"You don't have to do this, you could wait in the car," Daryl suggested.
Beth was tempted to accept that offer. She had spent too long hiding in the woods. She needed to face her fears.
"Remember that last time you left me in the car?"
Daryl's eyes darkened at the reminder. "Yeah, my shoulder still twinges."
Beth sat back in the car seat trying to collect her thoughts. She had prolonged this moment for far too long. They had plenty to occupy them at the cabin over the last week. Thirty more walkers had been tied up around the perimeter but now they were short of rope.
Daryl had mentioned it last night casually. He also wanted shovels as it turned out he hadn't been joking about wanting to dig a pits around the cabin as well. Daryl wanted to raid the suburban houses for any food that might have escaped unnoticed.
It was a risky run even for Daryl and she couldn't in good conscious let him go alone. Daryl had given her plenty of opportunities to drop out but Beth was determined. Those men had a permanent camp hours away; it was unlikely they were going to show up in Beth's tiny home town.
Beth's heart rate had slowly increased the closer they got to town. It was slamming inside her chest now they were at the hardware store. They had passed a few walkers but hadn't seen a living soul.
Daryl waited for a minute but when Beth didn't say anything he got out of the car, shaking his head. Beth watched him kill a walker that was lurking in front of the door. Beth summoned her courage and got out of the car.
"You think there's much rope left?" Beth asked.
"Probably not," Daryl replied. "Think we're gonna have to start getting creative. Look for chains, fishing wire."
Daryl had a flashlight shoved in his pocket as his eyes swept over the store.
Beth swallowed and tried to think rationally. "We could use dog leashes and collars," Beth suggested. Her voice was ragged from fear and it was taking a great effort to keep her breathing level.
Daryl grunted his agreement. There was the sound of spilling bolts and Daryl tugged the flashlight out of his pocket and clicked it on. The light landed on the decaying face of a walker. It hissed and stumbled in their direction.
Daryl hastily put the torch in his mouth and aimed his crossbow at the walker. The arrow slid through the air and exploded through the creature's skull. Without missing a beat, Daryl turned the light off and popped it back away. He stepped over the walker and continued his search, plucking the arrow free as he went. The whole exchange had taken about forty seconds.
Beth had to admire his speed and efficiency. Beth freed her own blade. The store wasn't as safe as it looked.
They found some chain that would serve. Daryl found a strong looking padlock. He waved it triumphantly in the air. "For the cabin," he explained. So far they had taken to leaving it unlocked during the day and that was dangerous.
Beth carried the chain while Daryl followed with two shovels. Beth's arms had gotten strong but she was not looking forward to the labour that would be involved in the next few days.
After they were done with the store, Daryl drove to the suburbs. They weren't extensive, most people lived on farms. He didn't need to ask for directions. He had come to know the area very well on his other foraging trips. Daryl picked a street and Beth knew it was based on a whim rather than a particular science.
Beth wasn't very familiar with this street. No one she knew well lived here. She was glad. She didn't want to be rifling through someone's belongings and have smiling photographs of people she had known and loved watching her. The first house didn't have much in the way of food.
Beth instead took some clothes and some toiletries. Maybe it was the height of vanity but Beth couldn't resist taking some body wash. She tossed it in the bag under the clothes so Daryl wouldn't see it.
Beth found him behind the elaborate entertainment system. Beth wrinkled her forehead, wondering what he could possibly want. There was a sharp pulling sound. Daryl reappeared with a handful of wires.
"For tyin' up walkers," Daryl explained.
Beth spotted some candles on the coffee table and took them as well. She also scooped up a handful of books off the bookcase.
They deposited their haul in the trunk of the car before trying the next house.
This house turned out to be better. The owner had been a woman who was into jams and preserves. There were jars of pickled vegetables and conserves.
Beth picked up one labelled cherry. "This actually looks delicious," she said. They so rarely got to eat anything that was tasty these days."I could just spoon it out and eat it here."
Daryl glanced over. "Just don't come cryin' to me when you make yourself sick."
"Fine but don't expect me to share," Beth threw back.
Daryl snorted. "Like to see y'stop me if I wanted some."
"You're the one who taught me how to fight, are you sayin' you're a terrible teacher?"
Daryl narrowed his eyes at her, seeing right through her. "I ain't saying nothin' of the sort. But you got a long way before you can hold your own against me."
Beth had to agree. She had become far more confident but Daryl was definitely more comfortable with violence. She was wearing a number of bruises right now that proved that. She had asked Daryl not to hold back against her. He had ignored her but if this was him controlling himself then she didn't want to be on the receiving end when he wasn't restraining himself.
When they emerged from the house there were two walkers at the end of the street.
"Let's get a move on," Daryl said watching the walkers cautiously. So far they seemed unaware she and Daryl were there but that could change.
"One more house," Beth suggested.
Daryl nodded, throwing one last glance behind him. Once they were inside they noticed something strange about it but it took Beth a minute to understand why it was strange.
"All the furniture is in the hall," Beth observed quietly.
Past the piles of furniture was a basement door that was open a crack. Daryl and Beth exchanged a look. By silent, mutual agreement, they searched the rest of the house. The former owners had obviously had some kind of dog. Beth grabbed the two leashes and tried not to think about the fate of the dog. It would just make her sad.
She found Daryl staring in the hall staring at the door to the cellar.
"You're not actually thinking of going down there are you?"
Daryl cut his eyes to Beth. "There might be more cherry jam."
"There won't be," Beth said decidedly. These people did not look like they made their own condiments.
"I still want to check it out," Daryl said, ignoring Beth. He opened the door and disappeared into the space. Beth hovered before following him. She didn't want the stupid ass getting hurt. Plus she was kind of curious.
The stairs creaked under Beth's weight as she hurried to catch up with Daryl.
There was mattress and food wrappers scattered around it.
"Someone was squattin' down here," Daryl said.
"What makes you think they won't be coming back?" Beth asked nervously.
That wasn't really good enough for Beth but she would admit Daryl seemed to have an uncanny sixth sense about this sort of thing.
"Awesome," Daryl randomly said and Beth jumped. He picked up a six pack of light beer from the corner of the room.
"Really?" Beth asked dryly.
"Lose the attitude an' I'll let you have one. I won't even tell on you when we meet up with your daddy."
Beth appreciated that. Not the offer to share the alcohol but the subtle way Daryl expressed his certainty that they would find her father.
Beth looked around the basement walls while Daryl wrestled his treasure into a bag. What she saw made her freeze.
"Uh, Daryl? You may wanna see this," Beth said.
Daryl appeared by her side and looked closely at the wall. There was one word scratched there.
"Well I'll be," Daryl said, sounding surprised.
"He's alive!" Beth said with a grin. She had liked T-dog. Maybe he was with her father and this is where they had been hiding.
"Guess it's true what they say 'bout his type and graffiti," Daryl said. Beth punched him in the upper arm. The sting was taken out of the comment by Daryl's smile. He was just as pleased to find this new evidence as Beth was.
Beth wanted to leave them a clue just in case Daryl was wrong and they were coming back but she didn't have a pen and she didn't want to scratch it somewhere for them to completely miss it.
Daryl put a guiding hand on her back and propelled her back up the stairs. "I got an idea."
They exited the house and those two walkers were much closer now. They spotted Daryl and Beth emerging.
"Cover me," Daryl requested and then he pulled out his large hunting knife and started carving something in the front door. One of the walkers ambled up the front path and Beth climbed down off the porch. She ducked underneath its reaching arms and came up behind the first walker. It tried to correct itself awkwardly, not sure initially if it wanted to continue on to Daryl or eat Beth. Beth stabbed it quickly in the back of the head.
She felt hands on her shoulder and spun quickly. She used the momentum of the turn to thrust the blade up under the next walker's chin. It didn't quite reach the brain so Beth had to struggle with it. She delivered a sharp kick to its knee. The walker fell forward and its own weight forced the knife the rest of the way up.
Beth wiped the knife on the grass before returning it to her belt.
Daryl had carved both their names on the door. There was no more information just in case friendly eyes weren't the only ones to see it.
"You think we could go by the farm one day?" Beth asked.
Daryl regarded her with something the closely resembled sympathy. "Sure, if you want." She could tell that he didn't think anyone would have returned there. It made Beth's heart ache to hear that.
"C'mon let's get back home. We got work t'do."
"That's a lot of blood," Lori said urgently.
T-dog knew there was a lot of blood. He was the only one strong enough to carry Glenn. They had risked a run on a nearby town and they had found it was home to a group of survivors who didn't take too kindly to strangers.
Glenn had taken a bullet to the leg and was struggling not to moan in pain. They had found shelter in a trailer park. T-dog laid Glenn out and Lori immediately put pressure on the wound. While they focused on stopping the bleeding, Carol climbed up through the roof hatch of the trailer to get a look at the environment. T-dog passed his gun up to her. Carol turned out to have a steady arm and good aim.
"It isn't so bad,' Glenn mumbled.
T-dog caught Lori's eye. It definitely looked bad. "Yeah man, you'll be cool," T-dog said reassuringly.
Lori ducked into the small bathroom and came back holding some bandaids and sanitiser. "This was all they had."
"We could try and find a pharmacy," Carol's disembodied voice drifted down towards them.
"No!' Glenn grunted out vehemently. "It isn't safe to go back."
"It looks like it went straight through," T-dog said, leaning closer to the wound. He was feeling a bit queasy getting that close to his friend's injury.
"Are you sure?" Lori asked.
"Hell no, I ain't sure," T-dog said quietly. "I'm guessing, same as you."
Lori's hands were slick with blood and she fumbled with the bandage.
T-dog picked up the gel hand sanitiser. "This says not for open wounds," T-dog muttered.
"Do it anyway," Glenn snapped gritting his teeth.
T-dog hesitated but then squirted some over the wound. Glenn howled and arched off the floor.
"Any walkers, Carol?" Lori called out.
"None that I can see."
Lori took off her belt and folded it over. "Bite on this," she said, putting it between Glenn's teeth.
T-dog winced and spread the sanitiser more thoroughly over the wound while Glenn bucked. It was a relief when the young man passed out. They fit some of the larger bandaids over the bullet hole and then found a sweater to wrap around Glenn's leg, binding the wound.
T-dog slumped against a cabinet. Lori was pale and shaking.
"Guess we should have listened to the crazy chick with the sword," T-dog mused. They had encountered a terse black woman a while ago and she had told them that the town was dangerous but things were getting hard. So after a few weeks they had ignored her advice and Glenn had gotten shot for their trouble.
"We can't move him," Lori noted, taking a seat next to T-dog. Her head slumped on to his shoulder and T-dog wrapped an arm around her. He'd come to think of Lori as a sister. An occasionally bossy big sister that was actually just very good at hiding her fear.
"We'll wait it out and then we'll move on," T-dog promised.
"You think we'll ever find Carl and Rick?" She asked this question every day and every day T-dog's answer was the same.
"Of course we will."
AN: Alright, I'm not sure what the whole jam/jelly situation is in America but I couldn't write jelly, I just couldn't. I wrote ketchup a few chapters back and a little bit of my Australia soul died. (We call it tomato sauce, 'cause we are just that literal over here. See Danny Bhoy's sketch on Aussies naming things for more info). Just like I actively avoid the word mum, because I can't bring myself to use mom but I know it'll look jarring for American readers to see mum. Oh god, language. Also, I have been informed I talk about rope a lot! This is not a cool subtle reference to Boondock. I just like rope.
More importantly, as you can all tell, I eased back on the Deth for a chapter. Think of it as the calm before the storm. I've said too much!