A.N: This is a new story for me and, luckily, I have loads of chapters that want updating if people like it. I'm not going to force you to read it but it would be nice if you did and told me what you think. Thank you.
Disclaimer: If I owned anything you remotely recognised it wouldn't be a fanfic, would it? I do have dibs on Danny on Sophie though.
Chapter One: Rescue
We cruise through the streets of New York.
"New York was nicer when there were people in it," Danny tells me.
"I'm willing to bet it," I agree, darkly. "How long is it 'til sunset?"
Danny checks his watch vaguely. "About one or two hours."
"Great," I mutter. "One or two hours before we get eaten."
"Don't be so down-hearted."
"I'm being realistic. We don't know this territory, we have nowhere to go, and we don't know what could happen. For all we know, the freaking infected will dive on the windscreen, immune to the Sun, any second now and tear us to shreds. Who knows, maybe they even wear hoodies!"
Danny shakes his head with a sigh. "We'll be alright."
"I hope to God to you're right."
We pull up at one of the docks and get out of the car. We sit on one of the bollards and look out over the water. It's beautiful as the midday sun glints on a thousand shimmering diamonds. Danny puts a hand on my shoulder as comfort.
"Danny, I know you don't want to hear this but how do you know your brother is still out here? How do you know if he's still alive or not infected? How are we going to find him in this big city?" I say, softly. "You know I'm still with you on this and I will be for as long as we survive but… I don't want us to screw this up. Wouldn't it be awful if he was still out here and alive and all that and we got eaten before we could find him? We need to plan this carefully and I think that we should first find somewhere safe before we start cutting through this city for him."
"I guess you're right," he admits. "You know, I'm more nervous now we're here. I can sense he's still out there but I don't know what it'll be like. Two years… harsh. He could be anywhere. He could be alive, infected or dead. Of the last two, I don't know what's worse."
"Soph," Danny says, getting my attention. I can hear the sound of an engine going full-belt. A car pulls into the dock. It's a black SUV. A German Shepherd has its head out of the window. The brakes are applied and the car stops. A black man in a blue top and jean gets out, followed quickly by the dog. The gun in his hand and the expression on his face mean he has no idea what is going on. He has about as much clue as we do.
The dog bounds over and sniffs us thoroughly. We're too surprised to do anything about it except stand up. The man walks to within three feet from us and then stops. The dog barks before lying down, quietly. Apart from the noise of a few seagulls – who are probably infected – and some ambience (which makes me worry), there isn't a sound.
"Uh – hi." Danny is the first to break it.
"Hi," replies the man.
"Are we going to just going to speak in monosyllables?" I ask, tentatively.
"I'm Danny Phillips and this is Sophie Reed."
"I'm Robert Neville and this is my dog, Samantha. I just call her Sam."
There's a bit of silence again.
"Did you hear my message on the radio?" Robert asks.
"We haven't turned on the radio in years," I reply. "There haven't been any broadcasts since the radio died in 2009 so we didn't bother switching it on. We just stopped here randomly."
More silence. Eventually, Robert asks, "Where've you been?"
"We came from England. The country took in refugees from New York but one had picked it up, having brought infected clothes or something," Danny explains. "England got infected as did the rest of the world. It was an airborne virus, wasn't it? Everything and everyone died out and those creatures fed on them. We were the only survivors left in the city – there was another but they ate him."
Danny closes his eyes, remembering the day Caleb died. I decide to pick up his story.
"We knew we couldn't stay so we picked up what we could, having looked for survivors for a couple of months. We found none else. Danny told me about his brother – he was in New York when the infection hit with their parents – and we decided we'd come here to find out what had happened to him. We took a boat and tried navigating across the ocean. Unfortunately, it took us as long as it did to get here – we're terrible sailors – and we kept getting driven off course. Finally, we found ourselves, by some weird coincidence in here and we nicked a car to drive round. That's about us."
"You're telling me, you sailed – two teenagers alone – here?" Robert asks, dazed.
"Yep," Danny replies. "A year an a half of sailing."
"Do either of you know how to sail?"
"We do now," I answer.
"And you're looking for your brother?"
"Yep," Danny answers.
"You're both crazy," Robert decides.
"I suppose that's what desperation does to you," I shrug. "It was better sailing – you could forget about what happened to the world when the sharks weren't attacking. I suppose it would have been wiser to hijack a plane but then we'd have to worry about fuel and not killing ourselves on landing and besides, we didn't like the idea of going into an infected airport again…"
Robert looks up at the sky. "Do you two have anywhere to go?"
"No, we just arrived," I reply.
"Well, come on. It'll be dark in a about an hour and it would be better to finish explaining indoors. You know how to drive, I guess?" Robert asks.
"She taught me," Danny says.
"Driving is easy."
"Okay then, follow me."
We drive through the centre of the city, having to speed to keep up with the SUV. Danny relishes the chance to drive like a maniac without me being able to say anything but I have to hold on to my seat by my fingernails. I wish to God, they would stop doing eighty mph around sharp turns. I wish to God, the infected imposed speeding restrictions! Why are there not speed bumps on every road? I suppose that it wouldn't be any good if we were being chased and there were speed bumps but I just need them to slow down!
We start to slow down shortly after and I almost sigh with relief. Eventually, Robert and Sam turn right into another residential street and pull up. There's a white, marble arch across the road and I think it would have been a really nice neighbourhood in the days before the infection. Robert and Sam get out so we follow.
"You'll want to mask your smell," Robert informs us. "Don't want them tracking us."
I share a worried glance with Danny.
"They can do that?" I ask, my throat tightening.
"Yeah," Robert replies. He passes Danny a large bottle of clear liquid and shows him how to spray it around. I'm feeling very nauseous that the infected are so smart. I think back to the days in England and how easily they might have picked up our scent and attacked us in the night all because we weren't careful enough. Maybe Caleb would be still around if we'd have been better prepared.
Robert's house is nice – very nice. Everything is the best money might have bought but it feels homely despite the quantity of guns hanging around. There are lots of pictures hanging on the walls – pictures of people. One of them is of Robert and a brown-haired, black woman and a little girl with plaits holding a German Shepherd puppy. I stop to look at it. They look really happy. Robert looks really happy.
"That was my family," Robert says. I jump, caught off guard. Robert smiles a little before standing next to me, looking at the picture too. "We were in Colorado on vacation in 2007. That was my wife, Zoe and my daughter, Marley." Sam wanders around his ankles before giving a little whine. "And of course, Sam."
"What – no, that's rude. Sorry," I mutter.
"No, go on," he prompts.
"I was going to ask what happened to them but you might not want to talk about it…"
Robert takes a deep breath in. "They died when the infection hit. They were being evacuated and some of the infected attacked a helicopter as theirs was taking off. The helicopter spun out of control and they both collided. All that was left was ash."
"God, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…"
"It's fine," he says, softly. "They died so quickly that I don't think they would have known."
"Do you miss them?"
Robert walks out of the Hall then and goes into another room. I follow him, feeling incredibly embarrassed that I asked him such an awkward question. It's the living room and Danny is looking around, admiring the shutters for the windows.
"Are you two hungry?" Robert asks.
"Yeah," Danny replies. Trust Danny to think more about food than manners. Typical.
"We got some Bacon, we got some egg and potato and stuff. What do you want?"
"Whatever, we're not fussed," I reply, quicker than Danny can tell him about my aversion to food.
I feel even more awkward over dinner. The only sounds are those of forks and knives clinking and scraping the plates. For Bacon – a food I wouldn't have touched with a bargepole if that – it's very good! I eat every scrap whilst Danny stares at me like I just got infected. Robert notices but he just looks amused. I don't ask. Only when every scrap is gone from everyone's plate does Danny dare to ask what's been nagging him.
"Uh, Soph? You hate food."
I shrug. "So?"
"Did you forget or are you infected with a new and deadly virus called the 'becomes normal infection'?"
"I'm hungry," I reply nonchalantly.
"But you'd rather starve."
"Bacon is nicer than I thought – it beats fish, fish and more fish."
Danny shakes his head and looks to the ceiling for guidance whilst Robert covers his mouth with a napkin.
I offer to take the plates and help Danny wash up. Robert agrees because he needs to go downstairs.
"Out of curiosity, what's 'downstairs'?" Danny asks.
Robert pauses to look up. "I'm a scientist. I'm working for a cure to KV – my lab's downstairs. Will you look after Sam whilst I'm gone?"
"Sure," I reply. Sam barks appreciatively. Not for the first time, I have a feeling that this dog is more understanding than she lets on. I tickle her head and she looks happy. I like Sam.
"Soph, what do you think?" Danny asks.
"What do you mean?"
"What do you think of this happening?"
"I'll let you know in the morning if we haven't been eaten."
"I don't think we will."
"We have no idea what'll happen."
"Robert's survived out here, why can't we?"
"Because we're not Robert?"
"Yeah but he could teach us how to survive."
"Let's take it one step at a time. First, clearing dinner. Second, lasting the night. Three, learning how to survive in the day. Four, I have no idea."
"You know, Soph, you really know how to bring a guy down!"
"I don't know how you can stand me," I reply, dryly.
He chuckles. "You know I'd be lost without you Soph but I just wish you'd lighten up a little. Is it too much to ask?"
We finish the dishes before Robert gets back so we sit back down at the table so we can talk again.
"Do you think Joe's out here, still?" I ask Danny.
"You keep asking me that and the answer's still the same. I think he's out here but I don't know how he is. I hope he's alive."
"What will we do when we find out what happened to him – if we do?"
"I dunno," he sighs, leaning back. "Survive I guess."
"There's no point in living if your existence is solely to survive," I reply, bitterly.
Danny gets up to hug me.
"I'm sorry," I mumble. "I don't mean to be so down all the time. I can't help it."
My best friend rocks me slightly and I laugh.
"Yeah but that's why you have me!" he says. "To cheer you up! Honestly, I think that you'd have topped yourself if I wasn't keeping you going!"
"Thanks for keeping me alive solely to survive," I reply. He laughs and pulls away.
Danny pauses in mid-air again. I don't know why he does it but sometimes he does and he stares at me intently. This time the fading sun catches his skin making it glow with a golden hue. He stops staring and goes back to normal, coughing to hide his embarrassment. I wish I understood why he does that. Fortunately, Robert arrives at just the right moment although when he opens the door, it makes us both grab guns and direct them at him.
"Sorry, I'm not used to having guests."
We relax but my heart beats so hard and fast I feel like it's about to jump out of my chest. Sam runs up to Robert and he tickles her affectionately. They have a really deep bond: each depending on the other for sanity, for safety, for shelter and for survival. Just sensing it makes my spine tingle.
It's an hour until sunset but Robert says that the shutters need to go down in half an hour.
"Until then we can make the most of the sunlight," he tells us. "Make yourselves at home."
We all end up sitting in the living room in the end and we just chat. Robert is quite easy to talk to when Danny's there but I wouldn't know what to say if I were alone with him. We talk about what New York is like as though the infection never hit. We tell him about England as we used to know it, not the shell and horror it was when we left. Robert grins and Sam looks very happy on the sofa too.
Everything changes with the sound of Robert's watch beeping. Immediately, he gets up and closes the shields (for want of a better word) on the windows. It suddenly gets darker and I feel very vulnerable. Danny reaches out to take my hand but it doesn't stop my breathing getting very ragged.
"Are you alright?" Robert asks me.
"I hate the dark," I whisper. "I hate making it dark. I hate night."
"She'll be okay soon enough," Danny tells him. "She'll fall asleep eventually."
"Come with me; there's a spare room upstairs where you can sleep."
In the darkness, Robert takes us up to a spare room. I feel worse here. I'm not familiar with any of my surroundings and the panic is taking over. Danny hugs me, stroking my hair. He sits me down on the end of the bed. I'm shaking a lot.
"Are you two sure you're going to be alright?" Robert asks sceptically.
Danny nods and he leaves as they agreed. It's just me and Danny now.
I can hear the howls and screams from even here. In the darkness, with nothing but the sound of my breathing and the warmth of Danny as he holds me close and tries to comfort me, it feels too close as if there are infected in this very room, beneath my bed. I keep as still as I possibly can, clutching hold of Danny like he's a life raft and I'm drifting out to sea. He gently rocks me. I don't deserve Danny at all. By rights, I should be being digested by a particularly bad infected creature-thing not with Danny. All through the night, he stays with me and even as I sleep, I can feel him there with me. Why does he care so much? I fall asleep as usual in the early hours of the morning and he's still right beside me.
Robert finds us in the morning and wakes us up. Sam licks my face as the light from outside illuminates the room. Danny hugs me all the tighter and the everyday feeling of immense relief after the nightly terror washes over me.
"Are you guys okay?" Robert asks again.
I nod shakily.
"We're fine," Danny agrees.
Once again, the fear fades as the light takes over.
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