Eric knew from the start that cutting Kenny's arm off was a bad idea, so he wasn't surprised at all when it started oozing pus after a couple of days. Kenny's skin burned and he never seemed to stop sweating, and it didn't take long for Eric to get sick of the gibberish he was spewing about death and Wendy and saving the world.

He avoided that tent when he could, especially since they had no way of knowing if the amputation even worked. Kenny could go at any moment and Eric definitely didn't want to be in close quarters with him when he turned into one of them.

Kyle, on the other hand, refused to leave Kenny's side, as if he was holding himself personally responsible for his survival. He was responsible, in a way, though Eric blamed everyone fairly equally for this setback since he was the only one who wanted to shoot Kenny right away. But really this was Wendy's fault.

That dumb bitch.

One of Kenny's feverish ramblings lead to the discovery that Wendy had in fact been hiding a bite for days. She was willing to put all of them in danger to save her own ass, like she expected herself to be the one person in the world who was immune to the zombie "disease". Kenny said she was afraid. Well, she should have been afraid. Eric would have mostly taken great pleasure in shooting her in the face. Mostly.

It took all of three days for them to run out of medical supplies, partly due to Wendy having stolen shit from their first aid kits to deal with her bite, but mostly because Kenny's stump refused to heal even a little bit. Ike and Kyle pointlessly wasted most of their Tylenol and all of the shit they had for cleaning wounds when it would have been much easier to let the bastard die.

"We need to go into town," Kyle said one day, exiting the tent that used to be Eric's but was now, apparently, their medical ward.

"For what?" Kevin asked, nearly jumping at the chance to go on a supply run. Idiot.

"I don't really know, but I need to get to a pharmacy to get something, anything, for Kenny... more stuff to clean his arm with, for one, and everything we've been using to wrap it with is totally soaked through," Kyle explained, looking at everyone else for more suggestions. "He's not getting better, I don't know-"

"What the fuck do you think you can get at Walgreens that will fix him?" Eric snapped. "Fucking Neosporin? Kyle, he's fucked. Accept it. You cut off his arm and now he's going to die."

"He would have died if I didn't do it, asshole!"

"Guys, look," Bebe interrupted, stepping up beside Kevin. "We need to try, for Kenny's sake. I agree with Kyle, we've lost too many people already, and we've been too careless. If there's any possibility of Kenny surviving this, we need to do whatever it takes."

"Besides, we need to move camp anyway," Kevin added, taking Bebe's hand. "We've been here way too long already. More walkers are coming into camp every day, and it's not by accident. They know we're here."

So despite Eric's misgivings, they disassembled camp and lugged all their shit, plus Kenny, to their cars. Eric had to put up with Kenny moaning and groaning in his back seat, since the van had the most space, but it wasn't so bad because having him there meant having Kyle there, too. The other four went in Stan's van, so it was just the two of them. Well, the two of them plus Kenny, but he was delirious enough not to count.

Bebe had mentioned that there were signs for a town a few miles west, so that was where they headed, with Stan's car leading the way.

Supply runs were the worst part about living the way they were. Going into towns, or even simply through them, was stressful and dangerous, and every time they walked into a store they had no idea how many walkers were inside waiting for them. Eric hated that shit, and certainly didn't want to die from a zombie jumping out from behind a cereal display and eating his face off.

"You'll be okay, Kenny," Kyle said, turning around in the passenger seat. Kenny probably couldn't even hear him, he was so wrapped up in whatever pain he was in.

Eric groaned. "Shut the fuck up."

"You shut up! You aren't helping."


They slowed down as they entered town, forced to drive around abandoned cars at a snail's pace as usual. But unlike the other towns they'd been to, Salina had just as many mutilated corpses littering the streets as it had undead ones walking around.

"Someone's been here already," Kyle said, in a way that made Eric shudder. They'd yet to encounter another group of survivors, and he wasn't interested in finding out if these ones were hostile.

"Well, hopefully they left."

They pulled up to the nearest pharmacy, and Stan was charged with guarding Kenny while the rest of them went inside with Kyle and Ike. While Ike ran off to the pharmacy with Kevin and Bebe, Eric followed Kyle through the rest of the store. He hoped to get some snacks out of this venture, too, so when Kenny ended up dying it wouldn't feel like a total waste of time.

But the shelves were sparse. Some almost completely bare, particularly the medical shit and, of course, the food.

"Whoever killed all those walkers came here, too," Kyle said bitterly, pointing to the shelves. "And recently. See? The dust hasn't completely covered where these bottles used to be."

"I thought the blood in here looked a little too fresh," Eric replied as he kicked a body aside. He was joking, of course - the blood here was just as crusty as it was expected to be.

As they rounded the corner, Kyle drove his axe into a walker and then carelessly shoved it into a Q-Tip display with an enraged growl. "Fuck this," he snapped. "There's nothing here! They cleaned out everything we could have used!"

"Don't get worked up. The last thing we need is for your inner Jew Princess to show herself," Eric said, smirking when Kyle glared at him. "Maybe Ike found some morphine or some shit."

"Yeah, maybe." He didn't sound hopeful.

They met with the others at the pharmacy counter, and quickly noticed that the shelves there were nearly empty, too.

"Nothing for pain or infections," Ike said simply, though he didn't look particularly upset about it. It seemed more like he viewed this as a small setback in some kind of experiment than anything else.

"The fuck is that?" Eric asked when Bebe showed up with a plastic shopping bag.

She flushed deeply. "None of your business."

"Birth control and condoms," Kevin answered proudly, and Bebe elbowed him in the gut.

Kyle let out a loud scoff. "Great, Kenny's dying and all you can think about is sex. This is a serious situation, you know!"

Bebe glared. "Excuse me, Kyle, but my best friend just died! And my boyfriend, not too long ago! I think I know this is serious," she snapped, poking him in the chest roughly. "We just thought since we're here already, we should take some preventative measures for certain things that couldn't possibly happen at a worse time!"

"Okay, we get it," Eric said, stepping in front of Kyle. "A cat fight will just attract zombies."

"No, I'm really annoyed right now and I have the right to say so! He knows how upset I've been all this time, but here he is acting like I don't care about Kenny, or that I'm treating all this as a joke by not wanting to get pregnant! The only reason he gives a shit about this is because it's his friend that's dying this time."

"That's not true!"

"So you're saying if it was Craig or Clyde, or Wendy, you'd be trying this hard to save them?"

"Yeah, I would be!" Kyle shouted, and although he probably believed it was true, Eric didn't quite agree. Kyle was selfish; they all were, lately. "We've all lost people, I'm just trying to-"

"Oh fuck you, you've barely lost anyone. Your brother is right here, your boyfriend is outside perfectly fine - just stop, okay? Stop judging," Bebe finished, and left the circle to make her way out of the store. Kevin shrugged at them and followed her.

Eric looked back at Kyle and saw that his face was red, like he was trying hard not to cry. He wanted to say that Bebe didn't mean it, or something like that, or make a comment about how Kyle had lost people, but everything he was thinking sounded wrong. He had a habit of making things worse when it came to Kyle, even though it was usually on purpose.

So instead of saying anything, he awkwardly reached out to touch his shoulder, but Kyle gave him a scathing look and jerked away. "There's nothing here. We need to go to the next store," he muttered as he turned away. Ike followed, and so did Eric.

But Salina had been all but cleaned out, and they were only able to scrounge enough material to change Kenny's bandages once. Gunnison, the town north of Salina, had all of its pharmacies and grocery stores looted, too, and each town they drove through seemed more vacant than the last. And with each store they checked and each disappointment, Kyle grew more and more frantic, and more annoying.

Eric was about ready to strangle him when they came across a sign by the road on the way to Spring City. He stopped dead, and Stan stopped his car in turn.

"Welcome survivors," he read out loud. The words were painted in a bright white and there was an arrow pointing in the direction of a wooded hill. As he was squinting, he heard the door click beside him and then a flash of red hair ran through his line of vision. "Kyle! What the fuck?"

He opened the door and practically fell out of the car in his rush to catch up, effectively abandoning Kenny inside the van.

"The top coat of paint is practically fresh," Kyle said when Eric joined him in front of the sign. He traced one of the letters and all Eric could think about was how soft his hand looked, even after weeks of slaughter and outdoor living. Kyle looked toward the hill. "Not wet, but... Cartman, there are people living up there."

"They could be crazy."

"Or they could be the people who've been cleaning out supplies from those towns. They could be able to help Kenny."

Kyle was giving him that look.

"Oh no. Fuck no, we're not going to fucking... waltz into these people's camp and ask for medicine and shit! They could be fucking cannibals!"


"Yes, Kyle, cannibals. Everyone knows that people turn into cannibals during the apocalypse."

"I'm so fucking sick of this 'everyone knows what happens in the apocalypse' shit! No one knows anything about the apocalypse! It hasn't happened until now!"

The rest of the group walked over before Eric had a chance to respond, and Kevin greeted them with an awkward, "Hey guys, what's up?"

Stan narrowed his eyes at Eric and took the opportunity to stand directly between him and Kyle. Eric narrowed his eyes right back. Over the weeks, he'd started to wonder if Stan had finally caught on to him, due in part to their close quarters and also because he'd been the one to save Kyle from that attack. He didn't particularly mind; if Stan became paranoid he might end up simply pushing Kyle away, and Eric couldn't complain about that.

He could, however, complain about the fact that Stan was fucking Kyle in the first place. It was unsurprising, but it was definitely gross to think about. And yet, for some reason, Eric couldn't stop thinking about it, even it was mostly to wonder about what Kyle looked and sounded like.

"It looks like there's a group of survivors here," Kyle told everyone, oblivious to Eric's thoughts. "I think they might be the ones looting the surrounding towns, which means they could have the supplies we need to help Kenny."

"Do you think they'll have food, too?" Ike asked, putting a hand over his stomach.

"You guys are assuming that they're even nice people," Stan said. "They could be psychos, or, like, cannibals or something."

"Oh my fucking God, they're not going to be cannibals!" Kyle snapped. Stan looked confused, and Eric couldn't help but laugh.

Bebe shrugged, having apparently calmed down from her earlier outburst. "There's only one way to find out. If they are cannibals, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

They decided to leave Kenny in the van since he needed too much assistance to move and wouldn't be able to defend himself if the people did turn out to be crazy. Kevin volunteered to stay with him in case any walkers happened to pass by. The rest of them picked up their preferred weapons and one gun each, and headed off in the direction the arrow was pointing to.

"They want other survivors to find them," Kyle remarked as they passed another arrow, this one carved into a tree.

"Could be a trap," Eric said.

Eventually they came to a large clearing - or, rather, what Eric assumed was a clearing at one point in time. Around the outer edge was a brick wall that was twice as tall as he was, and no entrance to be seen. They all gave each other confused glances and began to walk around the perimeter.

Eventually, what looked like a guard tower came into view.

"Ahoy, travelers!" a voice rang out. Eric's grip tightened on his gun as they all looked up at the figure waving at them from the tower. "Do you come seeking refuge?"

"... Yes?" Kyle responded, though the man in the tower sounded somewhat ridiculous in Eric's opinion.

"Welcome to Safe Haven Village! Our door is open to all fellow survivors who are non-hostile and have the goal of rebuilding society! Please put down your weapons and someone, also unarmed, will be out shortly!"

And with that the man was gone. They all looked at each other, and Kyle was the first to throw his weapons down. Stan followed suit. Eric was the last to give up his weapons, but in the end he didn't have much of a choice.

Just as they were wondering if someone was actually coming, and from where, a trap door opened up just feet in front of where they stood. They hadn't even noticed it; the slab of wood that enclosed what looked like a simple pothole had been covered in leaves and dirt.

Three men climbed out, each with bright blond hair and toothy smiles. Immediately, Eric didn't trust them.

"Welcome," the middle one said, arms outstretched warmly, like he was inviting them in for a hug. "You are the first group to come to us since we painted our sign, it gladdens us to know we're not the only survivors."

"What is this place?" Bebe asked.

"It began as a self sufficient living space for people who wanted to enjoy a simple, independent life. Naturally, it was an ideal location to come across in times such as these. Once we arrived here, we began constructing this wall out of building materials they had set aside before this disaster struck. The brick was meant for housing, but the wall provides our residents with a much needed sense of security."

"This is John, by the way," the man on the left said. "And I'm Jeremy. Our other friend is Timothy."

"How did you come across our little sanctuary?"

"We've been surviving on the road."

"Whereabouts are you from?"

"Colorado," Kyle said, and Eric couldn't help but think he was being overly trusting of these people. Not that it mattered where they were from, since they weren't going back.

"You've come quite a long way, then, especially in such dire circumstances. Surely you'd enjoy a safe place to rest, at least for a while," John said.

Jeremy nodded. "Our goal is to welcome any passing survivors into our home, so long as they're willing to place their weaponry in our storage shed."

"Weapons are unnecessary at Safe Haven Village. Our officials take turns guarding the wall; you would all be quite safe here."

"Can we discuss it first?" Stan asked, and the three men agreed to step away for as long as they needed.

"These people are freaks," Eric said the moment they were out of earshot. "This is a fucking trap, I'm telling you."

"They just want to give people a chance for the sake of saving humanity," Kyle argued. "They said this was built to be a self sufficient town - that means they probably have water, gardens, maybe even electricity. They could help us save Kenny."

"We should at least check it out," Ike said. "See what they have to offer. If we don't want to stay, we'll leave. But this could be exactly what we need."

"Kevin would agree if he was here," Bebe added.

Eric couldn't believe he and Stan were the only ones who weren't sure about the place. Stan, of all people, was his only ally. But eventually they had to give in, and after a good ten minutes of bickering, they agreed to at least give the place a shot.

They beckoned the three men back over and Kyle stepped forward. "Our cars and supplies are back at the road, by your sign, with two more of our group. One of them is very injured and we were hoping you had supplies."

"We're well stocked in nearly anything you might require, including medical supplies."

"Do you have a doctor?"

Jeremy nodded, his smile never faltering. Eric still found them creepy, but he could tell by the way Kyle's shoulders fell in relief that there was no going back now.

The men accompanied them back to their cars and helped them transport their supplies, freeing Stan and Kyle up to help Kenny along. He looked like he was barely conscious, and the gauze over his stump was soaked through with yellowish pus. Eric saw their new "friends" exchange glances.

The town itself, once they were inside, came as quite a shock. The houses were small and eerily quaint, and there were vegetable gardens and chickens enclosed in fences. There were even children running around, and people chatting away like nothing was going on outside of the brick wall that surrounded them.

John brought Kenny to the clinic, which was a tiny building just beside the shed where they were forced to put their weapons, and Jeremy and Timothy lead them to their house.

"Elder Hales will be by to meet you shortly. In the meantime, make yourselves at home."

And then they were alone with their belongings, unsure of what to say or do as they waited. Eric made a comment about how they were probably going to be initiated into a cult or murdered in their sleep, but everyone seemed to be too preoccupied with their own thoughts to pay him any mind.

Elder Hales turned out to be just as cheerful as the other people they'd met, and he was apparently the leader of the town. It didn't take long for them to discover that the vast majority of the people living there were Mormon, which wasn't unexpected considering that they were in Utah. Elder Hales informed them that their weapons were in safe keeping and would be returned to them if they decided to leave, and also that Kenny was being looked after by their resident physician. Then he took them on a tour of the compound.

Eric made sure to pay close attention to everything. The tour was quite helpful, as they found out that the place had a fresh water well and ran on solar power. They had cleaned out the surrounding towns in regard to non-perishable food, more water for backup, medical supplies, gasoline, and ammunition. The village had already been growing its own food before the apocalypse even began, both in small garden patches and in a large community greenhouse. There was a large, but crude, mess hall and a latrine that also had real showers.

Eric got the impression that the people who built the place were a bunch of hippies, but there was no denying its value in the current state of the world.

He still didn't trust any of the assholes they'd met so far, but the more he saw, the more he wanted to stay. And staying, of course, would mean running the current leaders out of town and taking it over himself. He wasn't going to live under the authority of anyone, especially not a bunch of fucking Mormons.

They spent the next couple of days getting used to their new surroundings and meeting the other people that lived there. Eric had a little chat with Kevin the first night they were there, and they agreed to keep their eyes and ears open for any useful information.

The house they were given was a shack made out of stone and clay. It had three rooms, which were cramped and only big enough for their belongings and two cots each. They were forced to eat in the community center with everyone else in town, though that amounted to only about twenty other people. Overall, Eric hated it - it was hardly better than sleeping in tents and they had to answer to Elder Hales and his "officers". Eric despised not having absolute power over his own actions, and his efforts to investigate the town any further were always foiled by their watchful eyes.

But the rest of the group seemed to love it. Of course they did; they were all stupid enough to buy into the false sense of security the wall brought. They loved having fresh produce and a place to go to the bathroom (even if it was just a glorified hole in the ground), but mostly, Eric thought, they just liked having the opportunity to pretend everything was going to be okay.

That ended on their third day, though, when Jeremy and John came to inform them that Kenny had passed away during the night.

"We did all we could for your friend."

Kyle shook his head. "No."

"He was very sick when you came to us, and the amputation was, ah, less than professional. The infection-"

The two men glanced at each other and their faces grew serious. "Our doctor tried to reverse the effects of his infection, but the blood loss and high fever... we're very sorry."

"We are going to burn the body. You can come mourn for your friend if you'd like."

And the conversation was over.

Later that week, after Kenny's funeral, Eric was standing outside late at night wishing for a cigarette.

"You're still awake?" came a voice from beside him, and he glanced over to see Kyle. He smirked. Just the person he wanted to see.

"Yeah. Taking a piss?"

"Couldn't sleep," Kyle said, leaning back against the wall.

Eric stuck his hands in his pockets. He'd sort of gone outside because he couldn't stand listening to the whispering coming from Stan and Kyle's room, but that apparently wasn't going to be an issue now.

"Those assholes were lying to us," Eric said after a moment, his voice low in case anyone was lurking. He hadn't gotten the opportunity to talk to Kyle about this before, though he'd wanted to. "They killed Kenny on purpose."

"They said they did everything they could," Kyle shot back, like he'd been trying to convince himself of that for days.

Eric shrugged. "A lie. Kyle, I'm a fucking fantastic liar. I know how to lie. And I can tell when bad liars are trying to lie. They killed him, probably because they didn't want to risk infecting the whole fucking village if he turned. I mean, I would've done the same thing, but it doesn't make them any less fucked up."

"They wouldn't - they're nice people. Just because you're fucked up doesn't mean they are."

"No, I don't think they're as nice as they want us to believe." Eric turned to face him fully and took a step forward, lowering his voice even further. "I don't trust any of these people. Kevin and I were talking, and this town is too valuable to just sit here and take orders from some asshole Mormons who haven't even had to survive out there."

Kyle shook his head. "Cartman, don't start with that shit."

"What? You're telling me you don't get a bad feeling from Elder Hales or those three douchebags who've been stalking us for the past three days?"

"I... they're strange, but they took us in. They're feeding us and just accepted us into their group without a single question asked. We can't start stepping on toes here. I know for a fact that me and Stan and Bebe don't want to go back out into the wild, and I don't want Ike out there either."

"I don't plan on stepping on toes or going back out there," Eric said, his mouth pulling to one side. He couldn't believe Kyle couldn't see the big picture. "I plan on taking this place over."

"Cartman, no."

"Ike's with me too, you know. He recognizes the value in this place. It's too good to leave, and by not owning it ourselves, we're always going to be living day by day. The wall is just false security. Keeps us safe from the walkers, for now, I guess. But it doesn't keep us safe from other people. I know you don't feel safe with Elder Hales as the all-powerful leader."

"Like I'd feel safer with you?"

"You should."

Kyle rolled his eyes. "I feel plenty safe, thanks. Don't go wrecking things for us here with some crazy scheme."

"You're lying," Eric said, crossing his arms and leaning back against the wall. "I heard you and Stan talking the other night. Suicide pact?"

Kyle flushed. "That's... it's a backup. Just in case things get really bad... we don't want to live without each other."

"Ugh," Eric groaned, rolling his eyes. "It's cowardly, is what it is. If Stan's the kind of guy that would resort to a suicide pact instead of surviving, then he deserves you even less than I thought he did."

"It was my idea, asshole, and anyway - wait, what?"


Kyle snickered. "No, you just said Stan doesn't deserve me." He turned to face Eric, eyes sparkling mischievously in the moonlight, like he just heard a great piece of gossip. "You think I'm too good for him!"

"No, not... I just hate him more than I hate you. That's all."

Kyle grinned and took a step forward to tug on Eric's shirt collar teasingly. "You want me, don't you?" he asked, laughing as if it were some big joke.

It was infuriating, but in a lot of ways, it was a big joke. It was a joke that Eric's life revolved around ruthlessly torturing someone for years with the ridiculous notion that it would get him anywhere, and then end up forced to admit defeat to Stan Marsh of all people. If he was a stupid pathetic loser, what the hell did that make Eric?

He grabbed Kyle's wrist and pushed it back, which only made the shorter boy laugh more. "Fuck you, Kyle. I don't give a shit about you."

"Right. Well, don't worry. I'm not going to kill myself any time soon. That is, if you don't fuck this up by trying to start a mutiny. I'm not under the delusion that we're completely safe here; it makes me uncomfortable not to have any weapons despite being blocked off from the walkers for the time being. However, these people took us in when they didn't have to. And I'm putting my faith in their kindness, at least until they do something to fuck that up."

Eric let go and attempted not to dwell on how delicate Kyle's wrist felt in his grasp. "That's fine, but your opinion doesn't mean shit. Me and Kevin and Ike are going to start making plans tomorrow to get this done as soon as possible. You can join us when the time comes, or defend these creepy fucks."

"Aren't you worried I'll tell them?"

"No, because you won't. You know as well as I do that it will get us all kicked out, so you're going to keep your mouth shut for once in your life."

Kyle scowled. "Fine. But when they figure you out, I won't be sad when they throw you out. And believe me, Kevin and Ike will put everything on you, so it will be just you out there. Alone."

"Please, I bet you'll cry your eyes out and feel totally responsible, like you have over everything else that's happened."

"I will feel absolutely nothing."

Eric narrowed his eyes, but Kyle kept looking defiant. "You will. You already do. You feel something, that's why you've been coming to me for favors and trusting me with important shit like the fact that your dead parents are still stumbling around in your basement. You felt something when I saved your ass that day instead of loverboy in there," he jerked his thumb toward the house, "and there's a reason why you trust me enough to be alone out here with me. You know I'd take a bullet for you, and you fucking love that feeling."

Kyle took a step back, shaking his head. "You're insane. You realize that ?loverboy' is my soulmate, right?"

"He's an asshole and you know it. You came to me multiple times over the years, whining about his booze addiction and how he treats you like shit. You think that's going to change now? Jesus Christ, Kyle, he waited until the world ended to admit to fucking you." Eric matched Kyle's step back with his own step forward. "If it were me, I'd have been bragging to everyone from the start. And I sure as hell wouldn't have been dating someone else on the side."

"Uh, thanks, I guess. But why are you even bothering to say all this? You must have known my heart belonged to Stan from the start," Kyle said softly, with this horrible, pitying tone to his voice. "You have to be aware that you have no chance, no matter what he does."

Eric felt like punching him, but instead he lurched forward and grabbed Kyle by the shoulders. He swung him into the wall and did something he never had the balls to do before - he kissed him, hard. It was exactly how he'd always imagined it, right down to the way Kyle hit him in the chest until his fingers relaxed and curled into Eric's shirt. He had one hand in Kyle's hair, which he'd always fantasized about, and, amazingly, Kyle was actually returning the kiss, opening up for him like the sheer force of it knocked any sense out of him.

It was over too soon.

"You fucking asshole!" Kyle shouted, apparently not giving a shit if he woke anyone up. He shoved Eric hard, causing him to stumble back a couple of steps. He might have been annoyed if he wasn't too delirious to care about anything.

"Oh, like you weren't creaming your panties in anticipation," Eric shot back, once he regained some of his composure. "You wanted it."

"No, I didn't! I literally just told you that you had no chance with me and you just-" he paused, substituting an angry groan for the end of his sentence. "I'm telling Stan, you know."

"Are you going to tell him you kissed me back?"

Kyle just glared, hands balled into fists at his sides. Eric prepared himself for an incoming punch, but instead Kyle just whipped around and stomped into the house.

And then he was alone again.

If Kyle did tell Stan, Eric would have to answer for it the next day. But for now, it seemed completely worth it. At least now he wouldn't die without kissing Kyle at least once, even if it wasn't exactly consensual.

It wasn't the love confession he'd always pictured either, the kind that would have Kyle shaking with need by the end of it. But, there was always next time.

He went inside after a minute and jacked off before drifting off to sleep with Kevin snoring in the other bed. In the morning, they would begin planning and investigating the inner workings of Safe Haven Village. It wouldn't be long before everything fell into place.... things were about to take a turn for the better, he could feel it.