The corner of Jay's mouth came up in a sweet smile and he glanced over at her as they got into the car. "You did that?" he asked with a chuckle. "I mean, I was doin' it too, but..."
Upon her next question, he reached over and brought her hand to his lips. "I don't know," he said honestly. Then, "But I like to think so."
It was time they drove back, then. They would get back a little late, but at least they wouldn't let anyone worry too much. The sun started to set on their way back and Jay helped her keep an eye out in the dark.
"Am I gonna be an old dad?" he asked out of the blue after a long hour of silence. He chuckled and shook his head. "Of all the things I'm worried about, that's pretty stupid, huh?"
"You are right. To be fair with how excited he seemed to be about this pregnancy I wouldn't be surprised if he already had baby runs planned." She chuckled a little and put the clothes in the bag before pulling it over her shoulder, glad that he didn't start complaining that she shouldn't be carrying anything.
They stopped on the alcohol aisle and she couldn't help but laugh as he claimed she couldnt have any. "I wouldn't dream of it. You have expensive taste there Hartley." She smiled as she walked back to the car, loading their bags into the trunk before she got back behind the wheel of the car.
"You know, it feels like years since I sat in Monica's place trying to pretend I wasn't watch your every move." She glanced over at him and smiled. "Do you think we would have eventually found out way to each other?"
Jay half-smiled when she kissed his cheek. He was still getting used to all this. He wondered if he would ever fully be used to it. He nodded and followed after her, just keeping an eye out as she looked at the clothes and grabbed the ones she wanted. He nodded when she returned to him.
"We can talk to King. I'm sure he knows a place." King knew every building within fifty miles of the apartment complex.
They hauled the full bags over their shoulders and started back again. He made a detour through the food and found the alcohol. He had never stopped craving a drink after he was saved. But now it was less out of pity for himself and more because he wanted to celebrate that he was alive. And having a baby.
Of course these shelves were mostly bare. It was the end of the world, of course people wanted to drink. But no one had managed to get inside the locked case that held the expensive ones. The good ones. Jay saw a whiskey inside that he would never have been able to afford. He pulled one off the metal shelves off the rack and started to ram it into the doors of the case. It only took four or five times before it finally gave way and shattered.
He reached inside and took the whiskey and a couple more expensive drinks. He didn't care about anything else and to be fair, he didn't really want to bring a lot back with him. The last thing they needed was the entire complex getting getting drunk. But he could share with his family. And with King.
"None for you," Jay said with a smirk, pointing at Aurora, then at her belly as if he was talking to the baby.
Then it was time for them to leave. And he felt worlds different than he had on their journey out.
When Jay agreed with her she went back to looking at the items on the shelves, only looking up for a moment when he held up some clothes small enough for a newborn. "Well believe it because our baby will be that small." She said with a laugh as she went back to reading the back of a box. She was too busy to notice that he was looking at her now.
Aurora placed the box back on the shelf, deciding she didn't need whatever was in it before she looked up at Jay. "I love you too." Aurora smiled and approached him, placing a light kiss on his cheek. "I'm going to grab some maternity clothes." She said as she disappeared down an aisle to pick up some clothes that would be far more comfortable for her to wear over the next few months as she got bigger.
She came back with a few options, not wanting to go too crazy. "I picked up some clothes for the baby of different sizes. They grow fast. I imagine we are probably going to need to find somewhere closer to home in case there is anything else we need to find."
Jay couldn't help the small smile that came to his face as she spoke about Harrison. She was right. It didn't sound far off from how he was today. He nodded at her last words. "I hope we can keep it that way," he said softly. "At least for as long as we can."
Jay's bag was getting pull but he would rather have too much unneeded stuff than too little. He got to the baby clothes and held one one of the onesies for newborns and squinted at it. "I can't believe anyone was ever this small," he said. After a moment he looked over at Aurora.
She was looking at something and didn't even feel his eyes on her, so he took the moment to really take in the sight of her. He loved her. With all of his being. But he also felt a strange distance. There were things about him she didn't know. And in this world they might be small compared to the other things he had had to do, but...
"I love you," he said, instead of what he wanted to say.
Aurora chuckled. "100% off? Wow how generous of them." She shook her head and moved away from the pram, unsure of whether they would even need such a thing. It wasn't like they were planning on taking their child for a walk around the park.
She started to looked around at other things, picking up random bits like a changing bag and a bottle sterilising machine. Then when Jay spoke she looked up with a smile. "He was amazing. He was always so calm. My mother said that I got lucky because he hardly ever made a fuss. He was so happy too, always smiling and laughing and thr simplest of things. I don't think he has changed all that much." She smiled a little wider. "I'm glad that this world hasn't taken that away from him."
Jay scoffed as she handed him the books on parenting. She was joking, which is why he put the books in the bag when she wasn't looking. It couldn't hurt.
He listened to the long list of items they would need and he let out a sigh, puffing out his cheeks. "Needy little things," he said with amusement. They started to pack everything up that they could find in the large bags they always kept in the back of cars for runs. When she spoke again, he looked over her shoulder and shook his head. He looked at the price tag hanging off the handle and let out a whistle.
"Well, they're having a sale if you want it," he said sarcastically. "100% off." He smirked over at her and bumped her shoulder with his own before heading down the isle some ways more.
"What was Harrison like? As a baby, I mean?" he asked as he collected a few more things.
Aurora parked around the side like he suggested and she pulled her weapon out, holding it expertly as though she had been holding one like that for her entire life. Luckily, there would be no need to use it but that didn't mean she put her weapon away, there was always a chance they would need to use it, even if everything seemed to be abandoned.
Once they found the section of the shop intended for babies there was much for them to take. She looked to Jay and chuckled a little. "You can start by reading a couple of these over the next six months." She said with a smile as she placed some parenting books in his hand, obviously joking. "We need plenty of clothes, babies grow fast. I plan on breast feeding so we need to get something to allow me to express in case you need to feed the baby, some bottles, diapers, something for the baby to sleep in...the list in endless really."
Aurora looked around at some of the prams and shook her head. "You know hoe expensive this would be if the world hadn't turned upside down?"
Jay looked at the place as they pulled up. It certainly looked abandoned. They might just get lucky like she said. He nodded as she pulled up. "Let's park around to the side, just in case. Don't want anyone to see a working car and know there's people in here."
They climbed out a moment later and drew their weapons, just in case. The doors were wide open, but there didn't seem to be any threats. Just as she suspected, the place had been raided some time ago. He just hoped having babies wasn't exactly popular at the moment and there was plenty for them to take.
It was halfway through the store that Jay realized he didn't know the first thing about babies. Despite having wanted kids of his own, he never really studied up on them. It was always a pipe dream.
"I have no idea what I'm looking for," he admitted sheepishly. He realized he would be leaning on Aurora quite a bit through this.
Aurora nodded briefly before he stopped to kiss her and once they exchanged that moment together they were back in the car and heading towards the department store to pick out some things for their unborn baby. On the way she listened to him talk about Miguel and what happened to him and even when he told her the most alarming part of the whole story she didn't look alarmed.
She made eye contact with him when he spoke his final words and she nodded. She would have died for the same reason. She would never had let anyone get to her family. "I know. I would have done the same Jay." She took his hand and held it for a long as she could until she was pulling up to the department store.
"I can't imagine a place like this would be overrun. I'm sure people have already taken the chance to take what they can from here so let's hope they have already cleared out the infected and left us with some baby supplies."
Her words were soft and for a moment he could barely even process them. She hadn't even known the man and she was willing to name their son after him because of how important he had been to Jay. He swallowed hard and nodded, wiping the lone tear away from his face. He stopped their walking only long enough to lean over and kiss her briefly before they made it to the car.
He didn't look back when she pulled away from the prison. His time there was over. He didn't need anything else from that place. He would keep Miguel in his heart.
As Aurora drove to their next location, Jay felt a part of him come uncorked. A weight lifted. He was glad they had gone and he was ready to talk. At least a little bit. He spoke about Miguel. How he had always been there for him. How he never ate Jay's share of food no matter how hungry he was. "He was a better man than I'll ever be," he said with confidence. "And I'm okay with that." He sighed heavily. "And then one day he was just gone. And the next time they brought me in, they used him to get to me. They killed him for nothing." He looked at the trees passing by. "They killed him. And they... ate him. Right in front of me."
He didn't sound distressed when he spoke about it. It was just facts now. Facts that he qould think about for the rest of his life, but he knew Miguel would tell him he had shed far too many tears over it by now.
"They would have done the same to me or to anyone back home if I caved and told them where you were." He looked over at her finally. "I would have died first."
Aurora was surprised by his next words but they made complete sense really. He was right. They didn't exactly live in a world where things like this could be avoided and they simply needed to accept that fact that they needed to lead different lives now. Perhaps they had already accepted that but the part where they said sorry...that would take a lot more to change.
Aurora watched then as Jay commemorated the friend he had lost in here and it started to make sense as to why he wanted to come here in the first place. This was the closure he needed, to let someone know that Jay cared about Miguel and the sacrifice of his life.
After a moment he took her hand and suggested it was time to leave and she went with him back to the car. "If we have a boy, we will name him Miguel."
He heard Aurora's voice behind him. He didn't realize how long he had been staring into the room.
"I told you we don't get to be sorry," he said, not looking back at her. "Things will happen the way they happen. We try our best. And that's all we can do." He finally turned to face her. "I wish I had done a lot of things differently. But bein' sorry ain't gonna change that." He swallowed hard. His eyes dropped like they always did when he was too insecure to look someone in the eye. "We just gotta try to move on."
It was clear that he was talking more about himself in that moment than Aurora and the other's timing. He was really trying to live by this new philosophy. If he spent time feeling sorry or guilty, nothing would come of it. He could only change the future.
He was ready to leave the room where he had spent so much time locked away. He had seen what he had come for. An empty cell. Proof he wasn't in there any longer.
When they passed by a room he had never been in before he glanced a small surviving wooden table. He stepped inside and knocked it over onto its side. With his foot he kicked at the legs until he managed to get two of them off. And then he brought them outside with him.
"Miguel..." he finally said as they walked outside. "He said his people had given up on him. He'd been in there so long. Or they just left him..." Jay shook his head. "I don't believe it. He was... special. Something you don't see in this world anymore. No one would give that up." He headed towards Gunners rotting body and unceremoniously untied his shoelaces and pulled them out of the eyelets. Then he did the same to one of his buddies. He found a good place in a patch of crass and started to dig a small hole with his knife. "If they're still out there looking for him... and they find this place. I want them to know someone cared."
He knelt and tied the shoe strings together before using them to tie the two planks of wood together into a cross. Then he pulled out his knife once more. He etched the name [i Miguel Rios] into the cross before standing it up in the small hole he had created.
And then he knew he was ready. And that he hadn't come back for himself he had come back for Miguel. "Let's go," he said softly, taking her hand.
When they pulled up Aurora decided she would let Jay decide the parameters of how involved Aurora would be in his attempt at gaining some form of closure. She waiting a beat before he asked her to come with him and she nodded. "Of course I will." She said, climbing out of the car herself. She wanted to take his hand but didn't know what his process would be so she decided to clasp it to herself and followed him.
"No, we just wanted to get you and the others out of there as fast as we could." Aurora followed his lead in pulling out a gun, just in case anyone had been attracted by the blaze they had set upon the place before they left but it was clear that the only evidence that there ever was life here in the first place was in the rotting bodies on the floor. None of them deserved better in her mind.
Aurora had to stop for a moment and take a deep breath, the smell of burnt flesh not exactly agreeing with her pregnancy. Once it passed she continued to follow, picking up anything that might be of use to them until they reached a cell where Jay stopped. She didn't need him to tell her that this was where they kept him.
She could see the tears in his eyes and the anger. This was where he made his friend...lost his friend. She felt anger for him. "He deserved to be saved. I'm sorry we didn't get here in time to do that."
Jay sat up a little straighter now that she said they were getting close. He looked over at her as she gave him her support and he nodded. "I know," he said softly. He was holding onto that fact. That she was here. He wasn't going to be walking in to what he left.
They pulled up out front of the prison and his heart hammered inside his chest. He suddenly forgot why he wanted to come back. All he felt was fear. But then he saw the bodies still littered about, decomposing in the cold, winter air and he remembered.
Jay got out of the car slowly. "Come with me?" he asked before he closed the door. He didn't feel it was safe to leave her out here alone. He didn't want to be inside alone, either.
He walked up to the side door they had all burst through during the attack. The flies and maggots were happy with the dead he walked over to get there. He took a deep breath. And then he sighed it out heavily before taking that first step inside.
"No one stuck around to search for weapons, did they?" he asked her. "After you saved me?" In his memories, everyone seemed in too much of a hurry. "We should look around."
He pulled his gun out, just to be safe, but it was clear there were no survivors. He checked each room, packing away any ammo and guns they found. Then they got far enough down the hall that Jay recognized it. His walking slowed and he turned to look into the room on his right. The chains hung from the ceiling still. His blood still stained the ground.
There were knives he could have pocketed. Things that could maim and harm. But he didn't step inside to grab them. He didn't want the tools that were used on him. He just stared into the room in silence, trying to let something go inside him.
And then he turned and walked away, further down the hall. He made a turn and then he was at his cell. His room for over two months. He looked inside it, but with a different expression than he had the torture room. Unlike there, he actually stepped inside. He heaved a mighty breath and felt the tears come to his eyes. His hands balled into fists.
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