Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters. Wishful thinking aside.
Warnings: Please see original chapter for a complete set of warnings and other story related details. This chapter contains adult language and adult situations.
Authors Note: Please read and review. I am excited to see what you all think. I am open to comments, advice, and constructive criticism.
Show me your Teeth – Chapter 3
He was still collecting his thoughts. Biding his time as his thoughts spiraled outwards, stretching out like the extending tines of an umbrella, a mechanized skeleton that arched over top the others, roiling and squirming like a living, breathing thing as he threw another chunk of fresh pine on the fire. Shifting the blaze back down to low burn, when seemingly unbidden, Grimes finally spoke.
"You heard Jenner. About France, they nearly had it figured out. There will be someone else. They'll crack it." Rick murmured. His voice partially muffled as he pressed his lips into his wife's hair, fingers curled tight around the shoulders of his boy, as if at loath to relax his grip for even a moment. …An action that in itself, didn't exactly instil overwhelming confidence..
And predictably the others only glanced at him, eyes sullen and disinterested; gleaming dull and dead in the low light as they huddled reflectively closer. Everyone sitting far too close, unconsciously pressed up against each others skin as if through the mere presence of those around them, they could somehow glean some small measure of comfort.
But as uncomfortable as the closeness made him, he didn't have much choice but to allow the contact. It was either that or go back to quietly freezing his ass off in the background. They hadn't had much time to collect kindling before darkness fell, and he wasn't about to waste what little gas he had left in his tanks just to turn on the heater. Though even he had to admit, as the warmth of the others seeped through the layers of his filthy clothes, spreading through him like the comforting haze only a full mickey of Jack Daniels can rightly provide, that the closeness wasn't entirely unpleasant.
But he decided not to look too much into that… Already figuring that he didn't like the direction it was heading anyway..
In the end, it was that little sprite of a girl that he'd heard say maybe a score of words since he and Merle had joined this pathetic little pity party that finally said what they'd all been thinking. …From the mouths of babes indeed..
"…But what if they don't? Are we all going to die? Like…like Daddy?" She asked, her little voice warbling with exhaustion and a rather alarming sense of disassociation. It did something strange to his insides to hear it, twisting and clenching inside his gut as if he were about to be sick. …A kid should never sound like that. Ever.
Carol half-heartedly shushed her, but the questioned remained, floating in the air around their heads like the hazy smoke of the camp fire until it illuminated the smooth lines of little ones face, now only half shadowed by her striking, blond hair as her eyes remained affixed on Rick's face. Waiting.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Glenn look up from his hands. Fingers cradled together, the palm unconsciously rubbing against one another. As if trying to flake off bits of blood and gore that had already been meticulously and quite brutally scrubbed off the moment they had made camp. Like there was a mark there that wouldn't wash clean.
…'Join the fucking club kid…' He snorted. The sarcasm behind the emotion so stark that his body reflectively straightened, forcing his eyes away from the haunted expression that was now lurking in the backdrop of the kid's eyes. He didn't need to see that..Not on him....Especially not now..
There was a long, pregnant silence before Rick spoke again, the man's face going momentarily blank as he visibly struggled to find the right words. It made him think about an observation that had been percolating in the back of his mind ever since he had first set eyes on the man. That for all the man's qualities, turning his thoughts into words was certainly not one of them. Not that he was any better mind you. …But then again, he kept quiet most times purely because he didn't think it was worth his time to respond.
"I cannot say anything with certainty Sophia. But what I do know is that somewhere in this world, there has to be someone working on this. ..Someone who is working on a cure that will put a stop to all this. All we have to do in the meantime is to wait it out. To make it." Rick finally replied, looking the little girl directly in the eye before casting his gaze across the fire at the others. Very few of them met his gaze in return.
'Great pep talk Sheriff.' He thought derisively, glaring at the officer through hooded eyes.
The man sounded more like he was trying to reassure himself then anyone else. He shook his head minutely. Because in the end he knew different, Captain America over there, as well meaning as he was, had it all wrong. These people didn't need explanations and assurances. They had gotten that wish and it had nearly fried them like a bee swarm hitting a bug zapper. What they needed now was a reason to fight.
A reason to keep going. A reason to live.
He could see they were beginning to lose it, that drive to survive. It was like they had been counting on the CDC to provide more then just answers, more then a safe place to hole up from this nightmare. They had cast their chips in, and bet it all. Their sanity, their strength, their will to keep going, all on the slim chance that the CDC would be the answer they had been hoping for.
But he hadn't. He wasn't that stupid…or that naive. In his experience, the world rarely worked like that, even back in the days when there hadn't been hordes of deadheads shambling around every corner.
It was different with the other two. Jenner had already made his decision long before they had shown up, everything else between had been the man simply going through the motions. He had never wanted to survive.. Not without his wife at any rate. TS-19, or whatever it was that he'd called her. Because after he lost her, the man could no longer roust the need in himself to solve this, to find a cure for the virus like they had all originally sought. No, by the time they had arrived the man was only fulfilling a promise. And in a strange way he had to respect that. The man could have blown his brains out a long time ago. But he didn't. He carried on because of a promise he had made, a promise to a dead woman, a ghost. If nothing else, that in itself took stones.
Jacqui he had no idea about. He had never really gotten to know her at all. But he had gotten the impression that she had been a woman that had been married to her work, a bit feisty in a mothering sort of way he supposed. But it was just as obvious that she couldn't take it. The fear, the uncertainty. Maybe it all came down the low, moaning screams that had slipped from Jim's lips as she had tended him in the back of the Winnebago. Or maybe she had simply seen a decent way to make an out, and had taken it. He wanted to say she was weak, that she should have been stronger. That she should have wanted it more. But in spite of himself, he found that he couldn't. He supposed that at the end of the day, he just didn't have that right.
He shifted in place, fists clenching as he pushed the whispers back. There wasn't any sense in dwelling in the past was static. It couldn't feed you, or clothe you, or give you an edge. It didn't give a damn about where you were now and what you were facing. It was dead, done, and over with. And there was nothing any of them could do to change that. It was simply how the world worked.
A wolf howled somewhere in the near distance, and he flicked his eyes back across the fire just in time to see the old man tentatively reach up. A wide palmed hand falling gently atop the curve of Andrea's shoulder as he finally placed his crushed wad of tissues in her unresponsive lap. But she didn't even twitch. Didn't even blink.
'Pathetic..' A voice in the back of his mind hissed, censure practically dripping from his tone as he watched the woman simply sit there, mindless of the others, hell likely not even noticing the man still pressing protectively against her side. ..It was like she didn't even care at all..
He didn't understand these people. Not one fucking bit.
Didn't they'all know nothin'? Didn't they know that they had to survive this? Hadn't they listened to that scientist? Because if anything else, the little fucker had gotten one thing right. This wasan 'extinction event' or whatever crap term he'd come up with. They had to survive this or everything would be over. All of it! The entire human race gone, finished, done. Did they really want to give up everything they had, everything they were and just let fate decide the rest? This wasn't about personal morals, choices, or opinions anymore, this was about survival.
"Enough." He finally growled. "Y'all want to opt out? Fine. Then take the easy way out." He spat, temper finally fraying as he rose to his feet and turned to face the lot of them.
If they needed someone to hate, something burn away the chill of apathy and jumpstart the fire in their blood, bringing their minds back to reality to face the severity of their situation, well, then he could do that. He could provide them with someone to hate, someone to be angry with in the place of the real enemy. Just as long as they regained that burn, that desire to keep going.
"But if you want to survive? Then start acting like it!" He hissed, face twisting as his fists clenched at his sides, fingers itching for action even as he tempered the emotion down. Because even he could sense that this was the moment, it was either make it or break it. He had to do this right. Because there were no more second chances. Not this time.
As his tone rose, both Rick and Shane made a small, aborted movement. Something that hinted action before Lori placed a small, but decisive hand on Rick's knee. Effectively stopping the both of them as she sat up straighter, hands coming down to lace overtop her husbands as she sent them both a meaningful look. But he hardly noticed. He was in full swing now. As words long withheld slipped off his tongue like molasses circling its rim, coming out thick and viscous, but just like the sugary treat itself, the words were almost impossible to stop once they were in motion.
"Didn't y'all hear that asshole back at the CDC? If we don't survive, that's it. There's nothin' left. We just blip out of existence like the fucking dinosaurs. We'll be a single, bloody footnote in the history of the earth. Except this time there'll be no one left to even write about it!" He continued, lungs shuddering as he forced himself to pause, sucking in another long breath before the words began again.
"Do you'all really want that?" He rasped, tone dipping low as he kicked the dirt at his feet for good measure, feeling a strange, and rather alarming sense of satisfaction as Andrea jumped in her seat, fingers curling reflexively around the paper napkins still sitting in lap even as she raised her head. Her eyes as alert and focused as he had seen them in days.
"For fucks sakes people, show your teeth! Life 'aint something given or granted to you for free! Life doesn't owe you dick! You have to fight for it. And fight to keep it!" He snarled, finishing with a tone that was caught somewhere in between disgust, frustration, and utter exhaustion.
And for a long time, there was only the silence…
But as it turned out, somewhere along the line he must have erred. Because on no ones face save for Shane's, did he see even the slightest hint of anger. They had been looking for a direction, a reason, hell even a god damn hope, and he had inadvertently given it to them simply by speaking the truth. He laid out the facts as plain and as blunt as they were. No more and no less.No sugar coating and certainly no bullshit. And in return, despite now being absolutely positive that he would never understand these people, the atmosphere around the fire had unexpectedly changed. The air above them going charged and almost electric as the flames seemed to rise just a fraction of a millimetre higher. Sending sparks flinging off into the darkness like swarms of lightening bugs caught in an updraft. And worst of all, it made him think that perhaps for now, this, the growing energy and heated gazes that were smouldering to life all around him, would somehow be enough.
Because now Glenn was looking at him like he was actually seeing him for the first god damned time. Face a racetrack canvas of far too many emotions to discern, all assessing eyes and the faint, tugging hints of a knowing smile. And while he didn't know how he felt about that, what he did know was that the fire was back in the kid's eyes. The same fire that he had seen in that alley way back in Atlanta, the same drive, the same need. Hell, even Lori, who barely said a word in passing to him if she could help it, was staring at him. Her mouth open and gaping like a damn rainbow trout. Even Rick seemed at a loss. Lips parted, as if caught in the act of speech, only no sound made it past his disbelieving lips.
But even then he didn't have very long to wait for the inevitable implosion. Because Shane was already shifting place, the motion restless and almost violent as he reacted. Face going hard and promising confrontation as he made to rise. And for his own part he bristled. As if the fact that the man had to breathe even the same air as him was some sort of offence.
This was obviously going to end well.
"You need to back off man; you can't just go around saying stuff li-." Shane began, voice all but itching for a confrontation, before he was resoundly cut off by Glenn. The younger man rising from his place in the log, seemingly stirred into action once again as he moved to stand between them.
About bloody time.
"No! Look, he's right. This might be bigger then us, and we might need to know why this all started, but not right now. Not after-… Look we tried that and it didn't work out so great. Besides those answers aren't going to do us any good if we are dead..or..well, you know." He remarked, nodding over at him as if to reference him in point.
"We aren't that far from Hapeville. I know the city pretty well; there are some out lying grocery stores and gas stations that aren't on the main stretch." Glenn began, his voice becoming animated for the first time in over a day as the man's thoughts took on a life of their own. He could practically see the cogs turning in the kid's brain.
It was a start at least.
Over top of their heads, he let Rick catch his eye, taking in the man's considering look without comment. Not letting even a single emotion show as the man's eyes surpassed surprise and slowly morphed into a growingly grateful look. But he simply looked away with a small, barely perceptible nod. He didn't need the man's approval, and he didn't want it neither. After all, just because he was content for the moment to let the older man call the shots, it didn't mean he was bound to like him. And if anything else, it was that exact sense of self entitled, god damned foolish pride that loosened his tongue for the second time.
"What we need is a plan for right now. We worry about tomorrow, or next week, or whatever the fuck it is we need to worry about when it comes. We need to get our shit together before we start worrying about what comes next. For now we need to worry about three things. Food. Gas. And shelter. Not the future, and not anymore stinking 'answers' either. Right now we need to worry about us, and our situation. Take care of our own problems before we decide to tackle the rest of them." He finished, flashing the others a hard glare from across the circle before he returned his gaze to the fire.
And while he didn't let it show, discomfort rose, crawling up his back like something dank and possibly even slimy before as he shook it off. Suddenly cognizant of that fact that that had probably been the longest spiel he had uttered in a single sitting since he and Merle had first arrived back at the quarry in the face place. Huh.
But not even he could have predicted what happened next.
"A-freakin-men man." T-Dawg suddenly replied. The characteristically withdrawn man breaking the quiet with such a typical slack jawed, Georgian drawl that he nearly smirked. The man's head lifting as his eyes went animated and sharp for the first time in hours, apparently unaware that his exclamation had drawn the attention of everyone around the fire.
And while it was another silence that followed in the wake of the man's words, it was immediately clear that this was a lull of an entirely different kind. It was the kind of silence where plans were being made, where thoughts turned forward, and hopes, as battered and as bruised as they were, dared to soar once again.
'Must be that good old fashioned Dixon charm.' He thought with an inner huff. Frustrated amusement threatening an expression he knew he'd sooner cut off a limb then openly express. He bit the smile back. Barely.
But even then he couldn't help but nod in kind. Inclining his head toward the larger man, the very same moment he was struck by the realization that the night air no longer seemed quite as frigid as it had been only a few minutes before. Well he'd be god damned…
Perhaps there was hope for the rest of them after all…
A/N: Please let me know what you think? Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! This story is now completed thank you for all your support throughout the writing of this story, I hope you enjoyed! (Again, I wrote this story before Season 2, actually even before the season two teaser. What you see here is merely spell/grammer edit. So please keep that in mind when reading).
"All species capable of grasping this fact manage better in the struggle for existence than those which rely upon their own strength alone: the wolf, which hunts in a pack, has a greater chance of survival than the lion, which hunts alone."- Christian Lous Lange