I’m sorry it’s taking so long. I think this might be the longest I’ve gone without publishing something, which sucks, and scared me when I fully realized that.
The good news is that I’m taking this whole week to basically just make a shitload of progress on Haven 2. It’s at least 1/3 done as of right now, and when this week is over, it should be at least 2/3 finished, possibly more. I am going to try very hard to have it out in July.
For now, here is the first chapter.
And if you are a 1$/month Patron over on my Patreon, you can read the first AND second chapter right here!
Even in the cold light of day, David couldn’t shake the uneasiness that had settled over him since the previous night.
After the bandits broke in and had forced the situation that resulted in two deaths, he thought he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. He hadn’t wanted to, not at first, but Evelyn had offered to stand guard the rest of the night. He wanted to at least share the responsibility with her, but she’d told him that goliaths didn’t need quite as much sleep as humans, and they didn’t want to put the responsibility on April, she was shaken enough as it was. David didn’t know if Evelyn had been lying about the sleep thing to make him feel better, but finally he’d relented after making her promise to wake him up if anything else happened, or, barring that, at dawn.
Then he’d laid down with April, and had held her. She had cried a bit, and he understood. He was halfway there himself, that had scared the shit out of him, and he imagined it must’ve been worse for her. She’d seemed embarrassed, but shortly after she was done, she’d fallen back asleep. At some point, he’d drifted off as well.
There had been nightmares, and several times he’d woken and shifted, rolling over to check and see that Evelyn was still there, still safe, still okay. She always was. She sat at the table with a book and a candle, lit by it and the mellow glow of the fireplace behind her. Whenever he looked at her, she could tell, and she’d smile and tell him to go back to sleep. Although he’d probably gotten six or maybe even seven hours of sleep, it had been very broken sleep, and he felt kind of shitty right now. But he at least felt properly motivated.
Evelyn seemed pretty much normal, but April was still subdued and anxious. She hadn’t seemed like she’d wanted to stay behind, nor had she wanted to leave, and he felt bad for her. Ultimately she recognized the reality of her situation and had gone with them. As soon as Evelyn had gotten them up, they’d eaten a quick breakfast and then begun packing their most important possessions, mainly the food, the ammo, and the medicine. They had split it between them, as well as a few of their more personal items, then they’d headed out.
It was a crisp, chilly morning, bright with cold sunlight shining down on them through dead trees, made brighter by the layer of frosted snow that covered everything. David had been able to see the bootprints in the snow even in the morning. It made the whole thing scarier somehow, maybe more real. Last night had obviously been real, but when he’d first woken up, he’d wondered if he’d had a nightmare or something. Things that happened suddenly in the night often seemed unreal or impossible in the morning.
But this had happened, and they were acting on it.
At least that was helping. David had spent the first part of his life in fear. The world was fucking terrifying. His parents had done much to shelter him from the worst of it, which was good, because he’d be dead now if they hadn’t, he was almost positive. But they had at least prepared him some as well. He knew how to shoot, reload, and even clean a gun by the time he was twelve. And he was good at it within two years. He’d adopted a workout regimen that kept him in decent shape, limber, and fast. He was decently strong, but he was definitely faster and more dexterous. Which was also good, because otherwise he’d also be dead.
He’d started doing things more often than not maybe five years ago.
It had come sort of as a realization, one of those weird, startling revelations that slammed into you. He’d been trapped in a shack in the middle of nowhere, alone, with zombies outside, and he was going over options in his head. He’d wanted to just wait it out, because eventually they’d wander off...probably. Or at least there were supposed to be other people out and about in the area, and they’d come find him...maybe.
But then he’d just looked down at the gun he was holding, and then up, out the single window of the shack, and it had just kind of come to him: this is what he always did. He always tried to wait it out, he always tried to hide, he always tried to pawn the responsibility off on anybody else, and he suddenly, almost violently, hated that aspect of himself. Even to this day, even right now, he couldn’t explain what had led to this abrupt reversal. He only knew that he’d made a tectonic shift that day, a massive change, and he had emerged from that shack and shot five zombies in the head, and had gone back to the settlement he was staying at a different person.
Now that the knowledge of how he honestly, truly acted had been highlighted for him, he’d begun to recognize it for what it was, and while he didn’t always take action, he did far more often than ever before. And so now, here he was, taking action again. It was necessary, although there was a part of him that was anxious about this. There was a lot to be done, if they were going to make this place, these abandoned campgrounds, their new home.
“Are you doing okay, April?” Evelyn asked.
David glanced over. April still looked sullen and withdrawn. Although now she looked a touch angry. “I’m fine,” she said curtly.
“April-” he began.
“I’m fine!” she snapped.
He stopped, and so did Evelyn. April walked another few paces before slowing to a halt. She didn’t turn around though.
“April...please,” David said. “We’re not trying to be difficult.”
She heaved an explosive sigh and turned around finally. “I know! Fuck! I...I’m sorry,” she said, her shoulders slumping. Her tail twitched behind her. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I’m not trying to be difficult. I’m just...angry. I’m such a fucking coward and I hate it so fucking much but I don’t know how to be brave.”
“You’re here, now,” Evelyn said.
“After arguing with you about it,” she muttered. She sighed and shook her head. “And now I’m wasting time with this. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to do what you two do, what Ellie does. How to not be afraid and do shit.”
“I’m afraid,” David said.
“You don’t look like it,” April replied uncertainly.
“I know. But I am. I was fucking terrified last night. You’ve probably heard this before, but being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Only sociopaths or people with genetic defects don’t feel fear. Some people feel less, certainly, and that can be learned, over time, but most everyone feels fear. Bravery is doing stuff in spite of fear. You could have demanded to stay home, locked away in the basement, waited for us to make sure it was safe, but you didn’t. That’s brave. You were scared but you did it anyway.”
She stared at him for a few seconds, then looked over at Evelyn. Finally, she spoke. “I want you to do me a favor, both of you.”
“What?” Evelyn asked.
“Put more pressure on me to do things. I mean, not crazy risky things, but stuff that needs to be done. You know, don’t be mean to me, but help me out with this. I’ll try not to be too much of a pain in the ass about it,” she said.
“I can do that,” Evelyn replied.
David nodded. “We can help you with this.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate it,” she said. “We should keep going.”
They kept walking.
David began to feel better as they reached the campgrounds.
It was oddly comforting to see them. The buildings, the fence, the surrounding forest. It looked like a fairly defensible position, once they’d made some repairs. And put some barbed wire on the top. That would definitely help.
“What first?” April murmured.
“We need to secure the area. Anyone or anything could’ve gotten in since the last time we were here. After that, we can decide the specifics of our new home,” David replied.
“I wanna live in the big building,” April murmured, glancing at the three-story structure.
“Same,” Evelyn replied.
“Then it’s decided, we’ll live there. Evelyn, I’m thinking we should split up, you go right, I go left, we search the cabins one by one until we meet on the other side, then we search the main building,” David said.
“Sounds good to me,” Evelyn replied.
“What about me?” April asked.
David had been considering that. “I have a job for you. I need you to check the perimeter, the space between the backs of the cabins and the fence, to see if anything or anyone is inside.” He handed her his pistol and a spare magazine. “Do you feel comfortable doing that?”
She frowned, then accepted the pistol. “I can do it,” she replied. “I will do it.”
“Good. Thank you. Shout if you see anything. When you’re finished, wait for us in the center of the campgrounds.”
She turned and walked off after checking over the pistol with a reassuring certainty. David had the suspicion that April wasn’t as bad at things as she thought she was. She just needed some more confidence. And the only way to build confidence was to do things. Typically successfully doing things helped, but he was surprised how many times he’d failed, and felt better than if he’d never tried at all. He watched her go, then grabbed his shotgun and nodded to Evelyn. She nodded back. They headed into the main area and looked around.
Seeing nothing, they split up and began their search of the cabins. David settled into his search mentality, focusing on the here and now, listening for anything, looking for clues that might tip off if someone had been here recently. Or if someone was still here. Or something. The newer ones were smart enough to hide in wait, which was a whole new level of terrifying. He cleared the first cabin, finding nothing but empty rooms and lonely places. After checking it, he moved on to the next one. And this was how the next half an hour passed. David suspected that no one was here, and by the time they met back at the main building, he’d been proven right. At least so far. Neither Evelyn nor April reported seeing anything.
They headed into the main building. It looked undisturbed. They took the time to search the building over top to bottom, and found nothing. Although David found a bathroom on the third floor that he’d overlooked initially.
“Okay...now what?” Evelyn asked as they came to stand back down in the main room of the first floor.
“First, who gets where for bedrooms? How do we wanna do that?” David replied.
“Well, given my size and the fact that you’re my boyfriend, I say we get that master bedroom up on the third floor,” Evelyn said.
“Fair enough. April?”
“Well, I want to be near you, but I would also like my own space, so I think the smaller bedroom next to the master bedroom up there would make the most sense,” she replied.
“Perfect. I think the next order of business is to empty our packs somewhere safe. Ideally one of us would stay here and guard it, but...I really think we should get everything out today, which will happen faster if all of us are transporting.”
“I’m okay with that,” April replied.
“Yeah. I think this place is secure. And I’m pretty decent at hiding things,” Evelyn said.
“Perfect. Let’s do it.”
As they made their way back home, David was happy to note that he was feeling a lot better. This was going very smoothly so far. Although it could all go to hell very abruptly, which he tried not to think about. That was just the nature of life nowadays. More so than ever before. As they came to their previous home, he felt fear shoot into him as he saw someone standing outside the door, waiting, but he relaxed when they turned to face him.
He recognized this person.
“Ashley?” he asked.
“Hello David. Hello Evelyn. Thank you again for rescuing me.” She looked at April. “We haven’t been introduced,” she said, and put her hand forward.
April took it tentatively. “I’m April.”
“Good to meet you. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah...mostly,” Evelyn replied.
“We were attacked last night. We’re fine, but we’ve decided to live somewhere a bit more secure,” David answered.
“Oh. Well, that sucks, but I’m glad it turned out okay.”
“Did you need something?” he asked.
“Yes. Well, not need per say, more want. My parents are...too cautious. My whole family is. Understandable, given the circumstances, but cautious isn’t always the answer. I’ve been scouting, I’ve found a few buildings I think are worth checking out, and I’m not reckless, so I figured I’d ask for some backup. And you came to mind,” she said.
David glanced at the other two women. “How do you feel about that?”
“We can handle this,” Evelyn replied. She had a small smile on her face. “Go have fun.”
David hesitated. There was something about the way she’d said that. He didn’t think that this excursion would be particularly fun.
Unless she thought something else was going to happen.
He glanced again at Ashley. Well, it would be nice to have fun with her.
“Okay, uh, let’s go then,” he said. “I’ll meet you both back at the camp.”
He gave each of them a hug and a kiss, then joined Ashley. She looked at him, a very small smile on her face, then she glanced back at the other two women, then she turned and began walking. David followed after her, wondering what that had been about. Obviously there was some kind of subtle thing happening, but he’d always been a bit on the slow side when it came to subtlety. In a way he found that he was missing some crucial sense. It was like being deaf but not blind. You sure as hell could see gunfire, but you had no idea what it sounded like.
“So...” she said after a few minutes as they walked south.
“So?” he replied.
“I saw you give both of them a kiss. On the mouth.”
“Uh...yeah. I did.”
“I kind of suspected you and Evelyn had something sultry going on, based on how you two interacted when you saved me. But I didn’t know you had another girl, let alone another inhuman,” she said.
“And what do you think about that?” he replied after a moment.
She laughed loudly. “That was an incredibly neutral statement. Don’t worry, I’m not judging you. I don’t disapprove. I approve, actually. Takes guts to date an inhuman.”
“Why?” he asked. It came out more defensive than he meant it to.
“Oh, not for the reason you might think. I’m not saying it takes guts to like an inhuman, you like who you like. We don’t get to pick our crushes. No, it takes guts to date an inhuman. To act on those feelings. I mean, for both of you. We humans aren’t the only ones who can be racist. I respect your relationship...relationships. Not just interracial, but polyamorous, too. Now that’s interesting.” She paused. “Is this weird?”
“A little,” he admitted.
“Should we stop talking about it?”
“I mean...no, we don’t have to.”
“Okay, good. I’m curious. What’s it like with them? What’s the exact nature of your relationship?”
“Why do you wanna know?” he replied, honestly curious.
“I told you: it’s interesting. I love interesting things.”
“Fair enough, I guess. Evelyn and I met maybe two weeks ago on the road. We became fast friends, and then we...hooked up, the night River View fell. We decided that, since we liked each other and were really attracted to each other, we should be boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Very cute. And April?”
“Well, we rescued her from River View by chance. She was trapped and injured. We’re not exactly boyfriend and girlfriend, but we are sexually involved. I mean, I guess we’re not not boyfriend and girlfriend. Evelyn is happy for us. April is...tender. I’m attracted to her and I want to make her happy, make her feel good.”
“And I bet it makes you feel really good to fuck that rep pussy.”
He chuckled nervously, feeling heat rushing to his cheeks. “I mean...yeah.”
“I’ve only ever been with an inhuman once. A jag girl who was about ten years older than me. Hundreds of miles from here awhile ago. It was...extremely good.”
“Yeah...” he murmured, thinking of Ellie.
“Oh? You’ve been with a jag, too?”
“You’re blushing...do you have a third girlfriend?” she asked, suddenly interested again, grinning broadly.
“Wow, you fucking get around. Rep, goliath, and jag? Who is she?”
“Just someone I met out and about. She’s...I don’t want to talk about it really?”
“Oh? Why not?”
“I don’t really know how she feels about our relationship. Not that we really have one. We’re friends...I think. She’s secretive, but I guess she likes me, given how many times we’ve fucked. But I don’t know if she’d be okay with other people knowing about us. I mean, Evelyn and April know, but I don’t want to make her upset or embarrassed or uncomfortable, you know?”
“That’s fair. I really respect that. Most guys can’t shut the fuck up about the chicks they’ve fucked.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to talk about it, honestly. Evelyn and April are both very beautiful, but this woman is...something else. Just...wow. She’s amazing.”
“You are in lust with her.”
“Yeah. Really bad. She’s just...she’s something else. But again, she has a right to privacy.”
“Well, I think highly of that. Hey, there’s the first building.”
He could see it. It was another abandoned cabin, (how many of them were there sprinkled throughout the region?), and it looked to be in pretty bad shape. The front door was open. Something about that didn’t sit right with him.
David pulled out his pistol.
As they approached, he heard something shift inside. Both of them froze. Could be anything in there: an undead, an animal, a human that may or may not intend harm. He glanced at Ashley. She had drawn her own sidearm.
“Back me up,” he whispered, and when she nodded to him, he began making his way towards the front door.
Another sound came to him as he crept closer, but it was so faint. Whatever it was had to be fairly stealthy. Which kind of narrowed it down. David reached the porch and stepped onto it. It creaked loudly under his boot and he winced. Something let out another sound, this one entirely organic, and he heard light footsteps rapidly approaching.
“Shit!” he snapped, and began backing off.
Before he could make it more than two steps away from the cabin, a stalker appeared in all its undead, horrifying glory. He aimed and fired. It was a good shoot and punched a hole right through its forehead, dropping the creature in an instant. He wasn’t ready for the one immediately behind it. He fired and missed, still backpedaling.
Ashley was ready.
She put two shots into its head, one in the right eye, one in its mouth, and blew its rotting brains out. David prepared himself for another assault, but no more of them came. He slowly let out his breath, shaking slightly.
Those things always scared the shit out of him.
“Fuck, I hate those fuckers,” Ashley snapped. Apparently she felt much the same way.
“We should make sure there’s no more of them,” David said after a few seconds.
“Yeah,” she muttered. “Let’s get it over with.”
They moved carefully into the cabin and did a search of it, but found nothing hanging out in any of the shadowy niches or hidden areas. Once they were sure it was safe, they began their secondary search, hunting for useful supplies. The feeling of anxiety began to abate as they settled in, and David found himself wanting to know more about her. Already, he felt that Ashley was an intriguing person, definitely the kind he was interested in.
And not just because she was in really good shape and had a really beautiful face, but also because of her personality.
He seemed to be drawn to women like her.
“So how have things been going with your family?” he asked.
“Fine, I guess. We’ve been fighting a little.” She hesitated, then looked guilty. “I guess more than a little. We’re kind of different. We didn’t used to be, or at least not this much, but the past year has changed my parents. They’ve always been cautious, I’ve always been...”
She snorted. “No!...maybe. I was going to say bold or maybe daring, but yeah, I guess, if I’m being honest, reckless. I’m less so now, because they rely on me a lot. My dad’s like twelve years older than my mom, and she obviously isn’t young anymore, so he can’t really do as much. I mean, he’s in good shape for his age, but, you know, for his age is kind of a low bar. I mean, not that I’m dumping on him or anything. My dad’s a great guy. He used to be more like me, not reckless but he would risk his life a lot for us. He almost died six months ago, broke his arm, and I think that...kinda knocked a lot of his confidence out of him. Which my mom likes, in that she likes him not risking his life all the time. She’s very capable, but really cautious...”
She sighed suddenly. He looked over at her. She had been digging through a box, but now she was staring at the wall in front of her.
“What?” he asked.
“I just...I was going to leave. I’m twenty six now. I’ve been wanting to be on my own for a few years, but my parents kept talking me out of it. And then everything changed when the...the mutations came. Even with all that was happening, I feel like I could leave, just go somewhere on my own, but...my little brother. I can’t stand the thought of abandoning him.”
“I’m sorry,” David murmured.
“Me too.” She laughed suddenly, the sound a little bitter. “Honestly, one of the upsides of what happened recently is that I finally feel the pressure coming off. The pressure to get out and do things, because I’m the most capable person in my household. My parents always had some reason to keep me from going out into the wilderness, looking for adventure. But now? Doesn’t matter what they say, I’m really the only one that can go out and find food, supplies, help. Even then, they still argue with me whenever I head out.”
“Where would you go?” he asked.
“That’s the thing, I don’t even know. It’s not like I have this dream destination in mind or anything. I don’t want to go anywhere specific. I just want to go, you know? Although I’m beginning to wonder if that’s true.”
“What do you mean?”
“The urge to be on my own was...overwhelming, maybe two years ago. I’d run away a lot. I mean, not like run away run away, but, you know, I’d leave. And just take walks. I mean, I know how to defend myself, I’ve got good reflexes, good senses. But it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I’m...not calm, but calmer. I find myself grateful to be with my family more, that we’re all still alive and okay, for the most part. I don’t know, I just wish there was some kind of, you know, some way I could balance the two things.”
“Maybe you can,” David said.
“There was a woman I met earlier, and...what?” he asked. She’d turned to look at him suddenly and she had that smirk on her face again.
“The way you said that...did you sleep with her?”
“I, um, well...” he hesitated, derailed both by her question and by the sudden flood of memories of having amazing sex with Cait.
“How many women have you actually fucked since coming here?” she asked.
“Four,” David replied. “Just four.”
She laughed. “Yeah, just four.”
“I got really lucky. That is nowhere near normal. Like, not even close. This is the most sexual activity I’ve had like...ever. And it was just once with this other woman. But that’s not my point. My point is, she lives a kind of...drifting lifestyle, it seems. She just moves around the region all the time, doing a ton of different things. She has a lot of different places she stays at. You could do something like that, you know? Have wherever your parents are staying be like your home base, and you go back there every few days. But otherwise, you’re out and about, doing things, helping people, looking for supplies, you know?”
“Hmm...” She fell silent, her gaze falling as she thought about it. “That’s actually a really good idea. I guess I never really thought that a middle ground was an actual possibility. I’ll have to think about it. But thank you, that’s a good idea.”
“You’re welcome,” he murmured in reply, sure that he was blushing again.
And now he was thinking about Cait, and the way she moaned for him to impregnate her. Fuck that had been hot. Maybe he should ask Evelyn to ask for the same thing, although it wasn’t quite the same, given he knew he couldn’t impregnate her. Although he knew-well, he didn’t know for a fact that he couldn’t knock Cait up, it was just ridiculously unlikely. Whatever, it had been awesomely hot, and he hoped he saw her again, and that she’d want to fuck him again, because she was probably the hottest human he’d ever seen.
Definitely the hottest he’d ever been with.
They finished searching the cabin and found nothing more than some clothes that might make for semi-decent trading. With the search finished, they left the cabin and moved back out into the crisp winter air.
“What’s next?” he asked.
“There’s a house a little farther north I want to check out,” she replied.
“All right, lead me to it.”
They set off once again.
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