note: So a couple of headcanon things: Ralphie and Phoebe are step-siblings, and it's set in 2005 after the gang graduates high school. Having started watching The Walking Dead recently, I kind of wanted to put the gang in a zombie apocalypse. Also, there might be a nod or two to TWD.

As for the cast used on the cover:
Ralphie: Kit Harington
Robbie: Chandler Riggs (yep, Carl from TWD)
Phoebe: Natasha O'Keeffe
Arnold: Richard Madden
Janet: Deborah Ann Woll
Tim: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
D.A.: Jennifer Lawrence
Wanda: Camille Cresencia-Mills
Keesha: Antonia Thomas
Carlos: Sebastian de Souza
Mikey: Luke Pasqualino

Don't own MSB or The Walking Dead, obviously. Also don't own the title, as it's a song by The Strokes.


under cover of darkness
by the ultimateSora

chapter one
old world blues

Friday, June 10, 2005

Phoebe could hear the TV upstairs in the living room as she folded laundry in the basement. Another news story about someone possibly mauled to death by a dog or wild animal. It was bad enough someone died, and she also felt bad for the poor animal that would surely be put to death when found. It was a terrible situation all around.

She carried the laundry upstairs to find Ralphie lounging on the couch. "Would it hurt you to help me around here?"

"Yes. Yes, it would."

"C'mon, Ralphie! Daddy and Suzette expect us to keep the place intact until they get back from Louisiana, and I can't do it all myself."

He moved just enough to look at her. "You seem to be holding up just fine."

She dropped the hamper on the floor. "Put your own damn laundry away. I'm going to clean the bathroom." Just as she started to walk away, she stopped and went back for the laundry. "Who'm I kidding? You won't put it away."


There were times she liked not being an only child anymore, but this was not one of those times. Having Ralphie for a step-brother could be fun. She liked having him around, except when she had to do everything because he was feeling lazy. He'd always give her the "I just got back from practice! I'm tired!" excuse, but since it was June and football and hockey were done for him until he started training in July, he had no excuse.

That then reminded her that he was going to Wisconsin in the fall, while she was off to Boston College, and that made her stomach feel tight. She knew she'd really miss that big goof of a step-brother. She was proud he got a full ride thanks to football and hockey, but still. Wisconsin seemed so far.

She went upstairs to Ralphie's room and put his laundry away. She went ahead and made his bed and picked up the clothes on the floor, tossing them in his closet hamper. She took the bottle of cologne sitting on his dresser and spritzed some to freshen the air in the room. When she finished in his room, she went next door to their little half-brother's room.

Robbie was seven and fortunately, to Phoebe, more like her. He kept a clean room, and unlike Ralphie at seven, he wasn't on any little league teams, so there was no scent of sweat or dirty athletic bags. There were no dirty clothes on the floor, but his bed was unmade. She put his laundry away and made the bed. She closed his door behind her and went down the hall to her bedroom. Her room was spotless, as she had just cleaned it, but she needed to sit for a moment before she tackled cleaning the bathroom.

The stubble in the sink wasn't hers, nor were the stains in the toilet or damp towels on the floor or boxers hanging on the shower rod or toothpaste stains on the counter, but if she didn't it clean it now, it would never get girl-friendly enough for her to use. Sharing a bathroom with a teenage boy was a nightmare at times. At least Robbie was just a kid. She didn't want to imagine sharing with two teenage boys.

Just as she got up, she heard the front door open. "Hey, Ralphie, man!" It was Carlos, and chances were Tim was with him.

Phoebe went to the upstairs landing just as Tim was shutting the door behind him and Carlos. "What're you two doing here?"

Carlos stopped walking and backed up, looking up at her. "Hey, Mrs. Cleaver, can the Beav come out and play?"

She furrowed her brow and walked down the stairs. "Shut up. Besides, we're not supposed to have people over while Daddy and Suzette are gone."

Carlos went over to her and put his arm around her shoulders. "C'mon, Pheebs, don't be that sibling. Maybe if you weren't so uptight, Arnold would have asked you out earlier than he did."

She may have been lanky and bony, but years of rough housing with Ralphie had built up Phoebe's strength enough to hurt Carlos when she punched him in the gut. Tim winced as Carlos grabbed his stomach.

"Jesus, that had to hurt," Tim said with a grin.


Phoebe rolled her eyes as she walked down the hall to the living room. "Tim and the jackass are here," she said to Ralphie before she went to the kitchen.

He got up and laughed when he saw Carlos, who was still holding his stomach. "What'd you say this time to make her hit you?"

"He called Pheebs uptight and then said that was the reason Arnold never made a move on her earlier," Tim said.

"At least I didn't make a comment about her lack of boobs this time!" Carlos said.

This time it was Ralphie who hit him.

"Goddammit! Can we please stop hitting me!"

"Stop being a jackass, then," Ralphie said. "What d'you guys want, anyway?"

"You saw the news, right?" Tim asked.

Ralphie shrugged. "I was kinda watching earlier but turned it. Why?"

Tim picked up the remote from the floor and turned it to channel ten. At the same time, the three said, "Southern New England's News Leader!" before sitting down and watching the story of another horrific mauling in Walkerville. Who or whatever was doing this hadn't struck anywhere else in the Providence area, just within Walkerville.

"Turn it off," Phoebe said as she came back in the living room. "Robbie could come in at any moment." She knew he wouldn't, since he was over at a friend's house. Her stomach was churning, but she wasn't going to tell them that.

"Yeah," Carlos said. "And let's go get a pizza. I'm hungry."

"There's a sick mauler out there, and you want to go eat pizza?" Phoebe asked.

Carlos shrugged. "Yeah."

"I'll go change," Ralphie said. "I could go for a pizza."

Phoebe shook her head. "Boys."

The four rode in Carlos' truck to the pizza place in downtown. The town was surprisingly quiet, especially for a Saturday in June. School was over, and the days were sunny and warm, so Saturdays meant downtown would be full of people out shopping or strolling through the town square.

Today, not so much.

Even the pizza place- a popular hang out for the kids of Walkerville Senior High School- was quiet. Phoebe ate a salad while Ralphie, Carlos, and Tim shared two extra large pepperoni and sausage pizzas. She knew they'd put those pizzas away with no problem. When the boys started talking about girls and making fart jokes, she wished Dorothy Ann was there.

Carlos elbowed Phoebe. "C'mon, Pheebs, say something. You're too quiet."

"I don't think there's much I can contribute to the conversation."

They all turned when they heard the TV volume go up. "...another mauling in Walkerville. This makes for the sixth report just today, the ninth since yesterday. These attacks haven't been seen anywhere else in the Providence area, but we'll keep you up to date on any new reports."

The "Breaking News" image came on the screen before fading back to the show in progress. The volume was turned down by one of the wait staff, and the four turned their attention to each other.

"What the hell is going on?" Ralphie asked.

Tim scoffed. "Probably zombies."

Ralphie clenched his jaw. "Hey, don't joke about that, man."

Phoebe grinned. "Ralphie takes his monsters seriously."

"Oh, we know," Carlos said, laughing. "We all remember him thinking the Friz was a vampire."

"There was plenty good evidence!" Ralphie said.

"I get how you can think that," Carlos said. "I mean, gingers and vampires do share a lot in common- ow! Dammit, Phoebe!"

She had kicked him under the table. "Stop comparing gingers to vampires."

Carlos reached down and rubbed his shin. "You gingers are so mean!"

Phoebe got up early to do the grocery shopping. Saturday mornings were the best time to go. The Stop & Shop wouldn't be as crowded, and she loathed being in crowds. The thought made her nauseated.

Ralphie and Robbie were still asleep when she finished getting ready to leave, so she wrote them a note (Grocery shopping. Be back later. - P) and taped it to the bathroom mirror. She went downstairs and grabbed her keys from the key rack by the kitchen door that led out to the driveway.

Suzette's Lexus RX was parked in the driveway, Phoebe and Ralphie's vehicles in the garage, so instead of moving the Lexus to get her Jeep Grand Cherokee (a sixteenth birthday present from her father and Suzette), she opted to take the Lexus. She had driven it before, Suzette trusting Phoebe with her luxury SUV more than she did her own son, so she knew her step-mother wouldn't mind that she borrowed it.

Phoebe liked her step-mother a lot. It wasn't because Suzette bought her things (like a Jeep); Phoebe actually hated having money being spent on her, unless it was something she needed. Suzette treated Phoebe like a daughter without trying to replace her mother. Granted, Diane Terese died when Phoebe was five, so she didn't have many memories of her mother. Still, having a mother-figure like Suzette was nice. While she didn't like the idea of her father getting re-married at first, she was now glad to have Suzette and Ralphie as family. Plus, their marriage gave her a little brother that she adored.

Sure, there were times she wanted to strangle Ralphie (despite the fact she really couldn't as he was a burly football and hockey player, and she was bony and lanky), but there were more times she enjoyed having a "step-twin" (as the gang called them, despite their two-month age difference). Plus, there was the added bonus of Ralphie being the one that pretty much helped her and Arnold get together. Not that he wanted any of the guys dating his step-sister, but, as he told her, "At least it wasn't Carlos you've been obsessed with since the third grade."

If not for the fact Arnold was always over at the house to hang out with Ralphie, she knew he never would have eventually got to know her better, thus asking her on a date. A year and a half later, she still didn't understand what it was about her that ultimately attracted Arnold. He was preppy with his polos and boat shoes and designer brands; she was still wearing jeans she had in junior high that stopped at her ankles, and some of her plaid blouses had dirt stains and patches. He was well known around school and on the swim team; she was sometimes called "Tennelli's little sister, right?"

But despite her many faults, Arnold loved her. She knew he really did love her. If her self-doubt and insecurities and social awkwardness hadn't driven him away already, then he truly did care. He would remind her how he was as a kid: the overly-careful rock nerd who was paranoid that every field trip would be their last. Then she would remind him that was who she initially fell for.

"Then again, that was the day you scared off a T-Rex," she would say. She would kiss his cheek and add, "And you're still an overly-careful rock nerd, my preppy nerd boy."

"Yeah, but I'm pretty now," he would say.

"Right. You're my pretty, preppy, nerd boy."

Then they would kiss, which would usually lead to a bit of fooling around, which would then lead to them being under the covers and naked.

"Note to self, call Arnold later," she said.

She drove through the center of town and noticed it looked even more empty and dead than it did the day before. It was as if the entire town was on vacation. Granted, it was June, and school had already ended, so most of the town might have been on vacation.

There was hardly anyone at the Stop & Shop, but that made it easier for Phoebe to get what she needed fast. She paid and loaded the groceries into the Lexus. She headed home, and she smiled when she noticed the dark gray Porsche 911 parked in the front. Only one person she knew had grandparents rich enough to buy him a Porsche for his sixteenth birthday. After all, she was dating him (and she had her first make out in the front seat of that Porsche).

Ralphie and Arnold were watching TV when Phoebe came in with the first load of groceries. "No, no," she said, "you two stay there while I get the bags out."

Arnold was on his feet, and he smiled as he walked towards her. He gave her a kiss and asked, "I guess I should be the 'good boyfriend' right now, huh?"

Ralphie got up. "No, man! Be the 'bad boyfriend' and hang out with your bro!"

"Or you could be the 'helpful step-brother,'" Phoebe said.

"Fine. I'll put away while you two get the bags."

"No deal," she said. "You'll start snacking and go back to TV. You two go unload the bags, and I'll put away."

Ralphie groaned, and Arnold laughed as he gently pushed Ralphie to the door. Phoebe started putting everything away, including the peanut-heavy foods. Her father and Suzette seemed more worried than she did about her peanut allergy, making sure the peanut-foods were nowhere near anything she ate or that she didn't touch anything with peanuts in it. The new jar of peanut butter was sealed shut, so she didn't mind touching it as she put it in the pantry.

"What's for dinner?"

She turned at the sound of Robbie's voice. "Don't know yet. What would you like?"

Robbie hopped up on one of the island counter stools. "I dunno. Pasta, maybe?"

"That's easy enough. I'll get started on it when I finish with the groceries."

Arnold and Ralphie walked in with the last of the bags, and Ralphie hit the lock button on Suzette's keys. Arnold helped put the groceries away, freeing Phoebe to start on dinner. Ralphie seemed to be in a helpful mood as he started to wash the dishes in the sink.

Phoebe's ears perked when she heard "another mauling" and realized that Robbie was within earshot of the news. She ran to the living room and changed the channel. She didn't want Robbie exposed to any kind of violent, bad news, especially since their father and his mother weren't there to explain things to him. She didn't trust herself or Ralphie to put things in the right context without confusing him more.

"I know about the maulings," Robbie said.

Phoebe turned off the TV as Ralphie asked, "How much?"

"Enough. I know something's hurting people."

Phoebe looked at Arnold and Ralphie for help, and Ralphie said, "You know you're safe here, right?"

Robbie nodded. "Nothing can get past my big brother."

Ralphie ruffled his hair. "That's my little bro."

"I almost feel kind of guilty about being here while your dad and Dr. T are gone, but at the same time, I like not being paranoid."

Phoebe ran her fingers through Arnold's soft curls as he kissed her bare stomach. "I feel guilty, too, but-"

"No, no, I said 'kind of guilty.'"

She laughed when he winked. They were lying on her bed that night, relaxing in the post-sex afterglow. Sure, she felt bad about having her boyfriend spend the night while her dad and step-mom were out of town; she was violating their trust, but she really liked not having to listen to Mrs. Perlstein's back-handed comments about her or see the looks of disgust she'd give her if she had gone over to the Perlstein house. Arnold's mother hated Phoebe, and after many failed attempts to get her to like her, Phoebe knew she'd never win Mrs. Perlstein's approval.

Arnold gently pinched her skin near her bellybutton. "Man, I love your spotty skin. There isn't a portion that doesn't have at least a cluster of freckles."

"Right, you love my freckles." She cracked a grin. "I suppose my flat chest and bony hips really do it for you, too?"

He kissed her stomach and moved up to kiss her lips. "Sometimes I find your self-deprecation cute, but other times I wish you would accept the fact you're a beautiful woman."

She reached up and cupped his cheek. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, therefore it's opinion not 'fact' that I'm, as you said, 'a beautiful woman.'"

He was gentle as he used one hand to push her legs apart. "You've been spending too much time with Dorothy Ann."

She moved her hand from his face and down his neck, chest, and stomach. "Well, if my freckles multiply any more, I'll be tan like her. Or I could just go use the tanning beds she denies she uses."

He smiled. "Nah, I like you fair and freckled." He brushed her bangs back with his fingers, and his face relaxed into a serious expression. "I love you, you know that?"

"I know."

She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him down. They kissed, ready for their second round, but the sound of something crashing broke them apart. Phoebe got up, throwing on her underwear, a pair of jeans, and a tank-top. Arnold was not far behind her after he put his boxer-briefs and jeans on, and they ran downstairs where Ralphie was looking out the front window in the den.

"What's going on?" Phoebe asked.

"Sounded like a car crash. I don't see anything on the street, so it might have been a block over." He nodded to Arnold. "Good thing you moved the Porsche in the driveway, eh?"

Arnold smirked. "It's insured."

"Maybe we should go see if everyone's okay," Phoebe said.

"I'm sure the cops were called," Ralphie said.

"What's going on?"

The three turned when they heard Robbie. He was rubbing his eyes as he walked down the stairs.

"Go back to bed, little bro," Ralphie said. "Everything's all right."

"I heard something," Robbie said.

"Car accident," Phoebe said. "I'm sure everyone's okay."

Ralphie turned off the lights in the front den, and he walked over to Robbie. "C'mon, it's late."

Phoebe turned off the foyer light and went upstairs behind her brothers. She led Arnold back to her room, and he shut the door behind them. They undressed, Phoebe to her tank-top and panties, Arnold to his boxer-briefs, and got back in bed. The mood for a second round had passed, so instead, they laid on their sides, Arnold holding her from behind. He kissed her neck and held her tight.

"I love you," he said, his lips against her skin.

She smiled. "You said that already."

"I know, but I just like telling you."

She turned a little so she could look at him. "Good thing I'm one of those girls who likes it when their boyfriends get sappy and lovey-dovey."

He smiled and kissed her. "We're going to have fun in Boston."

Much to his parents' disappointment, Arnold was going to Harvard. They wanted him to go to Stanford or Auburn, both of which recruited him for their swim teams, but he had no interest in going all the way to California or Alabama. To compromise, they agreed to let him stay in New England if he applied to an Ivy League. He applied to Brown and Harvard, getting accepted to both, and what upset his parents was that he applied to Brown and Harvard, not his father's alma mater, Yale. When his mother heard that "the little mousy girl" he was dating was going to Boston College, she had more reason to be upset.

"I'll show you all the wonders of my birth city," Phoebe said.

"What? There's more to Massachusetts than just Martha's Vineyard?"

They laughed and drifted off to sleep, Phoebe hoping the next day wouldn't have any more news of maulings.

Sunday morning was perfect. The sky was the bluest, and the breeze was cool and gentle. Phoebe woke up early and decided to let Arnold sleep. She carefully climbed over him to get out of bed, and she went to brush her teeth and take a quick shower. Instead of making breakfast, she decided she'd go get some bagels and donuts. After her shower, she got dressed and went downstairs. She left a note on the fridge this time (Getting breakfast. Be back soon. - P), and she walked out to the driveway.

Since the Porsche was parked at the end of the driveway, she decided to drive it. Arnold didn't mind her borrowing the Porsche, as she had before. Fortunately, thanks to him, she knew how to drive stick. His mix CD was in the stereo, but she could never name the bands he listened to. She did recognize this particular song- "I Predict a Riot" if she remembered right.

Phoebe opened the sunroof to let in the cool morning air, and she decided to take the scenic route into downtown by going around Walker Lake. The road was quite curvy, but the Porsche could handle it. She had been the passenger many times when Arnold took the curves a little faster than she might have. She sped up a little, careful not to go over the speed limit. It was forty along Lakeview Drive, but she might have been going thirty-eight.

Still, that wasn't slow enough for her to safely dodge the large deer that decided to jump out from the woods. She managed to not hit the deer, which would have definitely killed her, but instead, she spun out of control and hit the metal barrier along the drop off towards the lake. The Porsche flipped over the barrier, and had it not been for the large trees, the car would have rolled onto the beach and into the water.

Phoebe wasn't aware of this, though. The impact of her head against the glass of the door was enough to knock her out before the car hit the trees.

note: Chapter title comes from the Fallout: New Vegas DLC of the same name.

So there you have it...the first chapter. Stay tuned for more!