Rain splattered against the windshield, wipers doing little to clear the obstruction. It was simply coming down too hard. I need a better prescription, John thought nervously as he squinted at the road through his square glasses. It was revealed to him only in the small oval of light the headlights cast. It was almost completely pitch black out, thanks to the storm, and it was getting harder and harder to see. Harder to stay awake, too. He'd been driving nonstop for three hours now, and his travelling companion could do little now to keep him awake. John glanced over at him, concern in his eyes.

Dave was asleep in the passenger's seat, his arms crossed over his chest, head nodding quietly against his chest. The hours upon hours he had driven them that day had taken their toll - dark bags hung under his eyes like bruises against his pale skin. It had taken one hell of an argument to get the stubborn man to pull over and let John take a turn driving, but the moment they'd got back on the road, Dave fell straight to sleep. John wished he could take off the gas mask that obstructed the bottom half of the ginger boy's face - he was sure his friend's sleeping face would be adorable - but it was far to risky.

He turned his gaze back to the road and adjusted the strap of his own mask with one hand. It wasn't actually risky to remove them, he reminded himself. They were fine in the car, especially out on a winding country road like this - there were barely any people around at all. But even pulling the mask down for a moment filled John with a sense of terror that he could not control. It was too deeply engrained at this point. Besides, this wasn't even their car. Who knows what could have happened in it last - what horrible gases and diseases could be floating around them right now. John squirmed in his seat, the very thought making his skin crawl and his heart pound. What if - oh gosh, he just couldn't stand it. "Dave... Dave, wake up..."

Dave stirred but did not obey, turning his head away from John and making an irritated face before going back to sleep. John waited a moment, glancing from him to the road and back. When his friend did not wake, he frowned and touched Dave's shoulder, giving him a small shake. "Dave-"

The deer came out of nowhere, and John didn't have time to react. He screamed and his foot slammed on the break. There was a thunk and the poor thing went flying, body skidding down the road and out of the circle of headlights. John sat there, gasping for breath, his knuckles white as he clenched the steering wheel, pressed back into his seat as far as the hot leather would allow.

"John, what the fuck, man?" Dave had woken up and was looking at his crazy car-mate in horror and mild disgust.

"S-Sorry," John whimpered. And then he began to shake, eyes welling up. "Oh gosh, s-sorry... T-The deer just... surprised me. I-I didn't... Oh gosh..."

"John, calm down, it's okay," Dave soothed him. He was much more comforting now that he'd had a second to wake up. He put an arm around John, pulling his friend in to his chest.

John shook, crying quietly into Dave's shirt for a while. He felt silly, crying like this over a deer with everything else that was going on, but... He couldn't help it. His nerves were a rattly jangled mess and Dave was the only thing that could ever make him feel safe. His best friend in the whole world. His only friend in the world, really. He felt so safe in Dave's strong arms. Like all the rest of this horrible world did not matter.

"I should go out and check. Make sure the engine's okay."

John's heart stopped at Dave's words. The motor had gone silent, even though John had not shut off the car. And it couldn't be stalled - it was an automatic. The taste of fear began to rise up in his throat. "No, you can't!" He sat up, eyes pleading, his hands clenched tightly in the fabric of Dave's shirt. "D-Don't go out there. It's dark. W-We don't know what could be out there. J-Just stay..."

"We have to keep moving." Dave shook his head. As scared as John was, and as much as he hated making him like this, they could not just sit here. "I'll just be out there for a minute, okay?"

"No! Not okay! D-Dave, w-we can just stay here. S-Stop for the night, get some sleep. You've barely slept at all lately." John pulled his mask down around his neck, looking up at Dave pleadingly. "Don't risk it..."

"John, we can't just - Hey! Put your mask back on." Dave tried to push the mask back over his mouth and nose but the other man shied away from it, shaking his head stubbornly. "We can't stay here, John," Dave sighed, tugging his own mask down so he could give him a properly stern look, his uncommon red eyes meeting John's watery blue ones. "I know you're scared, but if we stay here, we're sitting ducks. They'll find us. You know they will."

Shoulders hunching up, his eyes dropped down to his lap. Dave was right. He was always right. How did he always stay so cool and logical, no matter how scary the situation? It was amazing. He looked out the car window, into the crushing black night. The scant light in the car, thrown by the dashboard lights, wasn't quite enough to illuminate the raindrops as the fell, but the glass was wavy and distorted from the water of the storm. At least it might cover their scent if they exited the car, John considered miserably. If there are any around, they might not smell us.. John turned back to Dave, opening his mouth to say something more - but Dave silenced him with a long, warm kiss.

John's eyes fluttered shut and he relaxed into it, his tongue rubbing back against Dave's. It made his heart warm - that he and Dave were such close friends. Dave made him feel so safe and loved, and in return, John gave him kisses and cheered him up when he got angry or sad. Which did happen more and more often now - it made sense. Dave had lost so much lately. And John wished he could do more for him. A sad sound escaped his lips when Dave finally broke apart from him, reclining his seat back so he could crawl into the back of the car. John twisted, looking after him. "I-I'm going out there with you."

Dave glanced back at John, busy getting together a flashlight and a tool box, just in case. There was no point in arguing with John about that. As much as he wanted John to stay in the car, he needed a lookout in case something decided to sneak up on him while he was fixing the car. He sighed, passing John a loaded shotgun from the back seat. "Grab a flashlight," he told the other gruffly before pulling on a raincoat - as dorky and un-ironic as it was, he'd rather not get soaked out there. He pulled his gas mask back up, nose wrinkling at the smell of being encased in that stinking rubber. He hated it, but it was necessary. He didn't want his fucking brains to melt or his skin turn grey and cadavery. That would be a goddamn billion on the one-to-ten scale of Not Cool, Bro. He stepped out into the rain, right into a puddle. He swore as the water seeped through his converse and into his socks, chilling his toes. Just perfect. He made sure the door was locked - he'd get back in on the passenger's seat side, and didn't want any unwanted visitors sneaking into his car while they were trying to fix it. He stomped around to the front of the car, glad that John had the sense to pop the hood for him before getting out himself.

John hurried to meet Dave at the front of the car, holding the shotgun in shakey hands. His eyes moved rapidly and he peered out into the dark, keeping his back to the car. He avoided looking into the light that the headlights were still casting. Dave had taught him early on that doing so would kill his night vision, and so now he was very careful to keep his eyes on the shadows. Thee more he stared, the more he could begin to make out - the grass at the side of the road, a few rocks and a barbed-wire fence - they were in farm country for sure. He swallowed, walking carefully around the edge of the light while Dave worked. He looked out to the other side of the road, but could discern nothing different there. The hiss of the rain covered up any sounds of nature, the farms, or whatever horrid creatures lurked int he night, just beyond the range of his vision. He nervously adjusted the strap of his gas mask, tightening it and trying to create a better seal. He looked down the road, suddenly remembering that poor deer he'd hit. He felt awful for forgetting it, but there had been more pressing matter on hand. He walked to the edge of the light, down the road, peering into the dark. It couldn't have flown that far off into the dark. He'd only been going about sixty when he'd hit it, so the body should be nearby. His eyes slowly began to adjust to the dark, but he still couldn't see it. Where could it have gone? It didn't get up and run off, did it?

"John, I'm done." Dave was right behind John when he spoke, making him jump. "What are you looking for?"

"J-Jeeze..." John put a hand to his chest, feeling the pounding of his own heart. He gestured into the darkness. "Wondering where the deer went. It should be nearby."

"Does it matter? S'not like we can eat the damn thing," Dave pointed out, always the ruthless one. But he was curious too. He pulled out his flashlight and pointed it down the road. He walked forward, John following him hesitantly. Wehn he could no longer see properly, he flicked on the light.

Five pairs of orange eyes reflected back at them in the sudden burst of light. The infected crouched over the deer, blood dripping form their pale grey lips and hands - they'd ripped the animal apart - glistening red entrails poured out over the road. They stared back at the two horrified boys, surprised themselves. But the surprise did not last long. Lips pulled back from receded gums and red-stained teeth, their hisses audible even over the rain. Only when they rose to their feet and began to stumble towards John and Dave did the two men break from their paralysis.

"RUN!" John screamed, grabbing Dave and sprinting back toward the car. He could hear the infected coming after them, running. He let go of Dave's hand, running to the driver's side door. He yanked it but it didn't budge. STUPID! He'd locked the car! He dropped the gun, fumbling in his pockets for the keys oh god, oh god. His hands would not stop shaking - it was too late. The fastest infected - a large male - charged at him, the bony yellow protrusions on his head making him look like the devil himself. John stumbled back and fell into a puddle, his elbows jarring painfully against the wet asphalt. "Dave!"

The cry did not go unheeded. Dave shoved back the infected that had pounced on him, his head whipping around at the same time that his gun did - he never went unarmed. One bullet to the head of that man who dared charge at his John. That's all it ever took. he turned back to his own fight, firing a single shot into the eye of his attacker, her brains exploding out the back of her head into the night.

It's not like these people were beyond hope. They were just sick. But that was not important right then. Cool and efficient, Dave took out the slower three, each with a simple, painless headshot. It was the merciful way to do it, at least. Finally, he lowered his gun, listening to the quiet hiss of the rain, and John's hysterical sobbing from the other side of the car. Finally satisfied that his gunshots had not attracted any others, he walked around the front of the car. It was easy to jerk John back to his feet by the arm - the other man was a useless mess at the moment. Dave had to clench a mental fist around his heart - there was no time for comforting him now. John needed to pull himself together or they'd never make it to help in one piece. "Give me the keys and get in the car," he growled, giving John a shake to make him focus.

John blinked his huge teary eyes and nodded dumbly, handing over the keys. he picked up his shotgun, a heavy sense of shame welling up in him. He got in on the passenger's side and curled up in the seat, letting Dave take charge once again. He'd really screwed up this time. "Sorry," he murmured miserably, pulling his feet up on to the seat and wrapping his arms around his knees as Dave got in and started up the car.

"It's okay, man," Dave sighed, not even bothering to steer around the bodies. He drove straight over them, his face grim. "Just don't lock ALL the car doors next time."

"R-Right." John felt so very very stupid. Dave had taught him better than that in the months they'd been running together. It was a stupid mistake. A stupid, foolish mistake that could have killed them both. Sometimes he wondered why Dave even kept him around. Sure, they were friends, but he was a liability at this point. A warm hand interrupted his dark spiral of shame and self-loathing, fingers intertwining with his own. He looked over at Dave lovingly, smile hidden by his mask, but obvious in his eyes. Liability or no, Dave would not abandon him. With Dave, he was safe. No matter what. He leaned back in his seat, keeping Dave's hand in his own and watching the others face as the adrenaline wore off and he grew tired. John's eyes began to droop shut, but he didn't have to worry. Dave's eyes would never leave the road. "Thanks for saving me again, Dave," he mumbled, drifting off.

"Of course," was Dave's grunt of a reply. He glanced over at John, now fast asleep and his eyes grew strangely wet. It was quickly blinked away and the red gaze returned to the road. "I love you," he said, though it might as well have been to himself. The road twisted off into the distance, and took them away. Neither of them knew where, and neither had any place to go to. They just kept going. It felt now like it's all they'd ever done. In a couple hours, the sun would begin to rise behind them, but Dave kept driving west, into the dark.

-Author's Notes:
Soooooo basically, this is going to be a continuing AU of a rage-virus epidemic. The difference between a rage virus and zombies is basically that the "infected" are not dead, just sick, so there is a possibility of a cure being found, though the chances are slim in this case - I'm mean :b

I've put the trolls as humans, but you may notice in the description above of the infected that the ALTR-virus mutates them. So they kind of wind up looking like trolls. Sort of a funny... thing. Yeah. Anyways, enjoy!

Listened to Brand New Day from the Dr. Horrible soundtrack while writing this chapter. .com/watch?v=Dr3CmVoqpIg