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Mad World Pt. 2

Liberty Belle

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Plaster dust underfoot cushioned the careful placement of their feet, leaving perfect imprints of their passage through the mall's geometric pathways. Each room rolled emptily into the next, so that the smallest sounds in the darkness -- the scurry of rats, the restless twisting of bats -- echoed back to them tenfold. Even so, Christie refused to relax, adjusting the grip on his rifle every so often, shouldering slyly in front of Sorrow when he felt she was too much in the open.

They moved around each other like two housecats, constantly aware of one another's proximity, occasionally brushing shoulders or elbows in acknowledgement without having to remove their eyes from their surroundings. Too many glances to assess one another's whereabouts could leave them open to attack; they'd long ago learned the art of feeling and listening for one another rather than looking.

"This place is dead," Christie muttered bitterly, and his partner sighed.

"You make that sound like a bad thing. Ours are the only footprints in the dust here; whoever came before us is long gone, which means they're a lot less likely to come looking for us, and therefore we're a lot less likely to run into a fight."

He grunted and glanced back at her. "You make that sound like a bad thing."

They cleared into another open gallery, apparently having entered and left one of the mall's anchor stores without realizing it. Overhead the ceiling vaulted to the broken panes of an old skylight, and as they emerged, blinking, a small storm of bats sliced through the moted beams of light.

Christie wrinkled his nose and snorted bullishly. "Let's go back."

"I thought you were hungry."

"We've got rations enough for now. I don't want to go out into the open unless we absolutely have to." He doubled back, tread heavy as he jerked his chin towards the dark. "Come on."

The shadows obfuscated their return, following their footprints back between the ghostly rows of mannequins and empty clothes racks, while soft plaster powder rose from beneath their boots.

"Sssshit," Christie rumbled. She could barely see him but for the soft golden light framing out his armored profile, but easily made out his trenched brow.

"What now?"

"Gotta sneeze," his voice already had a heady sound of struggle to it. He paused, shook his head as if to clear it, and without releasing his gun raised both arms, rubbing his nose vigorously against the edge of one wrist. It was gearing up to be a big one, and despite the fact that he sneezed without any sense of restraint, Sorrow felt his increasing self-consciousness at their predictably head-turning strength.

He twisted from her when the urge finally broke his defenses, doubling over his weapon with a, "Heh-IISSSSSH'ue!" that echoed clearly through the gallery behind them. Sorrow couldn't help but rib him.

"You're awfully worried about venturing into the open for someone who keeps announcing our exact location every time he sneezes."

The light brightened and cooled as they grew closer to the circle of candles, and she clearly saw the embarassment in his tight-jawed glare. It didn't help that he was already twitching towards another grimacing sneeze. Fighting the urge, he snorted again and crushed his nose against his arm, rubbing so forcefully that Sorrow feared he might actually hurt himself.

"Hey--" She tried to pull his arm away, succeeding only in time to have him turn away from her again, overcome.

"HEH-ISSSSH'ue!" For all his efforts it was actually louder than the last, his eyes gleaming in frustration and anger as he straightened, snarled and sniffled. "Fuck."

"Give yourself a break, Chris," she appealed. "You're sick."

"No excuse," he muttered, bracing a hand to a colum nand sliding himself to the floor, once again propping his back against the flat surface in favor of sitting on one of the nearby couches.

As hard as he often punished himself for even the most minor shortcomings, Sorrow couldn't remember him being so hard on himself for something entirely beyond his control. Perhaps his confession of earlier had left him in a hard state of mind, or he was more worried about their situation than he let on, but either way it was her job to diffuse him before he could get too worked up.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, kneeling alongside him and leaning to check the first-aid fittings she'd applied earlier.


"Are your ribs hurting?"

"Heht-Knxt!" He stifled unexpectedly into a fist, the compressed sneeze causing his whole body to jerk, and his armor to rattle.


"Heht--KNXT!" even stronger than before, every muscle clenching to keep it inside.

Sorrow heard a trace of anger in her own voice as she blurted, "Bless you."

Nose running, he tilted his head back and sniffled viciously -- once... twice... -- then wiped both nostrils indelicately before rumbling, "Yeah."

"What's with you?" Almost heaving her bag down in front of her, she searched for some trace of another handkerchief. What did he keep doing with them all? "I've never seen you like this before."

"I get sick just like anybody else."

"That's not what I mean. You were fine, not fifteen minutes ago, now your entire mood is going to shit. Did I say something wrong? Again?"

Christie sighed and settled into another sulky glower, this time directing it at the space between his boots. "This just wasn't how I wanted it to happen, is all."

"What, confessing your undying devotion to me in the housewares department of an abandoned shopping mall?" Christie neither replied nor reacted, but his neck flushed in embarassment. "Sorry... I forgot I wasn't supposed to talk about that ever again."

"Right," he glared.

"Okay," she pushed the bag aside and inched until they were side-by-side, backs rested against the same plaster column. "So tell me how you wanted it to happen. Say we went out, finished the mission without a hitch, and went back to base. Then what."

Uncertain if he was in favor of roleplaying in this fashion, Christie kept his eyes hard on the floor, periodically wiping his nose with the wrist of his glove, or sniffling to keep his running nose under control. While he was preoccupied, Sorrow resumed searching her bag.

"Well... by then I guess you would have figured out that I was sick. And maybe... told me I needed to go to bed. And I would have--"

"Been an asshole about it?" He cast her a simmering look, and she smiled sweetly. "I mean... resisted me?"

"Yeah, resisted. And then... I don't know. Knowing you, you would have pushed the case, and I'd have refused until you either followed me back to my quarters, or took me back to yours."

At last finding a handkerchief, pleased at her own foresight, she shoved the bag from her lap and unfolded it loosely. "And that's when you would have made your move, huh?"

"Maybe..." He smirked, golden eyes gleaming at her from beneath the weight of his lids. "Maybe I would have let you make a big deal over it, first."

Here Sorrow laughed aloud, leaning her small shoulder into him. "What, like made a fuss over you? You like that?"

"....It's OK."

"Yeah, you like it."

"I put up with it," he protested, but she smiled with utter satisfaction. Christie's own small, wry smile faded as he knuckled forcefully at his nose, ending the abuse with a growl of anger.

"Another sneeze?"

"Feels like I might." He sniffled again, testing, then nodded as jaw slackened and his nostrils curled. "...yeah..."

"Don't hold it in, Christie," she cautioned. "I mean it--"

Not that he planned on listening; something in her earlier teasing must have wounded his pride, for where he normally let fly he now pinched his nose firmly shut, stoppering a strangled, "Heht--CHSH!!"

"Bless you!" Rising to her knees, she pushed his hand away in the brief interlude between sneezes and cupped the handkerchief to his nose and mouth with one hand. Despite his gutteral protest, she felt the involuntary flex of his nostrils within the fabric, and braced herself as he inhaled hugely.

"----hhhHHHH---ISSSSHH-ue!" Christie buckled with the sneeze, eyes weakly cracking open again, both apologetic and appealing as they turned up at her. Sorrow continued to hold the handkerchief in place. "...Shid. B'sorry."

"Don't apologize--"

His eyelids fluttered and squeezed shut, and Sorrow held fast as he sneezed an impressive, "HEH-ISSSSHHH-ue!", immediately following it up with a trembling inhale, and a second, irresistable, "HEH-ISSSHHH-ue! -- Sorry --"


Flutter, squint -- "HEH-ISSSHH-ue!" His voice pitched higher, desperate.

"Bless!" Neither her hand nor the handkerchief had moved from around his nose, and for once he wasn't resisting their presence. "Shit, Christie, are you OK?"

"Wud bore," he groaned, gutteral, and finally groped the handkerchief into his own big hands, freeing her. All at once he snivelled, held it, and pitched with a purposeful, nose-clearing, "HEH-ISSSHHH-ue-ahh...!"

Sorrow anxiously took the handkerchief from him as his arms sagged weakly and relievedly, folding it over and wiping motheringly at his nose. He looked a her groggily.

"Christie, God bless you."

"Thanks," his voice was a tired purr, but there was genuine gratitude in it.

"Are you OK now?"

"Yeah." He paused, sniffling deeply. "Thank you."

"Me? I just sat here..."

"You kept me from doing something stupid, like throwing my back out from holding in a sneeze."

"You've done that?"

"Once," he grunted, benignly rubbing under the tip of his nose. "And from the way those felt, it would have happened again."

He rested his head back wearily and Sorrow crawled alongside him again, this time tugging at one muscled arm. "Why don't you lay down. I can get some pillows... just to get some rest?"

"I'm fine, little girl." His eyes closed, and he sniffled again, albeit much more softly and manageably than before. "Just sit with me until I feel a little better."

"Here?" She inched up against him, armor scraping armor, and all but curled around his thick bicep. In silence she slipped her hand down the inside of his arm to his wrist, into his palm, and he laced his thick, gloved fingers with hers.

"Yeah," he rumbled, eyes glinting gold as he looked at her quietly, tiredly, then closed them with the drowsy comfort of a sleeping lion. "This is good."

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Although I don't like male sneezing, I must say that I find these fics quite enjoyable. It's very well written.

Also, I missed the first one, and are these actually set in the Gears universe? You were talking about that before, and Mad World is the song that was played in the Gears of War trailer...

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OK..this is like the most PERFECT pic ever! It doesn't have too much sneezing to the point where it is unbelieveable..and its like he is trying to remain strong, and sorta lets her take care of him, while he still manages to be protective and cute with her...awwww it was amazing!

Thank you!!! :laugh:

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*bounces* Yayhappyhappythankyou. :>

To answer Blah Blah's question, no, it's not set in the Gears of War universe, although I definitely used that post-apocalyptic mess as a basis for this one (hence the title.) I figured the Gears of War was already so defined (and so unfamiliar to most people) that it was just easier to start over from scratch. I always find myself attracted to original-themed stories versus unfamiliar fanfics, if only because -- as a reader -- everyone has the same level of understanding at the outset.

And here was the first chapter to it...


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Oh, yay! This continues to be amazing!

I really like the fluffiness and how he shyly admits to liking being looked after. Made me go 'aww', because I know boys who'd be shy about admiting too!

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Oh my, this is just SOOOO HOT! :winkkiss: LovelylovelyLOVELY story! Now, please excuse me while I go back too read it again... and again... :)

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SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! That was DELICIOUS!!! Everything about this installment made me happy (ok, maybe more than happy!). You really do have a talent for writing. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

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