The car is terrible, it’s the only thing left of the family he once had. It sputters and the brakes are too loud and whiney, but Carson handles it like the car’s a dream. Jeremy has been in the back for who knows how long, his back is aching for sleeping on their provisions and gear that is overflowing from the back. He can’t wait to switch into the passenger seat again, letting Alex get some rest after escaping the emotionally demanding events that happened back on their college campus. The landscapes they have passed have been desolate and destroyed. It was Carson and Alex’s idea to head back to their hometown, some sort of safety bunker that was near their old house. Jeremy hadn’t paid attention, too much scared of the shit going down outside his off-campus apartment. Carson slows down the car, a gas station being on the outside of the car. It’s grimy and abandoned, but there must be some oil that can be siphoned out of some of the left-over cars or the gas pumps. Carson brakes the car at one of the terminals, letting out a sigh and getting out. Jeremy shimmies to the right-side door, opening it and slipping past the backpacks and putting his foot on the concrete.
Outside of the car is sleepy, the trees are swaying in the tired wind and the sun is lazing around the horizon line. It’s all so foreign to Jeremy, being that he spends most of his time inside rooms lighted with fluorescent bulbs and constant blue light from the screens. The last time he has seen a sunset was, it was a long time ago. Alex joins him in a raid of the small convenience store adjoined to the gas station. It’s mainly empty besides half empty first aid kits, some hidden shelves of the pharmaceutical medicines that is usually not over the counter. Jeremy grabs bottles of most of the unexpired painkillers, hoping to alleviate some of the headaches that Alex has been experiencing since the trip out. There are some cans of peaches in the back, with some other canned goods that the owner seemed to be keeping for themselves. The register was laying open on the floor, but the need for money was long gone since most of the country seems to be going haywire. There is a small box of alcohol stashed in an upside-down crate, Alex picks some of it up and smiles. “Wanna have some fun, Jeremy?” The bottle is full of a clear brown liquid and smells horrendous, Alex slips the bottle and a couple others into a plastic bag that is still on a till. She slings it over her shoulder, adjusting the tank-top strap and ushering the falling side of her army jacket back up to the base of her neck.
Carson takes the news of alcohol very lightly, laughing it off and telling his cousin to get in the back, he doesn’t feel tired yet. Jeremy smiles at Carson as he slips into the passenger seat, holding out the small pack of Gatorade chews, hoping that even if they are expired that they can give Carson energy. Carson smiles at him, taking them and placing them in one of the cupholders, moving his hands onto the wheel. “You ready you nerds?” Carson asks, smirking and looking at Jeremy and then Alex. Jeremy’s heart beats fast and nods his head, looking away from Carson and out at the landscape. There isn’t any radio but the only tapes of white noise plays quietly in the background. Carson drums his fingers on the wheel, continuing down the long road, taking some of the chews and continuing to drive. The orange sun is shining in past the slightly tinted windows. It’s in Jeremy’s eyes, he lifts one of his hands to shield his eyes from the light.
It was a bad idea for his heart, because now the light is outlining Carson, making his edges soft and fuzzy. The always half-set smile is sitting on his face, his eyes strictly paying attention to the road. If they were together right now he would smile and lean towards him, resting on the unused arm. Sadly, he can’t, they had decided a month ago to end what they had, continuing to be mutual friends through Alex. It was hard to express what Carson makes Jeremy feel, it’s always so intense and vivid and beautiful. The fights were always nonsense compared to what they had when together, it was always lazy days and studying and holding each other during some dumb horror movie that one of Carson’s house-mates had suggested. They would sit in a lounge area for hours, talking about whatever they wanted, planning road-trips and vacations and places they could live together. Jeremy would lay in his lap, nuzzling into Carson’s neck, letting Carson slip and arm around his waist. Most of their shared friend group would comment that they are almost the same person, Jeremy would laugh it off and continue to hold Carson’s hand. Carson would usually make a joke about it not being so bad if he would be one being with Jeremy.
The memories pierce his heart as he realizes that he is staring at Carson, not in a platonic way. He looks away, hoping that Carson didn’t realize that Jeremy was looking at him. The landscape is darker now, the sun completely disappearing over the horizon line and leaving Jeremy and Carson awake in a car while the rest of the world is unconscious around them. Alex lightly snores in the back, wounding around herself in the small fuzzy blanket she finally got out of one of the packs in the back. The low sound of crashing ocean waves makes the grassy fields that pass by look odd. Jeremy unties his shoes, slipping his feet up to the seat, crossing his legs and lifting his glasses up onto the curly mop that is his hair.
Carson pops the last Gatorade chew into his mouth and flinches slightly at the chalky taste, not even believing that he’s been getting his energy from the little packs of bullshit. Jeremy is looking out the window, seeing the blurs of fluorescent bugs that are still up for mating even after the bullshit that’s been going on. Carson slips a look at Jeremy, feeling a smile work it’s way to his lip as Jeremy’s eyes lull over the outside of the car. Jeremy gives him a warm feeling, he always does. It’s a disgusting mixture of hope and whatever the fuck the rest of it is. His brain can’t play attention to Jeremy right now, he can’t, he has to make sure he drives down the right road that leads to the correct exit towards other exits that go into another state, a state closer to a couple other states that are closer to their destination. They could’ve taken anyone, chosen any one of their friends to come along, but Carson felt that it would be wrong if they left Jeremy behind. It’s just, an unspoken thing, to take Jeremy and protect him at all costs. He can’t even think of if they left him behind, he wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing that he left his softy of an on-and-off boyfriend to fend for himself. Seeing Jeremy still breathing, alive and pink, with his squeaky voice and his completely indecipherable technology speak, is so good that Carson can’t even begin to comprehend it.
Jeremy slips his glasses back on, ruffling his already messy hair and looks at Carson. Carson is in the middle of yawning, the little sound he makes is like a kitten, Jeremy’s heart doing arial flips. “Do you need to switch?” Jeremy asks, hoping he gets a yes so he can let the relatives sleep, they rarely get sleep in a somewhat normal reality. Carson closes his eyes slowly, mulling over his options, he opens his eyes again. “Yeah.”
He slows the car and lets Jeremy get in the driver’s seat, adjusting the seat and slowly starting the car again, going down the cracked road the best he can. He passed a sign stating the next exit, and where it leads off to, it slowly approaches and he shifts the path, riding into the exit and riding another long and abandoned road in the middle of the forest. Carson is leaning against the window, breathing slowly and getting some rest. It’s good, the tape popping out of the player, Jeremy quickly replacing it. The new tape is a mixtape, probably something his dad had given his mom, the songs being lovey-dovey romantic pop bullshit that is the most heteronormative crap you could ever hear. He lets out a giggle as one of the songs starts up, the teen pop idol is trying to be sensual and completely failing. The next song isn’t as bad, he silently sings along, looking at the tired world around him. The moon is high in the sky now, the stars glimmering along with happiness, even though everything below them is falling apart.
Carson isn’t asleep, once he wasn’t driving he couldn’t feel himself as tired as he was before. His heart feels warm when Jeremy starts to sing, it’s been too long since any of them talked. Jeremy’s voice is always squeaky and higher pitched than some other guys that Carson has met, but it’s soothing. Jeremy’s voice deepens slightly when he hums, showing his lack of pitch but his passion for imitating the song. Carson lets himself fall into Jeremy’s voice, hoping the rest of the trip is this nice. The tiredness finally kicks in, the last of the energy chews wearing off and sending him into a small amount of sleep.
Carson wakes up in the middle of a forested road, the car stopped and Jeremy pacing around outside, looking like he is about to cry. Carson unbuckles his seatbelt, opening his door and swaggering over to Jeremy. He feels like he should walk over and kiss his cheek, wrapping himself around Jeremy until the anxiety is no longer like electricity in the air. Jeremy realizes Carson is exiting out of the car, flinching and holding himself like a child that was entered on in the wrong moment. Carson takes a breath, “Jere, you alright?” Jeremy looks away and scratches his arm. “I–I…the car uh–I don’t know w-what to do.” Carson opens his arms, making it clear that he is here to help Jeremy, not yell at him. Jeremy in inches his way into Carson’s arms, letting Carson’s warmth take over his anxiety and letting him return to rationality. The nocturnal life around them is thriving, owls hooting and crickets rubbing their legs together in chirps. The moon is still shining bright in the sky, illuminating Jeremy and Carson. Jeremy’s breathing calms down, squeezing Carson one more time before releasing him and looking away, rubbing his arm. “I can look at the car and we’ll figure it out from there?” Carson suggests, hoping Jeremy agrees, hoping it can be just the two of them for a small while. “A–Alright.” Jeremy smiles, wiping his hands on his cargo shorts, the moonlight creating a stark contrast on his skin.
Carson looks at the car’s hood, looking at the parts with the small amount of car information he has. He can’t tell what’s wrong in this light, they’ll have to wait until day. He gives the news to Jeremy with a somber expression, ideas formulating in his head what to do with the time. They sit in the car, hoping to stay a little bit warm without the cars heat. “I have an idea.” Carson says, twisting his body to get something from the back, coming back with one of the alcohol bottles. He waves it and smiles mischievously at Jeremy. “You’re not seriously going to—” Jeremy says, the anxiety prominent in his voice. Carson opens the bottle and takes a swig. “Y–You’re serious.” Jeremy whispers, laying his head back into the headrest. Carson smirks, holding the bottle in Jeremy’s direction. “Carson,” Jeremy whines, looking at him with an unreadable expression. Carson loves when Jeremy drags his name out like that, makes him feel like nothing has changed.
Jeremy is cuddled into Carson in the driver’s seat, their conversation is quiet and loopy. The alcohol is half empty and long forgotten in the cupholder. Alex is still snoring away in the back, leaving Carson and Jeremy to their drunk conversation.
Carson couldn’t be happier in the moment of inebriation, holding Jeremy the closest he can. It's warm; really, really warm. Jeremy is like an incubator, comforting and a consistent homely temperature. Carson's chin is resting on top of Jeremy's head, holding him in place. Jeremy is half asleep, his mouth open as he laboriously breathes. Carson moves away slowly, looking down at Jeremy's face, smiling to himself. He moves his hand onto the shorter man's cheek, rubbing his thumb over the light acne scars that are resting on the lower part of his cheeks, he remembers the first time he saw Jeremy. It was one of the first days of the failed job at the computer store, he was only there because they needed somebody with muscle to lift the boxes from the trucks and help customers who need the heavier pieces of machinery. It was boring, mostly, Alex would come and visit while she looked at random bits and pieces. Jeremy had come in a couple months into the job, looking around for USBs and backup drives, the store had been completely re-organized and Carson wanted to help the boy looking like he was going to break down in the middle of the microphones. Jeremy had smiled so hard when Carson led him to the pieces he needed, Carson had a mini heart attack and was completely questioning the feelings he was currently harboring.
He hadn't even learned Jeremy's name and he was somehow smitten, hoping to see Jeremy more. He didn't, Jeremy barely made it to the store and when he did he was only picking up more USBs and hard drives. Whatever job Jeremy had required a lot of memory devices, which Carson had no idea which that would be, but he couldn't complain when Jeremy would come into the store. Then he found out that Alex is 'friends' with him and they share a required course, she told him that the boy is quiet and jittery. He is apparently working on a project that his professor is running, getting job experience before he goes into the "field of non-existent job opportunities" to quote Alex directly. Everything after that was a blur of happiness and fights, jokes he made to hide his true feelings. Messing with the concealer that Jeremy used to hide the acne scars, forcing Jeremy out of his small box, and feeling like he is doing things for the worst.
He wakes up to sunlight boring into his eyes and makes a gargled sound of pain, something holding most of his body down. He looks down and sees Jeremy curled up into his lap, breaths coming in and out of his chest as he is still asleep. It's cute for half a second before he realizes something must've happened last night, shit. They got drunk, they were idiots and they got drunk. Who gets drunk in the middle of the apocalypse? These two idiots, that's who. Carson shakily tries to put Jeremy back into the passenger seat, hoping that Jeremy doesn't remember anything. Hell, Carson doesn't remember anything past Jeremy taking his first swig of the bottle. He looks in the back, to see if Alex is still asleep, hoping that he won't have to explain why Jeremy was in his lap. Unfortunately, Alex wasn't in the back of the car. "Fuck." Carson whispers to himself and tries to soothe the headache that is continuing his shitty mood. He opens the driver's side door and exits the car, stepping onto the damp ground and finding his cousin looking at the backside of the car. "I see prince charming is finally awake." She laughs, her face akin to the Cheshire cat. Carson flips her off and stops in front of the tire she is looking at. There is a small blade sitting in the tire, a small hole next to it like a pole had been in the tire as well. Carson sighs, "Do we have an extra in the back?" Alex shrugs, "Didn't get the chance to check." Carson lets out another sigh, trying to think past the metaphorical head smashing that is his headache.
He opens the trunk, looking at the hurried mess that they had thrown in the back. There are bags and boxes and miscellaneous pieces that don't seem important now. He clears some of it, hoping to find some sort of compartment. He does, popping it open and finding a pristine tire hanging out with an extra battery and some jumper cables. There is a lever to lift the car, Carson grabs it and tries to set up the fix. Alex holds the extra tire and continues to make one-liners about Carson’s obvious feelings towards Jeremy. She’s been watching from behind the continual return and distance that they set between each other. “He’s in love with you, you know that right?” Alex suggests, rolling the damaged tire out and sliding the replacement towards Carson’s knee. Carson heaves the tire onto the hubcap, sighing as he sits back onto the balls of his feet. “You are the only consistent non-friend he has kept since I’ve known him.” Carson freezes up for a second, trying to avoid the topic. He adjusts the nuts and bolts, letting the silence try to speak for him.
Alex slowly starts to laugh, “Oh my god, you love him too.” Her laugh becomes more of a cackle as she uses the car as a support, mocking Carson for having feelings. “Just shut up already,” Carson says, tightening the last piece and standing up. The sun is bright and agonizing. Jeremy doesn’t wake up for a while, nodding off in the passenger seat when they finally get the car back onto the road. He groans awake when Alex hits a pothole, “Carson slow down the car,” his whimpers and rubs his eyes. He opens his eyes and looks around, completely disoriented of the changed landscape. The forested area had quickly turned into a sandy and desolate mess of an environment. Carson doesn’t say a word, scared if Jeremy remembered anything that happened last night. Alex explains about the tire, Jeremy replying in apologies that leak anxiousness. Carson smiles to himself about Jeremy, maybe he would never know how he feels about him, but at least they have him here with them. This bunker better be safe.
When they had been stopped because of the obnoxiously religious biker gang, Carson had not been impressed. Jeremy seemed even more nervous, considering the weapons strapped onto the back of them. He was shaking in his hiking boots, and Carson needed to protect him. Or do something to get them out of this, the one thing he could think of that they would want would be the completely vandalized statues that Alex had stolen from the local church near the college campus, she had thought it was a good idea and at least they were useful now, as either a weapon or bargaining chip. The gang had wanted one of their weapons as well, Alex had decided to give them the crossbow she stole from her crazy ass roommate, who apparently hunted most weekends. The gang left them in the dust, not giving a shit about the statues that were obviously going to fall off at some point. Jeremy had let out a big breath and leaned against the car for support, getting more distant from Carson. Maybe Jeremy did remember, maybe he remembered more than Carson did. Shit.
When they had been stopped again, the group was weird. Weirder than most that they had met in the other desolate land that is the random desert that destroyed most of the land that is closer to home.
The deal was shady as shit, the reason why Alex and Jeremy let it be traded in was beyond him. His dreams have been an indication that something bad is going to happen. They are going to need their gear if they want to get out alive. That’s why he sneaks back the gear, simultaneously angering everyone around him. He doesn’t give a shit, something bad is going to happen to Jeremy, and he needs to protect him.
The checkpoint was run by idiots, the land behind their wall was less sand and more actual grass and trees. It’s was surreal, the land had blended into each other, They were getting close, just a little more and they would be safe.
It’s over. It’s finally all over. Whatever Luke fucking did to him, it’s ending. The woman he has been bonded with is fading quicker, her death being not as recent as Carson’s. He can feel everything, every appendage that is connected to him, he can feel the pieces that is her, the pieces that are him, and the piece that is Jeremy. Fuck. He never got to say a proper goodbye, he never got to kiss him and be heroic, all that showing off for nothing. He reached out to Alex, he has to try to reach out to Jeremy before he fades completely. The headspace isn’t as cold as it was before when that creature was in control. Command is warmer, more of a parental figure, taking care of them. He can feel Jeremy still here, still in the building. Alex and Josie are still here as well, hopefully they are okay.
The warmth in Jeremy’s mind space is comforting, like the man himself. It’s still dark, shadows covering everything, but there Jeremy stands in the middle of it all. His arm still missing, it now a part of what Carson was. “Jere?” Carson asks, hoping their connection is strong enough that they can talk. Jeremy whips towards him, looking grim and then his whole body relaxing. “C-Carson?” He whispers, looking unsure if this is real. “Yeah, it’s, it’s me.” He smiles, hoping if he opens his arms Jeremy will come to him. His hopes come true because Jeremy runs towards him and embraces his figure. The warmth is more intense, but not a bad intense. It’s more surrounding him in familiar feelings and happy vibes. They stand there hugging for a long time, Jeremy crying into his chest. Carson tries his best to comfort him but they both end up crying together. It’s just so good to see him again, it’s so hard to explain. It feels right. It’s just so right.
It’s calmer now, Carson has just been holding Jeremy, ruffling his curly hair and teasing him how dorky he still looks. Jeremy shoves him, laughing, and then leaning into him once again. The conversation is nice, the quiet he had been experiencing wasn’t kind. The reverberating voices he heard that day of his death swim around him. He had heard Jeremy’s crying after the vat, he had heard the Servys breaking in and getting them out, he heard the battle, he heard Jeremy avenging him in the most badass way he ever heard. He squeezes Jeremy, “You sounded so badass, Jere.” Jeremy’s aura goes a little red, his face scrunched like a newborn puppy. “I just—I just, I can’t live without you, Carson. That bastard took you away from me. He got what he deserved.” Jeremy has his arm crossed and he is trying to look war-hardened, but he is always going to be a softie. Carson chuckles, pulling Jeremy into his torso, kissing his forehead. “I can’t live without you either, Jere.” He holds him close as he can, trying not to see Jeremy’s reaction.