People still mostly real, except for a few characters lurking around the background. Story still utterly fake, rather cracktastic, and written without malevolent intent. Please don't sue.
Stitches in Time
The island's not about to burst, and that's what bothers people the most. Eight million people in the city, plus Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester, and a few hundred survivors are all they can come up with? Maybe people are still hiding out, reluctant to cross the river or the danger zone that Queens has become. They believe this because it has to be true, because there were too many people in New York and its environs for their thousands (and half of that from people already on the island) to be all that's left. Because this far north, if they're all that's left, what's it like down South where everything started?
They send the message out over and over again, nine in the morning, nine at night, just in case they need to catch all the time zones. It means rerouting the power on the island, but they always get it back up again. Someday maybe they won't. Maybe by that point it won't matter because they won't have to send the message out.
Two days later, a black sedan, scratched all to hell, rolls up the bridge. It's got Virginia plates and bloodstains. Shay's on sentry duty that day, in no condition to be on streets where creatures can smell blood, and she recognizes the two immediately, even though they're covered in grime and gore. Beard carries herself like a drawn gun, blued steel and a stink of rage, and Teasley's eyes are focused somewhere, or maybe sometime, very far away from the here and now.
"I still hate New York," Beard mutters once she gets out of the car and greets her fellow human beings.
"Feeling's mutual," Teasley says before Shay can.
Shay's back on the streets four days later, scouting uptown and stumbling upon her former teammates. Ashley doesn't hesitate to take over a double shift on sentry duty, and the big former post- her name is Martina, Shay finally discovers- has a knack with kids. Shay expects the first, is taken completely by surprise by the second.
Erin is a leader, has been ever since the day the first undead crossed the bridges onto Manhattan Island, and Mark recognizes that. He trusts her with responsibilities he wouldn't give most people, makes her his deputy in certain matters. The pretty blond boy with the weird eyes follows her around like an adoring puppy, and every word that comes out of his mouth is weirder than the last. Maybe the kid saw something that unhinged him, or maybe he just ran out of meds, but at least his crazy is mostly harmless (although Erin does find it a little annoying), and he can spot delayed onset before anyone else.
Beard and Erin watch each other predatorily, circling around each other and the wounded prey. Shay'd expected bonding experiences and sympathy, maybe even exchanged tips on the best way to deal with the undead, especially when the undead used to share your locker room. Instead, their interactions are studied politeness and a dance of dominance. Then again, when they'd met, the pretty boy had taken one look at them and said, "There can be only one."
And Nikki'd replied, "House on fucking fire." Shay'd figured she was going for the traditional meaning, but there are a lot of ways that getting along like a house on fire can go wrong.
A few days after that, there's a minivan caravan (from Indiana, by the plates), and both the cars and the people are splattered with blood. Mark and the tech guys are pleased as punch to discover that the signal went out that far, and they start planning how it can maybe go further, even if they don't know how far it actually needs to go.
When he hears that the new survivors have medical supplies and their own research on the undead, James emerges from his work, blinking at the weak sunlight, and he does a double-take when he sees Bales unfolding from the minivan, and a triple-take when she introduces herself to him. He shakes it off, at least the first time, but he still looks like he's seen a ghost every time she walks into the room, which she does a lot, so he does a lot. It doesn't seem to help his mental state that she's got just a little crush on him and his unusual intuition. His tone is cool and formal when he deals with her, and it would break her heart if she weren't so darn busy.
Strother's paler than she ever was before, like the color's been sucked out of her, and she jumps at loud noises. Catchings doesn't jump at anything, and when Emilia offers her batteries for her hearing aid, she refuses them. Even after running and hiding, they're still trying to run and hide.
It takes longer than it should to wash off the fine traceries of long-dried blood on their skins, and even after the last stain washes off, the web of cracks remains.
Two days after that, an entire fucking bus comes over the bridge, like New York is still a tourist destination or something like that. It's got Michigan plates and bright splashes of color that aren't blood, no matter how red they are. A couple of Shock players, lean and hard-eyed, get off the bus and start to unload the luggage compartments, and then- Shay can't believe her eyes.
She should have known. The Dukies are bad enough, but- she can't even think the name, she wants to throw up. She approaches and says, her voice thick with disgust, "Should have known. Roaches, rats, and Ivory Latta. Must be the end of the world."
That damn midget rolls her eyes and says, "I ain't got time for this shit. You wanna make yourself useful, go get Cheryl off Brax's tits. I got shit to do." She goes into the bus, and when she comes out again, somehow she's got Pee-Wee Johnson, clawing at one side and kicking the other and screaming paint-peeling obscenities, slung over her shoulder.
Detroit's unusual, to say the least. They come in teams- the rest of the spring franchises come a day afterwards, or what's left of them, in their team buses, carrying sharp-edged skates, polished wood, and long hidden weapons. They stick to their own, obeying the old chains of command, captains and coaches who report to Mark.
Because of that, Shay gets the impression that Laimbeer's in charge of the Shock survivors, no matter how much talking that damn midget does, until she overhears the last fight about Braxton and Ford and the flat-out weird relationship they have. Laimbeer keeps saying it's okay, they both need it, they'll both fly apart if they can't lean on each other. "You can't separate them," he insists.
The midget says no, this shit is not right, Brax is fucking Cheryl up and you fucking know it, she's mothering her all the way down to Jelani's age, she tried to breastfeed again. "Do what I gotta do for my team," she says, and the next day Braxton is at one end of the island under watch and Ford is at the other end in the care of the busy psychologist who tries to keep them all functional.
It had been easy to be jealous of the Shock when most of them came off their bus, still alive, still together, still a team, like they were normal or something. But the longer they stay on the island, the more Shay sees the flaws and how they barely stay together. She's gotta hand it to Latta: there's a whole lot of fucked up going on, what with the way Pierson smells and moves after she's gone out on a killing spree, and Pee-Wee's fixation on the woman she left behind, and the Braxton/Ford relationship, and how Powell only smiles when she's got a gun in her hand. She doesn't have to like the woman, and it would probably be a sure sign of the end of the world if she did, but her respect for Latta goes up to actually existing.
People gravitate to what they're good at. Laimbeer's teaching self-defense to the island-bound, with Nolan and Powell occasionally helping. Catchings takes half of Emilia's shifts as quartermaster, and gets good at not listening to requests. Bales puts her degree to use, studying the way things that used to be people work. Terry contributes in her unique way, letting James and his staff draw blood from the arm thatů doesn't end the way that arms are generally supposed to. Maybe the answer lies in her tainted blood, or maybe they'll push her overstrained immune system too far and trigger a complete transformation. High risk, high reward: that's the way they roll in the ACC. Teasley requires a Universal Translator to be understood, but she's got an uncanny knack for finding things in empty buildings and knowing the difference between the living and the undead. Mark sends her and Pierson off together, because Teasley can find while Pierson distracts and kills the undead. They even survive a few trips into Queens, even if Teasley's less comprehensible than usual afterwards.
Shay finds herself as the liaison among the tight little cliques that form on the island, the person who's allowed to mingle and mix because she doesn't really belong to any of them. People trust her with things that they don't tell anyone else, and she has to judge whether anyone else needs to know about them. They give her their complaints, and she brings them to Mark. It works out surprisingly well. She negotiates, she cajoles, she wheels and deals, she persuades, and she puts everything she has into it so she doesn't think about what she left behind, what was destroyed and broken and changed.
If she's the thread that ties them together, then she's doing it at the cost of herself unraveling, keeping everyone else in one piece while she falls apart.
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