When Night Falls on the City
Author's Notes: Thanks to JB80 for the beta!
Between the train tracks and the lake is where the zombies live.
Fraser would tell him that they're not zombies, that he's being culturally insensitive or something. That it's not their fault they are the way they are.
Maybe he's right.
But Ray's criteria for a zombie can pretty much be summed up by being undead and eating brains, and by that logic, the things that live over there definitely qualify.
Ray used to be a cop. He loved being a cop, and so did Vecchio. But Chicago doesn't need cops anymore. Chicago needs zombie hunters.
It turns out that's something the two of them are good at.
Fraser hates what they do. He still goes to his job at the Consulate every day, still answers the phones and stands guard at the door like it means something. Ray's not sure if it's denial or duty or something else altogether that makes him do it, but the officials in Ottawa haven't bothered stopping him yet, so he still goes.
Even in a dead city, the Mountie stands by his post.
It's poetic, in a way.
Ray and Vecchio come home at night and Fraser has dinner waiting for them. He takes their stained and ragged clothes without a word and puts them in the wash while they're showering. He doesn't bother to ask where each rip came from anymore.
He used to, in the beginning, but he stopped a long time ago.
Nights are quiet now, without the sounds of the city. They're not alone here, but they might as well be. Their nearest neighbor lives three blocks away in an abandoned penthouse apartment. Vecchio wanted to move into a nicer place when the city emptied, but Fraser wouldn't let them.
"It's not right," he said. "What if the owners come back?"
"They're not coming back, Benny," Vecchio said quietly, but he didn't mention it again.
Their apartment is big enough for the three of them anyway, and on the nights when it isn't, they practically have the city to themselves. Traveling alone isn't safe anymore, but Dief is always restless in this eerie city quiet, and he's never unwilling to go for a walk with someone.
He's become an experienced zombie hunter too, but Fraser doesn't know.
It was a tattoo parlor that started the whole thing. Some lab on the east coast figured it out a few months ago, and Vecchio had been sure that it meant they were on their way to finding a cure. They weren't.
They probably aren't even trying.
There was some chemical used in the ink (Ray couldn't tell you what it was, but Fraser probably could), and the labs have been showing that it can revive dead mice. But not really revive them. Make them undead mice.
Cases have been reported elsewhere, but it was only widely used in Chicago. A trade secret, passed around between some of the artists, made the ink better somehow. Ray couldn't care less. They apparently hadn't gotten the secret ingredient at the place he went, that's all he cares about. That's all he can afford to care about.
But it kills him a little, seeing the tattoos on the zombies he and Vecchio hunt. Military tattoos. Wings on the backs of teenage girls. Children's names, faces, birthdates.
The first few times, after finding out, it made him physically sick. He's gotten over it.
That makes him sicker sometimes.
Their life is almost normal, aside from the zombies. When they're alone in the apartment, it's easy to forget, easy to believe that they're probably the weirdest family around. That was how it used to be. Now, not so much.
Fraser's a househusband. He gets a little offended, a little bristly, when Vecchio calls him that, but it's true. He likes that stuff, the cleaning, the laundry, keeping things in order, keeping track of schedules, telling his Rays to be careful on their way out the door. Vecchio does the cooking, when he has the time, but Fraser does it when they come home late, and he does the shopping.
Shopping. That's a joke now. Fraser still leaves money in a little pile on the counter, mostly out of conscience, but probably a little because money doesn't do you any good in this city anymore. The government has long since stopped suppliers from getting in, so they're living on canned goods now. It'll be generations before all the canned goods in Chicago run out, but Vecchio bitches every night about how impossible it is to make anything decent out of glop that's been in a can for god knows how long.
It's routine now, his complaining. It's almost comforting, in a weird way.
There are so many things like that, things that used to be strange, used to be annoying, that now pale in comparison to what they face on a daily basis.
Sleeping, for instance. It should be more complicated with three people, and so should sex, but they're not. Somehow what seemed like too many limbs and too many dicks in the beginning is just the right number now, and he imagines it must be lonely for people with only one other person in their lives.
He doesn't miss that existence.
He falls asleep at night pressed up along Fraser's back, Vecchio sprawled out on the other side of the bed, a leg resting heavily and possessively across both of them. Ray has forgotten how to fall asleep without the steady rhythm of their mingled sleep noises--Vecchio's quiet snores, Fraser's deep even breathing. He's always the last one asleep, and the last one to wake.
Fraser wakes first, and crawls out from between them to make coffee. Vecchio and Ray lie in bed awake, sometimes kissing, sometimes just lying there, too tired to do more than run lazy hands across each other's backs.
Some mornings Ray wakes to the touch of Vecchio's fingers on his arm, and he shivers.
Vecchio watches him as his fingers trace cool lines across the ink on Ray's skin. He's drawn to the marks there, the sharp corners and fading letters. In another life, Ray would have called it a fetish.
Here, he knows it's fear.
"Could have been you," Vecchio said one morning, breath warm against the skin of Ray's arm, and never spoke of it again. It's there, though, in his eyes, when he wakes Ray with a brush of fingers against the mark on his skin.
Could have been me, Ray thinks every morning, looking back at him.
Then they get out of bed, and they dress for the hunt.
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