CHAPTER NINETEEN

Rick stared out the window watching at Poppy and Rem drove away. He chewed the inside of his cheek; had his hands clenched into fists. His mind went back to the quick discussion he'd had with her that morning.

'If I don't see you in two days, I'm coming after you.'

'Rick, I've told you-' His face was hard, and his words were set in stone. This was the one thing that she couldn't negotiate. 'Two days?'

'Two. Days.'

The truck had long disappeared, but he still stood staring. Two days and if she wasn't back, he was gone. He'd already told Daryl; explained to the kids what was going on. He looked at Poppy's son, so much like his own at the age, and yet different; the world had a cruel way of shaping him. He walked up to him and placed a hand on his head, then continued to walk to his own son perched outside, watching his baby sister play.

"You can't catch me, Carl!" Judy cooed at him, running in circles around him.

Carl laughed. "Jude, come on! You know I've got to keep watch!"

She stopped in her tracks. "Sorry. Me be quiet and won't run no more."

Carl picked her up. "It's okay, Judy - just, I'm keeping watch over you, and I don't want to let my guard down."

"Just in case?"

Carl nodded and put the little girl down.

"Oh! Daddy!" Judy ran to her father, smiling wide. Rick stared at his daughter dressed in a pair of little blue jeans with grass stained knees, and a pink tshirt. Her hair was in pigtails today, and she carried around the baby doll Carl had found for her earlier on. There was no walkers around and in the moment, looking at her, she almost mirrored a young Carl in the sense that there was no end of the world being played out. That everyday was new and exciting and fun. Rick smiled and dropped to his knees. She crashed into him wrapping her tiny arms around him.

"Hey, sweetheart. You having fun out here?"

"Yep! I tried to get Har to come play, but he not want. Why?"

"He's a little worried about his mama."

"But you say she come back?"

"She will, and if she doesn't soon, daddy's gonna go find her."

"She will come back. Especially if daddy goes."

"And why's that, princess?"

"Daddy is strong. Daddy keep Judy and Carl safe. Daddy will keep Pop safe too."

Rick smiled at his daughter's spirit. She actually made him feel better.

"Is that so?"

"It's so."

Rick began tickling the little girl, and she giggled, "Daddy, stop! I tickle you!" The toddler began to try to do the same, tackling Rick to the ground, he laughed and sat up.

"What do you say we get Harland out here?"

"What if he won't come?"

"I'll go talk to him." Carl chimed.

Rick smiled at his son. "Alright, I'll hold down your fort, here, son."

Carl stepped back into the house, and then back out again. "Dad - I've never told you, but I always wanted to follow in your footsteps; become sherrif, I mean."

Rick smiled wide at his son. "You would have done a damn good job. And who knows, maybe one day, you still will."

"Thanks, Dad." He paused once more before walking in. "And don't worry, Pop is tough - she'll be back before you even have to go looking."

Carl returned five minutes later with Harland, and Rick and Carl took turns keeping watch and playing with the two kids.


"Kids asleep?"

"Yeah, even Carl seemed pretty tired."

"They're good kids, man. I know the little dude isn't yours, but Pop raised him right."

Am I the only one who doesn't call her that now? Rick lightly smiled to himself.

"It's good to be back." Daryl smirked.

Rick placed his hand on his shoulder. "Good to have you back, man."

They stood in silence, keeping watch over the quiet town.

"You worried?"

"Yeah. I mean, I was more earlier, and now I'm not as much, but what's bothering me is - what if he hurts her, and she can't get away?"

"That's when you go looking for that son'bitch."

"What if I'm too late?"

"You won't be."

Rick chewed the inside of his cheek. "You want kitchen tonight?"

"Sure man, you can have living room. Keep watch for your girlfriend." Daryl lightly joked.

Rick scoffed and smirked. "Where you getting these things from?"

"Remember who walked in on you two in the kitchen last night. If I wouldn't hav' come in, woulda been some more little Ricklets running 'round here!"

Rick laughed, then stood in quiet by himself, staring out the window. He found himself missing her. Worried about her, once again.

Two days wouldn't pass soon enough.


"Why do you keep denying me!" He screamed at her.

Poppy kept her hand near her gun on her belt. They had drove all day, not finding a single place to stay. They were now parked on the side of the road, sitting in the truck. When he had tried to advance on her, she told him 'no', making up some excuse that she was tired and had a headache. Rem didn't buy it, and now he was angry.

Rem punched the dash of the old truck, causing the hairline crack in it to travel to Poppy's side of the truck. She was backed up against the door, just in case she had to run.

She had to cool him down, because if she ran, she wouldn't get the truck. Or worse, he may even drive after her, damaging the truck.

"Rem, I really don't feel good-"

"I don't give a damn! I have been waiting and waiting and waiting to get out of that house and away from that fucking cop! The way he sized you up all the damn time, I was thinking maybe there was something you were hiding from me - were you fucking him?"

Technically she wasn't, so she didn't lie when she answered 'no'.

"You're lying!"

Oh yeah, after every lie I've told him, he thinks this is the lie. Typical.

"No I'm not, Rem!"

"You know what? How about we go back there? And I ask that fuck what he thinks? I blow his fucking head off?! Would you like that? You fucking tell me the truth! Did you fuck him!?"

"NO!"

"Lying bitch!" He reached across the truck and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her up to him so he could grab her by the hair with his other hand. He pulled her face to his with one hand, and used the other to hold her arms together, away from her grasp of her gun.

"Say you did."

"I didn't."

"Say you did, or I'll drive back there and put a bullet in his brain."

She knew she shouldn't have, but she did it anyway. It was a reflex, a part of her 'fuck you' attitude she had developed toward him. She spit in his face.

"Rick would fucking kill you before you could even blink."

Rem let go of her hair and slapped her. "I knew you were fucking him. I fucking knew. Now you're going to pay for being unfaithful to me, you skank." He hit her again, and again, and then once more - all across her face. She could feel the stinging and hear ringing in her ears. She tried to wriggle free, but he got on top of her and pinned her down with his legs. His punch connected to her face, hitting her in the jaw. After he had hit her, he reached down and pulled her gun away. "So you don't get any ideas."

"We're sleeping here tonight." He opened the truck door, grabbed the keys, and climbed out. He walked over to the other side and pulled her out but her arm. She could already feel bruises forming. He grabbed a blanket from the back and laid it out on the seat. "Lay down."

She didn't want to, but she'd figure she'd better listen. She couldn't take anymore bruises, and all she had to do was wait for him to fall asleep, take the keys and go. Fuck finding this guy a safe place.

She laid down and slammed the door. He walked back around and sat in the driver's side.

"You get any ideas - I mean, any - and I'll kill you." He whispered.

Fuck. Now what? Poppy bit her lip.


She woke to the truck moving - wait, she fell asleep? Dammit Poppy! He could have killed you!

"Where are we going?"

"Wherever the fuck I want." He stopped the truck and pulled the keys out of the ignition. "I'm stepping out to put gas in the truck." He pointed to the truck bed where a filled jerry can sat. "Any funny moves, I shoot."

She didn't make a sound, didn't say a word. Once he'd left the truck, she looked at the bruises across her forearms where he'd grabbed her, his finger prints wore into her skin. She wanted to look at her face, but didn't dare pull down the visor. The bastard was crazy, and she wasn't taking anymore chances. She turned and looked out the window seeing a city limits sign. How long was she asleep for? They had driven far, taken at least half a day to get where they were. She bit her nails. Rick would be coming soon. Good. Let him kill this fuck.

Poppy closed her eyes and thought about her son. Mommy will be home soon, baby. I promise. She would never leave his side again. Not because he wasn't safe where he was, but because she wasn't. If something had happened to her, it would break his heart - she knew she should have rethought everything, but what choice did she have? She needed to get Rem out of there, she didn't trust him in the same house as all those kids. Even with herself, Rick and Daryl protecting them, you could never know what would happen with a lunatic like Rem in there.

She felt the truck move. She opened her eyes and turned her head in Rem's direction. She couldn't see him there. She searched for him. She couldn't see him anywhere. She was about to get out when she turned and saw a walker behind the truck, she could run by it, but what if there were others close by? Suddenly the cab door flew open, her heart beat wild and she turned and saw Rem jump in.

He had his hand pressed to his arm, and he was covered in blood.

He's been bit.

"Rem?"

"It's fine!" He yelled. "Give me that damn blanket so I wrap it up in something."

She handed the small throw to him and wrapped it around his arm.

He turned the truck on and continued to drive.

"What are you doing-"

"We're still going. I told you - I'm fine!"

He looked at her. She saw he was anxious and nervy as he reached across the seat to her.

"Come here."

She didn't move. He slammed on the brakes and grabbed her by the hair. "When I say something, you do it. That's how this works." He forced her over beside him, in the middle seat. "Don't fucking move."

They drove in silence for about an hour. Rem was sweating. She could feel the heat radiating off of his skin. He finally pulled over and gave her some stupid speech about how he had to stop to conserve fuel. They had over half a tank. She obviously knew he was lying.

He hopped out of the truck, leaving her sitting in the passenger side. "Here." He told her firm. She didn't move. He reached across the seat once more, and grabbed her by her shirt, dragging her over. He pushed her down on her back without saying a word. She tried to fight him off, but despite the bite, he was still stronger than she was. He held her down, and began to unbutton her pants.

"NO!" She screamed. "Get the fuck off of me!"

"This is what I deserve!" He coughed. "What you owe me!"

She kicked at him, and managed to push him away momentarily. He had fallen over, and was on the ground, pulling himself up. She jumped out of the truck, and ran to the box, looking for a weapon - anything she could use to fend him off. It was empty except for the jerry can. There was still some gas in it, and she hadn't wanted to waste it. If she swung with it, she would spill the gas, wasting it. If she did that, she might not make it back with just the gas in the truck's tank alone.

He grabbed her then, when she let her guard down thinking, and pulled her down.

"We're doing this whether you want to or not!" He shouted. She tried to fight as he pulled her pants down to her thighs, and tried to work his way to her underwear.

"You sick fuck! Get off of me!" She lashed out again, and he flew back. He was getting weaker. He panted and coughed hard, spewing blood. He started to pull himself up again. She quickly pulled her jeans up and looked around for something she could use.

Thud!

She heard his body drop. And watched as he lay on the road, just beside the back tire.

"Rem?" She called. Nothing. She slowly approached him, both guns in plain sight, along with his knife. She kicked him once. Twice. Making sure he was really gone. She knew it wouldn't be long now. She had to move fast. As her hand hit her gun, he grabbed her arm. He growled at her, trying to bite her then.

"Shit!" She cried. She pulled the trigger on her gun, and shot him in the leg. It startled him, causing him to let go. She removed her gun and backed away from him. She stared at him. Crawling toward her.

"Piece of shit." She shot his other leg.

He continued to crawl, and she looked her the engagement ring on her left hand. She told Rick she'd kept it 'in hopes of something better'. She looked down at the walker that used to be her fiance and threw the ring at him.

"Fuck you."

She shot him in the head, and climbed in the truck - ready to start the long drive.


CHAPTER TWENTY

"I won't be gone for long. Stick with Daryl and you'll be fine."

She had been gone for too long. It was the early morning of the the third day, the sun just beginning to rise.

Carl looked at his father. "You'll bring her back. I know how much you care about her, dad."

Rick wrapped his son in a hug. He had already said goodbye to the sleeping toddler upstairs, planting a kiss on her forehead before walking out. He looked at Daryl.

"You sure you don't want me to go instead? You ain't no tracker, man."

"I have to do this."

As he turned to walk out the door, he saw the truck pull into the drive. "Carl stay here." Rick ran outside.

Before she could blink, he was at the door, pulling it open and pulling her out. He looked at her face.

"What the fuck happened?"

Her only response was to press her lips to his. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, and they stood in the embrace for a long time.

"Let's get you inside, get you cleaned up."


"I shot him."

Rick looked at Poppy's face. Her upper lip was swolen, and under her eye she had a cut combined with a bruise. Her arms had each of Rem's finger prints on her.

"I wish I could have done it myself. Before he turned. I should have been there, I could have-"

She cut him off with a gentle kiss. "I'm here now. It's okay, Rick. I'm okay."

They sat upstairs in the master bedroom in silence. Her on the bed, he on a chair beside it. There was a knock at the door, and Harland entered.

"Mommy - you're not leaving anymore are you?" He asked as he slowly approached her.

She reached out for him, and wrapped her arms around him. "No, baby. I'm sorry. Never again."

"Are we leaving from here?"

"No! What ever gave you that idea?"

"We don't stay in places for very long - I don't want to have to leave this one."

"The day might come when we have to."

"Do we have to leave Rick and Carl and Judy and Daryl behind too?"

She looked at Rick, and he answered for her. "You're stuck with us, now."

Harland laughed and hugged his mother tight. She kissed his head, and he pulled away from her. "Now I can tell Judy!"

He ran out and down the hall.

Before Rick could shut the door, Judith ran in.

"Judy, Harland is looking for you." Rick told her.

"Me know. Saw him - and he said they stay! True?" She looked at Poppy.

Poppy smiled. "Like you're daddy said, 'you're stuck with us'."

Judith clapped her hands and climb on the bed. She hugged Poppy, and Rick's arms were soon around them both.

"Daddy! This my hug! Get your own!"

"Oh sorry!" Rick played, acting hurt and pulled away, only to be tackled by the little girl.

"Hugs for Daddy!"

"The best kind!" He laughed. She climbed down.

"Goodnight." She smiled and left the room.

Rick got up and shut the door. He walked over to the window and took a look outside. There were a few roaming around, but Carl and Daryl were on watch. Daryl said it was 'bout time' Rick would get some sleep. Then Daryl had laughed and scoffed 'Not like you'll be sleeping anyway.' Rick smirked at the thought of he and Carl laughing.

He turned and looked at Poppy sitting on the bed, hugging her knees - in her gray yoga pants and black tank top. Her long hair hung down one shoulder and she was smiling at him. He laughed at her.

"I know, I know! I look like a freak, all busted and bruised." Her smile faded.

He walked over to her, and sat beside her. He lifted her chin, and pointed her face to his. "Poppy, you're beautiful - same way you've always been. These marks will fade."

"But it still all happened. I was stupid for leaving, you were right. I should have never-"

"You did what you had to do. I kick myself for letting you go, and not being able to kill the bastard myself."

Poppy stared into Rick's clear blue eyes. She felt her pulse quicken as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and lay back with her. She slipped her hand under his shirt and traced patterns on his chest softly. She felt his breath quicken at her touch.

"I think I'm falling in love with you." He whispered.

She looked up at him. "You're not the only one, Grimes." She smirked.

He brought his face close to hers, and she closed off the distance by lightly kissing his bottom lip. She pulled away and bit her lip, smiling. It was his turn to kiss her. It sent her pulse racing and she climbed on top of him, and pulled his shirt up over his head. He did the same for hers, un-clipping her bra and running his hands all over her. He laid her on her back and kissed her up and down, lingering at her breasts, gently biting and kissing. He pulled off her pants, and kicked off his own after she had undid them. They laid tangled in each other, feeling, kissing and tasting, until she laid him on his back and climbed on top of him. She kissed him and felt him go inside of her. He moaned and held her tight as she controlled his passion, until he could hold himself no more. He laid Poppy down on her back, and decided it was his turn for her to get her fill. The pace quickened between the two of them, his thrust matching hers, and she laid back and moaned his name, pulling his hair. They finished together, collapsing in a deep pant.

Poppy lay on his chest, and looked up at him, sleeping peacefully. She gently kissed his chest, and fell asleep in his arms.


The next morning the two climbed downstairs, hand in hand.

Carl was asleep on the couch, Daryl in front of the window. Rick knelt by his son, shaking him awake. "Take a bed upstairs, Carl."

Carl looked at Poppy, then at his dad. "Bout time you two end up together." He stifled laughter and walked upstairs.

Rick looked at Daryl.

"Hey man, kid's got a point. I almost banged a broom on the ceiling and said, 'Keep it down'!"

Poppy took one look at Rick's blushing face and laughed.


"Are you sure? You don't have to if you don't want to."

"You did. I am too."

Rick walked up to Lori's grave. He slipped his ring off and kissed it. "Thank you. I'll always love you." He whispered as he place it down.

He stood up, and took Poppy's hand. "Time to get back." They approached the truck and climbed inside.

She took her place under his arm, and kissed his cheek. "I love you."

"I love you, too."


And that's the end of that tale! Hope you gaiz really enjoyed it as much as I did :). Thanks for the reviews and everything. Loves!