The night passed uneventfully, I nodded off a couple times myself before daybreak. When morning came Sophie awoke and we ate breakfast, I could tell she was excited to see her mother again and I was content passing the time listening to her stories about her mother and the friends they've come to know through this horrible experience.
Mid morning we started to hear an engine noise coming down the road. Sophie was so excited she was literally bouncing in her seat. They came for her. The out line of a truck started to appear in the distance. She started to reach for the handle to get out.
"Wait," I say to stop her from getting out just yet. "The noise may draw walkers."
She waits as patiently as a girl her age could for the truck to stop. When it does a friendly looking woman gets out of the passenger seat and walks to the car with the painted windshield.
"Mom." Sophia exclaims before quickly getting out of the car. "MOM" Sophia says loud enough to get her mothers attention without being a scream. The woman looks over a look of intense relief and happiness coming across her face as she starts running towards Sophia with tear starting to come out of her eyes. Sophia's mother drops to her knees hugging her child to her tightly.
I look away from the reuniting pair to see a well built man that must of come from the drivers seat window. He had a recently shaved hear and was favoring one leg, he carried a shotgun in his hands though it was lowered at the moment as he observed Sophia and her mom with a look of shock on his face.
I reached for the handle on the door, moving my scythe from its position between me and the door. I opened the door slowly, placing my scythe on the drives seat as I got out the door. The mans attention was on me now. No doubt assessing the newcomer and the threat I may pose. I hold up my hands in mock surrender to show I come in peace.
"Who're you?" His voice is gruff, and filled with suspicion. His shotgun is aimed at me waiting for an answer.
I open my mouth to reply when Sophia answers for me. "She's Buffy, she found me in the woods and brought me here to find you." Sophia and her mother moved so that they were in between the shotgun wielding man and myself, not directly but off to the side.
He lower his shotgun so it not aiming at me and Sophia's mother rushed me, throwing her arms around me, "Thank you so much for saving my baby girl."
I lightly squeeze her back before pulling away, I smile at her "You're welcome, I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time."
"I'm Carol," She gestures to the man beside her, "This is Shane." He nods his head in greeting. "We are staying at a farm house owned by a local man not far from here, we should go back and tell everyone the good news, they sure could use some."
"Okay, well it was nice meeting all of you but I should probably be on my way." I smile at Sophia before turning around and starting to walk back to my car. I only get a couple of steps before I feel a hand on my arm. I turn around to see Shane looking at me.
"You should come back with us. It's safe there, well safer than the road. And I'm sure everyone'll want to meet the person who found Sophia." His face looks genuine enough, but there is a haunted look that's hidden behind, I've seen it before.
I start to decline when Sophia and her mother speak up and convince me to go. I follow behind the truck with Sophia, Carol, and Shane in it. We don't have very long to travel before a gate comes into view. We stop at the gate and Carol gets out of the truck, opening it for the vehicles to get past before closing it and getting back in the truck.
We travel for another twenty minutes or so before pulling up to a white farm house. There are tents, set up outside the house, and people have started to gather out front the house, noticing the extra vehicle pulling up outside.
When Carol gets out of the truck followed by Sophia the group start coming up with big smiles on their faces, hugging Sophia and her mother, obviously sharing in the happiness of her safe return. I smile softly, watching their group safely in the comfort of my car. They seemed to have one of every character. There was the Asian kid, the black guy, the wise older man,the husband and wife, the gun guy, the blonde girl, and people who fit in with the scenery and trend of what this small farm town would have so I'd assume their the locals.
They talk for awhile, I see Sophia gesturing as she speaks. They listen to her story, asking questions every so often. Then she turn to face the car and starts to wave me over.
I let out a heavy sigh. It can be dangerous getting to know these people, being involved in their lives. I hid my scythe in the back seat of my car. I open the door before climbing out of the car and making sure to lock it. I walk up to them slowly, feeling out of place already.
Carol introduced me to the group, I filed the names away matching them to the faces. Carol pauses in the introduction of names, "Where's Daryl?"
"My bet is he's still out there looking for your little girl." Rick says, tipping his sheriffs hat back with his finger. "He'll be back before nightfall."
Sophia looks around briefly as well. "What about Carl?"
Laurie takes Rick's hand, looking sad as he squeezes her hand. "There was a hunting accident. This stupid accident. He was shot, Hershel here was able to remove the bullets." Laurie smiles, "He made it through, he's sleeping now."
I look at Hershel, impressed that he was able to perform surgery. There must not be very many people left that can these days. Sophia looks worried about her friend. "Can I see him?"
Laurie smiles again. "Of course, sweetie. We started making dinner while you went to check the highway Carol." Carol looks excited at the idea of being able to go through with their offer to make a nice meal for Hershel's family, wanting to cook in a real kitchen again and give her daughter a home cooked meal.
Carol looks towards me, "Will you help us with dinner Buffy?"
I hold up my hands shaking them back and forth as I shake my head no. "Unless you want everything to burn you don't want my help, trust me."
Hershel, his family, Laurie, Carol, and Sophia walked towards the farm house, opening the front door and filing through. Dale and Andrea part soon after, heading to the RV parked not too far from here. Shane, T-Dog, and Glenn moving away to the area where the tents are, sitting down on some plastic lawn chairs cracking a beer each.
Rick looks at me kindly. "We are happy to have you with us Buffy. You found Sophia, we have been losing hope."
"Its what anyone would have done." I shrug off his words, not one for taking compliments.
"Were you by yourself out there? What were you doing out there?"
"I was in Atlanta, I heard there was a survivor who knew how to fly a plane. I came alone, I left the people I was staying with in South Carolina to come check." I look out among the fields, this is a nice farm. Self-sustaining, easy to see a large circumference around the house. "I was lucky to find Sophia, I just stopped nearby where she was hiding to siphon gas."
"Do you know what your doing next?" He asks. I think for a moment, I really don't know yet. At my blank look he carries on. "Would you want to travel with us? There is safety in numbers."
I could head up to Cleveland, I'm pretty sure that is the closest slayer headquarters from here. See if there are any slayer survivors there. There would have to be, a slayer would kill them easily enough as long as they weren't surprised or swarmed. Until I have another lead on the pilot I wont be able to make it back to Dawn, Xander, Willow, and our slayer set up in Scotland. Cleveland is a very long trip though, maybe I will stay with these people for a little bit.
"Sure, thank you Rick."
He smiles again brightly. "We'll have-ta -"
"Walker - WALKER" Andrea yells loud enough for the people on the front yard to hear. She's standing on top of the RV holding binoculars looking out down to the tree line at the end of one of the fields.
Rick's attention is immediately on her. "Just the one?" He says walking towards her, holding his hand above his eyes trying to see past the suns harsh glare.
She ignores his question. "I bet I can nail it from here." She says like she has something to prove, reaching to the hunting rifle she has close by. Andrea pulls up her rifle, getting the walker in her sights.
"No." Rick says before adding another "No," for emphasis. "Put the gun down Andrea." Andrea lowers her gun down.
Hearing the commotion Shane stands up grabbing a pick ax, and T-Dog grabs a silver baseball bat. He speaks up while walking towards the walker. "You best let us handle this."
"Shane, hold up. Hershel wants to deal with walkers." Rick looks worried when he says that, I wonder if things between this group and Hershel's is tense.
"What for man? We got it covered." Shane replies, continuing to walk forwards as fast as he could go without hurting his recovering ankle.
"Damn it." Rick says before running to the RV to get his pistol. He then runs past Dale, on the back ladder of the RV to catch up with Shane and T-Dog on the field.
I bring my hand down for a moment from trying to see the walker to see Andrea looking at her gun, she pulls it up, bringing the walker into her sights again. I pull my hand back, looking out into the field, Something about this doesn't feel right. I spot the walker limping toward the field, fighting through what looked like a lot of pain, dragging a crossbow with his right hand.
"Andrea. Don't." Dale sounds alarmed. It doesn't make a lot of sense to waste a bullet on just one walker.
"Back off Dale." Andrea sounds mad, madder than that comment should of made her. She's still mad at Dale about taking away her gun in the first place.
"Andrea, No! That's not a walker!" I say, but it's too late, her shot rings out.
The person dropped, and for a moment Andrea has a look of pride on her face. Before she hears Rick scream out, "No." Rick's voice sounds disturbed before another "NO" filled the air.
I start running towards the group out in the field as the people who were in Hershel's house comes running out into the yard.
"What on earths going on out here?" I hear Hershel yell from behind me as I'm running to the people in the field caring the man who Andrea shot in the field towards the house.
I hear Andrea and Dale's footsteps following behind me. "Oh my god, is he dead?" Andrea asks while she runs, freaking out.
"Unconscious you just grazed him." Rick says, as he and Shane carry the man.
Glenn gestures to the mans chest where he's wearing a necklace of zombie ears. "Look at him! What the hell happened to him? He's wearing ears."
Rick looks out towards the farm house to see Hershel looking at them and everyone eyes running out, He reaches out to the mans chest with his free hand and yanks away him necklace, stuffing it into his shirt pocket. "Lets keep that to ourselves."
T-Dog stops walking forward. "Guys." He holds up a doll with one hand. "Isn't this Sophia's?"
Sophia runs up to him, taking her doll gently looking sad. I fall into step beside her. "Whats wrong?"
She looks at me with a haunted look a child shouldn't have. "This is my fault. Daryl is hurt because of me."
I stop her, making sure she looked at me. " This is not your fault. You didn't hurt him." She nods, smiling slightly.
We get to the farmhouse and the men take Daryl into the house. I follow in but stand outside the room with Carol and Laurie. Carol looks at me with a worried look on her face. "I hope Daryl's alright. He's been looking for Sophia non-stop since she got lost. To think what he went through to bring her doll back for me..." She trails off looking sad.
I put my hand on her shoulder and squeeze lightly, trying to comfort her."Arrgh. That hurts." Was heard from the other side of the door and I can feel Carol relax and let out a sigh of relief.
"I found the doll wash up on the creek-bed right there. She must'a dropped it crossing the river somewhere."
"Sophia's back Daryl." I can hear Rick say excitedly, before his voice turns worried. "How's he looking?"
Hershel replies in a clipped tone. "I had no idea we'd be going through the anti-biotic so quickly." Not bother to answer Rick's question. He pauses before continuing. "Any idea what happened to my horse?"
Things are worse than I thought. Hershel sounds like a cranky old man towards them. I stop listening and sit on the floor laying my head back against the wall, mimicking Laurie's position. Not too long after Shane and Rick come out the door and tell us Daryl will be fine.
I excuse myself going outside, its starting to get dark. I move to a close by tree climbing up to a branch sitting on it with my back against the trunk. It's peaceful at this moment. No zombies trying to eat out your brain. No worries about saving the world when its all gone to shit. Right now in this moment. Its just a small white house surrounded by fields, a soft breeze in the air and a darkening sky. I close my eyes for a moment. I open them when I hear someone step out onto the porch, its Carol.
"Buffy?" She calls out hesitantly.
I swing down from the branch I was sitting on, moving to stand beside her on the porch.
"Dinner's ready. Come, sit down." I smile, following her inside to the dining room and taking my place at the table. Dinner is tense and uncomfortable, completely silent beside the sounds of people chewing their food and cutlery clinking on the plates.
"Does anybody know how to play guitar?" Glenn asks as he turns around from the kids table, trying to break the tense atmosphere. He stammers when nobody responds to his question. "It's just that Dale found a cool one." He laughs awkwardly, "Somebodies gotta know how to play."
"Otis did." An older petite blonde woman replies, one of Hershel's people. Looking distraught.
"Yes, and he was very good too." Hershel tell her before giving Rick a loaded look.
I don't feel comfortable enough with these people to provide private information freely. I wasn't going to speak up.
After dinner I help clean up before Rick's group says goodnight and I follow the outside. People start heading to their tents and other sleeping arrangements, as Rick stays behind with me. "As I was going to say before we havta figure out your sleeping arrangements. I don't know where a permanent place will be but for tonight you can stay in Daryl's tent. He's going to be inside." He points out the tent he was referring to before saying goodnight and going to Laurie who was waiting for him in front of their tent. She waves goodnight when she sees me.
"Okay." I say to myself after he walks away. I walk to my car to get my sleeping bag, feeling my pockets for the keys but not feeling them there. I let out a heavy sigh looking in the car. I can't believe I locked the keys in the car! I mentally kick myself, and walk towards Daryl's tent. Guess I'm using Daryl's bag tonight, good thing he's in the house.
I unzip the tent going inside before zipping it back up. I take off my shoe and set them by the door, open and easy to slip on if I was in a hurry before I go over to his sleeping bag, unzipping it. I hesitantly put my hand inside, running it through the bag. Okay, good. Nothing gross in there. I take off my jacket, setting it close by on the plastic floor of the tent then get into the bag. I inhale deeply after laying down, this guy smells really good, musky, like the outdoors and all man. I quickly fall asleep with a smile on my face.
"What tha?" I hear, vaguely feeling a hand on my shoulder as I come to. I sit up quickly, looking at the hands owner, Daryl. He looks surprised. "What're you doin here?" His voice is rough, a thick southern drawl sending shock waves to my sleep addled brain.
"Wha?" I say dumbly, then start to blush hard when I start to wake up and realize I took off my jeans in my sleep, never being able to sleep wearing them.
He looks amused. "Yer in my bed. What're you doin there?" He says slowly as if explaining it to a child.
I blush heavily starting to splutter, "Rick said. You were supposed to be in the house. I went to get my bag from the car but I locked myself out."
He sighs tiredly, "Scoot over."
I move to the edge of the bag and he climbs in, falling asleep almost immediately after he lays down. I wonder why he left the house, he obviously needs the sleep. The heavenly smell from earlier is back in full force now that the man himself is here and sleeping peacefully. His ruggedly handsome face relaxed into a blissful state.
I fall asleep quickly again, with a slight smile showing on my face.