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Zombies, Write! Jack the Shipper

I'm not sure how I missed it last year, but for the second year the fanfiction community around the Zombies, Run! running app has organized a fanfiction exchange. Here's my contribution from a prompt for Jack as a die hard (relation-)shipper...

Jack the Shipper

“There,” Jack said as he moved the set of four chairs into their third orientation in the last half hour. It wasn't like there was that much room to maneuver in the tiny little shack they called their radio station. “That will work.”

“I hope so.” Eugene had stayed well out of the maelstrom that was Jack the interior designer. “You know you are only going to have to bring all that equipment back in here once the interview is done. And why do we need four chairs?”

“I don't know,” Jack bustled over to the stove and set a fresh pot of water boiling. Tea by radio equipment light wasn't exactly wine by candlelight, but it would have to do. “You never know who might pop by.”

Eugene sighed. “Right. What are you up to?”

Jack knelt down to search the utility cabinet used for miscellaneous storage for teacups that, if not matching, weren't chipped as badly as the ones he and Eugene used every day. It was best to avoid direct eye contact with Eugene. There was no way Jack could keep anything from him. One look from Eugene, and Jack would spill his guts. It was always like that, from the first moment they met when Eugene tripped over Jack in the woods at the beginning of the zombie outbreak. Eugene meant the world to Jack. Everyone desired someone like that.

“Knock knock,” Sam's voice preceded his entry into the cramped radio station. “I hope it's not a bother that I'm a tad early.”

“Welcome to our humble station,” Eugene hopped over to the door on his crutch. “Come on in. We're so glad you could find the time in your busy schedule for an interview.”

Sam ran his hand over his head. “I didn't know I had a choice.”

Jack dodged the look of frustration Sam was sending his way. If the hounding day and night hadn't convinced Sam to give the interview, the threat of Jack wanting to shadow Sam to learn how to be an operator had.

“You're a vital part of Abel,” Jack pointed to the chairs. “Sit. Sit.”

“I really can't stay long,” Sam said. “Besides, I'm not sure I really have much to say.”

“Don't worry,” Eugene sat down in one of the chairs with its back to the door. “It's just a little chat. We'll handle the questions. You just have to answer.”

Sam took the chair across from Eugene.

“Not there,” Jack shouted. Both Eugene and Sam froze. “I mean, Sam you should probably be facing away from the door.”

They stare at him.

“Better acoustics that way.”

Eugene shrugged. “Better do as he says.”

It took another ten minutes for Jack to get everything set up, which was good since Sam had shown up a little early. They shuffled chairs. Jack made some tea. Then Jack fiddled with the recording instruments until Eugene pushed him out of the way.

“Really Jack,” Eugene whispered as they fought over the microphone cord. “What's gotten into you?”

“Maybe I should come back another time,” Sam started to get up.

“Don't be silly,” Jack said. “Unless you want me coming up to your booth every day. I'm sure the Major wouldn't say no to having you train another operator.”

“I could probably spare a few more minutes.” Sam sat back down.

“We'll make this as quick and painless as possible,” Eugene shooed Jack away from the equipment. “Why don't you get us started, Jack?”

“Right,” Jack sat down across from Sam so he could keep an eye on the door. “Whenever you are ready.”

Eugene took a seat next to Jack and gave him a suspicious look. “Whenever you are ready.”

“Right,” Sam said with a nervous laugh. “What do you want to know? I'm an open book. If I was a book, but that would just be silly. What was the question?”

They started with a few easy questions that Eugene had drafted to get Sam over his shyness. For a guy who spent most of his time talking to runners, he didn't seem at all comfortable talking about himself.

“What can you tell us about project GreenShoot?” Eugene asked.

“Oh, I'm not really, that is Major De Santa doesn't want,” Sam stammered out an incoherent answer.

“Come on Eugene,” Jack came to the rescue. It should earn him a few brownie points just in time for Jack to get to the questions he really wanted to ask. The timing had to be perfect. “That's probably top secret. Right Sam?”

“Not exactly,” Sam said.

“Tell us about the runners.” It was time for Jack to take control of this conversation. “Who's your favorite?”

“Oh, I don't have a favorite,” Sam shifted in his seat. “That would be like asking a parent who their favorite child was. Not that I feel like a parent to the runners. Although some of them need a good deal of looking after. Runner 3 nearly ran right into a horde of zombies just the other week. And Runner 13 is always getting lost. Unlucky 13, but don't tell him I said that.”

“What about Runner 5?” Jack asked.

Sam blushed. He actually blushed. Bingo.

“Runner 5 is great.” Sam said. “You know, all the runners are fantastic to go out there every day and risk their lives for supplies Abel couldn't survive without. Runner 5 is just the best runner I've seen in a long time. Got a mission impossible with certain chance of death? Runner 5 is the first to volunteer. I can't tell you how many times I thought Runner 5 was a goner. But somehow Runner 5 always finds a way out.”

“Remember when Runner 5 came back with all those guns just as we were running low?” Eugene joined in with the praise. Jack doubted there was anyone in Abel who didn't owe Runner 5 a debt of gratitude. “Or what about the time Runner 5 brought back those children Jamie was looking after?”

“Abel would be lost without runners like Runner 5.”

Sam just beamed whenever he talked about Runner 5. It was something Jack had noticed a month ago.

“So Runner 5 might hold a special place in your heart?” Jack pretended not to notice the door open behind Sam. “You wouldn't want him to not come back from a mission?”

As far as Jack was concerned, they had already lost too many good runners, like Runner 8. Life was just too short to live it without having someone waiting for you when you got home. Eugene was always there for Jack. Could anyone really blame him if he wanted the same for everyone else? Sometimes it just took a little push in the right direction to get the ball rolling.

“Well, you know, all the runners mean a lot to me,” Sam tripped over his words and looked to the ground. Then he took a deep breath and looked up. “I'll I'm saying is that when I send Runner 5 out, I expect Runner 5 to come back.”

“Runner 5, what are you doing here?” Eugene said before giving Jack a sharp look. “Don't tell me that Jack double booked the interviews.”

“I don't think I did.” Jack made a show of grabbing the interview roster and made a show of flipping through all two pages of it. “Let's see. Maybe. But that's not a problem right? Runner 5, you don't mind sitting in while we wrap things up with Sam, do you? And I'm sure Sam mind Runner 5 hanging around?”

“No, no,” Sam said looking everywhere but at Runner 5. “I can't see that being a problem.”

“Good,” Jack pointed to the open seat beside Sam. “You can seat there, Runner 5.”

Eugene grabbed Jack arm and pulled him close.

“What are you up to?” Eugene whispered just low enough that Sam and Runner 5 wouldn't hear him as they greeted each other.

“Who me?” Jack grin did nothing to help his innocent act. “It was your idea to interview critical Abel residents.”

“Maybe Runner 5 and I should come back later?” Sam started to get up.

“Oh, no,” Jack shook off Eugene's hold. “I'm sure our listeners would appreciate a chance to get to know you and Runner 5 a little better. Runner 5, it was Sam that guided you to Abel on the first day you arrived, right? You must have a lot of trust in him to put your life in his hands day in and day out, run after zombie filled run, risking your life each and every time you leave the gates. I mean without him, you might not make it back alive.”

Runner 5 looked at a loss for words.

“I wouldn't say every mission was that dire,” Sam jumped in.

“You'll have to forgive Jack,” Eugene said. “He's got a flare for the dramatic. I think we've got enough for now.”

Jack had to act fast before his lost a perfect opportunity to nudge Sam and Runner 5 in the right direction, towards each other. When the phone rang, Jack ignored it.

“Just one more question.” Jack said.

“I guess I'll get that.” Eugene stood up and hopped over to the inter Abel phone. “Hello?”

Jack leaned in closer to Runner 5 and Sam so that they would have to do the same to hear him.

“You know I think that the relationship between an operator and a runner is pretty special,” Jack said. “Wouldn't you agree?”

Runner 5 just nodded and smiled at Sam. Double bingo.

“That was Major De Santa,” Eugene grabbed Jack by the shirt collar and pulled him back in his seat. “Important mission, she says the two of you should report in immediately.”

“Right then,” Sam stood up quickly. “This was fun. Let's not do it again. And I expect not to see you hanging around my station.”

“Not a problem,” Jack said. “I'd make a lousy operator anyways.”

Runner 5 walked out with Sam close behind him.

“Don't be strangers,” Jack called following them out onto the deck of the radio tower. “We'd love to have to two of you over for mystery canned food night.”

Sam mumbled something Jack couldn't make out. Runner 5 waved without turning around.

“Let me see that interview roster,” Eugene snuck up behind Jack and grabbed the clip board before Jack could stop him.

“Hey, give that back,” Jack followed Eugene back into the radio station. “Their all the people we talked about interviewing.”

Every time Jack reached for the roster Eugene turned and blocked him. Eugene was surprisingly agile for only having one leg.

“What's this?” Eugene shoved the roster page back at Jack.

The names were grouped in pairs and joined by a string of doodles mainly consisting of hearts and cupid arrows. Jack shrugged.

“Short hand?”

“Tell me you aren't trying to fix up Sam and Runner 5.”

“What?” Jack took the roster and walked back to his desk. “All I did was put them in the same room to talk about how they feel about each other. Anything that happens after that is up to them.”

Eugene put his hands on Jack's shoulder and laughed.

“You are a hopeless romantic.”

“And you love it,” Jack reached up and claimed a kiss.

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