The road curves along ahead of them, disappearing into the hills. Ryan turns off the windshield wipers - finally - and checks in the rearview for Clive and Keira before he asks Sam, "If you could have any kind of superpower, what would it be?" They don't have music to enliven the endless road trip, so conversation will have to suffice.
"In this world or the old one?" Sam asks, glancing over at Ryan, the landscape around them completely empty of anything living. Or even visibly dead for that matter.
"Umm, one of each," Ryan decides after thinking it over. "That should keep things interesting." He grins at his lover.
"In the old one I would have wanted to be able to fly," Sam says, thinking it over, "but now, fuck, anything that would keep us safe, get rid of the dead. Zombie mind control?" He shrugs. He's not going to wish to turn back time, to change what's happened. Any of that would mean not having Ryan in his life and he'd rather be here, now, living like this with Ryan by his side than be back in the old world without him.
"That'd be cool. You could control the herds," Ryan says with a nod, picturing it. "Run them all off a cliff or something." He thinks for a moment. "I always wanted to be a healer. I mean, even when I was a kid and we'd be playing, I always wanted to be the magic doctor. I guess I still do." He chuckles.
"You sure as hell will be on the island," Sam says. "We'll all be counting on you, especially Eva." He frowns a little, aware that's putting a lot of pressure on his lover. "Am I freaking you out by saying that?"
"No more than I already freak myself out," Ryan assures him with a quick grin. "Nah, I know we've all got to play to our strengths. And it's just so good to know that I'm not alone in this. That's a huge start." Being with Sam has given him a sense of hope beyond a simple feeling of purpose.
Sam reaches across the front seat to give Ryan's knee a squeeze. "I hope Logan and Jess had some luck with the Tesco," he says, still not thrilled at the idea of splitting up their group.
"Yeah." Ryan blows out a breath. He's still not easy with the decision, either. "I hope the plan is right, that there really is nowhere else for them to go that won't intersect with us. It'd suck to lose people when they didn't even--" He presses his lips together in a flat line.
Sam nods. "If they don't meet up with us by tonight, I want to go back, see if I can find them." One night away is understandable. They'd pretty much figured they might lose the light, but beyond that? Yeah. One of them could be hurt, their vehicle could have broken down. He doesn't want to leave anyone behind without making sure they need to.
Ryan bites his bottom lip. "You could be setting yourself up for a world of hurt, doing that," he murmurs. "Are the risks worth it?" He hates that the question even occurs to him.
"Yeah, they are." Sam nods again. At least as far as he's concerned. "I might not do it if we were further south but we've barely seen anyone, live or dead, up here, and both Logan and Jess are needed on the island."
"Okay." That's good enough for Ryan, and he's grateful for Sam's answer. He doesn't even realize he's smiling a little, warmth growing in his chest.
They come over the next rise and Sam stops breathing. The road swoops down and down, but in the distance they can see the water and a small town, a glimmer of sunshine peeking through the clouds to shine down on it. "That must be it," he says finally, stunned. They're here. Well, almost. But being able to actually see the place? It feels like their goal is within reach.
It's amazing how the light filters down to pick out details here and there, more as they get closer. The town is tiny, and the docks are all but empty save for what looks like a ferry. "This place looks just as deserted as the last one," Ryan murmurs, unsure whether he's more nervous or more relieved.
"Antony said it only had a couple hundred residents in the first place," Sam says, "but I think he was expecting there to be more actual boats. Fuck." He shakes his head. "Park by the dock I guess. They shouldn't be too far behind us." Having had to stop a few times for Eva to throw up.
Ryan nods and drives into the town, such as it is. He parks at the edge of the water, though he's careful to leave space between them and the few other vehicles scattered around. When he climbs out he listens closely -- but the only sounds are the soft lapping of the water against the pier, and a few seagulls screeching. Squinting in the weak sunlight, he peers back up the road to catch sight of the rest of their crew. He's reassured when a moment later the van comes into view, and he switches his attention back to the docks. Glances at Sam as if to confirm that nothing seems out of the ordinary.
"It's quiet," Sam says, eyeing the ferry. "There might be someone in the buildings, but there's not really any reason for us to go in them."
Ryan nods agreement and scans the waterfront, alert for any sign of movement. But if anyone's hiding, they're hiding well, and he doesn't sense a threat. Yet, anyway. The feeling of isolation just increases.
Pulling off the road, Clive shifts the van into park and throws the emergency brake. "There's nothing here," he mutters, looking around. He's been uneasy ever since Jess left with Logan. Not at the two of them off together, per se -- but the disparate bunch of them have become a tight group over the days. He hates feeling like they've splintered.
"Except a ferry," Keira says, quite happy there's nothing here. Especially since 'something' is likely to be nothing nice. "We can use that. It can't be that different from sailing a normal boat and there's a couple more ports out on the bigger islands."
Clive nods, and looks back over his shoulder. "How are you feeling?"
Eva shrugs noncommittally. She feels as wrung out as a wet dishrag, and it seems like it's been days since she's kept any food down. Sliding open the door of the van, she steps into the fresh sea breeze, and tilts her head back to breathe it in.
Luke jumps out as Antony parks the humvee, helping Alex down, his leg getting better but still pretty stiff. "How long before we go back for Jess and Logan?" he asks, the question aimed at Antony but he doesn't really care who responds.
The unexpected question seals Clive's loyalty in an instant. He hadn't thought he had allies on this issue.
Alex rubs Luke's shoulder, his gaze steady on Antony. "They're almost outside the window of when they should've gotten there and come back."
"I'll go," Sam volunteers. "I already told Ryan I was going back for them."
"Yeah," Ryan nods in confirmation, but then he looks up at Sam in alarm. "Wait, are we talking about splitting the group again?"
"There's just the one road, isn't there?" Clive glances up the hill where the road disappears. "Do we have to split up?"
"Give me a minute," Antony says, exhaling softly at the sight of the fucking passenger ferry. "Actually, give me five. I want to check out the ferry," the goddamn fucking ferry, "and then we'll decide what to do."
"I'll come with you," Ryan says, eyeing the ferry. It looks quiet but he knows better than to rely on impressions. He looks at Sam and gives him a small nod. Wanting to check in before he goes, knowing how everything can change in an instant.
Sam nods back, a little worried despite the quiet or maybe even because of it. It's not natural. Not when the world is full of never-tiring fucking-everywhere flesh-eating zombies. But he leans back against the Humvee, making sure he has a good angle on the road into town and on the ferry, weapons at the ready.
Antony walks down to the dock with Ryan. He picks up a piece of wood and bangs on the metal hull, waiting for anything to come out or moan or just generally announce it's there. "So far so good," he says dryly when there's no response. He steps onto the ferry and walks along the passenger cabin, peeking through the windows. "It looks empty."
"What are we going to do with it?" Ryan asks softly, studying the exterior walls. Looking for blood. He moves to the ladder and shines his flashlight below decks. Testing, as Antony did. He cocks an ear to listen closer to the darkness.
"Pull out some of the rows and stock it with all our supplies," Antony says, straightening up. He bangs on one of the doors again, not wanting to take any chances, before opening it and stepping inside. "We can sail to Kirkwall and pick up an actual boat there."
Ryan nods, and steps through the door after Antony, scanning every corner. "I'm going below decks," he tells him. "Check out the engine room, see if we've got any petrol."
"Okay, be careful," Antony nods, most of the floor thankfully open to view. "I'm going to check out the toilets and snack bar."
"Oh yeah, snacks. Those'd be good," Ryan mutters, thinking, if only. Moving aft, he pulls open the hatch to the engine room, staying well back, and shines his light inside. And listens. No groaning. But... Something's not quite right. As he tunes out the endless sounds of the sea, he realizes he can hear something breathing: harsh, stuttered. An animal? Something wounded? "Hello?" he calls, cautiously shining his light around. Glancing up he looks for Antony but can't see him to signal. "Hey, I can hear you, come on out. Come-- put the gun down!" In an instant his demeanor changes. Hostile identified, target clear. Ryan brings his gun up to aim and shines the flashlight directly on the guy's face, his voice even, no-bullshit tone. "Put the gun down."
Hearing Ryan's voice but not his words, Antony comes back around the snack bar, his gun already drawn. "How many?" he calls out, moving quickly to Ryan's side.
"I think just the one," Ryan says, bemused. The more he watches the stranger, the younger the guy looks, and he's holding his Sig Sauer like he's only ever watched it done in movies. Not that ignorant and terrified aren't plenty dangerous on their own. "Did you get bitten?"
"No. Go away. This is my boat," the young man blusters, waving the gun around.
"Whoa. Hey now." Ryan makes a slow show of holstering his gun, well aware that Antony's got him covered and he won't relax for a split second. "Just put it down, okay? We're not here to hurt you, we were only checking out the boat."
Antony shifts a little, keeping his weapon trained on the kid and letting Ryan handle the situation.
Trying to duck the light shining in his eyes, the young man finally gives up and drops his hand to his side.
"Good. Now put it down on the floor," Ryan instructs, every sense attuned to the guy. Straining to predict what he'll do next.
After a long moment, the gun gets placed carefully on the floor. "Good choice," Ryan says. "Do you want to come up here in the sunlight?"
"Are there any of those things around?"
Ryan shakes his head. "No. Just my people. You're safe."
The voice is pure English but the kid looks Middle Eastern, and young, really young. Fuck. "Are you from around here?" Antony asks as they get a better look at him.
"Bristol," the young man answers. "I was in Glasgow, just trying to get north, away..." He shrugs, his bottom lip trembling.
Ryan gives him a quick once-over, totting up the symptoms of emotional trauma. No apparent signs of physical injury. "How old are you?"
The guy pauses, like he's thinking about lying. Then he shrugs and answers, "Seventeen."
Seventeen, Jesus, Ryan thinks, but simply nods in response. "And what's your name?"
Antony nods too, glancing at Ryan, pretty sure they're having the same thought. "How long have you been up here? Any idea?"
"Three days," Fady answers, looking beyond Antony's shoulder at the assembled vehicles and people. "You shouldn't be here. There's a mean group in the neighborhood. They probably watched you drive up. They'll attack you tonight."
Ryan's eyebrow arches and he turns to signal Alex, telling him to stay alert. "We're not thinking to stay long."
"We're waiting for the rest of our group, and then we'll be moving on," Antony says, finally lowering his weapon, although he keeps it at the ready. "But we'll need this ferry for that. You can come with us if you want." Any kid who can survive the trip here and some 'mean group' would likely be an asset.
"Where are you going?" Fady asks automatically. But right on the heels of his question, he shakes his head. "I don't care. I'll come with you." Surely this crew can't be worse than the others.
Ryan watches Antony for a moment, then nods at the young man. "Come on. Come get some food."
Satisfied the ferry will at least get them to Kirkwall, Antony lets Ryan lead the way out and brings up the rear, asking Fady, "How many are in the group you mentioned?"
Nervous to have the guy right behind him, Fady glances back over his shoulder. "Seven," he answers. "The asshole, the complete bastard, and then the others." God, now that he's started talking, he feels like he can't shut up. "They killed Peter. And Rachel. But only after-- They know I'm here. I think they've just been trying to fuck with my head by not coming for me yet."
Driving over the rise of the hill, Jess sucks in a breath. "Oh, my god. There they are," she tells Logan with a huge smile; not that he can't see it for himself. "We made it!"
"There's the rest of our group," Antony says, so fucking relieved to see the van with Jess and Logan appear. They need to get their supplies on the ferry and get the hell out of here while it's still light. "Are they all the same or do you think there's anyone worth trying to save?" he asks Fady, aware he's asking for a pretty fucked-up judgement call, but he needs to know.
"They're all..." Fady shakes his head in disgust. "Cruel."
Parking the van by the other vehicles, Logan jumps out, a little sorry his time alone with Jess has come to an end but grateful to be reunited with everyone. "You should see what we got. It's like Christmas morning." Explaining about the untouched Tesco and how much they'd left behind.
Taking a point position, Ryan puts his back to the group as his people greet each other. Gun at the ready, and scanning the village. Straining to find a threat before it finds them.
"So we might be able to come back if we need to," Antony says, nodding, quickly explaining the situation with Fady and the gang in town to everyone. "Can you take point somewhere and make sure we're good while we pack up the ferry?" he asks Logan, the words an order even if they don't seem it. "We still have a few hours. I'd like to get the hell out of here. Depending on when it gets dark, we'll have to anchor but hopefully we can find an inlet or something."
Ryan hands a rock-hard granola bar to Fady, then glances at Logan. "Do you need back-up, or are you good alone?" he asks, not wanting to abandon him if he could use a hand.
"I'm good alone. We need as many hands as possible loading up the ferry," Logan says, giving Jess a smile and a nod before grabbing his gun from the back of the van. He takes a good look at all the vantage points and decides, with how low everything is, that he's just as well setting up on the roof of the ferry.
Their crew starts unloading the van and Hummers and transferring everything to the ferry. Jess glances up at Logan where he's perched, worrying that he's exposed without enough cover. She tells herself firmly that Logan knows what he's doing and her worrying doesn't help anything.
On the ferry helping arrange their supplies, Alex keeps a covert eye on Fady. The kid makes him nervous -- perhaps because he himself is so obviously ill at ease. But so far he's staying out of trouble, huddled up in a corner of the deck eating. Staying out of everyone's way. Still, Alex decides that if the kid goes for a weapon, he's going to pop him; he doesn't care how young the guy is.
Antony siphons all the gas from the vehicles into canisters and loads them onto the ferry as well. They'll need gas if they come back but he'd rather bring it with them then leave it here for the assholes Fady told them about. He eyes the few buildings in the town, certain they're being watched, but as long as everything stays quiet, his focus is going to be on getting them out of here.
Luke piles box on top of box on the ferry, making sure they're balanced and shored up well. It'll be rocky on the water and the last thing they need is everything sliding around.
"Here," Sam hands him a bundle of bungee cords. "Want some help?"
"Yes, please. You read my mind," Luke says with a smile as they properly brace everything, hooking the bungee cords into the various railings and hooks on the wall.
"If they're smart, then they'll wait until we've loaded everything up, then ambush us," Ryan murmurs to Antony, pitching his voice low so as not to alarm anyone else. "That way we've done all the work for them, and all they have to do is kill us and throw us overboard."
"They'd have to come down, let us see them," Antony says, but he's concerned as well, "and Logan could warn us, pick them off. The buildings there," he waves at the only ones that are more than a storey, "are too far away for any of them to have a decent shot. Unless they've got a Logan, and even then..." He looks at Ryan. "What do you suggest?"
Ryan frowns, checking out the approach. He appreciates that Antony asked. "It looks like they can only get to us by that one route, over the docks. There's a possibility they could swim up to surprise us, but I agree it's not likely." He scans the rest of their group. "From what Fady said, that gang could be a legit threat. I just don't want anyone getting too comfortable while we're in port."
"We have the rocket launcher," Antony muses. "We could take out that set of buildings as a show of force but I hate making the first move..."
His lips quirk in an ironic grin, but Ryan shakes his head. "I'm with you there. It might not be a bad idea to have it locked and loaded, though. That way if they do have a sniper, they'll be able to see they shouldn't fuck with us."
"Do you know how to handle it?" Antony asks.
The quirk morphs into a full smile, and Ryan shoots him a wink. "I'm on it."
Eva passes a bag of supplies to Alex, knowing he's ready to snap at her for lifting things. Turning, she steps off the dock and pukes into the grass. Pausing only the necessary moments before she's back on her feet, because damn it she will pull her own weight.
"You don't need to do that," Jess says softly, picturing the internal struggle beneath Eva's stoic facade. "We can bring the stuff in from the vehicles. You should go see if there are places anyone can rest once we're onboard. We'll all need it."
Lifting her head, Eva nearly snaps at the petite woman... then cuts herself off with a heavy sigh. She trudges towards the ferry.
Clive has watched the little byplay, and behind Eva's back he drops a brotherly kiss onto Jess's hair. "You're a good person," he murmurs, and hefts another box of cans.
"Better than me," Keira mutters beneath her breath, making a face at Eva's retreating back. It's not that she begrudges Eva the rest, not in a million years, nor does she lack sympathy for what Eva's been through. No, she's simply taken a disliking to the woman, her demeanour cold and her attitude towards Jess, the nicest person in their crew, unforgivable as far as she's concerned.
"What's better than you?" Luke asks, grabbing another box, the piles quickly dwindling as they all work together.
"It's nothing," Jess mutters, trying to smooth things over like always. God, she never knows if she's a warrior for justice or a simple pussy pushover. "Is sailing a ferry the same as sailing a real boat?"
"Are you asking me?" Luke says, eyes widening. "I don't have a clue, but it must be. They both need to be steered, but a ferry has a pretty powerful engine to help you out."
"That's good." Jess looks around, spooked by the deserted horizon, the empty buildings. "Do you think they're watching us?" she asks, Antony's warning about a hostile group foremost in her mind. Without even realizing it, she glances to Logan simply to check that he's there.
"Probably," Luke nods, straddling the line between truthful and optimistic, "but if they were going to try and take the ferry, they would've already, and they're too far away to be able to do anything except attack us directly and I'll bet we're far better armed."
"We are. Better armed, I mean," Alex cuts in, overhearing the last. He lays his hand briefly on the small of Luke's back before turning to help unload the vehicle. "Otherwise they could have no reason to wait."
From his vantage point on top of the ferry, Logan scans the buildings across the way, on alert for the smallest movement and knowing that just because he doesn't see anything doesn't mean they're not there. He wants to check and see how Jess is doing but he doesn't dare look away and he just hopes everyone's working together to get the ferry packed up as quickly as possible.
Both Humvees unpacked, Sam takes a bit more time in making sure everything's strapped in place with as little movement as possible once they get on the water. The day's already getting darker, the water rougher, and he has no doubt they'll be in a for a bumpy ride.
Ryan works alongside him in silence, wanting to be near his lover, even if it's just to know he's there in his peripheral vision. Trying to keep an eye on the kid at the same time, because Ryan definitely doesn't trust Fady yet, sob story or no. He feels a prickle between his shoulder blades and whips his head around to stare at the bucolic village, his brain in frantic search of a threat. There, he thinks, catching a glimpse of movement atop a building, the faintest scrap of color whipping in the wind like a flag. A warning rises to his lips.
A fine spray of red mist fills the air around the other group's sniper as Logan takes him (or her) out. Immediately there's yelling, their attackers' cover blown and Logan takes out two more who stupidly rush to help their fallen comrade. They're not actual threats at this point but anything to reduce the other group's numbers.
Conditioned as they are, everyone either drops or ducks for cover at the first shot. Jess looks up to stare at Logan-- relieved to see him all right and lining up for the next shot. Alarmed when she realizes he took out three of the other group, quick as that.
"Jesus," Ryan mutters, his attention hot on the skyline and his weapon up, not that he's likely to hit anything at this range. It's not only that Logan has a long-distance tactical, he is good.
"I told you," Fady moans in a miserable tone.
Ryan snaps at him. "Just shut the fuck up and keep your head down. We know what we're doing."
"We need to get going," Sam yells to Antony. "Everything's on board." Starting to unwind the giant mooring ropes anchoring them to the dock. "Clive, Keira, Eva, get on the ferry." Yelling at those closest to him. Trusting Ryan can take care of himself.
Clive nods and takes a protesting Eva's hand, insisting on helping her board. "Yeah yeah, yell at me later," he tells her. And reaches back to take Keira's hand next.
"What about me?" Alex asks, mock-petulant.
"If you still can joke, you can do it yourself," Clive retorts with a crooked grin, and Alex does.
Antony makes sure Jess gets on, Luke too, then joins Ryan, his gun at the ready. There's gunfire from the building across the way but it's not any danger to them. That doesn't mean they're safe though. Their attackers could still wait until they're on the ferry to go all out. He nods towards the small supplies building at the very front of the dock. "Take it out, the truck over there too. It'll buy us the time we need."
"Copy." Ryan shoulders the rocket launcher and shifts to aim at the building Antony indicated, getting low. He wonders briefly about the people he's about to fire on, then steels his mind against that abyss. No more wondering. He grits his teeth and fires the RPG, ignores the fallout and follows up with a shot at the truck. Drops to the ground when it explodes and sends lethal shrapnel shards flying. A count of ten and then he's on the move again, bolting for the ferry.
Everyone on the ferry, the mooring ropes on board, Antony starts up the engine and begins backing the ferry away from the dock. He not only has to ease it through the narrow opening between the two cement docks but then turn it around before they can continue their journey. Fuck. He just prays the mess they made is enough of a deterrent to give them the time they need.
Furious shouting erupts from the dock, but between the noise of the ferry's engines and the fires raging, Ryan can't even hear them, can only see angry figures flooding out of the buildings. One of the men opens fire with an AK-47 but he's missed his moment; they're too far down the dock to do any damage at this range.
Logan stays on top of the ferry until they're safely backed out into the water, Antony maneuvering them as quickly as he can in the right direction. There's a couple of small boats that could be used to give chase but they wouldn't carry many and they're impossible to reach at the moment given the fires and ongoing explosions as the gas tank in the truck beside the one they blew up goes up as well. Counting the number of shouting figures, Logan wishes he'd thought to take out a few more of them. It's something they'll have to keep in mind if they need to come back. Certain they're good - for now - he climbs back down the ladder to the main level.
Jess hesitates, uncertain and scared. But then she figures, to hell with it, and goes with her first instinct and runs to wrap her arms around Logan, beyond grateful that he's safe.
Surprised by the hug, Logan winds his arms around Jess in return, lifting her up a little, his face buried in the crook of her shoulder. "You're okay," he whispers, half statement, half question, not having been able to allow himself to even consider otherwise while up there.
"Yeah," she whispers back, hugging him tightly for another moment before letting him go.
"Jesus. You blink around here," Alex mutters to Luke, but he's grinning.
Luke laughs and reaches for Alex's hand, giving it a squeeze.
Gaze locked on her face, drinking her in, the sight of such beauty in this fucked up world something he needs like he needs water or air, Logan nods. "What about everyone else?"
"Everyone is here," Jess answers, quickly looking around just to confirm it. "I haven't met the new guy yet. Actually," she murmurs, watching Fady, "he doesn't look so good."
But Clive is already crouching down to talk to the sobbing boy. "It's all right," he says quietly, "you're safe now. You're with us."
Fady nods, swiping tears from his eyes.
Clive looks him over, noting the half-full water bottle sitting next to him. "Do you need anything?" he asks, but Fady shakes his head no. So Clive nods and gets back to his feet, visually checking in on Keira.
"We're sure he's on our side?" Logan asks, hoping the kid's not a plant.
Keira's still got her eyes on the coastline, watching until the figures on the still burning dock are nothing more than ants and they're safe, as safe as they can be anyway, at least until the next fucking threat, the relief she thought she'd feel at leaving land not present at all.
"I don't know. Antony and Ryan..." Jess shrugs, hoping it's safe to put her faith in them like always.
"We made a call," Ryan cuts in, overhearing them. "But it was fast. I'd be happy for anyone else's take." He holds out his hand to Logan for a high-five. "Very nice shooting."
"Thanks." Logan high-fives Ryan. "I wish I'd got more of them," he says, wincing as it hits him how that sounds and quickly explaining, "I counted a good dozen coming out of the buildings."
"Yeah." Ryan frowns and goes to unload the rocket launcher in the inner room with much of the rest of their stash.
Jess chews on her bottom lip for a moment. "I'm looking forward to those lessons you promised me."
"We'll make them a priority when we get to the island," Logan promises. "Antony said we were going to Kirkwall though? To get an actual sailboat?"
Jess nods. "I think he's pretty frustrated that this ferry was our only option here." She looks back towards John O'Groats, which is rapidly fading into the mist.
"Sit down, you two," Clive invites, waving them over to the benches. "Tell us what you found last night. Did you run into any trouble?"
Logan gives Jess a smile and they head over to join Clive on the benches. "No trouble. The Tesco was untouched," he tells the other man. "No windows broken, doors unlocked and closed, it was eerie."
"We got seeds," Jess puts in, and curses herself a second later for saying it, as patently stupid as it sounds. "But also a propane fire pit. And paracetamol for Ryan. And a ton of other shit."
"That's amazing. I'm sure we can use all of it," Clive murmurs, meaning every word. A blast of sea air hits his face, blowing his hair back. "I'm grateful you didn't find yourselves in any danger."
Logan shakes his head. "No. We thought about trying to head back last night but it was getting dark and we didn't know what we'd find on the road, so we just hunkered down in the store."
"Ah. Uh-huh." Clive looks Logan over but makes no other comment; it's obvious they got through the night on a positive note, anyway, there's really nothing for him to say. The important thing is that Jess seems comfortable with him. "Great." He slaps Logan on the shoulder - perhaps just a mite harder than he should - and turns away to go find Keira.
"Did I say something wrong?" Logan asks Jess, not entirely sure how to interpret Clive's reaction.
"I..." Jess stares in wonder as Clive walks away. And she tries unsuccessfully to tamp down a smile. "I think you might have passed a test."
"Yeah?" That puts a different perspective on things and Logan reaches out for a moment, giving Jess's hand a quick squeeze. "I want to talk to Antony. Do you want to come with me?"
"Nah, I need to talk to Keira. But do me a favor and ask him if he slept?" she asks, looking up into Logan's eyes. "I think we don't remember to check on him as often as we should."
"I will. I'll see if he'll let me spot him, make sure he gets something to eat too," Logan assures her. He smiles, staring back, lost in her gaze for a moment. "Would it be okay if I kissed you?"
Her eyes widen slightly in surprise, but she nods and steps closer. Excited and less scared, here, in front of everyone.
One hand goes to her hip, resting there lightly as Logan leans in, pressing his mouth to hers in a warm but firm kiss.
Jess clenches her fists at her sides, uncertain what to do at first. Then she curls her fingers into his jacket and kisses him back, dragging him in a fraction closer.
It's so tempting to deepen the kiss, to tease the tip of his tongue into her mouth, but Logan resists the urge, aware of how much trust Jess is putting in him. "Come find me later?" he says softly, drawing back.
"Mm-hmm," she nods, too shaken for real words. She gives him a weak smile and turns to go find Keira.
Logan stays where he is for a moment, watching her go, his heart swelling, not even aware of anything else around him. When he does snap to, he notices Alex and Luke watching him, Sam too damnit, and he's pretty sure he blushes right down to his toes. God. He rubs a hand over the back of his neck and then heads inside to talk to Antony.
"I love it," Luke says, beaming at Alex. "They make a good couple."
"Think so?" Alex asks, but he kind of agrees, watching Jess walk away. "Whatever works, I guess. We need all the love we can get, these days." He gives Luke a small secretive grin, reflecting on his confession of the other day.
"Yes, we do," Luke agrees, smiling back, suddenly aware of Fady watching them. "I suppose we should talk to him."
"Yeah, I guess." Alex gestures to the young man, waving him over. After a hesitant beat, Fady approaches. "Hey. I'm Alex, this is Luke. You're Fady?"
"Yes." Fady nods.
Alex hooks a thumb back at the swiftly receding shore, so far in the distance it's nearly a memory. "Those were your people?"
"Fuck, no," Fady spits out. "They're murderers. I'm--" He clamps his lips down tight.
His eyes narrow, and Alex asks, "How old are you?"
Instantly Fady gets cagey. "Why?"
"Just answer him," Luke orders, his tone much firmer than it's been with anyone else.
"Seventeen," the boy answers, looking at Luke in alarm.
"Jesus." Alex barely stops himself from rolling his eyes, and manages to gently clasp Fady's shoulder instead. "You've been through a lot. You're obviously a survivor. Just don't fuck around with us, all right? This is the best group you could hope to be part of, and we're all in."
Fady flinches from Alex but tolerates the touch, and nods acknowledgement. "Okay."
Antony steers the ferry out into the open water. He'd wanted to keep them closer to land but with the firepower demonstrated by the last group he's forced to accept they'll have to anchor with less shelter than planned. Fuck.
"Hey." Jess approaches Keira. The woman has Clive half wrapped around her, but it doesn't look like they're in the middle of a heated conversation - or anything - so she hopes it's okay to interrupt. "I just wanted to ask how things went with all of you yesterday, last night."
"They went well until we got here," Keira says, pushing Clive back just a fraction with a smile. "We found an empty petrol station with a garage attached, boarded up the doors and windows, and spent the night there."
"Oh, good. Yeah, we found the Tesco, completely untouched. It was creepy as hell that it was so quiet, but the alternative..." Jess shrugs. "We brought back a bunch of stuff. Oh, which reminds me." She unzips her pack, and pulls out the partial chocolate bar. "I thought we could all split it."
Keira literally squeals when she sees the candy. "You found chocolate, oh my god," she says. "I think just the girls should share it. Guys are seldom really appreciative of sweets." The sparkle in her eye giving away her teasing as she glances at Clive.
"Sure. Be like that," Clive says, amused by her cheek. "What if I tell you I don't even care for sweets, and you can have my share?"
"Then I'd say I -- adore you, but we still shouldn't share with the rest of the guys," she grins at Jess, heart pounding, realizing what she'd been about to say. And it's not that she has a problem with saying the words, but is that how she really feels? Could she really have fallen for Clive that quickly when it had taken her months to tell Cal the same thing?
Clive lifts his hands in surrender. "I'm definitely not getting involved. But you could be talking about a mutiny," he tells the women with a laugh.
Jess laughs as he retreats, then quirks an eyebrow at Keira. "You okay?"
"Yeah, of course, why?" Keira asks.
Jess shrugs. "I don't know, just... you looked kind of funny for a second there. Um. Which, um." She glances around to make sure they're out of earshot of everyone else, and leans closer. "Logan is a really good kisser."
Keira's eyes widen and she grabs Jess by the shoulders, bouncing a little. "You have to tell me everything," she insists.
"Well no, I don't mean, like, well yeah, actually, I just--" Jess rolls her eyes, realizing she's not even making sense to herself anymore. "He's really gentle. And decent. He held me while I cried, and kissed me, and--" she sighs softly. "He didn't push, you know? Like, he actually said he was happy just kissing me."
Keira smiles. "He seems like a really good guy," she says, "and like a gentleman, too." She frowns a little, digesting the rest of what Jess said. "Why were you crying though?"
"Because of... everything?" Jess hazards, and her face flushes hot. She mutters the words in a tumble, "Because I feel like I'm damaged goods and so I told him not to be interested in me."
"And that's when he said he was happy just kissing you?" Keira asks.
"Um, pretty much," Jess answers, because it's not for her to talk about Logan's wife. "And he said it's too late, because he already really likes me."
Keira smiles. "That's so romantic," she says. "So, are you guys together now?"
"Oh! Together?" The question flusters Jess, and for a moment she looks anywhere but at Keira. "Oh, um. I. Uh." Shit. Why does this have to be so fucking hard? "I guess so?" She pleads with her eyes for her friend to understand. "I mean, I don't want to tie him down. But I'd be pissed if some other woman got close to him. Is that fucked up?"
"Not as far as I'm concerned," Keira says with another smile. "I say stake your claim. Besides, he obviously doesn't have eyes for anyone else."
Jess's answering smile is hesitant. "I don't remember how to do this," she mutters. Knows it won't be that easy anyway.
Clive approaches where Antony can see him, not interested in sneaking up on the man. "Hey. Can I help with anything?"
Antony nods. "We're losing light already and I don't want to sail in the dark," he says. "There's binoculars in my bag." Nodding at the bench over his shoulder. "Can you go up top and see if there's any decent inlets? We need shelter without being too close to shore."
"Yeah." Clive rustles through the bag and finds the binoculars, then takes the ladder up. There's not much to see anyway, even before the last of the sunset -- just ocean and a distant tip of land. They made good time getting away from the coast. "Nothing yet," he calls back down to Antony. "I'll keep you posted."
"Thanks," Antony calls back, finally settling in the seat provided, exhaustion washing over him as the adrenaline finally fades.
"You want something to eat?" Logan asks, sticking his head in the small room, having been waylaid by the need to tighten the ropes on some of their supplies. "I can probably rustle up some soup and crackers, or maybe some tuna?"
"Soup would be great," Antony says after thinking for a moment. "In a mug so I can drink it? I saw some in the snack bar."
"Coming up," Logan says with another smile.
"Don't remember how to do what?" Keira says to Jess. "Tell a guy you're interested?"
"Just be... with anyone," Jess mumbles. "Logan actually makes me feel like maybe I'm not totally broken. But I don't know if he's right."
"Does it matter?" Keira asks. "We're all broken in some way, maybe that's why we've survived... but either way, he likes you and you like him so tell him that and just see where it goes. And I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about letting him hold you or hold your hand, be your beau," she says with a teasing grin. "Get used to being with someone again."
"Like you are?" Jess asks, arching an eyebrow. She can't help but grin. "I guess that's going well?"
Keira nods. "I almost told him I love him," she says, deciding one good confession deserves another. "Earlier. When you said I looked funny. It just seems... fast. And still sort of like I'm betraying Cal."
Jess sighs and lays her hand on Keira's arm. "Cal's gone. And he loved you; he would want you to be finding happiness again, any way you can."
Keira exhales softly. "You're right," she says. "But I don't want to be flippant about it. I'll tell him when we have some time alone or at least a quiet corner to ourselves."
"Oh god, yeah. Don't tell him when you're among the unwashed masses," Jess snickers.
"There," Clive says, then ducks back into the cockpit to point out inlet. "Southwest of here," he tells Antony. "I can't be sure how far away."
"You want to take the wheel and I'll check?" Antony asks, switching places with Clive.
"Yeah." Clive knows approximately as much about sailing as he does about... landing... but he figures he can steer for a brief distance without running them aground. "Do we need a sniper tonight, you think?"
"No," Antony shakes his head. "We'll be southeast of Kirkwall, there shouldn't be more than a few houses close by, I doubt we'll have to worry about zombies or people."
Clive breathes a covert sigh of relief. The thought of not worrying - about people or zombies - is blessedly enticing. They could all use a night like that.
The inlet Clive's spotted is perfect. It's getting rapidly darker now, and they head for the spot, Antony taking binoculars up on the roof to scan the area around them before dropping anchor, Logan giving him help with the winch. "It's going to be a cold night," he tells both Clive and Logan. "There are wool blankets in the first aid cabinet at the front. Dole them out. People can use safety devices as pillows. Tell them to sleep inside. I'll take first watch." He nods at Clive. "I know I said no sniper but we still need a watch. Can you ask Sam to take second?"
"I'll take third," Logan volunteers. "And I can rustle up some food for people now?"
"Good idea," Clive agrees, although he wouldn't be surprised to find that the women have already beaten Logan to it; they've all fallen into more or less traditional roles, caring for one another and keeping the group ties strong. "Sam," he says softly, hitting the deck. "Can you take watch after Antony?"
"Sure," Sam nods. It's not like they're going to be getting much sleep anyway. "Someone should try and set up some makeshift beds."
"Yeah, I'm on it." Clive raids the first-aid cupboards, but tosses the first blanket up to Antony since he'll be the one most exposed. He ducks below to find Jess portioning out cold stew from cans, and grabs two bowls. "Antony's on watch," he says, "Sam is taking second shift, and Logan's got third. Sleep when you can, but try to stay inside because it's going to get bitter."
"We should try and get some sleep," Sam tells Ryan even as he keeps his arms tight around him. "The next few days'll probably be rough with finding a real boat and making the crossing to Auskerry."
"Yeah. And I want you to get a few hours in before you're up for watch," Ryan says, studying Sam's eyes. When Sam looks at him full in the face, his knees turn to water.
Sam nods, caught in Ryan's gaze. He brushes his lips across his lover's then sighs. Fuck. There's no privacy to be had on this damn ferry. "Let's grab a blanket and some floor."
"Yeah." But Ryan hesitates a moment longer, then steals another kiss. He wants more -- wants to slide his hands over Sam's bare skin and tease him to peak, wants to wrap himself around his lover and kiss him blind until they both forget how fucked-up things are. Turning away he heads down the aisle between the bench seats, searching for another of the blankets.
Sam molds a couple bags into makeshift pillows and waits for Ryan to come back with the blanket. He can smell the food cooking but right now, rest is more important to him.
The sky darkens as Ryan picks his way back down the aisle. "Hey," he says softly, in case Sam is already asleep. "Did you ever listen to Pearl Jam?"
"Yeah, of course," Sam says, shifting onto his back. Is there anyone around their age who didn't? "Why?"
Ryan shrugs a little and lies down with him, twisting to get comfortable. "Nothing. Just I liked them a lot. I wanted to make sure we're compatible," he teases.
"I liked them a lot too," Sam says with a smile, wrapping his arm around Ryan's waist. "Part of my angsty youth."
Slipping his arms around his lover in turn, Ryan snorts a laugh. "Remember how big and dramatic everything was back then? We had no idea what we were headed for. I remember when I got dumped by a girl in year eleven, and I thought my life was over."
Sam shakes his head. "It's so weird to think how ephemeral everything is. All the great art, music... I want to think we'll be able to recover some semblance of civilisation but there's so much we'll never get back."
"I know," Ryan whispers, tiptoeing near the blackness of despair. "It's crazy to realize that civilization is up to us now. We'll build it, for generations to come."
Sam nods. "They can't just wander around forever, can they?" he muses. "There has to be a point at which they actually die and we can come back and gather what's left."
Frowning in the dusk, Ryan tightens his embrace for a moment. "Yeah," he agrees, although he doesn't really believe it. "Sleep."
* * *
In the dimness below, Alex strokes Luke's neck. The motion of the sea is comforting, reassuring. And it's quiet -- not the unnatural dead silence that surrounds the walkers' moans, but a good kind of quiet. A sound of peacefulness, of a pent-up sigh finally vented, all underlain by the waves.
Luke almost purrs at the touch. "You can't sleep?" he whispers, words half-mumbled, exhaustion having hit him hard.
"I'm okay. Go to sleep, love," Alex coaxes. "I just like touching you."
"I like you touching me," Luke mumbles, snuggling in even closer. Safe and secure in his lover's arms.
Alex smiles and hugs him, relaxed and content.
Carefully Jess picks her way down the aisle, trying to see in the watery moonlight. "Hey," she whispers when she finds Logan, and clutches a blanket to her chest. "Okay if I join you?"
"More than okay," Logan says with a smile, shifting to make room for Jess. "I'm on third watch, after Sam."
"Okay." Jess carefully snuggles into the narrow space, and slips her arms around his waist. "I'd make a token complaint that I'm not up for watch, but I'm not the sniper you are." The words come out a little breathless, as she tries not to react to the sudden full-body contact.
"Hopefully there's not anything up there I need to take out," Logan says, daring to pull her in a little closer. "Besides, you're welcome to come watch with me."
"Yeah? That won't be too distracting?" she smiles, pleased. "Okay. Wake me." She rests her cheek against his chest.
Logan does a mental double-take at that. He'd mostly been kidding. He hadn't expected Jess would actually give up her sleep to come sit with him. "I will," he promises, head bowed, breathing in her scent, her hair, the feel of her in his arms something he hopes he can hold onto forever.