Better Run, Outrun My Gun
April 25th, 2012
East Lima, Business District
Mercedes' dad had been a dentist. Apparently, he had been a really great dentist.
But that didn't make him immune to the infectious zombie virus that had begun to ravage the face of the entire planet seemingly overnight. And when one of the crawling undead had ripped through his Achilles tendon as he climbed out of his car – pulling him to the ground and slashing through his flesh as he screamed out in agony – he had just become another statistic.
Another worldwide statistic in the zombie apocalypse. And Mercedes would never even know.
April 25th, 2012
Just South of Nowhere, Ohio
It had been a warm spring afternoon in late April when the world had quite literally gone to hell.
McKinley High's New Directions had left early that morning for something of a field trip - a visit down to Ohio State University where they had watched several of the school's performing arts groups demonstrate their talents. Most of the kids were seniors this year, and they had applied and been accepted to various colleges already. So their trip had been Mr. Schuester's sending off, so to speak, of his seniors – the kids who had helped shape his vision for New Directions into reality.
And while their camaraderie, their friendship, had been a long time coming, no one had anticipated this epic test of their strengths.
Of their weaknesses...
Well, maybe one person had possessed the foresight.
On the three hour bus ride back to Lima, Mr. Schue was gladly blaring the sounds of a classic rock station through the speakers. Finn, naturally, was taking the lead. But everyone was joining in, singing along, reveling in the presence of the others. But then the melodies of The Doors were snuffed out with an abrupt crackle, and a desperate, terrified radio disc jockey was projecting through the bus speakers instead.
"...zombies, man. Fucking zombies! This is not a joke. I repeat – this is not a fucking joke, people. There is some crazy shit going down right now. Find your families, find your children – protect yourselves! The cops are currently attempting to..."
He continued, on and on, yelling into the heavy silence that had descended on the glee club.
Mercedes' father was already undead by now. Not that she was aware of that fact or anything.
"What the fuck..." Puck had mumbled to himself, his eyes darting around to land on his best friend.
Finn put on his trademark stoic expression, swallowed heavily, and nodded his head in Puck's direction. Silently, they acknowledged that they had each others' backs at the end of the day, no matter what.
Tina immediately broke down into sobs, throwing herself into Mike's arms and mumbling incoherently about her mom and dad, her brothers and sisters. All Mike could do was wrap her up in his arms and press reassuring kisses to her forehead. "It's ok," Kurt heard him mumble. "It'll all be ok."
But Kurt wasn't so sure. He absentmindedly drug his fingers through his wave of hair. When it bounced expectedly back into place, he felt oddly reassured. One of his first thoughts was about Blaine – his boyfriend of almost a full year now. And then that thought was followed by one of guilt – for not having thought instantly about his father and Carole instead. But Kurt knew that Burt would protect his wife. Blaine, on the other hand... Blaine had been home alone today, bed-ridden and sick. Weak. Unprotected...
Mercedes was sitting near the front of the bus. Sam was in the seat adjacent to hers, his acoustic guitar lying limply across his lap. His pick had dropped to the floor at some point, long forgotten now. "He's kidding, right?" Mercedes had sassily asked, laughter in her voice. She was on the verge of hysterics, and everyone around her could feel it. "Mr. Schue?" she asked again. "He's kidding...isn't he?"
The majority of the kids on the bus turned to look in Mr. Schuester's direction. His mouth opened and closed a few times. His eyes darted into his long rearview mirror, glancing sporadically back at the kids he was supposed to be taking care of. But he didn't reply. And the cars that were suddenly driving at frantic paces all around him spurred him to step on the gas. "Let's just get home," he finally called over his shoulder as if it would be the answer to all of their problems.
With a flick of his thumb, he turned the radio off.
Artie fiddled with the locks on his wheels. He wondered if his chair would end up as an advantage or a disadvantage. He started picturing himself wheeling down the road, an enraged hoard of zombies chasing after him. He optimistically chose to consider it an advantage.
"Do you think school will be canceled tomorrow?"
Santana turned to look at her girlfriend. "I'm thinking yeah, B." She reached out and squeezed the blonde's hand. "This isn't Sunnydale. I doubt we'll recover from a possible apocalypse overnight." Santana wasn't really sure what else she could do at this point besides reassure the girl sitting next to her. Her mind was already racing as she ran her thumb over Brittany's palm and squinted her eyes out one of the bus windows, staring into the distance.
But the one person whom everyone had expected to be blabbering on and on about the situation had remained almost eerily quiet the entire time. While most people were already unraveling, Rachel was gnawing on her bottom lip with her eyes smashed closed. Her lips were moving frenetically in hushed whispers, and her fingers were moving as if she was ticking off a mental checklist.
Which she was.
And while Rachel plotted and planned – as if she had been expecting this moment – Quinn sat staring out the window with a stony expression on her face. She was a statue. She was hard, cold, immovable. Quinn Fabray was preparing herself. Because a long time ago, it seemed, her family had abandoned her. And in their place, this diverse club had filled that gaping void for love and comfort and acceptance.
In only took three seconds of listening to the guy on the radio wetting himself from fear to help Quinn make up her mind.
She was going to protect these people.
She was going to protect them if it was the last thing she ever did.
April 25th, 2012
Approaching Lima City Limits
Mr. Schue careened off of the exit ramp, his students grasping onto seatbacks in order to remain upright. Fifteen minutes later, he was dodging abandoned cars and hysterical women and men alike in a desperate race to get to the high school.
"Mr. Schue, wait!"
He slammed on his brakes in the middle of a normally busy intersection and turned to look in the mirror at the figure of Rachel Berry walking calmly up the aisle. She stood over his right shoulder and said, "Please, take a right up here. We need to go to my house first."
"And do what?" Mercedes angrily questioned, standing up and squaring off with the tinier diva. "Check on your family? What about the rest of us? Sam's place is closer. Or even Artie's!"
"But they don't have supplies," Rachel replied simply, her voice utterly unwavering. She locked eyes with Mercedes for only a few seconds more before turning back to Mr. Schuester. "Take a right, Mr. Schue."
Mr. Schuester almost flipped the bus twice when he tried to avoid people – individuals with ripped clothing, shambling unhurriedly and with obvious traits of disorientation down the streets.
No one bothered to comment on whether or not they had been zombies.
When they pulled up in front of Rachel's house, the girl allowed her heart to sink for only a moment when she noticed that neither of her fathers appeared to be home.
Despite everything that Rachel had done for the glee club kids over the past three years, she was still grossly underappreciated by most of them. Even Finn had wasted his chances – all seven of them, or whatever number he had gotten up to over last winter break.
She was underappreciated, that is, until she showed them all that her anal retentive attention to detail included preparation for the zombie apocalypse.
"You've got to be kidding me," Puck whispered in awe as he, Finn, Mike, and Sam followed Rachel down into her basement. Four huge metal containers were along each of the walls, and the decor was a far cry from the last time – almost a year and a half ago – that they had been in her house. The small stage was gone and the bar had been consolidated to a tasteful row of shelves in one corner of the area.
"What?" Rachel questioned as she unlatched the first chest and began pulling out rounds of ammunition. "You don't think I was taking mental notes while watching you and Finn play Resident Evil?" She literally scoffed before pointing across the room. "Sam, grab those cases. We can load the guns into those. Quickly, please."
And within ninety minutes, Rachel had turned the glee club into an armed force.
Not that most of them had ever before even held a gun of any kind, let alone fired one. That's why some of them got metal baseball bats.
Just for starters.
They all climbed back onto the bus – Puck with an extra container full of whiskey and vodka and whatever else he had managed to get his hands on (because hard liquor would obviously be vital), and each of the guys with several cases strapped to their backs and hanging from their strong arms.
And then an odd thing happened.
Mr. Schuester turned to Rachel and asked, "Where to now, Rachel?" And while that was a little odd, the oddest thing of all was that no one even questioned his decision to take direction from her instead of giving it himself.
And really, at this point, they shouldn't have been surprised when Rachel had an answer for him. She turned to Mercedes and said, "The Jones' residence."
Mercedes looked slightly taken aback, but she instructed Mr. Schue on how to get there without question.
"Why Mercedes' house?" Kurt asked Rachel once the bus began making its way down the street. A uniform flinch spread through the bus occupants when a reanimated corpse sprinted out in front of them. The dull thud as Mr. Schue failed to avoid it rattled them all a bit. Tina started crying again.
Rachel held the street on which her house resided in her vision for as long as she could. Finally, she turned to Kurt with a curious expression on her face. "You have seen her house, right?"
"Of course," Kurt replied, waving a hand impatiently in the air. "She's one of my best friends, you know that. And we've been there at the same time, Rachel. It's practically a mansion –"
"Yes," Rachel interrupted. "Exactly. It's huge. And her dad added that wrought-iron fence around the perimeter last year, remember?" Kurt's eyes went wide with realization, and he was momentarily terrified of the small woman sitting across from him. "It's not perfect by any means," she said softly, almost talking to herself again. "But it'll do."
The bus pulled up in front of Mercedes' house. Her father's wealth was evident in the design, the imposing structure, and the super costly six-foot tall fence surrounding it.
The gate didn't move as Mr. Schue approached. "Here," Mercedes said, gesturing towards the bus door. "Let me punch in the pass code to open it up." Her hands were shaking as she gripped the bus's front dash.
Mr. Schue opened the door, and the glee club watched with baited breath as Mercedes ventured down the bus steps. Before she could hit the pavement, however, Quinn was suddenly yanking a bat out of Tina's hands and following Mercedes without a word.
Punching in the numbers, Mercedes quickly pounded several times on the enter button. Sweat was beading on her forehead. Her heart was pounding frantically in her chest.
Finally, the gate began to slide apart – almost painfully slow in its progression.
And then a moaning sound relatively close at hand caused everyone's blood to run cold in their veins.
Everyone except for Quinn.
"Get back on the bus, 'Cedes," Quinn said calmly before turning towards the zombie that was halfway running at them along the edge of the fence. Mercedes pretty much tripped her way back onto the bus, falling into Sam's waiting arms.
The zombie was wearing a suit, and its head literally exploded upon impact with the fat end of Quinn's bat.
It was that moment, really, that defined their future existence together. A lot of them wouldn't realize it for some time to come, but that was it. Because while Rachel's preparation was going to allow the mostly-scared-shitless group to survive, it became readily apparent that Quinn's previously well-hidden badassness was going to allow them to live.
Quinn climbed back on the bus, baseball bat still clutched tightly in the fingers of her right hand. She looked surreal in that moment – with her light pink sundress and white cardigan over her shoulders, bat dripping with zombified goo and severe expression on her face. "Let's go," she said as she passed their slightly-stupefied teacher. Mr. Schuester snapped his dangling jaw closed. He stepped on the gas, and they moved onto the immaculate drive leading up to the Jones' home.
"You've got some..." Brittany trailed off, pointing at Quinn's shoulder as the girl went to sit down in the back. "Just...there." She reached forward and pushed a chunk of brain matter off of Quinn's sweater with the tip of her bat.
"Thanks, Brit," Quinn answered quietly, leaning her forehead against the cool bus window.
Rachel observed the interaction silently. But she knew she had just unknowingly found a powerful ally. Because Rachel could imagine what was probably happening outside of their little bubble right now, but most of the other kids surely hadn't managed to comprehend as of yet. Quinn, however, had made it obvious that she was willing to step up. It was just the kind of gesture that Rachel had been hoping for from someone.
As they piled out of the bus, Mercedes hit a button near one of the garage doors. The metal gate started to slide shut on the far side of the yard. As one, they all turned to watch it. And when it clinked shut and locked into place, a collective sigh passed over the group.
No one knew that Dr. Jones was dead. They didn't know that he was now a walking corpse, stumbling into the grocery store on the corner of Third and Main, chomping down on the outstretched arm of Mrs. Cohen-Chang, and grappling to gain a hold on her youngest son, Tim.
All they knew was that they were grateful he had been a dentist. Because that damn expensive fence felt more comforting than most of them were willing to admit.
June 22nd, 2012
That was fifty-eight days ago.
And while fifty-eight days probably doesn't seem like much, it's fucking exhausting when you're fighting for your life twenty-four-seven.
Quinn stood, leaning heavily on the rail of the balcony underneath her elbows. It was late morning, and there was a cool breeze against her skin. Her short locks of hair fell into her face, but she didn't shake them away. She only closed her eyelids and breathed in deeply.
She tilted her head to the left, eyes still closed. If it was important, Santana would yell once more before threatening to come up and beat her ass.
"Q, I'm not even fucking kidding right now!"
The smallest of satisfied smiles graced her lips before Quinn turned and headed back through the master bedroom and to the stairs. It took less than a minute to get down to the living room – Command Central, if you will – but Santana rolled her eyes dramatically upon Quinn's entrance anyway.
"What's up?" Quinn asked, moving to stand behind Artie. He had become their go-to guy when it came to technology. And over the past few weeks, they had managed to scrounge up quite a bit of abandoned technology from around town. It hadn't been easy, and they hadn't always gone about it in the smartest of ways. But Artie was now sitting in front of a pretty formidable setup of computers, GPS tracking systems, and a barrage of walkie talkies charging up.
Artie held up a finger and pointed to the master communications receiver, indicating that he was expecting one final transmission.
And before long, Puck's crackly voice was floating across the airways. "Confirmed," he said. "It's definitely somewhere in her office. We've got the entry right here to validate. It looks like she kept pretty thorough documentation in regards to it."
"Makes sense," Artie mumbled to himself. "Sylvester was always the type to be prepared." He pursed his lips before pressing the transmit button and saying, "Thanks, Puck. I'll fill Quinn in on the situation. Over and out."
"Copy that," Puck replied.
Artie pushed back from the table and wheeled around to face Quinn directly. "Puck and Finn found some valuable information during their raid of Coach Sylvester's house this morning."
Quinn nodded solemnly. She had known they were going out. She had opted to stay back at Mercedes' house – though they had been referring to it as Home Base for a while now, mainly to avoid saying the girl's name. She had wanted to remain close to Artie and the communications equipment in case Rachel and Kurt had run into difficulties on their outing. "What kind of information?" she asked, trying to get him straight to the point.
He rolled around Quinn to stare at a map of Lima that they had erected on the wall a few days earlier. It was low enough that he could easily access it. "Your target," he said, moving forward to grab a pushpin, "is the high school." Artie punched the pin into Quinn's destination. He rolled around to face her as she stared at the little red tack on the map. "Apparently, Coach Sylvester had some kind of high tech mainframe hidden away in her office. Part of her system included a high-powered beaconing device." He paused – probably for dramatic effect and certainly not to piss Quinn off, though that was the direction he was heading. "It could get us the hell out of here, Quinn, if we could use it to get the right peoples' attention."
Tina was in the room, and Quinn heard her muffle a sob. Santana, however, was the first one to speak up. "I'm not the only one who wonders where the hell Coach disappeared to, right? That's a little sketchy, if you take a minute to think about it..." The room was quiet in response. Even Quinn's brow furrowed further than normal – it was definitely something that had kept her up several sleepless nights. Santana continued when she realized that no one would answer. "So it's hidden somewhere in her office?"
Artie nodded at her. "Yes. It seems that she had a secret room built somewhere in the school – presumably attached to her office. If her journals are accurate – and we're going to have to assume that they are – then that room houses the kind of technology that is going to get us rescued."
"Alright," Quinn said, grabbing a radio from the docking station and already turning to walk out of the room. She stopped in the doorframe and turned back to Artie one last time. "Anything else I need to know, Abrams?"
He bit the inside of his cheek, pushing his jaw to the side in something of a nervous tick. "Just..." She raised her eyebrow, urging him to stop wasting her time. "You know what the school was like last time you got close." She merely nodded. "We have to assume that it's only gotten worse at this point. It's probably the most dangerous place in Lima, Q."
Quinn knew. She remembered in those first couple of weeks, scouting out the old high school with Sam over her shoulder. They had seen an unlucky individual get too close to the school. The person had been riding a bike, and the spokes were rusty and had been clanking loudly – a veritable alarm for the undead. Sam had begun to call out to the young woman in warning, but Quinn had quickly slapped her hand over his mouth. The walkers had crashed over her like a wave, ripping flesh off of bone and consuming limbs and organs alike. The girl never even reanimated after the zombies stumbled back into the school, moaning out loudly in their now disturbingly familiar cacophony of sound.
Sam had put on a brave front while they were there. But Quinn had heard him screaming in his sleep later that night.
"I understand the risks," Quinn said, her voice adopting the calm, quiet cool that she had perfected over the last fifty-eight days. She thought about the people standing in this room with her, the people out in the streets of Lima – what was left of New Directions, the group of individuals she had come to love. The people she had to protect. And she thought about that damn beaconing device or whatever it was that Artie needed her to retrieve. "The reward outweighs the risk. By far."
She turned and left the room, and she barely even heard as Tina delicately whispered "Good luck" in her wake.
Santana was close on her heels as Quinn made her way to the large laundry room on the far side of the kitchen. It had become the last room most of them saw as they exited the building, the first room they saw when they made it safely back to Home Base.
"Are you going to let me come with you this time?" Santana asked.
Quinn could hear the barely reined in exasperation in the fiery Latina's voice. Ever since Mercedes... Ever since Quinn had failed to uphold her promise to herself – just once, just fucking once failing to protect the people with her – she had stopped letting anyone come with her when she went out. And hypocritically, she never let anyone else leave Home Base without a partner. "You have to have someone with you to watch your back," Quinn had calmly said to Rachel when the little diva protested Quinn's new rule after the Mercedes Incident. "And what about your back, Quinn?" Rachel had vehemently retaliated. Quinn hadn't hesitated before replying, "My back is just fine."
"Maybe next time." It was Quinn's standard response.
"Fuck you, bitch," Santana responded. But her tone was merely resigned at this point. Quinn knew she hadn't expected much else from her. Quinn also knew that Santana would be the most easily distracted if she allowed her to come – she would only worry constantly about Brittany while they were gone, even if Brittany was safely in the base. "Let's get you locked and loaded," the other girl said, already grabbing firearms off of the walls.
"Don't forget my babies," Quinn said as she slipped on her boots, lacing them up tightly and securing the strings under the tongue.
"Wouldn't dream of it." Santana grabbed Quinn's favored weapons – two shiny black La France RSB silenced pistols. The boys normally opted for shotguns or rifles. But Quinn's favorites were light and the most fucking dangerously silent guns in their armory.
Quinn had always wondered how Rachel had gotten them. But she had never been compelled to ask.
In less than fifteen minutes, Quinn was fully 'locked and loaded' – with guns strapped to her waist and her back, wickedly long daggers in the sleeves attached to her boots, and more rounds of ammo than she hoped to ever need on her person.
She wore khaki shorts that exposed her long, toned thighs. Excess material just led to excess noise – Quinn had mastered a sense of stealth and quietness in her movements. She also wore a dark green tank top, and she reveled in the comforting feel of the cool metal of her weapons against her shoulder blades.
As Quinn turned to walk out of the side door, Santana grabbed her wrist. She turned to look at her friend – her best friend since they were fourteen years old. "Be careful," Santana said, her voice strong and unwavering.
Their eyes connected – hazel with deep, dark brown pools – and Quinn gave a rare smile. Really, it was more of a miniscule grin. But Santana nodded once, turned Quinn around by the shoulders, and smacked her ass as she walked out of the door and into the adjacent garage.
Santana closed the door behind Quinn before rushing off to find Brittany.
Apparently Mercedes' older brother had been a motorcycle aficionado. Puck had quickly chosen the black Ducati for himself, but Quinn didn't mind the feel of the green version between her thighs. Mike had taught her how to ride a few weeks ago – Quinn and Puck's personalities clashing too violently for him to be of any help in learning the ropes. She had picked it up like it was her second nature.
Quinn had been picking a lot of things up as if they were second nature since the world went to hell.
She slipped the bright green helmet down over her pink locks of hair. The helmet had been her...compromise, so to speak, with Rachel. "If you're going to go out, risking your life left and right while the rest of us sit here on our asses, the least you can do is wear a damn helmet!"
So Quinn had started wearing a helmet. After all, it would be silly to avoid becoming zombified only to end up as a bloody streak on the pavement.
Quinn kicked the engine into life. Pressing a button on the dash of her revved up ride, she gave it gas and sped out of the still rising garage door.
Mike was standing at the estate's entrance gate. He had started opening it as soon as he saw the garage door begin to lift up. As Quinn passed through the narrow gap that opened in the slow moving gate's path, she dropped her hand down and gave him a peace sign, two fingers raised in a silent salute of thanks. He waved back and immediately set the gate to close again.
Quinn's last thought – incredibly ironic in its conception, considering where it was she herself was headed – was of Kurt. She hoped that he was ok. Because if Kurt was ok, then Rachel was ok.
She kicked the bike up a gear and sped through the deserted suburbs and towards William McKinley High School.
Home Base had a huge wraparound porch. And as the green streak better known as Quinn on a Mission bled into the distance – the roar of the engine fading with her – Sam, Santana, Brittany, Artie, and Tina stood on it and stared solemnly in her wake.
"When do you think it is that Quinn got to be so awesome?" Artie questioned, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose and folding his hands over the walkie in his lap.
Mike hopped up on the porch, having just run across the yard. He immediately reached out and grabbed Tina's hand. Artie didn't give any indication that he had seen – or that he cared.
When the world ends, some things just stop bothering you.
When Sam spoke, his voice was sad, quiet, withdrawn – just like it had been ever since they lost Mercedes. "I think I know the exact moment..."
April 30th, 2012
The sun was already well past its highest point in the sky. It was making its way back down towards the western horizon, but Finn claimed that this would be the best time to sight and shoot the zombies.
Quinn and Rachel had been the only girls who wanted to learn how to shoot rifles, so they had tagged along with the boys. Santana had haughtily turned them down with a "What? You don't need skill to aim a fucking shotgun." But Quinn knew that she had only stayed behind because Brittany had just had a nightmare that morning and was still pretty shaken up from it all.
They were all still pretty damn shaken up at this point though, to be honest. But Quinn needed to be productive. And it had been a few days since she had killed that first zombie, and her skin was crawling. It was an unusual feeling, but Santana had just said it was the 'H and H's and not to worry about it too much.
"So..." Mike trailed off with a skeptical tone in his voice. "How many of you guys have actually ever shot a rifle in real life?"
He raised his own hand, as did Sam, Puck, and Rachel. Rachel raising her hand should have been surprising. But most of them had stopped being surprised by her already.
"I'm guessing that Halo doesn't count?" Finn questioned.
Mike just shook his head. After a few minutes of Mike and Sam explaining the basic safety precautions they needed to take, each of the seven guys and girls on the rooftop took their own rifle.
"I'm gonna name mine 'Betty'," Puck said, stroking the side of his gun.
Rachel sighed and rolled her eyes. "That's so cliché, Noah."
"Fine, what are you going to name yours?" he challenged in return.
"Oh my god..."
"Ok guys," Sam interrupted. "Look..." A few zombies were already ambling about in the streets. A collective shiver ran down their spines. "You take aim through the scope. Keep both of your eyes open. And then you solidly pull through the trigger. Like...this." And then Sam killed the first long-range zombie of the group.
They took turns patting him on the back in congratulations. Finn had whooped for him, but Quinn quickly shushed them all. "Shh," she hissed out. "The louder we are, the more attention we draw to ourselves. Look at them all now."
And sure enough, at least a dozen more zombies had already started moving about the streets, dumbly looking around for the source of the noise. Luckily, the rifle shot echoed off of the few tall buildings in the downtown area. Their position hadn't been compromised.
"Everyone needs to get a little practice before we leave," Mike chimed in. "Come on. Everyone sight your targets."
"I've got the one in front of the donut shop."
"I'll take the old bag who looks like Mrs. Brady from over on Phelps Street."
"Ohh, I'll shoot at the one with that lovely vintage dress."
And so on and so forth.
"Aim for their heads," Sam lightly called out down the row.
And then, before anyone else had even fully gotten their targets in their sights, Quinn had pulled her trigger.
The walking undead that was passing through the crosswalk fifty yards away dropped to the ground. After its head exploded off its shoulders. Six pairs of eyes turned and looked at Quinn. Some with curiosity, others with respect.
One set of eyes with something dangerously close to longing.
Quinn hadn't even removed her eye from the scope, instead turning to her next target and blowing its face off with another well-aimed bullet.
Sure, they were feeling a lot of things. But one collective feeling they were experiencing was that of hope.
June 22nd, 2012
As Sam finished his recounting of the event, Mike was nodding his head in agreement. "Yeah," he added. "That was pretty intense."
Tina shook her head, long strands of hair falling into her eyes. She tucked one back behind her left ear and said, "I think it was when she came to me to help her with her new look. It was when she finally changed her outward appearance to match who she's become inside. That's definitely when she embraced her awesome..."
May 17th, 2012
"Hey Tina," Quinn said as she plopped down next to the other girl at the kitchen counter.
"Hey Quinn," Tina replied. "What's up?"
Quinn's hands were in her lap, fiddling with the frayed hem of her cut-off jeans. "You cut your own hair, don't you, T?" Tina nodded, a small smile forming on her lips. "Do you think you could cut my hair?"
"Sure! Do you know what kind of style you want?"
"I do," Quinn said. "I was thinking of mimicking Puck's mohawk, but I don't want to infringe on his territory." She winked at Tina to show she was kidding – a little. "Something short though, for sure. And uhh, what about coloring? I know you've done colorful streaks in your hair before."
"Oh yeah, definitely. Actually, my little sister is really great with –" and then Tina trailed off. Because her biggest trigger was talking about her family.
Quinn cringed. She hadn't meant to upset Tina. "Well do you think you could help me do mine?" She pulled a box of hair color out from behind her back. "I snatched it last time I went with the guys on a supply run."
Tina's tears dried up almost instantly when she saw the color. "Alright," she said, "let's do this."
An hour later, Quinn was rocking choppy, bright pink hair and a smile like Tina hadn't seen on anyone in quite a long time. She had tears in her eyes after Quinn hugged her and walked out of the room, but they were happy tears for once. There was just something about Quinn that felt...hopeful. And Tina kind of needed that.
Hell, they all did.
June 22nd, 2012
Immediately upon Tina's retelling of Quinn's makeover, Santana scoffed and interjected her own opinion. "Hell to the fuck no, bitches. Those stories are stupid. Firing a gun for the first time or going butchy-punk-fabulous in the hair department is not enough to bring out such hidden badassery. It was totally when Quinn dealt with her bastard of a father..."
May 3rd, 2012
East Lima, Business District
Brittany, Santana, Quinn, Sam, and Mike were making their way slowly down one of the main thoroughfares in Lima. The pickup truck that Mike was driving already had several canisters full of gasoline in the back, but they had two more vehicles ready to carry the valuable liquid. The day before, Puck and Finn had returned to Home Base with three huge generators in the back of the truck. And apparently there were more where that came from.
So they needed fuel.
Quinn's radio crackled from the dash of the Jeep she was driving. "We're gonna hit up this Shell station on the left." She didn't bother to reply.
Santana was sitting in the passenger seat, and Brittany was just over Quinn's right shoulder, leaning forward against both the driver's and passenger's seats at the same time with her elbows. Her chin was resting on Santana's shoulder. Out of the corner of her eye, Quinn watched as Santana reached her hand back and gently entangled it in blonde hair.
They pulled into the Shell station. Quinn and Brittany grabbed the two empty canisters they had in the back of their Jeep. Sam was already starting to siphon the gas up and out of the abandoned pump.
When their final canister was full, Sam and Mike began to haul it over to the girls' vehicle.
"San..." Brittany suddenly said, trailing off and reaching out to grab Santana's wrist between her long, slender fingers.
The guys plopped the gas into the back of the Jeep before grabbing their rifles from around their shoulders.
They had all attempted to be as quiet as possible. But they hadn't quite been quiet enough.
Quinn felt a sense of relief when she realized there were only about ten undead moving towards them – one sprinting, a couple loping awkwardly, and the rest walking unhurriedly or dragging themselves pitifully along. She dispensed of four of the zombies with her pistols, Santana blew away the fast one with a well placed round from her shotgun, and Mike and Sam finished off the rest.
But then one last walker emerged around the corner. "Wait," Santana called out as Mike took aim with his rifle. She had recognized the undead – and so had Brittany.
And so had Quinn.
Quinn watched the zombified figure of Russell Fabray move ever closer. A part of her marveled at how disgustingly dignified he seemed to be, even in his current state of undeath. His hair was slightly mussed to the left, his tie was loose around his neck, his loafers were no longer shiny – but he was walking towards Quinn, raising his arms slowly in her direction, and she felt as if she was fifteen and pregnant and alone again, waiting for the timer on the microwave to go off.
She stepped forward to meet him. He was focused in on her – he had been the entire time. Quinn allowed him to get within ten paces before she raised the pistol in her outstretched arm and annihilated the reanimated corpse of her bastard father.
The zombie apocalypse meant a lot of really shitty, terrible, fucking pessimistic things about the state of the world.
But when the gathered comrades watched Quinn blow her father's grey matter out all over the sidewalk, it gave them hope that maybe...
Maybe new beginnings were still possible.
June 22nd, 2012
"And that, you punks, is how Quinn Fabray became a complete badass."
Brittany – who had previously remained silent throughout the story-telling, choosing instead to sit on the porch steps with her elbows on her knees – finally spoke up. "I don't think it's all about being a badass."
Everyone was quiet as they turned to her. Santana moved to sit next to her, leaning back on her hands and waiting for the blonde to tell them when she thought Quinn had changed. "The way Quinn is... It's about something more than just being awesome or badass or firing guns and slashing throats. It's about protecting us."
The other people on the porch nodded as they listened to Brittany's words of uncanny wisdom.
She continued. "I think Quinn decided a long time ago that she was going to take care of us. But I think she got super close to losing it when Rachel almost got bitten. And since then, she's never quite been the same..."
May 16th, 2012
Mercedes was lying back on the couch in Command Central. Brittany was playing solitaire on the carpet, her feet up above her head. Artie was stationed – as usual – at the desk of equipment that they had gotten together thus far. They had a pretty decent computer system and some GPS equipment. But they really needed some portable, hand-held radios. Maybe he could get the guys to go down to the police station tomorrow...
Quinn walked into the room. Her expression was calm. Her long, blonde hair was tied back in a tight ponytail reminiscent of her time as Head Cheerio. She put both of her hands on the back of Artie's chair after she strode across the room. "What's up?" she questioned.
It had become the standard give and take between Artie and Quinn.
She would come in after finishing whatever it was she had been doing, and she would ask him what was up. And then he would reply with a list of the whereabouts of every New Directions member. As he started listing off positions in that moment, he decided that it would be really useful to have a huge map of Lima along one of the walls.
"Mr. Schue is in containment –" Quinn nodded, nothing new there.
"Santana and Tina are on laundry duty –" Quinn smirked because she had been certain that today was Brittany's day for laundry.
"Finn, Puck, Sam, and Mike are out on the east side, searching for survivors in that less dense area of Lima Heights –" Quinn nodded once more. She wasn't worried about the boys – especially not when they were four in strength. They could handle themselves – and if they couldn't, she would kick their asses.
"And Kurt went with Rachel to her house."
Quinn's heart almost stopped in her chest. "What did you just say?"
Artie turned in his chair to catch sight of Quinn's face. "Kurt and Rachel, they went to the Berrys' home."
Her stomach felt like it was in her throat. Something felt wrong. Something felt so fucking wrong, and she had to go to the Berrys' right then and there or else she knew she could never live with herself.
Without even waiting for another syllable from Artie, Quinn was out of the living room and heading for the garage. Brittany hopped up and followed her without a word.
Quinn's worst fears were confirmed when she screeched to a stop outside of Rachel's house, rolling out of the truck without even bothering to turn it off. Brittany grabbed the keys – and a baseball bat – before following Quinn over to the Jeep where Kurt was sitting.
And he was alone.
"Where the hell is Rachel?" Quinn called out as she approached. Kurt's feet slipped haphazardly off of the dash. Quinn repressed the snarl she wanted to throw at him – for his carelessness, his lackadaisical attitude while sitting out in the open.
"She's inside," he said. Quinn was already running up the sidewalk to the front door, pulling one of her RSBs from its holster at her side as she went. "She needed to do this on her own, Quinn. She's saying goodbye!" He yelled the last sentence at the blonde's retreating figure, but she paid him no mind.
Brittany leaned against the side of the Jeep and kicked the fat end of the bat with the toe of her shoe. "What's up with her?" Kurt asked.
"You know what it's like to lose someone you love," Brittany said without a single layer of sugar. Kurt turned angry eyes in her direction, but she ignored him. "Quinn doesn't want to have to experience the same feeling, Kurt, so she's just worried about Rachel."
At first, Kurt thought Brittany was crazy. Though most people thought that a lot of the time. In this instance, he mainly found it odd to use the words 'Quinn' and 'Rachel' and 'love' in the same breath.
But then something clicked in his brain, and he was back in Blaine's bedroom that day after their lives first changed for the worst. That day when the world was still crumbling down around their heads, he had gotten Rachel to go with him to watch his back. They made a pretty decent team, it turned out – and not just when it came to emulating Barbra and Judy. When he found the Andersons' house completely deserted – and nothing but blood-stained sheets on Blaine's bed – Rachel had held him while he cried.
"You're right, Brit. I should've gone in with Rachel, yeah?" His voice cracked, and he slumped forward in his seat.
Brittany nodded. "Yeah. But Quinn's inside now. Everything will be ok."
Quinn stepped inside the Berry residence, and she was still seeing red from Kurt's lack of higher brain function. And when she heard the faintest sound of whimpering coming from the second floor, she scaled the stairs three at a time.
The door was open at the top of the stairs, and Quinn could see the towering figure of one of Rachel's dads. And between his legs, Quinn saw the quaking figure of his daughter from another life. He was bearing down on her, and Quinn knew that the girl must have been terrified beyond all measure.
Confused. Scared. Completely fucking innocent and pristine. And all Quinn wanted to do was save her.
So she scrambled up the last few stairs and planted a bullet in his brain.
He fell slowly, awkwardly into the wall. Quinn jumped over him and literally dove at Rachel's feet.
"Rach," she whispered. But the girl was still staring – unseeingly, unblinkingly – at the corpse of her father. "Rachel," Quinn said again, this time with more severity in her tone. Finally, the brunette shifted her eyes to her savior's. "It's over. You're safe now. I promise to never let anything happen to you."
"He...My daddy," she sobbed out, tears suddenly breaking free and streaming down her face with gusto.
"I know, Rachel," Quinn said, clutching onto Rachel's back and pulling the girl into her. And she did know, in her own way. She had re-killed her own father. But while Quinn's memories of Russell were less than sweet and comforting, Rachel had been lucky enough to have two loving, caring dads.
And Quinn had just blown one's zombified brains out of his skull right in front of Rachel's face.
After half an hour of grief – of mourning for the undead and the once-more dead – Quinn helped Rachel to her feet. She wrapped her arms around Rachel's shoulders, and the smaller girl grasped at Quinn's shirt just above her waist. As they walked out into the sunlight, Rachel looked up at the strong, hard features of Quinn Fabray.
And even though she had just lost her last real link to the world before the apocalypse, Rachel was less worried than she probably should be. Because she had tried for years – for years – to convince Quinn that they could be friends. And so maybe Rachel had lost her family, her fathers. But she had gained a friend in Quinn Fabray in those solitary moments with her father's corpse a mere six feet away – with Quinn's lips trailing across her forehead and her hands pressing into Rachel's back comfortingly.
Rachel climbed into the passenger seat next to Kurt, and they followed Quinn and Brittany back to Home Base. And Rachel was reminded of that first day – when Quinn had been the very first one among them to kill a zombie, when Quinn had become something of an emotional ally in the war Rachel knew she would be fighting.
Quinn had become a symbol of hope.
And so Kurt and Rachel had followed that bobbing, blond ponytail home, their hands clasped together over the stick shift.
June 22, 2012
Silence descended upon the porch as they all took in Brittany's words.
She was right. But so was Sam. And so was Tina. And so was Santana.
In their own ways, each of them had managed to capture a glimpse into the transformation of Quinn Fabray.
They stared out into the distance. But the dust trail from Quinn's Ducati was long gone by now. And all that was left to do was sit. And wait. And listen to the radio silence.
And hope for the best.
June 22, 2012
Sue Sylvester's Residence
"You know what this could mean, right?" Puck directed the question over his shoulder at Finn, shoving the leather-bound journals into his bag and slinging it back across his shoulders.
Finn was shifting through another file cabinet, his fingers skimming quickly over names of past students – presumably Cheerios. Noting nothing of interest to their imminent survival, he shoved the drawer back into place. It resounded in the room with a satisfying click. "Yeah," he finally answered Puck. "If Quinn can find it, we could get rescued."
Puck nodded when Finn looked in his direction. He jerked his head towards the door leading out of the room. "Let's get out of here. We'll head back to Home Base and check in with Artie. The school isn't the kind of place where Quinn needs backup."
"Yeah, but... Just the thought of her going in there alone..."
"I know, man." He reached up, clasping Finn's shoulder underneath his callused hand. "But she's the best equipped for it. And we've learned that stealth is key – especially when dealing with zombies in mass. And unfortunately, that's exactly what she'll be dealing with inside McKinley. It's a one-woman job."
Finn nodded before opening the office door and heading out into the hallway.
Sue Sylvester's house was indescribably creepy. Maybe it was something about the way that the cheerleading coach had seemingly disappeared into thin air. Maybe it was the stillness of the air or the faint creaking of floorboards that they could hear every once in a while.
They were thankful for being there at this time of day – when the sun was still up and windows allowed fresh light to stream inside.
Otherwise, the whole trip out might have been terrifying.
Not that either one of the tough guys with shotguns strapped over their backs would have admitted that.
As they were stepping cautiously down the hallway, eyes glancing in rooms as they passed, Finn spotted something sitting on a spare table. "Hey!" he called out to Puck who was a few paces ahead of him. "Check this out."
Puck turned back and followed his friend into the room. And there in the middle of the floor – sitting in place as if it had been waiting for them – was a turntable.
"No way," Puck said. He lifted the glass case off of the top and fiddled with the needle. "This is super snazzy."
Finn was walking around the room, ogling the shelves that were home to hundreds – thousands, maybe – of records. He looked over his shoulder and caught Puck's eye. With a small grin on his face, he said, "I bet Mr. Schue will love this."
April 27th, 2012
Home Base & North Central Lima, Near WMHS
More than one of his students had tried talking Mr. Schuester out of it. They had safely spent two nights in Mercedes' house so far – with few complications and almost no scares. Why did he want to leave? What was the point? Stay where it was safe – for now. Don't venture outside.
But he had been desperate to find Miss Pillsbury.
They had finally taken that awkward next step and had been preparing to move in with each other. The general consensus amongst Mr. Schue's students was that it was best to just not think about it. Teachers having sex was weird enough – but combining Mr. Schuester's strange affinity for break dancing and Miss Pillsbury's (admittedly decreasing) fear of human contact and, well, it was just too crazy for them to comprehend.
Mr. Schue was out the door and starting up one of Dr. Jones' trucks when Puck threw his arms up in the air. "Fine! Come on, Finn. We need to go with him, make sure he doesn't get himself killed." They headed towards the laundry room and the garage to join up with him. "Or worse," Puck muttered under his breath. They grabbed shotguns on their way out the door – because Finn still hadn't really learned how to shoot and Puck didn't want to make him feel inadequate – and jumped into the back of the black pickup truck as Mr. Schue began to back out of the garage.
It was weird when they saw Miss Pillsbury. It was almost like she had been waiting for them.
The high school was three blocks to the west of their current location. But they had found Miss Pillsbury running down this random side street – with one of her heels almost falling off of her foot, her hair a mess, and dirt on her face. Maybe Mr. Schuester and Miss Pillsbury were soul mates. Maybe that was how he had known exactly where to go to find her. It had taken them long enough to finally get together officially, maybe this had been his heart's way of making it up to him – by leading them straight together in the most trying of times.
One hundred yards out from her, Mr. Schuester slammed the brakes on the vehicle and jumped out of the cab. "Emma!" he called out to her.
She froze momentarily – stunned – as if she couldn't possibly believe the sight her eyes were showing her. And maybe she didn't believe it. Maybe in those last few moments, she didn't believe that her boyfriend-lover-fiancé was running towards her. Maybe thoughts of hope and protection and safety and miracles and soul mates didn't cross her mind.
A flicker of something crossed over her face though. A smile began to light up her eyes. So maybe she did believe.
They were running towards each other now. The distance was closing. Finn and Puck hopped over the side of the truck and began to walk towards their teachers. They could hear Miss Pillsbury's laughter, and they could see Mr. Schuester's shoulders sagging in relief even as he moved towards the love of his life.
And then they heard the zombies.
"Mr. Schue!" Finn yelled. "Watch out!"
Both of the boys were sprinting towards their teachers now, shotguns in hand.
But Mr. Schue was still half a football field's length from Emma. And the frenzied undead were closer.
They sprinted towards her from out of an alleyway, and they started ripping her apart before Mr. Schuester could so much as gasp out her name in horror.
Finn and Puck made it to Mr. Schuester's side in time to watch as three zombies finished ripping Emma Pillsbury's throat out. Blood gushed onto the warm, black pavement under their feet. Chunks of now useless, shredded flesh flew through the air. Finn clasped a hand over Mr. Schue's shoulder, trying to move him backwards. "Come on, Mr. Schue," he said frantically, more than a little disturbed by the gruesome scene taking place in front of his eyes. "We've gotta go." Mr. Schuester didn't respond, so Finn took to shaking him and yelling in his face, "Mr. Schue! Come on, we have to get out of here!"
But Finn's yelling really only served to alert the three walking corpses to the other humans in the near vicinity. Puck yelled out to Finn to get Mr. Schue to the truck. But while Finn was tall and strong, Mr. Schuester was completely dead weight. He fell to his knees, and Puck turned instead to fight off the zombies that were now moving quickly in their direction.
Puck blew the first one's head clean off, but Finn's first round hit one mostly in the upper chest and shoulder area. And if zombies could be pissed off, that one probably would have been just that. Instead, it simply continued moving towards them – relentless and terrifying as it moaned and dripped fresh ginger counselor blood from between its already rotting lips.
They each took another shot. And they each blew skulls and brains apart. And so with only a few feet to spare between life and death, the three zombies were history.
The boys turned and ran back to where Mr. Schue was kneeling on the pavement. They each linked an arm under one of his and bodily hoisted him up, moving towards the truck. They needed to get out of there. More could always be coming.
"Emma." The word left Mr. Schue's lips in such a curious tone that his students couldn't help but give pause.
Puck dropped Mr. Schue's arm, but the teacher was now standing on his own. And he had a hopeful expression in his eyes. "Emma," he said once more. Finn and Puck both turned fully around at this point and followed their teacher's gaze.
And Miss Pillsbury was walking towards them, arms outstretched and white blouse riddled with her own blood and guts – the perfect vision of a zombie bride.
"Holy shit," Finn muttered. Never before had either of them been witness to a corpse reanimating. It happened quickly. The virus was grossly efficient.
Puck stepped forward, cocked his gun up to his shoulder, and blew Miss Pillsbury's brains out the back of her head.
"Let's go," he said, once again grabbing half of Mr. Schuester's weight and carrying him to the car with Finn's help.
The ride back to Mercedes' house had been silent. They were all disturbed, to say the least.
But Mr. Schuester's wide-eyed stare never went away. He stopped existing the moment Miss Pillsbury's body smacked back against the pavement, her second death taking her away from him for all of eternity.
Maybe they had been soul mates. Maybe they hadn't.
Either way, Mr. Schuester was little more than a shell from that day forward.
June 22nd, 2012
Sue Sylvester's Residence
"I mean..." Finn trailed off, the memory of the day they had lost their glee club director still flashing through his mind. "Maybe it could help him. Somehow..."
"Yeah," Puck said. "Music being good for the soul and all that." He shrugged and began picking records off of the wall at random. "Couldn't hurt to try."
With Finn's backpack full of records and his arms snugly wrapped around the record player, they began to make their way out of Coach Sylvester's house.
And as they rounded the last corner into the main entrance of her home, Puck let out a yell of fright as Sue's housekeeper was suddenly right in front of his face.
And she was most definitely zombified.
"Fuck!" he yelled out, backing up and into Finn as the housekeeper – fat and out of shape, yet decidedly agile for one of the undead – rushed at his face, arms outstretched and teeth bared. She was salivating profusely, and Puck was genuinely scared for his life.
Puck reached over his shoulder but couldn't seem to get a grip on his gun. Finn managed to shift the weight of the turntable in his arms, maneuvering it without dropping it while simultaneously grabbing his own shotgun, leveling it at Imelda's head, and pulling the trigger.
As her head was exploding all over Coach Sylvester's trophy cases, she shrieked out some indecipherable word or phrase. It might have just been the traditional zombie moan, or it could have been an unintelligible Spanish word – neither Puck nor Finn had ever been particularly competent with the language, so they may never know the difference.
Finn juggled the turntable once more, slinging the shotgun back over his shoulder. "Wow," he breathed out. "Close call. Right, man?"
Puck turned around with wide eyes. "Hey, Finn! That was a close fucking call!"
"Whoa," Finn said, "why are you yelling at me? And yeah, I kind of just said that."
Puck's brow furrowed before he finally responded. "Hey man, I think you blew out my eardrum."
With wide eyes and a guilty expression, Finn awkwardly patted Puck on the shoulder. Then they continued out of the house and to the Jeep they had taken that morning. Finn climbed into the driver's seat. And when Puck took a seat next to him, he reached over and nudged his best friend's shoulder. When Puck was looking at him, he said, "Hey, I really am sorry about, ya know, shooting a gun off right next to your ear. I just kind of like having you around, and I don't want you to be a zombie."
Puck just sat there with his eyebrow arched in a very what-the-fuck type pose before he finally spoke. "Dude, I cannot fucking read your lips. And I have no idea what you just said." Finn turned back to the wheel and twisted the key in the ignition, a slightly awkward chuckle crossing his lips. "Let's just get the fuck out of here."
June 22nd, 2012
North Central Lima, Half a mile from WMHS
The pavement was hot against the rubber soles of Quinn's boots. She cut off the Ducati's engine and leaned it up against the red brick of the post office. She would be running the rest of the way to the school. She could be quieter that way. Stealthier.
It only took a few minutes for the imposing figure of McKinley High to loom up in her line of vision. She slowed to a walk, allowing her slightly elevated heartbeat to stabilize once again. Before the outbreak, the school had been oppressive in its own way – the presence of Coach Sylvester always breathing down the necks of the glee club, the expectations of a mother whom Quinn could only assume was dead (or undead) at this point, pending acceptances (or rejections) from colleges, AP tests... But now, the oppression was different.
The heavy front door was knocked back off of its hinges, dangling haphazardly by the entrance to the school. There was complete and utter silence from where Quinn stood, and that was probably the most disturbing thing of all.
The population of Lima had certainly never been overwhelming – but all it took was one bite. And Quinn knew the school was full of the walking undead – the previously lively residents of Lima, Ohio. She knew it because she had seen it firsthand. And yet, here she was – preparing herself to walk inside the fiery pits of hell. It was literally a deathtrap. And why? For no reason more or less than Mr. Schue. And Sam. And Kurt and Puck and Finn. Santana and Brittany and Tina. Mike and Artie.
And for the people they had lost. For Mercedes – whom Quinn had failed to protect. And for Blaine and Miss Pillsbury – just a few of the people she had never been given the opportunity to save.
Quinn looked up into the sky. The sun was inching further and further towards its peak, and she was thankful that it was still morning. Because they had learned that the zombies typically responded more slowly during the daylight hours. And she had no idea how long this would take. Every advantage was welcome.
Deft hands reached down and grabbed her radio, lifting it to her lips. "Artie," she said quietly as she pressed the button on the side. The volume was low – it would be mental to blow her cover already.
It was a matter of three seconds before she heard his voice across the static. "Quinn, what's your status?"
"I'm getting ready to go into the school, and I'm turning off my walkie. I can't risk the possible noise. I'll turn it back on once I get out." It was important to speak in certainties. There was no room for doubt. "Wish me luck." She switched the radio off without waiting for his response, a tiny click emitting from the knob at the top of the device. She had to turn it off before giving herself the opportunity to ask if Rachel and Kurt had made it back to Home Base safely.
Quinn didn't need any distractions.
With one final glance back up at the swelteringly hot sun, Quinn set her focus in front of her. She set her mind on her future and the future of her friends, her family. And with determination, Quinn unholstered both of her RSBs and strode forward into the condemned place of higher education.
June 22nd, 2012
Rachel put the truck into park and unbuckled her seatbelt. She and Kurt hopped out of the cab and moved to lower the tailgate as Mike, Sam, Brittany, and Santana approached to help them unload the supplies they had gathered that morning.
"Good haul," Mike said, briefly clasping his hand over Kurt's shoulder as they passed. Kurt smiled grimly – because it wasn't a good haul. It was barely even a decent haul.
They had been running low on vegan friendly food products, and Rachel realized that concessions would have to be made – it was the end of days, after all – but she refused to go down without a fight. So she and Kurt had left early that morning to scavenge the local grocery stores for what was left of viable food options.
Their options, it turned out, had been depressingly few and far between.
And on the way back to Home Base, the empty light had lit up next to the gas gauge.
In order to make their expedition seem less depressing, they had stopped by a second hand clothing store on the way home. "You'd be surprised what kinds of vintage treasures you can find in places like this, Kurt," Rachel had said as she pulled up to the building, addressing Kurt and his raised chin and downturned lips.
Besides, thrift stores weren't the kinds of places looters were necessarily drawn to. So Rachel and Kurt didn't have to worry about fighting live people – just dead ones.
Rachel was making another trip from the truck to the kitchen with a box of clothes when Brittany passed her. "Ohh!" Brittany exclaimed, reaching into the box in Rachel's arms and extracting a bright orange bomber hat with fur trim from off of the top. "Can I?" she questioned.
A smile on her lips, Rachel replied, "I had you in mind when I grabbed it."
Brittany kissed Rachel on the cheek before shoving the hat down over her loose hair and skipping off to show Santana. Rachel chuckled under her breath and moved from the kitchen to Command Central.
"Hey Artie," she said, her tone bright and even. "How are you today?"
"Good, Rachel. How did things go with Kurt?"
She pulled another rolling chair over to sit next to Artie, crossing her legs underneath her. "It went well. We only had five walkers to deal with total, so it wasn't really difficult. One looked a lot like Mr. Ryerson, but it was hard to tell with all of the facial mutilation." Artie nodded. "The pink suit was kind of telling though."
They shared soft laughter between themselves, Rachel's ringing out brilliantly in the oftentimes depressing place they had come to call home.
"Are Finn and Puck back yet?"
Artie took only a moment to contemplate the similarities and the differences between Rachel and Quinn. They both would always ask about everyone else; it was like second nature to them, checking in and checking up. But while Quinn would inevitably cut straight to the point, Rachel always had some kind of small talk to break into the conversation with.
It had become part of their normalcy, and Artie really did appreciate a sense of normalcy at this point in his life.
"No, but they should be back soon, I'm sure. They found some pretty important information when they went to Sylvester's." Rachel's face lit up. "One of her journals made mention of some sort of device hidden away in a secret room in her office in the school. It's the kind of high-powered tech that could potentially get the attention of the military – or at least someone better equipped to get us out of here than, well, us."
"That's great!" Rachel said. Then a dark look fell across her eyes. "But, the school..."
"I know," Artie replied. "But Quinn is –"
"Wait," Rachel interrupted, holding a hand up. "Quinn is...Quinn...She's on her way to the school? Is she alone?"
Artie gulped. "Actually," he paused, and Rachel leaned forward in her seat, silently prodding him to continue. "She's already inside. I just had a last transmission with her approximately –" he looked at his watch "– six minutes ago, and then she turned off her radio."
Rachel was an artist. She was a talented actress, and she knew how to play her emotions. But in that moment, she was experiencing so many thoughts and feelings that she couldn't even stand to sit still. She hopped up out of her chair and held a hand up in Artie's face to stop him from speaking when he opened his mouth to explain. "Just, don't." She bit the words out across the tense lines of her jaw and her pursed lips.
Before Artie could even dare to say anything else, Rachel was storming out of the room and back through the laundry room to the garage. She hadn't even removed her pistols from around her waist or her bat from the backseat of the truck, so she was fired up and ready to go.
As she stormed through the doorway, she almost barreled straight into Sam who was carrying an overweight box full of canned goods.
"Whoa," he said. "What's wrong?"
But she didn't speak. She just couldn't. Because her emotions just wouldn't stay checked. Rachel felt a lot of things – she was chock-full of feelings, to be honest. And sometimes she had to just push them away from her as if they were a tangible entity. But right now, it was all Rachel could manage to simply exist without walking back inside and giving Artie a stern talking to (with her bat) about how stupid it was to let Quinn go into the school.
Rachel realized that Quinn had developed a certain way of going about things. But that didn't mean she had to agree with it half the time – or any time at all, really.
The garage door was still open, and Rachel was hopping up in the truck and buckling her seatbelt, the engine halfway started before Kurt finally caught up to her, climbing into the cab. "Whoa, Rachel! What is going on?"
She turned to look at him, finally finding it within herself to look someone in the eyes. "Quinn is inside the high school. Right now."
Kurt arched a well-maintained eyebrow and nodded his head once. "So I'm guessing there's nothing I can do to dissuade you from going after her?" Rachel merely cocked an eyebrow and set her jaw. "Alright then, let's get this show on the road."
The departing truck was disappearing through the gate and down the street as everyone remaining at base gathered in Command Central. They had stacked the boxes along one wall, and Tina and Brittany were sorting through the clothes piece by piece. Sam was tossing Mike canned corn and peas and whatever else through the entryway and into the kitchen where Mike was stacking them on shelves.
And Artie had rolled over to the window and was looking out in Rachel's wake with a curious expression on his face. "Why is it that Rachel's so upset about Quinn going into McKinley? It's the chance to finally get out of here. And Quinn's like, our resident badass at this point. If anyone can get in and out of there, it's her."
"Why is Rachel upset?" Sam asked quietly, continuing to toss cans methodically to Mike. "You mean besides the fact that it's super dangerous? Yeah, Quinn is our best bet. No argument from me there. But that doesn't mean that there's not still a huge possibility that she could die."
Artie rolled away from the window, turning to face the group of people. "Ok, fair enough. And we all know Rachel has always kind of taken on that motherly role, but –"
Santana scoffed loudly, interrupting him. "Motherly? You've got to be joking. Rachel flew out of here like a bat out of hell because she and Quinn have been fucking like crazy for the past three weeks. She doesn't want to lose her fuck buddy. It's simple logistics."
Sam tossed a can, and Mike dropped it. It rolled away on the kitchen floor, and everyone in the vicinity turned to stare at Santana as if she had grown a second head on her shoulders.
"It's true," Brittany chimed in, continuing to rifle through the secondhand clothes. "Quinn's room is right next to ours. We can hear pretty much everything." She pulled out a pair of rainbow-colored leg warmers with a pleased smile on her face and promptly pulled them over her hands and up her forearms. She admired them for a second before diving back into the box, completely oblivious to the room's attention on her. "It's such a turn on. Right, San?"
The room shifted back to Santana, a verbal tennis volley of social awkwardness. She had pulled a nail file out of her pocket and was working on the nails of her left hand, casually leaning back against the nearest wall as if a perfect manicure was the most pressing of her worries in the entire world. "Yep," she drawled slowly. "It's pretty hot."
June 22nd, 2012
Almost four complete years of school at WMHS had helped Quinn to be intimately familiar with every twist and turn – every corridor, every set of lockers, every classroom.
Quinn knew her way around.
So when she took a turn in a direction other than Coach Sylvester's office, she was fully aware. But something was drawing her down a different hallway – dimly lit by the late morning sunlight through the occasional window.
As she passed Mrs. Carlisle's old classroom, a zombie stumbled out at her. She calmly but quickly took a step backwards, planting her feet firmly on the ground and a bullet squarely between the walking corpse's eyes.
It only ever took one bullet. If she used more, she was just being playful.
The muffled slump of the zombie's weight hitting the floor echoed strangely in her ears, and she was still for a moment to see if other walkers would be drawn to the noise. But there was no movement, no sound, no shuffling of rotting limbs or disturbing moans of hunger.
She continued down the hall.
Finally, she began to hear something other than the soft tap tapping of her boots against the linoleum floor. In a way, it was comforting. Because she knew the hoard of zombies that inhabited the school was somewhere close at hand, and it was beginning to throw her that she hadn't seen them yet.
It was a tinkling, familiar echo of sound coming from an even more familiar location.
Stopping just around the corner from her old choir room, Quinn pressed her shoulder against the wall and peeked with one eye around its edge.
And there, in the darkness afforded this area of the school by its central location, was a wall of zombies. They were pressing against each other – an orgy of filth and rot and despair, sluggishly pushing back and forth and generally swaying in place.
Quinn heard the light tinkle of piano keys again, and she couldn't help but sneer in disgust at the imagery that was painting itself vividly across her mind. Hundreds of zombies crammed into McKinley's choir room and the surrounding hallways, all drawn to the sound of the piano – all of those festering corpses pressing into that space full of risers and sheet music and memories. And it was probably so cramped inside that the occasional corpse would brush against a piano key – and then it would happen over and over and over until they were all gathered there.
That damned piano, like some morbid dinner bell, drawing the undead towards it in the darkness.
Quinn's fingertips reached down and touched lightly upon the single grenade she had attached to the belt around her waist. It would be as simple as pulling the pin and tossing the live grenade into the mass of zombies. It would be that simple – but also that complex. Because what about the zombies that would inevitably survive?
She shifted her hand away from the explosive and took a quiet, delicate step backwards.
When she was three full sets of lockers away from the choir room – and when there was no indication that she had been heard or smelled or seen – Quinn picked up her pace. She needed to get to Coach Sylvester's office, and she needed to find that damn whatever-the-hell-it-was.
As she lightly jogged down the hall, she reminded herself – not for the first time over the past fifty-eight days – that it wasn't about being a hero.
It was really about a hell of a lot more than that.
June 22nd, 2012
North Central Lima, Approaching WMHS
Rachel was driving so fast that Dr. Jones' truck was practically flying over potholes and there was even one speed bump that had launched them briefly through the air.
Kurt was thankful that Rachel had already trained him to wear his seatbelt.
"Rachel..." Kurt enunciated her name slowly, pointedly trying to get her attention. "If you don't mind me asking, why is it that you're so upset about this?"
One of Kurt's favorite things was asking questions for which he already had answers. And this particular question was one that he had been pondering for approximately thirty-seven days. Why was Rachel so fixated on Quinn? And the reciprocal of that was worth questioning as well, because Quinn had certainly done her fair share of fixating – especially since she had saved Rachel's life from her zombified father.
It had taken a couple of weeks since that eye-opening day to finally begin to consider that there was something more than friendship between the two girls. Something less than platonic – and that was simultaneously disturbing and adorable. Of everyone in the glee club – perhaps with the sordid exception of Quinn and Puck – Rachel Berry and Quinn Fabray could easily win the award for most tumultuous coexistence.
But one night, Kurt had been on watch duty – pacing the halls on the second floor from window to window and watching their perimeter for walkers – when he had heard them.
Thus the disturbing-ness of it all.
So Kurt knew that, if nothing else, Quinn and Rachel were finding comfort with each other in the dead of night when they thought no one could hear. It was sort of sweet and romantic – in a creepy post-apocalyptic kind of way – so Kurt hadn't said anything to his partner. Because that's what Rachel had become: his partner in survival. But now, Kurt was calling her out. And he found himself hanging on the possible words that could leave her lips as she stared determinedly at the road in front of her.
Rachel chewed on the inside of her cheek for several seconds as she contemplated how to answer Kurt. It wasn't that she didn't already know her answer – it was consciously floating around inside of her head almost every waking hour of every frigging day. It was the act of deciding how much to tell Kurt. A quick glance out of the corner of her eye to take in his expression, however, was all Rachel needed – because she could clearly see that he already knew far more than he was letting on. So she breathed in and out through her nose a couple of times before acquiescing to his question by giving a response.
"Because she saved my life, Kurt. And I'll be pissed if she gets herself eaten by the undead before I get the chance to make it up to her."
June 22nd, 2012
Southwestern Lima, Between Sue Sylvester's Residence and Home Base
The Jeep rattled underneath them as Finn wasted no time in barreling along the old, poorly maintained back roads. This part of Lima that they found themselves in was creepy – and not just because there could be zombies around every corner. It was near the city limits, and Finn had never known anyone who went to McKinley whose family was brave enough to live out here – except Coach Sylvester, of course. It was dank and sketchy and, as Santana had tossed in on more than one occasion, bougie.
There was a wide, four lane road that led into the heart of Lima near this part of town. Finn was stopped at a stop sign (habit) and preparing to pull out onto that particular road when he heard it.
And he was pretty sure that for a moment – a single, solitary moment in time – his heart stopped pumping blood through his body.
It was a sound unlike anything Finn had ever heard before in his eighteen years of life. He was a big guy – tall and strong and athletic (though awkwardly shaped) - but his hands started shaking on the wheel of the car as his head swiveled around to his right. He gripped the steering wheel almost painfully tight underneath his fingertips.
"Dude," Puck said, raising a concerned eyebrow in Finn's direction. "What is wrong with you? Let's go."
But Finn was frozen in terror – and rightly so. Because even though he had heard them first, he could most definitely see them now.
Without tearing his eyes away from the stretch of road far in the distance, Finn reached out and turned Puck's head.
"What the..." Puck leaned forward out the open window of the Jeep. He tilted his ear that had been directed away from Finn's shotgun blast towards the shapes he could see on the horizon. And while his hearing wasn't even close to fully functional yet, he could just barely make out the dull, muted roar of a hoard of zombies moaning ravenously on the still morning air. "Mother fucker," he breathed out.
"Yeah," Finn agreed. "Holy hell."
Puck blindly reached towards the radio that was sitting on the dash of the vehicle. He couldn't shift his eyes away from the pulsating, shimmering, mirage-like image that would likely be forever burned into his brain. It was a fucking army of the undead.
And it was headed straight for Lima. And though Puck and Finn were both better at reading video game maps than actual maps, they knew that this highway led straight across town and to Home Base. So it stood to reason that if the stomping, chomping, hungry fucking hoard of zombies continued on their current trajectory, they would end up right in the middle of what was left of New Directions.
"Guys," Puck spoke into the walkie talkie. His lips brushed against the plastic which was warm from the sun as he waited for a response.
"Puck," Artie's voice came across the airwaves – but instead of comforted, all Finn and Puck felt was scared shitless.
The vibration of Artie's voice through the radio and the muffled, far away sound of his own name spurred Puck into action. He pressed the button once more and said, "We have a problem."
June 22nd, 2012
Brittany leaned back between Santana's legs. They were on the front porch, settled down with each other against the warm brick of the house's exterior. Inside had been too stuffy, too full of anxiety over Quinn's success. Or her potential lack of success.
"Are you excited for tomorrow?" The words left Brittany's lips softly, her voice low and even and a little husky.
Santana leaned forward, pressing her lips against the blonde's temple – just next to the flap of the bomber hat – and breathing in her sweet scent. She trailed her eyes over the soft, smooth skin of Brittany's complexion and took a moment to marvel at the perfect specimen in her arms. "What's tomorrow?" she finally responded.
Brittany turned in her arms, pressing their noses together. Her eyes were wide and shocked, and
Santana immediately started sifting through her brain, trying to come up with anniversaries or whatever it was that Brittany wanted her to be excited about. "Santana," Brittany said, a lilting, teasing quality to her voice that Santana would never get sick of. "It's your birthday."
Her eyebrows rose as she leaned back against the brick, taking in her girlfriend's words with a light chuckle and a half grin. "Oh, is that all?"
With a full blown smile and a devious look in her eyes, Brittany leaned forward and began attacking Santana's neck with kisses. Even as Santana began to giggle and weakly struggle against the girl in her arms, Sam walked out of the open front door.
"Ladies," he said, and they turned to him in sync.
They both spoke at the same time – Brittany without any trace of frustration because Santana was clearly using up all of that particular emotion.
"Artie has news," Sam replied, not put off in the slightest by Santana's attitude. It was Santana – she always had attitude. But it had gotten especially bad since zombies started walking around town.
"About Quinn?" Brittany questioned, hopping to her feet and reaching down to help Santana up.
Sam shook his head. "I don't know for sure, I didn't hear the conversation."
Santana dusted off her ass and moved forward and through the front door, Brittany right on her heels with their pinkies linked. Sam followed them inside.
As they walked through the wide archway that led into Command Central, Artie noted their presence with a nod and a push of his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Everyone was there – Santana Brittany Tina Sam Mike – so he wasted no time in relaying Puck and Finn's correspondence. Puck had been yelling so loudly into the radio – the result of some mishap that Artie hadn't quite understood – that Finn had been forced to commandeer the device and explain the situation. And his words were quieter than Puck's, but they had terrified Artie more than he had ever imagined possible.
"There's a huge group of zombies making their way into Lima from the southwest. Their trajectory indicates that it could be a swarm from the greater Indianapolis area, though we can't really be sure. But more importantly, their trajectory also puts us directly in their path."
Tina's hiccups were easily ignored at this point by everyone, including Mike. He just reached out and patted her arm, his mind – much like everyone else's in the room - already trying to figure out what the hell they were supposed to do next.
Heavy silence infused with a touch of despair and anguish engulfed them for a few moments. Her pinkie linked with Brittany's, Santana finally spoke up. "We have to prepare for the worst. We have to treat the situation as if Q didn't make it."
"Have a little faith," Mike said, his voice strong and steady – as it always was. But there was the slightest hint of uncertainty projected from the furrowed crease of his forehead.
"I have faith in Q, you numbskull," Santana replied, speaking in her best do I look like an idiot to you voice. "But we're talking about a fucking big ass group of zombies headed straight at us. And that fence outside is nice and all, but it's not going to keep hundreds or thousands of the undead away from our front door. You're all delusional if you think that. So yeah, the girl is probably still alive. And yeah, maybe she'll find that damn whatever the hell thing. And there's a chance that she could get back here with it in time to radio for help, in time to get someone here fast enough to get us out before the zombies get in. But if even one of those things does not happen, if even for a second the fates do not line up in our favor, we are fucked. So we have to do something about it."
"What?" Tina asked, sniffling and attempting to stem her flow of tears. "What do we do?"
"We fortify the perimeter," Sam said. "I still don't know how Rachel got all of that C4, and I'm kind of scared to ask her... But we've been storing it in one of the abandoned houses down the road. Mike and I, we can rig some of it up. Artie, you can help us with the remote detonations. That way if, by the time the walkers make it here, we still haven't been rescued, we can at least try and thin their numbers substantially before they get close to the fence."
"Yeah," Artie replied, his face lighting up at the thought of actually doing something instead of just sitting around like a useless piece of furniture. "We can definitely do that."
"And if we thin them out, they'll be easier to pick off from a distance," Mike added.
"Great," Santana said, her voice flat and utterly uncaring that the guys in the room were sharing some kind of awkward bromance bonding moment over blowing shit up. "You get started on that. Brits and I are gonna set up sniper posts on the second floor or something."
With an arm wrapped firmly around Brittany's waist, the girls headed out of the room and upstairs. In their wake, the boys immediately began to talk strategy while Tina stared at the as of yet unpacked boxes of clothes that Rachel and Kurt had brought in earlier, wondering if they would ever have the chance to unpack them – let alone wear them.
"How long before the swarm reaches us?" Sam asked, his voice low.
Artie swallowed thickly. "Finn said they were moving pretty slowly, but their pace was steady. They covered about a quarter of a mile in twenty minutes."
"And we're, what? About twelve miles from there in a straight shot?" Mike chimed in, crossing his arms over his chest and rocking from his heels to his toes over and over.
"Twelve point five miles. Which gives us a little less than seventeen hours or until roughly four in the morning before they reach us," Artie corrected him. "If they don't, ya know, smell us first and decide to move even faster."
Tina sat down and began playing a sad melody on the keys of the piano that sat, dusty and neglected, in the corner of the room.
Mike, Sam, and Artie began mapping out the area leading up to Home Base – plotting locations for their detonations in order to achieve maximum efficiency.
And upstairs, Brittany and Santana made love as if the world hadn't already ended.
June 22nd, 2012
Quinn's pace slowed as she finally reached Coach Sylvester's office. The blinds were drawn and silence thrummed against her eardrums as she pushed the door open. With her back turned to the room at large, Quinn softly closed the door behind her. It clicked into place, and she twisted the lock.
A small precaution, but it could buy her a little time if she needed it.
Quinn wasted no time as she immediately began to search high and low for the supposed secret room that Sue had built. A part of her wasn't surprised at all to find out that it existed. Coach had always been slightly deranged, and a panic room was just the kind of thing she would find necessary. So the question wasn't Does this room actually exist? The question was Where the hell is it?
She had to find it. Again, her thoughts swirled tempestuously with the faces of her peers. This room, it housed something that could get them rescued. And while Quinn had taken her vow seriously from the beginning of this whole debacle - to protect her friends if it was the last thing she ever did - she was also tired. Because kicking ass and saving lives took a lot of fucking effort.
Being captain of the Cheerios had nothing on slaying zombies and general bouts of kicking undead ass.
She started with Coach Sylvester's desk. She rifled through drawers – looking for clues, hidden compartments, false bottoms, anything that could point her in the direction of the hidden space. She stumbled across Coach's favorite whistle, and Quinn marveled at how Sue had managed to just leave it there, sitting next to her journal. Where had Sue gone? Was she dead, alive, zombified?
Her footsteps echoed quietly in the fairly spacious office as she moved to one of four filing cabinets up against the wall. She completely removed drawers but still found nothing. Nothing of note inside the cabinets, nothing behind them. No hidden tunnel or switch or clue. And Quinn didn't really have time to go through the files themselves, so she had to hope against all hope that she wouldn't have to.
Dropping down to her knees, Quinn began feeling along the edge of the tiles that covered the office floor. She searched for inconsistencies in texture, unevenness, anything that would indicate that one of these things did not belong.
And it was while she was on her knees in the office lit only dimly from the light coming through a lone window that Quinn realized...
Her family. Her friends. They were the only things that had ever been worth fighting for in her recent life. And Coach Sylvester – for all of her harsh words and vindictive schemes – possessed the same sentiment her entire life that Quinn had only just recently developed. Sue had always been protective of the one she loved above all others.
Her sister, Jean.
And then Quinn was scrambling to her feet and spinning around on her toes. Because she suddenly knew, she just knew. And how many times over the years had she seen that picture, that fucking blessing of a picture on Sue's wall – the picture that reminded every terrified Cheerio (or unlucky, wandering soul) who landed in front of Sue's desk that she was still very much human despite her cold façade?
A picture of Sue and Jean was mounted on the wall directly across from the office door. Quinn practically leapt across the room to the picture, immediately reaching out and feeling along the edges of the solid frame. It was wooden and black and smooth underneath her fingertips, but there wasn't anything notably out of place about it.
Until Quinn pushed the picture slightly to the left, and it was as if something clicked into place, a hydraulic hiss emitting into the stillness of the room and the frame sliding fully up of its own accord.
A small, shiny button was revealed. It was red, and Quinn wasted no time in pushing it.
She stepped back and grabbed at the holstered pistols at her sides as something began to shudder and click and clank into place, the trophy case behind Sue's desk breaking neatly apart in the middle and sliding fully in two to reveal the secret fucking room.
And as a soft light emitted from the revealed space, Quinn's stomach jumped into her throat and her jaw dropped and all she could do in that moment was stare.
June 22nd, 2012
North Central Lima, Approaching WMHS
The closer they got to school, the slower Rachel drove. Less noise, less attention. She didn't need to wildly careen to a stop in front of the shambles of McKinley High – even though she wanted to do just that. So a couple of blocks east of the school, Rachel rolled the truck to a stop. It was parked and turned off, and she was reaching over and into the backseat for her baseball bat while Kurt hopped out of the vehicle.
It was Quinn's bat, the one she had used that first day. Maybe it was curiously morbid, but Rachel had clung to it after that. She and Quinn had begun to spend their nights together over the past few weeks, but that was really the extent of their interaction. Thus far. Unfortunately. So any time she went out, she had her baseball bat across her back and her 6P9's (silencers attached) at her sides.
Kurt, on the other hand, preferred lethally sharp blades to do his bidding rather than brute force. He said it kept his Versace cleaner. When it came to killing zombies at close range, he was a master at it – whether via decapitation or impaling through a facial orifice and into the infected grey matter of the walking (limping loping crawling sprinting) undead. They had teased him once, this time last year, when the glee club had met up at the Hummels' house one weekend and he had gotten them out to demonstrate his skills.
No one teased him nowadays.
Rachel hopped down out of the truck, repositioning the bat in its makeshift sling across her chest. Kurt pulled out each of his own 6P9's and checked the chambers, making sure they were fully loaded. They were, of course.
"Ready?" Rachel asked.
"Always," Kurt replied.
They took off jogging towards the high school. The building seemed to appear suddenly in front of them when they rounded the football stadium, looming up like some ghost of their past. They both had demons in their memories concerning this place, so it hadn't been mournful to leave it all behind. Neither had bothered even coming close to it over the past fifty-eight days.
Rachel slowed to a brisk walk, and Kurt easily fell into stride with her. Their hands met between their bodies, clasped together in the embrace of old friends.
Thoughts of Quinn assaulted Rachel as she found herself standing outside of the broken, unhinged front doors of WMHS. Quinn in her blue dress and white cardigan with her hands resting over her baby bump as Rachel offered something, anything. Quinn slapping the shit out of Rachel's face because her world was crumbling down around her at junior prom. Quinn busting a zombified corpse's skull into smithereens. Quinn re-killing Rachel's daddy and then holding her and rocking her and kissing her forehead and making promises that shouldn't be made when the world has already gone to hell. Quinn not even bothering to protest when Rachel walked into her room that first night of nights with darkness engulfing their senses and heightening the passion that they had never before even known to fucking exist between them...
Or maybe they had known. Maybe they had known all along. And maybe that's why they had never done anything about it. Because when they met in the darkness of the night – when their skin touched and their lips met and they moved as one beneath sheets in the faintest glimmerings of moonlight through the window – they were magical together. Maybe fifteen and sixteen and seventeen-year old Rachel and fifteen and sixteen and seventeen-year old Quinn just couldn't have ever fully understood. But they were older now. And they had survived something that a lot of people, surely, had not. So maybe that made them stronger, wiser, more emotionally available.
And that was why, now that Rachel had finally come to understand the dynamic she shared with the other girl, she was not going to let this school – this fucking school – come between them. Rachel was going to get the girl, dammit. And nothing – not social hierarchies or insecurities or the mother fucking zombie apocalypse – was going to get in her way.
Kurt glanced over and took in Rachel's determined expression. Always one to watch her back – he held up his hand and gestured towards the gloomy entrance. "Ladies first."
Rachel took half a second to throw a smirk in his direction before heading inside.
The tinkling piano in the distance was easy for Rachel to ignore for once in her life. She only had one goal: get to Quinn.
And that was exactly what she was going to do.
June 22nd, 2012
After spotting the incredibly disturbing zombie hoard in the distance, Finn had chosen a different route back to Home Base. They didn't even want to move in the zombies' supposed range of vision – in case they potentially incited the zombies to, god forbid, start chasing them through Lima or something. They were well away from them by now though. However, they were still freaked out.
"Dude, we are so fucked," Puck mumbled from the passenger seat.
Finn shook his head. "We're not fucked," he replied.
Puck swiveled his head around to the side and squinted his eyes at his best friend – as if that would help him to hear or something. "What did you say?"
Finn tried not to laugh. Because the big picture was really not funny in the slightest. But maybe if they survived this, maybe then they could laugh about that one time Finn busted Puck's eardrum to save his life and Puck couldn't hear for a day. Maybe.
"Nothing," Finn responded, pushing down harder on the gas and spurring them forward and to the supposed comfort and familiarity of the place they had come to call home.
June 22nd, 2012
Artie finished recording the message he had been working on and pressed play. "This is Artie Abrams. We are twelve survivors. We are in a house on the northeastern edge of the Lima, Ohio, city limits. Looking for rescue or any other living people in the area. None infected. Our coordinates are..."
Satisfied with his message, Artie setup the transponder to broadcast his message out on all available frequencies. Over the past fifty-eight days, he had heard nothing on any of the channels. But it couldn't hurt. He had to try.
Outside and just down the road, Sam and Mike had begun to handle the explosives. Mike's dad was in construction, and Mike had helped him out the past couple of summers. When he wasn't at Asian Camp or dancing, the construction job helped him keep his abdominals in pristine condition. Several times, his dad had shown him the inner workings of demolition. He wasn't an expert, but he was the best they had. And Sam was a quick learner. So with Mike's experience, Artie's instruction, and Sam's determination, they began to set up their first defense against the approaching army of undead.
On the second floor, Santana and Brittany had finally stopped fucking around (literally). With Tina's help, they were actually setting up those sniper posts that Santana had mentioned in passing as an excuse to get Brittany upstairs and naked. The front of Home Base was wide, grandiose. There were two different guest rooms and one huge landing at the top of the stairs that faced in the appropriate direction. There were twelve of them left, as Artie's message had indicated. But Mr. Schue didn't really count for much anymore. So the girls were setting up eleven different stands along this side of the house.
Brittany handed Santana a box stacked high with ammunition. "San..."
Santana dropped the box down next to the rifle that was propped against the windowsill in front of her. Brittany's tone immediately got her attention, so her head swiveled around. And the frown that was creasing her girlfriend's forehead made a tiny portion of her heart fall off and break into pieces."What's up, Brit Brit?" she questioned, moving forward and wrapping her arms around Brittany's waist.
Effortlessly, Brittany draped her arms over Santana's shoulders and brought them even closer together. "I'm a really bad aim, S," she said, her eyes shifting towards the gun behind Santana.
A sad, lopsided grin found its way onto her face. Santana kind of hated that Brittany had to worry about that, of all things. "It's ok, baby," Santana replied. "By the time they're close enough for you to hit them, that's exactly when we'll need you the most."
June 22nd, 2012
Coach Sylvester's Office
Quinn had seen a lot of crazy shit since the world went to hell and zombies started roaming the streets of Lima.
She had seen the undead swarm on some poor fucking idiot soul outside of a Quick Trip from afar, literally ripping him limb from limb before shambling off in search of an after breakfast snack. She had seen a slow-moving zombie trip awkwardly on a crack in the sidewalk, face planting and leaving a trail of rotten skin and putrid blood on the cement. She had seen classmates despair from afar as it was confirmed that their family homes were empty and abandoned, or worse – containing the remnants of those unable to handle the madness or those who had succumbed to the virus.
She had seen one of her closest friends – the girl who had offered her a home when all she had even needed was a friendship - get bitten. In a moment of carelessness, in a moment between the front door of Quinn's own home and the Jeep they had driven that day, in a moment when only the vehicle had separated them... But an entire vehicle between them was practically an ocean in that situation, and it had most certainly been enough to keep Quinn from saving Mercedes' life. Quinn had screamed out "Mercedes!" into the cool morning air, and the girl had turned. But the zombie – one of Quinn's neighbors whom she had never liked – had already latched onto Mercedes' flesh. He had bitten clean through her skin and sinewy muscle and layers of fat straight to the fucking bone, and there had been nothing Quinn could do. She had run around the Jeep to get a clear shot and killed Mr. Thomas by putting a bullet straight through his festering brain matter, but it didn't make any difference. After Mercedes turned – with a burning hot fever and aches and pains and rivers of tears and moaning and festering pustules of rot oozing out of her skin in the discomfort of the Jones' basement – Quinn had been the one to end her afterlife.
So yeah, Quinn had seen some fucked up shit. She had done some fucked up things. And at the end of this mess – whenever or if ever that would even come – Quinn knew that she would never be that Head Cheerio or that New Directions member swaying in the background or that pregnant girl getting pushed around in the hallway or that obedient child sitting in front of Sue Sylvester's desk asking "How high?"
But as Quinn stood facing the parted trophy case, as she stared into the secret room that Sue had built, as she stared into the unblinking eyes of her mentor from a seemingly alternate reality, Quinn felt the words "How high?" on the tip of her tongue. She repressed the urge to reach for a ponytail that wasn't there to tighten it, to stiffen her shoulders and appear nothing short of perfect.
"Q," the sneering voice of Sue Sylvester echoed out of the space and to Quinn's eardrums. "I have to say, I'm really not impressed with the new hairdo."
She was wearing coveralls made of track suit material, and they were folded down and tied around her waist to reveal a solid white t-shirt. A light sheen of sweat was covering her face and neck and arms, and her hair was longer than Quinn had ever seen it before. Quinn's eyes quickly darted from Sue's figure to the small space of the panic room – which was filled with a miniscule shower area, a cot, a microwave, and several shelves of canned goods. There was even a random unopened twinkie sitting on a shelf. But even with just a glance, Quinn easily noted that the canned goods were running low.
Which was odd. She expected Sue to be better prepared than that.
More importantly, Quinn's line of sight took in the piles of tools spread around everywhere and the sizable piece of equipment Sue was seemingly working on. She took a few steps inside, and Sue pressed a button on the wall. Quinn turned quickly to watch the pieces of the trophy case slide together, encapsulating them entirely. She tried to push down her claustrophobia by thinking once more of the mess of wires and tools Coach was fiddling with. But before she had a chance to question her coach, Sue interrupted her train of thought.
"It's nice of you to finally join me, Fabray. I assumed my protégé would have found me sooner. If she was still alive." Sue took in Quinn's darting eyes. "What?" she questioned. "You didn't think I would be prepared for such an occurrence as a rapidly spreading, world population encompassing zombie virus?"
Quinn titled her head slightly to the left before frowning thoughtfully and nodding. "Fair enough," she replied. After all, it did make sense – this was Sue Sylvester, dammit. And then Quinn cut straight to the point – because there was really no reason not to and because people were counting on her to get them rescued. And Sue had the means to make that happen. "I'm here because we found out about the beaconing device," she said, "and they sent me here to find it."
Sue stuck out her bottom jaw and nodded, contemplating the situation. "Makes sense that you would be the one who manned up given the circumstances. Let me guess, that small one with the big mouth and the loud voice didn't last a week?"
Nostrils flared, Quinn replied, "Rachel is just fine. Now, about the device." Once more, Quinn's eyes shifted around the room. There was a massive computer system that consumed an entire wall, but her thoughts were hardly bothered by it at all. Because there was something about the piece of machinery that Sue was working on that kept drawing Quinn back to it – something about it that was literally putting her stomach into knots and wedging it up into her throat.
And when Sue spoke, Quinn found she was far less surprised than she probably should have been.
At a certain point, all energy that could be siphoned into optimism is simply better spent elsewhere.
"Well Q, here's the thing..."
June 22nd, 2012
Gracefully sliding to a stop in front of Coach Sylvester's office, Kurt and Rachel immediately attempted to lightly twist the handle.
"It's locked," Kurt whispered.
"Quinn must be inside," Rachel replied. She pressed her face against the glass window of the office, but the blinds were drawn and there was hardly any light inside at all. If Quinn was in there, she couldn't see her. But she had to assume Quinn was inside the office.
She had to...
"Maybe she found Sylvester's room," Kurt said. "Or...I mean, maybe she's not in there at all. Maybe it's up to us to find the room now. Maybe Quinn –"
"Don't even think about finishing that sentence, Kurt," Rachel hissed, turning a fiery glare in his direction. He immediately snapped his mouth shut which was a wise move on his part. "I knew I should have taken Puck up on his offer of teaching me how to pick locks," she mumbled to herself. Her voice easily carried down the deserted corridor and, for a moment, they each looked up and down the hallway – waiting to see if unwanted guests would be drawn to their smell, their sounds, their presence.
"I could always try kicking it down," Kurt suggested with a shrug of his shoulders and the crossing of his arms. He ran his fingers through his hair. It bounced back into place. Which surely meant that all was right in the world – or at least that all was right in Kurt's world.
Rachel's eyebrows furrowed together dangerously. "That'll be really loud though. And...can you even do that?"
Kurt waved his right hand dismissively in the air between them. "Mike has been teaching me how to do it without hurting myself."
Taking a tentative step (or two or three) backwards, Rachel gestured dramatically towards the door. "Then by all means," she said, "be my guest."
The first time Kurt pounded the flat heel of his boot against the door – just beneath the doorknob – they immediately straightened their shoulders and stood stock still, utterly frozen for a second or two. Listening, watching, waiting for the possibly life-ending aftermath of such a loud, resounding sound in the still air of the high school. But nothing happened, so Kurt turned sideways and kicked at the same place once more, twice more – and then the door was cracking in the frame and the lock was useless.
Just as Rachel and Kurt made their way inside the office, the trophy case began to slide apart. With dropped jaws, they took in the amusing-in-any-other-scenario image of Quinn and Sue Sylvester sticking their heads out of the emerging crack behind Sue's desk.
Unsurprisingly, Sue was the one to break the silence that had descended upon them in the wake of Kurt's door hammering. "You couldn't knock?"
Kurt's jaw flapped open before closing uselessly as he tried to come up with something to say. But the common sense question clearly left him flabbergasted.
Quinn stepped forward, brushing past Rachel's left shoulder and leaning out of Sue's office door. All eyes were on her as she craned her neck out of the doorway and into the hall, reaching out with her sense of hearing. Finally, she stepped back inside and began moving to Sue's secret room.
"We have to move," she said as she began to shove as many of Sue's tools into a spare bag as she could. Sue immediately followed her lead, closing up the piece of equipment she had been working on and attaching straps to it that would allow her to wear it like a heavy metal backpack across her shoulders. She quickly crossed the room and shoved the twinkie into one of her track suit coverall pockets. "Now," Quinn reiterated. "They'll have heard."
Rachel helped Quinn pack up the rest of the tools and slung them over her own back, removing her bat and holding it tightly between the fingers of her right hand.
Kurt raised a finger in hesitation. "I know this probably isn't the best time for questions –"
"Then don't ask," Sue sneered.
Rolling his eyes, Kurt chose to disregard whatever authority Coach Sylvester thought she had maintained in the wake of the end of the world. "What is that thing on your back?"
"It's the beaconing device," Quinn answered for Sue. "And it's broken as fuck."
"Oh," Kurt replied with a wide-eyed gaze, instantly wishing that he hadn't asked.
"Let's go," Quinn said, pulling back Sue's office door and sprinting out into the hallway.
Rachel, Sue, and Kurt piled out of the office right behind her. And then they all started running down the hall and towards the impossibly far away exit as if the hounds of hell were on their heels.
And maybe they were. Because they hadn't even rounded the first corner before they started to hear the hungry, bestial moans and pounding, unwavering footfalls of the undead echoing in the darkness.
June 22nd, 2012
Northeastern Lima, Approaching Home Base
Finn couldn't help but glance sporadically in the rearview mirror as he drove wildly through the mostly deserted streets of Lima and back towards home base. There was no way the fucking creepy, terrifying hoard of zombies could be right on their tail.
There was no way.
He felt uneasy. He felt so uneasy that it made his head spin.
As they were driving by the narrow, man-made lake that would unfortunately act as something of a funnel directing the undead straight at their faces, Puck spoke up.
"HEY MAN!" he yelled, turning to Finn with a grin on his face. "I THINK MY HEARING IS COMING BACK."
Finn winced and held a hand up in Puck's direction, shaking his head fervently in denial.
"No?" Puck asked, shoulders slumping and brows arching sadly in self-concern.
"No," Finn replied with an over-exaggerated shake of his head.
It was just one thing more to worry about. The world ended, zombies were hungering after their flesh, friends and family were dead, Quinn was in unforeseeable danger inside McKinley High, and Puck couldn't hear to save his life.
It was starting to sound like a typical day in Lima, Ohio.
June 22nd, 2012
The Jeep rattled down the last hundred yards towards Home Base. As they approached the semi-imposing structure of the Jones' family home, Finn slowed considerably. Up ahead on the left were Sam and Mike. He hung his head out of the window and called out, "Hey guys, whatcha up to?"
"Oh, ya know, the usual," Mike replied.
"Just preparing for a zombie invasion," Sam added with a small grin. As if this was an everyday occurrence. As if this was normal.
As if they weren't all still just seventeen or eighteen and still children and still fucking terrified of the dark.
"Is that the C4 from down the street?" Finn questioned. Puck leaned across into the other side of the car to look down at what Mike and Sam were doing.
"Yep," Sam replied. "We're trying to set them up for maximum efficiency. Maybe even try to distract them, disorient them…" He went back to work with a determined look on his face.
"Artie did some calculations. They'll probably arrive in the middle of the night. Maybe early morning," Mike explained. He stood up and brushed his knees off with the palms of his hands before gesturing in the direction of Home Base. "And since this is basically the end of the line and they're headed straight towards us, we're gonna need all the help we can get to thin 'em out."
Puck hopped over the side of the Jeep and landed on the ground with a heavy thud. He turned and grabbed his shotgun before walking around the vehicle and taking up a watchman position over Sam as the blonde fiddled with some wires around the active explosives.
Finn, on the other hand, looked towards Home Base with Mike. Their eyes took in the damning structures of the cul-de-sac in which their new home was situated. It wasn't a gated community – unfortunately – but the Jones' had lived on the far side of the property, and there was a tall, thick wall built all along this edge of the neighborhood. To keep nosy neighbors from prying or to keep social classes separate – whatever it was for, it had suddenly become New Directions' biggest obstacle since they found out that zombies existed. They could try to run, but Rachel had told them time and time again that that was the quickest way to get them all killed.
"Alright," Mike said, patting his hand on the edge of the car next to Finn's elbow – effectively breaking the cloak of morbid, depressing silence that had fallen over the boys. "We need to finish this up within the next few hours."
"I'll let you get back to it," Finn said. He mentally cringed at how meek his voice sounded. But he was scared. He was just a kid. They all were.
Mike jogged the last twenty or so yards to the gate and pulled it open on its mechanized hinges to allow Finn room to drive inside. The distance between the closing gate and the garage seemed longer than usual to Finn.
Maybe it was just his imagination…
With his fingertips gripping the edges of the turntable and a stack of records pressing into his chest, Finn climbed the stairs to the second floor. He nodded in Tina's direction as he passed her on the landing. She smiled softly at him before continuing to stack ammunition. Even from down the hall, Finn heard Brittany and Santana going at it. As he knocked on the third door on the left, he was almost positive that he heard the briefest, most ragged of sobs escape someone's throat from their room.
He didn't wait for a reply before shifting the record player in his arms and opening the door. There wouldn't be an answer. There hadn't been one for a long time.
The odor was the first thing that hit his nostrils. In the beginning, they had taken turns trying to get Mr. Schue to take care of himself. At this point, Finn and Rachel were the only ones who still made any effort. He was finally using the bathroom of his own accord, but he hadn't showered in… Well, a long time.
Sometimes, Mr. Schuester's two leads would find themselves in his room at the same time. They would softly sing the lines of Faithfully a capella. They would have stopped along with everyone else, but they had managed to convince themselves that his eyes would look less glazed over for the briefest of moments, that his lips would twitch slightly upward, that his foot would move almost imperceptibly to the nonexistent metronome in their heads.
"Hey, Mr. Schue," Finn said. He walked over to where his former teacher was leaning against the wall. Sinking down to the floor next to the nearly comatose man, Finn plugged the record player into a socket between them. "Look what Puck and I found today." Will's eyes never shifted from the opposite wall. "You would probably never believe the record collection Coach Sylvester has in her house, Mr. Schue, but it was pretty incredible." He dusted off the sleeve of a particular record, holding it up in front of his own face and grinning so widely that his eyes crinkled. "I think you'll like this one, Mr. Schue."
Finn placed the record on the table, lowered the needle, and allowed the music to wash over them both.
In the hall, Tina was leaning against a windowsill, looking into the distance and trying to keep her tears at bay. Down the hall in their bedroom, Santana and Brittany were lying together, naked and tangled in sheets with tears streaming down their faces and lips touching unhurriedly. Downstairs, Artie was staring at the map of Lima and wondering about fate and death and life and a bunch of other things that weren't really productive in the slightest. Outside, Sam and Mike continued rigging up explosives while Puck stood guard. And across town, Quinn and Rachel and Kurt and Sue were fighting for their lives.
But in that room – in that moment – it was just Finn and the teacher he had long considered to be a father figure. And they were merely leaning against the wall and listening to the song that had defined the existence of the glee club for years. Because, really, they were all just looking to go anywhere at this point.
…Living just to find emotion. Hiding, somewhere in the night…
June 22nd, 2012
Their breathing was ragged. Not because of the physical exertion of running through the halls of their school from another life but because of the fear.
Because every corner they had run around so far, they had been faced with at least one zombie. It was slowing their progression through William McKinley High considerably, and Quinn was less than pleased. She nearly growled as she careened around the next corner, immediately putting a bullet through a lumbering zombie's skull (because right now, there was no time to be playful) and pushing its teetering body roughly out of their way.
"So unsanitary," Rachel said as Quinn wiped the hand she had touched the zombie with on her shorts.
Quinn didn't even take the time to roll her eyes. She was too busy worrying about the next corner, the next zombie, the next kill.
She was so busy worrying that she hardly took the chance to glance up the staircase across the hall from Principal Figgins' office as they barreled past it.
And maybe that's why it happened. Maybe if she had slowed down for a second or two. Maybe if she had listened harder or looked more closely or paid just the barest fraction of attention more…
But she didn't. While she was shooting one of the rabid undead through the forehead several feet ahead of the rest of the group, a fresh, agile zombie was springing down those very stairs.
It was jumping across the hallway as Rachel and Sue careened onward towards Quinn's figure a few yards away.
And it was clamping down hungrily on Kurt's shoulder, roughly ramming him into the nearest wall. It was sinking its teeth into his flesh and exuding stale, putrid air into his face and groaning and growling hungrily as it grappled to maintain its hold on him.
Kurt's scream echoed in the hallway and in Quinn's ears and all the way through to her sinking chest as she spun on her heels.
Instinctively, Kurt stopped his mangled cry before it had passed too far beyond the captivity of his lips.
Quinn couldn't fire a bullet into the zombie's brain because Rachel was already there – swinging her bat down over her head in a fatal arc that left brown ooze and brain on Kurt's sweater and her cheeks. But the zombie was dead-dead now, sinking to the floor as its bite loosened from Kurt's mangled sinew and skin and muscle.
For a moment, they were all frozen.
Kurt couldn't look away from the shredded fabric of his sweater and his own gushing blood. Rachel couldn't look away from Kurt's face as she bit her lip and tried to hold back her rapidly approaching stream of tears. Sue couldn't look away from the light that was flickering just around the corner. And Quinn couldn't seem to look at anything whatsoever.
"Kurt, I…" Rachel trailed off. Her voice, for once, failed her entirely.
"Don't," he abruptly replied. His eyes blinked unseeingly several times before they focused on his best friend in the world. "It's ok," he said, reaching out to wipe the zombie goo from her face. But it was so not ok. It was wrong and fucked up and nothing like what their senior year was supposed to be. "Let's go," Kurt's voice resounded in the emptiness of the hallway, layered with the distant moaning and stomping of corpses walking and hungering for more of their flesh.
Quinn – their indisputable leader – didn't hesitate before spinning around once more and heading off in the direction of the exit. But her thoughts were swirling with the what ifs of the situation.
What if she had turned and double-checked the stairs?
What if they had been five seconds faster?
What if the zombie had jumped across the hallway and latched onto Rachel instead?
Quinn felt her stomach churn and her meager breakfast threaten to escape its confines. Kurt had become a dear friend over the past three years – despite all the odds – but Rachel had become even more than that. And Quinn refused to think about her being bitten and infected and undead.
As they rounded another corner, the entrance to WMHS loomed teasingly in front of their exhausted faces. It was there, just there. It almost felt out of reach. So close, and yet so fucking far away.
Halfway down the hallway, several zombies rounded the corner. "Hey!" Kurt called out, quickly garnering the rest of the group's attention. He quickly dispatched of two of them with his Sais – despite his injured and already oozing shoulder. Rachel decapitated one rotten head from a set of shoulders with a powerful swing while Sue stood back, protecting the beaconing device via proximity. Quinn efficiently shot the last four between the eyes.
But despite the fact that they had just re-killed seven of the undead in the school, there was still the echoing and ever-present danger of the hoard at large.
And it was getting louder. It was getting closer. With every step the group of four took towards the exit, it was as if the sounds and the terror and the number of zombies were growing exponentially.
The square of light at the end of the hallway that represented their freedom seemed impossibly small and distant.
"Run," Quinn said the instant the last zombie fell to the floor a few feet behind and to Kurt's right. "Fucking run!" she hissed between clenched teeth.
And they obeyed. Because the echoes were no longer echoes. They were tangible, pounding beats against the linoleum that they had each traversed for years. The hoard was at their backs, and they had no time to breathe – let alone take pause in this hallway of death.
Finally, they broke through the space of the busted double doors and into the bright sunlight.
It was surreal, standing there in the light from the sun and turning back to the school entrance… Seeing that block of black reaching desolately into the distance instead of running towards that bright white beacon of hope…
And for another moment, they just stood there. They stood there staring into that black abyss as if it somehow held the answers to all of their problems instead of just their problems themselves.
But within moments, undead began pouring around the corner. They began marching in their disorderly ranks – with their mangled limbs and rancid smell – down the hallway towards the group of four. And inexplicably and as one, their pace suddenly increased.
They must have caught wind of Kurt's wound.
Quinn's head snapped away from the school and into the distance, trying to calculate how far away Kurt and Rachel might have parked the Jeep. But then she turned back to the school and realized with another sinking feeling that it didn't really matter.
It didn't matter because they were never going to get out of this parking lot.
And they were never going to get out of this parking lot because the main entrance to McKinley High was an absurdly long hallway, but it wasn't nearly long enough. The zombies were feverishly moving towards them, their pace frantic and utterly unstoppable.
In a moment of weakness – or perhaps a moment of strength – Quinn reached for Rachel's hand. The brunette was standing next to her, and her eyes were locked on Kurt's slumping figure. Their fingers intertwined even as their last hope seemed to dwindle into nothingness.
"We can outrun them," Quinn said. And her voice was steady and betrayed none of the desolation she was feeling in her heart.
"No, we can't," Kurt bit out between his clenched teeth. Then his eyes snapped to Quinn and Rachel, only momentarily taking in their conjoined hands before shifting minutely to the left.
To Quinn's waist.
It clicked in her head, and Quinn knew what Kurt was doing almost immediately.
She could have reacted. She could have stopped him. She could have stepped back, turned to the side, blocked his reach.
But she didn't stop him as he reached forward and snatched the grenade from the belt around her waist, leaving the pin on the ground at her feet.
"Kurt, no!" Rachel screamed, all pretences of stealth completely smashed into oblivion in the face of their imminent demise.
She reached out and grabbed his wrist that was holding the live grenade. His fingers were white from tension as he clasped the striker against the cool metal of the explosive. He turned back quickly, cupping Rachel's cheek against his overly warm palm. "I won't go out like Mercedes," he said. "And you guys need every advantage to get out of here right now. Good bye, Rachel."
And then Kurt shoved Rachel away from him and ran back into hell.
He was hurtling back into William McKinley High School and Quinn was yanking Rachel backwards and whispering "Run, fucking run, please" and Sue was following with her fingers looped under the straps of her makeshift pack and not saying a word – because she had always kind of liked Porcelain.
They couldn't call Kurt's final, prolonged shout a battle cry. They just couldn't. Because it was too beautiful and too painful all at once for that.
As they reached the far side of the parking lot, the explosion rocked their bodies forward. They instinctively reached up to cover their heads as they turned back around to stare at the destruction behind them.
Just for one moment longer. A single moment before they had to turn and continue running for their lives. Because this was the zombie fucking apocalypse, and there was no fucking time to mourn.
June 22nd, 2012
Puck had left Sam and Mike to it a few minutes before. He had handed his gun to Mike and indicated that he was going inside. It hadn't taken long for him to wind up side by side next to Finn in the garage. After all, they had been best friends since they were little kids and Puck had drawn a picture of Doctor Doom and Finn had thought it was cool.
One by one, they were going through their gas cans they had filled up weeks ago. Two piles were accumulating – one with the empty cans, and one with the not empty cans.
As Finn shook the final can and despondently placed it on the pile of empties, he sighed heavily. "Damn. We're basically, like, out of gas."
"Shit," Puck replied, scoffing the toe of his boot against the nearest wall and staring at the solitary can in the not empty pile. "That's bad. We've drained most of Lima dry already, and there's no time to go out farther and get more."
He was still staring at the gas cans when he felt a vigorous punch to the shoulder. "Fucking ouch!" he exclaimed. "What was that for, man?"
Finn had the goofiest grin Puck had seen in a long time, but he wasn't laughing as he rubbed his still tender shoulder. "You can hear!" Finn replied.
Within half a second, Puck's grin matched Finn's. "Damn straight."
When the radio crackled into life next to Artie's right hand, he nearly electrocuted himself with the screwdriver and electrical appliance he had been fiddling with.
"Note to self," he grumbled as he wildly shook his hand in the air, "unplug before poking with metal things…"
The radio requested his attention once more. "Artie," Quinn's voice called out.
He leaned forward and hit the transmit button. "Quinn, Artie here. Go ahead." He tried to squash down the overwhelming feeling of disbelief that had washed over him when he realized that it was indeed Quinn's voice on the walkie.
And if it was Quinn's voice, that meant she was alive. That meant she had gotten out of the high school. That meant that – maybe, just maybe – she had gotten the device she had risked her life to retrieve.
"I've got the device. We're on our way back to base now," she said quickly, clinically spelling out the situation. There was no emotion in her voice, something that had become commonplace when dealing with things such as this since April. But Artie's skin was crawling at the something more that was missing from her voice. It was making him sick, it was making his mouth dry and his pulse race and his head spin with questions.
"We?" he asked. It was the only word he could think to ask, and he added the question mark to the end for good measure.
"Rachel and Coach Sylvester are with me."
She didn't say more. And Artie didn't have the guts or the streak of masochism in him to ask why Kurt wasn't with them. "Ok, get back safe. And Quinn…"
"Yes?" Her voice broke through the momentary silence Artie had allowed to descend on the airwaves.
He finally cleared his throat and pressed the transmission button once more. "Finn and Puck spotted a huge hoard coming in from out of town. Time is of the utmost importance. We need the beaconing device here soon so we can get help and get the hell out of here." He depressed the button and mumbled, "If there's even help to be found."
Quinn wasted no time in tightening the noose around Artie's neck with her next statement. "The device is broken. Coach has been working on fixing it, but she's had no luck. We'll get there as soon as possible, and then it will be up to you to fix it."
She never added the unnecessary "if you can" to her statement, and Artie would be forever grateful for that. It was the silent vote of confidence that he needed in that moment of desperation – that moment when everything was suddenly starting to stack impossibly higher and higher on his shoulders. And his shoulders were pretty strong from ten years of sitting in a wheelchair, but they could only handle so much.
And then she dropped the next bomb. Hopefully, the last.
"And Artie, the hoard inside McKinley has been sufficiently riled up as well. Just so you know."
Removing his glasses and pressing the palms of his hands roughly against his eye sockets, Artie sighed. Eventually he reached forward and called across the radio, "Roger that."
June 22nd, 2012
North Central Lima, Leaving WMHS
The gas gauge annoyed Quinn as it dipped below the last notch. The sun in the sky was almost too bright, and that annoyed her, too.
But most of all, she was annoyed by the fucking incessant tears that were leaking from the corners of her eyes. As soon as she had climbed into the driver's side of the Jeep and started it up, she had grabbed Kurt's sunglasses from the dash and smashed them onto her face.
And that was both comforting and heart-wrenching to the nth degree.
Sue was sitting in the middle of the backseat, stoic expression firmly in place when Quinn glanced at her in the rearview mirror. She almost convinced herself that she saw the older woman's chin quiver momentarily. Though it could have just been a pothole.
Next to her, Rachel was leaning back against the headrest of the passenger seat, lip clutched between her teeth and with all of Quinn's emotional pain physically manifested across her facial features and her shoulders and her tightly clenched fists. As Quinn barreled down the completely deserted streets towards her Ducati, she reached over and grabbed Rachel's left hand in her right. Then both of Rachel's hands were suddenly wrapped around hers, and Quinn almost convinced herself that everything was ok in that moment with Rachel touching her and the wind in her hair.
Quinn was already trying to erase Kurt's final scream from her memory. And the velvety soft skin of Rachel's hands was helping immensely. Her mind was consumed with thoughts of that skin – touching her and holding her and taking her places she had never before known.
It was cliché, finding comfort in the arms of another person – especially the most unlikely of persons – in a post-apocalyptic world. But it made sense now to Quinn why that was a cliché.
Because it was fucking necessary for sanity. Rachel had become Quinn's sanity, and Quinn hoped that maybe she was part of Rachel's sanity as well. Particularly now…
She pulled up next to the red brick building and put the vehicle in park. Without wasting even a second of time – because there never was a second of time to waste anymore – she turned in her seat and grabbed Rachel's cheeks between both of her hands, pulling herself towards Rachel and Rachel towards her, crashing their lips together with Coach Sylvester sitting right in the middle of it all.
Another cliché of clichés would be fireworks.
Fuck clichés though. This was real life, and this was fucking happening.
The last stars faded behind her closed eyelids as she pulled slightly away to rest her forehead against her lover's. "I'll be right behind you," she breathed out across already-swollen lips.
Rachel's fingers were tangled almost painfully in her short locks of hair, but part of her relished the pain, the tether to sanity and reality and the here and now. "Don't do anything stupid," Rachel commanded, pulling against the fine hairs at the nape of Quinn's neck for emphasis. "Or brave."
"Never," Quinn said, and then she was gone.
June 22nd, 2012
When Rachel pulled up to Home Base, she tried to ignore the questioning looks Mike and Sam were shooting in her direction. They were probably super confused to see Sue Sylvester in her backseat.
And they were probably also super broken-hearted to see that Kurt was nowhere in sight, each of them understanding what that had to mean.
Regardless, Mike jogged over and pulled the gate open for her, nodding solemnly towards her tear-stained face as she passed. "Thanks Mike," she called out to him as she passed through the opening. But her voice was weak, and she was pretty sure he hadn't heard her at all.
She checked the rearview mirror once more – as if she hadn't done so a thousand times over the course of the past quarter of an hour – to make sure Quinn was still safely behind her. Which she was. So Rachel breathed easily once more. They had made it home.
Pulling into the garage, she turned off the engine. The roar of Quinn's bike filled the concrete space, reverberating around her inner ears as she sat motionless behind the steering wheel. Sue was already standing up and hopping over the side of the car, agile for her ripe old age of thirty-one.
But all Rachel could do was sit there and stare forward at the bare wall of the garage. She focused on some obscure stain just above the front fender of the Jeep, wondering what could have left it. Some spilled paint or a leaky pipe or…something…
She hadn't noticed the Ducati's engine cutting off, and she hadn't noticed Quinn approaching her door. But then the door was opening and one of Quinn's arms was around her shoulders and the other was grasping one of her hands and gently pulling her out of the Jeep. As they moved towards the laundry room entrance, Rachel probably would have fallen if not for the strong, slender arm wrapped around her waist. She leaned her body heavily against Quinn's, taking comfort in the fact that she had someone to lean against at all.
As they made their way together through the house towards Command Central, Quinn paused at the bottom of the stairs to the second story, and Rachel was forced to stop as well because of their connection and her dependency on Quinn to not fall flat on her face. Rachel turned her head to see what Quinn was staring at and immediately noted Santana standing at the top of the stairs with Brittany just over her left shoulder. Santana's hand was gripping tightly to the railing as she stared down at Quinn, one of her best, oldest friends in the entire world.
Rachel read the relief in Santana's eyes and felt a strange kinship to the other girl in that moment.
And she also felt a brief flash of bitterness that she would never get to feel relief at seeing Kurt walk back through those doors, safe and sound.
Because Kurt was dead. He was blown to a thousand pieces. But he wasn't undead, and a few tears leaked once more from Rachel's eyes at the sickening relief she did feel at that particular thought.
What had become of the world?
They moved forward once more towards the living room. Rachel could already see Artie and Coach Sylvester bent over the machine that housed their future – or their downfall.
Quinn made sure Rachel was safely leaning against the doorframe that led into the room before she approached her former mentor. "How's it looking?" she questioned.
Artie spoke quickly, clearly eager to pounce on the task at hand – eager merely to have something productive to do other than sit in his wheelchair and relay messages. "The wiring is fried. There must have been some kind of power surge through the high school a few weeks ago when the power plant blew. But this is an incredibly high tech piece of equipment, and I'm not one hundred percent sure that I have the means to fix it." He paused and briefly glanced up at Quinn's stony expression. "But I'm going to do my best."
"Let's just hope your best is enough," Sue snapped out. The frustration in her voice reflecting her self-annoyance at the fact that she had been unsuccessful at fixing the damn thing alone. She directed Artie's attention to a particular set of wires near the motherboard, and they were off – discussing exactly what she had fixed so far and what remained to be done.
Making her way back across the room, Quinn deftly tucked her hand into the crook of Rachel's elbow as she passed her. Rachel nearly stumbled backwards, but Quinn had a firm grip on her. Yet again. So she maintained her footing, and they began to make their way up the stairs.
On the landing, they passed Brittany and Santana. The girls were leaning back against a wall in the open space, their fingers splayed together on Santana's upper thigh and their foreheads touching as they whispered softly to each other. They were lost in each other, and that was ok.
Rachel walked side by side with Quinn down the hallway. As they passed Mr. Schue's room, the soft notes of Sinatra were drifting through the cracks around the door. Rachel smiled even though she didn't want to.
Quinn held the bedroom door open for Rachel, directing her inside and then following her with her eyes as she moved to stare out the window on the other side of the room. The door was closed. This side of the house was hidden from the sun, so the light was dim. Shadows danced on the far side of the room as Quinn got closer and closer to Rachel.
Rachel's eyes fluttered up into her head as the entirety of Quinn's body was suddenly pressing against her from behind. She allowed her head to fall backwards against Quinn's collarbone, turning her face and pressing her warm skin against the coolness of Quinn's neck. She heard the blonde's tongue dart out, moistening ready lips before pressing them against her cheek. And Rachel was instantly on fire from her head to her toes.
She wanted to cry because Kurt was gone. She wanted to cry because her dads were dead. She wanted to cry because a beautiful young woman was wrapping her arms around her waist and holding her close and offering her comfort and protection and purpose. Even though the world had ended and they weren't sure if there even was purpose left for humanity.
But if glee club had taught them one thing – and, truthfully, it had taught them a lot of things – it was that, no matter what, they couldn't give up. If there was even the smallest most infinitesimal chance that something better existed beyond this god forsaken place, New Directions – what was left of it, anyway – was going to fight for it. They had developed a fatal sense of optimism at some point over the past three years, and perhaps that optimism would be the key to their salvation.
Rachel pressed back against Quinn's tight body and snaked her arms back over her shoulders and around Quinn's neck. Lips were exploring every inch of the side of her face and her neck, and hands were moving up her sides and her arms to her wrists and back down their delicious path once more.
Rachel was a master at breath control or else she might already have passed out from lack of oxygen at this point.
Fingertips snuck under the edge of her shirt and trailed up her abdominal muscles to just below the edge of her bra. She couldn't stop the goosebumps from forming on her flesh anymore than she could stop the smallest of whimpers that escaped from the back of her throat.
Warm palms cupped her breasts just underneath the confining fabric, and Rachel gasped at how alive she felt. She turned her face so that her lips were millimeters from Quinn's. They breathed the same air as she exhaled and Quinn inhaled. "Am I ever going to get the opportunity to save your life?" Rachel asked. Even as the words left her lips, her thoughts drifted to the afternoon when she had cowered underneath the formidable, reeking corpse of her father; Quinn saving her; Quinn holding her; Rachel's silent vow to return the favor – no matter what.
Quinn's tongue darted out again and slowly swiped along the full length of Rachel's parted lips. Rachel could do nothing but close her eyes tightly and fight to remain grounded. "Rach, baby…" Quinn whispered. The words floated away, and Rachel couldn't even loosen her hold on the pink locks of hair in her clutches in order to reach out and grab them and hold onto them for eternity. Then Quinn spoke again, and Rachel's heart stopped beating for an almost unnoticeable fraction of time. "You already have."
Rachel spun inside the embrace of strong arms. Quinn's hands shifted to land on her shoulder blades. Mouths were pressed together – hot and needy and wet and delectable. Buttons flew and cloth was ripped and nails scratched roughly down bare skin. And nothing – not the approaching masses of zombies and not the end of the world and not death and not despair – could stop Rachel and Quinn from loving each other in those moments.
Those moments in the dark and the quiet, those moments before all hell was threatening to break loose and crash over them like the waves of a fucking unstoppable tsunami born in the fiery depths of their worst nightmares.
June 22nd, 2012
Tina traced along the edges of the closed piano cover with the tips of her fingers. Everyone was gathered in Command Central – waiting and watching. Artie was fiddling with the beaconing device and a pair of needle nosed pliers – much as he had been for the past several hours nonstop. Sue was pacing around him with a meticulous eye focused on his every move. Finn, Puck, Sam, and Mike were all sitting on the edge of the couch after having successfully finished rigging up most of their stock of C4. Brittany was sitting on the coffee table Indian style while Santana worked her hair into a French braid. Rachel was pacing across the room – back and forth and back and forth – while Quinn watched from her position against the far wall, one of her bare feet pressed up against the wallpaper and shaggy pink locks falling down into her eyes.
Tina cleared her throat. "So… What are the chances of the zombies just… I don't know, passing by? Who's to say that they have to stop and eat our faces?"
"This location is fucked," Puck growled out.
"And we're the only living things for miles," Finn elaborated Puck's point. "We've searched almost all of Lima city limits, and we're it. They'll be hungry, and we've been living here for weeks now. There's no way they won't smell us. Even if we stay quiet and try not to draw attention to ourselves."
"So that's it?" Santana questioned. "The damned computer is broken so we're totally on our own, great. We've got some explosives set up, wonderful. There's tons of ammunition and shit, I'm so pleased. But you guys made this hoard sound fucking terrifying. If we can't call for help, do we really have the firepower – or the manpower for that matter – to fight off a thousand or more zombies?" Silence descended over the room. "And if we do fight them off, what about their remains? It's just a shit storm of epic proportions, I can't even…"
"Lopez makes valid points," Coach Sylvester spoke up. "When I was a little girl living in Panama, there was a small zombie outbreak near the canal zone." Everyone in the room cocked their eyebrows skeptically or tilted their heads awkwardly to the side, tossing dubiously curious looks towards each other. Sue ignored them all.
"I was only seven, but my daddy taught me everything there was to know about the walking undead after that. They started calling me the little General of Zombie Obliteration and Decimation – General Zod, if you will. But that's neither here nor there. My point is this: I know what we're dealing with here, and you're all right. They rely strongly on hearing, true. But their sense of smell is heightened after death for some reason – particularly when they're hungry – and they'll be attracted to this place like gel to Schuester's hair. And they're relentless, so they'll never stop dragging themselves towards the front door – not until their muscles atrophy beyond recognition and they simply end up lying in a puddle of their own viscous remains." The imagery was distasteful but accurate.
"So if my device doesn't work, we have one hell of a fight in front of us." Tina sniffled. "But it's not impossible," Sue added. "Nothing is impossible. You mouth breathers should know that better than anyone at this point. And if there's one thing I can drill into your mostly useless brains right now, it's this – you have to be willing to do anything to win, do you hear me?" She pointed a menacing finger around the room, pausing briefly in every young face before her. "Anything."
She paused last on Sam. As if she knew exactly what he was thinking, even though he hadn't said a word to anyone yet. As if she knew the precise weight of the risks and the rewards and exactly which way the balance was going to tip in the end. As if she was telling him in her own twisted way that she approved…
With Sue's words of wisdom – or tactical intimidation – still ringing in their ears, the remaining members of New Directions breathed easier. The tension in shoulders and the furrowed brows loosened and they all began to think that maybe even if they couldn't get backup of some sort, they'd still make it out alive.
Maybe they'd make it through to see the dawn.
And while everyone began discussing strategies for the coming hours, Sam leaned back in the corner of the couch. He crossed his right ankle over his left knee and dropped his chin down into the palm of his hand. And the only other silent individual in the room was Quinn – and she used her discretion to stare at him with slightly narrowed eyes and a blank expression as everyone else in the room attempted to feel useful.
June 22nd, 2012
Lima Streets Southwest of Home Base
Sam and Mike had volunteered to check on the progress of the moving hoards. The McKinley group of zombies had been easy enough to find. They were loudly ripping through what was left of the Wal-Mart near Dudley Road between the school and Home Base. But they were distracted and likely wouldn't pose much of a threat unless their group merged with the main surge coming from the southwest.
And when the truck Sam had driven crested over the top of a ridge and the expanse of Lima was suddenly spread out before them, their mouths went dry and sweat broke out across their foreheads. Because there were at least a thousand zombies. Probably more. Numbers were hard to crunch when you were terrified.
With his foot pressed heavily on the brake, Sam leaned forward against the steering wheel. He took in their surroundings as Mike leaned out the window and stared with his jaw hanging open. "Mike," Sam asked, "didn't Artie say they wouldn't be arriving until around four in the morning?"
Climbing back inside the cab, Mike nodded his head slowly. "Yeah. Hypothetically."
"So, hypothetically, it looks like they've picked up speed."
"Again, hypothetically, we're in big trouble if Artie doesn't get that machine fixed."
Mike swallowed thickly. "My friend, I think that it's probably safe to stop speaking in hypotheticals at this point."
Sam nodded, and his resolve was stronger than ever before. "That's what I was afraid of."
They sat there for a few minutes longer, merely watching the progress of the army of undead from a distance. Sam had never been the best at math, but he had been getting better and better. Artie had tutored him a little bit earlier in the school year. And as they sat there in the silence of the cab and watched the zombies with morbid curiosity, Sam started crunching the numbers on his own.
And what he came up with now versus Artie's previously scheduled arrival time of four in the morning was…
Ten o'clock this evening.
In less than three hours, the zombies would reach their damned and damning cul-de-sac.
Mike must have come to roughly the same conclusion in his own head. "We need to get back, pronto."
Sam shifted the truck into reverse and slowly backed down over the hill. The hot plastic of the steering wheel stuck to his sweaty palms as he turned the vehicle back in the direction of Home Base. The sun was beginning its slow descent to the horizon at their backs, and Sam was suddenly more horrified than ever before of what exactly the nighttime would bring.
He licked his lips. He gripped the wheel harder under his fingers. "What if…"
But then he paused. Because the words were stuck in his throat. He could see Mike's head tilt questioningly in his direction, but he couldn't finish his sentence.
"What if, what?" Mike prodded.
Completely unbidden, thoughts of Stevie and Stacy assaulted Sam's mind. The tiny house they had been living in before the outbreak was entirely decimated by the time Sam finally had the chance to go look for his family. Bloody sheets and bloody clothes and bloody footprints and a bloody teddy bear had been the only evidence that his family was gone. And then he had lost Mercedes. And sure, she wasn't family, but she had been something.
And now they were all gone.
"What if we could redirect them somehow? Or at least distract them for a while. I have faith in Artie, I know he can fix Sylvester's box. And he can radio for help. And help can get here. Right? But three hours isn't enough. If he just had a little more time…"
"Whoa," Mike interjected, holding his hand up in a stopping motion. "What are you suggesting? Like, bait?" Sam didn't take his eyes off of the road in front of them, but he nodded his head twice in acknowledgment. "Hell no, that's suicide!" Mike exclaimed.
This time, Sam responded. "Exactly."
The empty light turned on, and neither of them could help but stare at it unseeingly.
June 22nd, 2012
Quinn stood on the porch, uneasily staring out into the distance as the sun was sinking in the sky. She was waiting for Sam and Mike to get back. She wouldn't be able to breathe properly again until that happened.
Because she hadn't protected Mercedes. And she hadn't protected Kurt.
But she sure as hell wasn't going to let Sam get stuck inside his own head and do something stupid. Not if she could help it.
So she waited.
The truck approached Home Base, and Sam slowly rolled it to a stop. "Mind grabbing the gate?" he asked as nonchalantly as he could.
"Sure," Mike said, hopping out and leaving his door open behind him.
Mike was ten feet in front of the truck when he heard his door slam. He spun quickly on his heels, but Sam had already thrown the vehicle in reverse. The locks clicked even as Mike ran up and began pounding his fists on Sam's side of the vehicle.
"Sam, no! Come on man, don't do this! You can't seriously think this will work!" Mike's voice was nearly hysterical, and he couldn't help it as tears began to leak from the corners of his eyes. "Sam, please…"
Sam cracked the window the tiniest fraction, and Mike tried to shove his fingers into the crack and yank it down. But there wasn't room. He couldn't do anything.
Sam spoke. "Thanks for everything, Mike. You're an awesome guy. And New Directions is our family and everything, but I'm empty without my old one. Now, it's time for me to do something to protect this family. Do you understand?"
He wasn't looking at Mike, but that didn't mean that Mike couldn't read the pain and the determination of his profile. He stopped fighting. "Sam, there are other ways." Mike's voice cracked and his Adam's apple bopped around the choked sobs that were threatening to escape the confines of his throat.
Finally, Sam turned and stared Mike directly in the eyes. "There may be other ways," he said, "but we don't have time for those." Sam pressed the knuckles of his right hand against the window, and he waited.
After a few seconds of staring into his friend's face, Mike pressed his knuckles against the window even with Sam's.
No more words were spoken. Because there was nothing else to be said.
Quinn pushed off of the front porch post she had been leaning against as she watched the exchange taking place across the yard and on the other side of the fence. Something was happening, and she didn't like it one bit.
By the time Mike's yells were echoing off the brick façade of the Jones' home, Quinn was halfway inside. She ran into Rachel who promptly grabbed onto her shoulders. "Quinn," she said, seeking out the other girl's eyes, "what's going on?"
Stopping momentarily to answer Rachel's question, Quinn simply said, "Sam's about to do something completely idiotic. I need to go stop him."
And then she was slipping on her combat boots and hurtling through the door and into the garage. Her Ducati was roaring to life, and she was ducking under the rising garage door before even taking the time to grab a helmet.
Mike had pushed the gate open enough to squeeze inside, but when he saw the streak of green approaching him, he quickly shoved his shoulder into the heavy metal and pushed it just wide enough for Quinn's bike to fit through.
Quinn's thoughts raced as she pushed the motorcycle to catch up with Sam's trail of dust. At this point, she had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do.
Hell, she'd be lying if she tried to claim that she hadn't thought of doing it herself.
But part of her had realized a long time ago that whatever little help she was to her friends alive, she was even less of a help to them dead.
Sam had not grasped this concept.
It didn't take her long to catch up with the pickup truck. She pulled up alongside him going about fifty miles per hour. He turned his head to the left and automatically slowed down quite a bit from shock alone. Rolling down his window, he shouted out, "Quinn! What are you doing?"
"I should ask you the same thing, you oaf!" she shouted back.
"Quinn, stop! Go back!" He paused, looking forward at the road spread out before them. "Rachel will kill you, you're not even wearing a helmet!"
She nearly released a pent-up growl of frustration from deep within her chest – frustration at the entire situation in which they found themselves at this point, frustration that any of this was even necessary. "Samuel Evans, pull this damn truck over right now or else –"
"Or else what, Q?" he questioned. And he didn't have to yell this time as they had slowed down enough that the roar of Quinn's Ducati was less roar and more mumble. "Let me do this. The zombies are going to reach Mercedes' place in less than three hours at the rate they're moving right now." Quinn's eyebrows furrowed at this new piece of information coupled with the fact that Artie thought he was close to fixing the device – but not that close. "I can distract them, even for just a little bit. I can slow them down, divert them slightly, something. But if I don't do this, then none of us will ever get out of here. Stop thinking so much and just realize that for a hot second."
They had completely stopped now. Quinn was balancing the bike between her legs and Sam was leaning on one elbow out of the window. And for just a hot second, Quinn did stop thinking. And she let herself realize that…
Sam was right.
She lowered the bike down to rest on the kickstand and walked over to the truck. Sam just watched her approach with the saddest smile Quinn thought she had ever seen in her life. She shoved her hands through the open window space and into his long, shaggy strands of hair, pulling him closer to her. Resting her forehead against his, Quinn breathed out a ragged sigh. And then she leaned up and kissed him on the forehead.
"Don't drive straight into them," she murmured. "The truck won't last long like that. Drive by them, get their attention first."
He nodded, and the soft skin of her hands brushed against his cheeks. "You got it," he replied. "I won't let you guys down."
"You never have."
Quinn watched as the truck Sam was driving reached the top of a hill. He paused for a moment, and then bass-thumping, eardrum-bursting, loud music began pouring out of the fully rolled down windows.
The engine revved, and the truck disappeared over the ridge. And Quinn laughed sadly through her streaming tears and her shoulders shook and she could hardly believe that this was their existence anymore.
She turned to get back on her bike and noticed a zombie loping awkwardly towards her. He was about thirty yards away. Her pistols were at her sides, but there was a sturdy two by four next to the Ducati. She slowly moved forward, bent down, and picked it up. One side of the wood was warm to the touch; the other side, cool.
Quinn started walking towards the zombie. And then she was running straight at it, weapon cocked back over her shoulder. And by the time the hungering zombie was a few feet from her – saliva dripping from parted, disgusting lips and nails bent and broken at all angles as it reached for her and stench utterly reeking through the air to her nostrils – Quinn was ready. And she smashed the fuck out of that bastard's head so hard that he was launched backwards several feet in the air before skidding pitifully along the pavement. Then she took that fucking two by four and smashed it right into his demented, rotting face over and over and over.
And then she cried and she cried and she fucking cried as she listened to the sound of Sam's truck honking in the distance.
June 22nd, 2012
It probably wasn't safe to ride with tears in her eyes. But Quinn didn't particularly care.
At this point, it was hardly safe to even exist. But they hadn't stopped doing that.
The first thing she saw through her tears was Mike standing at the gate with a rifle in his crossed arms. He started opening it for her as she approached, and she could read his sadness in his dropped shoulders before she was close enough to read it on his face.
The second thing she saw was Rachel standing on the front porch. An immediate sense of regret washed over Quinn as she thought about the fact that she wasn't wearing a helmet. What would Rachel have said if she had wrecked and smashed her skull against the pavement? She wouldn't have been pleased, that much was guaranteed.
A fierce wave of guilt and remorse and loss washed over Quinn at the thought of her own death. Because it was Sam who had sacrificed for the good of their family. And it was Quinn who was foolish enough to gamble his sacrifice with her thoughtlessness.
She had been trying for a long time now to live her present in such a way that she wouldn't regret her future. It was hard, sometimes.
Hopefully Rachel wouldn't say anything about it. She already felt bad enough as it was.
The garage door rose, and Quinn parked the Ducati in its empty spot. And when she passed the place where the black pickup truck normally resided, she had to squeeze her eyelids shut and inhale sharply through her nose. She was miles away at this point, but part of her could still hear the loud music and the honking as Sam disappeared over the hill.
Over the course of the past fifty-eight days, there had been small miracles for which gratuity was well deserved. Rachel's preparedness, for starters, had helped them stand on their own. The Jones' wealth had been greatly beneficial. Quinn's previously untapped talents for killing zombies and Finn and Puck's effortless way in which they moved together and Mike's constant optimism and Artie's technological prowess. Small miracles, small successes. They took what they could get, and they didn't look back.
But for Quinn – on this day when so much else was shattering and falling apart around her – seeing that laundry room door open before she could even get to it, seeing the form of Rachel Berry with a fresh change of clothes in her folded arms and a look of something achingly similar to love written for the entire world to see across her face…
It was possibly the most miraculous moment Quinn had experienced since the world stopped spinning.
Rachel didn't ask if Sam was gone. She didn't ask if Quinn was ok. She didn't poke and prod and needle and question. She just allowed Quinn to step forward into the laundry room. And she kneeled at Quinn's feet, untying the laces of her combat boots and helping her step out of them. She didn't shy away from the blood-stained articles of clothing Quinn was sporting, and she didn't hesitate before lacing her fingers with Quinn's and taking her into the downstairs bathroom. She removed Quinn's clothing and cleaned her face and brushed her hair back away from her eyes and loved her.
And when Rachel was done taking care of Quinn's external appearance, she wrapped her arms around the taller girl. And together, they sunk to the floor next to the porcelain toilet bowl and Quinn clung to Rachel like an anchor and somehow, somewhere along the line, Rachel started healing Quinn's internal wounds as well.
June 22nd, 2012
Lima Streets Southwest of Home Base
Sam's white-knuckled grip showed no signs of loosening. The bright orange empty sign wasn't turning off anytime soon, and the needle had been resting limply at its lowest point for far too long.
But the zombies had been following him. They had turned as he sped past them on their western flank, and they were already ravenously clawing at all sides of his truck.
"Wooo!" he shouted into the cab as he released his left hand from the wheel and wailed on the horn for several seconds straight, adrenaline coursing powerfully through his veins. But the blaring music drowned out his voice.
His heart was beating faster than it ever had in his life.
He was still managing to push the truck forward through the masses. And this was what he had intended, after all – to push as far as he possibly could, to grab their attention and hold onto it for as long as possible. He had to buy Artie more time.
Sam looked into the rearview mirror, shaking his head to the side so his shaggy, growing-out-at-the-roots blonde hair wasn't hanging so far into his eyes.
And what he saw scared him. Even though he knew that this was his plan – to die, sacrificing it all for his friends. It was still chilling to look in that mirror and see rabid zombies as far as the eye could reach.
Then the truck shuddered and rolled to a stop. Dead.
It was only then that Sam let himself reminisce. Because it wasn't like the movies – where brief, vivid flashes of his life began to cycle through his mind at a rapid pace. Sam just closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the headrest and let the memories come to him slowly amidst the pounding of rotting hands against the side of the car and the moans of the undead permeating the windows.
Sam at the hospital with his dad's hand clasped on his shoulder. Stevie had been born. Sam was a big brother now. Responsibilities and all that.
A year later and Sam was holding Stevie up in his arms to look into the hospital's nursery. "That's Stacy," he whispered, "and she's going to be our little sister. As a big brother, there are lots of responsibilities…"
Playing baseball with the other boys in his class. Looking over and seeing Stevie standing in the bleachers and cheering him on even though it was just a pickup game.
Sitting in the audience sandwiched between his dad and his little brother at Stacy's first violin recital. "This is boring," Stevie had whispered while picking at a hole in his jeans. "No way," Sam had replied, nudging his little brother in the shoulder while never taking his eyes off of his sister, "this is awesome."
Being told they were moving. Dying his hair. Trying to be someone different. And then getting to McKinley High and realizing that almost everyone there was trying to be someone they weren't. He could have fit in with any crowd. But then he found the only group in school who wasn't afraid of being themselves.
Singing. Dancing. Laughing and loving. Friendships and football and Coach Beiste and Mr. Schuester and even Coach Sylvester on occasion.
The end of the world…
Sam's eyes snapped open. And when he reached into the backseat for the shotgun, he felt nothing but a wave of peace descending upon his shoulders like the comfort of a warm blanket in the dead of winter.
The battery was still powering the electronics of the car, so Sam opened up the sunroof of the truck, silently sending up a thanks to Dr. Jones for picking one badass vehicle from the dealership. He grasped the gun in his right hand and pulled himself up through the hole and into the light of the setting sun – which he took the shortest of moments to appreciate.
Since it was to be his last and all.
His lips were parted in what could probably be described as a sadistic smile as he started blasting the nearest zombies off of the sides of the car. But they kept crashing back on the vehicle like the incessant waves of the ocean.
After his last round was spent, Sam reloaded with the shells he had stuffed in his pockets. He felt hands grappling at the hems of his pants, so he spun and released a round in the face of the undead. Over and over and over. He took out as many of those fucking festering corpses as he could.
But eventually, he ran out of bullets.
June 22nd, 2012
"Holy shit," Artie whispered as he stared at the soft blinking green light on the beaconing device. "Holy…shit…" he repeated.
Sue didn't say anything. She wasn't one for giving praise. Even when it came down to life and death situations.
"I think I…" he paused, gulping and sliding his glasses back up his nose. "I think it's fixed."
As if a light had finally switched on inside his brain, Artie immediately began shoving unnecessary electronics and papers off of the main desk. He turned and grabbed the device and lowered it gently down onto the cleared space before hooking it up to his transponder. Quickly switching off the message he had recorded earlier, Artie moved the microphone towards his face and pressed down on the button. He wiped a light sheen of sweat from his forehead with the back of his left hand.
"This is Artie Abrams of Lima, Ohio. We are twelve," his voice cracked as he remembered that Kurt and Sam were gone and Sue was now with them, "eleven survivors. We are in a safe house on the northeastern edge of Lima city limits. We request any assistance that might be available in the area. Time is running out. I repeat, we request any available assistance."
Sue stood over his shoulder with her hand clasped on the back of his wheelchair. Artie's brow was furrowed and his pulse was racing and a bead of sweat dripped from the side of his face down to his jean-covered thigh.
Seconds were rapidly compounding to minutes, and Artie's stomach was sinking and his hope was dissipating with every passing moment of radio silence.
His shoulders were tense as he looked over at the softly humming box that belonged to Sue. The box that could save them, if only he had gotten it to work properly. If only there was someone within range to hear his pleas…
He leaned further forward in his seat and hovered his fingertips over the transmit button once more. He licked his lips and prepared to repeat his call for help.
He was ready to repeat it as many fucking times as it took.
And when he was a fraction of an inch from pressing it, the radio crackled into life and he almost choked on his own tongue. But they had been through enough shit over the past fifty-eight days – it only made sense that something good was headed their way.
They deserved that much, at least.
"Abrams, roger that. This is Eli Rodriguez. I'm with what is left of the US Coast Guard. We've been looking for survivors, so it's a blessing to hear your voice. Send me your exact coordinates, and we'll see what we can do. Over."
The tears in Artie's eyes were from sheer, untainted bursts of happiness as he reached for the post-it note on which he had long ago scribbled the GPS generated coordinates of Home Base.
As he read out the coordinates with a beaming smile on his face and laughter in his voice, Sue turned and headed into the foyer. She scaled the stairs and turned to the left, ignoring the questioning stares of Asian and Other Asian. She didn't knock on the third door on the left, just twisted the handle and marched inside as if she owned the place.
"Well, William," she sneered with her hands on her hips and a smirk on her lips, "you didn't do such a bad job with this bunch of misfits after all." She stepped forward and extended her hand down into his face. His brows were furrowed, but his eyes were focused like they hadn't been for a long time. "Now let's get you cleaned up. Maybe we'll even find some Dep lying around to slather into your curly Timberlocks."
Mr. Schuester didn't say a word. But the left corner of his lips tilted upwards ever so slightly, and he reached out and clasped his hand with Sue's proffered one.
"Guys!" Artie shouted up the stairs. "Get down here!"
It was only a matter of moments before everyone – Quinn, Rachel, Brittany, Santana, Tina, Mike, Puck, Finn, and even Mr. Schue and Sue – was gathered in the living room.
"Where's the fire?" Santana asked once everyone was settled down and facing Artie.
"The machine is fixed," he began, "and I got a response on my first try!"
"You've got to be shitting me," Puck said, face blatantly displaying his disbelief.
Artie nodded fervently. "Seriously, the Coast Guard. They've been scouring major cities from the east coast inward. Apparently there are places that they've been taking refugees, places that are safe. I gave him our coordinates, and he said that they would have a chopper big enough to fit our group here within two hours."
"Two hours…" Rachel muttered softly under her breath. They all knew about Mike's report and how the zombies would probably arrive sometime around ten o'clock. That meant that –
"So if Sam failed," Brittany spoke up softly from the floor in front of the couch. Her back was pressed into Santana's knees, and her eyes caught the ceiling light and reflected it back in the brightest arrays of blue and the slightest hints of green. "Then the zombies will get here before the chopsticks."
"The chopper," Mike corrected her, "and yeah. That's about right."
A solemn silence fell over the group. And Quinn couldn't help but think not about Sam's success or lack thereof – because she believed deep down in her heart of hearts that he had been successful – but about what exactly these military people were defining as 'safe'. She had spent the last fifty-eight days trying – valiantly so – to protect the people in this room. And she had failed at times – she had failed enough that she knew deep down that she'd never be the same Quinn Fabray from before this whole mess. But a part of her was immediately set on edge at the thought of relinquishing that responsibility to an unknown face in a uniform.
And another part of her was so relieved at the thought that she felt like sinking down onto that couch cushion next to Santana and sleeping for the next week or so.
"We assume he didn't fail," Quinn said. Her voice was quiet, but they all heard. She shifted her eyes from the floor and around the room instead. "We assume he did the best he could with what he had. And we prepare to defend ourselves until help arrives."
Her eyes landed on Rachel's last. And the tiny brunette nodded her head once, firmly, before sweeping her long bangs back over one ear.
"So you're saying we may get to blow some shit up after all?" Puck questioned, standing up and rubbing his hands together deviously.
"I am," Quinn nodded. She didn't even try to fight the grin that engulfed her cheeks at Puck's enthusiasm. "Rach, where did you put those night vision binoculars?"
"Do you think we'll be able to have hot showers? Like, hot hot showers, not just lukewarm ones?" Tina asked with the tiniest trace of hope and happiness in her voice at the thought.
Her legs were curled up underneath her on the white porch swing, and she was leaning against Mike's right side. His arm was draped over her shoulders, gently rubbing up and down her arm. One of her hands was laced with his free one, and the other was bunched up in the thin material of his navy blue t-shirt.
The air was cool and crisp. The sky was dark except for the twinkling of stars and the moon. It was a full moon, so it was big and bright and oddly comforting.
"I bet they will," Mike said, tender smile lifting his lips upward.
They just sat there on the porch swing for a while longer, Mike's feet firmly planted on the ground, pushing them to and fro. A breeze ruffled Tina's hair, and she instinctively cuddled closer to Mike's warm side.
"Things are going to be different, aren't they?" she eventually asked.
Mike pursed his lips to the side and nodded his head in quiet contemplation. "Yeah," he replied, "things will be different. But they were different before zombies, so it makes sense that they'd be different during and after zombies, right?" Tina squeezed her eyes shut and wound her fingers tighter around his. "But no matter how much things change – no matter how much they stay the same – we'll always have each other."
His words were the sweet promise that Tina needed to be able to face the night. And she hadn't even realized it yet.
"You're beautiful," Santana said between kisses, "and talented," another kiss, "and smart," kiss kiss, "and I'm going to be with you for the rest of my life."
"Promise?" Brittany asked, her head thrown back against their bedroom wall in ecstasy as Santana proved exactly how well she knew her body.
At the blonde's question, Santana paused in her sweet ministrations just long enough to pull back, wrap her hands around deliciously soft cheeks, and bring her eyes level with Brittany's. "Baby girl," she said, "as long as there's a you, there will always be a me."
Sue was taking stock of ammunition and supplies and rounding up the last of the stuff everyone wanted to bring with them into a small pile in the foyer. It wasn't much – a few clothes and some family photographs several of them had managed to rescue from their homes. It was sad, really, how their lives had been narrowed down to this pile.
This pile of stuff.
Artie was camped out next to the radio, eagerly awaiting any transmission from Rodriguez with his jaw slightly pushed out to the side, chewing on the inside of his cheek. Mr. Schuester was sitting in a chair next to him.
Mr. Schue had taken a shower. And he had cleaned up. He looked a bit more like the Mr. Schuester they were used to – just a little paler, a little thinner, a little sadder.
"I swear, this place reeks of mediocrity!" Sue exclaimed from just outside of Command Central.
Artie leaned out to see what she was referring to. He watched her drop a sweater onto the pile from between awkwardly pinched fingers. She then proceeded to furiously rub her hands on the pants of her tracksuit coveralls and grimace spectacularly.
Suddenly, her eyes widened and she dove forward into the pile. "My record player!" she shouted.
With a roll of his eyes, Artie turned back to his desk. But not before stopping to glance briefly at Mr. Schuester a couple of feet to his right.
And Mr. Schuester rolled his eyes as well. He might have even smirked the tiniest bit.
Artie's dimples furrowed his cheeks as he smiled bigger than he had in a long time – even bigger than when Eli's voice had come across the radio.
"It's nice to have you back, Mr. Schue," Artie said, leaning towards his teacher with a conspiratorial glint in his eyes.
Mr. Schuester smiled back at his words. It was the smallest of small smiles.
But it was a start.
"About half an hour until the cavalry arrives, right?" Finn asked, looking at the clock on the dash.
"Yep. About that. Maybe a little less," Puck replied.
He pressed the night vision binoculars to his face as he stared out into the distance. The front of the hoard was two or three full blocks away. As Puck watched, another group of zombies – presumably the WMHS faction – merged with the out-of-towners. It slowed them down momentarily. An almost eerie sense of confusion washed over the mass of corpses as their numbers increased.
But then they were walking again. They were walking straight at the place where Finn had parked the car. And yeah, they were still a couple blocks away. And yeah, Puck was a grown ass man.
But yeah, he was scared.
Because they were only five blocks from Home Base. Which meant that the zombies were only about seven blocks away.
Seven fucking blocks. That was all the distance that separated them from this veritable army of death.
"Let's get back," Finn said, dropping his own binoculars down onto the seat between them. He reached forward to turn the key in the ignition.
The engine coughed and spluttered. And died. But the lights came on. And for some reason, the high beams were lit.
"Shit," Finn hissed, twisting the key and pumping the gas in a second attempt to get the engine running.
Puck's eyes were wide as he stared at his best friend. "Dude, you put that last can of gas in before we left, right?"
Finn's jaw dropped and his entire body slumped forward – and that was all the answer Puck needed.
Spinning in his seat, he pressed the binoculars to his eyes once more. And it took a millisecond to figure out that the zombies had either spotted them or smelled them or all of the above. Because they had picked up speed.
They had picked up a substantial amount of speed.
"Fuck," he whispered breathlessly.
"Come on, come on, come on, come on," Finn was muttering over and over, twisting the key and pumping the gas pedal and willing the damn engine to turn over, to start, to get them out of there fucking alive!
And it did. It finally started, and they cheered – because stealth clearly didn't matter at this point.
Finn turned the Jeep around and barreled back down the road towards Home Base.
"Less than thirty minutes?" he questioned.
Puck nodded. "Less than thirty minutes."
Finn and Puck had made it back to Home Base, and the entire group had been launched into a completely hellish fury of running bodies and loading guns and setting up flares for their supposed rescuers.
But hopefully flares would be less necessary after they detonated the C4.
Quinn had just hurtled down the staircase and was headed for the front door when the coat closet was thrown open and a soft hand yanked her inside. Consumed in darkness, Quinn was momentarily stunned by the loss of one of her senses.
"Rach?" she whispered.
"Of course," Rachel answered, pushing her body flush against Quinn's and pressing their lips firmly together.
"Mmm," Quinn hummed out from deep within her throat. Their tongues and lips battled for several fierce moments before Quinn pulled back, gasping for breath. "We should," she panted, "finish gathering supplies and…and make sure everyone else is –"
Rachel yanked her head downward by the ends of her pink hair and violently crashed their lips together again. "Or that," Quinn mumbled against the pair of soft, parted lips.
Then the thundering sound of an explosion in the not-so-distant distance rocked the house. Quinn pulled back and growled. "I can't believe those fuckers didn't wait for me to press the button."
She was throwing the door open and was halfway into the hallway before she turned back around and grabbed onto Rachel's wrist. The brunette's eyes were glazed over, and she had a goofy grin on her face.
"Come on, you," Quinn growled out again – this time, playfully. "We've got some mother fucking zombies to kill."
"Alright," Puck said through the walkie. "Explosives in location A are ready to blow in three, two, one, go!" he yelled across the open connection just as the first wave of zombies was crossing the appropriate spot.
Back at Home Base, Artie flipped a switch and pressed a button and waited.
No one had to hold their breath for long as the C4 blew a small crater in the street. But – more importantly – it blew a huge gap into the wall of undead.
"Woohoo!" Puck and Finn cheered before simultaneously fist pumping and highfiving.
They were still sufficiently far back to be out of harm's way – for now. So they settled down and shoved their binoculars back to their faces and observed the progression of the zombies again. The undead were relentless in their surge forward. It was only a matter of seconds before the next set of C4 would be covered by the putrefied bodies.
Finn grabbed the radio from the seat between him and his best friend. "Artie," he called across the line, "detonator B in three, two, one, GO!"
A fraction of a second later, another round of explosives was discharged. The boys cheered again before pulling back another hundred feet or so.
This continued for six more rounds of C4. Then Puck and Finn were forced back through the heavy metal gate of Home Base – opened and closed by the ever efficient Mike.
And now, they retreated to the second floor. Because it was time to snipe. And fucking pray.
"Don't feel bad about killing them, B," Santana called out to her girlfriend. "They're already dead!"
All eleven of the McKinley High resident survivors were up on the second floor of Home Base. Artie had carried the radio up on his lap when Finn and Puck carried him up the stairs – the beaconing device had been necessary to contact Eli when the pilot had been on the far side of the state, but now that he was closer, their shorter range devices were effective enough.
Which gave them a shitload of hope.
They were all shooting from the open windows. Even Tina – who had never been particularly comfortable with guns – had gotten in two or three headshots.
"Jesus, that odor is tragic," Santana loudly complained.
No one argued with her, and no one added their own two cents. The smell was strong enough to knock over a grown man (literally, Mr. Schue had almost fainted – twice).
"Abrams, do you copy?"
Several heads snapped in Artie's direction on the balcony before turning back out to the approaching army of undead. He propped his rifle up on the railing and hit the transmit button. "Eli, this is Artie. We copy, over."
"That sounds like a lot of gunfire, kid. I can see fires up ahead. I'm guessing that's where you guys are at. Am I going to be able to come in for a landing safely?"
Artie nodded even though Eli couldn't see him. "Yes, we've managed to keep the front yard clear so far. There should be room for you to land in front of the house."
"This is a pretty big bird I'm flyin', buddy."
"It's a pretty big yard."
When Eli's voice came back over the radio, it was preceded by chuckling. "I'll be there in two minutes. Hang tight. Over and out."
Quinn, Rachel, Santana, Brittany, Sue, and Puck were still picking off the undead on the other side of the fence from the second story. Mike and Finn had carried Artie downstairs, and Tina and Mr. Schuester had accompanied them. The five people downstairs were now on the white, wraparound front porch and shooting zombies as well.
And then the pulsing flop flop flop sound of a helicopter's whirring blades was suddenly discernable over the moans and scream-like sounds coming from the hungering corpses – the corpses that were pressing ever incessantly against the black, wrought iron fortification around their home.
The sounds of their cheers mixed with the moaning walkers and the loud beating of the chopper blades as Eli maneuvered the craft over the house. It seemed that he was dropping down to the ground impossibly slowly – but after fifty-eight days, five more seconds seemed like too long.
Everyone who had remained upstairs careened wildly down the staircase. They all grabbed their bags from the foyer and ran out into the night. The side door on the rather large helicopter slid open and a tall uniformed man called out over the tumultuous roar, "Hey! I'm Roger! And I think you've already sort of met Eli!" The pilot waved from the cockpit. "Nice to see y'all alive and kickin'! Now get your asses in here!"
Puck and Mike quickly lifted Artie onboard, and Roger began to strap his wheelchair into place. Next, Tina climbed inside. She was quickly followed by Santana, Brittany, and Sue. Quinn gently pushed Rachel forward to get on next – and then she stepped around the edge of the chopper and shot her RSBs through some zombified brains a mere fifteen feet away.
Some were successfully scaling the fence now.
Puck and Finn were blasting their shotgun rounds into the masses of corpses pressing against the fence as Mike and Mr. Schue climbed inside the chopper. "Come on, guys!" Mike yelled out.
And then the gate creaked and groaned before violently wrenching inward.
"Now!" Mr. Schue yelled out.
Finn hopped up and was quickly followed by Puck. Eli was already maneuvering the helicopter a few inches off of the ground as Quinn ran backwards – shooting undead the entire fucking time – to the door. Turning on her heel, she barreled towards the opening and launched herself up and into the waiting arms of Puck and Rachel. They quickly pulled her inside.
But she wasn't alone.
Several undead had hopped aboard the chopper's railings even as Eli tried to pull the craft skyward.
"I can't shake 'em!" he shouted back over his shoulder.
Quinn turned to Rachel and cupped her cheek with one free hand. "Hold onto me," she said quickly. Then she turned to Puck. "And you hold onto her." The 'or else' was unspoken and unnecessary.
Grasping her wrist around Rachel's and with both of Rachel's hands clasping onto her wrist (and Puck's arms tightly wrapped around Rachel's waist), Quinn hung bodily out of the side of the chopper. They were at least ten feet in the air by now – and thus well out of the reach of the undead. But several zombies had latched on and were attempting to claw their way up towards Quinn's face.
With her feet planted firmly on the open side of the helicopter and with her fate literally in the hands of Rachel and Puck, Quinn turned to the side while hanging out into the chaotic air underneath the chopper blades and just above certain death.
And then Quinn fired six different rounds into six different rotting brains. And six disgusting, dead-dead corpses lost their grips and fell down onto their undead comrades.
Free from excess turbulence, Eli was finally able to successfully handle the helicopter. Rachel gave one solid tug to Quinn's arm and pulled her safely inside and to a vacated seat.
"Hell, if those bastards had shown up five minutes earlier," Eli yelled from the cockpit, "there's no way we would have been able to land and pick your group up!"
Not for the first time – and most certainly not for the last time in their lives – the entire congregated group thought of Sam Evans.
And while Sue thought about Porcelain and Sam, she munched on her mostly smashed but still delicious twinkie.
There had been a lot of moments over the course of the day. Most of the moments had been completely, utterly fucked beyond comprehension. But in that moment when Quinn fell limply back in the seat and allowed Rachel to fasten her seatbelt across her waist, in that moment when the fucking Coast Guard was carrying them away from Lima, in that moment when most of them were alive and healthy…
It was a good moment. And Quinn refused to attempt to stem the laughter that bubbled forth from her throat.
"Are you ok, baby?" Rachel asked, reaching over and soothing Quinn's hair away from her face.
Quinn smiled at the term of endearment that Rachel had just used for the first time. "Rach, baby," she sighed out from her exhausted body, "I'm ok. I promise."
Rachel leaned forward and tenderly kissed her cheek. She ran her hands through Quinn's shaggy hair and said, "Baby, your roots – they're growing out."
Quinn turned to Rachel with a full-blown smile on her face. "Are they?" she questioned, wondering when she had last taken the time to actually look in a mirror. Rachel nodded and quirked an amused eyebrow at Quinn's seemingly euphoric state – though she herself seemed deadly serious about the matter.
It was funny how the world could end and how they could survive it and how Quinn's exposed, blonde roots had suddenly become Rachel's gravest of concerns.
"Well then," Quinn breathed, wrapping a hand up in Rachel's brunette locks and pressing their warm foreheads together. "Maybe I'll pick a different color, yeah? It's about time for another new beginning anyway."
A/N: The sequel, "Better Run, Faster Than My Bullet," is now posted and available for your literary consumption.