Never Settle Down, Unless of Course You Can Walk Quickly, Then It's Okay.
"Is it just me or does Sam's look unusually empty?" Oliver asked as they pulled up the drive toward the large country house Sam had converted into a rest stop. It was a rather popular stop for most people, even during a slow period there had always been at least a few cars parked out front.
"You don't think?" Page asked leaning into the front seat as if the few inches gained would allow her to see something she had been unable to before.
"I'm sure he's fine Page." Zachary reassured sharing a glance from the corner of his eye with Oliver as he pulled the suburban to a stop near the front doors. Page was out as soon as the car had stopped; charging up the front steps, bat in hand and Padfoot at her heels.
"Slow down." Oliver growled, jumping out after her and grabbing the back of her sweatshirt before she could throw open the front door, waiting for Zachary to reach them. "Okay." He let he go gripping his crowbar tightly as she pushed the door open. Page led them inside, crossing the entry and past the empty desk that was usually used for checking in towards Sam's office, peaking into the other rooms as they went. The office was empty along with the rest of the floor. The stairs didn't creak ominously as they took them to the second floor but the low rumble of a growl that Padfoot was letting out made up for it, culminating in a stream of vicious barking that caused even Zachary to jump as a sleek black cat darted out of a room disappearing down the stairs, Padfoot on his tail.
"Is that Padfoot I hear?" A voice called from further down the hall before Sam appeared grinning widely. Page's shoulders slumped with a sigh hurrying up the hall to wrap Sam in a large hug.
"Holy hell Sam, you scared the shit out of us." She growled hitting him lightly. He quirked an eyebrow at her while squeezing her tightly around the middle.
"Why exactly?" he asked after a moment.
"There's no one here." Zachary explained. "We thought it'd been infected or something." Sam chuckled shaking his head.
"No, everyone's just heading up to Mayfield. There's this gated community that Gallagher and his guys went and cleared out a while back. You know how he is, always needs a project. It's apparently pretty nice though, everyone's been moving in, starting to rebuild their lives and all." He glanced down at Page, "I've been waiting for you guys to stop by again, I was thinking we might want to give it a try?"
"Isn't it a zombie movie rule of thumb that the people who settle get eaten alive first?" Oliver asked shoving his hands into his pockets.
"I've been here for nearly two years, these things are so stupid keeping them at bay isn't much trouble and I hear their digging a moat or something. I donno but I trust you're all capable of holding your own in case they surprise us." He looked to Page again. "What do you think?" She eyed him for a moment giving him a good once over.
"I donno, seeing you all the time might make you boring…" she mused smiling to herself, "But we can play house for a bit, see how it goes." Sam beamed leaning down to kiss her quickly.
"Good," turning back to Oliver and Zachary he asked, "You guys coming too?" Oliver snorted rolling his eyes.
"That may have been the stupidest question I've ever heard. You think Zach would leave Page for any reason?" He asked.
"Well what about you?" Page's question was accompanied by a slight smirk. Oliver just stared at her for a minute before turning on his heels and heading back down the stairs.
"Well I'm not just going to go wandering around on my own." He answered, "I'm going to get a Lean Cuisine, anyone need something from the car?"
"I'm fine." Page called as Zachary trailed Oliver out into the driveway, leaning against the hot black metal of the suburban while Oliver riffled around in the trunk.
"You're upset." Zachary pointed out as they headed back inside. Oliver chuckled, unwrapping his late afternoon snack on the way into the kitchen.
"I'll be fine." He assured setting the little plastic dish into Sam's microwave. He had discovered quite early on that trying to deny such things to Zachary was a waste of breath and generally only served to make him more concerned than he had been before. He set the microwave before turning back to Zachary who had settled himself close enough that it wasn't awkward but far enough that it wasn't making Oliver uncomfortable. He had a knack for keeping that distance just right.
"Do you want to tell me why?" Zachary asked after a moment.
"No." Oliver shook his head leaning back against the counter, Zachary nodded, shoulders relaxing slightly, content with the knowledge that Oliver was sure in his answer and going to be over whatever was bothering him soon.
Zachary sighed to himself staring blankly at the grey black fabric that stretched across the roof of the car. He shifted slightly in his seat trying to get more comfortable, he was definitely excited to finally have an actual bed. He was way too big to be sleeping in the driver's seat of a car on a regular basis.
The idea of regaining some semblance of normalcy was incredibly alluring now that it had really set in. Sure, it would never be like it had been, but almost anything would be an improvement from how they had been living since the infection broke out. He glanced toward Oliver, tucked carefully in his own seat, heavy quilt folded around him; he slept that way no matter how hot it was.
It was strange being in the car with him without Page, she was only a few feet back doing lord knew what in Sam's Jeep but her absence from the car had gotten him thinking of what the living arrangements would be like in Mayfield. There were several possibilities, Page could stay with Oliver and himself and everything would pretty much be the same or she could move in with Sam and leave Oliver and Zachary together. He wasn't sure how Oliver would feel about that though. Then there was the possibility that they would all be living together, which would pose another problem because although Oliver was comfortable around Sam, he wasn't really that comfortable.
Zachary yawned as Padfoot began snoring softly; Oliver shifted a bit in his sleep at the noise but didn't wake up. For a moment, Zachary considered reaching out to touch him, just his hair or his forehead or something, but he dismissed it quickly. He could pull off touching him on the shoulder or arm every once in a while when he was awake and Oliver hardly seemed to notice but he still wasn't big on the whole touching thing, and doing something like that while he was asleep felt like it would be a huge violation of trust. Zachary didn't even want to imagine the fallout if Oliver happened to wake up. He sighed again shutting his eyes, trying to force himself to sleep.
The gated community turned out to be one of those places old people went to, to pretend they weren't old. If everyone you see is over seventy five and you never venture outside the gates it's pretty easy to convince yourself you're on the young side being only seventy two. The place was wrapped in an imposing looking black iron fence that was now surrounded by the beginnings of a very deep ditch. Zachary pulled to a stop outside the gates getting out to look down into the hole that began a few feet off the side of the road. Further down, several people were placing wooden supports into its sides. A woman stood above them on the ledge between the fence and the moat seeming to be keeping watch, she waved enthusiastically from where she was but didn't move.
"Zachary is that you?" Zachary's head snapped toward the girl running down the road on the opposite side of the gate grinning at her.
"Hey Haley, how have you been?" he asked as she got closer, red curls bouncing around her heavily freckled face.
"Oliver!" She squealed, waving to Oliver still sitting in the car. "Awesome! I'm glad you guys finally showed up, we were thinking you were goners or something." She gestured toward what looked like a security booth at the side of the road, "Lemme let you in, one sec." She disappeared inside returning as the gates began to open. Zachary hopped back into the idling suburban, pulling through the gates far enough to let Sam follow, Haley trailing along the passenger side. Oliver rolled down his window, setting his book aside for a moment.
"So is there someplace we need to go? Something we need to do?" He asked, and she nodded eagerly.
"Yeah, Tamera's in charge of all the housing and everything, do you know her? Black girl, really tall, she's always got cornrows with the beads on the end that clink together?" she asked excitedly, nearly bouncing as Oliver nodded waving her on. "Yeah so you go talk to her, she's in the main office which is right up there, you take the first right and it's that first building." She pointed across what had probably been a very well manicured lawn that was now very overgrown. "You can kinda see it through those trees there, but it'll be really obvious when you get there." Oliver nodded
"Thanks, can we give you a lift somewhere?" he asked, Haley shook her head.
"Naw, I've got to watch the gates for another hour or so. I'll see you around though, Alex is making dinner tonight. I'd come, her cooking's amazing." She gushed.
"Kay, we'll see you there." She nodded waving as they pulled away, Sam's Jeep following them.
The entire community had a quaint feel to it. The houses from what they could see further down the road all looked as if they had been lived in for generations, even though it had quite obviously been built within the last ten years. The Main office looked like an old fashioned town hall; a cute little brick building with ivy crawling up the sides and a clock tower on top.
"It's like old person Pleasantville." Oliver laughed, hopping out of the car as Zachary parked for the first time in a long time in an actual spot.
"Something tells me old person Pleasantville doesn't have any orphaned children running around it." Page pointed out, Oliver shrugged.
"Probably not, it probably also has more old people." She laughed following him into the building. An extraordinarily bored looking man sat behind the front counter, feet kicked up on the desk. He grinned upon seeing them dropping his feet to the floor.
"Sam! You showed!" He pointed to Page. "You're Page then, and you two are Oliver and Zachary, although, I donno which is which."
"I'm Zachary." He held out his hand shaking the other mans firmly.
"And I'm Oliver." Oliver waved.
"And this is Pete; he stayed at my place every once in a while." Sam added as Pete nodded.
"You're probably looking for Tamera right?" he asked as he pointed down the hall. "Her doors open, you'll see her on the left." They nodded, following his instructions to a bare office where Tamera was playing Solitaire on the computer at the desk. She didn't seem to notice them at first chewing on her nails as she glared at the screen.
"I hate this game." She complained after a moment turning to face them with a smile. "Long time no see. People have been asking about you all. I see you finally decided to settle in?"
"We decided to see how it goes." Page shrugged taking the only chair left in the office as Tamera nodded, opening a new program on her computer.
"Cool, cool." She nodded "So what do we need here? Two places? One? Four?" Page and Sam glanced at each other.
"Two." They said together.
"So I'm guessing one of those only needs one bedroom?" Tamera asked with a grin receiving a nod from Sam. "And the other?"
"Two." Zachary supplied. Tamera nodded again tapping away at her key board entering their names.
"Okay," she spun in her chair pulling two maps from a large stack and tossing them onto the table in front of the four of them. "So you two," she nodded toward Sam and Page, producing a highlighter from a drawer. "Will be here." she circled a building in pink. "And you two will be here." She circled a separate building on the second map; just down the street from the first. Ducking below her desk, she produced two keys. "And there ya go. You can ask Gallagher to get you duplicates when you see him." Page took the keys, careful not to mix them as she stood.
"Thanks, I trust we'll see you around?" Tamera nodded.
"Yeah, I live just down the block from you." She waved as they left returning to her game of solitaire.
Hello again, not much to say really, I think the next chapter will deal more with Zach and Oliver's relationship…and maybe some a bit into what the zombie virus is…yes I will be attempting to give an explanation. Hopefully that will work. Other than that I hope you liked the chapter and oh look questions!
One: How are you all liking Zach so far? I realize he's not very developed yet, but just first impression type thoughts about him?
Two: When faced with mindless cannibalistic monsters would you hunker down or keep moving?
Huge thanks to my new Beta no-ones-puppet who is full of awesome!
Thanks to Hell's first Icicle, B-Rose, Gaki Toki, Natural and fake beauty, naraka, cinderandsmoke, Darling December, and Jeangu for reviewing!
Also thanks to A.N.D. trademark, Abstruse Blue, Hi This Is Dani, ItsAllInYourHead, JustHereToSatHi, RainbowDinosaur, Sundown, XXcolormelovelyXX, bcblues, jacarandaz, Kitsune Princess, Shpadoinkle, and YoMommaBiatch.