Chapter 1 - Ya Gotta Love Family

Hey All: I was struck by this idea after watching season 3 and reading this other book I have. I do have another chapter of Eris is Special, but truthfully, I've been struggling with that storyline. I hope you appreciate that I actually typed this out on my iPhone, so be forgiving with typos. I'll try and fix later when I get my computer back. God by fingers are sore. I'm planning on waiting and writing this to go along with each new episode. Hopefully there'll be more than six before we have to wait. Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think and if I should continue, and also what you thought about the premiere of season 3. Especially, the sexy talk between Daryl and Carol. Did you catch all that innuendo? Those writers are such teases.

It goes without saying, I own nothing you may recognize in this story, so please don't sue me, AMC and Kirkman.

Elaine Donohue was utterly ordinary. In spite of the extraordinary things that happened in her life she had always managed to be invisible. Dowdy, quiet and invisible. She'd never gone on any of the grand adventures she'd always planned for and read about. Now all her travel magazines were piled up and long since abandoned in her family home. They'd be lucky to get out of Georgia by the way things were looking. She forced herself to tamp down all her regrets. The roads not travelled. All her safe choices she'd made thinking there would always be more time.

That had actually been the original intent- to go on that grand adventure. She'd sold her company, making a huge profit not to mention generous stock options. But instead of the grand tour or Europe, her aunts insisted they buy this RV and hole up in the mountains. A place where there was no internet and no cell phone coverage. Her Aunt Ethel had scolded her nearly the entire day when she found her laptop and iPhone tucked deep under the cushions.

To Lane's best guess (her Aunt Miriam shortened her given name and she'd always preferred it) it had been four or five months since the outbreak. They'd isolated themselves by choice for almost two months. When they funally left the private property, primarily used for private hunting by one of her investors) the world they found was nothing like what how they left it.

Lane's cell didn't work and internet was spotty until it eventually disappeared. She managed to hack the DOD and CDC mainframe. She didnt even bother trying to trace her tracks as she poked around and downloaded top secret files. That was one of the perks of creating top secret encryption files, you knew the back doors. What she was hearing was much different than what shw gleaned from the files.

While everyone else headed to the 'safe zones' she and her aunts headed in the opposite direction. Anywhere that was secluded. They'd seen ugly things. Things they never thought they'd see in their lifetimes but by laying low and being 'invisible' they'd survived.

'Aunt Ethel I know I gave you and Miriam a hard time about buying the RV but I don't know where we'd be without it." Lane told her aunt as she filled more jerricans of gas for backup. They discovered early on that getting gas while they could might be the difference between life and death.

Ethel glanced down at her niece from atop the RV. She wept inwardly that this was her niece's life now. Stealing gas and killing those dead things. Foraging for food She was so beautiful and strong. Not to mention smart. And the girl had no idea. She watched Lane's honey brown hair glisten in the sun. Maybe they should have gone to Paris?

'Pshaw gerl. If I'da known this was gonna happen, I'da picked Paris afterall. " Ethel wondered if France had been hit as hard. Those files Lane downloaded indicated it was everywhere but maybe there was a cure. The french were the ones that made the first inroads when HIV and AIDs first broke out.E

Ethel still had such fond memories of Paris. Memories her Lanie never would now. Those long walks over the bridges of the Seine with her beloved Miriam. Paris in the 60's had been so much more tolerant of her and Miriam's relationship. Much more than her own family in south Georgia.

They had weapons now. Silent ones. Miriam and Ethel, knowing first hand how vulnerable a woman could be made sure they brought a shotgun and a handgun with them before they even left.

4But it was the axes they snatched when they smashed the glass over the fire extinguisher at the department store that had been most useful. They'd met some folks early on that had helped them and that explained what had been happening. When they parted ways the lady's husband gave them a couple of large hunting knives and taught them what he knew and they gave them food. More important they explained these things could only be killed with a blow to the brain to puncture the brainstem. Lane had only begun reading through the files she downloaded since she'd lost connection and still had much to learn.

"Lane, I swear you need to wear those other jeans ... I set them out for you. Those are practically hanging off your hiney." Ethel admonished her niece, though actually she had been gobsmacked at the metamorphosis in her niece. Her niece who'd been 'voluptuous' at the start of their vacation had since lost all extra weight and had a gorgeous figure which had been toned by months of physical labOr. She watched Lane constantly hike up the ones she was wearing.

She'd watched all those years as Lane soothed her grief and fears with food. Then it was caffeine and carbs that took the edge off her high stress life of running her software firm. Ethel had been more than shocked to see how Lane

"Aunt Ethel. There's no one around and I really dont care if one of those dead people sees my hiney," she used Ethel's vernacular and wiped more gas on her jeans.

"You know it's always when you look your worst that you run into someone," Ethel clucked, remembering all those times running into Sharon at the store when she hadn't done her hair.

"So does this satisfy your lust for adventure?" Lane taunted her aunt who glanced down at her from under the brim of her large straw hat

"Well I have to admit its been a but more than I bargained for." Ethel admitted trying to sound upbeat when there had been times she what they were doing. "But remember Lanie, you take life as it comes. You try and plan too much and the Fates cant keep from stepping in and teaching you a lesson."

"The fates must be having a laugh riot," Lane muttered and finished loading the extra fuel into the storage compartments below the RV and joined Miriam and Ethel in the cab

She watched Miriam drive yet still take the time to hold Ethel's hand and tenderly stroke her palm with her thumb. She knew her aunts were more scared than they let on. But as always, they kept up appearances for her. That was how she'd been given custody to them after her parents died.

The social worker never asked for Miriam's birth certificate and everyone just assumed they were sisters, likely widowed. Only their closest friends new the truth. They'd been lovers since college and friends long before. And they'd raised Lane with all the love and compassion a girl could have hoped.

"Ethel, stop nagging Lanie about her clothes. It's an apocalypse for heaven's sake." Miriam scolded, but still with a smile on her face as she adjusted her sunglasses.

Ethel mumbled something under breath more to get the last word in than she really believed what she was saying. This sort of bickering had been going on as long as Lane could remember. It let her know all would be ok no matter how screwed up things were.

Lane relaxed on the sofa that had become her permanent bed. Her aunts took the fullsize bed in the back. Lane could have slept in the overhead bunk but she needed to move in a hurry.

She went into the bathroom to wash the filth off her face. When she brought her head up for split second she didnt recognize herself. No longer was there all that fullness that plumped her cheeks. Her face wasnt gaunt like most of the women theyd run across but she now could see the cut of her cheekbones and the protrusion of her clavicles.

She took a quick shower to freshen up. Even washing her hair while Miriam drove, feeling the slow rumble beneath her the floor of the small shower. For some reason she felt safer showing while moving.

She towel dried her hair quickly then finished with the travel blow dryer before she put on the new jeans and sweater Ethel laid out out. 7 For All Mankind she read off the label.

Lane had to admit, after her shower she did feel better. They would need more water soon and she felt a twinge of guilt for using so much on a shower. She'd been refilling the tanks with stream water so they had to boil any water for drinking.

Maybe they would make it ti her great Uncle Hershel's soon. Ethel and Miriam knew there were a couple of wells on the property.

She'd met Herschel as a child, at her parents funeral but it was so long ago everything was vague and blurry. But she trusted her aunts and their options were dwindling fast as they struggled to avoid the herds that seemed to be forming and growing. Struggling to stay alive.

"Well my gracious Lane. Don't you look nice. Doesn't she look nice?" Ethel prodded Miriam who glanced over her shoulder and nodded. Her niece's shoulder blade length fell diwn her back in shiny waves over the soft creamy sweater. She knew Lane put it on for Ethel but Lane always considered her aunts feelings, too much she worried.

"Of course she's always been the prettiest girl I've known. Besides you of course," Miriam answered and gave Ethel a wink.

"Aunties stop it. And thanks for grabbing these jeans" she looked at Ethel. "And for these boots Aunt Miriam," Lane zipped of the supple brown leather up to her knees and tucked the denim inside. The sweater was soft and pretty but the boots were comfy, sturdy and practical. Metaphors for her aunts she supposed

While Miriam drove Lane spread the maps out over the table. They were a couple of hundred miles away from Herschel's farm and at the rate they were going it would take them a week or more to get there. She'd been using colored highlighters as well as the mapping software on her laptop which still worked as a stand alone. At least while she had access to the juice from the RV.

She color coded the roads based on how crowded they were. She only had what information they had managed to gather on their own. She couldn't see a pattern. She knew there was a pattern...a reason these things did what they did and it was frustrating to not be able to see it. She longed to hack into one of the Nasa satellites to get a global picture.

She sensed Miriam slowing the RV and instinctively tucked her handgun into her waistband and went up front to see what was happening.

"Is that a child? A child holding a shotgun? Good lord, what is happening?" Ethel clucked disapprovingly while looking through the binoculars while they parked afar. Miriam reached around for the second pair but Lane handed them to her instead.

"And that girl can't be a day older than 16," Miriam added. "A group of children on their own? Should we risk it?" Miriam looked to Lane then to Ethel.

Images of Lord of The Flies flitted through Lanes head but she forced herself to quelch that vision.

"No. There's adults by the truck. Maybe six or seven?" Ethel zoomed in to try and get a better look. Her instincts and gut feelings had done well for them so far.

"It looks like a small group. A family maybe?" Ethel guessed. Lane took the binoculars from Ethel to see for herself which only earned her an annoyed 'Pffft'. At first glance they didn't look too harmful. But you couldn't be too careful anymore. More than once they'd been challenged for their supplies.

"Ethel is that Herschel?" Miriam was afraid she was losing it. That she had started seeing what she wanted

Ethel grabbed the binoculars back from Lane and took a closer look.

"My heavens it sure is. He's so much thinner and his beard is grown but that's him. And that girl next to him could be little Margaret. She looks alot like Jo."

"We need to approach carefully. They dont know us from Adam.". Lane reminded her excited Aunts. "hang out a white flag or something" Lane ran around to grab a dish towel which she tied to the billy club.

"Daryl we got visitors," Rick warned them all in a low gutteral voice. They all immediately took their positions like well-trained if weary soldiers.

"They swinging a white flag and yelling something," Daryl pointed out when the filthy RV git closer. "Should we trust 'em?"

"Everbody hold position." They didn't have ammo to waste if these folks just wanted to pass through. But they would defend themselves if need be. They'd had to before. Rick was proud of Carl but hated how adult the thirteen year old was.

"That old lady is yelling Hershel's name," Daryl heard. "Ya know these people?" they all looked to Hershel who squinted to get a better look.

"Well I'll be!" Hershel exclaimed. "That looks like my cousin Ethel and her ... friend Miriam." Hershel paused as he sought the proper term for Ethel and Mir's relationship.

Rick gave the command and they all dropped their weapons and Hershel stepped ahead to greet them.

"Hershel Greene, well you are a sight for sore eyes," Ethel's eyes twinkled in spite of how shocked they were at the groups condition. They all looked exhausted and starving.

Lane followed her aunts out of the RV as introductions were made.

"You must be Peter and Michelle's girl," Hershel gave Lane a quick hug and introduced her to everyone but leaving her with Beth and Maggie.

Maggie, Beth, Glenn, Rick, ... This was the most people they'd run across in a while, certainly the most that they'd ever bothered to exchange names with.

Lane looked back at her aunts still talking to Hershel.

"Maggie? We were trying to get to your farm. What happened?" Lane had been pinning so much on getting there, she couldn't shake the desolation that had washed over her.

"We got overrun one night a few months back by a giant herd. We almost didn't make it. Some of us didnt. We've lost so many," Maggie hadn't allowed to think about it in so long the loss hit her all at once now. They'd been running ever since.

Lane could see she'd hit a raw nerve so changed the subject. "I thought I heard a stream. We could sure do with some more water."

Maggie and Beth helped her put together her equipment and just started out when Rick made an announcement.

"Listen up y'all. Ethel and Miriam have offered to feed us and share what they have. Stay close."

Lane watched the short haired woman get the woman from the car. As soon as the woman got out Lane couldn't miss how pregnant she was. She gasped out loud

"Come on. I'll fill you in," Maggie pulled her along to the stream.

"The pregnant woman is Lori, Rick's wife." Maggie explained but Lane couldn't get a read on her feelings.

"I couldn't imagine being pregnant right now." Lane shuddered at the thought.

"Yeah. She's been going through a tough time." Maggie said with sympathy.

"We all have," Beth's eyes clouded at the memories. "The storage shed was the worst." she and Maggie both agreed. Lane wasn't sure she was prepared to hear how awful things had been for them, suddenly feeling guilty at doing so well. She looked at the two skeletal women in front of her, and figured they hadn't had near the reserves she'd had. Hell, Lori could use her old clothes as maternity clothes.

"You look like you've been doing all right," Maggie didn't mean to sound accusing but Lane immediately felt defensive.

"We mostly managed by lying low, staying off highways and avoiding those clusters. It was months before we even knew what happened. I've been mapping the roads that were becoming unpassable. But when they cluster, the abandoned roads are left free. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out these patterns...hoping to maybe work it to an advantage.". Maggie gave her a thoughtful look realizing there was more to their cousin than met the eye.

"hmm you got those maps. Maybe between all of us we can find a plan." Maggie's lit up a little and they carried all the jugs back to the road. When they got back, Ethel and Carol were already passing out food.

"Go on, I've got this." Lane shooed her...what were they? 2nd cousins? 3rd? What did it matter? They were family! Family, she had family other than her aunts. It felt good, comforting.

She began lifting the second jug of water to dump in the water tank when she suddenly felt the jug lifted outta her hands. She jumped around in terror.

"Hey lady, I's just trying to help." the hunter with the glacier eyes was beside her emptying the contents into the hold.

"Sorry. Ya just scared me that's all. Thank you though," she stuttered before she remembered her manners. Why did he seem to make her so jumpy?

"Ethel's passing out food you know," she knew this group hadn't eaten much in a while.

"Too crowded just now," he shrugged. He noticed how good she smelled beside him and realized it drew him closeR. It made him suddenly conscious of his own state.

"I'll be right back," the girl took off before he could say don't bother. She returned a moment later with two bowls, one twice the size of the other.

"Here," she passed him the big one making him raise a questioning brow. "I'm on a diet," she teased. She wasn't dieting at all but it sounded better than saying 'I've been eating better than you have'. She wasn't all that familiar with the ins and outs of the male ego, but knew enough that it was easily bruised.

Daryl snorted at the absurdity of her being on a diet and gave a disapproving glare but not until giving her figure a thorough look. She was perfect. All the women in his group were just skin and bone, for which he blamed himself. They hadn't been able to hunt nearly as much during the winter. This girl still had curves ... and tits. She looked pretty and ... Soft. Not angular and battle hardened.

Daryl leaned against the RV and ate or rather shoveled the food into his mouth and then licked his fingers of the last bits of chicken and noodles. Lane was mesmerized. She'd not seen any man devour a meal like that. For some reason it pleased her, how mych he seemed to like the food she'd brought.

"There's more if you want," Lane looked up at him. She could tell he wanted more but would never ask. Instead of waiting for a response she just ran back inside. Before he even realized it, she was handing him more food.

"Here, I even managed to snag a couple of cookies," she thrust the bowl at him. As he ate, she poured the last jug of water into the water tank. Since the jug was barely half full, Daryl let her do it. Plus he still couldn't get over that he was eating Oreos.

"That should gives us at least a few showers tonight," she then poured a few capfulls of bleach in to inhibit bacterial growth.

"Daryl? Lane?" Rick came up a few minutes later. "Mind coming with me?" Rick settled them around the hood of the car where they had spread all the maps out. "Maggie said you've marking where the herds are on your maps?" Rick asked.

They all looked over both sets trying to see which would be their ideal route.

"Yellow is a light herd, green medium and this purply blue means unpassable," Lane explained her color coding method.

"OCD much?" Maggie commented but her teasing tone took any sting out of her words.

There were no absolutely danger-free options but they finally decided on a course of action. Lane went with others to stock up on even more water while Rick and Daryl went hunting. They didn't want to impose on these new women's supplies more than necessary.

"New plan everyone! Gather round!" Rick came back from hunting with Daryl. This Rick seemed lighter, more optimistic than the one that had left an hour ago. They'd found a prison just beyond the railroad tracks that Rick thought would be ideal. After a half hour hike they all saw the fortress Rick was envisioning as home.

"Oh my! That man wants us to go in there? To live in there?" Ethel whispered as she grabbed Miriam and Lane's hand. The three women stood together outside the fence. There were walkers roaming everywhere ants.

Rick had them drive the RV and trucks around the back of the prison following the railroad tracks. This would be less visible to passers by once they committed to storming the joint. Plus, if things went south they needed to egress fast.

Lane pulled her aunts off to the side. "Are you sure about us staying here? With them? We can still leave?"

"Sweetie. I don't know where else to go. I know it looks bad but there are strength in numbers," Ethel admitted, letting her fear peak through.

"If we leave these people, your family, all we can do is wander around and hope for the best." Miriam chimed in. "Lanie, I can't lie to you. You and I both know how dangerous this is going to be. But there is always something invigorating and powerful about forging your own path and not relying on what others choose for you? Or what the fates may be planning? You understand" Lane had always loved and respected Miriam but never more so than now. She gave both aunts a hug. They would make their own future! Suddenly she saw a garden and farm animals rather than corpses walking around aimlessly.

"OK then! We'll do it!" Lane turned back around to join the group only to find Daryl looking at her, sensing her distrust and uncertainty. Lane just shrugged and joined the group.

"Can you shoot? Any hand to hand experience?" Rick needed to know what these three women had to offer. Ethel and Miriam knew how to shoot from their farm days and recent events forced them to reacquaint themselves. Actually Miriam was a crack shot, better than Lane. Lane had been a quick study at shooting since she was a child but since this apocalypse she found she was better at hand to hand. It was silent and efficient, but filthy.

"It's a messy business but I can handle myself well enough," Lane admitted, knowing Ethel would soon be apoplectic at Rick's plans for her. But they had to clear this fenced area and seal off that open gate across the way that kept feeding in walkers. Sensing the hunters glare on the back of her neck, she turned to meet it. She was again surprised to find a look of approval and it made her feel good. Maybe the better word was competent? Of value? Whatever it was, she liked it. She was almost beginning to feel she might belong with this group.

The rest of the day turned out to be long, exhausting and bloody but they'd taken the yard. Once they did that they were able to move the rusted out vehicle that blocked their cars and they were able to drive the cars and the RV in before securing the gate for the night. She watched Rick and Daryl wind the wire back where they'd cut the fence until they felt safe it was secure.

Darkness was there before they knew it and the group built a small campfire, and Ethel and Carol cooked dinner, insisting Lori rest. Ethel tossed Lori half of a Godiva bar she had tucked back in the fridge.

Lane sat cross-legged around the fire, listening to Beth sing and everyone talk. She learned a bit more about what they'd gone through last fall and winter. Under different circumstances, Lane would have attempted to break out smores. But it wasn't the right circumstances...or was it?

Lane ran back to the RV and rummaged around for the uneaten bag of giant marshmellows, box of graham crackers and those Godiva chocolates Ethel still had stashed. Good Lord, if ever a grouped needed smores it was this one.

"NO WAY!" Carl and Beth exclaimed in sheer joy. Lane grabbed a few of the wire hangers and passed them around to be formed into long sticks for roasting. The thought of roasting on anything else caused bile to form in her throat.

"Lane, thank you," Lori pulled her aside, feeling more joy than she had in longer than she could remember. To see her son acting like a child again, even if only for a few minutes was affirming...Lori brought her trembling hand up to her mouth. This was about a lot more than chocolate, Lane realized as she looked around.

The tension between Rick and Lori was so tense you could cut it with a knife. But Lane hadn't picked up on the tension between Lori and her own son. This poor family was so broken it was heartbreaking to see what this world had done to them. She smiled over at her aunts, standing side by side at the RV sink. What would have happened to her without them? She hoped to not find out.

How could Rick be so cold to his wife? Lane thought. It was like he blamed Lori for being pregnant. Surely he was equally to blame. Rick the Dick, she decided to call him.

"Lori, why don't you take my spot in the RV?" Lane sat next to the pregnant woman who was struggling to eat the tuna casserole. Ethel made Lori a quick cup of broth and hot tea instead when she realized how difficult the rich tuna was for her. The liquids seemed to go down much better.

"I couldn't," Lori protested. "I won't take yer bed. Besides I'm used to it."

"Well you shouldn't be," Lane didn't even care if Rick heard. He must have though, because he grunted before storming off to check the perimeter again.

"You can and will sleep on that bed, unless maybe you really do prefer sleeping out here? Which is going to make me believe you are certifiably crazy," Lane countered. Lori's eyes couldn't hide her relief as Lane insisted and got Lori comfortably settled on the long sofa, before bringing her sleeping bag and pillow outside by the fire. A night outside wouldn't kill her. Look at how long these folks had been making do.

Around the campfire, everyone else was joyful and pumped. But Lane couldn't seem to share their enthusiasm over little more than a fenced pasture littered with rotting corpses. After a while she grabbed her weapons and walked the fence too, hoping it would settle her nerves.

"You don't trust us," Daryl's voice came up suddenly behind her. It was a statement, not a question.

"I don't even know you. Any of you. And I certainly don't trust a man that treats his pregnant wife like that," Lane snapped though less inclined for Rick to hear.

"Might wanna get all the facts before you start makin' judgments," Daryl didn't want to get into a gossip session but it seemed important, to him anyway, that Lane at least respect Rick.

"She's his wife and she's pregnant. How can you justify that!," when Daryl didn't answer, she let it go. "Whatever. It's not like marriage was ever easy before, right?" Daryl didn't answer Lane's cynical assessment

"Are you good with this plan? To push all the way in tomorrow? Isn't everyone exhausted?" Lane's gut was telling her this man could be trusted. She wasn't ready to trust Rick with the safety of her aunts, but for some reason she trusted this hillbilly.

"It's the best we've had so far," Daryl admitted. "We can't keep running around out there. I trust Rick. He's brought us this far."

"OK then," Lane made up her mind. She was in, come what may.

"Ya handled yerself pretty well against them walkers today," Daryl looked down as he spoke, almost as if he was embarrassed.

"You sound surprised?" Lane asked. When Daryl didn't respond she continued, "You didn't do too shabby either," she complimented which only made him huff. Of course he didn't do bad. She watched him wander back into the shadows and she continued her walking. The moans were a distant hum, but they were there reminding her how dangerous this place was.

An hour later she found herself tired by the far end of the fence. She kneeled down in the wet grass to massage her calves which had been twinging from the exertion of the day. To her surprise, she realized she wasn't alone. There were two shadows just ahead of her, shrouded in darkness and whispering. By process of elimination she figured out it was Carol and Daryl. Lane was suddenly embarrassed but couldn't move without revealing herself to them. So she became still and remained quiet, hoping they'd be quick.

"Don't be so mean," she heard Carol accuse, but her voice was light and teasing. "Rick's gotten us a lot farther than I thought he would," Carol suddenly became serious.

Lane felt her stomach clench. What had she gotten herself and her aunts into? These two also seemed to have their doubts about Rick's leadership. And who the hell was this Shane they were talking about...and little Shane? But before she had a chance to retreat, she them get closer. He pulled her back to him and licked the residue off his fingers, before he started massaging the other woman's rifle shoulder. Suddenly she felt like a peeping tom and not only wanted, but needed to get out of there. She was intruding on what was likely to turn into a romantic interlude.

"It's pretty Romantic huh?" Lane heard Carol's words, but didn't catch her eyes sweep around the yard littered with the dead. "Wanna screw around?" the woman propositioned Daryl.

'Oh shit, I've gotta get outta here now?" Lane panicked like a deer caught in headlights, frozen yet desperate to move.

But instead of taking the woman into his arms, he snorted and looked down. Soon the couple were both laughing out loud, and acting like it had all been a big joke.

"I'll go down first," Daryl moved to go back down into the manhole.

"Even better," Carol doubled down on her sexual innuendo/

"Stop it," she heard Daryl protest with humor in his voice and Carol left him. Lane watched the other woman head back towards the group.

As Daryl headed down the hole, Lane couldn't help her own snort of laughter at all the sexual innuendo that apparently made this man uncomfortable. Carol seemed to find more humor in his discomfort than the actual words.

Daryl sensed another person and froze while he looked around. Shit, it was the girl. Her eyes met his in the darkness and she knew she'd been busted. What worried him more was she seemed to thing there was something going on between him and Carol. Hell, if he'd heard only that, he'd be thinking the same thing. Truth was, Carol had been acting kind of flirty lately.

They remained that way...frozen...until Daryl finally broke and dropped all the way into the well.

'What the fuck? This girl was spying on him? He was already beyond embarrased about the sexual teasing from Carol, which was more making fun of how Lori ended up with Shane's baby than anything between them. But he also knew enough that just hearing that exchange made it sound way different. Daryl spent the next thirty minutes reminding himself of why he didn't give two flying fucks what this new gerl thought. Screw her for eavesdropping.

Lane made a beeline for her sleeping bag, making sure to come from the opposite direction to avoid Carol's suspicions.

Lane snuggled up into her sleeping bag, folding her pillow in half to lie on her side and watch the embers die down. She barely heard Daryl finally return. She tried not to watch as he put his stuff down across the fire from her. He had only a light blanket and that thin pillow but appeared completely comfortable and at ease lying there.

When Daryl turned over, he caught Lane's eyes across the fire. Each of them were strangely wondering what the other was thinking. Lane did her best to convey her apology into a wry smile to him. When he acknowledged her with a nod of his head, she smiled and then closed her eyes.

She'd never know that Daryl stayed up watching her sleep long after her eyes closed. It was Carol that watched him watching Lane until his own eyes eventually betrayed him and fell shut. This Carol was no longer Carol Peletier that took beatings from her husband and was obedient. She'd learned to fight for what she wanted.

"Good morning Sleeping Beauty," T-dog brought Lane a plate of pancakes. She struggled to sit up in spite of the confines of her zipped up sleeping bag. When she finally made it through that struggle, she wiped the sleep from her eyes and struggled to focus on her surroundings.

"Here... Give her this T-Dog," Ethel handed him a cup of coffee to take to Lane, at the same time topping of his own mug. Ethel loved saying T-Dog and tried to find a reason to do so frequently as possible.

"She won't wake up without it. Be careful, she's cranky until it's in her." Ethel warned while T-Dog chuckled.

Lane accepted the hot, brown nectar of the gods (also called coffee) gratefully and sipped it as fast as she could without burning her mouth. She actually moaned out loud at the warmth it brought to her. Plus her aunt added a dash of vanilla, her favorite. As soon as clarity began to return she found the others staring at her, their mouths open.

"We can leave you two alone for a few minutes," Maggie teased Lane over her practically orgasmic reaction to her coffee.

"Talks the cousin all snuggled up to her boyfriend?" Lane teased back, taking in Maggie's and Glenn's sleeping arrangements. They had zipped the two sleeping bags together and Glenn still had an arm over Maggie's waist.

"Some of us have to take out pleasures when we can!" Lane caught Daryl's eyes flash at her across the fire as the others chuckled, except Rick who was back to walking the perimeter.

"Hey Baby Girl, if I'da know that was your reaction to java, I'da shooed all these folks off and brought the whole damn pot to ya," T-Dog said good naturedly, yet making it known to all he kind of liked her.

Lane smiled gratefully at T-Dog but then caught Daryl's frowning face. Daryl took a look at T-Dog, his face tightened and he stood up abruptly.

"I gotta take a piss," was all he said before he stomped off. Carol and the others stared at Daryl's back with an odd expression. Lane on the other hand sucked the rest of her mug down, desperate for a refill.

"Guess he just isn't a coffee man?" Lane gathered her things and carried them back to the RV and dressed for what just might be last day on earth ... Or was it hell in earth?

Lane spent the rest of the morning dressing for the afternoon's entertainment.

Daryl admired Lane for wearing a long leather coat, at least a few sizes too big for her, over her khaki tank top. It was hot as hell by the time they got started, but Lane had learned through experience that leather was surprisingly resistant to not only spatter, but human bites.

"Ok, we stay in tight formation the whole time. Someone breaks ranks we could all go down," Rick reminded them for the umteenth time. Lane had her handgun tucked in the back of her jeans for emergencies, her axe, knife and tire iron in her hands. She also wore leather gloves.

Hershel slid the gate open and the seven of them entered. They quickly formed a tight circle with their backs facing all facing the middle, leaving them free to focus in what's in front of them. At first, she noticed her aunts banging at the fence to distract the walkers, but soon all she could focus on was eliminating the threat.

She took down walker after walker, no longer feeling their blood splatter against her as she punctured their rotting brains, or mourning their loss. It was as when she was taking a quick breather that she saw Maggie leave the phalynx they'd formed to take down a stray. This left Maggie's back unguarded and she never saw the two coming at her from behind. With a primal yell, Lane raised her tire iron in her right and her axe in her left.

"Duck Maggie," she screamed and the walkers paused to turn. As Maggie ducked, Lane hit both walkers in the head with each weapon, falling to the ground along with her impaled weapons.

"Aggghhh Maggie, she screamed as gore covered her. The others moved in behind her and she felt a pair of strong arms pull her up. She stood there in shock while Daryl let her go to retrieve her weapons. When he handed them back to her, his eyes held a light of admiration and maybe even respect? They reformed while waiting for Glenn to get Maggie back.

They surveyed the empty yard. But it wasn't over though yet,not by a long shot.

Wave after wave of walkers crept in through this alley and came after them. They were going to have to make it across and shut the other gate. From that point on Lane's back was glued to Daryl's as they held their own, even when the walkers had on riot gear.

They made it and Rick had them enter the prison proper. That was when Lane struggled to control her claustrophobia. 'It's so dark, can't see ...can't breathe...,' Lane struggled for breath in the dark, dank, putrid confines.

'Not the same, not the same. No water... Just breathe,' she repeated over and over to herself. She thought she was saying this in her head, but Daryl heard every whispered word.

She held on though as they made their way to a large two-story cell block and handful of offices. Even though the interior had so fewer walkers, Lane longed for the open air, walkers be damned.

Daryl watched the terror on Lane's face at the same time Rick's face was filled with ...promise?...relief? Daryl couldn't tell. But then again that had never been his strong suit.

Lane helped clear the walkers from the cell block, then followed everyone as they went back outside to bring the others in and show them what they'd found.

"Hey Gerl, wait up," Daryl jogged forward and Lane felt his hand on her elbow pulling her back to talk. "Ya ok?"

"Why?" Lane was suspicious of Daryl's interest, even more so after what she'd seen last night between him and Carol.

"It's just ya started whispering some shit when we entered the prison... Something about, no water," Daryl's voice was soft and low, as if he actually cared.

"Just a little claustrophobic ... No biggie," she minimized and prayed he would let it go and not press her.

"A little?" he snarked sarcastically but didn't press the issue.

"I did it, didn't I? Never asked or needed ya ta carry my weight?" Lane's eyes pooled with tears as she swallowed the bile that was threatening to come up as vomit. Please drop it, she prayed. To her surprise he didn't push her. Instead, he pulled a clean rag from his pocket and wiped the filthy sweat from her forehead and cheeks. His eyes became soft while he tenderly wiped the sweat and filth from her cheeks, it was disconcerting.

She never saw T-Dog staring nor comprehended what was so strange about what Daryl was doing. But suddenly T-Dog hollered at them.

"You two planning on flirtin' and romancing the day away er are ya'll coming with us,"

"I was waiting on you to bring us a bottle of wine and come play violin while we waltz?" Lane snapped back to diffuse the sudden awkwardness with humor and denial, her two favorite coping mechanisms. Daryl snatched his rag back and stuffed it in his pocket.

"Get yer ass movin' botha ya'll," T-Dog snapped back. Daryl and Lane quickly caught up.

"Yer pretty mouthy fer a white gerl," T -Dog teased.

"Funny, I was thinkin' somethin' similar about you," Lane shot right back, eager for the distraction from everything else. This building and these strange, intense moments with Daryl.

They escorted everyone inside, and Lane stayed near her aunts, corralling them to the center like a Border Collie. They all entered there new home - Cell Block C.

"Home Sweet Home." Rick announced.

"In the morning..." Rick continued until Lane interrupted.

"...I'm makin' waffles?" Lane interjected in her best Eddie Murphy Shrek voice. Unfortunately only Carl, Lori and Beth got the reference. Nothing like having to explain a joke, she thought wryly.

"Nevermind," Lane shut up as they gave everyone the grand tour of cell block C. It wasn't until she went into a cell alone with her aunts did she break down.

"I don't think I can stay here," she said as terror threatened to seize her again. Instead of telling her to push it aside or ignore it, her aunts understood.

"Don't you worry duckie. We have the RV right outside. Plus, what do you think about that tower? You can sleep up there like Rapunzel?" Ethel patted her hand and calmed her while Miriam talked through their options.

"Lanie, Ethel and I will be fine in here! Why don't you go shower and rest in the RV a bit. I'll tell Rick you volunteered for tower watch at night. I'll also tell him about your night vision goggles you have," Miriam's mind was going a mile a minute to try and find a way to make this work for Lanie. Daryl ended up listening longer than he planned, figuring his eavesdropping was tit fer tat. But now he felt guilty.

Lane leaned her now dry hair back against the cold stone wall of the watchtower. She felt weary now, but up here, with the cool night air blowing against her face, she no longer felt that she was being consumed by the darkness... As if she had to fight for every breath of air she could get. She readjusted her rifle and took another look out into the darkness, occasionally bringing the night vision glasses up for a better look.

Either because he was so silent or because she hadn't been paying attention, Daryl managed to sneak up on her yet again.

"The hell?" Lane accused. "You have to teach me how you do that...creep up on people like that," Lane was too tired to even feign anger. She leaned back as he entered the watch tower with her.

"I got this, you must be exhausted," Lane kind of needed to be alone.

"Rick wants all shifts done in pairs. And you haven't had a walk in the park today, either," Daryl reminded before he slid his back down along the wall across from her, trying not to be affected by how good she smelled or how pretty she was. Those qualities held little to no value in this world anymore. But he was surprised at how impressed he been so far with her courage and ability.

"How come ya cain't sleep in the prison?" he asked after awhile.

"How come you caint sleep in no cage?" she mocked him, remembering how he'd refused a cell, instead staking claim to the perch.

"I asked ya first," he answered.

"Really? I asked ya first? That's your comeback?" she mocked him. "You must have been a tremendous asset to your debate team,"

"I was!" his eyes twinkled at the absurdity of Daryl Dixon on the debate team.

"Carol's gonna wonder where you are?" Lane figured if she pushed harder , he'd just go. "It's more 'romantic' in there," she reminded him just much of his and Carol's private conversation she'd heard.

"Good Lord, you women are way worse than men," Daryl blushed but didn't explain. They sat in companionable silence for the next four hours.