Hephaestus struck the steel and flint, and the sparks jumped. Nothing lit, however, no matter how many times he tried. The kindling was too wet from a recent storm, and it downright refused to catch. Grimms looked idly on from across the small pit, sitting cross-legged; he had no skill with fire. Roy knelt down next to the Smith God, and offered his hand. He was uncomfortable with being disliked by anyone, even an ugly smithy, and he was eager to win him over by any means possible.
Begrudgingly, Hephaestus passed the tools to him. Roy scraped them together, awkwardly. It'd been awhile since he'd been away from the lit torches and lanterns of civilization, and he didn't expect the fire to start. He was simply hoping that the gesture would count for something. Familiarity soon flowed back to his hands, and he tried again. The sparks flew and against all apparent odds, the fire caught.
He looked up and smiled awkwardly, his face shrugging. Hephaestus just grunted. "Only luck, pretty boy." Grimms breathed out a laugh. A wolf howled in the distance, and the firelight glinted off of Roy's revolver; a deadly hint of the past and a fatal glimmer of the future.
Hephaestus rolled back off his haunches and sat back against the wheel of the wagon. Roy stepped back from the flames and sat next to Grimms. There was some unseen bond between them; some strand of providence that tied their fates together, and that made them closer than seemed possible. Roy didn't cheat Death; he befriended him, and the universe didn't take things like that lightly. They didn't know it yet, but they were in store for a lot more than they could ever imagine.
Hephaestus dropped the flint and steel into a pouch on his belt, and grabbed a nearby stick. He prodded the fire sending a shower of sparks into the air. His lips moved subtly, uttering some ancient incantation, and the fire burned brighter. Roy felt his face flush with the new heat, and he looked to Hephaestus. "How'd you do that?" He didn't ask out of surprise or shock, he asked in order to add the skill to his own repertoire.
"You forget, boy, that I was a god once." Hephaestus boasted, his crooked teeth flashing. They sat there for a moment, looking to the fire, or the sky, or the darkness of the woods and plains around them. Crickets chirped, leaves rustled, and the magic that filled the air had nothing to do with the supernatural.
"This is nice." Grimms' hoarse voice broke the silence. Hephaestus looked to him for a moment and then grunted in agreement. "This is living." Grimms said, in a hushed, almost reverent tone.
Roy smiled and looked to him, his eyes shining in the darkness. "It is, isn't it?" It wasn't some monumental discovery, but for Roy, who'd never slowed down to enjoy the simple things, and for Grimms, who'd never been given a chance, it was nothing short of profound. They breathed deeply in the night air, enjoying the moment while it lasted.
"Grimms?" Hephaestus said, and Grimms looked at him, making it clear that he was paying attention. "What're you afraid of?"
"What?" Grimms was a little surprised, to say the least.
"What makes you scared? What do you hate so much that sends shivers down your spine?" He looked up at the stars. "In all the wars I've fought in, the best fighters have always learned their comrades' fears and their weaknesses." Grimms nodded, understanding, but terror took over Roy's face.

"We're not going to be fighting a war, right?"
Hephaestus barked out a sharp laugh. "No, pretty boy, not a war. But even my magicks aren't going to hide Grimms from those who really want to find him, and at some point, someone is going to come looking for a fight. What true warrior could resist the lure of fighting Death himself?" Grimms grimaced in the shadows.
"A smart one." Roy quipped.
"Well, there is certainly a shortage of intelligence among the gods, that's for certain." Grimms could easily hear the bitterness in voice. A lot must have more must have happened in Heaven than he'd thought. Hephaestus turned his gaze back to Grimms.
"But most fighters, whether they admit it or not, are truly afraid of death. So, I wonder, what does Death hate?" Grimms contemplated reminding Hephaestus that he wasn't death anymore, but he knew that would just be delaying the inevitable, and the question was certainly a reasonable one. That didn't mean he wanted to answer it.
"Yeah," Roy added, excited with curiosity, "What are you afraid of? What demon, or god, or whatever, has got the cojones to scare you?" He sounded almost proud of Grimms, like an older sibling would talk of his courageous younger brother.
Grimms took a deep breath. "Zombies."
"Zombies?" Hephaestus asked, stunned. "That's like an elephant being afraid of a mouse."
"Zombies?" Roy repeated, looking from Grimms to Hephaestus and then back again. "What the heck is that?"
"The living dead." Grimms said, and a visible shiver went down his spine. "The walking dead. "
"You mean," Roy lowered his voice, "Like me?"
Grimms laughed a little. "No, Roy. You're still alive, even if you shouldn't be. Zombies are reanimated corpses. Something, be it voodoo or necromancy or the powers of The Dagda's Cauldron, traps the soul in its body. It's not in control, it's merely held prisoner, its life force providing the energy for the corpse to run. They are hollow shadows of their former selves; shambling, moaning things that live only to feast on the living. They've been known to follow rudimentary orders by the one that created them, but most simply wander, following their hunger."
He paused. "But that's not what scares me. When they die, I come- I mean, I came to them and I freed their souls. Or, I tried. Before I could, they'd get yanked back to the land of the living, to a pained and tormented existence, and there was nothing I could do to help them. "
"Sometimes days, sometimes hours, sometimes months later, I would find their souls again. They would be fragmented, maniacal, and shattered. Their souls would be as dead as their bodies, rotting and lifeless. They couldn't control the horrors they inflicted upon others, they couldn't prevent the horrid acts they did, the murders and the cannibalism, and it tore them apart. Merely existing in one's corpse is enough to shatter the strongest man's psyche, and these people had to stand by and helplessly watch themselves murder their former fellows." Roy was tight lipped, and even Hephaestus was clenching his jaw.
"But, it gets worse. Every person that they bit, but didn't devour, would get infested with the magicks, and they would infest those who they bit, and so on. And these magicks had no prejudice; they would take over human and Being alike. I was afraid that one of them would lash out at me, and I knew that there would be no one there to save my soul. Sometimes, I would come upon them by the thousands, and that unnerved me. Something, someone, was screwing with the balance, they were screwing with my balance. Zombies, Hephaestus. That's what I'm afraid of. That's what I hate."
They sat there, silent and thoughtful, and Roy had goose bumps. The fire's heat beat heavily on his face, his cheeks flush, but a chill still went through his body. He was tempted to pinch himself, to assure himself that he was still alive and not dreaming or walking around, dead to the world. But he didn't, because even a week with Grimms was too long to let anything truly shock or surprise him. Adaptation was a skill Roy had had to learn young, and it'd never left him.
In the far distance, someone was killed, but they didn't die.