Happy New Year!

Well, one upside of getting the flu and being unable to write and post this for Christmas, I managed to get it out in time for the New Year!

Let's not waste any time, get to reading!

There was no reply, only the echo of her own voice retreating down off the walls to be swallowed up by the silence. Unsure for a moment as to what to do, Alana stood still, eyes scanning over the cellblock. She began walking, peering into the cells and searching the tops of the second level. Reaching the end of the cellblock, and with no sign of Rick, Alana chose to continue walking, entering a hallway. Each door she passed, she would pause, quietly calling out to Rick again and again.

B-block, too, had an area that was designated for offices. When Alana reached the area she noticed one room's door slightly ajar. Being at the back of the building, it actually had a window leading to the outside and so slivers of light danced over the room's contents. Peering in through the small crack, Alana could see shards of floor and desk and wall alit. Behind the desk she saw Rick, half encased in the sunlight.

She pushed the door further open, allowing herself enough space to slip in, but she remained standing at the doorway. "Rick?" she called out once more.

He sat at the desk, a slumped back in the large chair, staring over the contents of the desk. His face was haggard and his body emitted a low hum of tiredness. He blinked as if trying to shake something off and looked to Alana, acknowledging her presence. Wiping at his cheek, he waited for her to speak.

"Gunshot outside." His face minutely lit up at her words. "Not sure how far off. Was just the one shot. Daryl thinks it might have been a last stand for whoever is out there. But…we're just taking precautions. We're on lockdown." Alana reached for the walkie at her waist, coming forward at last to place it on the desk. "Everyone's in the cellblock, doing double watches tonight." She retreated back to the doorway. Rick reached for the walkie, nodding his head and setting it at the edge of the desk near him. "In case anything happens…it'd be real easier if we were all in C-block."

Rick sighed, nodding once more and running his hands over his face. "Yeah. Yeah, I know. I—I just can't leave. Not yet." Alana furrowed her brow at his words. Rick pointed vaguely at the desk. "She might call again."

Alana tensed for a moment, her breath stopping. "Who might call again, Rick?"

He looked up to her finally, truly looked at her and Alana could see how even the glistening in his eyes was shattered. "Lori." Rick shook his head. "I know. I know it isn't her." He laughed sorrowfully, pushing the chair back and reaching to the floor for something. He held the disconnected phone cord. He laughed again at the veiled shock upon Alana's face. "It isn't really her, I know." Rick shook his head, bring his elbows to rest upon his knees. His tone became serious then. "She says it wasn't your fault—you did the best you could. You really did. There was just…no way she was going to make it. And she knew. So, it wasn't your fault."

Alana hung her head, fighting back the emotion that came clawing up her stomach. She blinked harshly.

Rick laughed again. "It's just what I want to hear, isn't it? What I need to hear. What I know already." Rick turned away, looking down to the phone. He picked the walkie up and flipped it in his hands. "I'll be down there in a bit. I just…need a bit more time." As a second thought, Rick quickly added, hints of his old self pushing through, "Packs and cars ready?" Alana numbly nodded. "Good. That's good."

He leaned back into the chair, slumping down, with his eyes coming to focus once more on the telephone resting atop the desk. Alana could not help but find her stare moving to the floor where the cord laid. She took a few steps back until she was in the hallway and out of sight, coming to lean against the wall. She remained there, listening. And then she began moving, further down the hall. Turning the corner, Alana halted quickly, having heard Rick speak out. But it had not been to her and it was not her name that he spoke. Rubbing harshly with her palms at her eyes, she continued walking.

Banging the door as she exited B-block, Alana kept her head down, breathing hard, as she did her best to keep her legs steady.

"What the hell is this shit? We all havin' a sleepover?"

Alana shot her head up at Merle's voice. The elder Dixon brother was making his way towards her, the blade replacing his right hand glinting in the sunlight. Alana took a last hard breath before calming herself and let the sun dry up the tears in her eyes. She kept her head cast somewhat to the ground though, not allowing Merle a straight look at her.

"Shot fired out there, somewhere. We're on lockdown for the next 48 hours. Get used to it. You don't want to be near any of us, take a watch up in the tower, just be ready to have a buddy during the night."

Merle eyed her as she came walking past him. He began to walk slowly after her, raising his voice as she stepped further away. "Didn't see Officer Rick in there."

"He's coming," Alana hollered back at him. "Now get inside." Merle spit at the ground, looking up to see that Alana had stopped walking and was turning to face him. She began to walk back towards him. Her face was mute of emotion. "No one at Woodbury knows where we are? No one?"

Merle scoffed. "Ain't none even from around here."

Alana pressed him. "How long until they find us?"

Merle paused, glancing over the prison. "Woulda found this place already, if the Governor was still alive. Heard what that Black Panther did to him, don't sound like she wanted him to survive. We might of had a nice little doctor office set up, but I doubt they could do much for him, not with Doc's nurse here with us."

Alana looked to the gates for a moment, peering down the road. "And if he's dead? What about the people in Woodbury?"

Merle chuckled. "Most of them are old, women, kids. Guys with pussies or dicks they can't keep stashed away. They'll tear themselves apart over who gets to call the shots."

Thinking things over, Alana then told Merle that the lockdown remained in place, 48 hours and then they'd decide what to do from there. He was not pleased with the prospect of being cooped up with the rest of the group, but Alana ignored his half-threats and complaints. She turned away from him and continued back to C-block.

Entering the cellblock, she made her way over to the cell in which they kept the walkies. Grabbing one, she noted as Merle came in behind her, making his way down one of the hallways. Likely to stay away from the others. She was certain he had a bottle or two of liquor hidden somewhere. Having picked up a walkie for herself, Alana turned it on and turned to head up the stairs. At the top, she met with Daryl.

He looked to the entrance to the cellblock. "He's coming," Alana told him, avoiding eye contact as she began to speak, pushing her way past him. "Just give him some time." She made her way towards the cell she had been spending the nights in, digging through the things she'd taken with her from the cell she shared with Daryl. As she turned and saw him standing there, Alana sighed. "If he hasn't come around by nightfall, I'll go and stay with him."

"Think that's a good idea?" Daryl asked, leaning against the cell bars.

There was doubt in her eyes, but not over Daryl's question. "I'm not sure he's ready to be around us yet." Daryl asked what had happened in B-block when Alana had found Rick, but she shook her head. "He needs time. Just…give him some time."

There was a long pause between them before Daryl spoke again, keeping his voice low. "He bad?"

Alana managed to nod, feeling downtrodden. "He's still, there, but if anything comes down on us here, we're on our own."

Daryl pushed himself off from the bars. He began saying how Lucas had checked and prepared packs for everyone. The cars were all parked in the correct locations, filled with fuel and everything the group would need if there came a need to leave quickly. "I'll move one of the cars to B-block. Just in case." Alana managed a weak smile. "Probably best to just leave him there. You take a shift tonight?" Alana nodded. "I'll keep him company then, if he don't show."

Evening fell and as Alana began to think that Rick would not appear, he did. He came in to the cellblock, grabbing a lantern, along with some clothes, and heading off to clean up. The group did nothing to stand in his way; no one brought the baby up to him. Rick returned to his cell, once again sorting through things. At hearing Alana's voice from the hallway that led outside, he came forward. He stepped cautiously.

"Watches all taken care of?" he asked her. Alana nodded, saying that she, along with Dale, had the second watch. They were just doing two groups for the night. The first would be Michonne and Carl. Rick nodded at the news. He asked if all radios were on; they were. Packs were ready. Cars were ready. "Good. Good." He turned and walked away, going back to his cell.

The baby was fussing slightly and so after Alana had climbed the stairs, she continued on to the end of the row, back to her temporary cell. She did her best to ignore the cries and get some sleep before her watch with Dale. The chatter and moving around within the cellblock quieted until only the child's mild fusses could be heard. Glenn could be heard trying to shush the baby girl. With a bit of time, the noise faded from Alana's ears and she slept.

She was roused by Dale halfway through the night. Rubbing at her eyes, Alana sat up, blindly grabbing at her things and then rose, following after Dale. They kept quiet the whole way. The cellblock was dark and still. Outside they were met by Carl and Michonne as the two waited at the bottom of the guard tower.

Michonne held the door open to the stairs. "All's quiet."

"Good," Dale said with a sigh, looking over the fields. He asked about walkers; Carl said there had been none thus far. "Even better." He told him and Michonne to get some rest before beginning up the steps.

Settling upstairs, picking out their chairs and wrapping thick blankets about themselves, Dale and Alana picked the areas they'd be watching for the rest of the night. Alana twisted her watch round so that the band was at the top of her wrist, so as to keep herself from checking the time again and again. She hoped it would make the night go by faster, though she already knew she'd find herself checking the time at some point.

Fifteen minutes went by before she checked. It had felt like an hour.

Alana sighed.

It drew Dale's attention, but he said not a word.

A few hours in to their watch he chose to speak, at first asking about the shot Alana had heard. "Could have been far off. Sure things echo around here. It's good that we haven't seen anything yet." Alana nodded, not knowing if Dale saw her do so or not. "If nothing happens in the next couple days, planning on sending a few of us out?"

"No." The answer was definite. "Shouldn't risk anything like that. Shot…could be drawing walkers and no telling which direction they could come from. Best to just stay here, wait out runs as long as possible."

Dale believed it to be the best thing to do.

Carefully breaching the subject, he brought up Rick after some time had gone by. "Saw him come back to the cellblock. Gotta admit, I was happy to actually see him, but…he's worrying me."

Alana wanted to tell him to nevermind any of it. She wasn't about to tell him that Rick was holding conference calls with Lori—she didn't think that would aid Rick at all. Dale would likely try and go talk to him if he knew. No, she needed to keep that contained. Wait for Rick to come back around. Or make him come around, if she could figure out a way to do so.

She opened her mouth to tell Dale not to concern himself with Rick.

Dale fumbling for something with haste kept Alana from speaking. She had been facing the back of the prison. Turning, Alana squinted slightly, raising a hand to her eyes as she stood. With a quick step, she reached for her rifle.

Coming slowly down the prison road was a lone vehicle. Looking through the goggles, Dale counted two people within. "Search the woods," Alana ordered. "Anything? Do you see anything?" She leaned over beside Dale, the both of them keeping low. One hand reached towards a walkie.

"Woods are clear. Nothing." Dale looked back to where the road came into view. He looked to the car as it came closer. "Alana…I think they're alone." He handed the goggles to Alana who blinked a few times quickly to adjust to the night vision.

Within the car were two people, both African American. A male was driving, a wide man with a beard. He looked to be heavily bundled up. In the passenger seat was a young woman, less than half the size of the man. She, too, was wrapped in many layers. Alana squinted to try and see past them, to the backseat. No, there was no one else in the car. Unless they were hiding.

The car stopped a few yards away from the prison and for a moment, neither got out. They just sat there, staring the whole place over. Alana signaled for Dale to get out of the chair and crouch down. The man driving was leaning over the steering wheel, trying to look up at the guard tower.

He said something to the woman and slowly, the two climbed out from the car. As they did so, Alana began making her descent of the stairs while Dale stayed in place. The man and woman approached the gates, trying to open them, but seeing that they were chained.

"Think we can climb them?" the woman had asked as Alana opened the door quickly and came into view.

The two were startled by the noise, taking a step back. Seeing a rifle pointed at them, the woman moved to stand behind the man as he raised his hands in the air.

No one spoke as Alana stepped carefully towards the gates, rifle trained on the man. "What do you want?" she called out in a quiet voice.

The man took a step forward, arms still raised. "Please, we're almost out of fuel. We can't make it much further." He pointed over to the cars. "If you have any gas you could spare…"

Alana shook her head. "That won't be happening. We have our own to take care of."

The man looked deflated, but continued to speak. "I understand that." He gestured behind to the woman. "I have my little sister to look after, keep her safe." He glanced Alana lower her rifle just slightly and so he kept talking. "If we could just…rest here—for the night. Just the night. You'd be helping us, helping me keep my sister alive. Please." Alana said nothing still and the man sighed. He gestured to himself and then the woman. "My name's Tyreese and this is Sasha. My sister. Please, just let us rest here for the night and we'll be gone. We just need a break. This little break."

Alana looked to Sasha, seeing how she stood there, slowly coming out from behind her brother to stand beside him. An extension of his own being. Alana gulped, her arms feeling suddenly heavy. She walked closer to the gates, eyes skipping between the siblings and the car. "You fire that shot yesterday?"

Sasha stepped forward. "Had to." Her voice was fair, but hardened. "We were with two others. Guy's wife was bitten, we had to put her down. He didn't take it too well."

"He was burying her. Slit his wrists instead," Tyreese added. "Went looking for him. Thought he was just sitting there, but he'd turned. Grabbed Sasha. He was moving too quickly, we weren't ready. Had to use the gun."

Alana thought the answer over. "How long you've been on the road?"

"Since there were ten of us," replied Tyreese. Alana asked where they were from. "Jacksonville."

"I don't know where that is," Alana said, pointing out that she wasn't from anywhere nearby via her accent.

"Florida," Sasha added. Tyreese and she watched as Alana waved her left hand after a moment, towards the guard tower.

Dale came out, his firearm ready, and made his way over to Alana, keeping his eyes on Sasha and Tyreese. Alana took a few steps back.

She whispered to him, while her eyes remained on the newcomers. "Don't make a single noise and get in there and bring me Merle. Do not let him make a sound," she said in a clipped tone. "If you can't find him, make Daryl find him. And get back out here. Go."

Dale hurried off, looking over his shoulder over and over.

"We don't want to cause any trouble," Tyreese began to say to Alana, but she only shook her head.

"We've had enough of trouble here to last us quite a while. I'm not about to risk more. You two just stand there and wait."

Reluctantly, Tyreese nodded, lowering his hands, but not making any sudden movements. He adjusted the beanie atop his head and then embraced his sister, doing his best to keep her warm as she did her best not to shiver.

"What's your name?" he called out as they waited for Dale to return. After biting back a reply, Alana spoke her name and Tyreese nodded. "Had a friend, named his kid Alana. Don't hear that name much."

Alana was beginning to fidget, standing out there with the two. Dale was taking longer than she was happy with. The creak of the prison doors opening grabbed her attention for a split moment. She turned to see him coming out, Daryl and Merle behind him. Alana returned her gaze to Tyreese and Sasha, rifle raised on them. As the others neared her, she took steps back, beckoning Dale to come forward and hold her place while she addressed Daryl and Merle.

She pulled Merle aside, Daryl following. "You know those two?" she asked. "Are they from Woodbury? Are they?" She kept her voice quiet.

Merle stretched, scratching at his head. "Never seen those monkeys in my life. Then again, they all look the same."

Alana sighed and stepped closer to him. "Are they from Woodbury, yes or no?"

Merle huffed, taking a better look at the two and shook his head.

Alan turned her attention to Daryl then. He asked her what they wanted and she repeated what Tyreese had said. Merle began saying that they should just turn their asses around. Or shoot them. He was really just saying anything that would get him sent back inside. Daryl was telling him to keep quiet.

"How we know they ain't alone?" Daryl asked. He waved off towards the woods. "Their friends could be out there waiting."

Alana shook her head. "Dale checked the woods. They're clear. They are alone."

"Well then, turn their asses back," Daryl then said. He and Merle began to argue over the matter.

Alana raised her voice then, speaking as she realized what they had to do. "We can't let them go." Daryl and Merle turned to her. "We can't let them leave. If they are from Woodbury, and we send them off, they'll run right back and tell them where we are. And if they aren't, and we turn them away…"

"What's to keep them from telling the Governor where we are if they find them?" Daryl finished. "Shit." He stepped to the side and looked Tyreese and Sasha over. "Can make them stay in the car," he offered.

Alana turned to the car. She nodded. Raising her gun again, she told Dale to unlock the chains. "You can stay the night, but you're staying in your car. In the morning we'll sort out what happens next. But right now, we're going to search you and your car." Alana called for Daryl and Merle to come forward. The two did so, the latter muttering under his breath. Alana and Dale came forward once the gates were open, guns raised as the two Dixons searched the car. Daryl checked Sasha and Tyreese over. Between them, they only had the one gun and an assortment of hammers and other large, heavy tools. Alana said to them, "Bring the car in, park it right there," and she pointed to a spot by the guard tower.

"Thank you," Tyreese said to her repeatedly.

The prison group members stood around the car, watching the two. Sasha hesitantly asked Dale if they had spare blankets.

Dale looked to Alana before speaking. He saw her nod and so he nodded to Sasha and Tyreese. "I'll bring some out." Tyreese thanked him.

Daryl stepped closer to Alana, keeping his question to a whisper. "You good the rest of the night?" Alana looked to her watch. She gave a curt nod.

Tyreese was thanking them again for allowing them to stay within the prison grounds. His gratification was cut short as a scream came from C-block. Dale turned to look to Alana, unsure what to do. For a moment, she only stood there, but then Merle stepped to her and took the rifle from her grasp.

"I got this," he said, securing the rifle in his single-hand grasp, aiming it towards Tyreese and Sasha.

Alana, Daryl, and Dale went rushing back to C-block, bursting through the doors and hurrying down the hallway. The commotion grew as they neared the cellblock. Once inside, their eyes moved in haste.

The others had woken from the screaming. Alana did her best to keep up with Daryl as he took the steps two at a time to reach the second level. Halfway she stopped as a grotesque noise reached her ears and was then quickly silenced. At first her face contorted and then her insides. Her hands clenched the rails. Someone stood behind her, keeping her from losing her balance. Andrea wrapper an arm around her waist, supporting Alana as much as she was supporting herself.

From the cell that Maggie and Glenn shared, Rick slowly stepped out, one hand bloodied. He was replacing a small blade that he carried on him. He stopped and stood there, evening his breathing and looking to the others as everyone now stood out from their cells. He nodded his head, as if he was trying to ascertain himself that all was well. All was taken care of now.

"It's alright now," he told them. He looked back into the cell. Hershel had come forward; he stepped back out from the cell, his head lowered. He reached out for Maggie to console her.

Only bits of what she said could be heard.

"I put her down…she was fine…I don't know how…made sure she couldn't roll over."

Rick was lost deep in thought. He then turned and went back into the cell. He exited, holding a small, bloody bundle. Coming down the steps, Alana looked to his arms. Held in them, she saw the sickening face of the baby girl. In the moonlight that illuminated the cellblock, the discoloration of the child's eyes could be seen as they stared harshly upwards. From the side of her crushed temple crept blood.

Rick came to stand before Carl whose face fought to remain controlled, but the sorrow that had been held back from the loss of his mother battled to be let loose. "We'll bury her in the morning. Next to your mom."

Outside, Merle stood with lackluster. He eyed Tyreese as the man stared at the stump on his right arm. When the others began coming back outside, Tyreese edged closer to Merle.

"He ain't coming yet," he said quietly, keeping his words short. "People are getting sick at Woodbury. You have till Spring and then he'll be here. He knows exactly where this place is."

Merle made a retching sound as he spit at the ground. He shook his head, looking to Alana and the others. "Tired of these fuckin' people already."

Maybe it's better I didn't post this for Christmas, wouldn't have exactly been a happy, feel good present haha.

So tell me, how cruel was that of me to end this on those two bombshells? How many of you are dreading Spring within the story now? And how many of you are evil like me and can't wait for Spring haha.