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A/N at bottom, please read it!

Love in the Time of Zombies

Chapter 1

Isabella Swan-Phoenix Arizona

"...the CDC has been called in to investigate a newly discovered virus that has now been confirmed in thirteen states, one of which is Arizona," the nasally reporter on the television states while I finish stuffing a few sets of clothes into my backpack and toss it out the open window.

"Come on Bellabong, I know it's your birthday and all, but I don't want to keep my man waiting all night!" my best friend and flamboyantly gay other half Jacob whisper-yells, "You know how Jared gets when he's not here to protect us from your asshole step-dad!"

"Don't get your thong in a knot princess, I'm coming," I grumble as I stuff my almost full carton of cigarettes into my travel bag. Without my sketchpad, iPod, and my smokes, I'm a certifiable monster, so I make sure to get them as well.

After zipping the bag closed, I drop it out the window and climb over the windowsill. Jacob makes enough scared mewling sounds that I'm beginning to have images of kittens bouncing around my brain as I descend the well worn trellis that covers half of this side of my mother and step-father's house. It's so worn because this is usually how I get in and out of the house. On the last step, my boots slips on the wood and I land on my ass with a loud "Umph!".

"You are so fucking clumsy Izz, I swear you need to be put into one of those giant plastic bubbles to protect anything that you come around," the tall Indian quips as he helps me to my feet.

"Fuck you Jacob Black, you fucking fudge-packer," I growl just as we clear the back fence and start running towards Jake's boyfriend's metallic orange Land Rover.

"Aw, I knew you loved me you stuck up hoebag," he snickers then opens the back door and tosses my bag in, "Beauties before bitches!" he shouts and dives into the front seat next to his lover before I even get my other bag shoved in.

Once I'm in safely, Jared pulls onto the road and quickly navigates his way to the northbound on-ramp. We ride in silence for a while, until Jake is kind enough to turn the radio on. As we blur through the darkness, I watch the happy couple, holding hands and exchanging loving glances. I can't help but be a little jealous as I try to forget the last time someone had held me like that, gazed at me with such loyalty and love.

Oh yeah, now I remember when. Never.

When you're the freaky Bella Swan who pairs combat boots and Marilyn Manson concert tees with your crisp yuppy ass school uniform that you are forced to wear to the ridiculous private school that your parents are making you attend, the kids have a tendency to stay away. Far away. It never helped that it was no secret that my mother, who was from a small town, ran off from her first husband, my dad, to marry superstar third-baseman Phil Dwyer after she had met him five years ago when Charlie had dragged her to a Mariners game. Six months later, her and Phil had a huge public wedding in Hawaii and invited every media outlet that was interested to attend. She was subsequently labeled a gold digger, and so was I after she battled my dad for custody of me and won two years later. The court hadn't even asked me who I wanted to live with because everyone and their brother knew who Phil Dwyer was.

I bet they didn't know he was a homophobe.

I wasn't aware of that fact either until he saw a picture of Jake and Jared I'd brought with me when I moved and he'd thrown a conniption fit before telling me that "queers" were not welcome in his house. I tried to get mom to side with me, but she didn't say one fucking word. She simply walked out of the room.

Fucking traitor.

"So Izza-beany," Jared's dark eyes peer at me from the rear view mirror, "How does it feel to finally be a free woman again?"

I shrug one shoulder nonchalantly, "It's a hell of a lot better than having to hear all the moaning and groaning that was coming from Mom and Phil's room since I got home from school. I was seriously contemplating stabbing out my fucking eardrums when Jake banged on my window."

"Hey, we drove damn near thirty-three hours straight so we could pick you up at exactly midnight sweet cheeks," Jake retorts as he squirms around in his seat to look at me, "If you weren't the other love of my life, I would have told you to kiss my ass when you suggested this jailbreak. I'm still thinking about it after having to climb that trellis."

I lean up and give him a kiss on the cheek, "Done!"

He glares at me in mock anger before stealing my freshly opened can of Red Bull, "Keep it up, you demented little freakazoid, and when we have to stop for one of your thousand potty breaks that I know you're going to need, I might forget to wait for you."

"It's okay Izz, I would never forget you," Jared promises just as we speed by the off-ramp that heads to Buckeye, "Mainly because other than the mind blowing sex, you're the best thing to come out of mine and Jake's relationship."

"That's just because I'm prettier in a skirt than Jake is," I snicker and flick my cigarette out the window. That's when I notice a car pulled off the highway and there are two guys fighting beside it. "Hey guys, lover's quarrel or drunken dispute?"

Jared slows down enough for all three of us to assess it. "Drunken dispute," Jake surmises with more than a hint of self confidence, "There's not enough slapping or tears for it to be a couple fighting."

"Meh, no biggie," Jared shrugs, "Why don't you try to get some sleep in Bells, I'll wake you when we make a pit stop and then you can drive a while."

"Sure," I mumble before putting my black hoodie that has the word 'Sinner' in red across the chest then pulling out my iPod and stuffing the earbuds in. Soon the sound of the tires rolling on the blacktop is drown out by Tori Amos' "Take to the Sky' remix.

Edward Masen-Chicago IL

"Doctor Masen," Laurie, the head night nurse, whispers, "Four more victims have been brought in during the last half hour and Doctor Kellis got bit on the arm by a guy suspected of being doped up on PCP. He said he'll be back in as soon as he's stitched up, but told me to come get you just in case he gets held up."

"I'm up, thanks Laurie," I reply as I sit up and rub my face, trying to shake off the crushing fatigue that I've been plagued with since I began my residency three years and six months ago.

After forcing myself onto my feet, I quickly check my cell to see if Tanya's left a message on how her 'girls only weekend' went. Nothing. It's now been two days since I've spoken to her. "Shit," I mumble and quickly tap off a good morning and an I love you then shove it back into its little holder clipped to my pants.

I wonder what I've done to upset my wife this time. It doesn't take much nowadays, but then again, if I just gave up my residency, she'd probably be the happiest person on the planet. I tried warning her for years that my residency was going to put a strain on our marriage because I'd be gone so often, but she didn't feel the full impact of it until I had to work on our very first wedding anniversary last year.

So here I am, a guy smart enough to be in his fourth year of residency at the age of twenty five, but evidently not intelligent enough to find a way to make my wife happy. How the fuck did I get here?

"Doctor Masen?" another nurse, Betty I think her name is, "Are you up? There's a patient in curtain six with some kind of animal bite on her hand and you're really good with the little ones."

"I'm on my way out now," I assure her and quickly run my hands through my hair in another futile attempt to tame it before grabbing the trademark white coat, my trusty stethoscope, and plodding over to the door.

The next nineteen hours are nothing but a blur of blood, vomit, and a growing feeling that this new virus that was discovered is something more than the CDC is letting on. Doctor Kellis never did make it back to the ER, so I had to stay even longer to finish his shift. When it's finally time to go home, I gratefully get a shower and pull on a set of street clothes that I'd been half convinced I'd never see again.

As I walk out of the ER entrance and into the early morning light, I pull out my sunglasses, car keys, and phone. After opening the phone, I hit speed dial number one and hold it to my ear. "Come on honey, answer the phone," I beg under my breath. I haven't spoken to Tanya in three days, now, and I'm starting to get more than a little worried about her.

While punching the button to unlock my Volvo, I get Tanya's voice mail. "Dammit," I hiss just as the beep indicates for me to leave a message, "Honey, you're worrying me. Is everything okay?" I switch ears as I latch my seat belt and start the car, "I'm on my way home now Tan, I'll pick us up something to eat on my way. Love you."

I close the phone and toss it into the passenger seat just as I make it to the booth to get my pass stamped. Normally Stanley is on duty, but I can't see anyone inside the little booth. Anxious to get home and to Tanya, I honk the horn a few times just in case there is a temp sleeping inside.

Suddenly the bar rises out of the way and I hear Stan's muffled voice over the intercom, "Get out of here," he grumbles without showing himself. After the past few days I've had, I don't question, instead I put my foot down on the gas pedal and propel my car into the early morning traffic.

I stop off and pick up a couple of those big breakfast platters from McDonald's then make sure to get Tanya a bouquet of flowers before heading up to our apartment. Yeah, I don't know what I've done to piss my wife off, but that doesn't mean that I'm not smart enough to apologize for whatever it was.

The Randleman's are going at it hot and heavy as I pass their door, the big give away being all of the moaning and thumping coming from inside their apartment. After what seems like an eternity, I finally reach apartment 913, otherwise known as home. I awkwardly shuffle the bags and flowers into my left hand while trying to wiggle the key into the lock with my right.

I catch a break and the door swings open after I release the deadbolt. "Sweetheart?" I call into the space as I quietly shut the door and toe my shoes off. She'd kill me if I walked across her immaculate wooden floors and got them dirty, it wouldn't matter how many flowers I had for her. "Babe, I'm home. Tan?"

I place the bags of food on the credenza behind the sofa and pad towards our bedroom. I can feel the twisted tendrils of fear creeping into my psyche as I draw near the closed door. As I halt in front of the white door, I can hear what sounds like sniffling emanating from the room. "Tanya?"

Suddenly the door is thrown open, making me jump back and bounce myself off of the wall opposite it. It takes a few seconds before the white hot pain recedes, but now I'm confused and pissed off. Then I see her face. Her beautiful blood red tresses are tangled, her eyes puffy and swollen. She looks like she's been through hell.

Instinctively I reach out and pull her into my arms, ignoring the throbbing that has begin in the back of my head. "What happened baby? I called and called your cell, but you didn't answer."

She clings to my jacket and her lithe frame shakes with the force of her sobs, "I'm not worried about my damn phone, it's broken. It's Laurent. He was in some kind of accident while he was out with the film crew. He's dead." Laurent is her sister Irina's husband. They had been married only a year long than Tanya and I.

Her legs give out in her sorrow and I gently guide us to the floor, "I'm so sorry Tan. When do we leave for Denali? Did you get tickets yet? I just need to call the hospital and tell them that there's been a death in the family and we can go after we're done packing."

It takes a few minutes for her to calm down enough to speak, "There aren't any flights out. All of the airlines are grounding their planes because of the epidemic breaking out all over the US. They had it on the news a little while ago that they are beginning to think that it's being spread by person to person contact. What are they saying at the hospital?"

I blow out a loud breath and shrug, "Honestly? Not much, at least down where I'm at. With all of the colleges throwing back to school parties and shit, the ER has been overrun by people getting hurt from doing stupid things while drunk. Doctor Kellis was bit by one jerk who was hopped up on PCP."

"I guess we will be driving to Alaska then," Tanya surmises in a flat voice, "I hate driving through Canada."

I kiss the top of her head and give her a little squeeze, "Maybe we could drive west to Washington before crossing the border? Would that put you more at ease?"

She nods against my chest and after a couple minutes of silence, we move to the living room to get the laptop to start mapping out our journey.

Emmett McCarty- MCAS Miramar, San Diego, CA

"Why did I decide that I wanted to be a helicopter pilot again?" James, my co-pilot and best friend, grumbles while doing his best to jam his flight suit into his locker.

I run my towel over my freshly washed hair, "Because you thought it would be funny to go around saying that you got 'air head' instead of 'road head' you stupid bastard."

He lets out a booming laugh before shaking his head, "Yeah, that didn't work out too well in the end, did it?"

"You damn near crashed Jay, so I'd say it was a fail," I inform him and tug my jeans on over my boxers, "But at least now I know what not to do on a first date."

James tries to punch me in the arm, but I easily duck out of the way, "Fuck you McCarty, because not only did I get laid after that incident, she married me two year later."

"Yeah, yeah, so she felt sorry for you, what do you want me to say about it?" I fire back and close my locker, "I'll see you tomorrow."

"You're not going out on a Friday night?" he asks, one blonde eyebrow raised in confusion.

I shake my head no, "Nah, it's just going to be me, a meatlover's pizza, maybe a six pack, and a couple of movies I rented. I think it would be a good idea if you and Vicky stayed home too man. I've had a bad feeling lately that I can't shake. Smell ya later."

James had learned to listen to my gut feelings when we had served in Afghanistan together so I really hope that he takes my warning seriously. I shove my head into my helmet and climb onto my Harley. For a moment, my mind conjures the smell of putrid flesh, the offensive odor that was common in a lot of the small villages I'd had to fly into overseas. I shake it off and start my bike, I've got a date with my couch and a pie slathered in all the cheese and meat I could handle.

The short ride to the pizzeria clears my head slightly. After waiting an extra twenty minuted because I'd decided to order a second pizza while waiting for the first one, I'm finally on my way back to the two bedroom off base apartment that is my safe haven.

I just get my bike into the twelve by fourteen foot garage that come free with my modest domicile, I catch two familiar voices echoing down the alley. I momentarily debate whether to invite them up or not before the desire to have some kind of company wins. I step out and pull the heavy door closed just as the duo walks into the light of the street lamp.

"Long time no see Em. How's it going?" Allen asks in his quiet voice as he lifts his hand and bumps his fist to mine.

"All fubar'd, as usual dude," I answer honestly and smirk at Mischa's chuckle, "Want to come help me kill a few pizza's and some movies?"

"Sure Emmy, we'll come up," Mischa answers for the two of them, "Our dates discovered that they liked each other better than either of us so it's not like we had anything else planned for tonight."

"That had to suck," I chortle and start up the stairs, "Good thing I have a bunch of bad movies and a case to chase away the bitterness."

A few minutes later, we're in my apartment, getting comfortable. Allen flips through channels while Mischa changes into one of my t-shirts and a pair of sweats I somehow still had from an old girlfriend.

"Holy shit!" Allen shouts just as I'm pulling out the paper plates. Yep, only the best flatware for my friends. "You guys have to see this!"

I grab a couple of beers and plod back into the living room to find Allen watching a video on my laptop. "Porn?" I ask while handing him his Sam Adam's.

"No man, this is fucked up," the dark haired man confesses and takes a long swig from the bottle before burping loudly and pointing a finger at the screen, "This was filmed in LA earlier tonight."

"What are you two crowing about? More porn?" Mischa inquires as she re-enters, twisting her auburn hair up into a bun as she walks.

"Watch this shit," he commands and we proceed to watch the video of a group of people running from another group of what looks like hobo's, only there is obviously something wrong with them. About thirty seconds in, one of the women running trips and the mass of homeless people dive on her like she's an all-you-can-eat buffet. They are tearing at her skin and stuffing it into their mouths, I can't help but cringe at the moans that are erupting from the horde. At one point, they manage to cut open the flesh of her abdomen and you can see a man dip his hand in, pull out what looks like her large intestines, and take a bite of it.

"Oh my fucking gods," Mischa murmurs, her hazel green eyes glued to the screen, "Are those fucking zombies?"

Okay, now the big question is, should I try and turn this into a full blown story? Would anyone be interested if I did??? I've always wanted to do a zombie story, but never really had the motivation until now. I can't promise it will be fun for everyone though. I have no real set plot to this thing yet other than the characters trying to stay alive.

Please tell me if I should run with it or give up before I embarrass myself further!!!