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Sequel to The End of the World, via Tesco, taking an inspiration from a prompt on the CP prompts meme asking for a fic showing the list John Finnemore made of all the things that make Arthur Shappey happy being used to cheer Arthur up. And what better need is there for simple pleasures to cheer Arthur up than facing the long, slow painful recovery from a Cataclysmic event?

Cast ensemble again - Arthur, Douglas, Martin, Carolyn, Herc, Snoopadoop, Douglas' daughter and various OCs. A few background romances including Carolyn/Herc, but mainly gen friendship fic. Trigger warning for brief descriptions of PTSD. Minor character death.

I'd rate this as PG13. Deals with some upsetting scenarios, but there's nothing overly explicit.

The Little Things

1 - Cracking Your Knuckles

Arthur knew that he was incredibly lucky, considering. For starters, he was still alive, which was great. And there was something left of the country to put back together again, which was great, again. The idea of escaping the plague had been quite exciting at the time, but he’d have missed Britain after a while, if it had carried on. But it had been all over after four days, and they’d been able to go back home.

Well. Not “all over” as such. And not exactly “back home”, either. The virus was gone, but so was pretty much everything else. Soldiers and people in Hazmat suits started saying stuff about new diseases spreading, from all the bodies, and the Infer Structure, which basically meant that there wasn’t any electric or water or shops or anything so you couldn’t buy stuff now or run MJN really or even go back to Fitton for a while, which was a bit sad, but his Mum kept on saying that things could be worse, much worse, and Herc said things about all rolling up their sleeves and mucking in to get life back on track for everybody.

Everything was a bit mad really, in that first week. They had to queue a lot, and fill out forms. There were Soldiers at the ends of the queues, taking their forms and writing more stuff on them. They needed pilots, they said, which made Skip very happy and Douglas and Herc sort-of relieved. Arthur’s Mum talked the soldiers in charge round and round in circles until they gave her a job organising stuff, which she seemed reasonably pleased with. They didn’t really need airline stewards, they said, which was a pity, but Arthur said that he just wanted to help out however he could. Being helpful was good. He’d fly on Gerti again, eventually.

As for the place they were taken to after that… well. It was a roof over their heads. Over a lot of people’s heads. The leisure centre sports hall fit rather over a hundred in it. They had mats to sleep on, and they at least had bottles of water for drinking and rations served twice a day and a couple of chemical loos out the back. Arthur was just coming to terms with it not being all that bad when a soldier came to take Snoopadoop away. “Not far”, they said. “Hygiene and safety purposes”, they said. “Only until they were out of the camp”, they said. “She’ll be looked after”, they said.

Arthur didn’t think it was fair. They’d always taken Snoopadoop when they’d gone camping before, and she didn’t need as many baths as people did, so she was probably cleaner than the rest of them, comparatively. He went with them as they took Snoopadoop to her “kennel”. It was just an empty store room, really. Poor Snoop was in there with about a dozen other sad looking dogs. It smelled.

When Arthur got back to the sports hall, it just felt a bit like another kennel, full of people who were lost, people who were shouting or crying, who were tired and dirty and hungry and stressed and didn’t know what to do with themselves. He found his Mum and the others – they’d set out a little area for their group, like when you’re on the beach and you all put your towels down together.

Arthur looked around himself. ‘When can we go home?’

‘In time,’ his Mum replied, ‘I hope.’

That didn’t really explain anything, though.

They were able to go and get food, later. It was mainly rice, with some vegetables in it. Skipper made a quiet little joke about Surprising Rice, but this was nothing like Surprising Rice at all. Arthur ate all of his, and there were no surprises at all. It didn’t really taste of anything. A not-actually-very-good thought started really nagging at his thoughts throughout the evening, until, just before they bedded down for the night, he just had to say it out loud.

‘I don’t like this.’

‘Nobody does, Arthur,’ his Mum replied.

‘But I usually like stuff. And I don’t like this. It’s making my insides feel all sluggy. Blimey, if I don’t like this, what must it be like for you lot?’

‘I’ll live,’ said Herc. ‘I can go to sleep knowing I’m safe, and that there’ll be food and water tomorrow. Right now, that’s good enough for me.’

‘We nearly all died just a few days ago,’ agreed Skip. ‘Things could be worse.’ He gave Arthur a stilted little pat on the knee. ‘It’ll get better.’

‘It will,’ added Douglas, setting out his sleeping bag. ‘Slowly. Bit by bit, things will recover.’

‘Like unwrapping lots of little presents at Christmas,’ said his Mum. ‘Think of it that way.’

‘Right.’ Arthur frowned, and tried to think about Christmas, but that just made his insides feel all twisty and slithery again. ‘Night then, chaps.’

Arthur usually slept through anything, but he found it difficult that first night. People were still crying, and even when he fell asleep, the crying seeped into his dreams. It had been a long time since he’d last had a nightmare, but he had one that night. He dreamt about the virus. He dreamt about those people, those sick people with their awful faces. He dreamt about panicked, strangled cries for help, and was roused enough to realise that the noises were real, and close by. He half sat up to see Herc and Douglas restraining Skipper and muttering to him as he tried to get up, clawing out at nothing.

‘Oh, no.’

‘Shush, Arthur. It’s all right.’ His Mum was at his side.

‘Is he sick? Are people getting sick again?’

‘He’s just having a bad dream. Go back to sleep.’

Arthur didn’t get back to sleep until after they’d managed to get Skip to wake from his nightmare. There were soft sobs and apologies in the darkness, and Arthur finally slipped back into his own dreams.

He was woken properly - stiff and sore from sleeping on the mat - by his mum shaking his shoulder. Golden morning light streamed in through the high windows of the sports hall, and the place was buzzing with a new energy.

‘Wake up,’ his Mum ordered. ‘They just called out your name.’

‘Really?’ Arthur sat up and cracked his stiff neck. Oooh, that felt good. ‘Have I won something?’

‘Work, Arthur. They have work for you. The Big Clean Up starts as of now.’

Arthur stretched from side to side, causing satisfying pops along his spine.

‘They want me to help out? Already?’ He cracked his hips. Gosh, that felt terrific.

‘You dear say you’d lend a hand any way you could.’

Arthur got to his feet, bending each heel back a little so that his ankles cracked. ‘Oh wow, yes! Helping. I like being helpful. This is more like it, isn’t it, chaps?’

The three pilots mumbled, exhausted still, from under their blankets. Arthur laced his fingers together, turned his palms outwards and stretched, feeling the multitude of cracks from his knuckles to his shoulders.

Yes. Things would get better. He was starting to feel better already.

Part 2

November 2013

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