Chapter Twenty One

From our position on the sidelines, we observed the prison. I studied the river that cut us off from it, glad that there was a bridge for us to get across as the water didn't look too inviting. We were silent as we studied the building, musing in our own thoughts as we mapped the place out. The perimeter between the two fences thankfully didn't look too overrun by walkers, enough for Daryl and I to handle for sure. Though the concern was exactly how they got in between the two fences and my mind wondered over the likelihood of a gap somewhere that would prove to be an issue. It could be manageable though, I told myself, and it would be worth it in the end.

The entrance to the prison led into a small fenced off courtyard type compound which looked big enough to park the necessary vehicles we would be expecting inside, secure away from walkers from all directions. The grassy grounds through another gate to this courtyard was truly overrun by the dead inmates and was definitely something Daryl and I could not tackle on our own. At the top of the compound too, it led into the main part of the prison and the doors to it were wide open, allowing more walkers to roam in and out. It definitely was not worth tackling alone. Our focus now was clearing out the small courtyard as well as clearing and securing as much as the perimeter as we could.

"Thankfully the perimeter looks to be sectioned off as it goes 'round." Daryl muttered, pointing towards one of the guard towers. "Easier for us to tackle parts of it 'nd patch up as much as we can." We were currently crouched down in an overgrown area with full view of the prison so we could make plans without having to worry too much about passing walkers. Toby lay between us, his head on his paws and his eyes set straight.

"So we're heading to the main gates first?" I asked, taking deep breaths to calm my nerves. I could feel my hands shaking slightly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Daryl nod.

"We secure the main gates 'nd the gates into the prison grounds 'nd we should be fine." He muttered, before pointing to the guard tower that was nearest to the entrance. "We'll head to that tower first, clear between the fences 'nd patch up the holes. We can then use the tower to have a look see how badly the rest of the prison's fences fair. If it looks unmanageable then we'll settle for what we can manage 'nd go get the others. If not, then we'll do it all as quickly as we can."

"You make it sound so simple." I sighed, as I turned to meet the hunter's gaze. Daryl quirked a small smile before rising to his feet.

"Let's get started then." Daryl told me, urging me to follow him as he made his way towards the bridge across the river. "First part's easy." He threw over his shoulder at me. I sighed once more before trotting after him, clicking my tongue to urge Toby to join me at my heels.

The first part was easy Daryl had said - just approaching the prison. The closer we got, the more magnificent the place looked. Never in my life would I have imagined that I would describe a prison as magnificent but it seemed appropriate for the moment.

The bridge was sturdy enough, though creaked a little as the man stepped onto it. With his crossbow ready, he gestured for me to follow and we headed over the bridge and approached the prison, following along the side. Daryl dispatched the walkers lingering by the fences that noticed our approach quickly and silently, retrieving his arrows by yanking them without effort from the rotten skulls of his victims. Daryl had told me before that bullets would have to be a last resort as attracting attention to ourselves wasn't something we desired right now, so my rifle was slung onto my back and my knife was my chosen weapon for the moment. Some wandered too close and I ended up taking three walkers on our run and the sounds of snarling behind me told me that Toby was having his fair share of killing too. I didn't look back to see, I kept my eyes fixed on Daryl's back.

"Son of a-" Daryl muttered, once he reached the entrance. Eyeing it myself, I noticed the main gates were locked by a heavy looking iron padlock. Certainly not what we needed. I glanced at the hunter, taking in his annoyed expression, before turning around to watch out for approaching walkers while he studied the gate. Toby crouched beside me, snarling at the dead stumbling towards us but thankfully not leaving my side.

"Can you by chance pick a lock?" I asked, half-heartedly. Daryl snorted in reply.

"Yeah, sure. Let me find my hairpin." He replied sarcastically and I swallowed the lump in my throat hard, trying to keep the grip on my knife steady.

"Alright, fine. What do we do now then? Climb the fence?"

"We'll need to 'ave this gate open at some point for the RV 'nd stuff to get in." Daryl told me, his tone absent. I lurched forward then as a female walker stumbled towards Daryl's occupied figure. The hunter didn't bat an eye as the body dropped behind him, perhaps too close for comfort, and instead raised an eyebrow at me. "Can I borrow ya rifle?" I frowned and Daryl didn't even wait for a reply before he fumbled with the weapon hanging over my shoulder, yanking it over my head forcefully. I stumbled back a little before quickly gripping the fence to get balance.

"What are you doing?" I asked, confused as he threw his crossbow over the fence, where it landed in the safe compound we were trying to get into, and cocked the rifle. Glancing around, I watched as Toby leaped forward and successfully latched his jaws into the throat of a walker, ripping it out in clean succession. The body dropped and I wasted no time stepping forward and plunging my knife into the walker's head before Toby could finish it off. Eyeing my dog, with its teeth pair and bloodied, I staggered quickly back to Daryl's side.

"Takin' a leaf from Shane's book." Daryl muttered in reply to my question before raising the rifle to the padlock. I knew what he was going to do but couldn't say anything fast enough before the echoing gun shot was fired. Alerting every walker nearby of our presence, of course. I cringed a little and even Toby paused, turning to us with his ears cocked.

"Daryl!" I hissed, shocked by his actions. The man ignored me completely and instead took another shot at the padlock. Fear built up within me as more walkers got closer, their eyes hungry and their pace agitated. There sure was more than Toby and I could handle. "Daryl, that's not helping us here!" Another gunshot.

"Got it." Daryl muttered, flinging aside the padlock and heaving the gate open with all his strength, grunting at the exertion.

I stabbed the closest walker in the head before it had chance to grab at me, my blade sinking straight through its skull and into its brain, the familiar crunch and squish hitting my ears. Before I could turn to another, strong arms grabbed hold of me and pulled me backwards into the prison compound. I was flung aside as Daryl quickly slammed the gates shut, just as the walkers reached us, pounding in protest from the separation from the their prospect of food. Toby growled at them from our side, even attempting to bite at them through the mesh of the fence.

"Get the rope." Daryl cried, keeping the gate closed while trying to keep away from the biting and clawing of the walkers. I nodded quickly, despite the hunter not looking.

Without a moments hesitation, I rushed over and began to rummage through Daryl's bag and found his request. I wasted no time in getting to my feet and jumping to Daryl's side and securing the gate as best I could. While I did this, Daryl had produced his hunting knife from his belt and was dispatching as many walkers as he could, keeping a tight hold still on the fence. Once the final walker fell, I had managed to secure the gate effectively, but I was panting from sudden exhaustion and glancing at Daryl, I saw he was no better.

"First part's easy, huh?" I muttered to the hunter, who was now slouching on the ground, with a raised eyebrow. Daryl smirked and merely shrugged. I shook my head in almost disbelief before turning back to the gates. "Not sure that's gonna hold off a load of them." I muttered, pointing to me hastily secured fence. The tent rope was doing an alright job at the moment, but I didn't have much hopes of it holding out too long.

"Doesn't need to be." The hunter replied, hauling himself to his feet. "Only needs to last a little while. I told ya before, the RV will have something more secure." I nodded at Daryl's pseudo-reassuring tone before turning towards the prison. Our entrance had stirred up a lot of commotion from the inmates within the grass compound of the prison, as now some were staggering over and some were rattling at the fence in an attempt to get to us. Thankfully there was yet another heavy padlock on that gate too, keeping us safely separated from them and I was thankful we wouldn't be needing to open that any time soon.

"Should we try get rid of some of them?" I asked, nodding to them vaguely. Daryl glanced over his shoulder at them, studying them thoughtfully for a moment before shook his head. He grunted to himself before wandered over to where his crossbow lay, picking it up and quickly examining it.

"Got work to do." He muttered, instead strolling over towards the gate that led into the space between the two perimeter fences. He didn't even pause before yanking the door open and raising his crossbow. With a pause, the hunter glanced over his shoulder and gestured for me to follow. With a sigh, I picking up the rifle that Daryl had dropped in the rush and bag Daryl had discarded too. Ushering Toby to do the same, I followed after him.

We worked together silently as we ploughed through the first part, both fitting into an almost routine. Daryl's job was to kill the walkers, while mine was to patch up the holes in the fence the best I could. I used my knife to cut the tent rope up so we hand enough and Daryl would hold off any that tried to get to me from the other side while I quickly pulled the splits in the fences together and secured them. No words were spoke between us as we carried out these jobs with haste, Daryl communicating instead with a series of hand gestures and nods of the head. I got used to it pretty quickly and adapted to his methods. What I realised then that Daryl was right - this could be manageable between us. Even Toby was making good use of himself and was aiding Daryl in the dispatching, making himself proud in the hunter's eyes.

Once the first section was clear and we reached the guard tower, we paused and Daryl turned to acknowledge me properly for the first time since we secured the main entrance.

"I'll go up first, make sure it's safe." I nodded and waited as the hunter cleared the guard tower. The shepherd waited at my side, a little agitated and took the time we had to growl at the walkers that rattled at the fences. I scoffed to myself as I watched him, shaking my head. "Clear." Daryl's voice cried suddenly from within the tower and Toby and I joined him quickly.

We found Daryl at the top of the tower, peering over the edge and gazing across the grounds of the prison. He was panting from the previous rush and glanced briefly at me as I joined his side before looking out again. The view from the guard's tower was completely different than the view from the ground. We could see so much more of the prison than before, the perimeter and buildings were all in full view and I sighed at the sight of all the walkers within. They were a burden to it all, an obstacle in the way of something that truly could be great. The end result was something I thought about, something that took my mind off the sheer number of obstacles that came between right now and reaching the final result.

"Same again, I guess?" I asked, nodding to the next guard tower. Daryl nodded in my peripheral.

"We'll get it done within the hour." He told me, almost an assurance. It gave me hope, regardless of whether that was his intention or not.

"And then we can bring the family home." I muttered with a sigh. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Daryl smile.


The most vivid and clearest sound I had heard all day. Currently, I was lodging in a rundown café that had long seen any sort of service. Toby and I were holding up behind the counter in the front of house part to the establishment, having cleaned out the kitchens and the cellar. I was thankful to have found more food supplies down there and had cleaned as much as I could carry out, packing them into my bag.

Being sat down, I was out of view from the main windows which aided me in keeping out of sight from the dead. Though the sound confused me and I stopped all movement for a moment to listen.

Knocking. Again. It sounded like someone was knocking on the glass. The thought was frightening. Though curiosity got the better of me and I slowly lifted myself up to take a peek over the top of the counter. Before promptly falling out of sight upon what, or rather who, I saw.

Laurent. Oh God, they'd found me, was my first thought.

Quickly, I mapped in my head the possibly ways out of the small café and tried to work out a way that would leave me hidden from the man's view. My breathing began harsh as my heart pounded and fear welled up within me. Just when I was about to make a run for the kitchen, the sound of his voice stopped me dead.

"Ruby?" His voice was muffled through the glass, but I could hear him clearly even so. I closed my eyes tightly, willing him just to go away. "Ruby, I know you're in there." Fuck. "Can you let me in? It's looking pretty nasty out here." I held a hand over my mouth to muffle any sounds I made. Pretty stupid really, but I couldn't deny that I was terrified. "I ain't gonna hurt you." I closed my eyes tightly, trying to block him out. "Please, it's just me. I promise I won't hurt you, I just want to talk." Talk?!

"Leave me the fuck alone!" I couldn't help it and regretted it immediately when I screamed the words at him. I banged my head against the counter and Toby cocked his head in my direction. There was a pause before Laurent spoke again.

"Ruby, come on. I just want to talk to you, nothing else I swear!" There was something in me that trusted him and I felt the feeling get bigger. Don't let him in, I begged myself.

"Fuck you. As soon as I let you in, you won't hesitate in letting your buddies come and do what they want to me-"

"It's just me." Laurent urged, cutting me off. I paused for a moment. "Take a look and see."

I hated myself as I slowly got to my feet and faced the man. Sure enough, Laurent stood alone. His eyes were imploring into mine, begging me to open the door. Beside me, Toby stood snarling - probably not a good sign. I eyed the man suspiciously, not making a move towards him. Over his shoulder though, I spotted something move. At first I thought it was one of his men before I realised that their movements were stumbling and their leg was twisted in an unforgiving angle.

"Behind you." I quickly warned the man that was once may protector, an almost instinctual act. He glanced over his shoulder before turning back to me frantically.

"Let me in, please." He begged, before turning around and taking out the dead man trying to attack him from behind. I swallowed hard as I observed the scene, realising that I truly didn't want this man to die. Even after everything that had happened, this man had done a lot for me. I owed him.

I growled with frustration before rushing forward and unbolting the door to the café. Laurent wasn't paying much attention to me, too busy defending himself the best he could. As soon as I flung open the door, I hissed at the man and he threw himself inside towards safety and together we bolted up the door again. Once inside, the pair of us were silent. I swallowed hard before rounding on the man. Toby stood behind him, his teeth bared and ready.

"What do you want?" I hissed, shoving my way past him and walking towards the counter again where I had left my weapons. I felt much more comfortable once I was in distance of my weapons and turned back to my visitor. Laurent hadn't moved an inch and merely gazed at me. Over his shoulder, a few of the dead were banging on the windows. I swallowed hard, realising I would have to move soon before returning my gaze to Laurent.

"I just want to talk."

"We make a good team, girl." Daryl muttered once we made it back to the main entrance.

The pair of us were covered in blood - not our own thankfully - and were exhausted from our previous actions. Though we had done the best we could - secured the perimeter and patched up the holes - there was still an overwhelming number of walkers within the prison, though we were safe enough in our little compound for now. During our little lap of the prison, most of the walkers had lost track of our whereabouts and at the moment, none of them were smart enough to realise we had returned back to where we started again. Instead, they wandered aimlessly within the grounds, bashing into each over and occasionally stumbled over their own feet.

I smiled in return to Daryl's statement and glanced around at our location, recovering my breathing.

"So this is our new home." I muttered, nodding. It was an uplifting thought. "What happens now?" I turned to the hunter, folding my arms and awaiting orders. Daryl had his back to me though when I looked over at him, staring out towards the main gates, his shoulders strangely tense. I frowned at his posture, slowly withdrawing my arms. I approached a few steps. "Daryl?"

"I'm gonna go find the others." He muttered, so quietly I barely caught what he said.

"You mean we?" I asked, thinking I must have just heard him by mistake. Daryl turned to me, an apologetic expression on his face.

"Nah, just me." He held my gaze only briefly before dropping it quickly. I stared at up, opening gaping in confusion.

"And what am I supposed to do?" I asked, slowly. Daryl glanced around, keeping his gaze away from me, and I realised his intentions before he could answer. "You want me to stay here?! You're going to leave me?" Again. My stomach plummeted. I couldn't be left alone again, not after all that had happened to us over the past couple of days.

"I'll be back." Daryl said, softly, finally meeting my gaze. "I'll be quicker on my own. I'll be able to navigate easier 'nd won't have to worry 'bout keepin' ya safe."

"You don't have to worry about me!" I cried, hating how desperate my voice sounded. "I'll look after myself and I'll do whatever you ask me to do. I promise, please just don't leave me." Daryl's eyes softened and he shook he head once before turning away and walking towards the main gates. I trailed after him, absently, though kept my distance still.

Taking out his knife, he stabbed the couple of walkers who were rattling at the fence. Once they were dead he dropped his crossbow on the floor and glanced over his shoulder at me, his expression still apologetic.

"Gonna climb it, so I don't waste the rope." He explained. Without letting me speak he had already heaved himself up and was climbing over the top of the gates. I watched wordlessly as he flung his legs over and dropped, almost gracefully, to the ground. After shaking himself off, he then turned back to me. "Throw my crossbow over."

"Daryl please-"

"No." Daryl shook his head, his tone firm. I walked over to the gate to stand in front of him. In desperation I gripped hold of the fence and pleaded silently with Daryl. He shook his head once more, his expression more pained now. "You'll be safe in there. We cleared out the perimeter so you'll be fine if you stay in there. Keep to this compound 'nd the first guard tower. Don't leave the prison. Don't follow me."

"Please, I can't stay here by myself. I won't be left alone again." Before I could stop myself, the tears were trying to fight through. A bit pathetic really but desperation was building within me. I didn't want Daryl to leave of a sudden, Daryl's hands were placed over mine between the fence and he squeezed them tightly. It was certainly a step I wasn't expecting and I frowned at our hands before turning to look at his face. Locking eyes with the hunter I saw nothing but sincerity in them.

"I will come back. Even if the others ain't there, I'll come back for you." He promised. "Ya 'ave got the bag so ya got enough food to last ya, though I should make it back before night fall. I will not leave ya, girl. I can promise that." I bit back a sob and Daryl removed one of his hands from mine to rummage through his pockets. He pulled out a gun magazine and he handed it to me through the fence. "The gun is in the bag, that's incase ya need it. Remember though, bullets are a last resort." I nodded. "Now throw my crossbow over. Please." Reluctantly, I pried my hands away from Daryl and the fence and stumbled over to the discarded weapon. It was surprisingly heavier than I expected though I managed to throw it over the high fence to its rightful owner.

"Promise you'll be careful." I breathed, stumbling back to the fence. Despite only being a metre away from the hunter, the separation of the fence made him seem so far away. Once he had picked up his crossbow, Daryl turned back to me and gripped the fence once more. I grabbed his hand without a second thought, relishing the human contact. Daryl flinched at the contact, but didn't pull away.

"You too." He nodded. With one final squeeze, Daryl gently pulled his hand away from mine and backed away from me. "Have the gate open 'nd clear for us if ya can." I nodded, watching as he continued to back away from me. "Don't do anythin' stupid, girl." And with that, the hunter disappeared into the trees and I continued staring after him. I was unsure how long I stood there, just staring at the spot he disappeared before finally prying myself away from the fence and eyeing the prison behind me.

"Looks like it's just you and me, Toby." I muttered, glancing down at the dog, who tilted his head in acknowledgement. "Again."

I kept one eye on the café windows and the other on my guest. We were sat at one of the tables in complete silence, after Laurent declared he wanted to sit down. It was awkward to say the least. Laurent's eyes gazed around the café, while I tried to focus my thoughts. How could I have been so stupid to let him in? His hands rested happily on the table surface, where I could see them, while my were tucked underneath, my gun in my hands. Laurent's eyes flickered down briefly and I knew he knew, though he didn't comment on it.

"So?" I breathed after the silence had dragged out long enough. Laurent raised an eyebrow. "What do you want to talk about?" There was a pause before the man leant forward, resting his elbows on the table between us.

"How have you been doing?" He asked, softly. I snorted at his question.

"Fabulous." I sneered. Laurent was unaffected by my tone. "Get to the point, Laurent."

"A lot of people died that night." He sure didn't beat around the bush, I realised."Am I to understand that you had a hand in what happened?" I shrugged, tightening my grip on my weapon. "Jessica says you were the one who started it."

"Yes, well my sister is nothing but the Governor's whore." I hissed back, narrowing my eyes at the man before me. "How did you find me?" At the question, Laurent leant back in his chair. Behind him the dead were getting agitated but the glass looked stable enough for now.

"Boss's been sending out supply runs more frequently now, I've been spending more time out here than in camp-"

"Work getting too hard for you?" I muttered, sarcastically. For the first time during the conversation, Laurent glared at me. Despite this, he ignored my comment.

"Found the van you stole abandoned." He continued. "Unlucky for you, I was siphoning cars earlier that day and I remembered there distinctively being a red truck. Remembered it cos it reminded me of mine. It was the only car I didn't siphon." How convenient for us. Laurent raised an eyebrow at the sneer on my face. "It was the only car that wasn't there. Doesn't take a genius to work out you had taken the truck."

"Regular Sherlock Holmes, aren't you." I mumbled. Again, Laurent ignored me.

"We've been moving around a lot, trying to find a suitable place for our numbers. I've been looking out for you since that night though I hadn't really found much apart from houses that looked like someone could have held up in them, but lets be honest it could have been anyone, not you. But then," He chuckled a little. "I was out on one of my runs and I heard a noise. A noise that sounded distinctively like a car alarm going off." He paused to judge my reaction. I remained emotionless. "I followed the noise, though it stopped all of a sudden. Kinda strange. But I found a truck, completely totalled around a tree, the truck you had taken. Figured you'd be holding up somewhere near if you had been in an accident like that so I waited around. Saw you leaving for the outskirts the next day and have been keeping track of you ever since."

There was a long silence after Laurent had finished and I tried to not let my emotions show. I was horrified with the idea of being followed. How stupid could I have been? I should have been more careful and look where it had landed me! Idiot.

"Do you want a round of applause?" I muttered, monotone. Laurent snorted and shook his head.

"You're lucky that it's just me." At this, I raised an eyebrow.

"Just you?" I challenged, glancing over his shoulder again. The dead stared back.

"No one else knows you're here but me." He told me sincerely. "No matter what happens now, whatever happens between us, I promise you that I won't give you up." His words made me stop and I gazed at the man before me, trying to pry out the lie, though I could find no such thing.

"Why?" I breathed, quietly, barely finding my voice. He sighed and shrugged.

"Something in me wants to protect you, you and your sister. It's just you're making me work that much harder." He smirked before sighing. "I don't pride myself in being such an excellent tracker, so watch your back. It may not just be me out there. You know just as well as I do who you can come across out here." With that he rose to his feet and I frowned.

"That's all you wanted to say?" I asked. He shrugged.

"Just letting you know that I'm here and see how you're doing." He told me. I narrowed my eyes at his tone. Without so much as a word, Laurent turned around and headed towards the café doors, weapons out. "I'll help you get rid of these ones, but I think it's best you move on from here. I think you've overstayed your welcome." He gestured to the hungry dead outside.

Heeding to his warning, I gathered up my things and joined him at the door. He barely let me reach him before he had opened the door and was stepping out the café. The dead jumped on him immediately, but he was too skilled for their strength. He had already taken out three of them before I had the chance to sink my knife into one of their skulls. Once the last one fell, I glanced around the street, realising that Laurent was right. I had overstayed my welcome.

Glancing back at the man who had saved my life all that time back, I saw he was already marching down the street in the opposite direction, barely a care of the dead around him.

"Is this going to be a regular thing?" I called, not able to just let him leave without saying something. Laurent's figure stopped and he spun on his heel. Even from the distance apart from each other I saw the smirk on the old man's face.

"Watch yourself, Ruby." And with that Laurent was gone.

Though I had a feeling that wasn't the last I would see of him.

Daryl had been gone a while.

I had barely moved since he left me, having decided to take up sitting cross-legged in the middle of the entrance compound, eyes transfixed on the road Daryl had headed down. I just waited for the sight of the convoy of vehicles to come.

"I will come back. Even if the others ain't there, I'll come back for ya." He had promised. "I will not leave ya, girl. I can promise that."

And surprisingly I trusted his words. There wasn't a part of me that doubted the hunter and that was probably the reason I wasn't a miserable wreck right now. I was alone again and yet I knew it wouldn't be for long. Because Daryl wouldn't leave me. Oh no. He had promised and I trusted him.

In the lonely waiting, I thought about the Dixon brothers. Truly thought about them for the first time. Together with all their differences and yet they were so similar. Thinking of Merle ached - even if the man was an ass, he was a friend. A part of me knew that neither Merle nor Michonne would have left me that fateful day so my head burned with possibilities to what could have come about my two friends. I would convince myself everyday that they would be fine. They had to be. If I could make it on my own, then they could make it together. I did not doubt that I would see my two friends again one day and I smiled at the thought of Daryl being reunited with his brother once more.

Daryl Dixon. My thoughts now whirled around one man; my companion and saviour on numerous occasions. My initial meeting with the hunter weren't the best and I had been threatened with an arrow in the face twice now, both times quite unpleasant. And yet I thought back to all those times I would spend sat with the hunter and Toby, just making simple small talk that didn't really mean anything. Despite his perhaps awkward exterior, I felt comfortable with the man and I trusted him with all I had. Trusted him with my life. It was Daryl Dixon who had found me amongst the chaos, when I thought everyone had gone and left me, he came through. Such a selfless, caring man and yet I could guarantee that everyone in camp was realising this. Daryl Dixon was something else, that was for sure.

Walker activity around the prison had died down since Daryl and my intrusion. This put me at ease a bit more and I decided I would stretch my legs a little and walk to the guard tower to have a better view of what was to be our new home.

Toby followed me obediently and though I knew Daryl and I had cleared out the perimeter, I still held my knife and Daryl's gun at the ready, just incase. I reached the tower safely though and retraced my steps from before, up to the top of the tower and leant over the balcony. Toby stood up on his back paws when I urged him to, his front ones resting on the balcony beside me, to allow himself the chance to look around too. I chuckled a little at the sight and patted the dog's head.

"Just imagine when we clear out this place, Toby. You'll have all those grounds to run around in without having to worry about anything trying to eat you. Just think, you could be a normal dog again." Toby grumbled with satisfaction, or I thought it was, and we remained in silence again some more. It wasn't as if Toby would reply anyway.

The sky was getting slightly dim and I realised that night was going to come soon. The thought made my throat tighten but I remembered Daryl's promise and I remained faithful towards the hunter. Toby, however, seemed to disagree and a whining noise came from the dog beside me. I tried to shush the animal, rubbing my hand over his head.

"He'll come back for us, Toby." I urged the dog to have faith in his favourite hunter. How could he spend every waking moment with Daryl and yet have little trust in him? "He promised he would, didn't he?" I realised after a while that it sounded more like I was trying to convince myself rather than Toby and I chuckled to myself. Still talking to Toby like he can understand you, huh? "Daryl will come back." I breathed one last time, resting my head on my hands and sighing. I felt the coldness of Toby's tongue as he licked at my ear and I shuddered away, laughing. "It's just a matter of time."

The sky was turning red when Toby's ears suddenly picked up something I hadn't. I glanced at the dog before turning back down to the ground. A rumbling noise? An earthquake perhaps? I frowned at myself. Really?

Toby let out a bark and was suddenly rushing away and down the tower stairs, startling me. I glanced back at the dog before turning back to the ground - to see approaching lights.

They were here!

I was sprinting down the stairs in a second and rushing back to the entrance. I had to get the gates open ready for them, I quickly thought after remembering Daryl's last request. A gathering of walkers had congregated at the entrance when I reached it and I hissed with distaste. Taking out my knife, I killed as many as I could before their attention was diverted towards the approaching convoy and I turned my attention on opening the gates.

As I had tied the rope quite inefficiently I realised that there was no really smart way to undo them quickly so with a sigh, after thinking about all my efforts, I began to cut at the rope with my knife. Glancing up, I noticed a motorcycle lad the convoy, followed by the familiar sight of an RV. Seeing the camper made my heart leap. Both from memories of its owner and the prospect of the survivors within.

After discarding the useless rope, I began to heave at the gate to open it. This took my longer than it had taken Daryl before, as the hunter had far more strength than myself, though I managed it eventually. I opened the gate wide enough for the vehicles to get in then backed up and waited for their arrival, ushering Toby back out of their way too.

The motorcycle came first, a familiar figure as its rider. The sight of the man made my stomach clench suddenly and I couldn't help but smile as the hunter parked up his bike and ran over to my side, ready to help me close the gate. I was grinning from ear to ear when I met his gaze. He returned it with a slight nod of his head, taking in my expression, thoughtfully.

"Ya alright?" Daryl breathed. I nodded, not finding it in me to speak. "Told ya I'd be back."

The RV took up most of the room, though the green Hyundai and red Chevrolet managed to squeeze in beside it. Once they were all in, Daryl and I wasted no time in shutting the gate and I didn't have time to catch a glimpse of any of the drivers or passengers of the cars. I didn't have much time to process anything as the main focus was to secure the gate and make us safe once more.

Wordlessly, Daryl produced a tough looking chain and began to tie the fence up tightly with it. I met the hunter's gaze with a raised eyebrow and he jolted his head in the direction of the RV. I nodded with understanding and said nothing as Daryl then brought out a metal padlock and clasped the closed, locking us away from the outside world.

"Do you have the key to this one or are we going to rely on Shane's methods of unlocking things?" I muttered, finding my voice. Daryl smirked and showed me a key that he had been keeping in his pocket. "You found your bike, I see."

"T-Dog brought it for me." He told me. "Silly bastard almost crashed it apparently. Would have put an arrow in his ass if he did." I smirked back.

"Did you thank him?" I asked. Daryl snorted.

"Ya my mother now or something?" He muttered, his expression softer. Satisfied, I smiled and without letting the hunter think, I flung my arms around him.

"Thank you for coming back." I told him quietly and he replied with a muttering of 'told ya I would'. His body was tense as I hugged him and he didn't return the embrace. I didn't care though, glad to see him again. Without thinking, I added; "I'm glad you're safe." before pulling away and rushing to greet the others, not letting the hunter even process what had happened.

I felt a healthy rush of heat creep up onto my face and I knew a blush had made it's way onto my cheeks. Figures. I didn't have time to think about what this meant before I was suddenly engulfed in a hug from a certain blonde friend.

"Oh God," Andrea breathed, squeezing me tight. I returned her hug though perhaps with less enthusiasm. I may have done if I wasn't so exhausted. I was thankful anyway to find her safe and sound. The last memories of the woman sprung to mind as I thought of Dale dying in my arms. Swallowing hard, I tried to concentrate on the presence. "I'm so glad you're alright, I thought we had lost you at the farm." I pulled away and smiled at my friend.

"I'm glad you're alright too." I told her, sincerely.

I was surprised as I greeted like this equally with the rest of them and I put their overly-friendly contact down to the fact they were relieved to see someone else alive.

The Grimes family were all still in tact, I noted, and I was surprised when Lori wrapped her arms around me in a hug. I was shocked at the contact from the woman, but accepted the embrace regardless, glad to find she was alright. Shane hung back beside his best friend, and while Rick gave me a hug of his own, Shane merely nodded in acknowledgement and even gave me a small smile. It was something at least. T-Dog's bear like arms practically lifted me off the ground and the sound of his laughter tickled my ears. In comparison, Glenn's arms were much more scrawny and yet the Asian boy still managed to hold me tightly. It was a heart-breaking sight when I turned to the Greene family, only Herschel and Maggie remaining. I swallowed hard and tried to smile at the pair of them before holding the remaining Greene daughter tightly as I watched her trying to hold back a sob. Herschel's expression was blank though he managed a nod when I turned to him. He looked to be a broken man and I realised that Daryl had probably told them about what had happened to the rest of their family.

Selfish as it was, I was glad I wasn't the barer of that news.

"Well," Rick began, running a hand through his hair and sighing. "The last few days have been quite eventful haven't they." He glanced back at the prison before turning to Herschel. "How come you never mentioned the prison before? I'm sure it wasn't on the map?" He asked the man, softly.

"We're quite a way from the farm, Daryl and Ruby must have been hiking for hours on end before coming across this place. I don't usually engulf myself in this variety of knowledge and while I knew there was a prison nearby, I didn't know exactly where it was." Herschel explained slowly before turning to me. "I'd like to know what has become of my daughter?"

I froze up at the question, not expecting it and taken back at the intensity in the man's gaze. How on earth could I tell this man what had happened to Beth?

"She went down." Daryl's voice piped in suddenly. I didn't realise the man was standing next to me until now. "Jimmy and Patricia too." He glanced at me before turning back to Herschel. "Saw it before we got away. There was nothin' we could 'ave done." A pause. "I'm sorry." Herschel nodded before turning away and taking a few paces away from the group. Maggie swallowed down the tears, staring into the ground. Beside her, Glenn reached over and took her hand in his. For support.

"What about the others?" Shane asked, his tone surprisingly soft compared to his usual swag. "Dale? Carol?"

"Them too." I breathed before Daryl could say anything. I couldn't let him take the entire burden. I raised my gaze to Andrea's, who nodded once and smiled slightly.

"Dale got shot in the neck, died from it." She explained bluntly before sniffing and wiping a stray tear from her eye. She then turned back to me with a confused yet solemn gaze. "Carol?"

"She was bit by-" I paused, realising what I was about to say and froze at the thought of it. Bit by Dale? The mystery of Dale's turning was certainly something that needed to be questioned and yet I wondered if now was the best time to be questioning it. So soon after the deaths of the fallen. I didn't have to make the decision, however, as Daryl made it for me.

"Carol got bit by a walker." He told them all. "We killed it though it had already bit her." He paused and glanced down at his crossbow. He raised it slightly to emphasis what he was getting at. "We made sure she didn't turn." Rick nodded slowly at this before turning to his wife, who had taken the news with surprise and I could tell she was trying to hold back the tears.

"Sophia-" Lori began before cutting herself off with a choking sob.

My heart stopped at the name and I realised then that I had yet to see the little girl. Or Carl for that matter. Oh God, please don't let anything have happened to them.

"Where is she?" I asked, eyes frantic. Eyes wandered over to the RV and I took the hint. "Does she know?" When no one answered, I turned to Daryl. The man shrugged sadly.

"Told her when I found them all. Don't think she believed me though." He explained softly. I nodded and realised then that the burden now fell on me.

"I'll talk to her." With that, I marched over to the RV and opened the door without another word.

Inside I found the two children sat at the back of the camper, lying on the beds and staring up at the ceiling. They were chatting quietly together and I hated to break the serene atmosphere between them. Coughing lightly, I got their attention. Almost instantly I was tackled by a double hug and I couldn't help but laugh at their enthusiasm. They had joined the overly-friendly bandwagon it seemed.

"Are you both alright?" I asked, prying their arms from around my middle and crouching down in front of them both. They both nodded simultaneously.

"Is it true that you and Daryl killed all the walkers in this prison, all by yourselves?" Carl asked, in awe. I chuckled a little.

"Bit of an exaggeration. We cleared out part of them, enough for us to be safe before we decide what to do next." I explained. My eyes wandered to Sophia before I turned back to Carl with a smile. "Carl, do you mind if I talk to Sophia or a moment?" When the boy looked like he was going to protest, I quickly added. "Toby has been excited to see you again. Can you go keep him company while we girls talk?" That caught Carl's attention. He smiled at his friend before leaving the RV, shutting the door behind him.

As soon as the door shut, I suddenly felt tense. Turning back to the girl in front of me, I saw nothing but the innocent little Sophia I first came across in the forest all that time back. Alone, scared. How could I tell her that she had lost her mother? I took the girl's hand and led her back to the bedding area of the RV and sat her down on one of the beds.

"I know what you want to talk about." Sophia spoke before I even opened my mouth. This brought a lump to my throat and for a moment, I couldn't say anything in reply. There was a long pause. "She's really gone isn't she?" There was so little emotion in her voice - it was worrying.

"Yes." I breathed. After another pause, single sniff was heard from the girl and I knew that she was trying to contain herself.

"Were you with her?" I couldn't find it in me to answer so I merely nodded when Sophia met my gaze. They were glazed over in tears now, I noticed. "Did she suffer?" I shook my head quickly.

"Quite the opposite." I tried. I paused to swallow the lump in my throat before continuing. "Before Daryl-" I cut myself off, knowing nothing else needed to be said about what Daryl did. "She wanted me to tell you something." I saw Sophia's hands work frantically at the doll in her hands and I ached to see her suffering. "She wanted me to tell you that she loves you." The first tears fell silently down her innocent face. "You know she does, right?"

"I love her too." She said between tears. "She's gone-" I wrapped my arms around Sophia as she broke out into sobs, her tiny hands clinging to my shirt in desperation. My heart just ached at the sound of her sobs and I cried silently with her. I kissed her head softly.

"We'll remember your momma, Sophia. We'll keep her memories alive. She's not gone as long as we remember her. Remember her for the wonderful, strong, beautiful woman that she was." I told her, gently. "And you will never be alone. I will always be here for you, Sophia. I promise you now that I will take care of you and keep you safe. And together we will remember your wonderful momma." Sophia's sobs shook her tiny body and I held her tightly to keep her from collapsing.

"Thank you, Ruby." She whispered, through the tears.

"I know you'll look after Sophia for me."

"I can think of no one better."

(Author's Note): Me again! ;) Thanks a lot for the support for the previous chapter and hopefully you'll enjoy this one too. I guess things may have rushed to the prison, but I didn't want to drag the story on for too long. I hope you guys will agree.

No one else has died (yet), are you happy?! I know I said I would but I didn't find it in me to kill anyone else off just yet. Not right after what happened at the farm. Give it time though and I'll be killing characters off left, right and centre! ;) I just realised though that after making the changes that I did, I've kept Shane alive long enough to make it to the prison, which is something that doesn't happen in either the comics or the series. So, his presence I guess will be very interesting - especially when he's still all loco and what not. I haven't really included Shane a lot in this story yet (not as much as he is included in the show at least), but I guess I'm a bit hesitant to start writing him all crazy/evil and whatever. I don't really want to overdo it just because of my personal hatred for the man. ;)

As I am a British fan of this show, I unfortunately along with my fellow Brits are an episode behind all you Americans! Which sucks to say the least as I'm a sucker for looking up promos and spoilers. I think the UK is on episode 6 now (correct me if I'm wrong) which will be airing this friday, whilst you lucky Americans have already seen it on Sunday! Very jealous, I must say ;) All I can say is, that after all the drama from Lori/T-Dog, I cannot wait for the Dixon confrontation! Phew, I can sense it's gonna be good!

Thanks again for all your support and if you have any thoughts on this chapter or the story in general please let me know. Even if it's to give critisism (which I don't mind as long as it's justified). I'll have an update up as soon as!