Max was sitting at Bill's dinner table across from Stewart. The two were not arguing so much as glaring at each other. Two days had passed and Bill was back in Sioux City, but his son John was still home officially on 'leave' to mourn his father...who was very much alive and fighting. The kids were all outside to give the adults a chance to talk in private. Despite the size of the house, there was virtually no guarantee of privacy when all the kids were filling it.
“We have to go.” Stewart said.
She was referring to Chicago, of course. They two of them had been debriefed by the military the day after arriving at Bill's house. It still amazed them both how quickly the debriefing turned into action. The military overflew middle Nebraska with a helicopter and verified that there was a large group of 'hostiles' heading towards Iowa, a group they may not be able to defeat. They also reported similar groups of zombies massing in Kansas City and along the Iowa-Illinois border. In short, the military and leaders of Iowa realized how bad things were going to get in about a week when the groups converged on the state. The military also had driven out to the high school near Bill's place and tested Max's ability to tell how many people were hidden at various places around the school campus. They believed he could 'see' people through walls and across short distances. Stewart had announced that Max could single out super zombies as well and both of them had warned the military that the actions of the masses of zombies were being controlled by someone in Chicago. All in all, Max felt they had done everything that needed and could be done. Their disagreement with that statement was why they were glaring at each other over the table now.
“Refill?” Trisha asked, bringing a pot of coffee to the table.
“Yeah, thanks Trish,” said Max, Stewart nodded and Bill's wife refilled both of their cups and her own as well. She sat the pot down on the tile island and returned to the table.
“Max, we have to go and you know it. We won't survive if all the zombies headed our way hit us at once. The military practically came out and said so.”
“We just got here. I won't leave my kids. I can't, I am all they have left.”
“No. They have Trisha. Look I know this is hard, but your kids will not survive if we do nothing.”
“We've done okay so far.”
Max paused and rubbed his chin. “No. Seriously no. I have been thinking. All we need to do is get past one group of zombies. We were foolish to leave Denver, we could have just stayed and lived there. We can go back. Even to Tom's farm. The zombies will all be gone from there by now. Maybe if we had a plane....”
Stewart shook her head, “I know you are not serious, you would leave Trisha and the kids to die?”
“No, we would get a plane big enough to haul all of us.”
Trisha put up a hand to forestall the argument from escalating as it had done several times in the last twenty minutes. “I won't leave. I won't leave the neighbors or my friends. The kids will stay here too.”
“Trish...” Max began.
“No. That is final Max. What happened to you? I want to feel for you, I really do. But this isn't who you are. You have never gotten lazy when there was work to do. I've know you for twenty years now.” Max nodded, “In all that time I have never known you to let someone down who was depending on you.”
“This is different.”
“Yes, the stakes are higher. This is life and death. If we don't make a stand here then we die. Sure some small groups of people may live out behind the zombies, but they won't last long, this is our best chance to live.”
Max stopped and then looked down at the table. “I don't want to go.”
“Well shit, who does?” said Stewart, “Do you think I want to run up to Chicago through a horde of zombies to take on a super boss zombie master? Look at what happened in Denver, they needed a nuke to take the fucker out.”
Max raised his head, “You aren't going.” he said to Stewart.
“The hell I ain't. Someone has to save your ass.” she smiled at him, knowing he was going to make the trip after all.
“What if I agree to go, but only if you stay here to look after the kids?”
“Max, I am not their mom. In fact, I am not even mother material. I won't be their surrogate parent.”
The tension in the air became palatable and Trisha realized for the first time that there was something other than friendship between Max and Stewart.
“Oh my God!” she said, then brought her hand up over her mouth.
“Aw fuck! Sorry Trish.” Max said quickly.
“Jesus H. Christ! You two are sleeping together!”
“It isn't like that.”
“It isn't?” asked Stewart.
“I mean it is, but not like what Trisha thinks,” said Max blushing furiously.
Trisha put her hand down and fixed Max with a stern gaze, “Sarah hasn't even been dead a month Max! Not one fucking month!”
“I....” Max began to be interrupted by Stewart.
“This isn't Max's fault. I jumped him.”
“You stay out of it! I don't fault you, you weren't married.” Trisha pointed at Max, “He was and I think having your wife die deserves a little more time than jumping into bed with the first woman that comes along.” Turning back to Max, she asked, “Have there been others?”
“Didn't get the chance yet?” Trisha asked.
“No. I....Look Trish, it just happened okay.” Inside Max was seething, he tried not to let it show, but Trisha picked up on his emotions. He could not think of anything to say that didn't sound like a pathetic excuse for sleeping with another woman five days after his wife died. Max wavered between feeling defensive because Trisha hadn't been through what he had over the last two weeks and feeling guilty over what he had done. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and just said nothing at all.
They lapsed into an awkward silence, Stewart seemed to be the least ill at ease of all of them and finally she spoke, “I am going. With or without you. I may not be able to sense the dead like you can, but I am not incompetent. Are you going to come with me?”
“Apt choice of words.” Trisha said bitterly.
Stewart laughed, “I doubt we'll have time. We need to leave and leave soon.” at that moment the front door banged open and they heard some of the kids spilling into the house.
“I told you to stay outside until we were done talking,” yelled Trisha.
Little Max and Nick rushed into the kitchen, with Bill's son saying, “The army is here mom!”
“A car pulled up and army guys got out, we came to tell you. John is talking to them now.”
“Okay, we better go see what they want.”
What they wanted was Max.