To Death: Book 1

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When It Fell: Act 2

A/N: Following Issac on his journey to what he considers home, we see more of the crumbling of his sense of self. He’s a strong character though. Stronger than he himself gives credit for. But this is a dark story after all. Expect some twists and cracks. Oh! And some tasteful romance to ease some tension. I apologize for the missed uploads. As much as I enjoy writing, I’m also in college and have regular essays to write! So I had to recharge before going through editing.


Issac:

I’d left from the riverside at sunrise. And the sun was just starting to set when I’d made it to the rear gate of the main house. Hopefully, someone was awake or I’d have to sleep in this jeep again. Getting out, I stumbled, my body fatigued. Catching myself, I pressed the call button, getting a beep.

“It’s Issac.” I sighed, wanting to curl up and sleep.

The gate swung open, as I got back in and drove the jeep to the carport near the barn. Collecting my things, I trudged through the brutally cold wind to the front door. There to greet me was Jonas, looking even more worried when he took in my haggard appearance.

“I’m doing better than I look.” I chuckled.

“What the hell happened out there.” He fretted, looking me over, almost losing balance on the support of his crutches.

“I have a lot to share with everyone.” I sighed, my broken bow nearly slipping from my shoulder, catching Jonas’ eye.

He beckoned me inside, to the living room where everyone was gathered around the television watching a movie.

“And the man himself is back.” Jerry announced, his smile faltering as he saw the shape I was in.

“He wanted to share something with us.” Jonas said, speaking up for me.

“I don’t want to ruin the movie. I can shower and share later.” I offered.

“Your bow is broken, your shirt is bloody and you look a mess. Speak.” Alisha said sternly, arms crossed in a gesture that told me she meant business.

I swallowed a lump in my throat as Darren looked at me, green eyes worried. He could hear this if I changed details. But I wanted to spare him from the brutality of the outside world as long as I could.

“Darren you might not want to hear this.” I said.

He looked like he was ready to complain, but got the hint and left the room, the sound of his footsteps retreating up the stairs putting my mind at ease. All eyes were on me, causing me to grow uncomfortable.

“I’ll explain this first. As the two things I wanted to tell everyone about are unrelated to my current state.” I said, sitting on the bricks that made up the fireplace.

“There was a large infected man I encountered, blocking me from the jeep. I tried running around him.” I began, delving right into a web of unorganized truths.

“But there wasn’t another way. He overpowered me pretty quickly, knocked me to the ground, and when he ran at me his leg ran into my bow like a truck, breaking it in half.” I explained, merging some events.

“You shouldn’t have went out alone Issac.” My mother scolded.

“I’m fine mom. If I didn’t go out I wouldn’t have learned what I learned.” I assured her.

“I tried going at him with my sword, but he swung for me, knocking the blade into my ribs and cutting me pretty deep.” I went on, merging even more details from my two notable encounters.

“I managed to finish him off with the pistol Jerry gave me.” I finished.

“Do you need stitches?” Ellis asked quickly.

“I managed to stitch myself up.” I explained.

“I’ll have to look at that later.” Ellis told me, going back to listening.

“That’s hardcore.” Daniel commented.

“Never again.” I sighed.

“So what did you learn? Was it about the infected?” Alisha asked, getting nods from the others.

“Yes actually. Quite a few things. Both are bad news but one is worse than the other.” I said carefully, not knowing how they’d take what I was going to tell them.

“Give us the slightly better first.” Oscar said, expressive brows knit into concern.

“Well. In my time out there I learned that the plan needs revision. I was luring a crowd of infected away from the jeep in a parking garage.” I began, my mom, looking concerned.

“I lead them to a ledge, climbing over it. At first, it worked, a lot of them tumbling off.” I went on.

“But?” Alisha asked.

“The tweakers didn’t follow the others mindlessly. They stopped and looked down at me.” I revealed, getting looks of shock from the others.

“So the tweakers are even smarter than we thought?” Jonas scoffed.

“That does change things. I didn’t expect that.” Alisha huffed.

“We’d need another team behind them to finish them off.” I finished, letting it all settle in.

“Most of them are lurkers at least.” Daniel shrugged, sounding optimistic. It was good that he still felt confident. We’d just have to go back to the drawing board for a few more details and we’d be ready.

“That actually moves right on into my next topic of discussion.” I sighed, wondering if my theory could hold water.

“So Alisha I have a question. How does both the fungus and virus infect you?” I asked.

“The fungus invades through a bite or through spore inhalation and invades the nervous system. The virus infects through bites or bodily fluids being exposed to an open wound. Why?” She answered, curious.

I’d have to reveal to them that I killed two people. But I’d lead into it and allowed myself some time to prepare.

“And which mode of infection is easiest?” I asked.

“The spore inhalation. But even so, it takes quite a lot of exposure for the fungus to infect you.” She reasoned.

“And there are always more lurkers than tweakers. No matter where we go.” I stated.

“What are you saying?” My father asked.

“I killed two men that were after me while I was out.” I revealed, getting shocked looks from the others.

“I had no choice. If I could have safely gotten away I would have.” I explained quickly.

“I believe you.” Jonas soothed, giving my shoulder a rub. It was nice to have him instantly take my side on such a revelation.

“Continue.” Alisha pressed.

“They revived after I killed them, turning into lurkers.” I finished.

“So,” Daniel began, his thoughts seeming to shut him up as he looked horrified.

“That means one of two things.” Alisha gasped, looking just as shocked.

“For the slow learners. What does that mean?” My dad asked.

“Either we’re already infected with the fungus and it waits for us to die to hijack our brains. Or the two men were bitten beforehand and it was pure chance.” I shrugged.

Alisha looked shaken, as if something fell off a shelf in her mind.

“I have something to add. Something I should have said quite some time ago.” Alisha spoke up, looking to Daniel for support.

“If we have been touched by a lurker we’re already infected according to a theory we had back at the lab. The fungus is weak in comparison to its parasite. But we never had enough time in the lab to confirm that theory.” Alisha began, a cold shock running through me.

“The only person among us whose immune system creates antigens for the fungus and virus is Issac.” She went on, her voice trembling.

I felt for her in this moment. She however did reveal this to us.

“So what happens?” Donna asked, her bubbly persona replaced by one of concern and worry.

“It’s a parasite, lacking the strength to get things done itself. The only way it can do harm to us as it is now is if we’re bitten by a tweaker. Or killed without brain damage. It hijacks a vulnerable nervous system for the functions it needs to spread and reproduce.” She explained, trying to assure the others.

“Why did you keep this from us Ali?” Daniel asked, sounding a little hurt.

“Issac is our key to a vaccine. All we’d need to do is subject him to a bite from both a lurker and tweaker to trigger a release of antigens. Extract that and formulate a vaccine with some tweaking.” She explained.

“So you held out hope?” Oscar asked.

“When the moment came for me to reveal that information I did.” Alisha offered.

“So he’s immune to both modes of infection. But what if he dies. Would he become one of them after death?” Jin asked, speaking up, alerting me of her presence.

“In theory yes. As he wouldn’t have his immune system fighting it off for him. It leaves his brain wide open.” Alisha answered.

“So he lives and humanity lives?” Ellis asked.

“There may be others with varying or total immunity. It’s likely a relative of Daniel had immunity or resistance like he does. It seems to be genetic but we weren’t able to find out for certain before we had to leave Dallas.” Alisha sighed.

“If it’s genetic then where does Issac get it from?” My stepfather asked.

“Likely from his biological father as I don’t share resistance or immunity from testing.” She explained.

“So what were your hopes for developing a vaccine against it?” Jin asked, a calculated look on her face as she stared down Alisha.

Alisha was a capable young woman, and had grown so much in this short time. She held her own, returning an equally as hard stare.

“I would search for either biological institute or university for access to a lab. If we found one we could slowly work to clear it with enough numbers and develop a vaccine before it mutates.” Alisha replied quickly.

“It’s capable of mutation?” Oscar questioned.

“It’s an odd combination to start with. It blindsided me and the team of scientists as nothing like this had even shown up even in fossil records so far. A parasite infecting another parasite.” She concluded, almost humored by the odd nature of all of this.

“What is it exactly?” I asked, speaking up.

“A cordycepsian fungi being leeched on by a virus related to both Ebola and rabies bound into its DNA.” She explained.

“That sounds man-made.” Daniel said, coming back to his goofy nature, his brain probably trying to produce some conspiracy theory.

“It shows evidence of having been here. I only wonder why it suddenly erupted into an epidemic.” She mused.

“So to conclude. We’re all infected at this point, save for maybe two of us.” Ellis groaned, seeming stressed.

“So long as we’re living the chances of us spontaneously dying and reanimating are slim to none as the conditions are specific to certain exposures.” Alisha assured him.

I’d been quite tired since my journey back was long and riddled with pain.

“I need rest.” I yawned, shakily standing up.

“Before you go let me look you over.” Ellis said beckoning for me to follow him.

Jonas took my hand for a brief moment, giving me a little nod. I followed after Ellis who lead me to Jerry’s study, closing the door, making me feel slightly uneasy as I was still flighty.

“Lift up your shirt or take it off.” He requested simply.

Ellis was a smart man when it came to me. I’d just lift up my shirt as to not show the full extent of my injuries. He came up to me, his eyes instantly trained on my wound. He peeled back the bandage that was in need of changing as I bled through it considerably.

“You did a pretty good job patching yourself up. It should heal with a pretty thin scar since it was a clean cut.” He explained, seeming hyper-focused on the details of my body.

“Why all of the concentration?” I asked, intent on throwing him off for some distance.

“You and Daniel are my priority. I’m a mission-driven man Issac. You two live and the rest of humanity lives.” He explained, his confidence unwavering.

He did what I wanted him to stay away from, lifting up my shirt even more. He grimaced at the nasty bruises that painted my ribcage, giving the one I received from the man striking me with that metal rod an analytical look. He gave it a little pressure, causing me to wince as he felt around with slightly cold hands. He looked around my entire torso, looking to me once done.

“I don’t think there are any fractures except for that one.” He said, pointing out where I had been struck.

“Any pain breathing?” He asked.

“On deep breaths and laughing.” I answered.

“Either a minor fracture there or severe bruising. Take it easy tomorrow and you should be totally okay in about a few weeks.” He explained, his words seeming more serious than I was used to.

“If I wasn’t going to be okay I wouldn’t have made it back.” I assured him.

“You remind me of my little brother ya’know. Reckless and selfless. Be careful and don’t take risks like that again.” Ellis said to me sternly.

“You’re barely older than me. I realize what I went out for was stupid. I could have just waited.” I sighed.

“Well. Go shower and get some rest. I’ll leave some heat pads and some bandage to replace your current one with Jonas.” He sighed, turning and leaving.

Fixing my clothes, I headed out of the study, catching sight of Darren who was peeking at me from around the corner.

“Hey there.” I said, as he came out knowing he was caught.

“Can you teach me how to fight the lurkers and tweakers?” He asked, sounding almost demanding.

“What’s this about?” I asked, curious as to the sudden change.

“I want to look after you and Jo-Jo. I don’t want...” He said fervently, his voice dying down as he answered without words.

“Listen to me, Darren. There will come a time where you will do what I enjoy doing.” I explained, bending down to his height.

“What’s that?” He asked, the depths of his eyes wrought with emotion.

“Growing up life wasn’t easy for me. So my goal is to always protect and care for those who can’t care for themselves. Especially children.” I explained, getting a bit emotional myself.

“But I want to protect you both now.” He argued.

“You’re still a little too young. The time will come. For now, let us protect you.” I assured him.

“I just don’t want to lose you both too.” Darren sighed, looking forlorn.

“I’m not going anywhere if I can help it. I’ll do everything I can to stay here for you.” I promised, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“Really?” He asked, looking up at me as he wiped away the tears in his eyes.

“I care about you, Darren. A lot.” I said, my voice choking up as I forced back even more emotion.

“I love you Izzy.” He said, hugging me, his arm brushing my stitches.

I was an emotional mess that couldn’t help but tearfully smile. He kept me grounded. He reminded me I needed to stay out of my own head and care for others around me. And I’d do just that.

“Okay. Now go watch the movie. Its bedtime when I get out of the shower.” I explained to him, standing up, keeping my movements smooth as to not worry him.

“Okay.” He called already running off to return to the living room.

He could regain that brightness everyone could have at some point. I’d have to be there for him though to make it easier. Being there for him meant I couldn’t risk it all as if I had nothing looking for my return. It was almost as if I had a child now, a responsibility I found myself still learning about. I trudged up the stairs, my steps shaky as I slowly made my way up. Since Jonas lost his leg we got a new room, one with a more accommodating bathroom. It was a welcome change as our room was shared by me, Jonas, and Darren. Opening the door to our bedroom, I saw Jonas stripped down into just his underwear.

“Need a hand?” I asked, figuring he was going to take a shower.

He usually needed some help to speed things along as he couldn’t stand without his crutches. He disliked it but it was either I help him or he risked slipping and falling.

“I was actually thinking you could join me instead. I’ve been getting a bit more independent.” He chuckled, voice husky from his cold.

“Is that so?” I asked, setting down my weapons.

“Lock the door though. I don’t want Darren walking in on something.” He snickered.

He had a point so I did just that, stripping off my clothing as I felt Jonas’ eyes on me. He’d probably been feeling more like himself lately. He rarely if ever looked at me sexually since losing his leg. Me even helping him shower was just that and nothing extra. I wasn’t exactly sure of the cause of the change. But I’d be available for both him and myself.

“You’re good though, right?” He asked, making his way over to me in his crutches.

“Ellis wants me to relax tomorrow. Nothing major aside from some soreness.” I explained, reaching up and placing a quick kiss on his lips.

It was like our relationship had gotten better with all of this going on with the infected among us. Before all of this even in the most perfect moments it never felt this amazing and I could legitimately say I was in love with him and mean it with every fiber of my being. Grabbing some towels, I started up the shower, leaving a trail of teasing for Jonas. If he wanted me I’d give him me. It would make both him and myself feel better. The shower was large, something I’d liked as it made helping Jonas easier with the space. I tossed my underwear off, sitting in wait for Jonas who appeared moments later. He cast aside his crutches, fully nude as he used the walls of the shower for support as he sat across from me on the tiled bench. The mood wasn’t sexual, just the sound of running water and us just enjoying one another’s appearances.

“You are so damn pretty Bambi.” He sighed dreamily.

“And you’re the most handsome man I’ve ever given my heart.” I replied, quickly realizing I’d only ever dated two other men aside from Jonas.

“I better be.” He snorted, laughing.

“Give me a kiss?” He asked, making me forget about every thought running through my mind as of late.

He always started out intimacy this way with few exceptions. A coy question that always had more intent under the surface. It was something fiery and intoxicating, making you want the extra. I slowly made my way through the rain of warm water to him. I got on my knees before him between his legs as it put us at eye level.

“I forgot that I’m sick.” He chuckled, reminding me as well.

“I’m supposed to be resting anyway.” I shrugged, leaning forward to kiss him.

He wasted no time deepening it, pulling me up into his lap as his hands carefully roamed my body, occasionally brushing something sensitive.

“I’m not hurting you am I?” He asked between what had become pecks.

“I’d stop if it hurt too much.” Silencing him with kisses.

All the while I was light-headed from our heated exchange. He moved to pin me down underneath him but slipped, dropping me and knocking me dizzy a bit. When I recovered he was frozen, face shocked.

“I’m okay.” I groaned, sitting up and sitting next to him.

Though still, he was frozen, various emotions running through his eyes.

“I’m such a fuck up. Why are you still with me?” He asked suddenly, shocking me.

“Woah there, what brought this on?” I asked, confused.

“Do you pity me now that I’m missin’ a leg? He asked, his tone tense as he looked hurt.

“Jonas what are you going on about?” I asked, wanting clarification.

“I can’t even kiss you without fucking up ’cause of it. And you always act like it’s okay.” He went on, running a hand through his water matted curls.

“Jonas. I love you. That’s why I’m with you. I don’t care if you were just a torso I’d love you no less.” I assured him, striking a chord.

“You’ll just need to get used to what your body is now. And you need to understand that I love you no less. No matter what happens or what you become I’ll love you.” I told him, hugging his head to my chest as he wept in clear frustration.

He always had an issue of not being enough for people. It came from his childhood and I saw that. When we were younger and I lacked maturity I didn’t always see it as that. And when an argument was born from it I’d match his fiery intensity. I’ve lived and I’ve learned to not turn my back on this aspect of him. He’s gotten better though. And it’s given me hope that he’d move past it and grow into the man he’s always aspired to be.

“Fuck what did I do to deserve you? I treated you like shit for so long.” He admitted, pulling away, wiping at his eyes.

“It was rough. But we were always in each other’s lives. I would have never fully left you Jo-Jo. No matter how bad it got.” I told him, wiping away his tears.

“You’ve really been my ride or die.” He huffed, a small smile creeping up onto his face.

“You’ve been mine too.” I assure him, placing a kiss on his forehead.

“I just don’t know if I have.” He said, placing a kiss on my jaw in return.

“You looked for me on that dangerous campus when this all started. You held out hope and looked for me. If I was your first worry then that’s all I need.” I assured him, placing a kiss on his lips.

“Me and the boys were going to find you and Ali.” He said, his breath hitching.

I felt the emotion as he did. Me and his best friends weren’t what one would consider friends. But they did their fair share of looking out for me even if they didn’t know the truth about Jonas and I’s relationship.

“So, wash my back and I’ll wash yours?” I offered, hoping my subject change was smooth.

He didn’t seem to care much anyway. Jonas offered to wash my body first, tackling the task with sensual touches and just as much care. Though he paused around the bruises a few times, finally speaking up.

“What really happened out there, Bambi?” He asked quietly, his eyes worried when I met his gaze.

Breath catching in my chest I had figured my body must have told on me as it didn’t match with my story.

“Why the question?” I asked, already prepared to tell him the truth when I’d tell no one else.

“You didn’t mention your hand being hurt. And for something to kick your bow so hard it broke seems like more than a tweaker.” He reasoned, continuing on washing my body.

“I won’t be mad. I’m curious Bambi.” He asserted gently.

“I-I went out to kill the man who hurt Darren and killed his parents.” I admitted.

“Damn.” He said simply.

“Did you do it?” He asked, pausing to look at me.

“Yeah.” I croaked, feeling exposed now.

“How did it go down? I don’t want you to do something so dangerous again.” He fretted, that protective nature of his coming out.

“I’ll never do something like that again. I can’t keep killing like this.” I told him, my throat tight as I took hold of his hand.

“How did it go down?” He asked again.

“For a moment I thought he would win. And then I thought about why I was doing it in the first place. But I can’t keep justifying my actions with those reasons.” I told him.

“Just promise me you won’t leave me?” He asked, reminding me of Darren, instantly bringing the tears back.

“Never. I’ll do everything I can to be here for you and Darren.” I assured him.

“He is kind of our son now if you think about it.” He added, a small wistful smile warming me.

“I love that kid.” I admitted, blissfully sighing.

When it came to children I loved them dearly. They triggered some paternal instinct in me I never knew I could possess at times. Though the circumstances are grim, I wouldn’t trade looking after Darren and having Jonas be my partner for anything. There was a knock at the door, stopping our heart-to-heart conversation.

“You wash off and get it. I can finish up here.” Jonas said, urging me to go.

“Coming! One second!” I shouted, rinsing off, and quickly drying off.

I threw on one of Jonas’ shirts that was many sizes too large and a pair of sweatpants I had, answering the door. At the door was Ellis with a sleeping Darren in his arms, heating pads slung over his shoulder.

“I was expecting Jonas. I didn’t want any of you two lifting anything as heavy as Little D though.” Ellis rambled as I took Darren from him who was snoring softly.

He was weighed almost as much as I did with his height, but I managed to get him over to the bed, laying him down and tucking him in before placing a kiss on his forehead. There was a tap on my shoulder as I turned to Ellis who was handing me the heating pads.

“I’m glad they have these.” I sighed blissfully, excited to curl up to all the warmth in this cold weather.

“They come in handy definitely, sleep well brother.” Ellis said with a yawn, saluting me as he turned to leave.

When I had closed the door, Jonas was making his way out of the shower. I returned to the bathroom to help him get dressed as I could see he was tired, probably having not gotten much sleep since he left on his own to try finding me.

“So a rain check for a next time? Sorry I killed the mood.” He said as I returned.

“No pressure, I understand your frustration.” I told him sweetly, helping him dry off as he shakily stood on his crutches.

We’d have to change out his bandages since they got wet in the shower. But luckily he was healing quickly so the danger of infection was dropping greatly every other day.

“I’m sorry for killing the mood.” He said again as I helped him sit on the counter to get his boxers on.

Leaving him for a moment I walked into the closet, grabbing some bandages for him to redress his leg.

“I mean it was a little awkward. But it wouldn’t stop me from trying again.” I said, setting to work.

“I’m hopin’ it won’t stop you.” He sighed.

“It won’t.” I smiled, finishing up and helping him put on his pants.

“This just doesn’t seem fair for you to go through all of this.” He sighed, seeming to relapse slowly before me.

“You know. I blamed myself for cutting your leg off for the longest. I still do when I see you down about it.” I began, stepping closer to him as he looked down at me from the counter he sat on.

“I didn’t know if I did the right thing. Or if it was selfish of me to try saving you. I don’t know exactly. But I realized it eating at me in the most unhealthy ways. So I’ve been fighting to accept it.” I concluded.

“I didn’t know Bambi.” He admitted.

“Now I feel like the selfish dick.” He chuckled softly, hands caressing my jaw.

“But you aren’t. I can’t ignore the fact that I did this to you. Whether I meant it with good intent or not. It’s a grey zone.” I mused.

“Well, it’s not easy losing a physical part of yourself. I never knew it would be so hard.” He confessed.

“I know it’s hard Jo-Jo.” I sighed.

“But it kept me here with you. And whenever I can get these feelin’s in check we’ll be good.” He told me, seeming hopeful again.

“Well, Oscar and Ellis are pretty handy. I’m sure they’ll have your prosthetic finished in no time. And you’ll be walking on your own again with some practice.” I told him, pinching his cheeks.

“Well, I can say this now. I’m glad you’re the man I love.” He sighed wistfully.

“And I’m glad you’ve grown so much. Despite the circumstances.” I returned, a sappy moment like this comforting to experience.

“I guess it takes a disaster for some people to learn.” He replied, getting up and making his way into the room as I trailed behind him.

He cast his crutches aside as I replaced the bandage on my ribs after tending to it. Looking at the heating pads I found one that was battery-powered in the selection Ellis had brought. Turning it on I sank into me and Jonas’ bed on the other side of the room, Darren soft snores just the white noise I needed to sleep. It took mere moments for me to be embraced as Jonas pulled me to him while I pulled the heating pad to my sore rib cage. A blissful moment lulled me into a comfortable sleep as the world darkened around me in mere moments.


A/N: Something sweet. Things will pick up as we draw closer to the conclusion. With only a few chapters remaining I’ll give breaks where I can; only if they add to the story. A chapter like this may seem like fluff. But it’s nailing in and bolting down a display of plot hints, symbolism for the future, and easter eggs. They’re something I like leaving! Hunt them down if you wish!

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