Sebastian remembers his 14th birthday, because that was the first time he ever shot a gun.
His father had shook him awake bright and early that morning, a near-manic smile on his face and saying words Sebastian only barely understood in his half-asleep state. They drove to a shooting range and Sebastian listened raptly as his dad showed him how to take care of a gun and then how to shoot one, letting Sebastian try a few times before he ruffled his hair and drove the two of them home. His mom was waiting in the kitchen with ice cream cake and a fond smile. At the time, he had been absolutely thrilled: his dad had taught him something new, had taken an interest in him and did something with him for once. Eventually though, when he got a bit older and realized that even though he thought he was hiding his sexuality then, no one else did, and his dad was most probably trying to straighten him out a bit, he resented the entire day, and he spent his 16th birthday at a bar in Paris, weaponry the last thing on his mind. Now, though, turning 19 in the middle of the end of the world, he thinks that maybe his 14th birthday was his favourite.
It was definitely the most useful, at any rate.
He had stolen a gun as soon as the U.S. government had declared a state of emergency a few months back. He sleeps with it under his pillow, maybe thinking in the back of his mind, some nights, that if he rolled over the wrong way and it fired it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. He's quick to forget those thoughts, though, because even though his parents are long gone Sebastian doesn't know if Amelia went with them, not for sure, and it's that thought that keeps him alive, keeps him wandering and trading with survivors and killing anyone he thinks could be a threat.
Sebastian's acquired something of a reputation in northern Michigan, and if he's being honest he's still not entirely sure about how he feels about that. It's proven helpful, though, to be able to walk down a street with no threat of being attacked by some of the more alarmist survivors. He can show up anywhere in the immediate area and leave with whatever it is he wants, be it food or shelter or ammunition, and the cost is usually less than it would have been for someone else. He's even used his power for good a couple of times, feeding a few kids or letting some people stay with him for a few nights. He knows that no one around him actually respects him the way it would seem they do. They all fear him, but Sebastian's okay with that. He's less okay with the people who don't seem to fear him enough.
Hunter was sick. Not zombie-sick, just sick. Public cleanliness wasn't exactly a priority for most people anymore, so people got sick easily. Sebastian wasn't entirely sure how bad it was, but he felt somewhat responsible, seeing as he was the one who dragged Hunter with him and the rest of the Warblers once it became clear that Ohio was falling quickly. They were the only two left, and Sebastian still wasn't exactly Hunter's biggest fan, but he wasn't going to watch him die, if it got that bad. The problem was Sebastian didn't know if it was that bad in the first place. He didn't know what was wrong with Hunter, only that he was tired all the time suddenly, and he kept complaining about how sore he was everywhere. Sebastian could only think it was the flu, or mono, but the latter didn't seem very likely, unless Hunter had been "trading" for supplies the way Sebastian sometimes did. Hunter swore that he hadn't been, though, saying that was only for "manwhores like you," and Sebastian had hit him upside the head and tried not to let the comment get to him, because he knew Hunter was mostly joking.
He couldn't not think about it now, though, with the skeevy-looking guy leering at him from across the table in what used to be a dentist's office, but was now a headquarters of sorts for all the other skeevy-looking guys in Michigan, known as the Pharmacy. Most people could go inside and pay with food or water to get what they needed, but some people attracted a more special interest; Sebastian, unfortunately, included.
"What can I do for you today?" the man smirked, and Sebastian bit the inside of his cheek so he wouldn't say something he was sure he'd later regret.
"My friend's sick," he said simply, trying to avoid eye contact without making it seem like he was avoiding eye contact.
"Not much I can do about that," the man laughed. "Lotsa people're sick, if you didn't gather that already."
"Not sick, sick," Sebastian clarified. "I think it's the flu or something. He's feverish and sore, tired all the time. I was wondering what you had for something like that."
"You know that we aren't an actual pharmacy, right? The name's really more ironic than anything else."
"I'm aware," Sebastian said through a tight smile. He was all-too aware about the kinds of things the Pharmacy provided people with. Two of the Warblers, underclassmen who had both lost their parents almost as soon as the virus broke out in Ohio, were infected because of it.
Sebastian said as much to the man, who just smiled. "No guarantees 'bout what happens after you sample the products, kid. We just hand 'em out."
"And very liberally, too." Sebastian muttered, trying not to let his anger show, but the man laughed.
"You betcha. That's what keeps 'em comin' back."
"Do you have anything for my friend?" Sebastian asked to bring the conversation back to a place that didn't contain memories of infected Warblers.
"How 'bout that gun in your hoodie?" The man said, raising an eyebrow. "Or 're you just happy to see me?"
"Definitely a gun, and definitely no." Sebastian spat back before he could think about it. "The gun stays with me, I'm not trading it."
"Not what I was talking about, kid. Seems to me that gun is the best thing for your friend."
"I told you before, he's not infected, he's just sick! He has the flu or something, like I said."
"That's what they thought about that first lady, remember her? The one from London. They thought she had the flu, maybe that Spanish one that wiped everyone out after World War I. But that's not what it was, was it?"
Sebastian swallowed dryly, remembering watching those first news reports in the Dalton common rooms. That woman had been tired, pale, weak; all things that Hunter currently was.
"He's still talking, he's still acting like himself. He hasn't tried to bite me or anything. He's not infected."
"That sounds a lot like denial to me," the man smirked, but continued when he saw Sebastian's stony face. "I'll tell ya what—you go back to wherever you and your friend are, check him out. If he's still acting like himself after you've been gone a few hours, you come back here and I'll give you whatever you want free."
"Free," Sebastian repeated flatly, not letting himself believe it.
"No trading, no… anything?"
"No anything. Go find your friend, and if he's just sick come right back here. Anything you want, scout's honor."
The idea of going all the way back to the motel he and Hunter were staying in wasn't very appealing, but the idea of getting something totally free was too appealing to resist.
"Fine," he said, standing up and crossing the room to leave, bringing his arms protectively around his middle, where his gun was. "See you in a few hours."
"I doubt that," the man said, not unkindly, like he didn't want to be right but he knew that he was.
"What's stopping me from just coming back and telling you he's fine even if he isn't?" Sebastian couldn't help but ask.
"I'll be able to tell," the man said seriously. "You came all this way, you're willing to do whatever it takes—he must be pretty important to you."
Hunter's smirking face appeared in Sebastian's mind, and Sebastian thought that.
"Not really, actually," He said honestly.
The man smiled sadly. "Then he must be all you have left."
Sebastian ignored that and made his way back. The walk wasn't too awful, only about half an hour if nobody got in his way. For the most part there weren't too many infected people in the area; all the people who got infected got shipped off two towns over, where they had one of those quarantine zones set up. The people that would get in Sebastian's way were healthy, the types that had heard about him through a friend of a friend, looking for food or shelter, giving him one sad story after the other, and while Sebastian wasn't heartless he wasn't stupid either: there wasn't anything he could do to help but kill the infected.
He and Hunter lived in a motel that had probably looked just as bad before the end of the world, and they'd have to leave it in a while because people were starting to show up at their door in the middle of the night, begging for a place to stay. Hunter usually tried to kick them out but Sebastian would let them in if they pled their case well. It certainly wasn't ideal company, living with Hunter, but the man at the Pharmacy had been right: he was all Sebastian had left.
He thought about Amelia sometimes, though; the little girl he left behind when he went off to Paris, then Dalton. The last time he had actually spent a decent length of time with her had been the summer between the two, him getting ready for his junior year at Dalton, her getting ready for her first day of first grade. He told her watered-down stories about Paris, about the food and the boys, and she listened gleefully, hanging on every word but knowing not to talk about it in front of their parents. By the next summer, Sebastian had too much on his plate: what he had done to Blaine, getting demoted in the Warblers, Dave Karofsky. They barely spent an afternoon together that entire summer, and then Sebastian was back in school, watching London crash and burn with the Warblers nervously looking at each other.
Sebastian's parents had been some of the first, and even though they could afford the best care in the country, when they became the next in line for the zombie apocalypse no amount of money could make a doctor touch them with a ten-foot pole. He got the call one day a few weeks after spring break. He hadn't gone home to visit. He wasn't even sure who it was on the phone, some poor guy whose job was to call people and tell them their family was sick, but Sebastian still screamed at him. He demanded to know what had happened to his sister, and when the voice on the other end of the phone told him the response team hadn't seen anyone matching Amelia's description, he hung up and just screamed, letting his anger out. Because of course his parents were only thinking about themselves. Of course they abandoned Amelia. Sebastian thought his sister was the best person on the planet, hands-down, but even she couldn't survive alone.
He's thinking about that, about Amelia cold and alone and afraid somewhere in Ohio while the monsters he used to pretend to chase out of her room before bed actually got her, and he hates himself for not being there to do it for real, when it really mattered. He's not sure if even he would be able to survive alone. He had started with a group of people that protected each other, and now he was left with Hunter and a town that feared him. He's not truthfully sure how much longer either of those things could last.
The first thing he sees when he walks up to the motel is glass. It's everywhere, some window shattered. That wasn't a good sign, so Sebastian cautiously pulls his gun out and releases the safety, resting the tip of his finger against the trigger.
"It's too bad," a voice says, coming up beside him so suddenly Sebastian has his gun to their head before he can think about it. He lets out a breath and puts the gun down once he realizes it's just one of the girls that live above him and Hunter.
"About what?" he asks, still looking around distractedly.
"Your friend," she says, then she lets out a quiet gasp, realizing that Sebastian hadn't known what had happened. "Shit, I'm so sorry—"
"Don't be," Sebastian waves her off, feeling that same numbness he's felt every time someone he knows got infected. "Did someone take care of him?"
"He's in the bathroom by the pool," the girl (Mandy, Sebastian thinks, but he's not sure) tells him.
The pool isn't a pool, not anymore. It's just a hole, dry since before everything started, but there's a little bathroom hut off to the side with one tiny window that's too small for anyone to squeeze through. Sebastian walks over to it and shoots out the glass of the window, and immediately he can hear Hunter thrashing around. The room is small enough that if Hunter spread his legs he could climb up it to look out the window, and Sebastian knows that the smell of him and Mandy will make him do exactly that.
He's right, of course, and he tries to keep his arm steady when he sees Hunter's pale hand gripping the edge of the window. Pressing down on the broken glass like that can't feel very good, but Sebastian guesses he doesn't care.
See, it's easy. Spread your legs, be ready for it to come back after you fire.
Sebastian aims once Hunter's face appears, wild with the virus's need to make Sebastian like him.
Make sure to aim carefully, Seb, you have to be careful about that.
Sebastian's nothing if not a good shot.
And then you just go for it.
Sebastian fires, and Hunter falls.
"It's lucky you could get him far enough away that the spatter couldn't hit us," he observes, calmly putting his gun back into his hoodie pocket. While his hands are hidden from Mandy's view he grabs one wrist with his other hand, trying to get himself to stop shaking.
"How can you do that so cleanly?" Mandy asks. Sebastian's pretty sure she's not talking about the accuracy of his shot.
"He wasn't really my friend. And anyway, he'd have done the same for me. We agreed that if it happened we'd rather die than be sent to a quarantine zone. And now everyone here's safer."
"But now you're totally alone," Mandy says. Sebastian just nods, so she continues. "Do you have anyone? Family anywhere?"
That halts Sebastian, Amelia's face appearing in his mind. She's always been a maybe to him. Things are terrible, but maybe Amelia's okay. Sebastian knows, he knows that she isn't, but.
"That's where I'm heading now, actually. I'm gonna go see my sister."
"Where does she live?"
"Ohio, as far as I know. She's a smart kid, so she might've left. But it's worth a shot."
Mandy bites her lip at the mention of Ohio. She knows that Sebastian's going to leave, and it's not like they were ever really friends, so it's not like she's going to do something stupid like tell him to stay because of how dangerous Ohio is. But she's worried, and Sebastian appreciates that. It's nice that there's at least one person that's actually minutely concerned about his well-being, even if he's pretty sure Mandy's mostly worried about the loss of protection Sebastian's leaving will mean. People don't tend to try and start anything with him, and that means the other people that live in the motel stay relatively safe.
"Keep everyone away from the pool, okay? Especially where Hunter is, you don't want his blood anywhere near you."
"I know," Mandy says, and it's sort of catty and Sebastian's kind of in love with it. He's always loved it when people get like that, and anyone who can keep that attitude in this environment more than earns his respect.
"Right, sorry," he says, and he means it, less worried about the people in the motel. They have Mandy, they'll be okay.
"Did anyone call a response team?" He asks.
Mandy nods. "As soon as we realized what had happened, but you know them. It'll be weeks before they show up."
"At least now it's just cleaning him up, they don't have to worry about transporting him. If you call again and give them the same information you gave them before they'll come faster if they know they won't be dealing with a live one."
Mandy nods again, then awkwardly shifts from foot to foot.
"I'd say 'see you' or something, but…"
"Yeah, you probably won't," Sebastian almost-laughs, "Take care of everyone here, okay? Your friends and whoever else."
Mandy gives him a little salute, and Sebastian feels like he should do more than just wave over his shoulder at her the way he does. He doesn't know her well enough to hug her, though, even though he sort of wants to. Not because of any attachment to Mandy, just because, in some part of him he doesn't want to acknowledge, it'd be nice to hug someone again.
He sets off with the thought that maybe Amelia can be the next person he hugs, and it has him walking a little faster, spine a little straighter.