New Meanings to Old Words : Safe

Hi all! I hope you enjoy this little re-imagining. While it will follow the basics of the story line we all know and love, I have used a bit of creative license to add in and change a few things. The story starts before the entire group make it to the camp at the Quarry

Enjoy!

~SWW

Disclaimer: I own nothing, except Callie and the crew of misfits (Danny, Miles, Jenna, Mike, Nina, Ben and Gracie).

Chapter 1: Highway to Hell

"Where are you heading?"

It was one of the questions that everyone seemed to ask nowadays. Logical really, everyone was on the road now. Nomads searching for a place to call home, constantly moving. Because nowhere was really safe anymore, at least not for long, and everyone was hoping that someone else had found what each and every soul was looking for. A safe haven from the horror that was life.

Safe.

It was a pipe dream when you were living in purgatory.

Callie Marcus was way past exhausted when she bit out her reply to the newest group of survivors that she and her crew of misfits had stumbled upon.

"Hell." Callie spat out as she wiped a tired hand down her grime covered face. Callie half caught the wide-eyed look of shock that crossed the faces of the two women and the older man as she turned and strode away towards her vehicle. As she walked she could hear the stilted scoffing laughter of Danny as he mumbled some kind of excuse to them.

What kind of excuse was there? The world they all lived in now was Hell on Earth, and she sure as hell wasn't going to sugar coat it. Not after everything she had just done.

Callie could still hear Jenna's sobs as she neared their hideous stolen orange Hummer H2. Not even sparing a glance at the girl or the young man with an arm around her shaking shoulders Callie continued to bite at the inside of her cheek. Throwing open the driver's side door she snatched her busted up blue backpack from the floor of the passenger side and slammed the door shut. Effectively cutting off the timid "Callie?" that had emanated from the back seat.

Callie could feel the stares on her back as she walked away from the Hummer but didn't dare glance back. She was trying hard enough to keep her own tears at bay. Biting the inside of her mouth a bit harder, she looked up to where Danny was still standing with the three new survivors. Tossing her backpack onto her shoulder she threw her thumb towards the vehicle orange monstrosity.

"You drive for now," Callie said quietly, sparing a quick glance over at the grief stricken redhead still shaking at the back of the Hummer. "She's not gonna want to ride with me for a while."

"You didn't do anything wrong, Cal." Danny said looking to Jenna and back to the old man beside him for some kind of affirmation. The older man nodded, his flopping fishing hat shading his eyes as he too looked at the young girl at the Hummer.

"You did what you had to," the man said. "And I'm sure she'll be grateful in time. Just like we are that you all stopped to help us."

"Damn good thing we did," Danny retorted with a sarcastic wave of his hand towards the other car in their party. "I still can't believe they didn't tell us."

"Jenna's paying for it now," Callie said rubbing her sweating palms along her blood-stained jeans. She turned her attention back to the still angered man she had come to trust in the past few months. "In the most horrific way possible. Don't dwell on it and don't you dare bring it up. You just let her be."

"I'm not an idiot, Callie." Danny shook his head and ran a hand through his greasy black hair. "So, back to the topic at hand. Where to?"

"Out of here," the elder blonde woman chimed in eyeing the surrounding area warily. "I'm not keen on staying anywhere near this graveyard."

Callie looked around at the carnage that lay spread out around them. Callie and her crew had been making their way through a small subdivision as they skirted their way around the smaller towns near Atlanta. The little suburb that had probably once been a beautiful place to live was now littered with the dead. Just like every other godforsaken town they had traveled through. Gore from the risen dead covered nearly every inch of every door and car within sight, and blood from the victims covered the rest.

Callie and her crew had come upon the large RV just as a group of Walkers had wandered out of the abandoned store front that they had stopped in front of. The hopes of finding any supplies were quickly thwarted by the small horde of the risen dead. The two young blondes, sisters Andrea and Amy, and their traveling companion Dale, were quickly cut off from their vehicle by the oncoming Walkers. Dale had his trusty rifle and was taking out what he could, while Amy and Andrea brandished bats. As Callie pulled their Hummer to a stop not far off, it became obvious that the trio was a bit out of their league in the Walker killing department.

It had taken Callie and Danny only a few minutes to even out the odds and eventually save them from a fate worse than death. They had barely had time to introduce themselves before the screaming started again.

"There's a rest stop a few miles up the road," Danny said eyeing the map in his hand, and shaking Callie from her reverie. "Should be able to hold up there for the evening. Gather our wits before heading out."

"Fine by me," Callie said holding a hand out to the trio before her. "Feel free to tag along if you'd like."

"Sounds like an invitation we'd be stupid not to take," Dale said after exchanging a quick glance with Andrea. Eyeing the Hummer and two still huddled outside, Dale returned his eyes to Callie. "If you don't mind me asking, how many are in your group?"

"Eight," Danny said immediately, earning a glare from Callie. "Six." He amended sharply shaking his head as he rubbed at the back of his sweat drenched neck. "Shitty man. This is all just shitty." He raised his tired eyes to Callie and pointed an accusing finger. "Especially the part about you putting me alone with the emotional teenage girl."

"Deal with it, Danny." Callie said as she patted him on the shoulder. Callie gave a quick nod to Dale before making her way towards the small white—well not so white anymore- VW Bug parked not far behind her Hummer. Callie quickly averted her gaze from the two bodies laying side by side near the back of the small car and opened the door. The interior was a bloody mess, the tangy smell nearly made her gag.

Hold it together, girl. Hold it together. You'll have plenty of time to break down later. Callie tossed her backpack on to the slightly blood stained passenger seat and placed her trembling fingertips to the ridiculous zebra patterned seat cover.

In her mind she couldn't help but quip, What's black, and white, and red all over?

The dead girl's ridiculous zebra print car seat cover. Remember her? You put a bullet through her head.

Callie tore the seat cover off and tossed it to the side, watching in her peripheral vision as it landed at the feet of its former owner. Glancing quickly to the Hummer, Callie watched as Danny shook his head as he watched Miles help Jenna into the back seat of the behemoth of a car they had commandeered when this whole thing started. Callie got into the Bug and stared at the Polaroid picture of the trio smiling at her from the little hook on the damned flower pot front and center.

Written in Ben's chicken-scratch printing were their names: Jenna, Mike and Nina.

The screaming hadn't been what she was expecting to hear after they had finished taking care of the horde of Walkers. They had completely cleared the area. Checked and triple checked before giving the Hummer the quick two-tap signal for the inhabitants to stay put, before they headed towards the RV to check on Dale and the sisters.

Jenna had the scream that horror film directors searched their entire lives for; ear-splitting didn't begin to describe it. When Callie had first stumbled upon the girl over a month and half ago she had been screaming. That sound had haunted her to this day and seemed it would haunt her forever.

When they had turned towards the scream Callie's brain instantly stilled and her body froze in place. Nina, cute little four-foot-ten, twenty-year old Nina, had bitten into the left side of Mike's neck sending a spray of blood all over the interior of the car. Jenna was still screaming as she scrambled to get out of the car, her hands not working as she watched Nina try to devour Mike. Mike was desperately smacking at Jenna to get her moving as he desperately tried to open the driver's side door and escape.

"Jesus," Danny's strangled gasp had been what knocked Callie into motion.

"Get Jenna!" Callie yelled as she ran towards the carnage. Mike had made it out of the car by now and was dragging himself along the pavement as he desperately tried to escape his undead girlfriend. Nina was crawling her way out of the car after the fresh blood trail. Callie came to a stop as Mike reached up and grabbed at her legs, his eyes seeking help that she just wasn't capable of giving.

"When the fuck did this happen?" Danny was yelling as he dragged the hysterical Jenna towards the Hummer. "Damn it, Jenna, what the fuck?"

Callie had been wondering the same thing, but her mind was too busy processing the present to deal with it now.

No time for shoulda, coulda woulda's.

As if flipping a switch, Callie's mind cleared as she repeated her new life's motto in her head. Without a second thought Callie lifted her gun and shot sweet little fun-loving- four- foot- ten undead Nina between the eyes. Mike's gurgled anguished sob took Callie's eyes from the dead girl half hanging out of the car. His eyes were on Nina wide and unblinking as he tried to hold together what was left of his neck. His eyes then moved to her, then to Jenna as his mind no doubt worked through the next moments of his life. The last moments of his life. The pool of blood was growing wider and wider and Callie looked down to see his other blood covered hand gripping her jeans at the right knee, tearing the whole that was already there all the wide as his blood soaked fingers stained the fabric and her skin. The horror, pain and understanding that Callie saw when he finally looked back up at her was enough to bring a tear to her eyes as she raised her gun to his head.

Mike's eyes looked tired, and he closed them as if welcoming the coming sleep. Mike could sleep easy now, Callie thought, because he knew he wouldn't be getting back up. Without another thought she shot Mike in the head.

Ill-tempered-well-meaning-leather-vest-and-loafers-wearing Mike.

Jenna's older brother, Mike.

The shot had seemed to echo through the now deserted streets, stopping even the birds from chirping. The sounds of Jenna's sobs started Callie in motion, her free hand absently wiping at the blood stains on her jeans as she wiped the back of her gun hand along her now dry mouth. Tucking her gun back into the belt of her ripped and ragged jeans, she reached down and started to drag Mike's body to a clear spot near the Bug. She was surprised when the load was made easier as Dale quietly came over to help. As if taking her cue from the older man, Andrea walked slowly over to Danny and helped him to get Nina out of the Bug and onto the ground next to Mike.

Andrea turned away then and dry-heaved a few feet away, sheepishly looking back to Callie and the rest as Amy rubbed at her back. Callie gave the other woman a small smile of understanding. She owed herself a good stomach emptying later.

Callie knelt down next to Nina's dead little frame and started looking for the tell-tale sign that they had all apparently missed. Beside her Danny fidgeted on his feet, his angered gaze flipping from Nina to the sobbing Jenna as he wrung his hands. Dale removed his hat and used it to wipe his brow as he looked down at the carnage.

"Was she bit?" Dale asked quietly sparing a glance at Danny as if breaking the silence would break the small hold that the man was keeping on his anger.

"Fuck if we know," Danny grumbled earning a shake of Callie's head.

"If she was, she lasted a lot longer than anyone else I've seen. And hid it damn well," Callie said grimacing as she grabbed Nina's shoulder and turned her slightly so that she could see her back. The dead girl flopped easily over onto her stomach and Callie almost gave into that urge to throw up. Holding it back Callie lifted the girls ridiculous tie-dyed t-shirt. "Looks like she was scratched."

The festering wound in her back shouldn't have been something that they had missed. Yet there it was, a black and yellow puss filled gash along her right shoulder, hidden under a make-shift bandage. The skin was pulled back as if it had been burned away and you could clearly see the bone beneath.

"No way we missed that," Danny echoed Callie's thoughts as she replaced the t-shirt. With Dale's unasked for assistance, Callie flipped Nina back over. "Jenna's got some things to answer for."

"She may not have known," Callie said quietly. "We all had a couple of close calls with the last group of Walkers we ran into. Nina may not have told them. They seemed pretty surprised when it happened."

"How long ago was it? Your run in with that last group of Walkers." Dale asked as Andrea and Amy came up beside them. Callie got to her feet and again brushed her hands along her tattered jeans.

"Maybe a week." Callie said looking to Danny. Danny nodded his head and again rubbed at the back of his neck. They were all quiet for a while as they stared down at the bodies of the two twenty-something kids at their feet.

"I know we had all decided," Danny muttered breaking the silence. "But I honestly never thought we'd have to do it. Fucked up. This world is fucked up."

Callie spared a glance at the still sobbing Jenna as she put a fist to her mouth, her brain silently screaming at Danny to shut up. It wasn't like he had taken that shot.

Hell had been the best answer to Dale's request for a destination. Her soul was damned, too many dead people on her hands. Why was it that when the world went to shit, it seemed like Callie was the only person able to pull the trigger to keep people alive?

Shaking her head from the memories, Callie fiddled with the silver half of a handcuff hanging from her red welted left wrist as her fingers gripped the steering wheel before her. The sister cuff lay still hidden under the sleeve of her light red and black flannel shirt. Her earlier desperation to get the cuffs off seemed to dwindle more and more as she constantly found herself crossing lines she wouldn't have before the world went to shit. All in the name of surviving to find that mythical somewhere safe.

Whether Danny believed it or not, Callie deserved to be wearing the handcuffs.

At Danny's quick beep signaling they were ready to depart, Callie unbuttoned her shirt. Stripped down to her gray tank top, she balled up the shirt and wiped away the blood hindering her vision through the front windshield. Fingers tapping a frenzied rhythm along the steering wheel, and silver hand cuffs glistening in the fading sun light Callie took three deep breaths.

The final beep from the RV behind Callie startled her. Starting the Bug, she spared a final glance to the bodies of Mike and Nina. Feeling the tears begin to fall she was glad to be alone for a little while as their little caravan began to leave.

No stop signs, speed limit

Nobody's gonna slow me down

Like a wheel, gonna spin it

Nobody's gonna mess me round

Hey Satan, paid my dues

Playing in a rocking band

Hey Momma, look at me

I'm on the highway to the promised land

I'm on the highway to Hell

~Highway to Hell, ACDC