To Death: Book 1

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Don't Be Scared

A/N: A bit of a time skip. I’m no doctor and inaccuracies bother me. So we’ll be a few weeks further into Jonas’ recovery. Worry not, we’ll still be dealing with some complexities of what our characters are going through.


Issac:

“Come on Jonas. You need to get ready for your exercise.” I huffed, at my wit’s end as he ignored me, continuing to watch the movie he’d had in the DVD player.

Risking a look back, I saw a worried-looking Darren.

“Go wait out for us downstairs?” I asked softly, getting a nod from Darren.

“Make sure to grab your coat too. It’s cold out today.” I called after him as he ran from the room excitedly.

I was going to continue showing Darren how to ride a horse while I got Jonas out of the house; something he’d rarely done once he’d healed enough to do so. I knew the answer as to why. But I couldn’t deal with it in a day. We’d had a few arguments about him letting himself waste away. And they were enough to tell me just how psychologically damaged he was with me cutting off his leg. Sometimes he’d blame me out of anger, I’d cry and feel bad. And other times he’d blame himself for not being more careful. It was a nasty cycle that I just couldn’t seem to escape with him. Did I love him any less for it though? Not at all. Maybe I was a little foolish about thinking that way.

“I’m not going anywhere until you get up. You should get some fresh air.” I explained, leaning against the doorway as Alisha walked by frantically with a crying baby in her arms; one of our new younger siblings.

“Can you just leave me alone? I’m tired.” Jonas groaned, falling back onto the bed.

“You’ve been getting plenty of rest. Ellis says you’re okay to start moving around now.” I retorted, not backing down this time.

“Fine.” He huffed, sitting up.

“I love you too Mr. Grumpy.” I sighed, kissing him on the forehead as he let me help him get his jacket and cap on.

He leaned over carefully trying to reach his crutches. I however pitched in and handed them to him. It seemed to upset him as he heaved a heavy breath, calming down.

“I’m only trying to help remember?” I stated calmly.

“I know, I know.” He complained, shakily getting up as I helped support his tall frame until he gained his balance.

Slowly but surely we’d made our way through the lively halls of the second floor.

“Where are you two off too?” Jin questioned, emerging from the bathroom.

We’d been on pretty good terms as she’d kept her end of the bargain up. Keeping my parents and newborn siblings safe all that time.

“Just going for some more riding lessons.” I explained quickly as Jonas tired easily now.

He had a lot to support being so tall so it made getting around harder for him. We’d made our way to the stairs as I turned to Jonas with the question I’d had since this new change.

“Are you taking the lift or going to try walking down?” I asked firmly, not giving him the choice to talk back negatively.

He’d tried walking down but gave up halfway. And ever since he’d never had the resolve to take the steps. He looked listless, seemingly unable to make the choice. That was good though. He was thinking of other options. I’d test him though, push him out of his comfort zone a bit. At the bottom of the steps, Darren was waiting, talking to my mother who he’d grown to take a liking to.

“Why don’t we walk down this time?” I proposed, adding a challenging smirk to get under his skin.

If I could light a metaphorical fire under him maybe he’d move.

“I don’t know Bambi.” He huffed, seeming unsure of himself.

“I’ll help you if I see you need it.” I promised.

That seemed to comfort him enough. He heaved a breath, moving into action before I could react, handing off his one crutch to me while he slowly made his way downstairs. There were times I was about to dart to his side but he righted himself stubbornly. Something that was once so simple for him took a new level of concentration. When I felt he was close enough to the bottom of the stairs, I saw Darren still neglecting his coat. The last thing I wanted was for him to catch a cold. In my time looking after him we’d grown to be pretty close; he’d even called me dad a few times accidentally. I just felt like a caretaker so I didn’t know how to feel about the title given to parents. Reaching over to the coat rack I grabbed his jacket and cap, putting them on him much to his annoyance.

“Darren was telling me you boys were going out for another riding lesson?” My mom asked, taking a sip from her tea.

“Yep. And getting this one out of the house.” I said, poking what fun I could at Jonas.

My parents made him smile. He truly liked them as they adored him.

“Hopefully I don’t fall on my face this time.” Jonas chuckled, seeming to be in better spirits today.

“I haven’t told him this but after the riding lesson I’d stay in for the day and watch a movie with him.” I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.

“The others wanted you to help them plan to lure that hoard away from the falls. Make sure you take care of business.” My mom said sternly.

We’d pushed that back for quite some time. Alisha had done the bulk of the planning. And even organized safer patrols we could go on to see what was going on over there. With Jonas and Ellis still recovering we couldn’t move on anything as our attention would be split. And my stepfather wasn’t quite willing to leave my recovering mother’s side until now since she was up and about. There was a tug at my wrist catching my wandering attention.

“Are we goin’?” Darren asked.

Jonas had known my mother wanted more with me from what she had said so he stepped up.

“C’mon squirt. Let’s head to the barn and chat up the horses.” Jonas chuckled softly, Darren’s eyes lighting up at the prospect.

When they were out of earshot she turned to me, eyes holding that deep unreadable emotion they often held.

“How is he doing?” She asked. She’d wanted to know as we were both trying our best to work him through this depression he was in. And reestablish his self-worth.

“Today seems like a good day. It didn’t take too much convincing to get him out of bed.” I began with a sigh.

“And other days?” She asked.

“We’re finally starting to have more neutral and good ones instead of bad ones.” I said, feeling a little hopeful.

“It’s going to take time. He lost a part of himself. He just needs to see that he’s still the same man he was before losing what he lost.” My mom sympathized as she’d known I beat myself up over it often.

“I just hope I’m doing this right. He just seems so fragile.” I sighed, running a hand through my now lengthening hair.

“You haven’t told him he can’t go on the mission yet?” She asked, as I overspoke.

Everyone had left it to me to tell him. I had guessed they were too afraid to break his spirits. So why not leave it up to his boyfriend to bring the bad news? Early on into his recovery, he was adamant about helping out around the house. But his wound proved to be too much as he was recovering. After a while, he got frustrated with others coddling him and then the depression came. I just didn’t want to make things worse by telling him he couldn’t go with us on something he’d wanted to help with before his nasty encounter with the infected in the river.

“I don’t want to hurt him.” I admitted.

“You need to drop the guilt honey. You have a way with words unlike any other. You’ll get through to him.” She said sternly, gripping me by the shoulders.

“Now you do need to tell him. And don’t forget about the meeting later.” My mom smiled, essentially dismissing me.

She was right. I needed to drop the guilt. But I couldn’t seem to shake it. Just seeing the state he was in made it surge back up to the surface. Someone who was once a shining beacon of male bravado was reduced to something who came across as fragile like glass. I knew he felt that way too because of how he carried on. And it hurt to watch. My thoughts were making their way somewhere they shouldn’t. I’d stayed on the positive side of things for quite some time now. I couldn’t afford to slip when I was needed by the man I loved. I’d be strong for him until he could be strong for himself again. Giving myself a shake, I headed out into the crisp winter air.

Today’s lesson definitely wouldn’t be long. It wasn’t cold to mostly everyone here. But to me, it was freezing. Then again winter wasn’t my favorite season. Entering the barn Jonas and Darren were there waiting for me.

“It took you years to get here.” Darren complained, a big smile on his face nonetheless.

“Your sass is starting to rub off on him.” Jonas snickered, almost falling over.

“Not at all.” I replied, feigning shock.

“Go and get the arena door open while I get a horse ready?” I asked Darren and Jonas.

Darren couldn’t get the arena gate open on his own. So he’d need Jonas’s help. It was all apart of a plan to get Jonas doing more and more. When they’d left me I set to work, collecting the bridle and saddle. Picking my favorite of the seven mares that called this barn home, I lead her out into the cold, getting some complaints from her.

“Just for a little while and I’ll bring you some treats after dinner.” I promised with a small smile as I brushed her off and tacked her up.

Not wanting to keep them waiting I made my way out quickly.

“What are we doing today? Are we gonna gallop?” Darren asked excitedly.

“Just working on getting you comfortable with a canter.” I replied, amused at his eagerness.

Setting him up I set them off into the pen while I joined Jonas near the fence, leaning against it beside him who was outside of it. He seemed fixated on Darren as he rode, clearly impressed.

“He’s gettin’ good.” He remarked after a while.

My brain defaulted to sarcastic remarks at times. But now wasn’t the time for one. Running my words through a filter I decided to speak.

“He’s a natural it seems.” I shrugged, stuffing my cold hands into my pockets.

“So the mission.” Jonas began, a shiver running through me as he’d dug up something I put away for later.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Can I go with you guys?” He asked, sounding a little hopeful.

“Bring it down to a trot.” I told Darren, as my attention would be split.

Bracing myself, I ripped the scab off abruptly.

“No.” I said simply.

He seemed silent for a moment. Though I could feel the disappointment rolling off him in thick waves. Just when I was about to try smoothing things over he cut me off gently.

“S’alright. Can’t do much now I’d weigh you all down.” He huffed.

“Stop beating yourself up Jo-Jo. You honestly deserve to rest for the remainder of your life with all you’ve done for me since this all started.” I explained, turning to him, leaving him visibly stunned.

“I just feel so useless Bambi.” He sighed, rubbing his temple with his free hand.

“You’re still just as much a person as you were before all of this Jonas.” I cooed, turning to him fully.

“I can’t look after you or anyone else. I can barely get around on my own.” He groaned, his frustration bubbling.

“You don’t have to look after me alone. I can do the same for you can’t I?” I returned, picking apart his wall.

“I didn-” He began.

“I love you, Jonas. So fucking much. I don’t care what you think of yourself but I’ll always see the world in you.” I piled on, his eyes widened in shock.

“Inappropriate but you just got me hard talking like that.” He whispered, a grin finding its way onto his scruffy face.

“Definitely inappropriate. It will have to wait sadly.” I chuckled, unable to dull the humor of this moment.

It was a good sign I suppose? He’d had so many symptoms of depression. Lack of sex drive being one of them. This was the first time in a while he’s said something like that to me. So it was progress in my eyes; as raunchy as it sounded. Getting up on my toes, I gave him a peck on the lips before turning my attention back to Darren.

“Alright, you can get up to a canter again.” I told him.

Rinsing and repeating, about thirty or so minutes passed. Night had grown a bit tired so I’d call it here. Concluding our lesson we’d headed into the barn as the boys helped me put everything away and give Night a treat for her service. Looking up I saw Daniel sprint into the barn, panting. It got me a little anxious as that was something only done when something bad happened.

“There you are. We’re about to start the meeting.” Daniel panted, a wave of relief washing over me.

“Just give me a minute to finish up here and I’ll head there.” I said, Daniel ready to sprint off again.

“Me and Darren got it.” Jonas said, catching me off guard.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“I’m sure I can get a blanket on a horse.” Jonas smirked, waving me off as Darren looked a little confused.

“Okay. I’ll catch you guys later then. Don’t do anything too fun without me.” I smiled, giving them both hugs before I left.

Me and Daniel left the barn, heading back into the house.

“Jonas is in a good mood today.” He remarked, trying to make conversation.

“Yep.” I said simply, somewhat feeling awkward; Daniel not making it any easier.

Luckily we made it into Jerry’s study where Ellis, Oscar, Jericho, Jin, Alisha, and Jerry were waiting. Taking a seat next to Alisha I just waited for more discussion. Alisha and Daniel went out on a small supply run to find supplies last week. And Oscar just got back from a solo run to an army-navy store and found a grenade launcher; which would come in handy for our plan.

“So going over the plan again with this new addition it’s all pretty simple.” Alisha began explaining.

“We strike out far west and drive upriver of the falls. From there we fire grenades from the launcher to provide sound stimuli.” She elaborated.

“And once we have ’em we’ll drag them to the canyon southwest of the falls.” Daniel chipped in.

“And that’s where the dirtbike riders will come in. They’re loud enough to draw them for quite a ways. If not we’ll support with fireworks.” Alisha continued.

“Once close to the canyon edge, you two will jump off your bikes and let them fly into the canyon. Their eyesight is so bad they’ll mindlessly follow the sound over the edge into the canyon.” Alisha concluded.

“And as the icing on the cake, we’ll pump a few grenades into the canyon before picking off any stragglers.” Jin contributed.

“Have we done any troubleshooting? Or evaluating types of infected in the hoard?” I proposed, leaning back in my chair.

“Types shouldn’t really matter. Right?” Daniel replied, looking a little thrown off.

“Well, the lurkers are slow. The tweakers are fast. If we move too fast getting away from the tweakers in the crowd we’ll lose the lurkers’ attention.” I elaborated.

“Very good point. I suppose we could try flanking them from the sides and further behind either in cars to make sure they stay with the group.” Alisha proposed.

“That might work.” I mused.

“Should lurkers break off or lag behind the cars could catch their attention.” Alisha added.

“But what if the cars make them break off? And we have multiple groups?” Oscar asked.

“We have time to figure out more. They’re not wandering too far from the falls anymore. We just have to keep the dining hall quiet on movie nights and dinner.” Alisha sighed, rubbing her temples.

We’d asked the other families of the ranch to pitch in. Many were too afraid of the infected to want to acknowledge the hoard at the falls; only a few people pitching in. When it came to effectiveness of who we had we were a strong group. Daniel had proven to be pretty good with a hunting rifle. Alisha was taking up archery as I taught her in my spare time. Oscar was brutal with his machete. Jin was a jack of all trades. And Ellis could save lives if needed. When it came to killing infected I wasn’t as good as the others, lacking the physical strength needed to take them down up close without my sword. From a distance, my lethality increased dramatically.

“So more time?” Jerry asked, seeming troubled.

“A little more. We want this to go smoothly so no one gets hurt.” Alisha agreed, heaving a sigh.

“Who all is going out on the patrol to the falls tomorrow morning?” Jericho asked.

“I can go.” I said.

“You’ve gone on all the others. You deserve the break.” Ellis replied.

“I can’t just stay here all the time when there are things to be done.” I sighed, hoping they would see my point.

“If it’s not the patrol I can go for a supply run tomorrow. Jonas needs more iron tablets still.” I suggested.

“We can’t spare anyone to go with you though.” Daniel pointed out.

“If Oscar can go on solo runs I think I’ll be okay. I’m not going as far as he did. I’ll even take a gun.” I added, feeling the itch to get out and do something as I’d been kept here looking after Darren and Jonas.

I’d needed a break as a few times I was nearing my limits and needed some change.

“He’s got his smarts and wits about him. I don’t see why he can’t go on one.” Jerry smiled, taking my side this time.

“We can’t afford to lose you so close to the mission.” Jin drawled, running a hand through her short jet-black hair.

“I have immunity on my side. So a bite isn’t a death sentence for me. All I have to worry about is not getting held down for long.” I assured her, seeming to have her beat.

I wasn’t going to leave them a choice in the matter. There were things quite a few people were needing around the house. And with winter here crops were dwindled down and we were relying on reserves as the land already had a hard time producing plant life. Getting up from the table, I turned to everyone.

“So the mission is pushed back for more planning. You guys are working out the patrol. And I’m going for a supply run?” I listed off, cocking a brow.

“Yep.” Alisha chuckled, giving up on keeping me here.

“And on that note. I’ve got a movie to watch with Jo-Jo and Darren.” I smiled, turning on my heel and leaving.

I’d enjoy my day with Jonas and Darren, prepare for the supply run which would keep me out for about a day or two. Currently, I was headed to finish up a wardrobe modification. I couldn’t really dress for style anymore never knowing what would happen in a day. So most of my attention went to answering questions for sometimes outlandish scenarios.

Oscar had brought back some knee-high combat boots. And of everyone in the house, they fit me best. What I’d done to them was fasten two plates of metal over the knees, Daniel welding on a beefy sharp metal spine on each knee cap. Should my attacker be human I could gore them with a knee to the abdomen. And should they be an infected I could use the pain to get them off of me should they be tweakers. Making my way upstairs, I returned to our room where I heard laughter floating through the cracked door.

“And here you two are having fun without me.” I chuckled, entering the room.

“Jo-Jo was telling me how you two met.” Darren said between fits of laughter as I flushed.

“Don’t worry I kept it pg.” Jonas shot back, an amused smile painting his features.

“So what are we doing today boys?” I asked going to the closet and pulling out my new boots.

“Monopoly while we watch Troy.” Jonas replied, his smile growing even more when I looked as exasperated as I felt.

Troy was his favorite movie. I was almost certain he watched it so many times he could probably recite each and every line the movie contained.

“What’s it about?” Darren asked.

“About this man who’s the greatest warrior of his time.” Jonas said simply, leaning over and popping the DVD in the player.

He then settled down at the foot of the bed alongside Darren a bit gingerly as he had to rely on his arms quite a lot now.

“Oh shit, I forgot the snacks.” Jonas cursed having just sat down.

“Language. And what were you grabbing?” I asked, getting back up.

“The chips and the dip Mrs. Doddson made.” Jonas said, shooting me a thankful look.

“Did you want us to wait for you Izzy?” Darren asked.

“You guys can start and deal me in when I get back.” I said, turning to leave out of the room.

Moving quickly I got to the stairwell, my step-dad about to head downstairs as well.

“What are you up to?” He asked curiously as this had been the first time I’d seen him today.

“Just going to grab some snacks for Jonas and Darren. Watching a movie and playing monopoly.” I explained.

“I never would have thought you’d take the role of a parent so soon.” He admitted as we walked downstairs together.

“I don’t know if I’m good enough for him to be considered a parent, dad.” I replied.

“Well, what you and Jonas are doing for that kid is beautiful. I’d consider you parents.” He remarked giving me a playful nudge.

I hadn’t really looked at it that way. Did I care deeply for Darren? Absolutely. Would I give my life for him? Without a thought. But I wondered if it was because I loved so deeply so quickly. Or if it was justified and our bond had grown that strong so fast. He’d lost his world in his biological parents. So it only made sense he’d cling to what felt warm after that.

“I’ve never looked at it that way honestly. It just felt like the right thing to do.” I explained.

“You give that child the look a proud parent would give when he just so much as smiles.” He doted.

Just the thought of that brought a smile to my face as I got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Maybe I really did love him? And it wasn’t just out of sympathy.

“And it’s in perspective for ya.” He cheered, splitting off with a salute as he went into the living room with Mrs. Doddson and my mother.

Going into the kitchen there was Ellis getting something from the pantry as well.

“What brings ya here?” He asked when he saw me, reaching up and pulling down a six-pack of beer.

“I could ask you the same thing.” I replied, going over to the refrigerator to get the dip.

“Getting some beers. Mr. Doddson and I are going out to chop up some firewood for tonight.” He shrugged.

“Is your shoulder good for that?” I asked.

“Pretty much there. I’m a lefty anyway.” He mused.

Moving over to the pantry I scanned the various shelves for the chips, my eyes eventually landing on them near the top; out of reach for me.

“Grab those chips for me?” I asked.

He obliged, about to hand the chips to me when he pulled them back with a coy smile.

“Hand them over? I don’t want to keep Darren and Jonas waiting.” I huffed, annoyed at his game.

“Why were you so adamant about going out during the meeting?” He asked, holding the chips up and out of reach when I grasped for them.

“Things just need to be done. Jonas needs more iron tablets. We need other food items for some variety. Stuff for the babies in the house.” I listed, Ellis, seeming unimpressed.

“And none of it can wait until we get back from the patrol. And someone can go with you?” He asked, leaning against the island.

“It’s important is it not?” I replied, his digging getting deeper and deeper.

“It sounds to me that there is somethin’ else there.” He shrugged, opening the bag of chips and eating some.

“And what is it that you think it is?” I asked, somehow staying calm under this pressure he was applying.

“You’re still tryna’ isolate. Being around all of us is still getting to you because deep down you still feel repulsed by yourself.” He said simply, essentially lancing right through my very being.

Had I acknowledged that fact myself? Not in detail. But he was right. I had moments where I felt the need to get as far away from everything. Darren didn’t make it easier either. For some reason, I wanted to avenge his parents. If not for him it would be for myself. I’d forced it down though and distracted myself. I threw myself into tasks around the ranch. And gave most if not all of my attention to Darren. But Ellis had gotten it right.

“You can’t run from your problems. You need to deal with this issue or it’ll eat ya alive.” He shrugged, brushing past and handing the chips to me as he went.

Ellis and I had an awkward relationship. He’d always confront me about myself just as much as I did to others. It was like a crude and boorish mirror. And sometimes it left me wondering what he thought of me. And other times we’d have weird moments of tension. It made the relationship weird, to say the least. His round of questioning had me drawing in my thoughts for collection, staring blankly ahead at the wall. And when I’d come to again, the sky was beginning to darken out beyond the window. I’d kept them waiting an awfully long time. Taking a breath, I headed back upstairs, wondering now if I should go out.

When I entered the room again I heard Jonas’ snore. The movie was playing but none of them were watching as they slept on the floor, monopoly game mid-play. Stepping beside them I picked up Darren with some effort as he was already almost my height, I laid him on the bed. Heaving a sigh, I took this time to finish off my boots and get some outfits together. Whenever they woke up for dinner I’d tell them I’d be heading out in the morning. Eyeing my boots I couldn’t help but be impressed by how seamless Daniel had altered the spikes on the knees. I’d wanted some spurs built into the arches of them should I need to climb something. But Daniel couldn’t think of a way to attach them well enough without causing me pain while wearing them. Lacing the bright red string up the black boots I was done. As I was getting my clothes together I heard soft murmurs coming from Darren.

Another nightmare I assumed. He’d had quite a few of them in his time here. Coming to his side, I gave him a little shake to rouse him. He woke with an aggressive start, a hand flying out and slapping me right across the face. It stung like hell but I kept my cool as I rubbed my cheek.

“I’m sorry.” He apologized, seeming mortified.

“It’s okay. You woke up scared. I should have expected it.” I chuckled, patting his shoulder.

“Another nightmare?” I asked calmly.

“Y-yeah.” He shuddered, clinging to me.

The was that nagging thought that came to mind anytime I’d console him after a nightmare. I’d never asked the question for fear of causing him any more pain. But it was at the tip of my tongue this time, as if the words were burning me.

“What was it about?” I asked softly, feeling him grow tense in my arms.

“It’s scary. I don’t wanna think about it.” He said, dismissing my question.

Deciding not to push; as I’d had an idea as to why. And if what I thought was the cause of his dreams was true, I was seething.

“It’s alright. If you don’t want to talk about it we don’t have to.” I soothed, running my hands through his hair to calm his nerves.

Attaching a mission of my own to my supply run, I’d even the score. I had an itch that needed scratching and I’d been wondering how to accomplish it. Maybe the dark plan I had worked out would do the trick? It was for the greater good after all I felt. When I’d come from the fog of my various dark thoughts, Darren had fallen asleep again in my arms.

The smell of dinner wafted into my nose. I’d have to wake Jonas soon and Darren soon. A battle I didn’t know if I’d win. I put myself in these situations a lot throughout all of this. And I didn’t know exactly why.


A/N: Uh oh. It seems Issac isn’t back to his old self after all. Instead, he’s withdrew further and further into himself. People have breaking points and he’s been hugging his. Let’s see how this unfolds, shall we? Dark content ahead. Also sorry for the late upload! I totally forgot yesterday was Friday!

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