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Disclaimer: I do not own any piece of The Walking Dead franchise. If I did, I would be eating sandwiches with Norman Reedus, not writing fan fiction. The character of Emma Louise Prescott is one hundred percent mine, as she was created by me after watching too many episodes of The Walking Dead.
ps- This went in a completely different direction than I had originally planned which is part of the reason an update took so long. I had to wrap my brain around the new craziness!
Of all the things I learned at the University of Alabama, three have stuck with me. One, everyone bleeds crimson red for a reason: to show their support of the Roll Tide. Two, it is impossible to use an entire five subject notebook while enrolled only in theatre classes. Three, the phrase all the world's a stage is the truest phrase in the history of words.
While I was still at school, there was never a day that went by that I didn't see or hear someone acting their way out of something―I lost the syllabus so I didn't get that homework done on time; baby, I swear it was only a one time thing; that's not weed, it's oregano!―I'd heard them all. The best were the excuses given to me by the girls I RA'ed, oregano included, which usually included tears and false smiles with shaking fingers that they tried their best to hide. I pride myself on my ability to call people out on their bullshit, if not through confrontation through mentally processing exactly what they're hiding and finding some way to use it against them.
So far, I've yet to meet a person I can't read like a book, and maybe that's why the comfort of Shane's company has meant so much to me. Ever since the barn incident four days ago, he's been overly kind and helpful to make up for the guilt that he feels for not locking up tight enough. We did a perimeter check of my land after cleaning up the walker bodies and noticed nothing unusual, not a single fault in any barn wall. He blames himself for the event, but I don't. Of course, this isn't something that he's told me but something that I've picked up based on his actions. For example, Shane takes a walk down to the creek every morning and just before he leaves, he stares at the barn for a good two minutes. When he comes back, he looks at it again out of the corner of his eye. I'm usually up and making breakfast so I can see him coming from the kitchen window. As far as I can tell, he doesn't know that I watch him which is a good thing, 'cause if he did I'm sure he'd make some joke about me having a crush on him.
He's been doing that a lot lately, cracking jokes about his looks and my looks and the looks we give each other. I mean it's not like a look at him like he's a popsicle and it's a hot day in July, but without the company of knowing Matt's whereabouts my eyes have started to...wander. Mostly to Shane's behind, but the one time he caught me looking at his abdominals is the one time he won't seem to forget. I'm taking his joke cracking as another sign of his guilt. Everyone needs to laugh sometimes.
But Andrea notices the looks, too. Maggie and Glenn are usually off in their own little world except for meals and chores around the property so I rarely see them, but when I see Andrea, and I see her often because she's always downstairs or outside, she's looking at Shane and I like we're doing something wrong, almost with jealously. I choose not to think about it and focus my attention on not focusing my attention on Shane.
It hasn't been working very well, but I'm trying.
"Hey, Emma?" I hear Shane ask as I'm digging through one of the freezers downstairs. "You busy?"
"No, just looking for something to make for dinner," I respond.
We've been running low on meat lately and I don't know if it's because I'm making meals more than usual or if Daddy just didn't pack enough. From what I remember of Daddy's inventory sheets (that went missing right around the time I was looking for his notebook), we should still have plenty of beef and chicken to go around, only now I have to dig through frozen fruits and vegetables just to find a chicken breast or two. It doesn't make any sense, but neither does the walking dead so I haven't said anything about it yet.
"Why, what's up?" I ask.
"I've been thinking, and I think we should make a run into town."
"What do we need from town?"
The last time the group made a run was about a week before the barn incident and, according to Andrea, nothing has changed since I first found them there. We are officially the only living, breathing people for miles. The run was basically made to check on the town, however Shane found a few coolers that he brought back to the house "just incase" we needed them. We haven't needed them, but I guess it's nice to have them on hand.
"Nothin', but I think it's a good idea. Just to make sure we're still alone out here."
"But it's only been a week and a half," I respond, pushing the bangs out of my face. Although it's getting colder outside, going through Daddy's stockpile always makes me work up a sweat. My face is probably redder than a tomato.
Shane cracks his knuckles, "I'll go by myself. Just thought maybe you'd want to join me, is all."
I look at him, freshly showered and wearing the hell out of a pair of khaki pants and black t-shirt, before nodding.
"Yeah, okay. I'll go with you. Let me talk to Maggie about dinner first."
"Honey, Maggie lived on a farm bigger than yours. I'm sure she knows how to cook a chicken."
I toss a frozen bag of corn at him and it smacks him in the chest. He laughs as he catches it, ducking while I fake throw a bag of peas his way.
"Don't call me honey," I tell him, slamming the freezer door shut. I lead the way up the stairs, making sure to swing my hips more than I need to. Halfway up, I turn to face him. "Honey," I finish with a smile.
"Oh my...yes, please. Please, please, please. Right there. Yes!"
I could lie and say I don't know how we ended up here, my legs resting on Shane's shoulders, his head between them, tongue licking my juices like they're water and he's been thirsty for years. I could lie, but I won't.
It started with flirting in the car on the way to town. Simple words, the same ones we had been spewing at each other in our spare time. Nothing unusual, but the fact that we were alone was weighing heavily on my mind from the second we got in the Expedition until the second we stepped out of it.
When I got out of the SUV, I intended to head straight to Milly's and grab more tampons and condoms, just incase, just like last time. Instead, Shane whistled at me and shook his head, nodding in the direction of On Tap, the old bar owned by Uncle Joe, aka Joe MacEnder, aka Matt's dad. I looked at him with a crinkled forehead but said nothing, following him despite my better judgement.
The last thing I needed was to be reminded that I don't know where Matt is.
On Tap looked the same way it did back before I left for Alabama, minus the overweight and drunk "down with Obama" gun lovers. Dust still coated the top of the bar, only now it was due to not being used and not Uncle Joe being too lazy to wipe it down after last call. He hired me to do that.
I worked at On Tap once, when I was trying to save up money for college behind Daddy's back. It was before Daddy even knew I was thinking about going, before he told me "no" six million times before finally agreeing. I was only seventeen and it was illegal for me to be working at a bar, but in our part of Georgia nobody really paid attention to the law until it was knocking on their front door. Or, in Uncle Joe's case, nobody really paid attention to the law until a cop strolled in on a Wednesday evening and threatened to shut the place down because a minor was serving beer to fat men with critters in their scruff.
There was still a jukebox in the corner, but it was really more of a decoration considering the On Tap patrons usually made their own music with broken beer bottles and screaming matches. A pool table, one that I once used to annihilate a group of college boys who came through town on a road trip, could still be seen in the back room surrounded by bar stools and the old, ratty couch that I lost my virginity on.
Old Mary, the couch, was a living legend in Matt's family. It was named after his great great grandmother and came from her father's barn in Kentucky. Old Mary survived the generations and after Uncle Joe inherited her, Matt and our friend Jimmy were the ones who had the task of bringing her to the bar. When Jimmy passed out after inhaling a bottle and a half of Jack Daniels, well, Matt and I took advantage of being alone.
As if seeing the couch wasn't enough to make me think about my missing boyfriend, the photo of us behind the bar surely did the trick. It was the same photo I had in my dorm room, the one of Matt and I at the carnival last Fall. I had hidden it away after burying Mama, deciding that photos of what was before weren't going to do me any good in the new reality. Finding the photo of Daddy, Mama and myself when looking through Daddy's things only added fuel to that fire. But the photo of Matt and I, the one on the wall at On Tap, meant something not only to our relationship but to Uncle Joe. I remember the day he framed and hung it.
"My son and his future wife," he said proudly and loud enough for everyone within a mile to hear. "This one is special, you see, because one day, my Matthew is going to own this bar and Emma is going to be right there with him, by his side like a good woman should be."
I remember tucking myself under Matt's armpit, hiding my smiling face. Thinking about the future was never a strong suit, especially when it came to my future with Matt. I knew I would marry him, but I didn't want the hope to outweigh the reality of him actually proposing. It hadn't happened yet, but I was waiting.
And now, as I'm laying on the pool table with Shane's face between my legs, I can see the picture glaring at me out of the corner of my eye. It's a reminder of what was, of Matt missing. It's everything I don't need right now and the exact reason I've let my lust for Shane come full circle.
"Do it for me, baby," he says against my skin and goes back to licking and sucking. Within seconds, I crumble beneath the touch of his tongue and my trembling fingers reach for his head, pulling him up to meet my face so I can kiss away any thoughts of anything other than him.
The sound of glass breaking pulls me out of my post-orgasmic haze and Shane breaks away from me completely, turning his head in the direction of the noise: outside. Quickly, I pull up my panties and slip my legs through my jeans, jumping off of the pool table afterwards.
"I thought you said there wasn't anyone for miles," I say in a whisper. I grab the small gun Shane gave me before we left the house out of my back pocket and keep it in front of me, like I've been taught to do by both Shane and Glenn.
"There isn't," Shane grumbles. He takes the same stance I'm in, only he's actually brave enough to walk towards the front of the bar. The front windows of On Tap have always been covered in a special black paint that Uncle Joe found on sale at Home Depot; it allows for the people inside the bar to see outside the bar but makes it impossible for the people outside the bar to see what's going on inside. Reverse psychology, Uncle Joe would say. I glance out this window and see nothing.
"Probably a walker who made a wrong turn," he continues. "Stay behind me and don't shoot unless you need to."
I nod my head at him because no words are needed.
We exit On Tap slowly and cautiously. No harm has been done to the Expedition and that makes my nerves settle down a bit. I can handle a walker, but I'm not sure how well I can handle a stranger. Forty steps and a corner turn later, I spot the broken glass spilled on the sidewalk in front of Oink!, the mom and pop ice cream shop run by Mr. and Mrs. Camille. Shane makes a move to enter the store, but I grab his arm.
"The glass is on the outside. That means whoever broke it is on the inside."
Shane looks at me like I'm ridiculous. "Obviously," he stresses. If he hadn't given me such pleasure a few minutes ago I would be frustrated, but seeing as he just made me see stars I can look past this one. "I'm going to go inside and I need you to stay out here, by the window. Have my back."
Looking him in the eyes, I say, "Okay."
"Remember: don't shoot unless you absolutely need to. If you need me, call for me." He grabs the back of my neck and brings our lips together, kissing me slowly and deeply. "If I yell, leave me. Get in the car and go back to your house." I nod and he leaves, winking at me with a smile.
I watch him enter the back room of the shop through a door marked piggies only! before turning to face the outside. My mind wanders to the barn incident and finding Daddy's notes and burying Mama and Tracy Adkins and faster than a baby can fart I'm breathing heavily, unable to catch my breath. I hear pitter-patters coming from my right, where there's a corner. Too afraid to move and still having trouble breathing, I put my finger on the trigger of my gun and wait for whatever is out here to come to me.
As soon as I hear the pitter-patters turn the corner, I face right and fire my gun directly into the chest of Matt. The gun drops from my grip as soon as I realize what I've done―right around the time Matt falls and lands on his back with a bounce.
"Oh my god!" I exclaim. "No!"
When Shane comes running out to see what's happened, he finds me on my knees pushing the hair out of Matt's eyes with tears cascading down my cheeks. I don't answer his questions, don't respond when he tells me how "fucking stupid" I am. Instead, I stay next to Matt, incapable of processing thoughts or emotions.
"Stop your damn crying," I hear Shane say. It doesn't register, but I hear it. "He's got a vest on, he's fine. Just got the wind knocked out of him."
I turn to look at Shane. He's the last thing I see before I, too, pass out.
When I wake up, I'm alone and in my room. I don't know what time or day it is, but there's no sun coming through my windows. Moonlight is the only light illuminating my space.
I sit up with a hand on my forehead, and when I move to stand up feel a crunch next to my ear. It's the photo of Matt and I, the one I had hidden away after burying Mama. Except this isn't my copy, because my copy didn't have any rips or tears and this one is full of them.
"You're up," Matt says from his cross legged position on my floor.
One glance at him and everything rushes back to me. I'm out again before I can blink.