[Disclaimer: I do not own the PPC, which is the property of Jay and Acacia. I also do not own World War Z, which is the property of Max Brooks. This story is NSFW due to language and explicit scenes later on. Thanks goes to Bronwyn, EllipsisFlood, VixenMage, and Guvnor for beta work!]
“Cliché as this may sound, a shot rang out.”
“That does sound pretty cliché.” Lucius grinned.
Drew scowled. “No. Lucius. Shut up. I’m trying to open up to you.”
“C’mon kid. It’s okay.” The stranger held out a hand. “It’s gone.”
Drew stared blankly at the new arrival. Splattered brain matter dripped down his face.
“Shit.” The stranger grabbed Drew by the shoulder and dragged him into a standing position. “Hey. It’s okay. It’s gone. You’re safe.”
Drew mumbled something unintelligible.
The stranger pulled him into a hug. “It’s okay. You’re safe.”
“It’s not my brains, right?”
“No. It’s from the zombie.”
Drew nodded weakly. “Good.”
“Did it... get you?”
The stranger sighed. “Good. That is very good.”
Drew pulled away. “Uhm.”
The stranger blushed slightly. “Sorry. I was kinda worried that, well, you know.”
“It’s alright. Uhm. I don’t know who you are.”
“Oh! Of course! I’m sorry.” The stranger stuck out a hand. “I’m Tom. Tom Smith.”
Drew looked at Tom’s outstretched hand, then back up at Tom. “Ah. I’m... I’m Drew. Drew Charles.” He tentatively took the hand.
Tom beamed. “Pleased to meet you! Now, what say we get out of here?”
Lucius cocked an eyebrow. “Seems like you’re toning yourself down a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“Normally you’re a lot... uh...” He made a vague gesture. “Bouncier.”
“Lucius, dear, I had just gotten brains splattered over my face after expecting to die. Pretty sure I’m allowed to not be as chipper as I normally am.”
“Fair enough. Carry on”
“C’mon, there’s a cottage up over here.”
Drew shivered. “It’s starting to get cold.”
Tom nodded. “Yeah. Looks like we’ll be out of the way enough that we won’t have to worry about zombies.”
“It’ll still be cold.”
“Wouldn’t worry too much about that. It’ll be better indoors.”
Drew nodded. “Alright. If you say so.”
Luckily, the cottage was empty. Tom poked around. “Looks like there’s some food in the cupboards.”
“Food is good.” Drew was exploring the other room. “Oh, man, there’s Monopoly under the bed!”
“Heh. Hope you like cold beans with your board games. The stove is broken.”
Drew shrugged. “Whatever. Can’t really run anything, can we?”
Tom stopped rummaging for a moment. “No, I suppose we can’t.”
“Cold beans it is!” Drew giggled. “Hey, do you think we should stay here for a while? We’re pretty close to the nearest town, and it’ll be a lot warmer later, seeing as winter’s coming up.”
Tom cocked an eyebrow. “That seems like a pretty good idea. We’ll have to go stock up on food tomorrow, though.”
“Ah. Should probably also stock up on ammunition while we’re there.” He glanced around. “Woah, hey! I found a trapdoor!”
Tom poked her head into the bedroom. “Really? Neat. What say we check it out?”
Drew raised his shotgun. “Sounds like a plan to me!”
“Let me guess. It was filled with zombies.” Lucius leaned back in his chair.
Drew shook his head. “Nah. Just booze and a couple of rather nice weapons. That’s actually where I got my machete.”
Lucius grinned. “Nice. I’m guessing you guys stayed there for a while?”
Drew nodded. “A couple of months. We made a few trips back and forth before winter set in. Got ourselves set up with a nice supply of food without much incident.”
“Why would you take shelter particularly during winter?”
“It keeps the zombies frozen.” He shrugged. “They aren’t active during the winter, so you can actually run electricity and heat without having to worry too much about ‘em.”
“Ah. Interesting. We should stick you in a freezer and see what happens.”
Drew scowled. “No. No we should not. Anyways, it wasn’t long before things got… interesting.”
It was dinner. Drew had repeatedly protested against cooking duty, citing the time he burned ice cream. As such, the task had fallen to Tom.
“I can’t wait until we get consistently sub-zero temperatures. It’ll be nice to cook warm food for a change.”
Drew raised an eyebrow. “When we do get consistently sub-zero temperatures, I’ll be sure to make Mortal Kombat jokes.”
“And I will be sure to punch you in the face. Here, I’ve used the last of the fresh tomatoes for this.” Tom set the plates on the table. “Although, at this point, they’re not really fresh.”
Drew shrugged. “Food is food.”
Tom snickered. “Your keen observations never fail to amaze. Now shut up and eat.”
The pair ate in silence for a while. Eventually, Drew broke it.
“I’ve been wondering about something for a while. I know this is probably going to come off as really insensitive, and I’m sorry for that, but…” He paused, and bit his lip.
Tom cocked an eyebrow. “Spit it out, mate! I promise not to be too pissed off.”
Drew nodded. “Tom… it’s not exactly a girl’s name, is it?”
Tom sighed. “No. No, it’s not.” She sighed again. “Despite all outward appearances, I am not a girl.”
Drew looked confused. “So, you’re…”
Tom nodded. “Trans, yes.” He raised an eyebrow. “You… you aren’t put off by that, are you?”
Drew nodded. “Of course not! Just a bit… surprising, I guess.”
“Heh. I’d imagine so.” He continued eating.
“So, was this before or after you developed a one-way thing with Tom?”
“After. Which isn’t to say this stopped it from being a thing.” He grinned. “Also, it wasn’t… well. Yeah. We’ll get to that.”
“Eventually?” Lucius stared pointedly at his friend.
“Look, I never said it was going to be a short story.”
“Hey, it’s time to get up, sleepy-head.” Tom poked Drew sharply.
“Mmf. Still dark.” Drew rolled over.
“We’ve got company coming through. Don’t think they’ve noticed us, but still. I propose we deal with them.”
Drew was suddenly very awake. “Well, why the hell didn’t you say so?”
Tom grinned. “That’s the spirit.” He shouldered his gun. “What say we try out that machete we found, shall we?”
A quarter hour later, the duo found their answer. Drew looked mildly shell-shocked. “That… that could’ve gone better.”
Tom looked equally shaken. “I’m sorry. That was an absolutely terrible idea. You’ve never handled a machete before, have you?”
Drew shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, mate!” Tom put a hand on his friend’s back. “C’mon. Let’s eat some breakfast.”
Breakfast was a quiet affair. Tom kept an eye on Drew as they ate. “Hey.”
Drew didn’t look up.
“C’mon. There was some training equipment in the basement, if I recall correctly. You can train over the winter!”
Drew nodded absent-mindedly. “I’m sorry.”
“Drew. It’s not your fault.” Tom stared pointedly at his friend. “C’mon, man. Much as I hate to say it, I’ve grown fond of your incessant bubbliness.”
“I’m holding you back. You should just leave me here once winter ends.”
“No.” Tom stood up angrily. “No fucking way. I am not leaving you here to fend for yourself. You’re the only friend I have in the world right now, and there is no fucking way I’m going to let you die.”
Drew glanced up briefly. “Fuck, you just said it yourself! Without you, I’m not able to fend for myself. I’m not able to fend off the ravening hordes outside or anything. I’m completely fucked once you leave.”
Tom slumped back in his chair. He glanced at Drew, his face a combination of frustration and disgust. “Drew. I care about you. I know that you’re pissed about what happened, but it’s not a big deal! You had one fight with a weapon you have absolutely no experience with, and you’re freaking out!”
Now Drew stood up. “Not a big deal? Tom, I almost got both of us killed! How can you not be pissed off? Shit, you should be more pissed off than I am!”
Tom’s jaw dropped. “You...” He put his head in his hands. “No. Really, I’m the one who nearly got us both killed. I thought that maybe it would be fun for you to try out your new weapon against a couple of zeds, and that was stupid of me.” He raised his head again. Tears were starting to form in the corners of his eyes. “Drew, be honest with me. How much of this has to do with what you found out last night?”
Drew froze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Tom snorted. “Don’t give me that. Answer the question.”
Drew wandered over to the other end of the room, and sat down on the couch. “A lot. I’m sorry.”
Tom nodded, and walked over to sit next to his friend.
“Tom, I…” Drew hiccupped, clearly trying to hold back tears.
“I know.” Tom hugged his friend. “It’s okay.”
“I never told Tom how I felt about him. He knew, but I never told him.”
Lucius scratched his chin. “I don’t know if you know this, but you’re actually really bad at hiding your feelings.”
Drew curled up in his chair, giving himself a half-hearted spin. “Yeah. I know.” He sniffed.
“Do you need to take a break?” Lucius looked at his friend.
Drew shook his head. “No. I’ll keep going.”
The snow started later that week. It was mid-December now, and the temperature was low enough for zombies to no longer be a threat. As such, Drew and Tom had turned on the heat and electricity in the house. Fortunately for them, the cottage seemed to be mostly solar-powered, in addition to geo-thermic heating.
“You know, I think we picked some pretty nice digs!”
Drew grinned. “Yeah. You really know how to pick ‘em, mate!”
Tom grinned back. “Damn right!” He chuckled. “Just for future reference, your feet are incredibly cold. I’d really appreciate it if you kept them away from me at night.”
“Yeah, well, maybe if somebody didn’t take the flannel pajamas, I wouldn’t be so cold!”
Tom laughed. “Well, you should pay more attention to what we take, then!” He punched Drew on the shoulder. “Hey, what say we take a break from practicing and stuff tonight? Use up some of the cellar?”
“I am totally in favour of this idea!”
“Can you hold your alcohol?”
Drew giggled. “I have absolutely no idea!”
Tom blinked. “Drew?”
“Just out of curiosity, how old are you?”
Drew leaned back in his chair. “Just turned eighteen a month ago. How ‘bout you?”
Tom shrugged. “I’ve got six years on you.”
“Heh. Y’know, I’ve never really drank before.”
“Nohshit!” Drew fell out of his chair. “Seventeen years, and I still haven’t figured out that leaning that far back is a bad idea.”
Tom grinned widely. “Well, if it’s your first time drinking heavily, you’ve got more than enough mistakes to make tonight, mate!”
“I’m guessing that proved oddly prophetic.” Lucius cocked an eyebrow.
Drew sniffed again. “Man, you have no idea.” He grinned weakly. “I guess I’d better get to that.”
It was much later now. A half dozen empty beer bottles littered the kitchen table. The pair sat next to each other on the couch. Tom was pouring each of them a shot of whisky. Drew downed his and blinked rapidly.
“I think I like whisky.” He giggled, and poured himself another shot.
“Watch yourself, mate. Crown’s strong stuff.” Tom downed his shot, and glanced at the bottle. “I’m more of a rum man myself.”
“Ooh. We should try some of that.”
Tom giggled. “We are going to be so hung-over.”
An hour later, and half the bottle of whisky had disappeared. Some of the rum had worked its way into the glasses as well.
Tom giggled. “Hey, Neo, how’re you doing?”
Drew stood up, and made several generic martial arts motions before falling over. “I know drunk-fu!”
“You are learning well, young grasshopper!” Tom pounced on his friend. “But can your drunk-fu top my inebriated kickboxing?”
The pair wrestled for a bit, before Drew conceded defeat. “I think... I think I need to go to bed.”
Tom pouted. “Aw. You’re no fun.” He let his friend up. “I’ll probably join you soon. I’m going to finish off this beer.
Drew was half asleep by the time Tom came in.
“Hey, Drunky McDrew, you still awake?”
Drew raised his head. “Yeah. You coming to bed?”
Tom giggled. “Yeah.” He crawled into bed beside his friend. “Drew?”
“Just how awake are you?”
Drew blinked. “More awake than when I left you.”
“You’re a virgin, right?”
He sat up. “Tom, what the hell are you getting at?”
“I think you know.”
“I know.” Lucius coughed. “It went there, didn’t it?”
Drew nodded. He was starting to tear up. “Yeah. I don’t remember much after he said that, but, well… it happened.”
“Ah.” Lucius reached over to his friend. “You don’t have to keep going if you don’t want to.”
“There’s… there’s just a bit more to this bit.”
Lucius patted his partner on the knee. “Alright.”
Tom sat next to Drew on the couch. “Hey.”
“Mm.” Drew was sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest.
“I’m…” He grimaced. “Hung-over.”
Tom nodded. “I am too.” He bit his lip. “How much do you remember from after you went to bed?”
“We had sex. Not much more to remember than that, is there?”
“No. I guess there isn’t.”
They sat in silence for several minutes.
“I… I guess I’ll go make breakfast now.” Tom shuffled over to the stove.
Drew looked up. “Tom?”
“Did…” He sniffed. “Did we make a mistake?”
Tom stopped. “I… Probably. It’s going to be awkward for a long time after this.” He sat down on the counter and faced his friend. “Something’s changed. Even though that was a one-time thing, something changed.” He swallowed. “But we’ll get through it.”
Drew nodded miserably. “Yeah. I guess we will.”
“And… you did, right?”
Drew sniffed. “Yeah. It did take a while. But we did.” He hugged his knees to his chest. “I loved him. But he didn’t love me. Most of the awkwardness was probably from me not realising that.”
Lucius hugged his friend. “You still love him.”
“Yeah.” Drew sniffed again, and then began to sob. “Sometimes, I wish things could’ve been different. I wish he had loved me. I wish… I wish it had been me instead of him.”
Lucius nodded. “That’s how it tends to go.”
Lucius chuckled. “Yeah. It does.”