Author: Sakura123 PM
AU. Ariel keeps a vigil on her sisters while their father is gone. Joe searches for food, only to end up in the hands of marauders. Dawn of the Dead/Medium crossover. Spoilers for Season Five, "Apocalypse...Now?"Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Adventure - Ana & Joe D. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 24,750 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 05-01-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5032805
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Summary: Ariel keeps a vigil on her sisters while their father is gone; Joe searches for food, hoping to stumble upon his missing wife. Dawn of the Dead/Medium crossover.
Prompt: Croquet Mallet
Character(s): Ariel, Joe, Allison, Bridgette, Marie, etc.
Spoilers: 5x06: Apocalypse…Now?
Word Count: 23, 542
Disclaimer: Medium is property of Glenn Caron Gordon & NBC. Dawn of the Dead is property of Universal Pictures, Zack Snyder, & George A. Romero. Story & Original Characters are property of me, the author.
"Ariel. Ariel, I need you wake up," The sound of her mother's voice pulled Ariel from her slumber. Turning slowly inside the sleeping bag so as not to wake Marie, Ariel looked to Allison.
Allison's face was smudged with dirt, her hair was a tangled mess -- it no holder held the healthy sheen it once did. "Mom?" Ariel whispered, confused. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Allison gave her daughter's shoulder reassuring squeeze. "Nothing's wrong, babe. I just need you to look after everyone while I'm gone, alright? I'm going to see if I can find anything to for us to eat--"
Ariel was wide awake now. "No, you can't!" She proclaimed, her voice rising. Allison shushed her daughter furiously, fighting the compulsion to place a hand over her mouth. She was amazed she managed to pull away from Joe, fast asleep in the living room next to the radio. The last thing she needed was him waking up and asking why she was dressed. Ariel grabbed her mother by the wrist, her eyes pleading silently to her mother. "Mom, please don't go. We -- Dad can go get food tomorrow, just please stay here," Ariel begged.
"I can't, Ariel," Allison shook her head. "...Your father is exhausted; He's been doing everything while I stayed here, watching you three."
"So its our fault?" Ariel nearly shouted. She felt Allison squeeze her forearm in a silent plead to calm herself. "No, that's not what I'm saying! If your father continues to do everything for us, then he won't be any good to us when we really need him," Allison explained. "Do you understand what I'm saying, Ariel?" Ariel took her time to respond, the silence in the house was still unsettling. She was so used to the chaos outside the house --cars, people, lawn mowers--, that the constant car alarms in the distance, occasional screaming, the stench of the semi-breathable air, and the sight of boarded windows made her feel isolated.
Like she was trapped in a box with a blanket over her head, just waiting for everything to return to normal. Marie shifted sleepily next to her, Bridgette remained still on the mattress against the wall across from them. Glancing up at her mother Ariel exhaled. "Can't you just wait until tomorrow? You and daddy can go out and look for food---"
"No, babe, I really have to do this now," Allison interjected softly. Ariel wanted to argue that it wasn't safe to go hunting for food at night, but it was no more safer in broad daylight and it was clear that Allison's mind was made up.
The two crept silently toward the front door, stepping over squeakiest parts of the floorboards, keeping an ear out for when Joe's breathy snores would cease. Slowly, with some difficulty they moved the couch out of the way of the front door. Allison double checked her backpack, flashlight and revolver before meeting her daughter's hesitant gaze. She struggled to find something to say that would make Ariel feel better. "I love you. I'll see you in the morning, okay?" Allison whispered.
Ariel nodded, tears spilling down her face as she did so. Allison dropped the flashlight into her backpack and pulled her daughter into a crushing embrace with one arm. Ariel buried her face into her mother's shoulder, sobbing as quietly as she could, her fingers gripped the fabric of Allison's sweatshirt for dear life. "Please don't go, mom. Please," She begged.
Allison just shook her head; She had to go. Her family depended on it. When the two broke apart, Allison snatched one more look at her daughter, memorizing her every detail like she did with her husband earlier, then stepped outside. "Lock the door behind you, sweetie," Allison whispered into the crack of the door. Ariel nodded, choking back her sobs. Grabbing a hold of the door knob she shut the door and managed to pull the couch back against it.
Ariel barely remembered returning to her bedroom, crawling back into the comfort of the sleeping bag. Just feel of her father's hand on her shoulder and the sound of distress in his voice when he asked, "Where's Allison? Ariel, where's your mom?"
If she knew that would the last time she'd get to see her mother, Ariel would've woke her father.
For thousandth time since it all began, Ariel pulled the couch back against the front door and strode back to the living room. She resisted the urge to look out the boarded window to watch her father venture out into the ruined suburban neighborhood, moving back into living room like a ghost. Ten months ago, the biggest worry Ariel had was picking out a wardrobe to wear at Celeste McAvoy's house party, now everything she ever thought was important just felt so silly. It made her feel ashamed that she was angry toward Bridgette for being who she was, or her parents for not letting her do what she wanted.
She just wanted a second chance at life, to right wrongs and behave like the mature young woman her parents raised her to be. She didn't want to be stuck in the house anymore, waiting for help or worse, death. Sitting on the edge of the chest, Ariel folded her arms across her chest and surveyed the mess inside the living room. What a dump, Ariel thought to herself, giving the floor a kick, inadvertently kicking a stray pillow across it. The sound of approaching footfalls could be heard from down the hall. Bridgette and Marie appeared a moment later, faces worn with exhaustion and hunger. The energy bar didn't do the trick, it would seem. Clasped in her right hand, Marie held a her Mr. Snookie bear.
"Hey guys," Ariel said. Bridgette gave her older sister a small wave before trotting over to one of the pillows lying on the floor. Marie remained outside the living room, her blue eyes scanning the small room expectantly. "Where's daddy?" Marie whispered. "Dad went out to get some more food, Marie. Don't worry, he'll be back," Ariel assured her, forcing a smile. He always comes back. Marie scratched the side of her head, she wasn't exactly sure if Ariel was telling the truth. She said the same thing about mommy and she hadn't come back. Marie headed over to Bridgette, sitting down next to her she started to play with Mr. Snookie.
Ariel remained where she was, watching Bridgette take on the task of distracting their little sister from the question of their father's absence.
Eleven weeks and seven days. That's how long Allison Dubois has been missing, that's how long Joe Dubois has been without proper rest, too worried about the wellbeing of his wife to shut his eyes. Some part of him wanted him to be angry at Ariel for letting her walk out of the door, but one look into her eyes and she was relieved of any blame his anger sought to dump on her.
The biggest problem was convincing her that she wasn't to blame, while trying to maintain a face of calm for his two youngest. He spent weeks toiling over a discarded police radio he found and his solar panel invention to create the radio sitting in their living room. Prayed that someone came across his wife, who he was sure wandered outside of their neighborhood for more food.
Joe stared warily at the burning street ahead of him, waiting for some sign of life to come walking out of the ever-present cloud or gray and orange smoke. He watched the heat waves dance over the husks of trees, the image of the city off in the distance rippled like it was being reflected by water. Readjusting the straps of the backpack on his shoulders, Joe tightened his grip on the crowbar and continued across the street. He couldn't believe how pungent the air had become, he could hardly take a breath without coughing it out of his system.
It bothered his eyes the most, blurring his vision whenever they started to tear up. Occasionally he found himself pulling his shirt over his face but it did little good for him. Next time he would bring a bandana or something with him, the air was probably toxic enough to give him breathing complications to last a lifetime. If I live that long, he mused to himself.
Joe traveled through the street, mentally eliminating the houses he'd already rifled through for food (among other supplies). Sixteen and counting so far, not good. Halfway down the block he became worried. Joe continued to stroll down the street when he heard the all too familiar shatter of glass. A television tumbled across a lawn just a few feet away from him.
Responding more out of instinct than actual thought, he ducked behind a car, raising his crowbar slightly. The shattering of glass continued for a few more minutes before coming to a stop, Joe picked up on a few odd grunts over the howl of the wind. Hesitantly, he peered over the hood of the car to observe what was happening. Brown eyes widened slightly when two people stumbled out of the house through the broken window; Two of them were male; they wore gasmasks and their attire was tattered. The other was a woman. She wore a mask as well, but unlike her male companions, she wore a pristine sundress (that Joe was sure she stole), and sandals. He quirked an eyebrow, mildly amused by her erratic movement.
Two more people stepped out of the house, dragging two unwilling bodies them with them, two teenagers. He could hear them cackling at their distress. He paled, realizing what was unfolding before him. Looters. Joe ducked back down, his breathing quick and shallow. Of all the times he had to go out, it had be during a looter's run! He pressed himself against the door of the car, too afraid to move. "Perfect, just perfect!" He mumbled to himself, casting a glance over his shoulder at the bark of laughter behind him. Turning around again he peered over the hood of the car again.
They hadn't noticed him, they were far too busy with gaining control over their prisoners to notice another potential victim in their midst's. Slowly he started to back away from the car, casting another glance over his shoulder he surveyed his surroundings. There was very little to use as cover in his escape, one wrong move and he would caught. Even worse, there was chance that he could lead them to his house. Joe's blood ran cold in his veins at the very thought.
He couldn't put his family in danger like that, not ever. Clenching his fists over the crowbar Joe slowly began to retreat back toward the car, counting every clumsy step he made. He almost made it back against the sweltering surface of the vehicle when a sharp pain traveled up his back and down his legs. It was like a bee string, his skin tingled with all too familiar sensation of pain and eerie warmth. Automatically, his body seized up, a strangled grunt was all that managed to escape him before he pressed his lips together. Relinquishing one hand from the crowbar, Joe reached behind him to ascertain the cause for his pain.
As he did so, he noticed the action of raising his arm was a task; It felt like a weight, his hand fell on the center of his back and there he felt the object poking out of his skin. With a fierce yank he pulled it out of his skin, there was no protest so the extra swing of his arm caused him to lose his balance. He fell sideways onto the ground, the crowbar made an unsettling scraping noise across the concrete. Joe shook his head a couple times, the world began to spin in a whirl of washed out colors. Bringing his hand close to his face, the feathered object in his hand came into focus.
It was a tranquilizer dart. Joe's hear rate increased at the dreadful realization and his vision failed him completely.
"Hey! I got one! I caught--"
Joe felt his head hit the pavement, oblivion claimed him before he could hear the approach of footfalls.
Ariel's head shot up from its resting place on the chest, heart racing. Beside her, the radio crackled loudly with static and scattered voices. She surveyed the area wildly upon noticing her sisters absences. The sun had set completely, casting an haunting blue haze over the living room. Ariel felt her heart clench up. Dad should've been back by now. Wiping the drool from the corner of her mouth she picked up the CB and pressed the "talk" button. "Hello? Is anybody there?" The words came unbidden from her mouth, she'd seen her father do it enough times to mimic his weary voice. The memory of watching her father cry silently on the floor flashed through her mind; Her eyes watered at the very thought of it.
She barely remembered the moment she decided to violate the personal moment for her father, she just remembered hugging him from behind and being pulled into his embrace, listening to him ensure that he would find her mother, unable to regain his composure. It reminded her that her father was just a man, that he could cry as well even if it didn't fit into the unshakable persona she imagined for him. Sighing she released the button and waited for a response. After a beat of silence, Ariel raised the radio to her mouth again and spoke. "…Mom? Are you there?" Ariel whispered, pleadingly.
No response. "Please --- is there anybody there? I'm looking for Allison Dubois," Her voice rose an octave, her emotions threatened to overwhelm her. There was burst of static over the speakers causing Ariel to jump away from the radio, she held her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. Unfortunately, the rapidly approaching footfalls clearly indicated that Bridgette and Marie had heard either the static or her reaction to it.
Bridgette was the first to arrive, she fell down into a crouch next to her sister, her dirt-smudged face wrinkled with concern. "Ariel, what happened? Are you okay?" Ariel tried not to laugh (or cry) at the exasperation in her sister's voice. Even after all they'd been through, Bridgette somehow managed to maintain that lightheartedness about her. Marie strolled up on Ariel's right side, Mr. Snookie close to her chest. "Daddy's not home," She stated.
"He should've been home hours ago," Ariel sighed, wiping her face. "Maybe he went to the mall?" Bridgette offered to Marie. Marie shrugged and Ariel reframed from correcting her sister. She made a reach for the radio communicator when another burst of static screamed through the speakers. All three girls backed away from the chest, Marie and Bridgette stuck close to their sister using her like a shield. The static continued on for another second keeping the three at attention, muscles taut and ready to react.
Ariel's felt her hear skip a beat.
"Please.. I'm looking for my family. I don't know…. house---, … their … Ariel, Bridgette---"
"Mommy!" Marie blurted, turning to her oldest sister. Ariel scrambled toward the radio and grabbed the CB. "Mom! Mommy, is that you?" Ariel nearly screamed, excitement getting the best of her. She released the button and waited eagerly for a response, her sisters flanked both her sides leaning toward the radio.
"Ariel?" Allison's voice echoed in the living room like a distorted serenade. "Ariel is that you, honey?"
"Yeah! Mommy, where are you?!" Ariel replied.
"Hi, mom!" Bridgette shouted, climbing over her sister to get close to the walkie-talkie. Ariel shrugged her sister of her body, ignoring Marie who tucked herself under her arm to get close to the radio.
"…I'm okay, I'm with Scanlon. We're at a warehouse in the city."
"Why didn't you come home?" Marie inquired.
There was a moment of silence. "…I'm so sorry I didn't come home baby. I meant to, I really did." Allison tone was so heartbreakingly apologetic, Ariel couldn't help but shed a tear while the bitter side of her revealed in the guilt she heard coming off her mother's voice. "That's okay… your alright, that's all that matters," Ariel assured. The silent 'you'll explain later' did not go unnoticed by Allison, her shaky laugher was lost in the growing static on their line making Ariel think she'd lost the connection. "…Girls, where's your dad? Is he there?" Allison's voice rose above the static. All three girls felt their eyes shift toward each other.
"…they give him?"
As odd of thing it was to remember, Joe could remember how it felt to wake from a drug induced slumber. One experiment with drugs in collage left a lasting impression on him, strong enough to distance himself from his then-friends and the substance itself. Not everything responded to the commands his mind was trying to send to his body.
His fingers twitched as the blood rushed back through them, like reattaching them to the invisible strings of his soul. He became aware of his own breathing, his slow heartbeat. A eerie fog rolled back from his mind allowing a small reprieve from confusion, his eyes rolled about behind his eyelids as his muscles struggled to open them. He knew wasn't outside anymore, the muffled sounds of voices echoing off walls deceived him, however. How did he get back to the house? Did Ariel come out and find him? Had he collapsed?
A pair of hands touched his face, they felt cold against his hot, clammy skin, gently commanding him to raise from the hard surface below him. He obliged, opening one eye. Sunlight flooded his vision, he squinted against the harsh light, nausea flaring up in his stomach. He tried to turn away, but the hands wouldn't let him. This time he opened both his eyes, a head of blonde hair blocked out the sun, creating a strange halo of light around her head. He blinked warily. "Al-- Allison?" His voice was hoarse and came barely above a whisper. The woman shook her head, fingers pulling his eyelids open further. "No, not Allison," Was the response.
Joe's heart skipped a beat. Immediately, events from earlier than rushing back him. His stomach clenched with dread, he'd been caught by the looters. Oh God, the girls! They were still waiting for him, they didn't know where he was. He struggled to get his body to listen to him, he only managed to get his right arm to rise before he fell back. "Easy, there," The woman grunted, gripping both his arms. "You've a concussion, try to stay awake." Joe looked at the blur of the women with half-open eyes. Even through his confusion he could tell the woman was lying, he didn't have a concussion. A headache from meeting the ground headfirst, an side affect of the drugs for sure, but a concussion? Willing his limbs to obey him, Joe took hold of the woman's forearms and attempted to hoist himself into an upright position.
"Please, you have… let me go. My children…"
"Kids? You have kids---"
"We didn't see no kids, it was just him!" The second voice interjected, as if he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Joe shot a pitiful glare in the man's general direction, and continued to pull himself up from the ground. This time the woman did not argue, ignoring the silent protests of her partner she helped Joe sit up. Blood rushed to his head, he groaned as the lightheadedness started to kick in again. "You-- have to let me go. My kids---"
"What are they're names? We'll go and find them," The woman said. Joe shook his head slowly, drossiness was starting to overcome his senses again. He fought to remain conscious, fingers pressing harder against the woman's soft skin.
"Please, I promise nobody's gonna hurt your kids," Joe shook his head. He had no intentions of telling them anything until he was lucid enough to deduce their true intentions. Aside from the lying, the woman's behavior was the complete opposite of what he'd heard about the looters; Many described them as the typical madmen, roaming free in an otherwise lawless city. Rapists, murders, the majority of the groups were have said to been escapes from the jails and they were probably right.
Joe saw most looters as opportunists who'd snatch anything from anyone despite their situations, taking up the motto "every man for himself" as their religion. Kill or be killed. If he and Allison ever ventured out for necessities, they had to be careful not to lead anyone back to the house, fearful that they might be ambushed if the bordered up household was believed to be occupied. Thankfully, they only come into contact with at least six during his semi-daily raids of empty houses in their neighborhood. The first time Joe brought a Croquet Mallet and ended up getting the shit beat out of him when it broke against the man's bald head, leaving him defenseless. He would've killed (or worse) if Allison hadn't been there with her six-shooter.
After that encounter, Joe carried a crowbar with him everytime he went out, not exactly comfortable with using a gun just yet. "Yet your comfortable with bashing a man's head in. Big distinction," He remembered Allison quipping to him one night. Blinking away the memory, Joe struggled to get his eyes focus on the woman's face. She came in and out of focus, he only caught fragments of her face (blue eyes, thin lips, pronounced chin) before he felt his body weight pulling him down again. "Hey, hey, hey!" The woman cried, loosing the battle in keeping the man upright. She could do nothing but soften his decent to the ground by user her own weight against his. The man was trying to speak to her but his words came out in garbled slurs. "Hey, stay awake, you've got a concussion!" She slapped his face trying to incite anger within him. He didn't respond.
"Hey, what's your name? I've gotta tell your kids something when I find them," The woman tired again.
"Joe… Dubois," The response came without a moment's hesitation, the woman blinked in surprise. Dubois? She gave her friend a look, the man just shrugged, he didn't know the man. Clasping his face the woman forced Joe to keep his unfocused gaze on her face. "Hi Joe, I'm Ana." Her response was a groggy blink. "What are you kid's names? Please, I need to know." Joe ignored her, she was crazy if she thought he was telling her anything. He let his head roll to the side against her hand, unconsciousness creeping across his mind. The woman attempted to keep him awake, she watched his eyes roll to the back of his head and close before giving up. Standing up, Ana gave her companion a steely look. The man offered another nonchalant shrug. "What? I didn't know the guy had kids. He just---"
"Whatever, I'm not worried about that!" Snapped Ana. "I think his wife might be Allison Dubois."
"Allison Du--- the crazy woman who thinks she can see dead people?" The man glanced down at Joe, an almost sympathetic expression crossed his face. He felt sorry for this fucker if ended up saddled with that nutcase. Ana ignored his remark and nodded. "Yeah. Get on the radio and see you can't raise an Allison Dubois, tell her we've got her husband," She ordered.
"Your kidding, right? How I am supposed to do that? That bitch is probably---"
"Bart, don't argue with me, just do it," Ana snapped. The man, Bart, gave her incredulous look but decided to oblige to her request. As he proceeded towards the doorway, Ana spoke up. "---And keep Monica out of here while your at it. Don't want her touching him." Bart rolled his eyes at her posturing and exited the room, leaving Ana to her thoughts. Ana sighed, running a hand through her stringy blonde hair. Shifting her eyes down to the unconscious man.
"We need a bed for you," She mumbled.
Former detective, Lee Scanlon watched Allison cry harder than he could remember. Lynn DiNovi sat next to her, a comforting arm wrapped around the smaller woman's shoulders. Lee remembered stumbling upon Allison during his own food-run in an abandoned corner store. Most of them had been picked clean by either looters or other survivors, what few there were, but the local Mom & Pop store he ventured in was still stocked with supplies. It was there that he found her, lying on the floor, the clothing she wore was tattered and her face bruised.
When Allison came to, she was relieved to see him, but confused as to how she ended up in the city. "The last thing I remember is approaching a house…Oh, God. Joe and the kids! They don't know where I am!" Lee felt for her situation, but informed her that they couldn't stay out for long. The radiation was worse in the city than it was other places, so they had to be quick in gathering the untainted supplies. Once he was done, he lead Allison to the warehouse where he, Lynn, and few others were staying. It was well fortified, Scanlon made sure they were prepared to leave or defend their shelter should it come under attack. Afterward, Allison spent weeks sitting in front of the CB, trying to reach anyone who would know about the wellbeing of her family.
For eleven weeks straight, Allison would do nothing but maintain a vigil over the radio, getting no response from anyone. It was a heartbreaking sight to behold, but Scanlon left diverting Allison's attention to more productive activities to Lynn, he didn't have the heart to tell her there was a chance that her family was …gone.
Allison obliged to Lynn's meager requests, aided her in organizing the makeshift pantries, tending to the injured, and ventured out on semi-daily sweeps of the city with Scanlon. (The unanswered question of Manuel Devalos' absence hang heavy in the air whenever Lee was with her, but again, he didn't have the heart to tell anything about their friend just yet.)
Despite all their attempts, at the end of the day, Allison's time would be spent in front of the radio and Scanlon was tempted to rip the machine to pieces. That is, until the all too familiar voice of Ariel Dubois echoed over their channel. Allison was ecstatic, she nearly bowled over his friend Mitch in over to get the radio, proclaiming "I knew they were alive! I knew it!" Before she responded to her daughter's pleads for a response.
Relief flooded through his being just watching the medium talking to her daughters, who attempted to speak all at once. All seemed well with the Dubois family until Allison popped the question of where their father, Joe, was. There was unsettling silence over the radio, the happiness that etched itself across Allison's face soon began to diminish. "Girls?" She tried again.
"…We don't know where he is," Ariel responded finally. "We were out of food, so he went out to get some more. He hasn't come home yet…"
Allison's hand clamped itself over her mouth to mask her sobbing, tears ran down her face almost immediately as her body trembled with an eerie sort of realization. Regaining her composure her long enough to speak, Allison ordered her daughters to prepare themselves for departure. "I'm coming to get you, alright? So I need you ready when I get there," She said, her voice cracking.
"Wait, Mom, what about Dad? What if he isn't back when you get here?" Ariel blurted, panic clear in her tone. "Don't worry about that, sweetheart, just get ready." Ariel mumbled something in the affirmative and Allison lowered the CB and cried.
Which brings us to Scanlon's current predicament; Firstly the reason to Allison crying her eyes out, and second how he was going to get Allison out to her neighborhood without a proper operating vehicle. "Allison, I don't understand, what's the matter?" Lynn asked, rubbing her arm. Allison took a shaky gulp of air as her eyes, red and puffy from crying, rose to met Lynn's worried gaze. "A few weeks ago--- I had a dream. Joe went out to look for food and…he never came back. He was just… gone!" Allison shut her eyes and covered her face with both hands. She knew it was going to happen, but hoped against hope that it wouldn't come to past, that the dream was just a product of her anxiety from being separated from her family. She should've spoken up sooner.
She should've listened to her daughter and stayed home.
Marie watched as her sisters dashed across their bedrooms, throwing all their clothes (clean and dirty alike) into their suitcases and backpacks. She at on the top bed of her and Bridgette's bunk-bed so as to stay out of the way. As happy as she was to hear from her mommy again, she didn't like the ideal of having to leave their home before daddy could get back. He had to come back, Marie didn't wanna loose him too. Adjusting her glasses on the bridge of her nose, Marie crushed Mr. Snookie against her chest and started to kick her legs back and forth, hoping one of her sisters would notice. Bridgette stepped out of the bathroom, towels in hand, she glanced up at the distressed Marie and managed a small smile. "What's wrong Marie?" She asked, trying her best to mimic her mother's "material" tone.
"I want daddy," Came the simple reply. Bridgette's brow furrowed unsure of how to approach that response. Folding one of the towels , Bridgette moved closer to the bunk bed. "I know you do, sis. I do too," Bridgette sighed. Marie gave her sister a look as if to say 'don't patronize me', if Bridgette noticed she did a good job of not indicating she did. Ariel strolled back into the bedroom, backpacks in hand. "Hey, guys, what are you doing? We've got to get ready."
"I don't wanna go! I wanna stay here until daddy comes back," Marie blurted angrily. Ariel looked to Bridgette then back to Marie. "Marie, we're not leaving just yet. Dad could be back by that time," Ariel assured her sister. Marie shook her head furiously, legs kicking faster. Ariel sighed tiredly, she knew Marie would be inconsolable about this situation; No matter how many times she tried to assure Marie that dad could return before Allison arrived, Marie was convinced that he wouldn't be. Not taking into consideration any sort of dream being the motivation behind her belief, Ariel hoped that Marie would calm down soon. She could live a couple more hours without a father to latch onto. She hoped.
Please come home soon, Dad. Ariel thought as she exited the bedroom.
"Leave me alone!" Marie snapped when Bridgette attempted to stop her kicking.
"Okay, okay! Sheesh!" Bridgette grumbled, rushing out of the room.
When Joe came to again, he found himself in the comforting arms of a mattress. The affect of the tranquilizer dart seemed to have worn off, he didn't feel so heavy and his head wasn't spinning anymore. Rising half away from the bed he took in surroundings. The room was dark, illuminated only by a single lamp across from where the bed resided, it didn't give his eyes a proper chance to survey his surroundings.
Someone could be in the room watching him for he knew. He started to pull his arm from underneath the pillow until his arm came to an abrupt stop, startling him out of his sleep. Using his free arm Joe pulled himself into an upright position, tossing the pillow out of the way Joe felt the blood leave his face. He'd been handcuffed to the headboard. "Damn," He muttered, running his hand across his face. They were too smart for their own good.
"Hey," A familiar voice echoed in the room. Joe looked toward what he assumed to be the entrance, the woman from earlier stood in the doorway, two steaming cups of some sort of beverage in her hands. Joe remained silent, he watched her enter the bedroom -- footsteps unheard as she approached his bed. Ana sat one of the mugs on the beside table and sat down in the small stool in the middle of the floor, she remained unfazed by his simmering look having received them one too many times from other people since she came to live this shelter. When she reached out to touch his forehead he drew back until his bound arm stopped him from going any further. Retracting her hand she asked, "How are you feeling?"
Joe slumped a little in the bed. "Like I've been hit by a truck," He retorted. Ana couldn't help the smile that spread across her face, she lowered her head a little guiltily regarding her coffee. "Yeah, you'll have to forgive Bart. He can't seem to tell the difference between a unconscious person or a corpse," She chuckled, giving him a look.
"Who can nowadays," Joe mused, scratching the stubble on his face. "Where's my crowbar?"
"Its safe in another room," Ana replied cryptically.
"Is that so?"
"It is," Ana smiled again, knowing it would annoy him. Joe sat up again, this time he pressed his back against the headboard hoping to relieve the tension his restricted arm. How many hours had passed since he'd been caught? He trusted Ariel to be level headed enough to keep Bridgette and Marie calm for a certain period of time, but how long would they actually wait before they did something foolish like wander outside to look for him? He needed to get out of here, but he knew this place about as well he knew the woman sitting next to him, so escape was next to impossible without proper knowledge of the layout.
"You said your name was Joe, right?" Ana inquired, leaning forward. Joe gave her a sidelong glance, did she really expect him to answer that question? Ana sighed warily, reaching behind her she pulled a thin leather wallet from her back pant pocket and flipped it open. "Nevermind," Ana said, "I've got your wallet to tell me." She hid the satisfaction at the sight of Joe's pallid complexion at the sight of his wallet in her hands. She gestured to the wallet, a whimsical gleam in her eyes. "I figure you carried this around, just in case something happened to you? Identification? Money's pretty useless nowadays." The casual manner in which she spoke to him, infuriated Joe to no end; he felt so stupid for even bringing his wallet with him in the first place.
It was habit he had yet to break, more or less because he feared some idiot might still hold a man up for money, regardless of its worthlessness and wanted to be prepared for it. He didn't expect the stupid thing could be used against him. Ana eyed the worn ID for Joe Dubois behind the plastic protector then shifted her gaze to the row pictures on the right side. The first picture was a woman of blonde hair and piercing blue-green eyes; She sat on her side and wore a tank top and jeans, hair blowing wildly in the wind. This must be Allison Dubois, she thought.
The next picture was of three girls, huddled together in a hug with a much older woman, the grandmother perhaps. All of them had the Allison's blue eyes and blonde hair. The final picture was Allison and Joe; They were much younger, posing in front of a water fountain, arms wrapped around each others waists. Ana laughed, the girls had his smile. The happiness she felt in the pictures made her nostalgic for better days, for her own husband. She glanced up from the wallet with a genuine smile, Joe was still frowning at her. "You have a lovely family, Mr. Dubois," She remarked.
"Give me my wallet," Joe half-growled, absolutely livid at this point. Ana did as he requested, Joe removed the wallet from her possession, embarrassed that he could do nothing more except tuck into his pants pocket. Ana watched the man with mild amusement, contemplating on whether or not it would be good idea to remove the handcuff from his wrist. Leaning back in the chair she took a sip of her coffee. "Just so you know, I told Bart to see if he could get your wife on the CB. She would be Allison Dubois, correct? The physic lady?"
Joe's jaw shifted, he gave a tug at his restraint, puzzling over how to loosen the lock mechanism in the cuffs. "You seem already know a great deal about me, Miss…"
"Ana. Ana Clark. Just call me Ana," Ana added quickly, extending her hand.
"Ana," Joe tried the name out, despite his urge to call her "Miss Clark" just to spite her. Ana lowered her arm after awhile when he made no move to shake her hand. "And, no, not really, Mr. Dubois--- I know only what you and your wallet told me," Ana replied, grinning.
"I never told you---" Joe started.
"Yes you did. You told me your name before you passed out," Ana corrected. Joe's gaze narrowed again. "Do you plan on letting me go any time soon?" He inquired.
"Out there? Not a chance. We're in the middle of the city, Mr. Dubois. You'd die before you got two blocks away from this place."
"Oh really? Then how is it that you or I are still talking? Why aren't we dying of radiation poisoning yet?" Joe exclaimed, gesturing wildly with his free arm.
"Well, I as talking about the looters, but according to my friend---"
"Your friend?" Joe repeated, incredulous.
"Yes, my friend. Bart. He says this complex is made of led, so we should be safe for the time being,"
"Great, we'll all die of led poisoning instead," Joe remarked sarcastically.
Ana frowned, she'd reached her breaking point this man. "Okay, what the hell is your problem? How is this any way to treat someone who was kind enough to save--"
"Excuse me, I'm sorry--- save me? You kidnapped me for God's sake. There's extreme difference between---"
"We didn't kidnap you! Are you crazy? We saved you -- saved your sorry ass from those looters, who I'm pretty sure would've killed you," Ana snarled.
"Oh, is that so? I'm supposed to believe your not the same people who shot me up full of drugs? Who dragged me away from my neighborhood? From my children?"
"No--- Yes! We're not them!" Ana blurted, frustrated.
"Well, I'm sorry, I just don't see a difference," Joe said.
"Of course you don't! Your were unconscious, I don't expect you to know the difference!" Ana bellowed, rising from the chair. She started toward the door, Joe sat up a little more, tugging at his cuffed arm.
"Hey, where are you goin'? Let me go!" Joe blurted.
"Forget it, asshole. Your not going anywhere," Ana said, never stopping to throw a glance in his direction.
"You can't keep me here, I have to get---"
"---To your kids, I know. And you'll find that we can keep you here," Ana interjected, finally turning to face him. "If your wife is as good as she thinks she is, she'll find you and your kids. Not the other way around." Joe felt his rage and panic swell inside his chest, threatening to burst free as he watched the door swing shut. He yanked violently at his restraints until his arm throbbed with an awful pain. Falling back onto the mattress, Joe fumed in silence.
He never wanted to feel so powerless again. Please let the girls be okay. Please find them, Allison.
Allison woke to the smell of a cigar, groaning she rubbed the sleep from her eyes an sat up. The large room housed a dozen or more people, currently asleep for the night. Brushing the hair from her eyes she shifted her gaze to the right and let out a strangled yelp. Beside her was Mr. Dubois, crouched and chewing idly on his cigar as he observed her. Allison stared wide-eyed at the ghost, heart pounding wildly in her chest. "What the hell are you doing here?!" She hissed, pressing her hand to her chest.
Mr. Dubois shrugged his shoulders, rolling his cigar clenched between his teeth. "Have any dreams lately, Allison?" He asked. "Not really, no," Allison muttered, irritated by the man's presence. "I just keep having that same dream…" She trailed off, her anger diminished by the premature mourning for her husband.
"He's not dead, you know. Not yet anyway," Mr. Dubois mused, sitting next the woman's sleeping bag. Allison ignored the last part of his sentence as she pushed the covers away from her legs. "What are you talking about? Who's not dead?" She inquired, playing dumb.
Mr. Dubois rolled his eyes, he saw right through this woman's game, why did she continue to play the idiot when she was well aware of what he could see, what he knew? Removing the worn cigar from his mouth, Mr. Dubois regarded it with disdain. God, did he wish there were cigars where he was. The very memory of the taste of a fresh, Cuban cigar was driving him mad. "You damn well who I'm talking about, Miss Rollan," Mr. Dubois remarked, glowering.
"That's Mrs. Dubois, to you," Allison growled, climbing from off the ground. Slipping into her shoes, she started to move silently out of the sleeping quarters, hoping she didn't wake anyone with her whispering to the dead man who felt the need to interject himself in her life without permission. She made it half-way out of the room before she spotted Mr. Dubois leaning against the wall in the hall. "I'm not leaving until you listen," He said. Allison reframed from cursing the man, biting the inside of her mouth just incase her tongue slipped.
Stepping completely out of the sleeping room she ventured down the hall. "Well, why don't you tell me what is you want so I can sleep!" Allison grumbled, entering the communications room. Mr. Dubois was already sitting in the chair next to the table where the radio resided. "Well, why else would I be hear, Allison dear? Certainly not for you, if that's what your thinking," Mr. Dubois sighed, chewing on his cigar again. Allison rolled her eyes; Of course he wouldn't show up for her; His family, whom she was attached to, were usually the only reason he appeared to her. That and she was the only one, as far she knew, who could see him.
"Is there something wrong with Marjorie? I thought…"
"Marjorie is fine, she's where she's supposed to be," Mr. Dubois said.
"Unlike some people," Allison shot back.
"Now, tell me, why would I want to go to a place that's pretty much like this one? I'm comfortable where I am thank you, now stop changing the subject!"
"Then get to the point," Allison said. Mr. Dubois huffed, folding his arms across his chest. "It about Joe and the girls," He started. Allison was all ears now, stepping closer to the radio she waited for him to continue. "Well, first off, you need to get to your daughters, in, oh, I'd say six hours."
"What? Why? Their fine aren't they?" She asked.
"At the moment. But sooner or later a bunch of those marauders are going to realize that there are three lonely girls inside a house they thought was empty and… well, I'm not even going tell you what's going through their minds," Mr. Dubois said with a shudder. Allison felt like her heart had been stabbed, the color drained from her face at the very thought of her daughters in danger. She glanced up at the clock on the wall; 5:00am; she had less than five hours to get back home!
"There's a van just outside the warehouse, it still works, all you have to do is hotwire the thing and you'll be on your way." Mr. Dubois hardly finished speaking when Allison dashed out of the room and down the hall. Letting out a growl of frustration, he followed after her. He found Allison hauling a bag stuffed with masks and bottles of water, she had a mask hanging from her neck. She started toward the door when Mr. Dubois appeared in front of her, she stumbled to a halt. "What?"
"I'm not done yet," He stated simply. Allison reached past him and unlocked the door, stepping outside she pulled the mask up over her face. Closing the door behind her she searched for something that could mask that the door was unlocked when the door came flying open. Allison jumped away from the doorway in time to see a very unhappy Lee Scanlon. "Allison what the hell are you doing?" He whispered harshly, just loud enough to be heard over the howling wind.
"Going to get my children," Allison said moving toward the van Mr. Dubois said would be waiting for her. "Allison get back inside! Its too early for this kind of nonsense," He said, following after her.
Allison spun on her heal. "No, I have to leave now. Something terrible is about to happen to my children and I have to get there before it does," She said, resuming her stride toward the car. Scanlon nearly asked how the woman could possibly know danger was afoot then stopped himself. This was Allison Dubois he was talking to, not some crazy woman worried out of her head about her family. Maybe she's a little of both at the moment, Lee. He thought, locking the door behind him.
Through the foggy window he could see Allison fiddling with the wires of the steering wheel, his hand hardly touched the passenger side door handle when the car roared to life. Acting quickly he jumped into the vehicle. Allison gave him a look, disengaging the breaks while she checked all the mirrors. "Won't Lynn wonder where you are?" She said.
"I figure she'll know where I am as soon as she figures out your missing," Scanlon replied. Allison nodded quietly, pulling out of the parking lot. She glanced up at the rearview mirror to find Mr. Dubois in the back, giving her a pointed look. We'll finish this conversation later, she said more with her eyes than actually thought. Mr. Dubois gave her something of a irritated look before 'departing'. Scanlon caught the odd glances Allison was sending the rearview, he glanced behind him but found nothing in the back seat. Readjusting himself in the seat he asked, "Something the matter?"
Allison shook her head. "No. Just thought I saw something," She mumbled, turning the corner. Scanlon sighed, unconsciously his hand went to the gun tucked comfortably in the holster hanging on his side. If there was trouble, hopefully he could deal with it. In the meantime, he would enjoy the ride through the smoldering city, marveling at how Allison even remembered which way to go, let alone dodge the obstacles in their path.
A mother's love knew no boundaries, it would seem.
Ariel had nothing to give her sisters when they came to her, stomachs growling. Their dad had yet to return and Marie was climbing the walls with frustration over that knowledge. Ariel was truly at a loss as to what to do. Niether she nor Bridgette could do nothing to console their younger sister, who apparently was suffering from separation anxiety.
Not even Mr. Snookie, who now laid discarded on the floor next to the bunk beds, seemed to do anything for her. After a long and exhausting tirade that concerned the wanting of "Mommy" and "Daddy", Marie went into the furthest corner of the living room and cried herself to sleep.
Bridgette came up to her a little later on and draped a blanket over her slumbering figure. Her face was still rosy from her crying episode, clean trails where her tears had wiped away the dirt on her face remained as a reminder of her breakdown. Bridgette stepped away from her little sister and ventured into the kitchen where Ariel was waiting. "Is she still asleep?" Ariel whispered. "Yup, I covered her up incase she got cold," Bridgette replied, brow knitted together in concentration. Ariel nodded her head, browsing lazily through the items scattered on the counter in front of her. They were nearly out of vitamins and medication, their water supply was the only thing that wasn't terribly affected, they had just enough to last them another two months before they ran out.
"Do you think-- do you think Mom and Dad are coming back, Ariel?" Bridgette asked, uncertainty all too clear in her voice. Ariel shook her head; There was a time she could answer her sister's question with absolute certainty, now, however, Ariel was more inclined to believe that her parents had vanished or abandoned them altogether. Glancing up from the counter Ariel offered her sister a non-verbal shrug. Bridgette felt what little hope she was clinging to diminish, she started to move away the kitchen when a loud bang down the hall startled her. Both she and Ariel glanced down the hall, hearts racing. Searching for something to use as a weapon, Ariel grabbed up two kitchen knives and started down the hall.
"Ariel, are you--?!" Bridgette started. Ariel silenced her with a look and pointed to the corner where Marie was sleeping. Grabbing the broken chair leg from off the floor, Bridgette rushed over to Marie's side and waited anxiously for her older sister's return. Ariel continued down the hall toward her parent's bedroom, hands flexing on the handles of the knives.
They weren't the smartest things to use, knives could be used against the wielder in combat, but Ariel had very little choice in the matter, not if she wanted to act quickly against the possible invader. She slowed her pace when she got close enough to the doorway, Ariel leaned forward and peered past the doorway frame. Immediately she spotted what caused the sound; the alarm clock had fallen from their father's side of the bed. Exhaling heavily, Ariel ventured into the bedroom to pick it up.
"Finally! It took you long enough to get in here," Came a voice, slightly muffled. Acting on pure instinct Ariel spun on her heel and tossed the first knife across the room like she'd seen in the movies. Unconsciously, Mr. Dubois moved out of the way of the blade, despite knowing it couldn't hurt him, and watched as it embedded itself in the wall behind him. Ariel remained in a semi-crouched position, unsure of what she was seeing. "G-grandpa?" She stammered, surprised.
"Nice to see you again, Ariel," Mr. Dubois commented, now sitting on the bed. "Got a moment for your dear old grandfather?"
Ariel continued to stare.
Ana strolled down the hall, another two coffees in hand. She spent the better part of her evening, yesterday, cooling off after her confrontation with Joe. It wasn't until the next day that she realized that she'd left her other coffee in the bedroom. If she was lucky Joe hadn't decided to drink it himself, but that was highly doubtful. Stopping in front of the bedroom door, Ana used her foot to give the door a semi-gentle nudge, it swung open far enough for her to enter the room.
Peering inside the room, she found Monica sitting in her chair, quietly examining a sleeping Joe. "What are you doing in here?" Ana half-whispered, stepping inside. Monica cast a lazy look over her shoulder at Ana, eyeing the coffees in her hand. "Oh, nothing," Monica sighed, tucking her hair behind her ears. "Just paying a visit to the newcomer." I bet you were, Ana thought bitterly, placing the coffee on the table. She glanced at the old coffee cup and frowned at sight of the empty cup; Joe or Monica must've helped themselves to it after all. Monica rose from the stool and strolled around the bed, finger idly trailing the metallic footboard until she reached Joe's foot. Ana made herself comfortable on the stool, trying her best to ignore Monica's attempt to irritate her while she readjusted the tool belt on her waist. "So… can I have him when your done patching him up?" She inquired teasingly, giving Joe's foot a tug.
Ana glared at her friend as Joe began to stir. "This isn't a brothel, Monica, and he certainly isn't a thing you can own," Ana remarked. "He's a person."
"Well, you didn't care when I fu--"
"That was different. He were asking for it, he weren't married--"
"As far as you know," Monica inputted.
"That's not the point, Monica. The point is that he is married, and in my honest opinion, doesn't look like the kind of guy who would cheat on his wife," Ana retorted. "And your such a good judge of character, aren't you?" Monica rolled her eyes and started to play with his toes. Ana reframed from replying at the biting jab at her own character and continued to fiddle with the belt around her waist. As expected, Joe retracted his foot from her grasp, dragging his toes across the mattress to alleviate the tingling sensation dancing across his calloused skin.
Monica regarded Ana with a level glare. "Your such a buzz kill, Ana," She said.
"And you're a slut, Monica. What else is new?" Ana shot back.
"You, know what? Whatever, I'll just ask him when he wakes him," Monica snapped, stalking away from the bed. "No you won't! Stop acting like your so hard up. You just slept with CJ, for cripes sake," Ana spun on her belligerent friend.
"God, who died and made you leader?"
"My husband, did!" Ana bellowed. "Well, your not the boss of me! I'll screw whomever I damn well please!" Monica nearly screamed. She stormed out of the room before Ana could another word in, she flinched at the sound of the door slamming and felt even more awkward in the silence once the sound dissipated against the wall. Rubbing her chilled arms, Ana turned to the bed.
Joe laid on his side now, eyes blinking rapidly to rid themselves of the sleep that covered his lenses. A puzzled expression cross his features. "Allison?" He murmured, rubbing his face with his free hand. Ana smiled, almost regretfully, at the mention of his wife's name. Yes, as silly was it sounds, she was positive this was not a man who would cheat on his wife. "No. Still Ana," She replied ruefully, plunking down on the stool. Silence filled the room afterward, Joe stared at her for a time, rubbing his eyes furiously until he attempted to move his handcuffed arm. In an instant Ana watched realization hit him and his face fall. "Oh, no," He groaned, "I'm still here?"
"Fortunately," Ana joked. Joe sat up in bed and proceeded to rub his arm still sore from last night's frustrations, she watched him silently, amused by the disheveled look of his hair, sticking off in every direction. An uneasy smile graced her features. "Good morning," Ana greeted.
"If you say so," Joe yawned. He surveyed his surroundings. The room looked so different, welcoming in broad daylight; The eerie shadows the darkness cast were done; The walls were a warm cream color; In some spots, paint was peeling away from the wall, but it was a cozy sort of space, regardless. Looking up at the blonde sitting across from him, he said, "I'm thirsty."
"Here," Ana handed him a cup of coffee. Joe gave her a nod of thanks, leaning back against the headboard he sipped quietly on the coffee, trying to ignore the bitter aftertaste that followed with every sallow. The two sat quietly for some time, neither one really willing to speak to the other. Ana had a pretty good idea of what was one Joe's mind and she really didn't want a repeat of last night, so she kept quiet and drank her respective cup of coffee. Joe was the first to finish his coffee, he chewed on the inside of his mouth while he stared down at his empty cup, counting the drops spattered across the inside.
"Was that your friend?" Joe said, after a moment.
Ana quirked an eyebrow at him. "Who, Monica?" She asked. He nodded in the affirmative, sitting the empty cup on the mattress next to his leg. Ana shrugged her shoulders, biting the edge of her lip. "Sometimes. More often than not she's a real pain in the ass," Ana explained. Joe raised his eyebrows thoughtfully, thinking back on the bits of their heated conversation he managed to hear as he woke from sleep.
"She a sex addict or something?" Joe inquired.
"No, she acts like that when she's bored. We've been here for about four months and she didn't start acting like this until our friend, Tucker, her boyfriend, died," Ana explained, unsure why she was even telling him this. "Its her way of venting, I guess and most of the guys here don't mind it." Ana rubbed her arms.
"Did you get a hold of my wife?" Joe said, changing the subject. Ana took her time answering that question, knowing exactly where it would lead them. Rubbing the back of her neck, Ana's eyes wandered around the room until she lowered her head. "Bart tried for about six hours; Contacted a friend of ours that patrols the city, asked him if he'd seen your wife…"
"And?" Joe listened on expectantly.
"Well, we got no answers, naturally," Ana finished. "I'm sorry." If it was at all possible for a man to become more crestfallen than he already was, Joe more than proved it. Folding his legs Indian style, Joe buried his face in his hands. His fingers pressed hard against the skin of his throbbing head as the weight of his situation befell him once more. His daughters were without someone to protect them, without food and probably thought he abandoned them by now. What little hope he clung to began crumble. Ana watched him, at a loss for words that wouldn't sound incredibly patronizing. She wanted nothing more than to reach out and comfort him, he reminded her so much of Michael.
"Look, I know this is hard, but---"
"Do you know what is I was doing outside?" Joe said suddenly, pulling his hands away from his face. Ana looked a tad bewildered by the question.
"We were out of food, so I went out to get some. About half-way through my sweep of the houses in the neighborhood, I spotted a bunch of looters coming out of a house, dragging two kids out with them," Joe exhaled heavily. "I knew I had to get out of there, but there wasn't a lot of cover to use. I figured I'd stay behind the car I was hiding behind and just wait for them to leave. That's when I got hit with the dart." He paused. "I don't remember a damn thing afterward, just waking up in this room."
"What's your point?" Said Ana icily.
"They're going to starve, Ana, they're vulnerable without someone to protect them. Yes, there's a chance that Ariel may go outside to search for food, but at the same time I hoping that she doesn't because its too dangerous for her. My wife is missing, they don't a thing about self-defense," Joe explained, his voice growing louder. "My point is, Ana, that I need to get home. My children need me. Now if I have to break out of this place to accomplish that, then I will, but I will feel so much better if you'd just help me."
Ana was quiet.
"Ana, please…" He reached out and took hold of her hand, hoping some sense of contact would persuade her. She let out a shaky breath when his fingers wrapped around her own. Ana lifted her gaze to meet his. "…Help me."
Before Ana could fully register her own moments, the sound of the handcuffs coming undone rattled loudly in her ears.
"Are you fucking nuts, Ana?" CJ Bellowed, following her out of storage. "This guy's family could be dead for all we know, and your going out there on some suicide---"
"Look, CJ, I really don't have time for this. We're just going to get his kids, we'll be back before sunset," Ana interjected, pulling her hair up into a pony tail. Everyone was surprised to find Joe roaming outside the bedroom he'd been confined to, especially after hearing Ana rant about how much of an "ungrateful ass" he was to her when she refused to let him leave the first time.
Right off Kenneth noticed the slightly frazzled composure of his friend and wondered if the newcomer had anything to do with it. The two vanished into dressing room and emerged a few minutes later, the newcomer wearing something other than his tattered gray shirt and soot-covered jeans, Ana wearing her denim jacket. Ana had Nicole and Terry show him around, Kenneth and CJ kept an eye on him from a distance.
Joe kept to himself, rarely speaking unless he was spoken to (which was quiet frequently during breakfast. Nicole was just too curious to know what it was like outside their little safe haven and Joe was more than willing to answer, sometimes). Monica was seen once outside of her room, she gave Mr. Dubois a sly look before vanishing someplace. Ana waited until Kenneth was done with the daily polishing of his shotgun to drop the bomb on him. While he seemed calm on the outside, she could tell that Kenneth was as upset as CJ was with her plan. They spent the better part of their morning trying to talk her out of it to no avail. "I'll take one of the shuttles out into the city, see if I can't get this guy to his family. I shouldn't be long," Ana explained, tightening the band around her hair.
"That's your brilliant plan? Ana, this asshole is lying to you," CJ proclaimed.
"Shut your mouth!" CJ Bellowed. "I wasn't talking to you!"
Joe's mouth clamped down, he shot a glare in CJ's direction which was gladly rebutted with the finger. "Look, CJ, Kenneth, I have to do this. If I don't, he'll do it on his own and I'm pretty sure he'll die," Ana attempted to explain. CJ, however, never giving Kenneth a chance to get a word in edgewise, gave her a look that clearly indicated he had little concern about the fate of the newcomer. "Then let him die. It'll be his fuckin' fault, not yours," CJ argued. Ana rolled her eyes and proceeded down the hall, trying to ignore the footfalls that followed behind her.
Once she reached the end of the hall she entered the parking lot where the parking shuttles were situated. Looking over her shoulder, Ana watched as her friends pour through the relatively small doorway, ready to stop her. Joe entered the parking lot last, his crowbar and backpack in his grasp once again. She gave him a questioning glance and he mouthed the words "Monica" to her. Figures.
"Ana, try to see if from our side. Its dangerous, there's a real possibility that you won't come back, and then we'll be down one more person and transport," Kenneth said.
"I have, and understand why you don't want me to do this, but it'll be fine. I promise," Ana said. "Joe?" Joe glanced up from the ground, crowbar swinging idly at his side, Ana jabbed her thumb at the second parking shuttle, the one without the bulldozer shovel. He nodded and ventured out from behind the others.
Casting one last glance to her friends, Ana managed a small smile. "Trust me on this, huh?" Ana walked away from them and entered the bus through the back. Closing the door she moved silently past Joe and sat down in the drivers seat while he stood next to her, hand gripping the top of the seat. Terry and Nicole moved over to the garage door and hoisted the door high enough that its weight sent it the rest of the way up. The bus roared to life the next instant, pressing down on the gas Ana pulled out of the garage. Joe struggled to maintain his balance as the vehicle lurched clumsily down the sloped sidewalk onto the street.
Kenneth watched the bus depart down the road until it turned the corner, vanishing from sight. CJ surveyed the area, studying every shadowed area of their immediate surroundings for any looters. "I still say this bad idea," He grumbled, smashing his palm against the garage door control on the wall. Kenneth nodded in silent agreement. He didn't like this idea anymore than the next person, but it Ana's decision. Ken just prayed the man wasn't lying about his "daughters", there would serious hell to pay if he was.
"Okay," Ana sighed, gripping the steering wheel. "Where do you live?"
"Featherstone," Joe replied after a moment. Featherstone, the word echoed unceremoniously in her head. That was quiet a ways off from where they were. Leaning back in the chair, she attempted to relax her tense muscles. "Thank you," Joe sighed.
"For what?" Ana asked, finally to meet his gaze. "For this. For helping me," He said. A tightlipped smile graced Ana's otherwise soft features, moving her gaze back to the gated window. The stretch of road seemed to become longer the more she studied it, her stomach twisted in knots. "Don't thank me yet…," She murmured.
Three hours into the drive through the city, Allison and Scanlon switched positions, as Allison was unable to keep her eyes open. Her heart rattled nervously inside her chest, the information Mr. Dubois relayed to her kept her constant edge. Scanlon maintained an unrequested vow of silence around his friend, more intent on having her sleep than inquire what she planned on doing once they got to the house.
Allison watched the world pass by her window with half-open eyes. Everything you could think of was overturned, burning, or broken into. She couldn't imagine the number of people it took to overturn a school bus or a fire truck; One laid on its side on the sidewalk, the other was leaning against a building. Occasionally they'd come across a body or two, more of a husk of its former self than an actual person recently deceased. Allison would unconsciously raise a hand to her mouth at the sight of them.
What bothered her the most, however, were the number of aimless souls wandering the streets like zombies. Ashen or burnt skin, bruised or relatively untouched, the injuries varied from person to person. Their gazes locked onto her, begging silently for help, they were so confused and lost. None of them seemed to know how to leave this plane of existence, or were perhaps too shocked to come to terms to what happened to them. It was one of those times Allison wished she still had a walkman to block them out, her head was becoming overcrowded with images and voices.
"You okay?" Scanlon asked, noticing her distress. Allison shook her head, messaging her temples with the pads of her fingers. "No--- its so loud in here," She whispered breathily. Scanlon, taken aback by her response, sat up a little straighter in his seat. "I don't hear anything, Allison," He said.
"There's so many of them… so lost…" Allison continued on, closing her eyes.
"What are you talking about? Who's "them"?"
Allison gave Scanlon a look. "Don't you see them? Their all around us, all so lost---"
"Um, Allison, there's nobody outside. What the hell are you talking about? Who's they?" Scanlon exclaimed, gripping the steering wheel. She was starting to freak him out.
"Its --- its nothing. I forgot you couldn't see them, I forgot they were dead," Allison whispered shakily, pressing her hands against her face.
"Hey, Robbie, I think your deer just woke up," A man grunted, kicking the prone figure lying on the floor next to his feet. Robbie climbed out of the passenger side seat into the back where his friend resided; In the very back, sitting in the truck two teenagers sat gagged and bound to the support grips mantled to the van's interior. They looked on in terror, tears streaming freely down their faces, pooling into the fabric of their gags.
As luck would have it, his "deer" was waking up. The man, looking no older than forty-four, laid on the floor of the van, eyes rolling aimlessly about as he began to shift position on his side. Robbie grinned, reaching behind his back he pulled his tranquilizer from its holster. "Remind me to tell Lyle this stuff of his is no good," Robbie mumbled, cocking the weapon.
"Heh, I know right? And he says he took down a bear with this stuff?" Robbie's friend chuckled. Joe struggled to get his eyes to focus, he could hear the sounds of garbled laughter and crying above him, could feel the rumble of an automobile below his body. Turning his head, he spotted the all too familiar nose of a gun. Panic blossomed within him as he attempted to pull away from the weapon, but his body was like led, it wouldn't respond to him.
The dart pierced his skin and he knew no more.
Marie woke with a piercing scream, startling Ariel and Bridgette out of their wits, Bridgette more so, given that she was crouched next to her. "Marie!" Ariel darted out of the bedroom, leaving Mr. Dubois behind (or so she thought). Dashing through the hall she entered the living room where she found Bridgette on the floor holding her sister tightly as she sobbed against her chest. Just across from her sisters, Mr. Dubois resided against a wall, watching Marie with something of a sympathetic expression, it looked more like boredom to Ariel though. "What happened!?" She cried.
"I dunno, I was sitting next to her and she just started to cry! I didn't do anything, I swear!" Bridgette replied, panicked. Ariel nodded her head quickly joining her sisters on the floor, Marie's face was red from exertion, tears tricked down her face as she let out a strained wail. Ariel took Marie from Bridgette's embrace and sat her on her lap, Marie simply wrapped her arms around her sister's waist and continued to cry. Ariel hastily dragged her hand up and down Marie's back, hoping to assuage her sister's wailing.
"Hey, what's the matter, Marie? Did you have bad dream?" Ariel asked, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. Marie's response was incoherent, her sobs overpowered her ability of proper speech. The only thing Ariel made out was "Daddy".
"She had a dream, Ariel," Both Bridgette and Ariel glanced in the direction of Mr. Dubois who now stood in front of them. Bridgette looked to her sister than the strange man in front of them then back to her sister. "Ariel…who is this?" She asked.
"A dream? About what?" Ariel asked, ignoring her sister. Mr. Dubois lowered himself to the ground so that he was crouching before them, by the troubled look on Bridgette's facem he could tell she didn't remember him. "A dream about your father," He replied.
Ariel's blue eyes widened. "Dad?" She blurted.
"Yes, he was kidnapped---"
"Oh God, no!" Ariel tightened her grip on Marie's sobbing figure, her own tears starting to well in her eyes. Bridgette was torn between fearing for her father's life and questioning, again, the identity of the man crouching in front of them. Before Bridgette could utter a word, Mr. Dubois raised a hand. "Eh, don't worry, he's alright, he's… fine," Mr. Dubois explained. "Define "Fine"!?" Ariel cried, not believing him for a second. "You just decide to pop in like this and tell me my sister's had a dream about our father being kidnapped! How is that fine?"
Bridgette shot an uneasy glance toward the window, Ariel and Marie were screaming loud enough for someone to hear them. She remembered all too well the warning their parents gave them; Near-silence was paramount to their survival. If they weren't quiet, they might be hurt my some very mean people and she didn't want that to happen to them. "Ariel, what's going on? What happened to dad?" Bridgette managed to say, trying to keep a calm head about her. Sighing, Mr. Dubois rolled his cigar across his teeth.
"I'm not sure why she's dreaming it now, but yesterday, your father was jumped by a bunch of looters and rescued by some rather "upstanding citizens". Now believe me when I say that Joe is fine. In fact, he's one his way now. Him and your mother---"
"mom's really coming back?!" The biggest smile spread across Bridgette's face in sync with the moment Marie's wails stopped abruptly. Ariel glanced down at her sister in surprise, Marie, sniffling, peered through her smudged glasses at the old man. "D-daddy's okay?" She hiccupped, biting down on her lip. If Mr. Dubois ever felt the need to be affectionate towards his grandchildren, it was now; the look of absolute happiness beginning to appear on his son's youngest spawn was too adorable to resist. Chomping down on his cigar he replied, "Yep. Your dad's just fine, but--" He cast a wary glance over his shoulder. "--I think its about time your girls found someplace to hide."
The smiles fell from the trio's faces at his comment. "Why?" Ariel asked.
"Well, someone's coming and its not your parents."
Halfway through the ruined city of Phoenix, Arizona, Ana and Joe found themselves comforted with a bit of trouble. Their first problem occurred when Ana found the straight path to Featherstone blocked by a sea of abandoned vehicles stretching on for as far as the eye can see. "Damnit," Ana had a little trouble backing the shuttle up and finding an alternate route; A majority of the streets were blocked by cars, and for three minutes Ana went back and forth out of streets before coming across a clear path down an alley. It was a narrow fit, both occupants of the bus winced whenever they heard concrete and steel meet in a flurry of sparks, a ruined paint job left in its wake. They escaped the alley with little trouble and continued down the road once a clear path was found.
"Well, that was fun," Joe commented dryly, an uneasy laugh escaping him. Ana shot glare at him, thinking he was commenting on her driving through the alley. Their second problem caused more than a 'few' complications. Unbeknownst to either Ana or Joe, their search for a clear path to Featherstone attracted some attention.
By this time, Joe had made himself comfortable at the back of the truck, he held onto the support handle bars above him while he peered outside the rectangle window on the heavy double doors. Earlier, the world of the city was saturated in an haunting blue shade of early morning light, he never thought he'd see the city in the sate it was in now. His thoughts drifted to his sisters and mother, praying they found someplace safe to stay; The thought of them being in trouble, him being unable to help, made his skin crawl. "Why'd your wife leave?" Turning on his heels, Joe focused on Ana's tense posture. Her hands were gripping the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles had become a pasty white color. She was nervous.
"She went to look for food," Joe replied. The irony of his words were not missed by Ana, she was tempted to take her eyes off her the road just to see what his expression was before allowing herself to smile. "Why'd your husband leave, if you don't mind my asking?" Joe inquired, gripping the handlebar tighter when they hit a pothole. Ana felt her stomach flop at the question while her spine twisted uncomfortably when her bottom bounced up from the seat. While Joe waited patiently for a response, be it in the positive or negative, the two lapsed back into silence. She kept one hand on the steering wheel as she observed her plain hand with forlorn eyes. Running the back of her hand across her damp face, Ana exhaled heavily. Now or never, she thought.
"My husband didn't leave me, he was killed," There she'd said it.
"…I'm sorry, Ana," Joe murmured a moment later. Ana waved him off. "No, its fine. Its only been, eight months since his death…"
"Well that's not exactly a long time to get over---" Joe started.
"No, really, I'm okay to talk about it," Ana assured him. Joe still looked doubtful of that but said nothing to stop her, the talking was welcome. Leaning back in the chair, Ana resumed. "He and I were out, doing our usual sweep of the surrounding area, making sure we didn't miss picking up any supplies, when we were attacked by a bunch of these looters," She paused, taking her time to examine the fork in the road coming up. "Just take a left," Joe supplied.
Ana nodded gratefully in his direction, making the turn. She continued. "…Anyway, we spent hours running from them, until we reached this hole in the fence. We couldn't lead them back to the fort, they'd just get more of their friends and storm the place. So, Michael gave me his bag and pistol and told me to make a run for it. I wanted to stay with him, tried to get him to come with me, but he refused. Practically shoved me through the gate when I didn't move, I never seen him so scared…" Ana sniffed, wiping her hand across her face again.
"He gave me one last kiss on the hand and I scrambled under the gate as quick as I could. Half way down the block I heard him… I heard him scream the same time a gun went off. I don't even remember making back to the fort. Just, crying in Kenneth's arms…" Ana trailed off. Joe stumbled up to the front of the bus upon noticing the vehicle was loosing speed. Ana's foot was slacking on the pedal. "Here, let me drive," He said gently, tugging at her denim jacket. "Ah, keep your foot on the pedal." Ana did as she was told, rising from the seat enough for Joe slip past her and settle down in front of the wheel.
Ana kneeled down in front the seat, burying her face in her hands and cried. Joe pressed his foot down the pedal, focusing completely on his destination, debating with himself whether or not stopping the truck and comforting her would be a good idea. Her crying went on for good three minutes, interrupted briefly by hiccups and the occasional cough, Joe left her alone and concentrated on driving.
A loud popping noise erupted inside at the back of the bus, startling Ana and Joe. "…the hell was that?" Joe breathed, glancing at the side-view mirrors. His focused on the mirror just in time to watch it shatter into a million pieces. He leaned away from the window, wincing at the sound of the glass hitting the door window. Sucking back a sob Ana clambered to her feet, rushing to the back of the bus.
Peering out the window, the blood drained from her face at what she saw; At least three vehicles, (two standard sized cars, the other a humvee) coming up behind them, one of them with an sniper leaning out the passenger side window. "What? What is it?" Joe said. Ana ducked when another shot was fired, the sound of the glass cracking above her increased her panic, keeping low she hurried back to the front of the bus. Joe averted his gaze away from the road to catch the distress on the woman's face. Ana met his gaze with an almost apologetic expression. "We've got company," Ana she said.
"Your not serious?" Joe groaned, eyes moving back and forth from the road to Ana. Over the roar of their own vehicle, they picked on the sound of squealing tires. They bus lurched forward, throwing its occupants forward; Joe held onto the steering wheel in attempt to keep from falling over while Ana was thrown against the dashboard. "Shit. Oh, shit," Joe breathed, pressing down hard on the pedal. Ana said nothing, she reached behind the chair and grabbed the shotgun reserved for emergencies. Several more shots were fired into the bus, the loud thunks against the frame of the vehicle put Ana on edge.
At any moment a bullet could compromise the integrity of the bus and hit one of them, it was enough to make her throw the doors open and blast their pursuers with the shotgun. The back door window shattered, a bullet screamed past Joe's ear into the windshield. Joe ducked down against the steering, wheel, he was beginning to feel like a target. "Just try to get as much space between us and them as you can, be careful when you turn. Going this fast, you can turn us over," Ana ordered, searching the mesh for a box of shells.
"I'm aware of that," Joe answered, turning another corner. Ana held onto the seatbelt hanging idly on the side when her weight pulled her backward. Outside the Humvee maintained it focus on the back of the bus, the sniper leaned outside the passenger-side window focusing it attention on the center of the double doors. The smaller cars jockeyed to move up on both sides, dodging obstacles in the process.
"You know we could lead them straight to your house, if we keep going this way," Ana shouted over the gunfire. Joe ducked again, a bullet lodged itself into his side of the windshield again. He glared the spider web designs spreading across the glass, it was becoming next to impossible to see out of the window.
"I heard you! I know," He replied hastily. "What would you have me do, Ana?"
"Go the other way, maybe we can loose them."
Joe gave her incredulous look. Unconsciously, he shifted his gaze to side view mirror, growling when he saw the shell missing its reflective glass. With the way the looters were tailing them, there was slim chance that they were ever going shake their shady company.
"You won't be able to get your kids if their on us like this. They'll kill us the second we stop, or worse, kill them," Ana argued. "You know I'm right."
And that's what killed him.
"My boy's in trouble," Allison was startled out of her silent reverie by the voice that came from behind. Her feet would've slammed down on the breaks if it hadn't been from the slight gap between herself and the pedals (due to her height, no less). Scooting closer to the edge of the chair, she glanced up at the rearview mirror at Mr. Dubois. He sat in the back with his arms spread out on the top of the chair. For once, his cigar was actually burning and Allison couldn't figure if that was a trick of the morning light or some manifestation of his undead will. Either way, it was strange.
Shifting her gaze to the right she checked on Scanlon to see if he noticed anything. He was fast asleep against the door. Exhaling heavily, Allison tightened her grip on the steering wheel, wishing there was some way she could banish Mr. Dubois once all this was over with. "What you talking about? Joe's in trouble?" Allison asked. Joe's alright!? Was the silent question that rang through her mind.
"That's exactly what I'm saying, Ali dear," Mr. Dubois affirmed. "He needs your help."
Allison bit the inside of her mouth, unable to believe her luck; Her entire family was in trouble, but as callous as she sounded to herself, she knew Joe was fully capable of taking care of himself in a jam, unlike their children. Plus, she was just two miles from home. Joe would want me to help the girls first, Allison thought to herself. Glancing up at the rearview-mirror she regarded Mr. Dubois' unusually sullen expression. "Well, I'm not sure if I can give it, I almost home. Is it immediate?" Allison asked hesitantly.
"I can't think of anything more immediate than being run off the road by bunch of marauders," Mr. Dubois clarified, narrowing his gaze.
"Well, what about the girls? Aren't they going to be---" Allison paused, searching for the correct term to use. "--attacked by marauders too?"
"Unfortunately for you, the marauders are already at the house," Mr. Dubois sighed, looking far too clam for his own good.
Allison froze. The choice was the clear to her now; Looking away from the rearview mirror Allison pressed her foot down on gas she braced herself as the van picked up speed, rolling over various objects strewn across the street, large enough to serve as speed bumps. She prayed none of them were human remains. Mr. Dubois watched the frenzied driving of the Roll-- Dubois woman with curiosity, he casually sent a glance at wandering souls outside the car, glaring up at him. "Don't worry, I told them hide," He said.
Allison glared up at the man. "A lot of good that'll do! There aren't many places to hide in that house, they'll be caught for sure. Why didn't you tell about this sooner!" She shouted. The van made a tight turn around the corner, Scanlon's head bumped against the door frame, waking him.
"Gee, I was little distracted focusing my attention on the grandkids and my son, Miss Rollan," Mr. Dubois replied, adding the last bit just to spite her. Allison continued to drive with her eyes focused completely on the rearview mirror. "You know, for a ghost, you can be really blind to a lot of things!" Allison remarked.
Mr. Dubois rolled his eyes. "While I know more than average living man, there's only so much I'm allowed to see or talk about, Ali dear," He answered. This gave her pause. Was he implying he didn't know, or couldn't say, what was going to happen with Joe and their girls? Her expression softened a bit, she attempted to ask to the question with her eyes, but Mr. Dubois still seemed intent that she go and help her husband, his son, and made no indication that he was aware of what she was trying to communicate with body language.
"Look, I know your worried about your son, but I need to get my children. Joe would want me to help our girls first," She said, regret taut in her voice. Mr. Dubois slouched against the back seat, a resigned expression contorting his wrinkled features. "Ah, damnit, I know that," He groused, the light of his cigar dying out. Allison exhaled slightly, eyebrows furrowed. "Couldn't you make sure he gets out okay? Suggest something to him, assuming…?" Allison trailed off.
A bemused look crossed Mr. Dubois face as he leaned forward. "Allison, your husband is as sensitive as a rock. He won't hear a damn thing I say to him," He said.
"If you try hard enough he will. Trust me," Allison replied, focusing her eyes back on the road. Mr. Dubois took her silence as an end to their conversation, leaning back in the chair he reinserted the cigar in his mouth and left.
"Who was that you were talking to?" Scanlon asked, finally making his presence known. Allison blinked a couple times, taking his question the wrong way. Scanlon paused and reworded his sentence. "With which of our dearly departed were you communing with?" He tried again. Allison chuckled slightly at his randomly placed air-quotation marks when he spoke. Brushing her hair out of her hair she sighed.
"Joe's father. He's worried about him," She said.
"Joe Dubois?" She nodded. "You found Joe?" Scanlon asked, relieved.
Allison shook her head. "No, I don't know where he is, but his father says he's in trouble," Allison replied, trying to stay calm.
"Uh…well, assuming Joe's dad knows where he is, do we plan on helping him or…?" Scanlon gestured to world outside as she pulled into their neighborhood. She didn't answer, unable to bring herself to say that she most likely leaving her husband to die. Allison never thought she'd be so happy to see the ruined neighborhood she once called home. Unlike she remembered, several homes were a ruined mess; most of them were beginning to catch fire, other had their doors and windows broken in.
Scanlon removed his gun from his holster, his hand went for the door handle. Allison drove a little further down the street, maneuvering past a overturned car, before parking just a block from the house. Allison retrieved her bag from off the floor, throwing the strap over her shoulder she pulled her mask over her face again and stepped out of the car. Scanlon did the same. "Here," Allison tossed him a mask she retrieved from her bag. Scanlon nodded in her direction pulling the mask over his face quickly. The two started down the sidewalk toward her house, Allison felt herself choke up at the sight of the double doors wide open. She started to quicken her pace, her concern for her children overriding her better judgment, Scanlon jogged after her, gun raised and at the ready. "Allison, wait!"
Ariel didn't need to be told twice to hide, the moment Grandpa vanished she gathered Marie up in her arms and headed down the hall, silently motioning Bridgette to follow her. Marie was strangely silent as Ariel hurried through the hall, whacking her brain for a decent place to hide, someplace that wouldn't be found out immediately the moment the invaders searched the house.
The closet in Bridgette and Marie's bedroom was no good, there was no place to escape if they were caught, the closet in their parents bedroom wasn't ideal either. Sensing Ariel's dilemma Bridgette struggled to come up with a bright idea herself. "Maybe we can hide under the bed?" She suggested.
"No, not the beds," Ariel snapped quietly, edging along the wall. Suddenly the couch began to be vibrate violently against the door, all 3 girls turned towards the end of the hall and watched as the door started to open with each push that was made against it. Bridgette yanked at her sister's hoody. "Well think of somethin' quick!"
"Garage!" Marie blurted. "Hide in the garage!"
"Marie, the garage is right out the front door, we can't get to it," Ariel said, hoisting her up. Marie bit her lip in frustration. Another bang came at the door, a hand slipped through the crack, a yelp of pain when the door closed on the fingers. Marie buried her face in the crook of her sister's neck, unable to stand the tension. "Ariel!" Bridgette panicked, bouncing up and down.
"My room quick!" Ariel hissed, rushing toward her bedroom door. Bridgette swallowed a cry of surprise as she followed after her sisters, Ariel's room was probably worse than her and Marie's room; at least they had a window to climb out of. "Ariel about our room, we can just go out the window if there's trouble!" Bridgette explained hastily, tugging on her sister's shirt again. Ariel slipped into her bedroom, Bridgette followed. "I have a window too, doofus, but their boarded up remember?" Ariel said, opening the closet door.
"We can just remove the wood! We'll get caught for sure if we hide a closet!" Bridgette argued hurrying over to the bedroom door. Ariel let out a resigned breath, her sister was right but there was little chance they could get out of the house through window without attracting attention, all of them were boarded up with planks of wood. It would take forever to find a hammer and longer to pull the wood away from the window frames.
They were out of options. "Bridgette just close the door, don't lock it," Ariel instructed when her sister started reaching for the lock. Bridgette recoiled her hand from the lock, hurrying back over the closet she joined her sister inside. Ariel placed Marie on the floor behind her and shut the closet door all the way. The next instant they heard the horrible sound of the couch hitting the floor. Marie held onto Ariel's hand, trying her best not to whimper.
The girls waited for something, anything to let them know their intruders had entered the house, Ariel leaned closer to the closet door, straining her ears for footfalls. All she could hear were the random creeks in the floor, and the howl of the wind outside their house. Her sisters latched onto the end of her sweat jacket, tugging whenever they felt she got too close to the door. Ariel struggled to remain perfectly still, she could feel her feet shift beneath the carpet trying to keep her heels from leaving the ground. No sooner did she pull away from the door she murmurs. They were inside the house. Bridgette flinched at the sound of things being overturned outside in unison with the barks of laughter and muffled conversation.
"There's nothing in here, Robbie," Came a distorted voice.
"Sure there is. I just heard a scream not three minutes ago," Came another voice.
Marie's eyes widened at the mention of name. She tugged violently at her sister's shirt until Ariel pulled away from the door and kneeled in front of her. "What, what is it?" Ariel whispered as quietly as she could.
"I know that name," Marie said.
"What, name?" Bridgette said, a bit too loud. Ariel slapped her sister on the arm, raising a trembling finger to mouth. "Sorry," Bridgette whispered apologetically, eyes transfixed on the door. Marie waited for her sisters to calm down before she decided to speak again, Ariel made sure there was no change in the attitude in the invader's mood then focused on Marie's face. "Now, what were you saying Marie?" She asked.
"I said I know that name. Robbie," Marie repeated, pushing her glasses back on the bridge of her nose.
"What about it?"
"That's the name of man that hurt daddy in my dream," Marie explained. Ariel nodded her head, eyes searching the back of their small refuge for a blunt instrument. Why didn't she take up tennis or baseball in her free time? An idle tennis racket or bat would make her feel so much better right now. Running a hand down the side of her sisters face Ariel tried her best to look reassuring before both Bridgette and Marie. "Yeah, but dad's okay now, alright? He's coming to get us," She said. Marie looked doubtful but nodded her head. Ariel stood up again and faced closet door, fists clenched tightly.
Allison reached the door of her front house before Scanlon had a chance to stop her, she barely regarded the fallen couch, she stepped over it and ventured further into the house. Her hands fumbled inside her purse for the revolver, eyes darting from side to side, surveying for any enemies. Behind her, Scanlon entered the house gun raised, he kept his unease from getting the better of him as he watched Allison vanish around the corner.
"Allison, get back here!" He hissed. Allison made no indication she heard him, biting back a growl Scanlon stepped over the couch and followed her into the house. This was a good way to get shot, especially if their opponents happened to be better armed than they were. Scanlon surveyed the kitchen and living room; both were a mess, broken glass laid scattered across the floor like marbles, the silver wear had been dumped onto the counter and the cabinets were ransacked, doors hanging awkwardly off their hinges, refrigerator overturned. The living room was no better.
A layer of dust could be seen dancing in the air, the table was overturned, legs missing. The television remained dormant in a corner, a CB radio and some odd contraption rested on a chest in the middle of the floor, pillows and sheets were scattered everywhere and the windows were boarded up. Allison stood next to the chest, regarding the empty space next to it with forlorn eyes. The image of her husband sitting on the floor, speaking on the CB played in her mind. Where was he now?
Pulling back the hammer on her gun, she turned to face Scanlon's distressed face. "I don't think anyone's here, Allison," Lee whispered. Allison bit the inside of her mouth, she refused to believe that. Stepping out of the living room, Allison started to make her way down the hall when she caught sight of a shadow looming across the wall. She stumbled a halt the same time the masked figure came into view, shotgun leveled at her chest. Scanlon started to ask what the matter was when the masked man stepped further out into hall way.
Crap, he thought gripping his gun. The man regarded Scanlon through the smudge lenses of his mask with disdain, his gripped the shotgun even tighter. Allison felt her breath rattling in her chest at the sight of the barrel, the fight or flight response kicked in immediately, leaving her debate with herself on which reaction would suitable for the situation. "Drop the guns," Came the husky command.
"We-- We're just here--"
"I said drop the guns!" He yelled, placing his finger on the trigger. Allison flinched at the ferocity of his voice, raising her arm she lowered herself slowly to the ground, muscles taut with fear. "Please… I just want my children," She breathed, placing the revolver on the ground. The man stared down at her with condescending eyes, he didn't care what she was looking for, the stupid bitch. He shifted gaze toward the man who continued to stare him down, arms straight and taught as the gun shook in his gaze.
"Drop the gun, cowboy," He snarled. "Or your girlfriend ends up all over the living room wall." Scanlon glared at his remark. Casting a look over the man's shoulder he spotted his accomplice stepping out of a room. Judging by the startled movement of his body he wasn't expecting to find his buddy holding up anyone. "The hell, Robbie? Who are they?" He blurted, coming forward.
"Party crashers, tryin' to steal what's ours. Did you find anything?" Robbie asked.
"Nah, there's nothing here, man," The man replied. He leered at Allison, his mouth watered at the possibility of sharing a bed with her. Allison blinked away more tears, shifting uncomfortably under the man's gaze.
"Not according her. She's got kids hiding someplace in here," Robbie chuckled, beginning to turn the shotgun on Scanlon. Robbie's friend started to respond, excited the prospect of more bait to play with when he caught sight of the woman's male friend raise his gun toward Robbie. The next instant seemed to pass in slow motion; Allison watched as Scanlon pulled the trigger of his gun and Robbie's head jerk backward violently as the bullet ripped through the man's neck, throwing him off balance.
Robbie's friend was brought crashing to the ground by his weight, nerves ablaze with pain his finger squeezed trigger of his weapon. The shotgun went off, Allison fell to the ground screaming, Scanlon jumped off to the side. Theo struggled to crawl away from Robbie, blood spilled out from the hole in his neck onto his clothes as he struggled to breathe through the blood gushing out of his throat. "Oh, God, oh Christ!" He screamed, pulling his legs from underneath Robbie. Robbie laid on the floor convulsing in a pool of his blood as the life drained from him, he felt his heart crawling to a stop, his body so erect with pain that he could break under the pressure.
Theo struggled to free the shotgun from Robbie's death grip to no avail, casting a panicked glance at the still figures on the ground Theo decided to accept his losses and stumbled to his feet. Slipping through the pool of blood, Theo dashed out of the house, hoping to put as much distance between him and the accursed house as possible. Silence befell the ruined Dubois household, aside from the dying chokes of Robbie, neither Scanlon or Allison moved from their positions on the floor. Down the hall a door opened, Ariel peered out of the small crack of the door. She recognized the scream as her mothers, it was unmistakable.
Behind her, Ariel felt her sisters latch onto her shirt again. "Stay here, I'm going to check it out," Ariel whispered, slipping through the door. She gave her sisters no time to argue with her, closing the door she headed down the hall as fast as she could, bracing herself to find the worst. When she entered the living room floor, Ariel stumbled to a halt at the sight of the dead man, gagging at how the blood spread itself across the floor.
Glancing around her Ariel spotted two bodies, the first one she laid eyes on was of a stocky build, hair cut close and wore a simple t-shirt and jeans, across from him was the figure that was undoubtedly her mother. The worn suit jacket, the blonde hair and just the shape of her figure, gave her away. Ariel choked back a sob. Shakily moving past the dead man, Ariel stepped over her mother's legs and kneeled down. "M-mom?" She whispered. A trembling hand reached down to place itself on Allison's shoulder but stopped short when Allison turned and faced her.
Ariel felt her tears spill from her eyes down her face at the sight of her mother's face, finally clear in her memory for the first time. Aside from the blood that made way onto her pant legs, Allison was untouched by whatever happened. Allison breathed in the sight of her daughter, worn and exhausted. Without preamble Allison grabbed her daughter in the biggest hug she could muster, Ariel wrapped her arms around Allison waist and cried into her shoulder.
Joe was pretty sure he lost the feeling his legs long ago, yet he still "felt" them moving as his feet shifted from pedal to pedal occasionally, arms moving hastily as he turned the steering wheel. Ana had situated herself in the back of the track, firing the occasional round from the shotgun out the broken window of the double doors, she couldn't fire off too many given the small amount of ammo she had at her disposal. Like they suspected, their pursuers did not let up the chase, even when they diverted the shuttle away from the path that would take Joe home, the marauders continued to tail them.
No maneuver Joe attempted to perform in the cumbersome bus helped them evade the looters. The bag of the shotgun brought Joe out of his blank state of mind, the mechanic movement of his limbs brought back under control of his awareness. Ana turned to face him as he looked in her direction, her expression was panicked, sweat rolled down her face toward the edge of her mouth. "I'm almost out of bullets," She breathed.
"How many you got left?" He dared to ask.
"Six," Ana deadpanned. Joe resisted the temptation of banging his head on the steering wheel. Fuck. The snap of a bullet and the shattering of glass outside the bus made them jump, the second review mirror had been taken out. This could not possibly get any worse!
Focusing on the road again, Joe said, "Well, take out the sniper---"
"I did! I got one, but they've got another---" Ana interjected.
"Blow out the tires, something Ana! We're going to be killed!" He bellowed. And whose fault is that? She wanted to say to him. Ana peered out the window, the sniper was reloading. Shoving the barrel of the shotgun out the window and fired on the windshield for the third time. The glass shattered only slightly, she watched the driver's delayed reaction to her attack, he flinched, throwing himself backward against the chair. Ducking down, she started to load the last six shells into the tube. "I don't think I can get the tires," She grunted, cocking the weapon.
"Did you hear that?" Joe blurted, his head whipping about.
"Hear what?" Ana deadpanned, flinching as nothing bullet hit the bus.
"Sounded like a voice," Joe mumbled to himself, eyes searching the expansive interior of the bus. Ana couldn't help the queer expression that contorted her features, their crisis forgotten momentarily. She was beginning to see why he ended up with the Dubois woman, hearing voices was certifiable.
There was barely time to relay such a thought to the spaced-out man across from her. As she rose from her crouched and positioned the shotgun properly in her hands, a sharp pain blazed through her abdomen in succession with the loud pop that echoed through the cab. The scream ripped from her throat before she had a chance to register what hit her, Ana stumbled backward and fell to the floor, her nervous system alight with pain.
Michael? Every muscle in her body tightened, the shotgun went off, blowing a hole into the roof. The gun fell to the ground, another round went off into the door, Ana struggled to regain control of her bodily functions, overcome with indescribable pain. In the split second it took for Joe to react to what happened behind him, Ana was already lying on the floor, hand pressed against the bleeding wound. Suddenly the gunfire and jostling of the bus became more furious, they knew they'd hit their target. "Ana! Ana, get up!" He shouted, ducking the whizzing the bullets.
Ana didn't move, her attention was focused entirely on keeping pressure on her wound. "Shit! Shit!" He swore, pressing down harder on the pedal. He leaned back in his seat as the bus accelerated in speed, feeding in the helpless rage building up inside him. The road was vanishing beneath them quicker than he could keep track of, he could see the turn the racing up toward them but could bring himself to raise his foot off the pedal. If he did he would just abandon driving completely, throw himself from the seat and tend to Ana's wound or die trying.
"You dumb ass, hit the breaks!" The voice in his head snapped him. Joe sat upright, eyes shifting from side to side. Raising his leg, his foot removed itself from the gas pedal and slammed down hard on the break. The tires ceased turning, sliding across the asphalt, the speed of the bus decreased dramatically. Joe held onto the steering wheel when the bus finally lurched to a stop, he glanced over his shoulder at the double door window in time to hear a sickening crash. The sound of metal colliding and twisting, crumbling underneath to the force of impact.
Not sure what else to do, Joe rose from the seat and hurried across the short distance between to Ana. She struggled against the will of erratic muscles to regard Joe as he lowered himself to her level, hands shaking as just as much as her own. "I have-- to.. stop the bleeding," She struggled to speak against the blood bubbling her throat. Joe swallowed against the nausea twisting inside him; Ana was a mess, her blood had already soaked the bottom of her t-shirt and was making short work of her jeans.
"Okay, okay. Keep your hand where it is, we're getting out of here," Joe said. Ana never got the chance to ask what he meant, before she knew it he was lifting her off the ground floor of the bus and cradling her bridal style. Instinctively her arms wrapped themselves around his neck and he hurried over to the side door exit. She cried out at the sudden pressure against her abdomen, Joe paused at the door, lowering Ana to the ground long enough to open the door.
The doors opened with a hiss, the ambience of the outside world came roaring into the bus, along with it the fowl air and smoke that billowed around the vehicle outside. When Joe moved to pick her up again, Ana pushed his arm away from her legs. "I can walk," Was all that she could bring herself to say. Joe didn't argue with her, but kept his arm wrapped firmly around her waist.
Jumping out of the bus, the two landed in a crouched position inadvertently inhaling the black smoke surrounding them. They made a break for the sidewalk, Ana pushed herself to keep up with Joe's pace as she shifted her gaze to the right. The humvee had been T-boned by a truck, pinned against one of the vehicles that was assisting in the pursuit, while the other was nowhere to be seen. Struggling against the burning in her stomach, she resumed her hurried pace. Inside of the bus the city resembled something of a distant nightmare; close enough observe through a window, and far enough away to make the dreamer only slightly uneasy.
Now that they were outside, on foot of all things, every object, every shadow looked primed and ready to kill them. Joe came to a halt in the center of the alley entrance, his head turned in every direction, searching for someplace hide. With Ana's injury, she would only bleed out if she kept running and at the pace they were going, they'd be caught before they reached the third block. "The dumpster," Ana moaned, tugging on his arm.
Joe regarded the rusted and filthy object with utter disdain, he had no time to argue, however, the very angry voices behind them left him with little to argue about. Hurrying over to the dumpster, Joe leaned Ana against its surface and struggled to raise the top high enough for them to climb inside. He managed to raise it half way, creating a crawl space large enough for entry. "Alright," Joe strained, arms trembling under the weight, "Get inside." Ana faced the mouth of the dumpster, gripping the edge she hauled herself inside the dumpster. A moment later she reappeared and placed her hands on the surface of the top.
Joe was hesitant to release his hold on the dumpster top, he didn't want to cause a ruckus by dumping a load Ana quite possibly couldn't hold. Ana pressed the palms of her hands flat against the dumpster's top with a frown. "I've got it," She hissed. Believing her, Joe lowered his arms and watched as Ana fought against the weight of the door above her. Her entire mid section was on fire, as did the muscles in her back which to caught the brunt of the weight. Joe climbed inside the dumpster, swallowing a repulsed cry when he landed on something wet amongst the trash bags. Groaning, Ana lowered the top back down.
It smelled awful once they were sealed inside, the dull smell of rotted food and other disposable materials made her gag with each breath she took. Ana was careful not to run her hands across any of the bags, the possibility of being stabbed by a drug needle made her nervous. Lowering herself to the vacant spot somewhere in the corner, she pressed her hand against her abdomen once again and listened to Joe's shallow breaths. "Michael?" She whispered, extending her free hand.
"Joe," Came the short reply.
Ana blinked. "What?"
"Its Joe. You called me Michael," Joe repeated, moving away from the pile of bags. Ana lowered her head, embarrassed. "Oh…sorry," She whispered. Joe merely grunted in response, he moved over to where he believed Ana to be situated and leaned against the wall.
Ana lowered her extended arm down and exhaled in relief when it landed on Joe's leg. "You alright?" He asked. Ana shrugged, despite knowing Joe could not see her movement. "I'm a little cold. I think the bleeding's stopped, though," She confessed, moving closer him. Ana started to lower her head toward where she believed his shoulder to be when she left him move, confused she started to inquire why. That's when she heard the sound of fabric tearing. "What are you doing?" She managed to say. Joe didn't answer her, he focused on pulling the lower half of his shirt away from the rest.
The final threads of the shirt came apart without incident, Joe slowed the swing of his arm, his fist was inches away from hitting the wall of the dumpster. "Joe?" Ana whispered. "Made a bandage," Joe replied. "Come here." Ana moved away from the wall until her knee bumped against his, Joe raised his arms over her hand and wrapped the fabric around her waist. Struggling to keep her balance with just the balls of her feet, Ana moved her hand away from the wall and guided his hand toward her injury. Twisting the fabric around itself, Joe tied it around her waist, making sure there was enough pressure applied to the wound. "There, that should do for now," He grunted, giving it another tug.
Ana smiled past her pain and murmured a small "Thank you" to him. There was an odd pause from him, as though he were making sure he her right. Reclaiming his original position, he responded, "Your welcome, Ana." Finally, she relaxed and Joe paid her no heed when she leaned her head on his shoulder. He remained perfectly still, his body almost rigid. Ana pressed her hand hander against her stomach. Hopefully the looters wouldn't think to look inside the dumpster. Hopefully their wait inside their foul refuge would be brief.
"Is she asleep?" Ariel's voice drifted from out of the doorway across the room, Allison looked up from the sleeping form her youngest daughter and nodded warily. "Yes, finally asleep. Tuckered herself out from all the crying," Allison replied, tiredly. Her fingers ghosted across her daughters red, tear streaked face, wishing there was something she could do assuage her daughter's pain. Ariel stepped into the room, clean for the first time weeks with a new set of clothes. From behind, Bridgette strolled into the room, also clean and redressed, a cup of water in hand.
Allison watched them intently, gobbling up every millisecond of their every move, so afraid that they would disappear if she took her eyes off them. She'd been so relieved when she found her daughters unharmed inside their home. She and Scanlon ---who took a moment to come out of his stupor, after learning he yielded no damage from the shotgun--- went to get Bridgette and Marie, while Ariel hurried off to fetch their bags from out of her little sisters bedroom.
Allison received the biggest welcome from her youngest daughters, she practically crushed them in her own bear hug she was so happy to see them, unaware of the preoccupied expression on Marie's face. That is until Ariel announced she gotten everyone's things and Scanlon said that they should get going. None of the girls, Allison realized, wanted to leave, their father had yet to return and they tried to convince her to stay until he came back.
Allison couldn't tell them what she learned from their grandfather, and given that Joe had not arrived, she feared the worse had happened to her husband. Calmly as she could, Allison lied her daughters and told them daddy was going to meet them at the new hideout and he would be there soon. For the briefest of moments Bridgette and Ariel seemed to buy it until Marie pulled away from her mother and pressed herself against the wall. "Liar! Lair!" She remembered the tiny girl yelling at her.
Allison did her best to keep face, repeated what she said, ensured that her family that he would find them there, but by the time she had managed to speak through her own tears, Marie was sobbing and screaming loud enough for all three girls. Ariel knew for a fact that her mother was lying, but was convinced she wouldn't be if their home wasn't safe anymore.
So she did the only thing that came to mind; Handing Bridgette her backpack, she pulled Marie away from the wall and headed toward the door, bags bouncing at her sides. Bridgette followed her sister's example, giving her mother the smallest of looks before focusing on the road ahead of her. Allison and Scanlon followed the Dubois sisters out of the house, Allison cried silently all the way back to the warehouse, her guilt intensified by the volume of Marie's wailing. Marie cried for another half hour before falling asleep, exhausted.
Ariel sat on the edge of the inflatable bed, squinting against the tiny rays of light that peered through the window across the window. Bridgette stood next to her sister, sipping quietly on her water while she studied the stricken expression her mother's face. Allison recoiled her hand, pressing it against her damp face, surprised by the warmth of her own skin. "Mommy, why did you lie about daddy coming back?" Bridgette asked, brow furrowed.
Allison shrugged. "I didn't lie Bridge," She started. "I -- I told a fib basically, is what I did."
"But why?" Bridgette pressed, truly wanting to know the reasons behind her mother's actions.
"Because, she didn't want us to worry. Isn't that right, mom?" Ariel interjected. She turned to meet her mother's level gaze, an almost reprimanding expression crossing her face. Allison sighed as she regarded her two daughters; They had every right to be upset with her, they're body language said expressed that much, but they way they kept it to themselves ate away at her. She almost wanted to them to come out and call her a liar in her face. Running her fingers through her hair, Allison nodded slightly. "If anyone can find us, its your dad. He will find us," Allison reaffirmed her daughters.
"And this is something you know? Something you dreamt?" Ariel inquired, as-of-matter-of-factly.
"No, baby… this is something I feel," Allison answered, rising from the ground. Not sparing her girls another look, Allison left the room. She hadn't slept a wink since returning, she hoped to talk to Scanlon some --- despite his hesitance to open himself up emotionally, he always managed to make her feel better about her troubles -- but he was preoccupied with Lynn and more than likely getting console from her as he marveled at the life growing inside her belly.
Allison never truly acquainted herself with other people living with them, she spoke them whenever they were present in the same room, but never really bothered to create a sense of trust or friendship between herself or them as she didn't expect to remain here for long. Venturing further down the hall, Allison found herself standing at the threshold of the designated reading room. It was full of old newspapers and magazines, mainly, there were only a few novels.
A couple of plastic chairs were positioned against the wall nearest to the doorway while one couch sat in the middle of the room next to a floor lamp. Allison stepped inside and shut the door behind her, strolling over to the couch she flopped down on the cushion. Even the silence felt like it was accusing her, closing in around her. Pulling her legs up against her chest, feet resting on the edge of the cushion, Allison pressed her face against the chair and closed her eyes.
The confines of her world drifted away in a swirl of smoke and ash, Allison watched the sparks of fire spread across the ground, burning everything in its path. She could feel it snapping at her heels as she ran in no particular direction, her heart throbbed inside her chest as the fleeting thing called mortality became all to clear to her.
The street was so hot that the soles of her shoes were melting, she felt herself hop when her skin came contact with the sweltering asphalt. Turning the corner of her mind, Allison found herself confronted with a chain fence, stretching across and up as far as the eye could see.
"No!" Allison gripped the oppressive wall with her hands and shook it violently, its weight tossed her back and forth, she let out another screech of rage. Suddenly the fire returned, it came at her like a raging bull. Her entire body was bathed in it. Allison screamed, choking on the fire as it crawled inside her and ate her alive.
Allison jerked her head away from the cushion of the chair, limbs flailing about to fight off the imaginary fire only to realize too late that someone had taken hold of her wrists. She prepared herself to scream for help, but blue eyes met hazel brown and her whole body fell still. Joe sat on the arm of the chair, smiling down at her. He wore a pair of brown khaki's, a short sleeved button down pale yellow shirt over a undershirt. "Hi," He said. Hi? Allison repeated in her head, flabbergasted.
Allison was so busy taking in the minor details of his face, she paid little attention to the significantly short and sun kissed hair complementing his rugged features. Immediately, she leapt into his arms, arms wrapping tightly around his neck. The sentiment was returned, Allison smiled against his shoulder as he rocked her back and forth. Hesitantly, Allison pulled away to study his face again; Joe smiled as her hands caressed his face. "I knew you'd find us," She whispered, grinning. "Where--- when you did get here?"
"I dunno…I don't remember," Joe answered, leaning forward. Allison continued to stare at him like a wide-eyed doe as he closed to the distance between them, her felt the blood rush to her face when his lips pressed against the edge of her mouth. It was as far as he got, however. Gently pushing him away, Allison looked up at him, mildly confused, never once missing the look of disappointment crossing his features. "Do you girls know your here?"
Joe seem to contemplate her answer, in his eyes she could see his hesitance before it fully affected his features. "Yeah… they know," He replied, solemnly. Allison was taken aback by his sudden change of mood, Surely he wasn't blaming himself for leaving the girls alone for all that time. Cupping his face with her hands again, Allison gave her husband a reassuring smile. "Hey, honey… its not your fault. The girls don't blame you at all for what happened," Allison explained.
"No, I know that, its just… I don't have a lot of time left," Joe said. At those words, the smile fell from Allison's face and dread filled her being once again. Blood drizzled from out of the corner of Joe's mouth, the warm complexion of his skin diminished right before her eyes, leaving him a shade too pale. Fear and adrenaline pumped through her system as she attempted to pull away, her eyes caught sight of the small blood stains growing deeper and spreading across Joe's chest. Allison felt glued to the chair in more ways than one. Her legs refused to respond to her command to move and top of that Joe's gentle grip on her wrist had become like a vice. Tears fell freely from her eyes at the sight of her husband. "Joe…"
"He's coming. You have to take care of her for me," He begged, eyes watering. "Promise me, Mrs. Dubois..."
For the third time that night, Allison Dubois was wrenched out of her sleep by the force of her own consciousness becoming aware of reality again. Paying little heed to the sleep in her eyes, Allison surveyed the surveyed the room, no longer bathed in afternoon light, unsure if she was alone.
Scanning the wall she noticed the door was slightly ajar, rising shakily from the chair Allison hurried toward the door. There was no one in the hallway when she peered outside, the warehouse was silent. Nothing except the random creeks in the structure of the building could be heard. How long have I been asleep? Allison thought, scrubbing her face.
Stepping outside of the room, Allison was careful to avoid making too much noise as she closed the door, the things weren't exactly known for their silence. Lynn had suggested oiling the hinges once or twice, but nothing really came of it. Not even the slightest bit of oil they used assuage the terrible screech in the hinges, they were just too far gone. Allison managed to get the door half way closed before the squeal of the hinges became too much, releasing the door knob she hurried down the hall toward the pantry.
The silence of the huge warehouse made her uneasy; Eleven weeks spent inside what she considered to be steel dungeon did not assuage her fears of being locked inside of it forever, it was worse than being trapped inside her own house. Ever since the "apocalypse" come, Allison was afraid to dream; She'd seen it coming, knew what was going to happen, but no matter how hard she tried to warn anyone she knew, they all thought she was crazy.
Even Joe, who supported her for half their marriage when it came to her dreams, found it hard to believe that the world would come to such a horrible and abrupt end. But it did, and for the longest time, Allison truly felt like a failure. Tucking her hair behind her ears she started to pick up her pace, eager to distract herself with some food when the sound of something rapping against the door somewhere down the hall caught her attention.
There was a moment's hesitation on Allison's part, she wasn't sure whether or not she should approach the door let alone answer it, but then if she didn't there was a strong possibility that the ruckus outside would attract undue attention to their little safe haven. The size of the structure alone was enough, it didn't need a panicked survivor (or invader) adding on to the invisible bulls eye on its ass. Heading down the opposite end hall, away from the pantry, Allison hoped that someone left a weapon at the door. Just as she turned the corner, she heard the a young voice speaking loudly from behind her. Bridgette was up.
Finally, Allison reached the door and by the grace of the almighty, found a bat lying against the wall next to the entrance. Outside, she could hear the plead of "Help! Help us! Please!" through the thick door. Grabbing up the wooden object, Allison placed a hand on the lock and thrust it backward. Moving quicker than she could believe, her hand grabbed the handle and opened the door. "Open the Goddamn door!" The man outside yelled. Allison's arm was primed to swing, her resolve faltered completely when she saw who stood before her. "Joe…," The name fell from her lips like a fumbled ball.
Joe, covered in soot, sweat, and blood, smelling fowler than the air around him, stood outside the door, wearing an expression to mirror her own. Leaning against him was a young woman, looking to be in worse condition than her husband. Blood stained the entire lower half of her shirt, Allison would've believed this woman to be dead if it wasn't for the way she clung to Joe. Without waiting for permission, Joe bolted past Allison into the warehouse, Allison shut the door and locked it just as a vehicle came screeching around the corner. Allison turned to face her husband again, but caught the boot his heel as he turned the corner instead.
"Help!" He cried. Suddenly the warehouse was alive with confusion, question, and panic, Allison barely had time to catch glimpse of her husband before he vanished in the ocean of bodies rushing to help the woman with him. Bridgette, Ariel, and Marie stumbled outside of the sleeping quarters, confused and scared from all the sudden activity inside. Allison hurried to her daughters, quick to assure them that nothing was happening. She skipped over the details of the woman and simply told them that Joe had fond them.
"Really? Daddy's here?! Where is he?" The trio spoke at once, Bridgette and Marie pushed against their mother to glance down the hall to get a glimpse of their father, while Ariel kept a steady hand on their shoulders, following their example. "Girls, girls, calm down---" Allison started to say, eyes following the direction they were staring in. Joe stepped out from around the corner, an utterly defeated expression on his face as fingers ran through his shaggy hair. His gray shirt was a shade darker, and torn around the bottom; His pants seemed to have sustained the worse of the damage, bearing random tears in every area.
Blood was smeared across his left forearm, and as far as Allison could tell, his hands as well. "Daddy!" Marie cried gleefully, slipping past her mother. Joe sullen gait came to a sudden halt at the sound of his youngest daughter's voice. At first he thought he was going crazy, hallucinating the sound of Marie because he longed to see his family again, but once his gaze focused on the rapidly approaching figure and the ones behind her, Joe felt his knees turn to jelly.
Regaining enough control over his body to keep from hurting himself as he sank to the ground, Joe caught the brunt of Marie's embrace in the nick of time. Marie's little arms wrapped themselves around Joe's neck as he wrapped his arm around her waist and pressed his hand against the back of her head. The silky smooth feel of her hair, brought tears to his eyes. Soon afterward, Bridgette and Ariel found their way over to Joe, trapping him in a embrace.
Part of Joe wanted to push his daughters away, he smelled terrible and they could get sick, but the euphoria overwhelmed his better judgment and he continued to hold them. "Oh, your okay. My babies," He croaked, pressing kisses to their foreheads. Across them, Allison remained in a crouched position and watched her family with a teary smile. Rising to her feet she crossed the distance between them, it felt like forever, but before she knew it, Allison was standing in front of her kneeling husband. Joe lifted his gaze to meet hers. Once again he found himself staring up at head of blonde hair, light creating a halo behind her and enhancing her features. Moving his hand away from Marie's hand he extended his arm to her.
Allison took his hand in hers, laughing. "I knew you'd find us," Her words echoed in the hall, filling her with the greatest relief.