remaining half of the bat over his head. David followed his eyes. A few yards in front of him was a rather large horde running towards the curly haired boy, unaware of the adult. This is my chance. My last chance.

Make it count.

David immediately cocked the hunting rifle, and aimed at the mass of zombies. He fired at as many of them as he could, keeping them away from the boy. The whole mass had been easily annihilated.

But the boy was pale and looking like death, and while he was shooting he seemed to have lost consciousness. The pallor and the dark red blood contrasted on the boy’s skin. David gently picked up the boy. He didn’t even stir when he was lifted.

That wasn’t good. That really wasn’t good.

Now, David had minimal medical intelligence, but he could tell clearly he was deteriorating. He had gone into shock. And God, the blood was oozing out… David quickly removed his bandana, and wrapped it snugly above the wound, tying a knot. He needed something for now to help stop the bleeding.

He had to get back to the base. They had supplies and safety there. And Gwen had way more medical experience than he. He just had to make sure the boy survived until they made it back. Then maybe he could save him.

The boy wasn’t heavy at all, but it felt like it took a lifetime longer to get back to the camp than it took to get there. David made the leap over the pit with the body in his arms, and crawled into the base. He shoved something against the wall to block it for a while. “Gwen!” He shouted. While she began to sneak towards him angrily, he checked the boy’s pulse. Weak.

“David, what the fuck? Stay quiet! They’re going to hear…” Gwen said as she stomped towards him, but stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the body dangling in his arms. “David,” she looked into his eyes and whined in fear. He only gave a pleading look in return.

“I don’t know what to do!” She whisper shouted, but David shook his head. “You were in college to become a medical doctor, help him!” He returned, and pushed the boy towards her. She furrowed her brow, and rushed towards the cabin for the injured. She quickly placed him on the bed. “For your information, I only got through 3 semesters before i switched my major.” She said, her voice low. David bit his lip before speaking. “Better than any of us. I’m going to go join the other kids.” David rushed back out, still covered in the kid in front of her’s blood.

God, what to do? Gwen grabbed all the medical supplies they had set out, then checked the boy’s pulse. Alive, but deteriorating fast. She moved his left sleeve- rather, what was left of it, and ripped off some cloth off her shirt. The camp they fortified had plenty, it wasn’t a big deal. She grabbed a pipe they had picked up in a raid, and then quickly, but carefully, formed a tourniquet. She wrapped the cloth around the top of his shoulder, since his wound was in a bad spot for her to stop the bleeding easy. Once she got on the tourniquet, it seemed to stop flowing, which was great. Gwen felt around where she placed all her goods at, and found the IV bags full of blood, painkillers and saline they had snagged from a hospital a while ago.

Gwen made it first and foremost to get the blood back into his system. Gwen didn’t know exactly how much he lost, but he lost a lot. She hung the IV on the head of the bed, and stuck the IV into his right arm. The boy gave a small whimper- which sucked for him, but was great for her. He was responsive.

She then grabbed all the cleaning supplies she could, and worked on his arm. Gwen felt awful as she heard his moan of pain as she worked on his arm, but it had to be done. The blood still came out, but it was so slow it was negligible. She wrapped up his injured arm snugly, and took a step back.

She was sure the boy had other afflictions, but he was out of the woods for now. She could spend more time with these. Though she heard gunshots outside, she worked with a semi-steady hand as she fixed up the very boy she shot.

Chapter Text

You know the stereotype that pain is hot, like an iron? Yeah, bullshit. Max felt like he was just dipped in a lake and now he was sitting in negative 20 degree weather. He guessed they meant it like it was so cold it’s hot, but whatever, it’s bullshit.

 

Max couldn’t tell where the fuck he was, but he couldn’t muster up the energy to move, or even lift his eyelids. He could just tell since you know, there was a cot underneath him. That was a weird but pleasant feeling after sleeping on the ground for- however long. Max wanted away from the pain, and exhaustion overtook him again. He let himself fall asleep.

 

When Max woke again, he was just fucking sore. It wasn’t pleasant in the slightest. His throat was drier than the Sahara, and after laying there for a few minutes, he decided his body wouldn’t let rest anymore until he finally quenched the fire in his throat. Max tried to move.

 

His eyes snapped open when he felt a tug to his arms when he moved. The sudden income of visual information caused Max to wince, and squint. The area around him wasn’t that bright either, and he felt ice run through his veins as he shifted to sit up. Fucking fuck fuck, what the hell happened? Max bit down on his tongue.

 

He willed his eyes to accept information again, and he looked around. Around him was an unfamiliar scene. The edges of the room would have been dark, if it were night, but the windows allowed some of the sun’s light to enter the room. The remainder of the room was lit up by the gentle light of candles.

 

The room was filled with cots, Max counted about eight, excluding the one he was on, so nine. It wasn’t the largest of rooms, so it overwhelmed the surface area of the room. Max wondered why they couldn’t just unclutter the room, as on the other side of the room there was miscellaneous objects, ranging from usable objects- such as food and water, medicine, or medical supplies- to completely useless objects- such as paintings, toys, and seats. Completely useless to him, anyway. Why the fuck were there so many beds, speaking of completely useless things relating to him?

 

More importantly, where the fuck was he? Why the fuck was he not in his tent? His memory blurred. More alarmingly, his vision swam as he tried to sit up, stars bursting into his vision. He fell back to his back, gasping for breath, as the pain knocked it all out of him. God, he just felt like he was stabbed with 10 melting-hot knives.

 

Once his vision cleared, which took decades in Max’s eyes, he looked around his immediate vicinity. He was tucked in snugly into a scratchy woolen blanket. His arms poked out, one with an IV, leading to the bedside hanging with two bags, one he could only imagine was painkillers as until he put weight onto it, he didn’t even recognize the heavy, tightly wrapped, reddish white gauze/cast around his left arm. He could only feel it if it was moved, and well, Max couldn’t move it himself so, it wasn’t a big problem.

 

Max’s eyes sprung to the door as it creaked open, and Max jolted up like he was frantically trying to stay afloat in a water rapid. Which was remarkably hard, with a bum arm. Max yelped in pain uncontrollably, and the person at the door startled.

 

Max couldn’t hear the person, as he was in such pain he could only focus on it. His vision went dark again.

 

When Max came to again, someone was above him. He let out another small yelp, but this time was unable to move. He was fucking terrified. He wanted to run- he needed to get out- but something was keeping him down. He bit something, a rubbery-ish object, his common sense telling him it was skin. In surprise, however, the ligament let go. His right arm swung, and came in contact with more skin.

 

Another pair of arms came and he accepted his fate. He couldn’t escape, he was trapped, god, he was trapped. He was stuck and about to be killed, again, he was fucked.

 

“Calm the FUCK down!” He heard over the calamity in his skull. How the FUCK am I s’posed to calm down?!

 

A hand pressed down into his chest, and he panicked further. Then, a voice of reason spoke to him.

 

They’re breathing. Breath with them. He hadn’t noticed how fast his breathing had gotten. He didn’t notice how fast his heart was beating. But now, someone was breathing, and so was he. Well, sort of. Not really, but he was getting there.

 

While his vision untunnelled, it remained just as blurry. He saw two blobs standing above him. He couldn’t discern their expressions. He hiccupped some, but his breathing returned to normal. He wiped his eyes, but one of the people grabbed his arm. There was blood flowing down it. He looked back up to the person.

 

It was the fucker that shot me. They came back and they’re finally gonna end me. He tore his hand away, wincing when his right arm came into contact with his left.

 

They haven’t killed me yet. They want something from me. Max caught his breath. Beside her, stood the man with fiery red hair, the one who just stood and stared. His eyes narrowed at both of them.

 

His voice was sore as he spoke. “What the fuck do you want from me?” He rasped. The two adults looked at him, then back at each other. Max’s emotions crashed over him. “Don’t look at me like that, you fucktards, and answer my question!” Max held himself with his right arm, uninjured still besides the blood from tearing out the IV that was securely in his arm.

 

“I- Kid,” Max glared but said nothing, “You almost died out there. I didn’t want to leave you out there!” The taller one stated, and the other shoved him mildly. “Excuse me, we didn’t want to leave you out there.” The natural redhead declared. He seemed genuine enough, but there was something Max couldn’t place in his voice. Max gulped.

 

The woman stepped forward, and Max pushed himself back. She sighed. “What David means, is that we’re sorry for shooting you, and we didn’t want to leave a kid out there, especially after getting hurt. And seeing how bad you were hurt,” She gestured to his left arm, “We’re glad we got to you in time.”

 

Max looked between them, and narrowed his eyes. “What the fuck is wrong with me, anyway? What sorts of drugs are you pumping into me?”

 

The woman continued, when David- yeah, I remember, that was his name - stared confusedly, like he was lost in the strain of conversation. “Yeah, well…” Gwen trailed off. She was trying to hide it.

 

“I’m not a little kid, bitch. Tell me what shit you’ve done to me.” Max bit, and Gwen narrowed her eyes at him. “Fine, you little shit,” She ground out, but held no actual malice in her gaze. Her gaze was actually rather- mournful, almost.

 

“It’s Gwen, for your information, and if we didn’t find you in the time we did, you’d be dead, kid.” She spoke bluntly, and David squawked. Max stared for a brief moment, but shook off the shell shock. He couldn’t make her think he couldn’t handle a little near-death experience. He nodded shortly, trying not to make himself too dizzy.

 

“Yeah, well, this zombie got a good hold on your arm, and bit into it. It nicked a vein and tore your muscle there practically in half. And your hand wasn’t the best looking either, and it’s a little infected. But either way, you’re stable now, in both injuries, as long as you don’t get any dirt in either.” Gwen droned on. “And you had a mild case of dysentery, which is what the IV was for, you know, and to eliminate as much pain as possible.” She bit. Max took the information in for a few minutes. Well, the muscle made sense given the fact he couldn’t move it-

 

“Is my arm useless now?” Max looked down to his left arm. God fucking damn it, it was just his luck,

 

“No- well- for now it is. But you can get near full mobility back on it through some PT. Good thing it happened to your left arm, though.” She chuckled. Max stared at her with a confused look on his face. “And why the fuck is that good?”

 

She just shrugged. “It’s just that, you know despite you being hurt, ‘least it was on your non-dominant arm?” She had a lilt in her voice. Max frowned and glared at her with a malace. “I’m left handed, asshole.”

 

She bit her lip. “Sorry, I guessed.” Max looked away from her, and let silence fill the room. David moved beside him, and cleaned the wound made by the IV ripping out, then fiddled around, looking for a vein. Eventually, he stuck it in his right wrist.

 

Max’s adrenaline high was wearing off, and everything felt awful, but at least he felt tired again. He wasn’t able to think much anymore, which could’ve been either the tiredness, or the drugs feeding into his system, but either way.

 

When David or the bitch tried to initiate conversation, he skillfully ignored it, or growled. The adults took this as their leave, and they said something that Max responded to, but didn’t really remember saying.

 

Once it was silent and he felt safe once more, he let his body fall into unconsciousness once again.

Chapter Text

For the first time in a while, Max woke up well rested. Max momentarily had to place where he was and what situation he was in- which he wished he could’ve been ignorant to for at least a second longer.

Because of course, when he became aware, a semi-familiar red haired devil walked in.

“Hello, kid! I see you’ve woken up!” David cheered. This is way too much for this early in the morning. What fucking time was it anyway?

“Hey, Dick-vid,” Max snarked, and David raised his eyebrows at the boy. David tried to speak, but was cut off abruptly. “What time is it?” Max’s arm was still snugly wrapped up, but less blood sunk through to the top now. Still couldn’t move it though.

“Kiddo, it’s one in the afternoon,” David paused. Well, I guess it isn’t early, but my point still stands. “Would you like me to grab you some food? The head chef- one of my very own kids-“ He stuck his chest out pridefully, “Is an expert in cooking!”

Max’s stomach felt empty. He was already trapped here, so what’s the point in turning down the offer of free food? “Whatever, sure,” Max looked down, and he could feel energetic eyes bore into his head. “Okay, kid! I’ll be right back.” David cheered. The door opened again, but footsteps stopped at the entryway. Max just wanted to be alone, for Christ’s sakes, what the fuck was keeping him here?

“Hey kid, I know you know my name, but I never caught yours! Would you mind telling me?” David said, clearly to him. God damnit.

He didn’t lift his head to see the man. “It’s Max.” He murmured. Could he leave now?

“Well, I’ll be back with your food in a minute, Max!” The overly excited adult hopped from the doorway and the door swung shut.

Thank God. Max lifted his head and glanced around the room again, looking at the cots and couches, and the teal thing underneath the cot beside him.

Wait a minute, that wasn’t there yesterday.

It jumped out at him, and he jumped back, agitating his arm. “Hello there!!” A girl’s voice squealed. It wasn’t a corpse, at least. But she grabbed onto his left side of his body, sending immense pain throughout his body.

You know what, I take it back. Fuck you, God.

“Get the fuck off of me, douchebag!” Max screeched, and reluctantly, she let go. “Hello there! I’m Nikki!” She pulled at the straps of her red overalls, and kicked a foot out. “You must be the kid David and Gwen have been fighting about!”

Max didn’t know how to respond to that. “Uh… Yeah, I guess?” Max said hesitantly. She appeared to have no sense of personal space, as she sat at the foot of the bed, where his feet would be if he was not so fucking short.

“Well, Max, what’s gotten you so messed up? You look awful.” She gestured to his arm. He glared at her and watched her carefully.

“I think one of those corpses ended up mauling my arm,” Max didn’t remember too well, trauma does that to someone, “but your mom or something shot me too, so that’s another thing.” Max snarled at the thought of her.

“Mom?” Max caught a sad glint in her eye, but as soon it was visible it melted into giddiness. “You mean Gwen?” Nikki laughed so loud he could swear you could hear it from a mile away. “She’s the- the teacher’s assistant!” She said through giggles, and Max’s face burned red.

“Well, how the fuck was I supposed to know? What type of shitty school was still in session when this bullshit started?” He shot at the girl, taking a defensive status.

After she calmed herself down, she continued, with a big smile on her face, though her eyes held something different- something Max couldn’t place.

“I dunno. I’m just glad I wasn’t home with my parents when it all started! Then I’d be dead!” She chuckled. Max frowned slightly. They sat in silence for a moment, and Nikki looked away, and he couldn’t see her face.

“Anyway,” Max changed the subject, “Who the fuck was your teacher? And, how did you get in here?”

“The door’s unlocked! It’s not that hard to sneak in and hide when Gwen’s sulking and Mr. Green being himself! Oh yeah, and that’s my teacher. Well, not quite anymore, and he insists on us calling him David, but, habit, you know,” She shrugged. “He and Gwen have taken care of us since all this started!” She smiled at him.

“Hold on, us?” Max questioned. Max didn’t know if he could handle more than 3 other people. He might implode. Given the fact he didn’t know them, and they didn’t know him, they could turn against him easily. Too easily. He wasn’t going to fuck with that.

“Well, yeah, we’re a class!” She said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “There’s like eight of us kids!” Max let out a groan. God, this was gonna suck. Just let it heal, get it back to normal and then you can get the fuck out of here. It’s that fucking simple. At least it was a small class. Max didn’t know what he’d do if it was classes like at his school, with 30 to 40 in each class.

Max shifted up in the bed, much to his body’s disagreement. Nikki looked at him with a hint of pity on her face. “You must be really hurt, huh?” She murmured. Max glared at her. He didn’t need that. He didn’t need her sorry fucking expression. He needed her to leave already. She, however, didn’t take the hint and if Max could set the place ablaze, he would. “It won’t be too bad! Gwen has a lot of useless degrees, so I’m sure she has one pertaining to this!” She cheered. Max wanted to go back to sleep to avoid this vibrant girl, with too many colours splayed across her body.

Max took a breath of relief when David came in with a bowl and gasped when he saw Nikki.

“Nikki! You’re not supposed to be in here right now!” He scolded her gently, but she just skipped out past him. He took a glance behind, seemingly watching her going off into the distance. He sighed, and gave a meek smile to Max. “And Max,” David reprimanded, “You’re not supposed to be sitting up young man!” Max rolled his eyes, and David dropped it before approaching.

“Sorry, I’m sure you just wanted to be ready to eat! Anyway, here’s some food.” He sat on the right side of the bed. He placed the food in his lap. It was some macaroni, with a minimal amount of cheese and it looked like some ramen flavoring was put on top of it. The macaroni itself was steamy still, which Max was confused as to how it got so hot, when it was so cold out. “Sorry, the kids ate all the food from this morning! I had to make you some of this fresh over the fire we have.” Well, I guess that solved my mystery. Go figure, you fucking idiot.

Max simply stared at it for a moment, before awkwardly grabbing the spoon from the bowl, and attempted to lift it with his right arm. The noodles slipped and his hand shook violently, and Max was starting to get angry, which made the problem worse. God, the worst part of being a leftie.

“Do you need help eating?” David looked at him with… Something in his eyes. Not pity, or avarice, but Max couldn’t place it. It annoyed the fuck out of him. “No, I- got- it.” Max dropped it three times and the hot water splashed out and dropped on his skin, and he growled in anger at the burning sensation on his skin. David took the spoon from his hand. Max tried to grab it, but David scooped the food up.

Max pouted when the food approached his mouth, and refused to open it. They held their gaze on each others, David still holding that something in his eyes, and Max glared. Eventually, Max blinked, and groaned. He opened his mouth, and David happily put the food into his mouth.

It was salty, almost too salty, but it was edible. He hadn’t had pasta in months, so it was a nice trade off, he’d say. David continued to feed him, and Max reluctantly continued to allow him. Soon, the food had disappeared, and Max laid back down after a jolt of pain. David smiled, and picked up the bowl. “I’m going to be taking this back to the kitchen! I’ll be back in a bit to check on you, okay?” Max nodded tersely, and David took his leave. Max stared at the doorway for a moment, and then, something clicked in his mind.

In all the zombie apocalypse movies, whether it be shitty low budget, or slightly less shitty corporate movies, if you were bitten, you became a zombie. You were done. He got it now. He finally got why he was still alive.

They wanted him to suffer. They wanted him dead still, but they only wanted to drag it out. They wanted him to be in pain, feel it morph him, and then he would become one of those shitty- things.

Max wasn’t going to let them get away with it.

Chapter Text

Max ripped the IV out of his wrist again, blood flowing down his right arm. Max stared at it before sitting up, and placing his feet on the ground. It was freezing cold, his shoes had been removed- and he came to realize, so had his clothes. They had him in an oversized yellow t-shirt, that came down to his knees. At least it covered his hurt arm, even if his arm felt like it got stabbed every time he moved.

 

Max needed a gun, or something. Put out his misery, or some poetic shit. Maybe some medicine, but then again, he heard that was long and painful. He didn’t want to suffer.

 

Max crept over to the door, and opened it slightly, sliding out through the crack. When his arm hit the door, he bit his lip. God, that fucking hurt, he grabbed onto his forearm and held it close to his chest to keep the rest of his arm from swinging.

 

Now, where would they keep their guns, Max looked around. There was no cliché signs on any of the doors, so he had to do it the hard way- sneak into every building, and search it clean.

 

Max looked around for anyone who could see him, and took to the woods next to him. His feet already ached- god, this was going to take forever.

 

He walked through the woods slowly and precisely. He made he didn’t step on some branch, though he wasn’t sure his 80 pound body could break a twig with his bare feet. In what felt like forever, but had in reality been a few meters away, he found two structures. One looked makeshift, but new, and the other was destroyed.

 

Max crossed the path quickly, and then ran to the side of the stable structure. Max tried to blend into the wall- which was rather difficult, given the yellow tee. He opened the door, slowly and gently. He scanned the area- no one was in there, surprisingly. Good.

 

Max was shocked at how organized it was, and how tidy. Their guns and weapons hung by the door. This was going almost too perfectly.

 

Max couldn’t pull the trigger on a shotgun, his stubby right arm certainly couldn’t pull the trigger, so he rifled through the guns and found a pistol. Max checked the bullets, and then began to fiddle with it. He put the gun on his forehead. Max had heard horror stories of people surviving a frontal lobe shot, and even though this was harder, he still wasn’t risking it.

 

His hands began to shake violently. He thought he would make it longer than this. He was good. Okay, maybe he wasn’t that good, but he thought he was doing decent. He didn’t want to do this. But I have to.

 

“Hey, Max!” He flinched as he heard he door open loudly and his name was shouted. Nikki stood in the doorway, and froze, with a confused look, with a touch of horror and fear. “Wh-what are you doing?” She stammered, and Max took the gun from his head and pointed it toward hers. She put her hands up as his finger began to tighten around the trigger.

 

He had no clue how to use a pistol besides from what they did in movies, but she didn’t have to know that. “Back out the door, do it. And don’t go run and tell the adults.” Max’s voice quivered as blood from his vein dripped to the floor. She paused. “Not before you tell me what you’re doing!”

 

Max furrowed his eyebrows. “I’m ending it before I die anyway.” He growls, trying to sound convincing.

 

“What do you mean?” Her arms began to drop. His face scrunched up in pure anger at her stupidity. “ I’m going to die! ” Max shouted, his voice cracking. “I’m going to die,” He said more quietly, his vision grew blurry, and Nikki became nothing more than a greenish dot. “I was bitten by one of those fuckfaces,” He flung the pistol towards the outside, “and now I’m gonna die because of zombie bullshit logic, because that’s how that works right ? So let me just kill myself-“ His voice cracked, “...So I don’t suffer.” Nikki looked at him and the gun, then sprinted towards him. He tried to lift the gun, but it was knocked out of his hand before he could. “You silly idiot!” She laughed, and Max balled up his one good fist. See? They want you to suffer.

 

Nikki grabbed his right shoulder. “There is no infection!” She smiled, and he did the opposite. “Bullshit, why are people turning, then?” Max pulled away, and winced as his left arm was slightly jarred. Nikki shook her head. She rolled her sleeves up, and raised her arms.

 

He saw hundreds of bite marks all over her arms, some rather deep, but others were barely visible. He looked between her and her eyes. “I get into a lot of situations,” she said with a smirk, then rolled back down her sleeves. “I don’t know why but, no one dies from this thing. They just turn into those things after they die.” She said. Max studied her, and decided she didn’t have a reason to lie.

 

“Nikki? Have you seen Max?!” David burst into the cabin, and looked around frantically, before his eyes finally settled on him. “Oh Max, what were you doing? Are you alright?” David ran over and kneeled and turned him around, and he growled as he moved his left arm, and batted him away. “Nothing, just-“

 

“Max thought the bite would kill him!” Nikki exclaimed. Max glared, betrayed. “Why the fuck would you say that?” She just laughed and said with a matter-of-fact tone, “I’m an agent of chaos.”

 

That little fuck-

 

David grabbed Max’s face. “Kiddo, that bite may have killed you when you were bleeding out, but there isn’t some crazy virus carried in the zombies! You-“

 

Max pushed him away. “I know. Nikki told me.” Max waddled backwards, and his foot hit the pistol, jarring his arm, once again. He bit down on his tongue harshly. He had to get out of here. They won’t stop staring. He had to get away.

 

“Nikki, Gwen needs you, I think! She’s still in the mess hall.” David turned around and smiled at the green haired girl. She looked at him for a moment then nodded. “Okay!” She cheered, and turned out the door. David didn’t turn back around. Well, he supposed they weren’t staring anymore. But the air was stifling and hot, and his shoulder ached, but he couldn’t do anything about it, in here.

 

“Max.” Max flinched at the quiet voice that suddenly filled the room. “Uh, yeah?” Max whispered. David turned around, but he couldn’t see his eyes. “I’m so sorry.” He said, looking at him for a brief moment then dropping to his knees, in front of the small boy. “I’m so sorry we shot you.” His eyes were glassy.

 

Max stepped back, “Yeah, yeah, it’s okay, or whatever, can we-“ And David cut him off once again.

 

“No,” He said, “It isn’t okay. It wasn’t okay. We’re so sorry.” He said, looking at the boy. Max didn’t bother to speak in that moment.

 

“But, we want to make it right. I want to make it right.” David’s dull green eyes looked into his. “At first, that’s why I came after you.” David spoke. “But that night, when all those zombies came,” David’s breath hitched. “I thought you were a goner.” He choked out. Max’s eyes furrowed.

 

“I decided right then and there, that I wouldn’t let you get hurt anymore.” Max watched as tears trailed down the older man’s face. “I don’t want to watch a-“ He paused, “a kid die.” He finished. Max didn’t know what to say, or what to think. Max was hot. Max’s arm hurt. The air was thick. He wanted to focus on anything else but this, but, alas. It was all encompassing right now.

 

“So please, don’t think I’m, or we’re, trying to hurt you. I want to help you. I want you to survive.” David placed his hand on Max’s shoulder, and Max searched deep in his eyes. He wasn’t lying, from what he could tell. But, just because he was telling the truth didn’t mean he was going to trust the others. He didn’t trust anyone, period. It was his thing. He wasn’t going to start now.

 

“Fine, cool, creep.” Max bit, mostly to get him off his back. David held on for a moment longer, then lost grip on the boy’s arm. David wiped his eyes away, and smiled waterily. “Okay. Okay.” David breathed. “Let’s get you a new IV! If you keep on ripping these out, I’m going to have to put it on your forehead!” David cheered. “I bet your arms getting sore, huh?”

 

David led him back to the infirmary, talking all the way back. The air became cool again, and the thickness dispersed as they walked outside. Max didn’t speak as David found a vein for the IV, and didn’t say goodbye to him as he left. He just sat there, sorting through his thoughts.

 

God, what a weird place.

Chapter Text

Max must have fallen asleep at some time, because the next time he remembered, was Gwen waking him up. “Wake up, asshole, it’s time to eat.” Gwen said, and Max groaned. He opened his eyes slightly, but bright lights shone into them, forcing them shut immediately. “Why the fuck do I gotta get up?” He snarled, shifting slightly onto his right side to avoid the sun.

 

“You’re stuck with us too,” she huffed, “And since you were feeling good enough yesterday to get up and try to kill yourself, I think you’re good enough to take your sorry butt to the dining hall and eat with us.” Gwen said, with an inch of pity in her voice. Max growled, but knew he brought this on himself. “Whatever.” Max mumbled, and moved to get up, his arm aching now that he had nothing else to focus on. “Shit,” He hissed. He couldn’t see Gwen from his position, but he could feel her pity-filled eyes boring into his back. It made him all the more angry.

 

“Do you want me to help you-” Max cut her off before she could get the question out. “No, I’m fine, you cunt. Who knows what you’d do? You could try to kill me again, and I’m so hopeless right now, so I definitely couldn’t protect myself.” He snapped, adding malice into the last statement. Gwen sneered. “Fine, whatever you want.”

 

Max swung his legs over the side of the bed, after working very hard to get his body to agree with him. He looked to the wooden floor, and saw the yellow, oversized shirt that was covering his body. “I look like an emaciated asshole.” Max hissed, pulling himself off the bed. “I need a change of clothes.” He hissed, turning to look at Gwen. She scowled. “You’ll need to take off the IV, and that might not be a good idea right now-” Gwen said, as if she had a choice. Max stared at her in the eyes. “I want. A change. Of clothes. I want my hoodie.” Max commanded. Gwen rolled her eyes. “What hoodie?” She said as she walked to the far corner to gather some clothing. “Asshole, the hoodie I wore before this shit happened. She turned back, a tank top and jeans in hand, and a pair of shoes. “This is all that we had to fit your tiny body,” she snarled, “and you didn’t have a hoodie when you came in. You were in some short sleeve shirt we had to destroy since it was absolutely ruined, along with your other clothing.

 

Max’s heart dropped, but he didn’t let it show. “Then it must be in the tent, then.” He said, some of his dejection showing through his voice. “Whatever,” He mumbled. “I hated it anyway.” He grabbed the clothes out of her hands. He looked up, and saw that same look that David once gave him. Filled with something he didn’t know, and it irritated Max on her. It looked weird and gross and wrong on her. Max simply turned away and began getting changed.

 

Max tried to lift his arms, but both the IV and his fucked up left arm didn’t allow him to. Max growled. Gwen approached him, suddenly with gloves on her hands. “Let me help you-” He took a step back. “I’ve got this! Fuck off!” Gwen grabbed his arm, and he froze. “No, you really don’t.” Gwen sighed, and then bent down. She began to remove the IV diligently and carefully, taking care not to injure the puncture site. She pressed down on the exit wound once she removed it, and then put more gauze around that arm. “If you don’t stop removing the IV, I’ll have nowhere to put the needle.” She sighed defeatedly. “And either way, we only have like, one left.” She said. Max rolled his eyes. He pulled the oversized shirt over his head with his right arm awkwardly, jarring his arm slightly, making a pain burst through him. After he got the shirt off, he immediately pulled the tank top on, which was loose fitting due to his small size. Max groaned as he lifted his left arm with his right arm, and put it through the sleeve. He somehow got his pants up, and slipped on the shoes, leaving his shoes untied.

 

After the endeavor of putting on his clothes, he leaned against the bed, body achy again. He was dizzy, and the edges of his visions were going dark. He grabbed onto the bed as hard as he could to ground himself. He felt a pressure on his right arm, helping to keep him up right. Blood rushed through his ears.

 

God, how useless.

 

Once his vision and hearing started to come back, he noticed Gwen holding onto him, grabbing onto his right bicep tightly. “Max? Are you okay?” She said, and Max shook her off him, head getting a little muddled in the process, but he didn’t let it show. “Fine. Let’s just go eat.” Max mumbled, and pulled himself to the door. He left, and looked around. The sunlight shone off the pine needles, directly into his eyes, giving him worse of a headache than he already had. He rubbed his eyes, and looked to the dirt.

 

“Follow me,” Gwen said, as she exited the infirmary, and turned right. “I mean, I don’t know where the fuck this is, so yeah, no shit, follow you,” Max snarked. He could almost feel Gwen’s irritation, though she said nothing. She led him slowly, and they took breaks when Max got too dizzy. He hated it, but he literally couldn’t get his body to move at moments. He was so fucking weak . He knew he was a disappointment, but he didn’t think he would have so many problems.

 

Eventually, they made it to the dining hall, and it was a lot emptier than he suspected, or maybe it was bigger than he expected. There was a few people left, but it was mostly empty. He noticed Nikki, and David, but there was a white kid with an afro, and another kid with an overgrown undercut, with messy, curly hair. Max sighed. He wasn’t even hungry at this point, though he didn’t know the last time he ate. The food didn’t look much better than food, and it reeked, but Max could tell it was an attempt of chicken noodle soup. He sat down beside Nikki, and in extent, the boy with the white-afro. Gwen brought a bowl over to him, and in front of him sat a sad bowl of chicken noodle soup. How the fuck do you fuck up chicken noodle soup.

 

Max ignored the green haired girl as she blabbered on, and took the first bite of his food. It was certainly watered down, most likely to make it last between however many kids, but to Max’s now growling stomach, it tasted like the best shit ever. How long had it been since he last ate? And how did he not realize he was hungry? Max slowed down slightly to savour his second bowl that was placed in front of him.

 

“Someone was hungry, weren’t they?” The boy with the afro said. Max rolled his eyes and tried to spoon the last noodle in the sad bowl. “Shut up, bitch. Leave me be.” Max growled.

 

“First off,” The kid stuck up his head, “the name’s Neil. And second off,” he looked down at Nikki then over to Max, “you scared my sister. You should apologize.” Max narrowed his eyes.

 

“You’re lying. You two look nothing alike.” Max said as he began to sup the brew. Neil gave a slight smirk. “She’s my step sister.” Max could feel like he was lying, but he didn’t really care anymore. He wasn’t going to hang out with some stuck up cunt. “Whatever? Sorry, Nikki.” Max said, and finished his bowl. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he stood, finding his feet agreeing with him more now that he ate, “I gotta go not die some more.” Max did his best not to trip over his own feet as he stepped out of the dining hall.

 

“Hey! Max!” David came charging towards him, with a little black person with a cloak on behind him. “Gwen had to go do something with the other kids, but told me you needed your IV replaced again. I think this is the last one, so-“ Max cut off his ranting. “I don’t need it anymore. I’m pretty well hydrated, and that food didn’t seem to upset my stomach, so I’m fine.” Max avoided the topic of his arm, which hurt like a little bitch.

 

David frowned. “Max, are you sure? We’re fine with using the last one-“ Max growled. “I’m fine. Just let me be.” David sighed. “No, but I can’t you see. Nerris and I,” he gestured towards the person behind him, “have to do something in the infirmary.” his voice ended with a lilt, leaving something to be added.

 

“Being there restores my healing mana! And we’ll need all of it we can to win against the evil demons of the undead!” She? He? They said, and Max rolled his eyes. One of these weirdos. Max turned his attention back to David. “So, you don’t mind us coming with you to the infirmary?” David asked, and Max shrugged. “Sure. Gives me something to do other than look around and be bored.” Max sighed, and the three of them walked to the infirmary.

 

Max was even more bored than expected, since the two were just sitting in the middle of the room, meditating. He glared at them, looking for any signs of life, and then he saw Nerris’s eyes open, and they poked to David. “Don’t move! We’ll lose all the mana we’ve collected so far if we both leave. I have to go get something!” Nerris ran out of the room as soon as they got those words out, leaving before any objections were spilt. So Max furrowed his eyebrows and simply watched as David looked inquisitively around the room. Did he really think this shit work? He must be an awful teacher, being so gullible.

 

Nerris arrived back sooner rather than later, with a book and a rather large bowl in hand. Nerris placed the bowl down beside where they and David were sitting, then approached where he laid on his bed. “We can’t have any negative auras in this vicinity,” they lisped, “So have this book so you don’t bother our work.” They mumbled, handing him the book. They rushed back over to David, a few feet away, where Max couldn’t reach without getting up. Max looked at the cover. He’s read his fair share of books, he guessed, but he didn’t really like to read. He shrugged, and guessed it was better than being bored. He knew it was going to be shitty, the title reading simply, “Ai on the Side”. Reading the blurb, he found the book was about a detective named Shuichi and his robotic assistant chasing after the infamous Phantom Thief, and finding out their true identity, and obviously entailed some enemies to lovers situation. Max cracked the worn book open. Better than nothing to do.

 

As Max read on about the otaku version of detectives and thieves, he found he was comfortable in the silence that was covering the room. It was rather relaxing, despite the situation. Max didn’t know, maybe he could learn to live with this.



Chapter Text

He couldn’t get used to this. Not now, not ever. He’s never been an ‘early riser’, and he is never going to be one. He woke up of his own accord- except on school days, when he would set his alarm clock as late as he could with accounting for walking to school. He hated being woken up in the morning for breakfast. He never needed breakfast before, and he doesn’t need it now.

 

A few days into the routine, Max refused to get up despite the wake up call, since his stomach was starting to bloat with all the food he’d consumed in the past few days. No matter how much calling Gwen did, he wouldn’t get up. He made it clear he wasn’t going. Gwen gave up though, eventually. Gwen left him be, and he forced himself upright, since that bitch made sure he couldn’t sleep anymore. He picked up the book, of which he was almost halfway through now, and started from where he left off. The detective had finally located the Phantom Thief, but could not get the money he needed to travel there. It was a pretty poorly written book, but he enjoyed it ironically, he guessed.

 

Max had just gotten back into the groove of reading when he heard the door fly open. He jumped, since he hadn’t been paying attention, to only see Gwen standing at the door. She looked rather grumpy- then again, when did she not- and carried a platter. On the platter appeared to be some beans and a thin sliver of meat they had hunted yesterday. Max rolled his eyes. He wasn’t really hungry, but he wasn’t going to let food go to waste. She placed it in his lap, and he began to eat with his unsteady right hand.

 

Gwen sat at the end of the bed, obviously wanting to say something. But instead, she left the atmosphere to get awkward as the only noises in there was the fork clanking against the plate. Max paused after he gulped down half of the salty meat.

 

“What is it, Gwen?” He said, and she looked at him, like she almost forgot he was there. “Oh, right.” Gwen mumbled. Max furrowed his eyebrows. “Just fucking spit it out already.” Max hissed, and Gwen furrowed hers in return. “Just give me a second!” She raised her voice slightly. He rolled his eyes and stabbed his fork in the beans.

 

“We’re going to have to start doing therapy on your arm soon, if you want to be able to move it again.” Gwen said after a moment, and Max frowned, but nodded. He knew this would come to this- it was a really bad injury, he already knew. “When should I be able to move it in full capacity again?” Max asked. Gwen bit her lip.

 

“Given the severity of the wound,” she glanced at the white gauze, that didn’t show discoloration anymore, “it’s quite possible you won’t have full capacity of your arm again. But,” She quickly began her next sentence to prevent him from worrying, “We will be able to get it close to full capacity. You’ll be able to move it and most likely have control of most of your fingers.”  Gwen finished. Max paused. It worried him that it really was that bad, but he wasn’t going to show it. Like he wasn’t going to show he missed his stuff like hell. “Right. But when?” Max rolled his eyes. He was becoming too pacifistic.

 

Gwen sighed. “Probably a month or two for basic movement, if we start now. Three or four for your motor skills.” Max furrowed his eyebrows. So I’m going to be a burden for forever, huh? Max sighed. “Cool. Whatever.” he pushed the remnants of his food towards her. “I’m full.” He said, and she grabbed the platter. “Okay.” She said, and got up. “And hold up, I’ll be right back.”

 

Why couldn’t she just leave him alone? Why couldn’t they all just leave him alone? This wasn’t normal, at all. They weren’t normal. Max picked back up the book.

 

He got through a sentence when Gwen came back in, a familiar backpack in her grasp. He furrowed his eyebrows as she sat at the edge of the bed. “I saw you were upset about the hoodie bullshit,” She unzipped the- his- book bag, and pulled a blue jacket out of it- his blue jacket. His eyes widened. “So I went to your tent and grabbed what I could at the time. I’ll get the rest, but I grabbed what I thought was important. She handed the opened bag and his hoodie to him. He looked in, and sifted through the various items. His hoodie was rather beaten up- he could only imagine why- and so was the rest of his belongings. But, nonetheless, his DS, his uke, and Mr Honeynuts were here. Max looked up at her. “What’s your angle?” He said in a low voice, pulling the hoodie awkwardly over his head, and holding his bear in his right arm. There was a rather large tear in the right arm’s sleeve, but he wasn’t going to do anything about that right now. “No angle,” She replied, and Max couldn’t tell if she was lying. “I just wanted to try to start to make it up to you.” She mumbled.

 

Why? Why me ? Max furrowed his brow. “Thanks, I guess,” Max mumbled, and Gwen looked satisfied, and turned. Max held back a scoff and rolled his eyes. Obviously. He knew what was going on. She just wanted to get the burden that she almost killed him off her back. He began to feel a little nauseous when he looked at his found things. Of course, they didn’t really care about him. He never even wanted them to. He hated this feeling of- feeling of being a- novelty. A concept. Just something to make them feel better about themselves.

 

But all thought came to a stop when Gwen looked back at him from the door. “Hey twerp,” She said, something unidentifiable filled her voice, “if you need anything, ask me. We’ll start PT this afternoon. You’re with us now, and we don’t need you to get killed when there’s another horde. Rest up.” She turned and exited through the door.

 

You’re with us now? What does that even mean? The way she worded it sounded like she wasn’t going to do this out of feeling bad for herself- but- rather out of a place where she actually cared about him. What the actual fuck? She’s faking it. She’s got to be. There’s no fucking way someone who shot him would care about him. There’s no way a group of people trying to survive would accept and care for him. Hell, the people who knew him for ten years didn’t even do that. What’s their fucking angle? There’s no way-

 

There’s no way some pieces of trash could care about a little shit like him.

Chapter Text

God, it was just her luck. They just had to find the most jaded kid ever in some stupid apocalypse movie come to life. And that kid just so happened to be fatally injured only days later. And now, all Gwen knew was that David had said she needed to make it up to the kid somehow.

 

So here she was, risking her life (and David’s unwavering trust) to get this shits stuff. That’s just about how this year is going so far. God, Gwen didn’t even know how long it had been since the start of this. It felt like years, but it was still cold, cold enough for her to feel the bite of coldness on her cheeks and in her throat as she jogged through the twisted forest. She carried her gun on her waist, she had to run into one of these undead fucks on the way, right?

 

God, how did she get into the profession where she had to deal with snot-nosed brats on a daily basis? She, of course, would love to blame her parents. But really, besides keeping her grades up, they didn’t care what she liked. She hated children with a passion, they made her anxiety spike like a mother fucker. She ran out of her anxiety meds a week into the apocalypse and god, did she wish that she had refilled them before the world went to shit. Some points in time, she thinks, she wishes she died with the rest of the world.

 

Nonetheless, she was here, and she wasn’t going to do anything to hurt herself when she could possibly be one of the last people on earth. Not including the kids, of course.

 

The kids… Most of them were decent, a bit eccentric. Something you could probably guess with the fact that they were private school babies, their parents certainly coddled them at home and sent them to what they thought was the best school around. In reality, it was really just a shitty Christian school in Maryland. Hell, most of the kids in the class she half-taught weren’t even believers in Jesus, if that says anything. But the kid they just found was a prick.

 

She didn’t even know where they were, if she could guess by the kid’s sort of accent, it was Upper New York or New Jersey. Linguistics was the one major she didn’t switch to, so she didn’t know accents. But with the way this kid acted, he could probably be from the slums of Newark, for all she knew. He was a little asshole. Somewhere in her, she knew she could relate to this kid. But if he was as bitter as a kid as Gwen was now, she didn’t want to see him grow to be an adult because god, he was a little cunt.

 

Gwen’s jog became a walk as she began to approach familiar territory. Or what she thought looked familiar. The scene was now covered with several-days old blood, and zombies wandered around a tiny tent. Gwen stitched him up but… she didn’t realize just how much blood he lost. Gwen frowned. They gave him some blood, and his body reacted well, and they still had some extra. But it may be unhealthy now to give him blood, since his blood cells are already regenerating themselves. No wonder the kid’s cranky.

 

Gwen carefully pulled out her gun from cover, and turned off the safety. She carefully aimed for the head of the first zombie. Gwen willed her hands to stop shaking. Just… a cabbage, right. She breathed out, and pulled the trigger. The four zombies began to scream as she began to shoot at them. The first zombie didn’t go down with the first shot, and she panicked as they began to ramble towards her. She took a good look at a tree, and boosted herself up it so as they came at her, she could shoot them. She was just glad she had a silencer on the gun.

 

A few minutes later, with far too many bullets shot, all the zombies were dead. She hopped down on the other side, avoiding to jump on the corpses, and began to look through their pockets. One had some bullets on him- perfect- and another had a water bottle, that was pretty much it. Decent find. She ran towards the tent, knowing even with the silencer, there’d still be more coming if she didn’t hurry. The tent was always small and she could barely fit into it, especially with the branches covering the tent. She felt claustrophobic, especially since she couldn’t turn around, and she left herself unguarded to the world. Anything could happen. Which spurred her to work fast.

 

Even with the fast paced work she did, she took time to look at the boy’s items. He had a DS- dead, she knew with a pang. She hadn’t played a video game since college, probably. She stuffed it in her pocket. Once they got the electricity at the camp working- a few of their kids were working on that, with her supervision and input- she could charge it. Maybe play it, probably give it back to Max.

 

As she sorted the objects, she began to realize how young Max must actually be. To be fair, the kid talked like he was an edgy 13 year old, who hated the world, but it was clear with the plush bear and messed up hoodie that he must be at least a few years younger than she thought. She thought back to his size. He looked like he must be 8, now that she thought about it. Or maybe he was undergrown. She didn’t really know. She found a banged up backpack, and stuffed the hoodie and the teddy bear in it. She also put the ukulele that was thrown over by the front corner in the bag, careful of the strings, and zipped it up, letting the head of the instrument stick out of the bag. There was some food and other clothes scattered around, but she was sure he was bored to death right now. The ukulele won’t do him much good right now, but maybe it would motivate him to work with her to start therapy. She didn’t know shit about how this kid worked, even with her psychology minor.

 

She felt the heavy DS weigh her jacket down. This kid… Even if it was dead, which she found out when she took it out and flipped it open, she was sure he probably wanted it. She probably shouldn’t keep it from him. She’ll charge it once the power’s on. He can keep it for now.

 

She had a lot more important stuff to do, anyway. Important adult stuff. Right. She put the DS in the bag, and rezipped it back up and pulled herself out of the tent. She zipped the tent back up, and took a look around. Nothing. No zombies, no people, just… Silence. It was almost eerie. She was clearly, and completely… Alone.

 

She shivered. Even though she’s wanted a moment of silence ever since this started, this was fucking creepy. She took a deep breath. She had to get out of here, and get back to camp. She probably wouldn’t bother him with it today. Maybe she would when he was being more pissy than normal.

 

This kid was a complete pissbaby all the time, now that she thought about it harder, but, oh well. She was too.

Chapter Text

Max bit his lip to try to stop a groan of pain from escaping, but failed. Gwen lifted his arm to try to instigate him being able to move it. Gwen looked at him with pity, and he squirmed under her look. Gwen looked away from him. Max glared at her as she still lifted up his arm. “Hey, at least you feel it.” Gwen shrugged. Max tried to keep his glare but, when she raised it past his shoulder, he gave a wince and a small yelp. Gwen gave a quick apology, and then lowered his arm to his side. Max wrinkled his nose.

 

“Can you move your fingers?” Gwen asked, kneeling near where his left arm was dangling. Max rolled his eyes. “Do you think I can move it?” Max bit. Regardless, he tried his best to move it. He felt his forearm muscle give a groan of protest, and he immediately stopped trying. The pain lingered slightly, but most of his pain disappeared after he stopped trying.

 

Gwen nodded. “They moved a bit. Did you feel it?” Max looked at her. “I felt pain in my arm, but I didn’t feel them move,” Max said truthfully. Gwen nodded again, and marked something down. Max looked away. “Are you done yet?” Max wouldn’t admit it, but his arms ached. Gwen audibly sighed and he heard her clothes crumple with the movement of her head. “No, we need to do a little more.” Max groaned as she grabbed up his arm gently and lifted it.

 

This is so fucking pathetic. Max thought to himself. I can’t even move my own fucking arm. How useless can I get? She let his arm fall to his side, and he felt the dead weight slam against his side, and a twinge of pain in his forearm. “What the fuck, Gwen?” Max growled, and Gwen smiled sheepishly. “Oops?” She laughed awkwardly. If he had movement in both arms, he’d be crushing her airpipe right now.

 

“Sure thing. Are we fucking done now?” Max moved to stand, saying he was done even if she wasn’t. “For today. We’ll do this every other day so you aren’t always aching, yeah?” Gwen said, and Max walked out without acknowledging her. He was in pain, and hated life in general right now. He muttered curses underneath his breath.

 

“Hey, Max!” Max bit down a groan. I just can’t catch a break today. “What is it, Nikki?” He turned, and saw two figures approaching him, recognizing one as Nikki and the other as the asshole from the other day- Neil. “You doing okay?” Nikki cheered, and Max huffed. “Does it look like I’m doing okay?” Max mumbled. Neil glared at Max. Max glared back, and they stared at each other. Max looked away after a bit. “My arm’s just hurting. Gwen made me do PT on it.” Max admitted. Nikki nodded. “I know where they keep the pain meds!” Nikki cheered. Max looked unimpressed, but he followed after the overly-excitable girl. Neil walked after them, watching Max and Nikki. Max didn’t like that.

 

“Dude, seriously, stop glaring at me like that. I’m not gonna murder anyone.” Max turned toward the boy with the afro. The kid scanned his face, looking for something in his teal eyes. Max was about to say something, but he walked on, catching up with Nikki. Max furrowed his eyebrows, then shook his head, and sped walk to catch up with the duo. He didn’t think he’d ever get Neil. He didn’t even want to bother knowing the kid. He was a dick.

 

They approached the mess hall, and Max saw several faces he saw at breakfast, and a few he didn’t recognize. They followed Nikki and Neil into the mess hall, and they chattered. Max frowned. It was evident these kids were in a class. A weirdly tight knit class, but he guessed the apocalypse can make even stupid kids cooperate with each other. They were almost like a family. And Max was like the red-headed step-child. Not even that, really, more like the lost kid on the front porch. Max didn’t care either way. He was never made for that lifestyle.

 

Max began to listen to the ex-students’ conversation as he approached. “Nikki, what’re you doing?” A blonde with a valley girl accent said. “Ered!” Nikki lit up seeing her. “I came here because the new kid needed some painkillers.” Nikki smiled. “How’s tha’ electric transformer thin’ workin’ out?” A stocky redhead asked the afro headed kid. Neil shrugged. “It’s difficult with no other intelligent people around.” Neil bit. Max was glad Neil’s rudeness was spread to everyone. The redhead nodded, and they continued to talk. Nikki gestured for Max to come over. Max stalked over, and the amicable mood became tense as they saw the moody kid approach. Max sighed and grabbed the painkillers from her hand. The rest of them looked at him as he held the two white, oblong pills in his hand and swallowed them without a thought. Max bit his tongue after the pills went down, the silent staring and judging of his peers getting to him. “Could you guys stop fucking staring at me?” Max bit, and most of them backed off immediately. “Sorry!” They apologized sheepishly, and Max didn’t buy it.

 

An… eccentric kid approached him. “Hello,” He said, in a over dramatic tone, “I’m so pleased to make your acquaintance!” He bowed. “I am Preston Goodwill, and you are…?” The kid reached out his hand. “The name’s Max. Cut out the frilly shit.” Max slapped Preston’s hand away. Preston immediately rose, and gave a scoff. “How dare you?” He said, like he couldn’t believe he had just been turned down, like it was some gracious offer he had just laid out. “I’m in pain, and honestly, I can’t stand you already. Fuck off and leave me alone.” Max growled, and pushed past the kid, who stood, shell shocked. “Thanks, or whatever, Nikki.” Max yelled as he walked out of the building, headed back over to the infirmary.

 

God, why can’t he just get along with people? If he just wouldn’t do… that, then he could’ve made allies that could keep him alive. In the end, why does it matter? We’re all gonna die. Sooner rather than later.

 

Max walked into the infirmary, where he saw David packing Max’s things. They’re kicking you out. You’re gonna be alone and you’re gonna die alone- “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Max mumbled, and David turned around. “Oh, hey Max!” David cheered. “I thought it was time we moved you to the communal dorms! We noticed you’re doing better with your arm, and you’re stable so,” David smiled. Max sighed. “I don’t want to.” He said. David frowned slightly, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion. “Why not? I thought you would like to be around kids your age?” David suggested, and Max shook his head. “Half these kids hate me, dipwad.” Max sighed, mind flickering back to a few minutes ago, “They probably think I’m gonna kill them in their sleep and loot their corpses.” He just sort of had that effect on people.

 

“Max, now, I’m sure that’s not true,” David began, but paused when he saw Max’s death glare. David paused, then cleared his throat. “Well, I am able to get up and down every night, but Gwen is tired of getting up every hour to come over here and check on you, so we do have to make some arrangement that’s closer…” David tapped his chin. You could just abandon me, you know.

 

David’s eyes lit up. “I know! How about you room in the boy’s dorm, but you can sleep with me!” Wow, phrasing. Max withheld a snicker. “And you’re sure I’m not gonna murder you in your sleep?” David laughed. “I’m sure you’re not! What would you get out of that?” Max let a small smile reach his face for a moment, before pushing it to a scowl. “Whatever, David. Give me my stuff.” Max reached with his right arm, and David hung the bag on his arm. They walked out the infirmary, and began the short trek to the cabins-turned-dorms. “Hey, so how’s the PT going?” David inquired, and Max rolled his eyes. “We just started today, so about as well as you think. That should be, real shitty.” Max clarified, knowing the idiot may not catch his drift. David gave a small smile. “It’ll get better with time!” Max huffed.

 

“You know,” David began, “Gwen’s started to take a liking to you.” Max scoffed. “Yeah, sure.” David shook his head. “No, really! We like you here! You, by all means, don’t have to stay after you’re better, because we aren’t going to force you,” David searched his eyes, but not piercing like Neil’s earlier, “But we want you to stay. We want to help you out, maybe teach you some skills, if you want.” David said gently. Max paused his gait. Max still didn’t get why these strangers even cared about him. It would just get them killed. And then Max would be alone again. And for some reason, somewhere inside of him didn’t want to be alone anymore. They turned him into a needy child, and he hated them for it. But they took care of him. Which he… didn’t hate them for. And it’s not like he could live if he left right now.

 

“Max?” David shook him out of his thoughts. “Why do we always get into these conversations when we talk? I’m done with the gushy shit.” Max rolled his eyes, and continued his gait. David let out an audible sigh, but didn’t push anymore. They made it to the dorm, and Max took in the sight of several hastily made bed mats on the floor, and a couch that looked like it had seen better days. All the kitchen furniture had been removed to make more space, which Max could tell. Past the kitchen, David led him into a bedroom, which Max presumed was his. Max flung down his things, not bothering to take out much right now. The ukulele hit the ground with a musical thud. Oh well, it wasn’t like he could play it right now. He would tune it when he could.

 

“Max, you should go ahead and get unpacked,” David said carefully, “it’ll be too dark later to unpack then.” Max groaned. “Noo,” Max whined like a child, but then reached for his bag, and pulled  the zipper undone by the hole the ukulele created. He pulled out his teddy bear, his uke, and his DS and placed each object respectively, on the bed, against the wall, and on the bedside table. That was enough for now. David sat on the edge of the bed, and Max sat on the opposite side of the bed.

 

The bed was musty, obviously old, and overused. But it was surprisingly comfy. The room smelled of pine needles. It was decently dark, due to having no windows to the outside world, but a scented candle flickered in the corner, and the door let some outside light in for now. It felt, safe. It didn’t feel like his house.

 

But somehow, it felt like home.

Chapter Text

“Max, could you help me with this? Neil A. got attacked by a racoon again.” Gwen said, and Max furrowed his eyebrow confusedly. “How the fuck am I supposed to help? I’ve got a useless arm, if you don’t remember correctly, Gwen.” Gwen sighed. “He’s a little delirious,” Max noted the blood bag dripping into the kid’s veins via IV, wasn’t that their last one, actually? “I need to hold him down and give him this shot, but I can’t exactly do both.” He snapped back to reality when Gwen continued. “Since you have a ‘useless arm’, she air quoted with one hand, “you get to do the syringe.”

Max huffed. He wasn’t exactly fond of patching people up, but he had experience, because he came home from fights often, to patch himself up. And really, he had to repay them somehow for, you know, not letting him fucking die.

That’s how Max ended up straddling a boy- barely- smaller than him, and putting drugs into his left arm’s vein. The kid was putting up some fight, but it was no chance for two people bigger than him holding him down. Max slipped off Neil A, leaving Gwen to struggle with the kid. He disposed of the needle- by that, he put it in the trash- and sat down in the chair beside the infirmary bed. It took a few minutes, but the smaller boy eventually stopped flailing, and he seemed to be asleep. “Hey, wasn’t that the last blood rig?” Max asked after she climbed off the bed, and plopped down in the chair right next to him. “Yeah. We’re going to have to go on a supply run again soon.” Gwen sighed. They had so many things they needed to do, right now, and if they didn’t hurry, they’d be dead before the next blood moon.

“I’m pretty useless right now,” Max continued to look forward, “But if you need someone to go out for supplies, I guess I could,” Max mumbled. He was sure he could at least handle that. Gwen, however, shook her head. “No, I’m not going to let you run out there on your own.” Gwen said, and Max frowned. “Fine, if you don’t want my fucking help, that’s fine,” Max bit, standing up. “No, not that,” Gwen huffed. “It’s not that you’re useless or anything,” Gwen started. “It’s just that David has a supply trip they’re already going on tonight, they have the people going picked out already. And they’ll be gone while we’re doing PT, so.” Max huffed through his nose. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” She set it up so that he couldn’t go. So fucking dumb. He wasn’t useless. At all.

“I didn’t set this up,” Gwen said, “But I did want to teach you some stuff,” Gwen admitted, furrowing her eyebrows. “So you don’t feel like you’re useless, or some shit.” Max groaned. “I thought school was out when the apocalypse started,” He moaned, and Gwen hit him gently upside the head. “It’s first aid stuff, you idiot.” She said, “It’s hard to take care of everyone by myself like this, so I needed to pick someone to help. It’s an effective thing, I get less work and you have to suffer,” She teased, and Max scrunched up his face and huffed. “Whatever.”

Max walked out soon after, and grumbled while he walked towards his (and David’s, he supposed,) room. “She totally did it on purpose.” He mumbled. Honestly, he didn’t really care as long as he got to help out somewhere in the camp. And anyway, he had the basics in first aid, so might as well expound upon it. He just found himself as more of a… scavenger. Rather than a settle down sort. But really, he was stuck here too, at least for a few months, so that fucking sucks for his lone wolf status.

“Maaaaaathks!” He heard from behind him, and he groaned. “What is it, Nerris?” they stood a few feet behind him, wearing their dumb cloak. “I wath wondering if you finithed my book yet,” they lisped. Max huffed. “Yeah, I did.” It was as good as Max was expecting, but at least it provided a passtime when he was bedridden. “Thanks, I guess.” Max mumbled, and Nerris smirked. “Good. Can I have it back, pleathe?” They raised their eyebrows. Max sighed, and nodded. “You’re lucky I was headed over there anyway.” Max urged Nerris to follow him, and they caught up to Max’s gait.

“Do you want to help uth with getting the electrithity up?” Nerris asked. Max blankly looked at the dark skinned person. “I have never touched a electronic besides to play on it or to destroy it.” He dead panned. Nerris scrunched up their face. “Then try it!” They insisted. Max glared. “I have shit I need to do today. Maybe tomorrow.” Nerris glared. “Thure.”

They arrived in the boy’s dorm, and Max grabbed the worn book, and shoved it towards them. “Have your damn book.” Nerris turned to leave, but paused. “Did you like the ending?” They clutched the book to their chest. Max shrugged, but realized Nerris couldn’t see him. “I guess. It wasn’t awful.” Max replied mostly truthfully. Nerris’s shoulders relaxed with that. “Want to talk about the book, thometime?” They mumbled. Max huffed. “Sure.” Max couldn’t see their face, but he was immediately hit with radiant energy. “Okay! It’th a promithe!” Nerris cheered. “Bye now!” Nerris took for the door, but paused again, in the doorway. “You know,” they said with an even tone, “You’re not ath much an athhole ath you like to pretend to be.” And with that, Nerris skipped off. Max growled towards where they were just standing. “Not an asshole, my ass.” Max mumbled, and retreated to the bedroom. Max lit the candle they kept on in there at night, so that he could look around the room. There were sparse belongings, a mix of Max’s own, and David’s. His eyes landed on a calendar- from before the apocalypse. It was for this year, and it was surprisingly marked- but he could’ve sworn it was way later than February 16th- which was the day after the last day marked off. And another thing that was off was that every Sunday was circled. Max didn’t exactly know what that was supposed to mean, so he disregarded it.

Max rummaged through his bag, and saw his DS. It was dead as ever, but with Nerris’s information, there was a possibility that one day, maybe it would be charged again. He sort of wished he brought his charger- maybe he could ask David to stop by his house when they go scavenging.

“Max? Are you in here?” Max heard David calling his name, “Gwen wanted me to tell you that she’s about to need you for PT, before we left.” Max put out the candle, and met David near the front door. “Yeah, regretfully.” Max mumbled. “Oh, good, you’re here,” David said cheerfully. “I’m sure Gwen told you, but we have-“

“To go look supplies, she told me.” Max finished, and David smiled meekly. “I wanted to be sure!” He explained. “Well, I guess I’ll be going-“ David turned to leave, but Max grabbed his pant leg. David looked down to the small boy. “Hey, you’re going to town, right?” Max mumbled, and David gave an affirmative nod. Max nodded. “If you pass by… My house, grab my fucking DS charger, so I can charge it,” Max got quieter throughout the question, “please.” He added almost as an afterthought. David smiled brightly. “Of course I will, sport!” David ruffled Max’s hair, and Max slapped his hand away with his good hand. “Stop being fucking embarrassing, David. I’ll see you later.” Max pushed passed the adult.

David pretended not to see it, but he saw the small smile on Max’s face as he headed towards where he and Gwen did PT. David was glad things were finally getting better. And, to a much more well hidden extent, Max was too.

Chapter Text

After the painfully tiring physical therapy session, Gwen started to teach him on first aid stuff. At first, it was stuff he already knew, so he blew past that, but soon enough, they got to unfamiliar territory, like stitching up a wound and putting in an IV. Gwen asked him, “Do you know what IV stands for?”

“Uhhhm,” Max said intelligently. Gwen laughed and Max blushed with embarrassment and fury. “Why do I need to know what it stands for? I know what it fucking does, so that’s good enough,” He growled. Gwen, though she stopped laughing, couldn’t wipe the smile off her face that pissed Max off more. “What is means,” She gasped, “is intravenous.” she explained, “Now do you have any clue why?”

“Because it intra-s your venous?” He snarked, and Gwen looked at him with distaste. “Don’t sass me.” Gwen complained, and Max sneered. “You deserve it after fucking laughing at me!” Max bit, and Gwen almost tried to say something, but stopped herself. She sighed, and got back on topic. “It is called that because-“

“It enters your veins. I’ve had enough IVs in my life to know that.” If both his arms were working, he may have rubbed the inside of his elbow absentmindedly. Gwen smiled a bit. “Yeah, but it’s not just your arm veins, it can be anywhere you can find one, if you remember.” Gwen smirked, and Max rolled his eyes. He wasn’t going to fuck with that horseshit. Max just nodded, wanting to get this over with. “Now, some people’s veins are hard to find, but if you make a sort of torquinet, you should be able to find one- the vein will probably stick out. Some veins are more problematic than that, but that’s the only way I learned.” Gwen said.

“What, you mean before you dropped out of the nursing program?” Max leaned back in the chair he was sitting at. Gwen huffed. “Yes.” Gwen deadpanned, before standing abruptly. “It’s about time for dinner. We’re done for today.”

“Fucking finally,” Max stood up and stretched. His left arm lifted a little, still causing a great deal of pain, but hey- at least he could move it a bit now. Gwen had walked out of the room before his vision cleared, so Max was left in the infirmary by himself.

Well, that was until a few minutes later, when a familiar face walked in. “G-gwen?” Neil A was dressed in some baggy t-shirt that covered all the way down to his knees, which reminded him of his “gown”. “You’re too late.” Max rolled his eyes, “You just missed her. She’s gone to fix dinner.” The short kid huffed. “She told me to see her before she went to dinner, to make sure I was doing better.” He pouted. “I had signed up to go on the adventure with David, but I couldn’t after yesterday, even though I feel fine,” He whined. Max wondered exactly how many kids had lisps in this hell hole class/camp/whatever the fuck.

“I could check you out in proxy, or something.” Max huffed, and Neil A’s eyes lit up. “You’d do that for me?” He cheered. Max held the bridge of his nose. “If you stop being so cheery, you’re making me want to puke.” Neil A nodded excitedly. Max glared, but checked him. Gwen and he hadn’t gone over symptoms of rabies and the such, but after checking for no foaming or weird (even for him,) behaviours, he decided he was clean. “You’re good, I think.” Max leaned back, and Neil A cheered. “But,” Max interrupted, “I’d still check with her when she has time,” He hated to admit it, but she was sort of smarter than him, “But I think you’re not going to die right now.” Neil A grinned. “You’re the best!” He jumped off the bed, and skipped out of the infirmary dock. Max leaned back into the chair, and rubbed his head with his good arm. So annoying.

Max made his way down to the mess hall, where he found that a good number of the campers were missing- he guessed for the stock run. He was about to get in line when he bumped into Asshole Neil. “Oh, I see you don’t have your sister with you,” Max sneered, and Neil sneered right back. “She’s gone on the supply run,” He said, “Way more help than you’ve been since you got here.” Max would’ve punched him if he hadn’t immediately fled to his table, since he had gotten his food. Way to hit close to home, asshole. Neil A and Neil Asshole. That would be a good indicator of which one was talking about.

Max sat by himself, trying to avoid any and all communication from others. Yet, to his disdain, others didn’t pick up on that. A kid he hadn’t spent much time with- Harrison, he recalled- walked up to him. “Hello, Max was it?” He spoke with an attempted mysterious tone. Max looked at him blankly. “What do you want?”

Harrison spluttered. “I didn’t want anything!” He insisted. “I thought you would like a magic trick to lighten your mood!” He pulled out a deck of cards midway through the sentence. Max debated beating the cards out of the magician’s hands, but he decided he didn’t need anymore enemies at this camp. Max just laid his head on the table and groaned.

The voice still spoke above him. “Pick a card- Any card!” He said, acting mysterious. After a few rounds, and figuring out his tricks, it was high time to report back to the cabins. Max didn’t usually stay this long after dinner, so the sun had already given way to the moon and stars. Most of the campers had already reported back to their cabins- since Gwen made the announcement of “a horde night was coming in a few days,” whatever that meant. Max however, was entranced by the stars tonight. Max had grown up in the city. So, he often couldn’t see the sky due to light pollution, but now, with no clouds, no electricity, no anything, they were as clear as day.

“They’re pretty, aren’t they?” Neil- A, not Asshole- said from behind him, and Max turned. The light from the moon was enough to light Neil A’s face, but it gave him a ghostly pallor.

Max had to agree with him. Usually, he didn’t like the dark, period, but the waxing moon lit up the sky and lit everything in a way that the sun never could. Max gave a small nod. Neil A smiled, but Max could see the smile didn’t reach his eyes, which were filled with sadness. “I always had wanted to be an astronaut,” Neil A said, which honestly, Max figured. “Before all of this, you know. It would be great to explore the universe.” He said dreamily, before snapping to reality. “But I guess it’s impossible now.” He smiled sadly.

Max wasn’t good at comforting. He was good at hurting people’s feelings and never looking back. But for some reason, he was searching for words to somehow help. He wasn’t going to make an empty promise, or some bullshit.

“That… Sucks.” Max said lamely. He tried to think of something to add. “But at least you can… Maybe re-explore the Earth, or some shit,” he pulled out of his ass. “Find some of the last people. Rebuild civilization.” Because that’s all we can hope to do now. Neil smiled at Max. “You’re right. I’d be saving the universe in another way,” Neil smiled. Max didn’t get what he was saying anymore. Neil looked at him. “You really aren’t as bad as other people think,” He said, and skipped off. Why the fuck do people keep on saying that? He thought indignantly. It was stressful and annoying.

But he thought, just maybe, underneath the pale moonlight, he could entertain the thought for a little while longer.

Chapter Text

Max ran through the woods, the adrenaline rushing through his veins making his hurt arm numb- Max didn’t have time to look down, if he did, whatever was chasing him would catch him.

 

Max wasn’t sure exactly what was chasing him, a horde, or something, maybe. Running away, as always, was the best thing he could do. It was dark and surprisingly, thus far, he’d been able to dodge any tree trunks.

 

As soon as that was thought, he graciously face planted into the muddy earth. He was trapped, and would either die from suffocation, or the eerie unknown monster behind him now. He could almost feel the heat on his back- his life flashed before his eyes; or some corny shit like that. Really, all he could remember was running, and his god forsaken father-

 

Suddenly, the heat was gone, and he was flipped over- stood above him were two figures. Both were bloody and half dead. “Come here, Max,” The man with red hair said. The fake redhead tugged at him too. “Max, we gotta get back to camp.” She said. Max, shaken, stood and wiped off his clothing. He reached forward for their tired figures- but they were always slightly out of reach, since they had longer legs and a faster pace, even with their dead exhausted demeanors.

 

Max caught up to them, finally, as they saw the camp. But it wasn’t the camp Max knew. Everything was ablaze, kids were screaming as they were on fire. Some kids- and one familiar woman, one with curly black hair like his- were burned and charred on the ground. Max took a step back, noticing his current protectors. They had crumpled to the floor, all energy gone from them. Max finally was able to touch them.

 

Cold. Freezing cold. Like the cold of winter touching a dead man’s body.




Max jolted from his sleep. Tears streamed down his face as he bit down a yelp. His entire being was shaking, and he forced himself to breathe. He would have gotten up, but he was certain his legs would give out underneath him, and he didn’t want to have to explain why exactly he was sobbing on the ground. Max took his shaky right hand and put it into his pocket. His hand came in contact with a thick piece of paper, in which one side was glossed. He took out the photo. He couldn’t see it too well in the dimness of the night, but it was the picture. His family. The picture had somehow survived in his hoodie for this long, and he was thankful for that, for some reason.  He didn’t know why. His family fucking sucked.

 

But it didn’t used to, A corner of Max’s mind mumbled, to which he coolly replied, Shut up. Max didn’t want to think about his sad as fuck life right now. He stuffed the photo back into his hoodie, and finally swung the sheets off his body.

 

The bed was obviously made for a couple, and Max and David embarrassingly had to share it. David at first seemed grossly pedophilic, as all teachers do, and even now, he had his doubts. But hey, the adult hadn’t committed sodomy on his body while he slept, so he guessed he wasn’t a pedophile. Maybe it’s more of a parental situation, a needy part of his mind sighed, and Max waved that away too. He needed to stop thinking. David and him had nothing going on. Nothing grossly sexual, Max shuddered at the thought, and nothing parental. But the bed was so big for such a small child to sleep alone in- and David wasn’t back yet. He wasn’t sure how long these missions tended to last, so he wasn’t worried yet. But somewhere inside of him, probably the still childish part of him, missed him. Max groaned and pushed himself out of the bed. He needed some water.

 

Max marched himself to the main hall, where he saw that it was mysteriously lit. Weirder, voices rang through the door. Rather, a voice. Max quietened his steps- easy after years of work- and eavesdropped. “...I’ll be there in a few,” Gwen’s voice frantically whispered, and Max could only wonder what was going on. “No!” Gwen whined loudly, almost like a child. “I am NOT staying-“ Gwen went silent, before waiting a few moments. Ooohkay. Either Gwen was insane, or she had some sort of device and she was talking to someone else somewhere else. Max wasn’t sure which was more likely. “David,” She whined, and that caught Max’s attention. Was she talking to David?

 

“Get your ass back here, now.” Gwen ordered. After a few seconds, she shouted. “It doesn’t matter! You’re hurt!”

 

You’re hurt. Those words rang through Max’s soul and body. Had his dream been true? You’re hurt. You’re hurt. You’re hurt. Max could hardly breath. The static- gone for so long- was coming back.

 

“Get your shitty group back, or I’m coming out there. That’s final.” Max barely registered the slamming of something on a table as the loudness overran his hearing. He fell on his ass, the sky looked dark and foreboding, way different than earlier this night. Dust covered him.

 

Suddenly, the light was out, and the door to the mess hall was open before Max could do anything. Gwen almost hadn’t noticed him, and would’ve stepped on him like dirt if he hadn’t have been gasping for breath.

 

Max didn’t quite know what happened next. His ears were full of static, and his vision was dark. He heard muffled whispers through the haze. He couldn’t focus on anything besides two words.

 

You’re hurt.

 

Max felt a hand on his arm. Barely, but it was there. It squeezed. Max couldn’t recognize the figure before him, but she had a serious voice. He couldn’t make out what she was saying, but she was obviously saying something. Was he in trouble? He would’ve freaked out more if he hadn’t been able to lip read. Breathe.

 

Breathe? Was he not breathing? Maybe that’s why the corners of his vision were dark. Max tried to remember how to breathe, but he felt like a fish out of water. His lungs forgot how to inhale and exhale. And that, of course, made him freak out worse. Suddenly, his hand was on her chest and her hand was on his chest. She pressed firmly against his chest, and her other hand pushed his hand into her chest, and he could feel her heartbeat. It was slower than his. More calm. Calm. Suddenly, he registered she was counting. He knew what this was. She was trying to calm him down. Max did his best to follow her slow count, spluttering the first attempts, but finally catching up. He finally recognized her- with her fake redhead glory, it was Gwen the… he couldn’t think of a bad thing that started with a G.

 

The static retreated, ringing quietly in his ears. Gwen finally let go of his hand as he breathed correctly for a few counts, and she dropped her arm from his chest. He almost screwed up and forgot how to breathe again, but he continued to consciously breathe until he didn’t have to anymore. It was weird. It was silent for a bit as Gwen mumbled that she would get some water for the both of them, and lit the lantern- which had been lighting up the dining hall before, he realized.

 

The dining hall was strangely the same, yet different at night. Dim night casted scary shadows, but the aura around the place didn’t change. He sipped on the water, and savored it’s flavourless flavour. He was starting to get dehydrated from all the crying tonight, he thought bitterly.

 

“David’s hurt,” He mumbled, breaking the silence. When Gwen solemnly nodded, Max looked down into his water, like it held all the answers.

 

Max felt cold. “Did… Did he say how hurt?” Max whispered, not looking up. Gwen made a throaty sound. “No, but he didn’t sound… so good…” Gwen got quieter as she finished the sentence. She obviously didn’t want to upset him again, and that pissed Max off. He wasn’t some little kid. So even though his entire body protested, he stood, with a twinge of pain surging through his arm. “Then we go find him.” Max said, and removed himself from under the table. Gwen grabbed his right wrist. “Max. You can’t. You’re injured.” Gwen pleaded, and he jerked his wrist away. “And you’re a dumb medic that nearly killed me.” Max bit. “You can do a lot more than you think when you’re hurt,” Max growled, and pulled himself away and started moving towards the door. Gwen grabbed him, and he squirmed.

 

“Gwen— fucking— let— go!” He struggled immensely against her iron grip. “Max! He’ll be fine!” Gwen held him tighter. “He’s hurt!” Max protested, his strength starting to run low from the energy he had already expended tonight. “Max, it’s like you said,” He and Gwen began to sink to the floor, “People can do a lot more than they think when they’re hurt.” Max hit weakly at her hand. He was still pissed as all hell, but she proved a good point, a bit. “But.. he could be bleeding out, or something,” Max began to wonder when he grew to care about David’s well being. Gwen stroked a hand gently through his hair, calming him down. “David’s a lot stronger than he looks,” Gwen mumbled, sounding like she was trying to convince herself as well. “He also has a bunch of smart… individuals,” she avoided the word kids, “to protect them. They’ll be fine. They’ll make it back to camp in one piece.”

 

Max could only hope so. But as the sun rose, and he began to see silhouettes come out from the trees, struggling to carry something, that hope died.

 

Both Max and Gwen stumbled out the door, to assess how bad things truly were.

Chapter Text

Max supposed Gwen was right, they were all in one piece. No missing limbs, or anything. David’s wound wasn’t as bad as it looked, though a zombie did take a good chomp on his arm. The kids looked mostly okay, scared and twigs in their hair and clothes, but otherwise unharmed. Gwen took David from the children, and walked him to the infirmary. Max stayed there.

 

“What the fuck happened?” He called amidst the children that surrounded him, in an authoritative voice. The chunkiest guy sneered, and the others just stood there. They were obviously exhausted. A group of 3 kids and 1 adult was not going to stand very long. Max glared at them, before the sneering one finally spoke. He looked like a bully type, so Max expected some insult, but the kid just explained. Basically, someone- Nikki, quite obviously, from the way that the two others glared at her and she just stared at the ground- set off a loud noise, and a small horde overran the house. The small horde was still too big for the 4 of them to handle, and they took out the back door, where David was bitten. Max didn’t know what to say. David would be fine, he just had over reacted. Max abruptly left, headed back to his room. He needed to just. Sleep.

 

He laid down in the bed, it feeling even more empty than before. And worse- unsafe. Like something was waiting to attack him. Max grabbed the unworking lamp, and gripped onto it with all the strength in his good hand. His eyes frantically darted around the room, but even with his pupils dilated, the room was too dark to make out his own hand.

 

Max relied on sound- there was one pair of footsteps: Nurf. That’s all that went on the expedition from the boys. Besides… David.

 

Max only got one good look at David before Gwen dragged him off. He only had one good bite on him, but he looked like he lost half of his body- he couldn’t stand on his own, and he was super fucking pale. His eyes were sunken, and even his hair had lost its usual sheen. Maybe he had looked like that, when he was dragged in here. Max was unconscious, so he didn’t really know. Max felt like every noise was amplified, and he was exhausted yet anxious at the same time.

 

He fell into a light sleep.



The dawn’s light woke him— he had left the door open, apparently— and his hand had tightened around the lamp in his sleep, so his hand had a hard time unfurling, and his muscles protested. He stretched his fingers before moving the lamp back to the bedside table. The light was barely peeking into the room, but it still woke up his barely submerged subconscious.

 

Max pushed himself up and out of bed. He needed to see Gwen. And maybe David, whatever. Max pulled on his shoes, and left to the dining hall. He opened the door, and it was the exact same way they had left it, the lamp had burned out, though. It was still… Cold. Empty. Gwen hadn’t been in here.

 

Max couldn’t go into the girl’s cabin (Nikki was up, for some reason, and guarded the door) but he went to the infirmary (as per instructions of Nikki). Gwen sat by David’s bedside, but the bags under her eyes were even deeper. She’d stayed up all night. David was sleeping, his breathing was stable. Max felt relief washing over his body, and in correspondence, exhaustion. “How’s David?” Max asked from the door. Gwen looked startled at his sudden appearance, but she sighed and rubbed her eyes. “He’s fine.” She said bluntly. “It wasn’t deep, it just bled a lot. Didn’t even nick a muscle or a vein or artery.” Gwen looked down to her ex-coworker, and mumbled something Max couldn’t understand. “He should wake up today, but he won’t be able to help tonight.”

 

“Tonight? What’s tonight?” Max asked, hopping onto the bed opposite from her. Gwen searched his gaze, to see if he was joking. “...Horde night. It usually happens on Sundays, usually alternating.” She said gently, and Max was still confused. “What the fuck is that, Gwen? Stop being cryptic.” Max snapped, and Gwen looked irritated. “When a bunch of zombies show up? You came here on a horde night,”

 

Max furrowed his eyebrows. “Whatever.” Gwen looked at him for another moment before looking back at David. “All the kids were worried,” Gwen changed the subject. “That went, y’know, on the trip. Most of them stayed here ‘til i kicked them out a few minutes ago.” Gwen continued. “They’ll be worried while building up on the defenses today,” Gwen gestured for Max to come over, and Max walked over hesitantly. “Since you’re here, I may as well change your bandages.”

 

Max rolled his eyes and allowed her to undo the bandage, and peeled off the gauze patch to reveal the stitched bite wound. Recently, the gauze had started to become less and less pink, and few days ago, it had finally come up white. To be sure, Gwen put another pad on for the next few days, but all of them came up white as well. The skin around the wound was still agitated, but Gwen decided that it would be a good idea to take out the stitches now- finally. Gwen gently as she could, removed the stitches, though it still hurt like a train hit him.

 

At least you can feel it, something whispered. After she finished, she sanitized it again, which made his arm feel like it was submerged in ice, but finally put the gauze and the wrap back on- she made it so his elbow was exposed again. He still probably wouldn’t be able to move it. She said that she was going to start to do more exercising that part of his body, which meant— Great, more pain! Max withheld a groan.

 

As Gwen began to mess with his hand’s wound, she spoke. “Ya know,” She started, “I think everyone who was worried looked up to him as a father figure. He would be a good one,” She spoke carefully, before raising her head.

 

She looked at him. Max got the gist of what she was ‘asking’. “In no way, do I see David as a father figure.” He snapped. “He’s an idiot, and I never wanted anything to do with him, or any of you.” Max glared. “He’s nothing like a father.” Fathers were negligent assholes who smelt of beer and whiskey at any time. Gwen, however, didn’t get it. “What do you mean?”

 

“You’ve had a father!” Max growled, “You know how they are.” Gwen looked confused before, she seemingly understood. “Max,” She spoke, “What do you mean by that?” Like she didn’t know what he was saying. Max tensed. “Assholes!” He shouted, uncaring if David woke up. “Drunkards!” He furrowed his brows. Gwen’s gaze turned sad. “Max, Max,” She soothed, grabbing onto his right hand, in a way that reminded him of something from his childhood. Someone from his childhood. Max withheld tears, and tore his hand away. “Max, not all dads are like that.” She whispered, she rubbed his knee. “I-I thought that for awhile too,” She whispered, and Max tensed.

 

“What are you on about now,” His tongue tried to say another name, but he bit it back, “Mm— Gwen.” He said. Gwen’s eyes soften further, and Max looked away. “My dad was the same too,” She looked far into the distance, “But I had a close friend, when I was a kid,” Max saw her glance over to David, “His parents were the sweetest people ever. His dad was, was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.” Max didn’t look convinced. She continued. “He, he took us on trips, and we’d sing dumb songs. He took us fishing. He took us to see the fireworks, every fourth of July.” Gwen looked lost in the memories, “D— My friend, he hated the loud noises. He actually used to be really bitter,” Gwen looked at Max, “But he finally talked to someone about it, and let someone in. He got to where he could be happy.” Max’s shoulders untensed. “His dad—“ Gwen choked up, “He always helped out, when my friend had bad days. He took him to therapy, then out for ice cream.” Max envied this ‘friend’. “My point is, is that dads can be good. And I’m, I’m sorry you had a bad one.” Gwen’s eyes were glassy, and tears slid down her face. She kept looking towards David. Max reached over to her awkwardly, trying to comfort her. It wasn’t his forte, he was used to just— yeah.

 

“David is still not a dad to me,” Max hoped his voice didn’t betray his uncertainty. Gwen wiped her eyes. “Let me just, finish this up.” Gwen worked in silence after that. Max almost felt guilty, but not really. She brought it on herself by bringing up the topic. Soon, she finished with fixing up his hand. “I need to help make breakfast. Stay with David.” Gwen stood abruptly, and before Max could protest, she was gone.

 

Fine, whatever, I’m gonna draw over David’s face so much he gets ink poisoning.

 

As if he could, he wasn’t exactly ambidextrous. Even with the lessening bandages around his wounds- his hand wound now was only around his palm like a wrist brace- he still didn’t have a lot of control over his arm. And he wasn’t gonna put work into it if he didn’t have to. Max just stared as David breathed, and his thoughts drifted to the previous topic. He didn’t want to think about it, but to not, it was like rowing upstream, and he had a hurt arm.

 

David was the kindest man he’d ever met. That much was true. And he didn’t seem to be faking. He didn’t seem like a child molester that wanted kids in his van, he seemed more like— Mr. Honeynuts. A little ragged, but nice, and usually there. But he couldn’t be his dad, obviously. They’re not family. Family is more than just blood, He remembered one of his older cousins told him, before he gave a drag of his cigarette to his boyfriend. Max didn’t get it at the time, but thinking of David, and Gwen, he might be starting to get it. They nearly killed you two weeks ago. Max’s mind bit back to him. You can’t be so clingy.

 

Max was thrown out of his reverie when he heard David groan and shift. Max rolled his eyes. “Fucking finally, you woke up. I hoped you never would.”

 

Then suddenly, the room became super fucking bright. Max winced at the sudden brightness. “What the actual…” Max heard a fan turn on, and once his eyes adjusted, he took inventory of his situation.

 

The room was brighter, and slightly cooler, with the air now circulating. Max could clearly see the wood’s age on the walls now, and the floor’s muck— but more importantly, his eyes turned to the offending brightness, it seemed as bright as the sun.

 

The lights were on. David looked as confused as Max felt for a moment, before he grinned. “Neil got the electricity up!” Max‘s eye twitched. “You let him mess with a generator on his own?” David furrowed his brows. “Gwen wasn’t with him?” Max shook his head. David almost pouted. “I’ll have to talk to him about that!”

 

David seemed much like himself, but Max could tell he was forcing himself. David looked exhausted, bags under his eyes even as he had just woken up. His skin had regained some of its colour, but not much- they didn’t have any more blood bags, thanks to Max and Neil A, but mostly Max. Max didn’t think about that. His eyes seemed happy, their neutral— but Max could sense pain in his eyes. Max frowned. “David, how’s your arm?” Max gestured towards the injury. His forearm was covered in gauze, which was still slightly pink from blood, but it looked okay, at least for a bite wound. David looked like a deer caught in headlights.

 

“Well, sport,” Max cringed at the nickname, “It hurts, but I’ll be fine!” David stretched his injured arm— his left one. David noticed this similarity a moment sooner than he, and grinned as he pointed it out. Max narrowed his eyes at David, and David didn’t say anything else about it. Instead, he pushed himself up, and almost gave Max a heart attack.

 

“David, Gwen said you need rest,” Max insisted, not sure why he cared. David winced as he lifted his bag with his left hand, but he brought it to the bed, and put it between them. “You’re gonna fucking reopen your wound.” Max said, exasperated. David held up his hand in a ‘give me one moment’ gesture, then undid the button on the bag. It was filled to the brim with supplies, but David dug through it, before pulling out a grey charger— his DS charger. “I snatched this from your house, like you asked me to.” David smiled, and put it in his hands. Max looked between the charger and David in disbelief. “You—“ Max paused, “You actually went to get it? You remembered?” Max said in shock. David smiled at him, well meaning, but obviously it didn’t reach his pain filled eyes. “Of course I did bud,” David reached out with his good arm and ruffled his hair. Max hit his hand away, and pouted. “Stop that.” David smiled again, and stood, unsteady on his feet. “What time is it?”

 

“It’s early morning, but Gwen doesn’t— David, fucking wait!” Max yelled after David, cursing him. David just laughed. “Let’s head to the mess hall!” He cheered. “David, fucking—“ He hated him, so much. (Not really.)

 

Apparently it’s hard for a kid to stop a fully grown adult from getting to food, who would’ve thought? Gwen looked at Max with anger, and Max returned the look with just as much force. Gwen then turned to David with a sigh. “You’re supposed to be in bed,” She frowned in disapproval, but David joined her, in the kitchen, where she was cooking breakfast on the gas stove. He hugged her from behind, and she stopped stirring the pot to swat him away.

 

It occurred to Max that he had never seen the two alone together, besides that time when they were scouting together and nearly shot his hand off. From the way they acted around each other, and the way Gwen talked about him earlier (it was obvious by how she wouldn’t stop looking at him), he couldn’t tell if they were dating or not. Nonetheless, Max shifted uncomfortably in the doorway. “Stop eyefucking, I’m hungry.” Max rolled his eyes, and Gwen shoved David off abruptly, her face turning red. David’s colour returned as he blushed. Max sat at one of the tables nearby them as the adults talked, especially about the new found electricity, and about tonight. Max got bored, and decided to head back to the guys cabin, where chatter was loud.

 

All the guys were surrounding Neil, treating him like some hero, as he walked in. Well, he did restore electricity to the camp. “Hey,” Max yelled over the commotion, and the atmosphere grew tense.

 

Because that’s like, your superpower, he thought, make everyone uncomfortable. Max cleared his throat. “Good job Neil,” Even Max wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic, “David’s looking for you.” Max deadpanned. Neil went pale, but Nurf looked nearly ecstatic. “He’s awake?” He asked, and Max nodded, moving to join the group of kids. “Is he okay?” The other kids looked at him and Max in confusion, like Nurf hadn’t explained yet. Max put his weight on one foot, and put his hands in his hoodie pockets- well, he put his right hand in there. “Tired. But yeah,” Max sighed, and Nurf sighed in relief, but quickly grabbed Neil A and noogied him.

 

“Now, it can’t be just me,” Preston said in annoyance, “but I have no idea what’s going on.” Harrison and a shaken up Neil A nodded. Neil Asshole stood beside him, so Max didn’t see if he nodded, but he presumed so. “David got hurt on the raid. He’s fine though.” Max rolled his eyes at the worried faces. “You guys are too worried about him. He’s fucking Gwen in the dining hall.” The kids gave an awkward laugh. “David’s too… David, to know what sex is.” Neil laughed, and Max side eyed him. He held an amused glance at him. Max’s concentration broke when Nurf began to speak. “Says the one that freaked out as soon as he came into the camp,” He teased, and Max gave him a deadly glare. “Nurf, if you don’t want to die, you’ll shut your fucking mouth.”

 

Everyone laughed. Max hadn’t said anything funny, but he laughed slightly along with them. Whatever. At some point, Neil Asshole had snuck out, and Max took that vacancy to use as his escape as well. He went into his and David’s room. Max eyed the light switch. Either it works, or obliterates me, Max reasoned, Either sounds good. Max flipped the switch, and sadly, the prior occurred, and the room was more well lit than he’d ever seen it. He could actually see the walls were actually petrified logs, in much better shape than the infirmary. The wooden dresser stood proud in front of the bed, and the bed’s tacky unmade quilt reflected in the mirror. Max took inventory of the calendar- every sunday was circled, in two different colours. Max rolled his eyes. He found a charger in the wall, and put his DS to charge. Hopefully it wouldn’t blow up, or anything. Max stood in there, straightening up to the best of his ability, until they were called for breakfast. Max was the first one out, and the girls were behind him, coming from their cabin— everything was more amiable today, or maybe it was that Max was in a more amiable mood than usual. Whatever.

 

They ate breakfast, and Gwen announced what had happened the night prior to David, so there would be no confusion.  The mood slightly dampened at the news, but David insisted he was fine, much to Gwen’s chagrin. To get back at him, she told him he couldn’t help today with repairs, to which he pouted. Then, after bickering for a bit longer, she told everyone to get on it, to finish repairs on the fortitude on the structure, since tonight was horde night. Max actually thought he remembered a little bit of his first one, through a haze of pain. Red sky, or something. Max didn’t know why or how the sky did that, but, well. Everyone took to work— Max included. David still helped, but only when Gwen wasn’t watching.  Gwen couldn’t take off to do PT with him today, but Max got plenty of it on his own, on accident, by helping out. His hand automatically gravitated to try to lift, but- it just didn’t work like that, arm, shut your shit. He found by now he could lift it to elbow height, as long as he wasn’t lifting things. Of course, it fucking hurt, but oh well.

 

Nonetheless, by the time was three quarters of the way through the sky, all repairs had been finished, and they took for an early dinner. Everyone sat at the same table— including Max. They talked like nothing was about to happen. From what Max had heard, this was a pretty big deal, to the point where kids would die, but, they talked like family. It was like a last dinner.

 

Max, though he had been pretty hungry after the strenuous work, wasn’t hungry anymore.

 

But he still forced himself through, nodding or shaking his head, or giving short responses when referred to, or when he felt a snarky remark should be made. After dinner was done, David told everyone to get prepared, and told Neil to go turn off the generator, since it might attract more zombies. He told everyone to meet back in the centre area after they were ready. Max went back to his and David’s room, and unplugged his DS- fully charged by now, which Max was grateful for. Neil was actually good for something, who would’ve thought?

 

David came in, with some extra layers of protection on. “Hey Max,” he smiled, the exhaustion still in his eyes. “I came by to give you some gear, since I know you don’t, ah, yeah.” David dropped assorted weapons on the bed. “These are only for emergencies, hear me?” David warned, and Max rolled his eyes. “Sure, sure, whatever.”

 

“Choose a weapon, please,” David looked uneasy. Max immediately grabbed the baseball bat. David eyed him and the bat. “You like bats?” David noted, “You used to have one,” David breathed, and Max looked down. “Yeah, I guess.” Max mumbled bitterly. They stood in silence for a moment, before David reached into his bag abruptly, and withdrew a one handed axe. “I’m going to give you this too,” David said, “In case,” Max raised an eyebrow. “I can’t exactly dual wield, David.” Max deadpanned, and David nodded in agreement, and shuffled through his bag, before pulling out a sleeve and a sling. ‘ Course David would have some shit like that in his bag. Max put the bat down, then pulled the sling over his head like a satchel, and put the axe in the sleeve. He then grabbed the bat again. David looked at him for a moment, then ruffled his hair. Max, for once, didn’t move to fix it. His lips tilted upwards slightly. “We should get headed to the meeting place.”

 

The sky was starting to turn red as the moon rose, and Max’s chest tightened in pure fear. Dear God, They were all going to die. It was all Max could do to pay attention. Gwen called out two Plans— Plan A, and Plan Z.

 

A was that the majority of the people were up on the walls, making sure that no zombies got up and over, or broke down the wall, the defensive team. A few would stay down to help make sure the walls wouldn’t fall, the reserve team. David and Max were on the reserve team, along with Neil Asshole and Nerris. Everyone else would be on the wall.

 

Plan Z, Gwen described with a bitter fear in her voice. It was in case the wall was… compromised. Most of the kids tensed at this, and Max was confused, but didn’t ask. Plan Z was to climb into the attic in the mess hall, from the storage room in the back behind the kitchen. Once the last person got there, they’d cut the ladder, and seal the way in. Gwen or David— or both— would defend them while the others tended to the wounded.

 

Gwen checked that everyone had got everything, and everyone nodded as the sky became more and more red, and the sun was on the horizon. Gwen smiled bittersweetly, and David stood beside her. “I love you all.” Gwen announced, as if that’s what she wanted them to remember most of all, and everyone— Max, included, after much encouraging— returned her. “Plan A formation, dismissed.” She announced, and everyone took to their positions. The amiable atmosphere had dissipated from earlier, and even if it were there, Max was too anxious to even speak at this point. All was silent, until the night began.

 

The horde night began with a loud, gutwrenching screech.

Chapter Text

When Nerris was younger- and even when they weren't trying to extend their measly time on this planet, they loved games. Specifically, games that helped them escape reality. Reality sucked, even before all of this, and one of the only things that made them happy was playing DND with their dad. And they loved to hear their mom's half hearted complaints, while she fixed the both of them dinner. But now, that was all gone with the wind. They were dead. But that didn't mean Nerris didn't try to continue on their legacies.

Nerris stood by their wall that David had assigned to every one of them, like a game master. They were about to play a game that would probably kill them soon. Each of the others stood on their wall, Max stood to the north wall, while Neil to the south. Nerris stood to the west wall, and David stood to east. Even though David was across the way, Nerris could tell by his stance that he was exhausted. He stared longingly up at the wall. Usually, David was up there helping the kids to defend the fortified camp, and Gwen was down here with the repair team. But since David was injured, Gwen forced him to take the repair team. Nerris shook their head as they focused on the task at hand, as the wood began to splinter in front of them. Nerris put another plank of wood over the distressed spot, and nailed it into the wall. Nerris heard gunshots over head, and arrows being released. What they heard most of all, though, was the loud screeches and groans of the zombies inches from their face, on the other side of the wall.

 

The zombies were loud as all hell, and every time they heard it, they thought about Dolph. They shuddered, remembering his body mauled and crushed. They choked back tears. “Just repair,” they mumbled to themselves. Don’t think about anything but winning this game.

 

Nerris hadn’t any time to look at anyone else, but now that they had the chance. The zombies had momentarily been pushed back from their side, and they looked over to see that Max was frozen to his spot. And he wasn’t doing anything as a zombie poked its head through his wall. Without thinking, Nerris ran over and began to repair the wall, swinging their emergency weapon to force back the horde from the place. “Max, c’mon!” Nerris said, holding a large piece of wood to the damaged area.

 

Max’s eyes were glazed over, and his breathing was erratic. Nerris didn’t know what was happening to him, but they were a little irritated. “Max, we’re going to die! Help me nail this in!” Nerris yelled, unable to summon a telekinetic shock to nail at least one side in for them.

 

Max stirred, but barely. “Die, yeah.” He mumbled, his breathing still weird, and getting worse by the second. Nerris groaned, and leaned against the wall to try to keep the board on the wall while they nailed the centre of the wood to the remaining wall. They did that, amazingly, thankfully to some magic— they’d have to thank Hecate later— and then nailed in the place without any help. Smaller holes poked around the wall, and they repaired those parts too, with less difficulty. They had almost forgotten about their wall.

 

Almost.

 

Nerris suddenly looked over to their wall, and began to see the infrastructure crumbling. They raced over to it, trying to find some way to fix the huge holes that had formed while they were helping Max. Some were big enough to fit zombies, who crawled through the wall- and then were taken out by their machete. Nerris tried to heal the wall, mend it somehow before it was too late. The wall wouldn’t be able to stand anyone until they finished repairing the big spots.

 

“STEER CLEAR OF THE WEST WALL!” They yelled as loud as they could. Nerris knew it would alert the zombies, but it was also crucial for their team to know, so the wall wouldn’t collapse under unnecessary weight.

 

Finally, after god knows how long, after slaying god knows how many zombies, they finally made the wall able to withstand the weight of people again. “GOT IT!” They shouted, hoping they were audible. They continued on to mending the wall more, and strengthening weak spots. People seemed to hear them, as they began to wearily step on the western wall again, and shooting down zombies. Nerris took a deep breath. They were safe.

 

Nerris shouldn’t have thought that.

 

Nerris heard loud screaming, and then the sound of crashing. Nerris almost got whiplash from turning towards the north wall. They had forgotten all about Max in his stupor. And two unlucky people chose to walk on the weak wall, and—

 

The wall came tumbling down with Harrison and Ered. Max was pinned under it, and the others seemed stuck in the rubble. Several screams rang out through the air, screams of fear, shock, and utter pain. Over all the commotion, and the zombies howling in pleasure at their new easy meals, Gwen shouted— “PLAN Z! GET OUT AND GET DOWN!” She shouted into the wind. Nerris took off running towards Max, Ered, and Harrison, as did David. David looked at them with a grim look, and then looked back to the compromised wall with the horde crawling in. David made his decision. “Nerris, get inside. Now.” He commanded, in a tone they’d never heard him use before, even as a teacher. It was a tone of pure fear, and pure… resignment. “But David,” Nerris cried, and he looked at them.

 

His eyes held too many emotions. His normally greenish blue eyes looked like the ocean tides rippling through a storm. They were dark, and they looked broken and exhausted. He looked scared out of his wits, and sad, and stressed, and… “Go. Right now.”

 

Nerris ran back towards the mess hall. They took one last look behind them, seeing David pulling Ered and Harrison out. The area was now covered in zombies, surrounding them. He was beginning to pull Max out as Neil tugged them into the building.

 

“Nerris, fucking hurry!” Nerris heard the other walls beginning to crumble under the stress of dozens of zombies pushing against the wall. They climbed up the ladder, and they saw most of the people were in there. “Nerris,” Gwen said distractedly, “Take care of the wounded.” Nerris had barely taken care of anyone at the camp before, but that seemed like more than any of the others had thus far. Nerris took care of Nurf’s sprained ankle from jumping from the southern wall, and did first aid on Preston’s acid wound from a leaper. They took care of wounds like that, until they heard more people scuttling up the ladder. Three people emerged, one unconscious, and another one cut the ladder violently. Tears were in their eyes, Nerris noted in the red moonlight. Nerris finally noticed the body missing, and their entire body went cold.

 

“Where’s David?”

Chapter Text

“David!” Max screamed, but he was apparently inaudible to him as he hauled Harrison and Ered out. Max saw a third crumpled figure underneath the rubble, and David pulled him out.

Wait, what? Max looked down, then looked to his look alike. What? Max was more than confused, but he watched on. David yelled something inaudible over the groans of the dead, and quickly rushed off, alone. Ered carried Max’s own unconscious body. Max panicked, and pulled himself after David. His spectral being, or some shit, tugged him towards his body, but he demanded to see David.

He shouldn’t have. David was cornered, and alone. Tears slipped down his face, and Max began to scream in utter desperation. He clawed through the zombies, but nothing made contact. David leaned against the two walls of the East and North. The gun he held was out of bullets, and his katana couldn’t possibly take out all of the twenty zombies surrounding him. Max could read his lips.

I love you all, too.

The zombies descended upon him. An ungodly screech rang out through the night, and Max wasn’t sure if it was David, the zombies, or himself.

Max’s entire body ached as he woke up. He was somewhere else entirely, and if Max didn’t know any better, he would’ve hoped the past few weeks were just an awful nightmare, and he woke up at home with his negligent father in the basement. Max tried to look around, but his head spun, and all the light— though it was mostly red— burned his retinas. He tried to shut his eyes, just go back to sleep, but someone came up to him. “Max!” The shout shook his consciousness. “Stay awake!” They shouted. The person had a lisp- maybe Nerris, or Neil A.

“No, you,” Max heard himself respond. Something was funny about that, but just speaking just made him hurt more, so he withheld his laugh, and a pained groan. He took a deep breath— ow, fuck, no, nevermind. “Wha’ th’ fuck ha’ened?” He slurred, forcing his consciousness to come back.

Nerris paused, as if they were thinking. “The wall fell. David pulled you and Ered and Harrison out of the rubble.” Nerris said carefully. Max paused. He didn’t quite remember that. Max forced himself to his elbows, much to his entire body’s protesting— especially the arm that he hurt, he recalled. And Nerris’s, but he didn’t fucking care about them. He noticed there was no redhead— natural, anyway. He couldn’t actually see too much. His vision was a little blurry, not to mention the red covering the right side of his head. The red light shone in, so practically all of his vision was just- red. Would a redhead be a redhead in red light? Something about that was funny to him. So much red. Around him, around everyone.

“Heh,” The little laugh became mixed with a groan of pure pain, and his head lulled, and Nerris held his head. The sudden movement and touch caused a knot in his stomach to form, and anything that was in his stomach rose to his throat, and he almost choked on it— and would have if Nerris hadn’t flipped him over. Any control he had over his stomach, though, left him with that movement. His body ejected any food he had had in his stomach. With the retching came a level ten pain in his sides and head. Like, say a nurse came into the room, and asked him to rate his pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Max was in such pain, his vision whited out for a moment. Max would have collapsed pitifully into his puke if Nerris hadn’t gently nudged him away from that spot. Max collapsed near his puke, not much better from collapsing in it, but Max couldn’t complain.

“Wher’s David?” Max slurred, and Nerris didn’t respond. Something in Max’s mind pulled, making his head hurt more. He should know what happened, but he just didn’t— remember. Maybe if he took a nap, then his memory would come back…

“Max, Max.” Nerris grabbed his arm, and his body moved on its own, his right arm slapped their hand away, in pain and memories. “Sto—p.” He groaned, his ribs protesting— his ribs? What happened to his ribs? “Ne—r’ss,” He slurred his caretaker’s name. “Why does m’a ribs hur’?” He inquired. “Wha’ ha’enned?” Nerris let out a sigh. “I’ll tell you when you actually remember.” They mumbled. Max whined. “I ‘anna know no—w.” Max moaned, and Nerris sighed again. “Max, uh,” They paused, and Max heard talking in the background. He almost fell asleep to the lull of talking, before Nerris said his name. “Max. Max come back to me.”

“Wha’ the fu—ck is it no—w.” Max groaned, just wanting to sleep. He didn’t want to feel this pain anymore. “Uh, tell me about your childhood,” They spoke, like they were being fed the words. Max knew he normally would’ve snapped at the intrusive question, but he really just wanted to rest. Maybe after he answered that, they would leave him alone. His ribs screamed in protest as he spoke. “Uhhh, I’ still a chil’?” Max found that funny, so he let out a laugh before his body remembered. “O—w. Fuck.” He drawled. “Uuh, wha’ was th’ ques’ion ‘gain?” Max asked, and Nerris repeated their question, more confidently this time.

“I play’d baseball a’ on’ poin’,” Max slurred. “Be’er than bein’ a’ home,” He withheld a chuckle. “Dad didn’ care, Ma wasn’ there.” Max actually huffed at that, much to his side’s abhorrent screaming. “Haha, tha’ rhymed.” Max said amusedly. “Ma died.” He sobered up. “We visited my Nānī one tim’ in In’ia,” Max slurred, “I’ was when I was re—al lil’, back when Ma was ‘live.” Max said, “I don’ rem’ber much, bu’ she woul’ read me so-stories in Hin’i,” Max recalled. “I’s fu—nny,” Max said, “I barely rem’ber th’ langu’ge, an’ it wa’ m’fi’st one.” Max barely recalled her voice either.

Max groaned as a light was shone in his eyes, and someone above him sighed. “Go to sleep, Max.”

My patience rewards me. It wasn’t Nerris, but his mind was too eager to obey the command to figure out who it was.

 

Max woke up in the infirmary, Gwen standing over him. Max groaned. “U—gh.” He tried to sit up, but his ribs screamed. “Ow. What the fuck?” Max whined. Gwen’s eyes were red rimmed, like she’d been crying a lot. She was covered in blood. He wasn’t sure if it was hers or someone else’s. “Good to see you’re back to normal.” Gwen’s voice was scratchy. Max would’ve shook his head in confusion if it didn’t hurt so bad. “What the fuck happened?” Max asked, pushing forward. “What day is it?”

Gwen shook her head. “Monday. What’s the last thing you remember?” Max thought hard, his mind tugging painfully, like it didn’t want to remember. “Uh, you finding David was working yesterday,” Max spoke. “Did he like hit me by a four-by-four? I’ll fuckin’ end him.” A tear streaked down Gwen’s face, and Max froze. “Uh… Gwen?” She shook with anger. Max wanted to get away.

“David’s dead.” She said lowly, and Max wanted to crawl into a hole and smash every single one of his fingers. “What?” Max tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Gwen suddenly got up in his face, “DAVID’S DEAD!” She shouted, and he backed into the corner of his bed, much to his entire body’s protest. “AND IT’S ALL YOUR FUCKING FAULT!” She raised a hand, and Max flinched downward, his breathing picking up. Gwen seemed like she hadn’t realized what she was doing, and lowered her hand in morbid astonishment at what she almost did. “I-I…” Gwen said.

Tears streaked down Max’s face. “W-what? Ha-appened, Gwen?” Max said brokenly, and Gwen sat next to him on the bed, and Max scootched away from her in instinctive fear. Tears were streaming down her face too. “Nerris told me you ha—d some sort of panic attack,” Gwen mumbled, “Then the wall collapsed on you, and Ered and Harrison,” She said. “Then Da-Dav- he, saved you three, and got separated.” She choked. “He didn’t make it out.”

Max couldn’t make sense of it. His mind stopped. Tears wouldn’t stop, but everything else had. He… had killed… David. In a sick, convoluted way, David’s death was his fault. David’s death. David. Died.

“Max, hold on,” Gwen rubbed his shoulder gently, “I-I was just too worked u-up,” She cried, “It wasn’t your fault Max. It really wasn’t.” Gwen whimpered. Max wasn’t sure if she meant it.

Nonetheless, he couldn’t hold himself back as he launched himself towards Gwen, and they sobbed in each other’s arms.

 

David’s funeral was held the next day. Max almost made it the whole way without Gwen noticing, and she decided that it would do more harm than good to drag him back to the infirmary. She just grabbed some chair and told him to sit down.

The burial site was around an open field that was framed with trees, shrubbery all around. It would’ve been peaceful if there wasn’t a hole dug for someone, and a small grave marker next to that someone, and newly tilled dirt that told him someone was buried there. Into it, had a carved name— Dolph. And Max bit his tongue not to cry at the site of David’s grave marker that Gwen was placing down in front of the grave.

Depressed kids came towards them, carrying various items, from pencils to flowers. Max felt in his pocket to make sure his memorial objects were still there.

None of them were apparently expertised at making a casket, or sermoning a funeral, so Gwen just carefully rolled the body into the grave, it landing surprisingly gracefully. Max forced himself up, and almost fell over from the pain, but held his ground as he approached the grave. A few were peering in, sobbing their hearts out. Max bit his tongue, but tears still slipped down his face nonconsensually. Gwen stood at the grave head, dipping her head to hide her tears. Some of the children knelt, seemingly praying to whatever gods they believed in. Gwen ushered them into a line to say a sort of final goodbye before she… put the earth back. Max moved himself to the back of the line, hearing sad mumblings from those who were at the front of the line, and things dropping into the grave. His vision was blurred over significantly, no matter how hard he wiped his eyes.

Eventually, an excruciating while later, it was finally Max’s turn. Max stood by the grave, silent for a moment. Then, he spoke, taking the two objects out of his hoodie. “You asshole.” He willed himself not to stutter. “All you ever did was hurt me.” He bit. “And now you’re gone, just like everyone else.” He laughed bitterly.

Gwen had apparently cleaned him up nicely, and if you ignored all the chunks taken out of his body, and the gunshot wound through his head, he’d look like he was sleeping. Max wished he was. “I don’t believe in this bullshit. When you die, you’re just stuck here forever.” Max rolled his eyes. “So you’re not bored for eternity, here.” Max tossed in the two objects. “So you don’t ha—unt...” Max’s voice finally cracked, cutting off whatever he was going to say next. Max dipped his head, tears sinking down his face. He paused for a moment. “I… looked up to you. You were the… uh… Dad I never had.” He mumbled. “Thank you.” Max then abruptly turned away from the rotting corpse that once was David, and his DS and charger.

Chapter Text

Any activities were cancelled for the next few days, in light of what had happened, and the fact that a good half of the remaining population was still injured. Gwen told Max he had a concussion, when he asked— which was blatantly obvious, due to the throbbing in his head, and some cracked ribs— again, obvious. She seemed to be surprised he wasn’t hurt more, but he wasn’t going to complain. His body had already taken a lot of hits so far. Other assorted injuries were fractured bones, pulled muscles, acid wounds, bite marks, and scratches. On the bright side, no impalements. On the other side…

 

Max couldn’t stop thinking about… him. How he so readily gave his life for his kids. Was that what dads were supposed to do? Because Max figured his real dad would’ve just left him there to find his own way out. Or more likely, die. Max felt fully responsible for his death, despite Gwen’s insistent pushes. And Max could tell that everyone blamed him too. He didn’t blame them. Max did tend to fuck up everything he touched.

 

Max thought of just grabbing some supplies and taking off, but with his current state of being, he couldn’t. Either way, it would be a death sentence. And David— God damn it, he gave his life so Max could live, for whatever reason. He wasn’t going to die now, or at least not if he can help it.

 

Max got up one morning, way earlier than the rest. The electricity was turned on semi-permanently now, so there was a digital clock that read- ‘6:15AM’, and the sun was already rising. Max absently wondered if daylight savings had passed yet. Max, despite his head’s now quieter throbbing and his ribs ever so consistent screaming, pushed himself up with a little effort. He took a look at his left hand, of which he could now bring to a partial close with a little effort. He still couldn’t feel two of his fingers, he figured he wouldn’t begin to feel them. Max tried not to think about that as he pushed himself the rest of the way off the bed. The floor was surprisingly cold, but Max didn’t linger too long to warm it. He nearly passed out from the painful spinning of his head, but made his way to the doorway, and slipped on the shoes they had found for him. He headed on out towards the mess hall. Max relished in the morning air, trying not to think about the circumstances that had brought the quiet. Max could almost hear the zooming of cars that were no longer there across the highway that wasn’t too far from the forest. But, no. Everything was quiet. He was the only one up.

 

The sky was beginning to turn purple, almost lilac, as he finally made it to the dining hall. He took it upon himself to make breakfast this morning— he had to prove himself useful, some way, some how. So they didn’t send him packing before he ran off. He could tell the majority wanted to do that anyway, but were waiting for Gwen’s instructions. Everyone really hung onto Gwen’s words with bated breath, now. It wasn’t weird, just… bizarre.

 

Max pulled down the instant mashed potatoes boxes from the only pantry shelf he could reach. “Guess this is what we’re having,” Max looked at the instructions intently. He lifted the already heavy pot they had, and filled it with water. Needless to say, he nearly dropped it several times, his ribs did not agree with the position, and probably strained his wrist while at it. His left hand gave a little relief, but not much. He plopped it down on the stove, some water spilling out. He poured the fake potatoes in, and stirred fervently. He then stared at the stove itself.

 

How the fuck do I work this? Max turned on the stove, and immediately set it to low— there was no fire. Max turned it off again, and then saw the ignite thing. He turned the knob to that, and fire sprung up from the stove, making a clicking noise after holding it there for a while. Max then turned it to low, and this time, fire was there. Max watched as the potato water became mashed potatoes.

 

If David were here, he’d probably be making breakfast about now. He tried not to think about that as he stirred it, and the potatoes began to thicken up. Behind him, he heard the door open, and Max turned towards it as fast as lightning, his head spinning with pain as he did that.

 

Gwen looked like a mess, even after a few days, which Max didn’t blame her for. Gwen looked shocked to see someone- especially Max- making breakfast. “Uh, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Max rolled his eyes and more gently turned back to the stove, though it still hurt his ribs and head. “Making breakfast, what do you think?” Max said. Gwen walked back there, and sighed. “Let me grab the garlic so it doesn’t taste like nothing.” She reached into the fridge- they moved all the fruits and vegetables they had into there- and began to chop it up. They both worked in silence, Gwen sliding half of the garlic into the mashed potatoes, and Max continuing to stir. Finally, it seemed Potato Consistency, so he pulled it off the stove and turned it off. He began to spoon the potatoes off onto a large plate that he had grabbed while he was waiting. Gwen tried to help, but Max elbowed her a few times before she huffed agitatedly. “Why are you doing this, kid?” She hissed. “Don’t call me that,” He hissed back, turning to face her, raising a spoonful of hot potato towards her. “Can’t someone just try to help out sometimes?” Max thought that maybe a little emotionally charged, but hoped Gwen didn’t notice. Thankfully, she huffed and moved away. Max finished spooning them off as the kids began to spill in. Max pulled the plate in front of the serving line, and the other kids looked at him- some in shock, some in fear. Max could almost hear them— Why’s the useless kid feeding us? Did he poison it?

 

Nonetheless, their hunger overcame their fear, and Max gave them each a serving of the potatoes. Some got a little more than others, but that was purely coincidence. He held out a bowl to Gwen, and she shook her head. “Not hungry.” Max frowned and continued to shove it at her. She sighed agitatedly. “I’m not eating until you eat, Max. I’ll eat whatever’s left on the plate.” Max huffed, then left the kitchen to the opposite corner of the dining room. He stabbed a spoon into the potatoes, and ate the almost flavorless mush.

 

Max almost didn’t notice a presence approach him.

 

“Max,” Neil Asshole sat across from him. “Hey.” Max growled. “I didn’t poison the potatoes. Why would I be eating them if they were?” He sensed what he was going to say, but according to their faces, he sensed the wrong thing. “I wasn’t going to say that,” Neil said. Max filled his mouth with more potatoes. “Wha’ ‘o ‘ou wah’, ‘e?” Max spoke. Neil stared in confusion. “Don’t speak with your mouth full.” He chatsized. Max swallowed his potatoes. “Fuck you.” He bluntly said, and before Neil could get offended, he continued. “What do you want, then?” He repeated.

 

Neil spoke, trying to sound sincere. “I came to sit with a friend, you looked lonely!” It came off as stilted. “We aren’t friends. Me sitting alone has never affected you before.” Max glared. Neil glared right back, before scooching from his seat. Max thought he was gonna leave then, but Neil sat down uncomfortably close to him. “Look, Max, ” Neil Asshole bit his name, “To my knowledge, you don’t exactly have an abundance of friends, especially since people think you killed David. You need someone like me around to not get you killed.” Neil said. Max got in his face, a million questions swimming in his mind. “Why you? ” Max furrowed his brows. Neil rolled his eyes and pushed Max away, Max restraining himself from pushing back. “Because, if you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of sway since I fixed the electricity,” Max didn’t say what he was thinking, “And I’m smart. I know just how not to get you mutinied.”

 

Not that you have a way of words, Max thought. “Why do you care so much if I get… Mutinied?” Max asked, leaning on his arm. Neil sighed, and looked away. “Nikki told me recently that I’m too doting,” He sighed, “Which I’m not! I’m treating her the way my father taught me to treat children,” Max again didn’t say that she was the same age as him, “ But, I decided that if Nikki really likes you, I’ll give you a chance. And it really is unfair that they’re blaming you,” he admitted. “I… I get my fair share of uh,” Neil seemed to think better of what he was going to say. “But anyway, I’ve decided you’re worthy of my time.” Neil decided.


Max bit back any retort he had. Though this kid was full of himself, Max couldn’t judge him. Max acted the same way. And he was right, he didn’t exactly have friends here. So he took the safest route. “So, you’re saying Nikki… likes me?” Max asked, and Neil blanched. “Geez, self important much?” Max didn’t point out his hypocrisy. “Nikki trusts you, I should say. She thinks of you as a friend. I don’t even think Nikki’s straight.” Max shrugged, he didn’t care either way. Neil finished his potatoes shortly after. “Want to come with me to check up on Nikki?” Neil left his bowl on the table, Max’s still half full. Max shrugged. Might as well, if he was pretending— trying to be friends with them. Max left his bowl on the table as he followed Neil out of the mess hall.

Chapter Text

Max walked, side-by-side with Neil Asshole, approaching the girl’s dorm. Max groaned in pain from the sun shining dead in his eyes. Plus, his ribs were not happy he was up and walking. “Why is Nikki even in the dorm?” Max groaned. “Most everyone’s staying in the infirmary right now.” Max avoided a pothole in the path, which surely would’ve made him either twist his ankle, or make him crumple in pain.

 

“Nikki didn’t get too badly hurt physically. She twisted her ankle, and some acid got on her, but not enough to give her more than a rash.” Neil explained. “And Nikki said she had needed time alone, anyway, so Gwen checks in on her in the dorm.” Max couldn’t see that… jumpy ball of sunshine needing time alone. She’s like a Super Extrovert, ones that could go from party to party every night. “Sounds fake, but okay.” Max said, rolling his eyes. “She’s not going to be like, mopey when we walk in right? Because I’m not good at taking care of depressed people.” Max stuffed his hands into his hoodie pocket, his left protesting, but he just did it anyway. Neil glared at him. “I’m not the best at comforting people either,” he admitted with a sigh, “But thankfully, she isn’t too too bummed out.”

 

They finally reached the room, and Neil knocked on the door. “Who is it?” Nikki sounded… different. Sadder, Max noted. Max withheld a groan. He really wasn’t good at comforting sad people, and he sort of didn’t want to fuck this up. With, you know, the only people in camp who liked him?

 

“It’s Neil and Max,” Neil spoke gently, but loud enough to be heard. Max noted the sharp tone in his voice dulled as he talked to Nikki. Neil talked to her like a child, which Max didn’t exactly enjoy, but hey, at least he wasn’t a douche about it. “Come in!” Nikki seemed closer to the door now, and covered her voice in fake enthusiasm.  

 

Max stepped inside, and saw that all the lights were cut off, and she only had candles lighting up the place, along with natural sunlight. Max would’ve liked to think it was to lower the electricity bill. “Hey,” Max mumbled with a wince as Neil nudged him. “Neil dragged me over here.” Max rolled his eyes. Nikki grinned. “Hey, Max! Hey Neil,” She said, the smile not quite reaching her eyes. “What’s up?” Max said, sitting on one of the chairs they had in the dorm.  Nikki shook her head. “Nothing much, nothing much. Has Gwen said anything about activities starting back up soon?” Nikki asked, and Max sighed. “She’s been a douche, so no.” Max said. The walls were still destroyed- it’s like they were stuck in the day after David died forever, when it had actually been close to five days. If they didn’t start working…

 

“Ooooh, I know!” Nikki hopped up. “Why don’t we just go ahead and start working anyway? Not like she can do much to stop us!” Nikki grinned. Max looked appalled. “Why would you work voluntarily?” Nikki began to jump in place. “I’ve been sitting still for close to five days! C’mon!” Nikki raced out the door, and Max didn’t move. The fuck?

 

Neil sighed. “I guess we’re doing this now.” Max blanched. “Do we have to?” He complained, even though now that he thought of it, it might be a nice distractor. Not that he would say that, though. Neil huffed, and tugged him outside.

 

The three of them worked on the least damaged wall thus far- the eastern wall. Big holes scattered the infrastructure, but it still stood at its nearly two story height. Nikki cut down trees, Max gave the logs he could carry to Neil, and Neil did what he could to save the structure. It took way longer than it seemed, though, and by the end of the day, they had barely managed to fix the one wall. Max, Neil, and Nikki sat, splayed out on the ground. Neil was remarkably red from sunburn, and Nikki seemed exhausted- Max was already near passed out on the ground. He groaned. “Remind me why we did that again?” He thought one of his ribs had completely broken sometime during the day. Or maybe he got a log dropped on his head. Because he fucking hurt. Like, worse than when he woke up. “Suck it up,” Neil bit. “You’ve had the easiest job,” He moaned.

 

“Easy for you to say, you don’t have a partially paralyzed hand and cracked ribs,” Max huffed, sending his chest into more agonizing pain. “Well you both don’t have any right to complain! You came out here of your own will.” Nikki cheered tiredly. Max forced himself up. “Let’s go see if we can get dinner. And some fuckin’ pain killers,” He grabbed onto his side, trying to contain the pain (but only making the pain worse). Neil seconded the motion, and Nikki bounced up and ran ahead of the two. Max helped (in spirit) Neil get up. “She has a shit ton of energy, for being depressed,” Max grumbled, and Neil looked to her fading silhouette. “That’s just Nikki for you,” he breathed, and they began to walk forwards towards the mess hall. “You really care about her,” Max remarked, and Neil rolled his eyes. “Of course. She’s the only thing I have as family left.” Neil looked straight ahead, and Max put his right hand in his pocket. “Yeah, how does that work out anyway?” Max asked, maybe trying to keep silence from entering the equation. Maybe. Neil shrugged. “Her mom and my dad got married when we were little. We were raised as siblings, pretty much.” Neil said. Max nodded. “Sounds cool.” He said. A silence rung for a bit, before Neil asked, “What was your family like?” Max gritted his teeth. “That’s none of your business.” Neil looked almost offended. “But you- And I- ugh, you know what? Nevermind Max.”

 

Max nodded curtly. Neil was right not to push it. He wasn’t going to give up his backstory to some little shit. Especially when all that little shit would do was pity him. “All you need to know is they taught me how to survive.” Max bit, and cut off any chance to talk after. The silence was mildly uncomfortable, but it was almost customary by now. Max still hated it, but oh well.

 

They made it- with few more instances of squabbles between the two- to find the food was just finished, and mac and cheese was steaming off the stove.

 

“Look who made it,” Gwen raised her eyebrows, “Nikki told me what you guys did.” Gwen said nothing more than that. Max and Neil stood beside Nikki, waiting to be served. No ‘thank you’, or anything. Bitch.

 

The three got their food, and Max sat at his table. However, Neil and Nikki immediately followed him, and Max wouldn’t admit it, but he liked that. The others began to trickle in, grabbing plates of mediocre mac and cheese. After all came in and was fed, Gwen finally spoke up. “Tomorrow,” She said definitively, “We fix the walls. We’ll plan smaller so that we can protect more easily with not as many people.”

 

Everyone else groaned, but his little group(?) was a little… Ready to start working again. And anyway, they were happy that maybe, just maybe, they’d finally gotten through to Gwen, and got her out of her rug. But they didn’t know.

 

“Now get to eating, you shits!” She shouted, to stop the complaining, and children began to stab at their food poutily.

 

Yeah, definitely got through to her.

Chapter Text

Max groaned in complete aggravation as he was awakened early from his sleep, one of the few times he could actually sleep, nonetheless. However, he was quickly hushed by a hand covering his mouth. He looked around to see everyone else had been awakened, and the one who came to wake him up was Nerris. “Be quiet. I’m not supposed to have woken you up.” They whispered, and tugged him gently out of bed. Max’s head spun in hurt and confusion. Nerris’s hand still covered his mouth, until they reached the door.

 

“Stay here,” They whispered, and headed back out of the infirmary, leaving the door open a crack. Max could barely seen, due to the low light and the door, but he could see people standing around in a circle.

 

“We can’t keep him here.” One insisted. “He may risk the rest of our lives,” They reasoned. Max got the point of the conversation. Max bit his tongue. Fuck, I knew they would kick me out, but not so soon.

 

“We can’t just do that,” Nerris spoke, Max able to see them from the crack. “He’ll die alone out there!” They exclaimed, and Max shivered. “He’s risking our existence by staying here!” A gruff voice spoke. He grabbed the door with his hands, trying to stop his hands from shaking. “Yeah,” A drawn out voice said. “What if he freezes up again?” She said. Max almost snapped and went out there himself, before thinking better. What if I was to freeze up again? He didn’t want to think about that.

 

“And anyway, he wasn’t ever really part of our group anyway,” One voice said with a flourish, “He would never join us, or help us out.” Max’s heart thumped awfully. Of course everything they felt for him was fake. Or maybe, Max had just missed the chance, and fucked everything up, like he always did. He should have never gotten attached. Max stumbled backwards, trying not to make a sound. He turned away as mumbles of agreement rung out, preparing to pack his things.

 

“HEY!” A familiar voice rang. Neil. “You guys are some fake bitches,” He growled. “One second, you’re trying to be his friend, the next you’re trying to pin the blame on him!” He yelled. “What happened to David was not his fault.” Max walked back over to the door. “We’ve all had moments like that before. I understand his exact feeling of fear in the moment. He almost died, for god’s sake!” He cried out. Nikki picked up the spiel after he dropped off. “He can’t do much about his arm being hurt.” Nikki said. “Remember when I got this one? I couldn’t work for a good two weeks, and it barely bit me!” Nikki apparently gestured to her arm, but Max couldn’t see that. “Just give him one more chance, please?” She pleaded with the rest of them.

 

“He can actually be rather nice,” Neil A mumbled, and Nerris agreed. “Well, even though we argue, it’s Gwen’s decision in the end.” Someone said uncomfortably. “Someone should probably wake Max up for breakfast.” Max took that as his cue to walk out. “Hey.” Max deadpanned, and some of their faces went pale.

 

“Max,” Harrison said awkwardly. “How long have you been there?” Max glared at Harrison, then Nerris, before ultimately deciding to say, “Not long. Is breakfast ready yet? I’m fucking starved.” He tried not to let his anger or… whatever else was in his voice show. Some of them nodded awkwardly, and began to shuffle towards the mess hall. Nikki and Neil were waiting up for him, but Nerris approached him. “I-I thought you should hear that, I’m sorry-“ Max glared at them. “Thanks, I’m surely glad to know that a good half of us hate me.” Max snarked, but then considered his words again. “But I guess, thanks. Wouldn’t have wanted to go around kicking everyone’s ass if they already wanted to kick mine.” Max strolled as confidently as he could manage up to Neil and Nikki.

 

Nikki smiled brightly, yet it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Hey Max,” She cheered. “Want to go eat?” Max let his lip quirk up just a millimeter. “What the fuck did I just say?” He said, and began to walk ahead of the two of them. They caught up to him quickly. Neil broke the silence as the mess hall came in sight. “Hey, how much did you really hear?” Neil said, trying not to push. Max glared at him. “I heard what I needed to hear.” Max spoke clearly, and Neil nodded like that was a good enough answer. Nikki bounced and asked him a number of questions, to which Max could say ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘God Nikki would you fuck off?’. But of course, Nikki didn’t— not that Max minded.

 

They reached the mess hall with plenty of time to spare, and began to eat the disgustingly plain oatmeal someone had prepared for them. Probably Gwen. Speaking of Gwen, she looked like a fucking drill sergeant, the way that she held herself today. She told everyone where they needed to be curtly, and where they needed to report to. And of course, “Max- You report to me after breakfast.” Great. She’s gonna fucking slaughter me. Make me for dinner . Max was suddenly not hungry, but he kept poking at his food, trying to lengthen the time before he died. He engaged some in useless conversation between the three of them, small talk that Max knew he wasn’t that great at. Eventually, he decided he was ready to die (not really), and put up his food and wandered over to where Gwen was. She looked at him with a hard look in her eyes, before grabbing his hand. The few people left in the cafetorium looked on to them, some worried, some with distaste. He didn’t really care to discern who from who.

 

Max tried not to let his hand sweat while they headed to what looked like the infirmary, but that was sort of an involuntary thing. Max finally decided to bite the bullet. “What the fuck are you going to do to me?” Gwen rolled her eyes. “How’s your arm?” She asked. Max paused- he was expecting to get maybe dismembered, or something. “It’s getting better. Hurts like hell still, though.” He mumbled, and she reached out for it. Max hesitated before giving her his arm. Max expected she just wanted to kick him out, but now she’s doing the physical therapy thing? What?

 

“Max?” Her voice rang out, shaking him from his trance. “What?” He spoke, monotone. Gwen sighed angrily. “Clench your fist, if you can.” Max put all of his effort into closing his fist- with a hellish ache of pain, he succeeded. Gwen must have noticed his wince, as she asked for him to rate his pain. It didn’t hurt as bad as it did before, but it did hurt quite a bit. “Like, 4 or 5.” He looked away from her, but he expected she nodded. “Can you feel all of your fingers?” Max shook his head. “Nah, but it’ll be fine.” Max gritted, hand aching as he held his fist shut. Yesterday hadn’t been this bad, but of course, whenever it ached too bad, he dropped the plank. Which, he meant, was every other minute or so. Gwen must have made a face, or something, because she didn’t speak for a while. “Unclench your fist.” Max happily did so, dropping his arm. When it thudded against the bed, it hurt his arm, pulling on his ribs too. “Fuck,” he grounded out. “How’s your ribs? And your head?” She asked. “Like I’m constantly about to throw up, thanks for asking.” He said once he regained control of his breathing. Gwen paused. “You don’t have to work if you don’t want to.” She whispered.

 

Max’s head filled with rage. She thought just because he was hurt a little bit— okay, a lot— that he couldn’t work. She looked at him with those pitiful eyes, and he growled. “I’m going to work. Fuck you, Gwen.” He said, and Gwen smirked. “Good.” Max paused his rampage for a moment, before realizing she played him. She wanted him to react like that. He pouted, and crossed his arms angrily. “If you can pout, you can work.” She shoved him off the bed gently, and he stomped towards the door. “And Max?” She said as he was nearly out the door. “The fuck you want?” Max whined.

 

“Send Ered in, if you would. I need to do a check up on her too. Get to work on rebuilding the north wall.” Max rolled his eyes, before heading on to find wherever Ered had disappeared to.

 

Several people hung around her, as she limped around on makeshift crutches they quickly made after she broke her leg in the fall. Max almost winced every time he saw her, but he pretended not to care. “Ered,” Max called, and everyone there turned to him. He looked away from their angry and judging looks. “Gwen needs to see you in the infirmary. And tell your friends to stop staring at me like I’m fucking Satan.” He said, before stomping off.

 

I have to prove I’m not useless, He thought. Because I’m fucking not. Max approached the wall. This was the wall that had most of the damage- his wall. He was supposed to protect it and… well. Max stood candid in front of the wall. If I had taken care of this wall better… Max shook his head. He can’t think like that. Not now. But he was rooted to his spot, and he didn’t know why.

 

Max’s breath was weird. That’s really all he noticed. The sky was red, and he remembered- his blood spilling on the ground. Everywhere. He was splayed out so all the corpses could come out everywhere, and end his life. His chest ached funnily. He held a board as he watched the wall begin to crumble. He was trying to fix it, but as soon as he saw one of them, he couldn’t move. Then the walls crashed down. And…

 

“Hey Max,” Someone’s hand was on his shoulder, and that’s what shook him out of his stupor. Max turned his head to see Nerris, looking to him worriedly. “You… uh, okay?” They asked, and Max nodded jerkily. “Do you need help?” Max looked away from the kid. He nodded jerkily again. Nerris pulled him from his spot, out of memories, and he took a deep breath, before grabbing a few logs lying on the ground, with Nerris’s help. They worked in silence, nailing the logs together and making sure they stood straight.

 

“Nerris.” Max finally spoke, and they looked at him. Max looked to the wood he was nailing. “I. Uh.” Max stuttered, his face furrowing in frustration. “Thanks, I guess.” Max mumbled. He hoped they got what he meant.

 

“It’s no problem, Max.” They said, and picked up another board that they nailed to the log to make it more sturdy. After a minute, they spoke again. “At first, you know, I didn’t get why in the world you were just standing there. Gwen told me after I explained to her what happened that you had some form of a panic attack.” Max gritted his teeth, and nailed in the nail roughly. “...After that, I asked what that was. And… I know now.” They said, holding a board for Max to nail in. He grabbed a nail, and resisted the urge to stab himself with it. “And you know, I don’t blame you for what happened that night. It was… An awful situation.” They said, and watched their hands as it was nailed in place. Max stayed silent, but gave a small nod to them, acknowledging them.

 

They worked in silence for the rest of the day, into the evening.

Chapter Text

Max woke up the next morning surprisingly slowly. His consciousness came to him like a tide rolling in, and he blearily opened his eyes. It was still dark out, and everyone who was still in the infirmary was asleep. He turned to check the clock, which read 6AM. He got up slowly, doing his best not to jar his injuries or let the bed squeak.

 

He withheld a groan of pain as he put his weight on his left arm to push himself to the right side of the bed. He sat on the edge of the bed, shivering. The months had seemed to start to fade away into spring, but that didn’t mean it still wasn’t fucking cold. He pulled himself off the bed, feet quietly landing on the ground. He took another look around. The beds were high as all hell, so he could barely see above them, but he saw the bumps of the other campers laying in bed. A good half still stayed, but yesterday, most decided to move back to their respective cabins. Max… Didn’t want to go back. Max let out a huff of air. He looked at all the people still there, and remembered yesterday.

 

They all hated him. Gwen probably did too. He killed David. And that was the inexplicable truth. By now, it was only a matter of time before he got kicked out, left to die on his own. Left to die all alone, in the wilderness. Well. Well, Max was going to at least have his stuff together if that were to happen. So he didn’t have to stay a moment longer than he had to. Max knew what he had to do.

 

Max snuck out of the infirmary, toeing on his shoes at the door. He walked in the morning brisk, watching the sky begin to turn purple to allow another day to come. Max didn’t stop to look up, though. The stars blinked out as he got into the boy’s dorm. Max walked up to his old door. Their old door. Max took a deep achy breath, and walked in.

 

Nothing had been moved since he last came here. He flicked on the light, seeing the full room for maybe the second time. Some of David’s old gear was still on the bed, along with Max’s belongings strewn across the floor. Mr. Honeynuts was still sitting on the bed, looking lonely as all hell. Max picked him up with an ache in his heart. He gently put him in the bag. Most of Max’s junk didn’t make it to the camp, but with any luck, he’d find his tent again, or maybe a stock full of stuff. But he wouldn’t steal their stuff. That’s just… Wrong. He stared at his ukulele.

 

Reasonably, he knew he shouldn’t take it, but illogically, his mind wanted it. He also didn’t want it, though. Too many memories flooded his mind as he tried to reason not to keep it.

 

...Max put it on the bed, for the time being. Maybe he’d get it it, or maybe not. Inexplicably, he teared up, but he refused to cry. He wasn’t a baby. Max blinked, and pulled out the picture somehow still in his hoodie pocket. The photo was blood stained and wrinkled, but it was still his… family. He looked to his mother, then at his father, trying to memorize their faces. Bitch, he hated his mom and dad, really. Shitty ass negligent parents, if you asked him. But… He could barely remember their voices. Max bitterly realized that he was probably the cause of both of their deaths, in some ways. Ma worked herself too hard, and Dad…. Max shuddered. He didn’t want to remember him. He didn’t want to. He hadn’t thought too much of it since he got here. Two weeks to replace a shitty family, and get them killed again. He thought bitterly. You were never meant to belong.

 

Max heard Gwen yelling into the cabin, announcing breakfast was ready. Max slung his bag over his shoulder reluctantly, and began to walk out of the room. As soon as he made it out and shut the door, he felt someone shove past him, and he stumbled, his body slamming into a table, jarring his injuries with a hot flare. Max glared as he looked up, and saw Nurf chuckling as he walked out the door. Max was the last one there. Max picked himself up, mumbling angrily. Max grumbled, and stomped out of there. He might as well have a final meal.

 

Max swore the Last Supper occurred at well… Dinner, but apparently it was at breakfast. And the food fucking sucked. And there wasn’t any alcohol there. That was the worst bummer. Regardless, he scarfed down the almost tasteless eggs (Where Gwen had found eggs, he may never know) and prepared himself. Neil and Nikki tried to talk to him, but he was completely and utterly zoned out. Max, once he cleared his plate, stood up to return it to Gwen. It was go time.

 

Some stared at him odd- since some of them had barely gotten half through their eggs, but he simply put his plate down in front of Gwen. She looked up from her breakfast. “I’m going to leave.” Max said, trying to force all emotion from his voice. Gwen looked at him in shock.

 

“What?” Gwen said quietly, so quietly Max could barely hear her. “Don’t make me say it again.” He said, crossing his arms. Gwen was silent for a few moments. “Why?” She asked, remorsefully. Max kept his face hardened, but his eyes reflected his pain. “Because. I can tell when people don’t want me here.” Max’s hands shook. “It’s all my fault everything went wrong, so-“ Max began to turn when Gwen grabbed his left arm. He winced in pain, and turned back around, and he was about to yell at her when he saw tears glistening in her eyes. “Max. You didn’t cause any of that to happen.” She insisted, pulling him down gently next to where she was sitting. Max could feel everyone staring at them. Max didn’t have the effort to care. “It’s not your fault.”

 

“Yes, it is! I failed to do my job, and the wall collapsed and…..” Max hiccupped, suddenly realizing he was crying. For the first time in a while, he was crying. Gwen pulled him into a hug, stroking his hair. “Max, everyone messes up sometimes. D…. David decided you kids were worth his life. You, Ered, and Harrison. You weren’t the only one he had to save that night.” Gwen’s voice cracked. “Max, it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.” Gwen insisted. “Shit happens sometimes, I guess.” Gwen murmured, and Max heard her shuddering inhale. “Max, we want you here.” She corrected herself. “ I want you here.” Max couldn’t help crying into her arm at this point, if only to stop his cries aloud. She didn’t stop stroking his hair. “We… We got off on the wrong foot. And David…” She took a deep breath, “ He believed in you. I didn’t see why at first, but… He was right.” She said quietly to him. “Despite being an edgy bastard, you’re still just a kid. And you’re worth protecting.” Max choked. She picked him up, and carried him away from the scene, trying to minimize any damage to his ego (though he probably needed it). “I…” Max shuddered, “I…” He mumbled again. “I don’t know why I’m l-like this.” Max choked out. Gwen sat down on the porch with him, cradling him. Gwen looked sadly down to him. “It’s okay. You don’t have to know yet.” She mumbled, trying to remember all her child care protocols. She hadn’t quite had to deal with a chronically neglected child for long, excuse her.

 

Soon, Max’s tears subsided, and she could tell he was stiffening in embarrassment. Gwen spoke in a joking tone. “You done crying out your breakfast?” Max nodded, and shoved himself away from Gwen’s grasp. “I’m not your kid, you know.” He grumbled, “You don’t have to fucking treat me like it.” Max crossed his arms, and Gwen rolled her eyes. “You’re the age of the rest of these shits. You’re my kid as much as they are.” Gwen pretended not to notice the almost happy glint in his eyes. Max held up the angry facade. “Whatever, Gwen.” He grumbled, and Gwen stood up.

 

“Wanna come back inside with me? I gotta make sure they don’t break everything.” Max shook his head. He had already made enough of a fool of himself without going back in there, thanks. “Well, get to work on fixing the rest of the walls. I’ll have PT with you later today.” Max groaned, but nodded. As Gwen was about to pop open the door, Max grabbed her hand. She looked down to him in confusion, and Max paused before speaking.

 

“Thanks for letting me stay here.” He mumbled, and Gwen nodded. “I’m not letting more kids die on my watch, kid. You’re family now.” Max nodded briefly, before she escaped back inside.

 

Max trotted down the stairs, thinking about what just happened. He bit his lip. He was actually… Wanted? By someone other than that idiot? Max could barely believe someone fucking was that stupid. He… He was going to be the end of them. Max was thankful, though. He wouldn’t say that, take that secret to his grave. Max gripped onto the grip of his backpack, before throwing it inside the dorms before headed to the wall.

 

Max couldn’t have dreamed of this before everything. Telling himself about a month ago that he’d be with a bunch of kids and an idiotic… Gwen, grieving the loss of a somewhat dad? Nah, bitch. He would’ve slaughtered himself from the future. Nonetheless, one Max was enough. Jesus fuck, it’s only been a month, Max realized. All this shit happened in less than a month. Max looked around, taking in the morning sky. It was cloudy, yet the sun shone through, straight into his eyes like a bastard. Max looked towards the structures that were slowly being rebuilt. Max picked up a hammer.

 

I won’t let you down. He thought to… no one. He looked up one more time, shielding his eyes slightly. Thank you, for letting me be a part of this… Family, I guess. Max thought, sweeping the remaining tears off his face.

 

Max got to work.

Chapter Text

Dear Max,

 

You’ll probably never see this letter- hopefully, anyway! I hope you’re doing fine. I’m writing this in case… you decide to leave, or something of the sort, right? Anyways, I want you to know, you’re free to take whatever you want!

 

But… I also want you to know, you have always been welcomed here. Even if you are a little haywired, that’s okay. I understand. I would find it hard to trust some random strangers! That’s a healthy fear! But even if I d Even if you feel weird here, you’re safe here.

 

You probably wouldn’t know this, or care to know this, but you remind me of myself as a kid. I can’t understand exactly how you were raised, of course, but I… Feel like I’ve been in similar shoes to yours. You’re important to me, and just like all my kids, I want you to feel safe and happy. Even if that isn’t now. I care about you, and even though Gwen doesn’t act like it, she does too. I want you to know, you are loved, kiddo. Even if I haven’t known you for too long, you’re still like a son to me. You’re very precious in ways you cannot see. I’m sorry we shot you in the beginning. And I’m sorry you got so hurt when we could’ve helped you from the start.

 

Anyway— This letter was to you incase I— you left! So I think I should give you some tips to survive.

 

 

  • Always have clean water!
  • Have some dried or canned foods!
  • Have a good weapon!
  • Keep your eyes peeled!
  • Get some people you trust together!
  • You may suffer a bit, but even before all of this, suffering was a given in day to day life- it’s what makes life worth living, makes you appreciate the happy parts. Basically, though you suffer, remember that you can and will be happy.
  • Just… Live.

 

 

I suppose that’s about it kid! Please, be safe! We’re still here if you ever need us (Or we’ll leave directions if you need). I love you. <3

 

  Sincerely,

              David.

 

Gwen folded up the note, tears streaming down her face. Maybe I can keep it for a little while. She insisted in her head. Max isn’t going to be leaving, anyway.

 

Gwen walked out of the room, preparing to face another day with a bunch of little shits, and a day without David. Gwen sucked in a breath, preparing herself. She can do it. I can do it.

 

For the students. For Max. For David.