They say that goodbye is the hardest word there is. It can mean lots of things: loss, grief, pain, sadness… but those are just words. Words often have little meaning to them, and a lot of the times are just thrown around carelessly to the wind.
But sometimes, goodbye truly does mean forever. And that hurts the most of all.
As Clementine lead Daryl deeper and deeper into the heart of Savannah, she was once again faced with the horrible memories of her past. This city was by far the worst thing that had ever happened to her. So many lives were lost here; so many times had she sat awake at night thinking about what happened.
Guilt used to be a hard concept for Clementine to understand. She never really experienced it at the ripe old age of nine. Sure, she'd seen other people feel guilty before – Ben when he gave the bandits supplies, and Lee when he explained that looking for her parents in Savannah was too dangerous after a certain point.
But now at eleven years, Clementine felt it almost every day. She felt that if she hadn't been so careless and run off to the Marsh House that fateful day, then Lee wouldn't have gotten bitten and they'd still be together.
"Are you sure this is the place?" Daryl asked, breaking her out of her trance. She had been leading Daryl through the back alleys of Savannah for a few hours now, and remembered to cover both of them in walker guts to avoid being detected.
"Should be," she replied tonelessly, averting her gaze from the Marsh House and all its monstrosity. The place itself was symbolic, but for all the wrong reasons. Clementine didn't have the time nor the will to relive any past grudges that she had for her kidnapper at that moment. Today was for someone else.
They could see the docks up ahead; the water crashing over the decaying, broken-down boats that Kenny had been so determined to get on. "It's our golden ticket," he used to say, back when he still had a purpose in life. Back when he had Katjaa and Duck.
Prying the garage door open for the first time in what seemed to be an entire lifetime that passed by, Clementine stood side by side with her companion, not moving or saying anything.
'Why are you doing this to yourself, sweet pea? You're strong – you don't need me anymore,' she could hear him say, filling her ears with the voice that hadn't been heard in two years.
She stared at the busted jewelry cabinets out of sheer mental anguish. Her anxiety was through the roof, and suddenly her whole body became numb. Clem was paralyzed, afraid of facing the biggest regret of them all. Daryl tried to coax the teen into moving, but he knew that if he tried to rush things that he'd be on mighty thin ice for the return home.
"I… I can do it, Lee… I… I can!" she remembered calling out, leaning in front of the dying man against the radiator. She could see the events playing out in front of her – the moment when he explained why his arm was gone, to the walker trying to eat her alive, to those final moments with the man that she considered her dearest friend.
Turning her gaze to the left, Clementine's eyes burned as she saw him; sprawled in a dead heap next to the radiator. His body had decayed just like everyone else's, and his clothes were all tattered and worn out.
When she was younger, Clementine thought that Lee was practically invincible. He'd saved her life so many times that she had lost count, and every time she was in danger Lee would be right there to get her away safely. It was kind of ironic that with all the danger they had been through that a little bite on his arm was the thing that took him down.
Clem walked over directly across from his corpse and slid against the wall onto the floor, with her knees tucked up against her chin. She wasn't crying by any means, as she had gotten used to people dying a while ago and had learned to survive in this new world. But all the guilt that she had bottled up for so long was suddenly bursting out as she stared into his lifeless eyes.
They needed to bury Lee. That was the only reason that she had dragged Daryl here. The rest of the prison group would understand…
So the two of them walked over, lifted his body out of the garage and gave him a proper funeral, with Clementine stopping to say a few words before she left her friend behind forever.
"Clementine! Wake up! We've gotta go, now!"
Luke shook her and she awoke in a dazed state. Had that merely been a dream? Simply a figment of her eleven year old imagination? How could it have been though… it felt so real!
Realizing what the man meant, Clementine quickly grabbed her stuff as they booked it down the street, sprinting away from yet another pack of walkers. With Pete's leg the way it was, they were a little bit slower than usual. However, they knew how to stay ahead of the walkers, and also how to get away from them if they got too close.
"Huff… we can't be too far now, can we?" Nick asked, wheezing as he and Luke held Pete's arms around their shoulders.
"Should just be an hour's walk from here," he replied, looking up at the sky to see that they really had been gone for over a day now. Clementine anxiously ran alongside them, turning behind her every once in a while to make sure they weren't being followed.
Thankfully, it was really dark out so they were able to hide in the shadows, which cut them off from their pursuers for at least a little while. They all knew though that that could change in a moment's notice.
So, instead of waiting around for them to leave, Luke led them through the narrow alleyways of Washington, just outside of the downtown square. It wasn't the same way they came back, but Clementine didn't say anything. Luke probably knew where he was going but she didn't want to give him any doubts. Getting lost in a major city like this would be a death sentence.
It took around two hours (and several swears from Pete saying how he was going to kill them for not finding an ambulance or something), but Clementine could finally see Terminus in the distance. They quietly cheered in victory and slowed their pace to a nice walk. Were they ever gonna be surprised at all the stuff they found in that mall! Clementine even found some leftover arrows in a hunting store that she planned on giving to Daryl. Maybe he could even let her have a try…
But something was wrong. There were no guards up top keeping watch, the front gate was wide open, and as Clementine tiptoed her way inside, she couldn't see a damn thing. Why were all the lanterns not lit?
"I don't like this, guys," Nick whispered, setting his uncle down at one of the picnic tables and pulling his rifle off of his back. Luke followed suit, and Clementine huddled closer to the rest of them.
"Where is everybody? Where's Daryl?" Clementine asked, afraid that something might've happened to him.
"I'm sure he's fine, Clem," Pete tried to reassure, narrowing his eyes and trying to get a sense of where they might have taken off.
Luke didn't look convinced. "Scan the rooftops. If you see any movement, don't shoot yet. That goes double for you, Nick."
"Shaddap, you dick –"
"Well, well. It seems that we've got some more dinner guests," came a booming voice, though they didn't exactly where they heard it. Each of the four survivors had their guns locked and loaded, aiming in every direction.
"Who the hell are you?! Show yourself!" Nick yelled.
"What does a name matter these days, my friend? But if you wanna know so badly, then the name's Gareth. Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way – your choice."
"Fuck you! Come out here and… and face me like a man, you pussy!"
"Good one, Nick…" Luke murmured, getting a slight chuckle from Pete.
Suddenly, a whole bunch of bright lights shone down on the survivors, blinding them instantly. Clementine covered her eyes, but she could scarcely make out the silhouettes of a whole bunch of people up on the rooftops.
That's when the bullets started flying.
It was absolutely terrifying, but Clementine felt almost glued to the spot. She couldn't see where the bullets were landing, and if she tried to move she might end up just getting one of them in the chest. She couldn't understand though – why were they missing so badly?
"They shoot like the Stormtroopers!" Pete yelled out among the gunfire, keeping everyone close to him in some sort of hope that they might stop.
This went on for another twenty seconds or so before Gareth held up his hand to halt his comrades, and they waited for the dust to settle as they turned the lights down a little bit.
Clementine felt like she was going to have a seizure. The blinding lights had left a firework show in front of her eyes, and the ringing in her ears was deafening. Totally incapacitated, she didn't see that another group of thugs had lined up behind them and were waiting for the signal to take them into one of the holding cells.
"If you come quietly, we'll spare your lives," Gareth announced, folding his arms over his chest in a menacing manner.
"Come on, where's the fun in that?"
"CARVER! WHERE ARE YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH!" Nick, Pete and Luke all yelled, recognizing that evil man from anywhere. Clementine was pretty confused, but she didn't have time to ask since she was roughly pushed from behind with the barrel of one of the thug's guns and led out into the courtyard, despite the protests of her companions.
She felt a blindfold being put over her eyes, and realized that there was no getting out of this. She just pleaded in her mind that if she was going to die today, then just to let it be quick and painless. She had no desire to become a walker – that was one of her biggest fears after seeing her parents like that in Savannah so long ago.
After about five minutes of walking, she was roughly shoved to the floor, and she let out a grunt as she heard a metal door creak behind her. This was it then. She was going to rot inside a dark, cold container where nobody would hear her screams. She would never see any of her friends again – Luke, Nick, Pete, Glenn, Maggie, Carl, Michonne, Rick… or Daryl. The one person left in this world that cared for her almost as much as Lee did, and she wouldn't even get to say goodbye.
Clementine assumed that it'd be safe for her to take off the stupid blindfold now, so she undid the tight knots around the back of her head, and was dumbfounded.
There, sitting on the ground right beside her, was Daryl, passed out and bloody with his face contorted in pain.
"Oh my god," Clementine panicked, rushing to his side and making sure he was still alive. She didn't want to think about him coming back as one of them, but the thought just wouldn't disappear. What would she do then? She didn't want to shoot another one of her friends… she just couldn't take it anymore.
"Please don't be dead, Daryl. Please no…" she whispered, holding onto his hand and saying the same thing she told Lee so long ago. Hopefully, this time it would be different.
It seemed like hours had passed before the movement came. Daryl's head was in her lap, and she could hear a low groaning sound, but he hadn't opened his eyes yet.
Crying silent tears, Clementine pulled her pistol out and turned the safety off, shakily aiming it at his head. Just like before… you can do it.
Clementine closed her eyes tightly. She wanted this to be as quick as possible.
"Mmf… Clem? Clementine?"
Her gun fell to the floor, echoing throughout the metal container, as Clementine embraced him tightly. Relief couldn't describe her feelings right now, and suddenly she felt like the little girl back in that garage with Lee again.
"Please don't go…" she begged, her voice muffled in his hair.
"I won't, bud. I ain't goin' nowhere."
Daryl looked up and tipped her hat over her face, earning a playful punch in the arm.
"Well, I suppose I'm stuck with you now, aren't I?" he joked, wincing a little as he tried to sit up. There was a sharp pain in his ribcage area, and he was pretty sure there'd be a massive bruise down there by tomorrow morning.
"Daryl?" she asked suddenly, wiping her eyes.
"Did we ever go to Savannah?"
It had felt so real though…
"Nevermind, let's just get out of here."