Title: To Live As People
Chapter I: Within Ruins, Part I
Chapter Summary: A survivor struggles to find refuge, but eventually stumbles into a godsend - Terminus. An empty station where home is found, Emma finds that this place is everything she needs. However, what happens when she meets some new people who think the same? The road is tough.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Walking Dead, I especially do not own it's rightful (and lovely) characters/locations. I do own my own original characters however, as well as the written plot.
Notes: I've finally decided to post my story - which I was too scared to do before, as I haven't written in over a year now - and try to bring some more work into this small portion of Gareth fans. I'm very excited to see how it all goes, but also quite terrified. I'm hopeful that this story is up to a good enough standard and that people enjoy it. I'm writing as I go along, however I do know how I want this to end. I'm presuming it may be anywhere from 10-15 chapters long. I'll be updating it every so often, though it won't be that frequent as I have exams, volunteering & work to complete. Also, the normal chapters won't be as long as this one - I've written it longer as it's my opening - but around half the length. The last thing is about the image banner for this fic - it's not staying. I've gotten a new laptop so I don't have my usual editor, thus the photo is quite bad. I will be changing it.
When Emma had first seen it - really seen it, not just hidden behind obscure trees and bushes, but actually mere steps away - she had almost cried. Tears of joy, of happiness, of anger, even sadness; she wasn't too sure.
It was surreal. The road was - and had been for days - completely desolate. Apart from the creepers she had ran into on her way, there was no sign of any moving bodies that weren't cold.
It was simple, really. All she'd done was follow the tracks, however moss covered and eroded they'd become further down the path. It was meant to lead her to a safe haven, to anything that meant four walls and a roof. Logically, there had to be something at the end. Everything always ended in something.
Now here she was, standing outside the complex that expended around all sides, covered by fence and trees; bushes and ferns. She could see some had fallen, crumpled and trampled onto the floor, pushed down by what she could have guessed would have been a number of things. But it didn't matter. The fences could be fixed, anything else didn't matter too much anyway.
This was her safe haven. It was hers and she had found it, trudging through mud and tears; pain and discovery. Though she still doubted. The thought had occurred to her an illogical amount of times on her journey, that if she was to make it this far up; if this was to end with shelter and the founding of something she needed - would it be safe?
Emma hadn't cared about much else, one way or another she had made herself the promise to follow the tracks here. The funny thing about desperation was that it was almost always spawned from a need to survive, but it was almost always the surest way to end up dead.
There was a patch of fence, where the early morning light reflected off the bars to hit the building with freshness and luminosity. It was almost too perfect, something so attainable.
The knife came out by this point, though Emma wasn't too sure when she had clasped it into her right hand, clenching onto the faded handle so tightly her knuckle whitened. It wasn't her knife in truth, but it she had found it abandoned inside a small cottage she came by. It was emptied, mostly, but the hunting knife had been buried beneath the rummaged remains of the kitchen.
Weapons, Emma thought, were underrated in the beginning. Underrated and underestimated. People went for food, for refuge; for loved ones. Emma had none of those, but she did have a handgun in her back pocket to compensate.
Her steps were slow, and the auburn leaves that had fallen and crumpled onto the ground crunched beneath her boots - steeled bottomed and heavy as hell - while her hand remained steadily grasping the knife, long point faced outwards, glimmering in the sun.
It hadn't taken long before she was inside the gates, a concreted path leading the way to twisted stairs of metal, unstable looking. She avoided them, opting to figure out later what that top floor held. Creepers, most probably.
She had killed dozens - or was it more? - by now. Each time she plunged the knife into the head, or shot a small metal alloyed bullet through the skull, it got a little easier. A couple months in - Emma had estimated, but it could have been more now, it was hard to tell anymore - and she had mastered the art of killing.
It was the third week; when the creepers were attacking in the drones and no one quite understood how something like this could, or would be happening, that she had killed her first one. Her boyfriend.
It scared her, how easy it was.
Victor was terrified, so much so that he had clung onto Emma's arm and pulled her towards a drifting creeper. It was in a small town, one they had previously lived in - in one of those stingy places that always smelt stale and smoke filled - and they'd gone back to find supplies. By that time people were realizing what was happening, all but in denial.
He'd been bitten on the arm, just below his shoulder. If someone had asked Emma she'd be able to tell them the exact way his face looked as it twisted and warped in pain; his eyes filled with fear. The way that the blood gushed onto the floor, staining it an oddly beautiful crimson. How the curtains matched it disturbingly well.
She shot him in the head.
No love was lost. Emma hadn't loved Victor, not really. It was never love, it was bad decisions and impulsive desire - for money, kindness, love; something. Emma had figured it for love at first, but she'd liked the idea of love and he'd liked the idea of a fresh young face.
The reports came in fast, and Emma had panicked. She had no one else to turn to, Victor - quite sadly, she'd admit - was all she had at that time. Her parents were estranged and hadn't talked for years, at least two. Even so that was only out of courtesy, the odd text of -
Stay out of trouble, love mum & dad
- didn't hold up too well.
Her brother was in back home in England when it started. They'd lost contact then and she'd lost hope. Emma loved him, more so than anything in the world. Coming to the realization that Dan was gone had killed her. For weeks she'd been just like another of the dead ones.
Who could she have turned to? Vic was all she had then and before didn't seem to matter much anymore.
Emma was reckless, stubborn and fell far too heavily into ideas. Victor had been an idea, one which her parents had disagreed strongly with. When Vic had asked for money, she hadn't thought twice about giving it to him, even if it wasn't hers. The ten thousand was the separating bar between her and her parents; the money was main the problem. Three years on and she still felt guilty.
She'd left a lot, she remembered. The first time she ran away it was because her parents told her she couldn't stay at her friend's house. She'd been fourteen and she was gone for two days; hidden so well that the police hadn't even been able to find her. When she came home it was because she wanted to.
It happened several more times over the years, until her parents hair started turning grey ten years too early and she became known as a trouble child.
When she was twenty-one, that had been the last time her parents bailed her out. They'd stopped calling her their misunderstood and troubled daughter, and just started calling her trouble.
It didn't take long - and it often doesn't when you're out on the streets - to end up falling into the wrong kind of business, with the wrong kind of people.
She was twenty-three when she was first arrested. It had been a claim of drug possession, and it was in the court where she'd met Victor. He was there on an account of petty assault and the way his eyes sparked with dangerous had lured Emma in.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Her thoughts pinched back to reality.
The first block was almost clear, apart from a few creepers that had smelt something other than rot and scattered around the corridor. They weren't a problem, and this part of the building was small, considerably so. The building as a whole however, was huge.
The further Emma ventured into the mid-lowest building, the more she realized how separated it all was. It was sectioned off, into large parts of buildings and stopping plate-forms. It was a daunting place, so big and isolated. The walls were all grey or filled in with bricks, the colors dull and rooms tatty with threadbare carpets. It reminded her of neglect.
Emma wondered down a corridor, which lead into the main complex station room. Above the door in worn down letters read "SECTION D".
The walls were the same faded grey as every other, ripped and crumpled in places where people had damaged the wall panels. There were chairs scattered on the floor, as well as large wooden tables. Papers lay forgotten and wrinkled on the floor, which was a dull olive green color.
"Section hold, tickets and inquiry desk," Emma read, studying the above walls that held words and information.
A quick scan of the large scaled map of the station indicated that she had been trying to clear the whole of section D. Together the station was made up of five sections, labeled A,B,C, D and E. She'd come through gate 3, and ended up in section D, which was one of the smaller buildings.
When she turned to her left, there was a body lengthened mirror plastered to the wall. It was the first time she'd seen her reflection in days.
Her rich brown hair was a mess of swirls and curls, tied up raggedly in a bun. The sides stuck up and some hair clung to her forehead. Her eyes - which were an odd blend of flecked browns, dark as her hair - were tired and red, rimmed with sleepless rings underneath.
It was her clothes that bothered her most. Her shirt was ripped, so it exposed the left side of her stomach; her hip bone jutting out and making her seem sickly thin. The black jeans she word clung to every inch of skin, dirt stained and worn. She wore knee high boots over them, to combat the cold and give her the ability to run through almost anything. Her jacket was ruined. Dan's jacket.
Emma loosened her grip on her knife, clenching her eyes tightly together and breathing in. The task of clearing all the complex would take hours. She'd expected something smaller, something more easily handled.
The day was fading to a dull orange color, with sightings of copper in patches; the sun receding from view. Soon enough the sky would become an inky black and the light she had would disappear. The power didn't work and she didn't know how to fix it.
By the time the sky had settled into a darker orange and the sun was disappearing off into the horizon, Emma had cleared building D. There couldn't have been more than ten creepers here, all seeming to be employees who dressed in suits and ties or pin stripped skirts with blouses.
It was a wonder, Emma thought, that this place hadn't been overrun, or destroyed. The town which had been closest to here was small, giving the impression that there wasn't many people left in the area, but she still found it odd. The idea that no one had panicked and tried to jump on a train away from the wreck.
It felt like a miracle. And this place was a miracle.
A safe place, finally a safe place. The road was unkind and Emma had become disheartened after the weeks spent on it, searching for food and shelter; wondering if today would be her last. Victor died early, she'd been alone for so long.
Her hands were unsteady as she re-sheathed her knife into a holder that wrapped around her thigh like a snake, squeezing uncomfortably. Victor had given it to her in the beginning, urging her to keep a weapon close at all times. It was tight and constricting, but it was safe.
Slowly she knelt down to the floor, wiping the sweat from her forehead and taking heavy breaths. Clearing the building was tiring work, and the day had seemed to drone on.
The room she was now occupying was one of twelve in the building D. Like all the other rooms - that appeared to either be waiting rooms or desk rooms - it was rummaged and plain featured. There wasn't much to scavenge, but she had found two bottled waters, some packeted and well hidden food and more than enough luxuries to sleep on; blankets and lounges included.
This room she had yet to inspect but it was emptied of anything living - or living dead, she supposed she should say - that would trouble her.
In the far corner though; concealed behind a large oak table and chairs, was what looked to be an overturned machine. The table had a print of crimson on it in the shape of a hand, the dried liquid leaking down the left side onto one of the upturned chairs. Curious, Emma stepped towards it.
Everything was red.
The blood was too dry for the incident to have happened recently, the smell too strong for it to have not festered for days - maybe weeks.
As Emma stepped closer her boots crackled against the floor, revealing scattered shards of glass. The glass, it appeared, had come from the machine that lay downwards facing the carpet that was crusted in blood.
Someone was here, though Emma could only estimate how long ago by the way the blood crusted to the furniture. The idea of them coming back was slim, if they'd survived at all. There was a lot of blood.
She couldn't identify the machine at first, but after stepping to all sides and inspecting the curves and faded color print of words, she assumed it was a vending machine. The thought was exciting, the idea of food even more so.
It was far too heavy for her to lift, but she tried anyway; for a long time. She gave up eventually, after what felt like an hour of kicking at the vender and swearing under all seven sins. She stepped a few feet away and slumped onto the floor, thudding softly as she made impact with the carpet.
"Bloody hell," she murmured, clenching her jaw.
Nothing else in the room was of use. The sky was black and her hands wouldn't stop trembling. She decided to sleep.
The place was desolate. It had been two days.
Blocks B, D, C and E were emptied. Most of the buildings took a while to clear, but thankfully the doors were closed well enough so that the creepers were locked inside and couldn't get out. She made sure that the bodies were all piled outside, then she tried to forget them.
Emma had been sleeping in a series of isolated and featureless rooms. Everything was a shade too dark and the floor panels kept the building too cold for her taste.
The sky was blue now, filled with sad looking clouds that glazed over the sun. Emma prepared for rain and packed herself into section block E, which had become her favorite. It was still unavoidable dreary, but the building itself had potential. Section C and B had only been emptied buildings with no rooms, hollowed out into packing stations where some docking cars were still left uninhabited. None of them ran, the gas had been siphoned.
Emma still had to empty section A, which was the same size as block E. They were the largest buildings, though Emma assumed that unlike block E, A had no rooms inside at all.
She hesitated to call it home, in fear that it'd be overrun or someone with more weapons and people came along and decided they wanted it. But it felt like home; ugly and lifeless as it was on the inside.
She had to rid it of over twenty-five creepers so she could claim it, and blood had been spilled from both parties. Gashes lined the inside of her hands where she'd cut them on various objects, and there was a colorful trail of bruises down the left side of her face and body, from where she'd fallen down some stairs trying to avoid an oncoming creeper.
If it wasn't comfortable, then it at least had the potential to one day be so. She kept her hopes low, even so.
Section A had been left unchecked, but she so rarely saw creepers on the inside of the gates - she'd even been able to patch up the broken down fence on block B's side - that it hadn't worried her as much as it should.
It was later that day that she regretted not patching up gate E.
It hadn't sounded like much at first, she'd thought it for the muffled sound of creepers moans and dragged footfalls. As she crouched beside the second story window in section E, it became clear that she had assumed too much.
There was three of them.
Emma had grabbed her handgun and padded her way down the steps, making sure to throw her backpack - which was filled with packeted foods and bottled water she had found - into a small corner of the room, hidden and safe beside an exit.
She crept to the window, hands shaking so badly that the gun seemed to rattle. Her knife stayed sheathed on her thigh, her fingers automatically itching to grab at it, regardless of the gun in her trembling grasp.
She wasn't scared, so much as worried.
As they gained distance and came closer, she noticed that it was three men and one woman. One of the men was limping and holding onto the other for support. Her eyes ghosted over the stronger looking man's shoulder, which was holding an AK-47.
Her gun went up. "Stop where you are," her voice was surprisingly steady. "Put down your weapons or we'll start shooting!"
The lie fell off her tongue easily, though she prayed that they did as she said, as not to figure out that it was a lie.
They stopped and for one moment Emma wondered in worried anticipation if they were going to do as she said. The man with the AK-47 complied first, leaning the other man slowly onto the woman's helping shoulder. He whispered something she couldn't hear, but he pulled his weapon from off his shoulder and held it out in compliance.
"Don't shoot," he called back, his voice was also steady. "We came for shelter, not a fight."
Emma was clasping her gun so tightly her knuckles were all white and red. "Then do it!"
He placed his gun on the floor and held his hands up defensively, eyes searching for her hidden figure. He found it.
"All of you," she called. "Place any kind of weapon onto the floor."
The man hesitated before turning to the other, whispering into his ear once again. The limping one shook his head, seeming to disagree quite heavily with whatever the other had said. After another curt whisper, the one with the limp closed his eyes and nodded.
It was easily to see who the leader was.
A handgun came out of the man's back pocket, smaller than the one Emma held. He placed it on the ground. The woman - who Emma could see was a lot older than the two men - pulled a very small knife from seemingly out of nowhere. Her hands trembled as she placed it in front of her. The woman looked scared, and that eased Emma. They didn't look like the kind of evil she'd thought might try to take the station, but she still took the precautions.
"That's all of 'em," the leader called - he sounded irritated - and after a moment spoke again. "Look, we don't have much, we just need somewhere. He's badly hurt."
What could she say to that? Go away? If she did, would they? Most probably not.
There was only one thing she could think, staring from the foggy glass of block E. "Was he bitten? Attacked?"
"No, he's just hurt. Infected cut."
She thought on it for a moment, running through her options and coming up short. "Come forward, leave the weapons there."
They did so, hesitantly.
"Shit," she murmured. "Shit, shit, shit."
Her mind was coming to a blank, her options short. If she told them to leave she ran the risk of them attacking. One woman and a limping man couldn't do much, but neither could she given the circumstances. Besides, what kind of person would she be to demand their leave? He was hurt.
"Stop there, I'm coming out."
She stood, giving the leader a better view of her. They locked eyes through the foggy glass of the window, before she turned on her heel and ran through the door. Paranoia gripped her at the thought that they might take this short moment to grab their weapons and attack. She wasn't sure if they believed her lie about there being more people.
Apparently, they had.
Her gun was held tightly, her head up high. "Who are you?" The question was vague, and the moment's silence made her feel silly for asking it.
"I'm Gareth, that's Alex," he pointed to the injured man, then the woman, "and that's Mary."
For the first time since their arrival, she took a good look at them. The woman - Mary - was short and troubled looking. Her features were plain and her eyes were creased with worried wrinkles, her lips pressed tightly together.
Next to her stood the injured one. She could see his pants leg was soaked in dried blood, from the thigh to the knee. He was raggedy looking, with a sad sort of face that reminded her of a boy who had gotten in trouble from his parents. He looked a little younger than her.
The leader was her age, maybe. He wore faded clothes that hung over his figure, making him seem almost smaller. He was more clean looking than the other man, though she could see that they both shared some small features. She supposed they might all be related.
"You want shelter," she spoke, her words clipped and slow.
"Please," the woman spoke up, her voice meek. "We've been on the road, it's- it's-"
"Complete crap, yeah?" Emma finished.
She nodded, a look of understanding sweeping over her face. "You know."
"I do, yeah."
It was silent again, for an uncomfortable amount of time. Emma couldn't bring herself to invite them in, but she couldn't tell them to leave either. So she waited.
"You'll let us in?" The leader - Gareth - asked.
"We'll let you in," she corrected. "on a few conditions."
"Tell us," Alex asked, his voice was hoarse; it reminded her of pain.
"You give up your weapons," they looked about to protest. "-until we figure out what kinda sort you are. Also, you show us everything you have. And you agree to our rules."
"Deal," Gareth said, without consenting with the other two.
Emma nodded, slowly, and tried to sound threatening. "And if you try anything at all," her tone went dark. "You're all dead."