Author's note: I spoke WAAAAY too soon about having more frequent updates, as the holidays rolled in and put me behind ALL my projects. Now I'm over here releasing unbeta'd, unfinished chapters to make up for lost time. AAAAAAHHHH! I hate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and, ugh, just the general laziness the holiday season instills in me. Hope you guys are having a good one, I'm sure not.


Voices, panicked and loud, undistinguishable and familiar all the same, echoed throughout Allen's head. Whomever was talking stood over his head; arguing with another, as the two of them together seized his limp body by his underarms and hauled him upwards, jostling him around until he was sitting vertically against a cool, hard surface that he couldn't immediately discern.

His body hurt-that was putting it lightly—from having been used as a punching for a Tank. His skull felt like it had been split open by an axe and his brain craved into with a chainsaw, and the migraine could only feel worse as blood pounded in his ears. His slow but steady heart-rate assured him that he was still alive—though, barely conscious.

The dim, but focused light of the setting sun burned the side of his face, making his skin feel hot and itchy. He shifted uncomfortably, and ended up falling down in what he now knew was the flatbed of a truck, as the vehicle made a sharp turn.

His head rung like a bell, as it impacted and bounced off the tarpaulin. The sheeting barely provided any cushioning from the hard flatbed, Allen quavered, as nausea and pain made him too weak to speak. To notify his fellow survivors that he was conscious, though very much still incapacitated. After his vision stopped swimming; Allen wondered vaguely why the tarp had been laid out in the first place—to keep him from getting blood on the supplies surrounding him, perhaps…

Lying painfully contorted in an imitation of a human pretzel, Allen tried to breathe against the wind tunnel swirling around his face and drawing precious air from his lungs. His cheek scrapped against the rough tarp with every bounce of the vehicle, and his shifted across the flatbed, Allen's senses were assaulted with the smells of the city.

Nauseated for a whole other reason, Allen rolled and tumbled all alone in the flatbed in the back of the pickup. As his head knocked against the rearview window thrice too many times, Allen became resentful of the fact that the two piled in the cab didn't once check up on him. He could die back here, and they wouldn't know, 'cause they were too busy dicking around.

His thoughts swam, as he could've sworn they had just been talking over his head not a moment ago. Allen then tried to muster the energy to at least sit back up, his fingernails scratched against the thin sheets of warped wood stacked beside him, and as soon as the sound met his ears, he paused. Allen almost didn't feel the pain of splinters lodging themselves in his skin, but the coarse surface under his palm was enough to make him hesitate. While it didn't hurt now, if he were to injure himself now, later he was in for pain like hellfire.

Flexing his fingers, as already discomfort was shifting to pain; Allen tried to think through the haze in his head. He tried, in vain, to figure out where he was – yeah, he knew he was in the flatbed of a pickup, but WHO'S pickup and where?

Allen was too crippled to sit up, so he couldn't see much more than the evening sky overhead and tall, green trees skimming passed in a blur of color. There weren't any bridges or road-signs tall enough for him to see, so Allen could easily discern, in his right mind, that they were not on a main road. But that left him with just as little information as he had had before.

Allen could only just feel his legs, the pins and needles sensation in them long since replaced by numbness – barely felt like he was in his own body, actually. He knew he had a concussion, that's one thing for sure. How he got it... from one of the infected, no doubt. The pounding ache in the back of his head, though, he was inclined to believe that no infected would've let him get away alive, if they'd had access to that precious, unguarded patch of skin. It somehow hurt more at the notion that another survivor had hit him. Whoever it was, they were on his shit-list.

Trying to wrap his mind fully around his current surroundings, Allen wondered what was happening at that very moment—who was Grayson talking to and what about? Had he been held up? Suddenly – it came back to him, now, the owner of this truck was a man, from the glimpse he got of him, before he'd been cold-clocked, was that of that he was clean-shaven and roughhewn. The stranger and Grayson, they'd been arguing about taking him to get some help, that they were headed ... to a safe house a little ways out in the boonies.

Apparently, the other guy had come from there looking for supplies for those who'd barricaded themselves within, and had stumbled upon them by chance – now, out of the kindness of his heart, or a secret agenda yet to be voiced, would take Allen and Grayson there, so the former could be treated for his injuries.

Allen's head lit up with pain, his processing of thoughts too much at once – like plugging a shitload of plugs all at once in a faulty power outlet —it made him short out. Except, since he wasn't a computer, he didn't shut off at the first signs of danger – he suffered, as more pain was heaped on top of the already engorged pressure in his skull.

He closed his eyes tight, trying to ignore it. A part of him knew that it was not wise in the slightest to sleep with a concussion, but the pain was making it hard not to try and do so. As the feeling of compression in Allen's skull eased up just a bit, he almost drifted off again, when the truck veered to the side and he went sliding across the flatbed for another time.

Exasperation made the pain in his body and head intensify; Allen grunted, as his shoulder collided hard with the window. "Fuck!" He hollered, his voice finally finding him.

Suddenly, the truck skidded to an abrupt halt. He thumped against the window again, momentum hell-bent on flinging him to and fro like a ragdoll. Allen swore, oblivious to the driver's side door – followed by the one passenger's side— being thrown open, as the other survivors jumped out the vehicle. For a moment, Allen overheard Grayson and the other argue, before the former begrudgingly climbed back into the vehicle and slammed the door fussily.

Afterwards, the driver appeared at the side of the flatbed. "Oy, man, you're gonna break my fucking window, if you ain't careful!" He complained; Irish-accent almost too thick to understand, his eyes burning with aggravation, as they peeked out over his dark tinted sunglasses.

Allen cursed at him, nausea rendering his manners completely nonexistent. "Learn to fucking drive." He spat back. With the wind no longer rushing about him, the humidity set upon him, making Allen sweat like a dog. Perspiration and blood made his clothes reeked and cling to his skin like an uncomfortable sheathe. That, along with the noise of nattering birds and insects buzzing in his ears, embedded a deep itch of irritation under his battered skin.

"Oh, like I've never heard that bloody line before." The other man groused, rolling his eyes.

Allen ignored him in favor of roasting in his sweat-drenched clothing. His concussion making him more disorientated than he'd ever been in his life. Allen felt like he was going to vomit, again. Propping himself up on shaky elbows, he tried to keep the world from spinning underneath him. "Where the hell are we?" He asked dazedly, caught between being pissed and confused.

The Irishman pushed his sunglasses up the bridge up his nose, until his tinted spectacles were rested again the sparse hairs on his hairline, regarding Allen fully with his dark brown eyes, before he dug his palm into his brow bone tiredly. After rubbing fatigue form his eyes, he situated his sunglasses back in their original spot on the tip of his nose, and finally gave Allen the answer to his question. "We're just a few miles from Riverview. The safe house is there and so's a doctor—she's gonna get you patched up, so you and your friend can be on your way."

Allen's head swam with a myriad of questions, followed by another jolt of pain that threatened to leave a crack in his skull. Clutching his head, he groaned. The time for questioning would have to wait until the fabled Greek god Hephaestus stopped trying to crack his head open with his mighty axe in search of his Athena-sized headache. Drawing his legs to his chest, he buried his face into his knees and mumbled into the coarse fabric of his jeans. "What're we stopping for, then?"

"—to drag your sorry-ass up to the front, so you don't end up killin' yourself back here." The Irishman answered coolly, hocking a loogie onto the road underneath him, before reaching two capable hands out and motioning for Allen to come over. "You obviously ain't gonna teleport, c'mon, lemme give yah a hand 'fore I change me mind." Allen looked at him skeptically from over the top of his knees, before sighing bitterly after a long moment and crawling towards the edge of the bed.

The Irishman shook his head, as he grappled Allen by the shoulders and roughly yanked the man onto the road. Allen hollered, practically spilling onto the street like he was in a Charlie Chaplin skit. "What the hell!?" He hollered.

"Didn't want'cha getting any ideas. 'm an accepting bloke, but I can't have yah thinking 'm interested in yah." He joked, before helping—more like manhandling—Allen to the passenger's door. As he pulled it open, the Irishman pushed Allen towards the opened door and let Grayson help him inside the cab. As he turned to go around the front and return to the driver's seat, he smiled at the two of them. "The name's Shawshank, by the way." He said, before slamming the door almost on Allen's feet.