Four days in and all Melissa had been able to think about was her new job. Dressed in her blue scrubs, she shadowed either Doctor Mayer or Spencer all over the hospital, watching them, learning all she could. Every day Melissa turned herself into a sponge, absorbing every little drip, and at the end of the day, she sent her tired ass home to dry out. She would crash nearly the second her head hit the pillow. But she was learning so much. In four days she'd already gotten a refresher on stitches and how to care for bleeding wounds and burns. She'd learned how to take blood and how to check it into their small lab. She'd learned how to take vitals, how to perform CPR, town admission procedures, what to do if someone was having a heart attack, the Heimlich maneuver, how to care for sprains and breaks and how to complete paperwork. Ugh, the paperwork. It probably wasn't nearly as excessive as it once was, but it was still a bit of a pain sometimes. Everyone in the town had a file, a system she needed to learn. And without computers, it was all handwritten.
The only time she saw most of her group was at the daily dinners, which she made a point to never miss, even if she was working. She always sat with them. She listened to them talk about patrol and the wall, what walkers had been spotted or put down. To be honest, all in all, patrol sounded like a pretty boring job, although she never told anyone that. She hadn't had the chance to personally experience it yet. The hospital owned her ass and her first shift in the tower wasn't for another two days.
Every day she waited for word about the Scouters, but so far there had been nothing. She realized quickly how grateful she was for the distraction of the hospital and all of its demands. Four days standing by a wall waiting for Daryl to come home would have been torture. As it was, she barely had time to think about Daryl at all, which was a good thing, and when he did find his way into her thoughts she usually ended up having to put him on the back burner before long. She thought about him the most at night. She would close her eyes and imagine him lying next to her the way he had their first night in Alexandria. She thought of the way his fingers felt as they traced the skin on her back their last morning together. She especially missed Daryl whenever Rick was around, although she wasn't sure why.
As promised, she helped Rick take care of Judith. She spent most of her free time staying home with her and occasionally Carl, although he was pretty self-sufficient. Carl wasn't pleased about having to go back to school. He wanted to work the wall with his Dad, but of course, Rick insisted Carl get back to his education. Melissa stayed out of it. She wasn't his mother, but she knew what his mother would have wanted. One night while Rick was on duty, Melissa saw Carl doing homework at the kitchen table when she went in to get herself a glass of water. She'd just put Judith down for the night and was getting ready to go to bed herself. She made an extra glass of water for Carl and set in on the table in front of him.
"How's it goin'," she asked.
Carl shrugged. "Alright."
Melissa smiled sympathetically. She knew Carl wasn't thrilled to be doing homework again and she could understand why. But he was doing it. He was putting forth the effort, even when Rick wasn't home to make sure he did.
"Studying is part of my job too," she explained. "Whenever I'm not practicing or watching someone work with a patient or doing paperwork I'm usually reading this medical book that Doctor Mayer gave me. I know school wasn't what you wanted. The hospital wasn't really what I wanted either, but it's good to know stuff sometimes. It's important, don't you think?"
Carl nodded politely. "Yeah, I guess," he replied honestly.
"Need any help," Melissa offered.
Carl looked at the papers in front of him, considering her offer. "I think I'm alright."
"Kay," Melissa nodded. "Well, Goodnight."
"Night," Carl uttered as she left the room.
Carl was a good kid. He and Judith had been one of the main reasons Melissa wanted Alexandria to work out. And, so far, it was working pretty well. They were fitting in. On her first trip to the General Store Melissa had even seen Alice, Senator Monroe's assistant. She apologized for her attitude from their first meeting and allowed Alice to hold Judith, which Alice seemed to appreciate. By her fourth day at the hospital, Melissa was beginning to put names to the once unknown faces on the street. She'd even been said 'hi' to on her morning walk to work a few times. Once by a total stranger who, she assumed, was just being nice and trying to make her feel welcome. The other time it was a woman named Olivia, the town hairdresser, who'd cut her hand working on a client Melissa's second day on the job and needed to have the wound cleaned. Melissa assisted Spencer and watched, somehow with a straight face, while Olivia shamelessly flirted with him. Or more like drooled all over him.
God, could she be more obvious, Melissa had thought to herself as she tried to contain her grin. After a few days working with Spencer, Melissa couldn't help but notice the affect he had on some of the women in town. She'd see them check him out or say 'hello' and he'd always smile politely and say 'hi' back. To Melissa's knowledge he wasn't with any of them, not that she'd asked. But that didn't stop some of the girls from trying to flirt with him whenever they had the chance. Not that Melissa couldn't see the appeal. Spencer was handsome. He had a certain swagger. He was confident but not big headed. He was educated but didn't think of himself as above anyone else. He was a genuinely nice guy. He joked around a lot and made Melissa laugh often. Her favorite day on the job so far had been the day she'd learned how to carry someone heavier than her. That was pretty fun. Or, at least, Spencer had made it fun. Truth be told, they'd laughed their asses off to the point where she'd even dropped him once. As it turned out, her first impression of him had been correct. He was a good guy. He was teaching her so much and was already beginning to become a friend.
"Here ya go," a voice uttered, interrupting Melissa's thoughts. Melissa jerked her head around to see Spencer holding two coffees. "Woah. A little jumpy today. You okay?"
Melissa tried not to roll her eyes. She'd felt herself jump too, nearly completely out of the chair she was sitting in behind the nurse's station. "Yeah. Fine," she replied. "Sorry. I guess it's gonna take me a while to get used to having my guard down."
"That's understandable," Spencer agreed as he handed her a warm cup of coffee, which Melissa gratefully took off his hands. He sat on top of the desk, resting his coffee in his lap. "I should probably be more cognizant of that. Sometimes I forget that you just got here."
Melissa forced a smile and took a sip, her nerves soothed by the warm sensation that began to spread through her middle. She stared at the brown liquid and the gentle swirl on the top from the sugar and powdered creamer Spencer had stirred for her.
"You're tired, aren't you," Spencer asked sympathetically.
Melissa looked up at him and nodded. She didn't know why she suddenly felt like crying. But she did, almost out of nowhere. She looked away and swallowed the feeling down with another sip of coffee.
"It'll get better," Spencer offered.
Melissa smiled gently, appreciating his efforts.
"Been to the Cat Nap yet?"
"What's that," Melissa asked.
"It's what we call our break room. There's a few beds in there for when we need to rest. Come on, I'll walk you there." He stood and walked toward the exit of the nurse's station.
"I'm supposed to be on," Melissa explained.
"That's what the room is for. We usually only use it when we're on nights, but everyone needs it now and then. I'll stay out here and take care of anything that comes up and I'll come get you in an hour."
Melissa didn't want to argue. A nap didn't sound bad and her day had been a long one already.
"Come on," Spencer insisted as he motioned for her to follow him and started walking. This time he didn't wait for her. He wasn't going to take no for an answer and Melissa had to jog for a moment to catch up with him.
Down a few hallways in a less common area of the hospital Spencer opened a door to a room that looked exactly as he had described. It wasn't very big, but there were two bunk beds inside, each with sheets, blankets and pillows.
"This one down here is mine," he explained, gesturing to a bottom bunk. On top of the covers near the pillow lay a few books and a pair of black thick framed glasses that looked like they came straight out of the sixties. "You can have the top bunk. Nobody's used that in a while. Oh and here." He reached into a box on the only table in the room and handed Melissa a clear plastic square. Inside the packaging were two earplugs. "So you can't hear anything that's going on outside."
"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that," Melissa questioned.
Spencer smiled warmly. He may not have been out there like Melissa had been, and certainly not anywhere near as long, but he remembered how scary things were when it all began. While he couldn't totally relate, he could sympathize. More than anything he wanted Melissa to feel comfortable there. To feel safe. He wanted her to know it was okay to let her guard down. "You aren't out there anymore," he said as he touched one of her shoulders. "You can relax. I promise."
Melissa wished she could believe him, but something about sleeping with ear plugs didn't feel right. Even in the Safe Zone.
Just then the door to the Cat Nap suddenly opened and the girl in the pink scrubs that Melissa now knew as Amy, one of their assistants, walked into the room. She eyeballed Spencer's hand on Melissa's shoulder and both of them shrugged out of the pose, hoping to rid Amy of any wrong ideas before she got them into her head.
"Sorry to interrupt. Spencer, we've got Natalie in one complaining of abdominal pains and a bleeder in two," Amy explained.
Spencer rubbed the back of his head, messing his hair slightly. He smiled at Melissa. "See, that right there, is why we rest while we can. Alright, I'll get Natalie. Melissa, you mind taking the bleeder in two?"
"No problem," Melissa uttered as she started to follow Amy back toward the main quarter of the hospital. "Who's Natalie?"
"Seven months pregnant," Spencer explained. "It's her first and she panics a lot. Can't say I blame her. Do you know anything about obstetrics?"
"A little. A woman that was with us a while back was pregnant. I learned what I could so I could help with the birth."
"I never got the chance."
Spencer frowned a little and Melissa wondered if he caught her meaning, but he didn't slow down to ask and she figured he knew now wasn't the time. "Well, if you get done with the bleeder in two feel free to swing by one and observe."
"Kay. Sounds good."
"Let me know if you need any help," Spencer called, pointing at Melissa as he walked into exam room one.
Melissa nodded in understanding as she turned the knob and walked into exam room two. As the door closed behind her and she looked at her patient she felt her stomach drop to the floor. She froze, stunned by what she saw. On the exam room table sat Daryl, a cut on his forehead above his right eyebrow, a trail of blood smeared halfway down his face.
"Hey," he uttered. He sat taller at her presence. She was striking. Clean, beautiful and the look on her face... he knew he would never forget that.
Without saying a word she crossed the room to him. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders and she squeezed, probably harder than she should have considering he was injured, but he didn't seem to mind. He felt himself stiffen at first, surprised by the sudden embrace, but his hands quickly found their way to her waist. He squeezed her hips where her shirt had raised over her exposed skin and he pulled her between his legs and against his chest, his arms wrapping around her small frame completely. There was no doubt, he was just as glad to see her. Melissa closed her eyes and pressed her face against his neck. Her throat began to burn and tears threatened her eyes, but she didn't try to push it down. She welcomed it. He was there. He was back. He was home. It was the best feeling. She let go of him slightly, resting her forehead against his, looking at him as if to make sure he was really there and it wasn't just her imagination.
Daryl eyed her blue scrubs and touched the stethoscope around her neck. "Don't you look legit?"
Melissa smiled. As a tear fell down her cheek Daryl caught it with his fingers, his hands meeting the sides of her face.
"You act like you ain't seen me in days," Daryl gently teased, pulling her forehead to his own.
Melissa smiled wider, laughing softly at his joke as she traced his jawline with her fingertips. Her fingers coaxed him, pulling him in. He closed his eyes and kissed her lips softly. His hands held her face as he kissed her, delicately pushing her hair back. By the time his mind caught up enough to question his actions it was already too late and he figured why stop now? He opened his mouth, feeling her inside as well as out. She followed him, her tongue meeting his as the kiss grew deeper. They kissed in perfect rhythm, both caught in the moment, lost in each other. He was so gentle with her. So slow and tender. Her mouth was warm and her taste... God, there was nothing like it in the world. His senses took over and he absorbed every part of her; her touch, her taste, her smell, the sound they made together, her breath in his mouth. He felt everything, determined to store it away, to keep pieces of her somewhere within himself, on reserve for a time when he really needed them. He couldn't believe he used to think he didn't need anybody. He especially couldn't believe he ever thought he didn't need her. But he did and he knew that about himself now.
It wasn't until Melissa brought the kiss to an ubrupt end, her hand touching his chest and slightly pushing him away, that Daryl realized he may have gone too far. He opened his eyes and watched her chest rise as she struggled to catch her breath. He realized he was out of breath as well.
"What happened here," Melissa asked shakily, pulling away enough to examine his cut. Her hand still on his chest, she could feel Daryl's heart pounding against her palm. She wanted him too, she couldn't deny that, but she still had a job to do.
"Tree branch," Daryl explained. "Running from some walkers this morning."
Melissa hummed in understanding as she examined him. She could feel his eyes on her every second, but she was determined not to let him distract her again. Then, as much as it pained her to break away from what was left of their embrace, she went to the cupboard to grab some gauze and peroxide. She cleaned his wound, blowing on it to take away the sting. She didn't even bother to put on gloves.
"Is Michonne alright," she asked.
Melissa sighed with relief. "Well, I hope you got some good stuff. Four days is too long."
Daryl nodded. "Agreed," he uttered. He wanted to touch her, to pull her in close again, but he didn't. "What about you? How ya been?"
Melissa grinned, raising her eyebrows. "Working my ass off."
Daryl was tempted to check, but he wasn't sure how she would feel about that. "So am I gonna need stitches or what?"
"Not deep enough," Melissa answered, examining his cut once more. Once she felt it was clean enough she taped some gauze over it.
"Do I really gotta wear this," Daryl asked. It was obvious he wasn't thrilled with having to wear a white square on his forehead.
"Just until it closes."
Daryl bit his lip on the inside and decided not to argue. He nodded, assuring Melissa he wouldn't take it off the moment he left and Melissa began examining his arms.
"What are you doin'," Daryl asked.
"I'm just…looking," Melissa replied and Daryl could see the trace of worry in her eyes.
"I'm good," Daryl assured. "I promise. Nothin' happened."
Melissa wanted to believe him. She knew she should. But she also knew she would feel better if he just let her do her job. She nodded and took a breath, reminding herself that he would tell her if there was anything she should worry about.
"Am I done?"
Melissa turned her head. She didn't want to say yes. She wanted to take him back to the Cat Nap and show him what's up.
"Nothin' more for me to do here," she shrugged. "Why, you got a hot date?"
"Yeah," Daryl joked. "With my bed. When are you getting off?"
Hopefully soon, Melissa thought, wondering if Daryl had intended for his question to have double meaning.
"Not 'till six."
Daryl frowned and Melissa realized for the first time just how tired he looked.
"Go home. Get a shower and a few hours' sleep. Doctor's orders," Melissa teased.
Daryl smiled at her cuteness. "Anything else?"
Melissa grinned back, shaking her head. "I can come check on you later."
"Is that a promise?" Daryl's eyes lit up and Melissa nodded. Maybe Daryl's question did have double meaning after all. She felt giddy with anticipation. That kiss was only the start of what was sure to come to an amazing finish. She thought about their interaction and all it's promises for the rest of her shift. She even caught herself smiling at nothing and out of nowhere and on more than one occasion. Their last night together really had turned a new page. Things were changing between them. And she was ready. They both were.
. . .
"Who ya looking for," Maggie asked, looking up from her chili.
Melissa turned back to her friend. "Huh? No one," she answered, trying her best to appear nonchelaunt.
"Uh huh," Maggie grinned. She knew better.
Of course Melissa was looking for Daryl. He hadn't shown up for dinner and she was beginning to wonder if he had slept right through.
Maggie took a bite of her chili and watched as Melissa's eyes wondered the room again. "You guys kiss and make up?"
Melissa instantly shushed her friend, worried someone might hear. But as she looked around, it dawned on Melissa that nobody was paying attention to them. When she looked back at Maggie she smiled as if she already knew that and raised her eyebrows, waiting for an answer.
"Something like that," Melissa murmered as she took a bite.
"What's up doc?" Glenn teased as he joined them.
"Ha ha," Melissa unenthusiastically replied.
Glenn grinned, pleased with himself. He loved that joke. "Hey, I met your boy."
"Huh?" Melissa asked, her eyes once again searching for Daryl.
"Spencer," Glenn clarified. "He's a cool guy."
"Oh," Melissa uttered, trying to hide the fact that she was distracted. "Yeah. How'd you meet him?"
"The library yesterday," answered Glenn. "I went there to grab a book for Maggie. We got to talking."
Melissa shrugged. "I haven't been."
"So, did you hear about tonight?" Maggie asked from the other side of the table.
"I guess not," Melissa replied, scanning the room again. She already had plans for that night. "What's up?"
"They're having a little party for us, now that the scouters are back. Kind of a 'Welcome to the Neighborhood' thing."
Melissa felt her eyebrows come together. "A party?"
"Well, more like a get together," Glenn clarified.
Melissa thought she understood, but it still puzzled her. "Is that…really necessary?"
Maggie shrugged. "Rick said it was Monroe's idea. Thought it would be a good way for everyone to meet and get to know each other."
"I guess that makes sense," Melissa uttered as she sipped her water.
"Rick wants to make sure we all make an appearance, since it's for us and everything. It's in the meeting hall after dinner," said Glenn.
Melissa nodded. "I'm off at six. Speaking of, I gotta get back and finish my shift." She stood, grabbing her tray. "See you two later."
. . .
By six thirty Melissa was on her way home. She stood in front of her closet, eyeing her limited selections. She couldn't believe she was trying to pick out a party outfit. It felt as weird as it sounded. She changed her clothes, putting on her skinny black jeans and a white v neck t-shirt. Then she went to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. She let her hair down, shaking it out a bit to give it some volume. She really needed to go visit Olivia to get a cut, but she'd been so busy she hadn't had a chance to do that yet, even though a few of the others had. Rick, Carl, Abraham, Glenn and Maggie had all gotten their hair cut already. She wondered if she would have gone had she had the time, or if that would have been one more thing that felt like it was happening too soon.
Melissa made it to the meeting hall by seven. By then it was full of people, most of whom Melissa still didn't know. She saw the ones closest to the door look at her as she walked inside, bringing in the cool evening air with her. She looked down, somewhat uncomfortable as she tucked her hair behind her ears. As she began searching the room for familiar faces she spotted Maggie and Glenn. They were standing with Spencer, wrapped up in some conversation. Melissa heard a woman's voice say hi to Spencer and he looked up, smiling at her politely. As Spencer began to go back to his conversation with Glenn he noticed Melissa and did a slight double take. As Melissa approached Spencer faced her and grinned, shoving a free hand into his pocket. The other held a red plastic cup. He was dressed nicely, wearing black dress pants and a light blue button down shirt with a gray sweater over the top. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. She'd never seen him in anything accept for scrubs. It was kind of a shock.
"Well, don't you look like you just came right out of a J-Crew catalogue," Melissa teased.
Spencer grinned. "Oh, you like? I got these off a walker."
"Tom Cruise," Melissa joked.
"Ah, man, you guessed it," Spencer played back. "I think the blood washed right out pretty well though, don't you?"
Melissa made a face, pretending to be disgusted.
"Just kidding, they were mine before the shit hit the fan."
"Hey Spencer," someone else called out from a nearby circle.
"Hey, how's it going," Spencer nodded, lifting his red plastic cup in their general direction.
"Aren't you popular?"
"Doctor hazards," Spencer shrugged. "Everyone's your friend when they know you've got the drugs. Can I get you a drink?"
"Uh, sure," Melissa shrugged. "What's everyone drinking?"
"Grape Kool-Aid," Spencer smiled. "Well, they are, but we're not everyone. Be right back."
Melissa watched Spencer until he disappeared into a hallway then she looked around the room, taking in the groups of people who were standing around, seemingly enjoying each other's company. "This is weird," she mumbled in Glenn and Maggie's direction.
Glenn smiled, his arm around Maggie and a red plastic cup in his other hand. "This is what people do, isn't it? Remember the night we spent in the CDC? Celebrating because we found somewhere safe? Same thing here, just more people."
Melissa nodded, thinking of how it only took a day for their hopes for the CDC to come crashing down. She tried not to think about how long it would be before Alexandria did the same. Then again, the town had made it this far. It was obviously for a reason.
Just then, Spencer returned with a cup for Melissa, the same as everyone else's, but one sip and she knew it wasn't the grape Kool-Aid the others were drinking. Spencer had just brought her a cup of red wine.
"Where did you get this," she asked, shocked.
"My own private stash," he whispered, putting his finger to his lips as she took another sip. "We're the only ones, so don't tell anyone."
"You have my word," Melissa promised, raising her glass. She didn't have a problem keeping the wine between them.
"Glenn and Maggie were just filling me in on how resourceful you are," Spencer said, catching Melissa up on what she'd missed. "I didn't know you could hunt."
Melissa looked down, somewhat uncomfortable knowing they'd been bragging on her. "Uh, sorta," she lied, running a hand through her hair.
"Don't let her fool ya, Spencer," Maggie beamed. "She kept us from starving on more than one occasion this winter."
"I'm impressed," Spencer smiled. "Really. I've been here so long I wouldn't have the first clue what to do out there."
"Oh, please," Melissa shook her head. Someone like Spencer not knowing what to do? She didn't believe it for a second.
"No, really. I don't know the first thing about finding my own food, but if you need stitches, CPR or you're blood drawn I'm your guy."
"That's true," Melissa nodded, looking to Glenn and Maggie. "He did my admission exam. I didn't feel a thing."
"I hear that a lot," Spencer grinned.
Glenn couldn't help himself. Suddenly he was beside himself with laughter. Maggie tried not to let it affect her, but she eventually lost it too.
"Oh, shit," Spencer beamed. "That sounded bad."
"What?" Melissa asked, once again trying to catch up. When it dawned on her what had just happened, she grinned to herself and felt her cheeks grow hot, but tried to hide it by taking another drink.
Eventually Maggie collected herself enough to change the subject. "So how's our girl doing, Spencer? I don't hear much from my Dad."
"She's amazing," Spencer answered. "A real natural."
"I don't know about that," Melissa mumbled, looking away.
"No, really," Spencer nodded. "You're doing great."
He held out his cup for Melissa, bringing her attention back to their small circle.
"Well, thanks for all you're teaching me. I owe you one." She gently hit her cup against his and they both took a drink.
"A hunter? Really? I honestly never would have guessed." Spencer looked at her with genuine surprise. Melissa realized that in all the time they'd spent together he really didn't know that much about her. To him she probably looked like a hundred girls he used to know. He had no idea of her past.
"It's really not that hard. I can teach you some time, if you want," Melissa said without thinking. Was the wine already affecting her?
"Really?" Spencer asked.
"Why not?" Melissa shrugged. She figured she'd already offered. She couldn't take it back now. And what would it hurt for him to have a few survival skills? He'd need them if anything happened. Besides, she felt she owed him for teaching her as much as he already had, even if it was his job.
"Alright, you're on," Spencer uttered, holding out his fist. Melissa bumped it with her own and they both took to drinking their wine.
"Well, I'm out," Spencer said, looking at his empty cup. "You guys want another?"
"I'll run back to the house to grab a few bottles. I could use an extra set of hands, though. Melissa, you wanna help?"
Melissa looked at Glenn and Maggie, maybe for assurance. She wasn't sure. They didn't say anything, so she shrugged.
A few minutes later she was walking up the porch steps of the nicest house she'd seen in Alexandria. It was an older two story home, but it was obviously well kept and beautiful with a large porch and stone accents. Inside was nice as well. All hardwood throughout, well decorated with nice furniture and a black grand piano in the corner of the living room that made Melissa's jaw drop the moment she saw it.
"You live here?" Melissa asked, hearing the astonishment in her own voice.
"Yeah," Spencer smiled. He noticed her admiring the piano and gestured for her to approach it, which she did without a word. She sat on the bench and touched the ivory keys. "You play?"
"I used to," she answered. "You?"
"Never interested me much. But you're welcome to it," Spencer offered.
"Yeah sure. I'll grab the wine from downstairs. Enjoy," he smiled before disappearing into another room.
Melissa touched the keys again, finding proper placement and began playing one of her favorite songs; the theme from To Kill a Mockingbird. She'd taught it to herself years ago after she saw the movie. Her mother had noticed and helped her perfect the tune. Even without any sheet music, she could play it almost perfectly. She knew the tune by heart. Memories flooded back to her as she played. Memories of her childhood, brought on by the childlike innocence of the tune. Memories of her Mother, whom she realized she hadn't thought about in a long time. She thought of the book and all the lessons she learned from it. She thought of all the lessons she'd learned from her own life. And Sophia, her baby sister, that she'd sworn to protect but couldn't.
The tears came before she could push them down and she stopped playing in the middle of a measure, bringing her hands abruptly to her face. She tried to breathe through it, to calm herself, but it still hurt like hell. Even after all that time. Even in Alexandria. It seemed the pain would follow her everywhere, showing it's ugly face in the most unexpected places. She took a few deep breaths and felt her sadness subside. She wiped the tears from her face and ran her hand through her hair, trying to compose herself.
Melissa looked up to see Spencer standing in the arch between the kitchen and the living room, three unopened bottles of wine in his hands.
"Yeah," Melissa assured. She did her best to fake a smile. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"You sure?" Spencer set the wine down on a table and crossed the room to her.
Melissa stood from the piano and walked around the room, avoiding him, looking at various things. Spencer got the message and kept his distance, giving her the time she needed to put herself back together. He watched her walk about the room. Eventually, Melissa's eyes landed on a photograph on top of the living room fireplace. It was a portrait of a family that she figured must have once lived there. She wondered why it was still there, but as she examined the faces she realized why it hadn't been taken down. The first face she recognized belonged to Senator Monroe. He had his hand on the shoulder of a beautiful woman. The woman was seated in a chair with a young girl on her lap. Beside Senator Monroe stood Spencer. He looked a good five years younger, but very much the same. There was no doubt...this was his family.
"Well, this makes sense," Melissa nodded, putting things together.
"Why you're dressed so well," Melissa answered, turning back to face him. "Why you live in such a nice house. You're Monroe's son?"
"Yep," Spencer answered simply.
"And this was your house before all this happened?"
Spencer nodded. "One of them. This is the house I grew up in. My mother was from Alexandria. We lived here to be closer to her family. She didn't want us growing up in D.C."
"Why didn't you ever say anything?"
Spencer put his hands in his pockets, leaning against a doorframe. "I've just never been that guy. I don't want anyone giving me special treatment because of who my Dad is. I never did. To be honest, we don't really get along all that well. We were never close," he uttered, staring at the family portrait.
"Even now," Spencer nodded.
"But you live together."
"Not really. He has an apartment in City Hall that he mostly stays in. I hardly ever see him."
"Don't worry, I'm used to it. He had a townhome in D.C. that he lived in before. I saw him occassionally. Holidays and campaign trails and that was enough. That's my mother," he said, pointing to the photo as he walked closer. "I was close with her. And my little sister."
"How long ago was this taken?"
"This was about seven years ago, I think."
Melissa wanted to ask what happened to them. They obviously weren't in Alexandria or she probably would have seen them by now. But she didn't ask. She didn't need to. She was pretty sure she already knew.
"I was honest before, when I told you I got through two years of medical school before it all happened. I was at Georgetown. My father wanted me to go to Harvard because that's where he went, so naturally I refused. He tried to pull some strings but my mother wouldn't let him interfere. I got into Georgetown on my own. I was always so proud of that. Anyway, then things started happening. I saw things I never..." Spencer trailed away, caught up in a distant memory. Then he cleared his throat, bringing himself back. "It was the first time I'd ever really been scared of anything in my life. I was scared shitless. But I wanted to help. To see it though. Even when my father called and said there was a helicopter for me on the roof and to come home, I wasn't going to go. He said my mother was worried sick. That she and my sister needed me. The next thing I knew I was in the helicopter, watching the world come apart underneath me. I left my patients. I left friends. And when I got home I found out that my mother and sister were already gone. They sealed the town and I've barely spoken to my father since."
"I'm sorry," Melissa whispered. She couldn't believe Monroe could tell such a lie to get Spencer to come home. Then again, Spencer was still alive.
Spencer shook his head as if it was nothing. "We've all lost someone."
She could see the pain in his eyes, although he clearly tried not to show it. As much as she'd been around him over the past few days she hadn't seen this side of him yet. Spencer was damaged, like her, which suddenly made him so much more relatable. The carefree, sarcastic guy she knew was still in there but even he had demons. She didn't know why but she instantly liked him more.
He took a breath, seemingly finding himself and smiled gently in Melissa's direction. "We should get back."
Melissa nodded. "Okay."
"But, hey. If you ever want to play my Mom's piano again, you're welcome to anytime."
Melissa started to argue. She wasn't sure she was comfortable with that. It didn't seem right somehow and Spencer seemed to see that because he stopped her before she could protest.
"Really," he insisted. "It was nice, hearing that thing make sounds again."
Melissa smiled. "It's a little out of tune," she uttered.
Spencer nodded and smiled with the same boyish grin she'd grown to know. "Aren't we all?"
. . .
Back at the party and well into her next glass of wine and Melissa still hadn't spotted Daryl. She'd talked to Abraham and Rosita, Rick and a few other people from the town that she kind of knew and was thinking about leaving to go to Daryl's house when she finally saw him standing alone against a wall. She smiled to herself and started to cross the room to speak to him when Maggie grabbed her by the shoulder.
"Rescue me," Maggie uttered into her ear.
"Why? What happened?" Melissa exclaimed, suddenly on alert.
"Olivia found out Glenn and I are engaged and now she won't stop bugging me about putting on a wedding."
Melissa smiled. "Well, isn't that what happens when you get engaged? You have a wedding?"
Maggie smiled back, shaking her head as she caught on to Melissa's sarcasm. "Yeah, but she's insisting on doing it up big, in front of the whole town. And I kinda just agreed to let her help me plan and now she won't stop bugging me."
"Oh, and one more thing. I told her you would be my maid of honor."
Melissa stopped laughing. "What?"
"Well, won't you?" Maggie's eyes were wide, pleading. But Melissa was unsure. "Come on. Don't make me go through this alone."
"Isn't that what Glenn is for," Melissa joked as she took a sip of her wine.
"You know what I mean," Maggie answered as she put her arms around Melissa's shoulders. "I should have asked you first, but will you please be my maid of honor?"
Melissa smiled. Despite her hesitation, despite the fact that they were even having that conversation, it did feel good to be asked. "Well, who's the best man?"
"Glenn is over there, asking Rick right now," Maggie answered.
Melissa looked in their direction and spotted Glenn and Rick shaking hands, both with smiles on their faces.
Rick. She could get through this with Rick.
When she looked back at Maggie, Maggie's eyes were pleading, but there was a trace of a smile on her face, as if she already knew what Melissa was about to say.
"Okay," Melissa nodded.
Maggie squealed hugged her tightly. "So this is really happening then? I'm really getting married?"
Melissa chuckled. "Apparently so."
Maggie pulled back and smiled, resting her arms on Melissa's shoulders. "Thank you," she mouthed.
Melissa nodded. Then, over Maggie's shoulder, Melissa glanced up to see Daryl was still in the same spot. Maggie followed Melissa's eyes, spotting who Melissa was staring at and let go of her friend, pushing her gently in Daryl's direction and smiling as if to tell her to go for it. Melissa smiled back and crossed the room to Daryl.
"You made it," Melissa remarked as she reached him.
"How long have you been here?" She asked.
"Since about the time you got back from that guy's house," Daryl nodded in Spencer's direction.
Melissa paused. "Were you following us?"
Daryl shook his head and looked around the room. He hadn't followed them, but he'd seen them walk back into the party together and found out from Glenn where they'd been.
"Are you jealous?" Melissa asked, suddenly breaking into a grin. He didn't need to be, but the thought that he may have been made her feel good.
"Of your city boy?"
"He's not my city boy," Melissa reminded him. "He's my first friend in Alexandria. And you don't need to be jealous of him."
"Who said I was?"
Melissa smiled, stepping closer. "Besides, I like country boys."
Daryl bit his inner lip to conceal his smile and shoved his hands in his pockets so he wouldn't grab her right there in front of everyone. He smelled the wine and noticed for the first time that she was a little tipsy. "Looks like someone's been drinkin' the Kool-Aid," he mumbled.
Melissa pretended to be offended by his double meaning. "I have not been drinking Kool-Aid," she said gently. "I've been drinking red wine." She took a sip and hummed to herself as she swallowed. "And it's delicious," she whispered.
Her eyes beamed with playfulness and Daryl couldn't help by smile back.
"Want some?" She offered, holding her cup toward him. "It's sweet, or would you prefer sour grapes?"
"I am not sour grapes," he uttered.
"You, my friend, are sour grapes," she teased, lightly poking him in the chest with her free hand.
Daryl didn't like the way she said friend, but he knew she was teasing. He looked her up and down and started to ask if she wanted to get out of there when he heard it.
"There she is!" A loud woman erupted from behind Melissa's shoulder. "Miss maid of honor!"
Melissa turned to see Olivia, who pulled her into an unwarranted hug before she could protest, practically knocking the wind out of her.
"And who's this handsome gentleman," Olivia grinned, turning her attention to Daryl.
"Uh," Melissa uttered. "This is Daryl Dixon. He's from my group. Daryl, this is Olivia."
"Nice to meet you Daryl," Olivia beamed, extending her hand out to Daryl. Daryl took it, shook it and let go pretty quickly and Melissa smiled to herself. "I heard a rumor that you're a real good hunter. Is that true?"
Daryl didn't answer, so Melissa answered for him.
"It's true," Melissa grinned. "He taught me everything I know."
"You hunt too?" Olivia asked.
"Thanks to this guy, I do," Melissa answered.
Olivia nodded, looking Daryl up and down. She was obviously checking him out. Melissa felt herself lean closer to Daryl, but she quickly reminded herself that she didn't have a reason to be jealous. Daryl wouldn't be interested in her.
"Olivia is the town hairdresser," Melissa explained, getting the topic off of Daryl.
"Guilty," Olivia laughed. "I've already given a few of your friends a haircut. I'd love to offer you my services."
Daryl felt his back press against the wall. He didn't like the way she said services. He looked to Melissa just in time to see her stifle a laugh into her cup.
"That's okay," Daryl uttered.
"Oh, I don't know," Melissa said playfully. "I think he could really use a haircut. Don't you, Olivia?"
"Absolutely," Olivia beamed, checking Daryl out again.
Daryl looked almost terrified.
"Well, I think I'm going to go get myself some more Kool-Aid," Melissa grinned, handing her half full cup of wine to Daryl. "You two have fun."
Daryl stood up straight and watched Melissa as she walked back through the crowd.
"So," Olivia grinned, biting her lip. "What's your weapon of choice?"
. . .
A few hours and a few too many glasses of wine later, Maggie and Melissa stood outside the meeting hall, their arms wrapped around each other, telling each other how much they loved one another. Glenn was tired and ready to get Maggie home, which felt like it would take forever, but he eventually pulled Maggie from Melissa's embrace.
"That's my maid of honor, everyone," Maggie drunkenly proclaimed, pointing back at Melissa as the couple walked away.
"Love you," Melissa beamed, blowing her kisses.
Spencer scratched his head, an amused expression on his face. "Guess I should have kept a better eye on you."
Melissa looked up at him and made a face as if he was crazy. "What are you talkin'bout. I'mmm fiiine."
"I can see that," Spencer laughed.
"No, really," Melissa straightened and centered herself. "I'm good. Promise."
Spencer rubbed the grin off his lips as she stumbled and caught herself, putting her hands up as if to say I got this. "You remember where you live?"
Melissa nodded, falling to the side a little. Spencer grabbed her shoulders, straightening her.
"I'll walk you home," Spencer offered.
"Nah, I got it," Melissa protested.
"I'm pretty sure she just said no," Daryl interrupted.
Melissa looked back to see him standing on the sidewalk. Damn, he came out of nowhere.
"I'mmm with him," Melissa declared, pointing to Daryl.
"We haven't met. I'm Spencer. Spencer Monroe." Melissa watched Spencer approach Daryl and extend his hand, which Daryl shook, but only for as short a time as he felt was possible.
"How ya doin, Daryl. Good to meet you."
Daryl didn't say a word back and Melissa gave Daryl a look, telling him to be nice.
"Scouter, right?" Spencer asked in a friendly tone.
"I work with Melissa at the hospital," Spencer explained.
"Okay," Daryl shrugged but offered nothing more.
Melissa watched the awkward interaction, slightly amused.
"Well, this is fun," she interrupted. She figured she should put them both out of their misery. "Goodnight, Spencer," Melissa smiled sweetly, thanking him for everything.
"Yeah, goodnight, Spencer," Daryl repeated.
Spencer looked at Melissa as if he wasn't sure weather he should leave her with Daryl, but Melissa smiled, letting him know she was okay.
"Night," Spencer uttered as he turned to walk home.
Daryl stood his ground like a dog defending its territory until Melissa pulled his arm, bringing him the other way with her.
"You don't have to be that way, you know," Melissa lectured. "He's a good guy."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. Why? Do you know something I don't?"
I know he wants to get in your pants, Daryl thought to himself, but decided best not to say anything. He wasn't sure she'd remember in the morning anyway, so he figured it wasn't worth the fight. Besides, Daryl didn't actually know with one hundred percent certainty that Spencer was interested in Melissa in that way, but he didn't know why he wouldn't be.
"I can't believe you left me alone with that crazy woman," Daryl uttered, changing the subject.
"Who? Olivia?" Melissa scoffed. "She's harmless."
"Harmless? You think so?"
"I know so," Melissa answered.
"Well, she harmlessly asked me if I'd sleep with her," Daryl confessed.
Melissa stopped walking. "She what? But she just met you."
"I know," Daryl nodded.
Melissa couldn't believe it. She knew Olivia was a shameless flirt. She'd seen her be that way with Spencer and she figured it was just her personality. But she actually asked Daryl to sleep with her?
"Are you sure?"
Daryl smiled and gave her a look.
"Well, what did she say? Tell me exactly how she worded it."
Daryl shook his head. "I don't think... that's a good idea."
That dirty slut!
Melissa's heart was pounding in her chest. She wasn't sure if it was the wine or if she would have felt just as strongly if she was sober, but she knew then that if anything had happened she would have no problem finding Olivia and ripping her hair out of her head. She suddenly understood the reason Daryl was the way he was with Spencer. Spencer had never made her any offers, he'd never made a move on her in any way, never offered her anything but his friendship, but the thought that he could, the thought that Olivia did. Melissa couldn't stand the thought of another woman wanting to be with Daryl. And what if he'd said yes? They could have snuck away and Melissa wouldn't even have noticed. She couldn't believe how strongly it affected her. It made her sick with jealously. No, it made her actually sick.
"You okay?" Daryl asked, noticing she didn't look very good.
She shook her head, putting her hand over her mouth.
"Oh, shit," she heard Daryl utter just as she fell to her knees and threw up in the grass.
Olivia, you ignorant slut!
I think it seems only natural that in that situation people would be interested in new faces. And I imagine those without partners would be especially motivated and it wouldn't take too long before offers were made. Plus Daryl and Melissa aren't exactly open about what they are just yet. Not to worry, though. Melissa and big D aren't going anywhere.
Let's talk about Spencer for a moment. Those of you who've read the comics know of him, and you'll have to read on to figure out where I'm going with his character, but let me just tell you right now this isn't the same Spencer and I think you'll like this one a lot more. I was trying to think of actors that could play him, since he isn't on the show (at least, not yet). Some of you may already have someone in mind by now, but I think an actor named Chris Lowell would be perfect. If you're interested feel free to pull him up on youtube. He's handsome and sarcastic and funny and I think he fits the character well. If any of you had someone else in mind I would be really curious to hear about it.
Otherwise, I really hope you all had fun reading this chapter and getting to know our characters a little bit better.
Check out these tunes!
Chapter 64 Soundtrack:
A Boy And His Kite - Cover Your Tracks (Melissa and Daryl reunite in the exam room)
Elmer Berstein - Theme from To Kill a Mockingbird (Melissa plays the piano)