Chapter 5

Fool Me Once…

Clouds blocked the sun's ascent into the morning sky as if refusing to allow light to be shed on the ravaged world below. Every nation around the globe had been infested with the strange phenomenon of the dead returning to life with a hunger for living flesh. Driven by nothing but the urge to feed and the reaction to sound these strange creatures swarmed as hordes over the land killing everything they came in contact with.

But for a short time none of this mattered in a small condemned building in central Japan. Not to a man who had awoken holding a woman he believed more beautiful than any sunrise. To him the only thing that mattered was keeping her safe and finding a more permanent solution to their living conditions, together or apart.

Looking down at the mess of indigo hair resting against his bare chest Ryker couldn't help but smile. He had gambled big the other night, risking everything with that kiss, but in the end it had been worth it. After their kiss, that time-stopping kiss that made him forget they were survivors in an apocalypse, they had simply lain down and went to sleep. Saeko had been less shy about nestling against him and he had been more than happy to receive her.

Brushing her hair from her face Ryker held back a chuckle at the bit of drool trailing down her chin. For being such a tough girl she was almost too adorable when she slept. When she adjusted against him a blush filled his cheeks as he felt her barely covered breasts pressing against him. Somehow he wasn't sure he'd ever get used to someone so gorgeous being so exposed.

"Is it morning?" A muffled voice whispered, causing Ryker to tense at the feel of hot breath on his skin.

"It is morning Saeko-chan." He smiled down at her as her sapphire eyes rose to meet his; the dazed look of fighting back the haze of sleep still occupying them. Reaching down with his left hand, his right arm busy supporting his weight, he gently wiped the saliva from the corner of her mouth with a thumb. "Though the sun is behind clouds, it is a beautiful morning indeed."

Blushing at his action and his compliment, Saeko continued to look into his soft brown eyes. She wasn't sure why but she found such comfort in them as if without speaking a word he was assuring her everything would be okay. "How long have you been up?" She propped up on her left side, facing him as she stretched languidly.

As he struggled to keep his eyes on her face when the blanket fell, Ryker realized she was teasing him. "Not long, I just couldn't wake you when you were sleeping so peacefully. Besides, it's not like we're going to be late for anything." He offered a smile before turning to pull a fresh pair of socks on.

Feeling a sudden soft pressure against his back, Ryker froze mid-pull of his second sock. A soft voice whispered in his ear and sending chills down his spine enough to ripple his arms with goose bumps. "Then what's your hurry to get out of bed Ry-kun?"As she said his name it almost purred out of her lips.

Ryker felt his face heat up and found that though his mouth worked, sound was not produced. Turning to face Saeko he placed both hands on her shoulders, gently caressing down them causing her to shiver at his touch. Both of their breaths were coming out in short pants and the room felt significantly warmer than it had moments ago.

Saeko ran a hand down Ryker's chest, feeling every ripple and groove; he was not a very large man but he certainly took care of his body. Biting her bottom lip she let her hand trail down to his naval, slowly grazing her nails across the skin as she continued her descent while at the same time leaning towards him.

"Saeko-chan…" Ryker barely managed to breathe out her name, their lips a breath apart and her hand grasping at the waistband of his boxers. His hands had slid to her sides, his thumbs tracing the bottom ridge of her barely contained bra.

A child's scream in the distance froze them both. At her second scream Ryker was already on his feet, pulling on jeans and his sneakers in a hurried fashion. He stopped at the window and grabbed something that was attached to the underside of the table.

"Saeko, wait here!"

"But Ryker!"

Rather than respond he lifted the window out and dropped to the ground below. Saeko sat there stunned at how things had shifted so many times in so few seconds. She was not happy with the interruption and even less happy that he had taken off on his own. 'Why did that girl's voice sound so familiar? I guess all children screaming would sound the same. Unless…' She gasped and ran over to the window, seeing Ryker had already disappeared down the street. He was headed right for the trap that she had fallen victim to just the other day.

"It's okay little girl, just let go and I'll catch you!"

Korone looked down at the middle-aged man and let go, landing softly in his arms. He wore a simple gray hooded sweatshirt and jeans. "Thank you mister! The scary monsters are everywhere!"

The man smiled at the small girl and began walking down the road as she directed him in attempt to find her parents. He was an ordinary man who had somehow managed to survive the initial onset of the violence by holing himself up in his basement. However when food ran short he knew he needed to get out and find what he could salvage. Within minutes he had heard a little girl's scream from nearby and ran to the sound.

As they approached an intersection a single shot rang out causing the man to stumble back before falling lifeless to the pavement. A single red spot appeared on his chest before it consumed his shirt as his severed aorta pumped blood into the fabric and out onto the street.

"Takagi! We were supposed to talk to him first!" came an angry female voice.

The man holding the still smoking revolver smirked and took a drag of his cigar. "Whatever. He looked too weak to be worth recruiting. Dano, go check him for cash or valuables."

As the smaller man obediently ran over to the body and knelt beside it, Korone already back by her mother's side, he looked up in frustration. "The guy's got nothin' boss! Just some cheap watch. Not even a ring or a wallet!"

Takagi took another puff of his cigar and shrugged. "Mitsuno just radioed in a moment ago. Apparently our little bait managed to score another individual. He claims it to be an American boy and in good shape. We might be able to find use for him if he's not too headstrong. Regardless, Dano set up behind the car and be ready in case he tries anything."

Two days. It had been two days since they had split up and gone with Saya's mother while Saeko had run off on her own. Was she still alive? Was she hurt? Did she have somewhere she was hiding out safely? Had she run into more survivors?

Takashi sighed and rubbed his face as if trying to generate the answers to his questions. Looking over at Rei's napping form he couldn't help but smile. It had been a long day. He had gotten into it with both Saya and Kohta and even argued with a group of Takagi's men about Kohta keeping the weapons he had possessed. It was amazing to him how so much could occur in a single day.

Since that day when Saya's mother had rescued them Takashi had spent a lot of time thinking about everything; some about the dead returning to life but the majority about what he should do about Rei. Since that night in the apartment she had, well, changed. Her attitude towards him had been far more pleasant and she seemed to never want to be away from him for long.

He knew she was still reeling from everything that had happened before but when she declared that she loved him and was truly morose about hurting him it had struck a chord deep within his heart. 'Am I still in love with her? I think I am but it's so hard to tell with so much going on right now. Maybe it's worth giving a shot…"

His thoughts trailed off as Rei woke beside him with a yawn and a stretch. It was mid-afternoon but time really didn't matter anymore. As it was he would have let her sleep as long as she wanted; her back injury still not fully healed from her tumble.

Looking over as the groggy brunette rubbed her eyes Takashi still wasn't quite sure on how he felt. What he was sure of though, was the fact he was going to give her a chance. What's the worst that could happen?

Ryker rounded the corner in full sprint, his eyes scanning the buildings as he ran in search for the child he heard. He knew it was reckless to run out here without a plan and straight foolish to attempt to be out here helping someone else but what could he do? A father's drive is an impossible thing to overcome.

As he rounded another street he saw a little girl sitting in the middle of the street in tears. Coming to a halt almost a hundred meters away he ducked behind a burned-out car. 'This doesn't make sense. She screamed as if in danger and now she's sitting in the street alone? If nothing else those things should have been attracted to the sound. Something is wrong.'

Looking up at the buildings Ryker caught a puff of smoke come from a second story across the street. Looking to the street level below, a dozen or more cigarette butts littered the ground. 'A look-out? What is going on here?'

Dropping to all fours he felt his vision double, his head pounding and his mouth suddenly dry. All he could taste was… sand?

"Belmont! Stop fucking off and pay the hell attention!"

Rolling his eyes Ryker turned down his iPod and looked over at the livid solider beside him as they bounced down the pathetic excuse for a road they were on. "I get it Evans calm down. We go in, evaluate their wounded and we go. No different than any other time we deal with these dirt bag civilians."

Specialist Renee Evans scowled at the man addressing her. "Listen up Belmont, I get it. You don't like the people here. We don't have a choice though, you know the mission!"

Ryker shrugged. "I still say this is a waste of our time and money. Just let the animals kill each other off and allow them to rot in their filthy country. We've lost too damn many soldiers here already and I'll be damned if I let them take you too. Renee." Using her first name, his tone softens to an affectionate level. "I've lost enough friends here. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you too."

Opening her mouth to protest, Renee can't hide the blush that crosses her face as the gunner looks down and smirks at them both. "Don't try and butter me up now Belmont, I'm still mad at you after last time."

Raising his arms in defense Ryker smiles at her disarmingly. "Renee, I had a jump at 0400 hours. I had to leave and I didn't want to wake you!"

Renee slapped his shoulder, the dapper plate from his IOTV absorbing the impact. "Do you have to talk about it so openly?!"

With a laugh Ryker winked. "I have nothing to hide; I'm more than happy to share my adoration for you to the whole unit."

Renee looked out the window, pretending to fume but having a smile etched on her face. He was certainly a wonderful man both in and out of uniform. They had been 'dating' for a few months on their deployment together in Afghanistan. Every mission she went on, he had volunteered to assist and turning down a decorated medic with the training he had was rarely refused.

They rolled into the village of their destination as a convoy of eleven vehicles. Four of the trucks were gun trucks, specialized in defending the convoy and three were medical, the rest were for supplies and fuel. It had been a long drive but uneventful. Most of the soldiers had relaxed in their seats, catching naps or reading books.

Ryker on the other-hand held no trust for the people they were sent to assist. Though he listened to music on the ride his eyes were always out the window scouting for inconsistencies. As they pulled onto the main road Ryker caught a glimpse of light reflecting from a high window on a nearby building. As he craned his neck he noticed a pile of cigarette butts at the base of the building.

With wide eyes Ryker snapped back to facing the front. "AMBUSH!"

No sooner had he screamed the word than an audible 'crack!' was heard and their gunner dropped lifelessly into the vehicle. The driver, panicking, hit the gas in an attempt to get out of the kill zone. Ryker's eyes met with Renee's but before he could speak he felt the weight of the vehicle suddenly shift as if the ground below it was not the same as before.

'Oh fuck…'

The thought barely had time to register before the charge buried beneath the street detonated with a thunderous explosion, ripping the MRAP clean in half. Pieces were thrown like children's toys and more explosions were heard as the other vehicles took rocket fire and hit IED's of their own.

Blinking through the blood running down his face Ryker rolled his head to the side in search of Renee. The ringing in his ears blocked out all other sound and all he could see were the local soldiers approaching. 'So much for training them to work alongside us…'

Saeko turned down the street cautiously and saw Ryker kneeling beside a vehicle but something was wrong; he appeared to be talking to himself as he stared at the ground before him. Approaching him slowly a voice called out from above.

"Don't even think about moving girlie."

Mentally kicking herself for her carelessness, Saeko scanned the buildings and saw a man pointing a rifle at her from the second story. If she could just get behind cover…

"Hey Mitsuno!" Another voice that Saeko recognized as the bald man from the day before, Takagi. "I thought you said it was a guy? Are you both blind AND retarded?" Squinting at the indigo-haired girl less than a hundred meters away his eyes widened in surprise. "Shit, it's you! Thought you were dead!" He smirked. "Don't worry, we won't kill ya. But you need to come with us this time or Mitsuno is going to have to waste ya."

As he spoke three other of the members stepped out near him and slowly made their way towards her, guns in hand. With a glare she slid her hand along her katana, more than prepared to fight. 'They haven't noticed Ryker yet, what's wrong with him?' Her eyes inadvertently flicked over to the man who was shaking his head as if trying to regain his senses.

One of the men followed her gaze and made his way for the car causing Saeko to flinch. 'Dammit, if I yell the guy in the window will shoot him the second he stands up. I'll have to get his attention somehow.' Standing tall she called out loudly despite the quiet road in an attempt to break Ryker free of whatever was plaguing him. "Whoever tries to touch me loses their arm. You'd be better off killing me than ever thinking I'd belong to any of you."

With a heavy sigh Takagi shrugged. "Fine. I'm done dealing with this little bitch. Someone shoot her already."

A shot rang out causing Saeko to close her eyes tightly but no pain followed. Hearing a body hit the ground she looked over towards Ryker just as another two shots rang out in quick succession. The man in the building fell from the window to the street.

Ryker was kneeling beside the car and using the hood for a base as he fired off two more rounds catching a third man in the chest twice. Beside him was the body of the man who had gone to investigate Saeko's gaze and had met the end of an M9 in a bad way as he looked over the trunk.

It was a gunfight now. Bullets were peppering the side of the vehicle Ryker was behind but his face was an absolute calm as he sat down, resting his back against the car between the front door and the front tire. He knew the engine block was far more reliable to stop the bullets than the cheap fiberglass doors. He dropped into the prone and aimed a shot at a nearby thug's crotch, the highest point he could see at his angle and fired a round, followed by a second into the man's chest as he fell.

Saeko had not remained motionless for long once the shots rang out and was now leaning against an alleyway entrance watching the firefight with a mixture of interest and fear. All it would take is one stray bullet to end Ryker's heroics. A shadow behind him caught her attention as he knelt down, facing the brunt of the group again and firing shot after shot in slow but precise succession.

Seeing the man creeping up on Ryker, Saeko sprang into action and sprinted down the sidewalk heedless of the bullets flying in her general direction; some close enough to allow her to hear the whistle they produced. Drawing her katana with practiced ease she slid under a broken storefront sign and brought the weapon up with a mixture of power and finesse.

The result was more than she could have hoped for out of the ancient blade. Blood sprayed the car beside Ryker as the katana scythed through the man from his hip to opposing shoulder; the sound of the separated pieces striking the ground almost as sickening as it was invigorating. Almost.

Ryker spun and looked Saeko in the eyes with a calm expression as if they weren't in the middle of a firefight. Saeko realized however that though he was looking at her, he was not seeing her. "Thanks for the assist Renee." He smiled brightly, his eyes shining. "Now stay put, I can't worry about both of us."

With that he turned and sprinted from behind the car towards a vehicle across the street where he slid behind it with surprising grace. 'Renee? Who the hell is Renee? Did he not recognize me?'

Saeko peeked out from the car to see that most of the thugs had run away with only two remaining pinning Ryker down at the second vehicle. 'Well,' she thought to herself with a smile, her blood still racing from the previous kill. 'He told Renee to say, he never said anything about me.'

Ducking into the alley beside her Saeko ran down the side of the building until she was behind the two unaware gunmen. It wasn't a short distance to them but she was confident that she could handle them. Crouching low and moving silently Saeko crept up behind the two men as close as she could behind cover. 'Damn, still too far. Oh well, what's the fun if there's no danger?'

As soon as the first man stopped to reload Saeko darted from the cover and lunged forward with her katana, aiming to sever the man's head with a single swipe. The man elicited a half-gasp before his head separated from his body and landed on the hood of the vehicle he was using as cover. The other man spun, weapon raised but managed only a gurgle as blood filled his lungs from a bullet to the back.

Ryker ran over to her causing Saeko to gasp at the sight of him in just his jeans and sneakers. She had never seen him without a shirt in a well-lit situation before and now that she did she noticed numerous scars across his chest and abdomen. None were unattractive, in fact to Saeko they were the opposite, but they definitely looked to have a story behind them.

Standing before her, eyes filled with concern, Ryker took her chin and inspected her. "Renee, I told you to stay put. Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

Feeling a blush rising but more from frustration than embarrassment, Saeko slapped Ryker. Whether it was to gather his wits or out of anger at being called the wrong name, she didn't bother considering. "Ryker-san! It's me Saeko!"

Blinking in confusion and finally focusing on Saeko's face a smile appeared on his own, relief showing in his features. "Saeko-chan…"

Saeko crossed her arms under her breasts and looked away with a huff. "About time you recognized me. And you ran off without me! Again! I was trying to warn you it was a trap!"

Stepping intimately close, Ryker waited for her to meet his eyes before offering a warm smile that chipped at her defenses. "I know Saeko-chan. I promise I will never leave you behind again."

Blushing at their proximity Saeko felt her lips pull into a smile, unable to resist returning his. "You're lucky I was here to save you. Next time you might not mmph!" The rest of her sentence was cut off as Ryker's lips pressed to hers, his arms sweeping her up into a tight embrace.

Star-filled seconds later Saeko gasped in a breath as their kiss ended. "Let's head back." She scowled at him playfully. "And you can't always smooth things over with a kiss."

With a shrug Ryker placed an arm around her waist. "I can think of other things to do with my mouth that might dampen your anger towards me." Saeko missed a step.

Author's Note

Longest chapter of my writing career! I just wanted to keep going… but I don't want to cram too much into one happening!

Sorry for the delay but this took FIVE sessions to write. It's been a hard week for inspiration. I proofed it but due to length I may have missed something due to some skimming. Feel free to PM me corrections. Most IMPORTANTLY read and review! Reviews make these delays much shorter, honest!

There will be questions so I'll answer what I can!

First as of last chapter:

PandaTrueno86: This is going to heavily focus on Saeko/OC but, as you saw above, I will have the others still exist. As for the meeting up, I have much planned for that!


To pre-empt a "Ryker went from bashful to forward!" well yeah, he's emotionally evolving with Saeko. That and it was ambiguous and possibly jesting! You'll have to read next chapter to find out! *gasp*

And I promise more Takashi and Rei, this was a "taste" to show where we are in the HOTD timeline.

Now for some vocab!

MRAP: Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (Vehicle). It's a the primary vehicle US Army uses over here(Afghanistan) to withstand most IED's but even it is not impenetrable.

IED: Improvised Explosive Device. Things that go boom.

IOTV: Improved Outer Tactical Vest. U.S. Army body armor.

M9: Beretta M9 is standard issue U.S. Army pistol that fires a 9mm round. Highly accurate but not much power.