Sinclaire Lewis had her eye on a box truck. She wanted to get the hell out of Atlanta and she wanted to do it yesterday. It was pretty much how she'd always felt about the city, but now that it was crawling with zombies, it had even less to recommend it.
She was crouched behind a concrete pillar, catching her breath and gearing up for the run across when she saw a man stumble toward the truck. She aimed for his head, but she jerked the gun up when he leaned against the door, fumbling weakly for the door handle. Not one of them; also decidedly not in any condition to drive if that was what he was planning to do. She ran toward him.
He swung for her jaw awkwardly with his left hand; she ducked easily.
"Now that's just not polite," she chided, catching him as he staggered and exhaling sharply when his weight pressed her roughly against the hot metal of the truck.
He mumbled something, but she didn't catch anything except the word "Yankee." She grinned and pushed back against his shoulders, hauling him as close to upright as he was going to get. He was clearly in shock and she didn't blame him; his right hand was totally gone. The wound was so fresh she could still smell blood. Blood and char, he'd cauterized it somehow. She maneuvered him into the truck, pleased to find that the keys were in it and that it had nearly a full tank.
Sinclaire shifted into drive and hit the road as fast as she could. The man beside her was muttering faintly and she couldn't stop a grimace when she really looked at the stump his right forearm ended in. That had to have been agonizing; she wondered why he'd done it. She hoped he wasn't infected. She checked her clip as she steered around the cars in the road. If he was, she'd do what she had to. She really hoped he wasn't though. He seemed to have the balls a person needed to survive in this new world.
She stopped the truck at her old hideout, backing up to the door and looking around carefully before getting out.
"Where ya headed Yank?" the man slurred.
"I'm going to get my supplies," she answered in surprise; she'd thought he was out cold. "Just stay there."
"I gotta get a move on," the man continued with a brief laugh. "I got cocktails at 8."
She snorted and ducked into the house she'd been using as a base for the past week. All of her things were packed so she could be mobile just as soon as she needed to be. Sinclaire flung the dark green backpacks into the box truck, and grabbed a bottle of water and the first aid kit. She was heading back around to the driver's side when her suspicion that this hideout was no longer safe was confirmed in the least pleasant way. Ten or so zombies were pushing their way through the side window, the one she hadn't been able to brace properly. She shoved the gun bag into the truck and jumped up, rolling the door down and walking through the back of the truck, climbing over the seatback. She was going to give the man the bottle of water, but this time he was out. She shoved him to the side and drove away.
When Merle woke up his neck was killing him. He was lying scrunched up against the truck door, so he wasn't surprised.
"Damn it Daryl," he muttered, sitting up. "I've fuckin' told you…"
"Sorry, not Daryl," a woman's voice spoke dryly. "Is she your…"
"He ain't a she," Merle said indignantly. "He's my brother."
"Is he heavy?" she muttered to herself with a half grin.
"What?" Merle moved to rub his face with his hands, then he realized he couldn't do that anymore. "Fuck me."
"I'm sure that's a colloquialism, but I'll pass. Sorry about your hand," Sinclaire said, glancing at him. "How'd it happen?"
Merle figured he wasn't hallucinating because she'd said colloquialism and he didn't know what the fuck that meant.
"How'd it happen?" he thought back. It was a hazy memory. "I remember handcuffs…"
"Kinky," Sinclaire wriggled her eyebrows.
Merle barked out a laugh, "Considerin' it was a guy that cuffed me not so much."
"Someone cuffed you on purpose? Left you for zombie bait?"
"Yeah," he decided she didn't need to know the details. His mind was clearer without the coke, but it'd be fuzzy as hell in a few hours. Addiction was a bitch. He patted his pockets, then cussed a blue streak when he remembered that self righteous cop throwing it off the damn roof. He was gonna put his foot so far up that bastard's ass…it occurred to him that they were moving. "Hey. Hey wait a second. Where the hell we goin'?"
"Away from Atlanta," the woman answered. "I've always hated that city."
"Yeah, you and me both," he swallowed, his throat so dry he coughed.
"Oh! Here," she handed him a bottle of water.
He reached to twist of the cap and cussed again. She snagged the bottle back and twisted the lid free, then handed him two pills from her knapsack while she drove with her knee.
"Those are some impressive epithets," she gave him a grin as she spoke.
"The fuck does that mean?" he asked.
"Means you cuss good," she drawled.
"Saved your ass though."
"Yeah sweetheart you sure did. But you gotta get me back there. My brother's gonna lose his shit when they come back without me," Merle said.
"Your brother Daryl?" she asked.
"Yeah and I'm gonna tell him you thought he was a chick. I'll get a kick outta the look on his face."
"He's younger than you isn't he?" Sinclaire guessed from the way Merle talked about him.
Merle nodded and tossed the pills back. It wouldn't touch the pain, but it might dull the craving. No sense in giving away all his secrets.
"And he'll be worried about you?"
"I'm tellin' ya, he'll lose it. Daryl don't take surprises well," Merle rested his head against the seat. "We shoulda headed east from the truck."
"Headed west," Sinclaire said with a sigh. "You weren't much help you know. All you've done is mutter weird shit about hookers and cocaine."
"Goddamn. You serious?"
"Yep. Hey I don't care what you used to do. I'm assuming you're out of the good stuff and I'm not a hooker, just in case you were wondering. I don't plan to have any problems out of you. And if you try anything you'll regret it," she gave him a smile, but damn if she didn't sound sincere.
"I outweigh you," he said; mostly just to see what she'd say.
She shrugged, "I'm combat trained."
"Yeah? Then I wouldn't be surprised if I outrank you."
"Me neither, Yank."
"My name is Sinclaire," she informed him. "Sinclaire Lewis." She figured he wouldn't get the symbolism and she wasn't disappointed.
"Merle Dixon. I'd shake your hand but…"
"You don't seem like the polite type to me anyway," she said, when his face twisted into an expression bordering on the shock she'd seen when she met him. "And you should rest; you lost a lot of blood."
"Not too much," he replied. "Got it cauterized real fast. Hurt like a bitch."
"I'm not surprised. The person who left you on the roof…would he be with your brother?"
"Don't know. He might be dead. City's packed with those bastard's. Wouldn't bother me if him and all the rest bit it. Daryl's the only one I give a damn about."
"Aw. Brotherly love. Daryl's a lucky fellow," Sinclaire downshifted and brought the van to a stop. "I'm sleepy. Mind if we stop here for the night? Catch some sleep and go find your brother in the morning?"
"Can't see the harm," Merle agreed. "You gonna cuddle up with me and make me feel all better?"
"Fat chance, but nice try. I'll give you the front. Want any more painkillers?"
"What you got ain't strong enough sweetheart," Merle clenched his teeth as pain throbbed through his entire body. He wouldn't have thought losing such a small body part would matter so damn much, or hurt so damn bad. He wondered what Daryl had said about them coming back without him.