Secrets Carved in Lead
"He's not bound to remember much. I'm not sure if it's better to pretend that nothing happened or to fill him in." Theo paced back and forth across the dusty floor of the office, fiddling with a box of cigarette, flipping the top open and closed, open and closed. "You know him far better than I do, of course. What do you want to do? What's going to piss him off less?"
The raven haired gunman examined his hands for a time, shaking his head slowly before glancing up. A cigarette was offered to him; he was tempted, but had quit once before, and didn't particularly want to relive the process.
"Either way, it's not exactly a desirable situation." He held up a hand and frowned in regards to the cig. "I guess he'd want to know, though. He's too smart to be okay with being uninformed."
Theo lit his cigarette, shrugged, and said, on a breath polluted with bitter smog, "Your call, Peter. He should be up soon."
"How much blood…?"
"As much as was needed."
That was hardly helpful. The gunman rolled his eyes.
"Why? Are you dizzy?"
"Nah. I slept for like, what, a day? I'm alright."
Theo nodded slowly. He examined Pete with the critical eye of a physician- of course- which was none too welcoming.
"Well, alright." The red head seated himself on a rusted out stool by the examination table, which creaked even under his minimal weight. "You want to go sit with him?"
"Is that a good idea?"
Theo considered this, looking to the ceiling and sighing through his narrow nose. He looked haggard at that moment, but then, he always did. His eyes were always dull and dead looking, always plagued with black bags beneath them. "He was reasonably coherent during the transfusion. Which, as I'm sure you could imagine, was a bit startling. I attempted to anesthetize him, but he really… you know. At that point, he was too strong for me to force him to do much." Theo held his head. "It was a major blood transfusion, and the poor kid was awake for the whole thing." The med student pursed his lips. "Whether he knows it or not at the moment, he'll need you."
Peter's brow creased, his breath coming out as a huff as he stood. "If you say so."
"It's my professional opinion that your boy's going to be thoroughly fucked up by all this." It was said in deathly humor, his lower lip catching between his teeth thereafter as if in embarrassment, as if in shame. "As bad as you are for him, he's going to need someone, and- well. You're kind of the obvious choice, here. And though I'm not sure how much he remembers, that alone is bound to throw him off." He took to massaging the bridge of his nose for a time, as if he didn't notice Pete.
Finally: "Go ahead. Go do gay things to him. Nothing too athletic."
"Christ, no. He'd probably keel over." His smile was weak, his hands resting lightly on his hips before he reached out to touch one of Theo's shoulders. "Thank you. For saving his ass."
He snorted, batting the statement away with a fleeting wave of his hand. "It's my job. Saving asses. I practically have a degree in it."
"Thank God." Peter drew his hand away, running his fingers through his hair. "We owe you."
Theo waved him off again. "Just go keep him company. He might be awake by now."
His head hurt. His arms and legs felt numb and heavy- like lead. His was cold, and his eyes, unfocused. His vision blurred worse by the second.
Well, the last bit would be easily solved, if he had his glasses. But he didn't- didn't know where they were. Hell, didn't know where he was. All he could tell that the room was about three different shades of dingy grey, and dark, and stunk of peroxide and disease. And that the blanket covering his lower half was totally useless as to keeping him warm.
The window- it had to be a window grey and, he would wager, grimy as it was- flashed. Thunder rumbled outside, more of an idle threat than an outburst. He caught, belatedly, the kinetic pattering of rain against a thin roof and walls.
He tried to stand. Tried to life an arm, then a leg. Both tasks, though, were attempted in vain; the issue was quickly abandoned.
He might've been lying there for minutes, or hours, or days- he couldn't focus his mind to keep track- before the door opened, and a shape, a person- a man dressed in black and pale, worn blue- lumbered in.
He licked his chapped, nigh bleeding lips and attempted speech. No sound came forth. Would that he could request water, or his glasses, or God forbid an explanation…
He knew that voice. And that name. It took a few endless moments of wracking his brain for all of the connections to be made; when they were, his eyes widened lightly. Thunder growled once more, a waking giant.
"Peter." Hoarse, but audible. That alone was nearly too much to manage.
Peter exhaled hard. Within the minute, Noah was pulled upright and into an embrace that quickly warmed him to the core, held to a broad, familiar chest.
"How do you feel?" The gunman questioned, stroking his hair, running a hand gently over his bare back and sides.
"Mm." His throat hurt too, apparently. More than happy for the comfort of human contact, Noah gathered the strength to lift his arms and find what he trusted to be Peter's neck, holding on to him there and pressing their bodies closer together with his eyes screwed shut. "Like shit. Where are my glasses?"
"Broken." The gunman moved away, ended their embrace and took to dragging something across the floor- a stool, or maybe a chair. He sat down, and Noah laid back, already exhausted. Though the momentary balm of human contact made it somewhat worth it.
"Broken," he said dismally. "How?"
"Um." Peter reached over; following the olive-skinned blur, Noah grasped his hand and laced their fingers together while Pete went on. "Well . When Theo and I were trying to get you onto the table, I kind of knocked them off, and Theo stepped on them. They're totally wrecked. But Theo's working on getting a hold of another pair for you. But for the record, you look kind of hot without them."
Noah chuckled softly, the smile remaining on his lips for a while as he asked, "Theo?"
"Med student we found hiding out in the hospital. Get this- he only had a fire extinguisher and half a crowbar, and he's survived all this time completely alone."
Noah's smile widened. "Oh man. He gets major bonus points."
"Oh, definitely. And he's fucking brilliant." Peter squeezed his hand and fell silent for a handful of moments. Noah wished idly that he could see the gunman's face, but without glasses, idle was all it could be.
"Any more questions, princess?"
The gunman's words were stilted and tight sounding. Of course there were more questions to be asked- i.e., what the hell happened? But Peter's tone was not inviting to his curiosity, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know anyway.
"Yeah." Noah ran a hand across his bare chest, choosing his words carefully, his brow furrowing. "Why am I half naked?"
Pete's laugh at that sounded more like a relieved exhalation than anything else. He leaned in to kiss Noah's cheek gently, with his smile evident against the youth's pale flesh.
"Because I like you half naked," came the impish answer. "And, uh. Theo was stitching you up some."
"Oh, good. I was hoping his reason wasn't the same as yours."
This time, Peter's laughter was heartier- more sincere. "Doubt it. I think he knows enough to keep his hands off of you, even if he's gay. Though I don't think he is. At all." Peter paused for a bit; Noah could, if he squinted, make out the blue of his eyes, and found that they were trained on him. Not that there was really anything else in the room worth looking at anyhow.
Slowly, Peter leaned over again, this time pressing his lips to Noah's. Distantly, the already bemused quasi-patient was taken even further aback, though again, that was a distant reaction. Most prominently, Noah was beyond pleased, and so hungry for such loving attention that he could nearly cry upon receiving it. He didn't know what had happened- had still yet to decide if he ever, ever wanted to- but whatever had transpired left him feeling empty and cold. This kiss and all things therein, all of the little things comprising the moment, remedied it, if only slightly; the sensation of their tongues working together, of Peter's hands, restless and indecisive as to what part of Noah they should caress. He hadn't realized he'd missed it, or that he'd needed it so direly, or that he'd even had a reason to feel so deprived, but now that he had Peter back, the shock of separation and the joy of reunion hit him at once and raged soundly in his breast.
The kiss died away, deteriorating slowly rather than ending all at once. Noah found himself dizzy from the effort and duly groaned, holding his head.
"I'm… we're all really happy that you're going to be alright." Peter's voice was soft and sounded far away. "Don't know what we'd do without you."
Noah snorted at that. He scrubbed his hands over his face and scooted back. "Me? Come on. I'm completely useless to our cause. I couldn't even hack into my parents' computers. Admit it- you just want to get laid as often as possible."
Pete snorted and said, "While that might be true- damn, Noah, who else am I going to get into bed, Charles?- not even the hacker Adler sent in could get past whatever your parents did to those damn computers. And, much as I hate all weapons lacking bullets, you're kind of a beast with an ax, and held your own for months before we met." He took the blonde's delicate hand and kissed the back of it, at which Noah cracked a miniscule smile. "Why don't you go back to sleep? You look about to keel over."
Noah sighed and asked, "Going home isn't an option?"
"It is. But not now. After Theo checks you out again. He's worried there might be a relapse, and he needs to figure out what to do with some of those nasty welts."
Welts. He glanced down at his arms; could only make out sickly looking brown against pale, pale white. What had happened? His memory reached back to the incident with Haylee, but these hadn't been from then- she'd bitten his shoulder.
Clearing his throat, Noah went on to say, "I'm cold. Is there anything to be done about that, or is warmth not an option either?"
Peter grunted, and seemed to ponder this. "Actually, no, I don't really think it is. We couldn't do anything about the heat before- Kimi tried, but nothing came of it. Doubt we could do much now, either. I'm sorry." There was a pause, followed by some movement and rustling as Pete- unless Noah's eyesight was even worse than he could remember- removed his jacket. Shortly, Noah was nudged into a nearly vertical position, the jacket being draped around his shoulders before he was laid back down. "That should help. I have to go- I think it might be my turn to keep watch." He glanced upwards, apparently at a clock. "I have twenty minutes to get back," he said, "or Brett will probably try to skin me alive. Not that it'd work or anything."
That image would amuse Noah for some time. His lips twisted into a weak smile, he asked, "Which hospital is this?"
"Our Lady of Temperance."
Noah's eyebrows shot upwards, his smile fading. "That's about forty five minutes from the house, isn't it? How do you plan to get back in time?"
Peter chuckled, standing, leaning forward to press a kiss to Noah's temple. "I don't. I just wanted to see you. Fuck Brett."
"Mm. Please don't." He tried to muster the good humor enough to crack a smile or at least make the statement sound less dismal in timbre, but he was too worn out for that. Being or even sounding happy took effort- that was kind of depressing. "How is everyone?"
The reply, when it came, came slowly. Pete spoke in a deliberate legato, sounding lost in thought. "Kinda boring. Everyone's moving in slow motion. Brett and Charles feel genuinely guilty about this whole thing and have barely said to words to me or Kimi or Rachel in days. I don't know that Charles has even eaten in a while." Peter stood there, still and pensive for a time, before stooping to kiss Noah once again. "I'll be back later- around six."
"What time's it now?"
"Nine twenty. AM."
Peter grunted and ruffled Noah's hair and walked around him to head for the door. "Go back to sleep, princess. You look like shit."
Noah snorted with put on nonchalance and stared at the ceiling, the click and thump of the door opening and closing indicating Pete's departure.
About ten minutes later- those ten minutes having been spent contemplating nothing but the grey plaster in front of him- he became aware of the storm again. It lulled him eventually to sleep, the pattering of the rain an odd, archaic lullaby.
The last thing he managed to think before unconsciousness took him was that Peter's jacket was pretty warm, for all that it smelled of motor oil and the sharp tang of human blood. Drafty hospital be damned.
"Ahem." Theo folded his hands over a stack of papers as Pete walked past, stopping the gunman in his tracks and turning him almost involuntarily on his part to humor the med student.
"I don't get you, if you don't mind me saying so."
Pete's boots as he walked through the splintered threshold and towards the desk where Theo sat created heavy footfalls that echoed off against the walls and ricocheted back at them- the only sounds in the room for a time. He, upon reaching Theo's desk, set his hands firmly on the dulled wood, awaiting further elaboration peacefully.
Theo didn't seem to note the rigid, predatory nature of Peter's stance. He kept on: "Human life is truly expendable to you. And he is truly useless to your purposes."
"Yeah, he is." No point denying it.
"You've treated men you've known for much longer like so much rancid meat."
"Yeah, I have." He didn't like where this was going.
"He was half delirious, wasn't he?"
"Yeah, he was." Peter paused. "More like three quarters, actually."
A silence ensued between them. Theo fiddled with the corner of some paper he was barely looking at while Pete focused utterly on the spindly, sickly looking redhead.
Finally, Theo said without any evident emotion, "You could've gotten it over with. Hell, no chance of a relapse, in that case." His eyebrows dipped, low and dubious. His face illuminated by the single lamp in the room, that which was perched on his desk, he looked some terrible apparition emerging from darkness as he stood to countenance Peter fully. "You basically had the perfect opportunity."
Pete laughed humorlessly, making an exasperated gesture with his calloused hands. "I've had plenty of perfect opportunities. First time I fucked him, I actually considered it. He trusted me more that night than ever since I'd met him. There's always been some doubt on his part- some discomfort around me. He tries to hide it, and usually does it well. But that night, he didn't even bother. The way he clung to me and said my name- he was completely vulnerable. Even more so afterwards, while I held him- he was so mellow and trusting.
"I honestly considered snapping his neck in those moments, and hated myself for it." He shook his head. "Every night, I sleep next to him. Every night. When he sleeps, it's so easy to forget that he swings an axe like a fucking Titan, and to get these ideas in my head. I ultimately lose another part of myself every time."
Theo nodded sagely. "I'm not a psychologist- and I never would be, given the fact that it's not a science so much as it is bullshit- but I personally think it sounds like you're in love."
Peter grimaced. At that moment, a thousand thoughts charged at him from all angles and assaulted him on all fronts, and all he could think to the contrary was no. "I'm fucking him out of boredom. He might very well be in love- he seems like that kind of person- but I'm just playing along. I just can't get myself to do it. Maybe my conscience is catching up to me."
Theo grinned, leaning forward to invade Pete's personal space quite soundly. "Or maybe you're in love, and too much of an asshole to admit it."
Peter snarled deep in his throat, the sound of disapproval rumbling in his chest as he pressed forward similarly, causing the idiot med student to back down slightly, his smile disappearing. "Listen to me, Theo." Here, he grabbed the redhead by the collar; Theo's breath rushed out of him, and as Pete drew him close to stare him in the eyes, he whimpered. "There's no place in the middle of a zombie invasion for this shit. Worrying about emotions is what gets a guy killed, or drives him insane. Suggesting that I'm in love suggests that I'm weak, and I won't stand for it." He slammed Theo down into his chair and turned to stalk out after muttering "You're lucky you're useful." Theo heard.
Pete had a job to do. A sophomoric crush (if it was even that, which he still didn't think was so) wasn't going to hold him back.
And yet, it was. No matter what he told himself, if sleeping with Noah didn't stop him altogether it would at least delay him considerably.
Hell. Even being around Noah was counterproductive to getting the job done. Even before they had taken up this farce of a relationship he couldn't do it.
He was starting to forget that Jason was worth the trouble.
At some point not ten or fifteen minutes before Peter was set to return, an ambush was orchestrated upon unsuspecting doctor and patient by a horde of eleven undead nuns.
This occurrence was exactly as terrifying and absurd as it sounds. Noah had never liked nuns begin with- they and clowns held the top two slots on his "Do Not Want" list, and tied for first on his "Definitely Do Not Want Undead" list. Because come on. Nuns? There couldn't be a God, he decided hence.
As soon as the eccentric, manic, scrawny Theodoros Ioannidis slipped the glasses on his patient's face and stood back to await a verdict as to the accuracy of the prescription, one eyebrow canted jauntily, Noah caught sight of movement, so slight that it was barely visible through the tiny window on the grubby, rusted out door of the grubby, rusted out hospital room.
"Uh-um. They're fine- thank you- but is there anyone else in the hospital with us?"
This question made the red haired med student start and look to the door, his mouth dropping open.
"Sister Mary!" He yelped, clutching at his hair. "Damn it. I keep forgetting that those fuckers can bust through just about anything, even when they're little old ladies."
Noah, still slightly disoriented, struggled to focus, catching a pale face peering in at them- that which belonged to a white haired woman apparently clad from head to toe in black.
He deadpanned. "It's a nun."
"Yeah." Theo sighed, trudging to the door and leaning his back against it, keeping watch over his shoulder to monitor Sister Mary and whoever else might come to call. "See, we're in Our Lady of Temperance-"
"I know, thanks-"
"Which just so happens to be a Catholic hospital-"
"Yeah, know that too-"
"And that-" He pointed to the window just as two more wives of God appeared, "erm, those, rather, would be Catholic nuns."
Noah sighed, shaking his head as if to clear it, squeezing his eyes shut. "Why are they not dead?"
"Well, see," he heard over the roar of his blood and pulse in his ears, "they kind of are."
"Theodoros. Damn it." It really wasn't amusing. At all. At least, not to Noah. Theo seemed as if he would readily argue that point, if prompted. Upon opening his eyes, Noah saw that he was grinning like a kid in a candy store, rather than weeping or fleeing as a young man in a zombie invasion might.
Eventually, the med student whimpered pathetically. Noah shifted his gaze to the window and the growing horde visible through it.
The number of nuns present had doubled in the short time Noah had held his eyes closed. Fleetingly, acute fear needled at his gut- he wished in those moments that Pete would hurry the fuck up, but quickly admitted to himself, disappointment overcoming his anxiety, that his wish was too much to ask, as ever his wishes were.
He wasn't sure what emotions were broadcasted across his face, but whatever they were, they had Theo laughing without bothering to mask his bitterness.
"What are you scared of, Aster?" The med student asked. As the horde began to thump steadily at the door, his thin frame jolted forward in time to their rhythm. "Pete says your work with an ax can rival that of Thor with his hammer."
Flattered and at once abashed by his own glee at these words, Noah cleared his throat and rose slowly to the tune of a low murmur and the continuous pulse of the hungry dead's pounding.
"You provide an ax," he ground out, "and I'll see what I can do."
Theo grinned wolfishly. He was beyond pleased with this- with the entire damnable situation. Dear God.
"Even in this state, you're unstoppable. I like you." With that, Theo gestured, vaguely, with his head. Towards the door.
Noah would've paled further, if he wasn't already bone white.
"Once you got infected, Peter took your ax away. Your only option is going down to my office to get it."
Noah's mouth went dry. In the end, though- as he had in regards to numerous things during this catastrophe- he decided to suck it up and take the risk. The possible detriment was nothing to him anymore. If Theo's words held any kind of water, he'd already danced with death once and made it out alive. This was similar, he realized- the threat of infection and eventual death and crude, unrefined, ironic rebirth were the same- but now he was coherent, in control, and pissed the hell off.
Same risk, better odds.
"Fine." He was talking before he really took the time to think about it- he was running on instinct. Why not, at this point? "Which way is your office?"
"Down the hall to the right," Theo said in reply, patting Noah on his bare shoulder, that devoid of bandages- that which wouldn't shoot pain through his entire frame upon being touched. "Run like the wind."
Amazed with himself- looking back, even when he played lacrosse and jogged almost every morning he couldn't do what he managed then, as a malnourished, sickly shell of his former self- he went from this position of utter stillness to the approximate average speed and agility of a jack rabbit, bursting through the door and knocking the nearest elderly nuns backwards with uproarious groans and roars, dodging them like he would've dodged enemy middies back in high school.
"It's the only unlocked door!" Theo called from behind him as the horde split in two, one miniature unit taking to the examination room where the med student lurked, the other, tailing Noah doggedly. "The axe is behind my desk!"
He slammed into the office, the sheer force of his full bodyweight knocking the door open rattling it and tearing it off its hopelessly rusted top hinge with a God awful squeal and crack. He darted around the desk, licked his lips nervously and discovered the axe leaning against the cracked plaster wall, having obviously not been cleaned since its last use, blood dried and brown on its head.
Hefting it up and spinning around, Noah took out the first nun to lunge at him, her fingers as claws- an attractive young woman whose pretty blue eyes rolled up grimly as his axe connected with her neck.
Weak and shaking with adrenaline coupled with the last vestiges of illness, Noah only made it halfway through the column of white flesh on his first try. He wriggled it free, drawing the others into rapt fascination at the exposure of muscle and gristle and bone. Again, Noah, drear executioner, swung his axe with all of the strength his disease-wracked body contained, and now, with one clean strike, took the head off of the pathetically gurgling zombie.
He watched her form crumble to the ground, started to note the increased interest of the others in their fallen sister. This phenomenon- consciousness, however vague, of their surroundings on the part of the living dead- was not one he had ever seen before, and it grew all the more sickening and abnormal as one of the eldest of the pack stooped over her sister, wrenched her arm violently from its socket and began to eat.
"Oh, dude, that's just wrong," Noah found himself saying, the words only drawing mild attention from the pack, who had gathered around to observe this odd breed of cannibalism with open, gaping mouths.
"Must not realize they're eating one of their own. Just followed the smell of blood."
This came from Theo, whom Noah was startled to note had appeared without warning in the threshold. He was wielding what appeared to be the bar that had previously supported the curtain in the hospital room, sporting crimson splatters across his face and weapon.