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Life at the end of the world

Chapter Text

You groaned when someone blew the horn of their car once again and resisted the urge to flip them over through the window. You’d been in that traffic jam for hours without any car moving, yet some people seemed to think honking ever so often was going to be a solution.

You exited your car once you found the slightly melted chocolate bars you’d been looking for, went towards the car stopped in front of yours and handed them to the kids you’d met a couple of hours ago, Carl and Sophia.

“Thank you, lady!”

“It’s nothing.” You shrugged, smiling.

Carl had been complaining about being hungry to her mother but when Carol, the kind looking mother of Sophia had tried to share some food with him, his mean looking, asshole of a husband had interfered. You hadn’t know Carol for long, just a couple of hours, but still, you wondered what a woman like her could be doing with such a man.

You had begun talking with her and Lori, Carl’s mother, out of boredom as time passed as you all were still trapped in the road. Shane, the man you took for Lori’s husband before she corrected you, joining you from time to time when he wasn’t trying to catch some signal on the car’s radio.

You all looked as stressed and tired as you felt, but you were trying to put on your best face and not bring each other down, joking with the kids and sharing silly stories of your lives.

In that couple of hours, you’d learned they were on their way to Atlanta too, trying to find shelter from the madness that was overcoming the world. You were the only one with family in the city, though. You were on your way to check on your mother and half-brother after not being able to reach them by phone. As time passed and the cars still didn’t move, you grew increasingly worried.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine Y/N.” Carol tried to gently comfort you. “The city is supposed to be safer.”

“She’s right.” Lori agreed though you could see the doubt in her tired eyes.

You’d been quite sheltered since all the madness began, working as a teacher in the tiny high school of a small town in the countryside, out of the beating track. You’d seen the world starting to go to hell through TV, the town seeming almost untouched. Almost.

Some horrible screams had made you run out of the school one morning and you stumbled into a nightmarish scenario, with police dragging an ill-looking corpse of someone you’d never seen before away from the father of one of your students, who were lying bloodied but alive on the floor.

You’d rushed to take your students into the school so they wouldn’t see such a gory picture. Later that day you were told the man had died but had woken up again as a seemingly alive and rabid thing, but still pretty much dead. It seemed whatever was going on had reached your tiny town too.

Weird things were happening.

Couple days after that and from what you could gather through the TV things were just getting worse and worse.

You tried to call your mother, worried sick, but she wouldn’t pick up. You hadn’t seen her or your half-brother in years, but you had their address in Atlanta, so you’d decided to take your car and drive to the city to check on them.

And now you were there, trapped in the traffic.

When the planes flew over Atlanta you were quick to follow Shane and Lori, running to see what was going on.

When you saw Shane embracing Lori you knew it had to be bad, but you were in no way ready for the sight of the fires that seemed to cover the city. You gasped in horror and turned away from that horror, tears running down your cheeks as you ran back to your car.

“Ey, ey, are you okay?” Carol stopped you, gently holding you by your arms. “What’s wrong?”

“They are bombing the city or something.” You sobbed. “Everything is on fire.”

“It’s okay, darling.” Carol held you while you cry. “Everything is going to be okay.”

Sophia and Carl were looking at you with wide, afraid eyes. You didn’t want to scare them but you couldn’t help yourself. Not knowing anything about your family was killing you, and now the fires. You could only pray they were safe and sound somewhere away from the flames and the monsters, but you were not feeling very optimistic.

“We have to get out of here,” Shane said when he and Lori joined you. “The city is not safe anymore and I’m sure things are going to turn into shit here soon.” He looked around nervously at the mass of honking cars and yelling drivers.

You nodded. You still wanted to go to Atlanta and check on your family but right now you were at loss of ideas and you were feeling increasingly worried about yours and your new friends’ safety.

“We have to leave the main road, find somewhere less crowded, away from this,” Shane suggested and you all nodded your agreement. Not that you had any other ideas.

“Y/N, you are coming?” You nodded. “Carol?”

She bit her lip and looked pointedly at his husband, who hadn’t still got out of the car. Shane went towards him and you and Lori stopped Carol from following him when his husband got out of the car, watching nervously as the two men talked. Finally, mister asshole husband went into the car again and Shane nodded at Carol as he walked back.

You all got into your cars and followed Shane, zigzagging between cars as you left the main road.

Some kilometers into a secondary road Shane stopped the car to inspect a map. “There seems to be some quarry or something like that close.” He informed the group. “Seems it was used to camp.”

“You think it’s safe?” You asked unsurely. “It’s quite in the middle of nowhere.”

“That’s why I like it, if they’re fewer people then probably there’re less of that monsters, I guess.” Shane shrugged, seeming tired even though he tried to put on a brave face. “I don’t really know, Y/N.” He admitted.

“It could work, at least until we can figure something else.” You nodded, it wasn’t like any of you had a better plan. “You still have that radio, we can keep trying contact with a safe place.”

“Yeah…” Shane’s eyes seemed uncertain for a moment but then he was nodding with determination, smiling encouragingly to Lori and Carl. “Come on people, let’s move.”

The quarry itself was not bad, there was space to camp, trees that hid you and fresh water nearby. You could live there until you found where there was a safe place. Shane had camping gear and Lori offered to share hers and Carl’s tent with you since you hadn’t figured when you left home that you would be needing something like that.

Ed, Carol’s mean husband, had camping gear too but he wouldn’t lean you anything. He placed his tent far from yours, distancing his family from your group and yelling at Sophia to go back when she ran to play with Carl.

Carol gave you an apologetic look but said nothing and you felt anger building in your stomach as you glared at Ed, but you didn’t dare to do anything.

That same night, an RV showed up in the road that headed to the quarry. First, you heard it as it growled up the road then you watched with worry how the lights got closed. When it got close you could see that the elderly man who drove it was blinking in surprise too, probably not expecting to find your camp. He parked his RV and got out of it to greet you.

“Hi there, I’m Dale.” He said politely, giving you an easy smile. “We were looking for a place to camp.” He gestured to the blonde women who were inside the vehicle, looking at you warily. “I hope we’re not bothering you…”

“Not at all.” Shane shook hands with the man, seeming to find him non-threatening enough. He actually looked quite nice, in your opinion. “We just arrived, waiting for a place to camp too. I say the more the merrier, safety in the numbers and all that, yeah?” He looked at all you and you all nodded, except Ed who scoffed and retreated to his tent.

The sun was going down quickly so after briefly introducing each other, you all sat beside a small fire to share your food. Expect Carol and Sophia, who were dragged by Ed to their side. You all talked during almost all night, trying to chase away your fears and worries, trying to feel like you knew each other for longer than you did.

You learned that Andrea and Amy, as the two blonde women where called, were siblings. They hadn’t met Dale until a couple days before, when he’d saved them from the monsters in the city, and they’d been together since them.

“I used to camp here with my wife every summer until she died,” Dale told to your group. “That’s why I thought about coming here.”

“We just saw it on a map,” Shane explained. “We thought it might be safe.”

The night went by easily and you were glad you’d meet these people. They seemed nice and made you feel less lonely, less scared. You weren’t sure what would have been of you if you’d stayed in that traffic jam or reached Atlanta. You still wanted to get to the city and found your family, but you were at loss of how to do it, much less alone, so, for now, you’d just be content with being safe and would wait for your opportunity.

A couple of days after getting installed in the quarry, you had your first up-close encounter with a walker.

Despite having been living in a town in the middle of the countryside for a few years now, you knew nothing about surviving in the wild or anything like that, and you felt pretty much useless watching Andrea and Amy provide for the group by fishing while you were unable to bring anything.

Your best friend, though, had been fond of hiking and every now and then she’d drag you and her wife to the woods for a weekend. She’d taught you about edible and medicinal plants, mushrooms and berries that you could eat and now that knowledge was coming up handy. You wished you’d paid more attention and remembered more things.

You were frowning at some yummy looking berries, trying to decide if they were edible or not when suddenly you felt a hand tangling in your hair and pulling it.

You screamed and fell to the floor, the monster on top of you, and you struggled with it, trying to keep its snapping jaws away from you as you cried out for help.

You heard a shot and then the corpse was falling on top of you but it was almost immediately pulled up an away from you by Shane, Andrea running close behind him, gun on hand.

“Y/N, Y/N, you okay?” He grabbed your arm and pulled you back to your feet.

You were in shock, shaking violently, tears falling down and you couldn’t say a word while Shane and Andrea walked you back to the camp.

Everyone rushed towards to you, asking you worried questions that you couldn’t reply so Shane did it for you, telling them what happened while Lori wrapped you in her arms as you cried.

Everyone was shocked and worried, you all had thought you were safe there that there weren’t any monsters close.

“All right people, try not to worry,” Shane told all you after sweeping the perimeter. “There’s nothing else around, I think it might have been a strand. But we’ll keep watch all the time, just in case, alright?”

Dale nodded, already going to the top of his RV to scan the surroundings with his binoculars, rifle in hand.

That night, you were almost feeling like yourself again, but you could still feel the hand of the corpse tugging at your hair. You took the scissors and walked towards Lori.

“Cut my hair?” You said as you dropped down, sitting down next to her.

“What?” She gave you a confused look.

“Just cut it.” You said, disgruntled.

“Okay, okay.” She began combing your hair. “So what do you want, a buzz like Carol?” She joked.

“No, nothing so drastic.” You laughed. “Just…short. So none is able to grab me by it? Jaw length maybe? Or shorter? I don’t know… just cut it.”

“Alright… I don’t know how it’s going to look, I’ve never done this…”

“I don’t care.” You replied honestly as you watched locks beginning to fall down.

______________________________

“Oh my god, your beautiful hair Y/N!!” Amy gasped when she saw you next morning. “What did you do? You’re crazy!”

“Don’t listen to her Y/N, you look great.” Carol winked at you. “Short hair is the best. It doesn’t get in your way, doesn’t bother you, all advantages.” She said as she wrapped you in a half hug, arm around your shoulders as you walked together to do some laundry.

That same day you asked Shane to teach you how to use a gun, vowing to never be defenseless again. He frowned at you at first but gave in, and you spent an hour each day away from the camp as he taught you how to safely work a gun, how to aim and everything you may need. You never got to actually shoot, though, as Shane didn’t want the sound to startle anyone at the camp or to bring up undesirably company, and you could understand him.

Slowly, your camps started to grow as you took in more people. You found most of them on the road that led to the quarry as they tried to run away from which seemed to be more and more the end of the world.

The first people you found that way were Glenn and T-Dog. Shane’d found them halfway through the road on their wagon, while he patrolled. Without a better plan, they’d decided to join your little group and pretty soon you had been sure they were nice people with good hearts.

Glenn was really fun to be around, a change in the gloomy atmosphere of your camp, making jokes and keeping your spirits high. T-Dog, while quieter, was always trying to help and he seemed a very compassionate, genuinely good person.

You were glad you took them in and it encouraged you to take more people in whenever you found them or they found you, as time passed.

The Dixon brothers seemed to appear out of nowhere one day, walking out of the woods and towards the camp.

You eyed them suspiciously, but they couldn’t be that bad, because Shane decided to take them in after talking to them. Truth be told, you had never turn anyone away. Besides, the one with the crossbow was carrying some rabbits and your group hadn’t had fresh meat since you left home. If he could provide you with food then welcome he was, no matter how shady they looked.

You tried not to judge a book by their cover, so to speak, but your second, third, fourth and so on impressions were not better but even worse.

The younger brother, Daryl, seemed to keep mostly to himself but Merle fucking Dixon made you want to rip his tongue to make him stop talking for a moment. Racist, sexist, homophobe, arrogant and just a plainly awful person, he seemed to love the sound of his voice as much as he seemed oblivious to how much all you hated it.

You were fairly certain you were not the only one annoyed but just like with Ed, nobody seemed to do anything, so you just tried to ignore him and carry on with your life. Which was not as easy as it could seem, loving as much as he did to voice his stupid opinions on everything, bossing you all around whenever he got a chance.

You didn’t know what to make of Daryl. He was quieter than his brother, which was a blessing, you couldn’t deal with two talkative Dixons, but whenever he talked he was almost as loud and brash as his brother, if only at least not that arrogant.

He followed his brother everywhere, doing as he told him, and you were confused by their relationship. Merle was always talking his brother down, berating him and making fun of him, yet Daryl never complained about it and he kept doing what Merle wanted.

You wondered why he did it. Daryl seemed pretty capable of standing for himself and you had heard him loudly voicing his opinions and lashing out at the others quite often and vocally, yet never against his brother.

Maybe that was the way little brothers were with their older brothers. You wouldn’t know. Your heart ached as your thoughts drifted to your little half-brother, to whom you were almost a stranger.

No matter how annoying their company was, at the very least the Dixons kept you feed with fresh meat from rabbits and squirrels. Or it’d be better to say that Daryl kept you fed since he seemed to be the one doing most of the hunt. Merle, for all his talk about being such a great survivor, didn’t seem to do much to prove it, yet he took every chance he could to remind everyone, especially his baby brother, of how superior he was.

About a little less than a month after the Dixons joined your camp, you were in the forest looking for mushrooms with Amy and Lori, who were interested in learning which ones were edible. Not that you were an expert, but you liked to feel useful. Eventually, the other two women decided to head back to the camp but you decided to stay in the woods for a bit longer, enjoy the silence that you couldn’t get back at the camp.

As you strolled around, you heard some sounds nearby and you stopped moving, heart beating fast. Your instinct told you to run back at the camp, in case there was a walker approaching you, but if that was the case maybe you should take him down before it could cause havoc at the camp.

Clutching the gun Shane had lent you, you walked towards the sound. It was not a walker but Shane and Lori seeming quite entertained with each other. You blushed and walked away awkwardly, glad they didn’t notice you.

You already suspected they were together but you said nothing since it seemed they wanted to keep it secret, but after this, you decided you were going to tease the hell out of Shane about it this night, just for fun. He was single and Lori was a widow so what was the matter? Still, you thought it was pretty irresponsible to go at it in the middle of the woods like horny teenagers, they could be attacked by geeks. But you guessed they knew what they were doing.

You were almost back at the camp when you heard the unmistakable voice of Merle Dixon from somewhere in the woods ahead of your path. You cursed your luck, you only wanted to take a nice walk by yourself, enjoying some alone quiet time, but it seemed you were stumbling into everybody’s business. To be fair, going out to the woods was the only way any of you could have any privacy these days.

As you kept walking you caught sight of Merle. He was saying something in low but furious voice at his brother, who had a dead deer at his feet, but you couldn’t quite make the words, it sounded as if they were discussing something about your camp. Daryl was just looking down while his brother went off, making no attempt to interfere or say anything.

Curiosity got the best of you and you carefully walked closer, wanting to hear what Merle was about, having a bad feeling about it.

“We should have done it by now. Bet you want to stay here forever now, playing hero by bringing them food so they kiss your worthless feet, while they couldn’t care less if you are killed while hunting for them.” Merle hissed. “You know they laugh at you when you are not there calling you an idiot redneck.”

Whatever suspicion you had about Merle talking about your camp was drowned by the sudden anger you felt at him talking in such a way to his brother, especially when Daryl was just standing there in silence, cowering from Merle.

You must have made a noise as you crept close because suddenly Daryl’s head snapped up and his eyes found you, Merle turning around and seeing you too.

Shit.

“Ey!” You greeted, raising your hand, trying to play it casual so as not to look like you were spying on them. “I was collecting mushrooms with Amy and Lori, but it seems those lazy heads have abandoned me.”

They Dixons were still looking at you suspiciously as you walked closer. “Did you hunt that?” You asked Daryl, trying to shift their attention away from you, and he nodded. “Want me to help you carry it to the camp?”

He just shrugged but Merle chimed in.

“Yeah, you do that, help baby brother with his hunting games while the big man does actual useful things.” He growled, storming off.

“That’d be the first time that ass does something useful.” You murmured, frustrated before you could stop yourself. You glanced quickly at Daryl, afraid he’d be angry at you for saying that of his brother, but he snorted quietly.

“Why you let him talk to you like that?” You asked, feeling brave.

“Like what?” He muttered, glaring you down, but you didn’t let it stop you from voicing your opinion.

“Like that, like he always does, he’s always saying those mean things about you.” You didn’t know why it bothered you that much, Daryl wasn’t your friend and you didn’t even like him that much, resenting his rough treatment, but it did bother you.

You’d always hated bullies like Merle, both as a student and as a teacher and you hated seeing him treating his brother like that, no matter how rude said brother was too.

“You shouldn’t let him.” You added, it bothered you that Daryl didn’t seem to question his brother treatment or try to stand for himself

“He’s my brother…” Daryl shrugged as if that answered everything.

“That doesn’t mean he’s right.” You insisted. “For the record, we don’t laugh at you and we don’t call you an idiot redneck. Granted, you are always with Merle and he’s the biggest idiot ever, so you should have to be the greatest idiot in order to stand over him.”

You were worried you were taking it too far in your vent against Merle, but Daryl snorted quietly again, looking down. It was obvious he was feeling uncomfortable and very awkward though, so you let the matter go.

“Dinner tonight is going to be a feast.” You said cheerfully as you helped Daryl carry the deer back to the camp. “This should feed us for a couple days.”

Daryl nodded. “I’ve been tracking more but the dead seem to chase them away.”

“Have you find geeks in the woods?” You asked, a shiver going down your spine, you hadn’t got one close to camp since the one that had grabbed your hair all that time ago.

“Yeah. Not close to the camp though.” He added as if noticing you shiver at the thought. “But those dead fuckers scare the game away.”

You eyed him with curiosity. This was the longest you ever recalled hearing him talk whit anybody that was not Merle.

“You should be careful, no matter what your brother says, we don’t want you getting killed.” You ventured to say.

“Not that I care…” Daryl huffed, shrugging and looking away, and you both walked in silence for the rest of the way.

Later that day the spirits were high as the group dined, happy to have meat that wasn’t canned. Daryl was back to sitting with his brother slightly away from the others, listening to Merle’s nonsense and ducking his head when you smiled at him, nodding in thanks for the deer. Old habits die hard, you weren’t expecting him to suddenly be your friend just because he’d exchanged a couple of sentences with you and you weren’t even sure you’d actually want to be his friend. But you wished he’d be able to at least break free of Merle, just as you wished Carol were able to break free of Ed, who also kept her away from the group most of the time.

You had talked to Shane about Ed a million times before, and he always told you there was nothing any of you could do, you had enough just trying to survive. All you could do was keep an eye on Carol and Sophia and made sure they were alright, and that was what you had been doing since the beginning.

And for Merle Dixon, he might be annoying but he and his brother were useful to your camp, patrolling the woods and hunting for you.

___________________________________________________

A few days after your deer feast, Daryl announced he was going to the forest to hunt more and not to expect him back in a day or two. Merle was staying at the camp, for good or bad.

“You sure it’s a good idea to stay alone there by night?” You had a chance to voice your worries to Daryl before he left. Going out alone like he did almost every day for hunting was dangerous enough without staying the night out too.

“It’s fine,” Daryl said without even look at you, shrugging off your concern as if it made him uncomfortable. “I’ve been taking care of myself since always, I don’t need any of you.” He turned away and heads into the forest.

“Well, okay then.” You murmured, rolling your eyes and calling yourself stupid for trying to be friendly. It was obvious you weren’t welcome.

There seemed to be some kind of discussion back at the camp and you were tempted to duck away from it for a moment before walking closer to see what was happening.

“What’s going on?” You asked Lori as you approached.

“Glenn is going to the city again and Andrea is going with him. So now it seems like everybody wants to join too, for some reason.” She explained. “Shane and Glenn were discussing if it’s a good idea to take a group or not when Merle announced he’s going too and it doesn’t seem to make anyone happy.”

“Go figure” You snorted and walked towards Shane and Glenn.

A week after joining the group, Glenn had started going on runs to Atlanta to bring back supplies. At first your group didn’t want him to, it sounded too dangerous, but you were in need of supplies and finally, Glenn had convinced Shane he’d be alright. And he’d always been, he was smart and quick on his feet and always came back victorious. He never let anyone else go with him though, saying he was used to moving alone and they’d only slow him down.

It seemed someone had convinced him now, though, and if Glenn was taking a group to Atlanta you wanted to be in. It was your chance to finally go to the city, see how things were going down there and hopefully try to go find your mother and brother.

You didn’t want to abandon your new friends, but if it came down to it, you were ready to leave them and sneak away in Atlanta to go looking for your family. The decision broke your heart more than you had anticipated and you realized how fond you’d become of these people in the short time you’d known them.

Except of Merle of course.

The travel to Atlanta with him was a nightmare that you were only able to bear by cracking whispered jokes with Andrea and Jackie about sewing his big mouth shut with his own shoelaces.

As always seemed to happen in your life lately, plans didn’t go as you had expected.

For starters, Atlanta was overrun, way more full of walking corpses that you could have ever imagined. There was no way you could make it to your family’s home alone out there and you did your best not to start crying right there in front of everyone.

Then, while you were scavenging through a store looking for supplies, some idiot decided to fire a gun next to the store, bringing every single walker within earshot to you. Glenn, blessed his heart, wanted to help him but you just wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as you could. It seemed kind of impossible, though, with the dead piling up everywhere, knocking at the windows and doors, but before you knew it Glenn was already gone to help the idiot.

“You son of a bitch. We ought to kill you. We’re dead because of this stupid asshole.”

You were not surprised when Andrea pointed her gun at the confused looking man Glenn brought back. He was dressed as a police officer and looked totally lost and out of place. You almost felt pity for him, but Andrea was right, you were dead because of him.

You tried not to let the panic get the best of you, though, trying to come up with a way to escape, something to do, when there were gunshots sounds coming from the rooftop.

Merle fucking Dixon.

You all rushed up and there he was, shooting the riffle and laughing like a madman, like everything was fun to him.

“Hey, Dixon, are you crazy?!”

“Hey! Y'all be more polite to a man with a gun!” Merle threatened the group and before you could do anything he’d gotten into a fight with T-Dog.

You all stared in horror as Merle landed blow after blow, unsure of what to do or how to help until you were able to pull T away from him while Merle delivered a discourse of being the boss, making you all do a show of showing hands to vote for him.

You would rather bite off your hand that gave in to him, but he was still aiming his gun at you, so you did it, blinking away the tears of frustration and rage that threatened to fall off your eyes.

Suddenly the police officer who you had dimmed useless sprung into action, throwing himself at Merle and managing to handcuff him. Maybe he wasn’t as useless as you thought.

Once Merle was dealt with, it was time to focus on a plan of escape but you found yourself at loss of ideas.

“Old building like this built in the ‘20s, big structures often had drainage tunnels into the sewers in case of flooding down in the subbasements.” Jackie and her knowledge of buildings came in handy, maybe you’d be able to escape through the sewers.

Luck kept avoiding you, and your part of the plan consisted in babysit Merle with T-Dog while trying to contact your group back at the camp by radio without any luck. You found yourself bored of Merle’s nonsense and his bickering with T soon so you walked to the border of the roof and looked around, trying to find the neighborhood where your family lived, but you couldn’t see it.

The city looked devastated and abandoned of life, just the dead roaming through it and you felt your heart broke into pieces. You could only hope your mother and brother had left the city, even if that meant you were never going to find them, at least that way they might be safe.

You didn’t have time to dwell in self-pity as Glenn and the others ran back up to the roof and you had to spring into action again. Apparently, the sewers were a bust, and Rick, the police officer, had come up with another plan. It was disgusting, involved gusts and it was the craziest most dangerous idea you had ever heard, but you didn’t have anything better so you all watched in anguish as Glenn and Rick made their way through the sea of walkers covered in guts.

“This is insane…” You murmured to Andrea, but she just nodded, holding her breath.

You couldn’t quite believe it, but it worked. Or at least it did until the rain started falling, washing away their disguise. What was with your group and bad luck? Had you all collectively break a thousand mirrors?

You gasped in horror watching Glenn and Rick ran away from the walkers, running for their lives and getting into a van. For a terrifying moment, you thought Glenn and Rick had abandoned all you but then Glenn’s voice was on the walkie, telling you they are coming back to you and what to do. Then, everything was a blur, everything happened so quickly you could barely think or register anything, as you ran behind Andrea, unable to hear anything but the crazy beating of your heart. You didn’t come fully back to your senses until you were safe inside the van, sitting down next to Andrea, clutching her arm.

“I drop the damn key,” T-Dog said, and honestly you couldn’t care less about it. Merle had it coming.

“Where’s Glenn?” Andrea asked and you realized he wasn’t there, panic starting to get a hold of you again.

“He’s fine, he has a car and was chasing the geeks away,” Rick said, but you didn’t stop worrying until after you saw a red car zoom past you, alarm blasting, Glenn at the wheel.

“Crazy idiot.” Morales laughed and you found yourself letting out a nervous laugh before chocking a sob, the events of the day finally catching up with you.

You shook the whole way back to the camp.