Disclaimer: A nod to the genius Robert Kirkman for creating this wonderfully dark, post-apocalyptic world. I do not own or have rights to any of the characters/plot of this series. I'm simply a fan indulging in my post-apocalyptic fantasies.
BIG THANK YOU TO Nicole137137 (fanfiction (dot) net) for taking the time to send me edits for this chapter!! You're wonderful!!
It had been a full day since they had been locked up in the railway car, judging by the position of the sun. Glenn, Maggie, and the rest had been there approximately a full day, maybe two at the most, before Rick's group had waltzed into the car.
They hadn't been brought food or water, but none of them expected as much. Glenn had said they didn't get anything to eat or drink the first twenty-four hours either. The meager meal they did receive consisted of a little bread, a bottle of water for them all to share, and some meat.
Glenn pointed out that no one had been interested in the charred, grilled flesh.
Rick had taken a great interest in getting to know Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, and Tara. Beth assumed the several hours he had spent listening to their backgrounds was to assess their skills; figure out where they best fit into the group.
Daryl had become Rick's shadow, talking with him privately at the end of the boxcar, and Beth hoped they were coming up with a plan. The longer they stayed in the rail car, the weaker they got, and the less chance they had of escaping.
"How'd you get out?" Maggie asked from where she sat next to Beth.
They hadn't spoken much. Beth had been getting to know their new friends, exploring the small space they were trapped in trying to conjure an escape route, and enjoying the fact that her sister was alive. They had mostly held hands and sat in silence, listening to what everyone else had to say.
"I got off the bus to try and find the kids who were missing. Lizzie, Mika, Judith, and some of the others weren't on the bus. I couldn't find 'em. I looked as much as I could, but I just…I didn't have time. Daryl and I ran into each other. We left together. Then we traveled together for'ah while," Beth kept her face passive, not wanting to alert her sister to any unnecessary explanations.
The past was the past. She had survived. She was with her sister now. Nothing of what happened was Daryl's fault. There was no reason to get bogged down by the details.
"And then what?" Maggie inquired.
Beth wasn't sure if Maggie was able to see through her or if she wasn't satisfied with her vague answer. She had hoped that she wasn't as much of an open book to people anymore. Then again, Maggie was her sister. She knew all of Beth's mannerisms. It was possible that she'd never be able to completely hide her pages from Maggie.
"We got separated. Herd ambushed us while we were in this…house. I'd hurt my ankle earlier that day so Daryl played bait while I got out. Then…we jus' got separated. I couldn't find him. Spent tha' winter in the utility closet of a sporting goods store I had found. Ended up comin' across his group when the weather warmed back up," Beth answered as honestly as she could. She omitted certain details, but there was no point in dwelling on what had happened.
"You spent the entire winter alone?" Maggie's grip had tightened so much that Beth's fingers were going numb.
The way her eyes danced between Beth's and the slight furrow of her brows were all signs that Maggie was trying very hard to control her emotions. Beth felt a sort of relief by Maggie's reaction. At least she could still read her sister as well as her sister read her. Of all the things that had changed that, at least, had remained.
"Yeah," Beth nodded.
Maggie sat very still. Beth felt like she was under a microscope. Then Maggie leaned over, letting go of her hand in the process, and hugged Beth. She heard a quiet sniffle by her ear and felt herself immediately tearing up. They hadn't been able to mourn their father together, and they didn't have the luxury of time to do so where they were at, but they could at least have a brief moment of weakness to appreciate what they had left.
"I'm so sorry I whadn't there. I tried to find you. I got off the bus looking for you. I got separated from Glenn because I didn't make it back to the bus in time. When I found the bus, full ah' walkers, I became so determined with finding Glenn, that I jus' assumed you'd be with him. I assumed everyone would be with ' if I found Glenn, everything else would fall into place and be alright," Maggie inhaled a stuttering breath, "I'm so sorry Bethy."
At the nickname, tears spilled from Beth's eyes. The last time she'd heard that name, if had come from the worn, southern voice of her father. She wrapped her arms around Maggie, grasping at her over shirt, and hugged her fiercely. Beth blinked back more tears, looking around the cart to try and keep the second wave at bay, when she caught Daryl staring at her.
The look he gave her was so intense that she had to turn her sight elsewhere. Any other time she would have been curious as to why he was looking her over so intently, but right now, his hard gaze only made her feel frail. She had worked very hard to not only make herself physically stronger, but also more resilient mentally. She didn't want to feel weak anymore.
When Maggie pulled back, Beth gave her a genuine smile, "It's okay Mags. I'm here. You're here. We'll get out of this place and it'll just be our group again."
"When did you get so confident?" Maggie let out a breathy laugh, wiping her tear stained checks with the sleeves of her shirt.
Beth pondered on the question for a moment. Thinking back on everything she had been through since her days on their farm, Beth answered somberly, "Good people don't survive in this world anymore. Everyone had to change to make it this far."
"There are still good people Beth. You're a good person. Glenn, Rick, even Daryl," Maggie's words were an echo of Beth's own.
She looked over at Daryl, who had resumed his discussion with Rick, and a thoughtful smile shaped her lips, "The good ones don't survive."
Maggie must have sensed the knowledge behind Beth's words because she didn't comment any further on the subject. Instead, Beth felt Maggie's hand wrap around hers and received two firm presses around her palm. Beth looked down at the wooden floor she was sitting on and squeezed back.
'Thank you for understanding.'
Beth hadn't talked to Daryl since their 'moment' before Glenn came out of the shadows of the rail car. She would catch him looking at her every so often, but he hadn't approached her. That was fine by her. She had no idea what she would say to him anyway.
"So you 'n the redneck?" An unfamiliar voice came from across where she sat.
"Pardon?" Beth looked over at the person who had spoken, not realizing she had been staring at Daryl talking with Rick and the muscular ginger; Abraham he had said his name was.
Rick had spent most of his time talking with Abraham. The muscular man had a military background, looked like he could pull his own weight, and was something of a strategist himself. All traits Rick and Daryl could appreciate.
"You and him?" The girl asked again, using her index finger to point between the two of them.
"Tara, wasn't it?" Beth asked with a friendly smile.
"Yeah," Tara blinked a few times, but didn't return the smile, instead looking down at her feet from where she leaned against the boxcar wall.
"Daryl and me...Daryl helped me get out of the prison. Taught me some basic survival skills. Thanks to him I've gotten pretty decent with a crossbow," Beth explained.
Tara nodded, keeping her eyes trained on the floorboards.
"I want to thank you…for helping Glenn. He means everything to my sister. The two of them…" Beth paused causing Tara to look up at her, "The group is my family now, but they're the only real family I have left."
Beth was too tired to get choked up. Or maybe she was farther into the grieving process than she had originally thought. Then again, maybe she hadn't even started the process? She'd had a few cries, but nothing she felt was deserving of the loss of her father.
"You don't gotta' thank me. He helped me too. I was alone. I would've died if he hadn't let me come with him," Tara proclaimed.
"Even so," Beth looked over to where Maggie and Glenn were standing; listening to Rick, Daryl, and Abraham talk, "thanks."
"Yeah…sure…" Tara gave a quick smile, but said nothing more.
Beth awoke with a jerk. She remembered talking to Tara, then leaning her head back against the wall to rest her eyes for a moment, and then nothing. How long had she been asleep? She glanced around the boxcar, noticing the light had taken on a yellow-orange hue, but everyone was almost exactly where they had been before she had drifted off.
Daryl, Abraham, Daryl, the Hispanic girl, Rosita, and another stockily built man who she hadn't caught his name, were all sitting around Rick. All of them engrossed in their conversation spoken in tones so hushed not even Beth could hear them from where she sat. Glenn and Maggie had moved, sitting in the farthest part of the train car, while Michonne sat close enough to Rick to hear the discussion, but right next to Carl, and Tara still sat across from her. What she hadn't expected was Sasha and Bob to be sitting right next to her.
"How long have I been out?" She asked in a rough voice.
"Maybe an hour or two?" Sasha guesstimated.
"You were tired so we didn't want to wake you," Bob spoke up from the other side of Sasha, "but Rick and the group think they have a plan on how to get us out of here."
"Yeah?" Beth sat up, immediately regretting it.
"What's wrong?" Sasha asked, leaning up to grasp Beth's rigid shoulders.
"Daryl and I were runnin' with a group. They were after some guy. Turned out to be Rick. It was us or them," Beth didn't need to elaborate, "Daryl had two guys on him. I was trying to help and got myself smashed into a vehicle a couple'ah times."
Bob was now squatting in front of her, holding her chin in his hand, examining her eyes, "Have you had any trouble focusing, headache, double vision?"
"My head hurts. Things get a lil' fuzzy from time t'time, but I think that's more from sleep deprivation," Beth replied, struggling to conceal her discomfort.
"Have you lost consciousness?" He let go of her chin to rest his fingers against her wrist; checking her pulse.
"Yeah," Beth didn't see the point in tiptoeing around the subject.
"Sasha, help me get her up so I can check her ribs," Bob gestured.
Slowly, using Sasha for support, Beth got up to her knees. She grit her teeth, hissing every time she moved or tightened her torso, but never voiced the explicit words running through her head. By now Maggie was right behind Bob, hovering, and Daryl behind her. Beth didn't look at either of them. She was in too much pain to do anything but try focus on what Bob had asked her to do; stand up. Finally getting to her feet, Beth turned and braced both hands against the wall, letting her head drop between her arms.
"Sasha, lift the back of her shirt up a bit," Bob instructed, now wanting to act too familiar with Beth.
Maggie's gasp was enough to let Beth know her back was not a pretty sight, "What the hell happened to you?"
Beth couldn't answer. It hurt to breath, making it impossible to speak, her head hurt, she felt dizzy, and she really wanted to cry in pain.
"She said she got into a fight with some guys while trying to help Daryl," Sasha answered for her.
"What?" Maggie's voice sounded further away. Beth guessed she had probably turned around to bow up to Daryl.
"Whadn't like that. Group we were with was after this guy. We didn't know it was Rick. They were gonna' kill 'em," Daryl's voice sounded like music to her ears.
She was in so much pain that just hearing his voice was like a dose of medicine. She had come to realize she rather liked his voice, even before the prison fell, but in her current state, all she wanted was some Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Daryl's voice was the next best thing.
Bob poked and prodded at her ribs, and while it was uncomfortable, it didn't hurt as much as Beth had anticipated. Now that she was up and moving a bit, the initial pain had subsided. A dull ache still throbbed every time she breathed, but her head hurt more than her ribs.
"She's got some nasty bruising, but I don't think anything is fractured or broken," Bob stepped back, "Probably more stiff than anything. Her head is what worries me though. She has a pretty severe concussion. The kind that would have doctors keeping her in the hospital overnight…if we still had those."
Beth readjusted her shirt and turned around to lean against the wall, careful of her lower back, and faced the crowd that had gathered around them. She kept her eyes on Bob as he spoke, but risked a glance at Daryl who was already staring her down.
"So what do we do?" Maggie sounded somewhat panicked.
"Back in tha' day," Bob said with a bit of jive, "we could monitor her a bit better than now. There are several different ways to treat a concussion, none of which we can do now. Some doctors would say sleep is fine, others would say no sleep at all the first twenty-four hours, but she's gonna' need to rest."
"Get'on with it," Daryl motioned with his hand, clearly agitated.
"I say if you're tired, sleep," Bob spoke directly to Beth, "and we'll make sure someone wakes you up every half an hour, or what we can guess to be half an hour, to check your symptoms. The first twenty-four hours are the most crucial, but since you haven't slept in those twenty-four hours the early danger has already passed. Just have to make sure the symptoms don't get worse."
"'Kay," Beth nodded.
"Well," Rick spoke up from behind Daryl, "since we're already gathered together it's time we discuss our plan."
Carl came to stand by Beth. She looked down to him and smiled, relieved they were finally going to get things underway. They had been there too long already. The others had been there longer, but Beth felt like their time was drawing near. It was a gut feeling and she had learned to always trust when she felt a hunch.
"We've been going over our options. We thought of trying to overpower whoever brought us food, but the likelihood of it being a single member or that there won't be snipers, prepared for such an event, on the roof is slim. The ventilation hole has been sealed so there's no gettin' out that way. We could try to get the door to jump the rail it's attached to, compromisin' the lock on the outside, but that would require tools we don't have," Rick explained, "That's when Eugene here brought somethin' to our attention."
Eugene, the larger man with an impressive eighty's style mullet, nodded to Rick, "The floor of this rail car is comprised of wood. Most likely oak for its durability. We're lookin' at each plank being approximately ten inches wide, two inches thick, running the width of an estimated nine and a half feet."
Beth suddenly felt like she was back in high school listening to a lecture. Eugene's voice was monotone, but the way he spoke the facts so confidently made her wonder what his profession was before.
"Due to the amount of time this car has been untreated and the inclinations of Georgia's rainy season through the months of January through March, there is a high probability of wood decay due to the exposed cracks that would allow rain to settle on top of the planks," Eugene finished, standing awkwardly in place.
"Sooo…basically you're sayin' there's a chance that we can pry up the floor and sneak out from underneath the train car?" Glenn summarized.
"Theoretically. Yes," Eugene amended, "If we were somehow able chip away the wood around the bolts, with enough force, the possibility of up-heaving the boards is in the ninetieth percentile."
"Right…so…we pry up the boards and it's a straight drop to the ground?" Glenn inquired.
Everyone looked down between their feet at the cracks between the floorboards. Much to Beth's relief, a sliver of gravel and railway track could be seen between the wooden planks.
"How many boards we talkin'?" Daryl's voice sounded gruff. Beth couldn't see his face from where he was staring at the floor, his hand stroking his beard in thought, but she could tell by the way he was carrying himself that he was exhausted.
"I'd say two…three to accommodate all of us," Rick's response somber, "So long as we get one pried up, the other two should follow with relative ease."
"So I guess the next question is how are we supposed to chip away the wood?" Sasha asked from the other side of Beth, "none of us got to keep our weapons."
Rick smirked as he pulled of his coat, "Perk of bein' a cop was knowin' the most inconspicuous places to hide a weapon. It insured that we'd check those places too."
Beth leaned forward so she could watch Rick as he laid his coat on the ground. His hands traced the hem of his coat until he apparently found what he was looking for. When his hand disappeared into an aftermarket slit made in the mid-section of the interior lining, she smiled. His hand soon reappeared and he was holding a medium sized pocket knife. Beth could have cried at his genius.
"I'll be Got' damned," Daryl laughed, patting Rick on the shoulder.
Beth felt like her chest was about to burst in the many emotions coursing through her; excitement, relief, happiness, but mostly determination. They had a plan, it was simple, and they could execute it. She just hoped they had the time to do so. They'd all die before they let anyone be taken from the train car, but the prospect of dying versus escaping Terminus…she just prayed they had enough time.
"So if they hold to the same schedule as they did when Glenn's group arrived, a bit of food and water every forty-eight hours, we can expect rations as some point in the near future," Rick suggested from where he knelt on the floor, "So I say we have someone on lookout, keeping an eye out for anyone approaching the car from the crack in the door. Meanwhile we have someone chippin' away at the wood. We all take shifts so not one person wears themselves out. We make a run for the fence in the middle of the night. I have guns buried in a bag just over the fence. We'll decide our next course of action once we're all out of this car."
"What about those guys who were behind the fence when we got cornered here?" Carl pointed out.
"You think they'd still be there?" Rick asked looking around the group.
"Could be," Daryl shrugged his shoulders.
"Then Michonne will scout ahead. She's the hardest to detect and can get over and back with the most ease," Rick affirmed.
"Is that a pun at the color of my skin?" Michonne's facial expression gave away nothing.
Rick must have been able to read her regardless because he paused, stared up at her for a moment, and then shook his head and laughed, "I was actually referring to your skills in the art'ah stealth."
"Mmm hmm…" Michonne was smiling now.
"I'll start with the wood," Abraham stepped forward and took the knife from Rick.
"I'll take first watch," Rosita volunteered, the first time Beth had ever heard her voice.
"This might actually work," Sasha looked up to Bob who nodded in reply.
The obvious relief that everyone felt filled the boxcar. Beth looked to Maggie, Glenn, down to Carl beside her, and then to Daryl. When he looked up at her, the smile she gave him must have translated to how she felt, because for the first time in forever, Daryl smiled back.