"I'll count to three." The muscles in Quintus's jaw twitched as he narrowed his eyes. There was tension in his posture as he inched closer, a breath away from the man who had humiliated him. The bastard had it coming.

"You hid that in your undies?" Came the man's mocking tone. He was looking at Quintus's gun with a taunting invitation. The corners of his lips curved in a dare.

"Rested it on the sofa when I was wandering around the house."

The man snorted derisively, "You think you can kill me with that?"

Quintus's grip on the gun was sweaty, the gun in his hand felt insubstantial, but his fingers were taut over the trigger, and ready to fire at the slightest movement.

"Not exactly the type of thanks you'd give a man wanting to offer his guest some food."

"You insult all your guests like that?"

"Burglars don't make for upstanding guests either."

"Where are the car keys?"

"You mean for the old Lincoln parked out there? It won't start, just so you know."

"To a working car then."

"Don't have one, town's close enough to walk to."

"You expect me to believe that? You live in this big house and you can't even afford a car?"

"It's my Ma's house, and like I said, don't need no car when I can walk to town."

"You know how to fix a car?"

"What's it to you?"

"Could be the difference between a bullet in your guts and seeing the dawn again."

"Put down the gun, then we'll talk. Hard for a man to think when he's got a gun pointed to his face."

"I don't need you to think."

"You sound like one of them snooty Citadel people. Do this John, do that John, damn brats—"

John, Quintus thought, wasn't that what bathrooms were called? "Meanwhile, his voice had risen to a shout. "You know how to fix a car or not?"

"Sure, but you might want to check the lock on that gun first."

In a flash of movements the man had come at him with force and speed. Quintus felt his wrist being twisted and the gun falling from his hold with a sharp pain. He stumbled back over his own feet and the floor reached up to knock the air out of him in a swoosh.

"You don't have much sense with a gun." John looked like a bear over him, his tone was mocking, but there wasn't much humor in those dark eyes. Quintus looked around wildly for his gun, in his distraction, the man landed a punch to his face.

Before he could retaliate, he was dragged up by the back of his neck and slammed into the pantry door, he kicked out blindly, but quickly, he felt the barrel of the gun at the base of his head. He froze. His breath was short and shaky as he squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable.

But the man laid the gun down on the counter instead. Quintus tried to struggle away, but the man was much stronger than him, his wrists were forced behind his back and he heard the sound of plastic ties clicking shut around them. Then he was half dragged, half carried to a chair in the kitchen.

"You from Citadel?" John's voice was gruff but even, not a breath out of pace. He tied another tied over Quintus's wrists and the iron bars on the back of the chair, then he bent down and tied each ankle to the respective sides of the chair legs as well.

"You'll have a death warrant on your head if you kill me." Quintus warned.

"I thought you said everyone's dead."

"You want to take that risk?"

John chuckled, "Nope, taking you to Sheriff's office. If everyone's dead like you said then I'll just leave you out there to rot."

"Thought your car didn't work."

The man shrugged, "You be good and still while I go find some food for me."

Quintus watched as John raised a fire in the wood stove, the room became warmer when the flickering ambers started glowing, no longer the frigid chill of late autumn. John opened a bottle of water and boiled it with rice, and heated a pan with butter. The spam sizzled in the pan and released the aroma of something hot and crispy into the air.

"You'll get sick from that." Quintus said from his view in the dining area.

"If that's your way of trying to convince me to leave some for you, it's not going to happen. I'm not sharing with someone who tried to shoot me."

"You tried to shoot me too!"

'You broke into my house first."

"I didn't know there were still people here."

"You always go into empty houses with that sorry excuse?"

Quintus didn't say anything, just glared on as John began eating. John met his glare with equal fire in his eyes.

"You gonna stare at me while you eat?" Quintus growled.

"Just glad to see another human face after so long is all." John munched on his rice with a look of deep thought. "What do you need a car for anyway? What's it matter where you go if everyone's dead?"

"If I tell you will you help me get on my way?"


"How about you help me out and I'll help you get better when you are sick from that food."

John snorted again and ignored Quintus for the rest of his meal.

It was hard to focus on anything but the chewing sounds from John when Quintus's own stomach was grumbling terribly. His car wouldn't start after his short nap that morning. He had planned on eating after finding another car, but he hadn't anticipated the town to be so desolate. It took five miles on foot before he was able to find something that looked inhabitable, and he thought it was luck when the storm had started just as he broke into the house.

He thought that everyone around the Citadel had died or had been taken by the Rescue. His guard was low and the man had caught him off guard.

The only sound in the house was of the rain and the sound of the man eating. Quintus was tired, cold, and weak from hunger. He started drifting in his mind and let sleep claim him when the voices started whispering lullabies of disease into his ears, and part of him wished the Sickness would come for him as well.

He still wore Stuart's ring now. When Stuart was in the heights of fever, and the Quarantine Squad had come to get him, Stuart had slipped off his engagement ring and given it to Quintus with tearful eyes, a last remembrance for a long engagement, and a short marriage.

Stuart had tried to hold Quintus' hands tighter, but he was so weak by then that his grip was easily broken by the Rescue. Quintus could still see his neighbor's fear as Stuart's was carried into the white truck on a stretcher, skin already mottling patches of purple and red.

"You'll come visit me, won't you?'' Stuart had pleaded the night before they took him.

"Yes, of course. I'll come visit you. Don't worry love, I'll come for you." He had answered.

It didn't matter that they wouldn't tell Quintus where they were taking his husband, or how they were going to treat him. If they were going to treat him. He knew that he had to save Stuart.

In sickness and in health. To love and to cherish. From this day forward until death do us part.