A/N: Season 3 spoilers ahead!
It's a short chapter, cause I was just getting a feel for it. Others will be longer.
This fic is going to be a bit AU. It takes place after they lose Lori and after Rick goes through his crazy talking to dead people on the phone phase. He's got his head together a little better now, although he fakes a lot of it. He is nowhere near as together as he pretends to be, but he toughs it out for the group.
Michonne didn't come to the prison, Glenn and Maggie were never kidnapped, and the drama with Woodbury is replaced with other drama. For the sake of timing and making sense, I had to write it that way.
If you're here for Rick romance, it's going to be a while. He just lost his wife and Claire is a lot younger than him. He's not going to feel more than lust for her for a while and he is going to fight even that.
I tried to keep the members as in character as possible. Daryl is a bit more…spunky, I guess…and Rick has still held onto a little of that cowboy charm he had at the beginning of the show, but I tried not to step to far out of character with anyone. I generally picture the character saying/doing the part in my mind and decide if it looks/sounds too weird or not. If it doesn't, it usually doesn't get cut.
Kay, that's all for now! Hope you enjoy it and please review!
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or ideas from TWD. I just own Claire. :)
No light, no light in your bright blue eyes
I never knew daylight could be so violent
A revelation in the light of day,
You can't choose what stays and what fades away
And I'd do anything to make you stay
No light, no light
Tell me what you want me to say
Would you leave me,
If I told you what I've done?
And would you need me,
If I told you what I've become?
'cause it's so easy,
To say it to a crowd
But it's so hard, my love,
To say it to you out loud
-No Light, No Light by Florence and the Machine
Claire Williams tried to be thankful for as much as she could given the fact that the world was overrun with the walking dead. Right now it was for the sunrise over the Georgia fields she was making her way through. There was so little beauty left in the world, but there in Zebulon, Georgia the sky was painted with beautiful oranges and blues.
She was also thankful for a clear view of the sky after making it through the trees that had previously surrounded her. She didn't like being in the woods; it was dark and dangerous and all the strange little noises could make you paranoid.
There was something else though, something that had her wishing she could scream with joy. Of course, she contained her happiness so that she wouldn't attract walkers, but she still smiled widely as she made her way towards the prison across the field.
It had been much too long since she'd had a proper place to stay and now there was some hope for her. Hope for shelter, food, and maybe even people. She approached that last part with caution, knowing other humans could be even more dangerous than the walkers in this new world, but it would still be nice to see another living face.
She armed herself as she drew closer, readying her bow and arrow to be shot at a moment's notice. She wasn't going to let herself be caught off guard. If there was danger lurking, whether it was infected or not, she was going to be prepared.
She quickened her pace slightly, her eyes darting left and right as she finally reached the gate. Without letting go of her bow, she slid her backpack from her shoulder and opened it with her free hand, pulling the wire cutters from the front pouch.
"Need some help with that?"
The voice was low and gruff, the sound of it making her stomach lurch. She dropped the cutters and whipped around, raising her bow. She aimed it at the man who was about ten feet from her and examined him closely. He had sleek, dark brown hair that was pushed back from his forehead, eyes that were an unmistakable, sparkling blue even from a distance, a tall, thin, and muscular build, and a wary expression on his pointed face. He looked just as dirty and worn as her.
"You staying here?" she asked, refusing to lower her bow considering he was pointing a silenced pistol right at her.
"Me and my group, yes," he answered.
"All right, well I'm not here to hurt anyone," she assured him. "I just need some shelter, maybe a small bit to eat…I'm going to lower my bow, okay?"
The man eyed her suspiciously, but nodded. She gradually began to lower her bow until it hung at her side and she was pleased to see him lower his own weapon. Progress was being made and she was thankful. She wanted the first human she had encountered for two months to be someone who was at least willing to cooperate with her.
"Where'd you come from?" he questioned, starting to walk in her direction. He moved slowly, obviously not wanting to spook her.
"Dayton, Ohio. I've got family here in Zebulon. Thought maybe one of them might still be alive." She shrugged and leaned back against the gate. "My brother was big on the whole apocalypse thing. Had lots of survival plans."
"I see. That's a hell of a walk." He had made it to her now and he leaned down to pick up her wire cutters. He handed them to her and added, "We've got other entrances."
She took the tool from him and stuffed it back in her bag before she zipped it up. She threw it over her shoulder again and walked by his side as he made his way around the large gate.
"So, what's your name?" Claire asked, hoping he wouldn't mind the question. Some people found even that piece of information to private those days.
"Rick," he replied, looking down at her. "What's yours?"
"That's a fine name. Used to work with a girl named Claire." He smiled at her, but it didn't reach his eyes. She wondered what had happened to him to make those baby blues so sad.
"Thanks. Rick isn't too bad a name, either."
"Well, thank you. That's the first compliment I've had in a good, long while."
"Guess there isn't much time for the little things anymore," Claire mused as they reached the main entrance to the prison. There was another man waiting there for them, carrying a crossbow and looking even more rugged than Rick.
"This is Daryl," Rick told her as they were let in.
"Yea, but who's this?" Daryl questioned, eyeing her apprehensively.
"Claire. I found her on the other side of the gate trying to get in," Rick explained. "Figured she can't do much damage alone, so I thought I'd bring her in to meet the group."
"Well, ain't you a special little lady. Rick hardly lets anyone in." Daryl smirked at her and she returned the grin, admittedly charmed by his teasing. He was incredibly handsome.
"I'm just here for a place to crash overnight and refuel," she told him as the three of them headed inside. "Been without proper shelter for the past three weeks."
"Where you been sleepin'?"
"In trees, to be honest. It's the only place they can't get me while I'm out."
"Well, we'll have to run it by the rest of the group, but we might be able to give ya a cell for the night," Rick told her. "Can't guarantee anything though."
Claire could tell that his "group" was pretty tight nit. She admired them for that. She used to have such a group for herself, but it slowly drifted apart. People died and one even went insane. The last one to stay with her had been Jake, a fifteen year old from Michigan, and he'd been bitten on guard duty. She'd had to put him down before he even turned, because that's what he wanted.
She shivered as the memory crept into her mind and Rick shot her an inquisitive glance. He didn't ask any questions though and she was thankful. She didn't want to talk about it, just as she imagined he didn't want to discuss the ghosts lingering in his eyes.
When they finally reached C Block, Claire was somewhat stunned to see the people waiting for them. The group was larger than she'd imagined and…there was even a baby.
"Everyone, this is Claire," Rick announced, his voice immediately drawing the attention of everyone in the room. Claire could tell they looked to him as a leader.
"She needs a place to stay and refuel for the night. She's been on her own for a while. I didn't want to offer her a place unless everyone agreed it was okay."
"Sure, if ya take that bow away and lock her up." Daryl spoke first and Claire couldn't blame him for his words. She didn't like the idea of it though.
"I don't think she needs locked up," a young blonde girl disagreed. "I mean, we should definitely take her bow, but…"
"But she can't be any older than you, Beth," Herschel added.
"That's a good question. How old are you?" Rick asked Claire.
"She can stay in my bunk," Beth volunteered. "If it makes you feel better someone can stand guard."
Claire shot an appreciative smile at the girl and hoped that someone would back up that idea. She really didn't feel like being locked up when there were a bunch of strangers with weapons in the same block.
"I could do that," Rick volunteered. "After all, I am the one who brought her in."
"You better," Daryl insisted. "She's tiny, yea, but she could be tougher than she looks."
"Well, I like to think I am, but that doesn't mean I'm an axe murderer or anything," Claire joked.
"I dunno, looks like you got a little evil in them doe eyes." He winked at her and she couldn't help the light blush that rose on her cheeks. He was undeniably charming, but if she was being honest she was more attracted to Rick.
Not that she was at all interested in romance, especially with guys twice her age. That was the last thing she needed right now was to fall in love, and then have her heart ripped out when they died.
"Look, guys, I don't want to hurt anyone," she said truthfully. "I've just been on my own without shelter for a lot longer than I'd like. If you could just give me one night, I'd be so grateful."
Everyone was silent for a moment and she waited anxiously, biting her lip. Finally Rick spoke up, "All in favor of letting Claire stay for the night raise your hands."
She watched as hand after hand went up, Daryl and Beth's the first in the air. She smiled lightly once there was no longer a negative vote and said, "Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means."
"Sure we do," Daryl replied, heading back out of the cell block. He flashed her a supportive smile as he passed her. "A few were on our own at some point."
Soon the group was separating, turning to their individual duties, and before she knew it Claire was alone with Rick. She turned to him and saw that he was staring blankly at the concrete floor, his hands on his hips in a thoughtful stance.
"What's on your mind?" she wondered, although she figured it was none of her business. She wouldn't blame him for blowing off her question.
"A lot of things," he sighed, coming out of his trance and meeting her eyes. "It's been a rough time the past couple days."
"I'm sorry." It was all she could really say, considering she had no idea what the last two days had been like for him. "I guess you could say mine were, too."
He nodded slowly and suddenly moved to the middle of the room. He rummaged through a bag, pulling a can of baked beans from it and tossing it to her. "It's not much, but it's better than nothin'."
Claire caught the can and smiled at him gratefully. "It sure is."
"All right, well…I guess I'm your babysitter for the rest of the night," he said teasingly. Once again the humor in his voice didn't show in his eyes.
"Yea…speaking of babysitting…can I ask who the baby belongs to?" Once again she understood if he didn't want to answer, but she couldn't help her curiosity. She didn't think she would ever see a baby again.
"She's mine," Rick answered shortly. "Why don't you go ahead and eat?"
She took his hint to change the subject and sat on the floor, leaning back against the wall as she popped that tab on the can of beans.
As she ate, Rick took her bow and her bag and locked it in one of the empty cells. She stared after it longingly, but she figured she wasn't in the place to argue. He was feeding her after all.
"You guys have a pretty big group," she observed between bites. "The group I used to be with was only four people."
"It used to be a lot bigger." He sat down across from her and added, "What happened to your people?"
"One left. Wanted to be on her own. She said we slowed her down. The next one just…kind of lost it. I guess you could say she was pretty sheltered from everything when we found her, but then things had to get real for her and she…she hung herself." Claire set down her food as she remembered finding the girl swinging from a tree just outside of camp. It was an image she would never forget, no matter how badly she wanted to.
"And the third?" Rick prompted.
And here they were, talking about the one thing she still didn't want to face. She'd been closest to Jake, having known him since Ohio, and he'd been the hardest to lose.
"His name was Jake," she sighed, looking down at the floor. "He was only fifteen. He got bit a couple months back and I had to put him down."
"I'm sorry. We've all lost people, too and I know it never gets easier."
She nodded in agreement, glancing back at him as a small, half-hearted smile formed on her lips.
"You know, I admire you, Rick. For stepping up and being the leader through all of this," Claire commended. "I hope you don't think I'm being too bold, but I can see that it takes its toll on you."
"Yea, well…someone has to keep these people safe." He got to his feet and turned away from her, but Claire didn't miss the pained look on his face. He began to walk away and as he did he called, "I've got rounds to make, so it looks like you're coming with me."
Claire hurried to her feet and trailed after him, somewhat shocked when he turned and tossed her one of his guns. "I'm trusting you not to shoot me. Make it through this and you might get your bow back."