He looked to be in his thirties, broad faced and freckled. He might have once been handsome, his mouth wide open in what might have been a scream. There was blood dried in the corner, and in a flaky pool below his head, where half of his skull missing from a self-inflicted shot. The gun was by his side, fingers loose around it.
Flies buzzed around his nose and the stench of death hung heavy in the air. He had been there for awhile.
Olivia barely spared him a glance, gun held in front of her as she moved from the living room to the kitchen. The door to the living room had been locked and she had had to break the glass to get in. If anyone was inside they would have heard her, so she needed to be prepared.
She saw no one and moved quickly to the cupboards. The refrigerator had been without power for months;, if there had still been food in there, it would be bad now. Some neighborhoods still had power, either through generators or a plant that had been protected. This wasn't one of them.
Relief shot through her as she opened the first cupboard to see canned goods lined up. There were fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, what even looked like a good supply of spam.
She holstered her gun and began quickly loading all of the food she could find into the bag she’d brought , not knowing how much time she would have. Chances were high there would be others looking to hit the area, and she didn't have anyone to watch her back.
They had split up to cover more houses. It was dangerous, but they were desperate. Their group had enough to last a few weeks, maybe a month if they made things stretch. But the promise of even the little bit of security extra food provided was worth it.
Filling her bag as full as she could , Olivia zipped it closed it and hefted it onto her back. It was heavy, but she had gotten used to the weight. One more thing to endure.
She moved through the house, checking for anything else they could use before returning to the living room . Biting back the bile in her throat, she moved over the body and grabbed the gun, sticking it in a smaller bag, away from the food.
She had found additional ammo hidden under the smashed- in TV, and decent- sized first aide kit in the bathroom, almost unused. She didn't even bother to read the labels of the pills in the cabinet, just swept all of the bottles into the bag along with the toothpaste and toothbrushes on the sink. She grabbed the toilet paper too;, there were certain luxuries she couldn't pass up.
She had two bags filled and moved more cautiously as she exited the house with her haul , sticking to the trees in the front yard and scanning the empty roads around her.
"We should send more people into the other houses., I think most of the people who lived here left for the camps when the power went."She didn’t jump at the sound of Huck’s voice. Even before this she had gotten used to him sneaking up on her. It was just the way he moved, and in the world they lived in now it had turned into a great asset.
"There's a body in that house.," She indicated the one she had just left. "He killed himself, so I don't think mercenaries have hit this area yet." She passed the heavier bag to him as they headed toward the car they had parked down the road. "But it's only a matter of time."
He nodded as he loaded the bags into the trunk. "We need to move quickly then. Get what we can and get out of here."
It was the smart thing to do. If an area hadn't been hit by mercenaries yet, that meant it soon would be. They had gotten lucky in finding anything here.
The ride back to their base they took more than half- an- hour. They had had to range out further and further for supplies. They had chosen a cabin up in the hills that had belonged to Cyrus. What had once been a vacation home only used once or twice per year had turned into a small settlement. A collection of generators gave them power when they desperately needed it, the water still ran, and there was a lake nearby.
They had fared well. Others hadn't been so lucky.
When the United States had been attacked and enemies had invaded, the nation had fallen apart, unprepared for a war on their own soil. The attack had been well- planned, coming from multiple directions. Olivia had acted quickly, while Huck had stepped forward with a set of skills that had helped them survive those first few months.
They were waved in through the gate, recognized by the armed guards who had once been a part of the Secret Service.
Olivia let Huck handle unloading the supplies, her attention caught by a familiar face.
"You're late." Mellie's voice was calm.
"We had to go out a little further than usual." Olivia didn't apologize. Instead she reached in the pocket of her jacket and draw out a bottle she had grabbed from the medicine cabinet in the house, handing it to Mellie.
Mellie's expression softened a fraction as her fingers closed around the bottle. Children's cold and flu medicine. "Thank you." Straightening, Mellie started walking towards the backyard. Olivia fell into step beside her. "Fitz was worried."
She held the door open for Olivia and followed her out to where a group was gathering under Huck's directions. Factoring in the time there and back, it shouldn't take them more than three hours to clear out the remaining supplies. Not just food and medicine, but clothing, blankets, tarps, toys for the children, cold weather supplies, and anything that could be used as a weapon.
"He worries too much,." Olivia said as she spotted Fitz hunched over a table beside Huck, listening intently as they went over a map.
"I think we all have reason to." Mellie's eyes weren't on Fitz but the teenage boy beside him, their son. He had started going on supply runs and Olivia knew Mellie had tried to stop him. He, like most of his generation, had watched their nation burn, but wouldn't be stopped. They were ready to grow up, and wishing they didn't have to wouldn't keep that from happening.
Olivia let her fingers slip into Mellie's and felt her squeeze back as Fitz and their son started grabbing guns. Fitz, spotting them, whispered something in the boy’ss ear before walking over to them.
"You didn't tell me you were leaving this morning."
"I didn't have to." She squeezed Mellie's hand again before letting go, turning her back to Fitz to face Mellie "I need to check with our scouts. Let me know what Huck thinks the ETA for their return is."
Mellie’s smile had a sharp edge as she slipped past Fitz, not needing to say anything to show she sided with Olivia. It was a delicate balance they had struck between the three of them. As she moved, Olivia could see a flash of a the gun she kept on her side under her coat. They all had reasons to be worried, and they all took steps to deal with that.
She went in search of David next, knowing he kept on top of what the scouts reported. He would be the first to know if mercenaries were spotted and if they needed to go into lock down. When the nation had been torn apart, different sides had tried to take control, some out of greed and some out of a belief in their own superiority. Few had cared to listen to the president anymore.
As she stepped into the house, Fitz grabbed her arm. She let him pull her into an empty room. He tried to look angry, but mostly he looked scared. "We're supposed to let each other know before we go anywhere."
"I let Mellie know." Olivia's voice was soft but firm. "You were sleeping and your son kept crying because he couldn't breathe." William was a little over two and the cold had hit him hard., Tthey had very little medicine for children his age, something they needed to be correct given that Cyrus and James’s daughter was also getting sick. Children caught things easily.
Fitz looked guilty and Olivia refused to let up "You might still be the president, but you don't call the shots around here. If I’m going to be a part of this family, I have every right to do what I can to care for it."
Fitz just looked tired now, dragging a hand over hair that had been kept closely shaved. There was a scar on his head that matched the scars on his body and the new ones that had been added since that day. Olivia carried her own scars, stretching out around her abdomen. This was the world they lived in today.
"I'm sorry," he breathed out, and she let him pull her tight against him. He pressed a kiss to her forehead his voice ragged "I was worried."
He had reason to be.
Quinn had been killed the day the attack had started. She had been shoot down in the office as she had tried to hide their client. Olivia had found her body laid out on the floor and Abby looking shattered in the closet, her hand covering the mouth of the 12- year- old girl they had been trying to help find her father.
The girl had stopped looking after that; had turned into Abby's little shadow.
James had fallen apart after Cyrus had been killed. Only their daughter had kept him going. Cyrus had carried her out of their home and to the cabin with a bullet in his side, not breathing a word the entire time. He had lead a small ground that been at the White House here when the attacks had started. James had brought David and Abby, Abby’s shadow close by her side.
Every time they went out, they were taking a chance they wouldn't be able to make it back. It was a chance each and every one of them was willing to take.
"You should worry about yourself more." She pulled back, crossing her arms over her chest. She didn't need to tell him that he shouldn't go out there. Out of all of them he was in the most danger. There was a price on the head of the American president that many were eager to collect. Only the shambles the nation was in and the loyalty they found to the president in many of the people they came across kept him alive.
"I'll try to." His smile was tight, but it was a smile. He leaned forward once more to press a kiss to the corner of her lips promising "I'll be back tonight."
"We won't wait up for you," Olivia declared, and the smile stretched into a real grin.
And they wouldn't. Olivia would help Mellie make sure William was settled. She would watch as Mellie rocked her son to sleep, and they would slip out of the small nursery he shared with James's daughter, a guard at the door because it made them both sleep easier. They would fall into the bed they shared with Fitz, wrapped around each other and trying not to think about everything that had and still could be lost. Their world had ended and Olivia and Mellie had stopped fighting. There was no reason for Fitz and Olivia to stay away from each other anymore, no public that really cared because things like food and shelter had mattered more.
The relationship between Olivia and Mellie had changed as well. In ways they had grown closer than either of them were with Fitz. Olivia had held Mellie’s hand when William was born. She had turned to her when they had needed to start rebuilding. Olivia was the reason Mellie had asked Huck to teach her how to shoot. The reason Mellie carried a gun with her everywhere she went. The scars Olivia still bore from when she had refused to tell their captors that Mellie was clinging to the tree above them were a constant reminder of the risks, and of what they now meant to each other.
Fitz hadn’t had to choose between them, because they had made sure there wouldn’t be a choice. Not one that was up to him.
They wouldn't be asleep when Fitz got home, because Mellie wouldn’t be able to sleep with one of her children still out there. But once he was, Mellie would relax and Olivia would breathe easier.