Before you begin: will have implied LeexCarley and LeexLilly, although the romance will probably stick to Lee and Carley. I've had this story in my head for a while... anyway, it's not a typical rewrite of the episodes, so I'm going to add a twist that will be revealed next chapter. For now enjoy, and please REVIEW if you liked it! I almost always respond to questions. I'm also still checking for mistakes so there will be some minor changes every now and then.
themed lyrics underneath
Chapter 1: Grounds for Divorce
But it does you no good
And it does me no good
And it does you no good
There's a hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall
The flames crackled in the rust-bitten fire pit, igniting the kindle with a blended vortex of monochrome colors that reminded Lee of a sunset. In the background he recognized the familiar echo of boney claws scratching the barrier walls outside the lot; the faint stench of decay and mold underlined the thick musk of smoke. Although it was still the middle of the summer the evening had been gradually getting frigid since the last drops of sunlight scattered over the horizon.
"That damn walker's going to attract more of 'em if we don't get rid of it." Lee glanced over his shoulder as Kenny passed into the group circle, squeezing between Lee's and Carley's chairs. He perched on Lee's other side.
They had set up a ring of lawn chairs around the bonfire after the group decided that sleep wasn't an option. It started with the newcomer Mark and his inauguration into the group with Carley, and then Lee decided he wanted a drink after checking to make sure Clementine was fast asleep, a few minutes later Larry brought out the drinks, and it ended with Kenny who had seen the flickering fire through his window.
"We'll get it later," Lee remarked assuredly, "but for now just ignore it."
Carley glanced at Kenny expectantly. "How's Duck doing?"
"Better now that he had his medicine." Kenny passed his stare over to Larry on his left. "Got a drink?"
"Plenty," Larry replied, rifling through the content of the cooler at his feet. He popped the cap of a cheap, bitter beer with his bare hands – a talent that always reminded Lee of his unruly strength – and handed it over.
Silence once again settled across the group like a thin sheet. It had only been three weeks and already things were awkward for them. Lee noticed that the tension tended to veer towards himself, especially when he had to choose between Lilly's valid side of the argument or his loyalty to Kenny. Speaking of Lilly… "Carley," he addressed and she met his calculated gaze out of the corner of her eye, "have you checked on Lilly?"
"I did about an hour ago to change her bandages."
"Something about me now?" As if on cue Lilly appeared from the darkness behind Larry. She was slouched to shift a majority of her weight to one leg.
Larry chuckled. "Ha, knew you'd be up and about in less than a day! Take a seat."
She limped over to the vacant chair next to Carley and plopped down with a hiss of pain. Her fingers massaged her injury beneath the bandages encasing her upper thigh. "Shit that hurts. Nothing alcohol can't solve though, right?"
"Finish mine," Lee offered, reaching across Carley with a polite 'excuse me' to hand off the bottle of whiskey. "I ain't gonna drink it."
Lilly accepted it carefully. "Huh, thanks. Good year, too."
And, as anticipated, the group fell back into quite. Lee leant back in his seat and allowed his head to press against the rest. Lilly received her injury from deciding it would be a genius idea to get some supplies for their group and left the motel by herself on a quest to prove nothing yet everything. However… she was brave.
Lee knew that there wasn't anyone else in their group who had enough courage to do what she did, regardless of how foolish it had been.
The morning prior…
Hazy emerald eyes scanned the tree-line for any signs of movement.
The summer heat scattered when a torrent of wind raced by, scattering leaves across the vivid landscape and whipping her auburn hair into her face. She swept her bangs behind her ears and examined the decapitated corpse sprawled out on the grass. It was a fresh kill from what she could tell; the severed neck was still oozing black unidentifiable liquids, the fingers twitched slightly and the blood splattered across the tree was dripping down the bark like wet paint.
Her heart slammed into the cage of her chest, filling the silence with her rhythmic pulses and quickened breaths.
"Lee!" She exclaimed, disregarding her initial plan to lay low and stay quiet. "Dad! Kenny! Carley! ANYONE!? Answer me!" Her voice carried out into the rolling hills. When she didn't receive a reply she raised her rifle to the crook of her shoulder. "GUYS! WHERE ARE YOU?!"
She whirled around when the voice sounded out from somewhere nearby. Instead of catching a glimpse of anyone from her group, however, she noticed something shambling through the underbrush, its jerking gait familiar and menacing. "Guys?" The darkest corners of her mind instinctively alerted her to the presence of the danger. In turn her grip on the rifle tensed.
Twigs snapped behind her.
She spun to face the noise as a shadow sauntered towards her – no, three shadows… five, seven, eight – on a slight limp, its broken shin shifting under the pressure with sickening snaps. The scent of decay and black mold drifted upwind; she bit back bile, aware that she still wasn't accustomed to the smell by now. There's a lot of them, she noted, squinting into the scope. Aim, fire, and run. Aim, fire… and run.
She lined the marker up with the closest Walker's forehead.
And then she pulled the trigger.
"SON OF A B-!" Ragged claws suddenly reached around her head from behind and latched onto her face. She reflexively swung her elbow back, nailing the Walker in the gut. Decomposing ribs shattered against the contact but the creature only held tighter. Its finger bones were poking through the skin, filed down to sharp edges from the constant scratching against walls and other barriers. Her cheek was practically shredded in its grip.
She screamed for her group – for her father, Lee, even Kenny – and thrashed vehemently. No! Nonono! NO! This is not how I'm going to die! I will NOT become one of you! Several other claws grasped her ankles and waist, pinning her to the ground almost like they were trying to drag her down into the abyss they came from. NOOOO!
The zombies sank their teeth into the tender flesh of her neck, hip and thighs, slicing cleanly through layers of flesh and muscle –
Lilly sat up with a start, the echo of her scream reverberating off her walls. Her first instinct was to snatch the hand gun from the corner of the nightstand and aim it around the room, threatening even the smallest of shadows. When she was greeted by nothing but dim darkness and her own gasps for breath she checked her neck. The fire died instantly, revealing nothing more than her normal, unbitten self.
She slid out from under her sweat-soaked sheets and trekked over to the mirror beside the dresser. The course of the month had taken a toll on her body; beneath the shorts and sleeveless shirt she appeared thinner from loss of appetite, her shoulder bore a scar from where a shard of metal had impacted her during the construction of the barrier wall outlining the front of the motor inn, and her hair felt like straw to the touch.
"Just a dream," she uttered under her breath.
The door was slammed open and Carley and Lee appeared in her line of sight, Carley armed with her gun and Lee with his fire ax. "LILLY!" Lee exclaimed when they realized the lack of danger in the room, "are you alright? We heard you scream!"
"I'm fine," she answered, composing herself. "It was just a nightmare."
Lee didn't seem convinced for a moment but he lowered his ax anyway. "Are… you sure you're alright? It sounded like you were-"
"I'm fine!" Lilly barked, shoving him in the chest. He stumbled back through the doorway. She gripped Carley's shoulders and insistently pushed her out in his wake. "Get the hell out of my room! Doesn't the term privacy mean anything to you guys anymore?"
Carley frowned. "Uh… but we just…"
Lilly slammed the door shut before they could see her crying.
The street was quiet for the first time this week. There were no Walkers, no people shouting for rescue, no echoing gunshots resonating from somewhere in the distance. Lilly appreciated the silence as she traversed the lot, crisp summer leaves crunching beneath her boots. The air was starting to get a little colder during the morning hours, but she had to endure the shift of the seasons if they planned on surviving through the coming winter.
A bitter gust of wind swept across the motor inn. She shivered and zipped up her jacket, continuing her trek towards the RV.
Across the way she caught movement resonating from the inside of Lee's room. She turned her attention away from the window when he passed by and onto Clementine and Carley drawing symbols and pictures into the pavement with chalk. Lilly steered away from them, though, with her intentions focused on the RV. The group had had another argument while building the wall the day before and she wasn't quite in the mood to put up with anyone's leftover attitudes. Nor did she want to mention the awkward mishap earlier this morning.
She froze at the foot of the ladder and glanced over her shoulder. "Yes?"
Clementine was staring up at her intently, her hazel eyes filled with a distant, perplexed kind of curiosity. "Lee says you were in the Air Force… that's with all the helicopters and planes and stuff, right?"
Lilly gyrated so she could fully face the little girl. "Yeah."
"So you know what a plane looks like, right?"
That's an odd question. Lilly crossed her arms against her chest. "What are you trying to get at?"
Clementine gestured to the cartoonish city she and Carley had been creating for the past half hour. "I'm not very good at drawing planes. Can you do one for me?"
The request caught Lilly off guard for a moment. She didn't want to reject the child, but at the same time she had to keep watch until Larry and Kenny finally decided to emerge from their rooms. She caught Carley's calculated stare out of the corner of her eye. "Carley, could you keep lookout?"
"Of course." Carley rose steadily to her feet and brushed purple dust from her jeans. "Are you OK? This morning was a bit of a scare."
Lilly shrugged impassively. When Carley realized she wasn't going to get a proper response – or a response at all – she pressed her thin lips into an even thinner line and advanced towards the RV. Lilly took her place at Clementine's side. "That's a nice city you've got going on here." The monochrome 2D structures were lined along a street where a skillfully sketched car was passing down the road (Lilly knew it had to be Carley's work, she had the precision of a Terminator with an automatic lock-on). "Where do you want me to stick the plane?"
"Anywhere," Clem answered, coloring in the leaves of a tree with the green chalk.
Lilly shifted through the worn down pieces scattered across the mural until she found the remaining half of the red stick. She sought through the fragments of her memories until she was able to recall the last time she had played with chalk – it was when she was nine and she was with her neighbor, another girl her age named Heather who eventually became one of the snobby chicks in school. Heather was Lilly's first zombie kill when the world began to fall apart at the seams.
She was also the zombie Lilly had tried to shoot in her dream.
"Lilly…" Clementine nudged her elbow. "Are you OK? You look sad."
Lilly was rejected from her thoughts and she reassuringly pat the other girl's back. "I'm fine," she fibbed, feigning a smile. "I was thinking of where to put the plane. Is up here alright?" She tapped the spot between two clouds that looked more like sheep.
Lilly worked quickly to outline the jet plane and colored it in, etching distinct features into it with white chalk. Clementine leaned over throughout the process to observe her work. "Do you like it?" The older woman asked, wiping the smeared color off of her fingers on the asphalt beside her.
"Duck draws his planes differently," the girl replied quietly, "but I like yours better."
Lilly glanced up at Carley who was gazing out through the rifle scope, and then around at the motor inn. Lee was outside now, towing some old planks away from his door and over towards the barrier. "Where is Duck, anyway?"
"Kenny said he couldn't play with me today." Clementine started on drawing the stick-figured version of the group beside the cityscape. "Duck's sick. Kat told me that he would feel better soon, though, and that I shouldn't worry."
Lilly furrowed her brow. "I'll be right back."
Kenny, Katjaa, and Duck shared the same motel room, a family-oriented one beside Lee and Clementine's. They had the larger rooms with two beds, appropriately separating them, although certain morale standards didn't really matter regardless. Seems like I'm beginning to think like my father, Lilly told herself as she approached the door labeled 8. At this rate I'll start having my own heart palpitations.
Her knuckles rapped the tattered surface before her. "Kenny? Kat? You two in there?"
A moment later Kenny answered. The door creaked open on rust-bitten hinges, partially revealing Kat perched on a chair beside her son's bed and Kenny with his face pulled taught into a blank, unreadable expression. "What?" He hissed.
"Heard Duck was sick," Lilly remarked, her tone emotionless and almost rigid. "Does he need some medicine? I can try to see what we have in storage."
She and Lee had grabbed plenty of medicine prior to escaping from the pharmacy. They had a supply of pills for her father, Duck's ADHD and even the occasional migraine (although those particular pills seemed to be the only thing in her stomach anymore). The only thing they had to worry about now was the eventual shortage of their food. Hopefully the dead hadn't eaten all the deer in the area… just in case.
Kenny sighed, snapping her out of her thoughts. "He's just a little under the weather. Don't worry, it'll pass."
Before she could open her mouth to speak her opinion the door was swung shut in her face. Jackass. She couldn't blame him, however – the fighting amongst the group had been escalating lately, mostly over the position of power amongst herself, Kenny, and Lee, although Lee really didn't want anything to do with it. Lilly recalled the argument yesterday afternoon that promptly ended with tensions so thick she could slice it with a knife. It had almost concluded with a fist fight between Kenny and Larry, but Carley managed to break them apart before anything serious could befall either of them – heart attack or otherwise.
She contemplated banging on the door and screaming at him, but she wasn't in the mood to put up with his emotional swings.
She backed away from the door and faced her father, replacing her frown with a slight smile. "Hey Dad. You gonna work on the wall today? I'm sure Lee would love to help out, he's already going at it."
By love she meant dread, because Lee didn't enjoy the thought of going within a ten foot proximity of her father until she was able to "remove that pole the size of Texas from his ass".
Larry scoffed. "Someone's gotta get off their lazy ass and do it. But stay away from him! He's bad news!"
Lilly rolled her eyes skyward. "Whatever you say, Old Man."
Larry grunted. "You look just like your mother – and you behave like her too." He jabbed his stout finger into her shoulder. Lilly knew she had her mother's green eyes and father's mean streak, but he refused to consider himself the reason for this less than charming quality. "Stubborn as an ox that woman was…"
"Listen, Dad, about this morning…"
His eyebrow peaked. "Something happened this morning?"
I forgot you sleep like a rock. Not even a meteor strike could wake you up. Lilly tromped away from him. "Never mind. I'm going to check in with everyone. Make sure the perimeter is secure, OK?" She ignored his next snide remark involving her mother's genes and, as usual, Lee, and headed over to the man nailing a board into the wall with the head of his ax. Despite frequent disagreements he was the only one in the group who talked to her with the respect she may or may not have deserved. At least someone still appreciates me around here.
Lee propped a board up against the wall. "Hey Lilly. Give me a hand with this for a moment?" She pressed her palms against the wood to hold it steady and he hammered in a nail with the head of his axe before speaking again. "So, what's up?"
"About this morning…"
"Yeah that was certainly terrifying." He pounded another nail into the board. Offhandedly he added, "You can relax, I've got it now." He lifted another nail to kiss the tattered face of the board. "Are you alright?"
"I'm dandy, actually. I wanted to make sure I didn't startle Clementine."
"Nah, I told her you had a nightmare and didn't go into detail. It didn't bother her. All that matters is that you're not hurt." He lifted the axe to meet the sliver of metal jabbing into the wood.
She allowed the statement to sink in like a rock hitting the surface of the water. That was the first time in weeks she had heard such concern coming from anyone about her condition… excluding her father who only showed his love through aggressively berating or threatening. Lilly decided not to dwell on the comment and briskly changed the subject with a wag of her head. "Do you know what happened to Duck?"
Lee lowered his tools and faced her, his brow furrowed in contemplation. "Yeah, Kenny mentioned he was stung by a bee. Apparently he's allergic, but they didn't have any medicine to treat the hives so Kat wants him to sleep it off."
Lilly peered over at the family's sealed room. "Do you know if he's deathly allergic?"
"I think if it isn't treated it may be the death of him, if that's what you mean. Ken said not to worry about it but… I'm not convinced. Yet, I don't know what to do." The corners of his lips twitched gradually into a frown. "And I can tell by the look on your face that we don't have anything to treat the reaction."
"Precisely." She paused. Lee could practically see the light bulb blinking overhead as a smirk stitched its way across her previously stern expression. "Macon."
"Macon. The air base where I worked isn't far from there. I'll head out and pick up some medicine. I can even gather some food! It'll be like killing two birds with one stone. Three birds if I can find some ammunition, too."
"That's insane!" Lee objected, his voice traveling throughout the lot. Carley glanced at them briefly before losing interest and returned to her watch. Clementine hadn't noticed, although Larry now studied them from his position at the other end of the wall. Lee swallowed dryly. He knew better by now: if he kept talking to Lilly her father would scold him afterwards, emphasizing his rage with typical threats of violence. However, he didn't care about Larry's opinions unless they benefitted the group… which they never did.
Larry's metallic gaze bore into the back of Lee's head. Lilly caught on almost instantly and defended him with an equally intimidating glare of her own.
Lee droned on when he was sure the situation would only become even more awkward than usual. "Macon's infested with the dead! You'll never make it back in one piece! Hell, you might not come back at all! I'm not letting you go by yourself."
Lilly snorted in failed attempt to hold back a harsh, sarcastic laugh. "Who do you take me for, my father? I'm not slow and I'm certainly not incompetent. It'll be faster if I go alone. Besides, I need someone I can trust to lead the group while I'm gone."
Lee crossed his arms back against his chest and his eyebrow arched. "Right. Since when have I ever been a worthy leader?"
"Hey, don't know 'til you try!"
Lilly was suddenly grappled at the elbow. "You're coming with me," Larry seethed, towing her off so they were out of ear-shot.
Lee cocked his head quizzically as they bickered – he was ninety-nine point nine percent sure Larry was advising (or, rather, demanding) that she stop talking to him. After several minutes she finally shouted "I SAID I DON'T CARE! I CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT!" and stormed off towards her room. Larry advanced in the opposite direction, nostrils flaring and eyes ablaze with rage.
Lee exchanged a sideways glance with Carley. This can't end well…