Alrighty folks...sorry for the wait, seems I was busier than I thought I would be...Anyway, here's the new chapter :)
Ah, how the weeks had rolled on by. There was no need for worry now, what protection we did need was aptly handled by just Rick, Daryl and T. We had plenty of food to eat, a roof over our heads and smiles on our faces. Lori, if at all possible had grown larger and I was beginning to see a big change in her relationships with Rick and with Carl; They were finally acting like a family! Mags and Glenn, content with our new home, had just started talking about making a family of their own, something the now mending Hershel was both upset and excited about. Carol and I had busied ourselves making baby clothes for the little one with sheets we found in the laundry room and the sewing kits she had stashed in her stuff. Thankfully, the sheets weren't gender specific, because none of us had any clue what it would be, although bets between the men were already being made.
I was awoken extremely early one Monday...at least I thought it was a Monday, morning by the sounds of whispering outside in the main room. Stretching my arms above my head with a wide yawn I gingerly slipped from my bed and calmed Diesel when he stirred. Once he was settled back down, cuddled with the little doll I had made him with some sheet scraps and pillow stuffing, I shuffled silently out of the cell. I found myself staring at Carl and Beth having what I would consider a young lover's tryst at one of the tables. A grin split my face and I shook my head just as the two leaned in for a kiss.
"Alright you two, break it up...break it up!" I laughed as I stepped from the shadows and scared the two stiff. The alarm in their eyes died instantly as I lit one of the kerosene lamps sitting in the makeshift kitchen and they were able to see it was just me. Beth whispered something to Carl before taking off to her room and Carl smiled sheepishly before going in the opposite direction. I would have scolded them, but it obviously wasn't working seeing as this was the fifth time in the past week they had woken me up in the exact same way.
"Puppy love." Daryl chuckled, walking into the kitchen. "They been waking ya' up, too?"
"Yup. How's the perch?"
"Sleeps better 'an a cage."
"Touche, Dixon. Want some coffee?" I asked offering him a cup of instant.
"That's mighty white of ya', you on breakfast this mornin'?"
"Yup. What cha' in the mood for?"
"Bacon, eggs, pancakes, sausage, taters, oatmeal, and whiskey."
"Ain't go no meat Daryl, you were supposed to go get us some last night, ornery ass. And whiskey's a no go, too...eggs and oatmeal I can do...a'though, it's gonna' be that powdered shit."
"Damn. Oatmeal and eggs sound good, I guess...might be able ta' make a quick trip, catch us some rabbit or somethin'...it's early enough for 'em ta' be out."
"You do that...I'm gonna sit here and enjoy my coffee." I smirked, settling down in one of the chairs.
"Any way I can get a cup of coffee?" Carol asked sliding into the room and wrapping her arms around Daryl.
"Sorry, hon, gotta' talk ta' Joey fer that 'ne."
"Damn." She smiled, "You goin' out?"
"Yeah, I'll be back in a bit."
"K." She kissed him on the cheek and sent him out the door. Meanwhile, I made her a cup of coffee, pouring almost an equal amount of sugar into it as liquid. When she seated herself opposite the chair I had been in, I handed the cup to her. She sipped it slowly, the smile on her face growing. "You know exactly how I like it."
"Ya' think? I've only fixed it a zillion times."
"I'm sorry if-"
"Naw, it's not a problem...I used ta' make Momma's coffee, too. It makes me feel normal."
"So long as you're ok with it..."
"I am, it's fine." I gave her a large grin, "Did you finish that sleeping gown you were working on?"
"Yeah, all that's left is for you to embroider the bird onto it."
"Alrighty, I'll get on that in a little bit."
"So...I think Hershel might be ready to start on his crutches today."
"Really? That'll be good. He can get outta' that cell and stop grouchin'."
"Ya' know he actually cussed me yesterday 'cus I wouldn't let him up?!"
"Don't surprise me none. He called me a 'demented witch' and 'hell spawn' yesterday because I made him drink that herbal stuff."
"Yup...Glen got a good laugh out of it."
"What was he laughing about? Hershel called him a 'damned charlie' the other day!"
"Holy...really?!" We both dissolved into giggles and then finished our coffee.
Daryl had been good on his word, breakfast had been a feast of eggs, oatmeal, and fried rabbit...pretty damned good in my opinion, so long as I didn't think of cute baby bunnies while I was eating. After the food was all consumed, most everybody headed outside to get some work done, while Lori, Beth, Carl and I stayed inside with Hershel. Carl and Beth were busy with chores...yeah, chores, had to have some normalcy for the kids, and I needed to give them some payback for waking me up so early, and Lori was helping Hershel with his grooming. I was sitting on my normal window sill embroidering the sleeping gown and watching the happenings out in the yard.
"What're you smiling about?" Carl asked from the other side of the main room where he was scrubbing the tables.
"Diesel...he's runnin' circles around T, tryin' to get him to play." I laughed a little.
"Jo, can I get a little help?" Lori asked, her head hanging out of Hershel's cell.
"Sure." I sat down my work and headed in that direction. I heard Hershel arguing that he could do it on his own and I shook my head as I watched the man trying to balance himself on the crutches from the infirmary. He would tilt to one side, and then the other, before centering, trying to take a step and stumbling. It was hard not to laugh at it, but I managed...although, I don't think Lori was as successful as I was because she was having fits of giggles in the background. Finally, he seemed to get the swing of it and, after Lori went and changed her pants, we went outside for some fresh air.
Out in the sunlight, all the crankiness that had built up inside old Mr. Greene dissipated and a true smile spread across his face causing a chain reaction in which every single member of our group turned to watch and smile with him. He moved along, almost certainly, trying to get away from Lori before she decided it was time to go back in, the day was too pretty for that. I was thinking about fourwheeling and swimming when the air seemed to change, it grew tense and the walker smell grew a tad bit stronger. Diesel began to bark and then the good vibes dissipated with one little word.
"Walkers!" Carl screamed, turning, his gun pointed towards a large group coming from behind us. We shot into action, like the bullet that Carl unloaded into that first biter. Immediately, I pulled my gun from my back pocket, and helped Beth and Hershel to the cage, before surging back into the fray, wresting the machete from my belt loop. As I slammed the blade down on one...two...three walkers' heads I moved towards Lori, the next person on my 'must protect' list. Carl was doing a fine job keeping his mom safe, but it would take more than him and more than one gun. Thankfully, Maggie showed up at the soon-to-be mom's side at the same time I did, and together we pulled her and Carl into the safety of the prison.
Needless to say, it wasn't as safe as we thought, more walkers were pouring down the hallway we had made it into, sensing that there was a possible meal at the end. My adrenaline pumping, I flew into action with Mags, slashing and hacking my way through the hoard, until we made a clear path. Then, we ran as fast as we could, pulling Lori along behind us, Carl taking the rear. We stopped for a mere second as a contraction, heavy and painful, wracked Lori's body.
"Shit!" I muttered.
"Lori, c'mon, we need to get you somewhere safe!" Mags tugged at the woman and then supported her weight as we made our way through the corridor. We found every turn, every possible escape, blocked by the oncoming walkers, their shadows playing on the walls like a demented little puppet show. Carl called to us, as he pulled a door open and we followed the boy into a boiler room.
With the immediate threat gone, the door barred with a piece of piping, we finally noticed a loud and blaring alarm and flashing red lights on the walls.
"What is that!?" Lori asked before doubling over as yet another contraction hit her. When it finished we moved a little deeper into the room, making it to the ground level before another contraction, this one worse, took Lori. They were less than two minutes apart, and any woman with a vagina knows that means the baby's coming. Soon. Maggie made quick work of getting Lori's pants off to check on things down below, and when she maneuvered her fingers to see how far dilated Lori was she pulled back a hand covered in blood.
"That...that's not good." I said as Mags made the pregnant woman lay down on the floor and tried to check her cervix one more time.
"I...I can't tell!" Mags stuttered, "There's so much blood I can't.."
"I gotta' push!" Lori stated as yet another contraction cramped her uterus. She bared down hard, pushing with all her strength, and hot rivulets of blood streamed down her legs, pooling on the floor.
"Lori, honey, you've gotta' stop!" I tried to be as calm as possible as I fell to my knees beside her, "You can't push..."
"I know what has to happen. Maggie, you're going to have to cut me."
"But...I can't! Dad only taught me the basics, I can't do it!" Maggie was scared more than anyone in the room.
"You have, too."
"I don't have the things I need...we don't have a scalpel, no sutures...it's not sterile here...we have to get you back to the block, back to dad, he'll know what to do."
"There's no time...this baby's coming...Carl has a knife." As she said this, reality set in and I started crying.
"Lori," I whimpered, "You'll bleed out before we get you back."
"I know...but this baby has to live...it has to!" I laid my head on her shoulder holding on to the older woman like a life line, bawling like a baby. Lori rubbed circles on my back, trying to comfort me, "Hush, It's ok...I know, sweetie, I know, but it'll be fine, I know it'll be fine. It'll all work out for the best, I promise. It has to be this way...the baby's gotta' live...you have to help Rick take care of him or her...you promise?" I nodded my head, sobbing harder, and then Maggie joined me on Lori's other side. She laid her head on Lori's unoccupied shoulder, crying as hard as me, if not harder. "It's ok, girls...I promise it's ok. I trust you, I know you'll take care of my family, and that makes it ok for me to leave...I know you girls are gonna' weather this storm and tell my baby how much I loved it, and tell it all sorts of stories about the good times we've had. You are strong, wonderful women...you're my sisters, and I love you both so much! You can do this." She kissed us each on the forehead and then looked up and behind her for Carl. We moved out of the boys way, letting him kneel beside her. I took a position opposite Carl, and Maggie moved to sit in between Lori's legs, mentally trying to prepare herself for what was to come. Carl looked at his mom, lines of tears falling down his cheeks.
"It's ok, it'll be alright, this is want I want." Lori said to him as much as herself. "Now you...you take care of your daddy, there's gonna be a little brother or sister to take care of,"
"You don't have to do this!" He cried.
"You are gonna be fine! You are gonna beat this world, I know you will! You are smart, you are strong, and you are so brave! And, I love you!"
"I love you, too!"
"You gotta do what's right, baby. You promise me you'll always do what's right. It's so easy to do the wrong thing in this world...so...so if it doesn't feel right, don't do it, alright? Don't...don't...don't let the world get to you!" Emotions, love, hope, courage, poured over her every word as she reached up to touch his cheek. "You're so good!" Carl tackled his mom, scared and sad, in a hug meant to convey his every feeling, to apologize for every worry, to comfort her and himself, to beg her not to leave."My sweet boy!" She clung to him, returning the hug, and kissing him over and over. "Oh, I love you! I love you!" She began to weep in a broken fashion.
Finally, her heart told her it was time to let go, and she pushed the boy gently away from her. Grabbing both his hand and mine, she looked up at Maggie, "Now, Maggie," She said, and then turned to me, "Joey, when this is done one of you has to do it...it can't be Rick."
"No!" We screeched in unison, "I can't!"
"You have to do it!" She cut in, ending our protests with a tone of finality. Maggie rolled back onto her legs, sitting in the same way Carl and I were, and took a few deep breaths. "Ok...ok...its ok..." She steeled herself and then Carl passed her the knife. Lori gave us each a reassuring smile and then turned to look away from us, straight up.
"Goodnight, Love." she breathed her final words in a heartbreaking display, just before Maggie dug the blade into her belly. Lori screamed and writhed in pain, clutching tightly to both Carl's hand and mine, in a bone breaking grip.
"Stop it! You're killing her!" Carl yelled, as I turned my face from the scene, letting the tears fall where they may. I ignored the rest, and when I felt the life leave Lori, I bent and kissed her forehead and then walked away. Only a few minutes later I heard the cry of a newborn babe, and my lips turned up on a bittersweet smile. There was some commotion from below and then Maggie carried the sweet-faced little angel up the steps and peaked out the door. She closed it almost as soon as she opened it...must have been walkers out there. I pulled my weapons back out preparing for the run back to the yard, which I assumed everyone had cleaned out by now, and opened the door myself, just as the shot rang out. My head fell as tears once again welled in my eyes, and when Carl made it up to us, brushing past Maggie, we flew like bats out of hell from the boiler room and into the group of oncoming biters.
One by one, like our own private revenge for Lori, we hacked, chopped, and shot anything and everything that moved. Blood fell everywhere, thick and nasty, staining our clothes and covering our skin like war paint. Walkers fell down like dominoes, nothing more than unmoving corpses, again. We didn't even stop to check for a better route, we just carried on, clearing the path until nothing stood between us and the door we came in through. I kicked the thing wide open and was instantly blinded by the mocking sunlight shining down as if it didn't know Lori was gone. Stomping my way out to the yard, I found Beth and Hershel where I left them and Glen, Rick, and Daryl standing around them. Rick turned at our less than quiet entrance and started asking where Lori was. He shook me, rather roughly, and I tried to tell him with my eyes what my lips refused to say. When he moved on to Maggie, I walked over to the wall and slid down to the ground, letting my emotions take over now that I was back to safety.
"You ok, girl?" Daryl asked me, quietly, bringing me out of my misery. His voice was colored with sadness, too, and for once any sarcastic undertone was gone.
"Yeah, you?" He nodded his head, and sat down beside me, letting me lean on him. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and rubbed it as I started crying again.
"She's the first person I've lost since all this..." I finally said.
"I know...I remember you tellin' us we were the first people you'd run into..."
I cried a little more and then turned to him with questioning eyes, "Where's Carol and T?" His eyes glossed over, and a frown drew down the corners of his lips.
"Walkers got 'em."
"Oh, god!" I cried harder now, burying my face deep in his shoulder. When I had calmed a little I felt something cold pressing against my hip. I turned only to find my trusty, faithful, adorable, completely and utterly lovable companion, wagging his tail and shaking his floppy ears. At my acknowledgement, he hurried into Daryl's lap and wedged himself in between the two of us, and for a few minutes we all cried for those we had loved and lost.