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A Battle of Kings and Roses

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Out of the frying pan into the fire the saying went but boy was it ever the understatement if David King ever heard one and this was coming from a man with his fair share of troubles. Naturally when he had first found himself in the Entity’s realm he had thought he had gotten himself well beyond pissed. It wouldn’t have been the first time he had thrown back too many and woken up in a strange place. Sometimes the boys could be right gits with the jokes. He’d know, he was just as bad at times. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how one wanted to look at it, it didn’t take him long to realize that his good ol’ mates weren’t taking the piss out of him. Truthfully speaking he should have seen something like this coming. To be quite frank, it was only a matter of time before he got himself into something he couldn’t just knuckle his way out of. He always did live by Sod’s Law.

Being put in an endless cycle of running for your life and doing bugger all wasn’t exactly the worst thing that could happen. In fact this new life of his wasn’t that terribly different from the one he had been plucked out from. There were things he had to get used to of course, much to his annoyance. Not being able to properly defend himself from murderous freaks was one of them. That didn’t mean he didn’t try, because he did much to the shock of the others. They had all thought he was crazy when he suggested retaliating passed the temporary stab of a pointy object. The insistence that it was a foolish thing to try had quickly been shut down after he had decked the Cannibal in the face and chucked his mallet into a stack of tires during one frustrating trial.

Not having access to the pubs was another thing he had to get used to but at least he wasn’t in this alone. There were other people he could commiserate with. They were, for better or worse, a family now or at least civilized neighbors that shared a commonality for as long as they had been there. Admittedly some survivors had stronger connections while there was thinly veiled animosity and distrust for others. David was no different though he probably dealt with the latter more than he had with the former. It hadn’t surprised him in the least and he welcomed it. He also welcomed certain relationships over others. The one he shared with Claudette was one of them.

Their bond was more on the complex side of things not that either one of them had sought to be difficult. She had been kind to him when he first arrived, proper polite and all that but she never went out of his way to engage him. When he had attempted to talk to her past the usual ‘can yous’ and ‘do yous’ he was often met with bemusement and at worse silence. It took him a while to realize that Claudette’s demeanor towards him wasn’t born out of malicious intent but out of the fact he unintentionally intimidated her. The fact she was far from being a social butterfly didn’t help either. She eventually warmed up to him though as he did to her but it didn’t change that they were a bit like oil and water. Often at times his reckless behavior clashed with her even-tempered one but they got on well enough. Made a damn good team on the trials too.

“Beauty and the Beast,” David spoke from where he was tying the wires together to hear a light laugh of amusement from the otherside of the generator.

“What?”

“What?” he mocked playfully as he spared a glance over to Claudette. “Don’t like it? I thought it was bloody clever. Better than the whole ‘Loop Squad’.”

“Loop Gang, Nea and Meg are Loop Gang," Claudette corrected.

He snorted in response but otherwise said nothing. She already knew his colorful opinion on some of the names the other survivors had given themselves. Right now their focus was on getting out of this trial alive. After they got this one up and running they only had one more to repair. There was no telling if one of the others were also in the midst of repairs but if they were then they had a good shot of getting out sooner than later. A shout somewhere off to his left echoed throughout the trial grounds just as the fourth piston gained traction and their generator came to life. As expected, Claudette rocked up on her feet and turned towards the noise but David was faster. He seized her by the wrist and tugged her behind a crumbling wall, blocking her in.

“You’ve gone bloody mental?” he hissed as wide eyes focused on him.

“That was Dwight,” Claudette said instead.

It was always like her to be such a bleeding heart. While David always commended her selflessness he also hated it enough that the topic was often center front of the arguments they at times had.

“Of course it was Dwight. When isn’t it the twat?” David shot back.

Raised brows, much to his dismay, lowered themselves as Claudette took on a look of offense. He needed to do damage control before he had a fight on his hands. Usually he’d be game for it but during a trial he tried to be more level headed.

“Look...Detty love, it was just one scream yeah? Means he hasn’t been hooked right so why don’t we just be a bit smart about this? ‘Sides last I checked you were terrified of the Clown,” he spoke carefully as he settled his hands against her shoulders.

If there was one thing that his time in the Entity’s realm had helped him with it was with curbing his general brashness and impulsively charged actions. Claudette had helped with that. Tempered him really with that accepting heart of hers that as gungho as he was to get into a dust up he’d let the Entity take him first before he let her runoff and get herself into trouble.

“Weren’t you the one who told me that one of the worst things I can do is live my life in fear?” Claudette asked incredulously that he couldn’t help but chuckle as he spared a glance over his shoulder.

“You really want to get into it with me in the middle of a trial? Because if it’s a fight you want I’ll-”

“David please,” Claudette sighed as she gave a gentle push against his chest, effectively curbing his taunting as her brows remained furrowed. The way her lips pressed together was what really sobered him up though. Her resolved face.

Bloody hell. He let out a breath of his own as he pushed a hand back into his hair.

“You’re killing me 'ere, pet,” he groused though he eventually nodded. “Right then, let's go try to save the bastard but the minute I think we're in over our heads you leg it. Got it?"

If it hadn't been for his budding annoyance he would have relished the way arms secured themselves momentarily around his neck. It wasn't often that Claudette was giving in physical affection, least of all to him. Had the situation been different he might have hugged her back and cracked a joke. Instead he steeled himself for a possible fight and then began a careful advance towards where they had last heard Dwight. They found the man staggering around the other side of the rundown chapel bleeding profusely as the Clown threw another bottle. The noxious gas billowed out over the ground only stopping short of their hiding spot.

"He's going to get himself caught," Claudette spoke in alarm. "Maybe if we cause a distraction...I could get the Clown's attention…" she trailed off as she had edged to the corner of the wall.

David snagged her around the waist before she could even think about enacting her plan. God was he a bad influence.

"Oy, the fuck you will woman," he hissed.

"What are you doing?" Claudette looked at him as if he were the one who was just about to do something stupid. "We can't just leave him, David."

"That's exactly what I'll do if it means keepin' you safe."

It was the wrong thing to say but he'd be damned if it wasn't the truth. Dwight could get sacrificed ten times over for all he cared. Unfortunately Claudette didn't think the same as she tried to put distance between them.

"I'm just as capable of helping as anyone else. I don't need you treating me like all I'm good for is healing," she protested much to his chagrin.

Thankfully their impending fight was interrupted by shattering glass and Dwight's cry that was quickly followed by another scream. He had gotten downed. This wasn't the situation David had wanted to be in but the sound of the last needed generator powering up sure was welcomed.

Good man, Ace.

"Look it, let me go rescue our good ol' leader while you get the gates open," he suggested as gently as he could. "If I cock this up ya can hold it over my head yeah?”

Someone like Meg would have jumped at the opportunity but not Claudette. If anything she seemed even more opposed to his proposed plan as she worried her bottom lip with her teeth.

“I don’t like this. We should do this together...as a team,” Claudette reasoned as she rubbed at her arms in an attempt to calm her battered nerves before Dwight screamed out again. She flinched then before she let out a shaky breath and fixed David with a look. “Fine, get Dwight. I’ll go find Ace and get the gates open.”

David couldn’t help but smile as some of the tension left him before he took her hands in his and squeezed.

“You’re a real peach, love. Couldn’t do what I do without ya.”

“Just please be careful, David. Okay? I'm serious, don't do anything stupid.”

“No promises but I’ll do what I can,” he tipped an imaginary hat towards her before they went their separate ways.

He had just nearly missed running into the Clown who had thrown another bottle where he left Dwight hanging. Pulling off his shirt, David quickly tied it around his nose and mouth just as he began to feel the familiar burning in his lungs. While Claudette might forgive him for not getting to Dwight in time she would have him by the balls if he let himself get caught out. Staying ducked behind a high wall he watched as the Clown headed in the opposite direction he had left Claudette in. He was clearly going to check where the last generator had gone off. Small favors, that. But it was now or never. Throwing caution to the wind he took off towards where Dwight was fending off the Entity’s ravenous legs.

“David!” the man called out to him hoarsely as he noticed him. “Hurry and get me down, m-my hands are slipping!”

“You want to shout a bit louder there Fairfield?” David frowned as he seized a hold of him from underneath the arms while giving a quick look around.

The answer was apparently yes with the way Dwight yelled as he was freed from the rusty hook and slumped heavily in David’s hold. Bloody bastard was practically dead weight as he panted and scrambled for a hold on the Brit.

“B-ban...need bandages,” Dwight breathed harshly as he collapsed to his knees.

“Do I look like I 'ave a dispensary going on here mate? Get up,” David ordered as he grabbed the other by his collar and tugged him up onto his feet.

It was a big mistake on his part as it only seemed to make his fellow survivor even louder as he cried out in aggravation. The sound of a bottle breaking and the asthmatic cough and laughter of the Clown made his blood run cold even as he slapped a hand against Dwight’s mouth.

“Oy if you don’t put a sock in it Fairfield so help me I’ll…” he began only to stop when he heard nearing footsteps. For a moment he swore the ground was shaking.

He didn’t bother to look over his shoulder however. The fear in Dwight’s glassy eyes coupled with the putrid smell of chemicals, grease paint and sweat told him all he needed to know. The Clown had found them. With a sharp curse on his lips he tugged Dwight closer to him as he pulled his shirt free from his face.

“Listen to me,” he began as he did his best to stem the flow of his companion’s bleeding shoulder. “Claudette and Ace should 'ave the west gate open by now. I want you to run and don’t look back or I’ll put ya back up on that bleeding hook m’self yeah?”

“W-west gate, yeah I got it,” Dwight nodded feverishly as he managed to get himself righted on his own.

Not bothering to watch the other off, David turned to the Clown who had finally come to a stop a few yards away from him. While David was far from average height, the murderous madcap in front of him stood a good head and half over him. It was enough to make a bloke want to backtrack but not him. He had never backed down from a fight in his entire life and he wasn’t about to do it now. He smirked as he wiped the back of his hand under his nose before he widened his stance and held his arms out to his side.

“Y’know I never did like you red nosed wankers growin’ up but I tell ya what mate, I’m gonna enjoy this,” he spoke as he cracked his neck then raised his fists. “Come on then, let’s ‘ave it.”

You couldn’t kill the killers but you sure could beat the shit out of them to an extent. The Clown despite his seize was rather spry but he didn’t have the years of practice David had. He didn’t know how to judge a fake out or how to properly block a left hook. He also didn’t know what a madman David King could be even when he was bleeding like a stuck pig. Honestly speaking, he probably overdid it even as he staggered away from the Clown’s prone body and booked it for the gates. Surprisingly enough the others were still there, waiting for him. Claudette was still there. As expected she ran to him, slipped herself under his arm not caring he was bleeding all over her and steadied him as much as she could.

“Jesus David, what did you do? Did you try to fight again?” she asked in disbelief as Ace took up his other side. Dwight was limping ahead of them.

“Didn’t try, pet,” he tried to smile as they crossed the threshold to salvation but the effort nearly had him doubling over.

“The cojones on this one,” Ace chuckled before he leaned forward slightly to look at Claudette as he shook his head. “Mi pana here, ah what can I say?”

Despite Ace’s ability to make the best out of a bad situation it didn’t change Claudette’s demeanor even as they finally reached the camp. Dutifully she had made sure Dwight was alright before she had come to him with a medkit in hand. Comparably the office worker was in much better shape than he was but David had expected that. Sometimes they carried over wounds from trials that for one reason or another the Entity didn’t deem fit to warrant healing. In his case the reason was often due to his altercation with the killers. A sharp pain ran up his left side as Claudette tightened the bandages about his ribs. She hadn’t said a single thing to him since they had come back. Hell, she didn't even bother giving him instructions of when to hold his arms up, when to stay still or when she was going to apply the burning antiseptic. He couldn't really fault her for it though. For all his short sightedness, David knew when to not press an issue but the way she was taking her frustrations out on his body was something he could take for only so long. When she pressed a little too hard on his carved up bicep he caught her wrist in a firm grip and tugged.

“Know you’re brassed off with me love, but do you really ‘ave to be so bloody rough with me 'ere? Thought your type were supposed to hold some type of oath or somethin'. Do no harm and all that."

Regret clouded Claudette’s expression but she barely met his gaze.

“Sorry,” she apologized “and I’m not a doctor. I never took the hippocratic oath.”

It was the only thing she had said to him before she finished up her task and promptly made herself scarce. Proper annoying it was. Claudette not speaking to him reminded him too much of all the progress that they had made since his being there and it irritated David beyond anything else. Well that and the fact Dwight had all but cornered him about it.

“You leader of the glasses brigade or something mate?” he shot the other a look as he leaned back against a tree.

“What? No. I’m just...it’s just that I’m concerned about Claudette taking after you. I’m not the only one who has noticed she’s more willing to put herself in harm's way for us during trials. She never started doing that until you two started becoming more friendly and-”.

Straightening himself out David took a step forward and grabbed a hold of the office worker’s tie and yanked on it hard. It sent Dwight stumbling into him as he let out an indignant yelp.

“Let me guess, I’m a bad influence on’r and all that other bollocks yeah? Or is this your cover to try to get the bird all for y'self?” he questioned as he felt his ire rise. This conversation was a long time coming with the way he often caught Dwight looking at them like a disapproving father but it didn’t change the fact it still irked him.

“N-now David I didn’t say that,” Dwight raised his hands to placate him.

“But you were gonna.”

“Yes b-but I’m just concerned.”

“And ya think I’m not? Ever since Campbell’s she hasn’t said a single word to me edgewise all thanks to you but ya want to confront me about giving her a confidence boost? Cor, talk about pissing in the wind Fairfield,” David spat releasing the man.

He wasn’t about to stick around and let accusations be flung at him. Dwight and the others could think what they bloody well pleased. It wasn’t the first time he and Claudette had been at odds with each other and it wouldn’t be the last but he sure wasn’t going to let her continue and ignore him. It didn't take him long to find her. He found her at one of the cleaned out shacks that they used to store procured medical supplies. Thankfully it was a ways away from the campfire which gave them enough privacy as he boxed her in.

“Alright, you and me, need to talk, right now,” he demanded as wide eyes settled on his face.

“David, what on earth are you doing?” Claudette began confused by his sudden appearance.

“Oh so the bird does talk. Good to know this conversation will be two ways then. Now to clear the air with ya. You’re angry with me and that’s all fine and dandy, I swear it is, but don’t ya think you’ve been draggin’ this out too long? I mean bloody hell Detty it’s been like five trials now and ya barely give me a glance these days let alone a single word,” David willed himself to speak without resentment but boy did he feel it.

They had gone without speaking before but it never bugged him to this degree. Claudette hadn’t responded to any of his attempts to engage her and as long as it had gone on it was now to the point of being unacceptable. Didn’t help any that she was all but attaching herself to Jake Park’s hip as of late.

“Don’t I have the right to not speak to you if I don’t want to?” Claudette asked him evenly.

That hadn’t been the response he had expected but at least she was talking to him.

“Yeah, sure but would it kill ya to give a bloke a warning? At least tell me to piss off."

“Would it kill you to be careful for once in your life?" she gave her own retort, letting her irritation show but just barely. "I mean how many times must I beg you to be careful David? You’re always being reckless and it seems like it has only gotten worse as of late.”

“Is this what this is about? You don’t like the way I go about things?”

“I don’t like that you can never promise me that you’re not going to get yourself hurt,” Claudette corrected him.

He could have laughed but he didn't. Nothing about this was amusing.

“You should be over the moon I don’t promise you that because then you’d have to not only deal with the bastard I already am but me being a liar too. Is that what you want?” David retorted but when he received no answer he continued on. “And tell me what’s so bad about it? Better yet tell me why’s it alright for you to give your all for us but the minute I do the same for you we always get into a fuckin row about it? It’s as if ya don’t want me carin’ about ya or something.”

“That’s not fair.”

Dark eyes took on a look of offense but he was already on a roll.

“And givin’ me the cold shoulder is? Look I’m not a mind reader, love, but ya know I ain’t ever mean ya any harm with my words or actions,” he paused and took a breath as he softened his tone. “Just want to look out for ya y’know. You’ve always treated me good ever since I got 'ere and I just want to do the same.”

“I know that, I really do and I appreciate it. Even if some of the others find you difficult I always know you mean well. It’s just…” Claudette looked away as she fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. “You make me feel inadequate.”

The confession caught him off guard and for a while he just stood there in silence before Claudette spoke again as she kept her gaze everywhere but on his face.

“It’s stupid isn’t it? But it’s how I feel when I’m in a trial with you and you get yourself hurt the way you do. I’m just Claudette the Medic to you while you’re always throwing yourself into harm's way just to protect me. It makes me feel so useless to you,” she sniffed as she raised her hands to her face and tried in vain to stop from crying.

“Fucking hell Claudette,” David breathed before he pulled her hands away from her face and forced her to look up at him. “You really have gone mental haven’t you, ya daft bint. You couldn’t be useless to me if you tried but ya 'ave my deepest apologies for making you think like that. I’d give my right arm to change the way ya feel if I could and I sort of need that,” he spoke in earnest to get a small laugh. It did his heart good to hear that. “What? Being honest I am. I mean I could learn how to use the left, mum always said I was a bright boy. Could do anything I put my mind to, I could. Though if I’m honest I’m not sure how being a lefty is going to work when a bloke needs a good wank.”

“David!” Claudette let out a laugh as she tried to shove at him but he kept a firm hold of her wrists.

Deliberately, he used the leverage to pull her directly into him before he ducked his head and pressed his lips firmly into hers. For him it was one of the most innocent kisses he ever had been a part of but it was still nice as he pulled back and stared down into a shocked face.

“Y’know that’s a good look on you,” he teased before he heard the snap of a twig.

Turning his head to the left he spotted Quentin coming through the bushes with a small sack in hand. His grip must have gone slack because the next thing he knew it Claudette was moving around him to greet their resident insomniac.

“Is that today’s new find?” Claudette asked, getting her friend’s attention.

“Oh hey, yeah. Nea is going through the rest of the stuff with Jake back at the fire so I thought I’d add these to the stock,” Quentin explained before he took notice of David. “Hey, when did you start doing inventory shifts?” he asked clearly amused.

“It’s David, Quentin,” Claudette pointed out as she joined the other to unpack what he had brought.

“Right, I almost forgot. Guess I haven't gotten as much sleep as I thought.”

“Hardy har, har. You two are riot ya know that?” David snorted to get a smile from Quentin.

“We’re here all day. Plenty of laughs to go around from the number one comedic duo known as Smith and Morel.”

“I’ll be sure to remember that then but I best be on my way. Don’t want to keep Ace waitin’ too long when he 'as a date with gettin' his arse kicked in a game of gin rummy,” David announced before he pinched Claudette in the side and gave her a smile. “Cheers then.”

“Bye David,” she returned though it wasn’t lost on him that she refused to meet his gaze, clearly embarrassed. “Oh by the way” she called out to him making him stop and turn around though she was too busy writing something down in a beat up ledger. “Beauty and the Beast is fine with me.”

The words drew a hearty laugh out of him as he headed back towards the campfire. They really did make for the strangest companions but he wouldn’t change it for anything.