I've Just Seen a Face
Chapter Sixteen: No Disaster
Burger Tank, Charlotte, North Carolina, 06: 04 AM
A dirty wind whistled, causing runoff from this morning's rain shower to slap to the ground with a soggy, soft noise. At the sound, Zoey instinctively shivered. The restaurant was quiet- everyone was either sleeping or occupying the tacky white booths in the front area, speaking in low voices about nothing in particular.
The infected swarming the city seemed to have been driven a little off by the downpour. Their moans were still plainly audible, yet lower and further off than before. And, though it seemed to be tempting fate to even think such things, she felt safer than she had in a long while. The reunion with their comrades was as much a blessing as it was a novelty.
The proposed rescue scheduled for this evening crossed her mind fleetingly. What would they be achieving by getting out of here? Surely they couldn't do much more damage to themselves then had been done, but then, she hadn't wondered that when Bill had been half-dead in the warehouse.
Still, the fact remained.
If fate was kind, no disaster could touch them anymore.
Burger Tank, Charlotte, North Carolina, 08: 37 AM
'And I'm tellin' ya, man... she likes me. I mean, there's likin' on both sides here. You see what I'm gettin' at?'
Nick looked briefly at the boy before him before casting his eyes away, feet propped up on the grubby table before him. Ellis was shaking out salt packets onto the surface as he spoke excitedly, poking patterns in the grains.
'You're telling me this why, Overalls?'
Ellis shrugged. ''Cos... I dunno, Nick, 'cos yer my buddy. And since yer memories came back all sudden, I was thinkin' maybe talkin' 'bout stuff would help.'
'Talking isn't gonna resuscitate our bodies wherever they're lying, Ellis.'
The comment, in retrospect, was perhaps a little harsh. He realized it when the younger man's mouth opened very slightly and quickly snapped shut again. The look in his eyes was something akin to a small child being informed Santa Claus did not, in fact, exist.
Nick, who had never believed in Santa Claus, didn't have many more thoughts on it. For reasons, unknown to even him, however, he changed the topic.
'So what happened?'
'We kissed.' The boy's face was glowing. Nick snorted, mildly amused at his expression.
'Who came on to who?' As if it needed asking.
'Well, I asked if I could an'-'
'Hold on. You asked to kiss her? You're seriously telling me you requested her permission first?'
Ellis shrugged, eyes widening as though afraid he'd done something wrong. 'Uh... well, yeah. I mean, I didn't wanna make her do somethin' she didn't wanna, so first I just...' Nick was shaking his head, smirking. Ellis inclined his head. 'What's so funny?'
'Well- put it this way. There are walks of shame, and then there are walks of 'what the hell is wrong with you?'. Which do you think you're currently treading, sport?'
'You don't ask to kiss a woman, Ellis. It's... weak. So next time you're gonna go for it- you are gonna go for it, right?- you just do it. Like a man.'
'Shit, Nick,' Ellis said after a moment. 'You know, I done got this far with 'er doin' my own thing. Somethin' tells me the walk I'm treadin' is working out just fine.'
And while Ellis was trying to rebuff the older man, both of them knew two things. One, he had taken Nick's advice well and truly to heart. Second, in a bizarre, twisted way- they'd missed each other.
Neither of these things would ever be said, but it was there.
Ellis's stomach gurgled.
Burger Tank, Charlotte, North Carolina, 09: 58 AM
'We hole up in a restaurant of all places, and of course, there ain't anything edible.' Rochelle grumbled to herself as she, Francis and Coach raided the large kitchen. Their shoes trailed in flaking blood and street grunge, besmirching the pale grey tiles without a second thought.
'I'm with ya, little sister.' Coach replied. 'Suppose they cleared the place out a'fore they left. S'gonna be a pretty song and dance if we need to leave this place any sooner than we have to t'get food.'
'Meh. I've been gettin' cabin fever anyway,' said Francis. He straightened up, abandoning his search in a pantry-like storage unit, and made to get outside to inform the others of the problem.
They were less than amused.
'How long's it been since ya'll have eaten?' Ellis asked the room at large.
A short pause, in which they tried to remember. Bill summed their thoughts up nicely. 'Too long.'
'There was a grocery store a couple of blocks back,' Zoey ventured. 'I mean, it's either looted or locked up just like this place, but either way it's gotta have something. Enough to keep us going until evacuation, with any luck.'
'Luck's not exactly something we're blessed with here, cupcake,' countered Nick dryly. Rochelle gave him a 'play nice' look, and he smirked darkly.
'So who's going?' Louis questioned, a little apprehensive.
Coach scratched his chin. 'All o' us should. But only some o' us can.'
It eventually boiled down to the plan that Coach, Zoey, Rochelle and Francis would go in search of sustenance, leaving the still-recovering Bill, Nick, and Louis to hold down the fort. Ellis was disgruntled at having been selected to stay behind to keep watch; the grease-tinted air of the place seemed to be making him antsy and bored.
'We're gonna need to find more ammo,' Rochelle stated as they readied themselves to leave. 'Pain pills and anything else we can get our hands on too.'
Zoey nodded, inspecting her pistol carefully before taking the safety off. Ellis, leaning on a table across the room, caught her eye and she grinned at him. He smiled back, obviously worried, and half-raised his hand in a good luck gesture.
Beside her, Francis contentedly grabbed hold of a frying pan taken from the kitchen and on her other side Coach looked an his chainsaw fondly. Rochelle's voice sounded from just behind her.
'So what, now we're the A-Team 2.0?'
Zoey had to laugh at that one. They nodded at the other four and shoved the door open hastily, spilling out and slamming it securely in their wake. She heard the click as Louis locked the door once more from the inside like they'd organized, and turned just in time to splatter the head of a zombie that had come charging at her straight away.
'I'd say I love it when a plan comes together, but I don't wanna jinx anything...'
The Streets, Charlotte, North Carolina, 10: 16 AM
Explosions shattered the grimy daylight.
Rochelle grunted loudly as Francis's arm swung backwards, hooking around her waist hard and scooting her through the air just far enough to evade the oncoming Charger's attack. The mutated beast gave a bellow as it connected with a nearby signpost, loosing it's head of steam.
She raised her Uzi, delivering an efficient shot to the back of the creature's head. 'Boy, would it kill you to be a little gentle?'
'And there I was thinking you're the kind of girl that likes it rough.'
Rochelle shot him a look, but a small laugh betrayed her. She motioned for him to hurry and darted ahead to back Coach up. Zoey was hurrying onwards further ahead, entirely focused on tracing the route back to the supermarket. Catching her eye, she tossed the younger woman something. Zoey nodded with a quiet assurance and threw the pipebomb, hard.
'Everyone, get back!'
The zombies swarmed the beeping object within moments, disfigured faces pulled back in horrific snarls as they scrambled in search of the source of the incessant noise. Their eyes burned, four human enemies forgotten in an instant.
The bang rocked the ground.
Somewhere far off, something screeched dementedly.
'C'mon,' Coach said in a low voice. The other three quickened their pace, and within another ten minutes they found themselves face to face with the abandoned superstore. The place was in bad shape; a few bodies littered the shopping cart dock, and the once-impressive glass wall that made up the front of the building lay in filthy shards that glimmered in the faint sunlight.
Zoey took the opportunity of the moment of peace to steal a glance at the scrawled words on the billboard outside, obscuring from view the cheesily-staged picture of a family meal.
PLACE IS ZOMBIE-FREE
Ration food, take only as much as you need and leave the rest for other groups passing through. One4All.
-AMEN to that, brotha.
Screw you guys, hippies don't survive the apocoplyse.
NICE SPELLING MAN
'Anybody got a pen?' Zoey asked aloud.
Naturally, no one did. Francis and Coach proceeded to the decimated glass pane, peering through in an effort to gauge the store for danger. Rochelle hung back for a moment. 'Why you lookin' for pens, anyway?'
Zoey shrugged, gesturing vaguely at the billboard. 'I wanted to write the time and place of the evacuation later. You know... in case there's someone left?'
Rochelle shook her head. 'There's no one left, sweetie. Not in Charlotte, anyway... it's been as good as a ghost town since we showed up. S'just us now, and maybe there's a reason for that.' Her voice was soft, a little mournful, and with a grim little smile the two girls joined the men.
'What's the diagnosis, doctor?' Zoey asked before being hastily silenced with a frantic wave of Coach's hand. She looked at his concerned expression before noting the exhilarated glint in Francis's dark eyes, only ever inspired by one thing...
She knew it was a Witch before heard the echoed mewls of anguish.
No... wait. Her ears strained. It wasn't just one, that was for sure. It couldn't really be...
'How many?' Rochelle all but mouthed.
'Six,' Francis replied nonchalantly. 'Could be seven, if we're real lucky.' He moved aside so that the women could get a look. Sure enough, the depths of the supermarket seemed to be shadowy, devoid of it's usual artificial lighting, and the area was attractively dry for the Witches. All in all, an ideal settlement for them.
'Shoulda known the bitches would sniff the damn sugar out,' Coach intoned unhappily.
And yet for all their gripes and pained frowns, no one raised the question of whether they would go ahead with the plan. In some strange, laughable reality, it was the best they could have hoped for. Finding supplies and food in complete, slow-motion silence was almost preferable to doing so while being dragged away, pounced on or crushed like a doll.
Coach went first. Francis heaved himself over the shattered window carefully, grabbing both Rochelle and Zoey by the arm and guiding them in his wake less than gracefully. A fragment of windowpane became dislodged and clinked against the floor.
In the aisles toward the back, a Witch hissed quietly.
'Lights off,' Zoey reminded the others. A faint note of deja vu was struck within her. Presently she swallowed it back and began to tiptoe forward, intent on doing this job as quickly as possible.
Burger Tank, Charlotte, North Carolina, 11: 03 AM
When Bill opened the Burger Tank's back door to the series of bangs, he noticed two things.
One, the steady drip-drip-drip of the blood that ran from Zoey's back as she kept herself propped up between Francis and Coach, an almost delirious smile crossing her face as she saw him.
Two, the fact that all four of them were soaking wet.
They hustled their way in past him, Rochelle dumping a stuffed backpack on a counter as she moved by. She glanced at Bill wordlessly, her eyes clouded with distraction, and wrung out her shirt as she continued on. He could already hear Ellis' panicked stammers from the restaurant's main area, entwined with Zoey's uncomfortable yet admirably steady reassurances.
He flicked his dying cigarette butt outside and clanked the door shut, then turned sharply to follow them in.
'Francis! What the hell went assways this time?'
A/N: So what happened in that supermarket? ;D Yeah, find out next chapter. Which, I am both excited and sad to inform you, will be the last chapter. :o Thanks for sticking with me, guys. It's been a hell of a ride.
Also, I am fully aware all 'what the hell are going on's have not been entirely wrapped up. Now, bear in mind, everything has an answer. Which, if you'd like to request in your review, I'll PM to you. However, next chapter will clear a little more up, and anything that's not clearly spelled out there will be confirmed in the author's note. :3
So yes, next chapter will detail just what the hell happened to Zoey, Coach, Francis and Ro to soak them from head to toe and get Zoey wounded. It's a little more interesting than you'll probably think.
My reviewers rock. All of you, old and new. Also a note to the anonymous reviewers- I'd love to be able to send you guys a thank you message, but life being as it is... you'll just have to take my word for it, and my word is 'you're awesome'. Reviews for this chapter would be lovely!
I'll update as soon as I can. (: