Title: Twenty Eight Days Later
Author: Serpentis lord_alexander
Summary: When London's water supply is poisoned, the world ends in a shuffle of the living Dead and only the quickest witted survive. It's easier to hole up in a grubby flat with a man from Sheffield that he hates than fleeing, but at least Andy's got some hope of survival.
Disclaimer: Nope. If I did, I'd be richer.
Feedback: is something akin to an AK:47 against a bunch of Zombies. Fire at will.
Author's Notes: Right, this isn't a nice fic, I warn you now. There's violence and death and the Undead, with graphic images. If I had to think of something to compare it to it would be a bastard child of Stephen King, Day of the Triffids, and 28 Days Later. If this sounds familiar, or the notes do, this is because this is the sister piece to Deathwatch, the Monaboyd zombie fic. I've also seen 28 Days Later now, very good, enjoyable. Who'd have thought that of Dr Who, hmmm?
Like that fic this one isn't happy. Not happy at all. Consider yourselves warned.
This is for sunsetmog who wanted Serkisbean, rugby, beer, and mud. She got a few added undead thrown in for the ride.
The first sign he had, that something was amiss, was a single rifle shot into the darkness.
Andy had been asleep for twenty seven minutes, arms wrapped about a pillow as if to mimic the torso of the wife he adored but had lost two years before. In the interim he'd moved into a small flat somewhere in Camden, where he'd painted the lounge burnt umber and had ripped the carpets up to expose scuffed floorboards. It was his own precious space, a pride of Georgian brick terracing looking over the railway lines that were shaded with lime trees and flaking London planes. The arrangement of this, of seeing his children each weekend - they lived with their grandparents, Lorraine's mother and father, in Surrey - and of slowly rebuilding his life after the terrible passing of the woman he loved gave him a grim satisfaction of rebirth.
But then there was a shot in the dark, like a needle through a skull.
He awoke sweating lightly, the red neon flash of the alarm clock telling him it was 2:27am. At first there was the slow curl of thoughts of the ridiculous, of how that had been a car backfire or something happening on the Tube line, but he knew, he knew. Out of bed, no time for clothes, out onto the flat roof balcony that looked towards the High street.
His neighbour had a gun, the blond was smoking a cigarette and taking pot-shots at the people below.
Andy's fingers tensed and waited for the retort that would signify his own demise. A matter of time. The blond was deranged, with that casual flick of his wrist so matter-of-fact as people lay dead in the street. A scream bubbled, lava-heat in Andy's chest before the other noticed the Londoner staring pale and wordless. There was a calm, like hurricane eyes, in the moment where terrified pale blue met down-to-earth Baltic green. There was no affect from the slaughter, no guilt. As if Sean did this every day for a living, gunning down human life in a slightly grubby street in a London suburb.
"Infected," muttered Sean, shouldering the rifle and sending a bullet through the brain of a stumbling man.
"What the fuck...?"
The blond had a sneering smile and Andy hated him in that instant. A sneer, and he'd been killing people. A smirk of it, fingers itched to claw at the faint lines under Sean's eyes, make him bleed. Bastard. Freakish, sadistic murdering bastard. "Go in, Andy, put your telly on and then come out and fuckin' tell me that I should stop." Another echo of gunfire. There were others, if listening was needed, throbbing up from King's Cross and Mornington Crescent. "And don't drink the water."
Sickness. Stumbling into his flat, the orange of the walls oppressive and Andy dry-heaved over the kitchen sink for a full five minutes before he felt he could move without vomiting.
The blood had been black, bitumen of death.
The telly was switched on easily enough, a quick press of fingers on rubber buttons before he dropped the control onto the Javanese wooden coffee table. Present from the in-laws, third wedding anniversary. Lorraine and the two children, young and innocent and she not dead, glassily glinted in a photograph frame. It was all so familiar, so normal. There was the slightly shrunken cactus, on the floor were a pair of battered Doc Martens, the settee was supple brown leather that stuck to clammy skin. Only then did Andy remember he was naked, flesh almost hissing against the hide. But then what did it matter? Really? Not when...
There were few television channels left; the BBC was operating to some extent, ITV not at all. Sky still flickered, but the signal seemed weak, as if damaged. At first Andy, who was staring at the screen as he flicked through the Sky Digital news channels while his smile grew more and more forced, wondered at nuclear war. It had to be because what else could it be? Easy enough. Someone got trigger happy? The North Koreans? Pakistan? Some insane world power with a lust for death.
But then don't drink the water.
Suddenly thirsty he wondered about tea - water was purified when boiled. Wasn't it? Don't drink the water.
Sicker then, that bile in his throat like hydrochloric. The thought of a lead projectile slamming into his guts was too much. There was beer, there was always beer. Beer, and cigarettes, and he lit one with a trembling hand, popping open then can of Stella Artois with his other, gulping down the fizzing lager until it was pouring down his chin and he was almost vomiting with needing to belch.
The bullets in their heads, through pale foreheads, or darker skinned, multicultural slaughter of the northerner who lived next door. So ridiculous, really, all those differences ending in the black ooze of blood in the orange and black London night. Blackness, and death, and that rifle that gleamed wood and steel in Sean's large, capable hands.
Andy didn't startle even though the tension in his face was hinting he would, for the voice was too particular to be an intruder or one of Them.
Over the balcony, and in that one fell swoop Sean and Andy had widened their relationship. They nodded in acquaintance if passing, said hello, but now there was a blond man in jeans and tee shirt on Andy's settee, flicking through the channels almost compulsively as the owner of the television chain-smoked. He'd bought back two hundred duty free from holiday, the tan still rich on his arms and face, this was only the second packet. Same with the spirits - booze runs to France were something useful.
Sean looked slightly understanding. "I've got them too, we just got to hope..."
"Infection, it looks like it's fluid-based, don't let them get near enough to bleed on you, and you don't drink the water. It's in the system, it's all over the place..."
The BBC political correspondent Andrew Marr, harassed and white faced, was addressing the camera "...advised to barricade themselves, with water and food. The infection isn't long term, we are told to stress that quarantining is an advisable method of controlling the spread..."
"This flat's more secure than mine."
Andy nodded, mute. "I got supplies mate, if you got more stuff..."
He still hated him for the ease of killing; no man should have that ability. Even if they were whatever they were, sick and devouring flesh and spreading that hideous illness, they weren't just living cadavers of infection. They'd been human once, and Sean, treating them like cattle with CJD? One bullet, through each head, destroying the brain to destroy the hunger? They were human when dead, they were still people.
That night they hardly slept, not until the slow dull rust of daybreak. The sunrise was less spectacular now there wasn't that endless smogging pollution cloud, that there was no rush hour pumping out exhaust fumes or burning for electricity. The BBC was lost at 5.23am, Carlton held out until 10.56. They ended up chasing channels, retuning, trying to find Granada, then Border, finally Grampian being lost at 19.04 the next evening. When they all died and there was nothing else, the radio was switched on to a hissing static. French channels were distant, a crackle of nothing understandable even with a battered dictionary. They knew too little of the language, were too slow even with Andy trying to write down what was being said.
Andy phoned everyone he knew and there was nothing. He kept trying though, stolidly, obsessively, hunched over the phone, the same Surrey number punched in over and over while the ringing blared out. The house had to be empty, they'd have fled, of course they'd have fled. Everyone was safe, just away from the telephone.
Mobiles rang unanswered, and on the fourth day, after the electricity had died, they rang no more.
In those few days it was Andy, surprisingly, who held things together with the silken thread of his sanity. Sean slowly, before his eyes, turned half-feral. Sleep didn't come, he grew gaunt as that bravado of shooting slowly wore into a fevered distemper of cabin-fever. He took to pacing the balcony half-naked, the faint glimmer of moonlight sparking from his eyes. Eyes that saw Andy, and the rooms they were confined to, and nothing else. Using no water meant a lack of basic sanitation, the stench in the flat appalling but something that was grown used to. The bucket was emptied out of the bathroom window and the sickly stink of bleach permeated with piss and shit to make the stifling heat of a London summer even more unbearable. Perishable food had been gorged on, Andy careful enough to discard aged goods and preventing some sort of poisoning. Sean would have eaten anything, he knew that, as the agonised madness of a caged lion didn't distinguish between rotten and fresh. He used sleeping tablets that had been given to him long before, when Lorraine died, to make the other pass out eventually. Whisky helped, thank fuck they had such a stock of beer. There was the gun, too.
Not used often, the sound attracted them, but the two men were relatively unmolested.
Andy found himself naked on the tiny patio, staring at stars that seemed so much nearer and brighter without London's constant glare of light, sobbing for a cup of tea.
There had been a storm, and to the south something was burning. The rain was slowly dousing the conflagration to a slow smoking horror but he didn't care about someone's property catching alight. Who cared when there was rain, water sliding down his skin, he'd stripped off for this and was watching the fat drops thud against his naked belly and shatter into droplets. Pots and pans covered every surface, he drank from a small cup, the kettle was crying out to be filled and boiled. No milk, but sugar and tea bags and thank God for the rain. Thank God for gas hobs on cookers - a least they could eat a hot meal and boil the water.
He was crying again.
It was too difficult, this. Isolation with a man who was slowly becoming more unhinged, one who carried that bloody rifle wherever he moved like a comforter, who was either drunk or asleep or both, or on tablets, or on this balcony shooting passers by. At some point Sean had been tragically wrong with his obsessive vengeance, the person too fleshed and alive and human, but he'd gunned her down before realising. Andy, numb, had taken the weapon away and pushed Sean into the dark little bedroom, had stripped him down and forced him into bed through brute strength - the northerner bewildered at the way the death throes, of seeing a real person die and not one of those creatures - before they'd both fallen asleep clinging to each other.
Sean was...hated, yes. There was still that light of arrogance and that flick of the wrist after he'd pulled the trigger. But Sean, muddled and slowly going crazy Sean, was pitied.
Sean took a saucepan, paused, then disappeared into the flat.
Ten minutes later Andy had a mug of tea pressed into his hands and was led inside, wrapped in a blanket.
That odd recovery, that madness that had broken with the storm that had broken the heat. Andy never quite understood, and he didn't wish too. Sean's obvious embarrassment was tempered with the slight cooling of their regard. No more falling into bed together, no more of the man sobbing on Andy's chest as he stroked that dark blond hair. Sometimes there was the sharp knowledge of being stared at, but when he looked Sean was concentrating on other things, anything else, things that were not Andy-shaped.
Without electricity they tended to sleep at dusk and wake at dawn, body clocks mimicking ancient practices that were around before the concept of time. Darkness was danger, and danger was death. That was the pattern, and they avoided drawing attention to themselves. It was inevitable that there would be some brushes with those who walked the streets of this deserted London, but they were few and far between now. Hunger, Sean had rationalised, must have driven them further a field.
"What time is it?"
Andy looked at his watch.
"Eightish. Bed time?" Though they didn't touch in sleep now they utilised the comfortable king-sized bed. Sometimes Andy would turn over, watch Sean dozing. Granite chin, softened by age and the junk food keeping them alive, the plains of his cheeks and faintly aquiline nose, the tangled sandy hair and lashes laying dark on too-pale flesh. Both of them were turning that strange whiteness of those never in the sun, preferring the safety of the sitting room to the tiny patio. Any semblance of a tan on Andy's well-formed biceps was a distant memory. Sometimes, only sometimes within the sometimes of watching Sean asleep, Andy thought him handsome. Not in that obvious way, not someone spectacular, but in that dependable and faintly old-fashioned way. Soldierish. He found that even the soft mound of Sean's stomach, where he'd expanded with lack of exercise and too many calories, was oddly attractive.
Always Andy turned over to sleep, quelling those thoughts with the rationale of being so intensely lonely that anyone would have looked attractive to him, even Margaret Thatcher. And on that thought, libido flagging back to that underlying buzz of wanting some contact with someone, the man would fall into a troubled sleep.
They were naked in the rain, drinking beer, gardening, and talking of rugby.
Clothes had long been abandoned as useless. Showers taken during downpours where soap was frantically applied before the clouds drifted towards the east. At least there was some hygiene. They'd taken to urinating off the balcony and not giving a flying fuck about the neighbour below's begonias. Of everyone who had been infected Andy prayed that the bastard had been one of the first, or at least when he'd gone out to complain of trespassers they'd have devoured him there and then. Not that he disliked the man, but there had been a dispute about maintaining hallways and Andy, mild-mannered and perfectly amiable, had seized the standard of the righteous and had taken the man to court. There was a lack of civility from that day forth.
Sean wiped his hand across his forehead to stop moisture trailing down his nose, and for the seventh time that day Andy wondered how he'd never seen the sexuality and attraction of the man before.
Muddy, and filthy, and tattoos gleaming. One was a football related one, the other something pretentious from Lord of the Rings - Sean was a fanatic. Andy'd been shocked that he could read, at first. Men who shot, men who had football teams tattooed on their shoulders; they shouldn't like fantasy. But then Sean was an enigma, who spoke of nothing when everything was known about Andy. That was their essential difference. Chatterbox London versus taciturn Sheffield. It set them apart, like their different colouring and ways they took their tea.
That dark blond hair was reduced to a dripping wet dark honey as the joys of Johnny Wilkinson poured mead-rich from the northerner's sneering mouth.
This was so normal, this was why it had been suggested and agreed on. Fine, the pots on the little balcony didn't need to be dug, they didn't have to remove the few weeds, but it was so very perfectly usual that they'd both jumped at the chance. The beer helped, oiling them well, Sean more tactile than usual though those glances - they'd been there for two weeks now - were still being picked up by Andy. He was at a loss for their meaning. Green eyes staring, nothing unusual. Green eyes, and that cool smile, before flickering away at the very moment he was noticed.
Sean talked less when drunk, but Andy more, babbling about the children and Lorraine and her death. Sometimes Andy wondered if he was boring the other, turned the conversation to the silent man to have a say, but Sean would switch it back to the other court and Andy would speak again.
Andy scratched his leg, leaving a long smear of dirt down one strong calf-muscle.
Masculine activities; getting drunk and gardening and talking of sports.
That morning Andy had instituted a harsher ration scheme. One beer a day though the whisky was still unlimited, one meal a day, conserve energy. They were down to basics; there was nothing more. Every cigarette was smoked like the last they'd ever have, every sip of alcohol and bite of food was savoured. The lack of sustenance meant that they both were rather drunk on that one Stella and the whisky they were drinking from the bottle. It was almost like kissing, Andy thought with a strange, pallid smile, sharing saliva on the glass neck. What would it be like to kiss that sneering mouth?
The homosexual thoughts weren't too much of a surprise; Sean was there, they'd slowly worked out their differences, they were touching and hugging more in this giggling drunkenness. Andy was an intelligent man, he was aware that situations like this brought out certain ideas that would not be entertained without such extraordinary circumstances.
It was while they were arguing good-naturedly about who the best outside-half in Britain was that Andy found himself being kissed, softly, Sean's eyes wide and green and apologetic and filled with an inner heat that shattered his Baltic coolness. The man was broad and heavy, stomach soft against the flatness of Andy's own, and his mouth tasted of whisky, earth, and the need to forget for a little moment of time.
It was no one's fault, not Sean's or Andy's, but when the zombie smelled the slight tang of semen and fresh human blood...?
In hours they were at war.
Sean shot them, Andy tried his best to stem the tide. The stairwell was barricaded, that beautiful Javanese coffee table splintering as he made a wedge of it between the steps and the battered door. It didn't matter, not now, when the ringing of rifle shots were slashing images of black blood in his head. At least it was still day; night would be another matter. There was a fire escape from Sean's balcony to the ground. Climb that, over the small railings separating the patios, then straight through those glass doors. The idea was to shoot them, kill them, drown whatever the two of them had given out, whatever pheromone, with the rotted stench of dead carcasses.
The blond was like a machine, firing, shot almost always accurate, re-loading. Firing. Killing. Reloading. He’d been in the army, that had come out, so obvious that the Londoner was half-kicking himself for not realising. The recoil had battered his shoulder into purple and midnight bruising, Andy silent and white as they heard the clamouring of the infected ones that were surrounding the building to the rear and front. Gaunt Sean, who'd lost that weight as rations dwindled, almost bony like Andy now. The flesh had almost melted from them both.
However they viewed this, there was one outcome.
Andy slid to his knees next to Sean, asking the man to keep two bullets safe, just in case. A pause, It felt like a thousand years. A thousand years and then awakened with a kiss to Sean's forehead and a soft whisper of something approaching love into his ear.
It was twenty eight days after that first kiss.
It never let up, not that day, or into the evening, not even when the sun was slowly turning golden liquid behind the terraces towards the west. There were lulls, where they almost made love again; Sean and Andy clinging tightly together, eyes never leaving the long rippled-glass panes of the patio doors. It had come too late for them to realise that penetration should never have been filled with rough longing, and while the white-scent of semen could be ignored there had been blood...
He didn't need to speak, that handful of bullets enough to show that there wasn't ammunition to last the night.
Silently Andy stretched, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Sean? Can you go grab me a jersey from the wardrobe. There's a blue fleece one there, I'll keep an eye..."
The blond clambered to his feet; it was Andy's watch, after all, but as he reached the door of the bedroom Andy was speaking to him.
"Be careful. I'll always look after you, yeah?"
A calm and faintly embarrassed smile because that was something rather too protective, gorgeous but protective towards someone bigger and taller than Andy, and Sean slipped into the bedroom to find that jersey. Not on the top shelf. Not on the middle. Grumbling to himself, he bit his lip and thought of the man in the next room. The messy dark hair, the terrible stubble, that closed-mouth grin and pale eyes that showed every expression. Andy was special, after all. If Sean had been him he'd have shot himself during his strange madness, not protected him.
Sean decided that when he found this jumper, he was going to go in there and tell Andy that he was almost in love with him.
There was no blue fleece jumper. Andy closed the patio doors behind him and peered over the edge of the balcony. Below there were seven, eight of Them, more even, too many for those few bullets.
The decision came easily, and he hit the pavement running after scrambling down the fire escape, the carving knife he was carrying already streaming with his own blood. Wrists cut from elbow to the bracelet, redness flowing down his hands and making the knife sticky. This was the only way. This was all he could do, now, because it was a chance that Sean needed. A few days grace, of survival. Lead them away and then maybe...?
The scent boiled over them in a wave of copper and salt, and they stared.
He hit the ground running. It was almost one hundred yards before they finally took him down.