They had been on the road for some time before they reached their destination: the petrol station. The drive had been surprisingly uneventful, and they had fallen into a comfortable silence.
About 100 metres before the petrol station, Mattsun set the blinker and swiftly yanks the steering wheel around, turning left into the entryway.
“We’re here.” Mattsun said, parking the car next to the petrol pump.
“I don’t mean to criticise your driving skills, but that turn was unnecessarily sharp.” Commented Maki who, at the suddenness of the movement, had been desperately clutching onto his seat belt.
“Wanted to be dramatic.” Issei smiled, patting Maki on the shoulder.
“You mean ‘overdramatic’. Anyway, let’s see if there’s any patrol left.” Snorted Takahiro while slightly shaking his head.
“Wait.” Mattsun said, taking a knife out of his holster and handing it to Maki. “Take this.”
“I am not good with handling knives. Frankly, I don’t want anything pointy and deadly anywhere near me.” Maki pointed out, eyeing the weapon suspiciously.
“It’s for protection. Your dislike aside, you need to learn how to use it. Just in case.” Argued the raven, pushing it into the other’s hands.
“…fine.” The pink-haired man sighed, taking the knife and storing it in his pockets.
Mattsun unbuckled the seatbelt and stood up, making his way to the exit. “Aren’t you coming?” he asked, turning around.
“Yeah. I just wanted to explore the mobile home first. It looks so spacey.” Maki said, opening cupboards while his eyes darted around, inspecting everything.
“You can do that when we have found a place to set up a camp and spend the night.” Issei explained, patiently waiting for the other. He took the gallon that had been in the vehicle with him to hopefully fill it up.
It was important to stock up on supplies, especially fuel, since that would not be easy to find as time passed. They couldn’t use the vehicle forever, and at some point, they probably had to abandon it. First and foremost; however, they had to find food, medicine – prescriptive and non-prescriptive – fuel and fresh clothes because nobody wanted to run around in the same sweaty clothes for weeks. Some kind of comfort should be maintained, regardless of the catastrophe one was facing.
“Look here! There’s a bed above the driver’s cabin. I haven’t noticed that before.” Maki continued, though he did follow Mattsun outside
Outside, the dark-haired man used the opportunity to properly stretch his muscles because driving for such a long time was tiring. They had to drive slowly to save fuel because they had been driving on an almost empty tank.
The sun stood high, no cloud was in sight, and the absolute lack of wind dipped their surroundings into a tranquillity that seemed deceiving and too good to be true. The hair on Mattsun’s neck started to stand on end, but he didn’t know why.
He took the pump dispenser to distract himself from the strange feeling in his chest and opened the motorhome’s petrol tank, putting the dispenser in and hoping that it worked. Thankfully, it did. He filled the vehicle to the brim and put the dispenser aside, plugging up the petrol tank again. Then, he filled the gallon with petrol, putting it next to the motorhome when he was done. Maki was standing close to him, waiting for him to finish what he was doing. The way he swayed up and down on the balls of his feet looked somewhat adorable. Like a little child waiting to be given their deserved treat.
“Let’s go look if their have a few more gallons in the shop. One won’t be enough.” Mattsun said, heading towards the store; his movements; however, were cautious. He didn’t trust the situation. It was too calm.
He entered the shop first, hand on the handle of his knife, just in case something or someone would jump him. He kept his breathing even, trying to concentrate on the noises that came from his surroundings. The door’s entry bell rang, and Mattsun almost flinched because the bell was uncommonly loud.
His eyes darted around, and he turned his head towards Maki, who was walking behind him, equally mindful. The black-haired man gestured for the other to check one of the aisles while he would do the same. The aisles were empty, most of the shelves still packed full. It seemed like no one had been there and if someone were, then they didn’t raid the place completely, which was kind of nice, Mattsun thought. Still, there was this feeling in his guts that made him hesitant and altered his senses. Maki on the other hand, appeared unbothered, completely unaware of the possible dangers. The raven frowned. Maki was either on high alert or unwary. This trait of his irritated Issei because it could put the light-haired man himself and Mattsun in danger.
He went ahead, checking the counter. No one was there. There were no groaning noises. The shop seemed empty, so he relaxed his tense shoulders a bit.
“Let’s take what we can and get out of here and be cautious.” Mattsun whispered, and the other nodded already having started to put things into the bag, they had found in the motorhome.
The raven walked behind the counter, looking for a firearm. Most petrol station owners had one because they were prone to being robbed. During his search, he found a first aid kit, and even though they already had one and the motorhome probably had one too, it could never hurt to have more than just one, so he stuffed it into his bag. He also took several lighters and the cigarette packs that had been left. It seemed like people were going more for those things than for the things that were actually essential for survival. He also found duck-tape and cable binders among some other stuff. He strapped his backpack behind his back, and he was a bit surprised by how heavy it was. Maki had moved towards the back of the shop, and Mattsun jumped into motion when he heard a crash and a muffled scream.
He jumped over the counter about to run into the direction of which the noise came from, but he stopped when three men plus Maki came out of the storage room. One of them was holding a knife to Takahiro’s throat; a maniac smile plastered across his scared face. It looked like a two-degree burn mark, but Mattsun was not an expert in that field, so he couldn’t be sure.
He had middle-long blonde hair and he was wearing a biker jacket made of cheap leather, paired with an ordinary jeans and leather boots. His two friends were brunette and wore similar clothes. One of them, the raven noticed had a gun, and he was sure the guy took it from under the counter. He watched them walk towards him and he clenched his jaw tightly, trying not to let the panic show on his face. He had to keep his expression as neutral as possible as to not put Maki in danger.
Takahiro looked visibly frightened and uncomfortable, trying to keep the blade, only centimetres away from his neck, at a distance, without provoking a sudden movement from his assailant.
“Well, well, well. Look at what we have here.” The blonde spat in a mocking tone, tightening his arm around Maki’s neck. “Hand over the keys or I slit his throat.” The man threatened with a dangerous glimmer in his brown eyes.
“Alright but lower the knife first.” Mattsun complied, fishing a key out of his pockets and dangling it in the air. He made eye contact with Maki, tilting his head slightly, in order to give his friend a signal.
He observed the three thugs that were threatening his friend. The blonde one appeared to be the leader of the group, since he was spouting out the orders. He deemed him the most dangerous right now because he had Maki in his grip. The other one who was pointing the gun at him posed another problem. Firstly, because the gun could be loaded or not and secondly, he might pull the trigger if he so much as breathed too loudly. Every movement coming from his side could provoke the man to shoot him. The third one could eventually be a problem, for Mattsun didn’t know whether he was armed or not. He could be but given his too open posture and the lack of pockets on his trousers or his jacket, the black-haired male doubted it. Issei hated to engage in active combat, but he didn’t seem to have much of a choice right now. He just had to find a way to get the guy with the gun into the disarm range, which seemed likely because these guys didn’t appear to be the smartest people walking on earth. His odds to overpower all three of them was bad because his time window and reaction time to actually get close to them were way shorter as they would be if they were closer to him. Additionally, they were at an advantage, since they had Takahiro as their hostage.
“Hah!” the man laughed, throwing his head back in a dramatic gesture. “I aint do nothing. Saburo, get the key!” he barked, loosening his grip on Maki.
The third man flinched at the harsh tone of his boss, but he walked over to Mattsun, and he had to admit, the guy looked like a push-over.
“Since we’re already here. Let’s at least make some introduct--.” He started, though the blonde guy stopped him from finishing his sentence.
“We are not interested in idle chit-chat. Hand over the key. SABURO!” the blonde thug barked, momentarily loosening his grip und Maki as he was busy pointing the knife at Mattsun to emphasise his point.
It was worth a try, Mattsun thought, but he had to admit that he would have preferred having the one with the gun make his way towards him, but it seemed like he had to change his plan. It all depended on how fast Maki would catch on and if he reacted in time and match Mattsun’s movements. The leader had already put his guard down, so he didn’t hold the knife as close to the light-haired man’s neck anymore, but Maki was still in a position, where his life could be in danger.
“Here.” Mattsun offered as the unarmed guy stepped in front of him, still a few steps away from him.
As the guy, Saburo, came closer, Mattsun opted to throw the piece of metal into the man’s face; the sudden action confusing him for a moment. As the man closed his eyes briefly and flinched away, Mattsun used the open time window to effortlessly immobilise Saburo. The key fell to the floor, but the raven-haired male didn’t take notice of the flat impact it made because of the sudden flow of adrenaline. A screeched could be heard, and the gunman reacted to the noise that escaped his companion’s throat, but Issei’s movements had been fast; too fast for the Saburo to react and too sudden for the other man to stop as his finger slowly pulled the trigger.
“Brother!” he yelled, thoughtlessly firing the gun that he had aimed at Mattsun, hitting his brother instead of the raven.
He was lucky enough that the fired bullet didn’t go through Saburo’s body, probably having been caught by the bone of his thorax. A small ‘Argh’ escaped the brunette’s mouth and as he realised that he had been shot, his face morphed into an expression of pure shock and horror. Mattsun felt sorry for him because that wasn’t what he thought would happen. He let him sink to the floor; the noises he produced while falling to the ground almost unbearable. The raven ignored the blood that was pooling around the man, painting the tiles a deep horrifying red.
The recoil of the gun had the gunman fly into the shelves behind him, hitting his head in the process. Issei concluded that he had never fired a gun before, since he underestimated the recoil and was now laying there on the ground, groaning and holding his head.
Maki used the moment of chaos and pushed the knife away from his neck, intentionally bumping heads with the blonde, whose body went stiff when he saw that Mattsun had let go of the man, who was hit by the bullet, charge at him. He seemed shocked himself for a moment.
The sound of cracking bone echoed through the store, and the man, whose name they didn’t know, screamed out in pain, holding his nose while toppling over.
“AARRGH! My nose! You bloody bitch!” he screamed, kneeling on the ground.
In the hassle, Maki was able to get the gun and run over to Mattsun, who grabbed him by the arm and pulled him with him out the store.
“The keys!” yelled Maki; his voice panicked as he watched Mattsun secure the outside door with duck-tape and cable straps.
“It was the wrong one.” Mattsun stated in a calm tone as he pulled the other with him towards the caravan.
“The wrong one?” muttered the man with pinkish hair.
He looked confused. His expression was solemn, and his eyes turned back to the store, where one of the three man had just been shot. He felt sorry for him, and he wondered whether he would make it or not, whether he would turn into a zombie and become a threat to the other two man. The person having pulled the trigger had to be feeling incredibly guilty right now because of what he had done. Whether they were brothers by blood or not didn’t matter because being responsible for the death of a loved-one was something he didn’t even want to think about. He could have used the knife that he had in his pocket to defend himself, then maybe things would have gone differently, but at the end of the day, he couldn’t bring himself to use it against another person.
They had initially planned to get some gallons of petrol, but it had to wait, since escaping would be the better option right now. Mattsun pushed a disoriented-looking Maki into the vehicle, and jumped behind the wheel, He started the engine and turned onto the road as fast as he possibly could without losing control of the caravan. He sped down the street, putting his weight onto the accelerator pedal.
He drove like this for several kilometres and only slowed down when he saw a small and barely noticeable trail that led into the woods. He pulled into the side-track that was probably meant for hikers and walkers and hit the brakes after having driven a good way into the woods.
“Are you okay?” Mattsun asked when they come to a halt.
“Yeah.” Maki mumbled, unbuckling his seatbelt, taking a few deep breaths to calm his nerves.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” the ravenette pressed further, watching his friend’s reactions.
“No.” Takahiro whispered through pursed lips, waiting for the adrenaline in his body to subside.
“Are you sure?”
“Mhm.” The pink-haired man nodded, closing his eyes.
“I’ll set a camp. Get some rest. You wanted to explore the mobile home anyway.” Mattsun suggested, and the other man nodded his head again, slower this time, still feeling slightly distressed.
As Mattsun set up the camp, Maki slapped his hands over his cheeks in an attempt for his mind to work properly again. He didn’t want to admit it, but he had been terrified when the man from the store came up from behind him and pushed a knife to his neck. He had felt completely paralysed. At some point, he felt like he had been a mere witness, watching the scene from afar. Was that what they called dissociating from your body. Only when Mattsun had given him a look of assurance while talking so calmly to the people that threatened him, had he been able to act. At times, Maki felt as if he were a burden to the other; disposable and replaceable. If it hadn’t been for Mattsun, he wouldn’t even be alive anymore.
Maki sat on the cushioned bench that was part of the dining area and located next to the small kitchen counter. The inside of the mobile home was surprisingly roomy, but it didn’t come as that much of surprise, considering the previous owner had a knack for camping and money. Above the driver’s cabin was a double bed as well as at the end of the truck. It even had a small bathroom, and plenty storing spaces. Maki wasn’t so sure about using the shower because neither did he know how well-maintained the water tank was nor did he know what kind of water tank system it had. The dining table could even be transformed to another bed. They had been lucky to stumble across a miniature home. He stood up and as he walked to the exit, his stomach started grumbling loudly. He didn’t realise how hungry he was, and his belly was already hurting from hunger pains. He went outside and watched as Mattsun came back from the woods, carrying woods, twigs and dry leaves to make a campfire.
“I would have helped you collect firewood.” Maki stated, giving the other male a hand.
“You seemed upset, so I wanted you to get some rest.” Reasoned Issei, and Maki didn’t know what to respond to this because Mattsun was right. He had been quite upset after what had happened.
As Mattsun set up the campfire, Maki went inside to get some of the canned food they had gotten from the store, a water bottle and a small pot.
“God, I am starving.” The raven-haired man exclaimed when he saw Maki put the things on the sandy ground.
“I am starving too. I am getting sick of candy bars.” Groaned the light-haired man, and the raven huffed out a small laugh.
As Maki cooked the contents of the can and a pack of instant ramen, Mattsun put up an alarms system, in case someone or something approached the motor home while they were sleeping. The sun had already begun to set, and Issei guessed that it was approximately between 8 and 9 o’clock, taking into consideration that it was mid-June. It had been quite a long day.
When they were done eating, they stepped inside the vehicle that they would call their home for the next few days, maybe weeks, depending on how things would go.
It was dark outside, and they were laying on the bed that was located above the driver’s cabin, having decided to share a bed because they only had one thin blanket. Maki had his back turned towards him, seemingly asleep.
Mattsun knew that it would be wise to get some good night’s rest, but he was still wide-awake, despite his body telling him otherwise. The events of this day, replayed themselves in his head over and over again, haunting him because he had been so scared to lose Maki. His sympathy for the guy who supposedly shot and killed his own brother kept within its limits because they shouldn’t have attacked them in the first place, and they shouldn’t have pointed a gun at the living.
“Are you awake?” he heard Maki asking in a small whisper beside him, and Mattsun made a sound of confirmation.
“I have been really scared back then, haven’t you?” he asked; his voice small.
“I have been scared, too.” Mattsun admitted without hesitation.
“You didn’t look scared.” Maki responded, envying the inner calmness the other seemed to posses, even in situations such as the one in the shop.
“I was, though. I was scared that they would hurt you or worse that I would lose you. I hate losing people I care about. I am bad at dealing with losses.” Mattsun whispered back, and it was true: he couldn’t deal with death because it meant that he would never them again.
He once had a cat, named Niri, that he had nurtured and taken care of ever since she had been a small kitten. When she died, he was devasted, and even though people told him that it was just a pet cat, it didn’t feel like it was because she had meant so much more to him, despite only having been a pet cat. He couldn’t even imagine the pain he would feel when he were to lose Maki. They hadn’t known each other long, but they got along. Besides, Mattsun had gotten used to Maki’s presence to the extent that he couldn’t imagine him not being there anymore, and frankly, he didn’t want to.
“I hate losing the people I care about too.” Maki muttered back, turning around to face the other man.
“I really can’t lose you.” Mattsun mumbled, pulling Maki into a tight hug. “I just can’t.” he continued, tightening his grip around his friend. He had just become too attached to him.
“I don’t want to lose you either. Let’s look out for each other.” Maki whispered back, returning the embrace, even though he had stiffened at first because of the suddenness.
“I won’t let anything happen to you.” The raven-haired man said, closing his eyes and breathing out deeply, and Maki nodded in agreement, burying his face into the others shoulder, looking for comfort. The day had truly worn him out.