Chapter Fifty Seven
"How do you know him?"
Morgan's unconscious body had been laid down on stretcher we had found on the street, until we figured out a way to get in. Carl and Merle stood guard by his body while the rest of us ventured towards the door. My eyes were trained on the man on the stretcher, trying to comprehend the situation. I thought about the last time I had seen him, the time he picked Toby and I up off the street and took us in. No questions asked. Morgan Jones was a good guy, that was a statement I was sure about. He and his son had shared their food with me, allowed me into their home. They had no intention to get rid of me and it was my decision to ultimately leave them. To try and protect them.
And now here we were. Now Morgan had tried to kill me, along with the others too. It certainly wasn't the same welcome greeting I had gotten before and that only made me think. What had happened since I left them?
Turning to Rick, I noted the curiosity on his face. Behind him, both Daryl and Michonne looked on. All waiting. Finally I sighed.
"After I was split from Michonne and Merle," I began. "I spent a lot of time on the road, like you know. Just Toby and me." I shrugged. "Mostly." I glanced back over my shoulder again at the trio behind us. "One day I found Morgan. Him and his son took me in and gave me a place to stay. I stayed with them for a short while, they gave me food and welcomed me into their home. But they weren't the first people I'd come across on the road and I knew I'd have to leave them. The Governor was always one step behind me and I knew if I'd stayed with Morgan and Duane then they would have gotten hurt. The Governor had always been a destructive force, hunting me, and I left to save Morgan and his son." I shrugged at Rick once more. "That's it. What about you?" It was my turn to be curious now and I raised an eyebrow, waiting for Rick to elaborate on his story. The man sighed.
"Before the outbreak struck, I was shot on duty. I don't think I've told you this." Rick began, running a hand over his chin. I shook my head, a frown on my face. "Well, I had to be rushed to hospital but I don't remember a right lot, just blurs and mostly Shane shouting at me to 'hang on' and giving me some flowers." Rick paused. "I fell into a coma and when I woke up the whole world had changed. Of course, I didn't know to what extent so I a lost soul at first. I found a lot of bodies everywhere and when I went outside, everything just seemed to be abandoned. I panicked, who wouldn't? I headed home, to try and find Lori and Carl but they weren't there. I didn't know what to do." Rick's eyes flickered in Morgan's direction. "And that's when I met him." His eyes returned to me. "He saved my life. After that, it was probably a similar story to yours. They took me in, fed me and informed me of the walkers. Apparently Atlanta was the nearest safe base and that was where I was going to search to find Lori and Carl. I went on ahead of Morgan because he wanted to train Duane how to shoot first. I took a radio with me, said I'd call him when I got there, tell him if it was safe or not. I tried calling him but I didn't get any answer."
"He said you didn't." I breathed, putting pieces together in my head. Rick raised a confused eyebrow. "He said you never called him."
"We met a cop though beforehand. He'd been in a coma since the start of the outbreak so he didn't really know what was going on. Duane and I took him in and he told us about how he trying to look for his wife and son, and we told him about the safe bases. He decided that they must have gone to Atlanta. He went first, I said we'd follow after a couple of days. He took a walkie talkie with him and said he'd radio in when he got there to tell me if it was safe...
Never got a call."
"You're the cop that he met." I realised, completely struck by this revelation.
"What happened to him?"
"I don't know. I'd like to believe that he found his wife and son but I wonder if anyone can ever be that lucky."
Apparently Rick Grimes is that lucky.
"He spoke about me?" Rick asked, quietly. I nodded and Rick ran a tired hand through his hair. "I did call him." I didn't say anything, knowing that Morgan thought otherwise.
"He said you gave him rifles and ammo before you left for Atlanta." I carried on, my memory coming back to me. Rick nodded in confirmation and I glanced at the building behind us. "Do you reckon it was him that emptied the rest of it out?"
"Maybe." Rick murmured. "We'll have to take him inside."
"Don't forget, we've got a job to do 'ere." Daryl reminded everyone. "Still gotta get some supplies. Especially food." Rick thought this over with a frown, his eyes staring directly at Morgan's body over my shoulder. Meeting Daryl's eyes, I saw the man sigh. "How about you stay here with him, wait till he wakes up? A few of us can go scout the town, see what we can find." Rick nodded his head slowly.
"That's a good idea." He sighed before meeting my gaze. Immediately, I shook my head at his silent question.
"I don't think it'll be such a good idea for us to both be there when he wakes up." I told the man. "We don't know how Morgan is right now, I mean, he did just try and kill us. It'll be a bit full on to have us both there at once." I swallowed hard. "I'll go on the supply run and you can be there when he wakes up. I think he'll want to talk to you most anyway between the two of us." Slowly, Rick nodded.
"Carl stays with me." Rick announced, no questions asked.
"I'll stay too." Michonne supplied. "I'll help you take him in." Her tone seemed less that enthusiastic about the job but I gathered she'd realised she was the only likely candidate to stay behind with Rick. Daryl and myself were both already going looting and with the only option left of Merle, I couldn't imagine that leaving the older Dixon with Rick alone was such a great idea. Rick nodded his thanks to the woman before turning to Daryl.
"You carry on down the street, you'll hit a long strip of shops." He informed the hunter. "Hopefully they'll be some supplies there. There's a supermarket on the corner, if I can remember correctly." Daryl nodded before gesturing me to follow. Smiling briefly at Michonne and Rick one last time, I followed him as we made our way over to Merle and Carl.
As Daryl informed Merle that we were leaving, I studied Morgan's unconscious body with a frown on my face. He looked very much the same as before and yet the world around us said otherwise. Had he done all of this? All the spikes? All the warnings? All the traps? The thoughts raced in my head, but I knew answered would be explained when he woke up again. I thought about his son, Duane, and wondered where he was. Was he inside perhaps, waiting for his father? I hoped the boy was alright.
"I had to do it." Carl breathed and I glanced at the boy. He was staring at Morgan's body with a strange look in his eye. Almost fearful. "I had to shoot him." Carl met my gaze then and the boy looked terrified. "I didn't know he was a friend, I didn't know. I had to shoot him, he was shooting at us, he was going to kill-" He cut himself off and stared back down at the body. "I had to do it." Saying nothing and not really know what to say, I reached forward and gripped Carl's hand, squeezing it once. I felt someone nudge my shoulder and smiling once at Carl when he met my gaze, I walked away, following after the Dixon brothers.
We did as Rick instructed, following the street down until we hit a long strip. Observing it briefly, I noted how abandoned the place looked though I knew appearances could be misleading. With the two brothers flanking me, we made our way down the street, looking for any shop that sold food supplies.
"Over there." Merle murmured, nodding to the large supermarket on the end corner of the street, just as Rick had said. When we reached the front of it, we paused before heading in. Eyeing the building, I knew the place would be big, but that meant the bigger possibility of supplies. Also the possibility of more walkers. Sighing, I glanced at the pair beside me.
"How we gonna carry the supplies?" I asked, noting that we hadn't brought any bags to carry anything in. Great. Merle smirked before gesturing to the row of trollies we stood beside. I raised an eyebrow.
"It's what they're made for." Merle grinned, walking over to get one. Daryl sighed to himself before approaching the building and staring through the large wall of glass into it. He attempted to wipe some dust away to peer inside, but after a while gave up and leant back against the window. After a pause, he raised his elbow and banged it against the window.
"Just give it a second." He murmured, eyeing Merle as his brother pushed three trollies towards us.
"What we waitin' for, brother?" Merle asked, casually. Daryl didn't answer and instead turned to me.
"Ya alright?" He asked. I didn't say anything for a moment, thinking the question over before nodding.
"He wasn't like that before." I told them both, shaking my head. "He's a good man-"
"A good man that tried to kill us." Merle muttered, eyeing me with a frown. I shook my head again.
"No." I breathed. "Morgan was - is - good." I paused, looking down at the gun in my hand, thinking again. "He has a son. Duane. He's about Carl and Sophia's age." There was a pause.
"He's probably just inside." Daryl attempted to say and I nodded regardless, knowing that there was a strong possibility that he wasn't there at all. That he was gone. too.
"I wouldn't hold ya hopes up on him remembering ya though, darlin'." Merle began and I turned to the man, a frown on my face. He shrugged. "Well, he didn't remember either you or Officer Friendly enough to stop shooting at ya." I glared at him.
"He was on the top of a building with a mask on." I pointed out. "His visibility wasn't exactly the best, was it?" Merle shrugged again.
"What 'bout when he was on the ground though, huh? He kept on shooting right at the sheriff without battin' at eye-"
"He was shot before he could have a good look at Rick!" I protested, getting angrier. Merle sneered.
"Ya sure 'bout that?"
"That's enough, Merle." Daryl hissed. "Just lay off her." This only made Merle's expression darken and he turned to his little brother then.
"Y'know? I'm gettin' real sick of you tellin' me what to do." Merle muttered though Daryl didn't flinch one bit.
"Bein' on the council kinda means ya have to listen to what I have to say. So shut up." The hunter replied easily. Merle sneered again at him.
"Don't get all high 'nd mighty with that bullshit, Brother." He hissed. "I was only messin' 'bout with her."
"You were bein' a jackass. Ya knew ya were upsettin' her." Merle paused before answering, tilting his head slightly to observe his brother.
"Defensive of her, huh Baby Brother?" Daryl didn't reply straight away, but I jumped in before he could.
"Is this really the time to argue?" I muttered. As if on cue, a body hit the window of the supermarket behind Daryl and I jumped in shock. Surprisingly Daryl remained passive, despite being only behind the glass from the walker. Eyeing the snarling body behind the glass, neither of us said a word for a long moment.
"That is what I was waitin' for." Daryl sighed, glancing between Merle and I before taking one of the trollies. "Lets go." Without a word, Merle and I followed after him to the entrance.
Daryl took care of the one by the window, shooting it down easily with his crossbow. We took a moment then, just to wait to see if anymore were going to follow. Though for a second, everything was quiet. Though this wouldn't provide much comfort. Merle stepped away, crouching down beside something on the ground. I eyed the man's back with curiosity.
"Huh." Merle murmured, standing up. He held out the item towards us. I wasn't quite sure what it was that he was showing us, to me it just looked like a bit of scrap metal. Glancing around, I saw a few more chunks of metal lying around outside the supermarket. "It's from a helicopter. Military listed too."
"How'd you know that?" I asked, curiously.
"Learnt a few things back when I was a Sergeant." Merle replied, turning the piece of metal over before eyeing the street around us. "I'd take guess 'nd say that the thing crashed near here. This is a bit of debris from it." Merle met my gaze. "Question is, where's the rest of it?" Glancing around again, I knew that the few pieces of metal around us wasn't enough to make an entire helicopter so I was curious too as to where the rest of it was. Turning back to Merle, I saw his eyes trail up to the roof of the supermarket and his gaze lingered there for a moment. He said nothing of it and instead threw the piece of metal down with a resounding clank.
"C'mon, lets get this done." Daryl instructed quietly, pushing his trolley into the supermarket first. Merle met my gaze briefly before following after his brother, myself bringing up the rear.
The supermarket was quite vast in size and the fact that everything was in pitch darkness didn't help our visibility either. The shelving units were stacked high, but from what I could gather, there appeared to be a lot of stock still not looted yet too. We had some hope. Without a word, Daryl took out his flashlight, shining the beam around the place. Listening quietly, there didn't appear to be any sounds of shuffling or footsteps. I felt the hunter nudge me before placing a small light into my hand, knowing I'd been impractical enough not to bring my own. I murmured my thanks quietly.
"We'll split up 'nd cover more." Daryl sighed, scanning his flashlight from one end to the other. "I'll take the left, Merle the right 'nd Ruby the middle. It that alright with ya both?"
"Sounds good to me." Merle muttered, already pushing his trolley towards his instructed direction. Meeting my gaze briefly, Daryl nodded once and made the move to leave too. I stopped him quickly though, grabbing his arm.
"Thank you for standing up for me." I quickly gushed out when Daryl stared down at my curiously. "I know how hard that was for you to do, because it's Merle and all that." Daryl shook his head.
"Ya don't have to thank me." He breathed. "And it wasn't hard for me to do either. Merle or not, I ain't gonna let anyone upset ya." I stared up at him for a moment, his words sinking in, before I smiled brightly. I reached up to quickly kiss him lightly, surprised at the smile on Daryl's face when I did so. He was improving with his contact at least. "Stay safe." And with that, I let the hunter go, before heading off down the middle to do my job.
I scanned the small flashlight across the shelves, though I found myself wandering the electric utility aisle, which wouldn't be much use at all. I eyed up the various kitchen appliances; kettles, toasters, blenders, and thought of a time when these things were actually of use. I thought briefly of the time before the outbreak but I didn't allow my thoughts to linger. We'd all grown used to forgetting that lifetime now as thinking back and wishing things were the same again was too painful to comprehend. Though as my thoughts remained, I thought of our heading and the job we were enlisted with now.
The mission to Washington. To escort the 'cure' so to speak. I allowed my mind the drift then to the possibility of everything being alright again, that Elliot could provide the cure to save humanity from extinction. We could start again, rebuild the world and civilisation once more. Though when my mind drifted to what we'd lost, I quickly realised that it was time to stop the wishing for the time being. The 'cure' wasn't going to bring everyone back, that was for sure. Eyeing the items on the shelves once more, I carried on silently.
My eyes were caught on an item at the end though as I was passing and I couldn't help but pause. A camera. Frowning, I tried to think about what my parents looked like and was glad I could still remember them. That they hadn't faded just yet. Though when I tried to think about my friends once before, I struggled. No faces came to mind and I realised with horror that I was forgetting people. I quickly recalled all those who I had encountered in the outbreak, though my mind struggled to truly bring faces to their true light. I remembered Lori though, her face was still fixed in my memory. As was the Governor's, though I doubted I could truly ever rid his horrific face from my nightmares. Eyeing the item, I couldn't help but pick it up to examine it. One simple click to preserve memories. Without another thought, I placed the item in the front of the trolley and moved on.
The next aisle, after looking up at the sign above it, was completely averted without a second thought. Baby formula, Baby clothes, Cots, Potties. I certainly didn't need any more bad memories uprooting from going down that aisle.
"Found the alcohol." Merle's voice echoed suddenly, startling me. I cursed the man for making a sound, but knew he was beyond caring. I quickly pushed on, finally approaching a food aisle and got to work piling everything useful in.
As I continued to move down the aisles, piling in all I could, I vaguely noted that I was being dripped on and I glanced up at the ceiling. Dark, damn looking marks were dotted around everywhere from above though I didn't stop to consider the insolation of this place for too long. Thinking it was nothing, I moved onto the next aisle, pushing my nearly full trolley in front of me as I did. Turning the corner though, I couldn't help but yelp in surprise.
At first I thought a walker stood before me and I fumbled quickly with my gun, though before I took the shot I realised that the thing wasn't moving. Studying it a bit more, I realised that it was only a cut out of some cartoon monster. With a shameful sigh, I studied the aisle I stood in and I realised it was the candy aisle. That explained a lot.
Footsteps behind me caught my attention and I spun around quickly, only to be blinded by a light. Instantly, it was averted and I saw Daryl stood before me.
"Ya alright? I heard ya cry." He murmured before his eyes drifted over to the cardboard cut out. I nodded, gesturing to the offending thing.
"It scared the shit out of me." I hissed, noting Daryl's smirk of realisation. "Where's your trolley?" I asked, when I saw that he didn't have it with him, also hoping to rid any teasing that may follow.
"Took it outside, filled it up already." He told me, raising his crossbow and without a word shooting the cut out in the head. "Ya safe now, don't worry." Daryl sniggered, glancing over his shoulder at me. I only glared. He laughed some more before glancing down at my own trolley. "There's more food on the next aisle that'll be of use. After we've finished here, we'll try head onto some place that does clothes. Pretty sure that was what Maggie wanted. Ya remember anything else they asked for?"
"Batteries." I replied. "For the radios."
"Fill up ya trolley 'nd take it outside. I'll go 'nd find some batteries." I nodded and we quickly parted.
I did as Daryl instructed, heading to the next aisle and throwing in everything I could and thought would be useful, trying to fill up the trolley. When the thing was almost overflowing, I decided to head out and pushed the now heavy trolley towards the exit. Daryl's was left just outside and I pushed my own next to it. Pausing, I wondered if I should wait outside for Daryl and Merle to appear again, or go inside and look for them. Perhaps try and gather a bit more food.
While I was thinking though, the sound of an almighty crash echoed inside the supermarket. Without another thought, I rushed inside.
"Daryl?" I called. "Merle?" Shining my flashlight frantically, I tried to find the pair of them.
"Over here." I heard Daryl holler back. "We're over in wine 'nd beer." Merle. I cursed again under my breath for the older Dixon and quickly headed to the right of the supermarket, dreading the worst.
Beneath my feet, I felt the sharpness of what appeared to be glass and when I shone my light down, I saw the entire floor was just covered in broken bits of bottles, the contents pouring out too. Following it, I came to the scene of a fallen shelving unit. Daryl stood beside it, meeting my gaze with a frustrated expression. Behind him, I saw Merle's trolley, abandoned, and full up of various bottles of wine and spirits. Frowning, I glanced around trying to find the man in question.
"Merle?" I asked, approaching Daryl.
"How nice of ya to show up, darlin'." A voice came from beneath the shelving. I knelt down and sure enough, there was Merle caught underneath it, lying on a bed of broken glass. Still, he carried on smirking.
"What the hell happened?" I hissed. Merle attempted to shrug.
"The shelf broke." Was his reply and I stood, turning to Daryl. The younger Dixon was fuming and his eyes were trained on the trolley of alcohol.
"We came 'ere for food. Not booze!" Daryl cried, clenching his fists. "Ya have to be the ass to fuck it up, don't ya!?"
"Stop ya whining, brother!" Merle hollered back. "Get this damn thing off me, for God's sake!" Daryl paused and for a moment, I wondered if he wasn't even going to bother. Finally though, the hunter sighed, gesturing for me to help him.
Together we tried to heave up half of the unit off the older Dixon, though I can imagine my force wasn't as helpful as Daryl's. We did it though, finally managing to get the thing standing. I hissed slightly as some glass caught my hand but I tried not to let Daryl see. Instead, we turned to the next unit, which appeared to be the one trapping Merle.
"You hurt?" I couldn't help but ask. "Cut or anything?" Merle smirked slightly.
"It's caught my leg but otherwise, I'm fine, darlin'." I nodded once, turning to Daryl.
"Ya lucky this stopped the fall." He muttered, kicking the boxes of beer that propped the unit up enough not to completely squish the Dixon brother. "Would 'ave been game over for Merle." As Merle chuckled, Daryl moved to lift the other one up. I went to join him.
"Ya know better than that, baby brother. Nobody kills Merle, but Merle!"
Before Daryl and I could move to lift the final unit off of Merle, a crash above us stopped our movement and suddenly a bit of light filled the room. The sound caused Daryl and I to stagger back in shock. Looking up, I watched the roof cracked and broke, before a body fell through. I watched in horror as the walker flailed and dangled above us, its hands reaching out towards us, despite the fact its insides were split open and it could only swing helplessly from the ceiling.
For a moment, Daryl and I stared up at the thing as it swung in the air, grumbling and groaning as it did. I couldn't move for a moment, though the fear was coursing through me.
"We should probably go now." I breathed, not taking my eyes off of the dangling walker.
"Merle's still stuck." Daryl muttered, breaking his trance. "C'mon, help me get him outta there."
We moved to rush back to the unit, to heave it off of him, but another crash from above drew my attention. Another walker fell through the ceiling, though this one wasn't caught. Instead it hit the ground and the impact didn't damage it one bit. Not good. Then another fell, landing on top of a nearby shelf, probably cracking its spine in the process but it didn't sway the thing. Instead, the walker rolled of the unit and hit the ground with a thud, where it attempted to get to is feet. Another crash from somewhere else in the supermarket, then another and another. One fell straight through, only to land on its head, sending a spray of blood all over the floor and a mangles mess of a body. Holes in the ceiling produced light and we could finally see, but no comfort was provided from this. The walkers that had fallen through had begun to get to their feet, their sights set on us now.
"Shit." I heard Daryl curse before he raised his crossbow and shoot down the walker closest.
"What the hell is happenin'?!" Merle shrieked from beneath the unit though neither Daryl nor myself could answer him.
I took out my gun, taking shots at ones approaching us, the sound of more falling through still echoing over my shots. I tried to stay near the alcohol units, ready to try and get Merle out when Daryl ordered me to, though soon I was being pushed away as the walkers approached from all angles and directions.
Finding myself in the sports aisle, I staggered back as three approached me at once. Taking down one with my gun, I found myself out of bullets then though my eyes caught onto something on the shelf beside me before I could panic. Taking the golf club in hand, I took a swing at the closest walker, grunting as I did. Its head hit the opposite shelf, cracking upon impact though snapping the end of the club off, apparently losing it in the impeding of its skull. Cursing to myself, I held the broken club in hand and turned to the remaining walker before me. It snarled and hissed, approaching me with clawing hands. In one swift move, I grabbed the walker's shoulder and shoved the club straight through its head. I let it drop with the remaining club impaled through its skull and quickly got to work reloading my gun as more were coming around the corners from each end of the aisle.
In the distance, I could still hear Daryl's gunfire and I was glad of this. Also, Merle's calls were heard too and I chuckled under my breath before I threw myself back against the shelving unit behind me with all my strength. I had counted a dozen walkers coming for me at either side of the aisle and could see a very unlikely chance of survival if I attempted to shoot them all down. So I had another idea. Finally, there was a groan and suddenly the shelving unit was falling backwards, crashing as it hit the one next to it. Quickly, I began to climb up the unit out of the rotted hands reach, just in time before the walkers could grab me. From my elevated position, I took shots at the walkers below as they attempted to climb after me.
Another groaning sound caught my attention though and I glanced up at the large hole in the ceiling, only to pause in wonder.
"Well, that's where the fucking helicopter is." I muttered under my breath.
A large helicopter, apparently military style, was visible behind the roof beams of the supermarket, above where the dangling walker still remained. I realised quickly though, that the loud groans that were echoing was due to the limited strength the beams had now. It was going to fall through. Cursing yet again under my breath, I took several more shots before I realised that Daryl and Merle were both situated right beneath the damn thing.
"Daryl!" I screamed. "Look up! It's gonna fall through!" Shooting a few more times, I only hoped the hunter could hear me above all the noise.
"Ruby, come help me with Merle!" The sound of Daryl's voice hollered back. I chuckled bitterly, eyeing the gathering of walkers below. That would be difficult.
I backed up, before eyeing the space between where I was and the next shelving unit. Prepping myself up quickly, I leaped forward onto the top of the unit. Glancing over my shoulder, some of the walkers had climbed up to top and I moved quickly. Running to the end of the unit, I didn't stop to think before I leaped once more onto the row opposite, just as a few walkers attempted to launch themselves after me. Eyeing the ground beneath me, I decided that staying up above was safer and quickly made a round trip across the tops of the units towards the Dixon brothers.
Daryl was stood on a pyramid of beer boxes when I reached them, attempting to battle down a group gathering below him. His attention was briefly diverted to where I was at and I saw him frown strangely at my position on top of the shelf, before he carried on shooting. I glanced up at the helicopter above his head before leaping down, yelping as I hit the ground. My legs strained for a moment but I quickly staggered to my feet, though my eyes were drawn to a walker on the floor, its hands reaching under the fallen unit that Merle was trapped beneath. Quickly, I rushed over, taking out my knife and impaling it straight through the walkers head. Glancing under the unit, Merle turned to look over his shoulder at me, his eyes wide.
"The bastard almost bit my leg." He hissed, fear lingering in his tone. I didn't say anything and instead turned to Daryl, shooting some of the walkers around him.
Daryl jumped down, rushing past me to the unit above his brother before grabbing a crawling walker that was making its way towards Merle. He dragged it away by its feet before stamping a heavy boot onto its skull. Beneath the unit, Merle chuckled weakly before waving his knifed bayonet arm.
"I could have had that one, brother."
Daryl lunged forward, nodding that I do the same on the other side. Together we struggled to lift the unit off of Merle. I was still panting from exhaustion of jumping across the shelving units, but finally we lifted the thing up, just as the groaning above us got increasingly louder. Daryl reached forward immediately, heaving his brother to his feet before shoving the bigger man forward. Merle didn't protest, his eyes briefly passing over the ceiling before the man limped quickly away.
"Lets go!" Daryl cried, grabbing my arm and dragging me away too.
The ceiling collapsed above us, debris flying everywhere, before the helicopter finally split the roof beams. As Daryl and I rushed to the exit after Merle, I glanced briefly behind me just in time to see the helicopter smash to the ground, sending everything around it flying. Though we didn't stop running until we reached the exit, the rest of the ceiling following shortly after and falling from above. Seeing the exit was a blessing and I launched myself out, in time to watch the entire building cave in on itself, crushing everything within it including the remaining walkers.
I knelt over, panting from exhaustion, the two men doing the same. Nothing was said for a moment, though I knew it was only a matter of time before something blew up. My eyes passed over the pair, Daryl stood with his hands on his head, while Merle sat on the floor. I studied his leg, but thankfully it seemed fine enough. A little blood, but nothing too fatal. Herschel would have to take a look at it when we got back, but otherwise we were all fine. Glancing at the two trollies full of food, I was glad Daryl and I had brought them outside before the walkers starting falling in. The same couldn't be said for Merle.
"Well, that went well." I sighed, catching my breath. Daryl met my gaze and I saw the frustration there.
"Ya gonna shout at me, Baby Brother?" Merle asked, not bothering to even look at Daryl as he spoke. "'Cos I disobeyed ya orders?" Studying the older Dixon, I could see the exhaustion in his face too, no signs of a smirk lingered there. Without a word to his brother, Daryl marched towards the trollies and pushed one towards his brother. I was surprised when he pushed the other to me and I raised an eyebrow in question.
"Take them back to the car." Daryl muttered, not looking at either of us. Merle glanced at him before meeting my gaze with a frown.
"Where the hell ya goin'?" Merle asked as Daryl began to walk away.
"Gonna go get the rest of the stuff." He replied, bitterly.
"We'll help you." I said, frowning. Daryl paused glancing between us. It was silent for a moment before he took a few steps towards me. Without a word, he reached into his pocket and placed something in my hand.
"I'll do this alone." And with that, he left, stalking off down the street. I watched him go, not sure what to say, before I glanced down at the item in my hand. Batteries. Glancing back up at his retreating figure, I was unsure how I should have been feeling. Swallowing hard, I turned to the trolley beside me.
"C'mon, lets do as he says." I sighed, gesturing for Merle to get to his feet. The look Merle gave me was one astounded expression but the older Dixon got up regardless. Studying me silently, the man took the trolley beside him and pushed it forward, before marching away. I watched as Merle limped slightly, leaning on the trolley for support, before I followed after him.
We manoeuvred our way through Morgan's death trap street and Merle took care of the impaled walkers at the end with his bayonet. Not a word was said and I found myself lost in thought as we trailed all the way back to Rick's sheriff station to put everything back in the car. I thought of Daryl though I understood his anger. He was pissed. At Merle. Though I was surprised by the fact Daryl didn't just start an argument straight up with his brother, I guessed that the man had realised the danger that probably would have caused and instead decided to walk it off. Daryl needed his space, though I only wished he'd be alright.
I eyed the man slightly ahead of me with a frown. Bitterly, I realised we could have died because of his stupidity. I was surprised we'd made it out all in one piece and with supplies, but we had done. No thanks to Merle though. My thoughts lingered on the sight of that trolley full of alcohol and I almost opened my mouth to shout something at the older Dixon. Though, recalling all the bitterness the man was giving me that day, I realised that perhaps it was best just to keep my mouth shut for a while. So I did.
Reaching the car, Merle opened up the back and began to pile in the stuff without a word. I studied his face briefly, seeing the frustration, before I joined him. We worked quickly to empty the trollies but managed to do so effectively. We left room for Merle to get back in later on and shut the boot down with everything inside. I paused then before turning to the man beside me.
"Should we move the car down to Morgan's street?" I suggested. "Save us walking back here and means we can keep an eye on it incase anyone comes along and finds it." Merle nodded, heading to the front seat. I made my way to the passenger door, wondering if letting the one handed man drive was such a good idea.
Silently, Merle hotwired the car, slamming his door shut when he finally got the engine started. We drove to Morgan's place still in silence and I couldn't help but feel the awkwardness. I was surprised for a moment that he was still capable of driving with only one hand. Glancing at Merle, I felt the need to say something.
"We'll have to get Herschel to look at your leg when we get back." I spoke up. Merle hummed, glancing briefly down.
"Ain't nothin'." He muttered. "Doesn't hurt much."
"Just incase." I tried, before smiling slightly. "Might have to make yourself your own pair of crutches now." It did the trick and Merle chuckled, shaking his head.
"I'll just take the kid's."
Merle stopped the car at the end of the street and we got out, making our way back into the traps and under the wires. Glancing up at the building, I wondered if we should go inside and join the others, though didn't know what state we'd find Morgan in. Not to mention, Daryl was still out wandering the streets alone. Unsure of what to do, I turned to ask Merle, only to find the man sat on the sidewalk. Raising an eyebrow, Merle shrugged. With a sigh, I joined him.
It was no surprise that we continued to sit in silence. After a while, I gave up trying to think of a conversation starter and instead just stared off, lost in my thoughts. I could hear the birds and the rats inside the cages that Morgan had laid out, screaming out as walkers tried to get at them. They were unable to reach them though as the spikes and the wires rendered then incapable of going anywhere. I studied the scene as a female walker reached towards a caged rat, her eyes hungry and her hands reaching and clawing, while the rat inside the cage remained fearful and cowering in the corner. Debating whether to go and dispose of the walker myself, my thoughts were interrupted when the man beside me cleared his throat.
"I didn't mean for it to go down like that." He muttered and I glanced briefly at him before staring down at my outstretched legs. I shrugged.
"It still happened." I replied, evenly. "We could have all been killed."
"Don't remind me." Merle hissed and I eyed up the way his fists clenched tightly. "Like I said, the shelf broke." I frowned.
"You shouldn't have been there anyway." I countered. "We were collecting food for the group." Merle didn't answer. "I'm guessing you're not going to be making any sort of apology." The man snorted and I glanced to see him looking at me with a mocking expression. Of course not. "Well, you don't have to apologise to me but can you at least consider apologising to Daryl?
"'Nd why would I do that-?"
"Because he's your brother!" I cried, shaking my head. "He cares about you and he deserves for you to at least say sorry to him after today." Merle eyed me strangely and I stared back with a frown. "What?"
"What the fuck is goin' on between you 'nd my brother?" He asked, coolly. I narrowed my eyes.
"I don't think that's relevant or any of your business." I hissed. Merle snorted.
"He's my brother, of course it's my business."
"Oh, how caring." I muttered, mockingly. "You can't just play the 'big brother' act now after saying you won't apologise to him."
"What would a flouncy apology solve?!" Merle sneered. "It's done 'nd once Baby Brother's gone 'nd vented his anger out everything will go back to normal. This happens all the time between us, princess! Everything will be fine, just ya wait and see." I stared at Merle for a long time, unable to really consider how 'throw-away' he was with his brother's feelings. I shook my head.
"You know," I began. "There may come a time, Merle, when this happens and everything will not be fine. You can't expect Daryl to put up with your shit forever." Merle glared at me.
"He's my brother, putting up with my shit is part of the job." He hissed. "I have to put up with him too, don't ya forget!" I shook my head again before sighing.
"You don't understand." I muttered getting to my feet with the intention of taking a walk, though Merle scoffed and I knew he'd stood up too.
"Oh so you know my brother better than me, huh!?" He cried, following me. "Some hussy he's decided to take an interest in 'nd fuck?!"
Before I could stop myself, I had turned on my heels and slapped the man before me, right across his cheek. The impact echoed and I stood wide eyes for a moment, staring up at the man. Merle didn't move, his face turned to the side from the slap, though I could see he was seething. Stumbling back a little, I felt the fear grow within me. Though I realised that fearing Merle wouldn't make anything better and it sure wouldn't seem logical after all we'd been through together. Straightening myself up, I attempted to appear strong when Merle turned to me, his eyes blaring.
"Don't you ever call me that again." I grounded out, trying to keep my cool. "And don't you ever demine your brother like that in front of me. Your brother is a good man and you know it. So stop belittling him and stop making me out to be his whore." I tried to push past him, to walk away in a hope to leave my words sinking in, though Merle's hand grabbed my arm before I could. I turned to look up at the man, swallowing hard as I stared up at his furious expression.
"Don't you ever hit me again." Merle breathed, dangerously. Studying the man carefully, I didn't say anything, though Merle dropped my arm. I couldn't make my legs work to move and surprisingly, it was Merle that began to walk away.
"Where-" I struggled in confusion. "Where are you going?" I watched as Merle stepped over a few traps, making his way down the street.
"Gonna go find Daryl." Merle called back, not even turning around. "Why don't ya go see ya pal, Officer Friendly?!" And with that, Merle had gone. I stood, staring after him, wondering what had just happened before staring down at my hand. Clenching my fist tightly, I still felt the sting from when I had struck the older Dixon. I began to trail towards the building before me, attempting to rid all thoughts of Merle and Daryl briefly from my mind as I approached a new situation entirely.
Staring up at the building, I wondered if the man had woken up from his unconscious slumber and edged towards the path that led up to the doorway. Dodging and ducking the spikes, I studied them carefully now I was up close. Running my hand along one of them, I suddenly noted the blood trickling down my left arm. Frowning, I studied the wound in my hand, before realising I had cut myself on the glass back at the supermarket. Making note to get myself patched up as soon as possible, I continued on towards the door.
"Don't step on the mat." A voice stopped me. Glancing through the doorway, I saw Rick sat on the stairs. My eyes trailed down to the floor and I studied the welcome mat carefully. Briefly glancing up at the man, I crouched down and peeled the mat back. I was taken back when I saw the hole it covered and the spikes within. I let it fall back with a breathless chuckle before stepping over it carefully and approaching the stairs. "How is the supply hunt going?"
"We've loaded up a couple trollies worth of food into the car and moved it to the end of the street." I told the man, taking in his tired expression. "Though that's all we could get." Rick raised a curious eyebrow. "Long story short, the roof of the supermarket caved in."
"Everyone alright?" Rick asked, quickly. I glanced down at my arm, raising it for the man to see.
"Merle's hurt his leg but otherwise we're all fine." I told him, pausing to think about the Dixon brothers briefly. "Those two are still out looking." I thought it was best not to bring up the arguments, not in the current situation. Rick rose off the step he was sat on, coming down towards me and holding out his arm. Taking my injured arm, he studied it carefully. "Cut myself on glass." I explained. Rick nodded, reaching into his pocket to pull out a roll of bandages and got to work patching up my cut. I was about to ask him why he had the bandages in his pocket though my eyes caught onto the blood stain on his shirt. "You're hurt?" Rick paused.
"Morgan." Was his answer as he wrapped up my hand. I frowned, eyeing the bandage that was just visible under his slightly unbuttoned shirt.
"What happened?" I asked. "Is he awake?" Rick nodded slowly, dropping his hand away from mine once he'd finished. "Thank you." I murmured, waiting for the man to explain. Rick glanced over his shoulder up the stairs before turning back to me.
"He's not seeing things right." He breathed, running a hand through his hair. "When he woke up, he attacked me, said something about 'people wearing dead people's faces'." Rick lowered himself back onto the step and I sat myself on one below it, staring up at my friend, waiting for him to finish. "He said he didn't know me, almost killed me." Unconsciously, Rick ran a hand over the wound in his shoulder. "I put a gun to his head and he begged for me to kill him." Rick raised his gaze to mine, shaking his head. "He wasn't making any sense, he's not the same as he was before, Ruby. I tried to reason with him and I told him all about when we met, to try and make him remember me. But nothing worked. Not until I-" Rick cut himself off, shaking his head before running a hand through his hair again. "Not until I showed him the radio again."
Never got the call.
"I tried, Ruby, I did try." Rick almost whimpered out. "I did try to call him but things got too much, we got pushed out and I had people to look after." I shook my head and grabbed his arm, trying to calm him down.
"You don't have to explain yourself to me." I murmured. Rick nodded before chuckling bitterly.
"I told him that too." He muttered. "I told him why things went wrong for us but I guess at the end of the day, that doesn't take back what's happened." Rick stopped then before he turned to me, eyeing me sadly. I was about to ask what was wrong, but Rick carried on. "Duane turned." While I was prepared for that outcome, that didn't stop it from hurting me. I shuddered, shaking my head and holding a hand to my mouth. Not Duane. Not the sweet kid that doted on my dog, Toby. Not the kid that was barely any older than either Carl or Sophia. Not Morgan's son.
"Poor Morgan." I breathed, swallowing the lump in my throat.
"He blames himself." Rick carried on, bowing his head. "And he's so caught up in his own guilt that he's losing his mind." The sentence made me stop and I turned to Rick. Losing his mind. I knew a few other examples of that. Rick must have known what I was thinking as he ducked his gaze again quickly. "I offered for him to come back with us. To join us." I raised my eyebrow at this. "He declined, saying he has to clear things." Rick trailed off and I shook my head.
"We can't just leave him here, Rick." I argued and my friend nodded.
"I know." He breathed.
"Did you," I paused. "Did you tell him about me?" Rick nodded slowly "Did he believe you?" Rick smiled bitterly before shrugging a little. My eyes drifted up to the top of the stairs. A white cloth hung down with the words "NOT SHITTING YOU" on. Thinking hard, I glanced at the man beside me with a thoughtful frown. "Come on then, lets see if I can talk some sense to him." My words weren't very confident, but Rick smiled weakly back. I rose to my feet, Rick joining me and the man led the way up the stairs. He paused at the curtain.
"Watch the wire." He murmured, pointing to a barely visible wire that hung across the bottom of the doorway. I raised an eyebrow before stepping over it after Rick. My eyes widened when I caught sight of the axe that hung above on the ceiling, ready to swing down and take somebody out. Ducking quickly out the way, I stepped into the room with Rick.
The room wasn't one I expected. It was pretty much bare of all furniture apart from boxes stacked up at the sides, various weapons and guns leaning against them or on top. The place looked like some sort of armoury and I wasn't sure how I felt as I stepped further inside. I wasn't aware of Rick standing beside me, or the noises in the room next door. My eyes were drawn to the left hand wall and the chalk drawings on it. At first, it reminded me of the chalk drawing Carl and I made of the street we were holding up in and I realised quickly that the one before me now was a similar sort of thing. It was a town. With houses and buildings as square boxes. It was a lot more detailed as the one Carl and myself made and I was in awe for a moment at the dedication gone into it. My eyes were drawn though to one building in particular.
Rick's House. And beside it, the word 'TAKEN' crossed out and replaced with 'BURNT'.
I glanced at Rick and he stared back blankly.
"Where's Carl and Michonne?" I asked, quietly. Rick glanced at the exit then back at me.
"Carl had something he wanted to do." Rick explained. "He wouldn't tell me what it was but Michonne volunteered to go with him, keep an eye on him." A pause. "Give us some space." I didn't need him to elaborate on the us and my eyes drifted towards the archway into the next room. Carefully, I made my way towards it, taking note of the sounds of shuffling that could be heard.
Morgan was hunched over something in the corner when I entered, his back to me. I swallowed hard, glad he was alright it seemed, or at least awake. This room was in a similar state to the one before it, with boxes and weapons dotted around the place, though while he wasn't looking I quickly scanned the room. There was more chalk on the walls, but instead there was so many words. Some I didn't understand, some just different people's names, some just phrases thrown about; Higher Ground, You had the knife, Sixteen hours, We weren't supposed to be there, Clear... But my eyes were drawn to the opposite wall where two words in particular drew my attention completely; Duane turned.
Just as Rick had said.
"You come back for more weapons, Rick?" Morgan's voice cut through me. I glanced back at the man, who was still moving about without looking in our direction. He busied himself beside the bed in the far corner and I glanced up at Rick beside me with a frown. "Suppose they are technically yours but it would be nice if you left me with some, y'know?"
"I've come to show you something actually." Rick replied, his voice quiet. "Come to try and change your mind about not coming with us." Morgan scoffed and stopped what he was doing.
"And what exactly would that be, Rick?" Slowly, the man turned around and finally set his gaze on me.
His expression dropped and I could only stare back at the man, sadness creeping through me. He looked the same but yet he was different. There was some agony shining behind his eyes as he studied me silently, an expression of despair and hopelessness. This was a man on the verge of giving up before me, not the same man I had met all that time ago. It pained me to see this alteration but I found no will in me to speak in that moment. Morgan's eyes suddenly became frantic though, glancing between Rick and myself with frustration. Suddenly, I noticed the knife in his hand.
"No." Morgan shook his head, raising his knife slightly and pointing at me. Rick slowly stepped forward, putting his hand out in an attempt of peace. "No!" Morgan took a step forward and Rick quickly reached for his gun. "You're not real!"
"She is real, Morgan!" Rick growled, daring the man to lunge for me with his knife. I swallowed hard, just watching on with wide eyes. Nothing could have prepared me for this reaction. "I told you that I was with her and I've brought her up here to prove it to you. This," Rick glanced back at me, pointing in my direction meaninglessly. "Is Ruby. You remember her?"
"You lie!" Morgan screeched, his eyes blaring. "Ruby left! She left us and we never saw her again! Ruby is dead!" I shook my head, stepping forward unconsciously.
"I'm not dead, Morgan." I tried, calmly. "I am real and Rick is right. You remember when we met? You found me walking down the street and helped me? Took me to your home? Fed me and gave me a place to stay? Do you remember that?" Morgan didn't reply and I debated whether bringing up Duane was such a good idea. "You remember Toby?" Just then, Morgan frowned.
"Toby?" He breathed. I nodded quickly. "He was Ruby's dog, her German Shepherd." I nodded again.
"Yes, he was my dog." I replied. "You commented on how trained he was, remember? Almost like he was ready for the apocalypse?" I paused, chewing my lip for a moment. "Duane loved him." At the mention of his son, Morgan's face crumbled and slowly, he lowered his knife. He stared at me with a sad expression before nodding slowly, a knowing touch behind his eyes.
"You left us." Morgan muttered, his voice tired. I swallowed hard, not speaking. "Why?" I paused before answering, thinking it over before realising the truth was the best approach.
"To protect you." I sighed. "There was a man hunting me when I met you, trying to kill me. I knew if I'd stayed with you, you'd have only gotten hurt and I couldn't let that happen." I couldn't help the tears building in my eyes and sniffed loudly, shaking my head. "Morgan, I'm so sorry."
Morgan carried on staring at me for the longest period before a small bitter smile graced his lips and he nodded slowly, humming.
"Guess I was right." He said, his voice monotone. "About us meeting again."
"Maybe we'll see each other again some day?"
"You never know."
"Though I guess things aren't the same as before." Without another word, Morgan turned and walked away. I glanced at Rick, who slowly lowered his gun. We both watched on as the man sat himself down on the bed, the thing creaking slightly under his weight. Rick stared meaningfully at me and I sighed quietly before slowly making my way towards the man.
"You're right." I breathed, not brave enough to sit down, but I stood close by. "Things aren't the same anymore. So much time has past and in that time, so much is different." Morgan glanced up at me, not saying a word. "Morgan, I'm sorry about Duane." Another bitter smile spread across the man's lips.
"Sorry?" He repeated, nodding slowly. "Because that's all you really can be, huh? Sorry." Morgan chuckled to himself. "You wouldn't be sorry if I told you how he died, if you knew what happened to my boy. You'd see then how much of a weak excuse of a human being I am and you'll wonder why you're even sharing the same air as me. Oh no," He shook his head. "No, you definitely wouldn't be sorry if I told you about that." He glanced over his shoulder towards Rick. "She's a good person too, Rick. Just like you. A good person." Meeting my gaze, he shook his head again, though this time ruefully. "Which is too bad. I always liked you." When Morgan turned to stare off towards the wall, I turned towards Rick with confusion. My only reply from the man was a single shake of the head, his eyes downcast to the floor.
"Morgan, what happened?" I asked, quietly. The question wasn't about Duane, it was about everything. What had happened to send Morgan to the place he was in right now, why had all this happened to him. The man before me shook his head, his eyes turning to study the various words on the wall.
"Death happened." He replied, his voice distant. "The red came and I didn't know what to do. So much red. I couldn't control it, couldn't stop it. I just," A pause. "Let it happen." Morgan turned to me, raising his head to look in my direction. "This man you spoke about, why was he hunting you?" I was startled by his question, it throwing me off for a moment.
"He was a sadistic man." I told him. "He destroyed everything in his path and hurt everyone around him because he liked the power, the control and the feeling of it, I guess. He hunted me because I got away. I escaped." I shrugged, briefly. "I don't think he was the kind the man who liked losing his things." Morgan studied me for a long time, his face so very thoughtful. In the silence, I felt the urge just to add; "He's dead now though." At this, Morgan smiled.
"Because he was a bad person." He said. "And the bad people don't survive very long in this world." He survived long enough to wound us all in some way, I thought bitterly before I straightened out and titled my head slightly. Inside, I didn't know what to think. Morgan was broken, sitting before me and speaking words that seemed only alien to me. And yet, this was still the same man. The same good man that took me in and took care of me for a short time. This was still Morgan Jones, despite all the delusions and madness.
Glancing towards the other member of the room, another thought occurred. Would this be where Rick would eventually end up? Is this the finished product of Rick's slow progress into madness? As if hearing my thoughts, the man looked up and met my gaze before averting it quickly with an almost shameful look. Unsure of how to even approach that particular situation, I turned to the one at hand instead.
"Morgan, why won't you come with us?" I tried, deciding to be straight with the man as I gathered that slowly working my way up to things with him wouldn't get me anywhere. Morgan shook his head.
"I need to clear." He replied, his voice even. I wasn't even sure what that meant and my eyes briefly scanned the room, taking note of the various times the word 'clear' was written. Crouching down before Morgan, I urged him to look at me.
"There's nothing left for you here, Morgan." I began. "I am sorry that everything has happened to you and I know that doesn't mean much, but you can't stay here like this anymore. You're not well. You're sick and you're alone." I shook my head. "No one deserves to be alone, Morgan. I know everything seems lost right now, but things will move forward, progress. This isn't a life, staying here by yourself. You are still alive and that counts for something. Don't waste your life, Morgan. Living is a rare thing right now and you would be a fool to throw that away."
I was unsure how Morgan would take my words, realising they were harsher than intended. The man continued to stare at me, his face unreadable. I pleaded silently with him to consider my words, to think things over. It would be difficult to intergrade him into the group, which his sanity and everything, but we would make it work. I had no intention of leaving him. Not again.
"You said there's nothing left for me here." Morgan started, his voice quiet. I swallowed hard as he shook his head. "But what's left for me out there?" I was unable to answer him.
"We have people." Rick suddenly sprouted up, stepping forward. "A group of us. A few of them are here today with us and the rest are camped out of town. You could join us, become part of us." Morgan shook his head again, his teeth gritted together.
"No." He breathed. Rick ran a hand through his hair.
"They're good people, Morgan." Rick continued. "We look after each other, take care of one another. We're a unit, a-" He paused, struggling over the next word. "A family. You could be part of that. Part of something again. Like Ruby said, you could start living rather than surviving." Morgan didn't answer. "We've got a heading too, we're not just wandering." Rick seemed to be trying a different approach now and I could see the desperation in his face. "We're going to Washington." At this, Morgan turned to him.
"And you think I'm crazy?" The man muttered, frowning. Rick stepped forward, shaking his head.
"We have a reason, a mission so to speak." Rick explained before glancing at me awkwardly. I knew what he was going to say next and nodded once, providing my approval. "We have a cure." Morgan stared at him, his expression baffled. Despite the confusion in his mind, I knew he understood that clear enough.
"You have a what?" The man breathed, staring at him with astonishment. He shook his head. "There is no cure." Rick nodded frantically.
"There is." He insisted as Morgan continued to shake his head. "There is! I'm not lying to you." Rick glanced at my briefly. "There's a young man travelling with us. He was bitten by a walker a long time ago and hasn't turned. He's immune to the infection. We're taking him to Washington because the scientist who is escorting him has his labs there. Once we get them there, they can figure out a cure for everything." Morgan didn't reply for a moment.
"Not everything." Morgan whispered before looking away. Neither Rick nor myself said anything for a moment.
"We could get him to show you the bite if you like?" I tried suggesting. When Morgan looked at me, I shrugged. "I believed him as soon as I saw it." Rick nodded beside me.
"We could bring the rest of our group here, they can explain everything to you better. You can see the bite wound and the scientist can tell you his story." The ex-sheriff gushed out. "You'll see that we're not lying to you and you can reconsider not coming with us."
"Just because I see some bite wound and hear some stories, doesn't mean I'll reconsider." Morgan bit back, harshly. I chewed my lip, thoughtfully.
"How about we give you the night to decide?" I tried again. "We won't be travelling today, it'll be dark by the time we finish searching for supplies and get back to the rest of the group. We'll be taking rest tonight and start again tomorrow. How about you give us your final answer in the morning?" Morgan stared at me with disbelief and opened his mouth to say something though Rick cut him off.
"We can bring our people back here so we have better cover for the night, rather than sleeping out in tents." He continued to say before pausing. "If that's alright with you?" Morgan stared back at the pair of us and I knew he thoughts were in turmoil. I felt guilty for throwing all this on him, though it was done with good intentions. There was a long moment's silence before Morgan looked away, turning back to the wall with words on.
"How many of you people are there?" He asked finally. Rick and I glanced at each other.
"Fourteen, though two are children." Rick replied and Morgan nodded slowly before pointing to a door in the corner behind us.
"That door there leads to some stairs to the floor above. It's completely empty. You and your people can stay there tonight." I couldn't help but smile.
"Thank you." I nodded, meeting Morgan's gaze and hoping I appeared sincere. The man only nodded once more, glancing between the pair of us with a dazed expression. "And it's so good to see you again, Morgan." I added quickly, which seemed to startle the man.
Before he could even function a reply, the sound of cry was heard. One of pain and one very familiar. Rick and I quickly glanced at each before getting to our feet. While Morgan held a curious expression, remaining on the bed, Rick and myself were on our feet and rushing to the door. We were careful over the wire trap and our footsteps rushed down the stairs. Rick led the way and his steps slowed as he reached the bottom. I was about to ask what was wrong, until I saw the scene over his shoulder.
The Dixon brothers stood in the doorway, though the younger Dixon was caught in a predicament. While I had been lucky enough to have Rick warn me about the trap beneath the mat, Daryl had not been so lucky. He had fallen through and I stared on in horror as two spikes had impaled their way through the hunter's foot. Merle stood behind a little, grasping his younger brother's shoulder.
"Daryl!" I couldn't help but cry out and Rick quickly finished the last few steps so we could reach them. "Oh God!" Daryl cursed loudly, shaking his head.
"Fuckin' asshole." Daryl gritted through his teeth, his comment no doubt directed to Morgan, and took Rick's outstretched hand.
"We lift him out on three," Rick instructed to the older Dixon. Merle didn't argue. "One, two, three!" Daryl gritted his teeth but still yelped slightly when both Rick and Merle pulled him out the pit. I stared on as his blood began to drip onto the paved sidewalk and everyone stood for a moment, unsure of what to do.
"Bring him up." A voice spoke from behind me. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Morgan stood halfway down the stairs, his eyes on the scene. "You can treat him up here." Without another word, Morgan turned and headed back up the stairs. I watched him go before turning back to the others. Rick met my gaze before nodding once and turning to take one of Daryl's arms.
I led the way up the stairs, pausing at the top, intending to doge the axe trip wire. Though Morgan stood there, pulling back the white curtain. He wordlessly held up the axe and I realised he'd disarmed his booby traps. Nodding my thanks, I turned to hold the curtain back for Daryl and Rick who were right behind me.
"I can walk on my own, y'know." Daryl muttered when he entered the room. "Ain't nothing." Though when the man tried to walk alone, he only staggered and almost tripped up. Rick quickly caught him, hauling him back to his feet and aiding him the rest of the way to Morgan's bed. Merle trailed behind them, pausing beside where I was stood and glancing down at me. He said nothing but gave me a single nod, which I returned.
Daryl was lowered onto the bed and Rick kneeled down to look at his boot. More blood began to drip out onto Morgan's floorboards, though the man didn't seem too bothered by this fact. Morgan, himself, stood in the corner by the window, glancing between the bed and outside. Carefully, Rick attempted to try and undo Daryl's boot though the man grunted in pain.
"Don't be such a pussy, Baby Brother." Merle sniggered, though earned himself a heavy glare. "Remember when I stood on a nail when we were younger? I hardly felt the damn thing 'nd here ya are almost cryin'." Daryl almost growled.
"You stood on the smallest fuckin' nail that didn't even go very far into ya foot because ya boots were too thick for it to go all the way. I had two fuckin' spikes go right through, so shut the fuck up!" Merle almost giggled.
"Your language is appallin' today, Brother." Was Merle's response. Thankfully, Daryl didn't rise to the bait. He continued to grit his teeth and Rick finally pulled off his shoe, turning to the problem of his sock now. Once that item of clothing was discarded though, I felt sick at the sight of Daryl's foot. It was dripping with blood. Blanching a little, a held my fist against my mouth, remaining beside Merle in almost fear of approaching any closer. Rick examined the foot silently, though his expression was almost fearful.
"What?" Daryl demanded, taking note of Rick's expression too. Rick glanced up at him and back down at he foot.
"I don't exactly know what to do." He admitted, hesitantly. "I mean, you have a bloody hole in your foot! Two holes actually."
"That's disgusting." Merle muttered and I elbowed the man in the side, hoping he'd shut up. Daryl shook his head.
"Bandage the damn thing up to stop me from bleedin' out, at least." He hissed and Rick sighed, pulling out the bandages from his pocket again. Merle snorted.
"Can ya die of blood loss from a hole in ya foot?" The older Dixon asked curiously. Daryl glared at him once more.
"Two holes, dickhead." He muttered and Merle smirked.
"Because that makes all the difference." Daryl didn't say anything and Rick quickly wrapped up the man's foot with the roll of bandage. At first, Daryl winced in pain when Rick first started wrapping, but soon the pain seemed bearable and Daryl instead glanced around the room he was in. Merle seemed to be doing the same. "Nice place." The man beside me muttered, turning to Morgan who was still standing in the corner. "Pretty creepy though, I must say."
"Merle." I warned, hoping that Morgan didn't take too much offense. In our bid to try and get Morgan to join us, I had forgotten about the hindrance Merle would no doubt cause in that plan. He certainly wasn't the most inviting of people. Morgan stared back at the older Dixon, his expression blank.
"These people are part of your group?" Morgan asked, glancing between Rick and I. The former of us chuckled bitterly, turning to send Merle a sour look.
"Unfortunately." Rick muttered, earning himself a replying smirk from Merle. Morgan nodded thoughtfully.
"Is this all that have come today?" He asked, his voice careful.
"No, we came with another woman." Rick explained, pausing briefly. "And my son." At this Morgan turned to Rick with a frown on his face. There was an almost sadness in his gaze.
"Your son?" He breathed, his voice so quiet. Rick had finished wrapping up Daryl's foot and slowly rose to his feet. He met Morgan's gaze and nodded slowly. Morgan let out a breathless chuckle, glancing between Rick and myself. "Your son." He repeated, more firmly. "Your son that you found." Morgan met Rick's sole gaze now and I saw only bitterness. Silence filled the room and I noted the Dixon brothers glancing awkwardly at each other. Rick and Morgan remained staring at one another until Morgan turned away and looked back out the window. "You go get your people and bring them back here. It'll start getting dark soon." Morgan walked away, walking towards the closed door in the far corner, picking up a rifle as he went.
"Where are you going?" Rick called before he could leave. Morgan paused, not turning around.
"The roof." Was his reply. "I got things to do, things to-" A pause. "Think about." And with that, Morgan Jones left, shutting the door behind him with a slam.
"Seems to me, that the psycho shooter," Merle began slowly, his gaze on the door Morgan left through. "Is actually psycho." Everyone ignored him.
"What he mean 'bout bringin' everyone back here?" Daryl asked, curiously.
"He said we can stay on the floor above for the night." Rick told them both. "Gives us a place to stay rather than being out in the open and gives him a chance to think."
"About coming with us." I finished for Rick. Beside me, Merle scoffed.
"Are you serious? Ya actually gonna let him come with us?" He asked in disbelief, while Daryl remained silent. Rick eyed the older Dixon coolly.
"Morgan is a friend." Rick tried to say.
"Oh 'nd is the new greetin' for friends, to try shoot each other?" Merle demanded, though Rick didn't grace his question with an answer.
"We need to go and get the others." Rick sighed, running a hand through his hair, before turning to Daryl. "Obviously, you're not going anywhere." Daryl seemed sour about this, but didn't argue. "We'll get Herschel to take a look at your foot." Rick paused, turning to the other Dixon. "And yours." His eyes met mine briefly. "And your hand." I shrugged, feeling Daryl's eyes on me.
"It's nothing." I tried to say, though Rick ignored that comment. "And you, don't forget." Unconsciously, Rick ran a hand over his shoulder before nodding once.
"Merle, fancy heading back to get the others?" The older Dixon shrugged in response. "Good. Ruby, you stay here with Daryl. Merle and I will go find Michonne and Carl. We'll sort out who's going back for the others and all that." I nodded and both men made to leave, though Rick paused. "Just, watch out for him." Him being Morgan.
Nodding numbly, I let the pair pass and listened as their boots rushed down the wooden stairs to the ground below. Folding my arms across my chest, I slowly made my way over to the bed, sighing when I reached it.
"Does it hurt?" I asked and Daryl stared up at me with a raised eyebrow. Smiling briefly, I sat myself down on the end of the bed as Daryl lay back slightly with his foot propped up. I eyed the blood pool on the floor with a frown.
"I'm sorry 'bout before." Daryl muttered, getting my attention. "How I acted outside the supermarket, walkin' off 'nd all that. I acted like a dick." I shook my head with a smile.
"I didn't think you were." I assured the man, pulling my knees up to my chest. "You were mad at Merle, I understand that."
"Shouldn't have taken it out on you though." I shrugged.
"You needed the space." I laughed a little. "You honestly don't have to explain yourself to me of all people. Are you alright though?" Daryl sighed, sitting up.
"It's just Merle, y'know?" He began, shaking his head. "It gets a bit too much at times. Didn't help that he nearly got us all killed today. 'Nd for what? A trolley full of God damn alcohol that got left behind anyway? Fuckin' asshole."
"He just doesn't think." I supplied, weakly, and Daryl hummed in agreement.
"No, he doesn't." He muttered, shaking his head again. "Times like today though when I wonder why I even bother with him." There may come a time, Merle, when this happens and everything will not be fine. You can't expect Daryl to put up with your shit forever. With my previous words echoing in my head, I tried to formulate an answer.
"Because he's your brother?" I offered, the only thing I could come up with. Daryl eyed me oddly and I knew full well that my answer didn't exactly offer anything that Daryl didn't already know. The man shrugged.
"That doesn't excuse the fact that because of him, we all could have died today. Doesn't excuse the fact that you could have died today." Thinking Daryl's words, I saw the sentiment there and I couldn't help but smile. With my cheeks hotting up, I wondered that perhaps Daryl was becoming more bold with the statements he'd say to me. More frequently now, the hunter would offer me phrases that implied his feelings for me strongly and he did so without even batting an eyelid. He'd sure come a long way, I noted. Though there was still a journey to go with him. But that was okay.
Without saying a word, I reached forward, minding Daryl's injured foot as I did, and placed my hand on the side of the hunter's face. Daryl finished off the distance for me though, capturing my lips with his and kissing me back without a second thought. Thinking back on the events of the day, I realised that, yes, Daryl or I could have died today. Today I could have lost him and likewise for him. Desperate thoughts raced through my mind then and were followed through with the kiss.
There was an urgency about it, similar to the one we shared in Herschel's kitchen. I found myself lost, my thoughts complete mush, all my sense focused on the man before me. My lips tingled as Daryl pulled back briefly for air. I would have thought the hunter would have stopped there and was pleasantly surprised when his lips found mine once more. This time, Daryl's dominance shone through and I couldn't help but moan in pleasure at what Daryl was doing to do me, to my lips. His hand gripped my hip tightly, almost like he was hanging on, while mine ran in an almost panicked rush through his shaggy locks.
Without thinking, I had pushed the hunter back onto the bed, an action that made the hunter growl deeply in the back of his throat. I broke the kiss off briefly to move myself up on top of his body before Daryl had pulled me back in for more. This certainly wasn't a situation I had envisioned though it was definitely one I welcomed without any thought. With my body pressed up against Daryl's, I thought of nothing else but him and me. The way he was kissing me, the way his hands roamed carefully up and down my sides, up my back and legs, made my body ache for him. I wanted him.
The sounds of footsteps above, caught my attention though above the roaring in my ear, and I suddenly remembered myself. While I wanted nothing else but for this moment to happen, the situation we were in didn't exactly call for it. Not with the high chance of someone walking in. That certainly wasn't how I wanted it to go down. Ruefully, I pulled back further than before. Daryl stared up at me, his chest panting. Taking in my expression though, he sent me a smile that set my stomach fluttering.
"Not yet?" He asked, nodding. I sat back so the man could prop himself back up again. He looked just as flustered as I felt. Smiling back, I nodded.
(Author's Note): So, I'm back with a somewhat quicker update for you guys! Thank you so much for the support, I do love the feedback I get, though I also need it too! I'm always so wary of where I go with this story so you guys commenting, definitely helps me work to do better as well as edging me onto producing another update. I always like to see some feedback before I begin to prepare the next chapter, just so I know where everyone is at when they read my story. So, I do urge you to leave me something, even if it's little, in regards to my updates, just so I know how I'm doing and where I need to improve! I want to make this the best I can!
This chapter has a mix of two episodes from the show, if people didn't already see them. The obvious one being "Clear", which is easily one of, if not my most, favourite Walking Dead episode. And the other is the premiere to season four - "30 days without an accident". I hope you enjoyed the inclusion of the second one as it initially wasn't intended but somehow I found it worked? I didn't really want to play out the scenes in "Clear" but just with Ruby added in as I believe that the original scenes between Rick and Morgan are far too perfect to intrude on. So, while Ruby and the Dixon boys are getting into trouble in the supermarket, that everything from the episode "Clear" is panning out in reasonably the same process, that's if you want to believe of course. While I won't say for certain if that's happened, you can all believe it if you wish. Like I have said before, "Clear" is an amazing episode and I feel that it doesn't need too much alterations, especially the scenes between Rick and Morgan. I have been watching this episode a few times when writing this chapter, and I must say that it makes me with Morgan would return! I have hopes for the rest of the season! :)
In regards to Morgan's character, I must say - he is the HARDEST person to write, especially now he's different. I really do admire the actor, Lennie James, for his portrayal even if it's only been brief so far. But I won't lie when I say I've been having difficulty with his character. Even now, I'm not very happy with how he's turned out so please could you provide your critic for that - have I written him well? Badly? Mediocre? It would really help me out a lot!
Thanks again for all your support, I do worry that the length of this story is becoming daunting as my heading isn't even clear to me yet. While I have my own ideas, I still take inspiration from the show and comics, which both seem to be an on going process right now. So, I'm in debate on how and when I'll be ending this fiction. Though until then, I do thank you guys for everything, you're awesome! I'll update when I can!