* Sequel to "The End...Sort Of". Edited by: PrintingPisces
For those of you that enjoyed the first story, me and my editor hope you enjoy this one. Constructive criticism is always welcomed.
Warnings, Tags, and Genres that follow throughout: Swearing, canon-typical violence, PTSD, touch issues, action, drama, fluff, romance, established relationship, canon-divergence, asexual romance, humor
I have always been convinced that the best things in life are never easy nor free. A millionaire could have all the money to buy whatever they want, yet still not have everything that they need. A homeless person could have as much freedom as they desired, but be exposed to the rest of the world if they weren't careful. A group of survivors could find shelter in the unlikeliest of places, but with the requirement of blood, sweat, and eventually tears.
It was my job, whenever possible, to make sure the tears were minimal.
Rick gripped the bolt cutters, snipping a gap through the fence just big enough for a human to fit through. There were a few walkers that currently needed taken care of, but nothing we couldn't handle. Though we still worked quickly, not lingering. This place was surrounded and overran, crawling with corpses. They were sluggish, but had started perking up upon realizing our arrival. It bought us time to get to safety without too much messing around.
Once we were in, Glenn secured the gap with a strong flexible wire, and he gasped when a walker crashed against the fence as if to bust through. Before the fingers could snag him through the chain link, I stabbed it. The cable was secure, but I didn't want any walkers focusing on that particular spot.
We were in the dog run now, that in-between area with fences on either side of us. Not only did it surround most of the prison, but it also led a straight gravel path up to the outer entrance. We stopped, taking a moment to collect ourselves and get our bearings.
Rick wanted to get this show on the road quickly, though. "It's perfect," he exhaled, looking out at the walker-infested fields. He pointed up the hill, to the main entrance. "We can shut that gate. Prevent more from fillin' the yard. We can take out these walkers. We'll take the field by night."
"So how do we shut the gate," Hershel asked.
"I'll do it," Glenn volunteered. "You guys cover me."
Maggie shook her head. "No. Suicide run."
"I'm the fastest."
"No," Rick said, and gestured to the walkers flanking us. "You, Maggie, and Beth, draw as many as you can over there. Pop 'em through the fence. Daryl, go back to the other tower. Hershel, you and Carl take this tower…I'll run for the gate."
I walked towards him. "And I'll get on top of that bus," I said, referring to the grey overturned eyesore just on the other side of the fence. "I'll be on the inside with you and shoot any walkers you don't have eyes on."
Rick nodded once. Then, he raised a brow at me. I knew why. I was keeping my enthusiasm under control in order to stay focused, but I knew I was probably emoting it.
So, I shrugged. "I'm just happy to be here."
"In a walker infested prison?"
"Hey, you're happy about this, too. Don't judge me."
He snorted, a tired grin forming. "I'll be happy once we get this settled."
"You and me both," I exhaled.
Lori was manning the gate. When Rick and I made eye contact with her, she pulled it aside, and then slammed it shut behind us.
I scaled the side of the bus. From here, I had eyes on everyone. The people in the guard towers, the people at the fence, Lori in my peripheral, Rick ahead of me, and the walkers on all sides of us. I had clear sight lines while also being out of the way of everyone else's gunfire.
I took a few shots with my pistol, hitting targets with every bullet fired. Still, I scowled. Putting it away, I switched to my bow. Every one of us was getting head-shots, but the plan was slowly changing. The walkers by the fences were no longer interested in Maggie, Beth, and Glenn. They turned towards Rick hungrily. None of the walkers even bothered with the bus, too enticed by a moving target.
Jumping down onto the gravel, I whistled loudly, not only to try and coax some of the walkers my way, but also to let everyone know I was coming out onto the field. They were proficient shooters now, and I had all the confidence that they wouldn't accidentally hit me in such a spread out area.
I made my way towards Rick, who was on the verge of getting surrounded. It was simple work, as most of the walkers had yet to notice me coming up behind them. Once Rick had the main gate secured with carabiners and a chain, he realized his predicament.
He made eye contact with me and saw what I was doing. He heckled the remaining few walkers to keep focus on him. He took shots when necessary, whilst I stabbed the backs of skulls. Those sniping up in the watchtowers took care of the slower ones around us.
Only minutes later, the last walker dropped and the gunfire ceased.
Rick and I stood in front of the main gate, looking out at the now-quiet field. For the first time since...I-don't-know-when, we now had a semblance of security. Of refuge.
"We're home, Rick," I said.
He glanced behind us. The courtyards were still infested. "We're almost there."
"Okay, rephrase. Homestretch."
He nodded, and he could no longer hold back a grin. "Hell yeah," he muttered.
As the others walked through the field to join us, I heard T-Dog whooping triumphantly, and Carl and a few others laughing loudly.
With nighttime only an hour away, we got to work on a couple different things. We took inventory of our ammo, moved the vehicles closer to the outer gate just in case, and also rested around the fire. We were now just waiting on Daryl to come back from hunting, in the hopes that he'd have something to cook over the flames.
The setting sun reflected off the gas tank of the motorcycle as I rode towards the gates. Slowing, I lowered the gears, made a sharp U to face the front tire away from the prison, and put on both breaks. I kicked some gravel out of the way to make sure the kickstand wouldn't sink too far, and dismounted.
T-Dog jumped down from the bus and opened the gate for me. I looked towards the fire, taking a headcount. When T-Dog saw this, he said, "I'll let you know when he comes back."
I nodded my thanks and walked across the field towards the main gate. Daryl and I didn't go on hunting trips together as of late, and that was mostly for practicality sake. Rick once said that this group couldn't be without either of us for very long, and he was right. So we reluctantly agreed that at least one of us would have to be with the group at all times. When possible and depending on circumstances, of course. It sucked, but it wasn't for always, at least. Rick and everybody else knew that Daryl and I needed to be alone together at times.
While everyone enjoyed the serenity, I went up by the main gate. I walked the fence line, checking to see how secure everything was. The remaining walkers were shoving and shaking the chain link, and I had vivid memories of fences bowing. It had been my third or fourth week since arriving at the prison. The fencing was close to busting due to relentless corpses, and I had the bright idea of blaring air horns to lead them into the woods. I was too fast for them to actually get me, and it allowed everyone enough time to fix the fence. I didn't want to acknowledge it then, but I think that was the day I'd decided to permanently stay.
And now I was back again. I was so ecstatic that I doubted I would get much sleep tonight. Lost in my thoughts, I almost bumped into Rick. He'd had the same idea, inspecting things for imperfections.
"Go down to the fire," he said. "I got this."
Before he could walk away from me, I said, "We're obviously not just gonna settle for staying out here."
He stopped and faced me. "I'm thinkin' of a plan for that right now, to get us further in. I'll let y'all know what I come up with."
I nodded. "If you need me, let me know. I know this place inside and out. I used to intern here."
He raised a brow. "I thought you were homeless."
"Well, I wasn't always homeless."
He nodded once at me. "I'm sure that'll come in handy, especially when we go further inside. Thank you." His words were curt, but not impolite.
I walked away.
I didn't necessarily lie to him. Yet, I also didn't enjoy stretching the truth, preferring to be a blunt sonofabitch. But Daryl – and Merle – were the only ones who knew I was from the future. I had no reason to share that info with anyone else. Plus, not like me being from the future mattered anyway, given how things turned out over the summer and fall.
The winter had been a godsend for me. Oh, don't get me wrong, we struggled. We nearly froze and starved to death, but it was the best thing for me, mentally. It gave me time to think about just being in the here and now, to figure out what kind of weight I wanted on my own shoulders.
Between putting the vehicles in front of the gate, inspecting the fence lines, talking with Rick, and walking back towards the fire, the sun was already gone, replaced by a black and starless sky. The solid darkness above our heads was comforting to me, like a blanket. And with how relaxed everyone was around the fire, they probably felt the same vibes.
With a mouth full of food, T-Dog waved at me and then pointed to the bus, where Daryl was now keeping watch. I grabbed two bowls, both half-filled with a mix of possum and raccoon meat.
I set the bowls on top of the bus before shimmying up. As soon as Daryl noticed me, he grabbed my hand and hauled me up as if I weighed nothing.
After some coaxing, he finally agreed to sit down and eat, as opposed to standing, giving us both a break. We stared out into the woods, leaning our shoulders together, our feet dangling over the edge of the bus. As if wanting to be closer, he lazily hooked his ankle around the back of mine. Our legs swung slightly with the motion. We had been eating in silence for the most part, but I couldn't help the giggle that escaped me when he did that.
We set our empty bowls down.
"How's that new bow treatin' you," Daryl asked.
I grinned and took it off my shoulders. "She's a beauty. I'll miss the other one, but out with the old and in with the new."
I predicted months and months ago that my hand-carved overly-intricate bow would splinter, and I was right. During our winter travels, we managed to stay in one house for almost a week straight. In the neighborhood we stayed in was an old saw mill. I didn't need to fire up any of the bigger equipment, knowing how to whittle and carve by hand. Daryl was the one who'd found the place. I didn't even know he'd been on the lookout for anything longbow related, and he knew that I'd want to be the one to make it myself.
He pointed towards the main gate. "Everythin' alright with you and Rick?"
I nodded. "Yeah. We were just double-checking the fences before calling it a night."
"Looks like he's still at it."
He was referring to the fact that Rick was still pacing. On the one hand, I didn't mind his extra caution. On the other, this group's leader was on the verge of burnout. We all were. My hope was that, once we go inside the walls, we'd all be able to actually rest. Hope and reality were two different things, though. The former was what you had to work hard for. I was up to the task, practically on the edge of my seat for it.
"The plan is to keep going," I explained. "Get further inside. Once the walkers are cleared, then that should be it." I paused. "I told Rick I knew this place. Internship."
"Yeah, I know. But how else was I supposed to word that? Just wanted to let you know, in case of any confusion."
"You ever gonna tell anyone else you're from the future," he asked.
I shrugged. "Only if there's a reason to. No sense in freaking anyone out."
A soft tune carried over the field as Beth sang for everyone. I couldn't exactly hear the lyrics from here, but the melody mingled beautifully with the chorus of crickets and spring peepers. I scratched my eye. It reminded me of one of the first nights I'd spent at the prison, all those years ago. Coming back to it now, under such different and insane circumstances, was nothing short of wonderful.
I scratched my eye again, and felt moisture gather on the tips of my fingers. Daryl shifted his gaze to get a look at my face, just as an evening chill touched my spine and made me shiver. It was a cold and brisk night. It felt nice to me, but that was coming from the person who was obsessed with snow.
Daryl shifted the poncho he was wearing so that it would drape over both of us. His arm came around me in the process, and I let my head fall on his shoulder in an effort to get at least some rest.
We were almost there.