No one sees the end coming – until it's there.
The virus has an unheard of 95% communicability rate, and a 99% fatality rate – and as if that wasn't terrifying enough, its incubation period is mere minutes.
Half the world is gone within the first three days – including most of the white collar division, Mozzie… and Elizabeth.
Thankfully, none of their lost loved ones are among those who come back – not as those they once were, but as shambling, ravenous, walking shells, capable only of mindless hunger.
Neal spends the following week keeping the two of them alive, while Peter barely manages to function, allowing himself to be led, hiding where Neal tells him, and staring, lost, into nothing, during the moments when they aren't running, scavenging, fighting for their lives.
On the eighth day after the world falls apart… so does Peter, breaking at last, anguished sobs of grief for his friends, coworkers, and most of all his wife, torn from him as he collapses, supported by Neal's arms, catching him before he can hit the ground. After that, he seems to return – though he rarely smiles, and doesn't joke with Neal the way he used to.
That's okay; there isn't much to joke about anymore.
They last long enough to begin to think they're going to make it – before it happens, so swiftly that it doesn't seem real.
Neither want to believe that it is.
The woman comes around the corner of a house they thought they checked – but clearly not well enough. Her decaying, broken teeth barely connect with Neal's shoulder before Peter puts her down with a swift bullet through her brain – but they've broken the skin; the thin trails of bright red on Neal's arm are far more than the scratch they appear to be.
They're a death sentence.
"Do it," Neal says quietly, placing his gun in Peter's hand. "Do it now."
Peter stares at the weapon, dumbly shaking his head. "I – I can't…"
"You have to, Peter," Neal insists. "You've got two minutes, maybe three, before I'm – Peter, I can't – don't let me go out like that." He moves closer, waiting until Peter meets his gaze with wide, horrified eyes. "Please, Peter. I want you to. Please."
Peter just shakes his head, in shock – and Neal takes pity on him, taking the gun from his hand and aiming it at his own head.
It's all happening too fast, no time to process. The only thought that crosses Peter's mind is random, and painfully irrelevant. "You – you hate guns…"
"Yes," Neal says softly, with a sad smile, as he meets Peter's eyes and adds in a hoarse whisper, words he's never spoken before. "But I love you."
The blast of the gunshot rocks Peter to his knees; he takes the discarded weapon in his trembling hands, staring down at it to keep from looking at Neal. With that single shot, it feels as if Peter's entire world has ceased.
With the next shot… it does.