Rick lay motionless in the tall grass willing that the gunman or men wouldn't hear the pounding of his heart. Though only seconds had passed, he would have bet it had been hours. Dread seized him…someone was hurt. One of his people…one of the women. This he knew because her scream still echoed in his head…
Painstakingly, he inched forward on his stomach, toward the safety of the prison walls…waiting…hoping for a breeze to disguise his tortuous progress through the dry late autumn weeds that, with each movement of his lean body, crackled like thunder in his ears.
But no breeze came.
Instead, another shot ripped through the still morning. The former lawman held his breath and closed his eyes…Focus, Grimes…on the sound…the direction…south…no…west…the front of the prison…
And another…followed by a closer one, this time from within the fences. Return fire from the guard tower. Good. Oscar has a sight on 'em. Maybe he hit the sniper…Please God let there be only one and let that bastard be… dead? Rick had never prayed for the death of anyone in his life and the words wouldn't even form fully in his mind…let them be incapacitated…no…let them be dead.
He shifted into a crouch and moved low but swiftly…Shit! Air whooshed out of his lungs as his chest hit the ground again. More than one shooter…and this one had his sights on Rick. Shit! He was pinned down.
Inside the prison, Daryl's brain was awash with emotions after his run-in with Beth. He wasn't used to this shit and he sure as hell didn't like. He was concerned, annoyed, and confused as hell. As much as he didn't want to think about it, it was ALL he could think about. Why couldn't Beth just spell it out for him: Why was she upset and what did she want him do to fix it? How hard could it be? He chewed the rough skin on the side of his thumb. Before…before all this walker shit…if things got difficult with a girl, he would just leave. Simple as that.
Running away would be easier on him than dealing with it. But leaving was out of the question here. He and Merle couldn't just pack up go. Merle wasn't leaving his knocked-up girlfriend or Possum…no matter how pissed they were at him right now. And Possum was being a real bitch also. Must be pregnancy hormones or some shit like. Damn...he almost felt sorry for his brother—he had two pregnant women to deal with…the younger Dixon shuddered. What a fuckin' nightmare!
Merle would stay, though. He would keep his family safe. His damn brother had finally developed a conscience….go figure…the world really did come to an end.
Fuckin' hell! What if Beth was…no way…they used protection...Not a chance…nope… "Pfft," Daryl muttered to himself, draining the last few drops of whiskey, peering into the dark flask hoping to see more. To tell the truth, he really just wanted a smoke. He ran out days ago. Beth hated when he smoked, said she couldn't stand the smell…and it wasn't healthy. What a laugh, he snorted. Who was going to live long enough to get cancer? She didn't care for that argument either.
He didn't really want to leave Beth. He…he cared for…her. Yeah, that was it. He had struggled to put a name to those pesky feelings and couldn't come up with one until now. He cared for her…a lot…What a fuckin' pussy.
Daryl threw open the prison door in disgust at his own rambling thoughts and was immediately assaulted in the face by cold late autumn air. He pulled his collar up and strained to adjust his eyes to morning sun. The prison was dark and dank and he always felt like he was holding his breath until he stepped out into the fresh air. Where the fuck is Rick? Enough time had already been wasted. They needed to finish off the Governor. Until he saw the man's corpse with his own eyes, he would assume he was alive.
A near-blinding glint past the fences immediately caught Daryl's attention and the sharp retort of a gunshot sent him for cover behind a rusty steel drum. His crossbow was loaded but he had no target to aim for…his bolt would never reach the trees where he knew the shooter hid. Releasing the safety on his pistol, he waited for a sign…a noise, anything that would point him in the right direction. He didn't have enough ammo to waste.
It morning was eerily quiet. He cursed himself for not noticing as soon as he first stepped out. He would have if he hadn't caught up in all that emotional shit that only women can cause. He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath clearing his mind of everything but his surroundings. Shuffling walkers…wind rustling through the dry leaves…no birds…no insects…
Beth. Please let her be inside. The thought entered his mind unbidden. Let her be safe…Fuck! Stop it, ya pussy. Focus on the asshole that's tryin' to kill ya!
Carl sat against the wall, whittling a sturdy branch to a sharp point that would be perfect for stabbing through the rotting eyes of a walker. Each long stroke was punctuated with a grunt of resentment. He was too old for this babysitting shit. He was just as capable of protecting the group and defending the prison as anyone else here. He shot an intruder-that guy, Tyreese. Though his dad still had him and his sister locked up, Carl was starting believe that they were okay. Their story rang true and to be honest, he actually liked the pair. Tyreese and Sasha talked to him with respect. was. If they could see that he wasn't a little kid, why couldn't his dad?
Carl didn't feel that guilty about shooting him. He did what he had to do. Better safe than sorry. The big man even agreed with Carl and told him that he harbored no hard feelings. Tyreese respected that he did what he had to do to protect his family.
Occasionally, Carl looked up to make sure Judith didn't wander too far. As much as he hated watching her, he wouldn't fail at it. Judith tumbled face first into the tall grass. With little more than soft "oomph," she scrambled back to her feet and ran toward him with a hand full of dead weeds. The little brat was tough. He'd give her that. She grinned, dirt on her chin and nose, and thrust the brown bouquet at him. That was sure to get him sneezing. She babbled something that he didn't even try to interpret and with a wave and a goofy grin, she turned to continue her adventures. Carl shook his head. Even Hershel with only one leg could sit here and monitor her just as well. Would he ever be rid of her? He should be doing important work like...
"Judith!" The boy screamed as he tackled his baby sister, covering her small body with his.
Another shot slammed into the ever-present hat, blasting it from Carl's head followed by an ear-piercing shriek as he tried to keep the little girl tucked under him. "Oh God! Judith!"
Carl pulled the screaming, writhing toddler to his chest and ran ducking low to the nearest door.
"Shhh…Judith…please," he whispered frantically but his pleas fell on deaf ears. The baby's screams became louder with each step while hot tears streamed down his face as he as he fought to pull open the heavy door with one hand.
Fuck! This ain't good. Ain't good at all. The right, or wrong, ammo could pierce the rusty sides of the steel drum easily. Daryl carefully peered around from his tenuous cover. He could just make out a body a few hundred feet to his left. Whether it was alive or dead, friend or foe, he wasn't sure. He aimed his crossbow at the head…looked like Grimes…a dirty, leaf covered Grimes…but it could be him. "Rick!" he called out softly. "That you?"
"Here!" The 'body' moved and his friend answered as a bullet tore into the dirt mere inches from his foot.
"Stay down!" Damn! That was close…too fucking close
"Da-" A volley of gunfire from two directions whistled over Rick's prone form. Instead of following the redneck's orders, he crawled quickly on his hands and knees toward the cover of the prison…if he could just reach….
Dixon sprang from his cover and sprayed the area above Grimes with shield of gunfire. "Go, go, go!" he yelled at the other man ran. All too soon, he was out of ammo and he fell back behind the barrel in frustration. Rick found better cover behind a set of concrete steps. If he could reach one of the guard towers, he'd have a better chance of locating the snipers.
A shrill scream shattered the air. A million icy shards sliced through Rick. "Judith! Carl!" His heart stopped and he ceased to breathe as the world slowed down around him. He stumbled and fell to one knee, ripping a hole in his worn pants. Please God don't let my children be hurt! They were all he had left in this living hell…the only thing that kept him going so he scrambled to his feet and zigzagged across the yard toward the sound of his daughter's scream, thrusting away any fear he had of getting shot himself.
With an exaggerated sigh, Amanda pushed herself away from the table and headed to the kitchen. She had put it off long enough but with any luck, Caesar had already finished the dishes. What a terrible thing to think, she scolded herself. She felt guilty. She really did but she detested washing dishes more and always had.
She reached for the door, only to be knocked back when it swung open hard and Caesar, with gun in hand, barreled out. His quick reflexes kept her from landing on her ass. "You hear that?" he asked as he steadied her with his free hand.
Confused, she shook her head. "Hear what?" Thick walls of the prison kept most sounds out. "What did you hear?"
"Gunshots," he said running toward the exit that led into the yard. He opened the door enough to see. Amanda clearly heard the shots this time.
"Shit!" he slammed the door shut. "Dixon! Get your ass out here!" He shouted on his way to their makeshift armory. "Glenn! Maggie!"
Within minutes of being informed about the attack, those still in the prison were well-armed looking to anyone for instruction since their leader was missing.
"Do we know who is outside?" Maggie asked, loading her rifle.
"Carol and Oscar are in the tower," Caesar replied.
"I saw Carl go out with Judith," Beth answered with a trembling voice.
Amanda said, "Daryl went out to look for Rick."
"Where the fuck is Rowan?" Merle answered, pushing past Martinez.
"Right here, Merle," she answered, coming into the room just in front of Hershel. "What's going on?
The older Dixon sighed with relief at the sight of her and he didn't care about anything other than she and his baby were inside the walls. "We're under attack, darlin'," he said handing her a small handgun. "You and Greene lock yourselves in the infirmary and don't open the door for anyone you don't know." Rowan nodded and took the gun. Her eyes wide with fear and her hand went to her stomach.
"Don't ya worry about a thing, girl. Ain't nothing gonna happen to you as long as I'm alive." He steeled his resolve and turned to his daughter, "Same goes for you, Ladybug. Now be a good girl and go with 'em."
"No." Amanda stood her ground as she took a clip from Martinez. "I'm going out there."
"Bullshit. I'm still your fuckin' daddy. Now go or I will carry your ass there and tie you to a fuckin' chair!"
He grabbed her arm painfully. "Let go!" she yelped and twisted out of his grip.
"I ain't playing 'round!"
"This isn't the time for arguing," Hershel interrupted firmly.
"Fuck no…I ain't lettin' my baby girl go out there."
"She's a grown woman, Merle." He looked at both of his daughters, armed and ready to fight. It broke his heart that the world had come to this but he could think of no way around it. They needed every able body to stand together.
As much as he hated to stand down, Merle liked the old man. He was about the only one in this ragtag group that he actually respected. "Fuck!" Merle yelled and punched the wall. He stormed out leaving the others to now look to Martinez for instructions.
Hell! He never thought of himself as a leader but he did have more experience than any of them, other than Dixon and that asshole split. Martinez couldn't save his own family but he would do whatever he had to do to save Amanda, along with Carl and Judith.
"Glenn, get to one of the towers and see what you can. Try to stay out of the open as much as possible." The Korean nodded and glance at his girlfriend.
Fucking Siamese twins! Fine. "Maggie, take your sister and go up to the catwalk. Stay out of sight. Cover Glenn only if he needs it. Don't give your position away too soon." The sisters nodded and ran after Glenn to carry out their instructions.
"I'll go around to the side and see if I can find the kids." Caesar laid a hand on Amanda's shoulder. "You got enough ammo, baby?"
"I think so." She smiled weakly not disguising her nervousness well.
He gave her an extra clip, anyway. "Come with me. I'm going out through the laundry room and need you to cover me." Amanda stuck the spare clip in her. She had to run to keep up with him. All too soon, Caesar stopped at the door and turned back to her. "Ready?"
She nodded but shaky hands were betraying her. She was a good shot. Good as Maggie or Glenn. Better than Carol and Beth but never in her life had she shot at a living person...and sure as hell not when they were shooting back. I can do this. I have to do this. "I can do this," she said out loud, standing straighter. "I know you can, Amanda," he said with a reassuring grin and a quick peck on the cheek. "Keep your head down and don't take any careless chances."
Martinez pulled the door handle and jumped back, gun aimed at the bloody dirty bodies that fell through opening. "What the-"
"Oh my God!" Amanda cried. "Is she shot?"
Carl screamed over the bawling little girl. "Judith's hurt! Where's Hershel!"
"You hurt?" Caesar demanded.
"N-no," Carl panted, pushing his bloody hair out of his eyes.
Caesar calmly and took the wailing child from his grasp. He ran his hands over her carefully. "She's not shot. I think it's her shoulder or arm. Amanda, take her to the infirmary."
"Who's going to cover you?" she asked.
"He's bleeding," she protested the decision.
Martinez gingerly examined the young man's bloody head. "Bullet just grazed him."
Carl knocked his hand away. "I gotta go back!"
"He's well enough to fight, aren't you?"
"You bet I am," Carl nodded eagerly, sending trickle of blood down his forehead. He wiped it away with his sleeve. Martinez cut a sleeve from his own shirt and wrapped it around the wound, tying it tightly so it wouldn't slip.
"Let's go, Martinez!" Carl demanded impatiently.
"I'll make sure we both come back." The older man squeezed her shoulder in reassurance. "Now get the princess to Hershel," he said and followed the overeager boy out.
"Please be careful," Amanda said softly as the door closed behind them. She paused a moment for a silent prayer then, as carefully as she could so as not to jostle Judith, she hurried to the infirmary. Angry tears streamed down her face. How could anyone shoot at children?
Thanks for reading and please leave a review.
I rewrote this chapter at least 6 times. It is so hard to write action scenes. Feel free to let me know it it works-or not. I am working on the next part and will post as soon as possible.
Special thanks to siarh for editing help.