The Hunter crawled out of his hiding spot to prepare himself for his nightly prowl. He was young, newly infected. He stretched and gave a catlike yawn, squinting his still intact eyes against the sun. He had been spared the majority of the madness that came with turning and had not been drawn to scratch out his eyes like his brethren; they reflected the setting sun's rays with a golden shine. With a sharp shriek he leaped down from his rooftop hideaway and into the street below.

"Nick, Nick you up?" The mechanic whispered to the man beside him. He reached over and shook the other's shoulder lightly. "Come on, man. I think I heard something."

Nick groaned and rolled over, still fast asleep. Ellis frowned and turned his eyes back to the large red metal door. He grabbed the pistol that was laying next to him and went to the entrance, looking through the bars, eyes scanning the abandoned lot for signs of movement. There was nothing, just the bullet-ridden bodies of the infected they had dispatched in their rush to safety.

He glanced back into the room, at his sleeping teammates, before lifting the metal bar as quietly as he could and stepping outside to better inspect the perimeter.

Nick's deep sleep was shattered by the sound of a hunter's high-pitched shriek. He jolted upright and fumbled for a gun that wasn't there, his heart racing. He took a relieved breath when he remembered that he was in a safe house and not in any immediate danger only for it to catch in his throat when he didn't see the mechanic's sleeping form beside him. By the time Ellis' panicked screaming reached his ears he was already on his feet, rifle in hand, and sprinting out the door.

The hunter crawled down the streets ignoring the ambling common infected. He had no destination in mind, just an inner compulsion to keep moving, to go wherever his legs took him. He caught a scent that made him pause. He turned his head, trying to determine the direction it came from; it was strange, familiar but not, and oh so alluring. The hunter followed the smell down the street, through twists and curves, over rooftops and past squabbling infected tearing at each other before finally ending at the mouth of a dark alleyway. As he neared the entrance, his ears picked up an odd noise coming from deeper down the passageway where shadows blocked his vision. The hunter approached cautiously, nervous chirps leaving his throat, but the smell was intoxicating. Such a rich scent, with a spicy masculine bite to it, that made him feel heady and quickly overpowered whatever fear was left in his mangled mind. He crouched and continued slowly into the darkness. As his eyes adjusted he saw the pale, hunched form in the middle of the pathway and drew back with a hiss.

It was a witch, but unlike any the hunter had ever seen before. For one, it was male, dressed in only a tattered dress shirt and boxers. While his body still had the withered, emancipated look common to the type, there was more obvious muscle mass coiled tight in the deceptively frail looking body that hinted at frightening strength. His hair remained mostly the the color it was before the infection, a dark brunette but with premature grey beginning to streak up the sides. His head hung low, bangs hiding his face as he stared at the taloned hands that lay limp in his lap. The sounds he made were much quieter then his female counterparts. Instead of the loud mournful wailing, he gave a reluctant low moan that broke and cracked into almost sobs.

The hunter took a step closer and the witch's head shot up, the distant street lights reflecting off his eyes in an angry red as the sobbing turned into a threatening growl. The hunter slunk back giving a defensive growl of his own. The witch lowered his head again, shifting so that his back was turned to the hunter, and returned to his bitter moaning.

Ellis was shaking, body overcome by fever. He had been falling in and out of consciousness for the past two days. His chest and forearms were bandaged tightly where the hunter had torn into him. Nick had volunteered to watch over the hick while Coach and Rochelle made a supply run. He sat beside the man on the safe house's only bed. He was angry at the kid for being stupid enough to go out alone, but also at himself for not getting to him sooner. By the time he had reached the pounced redneck, the screaming had stopped and the hunter had already reduced his chest to a shredded and bloody mess. Nick shifted so that Ellis' head rested in his lap and began softly stroking the sweat-dampened curls.

The movement caused the mechanic to stir. Heavy lidded eyes turned up to meet the conman's, one side of his mouth curling up into a weak smile.

"Hey there."

"Hey, yourself, you reckless idiot."

The insult lacked its usual bite and Ellis chuckled softly, the sound rumbling deep in his chest before catching and turning into a cough that racked his body and made him struggle to breathe. Nick quickly pulled him up into a sitting position and thumped his back to help clear his throat. Ellis gasped in a breath, turning his head and let it back out with a retch; bloody vomit hitting the side of the bed and dripping down to the floor, staining the sheets and Nick's pant leg.

"O-oh God, Nick, I'm so s-sorry I—" He cut off as another heave tore through him, adding to the growing puddle with a sick, wet splat. He clutched his middle as his gut seized and clenched, body determined to expel the meager contents of his stomach despite how he fought against it.

Nick brought a hand up to rub the younger man's lower back in slow soothing circles, unsure of what else he could do.

"It's okay kid, it's okay. Don't worry about it." Nick could honestly care less about the suit. At this point the damn thing was ruined anyway. What concerned and rooted him to the spot was how dark the boy's sick was, thick and blackish-brown from coagulated blood. Nick bit his lip and cursed under his breath, the hanging implication upsetting him far more than the soiled state of his goddamned suit.

The hunter looked at the witch warily, conflicting instincts warring. Self preservation told him to leave the dangerous infected alone, but the scent was still there, stronger than ever and it hit his base male desires hard, telling him to pounce, to mount, to claim.

He paced back and forth just outside the witch's range, breathing in through his nose and letting the air out in short huffs, his pants growing uncomfortably tighter with each pass. With a frustrated growl he pawed at the material tied around his waist, fraying the fabric but not enough for any relief. He sat back on his haunches and yowled from the increasing pressure before finally springing forward and pouncing the unsuspecting witch from behind. The startled infected toppled over, his forehead hitting the concrete hard.

The hunter wasted no time, he took position and began rutting his hips against the raised backside of the stunned witch. An aroused groan slipped from the hunter's dry, cracked lips as the friction hit his still-clothed erection. He thrust harder, the cotton boxers of the witch scrunching and sliding against their owner's pale skin with each motion. The bulge of the hunter's erection running hot and firm up and down the crease of the witch's ass.

Long, gnarled fingers braced against the ground beneath them, the sharp tips curling in and leaving white trails as they cut into the concrete. A loud angry growl erupted from the witch and the enraged infected shoved himself up, back arched, effectively bucking the enamored hunter off. The hunter flew back with a yelp, landing awkwardly on his back. The witch towered over him, arms outstretched wide, claws curled to strike, eyes burning a hellish red. He snarled down at his molester and let loose a scream so full of rage and hate that it could have sent a tank cowering. Before the hunter had a chance to even breath, the infected was on him.

Nick paced back and forth across the safe room floor. Ellis was getting worse. He had stopped vomiting only because there was nothing left to come up. His skin had turned a sickly pale and his fever had gotten so high it reduced his few conscious moments to delusional ramblings.

Rochelle walked up to him and placed a hand on his arm, halting him. Her brow was creased with worry and she spoke in a hushed tone. "What are we going to do, Nick? We can't stay here forever, and Ellis is..." She couldn't bring herself to say what they all knew had afflicted the boy.

Nick pulled away and turned to stare at the table that held their quickly diminishing supplies. "I don't know, I–we can't just leave him, Ro." Rochelle caught the conman's falter and began to reach out to him again when the door to the Ellis' room opened and Coach stepped out.

"He's asking for you, Nick."

Grateful for the interruption, Nick passed Coach without a word in reply, entering the bedroom and quickly closing the door behind him. He leaned back against the wooden support for a few moments, calming himself, bracing himself before turning his eyes to the bed across from him. The room was dark, save for the stray moonlight crawling between the boards on the windows that sent irregular striped shadows across the floor and allowed him to just barely make out Ellis' form huddled on the bare mattress. Nick could hear his breathing despite being on the other side of the room, harsh and loud, with a wet sounding rasp cutting in every few breaths. Nick walked over to the side of the bed. "Overalls, you need something?"

Ellis turned to look at him, once bright eyes now clouded and bruised from too much sleep. "Nick?"

"Yeah kid, it's me."

"Nick… Nick… Nick?" The mechanic called out his name, quiet and desperate and almost frightened.

Nick brought his free hand up to grasp Ellis', "I'm here Ellis, I'm right here." His throat tightened and there was a hint of frustration to his words. He didn't want to see this, didn't want to watch as everything he cared about was stripped away from the young man, piece by piece.

Ellis' hand tightened around his. "Nick, God, things are so messed up right now, things are so messed up. It's like my head ain't workin' right. Stuff's getting' all mixed and scrambled and I'm forgettin' things like where we went when Keith took me out for my last birthday, and what my Ma's telephone number was. God, Nick, what if I start forgettin' people? What if I forget you?" His words tumbled out faster and more panicked as he went on, rambling until Nick finally stopped him with a firm shake to his shoulders.

"Hey, hey, calm down. It's going to be alrigh—"

"Dammit Nick, it's not alright! I'm not alright!"

Nick was taken aback by the sudden outburst and could only stare wide-eyed as Ellis shoved his hands away and all but growled at him, "Get out!"

Nick shook his dumbfounded feeling off, troubled and annoyed by Ellis' mood swing. "You were the one who wanted me in here in the first place."

Ellis turned his face away, speaking to the wall. "I changed my mind, I dun' wanna look a'chu no more." His words were starting to slur and sweat dripped down his face and neck in even heavier torrents.

"Hey…" Nick's voice was soft with concern. He reached to feel the young man's forehead and the other jerked away.

"Dun' touch me!" Ellis snapped.

Nick's brow creased and his chest tightened with worry, an emotion he still hadn't gotten used to feeling in regards to others. "El, I just want to help." He sat on the bed and reached again, managing to snag one of Ellis' wrist.

"No! Stoppit, giddoff me!" He squirmed and tried to pull his hand free, like an animal caught in a trap, but he was weak from his fever and Nick's grip held firm.

"El… Ellis, calm down. Just let me—Ow! Jesus!" Nick yanked his hand back, cradling it against his chest and stared down in disbelief at the bleeding crescent mark that now adorned his forearm, just below the wrist.

"Did I just…" The words left Ellis in barely a whisper, barely a breath. His face contorted with the horror of what he had done. "Nick, oh God, Nick! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry Nick. I-I—" His stomach rolled and he turned quickly to the side of the bed, body spasming with dry heaves. When he felt Nick touch his back gently, speaking soft words of comfort and forgiveness, he couldn't stop the hot, guilty tears from spilling. When he regained his voice he continued to spew apologies until Nick kissed him quiet, pulling him into his arms and holding him close until he fell back into a fitful sleep.

The hunter shrieked as sharp talons, stained dark with dried blood, bore down on him, slicing down his chest and shredding open both the tight fitting t-shirt and skin beneath it. The hunter twisted and struggled, trying to escape as the hostile infected straddled him. He brought up his own claws to defend himself only to have them swatted away by another angry swipe from the witch. The hunter thrashed and bucked up, hips and thighs moving erratically as he tried to dislodge the witch, gasping when the motion brought their crotches together and reminded him that despite the fear and pain he was still partially erect. The witch's growling turned into a groan and he pushed back, pinning the hunter and grinding their hips together. His bloodlust fading into mere annoyance with the sudden spark of arousal.

They rutted and thrust against each other frantically with animalistic need, until the hunter released a throaty whine that made the witch pause to look down at the other infected. The hunter was breathing heavy, nearly panting, a flush practically glowing against his sickly skin. The shirt he had worn lay in tatters now, revealing a broad, well muscled chest riddled with newly healed scar tissue and the fresher still bloody claw marks from the witch. The witch stared down at the scars, something about them making him angry again but he couldn't understand why. He leaned forward to sniff at the marks. The smell of blood was strong and he felt compelled to lick some from the open gash but pulled back before he acted on the impulse.

The hunter whined and bucked his hips again, urging the witch to return the action. Sharp, biting nails were his answer as the witch tore and ripped away his lower garments, leaving him exposed on the cold ground. He reached out his claws and pawed impatiently at the other infected. His groping digits managed to snag the leg of the witch's boxers, tugging them down and freeing the other's hardened sex. The witch lowered himself again, their bare cocks rubbing together wet and hot and they both gave mixed noises of pleasure because the sensation was so much better and more satisfying then when they'd had their clothes on. The hunter moaned and arched into the movement, his precum starting to drip onto his abdomen.

The witch shifted the angle of his thrusts, his dick slipping and bumping against the hunters balls and perineum then even lower where it nudged against the opening of his ass. The hunter squirmed, brow creasing, frustrated that attention was no longer being paid to his penis. He tried to grind up again but the witch grabbed a hold of his thighs and shoved him back down, at the same time using the grip to spread his legs open. The hunter growled uncomfortably as the witch once again pushed against his entrance. A third push had the head of the witch's cock inside and the hunter shrieked as the pain spread through his backside. He tried again to break free from the witch's hold and the other infected snarled and curled the tips of his talons painfully into the hunter's thigh to still him as he thrust in deeper.

The pain as the thick heat pushed in and out of his body, tearing and stretching with each stroke, was excruciating. The hunter cried out in protest, wrapping his arms around the witch and trailing his claws down his back, tearing and tugging at the dress shirt. Another thrust stabbed into him and he screwed his eyes shut and choked out a subdued whimper.

The witch glared down at the pained creature, the stinging pricks of claws and miserable noises coming from the hunter growing annoying. He adjusted and thrust up harshly, getting another startled noise out of the hunter as his cock brushed his prostate. The new angle also managed to trap the hunter's neglected erection between their bodies, each movement rubbing it against the witch's stomach and generating delicious friction.

The hunter moaned from the dual stimulation. The pain was still there, but the pleasure helped distract from it. He felt a warmth begin to fill him, starting from the point of their joining and pooling in his gut. He scrambled to tighten his grip on the witch's back, pulling himself flush against the pale infected and panting hot and heavy into his ear, riding out the witch's thrusting and rocking until the warm feeling finally spilled over and he released between them with a feeble cry. The witch groaned as the hunter contracted around him, sending him tumbling into orgasm as well.

The two paused, gasping and sucking in oxygen. Finally the witch pulled out, the hunter wincing as a faint mixture of blood and ejaculate leaked from his sore hole. He watched as the witch managed to push his spent sex back under he waistband of his boxers and sit back down in the same position he was in when the hunter had first seen him, as if nothing had happened, except that the sound he made was now more of a quiet, content hum than a moan. The hunter crouched to leap away but his injuries and ass gave a sore protest. With an annoyed chitter he crawled over to the far wall from the witch and lay down, dipping his head to lick at the cuts on his chest.

Nick didn't take to the sickness any better than Ellis had. Luckily, the safe house's lone bed was big enough that they were able to fit the older man beside the younger without it being too cramped for space. Ellis continued to wallow in his guilt as he watched the others cycle in to care for his lover, too weak to be any help himself. The joints of his hands were starting to swell and hurt and small bumps had begun to spring up in places on his skin. They itched like hell but Nick yelled at him if he tried scratching. Nick was doing that a lot, snapping at and complaining to them with little provoking. He was pissed that he was bedridden, pissed that he kept vomiting, pissed that he was constantly getting assaulted by migraines. The few instances that they were alone together he didn't want Ellis touching him, claiming that the contact just made his nausea worse.

The mood swings came sooner than they had with Ellis and were much more extreme, as Rochelle learned when she woke up one morning to find Nick leaning against the doorway of the bedroom with a gun pointed at her.

"N-Nick?" She struggled with the word, her mouth suddenly cotton-dry.

"Shut up! Get up!"

She slowly rose to her feet, hands held up in a defensive manner. She saw Coach out of the corner of her eye, awake and just as tense as she was. "Nick… sweetie… What's wrong?"

"Shut up! You two…" He pointed the gun back and forth between them with a frantic look in his eyes. "…you're going to leave."

Coach squared himself up to his full height and dared to take a step forward. "Nick, stop this. You're sick, you ain't thinking straight."

Nick swiftly swung the gun back around to the larger man, aiming the barrel at his chest. "No! I'm not stupid, I know what's going on here. We're not just sick, we're infected and sooner or later you're going to 'put us out of our misery.' Well I'm not letting that happen!"

Rochelle felt her chest tighten at the accusation. "Nick, please. We wouldn't… we just want to help you."

Nick gave a short bark of a laugh. "Ha, don't you get it? You can't help us. It's too late, we're lost causes." He paused to wipe at the sweat dripping from his face, looking back up with a smirk on his lips. "Unless you want to be our first dinner."

Rochelle fought back the tears stinging at her eyes. Deep down, she knew he was right, she knew but it still hurt to admit it. They had come so far together, it wasn't fair that things had to end like this.

"I'm not saying it again, grab whatever supplies you need and get the hell out, or I'll shoot." Nick cocked the gun to further illustrate his seriousness.

"Come on baby girl, best do as he says."Coach motioned for her to come over to him and she obeyed, walking cautiously, never turning away from the paranoid conman. They each grabbed a first aid kit, a few light rations, and some extra ammo. As Coach reached for his shotgun Nick flared up again.

"Hey, hey! Guns on the ground, kick them to the door and you can take them on the way out."

Coach sighed in frustration and did as he asked. Rochelle doing the same with her machine gun. The larger man lifted the restraining bar with ease and swung the heavy door open, holding it open for Rochelle. She paused in the threshold, looking back at Nick who was just barely staying upright in his own doorframe. It wouldn't be difficult for her and Coach to overpower and disarm the infected man, but for all his harsh words and drastic actions she knew that Nick was doing this for their sake as much as his own and her heart went out to him and Ellis and the fate that awaited them.

"Nick, I… I'm going to miss you two."

Nick merely nodded, not looking her in the eye.

She exited the safe house, dabbing at her wet eyes. Coach gave a heavy nod of his own in parting before reaching down for their guns and closing the door behind him with a metallic clang. After waiting a few moments to be sure they were gone, Nick allowed himself to slide down to the floor, dropping the gun and running a hand over his face wearily.

When Ellis woke up his mind was was in a haze, he didn't recognize where he was and when he raised his head up his vision blurred. He heard a sound beside him and turned to see a man laying next to him, curled in on himself and shaking with quiet sobs. After a few seconds recognition came to him and he mentally beat himself for not realizing from the start that it was Nick.

"Nick? Darlin', what's wrong?" He reached out and the older man turned into his arms, letting Ellis wipe his damp bangs out of his tired face. Nick's eyes were red-rimmed but dry.

"I… d-don't… know. " His voice broke and hiccuped over the sobs. "It w-won't stop, El. I-it won't… stop."

Ellis held the distressed man. They were both on the border of cracking, but he was determined to hold onto the last scraps of his sanity. At least long enough to support Nick as he lost his own.

The witch had dozed off and was awakened by a gentle nudge to his face. He gave a warning growl that trailed off as he opened his eyes and saw that it was the hunter from earlier. The infected in question pushed his face forward and nuzzled against the witch's jaw and neck, tongue peaking out and dragging across the rough stubble along his pulse-line. The witch jerked away with an annoyed sound but the hunter simply wasn't done and repeated the action, this time licking over thin, pursed lips. He brought a clawed hand up and passed it through the witch's greying hair, sliding the bangs back and out of the infected's face. He gave a happy chirp at the result.

The witch huffed and batted the hunter away, laying down, facing the alley's brick wall. He had just closed his eyes when a warm form wedged itself in the space between his body and the wall. He cracked an eye open and sure enough, was met with the hunter's curly mop of hair. Slowly, he raised his hand and stroked the palm over the curls. The hunter nestled closer, releasing a sound too soft to be a growl and too deep to be a purr, a low rumble that the witch could feel vibrate into his own body. He shut his eyes again, resting his chin on the top of the hunter's head and let the vibrations sooth him back to sleep.

It was shortly after they had first made love that Nick had discovered that Ellis was a cuddler. Whenever they lay down together, the mechanic would curl himself around his new lover and enjoy the warmth and sound of his heartbeat. So it wasn't a surprise when, in a drainage pipe turned safe house, the redneck lowered himself down practically on top of Nick and nuzzled his head against his chest to get comfortable.

"Hey, Nick?"

"What, El?" The conman's voice was gravely and tired.

"Do you think those things ever remember anything from before?"

"I doubt it. They're zombies, Ellis. They lack the thinking capacity to even open doors."

Ellis frowned a little. "Well, if I was a zombie I'd remember you. Even if I forgot everything else."

"If you were a zombie, I'd shoot you."

"Heh, yeah." He laughed it off, even though Nick was being serious, before prattling on. "I don't think I'd be able to, shoot you I mean, if you was a zombie."

Nick sighed and brought his hand up to run his fingers through Ellis' curls. He knew the young man was just trying to tell him how much he cared, in his own strange way, but all this talk about being zombies and shooting each other was a real killjoy.

Ellis closed his eyes at the touch. "I guess I'm just sayin' that I'd like to stay with you, even if things went all to shit, I'd wanna be with you at the end of it all." And as Nick grew drowsy under the warm weight of the mechanic he had to admit that didn't sound too bad.

AN: A gift fic for the lovely arborrelli on Deviantart.

I'm not sure how I feel about the last scene. I don't think it hurts the fic but I wonder if it was really necessary and should I have just ended it with the zombie cuddles.

Now I need to get back to working on the next chapter of Zombie Pheromones.