Disclaimer: I don't own The Walking Dead or any of its characters. I don't even own Annie, she belongs to Sophie, who you can find on YouTube under xSoppySofax. Read on, darlings, and enjoy!
This chapter takes place during 1x03 "Tell It to the Frogs" and 1x04 "Vatos"
The next morning, Annie woke up and changed quickly. Before she even stepped outside, she held onto her pack a moment and looked around. She didn't know these people, didn't know if she could trust them aside from Rick. It wasn't like this was the house she'd shacked up in with Morgan and Duane. No, this was a mountainside with at least a dozen strangers. Making the quick decision, she stowed her bag under the bed, probably not the most ingenious place but it would do for the time being. Annie stepped out of the RV, hands in her back pockets as she looked around, unsure of what to do. Rick must have been asleep still because she saw Lori and Carl already out and moving around. To her right she saw Glenn, watching on forlornly as his Challenger was taken apart by some of the men. One of them seemed to be having trouble with a piece of the engine so she went over. As kindly as possible, she told him to help the other men with the tires. Jim, he said his name was, seemed hesitant to let her take over, but she assured him she'd been working on cars professionally for years. After a little test of knowledge, which only slightly offended Annie, Jim riffed off a list of parts they needed from the engine for the various vehicles around and she nodded silently. Annie was well aware of the eyes on her but ignored them, choosing instead to focus on her task.
"Look at 'em. Vultures," Glenn muttered. "Yeah, go on! Strip it clean!"
Dale walked up to the two with a half full gas can, kindly reminding him, "Generator's need every drop of fuel they can get. Got no power without it." Patting the younger man's shoulder, he said he was sorry but he didn't really sound like he was.
"Thought I'd get to drive it at least a few more days," he complained.
"Maybe we'll get to steal another one someday." Annie laughed at that and looked over her shoulder at Rick and Glenn, shaking her head. Glenn continued to mutter about his misfortune, throwing a rather sarcastic comment at Annie but she just ignored him. Her attention was entirely focused on the engine, the list repeating in her head. "You look like you know what you're doing." Looking up, she saw Rick standing beside her with a confused smile on his face.
"That's because I do," she answered and turned back to the engine. Luckily, Dale and Jim both had some tools for her to use, just not a lot of the right ones; a lot were missing. Taking the engine apart was going to be long and difficult. "I worked in an auto-shop. Before," she clarified. "Most men don't like that a woman can fix a car better than them, but not my boys. They taught me a lot."
"Were they…?" Were they the people she was looking for in Atlanta, was what he wanted to ask but was unable to do. Annie understood though and nodded. "We can go back, try and find 'em."
"I think we both know that's a lost cause," she told him reasonably. "There's no way to navigate the city, not safely." Hands on his hips and head tilted, Rick watched her carefully. Annie sighed and looked up from her work. "Rick, its fine. Really. If they got out, I'll see 'em again. And, if not…then it's for the best. Okay?"
"Okay." He nodded, sharing a smile with her as she turned back to her job. "So, it never occurred to you to tell me about this," he said, gesturing to her work on the engine, "when the cruiser ran out of gas?"
Annie smirked and replied, "You never asked."
The two shared a good chuckle before Rick patted her shoulder, telling her to stay in the camp and be careful. She nodded slowly, noticing that the missing wedding band was now on his finger, and watched him as he walked away to join his wife at her makeshift clothesline. She watched the two, hiding her face in her arm, sullen at the domesticated look of them. Shane sped in then, announcing that he had water and reminded everyone to boil it first, breaking her focus. Annie tried to keep her attention on the engine, but the situation was playing in her head. Something with Rick's wife, something wasn't right, something about their marriage, and it was gnawing at her, eating away and she couldn't figure out why.
A shriek echoed though the camp. Carl called for his dad, and a little girl for her mother. Rick bolted from the camp with Lori, Annie followed after with Shane and Glenn not far behind her. They ran through the woods, downhill, getting closer to the kids voices. When they broke into the clearing, jumping over some half-assed alarm system of cans on string, Carl ran into his mothers arms while Jacqui held onto the little girl, gesturing the others in the right direction. Through the trees, they found a lone walker feasting on a deer. The second their smell hit it though, the walker turned to them and rose up. Rick pushed Annie back towards Andrea as he whacked the monster across its face. Or rather, what was left of its face. Soon enough, all the men were joining in. Shane was hitting it with the butt of his gun, Jim a pitchfork, Glenn a tire iron, Morales a bat. They hit it over and over again before Dale finally got there and chopped off its head with an ax.
"That's the first one we've had up here," Dale announced, panting. "They never come this far up the mountain!"
"Well, they're running out of food in the city, that's what," Jim explained. Everyone's attention turned back to the woods at the sound of rustling leaves, twigs snapping. Shane took the lead, gun ready to fire, waiting until someone crossed around a boulder and glared at the group.
"Son of a BITCH!" the man with the crossbow cursed, striding over to the group. "That's my deer! Look at it, all gnawed on by this filthy—" KICK! "—disease bearing—" KICK! "—motherless—" KICK! "—poxy—" KICK! "—bastard!"
"Calm down, son, that's not helping."
"What do you know about it, old man?" he shouted at Dale, moving to get in his face. "You take that stupid hat and go back to On Golden Pond!" Sighing heavily, he went back to the dead animal and pulled out his arrows. "Been tracking this deer for miles. Gonna drag it back to camp, cook us up some venison. What do you think?" he asked, kneeling beside the deer and gestured to the part the walker had been gnawing on. "Think we can cut around this chewed up part right here?"
Shane shook his head, "Man, I would not risk that."
"That's a damn shame. I got some squirrel, about a dozen or so. That'll have to do."
The walker head started chewing at the air, Andrea leading her sister away as she got sick from the sight. The designated hunter of the group, just shot the head in its eye, effectively killing it and berating everyone that they had to get the brain to kill them. When he walked back into the camp, he called out for Merle to come help him skin, gut, and stew up the squirrels. It was then that Annie realized that the man was Daryl Dixon, Merle's brother. In front of everyone, Shane tried to calmly tell Daryl the situation before Rick stepped up. It didn't go very well. Daryl threw the squirrels at him and tried to stab him, slashing the air as Rick dodged. Annie pulled out her gun and aimed it at him but Rick shouted at her, telling her no. Luckily, Shane managed to get in and grab Daryl in a chokehold and dragged him to the ground. Rick explained that what he did wasn't on a whim and T-Dog stepped up then, telling him that it was his fault. He told him about the key, the drain, how he blocked the door, how his brother was still alive and still trapped there. Daryl demanded to know where Merle was so he could go get him and, accusatory, Lori announced that Rick would show him where he was. Rick nodded, stating that he was going back. Lori retreated into the RV with a huff and Rick into their tent to change.
"Let's just hope that four's your lucky number," Shane said grimly, passing over the four bullets. Rick thanked his best friend, pocketing the bullets and looked around the camp. He let out a relieved breath when he saw Annie emerge from the woods. "Where'd you find her anyway?" he asked, looking at Annie as she dumped some firewood at the center of camp. Rick looked over at her, watching as she disappeared into the RV and came out with her back. She was checking her gun's mag and securing it, along with her knife.
"We found each other," he answered, eyes on Annie. Shane looked at him, looked back and forth at him and Annie, and then over at Lori. She was watching everything as well, sitting with Carl, her arm around him. Annie threw her pack over her shoulder and walked over to them, prepared to hop in the truck but Rick grabbed her. "No."
Stunned, she asked, "What?"
"No, Annie." Shane cleared his throat, saying he'd give them a minute and wandered off.
"What do you mean "no"?" she questioned, trying to remain calm.
"I want you to stay here."
"No," she immediately stated, shaking her head.
"No! You have no right to tell me what to do!" she argued angrily. "I'm not your daughter, your girlfriend or your wife, Rick!" He ran a hand over his face and she sighed, desperately telling him, "I have to go. The duffel, I dropped it."
"Wasn't your fault. We were surrounded," he reasoned.
"The walkie was in the duffel. Morgan and Duane..." Annie wiped the stray tears from her face, heart pounding with fear and anxiety. "If we don't get it back, then they'll go to the city and they won't get as lucky as you and me. They won't! They'll die!" she pressed, certain that her friends wouldn't be able to get through Atlanta. She had every reason to believe that, Rick knew. After all, the pair of them wouldn't have gotten without Glenn.
"I know. I know, I know," he said, trying to calm her down. He put his hands on his shoulders and gently squeezed them, trying to sooth her. "I know, I do. But I would feel better if you stayed here."
"I can't just sit here and wait—!"
"Please, don't argue," he begged. "Just stay. Protect my family, these people. I know you can." She shook her head, hands on her hips, ready to jump in the truck. He shouldn't go alone and he basically was alone. He didn't know Daryl and, if he was anything like his brother, he wouldn't be able to trust him. Glenn was just a kid. T-Dog and Daryl together was a bad combination. He needed her with him, why couldn't he understand that? "I'll get the bag. I will." Eyes teary, she looked him in the eyes, saw his determination and nodded.
"Okay," she quietly agreed. "Okay."
"Trust me. I promise, everything is gonna be fine." Annie wanted to tell him that he shouldn't make promises he couldn't keep but she just nodded and hugged him. "It'll all gonna be just fine."
"Don't do anything stupid, okay? Don't get killed."
"I won't. I won't, promise."
Both of them sincerely hoped that was a promise he could keep.