Chapter 12

When it Rains, it Pours

The moon was high in the sky when Ryker took over his watch. Rei shook her head as the obviously still injured American laboriously lifted himself onto the waist-high platform.

"Ryker-san, there are plenty of us to cover the shifts. Why not get some rest and heal up?"

Ryker smiled at the brunette. "I use my time out here to unwind a bit. The fresh air is good for me." He looked off into the night sky a moment before continuing. "Besides, I can't sleep. My shoulder is killing me. The pain killers aren't even touching the pain."

Rei offered a small smile. He was still hiding the real pain he felt; the shoulder definitely wasn't the only thing keeping him up. 'Why do you keep yourself so guarded Ryker-san? What terrible pain are you enduring alone?' She knew better than to press but still wished to reaffirm her previous offer. "Whatever you say Ryker-san. Just remember that there are those of us who are willing to share your burdens." With that, she disappeared into the building leaving Ryker to his thoughts.

Alice woke with a start; the dark surroundings looking unfamiliar and desolate in her barely conscious state. As her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the garage, her panic subsided and she remembered having fallen asleep beside the truck rather than inside it. A yawn and a stretch later, she was on her feet with Zeke in tow. The small dog had truly accepted the girl and the two had a deep connection; at times it seemed like Alice could actually understand the dog's desires.

"What do you think Zeke, shall we go check on Ryker-san?" She whispered quietly to her canine companion. His enthusiastic tail wag and wide eyes told her all she needed to know.

As she neared the door she heard a male voice. "Someone must be outside with him!" She reasoned to Zeke as she leaned against the door to better hear. "Keep watch Zeke!" A tail wag and head tilt was the response she received.

"I should have done more to keep you safe Renee. Been more alert and seen the ambush sooner; not let you out on the mission in the first place. I should have done more. Been more."

Alice frowned. Who was this Renee and why was Ryker talking in English? Before she could contemplate further, he spoke again.

"I've tried to come to you Renee. I've tried so many times to take a mission that would be the end of it. But every single time I pulled through no worse for the wear. I swear, where I failed to protect you, you manage to do it better for me from beyond this world."

A tear fell down Alice's cheek. She was too young to fully grasp the meaning in what Ryker was talking about but she knew he was in terrible pain. Pain from loss. Pain from the loss of someone he cared very deeply for. She jumped at the feeling of a hand gently squeezing her shoulder and spun quickly.

"Go back to bed Alice-chan. I'll go talk with him." Saya smiled at the young girl and tousled her hair. "You need to be up early enough to help with breakfast tomorrow."

With a nod, Alice scooped up Zeke and began making her way back to the truck before turning back with a somber look. "Make sure Ryker-san is okay. Please Takagi-san? He sounds lost." With that, she turned back and made her way over to the truck to try and rest a bit more before sunrise.

'That girl is definitely wise beyond her years.' Shaking her head, Saya stepped outside and quietly closed the door before heading over to Ryker's perch. He was sitting on the railing of the raised ledge with his back braced against a concrete pillar; this spot gave him an excellent view of the street in both directions.

"Good morning Saya-chan. Was your rest pleasant?"

She smiled and hopped up the ledge to sit on the rail so that she faced him, her back to the street. "You have pretty good hearing Ryker-kun. I always thought soldiers were basically deaf after war." Surprisingly, Ryker laughed. It was a pleasant laugh that caused Saya to breathe a bit deeper. 'What is this nonsense?'

With a smile taking over his face, Ryker shook his head. "I'm not too deaf despite a few vehicle flips and some hefty explosions but even if I were I'd know you were coming." Her confused expression almost caused him to laugh a second time but he explained with a smile instead. "I could smell you. The perfume you wear is incredibly distinct. It amazes me that despite the world being in complete apocalyptic chaos, you girls still manage to stay fresh and beautiful."

Saya looked away as crimson spread across her face. "You're a flatterer. What is it you wanted me out here for again?"

Smirking, Ryker leaned forward and rested an arm on his bent knee. "I wanted to offer you some lessons. I'm nowhere near as martially adept as Saeko-chan but I can teach you enough to defend yourself from these things. There is already ideas around of everyone working together to learn weapon use but I wanted to set some time aside to teach you some throws and the like."

She looked back at him in disbelief. "You seriously think I'd want to learn such a thing? And from you?"

Ryker bit back a remark he was sure would get him in trouble with the fiery pink-haired teenager. "I know that I won't always be right there to protect you. There may come times when we are in separate groups or I simply am no longer around at all. Let me teach you so that I can be comforted in the thought that you will be fine even without me."

His last words hit her like a fist to the stomach and her hand unconsciously brushed against the Luger her mother had given her. "Don't be a fool. You're not going anywhere." She scowled at him a moment but his gentle smile melted it away. "Fine. You can teach me. But no one else can know, I won't be embarrassed by this!" She looked away towards the now-rising sun. 'Besides, I don't need Busujima breathing down my neck.'

"Good. We'll start tomorrow morning when third shift would begin. This will give you time to clean up afterward and no one will ever be the wiser." He winked. "Until you actually dispatch one yourself that is."

The scowl returned but a smile was hiding behind it as she flipped her hair back and stood up. "I'm going back to bed. Don't fall asleep and get us all killed or anything." With that she spun on her heel and walked back inside.

"You're an odd one Saya-chan but I keep my promises; you'll survive this."

Saeko eyed the pink-haired girl who crept in the door just as the sun was rising. What was she doing out there? Was she simply out for some fresh air? To pee? To stretch her legs? No. Saeko knew. 'She was out there with Ryker.'

Crossing her arms, she scowled at the door for a few moments before shaking her head in disbelief. 'Why am I acting like this? I'm treating this like he's my property. Just because we... That doesn't mean he's mine and mine alone. I need to relax.' She let out a long sigh. What was it about him that made her every thought overwhelmed?

With the sun fully in the sky and everyone awake and fed, Takashi pulled Ryker aside to discuss the plans for the day.

"Ryker-san, with this note we have a chance to meet up with our families. If you're not able to go I fully underst-"

Ryker interrupted Takashi by raising a hand. "I am more than mission capable Takashi. My shoulder is in fine enough form and the ribs will heal naturally. The more I move around, the less atrophy I'll end up with."

Swallowing hard, Takashi nodded. He was definitely intimidated by the larger American and the harsh tone he had responded with took him aback. "Of course Ryker-san. I meant no disrespect. I simply wanted you to know that we'd not hold it against you. We definitely would appreciate you being there."

"I understand Takashi. I'm ready."

Takashi smiled. "Good. Let's get the group together and figure out a plan."

As the group got together and discussed the situation and some possible strategies, Saeko couldn't focus on the task at all. Her thoughts were clouded by Ryker and she wanted nothing more than some time with him. It seemed, however, that no matter how she tried she couldn't get his attention. He remained focused on Takashi and working on the plan for the day. 'He is so focused on this. No wonder he was such a great soldier. I wonder what other things he's done for missions? I wish he'd focus on me this much.' Saeko shook the thought from her head violently; annoyed it had made its way in. When she looked up she noticed Takashi had stopped talking and was looking at her quizzically. Ryker too was eying her but with much more curiosity.

"You okay Saeko-san?"

She nodded at Takashi and flipped her hair from her face. "I'm fine. Continue."

Takashi returned to describing the route they would take but Ryker's eyes remained firmly fixed on Saeko. Her eyes locked with his and she maintained his gaze for a few moments before having to look away; a deep blush burning her cheeks. 'How does he do it? With just a look I feel as though I lose all control.'

Ryker smirked and returned his focus to Takashi; for being a high school student the kid was pretty smart. It was definitely impressive at how adaptable the teenagers around him had been in such an incredible situation. So many people both older and more versed in the world had fallen pray to animalistic behavior focusing only on survival with no regard to others. Even law enforcement and military had abandoned most areas in hopes to save their own lives or those of their families. That a group of high school kids who some barely even knew each other prior to the event formed together and fought as a unit was a great testament to their character.

"So the plan is basically to get out to this supposed haven and try to reconnect with your and Rei's families right?" Saeko raised an eyebrow. "What do we do from there? We have seen what happens when we try and assimilate into a larger group."

Rei shuddered. Saeko was obviously referring to their run in with that dirtbag professor."We can't assume every group would have such problems Saeko-san." She turned to Takashi. "I think we should leave the Humvee here and travel on foot to avoid any excess noise. The last thing we want to do is draw attention from them while covering such a large distance. I think we'll have to reserve judgment on whether or not we join with the survivors, should we find any, until after we arrive and assess the situation."

Ryker smiled and nodded. Smart indeed. "I agree completely Rei-chan. The vehicle is unnecessarily loud and the travel isn't that terrible on foot. The survivors, should we find them, might not be so receptive of us maintaining any kind of solidarity."

A snort came from the back. Saya shook her head. "The last time we dealt with adults, even though they were people who worked for my parents, we were treated like imbeciles. No one took us seriously and no one was willing to let us be our own charges. They even tried to confiscate our weapons. Were it not for that fat otaku over there," she gestured at Kohta. "We'd be weaponless at this point."

Ryker nodded but kept silent. In the same situation he might have acted similarly; without seeing them in action the idea of a group of teenagers out on their own seemed mad. 'These are far from typical teenagers.' He thought to himself. Maybe this trip would reunite them with family but what would happen then?

Takashi opened his mouth to speak but a crash of thunder loud enough to make half the group flinch interrupted him. Immediately after, the sound of torrential rain overwhelmed any attempt at speech. The parking garage, while fortified, had a metal roof so the sound was deafening. He gestured to the Humvee and everyone clambered inside; Miss Shizuka and Kohta in the front, Ryker, Takashi, Saya and Rei in the back and Saeko sitting in the middle of the group under the gunner's port. Alice clambered in and sat on Ryker's lap, causing him to tense but her attention was focused on Zeke. Rei, however, noticed his discomfort and reached out to Alice.

"Alice-chan, would you mind sitting with me? I don't like thunderstorms." Her voice was barely audible over the rain despite being in the nearly sound-proof vehicle.

Looking up at Ryker, who nodded with a terse smile, Alice made her way over to Rei's lap on the opposite side of the vehicle and plopped down.

Takashi cleared his throat before speaking loudly. "A little rain isn't going to stop us from reconnecting with our families and more survivors!" A door opening interrupted him as Ryker abruptly got out and closed the door behind him. Not knowing why the American had stepped out, Takashi continued. "It's only a handful of kilometers to the site and we can easily make it there. Who knows? The rain might even be enough to drown out any sounds we make along the way. With luck-"

He was cut off as the door swung open and Ryker leaned in. He held out a canteen to Hayashi. "Smell this." Takashi's coughing fit was point enough. "It's acid rain. Whether it be from the nuclear blast or from the numerous toxins that remain burning day in and day out throughout the city I'm not sure. What I do know is we cannot spend significant time out in it. Especially without knowing its cause."

Takashi's face fell. Would he ever get to see his family again? "We're so close. We actually know where they might be and we're stuck here."

Ryker shook his head. "You have the Humvee."

"But there's no way everyone will fit."

"So you don't take everyone. You take a few and leave some here." Ryker nodded at Alice. "There's no reason she needs to go. If you drive, you only need to take enough for reconnaissance. The threat from them is far less in the vehicle so perhaps just you, me, Kohta, and Miss Shizuka."

Saeko crossed her arms. "You're too injured to go anywhere. Especially when you yourself just said it was not a manpower heavy mission."

"I agree." Takashi gestured to Kohta. "Hirano is more than capable with a weapon and with Miss Shizuka driving, I can help as well. We'll be fine. It's just to scout."

Before Ryker could argue, Miss Shizuka spoke up. "That sounds wonderful. I'll get my stuff together!"

As everyone got out of the vehicle, Saeko grabbed Ryker's arm and held him still until they were the last two inside. "I understand that you feel the need to be out there doing everything but you need to rest up or it'll catch up with you. For being so smart you sure can be dumb about things like this."

His expression was without emotion as his eyes searched hers for a few moments, causing her to shift uncomfortably. Finally, a smile broke across his face. "You just want me to stay here with you, Saeko-chan."

A blush spread down Saeko's neck. "I just don't want you hurt any further. You fell out of a window! You could have died!" She struck his uninjured shoulder. "You need to be more careful if you intend to keep your promi-"

Ryker's lips ended her sentence mid-word. A soft sigh escaped her as he pulled her over onto his lap and held her close. It was the first time they had been alone together in what felt like forever. He ran the fingers of his free hand through her long, silken hair, eliciting a quiet whimper from the quivering girl. In this brief moment, the sound of the rain was drowned out by the pounding of their hearts in their ears and the blood rushing through their veins. All too soon however the kiss ended; the rain thundering on the roof and their torrid breathing the only audio. Words were not needed. There was obviously a connection.

Saeko looked into the soft brown eyes of the man before her before slipping out of the Humvee to join the others. 'But what kind of connection?'

"I'm not lost!" Miss Shizuka yelped out as she turned down yet another nondescript street. "I just um... don't really know where I am."

Kohta leaned into the front of the Humvee from his seat in the back. "That's the exact definition of lost Miss Shizuka! Not knowing where you are!" It wasn't as much that he was annoyed with the situation of being lost. In fact, he enjoyed being out of the garage and the idea of finding more survivors. However, he wanted to get back to Asami as quickly as possible. She was just perfect and their conversations had truly brought up his overall spirits. Especially with Saya having rebuked him time and again.

"It's not a big deal Hirano." Takashi looked over at his manic driver. "Turn left up ahead Miss Shizuka. I think we're on the right route. If so, we should see some signs of a camp or something any minute n-"

"Turn right!" Kohta nearly screamed the command as his eyes grew as big as saucers.

Turning sharply, Miss Shizuka and Takashi joined Kohta in wide-eyed amazement. There was indeed a settlement on the outlying edge of the city. Giant barricades had been constructed with razor-wire lining the tops. Spotlights flickered across the area; the power was obviously low or restricted. A light suddenly flooded the vehicle as two spotlights intersected on their location. Men in body armor waved them forward from a small gap in the barricade; a makeshift gate. As they pulled up Takashi cracked the window, and immediately recognized the local police department uniform on the tired, but smiling men.

"Welcome to New Haven. We don't have much but we'll do our best to find you a dry bed. Just don't cause any trouble. We don't have the time or the resources for that and we'd have to ask you to leave." The officer smiled and waved his flashlight forward as Takashi nodded dumbly, overwhelmed by the situation. The sight up ahead further took the breath from the group.

There were hundreds, possibly thousands of people within the giant hangar-shaped structure. Cots were lined up row after row. There was an area for eating set to one side and a sectioned off area seemed probable for sanitation purposes.

Takashi looked over at the other two with a wide smile. While his hope for finding his and Rei's parents had increased, he was more uplifted by the sight of so many living people all together. It seemed like a dream. "Let's look around. I'm sure if my parents or Rei's are here, we'll find them."

The other two nodded, still in shock of the situation. It seemed like things might turn around after all.

Ryker grunted as the make-shift staff struck his stomach and before he could even react struck along the back of his left thigh causing him to stumble forwards. He narrowly dodged a thrust aimed at his head and jumped a low sweep before striking out with his own make-shift staff. Sweat held his white shirt tightly to his body; a stark contrast to the black jeans he wore.

"Are you sure you're up for this Ryker-san?" Rei sidestepped his swing and struck his uninjured shoulder before blocking another attack. "Your ribs have barely had any time to hea-" Her words were cut short as he suddenly stepped inside her guard and tripped her with his staff, causing her to land hard on her backside. "You cheated!"

With a laugh, Ryker pulled her back to her feet, ignoring the pain it caused his shoulder. "Fighting is about cheating Rei-chan. You can't go into every fight thinking the opponent will follow the same rules you do." He gestured to the weapon in his hand. "You are vastly superior in skill with this weapon yet I was able to take you down while only sustaining a few acceptable blows. In combat, you'd be dead."

Rei growled as she stood and rubbed her sore hindparts. "I was talking and thought your injuries were still paining you."

"They still hurt plenty Rei-chan, but what good does it do me in a fight to give in to such pain? Your talking distracted you but was not the only reason I bested you. You were not taking our sparring seriously and left a gap in your defense."

Saeko looked on from her bed area. For some reason the strange pangs of jealousy she got from him being near Saya were not as intense around Rei. Maybe it was because of Rei's feelings for Takashi or maybe it was simply from that breathtaking kiss in the Humvee. Her eyes closed as she ran her fingers over her lips. 'Oh Ryker. What I wouldn't give for another night just the two of us.'

"Put your money where your mouth is Ryker-san! I bet you a week of desserts that I can best you this time!" Rei's eyes sparkled with excitement. She loved a good wager.

Ryker nodded. "Come then Rei-chan. Show me what you got."

Saya rolled over to face the two as they began their duel; simple sparring was boring but this could be fun to watch. She sat mesmerized as the two almost danced across the floor in graceful combat. For every strike he attempted, Rei had a defense and a counter. But every time Rei tried to close in, Ryker utilized his superior size and strength to push her back. Occasionally, Rei would sneak a strike past Ryker's guard and connect hard but not once did he show any signs of it. That is, until a rogue strike landed on the left side of his injured ribs. His face paled and the breath went out of him in a rush. Rei started to pull back but knew this was her only chance. With a quick motion she struck Ryker's staff out of his hands and swept his back foot causing him to fall hard on his back. Before he could recover she stood over him with the end of her staff to his chest.

"Got you!" She exclaimed in triumph, her chest heaving and legs quivering. She was both exhausted and exhilarated.

Looking up at his opponent, Ryker's eyes trailed up her long legs to her trembling thighs and stopped there. In a flash of movement, Ryker kicked his legs up and hooked Rei by her waist with a scissor-like grab. As he did this, he gripped the staff in both hands and twisted to his right, throwing off the surprised girl's balance just enough that with a strong flex of his legs toppled her. Before she even hit the ground he was on top of her, one leg pinned under him and the other over his shoulder; the staff gripped in both hands just across her throat. "Got you." He whispered with a smile.

Saya gaped; open mouth and wide eyes at what she just saw. Between the incredible move and their current position, she couldn't help but feel a warmth overcome her.

Looking over as well, Saeko did a double-take. This absolutely did not look like sparring anymore and she no longer felt only a minor pang of jealousy at Rei.

Rei, on the other-hand, was speechless. Her face was bright red in a mixture of embarrassment, the thrill of the duel and something she was not at all expecting from a duel. "Ryker-san..."

"Never let your guard down Rei-chan." Ryker whispered softly before rolling to his side and onto the floor. "I give you credit for your strike and follow-up but you still got careless." He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath. That shot to the ribs had hurt more than he expected. The throw and follow up also taxed him beyond expectations.

"I've never seen someone so big move like that. Was that from the Army or did you learn that here?" She still hadn't moved either; the cold concrete floor feeling soothing on her hot skin.

"I learned it while deployed. The only person who ever beat me taught me it before our last mission." His voice carried sadness but it was difficult to distinguish from the exhaustion. Difficult, but not beyond Rei's perception.

"I suppose I'm dessertless for a while." She giggled. "At least it will help me with maintaining my figure."

Ryker rolled his eyes. When he opened them he saw steely-blue eyes looking down into his. "Saeko-chan. Care to join us? There's plenty of room." He smiled up at her but her lips remained pressed.

Looking down at the two, Saeko crossed her arms over her chest. "Miyamoto. Your skirt."

Rei looked down and realized that the position Ryker had pinned her in had caused her skirt to ride up nearly to her waist. "Oh!" She blushed again and quickly adjusted it before sitting up. "Thank you Saeko-san." She got to her feet and stretched. "I'm going to go outside for a bit. I'll stay under the cover but I need some fresh air. Saya-chan! Come with me. I wanted to talk with you a bit."

Saya got to her feet with a grumble. She had just gotten comfortable but with it being so early still, it likely was best not to doze off and struggle to sleep later. As the two exited the garage, Alice tottered along after them. Besides it giving Zeke a chance to go to the bathroom, she knew exactly why Rei had asked Saya to go outside with her.

"Saeko-chan..." Ryker started to get up but was stopped by a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"That was quite a display there Ry-kun." Saeko's eyes had softened a bit but her voice still betrayed some annoyance.

A small smile began to form on Ryker's lips. "So you liked that did you? If you'd like I can show you how-"

She interrupted him with a slap to the shoulder before kneeling down next to him. "Don't be cute. I can't be mad at you if you're cute."

Propping up on his elbows, a full grin kicked into effect. "Then don't be mad at me."

A sigh of frustration from the usually collected girl caused his smirk to grow; an action not unnoticed. "Do you enjoy riling me up? I swear you put yourself in any situation possible to have me react."

He shrugged. "As much as I find the stoic thing very sexy, I do enjoy seeing your softer side." Sitting up, he suddenly shifted towards her and pressed her back to the ground; his body hovering above hers as he held himself up by both arms, legs relaxed between hers. Her gasp and sudden quickened breathing encouraged him. One arm snaked down between her legs and under her thigh before raising it up, pinning her beneath him as he had pinned Rei sans the staff. Leaning close, he whispered huskily into her ear. "Is this better?"

Saeko bit her lip and hooked her free leg around Ryker's, a soft whine escaping her lips as she struggled to control her rapid breathing. "But the others..."

A firm kiss was her only response as Ryker leaned onto his supporting shoulder and used his now free hand to push her skirt up. Not needing any more incentive than that, Saeko quickly aided in undoing his jeans. Rei had indeed picked a wonderful time to have girl talk with Saya.

Author's Note

So you might all hate me for such a RIDICULOUSLY LONG disappearance. Or you have forgotten and I will have to hope for some new readers. I hope not! I love my readers! I just have been going through SO many transitions... three and a half girlfriends, a job, moving twice, going to college, and of course... more Army nonsense... but I'm back. I won't be as adamant about updating daily but I do promise to make more time for this. I love doing this. I also promise, like I did in Afghanistan and in Mississippi... that if I get some reviews I will DEFINITELY write faster! I need legit motivation.

Especially after this kind of chapter. I've been away SO long that I need some insight. I can absolutely do some rewriting as I did NOT proof this. Tell me about any mistakes, anything that REALLY doesn't add up, etc. Love it hate or like it... review! I'm nervous writing this because I LOVE the previous chapters and this one is kinda... not feelin it ya know? Got no zombies but I'm trying to build the plot to be big enough to grow further than just "We met, we hid, we died."

Anyhow... reviews from ages ago!

FrancisVamp0822: I hope you're still around! You are the type of reader I really need to keep me motivated. Hope the wait will be worth it... I'll get this rolling again!

Caet: I'm glad you liked that chapter! Most fun chapter to write EVER! Really. I had to test it. The more times I watched the anime the more I loved Saya. She's also ADORABLE. But more importantly... it was a DREAM! So it was totally okay to go all out with it. I so hope you're still around. You made many chapters spring to life.

Shipping Ry-Sae: Since your name is unlinked... I'm going to sadly assume you vanished. But I will be hopeful! Hopeful you keep reading! Remember, the last big scene was a DREAM! Ryker is a bit torn on what's going on but trust me... he is enamored by Saeko. He is attracted to the others (who wouldn't be?) but he's a strong man. Hope I got some good Saeko-Ryker time in there for ya.

To the rest: Thank you ALL for your reviews! I am so sorry I took such a long break but it was impossible to give ANY quality writing time and I don't want to half-ass this. I admit, I forced some of this chapter but I have a mental plan for ahead. Normally I'd go on and on with the long chapter-type but I want something posted. 1: To see if anyone still reads it. 2: To get some reviews on rights/wrongs.

Thank you guys!

02JULY2014 - Edited for awful typos