Author's Note: Hey guys, thanks again for your continued support! Just a reminder that the story will deviate slightly from the cannon, so the scenes that happen in the game might not be the same. Also, whenever I describe Clementine as 'rising to her feet' or something of the sort, that just means she stands up with her cane. I know she only has one foot but there really isn't another way to describe it.
Another thing is that this story will absolutely not contain romantic Cluke. Their relationship in this fic is intended to be interpreted as either a strong friendship, and father-daughter relationship, a sibling relationship, or a bromance, because I personally think of them as bros. I've seen some fics where Clementine is older and paired with Luke, and that's fine, but here she is still a child and there is no romance whatsoever.
Rated T for: Amputation, violence, language, death, zombies, and other dark themes.
And now, without further ado, please read on and enjoy chapter thirteen of Stump! :) - Aqua
As soon as she set foot on the bridge, Clementine got a bad feeling.
The bridge was red with rust, many of the supporting beams were warped, and the wooden planks seemed rotted with age.
She and Luke walked along the bridge's metal frame, wary of the fact that they were completely vulnerable and exposed. Any sniper from the tree line would have an easy day taking care of them, and the group was too far away for them to be of any help. Clem glanced impulsively over her shoulder; there'd been a rustling in the forest, but it might have just been the wind.
Suddenly Luke held out his hand to stop her and pointed ahead. A couple of walkers hanging around an old rail car had spotted them and started clawing their way over, mottled hands thumping on wooden boards, growling deep in their throats.
Clementine heard more groaning and turned; a walker was making its way toward them, having followed them from the forest. It blocked their way back off the bridge, shuffling toward them on dead feet.
"Shit..." Luke muttered, drawing his machete. He sized up their opponents and started approaching the one behind them, since it was the biggest and the fastest.
The hammer felt heavy in Clem's hand, and she was extremely aware that she could be easily knocked off balance. The two walkers ahead of them had regained their footing and were drawing closer; she took a step back and turned to follow Luke.
The wood beneath Luke's feet splintered, and he fell.
The walker tumbled through the hole after him. Clementine peered over the edge to see them both stranded on the bridge's outer frame.
"Clem! I'm okay, I just..." Luke struggled to get a foothold. "I'm stuck!"
Snarling, the walker lashed out at Luke, who was just out of reach. Clementine leaned forward to pull him up, one arm straining to reach and the other hanging on to the edge in a white-knuckled death grip.
"Behind you!" Luke's warning reminded Clem of the other two walkers, and she scrambled to her feet.
"Oh shit..." She breathed, realizing the severity of the situation. A powerful swipe to the knees with her cane was enough to bring the first walker down. Clementine caught her balance and struck the walker's head with her hammer, and it was dead.
But the hammer was stuck again, and the second walker was lurching towards her. Clem worked to free the weapon, pulling on the hammer with her left hand and pushing the body away with her walking stick.
With a sickening crunch, the hammer tore free of the skull. Clementine fell backwards, coming dangerously close to the edge of the bridge. Her cane slipped from her grasp and clattered uselessly to the floor, but it freed her right hand to grab onto one of the beams to steady herself. Her sudden stop jerked her body to the side, and the hammer went sailing off the bridge into the river below.
Clem's mind went on overdrive, screaming one thing over and over.
FIND A WEAPON!
The walker had come between her and her walking stick. She forced herself to wait until it was close, and then grabbed the beam, pulled herself up, and kicked it back with her leg. Walkers were notoriously clumsy and easy to knock off balance, and this time was no exception. The walker crashed to the ground, the wood groaning beneath its weight.
Wasting no time, Clementine sprang forward, pushing off the beam with her leg, and rolled to break her fall, landing by her cane in a crouch. Weapon back in hand, she started to turn to face the walker, but it had recovered quicker than she'd anticipated, and before Clem knew it the walker was on top of her.
Pinned to the ground beneath the walker, its teeth mere inches from her face, Clementine was suddenly back in the shed, staring down her death alone and afraid.
Panic rushed through her, and her heart rate skyrocketed. Gritting her teeth, she pushed her foot into the walker's stomach and kicked it away with as much strength as she could muster. She pushed herself to her feet and drove her cane into the walker's skull. The bone crumpled like wet paper and the walker fell silent.
Clem ripped her walking stick away and nearly collapsed, her whole body trembling and her breathing coming in short bursts. Right now she wanted nothing more than to curl up into a little ball, but she remembered Luke and stumbled back over to the hole.
"L- Luke, hang on," Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a long piece of pipe. "Here, grab this!" Clementine lowered the pipe down to Luke, who took it and laid it along two of the bridge cables before standing on it. The pipe cracked just as Luke caught the edge of the bridge, snapping in half and dropping into the river below. Clem leaned down to help pull him up, but he didn't really need it, and a second later he was beside her, doubled over and panting.
They were quiet for a long moment, realizing how close they'd come to death. Luke straightened and looked down at Clementine, who had her arms wrapped around herself.
"Damn, that was close," He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling guilty that she'd had to deal with the walkers on her own. "Thanks, Clem."
Clementine nodded, but her throat was tight and she glanced away, tears threatening to spill.
"You okay?" Luke asked. His face paled. "They didn't get you, did they?"
"N- no..." Clem struggled to catch her breath. "Luke... I- I-"
"Hey, now, it's okay," Luke knelt to her level and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "You can tell me what's wrong, alright?"
"One of t- the walkers got on t- top of me, a- a- and..." Clementine hated how her voice shook and threatened to break. "It was l- like I was back in t- the shed..."
"Oh, Clem..." He gently pulled her into a hug. "I'm so sorry, I should'a been there for you..."
Clementine surprised herself by wrapping her arms around Luke's neck, burying her face in his bloody shirt. Under normal circumstances, she might not have been so quick to show affection, but at the moment she needed comfort.
"Shh... it's okay, you're alright," Luke murmured softly. "You did good out there, okay? I've said it before, an' I"ll say it again; you're tough as nails. You're gonna be alright."
"Okay... I'm okay..." Clem pulled away, brushing tears from her face. "Thanks, Luke."
"Don't mention it," He smiled, rising to his feet again. "You all set?"
"Y- yeah, I'm good." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself.
"Let's keep moving, then."
They didn't get far.
Scarcely a minute had passed before Luke stopped Clementine again, pointing at something father down the bridge.
"See him?" He asked quietly.
She lifted her gaze and saw a figure slowly approaching them. He was walking upright, clothed in a grey and black hoodie, and his pace was steady and even, very unlike the awkward shuffling associated with walkers. As he neared them, Clem could make out the sleek rifle held loosely in his arms.
A long silence stretched between them as the stranger continued to close the distance. Luke was tense, one hand resting by his gun holster.
"Just play is cool," He muttered. "And you do the talking."
"What?!" Clementine looked up at him in surprise. "Why me?"
"Cause I don't wanna get in a fight," Luke replied, his eyes still on the stranger. "You really think he'd shoot a little girl?"
"Is he with Carver?" She couldn't see his face clearly.
"It's hard to see," Luke narrowed his eyes. "I don't think so, just be careful and don't piss him off, alright?"
The man stopped, and Clementine took this as her cue to step forward. She did so with some hesitation, her fingers curling around her bloody walking stick. She could feel the stranger staring at her stump, and was immediately self-conscious. In all honesty, she would've much rather preferred to hide behind Luke and let him do the talking, but that wasn't an option.
"Well, who are you?" The man said finally.
"I'm Clementine, and this is Luke." She decided to be honest and forward; he hadn't given them any reason to be distrustful yet.
"Clementine and Luke," He sounded doubtful, but he took a few steps closer. "Huh. You don't look like assholes. Are you assholes?" The man asked. "No offense or anything," He added quickly. "But you know how it is out here. You run into a lot of assholes."
"We're just people." Clem told him, glancing up at Luke, who nodded.
"Fair enough." He drew closer, and his face became clearer. His features seemed to be of Asian decent, with facial hair framing his jawline and upper lip. His eyes were kind and expressive, his eyebrows slightly raised in curiosity. Clementine looked up at Luke to see if he recognized the man from Carver's gang, but he gave no indication that he did, though he still seemed suspicious.
"You folks heading up north like everyone else?" The stranger asked them.
"Everyone else?" Luke quirked an eyebrow.
"I see at least one group a day move through here," He explained, his voice tired and heavy. "You all look the same. It's like the great migration of the dazed and confused..."
"Have you seen someone named Christa?" The question escaped Clementine without warning. She knew it was a long shot, but she couldn't help but hope.
"Christa? Maybe." He shrugged.
"Really?!" She couldn't hide the eagerness in her voice.
"Nah, I mean a lot of people come through here," He elaborated. "I don't know."
Clem's face fell. The answer was disheartening, but expected. The man seemed to realize this, and his expression softened.
"I'm sorry," He told her. "Y'know, I gotta say, you two look like shit. If you need food, I've got some canned stuff in that station back there."
"Well, that's, uh... awful nice of you," Luke put his hands on his hips, studying the stranger's face distrustfully. "What's the catch?"
"No catch," He promised. "I've got plenty."
"Well, all right then," Luke relaxed, smiling at the man. "Thank you."
"Hey, no problem," He returned the gesture, smiling warmly at Luke and Clementine. "Nice running into friendly faces out here. Like I said, I've got food and supplies back at the station. And if you want..."
The stranger suddenly broke off, his gaze landing on something behind them. His eyes widened and he took half a step back.
"What the fuck, man?" He demanded, his voice laced with fear.
Clem turned to see Nick running up to them, rifle in hand.
"What the hell is he doing?" Luke knit his brows together.
Nick stopped a few yards away and took aim. Immediately, the stranger lifted his gun as well, finger on the trigger.
"No, no, no, no! He's wi- he's with us!" Luke protested quickly. The man's eyes shifted from Nick to Luke, hesitating.
Luke turned to Nick, waving his hands in the air in an attempt to get him to stand down.
"Put it down-"
Luke tackled Clementine to the ground as the shot rang off, shielding her with his arm. Heart hammering, she looked up as a horrible guttural noise reached her ears. The stranger staggered backwards, hand clasped to his neck as bright red blood spurted from the wound. He made a wretched gurgling sound deep in his throat, thick and wet with blood, and his eyes locked onto her desperately before he went careening off the side of the bridge.
Luke ran over to the edge, Clem scrambling after him, and they both watched helplessly as the man plummeted into the river below.
Throat tight, Luke turned and stalked forward to meet Nick, who's wide eyes darted around the bridge anxiously.
"Did I hit him? Where is he?" Nick asked, glancing around warily.
"Wha the hell was that?! I told you not to shoot!" Luke fumed.
"What? No, I... " Nick sounded genuinely confused. "Who was that guy?"
"He- he was going to help us," Clementine felt sick. "Why did you shoot?"
"He pointed a gun at me!" Nick exclaimed defensively.
"Dammit, Nick, I told you not to shoot!"
"How was I supposed to hear you?" Nick demanded. "You gave me a clear shot! I- I thought that-"
"That shot rang out for miles," Luke hissed angrily. "We gotta get off this bridge. Let's go." He gestured at the rest of the group, who had crept up silently during the argument. Clementine cast a final glance over the side of the bridge where the stranger had fallen, a tight knot forming in her chest.
She didn't even know his name.
Thanks for reading! Kenny is in the next chapter. See you next week! - Aqua