Tatum walked me back to my trailer, grumbling things about all the ass he was gonna have to kiss to get out of this. I apologized again, but every time I did, he brushed it off, as if it wasn’t actually that big of a deal.
I didn’t realize we were at my trailer until he stopped walking, and I glanced up at the door and saw my house number.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Well, you’re just lucky I like you.” He smiled at me, playing it at as a joke, but it faltered, and the sincerity of his statement slipped through. Realizing this, he looked uncomfortable, and awkwardly patted me on the shoulder before excusing himself. “Stay out of trouble.”
After he walked away, I went into the trailer. All the lights were off, except for a small one above the kitchen sink, and Lazlo sat in the dark at the dining room table. I didn’t think it was all that late, but Harlow had gone to bed, and he waited up for me like some kind of over-protective parent.
“How did it go?” Lazlo asked, his voice devoid of any emotion. I expected him to be mad or jealous or happy that I was alive, but he didn’t give anything away.
“It went,” I shrugged.
“So you saw your brother?”
“Yeah, I saw him.”
In a sudden embarrassing display of emotion, I burst into tears. All of the fear and guilt came pouring out of me, and I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
Lazlo got up and rushed over to me. He put his arms around me, holding me close, and I let him. I sobbed into his shoulder, and he kept telling me that it would be all right.
Once I had calmed down enough to speak, he led me over to the couch. He held my hand when I sat next to him, and I told him all about how they treated Max, about the vials of blood and how skeletal he’d become. I told him how vibrant and smart and quirky Max had been before, and how I’d always done everything I could to take care of him.
And then I told him how badly it hurt to know that I had failed so completely, despite all my best efforts.
Lazlo put his arm around me and insisted that everything would be all right, and I knew it would be. I would make it all right, even if it killed me. I would not let Max live and die like that, like a scared animal in a cage.
In the morning, I showered and got ready quickly. I had to find both Blue and Tatum if I had any chance of making this work. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible, but I had to try. I found Blue first, since I needed him more.
As I went over my plan, he kept his face even, and I wasn’t sure what he thought. When he finished, he nodded once, almost to my surprise.
“You’re really willing to do this?” I asked, making sure he understood what I was asking. I needed him, but I didn’t want to force him to do anything.
“Yeah,” Blue nodded again. “Doctors take an oath. First do no harm.” He shrugged, as if that explained it all.
We arranged a time to meet early the next morning, before the sun started to rise. Most people would be asleep then, and it would make it easier. I would’ve gone right then, though, if I didn’t know that Tatum needed time to get things together. Assuming he’d even have any part of it.
Telling Tatum was much harder than Blue. In a weird way, Blue and I always seemed to be on the same wavelength about everything. And I was never exactly sure what wavelength Tatum was on.
I caught him just before he went out to make his rounds around the perimeter, part of his penance for standing up for me last night.
I had to tell him the truth about Max, and he got wide eyed, but he didn’t say anything. He trusted and believed me, and I was relieved.
At first, he listened, but as I explained my requests, he got increasingly irritated. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and he kept shifting his weight around and crossing and uncrossing his arms. Before I even finished, he started shaking his head no.
“That’s really stupid, Remy.” He chewed the inside of his cheek and stared off at the wall.
“Maybe, but I don’t have a lot of options,” I said honestly. “And I’ll find a way to do this even if you don’t help.”
“There is no way to do this without me,” Tatum pointed out. Without him, it’d be almost impossible for this to work.
“I need you,” I said plaintively, and he finally looked back at me.
“I knew it.” He shook his head. “The second I saw you out in that field, all covered in zombie blood, fighting like a damn maniac. I knew you were trouble.” He sighed resignedly. “Fine. I’ll do it. But I’m going on record as not liking this. It’s my job to protect people, not put them in danger.”
“I know, and I appreciate everything you’re doing for me,” I said earnestly.
“I don’t care if you appreciate it!” Tatum blew it off and looked at me intensely. “Do you understand what you’re doing? I want you to really think about this, Remy. Because I can only help you so much.”
“Yeah, I do,” I nodded.
“Just do me a favor. Think about this, okay?” It was his turn to plead with me, his eyes looking soft. “If you change your mind, nobody would hold it against you.”
“I would,” I corrected him. “I have to do this.”
Reluctantly, he agreed to the same time I had set up with Blue. When I walked away, I heard him complaining to himself about how stupid this all was.
Maybe it was, but I didn’t have anything better, and so far, nobody else had come up with anything at all. The fact that Blue had signed on made me feel a bit better. Tatum probably wouldn’t feel so adverse to it if he didn’t like me. Then again, he probably wouldn’t get involved at all if he didn’t like me.
I spent the day going through the motions. Bishop thought it was time I started pitching in, so I worked in the garden for a few hours. Lazlo was on dishes detail, so I thought I faired a bit better. By the end of the day, I was sore and tired, and grateful for it. It would give me something to take my mind off the morning.
Harlow had already made friends, so after supper, she went off with one of them. I actually kind of hated how nice this quarantine was. I had always been opposed to being fenced in and locked up, but given the circumstances, this was about the best I could hope for in keeping Harlow and Lazlo safe.
I stood at the kitchen sink, scrubbing the dirt out from my under finger nails. Lazlo stood in the middle of room, watching me.
“So… I guess it’s just the two of us.” He smiled at me, but it didn’t reach his eyes. They were uncertain and didn’t meet mine, flitting about the room.