It had been a long and oddly exciting night for Charlie, who's mind had been occupied all night by one topic and one person in particular. The boy beside him. Since Riley had been asleep in the same bed, he was really on edge the entire night; looking at him, pretending to sleep when he'd get up for the toilet, close his eyes and squint whenever they'd face each other in his sleep.
This boy. A boy who they happened to pick up from the middle of the city, after just having his girlfriend torn apart right in front of him, who walked around the camp acting like there was nothing wrong with him. Like he wasn't affected at all. Charlie could see through him, he needed someone there for him... But would he like him back?
He had been staring at Riley for sometime while he continued to sleep, but with the sun fully up he decided it was time to stop creepily staring as he had been and go outside.
Near enough everyone was up and about when he went outside, he was even sure he heard Riley getting up once he left. Charlie was practically hopping up and down on the spot out of excitement, he couldn't help it any longer, but he had to go find Lucas first.
"Lucas, Lucas!" He shouted, after spotting him through his bedroom window.
He ran inside the room where Lucas had just come out of the bathroom, just putting his shirt on where he made a comment on how people always walk in at times as such.
"I'm gonna tell him today!" He spoke over him, too eager for manners.
Lucas stood idle a response, simply looking at him with an equally lost look.
"Riley!" He reminded him. "I'm going to tell him how I feel today, no matter what! I've been up all night thinking about it, but for some reason my initial action was to tell/ask you what you thought..." He paused, taking a breath. "So what do you think?"
"Well, I think that's great you're going to tell him, but you should do it quick-"
"I heard Ellie and Clive talking this morning, they and some others were gonna go back to the school to collect the remaining supplies, and find Steven since they couldn't find him and were chased away yesterday."
"What? When're they leaving, Riley's not even awake yet-!" He replied, only to hear Riley speaking to Ellie outside as the ignition of a car followed.
Charlie ran back outside and saw everyone getting onto the two vehicles, Riley and Ellie getting on the same one. He shouted his name and arrived beside the vehicle, announcing he had something important to tell him.
"What is it?" He asked, waiting over the side of the vehicle.
"I... Uh, could we do this in private?"
"Charlie," he chuckled. "We need to get going, Steve's been out all night, we don't know if he's going to be okay after all that time. You'll have to wait 'til we get back."
Can't be putting my feelings above other people's safety...
"Yeah, okay. It can wait."
"We won't be long."
Riley gave Charlie some friendly pats on his shoulder before sitting down in the back of the truck, with Ellie at his side. He watched as the gates were open and they drove down the road, and didn't move a muscle until they were closed behind them.
"It's okay," Lucas placed his hand on Charlie's shoulder, the same as Riley had last touched. "You can tell him once they get back."
"Can we talk in your room, please?" He asked, with his face all flustered and turning red.
Before Lucas could give an answer, his weaker friend began trying to push him back into his room, while he slightly resisted. With only slight resistance, his friend was able to get him more than half way back to his room before anymore words were exchanged.
"Can't I have breakfast first?" Lucas asked.
"Food comes afterwards!" Charlie immediately replied, head facing down as he pushed with all his might, until they were finally in the room.
Not long after they had their little one-on-one in Lucas's room, the two found themselves sitting beside each other on chairs in the camp. They both had them tilted back a little so they were facing up, as they looked up at the sky together and reminisced.
"God, I remember when you first started attending my school," said Lucas. "After you were kicked out of that fancy-schmancy school."
"I wasn't kicked out," he chuckled back, re-positioning himself on the chair. "I always hated how my parents were when I was there. They were friends with all the other rich kids' parents, and so they'd always try and pair me up with their daughters, even at a young age, just so there'd be a chance of us getting married in the future. Geez..."
"But there was one, wasn't there? One girl you said yes to," He asked.
"Yeah there was one, Samantha I think her name was. She was the only tolerable one!" He laughed. "After I said yes to her and we 'dated', all the other girls and parents had to back off while we'd walk around, holding hands and such."
"I still find it hard to believe you had girls chasing you in that school."
"You underestimate me Mr. Johnson," they both laughed. "Lord, it only took a week before I dumped the poor girl, right in front of her parents too after my parents invited them over."
"Yeah," he looked downward, cracking a cheeky smile. "When my parents asked me what I was doing saying such things, I confessed that I found girls to be weird, and asked if I could 'date a boy instead'."
"Oh my God!" Lucas burst into laughter.
"Shut up!" Charlie shouted, sinking back into his chair, trying to hide his increasingly more red face. "In the end our parents started arguing, since they had just sealed a deal between their companies thanks to our pairing, which then all went down the toilet. Then word spread around the school that I 'fancied boys', and so my parents tried to move schools, but there were no other private schools in the area."
"Which was where you moved to mine," Lucas took over. "I remember on the first day, Adam called you a faggot and you cried!" He laughed, turning over to face Charlie on the other chair. "That was, until I came around and knocked him off his feet."
"And nearly got expelled, what a great first day!"
"Memorable, at the least!"
The two broke into laughter over the recollection of the incident, then not long after the two went silent for a little while. They stared up at the clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight, then Lucas extended his arm over to his friend and patted him on the shoulder.
"I hope it all goes okay."
"Thanks," Charlie replied, grabbing hold of Lucas's hand.
At that moment, beeping from a car horn could be heard repeatedly, getting louder and louder as it made its way towards their camp.
"Open the gate, they're coming back!" Ansel shouted, jumping down from the wall and assisting the others to open the gate.
The two teens sat up from their chairs and Lucas stood up, Charlie still holding onto his hand and increasing in strength with his grasp. Beeping when coming towards the camp was a bad sign. It usually meant that whoever were coming back had a problem, an injury or some sort of incident on board their vehicle that needed immediate attention.
Since Riley was on board, Charlie feared the worst, and couldn't bare to move even a muscle. Lucas promised him everything was going to be okay, as he left his side and walked towards the vehicle, which had just arrived in the centre of camp.
He pushed his way through the crowd of people who had started gathering around the vehicle. Past Gillian, the camp medic who was at the ready with a small medical kit, and past Derek who was also trying to make his way through, pistol in hand.
The two made it to the vehicle at the same time, at which point they both identified the issue at hand, and couldn't believe what had happened. It was Riley, sitting in the passenger seat. Bitten. Being neutered by Ellie who was standing by his side on the outside of the vehicle.
Not long after seeing the two, Clive budged through to the front and saw them as well, warning everyone in the circle to make some space as he announced they now had an infected victim on camp grounds. He then commanded that Ellie would leave his side, then after she declined his order, Derek was asked to remove her from his side.
"Jesus, Clive!" Lucas shouted as he dragged his nephew away. "Don't you have any amount of respect left?"
"He's bitten Lucas," he replied. "I'm sorry, but it's not safe to keep him here."
"He's still human for fuck sake!" Ellie shouted, being restrained by Derek.
"I'm sorry but no one here has seen a bite victim turn before, we don't know if it happens subtly or suddenly. He could turn in the blink of an eye and we wouldn't know until he's taken a bite out of someone else!"
Fuck, FUCK! Why Riley, how did this happen to you? How could you LET this happen? Derek's pistol... if Clive gives the word he'll kill him right here... I can't let that happen! Not yet...
"I-I'll tie him to a chair," Lucas proposed. "We'll put him in one of the rooms and keep him there, just for a little while, so everyone can say their goodbyes. C'mon Clive, at least give him that much, he's still alive."
Lucas still couldn't believe that Clive agreed to his request. The fact that it came from him usually meant it was an immediate decline, but it seemed that when someone else's life was in the mix, Clive had a heart after all. Not long after they put him in the room, strapped to one of the metal cafeteria chairs, people had been coming in one-by-one and in groups, saying their partings.
Eventually, it came down to just one last person. Charlie. He was waiting outside, being comforted by Ellie and had been for the entire time since. He was completely heart-broken, he didn't know what to do, his plans revolving around that entire day were to confess his feelings to Riley, and now he was on his deathbed...
Before opening the door to let him in, Riley started coughing up a lot of blood, and Lucas didn't want Charlie to see him like that. He went and gathered some toilet paper and cleaned his chin, removing the fresh blood.
"Thanks Lucas," he said, his voice barely audible.
It's really happening, he's on his way out...
"No problem," he forced a smile.
"You haven't said anything," he pointed out. "Not a word since you brought me in here."
"Sorry... I'm just, surprised," he responded. "I also partially blame myself for this happening to you. If I were out there, maybe I could've prevented...-"
"Don't be stupid," he chuckled, followed by a painful and bloody cough. "If anyone blame Ellie, she was by my side when the shit got me... Ha, don't tell her that, okay? It was just a distasteful joke."
"Yeah, sure thing Riley," he joined with the subtle laughter. "Typical of you, not letting people see your true emotions even when you're on your last fuse. I may not have known you for long, but I know you that much. Anyway, I've got someone else who wants to see you."
We wiped his mouth once again of any blood, then went over to the door where he brought Charlie in with him. Just at the sight of Riley, strapped to the chair with a bloody wound on his forearm, dripping on the floor beneath him, it was enough to bring him to tears before he could sit opposite him.
"C'mon Charlie," Riley said, trying to hold back himself. "If you cry then I'm gonna, and believe me it hurts as it is."
"I can't help it..." He tried to apologise. "I-I can't believe this has happened..."
"It's a stupid person's fate," he chuckled, struggling to hold back his daunting cough. "Anyway, if I recall correctly, you had something to tell me earlier?"
Charlie froze for a moment. From the moment he got back with the wound until now, he had completely forgotten about his confession, he was too busy being worried about him instead.
"Oh I-… I wanted to tell you something but... not while you're like this," he replied, failing to hold back his tears as he finished his sentence.
He couldn't do it anymore. Riley let out his coughs, followed by a fits-worth of them, while Lucas ran back from the bathroom and started cleaning him up once he was done.
"Whatever it is..." He wheezed loudly, "It's not or never..."
Charlie used his arms to wipe away his tears, and agreed that he had to do it now. He put his head down, informing Riley that he couldn't bring himself to look him in the eyes while he told him, and with that he confessed.
"Riley... I-I think I love you. I-I-I know this will come as a surprise but, ever since Lucas brought you back and I saw you in that bed, I've adored you. I d-didn't say anything because you recently lost your girlfriend, s-so I just stayed quiet, and stayed by your side as a friend, as I should..."
While the confession went on, Lucas noticed Riley's head slowly fall down, so he was looking down at the ground just as Charlie was. From where he was standing, he couldn't be sure whether he was doing it on purpose, whether he was resting his head because he was weak or because... he was...
"No one besides Lucas has ever been able to understand me like you have, and I've never been able to relate to someone as much as I can with you. I might just be stupid, but I feel like God sent you to me, throughout all this madness... and-"
"Charlie..." Lucas quietly interrupted.
"What?" Charlie asked, tears in his eyes as he looked back at his friend, then he turned back to Riley.
His head was still down, but this was the first Charlie had noticed him doing it. He didn't know what to think. There were more than just that reason he could be doing that, to rest his head, while he thought... Charlie leaned forward and placed his head against Riley's, resting there while be begged for an answer. A reply, of any sort. Anything...
Then it happened.
His body twitched, startling Charlie slightly. He disconnected their heads from each other as he sat back and waited for him to say something. Riley slowly straightened his back, still looking downward, until he slowly started bringing his head up, looking straight at Charlie.
Right there, at that moment, it felt like it was just them two in the room. He looked into his eyes and saw... nothing. They were empty, hollow almost, just pure darkness, his pupils larger than usual. He remained sat opposite him, looking further into those eyes, completely blocking out his friend shouting his name from behind.
At that moment, one of Riley's arms got free of the rope around his wrists and the chair, and he placed it on Charlie's shoulder, just as he had earlier that day. Charlie sat with angst, waiting for him to say something as his grip tightened and he was slowly pulled towards him. He allowed himself to be pulled towards him, shifting his head to the side as he awaited for his response, a whisper into his ear, then out of nowhere...
A small loud explosion erupted directly beside Charlie, deafening him instantly and replacing his hearing with a loud ringing sound. Along with the noise, he felt himself being pulled with more force as he fell forward, off of his chair and onto the ground, where Riley's body fell, still attached to the chair.
He hit his head on the way down, the opposite side to where he had been temporarily deafened. His vision was dazed slightly upon impact. He pressed his palm tight against his ear as he continued to lay, waiting for his eyes to focus, then once everything had cleared up he saw it.
Riley. Dead. Shot, through his forehead, where blood had proceeded to trickle out into a pool beneath him, slowly spreading closer to where Charlie laid. With everything now clear, Charlie unconsciously screamed, sitting up as his tears flowed much like the blood, as he went to touch the corpse, but instead turned to see the source of the shot.
Lucas stood over the two, the barrel of his pistol that Derek had leant him barely smoking as time had passed. His stance was weaker than usual, he held the gun between both of his trembling hands, while he stared at Riley's body. Not even bothering to give such as a glance towards Charlie.
"What did you do!" Charlie shouted at Lucas, face streaming with tears while he remained on his knees.
Lucas dropped the pistol, bouncing once upon hitting the ground before landing partially in Riley's blood.
"I-… He turned... He would've killed you..." He replied, voice trembling in sync with his hands.
"He was still there!" Charlie shouted. "He was still alive!"
"No, no he-… He had turned, that thing wasn't Riley anymor-"
Before he could finish his sentence, Charlie stood up and slapped Lucas directly across his face. Thanks to his current weak stance, the force of his hit nearly knocked him off of his feet, and would've done if he didn't have the foot of the bed to keep him standing.
"He was still there! I know he was, you didn't see it! You didn't look into his eyes, I saw it!" He cried, shouting at the top of his lungs as he occasionally inserted a push within his sentence. "You shot Riley! RILEY!"
With his last word, he pushed Lucas one last time before he stormed out of the room. Once he had left, Lucas fell down to the ground, back up against the bed. He sat and stared at his open palms, his blood stained hands that were shaking beyond control.
Before he knew it, Ellie had entered the room and kneeled down beside him, trying to encourage him to move but he couldn't do it. He broke down, grabbed hold of her jacket with both hands as he buried his face into her arm, trying to hold himself together.
Joel walked in and stumbled on the scene. He saw that it'd be better for him to not be there, but before he left he recognised the handgun that was used to finish the teen off. He picked it up and left the two alone, closing the door behind him.
He identified where Derek was standing in the yard, then he made his way over, tossing the pistol at his chest as they came face-to-face.
"We having the kids do the killing now?" He said, grinding his teeth as he confronted him, only to nudge past him as he walked away.
Today, I killed a human... Again. Ever since this thing started, I've had to kill plenty of infected, people who WERE people but lost themselves. People I didn't know. I was forced to put Ben down when he turned two days ago, but I didn't know him very well. Today, I killed someone who in the short time of meeting, I considered a good friend, and in the process I broke my best friends' heart...
Everyone may just think there's only a small number of ways to break someone in the kind of world we've found ourselves in. Lose people to the infected, lose family and friends to the infected, but there are things far worse than them... No child should have to kill their friends, lose their friends... lose their family... When will this sadness end? When will MY time come... MY time to break someone's heart without having to pull the trigger...