/Separation Anxiety/

A/N: Uh yeah, so. Anybody got any ideas or suggestions, go ahead and hit me with them. That doesn't go to say that they'll all be used and stuff, but still, feel free!
Same goes for Southern Comfort. While I have some ideas that I want to use and all, but I need fillers and things to add in between now and the future. xD
So...yes. Please do share any ideas/suggestions? ;-;

As always, I appreciate the support. :)

We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.—Albert Schweitzer

Day 4; 0504 hours

It was raining.

To say Nick was restless was an understatement. Nick was just about ready to start beating down the door and tearing apart the walls if it meant that he didn't have to just sit there any longer. The man was also enraged than simply his usual pissed self, though he could not exactly determine why. Perhaps it was because they had so far failed in finding their fourth member and bringing The Three Musketeers back to The Four Delinquents, or perhaps it was because he was a moody man by nature and the floor was hard and made his ass hurt. That, and their hurried vacation to New Orleans was being delayed more and more day by day due to their unplanned search and rescue operation, and part of him was just glad that as far as he knew they were heading West.

Jesus, he needed a smoke. Or a drink. Or something to shoot.

All he could do right then, however, was scratch at the layer of stubble growing along his jaw and unconsciously wished he had a pair of nail clippers as the jagged edges of his own scratched against his skin—all while Rochelle gave him a fleeting glance before turning away. She was quietly kneeling beside the box they'd found in one of the cupboards of the apartment they'd chosen to hunker down in for the night, finding it clearly packed in haste with the rather random array that had been shoved inside it.

A few heartbeats worth of silence passed between them before the male realized that there was a box of spaghetti noodles being waved beneath his nose, and he half-heartedly batted away the strands of wheat when she asked if he was hungry. She gave him a blank stare and nod, putting the box back into the other and idly pawing through it without much conscious thought.

Nick observed silently as she let out a breathless sigh and shift her gaze to the door beside him, it supposedly being the only thing protecting them from the outside world. He cast it a sidelong glance from where he sat, but gave it little more appreciation than that. All the same, his growing unease matched the woman's, their leader having ventured out into the rain with a bucket and a shotgun tucked under his arm with the instructions to give him a holler if he wasn't back in twenty minutes.

That had been fourteen minutes ago.

In all honesty Nick thought it was stupid, but the larger man had apparently had the brilliant idea to go outside and try to collect some clean rain water with the bucket he'd managed to procure from beneath the kitchen sink. Maybe he didn't like the useless feeling either.

Or maybe he just didn't want to be stuck in the same room as Nick anymore.

He couldn't blame him, really.

Whatever the reason, that didn't make him appreciate the pitying glances from Rochelle at all while she kept looking at the arm he had wrapped around his torso.

The conman frowned and shifted around, grunting slightly at the exertion and wondering just how many bruises dotted his rib cage at the moment. Upon turning that last street corner he'd been greeted firsthand by an angry snort and an unobstructed view of the disfigured snout of a Charger.

He hadn't even had the chance to yell when it then proceeded to carry him a few more yards and thus begin slamming his body into concrete.

The popping noises behind it had alerted the zombie with a big ass arm of the others' presence, Coach leveling his shotgun with the base of its spine and Rochelle taking aim at the fleshy mass wrapped around Nick's body.

Dead weight was one thing, but being sat on by a dead Charger was something else entirely. Quite frankly, he was just glad it hadn't managed to completely snap one of his ribs and punctured his lungs. At least he was still alive.

(Could the same be said for Ellis? He didn't like to dwell on the thought.)

While part of him still didn't quite see the point in it, the gambler was partly appreciative of the fact that Coach had selflessly (and he hated selfless people, and for that he blamed the kid) ventured to the other side of the door in order to collect rainwater. It wasn't the most sophisticated method to get clean, but it would get them clean nonetheless, despite how lukewarm it would presumably be.

He'd never looked forward to washing his hands more than he was right now, and being an overly hygienic guy, that was saying something.

He was starting to lose feeling in his tailbone.

Trying to hoist himself his feet using the wall behind him as leverage earned him the attention of the sole other sentient being in the room, and Nick was rather surprised when he felt nimble fingers brace against his shoulders and he opened his eyes to meet Rochelle's as she gave a light shove downward.

"Nick, just stay still," she murmured, the man averting his gaze.

"I can't," he muttered as he did just that, keeping his eyes from hers and sliding back down to the floor. Her hands remained, lingering on his person even after he'd sat down before she took them away and knelt.

The woman moved to sit beside him and Nick shifted as much as he could to let her join him in the breath-taking study of wherever the hell they were. Legs sprawled in front of him, the man hissed at the pain in his back as his spine cracked. At least he wasn't dying or a bloody mess but damn if his body didn't just hurt.

Getting pummeled by a Charger hurt like a bitch—being on the receiving end one of the few things Nick had in common with Ellis.

"Jesus Christ," the conman hissed, green eyes shut while he cautiously rubbed at one of the more tender spots on his side. "God damn hillbilly, shit-for-brains, asshole son of a bitch."

He glanced down when he felt a hand carefully wrapped around his forearm; Rochelle kept her gaze downcast and voice soft as she spoke,

"Yeah, I miss him too."

Nick scowled and leaned his head back, letting the rain pound against the rooftop.

Huddled under the small overhang, Coach kept a steady eye on his darkened surroundings, hand clenching around his shotgun at each sound and then promptly cursing every one of them. In all honesty going outside to gather rainwater had been an excuse more so than anything, the idea of sticking around in the same room as a disgruntled Nick not overly appealing at the time being. Granted, Nick had more or less been an arrogant asshole as long as the two men had known one another, but as of late something had been off about the man and Coach was all too aware that he was dangerously close to snapping.

Maybe they all were.

With a heavy sigh, the man raised a hand to the roll of fat at the back of his shaved neck, swatting away sweat and tiny little bugs that had attempted to gather there. The southern United States may have been known for having a warmer climate than the rest of the country, sure, but that failed to make him feel any better when it came to the sticky humidity of the night air. The rain didn't help matters much, warm and tepid rather than cooling as it thudded around him.

Dismally, he watched it splatter and pool in large puddles in the broken expanse of the street, almost flowing one way before it decided that it wasn't the direction it wanted to go in and backtracking on itself.

Coach dabbed at his neck again, dragging his gloved hand to its side before letting it fall to his lap as his thoughts trailed from the rain and then to their failing search back to the rain and questioned whatever season it was as the heat enveloped him.

Funny, he'd never really questioned time before—maybe he'd wanted to curse it once he realized he'd grown middle-aged a few years back, but he'd never given it too much thought when it came to seasons either.

It was fall, wasn't it? Autumn? What month was it—September? October? Maybe the tail end of the latter, and they were all caught up in some form of an extremely deranged Halloween celebration.

Ellis liked Halloween. Coach only knew that because suddenly he could remember the halls of the high school all those years ago, paper streams dangling in the air and the happy looking teenager bopping through the halls as he and the rest of the student body waited for the final bell that sent them home for the weekend and to whatever parties or plastic Jack-o-lanterns full of treats that they'd been waiting for since that same time last year. He could see himself standing in that hallway, the faces of the other children blurred save for the one boy he couldn't seem to look away from.

Coach had never been the fastest runner in the world, but for the life of him he couldn't get to the kid fast enough.

A hand shot out—his, he was sure— to grab the young man's shoulder, whirling him around and sending the binder he'd been leafing through tumbling to the ground, locker slamming shut behind him. The crowd around them abruptly dispersed into vapor and the boy's eyes widened, making to start apologizing before his young features were marred with confusion. He frowned at the words Coach was saying but couldn't hear, staring up at the man incredulously as the elder spoke of warnings, fleeting little apologies that he didn't understand.

The ex-footballer gave his shoulder a good shake, shifting the hat-less tuft of curls and causing the sixteen-year-old's mouth to form a startled 'o' as he started to pull away. Ellis shot a wary glance to a classroom just down the hall, not wanting to be rude but more than just a little unsettled by the behavior of his Health teacher. He respectfully offered a quick excuse about having to go off to Spanish class, the large hand tightening on his joint and he winced for fear of being reprimanded.

Coach started screaming at him—shouting something unintelligible to himself but serving as warning to the young man before him. He shouted about taking care of himself, watching his back or something or other but he finally got back to apologizing, the roar in his ears dying down into the rumble of his own voice as it cracked.

"Ellis..." he murmured, fist shaking as it grasped t-shirt material. "Ellis, shit, boy, 'm sorry..."

The teenager stopped struggling and quirked his brow, suddenly shifting his gaze to meet that of the coach's.

He smirked.

The large man stilled at the look, watching the smirk grown into a grin that was nothing like the boy he knew. Unnerved, he withdrew his hand, and his palm came away red. Distantly, Ellis glanced down at himself, unfazed by the heavy streaks of crimson and torn shreds that had made up the green Power Rangers shirt that matched Keith's for the day, giving an unattached shrug to his appearance before he looked at Coach again.

"Naw, man, ain't no use apologizin' t'a dead man."

Coach snorted awake, foot jerking out and he nearly kicked the bucket as his bearing came rushing back to him. Rain, puddles, a dead zombie, forgotten buildings, humid air, and a—

—holy shit.

The only way he could describe the feeling was like to having a Boomer sit on his chest, knocking the wind out of him and leaving his heart to thud in its cavity. He stood slowly, keeping his eyes on the street and his hand on his shotgun as he slowly stood and stepped into the downpour. His footsteps felt slow and sluggish, moving forward until they came to a rest and he bent forward.

"Holy shit..." he murmured. "Aw, shit, shit, shit."

He tried desperately to ignore the bloodstain on the bill of the cap.

Nick just about had a heart attack when the door flew open, a rain-soaked Coach tromping inside with an equally soaked bucket and heavy heart. The water sloshed around violently as it set on the floor before he quietly turned shut the door behind him, letting it click and partly drown out the outside sounds.

Despite the fact that it frickin' hurt the gambler was on his feet in a matter of seconds, stance wavering as he stood and took in the tired, weary look of their leader. Where Coach was rational and attempted to lift their spirits (not to the extent that Ellis did), he was suddenly quiet and reserved, a mournful expression spreading across his face before he hid it with his hand, fingers rubbing at his temples.

He was about to damn well tear into him when a sharp inhale from behind him signaled that Rochelle had stood as well, and the conman turned to ask her what her problem was when he found himself irritably following her gaze.

There was a thick moment of silence between them all, Coach holding out Ellis' hat like a deranged peace offering.

Rochelle spoke first, uttering something along the lines of the boy having to be nearby and that he honestly couldn't be too far away now, and all Nick could do was stare blankly, blinking repeatedly as if doing so would bring everything into focus.

It was then that a wave of pure, unadulterated rage washed over him, the more animalistic side of him wanting to tear into the both of them, call them all of these horrible words if only for a means of venting before he went out and shot dead everything damn thing he saw.

After a few solid heartbeats the fury was replaced with apathy, the lack of feeling washing over him and leaving him in indifference. Beautiful, blissful indifference.

Coach noticed this, but he failed to say anything.

The low rumble of thunder drowned out any coherent thoughts and the sound of shuffling from the floor above them.

Coolly and wordlessly did Nick take the cap from the larger hand, holding it before him and regarding it carefully as if it was some supposedly awe-inspiring relic found in some tomb during an archeological dig before it turned to ash in their hands.

When he finally looked back up, his gaze was steely and unwavering; even Rochelle had appeared to sober up, the tears she had cried the past few days having dried into a mixture between anger and the brutal acceptance that in the back of her mind she'd been trying not to acknowledge.

The gambler's hand formed a fist around the mesh of the cap, clenching it to him and refusing to offer the other two any of the words of hope he didn't have. As much as he didn't want to believe that Ellis was dead...

Something passed between the three, a silent agreement of sorts.

Nick looked away, shoving what he could of the hat into his pocket, the boy's wallet already taking up residence in his other one. He said nothing more.

It was brief and he tried to hide it, but the dismal look of sorrow in his eyes was hard to miss.