Day 4

A thin veil of darkness blankets the Royal Princess Luxury cruise ship as it coasts along the Caribbean Sea. Quietly, the cruise ship slides into the calm waters of Limon Bay and approaches the first of many narrow passages it will need to pass through. A few derelict ships sway on the water at the various docks, but no other movement stirs in the early morning hours. The ships pilot knows it won't last long and savours the silence of the early morning. He slows the ship further as they come closer to the first channel of the Panama Canal, his eyes dancing along the shores for any signs of movement in the barely visible light.

-x-x-

Another man savours the silence of the morning as his back presses against something warm, firm and comforting. With strong arms wrapped securely around him, Nick sleeps a peaceful sleep with dreams filled of bliss. A smile creeps across his restful face as he relives the pleasures of the previous night. A surge of happiness fills him as he remembers the exquisite look of satisfaction upon Ellis' face as he brought him to climax.

The dreams shimmer and fade as a shrill ringing pierces the veil of slumber. He reaches out, hoping that clinging to the image of Ellis before him will let it last longer. The image fades faster as the sonic intruder grows more incessant to be heard. Grudgingly he starts to give in, to see what the irritating noise is. That is when he begins to feel it.

A warmth crawls over the back of his neck just as the firm grip around his torso disappears. There is a slight twisting movement behind him before the ringing that pierce into his dreams is thankfully silenced. A hand slides back across his tender ribs and returns to its place under him, bringing him once more into the snug and secure embrace he has come to love in this dying world.

The warmth grows hotter as soft lips begin to kiss along the back of his neck and down across his exposed shoulder. The hot breath lingers on the ridge of his left ear for a second before it's replaced by a moist tongue sliding across its length. A hardness grinds into his backside that brings a sleepy moan to his lips. He can feel a grin form on the plump lips of the man so deviously teasing him from behind.

"The alarm didn't seem to be working, so I figured I'd try something a little different." A soft southern voice coos into his ear.

"Mm mmm…" is the only vocal response Nick is able to muster, but his body pushing back at each of Ellis' forward grinding motions is the only response Ellis needs. His smile grows even bigger, his breath shuddering in delight as he applies more pressure to each lingering thrust. Another moan escapes Nick's parted lips before shaking his head clear. "Not that I'm complaining," his voice falters every few words as he tries his best to be logical when Ellis is doing a damn good job at sending his mind reeling, "but shouldn't we be getting ready?"

The grin kissing along his neck grows impossibly bigger. "That is why I set the alarm early." Ellis teases. "If it's a concern though, I'd be more than happy to continue this in the shower." He nips at the slender pillar of flesh he'd just been kissing before sliding off the bed. A firm slap finds its mark on Nick's ass as a parting gift.

Nick watches in admiration as the glorious body of his new lover walks away. The sting of pain on his backside spreads out before becoming a low throb to match his sore torso. With a lick of his lips and a smile growing across his face, he slides out of the bed and follows Ellis to the shower.

-x-x-

The Royal Princess creeps slowly through the bay. Without a crew manning the Gatun section of the Panama Canal, navigating the waters is treacherous and slow. The pilot yells for his spotters to keep the search lights shining on the entrance to the channel. In the end, the darkness wins.

With a load moan and a sudden jolt, the luxury cruise ship shudders to a halt. One hundred and forty-two tons of hull and machinery continue to push the ship against the edges of the passage, beaching it along the banks on either side of the opening.

A chorus of angry screeches echo out from the night. Seamen look to each other, fear in their eyes, as they ready their weapons.

-x-x-

Lunging forward, Nick pins Ellis painfully to the shower wall. They barely manage to not fall over from the slick tub floor underfoot. After a concerned examination of each other, they get dressed and rush out to see what happened.

Worried faces peeking out of cabin doorways are ordered to get back inside as Nick and Ellis head for the outer ring around the ship. As they run down the hallway, they nearly stumble over a very pissed off looking Vice Admiral.

"What's the situation, Catherine?" Nick breathily asks her.

"The situation, Nick, is that someone made a mistake." She spits out as they reach an outer door. Flinging it open, the anger in her face grows more intense. "Someone made a very big goddamn mistake!"

Through the fading pale moonlight and the frantically moving search lights, the three watch as dozens upon dozens of infected rush towards the ship. Several seamen can be seen heading for lifeboats and lowering themselves into the water.

"Where the hell they goin'!?" Ellis cries out as he watches the men sworn to protect them abandon them at the first sign of trouble.

"They're heading to the other boats in the docks. With any luck, they will find enough to pull us free from the channel before we're completely over run." The Vice Admiral says in a tone so flat and matter of fact it contracts greatly to the immense anger still visible on her features. "Now if you're still keen on helping us, gentlemen, grab up a rifle and defend the ship. I see your friends already are." She nods in the direction of Coach and Rochelle, where they stand together and unleash round after round into the horde.

A group of men rush to the deck with a large crate between them and set it down quickly before cracking it open to reveal ammunitions. Walking away from Ellis and Nick, Vice Admiral Grace picks up a rifle and expertly puts down three infected as they attempt to clamber onboard. Following suit, Nick and Ellis pick up weapons of their own and take up positions to put down as many infected as they can.

A strange groan followed by a hacking cough echoes over the sound of battle. The two men frantically look around, hoping to find the mutated creature they know as a Smoker. Shortly after, a scream erupts nearby as Catherine has a thick, mucous covered tentacle wrapped around her chest and is being dragged towards the edge of the ship. Helplessly, she is pulled into the grasping claws of the horde. One manages to rip a small chunk of her hair out before Nick is able to sever the Smoker's freakishly long tongue that has her held captive.

Gurgling and a predatory roar are all Nick hears just before he is pinned to the deck. His body is riddled with pain from the relentless claws of the leaping infected upon him, Nick cries out to Ellis to help him. Rifle bursts sound throughout the area, but he isn't sure if any are meant for his attacker.

The pressure from the body pinning him down disappears, as does the claws ripping at his flesh. The blurry image of Rochelle dragging him indoors is all he sees before blacking out from the pain and blood Nick go down and unable to get to him while holding off the group of infected closing in on himself fills Ellis with a deep fury. He whips his rifle at the heads of the approaching attackers to give himself some breathing room to reload his ammo clip. Once locked in place, Ellis unloads into the horde with the red mist of rage filling his vision.

Men rush pass him in an attempt to reach the aft of the ship. Several ropes are thrown between the newly commandeered boats and the cruise ship. With a lot of effort and the whirring of engines at full throttle adding to the cacophony of battle, the ship slowly begins to move off the banks. Shouting erupts around Ellis as several of the ropes are burned away by a steaming green ichor. His mind registers what they have dubbed a Spitter, but the rage reigns supreme in his thinking process. It isn't until he feels a firm grip on his shoulder and a baritone voice booming "Tank!" in his ear that Ellis manages to break away from raining lead into the horde.

He hears the monstrous roar then. It chills him to the bone, knowing how much damage one of them can do, let alone without a horde of infected adding to the equation. Rushing after Coach, Ellis doesn't hesitate unloading the rest of his clip into the infected that reminds him so much of a massive body builder on the most potent steroids ever created. The monstrosity hurls a large boulder at the ship, bursting into its hull and crushing a small group of survivors hiding in a cabin. Another boulder is hurled towards the ship before the men are able to put the beast down.

There is a sudden lurch as the ship finally breaks free, the last of the thrown debris helping to knock the ship loose. A massive hole gapes open from where the chunk hit, just barely above the water level. The ship doesn't stop though until it is safely away from the shores. The crew and any armed survivors comb the decks, cleansing the ship of any infected that made it aboard.

As the collected adrenaline dies down across the ship, the military begin their routine assessments. Among the crew, five men died in the fight and three more were sent to the infirmary to treat their wounds and to remain in isolation until the medic is certain they aren't infected with the Green Flu. Almost a dozen civilians were either crushed by the Tank's boulder or ripped apart from the few creatures that managed to make it past the defenses. Their bodies are sent down to below deck where the medic is preparing the dead for a watery funeral.

Those examined and not requiring quarantine do what they can to repair the damages to the ship. A few of the commandeered boats are torn apart for the lumber to patch up the hole along the lower deck. The remaining men and women that haven't hid away in their cabins help to clear the ship of the diseased corpses, taking precautions to not breathe too deeply or touch them with their bare hands.

-x-x-

The lacerations across Nick's chest have been treated. He rests on a cot in an isolation lab on the medical deck as Ellis stares at him through the window. He can hear the voice of Catherine over the intercom. She is giving a lovely speech about bravery and obstacles. Ellis is sure it is something the military uses as a default, as many times as he has heard it on the television. It is very touching though, and a sadness fills him from her words. It could have been Nick she was talking about. Ellis was not ready to lose any of his new family, least of all the man he's found himself falling in love with.

He continues to pace outside the room, looking in at the resting form of Nick. When his feet grow sore and his body weary from the pacing, he sits. His head rests against the glass wall, tilted so he can just see Nick in the corner of his eye. He waits, and he watches, until fatigue sets in and he drifts off to sleep while propped against the wall.

-x-x-

Several hours later, Catherine examines herself in the mirror. Her hand tenderly touches at the patch of red on her scalp. It was just a scratch. She thinks to herself as she applies a small amount of ointment to the spot and brushes her hair to cover it. Straightening her clothes, she grabs the bottle of tequila from the table in her room and goes to see a very surprised but pleased Francis for the rest of the evening.

-x-x-

A/N: I deeply apologize for this chapter taking almost half a year.. or was it half a year.. hrm.. "For taking an eternity"". Yah, we'll go with that one. Insert excuses here. -I bow my head in shame-.

I thank all of you for your wonderful reviews of the story so far. I hope this chapter is pleasing as well... I really don't like writing combat. :P A few pieces of it didn't make it in, because it just wouldn't flow out of my brain like my weird dreams or loveydovey scenes do. I hope it satisfies though. Again, apologies for the massive delay. Love you all.