Same characters as Caretaker. Later.
Dinnie looked around the dark room that had once been a nice apartment. They had tried to keep it clean, but without running water, without plumbing, it was hard. Scuff marks covered the floor and the furniture, but nothing was out of place.
The look of clutter came from the teens sprawled on every available surface as they mourned Sophie and waited for the safety of the sunrise so they could go outside and search for supplies, anything that might work to trade for food or water. Their water jug was getting low and water was so expensive, Dinnie was starting to worry they'd have to ration, have to learn to go without.
None of them had ever lived anywhere other than the city and she wasn't sure they could make it somewhere else, but if the war didn't end, they might do better as the countryside hunters and scavengers collecting the food rather than being one of many city folk bidding on it, especially with heads becoming the most prized currency. Fanged or furred didn't matter. Either species would be stronger than her small group of human teens.
And if she couldn't convince herself to ask for the protection of a vampire farm, she wouldn't be able to convince the rest of them. No matter how easy that life sounded, with all of life's necessities provided by the vampires, offering herself up as food simply felt wrong.
Still, with the electricity out and no real hopes of it coming back after the decimation of so many humans, scavenging wasn't bringing in the food like it once did. They'd have to make a change and hunting for Others in the city or hunting for food-type game outside the city were the only two options she'd come up with.
Sophie had been talking about getting them out of the city, Dinnie remembered with a fortifying breath. Sophie had never wanted her kids to become hunters. She'd held out a little too much hope for the free survival of humanity, but then Sophie had grown up in a different time, before the deadly flu had taken so many. She'd had electricity and running water. Vampires and werewolves had only been monsters in horror movies back then.
Dinnie had only been an infant in those times. She'd never known a world other than what they had now. Her life had always been based on hunting and hiding for survival. Mostly hiding in her case, but she'd never known the freedom Sophie spoke of in that dreamy voice.
Maybe that meant she'd do better at living in this world than the older caretakers had. Not that Sophie had done so badly. She'd managed to raise fifteen toddlers, after all. Not on her own, there had been others originally, but for the last three years, she'd done it all.
But they couldn't eat 'if onlies'.
"So, what's it gonna be?" David had come in behind her, his arms coming up around her shoulders. Dinnie paused for a moment then leaned back into him.
How had the two of them gained control of the group? Half the kids still called him 'Fatboy' but even they stopped to listen when Dinnie or David talked now. Really, they hadn't taken over so much as had the others fall back behind them.
Too used to being taken care of. One of Sophie's few mistakes.
"We should scout. One of us needs to head out of town and see what it's like."
David nodded, not seeing the obvious. The two of them were continuing Sophie's mistake, still taking care of the others. But it made sense. They could't trust that job to anyone else. Not yet.
"I'll go." He offered, leaning his cheek into her hair.
Dinnie breathed in again, not sure she was interested in that kind of relationship, not even sure he was, but it seemed to be expected. They'd taken the lead position. They'd become parents to a bunch of teens and there were certain simple things that seemed to keep them happy.
"I'll try to parcel out some of the responsibilities." She decided suddenly, stepping away and turning to look at him. His eyes narrowed and his lips pressed together tightly. Thinking about it. Not only her words, but the meaning behind them. The reasons she'd said it.
That was why she'd sent him out to look for Sophie last month while she stayed behind to keep the others calm. If Dinnie wasn't worried then everything had to be OK, but she knew he'd figure it out. And he'd find her if it was possible. If it had been their choice, really their choice, she might even enjoy his new familiarity.
He nodded slowly. "Scavenging?"
"It's a beginning."
"Do you think they can?"
"Someday they'll have to." She stepped back toward him, wrapping her arms around him this time. Only partially to keep her voice low as the others moved by in the hall. "Won't they?"
"Probably," he admitted with a frown. "I'll head out today. Might as well get it done."
"We don't have supplies ready to send with you."
"I'll scavenge. We're hoping it'll be easier out there anyway. Be good to know." He stepped away this time, pulling out a map. Neither of them understood this new place, this new relationship. "I'll head this way."
His finger traced a detailed path through the city but became more random the further out he went. They both knew her chances of finding him out there were slight. If he didn't come back, she'd simply never know what had happened to him. They'd have to go on with flawed or missing information. Uninformed decisions.
Was there anything worse?
"Take Mikey." She suggested finally, retracing the movement of his finger to be sure she remembered.
"We've already put it off too long. They couldn't live without us."
He nodded. They looked at each other for a long minute before he walked away. She could hear him bellowing for Mikey in the other room followed by the nervous rise and fall of voices chattering at him.
She traced his path one more time, wondering if she should have made a bigger deal of the trip. She might not ever see him again, but that was the case every time any of them ever left the apartment.
She sighed and gathered up her few weapons before slipping out the back door. Hoping to find enough food to finish off the week for them -- or to find something to trade for the food. Like maybe the head from a sleeping vampire.
But life was never that easy.