You be the House and I'll be the Fire

Disclaimer: I don't own the Walking Dead. Or any of the characters from the comics or TV show.

Warnings: As of yet? Infrequent coarse language. Violence. May be some lovin' for ou favourite redneck.

It was night-time. There was no sun to speak of, no moon to substitute, no lights to shake off the consuming darkness. The pitch black of night surrounded Alisha like a thick blanket as she sat, staring blindly into the nothingness. The crackling of the fire seemed an age away, and she wasn't entirely sure she could hear it. Everyone was dead, and if they weren't dead, they were roamers. And yet, despite the complete silence of the entire world, someone still found it necessary to bang on the gate with a determination that could only be described as admirable, in the dead of night. Someone who wasn't dead, and who wasn't giving up without a fight.

Alisha hugged her knees to her chest as she sat, listening. A shotgun rested awkwardly in her lap. They'd been banging on the gate for the past hour or so. At first they had tried calling out, tried to see if there was anyone alive. Alisha hadn't answered, despite being perfectly alive, and perfectly capable. She knew what would happen if she let them in; they'd steal her food, her water. They'd rape her and beat her, maybe even kill her. It had happened more than once before. The most recent time, she had ended up having to kill the man, stealing his shotgun and shooting him in the head. It had taken her the better part of a day to dispose of his body, and clean the blood and gore. If it came down to it, she'd do it again.

After realising that no one was going to answer, they'd tried to break in. It was impossible, what with the slide down lock, and padlocked link chain almost as thick as Alisha's wrist. There was no way, unless they had a blowtorch.

So why wouldn't they give up?

Perhaps it was a matter of who would give in first? The gatecrashers, in realisation that they couldn't break in, or Alisha, in realisation that they wouldn't leave any time soon. If that was the case, the answer was Alisha. She couldn't sit there while they tried to break the gates down. It would drive her mental, and it would attract the roamers like flies to roadkill. She didn't need either of those things. She grabbed her shotgun, cocked it, and cautiously crept down the hall, opening the front door with one hand.

She slipped outside, the icy air hitting her with a shock. It was so dark that she could barely make out the shapes of three people at the gates. They hadn't noticed her, too busy with the gate, but it was only a matter of time.

Alisha had been lucky when the outbreak had started; her uncle was a rich man, owned a winery, and so it had only been fitting that he build a mansion away from, and above, the town, at the edge of a cliff, surrounded by thick cement walls and a heavy gate. It had seemed like the logical place to be at the time of the outbreak; safe, behind thick, heavy walls and strong gates. Unfortunately, her uncle had been on holiday for a long time, and the mansion was lacking in a few areas.

Wine? He had it in abundance, and Alisha was able to get as drunk as she desired. Bedrooms? Alisha had seven to choose from. Power? Solar and a back-up generator. Water? He'd never liked paying for it, so he'd installed four large tanks. Food? Only the freshest of the fresh. At the time of purchase, over four months ago. Now, it was a soggy pile of mould, stinking out the garbage. The only way or Alisha to get food was to walk a good hour to the town, which wasn't exactly safe anymore. She was already getting low, and would have to make another trip. She'd almost been killed the last time she'd made a trip into the town.

"Hey," one of them, a man spoke, and they all froze. "There's someone there."

Alisha watched them. "Walker?" said another.

"I dunno. Hey? Hey!"

Alisha took aim, attempting to curb the nervous shaking of her hands. She didn't know how they'd react, what they'd do. "What do y'all want?" she asked.

"Let us-!" one of them started angrily, but he was cut off.

"Shane! Just stop," another hissed. He spoke to Alisha. "We're just lookin' for somewhere safe," he told her.

"This ain't it," Alisha assured him. No good would come from letting them in. "Go on, now. Find somewhere else." She sounded a lot braver than she felt.

"Please, just for a night. I- what's your name?"

Alisha hesitated before answering. "Alisha."

"Alisha? I'm Rick. Rick Grimes. This is Shane, and Daryl. I know you probably don't trust us, but I'm asking you, please. We have women, a child. We just need somewhere to stay, for one night."

"If I don't trust you, what makes you think I'll just let y'all in?" Alisha asked. She was taking no chances. Either way, as long as she was in here, and they were out there, she was safe. Safety was hard to come by in this day and age. It was hard enough to come by before the outbreak.

"You're gunna play this game? Cause it's not about trust, is it? It's about survival, and survival's about sticking together, right?" Shane asked.

Alisha narrowed her eyes at him. "No," she told him, "survival's about who's got the bigger guns, the most food, and the better protection."

"We have food," Rick offered.

"I don't want your food."

"Guns, then."

"I don't want guns."

"Well what do you want then? You got the better protection, we can all see that."

Alisha cautiously approached the gate, gun still trained on the men. She could just make out a convoy behind them, heads moving in the cars. The three men were armed, like her, and all of them older; the youngest, who she thought was Daryl, would have been in his late twenties, early thirties. Alisha wasn't even sure if she'd turned twenty yet; she'd given up on keeping track of the days.

"Y'all lay down your weapons," she told them. "If I let y'all in here, you lay them down, don't go carryin' them all 'round like they're glued to your hands." Shane scoffed, but Alisha ploughed on. If they didn't abide to her terms, they could move on. "Y'all can take 'em when y'all leave, or if those things come attackin', but y'all don't need 'em to play poker, or to take a piss, and you sure as hell don't need 'em when y'all eatin'. Okay?"

"Done," Daryl said without hesitation. "You get me on the other side of this gate, I'll even lay it at your feet. Long as you don't want me to kiss your boots, we'll be fine."

With a curt nod from Shane, and a small smile from Rick, Alisha went about opening the gates. It was no easy task. Once she'd untangled and hauled the lock and chain off, she had to lift and slide the heavy bolt, then slide the gate open. Only the best security for her uncle. It was a pain to open, but when it was closed, even a tank would have a hard time knocking it down. Once the cars were all in, she had to lock it all up again, with some help from Daryl.

When all of the cars had been emptied of people, Alisha found herself staring in the face of a large group of pale, nervous people. Rick stepped forward. "Thank you," he told her. He glanced around at his group, then started on the introductions. Alisha tried her best to keep up.

There was pregnant Lori, and Carl, Rick's wife and son; T-Dog, the dark man; Glenn and Maggie; Hershel and Beth, Maggie's father and sister; Carol, who'd recently lost her young daughter; and there was also Shane, Daryl and Rick himself. Eleven people. Alisha glanced at each of them, tightening her grip on the shotgun. Save for Carl, and maybe Beth, they were all older than her.

"It's... uh... nice to meet y'all," Alisha told them. She didn't know what to make of them all. "I'm Alisha. I, um, I imagine Rick's already filled y'all in on terms?" There was a general mutter of agreement. "It's nothin' personal..."

"Yeah, about that," Shane started. His eyes flicked down to the shotgun she was holding. "We lay down our guns, only seems fair that you do too, right?"

"Shane," Rick warned.

Alisha scowled. "Those were terms of me riskin' my life, to let y'all into my home. There's eleven of you, and one of me. I guess gun makes two. That's hardly fair," she told him. "The last time I let someone in here..." Alisha trailed off as the memories came crashing down. She angrily pushed them away. "Well, let's just say it was a mistake. I'd rather not make it again."

"It's fine," Rick assured her. "Your house, your rules. I trust that you're not gunna go around shootin' us. We'll be gone by morning."

There was an uncomfortable silence, as they all took in what had just been said. None of them really wanted to go back into the world.

T-Dog whistled, trying to break the tension. "This is a niiice house. You alone here?"

"Yeah. It's just me," Alisha told him. "C'mon. Y'all may as well stay inside for the night. There's enough room, anyhow." She paused for a moment, as if debating whether or not to say something else. "I ain't got no food, though. I'm all out. Y'all wanna eat, make sure you got your own." She hoped that it would deter them from trying to rob her. It was a dangerous game she was playing, she knew; she didn't know these people, who they were, what they wanted. They could already be deciding what to do with her body.

"We've got enough," Lori told her. "For all of us," she added. Alisha assumed 'all of us' included her. She nodded at the woman, throwing her a small smile.

"C'mon. Let's get out of the cold," Alisha said. She walked inside, the group trailing after her.

To say the house was giant was an understatement. Alisha had lived in apartments smaller than the living room. The kitchen was larger than her old lounge, with an island in the middle, and each of the bedrooms could almost house the whole group. Her uncle had cut no corners when he built the place, and he had built it himself, with the help of family.

Alisha could see the awe etched onto each of the groups faces as she directed them to the bedrooms. "Y'all can pick and choose, I guess," she told them. "Not all of them have beds, but there's a linen cupboard down the hall-" she pointed to it "-where there's spare blankets and whatnot. Y'all can shower, but careful on the water. And the power; generator's nearly out of juice."

"You hit the jackpot, or what?" T-Dog commented.

Alisha smiled. "You'd say so, but not really. Almost kills me gettin' food, and it's mighty lonely, too. Y'all have a good sleep. If you need anything, I'll be in the livin' room."

Rick frowned. "You don't use the bedrooms?"

"No," Alisha told him, shaking her head. "Haven't been up here in months. Besides, it's warmer near the fire."

"Fair enough. Well, thank you," Rick told her. The rest of the group gave their thanks, and Alisha bid them goodnight before heading back down the stairs. There was a faint clanging at the gate. The roamers had followed them.

Curling up in the chair beside the fire, Alisha listened, gripping onto her shotgun. They can't get in, she told herself. You're safe, they can't get in. She'd told herself the same thing again and again, but months of loneliness and a world gone sour had amounted to more sleepless nights than she could count. She stared into the red and orange flames, watching them as they danced around.