Carry On Part I: Ground ZeroSeries:
Main pairing: Naruto & Kiba. Warnings/Notes:
VIOLENCE, horror, language, mutilation, guns.Spoilers:
Kiba and Naruto find solace in one another when surrounded by a new terrifying reality. And on the night they meet, they must face some very difficult choices.Notes:
This a five-part story for Skully, who won the D/s Naruto contest over on Y!Gallery. She wanted horror, and I was entirely delighted to try to give her what she wanted. Song lyrics are from Patsy Cline's, "Walkin' After Midnight."
Do note: I do not own the Naruto characters, but the world, original characters, zombie lore, etc. are all me. :)Click here for a free audio introduction by your favorite Demented Tour Guide
.I go out walkin'
Out in the moonlight
Just hopin' you may be
Somewhere out walkin'
Searching for me…
Slumped low in the leather passenger seat of the stolen Mustang, Kiba's world narrowed to the dull-lit dash, the shadow play of trees, and the full moon. From the corner of his eye, he noted when the man-blasted mountain cliff to the left loomed closer as they swung south, and he ignored it, staring longingly at the giant, constant rock in the sky. He thought of tides, oceans, and Spring Break in Cancun. Margaritas, tanned bartenders, girls in nearly nothing, and the memory turned to sanctuary. Kept him from staring at the twisting turns of deserted scenic highway, at the endless forsaken miles of double lines and dashes and guardrails, and eased him away from losing what little mind he had left.
"Wanna play, 'I Spy?'"
"No," Kiba said.
"Oh come on," the blond in the driver's seat implored. "I spy with my little--"
"If you fuckin' finish that sentence I will shoot you." Kiba adjusted the short-barrel shotgun lying across his lap for emphasis.
Incredulous eyes flickered at Kiba before the blond turned back to the road. "Do you want to take a nose dive off that cliff? Or run head first into the mountain?"
Kiba had to think about it. For far longer than he would have considered sane a scant two weeks ago. "I guess not."
The guy seemed to unwind, eased back in his seat. He slowed to inch around a group of Harleys kickstand propped near an overlook.
Kiba snorted. "Not that there's really a whole lot of danger. You drive like my grandmother."
"I do? Really? Is she still--"
"Kidding," Kiba interrupted, rolling his eyes and praying for the patience to deal with literal dimwits. "I was kidding."
"Oh," the blond said. "Well. In that case? Fuck you. I like this car."
"It's just a Mustang."
a Mustang?" The tone rang too loudly in close confines, and Kiba cocked his head to glare at the blond who looked, Kiba thought, like a walking ad for a surf shop. Or maybe a poster child for Hitler's superior race.
"There's over three hundred horses in this V6, and it somehow still gets over thirty miles to the gallon on the freeway." The car did a mean sweep around a hairpin turn. "Not to mention corners like a Porsche."
Kiba sat up. "You did not just compare a Ford POS to my heaven on wheels."
A white grin glowed red in the interior lighting. "So you like cars?"
"Yeah," Kiba answered. "Used to, I mean."
The blond didn't say anything for a minute. "You still can. Like 'em, I mean."
Kiba sighed and shut his eyes. "Well, hey, at least you know this baby's destined to be vintage, right?"
"Always was, man. Totally."
"Mmhm." Kiba sighed. "What was your name again?"
"Cool. I'm Kiba. My pleasure and shit."
"It's definitely mine. You're pretty handy with that thing."
Kiba petted the Ruger, opened his eyes, and checked the side mirror. "Any sign of 'em?"
"Nah," Naruto said. "Think we ditched them when we cut over the back roads and got on the Blue Ridge."
Kiba nodded. "Good. We need ammo and supplies, and this should take us into Tennessee." He grinned at Naruto. "Patron State of Shootin' Shit."
Naruto wheezed a laugh. "You from around here?"
"North Carolina. Had an auto shop in Boone. You?"
"San Diego originally, but I've been in Virginia Beach on business for a couple years, now."
"The hell do they do?"
"Uh, organize companies? Kinda?"
Kiba took a moment to swallow the idea of the guy behind the wheel who looked no older than nineteen in his blood-splattered t-shirt, ripped jeans and air of determined innocence being a corporate asshat. "Oh yeah," Kiba groused. "That'll come in handy."
"I can shoot," Naruto protested, the car swerving.
"Yeah," Kiba answered, grabbing the oh-shit handle but happier with the speedometer ticking over fifty. "I got that from all the lying on the ground and screaming you did back at the gas station."
The look Naruto gave Kiba was damned near feral, and Kiba felt hope flicker for the first time in a long time. Maybe this guy would make a decent partner after all and not be just some accident of misfortune.
," Naruto growled. "My dad's a marine. Or was. And I needed shit. The place looked empty. And easy. I didn't see the cops in the back until--"
"Until they were up your ass with their damned batons. I know. I saw."
"Hey, fuck you, asshole. You got their weapons, and we're better off together than alone, so what's your-- Oh fuck
Kiba bellowed while Naruto stood on the brakes to avoid hitting the lone figure staggering along the side of the road. The seatbelt choked Kiba, he cursed, and the headlights illuminated a pair of dirty pale legs, short ripped dress, long matted hair, and wide silver-sheen eyes like a frozen doe's.
"It's a woman," Naruto said, panting.
"No shit," Kiba rasped. "Been a while since you saw one of those?"
"What?" Naruto asked, frowning. "No. Yes. I mean, we should--"
"Keep driving," Kiba commanded.
"You gotta be kidding me." Naruto threw the car into park.
"Naruto," Kiba warned, but the idiot ignored him and threw open the door.
"Hey!" Naruto shouted, voice cracking the silence of the night.
"Damn it," Kiba cursed, climbing out and watching the girl. At first Kiba thought she had a baby in her arms or something crazy, but as he drew closer, he saw it was a bundled shirt. Stained burgundy and black.
"Are you hurt?" Naruto asked, hands outstretched as he approached the girl, who flinched and stared at her shoes.
"Naruto," Kiba hissed. He didn't know whether to be impressed by the bravery or pissed off by the sheer lack of forethought. An injured woman on the side of a dead road in the middle of the night was never a good time. She could be bait, she could be crazy, there could be people after her, and she was probably--
"I think she's in shock," Naruto called.
"No shit, Sherlock," Kiba muttered, stalking over to the pair and shoving Naruto backward when the blond made to put his arm around the shivering woman. "Are you entirely nuts or just slow on the uptake?"
"I'm… I'm sorry?" The woman's voice caught both men's attention, and Kiba looked her over.
"Color's good," Kiba pronounced. "So whose blood is that?"
The woman violently shook her head, swayed on her feet, and Naruto steadied her. "Did someone attack you?" he asked.
"I don't… I don't know…"
"Are you sick? How long have you been out here?"
"I… I…" The woman started to cry, and Kiba gnashed his teeth in defeat when Naruto made soft sounds of comfort.
"I take it leavin' her ain't an option?" Kiba asked.
, you ass."
"Aren't we all?"
Naruto spared Kiba a mean glance and began leading the woman toward the Mustang.
"Awesome," Kiba said, putting the Ruger on one shoulder and following, boots crunching on asphalt. "'Cause God knows we need more excitement tonight."
"We can at least get her somewhere that's not in the middle of nowhere," Naruto said, tucking the woman into the backseat. "A hospital. Clinic. Something."
"Right," Kiba said, making sure the single syllable was as much an insult as affirmation. He grabbed one of the dead policemen's Sig's out of the passenger floorboard and slapped it against Naruto's chest. The blond grunted and blankly stared at the weapon for a heartbeat before raising dull eyes to Kiba's.
"You babysit," Kiba said with insincere mirth. "I'll drive."
Kiba walked around the back of the car, shaking his head and mumbling unkind things about humanitarianism. He got behind the wheel, slammed the door, and spun out until the tires caught friction.
"What's your name?" Naruto asked the girl, voice floating from the backseat. Kiba adjusted the rearview mirror until he had an eyeful of wounded, strung-out, lost girl.
"Is she sure?" Kiba muttered.
"I'm Naruto. And that's Kiba." He said the last like he introduced the least favorite cousin at the family reunion, and Kiba grunted.
"Are you going to kill me?" Hinata asked.
"Of course not!" Naruto answered, and he was a far better liar than Kiba could have imagined. "We're going to help you."
"Oh. Okay… thank you."
The timid, insipid voice grated on Kiba's nerves, and he thought about turning on the radio but caught himself. He didn't need any more misery to distract him, and it was far better to hear every syllable of conversation coming from behind him. He watched the girl for a second in the mirror, saw her looking down. Kiba shifted in the seat, checked again, and this time unblinking eyes burned holes in Kiba's reflection. He held the gaze, tightened his grip on the Ruger that rested with the business end pointed at the passenger door, and his foot weighed heavier on the gas.
"Is your arm okay?" Naruto asked.
"I don't know," Hinata answered, still gazing at Kiba in the mirror. He saw her mouth go slack, saw a tongue wet her bottom lip, saw her shiver.
"Can I see? Maybe I can--"
"No! Don't touch me!" Hinata screeched and Kiba whipped the car through a series of turns leading out of the mountains. Signs flashed by and warned Kiba about the grade, the speed limit, the police radar. He held the wheel steady at ten and two, heart thudding in his chest.
"Sorry," Naruto soothed, and Kiba wanted to shout for joy when Naruto had the good sense to put his back against the side of the car furthest away from the girl. And Kiba swore that the next sound was the faint click of the gun's safety.
"No… I'm…" Hinata started crying again, sobs shaking her shoulders and a fist of tension unclenched Kiba's guts when she curled into a ball, cradling her injured arm. "I just need rest. And maybe some food. And I'll be fine."
"Of course you will," Naruto said, but he didn't sound so convinced. Nobody spoke as Hinata pretended to sleep. The car ate miles with insatiable appetite, and Kiba's eyes started to burn from not blinking.
"There's an exit in a mile," Kiba announced. Hinata didn't stir.
"Take it," Naruto replied.
"So glad we agree," Kiba muttered. The car peeled off the four-lane highway and onto the exit ramp in an easy glide, and Kiba gave the Mustang points for maneuverability. He turned left and passed darkened buildings, homes, vehicles. Ahead he saw a BP station with the lights on, and he rolled into the parking lot wishing he drove a tank, not a Ford.
Kiba stopped next to pump number thirteen. He scanned the store, didn't see movement and kept his guard up anyway. "Gonna go in and turn on the pump. Need to fill up the tank and get a few cans for the road. Food and water, too." He propped an elbow on the console, faced Naruto. "Watch her. And if anythin' comes too close? I suggest you kill it."
"How'd you get to be so hard?" Naruto asked, face obscured by darkness and voice too quiet.
A woman in a skirt and blouse lay on the concrete floor of Kiba's shop in a pool of her own blood. Her husband of twelve years stood nearby, hands covering his mouth. Kiba crouched near the lift in bay one, Ruger barrel smoking.
"You… you shot her!"
"She dove at me!"
"You shot my wife!"
"Wasn't your wife anymore."
"You asshole, we're not…we weren't…haven't…" The man trailed off, inching closer to the corpse, and the look on his face was love morphing into something else entirely. "We would never…"
The woman gasped despite the hole Kiba put in her guts. Slimy things gleamed as she struggled to rise, blindly clawing through blood and reaching for her husband. Kiba gaped as the fool knelt by her side--
"Jessica? I'm here, I'm--"
The woman lunged and bit into his cheek. Blood sprayed, the man howled, and Kiba used the next two shells to blow off Tony and Jessica Kirkpatricks' heads. Customers for five years. Trying to get out of town too late.
"Practice," Kiba said. "How'd you get to be so soft?"
Naruto leaned forward, and Hinata stirred. The blond touched Hinata's ankle, squeezed. "Courage," he replied.
Kiba and Naruto stared at each other. "Watch her," Kiba cautioned one last time and got out of the car. He bent to yank the lever to pop the gas tank cover, and despite his suspicions, he walked around the front of the car to the pump. He lifted the nozzle, squeezed the handle, and got nothing but empty clicks.
"Ain't nothin' ever easy," Kiba muttered. He re-hooked the nozzle, flipped off the shotgun's safety, lifted the rifle to his shoulder, and slowed to slink toward the store's entrance. No sound, no stirring, no nothing. Overhead the lights flickered, Kiba grabbed the door handle, and chimes jangled as he entered.
Movement to the left, and Kiba swung toward it, finger on the trigger. A man with gray hair and glasses threw empty hands into the air.
"Hands on the fuckin' counter!" Kiba barked.
"Don't shoot," the man repeated, palms slapping down between the Bic lighters and cash register. "Don't--"
"Weapon?" Kiba asked, keeping the man in sight as he turned to check the rest of the store.
"No weapon. Don't shoot. Don't want no--"
"Where's your fuckin' gun, old man?" Kiba bellowed, and the man jumped.
"Don't want no--"
Kiba leveled the barrel of the shotgun with the man's forehead. "Three… two…"
"Behind the counter!" the man wailed.
Keeping the Ruger trained on the gasping grandpa, Kiba sidestepped until he reached the swinging door leading into the employees only area behind the register. He nudged it open with his hip, crept nearer to the trembling store owner, and saw the M16 leaning near the man's leg.
"No weapon, huh?" Kiba snarled, grabbing Grandpa's gun and backing away with the Ruger still aimed at the man's head.
"Don't want no trouble, son. Please."
"Yeah. I heard that." Kiba swept a quick glance around the store again and put his back toward a wall, eyes on the entrance and the other man. "Keep your hands where I can see 'em, and turn on the pump out at thirteen." Kiba leaned the M16 against a stack of Hershey's chocolate. "Slowly. I don't need you alive to do it, old man. Suggest you just do what I say and only that."
"All right. Okay." The old guy put his hands in the air, backed up a step, and watched Kiba as he reached to press a button on a panel. At the very last second, Grandpa's eyes flicked over Kiba's shoulder, and Kiba whirled in time to see another man lumbering around the last row of shelving.
Reddened eyes, pallid skin, blue veins standing out under it, and foam crusted at the corners of an open mouth. The new addition also weighed about three hundred pounds, and he was slow. Before Lardass got his twelve-gauge higher than his belly, Kiba opened fire. Once in the gut and bloody matter flew. The second shot was higher and ripped apart Lardass' throat. Grandpa started screaming for Jesus, and Kiba ignored it, walking over to the twitching heavy weight and kicking aside the gun. Kiba bent, grabbed the newest addition to a gathering arsenal, and casually punted Lardass' head to make sure it was severed from the rest of the body.
"That was my son!" Grandpa screamed. "You killed my Robert, you monster! You--"
Kiba turned on Gramps and reacquainted the old man with the heated end of the Ruger. "Shut. The fuck. Up."
Big tears streaked the lined face, and snot ran out of Grandpa's nose. "Robby… oh my Robby…"
"Listen to me," Kiba said and wet eyes blinked at him. Kiba sighed and set down Robby's gun next to Grandpa's. "You're going to march around the counter, go to the men's room, and I'm lockin' your ass inside. You do anythin' else, and you join Robby sooner rather than later."
"He wasn't even sick. He was a good boy."
"Hands behind your head. Move."
Grandpa followed Kiba's orders, sniffling and shaking. "Was a good boy. Not sick. Not a day in his--"
"Bullshit, Gramps," Kiba said, nudging the man ahead with the gun. "He was Phase Two hardcore. What've you been feedin' him?"
"Good boy. Such a good boy…"
Kiba started to say something more, caught sight of a wedding band on Grandpa's finger, and noted the distinct lack of the missus. "Disgusting fuck," he said under his breath, reaching to unhook a keyring from Grandpa's belt. "Get inside."
The man obeyed, Kiba locked the bathroom door, thankful it was a key and bolt situation. Otherwise he would need to find something to tie off the knob, and that would take too much time and effort. Easier to kill the bastard.
Grabbing the guns, Kiba started to stalk toward the entrance. He got his hand on the bar, and cursed when he saw Hinata backing away from the pumps, yelling.
"Oh for fuck's sake," Kiba said to himself, stepping outside and jogging toward the car.
"I don't want it to be you!" Hinata screamed, blubbering and gasping in the middle of a female hysterical fit worthy of some B-rated horror flick.
"It won't be!" Naruto called back, arms out and imploring as he chased after Hinata. "You don't have to do it. We can help you."
"It's t-too l-late," Hinata stammered. She started unwrapping her arm, Kiba dropped the new weaponry and aimed for her head, getting closer for a clean shot.
"What are you--" Naruto started, but he stopped when Hinata dropped the makeshift bloody bandage. Most of her left hand was gone, though the thumb remained attached to an oozing stump. Even at this distance, Kiba could see the bite marks and tell-tale blue veins of Phase Two beginning to creep up Hinata's arm toward her shoulder. She had survived the initial onset, but wasn't going to overcome the… what the hell did the talking heads call it before they ate each other? Pickle? Pikachu?
"Pica," Kiba said out loud as realization dawned.
Hinata heard him, turned imploring eyes on Kiba. "I'm so hungry," she whimpered, the sound childlike and pitiful. She put her thumb to her lips, sucked at it, and savagely tore into the flesh with an obscene moan.
"Yeah. I know," Kiba said, raising the Ruger.
"Kiba -- don't
!" Naruto called, but it was too late. The gun kicked, the shell flew to clink on the pavement, and Hinata's pretty, sweaty, tear-streaked face exploded into red mist, gray goo, and white shrapnel.
Naruto roared in rage and anguish, and Kiba pointed his Ruger at Naruto just as the blond pointed the Sig at Kiba.
"I've got one round left," Kiba said. "And I really don't want to use it on you."
"Why?" Naruto gasped, surprisingly calm as he gripped the nine millimeter with both hands.
"You're growin' on me."
Naruto put his finger on the trigger, and Kiba let out an explosive breath.
"Because nobody gets out of Phase Two human," Kiba answered. "Even if you hold out on the urge to eat your neighbor or yourself and stay mostly sane, it changes you. I've seen Phase Three, Naruto. And it's one big, ugly, inhuman, hard to kill, motherfucker."
Kiba counted seconds and watched Naruto wrestle with himself. At long last, Naruto lowered his weapon, and Kiba responded in kind. A rustling sound made both men turn in unison, and Kiba watched Grandpa sneak around the corner of the store, fall to all fours, and crawl toward what was left of Hinata. Kiba took a step forward and Grandpa paused to cringe, like a terrified animal caught by a hunter's scope.
"He was a good boy…" Grandpa whispered, and the wind picked up the words, brought them to Kiba's ears. The smell of death came, too, and Kiba remembered that the noxious fumes of voided bodies used to make him vomit.
Now it was sort of comforting.
Grandpa inched closer to Hinata, Kiba started to raise the Ruger, but a guncrack sliced the air. A hole appeared between Grandpa's eyes, rivulets started to run over his face, and he fell over in a heap.
"Nice shot," Kiba said.
"She reminded me of my wife," Naruto said.
"Wife?" Kiba asked, exhaustion settling in the aftermath of a body count.
"Marie." Naruto walked past Kiba, picked up the new guns, didn't quite look at him. "She's gone now."
Kiba didn't answer. Naruto put the guns in the backseat of the Mustang, finished filling up the car's tank, and together both men went back into the store. Naruto stepped over rotting Bobby without comment, and Kiba marveled at a man who had killed his wife but who also had sympathy for a doomed and infected woman. Had lies to tell her, comforting words to say, had tried to stop Kiba from doing the inevitable.
Naruto's hope was at once frightening in its delusion and peacemaking in its existence.
Outside, the moon was obscured by clouds as they loaded supplies into the trunk. "Still need ammo," Kiba said.
"We'll get it."
Naruto slammed the trunk, nodded at Kiba, and held out his hand for the keys. Kiba dropped them into Naruto's palm.
"It's a real bitch," Kiba said.
"How hell turned out not to be some pit." Kiba paused with the car door open, flinched when the lights overhead buzzed too loudly. "Turns out it's viral immunity."
"Funny," Naruto said, almost smiling. "I was just thinking that your hell is the only thing we've got left."