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Fight To See Another Day

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Lance was not happy.

He was so not happy.

Not only were people walking all over his front yard, no, they had to kick everything and trample like a bunch of idiots. He had just cleaned up everything a few days ago, okay? Now people were making a mess and they didn’t even look sorry about it. He could hear himself growl like a feral dog, hands twitching. All he needed to do was reach out to grab one of his gun, aim and… Lance pinched the bridge of his nose, keeping his hand there and squeezing his eyes shut. One deep breath. Release. Okay.

He took another deep breath as he lowered his hand and focused on the group again. There were… six of them. Six people walking all over his front yard. It was not only disrespectful but also downright annoying. Lance had made sure that everything was spotless and now this. The audacity. But he had to admit that it was… he couldn’t even put into words what he was feeling. A strange mix of apprehension, distrust, fear and strangely enough happiness.

Who wouldn’t be somewhat happy to see actual human beings when all that you saw nowadays was brain-eating zombies? They weren’t exactly tactful company in Lance’s opinion. You couldn’t even have a civilised conversation with them. All they did was groan and moan while they tried to eat your brain. Worse than people at Walmart on Black Friday and that really said something.

Back to his front yard though. The piece of land in question was a wide street between tall buildings that Lance had cleared out a few days ago. He was currently residing on the rooftop of one of those buildings. He had set up camp here and was more than pleased with his selection of his for-now-home. Not only did it please his need for high places, it was also relatively secure and safe from annoying zombies. He had a quick way down if he needed one and he had an overview of everything that happened within his perimeter which is why he had even noticed the group in the first place.

They hadn’t noticed him. He was too high up and out of sight - no one would expect a zombie to fall from the sky - but he could watch them without problem. How they made their way through the streets, passing abandoned cars and all other obstacles that blocked their path. The streets weren’t as obscured around here but driving would still be difficult. Most cities were like this nowadays which is why Lance had never bothered with acquiring a vehicle besides having a license. Not that it really mattered anyways. It’s not like the zombie police would ask for his papers. He wasn’t even sure if he actually still had his license on him but he doubted it. Who needed money in the apocalypse? Why bother keeping a wallet?

Everything that wasn’t essential should be tossed out. He had learned this early on. His backpack held only what he needed and couldn’t acquire on the go. The only thing that was kind of obsolete and didn’t serve any other purpose besides mental stability was the small plush squirrel attached to one of the bag’s zippers. He had managed to keep it blood-free until now which was probably his proudest accomplishment.

The group moved swiftly but with caution, slow enough not to attract attention but never lingering anywhere. Lance had to admit that it seemed like they knew what they were doing. For a moment he was almost proud before his mood flopped in another direction.

A quick glance around the rooftop made one thing very obvious. Lance was alone. He didn’t have a group. At first he had been desperate for one, thrown into this zombie thing without warning and left on his own devices. In the beginning he had been part of one but a group came with different opinions, experiences, skills… A group could slow you down and Lance… he had figured he had better chances of surviving when he was on his own. He might not be a very experienced camper or anything but he knew a thing or two and he had always been a fast learner. He was quick on his feet, had a great sense of direction and knew how to keep himself fed. Get him some guns - preferably an AR - and he was good to go.

Maybe that is why he had managed to survive this long even on his own. He was… kind of a survivalist if he was allowed to call himself that. He wasn’t attached to one place like some people were, he could keep moving without problem, could keep himself out of trouble which people would have never believed him back in the day.

Zombies really helped to sort out your priorities.

“What the fuck are they doing here?” Lance huffed quietly. It wasn’t like they would be able to hear him if he spoke any louder but it had become a habit not to be any louder than necessary. As had the talking to himself. You didn’t want to stay in complete silence all the time. Maybe that is why he refused to part from his squirrel. Leo was a great conversation partner.

“I could just…” he made finger guns and aimed at the group but dropped his hand again, puffing out his cheeks. Yeah, some humans had gone rouge. They robbed other people, killed them, whatever. Lance didn’t have any interest in any of that. Not as long as they weren’t hostile towards him. He had met a pair a few weeks ago. Both parties had looked at each other with distrust, like two predators crossing paths. Lance hadn’t made any attempt to harm they so they hadn’t done anything either.

They had parted without saying anything.

This group intrigued him for some reason though. Maybe because the members all looked very different from one another - like a ragtag collection of odd individuals. Maybe because they seemed to know what they were doing. Maybe because they were walking right through Lance’s field his sight. He honestly didn’t know. Maybe he was simply starved of human contact. Whatever the reason, he decided to keep an eye on them, even using his scope at some point.

They set up camp in a spot Lance would have picked if he didn’t favor rooftops, not too far away from him. The sky was meanwhile orange, slowly turning into a dark blue and the first stars were already announcing their presence with a twinkling light. Lance had considered his options in the meantime. He could simply stay put, remain in this spot for maybe two more days before he would have to move again. The group wouldn’t notice him and would probably leave in the morning to continue on their way. Everything would continue as before and Lance would remain on his own, undisturbed.

The other option was… paying this group a visit. Lance was curious. He didn’t have an exactly reason as to why he was curious, he simply was. He was craving human contact. He also wanted to know where they had come from. If they were only trying to survive like he was or… if maybe they had a destination. Lance couldn’t imagine what one would possible count as a proper destination in a zombie-infested world but still. If there was… something out there he’d like to know.

Lance had always been a curious child so maybe it came to no surprise that he decided to check them out. He could still return to his roof top if they were jerks, they didn’t know where his spot was. And if he actually got killed during this… well, better than being eaten by a zombie so… chances were somewhat… okay. Besides, he wouldn’t go down without a fight and made sure to show that. He was trigger-happy when it came to zombies, never hesitating for long when they got too close, but he would never waste bullets without reason. Especially not on humans.

He packed up his bag which was always pretty much ready to go anyway, before making his way down onto the streets. Immediately he was more on guard although he had checked the perimeter again and everything was clear. You could never be careful enough. You should also never leave your belongings anywhere unattended. You never knew what could happen so having everything one you was the best way to go. He had lost his first backpack because he hadn’t been prepared and had to make a run for it. Going back would have been suicide. It had been the one from home and while he was sad about losing it, it had kind of helped to detach himself from any more sentiment.

The trip to the group’s camp wasn’t too difficult even without the perfect view from his rooftop. He moved silently and went by unnoticed in the dark, slowly approaching the spot where they were resting. The closer he got the easier it was to pick out their voices, the dull shimmer from some sort of light hinting at their position.

“I could try to hack a satellite?” one voice said and Lance quirked an eyebrow. A satellite? Hacking? Who were those people?

“How are you gonna do that?”

“I’d need military access, like I told you.”

It was silent for a few moments.

“Where would the nearest base be?”

Red River Army Depot. Lance knew that much. Simply because it had been encircled on a map he had seen at some point when he had first arrived at the city. About… 150 miles from here?

“Roughly 170 miles east from here.”

20 miles more, not that bad.

“And you really think it’s clear?”

“Only one way to find out.”

Lance was meanwhile close enough to see them. Six people, mostly guys from what he could observe. His grip around his rifle tightened. He couldn’t see any guns anywhere but that didn’t have to mean anything. People had gotten crafty with weapons, they could be hidden anywhere. They could also just throw something at him. Some groups didn’t give a shit about other people and would kill them without hesitation. If that were the case he’d have to establish the upper hand right off the bat. He might be better off using his hand guns, not his rifle, but his AR was his trustworthy companion and people usually had more respect for the bigger guns. No pun intended.

With one last deep breath Lance stepped out of hiding and into the light. He had his rifle at the ready but the muzzle pointed at nothing in particular - just yet, he could change that within a millisecond. At such a range he didn’t even need to aim properly. He mostly did this to make sure no one would pull a gun on him first. If not necessary he’d like to avoid confrontation.

The reaction within the group was immediately. He was noticed upon arrival and as soon as one of them spotted him and tensed everyone else followed, hands reaching for weapons and what else they had at their disposal but Lance stopped them before they could pull them out.

“Ahah,” he said, AR now pointed at the guy directly opposite him, the one who had spotted him first. He was a big guy, broad shoulders and very masculine features. His hair was short, the sides buzz-cut, except for a white tuft of hair in the front. He looked handsome, Lance had to give him that. Quite a feat during the zombie apocalypse. He blamed it on good genes. The dude was obviously Asian.

Everyone had frozen in their movements. Either Lance had snoped out a close group of friends or he had their leader on the other end of his rifle. No matter what the reason, he’d use this to his advantage.

“Okay,” he said, voice even. Confrontations like these no longer scared him when there were flesh-eating zombies everywhere. Humans could be scary but not as scary as a mindless, brain-eating, decaying corpse that was screeching and trying to bite your arm off even after shooting it twice. He still felt the terror of that during some nights. “Nice and easy. I just want some questions answered.”

“Oh yeah, not here to steal anything?” a guy to Lance’s left hissed but he didn’t even spare him a glance.

“Keith,” leader guy said and looked at the one who had just spoken who seemed to settle down under the other’s stare. So Lance really had picked out the leader. Interesting. He was entirely focused onto him, disregarding anything else except for a quick glance to make sure everyone else was staying put as well.

“What do you want?” Leader asked with a sigh. He really was relaxed for someone who had an AR pointed at them, maybe he had experience. Then again… ARs or zombies… who knew what was better. You could die any moment so stressing over it didn’t help anyone. He might have also figured that Lance was here for a reason, otherwise he could have just shot them instantly.

“First of all I’d like to know what you’re doing here, you weren’t here before. What do you want?” Lance asked. If these people had a specific reason for coming here he’d like to know. He had been here for a while and during that entire time he hadn’t run into anyone.

“Do you own cities now?” the hot-headed guy from before muttered. He was very displeased with the situation but wasn’t stupid enough to do anything reckless.

Leader ignored him. “Just passing through, cities are easier to navigate and we wanted to stock up on some supplies.”

Lance guessed it was a good enough reason and accepted the answer. “Where are you going?”

Leader turned towards a small person next to him who pushed up their circular glasses. “New Boston… as of now,” they said, not giving away any more detail that necessary. They were the one who had spoken about hacking a satellite, Lance recognized their voice.

So they were really headed towards the army depot. Lance was rather intrigued. “What do you want at the army base?”

Everyone stiffened, hands itching to grab weapons. Even Leader’s eyes narrowed at Lance.

“Oh, come on,” Lance huffed and rolled his eyes. “I’ve been watching you for like… six hours. If you really want to go by unnoticed avoid streets with tall buildings. Zombies aren’t the only ones on the look-out”

The members of the group looked at one another.

“What do you want?” the hot-headed guy then asked.

“A promise not to kill me would be nice,” Lance grumbled. Sure, he had the upper hand here but he still wasn’t sure he wouldn’t get jumped as soon as he lowered his gun or maybe even get shot in the back. “I’m not here to waste bullets or anything.”

The guy looked about ready to spit out some more of his opinions but Leader was faster than him. He first looked at the guy before looking at Lance and giving his answer slowly. “We won’t as long as you play nice. We’re not out looking for trouble.”

“Good, me neither,” Lance huffed, pulling his rifle back and pointing it at the ground. His hand remained on the trigger, a habit he had picked up very quickly, but at least the muzzle was out of the danger zone. “Still, even when shot I have a 100% accuracy from this distance. Don’t fuck with me.” He hadn’t been shot before - thank fuck - but he’d make sure to get in a few of his own just out of spite and little bit of bluffing never hurt anyone.

Leader raised his hands in a calming gesture. “Won’t happen. I can see that you know what you’re doing. We’re not looking for trouble.”

“And yet you’re staying on the ground.” Lance raised an eyebrow, feeling a little smug about the fact that this obviously very strong guy was taking him seriously. His lanky stature had always let people assume he was nothing more than a beanpole. “Pretty weird. You also have an apparent lack of guns which, mind you, is rather stupid.”

“You’d have to be able to use one for them to be helpful,” a girl with long silver hair said. She looked like she had just stepped out an expensive fashion magazine - model turned zombie survivalist. The look suited her strangely well but Lance imagined she’d look good in anything anyway.

“That is indeed true.” Lance smirked. “How nice that I’m more than capable of using one then.” Guns were the way to go in his opinion but she was right. A gun was no use if you couldn’t use it properly. Not only would you be drawing attention to yourself, you weren’t as fast and mobile as you were with traditional weapons. You also had to keep your distance which didn’t always work. melee weapons also had the advantage of being silent. Lance had to pick his battles smartly, not shoot at anything within sight.

“Who says you’re any good?” Of course the hot-head would say that.

“Wanna try me, mullet?” The guy with a mullet looked downright offended and Lance smirked at him. “The offer is tempting but one; I’d like to keep my bullets for those who really need one in their skull and two, it’s loud and we’d get some unwanted company so no, thank you.”

The guy looked like he was seething with silent fury.

“Did we answer your questions?” Leader asked calmly and Lance crooked his head. “Some. I’m still wondering why you’d want to hack a satellite.” They could refuse to answer or bullshit their way through, Lance was aware of this. None of those choices would be exactly smart on their part but they could try. Maybe they didn’t even have a proper plan but he still wanted to hear at least something.

The small one sighed heavily. “If you have to know… I have this unproven theory that there might be places in the world that are actually safe. I want to check if that’s the case and if there is any possibility of getting out of here.”

Lance blinked a few times in surprise. This wasn’t exactly what he had imagined. “You think zombies are only on this continent?”

They shook their head but the big guy on Leader’s left spoke before she could. He looked nice, like someone who would want to pet dogs on the street and would let everyone copy their homework. “No, I’m sure by now they have spread to most of Asia, Europe and Africa as well.”

Lance probably looked like he doubted that logic. He did because as far as he knew America was not connected to another continent.

“The sea between Canada and Russia freezes in the winter. I wouldn’t put it past zombies to make their way over. With how quickly they spread here, they’d have no trouble overtaking other continents as well.”

“So,” Lance shifted. “Then what you’re saying is; you’re pretty sure most of the world is a zombie land but there might be places that are safe. I assume you mean those surrounded by water? Like Australia?”

“Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Hawai, Cuba, Madagascar, Iceland, Great Britain,” the small person counted. “There are a few options that could be safe. We don’t know.”

Lance looked at the six slowly, thinking about what had just been said. If there were actually places that were safe… He didn’t like the small sliver of hope in his chest but he couldn’t could quite shove it aside completely. He didn’t want to believe in anything unproven. Those places could be just as infected and crawling with zombies. There wasn’t really kind of communication still up and running which is probably why the need a military base to even try and hope getting access to a satellite.

If there weren’t already metal-eating space zombies munching away on those.

“Interesting theorie you have there,” Lance said slowly.

“It is just a theory,” the last member of the group said. It was a guy with a low ponytail, seated next to the small one. There were some similarities between them and Lance wondered if they were related. Having your sibling with you in these time must be nice.

Maybe Lance was missing human interaction more than he had previously thought. He wasn’t sure what exactly it was that he was feeling but he knew that he should probably get going and not overstay his welcome. These people seemed to be nice but he didn’t want to provoke anything. Mullet did look like he wasn’t too far from going off. Not only that, Lance had a few thing to think about and he’d rather do it in a safe spot where he could allow himself to be distracted.

“Well then, that was rather insightful talk,” he said. “But I’m gonna go back to my place and leave you to your business.”

“So, you really didn’t want to steal anything?” the big guy with tanned skin asked and Lance sent him a lopsided smile.

“I might be trigger-happy sometimes but I’m not that much of a jerk. I don’t want your supplies and I have enough weapons on me as it is so no, I really didn’t want to steal anything. I was just curious.”

“And you won’t snipe us from the roof of a building?” the one with the ponytail asked suspiciously.

Lance shook his head. “Again no, I don’t like wasting bullets and it’s too loud. I like my peace and quiet. I’ve been here for five days now and managed to stay out of trouble. I wanna keep that streak.”

This seemed to assure the group at least somewhat. Lance was being honest, he didn’t want to shoot innocent people who were trying to survive just for the shits and giggles. And he really did like his peace and quiet. Way more than any confrontation with zombies but he could understand where they were coming from. You could never know who to trust and maybe Lance was sometimes a little too easy-going because he wasn’t worried about being gunned down as soon as he turned around.

His hunch turned out to be right though. He disappeared around a corner and managed to climb back onto his building, immediately feeling a lot safer. He checked everything again before settling down for the night. Zombies weren’t exactly good climbers and he’d hear them coming if they should figure out a way to scale the building somehow. He doubted it would happen but he was a light sleeper and would wake to any unusual noises. It actually came in handy now that there wasn’t any annoying traffic in the early hours of the morning. Or at any point in time actually.

He did think about what he had just learned from the group. The possibility of safe spaces still existing on earth. It was somewhat far fetched, he had to admit. People could have transmitted the zombie with planes and ships and whatnot. Only if a country had realized what was going on as soon as it started and had eliminated all threats and cut off all contact immediately it might have worked. Then again, Australia was a big country. You might be lucky and just fuck off into the dessert and live there without too much trouble.

Lance didn’t want allow himself to fantasize about this too much, he’d be distracted and more reckless but it still didn’t want to leave his head even as he settled down for the night.

The next morning he woke up with his eyes on a mostly blue sky, a few clouds blocking out the sun occasionally. His eyes immediately took a sweep of his surroundings but everything was peaceful and he was still in the same spot as yesterday. There was no such thing as slowly waking up or a relaxed morning. As soon as you opened your eyes you were on guard no matter how safe you thought your spot was.

Lance took a deep breath before getting up, rolling his shoulders and stretching slowly. Maybe he should have taking a pilates course at some point because his shoulders were killing him on some days. Too bad there weren’t many pilates instructors around during the apocalypse.

Back in the day he had an entire morning routine with skin care and showers and doing his hair… now that was reduced to seeing if all his limbs were still attached, making sure no zombie was chewing on him, checking his belongings and then stretching a bit before doing… whatever he was planning to do on that day. Most days it wasn’t anything special. Sometimes he went out to scout but he avoided unnecessary risks. He didn’t have anyone who would have his back and one-man missions weren’t exactly the safest option.

A little rummaging in his bag brought up his small sack of nuts as well as a granola bar and a bottle of water. It was probably the most difficult resource to get nowadays. Running water wasn’t exactly given in some places and most supplies in homes and stores had been ravished by now. Thankfully Lance by now knew how to purify water and made sure to keep an eye on his supplies. On the days where he he stocked up his water supply he ran back and forth from a water source and his camp a dozen times. When he was on the move he filled up his bottles and went with those but when he stayed somewhere longer he found a container for water and filled that up, restocking his water bottles from that source.

Yet he still hadn’t found a place where he could stay for longer periods of time. Ideal would be a spot where he could stay… for months. If he ever found one he’d start growing his own food but until now he had always managed to get by. This kind of breakfast wasn’t exactly what you would call luxurious but it kept him fed and was easy. Those two attributes were already hard enough to come by.

Afterwards he checked all of his three guns and his knife. At first he hadn’t thought about taking one but then his pocket knife hadn’t been enough to deal with some situations and no matter how deadly a handgun or an AR was, they couldn’t exactly cut fabric, branches or force doors open.  

Thankfully everything was still in order and working properly so Lance put on his knee and elbow pads. With that done as well he was ready to face the world. At least physically, mentally… was up to discussion.

He’d be able to camp out about two more days on his rooftop if he played his cards right and nothing happened. Then his rations would be used up and he would have to make another supply run, either coming back to his roof or finding another spot. Staying in the same spot for too long could be dangerous but he had kinda grown to like his little corner. He had been pretty much undisturbed the entire time and this roof top was very secure. There was shade and he could use his scope without problem. There was no fire escape so zombies couldn’t come up and the ground floor didn’t have any windows so no easy way in for zombies. Finding a new place was always stressful and dangerous.

Maybe he should do some scouting with his scope and check the surrounding buildings. Maybe one of them offered equal comfort and safety. He could also check the area for any zombies and perhaps some of the apartments as well.

He hadn’t stayed in an abandoned apartment in forever. It felt almost claustrophobic to stay in closed quarters by now. Having walls all around him made Lance feel like a caged animal. No easy escape, no overview. As a sniper he valued high places where he could see everything. Walking along the streets was already causing him enough anxiety, he didn’t need that 24/7.

Seeing up his rifle took less than three seconds, courtesy of lots of practise. Besides, right now he was only using it to look around, not to actually shoot at anything.

The rooftops close by all seemed to be pretty difficult to get onto. They had high fences which meant Lance wouldn’t be able to use his rifle properly. That was a problem. Most of them also didn’t really seem… good to him. His gut said no and he had learned to trust his gut. It was almost always right. Besides, only logic wasn’t going to help you in this kind of world.

He then adjusted his search for zombies. He spotted one about 700 yards out, no problem. Also no need to take that one out. Closer observation revealed a few more, a bit too close for Lance’s liking but they weren’t headed in his direction. Strangely enough… they were all headed in the same direction. Lance frowned, observing the group of five zombies that were all moving north. It was strange in itself. Usually zombies didn’t have a specific place to be so they just staggered around leisurely.

Why on earth were they…

Lance’s breath halted in his lungs. He shifted and adjusted his rifle, needing to search for a while but then he found the spot and - fuck. The group of six that he had paid a visit the night before was backed into a corner, zombies stumbling towards them.

Lance hissed a curse under his breath.

There were too many and they were attracting too much attention. It wouldn’t take long and an entire horde would appear. Not only would that mean the group would get eaten but Lance would have trouble relocating as well. He couldn’t sit out an entire horde with the supplies he had left. They would stick around for a while and he’d be trapped on his roof. Four days ago he might not have minded as much but now that wasn’t exactly something to look forward to.

“Fucking shit,” he hissed, groaning in frustration. Of course something had to go fucking wrong. He couldn’t even get a week without those stupid zombies fucking everything up. Just great. Now he had two options; fucking off to somewhere else while the zombies were distracted or… or actually helping the group.

Maybe it was an easy decision for some people. Most would have left without looking back to safe their own skin but Lance had one big advantage; he was a sniper. He could attack from the distance and didn’t have to get close to the zombies. Then again, did he really want to risk his life for people he didn’t even know?

He would be fine on his own. He didn’t know for how long but he’d be fine, he had managed until now. A group was more difficult. If he helped them he’d have to relocate as well which meant more risks and scouting and…  

Such much hassle.

Then again… what if their theory actually turned out to be true? What if there were places that were safe? Lance would never be able to figure this out on his own. He couldn’t hack a satellite or any of that. He might be good at surviving in this world but for how long? It wasn’t like he actually liked how things were at the moment. He dealt with it, sure, but only because he had no other option.

Lance sighed heavily, resting his forehead on his rifle and just taking a moment to think. The headache announcing itself was nothing to be excited about but nevertheless his thoughts quickly sorted themselves out. He hated how quickly he came to an conclusion. Deep down he had known it right from the start even when the logical part of him was still a little doubtful.

“You’re too good for this world, Lance,” he mumbled to himself and stood up. With his backpack on and all weapons in place he made his way down onto the street. He took out three zombies with his right hand gun before they even noticed him, making sure the street behind him was entirely clear before moving towards the location of the group swiftly.

All zombies that he saw were taken out until he had a clear path in front of him, pocketing his hand gun and starting to run towards the group. If he was lucky he’d get there preferably before all, if any, of them were eaten. Why he suddenly cared so much about other people was beyond him but he had no time to question his feelings at the moment.

He would have loved to snipe those zombies from above but he had been too far away to make accurate shots and he didn’t want to risk accidentally getting one of the group members. Searching for a new building would have taken up too much time as well so he had to take what he could get.

He jumped over a few cars in his way, finally getting close enough to see the group. The situation hadn’t improved at all. They were backed into a corner and it didn’t look like they’d be able to hold out much longer. Obviously they weren’t giving it but neither were the zombies and they were a lot sturdier than regular humans.

Lance didn’t even think for long and jumped onto the nearest car, dashing between them before he reached one with an unobscured view. He dropped to his knees on the car’s roof, meanwhile used to just dropping to the floor wherever without regard and had his rifle ready within a moment. Time seemed to stop when he got the first zombie into the centre of his crosshair. This never changed no matter what. There was always this one second where everything else seemed to slow down and almost freeze. Lance would take one deep breath and then-

The draw back pushed against his shoulder in a familiar manner as the bullet left the barrel and the zombie went down. Perfect headshot. But there was no time to celebrate it, Lance was entirely focused onto mowing down each and every one of those brain-eating pests. He’d cry over his bullets later, for now there was only one objective which was seeing all of those zombies going down.

There had been twelve and he counted in his head. Several of them had been shot already. All of them in the head because that was the only spot where they would actually remain dead afterwards. Two more went down in a flurry of trashing limbs. Four, three - only two remained - two, one…

The last one went down with an ugly screech, Lance watching it’s brain splatter as it disappeared from his view. He tilted his head slightly so he could look over his scope, slowly scanning the area with careful precision. No one was left, not a single zombie. He glanced behind himself and could breathe a little easier as he found it clear as well. They’d have a little time before any more zombies showed up. But they would show up. That much was certain.

Lance patted his own shoulder mentally as he straightened up and slid off the car. He no longer registered aching knees after pulling such a stunt. As easy as it was to just leave he was curious and maybe even a little worried so he walked the remaining distance towards the group that was slowly getting themselves back together. Seemed like they had gotten quite the scare which was no surprise. It was still early, maybe they had been surprised by such a high number of zombies while several members had been asleep.

This was one of the reasons why Lance favored rooftops. He could only repeat himself again and again. Waking up to zombies stumbling towards you was more horrifying than any horror movie. Just the dread and fear that would spread through your entire body within seconds… Lance shuddered. The few times that had happened had left their scars on him and he really didn’t want a repeat of that.

Leader from the night before was watching him curiously as he stepped up to them. Obviously they had all noticed Lance, his rifle was hard to overhear. Much less zombies suddenly just falling over dead. They might have made the connection themselves pretty quickly.

Lance stepped over two rotting bodies with a disgusted grimace before turning his eyes onto the group. “Are you all okay?” he asked, crooking his head and letting his eyes sweep over each member. Nobody seemed to be harmed, apparently only a little shaken. That was at least something. No injuries, no bites. That was good.

“Thanks to you,” Leader said, something like fascination in his voice. “That was… you really saved our skin there.”

Lance sent him a lopsided smile. Getting saved by someone wasn’t exactly common and they obviously hadn’t expected it. He himself would never expect someone to help him out of a tricky situation. Everyone only saved themselves. No unnecessary risks. Why risk your life for strangers? Lance truly was an oddity here. “No problem.”

“Man, I really thought we were all goners for a sec back there,” the tan big guy said and put a hand on his chest. “That’s not good for my fragile heart.” Lance believed him wholeheartedly.

“How did you even know there were so many zombies?” the one with the mullet asked, eyebrows furrowed. Almost as if he thought Lance had sent them here and the latter raised an eyebrow at him in return. The tone hadn’t sounded aggressive, only guarded. It was the apocalypse did to people. Still, he didn’t like his good intentions being doubted.

“Dude, I actually use my rifle. I’ve been staying up on a roof about 400 yards from here. How do you think I saw them? Not that that matters now. Thanks to you I can relocate again but hey, I got to shoot some bullets again and I don’t feel like I completely wasted them so we’ve all gotten something out of this.”

“Thanks,” the small person said, disregarding their hot-headed comrade. Maybe they also spoke up just to make sure their saviour wouldn’t reconsider his decision of saving their asses. “That was too close for my liking. Won’t be doing that again.”

“I can only recommend rooftop,” Lance said with a lopsided grin. “And a rifle.”

“I think we’d be more likely to shoot ourselves,” the guy with the ponytail sighed. “As convenient as they are, we wouldn’t be any good with them. Might even shoot ourselves in the process.”

Lance just smirked. He knew rifles were not a weapon everyone could use which also meant he hadn’t had too much trouble getting himself one. Most people went for the smaller guns or other weapons that were easier to wield. As a sniper you had the advantage as long as you were far away but you weren’t exactly mobile or any good in close combat. Thankfully Lance was ambidextrous and had no trouble switching weapons in a moment’s notice. He did prefer to keep his distance though. Meeting a zombie us close and personal was not on his bucket list. Not that it hadn’t happened before, he just didn’t want a repeat of that anytime soon. Preferably never.

“So, you all are actually heading out to New Boston? That’s quite a trek,” Lance said, shouldering his rifle which made some people flinch. “Safety’s on,” he added to reassure them. He wasn’t that stupid.

“Since you’ve already eavesdropped on us, yes,” the small person said. “I need military access to even have a chance to hack some satellites. Can’t get a signal in this fuckshit of a place.”

Lance snorted. “Okay, you know what? I think I’m gonna gonna keep you company until we reach the outskirts. I gotta stock up on some things and thanks to your ruckus there should be some more zombies crawling around which means I have to relocate anyway.”

“Wasn’t like we were asking for it,” Mullet grumbled.

“Six brains in one place, quite the feast if you ask me.”

The guy threw his hands up in the air and started walking rather briskly, the big guy and the small person following him while shouting at him to not run off on his own.

“Thanks again, we really owe you,” Leader said softly but Lance shook his head. “Never say you owe someone even when it’s true.” He took his rifle back into his hands. “Owing people isn’t good in this economy.”

Leader hummed thoughtfully. “I guess you’re right.”

“You’re also walking in the wrong direction.”

“Hm?”

“There is a 7/11 like two blocks from here, zombie magnet. Did it once, wouldn’t recommend it.”

Leader’s eyes widened a little. “Keith!” he called and Mullet turned around with a glare. “What?” he snarked back. Lance took note that apparently Mullet’s name was Keith. He wasn’t sure but perhaps he had heard the name yesterday as well but he had been too focused back then to actually notice.

“Apparently there is a zombie magnet that way, we should take a different route,” Leader called. Lance was a little surprised he was this open to taking his advice. Maybe saving their asses had contributed to this.

“Oh great,” the small person called back in a frustrated manner, their maybe-brother just laughing at their misery. “I have to recalculate again.”

Lance sighed heavily and turned on his heel. “Follow me, I think I kinda know where to go… except you want to wait here for some more zombies to arrive? Pretty sure they’re on their way.”

Everyone was quick to follow his lead. They were glad at least someone seemed to know what to do. Not that they were completely hopeless but they didn’t know their way around here.

Lance checked out the street again with his scope before slipping his rifle over his shoulder. “Two or three clicks down from here there’s a pretty easy passage out of the city. Shouldn’t be too many zombies around there.” He got his two hand guns out. “Be careful anyway. Last time I checked there were a few stragglers around the area. If we’re lucky they shouldn’t bother us but the universe hates humans so we’ll most likely attract their attention anyway.”

“Huh, you really know these streets,” the one guy with the ponytail said as they started walking. They left behind a pile of dead zombies that would honestly not be missed.

Lance shrugged his shoulders. “Comes with the job. Besides, I’ve been here for a little while. Hopping from roof to roof. I would be stupid to stay in one place and not make sure to know what’s going on.”

“So… you’re not from this city?” the girl with silver hair asked and Lance looked at her for a long moment. Were they really starting to… talk like they were getting to know each other? Well, that was a first. Not that he minded much, he simply hadn’t really met people before who were in the mood for talking like this. Mostly everyone stayed to themselves and was more than wary of everyone else.

He sighed heavily. “No. I’m not from Dallas.” He had to think for a moment what city they were currently in. “And I take it you aren’t either?”

“Good observation,” the small person said and pushed up their glasses. “How come you’re alone?”

Lance raised an eyebrow at them. He could just lie and tell them whatever. He wasn’t in the mood for it though and he had never been one to actually mess with people in situations like these. If they wanted to know he’d tell them. They had told them about their plans so might as well share some information himself.

“Because I can take care of myself.” He turned when he heard something and had his left hand gun up and aiming before anyone could even react, shooting the zombie that had just stumbled out of a side street in the head. It went down with a squeak, its limbs flopping a few times before stilling. Better to take it out before it could cause a scene and attract even more attention to them. He was used to having to do this on his own which is why he had developed fast reflexes like this. “I used to be with a group but… I didn’t agree with some of their decisions and before it got really bad I decided to go solo. Was a while ago and I’ve managed until now.”

“You seem like you can take care of yourself,” the big guy mused and Lance smiled at him. It was nice to hear.

On their way out of the city they met a few more stragglers. Lance took down one more but the other three were taken care of by the group. Mullet - Keith - had a pretty fancy sword, similar to a Khopesh, which he obviously knew how to use and Lance would admit that he was actually a little impressed. Now that he got a good look at him he had to say that Keith was… rather nice to look at. He was obviously pretty fit and agile. The frown sometimes slipped off his face when he wasn’t completely on guard and he looked a lot nice without the constant scowl scrunching his eyebrows together. Lance got a bit of bad boy vibes from him. Like he didn’t like following rules and was generally fine with being on his own. There was probably something tying him to this group. Otherwise he might be like Lance; going solo and hacking his way through everything life threw at him.

He also shed his jacket at some point, continuing in just his tank top and Lance could see some dark line on his skin. Did he spot a tattoo there? Bad boy confirmed.

The guy with the ponytail had something that looked like a baton and extended into a sturdy-looking staff with spikes and hooks on both ends. Leader also had some weapons on hand. Two black Kukri were strapped to his back and Lance was pretty sure he’d be more than deadly with them. Those arms were pretty big. Not to mention that Leader was tall and broad in general. Lance wondered if he had always been a beef cake of if he had just put on all that during the apocalypse.

It seemed all of them used mostly melee weapons. Big guy had a gun but admitted somewhat sheepishly that he wasn’t very good with it and didn’t like using it because he was afraid of hitting one of his comrades. Understandable. If Lance wasn’t such a good gunsman he’s surely wouldn’t have survived this long. Instead big guy used a tomahawk and if Lance was being honest, he didn’t want to startle him in fear of having his head split open like a log of wood. The guy looked like he had more than enough strength to do that.

The silver-haired girl used a ball-headed war club as her favored weapon while the small person was only stocked with a several knives. Lance wasn’t about to say they were defenseless though. Some people could fight better with a knife than some could wield a gun.

Otherwise their trek was - thankfully - rather uneventful. They managed to reach the outskirts and found a highway that would lead them out of the city in the late afternoon, limbs all attached and working. They had stopped for supplies, raiding a small kiosk that actually still had some good stuff. The ice cream in the broken cooler wasn’t one of them though.

Lance told them the coast was clear after checking with his rifle and stepped onto the highway. The view was obscured by cars which made his hair stand on end immediately. He hated when he didn’t have a clear sight of what was going on. Zombies could be hiding anywhere but there was none in plain sight at the moment.

The small person was already fiddling with a compass and a map, figuring out where they needed to go. Lance watched them curiously. He hadn’t really used a compass until now. He also didn’t exactly have a destination in mind so it was redundant. He simply went with his gut, following his instincts and picking out spots at random. Everyone watched them fiddle with their tools, turning back and forth, looking in this direction and in that direction.

“Aha!” they called at some point triumphantly. “That way.” They pointed in a direction and the others nodded in agreement. Lance wondered if this small person was the one who always figured out their routes. There was usually one in the group who was tasked with navigation.

Suddenly everyone was looking at him and he needed a second to understand why. Right, because he had said he’d accompany them to the outskirts which they had reached by now. This meant from here on they would go their own separate ways

Huh… Lance wouldn’t have thought it would actually be a little difficult to part again. The last few hours had been pretty nice with several sane people to talk to. It was something he hadn’t had in a very long time and hadn’t even realized he had missed quite a lot. Still, he wouldn’t invite himself into joining their group. They seemed to be pretty close and he wasn’t about to but his way into their tightly-knit circle. Trusting people was difficult in the apocalypse so he more than understood that they weren’t too keen on adding another. Keeping six people alive must be quite a feat already, adding him to the mix wouldn’t exactly make things any easier.

“Well,” he said and adjust his rifle. He didn’t want to say it but he forced himself to do it anyway. Better to get it over with quickly. “Guess that means goodbye then.”

The group members looked at one another, uncertain expressions on their faces. Several of the members, if not all, communicated with just their eyes. Lance had no idea what they were ‘talking’ about but he was kinda curious.

Until-

“You can tag along,” Mullet said, everyone looking at him but no one objected. It was as if they all agreed on this and focused onto Lance instead. “If you want to.”

Lance blinked a few times in surprise. “Me? With you?” This… was not what he had expected. Especially not from Keith. He was a silent guy, silent and deadly. He didn’t seem like someone who would randomly pick up new people. They had talked a little bit the last hours and Lance had come to realize that Keith was generally not very open towards strangers. It made this all the more surprising.

“If you want,” Mullet repeated, slower and more standoffish this time, crossing his arms in front of his chest and looking away pointedly. He had obviously taken Lance’s surprise the wrong way.

“Really?” Lance asked, making sure to take on a more genuine tone. He couldn’t believe they were actually offering this. Mullet out of all people. “I mean, you don’t really know me…”

“Well, you could have robbed or killed us - which you didn’t,” Leader said. “You also could have let us die - which you didn’t. You could have let us walk straight into a zombie horde - which you didn’t - and you could have just left us wandering - which you didn’t. So…” Leader shrugged his shoulders with a small smile. “I guess it’s safe to say that you’re not completely awful.”

Lance blinked several times in surprise. He hadn’t thought about it that way and actually took a moment or two to consider the option. There was that; going with them and making the trek to New Boston and then… doing whatever came up or; taking his supplies and retreating onto a rooftop again for a while longer before he had to relocate. Like he had done for the past year or so. The second option didn’t sound exactly tempting although it might be safer.

It wasn’t like he had to stay with the group if things got ugly. He could very well ditch them at some point if he felt like he was better of on his own. There wasn’t anything tying him to Dallas after all. He was free to roam the world however he wanted.

Maybe a life-changing decision like this should have taken him longer but subconsciously he had made the decision quite a while ago already.

He looked up at the group with a smile. “Sure. I’ll tag along if you’ll have me.”

Big guy seemed especially thrilled and bundled over to hug him, actually making Lance wheezed as the air was squashed out of his lungs. “Another member, I’m so happy!” the guy called and Lance laughed at his enthusiasm. The others also looked pretty happy about the new addition.

“Although not completely without intention,” the one with the ponytail said. He too was smiling. “Having a sniper is a valuable asset.”

Lance chuckled, patting big guy’s shoulder as he was put down again. “I know but that’s okay. I can profit from this as well and I’d be protecting myself like this or like that anyway so I don’t mind.”

“Great!” Leader clapped his hands. “Then welcome to the group. I’m Shiro, that’s my brother Keith.” He gestured towards Mullet who scrunched up his nose. It looked strangely cute on him. “This is Pidge and their brother Matt.” He motioned to the small person and the guy with the ponytail who waved his hand. So they actually were siblings. “Allura.” The silver-haired girl. “And Hunk.” The big guy, obviously.

Lance tried to remember all the names at once which was quite a feat. He had never been very good at them but he could at least try. “Hi, I’m Lance. I’m allergic to strawberries, I’m a leo and I hate bees. Nice to meet you.”

Allura and Pidge both snorted. Lance also spotted a small smile on Keith’s face. That was if he wasn’t hallucinating. He hoped he didn’t because Keith’s smile was kinda nice to see. It was only there for a second though, soon replaced by his usual expression.

“I don’t think there will be many strawberries around,” Keith muttered with a frown.

“Ya never know. I don’t wanna choke to death on a strawberry cake that went bad two years ago.” Lance shrugged. “Besides, you look like you’re lactose intolerant and still drink milk because you don’t give a fuck.”

Keith actually looked a little startled and Shiro barked out a laugh. “Oh, we will all get along just fine,” he said while his brother was glaring at him.

Lance grinned. He had the same feeling.