Dmitri gazed down the barren road as he strode along. A sign to the left read "Babylon Gardens" in tattered letters. He looked down to his boot covered feet and sighed. "Great, another abandoned suburb. This is perfectly healthy to my sanity" he thought to himself as he hugged his rifle closer and shifted the strap of his backpack, listening for the sounds of anarchists. He walked down the street and kept looking over the standard setting, ashes in the air and stranded vehicles in the road. As he continued, he heard something crack behind him. He quickly ducked behind the nearest car as He peaked around the corner into the distance. He saw something moving, and it was the color….purple. He walked with an increased speed to see whatever it was. He hadn't seen anything with a pulse in weeks, hell he hadn't seen color in months. He saw whatever it was glance up and yelp at the sight of him. It looked like a cat, and it was tugging a bag with its paws which it promptly dropped. It turned and ran in a panic. "NO WAIT, I WON'T HURT YOU!" he yelled as he gave chase. His body seemed to be going faster than normal, as though the sight of a living creature that didn't turn to kill him made him strain to contain happiness. The cat ran into an area between the houses quickly followed by Dmitri. He turned the corner to see it try to climb a wooden fence and run further. "PLEASE JUST STOP RUNNING!" he said, desperosity in his voice. The cat became unstable and lost its grip, falling a short drop. He looked closer and realized it was crying. He inched closer to the shuddering figure his hand out stretched. "Are you okay, are you hurt?" he asked softly. "STAY AWAY! I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING FOR YOU TO TAKE!" it sobbed with tears in its eyes. "I don't want to hurt you, just please tell what's wrong?" "What's with the gun then?" it asked as it pointed to the M4 strung around his chest, refusing to answer his question and still heaving. He gazed down to his chest as he unstrapped it from himself; the cat cringed as he held the grip, and set it to his side. "It's to protect myself not to kill you, now please, is there anything wrong?" he asked disregarding the firearm. The cat was still breathing shakily as it held out its paw and he helped it up. Of what he observed it was a female what with the color and voice. She was visibly thin and her frail frame was beginning to show through her skin. She looked up at his face, blatant despair in her eyes "My friend is hurt pretty bad" she voiced between shallow breaths, still crying quietly. He allowed her to cry into his shoulder and lifted her off the ground, carrying her like a child as he lifted his rifle's strap over his opposite shoulder."Where is your friend?" Dmitri asked as he continued down the road. She pointed in the direction of a specific house to the left of them, never leaving his arms. As they approached, he looked at the charred mailbox that had the name "Sandwich" printed on it. "Strange name." he thought to himself as he walked up to the porch. The cat helped itself out his arms as she walked through the shower curtain put in place of where a door should have been. "Peanut?" she said into the empty home. "Up here." answered a raspy voice. She walked up the creaking stairs as Dmitri followed. She opened a door to reveal a brown dirty furred dog in a bed, next to it stood a make-shift I.V. drip connected to his wrist. As Dmitri entered the dusty room, the dog's eyes widened in fear. "BEHIND YOU!" he screamed as he scrambled out of the bed still covered in the ragged blanket and backed into the corner, taking the drip with him. The drip popped open against the floor. "Look I'm not here to hurt you, you're friend brought me here." Dmitri said softly. The dog paid no attention, but he instead focused in the drip that had busted on the floor. "Nononono" he said silently as he pried the needle from his arm. "What is that?" Dmitri said as he picked up the bag to look at the description. It was basic meds, for minor sicknesses. He looked up to the dog who was still blabbering "Don't worry I have some in my bag just… calm down ok?" Dmitri said as he unzipped the bag, showing off many folds of medical equipment. "S.T.O.M.P." he heard the cat read off of the weathered bag's title. Dmitri looked up at the dog, who had stopped panicking and calmed himself. Along with the I.V., Dmitri took out a collapsible stand for it. The dog coughed and watched amazed at what he saw, the metal of the stand still gleamed in the room's dim light. "C'mere" Dmitri said as he motioned with his hand for the dog to come closer. The dog hesitantly approached inch by inch. "Look, I'm not going to hurt you, if I wanted to I probably would have by now, right? So just come over here." Dmitri said in calmly, easing the dogs worry. Dmitri held the dog's paw in his hand as he inserted the needle. As a few wordless minutes passed the newly drugged dog fell into a sleep. "So what does he have?" asked Dmitri breaking the silence as he pointed to the I.V. "What do you mean?" replied the cat who had been silent up until now. "The meds are for sicknesses like the flu or something, and they only appear to help him slightly, so what does he have?" he asked sounding slightly worried as he spoke. The feline glanced around shyly. "He's not sick." She admitted cowering, expecting him to lash out at the waste of valuable medicinal supplies. Instead he just stood, walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder and sighed. "What happened then? I need to know in order to take care of your friend ok?" he asked as he retrieved the drip from the now sleeping dog. "He kinda got…. Shot…. Twice." She said as tears returned to her eyes. "It was MY entire fault it happened." She sobbed quietly. She saw the man's eye widen as he threw the covers off of the bed exposing a bandage covered body and multiple bloodstains on the sheets of the dusty bed. She watched as the man who she had meet literally minutes ago, removed her friends bloodstained bandages, opened his bag and retrieved a pair of a scissor-like tool. "What are you doing!" asked the newly wakened mutt with fear in his eyes as he struggled. "Listen, and I need you to answer truthfully, did you take out the bullets after you got shot?" Dmitri asked as he held the squirming dog to the old bed. "No I just passed out!" he yelled back. "Listen I'm going to take them out now ok? It's going to hurt but it is necessary, now bite down on this." Dmitri said as he handed a tongue depressor to the dog. "Hey, can you come over here and help me hold him down? Sorry I didn't catch your names." He said as he injected a small amount of morphine into the dogs forearm. "I'm Grape and this is Peanut." She voiced feebly. He nodded in knowing who they are telling someone your name these days was a sign of trust. "Well Peanut" Dmitri said as he held the Jake clamps* aloft "close your eyes." Peanut complied hesitantly, and grape held his hand in hers as she saw the operation. Dmitri slowly inserted the clamp into the first bullet wound causing peanut to tense up and squirm in pain. Grape tried to sooth him with comforting words, and it worked, until the clamps opened to seize the round. "HMMHFFH!" Peanut's muffled cry was followed by the snapping of the tongue depressor. "GODDAMMIT THAT HURTS!" yelled Peanut as he writhed against the bed. Dmitri quickly removed the bullet before Peanut could cause the clamps to rip the wound further. "Grape here give him this." Dmitri said as he held out a small flask "it will help him calm." Grape complied as she lifted the flask to Peanut's lips. He drank greedily not knowing what the liquid was. All he needed to know was that it would ease the pain. Within a few seconds peanut had turned loopy and laughed rather than curse at the pain of the second removal. Dmitri cleaned the wounds thoroughly and rebandaged the wounds with sterile gauze. As Dmitri looked up he saw a rather strange sight. The drunk Peanut cupped Grape's face in his hands as he giggled lightly as he said "hey, hey Grape, listen." He tilted her head so he could speak into her ear still chuckling. "I… love you Grape" he said, just audible enough for Dmitri to hear. Peanut leaned over and kissed her cheek before passing out over the side of the bed. She looked up to see a staring Dmitri, and her face turned red enough for it to be visible beyond her shade of purple before sprinting out of the room. Dmitri straightened up Peanut in is bed and reconfigured the stand with morphine this time. It was dark out by the time he was done setting up Peanut. He closed the door to the room quietly. He made his way outside, seeing a ladder against the wall by the splintered porch, he climbed to see if it would have given him a vantage point. As his head peeped over the edge of the roof he spotted Grape. She was lying on her back looking towards the stars. Dmitri crept beside her without her even knowing. The strike of his lighter gave away his position. "Gah! What the f-!" she looked up to see who it was stopping herself midsentence. "Oh it's you." She said blushing visibly in the moonlight. He took a long draw from the cigarette in his left hand. "What happened back there?" he asked as he exhaled his smoke into the night."Thank you for helping Peanut and all but I don't feel the need to discuss my personal stuff with a person who's name I don't know" she said in a rather ungrateful tone. He exhaled more smoke before speaking again."You remind me of another female cat I knew. She was pink, close to your size, and she was of the same behavior, she was scared but only when she was alone like you. She liked a grey cat, a little bit dumber but he watched out like a brother, I found them in a situation like yours. Difference was that SHE was in trouble and he never left her side. There names were Aeris and Leo, I cared for them like children. And by the way this looks… I might be doing the same thing here." He took another draw of his cig. Grape watched him pull what looked like a cell phone from his pocket. "Do you want to talk to them?" he asked with the phone outstretched in his hand. "What are you talking about? The cell phone satellites have been down since day one." She stated. "We made what we could with what we found in an old NASA base, it still works if you want to try it." He said nonchalantly "Here I'll call them" he said as he pressed the call button. It rang once…twice. "Hello? Dem is that you!" "Yeah it's me buddy." Dmitri said into the speaker. Grape couldn't believe what she was seeing, a casual cell phone discussion in the middle of this world, and calmness in a living hell. "Hey buddy, guess what I found?" Dmitri asked Leo through the phone "A new bunch of friends like you guys, 'cept instead of a cat and a cat it's a cat and a dog." "By like us do you mean they like each other like me and Aeris did?"Leo asked playfully."In fact it's almost exactly the same man." Well cool then hey do you want to talk to Aeris? She's playing with Leo the 4th." Leo said with cheer in his voice. "Can't buddy I got to save battery power. But I'll call you next week ok? Tell little Leo uncle Dem says hi." Dmitri hung up the call. He looked down to Grape, who just stared, awestruck. "He likes you, you know that right?" Dmitri said as he gestured toward the floor ignoring her expression at what he did. Grape turned red again remembering what they were talking about earlier "Why did you help us?" She asked eager to change the subject again. He sighed as he crushed his cigarette underfoot. "When the shit hit the fan, I was just getting home from my service in a spec ops unit. My squad all got shipped the same time and day. When we got back we could tell something was bad, nobody in the airport, nobody in the street, just ashes and broken glass. We walked through in the hope of finding someone, hell anyone who could tell us what happened. We did find some people. The wrong kind of people." Grape heard his voice go lower, like he was mad at something. "They were slavers, capture and sell. They must've been making good business. They didn't even hesitate to gun us down. Only me and Jackie made it to cover in an oh so convenient gun store. He was clipped badly on his neck. I remember his last words." Grape seemed to be completely entranced in his story. She felt that he was of some kind of law or military job, maybe even a doctor by what he had. But she saw pain in his eyes as he continued followed by hints of anger. "He said, Dem… I didn't fight… for a country… gone to hell. I remember that he gave me this pistol." Dmitri said "It has his wife's name engraved into the slide. He wanted to say more I know he did but he just… faded away. The last man who I had fought side by side with for eight fucking years, died, right in front of me." He seemed to become saddened at the memory as he pulled out his friend's gun showing the etched name: Claire. "I was reckless, and pissed off more that damn imaginable. I ran from the shop firing down the street like I was crazy. I got one right between the eyes. But apparently another had made his way behind me and cracked me over the head." He pulled back the collar of his shirt to show her a scar from the rifle butt. It was a jagged pattern of tiny diamonds. "Next thing I knew I was being shipped off to Toronto, Canada. The city had been converted to a slave market. That's where I met Aeris and Leo. We were in the same block, and eventually became family, sort of. One day shit went bad at mess. Some guard thought it would be cool to 'have some fun' with Aeris. She wasn't weak by any means, but even the strongest of people can be tranked. I followed the guard who was dragging Aeris through the crowd. He dragged her into an office or something and laid her on a table. He was going to rape her, the sick bastard. But I wasn't about to let that happen." His fist clenched at the thought of what would've happened. "Luck wasn't being too much of a bitch that day. Leo was delivering some sort of package to one of the other blocks. I explained the situation quick as possible. He handed me something from the box he was carrying. A scalpel. We busted in right as he was about to start. Anger filled me to the damn brim, I mean I had practically watched over them as a father rather than a friend, and this was my daughter. I jabbed the scalpel right into the man's eye, but the blade was too short to kill him so I shoved it beyond the blade leaving a shining stub from his skull as he screamed. That day we escaped. We had started a riot among the others who were waiting to be sold. We escaped with a few others, and made it to that old base I told you about. After it all happened I realized that I had done what Jackie wanted. I righted a wrong. Maybe not in America like he wanted but I purified an evil. After a year or so I had gained the courage to come back home. And after another year of wandering around, here we are." He stated. Grape looked up at him with a light haze of confusion on her face. "Why did you tell me this?" She asked trying to be comforting. "You wanted to know why I helped you, so I let you." He said as he held out his hand. She took it and lifted herself off the roof. "Let's go check on your friend" Dmitri suggested as he made his way to the ladder. "Hey! Eer um... I never got your name." Grape said as she followed. He looked over his shoulder with a smile. "Name's Dmitri Vladov, but call me what you want" he said as he continued down the ladder. "Thank you Dmitri." she said quietly as she followed. As they returned to Peanut's room they found that he was no longer asleep. In fact he just gazed out the window worriedly. "What's wrong man?" Dmitri asked as he entered the room. "Nothing sir it's just…" peanut just trailed off. "Hey buddy stop with the sir crap my mil service is done. You can call me Dem, so what were you saying?" Dmitri asked. "They'll be back" peanut said grimly "they'll come to kill me and Grape." Peanut said still looking out the window. "Hey buddy look at me, they might come back but they will never ever hurt you, okay?" Dmitri said as he brandished his AR working the bolt and chambering a round. "I'll make sure of it."