Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with The Walking Dead that includes its characters, titles, yada yada. You get the drift?
Author's Note: This is basically a filler chapter. All my own dialogue and just Piper interacting with some group members. The next chapter (set during "18 Miles Out") is when things are going to boil over with Rick and Shane. I've got stuff planned, so I hope I can do what I'm envisioning justice. Also, I've added some things to Chapter 11 & Chapter 12 since the last time I've updated this story. I'm also retouching already edited chapters because I've got some major OCD. If it's anything major w/ the plot, I'll let you guys know, but a lot of it is spelling/grammar/word choice/descriptions. Be sure to review! Thanks x
Description: Piper Bell's leaned on one, equine, companion since the outbreak, a Quarter Horse named Leroy - depending on him to keep her safe and doing the same in return. However, in a turn of events, she's reunited with someone she believed to be dead - her best friend, Shane Walsh. And now, with him, Rick Grimes, and the rest of the group, she's just trying to survive.
A concussion. Piper had only had one once before and she had reluctantly spent two days in her New York City apartment because of it. The doctor at the time, much to the woman's dismay, had been very strict with her. Hershel was no different, insisting that she "take it easy" for a few days. By his definition, that meant laying in Maggie's bedroom, staring up at the ceiling. She couldn't help but feel some jealousy toward Lori, who had walked away with some bruises, but "nothing serious" as Hershel said. Piper, however, had failed the first assessment Shane had given her, and then the one Hershel gave her the following day when she emptied the contents of her stomach on the floor beside him. However, by day three inside, Piper was about ready to pull her hair out. The woman hadn't been to the horse barn since the night she had gone off with Lori, and she'd been suffering from equine withdrawals.
Day three, though, was a lucky one. Piper was more than happy to answer Hershel's medical questions, giving him a bright smile all the way through. When he was finished with his check, the veterinarian gave her the OK to once more become a productive member of the group. With restricted activity, that was. Hershel was very stern; no riding.
"Falling off won't do you any good," the look he had given her reminded her of that of her own father.
Part of Piper wanted to roll her eyes at the request, but she knew he had a point. And though she would have told Hershel anything to get an OK, Piper knew she could not go behind his back and be reckless. There were some risks that, in the world they were in, she could not afford to take. Reluctantly, Piper agreed.
When she had been sprung from the farmhouse by the vet, Piper's first order of business was not to visit her under-worked chestnut. No, she had been in the same set of clothes for two of her three days cooped up. And Piper knew that, even in the apocalypse, there was somewhat of a hygiene standard. Though low, it was there nonetheless.
Piper dug around in the green duffel bag she had brought with her from New York. It was getting colder and Piper had retired most of her summer clothes to the bottom of the bag. When her hand hit something she liked the texture of, Piper drew the article from her bag. She smiled as soon as she saw the grey color. It was the sweatshirt Shane had insisted she trade out for his jacket her first night camped out with him; her NYPD sweatshirt. Piper ran her hand over the embroidered letters before folding the sweatshirt and gingerly setting it down next to the bag.
When he hand was in the bag once more, Piper grabbed a fistful of fabric and pulled out her selections. Satisfied with a knitted turquoise sweater and her oldest pair of Levi's, Piper chucked the remaining clothes back in her bag, saving the sweatshirt for last. The woman, who had never been too concerned with looking like she had just stepped off the runway, threw off the sweatpants and green cotton tank top she had been wearing, and wasted no time exchanging them for the clean clothes she had picked. Pulling the hair elastic out of her hair, Piper let her thick brown hair fall naturally for a few moments before throwing her head down, gathering her hair into another high ponytail. When her hair was secured with an elastic, Piper reached for her dirty clothes, balling them up in her hands. The woman scanned the tent, looking for anything else that needed to be washed. When she couldn't find anything, Piper turned to leave.
When she was out of the small tent, Piper welcomed the fresh air as she scanned around the camp. Everybody knew their job and there was a job for everyone. Most days, the camp worked like a well-oiled machine. Piper clapped her hands together and made steps toward the picnic table where Andrea was cleaning the selection of guns the group had.
"Look at you, flying solo!" Piper smiled, looking at the guns that lay out in front of the blonde.
Andrea smiled a bit, "Well, I had a good teacher."
"Yeah, Shane's good like that," Piper replied, sitting down across from Andrea, "Do you want any help? I'm not allowed to do any manual labor or whatever," Piper asked, gesturing toward the weapons with her hand.
"I've got a couple more to go, but if you want to grab that," Andrea jerked her head toward a Glock that lay uncleaned, "it'll help me finish up and then I can go back to washing clothes," Andrea gave an eye roll.
Piper smiled knowingly at Andrea - they were very much alike, the two women. They were willing and ready to do their share, but housework was not what they preferred. Piper was better suited to help out with the animals at the farm or gun training and Andrea enjoyed protecting those she cared about and taking brushes to gun barrels, not shirts. The women both knew that they weren't meant to be Stepford wives - that was clear enough.
And, though she was content to clean in silence, Piper had questions, "Hey, by the way, who is this Randall guy?"
In the three days she had been housebound, Piper hadn't had many visitors. Hershel had been by to check up on her, Carol was an angel, bringing her her meals, and Maggie had come in because it was in fact her room that Piper was in. Shane had been around as well, but he hadn't been a well of information, opting to sit in silence while Piper read or doodled hunter courses on Post-It's. Really, other than updates about Beth, Piper had very little knowledge when it came to the happenings around the camp. She had heard about Randall, but not in any great detail and the brunette hoped someone would shed some light on the situation.
"He came back with Rick, Hershel, and Glenn. He's in the shed," Andrea answered pointing off toward the small shed on the property.
Piper nodded slowly as she placed the pieces of the disassembled Glock in an order that made it easy to put the weapon back together, "Because he was hurt or something?"
"His leg. Hershel took care of it, though," Andrea informed Piper as she reassembled the gun she had been working on.
"What about uh," Piper wracked her brain for an appropriate word. "Releasing" sounded like the kid was a wild animal. "Getting rid of" sounded like they were going to off him in the woods and his body would end up at the bottom of a lake. But then again, maybe he would prove himself to the group. Maybe he would join their ranks, "What about when he recovers?" was what Piper finally chose.
Andrea sighed, "Rick wants to pack him a bag and send him on his way," Andrea paused, "I can't say I agree with him. Who knows what friends he has? But I don't know if I want him here either. We don't know anything about him."
Piper nodded in agreement. She wondered what Shane thought about the whole thing. Piper was a person who thought for herself and didn't let other's thoughts sway hers. She stuck by what she believed in regardless of opposition. But, regardless, she had always cared about what her friends were thinking. Shane was her friend. She cared about what her friend was thinking. She valued his thoughts and listened to his opinions. And surely he had some opinion.
"Piper?" Piper turned around to see Rick.
She half-smiled at her friend, "Hey, what's up?"
"I need to speak with you," Rick said, hands rested on his hips, eyes narrowed.
His tone made Piper want to stay seated and with Andrea, but she went against the apprehension and stood up. Tossing Andrea a "see you later" look, Piper followed Rick who had sauntered over to a more private location. When they were away from listening ears, Piper met the man's eyes, "What's going on?" she asked, crossing her arms.
Rick took a moment, but then spoke, "It's about Shane," he replied, his tone just short of a whisper.
Piper wanted to smack her friend upside the head. It wasn't her job to delegate for Shane to Lori or Dale, and certainly not to Rick of all people. She understood that things had changed between the men. She understood that there had been communication errors and plenty of disagreements since Rick had stepped up, but she wasn't a part of it. It wasn't Piper's job to fix whatever it was going on. It wasn't Piper's job to talk about Shane with Rick. It was Rick's responsibility to straighten things out with his friend. It was Rick's job to talk to Shane and solve things once and for all.
"Rick, I'm tired," she shifted her weight from one foot to another, "If you have a problem with Shane, take it up with him. Go somewhere, be discrete, and talk things out with him," her tone softened, "You guys have been weird ever since you got here and you really need to fix things. You and him. Talk it out. Hug it out. Just, whatever it is put it to bed."
"Lori thinks he's dangerous," Rick gestured with his thumb off to wherever he thought his wife was.
"I don't think he is," Piper insisted, shaking her head.
"How can you be sure?" Rick questioned, cocking his head slightly.
Really, it was a gut feeling. She knew how the whole Otis thing looked to everyone else. But whether anyone else believed it or not, Shane was struggling. He had been struggling with his decision since the night he made it. To Piper, that wasn't the sign of someone dangerous. Someone dangerous would have felt no remorse for their actions. Someone dangerous would have killed for shits and giggles, not to save a little boy's life. Shane's methods were unorthodox; there was no doubt about that. Piper thought back to the barn situation; it had been him that busted open the doors. The delivery had been less than considerate to the Greene family, but Shane had never been one to sit and wait for things to happen.
Shane wasn't dangerous in a way that he would purposely bring harm to the group, though. Nobody was dangerous in a way that would purposely bring harm to the group. Risks came with calls. Rick's calls had been risky. One of Lori's and her own calls had gotten Piper a concussion. It was much more complex than Rick saw it as and Piper wasn't sure she could convince him otherwise. Maybe, though, he would see it on his own.
Piper reached out, placing a hand on Rick's shoulder, "Just, just talk to him. Sort your shit out," the corners of her mouth twitched up a bit and she gave Rick's shoulder a gentle squeeze before turning and heading back toward the picnic table.
When she made it back to the wood table, Piper saw that Andrea had been replaced by Carl. He wasn't cleaning guns, but he looked busy, writing away in his math book.
Though she understood that Lori wanted to keep things as normal as possible for her son, she didn't think math took precedence over learning how to shoot a weapon. Carl had only been in sixth grade when the shit hit the fan, and Piper knew that there were so many things he hadn't learned, but Piper had never felt the need to do a mathematical proof when she was solving a case or riding her horse. And she was sure that Carl didn't need math to kill walkers. But, regardless of that fact, Carl had schoolwork and truthfully, Piper felt bad for the kid.
Sitting down next to Carl, Piper glanced at the workbook on the table. Her eyes scanned something about percentages and ratios. She had never been a great math student, and she figured Carl, sans teacher, was a better math student than she had ever been. He was a smart kid that was for sure.
"What?" Carl asked, looking at Piper.
Piper returned from her thoughts, "I was just thinking," Piper paused, and then smiled reminiscently, "You know, I had this teacher in this one math class. Freshmen algebra, it was."
"Algebra? No thanks," Carl looked almost offended at the thought, which only made Piper chuff.
"I know what you mean, but this teacher made it fun," Piper thought for a moment, "Mr. Shepherd. I think that was his name. He taught us how to play poker," she laughed lightly, "And we'd have two Friday's a month free of math," she nodded, "He was a cool guy. Ask your dad, I think he taught him too."
"I'd rather be learning how to play poker than doing this right now."
"I think you'd rather be learning more about shooting a gun, really," Piper raised her eyebrows at the twelve year old.
"Yeah, that too," he admitted.
Piper pressed her lips together, "I'll teach you sometime. How to play poker, I mean. Shane's the best with guns, but I've got a pretty good poker face if I do say so myself." If she hadn't been looking for it, Piper would have missed Carl's smile. And, when the boy nodded, Piper grinned and stood up, backing away from the picnic table, "We'll set it up, Grimes," Piper held her thumb and pinky finger up to her ear like a phone, "Have your people call my people."
And, with that, Piper was off before Lori, who had been folding laundry nearby, could scold her son for not doing his schoolwork.
An hour later, after having spent some time in the barn, Piper found herself well away from the main camp. She had been walking, to enjoy the scenery from on the ground, as opposed to on a horse, and the woman had stumbled into Daryl's camp.
And, lucky for her, Daryl was home.
"Hey," Piper greeted a bit awkwardly, dragging out the "e".
The man glanced up from his crossbow and raised both his eyebrows, questioningly.
The brunette, unsure, took a seat, watching Daryl continue to work on his weapon of choice. She knew he wasn't one for casual conversation and liked his privacy, but she couldn't help herself.
"Somethin' you need?" the man finally spoke.
"No, no," Piper replied, holding her hands up.
Daryl looked from his crossbow to the woman who sat across from him, hoping she wouldn't be a fixture there the entire day, "Where's Shane?" he asked.
"I dunno. You people act like I planted a GPS on him."
'Why dontcha' go look for 'im," Daryl suggested dryly.
Piper didn't respond to Daryl's suggestion and the pair sat in silence for a few minutes until Piper finally broke it, "So when I had just been promoted, we had this case at Special Victims," Piper looked down at her hands, "This little girl goes missing at a grocery store. The mom turns to get some apples and she's gone. Just like that. After we got the info from mom, I promised her that my partner and I would bring her daughter home. And we did everything we could; checked the store tapes, followed any leads, put out an Amber Alert. We had dozens of cops looking for her, but a week passed and she was still missing," Piper's eyes caught Daryl's for a moment, "We found her. A few months later. I'll never forget her mother's face when we broke the news," the woman shook her head slowly, "I had never been so close to a case before and I beat myself up over what had happened. Part of me wanted out, like maybe I wasn't detective material. After all, I failed," Piper played with the latch of the plated leather bracelet with Leroy's name on it that sat just above her Timex, "I had one job and I ended up failing everyone who was counting on me," the woman pressed her lips together before speaking again, "But something made me go back to work the next day. Maybe it was the determination to find whoever had hurt her. Whatever it was, it helped me walk into the precinct. And I ended up sticking with the job," a small smile came to her face, "In the end, I helped a lot of people."
Piper stood up. She wasn't sure if Daryl cared enough to take anything away from her story. She had hope, though, that in her sharing something personal, it had let him know that he was not alone. There were people who were there for him, regardless of whether he wanted them to be or not. Piper let out a soft huff and took one last look at the man. Part of her wished she was in some cable television show instead of the real world. In those shows, a character would give some uplifting monologue and things would be alight. Real life was different. Sure she was capable of offering some uplifting words, but half of the time they weren't worth a damn. They weren't worth a damn because most people didn't care to listen to some preaching bastard who acted like they knew it all. Some do-gooder who thought they could fix everything simply because they thought they knew everything. Someone who figured that, because they had experienced some bumps in the road, they were qualified to ramble on about something they deemed relevant. There was never a right thing to say. Everyone was different. Daryl was not like Piper at all, but the group needed him and the woman had put her best into letting him know that. That was all she could do, after all.