The town of Terminus was no stranger to reunions. Sometimes old friends reunited, sometimes families. In the zombie apocalypse seeing someone who lived in your apartment building or someone who served you coffee at your favorite restaurant could be equivalent to seeing your best friend. It was not uncommon to see people randomly break into a run screaming someone's name and end up engulfed in a hug, usually on the floor. Unfortunately it also wasn't uncommon for someone to be screaming a name and having it go unanswered.
Reunions were always a double edged affair for people. The people reuniting were always happy of course but the people in the crowds who got to watch on were not always. On the one hand they were happy for the people who had somehow manged to find each other again in a world gone to shit, but on the other hand they wished that it was them finding their loved ones, even when they knew they never would again.
No, Terminus was no stranger to reunions, but some would always stand out in peoples minds. There was the couple who had been separated since before the apocalypse, the wife having been in Atlanta visiting her parents when her husband was at home in Omaha, Nebraska. She made it to Terminus after having barely escaped the safe zone in Atlanta. She was one of its founding members. Two years later her husband, scrawny and road weary but no worse for wear showed up at the gates. Their sobbing reunion left half the camp in tears for a week.
Then there was the family of five who got separated for a few months after a walker horde caught them in the woods. The father and two daughters made it to Terminus looking for the rest of their family. Upon finding them absent they stayed, the father putting his daughter's safety before his own desire to look for his wife and son. Three months later they were all crying on the floor of the gym where the camp would eat weekly meals together.
A little girl of six had gotten lost from her parents and little brother in the woods after leaving Atlanta. They made it to Terminus in the first few weeks it was created, she showed up with a group of five others fourteen months later. The sound of her brother crying out her name as he rushed at her across the broken asphalt rang within the walls of Terminus for weeks.
There were smaller reunions too of course, there was the teacher who found his favorite student in the crowds, the florist who found the baker who worked next door, the busboy who found the waitress he had secretly been in love with. People who had met on the roads after the apocalypse hit met up as well, they usually met with a handshake or a clap on the shoulder instead of teary hugs.
Unless of course they were from the prison.
When the first group of survivors showed up and told their story of having lived in a prison and how their safe zone got destroyed the others in Terminus started calling them the Jailbreakers. The group consisted of three children, Lizzie, Mika and Judith, a woman Carol and a man Tyreese. Despite the obvious tension between Carol and Tyreese they had managed to get the three girls out of the prison and the many miles from there to Terminus safely. It took them a few weeks to get adjusted to being back around other people but soon they fit right in with the rest of the town.
One day a group of three people arrived. New arrivals always caused people to stop whatever job they were doing, usually repairing the town and trying to start up civilization again, and come looking for the new people hoping that they were in fact old people to them. Very few new groups were met with the disappointed silence of finding no one they knew in the town and this group was not one of them. A very worn out looking man and two equally tired women were scanning the crowds as eagerly as the crowd scanned them. Looking with bated breath for someone, anyone, they knew.
The silence seemed to stretch on and people were beginning to turn around to head back to their jobs. The brown haired girl in the trio looked about ready to become unhinged, when one word, one name, cut through the air like a knife.
The woman in question turned to the voice so fast her neck cracked and the crowds parted to let Tyreese pass them before he pushed them out of the way. Sasha let out a blend of a laugh and a sob at the sight of her older brother before she broke into a run to meet him. He wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to him as from behind him Mika called out for the others in the street, "Bob! Maggie!" and began sprinting towards them. Bob met her halfway, sweeping her up into his arms as Carol pushed her way out of the crowd and headed towards Maggie.
"Glenn?" she asked, her eyes searching the crowd wildly. "Beth?"
"No sweetie. Not yet." Carol told her as Maggie let out a sob and fell into the elder woman's waiting arms.
Time passed slowly after that. The group was clearly happy at being reunited and the prospect of others making their way to Terminus managed to keep them there. Maggie wanted to leave, to keep looking for her husband, but was talked out of it by the others. If she stayed in one place he was bound to find her easier, especially with all her signs to go to Terminus out there. Convincing her took a long time but two weeks after they got there they were proved right.
News made it back one morning about a group of three who had arrived in the night, this time with a young teen. News of children always made it around the town faster.
On her way out to get water Carol was stopped in her tracks at the sight of a familiar head of dreadlocks in the line before her,
"Michonne?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. The memory of calling into the tent for Sophia filled her mind but this time she was not met with heartbreak as the woman before her tensed and looked over her shoulder.
"Carol." she said back, equally as quiet and then they were hugging each other tightly as Michonne whispered for others.
"Yes, quiet a few of us, Any with you?" The older woman asked holding onto Michonne's arm as she pulled away.
"Rick and Carl. Let's go get them." The trio had been placed in an apartment building on the other end of the block where the rest of the prison group stayed. Upon getting them Rick pulled Carol to him in a hug that told her he had forgiven her about what she did to protect the camp. Carl hugged her so tightly it was as if she were Lori, but she'd be lying if she said she hadn't pretended for just one second that the tall boy in front of her was Sophia.
The four of them quickly ran over to the building were the others were just heading outside. Tyreese and Bob met Rick with a handshake then quickly pulled him into a hug. Maggie headed straight into Michonne's arms and Mika and Lizzie hugged Carl briefly before Sasha headed out of the building, Judith bundled in her arms.
"Say hi to you daddy and big brother Judy." She whispered as Rick's eyes filled with tears, covering his hand with his mouth before he reached for his daughter, curling her into his chest as his heart felt like it could finally beat again. Carl let out a sob he'd been holding in for what felt like his whole life and took one of Judith's small hands in his as she looked up at them and smiled. Carl looked over at Michonne who met his look of sadness for her son with a small smile before looking away, knowing this was one reunion she would never have.
A few days later a group of five showed up during the town's weekly meal together. After their many injuries were treated to (one man had broken his ankle) they were brought into the gym to join the festivity. Sasha grabbed onto Maggie's arm from across the table and Maggie looked up to see her friend staring over her shoulder with wide eyes. Heart in her throat she turned and there he stood, his back was to her as he scanned the crowds but she would have known that was him anywhere.
"Glenn!" the name tore from her throat as she swung her legs over the bench seat, running before they barely hit the floor. He turned to her voice and his eyes lit up enough to light the camp for a month as he rushed at her. They met in the middle of the gym in a crash that brought them to the floor. From her landing place of on top of him Maggie smiled, "I knew you'd find me." she whispered before leaning down to kiss him.
Two uneventful weeks passed before a lone man showed up, he crossed the streets of the town at dusk heading towards one of the water pumps when a small voice shook him out of a stupor he had fallen into since she had been torn from him.
The man froze in the street before looking over his shoulder to see Carl sitting on the steps of a building, a baby in his lap. The two stared at each other for a second before Carl stood and called into the house behind him, "Guys! Its' Daryl!"
People flooded out of the house, people he thought he would never see again. He met their hugs with equal fervor but the whole time he kept searching for the one face he truly hoped to see. He never found it but he did find her sister, the one he knew Beth had written off as gone forever.
"I'm sorry." he whispered holding his arm up so Maggie wouldn't hug him. He couldn't bare to feel her touch him, it would remind him to much of the one he really wanted to hold.
She stared at him for a moment before she whispered the name that had begun to sting her at night even with Glenn's arms wrapped tight around her,. "Beth?"
Slowly Daryl shook his head. "Some men took her, months ago. I tried to follow them but they were in a car and I lost them." he shut his eyes against her face, against the feeling of his own failure. "If they're anything like the group I was last with, she's dead." He could not bear to whisper the truth to her sister, that if she was with men like the group he had just escaped from they better hope she was dead.
The reunion was a subdued affair after that, Maggie excused herself to head back into the house and Glenn followed her after clapping Daryl on the shoulder. The others did not seem to know what else there was left to say.
For a month more the group stayed in Terminus, each beginning to grow a little restless. Finally Abraham's ankle healed and he decided that he Rosita, Tara and Eugene would be heading to Washington, DC. After the announcement the survivors from the prison had stared at each other before Glenn spoke.
"I can't let you go alone." he had grown attached to this group in their hunt for his wife, letting them leave would hurt. What would hurt worse was letting them continue on a task without him when they had originally sidetracked it for him.
"Where you go, I go." Maggie said grabbing his hand.
"We're not separating again." Sasha announced, Bob and Tyreese nodding on either side of her.
"We can't ask you to risk your lives for us." Tara said quietly, she still felt guilt being near the prison group after her part in the attack.
"So don't ask." Rick said. "We're going."
And so it was decided. The entire group left Terminus two days later after gathering supplies. They had tried to get Lizzie and Mika to stay at Terminus but they had refused to be left behind. Carol was worried about bringing Lizzie back out near walkers, she seemed to think that they were playthings, that they were not dangerous. But no matter what they tried the girls insisted on going with them. Early one morning they said their good-byes to their friends in Terminus and headed back out into the wilderness to find what remained of the capitol.
And so the most beautiful reunion of all was the one Terminus residents never got to see.
After nearly two weeks on the road a rainstorm caught the group as they were passing through a town. Visibility reduced to nearly zero and shaking to the bone they found a building and cleared it of the few walkers inside it. Setting up noise traps they settled in to wait out the storm. Abraham went out to collect what supplies he could from the houses on their street. Walking through the rain on his way back to their camp, unable to see, he ran straight into someone. His hand went for knife before he realized that the noise of fright the person made was not one that a walker could make.
Squinting through the rain he managed to make out the small form of a young woman who stared up at him with eyes wide in fear, a knife clutched in her shaking hands.
"Its freezing out here!" Abraham called through the noise of the falling rain and clashes of thunder overhead. "We've got a camp in that building right there!" he pointed through the rain at the building two plots down. "You're welcome to join us till the storm passes."
The girl backed up still not lowering her knife. "I can take care of myself, thanks."
Abraham frowned at her. "You'll freeze out here girl."
The girl made to turn away from him. "I'll take my chances."
A hand grabbed Abraham's elbow then. "Abe!" It was Rosita, her dark hair clinging to her skin with water. "Its getting worse! You've got to come in now!" Just then she noticed that Abraham was not alone. She looked the girl up and down. "You coming too?"
The sight of Rosita seemed to lower the girl's guard. Very slowly she sheathed her knife at her hip, although her hand did not leave the hilt. As Abraham and Rosita turned away she followed slowly at their heels.
Once inside the building Rosita thrust a towel at each of them before grabbing one for herself. "Where are you headed in this storm girl?"she said looking over her shoulder at the girl who was rubbing the towel over her face and neck.
The girl looked a bit nervous to answer, glancing at Abraham apprehensively before responding. "Washington DC."
Rosita lifted an eyebrow as Abe let out a low whistle. "Well then its your lucky day girl. That's where we're headed."
The girl looked as though she didn't believe him. She edged a bit closer to the door behind them.
"You should come with us." Rosita said suddenly, "Its not safe for a girl on her own out there."
The girl lifted her eyes to Rosita's in a way that made it clear that was something she already knew. "How many of you are there?" she asked softly.
"We got a whole group upstairs. Come on." Rosita said turning. "You find anything good?" she asked Abe over her shoulder as they headed up the stairs, the girl quiet behind them.
"Bit of food." he said shaking the bag in his hand, water droplets falling off of it.
With a smile Rosita headed inside the room where the others were. "We've got dinner tonight folks!" she announced happily as appreciatory cries met her.
"We also got ourselves a new traveling buddy." Abraham said as he stepped into the room. The girl kept her head down as she entered shrugging her wet pack off her shoulders. "This girl is headed to DC as well. Uh what'd you say your name was?" he said looking over his shoulder as the girl shrugged off her wet coat and turned.
"Beth." she said looking up. Her eyes went wide at the sight of the group in front of her. They in turn stared at her open mouthed as though she was a ghost, all except for two people who weren't looking up. To them, she would not be the Beth they were hoping for, and looking up and seeing a stranger with her name would only hurt them more. Maggie continued to stare at her boots until she felt Glenn's hand clutch her arm tightly. Slowly she looked at him and saw him staring straight ahead with a look of pure disbelief on his face. Holding her breath she looked up where her little sister stood.
A cry spilled from her as she sprung to her feet, Beth lurching forward at the same time. Their arms wrapped around each other tightly in an embrace they never thought they'd have again. Glenn stood up and walked over to place a hand on Maggie's back as she started shaking. Lifting her head from Maggie's shoulder Beth caught his eye and reached out for his hand which he took in a grip almost as tight as Maggie's arms.
Eventually the two sister's separated and Maggie let out a laugh. "I thought I'd never see you again." she whispered. Her voice broke through to the last member of their group as the others began to stand to hug their returned comrade. As the others stood Daryl looked up just as Beth looked over in his direction. Their eyes locked and both felt as if the breath had been punched from their lungs. He pushed himself to his feet as she shoved past the opening arms of the others and rushed to meet him.
Her arms wrapped around his neck as he lifted her off her feet, one arm tight around her waist and the other wrapped around her shoulders to bury in her hair. He tucked his head into the crook of her neck and breathed in deep as though he had been unable to draw a full breath since the day she had been taken from him.
"I'm sorry." he breathed against her skin. "I tried to follow you but I wasn't fast enough. I'm sorry." he kept repeating the words like a mantra until Beth moved her hands to cup his face forcing him to look at her.
"It wasn't your fault. I got away. It'll be okay now." she whispered, her blue eyes steady on his as he searched hers as though for proof that he wasn't dreaming. "We're together now. That's all that matters." she whispered before he pushed her head down to meet his, their lips crashing together.
The rest of the group looked on with varying degrees of astonishment as Daryl slowly lowered Beth back to the floor, not loosening his hold on her. He rested his chin on the top of her head as she pressed her face against his chest, the sound of his heartbeat reverberating in her ears.
A thought occurred to her suddenly and she pulled back enough to look up at him.
"What do you think happened to the dog?" she asked.
Daryl let out the first laugh he'd had since the prison was attacked and kissed her forehead. "I'm sure he's just fine." he whispered, and for once, with her in his arms, he believed such a thing was possible.