LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

if we were vampires. by frostfall

This is a sequel/companion piece to 'so you hit the lights and i'll lock the doors', which isn't necessary to read to follow this story. But I do recommend reading it all the same. Here's the link to that: https://www.lpfiction.com/story.php?id=16552


Warning: This story has some stuff involving anxiety, death, and suicidal thoughts.


Title and song inspiration comes from 'If We Were Vampires' by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.


This story is dedicated to lpfan503 and Violet Raven who told me how much they loved the first one. Hope you enjoy this one too.




*****




It’s sundown, which means it’s time to set up camp.


Travelling at night would mean certain death. Death by the undead, by looters, by the feral wild. The new world is terrible like that.


Tonight, sanctuary is in the open fields without a fire. Mike thinks the land used to be a farm. Corn, maybe. He wouldn’t know. The crops have long shriveled up.


Chester lights a cigarette. Years ago, Mike would’ve reprimanded him for his idiocy. Smoke could give themselves away. Instead, he reprimands him for different reasons.


“Why?”


Mike glances up, his fingers brushing against the shafts of his arrows. There’s about eleven left. This morning, it was fifteen.


“What?”


Chester has the cigarette squeezed between his fingers, watching silver circlets leave his lips. “Why? Why do you want me to quit so much?”


Mike doesn’t miss a beat. “You know why.”


Their eyes find another, between cigarette smoke and barren fields. Neither of them speak to each other for the rest of the night.




*****




They decided long ago it’ll only be the two of them.


Chester is adamant of not being rooted in one place with no way out. Neither does he wish to travel in packs, surrounded by the living. “The more people there are, the more likely those…things will smell us,” he reasoned once. “Or however they sense us. Best we should go at it alone.”


Mike quirked his lips to the side. “You think we should split up?”


Chester rolled his eyes, playfully nudging him with his shoulder. Mike noticed the tremble of his lips. He didn’t point it out.


Maybe he should’ve, should’ve comforted him. He should’ve said everything will be okay if they stick together even if he doesn’t believe it.


But now tangled in sheets, droplets of sweat trickling down his body, Mike’s glad it’s the only the two of them. He doesn’t think he could bear sharing the gasps, the touch, the feeling.


“You’re an asshole,” Mike comments as he tightens his grip. His fingers dig into hips marred by battle scars. He wonders what it must be like to hold them when ink was the only thing etched onto skin. Talinda would know.


Chester barks out a laugh. The dimming sunlight brings out the sparkle behind his coffee orbs. It’s one of the few things that hasn’t changed since they met a lifetime ago.


He bares his teeth, flashes his infamous Cheshire grin. Mike’s tempted to slap him upside the head. It’ll be difficult to do it while Chester’s on top, reducing to a writhing mess.


Instead, Mike leans forward to swallow his laughter.




*****




“You look familiar,” tells a woman with a creased brow and receding hairline. She peers at him through thick-rimmed glasses, the cracked lenses gleaming under the warm sunset.


It’s been a while since Mike has heard those words uttered to him. They were always uttered on rainy sidewalks or bustling coffee shops. Not in a tent with gaping holes and the stench of shit wafting through the air.


He hates to admit how much he likes it, the anonymity. Probably one of the few good things that came with the apocalypse. Sanctuaries like these don’t have time for has-beens.


“Have we met?” the woman continues as she turns away to grab another a couple of canned beans. Mike’s sick of canned beans. But it’s either that or starve. Today isn’t one of the days he finds starving appealing.


“No,” he answers, thinking of MTV and trashy tabloids and massive billboards, “we haven’t.”




*****




“Promise me,” Mike had said many months ago while they filled the grave with dirt and snow.


Chester had stilled, his fingers tightened around his shovel. “I’ll do it if you do the same for me.”


Mike inhaled sharply. He dreaded this. He isn’t not strong enough to do it.


He swore anyway.




*****




Things are different now. Everything’s different now. Mike isn’t sure if he likes it.


He thinks of his wife and his kids, all six feet under. He thinks of guitars and crowds and flashes from a time long ago. He thinks of blood brothers and childish pacts that didn’t make it.


He thinks about the past most of the time. Sometimes, the future. Rarely of the present.


Tonight, it’s the past. Mike makes a point to revisit it when Chester’s asleep. Chester worries about him when he does it. He hates worrying Chester. He already has his own demons to fight with.


Most times, his visits are through fragmented memories in his head. Occasionally, he sifts through the instant film in his wallet, plastered with memories lost in time.


Mike doesn’t wallow long. It’s most likely past midnight. He has hunting duty when the sun rises.


So he shuts his eyes and takes it all in. Of the heaviness propped on his shoulder, of the creased brow against his cheek, of jagged toenails grazing his own bare toes, of the steady heartbeats intertwining as one.


This is one of those rare times he revels in the present.




*****




He sees it again, that look. He’s seen it reflected in Chester’s eyes during their baggy jeans and dyed hair days. He’s seen it reflected in his own eyes as he stares himself in the mirror.


Oftentimes, it’s during skirmishes with zombies or mental breakdowns in tiny spaces. This time, it’s both.


Mike finds him deep in the bathroom stall, covered in stale vomit and dried blood. Chester’s shaking. His body is shaking and his pistol is by his feet. Mike’s sure it’s loaded.


All signs that Mike has fucked up again, another reason why he should’ve died long ago.


He almost says it out loud, the words barely hanging on his lips. Chester’s voice runs through his mind so Mike cleans him up instead.


“You said you wouldn’t leave,” he murmurs as he stitches up Chester’s wound.


A sudden hiss falls out of Chester’s lips as the needle penetrates his skin. It’s a better response than Mike thought he’ll get. He’s heard worse.


Chester manages a smile, gentle like the drizzle outside. Mike wonders if the rainfall will wash away the blood clinging to his own skin. There isn’t any water here to clean himself with. “But I didn’t. I’ll never leave you.”


It’s a lie and Mike knows it. He’s sure Chester does too.




*****




It’s his idea.


Mike freezes, his empty fork halfway between his lips and his plastic cup.


“I thought you didn’t want to stay in one place?” he asks quietly. It’s another night, another end to their trek to nowhere. This time, they’re in a large warehouse that once produced cup noodles. They are well-stocked for the next couple of months. Mike will be sick of them by the end of the week.


“Yeah,” Chester says. Mike has never heard him so sure of something before. “But I’m tired of wandering around. I’ll be honest, I’m kinda tired of running around. My old age is catching up with me. Think it’s about time to start growing some cabbages or something.”


Mike laughs at the last part. He knows Chester. He’ll change his mind a week into domesticity. “Where do you wanna go?”


A soft smile spreads across his lips as he leans forward. His breath tickles Mike’s ear, sending a tremor down his spine.


“Anywhere,” he murmurs. “As long as it’s with you.”




*****




Sometimes, Mike wonders if it’s worth it. Living among the dead. Living when there’s knowledge of turning, of the danger of dying at any moment in ways he can’t fathom.


His dreams don’t make it easy either, the dead taunting him, begging him to join them. There are countless of times he’s tempted to follow.


But then he wakes up, with tangled limbs and shallow breathing against his neck, and he clings on. At least, for the moment.


After all, he made a promise.




*****




Mike could easily recall the night it all fell apart. He could remember screams and gunfire and blood and hell.


And running. They were running and running and running away from the screams and gunfire and blood and hell when he slipped through his fingers, slowly falling and fading and—


Chester had cried out, tumbling to the ground. Back then, it had never crossed Mike’s mind to leave him behind, to seek asylum. Asylum is nothing without Chester.


“We have to go,” Mike said, tugging him by the wrist. “We— We have to go.”


Chester didn’t move a muscle. The light behind his brown eyes had long died.


“We have to go to them,” Mike pleaded. “Talinda, your kids. Everybody back in Arizona. In LA. We need to go find them.”


He didn’t receive a response.


“Please,” Mike whispered, falling to his knees. It had been a night of many firsts. “Ches, get up. Please. I can’t do this without you. I can’t.”


After a long pause, their eyes met, a spark of recognition behind Chester’s eyes.


“I love you,” Mike murmured, his cracked voice inaudible amidst the hell raging around them. “Please.”


The world fell silent around them.




*****




They chance upon an abandoned fair one hot afternoon.


It’s eerie, walking past trashed food stands and rusted rides. Mike paints images in his mind, of the shrieking laughter and sweet cotton candy and balloons flying in the air.


“I always wanted to ride one of these with somebody,” Chester says as they happen upon a Ferris wheel. He runs his fingers across one of the compartment doors. It used to be purple, maybe a light lavender. “Always wanted to kiss them at the top. Faraway from the world. Towering over skyscrapers. It would’ve been nice.”


“It does sound nice,” Mike echoes, not knowing what to say. “It sounds wonderful.”


Chester’s genuine smile fades into a bitter one. “Yeah, well… Too late for that now.”


Mike’s heart cracks. “No, it isn’t,” he says, tugging Chester inside. There’s some resistance but it all disappears when Mike settles his palms on Chester’s shoulders.


They’re neither away from the world or towering over skyscrapers. It’s good enough.




*****




Good days are scarce but they try making the best of it. That’s all everybody can hope for in times like these.


Mike isn’t one for dealing with emotions. He’s the leader of a band, the captain of the ship. He’s the one who picks people up. He’s the one who reins everybody in. He’s the one who bottles it up for the sake of everything.


Which makes him terrible at handling grief. It’s why he pushes Chester away to cower in the basement of a house they’re holing up for the night.


It’s dark and dank. It’s a perfect place to lose himself for the night. Nobody can see him like this. He hates this, feeling this powerless and worthless. He has never felt this low before the world ended.


Mike wonders if that’s how Chester feels when the voices come for him.


“Mike?”


Arms snake around his body, pulling him into the floor, deep into the abyss where he belongs.


“I’m here,” the arms coos, beckoning him to fall into them. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”


They’re wrong. He’s not okay. He shouldn’t be here. Not when his family is dead. Not when his friends are dead. Not when he betrayed them all for a life with death and demons.


“It’s today, isn’t it?” the arm asks, strong and steady.


“I don’t know,” Mike replies, weary and feeble.




*****




In a gift shop at the far end of a town filled with the undead, they find a camera.


“It’s a Polaroid,” Chester remarks as he fiddles with the dials.


“Polaroid is the brand,” Mike corrects him as he sheathes his machete. “It’s an instant camera.”


Chester smirks. “Well, well. Look who’s the smarty pants here.”


Mike shakes his head, reaching over. He had one of these once upon a time. His children loved them.


They take a couple of shots before the batteries die. They spend the next minute squabbling over who should own the better photo. It reminds Mike of squabbles over which single would do the album justice. Mike never thought he’d long for that again.


“Sucks that it ran out of juice,” Chester comments as Mike sets the camera down. “Would’ve like to take some pics of us when we fuck.”


Mike chokes on his saliva.




*****




They don’t take long finding a good place to settle in.


It’s a farmhouse somewhere between California and New York. It’s quaint. Rustic. Plain. Minimal. It reminds Mike of the early days when he was scraping by.


Most importantly, it remains untainted by the dead.


It takes them a while to get settled in, to turn the emptiness whole. They grow plants and dust rooms. They station necessities at doorways and sort through perishables. They run off to kill and gather. They travel to the desolate town that’s an hour’s walk away to resupply when they must.


It’s a lot of work. They rise in the wee hours of the morning and fall asleep when darkness falls. Mike doesn’t spend much time thinking of the past or the future like he usually does. He’s too busy being in the present to think.




*****




There’s a record player in the attic.


There’s a record player in the attic and all Mike could think of is Joe.


There’s a record player in the attic and all Mike could think of is Joe and he wants the world to swallow him whole.


“He hated these,” he murmurs, watching Chester pick it up, giving it a once-over.


Chester raises an eyebrow. He’s surveying him as his thumbs brush across the player. Mike has an idea on what’s going through his mind. “What?”


“He hated these,” Mike repeats, shoving his hands in his pockets. He won’t let Chester see him falter. “He used to say Crosley record players suck.”


Chester manages a small smile, filled with kindness. “Only one way to find out.”


There’s a box of vinyl next to the record. They’re all country and Americana records, most of the artists Mike has heard of in passing. They aren’t his cup of tea.


They listen to one and drink beer in silence. It’s a wonderful record. Mike wishes they have a better player.


“He was right,” Chester remarks as the fourth song ends. “The sound quality sucks ass.”


Mike laughs, torn between amusement and tears. Chester watches him carefully before holding out a hand.


The next song is a quiet ballad, of love and death and time. Mike can’t think of anything more appropriate.


They aren’t dancers so they sway to the music. Even though it’s a beautiful song, Mike finds it hard concentrating. Not when certain lyrics replay in his mind. Not when Chester’s holding him like that.


Not when all he can think of is that, I’m gonna lose him one day just like everybody else and I’ll be all alone and I don’t know if I could live like that. I don’t know if I could live alone.


It’s only when the song ends does he realize he has ruined Chester’s shirt. Chester has ruined his too.




*****




If there’s anything Mike is grateful for, is that Chester’s the one with him right now.


There are a lot of reasons why he wouldn't want anybody else with him but Chester. He hates that. He hates that he rather be with Chester than his flesh and blood or friends he knew longer than him.


But he can’t imagine anybody else in Chester’s place. He can’t imagine talking into anybody else into the night. He can’t imagine anybody else having his back during fights. He can’t imagine anybody else keeping the promise he made Chester keep, even if he doesn’t think he could do the same.


So all he could do is pray for the dead and keep both him and Chester safe. The last thing he wants to be is on either end of the trigger.


Chester is the last person he wants to kill. He’ll readily kill himself first.




*****




Since technology is dead, they have to make do with what’s lying around the house.


There are shelves of books for Chester to scan through and empty sketchbooks for Mike to fill. When that gets tiresome, they explore the attic and basement.


Whoever that lived here must enjoy collecting everything and anything because there’s jars of coins and candy wrappers dating back to the 1940s and retro video games and stamps from Tibet and Zimbabwe.


This time, they go through an intensive collection of DVDs. Mike gives up ten minutes into it and sketches Chester out instead.


Chester grins as he tosses him an old copy of Titanic. “Mike,” he says seriously, “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls.”


Mike rolls his eyes and chucks a paper ball at his head.




*****




Everything morphs into a routine but instead of surviving, they’re living. It’s mundane and boring and Mike wouldn’t have it any other way.




*****




“Marry me,” Chester breathes against the side of his neck.


Mike’s heart skips a beat. Or maybe it’s Chester’s. It could even be the thunderstorm raging outside. “You don’t have rings.”


“I have them,” Chester replies easily, propped on one elbow. “They’re at Tiffany’s. I just need to go and rob the place tomorrow.”


Outside, thunder booms and lightning flashes.


Mike laughs so hard until he cries. Chester closes the distance between them.




*****




They tie the knot as soon as they reach home from looting, with falling leaves and the azure sky as their witnesses.


Mike’s a mess during the whole day. His arrow barely misses a zombie, he stumbles over his vows multiple of times, and he squishes Chester’s foot during their first dance.


Between all that, he cries for the people he has to let go of. So does Chester.


It’s still the best day of his life.




*****




Summer shifts to autumn. Chester continues insisting of staying put. Because of that, they venture to town to stock up for the upcoming winter.


“So,” Chester declares as he holds out a packet of Twinkies in one hand and a bar of dark chocolate in the other, “which will it be?”


Mike makes a face as he paws through bags of cashews and pistachios. “Is that even a question?”


Chester grins as he drops both into his backpack. “True. Both, it is.”


Mike shakes his head fondly as he turns to grab several bags of peanuts.


Tonight, Chester will be making them cup noodles for dinner. They’ll share the chocolate between them afterwards. It’s their cheat day.


And then, they’ll sit on the front porch. Mike will read to Chester one of the Narnia books he’s in the middle of. Chester would smoke another stick and interrupt him. They’ll break into laughter and fall into a discussion like they always do.


It almost feels normal, like the world hasn’t ended. That’s all Mike can hope for.




*****




Funny enough, I've been working on this for months but then I got stuck. But while I was sifting through unfinished works yesterday, I found this and got hit with inspiration.


Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this. Would love to hear what you thought of it!

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