Author's Note: First Walking Dead fic, be gentle. And be away if you haven't played through House Divided yet. Just something that kept nagging me while I was playing and replaying last night. Shouldn't take you long to read, so please take a sec to review if you do. That would be very awesome.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I make nothing from this, no litigation necessary.
If she squinted and used some imagination, Clementine could pretend everything was good again. There was food and shelter and a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree. And Kenny.
She wondered if she'd be able to stop thinking of him as a ghost. She'd hugged him and his beard tickled her cheek, like it had when it was just a moustache. And still, she couldn't quite grasp that he was real.
Clem wanted to cry a little every time she looked at him, but fought the urge. Crying wasn't a luxury she could afford, even in this huge house with warmth and music and an angel watching them from atop the tree. She did let herself smile as she followed the others to dinner, saw them settle around the tables. If she squinted, she could pretend they were back at the motel, when everything was relatively good.
'Relatively good' was after Mark showed up with all that food and Lily chose not to shoot him. It'd seemed like so much then, a feast, and they treated it that way. They sat outside at the picnic tables and made a bunch of canned foods seem like a five course meal. Kenny's family was still alive. She sat near them with Lee, wondering how Duck could talk so much while devouring all that food. Katjaa scolded him repeatedly, but no one really minded. Even Lily's father seemed less grumpy. Lee and Carley kept shooting each other looks across the table, thinking she wouldn't notice. But she had, and she remembered. Clementine remembered most everything about that night, because life felt so much more possible then.
Clem halted when Kenny called her over. Luke's hand was raised in invitation too. She'd made life and death decisions for almost two years now. This shouldn't feel like one of them. A moment later, she chose Kenny, feeling Luke's disappointment even though they faced away from each other.
She knew then that things would go bad. Even if she was wrong about Matthew, even if Walter didn't kill Nick and throw the rest of them out in the snow, this wouldn't last. She sat next to Walter, answering Kenny's questions about Luke and the others feeling the chill of déjà vu. Because this was how it started back at the motor inn. Lily and Kenny fighting, Lee trying to keep out of it, stop Clementine from noticing. The group was breaking down weeks before Kenny split Larry's skull open in front of his daughter.
Clem swallowed hard, her stomach doing an unpleasant roll. And then Kenny asked her to stay. Or really, assumed that she would. She could stay here, with the beds and the heat and the radio. And Kenny's new girlfriend, who treated her with so much kindness. Katjaa had always been nice to her too.
They were still talking, Kenny and Sarita, the latter seeming to realize Clementine's discomfort. There was Luke at the other table. She knew he wasn't looking at her anymore, but it didn't feel that way. She was warming to the others as well, but Luke was the main dilemma. He was nice too. Not like Katjaa or Sarita, more like Lee. Capable and brave, trusting in her abilities. They were rapidly becoming a team. The way her and Lee had been.
And now Lee was dead.
But Kenny wasn't. Miraculously. Scratch one name off the list of people who'd died because of. her stupidity.
"I'm tired of running," she said.
Kenny took that as acceptance, as she knew he would. Even if Clem wasn't sure she meant it that way. She was tired, and it was enough to flee from Walkers without running from Carver and whatever grudge he held against the group at the other table. But Lee had told her not to settle, not to become a target. And this place was a target, the most tempting one she'd seen since everything started.
Walter and Sarita left, Luke and Nick taking their places. Clem couldn't help ducking her eyes when Luke tried to find them. She relaxed for a moment when Kenny spoke to the other men, appreciating his effort. Then it got bad. The more he talked, the more she was reminded of how he'd been after Duck, how everyone walked on eggshells, never knowing his next move.
She was still considering the wisdom of staying with him when he mentioned moving on. That would take care of the target problem at least. Then he brought up Wellington. He smiled a bit when Clem admitted to knowing about it, A smile that quickly faded as he got into it with Nick.
Maybe Nick was right, maybe the camp in Michigan was a pipedream, like the boat before it. But Christa had been going there too, so maybe this was different. Since their separation, Clem had resigned herself to the fact that Christa was probably dead. At the very least, impossible to find again. But here was Kenny after all this time. If she followed him to Wellington, they might actually find Christa. Then Clementine would have two of them back, two people who'd been there with Lee, who'd understand how desperately she missed him.
She didn't have time to dwell on that possibility. Nick and Kenny's exchange was boiling over quickly. She thought again of how unstable Kenny was after his family died. Of how Nick had been walking a dangerous edge since Pete was bitten.
How Lily and Ken kept up the arguments for months. How Lily finally lost it. Lily, who'd tried to be nice to Clem even while she yelled at everyone else. Who brought her bands to keep her hair up, because Lee would never think of things like that. Who'd blown Carley's head open on the side of the road while Clementine watched.
Thankful that everyone's weapons were checked at the door, she tried not to panic when Kenny declared she was staying, tried not to hear the edge in Luke's response. She could've said that she didn't know what she was doing, but knew it wouldn't help. Instead she begged them not to fight, realizing the futility of it. Walter returned then, taking up her cause. Walter, the teacher who wanted to keep peace. He reminded her of Lee.
Lee, who wasn't missing like Kenny or Christa. Lee, who was dead.
They were quiet for a moment, until Kenny called her Duck. The man who'd been all rough anger seconds before deflated, slumping in on himself. Clem recognized the pose. It could've been yesterday that Kat and Duck died in the woods.
She got Luke off Kenny's back, protective of the bearded man despite his actions. Because he'd been protective of her. Good. Because he'd helped Lee save her life. Because of what he'd lost. Clem wanted to hug him again, but didn't dare.
Walter rescued her far too late, led her outside and away. She listened and agreed as he talked about unification, how all they needed was time. She agreed, because he was nice and naïve and still ready to believe the best about everyone. She knew he was wrong. Even if the impossible happened twice in one night and Matthew came strolling in out of the cold, Walter was still wrong. Lee tried to heal things between Lily and Kenny, told her and Carley and the rest that things would settle, be all right in the end.
Lee was dead. So was practically everyone else who sat outside the motor inn that night, eating and laughing, enjoying the company. Clem thought now that Lily might be alive. If Kenny survived, why not her? She was a murderer either way, dead or alive. Carley was irrefutably gone.
So when Walter said it would work out, spoke about common ground, Clementine knew he was wrong. In time, he'd figure that out too.