A/N: I know what you're thinking. Mary Sue, right? I promise you that I've tried my best to create two original characters with imperfections, struggles, and strengths that make them worthy of the show. Hopefully you'll agree and keep reading.
This is going to be a long one—28-30 chapters total. I've already written 24 chapters and I'm working on the last few now. I have two fabulous beta readers who are diligently working to help me make sure that each chapter is the best that it can be. Thank you Dannylionthe1st and Walking Primrose! I will probably end up posting about 2 chapters each week, maybe 3.
If you're curious, the title comes from Titus Andronicus. The full line is "My scars can witness, dumb although they are, that my report is just and full of truth."
Disclaimer: I don't own the TV show or the comic series.
Vera never imagined that she'd find a can of sardines so delicious. Then again, she also never thought she'd use a crowbar to smash in the skull of a reanimated corpse. So, all things being even, this wasn't such a terrible surprise. She greedily ran her tongue along the side of the metal tin.
Vera spared a glance to her left. Dani wrinkled her nose in disgust.
"Just eat your spam and stop judging, Princess," Vera retorted.
Her sister rolled her brown eyes but obediently went back to her own breakfast. Vera tossed the sardine tin into the trash and took another moment to savor the metallic aftertaste. Finding this house had been a stroke of luck, especially since the pantry was still stocked with a fair amount of canned goods. She could kill for a decent cup of coffee, but beggars couldn't be choosers. It had been three days since either of them had anything substantial to eat. When they stumbled across this place last night they had foolishly overindulged, consuming nearly half of the contents of the small pantry; soup, beans, tuna fish, all gone in an orgy of desperate hunger. But now it was time to get smart, to ration. Maybe they could hole up here for weeks. Maybe by then everything would blow over and the world would go back to normal.
Vera shook herself free of that daydream. There was no end in sight. And now the two of them were alone. Dani was only sixteen and had all the common sense of a child, but she had to be an adult now. Last night Vera had set up a makeshift bed for her at the bottom of the pantry. The bedrooms upstairs had only one exit. Plus, they wouldn't be able to hear someone enter the house. Her sister was tiny, barely five feet tall, so she was able to curl up just fine and hide away if anything went down. Vera felt more comfortable keeping watch with a loaded Winchester in her hands.
Dani dropped her can into the garbage.
"What are we going to do today?"
"We should probably do another sweep through the house. What we found in the back room was useful, but we haven't looked through the boxes in the basement yet and some of the clothes in the closets looked basically new," she suggested.
"I want to check the bathroom. If there's any deodorant in there, I'll cry for joy," Dani said.
She twisted her long honey-colored waves into a loose bun and grinned. Vera rolled her eyes but returned the smile. She ran her fingers through her own darker hair, wincing when they became tangled in a web of knots. For a second she allowed herself to imagine how good it would feel to clean the grease and dirt from her long mane, but she quickly dismissed that thought. She wouldn't be accompanying her sister to the bathroom. She wasn't ready to face the mirror. She didn't want to see the jagged scar that she was sure stood out in stark white against her olive skin. She'd seen the mark on her thigh enough times to guess how bad her cheek must look.
Dani had just started off towards the stairs when a loud noise caused them both to freeze. The younger girl's wide eyes darted towards the front door. Vera's gaze drifted towards the next room where she knew the shotgun leaned against the pantry door. It meant getting closer to the front of the house, closer to the intruder, but she couldn't leave the shotgun behind. If it was a freak, she'd blast it in the head. If it was a human, well, she couldn't risk the person taking the gun if he or she found it.
The creaking sound of footsteps on the old wood floor continued.
"Go," she mouthed to Dani. She jerked her head to the right, indicating the rear door.
Dani was glued to the spot. Vera gritted her teeth and gave her sister a shove. Dani took a few stilted steps backwards, shot her sister one last pleading look, but finally turned and backed away.
Vera watched to make sure she was really gone before she inched her way back towards the pantry. The footsteps were closer now. Too close. Her own bare feet were silent on the wooden floors. Vera's fingers barely grazed the stock of the shotgun when she realized that whoever was here was in the next room over. She eased herself into the pantry and closed the door as far as she could without making it creak. She trained the nose of the gun outward. And she waited.
A few seconds later the intruder entered the room. He was a man – a living, breathing one – and that scared Vera more than any mindless, flesh-eating freak. He had a crossbow in his grip and he looked like a hunter stalking his prey. Her palms were sweaty against the smooth wood of her weapon. She could hear her breathing grow fast and shallow.
The man looked like he was going to pass right through the room. He was halfway to the kitchen when he paused, sniffed the air, and backed up a step. Vera saw him reach into the trash bin and lift out the can of sardines. She almost cursed aloud. The man sniffed the tin and dumped the remaining fluid out. Certain now that the house was occupied, his eyes scanned the room until they landed on the partially opened pantry.
Vera gripped the Winchester and put her finger on the trigger. He was approaching now, crossbow trained on her hiding place. He reached out with his free hand and touched the door. There was no time to think. Vera kicked out her foot and swung the door open and fired a shot over the man's shoulder.
"Shit!" he cursed. Before he could get both hands back on his bow she had the shotgun pointed at his chest.
"What are you tryin' to do, you crazy bitch? Attract every walker for miles?" he spat.
"I got another round in the chamber. Drop it," she ordered.
The man tilted his head to the side. He continued to peer at her, sizing her up. Instead of dropping his weapon, he brought his other hand up and placed his finger firmly on the trigger.
"Now, why would I do a stupid thing like that? So's you can finish me off while I'm unarmed?" he asked.
Vera felt her breath quicken again.
"Because if you shoot me with an arrow, I'll sure as hell have enough in me to pull this trigger, and when I miss, I tend to miss low."
She jerked the barrel of the gun down until it pointed to a sensitive area of his anatomy. The man grunted.
"I ain't gonna shoot you, girl. I'm lookin' for someone," he said.
"Sorry. I haven't received any visitors lately. Look elsewhere," she said, still not taking her finger off the trigger. She saw the man grit his teeth.
"You sure? I'm lookin' for a little girl. Goes by Sophia?" he asked.
She took in his overall appearance. He was wearing a plaid shirt with the sleeves torn off. A layer of dirt and grime covered his skin. He was a redneck, a good old boy. He looked like the other men they'd encountered. Hardly someone who would be entrusted with a child.
"What do you want with a little girl?" Vera sneered.
The man's trigger finger twitched. His eyes narrowed. Vera was certain that he was going to shoot her. But instead he lifted his crossbow off his body and laid it on the counter in one swift motion.
"She went missin' from our camp. Her mama misses her," he said.
He peered around her at the pillow and blanked on the floor of the pantry.
"That spot looks a little tight for you, if you don't mind me sayin'. You sure you ain't got a little stowaway with you?"
Vera stood up, keeping her barrel pointed at the man's chest.
"Enough questions. I haven't seen any Sophia, so get lost."
The man stared her down, but Vera didn't waver.
"I'm gonna leave, but first I gotta take my bow back," he said.
He had his hands up in a show of surrender and moved slowly. Vera allowed him to move, shotgun trained on his back.
"Go out the back," she ordered, keeping him moving forward.
She marched him outside and once they were down the steps she gave his back a nudge with the barrel of her Winchester.
"Keep going and don't come back," she said.
He flipped her the bird and muttered, "Thanks for the hospitality," before continuing across the yard. Before he could make it to the tree line, a figure burst forth from the woods. Without hesitation, the man cocked his crossbow and aimed.
"Don't shoot!" Dani squeaked, holding her hands out in front of her body.
"Damn it, Dani!" Vera shouted, rushing towards her sister, gun still aimed at the man between them.
"This the little thing you keep in that cupboard?" he asked.
Vera answered him by jabbing his side with her gun.
"Fuck, I ain't gonna shoot her," he snapped.
He grunted angrily but didn't make any further fuss, lowering his crossbow. Satisfied that their lives weren't directly in danger, Vera whirled on her sister.
"What the fuck are you doing back here? I told you to go!" she shouted.
"I heard a single shot! I figured you took care of whatever it was," Dani said defensively.
"You girls alone out here?" he asked.
Vera saw Dani about to reply and cut her off quickly.
"None of your business, redneck. Just keep moving," she snapped.
"I'm only askin' 'cause my people have a camp a few miles out. Women, children, even a doctor," the man said.
Dani's eyes lit up.
"Sorry, not interested," Vera said before her sister could respond.
Dani glowered at her, but Vera just ignored her.
"Look, it ain't my business, but the world ain't no place for two girls alone anymore," he pressed.
"Who said we're alone?" Vera countered.
"Vee, we might need that doctor if—"
"Shut up, Dani. We don't need any help, let alone from some hick. Get going," she told the man.
"Vera, what are you doing? Daddy's gone! We do need help!" Dani said desperately.
Vera lost her patience.
"Dani, just shut the fuck up! Do you remember what happened the last time we trusted a man who wandered into our camp?"
She knew it was a low blow. The spark went out of Dani's eyes completely. She didn't curse, didn't shout, didn't so much as whimper. Wordlessly, the younger woman ran towards the house. To her horror, Vera felt her eyes grow damp. Blinking furiously, she turned back to the stranger.
"What are you looking at, Pocahontas? Grab your bow and leave," she barked.
The man growled at the nickname, but started back towards the tree line. Vera felt a moment of remorse. Whether it was over what she'd said to Dani or her harsh treatment of this man, she wasn't exactly sure. She felt her resolve weakening.
"If I find a little girl called Sophia I'll send her your way," she called out to the retreating figure. He paused and turned back to her.
"We're at a farm about 8 miles east," he replied.
She nodded, and then watched as he disappeared into the woods.
Daryl didn't tell the others back at the farm about the two sisters in the abandoned house. He wasn't sure why. The older girl seemed pretty keen on keeping her distance from outsiders, and who was he to press the issue?
Still, he couldn't seem to push them from his thoughts. They didn't look much like sisters, now that he thought about it. The older girl was maybe twenty. She looked fiercer, and not just because she'd been the one with the gun. Her features were darker, her face more angular, and her body was tall and lean. Her sister was petite and still had a hint of baby fat even with the constant movement and lack of food that he was sure they had endured. They were both young; too young to be alone, especially nowadays. The younger of the two couldn't have graduated high school yet and the older girl didn't look too far beyond that.
Clearly they had managed to take care of themselves just fine so far, and yet that night images of walkers surrounding the old house flooded his drowsy mind, robbing him of sleep. And then there were the older girl's words rolling around in his brain. 'Do you remember what happened the last time we trusted a man who wandered into our camp?' All kinds of possible meanings floated through his mind, each one worse than the last. He had a sickening suspicion that whatever she meant had something to do with the ugly scar on her cheek.
The next morning he awoke feeling like he hadn't slept at all. He told Rick and T-Dog he planned to head for the ridge to get a birds-eye view of his sector of the woods, and took off on one of Hershel's horses before Shane had a chance to make another dumb-ass remark.
The ridge was only a mile off from the old house, but he resisted the urge to head that way. Damn girls could take care of themselves. At least the one with the gun could, and she'd keep the other one in check.
Pushing the girls from his thoughts, he vowed to keep a sharper eye. He found Sophia's doll down by an old creek. She could be close. He had to get to that ridge so he could get a real good look. He was so focused on the woods around him that he missed what was straight in his path.
What followed happened so fast that he didn't have a chance to do anything to stop it. The snake snapped, the horse reared back and threw him. He went tumbling down the ridge and one of his arrows managed to lodge itself straight through his side. He tried to bind his wound without removing the arrow, but it still hurt like a bitch when he tried to climb back up the steep hill. He grasped at roots and dirt, but as he neared the top he could feel his head swim and his grip loosen. He clawed at the air. His body twisted, and fell back down the rocky peak.
As Daryl's world turned to black, he almost laughed at the realization that those two girls had probably outlived him.
End Note: Every time you don't review, a walker eats a puppy. Please, think of the puppies.