Lloyd was more than a little curious of the mouse huddled in the corner furthest from the door and closest towards the window. The morning light cast upon her sickly blonde hair, and he knew that once upon a time it must have been quite a stunning golden color. Shadows now lined her features, hair limp and greasy, her eyes were glazed over… Lloyd doubted she was even aware of her surroundings. Immediately he slipped across the top of the pool table beside him to make his way towards the nursing station, almost tripping three times in the four foot distance.
"Lloyd." The red haired nurse intoned resignedly as she set down her paperwork and turned to face him full on.
He gave her a chipmunk grin in an effort to lighten her up and win her more towards his cause.
"Mads." He greeted back, suddenly leaning far over the desk, forearms resting on the counter, before clasping his hands together, "Church mouse, left corner, window, info?"
Suddenly the nurse had a finger pointed right at his nose, "Now listen here, son, you leave that poor girl alone. I don't want her to become another Fred. He was doing fine until you decided to 'study' the OCD mind when crossed with Dissociative Identity Disorder."
Lloyd's arms shot up, palms outward, as if their emptiness was a sign of his innocence.
Their gazes stay locked for another second before Mads relented and pressed the buzzer allowing the doctor into the nursing station. Lowery, despite all misgivings, was a damn fine doctor; and Mads was lost on how to handle one Julianne Simms.
"Well of course once I've gotten my food and water supply secured and suitable place to bunker down in; I'd start finding something more than my little handgun, if ya know what I mean." Lloyd leaned back in his chair, spoon shooting up from his pudding cup and right into his mouth, "I'd raid a drug store, first, and create the perfect chemical weapon against the biting bitches. They wouldn't know what hit their scrawny undead asses, and all the surviving humans would be saved!" Lloyd cheered happily as he dunked his spoon right back into his cup to scrape what he could off the edges, "I'd be a hero! Get a whole city-no, state! - named after me! Lowery-vada. I always loved Nevada you know, great casinos."
Julianne nodded as she set her empty cup back down on the tray, "What about the bodies though?" Her small voice barely audible over the normal chatter of the insane surrounding them.
Lloyd inhaled deeply, dropping his feet loudly from the table and slapping his plastic cup onto the table, "Of the zombies? Two words, my dear: Complete. Annihilation." He mimed two giant rifles to be carried and fired with each arm, "I would specifically design it to incinerate all infected tissue. No bodies." He blew the invisible smoke of the invisible rifles and grinned at her, settling back in his chair with his hands tucked behind his neck. She smiled back at him.
Lloyd saw her smile drop instantly before she looked up and over Lloyd. He turned his head and looked up too. A black man and white baldy guy were standing about three feet away, obviously cops and obviously wanting something. Julianne could only peep at them though, in her unending shyness, so Lowery stepped up to the plate. While he was slowly helping Julianne get over her paralyzing agoraphobia, she was nowhere near the level needed to be able to talk to serious-looking strangers.
"What's up, coppers?" Lloyd whined, "Here to take me to the slammer? Wanna sweet piece of my ass, huh?" He shot to his feet, crossed his arms, and shook his head, "I dun think so, buddy-boy! So just you better back off before I have the nice men in white suits take you to the funny farm!"
Seeing both pair of eyebrows shoot up at lightspeed was priceless, and Lloyd didn't miss the soft hitching of breath behind him.
Julianne was laughing.
Lloyd spooned another dob of tapioca pudding onto his utensil, "But then, I've never been one for jello." He continued as he licked the pudding into his mouth, "Too… jello-y." He shrugged, "Pudding's healthier for you anyway. Dairy!" He sung spooning on another bit.
Julianne only exhaled, her eyes unaware of him despite being directly in their line of sight.
"I got to hand it to the – what is this anyway? – Kraft comp. They make one mean piece of pudding." He chomped a huge swallow off his spoon and got a good bit on the tip of his nose in the progress.
He looked up at Julianne again, and was surprised to find her eyes, for once, focused. Her dark bloodshot eyes were finally seeing.
He wiped his nose clean with his hand before licking each of his fingers clean and reaching back for his spoon. Her eyes tracked his hand, from his nose, to mouth, to cup. He scooped a bit on his spoon, him watching her watch him, and lifted the spoon up to his mouth and subsequently eating the pudding. She watched him the entire time, her throat working slightly.
"You like tapioca, Juliannie?" He questioned, adding an extra syllable to her name – Annie – as her eyes flickered back towards his cup.
Lloyd gathered more pudding on his spoon before slowly, and very very carefully, moving the spoon towards her mouth. For a moment he thought she would just stare at the approaching spoon, she hadn't eaten anything since her arrival at the mental hospital and needed to be kept on a nutritional IV so she wouldn't starve. Getting her to eat even a tiny spoonful of pudding would be a huge accomplishment for her mental state.
But as the spoon got closer, her mouth stayed sealed, and Lloyd was beginning to have his doubts. Then her mouth twitched, and her lips parted barely enough to emit a soft sigh, the unintended escape of air through her larynx from excessive disuse.
Lloyd waited patiently, spoon stationary, for Julianne to get more courage; and then finally she widened her jaw enough for the spoon to pass through. Her mouth stayed open though, unmoving, so Lloyd turned the spoon over and scraped the pudding with her lower lip as he removed the plastic form her mouth. For a second she remained stationary, mouth open; but then her mouth closed, she blinked, and then swallowed.
Then her mouth dropped open again.
Lloyd smiled at her as he gathered more pudding from his cup and fed that to her too, getting more excited with each swallow. He almost jumped for joy when her mouth remained closed once the cup was empty, showing a growing awareness of her surroundings. It was amazing, and Lloyd wondered absently what Julianne would be like when she finally came out from the depths of her catatonia?
"Breakout Kings?" Lloyd echoed, leaning back into his plastic chair, "Lame, if you're asking me."
"We're not." Charlie gritted out from between clenched teeth before turning sharply to Julianne who was sitting beside the irritating creep, "You were the best tech in the state before your admission here, and what with your progress and possible release, we're offering you a position in our unit."
Julianne's chin hit her chest, soft brows furrowed in thought, "How-" Her voice cracked, "How many people are in the- in the-" She swallowed again, dropping her gaze even further, something Charlie hadn't thought possible until he'd seen it.
"Including you?" Charlie took head of her incomplete question, "Six. Two marshals: me and Ray; yourself; and three convicts: Shea Daniels, Philomena Rotchliffer, and Fritz Gunderson."
Ray leaned forward onto the plastic-top folding table, "What do you think, Jules?"
Lloyd had been surprised that Julianne used to know Ray from before her time at the mental institute. That she'd been in the US Marshal's training program. Probably would've graduated if her agoraphobia hadn't forced her to drop out and get committed.
"I-" She shrugged and gripped at the lapels of her white inmate uniform nervously, "I don't know."
"Jules, it-!" Ray started, full of emotion as Lloyd was quickly learning was bad for Juliannie and her sensitive constitution. Every time he got emotional her eyes would swell up with tears and her hand would latch onto Lloyd's own so she could squeeze the feeling out of them. He didn't mind being used as Julianne's tether to reality, but if Ray didn't learn to control himself, Lloyd was going to be the victim of an unintentional amputation to his right hand.
"She accepts." Lloyd cut in, faking a smile at the black copper and his white baldy buddy.
"I do?" She whispered curiously in his ear.
"It'll be good for you, Julianne." Lloyd explained as he turned towards her, "Your circle of communication would quintuple if you took the job. You've got two marshals to practice interactions with, and three cons to observe as they interact, no doubt poorly, with the rest of society. You'll be able to take walks outside, drink coffee – of course you accept!"
Julianne's confused frown suddenly split into a careful happy smile, one of which he mirrored back at her.
"You're so smart." She whispered at him in awe.
Lloyd's ears reddened, "IQ 210." He couldn't really think of anything else to say.