A/N: So here is the sequel to Into the Night. Finally. Summary: Jake, Chuck and Madison manage to get back to 'civilisation' only to realise that maybe it would have been better to stay out of the cities. Cardiff proves more dangerous than any countryside redneck could have been. They search for their families, for anyone alive that may still be normal. Meanwhile, Mercy tries to help as many as she can, but soon starts to realise that with every life saved, there's a death you can't avoid.
The title comes from an Alkaline Trio song, as did the title for 'Into the Night'. Best to read Into the Night first. As always, reviews will be given a good home and returned.
Inhale, exhale. Breathe in, breathe out. Pretend that all is good with the world and you're not standing in what could be considered a wasteland, where the trees are a murky brown colour and look, for all intents and purposes, like they have faded. Everything looks dead. But make yourself think that things are fine as you smoke, that you'll wake up any moment and you haven't actually seen the things that you have beheld over the last few days.
Tell yourself that everything will be fine. That this isn't happening.
Go on, be in denial.
I sure as hell am.
There was no way for us to know what had even happened. I didn't know where the bomb had hit; I had assumed, to a certain extent, that Russia would, if they did attack, hit the USA. So why was this happening to us?
I sent a silent prayer up to whatever Gods were up there that my mum, my dad and my sister were all alright. Added into that, Chuck and Madison's families. Please. I thought silently. We can't be the only ones left.
The only sane ones, anyway.
Though I'm starting to question that aspect, starting to wonder if I really am sane. God knows I'm not one hundred percent fine. There's something wrong with me, something inside of me and I need to find a doctor or someone with some resemblance to medical training. I need answers. I need to find out what's happening to this body of mine.
I find it difficult to believe that it was only about two hours ago that we managed to clamber out of that basement, just under two hours ago when I had to help drag Chuck towards the car and he fell against it, his breathing heavy.
Their questions about what happened, what I did, died down about half an hour ago when they both fell asleep. There's only us here, us and psychopaths like Winters. I've been careful, this time. I've had an eye on the side of the roads as we've gone along, avoiding anywhere that looks promising, or offers hope. We've gone past the stage of needing that.
Part of me dreaded what we might see in Cardiff, in the capital. Briefly, my mind flashed back to being a teenager in the city, of chatting to mates from the valleys who loved it. Not as vibrant or as big as London, but for those most Welsh of all lads it was perfect.
The countryside was near enough in ruins, and I had no idea what to expect of the city. Would the buildings be intact? We'd seen a couple of houses that seemed fine, but then others looked like they'd caved in on themselves. Everything around us, the small amount of destruction we'd seen, seemed so random.
Home. It seemed to call out to me. The city, and the town I lived in, and everything I had hated about living there, for so long, if I could just grasp onto it, if I could have it back then it'd be heaven to me.
I let out a whistle and watched as Shakespeare bounded out of a few trees, looping back to the car. He slowed every couple of seconds, would limp for a few paces then attempt to run again, as if forgetting his leg was bad. When he got to me, he lifted his paw up and let out a whine.
"I know it hurts boy." I whispered, patting his head as I opened the door of the car. He leapt up beside Madison's sleeping form. "But you'll have to put up with it."
He curled up, head resting on his paws as I climbed into the driver's seat. Not far now, I reminded myself. We're almost there.
- - -
Back at University, I had a solid group of friends. A mixture of male and female, but the guys I mostly hung around with were the type considered to be 'players'. They had a string of ex-girlfriends behind them, some of which, somehow, they were still on good terms with. I never understood that, really. Especially with the way I saw them play with girls then dump them like old rag dolls.
But, hey, they were good guys. If you weren't, you know, one of their 'toys'. I don't know. The girls seemed to get along fine with them, even if they did often chastise and criticise their handling of women.
One evening, in what must have been my second year, two of us were sitting in the living room of my student house. I remember it clearly; it sticks out in my mind, the image of us there, vividly amongst the other scenes of my University years.
I was sitting, cross legged, in front of the television, fingers tapping wildly at the Playstation 4X controller in my hands, tongue poking out between my teeth. Fletcher was stretched out on the sofa behind me, eyes watching my progress as I shot at a couple of Nazis.
"I don't get it," I muttered, thumb bouncing up and down on the X button. "How the hell do you have so many girls eating out of the palm of your hand, dude?"
"Easy, you just treat 'em right."
"Treat them right?" I scoffed at him, pausing the game and turning the top half of my body to I could look at him. "You don't 'treat girls right', Fletcher."
"Alright, whatever," he grinned, "let me rephrase that. You have to know how to treat them, you need to know exactly what to do and say to certain girls."
"Right," I couldn't resist rolling my eyes at his words as I restarted the game.
"It's true," he cried, "Jake, listen to me man. Each girl can fit into one of four categories. You have the sluts, they're easy Jake. And I don't just mean...well, basically, they're easy to deal with. Then you have the desperate sluts. They're even easier to get your hooks into. Then you have the frigid girls, well, frigid until you know how to treat 'em. Lastly, the nice girls. The kind of girls who you actually do want to make an effort with, the type of girls who you can picture yourself one day marrying."
Throughout his little tirade, I was still shooting Nazis. Now, I considered his words, and the realisation snuck in. He was right.
God damn it, he was right.
"So, how do you deal with them?" I asked, pausing the game. "What are your tips, Fletch?"
He laughed, shaking his head. "Trust me on this Jake lad, you don't need them."
- - -
I had never really linked the word 'carnage' to real life. No, it was a word reserved for the world of fiction, for the scenes depicted in comic books or movies or maybe, just maybe, the occasional TV show. Until I saw what waited for us in the city of Cardiff.
Nothing could have prepared any of us for this, and I found myself unbelievably thankful that Madison was still asleep. I could have done with Chuck awake though, but I wasn't going to shake him or get him up just to witness this.
Something akin to instinct pulled me through the city streets, my eyes fixed on the road ahead after I'd made the mistake a few times of looking to the side. Still, I had to contend with the bodies sometimes lying in the middle of the road, had to wind through the odd car or two that had stopped, or been abandoned.
How had we come so far without seeing this?
I stopped outside the station, threw myself out of the car and puked.
My knees were shaking below me as I lifted my head and stared at the front of the station. There were blocks, where benches used to be, but they'd gone long before I was even born. Every time I'd come into Cardiff, every time I'd stopped outside these doors for a cigarette I had stood by those white, marble looking blocks. Now they were stained with the blood of man, of men and women whose bodies were scattered in front of and inside the station. I could see them. And I could see that this was not the work of the blast.
What the hell had happened?
Her voice was wobbly, shaking, and I forced myself to stand upright. Turning, I stiffly walked towards her. Tears were pooling in her eyes as she shivered in the cool breeze blowing around us. My eyes caught sight of a couple of suitcases, ripped open and their contents scattered everywhere.
She crumpled before my eyes, her knees gave way and I had to dive forward, catching her as she let out a strained wail.
Before I realised it, Chuck was at my side, helping me hold the girl up, his eyes darting around and taking in the scene. "Jesus," he whispered, helping me to half-carry Madison to the car. Shakespeare had pushed himself against the far side, his body giving off a glow that we had grown accustomed to. A high pitched whine came from his throat.
"It's OK boy," I stroked his head, trying to calm him as Madison wept in the seat.
"Where we going Jake?" Chuck asked, sitting half in the car, arms wrapped around Madison as I lifted my eyes and followed the trail of bodies.
"You guys stay here," I muttered, pulling my jacket out of the car and shoving it on, "I'm going to the Stadium."
"We'll come to." Chuck went to stand, but I shook my head.
"Nah man, look," I pointed at the trail, "I don't want her to see whatever is in there, dude. I'll be back in a bit. Come on Shake."
I moved around the other side of the car, opened the door and watched as the dog leapt out.
"If I'm not back in an hour," I placed my hand on the door, eyes fixed on my companions, "then get the hell out of here. Get to Penarth, alright?"
"If you don't come back..." Madison lifted her head, staring at me.
"We'll find your sister Jake, don't worry." Chuck offered, and I flashed him a thankful smile before slamming the door shut and starting my walk towards the Millennium Stadium.