"Out," Rhett said plainly, causing Laura to frown. "Awe, c'mon," she said "This seat is the only comfortable place to sit." Rhett deadpanned a look to Laura as he repeated himself "Out." Laura huffed as she crumpled up her chip bag and brushed off her lap, sending crumbs everywhere. "No chips for you then," she said as she opened the door and climbed out. Rhett sighed as he rubbed his eyes. He checked his watch to find it was around noon. "Another successful night of drinking," he said to himself as he opened his door and stood up outside.
Inside the garage was dark, as the lights were off and it was a cloudy day outside, all to Rhett's liking. By the garage door standing guard was Matt, not even bothering to turn around to regard Rhett. He slowly made his way to the door to the gas station, each slow and dragging step sending an eerie echo through the garage that made Rhett feel like he was a zombie.
Inside the gas station, Jenny was sitting on the front counter reading a magazine while Laura was sitting on the floor nearby, still with her chips. "Hey," she said "You kick me out and you weren't even staying in there?" Rhett shook his head "I don't need you greasing up my car seats," he said. "Oh please," Laura protested "Like it matters how nice you car looks." Jenny looked up from her magazine long enough to roll her eyes at the two before returning to her article.
It was then a smell his Rhett's nose. It was a chemical and coffee smell, mixed with fire. "Who tried to make coffee?" he asked. "Mike," Jenny said without looking up "Have some if you want. I wouldn't suggest it though." Rhett looked to the pot of black sludge next to the coffee maker and decided to walk back to the drink aisle. There he found a whole section for energy drinks, untouched from the previous days scavenging.
"No one thought to grab any of these?" he asked aloud as he opened the door and grabbed a can. It was still cold, as the stations emergency generator was still powering the coolers as well as the gas pumps. "You should be drinking a water or something," Tara said as she walked up to him. "Yeah, that too," Rhett said as he cracked the can open and gulped down the beverage "How come we didn't grab any of these?"
"Same reason Mike won't let us pack booze," Tara said "It's not vital. Most of the food and water from here is packed up, getting those would just take up precious space."
"Screw that," Rhett said as he walked over and grabbed a basket "Where is Mike anyway?"
"Well, while we slept off our booze, Mike and some people took some empty gas cans from around here and filled up on fuel. He, Steve and Jason then went off to find a decent car so we're not all cramming into yours."
"Wait, Steve is up doing stuff. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he was drinking with us last night."
"Yeah, he had more than both of us combined and he's fine while I woke up a wreck. The guy's a tank, what can I say?"
"Clearly," Rhett said as he walked the basket back to the energy drinks and loaded a bunch in "So how long have the three of them been out?"
"A while," Tara said as she walked to the water and grabbed a bottle "You know what's fucking bull shit though? Mike thinks we'll make it to Albany in a matter of hours, even though we hit nothing but resistance on our way up here."
"So?" Rhett asked "Isn't that why he's insisting on vital supplies?"
"Well we don't have much in the way of food. We've got snack cakes and junk food shit. This gas station won't have actual food. We should spend some time tracking that kind of stuff down." She handed him the bottle as Rhett gave in and opened it to drink. "So what are you saying?" he said "We should go scavenging for some food while the others track down a car?"
"I just need someone dumb enough to go with me," Tara said with a smile "I saw Mike's map last night and there's suppose to be a small neighborhood not too far from here. We hit up a house or two, load up on some food and head back before Mike comes back." Rhett chugged the remainder of his water before tossing the bottle aside. "Well what are we waiting for?" he asked.
They returned to Rhett's car as he retrieved the last police flare he had left, as well as his shotgun and two handguns. Tara grabbed her magnum and all the ammo from Eric's bag. Jenny insisted on tagging along and Rhett gave her one of his handguns. "You sure this is a good idea?" Matt asked as the trio finished gearing up. "It's no big deal," Tara said "We'll be super careful and be back soon. We'll even go out the back."
"What about me?" Laura said, wanting in on the mission. "Guard the chips," Rhett said as they walked away from her. "And stay out of my car," he said as he hit the button on his remote to lock his car's doors. "You're an ass!" Laura yelled as Rhett smirked.
The back of the gas station was abandoned as the trio made their way out, handguns drawn. Rhett had taken the straps he had from last night and fastened them around the shotgun, allowing him to sling it around his back and keep his hands free. Jenny and Tara wore empty bags on their backs to put food in. Tara led the way down a side street.
They came up on a short street with a few houses on it. "I don't see anything around," Tara whispered "In an out real quick." They went up to the first hour and crept up the front stairs. Tara tried the front door but found it locked. "You don't think people just left their houses unlocked, do you?" Rhett asked. Tara flashed him a sarcastic grin as she took off her pack and opened it to reveal a crowbar and said "You don't think I came unprepared, do you?"
Tara stepped back and thrust the crowbar into the doorframe, wedged where the door latch would be. She began to push and pull, trying to break the door down. "You've never done this before, have you?" Rhett asked. "Fuck you, you try it then," Tara said as she stepped back and motioned to the crowbar sticking out of the door. "Guys?" Jenny asked, interrupting them "Why don't we just try that house?" She pointed down the street to a house with the front door wide open. "Fuck you, too," Tara said as she pulled out the crowbar with some effort and the three made their way down the street.
There was blood splatter on the front porch and bloody footprints leading away from the house. "Think anything is inside?" Jenny asked as Tara poked her head in and shouted "Hello?" They tensed up and waited a moment, but nothing came. "Rhett, stay here and guard the door," Tara said as she motioned Jenny to follow her inside.
"Rhett seems okay," Jenny said as they reached the kitchen and started opening cabinets. "Yeah, he's good," Tara said.
"I mean," Jenny said "No one else seems to like him. Mike wants him gone, Laura thinks he's a prick and Steve doesn't entirely trust him. But you seem to like him."
"I don't see what the problem is."
"I dunno. He doesn't seem like he wants to be here. Like we're twisting his arm to have him around."
"He's got a friend in Buffalo he's trying to reunite with."
"But we're going east."
"And they're both going to Safe Haven like us. He's just trying to figure out the easiest way there."
"That explains it."
"Mike said he's only putting up with Rhett for now because after Albany, he'll be gone."
"What if Albany is zombie-town?"
"I don't think he cares. You're the only one who seems to like this guy."
"I don't like him that much, but I also don't see why we need to chase him off the first chance we get."
"I don't know either. It's a Mike issue. Rhett's got a gun, he's not afraid to fight zombies, or anyone else with a screw loose for that matter, and he doesn't have any reason to stick around but he does. He could have left already for Albany and make it by time the rest of us finally get moving. But instead he's here, helping us find food and shit so we all might make it."
"Like I said, he's good. Don't knock him like that. Would you rather still have Eric?"
"I'd rather no one died. Yesterday was tough on all of us. Eric wasn't himself. Yeah, shooting Sarah was inexcusable, but we would have dealt with it; Mike would have dealt with it. He didn't deserve to die for it."
"Remember what Steve said he wanted to do?"
"And Steve's wrong, too. We can't just kill each other. We're no better than those things then."
"It's not the same," Tara said but Jenny wasn't talking anymore. They searched the kitchen cabinets and loaded up what they could in silence. Tara opened the refrigerator but found the food inside had become rank from the power being out too long. "That's all I think we'll find in this house," Tara stated as they made their way back to the front.
"Rhett?" Tara asked upon seeing an abandoned doorway "Rhett, where are you?" Rhett came jogging in from outside. "What the hell? she asked. Rhett pointed into another room. Tara turned the corner and saw a motionless body in the next room. "Oh shit," she said. "It's got a steak knife rammed in its eye socket," Rhett said "And a fuck ton of blood. Footsteps then lead away, too small to be made by that thing. Whatever happened, someone got hurt, and everyone left in a hurry to get help. Footsteps lead outside and to the driveway where a car would be."
"How long ago?" Jenny asked. Rhett shrugged "Can't have been that long ago."
"So..." Jenny said as she nervously gripped her backpack "These people are coming back."
"Probably not," Rhett said.
"They left to get help. They're coming back."
"They're not. They left with an infected to get help they'll never find."
"I'm not stealing from these people," Jenny said as she marched back to the kitchen and dumped the contents of her bag onto the table. "What are you doing?" Tara asked. "These people are alive and might come back," Jenny said.
"We need that food," Tara reminded her.
"We have enough. We don't need anything," Jenny said as she swung her empty bag around her back and stared at Tara.
"I'm not dumping this shit out if that's what your waiting for."
"If these people come back and find their food gone..." Jenny started but shook her head. "It's just as good as us trying to kill them."
"If we have to confirm the demise of everyone living at every house we loot before we actually take anything, it's gonna be a long God damn day," Rhett complained.
"I know you wouldn't have a problem with this," Jenny snapped.
"Yeah, I don't have a problem with trying to stay alive."
"Guys, don't" Tara tried to intervene, but both sides ignored her.
"You're essentially trying to kill these people, and I know how comfortable you are with killing people," Jenny said, her tone raising as she talked.
"The people who lived here are essentially dead," Rhett said back "If you're so concerned about them, why don't you stick around and wait for them to come home."
"We can take from other places."
"We just got done robbing a fucking gas station!" Rhett shouted "Where do you draw the line? We do what we have to in order to survive!"
"That doesn't mean we become monsters."
Rhett shook his head "If you think we're monsters now..." he said.
"Not us," Jenny said as she walked passed him for the front "Just you."
Tara stood uncomfortably by and waited for Rhett. "I'm sorry," she said "We should have tried to get into that first house."
"Doesn't matter," Rhett said as he grabbed a can of food on the table and opened it "Albany, then I'm out. Any longer and I'll be pissing off too many of you fuckers."
"No," Tara said "She's wrong. But we're not exactly right. I dunno."
"What do you think about what I did to Eric?"
"I don't like to think about it."
"Shit's gone to hell out here and he tried to kill me. I don't owe any of you a God damn thing, so when he tried to kill me, I fucking made sure he didn't get another chance. I'm not trying to make any friends out here, I'm just trying to stay alive. I don't give a fuck if none of you idiots like me."
"No one's asking you to be the nicest person here."
"Tell me to leave, Tara. Tell me to leave right now and I'm in my car and gone in the next five minutes."
"Mike and all them are finding a new car for themselves anyway. Tell me to leave and I'm history, just another face in the apocalypse."
"Because I don't want you to go!" Tara shouted "I don't want you to go after Albany either, I don't want you to go at all. I don't care if nobody likes you and I don't care if you hate everyone here. We're in this together and I don't give a shit about who likes who. No one makes it if we don't help each other. I don't make it without you.
"I was there when Eric shot Sarah. I saw the look in his eyes when he turned and shot you. I tried to kill him. I raised the gun you gave me and I aimed and I just...couldn't do it. And I saw the look in his eyes, like he had changed. He was someone different, and I was afraid of what he was going to do, to me. I couldn't pull the trigger.
"I've never killed anything before, never shot a gun. I thought maybe it was his gun, like the magnum gave him confidence to go out and kill anything without worry. I'm terrified of all this. I'm still terrified. This whole situation feels hopeless. But you show up and I feel like maybe we can make it. We, not you, we. You alone are going to get killed. I don't want you to die any more than I don't want to die."
Rhett stood there with his jaw set. Tara kept eye contact with his, waiting for a reply. "I don't go anywhere after Albany without Jake," he finally said. "If Albany is legit and we can get to Safe Haven from there..." Tara said "Then I'll wait with you until he shows up. Or go with you to get him, wherever that is." Rhett smiled as he nodded. "Deal," he said.