A/N: I'm baaaackkk! I have finally –FINALLY- been able to update this little gem! I have had one issue after another and words cannot describe how sorry I am that it has taken me this long to update. But here it is! Thank you all so incredibly much for your patience and loyalty!
This chapter is rather slow, but it is the calm before the storm – meaning the next one will be full of goodness! The next one will be posted this weekend, I absolutely promise!
To those that have reviewed, favorited, or followed in my absence – thank you. It means more than words can possibly say.
Now read on! And remember to leave feedback, as your words mean everything to me! Also, if you like the Captain America movies please check out my new story Two Sides of the Same Coin!
Disclaimer: I only own Rylie.
Thirty seconds of complete and utter silence passed that felt like an eternity before they were all up and heading towards the barn, breakfast forgotten. Shit. Leading the charge was Shane who was a good several paces ahead of everyone else. Double shit. Rylie was up in a second and went to catch up with Glenn, who was hanging his head like he had just committed a crime, when a large hand wrapped around her upper arm.
Coming up short she turned and looked into fierce blue eyes. "You knew about this?" he snarled at her.
She yanked her arm out of his grasp. "Don't touch me," she growled back. Looking at his eyes, for once unguarded, she realized he felt betrayed by her. That she had withheld information as important as this from him after everything they'd been through. Well guess what, you gotta give a little to get a little, she thought. It irked her that she had already let him see so much of her and he had yet to do anything more than let a crack of his protective shell open to her. "Yes, I knew."
"Why didn't you say nothin'?" She watched as he tried to look indifferent, and saw it as a personal accomplishment that she had been able to see through his armor for a moment.
Glancing at the group that was closing in on the barn, she trained a hardened look on him, letting her hurt from the previous night shine through her. "I don't owe you anything, Daryl." With that, she took off towards the group, jogging lightly to the best of her ability with her still angry ankle. She caught up with the group in time to see Shane cautiously approach the barn to look in. Standing next to Glenn, they shared an uncomfortable look, both unsure of what would happen next. Daryl stood on the opposite side of the group from her next to Carol.
They all listened to the unmistakable sound of muffled shuffling and moaning coming from the barn, and it sent a chill down her spine. After a moment, Shane spun from the barn and stalked towards everyone. "You cannot tell me you're alright with this," he growled.
"No, I'm not," Rick responded, equal fury in his voice. Rylie noticed – not for the first time – that while the two men shared the same feelings about the matter at hand, they both choose to handle it differently. Where Shane was snapping at the tether pissed, Rick was controlled, with a storm always brewing beneath the surface. "But we're guests here," Rick finished. "This isn't our land."
"Oh, God. This is our lives, man!" Shane shouted in response.
"Lower your voice!" Glenn warned nervously. Rylie continued to watch Shane for any irrational or dangerous moves, ready to stop him if need be.
"We can't just sweep this under the rug," Andrea chimed in.
"It ain't right; not remote," T added.
Shane turned back to Rick and adjusted his cap. "We either gotta go in there, or we just gotta go. We've been talking about Fort Benning for a while now -"
"We can't go!" Rick interrupted, something flashing in his eyes. The hell is that look about, she wondered.
"Why, Rick? Why?" It was a challenge, she could see that. Shane wanted a reason why they couldn't stay. But she knew they couldn't leave. It was safe here – minus the barn full of walkers. This was where they could hunker down, start again. After being on the road and moving for as long as she had, even the slightest glimmer of starting a new life here was something she would cling to. The thought of leaving this haven they had stumbled upon sent a flare of panic in her.
"Cuz my daughter is still out there," Carol spoke up.
Shane looked at her like she was crazy and let out an exasperated sigh. " 'K, Carol, I think it's time we all start to just consider the other possibility -"
"Shane!" Rylie scolded in shock, looking at him with wide eyes. While she may have agreed it was unwise to not think about said possibility, she had enough sense to know you didn't just blurt that out to a terrified mother!
"We're not leaving Sophia behind!" Rick finalized.
"We're close to finding this girl. I just found her damn doll two days ago!" Daryl finally interjected, coming to Carol's defense.
"Yeah, you found her doll, Daryl. That's what you did, you found a doll."
"Man, you dunno what the hell you're talkin' about!" Daryl shouted, taking a couple of steps towards Shane. Automatically, Rylie shifted so she would be closer to him, instinct taking over. Rick also moved into the line of fire and tried to quiet the two men.
"Hey man, I'm just sayin' what needs to be said!" The two men started shouting at each other, raising the stress level of the group a couple of notches. Rick kept trying to diffuse the bomb, telling Shane to knock it off, but Shane just kept on going. "And let me tell you something else, man. If she was alive out there and saw you coming, all methed with your buck knife and geek ears 'round your neck, she would run in the other direction!"
And there it is, you son of a bitch, Rylie thought. She had a split second to decide whether to punch his lights out or stop Daryl from doing the same. Rick dove in a second before she could, making up her mind for her. As Daryl and Shane lunged for each other, Rylie and Carol tried to grab at Daryl while Lori and Andrea tried to grab at Shane.
"Daryl! Hey!" She tried yelling. There was so much shouting going on she wasn't sure he could hear her, especially over his own enraged voice. Rylie snaked her arms around his midsection while someone – she thought it might have been Rick – put a hand to his chest to try to hold him back. "Dixon! Let it go!" she yelled one more time, closer to his ear now. She heard Shane shout something that sounded like "I'll beat your ass, boy!" before Rick ordered for him to back up. I swear to God I'm going to kill this piece of shit cop. "Daryl, calm down," she tired, quieter this time seeing as he no longer seemed to be putting up much of a struggle against her. His breathing was ragged and she could tell he was making an effort to listen to her. When his dilated eyes finally came away from Shane and fell on her, she realized her hands were resting on his hips. Quickly, she let them drop before turning back to the now quiet group.
"Just let me talk to Hershel!" Rick seethed at his friend. "Let me figure it out."
"What're you gonna figure out?!" Lori had to jump in front of Shane to stop him from going after Rick in his rage. And Rylie realized then that maybe that woman was the only one in the group who could possibly stand in Shane's way. Just like you're the only one who could stand in Daryl's… a small voice whispered in the back of her mind.
"If we're gonna stay, if we're gonna clear out this barn, I have to talk him into it. This is his land!" Rick argued, not taking his eyes off the mad man.
It was at that point that Dale finally spoke up. "Hershel sees those things in there as people. Sick people." He looked around at the group. "His wife, his step son."
"You knew?" Rick questioned.
Dale nodded and Rylie knew she better fess up, too. She was still new to this group; it wouldn't be wise to start off by keeping secrets. "So did I," she admitted, squaring her shoulders. The two cops looked to her and she chose to focus on Rick. She felt Daryl pace away from her, as if suddenly remembering he was pissed at her, too.
"Yesterday, I talked to Hershel," Dale finished.
"And you waited the night?" Shane growled.
Dale turned a challenging look on him. "I thought we could survive one more night," he started. "We did." Rylie admired the way he didn't back down from Shane and her respect for the old man grew even more. "I was waiting until this morning to say something, but Glenn wanted to be the one."
Shane started to get all hot and bothered again, raising his voice, when suddenly the barn doors started rattling, causing the group to stop and back up a few steps. Rylie's heart leapt and she stared in horror, forgetting the doors were locked for only a moment, letting fear rule her mind momentarily. The walkers inside the barn had heard all of their shouting and were now actively aware of their hunger for them. Now, they were all riled up.
It was silent except for the hungry growls and moans of the dead behind the wooden door, until Rick finally spoke up. "I'll talk to Hershel. Until then, we go about business as normal." It took a moment before everyone's nerves calmed enough for people to start dispersing. Rylie turned to head back to camp when she noticed Daryl already several paces ahead of her. Wrapping her arms around herself, she sighed and started to walk.
"Trouble in paradise?" Rylie looked over her shoulder and saw Carol walking to catch up to her.
She debated with herself on how much she should tell the other woman. Shrugging, she decided not much. "Something is always up his ass."
"It's probably just the walkers in the barn," Carol guessed. Yeah, I'm sure that's all. "Could also be what Shane said to him…."
Seeing an opportunity to get the topic off of Daryl and her, she grasped at it. "Has Shane always been such a dick?"
Carol chuckled and looked around nervously to see if anyone had overheard the comment before answering. "He wasn't always this bad. Don't get me wrong, he's always had to be in control. But something in him has changed… Every day he seems to be getting worse; more out of control."
Rylie nodded as she processed this information. She had a feeling it had something to do with the lie he'd told everyone about Otis – though she still couldn't figure out what he was lying about – but wondered if the problem went deeper than that. "When did you first start noticing it? If you don't mind me asking," she amended. She was still trying to learn which lines she was allowed to cross; she didn't want to come across as nosy.
They reached the campsite and Rylie automatically set to helping Carol fold more of the laundry that was hanging on the clothes lines. With everything up in the air and the impending doom that lay just a couple of yards from them, menial chores seemed to be the only option they had at the moment.
Carol pursed her lips as she thought about the question. "After Rick showed up, Shane started to get defensive; territorial even. It was understandable, though. He had been used to calling the shots single handedly for a couple of weeks before that. It wasn't long after that, though, he seemed to be more hostile." The older woman shook her head with a slight smile on her face. "But what do I know? After Ed died, it was hard to focus on anything other than keeping Sofia safe."
"Carol," Rylie started, setting down a folded shirt. "Don't think for one second you failed in that area, ok? What happened on the highway wasn't your fault." Carol smiled at her in thanks before continuing to remove the laundry. Rylie took her time folding as she thought about what Carol had just said, confused. "What do you mean 'after Rick showed up'? Hasn't he always been the leader?"
"Oh, I guess you wouldn't know," the woman said with an absent chuckle. "No, Shane was taking care of Lori and Carl when everything happened, then I guess by default started taking care of the rest of us. They thought Rick was dead because he had been in the hospital with a gunshot wound. It wasn't until a couple weeks later when some of the group was getting supplies in the city that Rick showed up. He got them all out alive, came back to the camp with them, and found his family. It's a miracle, really."
"Holy shit..." The odds of something like that happening in the world they lived in now… un-fucking-believable! She looked over to where Lori was helping Carl with some homework and felt a stab of envy for the reunited family. She hoped they knew how lucky they were to have found each other. "I mean really… that's incredible."
"It really is," the other woman said with a smile.
They were silent for a while, falling into habit as they worked. Rylie was still pondering why Shane would have changed so much just because his best friend was back from the dead, and felt like she was close to the answer when Carol spoke up again.
"You know, I don't really know too much about you, Rylie." This made her pause and look up. "Why don't you tell me something about yourself?"
Not liking the spotlight, the young woman shrugged and fiddled with the shorts in her hands. "Not too much to tell, really."
"Oh, nonsense! C'mon, it'll help keep my mind off of everything, and it'd be nice to get to know you a little better," Carol pushed affectionately. When Rylie just shrugged awkwardly in response, Carol decided to help her out. "What's your family like?"
At this question, Rylie couldn't help but smile with pride. "Nuts," she laughed. "I'm the second oldest, with three little siblings, so things were always crazy." She looked off as she remembered. "Charlie is the oldest at 32. He got married a couple years back and his wife popped me out an adorable nephew – they're such a beautiful family. Then comes Grayson. He and I used to be pretty tight, told each other almost everything – he's 23. We're the two that looked most alike, too. Izzie was the diva of the family at 21 and the baby until little Anna surprised us all." At the mention of her little sister, she remembered the walker from the other day and had to take a moment before she continued. "We all spoiled the crap out of her growing up, but she was an angel – usually," she chuckled, drawing a laugh from Carol as well. "She's 10 now, or was… I don't know…"
It was silent for a while and Rylie tried not to think about the 'what ifs' of her family. Until she had solid proof her family was no longer alive she would go on believing that they were.
"What about your parents? I only had Sophia and that was stressful enough sometimes! I give a lot of credit to those that can have such a big family," Carol said, moving the piles of clothes into baskets.
"Yeah, they're pretty great. They got married really young, and they both came from big families themselves. So I guess it just made sense for them to have one, too."
Carol, seeing the longing look on Rylie's face, reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You'll see them again, Rylie."
She returned the smile appreciatively and opened her mouth the respond, when Glenn walked over not only looking incredibly dejected, but covered in raw egg. Two second passed before the two women burst into a fit of giggles.
"What the hell happened to you?" she snorted.
Not amused, he looked down before mumbling, "Maggie."
"Uh-oh," she replied. Looking at Carol, she grabbed a basket full of clothes. "I can drop these off for everyone if you're good here?"
Carol smiled sympathetically and nodded. Walking away with Glenn, she headed towards the closest tent. "Alright, spill."
He sighed before jumping into the story. Maggie was apparently hurt that Glenn had spilled the beans to the camp, and when he approached her about it, she had responded by crushing an egg on his head with his hat. Typical female justice. Rylie let him rant and responded when necessary while dropping clothes off. It comforted her to fall into her old role as counselor among friends.
"Well, as a woman, a part of me doesn't blame her for being pissed," she said, placing the basket back at the picnic table.
"But that doesn't -"
"But," she interrupted. "Obviously I agree with what you did. You had to do what was best for your family." He followed as she headed back towards her tent. "She'll come around to see that, she's not stupid. She's just hurt right now that you broke her trust is all. And you know what they say about a woman scorned."
He rolled his eyes at her joke and didn't return her grin, but his mood had lifted a considerable amount. "Yeah well, I just don't want her to be mad at me… it was for her too, you know. She's not safe with them in there."
Rylie cocked her head as she studied him. "You really like her, don't you?"
"Right now? No," he said, wiping at the drying egg yolk, making Rylie laugh. "But over all? Yeah, I guess I do…"
Grinning, Rylie gave her final opinion. "Well then things will work out. You'll just have to make them work!"
She ducked into her tent to grab a rag for her friend while he waited outside. "Yeah? Well if it's that easy, why are you and Daryl at war right now?"
She winced as he turned the table on her before emerging with a stern look. "That is not the topic of today's session. Don't try to turn this on me, got it?" He gave her a sly smirk but nodded. "Good. Now go get cleaned up, you're starting to smell."
Rolling his eyes, he left like a kid being told it was bath time. She was really glad she and Glenn had become fast friends; she wasn't sure what she would do without him here.
Left alone, Rylie rocked on her heels as she wondered what to do next. There was an creepy dread looming over the camp, an anticipation of what could happen if the barn doors somehow opened, and she wasn't speaking to the one person she longed to speak to. How fun is thisday going to be? She huffed out a breath and decided to distribute everyone's winter clothes that she had organized the previous night. The rest of the group was all busy doing one thing or another; she might as well be, too.
She grabbed a couple of stacks and set them inside the respective tents. Carl's stack of clothes seemed to be the biggest, but she guessed that's what happens when one is used to being an older sister. Rylie smirked when she realized that Shane's was the smallest – she hadn't even done that on purpose! Dale was grateful for his bunch of clothes when she stopped by the RV to show him what she got, and assured her he was sure they would fit. When it came time to drop Daryl's clothes off, she was beyond glad he wasn't at his tent. Resisting the urge to throw them haphazardly, she set them down quickly before making her escape.
The last set of clothes she had were for Carol. When she stopped by her tent, she was let down to see she wasn't there. Looking up, she saw the woman heading for the stables. Figuring she had time to kill, and wanting to show her the clothes in person, she headed over there to give them to her. She glanced over to the barn and saw Shane still pacing in front of it, as if something magical might happen at any moment. It was like he wanted something to happen. Shaking her head, she continued on.
As she approached the stables, she heard Carol talking to someone. "- find her… we don't. I don't…"
It was silent for a second and Rylie peeked around the door to see Daryl staring at her. "What?" he growled.
Time to bail, not my business, she told herself as she turned to walk away. She heard Carol mumble something before the sound of a saddle crashing to the ground hit her ears. Worried, she turned back in time to hear Daryl shout. "Just leave me be! Stupid bitch."
Rylie was shocked and appalled. She was in the shadows and he was so pissed he didn't even see her standing there as he stormed out of the stables holding his side. Jaw hanging open, she looked inside to see Carol motionless, staring at the ground with tears on her face.
Oh hell no. Turning on her heel she went after him. "Hey!" He started, but kept walking when he realized it was her. Picking up her pace, she caught up. "Excuse me!" Moving her body in his path she glared at him with fire in her eyes. "What the hellmakes you think you can talk to Carol that way?!"
"Git outta my way," he demanded, trying to move around her. She stepped in his path again.
"Not a fuckin' chance. I have never seen you act like that before, especially to Carol! What's gotten into you?"
He leaned in close, eyes fierce. "I don't owe you anythin'… especially any kind of explanation," he said, throwing her own words back at her.
When he went to step around her again, she grabbed his wrist. "You can be pissed at me all you want, sugar. But you had no right to say what you did to her," she drawled darkly. He held her eye contact a moment longer before ripping out of her grasp and storming away.
Frustrated flustered, and emotional, Rylie dropped Carol's clothes at her tent before taking refuge in her own to stew.