Disclaimer: Do not own The Walking Dead or any associated characters. Only what happens with them in my head.
Warnings: Language, racial slur
Authors Note: I apologize that it's been... almost four month since my last update. Between working, fighting with my computer (since the hard drive is being a complete jerk) and dealing with some personal issues I just have not had a single bit of time for writing. I'm working on getting this chapter and a couple of others done because I am no where near done with this story, there has just been a lot of distraction to keep me from writing. Hopefully I still have readers out there!
"So, are you sad that there's no more chocolate?" Carl asked Michonne as he leaned his head into his palm. One hand held onto the fishing pole while the two talked quietly. The young male was more focused on fishing and chatting while Michonne seemed a little more content to search the trees for where Daryl could be. Their boat was a little further out to the little lake than she would have liked it to be, making it more difficult to see as much as she would have liked.
She clutched the fishing pole between her hands, her dark eyes focused on the trees, watching for any signs of Daryl. So far, she and Carl had caught a little over half a dozen fish and by her watch the two had been sitting in the boat for close to two hours, still with no sign from Daryl. Needless to say she was a little worried, though she felt that she had a right to be. If the world were a different place Michonne wouldn't have cared, she would simply have assumed he'd just had a spot of trouble with a snare, but in this world there were horrors that one couldn't begin to imagine.
She jumped slightly when Carl's cool hand brushed across her forearm, nearly dropping the fishing pole in the process. The boy nodded in understanding, knowing that she was a little lost in her worry. He was simply doing the best that he could to distract her. "I'm sorry, Carl.. what did you say?" She asked, now.
"I said: are you sad that there's no more chocolate?"
A smile finally cracked across the woman's full lips, "to be fair, all the chocolate is not gone. I'm sure there's still pudding or syrup out there somewhere. Besides, there's still cocoa beans, if we got ambitious enough we could probably make some."
His nose wrinkled in reply, "that sounds like a lot of work."
Michonne laughed quietly and shrugged her shoulders up quickly. It probably would be a lot of work to do but if they truly wanted chocolate they would do what was needed to make it. Her gaze turned toward the trees yet again, losing herself in thought as she waited for the next pull on her line.
The trees were quiet, much more so than they had been in most other wooded areas he'd walked through over the last two and a half years. He kept expecting to hear the moan and groan of a walker somewhere or a bird chirping.. or God only knew what. Instead, he was continuously greeted by nothing but the sound of insects buzzing. Daryl had taken out a couple of rabbits, a squirrel and an opossum. The last wasn't his favorite, though it would do in a pinch. Sometimes food was scarce and you had to eat what you could get your hands on.
Every now and again he would look to his watch to check how much time had passed, hoping that they would be able to get back on the road soon so that they could get back home. He had barely been gone twelve hours and was already antsy to see Beth and the boys. The last twelve hours had been difficult, especially when his mind drifted to them. Twice now he'd caught himself day dreaming while wandering the woods. Both times he'd missed out on catching bigger game.
He had to continuously force his mind to stay focused on the task at hand, collecting food for his fiancee and boys, collecting dinner for the community. A few yards ahead Daryl heard a scamper in the bushes and smirked, pulling the crossbow higher to take aim. The smile fell, however, as he stepped closer. Daryl had expected to see or hear something small in the bushes, instead he heard something familiar, something that sent a small shudder through his spine.
The rasp of a walker. It sounded weak, but it was still there. Enough to make his eyes dart around the space to be sure there weren't others. Seeing nothing, he stepped a little closer, ignoring the crunch of dead leaves under his boots. Visibly there were no walkers, which caused his brows to furrow in confusion. Several yards away, though, he spotted a body, partially covered in leaves. It lay motionless, but still the rasping persisted.
It was as he stood staring toward the mass that Daryl got the idea. Using his boot, he nudged the branches on the bush until he heard the growling from beneath. Careful so as not to put his hands in close contact, he parted the dry branches and saw the head of a walker. Nothing more, just the head. It's jaws still worked as it's glazed eyes focused toward him.
So far as Daryl knew the head didn't live that long without the body, which meant this walker was killed fairly recently. His head canted slightly to the side as he stared at the head for a moment, the graying skin that seemed to sag everywhere, the disgusting eyes, the way it's muscles and nerves showed through in various spaces. If this thing was killed fairly recently that meant there were other people in the woods. Though, he hadn't seen any.
As silently as he possibly could, Daryl eased himself onto his feet and looked around. There was nothing, no one. It was near deadly silent, save for the soft sounds of insects in the trees and the occasional chirp of a bird in the distance. He moved silently toward the corpse on the ground, not needing to look to know for sure that it belonged to the head in the bushes. Besides, he wasn't searching for that. Within moments he found what he'd been looking for, too.
Tracks lead away from the body a little deeper into the trees, though at the same time it was also in direction of the lake. "One, two, three, four.. gees, gotta be at least six people.." he murmured. Normally, this probably would have been a cause for celebration; the idea of running across someone else, another human being in the world who could join with them, take up arms and help to fight the monsters away so that there was a fighting chance of taking back their world. Unfortunately, this wasn't a normal circumstance.
He'd told Beth once before that the good people didn't usually survive this world. The world they inhabited was filled with a lot more depraved individuals than those who were truly, wholly good and right now there was a lot at stake. They had a van full of food and supplies.. and two people who were sitting ducks in a row boat somewhere on the lake. His heart rate spiked as his gaze followed the shift in the tracks from heading just deeper into the woods to walking toward the cool water.
Shouldering the crossbow, Daryl turned on heel and rushed back in the direction he'd come. The run through the woods back to the car was uneventful. Nothing crossed his path that he wouldn't have expected to be there. After tossing the animal carcasses onto the hood of the van he rushed toward the dock, spotting Michonne and Carl sitting quietly in the middle of the lake.
He waved his hands above his head to get their attention, though neither seemed to be responding.
It was only natural for her to worry a little about where Daryl had gone. For one, she was fairly certain he still had the keys to the van and if something happened out there she didn't want to try and hotwire it. Not only that, she didn't want to have to explain to Beth how she'd let Daryl wander off alone... and then left without confirmation of his death. She was certain that the blonde would never forgive her for it.
Carl had long since given up trying to get her to communicate beyond the occasional grunt as her eyes focused on the trees for some sign of their bowman. The only time she focused on life in the little boat was when she felt the tug on her line. After reeling it in, she would cast it once more and lose herself between thoughts of Rick and what could be keeping Daryl.
Her dark brows knitted together as she saw a brief flash of white in the trees. For only a moment she thought it was Daryl, but then it moved and she realized it was someone's hair. She focused her attention on it until she spotted more movement, the silhouette's marred by the darkness under the trees canopies. In all, she counted six, though there could have been others. They're perfect strides and more graceful movements had been enough to tell her that it wasn't a small herd of walkers.
"Carl.. reel in your line." She said softly enough so that her voice wouldn't carry. Of course, she knew that it was illogical for it to carry as far as the men but there was always a hint of worry. Michonne knew as well as anyone what this world had become, she knew what sort of people lived within it and she didn't trust many. It had taken a long time for her to feel comfortable within Terminus, it had taken a long time for her to feel secure with the Prison group. She didn't trust easily and it was because she relied on her gut instinct. If something didn't feel right, it usually wasn't.
The boy flashed her a look of confusion, though did as she asked while shifting his gaze in the same direction she was staring. "Where's Daryl?" He asked in the same hushed tone.
"I don't know.." she replied while pulling her fishing pole back into the boat. Her gaze skipped around the shore-line until it hit the dock, where Daryl stood waving his hands over his head. "There!" She whispered while reaching out for the oars. Without waiting for Carl to have his line, MIchonne began paddling toward the dock.
As soon as Michonne turned his way he began waving them toward him. Daryl wasn't sure where the people in the woods were, but he knew they had to be somewhere. Their tracks had pointed him toward the lake and with any luck they would be able to leave before actually running into them. If it weren't for the supplies, he might not have been so worried.
Daryl felt himself counting the passing time as the boat made it's slow travel across the water until the two were within speaking distance. "We need to go." Michonne spoke before he had the chance.
"D'you see 'em?" He asked while reaching out to help the woman. Carl gathered up the fish he'd tied together with line as he quickly scrambled out of the boat, nodding at the elder male.
"Yeah, spotted a couple guys walking through the woods, couldn't have been too far from here." He stated while walking quickly toward the van. As quietly as the boy could, he lifted the back hatch and dropped the fish into the cooler. He then caught the smaller critter's Michonne tossed him that Daryl had killed in the woods and added them to the cooler.
"Get in." Daryl commanded.
Carl closed the hatch a little louder than he'd meant to, wincing in response as he rushed around toward the side door. Michonne followed suit by climbing into the front seat. Daryl, on the other hand, didn't make it as far as the others. His fingers had just brushed across the door handle when he spotted Michonne's eyes widen at something behind him at the same time a snapping twig announced the arrival of someone else.
"Now, now. Take a step back, boy." He heard the voice behind him. It was low and throaty and caused his brows to furrow slightly. "Looks like you got enough to share. Why not give a couple'a road weary travelers somethin' to eat?" Daryl shifted his gaze from Michonne's face to the reflection on the window of the gathering group behind him. Seven men flanked one. Tall, broad, gray-white hair.
Michonne must have seen the shock that colored Daryl's face as he stared, eyes widening at the same time his breathing hitched, because her brows furrowed, carefully motioning for him to hurry up and get in. But he couldn't. He felt completely and utterly rooted to the spot.
"Come now, boy." The voice, now ringing in familiarity, beckoned. Daryl's hands closed into fists as he swallowed hard to force the lump away from his throat. Slowly, he turned his back on the car and faced the group of men. All were varying in heights and muscle mass, though most were about Daryl's size; all varied in appearance, though the consistent being that all of them were white.
The one who had spoken, the one with the gray-white hair, was obviously their leader and as soon as Daryl turned the man's eyes widened marginally. "Well, I'll be." The male began to laugh quietly, his chuckle sending a shiver through Daryl.
"What is it, Joe?" One of the men asked, a scrawny guy with dark hair and beard. The man had beady eyes that instantly made Daryl wary. Of course, the name that the man used was enough to cause his brows to knit tightly together.
'Joe?' He thought to himself. That wasn't the name that he remembered. He wasn't sure why he felt like a cowering child instead of the strong and very independent man that he was.
"Well, Len.. this here's my boy.." Joe answered.
"Your..?" The group stared with a mixture of shock and disgust from Daryl to their leader, "your son? Thought they was both dead?" The one named Len stated, looking over Daryl as if he were nothing more than a bothersome insect.
"I thought so, too." His pale eyes searched Daryl's face with more scrutiny than he remembered being there. "Where's your brother?"
The words caused Daryl to shiver, both due to the memory of having killed his walker-brother and the memory of the words themselves.
"Where's your brother?" The large male asked as he stared down at his six year old son. Daryl shivered in worry at the harsh look on his father's face. His mouth opened but words managed to fail him. "You'd do well to answer me, boy." William said lowly, his tone dangerous.
Daryl could tell that his father had been drinking again, the knowledge only made him worry for his safety considering he had no idea where his brother was. The young boy shuddered and shook his head gently. He couldn't force his voice to cooperate and speak the words that he didn't know. It seemed as though no matter which answer he gave, he was still in line to get whooped. If he had known and told where Merle had gone his father would have beaten him for not opening his mouth sooner. If he voiced that he had no idea his father would have beaten him for.. well, probably for the fun of it. Or most likely just because Merle wasn't there to take it.
"Answer me, boy!" William roared, causing Daryl to jump.
"I.." he began while shaking his head, blue orbs quickly darting around in the hopes of finding some exit route. There was nothing, no way to escape the rage he could see beginning to boil behind his fathers eyes.
William's mouth had barely opened to scream something more when Daryl heard a voice that caused relief and worry to wash through him all at once. "Leave 'im alone." He glanced around his father to see Merle standing in the doorway. The elder boy offered a quick smile to his brother before looking back to their father. Not always was Merle there to save him and take the beatings his father seemed to love dishing out, but it was always such a relief when he was.
Only seconds had passed since the man had asked the question,just enough time for Daryl to remember his father in the worst possible way–as if there were another way to remember him–before he remembered that he wasn't that scared little boy anymore. He'd been doing things on his own for a long time now. He'd been working his behind off to protect people, to be a better man than his father had ever been. He was a father, a husband, a friend and a productive member of the community he lived in. Daryl knew that there was no need, nor reason, to feel like a child under the hard gaze of his father.
"Dead." He said the single word without looking away from 'Joe'.
"Dead, huh?" His father asked in return with a quick chuckle and shake of his head. "I always would'a figured you'd be the first to go."
Daryl felt his lip quiver in annoyance, having to bite his tongue to hold back the witty remark that had threatened to escape. If his father was still the same man he'd been all those years ago, and there was no doubt in Daryl's mind that he was, then he had to worry about the sort of company his father kept. In this world there wasn't much that was good and his father was one of the worst sort of people around. Which meant that, at least according to Daryl, the men allied with William couldn't be much good either.
"'Joe', huh? Since when'd you by that?" Daryl asked now, inching his way back toward the door while keeping his grip tight around the crossbow in case he needed to use it.
Joe smirked at his son while leaning a little to the right so that he could see into the van around Daryl. "Since when'd you start keepin' comp'ny with niggers?" Leave it to William Dixon to worry about race in a time like this. No one else in the history of the apocalypse would worry about something as trivial as race, especially when it didn't matter–as if it ever had. "Len.. that girl look familiar to you?"
Len's head tilted to the side as he stared at Michonne before his beady little eyes danced toward Carl in the backseat. "Mm, not as familiar as the boy." Daryl didn't have to look to know that they were seeing the connection between Carl and his father, Rick.
Once more 'Joe' shifted enough to look around Daryl so that he could see Carl's face. A wicked sort of smile began to play over his lips, "I wanna talk to the boy. He might be able to answer somethin' for us."
"No." That was the only answer that Daryl could allow to come out. He'd promised Rick to make sure Carl made it back safe and sound and he wasn't entirely sure he could keep that promise if Carl got out of the van.
"Now, now. No need to get all defensive, son. We just want to talk to him."
"I ain't yer son an' the answer's still no." Instinctively, Daryl's grip tightened on the crossbow at the same time his dark blue eyes danced around to take in each of the men to gauge their movements. Several began cracking their knuckles and shifting as if to jump at a signal.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but either way I'm still talkin' to the kid."
Daryl let his eyes dart once more around at the men, noting that a majority of them were looking toward 'Joe's' hand. His gaze dropped quickly toward the digits to see one finger held out and a second dropping, as if on a count-down. "You ain't gettin' near 'im." He snapped just before he raised the crossbow. Without taking a firm aim, he fired and turned on heel. Michonne had obviously known something was coming from listening to the talk outside and the moment that Daryl had raised the crossbow she'd leaned across the seat and shoved his door open.
He dove quickly into the van, dropping the crossbow onto the floor beside him before ripping the keys from his vest pocket and shoving them into the ignition. Before he could get the car started the large group of men had recovered from the shot he'd taken at them, which had left one of their men groaning on the ground with an arrow through his shoulder. Several of the men had loaded crossbows of their own, several more had pulled guns out. When the first shot rang out he both felt and heard Carl drop to the floor in the backseat at the same time Michonne dipped her head low to protect herself.
It seemed that no amount of diving and hiding would be enough to protect everyone, though. Daryl turned the key in the ignition to get it started, then slammed his foot onto the gas. Their van rocketed down the dirt path with shots from both bolts and bullets rocketing off the side of the van, one even shattered the back window.
Daryl swallowed hard, fighting for a good breath of air as Michonne sat back up. Her dark eyes darted over Daryl to be sure he was alright.. unfortunately he wasn't. An arrow was stuck in his left side and a bullet had gone through his left arm, which was now cradled against his chest. She groaned before turning toward the back where Carl gripped his stomach with one hand and his head with the other. "Carl?" She asked before climbing over her seat and dropping onto the floor beside the boy as Daryl took the turn back onto the main road.
"He okay?" Daryl asked, wincing as he looked down at the arrow sticking out of his side.
"I'm fine." Carl groaned through his teeth as he pushed himself to sit up. Blood leaked from behind the hand held tightly to his right ear and escaped between the fingers of the hand gripping his stomach.
"Oh my god." Michonne murmured as she pulled his hand away from his ear. Blood steadily dripped from the wound that looked as though it had taken away a large chunk of his ear, but had otherwise left his head undamaged. Next her fingers pried his away from his stomach before yanking his shirt up and out of the way.
"Is he okay?" Daryl repeated, a little louder this time.
"He's been shot." Michonne replied as she moved Carl enough to try and find an exit wound. It was too dangerous if there weren't one and she knew he'd been shot once before. She simply had to pray that this time he wouldn't be at death's door. As her hand touched his back she found it damp with blood from the bullet's exit.
"I'm fine!" Carl repeated, sounding irritated that he'd had to say it again. "It went clean through, I'm fine." He stared at Michonne as if to ascertain whether or not she were injured but the woman appeared to be completely fine. Next his gaze snapped toward the front as he heard the sharp inhale from Daryl as the man sucked in a breath through his teeth. "You okay, man?" He asked while leaning toward the left. He could clearly see the arrow bouncing with every bump they hit in the road and didn't need the confirmation that it was stuck in the older male's side or leg.
"Mhm." He hummed with a nod, ignoring the pain the shot through his side and forearm. "They followin' us?" He asked Michonne while keeping his right hand on the wheel to steer them home to Terminus.
The woman leaned up enough to look through the gaping hole that was the back window to see the same rotting cars and garbage that had been there before. Nothing moved except the trees in the breeze or the paper that they'd rustled up when they had driven past. "Not that I can see." She settled onto the floor beside Carl while looking toward Daryl. All of them knew that there was still a long drive ahead and Michonne wondered if the older male could make the drive on his own with the damage he'd taken. She was thankful that what damage the men had taken, while she'd gotten none, wasn't severe. "You good to drive?" She asked after a few minutes. Daryl nodded and grunted in response as he kept his eyes focused on the road.
Reviews? I know there was a racial slur in here, I want to assure everyone that I am not a racist, simply the character that was speaking at the moment is. Hopefully no offense was taken by anyone.