Chapter 1

Disclaimer: i do not own the walking dead

Rated M for gore violence, minor language, and some sexual content

Enjoy


King County, Georgia, October 30...

Ray stalked through the abandoned hospital. She held a M1911 pistol in her hands, her arms outstretched and ready to aim. She had her long, raven black hair up in a coiled bun, and her intelligent dark eyes blazed with attention. She was petite, but it disguised her true strength. She went down the hall, checking each room one by one, passing them if they were locked. She got to the nurse's station and riffled through the cabinets. She found extra batteries and matches. In a locked cabinet which she managed to pry open, she found several first aid kits. She had a drawstring backpack and filled it up. She kept going, checking more rooms but finding nothing worth taking. She peeked into another room when she heard a crash. Instinctively, she pointed her gun.

"Nurse! Help!" A frail voice cried. "Nurse! Help!"

Ray ran to a room that had a hospital bed pushed up against it. She shoved it aside, causing the wheels to screech. She pushed the door open and immediately aimed her gun at the bed in the room, but found it empty. On the floor was a pale, handsome man in a hospital gown and boxers. Ray approached cautiously, "Who are you? What're you doing here?"

"I...are you a nurse?" he asked, frowning.

"No," she snapped. "What's wrong with you? Why're you here?"

She noticed the bandage around his middle and she cocked her gun. "What's the bandage for? Huh? Answer me! Did you get bit?"

"Wh...what?" he asked. His voice was rough and scratchy.

"Did you get bit? Answer me, damn it."

"N-no...I...I was shot. Please," he begged. "I need help. Please."

Ray stared at him, debating over whether to shoot or lower her gun. The man's blue eyes were full of pain and confusion. She blinked several times, trying to ignore his attractive features despite his helpless state. She silently cursed herself and placed her gun in the holster on her right thigh. She went to him and draped his arm over her shoulders to bring him to his feet.

"Water," he said. "I need water."

"Come on," she helped him walk to the bathroom. Thankfully, the water was still working. The man bent over and gulped as much water as he could from the faucet. Ray glanced around, still alert. "We need to go."

He continued drinking. "Hey, you're gonna make yourself sick. Come on."

He stood up and gasped, panting from relief. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Ray grabbed his arm and pulled him off the sink. "Come on. We need to go."

"Go where? Why?" he asked.

"Just come on."

She led him out of the room. The man stopped, surprised to see the hospital in such a destructed state. They reached the nurses station and Ray pulled a flashlight out as well as her gun. "Here, you can man the flashlight. Come on."

They reached a T intersection. Ray peeked around the left corner and sighed at finding the hallway empty. She noticed the man standing in front of the right-hand hallway doors. He was shaking with fear. Ray snuck up behind him, seeing the half-eaten corpse of a woman on the other side of the doors. He gasped upon noticing her proximity. "What happened here?"

Ray studied his horrified expression. "It's a long story. And we're not safe here. Let's go."

She led him towards the left-side hallway. Ray ignored the bullet holes and bloody handprints on the wall, but the man stared at all of it, growing increasingly confused and paranoid. She turned left, but the man stopped in front of a set of doors that read Don't Open, Dead Inside. Something on the other side of the doors stirred. The chains rustled as something threw itself against the doors. The man stumbled back in fear and hobbled after Ray. He caught up with her just as she opened the stairwell door. "Turn the flashlight on. It's pitch black in there."

He obeyed and followed her. The door closed and the man recoiled in disgust, "What...what is that smell?"

"You'll get used to it," she assured him and descended. "By the way, my name's Lorraine. You can call me Ray."

"I'm Rick," he whispered, stepping carefully.

"Well, Rick...we better hurry if you want to live," she said absent-mindedly as she opened the exit door. Rick shielded his eyes, turning away. Ray took the flashlight from him and turned it off. "Come on."

She grabbed his arm and pulled him outside. Rick slowly followed her down the steps to the ground. Ray walked through the lot, but Rick paused. The entire back lot was filled with dead, some even piled up in trucks. Ray ran through the lot entrance, making sure the coast was clear. She ran back to Rick, "Come on. I'm getting tired of telling you."

"All...all these people...," his eyes watered in fear.

"I'll explain later. Please, hurry," she grabbed his arm and made him walk a little faster.

Suburban area...

Ray kept a watchful eye out. Rick stumbled a bit, but managed to keep himself up right. "Where are we...where are we going?"

"Some place safe," she said absently.

"There's someone over there," Rick pointed across the street.

"Where?" she demanded.

"There," he pointed. Ray followed his gaze to a man walking around on someone's front lawn.

"Damn it," she aimed her gun and fired. The man's head snapped back from the impact, and he crumpled to the ground. Rick gasped in horror and backed away from Ray.

"Rick, come on!" she stepped towards him, but he stumbled back and fell. "Dude, come on!"

"No...no!" he crawled onto someone's lawn. "You-you killed him!"

"Shut up," she snarled.

"No! NO!"

"You damn idiot!" she shoved his arms aside and slammed the butt of her gun against his forehead. Rick fell onto his side, his eyes rolling up inside his head as he passed out.

Drakes' residence...

Rick rolled his head to the side and slowly opened his eyes. He was resting against a pile of pillows on the wall. He was in a living room, the windows were covered with thick blankets and several candles were lit as well as old lanterns. Across the room, Ray was serving food. She placed steaming bowls of chili in front of two others. A teen girl who was a splitting image of Ray, same hair and eyes. The other was a boy who had Ray's hair and skin, but shining gray eyes instead of dark ones. Rick continued looking around, finding himself handcuffed to the stair rail.

"I changed your bandage."

Rick turned his attention to Ray as she knelt down in front of him. "I also checked you for any bites, scratches...you're clean."

She reached out to him and he recoiled. "Hey, I'm just checking for a fever."

Cautiously, she placed her palm on his forehead. She nodded, satisfied and lowered her hand. She pulled a set of small keys from her pocket and rolled them around her hand. "Look, I don't care that you're suffering from an injury...if you try anything," she shook her head. "Don't make me regret saving your sorry ass. I'd really hate to have to kill you."

She reached up and unlocked his cuffs. Rick pulled his hands to his chest, rubbing his wrists silently as Ray walked back to the girl and little boy. Slowly, Rick wrapped a fleece blanket around himself and walked over to them as Ray served him a bowl of chili then herself. "Eat up. It's the last two cans of chili we got."

Rick sat down and crossed his legs like the rest of them. The little boy stared at Rick, wide-eyed and cautious. Ray tapped the boy's fork, "Eat, baby."

He tore his eyes away from Rick and began eating. Rick stared at his food then at Ray. Without looking at him, she growled, "What?"

"You shot a man today."

"That wasn't a man," the girl scoffed.

"Denise, cállate," Ray scolded.

"No me trates como un niño. Estaba siendo contundente."

"You shot a man in the street, out front, a man," Rick emphasized, glaring disapprovingly.

"It was a Walker," she corrected. "Now, eat."

"You-"

"Eat."

Taken a back by her sternness, Rick reluctantly ate a spoonful of chili. After a long while, Ray wiped her mouth and cleared her throat, "Rick, do you even know what's going on?"

"I woke up in the hospital today...then you found me. That's all I know."

"You remember all those dead people? The ones at the hospital?" she asked, raising a brow.

"Yeah, they were piled up in trucks-"

"No, I mean...the ones you heard behind the doors, remember?"

Rick glanced up in thought, shuddering at the memory. "You're saying there were dead people in there? They didn't sound dead."

"Oh, they did," she leaned closer. "We call them Walkers. See, a little over three months ago, the dead just...just started rising. It spreads by bite, even a scratch...the infection spreads throughout your body and the fever burns you out. You die. But...you don't stay dead for long."

"You know how insane that sounds?"

"Well, it's true. Why do you think I shot that man? Because he was a Walker," she said sternly. Rick absorbed her sincerity. He turned back to his food and ate another spoonful.

After dinner, Denise and the boy went to sleep together. Ray covered them up with thick blankets as she dowsed the lanterns, leaving the candles to burn. She quietly tip-toed over to Rick where he sat on the couch, "Come with me. I wanna show you something."

He got up and followed her up the stairs. Ray led him to the master bedroom. Rick entered and she was waiting by the window. She ushered him closer and he shuffled to her. Outside, were dozens of Walkers milling around aimlessly. One was repeatedly running into a light pole. Rick blinked, "Those are...?"

"Walkers, yeah."

Ray sighed and sat down on the bed. "I've, uh...seen the turn happen."

Rick turned around to face her. "When I picked up my son, Oliver, at school," she gestured to the stairs, indicating the little boy. "And...his teacher was attacked during the escape. She got bit and by the end of the day...she was dead. A few minutes later...she got up."

She shook her head, rubbing her arms. "I killed her. I had to. We left Macon with Denise, my sister."

"I'm sorry," he said.

Ray shrugged if off, sighing. "What happened, happened. Nothing I can do about it," she paused to sigh. "Say, were you a criminal or something?"

"Huh?"

"You got shot, right?

"Oh, that. Yeah, I'm the deadliest you've ever met," he snorted, smirking. "No, I'm actually a sheriff's deputy."

Ray nodded, "I'm a professor. Or, I was going to be."

"Didn't happen?" he asked.

"I was on my way to Atlanta for a job interview at Emory University," she threw her hands up in defeat. "At least, that was the plan before the world went to hell."

Rick hobbled over and sat down next to her, "How old's your son? Oliver?"

"He's 7," she said, smiling awkwardly.

"I have a son...Carl. He's 12."

Ray glanced at him, "Where is he?"

"With his mother...I hope," Rick stared out the window, seeing the moon. "I hope."

The next morning, October 31...

Cautiously, Ray opened the front door. Rick now wore jeans and a white t-shirt. He held a wood bat and police raid helmet with a face shield. "Are you sure they're dead? I have to ask once more."

"Yeah, they're dead," Ray assured him. "Go for the head. Destroy the brain...they never get up again."

A walker rose from his resting place and stood up. He snarled at the sight of the living humans. Rick raised the bat and slammed it across the Walker's face twice before it went down. Rick slammed the bat down on the Walker's head then collapsed, holding his side. Ray went to his side, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," he assured her.

They reached Rick's house. He led the way to the living room, and began rummaging through the cabinets. Ray, Denise, and Oliver stood in the middle of the room as Rick walked about the house. "They were here. My wife and son."

"How do you know?"

"All the framed photos on the wall are gone," he pointed to the empty space above the fireplace. "All the photo albums...they're gone."

Denise glanced at Rick, frowning in thought, "They're probably in Atlanta."

"Why there?" Rick asked.

"Refugee center," Ray answered. "A huge one with plenty of supplies and weapons...at least, that's what they said before the broadcasts stopped. And there's also the Center for Disease Control. They said they're working on a cure."

"I have an idea," Rick muttered and went into the kitchen.

Sheriff's Department...

Rick led the group through the front of the building. Inside, everything looked untouched. Mail was still sitting in it's slots, old coffee was still sitting in the jug. He led them to the locker room where the showers were. He turned the knob and after a groan, water spurted out from the shower head. He turned the knob to hot and waited. After a moment, he shrugged, "It's warm. Closest we're gonna get, I bet. I'll let you ladies go first."

After showers, they gathered on the bench between the lockers. Denise changed to clean jeans, a red graphic tank top, and her favorite Doctor Who hoodie. She finished towel-drying her hair and braided it back. Ray, still in her towel-as well as Rick-helped Oliver with his hair. "Good. All dressed. You look handsome, baby."

"Thanks, Mom," Oliver smiled shyly.

"Go with Aunt Denise," she smiled back at him.

Oliver followed Denise out of the locker room. Once they were gone, Ray began towel-drying her hair. Rick unfolded his uniform, "Atlanta. Sounds like a good, safe place."

"I know. That's where we're headed," she stood up and slipped her panties on, then her jeans. "We've been here for about three days. It's time to move on."

Rick nodded in agreement, trying to avoid glancing at her. Ray moved to the edge of the bench and dropped her towel. Rick absently glanced at her and noticed something. A thick, ugly, jagged scar ran down from her left shoulder blade to her right hip, surrounded by various old burn marks and other scars. Rick put his boxers on then his under shirt. He glanced back at the scars as Ray snapped her bra in place. "Where'd that scar come from?"

Ray adjusted her tank top and sighed, "...a mistake."

She glanced at him over her shoulder, he was staring intensely at the scar. Rick met her eyes, not a sense of pity in his gaze. He turned back to his clothes and put his trousers on. Ray finished getting dressed and tied her wet hair up in a bun. She walked out of the locker room but stopped in the doorway, remembering something. She turned hurriedly to the locker room and turned the corner, running right into Rick. "Whoa, whoa," he grabbed her arms to steady her. "Easy there."

"Sorry," she whispered, realizing that she was pressed up against his chest. To avoid blushing, she took a step back. Rick held up her pistol, "You forgot this."

"Thanks," she took it, her finger brushing his.

Rick swallowed hard and walked past her, clearing his throat. Ray rolled her eyes and checked the clip in her gun before walking back out. Denise and Oliver waited patiently as Rick unlocked the gun cabinet. Ray grabbed the empty duffel bags and set them down on the floor. Denise carefully touched a rifle, "Can I learn to shoot? I'm 18...a legal adult."

"Yeah, you need to learn," Ray said, grabbing a shotgun. "But you need to learn to use it right."

"That's right. When you fire a gun, you gotta mean it," Rick touched Denise's shoulder. "Remember that."

"Yes, sir," she nodded.

"Mama, when can I learn?" Oliver asked in a whiny voice.

"No te quejes," she snapped. "You're too young to handle a gun. Maybe a knife. I trust you with a bat or a crowbar, but...we'll see."

"Pack the ammunition," Rick ordered Denise. She and Oliver stuffed all the bullet packages into the duffel bags. They separated the guns evenly into each bag. Rick took one and Ray took the other. Denise carried the other duffel of clothes and other supplies. Oliver carried his own backpack full of water and the last bit of food they had.

"We have to conserve ammunition. It goes up fast, especially during target practice," Rick informed, unlocking his patrol car. Oliver and Denise shoved the bags in the back then got in.

Ray hesitated before opening the door, "Rick, I...thank you. You know, for taking us with you. Not many people would do that."

"I get it," he nodded then shrugged. "You want to keep your boy and sister safe. If you think that sticking with me is best for them, then I respect your decision. When I find my family...I'll be doing the same...keeping them safe."

"I hope so, too," she said.

"Hope what?"

"I hope you find your family, too."

Highway 85...

Ray glanced in the rearview mirror, seeing Oliver and Denise sleeping on each other. Rick pulled the sun visor down and grabbed a photo, handing it to Ray, "This is my family."

She took the photo, studying the faces. Rick was wearing a nice beige blazer and black tie. His wife was pretty, and his son gave a genuine, adorable smile. Ray smiled, "Oh, no."

"What?"

"Your son, Carl...he's got a handsome smile. Looks like he's a heartbreaker," she handed the photo back.

Rick laughed, "You think so? I don't think Carl's ever been interested in girls...yet."

"Ah, well, my friend...any girl will be lucky to have him," Ray said and smiled.

Rick glanced down at his dashboard, "Damn."

"What?"

"Running on empty."

Ray leaned over, seeing the needle hovering over the E as well as the gas light coming on. "Pull over. Might as well start walking before the car's beyond saving."

He parked the car and placed the photo of his family in his chest pocket. Ray got out and woke up a cranky Oliver and a drowsy Denise. Ray wrapped the duffel bag strap across her chest and took Oliver's hand to keep him walking straight. Rick took two duffel bags and Denise carried the last one.

"Ray, there's a house up there," Denise pointed.

A white ranch house sat solemnly in the middle of a field with a barn behind it. Rick and Ray left the bags with Denise and Oliver, and Denise whipped out a crowbar, just in case as Ray and Rick went up to the house. "Hello?" Rick called. "Police officer out here! Can we borrow some gas?"

Rick took his hat off, "Hello?"

He knocked on the door. Ray went around the porch, peeking through the windows. She got to the side, and froze. "Rick."

He went to her and froze as well at the sight of the living room. Inside, a man was slouched on the armchair, the top of his head blown off and a shotgun in his hand. His wife was on the floor, a pool of blood surrounding her head. Rick stumbled back and hobbled off the porch. Ray followed him to the small stone bench by the big oak tree. "Rick?"

He didn't answer.

Ray knelt down in front of him, trying to meet his eyes which he avoided. "Rick, I-I know this is a lot to take in. But...this is the world now. Some people take the easy way out."

"I...I know," he whispered. "I know...never in my life, have I seen things like that. Never."

She nodded and grabbed his hand, "Rick, there's nothing we can do about it. We have to keep going."

After a long moment, he nodded. "Alright."

"Okay," she rubbed his arm affectionately and helped him stand up.

"Mama!"

Ray whipped her head to her right. "Oliver? Oliver!"

She took off running, following the sound of her son's voice. Rick was right behind her. They found Oliver and Denise by the horses ring, petting two beautiful horses. One was brown with a white stripe on his face and the other was white with a black mane and tail. Ray sighed in relief, "Oh, thank God."

Rick patted her back and stared at the horses, getting an idea. "Maybe we don't need gas after all."

Ray glanced at him, "You've got to be kidding me."

Atlanta, Georgia...

Rick rode the brown horse with Denise sitting in front of him. He had one duffel bag strapped to him and the other strapped to the saddle. Denise held the third duffel bag in front of her. Ray rode the white horse with Oliver sitting in front of her. He held onto his backpack in front of him while Ray had the last duffel strapped to herself. They rode into the city on the ride-hand side of the highway. The left-hand side was littered with abandoned cars. They rode silently, only the sound of the horses' hooves could be heard. After passing through a military blockade, they reached the city streets. Ray noticed several Walkers resting inside a scorched bus and pointed it out to Rick. She whispered into her son's ears, "There's them Walkers. No making any sounds, alright?"

He nodded furiously and buried his face in his backpack. The horses whinnied in anxiety. Ray tugged on the reins, "Steady, steady. Come on, girl."

The Walkers exited the bus, but the horses were already across the block. Rick glanced down the intersection, "Let's go this way."

Ray signaled the horse to follow Rick around the corner. They kept going, passing by a tank and several cawing crows. Denise started to glance around, "Do you hear that?"

They stopped, hearing the soft swirls of a helicopter. Denise pointed, "There!"

They glanced up at the glass building, seeing the reflection of a helicopter. "Let's go! He-ya!"

He shook the rains and the horse broke into a run. Ray did the same, keeping up with Rick's horse. They turned left and the horses' slid to a stop. The entire street was packed with over a hundred Walkers. They all turned towards them and began snarling. The horses neighed in fear and turned back the other way. The hoard of Walkers took off running after them. They reached the tank and found several dozen pouring in from each street. "Shit," Rick cursed.

"Rick, where do we go? Where do we go?" Ray demanded.

The Walkers swarmed them. Rick and Denise went down, falling off the horse as the Walkers began tearing into the poor horse. Rick grabbed Denise's arm, dropping the duffel bags he was carrying and dragged her under the tank. A Walker sank it's teeth into Ray's horse and it collapsed on top of the Walker. "Oliver, jump!"

She threw Oliver onto the tank and he latched onto it, climbing for dear life. Ray lost hold of her duffel as she jumped after her son, the strap breaking. The Walkers started climbing after them and Ray pulled out her pistol and began shooting their heads. But new Walkers began to replace the dead ones. "Fuck!"

"Mama, over here!" Oliver cried, trying to lift the top hatch of the tank. Ray shoved it open and dropped down. She quickly checked the inside, only seeing a dead soldier. "Come on, baby!"

Oliver fell into her arms. She set him down and quickly closed and locked the hatch. Oliver went to the corner as Ray watched the soldier. She saw a hatch on the ground and quickly threw it open. She saw Denise and grabbed her arm, "Denise!"

Denise scrambled up, tears flowing down her cheeks.

"Come on." She shoved Denise into the corner with Oliver, and stuck her head through the hatch, seeing Rick firing at the Walkers. "Rick!"

He glanced back at her and crawled backwards towards her. She moved to let him climb through the hatch then slammed it closed, locking it was well. Rick scrambled back to the other side of the tank as Ray panted, running her fingers through her undone bun. "Denise? Baby? You alright? You aren't bit, are you?"

They both shook their heads. Ray glanced at Rick just as he took the dead soldier's gun. But the soldier stirred awake, making the inhuman growl. Rick gasped and aimed his gun. Ray pulled out her knife, "No, Rick, wait!"

He fired. All of them covered their ears as the blast echoed off the walls. Finally, after several seconds, the ringing in their ears subsided. Oliver went to Ray, burying his face in her stomach. Denise went to her sister as well. Rick checked the clip in the soldier's pistol. "Where's the duffels? With the weapons?"

"The strap on mine broke. It's in the street," Ray gave him an apologetic look.

"I dropped mine, too."

Dahlia glanced up, "I dropped my duffel. I'm sorry."

"Its okay. Its okay. As long as you're alright," Ray soothed her. Denise buried herself in her sister again. "Rick...we can't stay in here forever."

"I know," he buried his face in his hands.

Suddenly, the radio in the tank buzzed. Then a voice came, "Hey, you...hello? You four in the tank...cozy in there?"

Rick and Ray exchanged looks. The voice came again, "Hello? You gonna ignore me?"

Rick quickly grabbed the radio talker and pressed the button, "Hello?"


end of chapter 1

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