A/N #1: This collection features AU one-shots of T7S, ranging in genres. Each story is written in a way that can stand on its own but is essentially a teaser. It's my way of figuring out if there will be any interest from my readership. If there is a demand, I will expand on the stories. Just leave me a review, letting me know if you want me to continue or not, or leave a review cause you like it (even if it's to call me a teasing trollop). ;) While the primary focus of each fic will be Jackie and Hyde, all of the characters will be utilised.

A/N #2: This particular one-shot has a fair amount of swearing in it (not too much, hopefully) and some graphic violence. My apologies for that.


Wastelands

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"I will show you fear in a handful of dust." - T.S. Eliot

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27 June, 1983
Point Place, Wisconsin
The Grooves

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"Leo! Leo!"

Hyde was screaming.

Jackie only shook her head, eyes downcast with her lips set in a hard line. Hyde tried to push past her to open the door, but her grip on his arm only tightened, holding him back. Jackie could be strong when she wanted to, muscles made of steel, and she needed to be strong for Hyde.

"Fuck! Not Leo, man! Not Leo!"

Hyde's fist slammed into the metal door, skin peeling away from the knuckles as he continued his futile assault. When he finally pulled away, he glanced down at his bloodied knuckles and something inside the twenty-three year old snapped. A choking sob warbled in his throat and he closed his eyes, sliding down onto his knees.

Without thinking, he blindly reached out for Jackie and wrapped his arms around her hips, burying his face into her torso. His sunglasses pushed up to the top of his head and he pressed his wet, naked eyes into her stomach. The tears came freely, staining her dirty white tee as he silently sobbed into the warm comfort of her body.

Like a monolith, Jackie stood tall and unwavering. Her slender fingers hesitantly speared through his curly hair and held on tightly, holding him against her as he cried. No soothing whispers, no words of any kind. She didn't move, didn't break as he poured into her all his anger, all his pent-up grief and fear. She could indulge him this one time. They were safe here... for now.

After a minute Hyde finally pulled away, ashamed with himself as he slumped back against the wall. He took in a gasping breath and swore silently, berating himself for his momentary weakness. This was not the time to break down.

His calloused hands went to his face. Salty tears tracked down his cheeks, washing away the dirt and grime. He lowered his sunglasses to his eyes and tilted his head back against the concrete wall, knocking gently. It had been a long time since he cried like that, not since he was a little kid and even then it had never racked his body like this, never ripped him apart so brutally. He never thought he'd be the one to break down in front of Jackie of all people. Fuck. He never thought that between the two of them he'd be the first to cry.

"This is all fucked up, man," he muttered, bringing his palm to his bearded chin. "None of this would have happened if we left with WB and Red. Fuck!" Hyde balled up his bloody hand and smashed it to the ground. "Why did we stay here, man?" He glanced up at Jackie. His eyes were hidden behind the aviators but his voice was still raw and exposed. "Why?"

You know why, her eyes seemed to say. But there was no accusation there, no blame, no emotion. It was all cold, hard facts with her now. Economy of words and actions, being practical, surviving. She was fucking Zen now. She was Zen.

Hyde glanced down at his feet and brought his hands back up to his face, cupping it as he took in another laboured breath. He couldn't stand to see her this way, to see those once vibrant and wilful eyes of hers turn glassy, the fire gone out and replaced with something far darker. It was like their roles had been reversed when he wasn't looking. Now she was the silent one and he was the emotional powder keg who needed to talk about his feelings. How was that for fucking irony?

"I'm sorry, Steven."

Her voice was barely an audible whisper, a raspy growl due to lack of use, and Hyde lifted his face from his hands. He was shocked at first, so shocked that he was sure he had imagined her voice. Her fingers were on his shoulder, squeezing gently as she slid down the wall to sit beside him. Her hand then moved to his thigh and their knees touched.

It was nice to feel her warmth again, to hear her voice again—strange enough as that sounded to his own ears. But the moment he turned to look into her brown eyes, he realised that warmth was imagined, manufactured, hollow.

Hyde laughed bitterly and sniffed, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. "Took you thirty days to talk, huh?"

Jackie's fingers found their way to his, interlacing tightly, and their eyes met. She offered him a thin smile, her Zen momentarily cracking.

"Took you thirty days to cry."

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4 July, 1983
Point Place, Wisconsin
The Formans Residence

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Jackie crept silently across the kitchen floor, one foot in front of the other, her small boots marking dirty tracks on the tiles. Hyde followed closely behind, his eyes darting to and fro, ever vigilant.

He saddled up beside her near the island counter and silently pointed to himself and then to the door to the living room, indicating he was going to check out the rest of the house. Jackie nodded curtly in understanding, keeping her rifle level as he strode past her. Turning sharply towards the basement door, Jackie frowned when she found it slightly ajar; there were shuffling tracks leading downwards.

Carefully wedging her foot in between the narrow space, Jackie took in a deep breath and held her rifle chest-level before exhaling sharply and kicking the door in. The hinges gave way and the door swung open, ricocheting off the wall as she furiously bounded down the steps. She didn't need the element of surprise here; she would blast a hole in anyone who was stupid enough to cross her path.

Half-way down the stairs her heart started racing, rattling in its cage. She swiftly turned from side to side with her gun and stopped dead in her tracks at a familiar sight in the middle of the room. A cascade of sunlight filtered into the dark basement through the small door window, lighting the specks of dust that swirled upwards and settled in the air. Eric and Donna stood mutely in front of the old yellow couch. Their expressions were a mixture of shock, terror and dawning familiarity.

"Jackie?" Donna was the first one to call out, incredulous and not entirely certain if the tiny brunette with the large rifle standing on the stairs was real or a figment of her imagination.

Her old friend looked different, so very different from her usual self. Jackie's long dark hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, tinted silver aviators resting on the top of her head. Her attire was simple and accommodating: slim denim jeans, a form-fitting wife-beater that looked like it belonged to a child, a small green army surplus jacket and black laced combat boots.

Looped through her brown leather belt was a short hunting knife and slung across her left hip was a long, wide blade; a machete. Despite the knives and the rifle and the less fashion-oriented choice of wardrobe, Jackie still resembled her pretty self. But that old cocky, self-assured demeanour was gone from her stance, replaced with a far more chilling and grim sort of determination.

Jackie nodded silently to the pair, not at all shocked by their presence. Her small frame relaxed momentarily as she shouldered her rifle and made the rest of the way down the stairs. But before she could even make it off the landing, Donna had already rushed forward and folded the petite brunette into her arms.

Jackie didn't resist as the lumberjack of a redhead dragged her down towards the couch. In fact, Jackie didn't even say a word. She just stood rigid in Donna's embrace, gently patting the taller girl's back as her eyes darted vigilantly about the room.

Suddenly a pair of boot heels thundered down the stairs of the basement and Jackie stiffened for a half a second before she turned, reaching for her gun.

"Jackie, all clear?"

They all looked up to see a bearded Hyde raising his rifle in alert, training it on the supposed intruders. Jackie's hand instantly fell away from her gun and she stepped aside. At the sight of Eric and Donna, the tenseness in Hyde's shoulders—fuck, his entire body—lifted and he dropped his rifle, slinging his arm through the leather strap as he shouldered it. Pure relief was etched across his face.

"Eric! Donna!" He walked over to his two best friends and folded a stymied Eric into his arms first, then Donna. "Fuck, man. You two scared the living shit out of me."

His eyes briefly met Jackie's, silently asking if she was okay, and she gave an imperceptible nod before taking a few more steps back, already safely out of the redhead's grasp. Donna's hand brushed the small of Jackie's back, her fingers touching cool metal, and that's when she noticed the Colt MK sticking out of the back of the younger girl's jeans.

Just how many weapons did Jackie have on her?

Jackie made her way towards the back door and rested her rifle lazily in her arms, her eyes shifting from Hyde to the window. Donna watched the exchange with wide, searching eyes, wondering what the hell was going on. They had made it to Point Place and found the entire town deserted, except for these two. Obviously Jackie and Hyde had banded together, but when and how? But more than that, her two oldest friends didn't seem remotely rattled or surprised by Eric and Donna's sudden and unannounced arrival. It was almost as if they had been expecting them.

"Hyde!" Eric gasped, finally regaining some sense. "It's so good to see you, man."

He embraced his best friend once more, patting his hands down his arms. Hyde seemed thicker now, more defined. But there was a leanness to him, sinewy muscles cut hard like steel.

"What's up with Jackie?" Donna whispered, wrapping her arms around herself as though she were cold. "She's not a mute, is she?"

"The devil isn't mute, Donna," Eric said. "She's just inhaled too much hell fire."

"Yeah, well, she might as well be mute," Hyde drawled, slipping his hands into his jeans pockets. His eyes drifted over Jackie for a moment and then they lowered to the ground. "She doesn't talk much anymore."

"You must love that," Eric said. "I know some little boy's fairy godmother granted him his wish this year."

Hyde's hand immediately flicked, frogging his best friend in the arm and eliciting a painful yelp from the skinny young man. Jackie, who had heard everything, spared Hyde the briefest of smirks before resuming her vigilant watch on the door.

Still smarting from the punch, Eric rubbed his arm and mouthed a silent, 'What?' in , Donna lowered her arms and turned towards the door, regarding Jackie with a frown. For the first time in her life Donna genuinely wanted to comfort the once-mouthy girl, but this girl who only stood a few feet away from her didn't need Donna's comfort, didn't want it. This wasn't the same Jackie she used to know.

"What happened?"

Hyde shrugged, as if to say her guess was as good as his, but that would be a lie. Donna suspected Hyde knew more than he let on. He always did.

"I, uh, searched the house," Eric said with a breaking voice, his eyes lost. "My parents, they—"

"They're fine, Forman." Hyde clapped a calloused hand on Eric's shoulder and Eric instantly relaxed, letting out a shaky breath that sounded a lot like a prayer. "I sent them with WB. He has a place up north, nice and secure."

Donna's brow creased into a deep frown. "Why didn't you go with them? Why are you two still here?"

Hyde gave the redhead a look, the kind that said you know why. The dreams. It was always the dreams.

"Had to wait here for you dillholes to come back." He offered her his trademark smirk, which mildly resembled a grimace. "Knew you two would make it back here eventually."

"Hyde—" Donna lifted her hands, ready to ask more questions, when Eric interrupted.

"How long have you guys been here?"

There was hard edge to Eric's voice. Even his face was implacable, except the few lines that creased his forehead and the corners of his eyes. He had become old in the past few months; looked almost as old as Hyde felt.

"I was here when it happened."

Hyde lifted the rifle off his shoulder and leaned it against the couch. Pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket, he offered one to Eric and Donna but both declined. He lit the cigarette and snapped the silver lighter shut, slipping it into his jeans with the half-spent pack of cigarettes before taking a long drag.

"Jackie got here just over a month ago from New York."

Eric and Donna's mouths were gaped open in shock.

"New York, New York?" Eric asked, but Hyde didn't bother to confirm the obvious. "Damn, but how did she—?"

"Don't ask, man."

Hyde let the smoke pool in his lungs. The burn felt good, affirming that he could feel again. For once in his life he was genuinely worried that he didn't, that he wouldn't ever again.

"She ain't gonna answer you and I ain't gonna tell." He took another drag and looked his two best friends up and down, noting their appearances for the first time. They looked like shit. "What the hell took you guys so long to get here?"

Eric exchanged an uncomfortable glance with his fiancée and shrugged, slipping his thumbs into his pockets. "We, uh, had complications."

Hyde snorted humourlessly. "Yeah, I'll bet."

He took his usual seat near the deep freeze and his gaze drifting to the five-foot-nothing brunette brooding in the corner. Donna and Eric, on the other hand, stood silently in front of the couch, not bothering to sit down. After all that travelling they needed to rest, but both seemed too worked up, too on edge to take a break. They were too busy waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it always did.

The tension in the room had become so thick now that they could bottle it. Donna brought her palms together and began to rub them nervously, an old habit. No one wanted to address the elephant in the room, but she would. She always did.

"What about Fez and Kelso?" she asked carefully, catching Jackie's subtle shift in the corner.

Hyde, however, did not react. He kept his gaze fixed on Jackie, as if waiting for her to fill them in, but she didn't. She wouldn't. She just kept looking out through the small back door window, her grip tightening on the rifle as she stood guard.

"Fez didn't make it," Hyde said quietly, his eyes drifting to the floor. Donna hung her head, trying to hold back a sob, while the air seemed to fizzle out of Eric's lungs. His hand instinctively went to Donna's waist, pulling her in close. "Kelso and Betsy are making their way up north right now."

Eric blinked and let go of his fiancée, stepping forward. There was a slight twitch in his step, and at the sight Hyde brought his fingers underneath his aviators to rub at his eyes. It was almost nostalgic enough to smile at, but he didn't.

"What about Brooke?"

"I dunno, man." Hyde shrugged, dropping his hand as he took another drag of his cigarette. His gaze returned to the dusty floor. "I could only see Kelso and Betsy."

"See?" Donna brow creased in bewilderment. "How can you see them?"

Hyde finally glanced up, meeting Eric's eyes instead of Donna's. The other man dropped his gaze while Donna turned to stare at her boyfriend with unmasked curiosity. Obviously Eric knew what Hyde was talking about, whereas Donna...

"Let's have a drink, man," Hyde said, breaking the tension. He got up and walked over to the shower, pulling out two beers and tossing one to Eric and the other to Donna. "They're warm as piss but better than nothing."

Hyde glanced over at Jackie, knowing she wouldn't want one. He sighed and failed to pick up the third beer, deciding he'd rather have warm soda instead.

"Drink up quickly. We've gotta get back to the library before sunset."

"What's at the library?" Eric asked, and Hyde only shrugged. He guessed he'd find out when they got there.

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"Someone's following us," Jackie said quietly, her head bent so that no one outside the party could see her talking.

They were only a few blocks from the library. The sun was still high enough in the sky to keep their pace unhurried. Jackie was in the lead with Hyde taking up the rear and their somewhat clueless friends were walking the gap in between. Once Jackie's eyes caught sight of the quick, darting movements along the buildings she had dropped back to Hyde, letting Donna and Eric take the lead.

"It's them," Hyde whispered tersely. His eyes were fixed on Eric and Donna's backs, as not to give away the fact that he knew they were being followed. "There's at least two of them. They've been tracking us since we left Forman's."

"Fuck," Jackie muttered, nervously fingering the strap of the rifle slung over her left shoulder.

Hyde's grimaced at the expletive, his grip on his own rifle tightening. He was still getting used to Jackie talking again, as sporadic as that was, but the swearing completely threw him off. Jackie rarely swore, nothing ruder than ass anyway. Her dropping the occasional F-bomb just made her transformation that much more complete, which worried him more than he would have liked to admit.

Another sudden movement caught his peripheral vision and he casually turned, quickly taking in the lay of the land. It was mostly flat street terrain with a few buildings for coverage. There was no high ground to be easily taken, no short route to the library. They would have to fight on the streets, and that would mean letting Jackie loose.

As Jackie made to move past Hyde, he raised his hand to stop her. She could see his blue eyes flickering underneath the amber-coloured aviators, his mind deep in thought. He curled his fingers into a fist.

"Just wait," he warned, but she didn't listen.

She brushed right past him, making her way towards the shadows. She was going to take the dangerous bastards head on, draw them away from Donna and Eric.

"Fuck!" Hyde swore, louder than he had intended, causing Donna to turn her head in surprise.

Hyde then quickly positioned himself into point, following Jackie's every controlled movement as he slowly led Eric and Donna towards the library and away from the shadows. Normally Jackie listened to Hyde's orders, even when she didn't agree with them. When she was mute she'd give him dirty looks, a deep scowl or even roll her eyes, but she still followed his command. However, when it came to these fucking things, she never listened. Never.

Jackie strode towards the abandoned postal office with purpose, gripping the rifle firmly in her hands. She didn't need to reload but she checked anyway, her eyes scanning for any sort of movement. Hyde was half-way decent with a rifle, but when it came to hitting multiple targets with speed and accuracy, Jackie was vastly more skilled.

Skeet shooting and quail hunting were two of the few father-daughter activities Jack Burkhart ever willingly and happily indulged in with his own daughter. Those outings had been the few times he actually took an active interest in her until the endless doldrums of work and white-collar felony stole him away from her.

Due to her experience with guns and her natural athleticism derived from cheerleading and track, Jackie had better aim and faster reflexes than most, which meant that she would be doing the drawing out and killing while Hyde covered her. He was the man with the plan; she was the woman with the gun.

Jackie drew nearer to the postal office and finally caught sight of her quarry. To her far right was a tall man, all gangly limbs like Eric. He looked to be in his early thirties with dark, shaggy hair. At a distance he almost looked normal, but Jackie's keen sight could discern the pallid colour of his flesh, the gaunt look of his face and the dull gleam in his blood-red eyes.

His face and neck were blotched with tiny purple sores, some of them open and festering. Not all of the mutants looked like this—had the sores or the red eyes—and not all of them stuck out like a sore thumb. Something was particularly off about this one, from the way he held himself to the way he walked. Neither mutant nor zombie nor human. But he wasn't her immediate concern. The woman hiding in wait behind the postal office was.

The woman was different from the man. She was harder to spot for one, much better at blending into the shadows. Worse than that, she didn't just hide; she waited and watched, observed their party with hungry, calculating eyes.

She was blonde from what Jackie could tell, with long legs and a huge rack. Hyde's type, Jackie mused to herself with a grimace. Unlike the zombies she had come across in her travels, these two predators were actually dressed, albeit poorly, and were not blatantly roaming the streets in full view. They looked sick, ragged and starved—yet still very, very dangerous.

Behind Jackie, Hyde sized up his enemies with narrowed eyes. These two seemed to be hesitant, more unsure than the others he and Jackie had come across, more sickly. They definitely weren't human, but they weren't zombies either. Those fuckers didn't care who saw them and they certainly didn't hide behind buildings like stalkers.

Hyde bit the inside of his cheek at the sudden realisation. These things were new turnees; fledglings who had likely been recently turned at the point of death, especially judging by the horrible sores on the tall man's face. They were likely sent here as scouts, but what they really were was cannon fodder. Add to the fact that these newly-turned mutants were weaponless, Hyde knew he and Jackie stood more than a fighting chance against them. Nevertheless, he still had to be careful. There was no telling what they would do, how they would react, and Donna and Eric weren't exactly proving themselves to be assets at this point, what with their blatant lack of situational awareness.

Hyde followed the taller mutant as he moved back, sliding up near a lamppost. His red eyes flickered back and forth from Hyde to Jackie. He was calculating his odds and his advantages, which one would be the easiest to take down. When his red sights fully set on the petite brunette with insatiable hunger, Hyde could only smirk. Yeah, go for the girl, he told himself. You dipshits always underestimate the girl.

Unhooking a small green cylindrical object from his belt, Hyde pulled out a pin and clamped onto the lever. He glanced over at Jackie, knowing she was trusting him completely by purposely putting her back to the enemy. Whispering a silent prayer he'd never admit to saying, he took in a deep breath and lobbed the grenade towards the lamppost.

A direct hit.

"Fire in the hole!" he yelled, picking up his rifle and running behind a mail box for cover.

When Donna and Eric just stood motionless in the streets, Hyde cursed and moved out from behind the box, tackling the two gaping idiots to the ground.

The tall mutant made to run but the grenade went off almost instantly with an ear-piercing explosion. Asphalt tore apart, great chunks of dirt and pavement rose up in the air like columns. Shrapnel scattered in every which direction, a few pieces tearing through windows. And while Hyde and the others remained low to the ground, waiting for the dust to settle, Jackie kept her rifle trained on the blonde-haired mutant who had just stepped out from behind the building.

The grenade blast had managed to sniff the tall mutant out into the open, as well as tear his arm off from the shoulder down. He stumbled out of the smoke and dust, slightly disoriented, and Hyde aimed his rifle at the post. His accuracy wasn't nearly as good as Jackie's, especially when on the move, but he was stationary now. He had time to think, time to aim, and a weakened structure hovering precariously above his enemy's head. His odds were decent, almost good.

Letting fire, he nicked the thick metal pole and then fired three quick rounds into the mutant's chest, sending him staggering backwards. The pole groaned and, after a few seconds, collapsed, crushing the mutant's lanky frame to the uprooted asphalt.

Hyde shot up to his feet in an instant, quickly reloading his rifle as he jogged over to the body. Jackie was still tracking the blonde while Donna and Eric watched the scene in awe.

Hyde reached the body in no time, staring down at the wretched, writhing thing. This thing, this mutant, used to be a man. And unlike the zombies Hyde had come across in town, these fuckers were different: they were methodical and calculating. He lowered his rifle and aimed it at the mutant's head as it thrashed on the ground.

Of course the bastard was still alive.

Hyde used to dread moments like these: taking another man's life. The first time he had killed he almost vomited all over his boots, and he would have too if Red wasn't standing right beside him. But now Hyde approached the task with a cool sort of detachment. He cocked the gun and pulled the trigger. He didn't even bother to turn his head as he blew the mutant's head off, blood and brains splattering on his aviators.

At this the blonde reacted violently, tearing out from the shadows towards Jackie with a blood-curling scream. Jackie only smirked. She fired a few rounds, but bullets only slowed these things down a little. The only way to really stop them was to shoot them in the head.

But this new mutated breed of zombie was far too quick and agile to simple stand still and get shot. Your best bet to take one out was to get up close and personal. Of course that tactic was the biggest risk in itself, considering it left you entirely defenceless against their brutal hand-to-hand assault. All it took to kill these things was a bullet to the brain or severing the head, not such an easy feat as one would assume.

So Jackie got low, the roar of the gunfire thrumming in her ears. She was running now, counting the shells left in her gun as she closed in on the blonde just as fast as she was closing in her. The mutant paused in her step for a quarter of a second, just enough time for Jackie to get the upperhand.

The blonde's red eyes searched Jackie's. She seemed surprised at first to see the petite girl so close in her face. But that surprise died the moment Jackie drew her rifle up under the blonde's chin and reported a bullet in her head. The mutant's neck snapped back and her head from the jaw up exploded like a piñata. Blood, brains and skull fragments splattered the side of the brunette's face. With a listless thud, the body hit the ground and Jackie cocked her rifle again, about to open fire, when Hyde took her hand.

"Let's go!" he ordered, pulling her towards the others. If he let her, she'd just stay there, firing rounds into the already dead mutant until there was nothing left but a bloody pulp.

The four of them ran to the library as fast as they could and bolted inside, locking the two steel doors behind them. Hyde dropped his gun and picked up a large metal bar to slide through the handles as extra reinforcement. Jackie kept her rifle level, inspecting the library just in case someone had slipped in. After a quick scouting she returned, wiping the blood and brains off the side of her neck and face with the sleeve of her jacket. Hyde had his own rifle slung over his shoulder now, absently cleaning his aviators with the bottom of his shirt while Eric and Donna huddled in the corner.

"Holy fu—did you see that?" Eric was jabbering away like a moron. "I've never seen them that fast before, that hard to kill. Jackie, you made that chick's head explode!"

"What the fuck are those things?" Donna yelled, edging her way towards Jackie. It seemed if you wanted to remain alive, your best bet was to hang close to the fearless midget with the speed and great aim. "Those aren't the same things we saw in Cleveland. Those things are fast!"

"Those are something I call mutant zombies." Hyde lit up a cigarette and exhaled a ring of smoke, watching it fade into the darkness. He was almost out. He'd have to pick up a carton on their way out of town, along with a change of clothes. His shirt looked like a fucking used maxi pad.

Hyde leaned back against the wall, his shoulders stiff and sore. If anything, right now he was in desperate need of a circle. But he had no time for that, no luxury to indulge when he had to make life or death decisions every ten Goddamn minutes. He'd have to go Zen instead and pretend this shit didn't faze him.

"They're not like the regular zombies. They're faster, stronger and a helluva lot smarter." He closed his eyes, taking another long drag. "We're lucky those ones didn't seem all that bright, or have weapons."

"Weapons?" Eric suddenly looked deathly pale. "They can use weapons now?"

Hyde nodded, clipping his sunglasses into the neck of his t-shirt. "Most kill with their hands and their teeth. But you don't want them to do that. These fuckers—they're not like the others. The others are slow and stupid. Most of them are already dying, starving to death or some shit. A zombie manages to catch you and kill you, you stay dead. But these things—" he visibly shuddered at a recent memory "—they'll turn you into one of them."

Eric brought his hands up to his head, clawing his fingers through his shaggy hair. He and Donna had been through some rough shit, seen some crazy things on their way to Point Place, but they hadn't seen or heard anything about these mutant zombies, zombies that could turn you. And Jackie and Hyde had been fighting them together all this time?

"We take out as many as we can but they know how to hide, know when to come out and ambush us. They're smart bastards, calculating." Hyde took another drag, chuckling humourlessly. "More seem to be coming here every day."

"And now that your slow asses are here, we can finally leave."

Jackie slung her rifle over her shoulder and they all turned.

"She talks!" Eric said in an over-exaggerated, borderline flabbergasted tone. "It's an Independence Day miracle!" He threw up his hands before placing a hand over his heart. "I never thought I'd be so happy to hear the devil's voice."

"Shut up, Forman," Hyde growled, walking past the girls towards the back room. Only Eric could pull off jokes at a time like this and think he was being smart. "Come help me with this."

Eric followed Hyde into the back room while Jackie kept guard outside with Donna. Placing his rifle on the ground and butting out his cigarette, Hyde walked over to a small metal cabinet at the back of the room. Putting his hands on it, he began pushing it across the floor with a metallic screech.

Eric walked over and reached down with both hands. Finding his footing, he pushed with Hyde. A few seconds later and the cabinet was slid aside, revealing the outline of a door with an iron ring in the middle. Hyde knelt down and hooked his fingers through the loop and pulled. It was resistant at first and Eric was about to offer help when the trapdoor began to creak and groan, finally giving way.

Wiping the back of his hand along his sweaty brow, Eric leaned forward and peered down inside the hole. He was about to question why there was a trap door in the library when he remembered that the building used to be a colonial storehouse—a place where the army used to keep supplies and hold-up during the Revolutionary War. But the hatch looked like it had been recently opened, and Eric wondered what exactly was stored down there.

"Nothing's gonna bite you down there," Hyde said, as though reading Eric's thoughts. "Except maybe the rats."

Eric blanched at the thought and Hyde gave a soft chuckle before reaching over to the cabinet and pulling open one of the drawers. Inside he found a flashlight. Turning it on, Hyde smacked the metal casing a few times to juice up the batteries before getting down on his haunches. He directed the pale beam of light into the opening and at the rope ladder that hung off to the side. Hyde glanced up at Eric, grabbing his attention, before pointing back down at the rope with a grin.

"After you."

Eric scowled briefly and then got down on hands and knees, backing his way to the trapdoor. Following the beam of light, he found the remnants of the rope ladder and began to lower himself down the narrow passage with Hyde's help. The rope ended a few feet before it touched the ground and Eric let himself drop.

He felt his bones rattle as he landed on his feet on the hard dirt floor. Above him, Hyde rolled onto his belly and lowered the flashlight down as far as he could, asking Eric if he was ready to catch it. Eric nodded in affirmative, catching the flashlight with fumbling hands that almost dropped it—twice. Eric swore to himself and collected his nerves, pointing the flashlight ahead of him as he shone it around the dark cellar.

Eric cautiously walked forward, stopping when he approached what looked to be a misshapen wall. He reached out with his fingertips, touching burlap, and frowned thoughtfully. Pulling down the material and a thin layer of dust and sediment with it, Eric took in a deep breath and coughed repeatedly.

The wall was covered in guns. Not old Revolutionary models but new ones—fairly new, anyway, by the look of them. He ran his fingers over the wood and metal and stepped over to another section of burlap, pulling back ratty blankets covering boxes of ammunition and other items. It seemed as though someone had already prepared for the apocalypse.

"What is all this stuff for?"

"I'm baking a fucking cake!" Hyde barked from above. "What does it look like? Guns, ammo. It's supplies, you dumbass. We're gonna need them for our road trip."

Eric turned back to his friend and shone the light in his face. He was always such a good aim with the flashlight. "Where to?"

"The Great White North," Hyde said, shielding his eyes with his hands. "Goddammit, Forman! You really suck with a flashlight, man."

"Huh?" Eric licked his lips nervously and lowered the flashlight. His heart was hammering loudly in his chest. "What do you mean we're going the Great White North?"

"He means we're going to Canada," Jackie said, peering down into the cellar before rolling her eyes. "Dumbass!"


chromeknickers's rambling notes: So, yeah, if you guys are interested, I'd love to expand on this. Each character will have his/her own story, like Jackie's trip from New York, Donna and Eric's escape from Cleveland (and Frederick, Maryland), Kelso's struggles, and even how Hyde dealt with the apocalypse at Point Place—just to name a few—and how they all eventually meet up.

Other questions to be answered are what happened to Leo and Fez, why Jackie has become the ultimate badass, how this apocalypse came about (it's not your average zombie apocalypse), etcetera. There will be angst, drama, gory violence and lots of UST between Jackie and Hyde. So if you wanna find out more, just review and let me know if you're interested in reading. :)