Authors Note: Yep, still going. Still not gonna promise how long this will continue, though! I have a terrible habit of getting bored when writing long fics.


Well, that went somewhat better than expected, Nick thought as he entered the kitchen, making a beeline for the electric kettle. It was half-full of water, but having no idea how long it had been then, he still proceeded to pour it down the sink, refilling with fresh water, and returning the kettle to it's stand, flicking the switch to start it heating. It was a well-practiced set of movements, even if the kitchen was foreign to him. Nick was the kind of guy who would set his mind daily on his starter cup of coffee, and it took a lot to make him skip that part of his morning ritual. Of course, a zombie apocalypse was one of those few things that could make him overlook his daily caffeine requirement, but now that the opportunity had returned, he intended to take full advantage of it.

Of course, he had assumed that one of the cupboards would contain a coffee jar.

Luckily for Nick, the previous family had suffered a similar morning addiction, and it didn't take long for him to locate the jar of coffee granules in one of the units closest to the kettle itself. Several large spoonfuls were placed into a mug, no sugar, and no milk (it would likely have been off, anyway, even if he had decided to take it). Soon the happy owner of a steaming hot mug of black java, he took the first scaulding sip, and sighed with contentment as the bitter taste swept over his tongue. Suddenly, the world didn't seem quite so bad.

Placing the mug back on the countertop to cool a little, he busied himself with rolling a cigarette (pre-rolled packets were a rarity since the infection hit, but he'd been lucky enough to find a large packet of loose tobacco, and papers and filters were easy enough to find), lighting it from the gas cooker hob, to save on matches. Finally, the routine was complete. Nicotine and caffeine finally back in his morning, the day had started with a much-needed sense of normality, one he'd especially craved since his actions of the previous night.

He was trying to forget about that.

It wasn't that the idea of screwing another man bothered him; quite the contrary, that concept was the easiest part to deal with. After all, a fuck was a fuck, whatever way you looked at it, and he wasn't going to subject himself to some bullshit homophobia that only resulted in fifty percent of the population being ruled out as potential one-nighters. That didn't benefit him at all. No, the thing that bothered him was the fact it was Ellis, of all people. The dumbass, redneck, optimistic hick, who you could kick in the fact and he'd still smile and forgive you. The stupid fuck who wouldn't have lasted three days of the infection, had he not picked up such capable friends. That was what bothered the conman. Or at least, that's what he figured the problem must have been. In all honesty, he hadn't devoted much energy into psychoanalysing the situation.

He smoked in peace, trying to distract his mind by concentrating on the flow of smoke snaking down his throat, and curling back out of his lips and nostrils. By savouring the much-needed buzz of caffeine mixing with nicotine, the familiar sensation welcomed by all of his senses. The others left him to it, and he was somewhat grateful for that. None of them had been able to take much alone-time as of late, and Nick quite enjoyed his moments of solitude.

He couldn't hide out in the kitchen forever, though, so once his cigarette was burned to the filter, he picked up his half-finished mug, and lazily returned to the living room. As soon as he did, Rochelle piped up with "What do you think to recouping here for a few days, finding a car, then hitting the freeway?" She looked up at his to gauge his response, Nick taking a large mouthful of coffee, swallowing slowly, before replying with "Where we headed?"

She gave a slight shrug of her shoulders, turning her gaze down to the topmost map of the pile laid in front of her. "There are a couple of big towns we could check that aren't far. You know, see if CEDA or the military have anything set up for survivors..."

He scowled, but she wasn't paying him any attention to see it. "Then yeah. Let's stick here a few days," he replied, somewhat unenthusiastically. While the rest of the group still seemed sure that CEDA was the final target, and the answer to their problem, Nick was much less sure of this point. More than once they'd come to evacuation areas to piles of bodies, and not all of them seemed infected. Were they the result of actions by their supposed CEDA saviours? After all, they seemed to be riddled with bullet wounds, not bite marks. The whole thing seemed off to Nick, and while the others had shown concern at the time when he'd pointed this fact out, the matter seemed forgotten now. They needed a goal, and CEDA was the only one they could muster.

Not that it mattered. If it came down to it, he could always leave the idiots behind, and let them face CEDA alone. Right?

"Gonna get some fresh air," he followed up, Rochelle giving a hum of assent, and no-one questioning as Nick walked through the room, snatching up his AK from beside Ellis as he went. It didn't take him long to remove the furniture blockade from the door, designed not so much to keep attackers out, but to provide something noisy enough so they'd know from upstairs if something was trying to break in. Stepping out into the fresh morning air, already beginning to heat up as the sun rose higher into the sky, he glanced up and down the thankfully empty street, closing the door behind him, and settling down on the concrete front steps.

If they did find CEDA, and the reception wasn't as warm as the others hoped for... could he really just turn and leave them? As much as he hated to admit it, they'd helped him out a lot, and saved his neck more than once as of late. He'd done just as much in return, of course, but he couldn't get over the nagging thought in the back of his head that, without Rochelle, Coach and Ellis, he'd likely be dead by now. Still, that being said, he wouldn't walk into the murderous clutches of CEDA or the military, just because those morons had no idea of what else to do.

They were smart, though. They wanted to survive. Rochelle worked for a news station, so was more than used to seeing and hearing about corruption, so perhaps finding out CEDA were not the saviour they made themselves out to be wouldn't be so hard to swallow on her part. Coach was harder to read. The man wasn't a huge talker, but he seemed intelligent enough, and there was something in him that was driving him to survive, though he didn't let on just what it might be. Then, there was Ellis. Stupid hick would end up doing whatever his companions told him to do, no doubt. If Ro and Coach wanted to stay, and Nick announced he was leaving, he had little doubt that the redneck would throw his lot in with the majority. Nick was consciously aware of the fact that, as much as he hated it, this idea bothered him for some reason.

The door behind him clicked open.

He didn't bother turning, already knowing who was there. His only response was to exhale with a distinct air of exasperation, the door shutting again, and his new company stepping down to sit beside him, carefully leaving a few inches of space between one-another. Ellis had his shotgun, clean as the day it had been made, clutched in his hands tightly as he settled, eyes latched onto the weapon with nervous intensity. Flexing and relaxing his grip on the shotgun barrel, he remained silent for several long moments, before finally piping up.

"Can we talk?"

If there was one thing Nick didn't want right now, it was to have to clarify his feelings on the night before. His jaw clenched, and he didn't reply. The hick clearly took his silence as a sign of ascension.

"Okay. I'll start."