Two Years Later...
Light streaks through the window of our little bedroom, resurrecting me from the abyss of sleep. Its not at all a welcome awakening. Today is Saturday. One of only two days I get to sleep in on. So, ever the defiant person that I am, I roll over and pull the blanket over the top of my head. As I do, I roll right into Carl's back. Carl is a lighter sleeper than I am, but, even so, he doesn't stir in the slightest. Not to mention, he has really filled out these past two years, and his shoulder muscles are tough; almost like rolling over into a cement wall of sorts. That's right... its been two years. Since we arrived here in Alexandria. Since we started making a life for one another and our other friends. Its hard to comprehend how quickly the past two years have flown by. As it turns out, today isn't just any Saturday. Its the Saturday. Carl's eighteenth birthday. The day we're supposed to get hitched. Perhaps I really should get up. But that's easier said than done. Because I can smell Carl next to me, in all his tantalizing glory; feel the thin fabric of his tank top against my cheek. My body responds to his physical presence instinctively, my arms coiling around his sleeping form to draw him tightly to me. He snorts in his sleep, but, other than that, doesn't stir to my touch.
I would've been happy just to stay here like this. Its so comfortable to be here with him. Without anyone bothering us and only sleep awaiting us. But, as I said, we have plans today and there are other forces that aren't about to let us sleep through them. Chief among those forces is Carl's father, Rick, whom promptly pushes open the door to our bedroom and strolls in uninvited. He does this a lot when either Carl or I sleep in. Or, I should say, when we're not out of bed on time. One incident, in particular, he walked in on Carl and I making out one morning. When Michonne caught wind of that, she tormented the both of us for a week straight. Now, looking back, it is a hysterical incident. Then, however, it was mortifying. Rick has brought reinforcements with him this time, because I feel a very heavy lump plop down on the end of our bed, and I know who he's brought.
"Go on, Judith." Rick's voice commands. "Wake your brothers."
Judith Grimes is two years old now.
That means that, not only can she walk now, she can also talk. Not to worry, though. She never picked up on Abraham's tendency to curse every word in the book before forming a coherent sentence. As it turns out, her first word had been "Car", which we assumed was her attempt at saying her big brother's name. Carl was thrilled at this development, as was Rick. The lump, which I now know to be Judith, starts moving; crawling up my lumped form in the blankets until she's practically sitting on my shoulder and, by extension, Carl's shoulder as well.
"Tell 'em!" Rick encourages her.
Judith can't say more than two or three words per sentence.
She's still picking up on conversational structure. Still, she's done this enough to know what Rick wants her to say, as well as what to do to provoke the necessary reaction out of Carl or I.
"Car!" she bellows, pounding the outside of the blankets with her open palm. "Tawnner!"
Then there's the way she says my name.
With a "w"-like sound. I've tried teaching her to say it without the added syllable, but she's simply not teachable. Perhaps she'll grow out of it once she learns to properly pronounce words. Besides, I find it rather cute how she says my name. Her persistent slapping the bed sheets has the intended effect. Carl groans next to me, enough so that I can feel his voice vibrating in my chest. It has deepened considerably these past two years. Judith doesn't relent, though. She knows she can continue doing it until either Carl or I are visibly awake.
"What is it, Judith?" Carl grumbles grumpily at the rude awakening.
"C'mon, you two." Rick intervenes, scooping Judith back into his arms and off of the two of us. "Big day today."
Carl suddenly jolts upward, knocking me rather comically off of him.
"Oh!" he exclaims. "That's right!"
Now its my turn to groan.
I was quite comfortable wrapped around him like that. Can't we just sleep for another hour? Nineteen years old, closing in on twenty, and I still demand sleep like a little kid. And then Carl begins to frantically prod at me to get me to "awaken". One of my eyes opens, allowing him to see that I'm conscious. Carl's morning appearance is hilarious. Even though our hair is a similar length now, his being slightly shorter than it was when I first met him, and mine being only a little shorter than even that, Carl still gets the worst bedhead. His hair is flying in every which direction and it brings an involuntary smirk to my face when I see it.
"Get up!" he barks at me. "Today's the day!"
"I know." I reply groggily, rubbing my eyes of sleep. "Happy birthday, by the way."
He's been anticipating this all week.
I have too, but, for Carl, this is an even more monumental day. I turned eighteen only a few months after we arrived here in Alexandria. Today was the day he joins me in what the old world would consider "legal" adulthood. Of course, that means nothing now, but the sentiment isn't lost on him. More importantly to him, though, is the fact that he and I are finally getting married today. Officially. I mean, how exciting is that? We've both been waiting for this for two long years and its finally here.
"You two bathe and get ready. We've gotta be there soon." Rick announces.
And, with that, he vanishes from our room and back into the house, leaving the two of us alone again.
Carl and I don't waste a second more.
The two of us roll off of our respective side of the bed and immediately head for the bathroom across the hall. For once, even though there are others in the house, we shower together. For one, it cuts down on the amount of time we'd both take to get ready if we took them separately, and secondly, we had previously decided that we'd stop hiding these types of activities the day we finally were to be married together. If Rick notices, he doesn't seem to bat an eye. At this point, two years after I began seeing his son, he's used to us doing just about everything together, so the thought of us showering together must not have been a problem to him in the first place. Either that, or he just assumes that today is the day we're getting officially hitched so there really isn't much he can do about it anyways. Whichever it is, I'm pleased that our shower goes uninterrupted. We don't take the usual length of time we usually have together, in the past, and quickly wash ourselves. Even though neither of us has said it today, we're both very eager to get to the location of our choosing for this event.
"So, I'm not going to have to dance at this thing, am I?" I ask Carl in jest as I'm washing my hair.
Beside me, he is focusing on washing his upper torso, and chuckles loudly after hearing my question.
"You? Dance?" Carl replies sarcastically. "Ha!"
"I'm just saying!" I continue. "I danced once in middle school and it was a catastrophe."
This makes Carl laugh even louder, "Well now you have to dance, because I've gotta see that." he jokes.
"Not happening, short stuff."
He hates it when I call him that. Technically he's still only a few inches shorter than me, but I will often use that particular pet name, when we're joking with one another, to goad him on; such as this very moment. Unfortunately for me, however, Carl has developed the perfect counter for my goads over the past two years.
"Will you dance if I ask you to?" he counters.
The inflection in his voice betrays the joking tone of the conversation. It almost sounds as though he's hurt that I am refusing to dance at this ceremony in any fashion whatsoever. This is a ruse. Carl knows that I hate it when he's upset and so he purposely uses this tone of voice to sucker me into losing one of our joking debates. The thing is, I know he is just screwing with me, and yet he never fails to win every time. The key to his strategy is that infamous pout of his. The one he breaks out whenever he wants to get his way with me. So, the key to countering his strategy is simple. Don't make eye contact. Well, maybe its not that simple, because my eyes are drawn backwards like a magnet towards him and I'm floored by his expression. Pouting, by itself, is usually enough to get me to concede any argument; joking or not. But a pouting, very wet, very naked Carl Grimes is just cruel and unusual punishment. He knows this. He does it on purpose, after all.
And just like that, he's won.
"Oh, fine." I snort. "Jerk."
He grins, pleased with his victory.
We finish our shower shortly thereafter and climb out of the tub. The clothing I'd chosen to wear today were not what one would typically associate with marriage. Usually when I think of marriage, or rather, clothing at a marriage ceremony, I think of tuxedos. Michonne had a few opportunities to get two for Carl and I while out on supply runs with the run team, but we'd both declined. The formality of the old world is useless to us now. Instead, we're both wearing plaid; blue for him, red for me; jeans and, of course, Carl is wearing his sheriff's hat because, at this point, he'd look almost naked without it. Its more casual, but that's exactly what both of us want today; a casual day with family and friends and, most importantly, each other. And neither of us can be causal in a tux, or, as I like to call them, a 'monkey suit'. When Carl and I finally emerge, fully dressed, we find Rick, Judith, and Michonne waiting for us in the living room.
"Well, well." Michonne chirps with a smile. "Don't you two look handsome."
I snort a laugh at this.
"Well, considering we aren't covered in walker muck and sweat for once, I happen to agree with you." I reply.
Rick shifts towards the doorway of the house, "C'mon." he commands in his thick Southern accent. "The others will be waiting for us."
Carl and I's chosen venue for this event had been fairly easy to decide on.
The grassy area where we had our first date was that venue. Of course, we could've chosen to use the church. Alexandria had one and had started using it for its original purpose when Aaron and Eric brought back a dark-skinned church pastor about a year and a half ago on one of their "recruitment drives". Neither of us had liked the idea, though, simply because the grassy hill where our first date took place holds more sentimental value to the two of us. Its a fairly windy Saturday as we step out into the community, on our way to our destination. We walk alongside Rick and Michonne, hand-in-hand like we usually travel around nowadays. The streets are bustling with activity. The community has reached nearly sixty survivors, by this point, and Saturdays are the days that those who don't work the weekend shift—like Carl and myself—come out to be with their fellow friends and family members. As we cross the street towards the outskirts of the field, I spot a familiar face.
Full name; Amelia Yates.
Seventeen years old, dirty-blonde hair, and green eyes; she arrived in Alexandria shortly after our group did two years ago. I remember meeting her for the first time, shortly after she arrived, when I was on my way to pick up Carl from the wall and take him to lunch—in between our shifts. Amelia became friends with Carl and I, but it quickly became apparent that she was developing a little more than a passing fancy for my boyfriend. The first time I noticed it, she became more that a little flushed when Carl commented on her hair once. Carl was just making a passing observation at the time, but, as with most people when they have a crush, any compliment is immediately magnified. Of course, Carl was completely clueless to her affection, and after I caught her looking at his butt while we were walking back to the house one day, I had to tell him. Things never escalated beyond that, as Amelia quickly learned that Carl and I were more than just best friends who happen to live together. Nevertheless, everytime I see her now, I unconsciously react. This time, its by squeezing his hand a little tighter than I intended too, which draws his attention to the matter.
Carl chuckles at me, "You know, you're pretty cute when you get protective." he chastises me with a grin.
"Can't help it." I snap, pretending as though I don't think the issue is a very big one.
"Its been two years, Tanner." Carl continues. "I doubt she even has a crush on me anymore."
"Better not." I reply. "'Cause she'd be out of luck. You're mine."
He smiles brilliantly at this and leans in closer to me.
"That I am." he sighs softly.
I'm not at all what you would call a "jealous" lover. Carl knows I trust him more than anyone else, and reciprocates my feelings, but the thought of someone else having unclean thoughts for my guy are, admittingly, frustrating to a degree. Carl calls it my "protective nature" and is always a mixture of amazed and amused whenever I get that way. It may stem from the fact that I wasn't use to seeing other people hit on Carl before we got here, so I had no natural defense to it, and now its just an instinctual reaction. Either way, I do my best to ignore it and settle down. Carl and I are about to be permanently joined together, anyways, so its not like anyone else's opinions mattered at the moment.
We arrive, shortly, at the field and immediately spot our entourage. We're the only ones using this place today, so its easy to spot everyone standing around and chatting among one another. Carol is the first to spot us and nimbly closes the gap between our two converging groups, wrapping her long, thin arms around my neck for a tight hug. The past two years have solidified a pretty sturdy relationship between the older woman and myself and I consider her even more of a motherly figure now than I did then. When she pulls out of the embrace, her hangs linger on my shoulders while she gives me a thorough look over.
"You look handsome." she observes with a smile. At this point, she seems to finally notice Carl lingering close to my side and promptly repeats her greeting with him. "So do you." she says to him after she finishes hugging him. "You've grown into a fine young man. Your mother would be so proud of you."
That's the first time I've heard Lori mentioned in sometime.
Years have gone by, but the pain of Lori's death has not left the Grimes men. Carl was particularly vocal, just a few weeks ago, that his mother wouldn't get to see her first born child get married. It is a feeling we can both share with one another. My own mother isn't here and, though I can't be sure her ultimate fate, I'm almost certain that she—like Lori—has passed from this world. In a way, I'm glad Carl and I have both had to go through that type of loss. Though it is a pain that will never leave us, we both have each other to comfort one another when it gets to be too unbearable. It helps to have someone who knows exactly what you're feeling inside. The mention of Lori brings a small sprinkle of tears to the edge of Carl's eyes. He's been doing good, up until this point, to hide his emotions on the matter, but Carol's mention of her has unintentionally tapped that well of dark pain hiding just beneath the surface of Carl's azure eyes. I'm quick to wrap my arm around his waist and pull him into me.
Just the warmth that passes between us is enough to tether Carl back to the present and he quickly wipes his eyes; recomposing himself.
"You gonna be okay?" I whisper to him, affectionately rubbing his side.
"Yeah," he nods, giving me a weak smile. "Thanks, Tanner."
I give him a wink and we continue forward.
Glenn, Maggie, and Tara are our next encounter. The three of them are off in sort of a triangle at the edge of the group. Maggie is quick to approach Carl and embrace him, all the while Glenn greets me with a firm handshake; then they trade places and give their greetings to the other of us.
"How're the runs going?" I direct at Glenn, trying to make this a bit more of a casual occasion.
"Not going to be long before we need some new places to look." he replies with a shrug. "Daryl thinks we can press north towards Rockville and start bringing back supplies from there."
"But more importantly," Maggie interjects. "Today's the big day."
Maggie always has a way of bringing things back to the present topic.
"You two doing anything special later?"
Its an innocent question.
She probably doesn't even realize what she's just asked. Alexandria has expanded considerably since our group first arrived. There's a lot more to see in the colony now. Regardless, there is very little to do in the ways of entertainment and dating, and its not like Carl and I can venture on a traditional honeymoon. Of course, that doesn't mean Carl and I don't have any plans for later. Its just... most of those plans, I'm fairly certain, our friends don't want the specific details on. Luckily for us, I've become a fairly smooth talker over the years.
"We have a thing or two planned." I give Carl a wicked grin and another wink. "But nothing too over the top."
"I can't believe this is even happening." Glenn chimes in.
"What do you mean?" Carl finally joins the conversation vocally.
"Nothing, its just..." the Asian begins. "When I met you, you were just a little kid with your mom. Thought your dad was dead. I never thought I'd be witnessing this. Especially after what happened at the prison. Its all so surreal."
"At least we won't be the only post-apocalyptic couple in this group anymore." Maggie jokes.
Carl and I get a laugh at this.
Technically, we aren't the second, but Carol and Daryl haven't officially gotten together, even though everyone knows there is definitely some chemistry between the two of them. Abraham and Rosita are another couple who aren't official, but everyone thinks is pretty obvious. About this time, Daryl himself approaches. Over the past two years, the redneck and I have probably had the least interaction among our group members. Even so, I'm fond of Daryl. Mainly because I wish I was half as tough as he is. I'm surprised he even showed up. Don't get me wrong, Daryl has an immense amount of loyalty and care to the Grimes family, but these type of events are definitely not his thing. He prefers being by his lonesome (or with Carol), back at his residence, or out on runs with the supply run team.
"I ain't much for romance," he says, eyeing me primarily. "But you take care of him. Otherwise, you'll have to deal with me."
Carl grins at his remarks.
I can't help from doing the same.
We both know Daryl is just kidding. It takes awhile to see the redneck's sense of humor, largely because he's so serious all the time, but once you know what to look for, its easy to see. Its sweet to see Daryl's soft side from time-to-time. I guess it never really has dawned on me just how much he cares for Carl. Its no secret that Daryl has an almost brotherly relationship with Rick, so I suppose its not out of the ordinary that he'd be protective of Carl as well. Either way, I give the redneck a thumbs-up.
"I don't think either of us will have to worry about that too much." I reply.
"See to that." he replies, giving me a nod of acceptance.
The pastor officiating this ceremony is the last to arrive. As I mentioned earlier, he is a dark-skinned man, and comes across as rather meek and timid. He simply goes by the name of Gabriel, but several in the community have taken to calling him "Father" Gabriel. Everything looks to be set and it seems as though everyone has gathered. Its in that moment that I realize Glenn is right. Its a very surreal moment. Two years has come and gone, we've actually survived in this community for the entire duration, and, most importantly, Carl and I have only continued to grow closer together over the past two years. Its unreal that what Carl and I had talked about being a "nice thought" back before Terminus is now about to take place. Rick approaches us from behind, having passed Judith off to Carol at some point, and clasps both of our shoulders.
"You two ready?" he asks.
This is really happening.
"As ready as I'll ever be." I reply.
He glances at his son.
"What about you?"
Carl looks up at his father, then glances to the side at me. With a warm smile, he nods.
"Yeah." he replies.
And, with that, its settled.
The next twenty minutes are a bit of a blur to me. My heart races. I have stage fright, which makes standing in front of everyone even more unnerving. Yet, somehow, being with Carl soothes my raging nerves. His eyes are full of anticipation, love, adoration. The list goes on. As everyone finds their place in the grass and Gabriel approaches us, my gaze becomes fixated on Carl. My Carl. My friend. Best friend. Lover. Boyfriend. Soon-to-be-spouse. And I am forcibly drawn, yet again, to those perfect cerulean spheres of his, where I'm captivated and held prisoner to his radiance. It may sound cliche, but its absolutely true; he seems to be almost glowing today. Perhaps its the angle that the Sun is catching him at, or the fact that his hair is washed extra clean today, or some other unforeseen factor, but Carl is almost beatific in appearance. The soft smile touching his lips further accentuates it. I'm so transfixed by how handsome my Carl is, I barely even notice Gabriel start speaking.
Gabriel spoke the passages flawlessly. As I listened to him speak, it becomes immediately apparent that he had been doing this for a long while. He's reciting passages from memory alone, throwing in funny, yet relevant stories, anecdotes and other such quirks from time to time. As he speaks, my mind combs over the past two years, but particularly homes in on the fateful Georgian afternoon that Carl and I had met on. When I had found that boot, abandoned in a house with one walker still roaming inside of it, I never thought I'd be picking up the boot of my future spouse. I was, above all, just curious. It was an out of place feeling of anxiety that caused me to rush back into the woods after hearing gunshots, leading to the first time I ever saved Carl's life. I didn't even have the slightest clue, back then, what that meeting would blossom into. Flashing ahead, I recall our first kiss. How nervous I'd been. How utterly confused my feelings were. On the one hand, I knew I cared for Carl immensely. On the other, I was terrified of all the new feelings that he was causing me at the time and yet, even so, my body reacted and we kissed.
The start of something beautiful.
There were other memories to consider. Many more firsts. The first time we had sex. The first time Carl told me he loved me. The first time I thought I'd lose him, and, not long after that, the first time he thought he'd lose me; both scenarios to death. Then there was the first time we had a true fight with one another. The first time we made up. The first time we truly made love to each other. All of that is finally coming together into a single moment. Right now. Just as I think this, Gabriel prompts us to present each other our rings. I go first. My heart is racing, face flushed. Too many emotions are battling for dominance of my soul right now, as I take the chained necklace which has, for so long, been draped around Carl's neck, unlatch it, slide the ring off and take it completely into my hand once again. With my free hand, I take Carl's hand in my own and gently bring it up to about my chest level. Its then that I notice that I'm trembling. Carl notices, as he always does, and gives me a reassuring smile. This is a big moment for both of us. He knows I'm nervous, as much as I know he is. Nevertheless, I manage to slip the metallic band around his ring finger for the very first time, earning a wider smile from him. He then repeats what I just did to me and before I know it, our hands are clasped together, and each is sporting the ring we've worn around our necks for so long. Finally, the gift I gave him two years ago is where it belongs.
That's when the words are spoken.
"You may kiss."
Well, we've never needed any incentive before now.
But this time is different.
Time seems to stand still.
I've kissed him an uncountable amount of times before this and yet, right here, right now, I've got the shakes. Like a school boy preparing to kiss his crush for the first time. My knees feel like they'll give out any moment now. Somewhere within me, though, I find the strength to push myself forward, leaning down just enough to close the few inches of a gap between our height, and then our lips meet. I do believe this is the first kiss we've ever willingly put on display for everyone to see, and yet, oddly enough, I'm not in the least bit embarrassed. As Carl pushes his tongue past the entrance of my mouth and takes hold of my hair to hold me in place, I couldn't be more proud to be showing everyone, physically, just how much I love this person that has graced my life for two years now; and whom I hope will grace my life until the very end. When we come apart, there is clapping from the crowd of friends and family and my cheeks immediately become super heated. To my surprise, Carl isn't done with me, and swiftly pulls me into a tight embrace. Carl is still the skinny person he always has been, but he's gained muscle over the past two years, and his hugs have become much more taunt. I return his embrace and this time, I don't intend to let him go for quite awhile; planting a kiss in his hair to show him just how into this moment I am.
Gabriel officiates us at that point, and we're officially married.
A total daze.
Carl Grimes. Married.
At eighteen years old, no less. The daze I'm in buzzes over me, causing me to feel almost outside myself. Half of my brain is wondering how this could possibly be happening, and yet, the other half is screaming in excitement, wonder, and awe. And then there's Tanner. My Tanner. He looks almost as dazed as I know I must look. But its a happy daze. He's wearing a grin that he just can't seem to get rid of. I never expected it'd feel like this. Tanner and I have been together for two years and the entire time we considered ourselves to be each others. So why do I suddenly feel so different? So changed? So empowered? I guess finding out the answer to those questions doesn't really matter. Not anymore. The deed is done. The bond is stitched together. We're one. And its the happiest feeling I've ever experienced. My one regret is that my mom isn't here to see me. How I long to hear her voice. Her wisdom, words of encouragement, of support and comfort. Tears come rushing back, just as they had earlier. I just can't fight it. Its not right that she isn't here. As flawed as my mother was, she was still my mother, and I love her.
Tanner senses my distress and quickly envelopes me.
"Hey there," he whispers, kissing my cheek gently. "Everything okay?"
I need him.
He's all too happy to oblige, pulling me into a tighter hug.
Tanner isn't a typical guy of the apocalypse. Not by any sense. There are aspects of his personality that have been hardened by the horrors of the outside world, but he's still a big ball of putty on the inside. Even more so than Glenn was when I first met him. Me? There have been times when I haven't been able to feel anything at all. Too much death and loss have marred my heart. Tanner is different, though. Sometimes I think he is completely full of love, though that may just be how he acts towards me. He gently strokes my hair, rocking me, shushing me. It almost reminds me of how my mom use to comfort me when I thought Dad was dead all those years ago.
"Its okay." he coos. "Everything is going to be alright now."
And it is.
The remainder of the afternoon goes smoothly.
Without music, Tanner is relieved that he is absolved from dancing, though I make no qualms about joking with him about it. Everyone begins to start thinning out and heading back to their homes as the sun begins to descend in the sky. All accept for Tanner and I. We find ourselves seated on the top of the hill we once used as a location for our first official date and simply enjoy each other's company. Dad and Michonne are the last to leave us and finally, for the first time that day, we're truly alone. For several minutes, silence pervades the field and we simply look over the community stretched out below us. Eventually, though, Tanner scoots over behind me and pulls me into his torso, wrapping his strong arms firmly around my still-thin frame.
"Sorry this isn't much of a honeymoon." he jokes. "Its not like Vegas is an option anymore."
Tanner always knows just the right time to lighten the mood.
"Its fine, Tanner." I reply even as I snuggle in closer to him. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
There is silence for a brief moment and then he speaks again.
"So," he speaks up. "I overheard your dad saying something about you joining the supply run team a few weeks ago. You thinking about joining up?"
Truth be told, I am.
I've been on the wall for two years and restlessness has finally set in. After two years surviving in the outside world, staying put in the community just doesn't feel right to me. I should be out there hunting for supplies and fighting walkers with Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, and the others. Douglas agreed to let me join when I reached a reasonable age, but I wanted to wait and tell Tanner once I was for sure I could join; mostly because I know he'll worry.
"I am." I reply simply.
"Well then," he continues. "Got another little surprise for you."
I crane my head, bringing his profile into view. His gaze is lost in the amber-colored clouds drifting along in the sunset, clearly deep in thought.
"What is it?" I prod him, wanting to know what he's thinking about.
"I was talking to Douglas the other day." Tanner says. "He and I agree that, now that we have a few extra medics on hand, one should go with the supply run team on each run. Just in case of emergencies. You never know what could happen out there and sometimes rushing back here isn't an option."
I know where he's going with this.
"Does that mean—?"
"Yep!" he grins widely. "I volunteered for that spot once I heard you would be going out there. Looks like I'll be going along with you from now on."
"Just like old times." I reply softly.
Fighting walkers is by no means a fun memory.
But Tanner and I developed much of our chemistry out on the road, fighting alongside each other, and surviving the worst conditions imaginable. If we're together again outside the walls, I know we'll be an asset to the team. Especially with Daryl, Michonne, and Glenn being among the other members of the team. We certainly have the experience. Tanner fills the silence by placing his hand over mine, which is resting directly atop my kneecap. Our rings, which are now right where they belong, overlap and brush lightly against the other. About this time, the sun touches the horizon, casting a brilliant shine upon the two metal bands; causing them to sparkle brilliantly. His fingers curl in the groves between mine and he holds my hand tightly. Its a sweet gesture. One I plan on returning. I squirm to turn around within his embrace and then, once I'm completely facing him, seek his lips. He returns my kiss hard and passionately, his tongue tracing along his until he finally grants me entrance. Somewhere in the heat of the moment, his hands find my hair, which he uses to hold me tightly to him. Our kiss is strong and before I know it, I have accidentally pushed him backwards, forcing us both into the grass below. Not that something like that will break our groove.
We make love that night.
Its been awhile since we last had an opportunity and I can think of no better night to express our love for one another, in such a manner, than this one. By the time we're finished, the moon is high in the sky, and the stars are twinkling gorgeously in their heavenly abode. Tanner and I cross the the field towards the community hand-in-hand; ring on ring.. The night is still and somewhat frigid. Only the chirps of crickets and the hooting of owls keep us company. The streets are vacant, everyone having gone to bed, making it easier to cross town and find our home. Both Tanner and I have decided to continue living with Dad and Michonne for the time being. There's no need for us to take up another residence, that other survivors can use, if we already have one. The two of us creep in the house, careful not to disturb anyone, least of all Judith, and carefully make our way to our bedroom.
There is something uniquely satisfying to crawling into your own bed after a long day.
Especially if you share that bed with the one you love.
I snuggle up against Tanner tightly beneath our bedding. He is all too happy to welcome my affection and drapes his arm over the top of me, ensuring that we're as close as possible. I can't contain the unconscious grin that slips across my face. Tanner rests his head in the crook of my neck and sigh deeply. Seems he's feeling similar sentiments to mine. I close my eyes to seek sleep, but before I can fully achieve that goal, Tanner's breath tickles the skin of my neck as he imparts his words to me;
"Carl?" he murmurs softly.
I cannot count the number of times I've heard him say those words.
Seems as though he says them everytime they come to his head.
I'll never grow tired of hearing them. Something about the way Tanner says them makes me feel like everything is going to be alright. It warms the deepest pits of my stomach and compels me to press my back even closer into his chest. He squeezes me softly in response. My heart is so full of love for him. Its an emotion that, two years ago, I would've never given a second thought to and yet, now, with him, its become an instinct. Second nature. So, I return the courtesy, even as my grin is spreading wider across my face.
"I love you too."
Without any need for further words, I sink down into the bedding, allowing Tanner to find my hand and clasp it. We fall asleep like that. In our own bed. Our home. Together. Outside, the world is in darkness. The human race dwindles and those who survive are clinging to the last glimmers of light within them. That used to be me. Soaked up in the world's darkness, I too would have become just another soul absorbed by the tragedy of the world's end. For those lost in it, the darkness seems without end. A high-security prison from which there is no escape.
But for the people like me? Like Tanner? We know the full truth.
Love is the escape from this darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel.
...the night is darkest just before the dawn.
A/N: Well, friends. We've reached the end of this journey. I hope the last chapter was sweet and enjoyable to every one of you! I want to take this moment to thank each and every person who has given this story a chance and followed it through to the end. Friday is its four month anniversary and what a fun four months its been! You guys have been awesome with all your reviews, comments, and PMs and I'm thankful even if you didn't express your views. Your simple readership is meaningful enough as it is. When I first sat down to write this story, I didn't foresee it becoming as big and as it has become, but I'm proud to mark it with the stamp of completion, knowing that I did my absolute best to make it an enjoyable ride for those of you who have been following it and those of you who will read this at a later date, after its completion. For those of you who have spoken to me, or been following this diligently, you know that I have several stories in the process of being started, so this is certainly not my last work here, so look for me in the future. Definitely more TWD fics to come.
Now for the reviews from the previous chapter! Btw, side note here, but last chapter broke the 100 views mark. When I noticed this, I nearly fell over. Thank you all so much!
Hellraiser1701: I went and looked it up. Definitely can see where you drew that conclusion xD hahaha
TwilightEclps: Yes! Give your best! You're very welcome :) I'm glad you enjoyed!
Kayden Pause: Thank you so much for your kind words. I'm grateful that you have offered me advice in the past and have helped me with ideas. It means a lot that you think this story is magnificent and I'm very appreciative of all you've done. I hope you enjoyed this last chapter. Thank you again for your review/comment :)
The Super Ninja: That makes me so happy to hear! I'm glad you've enjoyed it that much. Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts! I hope I didn't disappoint!
Youngblooded: You've been with me since the very beginning and here we are at the end! I didn't get much Daryl in this last one, but he does have a brief conversation with Tanner there in the middle. It wouldn't be right to leave him out of the last chapter! Thank you for your compliment. It sure has been a hell of a story to write, that's for sure! Loved every last moment of it. Thank you for sticking with me :)
Lastly, I want to comment again on a review that was left to me the chapter before last by laverneanimemaster360: When I wrote this story, I wrote the summary for the ending so that I'd know which direction I'd want to take the story. Even though I knew almost nothing about Terminus, at the time, I knew I wanted them to end up in Alexandria, so I always shot for this goal. My original ending, however, did include Tanner dying. Rather violently, I might add. Obviously I changed that, mainly because I'm not THAT cruel xD but also because I felt this would be a better end for their story. Aren't you all thankful I didn't do that? xD hahaha
In addition to all of this, I've done a little research and compiled it into a nice little fact for you all. This story, as of last chapter, reached 256,297 words. If you consider that the standard industry novel contains 250 words per page, that means that you all have read approximately 1025 pages during the course of this story. THAT is a lot and I'm very grateful to you all for following along through all that content. That's certainly a lot to swallow, even over the course of four months.
Lastly, and again, I'm appreciative to everyone of you who has taken time out of your days to read this and leave me your thoughts. It truly has been an adventure. Feel free to continue reviewing and leaving your thoughts, especially about this chapter, but about the story overall as well. I look forward to reading your thoughts. If you have any questions, feel free to PM them to me, or leave them as a review and I'll PM you as soon as I see them. If you wish to check the status of any other works I have in the process of being made, check my profile from time to time, near the bottom. I'll leave news updates there until they're released here officially. Other than that, until the next adventure gang!
Hope to see you all in future stories!