Day 875 – Afternoon


Wyatt sprinted down the hallway of the Outpost as windows exploded behind him. Annie and Becca were barely able to catch up with a sprinting adult, and Vince was even further back.


He didn't get an answer. Vince was probably too busy running. Wyatt panicked as he saw a window up ahead. He was closing in on it and pretty soon he'd crash into it. He cast his mind back to the events that had transpired in the Eastland Mall. What had Ralph done when the walkers had been closing in? He'd fired at the glass wall between two stores to create a hole. Sure, it hadn't worked because the glass had been so thick, but this glass was thin. As he ran, Wyatt pulled his pistol from his waistband – he'd found it in the Outpost – and pointed it at the window. He fired three shots to be safe, and then shielded his face as he jumped through.

For a split second the thought 'what the fuck am I doing?' passed through his mind, then he landed on the ground, falling onto his side. Becca and Annie passed through after him and Vince finally caught up, the sound of the truck following them all the while. Luckily for them, the road ahead had been a victim of major traffic during the outbreak, and was blocked with cars. The bandits wouldn't be able to drive through.

The group sprinted down the street, ducking and diving as Ivan's group fired on them from the truck, and eventually stopped behind a car to discuss what to do. "Okay, we've gotta deal with this." Vince said, "We keep running and they'll eventually catch up." He pulled out his pistol and checked his magazine. "How many you got?" He asked.

"Seven." Wyatt said.

"Thirteen." Becca said.

"I've got nine." Vince admitted.

"Coulda had ten if you hadn't acted like a moron and shot at them, dude." Wyatt said.

"Guess you're not the only one who's taken a risky shot, then." Vince said, "I did hit their windscreen, though." The windscreen of the truck looked as if it had a rather large crack in it, but it wasn't smashed. It was probably annoying to drive, but it wasn't a major inconvenience.

"What're we doing, then?" Becca asked.

"You're not doing anything." Vince said. "You need to go. Wyatt and I have this."

"No!" Becca growled, "I'm staying. You told me that I was old enough to decide for myself, so I'm staying."

Wyatt was in no mood to argue, so he said nothing. Vince sighed as Becca shuffled up next to them. Annie cowered behind.

"Come out, come out wherever you are!" They heard Ethan call. Wyatt peeked over the car and saw Ethan, Ivan and Brandon pacing around the trapped cars while Donald stood in the truck bed, looking rather lost and unsure of what to do.

Wyatt lifted his pistol, pointed at Brandon's chest, and fired. The shot missed.

Brandon ducked behind a car, wielding a rifle, and then leaned over himself and fired a shot at their cover in response. Instantly Ethan and Ivan followed suit.

"They're spread out." Vince said, looking at the cars. Ethan was on the right side of the road and Ivan was on the right, with Brandon in the middle. "I'll get the left guy, Becca, you get the one on the right, and Wyatt, keep shooting at the fucker in the middle."

One of the windows of the car they were using as cover shattered, causing them to jump. Wyatt looked over the bonnet and saw Ivan crouch back down beneath a car with an eerie grin on his face, his eyes flaring. "I see you!" he yelled. Another shot, this time from the centre, burst one of the tyres on the vehicle. Wyatt wondered if they were deliberately being terrible shots for effect.

Vince fired at Ethan and barely missed, causing his target to duck as the bullet flew overhead. Becca fired at Ivan twice, once to his left and once to his right, trying to dupe him into running into the path of the next bullet. A rifle shot hit a concrete pillar behind Wyatt's head, causing him to look around and see a building frozen in mid-construction.

The bandits were almost halfway to the group now, aside from Donald, who was firing at a handful of walkers who were behind the truck. Becca fired three more times at Ivan, but was unsuccessful with every shot. Wyatt aimed at Brandon, and saw him aiming back. He ducked as a shot rang off and then launched himself back up and fired at Brandon, hearing at satisfying punching sound and a scream of pain.

"Shit, man! Fucker got my hand!" Brandon yelled.

"Shut up!" Ivan growled, "Keep shooting at 'em! They'll run out eventually!"

"Fan out," Vince said. "Wyatt, cover the left, Becca, take the right. No room for failure." Wyatt turned to duck behind the next car along until he caught Annie following him out of the corner of his eye. "Dude, you've gotta stay behind. This is serious."

Annie looked sad but she definitely understood, turning and shuffling back. As Wyatt ducked behind the next car to the left, Vince provided some cover fire, using up three of his bullets. From where he was, Wyatt could just about make out the top of Ivan's head across the way, even though he was supposed to be focusing on Ethan, who was a few cars directly ahead of him. Risking it, he fired at Ivan's head but the bandit saw it coming and threw himself to the ground, then quickly had to dodge two more shots from Becca. Vince ran between two cars, firing once as Brandon tried shooting him in the torso.

Wyatt was running out of ammo, though he was pacing himself. Becca would probably run out first, judging by how recklessly she was firing. They'd have to back off soon. He heard muttering from in front of him, around ten metres away. The hooded bandit, Ethan, was talking to himself, but what about?

Wyatt ducked as a shot rang overhead, presumably coming from Ivan. In return he fired three shots and realised he only had two left. He was screwed if he pushed forwards, so he backed up and got closer to their original cover, where Annie was still hiding. The bandits were evidently pushing them back, as Becca and Vince were both converging on the same place.

Becca fired three more shots and Vince fired one. Wyatt caught a glance of Brandon and shot at him, barely missing. One of his shots had to land. One of them.

Another car window smashed as Ivan fired, growling. Vince fired in return, to no avail. Becca shot at Brandon, who was getting closer to her, and Wyatt fired one last shot at Ethan. He tried to fire again, but heard a gut-wrenching click that told him he was out of ammo. The muttering coming from Ethan was closer now, telling him that Ethan himself was nearby. It sounded like he was reloading.

Becca sided up next to him. "Shit," she said, "How many you got left?"

"Out." Wyatt said.

"Where's Vince?" Becca asked, causing him to search for his friend. Vince and Ivan were dangerously close to each other, no more than two cars apart. "Over there," he said, pointing him out. "What're we gonna do?"

Becca sighed, and then handed her gun to him. "I've got three left." She said, "But I can't shoot for shit. Vince told me I was old enough to make my own decisions, so now I'm gonna do what I think is right."

"What's that?"

Becca turned to Annie and said, "I'm gonna take her and run."

"You're leaving?" Wyatt thought she was abandoning him and Vince for a second, but then he realised what she was doing. "Yeah," he said, "Find somewhere to hide. Keep her safe. We'll shout if it's safe." Becca nodded, and then looked up. "Shit!" She cried.

Wyatt looked up to see Ethan running at them both, along with Brandon, both of them coming from different directions. He heard three shots fire from the direction of Vince, causing Ethan to flinch slightly. Wyatt seized the moment and fired Becca's pistol. The first two shots missed but the third hit Ethan in the shoulder. "Fuck!" The man yelled, grasping his arm and dropping his weapon. Wyatt leapt up and punched Ethan full in the face, hoping that Vince had Ivan under control. He turned to watch Becca and Annie escape, and then froze as he saw Brandon hop over a car bonnet and head after them, wielding a rifle.

Wyatt called "Becca!" causing her to notice the imminent threat, and then ran after them. He leapt over the bonnet of a truck and ran after them, but he was too slow, not catching up as Becca and Annie ran into a building. They were going to get cornered.

Wyatt growled and tried to pick up speed, but Ethan tackled him from behind as they passed the last of the cars and found their way into a deserted street, the construction site Wyatt had noticed earlier on their right. Though Ethan had a bullet hole in his shoulder, he was fighting through the pain, fuelled by adrenaline. Wyatt managed to kick the man off of him and crawl backwards, but Ethan got back to his feet, his hood falling down in the process. The fatter man swung a heavy punch, but Wyatt dodged as it was slow and sluggish. He found himself backing away, getting closer to the half-built office block as he dodged the unarmed attacks of Ethan.

He ducked under a scaffold as he dived for cover, Ethan launching another heavy attack. He'd have to fight back soon, or this would never end. He growled and threw a punch, hitting Ethan in the chest. The man was thrown off for a second, but Wyatt's punch hadn't had much of an effect. In return Ethan shoved his foot between Wyatt's shins, trying to swing his feet out from underneath him. Wyatt barely stepped over Ethan's leg, but tripped in doing so. The bandit capitalised on this and launched a punch at Wyatt's jaw, knocking him down.

As Wyatt fell, he grabbed a metal pole – part of some scaffolding – and tried to use it to pull himself back up. Unfortunately the structural integrity of the scaffolding had failed over time and he heard a worrying creak and a rumble from above. He collapsed to the ground as a wooden plank hit Ethan square on the forehead, slicing his face and momentarily making his head spin.

Wyatt used the moment to his advantage, throwing himself at the chubby bandit and knocking him to the ground. They tossed and turned in a struggle, landing heavy punches and kicks on one another until Ethan wriggled out of Wyatt's grasp and put some space between them both. Wyatt looked around for a weapon, noticing nothing but a lone walker trapped in the scaffolding, snarling and reaching out. He'd have to stay away from it.

Ethan lifted a metal pole and charged at Wyatt, taking him off guard and hitting him in the gut. Wyatt spluttered as all the air in his body was forced out through his mouth. He backed away as Ethan swung again, but it hit him over the back as he hunched over.

Wyatt grunted in pain and charged at Ethan in a last ditch effort. He knocked the man over with his full weight and fell on top of him. Ethan's arms stretched out and his pole slipped from between his fingers. Wyatt freed his hands from under the man and punched him in the face. Ethan roared in pain and rolled over, throwing Wyatt off of him.

Wyatt found himself on his back as Ethan leapt on top of his chest and pressed his hands around his throat. He retched as the bandit's fingers pressed into the soft flesh of his throat. He couldn't yell for help or do anything. His sight was blurry meaning that he could barely see. He looked for anything that could save him, but couldn't find anything.

His legs flailed momentarily until his shin painfully came into contact with something and he heard a horrid metallic creak. He looked at the source of the noise and saw a weak portion of scaffolding, and came up with an idea. A terrible idea, but an idea nonetheless. He kicked the scaffolding out of place and heard it creaking fiercely, watching as it slipped and the boards and metal above moaned.

Ethan looked up at the source of the noise, his hands relaxing slightly, giving Wyatt the time he needed to pull himself free and throw himself backwards as an entire floor of the half-built office block collapsed on the bandit. Metal and wood rained down on the bandit, who desperately tried to shield himself with his arms, to no avail.

Dust filled the air as Wyatt sat on the ground, breathing heavily and rubbing his throat. As the air cleared, he climbed to his feet shakily and saw Ethan lying on the ground, still very much alive. The walker he'd seen earlier was still trapped in the same place.

Ethan wasn't getting up. Wyatt looked closer and saw a spray of blood and Ethan's leg trapped beneath the rubble. The bandit's face was covered in blood and dust. "Fuckin' asshole!" Ethan growled, "Fuckin' fat, bearded piece of shit! C'mere so I can fuckin' put you down like the fuckin' dyin' dog that you are, you fucking motherfuck!"

Wyatt started to speak, but his throat hurt. He coughed into a hand and then crouched over Ethan's struggling form. "You know, dude, somehow I don't think that'll happen."

"Piece of lousy Burning Man shit! That other asshole killin' David and you tryin' to kill us now!" Ethan yelled at him, spitting in his face.

"You, know, dude, it wasn't Miles who killed 'David'," Wyatt said, "It was me. So I'd kinda watch your mouth if I were you."

"What..?" Ethan's eyes widened with fear, "Then... what... huh?"

"Yeah." Wyatt sighed. "Me."

Ethan glared at him. "You fuckin' shit! Alright, then, let's see you kill me, just like you killed my friend."

Wyatt walked over to the walker nearby, keeping out of reach and watching Ethan all the time. The struggling bandit looked at him and said, "Come on! What are you? Some sorta pansy? Fuckin' no-balls-beardy, that it? KILL ME!"

"No, dude, that's not who I am." Wyatt said, "I killed your friend out of defense, because I had someone to protect. You can't hurt anyone any more, man, which means I don't need to kill you anymore and I'm not going to." He kicked the scaffolding that trapped the walker, causing it to slip slightly. Soon enough it would come loose, along with the hungry corpse. Wyatt didn't need to kill Ethan any more; he decided to be the bigger man and walk away.

Unfortunately for Ethan, the same couldn't be said for the walker.

Day 875 – Afternoon


Becca had been focusing so much on shooting at Ivan that she didn't realise she'd used up so many bullets. She had to try something else. Looking to her left she noticed Wyatt taken cover behind the car they'd originally hidden behind. She sided up next to him. "Shit," she said, "How much you got left?"

"Out." Wyatt replied.

"Where's Vince?" Becca asked, looking around. As far as she could tell Vince had taken over her duties of fending off Ivan. "Over there. What're we gonna do?" Wyatt asked.

Becca sighed, and then handed her gun to him. "I've got three left," she said, "But I can't shoot for shit. Vince told me I was old enough to make my own decisions, so now I'm gonna do what I think is right." She turned her head and looked at Annie, who was cowering behind them both.

"What's that?"

Becca crushed her eyes shut. "I'm gonna take her and run." It was the right thing to do, but not what she wanted to do.

"You're leaving?" Wyatt asked, and then paused for a second. "Yeah," he said, "Find somewhere to hide. Keep her safe. We'll shout if it's okay to come out."

Becca nodded and looked up, before jolting back and shouting "Shit!"

Ethan and Brandon were running full pelt at them. With only Vince taking care of Ivan, the two bandits had been given the space they needed to push forward. Becca turned and put her right arm around Annie's back as they turned to run, pushing her left hand into the younger girl's. "Come on," she ordered. They started to run.

They heard three shots being fired, along with a yell of pain, but it didn't sound like Wyatt. Hopefully he'd put one of them out of action. Becca held Annie's hand tightly and led her down the street, clearing the cars and passing a construction site.

"Becca!" Wyatt called. Becca snapped her head around to see Brandon bolting over a car bonnet. "Oh, shit," she grunted. The oldest of the bandits pursued relentlessly, but he was in his mid forties and thus, past his prime, which meant that the two girls could just about outrun him.

Becca looked around for anything that she could knock over to slow the bandit down. Looking around as she ran she saw that the front door of an office building was open. She tugged Annie's hand and pulled her in that direction, hoping that she could use something in the building to her advantage. All she had at the moment was the survival knife she'd found back in the Outpost.

She ran through the front door and was met with the sight of a room filled with desks. Maybe Brandon would think they were hiding in there and he'd slow down. To throw him off, she tugged Annie in the direction of a flight of stairs and pulled her up to the next floor. She turned her head to see Brandon burst through the front door but pause and look around.

Once Becca and Annie made it to the next floor they rushed past desks and cubicles, their feet hitting the carpeted floor harshly. Once they had put a decent amount of distance between themselves and Brandon, Becca pulled Annie down so that they were crouched behind a desk, out of sight.

"We have to do something." Becca said, looking past the desk. "We need to get rid of him somehow."

Annie's lip trembled but she barely managed to keep her nerve. "I don't know what to do, I can't do anything. I'm just a kid."

Becca rested her left hand on Annie's shoulder. "Listen, ever since this whole 'walker' thing started I only ever wanted to be treated like an adult. Vince gave me that opportunity and I could finally do what I knew I was capable of. You killed that walker and saved Wyatt – like me, you're not just a kid any more. We can do this."

"Promise...?" Annie asked, her eyes meeting Becca's.

"Promise. Now, come on. I'm gonna get up and get his attention, then you distract him by throwing some stuff at him. Staplers, stuff like that. Just get on his nerves a bit, okay? Then I'll take it from there." Becca stood up and withdrew her knife.

"Don't go!" Annie cried.

"I'm not going anywhere." Becca replied, her eyes on the staircase. Soon enough the top of Brandon's head appeared, accompanied by his stomps as he made his way upstairs. Becca stood in the centre of the room, her feet shoulder width apart and her hands by her sides, her left clutching her knife as her right hung uselessly.

Brandon looked at Becca sternly as he reached the top of the stairs. His rifle fell to his side and he spoke in his gravelly, hoarse voice. "What the hell d'you think you're doing? Where's the other one?"

"She's gone." Becca grunted. He heart was racing, knowing that one wrong move could end with the bandit lifting his rifle and shooting her in the chest. "I'm stopping you from chasing her."

Brandon chuckled. "You think she'll get far? She won't get five metres before some dead fucker tears her throat out or Ethan grabs her after he's dealt with your beardy friend. You wanna see what old beardy is capable of?" Brandon leaned forward and showed Becca two harsh bruises on the sides of his neck. "Fucker choked me near to death. We want revenge for our friend, we get it, and this is how we're repaid. You all try to kill the rest of us, so we gotta take you out before you finish the job."

"It's funny." Becca said, taking a light step back. "The way I see it, your friend tried to murder two of our people, so one of us killed him to save them. Then you made the situation worse for yourselves."

Brandon smirked. The light that fell on his face created several shadows that accentuated his grin. "Think of it how you want, but we both know who's coming out on top. A little slut like you against a guy like me? All you've got is a knife, and I've got a rifle and a pistol."

Becca felt her eyes widen and her grim expression dropped slightly, putting Brandon in a more comfortable position than she would have liked him to be. "You know exactly what I mean, don't you?" Brandon growled, "I can see it on your face. This sort of thing's happened already. Ivan probably guessed that too. One man or one dead fucker tries to kill you and every time someone else saves your ass."

"You're wrong." Becca stuttered.

"You bet your round little ass I'm not," Brandon said, and then grunted. "Goddamn, that reminds me how long it's been..." he looked back at Becca, "You know where the spanish girl is? Once I'm done here I'd kinda like to take a ride on that shit."

"You're disgusting." Becca growled. "I can't say it'll be fun to kill you but I'll be glad that at least one member of your scumbag group will be dead."

Brandon burst out into forced laughter. "Are you kidding? Me, killed by a jumped-up little whore like you? Don't make me laugh. Now, come on, are we gonna do this or what?"

Becca jolted as he lifted his rifle. He pulled the trigger and narrowly missed as she dived to her left, landing on her shoulder behind a desk, dropping her knife in the process.

"Make this easy for me, bitch!" Brandon growled as he reloaded. Becca scrabbled on her hands and knees over the carpet and hid behind another desk that was further back. She looked up to work out if Brandon had moved, but he was still reloading.

Something hit him square in the side of the face, drawing blood. Brandon's head snapped to the left and he hunched over in pain, groaning, before regaining his posture. Crimson fluid was spattered across his face, sourced from a wide cut across his forehead. Blood was leaking down his face, into one of his deep-set eyes, causing him to squint. He used his sleeve to wipe the blood out of his eye and then continued to pursue Becca.

As she hid behind a desk, Becca saw a hole-puncher on the other side of the room, one corner covered in blood. Annie must have thrown it to distract Brandon as he reloaded. She looked back to where Annie had been, but the seven-year-old was no longer in the same place, which was worrying because it meant that Becca couldn't keep track of her.

Brandon stormed up the centre of the room before something else hit him in the back of the head, causing him to stumble forwards. Becca looked down the room and saw Annie standing near the staircase, where Brandon had surfaced minutes ago. The bandit turned and fired, barely missing the young girl and prompting her to flee behind a desk.

Brandon's attention was directed at Annie now. Becca had to somehow reclaim her knife from the place she'd dropped it, but Brandon was too close for her to do so. The bandit proceeded to stalk Annie, but the girl was managing to flit past the desks and find new hiding spots with ease, occasionally throwing something at his head while his back was turned.

Becca was in reach of her knife when Brandon turned and spotted her. He turned his rifle around and smacked her in the face with the stock, knocking her down and sending a searing pain through her skull. She saw the barrel line itself up with her face, but Brandon jolted forward as something hit him in the back of the head, shunting him forwards. His shot fired harmlessly into the seat of a chair, but Becca's ears started ringing, causing her to crush her eyes shut as the sound met her brain.

Brandon knew she wouldn't get up any time soon so he turned to pursue Annie. Becca's face stung where she'd been hit – right on the forehead, just above her eye. She lay on the ground, her body feeling as if it was made out of lead. She groaned in pain, barely able to move her head. In the corner of her eye she saw Annie desperately trying to outrun Brandon, who had thrown away his rifle to chase her with his bare hands. Annie knocked over chairs and desks in an attempt to slow Brandon down, bursting through a door and disappearing into an adjoining room as the bandit gave chase.

The knife was still just out of reach and Becca felt her brain throbbing as she thought of what to do.

"I have to do... something." She thought.

She struggled to lift her head, feeling a terrible bout of head rush as she did so. Her head hit the ground again as she moaned in pain, unable to rise. A muffled scream came from nearby, and something snapped deep in Becca's stomach. She didn't have to do something – she was going to do something.

Before she knew it, she was uneasily climbing to her feet, gritting her teeth as she pushed through the pain barrier. She picked up her blade and clenched her one-and-a-half fists. Then she realised Brandon had thrown his rifle away to pursue Annie. That would be his downfall.

Becca lifted the weapon and felt her fingers slide into the right places as if it were second nature to her. This was the first time she'd held a rifle since Marshall's and memories of that night kept flooding back to her; how she'd shot the man through the stomach and stamped on his head until no face remained.

She lifted the rifle and slowly walked towards the door Annie and Brandon had disappeared through. She kicked the door open and lifted the gun, waiting for Brandon to spring out on the other side.

Her stomach sank. At the end of the room, Brandon had Annie pinned down and he had one foot on either side of her chest as he gripped her neck with one arm. The seven-year-old's hands scratched at his as her eyes bulged and tears streamed down her face. Daniel's hat lay a few metres away, presumably after falling off in the struggle.

Becca growled. The entire situation reminded her of Marshall. How he'd pinned her down and tried to strangle her. How Shel had come to her aid only to be shot dead. A searing rage filled her stomach and bubbled up to her head – the same rage that had caused her foot to destroy Marshall's head those few weeks ago.

She felt herself fall into a weird state of nausea as she flitted in between past and present. For a few seconds she saw Brandon tackling Annie, then she saw Marshall sitting over herself. For a second she thought she saw Shel being taken down again and that was the final straw.

Becca put the rifle down and lifted her knife. She ran to the aid of the trapped girl, whose identity switched between Shel's, Annie's and her own. Brandon didn't notice her.

She lifted her three-fingered right hand and grabbed his hair, shocking him as she pulled his head back. If that hadn't made her presence known, then her words did.

"Get your fucking hands off my sister."

She wrenched Brandon's head back, his hands trying to tear her away, and closed her eyes. She quickly lifted her blade and pressed it into his neck, pulling across and feeling the flesh of his throat resist as a red spray covered her hands and his chest.

Becca drew a long, wavering breath and let go. This time she wouldn't give in to the rage more than she needed to. Brandon could turn for all she cared.

The bandit fell to his side and gargled as blood spewed from his slit throat and his mouth. His eyes were wide as he scratched at his neck, trying to breathe. His face turned purple as he choked and his body started to fail.

Becca sighed, and then looked at Annie. The little girl got to her feet, still whimpering as she wiped her face on her sleeve. Becca reached for Daniel's hat and planted it on Annie's head, turning it around so it was backwards, the way Daniel had left it before he'd died.

She smiled at Annie weakly, and then felt the younger girl's arms wrapped around her own. It took a second but Becca returned the embrace as Annie cried, burying her face into the crook of Becca's neck. Becca joined in with the weeping and closed her eyes as she stroked the back of Annie's head. "It's okay," she said, "I've got you."

Annie stopped crying for a second and said, "You called me your sister."

"I did?" Becca hadn't realised. Deep down she'd been pretending to 'save' Shel from Marshall, replaying the events in a way that would have turned out better for everyone. From Annie's point of view, it was probably an odd thing to say. She didn't regret it, though. They were friends and judging by this situation, they may as well have been sisters.

They held the embrace for what seemed like hours, though it couldn't have been more than a few minutes. Becca supported Annie as she wept, Annie supported Becca as she worked out what had gone on in her mind and tried to accept that she'd killed a man for the second time.

Soon enough, the hug was done. Becca and Annie released each other and the former climbed to her feet, offering the latter her hand. As their palms met, they walked towards the staircase, aiming to help Wyatt and Vince.

It was odd. When Becca had first escaped, Shel had been her defender and her protector, the one who told her right from wrong. Her older sister who'd taught her nearly everything she knew of this world, and now she had to pass that knowledge on to Annie.

Becca had been the younger sister at the start of all this, and now she was the elder.

She found it funny how the world worked.

Day 875 – Afternoon


Vince was focused on Ivan, seeing Becca side up next to Wyatt to discuss something. He was no further than two cars from Ivan, but he'd ran out of bullets. He needed to find a way to make Ivan run out too.

He heard Becca cry "Shit!" and turned to see what was going on. Ivan didn't seize the moment to rush forward and attack Vince, so he assumed the bandit was distracted too. He saw Becca and Annie running for their lives as the attacker named Brandon chased after them, while Wyatt was struggling with Ethan. Vince felt bad for thinking it, but that meant that he wouldn't have to worry about the other two bandits coming at him and he could focus on Ivan. The final bandit, Donald, was busy shooting walkers as he stood in the truck bed about fifty metres away.

Vince couldn't get to Ivan without the bandit shooting him, so he had to try something else. He lifted the rock he'd been using to fight walkers and crept back over to the car he and the others had hid behind at the beginning of the encounter. Looking down, he saw the pole Wyatt had once used as a torch, and saw Wyatt himself in a spot of trouble with Ethan. He'd have to focus on Ivan and prevent the bandit leader from shooting at Wyatt.

He put Wyatt's pole to one side as he lifted the rock he'd previously used to disable walkers. Looking for any sight of Ivan, he saw the top of the bandit's head and threw the rock at him. He heard a grunt of pain and used the moment in which Ivan was stunned to run across the street, smash a window and dive into a café. Ivan growled and followed him, just as he'd planned. Vince ducked behind a counter and waited.

Ivan kicked the door down and gritted his teeth as he looked around. Vince held off until Ivan walked past his hiding place and tackled him harshly, slamming the man into a coffee machine. Ivan dropped his weapon, which fired and stunned the two men, though neither were harmed. Ivan yelled in rage and slashed back at Vince with his hands, slicing some of the skin on his face and knocking him back. Vince returned the favour, grabbing the back of Ivan's head and slamming it down onto the counter. As his face was pressed against the cold surface Ivan kicked Vince in the side of the knee and pushed him away so that he could get up. Vince stumbled backwards and the two faced each other at opposite sides of the café.

Ivan snorted as he wiped his face with his sleeve, his eyes reduced to tiny pinpricks within his head as he stared Vince down. Vince felt worry on his face and was met with the sight of blood as he touched his cheek. In the struggle he'd forgotten that Ethan and Brandon had gone after his friends and he glared at Ivan.

"There he is." Ivan grinned, "Finally came out to play, then?"

"The fuck are you talking about?" Vince asked bluntly, his eyes flitting from his enemy to the rifle on the ground. He could hear walkers behind the store.

"I know that look," Ivan said, studying the glare on Vince's face. "You killed someone, didn't you?"

"We've all killed people by now." Vince growled.

"I mean before. I'm a smart man, I can see it on your face. It's like looking in the mirror."

Vince was taken back by the statement. How could anyone recognise that he had murdered a man before the apocalypse?

"We're like-minded, you and I. We're both smart men, we've both killed. So let me ask, why are you pissing about with the likes of half-hand, Steve Urkel and the fucker that I killed? How does that benefit you in any way?" Ivan growled.

"Because they're my friends." Vince replied sternly.

"Can't be friends if you've got nothing in common. That girl who got bit; she's just baggage someone else palmed off on you. You feel like you owe beard guy something, and the other kid's just with him. Why not shoot them all and be a free man? Just have fun in this shit world, kill whoever you want with – or usually without - reason, just like before!"

"I killed for my little brother." Vince growled. "I protected him."

"I captured you folks and killed one of you for my best friend." Ivan retorted. "We're no different."

Deep down, Vince could tell that in some twisted way, Ivan was right. Killing was killing no matter the reason, and Ivan could twist it so that his kill was defensive or born out of vengeance, precisely the reasons Vince had killed for his brother.

"You're wrong." He stuttered.

"Bullshit." Ivan chuckled.

Vince could still hear walkers behind him; the café probably stretched all the way from the street they were on to the street behind, which was probably infested with walkers.

Their eyes fell on the rifle that lay on the ground next to Wyatt's pole.

Vince heard the walkers banging on the windows past the door behind him. His eyes met Ivan's, and in an instant they dived for the rifle. Ivan grabbed it by the stock as Vince gripped the barrel and threw it to the side. Ivan's shot missed and slammed into the wall. The two men tumbled around as they wrestled over the weapon. Vince disarmed Ivan and the rifle fell to the ground again, only to be shoved through the back door by the bandit.

All of a sudden the noise of walkers became louder and in the corner of his eye Vince saw the bodies reaching through broken windows. Ivan grappled the side of his head and shoved him towards the walkers so that his face was almost within reach of the grasping dead hands.

Vince yelled as he pushed back, placing a foot behind himself so that he had more stability. He quickly jolted to one side and Ivan slipped forwards, his sleeve captured by a walker. Vince noticed a glass coffee jug and grabbed it as Ivan freed his wrist and charged towards him. Vince smashed the glass over the bandit's face, breaking his nose with the impact. Ivan reeled back in pain and screamed, only to grab a shard of glass and charge once more. The sheer force knocked Vince onto his back as Ivan pinned him down with one arm and slammed the shard through his hand.

As Vince cried out in pain, his hand nailed to the ground, Ivan spat to one side and held the chest of Vince's jacket tightly. The bandit's right eye was closed shut, his face spattered with blood and littered with glass shards. His nose was bent to one side and his teeth were gritted as he seethed with rage.

"I didn't have to kill you to make you doubt what you are, but you keep looking at this face," he fumed, "I want to make sure it's the last thing you see!"

With that, he pulled the glass shard out of Vince's palm, leaned back and lifted it above his victim's head. Vince reacted on instinct, lifting his knee and foot beneath Ivan's chest. Both of them paused in an awkward moment of confusion and then Vince thrust the sole of his foot forwards with all his might, throwing Ivan backwards, towards the reaching hands of the walkers outside. A walker grabbed the bandit around his neck and another pulled his right arm back, sinking its teeth into him.

Ivan refused to scream, he just held a stare with Vince as a walker tore the skin from his neck and he was sprayed with blood. He looked at Vince, smirked, and gurgled, "Killer. Just like me."

Ivan leaned back and was accepted by the herd. Vince slowly got to his feet and watched as Ivan's stomach was torn open, exposing his ribcage and organs. Vince's breath wavered as he looked at his hand. It was dripping with blood and a pool was forming on the floor. He took one last look as Ivan's corpse joined the rest and walked through the door to get back onto the street. His eyes crushed in pain, he tore some fabric off of an apron and wrapped it around his injured hand.

He picked up Ivan's rifle with his good hand, stuffing his injured one into one of the pockets on his overcoat. Vince climbed out of the smashed window he'd originally used to get into the café and saw Wyatt sitting on the ground, leaning against a car with his head in his hands. Vince slowly dragged his feet over to his friend and collapsed beside him, resting his hand on his knee. For a second they sat in silence, inhaling and exhaling with exhaustion. Vince sat on the icy ground, looked at the sky and asked, "What happened to your guy?"

"Trapped under rubble." Wyatt replied.

"Not dead?"

"Not dead. There was a walker, though, that'll probably get him. What did you do?"

Vince took a deep breath. "Smashed a glass jug into his face, kicked him into some walkers. Dead. Oh, and he stabbed me in he hand with some glass." He raised his arm and showed Wyatt the blood stained material covering his hand.

"No sign of Becca or Annie." Wyatt said. "I told 'em to run. That guy either got them or they're gone forever. I don't really wanna look, seeing something bad might just make me want to stop living." Wyatt groaned, his head hitting the metal of the car as he leaned back.

"Come on," Vince said, pulling him to his feet. "Which way did they go?"

Wyatt pointed in the direction of the road ahead of them and the two began to walk slowly down the street. As Vince started to feel a sinking feeling in his stomach based around the survival of the two children, the door to an office building opened and Becca and Annie stepped out, hand in hand. The former looked disappointed in herself while the latter looked sad. Judging by their red faces they'd both been crying.

Wyatt crouched and Annie ran down the road and wrapped her arms around him, while Vince and Becca exchanged a quick glance. Just by looking at her bruised, guilty face, he could tell that she'd killed the bandit chasing her, though it appeared she'd been hit in the face judging by the large split just above her right eye.

"You okay?" He asked.

"I... uh, I don't know how to answer that." Becca replied. She leaned to one side and looked past Vince, a confused look on her face. "You know there's still one of them left, right?"

The survivors made their way past the deserted vehicles until they were almost at the truck. Donald had been watching them for a while now, having cleared the immediate area around the truck of walkers. As Vince held Ivan's rifle up, supporting it with the wrist of his injured hand, Donald sighed and slowly sank to his knees, putting his hands behind his head.

"So," Vince said, pressing the barrel of the weapon to Donald's forehead, "You're probably thinking that coming after us was a bad idea, right?"

"I didn't even wanna!" Donald groaned, looking up at the group. "I thought it was a waste of time!"

"Bullshit." Becca growled.

"I wanted to get revenge for when you guys shot David in the mall but we got that and I thought that was enough!" Donald pleaded.

"Yeah, I bet Russell would believe that information, considering you shot him." Vince argued.

"I panicked, man. If I did nothin' Ivan would'a punished me! I shot him in places that wouldn't kill him! I gave him a chance!" Donald cried. His forehead was sweating. "I told the guys not to go after him because he was probably dead, but I really just didn't see the point in killing him – same as I didn't see the point in comin' after you folks."

"I'm finding it hard to believe you." Vince pushed the barrel of the rifle further into Donald's forehead. He felt his finger rest on the trigger until he remembered what Ivan had said. This wasn't him, this wasn't what he would do. This is what a killer would do, and he didn't want that to be his defining trait.

So he lowered his gun.

"What are you doing?" Becca asked.

"The right thing." Wyatt replied. "He's gonna walk away."

Becca pointed at Donald. "He's not walking away. What about Miles? Or Daniel?"

"Ivan shot Miles, Ivan stabbed Daniel." Vince said, "Now Ivan's dead." He saw Donald jolt as the words were uttered.

"Well, what about Russell?" Becca growled, "You can't defend him for that."

Vince sighed. "As much as I hate him, as much as I hate this asshole, I'm not going to stoop to their level. We only do that when we're forced, like we did with the other three. This man isn't a threat to us any more, so we don't kill him, even if he did what he did. We're better than that." Vince waved the rifle at Donald. "Get up. Get the fuck up."

Donald was surprised. Slowly he climbed to his feet, but didn't reach for his gun. "What are you going to do?"

"You can run away now and never bother us again," Vince said, "Or I can shoot you in the knees and attract the herd that's not far away, your choice."

Donald backed off. "I'll go, I'm going, I'm gone, okay? Just, tell me what you want. You can have the truck if you want, just leave me, please!"

Vince gestured with the rifle to the street that led to the Outpost and the herd. "We're taking all our stuff. I want you to walk down there with nothing. No guns, no food, no medicine. You'll walk away, and you won't bother us again. Then it's up to you to redeem yourself, or die of your own accord or whatever. We don't care."

Donald hesitated for a second or two before Vince jabbed him in the chest with the barrel of the weapon. "Go!"

Donald sighed, turned, and started walking. He wrapped his arms around his body to shield himself from the cold as he stepped through the ice and snow, his head hunched as if he were expecting to be shot at any moment.

Eventually the final bandit disappeared into the mist and was gone.

"I hope I don't live to regret that." Vince sighed. "Hopefully being the better person doesn't get you killed in this shitty world."

"You did the right thing," Wyatt said.

"I guess." Becca grunted and then looked at the truck. "We've got this now, at least."

"Been a few weeks since I've driven us anywhere." Wyatt said, opening the door on the driver's side. "Window's cracked to shit, but it's not too bad if no one else is on the road."

"We've got all our stuff back," Vince said, surveying his complete mess of a group.

Becca climbed into the bed of the truck, lifting Donald's semi-automatic rifle. Wyatt helped Annie into the centre seat of the cab, and then reached into his pocket, unfurling a piece of paper. "Could head back to the mall, but I've got this too."

He handed the paper to Vince, who saw a list of names and locations. "Where'd you find this?"

"At the Outpost." Wyatt said, climbing back into the driver's seat.

"It's a list of people who passed through, and where they were going." Vince said, surprised.

"Holy shit, we might find another settlement!" Becca exclaimed. "We've gotta look. There's got to be something out there."

Vince climbed into the passenger seat of the truck, looked from Wyatt, to Annie, to Becca in the truck bed and asked one question:

"So, where first?"


AN: Thanks for reading "Into The Fray", especially if you've been following it since its inception. At its peak, Into The Fray was #7 on this site in terms of reviews, and that's amazing. If you liked this story then feel free to follow me in the event that I start up a sequel.

Also feel free to visit twdgff .com, a wiki for a few TWDG-based fanfics. It has pages for every ITF character, character statuses and I even made mock-ups of how the characters would look, which I used when describing them in this fic. I'll probably post trivia there too at some point.

Once again, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed these past two months, because I did.

Keep in mind that there will be an Epilogue tomorrow.

INTO THE FRAY: JUNE 14 2014 - AUGUST 26 2014