Characters are from TWD. I am just writing for fun :)
Sorry for the late update! School is starting up again... but I will continue updating on a regular basis to the best of my abilities (there might be more time between the updates and the chapters might be shorter). Thank you to all the kind comments- every time I see one, I get more motivated to write :) I hope you enjoy this next chapter.
They had only been driving for approximately two hours and Alice was already regretting her decision. She was tired and sore from riding and her ankle was throbbing. She tugged on Merle's shirt, signaling to him that she needed a break.
"I won't be surprised if I will be saddle sore for at least a month," she observed, rubbing a hand over her behind and wincing as she got off of the bike. Placing her hands on her lower back, she stretched...and then stopped when she saw Merle's lecherous grin.
"Don't stop on my account," Merle told her.
"You're good for my self-esteem," Alice quipped as she gave him an exasperated, but amused look.
She looked around the highway. The road wasn't completely empty—there were several abandoned cars, but Alice assumed it was a little strange for I-75 to be this empty. She hadn't ever driven on this road herself, but she had heard enough about Atlanta traffic to know that it was atrocious.
And there was not a person or walker in sight. She shivered slightly, not liking the fact that the highway was eerily empty. And it was quiet too.
"Everything alright?" Glenn called to her as he jumped down from the truck to walk over to her. Daryl was standing near the truck, his eyes darting around the highway.
"Yeah. Just a little sore," Alice answered, gesturing at her thighs.
"Wanna swap?" Glenn asked, eying the motorcycle with interest.
Ignoring Merle's protest, Alice nodded gratefully, "thanks, Glenn. I just need a bit of a rest."
She threw Merle a mock sympathetic shrug and smile before limping towards Daryl. He was standing beside his truck, leaning against the driver's door, waiting for her.
"They should make butt buffers or something for those bikes," Alice complained to him.
"Glenn gonna be ridin' bitch behind Merle?" Daryl asked her with amusement as she got into the truck.
"I didn't see you volunteering," Alice told him as she settled into the seat. She sighed aloud, enjoying the comfort of the large seat.
"An Asian ain't ridin' my truck…" Daryl scoffed, "or a woman."
"I'll have you know that Glenn is a very competent driver," Alice told him, "Glenn delivered pizzas in Atlanta. And everybody knows that driving in Atlanta is not easy." "N' you?" Daryl asked, his brow rising in question.
Pulling her hair free from her messy ponytail, she gave him a large grin. "Oh, I am absolutely atrocious. I can't park very well or drive on highways. And I never, ever drive in the city. You should probably never ask me to drive—it's for your own safety."
"So ya can't shoot, drive, or hunt. Ya ain't from the south."
"Did you think I was from here, Daryl?" Alice asked, trying not to laugh at Daryl's disgruntled expression.
He shook his head as he started the engine.
"I'm from the suburbs of Connecticut," Alice explained, settling further into the seat and making herself more comfortable.
"How'd ya end up here?" Daryl asked, his arm resting casually on the steering wheel, watching her with his eyebrows raised.
"My parents retired down in Florida when I moved to Baltimore. I was visiting them when this all happened. The plan was to get to the CDC…Have you ever been to Connecticut?"
"Nah," Daryl replied, looking back at the road, "I ain't ever been to the 'burbs of Connecticut."
She nodded and looked back out the window. She closed her eyes, letting the steady hum of the engine lull her to sleep.
"I think you'd like it," she said with a yawn. She settled her hand on the window and sighed, "it's not too humid this time of year."
Daryl noticed Alice's eyes flutter open. She had rested her head against the window for just a moment before she sat up straighter, her eyes automatically snapping to his.
Alice gave him a sleepy smile. As she stretched her back, he did his best to ignore the way her breasts pressed against the soft fabric of her shirt.
He imagined she looked just like that when she woke up in the morning—hair messed up and eyes groggy from sleep, but smiling lazily at the man she was sleeping next to.
Daryl grunted a greeting and went back to staring at the road ahead of them, banishing all thoughts of seeing Alice in his bed, stretched out and giving him her teasing smile.
"Jesus," Alice groaned, rubbing her face with her hands, "sorry I fell asleep."
"Fine company you are," he snorted, "conked right out."
"Are you saying you wanted my company?" she asked. She smiled at him, the tip of her tongue just visible between her lips. There was mischief in her eyes as she continued, "because I'm ready to play road-trip games with you, Daryl. All day long. You just have to ask."
He snorted again, ignoring her suggestion—he had no doubt that she could. She was chatty…always talking to Glenn and Merle about her life and asking them questions about theirs in return. Merle had already disclosed too much information for Daryl's liking. Her and Glenn had particularly enjoyed Merle's recounting of the time Daryl saw a Chupacabra.
And what was the point of talking about the past when it was all gone? They were never going to get everything they had lost back.
"When's your birthday?" she asked him, obviously undeterred by his reticence.
"What's it to you?" he asked, frowning, unsure why she was so interested in his life all of a sudden. He didn't know why she was, but she was. "Ain't no way of knowin' what day it is anymore."
"Daryl, I'm just asking," Alice said, looking like she was trying not to laugh.
"Yeah, well when's your birthday?" he asked confrontationally, knowing he was being childish and not caring.
"February 11th. I am 28 years old. I was born in Connecticut and went to college there too, but I considered Baltimore to be my home. I stayed there for medical and graduate school and residency… in case you were wondering" she told him in rapid succession, "ask away."
"Shouldn't a asked," Daryl grumbled, but he felt his lips twitch upwards.
"So?" she prodded.
"April 10th," he finally conceded.
"And you're how old?"
"S' none of your business. You ain't supposed to ask people that," he told her, glowering at her.
"Only if they are much older than you. And I'd say that you are not much older than thirty."
"Older than thirty," he told her.
"Ever been married?" she asked.
Daryl looked at her sharply, "no."
"No," Daryl snapped.
"Well, alright, no need to bark. I was just curious," Alice sighed, turning to look back out the window.
"What 'bout you?" He asked after a minute of silence. A woman like her probably had loads of men vying for her attention.
"No. I've never been married," she replied, sounding a little surprised that he had asked her.
"I heard Lori sayin' somethin' 'bout a guy," he heard himself say, a part of him immediately wishing he hadn't.
She turned to look at him, more than a little surprised now. He felt the tips of his ears turn bright red.
"I had a boyfriend."
"He dead?" Daryl asked simply.
Alice nodded once and turned back outside to look at the passing country side.
"I'm thirty-two," Daryl offered, not really sure why he was saying it…maybe because he like a jackass for bringing up her dead boyfriend.
"You look younger," Alice replied, her teasing smile returning, "I'd card you if I were a bartender."
Jesus Christ…that smile, Daryl thought. He stared at her a little too long and a little too intently, before he finally decided he should speak.
"Yeah, well, you look barely legal," he grunted in reply, "n' you'd be a shit bartender."
She rolled her eyes, but the smile never left her face. "that's just because I'm not wearing any makeup or my fancy white lab coat. Or heels. I'm wearing old, baggy pants and a ratty tank-top," she gestured at herself. "You should have seen me a year ago, Daryl," Alice lamented.
She added the last part as a joke, but Daryl just grunted, not meeting her eyes. Her hair was a tangled mess and there was dried blood caked on her slightly swollen, split bottom lip, but even so, she didn't lose any of her appeal.
It bothered Daryl that her disheveled state didn't detract from her attractiveness. She was far too pretty and it annoyed him that he couldn't just forget about her and dismiss her like she wasn't anything of importance. But he couldn't.
Daryl noted that everything in the CDC that wasn't concrete was made out of glass. Daryl only looked at the building for a second before turning his attention to the bodies littering the ground—hundreds of corpses lay scattered about in the wide exposed spaces between the buildings.
"Look at all the tanks," he heard Alice whisper as she peered out the window.
When he opened the truck door, the smell of rotting flesh greeted him. It was a smell with which Daryl had recently if not uncomfortably become acquainted to.
He grabbed his crossbow from the backseat and handed Alice her bat. She took it without a word, her face incredibly pale.
Glenn and Merle walked up to the truck, both men gripping their guns. Glenn almost tripped over a corpse as he walked up to Alice.
"What now, Doc?" Glenn asked as he straightened himself up, eying their surroundings nervously.
She turned towards Glenn, but didn't say anything. Daryl noticed that her face was deathly pale, even paler than a moment ago.
"Where the fuck is everyone?" Merle hissed, looking intently around at his surroundings.
"I don't know," Alice whispered, "we'll try entering the main building."
"You've been here before?" Glenn asked her as they began to walk towards the glass building. She nodded but didn't reply. Her eyes were trained on the building in front of the them.
As Daryl jogged towards the building, the smell became worse and he could hear the muted buzz of the flies that were hovering over the corpses.
Alice reached the building first. The doors were shuttered and closed, but she attempted to lift them nonetheless.
"Walkers!" Glenn called. Daryl swore and swiveled around to shoot at an approaching figure.
"There ain't nobody here," Merle growled.
"This is a graveyard!" Daryl barked, turning towards Alice—she was ignoring the incoming walkers, still trying to prop open the door. He grabbed her by the back of the shirt and hauled her away from the door. "We gotta go!"
She shrugged him off before returning to the door, "Look! That's a camera there. And it moved. There's someone in there!"
"Yer delusional!" Merle called to her, "we ain't got time for this. Daryl— grab her and let's go!"
"You have to let us in!" she screamed, swatting away Glenn's arm, "please!"
When she got no response, she started to pound on the door.
"Please!" she continued to call to the video camera, "I'm a PhD from Hopkins. I'm a doctor. I can help!"
"Alice!" Glenn pleaded, "let's just go."
She didn't move, her eyes still staring up at the monitor, "Dr. Ben Pruitt and Dr. Derrick Hayes told me to come here. I'm an immunologist. Please. I know there's someone in there. My sister might be there. Nancy Lane!"
Her voice sounded raw and brutalized and Daryl noticed that her hands were beginning to shake. Daryl swore again. He grabbed her by the arm and wrenched her away from the door. She began to push him way, but he only gripped her tighter.
"Ya said that if yer sister ain't here, you'd find her. She ain't here. There ain't nobody here. So, let's go!" he growled.
In an instant, Glenn was at Alice's other side—he grabbed her around the waist and also began to pull her towards the truck.
Alice let out a chocked sob, still struggling against him and Glenn.
"You are killing us! We don't have anywhere to go! I traveled from Florida to be here. We all risked our lives to get here. We are desperate!"
Daryl yanked her harder, forcing her to turn away from the door.
"I know that we are all infected!" Alice screamed. Daryl didn't have time to contemplate what she had just said because just as she let out a final sob, he heard the door open with a hiss.
A bright light nearly blinded him as he turned around to stare in shock at the open door.
Alice sat at the kitchen table nursing her drink. Inside the building, the heavy, thick stench of decaying flesh and internal organs was replaced by the smell of bleach and rubbing alcohol.
Merle and Daryl were probably already asleep in their bedrooms. Glenn was in his room showering. She sat alone with Dr. Jenner who was watching her as if she were a ticking time bomb.
Alice closed her eyes, counted to ten, then counted to ten again. Her fingers stumbled as she tried to pick up her wine glass. She clenched her hands in an effort to still the sudden tremor.
Alice's stomach muscles clenched. Please be a dream, she silently prayed. How was it possible that there was only one man in the CDC? How were they supposed to find a cure with only one researcher? She put her head down as anguish swept over her.
"I'm sorry about your sister," she heard Dr. Jenner say.
Her breath caught in her throat when she heard his voice. Nancy could be anywhere. Or she could be dead. And Alice didn't know where to even start looking for her. Swallowing the knot in her throat, Alice raised her head.
"Me too," she managed to say.
"You mentioned that you knew something about the pathogen," Dr. Jenner continued, "that we were all already infected."
She swallowed repeatedly before she could manage to speak past the lump in her throat, "Derrick…Dr. Derrick Hayes was my…he's dead now…he was a researcher in Dr. Ben Pruitt's laboratory and before he died, he called me. He told me everything he had managed to find out. Whatever the pathogen is…we are all carriers."
"Ben was here," Jenner told her.
"Was?" Alice asked, not even daring to hope for one second that Dr. Pruitt was alive.
Dr. Jenner gave her a sympathetic stare before he replied, "he became infected."
She just continued to stare at Dr. Jenner blankly until he spoke again. Misery swam in Dr. Jenner's eyes as he said, "Ben and I worked closely before he died. We didn't come close to figuring out what is infecting us."
Alice didn't know what to say. Despair surged over her as she realized that Dr. Pruitt, a world-renowned leader in infectious disease, hadn't managed to pinpoint the infectious agent. But she wouldn't give up now. She wouldn't allow it.
"I know only what Derrick told me…and I suppose he knew everything that Dr. Pruitt did," Alice replied, "but if you'll have us, we'll stay here for the time being. I was serious when I said I wanted to help."
"Dr. Lane," Jenner said, his voice controlled and face pinched, "I'm afraid there isn't much anyone can do anymore."
"There has to be something," Alice said, hearing the anger creeping into her own voice.
A nerve ticked in his jaw but his voice was steady. "We don't have time."
"We're not going anywhere," Alice told him, "and you'll have four more people to help you."
He sighed, dropping his shoulders, "it's not that simple," he rubbed his face, looking away, "the generator will die soon. I don't think there's a cure."
Alice felt the hot sting of tears behind her eyes again and she blinked a couple of times. She refused to succumb to despair.
"So? Edward Jenner—who I am assuming you are named after—developed a vaccine for smallpox before there was even electricity. There might never be a cure, but maybe we can prevent the infectious agent from becoming active inside of us. Think about it—HIV can lie dormant in a person for years!"
He sighed and shook his head with remorse, "like I said, there's not enough time."
She was about to snap at him, but Glenn's appearance at the kitchen door stopped her.
"Everything alright?" Glenn asked her as he took a seat next to her, "you should shower."
She managed a smile for him, relieved to see him, "yeah. A shower sounds nice." She turned towards Dr. Jenner before standing up to leave, "I'll find you afterwards. Maybe you can show me around the laboratory spaces."
He nodded in agreement, but the hopelessness and misery never left his eyes. Alice left him and Glenn and walked down a tile-floored hallway with bright fluorescent lighting towards her room.
The room had only a single bed, a small table and chair, a tiny chest of drawers and a rather thin closet. Out of curiosity, she opened the drawers and the closet. Only men's clothing hung in the closet and most of the dresser drawers were empty except for two, which held a few pair of boxer shorts, a couple of socks and a folded pair of sick-green scrubs.
Someone had lived in this room before her…probably one of the scientists that Dr. Jenner mentioned. She grabbed a pair of boxers, the scrubs and a clean pair of socks before she undressed and stepped into the shower. She stood in the shower for several minutes, allowing the steaming water to massage her cramped shoulders and neck.
After the shampoo suds were gone from her hair she reached and turned off the water.
The pants were too big, but that was better than being too small. And besides, her clothes were too filthy to put on again. Alice looked herself in the eye as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror and braided her freshly washed hair. She felt human again; she felt like herself.
As she walked back to the kitchen, she made up her mind—she would stay at the CDC and work with Dr. Jenner to elucidate what happening.
Even without power, they could use the facilities. They would have to move upstairs where there was more natural light, but she was sure that wouldn't be too difficult.
And if Nancy was alive, she would come looking for her here.
"Ya didn't mention ta me that we were all fuckin' infected."
Daryl moved so quietly she hadn't heard him come up behind her. She started, but he put his hands on her waist to steady her, then dropped them again.
She sighed deeply before turning to face Daryl. The truth was that she hadn't been sure until Dr. Jenner had confirmed what Derrick had told her. When Derrick had called from the hospital, he was disoriented and panicked… it had probably been the fever. He had tried to tell her as much as possible about the infection, but most of the things he said sounded like incoherent ramblings.
"I wasn't sure. It was just a theory Derrick had. I didn't want to worry anyone…I just didn't know," Alice told him truthfully.
His jaw clenched, but he didn't respond or acknowledge her statement.
"If we die, we turn, even if we ain't been bittin'?"
Alice nodded, "that's what Jenner thinks."
He swore loudly, raked a hand through his hair, then looked at her again as if he'd never seen her before.
"The fuck you wearin'?" Daryl asked her, eying her outfit with suspicion.
She looked down at the baggy pair of scrubs she was wearing before shrugging.
"It was either this or my dirty clothes," Alice replied, "and I chose hygiene over fashion."
She looked him over, too. His hair was damp, his clothes slightly wet. He hadn't shaved, so he had a slight scruff and he was still wearing his dirty clothes, but he looked so good standing there in the narrow hallway. Even after everything that happened today, Alice felt safe and secure standing near him.
"You look clean," she told him trying her hardest to sound as casual as possible. As they began to walk back over to the kitchen, she leaned into him and pretended to examine him, "and you smell nice too."
Daryl's ears turned red and he began to fidget under her scrutiny. She smiled at him before opening the door to the kitchen, enjoying the fact that she could so easily forget about her worries and grievances when she was near him.
Merle and Glenn were sitting across from each other, a few empty bottles of beers already lining the kitchen table.
Merle had his feet up on the table, a hand with a cigarette between two fingers dangling from the chair. He was holding a drink in his hand.
"Where is Dr. Jenner?" Alice asked, looking around the room, immediately on alert. She still had a lot to discuss with the scientist.
"He said something about checking the operating system," Glenn told her as he moved over so that she could sit next to him.
"Don't go gettin' your knickers in a knot," Merle told her, "take a seat."
Alice hesitated before sitting down next to Glenn. She wanted to start working—she was itching to be in the lab again. But, she was exhausted—not just in her body, but in her mind and spirit too…so she took the drink Merle handed her and tried to relax.
She followed Merle's lead and took a large gulp of the drink. She winced at the taste, the liquor burning her throat as it went down. Daryl looked at her in amusement as she coughed. She felt herself smile, but she had no idea why.
Just for today, she would try to forget that there was a zombie apocalypse raging outside the doors of the CDC. Tonight, she would enjoy the company of Daryl, Merle and Glenn.
Tomorrow, she would face reality.
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"Daryl…I…" she began to speak, no longer laughing, but she stopped talking as Daryl shifted even closer and removed one of his hands from the wall to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear. His eyes were dark as they stared down at her and she could feel his fingers on the side of her face.