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Immune to Your Bullshit

Chapter Text

Grif slammed against the chain link fence, fingers gripping against the metal. He kept his back to it, facing the mouth of the alley as a group of shuffling zombies headed his way. Looked like he was trapped. He took a few deep gulps of air, eyes darting between the figures closing the distance. There were at least five of them. They weren't very fast, but to be honest, Grif wasn't much faster. Running was never his strong point. Or effort of any kind, really. But surviving in the zombie apocalypse changes a few things.

The zombies stumble closer, and Grif presses back against the fence. The closest one is a little more than an arm's reach away, swiping clumsily at him. Grif takes a moment to look terrified.

“Oh no, a hoard of the undead! What shall I do? It's the end for me, I fear!”

His expression quickly turns into a lopsided grin, pulling the large knife from behind his back.

“Oh wait. I don't have to worry about your stupid virus. Undead suckers.”

The blade slices through the air, taking off the arm of the zombie that had managed to get a grip on his shirt. Said zombie moaned, but was mostly undeterred, advancing until his head was close enough to cut off. Or mostly off, to be fair, it was a lot harder to slice through a person's neck than the movies made it seem. Not to mention really gross, what with the squishy liquid noises and gurgly moans of the one losing its head.

“Suck my living dick, zombies!”

Grif finally finished with the first zombie, the two parts laying at this feet. By then, the next two were close enough to reach for him, so he rolled against the fence, getting some distance. The closer of the pair lost his head a little quicker than his friend; Grif was getting into the swing of things, so to speak. The third zombie tripped over the first one's head, continuing to crawl relentlessly toward its meal. Grif's sneakered foot bounced off its jaw, knocking it back a few feet with the impact. Then he jammed the knife down, aiming for the zombie's neck. A few quick stabs there did the trick, and he braced himself for the remaining two.

Before he could move, he heard the distinct sound of glass clinking on the concrete. With a yelp, Grif lunged, covering his head as the last zombie stepped on the thrown Molotov, breaking the glass and igniting it. The zombie was engulfed in flames, stumbling around and knocking into her partner. Then there were two zombies on fire in the alleyway Grif was trapped in. He scrambled to his feet, staying clear of them. Eventually they burned too much to keep moving, falling to the ground.

“Jesus Christ, Simmons! You could've fucking killed me!”

Simmons jumped down from the dumpster he'd been perched on, arms crossed. “You're fine. It was just a little one, it wasn't going to explode like the last one.”

Grif huffed, glaring at the redhead. “The last one blew up an entire gas station, how did you know that one wouldn't just blast the whole alley?!”

“It's called math, Grif. Some of us know what we're doing.”

Giving the charred corpse in front of him a good kick, Grif stashed his knife away in the holster he'd rigged up on the belt loop of his cargo shorts. “I know what I'm doing just fine. In case you didn't notice, the score was three to two.”

Simmons stomped closer, jabbing a finger against the Hawaiian's chest. “You were baiting them again! What did I tell you about doing that?! Just because you're immune doesn't mean you're immortal!”

Grif rolled his eyes, pushing past the other and heading out of the alley at a leisurely pace. “I had it covered, Simmons. It's cool. It was all under control. Besides, you needed time to get the supplies loaded.”

Simmons let out a sigh of great suffering, rubbing his temples before following Grif out of the alley. Their car was waiting, parked haphazardly at the curb. “It wouldn't have taken so long if you hadn't insisted on so much extra stuff.”

“I have to make sure you're keeping up with the essentials.” The brunette circled the front of the car, giving the inside a quick check before sliding into the driver's seat. “I didn't even get half the stuff I got before.”

Throwing himself into the passenger seat, Simmons quickly buckled his seat belt. “No, Grif, water is essential. Canned goods, batteries, weapons. Those are essentials. Not mini donuts, and especially not energy drinks!”

“It's hard to kill a zombie with low blood sugar, Simmons.”

The other growled, wondering if it would be a waste of resources to have a few aspirin for the headache Grif was causing him. “Look, can we just go? We've gotta meet Tucker at the hospital. He said if we don't get there today, he's leaving again.”

Grif started the car, pulling out into the deserted street. “Haven't seen him in awhile.”

“Yeah, he called me while I was packing up the supplies.” Simmons ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it. “Speaking of which, I'm hoping the hospital still has power. I really need to charge my phone.”

Fingers tapping on the steering wheel, Grif arched a brow. “Didn't you just charge it at that gas station?”

“I did. Funny enough, SOMEONE used up all the battery looking up music apps.” Green eyes narrowed.

“It's too quiet at night. I can't sleep without noise.”

“Noise attracts infected, Grif!”

“We were in a safe house and I was tired!”

Simmons growled in his throat, scrubbing his hands across his face. “Just don't steal my phone, okay? We need it for emergencies and meeting up with the others! We don't know how much longer the power will stay on anywhere, we need to conserve what we can.”

“I think the real problem will be the zombies taking down the signal towers.”

“That is a good point. Luckily the infected are more interested in other people, instead of collateral damage.” Simmons reached under the seat, grabbing for the messenger bag he kept his maps in. He shuffled around until he found the newest one. He collected a new one at each gas station they hit whenever they stopped for supplies. He didn't want to get lost in town in case they needed a quick escape. Also with him navigating, they wasted less gas driving around the city looking for where they needed to go. In this case, the hospital. “Make a left up here.”

Grif took the directions Simmons gave him, leading them closer to the hospital. He grabbed blindly at the backseat, rummaging through the plastic bag he always had there with his snacks. He came back with an energy drink, popping the cap and taking a drink with a satisfied noise. Simmons might gripe about him drinking the stuff, but at least he got it when Grif asked. He could deal with the redhead's bitching as long as he got his caffeine.

The pair was quiet for a bit, save for Simmons directions and Grif's sips of his drink. Once the signs for the hospital started popping up along the side of the road, Simmons put the maps away, curling up sideways in his seat. There weren't a lot of infected in this part of town, which made the drive pretty uneventful. Not that he was complaining, uneventful meant safe.

“Tucker said he picked up a guy.”

Grif snorted, chucking his empty can into the back seat. “So what else is new? He's kinda taking this 'last man on Earth' thing too seriously.”

Simmons shook his head, a small smile on his face. “Not like that. Like a teammate. Says the guy's pretty cool.”

“Really? He's letting him hang around? Even with Junior?”

“Guess so. At any rate, we'll meet him soon.”

oOoOo

Wash watched curiously as Tucker dug into the cabinet in the doctor's office. He'd dragged them all up to the pediatrics area, grinning to himself like a man on a mission. Junior trailed happily behind his father, and Wash brought up the rear, watching carefully for any infected that might be wandering around. If hospitals had one thing going for their construction, however, it was the metal doors. Easy to keep safer in a smaller area, barricading the doors behind them.

Which was how the trio found themselves in some of the smaller offices. Tucker seemed to be intent on finding something, he wouldn't tell them what it was. Wash leaned against the doorway, keeping watch, while Junior sat on the examination bed, feet kicking back and forth as he studied his father's actions.

Finally, Tucker let out a small whoop of victory, nearly smacking his head into the top of the cabinet. He got to his feet quickly, holding a small cardboard box. Grinning, he set it down beside Junior, pulling the ends open. Tilting his head, Junior blinked owlishly, before his face lit up upon seeing the full box of lollipops.

Junior dug in, trying to decide what flavor he wanted. Tucker watched, his smile stretching. Wash couldn't help but smile just a bit as well. It only lasted for a second, before he caught movement coming from the hall.

Immediately on edge, he slid out of the doorway, pressed back against the wall. The corridor stretched out to his left side, dark without its normal florescent lights. Instead, the eerie blue of the emergency lights settled over the tile. Wash stood still, waiting for more movement. His fist clenched against the metal pipe in his hand, ready for whatever had invaded their hall to show itself.

The footsteps came down the corridor, steady and squeaking a bit on the tile floor. There was a slight grumbling from the creature, Wash couldn't make much out, but infected didn't really make much more than noises anyway. He ducked into a small alcove in the hall, readying his pipe to strike.

As soon as the thing came into reach of the alcove, Wash swung the pipe, intent on taking it out before it could reach the other two or call any others to attack. What he wasn't expecting, however, was for the target to fall to the floor before the pipe made contact. Wash let out a confused noise, about to bring the pipe down on the thing's head, when it let out a sigh.

Infected didn't sigh. They moaned, groaned and, on occasion, gurgled, but they didn't sigh. Now even more confused, Wash's face crumpled into a frown, holding his attack long enough to actually study his target.

It wasn't an infected, it was a regular man. No dark veins spidered his skin, and instead of the clammy gray flesh of the infected, he was a golden tan. His hair was mussed as Wash stared at the top of the guy's head from where the other had slumped against the wall. His limbs were sprawled out, as if he'd just dropped on the floor without care. Which, to be fair, he kind of did.

Carefully, Wash left his hiding spot, circling the other. The guy's eyes were closed, chin tucked against his chest. Was he sleeping? He'd been walking literally moments before, how could someone already be asleep? Brows furrowing, Wash raised his pipe, giving the guy the barest poke on the shoulder with it.

“Hey, you okay?”

Immediately the other's eyes shot open, staring at Wash as he let out a yelp. “Holy shit!”

Wash took a step back, keeping his weapon ready in case the guy got violent. “Hey, just calm down...”

“Who the fuck are you?” the other demanded. More footsteps thudded down the hall from the direction the tan man had come from. He had friends coming. This had the potential to end badly.

He leveled the pipe with the guy's chin, eyes narrowed. “I said just calm down. I wasn't trying to attack you, I was just being careful. You could've been an infected.”

“I'm not a fucking zombie, okay? So get your fucking pipe outta my face!” He glared up at Wash.

Sneakers skidded to a halt at the end of the hall. “Grif!”

The other's eyes darted behind Wash for a second. Wash stayed put, grip on the pipe tightening. He could take the pair of them, no problem, if he needed to. But there could possibly be more of them, and he didn't know what kind of weapons the new guy had with him. The standoff continued, the person behind him scared to make a move. He was at least smart enough to know that Wash could take out his friend if startled.

“Whoa whoa! Cool it!” Tucker's hand grabbed at Wash's shoulder. He twitched for a moment before relaxing, not moving his weapon, but giving a bit of slack between the metal and his opponent's neck.

“Hey Tucker,” the guy on the floor nodded in greeting. “Who's the new guy?”

Tucker huffed out a sigh. “Jesus Christ, Grif.” He turned to Wash, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, don't kill that one. He's sort of a friend, I guess?”

Wash blinked. “Should that have been phrased as a question?”

“You obviously don't know how we operate,” Grif snarked, running a hand through his hair lazily, now that the threat of violence was gone. He slid along the wall, looking past Wash. “Thanks for coming to my rescue there, Simmons. I'm sure after he got tired beating my brains into the wall you probably would have actually done something about it.”

Wash turned his head, eyeing the redhead that was looking increasingly more upset at Grif's sarcasm.

“Fuck you, Grif! You're the one who decided to take a nap in the first empty hallway you saw!”

“Grif!”

Tiny footfalls echoed on the tile before Junior flung himself at the other, small arms clinging around his shoulders in a tight hug.

Grif grinned. “Hey, kid, how's it going?”

Junior beamed excitedly, scooping a cherry lollipop out of his backpack and handing it to the other. “Dad found me lollipops! A whole box of em!”

“Fuckin' score, dude!”

Wash took all this in, feeling a headache coming on. “What exactly is going on here?”

Tucker leaned against the wall beside Grif, hands in his pockets. “This is Grif and Simmons. Sometimes we meet up and hang out for a bit, when we're in the same area. I told them we'd be here.”

“Grif!” Junior tugged on Grif's sleeve, pointing up to the blond. “Wash!”

“Yeah, this is Wash. He's been sticking with us for a few days.”

“You didn't think to mention to me that you were expecting people?” Wash growled.

Tucker shrugged. “I told you before, we hang with people sometimes. Personally, I thought it would take them longer to get here.”

Grif's face turned into what could only be a pout. “Simmons wouldn't let me stop for snacks.”

“We just resupplied outside of town! It's not my fault you ate all your snack cakes within an hour!” Simmons snapped.

“I was nervous. You know I'm a stress eater.”

“We're in the middle of an infected danger zone, there's nothing but stress!” the redhead's voice rose a few octaves in angry disbelief.

Grif just shrugged. “Even more reason for stress eating.”

Junior giggled from his place on Grif's lap. Even Tucker grinned. Wash just stared on in confusion. They watched the bickering continue for a few minutes before there was a crash from further down the hall. Simmons let out a nervous squeak, hurrying over to the rest of the group.

“Did you guys leave the freaking door open?” Tucker stepped in front of Junior and Grif, staring down the hall.

“Of course not,” Simmons huffed, reaching behind him to grab at Grif's shirt, yanking him up.

“Simmons probably didn't put that file cabinet back in front of the door either though,” Grif piped in.

“It was there for a reason, man!” Tucker scooped up Junior, settling him against his back.

“I couldn't move it on my own!” Simmons shrieked. “Grif ran off! I tried to put it back!”

“Pft. Like I was gonna help you move that anyway. No thanks.”

Wash let out a frustrated noise, cutting the argument short. “Just...! Everyone get to the back offices. There's a fire escape there we can get through.”

Tucker nodded, already sliding back towards the direction they'd come. “You guys got a better car this time?”

Grif gave Simmons a shove to get him to follow Tucker. “Well, it's no sports car, but it's okay. Simmons said we needed more trunk space.”

“Well, considering we're about to take three passengers, it's probably a good thing,” the redhead grumbled.

The first of the infected stumbled into the hall, followed in a quick shuffle by a group of others. Wash fell back, pushing the others towards the door. “Just get out there already, before they--”

He was interrupted by a yelp. “Grif! Watch your elbow!”

The infected all turned to the small group, making as quick a run as they could manage.

Wash sighed. “...see us.”

Chapter Text

Church sighed, sitting back in the office chair. It squeaked in protest, having not been used in awhile. The computer in front of him cast a glow over the office, and he rubbed a hand over his eyes to ease the pain from staring at the bright screen. It was quiet in the office, and the noises he'd heard outside had died down as he worked. It wasn't surprising; it didn't take Tex long to deal with a group of zombies. Even with Caboose 'helping'.

Which was why his task had been the information retrieval. He couldn't aim for shit, but he knew his way around a computer. It took him a few minutes to get into the computers' files, fortunately one of the cubicle employees left a post-it with their passwords on the desk. Church fished his external hard drive out of his messenger back, quickly hooking it up to the desktop and started transferring files. While he worked on that, he set up both his phone and laptop to charge. This place still had electricity, and he was going to take advantage of it. Tex would need the laptop for a while to access the files he was getting. A few of the more important ones got sent to the printer as well. Backup copies never hurt anyone.

With another sigh, Church rolled the chair back, getting to his feet for a stretch. He had some time to kill while the files finished. There was a break room two cubicles down, so he decided to go check it out. Tex knew it would take him a fair bit of time, and she wouldn't come looking for him just yet.

In the break room, he found as welcome a sight as the working computer. The coffeemaker still worked, and the cabinet was full of supplies for it. Church started a pot immediately. He hadn't had coffee in weeks. And being a four cups a day person before all this mess, he was practically going through withdrawal.

He returned to the cubicle, coffee in hand in the biggest size cup he could find. The printer was done, and he took the pages, stuffing them into his bag. He sat back at the chair, kicking his feet up on the desk as he waited for the files to finish. Church took a sip of his coffee, an almost indecent noise in his throat.

“Church, are you having alone time? Tex says you are not supposed to do that in the middle of the day.”

Church let out what could only be called a shriek, nearly falling out of the chair in his haste to spin around and look at the new person in the room. Miraculously, the coffee stayed in the cup and not poured all over his lap.

“Caboose, what the fuck?! What'd I say about sneaking up on me?!”

The tall brunette looked down, sneaker scuffing the tile floor. “You said not to do that. Which is why I asked first before I came in. In case you were having alone time. Because you did not like that when I snuck up on you in alone time.”

Church set his cup on the desk, covering his face with his hands. “I wasn't having 'alone time', Caboose, I was drinking a freaking cup of coffee! What are you even doing here, I thought you were helping the zombies?”

“Oh, yeah, well, Tex already helped all the zombie people be, y'know, not zombies anymore. And be dead again. So she told me to find you and tell you.” Caboose toyed with the strings on his giant blue hoodie. “Can I have some coffee?”

Green eyes widening, Church stared at the other in horror. “Oh hell no. You're bad enough as is, I am never giving you coffee. Besides, you wouldn't like it. It's bitter.”

“But you are bitter, Church, and I like you.” Caboose smiled.

Church nearly choked on the sip of coffee he'd taken. Coughing, he set the cup down, face red from lack of air and absolutely nothing else. “Uh, thanks, buddy.”

Caboose sat on the chair in the cubicle beside Church, immediately spinning around in circles. Church just rolled his eyes, letting the other enjoy himself. Better he spun on a chair than try to work the computers. They really didn't have time to figure out where the fire extinguishers were.

“Tex have everything handled out there?” he asked instead, sipping at his coffee.

The brunette nodded. “She told me I helped the zombie people so much that she hardly had to do anything. She said she would make sure no one came in while you were on the computer!”

Church relaxed back against the chair, propping his feet up again. He hoped that the files had something worthwhile in them. This place was one of the offices contracted by the Free Lance project, and the last one they'd been to had only contained their financial records for tax audits. They'd run into a lot of cubicle zombies in that place, and the whole endeavor had been a dangerous waste of time.

So far, this trip had fared a lot better. Both on the information front as well as the lack of zombies. He hadn't had time to do much more than skim the titles of some of the reports before transferring them over, but they sounded pretty important at least. And if they could lead them to wherever the labs were, they could work on the second part of the mission he and Tex had started.

Caboose stopped spinning his chair abruptly, making him sway as his head spun. “Church? Do the zombie people talk?”

Church frowned, dragged from his thoughts by the other's question. “What? Of course not, don't be an idiot. Zombies can't talk, they just make random stupid noises. Kinda like you.”

“Oh. Well then that's good, because that means the people I hear in the hall there can't be the zombie people, so they have to be normal people instead. Even if they are talking about sneaking up on us with the shotgun.”

“Well yeah, of course.” Church rolled his eyes, taking another sip of coffee. He then promptly spit it all over the computer monitor as Caboose's words actually registered. “Wait, what?!”

oOoOo

“AND THEN I RAN AND RAN AND RAN!”

“Okay, that's it!” Sarge snapped, reaching across the dashboard to yank at the cord attaching the pink ipod to the car.

The music stopped abruptly, although it took Donut a moment to realize that he was singing on his own before he paused, frowning from the passenger seat. “Aw, c'mon, Sarge, why'd you do that? That was the best part!”

“Donut, when I told you that you could choose the music for the trip, I didn't mean you could go with that weird musical theater crap!”

“Well, you already said no to Kai's techno remixes...”

“Which was totally rude, by the way,” Kai spoke up from the back, fingers clicking away at her phone.

“I said no to those after the fifth straight hour! A little variation never killed a man!”

Donut inspected his music player, hoping the cord hadn't been damaged. “It doesn't get much more varied from techno than an opera remix.”

“It's still got the word remix in it, I'm countin' it.”

“There's always 'A Fistful of Nickels'. A western theme kinda sounds like something you'd be into.” The blonde flicked through his musical choices.

Sarge was quiet for a moment. “I feel like that's a compromise I can make.”

Donut grinned, plugging the ipod back in. “Saddle up!”

“Ew, gross. Old man fantasies.” Kai grumbled.

A few remixes of an obscure video game later, Sarge stopped the car with a rather confused look on his face. Donut turned down the music, curious as to why they stopped. Kai didn't notice, napping in the backseat with her phone planted squarely in her face after she'd nodded off with it above her head.

“What's up?” Donut leaned over the center console to get a better look.

Sarge was staring at the entrance to a large office building. A large office building with an even larger pile of bodies stacked in front of it. “What exactly do ya make of that?”

Donut let out an impressed whistle. “Looks like quite the man pile.”

“I dunno why I ask you anythin'.” Sarge heaved a sigh, turning the car off. “Just wake up the brat and let's go check it out. If there's that many already dead, there's gotta be tons more that need killin'!”

The blonde reached back, giving Kai's shoulder a shake. “I thought we were going to Texas.”

“We'll get there! Never said we wouldn't get some fun in before then!”

Sarge was already out of the jeep before Kai even woke up. The two younger team members scrambled after him, careful not to let him get too far ahead. Last time Sarge went on a killing spree without the others there, it took an hour to calm him down from the adrenaline high, and another five to get the blood off of the jeep. They weren't too keen to repeat that.

The grounds of the building were deadly silent. In fact, when Donut mentioned it, the other two couldn't even find it in themselves to glare at him for the pun, too confused by the pile of zombies at the doorway and lack of any visible undead roaming the area. With the living dead littering the streets, the team hadn't been to a place yet that hadn't been filled with the noises of distant moaning and shuffling. But here it was completely quiet.

“Too quiet,” Donut muttered.

“Diabolical!” Sarge replied. Kai shot him a look, part confused and part glare. “Someone's already taken all the good kills!”

“So let's just leave?” the girl shrugged. Out of the group, she was the least interested in killing the zombies. It was really uncool, that was someone's mother. Just because they happened to be dead and consumed with the never ending desire to eat human flesh didn't mean they weren't people too. She was pro- zombie rights all the way, man. Some people were so close- minded.

“That's what they'd want us to do!” Sarge shot back, giving his shotgun a pump for emphasis. “There's probably a whole lot of 'em inside, just watchin' us!”

He made a move for the entrance, only to be held back by Donut grabbing his arm.

“Wait a second, Sarge! You can't just go in guns blazing!”

Sarge leveled him with a look. “Are you sick or somethin'? That's exactly what we do!”

“That's what they're expecting! If we do that, we'll be walking right into their trap!”

Tilting his head, Sarge considered this. “Hmm. Good point. What do you suggest?”

Donut grinned, crossing his arms. “The same thing I always suggest! A tactical shove through the rear entrance!”

“Psh. If I had a dollar for every time a guy suggested THAT to me...” Kai rolled her eyes.

“As much as I hate to consider that a valid plan,” Sarge's brows furrowed. “Or ever consider that mental image, it's a proper strategy. Take 'em by surprise, get the drop on 'em, and show 'em who's boss! Let's do it!”

“Are we still talking about zombies, or is this one of those metaphor things now?” Kai leaned her weight on one leg, her baseball bat settled across her shoulders.

“Can't it be both?” Donut shrugged.

“No, it can't! Now can it, you two, and let's get this murder party started!” With that, he took off, yelling a battle cry.

Donut hurried after him. “Sarge no! You have to sneak up on them! If you let them know you're coming, they'll get all tense and it'll be too hard to get in!”

Kai snickered, following at a more leisurely pace.

The inside of the building was just as empty as the outside, but with the added eeriness of dim lights and empty office cubicles. The building still had power, so the lights were more of a purposeful choice when the building had been in use. Most likely to keep the workers in line. Sarge would consider it inhumane if he didn't think that all the workers were already bloodthirsty undead by this point.

Just as he was about to give up on the place and take the kids back to the jeep, he heard voices coming from the next room of cubicles. The fake walls blocked his vision, but he could definitely hear a conversation. He held an arm out, stopping the two behind him.

“Okay troops, I'm pretty sure our zombie- killin' culprits are in this next room. So how do we deal with 'em?”

Kai shrugged. “Ask them if they've got a phone charger? I left mine in the jeep.”

Sarge sighed.

“Find out how they did that neat body stacking trick outside?” Donut suggested. “That was pretty cool.”

If Sarge's sigh could have sighed, it would have.

“No, ya buncha worthless tea partiers! Ya get the drop on 'em! Then we'll get the supplies and knowledge we want while they're at shotgun point!”

“You're never gonna make friends that way, Sarge,” Donut shook his head.

“It's not about makin' friends, Cupcake, it's about survivin' the apocalypse!”

“I think the nice Cupcake man is right, it would be nicer to just ask.” a new voice spoke up.

Sarge huffed. “I didn't ask you either! Wait.”

All three looked to the doorway, where a tall brunette man now stood, hands in his shorts' pockets and smiling at them. Donut let out a squeak of shock, jumping back into the others. Kai held him steady.

Getting over his momentary surprise, Sarge lifted his shotgun to point at the new guy, only to be stopped when another shotgun leveled itself with his own head from the side.

“I don't think that's a good idea either,” The blonde woman behind the offending shotgun said.

Kai rested her chin on Donut's shoulder, eyes widening. “Okay, that's hot.”

A head of dark hair popped out from behind the tall brunette. “Hey, back off. She's taken.”

“Yes! Tex is our teammate and you can't take her away!” the tall one reached over, grabbing the blonde's arm.

Kai grinned, giving the other a wink. “Can I borrow her then?”

The blonde sighed, pulling herself from the tall guy's grip. “Okay, are we at a standoff here, or are we just gonna keep hitting on each other?”

Donut bit his lip, casting a glance at the brunette. “Well...”

“Okay enough!” The shorter guy snapped, pushing out from behind his friend. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “You guys need to get outta here before we take you out.”

“You and what army?” Sarge kept the gun on the tall guy.

“Caboose, wanna help this guy out?”

The tall guy nodded, smiling happily as he reached out and grabbed the barrel of Sarge's shotgun. He yanked it away before the other could even react, tossing it aside. “There you go! No more heavy gun to carry!”

The blonde girl just grinned, keeping her own gun pointed at them. “Good job, Caboose. So how about you guys just keep right on going wherever you were headed and we'll just pretend this little meeting never even happened.”

“We just wanted to be sure there weren't any more zombies in here,” Donut held his hands up as disarmingly as he could. “That stack out there was pretty impressive.”

Caboose beamed. “That was where I helped Tex help the zombie people!”

“You guys did that?”

Glasses guy rolled his eyes. “No, they just decided they were going to do that all on their own. They all got tired and decided to take a nap together.”

Caboose hummed happily. “Who doesn't like a nice nap time?”

Tex snorted. “To be fair, Church, YOU didn't do much of anything.”

Glasses let out an indignant noise. “You said you had it handled! I was inside doing the hacker stuff!”

“Ooh, tough job there. I'll bet the morons had their passwords written down by the desk.”

“They did not! They were super hard and you never would have guessed them!”

“Was it 'password'?” Sarge asked.

“Password12,” Caboose replied helpfully.

“Wow, Leonard, impressive hacking skills.” Tex smirked.

“Caboose, stop helping!” Church all but shrieked.

Caboose nodded. “Looks like my work here is done.”

“These guys are a riot,” Kai grinned.

Church sighed, hands clenching into fists as he tried to calm himself down. “What are you guys even doing here anyway? What reason could you possibly have to break into an old office building? A sudden need for toner in the end of times?”

“We could ask you the same question!” Sarge shot back. “Seems awful suspicious what with y'all bein' so secretive of this place. There could be a supply stash here that you just don't want anyone to know about!”

Donut shrugged. “Actually we were just here because of the giant man pile out front.”

“Is that anything like a dog pile?” Caboose tilted his head.

“Okay, you know what? As much fun as this has been, I'm pretty sure your stuff's done, Church,” Tex's authoritative tone took over. Church nodded, leaving the group to head towards one of the cubicles. “We're just gonna go ahead and leave. You guys are welcome to do whatever with the place. We'll be out of your hair in just a minute.”

“It was very nice to meet you,” Caboose smiled, reaching to shake a rather confused Donut's hand.

Tex ushered Caboose back towards Church, following after him with her gun still trained on the others. Just in case. The other three stood there for a bit, watching them go.

“Well, that was nice,” Donut smiled at the others. “Meeting new people is important to maintaining healthy sociability levels.”

“Yeah, they were pretty cool, I guess,” Kai shifted to lean against the doorway, arms crossed.

“They're up to somethin',” Sarge growled. “We're gonna find out what it is.”

Donut let out a sigh, leveling the older man with the kindest stern gaze he could muster. “Now, Sarge, not everyone we meet is up to some evil plan. It's normal for people to be suspicious of each other in such trying times.”

“All the more reason for us to be suspicious of 'em!” Sarge put a hand on both Donut and Kai's shoulders, easing his two younger teammates in the direction the strangers had gone. “Now let's follow 'em and see what happens.”

Kai rolled her eyes, letting out a frustrated noise. “Aren't we supposed to be going to Texas? I'm not hanging out with you guys cuz it's fun, y'know! Well, Donut maybe, he's pretty cool. But you're old and lame.”

“Just shut up and figure out where they're going.”

oOoOo

Church slid his laptop into the bag, winding up the cord. “What do you think those guys wanted, anyway?”

Tex shrugged. “They probably were telling the truth about just wandering in. Doesn't look like they'd have any particular interest in this place otherwise. You're sure you got all the files, right?”

“C'mon, Tex, what kind of computer expert do you take me for? Of course I got the files. I wanted to skim them over here, but with the company, it's probably not a great idea.”

“I liked them. They looked like fun.” Caboose spoke up, spinning in the chair once again.

“Well, we'd better find a new destination then, if we're not staying around here,” Tex leaned against the desk beside Caboose, giving him a spin when he started to slow down.

Church hummed. “I got a text from Tucker a few minutes ago, while I was copying the data. He's not too far away.”

“What, he's not dead yet?”

“Guess not. Said he was holed up in a hospital or something. Sounded like a pretty good hideout.” Church shrugged. “Might not be such a bad place to spend a little time. We could resupply, check out the files and decide our next move.”

Tex sighed. “Fine, but if he hits on me again, I'm punching him in the dick.”

Church slid the bag over his shoulder with a chuckle. “Speaking of, I guess that Grif guy is hanging out with him again.”

The blonde opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off when the wall of the cubicle suddenly crashed down. The fabric covered wall smacked into Church, sending him flying against the far wall instead. Collapsing to the floor, the wall revealed the team they'd just left. Before Tex could even yell at them for eavesdropping, the younger girl scrambled to her feet, stomping over to Church's form, sprawled on the floor, and yanked him up without effort.

Church yelped, utterly confused by the whole situation. Caboose jumped up to help, but Tex held a hand against this chest, stopping him.

The girl gave Church a little shake for emphasis. “How do you know my brother?”

“Wait, what?”

Chapter Text

Tucker hummed, reading over the text message again. Then he flicked his phone off, tossing it with the rest of his stuff as he curled around Junior's sleeping form. The boy's head rested on Tucker's outstretched arm, small hands clinging to his father's shirt. The small supply closet wasn't as warm as the pediatrics had been, but after the zombies found their way in with Grif and Simmons' entrance, they'd had to move to a more protected part of the hospital. Wash had reasoned that the doors they used to keep people from stealing the drugs kept in the closet would definitely keep the undead from breaking in on them.

“What?” Simmons whispered, shoving at Grif's head. The Hawaiian kept slumping over in his sleep, leaning heavily on the redhead's shoulder.

“Church says he's being threatened by a tiny girl and that if we leave before they meet up with them, he's gonna let his girlfriend kill us in whatever the most gruesome way she can think of at the time.”

“Sounds pleasant,” Wash deadpanned. He sat that the doorway, once again taking watch into the hallway.

“Your friends are such lovely people,” Simmons sighed, curling up in his sweater. “I think we'll probably leave before they get here. She makes me nervous.”

“All girls make you nervous,” Tucker rolled his eyes, cheek resting against Junior's head.

Simmons huffed out a breath, frowning even as his face went a bit pink. “Okay, but her especially. Did you see what she did to those guys who stole our stuff last time? They weren't even infected.”

Tucker grinned. “Yeah, but they were dicks. And that was awesome. I didn't know a guy's hand could bend that far.”

“It can't, Tucker, that was the problem.”

Wash shook his head, a faint smile twisting at his lips. “You guys have interesting friends.”

“Tex isn't a friend, she's a necessary evil in the zombie apocalypse.” Tucker shifted a bit, trying to move without waking Junior. His leg was asleep and it hurt. You'd figure this far into said apocalypse, he'd be used to sleeping on floors by now.

Across the room from him, he saw Wash tense. The blonde didn't say anything for awhile, just turning his head to stare out the doorway. For a moment, Tucker was worried that Wash had found something in the hall, but after a few minutes of silence, he guessed the other was just tired of the conversation. Turning to Simmons, Tucker continued.

“You guys aren't allowed to take off. Church was very adamant about that. Dunno why. Probably needs a second opinion on something nerdy.”

Simmons shivered, whether from nervousness or from cold, Tucker couldn't tell. “I'd rather not. Last time we decoded that location, it turned out to be an abandoned warehouse. I thought Tex was gonna use me for target practice.”

This brought Wash back to the conversation. “You're helping Tex decode something?”

Simmons nodded. “Her and Church keep breaking into these places and getting into the computer files. I'm not really sure what they're looking for, they don't tell me a lot. But last time we met up, Church had me help him figure some stuff out.”

Wash frowned, looking both thoughtful and concerned. “What if we can't meet up with them? I don't know if we can wait here long enough for anyone else to get here. It's not really safe.”

“Well, they're already on their way,” Tucker replied. “I told them where we were. He said they'd be here by the end of the day tomorrow. I'm guessing it's something important, since usually Church takes his sweet fucking time meeting up with me. You'd think we weren't roommates before all this shit started or something.”

After a pause, the blonde got to his feet, grip tight on the steel pipe he'd been holding close. “I'm gonna go see if one of those coffee machines are still working.”

The pair watched him slip out of the room before Simmons turned to Tucker. “Did we just make him mad or something?”

Tucker lifted his free shoulder in a lazy shrug. “Dunno, dude. He's probably just worried about staying here. In case you hadn't noticed, the guy's pretty paranoid.”

“Well, it's kind of understandable, with all the infected running around.”

“Yeah, yeah, kiss his ass later,” Tucker said with a yawn. “Just go to sleep already. We're volunteering Grif for next watch and you know he'll just wake you up to sit with him.”

Simmons glared at him, but Tucker ignored it, closing his eyes and settling in to sleep.

oOoOo

“So tell me why we couldn't just tell them why we were meeting up?” Church slumped against the car door, staring out the window as they drove. They were making pretty good time, considering how long it took to get Sarge to give up his jeep for a car that both groups could fit in. Kai insisted that they share a vehicle, so they couldn't get separated before they got to where Grif and Tucker were.

Kai popped her head in from the row of seats behind where he and Caboose were sitting. She and Donut were in the last row, Donut having lost his passenger seat privileges to Tex. Sarge had agreed to the new van on the single condition that he got to drive. Church couldn't complain about the blonde being in the backseat, since it meant his stupid pink ipod wasn't hooked up to the car anymore.

“Okay, so I might not have told Dex that I was in the States, so he might think I'm on an island where these zombies can't get me.” Kai made a face. “So he might be a little upset.”

“So you'd rather spring it on him when we get there and he's within swinging range?”

Kai waved a dismissive hand his way. “Please, I've known my brother literally all my life. If I told him now, he'd have time to think about it and get all mad. If I wait, he'll be mad for like, a second, before he gets over it.”

“Kinda like ripping off a bandaid?” Donut's head popped in next to Kai's.

“Yeah, exactly! Only with a ton more whining.”

Church sat back in his seat, heaving out a sigh. “Whatever, you're going in first. I'm not getting a black eye because you wanted to have a family reunion.”

“Again,” Tex piped in.

“Yeah, that was a fun time,” Caboose spoke up, sitting up from where he'd been sleeping. His cheek was red from where it'd been pressed against the glass and he yawned.

“You guys aren't helping.”

“Helping make it a more exciting ride,” Donut piped up, resting his chin on the back of Church and Caboose's seat. “Nothing worse than a ride that doesn't live up to expectations.”

Church sighed. At the same time, a similar noise came from Sarge at the driver's seat.

Caboose nodded sagely. “Boring car trips make me sleepy.”

“It wouldn't be boring if you guys hadn't policed the music,” Kai folded her arms over the seat.

“Look, you guys are even lucky we agreed to take you to meet them,” Church snapped. He sat back against his seat, arms crossed in what was most definitely not a pout. “We could've just left you there at the office. We didn't need to take this detour.”

Kai shifted, draping her arm over Church's head. “Oh, don't be such a baby. You were gonna go see them anyway, and we were on our way to look for them, so it only makes sense to go together!”

“Yeah, but I could've done it with like, half less headache.”

“You travel with Caboose,” Kai scrunched up her face, before turning to the brunette. “No offense.”

Caboose shrugged. “I like when Church gets headaches, because they make him take a nap with me.”

“I hate you all.”

“I'll just be glad to drop all of your sorry asses off and get goin' on the real mission,” Sarge grumbled from the driver's seat.

“You're gonna leave us?!” Kai huffed, elbow knocking into Church's ear. Church yelped, leaning away from her flailing limbs, only to slide down the other side of the seat against Caboose.

“Well, 'course I am! The only reason I brought you along in the first place is so you wouldn't get eaten by bloodthirsty zombies! Once you're back with your brother, I'm not responsible for ya anymore!”

“I've saved your ass a bunch of times, old man!”

Tex peeked an eye open from where she'd been relaxing in the passenger seat. “Now you're giving ME a headache.”

“I've got zombies to kill! I don't have time to watch brats!”

“Then why are you still here? Why carpool with us when you could've just left her with us and gone on your way?” Tex turned, frowning a bit.

Sarge just shrugged. “She keeps talkin' about her brother, and all the knowledge he has on the undead. I'm sure he's quite the soldier! I'm excited to meet him!”

Kai buried her face against Donut's shoulder. “Oh gross, he's old man fanboying my brother!”

oOoOo

Simmons sat in the corner of the supply room, scribbling in his notebook. He kept lists of their inventory, and things they needed to look for on the next supply hunt, and other important things. And since they were stuck at the hospital until Church's group showed up, Simmons took the opportunity to go over his supply list and make sure everything was up to date. They were hanging out in a giant supply closet, it was the perfect time to collect new supplies. The paperwork calmed him down, and it was something to do to pass the time. Plus the time to himself was nice, and the quiet was relaxing.

Since he'd been traveling with Grif, there hadn't been much time to just be alone and relax. Of course, they were in the middle of a deadly virus, so maybe relaxing wasn't a common thing anymore. But Grif was always making noise, either complaining or talking, he just hated silence. So Simmons was going to take advantage of it where he could get it.

That was, of course, until Tucker popped his head into the doorway. He looked around for a second before focusing on Simmons. “Hey, dude, you seen Wash?”

Simmons shook his head. “Not since last night. I thought he was just doing parameter checks or something.”

“Yeah, I thought he was just wandering around, but he's been gone for awhile. It's not really like him. Since we've been traveling together, he hasn't really wandered off.”

Frowning, the redhead got to his feet. “You think something happened?”

Tucker shrugged, gnawing at his lip. “I dunno, man. It's just weird that he's been gone so long. Especially after how weird he got last night.”

Simmons followed Tucker out into the hall, tucking his notepad into one of his sweater pockets. He peeked into the offices as they passed them. “Huh. Grif's gone too.”

This made Tucker pause. “What do you mean, he's gone? He was watching Junior.”

“Well, when I went to do a supply check, they were both in here, making a fort out of the waiting room chairs.” He pointed to the mass of badly upholstered chairs huddled in the corner of the room. “It's Grif, so they couldn't have gone too far away. That would take effort.”

Tucker took off again, his pace quicker than before. Simmons hurried after him, long legs working to keep up. While he'd looked worried with Wash's disappearance, Tucker looked livid at Grif's. Tucker didn't trust a lot of people with his son these days, and when he did, he expected them to not go wandering off.

Down the hall, Simmons spotted an empty plastic wrapper, from one of the lollipops Junior had stashed in his backpack. The pair headed that way, before the empty stick led them in the direction of an exit tucked against the doors to the stairs. The door was ajar, popped open with what looked like a discarded brick. Tucker yanked the door open, storming outside. Simmons held back, keeping the door open, in case it locked, so they wouldn't be stuck. The door led to what looked like a small courtyard area, fenced in from the outside grounds of the hospital. There was a ceramic fountain in the center, not pushing water out anymore. Junior sat at the fountain's edge, kicking his feet idly and sucking on one of the lollipops. Grif lounged on the ground beside him, arms folded above his head and smoking a cigarette.

“What the fuck, dude?” Tucker snapped, careful not to be too loud. They were outside, and anything could hear them and come stumbling around, even with the fence blocking the way.

Grif didn't seem phased. “Smoke break.”

“Don't take my kid on a smoke break!”

He shrugged. “I didn't give him any.”

Simmons resisted the urge to slam his head against the doorway. Just barely. Tucker opened his mouth to say something in retort, but stopped, fishing his phone out of his pocket as it vibrated with a new text.

“Church is here, they're waiting around the loading docks in the back.”

Grif heaved a sigh, putting his cigarette out before pushing himself up, letting Junior climb on his shoulders on the way. Tucker still seemed a little mad, but he let it be, and the three moved past Simmons in the doorway. The redhead let the door close behind them.

It took a few minutes to get to the docks, making sure to take clear paths and shut all the doors as they went. Finally, Tucker pushed open the main door, confronting the group outside. Caboose and Tex were with Church, as expected, but there were a few new additions to the group that Simmons had never met before.

Grif made a noise, almost like a yelp. Simmons turned to him, curious, only to have Junior shoved into his arms as the Hawaiian stormed out after Tucker. He pushed past Church and Tucker, hands clenched into fists at his sides. He stopped directly in front of a girl, who grinned sheepishly at him.

“What the fuck, Kai?!” Grif snapped. “You're not supposed to be here!”

Kai made a face, holding her hands out in surrender. “Okay, I knew you were gonna be mad, so let me explain!”

Simmons watched the two yell at each other, thoroughly confused. Junior seemed curious as well. Meanwhile, Church stomped over to the doorway.

“It's a long story,” he sighed, rubbing his temples. “I hope there's painkillers in there. And a working coffee machine. I am definitely not caffeinated enough for this shit today.” He pushed past Simmons into the hospital, grumbling the whole way.

Simmons looked down, meeting Juniors green eyes. The boy offered a shrug, which Simmons returned. He turned around, following Church. Coffee didn't sound like such a bad idea right now.

Chapter Text

Tucker poked his head into the last office in the hall. Lower down, Junior did the same.

“Still nothing,” he sighed. Junior shook his head.

After Tucker had collected his son from Simmons and Church's vending machine party, he'd started trying to find Wash. The others were busy with the new groups that had come in, especially Grif. He'd never seen the Hawaiian so mad about anything, but he guessed if he had a sibling, he'd be mad if they weren't as safe as he thought they were. Once he knew Junior was alright again, his concern for Wash's disappearance returned. They had only been traveling together for a week or two, but in all that time, Wash hadn't left them. Tucker was really starting to worry that something had happened to the blonde. Or that he'd decided the risk wasn't worth it, and ditched them.

Tucker started back towards the intersection they'd come from. Junior followed along, one small hand curled into the hem of his father's shirt. They had a few more hallways to check, but he didn't hold out much hope that Wash would be there. Whatever happened, the blonde was probably long gone by now. But he was at least going to check. Better safe than sorry. Plus it counted as a parameter check, which they hadn't done since last night.

The last hall was by far the creepiest one, which was why Tucker had put off going down it. He reached down, hoisting Junior up onto his back. His son immediately wrapped his arms around Tucker's neck, hanging on. Making a quick escape was a lot easier like this, since Junior's legs were too small to cover much ground. Tucker took a breath to steady himself, then headed down the hall.

The corridor was unlit, whatever power keeping the other halls working had stopped functioning in this one. Furniture had been scattered haphazardly, the same ugly upholstered chairs as the waiting room. Daylight filtered in through the windows, mostly broken at this point, but at least giving them a little light to see. The ivy vines that decorated the outside walls of the hospital had creeped inside with the broken glass, winding along the sills, and even down the walls to the floor. Tucker stepped over a few wandering branches as the pair moved further down the hall.

Junior's arms tightened around Tucker's neck, pressing his face into his father's hair. Tucker gave his leg a comforting squeeze. The only sound along the hall were his footsteps and the occasional crunch of broken glass on the floor. Tucker didn't dare call out Wash's name, there was too much risk of something else in the hall hearing them instead. The only problem with the silent method was that he had to walk through the entire length of the hall to make sure that Wash wasn't there.

They were halfway down the corridor when the door to the right of them slammed open. Tucker jumped back, narrowly avoiding the metal door to the face. He grabbed for the gun at his waist before he caught sight of familiar red hair.

He sighed. “Jesus, Simmons, you scared the shit outta me!”

The other blinked, looking just as surprised to see Tucker there as Tucker was to see him. “Sorry! I just took the door from the cafeteria. I figured I could pack our stuff up while the siblings were arguing over lunch.”

“They're still fighting?” Tucker rolled his eyes. From above him, Junior let out a frustrated huff.

“Yeah. I guess being a stubborn ass is a family trait.” He looked around. “What are you doing here?”

Tucker adjusted his arms, propping Junior up a bit better as the boy started slipping. “Looking for Wash still.”

“You still haven't found him?” Simmons frowned in concern. “Want some help?”

“Sure,” Tucker shrugged. “I dunno where else to look for him. I think he must've run off. He didn't seem to wanna stick around to wait.”

Simmons shoved his hands into his sweater pockets, starting down the hall. “Seems like he would've at least said goodbye first.”

“You'd think so,” Tucker murmured, following after. He wanted to believe that the other was right. But he also wanted to believe that he and Wash were getting along enough that he wouldn't up and abandon them the first time they had differing opinions on something.

They reached the end of the hall to find it empty. There was a door that led out to another enclosed courtyard area, which they went through. Simmons propped the door open with a discarded piece of concrete in case they needed to make a quick retreat, and they continued on.

The courtyard was in as much disrepair as the one Grif had found. The grass reached to their knees, and the vines of ivy had taken over, winding around all the ceramic benches and the broken fountain. On the opposite side was another set of metal doors, this one chained shut at the handles. The rest of the courtyard was surrounded by a tall iron fence.

But there was no Wash to be found. Tucker sighed, hoisting Junior up higher again. The boy leaned forward, pressing his cheek against his father's. “Is Wash lost?”

“Maybe,” Tucker replied with a small shrug. They were out of places to check around the area. The rest of the hospital had been blocked off by the emergency doors when the zombies had first broken in. He supposed Wash could have found a way past them if he wanted. But it seemed far more likely that he hadn't felt like waiting for them and left.

Simmons trudged through the tall grass. Moving to inspect the chains wrapped around the other doors. Tucker thought about letting Junior down to walk around for a bit, maybe they could go check out the cafeteria. He hadn't gotten a chance to talk to Church, and he 'd last seen the other kicking a vending machine near the cafeteria.

The sound of metal hitting metal startled him from his thoughts. Both Tucker and Simmons whirled around towards the source of the noise, finding the door they'd propped open now shut. On the ground, a person pushed himself up on his elbows, frowning at the stone he'd tripped over. Tucker immediately recognized the blond hair flopped over the other man's face.

Letting our a growl, Tucker stormed over, looming over the other. “And just were the fuck have you been?”

Wash blinked up at him. “Tucker? What are you doing out here?”

“Looking for you!” Tucker snapped, louder than he'd intended. Simmons cringed from across the yard. “Do you know how freaked out we were? You just disappeared! I didn't know if you were in trouble or just fucked off somewhere!”

“I'm sorry!” Wash hissed, getting to his feet. “I didn't mean to be gone for so long. I was just taking care of some stuff. Did you really think I'd just leave without saying anything?”

Tucker felt Junior's hands clench around the collar of his shirt. It calmed him down, but only just a bit. “I didn't know what to think, dude! Last night you freaked out over waiting for Church, then when we wake up, you're gone! What was I supposed to think?”

Wash crossed his arms, frowning at the other. “I'd hope you had a little more faith in me than that, Tucker.”

“Guys...” Simmons spoke up.

He was ignored as Tucker's eyes narrowed. “We just met, like, a week ago, man. How was I supposed to know how you'd react?”

“How about the amount of times I've saved your ass since then?”

“Guys!”

“Hey! Don't forget about the quality ass- saving from yours truly as well!”

Junior let out a frightened squeak, pressing his face against Tuckers neck. That made Tucker drop the fight immediately, turning around. Simmons was backed against the locked doors, staring at the edge of the fence.

In the corner of the courtyard, right against the stone wall of the hospital proper, a few bars of the iron fence had been broken off, leaving enough of a gap for someone to get through. It was mostly hidden by overgrowth, and they were in a rather secluded area. But Tucker's yelling had alerted a group of zombies, and after failing to push past the iron bars, they started moving along, stumbling towards whatever entrance they could find. The first one had reached the gap, roughly wiggling its way inside the courtyard. And after seeing one get through the gap, the rest of the group were quickly making their way over there.

Tucker backed up, nearly squishing Junior between himself and Wash in the process. Wash reached up to steady them both, his free hand reaching behind them to pull at the door handle. It didn't budge, locked from the inside.

The first zombie stumbled to its feet, shuffling its way across the courtyard towards them. It was moving slow, but not nearly slow enough. And its friends weren't far behind, pushing at each other to be the next to squirm through the hole in the fence.

Simmons turned to Wash and Tucker, a look of panic in his green eyes. “Someone help me get this door open!”

Wash gave Tucker a shove, ushering them against the hospital wall towards the other door, where Simmons was yanking ineffectively at the chains wrapped around the handles. After the first push, Tucker snapped out of it, hurrying over towards Simmons, careful to keep Junior against the wall and as far away from the advancing zombies as he could. The redhead had pulled a pocket knife out of his sweater, working at the padlock like a lock pick. Wash and Tucker flanked him on either side, covering him while he worked.

Tucker shifted Junior's weight against his back, and his son tightened his grip on Tucker's shirt in response. Wash grabbed for the metal pipe he carried, finding it in the grass from where it had dropped as he'd tripped over the door prop. He gripped it tight, ready to swing as the first zombie came into range. He clipped it in the head with a wet noise, and the zombie fell back into the tall grass. By then, the others of the group had made it through the gap, and trudged toward the living. Tucker found one too close too soon, and with a surprised little yelp he'd later deny, he leaned back, balancing Junior as he planted his foot against the zombie's chest, shoving as hard as he could without falling. The zombie wasn't so coordinated, the force sending him back into the grass, shuffling to get back upright.

“That's not doing any good!” Wash snapped, swinging the pipe into another zombie.

Tucker kicked at another one, sending it back even farther than the first. “You try doing this with no hands!” He turned his head to glare at Simmons. “Hurry up and get that door open!”

“I'm going as fast as I can!” Simmons shrieked, fumbling with the lock. Everyone knew he didn't work well under pressure, and even from where he was, Tucker could see the other's hands shaking.

The sound of metal hitting skin got Tucker turned around again, watching as Wash sent another zombie flying back with a dent in its skull. Tucker kicked out again, and this time his foot went through the zombie's chest with a sickening noise. His pants leg got stuck on a few of the creature's cracked ribs, yanking him forward when the zombie moved. He rolled as he fell, not wanting to crush Junior under him. Instead he fell on his side with a grunt, his son letting out a little 'oof!' as he was dragged along.

Wash was quick to scoop Junior up, and the boy climbed up on the blonde's shoulders. Tucker kicked out, trying to jar his foot free from the zombie's chest. Meanwhile, the creature looked down, hands coming up to grab at his leg. Tucker's struggles increased, yelling out as the zombie leaned down to try and sink its teeth into his calf.

The pipe hit the zombie before he could bite, slamming into decayed flesh and knocking the thing back with the force. Tucker's leg was yanked along for a moment before it was pulled free, the fabric ripping against the zombie's exposed ribs and scraping along his calf. He scooted back, crab walking backwards as far away as he could, bumping into Wash's leg.

“We need that door open!” Wash bit out, glancing at Simmons out of the corner of his eye, keeping most of his focus on the advancing zombies.

Tucker pushed himself to his feet, leaning heavier on the uninjured leg. He ducked out of the way of Wash's next swing, grabbing Junior from his shoulders and settling him on his hip. A few steps brought him to Simmons, still fiddling with the knife lock pick. He shoved the redhead out of the way, pushing Junior into the other's arms and back away from the door. He pulled the pistol from the waist of his pants, firing a few quick shots at the lock. The padlock broke, and the chain holding the doors closed fell away. Tucker yanked the door open, and the others ducked in after him.

Once inside, Wash slid the pipe through the door handles, keeping the doors from being pushed open again. With a relieved sigh, Tucker rested his back against the wall, sliding to sit on the floor.

oOoOo

Grif took a vicious bite out of a candy bar, chewing as if it had personally offended him. Beside him, Kai sat at the cafeteria bench, chin resting on her hands. She sighed, rolling her eyes at her brother's reaction, but Grif was determined to stay mad at her. She deserved it this time, he was totally in the right. The guy in the pink shirt sat across from her, nursing a can of soda. None of them had spoken since Grif and Kai had stopped shouting at one another. Church had left a few minutes prior, a cup of cheap vending machine coffee in each hand. Grif was like, ninety percent sure the second cup was not for the blonde girl or the big guy on his team.

“Okay, you guys are freaking me out with this silent treatment,” the blonde huffed, looking from one to the other.

“Would you rather I keep yelling at her? Cuz I could start up again,” Grif growled back.

“At this point, I'm honestly not sure which I prefer.”

Kai let out a frustrated noise. “Just let it go, Dex. So I screwed up, and got locked out of the island. Like no one's ever made a mistake before! And I'm doing just fine!”

Grif rounded on her. “You grouped up with an insane military guy and a hairdresser!” He scowled, sending a quick look at Donut. “No offense.”

Donut shrugged. “Hey, it is what it is.”

“Yeah, and we're kicking zombie ass! Maybe I shouldn't have come back to group up with you after all!”

Grif slammed the candy bar on the table. “You shouldn't have! Because you should have gone back to Hawaii like you were supposed to so I don't have to worry about you!”

Donut held his hands up. “Okay, the point is, what's done is done, and we have to make the best of it! At least you guys are together, right? Now you'll be able to keep tabs on each other.”

As much as Grif wanted to argue, the other was at least kind of right about that. Thinking Kai had been safe was a relief to him, but knowing what he did now, at least he knew where his sister was, and he could keep an eye on her. And as much as he didn't really like the old guy she'd been traveling with, this Donut kid was okay. And it wasn't like Sarge hadn't taken care of her while she'd been with them. There were worse ways things could have gone.

That didn't mean he had to admit it, though. Instead, he just went back to his candy bar, letting his silence end the argument. The silence did help them hear the crash that came from the cafeteria kitchen, however. The three stared at each other for a moment, before they turned as a group to look at the door to the kitchen.

Grif got up first, slowly sliding off the bench and moving toward the door's window. It could have been Church or Simmons messing around in the kitchen, or it could have been zombies. The other two were quick behind him, one peering over each shoulder as they moved closer.

He wasn't going to make any noise, just peek into the window to see what made the noise. Then either go in the kitchen and mess with whichever team member had knocked something over, or beat a quick retreat if the culprit was something less alive.

Of course, the others weren't in on this plan, and once they got close enough, Kai shoved the swinging door open with a yell. There was a flash of unfamiliar orange and black, and Grif didn't have time to wonder who it was, or if they were actually a survivor or a zombie, before Donut took a swing with Kai's bat he'd grabbed from the table. It knocked into the stranger's side, and the guy let out a yelp, dropping like a sack of potatoes.

“Oh shit! Dude, what was that?!” Grif whirled, glaring at the blonde, who only gave a sheepish shrug, wringing the bat's handle in nervous hands.

Grif turned back, intent on making sure the new guy was okay, but there was suddenly a new person standing in the doorway, between them and the now unconscious man. The Hawaiian opened his mouth to say something, probably to assure the other that they weren't here to cause problems, and this whole thing was a misunderstanding, but he didn't get a chance.

The guy, decked in black and dark green, narrowed his eyes at the trio, and the next thing Grif knew, there was a pistol pointed straight up against his chin.

Well. So much for explaining himself.

Chapter Text

Church sighed, tossing the empty styrofoam cup away. The office chair he sat in creaked as he leaned back, tilting his head up to stare at the ceiling. “Look, I'm not saying you don't have the right to be disappointed. But you really should have known that anyone who willingly teams up with Tucker on the occasional basis isn't really gonna be the most impressive survivor of the zombie apocalypse.”

From the doorway, Sarge grumbled, checking the ammo on his shotgun for a worrying third time. “I just had such high hopes. Only to be crushed like the skull of a dead zombie under my own boot! And besides! Don't you normally team up with that Tucker kid? Isn't that how we found the girl's no-good brother?”

“The statement still stands,” Tex replied, smirking from her place tucked into a corner, staring at Church's laptop.

Church shrugged. “Exactly! I'm like, one of the worst people to team up with for killing zombies!”

“It's really true.”

“I worked in IT! I'm not meant for this kind of thing.”

Tex made a waving gesture with a hand, eyes still trained on the screen. “He's only barely good at the computer thing.”

Church scowled at her. “Stop helping.”

She grinned. “Oh, is that what I was supposed to be doing?”

Caboose stopped his chair, teetering to the side for a moment before steadying himself. “Church is really good with computers! He got a game to work on one and let me play it!”

“I'm not sure Minesweeper is a strike in the talent column,” Church rubbed his temples, pushing his glasses up to rest atop his head. Maybe two cups of coffee wasn't enough. He turned to Sarge, squinting a bit. “Anyway, why are you even still here? I thought you were gonna take off once you delivered Kai.”

He sighed, drawn out and dramatic. “I'm just takin' a moment to get over this crushing depression. The weight of this disappointment is a heavy one.”

“And I thought Donut was the drama queen,” Church muttered.

Tex looked up from the screen finally, tilting her head in a sympathetic manner. “Aww, cheer up. You get used to being disappointed after awhile. Shooting zombies helps.”

“Shooting the zombie people usually makes Tex feel better when she is mad,” Caboose confirmed. “I help a lot. Church is not allowed to help because he is bad at it.”

“Hey!”

The blonde grinned. “His aim is so bad I made Caboose take his gun away.”

Sarge stared at the computer expert. “Now that's just sad, son.”

“I work in IT!” Church screeched.

Tex closed the laptop, setting it on the ground beside her and replacing it with the shotgun she kept on her other side. She rested it across her shoulders, getting to her feet. “Okay, I'm not making any progress here, and you guys are depressing. So let's go outside and do something constructive. Or destructive. I'm not picky.”

Caboose hopped up out of his chair. “Oh boy! More helping!”

Sarge grumbled, pushing off the door frame. “I suppose clearin' the perimeter would be both helpful an' invigoratin'.”

All three turned to stare at Church, who had yet to move from his seat. When he noticed the attention, he raised a brow, looking even more unamused than normal. “What? I'm not going anywhere, you guys are all crazy. I'm staying here in the safe house. Where it's safe. Like the name implies.”

Giving Caboose a nudge with her elbow, Tex grinned. “Hey Caboose, give Church a lift, would you?”

The look Church shot her was one of utter betrayal, scooting back in his chair as Caboose all but scrambled over to him. He wasted no time in hauling Church bodily out of the chair, throwing him over a shoulder in a fireman's carry. Church scowled, arms crossed against Caboose's back as the group left the room.

“This is fuckin' embarrassing.”

It was early afternoon, and the sun was shining brightly overhead. It was the kind of day that would have people out enjoying the weather, playing with pets and jogging, if it weren't for the zombie apocalypse being a thing. Now the only people that were out were the infected, stray corpses dragging themselves along the empty roads.

The group slid out of the nearest exit, using Church's messenger bag to prop the door open. Church himself was deposited against the door, sitting on the ground to curl into a ball and grumble to himself. The door led out to an alleyway between the hospital offices and the main part. One end was blocked off by a concrete wall that kept the two buildings connected, so they could easily head to the open end and not worry about having to watch for zombies sneaking up behind them. Not that Church planned on moving from his spot. They could drag him out here, but they couldn't make him do anything. Especially not since they'd already restricted him from using his own gun.

Tex and Sarge took point, with Caboose following after, eager to help. Church watched them, the first two cocking their shotguns. Caboose had Church's pistol in the waist of his shorts; he didn't ever use it, but he was in charge of making sure the other didn't as well. From the opening of the alley, Church could see the few zombies shuffling about. They hadn't caught sight of the living yet, just ambling on their way.

Caboose stood behind Tex, waiting for her to ask for him to help. He was content to let her do the majority of the work, if it made her feel better, he was happy. Sarge seemed to be the same way, it looked like the prospect of getting to shoot some zombies already had him cheering up over his disappointment with Grif. If the murderous glint in his eyes was anything to go by, anyway.

They wouldn't have long. The sounds of a shotgun was enough to bring more curious zombies their way, and two would make even more noise. They could take out a few, hurry back inside and then Church could see about getting something from the cafeteria. Maybe find Tucker and talk to him for a bit. It'd been awhile since they'd gotten a chance to team up. Maybe he could talk the other into making him something to eat. He was usually pretty good at basic stuff.

His thoughts of goading the other into making actual food were interrupted by the sounds of gunshots from the end of the alley. He heard Caboose cheer, and Sarge yell something about showing them who was boss. They really should be more quiet, but Church couldn't bring himself to care. They'd have time to get back inside before anything could get them anyway. At least they weren't bothering him, even though they forced him to come outside with them.

There was another round of shots and cheering, and Church ignored it, reaching in his pocket for his phone. He shot a quick text to Tucker, telling the other to meet in the cafeteria. He'd get Junior on his side as well, there was no way Tucker could say no to the both of them.

A flash of something caught his attention, just in the corner of his eye. He turned quickly, bracing against the door. Whatever had moved was gone, only the concrete wall of the alley and a few trash cans in his vision. He frowned, pocketing his phone once again and getting up to investigate. If there was a way to get over the wall, he needed to make sure nothing was there. The last thing he needed was some stupid zombie jumping out at him while the others were distracted.

Cautiously, he made his way to the end of the alley, steps as quiet as he could make them. There was no noise from any of the trashcans, nothing to give away that there was actually something there. He crouched down when he reached a discarded metal trash can lid, picking it up with the intent to use it as a shield or something; it was better than nothing and he didn't have a weapon on him to fight back with. Holding the lid in front of himself, Church stepped up to the trash pile. The cans were too little to be much cover to anything human- sized, so he moved past them to peer behind the dumpster.

A hand reached out, grabbing at his shirt and yanking him forward. He dropped the lid shield with a terrified yell.

The others turned immediately at Church's panic, seeing him disappear behind the dumpster. They were quick to run to his rescue, but Caboose was the quickest of all. He took off like a bolt, eyes wide.

“Church! Don't worry, I am coming to help!” Before anyone could tell him not to, Caboose had Church's gun out, skidding to a stop at the end of the alley and aiming the gun at whoever was attacking his friend.

“Caboose, no!”

There was another shrill scream as the gun went off. Tex was there immediately, yanking the gun from Caboose's hand in a panic. Sarge kept his shotgun aimed into the alley, ready to back them up if needed. Tex froze at the scene in front of her, eyes wide.

Caboose had his hands in front of his mouth, whining in concern as Church leaned against the wall. He was spitting curses, one leg curled at the knee to take the weight off of it. There was a puddle of blood under him.

“FUCKING HELL CABOOSE, YOU SHOT ME IN THE FUCKING FOOT! WHAT THE FUCK, MAN?!”

“Sorry!” Caboose cringed, looking thoroughly chastised. “It wasn't my fault, your gun has very bad aim!”

“What the hell happened?!” Tex pushed past Caboose to Church's side, looping his arm over her shoulders so he could balance on his uninjured foot. She moved them around the dumpster, Caboose following after like a scolded puppy.

Church bit his lip hard as more pain shot through his foot at the movement. “I heard something back there, so I went to check it out. Then this idiot comes around and shoots me in the fucking foot!” His voice was doing that high- pitched thing that he hated, but he was injured and pissed off.

“You screamed!” Caboose wrung his hands together nervously, twisting them in his sleeves. “I thought something happened to you! I was going to save you from the zombie people, but there were none there!”

“What'd you scream for, if there weren't any zombies there?” Sarge frowned, taking a step back for the others to move past.

Church faltered, mouth opening wordlessly. Green eyes darted back towards the dumpster. “I...”

“That was my fault, I guess.”

The other three turned back toward the new voice. A woman had slipped out from behind the dumpster, leaning against the wall casually, arms crossed. She eyed the group, eyes the same shade as Church's staring at each one of them in turn. She pushed off the wall, stalking towards them, orange hair waving to either side as she moved.

Church frowned. Caboose blinked in confusion. “You're not a zombie person.”

She tilted her head. “No, I'm not.”

“So who are ya then?” Sarge huffed, not sure whether or not to be aiming his shotgun at the new arrival.

Tex subconsciously pulled Church a little closer toward her, her grip tightening on his wrist. “Carolina.”

No one moved for a moment, the two women staring at each other with hard looks.

Finally, Church shifted, letting out a small whimper as he did so. “Yeah, that's fucking great and all, but if you guys recall, I got fucking shot, so could we maybe go inside and do something about that?”

oOoOo

Tucker leaned against the steel door, wincing a bit as the zombies pounded on the metal, trying to get inside. He panted for breath, looking over at the others. Wash was in similar shape, his head pressed back against the door and staring at the ceiling. Simmons curled up around Junior, who was clinging to the redhead's sweater. Tucker met eyes with his son, holding an arm out. Immediately Junior squirmed out of Simmons' grasp, hopping across Wash to get to Tucker.

“Well, now what?”

Simmons frowned, rubbing his hands over his face. “That was awful. This is exactly why I don't trust the outside.”

Wash huffed out a laugh at that. “We need to get back to the others. And preferably get some new weapons.” He glanced up over his head, where his pipe was lodged in between the door handles. “I'm not getting that one back.”

“Okay, but where are we, exactly?” Tucker rested his chin on Junior's head. “I mean, I'm pretty sure we're still in the hospital, but how do we get back to where we were?”

Wash got to his feet, holding his hands out for the others to help them up. “Maybe there's a map somewhere. At least hospitals have signs for stuff.”

Simmons took Wash's hand, standing up and dusting himself off. “I guess so. If we can find the cafeteria, I know Grif was there. And I'm sure he wouldn't leave, so long as there was still food there to be eaten.”

“Sounds as good of a plan as any,” Tucker replied, taking Wash's other hand, keeping an arm wrapped around Junior. He didn't want to admit it, but whenever they had a run- in with zombies, he tended to not let his son go for awhile afterward. It freaked him out, okay?

Wash started down the hall, the others following. Within a few minutes, they reached a collection of signs, pointing them towards different parts of the hospital. They took the direction toward the cafeteria.

As they wandered the halls, a noise came from Tucker's pocket. He blinked, shifting Junior to his other side and fishing the phone out of his pocket. Wash gave him a look.

“Who is texting you during the zombie apocalypse?”

“Church,” the other replied with a shrug. “We keep our phones charged if we can, so we can meet up when we're near.”

Wash hummed, not asking anything more on the subject.

“What's he want?” Simmons leaned over, trying to see the message. “Is everything okay?”

Tucker snorted, thumb flying over the screen to reply. “Yeah, he's just being a whiny bitch. Wants to see if I'll make something for dinner in the cafeteria.”

“Are you good at cooking?” Wash asked.

“Not really. He's just lazy as shit, and Tex won't do it. She does the whole 'rations and protein bar' thing.”

“Can we have pizza?” Junior piped up, looking up at Tucker with hopeful eyes.

“Uh, well I guess we'll have to see what the place has first, then we'll figure that out.”

They continued toward the cafeteria, Junior going on happily about his favorite kinds of pizza and Simmons nodding along politely. Wash was quiet, staring at the hall in front of them. Finally, Tucker gave the blonde a nudge.

“You're not gonna bail again, are you dude?”

Wash frowned, looking a bit defensive. “What? Why would I?”

“Cuz that's what you did last time we started talking about Church and Tex.” He arched a brow. “Is there somethin' you wanna tell us? You seemed fine to meet Grif and Simmons, why are the others so different?”

He faltered for a second, eyes going wide. “I don't... well, I mean...”

“I mean, if you're freaked out about Tex, you don't have to hide it. She's scary.” Tucker shrugged.

Wash huffed. “I'm not scared of Tex!”

“Well, you definitely can't be scared of Church, he couldn't hit you if he tried. And Caboose is the most well- meaning idiot I've ever met, so...”

“I'm not afraid of any of them,” Wash snapped, crossing his arms. He kept his gaze in front of them, not meeting Tucker's eyes. “I just don't think it's smart to trust all these people, what if they double cross us?”

That caused Tucker to laugh, which only made Wash more frustrated, his face warming to a soft pink. “Dude, I've known Church longer than I've known anyone I travel with. Just chill. Despite what you might think, not everyone is out to stab you in the back, Wash.”

“You'd be surprised,” he muttered in response, but didn't push the conversation further.

The rest of the trip was made in silence, even Junior feeling the tension of the group and keeping quiet. When they reached the cafeteria, it was empty. Simmons frowned, looking around.

“Where is everyone?” He huffed. “Grif should be here, he told me he'd be here.”

Tucker shrugged. “Do you think they got tired of waiting and left?”

“Didn't Church say he wanted food? Why wouldn't he be here?”

“Why don't you just text him again?” Wash asked dryly.

Their confusion was interrupted by a very familiar yell from behind the kitchen door, followed very closely by a gunshot. Junior yelped, clinging to Tucker's shirt. Wash tensed immediately. Simmons went pale, taking off toward the kitchen before anyone could stop him.

“Grif!”

Chapter Text

Grif's back hit the wall. His hands immediately went up in front of him in a surrender gesture. “Whoa, man, chill.”

The guy in front of him narrowed his eyes, not moving the gun from the Hawaiian's face. “You're joking, right?”

Kai scrambled to her bother's side before Donut could stop her from making any sudden movements. As it was, he was just dragged along by the girl's force. “Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing?!”

For his part, the stranger didn't twitch with Kai's outburst. A fact that Grif, on the wrong side of the man's gun, was very thankful for. The other's eyes glanced to her for a second, before returning to his target. “Are you people serious?”

Donut grimaced, looking at the unconscious person on the floor. “I really didn't mean to hit your friend--”

“He's not my friend,” the stranger cut in with a growl.

Taken aback for a moment, the blonde continued after a pause. “Okay, still, I didn't mean to hit him, I panicked and thought it was zombies, I'm really sorry! It was all just a misunderstanding!”

Kai clenched her fists at her sides, glaring at the tall man. “So how about you stop trying to shoot my brother, yeah?”

Grif couldn't tell if the other two were helping or hurting his chances at this point. He just really wished the guy would take the gun off him. He was immune to zombies, but some wacko with a murder wish could take him out pretty easy. He supposed at least he'd prove Simmons right, since the redhead was so convinced that Grif would get himself killed by being overly confident around the undead.

There were a few moments of tense silence in the kitchen. Kai and the stranger stared each other down, while Donut watched them worriedly and Grif just stood as still as possible, hoping to not get shot. After what seemed like far too long for someone in point blank range of a handgun, the tall man gave a thoughtful hum, lowering his arm. Grif breathed a sigh of relief, shoulders slumping.

The relief was short lived however, as the door on the fall wall of the kitchen burst open. From the outside of the hospital, a group of zombies began to pour in the now open door. All four whirled around to face the intrusion. Donut let out a yelp, holding up the bat, while Kai and Grif immediately shifted into fighting stance. The stranger scowled, wasting no time in firing a few shots into the advancing zombies.

The first few of the group went down, but there were still far too many. The man moved forward, firing at the zombies as he made his way toward his not- friend on the floor. Grif pushed Kai back, urging her and Donut toward the dining room door. This plan was hindered when that door pushed open, knocking the two into him instead. Grif fell forward, the combined weight of the pair forcing him to fall over. For a moment he panicked, if zombies were coming in from both sides, none of them stood a chance in here.

“Grif!”

Hands were pulling him up quickly, shaking and nervous, but familiar. Blinking up, Grif found Simmons there, his normal worried frown studying him. In spite of everything, Grif gave the other a lopsided grin. He let Simmons pull him to his feet, just in time to see Tucker and Wash hurry into the kitchen as well.

After a quick assessment of the situation, Wash sprung into action, moving past them to help the stranger. Grif had forgotten about them in the heat of the past few seconds, and he realized he hadn't heard gunshots since the first ones. He'd had to stop shooting to scoop up the shorter man off the floor, juggling to shift the other over his shoulder and move back before he could get attacked. Wash ducked in between the pair and the closest zombie, sending it flying back with a forceful kick. The stranger matched eyes with him for a split second before collecting his unconscious partner and backtracking toward the others.

Wash gave the closest zombie a shove, intent on using the spare moments to move back. The zombie's fingers tangled in his sleeve as it fell back, taking Wash along with it. Tucker ran forward to help, but Grif pushed him back as soon as he got close enough, taking off instead. Zombies, he could handle without an issue.

Grif rushed in, grabbing Wash by the back of his jacket and yanking. The blonde squirmed against the zombie's hold, slamming his fists against its arm to try and dislodge it. There was a sickening cracking noise, and the zombie was left with a few less fingers, but Wash was free. Grif pulled Wash away as the zombie lunged. It sunk its teeth into Grif's arm instead of Wash's shoulder. Grif yelled out in pain, snatching his arm away.

It was Wash's turn to save him, grabbing his uninjured arm and pulling them both back towards safety. The rest of the group had fallen back, the stranger and Donut keeping the rest of them from running into the fray. The zombies advanced as Wash pulled Grif back, and Grif tried not to trip over his own sneakers as he fell more than walked. When they reached the group at the exit, the pair were pulled quickly through the door, Wash falling to the floor of the dining area and Grif falling on top of him.

Tucker and Donut slammed the door immediately, leaning their weight against it while Simmons and Kai ran to move one of the tables. The legs screeched against the tile floor as they pushed it against the door to keep it closed.

When they were safe for the time being, Wash pushed Grif off him, moving to get up. Grif groaned, sitting up. His arm hurt like hell. He might be immune, but he'd still been bitten hard and it still hurt just as much as one would expect when bitten by another person.

“Grif, you dumbass!” Simmons snapped, kneeling down next to him. Before Grif could reply, the redhead had Grif's wrist in his hand, inspecting the bite mark. It was higher up his forearm, almost at the elbow and right into the meat of his arm. It was bleeding pretty bad, but it didn't look too serious. There weren't any chunks taken out, which Grif was thankful for. Simmons didn't seem to think as optimistically about it, huffing as he looked over the wound.

“It's fine, I'll just get some bandages from one of the offices. We're in a hospital, dude.” Grif tried to pull his arm back. “Just leave it alone before you touch it and get infected or something, jeez.”

Grif looked up, away from Simmons and his stupid annoying concerned frown. The others weren't much better. The room was quiet, save for a few muted thuds from the door. Kai stared at him with wide eyes, Donut was looking anywhere but at him, and Junior had his face buried in Tucker's neck, sniffling.

Tucker came to the conclusion the same moment that Grif did, that most of these people had no idea he was immune. They thought he was bitten and going to turn. Tucker shifted Junior against his hip, shaking his head.

“Guys, it's okay, he's--”

For the second time that day, Grif had a gun pointed at him. The stranger's hard gaze was on him. The guy managed to look intimidating even with a short, unconscious man draped over his shoulders. “You've been bitten.”

“What the hell?!” Simmons shrieked. “Who the hell is this?!”

Wash grabbed at the gun, lowering it from pointing at Grif. “We don't even know who you are, and you're trying to shoot our teammate!”

“He's infected, and you don't look like the sort of group to put someone out of their misery.” The other replied evenly.

“He's immune, you fuckstick!” Tucker snapped, taking a step forward. “How about you stop waving a gun around before you know what's going on? Who even are you?!”

This gave the man pause. “Immune?”

Wash frowned, turning to Grif. “Is that true?”

Grif nodded. “Uh, yeah. It's okay. I mean, it still really fucking hurts, but I'm not gonna start wanting a flesh sandwich anytime soon.”

Tucker muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'Simmons sandwich' but Grif elected to ignore it, more worried about the fact that the gun was lowered but not completely off of him at this point.

Simmons seemed to notice this fact as well, because he frowned up at the stranger. “So you can put the gun away, y'know.”

Wash seemed to agree, glaring at the other and subtly shifting his weight to stand in front of the pair on the floor. The stranger looked from Grif to Wash, before letting out a quiet huff, holstering the gun back at his waist.

“Fine. But if he's lying, and turns later, I won't stop him from tearing you all apart.”

“You won't stop him?” Tucker made a face. “What makes you think you're gonna be around later? Nobody invited you anywhere.”

Green eyes darted to him, narrowing just a bit. “It would make more sense to stay together. This spot is still full of usable supplies, even if the security has been compromised in this area. There's still a chance we could block the area off and take what we can. So until we've gotten what we need, it's in everyone's best interest that we work together, as opposed to against each other.”

“He does have a point,” Wash ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it as he scowled in thought. “We can't really stay here anymore, but there's a lot of supplies we can use. It makes sense to try not to screw each other over.”

Tucker pushed off the wall, turning his glare onto Wash instead. “Oh, so when it's my friends, they can't be trusted, but some complete stranger pulls a gun on us, and you wanna work with him?”

Wash blinked, taken aback. “That's not what I meant!”

“Well, that's what seems to be going on!”

“Someone better be dying, because there's no reason for this much noise otherwise,” a new voice grumbled.

The stranger tilted his head, looking back at his partner. He'd draped the other against his back for easier carrying, but as the other woke, he started pushing at the taller man's shoulders. He was let down without a word, swaying for a moment but ultimately staying upright. He scowled at the group, rubbing at the back of his head.

“Alright, which one of you fuckers hit me?”

oOoOo

Church slumped back in his chair, arms crossed. The painkillers were taking forever to kick in, and his foot still throbbed in pain. Tex wouldn't give him the really good stuff, afraid that it would knock him out. Which was kind of exactly what Church would have wanted at this point, because watching his girlfriend and his sister fight it out was pretty much lower on his list of things he wanted to do than actually being shot in the foot by his idiot boyfriend.

Speaking of Caboose, the other peeked his head inside the doorway, looking sheepish. He'd hurried out of the room as soon as they'd made it inside, claiming he was going to find some coffee to make Church not mad at him anymore. Because caffeine would make Church less mad about being shot.

If Church were being completely honest with himself, Caboose probably had the right idea. There wasn't a lot that caffeine couldn't fix for him. But he wasn't going to let Caboose off the hook that easy.

He glared at the other as the taller man slid into the room, clutching a styrofoam cup in his hands. “Are you feeling any better, Church?”

Church sighed, feeling suddenly very tired. Maybe Tex did give him the good painkillers. “Not really, Caboose. I've still got a fucking bullet hole through my foot. That kind of thing doesn't get better in half an hour.”

Blue eyes looked from Church's face, to his foot, propped up in another chair. He hadn't put his shoe back on since Tex had wrapped it up for him. They weren't going anywhere for awhile, so he didn't see much need to do anything but sulk. Caboose inched more inside the room, holding the cup out.

“I got you a coffee. I tried to get you some sweet things to go with it but the vending machine was being very mean.”

Church uncurled from his sulk, rubbing his face with a tired sigh. “Thanks, buddy.”

Seeing the shorter man relent a little, Caboose relaxed, handing him the cup. “I'm sorry that the gun shot you.”

“Yeah, I know.” Church sipped at his coffee, wincing a bit at the lukewarm beverage. Still, cold coffee was better than no coffee.

Sarge marched in through the doorway, arms loaded with packaged snacks. “Quit yer bitchin', it's like you've never been shot before!”

“That's cuz I haven't,” Church snapped back.

“It's because he worked in it.” Caboose supplied helpfully.

“It's IT, Caboose.”

“Church, we are all adults here, you do not have to spell things for me.”

“God, I hate you.”

A granola bar was tossed into his lap. Church watched Sarge hand Caboose another one. “Never mind that now. I got us some food.”

Caboose gasped. “You got the vending machine to be nice to you?”

Sarge chucked. “If ya call bustin' the glass out bein' nice, then sure.” He dropped the rest on the desk, looking around. “Where's the other two?”

Caboose dug into his bar, which Church scooted his chairs over to the pile, looking for something good to trade his for. “Still in the back office. I hear shouting occasionally, so I'm guessing one hasn't murdered the other yet.”

“You're pretty okay about all this,” Sarge remarked, looking back toward the office.

“I'm used to it,” Church replied simply, tossing the granola bar into the pile after finding a packet of chocolate cupcakes. “They've been at each other's throats since they've known each other.”

“Tex does not seem to like California very much.” Caboose muttered around his granola, sending crumbs everywhere.

“Carolina, Caboose,” Church rolled his eyes. “My sister's not very happy with Tex. They had a real good rivalry going on before this whole zombie thing, and she's not really happy that we left.”

“So why ain't she yellin' at you too?” Sarge produced a water bottle from one of his cargo pockets, taking a sip.

“Because Tex is a lot more interesting for her to yell at. Also because apparently I had no say in leaving, apparently.”

“Tex says he is whipped,” Caboose helped.

“I am not!” Church huffed, biting viciously into a cupcake. “I left because I wanted to! It just so happened that she wanted to at the same time.”

The three were silent for a few minutes, eating their so- called dinner without commentary. The sounds of yelling rose up from the office, followed by the sounds of things being thrown. Church slumped back in the chair, glad that he wasn't in the middle of that fight once again. In the beginning of his relationship with Tex, he'd tried to get in between the pair, but he quickly discovered that doing so was very detrimental to his health. And he liked being unbruised, so he learned the best way to deal with them both was to leave them to their fight. He was a tech nerd, he wasn't up to dealing with angry special agents.

Caboose and Sarge watched the door with interest, having never been witness to a Tex and Carolina fight. He had to admit, this was worse than usual, but it had been awhile since they'd all three seen each other. And he and Tex had just left Carolina to deal with their father, so he didn't really feel like the fight was unjustified.

Eventually the door flew open, slamming against the wall and startling them all. Tex stormed out, making a beeline for the door to the hallway. She said nothing, only grabbed the back of Church's chair, rolling him out along with her.

Carolina stood in the office doorway, arms crossed. “Oh, so that's it, huh? Just leave with Church? Seems to be your answer to everything.”

Tex paused, turning to glare back at her. “If that's the case, why don't you go back to your dad then? Seemed to work out so well for you last time!”

The redhead's fists clenched at her sides. Church tried to look as small as possible in his chair, even if his leg hanging off the other dragged both of the chairs. “Look, I came here to help, okay?! This is why I wanted to talk to Church first on his own! Because I knew you'd do this! But everything has to be about you, so we'll do it your way!”

“We don't need your help, okay, Carolina?” Tex whirled around, arms crossing. “We asked for your help before, and you refused. We'll get this done on our own. So why don't you just go back to your dad and be the good daughter, huh? I'm sure there's people there missing you right now. If you're not there, who's gonna keep York out of trouble?”

All the fight left Carolina immediately. She looked down, entire body slumping in a way that Church had never seen in his sister before. She looked defeated. And that worried Church far more than the two of them arguing.

“York's... he's gone. He didn't make it.”

Tex frowned. “What?”

She shook her head. “Delta got him, and there wasn't anything I could do. So I'm gonna do what I can now. Is that okay with you?”

The blonde could only nod. “Yeah. Yeah, Carolina, you can come with us.”

Chapter Text

“You're an idiot,” Simmons huffed, watching Grif rub at his bandaged arm. He slapped at the Hawaiian's hand when he started to pick at the bandage.

Grif pouted at the other, shaking the sting out of his hand. “Look, it was either me or Wash, and I know I'd be safe if I got bit.”

Simmons was still giving him that kicked puppy look, and Grif sighed, nudging the redhead's shoulder with his own. He knew Simmons worried, but it wasn't really like he had a choice at the time. Sure, his arm hurt, but he'd live, and so would Wash. He didn't know why Simmons was worrying so much.

Kai interrupted his thoughts, leaning against the wall as the other two moved to pry open the pantry door. They'd been put on food collection duty, much to Grif's delight. “So, you can't turn into a zombie? How does that work?”

Grif shrugged, giving the door a hard push with his shoulder. Beside him, Simmons' feet skidded along the tile as the door resisted his push. “I dunno. It just does. Something about my blood or whatever. Some sci-fi shit.”

Simmons rolled his eyes. “It's genetics. Certain people are immune to the virus. I saw a lot of research on it right before the virus got too out of control. Scientists were trying to use the people that were immune to make an vaccine.”

“Didn't work though, or else we wouldn't be in this mess, I guess,” Grif finished, taking a step back and ramming the door with his full weight. It slammed open, the handle breaking. The door hit the inside wall of the pantry, making all three tense at the noise.

Kai rifled through her backpack, pulling out a flashlight and clicking it on. The pantry was dark, but quiet. The zombies may have gotten to the kitchen, but it seemed like this part of it was still safe.

“So, am I immune too then?” She continued the conversation, ducking inside the doorway to shine the light around. It bounced off the shelves inside, but nothing moved in the shadows.

“It's possible, since you share the same genetics,” Simmons peered in after her, looking around. “But there's a chance you could have missed that particular set of traits.”

“Well, how did you find out, Dex? Was there some kind of way you knew?”

Grif pushed past them into the room, stopping at the nearest shelf to inspect canned vegetables. “Got bit.”

Kai frowned at her brother. “You did?”

Simmons fumbled as Grif threw a can of carrots at him. There weren't many vegetables that Grif liked, but he knew Simmons was fond of carrots. He didn't elaborate on the story, but eventually Simmons spoke up. “The only way to know for sure that someone's immune is to give them the virus. Either they're immune, and they survive, or they're not.”

Grif cast a glance to the others, Kai looking on with wide eyes and Simmons' fingers twisting worriedly around the can. He sighed, his shoulders slumping. “It's not really a good story, okay? It's probably better that you dunno all of it. Simmons does, and he freaks out when he thinks about it.”

“I do not!” Simmons protested, his face flushing pink in the light of Kai's flashlight.

Grif grinned, working his way to the next shelf. Teasing Simmons always got him to stop worrying for a bit.

Kai shifted her weight to one leg, focusing the light on her brother. “So, I might be immune to zombies, but I don't know unless I get bit by one. That's kind of a sucky way to test things.”

“Don't I know it,” Grif shrugged. “Now come over here with that light, I wanna know where these guys keep the snack cakes.”

oOoOo

“I just don't know why he's mad at me!” Wash threw his hands up, staring at the ceiling in frustration.

Beside him, Donut hummed, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets. “Yeah, you mentioned that already.”

“I'm confused as to why you care so much,” Locus walked slightly behind the blondes, scanning the hall for any signs of movement.

“I think that much is obvious!” Donut shrugged. “Wash has a lot of conflicting feelings about--”

“Finding supplies!” Wash cut in, his voice hitting that higher pitch that Tucker liked to tease him about. He hurried past the others into an examination room, rifling through the cabinet for medical supplies. “We should really pick up the pace so we can meet back with the others!”

For all his flaws, Donut only rolled his eyes, accepting the diversion for what it was, and not pointing out that Wash might be in a hurry to meet back with the others mostly because Tucker had gone with another group. He was such a good person, he really ought to get a reward. Instead, he merely followed Wash into the room, starting in on the cabinets on the other side of the room. Locus stood in the doorway, keeping watch. With all the noise they were making, it was probably a good idea to have their backs covered.

“I wonder where Church and Tex went,” Donut said idly, juggling a roll of gauze from hand to hand. “Sarge was with them, and that Caboose guy. I just hope they don't try to leave without us.”

He didn't miss the way Wash's shoulders tensed at the mention of the other group. Locus apparently didn't miss it either. With another sweep of the hall, he turned his attention to the taller blonde.

“Is something wrong, Washington?”

Wash turned to face them, fingers gripping a package of cotton swabs so tight it started to make a wheezing noise. One Wash would probably be making, if he weren't a little better at hiding his emotions than the rest of them. “No, it's fine. I just hope they're okay.”

Donut blinked. “You don't think something would have happened to them, do you?”

“I'm sure they're fine,” Wash backtracked, offering the other a sympathetic smile. “They're tough.”

“Yeah, that's true,” Donut flipped a tongue depressor into the air. “Well, the other ones are. Church is kinda more the IT type.”

“So there's another group of yours wandering around here?” Locus asked, leaning against the doorway.

“Yeah, Tex drove us here to meet up with Grif's group,” Donut replied. “What about you? Is it just you and your friend?”

oOoOo

“I told you, he's not my friend,” Felix huffed, arms crossed over his chest. “We just make sure we don't end up as zombie food, and it's easier to do that as a pair.”

“Yeah, I really don't care,” Tucker ambled beside him, moving a little slower for Junior's sake. The boy held his father's hand tightly, scrambling to keep up with his shorter legs. “I was making conversation because the awkward silence was even weirder.”

“Hey, don't get pissy with me because you're having a fight with your boyfriend. I didn't ask to get dragged into this mess. I was minding my own business when some little blonde kid knocks me out with a bat. He's got a really good arm.”

Tucker narrowed his eyes. “Okay, first of all, he's not my boyfriend. And second of all, you agreed to team up with me, so you've only got yourself to blame.”

“Yeah, cuz I THOUGHT you'd be the fun one,” Felix stepped away from the Tucker family, moving to kick open the door to the supply room their team had been tasked with raiding. “If I'd have known you just wanted to get away from Blondie there, I'd have reconsidered. If you wanna make him jealous, there's more fun ways to go about it.”

Tucker made a face at the wink the other sent him, instead scooping Junior up into his arms and sliding past him into the room. “Yeah, you wish.”

The room was small, barely bigger than a closet, but it was full of things they could use, both in their own parties and to trade with if they came across another group. Tucker set Junior down again when he'd checked the room, making sure there weren't any hidden visitors there. Felix went right to work, picking up random pill bottles off the shelves and pocketing those he liked.

Tucker watched Junior wander to a stack of blankets in the corner, pulling out some of the smaller ones to take. Satisfied that his son would be okay, he started gathering up the bottles he recognized as painkillers. He had a list in his pocket with a couple of names of medications the others had told him to look out for as well.

“Look, all I'm saying is that if we're gonna split up after this, you might as well have some fun.” Felix shrugged, arching a pierced brow at the bottle he was holding before sliding it into his bag.

Tucker gave Felix a quick look-over, considering. He wasn't a bad looking guy, even if he was an annoying little shit. Still. “Dude, my kid's in the room.”

The other tilted his head, turning to stare at Junior across the room. “Oh yeah. Well, your loss then.”

He decided to change the subject, eager to get this over with and get back to the others. “So where are you two headed after this?”

Felix's face brightened in delight. “Oh, man, it's gonna be great. We're going up to that old Freelancer lab.”

“Freelancer?” Tucker frowned. The name sounded familiar. He thought he might have heard Church mention it sometime in their texts.

“Man, you don't know anything, do you?” Felix gave him a shove. “That project they started before the outbreak, to control the virus? It was all over the news! They had a whole team of people that volunteered to help make a vaccine, but they all started disappearing under 'mysterious circumstances' or some shit like that.”

“So what do you think you're gonna find there?” Tucker asked. He turned away from Felix, leaning down to grab for the backpack he'd set down to collect the medication. “Do you think someone's still gonna be there?”

“We're finishing a job, so I hope someone'll be there. Otherwise we won't get paid, and I'll be pissed.”

Tucker huffed out a laugh. “So what, you guys are like, mercenaries or something? What kind of jobs are you picking up in the zombie apocalypse?”

“Yeah, we're something like that,” Felix's voice turned a touch dark, and Tucker felt a chill up his spine. “We're about to finish up a job we've been on for a while now, luckily running into your little group helped us out a bunch.”

He didn't know what the other was getting at, but he didn't like the new tension in the room. He looked at Junior, who was busy trying to stuff a blanket into his tiny backpack. “How would we help you out? Was your mission to get clocked by a kid with a bat?”

Felix laughed. It wasn't the light sound it had been before. Tucker turned around to confront the other, but something slammed against the side of his head and the world went dark.

OooOo

“Alright, we brought Kai to her brother,” Church mused, settling against Caboose's back. “So now we drop off Sarge with the others, then get the hell out of here. Carolina needs our help at the office.”

Caboose nodded, shifting Church up higher on his back, careful not to drop him from the piggyback carry he had the other in. “It would be nice to spend more time with Mr. Tart, but California seems sad, so we should help her.”

Church sighed. “I can't begin to tell you everything wrong with that statement, buddy.”

“I'm perfectly capable of gettin' back on my own,” Sarge grumbled beside the pair.

“Yeah, I'm sure you are. You're also capable of running off without them. And I don't want Tucker blowing me up with texts about how Donut won't stop whining about you leaving him. I actually kinda like Donut.”

“Well, why can't I go with y'all? Seems like ya've got quite the adventure on yer hands here.”

“First of all, Tex would kill us all. Second, Carolina would still kill us all. Third of all, no.” After a quick glance to the pair of women walking behind them, Church glared at Sarge while resting his chin on Caboose's head. “We've got sensitive espionage going on here, and you're definitely not the discreet type.”

“Yer takin' Caboose.”

“Yeah, well, you try not letting him do something he wants, see how far you get.”

“I help!” Caboose added, helpfully.

“Sure you do,” Church patted his shoulder, before returning his attention to Sarge. “Besides, the less people we get involved in this, the better. Less people to get hurt later.”

“Like that York fella?”

Church looked behind him again, where Carolina was speaking in hushed tones with Tex. “Yeah, like him.”

They fell into silence for the rest of the walk to the cafeteria. Or as much of a silence a group could have with Caboose in it. The sight they met inside the room was a bit confusing. It was empty, for a start, which Church wasn't expecting, considering Grif's habits. Secondly, there were at least three tables pushed up against the door to the kitchen. And there was a fair amount of shuffling and moaning coming from said blocked kitchen door.

Caboose stopped short at the entryway, causing Tex to bump into him and Church. Carolina peeked inside.

“I'm guessin' they're not in there,” Sarge said.

“If they are, then they've got a craving for people that I don't want near me,” Tex replied. She looked up at Church. “Any news from Tucker?”

He shook his head. “I texted him on our way back, but I never got an answer. I figured he just didn't notice.”

“You think they left without you guys?” Carolina asked, leaning against the doorway. The tables looked they would hold for a little while longer, so she wasn't quite worried about being in the room at this point. That didn't mean that someone else would have felt the need to leave the place after the kitchen was compromised.

“I don't think so,” Church frowned at the door as something slammed against it. “He would have at least told me first. And that Donut kid seemed like he didn't wanna split up.”

“Well, if Tucker's not answering, do you have any of the others you could text?” Tex huffed. Church knew she was upset at being held up. She was anxious to go back, but they needed to get moving as soon as they could.

Church took out his phone, shooting a quick message to Grif. “I've got one, so hopefully wherever they are, they're still together.”

“Dude, what?” a voice spoke up behind them. Church let out what was definitely not a shrill noise, hugging closer to Caboose in panic.

There was another yelp as Tex and Carolina had Grif in the sights of their pistols before Caboose could turn around. Grif's hands went up immediately.

“I am tired of having guns pointed at me today!” He snapped. The women lowered their weapons.

“What are you guys doing here?” Simmons peeked around Grif. On the other side, Kai did the same.

“We came to meet up with you guys and drop Sarge off,” Church unburied his face from Caboose's hair. “Where's the others?”

“Huh? Oh! Tucker had a fight with his boyfriend, so he went with Felix to go loot the medication supply.”

Church scowled. “Who the hell is Felix?”

“The little angry guy that Donut knocked out with a bat in the kitchen.” Kai explained.

“So we're Donut then?” Sarge asked.

“He went with the other group,” Simmons shrugged. “We split up to gather supplies before we left, since Felix and Locus led a bunch of infected into the kitchen. We figured it wouldn't be safe in here for much longer.”

“We were in charge of the pantry,” Grif continued. “So we were right here when you texted. What's up?”

Rubbing his temples, Church sighed. “I wanna ask who Locus is, but I'm sure I'll get another confusing answer. Point is, we're dropping Sarge off and we have to head out, so just tell Tucker when he gets back. We'll meet up with him some other time, we've got some work to do.”

Grif shrugged. “Yeah, sure, we'll just get his boyfriend to break the news when we all meet up.”

“Grif, for the last time, Tucker is not my boyfriend,” a voice snapped from down the hall.

“I'll quit sayin' it when you stop bickering like a married couple!”

“Like you're one to talk,” Church mumbled.

The Hawaiian shot him a glare as he was joined by another group. Donut popped into view first, beaming happily at them all. He was followed by a tall man in a dark coat, face set in a stony expression. Church assumed this was either Felix or Locus, probably Locus, since Tucker was nowhere in sight. But there was one more person in the group, the one who'd yelled at Grif.

A blonde head ducked around Locus, glaring sternly at Grif. Church's jaw dropped. Apparently he wasn't the only one surprised, because he, Tex and Carolina all yelled at the same time.

“Wash?!”

Blue eyes widened, and Wash whirled to face the group, looking like a deer in the headlights. “Oh shit.”

Chapter Text

Any hope Wash had of backing down the hall and escaping his current situation was impeded by Locus. Not really because the man had any interest in figuring out why the blonde wanted to run away; but mostly because he was standing in the middle of the hall, and Wash backed into the taller man.

Before Wash could duck around the newest group member and make a break for it, a hissed command from Church had Caboose reaching forward, grabbing at Wash to prevent an escape. He resisted weakly for a moment, but eventually gave in, standing still with a sigh.

Simmons looked around their group. Half of them were as confused as he was, while Tex, Church and the redhead he hadn't met seemed shocked. He frowned, making some quick connections.

“So Tucker was right.”

Church snorted. “That's not something that's said often.”

Simmons shrugged. He had to concede that point. “He said Wash has been acting weird since he knew we were meeting up with you guys, then suddenly he couldn't be found afterward.” He turned on Wash. “You did know them. You just didn't want them to see you.”

Wash deflated. “Okay fine. Yes, I was avoiding them.”

Tex frowned. “Why?”

“Look, it's... complicated, okay?” He made a face, part grimace, part pout. It was a weird look for him.

“Shouldn't we wait for Tucker to get back?” Grif cut in. “He's gonna want to know this too. Maybe you guys can stop bitching at each other if he knows he's right.”

Donut looked around. “They should've been back by now. We said we were going to meet up here after an hour.”

“Should someone go look for them?” Simmons asked. As curious as he was to what was going on with Washington, he didn't like the thought of them being split up before they were ready. Not to mention, Tucker would complain if he missed the explanation, since he had called it from the start.

“I'll go,” Locus spoke up. “Knowing Felix, he's managed to get them lost.” He took a step down the hall, before turning back. And staring at Grif, for some reason. “If you want to come along, you'd probably know more about finding Tucker.”

Simmons felt something like nervousness bubble up inside him, and he reached the short distance over, grabbing onto Grif's shirt tail. If Grif noticed, he didn't comment on it, instead sending Locus a frown.

“Yeah, no offense, dude, but you had a gun pointed at me twice within the first hour of knowing you. I'm not really itching to spend any time alone with you.”

Shoulders slumping minutely in relief, Simmons loosened his grip. He didn't let go though.

Locus didn't argue, merely shrugged. “I see your point. I'll find them and return shortly.”

He continued down the hall without another word. The rest of the group watched him go, and he turned a corner before anyone spoke up.

“Yeah, who the hell is that guy?” Church asked.

“We're honestly not too sure of that ourselves,” Wash shrugged. “But he didn't shoot Grif, so we're playing nice for now.”

Beside Caboose, Simmons could hear grumbling in the form of Sarge muttering about wasted opportunities.

Donut's head popped up over Simmons' shoulder, peering at Church and Caboose. “Are you giving out piggyback rides, Caboose? Because if you are, I'm calling dibs on next. I love a good ride.”

Simmons resisted the urge to cover his face with his hands, but only just barely. Church seemed to feel the same, since his response was a groan, and to bury his face against Caboose's shoulder.

The other brunette, however, only beamed happily. “Oh, I am carrying Church because someone who we will not name shot him in the foot. So he cannot walk.”

“It was you,” Church grumbled, muffled by the cloth of Caboose's hoodie.

“Someone we will not name,” he repeated. “But I can give you a piggyback ride later, Mr. Creampuff. I like giving piggyback rides.”

“Hell yeah,” Kai piped up with a grin.

Grif turned to scowl at her. “Definitely not.”

Kai stuck her tongue out. “You don't own me.”

Wash sighed, still in Caboose's grip. “I should've just run away when I had the chance.”

Caboose blinked, as if just remembering something. “Oh. I will have to give out the piggyback rides before we leave though. Tex and Church said we are in a hurry.”

“That's right,” Simmons blinked up at Church. “You guys are leaving already? Is something wrong?”

“We're in the zombie apocalypse, and you're asking that question?” Tex raised a brow. “Yeah, something's wrong. What with the dead reanimating themselves and all.”

Simmons huffed. “Okay, I mean besides what's normally wrong.”

“Grumpy's sister here came sneakin' in, talkin' somethin' about a friend of theirs dyin', and now they're hightailin' it out to go do somethin' in an office,' Sarge rambled. “All I really know is that they're ditchin' me with you guys to do it.”

Wash paled, turning to the new redhead. “Carolina?”

For the first time in awhile, Carolina spoke up. She turned her head, staring hard at the floor beside her. “York... he was the last one left, and he... it was looking good, Delta was working well... but it didn't last. Just like the others.”

If Caboose hadn't been holding onto Wash at that point, Simmons was sure the blonde would have fallen over.

“We're going back,” Tex cut in, her face set in a determined frown. “We're doing what we should have done before. We're taking down the Director and finishing that vaccine ourselves.”

“Well, that sounds pretty dramatic and all, but count us out,” Grif shook his head. He took a step back, taking Simmons, who was still latched onto his shirt, along for it. “This is way above our pay grade. We're sticking to the Alaska plan, right Simmons?”

Put on the spot, Simmons gaped, looking from Grif to Tex and back again. “Well I... I mean, this is important stuff, right?” He cleared his throat against the shrill pitch his voice took on when he got nervous. “Don't you want to help the infected?”

Before the argument could progress further, they were interrupted by noise from the end of the long hall. It started with a loud thud, followed by a crash and a yell. It sounded suspiciously like--

Wash yanked his arm free from Caboose's grip, taking off in a run down the hall. “Tucker!”

The others hurried after him.

oOoOo

Tucker groaned, blinking his eyes open. The tile floor was warm under his cheek and his head pounded. Looking around, he found himself in the same medical supply room he'd went to raid with Felix.

“Ugh, the back of my head,” he grumbled, pushing himself up on his arms. He looked around the room. “Junior? Felix?”

There was no reply, and he found the room empty. His heart leapt into his throat, and he scrambled to his feet. He quickly moved through all the shelves in the room, looking in every space small enough to hide a child.

“Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Tucker tugged at his hair, eyes darting around the room. His son was nowhere to be found. Felix was missing too, and if Tucker ever saw that bastard again he was going to rip him apart.

He stormed toward the door, stopping when he found Junior's backpack hanging from the handle. There was a paper pinned to it, and if Tucker was angry at Felix before, he would murder the other with a look after he read the note he'd left.

'Tucker, bring the immune guy to the Freelancer office. We'll trade for the kid. I wouldn't take too long about it either. -Felix :)'

Tucker growled, clenching his fist around the paper, crumpling it. That motherfucker took his kid. He took a swing, hitting the wall with a dull thump. It didn't make him feel any better. He fell back, slamming against the nearest shelf. It crashed to the floor, loud and messy. With a frustrated yell, he grabbed the backpack off the door, yanking the door open so hard it slammed against the wall.

He stormed into the hallway, only to almost collide with Wash, who was running toward him. The rest of the group wasn't far behind. Wash skidded to a halt, grabbing onto Tucker's shoulder to keep steady.

“What happened? What's going on?!” Wash took one look at Tucker's expression, his own eyes widening.

Tucker pushed past him, cradling his arm against his chest. Maybe that hadn't been the best idea. “Where's Locus?!”

If Felix was gone, the only one who knew anything about him would be Locus. The other stranger would be able to tell him about where Felix had fucked off to, and maybe even help them get Junior back.

“He went to find you,” Donut peered over Wash's shoulder, worried. “What's going on?”

“You let him leave?!” Tucker barely resisted slamming his fist into another wall.

Church propped his elbows on Caboose's shoulders, leaning over until he could see. “Tucker, dude, use your words. What the fuck's going on?”

Wash paled suddenly, reaching out to grab onto Tucker's uninjured arm. “Tucker, where's Junior?”

At Wash's words, Tucker could see the gravity of the situation click for everyone else in the hallway. From Grif's hissed 'fuck!' to Donut's gasp, it was almost satisfying to see the reactions of people who actually cared. But there were definitely more important matters to attend to.

“Fucking Felix took him!” Tucker snapped, rubbing at his already bruised knuckles. His hand was really starting to sting, but he couldn't worry about that right now. “He knocked me out and kidnapped my kid! And I'm guessing Locus didn't run off to come find me!”

It didn't take Wash long to notice Tucker's hand. Stupid paranoid bastards and their perceptiveness. He grabbed Tucker's wrist, pulling his injured hand away from his chest. “We're going to go take care of this. I need two groups, one to look for Felix and Junior, the other to look for Locus. There's a good chance they're in this together, but there's also a possibility that Felix acted on his own. Either way, the most important thing is getting Junior back.”

“Wait a second,” Sarge started with a huff. “You can't go orderin' us around--”

Eyes narrowed, Wash shot him a dangerous look. “This is a child we're talking about here, Sarge. This needs to be done quick and effectively.”

Sarge huffed, turning to stare at the group. “I'll take Donut, Simmons and Grif to look for this Locus guy.” At Grif's confused face, he rolled his eyes. “The first two for actual help, and the third one in case we actually find him. Grif's like a gun magnet for Locus, so he won't shoot the rest of us.”

Grif sighed, even as Donut gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

“I guess I'll take the other team and look for Junior and whoever Felix is,” Church seemed a little more confused than anything else. “I dunno who Felix is, but I'm assuming the kid would be a dead giveaway.”

Wash nodded, pulling Tucker away from the hall and into one of the offices at random. Tucker could hear the others head out on their respective searches, with Tex taking over in ordering them around once Wash was gone.

oOoOo

Wash led Tucker to the plastic hospital bed in the corner of the room. He was actually starting to worry more about the other now. The anger before was one thing, but now he'd gone quiet, just doing what Wash wanted him to do. He'd never seen Tucker follow his orders without complaint.

But here the other was, staring at the tiled floor and sitting on the examination table. Wash shuffled through the cabinets, taking what little supplies they hadn't already raided. There wasn't much he could do besides clean the injuries. The knuckles were bruised, and there were a few cuts to be cleaned.

Wash frowned, taking Tucker's hand to examine the fingers. “What happened?”

Tucker shrugged. “Punched a door.”

“Why would you-?” Wash started incredulously, shaking his head. Tucker didn't even react, which made him pause. He sighed, grabbing the half-empty bottle of peroxide. “Look, I know you're worried about him. But we're going to find him. We'll get Junior back, and we'll make Felix pay for this.”

Tucker didn't answer for awhile, just flinched a bit when the peroxide hit his skin. When he did speak up, it was quiet, and not like himself at all. “He left a note.”

Wash looked up from his work. “Junior did?”

“No, Felix. It was like, a ransom note. He said they'd be at the old Freelancer building.”

Now it was Wash's turn to be silent. He tried to keep himself from tensing at the name, but he was sure Tucker noticed. “Then we'll go get him.”

“You know that's what he wants, right?” Tucker wiggled his fingers, making a face.

“Yeah, I know. But we've gotta get him back. At least we know where he'll be.” Setting the peroxide down, he started unwrapping bandaids, more for something to do at this point. If it took going back to Freelancer to get Junior back, he was going to do it, even if the Director himself were there. “He doesn't know what he's in for.”

He started wrapping the bandaids around Tucker's knuckles, not expecting a reply. When he got it though, it made the decision worth it.

“Yeah,” Tucker nodded, finally looking up to meet his eyes. “We're gonna fuck him up.”

oOoOo

They rejoined the others after awhile, both groups coming back empty handed. They decided to spend one more night in the hospital, gathering up what they could before going to find Felix in the morning. They avoided the cafeteria, instead boarding themselves up in the far waiting room.

Tucker waited until he was sure the others were asleep before he got up. It took longer than he'd wanted, with a bunch of insomniac ex- whatever they were soldiers in the group. Wash in particular seemed to want to stay up, and Tucker could feel him staring at where he was faking sleep in the corner. But eventually even he settled in to sleep, breath evening out as he finally relaxed. Tucker sat up, looking around. Carolina leaned against the wall, arms crossed and head ducked against her chest. Church was in his normal spot, cuddled up with Tex and Caboose. Donut and Kai were draped over each other, while Sarge passed out with one hand on his shotgun. Grif and Simmons had pushed together a bunch of waiting room chairs and curled up on them, even if Simmons' legs were too long to fit comfortably.

Moving silently, Tucker grabbed his bag, tiptoeing to the door. There was no way he could sell out Grif like that, even to get Junior back. He'd get his kid back from Felix without putting his friend in danger. Wash had been right about one thing.

Felix was gonna regret messing with the Tucker family.

Chapter Text

“Ow! Oh my god, stop kicking me, you little runt!”

Felix held Junior at arm's length, which, admittedly wasn't that far away. It was still close enough for Junior's legs to reach Felix's chest, the kid's little feet doing a surprising amount of damage. He held the smallest Tucker by the shoulders, trying to minimize the blows. “You keep that up and I'll feed you to the zombies!”

Junior scowled at him, feet kicking even more in response. Almost as if he knew that Felix needed him alive to get to Grif. It was just Felix's luck that the kid was smarter than his father. Even if he hadn't said a single word since he'd knocked Tucker out and snatched Junior away. He'd made a quick exit from the hospital, keeping as good a hold on the squirming child as he could, and booked it to the office building they were supposed to be exchanging hostages in. Now he was just stuck waiting until someone else showed up. And waiting came with a side of Junior's sneaker digging into his ribs.

“Ow! You little monster, you're just as much a bastard as your dad!”

Felix heard footsteps down the hall and whirled around, just as Junior leaned in to bite at the hand holding his shoulder. Felix howled in pain, dropping the kid.

Junior landed on his rear with a quiet 'oof!' but got to his feet quickly, ducking past Felix, who grabbed at him distractedly with his uninjured hand. His sneakers tapped on the tile as he made a break for the nearest doorway. He didn't know where he was, exactly, but he needed to get away from the guy who kidnapped him if he wanted to get back to his dad and the others.

He wasn't watching where he was going, too busy trying to make sure Felix wasn't following him. All of a sudden, he hit something solid, bouncing off it and getting knocked back onto the floor. Before he could move away, a hand larger than Felix's grabbed at him, pulling him up by the back of his shirt. He squirmed, arms and legs flailing to kick at his captor like he had with Felix. Unfortunately, this new person had longer limbs than the other mercenary, and he couldn't quite reach.

Locus held Junior away from him, scowling first at the child, then at Felix, who had gotten up from the floor. “Really, Felix? This wasn't part of the plan.”

Felix made a show of dusting himself off, giving a bored shrug. “Plans change, Lo. I saw the opportunity and I went for it. Besides, it was so much fun to clock that Tucker guy. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Good save on the kid though.”

Locus studied Junior thoughtfully. The kid continued his struggles, small limbs squirming to hit anything he could. “Tucker's not the one we want though.”

Felix rolled his eyes. “Uh, yeah, I'm aware of that. But he's friends with that Grif guy, yeah? So he'll bring the whole group to us to get the kid back.”

“And you don't think being just a bit outnumbered will be a downside?”

“Not when we have the home advantage,” Felix grinned dangerously. “Plus, he'll bring the Freelancer. Boss will probably pay extra for him.”

“Hm.” Locus' hum didn't really convey either agreement or disagreement. Instead he walked further into the room, shoving Junior at his partner as he passed. “You're going to have to take better care of the child until his father comes for him, then. If he escapes, you're going to lose your bargaining chip.”

Felix winced as Junior immediately kicked him in the chest, wrapping his arms around the kid's torso. “Aw c'mon! You've got longer arms than me!”

“It was your idea.” If he didn't know any better, Felix would say that Locus sounded amused.

“I'm a mercenary, not a damn babysitter!”

“Then you'd better hope the others get here soon.” Without waiting for a reply, he stalked deeper into the building.

Felix held onto the squirming Tucker child, looking around the room for something to help keep the kid from escaping without getting hit so much. Junior had strong legs for a little squirt.

oOoOo

Grif woke up warm and comfortable. Which wasn't something that happened often since the whole zombie thing. Sure, his arm hurt like a bitch, but that's what happens when someone's teeth take a bite out of it. But there was a weight draped over him, and the last thing he wanted to do was wake up and lose that feeling. He didn't hear anyone else moving around yet, so it must've still been early. Usually Simmons was up with the sun, nagging at him to get an early start. He figured Wash and Tex would be like that too. So he intended to enjoy this feeling as long as he could before someone started yelling at him.

The weight shifted slightly, and Grif realized that it wasn't a blanket covering him. He cracked an eye open to find his vision nothing but red. Both eyes popped open, panicking for a moment, he thought he'd gone blind or something. It only took a second to realize he was staring at fabric close to his face. Simmons' sweater was right in his view, blocking everything else.

The redhead himself was wrapped around Grif, nearly on top of him. Their legs were tangled together, presumably so Simmons' longer form could fit on the chairs they'd pushed together. Grif felt the other's cheek pressed against the top of his head, and his fingers wrapped into the cloth of his shirt.

He tried not to move, not wanting to wake Simmons up. He tipped his head the barest bit up to see past the sweater. The other half of chairs they'd used were scooted away, off to the side. Grif grinned. Simmons must have climbed over him in order to not fall off the remaining set of chairs.

The room was still dark, no light coming in from the windows. He couldn't see much in the room, just the outlines of the rest of the group as they slept. Satisfied that he had some time left, Grif settled back in against Simmons to catch a bit more sleep.

 

Grif's second time waking up was definitely not as comfortable as the first. Something slammed into his side, making him grunt, jolting up. There was a thump from the floor and a pained whine. Grif looked down to see Simmons rubbing at his back.

“The fuck was that for?” he grumbled, curling back up on the chairs.

Simmons' face was red, staring up at the other with wide eyes. “I uh... the chairs moved. I slipped off them.”

Grif frowned. If Simmons wanted to pretend that never happened, Grif wouldn't bring it up. “Sure, dude. Graceful as always.”

“It would've been fine if you hadn't taken up all the room,” Simmons huffed.

Barely biting back a comment about how they seemed to fit fine before, Grif instead offered a lazy middle finger. “Tough luck, Simmons. I'm not moving. Have fun on the floor.”

“It's time to get up anyway, fatass. We have to go find Junior.”

That got Grif to sit up, running a hand through his messy hair. Normally he wouldn't have given a fuck, but they needed to get Junior back. He could make an effort for the kid. “Alright, alright. But I'm gonna at least need breakfast before I start kicking mercenary ass.”

A granola bar flew at him, dropping into his lap. Confused, Grif looked up to see Donut standing by the window in the direction the snack came from. He offered a little grin when he caught the Hawaiian looking, continuing to pass another bar to Kai beside him.

Before he could even unwrap the snack, Grif noticed something off. “Hey, where's Tucker?”

He looked to Wash, who was in the other corner of the room, already packing his things. “I haven't woken him up yet. I figured the less time he has to get worked up about this, the better.”

Church's head popped out from under Caboose's jacket, fumbling blearily for his glasses. The others were slowly waking up as the room increased in noise. Caboose stretched with a yawn, Kai munched sleepily on the granola bar Donut gave her, and Sarge stood at the window, looking outside. Tex looked over from untangling herself from Caboose's jacket sleeve.

“His bag is missing.”

Wash froze, dropping his own bag to whirl around. Sure enough, the spot he'd watched Tucker fall asleep at last night was empty, his blanket scrunched up enough to mistake for a sleeping form. “He snuck out to go find Junior on his own. We've got to go after him!”

Things moved quickly after that, the group packing up what they were taking with Wash urging them on. Grif knew he was worried, and it was only that thought that kept him from snapping at the other when he hurried them along. While Felix and Locus weren't likely to hurt Junior, since they needed him as the bait for the others, if Tucker went barging in, he might not be so lucky.

Grif grabbed Junior's backpack before they left, figuring the kid would want it back when they found him. He wondered why Tucker hadn't taken it with him, but figured he was probably in a rush to sneak out. He turned to follow the rest of the group out, but a crumpled piece of paper fell out of the pack. He reached to pick it up.

“Grif, let's go!” Wash snapped from the doorway.

“”Just a second, keep your fucking pants on, dude,” Grif huffed back, grabbing the paper. He uncrumpled it as he moved after the others, reading the note. “Oh shit.”

Simmons peered over his shoulder as they walked. “What now?”

“I know why Tucker left on his own.”

oOoOo

Tucker shut the door as gently as he could, careful not to make any noise. The sun was barely up, leaving enough shadows to travel by to avoid the zombies. The Freelancer building wasn't too far from the hospital they'd been staying at, and moving on his own had gotten him there a lot quicker than it would have. He slid inside the first unlocked entrance he could find, a metal door the used to have a keypad entry. The door opened when he pushed on it, and thankfully no alarm sounded, so he made his way inside.

The building was huge, probably around thirty stories. And Tucker had no idea where to start looking for the mercenaries or Junior. The note had said to just come to the building, there hadn't been any direction about where in the building to go. Tucker hissed quiet curses as he went, his desire to kill Felix when he saw him next only growing the longer it took to find the others as he chose hallways at random.

At least the place was quiet. It was deserted entirely, he hadn't seen a single person, alive or undead, since he'd gotten inside. Whoever was in charge of this place was doing a good job of keeping the zombies out at least. It was the only thing he had going for him at this rate.

The quiet was good for another thing. He heard voices as he wandered up the flights of stairs. Felix wasn't a quiet person, Tucker noticed. He liked the sound of his own voice. And as aggravating as that was to listen to, it helped at this point. As he reached the top of the fifth floor, he heard yelling coming from the hallway.

“Kick me one more time, you little brat, I swear your ass is zombie food!”

Seeing red, Tucker took off into a sprint down the hall. It took no time to figure out the room where the yelling was the loudest, and he only had time to wish he'd thought to bring a better weapon than his own bandaged fists before he was kicking the door open.

Felix whirled around in surprise, nearly dropping Junior. He managed to keep hold of the hostage though, wrapping an arm around Junior's neck to keep him close. “You're a little earlier than I expected.”

“Cut the shit, Felix, let Junior go!” Tucker snarled, advancing into the room.

Felix took a step back, tightening his arm. Junior let out a squeak, squirming against the mercenary's hold. “Back up, Tucker. I'm still calling the shots here.”

“Let him go, you bastard,” Tucker stayed put, fists clenching at his sides.

“Where's the others?” Felix's eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Get them in here and I will. The immune guy and the Freelancer.”

“You want Grif cuz he's immune, right?” Tucker frowned. That much he'd gathered, but he didn't know who the other one was. “What Freelancer?”

“You know damn well!” Felix snapped. “I don't have time to play games with you, Tucker. I've got people waiting, now where are they?!”

“I came alone,” Tucker replied. “If you're trading someone for my kid, it's gonna be me.”

Felix scoffed. “That was a dumb move. You've got nothing to offer.”

Thinking fast, Tucker took a step closer, slow enough that Felix wouldn't think he was making any sudden moves. “You want someone immune right? You don't need Grif if you've got me.”

“Are you telling me that you're immune too?” Felix arched a pierced brow. “You've gotta be shitting me.”

“Why do you think we teamed up?” Tucker threw his hands up. “It's a lot easier to have someone watching your back if you know they're not gonna get bit and want a piece of you too!”

Felix looked like he still didn't quite believe him. Junior stared at his father, eyes wide with scared tears. Tucker wanted nothing more than to leap at Felix and fight the other, but he couldn't take the chance of Felix hurting Junior first. He had to convince him to let Junior go.

Felix continued to stare, while Junior's struggles increased. He fought against Felix's hold, letting out a short squeak of a word “Behind!”

Tucker immediately ducked, whirling around to narrowly avoid Locus swinging a pipe at where Tucker's head had been. Thinking quick, he kicked out, catching the other mercenary in the shin. Locus faltered a bit, falling to one knee. It was enough time for Tucker to take advantage of the confusion, lunging across the room at Felix.

He knocked into the smaller mercenary, sending them all to the floor. Tucker slammed his fist down on Felix's forearm, making him let go of Junior. Yanking his kid away, he punched Felix a few times for good measure. Then he scrambled to his feet, arms wrapped around Junior as he made a break for the door.

By now, Locus was back up, storming toward them with the pipe. Tucker ran towards him, sliding at the last second on the tile to send them past him as Locus swung the pipe. It missed the brunt of its target, but still managed to catch Tucker in the shoulder. He let out a yelp, his slide jerking to a halt as he crumpled to the floor.

Before he could push himself up, Locus was on him, slamming his boot down on Tucker's leg. He let out a grunt of pain, using his free leg to kick at him. It didn't work as much as he'd hoped, and Locus stomped on him again.

Tucker yelled out in pain, trying to pull himself away. Junior clung to him, staring worriedly at his father. Forcing his eyes open against the pain, Tucker offered him a forced smile.

“The others'll be here soon, okay? I'm gonna need you to go hide until they get here, buddy.” He hissed, curling around Junior as Locus landed a kick to his hip. “Go hide and wait until Wash gets here, okay? Don't let them find you, and make sure you don't go outside until Wash is with you.”

Junior sniffled, shaking his head as he clung to his father's shirt. Tucker gave him a quick kiss before kicking out at Locus again, this time landing a shot against the man's stomach. He used the time to shove Junior away, out of the room and into the hall. He watched the boy stand there for a moment, crying. He tried to get to his feet, to shut the door, anything to keep Locus from getting to Junior.

“You have to be brave, okay, Junior? Go get Wash so he can help.”

Junior rubbed at his eyes, wiping away tears so he could see. Then he ran down the hall.

Tucker turned back towards Locus, eyes narrowing. He managed a short 'Fuck you!' before the pipe caught him in the side of the head, knocking him out.

Chapter Text

It took far too long to get from the hospital to the office building Felix's note said to meet at. In Church's opinion, any time was too much time, but it took even longer getting a large group of humans around in the morning sunlight. They definitely should have left earlier. Tucker would have had time to get to the building under the cover of darkness, and it was a lot easier to sneak around as a single person than as a group of ten. Church knew the other was already at the building, probably fucking things up with the mercenaries even as they made their way to rescue him.

The note Grif found hadn't helped anyone's worries either. Felix wanted Grif because he was immune. And rather than sell out his friend to save his kid, Tucker had snuck off to... well, Church wasn't sure what Tucker thought he was going to accomplish on his own. If Felix wanted the immune, Tucker had nothing to offer. And it wasn't like Felix knew about the other immune people in their group.

Wash led the group like he was leading troops into war. Which, knowing what he did about the blonde, made a lot of sense. Not to mention how close he and Tucker had gotten, according to Grif and Simmons. Still, they didn't make much headway, trying to sneak through back alleys and away from all the zombies in the daylight.

Church glared up at the building as they approached it. It was definitely the right place, he'd know this building anywhere, after spending so much time avoiding it. A quick look to Carolina and Tex on either side of him confirmed that they'd all rather be as far away from this place as possible. But Tucker and Junior needed them, and as much of an asshole as he was, Church wasn't leaving them to a bunch of crazy mercenaries. Even if it meant confronting the Director.

If Wash was hesitant to go back, he didn't show it, marching forward with determination. There was a small door on the side of the building, an employee entrance from back when it was a functioning office. He wasn't sure if the keypad code still worked, but it was worth a shot. There were a few zombies milling about, but between the group, they were easily dispatched once Church led them to the door.

In the end, it didn't matter whether Church remembered the code for getting in, since the door wasn't powered on anyway. It didn't look like the zombies had managed to get the door open, which meant that the building inside was empty. Once everyone was inside, they blocked the doorway, just in case any of the undead came shuffling around after them.

They decided to split up to cover more ground. Grif and Simmons took the ground floor after Grif insisted that he wasn't climbing any stairs. Donut and Kai took the next level, while Wash and Sarge took the third. Carolina volunteered the rest of them to search the upper floors. They didn't waste any more time, most of them heading to the stairway.

Once they'd passed the fourth floor, Church and Caboose made to leave the staircase to start searching. Tex set a hand on either of their shoulders, stopping them before they got far. Church arched a brow, staring back at her.

“What gives?” He glanced over at Carolina, who hadn't made a move either. “You wanna take Caboose and I'll go with Lina?”

“The others can look for Tucker, Church. We're going to look for someone else.”

Eyes widening, Church shook his head. “Oh no, oh hell no. We're here to find Tucker and Junior, not go looking for trouble. If the Director's here, we can deal with him later. If at all.”

“This is our best chance, Church,” Carolina's grip tightened on the piece of railing she'd pulled off to use as a weapon. “If he's here, we can take him down. And if he's not, we can go back to helping your friend. We've got the element of surprise here.”

“Not really!” Church shot back, throwing his hands up. “If Felix is working with him, then he knows we're coming!”

“He thinks we'll be focused on the mercenaries,” Tex replied, frowning at him. “Now's the best chance we've got to get him alone.”

“Or as alone as he ever gets these days.”

Carolina shook her head. “He's alone now. All the others are gone. I was the last one.”

Church huffed out a breath, running his hands through his hair. Beside him, Caboose looked at them all, waiting for Church to make a decision. He knew Caboose would go with whatever he said. Finally he sighed. “Alright, fine. But if I get a message from the others, we're going to help, Director or not.”

His sister nodded, and the group continued up. If the Director were here, he'd be at the top floor. Caboose shuffled in closer, reaching out to grab the tail of Church's shirt nervously.

Giving Tex a nudge to get her attention, he nodded back at the brunette behind them. “Just remember, we're not all scary badass super soldiers immune to zombie attacks, okay?”

Tex reached over, ruffling both his and Caboose's hair in turn. “I'll protect you guys, don't worry.”

The rest of the trip was silent, save for a few complaints from Church about the amount of stairs to climb. He'd been shot in the foot only a day earlier, thank you very much. After enough grumbling, he got Caboose to pick him up again, piggybacking him the rest of the way. It seemed to cheer the both of them up, Church because he didn't have to walk, and Caboose because it meant being close to Church and being helpful.

Finally they reached the end of the stairs, the top floor of the building. The door to the stairs led into a short hallway, the top floor being much smaller than the floors below it. There weren't the line of office doors like the other parts of the building, instead there was just one large one at the end of the hall. The group crowded around it, Caboose setting Church back on his feet. They readied their weapons, or what passed for them, and Carolina reached out to hit the keypad. Unlike the one outside, this one powered on, and she was quick to type in a code of numbers. The keypad beeped, and she pushed the door open.

The room inside was quiet, only the hum of a generator and various equipment making any kind of noise. The lights were mostly off, and whatever light was working cast an eerie glow across the space, a cold blue. Tex and Carolina stepped into the office, with Church and Caboose behind them. They all looked around, on their guard for who they expected to find in the office.

They heard him before they saw him, the thick Southern drawl almost echoing in the room. The plush chair facing away from the room spun around, revealing the Director himself.

“Welcome back, Agent Carolina. Agent Texas. Leonard.”

oOoOo

The halls were dark and quiet as Wash and Sarge wandered down them. They were lined with doors on either side, offices for the employees when the building had been in use. Now most of them were dark. Wash was slightly disappointed; he knew if Tucker were on this floor, he wouldn't be quiet. Unless something was very wrong.

Sarge tightened his grip on his shotgun, frowning even more than usual. “Startin' to think we're lookin' in the wrong place.”

Wash sighed as he rubbed a hand over his face in frustration. When he found Tucker, he was going to kill him for running off on his own. He didn't dare think of what would happen if they didn't find him, or Junior. He didn't think he could handle it again.

“You might be right. We can move to the next floor, hopefully that'll work better.”

The pair headed back toward the stairway, hoping to have more luck on the next floor up. Sarge opened the door to the stairs when a crash sounded from back in the hall they'd just left. With a curious look to each other, the pair turned back to the hall.

“Think it was them?” Sarge asked, shotgun pointed in front of him.

“Could be,” Wash crept down the hall toward the noise. It sounded far off, like one of the offices at the end of the hall. “Or it could just be a random infected that managed to get caught in here.”

“Dunno which one would make me feel better at this point,” the older man tried to joke, aiming in front of them as Wash reached the door the noise had come from.

They each took a side of the door, backs pressed against the wall. There weren't any more noises, but Wash was sure he'd heard the crash come from there. Sarge kept his gun trained on the doorway as Wash reached for the knob, opening the door as slow and quiet as he could manage.

Nothing immediately jumped out at them, which was a relief. Wash opened the door wider, stepping inside. He looked around, but the office was dark, and he could only make out a desk and an overturned chair. Frowning, he peered inside.

“I was sure it came from here,” he sighed. “There's nothing here. Maybe something just fell over—oof!”

And then Wash himself fell over, something small slamming into him at the stomach level. He was knocked out of the office and onto his back before he could make a noise, the breath being pushed out of him. For a moment he panicked, wondering why Sarge hadn't helped him yet, flailing for a bit before he actually looked down at whatever had attached itself to his waist.

“Junior!”

Sure enough, the boy was clinging to Wash, his face buried in the blonde's shirt. He was trembling, his tiny shoulders shaking as he whimpered. Wash sat up quickly, wrapping his arms around the kid and hugging him tightly. Sarge lowered his shotgun, shoulders slumping in relief.

Wash curled around Junior, trying to get the other to calm down by rubbing comforting circles on his back. The boy sniffled, only clinging tighter. “Junior, what happened? Did you get away from Felix?”

It took him a moment, but Junior pulled back enough to rub at the tears in his eyes. He sniffled again, looking up at Wash with an expression that broke Wash's heart.

“Wash... Dad made me hide. To wait for you.” He choked on another sob before continuing in the most they'd heard him say since joining Tucker's group. “The mean guys got him. We gotta help Dad, Wash!”

He started crying again, pressing his face to Wash's jacket once more. Wash nodded, carefully getting to his feet without losing his grip on Junior. “Don't worry, we'll get him back. Where did you last see him? Can you show us?”

Junior mumbled something into the fabric of his jacket. Wash knelt back down, setting the boy on his feet. He protested at first, grabbing at Wash with a fearful whimper, but Wash kept him close, only making enough room to slip his jacket off. He wrapped it around the boy, before moving him to settle against his back like Tucker usually did. Junior latched on immediately, small arms tucking around his neck. Worried that he'd manage to drop the kid, Wash tied the sleeves of the jacket around his chest, keeping Junior secure.

Once he was settled, Wash got to his feet. Beside him, Sarge cocked his shotgun, ready. Wash turned his head a bit, looking back toward Junior.

“Sarge, send a message to the others to meet up with us. We're gonna get Tucker back and show those mercenaries what happens when you take the wrong job.”

oOoOo

Grif sighed, idly picking at the bandage on his arm. If he'd known that the ground floor was this big, he would've called a different level, even if it meant stairs. Besides, what were the odds that they'd be keeping hostages on the ground floor? It would be a really dumb move on their part, and for all that Felix was an asshole, Grif didn't get the impression that either he or Locus were stupid.

As it was, the pair continued to wander the dark halls, looking for mercenaries that obviously weren't there. He just hoped the others would find Tucker and Junior soon, before something bad happened to them.

Beside him, Simmons slapped at his hand. “Stop picking at the bandages, Grif! I already told you, I'm not helping you if you mess with them and wind up bleeding all over the place again!”

Grif rolled his eyes. “You say that, but you always go back on it later.”

“Well stop giving me a reason to say it in the first place!” Simmons snapped, cheeks turning pink even as he scowled.

“You've been pissy all morning, Simmons, what's got you so wound up?” Grif grumbled. He knew tensions were high with two of them missing, but this was bad even for them.

“I'm not!” Simmons insisted. “I'm just... you're doing whatever you can to make all my work for nothing!”

“Sure, whatever,” the Hawaiian turned a corner, peering down the next part of hallway, just as dark and quiet as the last. “I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with this morning.”

If the hall hadn't been so silent, Grif might have missed the distressed noise that caught in Simmons' throat. “What are you talking about? Nothing happened this morning, aside from you knocking me off the chairs!”

“Look, if you don't wanna talk about it, that's whatever, but at least admit it.”

“There's nothing to admit!” Simmons' voice was going shrill, that high pitched squeak that usually amused Grif to no end, but now only served to make him more annoyed at the other. “And there's nothing to not talk about!”

Grif whirled around to face the redhead, anger spiking up. “Look, you don't get to do that, okay?! You can't just ignore everything like that that happens to us, but still try to fuss over me! It doesn't work like that, Simmons!”

Simmons opened his mouth, probably to reply, but stopped before he started, instead looking behind Grif rather than at him. He let out a squeak, eyes wide as he grabbed for Grif's shirt, yanking the other back. Grif was all but dragged, losing his balance and falling into Simmons, who just pulled him out of the hallway.

“What the fuck, Simmons, what's going on?!” Grif tripped again, leaning heavily against the other as Simmons attempted to get them out of the hallway.

He only managed to fall as well, knocking both of them to the floor, Grif momentarily crushing the breath from him. The Hawaiian squirmed, trying to both get to his feet and get a look at whatever had Simmons freaking out.

Two silhouettes stood out even darker against the hall, moving slowly towards them. Both of them moved like normal zombies, but their eyes, rather than the normal white of the undead, were an eerie, glowing purple. The taller of the two had a deep purple tint, while the smaller's was more of a pink- purple.

Zombies, sadly, were normal at this point. Zombies with glowing eyes, however, was definitely new.

“Fuck!” Grif pushed himself up, dragging Simmons up with him as he went. The pair took off in a run, hoping to beat them with speed, since zombies were usually slow. Within moments, Grif felt Simmons' hands against his shoulders, pushing him to run faster.

“They're gaining on us, hurry up!”

In disbelief, Grif turned to look behind them. Sure enough, the two zombies were not only running, but running faster than the both of them.

“What the fuck?!” Grif shrieked, trying to speed up. “Zombies don't run!”

“These ones do!” Simmons snapped. “Run faster!”

“I'm trying!” Grif was already panting, winded at the physical activity. He wasn't going to be able to keep the speed for much longer, and he knew it. So if they couldn't outrun them, they'd just have to hide.

He grabbed Simmons' arm with one hand, the other wrenching open one of the office doors. He all but threw the redhead inside, following after and slamming the door shut behind them. He ran to the desk, starting to drag it toward the door to block them in. Once Simmons had recovered himself enough to realize what was happening, he hurried to help. The two of them pushed the desk against the door, following it up with the bookshelves that lined the walls.

By then, the zombies had reached the door, slamming against it. The pair continued to stack anything they could find against the door. The only thing to do after that was wait it out. Panting for breath, Grif sent a text to the others. With any luck, someone would come help them soon.

For the next few minutes, Grif and Simmons stood in the middle of the office facing the door, listening to the weird zombies slam against it. Eventually the sounds died out, and they were left with silence.

They looked at each other. Simmons leaned in closer to whisper. “Think they're gone?”

Grif shrugged, his own voice low in response. “No idea. They didn't seem like normal zombies.”

“Did you see their eyes?”

“Yeah, it was freaky. Think the others chased them off or something?”

“I don't hear them. I don't hear anything at all.” Simmons frowned, taking a step towards the door.

“What are you doing?” Grif hissed.

“Going to check the door,” the redhead waved him off. “I won't open it, I'm just gonna listen.”

“Simmons, don't...”

Simmons ignored him, creeping to the stack of office furniture. He moved as quietly as he could, leaning in to press his ear to the door. He didn't hear anything, no moaning or groaning or shuffling footsteps. Grif was just starting to wonder if they were in the clear when a hand shot through the office door, splintering a hole in the wood and grabbing Simmons by the arm. The redhead let out a scream as he was pulled, his arm going through the hole as his shoulder was slammed against the remaining door.

Grif raced forward

“SIMMONS!”

Chapter Text

Tucker groaned, waking up to a throbbing pain in his head. Fucking Locus must have knocked him out. At least he'd managed to get Junior out of there first. He could only hope that they hadn't gone after the kid. Maybe they'd bought his immunity story.

 

He moved to sit up, rubbing at the pain at the base of his skull. He didn't think he was bleeding, which was good, but he was sure going to bruise from the beat down Locus had given him. He wasn't tied down, much to his confusion. He figured that the mercenaries wouldn't have left themselves open to attack by leaving their hostage free. He'd use it to his advantage though. He had to get out and find Junior before they did. With any luck, Wash and the others had found his note by now and were on the way to help.

 

Blinking his eyes open, Tucker looked around. He didn't recognize the room he was in. It was small, more like a little coffee break room than the office he'd been in when he'd confronted the mercenaries. The counter above him was good leverage to get him to his feet, hanging onto it for support. Locus and Felix were nowhere to be found, and neither was his bag or gun. So he was weaponless and on his own. At least it seemed like the building wasn't infested. He hadn't seen a zombie the whole time he'd been wandering the halls. But there were mercenaries, which were just as bad. He'd need a weapon of some kind.

 

Tucker looked around, searching for anything useful. He pushed himself off the counter after a moment to steady himself. Besides the bruises and headache, he didn't seem too worse for wear. He just needed to beat the shit out of Felix and get his painkillers back. He started toward the door after finding nothing in the room of any use, unless he was going to chuck a coffeemaker at someone. He jiggled the door's handle; it was locked, of course. There was another door on the other side of the tiny room, so he started toward that instead. Not that he expected much, but it was worth a shot.

 

He got halfway there before the first door opened, halting him in his tracks. A head of brown and orange hair popped into the space, grinning.

 

“Oh hey, you're awake! Have a good nap?”

 

Tucker's eyes narrowed, turning to face the other. “Fuck off, Felix.”

 

“Clever,” Felix purred, watching as Tucker made his way back toward the door. “Before you start getting any ideas, you're not getting through here. We'll let you out in a little while though, if you were telling us the truth.”

 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Tucker rubbed at his temples. His head hurt too much to deal with Felix's shit right now.

 

Felix hummed. “Well, you kind of ruined our plan to get your friend. And our boss isn't gonna be happy if we come back without some immune chump he can dissect. So if you're telling the truth about being immune, we can take you to him and get the reward. But if we bring in a regular loser, it's not gonna end well. So we're doing a little test first.”

 

Tucker didn't like where this was going. “What do you mean, test?”

 

Smirking, Felix arched a brow. “What other kind of test do you think we could do to find out whether or not you're immune? We're unlocking the other door. Just stay in here and try not to get eaten. We need you at least mostly alive by the end of it.”

 

“Felix, you fuck--!”

 

Felix slammed the door shut before he could finish berating him. Tucker pushed against it, but it was locked tight once again. He could hear Felix laughing from the other side.

 

There was a clicking noise from the other side of the room, and Tucker whirled around. The other door slowly pushed open, and a figure stepped into the room. A girl, shorter than he was, with brown hair drapped across one side of her face, and cut close on the other. She was clearly not alive, her skin gray and decaying like all the other zombies, the black vein- like lines running along her skin. But instead of the normal whited- out eyes of a zombie, hers glowed an eerie brown. Whatever she was, she wasn't a normal zombie.

 

Tucker's back hit the door, pressing against the wood like he could pass through it to safety. The zombie girl shuffled to a halt in the doorway, tilted her head at an uncomfortable angle, and stared at him.

 

“Oh fuckberries.”

 

She matched eyes with him for a moment before snarling, launching herself in his direction. Tucker yelped, jumping out of the way as quick as he could manage. She was faster than any zombie had a right to be, grabbing at him as he spun away. She crashed into the door instead, but was undaunted, pushing off of it to come at him again.

 

Tucker dodged her again, but all the quick motion made his head spin for a moment. This was enough time for her to latch onto his arm. She yanked, pulling him towards her with surprising strength. He managed to get a leg out in time to kick her in the stomach, getting her to loosen her grip. He pulled himself away, but got his foot caught on the leg of a metal folding chair set up in the room, sending him flailing into the counter. The coffeemaker and all its supplies crashed to the floor around him, and he barely avoided the broken glass of the coffee pot on the floor as he fell.

 

The zombie girl was on him in a second, slamming into him and keeping him pressed to the floor. He shoved against her face, trying to push her away while avoiding putting anything near her mouth.

 

His struggles didn't do much good, she was much stronger than he was, even with her small size. The zombie's mouth opened with a guttural growl, going straight for his face. Tucker braced himself, curling an arm over to shield himself.

 

“I'm not gonna go out sucking face with a zombie!”

 

oOoOo

 

“Well, I think it's safe to say that we've scoured this dark scary hole for all it's worth,” Donut sighed, hands on his hips. He stared down the unlit hallway, as if willing something to pop out and prove him wrong.

 

Beside him, Kai crossed her arms. “Well that Felix guy couldn't seem to stop talking as soon as he woke up, so I'm sure if he were here, we'd hear him. Probably doing that evil villain monologue you see on TV all the time.”

 

Donut hummed his agreement. “Tucker doesn't seem the type to go quietly either. Probably giving as good as he's getting.”

 

“You think the others are having more luck?”

 

He shrugged. “Who knows. I'm pretty sure Church and the others went up to the top, we've got the other groups spread out over the other floors. Hopefully someone comes across something soon.”

 

The pair headed to the stairs, intent to go to one of the upper floors and start looking there instead. Halfway up to another floor, Donut's phone went off. Curious, he paused, sliding it out of his pocket to check his messages. His face brightened instantly.

 

“Sarge says they found Junior! He wants us all to meet up on his floor so Junior can lead us to Tucker!”

 

“Awesome!” Kai clutched at her baseball bat, turning on a heel. “They were on the floor above us, right?”

 

Donut peered at his phone, trying to decipher the message. “He sent a floor number. It's a couple up from where we are. Also, he's really bad at texting. It's really hard to understand his shorthand.”

 

Kai snorted. “What do you expect from an old man? Just be glad he knows what texting is!”

 

They continued up the stairs, a burst of speed hitting them after the good news. They'd almost made it to the floor Sarge's message had specified, when Kai's phone went off. She fished it out of her pocket, grumbling.

 

“We're on our way, old man, jeez!” He blinked. “Oh, this one's from Dex.”

 

Donut stopped, looking over her shoulder. “Oh yeah? What's he say?”

 

She clicked on the message, and the both of them got through the first line before panicking.

 

Dex: EXTRA CREEPY ZOMBIES GLOWING EYES WTF COME HELP

 

Kai nearly dropped the phone, staring up at Donut with wide eyes for a moment before turning on a heel and taking off back down the stairs. Donut quickly followed, his own phone in hand trying to get a message typed to Sarge while they went. If they were going to beat a bunch of weird new kind of zombies off of some of their guys, they'd need all the help they could get.

 

They raced down to the first floor, nearly tripping over their own feet in the process. The first floor was a lot larger than they'd thought when they'd split up, and Donut thought to himself for a brief moment that he was sure Grif hadn't realized that before volunteering to search that floor. He was sure that the larger man wasn't too happy that they seemed to pick the only infested floor in the building either.

 

When they first got to the bottom of the stairs, they didn't hear anything. No sounds of the undead, or of a struggle or anything of the nature. Which meant they had to waste more time searching the floor. Donut kind of wished that Grif had been more specific in his message. But he guessed that they were a bit busy at the time, what with the freaky new type of zombie and all, so he couldn't really fault them a quick text.

 

If he were being completely honest with himself, he was worried about that as well. Since this whole zombie thing had started, there'd only been one type of zombie. The normal, run of the mill walking dead, shambling and moaning. They were slow, they were gross and responded well to high- intensity blasts to the head. If what Grif had found was actually a new type, something faster, it would complicate things a whole lot.

 

And that was kinda scary.

 

He hurried to keep up with Kai, who was moving quicker than he'd ever seen her. She ducked into hallways, ran a loop around and turned around when she didn't find anything. Just how far had Grif and Simmons managed to get on this floor anyway?

 

After what seemed like way too long, they heard a scream. That was both a good and bad thing, really. Kai took off like a shot, and Donut scrambled to keep up, tearing down the hallway near the back of the building. It was almost pitch black, far away from all the office windows and working lights. Kai stopped short and the blonde narrowly avoided knocking her over as he skidded to a halt behind her. He opened his mouth to ask why, but she quickly slapped a hand over his mouth, quieting him before he could start. She pointed with her other hand, down at the end of the hall.

 

There were two figures, shadowed in the dark and barely visible except for glowing shades of purple where Donut assumed their eyes were. They were trying their best to get into a door at the end of the hall, slamming into it. One of them, the shorter of the pair, held something against the door, pulling to get it out.

 

They hadn't noticed the two newcomers, and Donut quickly backed them up to hide behind a bend in the hall. Safe from view, he pulled Kai's hand away from his mouth to hiss “Glowing eyes!”

 

“What do we do? We gotta help them!” Kai whispered back. She gripped her bat tightly.

 

“We can't just run in there,” Donut ran a hand through his hair, gripping the strands nervously. “Those are way different from normal zombies!”

 

Kai fished her phone out of her pocket while Donut did a quick inventory check. His eyes widened, pulling something out of his pocket. “Kai, call Grif. I need to talk to him.”

 

oOoOo

 

Grif was just a little busy when his phone vibrated against the desk. He had both arms wrapped around Simmons' waist, trying his best to pull him away from the door. The redhead's arm was still through the hole in the door, being yanked at by the freaky new zombie. Grif couldn't pull hard enough to match the zombie's strength and he was freaking out. Not near as much as Simmons was, which was understandable. Simmons was screaming in blind panic, trying to get any sort of leverage against the door with his free arm. It wasn't working.

 

The phone didn't stop buzzing against the desk. It had to be one of the others, trying to get him to answer. He kept one arm firmly around Simmons' waist, the other reached to grab the thing off the desk, answering the call and shoving it between his shoulder and ear before he returned the arm to the human tug of war already in play.

 

“WHAT?!”

 

“Grif!” Donut's voice yelped over the line. He was trying to be quiet, maybe he was close by. “We found the zombies at the door!”

 

“Great! Come help!” Grif snapped, trying to be heard over Simmons' screaming. “They're trying to pull Simmons through the door!”

 

“Kai's only got a bat, we're not gonna be able to get through them! They're super tough looking!”

 

“Well then get someone who CAN help!” he growled, phone nearly slipping from its perch as he levered a sneakered foot against the desk to push against.

 

“Listen, Grif, I've got a grenade left, that'll stop them, but I need you to make sure you guys are away from the door first! It's one of the smaller ones, but if you guys are up against the door, there's no way I can get it to work!”

 

Grif pulled harder. “That's a bit of a freaking problem, Donut! I can't get Simmons away from the door!”

 

Simmons didn't seem to hear the conversation above his own screams, not that he would have been able to follow the one side. He flailed wildly, nearly smacking Grif in the process.

 

“I can distract them!” Kai's voice came over the line, farther away than Donut's.

 

“Don't you dare!” Grif snapped. “They're crazy fast!”

 

“We've gotta do something!” Donut hissed. “Just get him away from the door!”

 

There was a moment's pause, and for just a second, Grif was hopeful enough to think that maybe the zombies were going to give enough slack to let Simmons go. That moment of optimism was quickly smashed when Simmons was yanked even harder against the door, knocking his head into the wood. Then he screamed even louder than before, shrill and more high- pitched than Grif had ever heard him.

 

“IT BIT ME! OH MY GOD IT'S FUCKING EATING MY ARM!”

 

Grif almost lost his grip, the sudden pull toppling him over the desk. He dropped the phone, pulling uselessly against the zombies on the other side. His heart leapt into his chest at Simmons' new scream, burying his face against the redhead's side as a new panic swept through him.

 

The phone hit the desk, but Donut was still on the line. Grif could barely hear him over the commotion, and he wasn't really paying attention anyway.

 

“Grif! Did Simmons say he got bit?! You've gotta get out of there!”

 

“Fucking let go you zombie fuck!” Grif yelled, clutching at Simmons.

 

“GRIF DO SOMETHING!” Simmons shrieked, eyes wide with tears as he managed to look at him.

 

“What the fuck am I supposed to do?!” Grif was already pulling as hard as he could, nothing was getting that zombie to loosen their grip on Simmons' arm. Not to mention he'd been bit. Even if they managed to get out of this, Simmons was still...

 

...he wasn't going to make it.

 

Grif squeezed his eyes shut, clinging to Simmons. There wasn't anything else he could do, if the zombies didn't kill them, then the bite was going to. He couldn't think of anything, in all his zombie knowledge, that could help them at this point. Once you were bit, it was all over, and up to those you traveled with to take you down before you turned.

 

A thought occurred to him, almost making him choke on his next breath. The game he'd played where the protagonist had done something drastic when he'd been bitten. There was no way of knowing if it would really work. But the alternative wasn't any better.

 

He looked up at Simmons, who was still thrashing against the door. He swallowed hard, steeling himself. “Simmons, I've gotta let you go for a second.”

 

“What?! No! Grif don't you fucking dare let me go!” Simmons stared at him, eyes wide with panic.

 

Grimacing, Grif dropped down from the desk. “I've gotta! I'm gonna save you!”

 

“Grif!”

 

Grif let go, dropping to the floor where he'd thrown his pack before they'd barricaded themselves in the office. The lack of resistance sent Simmons against the door, knocking his head against it again. He yelped in pain, then got quiet, which worried Grif even more.

 

His fingers closed around the handle of his knife, and he scrambled back to the desk. He set the phone against his shoulder again, heart thudding in his chest.

 

“Donut, when I give the word, throw the grenade. I'm getting us out of the way.”

 

“Got it!”

 

He let the phone drop back against the desk, climbing up on it once again. Knife in hand, he grabbed Simmons by the shoulder. The redhead looked disoriented, either from knocking his head against the door or because he was in shock from the pain in his arm, Grif wasn't sure. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, trying to steady himself.

 

“Simmons, I'm gonna do something fucking awful, but it's hopefully gonna save your stupid life, so please don't hate me for this later.”

 

“Grif, what--?”

 

Grif raised the knife, holding tight to Simmons' shoulder.

 

Simmons screamed.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Simmons woke up to his ears ringing and his entire left side in pain. Something gripped hard at his left arm, which seemed to be the cause for a lot of the pain. He squirmed weakly, trying to pull away from whatever had a hold of him. He was disoriented and his head felt heavy, so it wasn't a very effective fight, even as far as he was concerned. After a few false starts, he managed to grumble something that almost sounded like words.

 

A gentle hand settled on his right shoulder. A voice spoke up over the ringing. “Hey, calm down.”

 

Simmons frowned, face scrunching up. He blinked open an eye, but everything was blurry. His glasses were missing, but the flash of blonde hair and the voice told him it was Donut at his side. “Whas...?”

 

“We're gonna need you to just stay calm and try not to move around a lot, okay?” Donut's hand squeezed softly, reassuring. “You're probably pretty messed up right now, but we're taking care of it, so there's nothing to worry about right now.”

 

“You're kidding, right?” Another voice hissed. “This is fucked up, he's fucked up.”

 

“Kai, shut it,” that voice Simmons instantly recognized. Turning his head slowly, he found the blurry form of Grif at his left side. So that's where the pressure was coming from. He relaxed a bit, some of the disorienting panic fading away. He wasn't quite sure what had happened, but at least the others were there. He was still confused as fuck, and wanted Grif to stop squeezing his arm so bad, but at least he knew he was safe for the most part.

 

Grif was saying something to Donut that Simmons had lost during his thoughts, but he saw Donut shake his head in answer. The Hawaiian growled, and the pressure on his arm got worse.

 

Simmons made a protesting noise, trying to pull his arm away again. “Stoppit...”

 

Donut shifted through his bag, not letting go of Simmons' shoulder. “I don't have anything. Tucker had all the good stuff when we looted the hospital.”

 

“Yeah, and Felix snatched a lot of that when he left,” Grif replied. “I gave him what I had. I dunno, I think Wash has another first aid kit on him, but we're gonna need a lot more than some asprin at this point.”

 

“I let them know where we were. I dunno if they're gonna come get us though, Wash seemed pretty dead set on finding Tucker.” Kai spoke up from where she leaned against the wall. Simmons could barely see her without his glasses, just blurred Kai- colored shapes against a dark wall.

 

“Do you think they can handle Felix and Locus alone?” Donut asked, passing something white over Simmons to Grif when the other held his hand out.

 

“Hopefully Church and the others went to help him, cuz we're a little busy here,” Grif replied.

 

Simmons blinked a few times, trying to clear his head enough to figure out what was going on. He wished he had his glasses; it would be easier to get his bearings if he could actually see what was happening. At least the ringing in his ears was lessening, he could hear a little better. He tried to rack his thoughts, figure out what he last remembered. He'd gone through a hall with Grif, looking for Tucker and Junior.

 

Then... glowing purple eyes... some weird fast zombies. One of them grabbed his arm through the door...

 

...he'd gotten bit.

 

His stomach felt like lead, settling at the bottom of his body. He panicked, yanking his arm away with a yell and scrambling to get away from them. Grif lunged after him, keeping a tight hold on the redhead.

 

“I got bit! I got fucking bit!”

 

“Simmons, calm the fuck down!” Grif rolled, keeping him all but pinned under his weight. “If you don't stop squirming around, we're gonna have a lot more problems than we already do!”

 

“The hell are you talking about, there's no bigger problem than this!” Simmons shrieked, kicking his feet in attempt to buck Grif off.

 

“You're not gonna turn into a zombie, I promise!” Grif's free arm wrapped around Simmons' waist.

 

Donut grabbed onto Simmons' right arm, almost hugging up to him in attempts to get him to stop moving. “Grif's right, if you were gonna turn, you'd have done it already.”

 

Confused, Simmons stopped for a moment. “Am... I immune?”

 

Grif and Donut looked at each other over him. Simmons got a bad feeling from that look.

 

“You're not immune, I just kinda... stopped the virus before it could infect you.” Grif mumbled.

 

“And I blew up the zombies, so you don't have to worry about them coming back,” Donut added. So that explained the ringing in his ears.

 

But wait. “How did you stop the virus?” Simmons scowled, “That's not something you can do-”



“Look, Simmons, you're busted up pretty bad, and I gave you some pretty strong painkillers awhile ago, so you're probably better off just letting me finish bandaging you up and then-”

“Bandaging me up? Grif, what the hell happened?” Simmons yanked his arm away from Donut, using it to push at Grif. It didn't do much, but it moved him enough to give the redhead a glimpse of bandages wrapped along his left arm...

 

...that ended at the elbow in a gauze- wrapped lump where his arm should have continued.

 

If he hadn't been already laying on the floor, he'd have fallen, as his head suddenly spun in shock. He felt like he was going to faint and throw up at the same time. Instead he let out a high- pitched wail, eyes wide.

 

Grif shoved himself back into Simmons' vision, blocking the view of his arm. “Fuck, Simmons, hey, look at me. It's gonna be okay, alright?”

 

Swallowing down the lump in his throat, Simmons stared at Grif incredulously. “How the fuck is it going to be okay?! What the hell happened to my arm?!”

 

Grif opened his mouth to reply, before quickly shutting it. He looked over to Donut, who looked ready to bolt, twisting the unused bandages in his fingers nervously. Not getting any help on that front, he turned back to Simmons, a torn look on his face. “Look, I had to, okay? You got bit, and we had to get away from the door, and you have to do it quick, otherwise it won't matter and the virus spreads anyway...”

 

“You cut off my fucking arm!” He was getting light- headed from the amount of screaming he was doing, or it might have been from blood loss, he wasn't sure. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?!”

 

Grif curled in on himself, shoulders slumping. “I don't know, I just... you were gonna die, I couldn't just not do something...”

 

Simmons pulled back, scooting away from him. He curled his bandaged left arm to his chest, fighting the urge to throw up. “I need you to go away for awhile.”

 

Grif's eyes widened. “Simmons...”

 

“I just can't be around you right now, okay?!” Simmons cut him off, squeezing his eyes shut. He scooted back until he hit the office's wall, curling in on himself and taking a few harsh breaths.

 

Grif didn't move for a moment, and Simmons was worried that he was going to fight him. Instead, he got to his feet without a word, grabbing his discarded knife off the floor. He walked to the doorway, before turning back to look at the three of them.

 

“Just stay here and make sure he's okay,” he told Kai and Donut.

 

“Where are you going?” Kai asked, pushing off the wall.

 

Grif took a deep breath, gazing once more at Simmons. The redhead pointedly ignored the look, rubbing a hand over his eyes.

 

“I'm gonna go help Wash and Sarge get Tucker back. Then we can all meet up and decide what we're doing next.”

 

Donut nodded. “Be careful.”

 

“Yeah, sure.”

 

By the time Simmons looked up again, Grif was gone.

 

OooOo

 

Wash flipped his phone shut with a huff. “I don't think anyone else is coming.”

 

Beside him, Sarge cocked his shotgun for probably the fifth time. “Well, if we're on our own, then we're on our own.”

 

Junior's arms wrapped tight around Wash's shoulders, and he forced himself to relax, if only to lessen the kid's worry. “I can't get hold of anyone from Church's group, and apparently the others ran into trouble downstairs. Kai said it was under control, but I don't think they're in any position to help out at this point. If we wait much longer, we run the risk of the mercenaries leaving with Tucker. Or worse.”

 

“So let's go!” Sarge crossed his arms impatiently. “I dunno why we waited as long as we did!”

 

“Because there's two mercenaries in there who we don't know a lot about,” Wash frowned. “It's better to go with strength in numbers, since we don't know how good these guys are.”

 

“Well, that plan's shot, so let's just go with the element of surprise!”

 

“I don't know how much of a surprise it'll be, since they're expecting us and all.”

 

“They probably expected us awhile ago, so they've let their guard down by now!”

 

Wash sighed. “I don't think it works like that, but okay.” He tilted his head, glancing up at Junior. “Can you remember the way to where your dad was?”

 

Junior nodded, small fingers gripping at Wash's shirt. “Up.”

 

Nodding, Wash started toward the stairs. As glad as he was that Junior got pretty far away from the others, he hoped it wasn't too far that the boy couldn't remember. Or that they hadn't moved too far from there since getting Tucker alone. If they were lucky, the mercenaries were still betting on their plan to use him for bait. Then they'd make it easy to find them.

 

But luck was rarely on his side, so he'd take whatever help he could get. He took to the stairs, with Junior tucked safely against his back and Sarge behind him. “Just one floor?”

 

Junior nodded, curling closer as he turned to look behind them. Curious, Wash paused as well, holding out an arm to stop Sarge. Without the noise of them climbing, the racket below the was easy to hear. Something was coming from the lower floors, shuffling up the stairs and moaning.

 

Sarge pointed his shotgun at the curve of the stairway. Wash took a few steps up, careful to keep out of whatever blast radius the thing might have. There was a tense pause as they waited, the only sounds being the heavy shuffling of slow footsteps up the stairs and the labored breathing and moaning of whatever was coming up to greet them.

 

After a minute or so of waiting, Wash frowned. “You know, we could've gotten out of the stairway by now, instead of waiting...”

 

“That's not the point,” Sarge replied, gun not moving from the spot. “We can either take care of it now, or later when we're tryin' to make a quick escape.”

 

“You'd better not be taking care of what I think you're talking about!” A voice rang out from below them. Junior immediately perked up.

 

Wash made a face. “Grif?”

 

“Who the fuck else would it be?!”

 

“Well, no offense, but you kind of sound like the infected.”

 

“Fuck off, Wash. Not my fault the elevator's not working in this place.”

 

Sarge looked from the stairs to Wash, a thoughtful look on his face. “We could still shoot 'im.”

 

Wash sighed. “Sarge, no. Grif, if you're going to help, hurry it up. Where's the others?”

 

Grif peeked around the corner, careful to make sure Sarge didn't have his sights on him before coming up to their level on the stairs. “I left them on the first floor to take care of Simmons.”

 

Wash turned on a heel, keeping their party moving. “What happened to Simmons?”

 

Grif exhaled. “Long story, dude. He'll be okay. Let's get Tucker.”

 

Wash couldn't argue with that; he knew when to let a subject drop. They'd find out later, anyway. For now they had another mission to focus on. They made it to the next floor, where Junior guided them along the halls to an empty office. Wash might have questioned whether Junior had remembered the way correctly, but he was pretty sure the broken door and discarded pack inside that looked exactly like Tucker's were a pretty good indication that the boy was right.

 

Grif picked up the pack, immediately rifling through it for a bottle. The Hawaiian read the label for a moment before slipping it into his own pockets. Wash decided not to question it, instead he focused on trying to figure out what to do next. Junior had been their only clue to Tucker's whereabouts until now, so now they had no way of knowing where to go about looking for him.

 

Grif slung Tucker's pack over his shoulder with his own. “So now what?”

 

“I'm not really sure,” Wash admitted, running a hand through his hair to tug on the ends anxiously. “I was really hoping they'd want us to find them.”

 

Sarge rested the barrel of his shotgun against his shoulder, frowning at the room. “Well, they sure ain't in here anymore. Doesn't look like they left any clues either.”

 

Wash heard a sniffle close to his ear. He turned his head a bit, nudging at Junior. “We'll find him.”

 

“Yeah, don't worry little guy, there's no way Tucker'll let them keep him away from you for too long,” Grif reached over, giving Junior's hair an encouraging ruffle.

 

“We've gotta try somethin' at least,” Sarge tapped his foot, looking antsy to shoot something. “You think they coulda gotten very far?”

 

“They had a pretty good lead on us,” Wash shrugged. “Unless they stuck around for a specific reason, they could be long gone by now.”

 

He was almost grateful when a loud crash rang out from down the hall. The scream that followed wasn't as much of a relief, however. Mostly because the voice was unfortunately familiar.

 

The three took off without another word, scrambling out of the office and toward the noise. The noises continued, leading them to the end of the hall with a locked break room. It sounded like a struggle inside, various yelps and cursing once again confirming that Tucker was inside, and definitely wasn't alone.

 

“We've gotta get in there,” Wash snapped.

 

“Way ahead of ya,” Sarge pushed the blonde aside, aiming his shotgun at the handle and firing.

 

It was easy to push what remained of the door open, just in time to find Tucker shoving violently at the face of a smaller infected, yelling something about sucking face. Wash leapt into action, all but yanking his sweatshirt off his torso and handing Junior to Grif before lunging over a table to knock into the infected, shoving it against the counter.

 

Tucker slid back, fighting for purchase on the tile floor. “Holy shit, Wash!”

 

Wash narrowly avoided the infected as it spun around, trying to slash at him. Turning his head, he got a good look at her, brown hair and glowing brown eyes. He froze in shock, eyes wide and mouth agape.

 

“Connie?!”

 

Tucker got to his feet, grabbing at the other's shirt to pull him away from the girl. “Wash, what the fuck?!”

 

Wash fell back, stumbling into Tucker as the infected's lunge missed. Tucker yanked at him, nearly dragging the blonde away. Wash let himself be pulled, staring incredulously at the snarling face that had once been one of his best friends.

 

oOoOo

 

Grif held onto Junior, standing in the doorway as Wash dashed into the room. His heroic rescue was slightly cut short when he froze up looking at the zombie. Whatever was going on, Tucker couldn't pull Wash back quick enough, and the zombie was getting a little too close for anyone's comfort.

 

He set Junior down beside Sarge, who was aiming his shotgun. He couldn't get a shot with the two in the way. Before he had a chance to second- guess himself, Grif ran in the room, sliding past Tucker and Wash to the other side of the break room. This threw the zombie for a loop, and she paused her attack on Wash's shocked form to focus on the moving target.

 

Grif fell back, side hitting the edge of the counter as the zombie swiped at him. All he needed to do was keep the zombie occupied until the other two could get away, then get the hell out of the way so Sarge could shoot her.

 

Avoiding another lunge, Grif watched Tucker drag Wash away, back toward the doorway. The blonde still looked like he'd seen someone run over his puppy, and he wasn't sure why exactly. But he needed to get out of the room before Sarge made good on one of his threats to shoot Grif now that he had the chance to kill two birds with one stone.

 

Right as he went to move, the door behind him popped open. It surprised him enough to turn around, meeting eyes with none other than Felix, who looked almost as confused as he felt.

 

“What the fuck?”

 

Grif was taken aback for a moment. “What do you mean, 'what the fuck'?”

 

“What happened to the zombie?”

 

With some sort of divine timing, the zombie in question launched itself their way. Grif yelped and Felix let out a scream, both of them diving through the open door. It was yanked shut just in time for the zombie to slam against the wood.

 

A shot rang out the next moment, Sarge finally getting the room clear enough to blast the zombie. By then, Tucker had managed to get Wash out of the room and had picked up Junior, hugging his son to his chest. Which was for the best, considering a second later there were zombie brains splattered against various parts of the room.

 

“Gross, man.”

 

Sarge seemed smug, twirling the shotgun. “That's what I call a good shot.”

 

Making a face, Tucker decided to let that one go, turning to Wash instead. The blonde hadn't stopped staring at the zombie, eyes wide and locked in on what was now a headless lump of dead flesh. Shifting Junior to one hip, he crouched down in front of Wash. “Dude, you okay?”

 

When Tucker's face blocked his view, Wash blinked a few times, looking up at him. “I... what?”

 

“You totally freaked out back there, man. What gives?”

 

“I'd expect that kind of screw- up from Grif,” Sarge frowned, “But not from someone like you.”

 

“Oh fuck!” Tucker shot back up. “We lost Grif!”

 

“Good riddance.”

 

“No, seriously, Felix and Locus were in there! They were trying to get immune people and we just fuckin' hand delivered him!” Tucker reached out a hand to Wash. “We've gotta go get him back!”

 

“Get who back?” Three faces peered in from the doorway. Tucker made a noise, staring at Kai, Simmons and Donut.

 

“Um...”

 

Sarge didn't seem to share Tucker's hesitance. “Good news! Not only did we get the kid's dad back, we lost Grif in the process! Truly a win- win situation!”

 

Simmons, who already looked pretty pale, got even paler. Donut let out a little gasp.

 

But it was Kai that made Tucker take a step back in nervousness.

 

“YOU LOST MY BROTHER?!”

 

Chapter Text

“Welcome back, Agent Carolina. Agent Texas. Leonard.”


There was a silence in the room as the Director spoke, no one trusting themselves to be the first to speak with him. Except, of course, for the youngest of their party.



“And I'm Caboose!”



This made Church heave a sigh, glaring at the brunette. “Caboose, shut up, the grownups are talking.”



Carolina ignored them both, stepping forward. “I figured we'd find you here.”



The Director tipped his head. “Right where you left me, right Carolina?”



The redhead scowled, and Church almost wished that looks could kill in that particular moment, so they wouldn't have to deal with the rest of this situation, because the Director would be a smoldering pile of ash on his fancy chair by then.



The Director took it in stride, however, leaning forward to set his elbows on the desk, fingers steepled together to rest his chin on them while he studied them. Church hated that look, and he shifted uncomfortably. Caboose scooted closer, whether because he noticed Church's awkardness or was just scared himself, he didn't know, but he was silently grateful for it all the same.



“Well, as fun as all this is, we really don't have time for weird family reunions,” Tex spoke up, wasting no time in drawing her pistol, pointing it at the Director's head.



He didn't seem too concerned, which didn't really surprise Church any. It still pissed him off though.



Instead he smiled slowly, in that condescending way that drove Church crazy, and looked over at the blonde holding a gun at him. “Agent Texas. Good to see you again. And working with Agent Carolina voluntarily, too. I'm happy to see that.”



Church flinched. If there were a visible image for a death wish, the Director seemed to be it.



Tex narrowed her eyes even further. In a display of tremendous will, she didn't comment on his statement. “It's over. We're shutting you down.”



“I don't think so,” he replied, “I've got too much at stake right now to have you all interfering. If you've come back to help, I'll accept it, no questions asked. But otherwise, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.”



“I don't think we asked your opinion on the matter,” Tex ground out past clenched teeth.



“No one's here to help you anymore,” Carolina spoke up. “You've screwed yourself on that one. You've hurt us all too badly for that.”



The Director sighed, settling back in his chair. “This is about Agent York, isn't it?”



To anyone else, Carolina's reaction would have gone unnoticed. But Church knew his sister too well, and the split second of hesitation, the momentary catch of breath was obvious to him. He wondered if it would be as obvious to their father.



“He's... he was the last straw of a haystack of problems.”



“You see, that's just the thing, Carolina.” The Director removed his glasses, idly cleaning them on the tail of his shirt. “It's never a problem until it's personal. It's never until you lose someone you care about that you start to question why this is all happening in the first place. Why someone hadn't done something sooner to make sure this didn't happen.”



“We've known your experiments were crazy from the start,” Tex snapped. “You've done nothing but fuck everyone involved over. And for what? Not one of your fucking strains have worked.”



He grinned. “That's not true, and you know it.”



Church swallowed thickly, suddenly feeling his father's gaze land heavy on him.



Tex side stepped, putting herself in front of Caboose and Church. “You can't keep doing this to people.”



The Director slammed a fist on the desk, his calm demeanor vanishing in a heartbeat. “I'm doing what I have to! I'm going to stop this! I'm going to reverse it! I'll do what needs to be done to accomplish it!”



“We're talking about people's LIVES, here!”



“In case you haven't noticed, Agent Texas, people's lives are in danger every day at this point!”



“All the more reason to save whoever we can, instead of killing off the rest of them!”



No one spoke for a few moments. Caboose fidgeted, fingers wrapping around Church's arm. For once, he didn't bother to stop him. He hoped the others were having more luck.



Finally, the Director sighed, collecting himself. “I meant what I said, Agents. If you're offering help, I'll gladly work with you again. But if you're here to interfere, I'll have to ask you to leave, before things get out of hand.”



“That's not happening,” Carolina replied, shaking her head. “This ends here and now.”



“I'm afraid I can't let that happen, Carolina. I've got a lot left to do.”



“Like Tex said, we're not listening to opinions on this one.” Carolina's hands gripped tighter to the pipe. It wasn't as useful as Tex's gun, but everyone knew she was as dangerous with that as with a ranged weapon, the Director included.



He got to his feet slowly, staring down at the desk. He looked disappointed, a look Church was unfortunately used to seeing on his father's face. It looked even more severe in the blue glow of the darkened room.



“I really didn't want to have to do this, but I feel as though I have no other choice at this point...”



“Don't try anything--” Tex started.



But it was too late. The Director slammed a hand down on the keypad at the side of his desktop, right before Tex could take a shot. The bullet hit the keypad a few seconds too late, sending sparks flying from the thing. He snapped his hand away, but the damage was already done. Immediately three things happened. A door slid open from its hiding spot along the wall beside the Director's desk. The door the group had come in slid shut behind them, trapping them inside. And finally, a third door opened at the wall by the whirring equipment, leading into darkness.



From the darkness came a shuffling, moaning noise that everyone was fairly familiar with by this point. But after a moment, a glow came from the dark, two small orbs of light. One a pale white, the other a bright green.



“That can't be good,” Church took a step backwards, his back hitting the now- locked door.



Tex, who had turned to aim her pistol on the unknown shuffling figure in the hall, now turned back to where the Director had been. But he was already gone, making his escape the moment their attention had shifted. The first door was gone again, hidden in the wall once more. The blonde cursed to herself, focusing on their new threat instead.



It didn't take long for the figure to emerge from the darkness, and when it did, Church immediately wished it hadn't. Because he knew that figure, or at least he knew it when it was an actual person, rather than a walking corpse.



But however much he regretted seeing York's zombie form come at them, he knew Carolina must feel a million times worse.



In front of him, the pipe clattered to the floor, making enough racket to get York's attention. He stared at them with unseeing, glowing eyes. Carolina fell back a step, bumping into Tex, who held her steady with one hand, while the other kept her aim.



“I can't... York...”



oOoOo



Tucker ducked behind Wash, hugging Junior up to his chest. He'd been around the Grif siblings long enough to know what happened when they reached that particular shade of red. Both Grif and Kai were extremely laid- back people, but there were a few ways to get them enraged pretty quick. And threatening the other one was a surefire way to get that rage directed towards you. Tucker wanted absolutely nothing to do with that, thank you very much.



“You mean to tell me you all just STOOD there and let my bother get kidnapped by MERCENARIES?!” Kai snapped, reaching out and grabbing a fistful of Sarge's jacket, yanking him forward until they were face to face.



Sarge, for his part, seemed too shocked to be angry at the girl, stumbling forward in her grasp. “If you didn't notice, we were a little preoccupied at the time...”



“How were we supposed to know that Felix was waiting on the other side of the door?” Wash had apparently snapped out of his shock, and was now trying to calm the situation down. By making things a million times worse, in Tucker's opinion. “Or that Grif would rush in the room with Co—an infected!”



Tucker quickly slapped his free hand over Wash's mouth, muffling whatever he was going to say next. But the damage was already done, and Kai turned her fury on the blonde instead.



“You! You're supposed to be some badass cop, how could you just let that happen?!”



Wash mumbled something into Tucker's hand that sounded suspiciously like 'I'm not a cop', but it was thankfully ignored as Kai shoved Sarge aside, storming into the break room towards the door Grif had disappeared into.



“Now wait just a second,” Sarge started.



“Kai, what are you doing?” Donut piped up, watching her with concern as he stood by, holding up a very pale Simmons.



“I'm gonna go get him back, what do you think I'm doing?” With that, she yanked the door open.



“You can't just waltz in there and expect them to just hand him back,” Wash huffed, pushing Tucker's hand away from his mouth.



“They will after I'm done with them,” Kai snapped, wasting no more time before marching into the room.



“She's gonna get herself killed!” Wash pushed away from Tucker, hurrying after her.



“Hell hath no fury like a pissed off Grif,” Simmons mumbled. Donut cast a worried glance at the redhead.



Tucker groaned, running a frustrated hand through his dreads. He quickly shifted Junior to Donut to hold. “Watch these two, I'm gonna go help kick some mercenary ass.”



Donut nodded, balancing the boy on the hip not supporting Simmons' weight. Junior shifted, hugging up to Donut as he watched his father run into the room as well.



Sarge sighed, looking defeated. “Never thought I'd be volunteering to rescue not one, but two Grifs.” He pointed to Donut. “I want this entire mission stricken from the record.”



“Noted!”



With a grumble, Sarge and his shotgun trudged into the other room to join the fight.



After a moment of silence, Donut looked from Junior to Simmons. “Well, what do you guys wanna do? Eye Spy? How about 'My Father Owns a Grocery Store'?”



“I kinda feel like passing out...” Simmons managed, leaning heavier against the blonde.



Junior reached over, patting Simmons on the head in the most comforting manner a five year-old could manage.



oOoOo



“Just pick him up, Felix, we have to go before the others come looking for him.”



“You pick him up, he's heavy! I can't even get him off me!”



“You're a mercenary, you can't handle a little heavy lifting?”



“I'm the charm of the operation! You're supposed to do the strenuous activity!”



“Just wake him up then, we have to get upstairs before the Director leaves.”



Grif felt a sharp pain on his cheek. He scrunched his face up, blinking open an eye. “Ugh, what the fuck?”



The lump he was laying on squirmed. “Wake up. And get the hell off me.”



Waving his hand in a lazy backhand, he knocked into Felix's shoulder. “This is the worst kidnapping ever. Of all time.”



“Not my fault Locus refuses to pull his weight around here. Or yours, for that matter.”



If it were anyone else making the joke, Grif would have snorted. As it was, he was royally pissed off at Felix and the mercenaries' antics. “I think I'm good where I am, thanks.”



A gun clicked above him, and the Hawaiian looked up to see Locus glaring at him, weapon pointed at a very important part of his head that he'd like to keep.



“Move.”



With a sigh, Grif pushed up. “Ugh, fine.” He made sure to ram his elbow into Felix's ribs as many times as possible before he was standing. It was every bit as satisfying as he thought it would be. Even when Felix shoved him back.



“We're going to the Director's office before he leaves.” Locus' statement left no room for arguments.



But when had that every stopped Dexter Grif? “Yeah, no thanks. That's a lot of stairs, and I've already had my exercise for today.”



“You could stand to have a bit more,” Felix grumbled, rubbing his side.



“Get fucked, Short-Stack.”



“Okay, that's it!” Felix lunged for him, only to be stopped by Locus grabbing the smaller man by the arm.



“Both of you, stop it. We're going, and we're going now. The others obviously know where he went, so they'll be close behind.” He turned to glare at Grif. “He's just stalling.”



Grif glared right back. Of course he was stalling. He was just hoping Wash and Tucker could get their shit together and come after him. Even Sarge would be a welcome sight at this point. But Locus was the one holding the gun, and zombie immunity didn't count for anything in the face of bullets, so when Locus urged him forward, toward the door on the opposite side of the room, he had little choice but to comply.



They'd almost made it back out into the hall when the door they'd come through slammed open with enough force to send it into the wall. All three turned in unison, surprised to see an angry looking Hawaiian girl in the doorway instead of the paranoid blonde.



Grif was the first to recover. “Kai, what the fuck?!”



“I know you assholes don't think you're just gonna walk off with my brother!” She snapped, fury oozing from her every movement.



Felix rolled his eyes. “Sure are, sweetheart. Now run along and consider yourself lucky that our boss just asked for the one, and not a pair of siblings.”



Grif didn't think it was possible for his sister to look any angrier, but he figured if there was a way, it'd be Felix that did it. He took a step back, away from the two mercenaries.



“Don't patronize me, asshole.” Kai clenched her fists, cracking the knuckles on one side, then the other.



“Look, kid. We don't have time to play with you right now, go back to the others and leave us alone before--”



It took Kai mere seconds to close the distance between them, her knee driving up into Felix's crotch before he could finish his sentence. He went down like a sack of potatoes, a high- pitched wail strangled in his throat. Kai gave him a satisfied smirk.



“Bitch.”



Locus turned the gun on her, and Grif lunged, knocking it out of his hand. It clattered to the floor on the far side of the room, away from them all. By then, Kai had her sights on the tall mercenary, grabbing at his coat and slamming him against the nearest wall.



Grif took the opportunity to scoot out of the way, toward the door. He picked up the gun, keeping careful watch of the fight going on, in case he was needed to intervene. He doubted he would, since he knew better than most how dangerous Kai was. But just in case, better to be safe than sorry when his sister was involved.



“Holy shit,” a voice came from behind him. Wash stood in the doorway, eyes wide as he watched the scene in front of him. “Is... is Kai beating the crap out of a trained mercenary?”



Grif shrugged, rubbing at a forming bruise on his cheek. “Yeah.”



Tucker's head poked up over Wash's shoulder, letting out a whistle. “Damn, that's hot.”



“Tucker, we're friends, but I will kill you.”



“Worth it.”



Wash winced, watching as Kai landed a punch to Locus' jaw. He was knocked back, bewhildered for a second long enough for Kai to get another punch in. “Remind me never to make her mad.”



Tucker rested his chin on the blonde's shoulder. “Kick him in the balls, Kai!”



“Already did that to the short one!” Kai didn't break her stride, sending an elbow into the back of Locus' head.



“Sweet, sweet vengeance,” Tucker sighed.



Grif turned to glare at him. “I'm really worried how much you're enjoying watching this.”



“So am I,” Wash spoke up.



“Hey, they beat the crap out of me before, I am getting all the revenge by proxy I can get at this point.”



“That's quite an impressive headlock, for such a short girl,” now Sarge was in the doorway as well.



“Should we be helping?” Wash frowned.



Grif shrugged. “If you wanna jump in, be my guest.”



Wash didn't move.



“Yeah, that's what I thought.” He leaned against the wall, fiddling idly with the gun. “Good right hook, Kai. But wrap it up, we should get out of here soon.”



“Can do!”



All four at the door cringed as Locus hit the floor. He didn't move. They cringed even harder as she gave Felix another kick in the junk before stepping over them both. She dusted her hands off as she sauntered over.



“Consider yourself rescued, Dex.”



Grif grinned. “My hero.”

Chapter Text

Upon retrospect, Church supposed he really shouldn't have been surprised. When Carolina had mentioned that the others hadn't made it, he'd assumed that was the end on it. But knowing the Director, he really should have figured that he wouldn't see a dead test subject as out of the project, so long as it was useful.

And Church had to admit, having a super- powered zombie army at your disposal definitely had its benefits.

Unfortunately, his father also knew how to push just the right buttons on all his team to get the right reactions. And the reaction this time seemed to be 'how to get Carolina to be utterly useless in a fight'. Not that Church couldn't understand his sister's hesitation, it was just... really bad timing.

After staring at them for a few seconds, the zombie formerly known as York let out a snarl, charging toward them. Tex grabbed Carolina's arm, yanking them both out of the way, as Caboose did the same with Church. They moved to either side, and York slammed into the door with the force he had used. It didn't give them much reprieve, as he quickly turned, intent on attacking again. His glowing eyes locked on Carolina, who broke away from Tex's grasp to hurry toward the wall the Director had left through.

“Tex, think fast!” Church yelped, reaching into his bag for the first non- vital thing he could find. It turned out to be a water bottle, which he tossed at York, hoping to distract the zombie.

It missed by a fair amount, hitting the door instead. Church sighed.

But it was enough to accomplish the goal, as York turned to grab the bottle, snatching it up an gnarled, undead hands. Tex wasted no time in aiming her pistol, taking a shot. York reared back as he was hit in the temple, letting out a roar. It wasn't enough to take him down, not even after another few shots.

Tex growled. “Should've stolen Sarge's shotgun...”

Before she could aim another shot, something hit her in the head. She fell back against the carpet. Beside her, the water bottle clattered to the floor. Tex glared at the zombie.

“What the fuck, York? Even as a zombie, you're an ass!”

She snatched the bottle up, chucking it back at him. Church rolled his eyes. “Are you seriously getting into a bottle fight with a zombie?”

“You're the one who gave him the ammo!” Tex shot back, kicking at York as he crouched closer. “Just get the door open or something!”

“Don't tell me what to do,” he grumbled, but moved over toward the Director's desk nonetheless. He poked around at the various items on the desk, looking for some sort of remote or whatever. The keypad the had locked the door the first time had been fried when Tex shot it, but hopefully there was something else they could use as backup.

Meanwhile, Tex did her best to talk Caboose into playing keep away with the water bottle, keeping York lunging one way or the other. Carolina kicked at the wall in frustration, unable to get it open again. She wasn't turning around, and Church got the feeling that his sister was doing pretty much all she could to not look at the zombie in the room. He didn't blame her, it was probably all she could do not to have some sort of Church-family style breakdown at this point, which was something none of them needed right now. They needed to find some way to get rid of York, preferably for good. It wasn't going to be easy, especially for Carolina, but it had to be done. They all knew there wasn't any saving him at this point. Once you were a zombie, it was over, strains or no strains. Even all the Director's crazy experiments hadn't changed that.

But a handgun wasn't going to do anything, and that's what they'd brought to deal with the Director. They had Carolina's pipe, but that wasn't exactly going to separate a head from a body anytime soon, and not without quite a mess.

Church found nothing of use on the desktop, turning instead to rummage around in its drawers. They were mostly filled with paperwork, which, any other time, Church might be inclined to sift through. But they really didn't have that kind of luxury right now. What he needed was a way to open the door. And something sharp. Both would be optimal.

“Church!” Tex snapped. “Door!”

“Working on it!” He shrieked back, tossing some random bits of paper aside.

“You are not very good at this game, Mr. Mint Patty,” Caboose seemed pretty pleased with himself, ducking out of the way as York swiped at him.

Church knew Tex had an eye out for him, so he wasn't as worried about the other as he might have been. Instead he focused on dumping the last desk drawer out on the floor, rifling through the contents. He didn't find any kind of door remote, but he did see a glint of metal flash off the room's blue lights.

He picked it up, examining it with a frown. A letter opener, with a good, sharp edge. It wouldn't open the door, but it would probably take care of their zombie problem.

Launching himself over the desk, he hurried over to Tex, weapon in hand. She frowned, keeping an eye on York.

“What are you gonna do, try to pick the lock? Because we don't have that kinda time, Church.”

“No, this is for the zombie,” Church scowled back at her. “I didn't find anything to open the door.”

“I can help!” Caboose said cheerfully. He tossed the bottle to Tex, who caught it.

She dodged another lunge by York, pushing Church out of the way. York went headfirst past them, into a file cabinet. The pair then watched as Caboose went to the door, slamming his fist into the keypad lock. It shattered, sparks fizzing out.

“Well, I could've done that,” Tex muttered.

The door remained closed. But Caboose didn't seem bothered by it, instead moving to grab at its handle, yanking it off its hinges without batting an eye. Church gaped at him as he dropped the door to the side, beaming at the two of them proudly.

“Okay, that was impressive,” Tex corrected her earlier statement.

“I've got like, the weirdest boner right now,” Church muttered.

As usual, he was ignored. “Caboose, why didn't you do that earlier?”

He shrugged, stepping over the ruined door. “Yeah, I just thought that you guys wanted to do it. Yeah.”

“Now we've just gotta deal with York.” Tex eyed the letter opener in Church's hands as York stirred.

“It's gotta be one of us,” Frowning, Church shifted from foot to foot. “I don't trust anyone not immune to get that close to him, and Carolina--”

“I'll do it,” Carolina spoke up quietly.

The others turned to her, watching as she moved away from the wall. She walked toward them, holding her hand out for the letter opener. There was a determination in her eyes that Church knew not to fight with, and he quickly handed his sister the weapon.

“Lina, you don't have to,” Tex started to argue, grabbing at Church's wrist.

The redhead snatched the blade from him before Tex could stop her, fingers tight around the handle. “I know. But I'm going to. It's better this way.”

Tex looked like she was going to fight her for a moment, and Church stared between the two. They stared each other down, before Tex used the grip on Church's wrist to pull him away. “Have it your way. We'll wait outside for you.”

Carolina's shoulders slumped. “I appreciate it.”

Tex nodded, and Church stumbled behind her. “C'mon, Caboose, outside. We're getting ready to meet back up with the others.”

As he was dragged out of the room and into the hall, Church saw Carolina turn, facing the undead form of her boyfriend and raising the letter opener. He turned away, and fought the urge to throw up.

oOoOo

When Simmons woke up next, he wasn't where he remembered being. This might have worried him, considering what happened last time he woke up confused about his surroundings. But he was still pretty groggy from the pain medication. Or blood loss, he wasn't sure. And after checking that all his remaining limbs were indeed attached, he laid back against the bag someone had left him as a pillow.

The room was dim, not quite dark enough to be alarming, but not bright enough to hurt his eyes. Everything was pretty blurry too, but that was because he was missing his glasses again. He remembered watching everyone disappear in a doorway and leaning pretty hard on Donut. So he assumed that the blonde was the one who set him up here. It looked like one of the side offices, one of the fancy ones with a sofa in it, which he was currently occupying. It was comfortable and quiet, and Simmons wondered how long the others would let him stay there before they had to move on. Church's group still hadn't checked in from the top floors, even if they'd already found Tucker and Junior. There really wasn't much reason to stick around after that. All they had to do was get Grif back from--

His eyes widened, suddenly remembering everything that happened before he passed out. Locus and Felix had Grif! He had to get out there and help get him back! He had to--

His scramble to get out of the sweater draped over him and get to his feet was interrupted when the door opened slowly. Simmons gaped as a head popped in between the crack, studying him curiously.

“Okay if I come in?” Grif mumbled.

Staring at him, Simmons could only manage a short nod. But it was enough to get Grif to slide into the room, closing the door behind him.

He looked nervous. Probably more nervous than Simmons had ever seen him. Grif was the kind of person that didn't seem bothered by most things on the level of awkwardness that Simmons possessed. So seeing him fidget and stand against the door was weird in more ways than one. Simmons continued to stare, not sure what to make of the situation and not sure what to say to break the weird silence. Their silences were usually comfortable and effortless. This was something new, and Simmons didn't really like it.

“I uh, I grabbed you some stuff out of Tucker's bag,” Grif finally spoke up, fishing a small medication bottle out of his cargo pocket. The Hawaiian stared at the bottle for a second, as if not sure whether to throw it to the other or risk coming closer. “It's the good stuff. All the warnings on it say it could make you drowsy, so maybe it'd be better to wait until we're set up for the night.”

Simmons took mercy on Grif, reaching his good hand out for the bottle. Grif inched closer, handing it to him. He let the bottle rest in his lap, staring blankly at the label. “Thanks.”

When he wasn't immediately ordered away, Grif took a chance, sitting on the floor beside him. Close enough to be near him, but far away enough that he could move if the other wanted him to. Simmons appreciated the thought behind it. He listed to the side, leaning heavily on Grif's shoulder.

The Hawaiian tensed, and Simmons turned pressing his cheek against the fabric of Grif's shirt. “I'm not mad at you. I mean, I am, but not? It's hard to explain.”

Grif nodded, staying silent, even if he did relax a bit. The silence was still a little awkward, though it had more of their usual familiarity than it had a few seconds ago. Simmons picked at the label on the bottle.

When he didn't think that Simmons was going to elaborate further, Grif spoke up. “I know it was fucked up. I didn't have any time to make any other choice, and you weren't really in a place to ask if that's what you wanted. I just... it was that or watch you get eaten, or watch you turn, and I couldn't do it.”

“It's better than the alternatives, I know,” Simmons replied. “I can't say I wanted to be an infected. I know you did what you had to, it was just a shock, y'know? I freaked out. I don't really blame you. I dunno what I would have done if we'd been reversed.”

Grif smiled a bit, looping an arm around Simmons' shoulders. “Look, if I'm getting eaten by a creepy super zombie, you've got my full permission to get me out of there any way you can.”

The redhead huffed out a fond noise, burying his face against the other's arm. “I'd rather not think about it.”

“You're telling me. I've had enough of life- altering situations today, thanks. I'm exhausted.”

Simmons nodded. “I know I just woke up, but I could go for a nap.”

“Now that's the kind of thing I like to hear,” Grif turned to smile at him, and Simmons felt something lurch in his chest at how much he'd missed seeing the look on the Hawaiian's face.

Life- altering situations indeed. He'd been terrified when the others had told him Grif had been kidnapped by the mercenaries in Tucker's place. He was sure he'd never see the other again. All the anger he'd felt, for Grif cutting his arm, for the fight they'd been having before that, it was gone in an instant with the fear that Grif was in trouble.

“How'd you get away from Felix?” he asked, instead of telling Grif exactly what he'd been thinking.

“Kai kicked him in the balls a bunch. Beat up Locus. It was pretty cool.”

“Oh. That does sound cool.” He relaxed a bit, fingers curling into the hem of Grif's shirt. “I'm glad you're okay.”

“I'm glad you're not a zombie.”

The silence that followed this time was completely comfortable, no trace of the earlier unease, and Simmons was glad for it.

“So I get almost all my zombie knowledge from movies,” Grif started, and Simmons groaned.

“We know.”

He continued, tilting his head to stare at the redhead with a determined look. “And in the movies, after a heartfelt talk like that, there's usually a kiss or something.”

Simmons snorted. “Are you seriously using that? You're worse than Tucker.” He looked up, the grin dropping from his face at the look in Grif's eyes. He stared back, eyes widening. “Are you...?”

“Serious? Yeah. C'mon, Simmons, we almost died today, just let it happen.”

Simmons felt his face warm, thinking it over. Grif was right, they'd come close to never seeing each other – or anything else, in his case – ever again. He swallowed hard, giving a short nod before he could third- or fourth- guess himself.

Grif wasted no time after getting the go- ahead, leaning closer and pressing their lips together. Simmons' eyes slid closed, and there weren't any sparks flying or fireworks going off, but it was good. It was good and comfortable, like everything with Grif. He relaxed into it, and Grif's arm wound its way around his waist, sliding up the small of his back to hold onto him. His own hand tangled itself in Grif's messy hair as the kiss slowly eased its way into something a little less than chaste. Grif scooted them a bit, maneuvering until Simmons leaned against the wall, crowding in between his long legs to kiss him senseless again.

The door popped open before the pair could think to do anything, barely managing to break the kiss as Donut's head slid inside.

“Hey guys, if you wanna co-- oh my god,” Donut's eyes widened, staring at the two. His face turned red as Grif glared at him, and Simmons tried to disappear from sheer embarrassment alone.

To his credit, Donut adverted his gaze quickly, staring up at the ceiling. “Um... Wash sent me in to see if Simmons was awake yet... Church and the others got back, so between him and Tex, they're gonna explain some stuff. Buuuuut, I can see you're busy, so I can just see if they'll hold on a bit...”

Before either could reply, the blonde slid out of the room, making sure to close the door behind him. Grif and Simmons stared at the closed door for a few seconds before Grif snorted, leaning forward to rest his forehead on Simmons' chest.

“That happens a lot in the movies too.”