v Clean

A/N: hope you all like this! Quick thanks to those who reviewed/followed/favourited, much appreciated! I didn't expect this much attention so early on, so I'll try make y'all proud 3

Disclaimer: I do not own the world of The Walking Dead. I did chuck in some of my own characters though, so they're mine. Ok cool.

"You said she hit a walker and crashed?"

"Looked that way. Car was totally wrecked. Two walkers."

"She got one with a knife, but I guess she fainted from shock. Daryl shot the other one."

"Sounds like it was a close call."

"Yeah. She ain't looking too good."

"Well, soon as she's awake we should get her something to eat. Can you take care of it T?" Footsteps moving further away.

"Best have one of the girls do it, I think." A soft chuckle. "I haven't cooked in a year."

"Yeah, alright. I'll ask Maggie, then." The voice was muffled, out of the room now.

More footsteps leaving the room, going down a staircase.

I'd heard enough to decide that these guys were friendlies. But that didn't change the fact that I was seriously disoriented when I opened my eyes to find myself lying on a double bed in a well-lit bedroom with an IV attached to my arm. This was the complete opposite to how I'd been living for the past month or so; always crammed in that car with too little space to allow comfort, Laura taking all the blankets because she was always cold. There was not a moment of the past few months that I can remember the sensation of not being scared. But right now, even though I had no idea where I was, no idea who these people were, I felt safe. And then it came rushing back to me; Laura was gone.

I lifted myself up to rest against the headboard of the bed, my wrist giving me a slight pinching feeling. I looked down and noticed neat stitches where I had cut myself on the knife. I touched them tentatively; it was still a little tender. It must have cut deeper than I'd thought. Letting out a sigh, I pulled out the IV needle and rubbed my face with my hands, trying to wake myself up completely; I still felt like I was dreaming or in some kind of trance. I felt a thin bandage around my forehead; my temple must have bled when I fainted. I made quick work of unwrapping the bandage; my head didn't hurt that much. I checked the rest of my body and I was fairly unscathed. No bites at least. My arms were quite bruised but it was nothing serious. I noticed I was still wearing my cargo pants and tank top, so I couldn't have been out cold for too long, maybe a day. It looked to be about noon outside the window of the bedroom.

I slowly made my way to the side of the bed, where I rested for a few seconds before standing firmly on my feet, inspecting the room around me. I passed the window shielding my eyes as the sunlight seemed much brighter than usual. In front of me were wide plains of grass, trees, and an old barn. I was on a farm. It looked clean. This was possibly the first nice-looking place I'd seen since the epidemic began. It was untouched by the dead. I came to a stop in front of a full-length mirror. I looked like crap. My long black hair was an absolute mess, my face gaunt, limbs too skinny. I hadn't looked at myself in a mirror for a long time. There were bags under my eyes, and I looked just about as weak as I felt.

I closed my eyes and remembered what happened. Laura crumpled in the passenger seat. I didn't know it then, but she was already dead. She must have died from the impact. Laura's body rising from the road. An arrow in Laura's head. Her body crashing on top of mine. When I opened my eyes I was frowning at myself in the mirror. My eyes had watered up, but I couldn't get one thing out of my mind: she wasn't bitten.

There was a loud knock, and I looked around the room wildly to find the door. As I spotted it, a woman came through, about 20 years old with short brown hair and a kind but cautious smile.

"Hi." She spoke with a thick, southern American accent, something I was still growing accustomed to. "I'm Maggie. I guess you're pretty confused" She set down a tray of food on a bedside table and walked over to me.

For a second I didn't say anything. "Uhh… Did you do this?" I gestured to the stiches in my wrist and the IV set-up.

"No, that was my dad." Maggie explained. "Are you feeling okay?" She wore an expression of concern as she gathered up the bandages I'd taken off and set them on the table.

"Yeah, just a little… disoriented."

"I'm not surprised. What's your name?"

"It's Austen." I wasn't really sure how to handle this situation. It was awkward to say the least but I figured since the world ended, there was no more need to be delicate with strangers. "Where am I?"

"How about you eat," she picked up the tray and handed it to me, "and I'll explain." I nodded in agreement and sat on the edge of the bed with her. As she talked I listened intently and ate a proper meal for the first time in days. She – Maggie - didn't seem to be phased as I scoffed down the pieces of roast chicken and vegetables on the tray in less than a minute.

The farm belonged to Maggie's father - Hershel - even before the epidemic. The farmhouse was inhabited by Hershel, Maggie, her sister Beth and her boyfriend Jimmy and a woman named Patricia. However another group had moved onto their land after the leader's son was injured, and Hershel helped them out. Now they were surviving together and by the sounds of it, there was a big group here.

"How many?" I asked.

Maggie thought for a second. "Fifteen I guess, including my family." Jesus, that's a lot of people. "There were others…" Maggie's face grew solemn. "We lost people."

"I'm sorry." And I truly meant it.

Maggie smiled half-heartedly and nodded. After a moments silence, Maggie went to a chest of drawers in the room and pulled out some fresh clothes and my own combat boots, handed them to me and showed me to the bathroom where I could get cleaned up.

"When you're ready come find me, I'll be downstairs. Rick'll want to talk to you." Maggie turned to leave and headed down the staircase.

"Thank you!" I called out to her.

The shower was absolute heaven. All the tension through my body melted away and I became less nervous about meeting so many new people. But one thing that stuck in my mind was how long I'd be staying here, if at all. Since the epidemic, people in general were different. You'd think the dead rising up against the living would be enough to bring us all together, but I guess that's not the way the world works. From then on it was a 'protect what's yours' policy. Any other group you came across could be a threat to the safety of yourself or your group. In my case, this group of fifteen people had no real reason to take me in. They didn't know me, and I couldn't say with any certainty that I'd be able to bring many skills to a group of that size. I was good with knives, but I'm sure they had people who could do that too. I wasn't particularly good with anything else, maybe cooking, fighting… I hoped I at least made a good first impression with Maggie. She might put in a good word for me with this Rick guy. I had nowhere else to go.

My hair was perfectly clean for the first time in a while and when I stepped out of the shower and took in my appearance in the mirror, there was definitely an improvement. Funny what being clean can do for your looks.

I stepped into a pair of clean underwear and the bra I had been wearing for a few days, a pair of black cargos and a greenish t-shirt, socks and my boots, and reminded myself to thank Maggie again for the clothes. As soon as I deemed myself decent to be seen by other people, I headed downstairs cautiously; of course I had no idea where I was going, so I just listened for Maggie's voice.

I found her in the kitchen, where she was preparing food with her sister, Beth, who I was then introduced to.

"Maggie, I've been meaning to ask you," I started "I feel like I should thank whoever it was who found me yesterday."

Maggie smiled knowingly, "That'd be Daryl and T-Dog." I was pretty sure those two were in my room this morning, along with Rick I guess. "They'd gone for a drive to look for one of their group who's missing. I think they came across you on the road. You were really lucky."

"Yeah." I nodded.

"They're down at the camp, I'll take you now if you want."

A/N: next chapter, there is the question of whether or not Herschel is happy about this newcomer.