Welcome to the sequel to "They're Changing" and get ready to enjoy the continuing adventures of Ishmael and the four Survivors from Left 4 Dead! I'm setting this one up a little differently, and you will see why soon enough!
Read on, faithful readers! Read on!
"Parker, time to wake up."
Jan kept her voice soft enough that it wouldn't wake her partner Steve; a smile touched her face upon seeing Parker curled up beneath his blanket with almost an almost innocent look on his face. She reached out her fingers and brushed the dark hair from his eyes as he stirred, managing not to jump this time when he seized her hand and began biting it.
He never broke the skin, but his teeth were sharp and his bites still hurt. She hoped they could break him of that habit before the scientists deemed him ready to join the rest of society.
"C'mon, sleepy head," she laughed softly, tugging the blanket off of him and receiving a rather disgruntled sigh in response. "We need to get you fed and cleaned up; you've got more tests to do today."
He was beginning to understand certain words very clearly these days, and 'tests' was one of them, his dark, silver-grey eyes turning to look at her ruefully.
"I know… It can't be helped, though. I want to be able to go into the town someday, and the sooner we finish your tests; the sooner we can go in. And when we're in there, you can have all the cookies you want!"
There was a groan across the tent that made Jan roll her eyes, exhaling shortly. Steve rolled into a sitting position and glared at her, shaking his head and mumbling to himself.
"Him and his fucking cookies. I swear, if he jumps on me again while I'm trying to eat; I'm going to shoot him whether you or the military likes it or not."
"Woke up on the wrong side of the sleeping bag again, dear?" Jan called in response, watching Parker roll around like a dog in his bed while he tried to wake himself up.
"I'm just… I dunno. I want to go into the town too, but I don't want to go into the town with HIM in tow. The sooner we wash our hands of him, the better." Steve dragged his fingers through his thick blonde hair, grumbling some more as he moved to get his clothing ready for the day.
"We can never wash our hands of this now, we're the ones who brought him back; remember?" Jan protested, taking Parker's arm and pulling him to his feet. "The kid is pretty helpless, especially for one of the infected. And since we know you're not immune and you're not changing or being infected by being around him, it's safe to assume he's different than the others."
"You're obsessed with him, you and I hardly ever talk anymore; not since we dragged his sorry ass up off that ledge," Steve pointed accusingly at Parker while he spoke, the Hunter completely oblivious to the fact they were talking about him. He was busy rooting through a pack across the room in hopes of finding some food. "Look at him! He's like some… retarded kid."
Jan took that opportunity to straighten, walk over to him and kick him soundly in the shins, the resulting yelp and look of shocked indignation on Steve's face making it all worthwhile.
"Shut up, and be nice; there's a good chance he understands you, and as I said, he's still infected. Super rabies, remember? Don't piss him off; we're trying to make a good impression." When she turned around to tend to Parker again, Steve stared at her back with wide eyes. "They're sick people, not monsters. Sick people who don't know any better anymore. The fact that this one seems to know better and seems to genuinely want to change and be a good person just kills you and I don't know why!"
"You wanna know why?" Steve's voice was very soft, and Jan looked round at him, a flicker of guilt crossing her face when she saw his expression. "You wanna know why I hate that thing so much?"
"If you think I'm going to leave you for him, you're wrong; this kid is young enough to be my son," Jan replied dryly.
"It's not that… We finally make it to safety, we finally get home free and away from that city infested with death and disease; but we're not allowed to rejoin the rest of society. And you wanna know why we're not? Because you decided to bring home a stray. I want to go inside, have real food, sleep in a real bed, talk to other survivors, but because HE came into our lives; I'm fucked and all I get is this." He gestured around the tent, tears now streaming down his cheeks. "All I get is hard ground, rations and your company, and your stray sniffing around and acting like an animal."
"You know what?" Jan's voice had dropped to dangerously soft, but even the warning tone in her voice didn't wipe the hurt look from Steve's face. "If you want, you can go; I'm not going to just abandon Parker for a hot meal, an actual working shower and the possibility of sleeping without having to take watch shifts, Steve. He's a survivor, just like we are."
"Maybe I don't want to just survive; I've been surviving long enough, haven't I?" Steve let out a soft, incredulous laugh. "I mean, we both have. Why shouldn't we be allowed to actually LIVE?"
"Because no one in this broken down world is actually living anymore, Steve; all of us are survivors now." She waved her hand in dismissal at him. "Go to the gates. Tell them you want in. Parker and I will be fine on our own."
During this conversation, Parker had turned to regard them with his head tilted to the side, a frown on his face. He often did this while they were talking, as if he were attempting to understand what they were trying to say. One of the only reasons Jan had brought him along with them was his own ability to speak, however broken it was. He had asked them for help, she had provided it.
The infected had been severely dehydrated, injured badly and exhausted when they managed to dislodge his arm from the wall of Mercy Hospital and drag him up onto solid ground; she was surprised they managed to save his arm after his full weight had been supported by it for close to five days.
Steve had been amazed at first, but the amazement had turned to bitter brooding and sullen silence when he realized they weren't going to be able to go into the town right away. The silence and brooding became anger quickly, causing him to lash out and often take out his frustrations on Parker.
The Hunter took it all in stride, but Jan tried to get Steve to stop.
Bad things happened to a dog if you punished it too often.
She knew jealousy was definitely part of the problem. The heated stare Steve had given Parker as the poor boy clung to her in the helicopter, shaking and whimpering, couldn't be mistaken for anything else.
Steve's voice brought her mind back to the present, Jan's brows knitting as she listened to him.
"You'd rather me go away than suffer here in banishment, how noble. I see now who matters most to you." As he leaned down to scoop up his things, Jan took in a breath.
"When Parker turns out to be the answer to all this going away and our lives can finally get back to normal, Steve… you'll be singing a different tune." She walked over and opened the flap of the tent for him; the two of them staring at each other for a long moment in silence before Steve finally shouldered his pack and stalked out.
He watched the exchange with his head tilted, trying to pick out words, but they were just speaking too fast for him. He heard the word they had given him for a name several times, so the conversation they had must be about him. The word they used for him was different than the one his female had used.
His female called him something that was a little easier for him to say… he had been practicing when the two humans who now sheltered him were asleep. The name these humans had given him was a little different and he hadn't quite gotten the hang of it yet. Perhaps, when things were a little quieter, he would tell this new female the name he had been given before.
Part of him felt a little lost and lonely at the thought of his female; part of him felt a little guilty that he didn't know her name.
When the male human left the tent, the new female didn't move for some time, not even bothering to look over at him. She stood staring at the floor, then breathed a soft sigh and came to join him, the smile that touched her face not quite genuine.
She said something and then gestured outside, which meant it was probably time for him to get cleaned up for his tests.
He hated the tests they put him through: the needles and the questions and the careful observation, they treated him like a thing rather than a living being; and all of them wore suits and masks as if they were afraid he would spread this terrible disease to them.
The new female was gathering together his clothing, probably in anticipation of being able to wash them while they were at the lab for his tests, blinking in surprise when something fell from the pocket of his sweater.
He shuffled over to her to see what it was; he hadn't remembered putting anything in his pockets after all.
When she turned it over in her hand, a rather sad look crossed her face; she looked down at him with a smile that was laced with regret. After hesitating, she reached out and handed the object to him.
For the first time since hearing the voices of the female and her mate on the roof, five days after the helicopter left, his heart swelled with relief.
The object was a card; the card had a little picture on it…
A picture of his female.
I'd like to thank UlluoaNicanor again for assisting me with editing and my terrible comma habit. ^.^ I'm hoping to pick a few tips up just by reading through my work after it's been edited. Haha!
Hope you enjoy the first chapter, there will be more to come soon!