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Hypothetically speaking

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"What did you want to be when you were a kid?"

Garraty turned to look at McVries, a puzzled look on his face. They had been talking about their favorite movies up until that moment and he wasn't expecting such a question. "What?"

"You must have had some kind of dream, right? All kids think they're going to become pilots or firemen or- or actors."

"Actors?" Garraty let out a soft chuckle, but McVries was dead serious. His handsome face looked tired, all right, but he was still much more attractive than all the other Walkers combined. Garraty blinked. What the fuck was that thought? He shook his head slightly and tried to remember. Tried to push that thought to the back of his mind. "I think... when I was four or five I wanted to become a teacher."

"A teacher?" McVries showed him that crooked smile of his. "Really?"

"Yeah. Cause I had a crush on my kindergarten teacher and I thought then I could be with her." He admitted with some reluctance, keeping his gaze ahead, not daring to look at his friend. He would make fun of him for sure.


Garraty waited. Nothing. Might as well tell him everything then. "And then a couple years later I went through a phase where I wanted to become a super hero. I thought they were real. If I think about it, I was a real dumb child."

"We have all been there. I wanted to be a clown when I was four." McVries let out a bitter laugh. "And then I wanted to become a baker when I was nine, because my mom went through a period where she would bake cake and cookies every other day and I thought I wanted to do it too so I could eat lots of sweet stuff all the time. The irony is, now I barely touch desserts. I prefer savory food."

Garraty turned to look at him as he spoke. He wondered if he looked as tired as him. At least when you look good, you look good even when you're tired. A tiny part of him couldn't ignore that thought. Stop. Stop. Stop. "I love sweet things."

"Yeah? What's your favorite?"

"Peanut butter cookies. No, wait, brownies. Or maybe cheesecake. It's hard to choose-"

"Can you guys stop talking about real food? I am dying here!" came Stebbins' voice from a few steps behind. He was walking alone and had clearly been listening in on their conversation. For how long, Garraty had no idea.

"No. Fuck off." McVries turned around to give him the finger and then sped up. Garraty started walking faster to keep up with him. "So did you ever learn to bake anything?"

"Yeah. I make the best pecan pie of all America."

Garraty tried to remember the last time he'd had pecan pie. He couldn't. "I'd love to try it. My mom was never a great cook. After my dad was taken away..." He paused, glancing at the soldiers. They were really far away and certainly couldn't hear, but even so, he lowered his voice to a whisper. "After it was just the two of us left, my mom never really bothered doing much. But when she found out I'd been picked for the Walk, she went kind of nuts. She couldn't keep still. She would always be either cleaning around the house or cooking. And she kept asking me what I wanted for dinner everyday."

"Doesn't sound so bad." McVries paused. Garraty could feel his eyes on him, but didn't look. "Your dad... do you miss him?"

Garraty thought it was an odd question, but he supposed not everybody was close to their parents. Some kids would get over the loss of one parent just fine, especially if they got along better with the other one. "I do. I just wish I knew what happened to him. I mean, I know what happened, but it's all conjectures. I would really like to find out..."

"You don't." McVries interrupted him. He sounded tense. "You don't want to know, Ray. Sometimes reality is much worse than imagination."


"I'm serious. Your dad isn't the first. I've heard of similar things happening to people in my town..." He ran a hand on his face, on his scar. He looked at Garraty in the eyes, and it looked like there was a storm brewing behind them. "Sometimes you can only go on. Life goes on, anyway, and nobody cares after a while. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, so you have to keep going."

"Well, I'm definitely doing that now." Garraty half-joked, nodding to the road and the people walking in front of them.

"That's not what I mean. It's in your head. At some point you got to stop feeling sorry for yourself and just live on."

"Hard to do when you're on a death march."

McVries finally showed him a tiny smile. "I suppose." Silence. "Ray?"


"I'm sorry about your dad."

Words suddenly felt useless, meaningless, and his chest felt constricted, so Garraty only nodded.

"My father is not great. The only decent thing I got from him is the way I look." McVries joked with a bitter laugh, and Garraty couldn't help himself. He didn't know what was wrong with him, but he just had to speak. "So you have a hot father."

McVries was taken aback, but only for a second. "You think I'm hot?"

"Objectively speaking... I mean, if I was a girl... I guess I would think so..."

"I am asking you."

Garraty kept staring ahead of him, pretending he was totally unfazed by the conversation, but McVries put a hand on his shoulder and that simple act, that friendly gesture, gave him goosebumps. He had no idea what was wrong with him. Maybe he was sick. Maybe he was already dying. Maybe-

"I guess you're kind of good looking." he muttered, McVries's hand warm and comforting on his back. He wished he could push him away. He couldn't and didn't want to.

"So are you. You're kind of pretty."

"Can we stop now?"

"No. I'm being honest. You're a pretty guy and you have beautiful eyes."

"Pete, seriously, that's not- it's not-"

"What? It's not something two guys would say to each other? I don't care, Ray. These are not ordinary circumstances, don't you think?" He smiled and leant closer, hovering really close to his face, finally brushing his cheek with his lips. "You got good skin, too."

Garraty was sure he was as red as a tomato. "I'm too pale."

"No you're not. Certainly not right now, anyway." McVries grinned and Garraty lightly pushed him away. "Come on, Ray, I'm just trying to make you laugh."


"For making you laugh?"

"No. The other thing you said." Garraty felt self-conscious and suddenly started wishing he'd never complimented McVries' father. What was wrong with him? How could he say that with a straight face? He wasn't sure. It had just come out.

"No problem. I'm very honest, so you better believe what I tell you. Hell, you're prettier than my ex."

Garraty's face went beet red. "Pete, cut it out."

"But you are."

"Oh, so why don't you ask me out then?" he retorted sarcastically, throwing his hands up in the air.

"I would, but we're kind of busy at the moment." Silence. "Would you accept? Hypothetically speaking?"

Garraty slowly turned to look at him and his heart sped up a little. The smile on McVries' face was different than usual. More gentle. Sweet. "Only if you baked for me."

McVries laughed softly and grabbed his hand, squeezing it. Maybe they didn't have much, but they had that moment, that day. That life.