Summary: While gathering valuables from a city taken by plague zombies, Alpert and Perfection get separated, and Perfection has her first experience of true physical pain.
Notes: this was one of the winners of the May/June Patreon Poll. It's a leftover from Selfathon, was prompted by Lydean, and sponsored by zer and the Patreon crowd!
“We aren't going to clean the city?”
“Can't,” Alpert said, adjusting a strap. “It'd take an army. All we can do is return the valuables we're paid to find.” He stood up to look over her new coverall. “There. Do you like it?”
“No.” It was dingy gray, covered in pockets, and absolutely hideous. “But my dress isn't for working. I'll take it.”
“We'll have to part ways for this. You know what to do if they swarm?”
“Get to high ground, find a safe place, wait them out,” Perfection said. “Don't fight, and don't ignore your advice.”
The last bit made him smile. “Good girl. Fascinating as it would be to find out if you're immune to plague, I'd rather not test it. Good luck.”
And they split up.
This was Perfection's first city. The size of it fascinated her. The steel and cement bones of old buildings towered ahead, sprouting tufts of grass and wildflowers. Under her feet was crumbled asphalt, and a rusted, anonymous sign lay at the side, half-swallowed by the tree growing around it. It was a ruin, but beautiful.
It also smelled like death and was filled with shambling plague zombies, but nowhere was perfect.
The first leg of the trip was tedious. Perfection may not have smelled or tasted like food, but she still moved and sounded like food, unless she pretended to be a plague zombie, which never moved quickly or in a straight line unless chasing food. Progress was maddeningly slow, but Perfection was pleased to note her impersonation was good enough for them to completely ignore her. Still, it took her the better part of an hour to make it deep enough into the city to reach one of the crumbling tall buildings. Once she did, it was a relief to scramble up the wall at full speed, leaving a wave of perplexed, hungry corpses wailing after her.
There were far fewer plague zombies in the upper stories than there were on the ground, and Perfection was able to vault through abandoned scavenger homes, snatching books, jewelry, and other items important enough to pay an exorcist for. The most fighting she did was shoving a few plague zombies away from her with a long stick; fights were noisy, attracting more attention, and also disgusting.
It was interesting, what people wanted her to get. Dolls, a cameo of a young woman, jewelry. Some of it smelled of power; others were ordinary. Perfection could almost imagine the original owners—though sometimes she didn't have to. Not everyone had escaped the city in time, and a few remained in their homes, deceased but still mobile.
Things went smoothly until Perfection fudged a jump. She misjudged the weight in her pockets, fell short of the balcony, and when she caught the railing, the whole thing crumbled, sending her tumbling. She hit the ground, three stories below, and then the sharp, rusty railing fell on top of her.
The fall would've killed Alpert. As it was, it was Perfection's first serious experience of unwanted pain, and she didn't like it. Worse, the racket attracted the attention of every plague zombie in earshot. They swarmed, moaning with curiosity and hunger.
Perfection managed to summon enough adrenaline to scurry up onto the roof of a small one-story building—a large shed, maybe, or a small barn—but couldn't go further. Her arms had taken the brunt of the railing, and climbing was agony. Worse, it was too small for her to get out of view of the excited plague zombies pawing around her.
Well, they couldn't climb up, so she was safe. All she had to do was wait, until either her arms healed or the plague zombies lost interest in her. Zach's attention had lapsed quickly once she stopped moving. Surely they wouldn't take much longer, right?
Apparently Perfection's blood did smell like food. The plague zombies weren't getting bored of her, and while none had managed to climb, their incessant moaning was getting to her. And her arms still fucking hurt.
Frustrated and grumpy, Perfection grabbed a small chunk of rubble from the roof with the arm that hurt slightly less. She hurled it at one of the plague zombies below her, shouting, “Go away!”
The rubble hit the plague zombie between the eye sockets, but that only seemed to reassure the rest that yes, there was indeed food up there. They redoubled their pawing and moaning, as though hoping to entice her down.
Perfection slumped. Stupid. Now they'd never leave her alone.
By tearing off the cuffs of her coverall, wadding them up against her ears, and wedging herself into a sagging corner of the roof, Perfection could almost sort of block out the racket.
Healing, she decided, took way too long. How did humans stand it?
Perfection's arms had finally started to hurt less, but there was still nothing she could do. Her undead fanclub seemed determined to annoy her to death, and she didn't dare try fighting her way through such a mass of them. She'd already made two boneheaded mistakes; she wasn't making any more. So she held as still as possible, trying to become not-food again.
They had to get bored eventually. They had to.
Perfection pressed her impromptu earplugs in and hated everything.
It was getting dark now, and some of the plague zombies were finally peeling off and returning to their aimless wandering. Perfection hoped that when night fell, she'd finally be able to sneak off. Their night vision had to be awful, with rotten or no eyes.
The noise had almost stopped bothering her now.
Perfection wondered what Alpert was doing. Had he sauntered through his list completely unmolested, or was he stuck on some roof of his own somewhere? She preferred to think he was just as inconvenienced and unhappy as she was, even if he hid it under that mask of cool composure.
Maybe he only kept that mask on among the living. Perhaps at this very moment, he was shaking his fists and shouting obscenities at his own unwanted undead. Probably not, but it was a fun image anyway. She liked him best with the mask off, she decided. Stripped of that composure, that control, with a glint of heat in his eyes and the musk of emotion…
Damn. Now she was bored, in pain, and horny.
She sighed. Well, as long as she was stuck here with nothing and no one to do…
It didn't fully ease her sexual frustration, but it was enjoyable enough to keep her busy a while.
Perfection lay panting on her roof, staring up at the stars. Her arms didn't hurt anymore, and when she looked, she'd found that they'd suddenly healed. The blood was dry and flaked off, showing striped, unblemished skin.
Then she realized something else: the moans had stopped.
Carefully, hardly daring to believe it, she looked out over the roof of her shelter. The plague zombies had finally lost interest.
She almost ruined it by shrieking with delight, but held it in. Then she soundlessly hopped down and made for the next building.
“There you are,” Alpert said. “I was starting to worry.”
“Had some trouble.” Perfection tossed him the heirlooms and explained what'd happened.
He sighed. “I suppose it was too much to hope for that plague zombies would be completely uninterested in you. Still, at least it's only your blood. You did well on your first outing. Well done.”
Despite herself, Perfection felt herself glow with the praise. But perhaps that was okay. She may have been her own person, but was still his demon.
“I learned something else today!” She declared.
“Orgasms heal me. Not sure how many it takes, but I'm sure with practice...”
For just a moment, his composure slipped, and the look in his eyes made the whole misery worth it.
Notes: The dress Perfection usually wears came into existence with her, and is a story all on its own. It's no more natural or ordinary than she is.