Hunted?
By Tyloric

AN: I feel a bit of explanation is needed for this fic, I think; nothing major, just a couple points. The zombies in L4D die when they're shot enough times in any part of the body. The zombies also appear to feel pain and even bleed when hurt. It is my opinion that the zombies in this universe are still alive, but that the disease sends them into a ferocious frenzy and occasionally causes severe mutations in people. Takes place during 'The Parish', with a few minor plot differences. You'll spot them easily enough. With all that said; enjoy the fic.

*L*4*D*2*

When it happened, Ellis didn't know what to think. It made his (admittedly simple) mind clog up and run in circles.

It started in the Parish. He had gotten separated from the group because of a Smoker; dragged right up on to the roof. But it didn't suck him in and start clawing away like the Smoker's usually did, oh no; this one jumped down into the back alley and kept on pulling. He had landed down on the ground hard on his right shoulder and with the searing hot pain of it dislocating. The Smoker's tentacle constricted tightly around his chest, his arms pinned at his sides. It tightened around him, the air being squeezed from his lungs making him unable to even scream. Then the claws came. The Smoker went for his neck, its six inch claws scraping across his tender flesh, hot blood pouring from the wounds.

And then the claws just… stopped, and the pressure from the tentacle-like-tongue went slack. Ellis fell forward dazed, confused, and gasping for air. He coughed and coughed, his mind not quite contemplating what was happening anymore; sensory overload. His shoulder was throbbing, the gashes across his shoulders in neck screaming and pulsing blood with each beat of his heart. He has enough sense to grip the tentacle and throw it off him, before he landed face first on the hard concrete. Ellis flipped over, his eyes unfocused.

A couple seconds later, he blinked, and his brain finally rebooted itself. His body had entered survival mode, the pain in his neck and shoulder reduced to a light throb along with a dose of whatever amount of adrenaline it had left to keep him alert, breathing, and alive. He took a (very) deep breath that sounded almost like a sigh when he exhaled, and sat up.

He saw the Smoker right away; it was still towering over him not two feet away. Its mouth was twisted and contorted into unnatural shapes, its skin a pale grey, flaking and pitted and blistering, its tongue still lolling out of its mouth. It was coughing, but it didn't sound normal. Well, normal for a Smoker. It hacked (a sickening wet sound) once, twice, and finally toppled over to the side, landing with a hard thud.

On the other side of the building, the sounds of combat could still be heard; gunfire, the angry screams of the infected, and the unmistakable crackle of fire (most likely a Molotov). But Ellis wasn't paying attention to any of that, wasn't even paying attention to his wounds. No, he was paying attention to the Hunter looming above him, blood on its left claw. A grey hood was draped over its head, with those white infected eyes staring at him, looking everywhere and no where all at once.

Terror replaced all other emotions, Ellis' survival instincts taking all priority. He reached to his thigh for his gun… that wasn't there. Where is it?! His panicked mind queried. He looked all over the ground, never letting the Hunter leave his field of vision.

A low growl rumbled out of the Hunter's throat, petrifying Ellis, and suddenly he couldn't look away from those white eyes.

The Hunter took a step forward and Ellis flinched, shutting his eyes tight, waiting for the finishing blow, for the pain. But it never came. There was a shuffling noise, and then a clatter as something slid in between his legs. Ellis opened his eyes into a squint, curious despite himself; it was his pistol. His mouth fell open and his eyes widened.

The Hunter had taken a few steps back, and Ellis looked at it dumbly. It made no move to attack, showed no sign that it meant him harm.

"What--?" Ellis began.

"Ellis!" Rochelle from somewhere down the street, near the alleyway. The Hunter took a quick, sharp glance over its shoulder, and made to lunge… right over Ellis. The mechanic craned his neck in time to see it disappear on the other end of the alley, turning into the zombie infested streets. Ellis turned back around and just sat there, dumbfounded.

Then there were arms, Rochelle's, her hands checking him over. He heard voices, and at some point he was dragged to his feet. He was on auto pilot, though, doing only what needed to be done to survive, while the rest of his brain kept playing the scenario over and over in his mind.

They'd asked him: how? He wasn't sure. Was he hurt? Didn't know that either. Eventually they found a safe house, and it wasn't long after that until he had passed out.

*L*4*D*2*

He had woken up sometime in the night, and he was finally aware enough to take in his surroundings. They were in a grocery store; though it was stripped bare. It was one of those small town shops, with only a few (four) rows of goods.

When he'd woken up he'd found that he had somehow made it into a sleeping bag. There had been a (broken) glass of water (which he drank) and some aspirin (which he felt guilty using about and ignored). There were also a couple protein bars which he nearly swallowed whole he was so hungry.

Coach and Rochelle were sleeping behind the counter where an empty register sat, also in their sleeping bags. Nick sat leaned against the counter with a shotgun draped across his chest, and was snoring; he had fallen asleep on his turn for watch. Ellis couldn't blame him, and had (instead of waking him up) moved to the staircase at the front of the store and sat down on it facing the door, pistol in hand.

His body ached, and his shoulder refused to perform the most basic of movements. Lucky for him, being a mechanic, he was used to using both of his hands, so he was a pretty good shot with his left.

There was a door at the top of the staircase that led into an apartment style area; the store owner had probably lived there. He didn't have to wonder why they all didn't stay there; down here was closer to the exit, also being that an apartment with plenty of windows offered too many access points to the persistent undead, as well as the many rooms allowed too many hiding places for the uncommon ones; Smokers included.

So he sat there on the staircase, staring at the front door and boarded up windows, thinking, and for nearly an hour that's all he did. He thought about what a survivor of anything would think about; the past (family, friends [Keith in particular]), all the people he'd had to kill, what life might be like if they found a way to get rescued.

And then he heard footsteps on the stairs behind him, and his body reacted instinctively. He jumped up, whirled around, and aimed his pistol at the source and just barely stopped himself from pulling the trigger.

The door to the apartment was open, and standing two steps down was an infected in a grey hoodie, but Ellis recognized it (him?) despite. The Hunter didn't hold himself like a regular infected. A normal infected stumbled around until it caught sight of something to kill, and normal Hunters always kept themselves hidden until they were unable to pounce.

But this one held itself – himself – tall, like a normal person, standing straight. His mouth wasn't turned up into a snarl, or anything else threatening. He was just watching Ellis with his unnatural white eyes.

The Hunter raised its arm, which made Ellis nervous enough to lift the gun back up. But then it did something completely unexpected; it waved. Only once, mind you, but the gesture was unmistakable. Lowering the pistol, Ellis waved back. The Hunter's face never betrayed any emotion, kept it completely neutral.

He turned, closed the door, turned back around, and sat, hunching over to rest his elbows on his knees. Even though his eyes were completely white, Ellis got the feeling they were staring at him.

Ellis glanced over at Nick, who was still fast asleep, and the sleeping bags behind the counter had yet to stir. What have I gotten myself into? Ellis thought, as he climbed the stairs. He hesitated for only a moment, and then sat down next to the Hunter.

"So…" Ellis started nervously, making sure to keep his voice low. "What are you, uh… doing here?"

There was no delay; "Lonely." The Hunter's voice was scratchy, but the fact that it had responded so suddenly and so readily threw the mechanic through a loop.

"What's your name?" He asked.

"Wha-? Oh, um, Ellis. Yours?"

This time there was a pause, a long one. "Can't remember."

Ellis frowned. "Nothing? Not who you are?"

The Hunter shook his head. "Woke up… a monster." His hands (claws?) clenched into fists.

Ellis surprised himself by laying a hand on the Hunter's shoulder. He tensed visibly, the infected's entire body clenched up.

"Don't touch me."

Ellis began to stammer out an explanation. "Oh-! I'm sorry, I didn't mean nuthin' by it I just-"

"Not that. Just… a monster. When people touch me… I… want to hurt them." His words were barely above a whisper, and the emotions behind them were clear: this Hunter was ashamed and disgusted at himself. Ellis, being the good natured, home grown southern boy that he is, had to fight back the urge to hug him. But then he felt paranoid about sitting next to him. "Won't hurt you." He said as if he had read Ellis' mind. "Just… try not to touch."

"Ellis?" He heard Nick ask groggily from down stairs. The Hunter jumped to his feet and (amazingly) opened the door, ran through it, and closed it behind himself all without making a sound.

"Who're you talking to?" Nick appeared at the base of the stairs a split second after the door had closed.

Ellis stared at Nick for a few seconds. "Me? No one. You must have been having a dream."

~TBC.

AN: This marks part one of what will be, at most, three parts. Reviews are appreciated. This fic was not beta'd.